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December 2, 2013

7 simple ways to win at work

By shutterstock_136476125_feat

Americans may be among the most productive workers in the world, but living up to such high expectations isn’t always easy. Here are seven simple ways to help you stay at the top of the heap.

Multitasking is a lie – So stop trying to do it, already. And for Pete’s sake, don’t go around boasting about how great you are at it. You’re not. Our brains just really aren’t wired to fully engage in more than one activity at a time. So go ahead and focus on what needs to be completed right now, and then (and only then) move on to the next task. You’ll leave less room for error, your brain will thank you and you may even begin breathing easier.

Morning people are the worst – But they’re definitely onto something. Remember that ungodly frustrating adage about the early bird and the worm? Irritating as it may be, it’s never going to die, because it is always true. In business, in love, in Black Friday Sales — getting there first is half the battle. Start showing up to the office earlier than you normally would and you’ll already be ahead of the game. And bonus, it’s bound to be quiet. By the time the morning rush arrives, you’ll already have freed up enough time for a five-minute coffee break, or Reddit binge, whatever you prefer.

Clutter kills – A messy cubicle and a disorganized desk can pose the biggest challenge to keeping a distraction-free space. While you probably don’t need to show up with a dust-buster in your bag (seriously, don’t do that), ensuring that your desk is always clean and tidy will help keep you in check. Not to mention it’ll make finding things a heck of a lot easier.

Lists are not just for groceries – List-making will be your new best friend if you do it right, and do it often. First thing in the morning, before you sling back your coffee like it’s medicine, crack open your notepad and jot down everything you need to accomplish that day — and only do it for that day because getting too far ahead in the week can quickly throw you off track from what needs to happen right now. Once you’re finished writing down all your tasks, map them out by arranging each one in order of importance. And yes, there is an app for that, there are hundreds of apps for that, your phone probably came preloaded with one already. Get to it.

Cardio benefits more than your heart – Americans, on average, stand, walk, and run less than most other people on the planet, which is too bad, because exercise not only slims the waist line, it also boosts energy. And yes, it has been shown to dramatically increase productivity. Best thing to do: walk or bike to work. However, when you’re faced with a Hobbit-like commute or a Midwest winter, try hitting the gym instead. No time at home? Take advantage on your lunch break. Do a few quick laps or read and research while you’re walking on the treadmill.

Goals keep you in check – Go big or go back to bed. Set at least two work-related goals that you want to achieve and give yourself a deadline. Try not to go too far beyond two, in order to avoid losing focus. Write these down somewhere you’re forced to frequently look — this way you’ll have a constant, yet quiet reminder. You could also take it one step further and hold yourself accountable by making your goals known; share them with your spouse, a close friend or a trusted coworker. Letting other people in on your dreams and ambitions can really help turn up the pressure in a positive way.

Gold stars are for grownups too – There’s no better way to kill productivity quite like a lack of motivation. This is why timely, constructive and positive feedback is crucial. Talk to your boss and arrange to have regular feedback sessions. We’re conditioned all our lives to hunger for feedback. Grades, awards, gold stars. This is why badges and achievement points exist. It doesn’t stop, nor should it, when we’re all grown up.

About the Author

is a contributing editor of the Pluralsight blog. She has been a freelance writer since 2006. She deals in tech and food -- an odd combination, but it keeps her sated. You can find her on Twitter @sterrsi.