Want to improve your work game? Check out 80,000 Hours' evidence-based guide
Updated: Sep 29, 2021
Over the past year or so, we've occasionally discussed 80,000 Hours — a charitable organization that aims to help people find careers that are both personally meaningful and beneficial to the world. 80,000 Hours shares ClearerThinking's interest in finding evidence-based solutions for everyday problems, and we wanted to pass along a particularly useful resource in that vein that they recently released: a compilation of evidence-based advice for succeeding at any job.
This extensive summary of useful tactics and tips is part of 80,000 Hours' ongoing guide to building a rewarding career, which we discussed last summer. It highlights a wide range of self-improvement techniques that stretches from basic physical and mental wellness advice to methods for expanding and upgrading your professional skillset. (ClearerThinking also gets a few flattering shout-outs in the process.) The entire article is worth reading if you're looking to improve your game in the workplace, but we've summarized a few of the tips that struck us as especially resonant below to serve as an appetizer.
Read the entire article here for dozens more scientifically-substantiated career tips, along with links to resources for putting them into practice. It could change the way you do business.
1. Take care of your back.
This isn't metaphorical — chronic back pain is now one of the world's leading causes of disability, and even pain that doesn't rise to that level of severity can be a productivity-killing nuisance. 80,000 Hours recommends a few steps for preventing chronic back issues: maintain good posture, according to the advice of institutions such as Britain's National Health Service; and make sure to change positions periodically, potentially with the help of time-management plans like the Pomodoro technique. The full 80,000 Hours article has many more tips for maintaining good back health, as well as physical fitness more generally — a wise investment for anyone interested in maximizing their output at work.
2. Make a good impression on new contacts with a "five-minute favor."
"Networking": this term's unctuous overtones can send shivers down the spine, but the truth is that succeeding in virtually any field of work requires making and retaining friendships with colleagues. 80,000 Hours recommends streamlining the early stages of process by employing the "five-minute favor," an easy trick for establishing friendly relations with any new professional contacts you might encounter: "Think what can you do in just five minutes that would help this person, and do it. Two of the best five-minute favors are to make an introduction, or tell someone about a book or another resource. The right introduction can change someone’s life, and costs you almost nothing." Doing small favors of this sort for colleagues can help improve your reputation and establish a warm rapport with individuals whom you might not have spent time with otherwise.
3. Consider moving.
Many industries are heavily concentrated by geography: LA is famous for entertainment, the Bay Area is a major tech hub, New York City is renowned for finance and media, and so forth. If you plan to work in a field where both the jobs themselves and the associated professional networks tend to revolve around a specific location, you may stand to substantially improve your chances of landing the job you're looking for by moving to the industry's center of gravity — even if your job can be performed remotely. Research indicates that people in the world's 10 biggest metropolitan areas tend to be far more productive than the worldwide average. It's unclear why this might be the case, but proximity to other creative and driven people could have something to do with it. Consider taking advantage of this dynamic yourself. Alternately, you might think about doing the opposite — thanks to the rise of remote work, it has become easier than ever to thrive by moving to a locale where a high standard of living is relatively cheap if you can work remotely.
4. Try to keep at least 6 months' worth of savings at your disposal.
It's worth keeping enough money on hand to live comfortably for several months without any income for financial security reasons alone, but doing so also provides some important career benefits. Specifically, having a nest egg of this sort allows you to take bigger professional risks, such as getting involved in a startup or moving to a new job market where you're not certain to find new employment immediately. 80,000 Hours offers a range of tips designed to help you save up a buffer of this sort, including setting up automatic savings transfers to savings in your bank account and focusing on major budget reorganizations instead of small-change scrimping. Of course, life circumstances can make it difficult to save up sizable chunks of money, and it's certainly possible to succeed professionally even if your financial situation doesn't permit such savings. But if the option is available to you, it's certainly worth pursuing.
5. Block social media when you're on the clock.
This topic has been written about a lot, but it's worth reiterating because of its pervasiveness and surprising seriousness. Using social media while you're supposed to be working is obviously a waste of time, but it also degrades your performance on the job because it's so difficult to fully focus and perform at peak levels when you're constantly switching between multiple unfinished tasks. Avoiding social media use during the workday can also prove strangely challenging, as these services are literally designed to be addictive. 80,000 Hours recommends several apps that can ease your efforts to avoid social media procrastination, such as Rescue Time, Freedom, and (OFFTIME).