This week, I discuss how to develop your work ethic.

Table of Contents

Why You Should Have A Strong Work Ethic

a good life | man's dirty hands

A good life requires hard work. Therefore, why not excel at what life needs?

“You get lazy, you get sad. Start givin’ up. Plain and simple.” – James Dashner

A work ethic is “an attitude of determination and dedication toward one’s job.” The stronger your work ethic, the harder and better you apply your efforts in your job.

However, one’s work ethic is not limited to employment. Everything we do, from building relationships to cultivating virtue, requires “work.” Yes, there is pleasure involved. But, there are days where being virtuous isn’t be “fun.” There is toil, sweat, and no immediate sense of accomplishment.

Therefore, having a good work ethic means you stay the course, regardless of how difficult your relationships, hobbies, and occupation seem to be. Your life improves when you can fulfill commitments, complete tasks, and remain focused when life is challenging and dreary.

How To Develop A Strong Work Ethic

work | get shit done sign

At the heart of a strong work ethic is the ability to focus and prioritize.

1) Separate what is needed versus what is wanted

I separate tasks into what I want to do and what others need me to do. What others need me to do takes priority: excelling at my day job, completing my honey-do list, spending time with my children, and so on. Things that I want to do, such as work on this blog, have to take a backseat.

If you fulfill your responsibilities first, then you reduce stress. How do you determine what your responsibilities are? Here are ideas to consider:

  • Doing whatever puts food on the table
  • Spending time with those who are closest to you and are the most loyal to you
  • Fulfilling obligations to the state; e.g., pay your taxes on time
  • Fulfilling life responsibilities such as paying bills, updating information with your bank, or scheduling repairs on your car

Obviously, not everything is black or white. For example, you don’t have to pay your taxes right away. However, if you’re running low on food in the house, go on that grocery trip now to save yourself stress down the road.

Handle your responsibilities as they arise, and you’ll clear your mind for the other tasks you need to complete.

2) Get Started

start now | ballerina

Start now, and the momentum will sustain your progress.

Delay creates doubt, and doubt undermines your persistence. A work ethic develops best when you are constantly doing. If you hesitate for too long to do tasks, you will open yourself to fear and procrastination.

Start with small goals and expectations. For example, if you’re having a hard time starting a project you don’t want to do, then work a small part. Finish one sentence or work for only five minutes before moving on to something else. Return to the project and extend your expectations: five minutes turns to ten minutes, one sentence turns to a paragraph, and so on.  Keep growing this time, and you’ll gain momentum.

Act in the face of doubt, so you can develop your work ethic and accomplish your tasks.

3) Time yourself

Always set time limits while you work. If you restrict how long you can work on something, you’re less likely to get distracted. Primarily, timing yourself gives you accountability: I need to get this done, so I have time for other tasks. Secondarily, you can treat timing yourself as a game: can I finish faster than the watch?

Set a clock for 30 minutes. Within that 30 minutes, focus on completing the task. Once the time has ended, move on, or check in to see if you need to extend the time on the task at hand.

Within restrictions, you will find the creativity you need to excel. Set limits and your work ethic will improve.

4) Track your progress

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan” – Margaret Thatcher

Always track your progress. Day tracking keeps you honest and gives you a bird’s eye view of your progress.

A list of tasks in a journal or a calendar app works best. You have to track what you did for the day, a ballpark of how long it took, and a summary of your actions.

The more information you have, the better you can refine what you see and improve any flaws in your systems and behavior.

5) Reward focus and accomplishment

woman smiling at computer

If you do well, celebrate. Never refrain from a well-earned pat on the back.

When you reward your work ethic, you incentivize yourself to stay the course. Rewards are a sign of goodwill. You are thanking yourself for your efforts. It won’t seem evident at first, but this mutual gratitude does empower you to remain focused and work harder.

Choose small things you like to do. Ensure the reward matches the effort. Don’t reward yourself with a five-star vacation because you woke up on time this week. Lastly, ensure all rewards are fought for and earned. The better you do, the harder you work, the more enriching and effective the prize will be.

Develop Your Work Ethic

“They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask: ‘Is this true?’ They ask: ‘Is this what others think is true?’ Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull.” – Ayn Rand

A work ethic is crucial to excelling at your goals. If you can’t stay focused and work hard, then you’re going to fail more often than you need to. And you won’t fail intelligently.

Therefore, take the advice above. Focus on the task. Keep your progress. Celebrate victories. The world needs you to be a stronger, more accomplished individual. A better work ethic will get you there.


  1. How would you rate your work ethic? Is it strong? Weak? What can you do to improve it further?
  2. Where can you save energy, so you can perform better?
  3. Do you cut any corners in your day-to-day? Why or why not?

Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.

*Image credit to Unsplash.