14 Ways to Develop a Strong Work Ethic

One of the most common requirements on job postings (no matter the position) is a strong work ethic. But what is work ethic and why does it matter so much?

Work Ethic Definition

We define work ethic as a combination of a few different things. Most importantly, it’s about working hard. However, it also means an employee is dependable, honest, and professional in other ways. Someone who has a strong work ethic has integrity and will always treat others fairly. Finally, work ethic is about being dedicated to your own goals and to the mission of your company.

Why Is Work Ethic Important?

Employers want to see that candidates have a strong work ethic because it leads to better results in both the short and long term. Employees with a strong work ethic perform better — they are more productive, meet deadlines, and carry out work to a high standard. They are also more motivated and find greater satisfaction from their job, which means they are less likely to leave the company and more likely to be suitable for promotion. When employees have a strong work ethic, a company may even improve its image.

Is Work Ethic More Important Than Talent?

A debate you’ve likely heard many times is whether talent or work ethic matters more. Of course, it helps to have at least a bit of both. Great work ethic will get you far, but you cannot dismiss the usefulness of talent.

However, if it comes down to a competition between someone with a strong work ethic and someone who is talented but lazy, the person who is willing to work hard is going to come out ahead. This should come as great news — it means that if you put in the effort, you can succeed.

work ethic

How to Have a Better Work Ethic

Now you know that developing a strong work ethic is key to your success, but how exactly should you go about developing your work ethic? That actually depends on where you’re currently falling short. Also, be warned: most of these tips sound straightforward, but they can be challenging to put into practice.

1. Be Punctual

Even arriving a couple minutes late to an appointment makes a poor impression. If you’re struggling to be punctual, aim to arrive early for everything. You may need to shift your entire schedule to make sure you always have enough time to prepare.

In addition, strive to be punctual when meeting deadlines. If you’ve agreed to deliver work by a certain date, make sure you fulfill this commitment. If you do realize that you’ll be unable to meet a deadline, communicate with those it will affect in advance.

2. Improve Your Time Management Skills

Time management involves a number of skills that you need to work hard to improve. It means figuring out your priorities and sticking to your schedule. You also need to avoid multitasking (you may think you’ll get more done this way, but it will only slow you down and diminish the quality of your work). Finally, cut any unnecessary meetings from your schedule and streamline the meetings you do attend.

3. Focus on the Task at Hand

Critical to time management is improving your focus. When you’re working on a particular task, you need to focus on just that. Practice becoming absorbed in one thing. This means noticing if your attention starts to wander and bringing yourself back to the task at hand.

To focus, you’ll also need to prevent others from distracting you. This could mean telling those around you when you need to fully concentrate. In addition, remember that you do have some degree of control over external distractions. For instance, you can turn off notifications or even put your phone out of sight. It’s a good idea to limit how many times you check your email every day and only allow yourself to look at social media when you’re on a break.

4. Become More Organized

It’s always difficult to stay focused if you’re unorganized. Look around at your workspace. Does everything have its own specific place or is your desk cluttered with things you don’t need? Simply having a clean space will help you feel more relaxed — not to mention it will be easier to find what you need.

After you’ve organized your physical workspace, move on to your computer. Delete files and software you no longer need (both those saved locally and ones in the cloud). Consider if there could be a better system for organizing the files you do need.

5. Keep a Journal of How You Spend Your Time

A useful activity to improve your work ethic is to spend one full workweek taking note of what exactly you’re doing. Every time you change activity (even for a short time), write down what you’re doing and how long you spend doing it. At the end of the week, you’ll have a log of how exactly you spend your time — and there may be some surprises. Use your journal to figure out how you could improve.

Return to this exercise after you believe you’ve made some significant improvements. Assess your progress and set new targets for the future.

6. Strike a Work–Life Balance

A strong work ethic doesn’t mean completely devoting yourself to work and forgetting about your other commitments. In fact, if you fail to take care of yourself, you’ll burn out — and then it will be impossible to keep progressing with your work ethic goals.

7. Avoid Workplace Gossip

Demonstrate that you’re a professional by treating others with respect. Spend your time at work actually working and avoid gossip at all costs. Whereas socializing with coworkers is important, you should strive to create a positive workplace culture for everyone.

8. Stop Procrastinating

There will be times that the work you need to do is boring or difficult. It may be tempting to do something easier or that you enjoy more. However, you need to remember that this will only be satisfying in the moment — you’ll still need to do the work eventually. Practice self-discipline by avoiding procrastination.

9. Keep Your Long-Term Goals in Mind

Checking items off a list feels good — but this doesn’t mean to-do lists always have value. When creating your to-do list, think about whether each item contributes to your long-term goals.

10. Search for Meaning in Your Work

It’s much easier to develop a great work ethic if you care about what you do. Whenever you start feeling demotivated, remind yourself of how what you are doing relates back to the larger mission of your company. 

11. Find Inspiration in Others

Are there people you work with, or perhaps others you know on a professional basis, who you admire for their work ethic? Think about what they do differently from you. Try to emulate the behaviors and attitudes you believe may be leading to their strong work ethic.

12. Improve One Area at a Time

Now that you have plenty of ideas of how to improve, you may want to dive in and tackle all your bad habits at once. However, if you are too ambitious, you may end up achieving nothing. A better approach is to choose one (or a maximum of two) aspects. Once you’ve seen significant improvements in these areas, you can move on to something else. Keep doing this until you’ve worked through everything and then return to the first ones again to perfect them.

13. Be Kind to Yourself

Bear in mind that you will have off days. You may feel like you’re slipping back into bad habits. This is normal — even professionals who are at the top of their game have days that are far from perfect. Instead of letting a bad day demotivate you, commit to doing better for the rest of the week. Use the experience as a learning opportunity: figure out what went wrong and avoid making the same mistakes again.

14. Delegate to a Virtual Assistant

If you have too much on your plate to begin with, no amount of self-improvement will help. The solution in these circumstances is to delegate some of your work. A virtual assistant can take on any of the tasks you lack the time to do yourself, as well as any you just find mind numbing.

With a virtual assistant from MYVA360, you can schedule regular tasks or ask for work as you need it. In either case, we’ll match you with a virtual assistant who meets your needs. Check out our services for more information about how we can help you.

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