Sometimes, the normal 9 to 5 grind just can’t get you what you need from your career. If you’re unsatisfied with your rate of advancement in your company, want to earn more money, or want to start getting noticed as a leader, devoting extra time and energy to your work is a surefire way to earn a reputation as someone who takes work seriously. However, even workaholics need to take steps to balance their work life with their personal life. Start with Step 1 below to learn how to get ahead at work while staying safe and sane.
- Ask for overtime. The most straightforward way to show a serious dedication to your work is to simply work more than the average employee. Though some companies have policies against giving overtime hours to employees, many will allow you to do so. If your company is receptive to the idea of you working overtime, ask your supervisor to for permission right away. Not only will this show your boss that you’re willing to go that all-important extra step to get the job done, but it will also give you a nice bump in your next paycheck.
- In the United States, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates that employees that work more than 40 hours in a given week will receive at least one and a half times their base pay for the additional hours worked. Though individual states may have laws that differ, eligible employees are legally entitled to the federal one and a half rate if it is higher than state law allows.
- Note that overtime generally is only an option for hourly employees — salaried employees don’t necessarily get paid more for working longer hours. If you’re salaried, you may instead want to ask your supervisor for a bonus for performing extra work.
- Pursue new projects without being asked to. Generally, managers and supervisors love it when their employees take on additional responsibilities without being told to do so. Doing this shows initiative, intelligence, and ambition. If executed correctly, it can also make life easier for your boss, which can earn you his or her respect as well as more tangible rewards. However, when pursuing new projects, be careful not to overstep your authority or embarrass other employees. Your goal is to be ambitious, but not arrogant. Below are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Present your boss with a report detailing ways to make your work more efficient.
- Organize and run meetings to help you work effectively on other projects without bothering your boss.
- Brainstorm a list of strategies for increasing the company’s profitability.
- Organize internal office events (birthday parties, holidays, and so on).
- Get engaged in your office life. It’s much, much easier to work effectively if you have a positive relationship with your colleagues. This means making an effort to have friendly, positive interactions with them on a regular basis. At the very least, you should try to spend meal breaks with your coworkers often. Use these opportunities to get to know your coworkers through small talk and friendly conversation. If you can’t think of anything to say, you can always ask about the food they’re eating.
- If you find that you enjoy talking to your coworkers, you may want to invite them to spend time with you outside of work. For instance, you can invite them to get drinks with you, to play a game of golf or your preferred sport, or to visit a mutual acquaintance. However, if you don’t see yourself being a close friend to your coworkers, this isn’t absolutely necessary.
- Obviously, this general rule holds true for jobs that don’t take place in an office as well. People who work in restaurants, factories, fire stations, army bases, hospitals, and countless other places can benefit from friendly interactions with their coworkers just as much as office workers can.
- Finish projects early. Work can often seem like one long chain of looming deadlines — daily duties need to be finished by the time you leave each day, minor projects need to be finished by the end of the week, major projects need to be finished by the end of the month, and so on. If you can manage to complete your work earlier than you’re required to, not only will you make a great impression on your superiors, but you’ll also give yourself a chance to take on additional responsibilities, which can in turn increase your profile at work. When your superiors are giving out promotions, they’re likely to consider the hardest-working, promptest employees first. Make sure you’re at the top of their list by gaining a reputation for delivering high-quality work with a quick turnaround.
- While it’s a great idea to make a habit of turning in projects early, be careful not to do this too much. If you turn in every single project early, your superiors may get the impression that they’re not giving you enough to do and may increase your workload, making you work more for the same pay. If you can, try to focus on turning in only the most important, attention-grabbing projects early.
- Deliver more than you’re asked for. As noted above, most managers and supervisors respect hard work, ambition, and creativity. If you’re looking to get ahead at work, there’s hardly a better way to do it than by giving your managers more than what they ask for. Doing this shows that you’re serious about your commitment to your job and that you’re a more valuable employee than others who only do exactly what they’re asked to do. However, as when attempting to finish projects early, you’ll need to balance your ambition with the reality that consistently working extremely hard can be tremendously taxing on the body and mind. Try to reserve your absolute best efforts for important projects where they’re likely to be noticed. Below are just a few sample ideas:
- If asked to present a report of internal company data, do your own independent research so that you can extrapolate meaningful take-aways from your results.
- If asked to clean up a cluttered storeroom, develop your own system for organizing the items and write out directions so others can use it.
