Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Stop Procrastinating

Don't hate me because I'm not a procrastinator.
I was that obnoxious person in high school who started her term paper the day it was assigned. I tackle projects as soon as they cross my radar, and I go after my to-do list like a woman possessed.
I have no idea why I am this way, but I have plenty of other flaws, so please don't hate me.
I know lots of procrastinators. They're good people, just challenged when it comes to getting things done on time. For them, I hope this column I did for Gannett/USA Today makes a difference.....

Everyone has tasks they hate and put off for as long as they can, whether it's cleaning out the garage or tackling expense reports at work.
But what happens when that procrastination builds to the point your performance suffers on the job or you start to fall behind on your career plans?
Procrastination often results when the task we are putting off evokes sadness, anger or fear, says Jude Bijou, a psychotherapist and author of Attitude Reconstruction.
"Procrastination has been around forever," she says. "We avoid things no matter the age we live in."
Carson Tate, founder and principal of Working Simply, agrees with Bijou that people often procrastinate out of fear and adds that a drive for perfection can immobilize people who feel "they can't ever get something good enough."
Tate and Bijou offer a number of tips to help those dealing with procrastination and the emotions behind it. Among their suggestions:
• Channel your dog. When you take a dog to the veterinarian, the animal often shakes and shivers, Bijou says.
That's a much more natural response than a human being who tries to contain fear and become very still, she says.
"Don't tighten up," she says. "Makes sounds and wiggle around and let the energy out of your body. Shake hard for about 1 minute, and then you'll feel calmer and think more clearly."
• Do a brain dump. List all your fears, then ask yourself, "Is it true?" Tate says.
If you really don't have the resources to get a job done at work, what can you do about it "instead of just spinning your wheels?" she asks.
• Have a good cry. If you're sad about something and that's the reason you're procrastinating, allow yourself to cry for 5 or 10 minutes, Bijou says.
Put on a sad movie, or just hold yourself and say, "OK, let me have a good cry and while I'm crying I'm going to think, 'poor me,' " she says. "That helps you to remove that sadness energy."
• Banish perfectionism. Think about what the boss really wants, not what you think should happen to be perfect, Tate says.
"Decide what's good enough," she says.
• Throw a fit. "What does a young child do when he's angry? He throws a temper tantrum," Bijou says.
While you can't pitch a hissy fit in the middle of the office, you can go into the bathroom and shake a stall door, press your hands really hard against the wall or stomp around, which helps release the frustration from your body, she says.
Once you've handled the emotions behind procrastination, then you can rewire and begin "thinking thoughts that are more helpful," Bijou says.
For example, she suggests you begin by telling yourself: "I can do it. I'll feel better if I do it. I just take one small step."
By supporting yourself with helpful thoughts and breaking down big tasks into "little, doable tasks," Bijou says you break down your fears. Once you've started, write down what you've accomplished.
"Take one thing at a time. Just tell yourself, 'Let me do this,' " she says. "Then, when you're done, say 'Good for me!' "
The key in dealing with procrastination is finding ways to dial down the stress of the situation, Tate says. That way, you can better focus on taking action instead of becoming paralyzed by what you're not getting done.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How to Handle Q & A's Without Falling Apart

I have to say my favorite part of giving a speech is the question-and-answer session that immediately follows. 
I think one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that it gives me a chance to really understand what people are thinking and their interests. I recently was on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and I was fascinated by the questions and comments that followed.
But I know not everyone feels as I do, and liken a question-and-answer session to facing a firing squad.
With that in mind, here are some tips from some top experts in this latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today...

You've just finished your big presentation and take a quiet breath of relief.
Not so fast.

A critical part of your presentation is about to take place. And if you're not careful, it could spin out of control and undo all your hard work.
That's because it's now time for the question-and-answer period.
Many speakers believe that once they've gone through their PowerPoint, they're off the hook. They can answer a few simple questions and head for the exit.
But speakers can make many mistakes when starting their question-and-answer session, says Ben Decker, president and chief executive of Decker Communications.
The first: responding "That's a good question!" when an audience member makes a query.
"That's a bad habit," Decker says. "It's just a filler while they try to think of something to say, or they're trying to give a pat on the back to the person who asked it. But that can alienate the other audience members when you don't say the same thing to them when they ask a question."
Speakers should not be afraid to pause before answering a question to gather their thoughts, he says. At the same time, they always should think about how to link their answers to a main point made in the presentation.
"Question-and-answer sessions are as much of the communication experience as the presentation or speech," Decker says. "It could be even the most important part in order to get buy-in."
Another problem: A speaker may try to back away from a confrontational questioner or deny what is being said, says Nick Morgan, founder of Public Words

