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Success & Career

Get Uncomfortable To Get Ahead: 6 Strategies To Grow Your Career



Bruce Harpham

Stepping Outside Of Your Comfort Zone In The Workplace

We spend a great deal of our waking hours at work. Given that reality, it is important to make the most of that time. Whether you career goals are to earn more money, win a promotion or simply work on more interesting projects, you need to grow. In this article, I will cover ten ways to grow your career.

Here’s the good news: these strategies are free or low cost. Several of them also require relatively little time to complete.

Here’s the bad news: you may feel uncomfortable in working through these ideas. That’s a price well worth paying to reach your goals.

1. Ask for performance feedback from your manager

Your manager’s opinion of you makes a significant difference to your career. Unfortunately, many people go through their days with only vague ideas on this point. In your next 1-on-1 meeting with your manager, ask for their feedback. Here is one way to phrase the question: “What is the most job responsibility I should focus on improving in the next 90 days?”

2. Ask for co-worker feedback

Some of you may find it difficult to ask their manager for feedback. In that case, you may find it easier to ask for comment from a co-worker. For the best results, ask a person who you trust and respect. Emphasize that you are seeking to improve when you ask them.

For added results, here is the advanced version of this strategy. Write down notes on what your co-worker tells you and then put it into action. A month later, go back to them and explain how you put their comments into action. Very few people take the time to follow up after seeking feedback.

career development chart

3. Develop new technology skills

As knowledge workers, we are constantly using technology to get our work done. Unfortunately, many of us are still performing routine tasks over and over again. Automating tasks is one way to significantly improve your productivity. In my case, I’m currently studying Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to improve and automate tasks in Microsoft Excel.

If you are looking to learn technology skills to improve your career, here are three practical suggestions:

  • Consult your public library: many public libraries offer online books, online courses (with video!) and print books on technology skills. I recommend the “For Dummies” books as an excellent introduction to many aspects of technology.


  • YouTube Tutorials: YouTube is a good resource for the occasional free tip and tutorial. It is a great way to explore and access beginner level information. The lack of structure in YouTube means you may have to spend additional time finding the answers you seek.


  • In May, I purchased several courses to enhance my Microsoft Excel and VBA skills. For those on a tight budget, Udemy often runs significant sales (I bought two courses for $19 that usually sell for $19). You can also send questions to the instructor and read comments from other students.


  • As one of the world’s largest online course providers, Lynda offers over 3,000 training videos. At the time of this writing, Lynda offers courses in photography, management, web technology many other topics. Of the options presented here, is an expensive option. Fortunately, there is a free trial option available.


4. Ask “Why?” in meetings to improve your understanding of the company.

In the corporate world, assumptions are rarely questioned. That means countless loss opportunities to reduce costs and improve products are lost. You can set yourself apart from everyone else by asking why in meetings. Here are a few examples:

  • Why does it take six months to sign a contract?
  • Why do we produce this report every month?
  • Why are we giving resources to maintaining this product when the customer base is rapidly declining?

This approach will improve your understanding of the company. One caution – use this approach thoughtfully. Asking “Why” too often can send a negative signal.

5. Schedule meetings with yourself

A proactive approach to your calendar is an important way to develop your career. At first, you may feel a bit strange scheduling meetings with yourself. It is a necessity, especially in large organizations that have shared calendars. During these meetings with yourself, plan for the following activities:

  • Complete a Weekly Review. This weekly process takes about one hour to complete once you become familiar with it. My approach includes reviewing my calendar, email accounts and current tasks.


  • Monthly notes for your performance review. During this 15-30 minute meeting, write notes on your accomplishments and performance during the past month. Having these notes on hand will make it much easier to prepare for your annual review. It is especially important to write down positive comments received from clients and customers.


  • Industry News Review. Once a month (or more frequently if you are eager to advance), read articles about the state of your industry. For example, you may read The Wall Street Journal newspaper or a trade publication such as American Banker. Look for articles about your company and competitors.


6. Volunteer for work during team meetings

Do you have a regular meeting with your manager and colleagues? Most people have a monthly or weekly meeting with their team. However, few understand the success opportunities presented in these meetings. Here are a few ways you can get ahead by paying close attention to your team meetings by volunteering for work:

  • Your manager announces a new committee or working group.


These groups are excellent networking opportunities. You will be exposed to new ideas and projects that could dramatically improve your career prospects.


  • A colleague complains about having too much work to do.


As everyone speaks, take notes and ask yourself what you can do to help out. After the meeting, speak directly to the person with the challenge and offer to help.

Volunteering to help others at the office is a great success strategy. Many people avoid this strategy because it involves more work and new challenges. If you are determined to get ahead, it is well worth embracing these challenges.

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Success & Career

5 tiny habits that can change your life and career



Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

When it comes to the daily grind, time seems to keep passing by – yet many things remain the same. We are so busy trying to get things done, keeping our heads above water, that we don’t take real time to think about things like balance, self-care, or making necessary changes.

