4 Work Habits That Will Get You Ahead 

There are lots of ways to get ahead in your career, ranging from getting that much-deserved promotion you’ve worked so hard for, to switching employers for a better title and more pay. While the secret for getting ahead in your career may be something similar to “hard work + drive + talent = success,” there’s one aspect of advancement that we often forget about: developing the right kinds of habits that complement our knowledge and skills.

We come by our habits, good or bad, very naturally. They are learned at an early age, but just because you’ve lived with them for years doesn’t mean you can’t change them.

#1: Set Personal and Professional Goals, and Share Them
To get ahead requires a vision for yourself. This means establishing goals above and beyond those set by your boss and Human Resources. Your goal may be to get a promotion by the end of the year, find a mentor, achieve a certification, or even to run a marathon. By establishing attainable and achievable goals, you’re investing time into where you want to go in your business and in life.

Break down your goals into pieces. Ask your boss and HR what criteria they are looking for before awarding a promotion. Set up networking meetings to find the right mentor. Plot out your marathon training schedule.

Once you establish the goals, start talking about them. Envision them coming to reality. Tell people you are working toward them. While it might seem as if you’re discussing a private matter or even boasting about what you’re doing, saying them aloud makes them seem more real. Having that external support can help clarify your vision and ensure you accomplish what you set out to achieve.

#2: Map Out Your Day
Once you have the big picture of life figured out, take a few minutes to prioritize your day. What do you need to achieve today? Take a look at yesterday’s list to see what remains and prioritize accordingly.

Should a hot issue such as a management emergency or a client’s urgent call drop in your lap, reorganize your list accordingly and cut yourself some slack. Think “Best laid plans ….” Be sure you daily list also includes actions dedicated to big picture goals. At the end of the week, review your To Do lists to see what you accomplished and what you avoided. When it is time for your performance review, keeping a running tally of accomplishments on your calendar or in a document.

Tip: If you find a task or two that are consistently not being completed, put that activity FIRST on your next day’s list. Doing your least favorite task first can help you get it finished on time. You’ll also feel better about scratching it off your list.

#3: Be the Boss of Your Inbox
According to a 2012 McKinsey Global Institute study, the average employee spends 28 percent of his or her time reading, writing, or responding to emails; that’s 13 hours a week! Yet, not all emails are created equal. Your plans for the day can easily derail if you treat all emails equally. Be deliberate in attacking your inbox. Decide how much time you need to spend on email each day and stick to it.

Create ways to manage your email so you don’t get sucked in. For starters, turn it off if you’re on an important call or in a meeting; you’ll only be distracted each time the incoming email “bell” rings or you see a message pop up. Next, spend something like 15 minutes every two hours on email. This allows you to stay on top of the urgent issues and respond within a timely manner.

Whatever method you decide, just keep with the objective: Don’t let email take over your job or your life.

#4: Productivity = A Good Workspace
Make it a habit to create a great work environment. Keep in mind that this may mean something different depending on your goal and your style. According to research from the University of Minnesota, a clean desk can promote a healthy and productive attitude, while a messy desk can foster creativity.

Consider what works for your personal style. If you like the environment you’re in, you’ll spend more time there and get more done.

The Right Habit Help Manage Your Image
According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, habits contain three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Cues can be time of day, an emotion or state, or another trigger, so as you begin to adopt your habits, build in cues and rewards to help yourself. For example, you may reward yourself with a quick walk around the office to stretch your leg every couple of hours after you finish your every-two-hour email regime.

Adopting new habits can be challenging, especially when dealing the demands of daily life.
Adopting any of the 4 habits in this article will help you manage your image. You’ll be seen as an organized, goal-oriented, responsive person if you take the right approach to your daily routine.

What’s your favorite work habit that helped you get ahead? Email your comments to youngcpanetwork@aicpa.org.


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