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...]

Resourceful Self-Distraction: Is There a “Good” Kind of Procrastination?

"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly -- at first." -- Brian Tracy, American motivational speaker and author. "The greatest conflicts are not between two people, but between one person and himself." -- Garth Brooks, American singer.   Very few people can honestly say they’ve never dragged their heels on a task, or dawdled over a project they should have put more serious effort into. We may not feel proud about it, but we procrastinate anyway. Why? Often, it boils down to one of the common issues: feeling overwhelmed, fearing failure, or disliking the task. Then too, I've known people who dilly-dallied because they feared running out of work too soon. This happens most often in jobs that continue only as long as the work lasts, like construction or temporary positions, though it … [Read more...]

Super Bowl Time Management Tips

There’s a Lot to Learn About Personal Goal Setting From Football It’s that time of year again! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – The Superbowl offers a great acrostic game opportunity for learning productivity techniques. What does time management have to do with Super Bowl football? Everything! Football pros competing in the Super Bowl use great goal-setting techniques. By studying the game, you too can learn a lot about how to set objectives. Successful football teams devote a great deal of thought and time to planning how to move the ball down the field. And successful people devote time to planning what they’ll accomplish in business and in life. Ask the coaches who’ve led teams to the Super Bowl. They know you can’t win without a good game plan. The term “SUPER BOWL” … [Read more...]