Tag Archives: Habits

Quote for Nov 28th

thank you in letterpress typeMake it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.
Ralph Marston

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Habits of the Unproductive

Here is a link to a great article on seven habits that contribute to being unproductive.  It’s too good not to pass along.  From Simple Productivity Blog.  Take a look as see what you can change  to banish these habits from your world.

7 Habits of Highly Unproductive People

Enjoy!

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Productivity Quicksand Traps

All of us want to be more productive, even those who others hold up as their efficiency idols.  This is true because no one is 100% productive 100% of the time.  There are ebbs and flows to everyone’s life, the good days and the bad days.  The thing that really differentiates the most efficient people from the average is how they handle the bad days.

What do you do when you find yourself dragging or procrastinating on the things you know need to be done?  Are you someone who grinds it out until you get back on track or do you stage a personal intervention?  At times it may be necessary to slug away at the task to get it done.  Other times it may be much more effective to step away for a short period of time, this will allow you to refocus and come back refreshed.

I’ve struggled with this regularly, particularly on the ugly items that are necessary and just are not really my cup of tea.  When I plug away at these even when I’m not really tuned into what needs to be done, they become an even bigger chore and the next time it comes around I dread it even more.  It becomes a vicious cycle that I have to break quickly.  I’ve found the following things can help me get past the drag of these items:

  1. Take 15 minutes.  If I take 15 minutes to do something totally unrelated, something I enjoy doing then I’m in a better frame of mind.  Now I’m feeling positive and the task seems less daunting. 
  2. Set a time limit.  When I tell myself I’ll spend the next 30 minutes working on the ugly task I know it will end soon.  This keeps it from becoming something that I will “have” to do for the rest of the day. 
  3. Create a positive atmosphere.  I like to have music I like on while I’m doing routine tasks that I dread.  It creates an upbeat background to what I’m doing.  This isn’t always possible in an office, so I’ve had small pictures of scenes I love within easy sight lines.  A visual cue of a happy place.
  4. Reward yourself.  When you spend the time you allot on the dreaded task reward yourself.  Get up and take a couple of minutes to reflect on getting it done.  Get a cup of coffee, a drink of water anything to break away from the task and breathe.  Stretch to relieve the tension in your muscles.  Enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that task is DONE!

These four things provide me with the productivity intervention I need to get back on track.  Even though it takes time away from the work up front to stage the intervention I end up getting more done and it’s all done better so the return is there. 

What do you do to pull yourself out of a productivity quicksand trap?

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Preparing To Take Time Off

Your long awaited vacation is finally approaching and you are counting the hours until you escape the office.  How do you prepare to take time off?  Do you just cut and run or do you get things wrapped up or at least organized so someone else can pick up where you left off?

If you are part of a team odds are someone is covering for you while you get away and you’ve had to cover for them on their days off.  One of the worst things that can happen within a team is the stress of covering someone else’s work and being handed a mess.  Admittedly there can be times when it is unavoidable, like an illness or accident.  However, if the time off is planned then there is time to prepare for what needs to be covered.  Worst case scenario is that an opportunity is missed because there wasn’t time to finish the work that was left behind.  Lost business hurts everyone and will come back to haunt you at review time if not sooner.

I’ve found that when things are organized and clear things get done and the things that aren’t clear get left unless they are truly time sensitive.  The things that are hard to pick-up leave a nasty taste behind – resentment.  So how can you avoid the resentment if you are leaving work for someone else?  Take these three steps and it will go smoother.

  1. Finish what can be done.  This is so obvious, but often overlooked.  If you can wrap up a report, or a routine task before you leave then do it.  People will love you for it.
  2. Outline what needs to be done.  Making a one page summary of what needs to be covered and where the information can be found will help whoever is covering for you get started.  Leaving the outline on top of the files where they can be seen is even better.  Review it with the person covering for you, quickly shortly before you leave. 
  3. Let people know you will be out.  Change your voicemail to say you will be gone.  Put an auto response on email saying you will be gone.  This lets folks know you will not be available for information or help.  Also, you can let them know who to contact if they need immediate assistance.  Just make sure the designated person is aware of your message. 

If you take these simple steps then your work load will be less when you get back, which helps the benefits of vacation last a bit longer.  As well, your fellow team members will be much happier to help out in a pinch.  One other benefit is that if you set a good example then you can ask for the same consideration if you are the one left in the office holding the bag.  Overall it helps build team rapport which will lead to better results throughout the year.

What do you do to prepare for taking time off?

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Do as I say – Not!

We all have heard the phrase “do as I say not as I do” from a parent or teacher or coach or boss.  This creates such a contradiction for the person hearing it, even a child.  In the office this may not be explicitly said, however it is often implied.  When the boss’s actions do not match corporate policy or even their own statements it tells the people observing that the boss is above the rules. 

