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...]

Listening to Your Best Self: Five Practical Ways to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

“Be careful how you are talking to yourself, because you are listening.” –Lisa M. Hayes, American advice columnist.  Your life may not have theme music, but you've probably got a little voice guiding your actions: sometimes a conscience, cheerleader, harsh critic, a chief adviser, and occasionally a real Debbie Downer. Psychologists refer to this narrator, which began with you talking your way through tasks as a kid, as self-talk. Self-talk begins overtly, out loud, before it "goes underground" to become silent, or covert. But even the overt variety never really goes away. We all still occasionally mutter things like, "All right, here's how I'm going to do this…" or tell ourselves aloud, "Okay, that was stupid." Self-talk is always there, always kibitzing, sometime a friend but more … [Read more...]

Helping Everyone: Four Tips for Delegating Without Hurting Team Productivity

“You may think it is a waste of time to delegate because you feel you can do a better job. But no matter how good you are, you will need your team’s help to get things done effectively on a consistent basis.” – Deena Anreise, American business writer. We all know that delegation is one of the most effective ways to boost your productivity and succeed in your job, whether you're an executive, manager, or non-supervisory team member. Well, we should know this, but when we get caught up in the hustle, it's hard to remember the rules of engagement for the business world. Delegation requires careful handling to achieve true effectiveness. Thoughtless or unwise delegation can hurt team productivity, if for no other reason than that the fabric of interpersonal trust holding together a team … [Read more...]

Solid and Dependable: Four Ways Mindful Consistency Can Make You More Productive

“Success isn't always about greatness. It's about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. "The Rock," American actor.   To some people, doing the same thing day in, day out is the epitome of boredom. It allows no room for spontaneity, and on the face of it, may hinder the growth necessary for you and your organization to thrive. I would disagree to some degree—routine gives comfort. Without consistency, you might never get to work at a predictable hour, maintain exercise routines, or complete all your work in a reasonable amount of time. There’s a big difference between rote, robotic, mindless activity and mindful consistency: productivity using repetition and consistent processes, overseen by thoughtful consideration. At the … [Read more...]

Checked Off: Five Reasons a “Got Done” List is Important

“Happiness does not come from doing easy work, but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.” – Theodore Isaac Rubin, American psychiatrist and author.   We all love to feel like winners, which may be why the new app "I Done This" has become popular recently. Rather than acting just as an electronic to-do list, it also emphasizes what you’ve already accomplished. This is especially effective on the team level, where it demonstrates the truth of the "many hands make light work" axiom and keeps teammates from accidentally doubling up on the same task. Many workers tend to overestimate what they can do during a work-day, so they make much longer daily to-do lists than they should. This can damage your productivity in … [Read more...]

How Much of Your Work Is Really Busywork? Six Ways to Tell, and What to Do About It

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker, Austrian-American business expert and productivity guru.   What is productive work? Simple: work that helps you reach your goals. But sometimes, you may wonder if your work is really making a difference. Perhaps minor tasks have overtaken your focus. Perhaps you’re procrastinating. Perhaps you’re living in your inbox. A recent poll of 1,987 U.K. workers revealed they did productive work for about 2.5 hours a day on average. RescueTime's study of 225 million hours of worktime in 2017 produced the same figure for users worldwide. Most of rest of the day was wasted with busywork and other unproductive activities. How can you tell if you're gunning for the global average for … [Read more...]

The Reflective Practitioner: Five Ways Self-Reflection Can Improve Your Productivity

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius, Chinese teacher and philosopher, circa 500 B.C.E.   We all have experience with self-reflection, even if we rarely use it at work. Remember when you did something naughty as a child, and your Mom sent you to timeout to think about what you did? That was a kind of reflection, or at least it was intended to be. (Whether it worked or not was up to you.) According to David Boud, Rosemary Keogh, and David Walker in their book Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning, "Reflection is a generic term for those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences, in … [Read more...]