Start with a purge
Create a catch-it space
Keep your desktop clear of clutter
Place two document trays on your desk
Create two zones
Place physical objects into drawers or organizing trays
Get a bigger trashcan
Start with a purge
Create a catch-it space
Keep your desktop clear of clutter
Place two document trays on your desk
Create two zones
Place physical objects into drawers or organizing trays
Get a bigger trashcan
by Amy Gallo
Everyone aspires to have purpose or meaning in their career but how do you actually do that? What practical steps can you take today or this month to make sure you’re not just toiling away at your desk but you’re doing something you genuinely care about?
What the Experts Say
Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to make the job decisions that lead to satisfaction. Nathaniel Koloc, the CEO of ReWork, which provides recruiting services to companies that offer purposeful work, says that’s because no one really ever teaches us how: “Very few parents, teachers, and mentors urge us to think about this or give us mental models to use,” he says. “We tend to only get nibbles of what meaningful work is in our twenties.” As a result, we often pick jobs for the wrong reasons, says Karen Dillon, coauthor of How Will You Measure Your Life. “We look for things that we’re proud to talk about at a cocktail party or look good on a resume.” But rarely are those the things that translate to satisfaction. Here are principles you can follow to find a career — and a specific job — you don’t just enjoy, but love.
Know what “meaningful” means to you
Am I respected by my colleagues? Am I being challenged? Am I growing? Do I believe in the mission? “These are the things that are going to make the difference between being ok with your job and being truly happy,” says Dillon. But “meaningful” means something different for each individual. “Don’t just look to obvious things, like salary, title, or prestige of the company,” says Dillon. Koloc identifies four categories to consider:
This is about the concrete outcomes of your work. What do you want to achieve? Sure, you may spend a lot of your day responding to emails or attending meetings — most jobs entail at least some of that — but what evidence do you want of your work? You might find it rewarding to advance the math skills of 80 students in one year, or build six desalination plants over the course of your career. This is often a question of how close to the frontlines you want to be. Some people want to help sick people directly while others aspire to help pass the Affordable Care Act.
These are the strengths that you want to improve. For example, if you enjoy connecting with people, you could use that skill to be a psychologist or a marketer. Similarly, if you’re a strong writer, you could use that skill to write fiction or copy for advertisements. The key is that you are using these strengths in a way that you find rewarding. “Being good at something you don’t enjoy doesn’t count,” says Koloc. “It has to be something you love to do.”
This is about the salary, benefits, and flexibility you need to live the life you want. For some people, this may mean a high paycheck that allows you to take exotic vacations. For others, it could be the freedom to work when and where you choose. Here you need to know the lifestyle you want and ask whether your job is helping you fulfill that.
This last category covers the culture and values of the place you work. This is not the same as mission, warns Koloc, but is about whether you feel like you belong. What are the beliefs and priorities of the company and the people you work with? How do people treat each other? Do they hug? Have lunch together? “It’s important to enjoy spending time with your colleagues and your manager,” says Dillon.
The content of these categories will vary by person. Dillon suggests making a list of all the things you value, and then prioritizing them. This list will help guide your decisions and can be used to evaluate specific opportunities like a new assignment in your current role, a job at a different company, or a new career path.
If you’re unsure what matters most to you, think through a given day or week at work. Ask yourself: what made me most happy? What did I find most frustrating? Then, Koloc suggests, come up with a few hypotheses about what is most meaningful to you. I want a job where I create something that people can use everyday. I want a job that allows me enough flexibility to pick up my kids from school. I want a job where I’m directly interacting with people in need. “Be careful not to overcorrect for a particularly bad job experience,” says Dillon. “When you have a micromanaging boss, for example, it’s easy to think that your biggest priority is to work for a manager who doesn’t smother you, but if you seek out that one thing, you may end up being unhappy for slightly different reasons.”
