25 Ways the Smartest Men Get Ahead at Work

25 Ways the Smartest Men Get Ahead at Work

Career advancement. Some people seem to get ahead, while others languish, wondering why they can’t catch a break. It’s highly likely that they’re ignoring some key things. Below are the 25 tenets of moving on up at work. Are you taking full advantage of them? Read on, check out the report that’s changed thousands of lives: 100 Ways to Live to 100!

Coworkers in office

Show up right

This sounds basic, because it is. But considering many of the guys we’ve worked with over the years, it bears repeating. Arrive at work well-rested and looking polished. All that involves is getting your eight hours and waking up with enough time. Every interaction you have in the workplace will reflect upon you, and you can easily dial up the positivity of those interactions by ensuring that you’re not offensive to the eye or the nose.

businessmen shaking hands

Get what you have to offer straight in your mind

Abraham Lincoln said many good things, and one of our favorite Lincoln quotes is one of his pithiest: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Knowing your worth will give you confidence in the idea that you are a valuable asset. Internalize that knowledge, and it won’t be long before people are impressed with what you bring. If you’re not certain yet, experiment.

man working on laptop

Be selective with what you do

Yes, it’s good to be a team player. But if you get sucked into a workstream that has little relevance to your career goals, get out of it stat. You’re wasting your time and lengthening the time you’ll need to get where you want. Always use your time in a smart and effective way.

man relaxing on couch

Minimize Interruptions

According to a University of California study, an interruption costs you an average of 23 minutes before you return to the original task. In fact, researchers say, temporarily cutting yourself off from e-mail can significantly reduce stress and hone your focus. Your best bet is to walk away for a bit. Work from a café or an empty conference room.

business people talking

Get along to get ahead

It’s good to be liked. In the workplace, being a reasonable, amiable person can mean the difference between career advancement and stagnation, even if you’re kicking ass. You can only gain from building positive relationships with everyone in your workplace. Be friendly to everyone, even those who are reticent to smile back at you. Ask how a co-worker’s day is going. Find some common interests, and talk about them. The more people you develop positive relationships with, the better off you’ll be.

Man in suit writing in notebook

Make a list

Making a long list of stuff that you need to get done might seem stressful in the short term, but not having an agenda will be more costly down the line. “Having a lot to do creates a healthy sense of pressure to achieve more focus,” says Don Wetmore, J.D., founder of the Productivity Institute. Wetmore suggests overplanning your day by 50 percent. “A project tends to expand with the time allocated to it,” he says. “Give yourself one thing to do, and it’ll take all day. But give yourself 12 things, and you’ll get nine done.”

Man giving presentation

Underpromise, Overdeliver

The boss wants you to improve on your targets. But after crunching the numbers, you realize that what he’s asking for is going to be a reach. The competitor in you might be quick to rally, but check your enthusiasm. A more modest target might help you in the long run. “Manage expectations early on. That way you won’t overcommit, do tons of work and still wind up with disappointing results,” Seldman says. It’s better to exceed modest goals than to fall short of overly aggressive ones. People are happier with unexpected good news than with predictable success, say researchers at the University of Florida.

employees at table

Work at a startup, at least once

Having worked at a startup will give your career a huge boost later on. Why? You can have a serious impact on the fate of a small and scrappy company, build something from the ground up and see how all the moving parts fit togethe as you perform several different roles at once.

man with headache

Be like the lobster

Ever see that viral video of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski using a lobster to demonstrate how the stress of becoming too big for its confining exoskeleton leads to it shedding that shell and growing? It can be stressful when the task before you exceeds your skills and experience, but that’s how we grow. “Anxiety is a natural emotion that lives in the gap between where we are and where we want to be,” says Robert Rosen, Ph.D., founder of Healthy Companies International and author of Just Enough Anxiety: The Hidden Driver of Business Success. “We need to reframe how we look at anxiety. It’s not something to run away from but something that can be used as productive energy.”

Warren Buffett

Then be like Buffett

No, we’re not talking about wasting away in Margaritaville. That’s Jimmy Buffett. Be like Warren Buffett who says, “I just sit in my office and read all day.” The Oracle of Omaha estimates that he spends 80% of his work day reading and thinking. Do as much of that as you can. You’ll expand your knowledge base and devise more creative solutions.

Man reaching for handshake

Find the person who is great at what you want to do

Chances are that someone is already doing what you want to do and crushing it. This person has knowledge to impart. Learn all you can about them, devise some questions about what you’ve learned, then take them out on a coffee date to figure out how they got to where you want to be. Ask them to become your mentor. This will help you deliberately practice the skills you want to learn, with someone who can give you clear feedback and can speak from their own experience.

