Thongtaccong Management

Managers are people who do things right

Month: December 2015

6 Ways to Better Manage Your Focus and Improve Your Productivity

6 Ways to Better Manage Your Focus and Improve Your Productivity

One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is always having to be “switched on,” to be constantly vigilant and on the lookout for new opportunities that will build brand awareness and promote a product or service.

Except being “in the zone” all the time is tiresome. The brain, just like any muscle, gets tired the more it’s used. Heck, mine is already tired from writing this article. The point is that learning how to manage your mental throttle control is critical if you want to stay at the top of your game. Every athlete, speaker and entrepreneur needs rest becausethat’s when new insights and reflections come to mind.

Daniel Goldman, author of Focus, said it best: “A failure to focus inward leaves you rudder-less, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.”

To mitigate the potential for suboptimal focus — and hence, diminished productivity — here are six ways to build more rest and renewal into your daily routine:

1. Turn off your email

Yup, I said it. Ignore your email for one hour and see how much more productive you become. Better yet, schedule two-hour intervals where you will check email beginning at the start of the workday.

2. Shift from high gear to low gear — and back to high

The Pomodoro technique is a way to manage not only your time but also the amount of concentration during that time. Here’s how it works: grab a timer and set it for 25 minutes. Ready? Now go work. Once the clock hits zero take a three- to five-minute break. Repeat this cycle three more times for a total of four pomodori (or roughly two hours) then take a longer, 15 to 25 minute break.

The purpose of this mental-interval training is to get the brain to “stretch” for a given time period before it “retracts” and relaxes — similar to a rubber band. The contraction-expansion effect trains your brain to be more agile and shift from a “low gear” to a “high gear” when needed.

3. Silence your phone

Similar to the email isolation above, turn off your phone to guarantee uninterrupted focus. If you’re worried about missing an important call, you can set your smartphone (it is 2015) to “do not disturb” and set the one contact that gets a pass. This way, the random telemarketer won’t disturb you doing your work, but you also won’t miss the call(s) that are important.

4. Systematize

If there is one commonality amongst successful people, effective leaders and great teams, it’s consistency. To be top notch in any field requires strict focus and a consistent effort, which comes from deliberate practices conducted at specific times over and over again. In other words, practice doesn’t make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect.

5. Listen to your grouch

If you find yourself being short fused or snappy with people, chances are you’re stressed. When you notice this, take it as a sign that it’s time to step back and reassess your current life demands. Additionally, you’ll want to …

6. Get your sweat on

OK, not necessarily “sweat” per se, but performing some physical activity. Taking intermittent breaks throughout the day or simply going for a walk helps recharge not only your brain but also your physical and emotional capacities that allow you to keep focusing. In anarticle by Harvard Business Review, the authors studied 106 employees at various banks and prescribed strategies for strengthening their energy levels at work. The result: A 13 percent increase in productivity in the first three months of study.

Entrepreneurship is a long-term focus, and taking care of yourself every day determines how effective you’ll be the next. Save the mental sprints for when they’re needed.

10 Simple Productivity Tips for Organizing Your Work Life

Productivity is all about efficiency — doing more, faster and with less.  And with increasing demands from today’s anytime, anywhere workplace, it is has never been more important. To get the most out of your day, you need to focus on these three segments of your life:

Time

Humans are notoriously poor multitaskers, so managing your time is critical to improving productivity. The biggest time suck is unexpected (and usually unimportant) tasks. We all know that urge to read the email that just came in or to peek at the latest notification to pop up — an inclination psychologist Daniel Levitan, author of The Organized Mind, calls the novelty bias. This unintentional task-switching eats up more time than you might think. University of California information scientistGloria Mark found that it takes an average of 26 minutes to recover from trivial interruptions. To avoid this, plan out your day and compartmentalize unexpected interruptions:

1. Start the day with structured ‘me time’: Go through email and social media updates that have piled up overnight and triage the backlog. Knock out quick responses and referrals, so other people can start working on tasks. Schedule the bigger tasks. And delete the stuff that is informational or not important.

2. Use commute time to complete coordination tasks: It’s crazy not to use commute time to winnow out time-intensive tasks. During my morning commute, I do a roundup of my external consultants — getting an update on open projects and finding out if they need assistance. By the time I arrive at the office, I have an accurate picture of my projects’ status.

3. Reduce all meeting times by 25 percent: You will get the same amount of work done, because so much time is wasted dealing with conference call setup and useless banter. (See this humorous video for a demonstration.) If you cut one five-person meeting per day from one hour down to 45 minutes, you will gain back 25 hours a month of work time. That’s roughly 300 hours a year — almost two months of work!

