All posts by John Rampton

How to Leave Work at Work

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As an entrepreneur, I’m always thinking about my business. Sometimes it’s just reflecting on what I’ve accomplished or the areas that need improvement. Usually, that’s not a problem. What is a dilemma, though, is allowing these thoughts to interfere with my personal life. One example would be — bringing stress home with me or not being 100 percent present with my downtime.

If you’re in the same situation, you’ve probably been told just simply to set boundaries. Setting boundaries sounds excellent on paper. But, in reality, that’s not always possible. The good news is that are effective ways to leave work at work.

Plan your ideal week.

Yankees legend Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” For me, that means planning in advance, like mapping out your week. The reason? It’s a simple way to prevent work and life from always being at odds with each other. More importantly, it provides structure so that you can establish boundaries while also remaining productive.

While everyone has their own way of planing out their ideal week, here are some pointers to steer in you in the right direction:

  • Get a head start. Use either Friday afternoons or the weekend to list your priorities and add them to your calendar.
  • Sketch out your ideal week by using time blocks. Take into consideration date-specific events and tasks, and know when you’re most productive.
  • Create theme days based on your energy. For example, if you have the most energy and focus on Tuesday, that’s when you should schedule deep work.
  • Establish fulfilling routines. These are the activities that help you relax and make you happy, such as meditating or family game night.
  • Limit your plans. Stop overcommitting yourself by focusing on your top five high-objectives for the week.
  • Be ruthless. Delegate or drop anything from your to-do-list that isn’t a priority. Get comfortable saying, “no.” And, learn how to block out distractions.

Have a ritual to transition from work to home.

To me, this is all about changing your mindset from “work” mode to “home” mode. It’s like if you’ve ever played a sport. You’re just not going to show-up without warming up or listening to music that gets you psyched. On the flip side, when you’re done, you need to cool down and get back to homeostasis.

You can do this on your commute home by listening to a podcast that interests you but isn’t work-related. Call a friend or family member — studies have found that this energizes you more than coffee. Think about what you’re grateful for. Or, do a crossword puzzle.

Some people also immediately change out of their work clothes into something more comfortable as soon as they get home. Others go to the gym after work. Just try a couple of daily rituals out and see what works best for you.

Go on a tech detox — without stressing yourself out.

Technology is a blessing and a curse. It allows us to work whenever, wherever, and keep our fingers on the pulse of our business at all times. However, that also means we’re expected to work more hours.

In fact, according to a RescueTime study, people work an hour or more outside regular hours on 89 days of the year. But that’s not really the issue. It’s the anticipatory stress of receiving work-related messages off-hours.

Researchers from Lehigh University, Virginia Tech, and Colorado State University found that we feel more stressed and exhausted from expecting emails after hours than actually responding to them.

“It’s not only that employees are spending a certain amount of extra time answering emails, but it’s that they feel they have to be ready to respond, and they don’t know what the request will be,” said Samantha Conroy, one of the study’s authors. “So if they’re having dinner with their family, and hear that ‘ding,’ they feel they have to turn their attention away from their family and answer the email.”

What’s the solution here? Well, you can realistically go on a tech detox by:

  • Adding breaks and designated tech-free times. For instance, not responding to emails when having dinner — you can check your messages after.
  • Blocking apps at certain times, like when you’re meditating after work.
  • Assigning tech-zones in your home.
  • Allowing yourself to get comfortable with boredom. If you’re standing in line at the grocery on a Sunday, don’t look at your phone.
  • Consider removing social media apps from your phone. Some people also uninstall communication tools like Slack from their personal devices.
  • Spending your downtime in places where electronic frowned upon.
  • Stop relying on technology as much. Instead of using your phone for your alarm, invest in an old-school alarm clock.

Have mental clarity.

Mental clarity, according to Elizabeth Grace Saunders in HBR, is knowing “what needs to get done, and when you will complete it.” The most prominent example would dedicate “a place where you write down the many tasks that you need to do.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “in a notebook, a task management app, a project management system, or in your calendar.” The idea here so “that you’re not lying in bed at night trying to remember everything on your mental to-do list.”

After you’ve created this list, you’ll need to “plan out your work.” Ideally, this would be scheduling time in your calendar for your priorities. Sounds obvious. But, “this planning reduces the anxiety that something will fall through the cracks or that you’ll miss a deadline,” writes Elizabeth.

“The final part of increasing your mental clarity is to have an end-of-workday wrap-up.” At the minimum, this includes reviewing “your daily to-do list and calendar to make sure that everything that absolutely must get done.” It also wouldn’t hurt to “do a quick scan of your email to ensure any urgent messages are attended to before you leave the office.”

When you decide to check your emails and messages is up to your discretion. Some people do the last check of the night right before they leave work, like within the final 30-minutes of the day. Others prefer to do this activity during the last hour or two.

Prioritize your social life.

I get it. Some days you come home, and you just want to veg out — or get back to work. But, neither are always the answer if you want to leave work at work. The answer? Socializing.

A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that those who are more socially active are better able to recover from work strain and can sleep better at night.

To make socializing a priority, schedule social activities to your calendar. At the same time, you don’t want to overdo it. Sometimes you leave blank spaces in your schedule to allow for flexibility — like if you run unexpectedly into a friend.

Don’t hard crash your workday.

“Just as it’s never a good idea to hard crash your computer, you shouldn’t hard crash your day,” Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, Ph.D., organizational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan, told Forbes. “Closing out your day in an orderly and positive way is critical to making that clean psychological transition into the personal side of life.”

“Nobody likes that feeling of unfinished business hanging over their head while playing with the kids or dining with the family,” Woodward added. “So it’s important that you do what you can to make as clean a break as possible when walking out the office door.”

How should you wrap-up your workday? Well, here are some suggestions:

  • Evaluate your to-do-lists and review tomorrow’s schedule.
  • Check-in with your team to double-check deadlines and make sure everyone’s on the same page.
  • Tidy up and organize your workspace.
  • Tidy-up any loose ends like responding to an email.
  • Reflect on what you’ve accomplished.
  • Turn off your lights and equipment.
  • Commit to leaving stress behind at work.

Find ways to decompress.

Hopefully, if you’ve implemented a fulfilling routine, then you’re already finding healthy ways to relieve stress. Healthy examples of this are — meditating, exercising, and hanging out with friends and family. Other options are picking-up a hobby, learning something new, or engaging in a little self-care. You may even want to vent to someone who you trust — just don’t harp on what’s bothering you.

But, what if these examples are not enough to help you continue at your break-neck speeds? Well, establish a calm and therapeutic evening routine.

Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., and Wendy Millstine, NC., authors or Five Good Minutes in the Evening: 100 Mindful Practices to Help You Unwind from the Day & Make the Most of Your Night, also suggest:

  • Release nagging thoughts. If a work-related thought pops in your head, acknowledge it and name what you’re feeling. You can then tell this thought, “I hear you, but not now,” or “I release you.”
  • Unraveling like a thread. Use visualization to help you decompress, such as unwinding your thoughts like a spool of thread.
  • Surround yourself with humor. Watch a YouTube video, TV show, or movie that makes you laugh. Ask Google or Alexa to tell you a joke. Or, call someone who already makes you laugh.

