Wish You Were More Productive? Try These 3 Tips!

production

Being productive means making room for the things you really want and uncovering new and innovative ways to work smarter, not harder. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier than you probably think it is. If you want to become more productive, here are a few key traits you should focus on.

Take Frequent Breaks to Recharge Yourself

Although this may seem a bit on the counterintuitive side, studies have shown that taking frequent breaks throughout the day help to recharge yourself. Our “biological clock” has two basic forms that are dictated by our natural twenty-four (circadian) rhythms and our shorter than a day, but longer than an hour (ultradian) rhythms. Our ultradian rhythms essentially function in 90-minute intervals. This is why it’s so easy to go from “firing all cylinders” to “boy I need a nap” and back again throughout the course of your work day.

Remember that managing your time and managing your energy are not mutually exclusive. Taking breaks will help get you over the hump and allow you to come back better and stronger than ever.

The Results Are All That Matters

In a piece originally published by Forbes on how to be a more productive manager, it stated how one of the key traits to focus on is leaning into the results, not the process. One of the reasons why we often feel overwhelmed at work is because we’re just not getting the results we’re after with a particular task. This causes our productivity (and as a result, our morale) to take a nosedive.

Because of this, it’s important to make your number one priority a high-quality, consistent, and reliable output, rather than simply trying to do as many things at the same time as possible.

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline

According to the experts at PsychCentral.com, one of the essential things that you can do to become more productive at work is to maintain a strict sense of self-discipline at all times. Highly productive people aren’t just able to eliminate tasks that are ultimately time-wasters – they also have a high degree of personal responsibility and are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves, both of which fall back under the distinct umbrella of discipline.

Hitting goals, meeting deadlines, fulfilling promises – these are the true goals behind that task you’re trying to find the time to accomplish. Maintaining focus on these through strict self-discipline is the perfect way to suddenly find more time in each day.

These are just a few of the key traits that you can focus on to instantly become more productive at work. This was the good news – the better news is that gains like these in your professional life will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on your personal life, too. You’ll be happier at home, and you’ll have more time to spend with your loved ones. It really is a win-win situation.

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5 Ways to Skillfully Handle Criticism With a Smile Instead of a Frown

criticism

“This work is sloppy and does not meet the needs of the company. You’ll have to completely rework it.”

“Is this all you’ve gotten done for today? You’re going to have to step up your pace.”

“Why didn’t you follow the instructions I gave you? This is terrible work.”

“I liked your old hairstyle better.”

Criticism, no matter how delicately someone gives it to you, hurts.

Being criticized makes us feel worthless, painfully vulnerable to our own negative thoughts and unsure of our abilities. Some inexperienced managers think criticizing their employees will incentivize them to work faster and harder but, of course, we know this tactic is the absolutely wrong way to motivate employees.

Scientists speculate there is something instinctual, or innate, about our adverse reaction to even mild criticism. Just like the human body is hard-wired to instantly move into a “fight or flight” state when confronted by danger, our psychological self (psyche) reacts to criticism defensively. In other words, being physically struck closely parallels being verbally “struck.” Our heart and breathing rate increases and we may start perspiring as our internal temperature rises. Depending on the type and level of criticism we hear about ourselves, some people tremble, feel extremely anxious, and may even start crying.

How to Give Criticism Positively

Before you criticize a family member, friend or fellow worker, stop and think about how you could rephrase what you are going to say to sound more like constructive criticism.

Examples of constructive criticism include:

  • (When someone fails to complete a project on time): Next time we have a project to work on, we’ll make sure there are enough resources and time for you to finish it as planned. In fact, perhaps we can schedule the project in advance so you are not inundated with work?
  • (When someone has been “slacking” in their work): You’ve done a great job reaching several goals lately. Nobody can achieve every goal they set for themselves so don’t let this affect your sense of accomplishment. Maybe your goals are a little too aggressive?
  • (When someone isn’t contributing to a group effort): I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to take an initiative lately. I would really like to see you take a leadership position because I think you have the talent and skills to be successful.

5 Ways to Handle Criticism Positively

  1. Objectify Yourself

As soon as you realize you are being criticized unconstructively, step away from your emotions by imagining yourself as a life-size cardboard cutout.

Wait until the person criticizing you leaves before allowing yourself to think about what they said. Consider who criticized, what they criticized you about, and whether it was actually warranted. Remember that people who are criticized are usually doing something new, different, and possibly daring.

