Becoming a Productivity Lark: Six Ways to Effectively Deal with Night Owl Tendencies

“Night is purer than day; it is better for thinking and loving and dreaming. At night everything is more intense, more true. The echo of words that have been spoken during the day takes on a new and deeper meaning.” – Elie Wiesel, American political activist and writer. To the great regret of those who love the night, who come alive late in the day and whose productivity skyrockets in the afternoon, the modern world is built around morning people. Most people do seem to function better in the morning, feeling liveliest before noon and producing more, and more easily than at any other time of day. Hence the standard advice to "eat that frog" first thing in the morning, put your highest priorities at the chronological top of your to-do list, and avoid email just after sitting down, so you ca … [Read more...]

Unwritten Codes of Conduct: Five Rules You Won’t Find in the Employee Manual

“Custom, that Unwritten Law/By which the People keep even Kings in awe.” – Sir William Davenant, British poet. Every workplace has written policies and procedures but the more impactful rules are the ones unwritten. These informal codes of conduct reflect the harsh realities some have faced: work isn't a meritocracy after all, or that teamwork is important, but no one acts like it. In any workplace, you'll almost certainly find some things people take for granted but don't directly talk about—like these five common unwritten rules. When people are wearing earphones, they don't want anyone to bother them. This one's simple enough, these people are clearly trying to escape the outside world. This may be their way of blocking out distractions so they can focus on their work. Disturb them … [Read more...]

The 2016 American Time Use Survey: More and More, Home is Where the Work Is

“In 2016, on days they worked, 22 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at home... 43 percent of workers with an advanced degree performed some work at home on days worked, compared with 12 percent of those with a high school diploma.” – 2016 American Time Use Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On June 28, 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the results of its 2016 American Time Use Survey (ATUS). For the second year in a row their press release emphasized the fact that workers are more likely to do some or all of their work at home. A new statistic added to 2016's survey revealed 43% of workers with advanced degrees work at least part of their day from home. In the wake of the electronics revolution, it's easier than ever to do our jobs away … [Read more...]

Six Tips for Coordinating a Virtual Team: Reaching Across Time Zones

“Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean. ” – Ryunosuke Satoro, Japanese writer. The days when everyone who worked for the same business or division had to congregate in the same building are mostly over. We must learn to work well with remote contributors and virtual teams.  Some might mourn the old days but I think this represents a natural evolution of the job environment, as sociological and technological change transform our society. If your team members trust each other to get your jobs done, with modern levels of communications technology; just about anyone can work from anywhere and still effectively mesh with his or her team members if everyone follows certain, well-established rules. Completely virtual/remote teams—the terms are synonymous—are hardly the norm y … [Read more...]

One More Time: Three Effective Ways to Polish Your Time Management Skills

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late”. – William Shakespeare, British playwright. In the past few decades, as we've all taken on more work and become increasingly productive, time management has become a crucial part of every worker's skillset. You've probably spent years learning how to implement and improve your time-management skills. Therefore, you may be wondering, “What can you possibly tell me I haven't already heard before?” Maybe nothing. But I believe in revisiting and repeating old lessons, especially when things become too overwhelming or there seems nowhere new to go. That's when you return to basic principles and re-examine the true foundations of high productivity. It's easy to forget time management is based on an open secret you can't hear too often: Y … [Read more...]

Focus and the Role of Reflective Thinking

            When doing productive work and making effective decisions, total focus is crucial. However, it can be difficult to achieve in the modern world, where distractions abound—not just the annoyances delivered to you by others, but also the self-distractions inherent in an environment where a few taps on your keyboard can deliver a virtual world of distraction far more enjoyable than work. To move beyond the mere enjoyable and do what's right, much less what’s productive and profitable, requires a significant level of mental discipline. When doing productive work and making effective decisions, total focus is crucial. However, it can be difficult to achieve in the modern world, where distractions abound—not just the annoyances delivered … [Read more...]

Boost Your Confidence, Boost Your Performance: Six Simple Ways to Raise Your Self-Assurance

"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation." – Arthur Ashe, professional American tennis player. Even if you're normally an upbeat person, it helps both you and your team when you do little things to boost your confidence. It all comes down to this: when you feel better physically and mentally, you're more confident, and that comes through in your performance. Recent studies have shown that confidence is just as important as ability in achieving tasks. So let's look at a few things you can do to pump up your confidence—some impromptu, some that take a little effort. 1. Get your coffee fix. Seriously. Nothing picks you up like a cup of coffee, especially when you're dragging. Drink a cup of water before or after, since too much … [Read more...]

Making It Stretch: Five Tips for Being More Productive with Less

"I think one key part of doing more with less is to be more strategic, to realize what the objectives you're truly trying to accomplish are, and then to drive with greater focus towards those objectives."– Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, American businesswoman. While it was painful, the recent Great Recession taught us some useful lessons about frugality, hard work, and productivity. It also taught us to be agile, flexible, and fast. Like NASA, the mantra of modern business has become "faster, better, cheaper." We do more with less than any generation of workers before us. The important thing is making sure the lesson sticks—through thick or thin, good times or bad. So in this blog, I'll focus on tips for maintaining high productivity with fewer resources. Here are five favorites: 1. Avoid bus … [Read more...]

Ban Interruptions! Six Ways to Limit Drop-Ins

            Many of the most creative, productive conversations I’ve ever had started as spontaneous, unplanned interruptions. Sometimes we need to interrupt others if we have a customer on the line and need a fast response. If there’s an emergency, your team members must interrupt you; in fact, there are many instances that you want to be interrupted. If you’re a manager, you want your team members to feel welcome to talk with you about anything, and so you unwittingly institute an “open door” policy. Unfortunately, interruptions usually aren’t any of these forms—they are unimportant, extraneous, or simply a way for people not to forget something they are thinking about. If you say to yourself, “I can’t remember the name of that restaurant … [Read more...]

Instant Productivity: Five Ways to Be Immediately Productive in the Morning

Instant Productivity: Just Add Coffee. – Humorous sign, author unknown Short of caffeine, there's no magic elixir you can take to make you productive, or we would all surely be addicted to it. But there are plenty of things you can do to ensure you start making money for the business in minutes after sitting down at your computer, rather than slowly getting up to speed. They range from the imminently practical to the slightly New Ageish, from background preparation to immediate action, but they all work—if you're willing to put them into action. And to borrow from Shakespeare: "Aye, there's the rub." 1. Take care of your health. This one may seem so obvious that it's not even useful. So why, then, do most of us fail so miserably at it? We know we feel better when we take care of our … [Read more...]