Creating a Daily Schedule in the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic

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To-Do List

While we would all like it to be back to business as usual, the reality is that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed everything. With required quarantines, social distancing, and cancelled events and schools, it’s difficult to feel in control of our daily lives or the near future. Now faced with a lockdown that could go on for months, it may be even harder to maintain a sense of order to each day. You need to have a daily schedule in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

A New Way to Work, Learn, and Live

Remote workers most likely already are accustomed to keeping a regimented schedule while working from home. However, throw kids and a spouse into the mix, and that organized schedule may be anything but. Or, those workers who have not done remote shifts before may not know how to stay on top of their daily schedule and maintain productivity.

Schools and kids will have to adopt a new way to learn and study for the time-being. Also, companies and employees will have to find a way to keep productivity up, where possible, to maintain economic and financial stability. There are so many questions and concerns about what the near future holds that it is easy to hide under the covers or binge watch television until this crisis hopefully passes.

Stay Focused and Keep a Positive Perspective

During these uncertain times, it helps to stick to patterns that remind us of our normal lives. This can be comforting to us, as adults, as well as to our children.

These patterns give us something to focus on and a purpose regardless of how work and school may change in the coming weeks. Doing so may also help those around us adhere to similar schedules so life moves forward and work projects get wrapped up.

A Daily Schedule in the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Check our this daily schedule in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic as an approach the “new normal” of using our home as a place to work, learn, play, and live. Setting times to eat three nutritious meals, get rest, exercise, and be productive can also help keep our immune systems high to fight this virus and other health issues.

The schedule also emphasizes sticking to activities that keep us disciplined, such as getting dressed and making our beds, instead of giving up on these areas. It’s just like going to work except you are commuting from your bedroom to an office in your home.

The blocks of time also help us figure out how to work in new tasks that we might not have had to deal with because schools were covering those areas. Think of it as an excellent opportunity to enjoy more quality time with our kids and keep them on a similarly productive schedule.

Coronavirus Daily Schedule

New Opportunities

Most people may dread this new self-imposed quarantine and disruption to our lives, but we can also see it as an opportunity. With our hectic lives, we may have been missing out on a lot of time with our kids and each other. Our hobbies probably were long-forgotten and many other tasks around the house went undone. Now is the time to use those free times on the above schedule to reconnect with each other, pick up those hobbies, and catch up on much-needed activities and maintenance around the home.

Even though you are home and working differently, plan time to catch up with colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors virtually. We have so many technologies that allow us to continue meeting together online through video conferencing and tools like FaceTime and Skype. Be there to support each other and help them maintain the same sense of normalcy you are trying to keep in your own home. It’s a critical time to reach out to others around you to see if they need any help, a listening ear, or a kind word.

It’s OK to Take a Break — Even if You’re an Entrepreneur

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It's OK to Take a Break-Even if You're an Entrepreneur

There seems to be a serious epidemic among entrepreneurs. Whether you’re a rookie or seasoned vet, there’s a mentality that we have to work more than 40 hours per week. There are times when that’s the case. Let’s say that you’re launching a new product or service. You should definitely expect to be putting in extra time at work until it’s complete. But what about the rest of the time? Hey, it’s okay to take a break, even if you’re an entrepreneur

Elon Musk has said that he works a staggering 120-hours per week. Gary Vaynerchuk has suggested you put in 18-hour days. And, Grant Cardone has said that if you want to become a millionaire, you need to work 95 hours per week or 14-hours per day.

From the outside, that just sounds ridiculous. However, that doesn’t always mean that these entrepreneurs are working 10-14 hours straight — every single day. However, with the individuals I work with — that’s precisely what they mean. Day in and day out, for years — they work this many hours or more. I know from my own experience that with a business — it’s hard to tune out and leave it alone. And when you try to tune out — you’re still thinking about the business.

Some entrepreneurs put in more hours without stopping — and they can’t help themselves. It’s not healthy mentally or physically and, many studies now show that it’s not as good for your business as you may think.

In an open letter to Musk, Arianna Huffington wrote, “Working 120-hour weeks doesn’t leverage your unique qualities, it wastes them. You can’t simply power through — that’s just not how our bodies and our brains work.” She added, “Nobody knows better than you that we can’t get to Mars by ignoring the laws of physics. Nor can we get where we want to go by ignoring scientific laws in our daily lives.”

I learned the consequences of ignoring the laws of psychology, if not physics, the hard way. While I wasn’t working 120-hour weeks, I was consistently doing 80 hours. I was spending way too much time at work. As a result, my health was no longer a priority. Relationships with coworkers, friends, and family became strained, and I teetered on the edge of burnout.

Still believing that an entrepreneur has to work more hours to be successful — you can do that work differently. Finally, admit to yourself taking breaks is essential. Take a moment to think logically, with a different thought process. You’ll want to take breaks for the following reasons.

It’s good for your brain.

As Meg Selig points out in Psychology Today, research shows that taking breaks helps your brain in the following ways:

  • “Movement breaks” are essential for your well-being.
    Considering that there’s a mental health crisis in entrepreneurship, this may be the key. Getting up from your desk and moving, even if it’s just a “5-minute walk every hour, can improve your health and well-being.”
  • Breaks prevent decision fatigue.
    “Author S.J. Scott points out that the need to make frequent decisions throughout your day can wear down your willpower and reasoning ability.” Can you guess a simple way to combat this?
  • Breaks restore motivation, especially for long-term goals.
    “When we work, our prefrontal cortex makes every effort to help us execute our goals,” wrote author Nir Eyal. “But for a challenging task that requires our sustained attention, research shows briefly taking our minds off the goal can renew and strengthen motivation later on.”
  • Breaks increase creativity and productivity.
    “Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative,” notes Selig. “‘Aha moments’ came more often to those who took breaks, according to research.”
  • “Waking rest” helps consolidate memories and improve learning.
    Waking rest is, “resting while awake, likewise improves memory formation.” Meditation could be an example of waking rest.

Still not convinced? Well, taking breaks can also help you refocus your concentration. And, if you’re stuck on a problem, then taking a breather can help you come up with solutions faster.

“While it is commonly assumed that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to focus relentlessly — this clenched state of mind comes with a hidden cost. [The hidden cost] is that it inhibits the sort of creative connections that lead to breakthroughs,” writes Jonah Lehrer in Imagine: How Creativity Works. “We suppress the very type of brain activity that should be encouraged.”

Opportunity to gain fresh perspectives.

Regardless of how you define your break — take a break. Your break may be merely leaving the office to grab lunch with a friend, or it may be to disappear for a week-long vacation with your family. Stepping away from work exposes you to new things. I know it sounds cliche. But, it’s truth — and we need to know what the truth is for ourselves in our own situations.

Getting out of your workplace helps you develop new ideas. Maybe your break is bouncing feedback from your friend at lunch. Maybe when commuting back to work, you notice a new opportunity that can separate you from your competitors. Can traveling push you out of your comfort zone and give you a chance to have new experiences? Yes, it can. These type of breaks, also, prevent isolation.

Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, and that can be a problem. After all, loneliness can lead to mental health struggles like depression, stress, and anxiety.

Taking a break allows you to interact with others. It could be walking around the workplace and checking-in with your team. While commuting to a meeting, you may strike up a conversation with a stranger. And, when you’re not obsessed with work, you can strengthen your relationships with your friends and family.

Reminds you of the bigger picture.

“When you’re focused on the minutiae of a complex task, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the bigger, more strategic picture,” writes Barry Chignel over on CIPHR. “Take a break, step back, and reassess your goals and priorities to make sure that you’re giving your attention to the right tasks and projects.”

“Being able to see this broader view is particularly important for managers,” adds Chignel. That’s because “they need to maintain their focus on strategic goals and not be distracted by process-driven tasks that could be delegated to other members of their team.”