Instead, a speaker should move toward the person and stand next to the questioner, facing the same direction. This strategy maintains your authority but calms down the questioner because "they really are looking for recognition," he says.
"Then, instead of rejecting what they're saying, reflect it. Say something like, 'What I hear you saying is that you're upset by my proposal because you feel I've left out the shepherds and the sheep. Is that fair?' " Morgan says.
This helps gain the person's agreement, he says.
"Then, you can say something like, 'I appreciate your point of view. In fact, you remind me of a story. ...' and then you gradually change the subject by taking it in a direction that you want to go in," Morgan says.
Decker agrees that you never should argue with someone in the audience. He recommends having a half dozen stories at the ready to use to evoke emotion and help connect you with the audience.
When a question is off topic or perhaps too elementary, a speaker needs to respond with something like, "Can we take that off line? That's really not on topic for our group time together, but I'd be happy to chat with you afterward," Morgan says.
The question-and-answer session should not be viewed as something to just get through at the end of a presentation, Decker says. It's an opportunity to hammer home important points and connect with your audience.
One key to that connection is making sure you look directly at the questioner when the query is being made then direct the answer to the entire audience to make them feel included, he says.
Morgan advises speakers not to panic if they don't immediately get a question from the audience.
"Be prepared to wait a full 6 seconds," he says. "That's how long it can take before someone responds. But it won't take any longer than that. If you don't wait, you send out a signal to your audience that you don't really want to hear from them, and they will abide by that signal."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why It's Not Complicated to Be More Productive At Work

The following “It’s Not Complicated” AT&T commercials may be fun and cute, but they also are full of advice on how to be more productive at work.
In politics and in sports the phrase “keep it simple” is often repeated like a mantra as a way to win the contest.
But in the workplace, it can be a different matter. Office politics, worldwide competition and fast-breaking technological advances can mean we’re always scrambling to keep up with the next cubicle. This mad dash often is based on running the race as fast as we can, and not on reaching the finish line.
Instead of being more productive,  we find ourselves running out of gas and risking our emotional and physical well-being, not to mention hurting our careers with our lack of clear focus.
Is there a way to stop this spinning dervish? Absolutely. All it takes is some recognition that a problem exists and then taking steps to improve.
Speed can kill your credibility
In a world of 30-second soundbites, one-minute YouTube sensations and texts fired off in nanoseconds, it can be difficult not to be thought of badly if you just want to take some time to gather your thoughts before responding.
But since your credibility can depend on what you say, don’t respond if you’re not sure of your facts.
“Can you let me get back to you with that information after I’ve had a chance to check my facts? When must you absolutely have that information?”you can ask.  Often, people will back off their demand for immediacy once you slow down the conversation and ask for a specific deadline.
Also, consider turning off your email notifications. This may be difficult at first, so try checking emails by setting your cellphone timer for 30 minutes and expanding that by 15 minutes every couple of days. Eventually, you will train yourself not to jump into action whenever an email arrives, and your colleagues will learn to accept that you don’t respond immediately. You can also set an auto-respond to let family and friends know you’ll answer emails at a certain time each day.
Whether it’s answering an email, a text or even a direct question, not rushing to fill the silence can feel uncomfortable in such a fast-paced world. But experts say that it’s much better to take a moment and think of an appropriate and competent reply before filling it with nonsensical comments. Like the fact that you think strapping a cheetah on your Grandma’s back might be a good idea.

Always seek clarification
Have you ever been in a meeting and wish subtitles were available? Not because your colleague or boss was speaking a foreign language, but because what was coming out of their mouths made no sense? No one is a perfect communicator, so don’t be shy about asking questions when you’re confused about information being given. It doesn’t make you look stupid — but it sure will later when you get things wrong because you didn’t take the time to clarify information.
Never leave a meeting without a clear understanding of your action items, the deadline and who will be supervising your efforts. Summarize your understanding and make sure you get an agreement from team members and your boss. If you can’t seem to coral people long enough to get a clear idea of what you’re supposed to do, send an email with follow-up questions. Never make assumptions.
You can greatly reduce your workload if you ensure (read more here)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Is Technology Making You Rude?

Nearly everyone has a story about someone at work who has been rude.
Perhaps it was the boss who sent a snippy e-mail or the co-worker who made snarky comments, but workplace civility often seems to have gone the way of the typewriter.

