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Thursday, February 26, 2015

10 Secrets to Getting 90% of Your Work Done Before Noon

Image result for being productiveBy Murray Newlands  February  2015

Many successful people have developed methods that allow them to get as much as 90% of their work done before they take their lunch break. That doesn't mean they are up before dawn or that they lock themselves in an office every morning to get things accomplished. They have simply found ways to streamline their tasks and get more done in a shorter period.

1. Do All Your Writing in the Morning
There are studies that say writing helps focus your brain and increase your productivity. That’s why many time-management experts suggest writing things down in order to remember them. If writing reports, memos, or contracts is part of your daily routine, consider doing all your writing in the morning. Your quality of writing will improve, and you’ll find that the rest of your day flows much better as well.

2. Set an Alarm to Take Breaks
It may seem counterproductive to take a break in order to be more productive, but the fact is that stopping periodically is the best way to recharge and create better focus for the task at hand. Set an alarm, either on a clock in your office, on your watch, or on your cell phone, for the same time each day. When the alarm goes off, stop, stretch, walk around the office, or go get a cup of coffee. Limit your break to only five or 10 minutes to avoid getting distracted, but even that short break will improve your attention span.

3. Plan Your Day the Night Before
Every night, before you go to bed, list all the tasks you want to do the next day and what time you plan to work on them. Be sure to allow adequate time for each task, and don’t overload the schedule if at all possible. As you finish a task the next day, cross it off to give yourself a feeling of accomplishment. If you don’t complete a task, make it the first item on your list for the next day and do nothing else until it is done.

4. Don’t Linger Over Decisions
When you are faced with a decision during the course of a normal workday, make it within 60 seconds and then don’t second-guess it. The majority of the time, your initial reaction to a problem that must be solved is the correct response, but we tend to over think decisions until no decision is made, or it takes much longer than necessary to reach one.

5. Use the 80/20 Rule
Research has shown that only 20% of what you do each day produces 80% of the results. Therefore, eliminating the tasks that don’t matter can increase your productivity. For your next project, break it down into steps, removing tasks that won’t be productive until you end up with the minimal tasks required to get the project completed. More than likely, you will eliminate 80% of the tasks but achieve much more productivity from your team.

6. Ignore Email and Voice Mail Until After Lunch
By checking your email and voice mail first thing each day, you allow others to dictate what you accomplish in the morning. Instead, eat a healthy breakfast, and read the newspaper or work out during the time you would normally be checking email. If possible, remove your phone’s connections for email and only check it at work or at a computer. This forces you to focus on the information in the email when you have the files, documents, and information you need at hand. In addition, improving email etiquette can help improve productivity. Instead of copying multiple people in an email, use the blind copy function when you reply to an email with multiple recipients. If an email chain goes beyond two replies, pick up the phone.

7. Stop Multitasking
Instead of trying to do 10 things at once, focus on one task at a time. Changing tasks more than 10 times in one day actually lowers your productivity rate. When you are working on a task, focus on getting it done before moving on to another. The same applies to things that need to be done at home. If you are dusting the bedroom, don’t get distracted by the dirty dishes in the sink when you carry something to the kitchen. Finish one task before starting another.

8. Keep Your Desk Clutter-Free
Clutter leads to distraction. If you arrive at the office to the sticky note you left the day before that reminds you to call a co-worker, that sticky note is going to draw your attention, not the task you scheduled when you planned your day the night before. Each night, before leaving the office, organize your desk, placing items in bins, baskets, or files in the order you hope to tackle them. Take that sticky note with you, add it to your to-do list for the next day, and then toss it in the trash. A clean working environment helps you think more clearly.

9. Get Up Early
Although many people will argue that they are not “morning people” and simply can’t get up any earlier, the fact is they can. If you currently get up at seven and are finding yourself scurrying around in the morning to get everything done, back the alarm up to six. It may mean an earlier bedtime, but most people find that they are more productive getting up earlier than working later.

10. Eliminate Distractions
There are many ways to eliminate distractions, both at home and the office. Purchase a set of noise-canceling headphones. Inform co-workers that at certain times in the morning you are not to be disturbed, by phone or in person. Shut your office door. Turn off the radio or television. Although you may not think these are distractions, they can make it easy for your mind to wander and take your focus off the tasks at hand.

These 10 suggestions will help you be more productive and get the majority of your work done before you leave for lunch. Although taking the afternoon off every day may not be an option, at least you know you will leave the office feeling less stressed and more in control.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Write a letter and build your career!