Once you’ve nailed down your hypotheses, it’s time to test them. There are a variety of ways to do this. First, you can try things out within an existing job. “You might try to convince your manager to let you work remotely for a month,” he says. Take on a new assignment that allows you to try out new skills. “Look for opportunities to enhance your job. Sign up for a new cross-company initiative or propose taking something off your boss’s plate,” suggests Dillon. “I’ve never known many managers to say no to people offering to help out.” If you can’t run experiments within the constraints of your job, look outside the company. “Join industry groups, go to conferences, volunteer for a nonprofit,” advises Dillon. The third way to test your hypotheses is to have conversations. Find people who are doing what you think you want to do and ask them lots of questions. Listen carefully and critically, so that you don’t just hear what you want to hear.
Form a personal board of directors
Don’t go it alone. Work with others to kick the tires on your hypotheses and share the results of your experiments. Invite four or five people to serve as your informal board of directors. You might tell them, “I’m doing some exploring about what I want from work and I’d love to talk with you on occasion to get your feedback on my direction.” Include any mentors and trusted professional peers. And if your manager is receptive include her as well. “Not all bosses may be supportive,” says Dillon, “but if you have a manager who you can bounce career ideas off of, take advantage of that.
There are a few people you shouldn’t include, says Koloc. “Family members can be tough,” says Koloc. “Spouses, for example, need to know what you’re doing but they may not be best positioned to help you figure it out.” And don’t be afraid to dig deep into your past, Dillon says: “I have people who I haven’t talked with in years who call me when they’re considering a job change or a career transition.” Check in with this board of directors on a regular basis to update them on your thinking and ask for input.
Think long term
This work shouldn’t just be in service of getting your next job. “Career design is different than a job-search strategy,” says Koloc, and the question you should be asking yourself, he advises, is not “What job do I want?” but “What life do I want?” Think about where you want to be in five, ten, 20 years. Of course, you have to answer more immediate questions about what you want in your current job or your next, but do so only in the context of your longer, larger career goals.
When you’re already deep into a career
Even mid-career professionals can and do make big changes. “Your ability to turn the ship is no different but the speed at which you turn it is going to be slower,” says Koloc.“If you’re 35 and have two kids, it’s going to take longer to explore.” There’s good news though, he says: “You have more clues as to what you want and enjoy.” The important thing is to not feel stuck. “You may feel locked into a job, a higher salary, a higher title because you have more responsibilities, like a mortgage and kids, and sure, you may need to take fewer risks, but you don’t want to settle for a job or career you’re not happy with,” says Dillon.
Buckle down on your finances
One of the main reasons people give for staying in a job or career they don’t love is money. “Take steps to give yourself a financial cushion and a little psychological freedom,” says Dillon. Make a budget if you don’t have one. Look for ways to lower the amount of money you need each month: downsize your house, move to one car, and be more disciplined about saving. Having a financial buffer will make it more likely that when you find something meaningful, you’ll be able to act on it.
Make the time
“I have yet to meet anybody who wouldn’t benefit from setting aside dedicated time to sit down and think about what they want from work,” says Koloc. Schedule a time in your calendar to reflect on your career. Even if it’s just an hour every other week, you’re going to make some progress. “Sometimes just thinking about it will get the ball rolling, and then, often, the change becomes inevitable,” says Koloc.
Principles to Remember
Case study #1: Turn to those who know you
Deirdre Coyle had reached a point in her career where she knew she needed a change. She has been the SVP of communications at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City for eight years and while she believed in the mission of the nonprofit, she just couldn’t picture herself in the role forever. “There was something else out there for me. I have high expectations of myself and wanted to push forward into new territory,” she says.
Still, the question was: What did she want to do instead? “I started by thinking options through and vetting ideas in my mind.” Did she want to go back to school? Did she want to pursue her passion for landscape architecture? Did she want to take her one-of-a-kind fashion accessory business to the next level?