I’ve seen this where the company had a policy against taking favors or gifts from suppliers and yet senior executives went on expensive golf trips or to extravagant dinners at was hard for the people in the rank in file of the organization to follow the policy when it was obvious that the top people were not following those rules themselves.  It created a culture of mistrust and selfishness because what was said and what was done were at odds with each other, so people tended to withdraw and look after themselves.  The integrity of the company became questioned at times as the integrity of the individuals became more situational.  The customers saw the shift in the culture of the company and started to step back.

As a leader it is important that the message your actions sends matches the message of the organization.  If there are policies against accepting gifts and favors then you must obey that rule.  Your team is watching you to determine what they should do.  If your actions are aligned with policy they will follow suit.  If your actions are in conflict with policy or you walk in the grey areas of the policy your team will as well. 

The problem with skirting the rules in one area is that people will see you doing it and they will pick their area to skirt the rules.  This can, and has, lead to disaster for organizations.  Look at some of the biggest scandals in recent corporate history and you will see people out of control, who felt that the rules did not apply to them.  Breaking the rules in anyway creates a slippery slope that can lead to bad decisions which cost the organization money and reputation.

You will be leading by example so make yours a great example.  Be the type of employee you want working for you.  Show your employees that you will do as you say and so will they.

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Fears That Block Productivity

There are some common gears that block your productivity by holding you back, keep you from starting or from finishing.  Let’s look at several of them and what to do about them.

  • Fear of Failure:  Often people wait to start because they are afraid that they will fail at what they do.  This can be due to setting expectations too high or lack of confidence in your abilities.  The key to manage this fear is to review your expectations against the project’s criteria and verify that your effort meets those criteria.  Know why you were assigned the task and keep in mind that your skills are why you were chosen.  This allows you to know that you are capable of successfully completing the task.

 

  • Fear of Success:  There are people who don’t complete a project or go after a dream because they don’t believe they deserve success.  To conquer this fear it’s important to review what you have accomplished and what skills you bring to the table.  Be honest about your skills and abilities and you will see that you deserve to succeed.  You can also get input from trusted friends.  If you do this, get specific feedback on what you do well and what traits others admire.  Specifics about your skills and abilities help you understand you have a lot to offer.

 

  • Fear of Rejection:  This fear causes people to hold back on ideas or going for dreams because they are afraid others will not accept them or their input.  To combat this fear keep in mind that people are more focused on them than they are on you.  People are generally egocentric and while many will go out of their way to help others, most have their own issues to deal with each day.  Focus on what you can do with your skills and abilities and what you will can get out of reaching for more and go for it.

All of these fears can create a wall that holds you back from doing your best, and sometimes from doing anything.  Focus on what you have to offer and what you dream of doing.  Then plan the steps and get moving.  As Nike says – Just Do it!  Break down that wall!!

How have fears held you back from reaching your dreams?

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Interesting Reading

I wanted to share some articles that I’ve read over the last month that got me thinking about what I do and how I do it.  Happy reading!

Ideas on how to stop doing things that interfere with productivity from Stepchase Lifehack.  7 Things you should add to your stop doing list right now.

Great strategies for finding information on-line are found at Organized Online Learning from Organized Living Essentials.

A great reminder of how to get back on track when old “bad” habits reappear in your world.  Productivity Bad Habits and Solutions from SimpleProductivityBlog.com.

Some tips for how to gain control of your time from UnclutterEight Steps to Help You Regain Control of Your Time.

These are great leadership quotes from The Organized Executive that can inspire all of us.   Wise Words From Female Executives.

Here is another look at leadership strategies from a historical perspective, found on Stepchase Lifehack. What Makes an Exceptional Leader.

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Office Superstitions to Give Up!

In honor of Friday the 13th I wanted to take a look at office superstitions.  I’ve found four very prevalent ones that create heated conversations when I ask people their opinions on them.  Let’s look at them individually.

Open Door Policy:  So many people think if they are in a company with an open door policy they can only close their office door during a private meeting.  I believe this is false.  If you have to focus on a task then it’s okay to close the door at times.  This is not permission to keep your door closed more than it’s open, just permission to choose wisely to close the door to focus.  I used this particularly when doing performance reviews for my employees.  I never kept the door closed more than an hour at a time and never more than for two in one day.  No one complained and I got more done.

Can’t Say No:  I have worked with too many people who think they must say yes to everything they are asked to do.  Again, it’s important to know what you can decline or defer and to do so when appropriate.  Sometimes when your boss adds another item to your to-do list you NEED to ask what can be delayed to get this done, or can someone else handle something for you.  There are times when you are asked to help with something because everyone counts on you to say yes and pitch in.  If it works for you and is not career suicide there are times to say “I’m sorry I’m tied up right now on XYZ.”  This will help you get things done and allow others to step up and do new things.

