“I’m not feeling engaged at work anymore. I feel disconnected and stressed, like I’m always chasing to catch up. I just don’t know what to do anymore.”
My client, Sarah, wasn’t sure what was behind her newfound disengagement from work, or why she suddenly felt overwhelmed. When we dug deeper, it was apparent that nothing much had changed within her job. She didn’t have a new workload, extra projects to manage, or new coworkers to deal with. But she did mention that she had started falling behind on emails and scheduling, meaning she was spending more of her time playing catch up than she was used to.
I let her know, gently, that perhaps she needed to look at herself and her work habits, rather than her environment, for the reasons why she was experiencing these issues, and how to fix them.
It’s hard to hold ourselves accountable, especially when we know we’re not working up to our full potential. But it’s also true that if we want to succeed, at work, you want to always strive to be the best you can be, and sometimes that means taking a step back, looking in the mirror, and identifying any problems.
Sarah’s issue was prioritizing; she didn’t start off doing the small tasks that build up over the day, and by lunchtime was drowning in her unread emails – it even caused her to miss a meeting! The good news is, I was able to help her figure out where she could improve her performance, so she could stay on top of her work and feel like the successful, productive employee that I know she is.
If you’re experiencing anything similar, you may need some of my tips, too. Here are four ways you as an employee can improve performance, and be the best version of you as possible!
- Stop multitasking
It turns out humans are not nearly as good at multitasking as we think we are. You may think you’re getting more done by answering emails during your morning meeting, but you’re actually hindering your productivity, losing focus, and performing worse. Studies even show that multitasking can lower your IQ in the moment — yikes!
If you’re multitasking at work, chances are you’re not performing at your best. Taking the time to slow down and complete one task at a time will improve your performance immensely. You’ll be more focused on each project, and you’ll have better results. Multitasking is honestly just a bad habit we all need to work on breaking.
- Evaluate your strong and weak points
This is what Sarah and I spent a lot of time doing together, and it helped her immensely. She found weak points she wasn’t even aware of that were causing her to underperform.
You need to take the time to sit down and figure out what you’re good at, and what you’re not so good at, so you know where to improve. It’s not about beating yourself up about your weaknesses, but rather pinpointing them so you know where to put in the extra work. For example, if you’re not great at time management and find yourself rushing to get everything done at the end of the day, that’s an area to focus on improving. It’ll help your performance, and reduce your daily stress. For Sarah, it was making sure she had a game plan every morning when she went into work, so she knew which tasks to prioritize.
- Be aware of burnout
Burnout comes when employees lose the valuable work-life balance, and it can be hard to bounce back from. It can be easy, especially with lockdown, to throw ourselves into work and forget to take time for ourselves. But it’s important to be aware of keeping your work life and your personal life balanced, so that you don’t get overwhelmed and overworked. You won’t perform nearly as well if you’re burned out. And studies show that happy employees (see: not burned out, stressed out employees!) are more productive by 20% over their unhappy counterparts.
These are the most common signs of burnout:
- Diminished concentration
- Increased cynicism
- Dissatisfaction from work
- Poor sleep
- Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, muscle pain)
If you’re experiencing any of these, you could definitely benefit from taking a step back and analyzing where you can take breaks and care for yourself.
- Set goals
There are some great reasons why goal setting is helpful for performance and productivity. Setting goals hones in your focus; pushes you forward; turns big, looming deadlines into bite-sized milestones; and holds you accountable. And the science backs it all up. Studies showed that those who had set goals were more prepared and more efficient — and that means big things for your improved performance.
An easy way to start setting goals if you’re not used to it is to use SMART goals. There are goals that are:
Use these guidelines to help you set goals that are realistic and that you will be able to achieve, so you can improve your performance.
After our conversation, Sarah went home and worked on identifying where she was falling short, and how she could be better. She came back to me a few days later with an amazing list of goals, strengths and weaknesses, and a game plan to start improving her work performance. Within a few weeks, I noticed a huge change. She was happier, more productive, and getting praise from her boss and coworkers for her efficiency.
If you’re feeling unproductive or unmotivated, it may be time to do what Sarah did, and take stock of the reasons why, and how you can change. After all, you want to be as good as you can — and that work starts by looking within.