Blowing Off Steam: Six Quick Stress-Release Tactics to Make You More Productive

“It's not the load that breaks you down. It's the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz, American football player and coach. Stress gets a bad rap sometimes. There's nothing wrong with a little stress if it spurs you to action, focuses your mind, or helps you handle a new job. Psychologists call this eustress: minor physical, mental, or even biochemical stressors that have a positive effect on your outlook or body. But if the stress is cumulative or unremitting, it becomes strain, which derails your productivity. Even relatively minor stress compounded over a workweek can have negative effects, so find ways to blow off steam simply and quickly. Ideally, you've got a nice hobby to help you work off tension at home, or a membership to a health club where you can play a satisfying game of squash … [Read more...]

Avoiding the Creeps: Four Ways to Maintain Your Scope, Job, and Mission

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple. The Swiss Army knife is one of those models of efficiency we've all heard of—it’s a tool many of us have used. But even efficiency can be broken. Consider the Wenger 16999 Giant. If you were stranded on a desert island and allowed one tool, you'd choose this Swiss Army knife. It has 87 implements with 141 functions—but it won't fit into any pocket less than a foot deep. It weighs seven pounds and retails for $1,400. The 16999 is … [Read more...]

Fanning the Flames: Seven Ways to Stay Excited About Coming to Work

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor L. Frankl, Austrian psychologist. Remember when you were young and idealistic, when work was still new and exciting, when problems seemed to automatically reframe themselves as challenges and every day was a new chance to learn? Do you ever wonder what happened to those days? They're not really gone. They're just buried under an adult patina of care, worry, and stress. If you're willing to try, you can remove the patina and rediscover your excitement about your work. What will it take? The shock treatment of finding a newer, less toxic, more interesting, or more challenging job that better fits your talents? Perhaps you need to … [Read more...]

Don’t Fool Yourself: Five Productivity Mistakes to Avoid

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee, Chinese actor and martial artist Mistakes are the inevitable fruit of trying new things, and sometimes they even produce something useful. A biological mistake may prove life-saving to an organism if the environment changes suddenly, and you can even frame some business mistakes as solutions. Silly Putty started life as a failed attempt at synthetic rubber but became a ubiquitous child's toy, which is still sold today. We all must make mistakes to refine our work processes, if only to discover what doesn't work. That doesn't mean you have to waste time when hordes of other people have already made certain mistakes for you. Here's a brief list of productivity mistakes to avoid: … [Read more...]

Creative Sleight of Hand: Six Ways to Trick Yourself into Productivity

“Most productivity techniques require a little self-trickery” – L.V. Anderson, American business writer. We all have days when we feel about as productive as a limp noodle, yet we have no choice but to get into gear and do something that adds zeroes to the bottom line. So, what do you do when the motivation needle is on E? Simple: You put in the extra effort to trick yourself into productivity. It's usually easier than you might think, since, per the quote, most productivity involves self-trickery anyway. By the time you've faked it long enough, you'll have accomplished a decent amount of work and will probably find it easier to move forward. Try these tips to start your productivity engine on a down day: Harness creative procrastination. Start your morning with a … [Read more...]

Embracing Your Organization: Five Ways Learning More About Your Work Increases Productivity

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain and drinking largely sobers us again.” – Alexander Pope, British poet; from An Essay on Criticism, 1709. Employee disengagement remains a serious issue, with fewer than one-third of U.S. workers fully engaged. For many people, work is just a job—a way to put food on the table and cover the mortgage. If you feel this way, you're only partially engaged at best. To others, their job is a necessary evil they hate—possibly because of the work, possibly because of toxic co-workers (among whom they fail to count themselves). These fully disengaged workers are barely productive and can become a danger to other employees. As they say, one bad apple spoils the … [Read more...]

Stop Being Who You’re Not: Four Reasons Not to Compare Yourself to Others

“The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reels.” –Steven Furtick, American pastor and bestselling author. Comparing yourself to other people can serve as a potent form of self-motivation, driving you to new heights of accomplishment. It can also make you purely miserable. In my 2010 book SuperCompetent, I coined the title term to describe highly successful workers at the top of their game, who always do their best to improve their personal and team productivity. This term doesn’t necessary apply to celebrities just because they are celebrities or business people just because they are rich. Daily, we hear of people like Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Gates, Marissa Mayer and others who have significantly … [Read more...]

Reasons to Put Pen to Paper: Four Ways Good Writing Improves Productivity

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” –Octavia E. Butler, American novelist. Some perceptive 20th century writer—some say Hemingway, others sportswriter Red Smith —once claimed writing is easy: you just sit down at the typewriter and bleed. That may be true for some writers, especially those new to the game, but I have to wonder if whoever said it did it mainly to discourage the competition. Because frankly, anyone who reads often and widely can become a decent writer. And as with everything else, all it takes to become a great writer is the old how-do-you-get-to-Carnegie Hall punchline: Practice, practice, practice. This … [Read more...]

Productivity Blockers: Seven Things to Stop Doing

“A wind that blows aimlessly is no good to anyone.” –Rick Riordan, American novelist. While you may not see it as the Holy Grail of your working life, personal productivity is a significant determiner of how you're doing in your career. But it's easy to get stuck in a rut, lose traction, and spin your wheels. Sometimes, gaining awareness of what saps your productivity is the hardest part, when you’re not sure what’s wrong in the first place. If you're having trouble identifying your productivity blockers, consider these seven common ones: A negative work atmosphere. We've all heard stories about a "can-do" attitude breaking records and overcoming expectations. How many times have you heard that about a "can't-do" attitude? Never. One rotten apple really can spoil the whole … [Read more...]

Achieving Your Goals: Six Stumbling Blocks and How to Overcome Them

“One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals.” –Michael Korda, English-American writer and former editor-in-chief at Simon and Schuster. Lest you defer your dreams until they "dry up like a raison in the sun," per Langston Hughes, set time limits on them—this turns them into goals. But even then, it's not always easy to stay on track. As John Lennon put it, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." Life can easily derail your goals, no matter how well-arranged or honestly intended. In your working life, goals are essential to maintaining and maximizing productivity. It's easy to get so busy just doing that you look up and realize the brass rings you're ostensibly reaching for seem as far away Saturn's rings. There are many reasons this may … [Read more...]