Power.ME Blog

Productivity News and Advice

The worst of the productivity killers is procrastination. Procrastination takes many forms, some of which are innocent: “Oh, I’ll have more focus to work on that in an hour.” Even with good intentions, your procrastination negatively affects your productivity. You are working around excuses instead of working through problems.

It can be easy to beat, however. There are many strategies to keep you from procrastinating your tasks. Here are a few of my favorite strategies:

1. Don’t Eat Your Dessert First

“Life is short! Eat dessert first!” This mantra is in place to help you loosen up. But when this philosophy is keeping you from attending to your important tasks, it’s time to find a new one. When it comes to work, you should eat your veggies first, then your dessert. You have to eat your veggies first, because they are often the least delicious item on your plate, and when presented with other choices, you’ll almost always choose anything over veggies. If you can get these “vegetable” tasks out of the way, you’ll have the time and energy you need to focus on more delicious—read interesting—tasks. And don’t worry, once you increase your productivity with this strategy, you’ll always have room for dessert.

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Do you just consume all day? Or do you produce as well? Obviously we are all a little of both. Striking a balance between the two is good, and producing more than you consume is best. Clay Johnson, author of The Information Diet, cautions us, “We can lose our whole day, if we’re not careful, to a passive over-consumption of manufactured information.”

The problem with consuming is that we don’t schedule our consumption time. Whenever we get distracted, whenever we have spare moments, we are tempted to fill them with consumer activities—catching up on websites we follow, reading article after article online, partaking in social media, etc. There is no limit to the time you spend consuming since you always have access via your smartphone, tablet, and computer.

To improve your production rates as well as the quality of what you produce, you may have to decrease your consumption. Ask yourself these questions to see if you need to make some adjustments.

  1. What do you do first thing in the morning?
  2. What do you do when you first get to work?
  3. What do you do on your breaks?
  4. Track your production levels: for example, if you’re a writer, how many words per day?
  5. What do you do if you’re waiting for something from someone?
  6. How many websites do your subscribe to?
  7. How many articles do you read every day?
  8. How many social networks are you always up to date on?

Do you have a better idea of where you stand? Are you a producer or a consumer? Making adjustments in your consumption and production levels may be challenging, but it is doable. If you wake up and immediately check Twitter or turn on the TV, find an activity you can do instead that helps you start your day as a producer. If you automatically pull out your smartphone to catch up on some articles while you wait for someone, you can switch it up by trying to check off some items on your next action list.

Of course, you don’t need to be producing all day long. Clay says about the time we spend producing and consuming, “be deliberate about both.” He’s right—if we can be deliberate about how much time we spend consuming, we’ll remain in control of our habits.

So which are you, a producer or a consumer? And what do you plan to do to balance your life how you want it between the two?

Image by Ambro via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So much of what we all do each day relies on other peoples’ work ethics. We have ten assignments to do, but five of them are on our “Waiting For” list. Sometimes it’s nice to know that we can’t work on an assignment until the person who has it is done with it, but other times, you’d really appreciate it if your coworker would get a move on!

Can you do anything about it when someone isn’t as productive as you’d like them to be? Can you make someone be more productive? No, you can’t make them more productive. But you can try a few techniques to egg them on.

Patience

The first technique is for you to learn patience. Or extra patience, if you feel you have some already—you can never have enough. You won’t be able to get people to do what you want when you aren’t in control of yourself. Practicing patience shows you that your desired outcome (increased output from your coworker) will happen, but it will be alright if it’s not on your exact time schedule. If you can practice patience in front of your coworker, they will be able to understand where you are coming from without immediately growing defensive. Remember, you need someone to do something for you, so creating animosity or even just anxiety between you two will actually decrease the likelihood of you reaching that desired outcome.

Encouragement, Not Discouragement

Next, encourage your coworker. You can compliment them, ease their mind about the time crunch or the requirements, etc. When you use discouraging phrases or looks, you only add to the negative pressure your coworker feels. Encouraging them can help clear their mind of any extraneous information impeding their efforts on the task. It can also make them feel that you are on their side, further encouraging them to finish up.

Motivation/Reward

If your patience is wearing thin and you are out of encouraging words, you may need to provide some motivation. Remind them what might happen if you don’t complete the task on time. You can do this cautiously without discouraging them; this motivation could provide some positive pressure to hurry them up. You can also motivate them by telling them about the satisfaction they will feel once they finish the task.