  1. Don’t Cross Your Arms

Adopting a defensive posture may provoke the criticizer into extending their critique of you.  Simply stand with your arms at your sides, nod, and show that you are listening.

  1. Learn from Criticism

Is there a grain of truth in the criticism you received?  Don’t let strong emotions cloud your ability to judge truths about yourself. Many of us say or do things that are not in our best interest but fail to realize our error.

  1. Get Feedback from a Friend

Tell a trusted friend about the criticism you received.  Getting another opinion can help mitigate the negative feelings you experience from a criticism.

  1. You Control Your Emotions and Thoughts

Nobody is in control of what you think or feel. The way you think and feel about criticism is all up to you, not the person who criticized you.

“Criticism is something you can avoid by saying nothing,
being nothing, and doing nothing.”    ~Aristotle

Plug In to the Power of Personal Reflection

reflection

Sometimes life is like a treadmill.

Occasionally you’re on a calm jog and the belt speed never outpaces your strides. Sometimes, you push yourself to the limit but find the challenge ideal. But in certain seasons, the treadmill is moving too fast to handle. You long to step back from the grind, but this seems like an impossible luxury.

It’s ok to press pause. It’s actually GREAT to press pause. Often in our battle for success, we never stop to address broken systems in our home, health, or careers. Simple adjustments might bring substantially better output, but we rarely prioritize personal maintenance. The decision is yours: will you make time to reflect and adjust or continue relentlessly until life dumps you in a heap?

Take Time to Press Pause.

Once you’ve slowed down (yes, really slowed down!) what should you do?

Perhaps you should begin with a simple pleasure (a walk, coffee treat, or nap?) to allow your mind to unwind. Then consider an intentional approach to reflection.

Psychologist Robert Taibbi (author of “Boot Camp Therapy: Action Oriented Brief Approaches to Anxiety, Anger and Depression”) suggests you begin by defining a problem area as concretely as possible. Avoid being vague or grouping several problems under one umbrella (i.e. “this house is a disaster!”). Instead, identify specific areas of struggle (“this coat closet is overcrowded”) and decide on a personal plan of action.

Don’t be overwhelmed by what you CAN’T do, instead focus on manageable steps that will move you forward (“lower coat hooks would be better”). Begin with a positive spirit and an intentional ownership of the solution. Make a plan, ask for help, or take action as soon as possible. As you make even tiny strides, you will be empowered to continue.

Find Tools for Growth.

Sometimes a perspective shift requires greater insight than we have on our own.

Consider some coaching, mentorship, or tools like workbooks or discussion groups. Clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson has been fascinated by the therapeutic effects of writing for decades. Experiments dating back for decades show that writing can reduce depression, increase productivity, and even cut down on doctor visits.

Peterson and his team have recently rolled out several tools for self-reflection, including virtues and faults analysis, past and future writing exercises, or a full “self-authoring” suite that allows people to locate and resolve problem areas so they can better dream and achieve in the future. “The act of writing is more powerful than people think,” Peterson says. The decisive results of Peterson’s research prompted NPR to dub his reflection tool the “writing assignment that changes lives.”

Make a Plan.

They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

What part of your week do you devote to reflecting on your goals or challenges? Do you take mini-retreats to refocus? What if you set this as a top priority and allowed your reflection time to dictate your schedule priorities in a given week, month, or year?

Look for natural cues in your seasonal schedule (i.e. Daylight Savings changes, pre-scheduled auto maintenance, your half birthday) and seek to align some intentional reflection with these cues. Add smaller goals (like a monthly “plan of action”) to put wheels on your long-term vision. Find a friend or mentor to keep you accountable or schedule regular check-ins (alone or with others) to get yourself back on track after a derailment.

Just as professional performance reviews are a priority, how much more essential is self-review? Make regular deposits into your own well-being and soon your bank account will grow!

Top Five Ways to Work Less and Enjoy Life More

enjoy life moreEverything today is about “more”: more money, more time, more pressure, and ultimately, more stress. However, does this rat-race life leave you feeling flat and defeated and constantly chasing an ideal you’re no longer sure exists? If this sounds like you, it’s probably time to downshift and find ways to work less and truly enjoy your life more. Working less sounds like a scary prospect, but once you see how achievable it is and how much peace it will return to your life, you will be sold!