Businessman at desk in office

Do Workload Triage

Not all the tasks ahead of you require the same amount of time and effort. So what should get done first? The little things that you can swat away in short order, or some heavy lifting? “If you can complete the task in two minutes or less, do it right away,” says David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. If it’s a little more time-intensive, save it until you’ve had a chance to get urgent assignments out of the way. All the while, throw on Spotify and create a playlist. Researchers at the University of Windsor found that people who listened to their favorite music felt more positive and did better on tasks that required creative input.

Happy Man

Stay positive

Workplace gossip can make the day go quicker, and although it’s fine — perhaps even advantageous — to listen in, keep your own thoughts to yourself. Even when supervisors are seeking opinions on other workers, rein in negativity and look for positives. When you have an opportunity to speak ill of someone, ask yourself if it’s true, helpful and kind. If you need a quick attitude adjustment, consult these 25 Ways to be Happier Now!

Man at standing desk

Master your area

Be voracious in accumulating all the knowledge and experience you can to master what you want to do. Attend conferences, take classes, read books. Even if you don’t end up being the No. 1 in your field, it gives you invaluable direction.

Business man with a cape

Make your weaknesses your super powers

Richard Branson, the British business tycoon and founder of the Virgin Group, used his own weakness — dyslexia — to create one of his greatest strengths: The art of communication and delegation. Reflect on what you’ve overcome. Think of it as a superpower acquired through adversity.

Man with paper airplane

Give yourself plenty of opportunities to fail

Get yourself into a position where success is not guaranteed. Although success initially feels good, having those wins in easy reach all the time won’t help you grow. As Woody Allen said, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”

man with financial chart

Fill up your downtime

A project has ended, and until something new starts up, you’re taking long lunches and generally goofing off. That downtime is key in separating the people who get ahead from the people who get left behind. Work on a low-priority project. Volunteer for a team that could use your help and whose work interests you.

man relaxing in office

Don’t compare

Comparing ourselves to co-workers is often a losing proposition. “People who have a problem with anxiety get lost in judging themselves,” says Mel Schwartz, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Westport, Connecticut. Schwartz says we measure to create order in our lives, but by doing so, we lose our humanity. “The critical voice is enslaving,” he says. To escape, accept yourself who you are and believe in what you bring.

man with headache

Fight fear

Fear is a feeling rarely based in reality. It’s a primitive sense that was useful when we had to wield a spear or climb a tree when confronted by a hungry lion. Overcome the reptilian part of your brain when making career choices. Fortune favors the bold.

Man running on beach

Put your health first

If you’re not in good health, your ‘A’ game will take a massive hit. Make looking after yourself non-negotiable. Getting exercise and eating a healthy diet will improve both your energy and your appearance, things that are beneficial in any work environment. While it’s a good idea to socialize with coworkers, overindulging in the booze won’t do you any favors long-term.

Man relaxing outside

Make time for active reflection

Every evening as you walk to your car or board the train, ask yourself two questions. What was the most important thing I did today? What is the most important thing I have to do tomorrow? Instituting this 10-minute meditation will help you grow every day.

Businessmen in office

Surround yourself with the right people

It’s often said that an individual is the average of the five people they spend the most time with. If there’s a grain of truth to that, think about the five people you’re closest with outside the workplace. Reflect on whether you’re bringing elements of them into the office with you and whether those elements are positive or negative. Then think about the people who you socialize with at work. What are they telling you about where you want to be in your career?

Father and son fishing


Volunteering is a great opportunity to gain leadership experience or get a new perspective. You’ll also be able to meet people and make friends outside of your default networks. If time is an issue, volunteer for short-term, high-return events. You can dedicate one weekend of your life and gain skills for years to come.

Man on computer

Be ready, be steady

You can’t turn the oven up to 450 degrees and expect a cake to bake faster. Likewise, you can’t go balls-out in your career and expect near-instant results. Instead, aim for incremental progress. Find the direction you want to be going, resolve to move toward it and be patient.

Man giving presentation

Stand up for yourself

If you want a raise or a promotion — and you do — be clear about it. Establish the best case for why you should be considered for advancement. Then ask your supervisor directly for what you want. If you get a “no,” ask what you need to do to put yourself in line for it, and do just that. If you don’t stand up for yourself in the workplace, it’s unlikely that anyone else will. Now start living your life to the absolute fullest, by checking off these 50 Things You Must Do in Your Lifetime!