Cultivates healthier habits.

Make no mistake about it. Working too much adds unnecessary stress to your life. As you already know, stress can lead to many symptoms that affect your health and well-being. But did you know that stress can also influence your habits?

Research has found that during times of stress, we fall back on our habits. That wouldn’t be so bad if you were falling back on healthy habits like exercising. But, what if it’s a bad habit like overeating, smoking, or binge drinking? Well, then, you have a reason for concern.

Frequent breaks not only reduce stress, but they also give you the time to indulge in healthy habits. Instead of eating fast food for lunch, you can enjoy a healthy meal because you’re taking a lunch break. In-between tasks, you can use that downtime to go for a walk or meditate. And, during the weekend or vacation, you can engage in a self-care activity.

How to take a break.

Despite the benefits listed above, entrepreneurs still struggle with taking breaks. So, I suggest taking it slow and easing your way into it.

The most obvious place to start would be working breaks into your daily schedule. I’ve found that you should track your time for around a month to determine when you’re most productive.

Thanks to ultradian rhythms, this is different for everyone. But, in most cases, we have energy peaks for about 60-90 minutes. You then experience an energy lull. Knowing this, you could plan your day by blocking out an hour for work and then scheduling a 10-to-20 minute break.

The caveat for you may be resisting the urge to take longer breaks. Keep your breaks short and use reminders to keep your schedule on-track. Also, make sure that you schedule a proper lunch break as well.

Another pointer would be to learn how to optimize your time. Use whatever trick works best for you. But, the idea here is to reduce your workload so that you have more flexibility in your schedule to take a breather.

And, establish boundaries. Creating and keeping boundaries means when you’re home and spending time with your family, give 100% of your attention to them. When you’re hiking or hanging out with friends on a Saturday, there are no answering work-related messages.

In short, leave work at work. I know. It’s going to take a lot of willpower. But, try it for a couple of hours and work your way up. You’ll notice that everything you built didn’t come crumbling down because you’re disconnected from work occasionally.

Eventually, when you’re comfortable — plan for larger breaks. I’m talking about the occasional day-off. I love to take a lengthy vacation — and work on the vacation, too. And I like to work on short vacations also. Will it be in our best interest to take a real break? Hey, most entrepreneurs will likely resist taking a real vacation at first. Should we try to make the “taking a vacation goal,” together? I’m up for it — if you are.

4 Myers-Briggs Personality Combos that Make Great Teams

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Any team is comprised of people with different personality types — and this is what you want. If you are the founder or CEO of your company, you’ll want to take an analytical approach to your team — by putting the right combination of people together. Because some differences are more subtle than others, using a personality test can be a great way to figure out which groups click the best. Here are four Myers-Briggs personality combos that make great teams.

One of the more popular personality tests out there is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which determines personalities across four axes:

  • Extroversion (E) vs. Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)

There will continue to be growth in the area of personalities. When you’re trying to run a business, it may feel like personality traits merely get in the way. But each side of the Myers-Briggs traits comes with strengths and weaknesses, and combining them for peak productivity is not as simple as putting similar personalities together. Take a look at these winning combinations to see how they can bring the best out of one another:

The Mediator (INFP) and The Commander (ENTJ).

Mediators and Commanders have a lot to offer any workforce. Mediators have a creative personality and express themselves best through writing as opposed to speaking. A Mediator is typically harder to please, and they prefer to either work with the best or just work alone. The Mediator personality type might seem suited to solo work — but the personality is great to pair with the Commander.

Even though one is an introvert and the other is an extrovert, this yin and yang duo can work well together if they accept one another’s differences and focus more on their similarities. Both the Mediator and the Commander have a common trait, and common ground — they both have intuitiveness (N). They both enjoy thinking about the possibilities that the future holds. Commanders can help Mediators become more organized, encouraging them to plan and communicate effectively in a work environment. Mediators can trim off the impulsive-brashness of the Commander.

In this team pairing — have the Commander initiate the plan of action. The Mediator may be tempted to wait for instructions. The Commander may also appreciate the challenge of helping the Mediator become more assertive. You will want to speak to this combo together and speak frankly about how you want them to operate together, and then let them take the process of working together, forward from there.

The INFJ (the Advocate) and the ENFP (the Champion).

You might be excited to have an outgoing and ambitious team member such as the Champion, but this personality type can be tough to work with.

Although the Champion has strong people skills, this person tends to rely on approval from others to feel accepted. The Champion tends to get stressed out if things aren’t going their way. The Champion dreams and has huge plans, which they can make work if they have a cheerleader behind them. Nothing squashes the productivity of your Champion faster than being unsupported. The Champion does not take directions from others well. With those challenges in mind, it might be best to find your Champion an Advocate.

The Advocate derives energy from within; they are humble, and always there to offer support to those who need this type of support. Without even realizing it, Advocates often think about the feelings of others before themselves.

When you put the Champion and the Advocate together, they tend to balance each other out. Give this pair of team members projects that require attention to detail. The Champion can put together the plan of action, while the Advocate can make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

The ESFJ (the Caregiver) and the ESTJ (the Director).

The combination of the Caregiver and the Director is one that has two extroverts. The dynamic duo makes a lot of sense for sales teams. Both the Caregiver and the Director types get energy from interacting with others, and both are suited to a fast-paced work environment.

Directors do well in an office environment and hold on to a sense of tradition. Getting up to go to work isn’t a chore for them; it’s part of their identity. The Director gives much thought to their decision-making. They are hard-working, and they have excellent leadership skills. Introverted people might take the Director for being a little bit harsh and demanding, which makes them a good match for other extroverts, such as Caregivers.

Caregivers love to interact with people and won’t feel like they’re getting pushed around by Directors. While the Caregiver and Director both enjoy structure and organization, Caregivers will typically have higher emotional intelligence, so they will be able to spot emotional problems and regulate their own emotions in ways that Directors will not. When the Caregiver controls their emotions, it gives support to the Director which allows them to function better.

Learning about emotional regulation and why it matters, Dr. Amelia Aldao, Psychology Today suggests ways that people can up-regulate or down-regulate their emotions to get a benefit.

While some personality types might try to hide problems that are going on at work, both the Director and the Caregiver would rather face challenges head-on. Trust these two team members to speak up if something isn’t working right in your business or organization.

INTP (the Thinker) and INTJ (the Architect).

If you need strategic thinkers, the duo of the Thinker and the Architect are a great pick. These two personality types are introverts. The Thinker will think outside the box, while still relying on the facts to come up with their hypothesis. The Thinker tends to do better with team members who don’t need a lot of attention, and who share similar interests. While the Thinker might not have the best people skills, and won’t talk much — they’ll get right to the point without beating around the bush when something has to be said. The Thinker also dives directly into projects without delay.

What’s the Architect’s role? The Architect team member is the person who can challenge any point and help you see all angles of any situation. You should listen to what they object to because they likely see something that other team members cannot. The Architect is great at implementing the Thinker’s ideas. Both of these individuals are intuitive — and what they can always flesh out is the stakeholders’ motivations. Put the Thinker and the Architect types in a quiet and creative environment, and let their minds run free. Assign the Thinker and the Architect tasks that require a little more abstract thinking.

It’s tempting to focus on personality differences when you are working on a team. But keep in mind that diverse types can work well together. Personality typing should serve to help you create great conversations and projects. Using personality typing doesn’t need to drive a wedge between people of different types. Take a moment on your team and sleuth-out the differing personality types. Pair them well — and reap the rewards.

