How To Improve Your Work Ethic

Jim shows up to work around 9 am, but after he catches up with the guys at the water cooler and gets his cup of coffee, he actually starts work around 9:30. He’s got three tasks that he needs to accomplish today to satisfy his boss and he’s confident he can get those done with plenty of time to spare. Rather than start on his work right away, Jim checks the weather for the weekend and scrolls through the local news because he knows he has time. He jumps into his work around 10:15, takes an hour lunch around noon and the afternoon is spent bouncing back and forth between work and social media. Five o’clock rolls around and Jim has his three tasks finished, so he goes home to repeat the process the next day.

Jim’s coworker, Mark, has the same responsibilities as Jim, with the same three tasks that he needs to complete. Mark knows that when he gets to the office he’s going to want to chat for a few minutes, so he gets there at 8:45, grabs his coffee, catches up at the water cooler, and gets to his desk to work around 9. He knows that he could get his three tasks done by lunch, but because he takes pride in his work, he decides to go the extra mile to perform the best he can. Even though Mark has gone above and beyond Jim’s quality of work, he is still finished by 3:30 and spends the last hour and a half of work helping others finish their tasks. The last thing Mark does before he leaves for the day is plan out the next day so that no time is wasted in the morning. Mark heads home around 5:10.

Six months go by and a management position opens up in the division Jim and Mark work in. Who do you think is going to get the job first, Jim or Mark? The obvious choice would be Mark, purely because of his work ethic.

What?

What exactly is work ethic and what makes up a strong one? Dictionary.com defines work ethic as “a belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherentability to strengthen character.” By this definition, work ethic is more about creating the best you through your work than it is about working hard for your company. Don’t get me wrong, if your company is paying you, you should probably be working hard for your money, but you should also be working hard for yourself.

Responsibility, reliability, and pride in work are all very important when it comes to a strong work ethic. Part of a strong work ethic is people knowing that when you are tasked with a job to do, you are going to do everything in your power to get it done, and on time. You are not someone who your boss needs to constantly check-up on to make sure you are on track to meet your deadlines and your quality of work is going to be superb because you take pride in what you produce.

Another three traits that are essential to a strong work ethic are productivity, dedication, and teamwork. Productivity as a trait is really just the result of you being dedicated to working as hard as you can to produce the highest quality product you can. Dedication to yourself and your company is important, and so is dedication to your team. Most people won’t go their entire careers without having to work in a team, so teamwork and being able to work well in a team become very important for a strong work ethic.

Teamwork is a great segue to my final three traits, professionalism, humility, and integrity. Whether you’re working as an individual within your company or with members of a team, it is important to maintain a level of professionalism. Even though your coworker might be your friend or you think you’re close enough with your boss, you have to remember that you are in a professional setting and behave appropriately. When working with a team, it is also important to keep a level of humility, and this goes whether you are the team leader or just another team member. The final trait, integrity, is one that you should never leave home without. You need to have personal and moral standards that you set for yourself as a person, and also as an employee (or boss), and stick to those through the thick and thin of your job.

Who?

A strong work ethic is a very important trait to have when working for any company and in any position. This means that for a company to perform at its best, everyone needs to be exhibiting a strong work ethic, from the interns trying to secure an actual position in the company to the CEO trying to set a good example and lead the company to success. I have seen struggles with work ethic all the way up the corporate ladder, whether it be from getting too comfortable in the position they are in or being unmotivated, stemming from a feeling of unimportance or over-qualification.

When?

The bad thing about work ethic is that it’s really easy to fake… at least for a short period of time. It doesn’t take much effort to look busy when your boss walks by your office, but appearing busy all the time won’t save you when he is assessing your productivity for the quarter or year. This is why it is imperative to not just appear to have a strong work ethic, but to actually have one. Having a strong work ethic when no one is watching will not only make you feel better about yourself, but it’ll have your boss wondering how you’ve gotten so much done.

Why?

The why is actually pretty easy and I hope all of this sounds like common sense. A strong work ethic will help you be proud of the work you have done. It will result in a better use of your company’s and your time and money. It will produce better results in a shorter amount of time. It will cause you to be the best version of yourself and will lead to a successful career and a successful life. With one life to live, can you really afford not to have a strong work ethic?

How To Improve

Now that you know the what, who, when, and why, it’s time to learn the how. Following are 10 tips for developing a stronger work ethic. Make every effort to be cognizant of these 10 tips throughout your day and apply them where you see fit.

  1. Try to be conscious of how good it feels to be productive. Take notice of how much better it feels to get something done on time and at a high-level than to do the bare-minimum.
  2. When you’re at work, make work your top priority. It’s easy to get distracted by what you’re going to cook for dinner or that you need to plan your friend’s birthday party, but that should be done after-hours, once you have your work done.
  3. Minimize distractions at work. It’s hard to prevent distracting thoughts from entering your mind, but a few tools that might help are StayFocusd to help you stay off of distracting websites, Freedom to keep you off of your phone and apps, and Time Out to remind you to take short breaks periodically.
  4. Treat your work like art, hanging on a wall with your name under it. Try to keep in mind that your work is not just a task that needs to be done to earn a paycheck, it is a reflection of yourself.
  5. Develop better communication skills to improve teamwork. Be conscious of how you interact with your teammates and strive to balance your leadership and followership when appropriate.
  6. Learn how to admit when you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, but the real mistake is not admitting when you do. Trust me, everyone already knows you made the mistake, it’ll earn you respect and trust to be upfront about it.
  7. Maintain a healthy work-life balance. You want to work hard when you’re at work, but you don’t want to become a workaholic. You need to make sure you are spending an adequate time on your work, and an adequate time outside of work.
  8. Reward yourself at home for working hard at work. All work and no play will lead to a quick burnout. You need to make sure that you are rewarding yourself at home for all of the hard work you are putting in so that you don’t feel buried by your work.
  9. Start every day by being productive and the rest of the day will follow. How you spend your morning will determine how you spend the rest of the day. If you are productive first thing in the morning, you’ll tend to carry that momentum into the afternoon as well. On the flip-side, if you’re lazy in the morning it’ll be hard to transition into a productive mood.
  10. Lastly, finish each day by determining what tasks you will accomplish tomorrow. This goes hand-in-hand with tip #9 because you will start your day knowing what you need to get done. If you have clear objective when you start your work, you won’t be tempted with procrastination.

I hope these help you become aware of where you stand with your work ethic and how you can strengthen it. If you have any other suggestions or comments, please provide them to everyone else in the comment section below!

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