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...]

Lifting Your Spirits: Pumping Up Productivity with Pleasant Surroundings

Pumping Up #Productivity with Pleasant Surroundings y Laura Stack

"We are what we see. We are products of our surroundings." -- Amber Valleta, American actress. While there are jobs that take place in harsh environments, if you're reading this article, I doubt you do. However, perhaps it’s sterile, or uncomfortable, or hot. Poor working conditions can lead to decreased productivity and inferior performance. For example, we know that poor ergonomics cause repetitive motion injuries, so addressing these issues costs less in terms of insurance costs and lost productivity. Nowadays, desks tend to be at the right height, computer screens at the right distance to avoid eyestrain, and keyboards easier to use. What are some other ways you can make your office a better place to work? 1. Bring a little of the outdoor world inside. Did you know that in … [Read more...]

The Danger Within: Internal Risks to Look Out For in Your Team

The Danger Within: Internal Risks to Look Out For in Your Team by Laura Stack #productivity

“Many people overlook inside risks— possibly because they are risks for which they themselves are responsible." -- Michael Bruch, British business writer. Sometimes failure is an inside job. As much as we worry about external dangers like the economy, global competition, technological change, financial crises, and a host of other outside factors in our assessments of business risk, we humans are just as likely to cause the problems that bring down our organizations. We don’t do it on purpose of course, but the worst aspects of human nature do sometimes overwhelm our better nature. Yet too often, those of us tasked with leadership simply can't see the internal risks due to our focus on the external. In a sense, you might say we can't see the weeds for the forest. A few years ago, … [Read more...]

Effective Persuasion: How to Sell an Idea at Work

Effective Persuasion: How to Sell an Idea at Work by Laura Stack #productivity

"Persuasion is often more effectual than force." –- Aesop, ancient Greek storyteller. Every innovation—from the fishhook to the miniskirt to the Space Shuttle—started with a simple, intangible idea. In business, new ideas help us improve everything from mechanical and work processes to our product lines. In a very real sense, businesses depend upon ideas to survive. This does not mean, however, that those who operate those businesses are invariably open to new ideas. They may prefer sticking with what they know, rather than taking a chance on something unproven. You can yank up your ideas like weeds before they have time to mature. This may be a good thing, but may also prove bad if you can't—or won't—distinguish between the true weeds and the flower seedlings. There may come a time … [Read more...]

Thinking Outside the Box: Five Behaviors of Successful Leaders

Thinking Outside the Box: Five Behaviors of Successful Leaders by Laura Stack #productivity #leadership

"I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out." -- Jeff Bezos, founder of If I had to pick just one piece of business advice that's become pure cliché over the past few decades, I’d select "think outside the box." I’ve heard this so many times in business circles, I have to resist rolling my eyes when I hear it. However, the intent has merit. Although overuse has run it into the ground, the lesson remains valid: don't let your preconceptions, habits, lack of information, and narrow-mindedness keep you from considering all possible aspects of a problem. Get outside your own mental constraints and consider all the information at your disposal, allowing yourself to see beyond your … [Read more...]

Rebuilding SWOT: Turning Threats into Opportunities

Rebuilding SWOT: Turning Threats into Opportunities by Laura Stack #productivity #execution #leadership

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." -- Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister. You may find it hard to believe, given its powerhouse status now, but the music recording industry came very close to dying before it ever got started. The potential for recording music became obvious immediately after Thomas Edison perfected his phonograph in 1887; in fact, Edison founded one of the very first recording companies. But many performers and managers viewed the technology as a threat to their traditional business model. If fans could purchase recordings of their favorite performers' music, they argued, no one would come to their concerts when the performers came to town. We all know how accurate that prediction turned … [Read more...]

Getting it Right the First Time: The Art of Communicating Expectations

Getting it Right the First Time: The Art of Communicating Expectations by Laura Stack #productivity #leadership

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." -- George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright. In general, people like to talk more than they like to listen. This causes enough problems in the normal course of human affairs, but in the workplace, poor communication can result in a loss of time and money. Consider this minor example. A technical writer explains to his editor that the client wants to use an archaic spelling for a specific word on a report's cover. Nevertheless, she changes it to the accepted modern spelling. The report goes to the printer, and 400 copies come back perfect -bound. The client rejects the report because of the spelling of that one word, and the company that prepared the report not only has to deal with the embarrassment, … [Read more...]

Workplace Conflict: Some Surprising Benefits of Office Friction

Workplace Conflict: Some Surprising Benefits of Office Friction by Laura Stack

"Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means." -- Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States. Many workplace leaders consider conflict between employees a dangerous thing, and it’s no wonder. We've all seen the results of clashing personalities and company politics: distraction, discontent, resentment, gossip, lost jobs, resignations, and other productivity killers. As a result, some managers go to great lengths to avoid conflict. But overcompensation can prove equally dangerous when it devolves into complacency, or worse, groupthink—where everyone thinks alike and disagreement can't or won't be tolerated. "Yes men" have doomed more than one company, especially when the groupthink became tinged with arrogance (think Enron). For a … [Read more...]

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: Why Good Enough Usually Is Good Enough

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: Why Good Enough Usually Is Good Enough by Laura Stack #productivity

Perfection is a lofty goal, but it rarely happens in the day-to-day workplace. And why should it? In most things, striving for perfection represents a waste of resources better used elsewhere. No one really expects you and your team to do everything exactly right every single time. Most of the time, good enough really is good enough—as long as you achieve the minimum requirements necessary and maintain your forward momentum. While you do owe yourself, your team, and your organization a consistently high level of performance, there's a certain point in all everyday tasks where attention to detail turns to perfectionism and, worse, to micromanagement. Both practices inevitably stall productivity. Exceptions to the Rule Admittedly, some tasks require a higher standard. When it's … [Read more...]

A Look in the Crystal Ball: Challenges Leaders Will Face in 2014

A Look in the Crystal Ball: Challenges Leaders Will Face in 2014 by Laura Stack

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves." -- William Shakespeare, British playwright and poet. Let's face it: business life won't be getting any easier or slower or less complicated (unless human nature and civilization undergo a radical reversal). Technology will keep advancing at a rapid pace, and the changes it brings will continue to reverberate through our society. When I was growing up, many things we take for granted now didn't even exist: cell phones, CDs, DVDs, home computers, and satellite radio, just to name a few. Now they're commonplace things most of us enjoy. What might be commonplace 30 years from now? There's no telling, but what I can say is this: the business leaders who are ready and willing to embrace the future will be the ones who prosper … [Read more...]