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Productivity Secrets of Barack Obama

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Productivity Secrets

Few leadership positions have as many demands and responsibilities as being the president of the United States. In that role, Barack Obama made it look easy with his unflappable demeanor and ability to speak about any subject in an engaging, charismatic way. Obama’s daily life as president required him to pack as much productivity as possible into every minute. How did he do it? 

1. Make Use of Uninterrupted Time 

Although we think of most highly productive people as early risers, Obama was a lifelong night owl who used the uninterrupted nighttime hours to get a jump on the next day. Obama used those hours on tasks that required his full concentration, including writing first drafts of speeches or planning for an upcoming meeting with a head of state.

It can be hard to find uninterrupted blocks of time in your day, but try to carve them out. If you’re an early bird, consider the early morning hours. Get as many hours as you can to fully focus on your work.

2. Minimize Decision Fatigue 

As president, Obama had to make major decisions about the country every day. Decision fatigue is a real phenomenon that can sap your energy for bigger projects. It happens when you’re overwhelmed by the number of daily decisions you must make. Mental health experts recommend minimizing low-stakes decisions like what to wear and what to eat every day. 

In Obama’s words, “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Obama managed this by always wearing the same suits and eating the same things every day. Obama is not the first highly productive person to simplify his wardrobe as a way of minimizing decision fatigue. Designer Michael Kors wears the same outfit of jeans, a white tee shirt, and a black blazer every day. He has said in interviews that it gives him one less thing to stress about every day. Steve Jobs was known for always wearing jeans and a black turtleneck sweater. 

3. Let Go of Perfectionism

You may be surprised to hear that Obama says he is not well-organized. Like being a night owl, this is another way the former president defies what we think of as a classic trait of highly productive people. 

In an interview on productivity tips, Obama noted that he relied on a team of trusted professionals to help him get through the mounds of paperwork his job as president required. He said he could get through the work by breaking tasks down into small pieces and realizing that some things just wouldn’t get done.

“If you’re too much of type A,” he said, “you need to leaven that a little bit.” He added that “feeling comfortable with the fact that we’re human, and we’re going to be imperfect,” will help you get more done in the time you have.

Become the Leader You Want to Be

At the Productivity Intelligence Institute, we work with business leaders, project managers, and other professionals who want to maximize their productivity and become leaders who make it look easy. If you need help reaching those goals, talk to us today.

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Productivity Secrets of Jeff Bezos

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Secrets to the Productivity Mindset of Jeff Bezos

Every entrepreneur wants to increase productivity in their organization. They structure their days to get things done. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, takes a different approach. The secrets of his success and attitudes about productivity have more to do with the way he thinks about his business than the schedule in his daily planner.

Look Ahead and Work Backwards

For Bezos, leaders must orient their productivity toward the future. The tasks of a given day should bring you closer to a long-term goal. He suggests looking at where you want to be in two or three years and working backward from that point. What are the steps you need to take to make it happen? Knowing that you are working toward future success will shape your priorities in the current moment.

Prioritize and Streamline the Decision-Making Process

Employees in a large corporation like Amazon make thousands of decisions every day. If the head of the company is trying to make too many low-level choices, it will quickly devour their time. As a business leader, you want to focus on decisions that will have an impact. Many choices do not have meaningful, long-term effects. You can always change the color palette of your website. Put your energy into decisions that will transform your business, and trust your staff with day-to-day choices.

Bezos streamlines the decision-making process so that the organization can move more quickly from the planning stage to action. He suggests that entrepreneurial leaders should make decisions when they have about 70% of the information they think they need. He finds that there are diminishing returns on additional data. The extra certainty is usually not worth the delay.

Disagree and Commit

A leadership team will not always reach a consensus. Bezos suggests that differing points of view often lead to creative solutions. However, at some point, the leader must make a final decision on the path forward. He asks team members with different points of view if they can trust and commit to his decision. For productivity purposes, a unified commitment is often more important than complete agreement.

The Intersection of Productivity and Creativity

Jeff Bezos believes that putting in extra hours does not necessarily increase productivity. For other leaders at Amazon and for himself, he seeks to cultivate a productive mindset that makes creative connections. For example, Bezos does not schedule any meetings before 10 in the morning. He devotes the earlier hours to unstructured time when ideas can percolate.

The intersection of productivity, creativity, and optimism is the point where success happens. If you are working on a project that excites you and that you think matters, getting things done will not be a problem.

Finding a Partner for Inspired Productivity

At the Productivity Intelligence Institute, I work with entrepreneurial leaders to help them improve their personal and organizational productivity. If you are looking for a partner to help you set business goals and attain them, I would be honored to help you.

