7 Ways to Improve Working Independently and Productively

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 18 April 2022

Independent employees can complete tasks on their own with very little guidance. During interviews, hiring managers can ask whether you prefer working in a team or on your own to learn more about your individual preferences. While both approaches have advantages, it's important to learn to work independently, so you can manage tasks on your own. In this article, we discuss what working independently means, explore why it's important, outline how to improve working independently and describe the skills you may use to work autonomously.

What does working independently mean?

Working independently refers to your ability to accomplish tasks on your own with minimal or no supervision. An employer may delegate a task for you to complete on your own if you possess specific skills to complete it successfully. As you complete jobs and duties on your own, you might feel accountable and self-reliant. Independent work can allow you to stay motivated while working autonomously. Working in a team can also require you to work independently, as the team leader can assign minor tasks to individual team members.

Benefits of working independently

Below are a few reasons independence is important in the workplace:

  • It enhances focus: With no external interruptions, staying focused on your work can be easy. You can find a quiet place in the room while working alone, to concentrate on a task without being distracted by outside noise.

  • Delivers results on tasks: You can make significant progress when working alone, as you might find it easier to prioritise tasks. When you concentrate solely on one task, your performance levels can improve and positively impact your productivity.

  • Allows working at your own pace: You might decide the speed of working on projects and activities when working individually. For example, when you're working alone, you don't have to check in with your team-mates to move on to the next task.

  • It prepares you to work remotely: Independent work can prepare you to work remotely, as you can learn how to focus and follow through a project to completion individually. With employers offering remote work options and flexible schedules, independent employees can find working remotely easy and effective.

  • Provides the ability to self-manage: Operating independently offers you the ability to manage yourself. Self-management allows you to create your routine, establish your objectives and complete them as you see fit.

7 ways to improve your ability to work independently

Below are seven ways you can improve your ability to work individually:

1. Develop a strategy to reduce interruptions at work

Cooperation is beneficial, as it improves your ability to operate in groups. Set some basic rules with your team on when they can interrupt with questions or a chat. Wearing headphones, for instance, can signal that you're enjoying some time alone while working on your project. You can set your status on communication platforms as ‘busy' to minimise disruptions.

2. Be trustworthy

To gain more job independence, you can first show your trustworthiness. This includes being reliable, consistently delivering what you promise and completing tasks well. Showing your dependability also means communicating your goals to your supervisor and colleagues, along with following up on the results of your work. You can also communicate project milestones to the manager, as this can help them trust you. This way, your managers can depend on you when you wish to work alone in the office or work from home.

3. Ask about options for independent work

Working in an organisation that has implemented a result-only work culture helps manage some workplace constraints. With a result-only work culture, you can secure opportunities for working autonomously or remotely. This may give you an opportunity to work from home while updating your supervisor on the progress of the project.

4. Schedule time on your calendar

Set aside time on your calendar to operate on your own. During this period, try to minimise social media usage and other disruptions, so that you can focus on the work at hand. To do this, reserve social time on your calendar around your duties. The longer you can block off and concentrate on tasks, the more you improve your ability to work independently.

5. Get organised

Getting organised can help you understand what your daily tasks can be and what you can achieve. Having a detailed understanding of your goals allows you to contemplate and examine how you can achieve them. It might be easier for you to work independently when you have a coherent plan.

Related: Top Organisational Skills for Your Resume and Workplace

6. Employ research tools and techniques

Before starting a new task, take the time to prepare thoroughly and research the facts. Ask your supervisor for help if you encounter a problem that you cannot solve. It's essential to show that you've utilised your talents and tried solving the problem before asking for help.

7. Allow yourself some quiet time alone

Allowing yourself to work alone can build your independence skills and help you master them. Try going to a quiet corner of the workplace when no one else is present and focus on a project. Even if you only handle this project for 30 minutes at a time, this practice can help you to become more accustomed to working alone.

Skills you might possess to work individually

The following are the skills you might possess to work individually:

Mindfulness

Being mindful entails focusing on being alert to what you're experiencing and perceiving in the current moment. Mindfulness allows you to stay on target by being mindful of your thoughts and surroundings. For example, by being mindful, you can detect when you are being distracted by noise around you and divert your attention or adjust your environment as necessary.

Self-motivation

Working alone has several benefits. One of them is inspiration from within. People who have self-motivation may come up with new ideas, prosper with little guidance and gladly take accountability for their actions. Self-motivation helps them focus on projects without being supervised by anyone.

Effective communication

Excellent communication skills are vital for articulating issues, writing reports on project milestones and presenting them to managers. These skills are essential for employees who prefer to work independently at their workplace or at home. Because most of your conversations might take place over the phone or via email, being able to communicate clearly and concisely is essential.

Related: How to Become an Effective Communicator (Plus Tips)

Self-evaluation

It's critical to assess your work and personal strengths and limitations objectively. Check whether you rely on the opinions and suggestions of others or if you can inspect your own work. It's essential that you constantly seek methods to improve your productivity, efficiency and overall performance while working alone.

Confidence

Individuals who operate independently may require a high level of confidence to handle challenges. They can make decisions confidently without the help of others. Further, they are accountable for the repercussions of their choices. They might also be willing to share thoughts and views without the influence of their peers.

Ambition

Being ambitious entails a solid desire to excel. Ambition can help you perform well in your duties and explore new opportunities to expand your profession. Having ambition at work is beneficial, as it makes you more efficient and gives you a sense of direction while working alone.

Critical thinking

When you operate individually, you're solely responsible for your actions. There might be occasions when you encounter a difficult situation and might solve it without the help or guidance of others. Working individually involves the ability to identify the source of an issue on your own. Solving these issues requires critical thinking and self-assurance in facing a situation on your own.

Related: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions and Examples

Computer literacy

Working alone helps you work from home, where you may not have immediate access to an IT assistance team. Having a basic understanding of computer skills can help you clarify these issues before seeking further help. At the very least, a remote employee can have a rudimentary awareness of the equipment and software for communicating with colleagues and customers.

Related: Computer Skills: Definition and Examples

Self-regulation

Self-regulation relates to the capability to moderate your energy levels, feelings, opinions and actions. It can entail concentrating your mind on new tasks to improve performance. Self-regulation allows you to learn how to act in different settings without relying on your supervisor's advice.