Don’t worry, this is not going to be another preachy blog post! Instead, I am going to share with you the common habits I have consistently seen among highly successful people.
Success in career is not a coincidence — it is a direct consequence of our habits and mindsets. And in this article, I will share with you actionable ideas, tips, and strategies on how to succeed at work. Let’s jump straight in.
1. Extreme ownership is the secret sauce to career success
Nobody wants to hear the phrase – “It is not my fault” – even when it is true. Extreme ownership is taking full responsibility for the end outcome — embracing the ‘no-excuse’ mindset.
The idea is that once you take up a responsibility, you have to get it done. If someone else has a role, follow up with them, persuade them, bug them — do whatever it takes but deliver the outcome. Don’t give excuses such as – “I told that guy, but he did not do his job,” become a problem-solver and focus on getting the work done.
There are three elements to this “no-excuse” mindset:
- Establish clear expectations of what you want to accomplish and what success means to you. Tell your boss, ‘This is what I expect to deliver.’ Once you do that, it is your baby.
- Be aware of how you will secure the cooperation of others to get the job done.
- Get the job done and take responsibility for the good and the bad.
If you show extreme ownership, people will treat you like a leader. And more and more leadership opportunities will come your way.
2. Taking the burden off your leader goes a long way
If you find that your manager is struggling with multiple things, see if you can take responsibility for some of the work and deliver it.
Here are some ways to take responsibility:
- Talk to your boss about being available for the added responsibility.
- Make sure to learn new skills which might help you take on bigger responsibilities without getting overwhelmed.
- Take on more volunteer opportunities, so you’re in the habit of ‘stretching yourself’.
Being proactive and offering help builds on teamwork and makes people want you to succeed. Actively offer support instead of just doing what you’re being told. This is key to advancing in your career goals because it unearths new opportunities for long-term growth, which would otherwise never come by.
3. Focused work—and not just busyness—is central to productivity
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no secret to success. My experience is that success comes from focused work and giving it all you have. And for that focus should become a daily routine. Remember ‘busyness’ does not equal productivity.
We get big things done when we focus on important tasks, for an extended period of time, without switching our attention — that is what is called ‘deep work.’
So incorporate deep work in your schedule for an hour or two every day.
Most people, who don’t incorporate deep work into their lives are busy, yet unproductive — they are not able to move the needle on things that truly matter. But once you build this routine, your productivity will sky-rocket and you will make massive progress on the most high-value tasks.
Quite often, people understand this need for deep work intellectually but are unable to translate it into practice.
To make this idea a reality, we run a ‘Deep Work and Flow‘ bootcamp at HabitStrong, where hundreds of people have learned how to incorporate deep work into daily life. Doing deep work sprints together with a community gives you the motivation and structure to actually build the habit.
Deep Work & Flow Bootcamp
Skyrocket your productivity. Get into flow state.
4. Say no to things that take you away from what truly matters
At the end of the day, when anyone reviews your work or even when you look back at what you accomplished, what will matter is the things that moved the needle. There will be a lot of things that kept you busy but you have nothing to show for them — these are the tasks you should say no to.
If someone invites you for a meaningless meeting, see if you can see no. If you are put in a team or group where you have little to contribute, see if you can walk away. Don’t jump on to calls all the time — your time is valuable.
Saying ‘no’ does not contradict the 1st or 2nd point in this article. Say no to things that are not of real value. That is when you can focus on what truly matters.
People will not remember you for how many things you said ‘Yes’ to. Instead, they will remember how well you delivered on what you said ‘Yes’ to.
So if your figurative plate is full at work, start saying no to things and always explain to your colleagues why you’re saying no. They’ll understand your position better and proceed with empathy.
On the plus side, you’ll prevent burnout, undue stress, and the anxiety that comes with it.
5. Try to help others when they are in distress
If you have the bandwidth, help out your team members when they are under stress. Think of it as the work rendition of ‘Small acts of kindness.’
Actively seek out opportunities to go the extra mile, when you can truly contribute. Your do-gooder attitude will help you build positive work relationships.
6. Keep learning new things
This is an obvious point and yet, often overlooked by employers and employees, even though it benefits both.
Here are some obvious ways to keep upskilling:
- Every week, allocate some time for learning. You can opt for courses on Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn, SkillShare, etc. Many universities even offer free courses.
- Find a mentor at work and seek help with upskilling. E.g., if your company does data-related work, imagine how wonderful it would be if you became an Excel guru!
- Enroll in training programs that your enterprise might be organizing. Don’t treat them like a burden.
- Take up side projects that you feel some passion for.
- Spend time to attend workshops and conferences in your area of interest.
7. Be a solution-giver and seize the moment to help out
Whenever people around you are grappling with problems, double up as a problem-solver or a solution-provider if you can come up with possible solutions.
Here are some ideas for how you can do this:
- Sharing your knowledge about things where your colleagues might be struggling.
- Thinking of an alternative solution instead of simply flagging a problem when you see one.
- Demonstrating empathy when a colleague is struggling and offering ideas to come up with possible solutions.
- Offering simple support such as bringing coffee to the colleague or ordering a nice meal if they are time-pressed.
- Sharing your past experiences if you’ve faced a similar issue.
Your colleagues will thank you for reducing their burden.
8. Make fitness your life’s goal and boost personal growth
When you are fit—physically and mentally– you can not just do more but also better enjoy your work and life. And when you enjoy things, you perform better and people like you more.
To take care of your mental health, follow these handy tips:
- Keep a gratitude journal and pen down three good things that happened to you each day, and why they happened.
- Meditate before sleeping and the moment you get up in the morning.
- Workout regularly.
Pro tip: According to the CDC, aim to do either:
- 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio, 5 days a week
- Or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, 3 days a week
Make self growth a priority, and you’ll find yourself on the path to a successful career.
9. Overcommunicate and avoid negative surprises
Here’s another truth I discovered the hard way: People may not like bad news, but they hate bad surprises even more. If things are not going well or if you’re stuck with something, do not hide it — let your team and manager know as early as possible.
If you keep them in the dark, they will assume that you are doing swimmingly well. Also, if you need help, simply ask. It’s a healthy habit to develop.
It is easier to find a solution if you know of a problem early on than at the last minute. This transparent attitude will help you even in the most difficult of situations.
10. Learn to articulate well
Finally, a critical determinant of success in a career is learning to articulate your thoughts and opinions as concisely and lucidly as possible.
Here is my personal writing guide that I shared in a previous newsletter.
The bottom line
Success at work is a choice — just build the right mindset and habits.
Like all ideas, these ideas will have value only if you incorporate them into your life. So if any of the above resonated with you, think about the situations at work where you could apply them. And the next time you get an opportunity, try out a few of them.
Ultimately, your own experience is the best teacher.