  1. Make Changes at Work
    We often get caught up in the tidal wave of rushing to get to the next level at work. So caught up, in fact, that we don’t realize we are no longer enjoying the work that we do and aren’t even sure that we’re adding value. How do you make an honest shift towards happiness while not letting down your co-workers or your boss, and continuing to pay your bills? Fortunately, there are more options available than ever before. There are simple steps that you can take such as walking at lunch as a way to get away from your desk or more drastic options such as requesting a lower-stress (and likely lower-paid) position. However, there are some great middle ground opportunities at businesses today as long as you get creative. Have you ever considered flex time? More than ever, organizations are allowing their employees to work one day a week from home or create a more flexible schedule that doesn’t inconvenience office mates or negatively impact work.
  2. Pick Your Battles
    Think of everything that you need or want to accomplish in the next five years. Maybe it’s saving up for a big trip, or getting that huge promotion you’ve had your heart set on. Physically write down what is most important to you in the short-term and the long-term, and those are the things that you don’t want to compromise on. Everything else is up for negotiation. If a short jaunt with friends comes up that will require you to skip a vacation day with family later in the year, just say no! The same goes for things like eating out on a weekly basis. The costs associated with feeding a family of three or four outside the home can really mount up, and keep you from reaching longer-term goals for a short-term convenience. This trade-off may not be worth it and may cause you to have to work overtime to support your fast-food habits.
  3. Stop Multitasking
    Taking the time to focus on one topic at a time truly does pay off. While multitasking feels efficient, a recent study at Stanford University showed how productivity can plummet when your brain attempts to focus on more than one thing at the same time. Instead, be intentional about what you need to accomplish — focus, complete the task, and then move on.
  4. Automate Your Savings
    Ever find it difficult to get enough money together at the end of each month for savings? If so, it’s time to outsmart yourself! Even if it’s only ten to twenty dollars per week, start sending a small chunk of change from each paycheck to a savings account that you can’t easily access, and do it automatically. The theory being that if you never see the money, you’ll never miss it. Before you know it, you’ll be able to buy something you’ve really wanted without having to work overtime or take on extra shifts to make it happen.
  5. Get Motivated
    Sometimes, the way to do your best work is simply to have fun! When you are energized and enjoying what you do, work just comes more naturally. Creative juices flow, relationships with co-workers have more synergy, and life is good. When you’re at work, look for ways to enjoy it! The positive mood will spill over into your personal life, and you’ll find yourself enjoying life more every day.

These are just a few of the ways you can find more peace and joy in your daily life, simply by finding the balance between hard work and hard play. Multitask less, focus more, and bring fun to everything you do!

How to Combine Your Passion and Profession to Make Your Life Purposeful

love-what-you-doYou have likely heard the adage, “Choose a profession you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Although the thought of this has merit, sometimes, if a person’s passion isn’t something they can easily transform into a money-making endeavor, it can be a little unrealistic. Thankfully, there is more than one way to combine your passion with your profession to create a purposeful life.

Use Your Passion to Generate Income
We all seem to know at least one person who bought a professional camera and began making money by becoming a photographer. Their profession, of course, was combined with their passion for photography and is now generating income. Another good example of this is someone whose passion is music. They have many options when it comes to transforming that into a career. They can become a music teacher at a school, play an instrument in their local orchestra, give private lessons, or even play at places of worship, parties or weddings as a way to produce an income. These are just a few examples of passions perfectly suited for generating income. There are countless others, and we can all agree that “it’s a beautiful thing when a career and passion come together.” If you have a passion like this, congrats! Unfortunately, not all passions are equally conducive when it comes to generating income. There isn’t an obvious way to create a career out of every passion.

What to Do When Your Passion Doesn’t Easily Translate to a Profession
Let’s consider an example of a passion that would be less than ideal as a career. This could include being passionate about running, biking, or being focused on giving to the homeless, third world countries, or charities. Often, these are hobbies/passions that are practiced alongside a career and don’t ever become the career itself. Of course, there are some ways to use these passions to generate income. However, it’s not easy to make money working for a charity or by giving to the homeless. It’s also hard to get someone to pay you to cycle or run. That doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to live out your passion, though. You just might have to get creative with how you go about doing it.