Little do we realize that small tweaks at home and at work might create opportunities for us to have true balance, and even achieve that elusive success.

Let’s look at five tiny habits you can implement today to control the chaos – and start changing your life and career.


Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life and Career

1.) Embrace the concept of a “clean slate” at work.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

This involves implementing a few simple routines and organizational tools upfront. This will save you time in the long run, and will leave you feeling satisfied at the start – and end – of your day.

For example:

  • Create folders in your e-mail inbox by person and topic. Be sure to move applicable items there. The feeling of a clean inbox can reduce anxiety and enables you to find important material faster!
  • Write phone messages on a notepad next to you each day.
  • Return each call.
  • Note the status of what you were able to do, what needs to be done, and cross out which ones have been taken care of.
  • Complete your list before you leave work.

Nothing feels better than looking at the list and knowing that you have attended to every person, every item, and every task you started with. Yes, more may come in later. But these were your starting tasks.

You are leaving with everything crossed off, a clean slate for the day. You can start tomorrow with a clean slate as well. You’re more organized: able to look at a detailed history of each item you did, each person you spoke to, each item you completed.

A well-structured system and way of doing things is mentally good for you. It’s also a nice feeling to walk away with a complete sense of accomplishment for the day.


2.) Surround yourself with people who nourish your soul, NOT people who infect it.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

Think about the people you chose to be with. Don’t feel guilty about setting boundaries, no matter who they are. Be honest if someone is a “toxic” person in your life. Surround yourself with folks who build you up, support you, are honest but fair with you, and those who have your best interests at heart.

We of course need people who are going to tell us the truth. But remember that truth can be told with kindness. We can give ourselves permission to distance ourselves from, or let people go. These are individuals who make us feel bad about ourselves, or take every chance they can get to criticize our every choice.

There is enough negativity in the world. We don’t need to have it in those closest to us. You will be amazed at the difference when you give yourself permission to set healthy boundaries. So surround yourself with healthy relationships. Stop feeling like you must endure unhealthy ones.


3.) Clutter creates anxiety more than you realize.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

Whether it’s your home or your workspace, getting organized makes a huge difference in your state of mind. So start practicing tiny habits that create structure.

At work:

Get those piles into drawers and desktop storage. File folders are your friends! Label by topic, date, etc. Having things organized and at your fingertips will save you time and a great deal of anxiety.

Have trays for things that are needed on a daily or weekly basis. Organize your office supplies neatly. Remember that your desk is also a presentation of who you are.

You may think that those piles make you look busy – but they really make you look disorganized. Create your own system so that you can locate anything instantly. That, is more impressive than a pile.

At home:

Think more in terms of scaling down to get organized. Make it a goal to make you space your solace. Organize, donate, and find a place for everything. If you have not used it in a year, consider donating. If things belong together, group them. Get the right storage to hold things.

Group things where they make the most sense. Move things where they work and function best. Get rid of things that no longer work, are expired, are outdated, or that could benefit someone else more than sitting in a pile at your home.

You will not miss them. You will probably feel pretty good for sharing the love. Nothing feels better as having a fully functional home where you can live and breathe; where there is no clutter, and where everything has a place.


4.) Practice good, daily self-care.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

It may seem so simple, yet we all seem to fall short when it comes to this vital area that impacts our lives and our careers. If we practice tiny habits of self-care, we function better, perform better, and surely, improve our opportunities for success.

Good self-care includes things, such as:

  • Getting enough sleep each night. This includes going to bed and getting up at the same time, seven days a week. When going to bed, there should be NO electronics, including screens or cell phones, as they stimulate the mind and keep you awake.
  • Eating food that nourishes you – such as whole foods, not processed foods.
  • Drinking eight glasses of water each day.
  • Enjoying treats in moderation, no need to crash diet!
  • Be sure to wake up 30 to 60 minutes earlier than usual to ease into your day, and allow yourself to practice your morning routine.

Whether it be reading the paper, listening to a podcast, watching a TV show, yoga, or morning meditation, how you begin sets the tone for the day. So set aside time in the morning so you are not rushed. This is an essential part of your day.

If you start rushed, you are going to feel that way the whole day. Starting with balance, leads to a balanced day.


5.) Self-talk is one of the most powerful habits we can change.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

If we think about how often we thought something negative about ourselves, someone else, or about a situation, we would see how powerful negative self-talk can be. Now think about how better our lives could be if we stopped ourselves before doing it. It’s possible – but it takes effort and conscious work.

You simply need to pay attention and catch yourself. But as you do, the difference can be profound. You start to see how by removing negativity and replacing it with realistic thinking, you feel more balanced. Imagine the impact it can have on your work and relationships, to not see things in the worst possible light?

By implementing these tiny habits, you can bring about tremendous changes to your work and personal life. A few would only be one-time tasks. While others require minimal, but – hopefully welcome – effort.

