12 Critical Skills to Succeed in your workplace and advance your career

“The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” John C. Maxwell.

We all want to succeed. We want to feel that we have accomplished something in life and in our careers. But what exactly does success mean?

According to the dictionary, success means the accomplishment of a purpose or an aim. In order to experience success, we need to have something that we are aiming for. What are you aiming for? In your life and in your workplace, what are you hoping to achieve?

No matter your goal, whether it be big or small, success isn’t something that just happens by chance. To succeed in your workplace and advance your career will take deliberate effort, time, and perseverance in all areas of your life.

As humans, we tend to see our lives as compartmentalized. We separate our health into physical and mental, we keep our spirituality separate and don’t think that our personal lives can impact our ability to perform and succeed in the workplace. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Every part of us is intricately connected and you can’t separate one from the other. If you want to succeed in life, in your workplace and advance your career, you need to focus on every area of your life.

Here are twelve critical skills that will put you on the pathway to success. We’ve called them skills because a skill is something that you can learn, practice, and excel in. Remember the law of sowing and reaping, if you sow good things—you will reap good things. If you consistently apply these twelve skills to your life, you will find yourself succeeding at work and advancing in your career.

1. Exercise daily

Many of us feel that we are too busy to exercise. But exercising daily is one of the keys to succeeding in life and in your career. The healthier and more fit we are, the better we will perform at work. And exercising daily doesn’t mean a crazy workout every day, a twenty-minute walk can improve your mood and energy levels, lower the risk of heart disease, increase your life expectancy, lower the risk of diabetes, and (bonus) make you lose weight. Interestingly, studies have also shown that walking benefits the area of the brain that is responsible for memory and learning—which are very important for succeeding in your career.

So, set a goal to take your walking shoes with you to work and do a couple of laps around the block every day during your lunch break.

2. Eat healthy food

Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is essential if you want to boost your career success. Your body and mind needs all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals to perform at peak levels. A nutritious diet will also boost your immune system which is essential in helping you deal with stress and workplace coughs and colds.

There are many resources out there to guide you on how to eat a well-balanced and healthy diet. Educate yourself on how to make healthy food choices and come up with a plan on how you can begin to introduce more nutritious food into your daily diet. Don’t forget to pack in a healthy lunch if your office canteen doesn’t have healthy options. Not only will you be investing in your health, you will also save money!

3. Drink more filtered water

We all know that we should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day to boost our health. But did you know that if you are even slightly dehydrated, it will have a negative effect on your brain’s performance? When you are dehydrated, your brain becomes fatigued and brain function slows down. If you drink water, your brain is able to receive more oxygen because of the increased blood supply, which will boost your brain’s performance.

Drinking water also has many other benefits from improving your physical performance to promoting weight loss—all the more reason to pack in a water bottle to take to work tomorrow.

4. Learn to plan

Planning can be hard to do; consistent planning is even more challenging. Learning how to plan your day in advance can make the world of difference in achieving your goals.

A plan doesn’t have to be fancy. Some people find that a simple to-do list helps them get through all the main tasks. The key is to set your daily agenda and to prioritize your tasks.

Before you even begin your day, take time to think through all the things that you need to complete for the day. Just writing them down will free up your mind to focus on performing your best for the day, instead of remembering all that you need to do for the day.

5. Breathe

Breathing is something that we do automatically. However, when we are stressed, our breathing tends to become shallow and sometimes we even hold our breath without even realizing it. Breathing properly ensures that our bodies and minds receive enough oxygen and helps to manage stress levels. Without enough oxygen, the brain struggles to perform. We all know what it’s like trying to breathe in a stuffy room, let alone think! So to boost your performance at work and manage your stress levels, don’t forget to take some deep breaths every day or every time that you sit down at your desk, take a few deep breaths to calm and focus your mind.

6. Be creative

All humans are creative. It’s an essential part of our being. I’m not just talking about art—though art is extremely creative—I’m talking about any activity that causes you to create something. This could be art, it could be writing, poetry, DIY, problem solving or even gardening.