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Future of Work: Productivity Trends 2022

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The future of work is all about change, and it’s time to recognize that “normal” is no longer a thing. While new companies and startup organizations usually embrace the notion of constant change, major enterprises around the world are discovering that they must do the same. For instance, companies like Shopify, Twitter and Facebook confirmed that they are establishing permanent policies that let people work from home, which is a big shift from how they used to operate. Here are four workplace trends for 2022. 

1. Hybrid Workplace Opportunities 

In 2022, it’s going to be more common to see hybrid work opportunities that allow employees to choose from three main work environment models. These will be traditional workplaces, remote options and a combination of both. The big thing that will change for employees is that they’ll be able to choose whether they work from home, at the office or go hybrid and do both. 

Companies are starting to shift away from a traditional office setting that involves a centralized workplace. When the pandemic was at its most extreme in 2020, an estimated 69% of large companies predicted that they would be decreasing how much office space they needed. 

Hybrid models will vary from companies keeping some permanent central offices that feature hot-desking to allow for employees who will be working remotely more often to eliminating office space completely and using co-working offices and rentable meeting rooms that they can use to support their remote staff members. 

According to a report published by PWC, technology developments will change the way that people work during the next five to 10 years. Demographic shifts will also transform how people work as will climate change. 

In 2022, companies will start to reveal their stances on political and societal issues. They’ll be doing this because workers are starting to want to work for companies that share their values. This sentiment has been growing for a while, but during 2020, it grew even more. According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, around 74% of workers believe that their employers will involve themselves in current cultural debates. 

2. AI Assistance 

The World Economic Forum issued a report stating that by 2025, AI and automation will bring about the development of 97 million new jobs. Along with this, many people will see change in their current roles. AI and automation will enhance the abilities of workers. 

At first, companies will use AI to automate a job’s repetitive elements. This will let your staff focus on tasks that require human thinking such as creativity, high-level strategies and emotional intelligence. For instance, a lawyer may use advanced technology to review case histories and search precedents. A doctor will use it in a similar way to review medical records while in the retail industry, managers may use technology for inventory planning. Technology will increase productivity and improve worker experience. 

People will begin moving away from the idea that a person learns one profession and works at one company where he or she remains until retirement. Workplace trends for 2022 include trying several different occupations throughout one’s life. In fact, there are even scholarships available for adults who are returning to college.  

3. A Bigger Focus on Skills 

Instead of focusing on people’s roles, company’s will look to increase productivity by focusing on the skills of their workers. You’ll want to hire people who have the skills that you need to manage core business challenges as well as the competencies that you need to conquer them. 

Many businesses have already started this trend by shifting away from hierarchical teams to organizational structures that are basically flat. They are implementing a direct reporting approach to solving problems and communicating. When you focus on skills instead of roles, you’ll be supporting innovation and driving your company toward success. 

On the employee side, working toward skill development instead of a company’s role puts them in a better place to take advantage of new career opportunities. The switchover from prioritizing skills over roles is looking to be a trend for both companies and employees in 2022.  

4. Additional Monitoring and Assessing 

While it may be controversial, work trends show that companies are starting to use technology that will help them monitor and assess the effectiveness of their employees. They’re using this information to increase efficiency. Aware is a program that lets companies monitor employee behavior over email while Slack allows them to track productivity. These types of platforms make it easier for managers to oversee remote workers. 

Some programs let companies track how often people are going to the bathroom and who spends the most time chatting with their coworkers instead of being at their workstation. If used to intrude on worker behavior, this type of platform could be harmful, but if you use it just to get a broad view of how people are spending their time, then it could be helpful.

A workplace trend in 2022 will be to offer mental health support. The pandemic has revealed that people need mental health assistance, which is encouraging companies to provide it since they are now seeing that good mental health is good for the workplace.  

The Future of Work 

The way that people work is everchanging. With new developments, people can do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. If you need help guiding your staff through changes like a hybrid workplace or advanced technology, contact me at the Productivity Intelligence Institute. 

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How To Produce Successful Outcomes And Increase Profits

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How to Increase Profitability and Produce Successful Outcomes

As an entrepreneur, you want your business to be successful. You hope that your bright business idea will lead to profitability. Unfortunately, many business owners can tell you that making a profit can be harder than it looks. Sustainable success requires strategy and intentional effort.

Define the Meaning of Success for Your Business

When you started your business, you may not have been thinking about money alone. You had a vision for a product or service that added value to the lives of your customers. Some entrepreneurs have other priorities as they get started, hoping the endeavor will give them greater freedom, opportunities to travel or more time with their families. As you look for profitability, you also want to look at other successful outcomes from your business. Being your own boss may be worth a lower profit margin.

