If you work for 40 years, you’ll spend over 10,000 days of your life at work.
Since this is such a large part of your life, you might as well do your best while you’re there. By striving to become the best employee you can be, you’ll earn many rewards, including:
- Raises and promotions that will enable you to have a better lifestyle and support your family
- A more stable career that will reduce your chances of being unemployed
- Better work relationships—your bosses and coworkers will enjoy working with you
- Better self-esteem because you’re contributing to your work and the world in a meaningful way
So if you’re ready to become a better employee and improve your life, start with these seven simple steps.
1. Show Up Ready to Win
80% of success, as they say, is showing up.
That means showing up to work on time every day, ready to get stuff done.
But it’s also about how you show up. Successful employees show up awake and well-rested—not hungover. They schedule their daily routines and sleep so they are as productive as possible both at work and in the rest of their lives.
Successful employees also show up prepared. If there’s a big presentation, they’ve planned ahead and are ready for it. They don’t just wing it or arrive unprepared.
To be productive in today’s busy, distraction-filled world of social media and nonstop internet access, you must stay laser-focused on what really matters if you want to succeed.
Productive people know how to focus when they work. The saying “Wherever you are, be there” means that when you’re at work, you should be thinking about work, focusing on work, and working on work. When you’re with your family, you should be focused on them, not worrying about work.
Many successful people also meditate because they find it’s an effective way to hone focus, reduce anxiety, and be more productive. If you want to learn more about the science behind meditation and how it can help you focus, read our blog post on why you should meditate every day.
3. Ask for Help
Asking for help when you need it is a sign of confidence, not weakness.
Successful people know this, and understand that they’ll go much farther and faster in life if they work with and get support from others. When they get stuck or have a problem they can’t figure out, they ask for help. And they keep asking until they figure it out.
Unsuccessful people often feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness, so they avoid uncomfortable conversations and asking questions they think will make them look “not smart enough” or “not good enough.” Trying to do everything by yourself is a sure way to get stuck. When unsuccessful people get stuck, they tend to stay stuck, hoping they’ll eventually figure it out on their own.
If you have a problem in life or at work that you haven’t been able to solve, have you asked for help? Sometimes just having the courage to ask the question and talk about your problem will help you figure out how to solve it on your own.
Always remember you’re not alone. You have a team of people at work, and you should all be working toward the same goals. So ask for help when you need it, and expect your teammates to ask for help too.
4. Support Your Team
Successful employees pay attention and notice when others are struggling. While they know they can’t solve other people’s problems, they freely offer feedback, advice, and ideas. They know it’s the right thing to do.
Here’s an example: If you’re better at using Excel spreadsheets than Bob, but Bob is better at editing and writing, you’ve got an opportunity to help each other succeed. If you help Bob with his Excel problem, then he can help you when you need to write an important article, email, or memo. By working together, you’ll both be much more productive.
But this isn’t limited to one-for-one “trades.” You can support many people on your team by offering your unique gifts and skills, and receiving their support in turn. Life is a whole lot easier and much more fun when you learn how to give and accept support wisely.
5. Identify and Share Problems
If you want to do well at work, you must be able to solve problems. The more problems you solve, and the better your solutions, the more raises and promotions you will earn because you’ll add significantly more value to the organization.
One symptom of a toxic work environment is that employees aren’t allowed to discuss problems or issues. If you see a problem and bring it up to your boss only to get shut down, that’s a really bad sign. It shows that your boss doesn’t have the company’s best interest in mind. He or she doesn’t have your best interests in mind, either.
Every problem provides an opportunity because once you solve the problem, life will be better. So really, if you think about it intellectually, you should be excited to discover a problem or talk about a problem because solving it will provide huge benefits. Everyone in the organization should be on the lookout for problems, talk about problems, and jump in to solve problems when they can.
Organizations succeed only when they can identify and solve problems well. The world is changing so fast that every organization will face countless new problems this year. Problems that aren’t addressed almost always get worse, not better. So if you’re working for a company that habitually ignores problems, you can be sure the company is going downhill—and your career opportunities are going down with it.
If you want to succeed at work, make it a habit to identify, discuss, and solve problems. If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, talk to your boss and management to see if you can find someone who will help you change it. If that doesn’t work, find a new job.
Life is way too short to spend it in a toxic work environment.
6. Offer Solutions
Most people are pretty good at spotting problems because our brains evolved to help us predict the future and identify threats. But few have the courage to actually speak up, especially when it might be uncomfortable or embarrassing. Yet out of the folks brave enough to talk about problems openly, even fewer are prepared to offer a potential solution. And when people talk about problems without offering a solution, it can seem like they’re just complaining, which decreases morale instead of moving the team forward.
So when you identify a problem, take a few minutes to brainstorm some solutions. Try to find at least three options before you bring the problem up for discussion. Taking this extra step will cost you a bit of time, but it will pay off big for your career and your team. You will stand out, because only leaders and top performers regularly identify problems, speak up about them, and present solutions.
You should also try to rank your solutions in order of which ones you think are best. If one solution clearly stands out to you as a winner, present your reasoning clearly and then listen to feedback from the rest of the team to see if there are any holes in your argument.
7. Be Open-Minded
Don’t be too attached to your solutions. Other people on the team may have identified an even better solution, and you won’t really know if that’s the case until you discuss the problem. The point of comparing solutions isn’t to prove that you’re right, but to focus on the best way to solve the problem.
You’ll need to be open-minded to embrace the best course of action. Open-minded people actively look for the best ideas and solutions to problems, rather than simply assuming their own ideas and solutions are the best. They are curious about other peoples’ perspectives, ask open-ended questions, and listen deeply while others speak, hoping to learn something new and valuable.
No matter what position you hold, if you get in the habit of identifying, discussing, and solving problems, you’ll be an invaluable team member with many more opportunities for raises and promotions.
So here’s your road map for success at work: Show up, focus, and ask for help if you need it. Support your team, and work with them to solve problems. Let go of your need to be right and practice seeing the world from other perspectives. Then you’ll be ready for that big promotion.
Work from Home
Think you’ve got what it takes to succeed at work, but you’re looking for an opportunity to work from home instead of commuting every day? If so, you can apply for a job with TCK Publishing.
We’re currently hiring for several open positions, and we’re looking for a few great people to join our growing team.
If you liked this post, here are some other articles you might love:
- 31 Leadership Quotes to Move Your Career Forward
- How to Quit Your Day Job and Be a Full-Time Writer
- How to Use LinkedIn to Improve Your Career, Grow Your Network, and Become a Social Media Master
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.