Proper Learning: Six Steps Toward Deliberate Practice

“Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” – Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian writer and journalist. Per the classic joke, we all know how to get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice. More recently, Malcolm Gladwell has distilled the concept of world-class ability down to 10,000 hours of practice, based on the work of psychologist Anders Ericsson, and suggests this "magic number" should take about 10 years to reach. While many have since disagreed with Gladwell, it's blindingly obvious that talent isn't enough for true success. You must exercise talent with plenty of practice before you can call yourself an expert at anything. Anders Ericsson himself claims Gladwell's interpretation is too simplified. He believes almost anyone can learn to master anything if they put … [Read more...]

The Bane of Akrasia: Four Ways to Make Yourself Listen to Your Better Judgment

“By constant self-discipline and self-control, you can develop greatness of character.” – Grenville Kleiser, American inspiration author and speaker. If you've never heard the term akrasia, don't be surprised: it's an ancient Greek term for a specific state of mind, coined by Aristotle himself. Also spelled as acrasia, it's not often used in everyday English; however, it's a wonderfully compact term for acting against your own better judgment. Anything you do that you know hurts you—but you do anyway—is akrasia. A diabetic having a large latte with extra whipped cream, a cancer patient smoking, or an alcoholic “having just one”—all akrasia. When we apply Akrasia in the workplace, it’s anything you knowingly do that damages your productivity, including procrastination, micromanaging, … [Read more...]

Why Feeling Good About Yourself Matters: Four Ways Self Esteem Affects Productivity

“Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” – M. Scott Peck, Motivational Author. In some circles, the term "self-esteem" is sacred; in others, it's treated almost as a profanity. As we transition from an Age of Autocrats to one of true meritocracy, those still invested in the old paradigm see it as a weasel word preventing us from constructively criticizing workers and students—sometimes to the point they become so over-coddled they can't do anything. Most businesspeople are more moderate, however. Even hardcore types like Ray Dalio, who recently handed down his book ­Principles from the lofty mountain of the world's largest hedge fund, is not unsympathetic to self-esteem. On the other hand, he clearly sees it as … [Read more...]

The Pain of What Goes Unsaid: Four Ways Poor Workplace Communication Affects Your Productivity

"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said." —Peter F. Drucker, Austrian/American father of modern business management. Communication. We've all heard a thousand times how important it is, and how a lack of it can kill a relationship. But even when it exists, if the quality is poor, the results can prove as frustrating as an English speaker trying to explain something to someone who only speaks German. Even those of us who DO speak the same language can be confused by differences as trivial as accents or word usage. Is it any wonder, then, that poor communication can also sink business projects and kill productivity? Here are some of the results of poor communication habits that can sabotage productivity and team performance and how to avoid them: … [Read more...]

Boost Your Learning, Boost Your Productivity: Six Simple Ways to Learn Faster and Better

“A happy life is one spent learning, earning, and yearning.” – Lillian Gish, legendary Hollywood actress. Nowadays, experts revel in telling you how to "hack your life" to make it easier and more worthwhile, and best of all, how to use your time more effectively. You can also “hack your body”; for example, that exercising a muscle via martial arts, dance, tai chi, or similar repetitive workouts not only makes it stronger and increases your stamina, but also entrains muscle memory that establishes a routine that makes certain actions automatic. We don't have to actively think about them to do them anymore. I guess it’s time to jump on the “hacking” bandwagon, so here are a few potential "brain hacks," all simple to implement, to improve your learning, and boost your productivity: … [Read more...]

Beyond the Day by Day: Five Tips Toward Taking Your Productivity Weekly

"All you need is the plan, the roadmap, and the courage to press on to your destination." —Earl Nightingale, motivational writer and speaker. One of the first things most productive people learn to do is plan their work, usually by tracking daily tasks on a to-do list. I think of this as a "HIT list," as it should consist mostly of the High-Impact Tasks that yield your greatest productivity. Most individuals and teams also develop "NOT to-do" lists: collections of tasks we refuse to waste our time on. Not to-do lists can be taught, but more often derive from personal experience. While "NOT to-dos" can be annoying and seem like a total, infuriating waste of time when they occur, the time you lose initially is more than made up for when you refuse to do ever doing those things … [Read more...]

Toward Refining Your Workflow Process: Six Tips to Keep Your Team on Track

“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is the true definition of insanity.” – Albert Einstein, German-American physicist. "Best practices" is a wonderful theory, but in practice too many people use it as an excuse to adopt one specific methodology they then refuse to change until forced to do so. They forget "best practices" aren't "final practices," an attitude that can break them if the rest of the business world changes and they don't. Best practices at the workflow level must transform as surely as caterpillars transform into butterflies, ideally with results just as wonderful—though unlike butterflies, workflow never stops changing.  Here's a good example: for about ten years, the best way to get a letter to California and back was by Pony … [Read more...]

Conserving Your Willpower for What Matters: Five Ways to Avoid Decision Fatigue

"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. Consciously or not, each of us makes a multitude of decisions every day, however minor. For example, you may decide to eat Froot Loops instead of oatmeal for breakfast, not check your emails at a particular point, or pick a diet lemonade at the last moment instead of a diet cola. Some researchers claim we make as many as 35,000 decisions of varying significance each day, many buried deep in the subconscious mind, which controls much of our behavior. Whatever the number of decisions we make, psychologists have recently proposed that decision-making is intimately linked to one's willpower; and, perhaps more … [Read more...]

Fumbling the Ball: Four Common Mistakes Made When Delegating

"The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs."  —."—Sandra Day O'Connor, retired Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In a recent episode of the T.V. series Stranger Things, the four main characters, all young boys, show up at school on Halloween dressed as Ghostbusters. The problem is, two have dressed as Bill Murray's character. When they argue about it, one boy tells the other, "We decided I would be Venkmann!" and the other responds, "You decided that. I didn't." This immediately made me think about delegation, the art of sharing responsibility with team members by handing off some of your work to them. Even if you're not a manager right now, you'll probably end up in … [Read more...]

Nomophobia and the Dream of Productivity: Four Steps Toward Independence

"Short is too long for mobile."  —Jacob Nielson, a.k.a. "the King of Usability," American technology expert We're all the sum of our experiences; we can be shaped by things that happened recently, decades ago, even by instinctual reactions we inherited from our ancestors. For example, there are good reasons why, even in this modern age when most have never seen one in the wild, we still fear snakes. It makes sense that as we advance into the Information Age, we should develop new fears. One I find alternately amusing and worrying is nomophobia. Despite what it sounds like, this isn't a fear that tiny people in pointed hats will invade your garden. It's a fear of being outside of cellphone contact. Before you laugh, realize this is a genuine fear defined by recent research in the … [Read more...]