Tag Archive | "productivity"

A Workaholic’s Guide to Not Getting Burned Out

If you are a workaholic, committed to work too much or just spend your time between work and office while doing nothing else during the week, then, chances are that you may start to feel overwhelmed, exhausted and even depressed, reports Small Business Trends. Below you can find some hints for motivating yourself and avoid feeling burned out.

  • Sleep Well: A good night sleep is a key element for waking up fresh the following day. On average people need 8 hours of sleep. Therefore, if you sleep less than 8 hours the night before, it is very likely that you will feel less energetic and as a result, it will be more difficult for you to concentrate on your work.
  • Learn to Say No: You cannot keep up with every task and project. You have to set your boundaries and learn to say no to meaningless tasks for your career. Every promise you made adds another work on your plate and divides your energy. When you divide your energy between many tasks, you start to lose your efficiency and hence, you under deliver.
  • Exercise: Regular exercising reduces stress and decreases tension. Also, it boosts your mood and makes you happier. Thus, it prevents depression. Exercising after work or during lunch hour will help you clear your mind, relax and recharge your brain. Therefore, you can become more productive and your performance increases.
  • Have a Hobby: Having a hobby outside of work makes you happier as well as lets you use different skillsets. It also helps you meet new people who share a common interest with you. Therefore, you can at least talk about something other than work and take a break.
  • Ask for Help: When you are stressed or feel burned out, ask for help. You don’t need to get embarrassed for asking help from your coworkers. Probably, you will reach a solution or finish off your task much faster with two or more people compared to you working alone. Don’t forget that nobody can do everything alone and that is why generally people work in teams.
  • Use Your Vacation Days: Some people like to save up their vacation days and rarely use them. However, the goal of a vacation day is to give you some time during the year to relax, have fun and spend more time with your family and friends. Therefore, don’t be one of those people and use your vacation days. Preferably, change your location and go to another city or even another country to do your vacation. I am sure you will feel much happier and energetic when you get back to work.

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15 Ways to Get Organized

One of the things that I have personally discovered about the most successful agents is their ability to handle a variety of daily challenges, tasks, problems, issues and responsibilities, all at the same time, and still come back for more tomorrow.

This would not be possible if they lacked personal organizational skills!

I don’t wish to confuse anyone, but please keep in mind that I am not talking about time management here but personal management. What you can do in a framework of passing time is just manage all the “stuff” — decisions, problems, resources, customers, employment, successes, failures, risks, paperwork and reporting — as well as all the activities and matching issues in your personal life.

I will take this opportunity to list my Top 15 suggestions to help you improve your personal organization:

  1. Start with a written list of what you want to accomplish for a given time period.
  2. Go back through and prioritize the tasks on the list you made.
  3. Stay focused on your plan by completing each task according to its priority.
  4. Eliminate all clutter in your normal daily routines — if you have not referenced it in the last 10 days to obtain your objectives, why keep it around?
  5. Do not pursue anything on the list that you are not truly passionate about completing.
  6. Get up earlier and go to bed earlier.
  7. Organize your personal workspace — be it your desk or your vehicle — so you can be more productive.
  8. You must learn to say “No” much more often.
  9. If you catch yourself procrastinating on any task on your list, ask yourself why.
  10. Consider enlisting a mentor (or two, or three) to help you prioritize and complete tasks.
  11. When you say “Yes,” mean it.
  12. Respect and value your quality free time away from the job or assignment. Play when it is time to play and work when it is time to work, but do not mix the two.
  13. Have fun and enjoy life as well as this crazy profession you have chosen.
  14. Learn to make the client a friend. Prioritize relationships over transactions.
  15. Use all the available technology at your fingertips today as a tool, not as a crutch.

I realize No. 15 might be challenging for some. It has become much too easy to rely on technology as a sales tool to contact and reach out to new clients, maintain current and past clients, handle your sales and service issues and handle many routine daily functions. But at what cost?

In my personal opinion, business relationships, especially in our industry, are all about the basic concept of dealing one-on-one and face-to-face with people! Our clients want and need, as well as expect, that personal contact.

How often do you shoot over an email or text message instead of dialing that cell or office number and speaking to a client or friend personally?

Please understand that I am not against technology. I do believe it lets us get more done daily and is definitely faster, and I am amazed at the endless capabilities the future holds. But nothing can replace the “warm-and-fuzzies” that are created with a great smile, a firm handshake and a true sincerity to be helpful to the client — in person.