She also got advice from a small group of people she knew well. “There are about six people in my life that I consider my advisors. They come from all different aspects of my life. They don’t know me equally well but they know important parts of me and I cherish their opinions,” she explains. With their help she eliminated a lot of options, such as starting her own business. While being an entrepreneur greatly appealed to her she was afraid of ruining the pleasure she took in her hobby by turning it into a job.
Deirdre told her boss that she was getting ready to move on. “We had worked very well together for close to ten years and I felt like I owed him that respect,” she explains. Soon after that conversation, a former executive director of the ICIC came to her and her boss with an opportunity: she wanted to start a company that would encourage entrepreneurism and job growth in Middle Eastern countries, starting with Saudi Arabia. “Even though the idea wasn’t yet fully formed, I knew right away that this is what I wanted to do,” Deirdre says. It fit many of the criteria she was looking for — it allowed her to travel internationally, work in emerging markets and build an organization from the ground up. She became the co-founder of the AllWorld Network and while “there are certainly moments of angst,” she is thrilled to be doing a job she loves.
Case study #2: Get your finances in order
Tim Groves liked his job at a civil litigation law firm. But he didn’t love it. “I didn’t get up in the morning excited to go to work,” he says. “And I knew if I continued on that career path, it wasn’t going to get better either.” He was interested in mission-driven work so he started by talking to people in the nonprofit world and signed up for automated job listings. “I volunteered and served on boards, and I had friends and relatives who worked in nonprofits so I had an inkling of what I could do with a law degree in a nonprofit setting,” he says.
He also did a few informational interviews with people he respected who had made similar transitions. He was careful in how he set up these conversations. “I told people that I wasn’t miserable at my current job, but that I was looking around and would love their perspective,” he explains. “I also mentioned that I had a mortgage and a family so didn’t want to broadcast this.”
To broaden his network, he became more active in his volunteer and board work and upped the pro bono law work he was doing. “I put myself in contact with people who could connect me to an opportunity or who could vouch for me when an opportunity came up.”
Tim and his wife had supported each other through several career transitions but this time, as he says, “the stakes were higher because we had kids, school tuitions, and college looming on the horizon.” Given that Tim was going to almost certainly take a pay cut, he and his wife came up with a budget and the lowest salary figure he could take. To give themselves more financial flexibility, they downsized and moved from a one-family to a two-family house where rent from tenants could help pay the mortgage.
About a year and a half after starting the process, Tim took a job as a development officer at the Rhode Island Foundation. “The process wasn’t always easy but I feel good about where I ended up,” he says.
by Simon Reynolds
There are two elements needed to succeed in business.
The first is a good strategy – making sure you’re heading in the right direction and focusing on the most valuable opportunities.
The second is how well you do your work. You must perform with speed, positivity, efficiency and drive to achieve great things.
You need to get your mind right. You need to maintain a high level of personal motivation to win.
If you’ve been finding it hard to stay motivated, here are some techniques that can really help you.
1. Make a Genuine Commitment To Personal Excellence.
If you look at how most people work, they certainly have a commitment to getting the job done, but not necessarily to doing things in an excellent manner.
I have found that by simply making the decision to do everything as well as you can (in the time available), you not only get better results but your self respect, self image and personal motivation skyrockets.
This commitment to excellence must be adhered to regardless of the mediocrity of the people around you. You are choosing to be outstanding no matter what.
2. Remind Yourself Daily Of Your Strong Points.
Ambitious people often have a major personality flaw. They beat themselves up for their weak points. In fact in my experience coaching business executives from all over the world I would say that many say at least 5 negative things to themselves for every 1 positive. The result? You often feel defeated and not good enough.
This has to stop. Today. And one of the best ways to do that is spend 2 minutes every morning reminding yourself of why you are (or can become) superb at your career. Get a pad and pen and just write all the reasons why you’re damn good – your experience, your training, any positive personality attributes, etc. Simply focusing on your strong points every day will forge a far more powerful sense of self, which will lead to dramatically higher motivation.
