10 Strategies for Developing Work Skills

In my last post, I described four essential work skills to help your students work smartly, efficiently and successfully. Those skills are:

The icon representing the Quest Forward Learning Work Skill "Focus"  Focus


Make an effort  Make an Effort

The icon representing the Quest Forward Learning Work Skill "Document and Take Notes"  Document

Today I’m going to focus on ten evidence-based strategies that will help your students — or anyone else! — practice and develop these skills. 

1. Identify priorities
We all have long to-do lists, but prioritizing just 1-3 goals each day and week is a great way to help students manage and achieve their goals.

2. Break tasks or projects into manageable steps
Smaller steps are less overwhelming and easier to focus on.

3. Keep a calendar with events and target dates for tasks
Students will benefit from using a digital calendar or physical planner to keep track of daily schedules and tasks. 

4. Remove distractions
Not only is it important to remind students to log out of social media, turn off notifications, and put their phones away, it’s also essential to remind them of why they should do these things. These distractions can keep students from achieving their goals, and each has been linked to mental health issues that limit the ability to focus. 

5. Tidy up
Encourage students to maintain a clean and organized workspace. This will help them avoid distractions and stay focused on their goals. 

6. Take a productive break 
Breaks can help students be more creative and productive, and can also improve memory. It’s important to help students learn how and when to take productive breaks, such as going for a walk or doing some other physical activity. If possible, students may want to consider changing their work space after returning from a break, and should always be encouraged to drink water and eat healthy foods. 

7. Breathe
Even short breathing exercises (1-2 minutes) can slow the mind and help students focus.

8. Keep a notebook or journal
Writing information down helps people to remember it. Whether they use paper or digital tools, keeping a journal helps students log ideas when they occur, which frees their minds and memories for other tasks. In addition to keeping them organized, a journal is a great way to develop documentation and note-taking skills. 

9. Identify the Why
Knowing why we’re doing something is so important to keep us motivated, focused, and on-task. Help students develop a why for each task and goal, and then encourage them to reflect upon that reasoning as they progress through their work. 

10. Don’t try to be perfect
Perfection is unrealistic, and its expectation can foster negative overthinking, limit creativity, and stifle sharing. The desire to improve is fantastic, and students should be encouraged to work hard toward their goals, but they also need to learn how and when to draw the line and call a task completed. 

Check out these additional resources to help students develop the four Work Skills.

  • Prepare to Plan: Use this lesson to motivate and equip students to gain more independence in their life with planning tools and strategies, as well as an awareness of time management.
  • Make an Effort: This customizable facilitation guide, slide deck, and student template will lead your students through a lesson on what it really means to make your best effort.
  • Keep Calm and Focus On: This customizable facilitation guide, slide deck, and student activity will help you facilitate a lesson on what it means to focus. Equip students with strategies to concentrate on relevant information and tasks without getting easily distracted, shift tasks effectively, and take mental and physical breaks when needed and appropriate.
  • Ready, Set, Document!: Use this customizable facilitation guide, slide deck, and template to facilitate a lesson on effective note-taking to keep track of ideas and tools that can help them organize and remember ideas.

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