4. Schedule regular breaks during the day: Running from back-to-back meetings is not productive, because you get tired and lose focus. Block off time in your calendar and take breaks. Making these breaks a routine increases predictability, creating a regular schedule to keep your mind organized. If you can afford it, take a 10- to 20-minute power nap after lunch, too.

Space

“Space” refers to your environment — your office locale as well as to your virtual space. Workspace may not be the final frontier, but it is an important element for increasing work productivity. Here are a few space-related tips:

5. Work ‘offsite’ when it makes sense: When you need to write a document or research a topic, the absence of office interruptions will improve concentration. Some companies are finding that letting employees work from home has other advantages including reduced commute time, shorter lunch times and fewer sick days. See how you can apply documented strategies from Chinese travel site Ctrip, theAIIM and WordPress to your own work environment.

6. Consolidate the number of places you need to go for information:There are too many apps to navigate — email, microblogging tools like Yammer, chat tools like Lync, social media utilities like Twitter and LinkedIn and operational systems like SAP, Oracle and Salesforce. Make notifications from each application appear in one place.

7. Switch off popup notifications on mobile devices and on desktop:Don’t let applications interrupt your concentration with annoying popup messages. Shut them off. Now. And limit checking your email to set times during the day. You won’t regret it.

Mindset

Put yourself in a position where you can focus on doing the right task for the moment:

8. Converse, don’t email: Pick up the phone or walk down the hall and talk directly to colleagues. For geographically remote folks, use chat. You can give precise direction and clear up misunderstandings quickly. The amount of time wasted perpetuating endless email threads is mindboggling — and the pointless mistakes generated.

9. Chop up big problems into smaller chunks: This will reduce the feeling of overload and the procrastination associated with taking on big jobs. One practical way to do this is to adopt Agile techniques for managing your work tasks. Born in the software development world, Agile’s big contribution to task management is breaking big jobs down into short sprints. Having a solution in hand throughout the process reduces the anxiety of tackling big jobs.

10. Use checklists for repetitive tasks to reduce errors: Particularly when you are overworked or are operating under time constraints, checklists keep you on track. For an excellent guide for using checklists, take a look at Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto.

Here Is How to Effectively Manage Your Stressful and Busy Schedule

About twenty years ago, a group of college students at Stanford University headed home for winter break. While they were gone, they were given the task of keeping a daily journal.

In this journal, some of the students were asked to write about their most important personal values and then describe how the events of each day connected with those values.

Another group of students was simply asked to describe the positive events that happened throughout their day.

When the students returned to school after the break, the researchers discovered that those students who wrote about their personal values were healthier, experienced fewer illnesses, and had better energy and attitude than the students who merely wrote about the positive events in their lives.

As time has gone on, these findings have been replicated in nearly a hundred additional studies. In fact, according to the book The Upside of Stress (audiobook) by Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal:

 It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.

In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.

But why?

The power of personal values

Why would such a simple action like writing about your personal values deliver such incredible results?

Researchers believe that one core reason for this is that journaling about your personal values and connecting them to the events in your life helps to reveal the meaning behind stressful events in your life. Sure, taking care of your family or working long hours on a project can be draining, but if you know why these actions are important to you, then you are much better equipped to handle that stress.

In fact, writing about how our day-to-day actions match up with our deepest personal values can mentally and biologically improve our ability to deal with stress. In McGonigal’s words, “Stressful experiences were no longer simply hassles to endure; they became an expression of the students’ values… small things that might otherwise have seemed irritating became moments of meaning.”

Living out your personal values

My own experiences have mirrored the findings of the researchers. In fact, I stumbled into a very similar practice by accident before I had even heard about these research findings.

Each year, I conduct an Integrity Report. This report has three sections. First, I list and explain my core values. Second, I discuss how I have lived and worked by those core values over the previous year. Third, I hold myself accountable and discuss how I have missed the mark over the previous year and where I did not live up to my core values.

I have found that doing this simple exercise each year actually helps to keep my values top of mind on a daily basis. Furthermore, I have direct proof of how and why my writing and work connects with my most meaningful personal values. This type of reinforcement makes it easier for me to continue working when the work gets stressful and overwhelming.

If you’re interested in writing about your own personal values, I put together a core values list with more than 50 common personal values. You are welcome to browse that list for inspiration when considering your own values.

Whether you choose to conduct an integrity report like I do or keep a journal like the Stanford students, the science is pretty clear on the benefits. Writing about your personal values will make your life better and improve your ability to manage stressful events in your life.

7 Management Lessons From a 7-Time CEO

Yet, as CEO of my now-seventh company, I can cite many, many practical tips I wish first-time CEO Jack Sweeney — circa 1993 — had known in order to make better management decisions.

Looking back at my 22 years of setting management direction, building teams and analyzing markets, I’ve come to a rather obvious conclusion: The world has changed a heck of a lot since my first job as CEO, and so has my management style.