You may need to offer them a reward if your deadline is looming and they aren’t getting the message. Offer to take them to lunch or buy them a drink if they will complete the task in the next thirty minutes. Tell them they can be King of the Office if that is a sufficient reward (for some that would be a dream come true!). Again, you are trying to get your coworker to do something for you, so any positive reinforcement will do more good than harm.

Remember, you really can’t control another person or make them more productive. But you can keep your cool and try these tactics to try to make a good situation out of a frustrating one. Do you have any other recommendations for encouraging coworkers?

Image by renjith krishnan via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leap Day is here! An extra day to finish what you started, start what you’ve been avoiding, and just have some extra fun. Here are 10 suggestions to help you make the most of your Leap Day.

1. Try something on your Someday/Maybe List

You probably don’t have time to review this list and get going on some of the projects you’d like to do eventually, so take the time today to at least entertain one of your brilliant ideas.

2. Suggest an idea in your staff meeting

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For those of us who struggle to relax “correctly,” planning out our down time might be a good solution. You’ll learn to give yourself the time and attention you need to reboot and refocus. Some might disagree with the idea of scheduling down time, but I believe that proper schedules can provide better down time—there is structure, a limit, and a clear purpose to your relaxation. Eventually, you’ll create better habits for relaxation, and you won’t need to schedule it out anymore.

I’ve noticed that after a well-scheduled day, I get home and expect my brain to remain productive until I go to sleep. However, without any semblance of a plan for the times when I’m not busy, my productivity ends when I leave the office. When I make a plan for my few hours of down time, I not only enjoy the time I set aside for myself, but I am also able to jump back into life after the appointed time is over.

Choose an activity

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It seems as though this is the year of simplicity—maybe because this might be the last year for all of us, according to the Mayans—and everyone has tips to help you trim down, refocus, and actually enjoy life this year. But, even with impending doom hanging over our heads, we don’t need to give up our goals and scheduled lifestyle with reckless abandon: the truth is you can be productive and happy! There is a middle ground that creates a lifestyle for you with the right priorities, the right amount of productivity, and the right amount of appreciation for life. You just have to put in a little work to find where that balance is for you.

Determining Your Priorities

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After the mid-afternoon slump around 2PM, you’re faced with an hour or two of good productive time. The problem is you know you’ll be heading home soon, and that makes it difficult to dive in to a new task. I’m recommending a daily ritual to keep you productive through the end of the work day. We’ve discussed the principles of this ritual before in End Your Workday with a Beginning. Now you need both a plan of action and a few techniques to start this ritual and keep your motivation high—otherwise you’ll find that the last hour or so of the day is just dead time, and you’ll end each work day with disappointing results.

Don’t end your day with a completed project

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Learning to love yourself is a lesson we all must learn if we want to enjoy life and feel accomplished. It’s not always an easy thing to do—often you are your own worst enemy, your greatest critic. But this Valentine’s Day, take time to appreciate not only your loved ones, but yourself. I’ve outlined varying levels of love you can have for yourself. See which levels you’ve mastered and which ones will need some work in the coming weeks. Make a goal to increase your love for yourself and your life this year.

Level One: Rejoice in your successes

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We’ve discussed learning a new skill before as a tactic for increasing your productivity. Now let’s talk about looking at the tasks you do on a regular basis and finding new strategies for accomplishing them. You may think you’re doing just fine as far as productivity goes, but it never hurts to try out new strategies just to keep your tasks safe from becoming stale.

Where to find a new strategy

You can find new strategies for completing your tasks by researching sites or blogs in areas that interest you and trying out the tips they suggest. If you don’t regularly follow blogs that write about your area of expertise, you should find some. There are sure to be a few writers that really get you excited about what you do and offer valuable tips to help you do what you do. With all the information available online, don’t let yourself miss out on what is relevant to you.

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Life brings you lemons sometimes, and you can’t always be prepared to deal with the consequences: an accident, an extended visit from extended family, illness, etc. When our schedules and routines get disrupted by life events, we may take longer to get back in the swing of things than is necessary—we just don’t always know how to regain control. Here are ten suggestions you can try to help you feel productive again.

  1. Take a few days: After any stressful event, you should give yourself a few days. Either take time away from your regular schedule, or if you can’t, give yourself a break from trying to do or be the best. Focus on what you need to recover, not what you think you should be doing.
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