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Category: Productivity

How to Make the Most of a Long Weekend

Filed under: Good Habits, Productivity, Time Management, Vacation, Work-Life Balance

Long weekends are the perfect opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. So, to spend them in front of the television would be almost criminal.

“If we don’t plan our weekends, they just kind of go by,” Phoenix-based productivity expert Nicole Bandes told HuffPost. “Be intentional with the time you’re going to have for the three days.”

The key here is balance. You certainly don’t have to plan each moment of the long weekend. But making time for a few activities can leave you recharged and happier once the holiday has passed.

Here are some expert and research-backed ideas on how to make the most of your long weekend while improving your wellbeing in the process:

1. Enjoy a staycation.

Sure, adventures like camping can be fun, but they also require a lot of work to plan. This may lead to feeling the opposite of relaxed, Bandes said. (Unless, of course, you are a hardcore camper and you wait all year to go. You do you!)

Instead of tackling a big trip, she recommends trying activities that are close to where you live. For example, visiting a local winery, going to the zoo or checking out a nearby waterfront are all low-effort ways to recharge your batteries.

2. Tackle a big project.

A three-day weekend is a great opportunity to tackle the “never-quite-get-to” projects, Bandes said. This could come in the form of painting a room, clearing out the garage, working on the car or finally getting around to organizing your closet using the Konmari method (which comes with its own added wellness perks).

3. Host a group gathering.

Invite family or friends over for a meal over the weekend. A meal-centric hangout with your crew can bring some perks: Not only are there psychological benefits to baking for other people, research shows that being around a best friend can help lower stress.

4. Take a digital detox.

Some research suggests that too much time on your devices is correlated with more negative thoughts, anxiety and depression.

Bandes recommends putting your phone away for a few hours or even half a day. It’ll pay off: unplugging every so often can increase focus, lower stress, increase sleep quality and help you think more creatively.

5. Volunteer for a worthy cause.

Carve out some time this weekend all in the name of generosity.

A 2013 study found that people who volunteer are more likely to improve their overall wellbeing and life satisfaction than people who aren’t altruistic. Giving and unselfishness is also associated with having a lower risk of early death, a stronger marriage and decreased depression.

6. Catch up on sleep.

Schedule in some rest. An estimated 1 in 3 American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Good sleep makes your memory sharper, improves mood and focus and literally clears your mind: Neurological science shows that proper sleep clears toxins which build up in the brain.

You can continue reading this article on Huffington Post.

How to Work More Efficiently (Even When You’re Feeling Unmotivated)

Filed under: Efficiency, Focus, Good Habits, Productivity, Strategy, Time Management

Research shows that kids experience a “summer slump.” When they’re out of school, they’re not actively focused on learning, and their brains check out. But they’re not the only ones susceptible to summer slumps. Adults seem to channel their inner child during the summer, making it hard for them to be productive at work.

A 2012 study by Captivate Network reveals that workplace productivity drops 20%, workers are 45% more distracted, and it takes 13% longer to complete projects in the summer. Also, 53% of workers who leave early on Friday report a decline in productivity. People often work longer Monday through Thursday to make up for leaving early on Friday, and 23% of them believe that schedule causes an increase in stress.

So how can you stay productive during the summer and throughout the year? We asked Dana Brownlee, the creator of the New Time Management Model. She’s the president of Professionalism Matters and a corporate trainer and speaker..

According to Brownlee, the New Time Management Model involves four questions:

  1. Should I do this?
  2. How should I do this?
  3. What’s the right level of effort?
  4. How can I increase my efficiency?

Should I Do This?

Brownlee recommends starting every week by assessing the most important activities for the week. Then, every day, do a reassessment. “Resist the temptation to just add a task to your to- do list because someone asked you to do it,” she says. “There must be a mental ‘vetting process’ to determine if any activity should be on your list.” Her own to-do-list only includes five items for each day.

“Another technique that I sometimes use in my classes is to ask each person to write down each of their tasks for the next day on a small slip of paper.” Then she tells them that one of those items can’t be completed – and they have to decide which one it will be. The participants have to throw away that sheet of paper and start over with a shortened list. They continue the process, until the list is down to five items. “These types of activities are just meant to reinforce the mental process that you’d go through weekly and daily to identify your truly important activities,” Brownlee says.