Neither the hottest new iPhone, the fastest computer nor the award-winning website can convince a client that you really do care about their success. Go ahead and label me “old school” or, better yet, “technologically challenged,” but humor me and try the following for the next 30 days and then monitor yourself:

  • Personally call one prospective client every day instead of shooting them an email.
  • Personally call one previous customer every day — not to sell them anything, but just to say “Hi” and ask how the world is treating them.
  • Personally call a relative or a close friend, just to tell them that you were thinking about them and extend warm wishes.
  • Finally, do not always assume that every client you are dealing with is as technologically advanced as you are.

Better personal organization will directly relate to improved effectiveness and increased productivity. Improved effectiveness as well as increased productivity directly relates to a more positive attitude. Positive attitude directly relates to a higher and more rewarding quality of life!

And after all, isn’t that the No. 1 priority on your written list of daily tasks to be accomplished?

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Things Successful People Do on Weekends

If you think that the best thing you can on weekends is absolutely nothing, you are completely wrong! Sure, you need to time to relax and rest but this doesn’t mean that you should sit down on a coach and do nothing but watch TV for all day long. You should take control of your weekends and do the things you enjoy the most. If you do things that make you happy on weekends, you can start your workweek happier. As a result, you can be more productive and in the end much more successful, reports Business to Community.

Below you can find some tips for how to spend your weekend:

  • Plan Your Weekend: You plan your career, vacation and workday. Why not plan your weekend? Don’t try to plan every hour but schedule two-three events for your weekend such as meeting up with friends for dinner or visiting a museum or going to a concert. This will help you prevent being locked up in the house and give you an excuse to go out for a change.
  • Spend Time with Your Loved Ones: You are generally busy during the week so spending your weekend with loved ones is one of the best options. This can be your family or friends or both. Spending time with them will help you relax, refresh your mind and simply be happy. Therefore, you will start your workweek as a more peaceful person.
  • Unplug Yourself: Stay away from stress. Turn off your computer and smart phone for at least a few hours and force other people around you to do the same. In this way, you can spend more quality time with each other and enjoy your weekend freely.
  • Get Ready for the Rest of the Week: Take Saturdays off for having fun and relaxing but use Sundays to get the errands done and make a strategy for the rest of the week. For example; on Sundays do your laundry, clean the house and cook a great meal so when Monday comes, you are ready to go.
  • Do Something Different: Your weekends should feel different than your workweeks. For this reason, find yourself hobbies to do on weekends like swimming or playing tennis or painting. If you don’t have any hobbies, you can go to the gym and exercise. This will help you clear your mind and let your body recover from the stress of the workweek.

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8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings

You’ll wake up for about 25,000 mornings in your adult life, give or take a few, reports Entrepreneur.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years old. Most people in wealthy nations are hovering around the 80–year mark. Women in Japan are the highest, with an average life expectancy of 86 years.

If we use these average life expectancy numbers and assume that your adult life starts at 18 years old, then you’ve got about 68 years as an adult. (86 – 18 = 68) Perhaps a little less on average. A little more if you’re lucky.

(68 years as an adult) x (365 days each year) = 24,820 days.

Once I realized this, I started thinking about how I could develop a better morning routine. I still have a lot to learn, but here are some strategies that you can use to get the most out of your 25,000 mornings.

Here are eight strategies that I’ve found to be most effective for getting the most out of my morning:

1. Manage your energy, not your time.

If you take a moment to think about it, you’ll probably realize that you are better at doing certain tasks at certain times. For example, my creative energy is highest in the morning, so that’s when I do my writing each day.

By comparison, I block out my afternoons for interviews, phone calls, and emails. I don’t need my creative energy to be high for those tasks, so that’s the best time for me to get them done. And I tend to have my best workouts in the late afternoon or early evening, so that’s when I head to the gym.

What type of energy do you have in the morning? What task is that energy best suited for?

2. Prepare the night before.

I don’t do this nearly as often as I should, but if you only do one thing each day then spend a few minutes each night organizing your to–do list for tomorrow. When I do it right, I’ll outline the article I’m going to write the next day and develop a short list of the most important items for me to accomplish. It takes 10 minutes that night and saves 3 hours the next day.

3. Don’t open email until noon.

Sounds simple. Nobody does it. It took me awhile to get over the urge to open my inbox, but eventually I realized that everything can wait a few hours. Nobody is going to email you about a true emergency (a death in the family, etc.), so leave your email alone for the first few hours of each day. Use the morning to do what’s important rather than responding to what is “urgent.”

