Managing Your Manager: Four Ways to Create a Productive Relationship

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” –David Brinkley, American journalist Just because you may lack the title of "manager," that doesn't mean you don't manage other people at work. You manage co-workers sideways, in the sense that you help them when you can and ask for help when necessary. You also "manage up," managing your own manager's expectations for you, as well as getting him or her to do what you want and need. Managing up and sideways helps you maintain smooth, productive relationships with others. It’s not about "sucking up" or flattery. Effectively managing up means you know your leaders well enough to anticipate their needs and support their mission. Here are four ideas on how to do it well: Communicate … [Read more...]

The Work/Life Conundrum: 7 Ways to Keep Personal Issues from Damaging Your Productivity

“Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one's way.” –Viktor Frankl, Austrian Holocaust survivor, in Man's Search for Meaning. Emotion affects and informs everything human beings do. As such, you may find it difficult, at times, to separate work from the rest of your life. Some people can do it as easily as flicking a switch, but it's rare for anyone to remain completely productive in the workplace while facing difficulties elsewhere. So here are seven ways to help you maintain high workplace performance, even when you’re experiencing issues in your personal life. If your organization has an EAP, take advantage of it. Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) exist specifically to … [Read more...]

Everyone’s Favorite Helper: Six Ways to Maximize the Productive Effects of Caffeine

“Coffee is a beverage that puts one to sleep when not drank.” –Alphonse Allais, French writer and humorist. While not all office workers drink coffee, the clear majority imbibe some form of caffeine; and woe betide anyone who breaks the office coffee pot. If you don’t drink caffeine in the morning, you're one of the few and the proud. I salute you—as long as you don't get between me and my Keurig. Tongue out of cheek, caffeine—most often in the form of coffee, tea, or soda—is actually a useful tool for boosting alertness and productivity. It doesn't just perk you up; it also enhances your motor skills, improves cognitive performance, decreases mental fatigue, increases the efficiency of your daily energy expenditure, and more. While you can overdo it and end up with a caffeine … [Read more...]

Practicing Hygge at Work: Five Ways to Boost Productivity Through Greater Comfort

“Just living isn't enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” –Hans Christian Anderson, Danish fairytale writer. The Danes have an interesting approach to work and productivity they refer to as "hygge" (pronounced "hoogah"). Hygge refers primarily to emotional and physical comfort—the kind of coziness that lets you achieve more from a place of contentment. While the rest of the world promotes getting out of one's comfort zone to get ahead, the Danes embrace comfort as one more way to increase individual productivity. Hygge doesn’t mean being complacent—it means having good wellbeing. Think about it: most of us spend more time working than we do sleeping. Something as minor as a bad chair can make you uncomfortable, and we all know we work better … [Read more...]

Maintaining Your Balance: Five Survival Tips When Your Job’s Mission and Vision Shift

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” –Japanese proverb. If you've spent any amount of time in the world, you know the only true constant is change. Everything evolves, from the NFL, to your favorite TV show, to your family, and to your circle of friends. Even your job will change, no matter whether you hop from place to place or remain in one position your entire career. Once upon a time, you didn't have to worry much about the bedrock of your job changing, particularly the mission and vision underlying much of what you do. But as society and technology evolved from roughly 1980 until today, tremors and earthquakes have rocked and even shattered that bedrock, so your footing is rarely solid and assured. This has proven true even in monolithic … [Read more...]

Leading from the Middle: Four Ways “Average” Can Still Be Highly Productive

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller, American business magnate. Average gets a bad rap among productivity gurus. No one really wants to admit that most people are by definition, well, average. They are the middle-of-the-pack, hardworking employees who do the majority of the work in the corporate environment. Many are happy with their positions, happy with their pay, happy with the level of effort they must put in to maintain their jobs. They're the backbone of business. We need people who come to work, do their jobs, and go home. If you're a reader of my blog, you know I'm not a huge fan of average—mostly because, as Rockefeller points out in the above quote, "average" people can learn to perform … [Read more...]

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...]