She also recommends using the 80/20 rule. “Figure out which 20% of your efforts will yield 80% of the results.” For example, you may need to determine which clients or client types are providing most of your revenue, and then adjust your business model or activities accordingly.

How Should I Do This?

This is a strategic step that encourages you to work smarter, not harder. Should you do it alone or with a group? Should you do it yourself or delegate or outsource it? Could the task be automated or streamlined in some way?

“As a small business owner, I often resisted outsourcing because I didn’t think I could afford to pay someone else to do things for me,” Brownlee says. “However, when I started using assistants, freelancers, and other specialists, I quickly realized that I couldn’t afford not to outsource (particularly those time-consuming tasks where I had little expertise — like website updating and newsletter formatting).”

She says that pausing to answer the “how” question can save a lot of time later. “For example, if you’re developing a client list, consider putting the information into a simple database so that it’s easily retrievable, sortable, and exportable later (and you’re inputting the information only once).” Next to each task, Brownlee recommends making a note of how you can work smart to complete the task.

What’s the Right Level of Effort?

When deciding how much energy to expend, consider assigning a percentage (from 0% to 100%). Another option is to set a time limit for each task. Brownlee uses this method with her assistant. “Instead of using vague terms like ‘don’t spend too much time on it,’ I’ll often say, ‘don’t exceed 90 minutes.’ Those limits can be helpful for us as well.”

It’s also helpful to add the times together to see if your daily plans are realistic. “If you add up your to-do-list tasks and it adds up to 4 hours of tasks (to be completed outside working hours) and you have a 1.5 hour round-trip commute, that list probably isn’t realistic.”

You can read the rest of the article on TalentCulture.

15 Culture Perks to Boost Team Productivity During the Summer

Filed under: company culture, Productivity, Work-Life Balance

Summer is heating up, and so is the restlessness of your employees. You need to find a way to engage them and keep their head in the game. Giving your team top-level perks is one way to ensure they perform in the summer and keep the distractions at bay.

Summer hours, casual Fridays and outdoor activities can help your employees appreciate your company in the summer and help you retain them even if a better offer comes by. Using the summer to your advantage will allow you to provide your staff with all sorts of advantages they will enjoy, and will help increase the respect they have for you.

Below, 15 members of the Forbes Agency Council share some of the successful culture perks or bonding activities they typically implement in the summer to improve their teams’ creativity and productivity.

1. Summer Hours on Fridays

It’s not a radical idea in the agency world, but sometimes the best ideas are the tried-and-true ideas. We close our offices at 1 p.m. on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Sometimes it makes the work week a bit more stressful, but on balance, that simple half day off seems to punch above its weight. And the net effect makes weekends seem much longer and more renewing. – Justin DaabMagnani

2. Walking Meetings

Walking meetings are a great way to get out of the office and enjoy the nice weather while still being very productive. For your next meeting, consider taking it outside. It’s refreshing, helps inspire creativity and breaks up the day in a fun and healthy way. – Brad WilliamsWebDevStudios

3. The Picnic Table

It is so simple yet powerful. Breaking bread has been shown to strengthen relationships, as well as give a feeling of stability and connectedness. We plan monthly team meals where we fire up the grill and eat outside around picnic tables on the back patio. It’s not uncommon to see team meetings and group discussions moved to the patio when the weather is nice. – Korena KeysKeyMedia Solutions

4. Meditation, Retreats And Shutdown Days

Everyone knows we take meditations, retreat and shutdown days seriously — not just because of their positive benefit to society, but because they aid the process of flourishing for each team member. When each person on our team truly flourishes, it has a great impact on how we focus on our work of building happier flourishing Africans. And if you cannot meditate for one hour, meditate for two. – Chude JideonwoJoy, Inc.

