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Beat Your Personal Best: Why You Should Be Your Only Competition

Becoming productive and successful doesn’t have to mean outshining your high-achieving colleagues. Just keep trying to beat your own record.
by Jennifer Duffy | Sep 21 2017

It’s easy to feel pressured in a fast-paced, busy workplace and become overwhelmed by the tasks that keep piling up. On top of that, technological distractions and the constant whirring of our own minds deprive us of focus. As a result, it can seem like your colleagues have jumped miles ahead of you every time you look up from your phone and you’ll never catch up no matter what you do.

However, comparing yourself to your co-workers is not the answer. In fact, this is a waste of time and energy that could be better spent improving your own work and productivity. Remember that you and your colleagues are on the same team and working towards a common goal. A far healthier and more valuable alternative is aiming to surpass your own personal professional best, to strive to work at your maximum potential.

Your Brain at Work, by author and business consultant David Rock, offers guidance on how to not just survive but thrive in the modern workplace. Rock makes practical and manageable suggestions for how to become a more focused and productive worker and to eliminate the distractions that are draining away your time and energy. By learning how your brain works, you can change how you work, for the better.

Do one thing at a time

Juggling too many tasks can be detrimental to the quality of your work and your overall productivity. Rock suggests prioritizing the most important jobs and giving them your full attention. Rank your to-do list when your mind is fresh and alert, then get to it! Having a strategy will help you work in a more timely and efficient manner.

Beware your smartphone

Rock cites a study that showed over two hours of office workers’ time is given over to distractions. Technology makes it all too easy for us to lose concentration – quickly checking social media or emails can become a time-consuming scrolling session. The best way to prevent this, and to save your focus for your work, is quite simple – turn it off! Saving your energy and focus for your work will improve the quality of your output, and your productivity.

Get in the right headspace

Drawing on neuropsychology, Rock examines the effect of norepinephrine and dopamine levels on workers’ performance levels. He suggests that to boost focus, you can imagine what would happen if you miss a deadline or the reward of a job done well. However, sometimes we can become too worked up to function effectively. In this case, Rock suggests writing down your thoughts or going for a relaxing walk. Keeping your brain at a level of optimal alertness will make you more productive and help improve your personal best.

Adjust your expectations

Keeping your expectations in check will mean successes are more rewarding, and failing to achieve expected rewards will not create major setbacks. It also means your expectations are more likely to be exceeded! Working on your personal best means training yourself, like an athlete, working steadily to create incremental changes in your work performance. Keeping your expectations realistic, and your goals attainable make for a more positive and fulfilling ‘training’ experience.

Trick your brain

The key to enhancing your personal best is to work with your brain and in always striving to improve. This very process will reward you, as the brain reacts well to improvements with raised levels of dopamine and serotonin. Furthermore, by competing against yourself you can increase your sense of self-worth, your output, and your productivity.

Focusing on other people takes away from your performance, just setting you further behind. Competing with others places your focus on the wrong person – instead of looking at the work your co-workers are doing, look at your own work and consider how you can improve it. By setting your sights on your own tasks, you eliminate this distraction and empower yourself to be the best you can be. Take initiative rather than feel disheartened.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Choosing to focus on yourself will not only make you more productive, it will also put you in a more positive mindframe and prove healthier for your self-esteem and general wellbeing.

Don’t work harder – work smarter. The tips in Your Brain at Work will enable you to work to your full potential. You may not be training to run a marathon (or maybe you are!), but you should seek to improve your personal best and remember that to do this you have to train. Check out our illuminating book-in-blinks for more of Rock’s practical advice and start achieving tangible results! On your mark, get set, go!

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