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Life Hacks : How to Jumpstart Your Career

By on May 2, 2016 in Tutorials
Life Hacks : How to Jumpstart Your Career

Every wonder what's holding you back at work and in your career? It might be something more simple than you think. Have you ever lost track time of time because your life is filled with distractions? Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by stress that you couldn't finish even the simplest tasks? Have you ever been unsure where to start a project or task? If you have ever found yourself held back in your career or job, maybe you need to consider changing something basic. Check out these simple life hacks to help you jumpstart your career and improve your work method.

 

Understand Your Strengths

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When you understand your strengths or weaknesses you can see the areas of your life that could do with a little improvement for your personal well being and career. Maybe you can take a class, read a book, or do something to boost and improve one aspect of your life at a time.

  • Find Out What Your Strengths Are: Sometimes it isn't always easy to know what you're good at, or what areas you could improve in. Utilize these quizzes and resources to discover some of your strengths and weaknesses: Test Your Skills, Find Your Strengths, Discover Your Strengths, Big 5 Personality Test, and Strengths Test.
  • Define Your Strengths: Sometimes the best thing to do is sit down with a piece of paper and write down all the things you think are your strengths. Once you've written them down, put a number (1-10) next to each time to show how confident you are in these areas. In addition, next to each strength or characteristic write how it could be improved. This is a great way to just start brainstorming and thinking about any specific skills you have.
  • Don't Model Yourself After Someone Else: Everyone has different strengths and weakness. Don't look to someone else to figure out who you should be. Some people may have qualities and traits you admire, but that doesn't necessarily mean their way of doing things will work for you.
  • Identify Important Strengths for Your Job: Different jobs usually require different sets of skills. Once job may benefit from you being aggressive and open about your ideas, whereas another could benefit from a more passive approach. Consider the current job you have and then adjust your skill set accordingly.
  • Notice What You Do Differently From Others: Are there specific ways you have of handling certain situations? For example, you may be really good at getting your point across, or convincing others to see your side of an argument. If so, highlight these specific skills and try to boost them.
  • Utilize SWOT Analysis: SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You can use SWOT analysis for for projects at work, a particular job or career path, or just to look at yourself. The idea is that you make a chart like the one featured below and fill in the different squares accordingly. The idea is that you ask yourself questions and thoroughly think through each square to identify all aspects of your own character or of a project.

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Leadership Skills

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Certain jobs and roles in a company will require you to take on a leadership or authoritative role. Right now do you have the skills it takes to take charge and take control without being overbearing? Developing positive leadership skills will help you get ahead in work and gain respect of your coworkers.

  • Assess Your Skills: Being in a leadership role isn't for everybody. Some people lack the character or skills to do a good job in a management or leadership position. Check out some of these tools to help assess your current leadership abilities and potential as a leader:  How Motivated Are You to Be a Leader?, Leadership Skills Assessment, and Leadership Self-Assessment.
  • Be Passionate: Leaders without passion for what they do aren't going to have as successful jobs. You need to be passionate and excited about what you're working on to actually do a good job.
  • Take Initiative: Many people in management and leadership roles delegate tasks to other people. Instead of doing this all the time, make sure you show that you're still a part of the team. The idea is to constantly go above and beyond at work. Do more than is simply expected of you, and try to differentiate yourself.
  • Adopt a Open Attitude: Always listen to other people. This is one of the most important characteristics a person can have when they are in a leadership position. Listen to what your coworkers think, believe, and be open to their ideas without shutting them out.
  • Give Credit When Credit Is Due: Don't take responsibility for others hard work. Show that you have an awesome team of people you have put together. You'll look like a better leader when you showcase that you lead a team of people to accomplish a task, rather than.
  • Motivate Others: Support other people that you work with and encourage them to do their job positively and effectively. If you want to be in a leadership position you have to be able to energize and support others in their jobs too.
  • You're Going to Learn a Lot: Be aware that whenever you do a job there are going to be things that you don't know how to do. It's important to be open to learning new things and it's important to be open to new and innovative ideas.
  • Learn Conflict Management: There are bound to be conflicts between people you work with an who work for you. It's important to be able to manage conflicts and help people reach a positive outcome at the end of the day.
  • Have a Sense of Humor: One of the best things to have in life and at work is a positive attitude and a sense of humor. You need to be able to deflect tense situations and make everyone stay positive when things get tough.

