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4 Essential Workplace Tools Professionals Use to Improve Performance

The modern workforce is fluid enough to make transferable skills vital to success. After all, projections from Forrester Research suggest that today’s youngest professionals will hold between twelve and fifteen different jobs before retiring. While in-depth training is valuable for gaining a much-needed step up in a competitive workforce, it’s also important to develop and maintain the tools necessary to transition into and succeed in a variety of roles.

To this end, we’ve highlighted a few of the most important workplace tools that can be relied upon in a wide array of professions, as well as helpful hints for acquiring and making the most of these essentials:


Empathy is both one of the most important and most underrated modern workplace. This seemingly contradictory reality is evident based on results from the Businessolver 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study. Data from this groundbreaking research reveals that, while a whopping 96 percent of all employees surveyed regard empathy as an important value for employers to demonstrate, 92 percent currently believe that it is undervalued in the workforce.
An empathetic person holds an acute understanding of the challenges that coworkers, clients, and partners face—and how those concerns might make other people act or feel. This knowledge will guide how the empathetic individual behaves, perhaps leading to more sensitive conversations or acts of support that might otherwise not be thought necessary.

This quality is best exemplified by the cliché about walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes. Only by placing oneself in another person’s situation is it possible to truly understand the feelings they experience. From there, it’s easier to know why professionals make certain decisions or follow specific workplace patterns.

Empathy may seem like an innate quality, but it’s possible to strengthen it over time. One of the simplest methods? Following Studs Terkel’s iconic advice to be an “interested inquirer.”

Ask open-ended questions and be receptive to the answers. Challenge yourself to initiate at least one meaningful conversation every day. Go beyond your workplace clique to foster connections with all types of people outside of your bubble. This can include professionals at all levels and in a variety of departments. Over time, you’ll find it easier to relate to other perspectives.


Athletes have long relied on visualization to help them perform better on the field, court, and track. A growing body of research supports this technique. For example, a study published in the journal Neuropsychologia suggests that “mental contractions” can increase muscle power nearly as much as standard physical exercise.

In sports, visualization helps athletes overcome self-doubt by replacing negative mental chatter with a clear image of success. This, in turn, promotes focus and confidence. Beyond the world of athletics, however, the same practices can make a difference in all walks of life. Expectant mothers, for example, look to visualization to get them through the challenges of delivery. In physical therapy, visualization helps patients achieve impressive outcomes, despite suffering significant physical limitations.

Visualization can prove just as effective for cognitive feats as it does for physical challenges. In the workplace, many people look to it to prepare for presentations, which have long been one of the greatest sources of professional anxiety. Instead of letting fears of freezing up take over, it helps to picture a successful presentation and its proud aftermath. The more details included in this effort, the better. Ideally, visualizing will take place in a calm and quiet environment, where it’s easy to focus on positive imagery and let negative thoughts drift away.

Visualization is also a useful tool for a variety of other efforts. In sales, for example, visualization can be used to build up confidence before meeting with important customers or clients. Management professionals often rely on visualization to help them prepare for difficult performance reviews or other conflict-oriented tasks.

It’s easy to grasp the value of visualization but putting it into play can prove more difficult. When first getting started, many professionals benefit from guided imagery. This popular relaxation method combines pleasant images with prompts designed to improve body awareness. This promotes greater self-awareness while enhancing creativity and even healing.

Realistic Goal Setting

From long-term objectives to daily to-do lists, goal setting is a workplace essential that should be mastered as soon as possible. Without the guidance of detailed, action-oriented goals, it can be easy to drift into professional apathy. Over time, this limits your ability to make forward momentum and climb the career ladder.

Goal setting is crucial, but objectives need to be realistic. Pie-in-the-sky goals can feel too out of reach to seem attainable. If such plans seem overly ambitious, doubt can quickly creep in, leading to paralysis rather than progress.

To keep goals within the realm of possibility, use specifics, including numbers when possible. Quantifiable goals keep you grounded while also providing a valuable metric to assess your progress along the way.

Like the workplace tools highlighted above, goal setting should become a daily practice. This could mean setting smaller “mini-goals” throughout the day to keep you productive. You can also check in on your long-term mission to remind yourself why your hard work matters.

Build goals into your daily workplace practices, and you will be rewarded with newfound motivation as well as a wonderful sense of satisfaction every time you achieve one of your top objectives.

Taking a Break

Workaholics permeate the professional landscape, but their insistence on constant productivity actually holds them back in the long term. Excessive effort ultimately leads to burnout. The best antidote? Time off to recharge.

Of course, this is easier said than done—especially when deadlines loom. It’s second nature to double down and work harder, even when it’s obvious that this approach produces diminishing returns. For this reason, it’s crucial to build breaks into every day.

Begin by taking a real lunch break, rather than bringing your meal to your desk. Ditch your work environment, and, if possible, leave your smartphone behind for at least fifteen minutes. Use this time to actually enjoy your meal. If you eat with coworkers, steer clear of professional conversation.

In addition to enjoying a full lunch break, carve out time for at least one or two mental getaways throughout the day. A short walk, for example, can do a world of good when you begin to feel fatigued or overwhelmed. Even a five-minute stretch break can shift your mindset to make challenges easier to handle.

The simplest workplace tools are also among the most effective. As you make your mark in the professional sphere, don’t hesitate to implement basic strategies such as goal setting and taking regular breaks. You’ll be impressed by the extent to which modest tweaks to your work routine transform your performance on the job.

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