Success at Work Challenge Week 5: Practice, practice, practice

2239687100_430b0e9ce4_mI’m trying to achieve success at work, and you can too! For the next 3 weeks, I’ll be running a #SuccessAtWork challenge on this blog. Each week’s challenge will follow one of the 7 disciplines I highlight in my new ebook, What the Most Successful People Do at Work. If you’re participating, please let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.

As I wrote at I Done This last week, I didn’t always view blogging as productive.

I knew that it was a good way to interact with readers, and I’d seen many a blog project turn into a book. But it was uncompensated time (on my personal blog, at least), and I viewed blogging mostly through the lens of sharing news about my other projects, links to interesting fodder, and the like. It wasn’t about the craft of writing.

In three years of writing 4-5 posts a week for this blog, though, and 2-3 for what became CBS MoneyWatch, as well as weekly over at Gifted Exchange, I’ve written a lot of posts. Well into the four figures. And I’ve noticed something: not only have I gotten faster at writing blog posts, I’ve gotten faster at writing, period. First drafts come pretty quickly, especially for the 500-1000 word articles that many newspapers, magazines, and websites want. Blogging is the equivalent of doing lay-up drills. Attempt 1000 lay-ups, see what works and what doesn’t, and you start to get better and more efficient at lay-ups. Write a thousand 500-word essays and you no longer get a 750-word essay assignment and say “huh, I wonder how I should start?”

Practice makes you more productive. This is not a profound statement, and yet of all the disciplines I highlight in What the Most Successful People Do at Work, I think practice is the most neglected. We know athletes practice. We know musicians practice, and race car drivers. Even writing is perhaps more obviously something that can be practiced. But what about other kinds of work?

What I’ve been learning as I interview successful people is that any skill can be practiced, and many of them probably should be. Public speaking can be practiced. Answering hostile questions in a meeting can be practiced. Delivering feedback can be practiced. Interviewing job candidates can be practiced. So can making sales calls, introducing yourself at networking events, writing memos, gleaning important information from financial statements, knife skills (if you work in a restaurant!), folding shirts in a department store, estimation and mental arithmetic, media interviews, and so forth. People who spend time actively trying to get better at the skills associated with their jobs generally wind up better at their jobs.

So why not invest the time in practicing? A little goes a long way. A lot goes farther, but then again, given how little most people practice, a few minutes here and there can be a major competitive advantage. Why not give it a shot?

This week’s challenge: Identify one skill you use frequently in your job. Think of a “drill” of sorts you could do to practice that skill repeatedly. Then carve out 15 minutes, twice this week, to do that drill. Please let me know how it goes!

Have you practiced components of your job?

In other news: I have a piece over at Fortune looking at a 1973 list the magazine ran on the most powerful women in business. More to come on that topic later.

Meagan Francis writes about 5 things every work-from-home parent needs

Nicole and Maggie review What the Most Successful People Do at Work.

Susan Johnston interviews Kelly James-Enger on making a living as a freelancer

I was on Minnesota Public Radio yesterday, talking about money and happiness. Here’s the link to the show.

The June “Just a Minute” newsletter will be out next week. Are you signed up? There’s always a new essay, book reviews, and tips, and it’s an easy way to check in if you don’t visit this blog frequently. The sign up link is on the top of the webpage. Thanks for checking it out!

Photo courtesy flickr user ryan_fung

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