Performance is the result of setting objectives and measuring results. To improve what you are doing, you have to assess where you are, where you want to go, and how you will get there. Sometimes it is all about getting back to basics.
Improvement starts with a plan — an annual plan, a quarterly plan and a monthly plan. Rebecca Bakich suggests writing a letter to yourself reflecting on what you achieved in the previous plan period, then list the feasible goals for the next planning period. Every morning, when you wake up, you might set a daily goal that will improve your work performance, efficiency or output. This exercise might help organize your day and focus your workday.
If you examine the quality of the work you are producing today and compare it with what you have undertaken in the past, you have a gauge against which you can measure performance and make changes if necessary.
When you start every day with positive thoughts about your work, the attitude, tone and approach you take in executing your work will be enhanced. The energy and direction of your work will be more focused and addressing the challenges will be less stressful, then more productive.
Why before What and How. Simon Sinek has become famous for his asking “why before what and how.” When you know the why of what you are doing, it makes the work more meaningful. It also helps you understand what to do when obstacles are confronted.
There is a saying in woodworking — measure twice, cut once. If performance improvement is your goal, check your work, then recheck it before moving on to the next activity.
Keep a parking lot. What gets in the way of improved productivity? Ideas that are not on-topic but too important not to consider them. Create an idea parking lot. You are working on a project and an idea pops into your head, just jot it down in your parking lot.
You can then concentrate on the work at hand and come back to the parking lot ideas later.
Listen first, then reply. Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits book had a most important chapter devoted to listening. His advice makes us more productive. Listen with the intent to understand, then reply. Stop whatever you are doing if someone needs to convey important information to you and focus on them and their message. Multitasking does not engender good listening. Focus on the speaker. Be present. Then decide whether you stop and act or stop and act at a later time based on whether the input is urgent or important. Interruptions are the major reason for performance deficiency.
Take a break. Even if it means getting up from your chair and walking to the window and do some deep breathing, taking a break gives you physically and mentally time to recalibrate. If you are in a retail store, stepping outside and taking a brisk walk will do the same thing. Just breaking the chain of activity will do the trick to re-create yourself to take on the next task.
Change your habits. Productivity increases when you vary the way you eat, sleep and even where you are working. If you are working from home, change up the décor of your office. Changing the pictures on the wall, the way your desk is organized or even the position of your desk will help with your productivity. Getting more sleep by stopping the use of electronics, TV or just housework and going to bed a half hour earlier may increase your ability to take on more the following day. Dietary science has proven that there is a direct connection between what we eat, when we eat and how we act, feel and how productive we are. Try adding productivity-improving foods to your diet, such as almonds, green tea, bananas, eggs, dark chocolate, apples and peanut butter, granola and yogurt, and water.
Ashley Stahl has a few tips that might also be considered. Stop multitasking. Undertake one activity at a time in a focused approach. When finished, move to the next task. You might actually accomplish both in less time. Second, set small goals. Break up your tasks into snackable-size activities so they are not so overwhelming. If you do the tough ones interspersed with the easier ones, they all get done with less frustration while being more productive.
Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, Certified Mentor, SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands, www.capecod.score.org, email@example.com, 508-775-4884. Sources: "5 Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work", Ashley Stahl. "16 Ways to Improve Your Work Performance in 2016", Rebecca Bakich, Atrium.
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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Cape Cod SCORE: Improve work performance with this step-by-step plan