Six Simple Suggestions: How to Limit Information Overload and Filter Out the Pollution

"Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." —Mitchell Kapor, American entrepreneur and inventor of the Lotus spreadsheet program. We have more information at our fingertips today than at any time in the history of the world—whether we want it or not. The media, advertisers, spammers, bloggers, educators, and others throw it at us constantly... and sometimes we don't know when to stop consuming it. As the Internet of Things really gets into gear, expect the problem to compound exponentially. Even worse, a surprising portion of that information overload, including a majority of "common knowledge," is simply wrong, passed on by well-meaning individuals who never bother to check its veracity. Recognize this one? It's "common knowledge" that a duck's … [Read more...]

Four Steps Toward Clarifying Your Highest-Leverage Activities: Determining What They Are and Why They Matter

"Once you have a clear picture of your priorities—that is values, goals, and high leverage activities—organize around them."  —Steven Covey, American businessman and speaker. At some point in your working life, you'll end up with so many tasks on your to-do list that there's no way you'll ever finish them all, short of a 30-hour day (a possibility in, oh, a billion years or so). You've probably blown past this point already, and applied standard time-management tools like delegating, prioritizing, and abandoning to your stack of tasks. I've written a great deal about these topics in the past, so this time, I'll come at it from a different angle. Ultimately, you want to give away or cut every task that doesn't provide the best bang for your buck. The remaining tasks are your high-value … [Read more...]

The Future of Productivity is Now: Three Tech Tips for Doing More with Less

"Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don't think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other."  —Bill Gates, American businessman and philanthropist, founder of Microsoft. What would life be like if the electronics revolution of the past 30 years hadn't happened? Among other things, my mission of teaching you how to achieve “Maximum Results in Minimum Time®” might have drowned in a sea of carbon paper, adding machine tape, fax print-outs, and conference calls. If you don't have a clue what those first few things are, then you can thank thousands of creative techies for that, and count your Millennial blessings! Productivity has skyrocketed in recent years due to technological progress, and there are plenty of ways … [Read more...]

No Time Wasted: Six Ways Boredom Can Stimulate Productivity

“Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.” —Robert M. Pirsig, American writer and philosopher.. Productive people hate boredom, so they tend to go find things to do when nothing's happening—sometimes even when they ought to be resting. We all know people who eat at their desks, don't take vacations, and never seem to take a coffee-break. We often call them workaholics... but maybe they just find inactivity boring. Even the best-adjusted worker, who dutifully follows her to-do list and takes the breaks she needs to stay energized and happy, sometimes struggles with boredom. Some people call boredom a productivity killer, and with the whole world at our fingertips to distract us, it certainly can be. But I've noticed something interesting: Boredom doesn't always kill … [Read more...]

Give Perfectionism Its Walking Papers: Five Reasons You Should Be Willing to Make Mistakes

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." —George Bernard Shaw, British playwright. One of the first productivity concepts we all learn is to avoid perfectionism, and most of us do make the attempt. Even so, it's an insidious habit, one reinforced rather than overridden by many leaders. Often, your managers want you to get things right the first time, ASAP, so they can show impressive results to their managers. But true perfectionism kills efficiency. It slows you down and doesn't conform to reality. You can never plan for everything. While I'm not a big fan of the "good enough for government work" concept, I do believe there's a certain point where you do the best you can with what you have and move on, making tweaks … [Read more...]

Step-by-Step Improvement: Five Ways to Build a Better To-Do List

"Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." —American humorist Mark Twain How do you eat Twain's live frog? Most people assume he meant to choke it down all at once, but on the other hand, we've also learned the only way to eat an elephant is a bite at a time. You get some jarring cognitive dissonance when you take both ideas into account at once, but they do share a point: both the elephant and the frog represent big or unpleasant projects we must make progress on before we can move on to other tasks. Now, just because you think you know how and when to eat your frog doesn't mean you're right. Most of us assume we have a handle on how to structure our to-do lists, but even the best practice doesn't remain a best practice … [Read more...]

Happy Workers = Productive Workers: Seven Benefits of Positive Emotion in the Workplace

"We hold these truths to be self-evident..." —Opening line of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson It should be obvious to anyone that when you're happy, you're more likely to do a better job at work. Clearly, some managers don't care; we've all worked for such people. It's equally obvious you don't have to be happy to be productive. Aside from those of us who work best under pressure, many of us have learned to put our heads down, ignore our discontent, and just push until we finish the work on time. If we couldn't bull through on sheer willpower, few companies would have survived either the Great Depression or the Great Recession. Just because we can do something, however, doesn't mean it's the best way. That's one theme I hope I've driven home repeatedly … [Read more...]

Science Says Yes to Telecommuting: Five Reasons Why Working from Home Can Be More Productive

“I've had to be very upfront about the fact that good telecommuting jobs require hard work, like any job.” —Hannah Wright, founder of HowToFindARemoteJob.com. I’ve heard some traditional office workers describe telecommuters as lazy, unprofessional, and unproductive: consider former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's controversial decision to ban telecommuting in February 2013. Millennials, who are better aware of the reality of pervasive Internet, high-tech options, and work-life balance, seem less bothered by telecommuting. Many actively encourage it. Numerous surveys have shown that, in general, workers who telecommute at least a few days a week are more productive. A famous study conducted in 2013 by Nicholas Bloom and one of the owners of Ctrip, a Chinese travel company, demonstrated that … [Read more...]

Getting in the Zone: Four Ways to Help You Master the Concept of FLOW

“There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.” – Napoleon Hill, American motivational writer. Time flies when you're having fun—and it also flies when you're so totally focused on something that nothing else interests you, and making steady progress seems almost as easy as breathing. Athletes call it being "in the zone," a term that's percolated down into the working world as well. No matter what you do, you've probably experienced times when, whether working alone or in a group, you got so engrossed in your work that the next time you looked up, hours had passed. You'd lost track of time. While this can have negative repercussions—such as forgetting to eat lunch—it's typically … [Read more...]

Striving with Purpose: Six Factors Separating High Performers from Average Workers

“Never wish life were easier. Wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur and speaker. We usually know high performers when we see them, because their stars shine bright in the workplace. How can you tell the difference between a high performer and a high potential performer? The latter have the talent, education, and training to become high performers, but haven't yet proven themselves (often because they're still new). In fact, not all workers with high potential graduate to the high-performer level; conversely, not all high performers are considered high-potential candidates that move into positions of leadership. Of course, not everyone shines right off the bat. (Both Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were deemed unteachable by elementary school teachers, and today … [Read more...]