Gauging the productivity of your staff

A reporter asked me, "What's the best way to gauge employee productivity in a small business?" A: 1) Focus on results. Give people specific goals and projects, and evaluate whether they achieve the objective on time and within budget. 2) As you grow, don't oversee everyone yourself. Put other management levels in between you and workers. 3) Have employees submit a weekly activity report, so you can assess whether they have completed a reasonable amount of work that week. 4) Monitor their work. I had an employee who was supposedly working a 40-hour week, when I checked the phone company logs, it turned out he was working for another company on the side and only working 20 hours a week. Don't be blind and assume even your "star" employee is giving you his/her best. … [Read more...]

Research confirms IM is bad for productivity

http://interruptions.net/literature/Speier-ICIS97-p21-speier.pdf This is an academic paper, so you probably won't want to read the entire thing, but the results of the research have interesting implications for "organizational electronic mail systems that have been implemented to enhance productivity."  I've always said that workers should disable the global alerts in Outlook that notify them every time a new message is received.  Now this study confirms how bad desktop alerts are on concentration and productivity!  The findings from this research suggest that instant notification features be disabled in order to avoid exacerbating the number of interruptions knowledge workers receive. Go to Tools, Options, Preferences tab, Email options, advanced email options, … [Read more...]

Organizing Your Parents’ and Grandparents’ Stuff Before They Die!

Oh my goodness.  I just spent three days in San Antonio with my grandparents going through old photo albums, packets of God-knows-how-old photos, and envelopes with miscellaneous scraps.  I HIGHLY recommend you take on this sort of project BEFORE your grandparents or parents die.  I'm not even half-way done!  I can't imagine how people can go through someone's things after they're are deceased and try to figure this out!  Has anyone had this happen?  "Who's this?"  "Uhhhh...I think that's the neighbor's kid in Panama...1967 or so."  "Who's this?"  "Hmmmm...oh yeah! That was the lady who drew mom's blood in the hospital in 1996!" And so on.  Right into the trash went those photos.  My plan of … [Read more...]

Why Should You Care About Productivity?

I've had several people email me in the last few days about the U.S. productivity figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics a few weeks ago.  Great news.  3.2% increase in the first quarter.  But not quite where we were in 2002-2003 with levels over 4%.  One quarter in 2003 had over 8%!  That's when we were all working like dogs, when everyone was afraid of losing their jobs, before employees screamed "enough"! But still it's absolutely amazing that we can sustain this level of productivity.  Fundamentally, why should you care?  Well, why does your organization care about  productivity? In order to be successful, your organization must both make money and save money. To make money, it must find and keep customers. To save money, … [Read more...]

Can Daydreaming be Productive?

You’re staring out your office window…lost in thought about your upcoming dinner party…when you jerk back to reality: “Oops, where was I?” you think, as you look down once again at the report on your desk.  You’ve been daydreaming. Daydreaming can be a real productivity bandit, especially when you’re supposed to be focusing on a higher-priority project.  Excessive daydreaming can waste precious time that could be better spent on other things. But daydreaming isn’t always bad.  There’s a difference between true daydreaming as the brain’s response to overload or boredom and thinking time that may lead to promising ideas. How do you ensure daydreaming time is productive time? Don’t use daydreaming to procrastinate.  Daydreaming can be a good tool for transitioning to a … [Read more...]

What Saps Your Energy?

I’m doing some primary research on productive energy.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that fatigue and lack of energy affect more than 14 million people between the ages of 17-69.  Nothing sounds more attractive to you than putting your heads down for a quick nap, and you sleepwalk through the day, fuzzyheaded and lethargic.  People who lack energy can’t work on big projects at work or home without the drive or desire—the oomph—to be productive.  Just think of all the wonderful business and personal goals people could accomplish if they just had the energy to get up and go! If this sounds like you, I’d like to hear from you!  What saps YOUR energy?  Fill in the blank..."I could be more productive if __________."  &n … [Read more...]

Finish What You Start—Even a Bottle of Wine

I received this from a friend who knows how much I preach about finishing what you start: "During these crazy days when we're going one hundred miles per hour and stress levels are soaring, I had to stop and tell myself that I need some inner peace.  I discovered that the way to achieve inner peace is to finish all of the things I have started.  I looked around my house to see things I started and hadn't finished, and before leaving the house this morning I finished off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of White Zinfandel, a bottle of Baileys, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a package of Oreos, the remainder of both my Prozac and Valium prescriptions, the rest of the cheesecake, some saltine crackers and a half box of chocolates. You have no idea how good I feel.  I am passing … [Read more...]

Time Saving Tips for Map Junkies

Are you a map junkie? Here are some cool map features on the Web, built around Google Maps: • Zip codes: type in a Zip code and see an outline of that Zip code area on the map; or click on the map and find the Zip code. maps.huge.info/zip.htm • What time is it? Click on the map anywhere in the world (or type in a city/country name), and see the local time in the nearest big city, also international country/city phone codes. www.gchart.com • How far did you walk? Double-click on points on the map; you'll see the route traced and the cumulative length of the route in miles (with mileage markers displayed). www.gmap-pedometer.com submitted by Ken Braly ([email protected]) … [Read more...]

What’s a WIKI?

Do you wiki? What is a wiki? A wiki is web software designed for collaboration. Unlike a traditional website where pages can only be read, in a wiki everyone can edit, update and append pages with new information, all without knowing HTML. Multiple people in same or different locations can all edit the same documents and create a shared archive. I like Jot.com. You don’t have to install a thing, and if you can use Microsoft Word, you can use JotSpot. JotSpot's wiki can be used in numerous ways: Create a corporate intranet Manage projects Collaborate on documents Keep a backup copy of your email by cc’ing your wiki Maintain the department birthday calendar … [Read more...]

Microsoft Interviews Laura Stack

MSFT: How many books have you written? [Laura Stack] Two published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House.  The first was Leave the Office Earlier (2004), and the newest is Find More Time. MSFT: Why did you write “Find More Time” and how will it help people? [Laura Stack] My readers asked me for it.  After reading my first book on workplace productivity, they said, "Okay, now that I'm more productive in the office and getting out of work on time, now what?  How can I be more productive on my 'second shift' at home?" MSFT: Is it complementary to “Leave the Office Earlier?” [Laura Stack] Yes, it's the next step.  This book picks up where Leave the Office Earlier leaves off. Now that you’re more productive during your workday, this complementary book teaches you how to get thin … [Read more...]