20 Ways to be a Better Worker

In addition to my work as an Education & Personal Excellence coach and speaker, I also work a full-time job as a project engineer, a fruitful experience whereby I’ve learned a lot about how things work in the corporate world.

I don’t dare claim to be the best or most productive employee around but I’ve observed the practices of the most outstanding workers, and I’ve tried to emulate those practices.

As an employee, you’re part of a performance. The primary aim of this performance is to delight your customers. So whenever you’re at work, you’re on stage. People are watching—both your customers and your colleagues (who are also your fellow performers).

Here are 20 ways for you to be a better worker and to put on a great show:

1. Always say “thank you.

”Most people don’t express much gratitude at work. Don’t be “most people.”

2. Ask your boss what you can do to make his or her life easier.

Most bosses won’t tell you directly; you’ll have to ask.

3. Set daily goals and prioritize them.

If you don’t do this, you’ll likely to end up reacting to matters that cry out for your attention rather than focus on the tasks that are most important.

4. Spend the last 15 minutes of each work day doing Point #3 (for the following work day).

This way, you’ll hit the ground running when you start the new work day.

5. Don’t check your email more than three times a day.

I know that this can be difficult to do, but reducing the number of times you check your email will allow you to have larger chunks of time to work on high-leverage tasks.

6. Have lunch with people from different departments at least once a week.

Besides getting to know more people and understanding your company better, this will also enable you to build relationships with people whom you might need help from in the future.

7. Give your boss regular updates.

Don’t wait for your boss to ask you for an update before you provide him or her with one.

8. Give credit to your colleagues.

This is especially meaningful if you do it in a public setting, whether if it’s in an email or during a meeting.

9. Don’t communicate so that you can be understood.

Communicate so that you cannot be misunderstood.A lot of time is wasted at work because of unclear communication. Communicating so that you cannot be misunderstood often involves stating what you mean, as well as stating precisely what you do not mean.

10. When you make a phone call, ask the other party if it’s a good time for him or her to talk.

People appreciate this act of courtesy. I know I do!

11. Treat everyone with honour.

My wise mother once said to me, “Respect needs to be earned, but honour is an attitude of the heart. Not everyone will earn your respect, but everyone deserves to be shown honour.” No matter how low- or high-ranking someone is, treat him or her with honor.

12. Go to your boss with options and recommendations instead of questions.

If you’re not sure what the best course of action is, do this instead of going to your boss and asking, “What should I do?” He or she will greatly appreciate it.

13. Folder your emails.

Don’t rely on the “search” function to find old emails. Putting your emails in proper folders will save you time and future frustration.

14. Bcc yourself on emails.

When action is required from the email recipient, Bcc yourself on the email and flag it. Periodically track whether or not the other party has responded. If you don’t receive a reply after a reasonable amount of time has elapsed, follow up and ask, “I’m just checking to make sure that you received this email?”

15. Meet people face to face when possible.

Face-to-face meetings are far more personal than phone calls or emails, and they definitely help to build better relationships.

16. Backup your files regularly.

You never know when your hard disk will crash. Backup your files regularly to prevent a catastrophe.

17. Ask for feedback.

All of us have blind spots. Asking for feedback—from your boss, colleagues or employees who report to you—is a sure way to continually improve.

18. Keep a list of things that you’ve learned.

This list can include technical or generic things. Review this list periodically to consolidate your learning.

19. Arrive early.

Arrive early to work and to meetings. People notice—and besides, it’s the right thing to do.

20. Don’t complain.

Your colleagues will thank you for being a positive influence in the company, rather than a negative one. There are enough negative people around!

In closing…

I’m still a relatively new performer in the working world, but I’ve come to understand that becoming a better worker is really about becoming a better person.

A better worker pursues excellence, cares for others and makes them feel special, and focuses on getting results. Let’s not waste this wonderful opportunity in our jobs to become people of greater character and competence.

About the author:

Daniel Wong is the author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He is an Education & Personal Excellence coach and speaker. He writes regularly on topics related to education, career and personal development at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-book, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?", here. Download his other FREE e-book, "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision", here.

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