What Makes Companies Like Apple and Google so Productive?

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According to Bain & Company, companies like Apple, Netflix, Google, and Dell are 40% more productive than the average company. Think about that: 40% is not a small margin, and the tech giants use many of the same tools that enterprises in other industries do. So, why are the top tech companies so much more productive? Here is what makes companies like Apple and Google so productive.

It’s easy to assume that big-name companies are more productive because they attract the best candidates. But Bain & Company found that 16% of these companies’ staff are star players — just 1% above the norm of 15%.

So what do the top performers have in common? To maximize productivity high, they emphasize:

1. Employee Happiness

The attitude that employees have about their work can significantly increase their output. Research shows that no matter the role, happiness boosts workers’ productivity by 12%. The happier employees are, the less time they spend stressing or worrying.

But happiness isn’t built with any single job attribute or perk. It’s created through a combination of:

  • Flexibility

Flexible employers give employees the option to work when and where they prefer. Flexibility makes workers feel appreciated, encourages work-life balance, and opens the door to non-traditional applicants.

Just look at Dell’s “Connected Workplace” initiative. By improving technology and boosting collaboration, the tech company skyrocketed employee satisfaction. Dell reported the program innovated how it does businesses and benefited the individuals, leadership, and company as a whole.

  • Trust

Organizational drag can waste a lot of employee time. But while processes like spending limits, audits, and employee time tracking can seem significant, they should be minimized whenever possible.

Netflix is an excellent example of a corporation giving its employees the trust and freedom to act in the company’s best interest. Believe it or not, Netflix has no expense policy. Its only guide is to “Act in the best interest of Netflix.”

People do not join a company to rip it off. Employees rely on their employers to put food on their table, so they typically think twice before taking advantage.

  • Pay

Not all companies can pay top dollar for talent. But there’s no doubt the tech giants know it’s essential for productivity.

In 2018, Amazon raised its minimum hourly wage to $15, while the federal minimum wage was only $7.25. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and others are known as some of the top-paying companies in their space.

Paying higher wages does attract better candidates, but it’s not the only reason to do so. Employees who are paid more tend to be more motivated. And when those employees leave, their replacements are waiting at the door, drastically reducing recruitment costs.

2. Employee Investment

An engaged employee is 44% more productive than a satisfied employee. Engaged employees feel a sense of buy-in because they feel invested in the company.

Here, too, Dell gets high marks. On its careers page, Dell emphasizes training to help employees gain experience and learn through mentorship, coaching, feedback, and rewards. The reason likely traces back to that “Connected Workplace” study, which found sales teams led by an inspiring leader were 6% more productive than teams with an average leader.

Inspiration is not innate. Take a genuine interest in employees’ lives. Be not just a coach, but a listener and empathetic leader. Give your team members a reason to want to come to work every day.

3. Teamwork

Individual talent is vital during the hiring process, of course. What company doesn’t want the cream of the crop?

But once the hiring process is over and onboarding begins, companies must stress the importance of teamwork. When successes are shared, everyone in the organization works to lift each other. Getting ahead becomes something the team does together. In that sort of environment, productivity is about the organization’s advancement, not just “getting ahead at work.”

A great example of a team-oriented company is Apple. When Apple was developing iOS 10, it put 600 engineers on the project. Also, it did not reward any one person’s success. No one on the team could receive an exceptional appraisal unless everyone on the team did.

Microsoft, on the other hand, stacked 10,000 engineers on teams to develop its Vista operating system. Microsoft ranked the teams and rewarded 20% of every team with an excellent review and compensated individuals on their performance. Apple’s team-based approach resulted in a fully developed, debugged, and deployed software in less than two years. Microsoft’s software took nearly five years to develop, debug, and eventually retract.

Just because these tech companies have big names and even bigger budgets does not mean smaller firms can’t follow their examples. Boosting productivity is a matter of investing in people, keeping them happy, and helping them work well with others. Superstar workers are essential, but superstar teams make the difference.

What are Your Top Productivity Strategies?

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Business professional sitting outside working on laptop next to spring flowers

When you think about it, most things in life are subjective. Your favorite color, food, band, or movie? They are your personal favorites — no matter what anyone else says. In other words, there’s no right or wrong answer. In a way, the same is true of productivity strategies. What makes a top productivity strategy for me may not fly with you. And, what works for Elon Musk, Oprah, or your best friend may not be a useful technique for you.

Like your favorite food or music — you want to share your favorites with others. Who knows? Maybe all the famous ones would agree with you? That’s why we’ve collected some of the top productivity strategies for you to implement. Hopefully, you can use them to boost your productivity.

But, if one way to productivity doesn’t work for you, then try out the next suggestion you hear about. Or, even better, make some adjustments and make it your own. You will find a strategy that will work for you. Just keep trying.

Stack your habits.

“You probably have powerful habits and connections that you take for granted each day,” James Clear writes in “Atomic Habits.” “For example, your brain is probably very efficient at remembering to take a shower each morning or to brew your morning cup of coffee or to open the blinds when the sun rises — or thousands of other daily habits.”

But, did you know that you can “take advantage of these strong connections to build new habits?” It’s possible with something called habit stacking.

Basically, this is where you “identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.” And, you’ll use the following formula to achieve this: After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

Here’s an example from Clear; “After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.” After meditating, you would write your to-do-list for the day. And, after that, you would begin working on your first task.

The key is to make sure that “the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.” When it is, you’ll have clear goals that will add-up to small wins over time.

Stand on your (Eisenhower) soapbox.

A priority matrix is one of the most effective ways to prioritize your lists. In turn, this will make you more productive since it encourages you to focus only on what you need to get done. And, even better, it keeps distractions at bay by ensuring that you don’t fall into the urgency trap.

One of the most popular priority matrixes around is the Eisenhower Matix. I’ve written and spoken about this before. Named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and first supreme commander of NATO, this principle is extremely simple to do.

“Create a four-quadrant box and place all of the items on your list into one of the following quadrants,” explains Calendar’s Angela Ruth:

  • Urgent and important. Tasks that you will do immediately.
  • Important, but not urgent. Tasks that you’ll schedule for later.
  • Urgent, but not important. Anything that can be delegated to someone else.
  • Neither urgent or important. These should be eliminated from your list and schedule.

“If you have multiple items in the urgent and important box, assign each item a number,” says Angela. “For example, if you have a task that’s due to today, then that would be assigned the number one since that’s your main priority for the day.”

Get magically whisked away to 1918 with the Ivy Lee Method.

For over a century, this has been a popular productivity technique that’s helped people regain control of their schedules.

Named after Ivy Lee, a productivity consultant hired by leaders like Charles M. Schwab, this is a night routine that only takes 15-minutes. When your home is quiet, “jot down the five or six most important things you want to accomplish the next day.” Next, you’ll put them in order, “starting with the most important task first thing in the morning.”

“The Ivy Lee Method is so effective because by planning your day the night before, you reduce decision fatigue and reserve your energy for your most meaningful work. You wake up knowing exactly what you’ll be working all day instead of wasting valuable time and energy making decisions in the morning.”

Write over 40-books using this 15-minute morning routine.

Anthony Trollope is a fascinating historical figure. From 1843 to 1883, he wrote 47 novels, 17 non-fiction books, two plays, and over 20 articles and letters. What makes this even more impressive? He did this while holding down a full-time job as a post office inspector.

So, how was he able to achieve such a feat?

Well, he had a dedicated morning routine that supercharged his productivity.