What is the best strategy to increase profits?

The best strategy to increase profits comes in two parts: increase income and reduce expenses. Both aspects of the profit margin involve analysis of your practices. Increased income can come from such actions as reaching out to a new market, introducing new products or increasing the engagement of your current customers. Decreasing expenses involves evaluating your overhead costs, increasing productivity and eliminating waste.

Create a Culture of Efficiency and Productivity in Your Workplace

Is there a better way? This is always an appropriate question to ask. Like many parts of your life, workplaces often fall into comfortable patterns. Such habits can make the work flow smoothly, but they can also entrench inefficient practices. 

One of the frustrating parts of improving efficiency is resistance to change. As much as possible, bring your employees on board for the process. If you allow them to examine their own tasks, they may discover places to improve efficiency. You might consider offering rewards to employees who point out inefficiencies or create processes to improve productivity.

Don’t Undercut Your Efforts

Decreasing costs can be a tricky task. If you cut things too much, you will lower employee morale and decrease productivity. The best strategy to reduce expenses is to develop streamlined processes that lower frustration for your employees. People who enjoy their workplace will put in the best effort.

Employee burnout can become another pitfall of increased efficiency when employers reward better practices with a greater workload. The increased pressure leads to higher stress levels. As you make changes, you should look for warning signs of burnout like frequent sick days and a lower quality of work.

Consider the Cost of Customer Acquisition

From printed posters to online marketing campaigns, it costs time and money to bring new customers to your business. Understanding this expense can help you develop a strategy for profitability and sustainable growth. In the early days of business, the focus will be on growing the customer base. However, there may be times when it is more profitable to improve relationships with your current customers than to seek a new market. In general, it costs less to make a second sale with an existing client than to get an initial sale from a new one. Also, clients that already know and trust you are more likely to buy more expensive products or services from your business.

Provide Value and Meaning to Your Clients

People want to feel good about the choices they make, and your business is one of those choices. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to create trust and a positive impression. As much as you are offering a product, you are also sharing a message.

Sharing your story is an emerging way for smaller businesses to compete with larger institutions. People are more engaged when they understand why a business exists and not just what it does. They want to know about your passion and hopes for the enterprise. When they understand the reason, they are more likely to stay connected.

Marketing through a story is more than just sharing a compelling tale. For centuries, storytelling has been a primary way to pass on information, morals and meaning. Telling a story engages more parts of the brain than a sheet of statistics or bar graphs. When they hear a good story, listeners use the portions of their brains that translate language, create emotions and analyze facts logically.

Engage Clients at a Deeper Level

Modern businesses are learning a great deal from neuroscience. Although you like to think of yourself as making rational decisions, neurotransmitters affect many of your daily choices. A growing knowledge of this reality is shaping the way that businesses interact with customers.

Develop Happiness with Dopamine

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with rewards. When gamblers hit the jackpot on their slot machines, they receive a burst of positive feeling as well as a shower of coins. Customer bonuses and surprise deals will evoke this reaction.

Stress and Cortisol

The body produces cortisol when it is under stress. For a long-term relationship with a customer, you may want to think twice about stimulating this reaction. People rarely have positive associations with high-pressure sales, and they will look for someone else to help them next time.

Create Trust with Oxytocin and Serotonin

Oxytocin and serotonin are hormones associated with contentedness and connection. Interactions that stimulate their production leave a positive impression. Offering excellent customer service, a relaxed atmosphere and friendly employees will encourage trusting relationships with long-term clients.

Seek an Outside View

It can be difficult to gain perspective when you are handling the day-to-day work of a new business. At the Productivity Intelligence Institute, my focus is helping entrepreneurs develop positive outcomes for their businesses. If you are wondering what is the best strategy to increase profits while maintaining a positive workplace culture, it would be my pleasure to work with you.

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10 Ways to Increase Productivity at Work

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Productivity and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. For a new business to succeed, employees must be prepared to get things done. However, your most productive workers may not be the ones who cross the most items from their to-do lists. Real productivity is not just finishing tasks but also involves the ability to prioritize the most important tasks. In this article, I will give you ten actionable tips to increase your personal and workplace productivity.

How to Increase Productivity in the Workplace

Every entrepreneur wants a productive workplace. This effort begins at your desk. Your employees will look to you to model the best productivity practices.

Tip 1 – Prepare for Success

A productive day tomorrow often begins at the end of work today. With some preparation, you can give yourself cognitive clues that will put you in the right mindset. The last few minutes of the day are the right time to set up the next day’s action list. You will want to clarify which tasks have top priority.

