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 I'm sure some will seem as outdated as smoke signals in ten years, but today they're either proven standbys or bleeding-edge tech.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...]

One More Time: Three Effective Ways to Polish Your Time Management Skills

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late”. – William Shakespeare, British playwright. In the past few decades, as we've all taken on more work and become increasingly productive, time management has become a crucial part of every worker's skillset. You've probably spent years learning how to implement and improve your time-management skills. Therefore, you may be wondering, “What can you possibly tell me I haven't already heard before?” Maybe nothing. But I believe in revisiting and repeating old lessons, especially when things become too overwhelming or there seems nowhere new to go. That's when you return to basic principles and re-examine the true foundations of high productivity. It's easy to forget time management is based on an open secret you can't hear too often: … [Read more...]

Focus and the Role of Reflective Thinking

            When doing productive work and making effective decisions, total focus is crucial. However, it can be difficult to achieve in the modern world, where distractions abound—not just the annoyances delivered to you by others, but also the self-distractions inherent in an environment where a few taps on your keyboard can deliver a virtual world of distraction far more enjoyable than work. To move beyond the mere enjoyable and do what's right, much less what’s productive and profitable, requires a significant level of mental discipline. When doing productive work and making effective decisions, total focus is crucial. However, it can be difficult to achieve in the modern world, where distractions abound—not just the annoyances delivered … [Read more...]

Boost Your Confidence, Boost Your Performance: Six Simple Ways to Raise Your Self-Assurance

"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation." – Arthur Ashe, professional American tennis player. Even if you're normally an upbeat person, it helps both you and your team when you do little things to boost your confidence. It all comes down to this: when you feel better physically and mentally, you're more confident, and that comes through in your performance. Recent studies have shown that confidence is just as important as ability in achieving tasks. So let's look at a few things you can do to pump up your confidence—some impromptu, some that take a little effort. 1. Get your coffee fix. Seriously. Nothing picks you up like a cup of coffee, especially when you're dragging. Drink a cup of water before or after, since too … [Read more...]