4 Science-Backed Strategies For Getting Better At Any Job

Work is work. It is really weird to think about that sometimes, because we all go to different places every day and do such different jobs, but we all call it “work.” Because that’s what it is! When my boyfriend goes to the hospital to take care of sick people, he is at work — when I am writing on my laptop from my bed, or wiping baby puke off of a child I nanny, I’m at work. They’re very different things, but they’re definitely jobs, and they’re definitely work. Everyone has a job, and most of them are nothing alike. So it is hard to give blanket-statements of advice for how to increase productivity at work. (But I’m gonna try, so buckle up.)

Interestingly enough, although jobs are so vastly different, there are a few key things that just make people more productive as human beings, and therefore, better at their work — whatever it may be. These few key things — science-backed, researched, and linked for your reading pleasure — make me better at caring for a three-month-old while his mom is at work, and make his mom do better at her work, make Dr. Drew do better at his work, and make pretty much everyone who does them more productive, proactive, and overall better on the job than they would be otherwise.

Here are four science-backed strategies for getting better at your job.

1. Waking up early. (Sometimes.)

I know — I know. It annoys me just as much as it probably annoys you, but waking up early still does prove to be one of the easiest ways to increase productivity and overall success in your work life. And I definitely acknowledge that waking up before the sun rises isn’t for everyone, and won’t benefit everyone. (TBH, getting enough sleep is super important, and if you’re not going to sleep early enough at night to compensate the waking up early, you’re probably actually doing nothing for your productivity, and possibly even decreasing it.) But waking up early — after a full night of good sleep — means that you have a few extra hours of your day to do things that improve your mood and make you generally more productive, and leaves you with a bit of distraction-free time to set intentions for the day and be proactive about how you will accomplish things.

This article references a Wall Street Journal report that found that 4 AM is the “most productive hour” to wake up. I’m not saying I’ve fully tested this theory or completely agree, but I will say that my boyfriend wakes up at 4 AM religiously and accomplishes a whole heck of a lot before I’ve even stopped hitting snooze. Getting a head start on things coming in the day ahead, or simply giving yourself a few minutes to exercise, meditate, or eat a healthy, yummy breakfast has been shown to really make people do better in their work life.

2. Using social media tools effectively.

And I don’t mean scrolling through Twitter when your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder. (But I don’t necessarily mean not scrolling through Twitter all day.)

Studies and articles and surveys have shown that many employees actually believe that their productivity has increased due to increased social media use. I can definitely agree in most cases — although I’m much more likely to find myself online shopping during a workday because of the internet, I’m also more likely to find myself collaborating with people, bouncing ideas off of others, and accessing information in a way that wouldn’t be possible without the speed and ease of social media.

Even for someone like me, who has worked for a long time as a nanny, social media has changed the game. I can find new jobs on websites like care.com, my employers can check me out and engage with me on my social media profiles, and we can share information with each other throughout the day using it. (Mostly by liking each other’s Instagram pics of the cute-as-heck baby, but still — it is something.)

3. Having a hobby.

Or, at very least, having some important personal interests unrelated to your work. Studies have found that being consistently actively engaged in a creative hobby outside of work actually increases your work performance. This article discusses how — and I was definitely a little shocked by the results. When I think about it, this totally makes sense.

Having a hobby (which I wrote about earlier this week) that makes you feel like you’re always working towards some sort of creative goal (even if it is just putting together hella cute outfits) boosts confidence by making you feel like you’re succeeding at something you love, and definitely improves your mood. It helps you relax and decompress, and, as mentioned in the article, might help identify personal and professional strengths and weaknesses to work on. If you’re finding yourself getting burnt out by the stress and busyness of your work-life, try picking up a fun, relaxing, creative hobby to keep you engaged and relieving stress outside of the office, and possibly increasing your productivity at the same time.

4. Get enough sleep. Really.

I’m a terrible example, considering the fact that I’ve literally not had a full night of sleep all week (for no reason other than the fact that my body just Wont!!! Let!!! Me!!!), but I definitely know how terrible the effects of sleep deprivation can be. This page from the Harvard Medical School website is a lil’ bit of a TL;DR moment, but to sum it up, their studies found that missing out on sleep not only makes us feel tired and awful, but actually messes with our cognitive functions and ability to successfully perform work-and-life tasks. (Definitely not a good way to get a promotion.)

So sure — wake up at 4 AM if that is your golden hour for productivity, but make damn sure you’re getting to sleep at 8 PM the night before and taking care of the brain inside that noodle of yours. You’ll be better at your job, and your body will thank you too.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Collective World

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  • Wolf

    I’m a monring person and naturally wake up at 6am – that means I have to go to bed at 10pm. Which means that I’m no fun at parties in the evening – I’m tired at 10pm. So the person who gets up at 4am and goes to bed at 8pm is even more limited in their social options. Brunches, outdoor things and afternoon coffee dates are lovely, but I do wonder what i miss out on during those nightly parties.