March 14, 2017
Do you want to know a secret? Success doesn’t comes from grand one-off gestures. It comes from discipline, focus, and repeating small acts every day in order to constantly improve your performance.
Take athletes, for example. They didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be brilliant at running. They’ve put in the hours and made sacrifices all the way through their lives to achieve greatness. They’ve been up at 5.00am every day to train. They’ve missed out on weddings, parties and birthdays to improve their skills. They’ve eaten the right foods, been to bed on time, and given up a few of life’s more decadent sides. They put their love of sport first, ahead of their love of cake, beer, and late nights. They’ve maybe even sacrificed relationships because their time was being compromised.
Being excellent, and mastering your discipline, comes from making small choices every day and repeating them until you get to where you want to be. Waking up at 5am every day to run? That might be easy, just the once. It’ll have a negligible effect on your life. Doing it every day for the next year? That’s harder. And it’ll definitely have more of an impact.
And it’s not just the morning run which builds confidence and skill. It’s the low-fat breakfast. It’s not smoking. It’s going for a swim and pushing yourself on a Friday night when you’d rather be in a bar. All these little things, tied together, make up something exceptional which put focused, ambitious people head and shoulders above the rest.
You can apply this logic to your career. By making small changes and tweaking your morning routine and habits throughout the day, you can begin to develop a truly brilliant reputation at work.
You may not realise it, but what you're doing is developing a flexible, fairly basic prototype for your career. What do you want from it? What's important to you? What kind of skills do you enjoy using? Where do you want to be in five years?
By becoming the best you can be and showing yourself in your best light, you'll give yourself the flexibility and foresight to aim high. Let's say you want to take a secondment, or work in a different department to gain more experience. As you're such a star player, your reputation will do the hard work for you - and doors will open which might not budge so easily for less dedicated individuals.
You see, the constant reiteration of small steps, every day, building on excellence, will allow you to see which skills you need to work on, the ones which give you pleasure, and what you really want from a job. Your prototype - the blueprint for the job you want - isn't a construct you'll thrash out in an evening. It's an ever-changing process which will adapt and fit around you, and the following ideas are designed to smooth the way - so whichever direction you're set to go in, it'll be an easy transition for you.
- Start coming in just a little bit earlier. If you’re normally at your desk for 9.02 and you don’t really get into the swing of things until 9.15, come in for 8.40 and make sure you’re fed, watered and ready to go by 9
- Go to bed an hour earlier every day. You’ll soon see your energy levels leap and you won’t get that dreaded mid-afternoon ‘slump’
- Try to squeeze in a workout before work. You’ll arrive at the office feeling good to go and pretty virtuous for getting your gym visit out of the way
- Go above and beyond. If your boss wants to meet you at 8am for a meeting, make sure you’re there at 7.50am, looking fresh and ready to go, with any notes or presentations you’ll need
- Ask questions in meetings. Ask what developments mean for your role, and how you can take part. Your enthusiasm will be noted and managers will see you as a team player
- Create a role you’ll enjoy by making positive suggestions, taking ownership, and see what can you do within the current confines of your role to make a difference. Let your strengths do the talking, so if you’re good at something - such as speaking to customers - how can you recreate that in your own way? How can you end up dealing with people in your current role?
- Collaborate, and get a wider idea of how your team is doing. Can the work you’re doing help anyone else? Is anyone working on anything which you could use? Swapping ideas can not only further your projects, but also help others
- Seek out training. Not only will this help you improve professionally and personally, but it will also send a clear message to your boss that you’re able to spot opportunities and you’re willing to make your role your own
- Offer to organise team nights out and social events. You’ll be known as someone fun, who cares about team morale - and who isn’t afraid to do some of the hard work to ensure the team comes together
On their own, these small acts won’t do much. However, when they begin to work together, you’ll see them ‘snowball’. Combined, they’ll send out a powerful message - you’re consistent, organised, helpful and committed to the job.
Here’s some handy hints you should take away and mull over:
1. Preparation is everything. Coming into work with a clear mind, on time, not feeling flustered or rushed, is the key to starting the day well
2. Your dream job doesn’t exist. The best thing you can do is co-create a role with your boss which you’ll love - and always strive to improve
3. Small things done alone have minimal impact. Small things done together, over and over, have maximum effect
4. Being exceptional isn’t about killing yourself at work and getting stressed. It’s about showing your boss your a friendly, helpful, reliable and hardworking employee
5. You don’t have to be the best - because you'll never be 'the best'! It's impossible. The only person you’re in competition with is you; just work at being the best version of you. That’s all that matters
6. Develop a prototype of the career you'd like, and don't be afraid to play with it, bend it, scrap it or build on it. Just remember to be flexible and know you're always working towards a goal - even if the path towards it isn't straight sometimes!