Just a few things I have learnt over the past few years in teaching; though they apply to any workplace.
- Be flexible. If you can adapt and roll with last-minute changes, meetings or projects without complaint, you will be regarded very highly indeed. Sure, a last-minute shift in the proceedings might be annoying or inconvenient, but if there is nothing you can do about it, complaining will only stunt your progress. Just get on with it, and show that you can adapt to whatever comes your way. After all, isn’t that life?
- This might seem like a contradiction, after reading my first point, but I promise it isn’t. Don’t be afraid to speak out when things are getting too much. Whilst demonstrating flexibility and resilience is a fantastic thing, you are no good to anyone if you are exhausted and utterly demoralised. Roll with the unexpected, yes. But look after yourself. Don’t accept projects that other colleagues don’t want to do just because you don’t want to refuse. Saying no once in a while, or having an honest, calm but assertive talk with your line manager if you are feeling overwhelmed is far preferable to running yourself into the ground, or losing the plot one day and snapping at your boss because of all of the stress you’ve been under.
- Find a system that works for you. Do you find it easier to complete tasks when you get in early, before everyone else, or do you work better in the early evenings? Are you more productive in five-minute chunks, during breaks, or do you need the entire lunchtime to unwind, eat and chat with colleagues? Notice your habits and identify what helps you to work smarter. Being led by your natural tendencies and preferences can make a big difference to your work-week and the quantity and quality of the work you produce.
- Know your strengths, and your limits. The latter ties into point number two. You are awesome, but you are not Wonder Woman. (I used to think I was, hence the above shot of me as a child in my favourite costume…) I firmly believe that an exhausted and under-appreciated person cannot be the best teacher, worker, parent, lover or friend that they can be. No job is worth your health–I mean it. Set boundaries when you need to. And big yourself up when you need to also. You know what you are good at, deep down. Don’t be scared to talk about your successes and your strengths in performance management meetings and pay discussions. Unfortunately, not everyone will notice. You don’t need to boast, but you do need to be your biggest champion, silently and, on occasion, in public.
- Lastly, remember, it’s a job. You have a life and you have other interests, passions and needs. When you’re at work, be present, be productive and give fully to your task. When you’re not, give fully to yourself, your family and your well-being. A balanced life is a necessity for happiness and health.