The deeper issue with workplace rudeness is how it affects the bottom-line success of a business. A2011 study found that workplace rudeness caused 48% of workers to deliberately slack off and even affected their interactions with customers.
It also caused internal strife as workers reported spending time worrying about a rude interaction or lost work time trying to figure out how to avoid an uncivil co-worker.
Ron Ashkenas, a senior partner at Schaffer Consulting, says reliance on technology has spurred more workplace complaints of incivility.
"It's difficult to pick up social cues when you're always communicating virtually and aren't seeing someone face to face," Ashkenas says. "Without picking up on cues, you may just plow on without realizing how someone else is reacting."
Young workers often are cited as sending texts instead of communicating in person or via phone, which some older colleagues find rude. But Ashkenas says no one age group holds the record for uncivil behavior, and all employees can improve their interactions.
Young workers can help improve perceptions by putting down their smartphones in meetings and focusing on what their teammates are saying, says Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.
He also suggests that young workers push themselves to get away from their cubicles and e-mail. Instead, they should meet with the boss or co-workers in person.

"If you rely too much on technology for communicating, it will be hard to build strong interpersonal relationships," he says.
Ashkenas says that he has experienced his share of rude workplace behavior, such as one person who sent him an urgent e-mail requesting information.
The request required Ashkenas to work feverishly to pull to together the information from several different sources, but he managed to respond quickly.
The response? Nothing.

"I got no feedback. No thank you," he says. "Two weeks later after I sent a note asking if they got the information, they responded with 'Oh, yeah.' It was like it had fallen into a cyber black hole."
Too many people have become focused on clearing the decks of their own workload, which means firing off e-mail requests without any real thought about how it will affect the receiver, Ashkenas says.
"It's like the person who sends out a mass e-mail asking for ideas on how to solve a problem," he says. "What you're really doing is getting other people to do your work."
Ashkenas and Schawbel offer several suggestions on how to avoid being seen as rude at work. Among their ideas:
• Not everything is urgent. While we have become a 24/7 culture, don't expect colleagues to respond immediately to everything.
Make it clear if something is urgent, but don't put deadline pressures on them that are unnecessary. If a request is made, respond with feedback or a simple "thank you."
• Don't cut corners with texting or instant messages. Emoticons or text abbreviations are irritating to those receiving them. "You need to be professional in the workplace regardless of how you communicate," Schawbel says.
• Watch the cell yell. People often talk loudly on their cellphones at work, and Schawbel says he personally finds it annoying to listen to long personal conversations with significant others or friends.
• Set boundaries. Meet with a team to discuss proper protocol such as to when work should be considered urgent and what workplace behaviors are considered rude.
What does it mean to treat someone with respect and courtesy? What can be done when rude behavior takes place?
Experts say if you're not sure if your behavior may be discourteous, you simply should think about some of the rude behaviors that you find annoying. Then make sure you're not doing the same to other people.
Often just becoming more aware of how your actions affect others can go a long way toward alleviating workplace rudeness.

Friday, May 10, 2013

How to Be More Productive if You're a Night Owl

Are you a morning person? Or do you function best at night?
For teenagers, science supports the idea that they’re not morning larks – they do better with later school start times and not being forced to function at 7 a.m.
But as we grow older and have children of our own, we often experience a shift in our body clocks and begin to function better in the mornings. Instead of getting revved up at 10 p.m. for a night on the town as we did in our 20s, we’re asleep in the Laz-Z-Boy by 9 p.m.
Lumosity, the company known for online games that claim to boost your brain power, says that it recently decided to look at its users to determine when and how people prefer to train their brains, and how age may figure into the equation of performance and learning.
Lumosity researcher Daniel Sternberg says the results show in a study of 714,188 participants, brain performance peaks at different times of the day depending on the cognitive task you are engaging in.
  • On average, people perform better at working memory and attention tasks in the morning, and creative tasks later in the day.
  • Night owls may do better completing their critical daily tasks at night when they are most productive, and saving their creative thinking for (read more here)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why the Best Leaders Open Doors

It's amazing how life's most important lessons sometimes seem to come from the most unexpected places. Read on for how Bill Treasurer learned a key leadership lesson from someone who isn't even close to voting or getting his driver's license his latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today....