The end of the day is also the right time to clear your workspace. You can put away anything that does not have a direct impact on tomorrow’s projects. If you have a written to-do list, place it so that it is the first thing you see in the morning.

Tip 2 – Stop Multitasking

Doing many things at once may feel productive, but it is often just a waste of time. Several neuroscience studies have shown that paying attention to more than one device at once lowers cognitive ability and can even reduce the amount of gray matter in the brain. Giving one task your full attention will improve the quality of your work and increase your work rate.

Tip 3 – Self-Care for Productivity

Healthy people are more productive. They have the energy and focus to work through the day without extra stress. The habits that promote workplace productivity are the same as those that promote a healthy lifestyle. A nutritious diet, adequate hydration and daily exercise will fuel an industrious day. Sleep is another critical factor. You want to come to the workplace well-rested and ready for the work ahead.

Tip 4 – Establish a Productive Schedule

Some people are the most focused at the beginning of the day. For others, the period after lunch is a fruitful time. Whatever your personal schedule, be sure to schedule space to get things done during your high-productivity window. If you want to increase productivity at work, get to know your employees’ preferences. Avoid scheduling meetings during the times when your employees do their best work.

Tip 5 – Focus on Priorities

Before a task makes it on your to-do list, consider why it is there. Successful entrepreneurs are those who put their energy into the tasks that bring them closer to their goals. Establishing clear priorities will let you distinguish between tasks that must get done, tasks that would be nice to do and tasks that are part of someone else’s agenda.

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Tip 6 – Find Your Motivation

The motivation for getting things done varies from person to person and can depend on individual brain chemistry. Some people find that stimulating the brain’s dopamine reward system will help them focus. They will plan a treat for accomplishing a difficult task.

Others find it more effective to harness the body’s stress response. They will create personal deadlines that put extra pressure on their productivity. 

Combining the two approaches may enhance the effectiveness of a neuroscientific strategy. Basing the reward on your ability to meet the deadline increases the stress of the deadline and the positive effects of the reward.

Tip 7 – Take Active Breaks

Staying in one position for hours at a time promotes boredom rather than effectiveness. When you take a five-minute break between work periods, step away from your workspace for some physical activity. It is even better if you can get outside for a walk. This practice will recharge both your body and mind.

Tip 8 – Hide Your Phone

Smartphones and other screens are a modern distraction. It is difficult to focus when you are looking at every notification. If it is feasible, build a period for returning phone calls and answering emails into your daily schedule. Then, keep your phone out of sight until the appointed time.

Tip 9 – Handle Simple Tasks Quickly

As you build your daily to-do list, you will find that some tasks only require a minute or two to complete. It might be a response to a client email or looking up an old file. If it takes less than two minutes, handle it immediately and get it out of the way.

Tip 10 – Delegate

For entrepreneurs with growing businesses, the move from being a solo artist to part of a team can be difficult. However, you brought your team member on board because they have skills and abilities that you lack. If you want to know how to increase productivity in the workplace, get to know your team. Assigning them tasks that match their skills will promote a positive and productive workplace culture.

Bonus Tip 11 – Work with a Partner

Entrepreneurship is a challenge, and you do not need to handle it alone. At the Productivity Intelligence Institute, I work with entrepreneurs and other business leaders hoping to improve their skills. If you are looking for a unique perspective on increasing your personal or workplace productivity, feel free to reach out. I would be glad to work with you.

Workplace Jazz
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Avoid These 5 Unproductive Habits

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An Amazon search for books about habits produces around 60,000 results. Apparently, people take this topic seriously.


When it comes to increasing productivity, it’s just as important to identify bad habits as it is to adopt good habits for success. However, the line between the two is often blurry. Many habits formed from good intentions turn out to be counterproductive.


If you’re not sure what’s holding you back productivity-wise, you’ve come to the right place.


Bad Habits to Track — and Eventually Kick


You’ll find yourself getting more done in less time if you kick these five habits for good. One or two of them may surprise you, so keep an open mind.


1. Overrating Busyness


Multitasking and taking on too much at once are the enemies of productivity. The very people who seem constantly busy get surprisingly little done in a day. The neuroscience research backs this up.


The University of Michigan recently studied multitasking. Researchers found that juggling two tasks at once results in both tasks taking up to 25% longer to finish. Not only that, but errors and omissions are more common.


As impressive as the human brain is, it does not have limitless capacity. You and I can still create mental logjams. The MRIs of participants in a study at Vanderbilt University bear this out.