3. See Yourself As Unstoppable.
What I am suggesting here is a subtle variation of how many business people see themselves. In my experiencing mentoring I’ve found that lots of business leaders work hard to envision themselves as successful, but then find they fail often in the course of their daily work. This gives them a conflicted self image.
I believe that by changing your view of yourself to ‘unstoppable’, then when you experience the inevitable obstacles of life you remain positive and effective. It may seem a minor change but try it for a month and you’ll see a huge lift in your motivation.
Literally write the word ‘Unstoppable’ on a Post It note and put it where you can see it every day, so that it remains in your conscious mind. (If you work with others you may choose to just put the letter ‘U’ on the Post It, so that nobody knows what you’re doing).
4. Congratulate Yourself Every Evening.
In my recent book, ‘Why People Fail’ I pointed out that ambitious people rarely give themselves a pat on their back for the good things they’ve achieved. Instead they tend to focus on the 1 or 2 things that haven’t been completed or weren’t done superbly. Obviously over time this will lead to a loss of motivation. Performance will soon suffer as a result.
But there’s a simple way to counter this negative tendency and that is to remind yourself every evening of all the good stuff you got done. Just take 2 minutes before you go to sleep and list your achievements of the day, however minor. You’ll be surprised how many you come up with.
When you get into the habit of doing this every evening your sense of achievement will escalate rapidly, your self image will improve and your drive and motivation to do well the next day will be powerful.
It’s important to realize that motivation doesn’t just happen. You need to work at it. I’ve used these 4 techniques often to help business people become super motivated and if you try them they will certainly work for you too.
by Josh Bersin
This week two new studies (one by The Economist and one by Quantum Workplace) highlight how rapidly young professionals’ view of their careers have changed. While startups continue to be exciting and people desperately want to work for pre-IPO companies, research shows that most Millennials (under the age of 30) are starting to really mature in their career thinking.
Here is some data:
Young People are Getting more Serious: The days of young people smoking marijuana, hanging around on the street in cities like Berlin, or kids in the UK engaging in binge drinking are slowly coming to an end. The Economist research shows that these teams of youth are going away and people are focused on their education, career, and making a living.
“Across the OECD, a club of 34 mostly rich countries, enrollment of 15- to 19-year-olds in education increased by 11 percentage points to 83% between 1995 and 2011. Among adults in their 20s participation in higher education has increased by a third. Young people who are studying rather than in paid employment have less money for hedonism.” (The Economist article).
People in their 20s rate “professional development” as their #1 issue in selecting a great place to work. The Quantum study, which surveyed 400,000 professionals, rated the top drivers of engagement by age and look what they found (it’s not surprising).
Fig 1: Quantum Workplace 2014 Employee Engagement Trends Report
Fig 2: Engagement vs. Education, from Quantum Workplace Engagement Report
Young professionals: this is your time. What this data, coupled with the strong jobs report launched earlier this week, shows is that we have entered a period of time where younger workers (people in their 20s and early 30s) are now getting far more serious about their careers.
Young Professionals: Welcome to Your Career – Six Keys
As an aging baby boomer who spends my career looking at talent and business trends, let me summarize some suggestions:
1. It’s time to take your career seriously: make sure you achieve your goals, openly communicate with your manager, and express your ambitions clearly.
When I was young I was far too shy (and not even sure) about my personal career .. and not until my late 20s did I really have any idea where it was going. Don’t worry if your current job doesn’t seem like your “dream job” – learn everything you can, contribute positively, develop great relationships, and express your desires in an open way. Today more than ever employers will help find you the right next step, as long as you’re doing good work in your current role.
2. Seek out the mentoring and advice of others.
Now that you’ve become a little more serious about your career, take some time to have lunch with a more senior friend, work associate, or even family friend. Ask them about their career, what they learned, and how they decided to do what they do. Building a career will take decades, and you will get lots of good ideas on which direction to go from many of us who have been down this path.