- If sales figures for your company are slipping, test and develop your own sales techniques and share them with your coworkers.
- Bring your work home with you. When most people get home from a long day on the job, more work is the last thing they have on their mind. However, if you can stand to do so, occasionally doing additional work at home can separate you from the pack. This can be in the form of telecommuting to meetings from your home computer, doing additional research or analysis “homework” for important projects, taking important business calls, and more.
- If you have a family, you’ll want to avoid doing excessive amounts of work at home. While a single person can get away with doing lots of extra work at home, the commitments of a family can make it difficult to devote your entire attention to your work when you’re at home. The exception to this rule, of course, is if the nature of your job requires you to do most or all of your work from home.
- Dress for success. Though there are plenty of exceptions to the rule, people in general can be somewhat shallow, especially if they know you in a formal business context. If you dress in a serious, dignified manner, people (including your bosses and coworkers) are more likely to treat you seriously. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wear tailored suits to work every day — expensive is not always better. Unless you’ve got the cash for a seriously high-class wardrobe, you’re probably better off sticking with one of the affordable yet dignified options below:
- For men: It’s hard to go wrong with a plain pair of khakis or slacks and a modest button-up shirt. For extra class, you may want to consider adding a jacket and a tie. If you work at a casual place of business (like an internet startup), you may be able to get away with an outfit as informal as a t-shirt and shorts.
- For women: A long-sleeved shirt and skirt combination works well in most offices. Conservative dresses are also a good option. Suits and pantsuits are smart choices for jobs that require you to interact with the public, while casual jobs may allow you to get away with a t-shirt and jeans.
- Always act like what you’re doing is important. In addition to dressing to fit the part of a serious, dedicated employee, you’ll want to ensure that the way you act also gives this impression. To a certain extent, other peoples’ opinions of you are shaped by your own opinions of yourself. Thus, acting like whatever you’re doing at the moment is important is a great way to make other people in the office realize that you are important. Try adopting the following habits to ensure that people think of you as an indispensable employee:
- Walk briskly and with purpose, even if you’re just heading to the cooler to get a drink of water.
- Speak clearly and confidently.
- When you walk past people, greet them quickly, but keep walking.
- If you’re at your desk, sit up straight in your chair.
- Don’t be afraid to express your opinions. Unless they have delicate egos, for the most part, bosses appreciate receiving feedback from their employees — positive or negative. Offering your opinions occasionally shows that you’re engaged in your job and that you care what happens to yourself and to the company. Depending on the company morale at your workplace, this can noticeably set you apart from the majority of employees. Below are a few ideas for when and where it’s appropriate to make a point to express yourself:
- At company strategy meetings, offer ideas for how the company can make itself more competitive.
- Ask intelligent questions whenever you are unsure of how to proceed in your work. This can make you look especially good if you do so when others seem reluctant to pose their own questions (like during an awkward silence following a tense meeting).
- If you’re unhappy about some aspect of your job, talk to your supervisor about changing it. However, don’t be offended if you receive a “no”.
- Seek out challenges. Taking on new responsibilities at work can be quite challenging, especially before you’ve had time to adjust to your new role. However, if you’re successfully able to perform your new duties, you’ll be rewarded with recognition, a more important position at your business, and (possibly) more money. However, in seeking new responsibilities, be sure not to over-extend yourself by biting off more than you can chew. Make sure that you can handle the additional workload before taking on new responsibilities or you run the risk of having to ask for less work, which can be embarrassing on a professional level.
- If there aren’t any obvious ways to expand your current responsibilities at work, try asking your supervisor directly for more responsibilities. There’s a significant chance that s/he will be able to assign you additional work, and even if s/he can’t, you’ll look impressive for taking the initiative to ask for it.
- Call attention to your efforts. If you work hard, you deserve to be recognized for it. However, in the hustle and bustle of the work week, good work can easily go unnoticed. Don’t let your accomplishments get swept under the rug. Instead, look for excuses to showcase your efforts. Try to bring up successful projects that you’ve completed in ways that make it clear that you are responsible for the success without seeming like a braggart. If you’ve actually done a good job, you have no need to be embarrassed to do so. Below are just a few opportunities where you may have the opportunity to show off your good work:
- If you’ve completed a project and haven’t received much recognition, try sharing it with others via a group email. You can easily pose your email as a mere “keeping everyone up to speed” message while ensuring that important coworkers and supervisors see your work.
- If you’ve completed a project that is somewhat relevant to a new project being discussed, bring up your old work as an example of how to proceed or as guidance for new areas of work to explore.
