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...]

Unwinding the Red Tape: Four Peaceful Ways to Offset Bureaucratic Inefficiency

“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the point where the quo has lost its status.” – Laurence J. Peter, business writer and inventor of The Peter Principle. Has the United States become an ADHD culture? Some people think so, since everything changes so rapidly and most of us bounce right along with it. We do so partly because our technology changes so fast we have no choice but to change along with it. For example: Even though just about everyone who wants a smartphone has one, Apple or Samsung can usually entice you to spend $1,000 every other year for a new i-Phone or Galaxy. You don't really have a choice; decent electronics quickly become obsolete. Not that our new toys aren't worth it. A single smartphone is millions of times faster than all the computers used for … [Read more...]

Are You One of the 2.5 Percent? Six Hints You May Be a Supertasker

“Multitasking is a lie... You can do two things at once, but you can't focus effectively on two things at once.” – Gary Keller, real estate mogul and bestselling author. If you honestly, truly believe you're great at multitasking, I have disappointing news: you're honestly, truly not. Numerous studies have confirmed one of the findings of a 2009 pilot study of heavy multitaskers by Stanford University psychologists: that those who are convinced they've mastered multitasking invariably prove bad at it. Rather, they excel at task-switching—rapidly flipping to the mode of thought required by a secondary task. Think of it as one of those two-sided whiteboards. When you task-switch, you flip from one board full of information to the other. If you happen to have a three-sided board, you can … [Read more...]

Know Thyself: Five Steps to Productive Self-Awareness

“If you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman, American science writer and author of the book Emotional Intelligence. In recent years, the concept of emotional intelligence has gained traction in the business world. Most of us know brilliant people who seem hopeless when it comes to dealing with people; either they try to dominate everyone, or they fade into the shadows and let others handle the purely human aspects of work. Most of us express one of these tendencies to some extent, but the standouts take them to extremes. Those who interact well with others have a high "EQ," or "emotional … [Read more...]

From Pygmalion to Galatea: Five Ways the Power of Expectations Powers Your Productivity

“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.” – Stephen Hawking, British physicist and cosmologist. Despite the cynical veneer so popular today, most of us still respect positive thought and great expectations—and for good reason. When combined with hard work, the short-term boost of motivation, and a modicum of talent, the power of expectations can yield extraordinary results on the productivity front. Even if talent is lacking, the grand truth is that as long as someone expects or insists it's not, the results can be just as profound. Why does the power of expectations work? The reasons are simple yet profound, and have operated steadily for thousands of years. They're likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, since these … [Read more...]

Is Motivation Overrated? Seven Reasons You Can’t Depend On It

“It's close to impossible to motivate someone who enjoys negativity.” – Sylvia Pencak, American motivational expert. Everywhere we turn in the modern office, we see motivational posters, motivational quotes, and the leftovers of past motivational initiatives. But does all this effort work? Well... that's debatable. It seems to work, at first. But one of my colleague tells me the only thing he remembers about a motivational speech by (then) Bruce Jenner 15 years ago was that Jenner had ten children. That's the one fact that stuck, not Jenner's account of working his way up to record-breaking scores in the Olympic decathlon. Motivation can be wonderful, but I'd argue it's somewhat overrated. A savvy worker knows motivation can get you started, but it isn't enough to sustain performance. … [Read more...]