5. Innovation Days

We try to dedicate one day a month in the summer to innovation and creative thinking — not work product. Usually, this leads us outdoors and into nature. We often hike, talk and take photos and generally enjoy the fresh air. It’s amazing how this changes our perspectives and keeps us fresh. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

6. Press Releases By The Pool

One of the things we do is soak up some Vitamin D by hosting a “press releases by the pool” day for our team. We’ll have refreshing beverages, Texas barbecue and pool activities all afternoon. Company culture should never take a break, and playing to your strengths is important. When it’s routinely 100-plus degrees outside in Austin, Texas, not only is this a nice culture perk, it’s practically a necessity. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

7. Work-From-Home Days

We rolled out a work-from-home policy every other Friday two summers ago and it was an instant hit. Employees, especially millennials, love the freedom to work where and when they want. We also found our employees achieved a lot on these days since most days were free of meetings. This day became a great “knock it out” day while providing the ability to work from your local park or schedule a personal appointment with more flexibility. – Simms Jenkins, BrightWave – North America’s Leading Email Marketing Agency

8. Monday Walk

People tend to dread coming into the office on Mondays. I am attempting to change that with a Monday afternoon walk. It breaks up the day, gets us outside and allows the team to bond. It also gives everyone something to look forward to (myself included). Thus far, it’s been a big success. – Aidan Cole, nTuitive.social

9. Airbnb Experiences

To say that summer in San Francisco is a bit chilly may be the understatement of the year. One way we beat the fog is to book an Airbnb experience. These experiences get us out of the office, collaborating and, most importantly, laughing. – Michaela Dempsey, Scout RFP

10. Special Party For Team, Clients, Family

Every summer around the 21st of June, we throw a party for our team, clients, friends and family. We work together to plan a meal and cook tacos for our guests, and we spend the rest of the evening celebrating a successful first half of the year. Guests tell us that it is one of the most unique events they’ve attended and our growing staff loves participating in the tradition. – Benjamin Collins, Laughing Samurai

11. Dedicated Remote Live/Work Space

Last year we opened the MODassic Outpost in Salida, CO which serves as remote live/work space where our employees can escape their daily routine. Our team is all in house, but we really value travel and getting away. We wanted to create a place where employees could get away and enjoy the mountains, river and town but still work and not have to use up their vacation time or spend money on hotels. – Ryan Short, MODassic Marketing

12. Summer Happy Hours

Our office is located in a cute beach town, and we especially try to take advantage of that during the summer. We typically pick a day during the week to do an office happy hour where we close the office early and walk to a nearby restaurant. I believe this makes my team more productive — having an outing to look forward to mid-week. Sometimes we even just opt for wine on the beach. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

You can continue reading this article on Forbes.

How to Boost Productivity During the Dog Days of Summer

Filed under: Attitude, Behavior in the Workplace, Distractions, Focus, Good Habits, Organization, Productivity, Quick Tips, Strategy

You may have loved your job when you started, but it’s not unusual to get in a rut. If you’re experiencing burnout, changing your mindset can bypass it, says Daniel M. Cable, author of Alive aWork: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do, during his interview with Stephanie Vozza of Fast Company.

“Our brains are not wired for routine and repetition at work,” he says. “Disengagement isn’t a motivation problem; it’s a biological one.”

Cable was a professor at the University of North Carolina when he says he lost his zest for his own job and slowly descended into boredom. After being diagnosed and treated for Hodgkin lymphoma, his perspective changed, and he found a sense of gratitude for his job. He stumbled on research about the part of the brain called the ventral striatum, also called the “seeking system,” and its role in being your best self.

“This part of our brain urges us from the time we’re babies to explore what we don’t know,” he says. “Little kids can be given an awesome toy with noises and buttons and they’ll be really into it for a week or few days. Then they find something else that hadn’t seen before, like car keys, and they find that way more interesting. It wasn’t because the thing is cool; it’s because the thing is new.”

When we succumb to these urges, our brain delivers dopamine to reward us and that makes us feel more alive, and the same thing can happen at work, says Cable, currently a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School.

“When we’re in the rut of routine for the 502nd time, this part of the brain shuts off,” says Cable. “Your brain is saying, ‘You’re better than this. We’re not built of this. We’re built for bigger things.’ Then the brain stops the release of dopamine, which makes it seem not only boring but that it takes forever.”

