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...]

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...]