“It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5.30 A.M., and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy,” Trollope noted his Autobiography. “It had at this time become my custom, and is still my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient of myself, to write with my watch before me, and to require of myself 250 words every quarter of an hour.”

“This division of time allowed me to produce over ten pages of an ordinary novel volume a day, and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its results, three novels of three volumes each in the year.”

So, let’s break this down.

Because he already had a packed schedule, Trollope had to get creative by finding any possible free time. That meant waking up early and writing before going to work.

Next, he had to make sure that he didn’t waste any of this valuable time. He accomplished this through timed writing sessions. It’s similar to the Pomodoro Technique, where he only concentrated on writing for specific amounts of time — aka, no multitasking.

Finally, Trollope also tracked his progress. He was known for keeping track of how many pages he wrote each day to keep the momentum going.

As Trollope himself discovered, “A small daily task — if it be really daily, — will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules.”

Adhere to the Five Project Rule.

Throughout my life, I’ve known so many people who are always jumping from one thing to the next. The problem isn’t that they aren’t motivated or driven. It’s just that they never finish what they started.

“If you’re always starting interesting projects and not finishing, then no matter how hard you work, you’re just busy, not productive.”

It’s true. You may have learned some things along the way. But, you don’t get that release of dopamine when you finish something. That may not sound like much, but when you feel good and proud of your finished result, you want to keep repeating that behavior.

Additionally, there’s the Zeigarnik Effect. In a nutshell, this refers to “the tendency to better remember unfinished tasks than completed ones.” As such, this creates cognitive tension where uncompleted tasks stay on the top of your mind until finished.

While that can be used to your advantage, like overcoming procrastination, it can also be a distraction. Besides, at some point, you may have to circle back to this unfinished project. And that can be a waste of time and energy. It’s pretty great always to finish what you start.

A simple way to start finishing what matters is to use the “Five Project Rule.” It’s a concept described by Charlie Gilkey in “Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done.”

“You will never be able to do all the things you think you might want to do,” Gilkey told John Lee Dumas. “And that’s just part of being human. But when you accept that fact, you can get down to three to five active projects.

“Active projects are the ones that you’re pushing for,” says Gilkey. “You’re working them. They’re on your virtual or physical desktop. You’re touching them daily.”

Adopt an A/B schedule.

As Andee Love explains in a Fast Company article, this is where you divide your “schedule between ‘A’ and ‘B’ weeks for different types of work.” The reason why this is effective is that it keeps you energized since it lowers the cost of context switching.

If that’s something you would be interested in, then here’s how to get started:

  • Examine your current schedule. “Look closely at how many hours you’re spending on each task, or the role your work demands,” writes Love. “Then imagine what it would look and feel like if you put each into its own block, day or week.” For example, could you schedule all of your meetings in one or two days per week?
  • Communicate. Once you’ve blocked out your time, let others know. Personally, the easiest way to do this is by sharing your calendar. Remember, if someone wants to meet with you, for example, they’ll see this is only an option on select days.
  • Tinker. Play around with your new schedule until it works for you.
  • Keep your health in mind. Don’t forget to “build adequate rest breaks, movement, and time for healthy eating into your schedule.”

Pop from location to location.

Here we have a productivity hack from Joel Runyon on Impossible HQ. It’s called ‘Workplace Popcorn,” and it goes like this:

  • List everything that you need to do today. Be as specific as possible.
  • Break that list into three equal sections. “These sections should be equal in terms of how much time they’re likely to take to complete,” writes Runyon. “If you’re not sure how long a task will take, guess.”
  • Here’s where the popcorn fits in — find three different places to work. So, for your first list of tasks, you would work from home. You would “pop” over to a coworking space for the second list. And, for the third list, you could work from a cafe.

Follow the Law of Least Effort.

Are you sitting down for this? Long hours don’t make you more productive. According to a Stanford study, productivity declines after someone has worked for more than 50 hours. It’s such a dropoff that putting in more hours would be pointless.

“Busyness is not a means to accomplishment, but an obstacle to it,” writes Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a Stanford scholar and author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.” That’s because we often define ourselves by our “work, dedication, effectiveness, and willingness to go the extra mile,” so working less is often viewed as a barrier to success.

I know. Getting more done by doing less may sound like a pipe dream. But it’s possible. One such way to achieve this is adopting a spiritual law of success known as the Law of Least Effort.

Kabir Sehgal and Deepak Chopra explain in a CNBC article that this “law is based on the idea that nature’s intelligence functions with the effortless ease of action and without resistance.” And, it’s easy to incorporate into your life:

  • Accept your current situation. It’s a simple way to stop “reacting to the events around you and instead encourages you to simply acknowledge them” and stay in the present.
  • Take accountability for your current situation. Don’t point fingers or let negativity drag you down. Admit your mistakes, learn from them, and grow.
  • Detach yourself from ‘who gets the credit.’ Stop getting caught up in nonsense that throws you off track. Instead, “focus on the items that truly matter and give meaning.”

Tap into the power of solitude.

“It’s important to spend time around people,” writes Amy Morin. “You can improve your habits and learn new things when you’re surrounded by interesting people.” And, as found in the popular 80-year Harvard study, relationships help us live longer and make us happier.

However, spending too much time around people “might also be a bad thing,” states Morin. “Our digital devices often make us feel like we need to be connected 24/7.” And, even worse, “all of the noise, activity, and hustle can wear you out (and ironically can leave you feeling lonelier than ever).”

That’s why despite getting a bad rap, we should occasionally embrace solitude. In addition to being “an essential component to your health and well-being,” spending time alone can make you more successful by:

  • Helping you get to know yourself better.
  • Breaking down “we vs. them” mentality, which can improve relationships.
  • Being alone fosters creativity.
  • Improving your psychological well-being.
  • Allows you to plan your life.

Additionally, in “Time Management,” written by Fabien Weisberg, solitude, can “help you become better at managing your time effectively.” The reason? “Being alone is when you need to figure out what you need and want to do.”

Does this mean that you have to go off the grid and disappear for an extended period? Nope. “Just 10 minutes of alone time each day could be enough to help you rejuvenate from the daily grind,” writes Morin. Too bust for this simple activity? Then block out some alone time in your calendar in advance like you would with an appointment or meeting.

During this time you could go for a walk, meditate, or sit quietly in your office. Just remember to “silence your electronics and allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts.”

Do you have a favorite productivity strategy? Let us know all about it!

How to Realistically Go on a Tech Detox Without Destroying Your Schedule

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11 hours. That’s how much time the average adult is interacting with media per day. More specifically, another study found that 42 percent of the time Americans are awake, their eyes are fixated on the television, smartphone, computer, tablet, or another device. That comes out to 7,956 days over a typical lifespan. We can’t just turn it all off in this world we live in, but here is how to realistically go on a tech detox without destroying your whole schedule.

We don’t rely on tech to merely to keep us entertained. It’s become essential. After all, tech has drastically improved communication, networking, and work efficiency.

It can assist in employee engagement and discover new opportunities for growth. And, with an unlimited supply, tech is the most powerful tool to learn and gain valuable insights.

Why you need a tech detox.

At the same time, too much of good thing can be bad. And, tech is no exception because of the following reasons.

So, what’s the compromise here? I mean tech has become an integral part of our lives. But, it also has its faults. So, the easiest solution may be going on a digital detox.

Don’t get too hung up on the term here. A digital detox is simply a period of time when you unplug and disconnect from your electronic gadgets. And, by doing so, you can counter those negative effects — and rebalance.

