Managing UP: Four Things Never to Do

"One who controls others is masterful, but one who has mastered himself is mightier still." – Lao-Tzu, Ancient Chinese philosopher. I'm a firm believer in managing up, the process of striving to learn and meet your manager's needs without he or she even having to ask. Despite what it may sound like, managing up isn't about control; it's about anticipation and deliberate action designed to benefit both parties in the relationship. Your leaders need to know that you are always on top of the key items and that you properly communicate your progress without overwhelming them. A wise leader doesn't resent direct reports managing up, because he or she knows that it helps everyone. Remember the TV show M.A.S.H.? Company Clerk Radar O'Reilly not only knew when the choppers were coming, he a … [Read more...]

Four Paths to Lean Office Productivity: Can the Just-In-Time Concept Work for You?

"The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize." — Shigeo Shingo, Japanese industrial engineer. Ever since Toyota invented lean manufacturing, much has been made of its application to all professions, including “desk” jobs. The lean philosophy boils down to this: cut anything in the work process that fails to add value to the end-user. The end-user may be a consumer, one's supervisor, or the group in the organizational structure to which you deliver your final product. Side note: Speaking of things that don't add value to the end user, check out this short clip of how I learned the hard way that my newsletters weren't hitting home, and what I did to fix it: Video - Eliminating Low Value Business Activities A central tenet of lean is "Just In Time" or "JIT" produ … [Read more...]

Four Ways to Avoid Complacency: NEVER Hit Pause on Your Career

"Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive."—Andrew Grove, Hungarian-American businessman and engineer. After finally accomplishing a tough task or achieving a long-term goal, it's human nature to want to sit back and take a breather. “I deserve a little down time,” you might think. The Romans called it "resting on your laurels," because back then a laurel-leaf crown was a common reward for winning an athletic or political contest. The problem? You might feel satisfied because you’ve gotten where you want to be or hit your numbers and rest on your laurels too long. When you’ve achieved a massive goal, I think it’s indeed cause for a celebration. However, getting through a long day of meetings isn’t cause for a mindless day the following. When rest … [Read more...]

Three Myths to Ignore About Millennial Colleagues: Stop Blinding Yourself with Sound Bites

"Millennials don't just want to read the news anymore. They want to know what they can do about it." – Ian Somerhalder, Actor and entrepreneur. You’ve probably heard some negative press about Millennials, the current generation taking the workforce by storm. These young people, born between 1980 and 2000, are hitting the ground running straight from college and business school, and they will represent 75% of the workforce by 2025. Critics of the Millennial Generation call them disloyal, overly ambitious, entitled, and even lazy. Nonsense (←Click to Tweet). While of course there are always individual bad apples, I've found none of those labels to be true as a rule. All three of my children are Millennials. I also love working with Millennials in my client organizations when given the opp … [Read more...]

Four Ways to Intensify Your Focus: Maximizing the Value of the Time You Have

  "You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks."—Winston Churchill, British statesman. One of the characteristics of high achievers is their intensity of focus. (←Click to Tweet) High achievers know how to bury themselves in their work to such an extent that nothing can easily pull them away. It's like they're in a productivity trance. Fortunately, you CAN learn to be more focused, even if you believe you’re one of the worst multi-taskers on the planet. Here are four effective ways to tighten up your concentration and intensify your focus. 1. Keep a distraction list open. An active mind works on many levels, some of them subconscious. Your brain may suddenly come up with an idea or reminder that threatens to derail you from your task while … [Read more...]

Four Ways to Get Better at Your Job Right Away: Stepping Up to Boost Your Productivity

"Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy."–Saadi, ancient Persian poet. It should go without saying that one of your primary goals as an employee is to improve at your job, and most of us set out to build toward peak performance using time-tested, long-term methods that produce over time. We've all heard about the 10,000-hour rule, and how it gradually lifts us toward expert status; and you've probably seen it at work in your own career. I certainly have. Most improvements are gradual like this. That said, there are things you can do today that will noticeably improve your productivity within 24 hours, if not right away (← click to tweet). They're not magic---just common-sense ideas you may have lost track of as you hustled to get your job done. And while these t … [Read more...]

Seven Ways to Beat the Benchmark – The Value of Stretch Goals

  "One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., American poet and philosopher. The above quote is one of my favorites. In this New Year, how can you extend it to your performance? Make a decision to stretch yourself beyond your ordinary productive limits! We Americans are famous for our productivity; we regularly exceed our previous peaks. This has become particularly true since the beginning of the electronics revolution, and continued even during the Great Recession of 2008. In part, this may be because we've learned to stretch our abilities to new dimensions—since for a while there, we had no choice. But just as even the finest Spring has its cool or wet spells, not everyone regularly increases his or her prod … [Read more...]

Four Cases When “Working Smarter” Really Works: Getting Beyond the Cliché

"Work smarter, not harder." – The advice of countless well-meaning managers over the decades. At some point—or perhaps many points!—you've probably received the advice to "Work smarter, not harder." Just about all of us have heard the phrase, to the point of it becoming a meaningless cliché and catch-all slogan. The problem here lies in the fact that most of the people who say this to you have no clue what it means. They're just repeating what other people have told them. Bluntly ask them, “How exactly do you ‘work smarter’?” and they'll most likely just look at you blankly. My entire career has involved helping people find ways to get more work done in less time. That's one definition of working smarter, and it's composed of multiple parts, including ruthless time management, delegatin … [Read more...]

Thirty Seconds or Never: The Role of Impulse in Productivity

"Once begun, half done." – Ancient Chinese proverb. Sometimes, it can be supremely hard to get up off your "buts" and get moving—as we've all discovered at some point in our careers. We all have our low points, where it's hard to believe we can ever regain old ground, much less rise to new peaks of productivity. I've been there myself—yes even as an author and noted authority in the productivity space—I’ve had days when my energy and mood have been at such a low ebb that it was hard not to crawl back into bed at 10:00 a.m. But my responsibilities drove me to get moving, and once I was moving, it was easy to keep going. Per the law of inertia, an object in motion tends to stay in motion—but you must invest a certain amount of energy to put it into motion in the first place. One of the … [Read more...]

Five Reasons to Take Ergonomics Seriously… Whether or Not Your Company Does

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." — Jim Rohn, American motivational speaker. You've probably read and heard a lot about ergonomics during your career. But are you taking the topic seriously? When you Google the benefits of ergonomics, you'll find scores of articles about why companies should institute good ergonomic design, in everything from factories to the open-plan office. The upshot is, it always saves the business money, because it results in less wear and tear on the most important resource of all---the human one. However, one thing most articles seem to have in common is that they're aimed at upper management and those tasked with improving company-wide productivity. What about those of us doing the producing? Even if the company hasn't b … [Read more...]