Self Improvement at Work — Best Practices for Improving Workplace Productivity

For many employees, work can feel like a place where life gets put on hold, and all of the self improvement we plan to do ends up second string to our lives as employees. For some workers, long working days or a constant connectivity to work-related technology can have a powerful negative impact on quality of life both in and out of the office. The result of this is a downward spiral of negative energy, where self improvement seems like an impossible mountain to climb and gets placed by the wayside. But there’s good news! Companies as a whole are showing a trend towards encouraging employees to relax, take breaks, exercise, and establish a workflow routine that compliments employees’ individual work styles. Because of this, employees are finding themselves more free to shape their work lives to fit around their personal lives, resulting in happier, more productive employees.

Whether you find yourself in a job that encourages a more relaxed working environment or not, there are plenty of ways to tweak your working routine in order to facilitate self improvement. The first step is to identify problem areas, working through your general routine piece by piece to locate areas that disrupt your ability to be productive. Second, make adjustments to the problem areas in order to improve productivity, energy level, and overall flow of work. Finally, you’ll need to be willing to tweak and experiment with your new workflow. Self improvement is a process — it doesn’t happen overnight! — so don’t let “perceived failure” bump you right back into your rut.

Self Improvement Step One: Identify Problem Areas

In his article “15 Ways to Increase Productivity at Work”, John Rampton emphasizes the importance of identifying problem areas by advising employees seeking self improvement to track the amount of time they spend on tasks. Before you begin making any adjustments to your workflow, engage in some research to discover what exactly needs to change. You’ll especially want to make it a point to notice when your productivity is down. While you’re at it, make notes of when you find yourself being especially productive. Hopefully, you can emulate the circumstances to encourage self improvement at work and up your productivity level all day.

One way to conduct this research is by simply setting a timer to go off every hour or half hour at your job for a week. Try to choose the most “standard” workweek you can. When it goes off, record the task you are working on, how long it’s taken you to do it, and your energy level. You may discover that a certain time of day effects the amount of time it takes you to complete a specific task, or that certain kinds of tasks really boost your energy level. Armed with this information, you’ll have a better understanding of how to go about your self improvement journey.

Self Improvement Step Two: Make Adjustments to Problem Areas

Once you’ve done your research, you can begin applying strategies to help you achieve self improvement. For any times that you find your productivity slacking off, identify a property of the times you are exceptionally productive and try to emulate them. For example, according to the New York Times, our natural circadian rhythm demands that we sleep about seven hours after waking, but standard business practices demand we press on. This is a prime candidate for a problem area. According to Rampton’s earlier article, increasing blood flow and maintaining healthy hydration levels are proven to boost productivity, so maybe you need to take a break at 1:30 p.m. to walk around the office and drink a bottle of water as the first tweak on your self improvement list.

Other problem areas may reveal themselves more subtly. Lack of color in your workspace may lead you to purchase some bright office materials or decorations. Clutter can trigger productivity issues as well, so you may want to take a day to get organized. Multitasking is riddled with pitfalls to productivity, research from the American Psychological Association shows, so practicing completing one task at a time may be in order. In any case, making adjustments is the second step to self improvement at work.

Be careful, here. Don’t change everything all at once, or you run the risk of forgetting your new routine and derailing yourself before you even really get started. Start with a simple change, like drinking more water, and then gradually add in more steps to help you manage your work flow more productively and efficiently.

Self Improvement Step Three: Don’t Be Afraid to “Fail”

We’ve seen it before. One day we make a commitment to “lose weight” but after an initial burst of motivation we fall off the wagon. The same thing can happen with the process of self improvement in the workplace. You find yourself making the adjustments “imperfectly” and find this unacceptable, so you slip back into your old habits. Don’t let this happen to you! Try a different strategy. When you find one that works and that you can stick to, revert back to your list of problem areas and find something new to wrestle with. Remember, self improvement is a process, and “perceived failure” isn’t the same as genuine failure. Genuine failure is when you let your list of problem areas keep you from improving your productivity at work.

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Originally published at for-managers.com on March 24, 2016.