Boost Your Career Trajectory


Increasing your level of productivity and success involves a great many skills and abilities. Some of them are highly specific – like mastering the intricacies of your career or profession, and boosting your willingness to work hard at necessary tasks and projects.

But others – including the ones I’d like to address here – are more general, and can be useful regardless of the specifics in your work and your life.

Let’s start here:

Cultivate Confidence

Some people are born with enough of it, some aren’t. The good news is you can increase your level of general self-confidence – as well as confidence in your specific skills, talents, and abilities – enough to compensate for any deficiency you may have been born with.

Confidence is important because:

  • It’s contagious. If you have confidence, others will sense it and begin to feel confidence in you and your ability to generate favorable results. They will feel more willing to work with you, and to contribute their best efforts.
  • Just as confidence will encourage others to contribute their best efforts, it will also induce you to put forward your own best efforts. All of this will naturally lead to better outcomes.
  • Confidence will also drive you to aim higher and take bigger – though still prudent – risks. You may not succeed at everything you try, but this approach will give you a better shot at bigger successes than if you were holding back because you were feeling less confident.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

You’ll produce more and generate greater success if you put your time and energy toward the smartest, most valuable work you can arrange for yourself at any given moment.

Most people strive primarily to keep busy, and that’s very helpful. But busy work often produces only trivial successes, despite the massive effort you put in.

From a strategic perspective, it’s better to save your energy for highly valuable tasks, projects, and goals, then tackle them intelligently when the time is right.

Visualize the difference between accumulating pennies, one at a time, and planning then carrying out a project to collect one $100 bill. There are many dissimilarities, of course, but one is clearly more productive and successful than the other.

Avoid Low Value Activities

An effective strategy for increasing your productivity and success leverages the idea of working smarter.

To continue the comparison from above, consider that collecting all those pennies will necessarily absorb a lot of your time and attention. Keeping busy with pennies will make it less likely you’ll conceive or perceive and then pursue the opportunity to collect that $100.

This is a big reason many successful people generally say “no” to most requests and opportunities. Even if they don’t have something better to do, they feel confident a more valuable prospect will cross their desk.

When considering future commitments, a general rule I have long followed is: “If I wouldn’t have time to do it today, I won’t have time – or want to – do it when that distant commitment date finally rolls around.”

Although for this reason I say “no” to most requests, my schedule nevertheless stays full. And most of what I do seems pretty valuable to me.

Establish Sensible Standards

Do you think this post is well written? I do. I have standards for the material I release, and I try very hard to meet them pretty much all the time.

But I’m not a perfectionist. I observe something along the lines of the Pareto Principle: I deliver work that is as good as I want it to be, as good as it needs to be. But I don’t spend the extra chunk of time and energy to make it perfect.

My favorite cousin once had a job working with perfectionists who were building a telescope to measure the temperature of the sky (or something like that). Left unsupervised, they would have worked and worked and worked to make every component perfect. They would never have finished the telescope. My cousin – a practical engineer – was tasked with shutting down work on each component when it was good enough, and setting the perfectionists to work on what came next.

The telescope got built and produced outstanding results.

Whatever tasks, projects, and goals you’re working on, I can’t tell you which standards are “sensible” and which are too perfectionistic. But I can tell you to establish sensible standards that help you get the work done, on time and under budget, so you can reap those successes and move on to bigger and better challenges.

As you can see, these ideas apply to almost any work, any career, any activity. By using them judiciously and consistently, you’ll boost your career trajectory and make better progress toward the work and the life you fervently desire.

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