Time Management

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Being able to successfully manage your time is key to performing your job successfully. When you're able to balance your time amongst various tasks, you'll be able to accomplish those tasks in a focused and effective manner. In addition, learning to manage your time effectively can help you reduce stress, and slice down your workload. The goal of time management is to balance your time amongst different tasks, and minimize the time spent per task so that you can get more done in shorter periods of time. Here are some simple work hacks to help learn time management skills.

  • Minimize Distractions: Put on headphones, lock yourself in a conference room, or just move your workspace into a quiet area. Do anything you need to do to prevent yourself from being distracted. Turn off your phone, put it in your bag, lock away anything that will prevent you from getting your work done.
  • Don't Procrastinate: Don't put things off to the last minute. It's important to get things done before you start worrying about them, or before the deadline approaches too quickly. People usually put off things they don't want to do until the last possible moment, so, if you do that, be aware of it and then avoid procrastinating.
  • Make a To-Do List: Every morning make a list of everything you need to get done for the day. At the top of the list put the most important tasks that are either time sensitive or have a deadline at the top of the list, and the less important tasks at the bottom. Make sure you finish the important tasks at the top of the list, and if you can't get around to the less urgent tasks for the day, put them at the top of the list for tomorrow.

Check out the table below, it's an excellent example of how to break down your to-do list into various priorities:

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The above table is from an article by Business Balls

  • Schedule Time for Interruptions: Be aware of the fact that you're going to have interruptions and distractions. So, make time to get distracted and make time for interruptions. If you get interrupted by playing games on your phone or checking your Facebook, schedule some time apart for those activities.
  • Take Time Apart to Daydream: Don't be afraid to just sit down and stare out the window and get lost in your thoughts. Take 30 minutes every day just to lose yourself.
  • Schedule Time to Answer Emails: Set aside two times a day to answer your emails one before noon and one after noon. Unless you know you have an important message coming in, leave your emailing answering to a scheduled time. When you go to answer your emails, completely clear your inbox and answer everything.
  • Time Yourself for A Week: Take a week to time how long it takes you to accomplish every task. Keep a journal and record how much time you're spending doing certain things. In the journal, be sure to make a note of reasons a task took you a certain amount of time. Did you get distracted? Could you have accomplished a task faster?
  • Make a Calendar: A calendar can be anywhere from simple to complex. You can break down tasks by hour, or by the day. If it's easier for you to write down five tasks you have to accomplish a day, and then accomplish those and move on to other things. It's really about finding a calendar system that works best for you. When it comes to your calendar, don't be afraid to block out large amounts of time to complete certain projects, if it takes you less time that's great, but utilize every minute of that time to accomplish what you need to with 100% focus. 

Check out this basic calendar from Business Balls that breaks down tasks by day:

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If you're looking to start building your time management schedule or calendar check out these resources: Time Management Template, Fantastical, Calendars+, Week Calendar, Sunrise Calendar, Awesome Cal, Organizer, and Calvetica Calendar.

  • Have a Sunday Night Strategy Session: Sit down every Sunday night, even if its just for half an hour and brainstorm the week ahead. What do you have going on? Are there any big events you have to attend? Is it someone's birthday? Is there an upcoming deadline? Even if you only spend 10 minutes, it will help ease any stress or anxiety you have about the upcoming week because you'll know what you have to expect in the upcoming five days.
  • Utilize a Task Management or To-Do List System: Sometimes the best way to stay organized and manage your time is to use an app. There are a variety of awesome apps out there that can help you organize your tasks and manage your time. Remember the Milk, Asana, Todoist, Toodledo, Any.DO, Wunderlist, and OmniFocus.