If things are not working well in these areas of your life, why not give these tiny habits a chance? You will at least be a little more organized. And hopefully, be well-rested at the end.



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Success & Career

7 Ways to Organize Your Day for Success



Organize Your Day for Success

Nope, don’t panic. I’m not going to start by telling you to get up earlier! As an Integrative Nutrition® Health Coach, I firmly believe in bio-individuality. This is the idea that we are all unique: just as some people can’t tolerate gluten and some can, there are early birds and others are night owls. Neither is wrong – they’re just different.

So yes, just as our definitions of success look different, how we structure our days for success will vary as well. However, I believe that there are some things in common.

For the sake of having a starting point, let’s agree that success is showing up in your life (career, relationships, physical activity, etc.) in the most biologically effective way possible (i.e., you are healthy in every sense of the word).

So how would you organize your day for success? Here are seven ways to try:


7 Ways to Organize Your Day for Success

1.) Wake up without an alarm if possible (see also #7).

Organize Your Day for Success

Jolting awake to an alarm is a sure-fire way to feel like you’re off to the races first thing in the morning. Instead, learn how many hours of sleep you are naturally inclined to. Then try to get that every night.

Waking up naturally prevents that influx of fight-or-flight chemicals coursing through your veins: nobody needs that kind of stress at the start of the day! Chronic stress can wreak all kinds of havoc with your body, starting a cascade of poor health outcomes.


2.) Start the day with screen-free “me time”.

The moment you check your email or social media, you are giving others power over how you spend your time. There will almost always be an email that just can’t wait or a post that brings on a severe case of #FOMO. Before you know it, you’re sucked in.

Instead of reaching immediately for a device, consider starting a new practice that can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes (or less) or as much time as you create for it: breathing, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, journaling.

The Web is full of resources for these – just don’t go looking for them first thing in the morning! Are you an early bird? Use this gift of time to work out, meal prep, read, etc.


3.) Create time blocks (see also #5).

Organize Your Day for Success

As much as we think we can multitask, research shows we really can’t. “Task-switching” – what we’re really doing when we think we’re multitasking – can cost us as much as 40 percent of our productivity.

The solution: block out specific times on your schedule for tasks that require your full attention. During those times, close all other tabs and turn off all your notifications – and I mean all of them!

In between these blocks and not before, take a break to check email, make some calls – take care of some smaller tasks. Set a timer that indicates your next productive block is starting.


4.) Schedule your workouts and meals.

We seem to have time for everything but what really nourishes us: fuelling our bodies well and moving them regularly. As a health coach, when you tell me, “I don’t have time to…” what I hear is, “I don’t prioritize…”

I see you rolling your eyes. Let me tell you: if you do that enough, they’ll stick back there. But seriously – it comes down to this: if you wouldn’t cancel on your work, your client’s needs, your spouse’s needs, your kids’ needs, why would you cancel on yourself?

Meaningful self-care is putting on your oxygen mask first so you can help those who depend on you. Organize your day and put those blocks on your schedule. Treat them as unbreakable appointments with yourself.


5.) Multitask…intentionally (see also #3).

Organize Your Day for Success

Yes, I know I told you not to multitask. Now I’m telling you it’s okay if you do it intentionally. What does that mean?

In my work, I talk a lot about primary foods – all the other things in our lives that nourish us (or don’t!) besides what we put in our mouths. Think: sleep, career, spiritual practice, physical activity, time in nature, etc.

The multitasking I encourage is the kind that helps us nurture ourselves on the primary level, NOT the type that tries to manage a staggering number of little tasks that make our schedules so overwhelming.

What this looks like:

  • Need to spend quality time with family members? Instead of adding an outing (with all the planning, preparation, and consensus-building it requires), combine it with another area that needs some attention: take suggestions on the week’s meals, shop together, do some meal prep, etc.
  • Missing time with your girlfriends? Combine it with a workout or better yet, a walk in nature.
  • Desperate to do a little meal prep for the week? Invite a few friends over to cook so that you all get to stock up for the week. (There might be wine involved?)
  • House feeling like a hardhat zone, but you’d rather read? Clean while you listen to an audio book.
  • Time constraints making you choose between a workout and your spiritual practice? Take a walk in nature or practice a walking meditation.


6.) Make a plan for tomorrow.

You don’t have to organize your day down to the minute (although that works for some people). Instead, write down 1-3 large tasks to be done tomorrow and prioritize those once you’re done with your “me time.”

Are the tasks unpalatable? Brian Tracy has written about this concept in his book ‘Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time’. He calls the tasks we are most intimidated by (and therefore put off doing) as “frogs”.

His recommendation: start your work – not just the day – by “eating a frog”. If all the frogs look big and ugly, eat the biggest, ugliest frog first.


7.) Get to bed on time to get the sleep you need (see #1).

Organize Your Day for Success

Once you know how many hours of sleep you need, organize your day and figure out when you need to get to bed. Make sure to end the day as you began it: NO screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime!

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