Here’s the problem though. Doing a digital detox can also destroy your schedule. Can you just imagine the chaos it would cause if your family, business partners, employees, or customers couldn’t contact you for several days? Additionally, you probably need technology to get your work done and accomplish your goals.

1. Put it on your calendar.

Like anything else that you really want to do, whether it’s getting work done or starting a new hobby — you have to make time for any additions. And, the same is true when disconnecting. You’ll have to make time for the disconnect.

Making time for this effort will be a challenge. So, start small. Let’s say that you’re using a productivity hack like the Pomodoro Technique. During the times you’re not working go on a min-detox. Even ten-minutes would suffice since the world isn’t going to burn down in such a small amount of time. Even better, that time can be spent going for a walk, resting your eyes, or meditating.

I’d also suggest that you designate tech-free times — such as when eating meals or the first hour after getting home from work.

From here, gradually work your way up. Are you going on a weekend getaway? Great. That’s a perfect time to go off the grid for a day or two. You’ll know this time in advance, you can give everyone a head’s up, and you prepare for the shutdown. You could even create an out-of-office message notifying people when you’ll be returning. But you’ll have to get ahead on your work, or this won’t work for you.

2. Block apps at certain times.

Completely turning off your devices, particularly your phone can give some a serious anxiety attack. I’m not being facetious either. The main culprits for this are FOMO and that a lot of people view their phones as an extension to themselves.

Researchers believe that “defined and protected” periods of smartphone separation “may allow consumers to perform better, not just by reducing interruptions but also by increasing available cognitive capacity.” Adding these expected periods in your calendar is a start. But, so would blocking distracting apps at certain times.

There a number of apps that allow your set time limits or screen time on your Android or iOS device. For example, you could shut down your social media apps when focusing on deep work. Other apps let you set a schedule. In this case, you could block work-related apps or sites during family game night or when embarking in your evening routine.

3. Designate tech-free zones.

Examples of a tech-free zone would be an unused office that you or employees could use to mediate or nap-in or lunchroom. At home, a tech-free zone might be your dining room or bedroom.

Besides banning electronics from these areas, which makes it easier to unplug, it shouldn’t interfere with your schedule. The reason? You probably have scheduled times to be in these zones. For instance, if you’re lying in bed until it’s time for sleep or waiting to eat a meal until you’re on a break — you can accomplish another activity in this timeframe.

4. Incorporate boredom into your day.

Sometimes we get glued to our gadgets because we’re bored. For example, you’re waiting in a line to pay for your groceries or for a meeting to start. Instead of just sitting there, you scroll through your phone or tablet.

Like exercising, start building your boredom muscle. Keep your phone in your pocket and let your mind wander. As a result, this will make you more creative, self-aware, goal-oriented, and productive.

5. Get less social.

It’s unlikely that you can permanently quit social media. But, there are ways to reduce the time spent on these channels.

For starters, remove the apps from your phone so that you aren’t getting bombarded with notifications. If this isn’t an option, then at least remove the apps from your home screen so that you aren’t tempted to look at them.

Secondly, you may want to do a little spring cleaning and delete the accounts you aren’t using. Even glancing and using brain power passing over apps or accounts you don’t use, uses up seconds of brainpower. Snapchat may have been cool a couple of years ago when all your friends signed-up. But, now it’s an unused app because they got tired of it. I need this app because of my family, but you may not need it.

Thirdly, automate or delegate recurring tasks related to social media. You could use a tool like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to schedule social posts. Or, you could assign this responsibility to someone else.

Finally, block out specific times to log on. Ideally, this would be before work, after lunch, and after work. It’s a simple way to fight back against FOMO, while also limiting your usage.

6. Keep your inbox in check.

The average person spends five hours a day on email. What’s more, 13% said that they check their inbox while still in bed. And, 25% of Millennials and Gen X admitted that they check their work emails multiple times a day while on vacation.

To keep your inbox in check so that it’s more manageable, block out specific times to go through it. A perfect time would ben when updating your social accounts. You could set up filters, labels, and unsubscribe from newsletters that you never open.

You should also find ways to reduce the number of messages being sent. One way would be to use “EOM” at the end of your subject line. Standing for “end-of-message,” this lets the recipient know that there’s no need to respond.

You could also use a tool like Calendar. Sure. It’s not an email-specific app. But, it’s a scheduling tool that eliminates those back-and-forth communication when planning a meeting.

7. Spend more time in places where electronic devices aren’t permitted.

Yes. There are still some places where digital devices aren’t embraced with welcome arms. For instance, a yoga class or a place of worship. Even locations like coffee shops and libraries can at least limit your usage. Let’s say that you’re productive at a local coffee shop. You may need to be on your laptop. But, taking a phone call or not silencing your notifications will definitely earn you some dirty looks.

8. Schedule a call or one-on-one.

The other day I had a colleague text me a question. As I went to respond, I realized it would be more efficient and less consuming if I just called him. And, that’s exactly what I did. Instead of exchanging texts all day, it took me all of five minutes to answer the question.

9. Be respectful of others’ time.

As I’ve mentioned, technology can be distracting. But, that’s just not when you’re trying to work. It’s also during meetings or talking to others. Think about it. There’s someone speaking and your attention is elsewhere. That’s rude and can bring things to halt since you’re missing key information and have to constantly ask the other party to repeat themselves.

10. Go old school.

Finally, stop relying on technology so much. I know it’s awesome. But, as opposed to jotting down notes on your phone’s notepad, use a pen, paper, or a whiteboard. The reason? It will prevent you from getting sucked into an app.

Another option would be to use an alarm clock and not your phone to wake-up. The same can be said of using your old wristwatch instead of a smartwatch. And, think about printing out your calendar or using a paper calendar so that you can see what your schedule is like without being reliant on tech.

6 Ways to Identify to Whom You’ll Delegate Sensitive Tasks

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Mastering the art of delegation is a skill everyone should learn to master. I know that giving up control is never easy. But, admit it, Tiger. You just can’t do everything on your own. Besides, when you learn how to effectively delegate, you’re able to lessen your workload. As a result, you have more time to focus on areas like growing your business and attending to your own well-being. It’s not always easy, but you’ll need to identify to whom you’ll delegate sensitive tasks.

Delegating specific sensitive tasks cultivates a culture of trust.

What’s more, assign some of your responsibilities can help team members develop and enhance their skills. Delegating specific tasks also cultivates a culture of trust. Having trust in your business can take your business to the next level since you have the right people working on more suitable tasks.

For example, let’s say you do not have a background in accounting. Moreover, crunching numbers paralyzes you with fear. To save time, your sanity, and to avoid potential mistakes, accounting and financial matters would be something that you would hand over to someone else. As soon as your startup can afford it, you definitely would hire an accountant. But, for now, you’ll delegate this specific task to one who is more familiar with accounting and bookkeeping.

Are you’re still uncertain of which tasks to offload? Right upfront in the delegation of jobs, Jenny Blake, in a piece for the Harvard Business Review, suggests using the six T’s:

  • Tiny. These are any small and inconsequential tasks that are neither urgent nor important.
  • Tedious. Straightforward assignments that aren’t deserving of your time, like filling out a spreadsheet.
  • Time-consuming. Important responsibilities that do not require 100% of your energy.
  • Teachable. These are tasks that you teach someone else to take over, such as showing an employee how to draft a presentation deck. Just remember to conduct quality checks and give a final stamp of approval.
  • Terrible at. Anything that you’re not strong at should be assigned to someone who does possess the right skills.
  • Time Sensitive. These are deadlines or urgent matters that compete with your other priorities. For instance, leaving your phone or tablet on a plane. Instead of spending all day on the phone with the airline, this could be done by someone like your assistant.

