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Archive for March, 2017


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.


Be Positively Productive on the Telephone

The telephone is one of your most important business tools and one that is often misused. Here are some tips to improve your telephone communication whether you are making a call or answering one.headset

  • Be upbeat. Put energy behind your voice by taking deeper breathes and smiling when you speak. Standing when on the phone also adds energy to your voice. The more dynamic you sound, the better the impression you make on the person.
  • Speak clearly and precisely. Without body language and facial expressions to go on, listeners have only your voice and the words you use. This means that you must speak slower than usual and clearly pronounce each word.
  • Use a greeting. Your greeting should identify your organization or department or both, include your name, and an offer of help. For example, “Good morning. ABC Financial Services. This is Carlo. How can I help you?”
  • Avoid slang and speech fillers. Keep your comments professional and polite. Listen for fillers, such as ummm, uhhh, okay, etc., and work on eliminating them since they make you sound unprofessional and uncertain.
  • Don’t hold and forget. Always ask if you can put the person on hold and explain why you are doing so. Return to the call every few minutes to explain what you are doing or offer to call the person back.
  • Transfer calls the right way. Explain why you must transfer the call, provide the name of the person you are transferring them to and that person’s phone number, and stay on the line to ensure the call was transferred correctly.


Effective telephone skills are essential for every organization, especially for customer service. Help your staff brush up their phone skills and other customer service skills with my new course Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience


Reduce Barriers to Listening

One of your most valuable skills for professional success is listening. This skill affects many aspects of your job, including productivity, teamwork, and customer service. Despite the importance of being a good listener, barriers pose challenges to effective communication. Here are three common barriers you may encounter.

  1. One of the biggest barriers to listening is your tendency to talk more than you listen! It takes self-control to keep quiet and focus on what the other person is saying as they say it. It helps to take notes, especially if you’re afraid you will forget what the person said. Resist the tendency to interrupt them or plan your response while they are speaking. When you do speak, be brief, focus on the topic of the conversation, and avoid unrelated or unresponsive comments.
  2. Listening is harder when you are distracted. Make good eye contact with the speaker and face them. Watch their gestures and facial expressions to determine if they are in sync with what they are saying. Body language often communicates more than words! If the environment is noisy, suggest moving to a quieter location.
  3. Assuming you understand the speaker is dangerous. Conflict often arises from misunderstood and misinterpreted communication. Always ask the speaker to provide more detail or clarify anything you don’t understand. Use open questions that let the speaker delve more deeply into the topic. Confirm understanding by repeating what you thought was said until the speaker indicates agreement.

Career success requires you to develop effective listening skills, so start listening more than you speak to improve business relationships and be more productive. For more information, see my blog post Shhh! Listen!