Get back on track: Steps to improve your performance at work

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Reviewing your performance at work shouldn’t be left until the obligatory annual review or as a precursor to your applying for that new position. 

If you feel like you haven’t been reaching your full potential at work, now is the time to take stock of where you are and decide if you want to make some changes at work.

Sit down with your manager, a trusted colleague, partner or friend and talk about your job, and the areas you believe you need to improve. Beginning this journey with an outside perspective helps ensure that you are more realistic about your current performance and may highlight ideas and opportunities that you would not have thought otherwise.

Once you know your starting point, it’s time to decide where you will focus your improvements. Here are four different areas that can support better performance at work.

  1. Role clarity
  2. Support at work
  3. Motivation
  4. Time and energy


There are first steps you can take in each of these areas to begin making a real difference in your work. Choose the one that makes the most sense to you and go from there.

Role Clarity

It is easy to do your job well when you know what it is you should be doing. Role clarity is one of the most underrated problems of the modern workday. Job titles have become vaguer, and job descriptions are left to gather dust from the moment you log in to work on your first day.

 Even if you know what your job is, it’s often impossible to tell which items on your to-do list are more important than others. As we work more with other teams to achieve common goals, there is more duplication and overlap of responsibilities. That makes it more difficult to review and prioritise the tasks that are assigned to you. When you spend the majority of your time working on bits of everything, the most valuable work will never get completed.

Three ways you can improve role clarity and boost your performance.

  • Throw out 80% of your to-do list. If you could only work on 20% of the tasks you had planned to do, which ones would you focus on? These are your priority for the week. Finish these first before moving on to anything else, and you will feel greater accomplishment.
  • Get clarity from others. Ask your manager and the people you work most closely with to share how you help them the most. What do you do that adds the most value for other people and teams? How do you impact other people and the team/company goals?
  • Write a handover: Imagine you will be out of the office for one month. What tasks and meetings would you hand over to someone else to take care of while you are away? These are the responsibilities you deem to be most important. Review this with your manager to see if you are on the same page.

Support at work

It doesn’t matter if you have been in your job for ten days or ten years; everyone benefits from help at work. This could be anything from technical skills training, having someone to answer questions about products or customers, or mentoring to help advance your career to the next level. 

At the basic level, everyone at work benefits from having someone they can talk to about what they are working on and what is preventing them from getting things done.

First steps to finding and establishing a better support network at work

  1. Identify where you need support. Complete a SWOT analysis to understand your current strengths and weaknesses, where there are opportunities for you to perform well at work and threats that could derail your progress. When this is complete, list the different types of support you could benefit from.
  2. Find your support network. The people who can help you succeed at work may be outside of your manager and direct team. Look at the areas you need support in and match them to potential people across the organization. You could ask your manager or HR for help with this if you are new to the company.
  3. Communicate your needs. We often make the mistake of assuming that other people know where we need help. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Put your hand up and ask for help when you need it – and let people know how you can help them in return.


Related: The secret to improving team productivity



Sometimes you aren’t doing the work you know you should be doing because you simply aren’t motivated enough. You spend hours procrastinating on other tasks, and the important tasks remain undone. 

When you are not motivated at work, everything takes more effort, and the day can seem twice as long. 

Kickstart your motivation – and performance – with some small changes.

  • Ask yourself why you are unmotivated. Write down what comes to mind and reflect on it. Decide one small thing you can do today to improve things.
  • Work in 25-minute blocks of time and write down everything you complete as you go along. Review your progress at the end of the day.
  • Make a daily list of 3-5 things you are grateful for at work. These could be anything from using your favourite coffee cup to working with a particular person or learning a new skill. Focusing on what you like about work will make it easier to identify other good things about your job, team or company.


Time and energy

We all have the same 24 hours in the day – but we don’t all use them the same way. If you want to perform better at work, your calendar is one of the easiest places to start.

Begin by setting boundaries around your work with start time, breaks and finish time. This gives you a container which you can fill with the right activities. When you set this in your calendar, it helps to reduce unplanned overtime, and you are more likely to take breaks. 

Having the right amount of time at and away from work is key to improving your performance. It prevents you from burning out and allows you to show up daily with more energy to do your work well.

Track your time and watch your performance improve.

Track your time for five working days to clearly understand what your work week looks like. When you see how much time you spend on different activities and link that back to your job, it’s easier to spot places in the week that can be improved.

Imagine what you could achieve if you did things differently for 10 hours of the week next week. Make the changes, and then continue to tweak and improve things as you go along.

When you are focused on improving your performance, the one thing you must do is record your wins. It’s easy to take things for granted when they become embedded in your daily routine. Make it a priority to document your journey and use it as a source of motivation and inspiration in the months ahead.

About Niamh

Niamh is committed to making the information and tools to improve productivity available to every professional who is striving to improve how they work and live.

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