 

Reduce Your Stress Load

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You won't be able to get anything done unless you have a clear head. It's important to learn how to positively and effectively manage your stress, so that it does not overload and consume your thought process.

  • Understand Your Sources of Stress: Understanding the source and reason for your stress is the first step to learning how to manage your stress. Try and take account of all your sources of stress, even if you are stressing yourself out, and write them down. Keep track of the different reasons you become stressed and then you'll be able to track how the solutions and coping mechanisms you've implemented have effected your stress.
    • What is causing you to worry?Here you really need to be specific and figure out the exact reason you're feeling stressed, anxious or worried.
    • Why is this causing you to worry? Are you stressed because this event, person, or thing has a direct impact on you, or are you just worried for the sake of being worried?
    • Do you take responsibility for your stress? Are you blaming other people, events, and circumstances for the way you are feeling.
    • Do you define "being stressed" as part of your personality? Do you consider yourself a nervous, anxious or stressed person?
    • Do you consider the stress to only be temporary? Do you feel stressed because you "have a lot going on right now?
    • How do you currently cope with stress? Do you already have tools and mechanisms in place to help you deal with day-to-day stress as well as situational stress? How are your coping mechanisms working for you?
  • Exercise: Working out, going for a run, and just boosting your endorphin level can do wonders for your stress level. Spending thirty minutes every day just engaging in any sort of physical activity can improve your mental state, and help you work through any tense or stressful situations.
  • Recognize the Unhealthy Ways of Coping with Stress: It's important to recognize that there are many unhealthy and destructive ways of dealing with stress or pressure. Violence, drinking too much, overeating or undereating, and violence are a few unhealthy ways of dealing with stress. If you find yourself withdrawing from friends, smoking, or zoning out in front of the TV, maybe you need to rethinking your coping mechanisms. Recognize the unhealthy ways of dealing with stress, and avoid engaging in those activities. Instead, go for a hike, call a friend, or just go outside and have fun.
  • Get Enough Sleep & Eat Healthy: Two of the main causes of stress are hunger and exhaustion. If you don't eat enough, or skip meals, you're going to increase your stress level. The same goes for not getting enough sleep. If you adopt unhealthy eating habits or sleep patterns, you will compromise both your physical and mental health. Make sure to eat right and get a full night of sleep.
  • Adjust Your Attitude: Try and adopt a positive attitude. This doesn't mean you have to be a cheerleader with an overly positive attitude 24/7, but it does mean that you should try and look at things from a realistic perspective and be optimistic.  In addition, you should realize that certain things may not ever change. There are some sources of stress that are unavoidable, so you just have to figure out the best ways of coping with them.
  • Make Time for Fun: It's important to adopt a work hard, play hard attitude. Commit to your job 100%, and then when your work is done take fun seriously. Go out, explore the world, and enjoy yourself.
  • Know Your Limits: Know what you can and can't handle. Don't do things just because other people are doing them, do them because you want to do them. If you know you're too tired to go on a hike, then don't go. If you have a lot going on during the week but your friends want to hang out on the weekend, take time to think if that's too much for you to handle. Learn how to say no.
  • Take control of your life: If watching the news, calling home to your parents, or something else makes you anxious and stressed. Don't do it. Avoid watching the news, and tell your parent's you'll call them during a better time.
  • Calm Breathing: Calm breathing involves sitting in silence and focusing on every inhalation and exhalation. Inhale through your nose, pause, and slowly exhale through your mouth. If you need some help with these exercises try these articles: Anti-Stress Breathing Techniques, Anxiety Breathing Techniques, How to Calm Your Nerves

 

The Final Word: These are only some of the essentials skills you will need to get things done at work and further your career. If you really want to jumpstart your career you need to go above and beyond what people want and expect of you. It is only when you think creatively, push the limits, and go outside of the box that you'll be able to truly make large strides at work.