What makes a good boss?
The question was posed on Twitter recently, and here are some of the responses:

• "A good boss treats employees with respect, works as hard as everyone else, solves problems quickly and fairly," Pop Culture Nerd says.
• "A good boss listens!" Matt Eventoff tweets.
• A good boss "mentors her (or his) employees" while providing ongoing opportunities for professional development, Jeana Harrington says.
Those seem like reasonable requests, but too many bosses fall short. They get caught up in complicated leadership theories or make trite declarations without any intent behind them.
Bill Treasurer, author of Leaders Open Doors, says he learned a key leadership insight when his son was 5 years old.
Treasurer's son, tapped to be class leader one day at his preschool, noted that his job meant he "opened doors for people," Treasurer says.
"That really said it all right there," he says. "It was so simple. But that's what real leaders do. They open doors for people."
Hogan Assessment Systems study found that the worst quality in a boss is arrogance, while great bosses are trustworthy. Bad bosses also are seen as manipulative, micromanaging, passive-aggressive and distrustful of others.
Bosses who focus on providing opportunities for others are the most memorable, Treasurer says.
"Think about the people you admire, the people who have affected you most. Those are the people who give you a shot, who give you a chance to prove yourself," he says.

These are not the kind of leaders who tout an open-door policy or some other leadership gimmick, he says.
"You do need to mentor other people, but you've got to be strategic and think deeply about what you do and having an open door lets people distract you all the time," Treasurer says. "The people who talk about an open-door policy are often immature leaders because they're not focused."
Research from Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the University of Utah finds that teaching better methods or skills to workers is the biggest part of what makes a boss effective.
Treasurer says leaders need to spend more time getting to know their workers better so they can understand a worker's motivations and career goals. Once that is understood, then the employee and leader can work together on achieving the objective.
While leaders work with employees to develop skills and reach goals, Treasurer says they also should look for ways to make employees afraid.
He clarifies that he's not talking about fear through intimidation or threatening job loss, but pushing a worker into areas that may scare them professionally or push them out of their comfort zone.
"Growth and comfort don't go together," he says. "It may not endear you to them, but you've got to help them confront uncomfortable things. Have the courage to tell them the truth when they need to hear it."
Treasurer had his own uncomfortable moment: A boss told him that while he thought he was doing a good job, he also "thought I was becoming a bit of a brownnoser."
"He was willing to say that thing to me that made me uncomfortable, but he did it because I needed to hear it," Treasurer says. "The boss who is willing to confront those uncomfortable truths with you can end up giving you more confidence."
Treasurer says any leaders wanting to make a difference for workers should do these things:
• Push workers to stop playing it safe.
"Too many bosses talk about 'you better be careful' or 'you better clean that up,' and that's not telling workers to take a risk," he says.
• Keep the best days in front of them.
"You can't be reliving the glory days of the past," he says.
• Stop using the word "problem." Instead, talk about "challenges."
• Not lead through fear.
"A common response from leaders these days is to talk about what keeps them up at night," Treasurer says. "They're transmitting fear and anxiety to their people. They're too focused on what they need instead of what others need."
Treasurer, who says his all book royalties will go to "organizations that open doors for people with special needs" notes that leaders should never underestimate the power of providing opportunities to employees.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Channel Your Inner Lady Gaga for a Great Career

What can Lady Gaga and Led Zeppelin teach you about career and business success?
Peter Cook believes quite a bit. As the author of “The Music of Business,” and head of the Academy of Rock in the U.K., Cook looks at artists such as David Bowie and Alice Cooper and finds lessons he believes will transform the way you do business.
In an interview with Anita Bruzzese, Cook talks about how we can glean business wisdom from our music idols.
AB: Why do you feel the connection needs to be made between music and business?
PC: Music and business are traditionally seen as separate subjects at school, yet this is an artificial division.  Music is applied physics and many great scientists and mathematicians are often musically inclined.  Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Richard Branson are all great examples of leaders who have a passion for music.
So, I set out to draw parallel lessons between business and the arts, specifically music.  I found many such parallels in areas of business such as strategic thinking, creativity, innovation and the leadership of change.  I’ve set these out in the book “The Music of Business” and it’s predecessor “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll.”
AB: You say that Lady Gaga can teach us about business strategy. How so?
PC: In the book I have a chapter containing five lessons that we can learn from Lady Gaga on business strategy and social media. While Gaga is undoubtedly a music sensation, it’s also true that she has respected her elders and stood on the shoulders of giants such as Madonna and glam rockers such as Queen and Alice Cooper to craft her music, stage performance and image. This has given her wider appeal across generations and is likely to ensure that she lasts longer than most people in the music business today.  The other clever trick Gaga has used is to (read more here)