Friday, January 23, 2015

The Real Reason You Aren't More Productive

Rory Vaden wants you to forget everything you know about time management, because it’s probably wrong.
He wants you to ignore the advice on doing the most difficult tasks first every day, or the rule about answering emails during certain time periods. Those kind of activities are simply muddying the waters when you’re searching for a way to be more productive with the time you have, he contends.
The key to truly focusing on what matters comes from understanding the emotions that get in our way and prevent us from maximizing our time, he says.
“There is no such thing as time management, there is only self-management,” he says. “Time continues on regardless of what we do, so all we can do is decide what we will be spending our time doing or not doing for that day.”
For example, guilt or fear may prompt us to tackle certain tasks or projects that really don’t help us be more productive. Even chronic overachieves can make poor decisions about how they use their time, participating in what Vaden calls “priority dilution.”
“While priority dilution has nothing to do with laziness, apathy or being disengaged (like traditional procrastination) it nets the same result: a delay of the day’s most important activities because your attention shifts to less important, but perhaps seemingly more urgent, tasks,” he explains. “You are trading your to-do list for emergencies.”
Vaden, author of “Procrastinate on Purpose” says that the most successful people, who he calls “multipliers,” have learned to manage the emotions often tied to how we use our time. The key, he explains, is that multipliers ask themselves: “What are the things that I could do today that would free up more time tomorrow?”
“They get outside of their to-do list of short-term priorities and they realize that the real key to creating more margin in their life isn’t about working faster, or somehow ‘prioritizing’ better; it’s about learning to think differently,” he says.
In his book, Vaden provides five “permissions” that he says will help you make better use of your time and become a multiplier:
1. Eliminate. Vaden notes that those wanting to achieve success will always look at what they need to add to their lives, but they actually need to ask themselves: “What are all the things that I can eliminate?” Start considering the significance of what you do, instead of the volume of tasks you complete. He notes that many people avoid eliminating anything because they’re emotionally unable to say “no.” But when you’re able to say “no,” then you will be able to spend more time with your family or working toward your dreams, he says.
2. Automate. Those who balk at automation of certain tasks (see more here)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How to Stay Focused in an Open Office

There are a lot of complaints these days about open concept offices.
Workers complain there are too many distractions, they’re so loud you cannot hear yourself think and everyone is in everyone else’s business.
But organizations like the idea of workers being close enough to one another to collaborate easily or come together for quick brainstorming.
I’ve been working in open concept offices since the beginning of my career decades ago. Of course, then they were just called newsrooms. You often were packed so tightly into a space you could literally reach out and touch three other people. The police scanner was blasted out of the overhead sound system so that no one missed an important development. In addition, editors were known to throw objects (tennis balls, pens) at reporters across the room if they couldn’t get their attention by yelling at them.
People were on the phone all the time, and when they weren’t on the phone, they were clacking away on computers.
Noise? It was unbelievable. And I loved it.
That’s not to say that it was always easy to get work done. Sometimes I’d be deep in thought writing a story and the fire department scanner would start screaming with alarms as firefighters rushed to a fire. Or, a frustrated reporter would curse loudly and throw a phone after having difficulty with a source on the other end.
As I said, it wasn’t always easy but I didn’t know any other way of working.
Now, of course, many people face the same situation and find they’re frustrated and annoyed by such working conditions.
So, I’d like to share some tips on how to make such a workspace not only bearable, but something you might come to enjoy. Here are some things to think about:
  • Be honest. Here is the thing about journalists: They say what’s on their minds. They’re always on deadline, and don’t have time to dither around when there is an issue. So, when the reporter next to me brought in Chinese garlic chicken and ate it at his desk, I told him, “That smells terrible. Can you not eat that kind of thing in here anymore? I can’t write when my eyes are watering.” I didn’t complain when he ate a ham sandwich, so he knew I wasn’t being a prima donna – the garlic chicken was the problem, not him.
  • Stop blaming other people for distractions. You’re never going to get anything done if your head is doing a Linda Blair spin every time someone walks by your chair. If you’re constantly being distracted, sometimes it’s because you’re looking for that excuse. When you’re focused on your work, noise isn’t going to bother you because you’re in the zone. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get at it, I promise. I have been able to write an 800-word story in 25 minutes with two reporters passing a football back and forth over my head.
  • Find your hideout. As much as I loved the energy of a newsroom, I also knew there were times when I needed to quiet myself so that I could think of a creative way to write a story or interview a difficult source. I knew the quiet areas I could go within a newspaper building that I was within reach of my bosses, but also could find some quiet space. Conference rooms may work, but you’re also likely to be interrupted. I found that stairwells, a reception area outside human resources and even the office of someone on vacation worked well (always get permission first.)
  • Learn to laugh it off. We had a man in our newsroom who was losing his hearing, so when he talked on the phone you could hear him in the next county. But you know what? He was one of us. He was doing his job, so we all just sort of learned to laugh and forget about it. People talk too loudly on the phone. You probably talk too loudly on the phone and everyone is sick of hearing you talk to your mother or your boyfriend or your bookie. So the next time you get annoyed that someone is talking too loud, put on your headphones or learn to ignore it. Better yet, learn to laugh about our human foibles and go back to work – or intercept the football sailing over your head.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Key to Feeling Less Overwhelmed

