14 Ways to be More Productive


Inbox overload, chain meetings, and constant distractions can leave you feeling like you accomplished nothing. Here are some tips from  productivity hackers to help you cut through the everyday noise and get stuff done.  We all have our own work style. That trick that helps your colleague demolish her to-do list may not  work for you. Experiment with different methods to find the most potent blend for you.
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    • Get enough sleep. Unlike a machine, you need to recharge. Unless, of course, you think that health, good perception and judgment are overrated. Insufficient sleep has consequences.
    • Target realistic goals. Don’t stare at your massive project list every day. Instead, write two or three must-do items on an index card or sticky note. Your focus will improve, as well as your satisfaction when you crush the list you’ve made for today.
    • Rule your Email. You can probably wait to check email until later in the morning. Get something important done first. Don’t spend your highest energy time reacting to others. Take action on your own priorities. Check email when you want input on that channel. Also, turn off the alert noises and pop-ups, checking email on a schedule that you decide.
    • Don’t schedule tiny tasks. Things that you can do in a minute or two become a source of stress if they stay on your list. Knock them out to keep your task-list manageable.
    • Optimize meetings. Decline if you have a higher priority or don’t think you will add value by attending. Ask for an email summary if the subject is relevant to your work. Is it your meeting? Publish the agenda in advance and drive toward decisions respectfully but efficiently.
    • Leverage your sense of smell. Buy an air freshener or light a candle. A lemon scent can boost concentration. Jasmin can calm and give energy. Peppermint can promote clear thinking. Can’t shower the office with your favorite scent? Use a scented lotion or hand sanitizer.
    • Exercise at the right time. There is no best time to exercise, but there is a best time for you. Use your highest energy hours to create and produce. Pick a different time to exercise. You can’t do without exercise, but you don’t have to give it your prime time.
    • Clear your desktop. Clutter offers distraction and impedes clear thinking. This is true for your digital desktop as well. Give your eyes room to breathe as you work.  A splash of color and/or a plant can provide a boost.
    • Know when music helps or hurts. Research finds that people perform high-focus tasks better in silence than when music is playing. It can relax you but can also impair focus when reading and writing. Exceptions include monotonous tasks like data entry, driving, and other boring tasks. Others suggest nature sounds or music that you are not strongly drawn to.
    • Change the scenery. Looking at nature or just moving to a novel location can improve your focus.
    • Protect your posture. Use an ergonomic workstation and get out of your chair more.
    • Meditate. The rising awareness of mindfulness and its benefits among the productivity elite cannot be ignored. Giving yourself even a few minutes of private head space will help you feel better and be more effective.
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  • Take breaks. Studies show that the human brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. If you’re not deep in the zone on a critical task, try the 52-on, 17-off balance used by the most productive people. Refresh yourself by unplugging on the weekend. Check out the Fōkasu timer.
  • Suppress temptation.  Keep your snacks in the kitchen, not at your desk. Resist social media binges, checking your smart phone 221 times (that’s just average!) or general Internet surfing. Tools like Self-Control and Cold-Turkey can help.

Bonus material: 8 TED Talks to make you more productive.

Image by Jaume Escofet.

I Am From

As delivered to my wonderful Vistage team a few years ago…

I am from the road, with more addresses than knobs on a hat rack. My next move will require six men in dark suits.I am from the sea, as pragmatic as a clove hitch and as untethered as a lost sea anchor.

I am from the sky, pulled up by dreams both frightening and serene.

I am from print, inspired by texts as sublime as Solomon and as ruthless as Godin.

I am bits of merchant marine, mechanic and marksman.

I am laced with bookkeeper, clown, preacher, politician and hypnotherapist.

I am electronic, existing as a ripple in the ever changing technology landscape.

I am all of these and none of them on any given day.
I refuse definition, eschewing what was and is in deference to what will be.
I am the rock on which my children stood for a while.
What I will become, only God knows.

You’re Not Listening!


“You’re not listening to me!” she said, destroying his magazine reverie with a pillow.
“Of course I am,” he said with feigned annoyance.
“Oh, really? What was I just talking about?”
“You were complaining that your mother doesn’t plan ahead, which creates a crisis for you.”
“So you were listening. Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You didn’t ask me a question.”
The guttural noise she made was inarticulate yet unmistakable.

This fellow was lucky enough to produce the right answer to her first question. Some of us don’t make it that far and suffer a hail of pillows or more serious repercussions.
Listening is not enough. Respond to prove it! Click To Tweet
So technically he was listening. Fine. But the way he was absorbing information was less than satisfying to her. He wasn’t engaged. He wasn’t interacting even at the most basic level with eye contact, a nod, the occasional, “yeah” or “wow.” He was giving her that percentage of his attention that a radio would receive — a device that has no expectations. It neither knows nor cares how you feel about what you hear.

This argument is easy to make for people in a committed love relationship. But what happens when your boss or coworker is equally disengaged? We all experience this. They keep their eyes glued to the laptop or dumb-thumb Facebook while listening to you talk. They may even be listening to a phone call on ear buds. In their mind, they are being efficient. They are consuming your audiovisual input as well as other content, allegedly killing two birds with one stone. Never mind that a new article appears every other day about how multitasking is not really possible and that our chronic task-switching leads to poor performance in everything measurable.

Humans need to be heard and understood. People want to know that they have connected with a human being, not just a recording device. Stephen Covey put it this way:

“When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.”

We must dispossess ourselves of the toxic notion that consuming media is more important than the person before us. Don’t just pretend to listen. Engage.

image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/metrojp/92038203/

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