3. Stay open to changes and diversions in your path.
The one thing I would say about my career (and I hear this from most senior people) is that I could never have predicted it would go where it went. Every job and every assignment will teach you something new: something about work, something about life, and something about yourself. Stay open to these new assignments and opportunities and look at them as your stair-step path toward your eventual “perfect job,” whatever that may be.
4. Teach yourself every day.
These days we have so much learning, content, and information available online you should spend your commute time, travel time, or down time learning something new. Read about a new company or technology; follow a business leader you admire; take courses in new technology or tools; and learn to use all the tools around us. The world of business changes faster than ever – you should get comfortable being a “continuous and relentless learner.”
5. Push your limits.
The most valuable learning experiences you will have in your career happen when you get thrown into the deep end of the pool and think you can’t swim. I had a whole series of jobs I was not qualified for, but after months of hard work and lots of late nights, I figured most of them out and each one became transformational in my own career growth. If your boss offers a new assignment which is both important and new, think hard about taking it!
6. Be yourself.
Last year I wrote an article called “Learning to Be Yourself.” Now, more than ever, as the job market heats up, you should spend some time learning what you are really all about. I was always an introvert and shy as a young professional, and sure enough that eventually brought me into a career as an analyst, researcher, and entrepreneur. Don’t try to copy someone else who appears to be getting ahead – your path will be much more valuable if you stay true to yourself.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde
“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”
― Judy Garland
Building a career is a never-ending process, and even if you get layed off or your boss fires you, it’s part of moving forward. A good friend of mine is a senior HR executive and she was just ousted from the company she worked at for many years. Rather than think of this as a “failure” or “mistake,” I encouraged her to think about it as the opening of a new door to her career – one as an HR leader at a new, perhaps smaller company who will value her skills even more.
Every career is unique and you can succeed in a myriad of ways. I admire my doctor for the career he built; our family nutritionist is a highly successful professional in her chosen field; whenever I hire a contractor or consultant I learn about their career and am usually fascinated by their experiences.
The research clearly shows that over the next 3-5 years career development will be one of the most important issues in the labor market. Employers: take heed – if you don’t offer these kinds of “tours of duty” (as Reid Hoffman calls it in The Alliance), you’ll lose good people.
And those of you in the first ten years of your own journey, strap yourself in for an adventure and enjoy the ride. If you follow some of my advice, every day will be a growth experience and you’ll look back 30 years from now and say “wow, what a great career I had.”
By Kayla Bayens
Adjusting to a new workplace can be stressful. You are the new guy and you aren’t quite sure where everything is yet. But coming into a new workplace environment doesn’t have to be a nightmare. The first month on the job is important as it will leave a lasting impression on your supervisors. Are you a slacker? Are you a team player? Can you keep up with those that have been on the job longer? But not to worry it can also be fun and rewarding starting your new job, here are some tips and suggestions to help smooth out the transition period.
Now is the time to find your inner Zen. Changing jobs or learning a new one can be extremely stressful. You don’t know if you are doing what you need to or if you are even doing it correctly to start with. Take some time to take deep calming breaths in the morning before work to help you relax and focus. Keep your eye on the goal: Learn the job.
It will take time
Don’t expect to instantly understand every task, know how to do every assignment, or where everything is. These things will take time so remember to not get frustrated. By doing the job as best you can everyday and asking questions you will soon have a complete handle on everything. Soon you’ll be completely comfortable in your job and you won’t even have realized when it happened.
Get to know people
Take some time to talk to your co-workers, maybe ask to sit with some of them during your lunch break. It is important to make the effort to get to know them as you will probably be working on projects with them at some point. However it also gives you a sense of belonging to know the people around you and to be able to strike up a conversation with them. Beware the pitfall of becoming a part of an office clique this early on though. You haven’t been around long enough to understand the inner office politics of things and joining a clique this early can actually hurt you. Be nice, open, and friendly to everyone while doing your best to avoid the under current of inner office politics.