Must Respond Immediately:  A pet peeve of mine is the belief that all emails and phone calls must be answered immediately.  This is so disruptive to your day that you have to get past this superstition.  Granted if you are in a help-desk type of position then you do need to answer quickly.  However, most of us have other duties and these can be best accomplished when we turn off or close email and deal with it at predetermined times.  Same goes for the phone, if you are entrenched in a task that requires total focus turn off the phone and when you reach a breaking point then you can deal with messages. 

Multitasking Works:  Multitasking is one of the biggest urban myths around right now.  It really is not possible to do more than one thing at a time effectively.  Now I do agree that if you are on-hold for a call you may be able to scan your emails or do some filing.  However, when things require your attention you must keep that attention undivided.  Do one thing at a time and get it done more quickly.

Giving up your superstitions will help you stay focused and on task.  This will allow you to be more effective and productive during your day.  The key is to know what to give up and how to manage your duties.  Good luck and happy Friday!

Images courtesy of DailyClipArt.net  http://cdn.dailyclipart.net/wp-content/uploads/medium/Halloween3.jpg

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Spring Cleaning

With the advent of spring there has been a lot of discussion and focus on spring cleaning and getting rid of things.   The extremists believe that you should get rid of just about everything which will simplify your life.  Others take a more moderate approach to minimizing things.  Everywhere you turn there is information on getting organized.  If you’ve been looking at sale ads you have been seeing storage containers to organize your clutter.  So what really works?  That will be unique to each person.  Personally I use the recycling model “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” to determine what to do.

  1. Reduce: Get rid of the things that no longer are needed, clothes that don’t fit or you don’t where, household items that you haven’t used in in the last year, paperwork that is out of date (old tax returns, receipts, bills).  Make sure you keep what you need for tax purposes and shred the older items.
  2. Reuse:  When you clean out the old paperwork, save the file folders in good shape to use later.  Can you find new uses for items you no longer use for their original purpose?  Old kitchen storage containers make good holders for office supplies like paper/ binder clips.  How can something be reused?
  3. Recycle:  Give you old clothes to a charity, you may get a tax deduction and others will get affordable clothing.  Non-sensitive paperwork can be recycled.  Cleaning out the garage you may find scrap metal which can be sold to a metal recycler.  We’ve used sensitive paperwork to create fire starters for our camping trips. 

Once you clean up the unused things it’s time to figure out how to store the things you are keeping.  Figure out what works for you.  I’ve seen people who use labeled storage containers for everything and it’s all perfectly organized on shelves, etc.  For me that would not work at all, it requires too much maintenance long term.  I use containers for some things, baskets for others, and keep things on shelves in some cases.  There is no one system that is perfect for everyone in every situation.  Look at different systems to understand what they offer and take the pieces that work for you.

Spring is a time of new beginnings and is a great time to clean your house.  Use the ritual of spring cleaning to refresh your personal organizational system.  The idea of minimizing what is in your life can be liberating.  Go as far as is comfortable for you, what you can live with and be happy.  Simplicity looks different for all of us, so find you own.

The key is to create a system in your life that becomes natural and easy to maintain.  If it feels like work to do everyday it will not work longterm.

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Scheduling Flexibility

How do you handle the curve balls that come at you each day?  I’ve found that if I schedule my day too closely I struggle to adapt to the things that come up unexpectedly.  At times it reminds me of a manager I once worked with who wanted his team to write down all things they didn’t know about a project.  It’s impossible to know what you don’t know.  So how to adapt and adjust?

For me I have to have time in my schedule that is not booked so that I can have flexibility.  Obviously some things cannot be moved, some meetings are fixed and not moveable, however if you have some time that is not booked you can allow a new item to be added in if it fits with your priorities. Here are my three favorite ways to build flexibility into my schedule:

  1. No appointments in first 30 minutes of the day.  This allows you to come in, review your day and make any adjustments that are required given new information.  It also allows you to prepare for the first thing on your schedule.
  2. No appointments in the last 30 minutes of the day.  Keeping the end of your day open allows you to make notes for what you will do the next day, clean up your desk and wrap up your day.
  3. Keep lunch time open.  By doing this you can add a lunch meeting with someone who wants to get together with you socially.  These social visits can be distracting during the day and having this time open allows you to channel it and keep it from interrupting your work flow.  It also, gives you a chance to have quiet time if needed to regroup and get a handle on things before the next round.

If you can keep some of your time open each day it will give you more flexibility and control over your time.  By having time at the beginning, end and middle of my day makes it possible for me to keep an eye on the big picture as well as the small tasks.  When I am booked from start to finish I end up stressed and I struggle to maintain any form of productivity.

What are your favorite ways to allow flexibility in your schedule?

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