Be realistic about how much work you can handle at any given time, and learn to say no.


2. Being an Obsessive “Checker”


Scientists observing employees at Microsoft found that each distraction from a task, like checking email or answering a text message, wound up taking 15 minutes on average. Activities like those come with a built-in temptation to waste time.


The wrong thinking goes something like this: Since you’re already on your phone, you might as well check for breaking news, fantasy football updates, or the number of likes to your Facebook post.


Obsessive checking is definitely among the bad habits to break. Even an activity that doesn’t consume much time can make it hard to get back on task.


Turn off your cellphone. Block out time in your daily schedule — for example, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon — for answering messages and clearing your inbox. As a rule of thumb, don’t check anything until you have the time to respond.


3. Failing to Prioritize


Your daily to-do list should have a handful of meaningful tasks rather than a long list of tasks that won’t have much impact one way or another. Again, staying busy and staying productive isn’t the same thing.


C. Northcote Parkinson was a British author who satirized government bureaucracies. Parkinson’s law of triviality asserts that a chore will take as long as the time allotted to complete it. It’s just as important, then, to set deadlines as it is to set priorities.


The second part of Parkinson’s law addresses “bike-shedding,” the tendency to let a trivial issue take up a disproportionate amount of time. Parkinson used the analogy of a design team for a nuclear power plant spending most of its time planning the employee bike shed.


Don’t let bike-shedding hold up an entire project. Prioritize.


4. Thinking You Know It All and Can Do It All

Lots of people in positions of leadership overlook these habits for success:


  • Stay humble.
  • Remain teachable.
  • Be willing to delegate.
  • Be passionate about developing people.

Have you lost enthusiasm for a job you used to love? Does your workplace culture seem stale and uninspiring?


If so, attend a seminar. Research industry trends. Explore emerging technology. There’s nothing like continuing education for boosting morale and sparking productivity.


A true entrepreneurial spirit inspires teamwork and collaboration. Great leaders have a vested interest in continuing to learn, in leveraging feedback to improve, and in developing others. Not every brilliant idea has to be theirs. In workplace cultures with high-performing teams, there’s plenty of credit to go around.


Be a lifelong learner. Celebrate your successes, but embrace your failures too. Every setback is an opportunity to learn and grow.


5. Neglecting Your Personal Well-being

All the experts agree that physical and mental health have bearing on job performance and productivity. Consider these benefits:


  • Exercise triggers the release of feel-good endorphins that boost energy, improve concentration, and keep stress and depression at bay.
  • While you sleep, your brain organizes every random thought that came and went during the day. It consolidates the things you need to remember immediately, like the conference call at 9 a.m., and files away or discards the things you don’t.
  • If you’re sluggish and unfocused in the afternoon, rethink your lunch menu. Too many carbohydrates will drain your energy reserve dry.

There’s no shame in getting mental help if you need it. A case study published in Psychology Today described a bright young woman and gifted strategic thinker with nothing standing in her way. Even so, she was laid off from one job after another.


The woman and her psychologist agreed that depression was at the root of her inability to hold a job. She resolved to exercise more and get back to activities, like singing in a choir, that used to give her joy.


Of all the bad habits to track and avoid, this is the only one with life itself at stake.


Get on the Fast Track to Increased Productivity


As someone who has had bad habits to break me, I love helping people identify the tendencies that hold them back.


Reach out to me at Leonard Productivity Intelligence Institute. I’m committed to helping entrepreneurs like you be more productive on the job and in life.

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Personal Guide to Peak Productivity

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Why Peak Productivity Matters

Productivity is embedded in the business vernacular, associated with optimum work output to maximize profitability. Truly being productive means using your time effectively to get the most critical work done.

“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”
Franz Kafka

Personal productivity engenders a sense of accomplishment, control, and empowerment. When we function at peak performance, hitting milestones and completing deliverables, the rewards are both intrinsic and extrinsic.

Here are five productivity behaviors that you should master:

1. Set the stage.

Create a work environment conducive to peak performance. If you are working from home, carve out a dedicated space so that your mind automatically shifts into productivity mode when you cross the threshold into that area. Keep the area unfettered from clutter, entertainment devices, and other distractions.

2. Get the most critical activities done first.

The following is a process to reduce stress and complete the most important work.

• Create a to-do list using whatever tool you are comfortable with, such as Outlook Tasks, Microsoft To-Do, OneNote, or even a planner notebook in hard copy.
• Over the course of the day, add tasks you need to accomplish, assigning a date and priority ranking, and remove items no longer relevant.
• At the end of the day, review your list and select two or three priorities for tomorrow. Reschedule tasks that aren’t as important or appropriate.
• First thing the next day, review your list again. Make adjustments to accommodate rush requests, competing priorities, and new events.