Delegating work that involves personal information, intellectual property, or company intelligence has to have special care taken with it for security purposes. 

But, what about work that is more sensitive? I’m talking about things that could involve personal information, intellectual property, or plans for a merger. You just can’t assign them willy-nilly. For the safety of you and your company, you’re going to have to identify an individual trusted person. Make certain that sensitive information is in the hands of someone you have complete trust and confidence in — someone who has proven loyalty.

If you’re in this situation, here are six ways to identify the right person to delegate sensitive tasks to..

1. Select someone that you already trust.

When I started my business, my first hires were family members since I trust them wholeheartedly. I was also familiar with what their strengths and weaknesses were. And, even as my business has grown, I still turn them when I need to pass on delicate tasks.

Outside of your spouse, parents, or siblings, you could also relegate these types of responsibilities to friends. I would be careful here, however. Personally, I would only reach out to the people who you know are responsible or who you consider to be confident. If possible, focus on those whom you’ve worked with previously.

And, there are also employees that have been entrusted with such work in the past. When I started Calendar, I hired people who I had worked with before or was currently working with already. I knew what they could and couldn’t do. I also was aware of how dependable they were. If they hadn’t let me down in the past, then I was certain that I could trust them going forward.

2. Get to know your team members.

What about new hires or team members that you’ve never handed over sensitive tasks to? Well, take the time to get to know them better. You could do this by chatting with them during breaks or through team-building activities. Afterward, you’ll get to know their personalities, interests, unique talents and limitations. Now you should be able to match the requirements of the job to the right person.

If you’re stuck on determining which employees are best suited for specific tasks, here are some pointers to guide you in the decision-making process:

  • Any work that is tedious and repetitive should go to employees who are task-focused.
  • Confident employees should be given project management responsibilities.
  • For tasks the require planning, scheduling, or due dates hand them over to organized team members who never miss deadlines.
  • Seasoned employees could be delegated new or unique tasks to break-up the monotony.
  • Your most easy-going staff members could be assigned the things that you hate-to-do.
  • Delegate smaller tasks to newer staff to help them build their confidence and develop new skills. It also allows you to identify what they can be trusted with and what they can not.

3. Pick someone with availability.

There have been times when I overloaded some of the freelancers I hired. Because they want that extra cash and don’t want to lose me as a client, they hardly turned down the work I sent them. Most of the time this isn’t a problem. But, there have been a few occasions when the workload was too much for them. As a result, they either missed deadlines or deliver subpar work.

Now, I always ask them upfront what their capacity is like. If they have availability, I’ll assign them more work. If not, I’ll either change the due dates or work with someone else. To give them peace of mind, I do assure them they when they’re free, I will give them additional work.

I also use this technique with my in-house team. If they’re already swamped they may rush through these sensitive tasks. As a consequence, they either won’t give the work 100% of their focus and are more likely to make errors.

In short, if someone doesn’t have the time, then do not delegate delicate work to them. Ask them what their workload is like or use a shared calendar to see what their schedule looks like.

4. Ask for volunteers.

I’m not gonna lie, this can get tricky — especially when dealing with people who you’re not that acquainted with. But, this does provide an opportunity for you to test their skills. It also gives them a chance to do something that they enjoy or enhance existing talents. And, you’ll be able to see if they can hold themselves accountable.

With that said, I wouldn’t recommend throwing highly sensitive tasks their way right from the get-go. Instead, relegate smaller tasks and give them a chance to prove themselves.

5. Socialize your problems.

There a couple of ways to do this. For one, you could send out a poll to your team asking for their input. You could also hold brainstorming sessions. Or, you could solicit their feedback during less formal interactions. Not only does this create more opportunities for fresh perspectives, but it also lets you discover their interests and skills.

6. Get referrals.

Finally, get referrals from trusted sources. For example, if you feel overwhelmed and need to offload some work, ask your business partner if there is anyone they trust with certain responsibilities. Because they’re already worked with this individual, they should know if they handle the sensitive task that needs to be delegated.

If you’re looking for someone outside your inner circle, like on a freelancing site, carefully read the reviews this person has received. Like with new employees, I wouldn’t immediately ask them to work on something that’s extremely delicate. But, you could start small until you do trust them.

The don’ts of delegation.

Even after you’ve identified the right person to delegate sensitive tasks, here are some common mistakes that you should avoid:

  • Don’t pick your favorites. Word will spread and the rest of your staff will see this as “unfair.” Give everyone a chance to prove themselves and continue to develop.
  • Be wary of fairness. At the same time, don’t get too hung up on fairness. Always select the right person for the job. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to ask handover accounting tasks to your coders.
  • Don’t always go with the most skilled or willing. Again, give your entire team the opportunity to develop or enhance their skills — as long as they’re capable. Also, don’t always pick the person who always volunteers. You need to spread the love.
  • Clearly explain your expectations and outcomes. Before delegating tasks, make sure the person comprehends what needs to be done. And, when it comes to sensitive tasks, make it known that this is a delicate matter so that they are a complement to your guidelines, regulations, or the law.

The Psychological Benefits of Working Less

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How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

Recently I caught up with a close friend because he recently bought a new home. While it was a painless experience, he did tell me an entertaining story about his younger brother. His little brother graduated from university last spring, and he’s now a part of the daily grind. You know how it is — working at least 40-hours per week. Anyway, his brother was supposed to help with the move. But, the brother overslept and was late for assisting with the move. His excuse? He was exhausted from working all week.

While we did have a chuckle at his brother’s expense, I also wanted to empathize with him. I mean, when you think about it, spending the majority of your time at work is exhausting.

I know. You have to work to pay your bills. But work is also good for you. If you know that your work is meaningful and serves a purpose, it can be a boost to your mental well-being. At the same time, though, working too much does the opposite. There are even some dire psychological effects if you’re working more than you should.

A quick history of the 40-hour workweek.

Alright, before I go any further, I want to answer an important question. Who came up with the 40-hour workweek?

It may come to a surprise to some of you, but the 40-hour-work week is a more recent development.

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were hunter-gathers. Although that lifestyle seems harsh, it’s believed that people only spent four-hours a day hunting. Then, they figured out how to farm. Compared to hunting and gathering, it was a more complicated and more time-consuming way of life. After that, we entered the Industrial Revolution.

During this time “human beings were imprisoned in factories and mills for almost all of their waking hours, treated as nothing more than objects of labor, working in appalling conditions for appalling wages, and usually dying at a young age,” explains Catesby Holmes in a piece for The Conversation.

It was so bad that companies forced people to work between 12-15 hours per day for six days a week. In 1817, Robert Owen, a British textile-manufacturer came-up with the slogan “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest” to help his employees find balance.

Fast forward to Henry Ford in the early 20th Century, who discovered that employees were more productive if they only worked 5-days a week. And, that’s where you’re at today. Although, recent research, however, shows that an eight-hour workweek is ideal for mental health. Yes. You read that correctly. Not eight-hours a day. But, week.

So, yeah. As a whole, things have gotten better. But, we’re still chained to that antiquated 40-hour workweek that was established hundreds of years ago. And, that’s probably considering that working less then that is for the best.

We’re not meant to work eight-consecutive hours in a day.