A great way to make sure you make the right impression in your first months on the job is to talk about goals with your supervisor. What are the company’s goals for you or your team this month? In the next six months? Knowing the answers to these can give you a target to shoot for. Or if you wanted to earn some brownie points with management always aim to hit about the goal.
Ask for help
Remember you are new to this job so you won’t know everything from the start. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help if you aren’t sure. Doing this will actually make you better at your job as time goes on. Instead of getting the habit of doing a task the wrong way because you were too scared to ask, you can instead quickly learn the right way to go about tasks. Keep this in your mind: The quicker you ask for help, the quicker you’ll learn and become the best at your new job. So fire those questions away!
Ask for feedback
What better way to keep getting better at your new job then to ask for feedback. At the end of the first week talk to your supervisor about your performance. Where do you need to improve? Where did you excel? Are there any notes you should take into the next week to work on? Asking for feedback lets your supervisor know you care about doing the best job you can. It lets them see you are more then willing to go an extra mile to make sure you are doing the job in the best way for the company.
Know your surroundings
Take time to get to know where everything is. Do you know where the restrooms are? How about the break room? Water cooler? Printer or copier? All of these things are important to easing you into the workplace. Break rooms and water coolers can provide a chance to get to know some of your co-workers. The better you know where everything around you is, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
Unwritten office conduct
With in the office there will be some unwritten office conduct rules that you will just have to observe. Do people take their lunch at their desk or do they leave for lunch? Are deadlines hard, meaning they have to be in exactly by this time, or are they more like a time frame? Do people normally converse via email or do they go in person when they need to discuss something? Is everyone quiet and focused during work hours or is it a bit more relaxed with people laughing and talking while they work? All of these things are very important to find out in order to fit in. These unwritten rules create the backbone of any workplace environment, so keep an eye out and learn them as quickly as you can.
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
It’s probably one of the most overused phrases in job-hunting, but also one of the most underutilized by job-seekers: dress for success. In job-hunting, first impressions are critical. Remember, you are marketing a product — yourself — to a potential employer, and the first thing the employer sees when greeting you is your attire; thus, you must make every effort to have the proper dress for the type of job you are seeking. Will dressing properly get you the job? Of course not, but it will give you a competitive edge and a positive first impression.
Should you be judged by what you wear? Perhaps not, but the reality is, of course, that you are judged. Throughout the entire job-seeking process employers use short-cuts — heuristics or rules of thumb — to save time. With cover letters, it’s the opening paragraph and a quick scan of your qualifications. With resumes, it is a quick scan of your accomplishments. With the job interview, it’s how you’re dressed that sets the tone of the interview.
How should you dress? Dressing conservatively is always the safest route, but you should also try and do a little investigating of your prospective employer so that what you wear to the interview makes you look as though you fit in with the organization. If you overdress (which is rare but can happen) or underdress (the more likely scenario), the potential employer may feel that you don’t care enough about the job.
How do you find out what is the proper dress for a given job/company/industry? You can call the Human Resources office where you are interviewing and simply ask. Or, you could visit the company’s office to retrieve an application or other company information and observe the attire current employees are wearing — though make sure you are not there on a “casual day” and misinterpret the dress code.
Finally, do you need to run out and spend a lot of money on clothes for interviewing? No, but you should make sure you have at least two professional sets of attire. You’ll need more than that, but depending on your current financial condition, two is enough to get started and you can buy more once you have the job or have more financial resources.
Expert Hints for Dress for Success for Men and Women
Attention to details is crucial, so here are some tips for both men and women. Make sure you have:
Finally, check your attire in the rest room just before your interview for a final check of your appearance — to make sure your tie is straight, your hair is combed, etc.
We’re always wanting to get more done at Monroe Personnel Service, LLC and Temptime so we read this article about productivity with interest. We have a couple natural multi-taskers here. That means we interact with the world and process information on several levels at the same time. Our minds work like holograms, the same proportions and patterns are being repeated over and over again on the microscopic level as well macroscopic and every level in between.
