Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines: Four Actions to Maximize Your Mornings

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” – Will Rogers, American humorist. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are morning people, and those who hate them (haha!). Regardless of which you are, one thing's for sure: we all need to maximize our mornings. Granted, not everyone walks into the office at peak energy, and that's fine. Despite all the advice out there telling you to do your hardest task first, if you’re not a morning person, you won’t be at your productive best. So how do you get the ball rolling? Try these four simple tips: Feed the machine. Eat a decent breakfast. Your blood sugar is at its … [Read more...]

Minimalism in the Workplace: Five Ways to Get More Work Done With Less Stuff

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers, American humorist. For millennia, religious leaders and philosophers from Jesus to Buddha, Thoreau to Gandhi have sung the praises of living simply, with fewer worldly possessions. You can't take it with you, after all. There are even native cultures in places like Papua New Guinea and the American Northwest where how much you give away to others is far more important than how much you keep. Most Westerners, however, seem to operate on the philosophy "He who dies with the most toys wins." Much of our economy is based on buying new stuff on a regular basis, even when the old stuff still works fine. Why? Partly it's to show off what we can afford; partly … [Read more...]

Spending Time to Conserve Time: Four Ways to Find Out How Much Time You Really Have

“This thing all things devours:/ Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;/ Gnaws iron, bites steel; /Grinds hard stones to meal; /Slays king, ruins town, /And beats high mountain down.” – Gollum's riddle for Bilbo in The Hobbit, by British professor and writer J.R.R. Tolkien. If you haven't already figured it out, the answer to Gollum's riddle is Time, and no matter what we do, it seems there's never enough of it. We all get the same 168 hours per week. So why is it some people get very little done, while others are paragons of productivity? Simple: productive workers treat time as the finite resource it is, making effective use of every minute. They're not necessarily smarter than you or work longer hours. They've learned the lessons of efficiency: they work harder and smarter. Rather than … [Read more...]

Is Your Work Team Too Large? Five Ways to Tell, and What to Do About It

“Too many cooks spoil the broth.” – English-language proverb dating back to the Middle Ages. While it's true that two heads are often better than one, too many heads is a recipe for poor productivity. Indeed, it is possible to over collaborate. But where's the sweet spot of just right? For some things, the number may be one. For other tasks, it may be ten. Decades of business research, however, puts the number somewhere between two and seven, with an average of 4.6. If your team lacks enough to do, it's most likely too big. What are some other indicators that your team is too large? Keep these factors in mind: What are you trying to accomplish? For some tasks, many hands make light work. If you're painting a building or harvesting a field, the more hands, the faster you … [Read more...]

How Much Work Is Too Much? Four Guidelines to Save Your Productivity

“More men are killed by overwork than the importance of the world justifies.” – Rudyard Kipling, British author The Japanese have a word for working too much: karoshi. It's applied to people who literally work themselves to death... or suicide because they can't keep up. Japan's intense work culture encourages overwork, to the point where families of victims can sue the government and the victim's company for compensation. In Western languages, there's no equivalent for karoshi, nor do we officially recognize it as a cause of death—but it happens. Instead, we say those workers died from exhaustion, failed to care of themselves, used too many stimulants, or suffered sudden strokes or heart attacks. But those are just results; they don't address the root cause of people working too … [Read more...]

Doing Everything Wrong: Four Ways to Make Productivity Plummet

“The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.” – Maureen Dowd, American journalist. Call them dinosaur-brains or Neanderthals, there are people in every business who live to make us miserable. They aren't necessarily actively toxic, but some are so rude, bureaucratic, and/or annoying, your automatic response may be to disengage from them and your work. As well all know, disengagement kills productivity. Hopefully, you're not the Neanderthal in question. But hey, if you want to send personal and team productivity tumbling, here are four great ways to do it: Micromanage... or ignore. Helicopter managers who hover at your shoulder and control every aspect of your work are foolish, not just because they frustrate others and encourage … [Read more...]

First Things First: Four Steps Toward Developing a Culture of Prioritization

“First things first, second things never.” – Shirley Conlan, British journalist and novelist. We all know the expression “first things first.” But what’s a high priority to one person might have low value to another, so it takes time to get everyone on a team on the same page with projects and deadlines. Effective prioritization requires teamwork, training, and trust for it to become automatic. Your team may not have arrived there yet, as it requires what the military calls "time in grade." Military tactics, lingo, philosophy, and process have filtered into modern business culture for good reason: business is almost a kind of warfare in these days of constant change, even though you may never find yourself on the front line. Organizing masses of people for dead-serious competition is … [Read more...]

A Contrary Position: Five Points in Defense of Multitasking

“Men: if you ever want to know what a woman's mind feels like, imagine a browser with 2,587 tabs open. All. The. Time.” – Anonymous If you've ever seen an article about multitasking, it probably included an image of someone with multiple arms typing, using a calculator, talking on the phone, and drinking coffee, all at once, like something out of Hindu mythology or Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. comics. While women seem to multitask better than men—if we couldn't, the race would probably have died out long ago—I'm still not a big fan of what’s often mistakenly called “multitasking.” In my opinion, both tend to waste more time than they save, while putting undue strain on those practicing them. For 97.5% of workers, we know for a fact multitasking doesn't work as well as … [Read more...]

Simple Delegation: Six Signs It’s Time to Hire a Personal Assistant

“No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.” – Joseph Addison, 18th century British writer and politician. You probably work too hard. Most people in my audiences do and have for many years. We know that working long hours every day is unhealthy and unproductive. We know we should delegate more but don’t. We know other people are perfectly capable of lightening some of our load, but we don’t let them. We have more money than time, but we’re not willing to part with some of it to buy some time. YES, money does buy time! If have more money to spare than time, why not hire a personal assistant? You don't need that person to deliver the perfect latte to you twice a day or help you on with your coat. Real personal assistants complete necessary … [Read more...]

Don’t Eat That Frog Right Away! Five Reasons Doing the Worst First May Not Work for You

“If I ate a live frog first thing in the morning, I am pretty sure the worst thing that would happen to me that day is I would vomit up a frog.” – Valerie Alexander, American Business writer, in the Huffington Post, 2013. We've all heard or read that it's best to jump on your toughest tasks early in your work shift, using as a guide this famous aphorism: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." Mark Twain typically gets the credit for this line, though French writer Nicholas Chamfort said something similar about toads in the 1700s. In 2006, my colleague Brian Tracy popularized the concept in his bestselling book, Eat That Frog! Many accepted it as near-gospel, though some who haven't actually read the book, or didn't … [Read more...]