“Humans have a well-defined internal clock that shapes our energy levels throughout the day: our circadian process, which is often referred to as a circadian rhythm because it tends to be very regular,” writes Christopher M. Barnes in HBR. And that plays a massive role in how we work.

“Although managers expect their employees to be at their best at all hours of the workday, it’s an unrealistic expectation,” explains Barnes. “Employees may want to be their best at all hours, but their natural circadian rhythms will not always align with this desire.” The human body has two productivity peaks in the course of the day. The first mid-morning and the second later on around 5 or 6 p.m.

Although everyone has their own specific rhythms, the point is, we’re just not meant to work for eight consecutive hours. Over the hours, various studies have found that when you’re circadian rhythms are disrupted, it “leads to weight gain, impulsivity, slower thinking, and other physiological and behavioral changes.” Barnes’ own research also found “that circadian mismatches increase the prevalence of unethical behavior, simply because victims lack the energy to resist temptations.”

The solution? Offer flexible hours.Flextime provides an opportunity for employees to match their work schedules to their own circadian rhythms,” adds Barnes. If this isn’t an option, then take frequent breaks throughout the day. For example, work for around 90-minutes and then take a breather for approximately 20-minutes to grab a snack, walk outside, or take a cat nap.

Less work, more sleep, a better life.

Entrepreneurs and workaholics may take this for granted. But, working endlessly can “make people tired and resentful, and therefore less productive,” writes Holmes. “There is also evidence that too much work impairs our health, leading to poor sleep and an increased risk of conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”

As for the psychological benefits, this “means less stress and anxiety.” IT can also strengthen relationships since we can” spend time with our loved ones, and have more energy to give them.” ICYMI, relationships make us healthier and happier.

Holmes also says that working less allows us “to live authentically through following our own innate interests so that we spend more time in the positive state that psychologists call “flow” (when we are intensely absorbed in enjoyable activities). We have more time and energy to nurture our creativity, which also leads to a more meaningful and purposeful life.”

Still not convinced? Holmes has found that when we aren’t always working, we can “experience the joys of doing nothing in particular.”

“People who experience this often report that they feel more grateful for life, more connected to nature, that they have more authentic relationships and become more creative and spiritual,” adds Holmes.

The solution? Set boundaries and work smarter. Don’t bring work home with you. When you’re off-the-clock, enjoy your downtime. What’s more, come up with ways to work smarter and not harder, such as:

  • Trimming back your to-do-lists.
  • Tracking your time.
  • Focusing on one task at a time.
  • Hiring people who are smarter than you.
  • Automating and delegating repetitive tasks.
  • Working on your most challenging tasks when you have the most energy.
  • Batching similar tasks together.

Working less can solve all of our problems.

That may sound too good to be true. But, that’s the argument presented by Rutger Bregman on TED.com.

Some of the points have already been discussed. For instance, working less can reduce stress and improve life satisfaction. But, there also some compelling reasons why we should ditch the 40-hour workweek.

The solution? Switch to a 4-day work week or a 6-hour workday. It’s at least a start. And, it can be an easy adjustment if you shrink your deadlines. That’s a proven technique to combat Parkinson’s Law, which states, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

For example, if you have three hours to complete a task, and you can get it done in two, you’ll still end-up using that entire block of time. But, if you only gave yourself an hour and a half, you’ll be more motivated and focused on completing that task within the shortened timeframe.

The evidence is clear. If you want to be happier, healthier, and more productive, then it’s time to spend less time at work. As an added perk, it will also make the world a slightly better place. Of course, before diving in headfirst, ease into this. Maybe cut back from 40-hours per week to 35 until you’ve found your ideal schedule.

And, if you’re leading a team, take steps like flexible scheduling and letting employees work remotely. Most importantly, put more of an emphasis on the results and not the hours your team has worked.

7 Habits of Highly Efficient Professionals

By | Time Management | No Comments

Success can be measured in hundreds of different ways. When asked about achievements, some professionals might look to their salary, their list of publications, or their charity’s social progress. Despite how an individual determines whether or not they are successful in their professional lives, or how that success might compare to someone else’s is a personal calculation. Here are seven habits of highly efficient professionals.

Successful people will agree — at least part of their success is due to their high level of efficiency.

Watching for and building on habits that bring success, most professionals continue to learn and grow in their craft throughout their whole lives. Here are a few of the habits that people put into practice for success. Many of these ideas are mentioned in great detail in books, business school, podcasts, content, and events.

1. Dedicate Yourself.

A key to creative, professional, and personal productivity is vision and being able to envision exactly what you’re working toward. Without vision or purpose, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time paddling about aimlessly in the proverbial river of life. As Jason Fried wrote in his bestseller REWORK, “When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”

The real secret to being effective in life is simple. You need to know precisely what you want and pursue that goal as you see it in your mind.

2. Eliminate Distractions.

Being a workaholic isn’t necessarily a good thing; it all depends on how you’re getting your work done. If you can do something in a minute that might take the next guy five minutes to complete, then it doesn’t matter if you work a four-hour day, just as long as you’re accomplishing your goals. Many find that making a morning routine helps.

Try to find efficiency in your daily routine. Creating efficiency is the same thing as eliminating distractions. Don’t get caught up in e-mail, Facebook, or all the other time-wasters on the internet. Instead, focus on the end task and nothing else.

3. Talk the Talk.

Communication is everything. To be an effective participant in a meeting or team, you’ll need to communicate effectively. Otherwise, your ideas and input might not be considered for what they’re worth, and then what?

Another part of “talking the talk” is being easy to reach. E-mails, phone calls, or text messages should be dealt with as they arise. If you’re working on something at a critical stage, you can eliminate all unnecessary communication.

4. Take Another Look.

If a problem seems unsolvable, taking a few steps back can make a world of difference. Genuinely successful people can create new perspectives for themselves. They learn to see issues, people, or situations from several angles and allow for a more coordinated response.

It’s rare today that a problem is black-and-white. Competent professionals can recognize the many facets and solutions to every question or issue.

5. Be Flexible.

A branch that can’t bend with the wind will break. Flexibility and the ability to adapt to uncertain scenarios makes you a valuable employee. The ability to see the entire problem and make spur-of-the-moment decisions can make a real difference in reaching one’s goals.

Be ready to embrace change as it comes. If you allow yourself to be open to opportunity, then an opportunity will make a habit of presenting itself.

6. Cool Down.

Living a life of high productivity or high stress can leave people a little high-strung or tightly wound. No one can work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and walk away unscathed. Check yourself if you want the chance to be a highly efficient professional.

You should be able to detach from your work. Calendar time and fill that time with an activity that will allow you to recharge and rehab your body and mind. Take time to exercise. You’ll find that if you allow yourself time to recharge, you’ll do better work whenever you are working. The brightest flames tend to burn the hottest and the quickest, but there’s no sense in burning yourself out.

7. Organize.

Organizing yourself doesn’t necessarily mean having a clear, empty desk and ten pencils sharpened and neatly arranged. Being organized is a state of mind, and it will manifest itself differently for everyone. Some people find productivity only in a clean, open space, while others need every surface of their work area to be covered in quotes and images before they can find inspiration.

The bottom line is that a successful individual knows how, when, and where their best work is done. A successful life is hard to measure. Remember that as the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, a man or a woman is only a sum of their actions, not a sum of their plans, hopes, or wishes.

If you want to be efficient and successful, you’ll make a plan. Calendar that plan, and follow the steps you’ve laid out for yourself. Most people out there would be millionaires already if wanting that goal was all you had to do. Wanting is the natural part — doing what’s required is a little more difficult.

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