Standing Out Above the Crowd: How to Toot Your Own Horn

"Become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement." – Anthony J. D'Angelo, self-improvement author and speaker. When I was young and first heard the term "human resources," it took me a while to figure out what it meant. I wasn't used to thinking of people and their experiences, educations, and abilities as "resources," in the same sense that energy, materials, and supplies are resources. But looking at the equation from a hard-nosed business perspective, that's exactly what people are. In fact, personnel represent the most important part of any business equation, though we sometimes lose sight of this fact. As with all resources, smart businesses want to maximize the return on the investment they've made in you; this is why you're occasionally sent to training courses, q … [Read more...]

Subconscious Productivity: Four Ways Your Brain Can Make You More Productive

"Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will someday become a reality." – Earl Nightingale, American motivational writer, speaker, and author. It's well established that, like an iceberg, only a small percentage of a person's mind is "above the water," active and aware, at any particular time. I'm not going to spout the over-used claim that you use only 10% of your brain on average; the majority of your brain is, in fact, used to control automatic and autonomous functions like breathing and heartbeat, as well as to process the flood of incoming sensory information you deal with constantly. Besides, this is the mind I'm talking about here, as apart from the brain: the consciousness that the electrochemical reactions inside in your head somehow g … [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...]

Self-Sabotage: Five Ways to Kill Your Own Productivity

"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." – Henry Ford, pioneering American automaker. In some ways, you may be your own worst enemy—even when you don't realize it. Self-sabotage is a very real problem in corporate America, and I've seen many people and organizations fall prey to it (← click to tweet).  It's almost never deliberate; it's typically either due to subconscious beliefs or compulsive activities that take control of your good sense. It can happen even to those of you who consider yourself a top producer, if you let your guard down. Self-sabotage can even feed on contentment; it's one of the more destructive aspects of our subconscious minds, which can otherwise serve us so well on the productivity front. Paralysis analysis may be the most famous for … [Read more...]

Four Tips to Encourage You to Grab for the Gold Ring: Incentivizing Yourself to Higher Productivity

"I always felt that I hadn't achieved what I wanted to achieve. I always felt I could get better. That's the whole incentive."— Dame Virginia Wade, OBE, British former professional tennis player Incentivization may be a buzzword in business circles, but it's a buzzword for good reasons. Researchers have known for years that most employees aren't fully engaged with their work; some never engage at all. Even the best of us sometimes see our jobs as little more than guaranteed paychecks—a means to the end of a comfortable lifestyle or, in more troubled times, fiscal survival. Hence the need for motivators not to just do better work, but to bother to work hard at all. Motivation has always been a prime worry of management, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. (← click to twee … [Read more...]

Six Ways to Prepare to Excel: the Connection Between Groundwork and Productivity

 "Be prepared."—Boy Scout Motto. According to legend, Albert Einstein shared this characteristic with the late Steve Jobs, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and U.S. President Barack Obama: he pared his wardrobe down to a few simple outfits, so he didn't have to worry about what to wear every morning. Whether it's true or apocryphal for the great physicist remains uncertain, but it's an established fact for the three aforementioned leaders. Simple routines represent a great way to triage your schedule and save time for what really matters. If you think about it, that's one way that advance preparation can improve your life. What other routines can you establish to prepare in advance and heighten productivity? 1. Marshal your resources the evening before. If you know you'll need certain f … [Read more...]

Three Simple Family Routines to Make You More Productive at Work: Striking the Ideal Work-Life Balance

"The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home." – Harold B. Lee, American religious leader and educator. I find it amusing that some of my colleagues claim the concept of work/life balance is dead. It's not that they all believe you should give up on having a personal life if you want to get ahead at work, though this sometimes seems to be the subtext. Most simply believe work and the rest of life have become so intertwined we can't pull them apart, so we have no choice but to respond to email and Facebook requests on the beach or while doing laundry or dining with the family. Hogwash. Having boundaries and balancing work and the rest of life is absolutely crucial for your sanity, especially when you want to have a life once you retire. Besides, … [Read more...]

Seven Tips for Sick Days: Producing Even When You’re Under the Weather

"I see sick parents and kids every day. I also know many people who go to work sick because they don't have paid sick days. Having paid sick days would prevent the spread of illness and make sure people are not penalized for staying home when they are sick." — Dr. Ben Danielson, Seattle pediatrician. Although it would be awesome to actually stay home sick whenever you feel bad, it's not always possible. PTO tends to be limited in even the best of companies, and it takes just one bout of the flu to wipe it out. Many supervisors also look askance at people calling in sick, suspicious of faking, resulting in a chilling effect on the truly ill. And many people simply have no choice but to go in no matter how we feel, because our teams depend on us—and there's always some deadline bearing do … [Read more...]

The Twelve Steps to Activity-Goal Alignment; Or, How to Get Where You Want to Go

"When it is obvious that a goal cannot be reached, do not adjust the goal; adjust your course."—attributed to Confucius, ancient Chinese philosopher. When available, I enjoy watching the TV screens on the seat back in front of me, showing the plane’s current location and route, including the dozen subtle adjustments the pilot made along the way. The road to achieving any goal is like that airplane's flight. Activity-goal alignment requires you to constantly monitor your goals and repeatedly make adjustments to your course. Of course, this assumes you know what your goals are. Hitting your work goals isn't necessarily a complex process, but it does break down into a surprising number of steps you need to take into account before you can make any real headway. Just jumping in and ins … [Read more...]

Five Ways to Discover What’s Not in The Handbook: Unearthing Your Company’s Unwritten Rules

Five Ways to Discover What's Not in The Handbook: Unearthing Your Company's Unwritten Rules by Laura Stack #productivity

"The unwritten rule when it comes to salary is this: whoever proposes a number first loses." – Travis Bradberry, American author on emotional intelligence. If you’ve “been around the block” for a while, you may have had to take Total Quality Management (TQM) courses. One of TQM's tenets is that you should always feel free to make suggestions you think will profit the company. A colleague told me a story about raising his hand in a meeting and making a suggestion his previous company had profited from—and was soundly ignored. As it turned out, the department VP considered TQM a total waste of time. When he was ridiculed for making a suggestion to one of the department's managers, it became clear those in power didn't appreciate employee suggestions, no matter how logical. He stopped bothe … [Read more...]