There are three ways you can trigger your brain release dopamine, and get out of your rut, says Cable.

1. Play to your strengths

Identify your signature strengths and the impact you can have by using them on a daily basis. “How can you bring value to the team by using your unique strength?” asks Cable.

When he started tapping into his strength—humor—Cable says he regained an appreciation for his job. “It made me feel good and I saw my students lean in when I used humor,” he says. “As a professor, it was something unique to me. I decided to bring it when I teach class instead of leaving it at home.”

Think of your job as a flexible vehicle and determine how you can bring your strength to it.

2. Be willing to experiment

Avoid the risk of routine by shaking things up. Cable decided to develop new classes instead of teaching the same class over and over.

“A sales manager who was promoted and never got a chance to get out in the field might start going into the field again to talk to clients,” suggests Cable. “It’s just a way to refresh and learn new things.”

Activate that seeking system by going outside of your comfort zone, suggests Cable.

3. Tap into purpose

Finally, analyze cause and effect in your role. We all want to see the impact of our actions, says Cable. Leaders can help employees personalize the purpose of work by providing direct conversations with the people who use work as well as internal decision makers.

“Try to think about the story you want to tell yourself about why you do your job,” says Cable.

You can read the rest of the article on Fast Company.

Here’s How to Spend the First Hour of the Workday for Maximum Productivity

Filed under: Cognitive Ability, Focus, Good Habits, Productivity

Let’s divide work into two categories.

There’s “work,” and then there’s real work. “Work” is email correspondence, and group meetings, and other administrative tasks that are technically necessary, but don’t meaningfully contribute to your professional success.

Real work, on the other hand, encompasses those bigger projects and tasks that help you achieve your goals and your organization’s. It’s the kind of work that drew you to your job and your line of work in the first place.

Click here to read the rest on Business Insider >>

What Entrepreneurs can Learn About Brainstorming from TV Writers

Filed under: Communication, Productivity, teams

Wendy Calhoun is a veteran TV writer, who has worked on hit shows including Empire, Justified, and Nashville. Which sounds like a fun gig, but why did she recently spend time talking to Google employees at the company’s re:Work 2016 event?

Because, as Calhoun makes plain in the first minutes of her Google presentation, writing for TV these days isn’t the lonely pursuit many of the uninitiated expect it to be. Rather than hunkering down alone with a computer, their own creativity, and endless cups of coffee, TV writers mostly spend their days hammering out ideas in collaboration with others in a writers’ room.

And from this deep experience with creative collaboration (as well as diverse, and probably occasionally difficult) personalities, Calhoun and TV writers like her have become world-class experts on the finer points of creative teamwork and effective brainstorming. At the Google event, she shared several of her top lessons for any group trying to come up with better ideas, including these.

1. Warm up.
Just like athletes, creative minds can’t just go from stock still to top speed in seconds. They need to gradually warm up to reach their full capabilities. Different creative teams use different techniques, but Calhoun insists that, if you want to get the best from your people, you should kick things off with a fun activity that flexes their innovation muscles in a fun way.

Click here to read the rest on Inc. >> 

9 Things Highly Effective People Do After They’ve Been Away on Vacation

Filed under: Focus, Good Habits, Productivity, Professional Development

As an American, you legitimately could spend every day of your life on vacation–and still make a good living. But the truth is, few of us actually do this. Instead, we work hard, take time off when we can, and face the inevitable letdown when it’s time to get back to work.

I spent last week at the beach, and now I have to go back to work. So, while I was gone I asked entrepreneurs, business leaders, and others for their tips on how to get back to work productively after a great vacation.

Here’s the best advice they gave me.

1. Come back on a Wednesday or Thursday.
The No. 1 tip I heard from people was not to go back to work on the first day after vacation. However, Dr. Chris Allen, a psychologist and executive coach with Insight Business Works, takes it a step further.

“If possible, return to work on Wednesday or Thursday,” Allen says. “Then you only have to get through work for two or three days and you have the weekend off. It’s a good way to ease back into work. Airline travel is cheaper mid week too.”

 

Click here to read the rest on Inc. >>