Skip to content

Recent Articles


Avoid Productivity Pitfalls

Being successful requires you to produce the results you need, meet deadlines, juggle conflicting priorities, and lead your team. Despite your best efforts, however, sometimes you are sidetracked. Productivity pitfalls are everywhere, and you may not even know you have stepped into one until you find yourself losing productivity. Here are some common pitfalls to watch out for.

  • Not allowing enough time for a task. Most people underestimate the amount of time a task will take. Even routine matters that come up every month can take longer than expected, especially if you need to rely on others for input. A good rule is to take your initial estimate and up it by 50 percent.
  • Allowing distractions and interruptions. These are the twin demons that quickly lower your productivity without you being aware it’s happening. The key is to eliminate them before they happen. Try turning off your phone or email notification part of the day so you have uninterrupted time to focus on high priority activities. Refuse to let yourself be interrupted. Ask people to postpone routine matters and set aside time each day to deal with them.
  • Lack of focusing on priorities. Establishing priorities and knowing your most important activities allows you to be positively productive. Set aside time each week to review what needs to be done and decide which activities are most important. Use your calendar to schedule time to focus on these top priorities in 30- or 60-minute blocks of time.

Being positively productive is easier when you are on the lookout for hidden traps that drain your ability to produce results. See my blog post Your Habits Can Make or Break Productivity for more information.


Managing Conflict on Your Team

Any time people work together, conflicts are bound to arise. From simple disagreements to outright warfare, team conflict can negatively affect productivity and jeopardize deadlines. When left unaddressed, conflict can erode morale and lead to decreased motivation. Here are some tools to help you keep the lid on team conflict.shutterstock_2927347

  • Communicate clear expectations for the team. While it’s important for each employee to understand what’s expected of them, it’s equally important that they understand what’s expected of the entire team! Make sure your team knows what contribution they are expected to make and how it supports the overall mission of the organization. Help them see the larger picture, so they appreciate their role in achieving a successful result.
  • Create a culture of inclusion. Help the team accept and respect their differences. Make sure everyone feels safe asking questions, sharing opinions, and suggesting changes. Offer training programs that give employees a deeper understanding of how to leverage differences for greater creativity and collaboration. (See my workshop Bridging the Generation Gap for information.)
  • Set and adhere to behavior standards. Require employees to act with civility toward each other and take immediate action in response to violations. According to Doctor P. M. Forni, founder of the Civility Project at Johns Hopkins, civility is the foundation of effective relationships. Civility means that we treat others with respect, use restraint before speaking and acting to measure the affect we will have on others, and take responsibility for our behavior.

Build a team where conflicts are minimal, and everyone appreciates their role in making the team successful.


Give Your Brain a Workout

Just as you need to exercise your body to keep it supple and strong, you also need to exercise your brain to keep it sharp. The more active your brain, the better your ability to make decisions, process and remember information, and be creative. Here are three simple tips to keep your brain healthy.Fruit

  1. Learn something new. Take a class, paint a picture, study a language, or take up a musical instrument. Any activity that requires new, mental effort and challenges your brain to think in new ways is good for your cognitive abilities. Start small and work your way up to more complicated efforts. When you start to feel confident in your skill level, it’s time to tackle something more challenging to keep your brain active.
  2. Exercise your body. Your brain needs oxygen to function at peak performance. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen, releases beneficial chemicals, and reduces stress. Physical exercise not only keeps your body healthy, it keeps your thinking sharp.
  3. Feed your brain. You’ve heard the adage, “You are what you eat.” It’s especially true for your brain. A diet of soda, fast food, and vending machine snacks diminishes your ability to concentrate and increases your risk for impaired memory and brain function. Fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins ensure that your body and brain are fit.

Improving brain function is not just for older people; anyone can use these tips to keep their brains sharp and memory strong.


Beat Energy Slumps

Do you find yourself dragging after lunch, barely able to keep your eyes open? What you eat affects your energy. Foods like soda, candy, and carbohydrates lead to sugar spikes with subsequent energy crashes. If you’re tired of being tired after lunch, here are some tips to keep your energy high.shutterstock_92470498

  • Eat lighter lunches. Choose more vegetables, such as salads, and fewer carbohydrates, like pasta and rice. Eating lighter lunches can give you more time for a post-meal walk. A 10-minute stroll around the block will rev up your energy, oxygenate your brain, and help your body digest your lunch more efficiently.
  • Eat slower. Give your body time to digest your food and signal that you’ve had enough. The faster you eat, the more likely you are to over-eat, which leads to post-meal sleepiness.
  • Eat with attention. Have you ever plowed through a plate of food and realized you ate the whole thing and never tasted any of it? You were busy talking, working, reading, planning, watching television, checking email, texting, or just daydreaming while you ate. It’s easy to eat too much if you’re not focused on your meal.
  • Eat more often. Having four to five smaller meals throughout the day is better than three large meals since smaller meals provide a steady flow of nutrients that keep you alert. You can control blood glucose spikes more easily since it’s those spikes and crashes that turn your energy level into a rollercoaster ride.

