Is Your Procrastination Laziness or Fear? Five Fears to Face to Find Out

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an unfulfilled goal.” – American Philosopher William James.  We all procrastinate sometimes, despite its negative impact on our productivity. The word "procrastinate" comes from the Latin roots pro (forward) and crastinus (belonging to tomorrow), which developed into ­procrastinat in English, meaning "deferred until tomorrow." Perfect, right? So why do we knowingly put important things off that we know we need to do? Many of us believe procrastination arises from laziness, and maybe that's true sometimes. Maybe it's mostly true for some people. But I believe the chief cause of procrastination is subconscious fear. So let's take a look at the five fears I believe contribute most to procrastination. If you see yours here, that might … [Read more...]

Reining in Your To-Do List Monster: Six Mistakes You May Be Making, and How to Fix Them

“Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.” –Patti Digh, American self-help author.   As an experienced professional, you may think you know your way around a to-do list…but do you really? Possibly you've gotten a bit off track. Is that list you're putting together really a to-do list, or just a big pile of things you wish you had time to do but don't? Whether your list has just a few tasks tough enough to make you cringe, 37 tasks that don't matter much, or everything is marked "high priority,” you may be doing it wrong. Here are some common to-do list mistakes, along with ways of Doing It Right. There's too much stuff on it. This is why I don't like productivity philosophies that recommend you put everything in one pile before getting to work. … [Read more...]

The Beauty of Cross-Pollination: Four Ways It Can Increase Your Productivity

“The cross pollination of disciplines is fundamental to truly revolutionary advances in our culture.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson, influential American astronomer. In agriculture, cross-pollination occurs when pollen from one field of crops interacts with another, creating hybrids. This is often deliberate, as a form of experimentation when trying to create new crops (like the grain triticale, a cross of wheat and rye).  However, it just as often occurs naturally when genetically modified crops cross-pollinate and fertilize traditionally modified crops. Scientists have long since learned that mixing experts in multiple disciplines can "cross-pollinate" and spark new ideas. For you Big Bang Theory fans, think of Sheldon (a physicist) and Amy (a neurobiologist) working together to determine … [Read more...]

Ready! Fire! Aim! Five Trial-and-Error Steps to Perfecting Your Productivity

“Ready, fire, aim. Do it! Make it happen! Action counts. No one ever sat on their way to success.” – Tom Peters, American business writer In the business literature, especially in articles written by academics lacking practical experience, you occasionally see tut-tutting about those who just "throw mud at the wall and see what sticks" in terms of execution. This deserves eye-rolling, because that "mud-flinging" is what people outside the ivory tower call testing. More on that in a moment. For now, let's go back to the origin of so many modern business practices: the military. Yes, the military teaches the "Ready, Aim, Fire!" methodology. However (and it's a big however): You must sight-in every new rifle using Ready, Fire, Aim until you adjust its sights to hit the bullseye … [Read more...]

Keeping Your Head Above Water: Five Reasons Why You Get Bored at Work, and How to Fix Them

“The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, influential German philosopher. No one really likes boredom, because it often makes us do unwise things. If ever an old saying was accurate, it's "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." You're better off staying busy at work. Now, it would be nice if you could just point your brain in a direction, press go, and have it keep moving steadily that way until you told it to stop. But it doesn't work that way for most of us, no matter how dedicated. Free will and a tendency to chase new ideas can derail our best efforts at focus, sometimes leading to boredom. This, in turn, causes us to engage in unproductive behavior—even when we know we’re doing it. You'll probably recognize these five common reasons why … [Read more...]

Simplifying Your Life: Four Easy Ways to Automate Your Work

“The first rule of technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. When people think of the term "automation," most visualize robots designed to take jobs away from ordinary workers. But this is less common in the white-collar field. Personal automation involves not large machines but small ones, along with simple smartphone and computer applications. Let's look at four remarkably simple ways to save little chunks of time, especially if you spend most of your time with a computer. Learn computer shortcuts. This one may seem obvious to you, but even people who use their computers … [Read more...]

Keep Moving Forward: Four Office Technologies To Consider Letting Go Of

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.” – Steward Brand, American writer and entrepreneur. I have a colleague who, until several years ago, tracked most of his projects on a large chalkboard rather than using project-tracking software. The same colleague was using an older version of Microsoft Word that produced old-style DOC files, rather than the more compact DOCX files. He still doesn't use much HTML-based mail. Why is he so resistant to change? Because when he's comfortable with a technology, it's a pain to change. He's seen lots of change over the course of his career. First he had to learn to use an electric typewriter, then a word processor, then computers of various kinds starting with Mac IIs and DOS, before … [Read more...]

Raising the Bar: Four Value-Added Activities That Can Make You More Productive

“If you don't know your own value, someone will tell you your value, and it'll be less than what you're worth.” – Bernard Hopkins, American middleweight and light heavyweight boxing champion. Every time you make a task, product, or service cheaper or easier, you've added value to your organization. The same is true if you invent something new, creatively solve a problem, or find a way to do something more efficiently. Every gain boosts your productivity, and enough of these gains improve the organization's bottom line. Some researchers put a heavy emphasis on focusing on value-added activities at the expense of all else, so you can keep pushing your productivity higher. Others de-emphasize an aggressive focus on value-added activities, because let's face facts: in most jobs, you … [Read more...]

Motivating Until It Hurts: Four Subconscious Motivators That Can Damage Productivity

“Motivation is great. It’s nature's reward for achievement, but it can easily become your drug of choice if it’s misused.” – Lewis Howes, American business writer. We talk a lot about motivation in productivity circles, for good reason: it works very well. Little things like promising yourself some coffee when you finish the next page of your report will keep you on point and producing; and when you get back to work, that cup of coffee will likely help you produce more. Big motivators, like the promise of a promotion if you end the year in the black, or a free trip to Hawaii if your team hits a huge deliverable, can keep you focused and fierce. The result is often greater engagement and higher productivity. Motivation works so well because it produces a natural high that makes you feel … [Read more...]

Stop Drinking From the Firehose: Five Easy Cures for Information Overload

“Our brains would melt if they tried to process and store even a fraction of the information they are exposed to.” – Tim Pollard, American communications professional. Face it: we're drowning in information. There's too much to do and see every day. Our brains are already busy in the background, filtering mundane sensory information; few take it into account, but in the modern world, even that's already in overload. There's so much more to experience in a modern town, in a modern nation, than there was when we lived in rural or woodland environments. Worse, we still react the same way to the unexpected as we did then. A water hose in the grass or a stick rustling in a leaf-pile can have your senses screaming "Snake!" These constant warnings result in adrenaline-fueled reactions that … [Read more...]