4. Turn your phone off and leave it in another room.

Or on your colleagues desk. Or at the very least, put it somewhere that is out of sight. This eliminates the urge to check text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. This simple strategy eliminates the likelihood of slipping into half–work where you waste time dividing your attention among meaningless tasks.

5. Work in a cool place.

Have you ever noticed how you feel groggy and sluggish in a hot room? Turning the temperature down or moving to a cooler place is an easy way to focus your mind and body. (Hat tip to Michael Hyatt for this one.)

6. Sit up or stand up. 

Your mind needs oxygen to work properly. Your lungs need to be able to expand and contract to fill your body with oxygen. That sounds simple enough, but here’s the problem: most people sit hunched over while staring at a screen and typing.

When you sit hunched over, your chest is in a collapsed position and your diaphragm is pressing against the bottom of your lungs, which hinders your ability to breathe easily and deeply. Sit up straight or stand up and you’ll find that you can breathe easier and more fully. As a result, your brain will get more oxygen and you’ll be able to concentrate better.

7. Eat as a reward for working hard. 

I practice intermittent fasting, which means that I eat my first meal around noon each day. I’ve been doing this for almost two years. There are plenty of health benefits, which I explained in great detail here,here, and here.

But health is just one piece of the puzzle. I also fast because it allows me to get more out of my day. Take a moment to think about how much time people spend each day thinking, planning, and consuming food. By adopting intermittent fasting, I don’t waste an hour each morning figuring out what to eat for breakfast, cooking it, and cleaning up. Instead, I use my morning to work on things that are important to me. Then, I eat good food and big meals as a reward for working hard.

8. Develop a “pre–game routine” to start your day.

My morning routine starts by pouring a cold glass of water. Some people kick off their day with ten minutes of meditation. Similarly, you should have a sequence that starts your morning ritual. This tiny routine signals to your brain that it’s time to get into work mode or exercise mode or whatever mode you need to be in to accomplish your task. Additionally, a pre–game routine helps you overcome a lack of motivation and get things done even when you don’t feel like it.

For more details about why this works, read How to Get Motivated.

The Power of a Morning Routine

Just as it’s rare for anyone to experience overnight success, it’s also rare for our lives crumble to pieces in an instant. Most unproductive or unhealthy behaviors are the result of slow, gradual choices that add up to bad habits. A wasted morning here. An unproductive morning there.

The good news is that exceptional results are also the result of consistent daily choices. Nowhere is this more true than with your morning routine. The way you start your day is often the way that you finish it.

Take, for example, Jack LaLanne. He woke up each day at 4am and spent the first 90 minutes lifting weights. Then, he went for a swim or a run for the next 30 minutes. For more than 60 years, he spent each morning doing this routine. In addition to being one of the most influential people in fitness in the last 100 years, LaLanne also lived to the ripe old age of 96.

This is no coincidence. What you do each morning is an indicator of how you approach your entire day. It’s the choices that we repeatedly make that determine the life we live, the health we enjoy, and the work we create.

You’ve got 25,000 mornings. What will you do with each one?

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Inside the Psychology of Productivity

You wake up with it in the morning and go to bed thinking about it at night: an ever-crushing load of emails, meetings, conference calls, and tasks that needed to get done yesterday. Family time means reading sales reports in the room where your kids are playing video games. For entrepreneurs, there’s soooo much to get done–85 percent of fast-growth-company CEOs work 10 or more hours a day, according to a recent survey of the Inc. 500. Under such circumstances, personal productivity isn’t just a metric. It’s also a mandate, reported Inc.

Recently, a glut of tools and systems has emerged to help you measure, manage, and maximize what you accomplish. But not all impediments to productivity result from poor organization. Many are psychological. Behavioral economics reveals the wacky ways people think about financial costs and rewards. Similarly, psychologists, business researchers, and even philosophers are illuminating people’s idiosyncratic approaches to getting stuff done.

Productivity, or at least how productive you consider yourself, is surprisingly subjective. As a leader, your most important work–mulling strategy, blue-skying for innovation, imagining the future–may not feel all that productive because it is open-ended and the outcome is uncertain. At the same time, more (subjectively) unimportant work, like clearing out your inbox, can leave you quite satisfied.

Often, there’s an irrational component to whether you think you’ve gotten much done. “If I have 10 things I want to finish in a day and I finish five, I get frustrated because I am not productive,” says Gregory J. Redington, president of Redcom, an engineering and construction company in Westfield, New Jersey. “If I have five tasks and I finish all of them, I feel productive, even if it’s the exact same five. My instinct as an entrepreneur is to plan to do all these things. But I want to believe I’ve won at the end of the day, so I try to put fewer things down.”