- Be friendly, but not irreverent. Having an upbeat, positive attitude in the workplace is a great way isn’t just a way to appear energetic and motivated to others (though it is this). It’s also a way to keep your own spirits up and make yourself a more effective worker. If you go out of your way to be friendly, you’ll have an easier time interacting with other employees, who will also generally find it easier to work with you. This makes it easier to collaborate or ask for help on projects, increasing your productivity. Finally, it’s worth noting that you’re more likely to receive rewards and promotions if you’re well-liked.
- While you’ll want to make an effort to be friendly, you’ll want to stay away from touchy topics of conversation and racy humor. Getting a quick laugh isn’t worth sabotaging your efforts by offending a coworker or having to receive sensitivity training.
Fostering Good Work Habits
- Eliminate distractions while you work. There’s no reason to spend hours and hours at work if you can’t get anything done while you’re working. Ensure that you’re a productive worker by removing any and all distractions that might sidetrack your efforts to get your work done. Some of the most common distractions for workers (along with ideas for thwarting them) are listed below:
- Idle noise/chatter at the workplace — use headphones or earplugs or move to a new work area.
- Conversation with other employees — cordially tell the offending person that you’re busy and that you can talk when you’re done. Alternatively, try placing a sign at your desk or work area politely notifying others not to disturb you.
- Internet diversions (games, social media, etc.) — install productivity add-ons or site-blocking programs to your browser.
- Set ambitious (but realistic) goals. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to work hard, sometimes, deciding on a specific goal and giving yourself a deadline to achieve it can help you get out of the workday doldrums and become productive. When choosing goals, be ambitious, but have a firm grasp of what you can and can’t achieve in your chosen time frame. Setting goals that are out of your reach is essentially setting yourself up for failure, which can cause you to feel like an under-achiever, hurting your morale and conceivably making it even more difficult to stay motivated in the long run.
- Break big projects down into manageable parts. Sometimes, important projects can seem so large and intimidating that it’s difficult to tell where to start. In these cases, it can be helpful to focus on some small but significant aspect of the project and complete this first. Completing this small part of the larger project gives you a sense of achievement that you can use to fuel your motivation as you continue to the rest of the project. You’ll also have an idea of which parts of the project are likely to cause problems and can thus dedicate more effort to these things.
- For example, if you’ve been tasked with making a half-hour presentation to a group of high-level company employees, you might want to start by focusing on creating a thorough, detailed outline. Though the outline only represents a fraction of the work needed to prepare for the presentation, it can make the rest of the project easier by guiding your creation of slides, talking points, and so on.
- Try to inspire greatness in others. Leadership is a skill that’s desirable in nearly all professions. Supervisors look for employees who have natural leadership abilities when they’re looking for employees to reward. Showing leadership at work can get you recognition, more important responsibilities, and even raises and promotions. To demonstrate leadership, make an effort to help others in their duties and to spearhead your own group projects. As noted above, you’ll also want to ensure that your leadership is recognized by showing it to others and bringing it up at appropriate opportunities. If you have a reputation as a leader at your workplace, it’s usually only a matter of time before you become an actual leader. Below are a few opportunities for leadership:
- Take the opportunity to train a new employee and help him or her become acquainted with his or her duties.
- Design your own project, then, with permission from your supervisors, enlist other employees to help you complete it.
- Make a point of leading the discussion during group meetings without a designated leader.
Staying Healthy and Happy
- Always schedule time for breaks. Workaholics should spend much of their time working, but they shouldn’t spend every second of their day working. Occasional breaks help recharge your body and mind, ensuring that you’re as sharp as possible throughout the day and increasing your long-term productivity by fighting fatigue. Additionally, breaks help you stay in a good mood, which can be an essential component of being effective at your job, especially if you work on a face-to-face basis with customers. Don’t skip your breaks to squeeze in a few more minutes of work — work smarter, not longer.
- It’s worth noting that you may also be legally obligated to take breaks. In the United States, there are few federal laws dictating the types of breaks an employer is obligated to provide. However, state laws vary from state to state. For instance, in California, employees must take a 30-minute meal break if they work for more than 5 hours straight unless their total work for the day is less than 6 hours.
- Don’t work during time off. During vacations, sick days, days off, and family time, try to work as little as possible, if at all. The periods in which you’re off of work are meant to allow you to metaphorically recharge your batteries, rest, and recuperate. While some work may be unavoidable, devoting too much of your “off” time to work can effectively negate the restorative benefits you may have otherwise gained. To ensure that you’re able to stay fully motivated when you’re actually at work, allow yourself to enjoy your days off completely work-free.
