5 Simple Steps To Succeed At Work

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Let’s be honest. By clicking on this article, you risked seeing yet another superficial collection of vague motivational tips. Stuff like, “work hard” and “take risks” or even “expand your skills.”

But you’re in luck, because today, we’re tossing generic career advice into the trash basket and discussing some real, tangible, go-ahead-and-do-them-NOW ways to succeed at work.

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5 Simple Steps To Succeed At Work

1. Do Your Homework

Remember in high school, when two thirds of the class didn’t even bother to do the homework and then complained ceaselessly about how hard the test was? Meanwhile, you discovered that by Problem #4, the concept had clicked in and you were pretty much good to go.

Well guess what? People don’t just start doing their homework when they get into the “real world.” If the teacher isn’t grading it (aka the boss didn’t tell them to do it) most people just won’t do it.

Now, before I continue, let me clarify two things I’m NOT saying to do:

  1. I’m not saying “go the extra mile” in the hopes someone will notice.
  2. I’m not saying abandon your work/life balance and spend your free time working.

Here’s what I AM saying:

There will be a handful of opportunities this year, if not more, for you to make a statement – for you to identify yourself as an asset. These are the times where you can either wing it or you can do your homework and grab success by the antlers.

Do you have a meeting coming up about possible market expansion? Do your homework and be the most knowledgeable person in the room on that market when the meeting begins.

Did your small business just land an influential client? Do your homework and make sure you deliver twice the value they are paying for.

Did your boss just ask you to give a quick presentation to new hires next week? Do your homework and make it the type of presentation you’d be thrilled to experience.

Succeeding at work isn’t about trying too hard and hoping for the best. It’s about taking advantage of a finite selection of opportunities where you get to demonstrate excellence above your pay-grade.

2. Prioritize Fitness

What in the world? Who let “prioritize fitness” slip into a career advice article? Listen, we can beat around the bush all we want, but the truth is there is a proven link between physical fitness and financial success. And there are really so many reasons for this:

  1. Fit individuals are better able to absorb and retain new information.
  2. Fit individuals tend to have more energy and be more productive.
  3. Increasing one’s fitness level tends to increase confidence, which positively affects both performance and perceived performance.
  4. Fit individuals are perceived as more attractive, resulting in more interviews, quicker promotions, and higher average pay.
  5. Exercise results in a direct mental boost, helping you think and process better.

I could keep going, but you get the picture. Or at least you think you do. In all honestly, when I say “fit individual” your Instagram-destroyed mind probably pictures something like this:

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We tend to do that. We focus on unattainable extremes in our mind that excuse us from making an effort.

The reality is that you don’t need to look like a fitness model to be fit or prioritize fitness. Your physical fitness efforts will improve how you look, but that’s mostly a side-benefit compared to the other benefits that come along with a fit, healthy lifestyle.

3. Know Exactly Where You’re Headed

Here’s the truth. If you just want to see where the wind takes you, that’s fine, and you’ll probably continue to move forward as your life progresses.

Let’s not be dramatic. This is how most people live their lives and it works out just fine for most.

But this isn’t an article on how to be “just fine” in 2016. We’re talking about succeeding, and to succeed… listen to this… to succeed, YOU NEED TO DEFINE SUCCESS.

I’m not even talking about writing down goals and all that jazz, although that certainly can’t hurt. I’m simply asking ‘What’s the next step?”

What are you aiming for?

What event will trigger your internal success alarms?

Is it a promotion to Local Sales Director? Is it 15 clients per month? Is it $7,000 monthly revenue? Is it at least 50 hours worked each week? Is it no more than 50 hours worked each week?

What is success?

I promise you that you’re chances of reaching it are much lower when “it” is undefined. If you want to really progress at work this year, you’ll need to identify what progress looks like and make it the lens through which you work.

4. Empower The People Around You

One of the realities of 21st Century life is the success is NEVER achieved in a vacuum. The idea of the “self-made millionaire” is complete hogwash. Your success will always be linked to others, whether it's the people on your team, the people buying your products/services, or even the people who built the economic system you are now succeeding in.

The people around you will either benefit or detract from your success. They can’t dictate your life, but they will certainly influence it.

When you focus solely on yourself, you leave progress on the table. When you empower others, you multiply your own efforts.

This process doesn’t work like a contract, nor is it something on which to to pin your aspirations. I’m not saying empower Dave and you will succeed. What I’m saying is that people who empower those around them attract a team to their own vision and goals. People who consistently help others reach their goals will never be short on people returning the favor.

Don’t think big-time, complicated investments. This is more a way of interacting with people than a momentary gesture. It’s as simple as actually getting to know the people you work with, understanding what they want (what their goals are), and then looking for ways to affirm and assist in them reaching their goals.

5. Be Intentional With Your Time

I’m not saying work _____ hours per week. I’m not saying remember to have ______ hours of recreation. If you want to work just 20 hours a week, go for it. If you love work and really want to do it 70 hours per week, go for it.

But whatever you do, DON’T be the person who wants to work 50 hours per week and works 30. Don’t be the person who wants to prioritize leisure time and ends up 65 hours per week in the office.

And for the love of all that is good and right, DO NOT be the person who lets their time evaporate via activities you are actually not enjoying.

I love to play video games, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with spending 4 hours gaming on a given day, if I’ve decided that’s what I want to spend my time on that day. But often times, I’ll start playing games to procrastinate from what I really should be doing, or even because I’m too lazy to plan and execute what I actually WANT to be doing.

The time that slips away tends to do so in big chunks. It can happen with non-essential activities, like internet browsing or Netflix watching or video gaming, but it can also happen with essential activities – taking way too long to respond to emails, trying to do something yourself that you really should be hiring out, or picking complicated dinner recipes you really don’t have time for that night.

Be intentional with your time this year. Time is your scarcest resource. Choose how you want to spend it and then spend it that way.

The time to act is now.

I have good news for you. Your goals have never been about timing. Now is ALWAYS the best time to begin.

You consume tons of content like this article every day, and you probably forget it as quickly as you read it (I know I do), but if you are serious about succeeding at work this year, stop and take a moment to consider how you are going to go about that.

  1. What opportunities can you capitalize on by doing your homework?
  2. Where in your day will you steal 7 minutes to prioritize fitness?
  3. How long after reading this will you wait to define success?
  4. Who will you empower with your words and actions?
  5. Where in your day are you wasting time you don’t want to waste?

This year is overflowing with possibility. Take advantage.


Jacob McMillen is a professional copywriter, online marketer, and the editor of Uncompromised Men. He enjoys pretending to think in his spare time and will absolutely rob you of your dignity on the basketball court. Follow him on Twitter @jmcmillen

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