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...]

Six Signs It’s Time to Quit: How to Know When to Move On

Six Signs It's Time to Quit: How to Know When to Move On by Laura Stack #productivity

"I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."—Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers. Quitters never win. Winners never quit. We've had it drummed into us a thousand times to keep trying, to fail forward, to fail fast, that you really only fail when you quit, and that Thomas Edison never failed—he just found 10,000 ways that didn't work, etc. etc. I've said those things to my children myself, and for most business decisions, they're sound advice. When you quit trying, you disengage from your job. When that causes you to let productivity go into the toilet, then you really have fai … [Read more...]

Announcing the next course in Laura Stack’s Productivity University Series!

Become a Microsoft Outlook Email Cracker-Jack with Laura Stack! Managing Your Workflow and Keeping Your Inbox Empty Start 2017 with an empty inbox! Participate in five one-hour training sessions with Laura and then complete assignments in between. You’ll receive a detailed workbook for each session with screen shots and step-by-step instructions, as well as a recording of the session to review again and again. Don’t worry if you can’t attend the sessions live or miss one, because you can watch the recording any time you wish. Five Mondays starting 11/14 at 10:00 to 11:00 AM mountain (i.e., 9:00 Pacific, 10:00 Mountain, 11:00 Central, 12:00 Eastern) 11/14 11/21 11/28 12/5 12/12 You need this course if you currently: Put things to do on your calendar Use your … [Read more...]

Five Tips to Work Productively from Home: Whether You Telecommute Occasionally or Always

"On the fourth day of telecommuting, I realized that clothes are totally unnecessary."—Scott Adams, American cartoonist. Whether you call it distance working, telecommuting, or freelancing, technology has made working from home more effective and productive than ever before ( … [Read more...]

Four Benefits of Overcoming Obstacles: Why Beating the Odds is Good for You

Four Benefits of Overcoming Obstacles: Why Beating the Odds is Good for You by Laura Stack #productivity

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." Booker T. Washington, African-American educator and head of the Tuskegee Institute. As much as we're told—and tell ourselves—to reframe challenges as opportunities and to stretch ourselves to reach new goals, on a day-to-day basis, it's hard to keep the faith. We know what we should do, but in the hustle and flow of our jobs, we often forget—especially when we have too much on our plates for more than a few days. But ironically, conquering obstacles can be the experiences that teach us the most, ( … [Read more...]

Five Ways to Use Procrastination to Your Benefit: A Counterintuitive Productivity Method

Five Ways to Use Procrastination to Your Benefit: A Counterintuitive Productivity Method by Laura Stack

"Procrastination is a way of giving yourself permission not to do a perfect job, because usually a perfect job isn't required."—John Perry, American philosopher and Professor Emeritus at Stanford University. In the late Robert Parker's Spenser mysteries, the main character's girlfriend, psychologist Susan Silverman, had an unusual way of ensuring her productivity: she deliberately made herself late for everything. Whether she had to meet a student in need of guidance or prepare for a class, she ignored the time she'd set to begin preparing, literally waiting until the last minute—and beyond—to get to work. Then she accelerated into a whirlwind of efficiency to ensure she arrived in time and turned in her maximum effort. Some people find this actually works for them in real life; indee … [Read more...]