Other factors also contribute to afternoon sleepiness, such as stress, poor sleeping habits, lack of exercise, and so on. See my blog posts Feeling Burnout?, Is It Stress or Eustress?, and When You’re Just Too Tired to Work for more information on how to be more positively productive.


E-mailing for Results

E-mail is the backbone of business communication, and it causes most of our headaches! Having an in-box jammed full of e-mails that you need to read or have read and need to file can negatively affect your ability to be positively productive. Try these e-mail management tips to be more efficient with

  • Control your in-box. Take time to move every completed e-mail out of your in-box. You can easily do this by setting up a file folder labeled “Pre-[today’s date].” Just highlight all completed e-mails and move them into this folder. Take 15 minutes a day to go through them and file or trash them. Eventually, this folder will be empty.
  • Create rules to handle incoming e-mails. To set a rule, identify search terms. When these terms are found, the corresponding e-mails are automatically sent into specific folders that you have set up. For example, you can set a rule so that all e-mails with your manager’s name are sent to a folder with your manager’s name.
  • Write e-mails for easy responses. I recommend using a keyword in the subject line. A keyword is the first one or two words of the subject line, and it tells the recipient what the e-mail is about. For example, Decision Needed, Review by [date], and Approval Needed are all good keywords.


Don’t let e-mail derail your ability to be positively productive! For more help with e-mail, see my workshop Writing and Managing E-mail.


Help Your Team Deliver Exceptional Customer Care

Landing new customers often is a lengthy, expensive process, and sometimes we become so focused on bringing in new business, we expend too little effort in keeping the customers we have. Cultivating our current customers and delivering care that goes beyond our competition needs to be a primary focus of your entire team. Here are some skills that will sharpen their customer service delivery.shutterstock_147498467

  • Mindful listening. Mindful listening is the ability to stay present with the customer through the entire conversation. More than just parroting what the customer says, it involves showing empathy and understanding of what the customer is feeling. Require your employees to stop multi-tasking when working with a customer, especially when they are on the phone. Mindful listening requires them to put their complete attention on the customer with an intention of meeting their needs.
  • Good questioning. Open-ended questions generate discussion and add information; closed-ended questions stop conversation. For example, “Does this take care of your issue?” is a closed-ended question with only a yes-or-no answer. On the other hand, “What else do we need to consider or review?” is an open-ended question that keeps the conversation going.
  • Silence. Being silent is hard for many people, yet it is a powerful communication skill to use. Never expect an immediate response to a question; give the person time to respond since some people need more time to process information than others do. Encourage your employees to be quiet and give the customer time to consider their answer.

Encourage your staff to look for ways to make every customer interaction an opportunity to reinforce and deepen the relationship. Mindful listening, good questioning, and being silent are three powerful tools that demonstrate emotional intelligence and show respect for the customer.

Need more customer service tools? Check out my newest workshop Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience.



Don’t Be Afraid of Delegation!

If you regularly receive my newsletter, you know that I am an advocate of using delegation to be more positively productive. In my GO System workshops, I have found that managers are fearful of delegating important work even if it makes sense for them to do so. Here are three important best practices to help you avoid mistakes and ensure a successful delegation.Yes delegation woman binders

  • Set clear expectations. People are more successful when they understand what is expected of them and how their efforts will be evaluated. When delegating an assignment or task, meet with the employee and explain what you want them to do. Use evidence-based performance measures, such as deadlines, quality standards, and measurable improvements.
  • Focus on results, not process. Most tasks and assignments can be performed in a variety of ways unless mandated procedures must be followed. In the absence of mandates or regulations, let the person decide how they will achieve the expected outcome. Avoid the temptation to micromanage!
  • Use delegation to develop employees. As a leader and manager, it’s your job to develop your employees and provide opportunities for them to grow professionally. Look for valuable tasks you currently do that could be delegated with proper training and coaching.

