Unless you're just counting down the days till you can quit, chances are, you want to do well in your job. Perhaps you're making an effort to manage your time well in the office, to network with colleagues, and to bring energy and enthusiasm to your projects. If you're self-employed, you might be working long hours, pushing yourself to get the boring tasks done and figuring out where your next motivation will come from.
You're doing all the right things during the workday. But, are there actions you could be taking outside work in order to boost your performance? No, I'm not talking about checking your Blackberry every few minutes and responding to emails within seconds, I am talking about taking some time to improve you.
Here are five things you might like to consider. Admittedly, you will have to find some time in your schedule to work on these, but many times, the payoff for accomplishing just a few of these is greater than the payoff you'll receive for having a tidy desk or being an email guru.
- Take a Public Speaking Course
It's not exactly a secret that most people hate public speaking. Whether it's delivering a presentation to a roomful of clients, or simply speaking up in a meeting, being confident and competent at public speaking really will get you noticed at work.
People often think that public speaking is either something you've got or you haven't - but it's just a skill, like any other. You can be taught public speaking skills and you'll also find it becomes much easier as you practice.
Look for an evening class or course in your area that relates to public speaking, or find a local Toastmasters group (these can take you from absolute beginner to expert paid public speaker).
- Attend Meetings of a Professional Organization
Whatever your field, there's a good chance that there's some sort of organization related to it that meets regularly. Look for opportunities in your area. In many cases, you will need to pay a membership or attendance fee.
The advantages to getting together with other professionals include increased knowledge and building up contacts. If you're self-employed, this can be particularly valuable, as you may feel that you miss out on the buzz that comes from being around like-minded colleagues.
It's worth asking your line manager whether you can claim back any meeting costs on expenses.
- Spend Time Improving Your Skills
Most of us find that there are one or two areas of our job where we don't feel very confident. Perhaps you've never really got to grips with a particular software package. Maybe you're perfectly happy writing emails and reports, but the thought of writing a press release is enough to make you want to hide under your desk.
Whatever your particular weak area, it's worth considering how you might be able to spend some time improving it outside the office. The typical workday, whether as an employee or a freelancer, doesn't allow much room for reading, training or learning.
There are books available on any topic you can imagine (and you can often get DVDs on subjects which are best shown visually). Check out what's around, find something that comes with good recommendations or reviews, and give it a go.
- Get Enough Sleep - and Watch the Caffeine
How often have you struggled through the day at work, feeling like a zombie, because you've not had enough sleep? If you're working a typical 8-4 or 9-5 job, you can't stay up till 2am partying or playing computer games like you did in college and not suffer for it.
Getting into a good sleep schedule can make a big difference to your motivation and productivity levels at work. Turning up tired and cranky isn't doing you or your colleagues any favors. Try forsaking your weekend lie-in, and get up at a similar time as you normally do for work. This ensures that you're not struggling to reset your body clock on Monday.
Don't use coffee as a replacement for sleep, either! You might get a brief jolt, but it's likely to be followed by a deep slump in productivity. Try cutting down on the amount of coffee you drink, and see if you feel a more sustained energy at work.
- Take a Look at Your Appearance
Have a look in the mirror. If you were a client or manager, would you be impressed with what you see? What messages does your appearance send?
Think about your clothes - depending on your industry, it might be appropriate to wear a smart suit, or you might find that a suit says stuffy and too formal for your particular field. Aim for a smart look rather than sexy: no-one wants to have colleagues who seem to have dressed for a night out on the town. (This goes for both men and women.) If you're self-employed, you may need to dress up a bit when meeting clients.
If you're seriously overweight, you might want to take action too. I'd urge this purely for your health's sake, but there's also the unfortunate fact that overweight individuals are often discriminated against in the work place:
Workers who are heavier are paid an average of $1.25 less per hour, and overweight women make about 24 percent less than their thinner counterparts. - (Fat chance: Obesity in the workplace, Colorado Springs Business Journal)
Other aspects of your appearance to consider are personal hygiene: this is one where asking a close and honest friend might help!
What kind of things have you done outside your 9-5 job that has impacted how you perform on the job? Have you used those experiences to your advantage? Are they on your resume?