Career Planning Hacks to Start Using Today

There are lots of lists out there with action items to accomplish during the workday to help you advance your career. But what about your habits and time outside of your current 9-to-5 job, can they affect your career advancement? You bet! Changes to your everyday routines, behaviors, and focus can have a huge effect on your career moves.

Here are five simple hacks you can implement in and out of working hours to help you reach the next step in your career.

  1. Get more done with “blackout time.” There are more ways of communicating with friends, colleagues, and total strangers than ever before. In general, this can be helpful, but it can also be distracting. Having multiple devices, apps, and programs sending you a continual stream of notifications can interrupt your concentration and limit productivity. Consider scheduling regular “blackout times” in your week—or, better yet, each day—when you turn off all channels of communication to focus exclusively on work. You’ll find that you’re more productive, you connect more with ideas, and the world is still there when you get back “online!”
  2. Take your communication skills to the next level. No matter what career advancement or change you’re aiming for, great communication skills will help get you there. But, communication is more than a well-worded email: it’s body language, tone, listening well, giving constructive feedback, and checking to make sure you’ve been understood. Consider reading books on communication styles and skills, take classes, or find a mentor. You can practice your communication skills outside of work just as easily: make good eye contact, give genuine compliments, give feedback to someone who’s helped you, articulate a complex idea or feeling to a friend, etc.
  3. Make time to focus on your larger goal(s). This can be for your next career step or the one you envision achieving in 20 years. Read inspirational or thought-leadership books in your field, dedicate time to acquiring or improving a skill that will serve you throughout your career, find a mentor, make any lifestyle changes that will allow you to pursue your dream career. Go a step further and see if you can tie something you do every day to your long-term goals—anything from your morning routine to your choice of projects at work can be viewed in the perspective of helping achieve your ultimate plan.
  4. Stretch your brain. While single-mindedness is often admired when striving to attain a goal, it shouldn’t mean you stop stretching your brain and challenging how you think. Go to art exhibits, participate in new experiences, challenge yourself to engage in conversations on topics outside your comfort zone. Find ways to look at the world differently. Give your brain space to stretch and tackle new ideas. These opportunities to refresh how you think can inspire you or show you how to solve a problem in a new way.
  5. Do less by having a plan and streamlining tasks. Hammering out what’s most important to achieving your ideal career or life/work balance will allow you to make time for those things and cut out unproductive activities. The idea isn’t to add more and more items to your to-do list; it’s to prioritize that list so that your career and life are daily moving in the direction you want.
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