When you create, you expand your mind, you train your brain to see things differently, and it helps you to solve problems. Being creative also takes you out of “work mode” and gets you away from it all. It’s often in those times, that you discover creative solutions to problems that you might be facing at work. Taking up a creative hobby, no matter what it may be will have direct positive benefits on your work performance. So, what was that activity that you used to do that you thoroughly enjoyed doing? What creative hobby could you start up that you might enjoy?

7. Study something new

Many people feel that once they have completed their tertiary education, their learning is finished for life. But continuous learning is a key to improvement. Learning something new will not only improve your skill set, it also sends signals to your mind that you are still growing and developing. These are important aspects to have when you want to advance your career or improve your career prospects.

8. Learn from others

Learning from others is a great skill and attitude to develop. We all need someone to help and guide us at times. Even more so if you are heading into a new career or role in your company. Finding a mentor or coach will give you direction and help you grow in your career and as a person. A coach will help you work through your weaknesses or areas that you struggle to perform in. They can be a sounding board for when you need to make a difficult decision and they will also help you work on and develop your strengths. In short, if you are looking to grow in your career, finding a mentor that you trust and respect is a good place to start.

However, sometimes it’s not always possible to find a mentor or coach in person. If this is an obstacle to you, spend some time searching on the internet for blogs, videos, and articles by experts in your particular field. Blogs and free courses are great places to start to find role models to help you grow in your career.

9. Surround yourself with like-minded people

Although this may not be an exact skill, learning to tune in to how others influence you most certainly is. Jim Rohn, the well-known motivational speaker, said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Who are you spending the most time with? Are they people who encourage you to work hard, to grow and to pursue your dreams? Or they people who tend to pull you down and speak negatively about your efforts to succeed at work and grow in your career? To succeed at work and in your career, it’s important to surround yourself with people who have similar beliefs and ambitions. People who build you up, give you wise advice, and who encourage you to be positive and to keep persevering. If you surround yourself with people who motivate and inspire you, you will find that you become more productive in your work place and in turn advance in your career.

Take a look at the people you spend the most time with. If you find yourself walking away feeling discouraged and negative about your career and your dreams, then maybe it’s time to find a new group and a positive support system.

Practice monitoring how you feel once you have spend time with people. Become aware of their influence on you and aim to spend more time with those who push you in the right direction.

10. Organize yourself and stay organized

Some people may feel that a cluttered desk is a sign of a hard worker. And, for a few this may be true. However, keeping your desk organized and uncluttered is a great way to boost productivity and work performance. It also helps to minimize stress, and of course, saves you time because you know where everything is.

Before leaving work, make sure that you have tidied your desk so that it’s ready for you in the morning. That way you will start your day with the right mindset!

11. Sleep

Sleep is essential for health and wellbeing. Our bodies, minds, and souls recharge when we are sleeping. In the same way that our cellphone batteries run flat and need to recharge for optimum performance, so do we need to ensure that we get enough good quality sleep.

You may wonder how this can help you succeed at work? Well, how do you feel when you’ve had a good rest? Don’t you find yourself feeling more confident, calm and able to recall things? Do you find that when you have rested well, you immediately have more energy and feel that you can tackle any challenge? These are just a few of the benefits that you will experience if you make a habit out of ensuring you get sufficient rest.

12. Take care of yourself

For many of us, we find ourselves so busy at work and looking after our families, that we forget to take care of ourselves. We all need time to rest, relax and rejuvenate. The key is to find something that re-energizes you. For some this might mean taking a hike in nature, reading a book or spending a bit longer in the bath. For others, it might be taking part in an extreme sporting event or spending time volunteering at a children’s home or animal shelter. Whatever you find works best for you, be sure to build it into your life. Take time to care for yourself and you will boost your productivity and happiness at work. Now, working on twelve skills at a time can seem overwhelming and maybe even impossible. My advice is: start slowly. There are twelve months in a year. Start by working on one skill a month. By consistently practicing something for 4 weeks, you will begin to establish it as a pattern. Over a year, you will have developed twelve skills that will continue to boost your success in work and in life.