The Top Five Workplace Time-Traps

The Top Five Workplace Time-Traps by Laura Stack #productivity

Remember cartoon character George Jetson's grueling two-hour workday, which earned him a deluxe apartment in the sky? Whatever happened to that future? Instead of enjoying a shrinking workweek due to better technology, as we've expected for decades, the average American workweek has actually grown to nearly 60 hours! How is it that we have less discretionary time and work harder than ever, even though technological breakthroughs have made us all incredibly productive? To be blunt, some of it's due to simple inefficiency. I've been a productivity expert for two decades, and I see my colleagues and clients battling the exact same dragons over and over again. In this month's column, let's take a look at the five biggest time-traps that drag down our productivity, and how to deal with … [Read more...]

The Squeaky Wheel Makes Things Better

The Squeaky Wheel Makes Things Better by Laura Stack #productivity

Growing up, I had a friend who used to say, “If it was good enough for Grandpa, it's good enough for me.” To which I would retort with my Grandpa’s favorite expression, “Sometimes it’s better to get forgiveness than permission.” Which phrase resonates with you more? Too often in the business world, people just accept how they've been taught to do something, rather than considering whether it could be improved. Situations and technology change, and sometimes we fail to change with them. Truly accountable people strive to make things easier for everyone, including themselves. They take on change and try to make processes more efficient, even if they know it might rub some people the wrong way. They know the squeaky wheel gets in the grease—or in this case—makes things better. How can you … [Read more...]

Reducing Inefficiencies and Breaking Bottlenecks

Productive people are on a quest for constant reevaluation and change, so you can reduce all inefficiencies inherent to your job. Never assume the way you do things is the best possible way to do them; in fact, it probably isn't. There's almost always a better way. So take the new information you've acquired, use it to create more efficient processes, and put those processes to work. Even as you implement the new processes, you'll find some are more effective than others. So actively evaluate what works and what doesn't, and weed out the poor producers. In many cases, a broken process isn't flawed. A few tweaks may transform it into something useful and productive. So when something fails you, start by asking questions to figure out why: What changes can you make to improve the … [Read more...]

Ruthless Prioritization

Ruthless Prioritization by Laura Stack #productivity

Based on a mountain of evidence (and my own extensive experience), it's clear that prioritization is one of the most difficult issues plaguing modern workers, who stare at 117-item to-do lists. This holds true from the lowliest intern all the way up to the pinnacle of the C-Suite. Because you only have so much time in your day, you have to spend some of it figuring out how to rank order your tasks. You know how difficult this can be and how easily fumbled—we've all dropped the ball occasionally. You may have problems setting priorities for the multiple projects you're juggling, or your boss may insist everything she hands you has top priority. Whatever the case, you have to scramble to keep up, risking overwork and overwhelm. With that bald reality staring you in the face, one thing … [Read more...]

Your CORE Time Management System

Your CORE Time Management System by Laura Stack #productivity

To manage your time effectively, you’ll need to track all the information required to keep your life and schedule moving along smoothly. To a large extent, this will depend on the personal time management system you adopt—paper-based, electronic, or some hybrid (combination) method of both. Information arrives and gets stored in myriad ways today, due to all the new technologies constantly being introduced. Most people track contacts, communication, meetings, notes, and to-do lists within their personal systems, which could include: Information delivery software such as Outlook or Google, intranets, and instant messages. Texting and apps using your favorite Smartphone, tablet, or handheld, such as Droid, iPad, Kindle, or Blackberry. Information capturing methods, including … [Read more...]

Awesome Efficiency: Five Ways to Maximize Team Productivity

Awesome Efficiency: Five Ways to Maximize Team Productivity by Laura Stack #productivity

"Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things." -- Peter Drucker, Austrian-American management guru. "The highest type of efficiency is that which can utilize existing material to the best advantage." -- Jawaharlal Nehru, former Indian Prime Minister. What comprises true efficiency, at least in a useful business sense? That's a question worth pursuing, because the answer isn't necessarily what you might expect. Business "efficiency" has evolved beyond its classic dictionary definition, which is essentially minimizing the resources required to do something. That's fine as far as it goes—but what if the thing done right isn't the right thing? If your mechanic changes the wrong tire on your car, it doesn't matter how efficiently he does the job; you've … [Read more...]

Productivity vs. Paralysis: On Accepting the Reality of Imperfection

Productivity vs. Paralysis: On Accepting the Reality of Imperfection by Laura Stack

“Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection.” -- Toba Beta, Indonesian author. problem of perfectionism. We can become so tightly focused on getting things "just right,” it’s difficult to let anything go. Of course, there's always something you can improve, if you just keep nitpicking at it. But at what point do you hit a point of diminishing returns? Eventually, the improvements you introduce are no longer worth the time you spend on them—and if you keep at it, you'll roll past your deadlines and crash your schedule. Let's face it: perfection rarely occurs in this world, and as Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy pointed out, “If you look for perfection, you will never be content.” Refusing to let go of something until it's perfect is akin to jamming a broomstick … [Read more...]

Go, Speed Racer, Go! How to Think Faster on Your Feet

"A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace." -- Ovid, ancient Roman poet. "Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything." -- Wyatt Earp, Old West gunfighter and lawman. As a professional speaker, I’m frequently faced with questions I haven’t been asked before and must think quickly on my feet. Or suppose you’re the team expert on Boxlets, your company's proprietary spreadsheet program. If your boss needs a quick fact or a doubtful customer starts grilling you on why he should buy Boxlets and not Lotus 1-2-3, you'll require the capacity to think fast and produce accurate answers. If you feel like your brain doesn’t move as quickly as you need it to, here’s what I’ve found has helped me make it THINK faster: 1. Take care of yourself. This should always come … [Read more...]

Stop Procrastination in Its Tracks!

This week, I'd like to discuss a form of self sabotage that I see all too often: procrastination, the fine art of putting things off. And off, and off, and off... We've all let things slide when we shouldn't have. It's not always about forgetfulness, or overwork, or even laziness. In fact, some of the worst procrastinators are busy professionals who are otherwise successful in the workplace. Ultimately, all procrastination does is generate anxiety and negativity. So why do we hobble ourselves this way? The reasons are rarely clear-cut, but often they consist of some mix of the following: • Lack of self confidence • Uncertainty • Excess perfectionism • Distractions • Fear (of the unknown or a negative outcome) • A perception of the task as difficult and/or time consuming • Time pressure … [Read more...]

It’s Really Laziness

Spotting incompetence is simple. Look for the people who know full well what they need to change about themselves to be more productive but refuse to do so. We all have flaws and areas in need of improvement. That’s normal and healthy. Moreover, sometimes these weaknesses remain for a time in our blind spots. But the moment an employee’s awareness has been raised, he has an obligation to begin remedying the flaw, not celebrating it. Those who do single themselves out as such are incompetent. You know the ones. Here are some unbelievable but true examples: 1. “Yeah, I know I need to organize my files, but that’s just how I am. Always been this way. You should see my clothes closet at home!” Gee, now there’s an advertisement to broadcast! When employees telegraph their areas of improvement, … [Read more...]