One of the solutions being touted more and more as a solution to the emotional and physical overload many of us experience is mindfulness. But is mindfulness the answer? Or is it just the latest fad that you don’t have the time or inclination to try?
Scott Eblin, an executive coach and speaker, says he understands the skepticism many feel when they’re told they will be happier and less stressed if they’re more “mindful” in their lives. But as someone who has practiced mindfulness for 20 years and credits it with saving his life after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Eblin believes that mindfulness can help anyone improve their quality of life.
“Most people are very happy to learn that mindfulness is not nearly as complicated as they thought. You don’t have to meditate all day or do yoga every day,” he says.
Eblin says the need for mindfulness is greater than ever, as the declining economy several years ago put more pressure on workers to take on more work – and do it with less resources.
“We still seem to be in that crisis mode, even though things have improved,” Eblin says. “And whatever boundaries we’ve had have been erased by the smartphone.”
Enough, already
Let’s say your day started with your daughter forgetting her science project for school, forcing you to turn around and go get it. This caused you to be late to work and an important meeting, ticking off the boss. By 10 a.m. you had 200 emails in your inbox and three more meetings to attend.
If such a scenario sounds familiar, Eblin says the first thing you need to do is breathe.
In his book, “Overworked and Overwhelmed,” Eblin points out that there is scientific evidence that breathing deep from your belly can alleviate your stress and help you become more focused. That’s why he calls breathing “the killer app of mental routines.”
Focusing on your breathing, Eblin explains, is the simplest form of mindfulness. If a thought crosses your mind while focusing on your breathing (“I have to answer 200 emails!”) just acknowledge that thought and let it go while you again refocus on your breathing, he explains.
“Think of it like doing reps at a gym,” he explains. “Within reason, the more you do, the stronger you get. Mindful breathing is like a workout for your brain.”
In the book, Eblin offers several ways that you can use mental routines to overcome various sources of stress and become more productive with your thinking. He suggests you:
  • Focus on learning. Don’t let your thought processes get caught up in remorse or regret for mistakes you’ve made, or things you could have done differently. No one is perfect, and you will make mistakes and have regrets. Instead, ask yourself questions about what was supposed to happen, what actually happened and (read more here)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tips for Boosting Productivity in 2015

Click To Enlarge

How to Increase Productivity

Via Salesforce

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How Successful People Overcome Failure

There are several things in your career that are fairly well guaranteed:  At some point you will work  for an idiot; you will be convinced human resources is populated by Death Eaters; and you will experience failure.
While an idiot boss and the followers of Lord Voldemort can be worrisome, it will be failure that will truly test your path toward greatness.
That’s why it can be helpful to look at how the truly successful view their failures and overcame them:
  • Learn from criticism. Best-selling author John Grisham had “The Firm” rejected by 28 publishers before being accepted by unknown publisher Wynwood Press, which printed 5,000 copies in 1989. The book later sat on top of the New York Times’ bestseller list for 47 weeks and was the bestselling novel of 1991. But to this day Grisham will often throw away many efforts when penning another book. “When my wife or my agent mark my stuff up, I want to punch them in the nose. But the problem is, usually they’re right,” Grisham said.
  • Keep hope alive. Musician Jewel lived in her car and went hungry while traveling around the country doing small gigs. “It was really hard for me to ever think that I was special when I was homeless,” she said. “But people helped me. They didn’t know me. They didn’t owe me anything. They would just give me food. They’d give me $5 for food. That not only helped feed me but it gave me hope.” Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the retail chain, was told by his dry-goods store manager that “he didn’t have enough common sense to serve customers.” Noted Woolworth: “Dreams never hurt anybody if he keeps working right behind the dream to make as much of it come real as he can.”
  • Never stop growing. Soichoro Honda was rejected as an engineer for Toyota Motor Corp. Without work, he started making scooters in his own (read more here)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What We Can Learn About Careers from Pope Francis

(Photo courtesy of MSNBC)