Early on, I made decisions by the seat of my pants and was micromanaging my staff. Today, I make choices using quantitative support, and let my team — the true experts — do their jobs. Because the reality is, my own success has always been a result of my team’s success.

The bottom line is this: As the world changes, so should your management style. That goes for whether you’re managing a team of ten, or ten thousand.

To help you effectively manage your own team and guide your company to greatness, I recently tapped into my own Top 7 Management Lessons. If anything, read them on behalf of first-time CEO Jack Sweeney — he highly recommends you take a look:

1. Trust your team and get out of the way.

When I was a first-time CEO, I had difficulties trusting anybody. I worked hard on tasks I’d “delegated” to others, and wouldn’t let them fully execute without my input. Now, I stay out of my team’s way and let them do their jobs, advising them before and after they’ve worked at accomplishing a task, versus throughout the entire process.

You can get much more from team members by assigning them tasks and critiquing them afterward. This time frame gives them a chance to grow and fosters better communication. In the early days, I barely had an opportunity to critique since I was so involved in the process myself.

2. Use quantitative support to make decisions.

As I mentioned, I based a lot of my decisions as a first-time CEO on subjective information. It wasn’t all on the fly, but we certainly didn’t have the quantitative support or technology we use today. These days, I’m using measurable data as much as possible, drawn from dozens of systems I use to guide my latest company, SevOne. There are a lot of productivity tools to help management leaders accomplish their goals, whatever their line of business, and it’s important to identify and arm every business unit — not just sales and finance — with what they need to operate at their best.

3. Learn how to manage a mobile workforce.

There’s no doubt the workplace has changed. I rarely need a private office or even a computer (I have one in my back pocket). Nor are the goings-on of the company central to where I’m sitting. These changes have caused a lot of business leaders to struggle with managing an increasingly mobile and global workforce.

So, you must adapt yourself and your company to meet the needs of today’s employees. Now that I look back, I see today’s ability to work anywhere as amazing. My dad, God bless him, wasn’t able to make it to any of my basketball games because he was too busy making a living.

I’m proud to say I’ve never missed one of my son’s basketball games because I’ve got tools that allow me to be wherever I want to be and still get my job done. Either embrace the trend, or be left behind, because tomorrow’s best talent doesn’t want to work in yesterday’s office.

4. New to the company? Don’t be overly helpful.

It takes a long time to understand what people have done to make their companies successful. Accordingly, as a CEO, I’ve disciplined myself to not fully insert myself into too many areas of the company for the first two to six months, unless there’s a crisis.

If you’re the new leader at a company, treat it as if you were going onto a busy highway: Be careful merging into traffic and get up to speed before switching lanes. Take time to figure out what’s going on and then start changing directions without slowing down. When it comes to management, I truly believe that if you move too fast, you often make mistakes. Again, the only caveat is: as long as there isn’t a crisis.

5. When things get complicated, go back to basics.

People have a tendency to overcomplicate management when technology is involved, but sometimes your style and mindset just need to go back to basics. Having a company “elevator pitch” and clearly communicating it to your team, for example, is important because it conveys exactly what you do in a digestible way that your team can use next time it answers that question at a networking event.

Additionally, using an analogy from the past to explain your business is helpful. Things change but are often similar to what’s happened in the past. If you can find an easy way to tell customers and investors how your product or service emulates something they already know, you’ll find it easier to communicate.

Google, for example, uses electricity to explain how the internet is going to be everywhere. Going back to the basics is a lesson I would have shared with my first-time CEO-self.

6. Your feelings are going to get hurt.

Recognizing that your feelings will occasionally be hurt  comes with the territory when you’re a CEO or other business leader. But if you’re not willing to listen because you’re afraid to hear bad news or constructive feedback, you’re going to miss the opportunity to learn about the real issues and what you could be focusing on.

I always tell people: I love bad news. In fact, I always want the bad news first. The reason is, I want to be informed, feel more in control and be in a better position to resolve issues and manage them appropriately. Plus, if you’re a leader who’s not open to bad news, and your team knows it, it’s impossible to build trust.

7. Hire someone you’d be happy to see in the hallway.  

Maintaining a culture and motivating people, while building a company at the same time, can be challenging. I personally admire people like Joe Tucci at EMC and John Chambers at Cisco, for both having accomplished that. Since my first job, I’ve learned that hiring people who are perfect in the interview and on paper is good. But hiring people you look forward to seeing in the hallway — people who are capable but also nice — is equally important.

Additionally, always admit when you’ve made a hiring mistake, because you’re not going to be perfect. When you make a bad hire, it’s probably not the best fit for the person you hired, either, so own up to it.