Your Work Style Doesn’t Have To Be Like Your Colleagues’

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Career Advice

Do you ever find yourself wondering why you aren’t productive and just can’t get the same amount of work done in the first hour of the day as your cubicle mate?

Well, that’s because there’s not just one “norm” working style. 

You’ll often find that your colleagues and peers have different strengths and working styles than you may have. This phenomenon may go back to your high school days, or maybe even your middle school days. Were you the first person to turn in your test… or the last? Did you cram for tests the night before, while your friends started a full week earlier than you did? If a group project was announced, did you embrace it… or dread it? Were you more collaborative or independent?

These same situations find their way into your work life. While your cubicle mate is able to read a 15-page report on supply and demand (could there be anything more boring?) in a 20-minute time frame, you get started on reading the exact same report and the next thing you know, it’s time for lunch and you’ve read the same sentence five times in a row. And you have no choice but to take your lunch because that’s the time allotted… and then you have to come back to it… and it just snowballs… and oh, dear.

What your boss, unfortunately, may not understand, is that reading that report in a cubicle with five colleagues around you is not conducive to your productivity and as such, your working style. It’s possible that you would need to be reading that report in a room by yourself with no sound and a hi-lighter and the door closed in order to knock it out in 15 minutes. Why? Because that’s how you work best, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s nothing wrong with the opposite, either. 

If you aren’t sure what your working style is, test out a few different scenarios — remember, it’s trial and error. If you’re in a cubicle, ask if (within reason) you can be moved to a quiet corner. If your job permits, use headphones at your desk. If you work remotely, go with a change of scenery and see if that increases your productivity — and even get some vitamin D in the process!

Additionally, keep in mind that it’s not only about adding and subtracting external factors — your productivity can also change depending on how your mind works. For instance, if you’re not a good multitasker, don’t try to be. Focus on one task at a time. Yes, your peers may work best with 12 Google Chrome tabs open while texting and who are we to judge if that’s what works for them? Just focus on yourself, your work, and doing your best. 

Ask yourself some questions to understand your thought process: Can I multitask? Am I easily overwhelmed by working at the last minute before a deadline? Do I need to make lists to remember what I have to get done in a day or a week? These are just a few examples.

Unfortunately, many times, you will have to adapt to your work environment — and that is possible. But don’t feel bad or embarrassed that it may take time to do so. Take note of your progress and set goals for yourself. If your job requires you to work at a faster pace than you’re used to, set realistic time goals for yourself and make your goal to get certain assignments done in shorter time than you did the previous week or day. If you have no choice but to work on a crowded floor with noisy cubicle neighbors, take a break and walk outside when it just gets too noisy and distracting, but make your goal taking fewer breathers each day. You’ll be adapting before you know it. 

While adapting is important, utilizing your working style to your advantage is equally as important. Your work process is not only about your weaknesses — it’s about your strengths, too. Sure, you’re not the best multitasker, but your lists that you make to ensure that you do, in fact, stay on task, are the best the office has ever seen. You may be “slow” in comparison to your colleagues, but your attention to detail is invaluable on certain projects.

How do you work best? Let us know in the comments, or Tweet or email us!

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