The fun and relaxation of the summer vacation is well behind us. Soon, many of us will leave for work before dawn and arrive home well after sunset. When the days get darker and the weather gets colder, it’s not uncommon to feel less upbeat about work. You might even feel like you’re stuck in a rut or spinning your gears—especially if you’ve been in your position for more than a year and don’t feel challenged. However, if you want that next promotion and pay rise, you need to keep advancing in a way that your supervisor notices. The best way to do this is by boosting your performance.You might be thinking, “I always fulfill my job responsibilities well, so how can I improve my performance?” That’s a valid question. The following four strategies can help.Look for areas where you can improve. The old line, “Nobody’s perfect!” is absolutely true. No matter how well you do your work, there’s always room for improvement. Perhaps you could pay more attention to detail when preparing and reviewing reports. Maybe you need to work on your phone skills. Perhaps you need to feel more confident about doing research so you can work faster. Take a couple of hours to objectively assess your performance and pinpoint where you could benefit from a bit of work. If this is difficult, refer to your most recent performance review, or simply ask your supervisor.Improve your focus. According to Susie Poppick in her CNBC article “These are the top workplace productivity killers,” 75 percent of employers say their employees waste a minimum of two hours a day. Most of this time is spent on the phone, texting, browsing the Internet, gossiping, and using social media. If this sounds familiar, then imagine how much more productive you could be if you eliminate these distractions and focus one task at a time! Turn off your phone and all computer alerts, and don’t try to multi-task. Prioritize your tasks according to importance, and allocate a specific time for each. Make sure to take a five minute break every hour or so to get up, stretch your legs, and get away from the screen.Find learning opportunities in your most dreaded tasks. Procrastination won’t make the task go away—it will just make it seem like more of an obstacle. Chances are, if you’re avoiding something, there’s a learning opportunity there. For example, if you’re dreading writing a report, it could be because you don’t have a streamlined process and don’t know where to start. Then this could be an opportunity to create an effective process— if necessary, with help from a colleague. Or if you’re avoiding meeting with a difficult client, it could be an opportunity to learn more about different personality types and how to better interact with them.Spend an hour each day acquiring new knowledge or learning a new skill. Learning outside of the workplace can boost your performance by increasing your knowledge, keeping you mentally agile, and broadening your frame of reference. You don’t even have to learn anything directly work related, so long as you’re challenging your brain to assimilate new information. Try listening to a podcast that relates to your profession when you drive to work; read a magazine or book about a topic that interests you while you’re on the commuter rail; or enroll in an online course to do on evenings and weekends. You’ll soon find it easier to assimilate new information at work.No matter where you are in your professional life, you should always be in control of advancing your career. Put these strategies into practice, and watch how your performance improves in just a few weeks!