This means our interactions with the world on one level informs and generates energy for other interactions on other levels. That’s why multi-taskers find it so useful to do “low-level thinking” activities when the mind is occupied with higher level thinking demands. It can be tricky though. As Jason Womack says in the following article, it can be addicting to do those things which don’t need much effort but feel good to do. When too much of that happens the day feels wasted. So how to keep a balance?
To find my productivity hot spot I set my intention and then keep a soft focus throughout the day. I am most productive when I can cushion high priority tasks that need a lot of energy and attention with low priority, “no-brainer” tasks that give me space to decompress and feel productive at the same time. My aim is to keep myself flowing with activity and interactions that are serving my co-workers, our clients, as well as myself throughout the day.
How do you find your productivity “hot spot”?
Productivity expert Jason Womack says the secret to getting more done is to create a distraction-free zone. Here’s what it should look like.
Jason Womack dedicated his book, Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More, to you. That’s because Womack believes that you are almost certainly wasting your time and not accomplishing your full potential. The executive coach and entrepreneur in residence at tech business incubator Ventura Ventures, based in Ventura, California, has a strategy for making anyone be more productive. He spoke with Inc. reporter John McDermott about time management, how exercise can improve your work life, and what Little League can teach you about business.
Long before you became an expert on productivity, you were a baseball umpire. What did umpiring baseball teach you about business?
To be completely transparent, it was T-ball. That job paid for about half a year of college tuition, so it was actually a big deal for me. Here’s what I learned: The most important part of that job was building community on the diamond, and the community I was building was often between parents on opposing teams. When it comes to growing a business, it really comes down to how you interact with people with opposing ideas and getting those people to come together in some way.
So what’s really keeping people from being more productive?
I always thought the problem was time. But what I’ve realized over the past three years is that there are three other resources, the most important being energy and focus. If I don’t have the mental or physical energy, it doesn’t matter how much time I have. The next factor would be focus. When a CEO sits down at his or her desk, what is pulling on his or her focus that’s a distraction? An email can come in that’s a distraction but it feels good to work on that versus an invite that comes in but there might be too much work involved in that for the time being.
So, sometimes people busy themselves with low-level thinking tasks just to make themselves feel productive?
We’re starved for wins. People are looking for something to check off the list. It’s the idea that I can stay busy cleaning things up versus turning everything off and focusing solely on a problem, a situation, or an opportunity. Most of my clients can’t read a document or book for 15 minutes without being distracted.
How do you rewire a person’s behavior then?
That’s the fourth resource: ecosystem. I’m not going to be able to change what I do if I go to the same place where I was doing the incorrect behavior before. For instance, this phone call. There’s a room in my house where I take phone calls that is not at my desk. If I’m sitting at my desk, I can look at the book that I’m reading, my email; I can organize my desk. When I pop into this room, it’s my thinking space. Ask yourself: What can I shift in my environment so that my focus is enhanced so that my energy can be used most appropriately in that limited time that I have?
What is the most common time management mistake business owners make?
Not being conscious about where time went. If I could give one piece of advice to someone at the executive level it would be to minimize the number of times he or she is distracted while working.
How does someone become conscious of his or her distractions?
It goes back to the ecosystem. Recognize which ecosystem is the most distraction-free. Also, a CEO should have some kind of assessment or checklist. That will raise a person’s awareness of what he or she just did.
How does fitness play into productivity?
I believe that if people were a little bit more aware, their focus will increase. Every meal is a conscious experience. Do I need to finish those last four ounces of steak? Do I need to order an appetizer and a dessert? Do I need to drink that extra glass of alcohol? When the alarm goes off, do I need to walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes? Should I get out one subway stop early and walk six blocks? All of these micro decisions add up. CEOs are so used to going big, that if they’re not training for an Ironman, they’re likely to go in the opposite direction and not take care of themselves.
John McDermott is a business and culture reporter whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Playboy and on AOL.com. He recently moved from Chicago to Brooklyn, New York, to work for Inc.com. @J_M_McDermott