3. Avoid multitasking.

Rather than allowing emails, social media, and personal business to disrupt your day, schedule two or three breaks to address these items. Some people block off time to read business emails as well. Knowing that time has been set aside to attend to some issues should reduce anxiety and keep you focused. Worry is a distraction that erodes productivity.

4. Take care of yourself.

When you’re working on multiple projects and people depend on you, it’s hard to pull yourself away. Working straight through the day is counterproductive, though, and the stress will ultimately impact your overall health.

Block out lunch in your calendar so people cannot schedule meetings with you during that time. Getting away from your desk is necessary to clear your head and re-energize. Eat healthy meals, listen to music, stretch, take a walk, meditate, have a cup of tea, or close your eyes for 15 minutes. Whatever your preference is, guard this time for yourself.

5. Remember Parkinson’s Law.

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson said that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This is known as Parkinson’s Law, often referenced during discussions about low productivity. Although the statement had been a commentary on government bureaucracy, it has application for many of us.

In the absence of a tight deadline, there’s a tendency to work at a slower pace until a whole day is occupied on activities that could have been wrapped up in a fraction of the time. To avoid this, try the Pomodoro Technique. With this approach, you would set a timer for working on a task, incorporating time for breaks. This is essentially self-imposed urgency to improve your focus on the task at hand.

Leverage the principles of Workplace Culture and Neuroscience

Georgetown University defines neuroscience as “the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure and what it does.” Neuroscientists observe the brain and its effect on behavior and cognition. We can leverage learnings from neuroscience to understand how to improve productivity. According to a research article in Scientific American, productivity increases when people take physical and mental breaks from work. These breaks restore attention, strengthen memory, and promote creativity.

The challenge is the American workplace culture. There are no federal U.S. laws that guarantee paid time off, sick time, or vacation. Even worse, many Americans choose not to take advantage of the vacation benefits they have. Use these benefits, and resist checking work emails until you return.

Busy Is Not the Same as Productive

Sometimes, we confuse being busy with being productive. Think about the times when you worked all day and came home exhausted, yet you felt like you hadn’t accomplished anything. It’s frustrating.

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.”
Tim Ferriss

I hope this productivity guide inspires ideas on how to be more productive. What steps will you take to increase your productivity? Reach out to the Leonard Productivity Intelligence Institute to learn more.

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Don’t Let Negative Thoughts Sabotage Your Success

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Why You Have Negative Thoughts?

If you are reading this article, it may be because you consider yourself a negative thinker. Congratulations on taking the initiative to learn how to get rid of negative thoughts. Combating negativity starts with self-awareness. Don’t waste your energy looking for someone to blame or beating yourself up. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, describes blaming as simply “a way to discharge pain and discomfort.”

Here are a few reasons why you may experience automatic negative thoughts:

  • Lack of self-confidence, which often happens when you develop a self-image based on the words or actions of others

  • The belief that you are the victim of circumstances and that you have no control over the events in your life

  • Imposter syndrome, which is when people “attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud,” as explained by the American Psychological Association (APA)

Productivity Tips to Get You Started

These productivity tips may help you learn how to stop negative thoughts:

  • Change begins with you, so acknowledge your responsibility in the process.

  • Avoid playing the role of victim, which promotes feelings of self-doubt, humiliation, self-pity, and rage.

  • Learn from your disappointments rather than letting them weaken your resolve. Try to identify solutions for the future.

  • If you feel unworthy of your accomplishments, break your silence and reach out to mentors who can provide support and encouragement.

  • Forgive yourself for mistakes, and forgive others who have berated you for those mistakes, reminding yourself that we are all human and imperfect.

  • Shun negative self-talk and know that failings are growth opportunities.

How to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts Through the Principles of Neuroscience

Having negative thoughts does not mean something is wrong with you. We would all look pretty silly smiling continuously. Scary. Sadness, jealousy, hesitation, and dismay are normal emotions. This is different from chronic negativity, which is essentially a continuous loop of negative thinking that causes stress and inhibits your capacity for joy in life.

Neuroscience is an example of next-level thinking in learning development. Psychology Today defines neuroscience as a “rapidly expanding discipline” that “examines the structure and function of the human brain and nervous system.” By studying the brain’s ability to produce new connections and circuits in the nervous system, neuroscientists have developed a better understanding of how our thoughts can produce neurochemical changes.