Recently, Pope Francis listed 15 "ailments" that he believed were infecting the Catholic Church. But I think we should also take this to heart in our workplace. Here are the unhealthy habits listed by the Pope that I believe we can also eliminate from our careers:

1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable.  The Pope advises to stay updated and continually seek improvement. Otherwise, Francis points out that those who don't are a "sick body."
2) Working too hard. "Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously."
3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. "It's dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful." The last several years have been brutal as companies laid off workers, and workers took on two to three times their usual amount of work. Let's not forget in this competitive environment, sometimes the best thing you can do is be a good listener for a struggling co-worker, or even offer to take a stressed manager out for coffee.
4) Planning too much. "Preparing things well is necessary, but don't fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan." Even if you don't consider yourself a religious person, you need to learn to relax and not fight so many internal battles.
5) Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. "When the foot tells the hand, 'I don't need you' or the hand tells the head 'I'm in charge.'" More companies are pushing workers to become more collaborative. If you don't, you may just find yourself dispensable.
6) Having 'spiritual Alzheimer's. "We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands." Again, you may not follow a certain religious path, but the Pope makes a good point that there is more to life than possessions. Think about how you will keep yourself spiritually alive as you approach 2015.
7) Being rivals or boastful. "When one's appearance, the color of one's vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life." Put another way: stop bragging so much on social media about your latest project or job and instead keep the focus on how you can help others. That's better than a corner office.
8) Suffering from 'existential schizophrenia. "It's the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It's a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people." If you're a manager, step out from behind your desk and get out in the real world with your workers. Don't make the mistake of letting your work quality slide just because you can.
9) Committing the 'terrorism of gossip. "It's the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people's backs." Amen.
10) Glorifying one's bosses. "It's the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren't God." This is sort of the Pope's way of saying that brown-nosers have got their priorities all screwed up.
11) Being indifferent to others. "When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him." It's one thing to be competitive -- but it's something else entirely when you like to see people fail. Do you spend more energy putting people down rather than offering a helping hand?
12) Having a 'funereal face. "In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes." It's amazing what a smile or pat on the back can do for someone else -- and for yourself.
13) Wanting more. "When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he'll feel more secure." Do you really need the latest tech gadget? Or might you find greater happiness in helping others?
14) Forming 'closed circles' that seek to be stronger than the whole. "This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad — scandals — especially to our younger brothers." Cliques don't end when we leave high school, and they can be just as damaging in the workplace. Make it a point to ask someone you don't know well at work to lunch, or just take the time to chat with those outside your work area.
15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. "It's the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others." If you're slamming others online, stop it. Stop hogging the limelight at work, and remember to give others credit if they helped you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Do You Work With a Narcissist?

When you think of narcissists, names like Kim Kardashian and Lance Armstrong may come to mind with their constant focus on themselves and need for admiration.
But that’s the celebrity world, and it’s not so common for the average person to have such an inflated sense of self-importance (since most of us get that knocked out of us in our 20s).
Despite that, narcissism is a term that gets thrown around a lot, especially when you’re dealing with an annoying personality at work. But is that jerk at work really a narcissist?
The Mayo Clinic defines narcissism as a mental disorder “in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration.” Those with the disorder believe that “they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings,” the clinic states. “But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says that narcissists often can be difficult to work with as their sense of entitlement, lack of empathy and focus on ““me, me, me” can impede work getting done.
One of the biggest problems is that narcissists often are very bright, and may cover their darker tendencies under the guise of having career ambition. They can turn on the charm when needed, and often are described as charismatic. They are driven – but can also be manipulative and self-centered and can seriously impact a team’s efficiency and productivity.
For example, say a sales meeting is called to discuss the upcoming quarter. But as the boss tries to get input from everyone, the narcissist constantly interrupts to talk about himself and his successes. Later, when there are informal gatherings of the sales staff to discuss strategies, the narcissist constantly interrupts to again direct the conversation to an area he or she wants to discuss.
“These people are always trying to shine the light on themselves. They always want the glory,” Whitbourne explains. “They like to derail things. They constantly have to be attended to. They can be very aggravating.”
So, the result is that a sales team may miss its projections because they can’t do effective planning with the narcissist’s interruptions, or may be so irked by the behavior they find it hard to concentrate and do their jobs.
The bottom line is that narcissists can really throw a wrench in the works when it comes to others doing their jobs effectively, Whitbourne says.
But, there are strategies to help you cope better with the narcissist at work. Whitbourne suggests:
  • Becoming educated. Before you label someone as a narcissist, take some time to really observe the behavior. “Vulnerable” narcissists may actually have low self-esteem (read more here)