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...]

Ducking Da Vinci’s Syndrome Six Tips to Help You Finish Your Tasks and Projects

“It's the job that's never started as takes the longest to finish.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, British fantasist and language professor. With genius comes flaws; it almost seems a requirement. Thomas Edison avoided baths; Einstein may have been autistic; Nobel Prize-winning economist John Nash was schizophrenic; Frank Lloyd Wright abandoned his family; and Stephen Hawking, RIP, was ravaged by Motor Neuron Disease (a.k.a. ALS). Leonardo da Vinci, brilliant inventor and painter of the Mona Lisa, had a less debilitating flaw, but one so common we've blessed it with his name: Da Vinci Syndrome. With his constantly active mind, Da Vinci took great joy in beginning projects... but lost interest and abandoned most before he finished them. Several of his most famous sketches include a design for a … [Read more...]

Standing Strong: Six Ways to Maintain Your Mental Toughness

“Mental toughness is Spartanism with qualities of sacrifice, self-denial, dedication. It is fearlessness, and it is love.” – Vince Lombardi, Legendary American football coach. Most of us have faced periods when we've had to push through difficulties and stand tall in the face of adversity. Whether at work or in other aspects of life, it’s essential to be TOUGH. Sometimes physical toughness works, but I believe mental toughness is just as important. No matter how tough you seem on the outside, if you can't mentally accept and face down a situation, you're likely to fall apart before you reach the end. So: how's your mental toughness these days? Are you as strong as well-tempered steel... or so brittle you're ready to shatter at a strong blow? Consider these six ways to toughen your … [Read more...]

Back to Front: Four Tips for Using Inversion Thinking

“If I don't complete this task right, the project won't get done on time, I'll get fired, I won't be able to find another job, I'll lose my house and car, and I'll end up living under an overpass in a cardboard box.” – Classic inversion thinking, source unknown. I'm a big fan of positive reinforcement—that is, using the carrot rather than the stick to urge myself and others toward success. Positive thinking remains an incredibly effective way to live your life and boost your productivity, but we've all had bad patches where negative thoughts have crept up on us. Sometimes, though, a little worry can be for the best; if nothing else, it scares you straight and puts you on the road to success. Imagining the worst that could happen shows you how to avoid it. Furthermore, it's sometimes … [Read more...]

Casting Some Light on the Subject: Four Ways Dim Lighting Hurts Productivity

“Dim lights are producing dimwits” – Joel Soler, American psychologist. Do you find a dimly-lit workspace preferable to a brightly-lit office? Some people do. Perhaps you find it calming and relaxing; or maybe the setting makes you feel comfortable at a visceral level, because of its similarity to the firelit cave/camp background where humanity spent so much of its history. Either way, we may be shooting ourselves in the foot when we labor away in dim office caves. The results of a recent study released by Michigan State University psychologists has re-emphasized our need for bright light in order to function at peak productivity. Nile grass rats, the subjects of the study, have a diurnal lifestyle and biological systems much like ours. The researchers observed significant negative … [Read more...]

The Razor’s Edge: Five Reasons to Avoid Too Much Overtime

“30 hours of working and still going stroooong.” – 24-year-old copywriter Mita Diran's last Tweet, several hours before she lapsed into a coma and died. One thing most Millennials figure out faster than workers of older generations is that work/life balance isn't just important, it's crucial. While exceptions like Miss Diran obviously exist, she is an exception, as much as the Generation X guys who ended up smoking pot in their parents' basement all day.  Millennials do things differently because they've seen what overwork has done to their families. Workaholism, work-based illnesses, broken families, and downsizing is especially unattractive when you're from the outside looking in. Older managers often mourn the fact that Millennials usually put themselves first—when, ironically, it … [Read more...]