Companies That Have Successfully Combined Their Passion & Profession:
An excellent example of this principle in action is the TOMS Company, which has been in business for going on eleven years. The concept they came up with was revolutionary at the time. When they began, TOMS was virtually the only company doing something like this. (There are more now.) TOMS started by selling shoes and advertising a one-for-one system. Their customers bought a pair of shoes from them, and then TOMS donated a pair to a needy child. Therefore, every customer got to get in on the giving action. Customers loved the product but liked the fact that their purchase helped a child in need even more. Today, TOMS has branched out to sell coffee, bags, and eyewear along with their shoes. As of January 2016, TOMS has given away more than 60 million pairs of shoes. TOMS is an excellent example of how you can combine your passion, in this case, helping children in need, with a profession that began selling shoes in a unique way.

How to Get Started
TOMS showcases an ideal strategy to combine your passion and profession. Of course, you don’t have to sell shoes to give back. You can also use the assets you acquire through doing business to give back. The idea isn’t to get this perfect. It’s to attempt to combine your passion with your profession in some way so that you will live purposefully. Remember, starting somewhere will get you where you want to go quicker than sitting still!

Turning Failure Into Success – Stories of Famous Achievers and Their Failures

ThinkstockPhotos-484569466Every entrepreneur, and I do mean every, has had a taste of failure at one time or another. The slam-dunk business idea that landed flat. The star product that fizzled out. It happens more often than you really hear about, but to those individuals that it’s happening to, the “failures” can be seriously disheartening. If you’re feeling a bit down about a business venture that didn’t go as you planned, don’t lose hope. Countless well-known and successful individuals have achieved their dreams despite multiple setbacks. Their stories are sure to inspire you.

Henry Ford
Best known for the most ubiquitous automobile on the road today, Ford founder, Henry Ford had a rocky start. Early on in his life, Ford worked as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. It was during this time that he built the first gasoline-powered horseless carriage in a shed behind his home. Due to a number of factors, including controversial views on politics and battles with the United Automobile Workers, Ford reportedly went broke three different times. Despite numerous setbacks, Ford went on to develop new methods for mass production that put the automobile within the reach of ordinary citizens.

Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur was a French Chemist and Microbiologist most well-known for his invention of pasteurization, a process that kills bacteria in food through extreme heat. Beyond making food safer for people for years to come, this below-average chemistry student is also responsible for creating vaccines for anthrax and rabies. Not bad for a student ranked 15 out of 22 chemistry students!

George Lucas
George Lucas…the man that brought us Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and the Force, fueled every kids’ dream of being a fighter pilot in outer space. It’s hard to imagine that a franchise worth over $30 billion began with rejections from every studio in Hollywood before 20th Century Fox finally took a chance on it. We shudder to think what would have happened had he just given up and went home.

He’s what George Lucas says about failure: “If you’re creating things, you’re doing things that have a high potential for failure, especially if you’re doing things that haven’t been done before. And you learn from those things. No matter how you cut it, you say, ‘Well, that didn’t work,’ or, ‘Well, this didn’t work,’ or ‘That was not the best idea.’ And you use that information that you’ve gotten, which is experience… Failure is another word for experience.”

Walt Disney
Known for his fanciful theme parks and animated children’s tales, Walt Disney wasn’t always living in the lap of luxury. Countless instances of adversity rained down on Disney in his early years as an animator. After having to dissolve his company in 1921, he was unable to pay his rent and was living on dog food to survive. Later, after gaining some success with a cartoon character named Oswald the Rabbit, Universal obtained ownership of the character and hired all of Disney’s artists when Disney tried to negotiate with Universal Studios to increase his pay. Not surprisingly, Disney reportedly suffered from depression during his long career. The suffering and perseverance paid off, as assets of the Walt Disney Company are currently in excess of $89 billion in 2015.

Dr. Seuss
Who would have thought that one of the most well-known and revered children’s book authors had trouble getting his writing career off of the ground? It’s true, though. The crafty “Cat in the Hat” creator was reportedly rejected by 27 publishers for his first book “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street.” The 28th publisher, Vanguard Press, took a chance on the young author, ultimately selling over 6 million copies of that first book. Since then, Dr. Suess has published over 40 books and sold over 600 million copies. The best part is how he made a positive impact on the lives of millions of kids around the world.

Remember, you write your own stories, so you are in control of writing your ending. Will those “failures” become opportunities or excuses to quit?