Feeling Good Works: Why Optimism Injects New Life into Productivity

“Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” – William James, American philosopher and psychologist. Pessimism is trending nowadays; the old can-do Horatio Alger attitude has been deemed old fashioned. Of course, some segment of the populace has always found it fashionable to sneer at the "naive," but the ranks of the disaffected have swollen in recent years due to the disappointment of the Great Recession, a long-static job-market, and the failure of the old employer/employee social contract. And that's understandable. But any assumption that most modern workers, especially the up-and-coming Millennial generation, are simply unwilling to work hard is simply not true; and it's a mistake to ever think otherwise. Now more than ever, workers want to feel like what they do matters. … [Read more...]

The 1% Principle: How Small Wins Can Produce Big Yields

“Slow and steady wins the race” – English-language aphorism. We've all heard the fable of the tortoise and the hare, the classic that teaches us to never underestimate an opponent. No matter how talented you are, hard work and consistency can still beat you if you're cocky and complacent. Rationally, we know the hare will really beat the tortoise every time, because hares don't suffer from laziness, complacency, perfectionism, or analysis paralysis. If hares ever had those traits, Mother Nature would have weeded them out ages ago. But as apex predators, humans have learned to outwit nature; and so, the point of the story is well taken. No wonder we've taught it for three thousand years. When I ran a half marathon a few years ago, I decided my goal was to successfully complete the race, … [Read more...]

Exceptional Performance: Four Tips for Extreme Productivity

“Once time is gone, it will never come back. That’s why it’s so bizarre to me that professionals often use their time inefficiently — by procrastinating, by perfecting an unimportant task, or by just sitting around in the office, trying to be seen. It seems to me that professionals should husband time as an irreplaceable resource.” – Robert Posen, American businessman and writer. If nothing else, productivity boils down to the way you manage the work time entrusted to you. You want to squeeze as much productivity out of your time as humanly possible, so you should hoard it; be selfish about it; and never waste a minute of it (unless you’re doing it on purpose to relax). The reality of extreme productivity is that nothing is left to chance. Some may view this as terminally boring, even … [Read more...]

Killer Apps: Five Collaborative Tools to Heighten Team Productivity

“Alone, we are smart. Together, we are brilliant.” – Steven Anderson, American educator. Thanks to recent advances in computing and telephony, we now have so many collaboration tools available that we can share almost any task with ease. Video conferencing, product management, document sharing, messaging—you name it, and there's an app or ten. Or a hundred. In this blog, I'll review five apps just about anyone can use, no matter how distributed your team. I'm sure some will seem as outdated as smoke signals in ten years, but today they're either proven standbys or bleeding-edge tech. In each case, I'll also mention similar popular apps. Evernote. Despite recent complaints about expense and bloating, I still like Evernote as a way to catalog articles, documents, or images with a … [Read more...]

The New Pragmatism: Seven Things You Must Understand About Millennials

“When we decided not to sell our business, people called us a lot of things besides crazy—things like arrogant and entitled. The same words that I've heard used to describe our generation time and time again. The Millennial Generation. The 'Me' Generation. Well, it's true. We do have a sense of entitlement, a sense of ownership, because, after all, this is the world we were born into, and we are responsible for it.” – Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snapchat. As many business leaders will happily tell you, workers of the Millennial Generation are lazy, spoiled brats, with an overblown sense of entitlement that will surely be the ruin of us all. But as I recall, elders have laid the same charges against youth for millennia, generation after generation. Funny how civilization remains … [Read more...]

Ducking the Crosshairs: Five Ways to Deal with Office Politics

“Office politics are bloody-minded, but weak on content..” – Mason Cooley, American author and academic, known for his aphorisms.. As a productivity expert, I often write about how to avoid wasting time. But one time waster I've mostly avoided is office politics. Why? Because gossip, backstabbing, credit-stealing, and slandering others to get ahead all represent the kinds of creepy things I hope you never have to deal with. But this is reality here. Office politics happen, so in this blog entry, I've decided to take the bull by the horns and briefly discuss the depressing underbelly of office work. One thing I will never tell you to do is ignore office politics. You don't have to play along, but do remain on alert—and know how to protect yourself against this type of cruelty. I've … [Read more...]

Becoming a Productivity Lark: Six Ways to Effectively Deal with Night Owl Tendencies

“Night is purer than day; it is better for thinking and loving and dreaming. At night everything is more intense, more true. The echo of words that have been spoken during the day takes on a new and deeper meaning.” – Elie Wiesel, American political activist and writer. To the great regret of those who love the night, who come alive late in the day and whose productivity skyrockets in the afternoon, the modern world is built around morning people. Most people do seem to function better in the morning, feeling liveliest before noon and producing more, and more easily than at any other time of day. Hence the standard advice to "eat that frog" first thing in the morning, put your highest priorities at the chronological top of your to-do list, and avoid email just after sitting down, so you … [Read more...]

Unwritten Codes of Conduct: Five Rules You Won’t Find in the Employee Manual

“Custom, that Unwritten Law/By which the People keep even Kings in awe.” – Sir William Davenant, British poet. Every workplace has written policies and procedures but the more impactful rules are the ones unwritten. These informal codes of conduct reflect the harsh realities some have faced: work isn't a meritocracy after all, or that teamwork is important, but no one acts like it. In any workplace, you'll almost certainly find some things people take for granted but don't directly talk about—like these five common unwritten rules. When people are wearing earphones, they don't want anyone to bother them. This one's simple enough, these people are clearly trying to escape the outside world. This may be their way of blocking out distractions so they can focus on their work. Disturb … [Read more...]

The 2016 American Time Use Survey: More and More, Home is Where the Work Is

“In 2016, on days they worked, 22 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at home... 43 percent of workers with an advanced degree performed some work at home on days worked, compared with 12 percent of those with a high school diploma.” – 2016 American Time Use Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On June 28, 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the results of its 2016 American Time Use Survey (ATUS). For the second year in a row their press release emphasized the fact that workers are more likely to do some or all of their work at home. A new statistic added to 2016's survey revealed 43% of workers with advanced degrees work at least part of their day from home. In the wake of the electronics revolution, it's easier than ever to do our jobs away … [Read more...]

Six Tips for Coordinating a Virtual Team: Reaching Across Time Zones

“Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean. ” – Ryunosuke Satoro, Japanese writer. The days when everyone who worked for the same business or division had to congregate in the same building are mostly over. We must learn to work well with remote contributors and virtual teams.  Some might mourn the old days but I think this represents a natural evolution of the job environment, as sociological and technological change transform our society. If your team members trust each other to get your jobs done, with modern levels of communications technology; just about anyone can work from anywhere and still effectively mesh with his or her team members if everyone follows certain, well-established rules. Completely virtual/remote teams—the terms are synonymous—are hardly the norm … [Read more...]