When you habitually think negatively, you are essentially programming your cells to expect more of the same. On the other hand, the power of positive thinking can strengthen the connections in your brain that release chemicals correlated to good feelings. Looking at negativity from the perspective of neuroscience may be different from anything you have considered.

Here are ways to stay positive using neuroscientifically backed methods:

  • Practice self-awareness by catching yourself thinking negative thoughts, starting from the moment you awaken.

  • Enjoy inspirational books, poetry, art, and quotes that reflect optimism.

  • Start a gratitude journal to record everything you appreciate about your life, and refer to it as a reminder of all you have.

  • Think in terms of solutions and opportunities rather than problems.

  • Know that you cannot control everything, and accept what you cannot change.

Impact of Negativity in the Workplace

From a project management perspective, controlled negativity is not such a bad thing. Project managers are skilled at harnessing negative thoughts to prepare for factors beyond their control, using tools and processes like risk management and lessons learned.

A negative attitude within the team is more troublesome. Individual negative behavior has a way of cascading to the rest of the team. Team-building exercises are often used to create an environment where team members can feel comfortable airing negative thoughts about the project and working together to come up with solutions.

What Have You Got to Lose?

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by transforming negative thoughts into positive actions. Charles F. Glassman, author of “Brain Drain: The Breakthrough That Will Change Your Life,” stated that “believing in negative thoughts is the single greatest obstruction to success.”

Trust in the science that you have the power to rewire your brain by channeling your thoughts into positive energy with a focus on self-awareness, gratitude, and acceptance. You can achieve next-level thinking.

For more productivity tips that you can apply to your workplace and your own life, contact me today at the Leonard Productivity Intelligence Institute.

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How to Get Out of an Unproductive Cycle

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How to Get Out of an Unproductive Cycle

Falling into an unproductive loop can cause severe problems within the workplace and in your personal life. We all want to accomplish something great each day, but when stress and other distractions get in the way of our motivation to complete our work, we must take action to stop our unproductive tendencies. Sometimes, waking up in the morning and telling ourselves, “I am going to complete my to-do list today,” isn’t enough. When making a plan to revive your motivation, you must follow actionable steps that will lead you in the right direction.

Take That First Step

When determining how to stop being unproductive, many people are not sure where to start. The key is to remember that there is no perfect time; you have to start doing something. If you have 15 things you need to complete within a specific time frame, try tackling the most unpleasant tasks first. Although you may not want to do those tasks first, it gets them out of the way right from the start. It also gives you a more relaxing day to complete less daunting tasks.

Remember to reward yourself for each difficult task you complete. You can choose any reward you find satisfying: a quick break to eat your favorite donut, a stroll through the park to get some fresh air or a short reading session to enjoy a couple of chapters of an anticipated book.

Get Inspired

It can be challenging to stay on track when you are feeling unproductive and unmotivated. It is helpful to have some idea of a direction to go in, so setting goals that inspire you can help get your brain moving. Take a few moments at the beginning of your workday or workweek to write down some goals you would like to achieve. Don’t just jot down, “Finish that project that my client is waiting for.” Instead, go with something more inspirational and specific, such as “Make my client’s life a little easier by finishing her project before the deadline.” Wording it like this helps you tie the task to helping out another individual.

Prioritize Self-Care

Self-care should also be one of your top priorities. Tasks such as exercising, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals throughout the day, and having some downtime for yourself are all things that help with productivity. Although not all of these tasks occur during your workday, they get you into the right frame of mind to do your best work.

Exercising improves your overall energy level. Getting enough sleep allows your brain to process information more effectively. Fueling your body with the right foods can improve the way you feel. Make sure to maintain a work-life balance as working too much can make you feel like you’re not getting anything done.

Make Sure You’re in the Right Environment

When considering your productivity level, it is crucial to consider your workplace culture. Perhaps it is expected that people who work for your company get distracted by co-workers, supervisors who are not effective, or other workplace distractions. If possible, ask your supervisor to allow you to work from home with fewer distractions or find a quieter workplace in your office. Communication is vital, and your supervisor should be aware if you find co-workers disruptive. If your supervisor is not addressing the issues, you can go up the chain until you find a solution.

Tap Into Neuroscience

Neuroscience tells us a few things about our minds and their relation to productivity. By making these productivity improvements in your life, you try to reach a Zen-like state where you have no distractions, and your mind is relaxed. In this state, three neurochemicals work together to keep you there: dopamine, noradrenaline, and acetylcholine.

Dopamine involves your reward system, so making sure you have a small reward for yourself for getting work done can trigger this chemical. Noradrenaline comes from the pressure to get something done. If you focus on helping out that client and reminding yourself that the client expects the work done by a specific deadline, noradrenaline produces in your brain.