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11 Comments

  1. PrettyinPinkInk

    Wonderful article! Well thought out content and with advice that has helped me to put my sources of stress into perspective. The links that are provided have me itching for TIME to look at the ones that will be most helpful. Thank you! I look forward to implementing your ideas!

  2. mikkael

    Hey Maryam, I couldn't enjoy your post. It seems, albeit a few alibi references in your context to the contrary, that your life and the principles you propose, are solely based on your working life. You seem to live to work and not the other way around. Where is the hard play, when you check your mails 14 times (I bet you're carrying a smartphone with push functionality) on five days and have only working lunches? Removing Sa and Su from the calendar will never restore the mojo lost. That schedule of yours is a safe route to Zoloft, Prozac or worse.

    Sunday night brainstorming? This is one awkward advice. And procrastination is an uncontrolled symptom of an overwhelmed brain, not of laziness. GTD is a tool, not the solution. Moreover, making large To-Do lists, and worse, prioritizing those (if empty Inbox is aimed) are fool's errands. There is no mention of "delegating" and "reviewing" in your post, which are, in stark contrast to the praised list management, proven to be the ultimate keys in personal productivity and collegial work. (Time > priority, always)

    All this might work for you for sometime, but soon you'll recognize that your energy levels are going to drop drastically if the balance and your play time fall short. Social life, spirituality, and oh yes, family, still have time for that?

    There are indeed many articles similar to this one on the web, even books, but sadly, many of the authors lost their jobs to burnouts, drugs and/or severe depression. I urge your readers strongly to rely on qualified literature on this delicate subject, not on selective personal experience and temporary pseudo-coaching.

    In today's world of information overkill, there are no jump starts. Start slowly, progress carefully and keep your life as balanced as you can, while you move on. Given the necessary foundation for/of knowledge, leadership emerges from personal experience and not from passion, it needs time to evolve and adapt itself. There are no fast lanes here.

    Keep it manageable, pace yourself, otherwise that "jump start" will be the next highway to hell.

    Regardless, I love the new platform and hope soon to be a part of it myself. Keep up the good work!

  3. sprouticus

    @MIkkael Gueltekin welcome to the marketplace and thanks for the great comment, we really appreciate you taking the time to give thoughtful feedback. I agree that if all you do is focus on work, you're going to burnout quickly. It's something that most of us learn the hard way in the startup world. This post does touch on wellness, but maybe we could have done a better job presenting a more balanced perspective. We'll be sure to keep your points in mind if we explore this topic again. :)

  4. mikkael

    Hey Lesley,

    Thanks for the warm welcome and the kind words. I think you guys are doing a great work and produce incredible results. This is one hell of a good idea. I became aware of the creative market through Orman, whom I admire a lot, because of his great style and work.

    I ran an agency of 34 people for 18 years. We had similar work schedules, comparable values and tons of work to deal with, all young, ambitious and energetic people. Unfortunately all past tense today, as many of my colleagues dropped out, one after another, due to reasons I tried to explain above. NONE of them were able to find other high quality jobs in this industry again.

    The problem about burnout is, it comes suddenly, but stays for a long time; it not only destroys the creativity and the working ethic, but also demolishes your private life, too. After the job loss, you are left with it alone (with your family).

    As you said, keep this fairly in mind, while you progress. And if I am to give you guys one bit of personal advice though, that would be, never go to lunch (or worse, dinner) with a client, don't talk work on any break or on your private cell phone, never friend business partners on facebook and keep your meetings as short as possible. My 50 cents - hoping you're not mad at me ;-)

  5. kevin.ferris.3766

    Another great exercise for understanding yourself and evaluating your strengths is to go through the process of building a portfolio. By physically organizing your accomplishments together, you get a much clearer picture of what your background looks like and can plan out next steps to mold that picture into the background you want to have. Online platforms such as Portfolium (https://portfolium.com) let you do all this without having to hassle with binders and sleeves and allow you to showcase your accomplishments online for recruiters to see.

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