On January 1, I made an unusual resolution. I committed to sending one hand-written letter per week—and not to relatives, or friends, or former teachers, but to other professionals. What would these letters say? That would depend on the week and the person. (Basically, I’d wing it.) My only rule was the letter wouldn't include any requests; I didn't want it to come off as a polite way of asking for something.
At the end of the first week, I actually had the perfect reason to write a letter. I’d been working with a PR rep on a story and wanted to thank her for her helpfulness, responsiveness, and all-around great attitude. Not only did she give me everything I needed for the article, but she also took the time to answer my questions about the public relations industry and her career. I’m interested in PR, so getting an entry-level employee’s perspective was super helpful.
I dropped a letter saying all that in the mail. A week later, I got a happy email.
“I almost never get mail at work, so I was super excited!” it read. “By the way, did you have any luck finding a summer internship? If you forward me your resume, I’ll pass it along to our VP!”
I’d mentioned I was looking for a summer position during one of our conversations, but we’d never brought it up again, and I certainly hadn’t mentioned it in the letter. While my gesture wasn’t done out of self-interest, it may end up transforming my career—and even if I don’t get the internship, I’ll have turned a casual professional relationship into a stronger connection.
The second week rolled around. I decided to send a letter to my mentor; we’re always talking over email, Skype, and phone, but this would be a nice change of pace. I updated her on my current projects, asked her how her startup was doing, and described how I was incorporating the feedback she’d recently given me.
My mentor sent a text thanking me “for the wonderful note.” I figured that was that. Then I got a package from her, containing a book she’d loved and her own hand-written letter. Now we regularly communicate by snail mail. It’s a great tradition, and it’s brought another dimension to our relationship.
I decided to write my third letter to a writer who contributes to one of the same websites as I do. Not only did she inspire me to apply for the job, but I love the honesty, humor, and charm of her pieces. I sent the letter to the magazine headquarters so they could forward it to her.
She sent me an email in response, saying my words had made her day, she’d checked out some of my work, and she’d give my name to a couple editors she knew who were looking for writers.
Sending someone a hand-written letter shows effort and gratitude. If you don’t have an ask—especially if you don’t have an ask!—it turns out it’s a gesture people really, really want to reward you for. Even without the tangible benefits of my letter campaign, I’d definitely keep it up. It’s one of the simplest ways you can strengthen a professional tie.
Starting is simple: Buy yourself a nice pack of cards and some stamps. Then, look for opportunities to send a letter to other people you've worked with or (like the case of the writer I admired) want to work with. Almost anyone is fair game—a person in the office next to you, a person in the office across the world from you, a former co-worker, your current boss, an intern who’s been extra helpful, someone who’s doing great things in your industry, an inspiring speaker or author; I could go on and on.
If you don’t know someone’s address, you can always ask him or her. Just say, “Hey! I’m sending you something in the mail, can I get your address?” However, if you want to make your letters a surprise, you’ll have to be a bit more creative. For people working in the same space, leave your note on their desks. For others, send it to their workplace (finding the address should only take two seconds on Google).
The only rules are you can’t ask for anything, the person can’t be from your personal life, and you have to send one letter a week.

Aja Frost

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

That Mindset Shift That Will Improve Your Performance!

Image result for mindset

What sets those who accomplish great things apart from those who fail to realize their ambitions? You might guess intelligence, appetite for risk, or even creativity. Those are all sensible-sounding suggestions, but that’s not what science has found.
According to work by pioneering Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and others, the best predictor of success in life is none of these usual suspects—it’s your mindset. Those who achieve great things generally believe they can improve and grow as people. This is called a “growth mindset.” Those who are frustrated in their attempts to realize their dreams tend to believe their abilities and talents are static, a.k.a., they have a “fixed mindset.” (Read more about the science behind this insight here.)
All of which is fine and good, but raises one essential question. If up to now you’ve tended to view your abilities through the prism of the fixed mindset, is there anything you can do to change? Absolutely, according to a post on Dweck’s website, which lays out steps for fighting back and learning to view your abilities as works in progress. Here they are in brief to get you started.

1. Think of Your Mindset as a Voice
How does a mindset manifest itself? It controls the ways you talk to yourself in the privacy of your own head. Recognizing this fact is the first step to achieving a growth mindset. “As you approach a challenge, that voice might say to you, ‘Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent’ or ‘What if you fail—you’ll be a failure,’” the post explains, adding that, “As you hit a setback, the voice might say, ‘This would have been a snap if you really had talent.’”
Pay attention to your thoughts and see if you frequently tell yourself anything similar. If so, you’ve spotted the fixed mindset at work, undermining your potentialfor success.

2. Choose Growth
Now that you know what you’re up against, the next step, according to Dweck, is recognizing that you aren’t stuck with the thoughts you currently have. “How you interpret challenges, setbacks, and criticism is your choice,” the post points out. “You can interpret them in a fixed mindset as signs that your fixed talents or abilities are lacking. Or you can interpret them in a growth mindset as signs that you need to ramp up your strategies and effort, stretch yourself, and expand your abilities.”

3. Talk Back
When it comes to that limiting voice in your head, feel free to be as sassy as you like in response. Tell that voice exactly what’s wrong with how it’s framing situations, and actively reformulate your approach to challenges and setbacks to reflect a belief in personal growth. The post offers examples:
The fixed mindset says, “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.”
The growth mindset answers, “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.”
Fixed mindset: “What if you fail—you’ll be a failure.”
Growth mindset: “Most successful people had failures along the way.”

4. Act
Changing the script in your head is a huge step, but Dweck’s site ends with a healthy reminder that the whole point of doing so is to change not just your thoughts, but your actions as well. Don’t content yourself with a remodeled inner voice. Get out there and practice what you’re preaching to yourself.

5. Add This 3-Letter Word
For a bonus fifth idea for creating the mindset necessary for success, you can check out this video of Dweck posted on the Brainwaves YouTube channel and recently featured on New York Magazine’s Science of Us blog. In the video, Dweck suggests that just three little letters can have a huge impact on your mindset.
“We’ve found that putting in certain phrases, like ‘not yet’ or ‘yet,’ can really boost students’ motivation. So if a student says, ‘I’m not a math person—yet’ or ‘I can’t do this—yet,’” she explains, “it puts their fixed mindset statement into a growth mindset context of learning over time.”

By Jessica Stillman  2015

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