Delegation is a powerful management and leadership tool. If used correctly, you can strengthen your team and motivate them to greater achievement. For more help with delegation, see my blog posts Successful Delegation and Avoid Delegation Mistakes.


Priorities Matter

Most of us have set goals and created plans to achieve them; however, one important, yet often overlooked, step for success is taking time daily to prioritize your goals and action steps. This ability to prioritize is a key factor for hitting your goals and handling competing demands on your time and energy. Here are some ways to make priorities work for you.shutterstock_74877166

  • Establish priorities for every part of your life—work, career, home, family, friends, fun, spirituality, finances, health, fitness, and so on.
  • Decide how important each area is, using a scale of 1 (least important) to 5 (most important).
  • Focus your priorities and decisions on the areas that rank highest in importance. For example, if one of your top priorities is family, you may be less willing to take a job that requires lots of overnight travel unless that job helps you provide greater financial security for your family. In this case, the sacrifice you make by being on the road might be worth it.
  • Take your top priorities and create vivid pictures of what success looks like. Some people build vision boards to help with this. For example, if your home goal is buying a large house on a lake, find photos that look like the house you want. This type of visual representation helps you maintain focus on what achievement looks like.
  • Every day take at least one step in support of your high-ranking priorities. This will help you feel more balanced and give you greater satisfaction when you make progress.

Setting priorities needs to be a family matter so that everyone works toward the same end. Involving the entire family also makes it easier to explain decisions that affect everyone.

See my blog posts How to Successfully Manage Priorities and Schedule Time for Your Priorities.



Eliminate Clutter

Being positively productive depends on your ability to focus on the task at hand. Your ability to focus is greatly improved if you remove distractions that take your attention away from what you are working on. Here are some tips to identify and remove distractions caused by clutter.desktop keeping order series

  • Paper clutter. Having stacks of paper on your desk and around your office creates clutter. It takes longer for you to find what you need, and you lose time and productivity as you sift through stacks looking for documents. Paper clutter distracts you from what you’re working on because you can see what still needs your attention. You are more likely to jump from task to task rather than finish each one sequentially.
  • Electronic clutter. If you have documents, folders, and applications dotting your computer desktop, you have electronic clutter. This can be just as draining to productivity as paper clutter since your focus is scattered, and time is wasted as you search for what you need.
  • E-mail clutter. Is your inbox jammed with e-mail that you have read, but not filed away? If so, you have e-mail clutter. Just as with electronic clutter, e-mail clutter damages your productivity.

So, what’s the solution?

Get organized with these tips.

  • Take fifteen minutes a day right now and tackle one small part of the clutter. That adds up to 75 minutes a week or 300 minutes a month.
  • Set up appropriately labeled folders for all documents.
  • File or trash completed documents as soon as you finish them.
  • Create follow-up folders if you need more information and move pending files and folders into follow-up.

Need help getting organized and being positively productive? Check out my GO System program and my Writing and Managing E-mail program.



How to Handle a Conflict with Your Manager

No matter how well you get along with your manager, there will be times when you disagree and may find yourself in conflict with him or her. How you handle this kind of conflict can either help or harm your future relationship and your career. Here are some things to keep in mind when you and your manager don’t see eye-to-eye.shutterstock_113537965

  • Step back and consider the situation. Conflict is not inevitable when people disagree with each other; you can always agree to disagree and not let it affect your relationship. Evaluate the situation objectively to determine if a real conflict exists or if it is something you can either ignore or live with. Time can be a valuable ally when handling conflict. Sometimes things just blow over and fade away without the need for action.
  • Consider your options. Writing down your thoughts and perceptions about the situation can give you distance and objectivity and help you organize your thoughts. If you believe that action is necessary, identify your options and the risks associated with each before choosing the most appropriate course.
  • Consider other points of view. Everyone has expectations and preferences about work and working relationships. People can step on your toes or push your buttons without being aware they are doing so. Observe your manager’s communication and leadership styles and how he or she acts with other employees. You may discover that what you think of as a conflict is your manger’s natural way of working or communicating. Gaining insight about your manager can help you respond appropriately.

If you decide to meet privately with your manager, be prepared to explain your perceptions objectively, and avoid letting emotion take over the meeting. Focus on what you have observed, express your concerns, and be assertive, but refrain from blaming. Your intention is to resolve the conflict in a way that allows you and your manager to continue to have a productive, satisfying relationship. See my blog post Getting Along with Your Manager for more information.