- Keeping your schedule clear during your time off may mean doing additional work before you leave. If this is the case, do as much work as you can before your time off so that you’ll be able to spend as little effort worrying about work as possible.
- Get plenty of sleep. Nearly every part of a job is more difficult if you’re not well-rested. Staying focused during meetings, keeping track of numerous projects, and ensuring your work gets done on time can be challenging when you haven’t had sufficient rest. To avoid these problems, try to get a full night’s sleep as often as possible (if not every night). Doing so makes it easier for you to stay focused on your work when it really counts — at your job. It also decreases the likelihood that you’ll need to take time off of work because of illness by keeping your immune system strong.
- Though everyone’s biological needs are different, most medical resources agree that adults generally need about 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal health, mood, and mental function.
- Maintain interests outside of work. Though work should be a big focus of a workaholic’s life, it shouldn’t be his or her only focus. Having friends and hobbies outside of your work life can help keep you motivated at work by keeping you from “burning out” from the routine of your job. More importantly, however, it’s a way to enrich your life by increasing both the quality and variety of your experiences. People aren’t defined solely by the work they complete in their lifetime — they’re also defined by the fun they have, the connections they make with other people, the memories they create, and the love they share. Don’t spend your entire life working. If you don’t have something to work for, what’s the point?
- Sometimes, people who devote most of their energy to their work have a difficult time making friends outside of work. If this is true for you, don’t feel stressed, as this is not uncommon among workaholics. In such situations, you may find that enrolling in a singles club can help you make new connections on a busy schedule.
- Find meaning in your job. Let’s face it — not every job is a dream job. Sometimes, the things we do to support ourselves can be very, very different than the things we like to do to find personal fulfillment. However, it’s almost always easier to work hard if you can find some reason to invest yourself in your job emotionally, even if the reason’s a small one. Look for minor details that give you satisfaction, allow you to take pride in your work, or make the world a better place in some small (but noticeable way).
- For instance, let’s say we have a job that’s often described as being relatively unimportant — working as a cook at a fast food restaurant. While some may see this as monotonous, thankless work, we can try to focus on the positive, satisfying aspects of the job. For instance, in your position, you’re responsible for quickly satisfying hundreds of busy, working people every day. If you don’t do a good job, you can easily put some of them in an unhappy mood, which may affect them in other areas of their life. On the other hand, if you take pride in your work and focus on doing a great job, you can help these hundreds of people have satisfying meals, which can in turn help them be the best that they can be at home and work.
- Spend time with your family, if you have one. This is something that many workaholics struggle to do and some fail to do entirely. The work/family balance is one that’s sometimes difficult to manage even for people working normal 40 hour per week jobs. For people who work 70 hours per week, striking the right balance can be extremely challenging. However, your family is not something that you should neglect in order to devote extra time to work. Ultimately, the love of a happy family is much more fulfilling than the rewards offered from a demanding job. If you find yourself having to debate whether to spend a few nights every week with your spouse and children or to work extra-long hours to get the promotion you’ve been eying, recognize that your priorities are out of order. Even workaholics should strive to be loving spouses and parents, and sometimes this means passing up on more work to make time for the things that really matter.
- Motivate yourself. Just as it’s easier to work hard if you can find satisfaction in your job, it’s also easier to work if you give yourself something to work for. For a few lucky people, working is an extremely satisfying activity in and of itself. However, for most, it’s often something to be done simply to support oneself and one’s family. During the humdrum daily grind of work, it’s easy to forget the end purpose of your work. Reminding yourself of the reason why you’re working can help you focus and put in the extra effort it takes to get ahead when it really counts.
- For example, if you’re working a job you’re not crazy about to support your children, you may find it helpful to place a few small pictures of them in your cubicle or work area. When you’re having a hard time motivating yourself to stay late or take on an extra project, looking at these pictures can give you a handy reminder of exactly what you hope to achieve by working hard.
- Let your customers know you will always be available for their needs.
- Find a part time job on the side of your real job.
- Tell your family you’re busy and you cannot be bothered at the moment.
- If you have time and don’t like sleep, find a 3rd part time job.
- It’s recommended you get 8 hours of sleep even if you feel you can go with 4.
- This is the first and most important warning, if your family is not understanding then you might have problems at home.
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Sources and Citations
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