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Phoenix Forward

5 ways to be a star at work

Increase productivity and get ahead

In today’s competitive job market, the employees who get more done are the employees who get ahead. Here, five expert tips on how to increase your productivity and effectiveness at work:


Screen email and phone calls.

“Most people read emails as they come in, but this takes them away from the work they’re performing at the time,” says Jim Lipot, a business consultant and faculty member in the University of Phoenix MBA program.

Instead, he recommends setting up filters in your email program that will automatically sort messages by topic, sender and priority level. Then set aside time each day to respond to them.

You can also use a similar strategy for screening phone calls and voicemails. “Caller ID on phones is a time management tool,” Lipot notes.


Learn to say “no.”

In today’s tough work environments, many employees are afraid to say no to projects. But that can be counterproductive, according to Lipot. “If employees are afraid to say no when they are already overloaded with work, they will perform poorly,” he explains.

Effective employees, on the other hand, understand their limitations and communicate them to their supervisors. “If an employee is honest, it helps,” he says. “[Employees] who are not afraid to say no when they’re overwhelmed will always be more effective.”


Ask for help.

Many employees can feel pressured to do everything themselves, but knowing when and how to ask for help is an essential job skill, Lipot says. “Ask for help early and provide rationale for asking,” he encourages. Doing this demonstrates self-awareness as well as interpersonal skills.

He offers this example: “Say you have three projects to complete, two of which are missing information, while one can be worked on immediately.” You can reprioritize the projects while reaching out for the needed assistance and still remain productive.


Develop project management skills.

Even if “project manager” isn’t part of your job title, having project management skills will boost your productivity, according to Lipot. “If you view everything as a project, so much the better,” he says. “Projects have timelines, due dates and completion milestones. Build in time so you have enough of it to complete the project correctly.”

He also suggests playing a game of “what if” when planning projects to prepare for unforeseen roadblocks. “Create potential situations — what if someone drops the ball? Where else can I get the information I need? And how long will that take?”


Brush up on psychology.

Lipot recommends learning more about human behavior to be more effective in your own job. You can attend seminars, read books and even pursue additional education.

“Basic psychology is always good,” he says. “Understanding what motivates staff can make you a more effective manager, while knowing what the boss really wants can make you a better employee. And knowing yourself is critical to being effective at any level.”