Distractions and the Open Office Environment

Distractions and the Open Office Environment By Laura Stack #productivity

Many workplaces today feature more open spaces and smaller, and often shared, workstations. These open floor plans have become “the new normal” in many organizations. Some people speak of them positively, citing the ability to collaborate with coworkers and the creative feeling they can inspire. However, I hear just as many complaints about the walk-in visitors, interruptions, and noise level negatively affecting workplace satisfaction, productivity, and speech privacy. According to research from UC Irvine, office workers are interrupted once every 11 minutes, and it can take up to 23 minutes to get back to what you were doing before you were interrupted. The brain isn't a marvel of infinite capacity; we are, after all, only human, with all the limitations that implies. One limitation li … [Read more...]

Five Things Your Coworkers Wish You Knew

Five Things Your Coworkers Wish You Knew by Laura Stack #productivity

"There's no "I" in team." -- Classic American teamwork slogan. "No, but there's a 'me' if you move a few letters around." -- Sarcastic response. When was the last time you worked completely alone, with no one to help you? Unless you're an impoverished artist starving in a garret somewhere, the answer's probably "never." No matter what our career tracks or work disciplines, nearly all of us depend on other people to help and back us up. Even people who work far afield, like explorers and archaeologists, tend to work in groups or depend on a support team back home. Those of us who work in white-collar jobs rarely work alone. Even if you telecommute, you still belong to a team. As such, you and your coworkers will inevitably experience friction, whether you serve as team leader or … [Read more...]

What Really Matters: Check Your To-Do List for 2015!

What Really Matters: Check Your To-Do List for 2015! by Laura Stack #productivity

"It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?"—American philosopher Henry David Thoreau. As we enter 2015, I’d like to pose a question to anyone reading this who feels a bit overwhelmed: how will you regain control of your time? I've spent most of my career providing answers to that question, in terms of time management, self-discipline, setting personal boundaries, intelligent use of new technology, flexibility, speed, and more. The answers are many and multifaceted, because there's no single solution... and there really can't be as long as society and technology continue to evolve. I'm not sure we'll ever completely test all the options. Strategies like task management, setting priorities, and boosting ROI are basic to this process, and all … [Read more...]

Boosting Willpower: Getting a Handle on Your Compulsive Behavior

Boosting Willpower - Resisting the 3 o clock dance party by Laura Stack #productivity

"Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive, no matter what they feel, by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt, or fear." -- Dan Millman, American author. Did you know that you have a limited supply of willpower—and that when you use it up, it's gone until you replenish it? That's the conclusion of Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. in "The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get More of It" and Roy F. Baumeister in "Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength,” who have studied the issue. Believe it or not, even something as simple as deciding between a pumpkin spice latte and a Frappuccino, or what you want for lunch, can use up part of your day's limited supply of willpower. Interestingly, your willpower also cor … [Read more...]

Timesaving Technology Tools

Timesaving Technology Tools by Laura Stack #productivity

With so many gadgets, applications, software, and devices available to us today, it’s hard to know which ones are truly timesavers, and which ones are a waste of time (technology toys versus tools). Since I’m frequently asked what the Productivity Pro recommends to save time, I wanted to share a few timesaving technology tools for you to explore: 1. Decrease keystrokes with shortkeys. ShortKeys is a Windows text replacement utility designed to help you type faster and more accurately. You basically create abbreviations for words, phrases, and paragraphs you use frequently, and the software types them out automatically. I’d estimate it saves me 15 minutes a day! To use it, you define a “shortkey” in place of a longer text string, such as TVM for Thank you very much. Now instead of typing … [Read more...]

Get Right To It: Open the Seal of Hesitation!

Get Right To It: Open the Seal of Hesitation! by Laura Stack

"He who hesitates is lost." -- Old saying, common to many cultures. We've all been there, perched on the edge of a project, ready to dive in...but for some reason, we just can't. We're not psychologically ready. It's not always about procrastination or perfectionism, the dreaded Ps that often undermine Productivity...though often they contribute to the hesitation. Part of it may be fear of the future or of failure; some may be uncertainty about whether it's the best path. Whatever the cause, the end result is that we stand frozen on the edge of a precipice, like a newbie skydiver hesitating at the hatch of the airplane. And like one of those skydivers, we may have to be pushed to get us out the door. But hey, as long as you've packed your chute right and keep your wits about you, … [Read more...]

Get Your Neurons in Gear: How to Think Faster

"Think fast!" — American saying, usually accompanied by something thrown at the recipient Did you know that smart people actually think faster than “regular” people do? That's the conclusion of a 2009 twin study at UCLA that scanned specific parts of the brain using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The smarter the person, the faster the mental speed. For me, this begs the question: does being smart make you think faster, or does thinking faster make you smarter? The jury's still out on that, but I suspect a bit of both. Intelligence does run in families, but plenty of people without profound mental gifts have proven they can learn to think faster. Everyone wants to think faster, right? We may not end up rivaling Hawking or Einstein in terms of sheer brainpower, but we can certainly boo … [Read more...]

Staying Ahead of the Game: How to Prepare for Your Next Workday

Staying Ahead of the Game: How to Prepare for Your Next Workday by Laura Stack #productivity

"The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today." --Elbert Hubbard, American writer and artist. You might not be thinking of much more than getting home as you head out the door from work. After a long day in the office, it's nice to get away, reboot the brain, and spend time with those you love. As the old song goes, it’s five o’clock somewhere. I totally get that! However, that doesn't mean you can't spend a little time prior to the end of your workday preparing for the next one. It's logical, it saves times, it's really easy, and it will give you an edge the next day. Here are a few quick suggestions to help get ready for tomorrow, today! 1. Get your workspace in order. As the day starts to wind down, clean up your desk. File any stray papers or receipts i … [Read more...]

Filling in the Gaps: Making the Best of Unexpected Downtime

Filling in the Gaps: Making the Best of Unexpected Downtime by Laura Stack #productivity

"There's no such thing as downtime for your brain." -- Jeffrey Kluger, American writer. As a survivor of the dot-com bubble and the Great Recession, you've probably developed a kind of "go-go-go" attitude about business and work. Agility, flexibility, and speed are the name of the game for those of us who want to maximize our productivity and success. But I admit I do sometimes get frustrated when other people or circumstances affect my productivity, and there’s seemingly nothing I can do about it. Going to my doctor’s office is a prime example. Because I know the value of time and respect her time, I arrive before my scheduled appointment and sign in. And then I wait. And wait. Then the nurse will eventually take me to a little room in the back, where she’ll leave me after taking m … [Read more...]

Get Back On the Horse: Recovering After a Bad Decision

Get Back On the Horse: Recovering After a Bad Decision by Laura Stack

"Sometimes you make choices, and sometimes choices make you." -- American writer Gayle Forman. No matter where you stand in the company hierarchy, no matter how well you've done your due diligence, and no matter how careful you are before committing yourself to a course of action, sometimes you're going to crash and burn. Bad decisions are inevitable, and they're rarely obvious except in retrospect. I’ve taken speaking engagements that, looking back, I shouldn’t have agreed to accept. It was a bad decision, and I wish I hadn’t done it. But I learned a lot through the process. Sure, you can minimize the occurrence and impact of mistakes, but short of hiding in your office and refusing to make any decisions at all, you'll never be able to avoid them. Your leaders expect you to make decis … [Read more...]