Acetylcholine involves our ability to remember things. If you don’t have enough of this in your brain, it can cause memory loss and potentially lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Being productive in a positive way can help increase this chemical in your brain and yield additional benefits.

Getting out of an unproductive loop can be challenging, but it can also be gratifying. Focus on keeping a motivating goal list right by your desk to remind yourself of the goals you want to achieve. Cross them off your list as you accomplish them, and remember always to reward yourself with something special when you achieve those goals. It would help if you also had a quiet, inspirational workspace where you can reach a Zen-like state to be productive at work. For more advice on finding your productivity again, reach out to me at the Leonard Productivity Intelligence Institute.

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How to Increase Productivity While Working from Home

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How to Increase Productivity While Working from Home

Whether you’re a seasoned pro at working from home or the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown you into the deep end, navigating the blurred lines between your personal and professional life can be a daily struggle. A recent Mercer survey of 800 employers found that 94% have been happy with their employees’ level of productivity during the pandemic. Behind the scenes, however, many home-based workers are anxiously managing looser schedules, frustrating technology complications and countless distractions that leave them feeling like their wheels are constantly spinning in place.

Working From Home

Learning how to be productive working from home takes some upfront work that pays off in time and effort saved along the way. There are dozens of techniques to boost focus and output; they range from making to-do lists and tracking time spent on projects to working on one task at a time and figuring out your peak performance hours. Although these life hacks to increase productivity are valuable tools for streamlining your work habits, you also need the right mindset to succeed.

Redefine Productivity

How do you define productivity? Take a few minutes to really think about your answer. In action, being productive looks like focus and efficiency. Most of us measure productivity by the quantity of work we generate rather than the quality. Brainstorming, planning, and reflection are essential parts of a successful project, yet we don’t view these quiet activities as being valuable enough to tally as daily achievements.

Highly productive people invest 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each day to identify the priorities and actions that best support their goals. A formal prioritization system keeps you focused on today’s urgent tasks, preventing you from indulging in all the other distractions. Your tangible output will soar when you build these micro check-ins, along with longer weekly planning, project prep, and post-assessment sessions, into your calendar.

Level Up Your Skill Set

There are hundreds of technology tools, applications, and methods that can help in your quest to become more productive. Popular productivity software includes talk-to-text dictation, note-taking tools, time-tracking apps, and web-blocking extensions. Others focus on mapping workflow, assigning team tasks, and collaborating with remote colleagues. Experiment with various systems since your work environment, technical skills, computer equipment, interactions with co-workers, learning style and a range of other factors that increase productivity will determine which tools provide you with the best support.

Another skill that directly impacts productivity is your ability to stay organized. Creating structure in your day gives your brain a clear pathway to focus on, and it frees up time you would normally waste chasing information and resolving problems. Build 30 minutes into your weekly calendar to declutter your desk, file away paperwork or emails, and check-in with your team about upcoming deadlines.

Workplace Jazz Book, Podcast, eLearning Course and Music

Set Boundaries

To stay focused while working from home, you must set clear boundaries with yourself, co-workers, and housemates. Routines calm the brain, soothing the edges of uncertainty and making space for clearer thinking. Even though you’re walking 30 feet to your office, continue to kick-start the day with your typical morning ritual of showering, getting dressed, and eating breakfast.

Defining your workspace is another necessary boundary because it helps cut down on the chaos swirling around you. Entering a confined, work-only space also sends a visual cue to your brain that it’s time to pay attention. This activates the concentration center, elevating your ability to focus. Avoid sitting in places where you normally relax, such as the sofa or bed. Even if your defined space is in the corner of a room, you can put up cardboard dividers, hang a curtain or face the wall to block out temptations. A simple “Do Not Disturb” sign politely lets others know it’s not the right time to interrupt.

Mindfully Unplug

It may seem counterintuitive to step away from your work if you want to achieve more, but brain breaks are necessary to sustain creativity and productivity. While brief bursts of intense attention can pay off, that continued pace quickly leads to burnout, stress, and disconnection from your work. The swiftest way to sharpen your focus is to take a short break. When you find yourself working on autopilot, it’s time to take 10 minutes to grab a snack, go for a walk around the block, laugh with a friend over a joke or meditate quietly at your desk. These few indulgent moments of self-care often produce a second wind or suddenly make a muddled problem seem clearer.

What is one change to your daily habits that you can make this week to shift toward a productive mindset? If you could use some help getting started, check out some of my other tips on increasing productivity or leveraging neuroscience.