Clayton Mobley, co-founder and CEO of Spartan Value Investors, a real-estate investment business in Birmingham, Alabama, admits that the state of his desk has a lot to do with whether he thinks he has accomplished enough on a given day. “There are two piles on the sides of my desk,” he says. “If one of those piles is gone by the end of the day, I feel productive. Even if I just put it in a drawer.”

No matter how you try to trick yourself into feeling more productive, there are just 24 hours in a day, and you almost certainly are not making the most of them. Here’s what you can do about that.

Get to the Root of Your Procrastination

Procrastination is a particular problem for entrepreneurs, who often must tackle work in which they have no experience and no familiar starting point. And of course, when you are responsible for everything, there’s always something else you could be doing. Many consider procrastination a moral failing, a weakness of will. But Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, calls procrastination an “emotion-centered coping strategy.” He suggests that if you understand what’s motivating (or–more accurately–demotivating) you, you can begin to address it. “Many of these emotions are not conscious,” says Pychyl. “So the first step is to have some awareness of how you are feeling. ‘Why do I keep not wanting to do this?’ ”

The reasons people shrink from particular tasks typically vary with the stage of a project, Pychyl explains. In the inception and planning stages, you procrastinate because you don’t find the work interesting or meaningful. In the action stage, you procrastinate because the project isn’t well structured, which creates uncertainty about how to proceed. Fear of making a poor decision can also be immobilizing. “With uncertainty comes fearfulness,” says Pychyl. “You have to acknowledge that fear.”

Another culprit is perfectionism: People envision outcomes so outstanding that their expectations become more intimidating than inspirational. “It’s like you’re practicing the high jump, and when you set the bar too high, you look at it, and you walk away,” says John Perry, an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford. “Perfectionists aren’t people who do something perfectly. Perfectionists are people who fantasize about doing something perfectly.”

At its core, procrastination represents shoddy treatment of the one person who should matter most to you: the future you. Hal Hershfield, a marketing professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, used MRIs to demonstrate that people view their future selves much as they view a stranger. (This is why we smoke, fail to save, and order the red velvet cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory.) Resolving not to do some odious task today makes procrastinators feel good, says Pychyl. Then they predict they’ll feel just as good tomorrow, which will make the task easier. Of course, the next day they feel worse, which makes the task harder and the stress greater. Homer Simpson summed it up neatly: “That’s a problem for future Homer. Man, I don’t envy that guy.”

That same disregard for their future selves often leads people to cram their calendars with appointments. This allows them to take the neurochemical hit of pleasure that comes from scheduling something today–and to suffer the consequences of five back-to-back meetings next month.

Counterintuitively, even work can be a form of procrastination. Scientists in the Netherlands coined the phrase bedtime procrastination to describe the tendency to keep doing things, including work, long after you intended to go to sleep. Entrepreneurs may succumb to this sort of procrastination when it comes to reading to the kids or taking vacations–activities you know are good for you but that, on some subconscious level, seem self-indulgent when compared with work. Here too the present self cheats the future self, as insufficient sleep and leisure affects performance.

Despite its bad rep, procrastination has its apologists. Two years ago, Stanford’s Perry published The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing, which posits that procrastination–like cholesterol–is not all bad. He coined the phrase structured procrastination to describe the act of doing things that–while not top priorities–still have value. “I think that’s a pattern of work a lot of very creative people have,” says Perry. “If you went through history and eliminated all the plays that have been written and inventions that have been created by people who were supposed to be doing something else, you might not have much left of your civilization.”

Focus on Progress, Not on To-Dos

To-do lists are daily reminders that you’re not cutting it. Just half of all to-do-list items are completed within a day, and 41 percent are never completed at all, according to data compiled by one productivity-tracking company. That’s a problem, because energized, motivated people are more productive than depressed ones. And what is more demotivating than seeing uncompleted tasks hanging on and on and on like outdated inventory?

To-do lists are problematic for other reasons. For one, they can be mentally gamed. When it comes to the pleasure of getting things done, people are like rats repeatedly pressing a bar because it stimulates their reward centers. Many people who have finished tasks not already on their to-do lists will add those tasks retroactively for the satis­faction of crossing them off. They may even slot previously unscheduled events–after they’ve happened–into their calendars. There’s also a temptation to mentally redefine everything you do as valuable and credit yourself accordingly. Stanford’s Perry describes his own to-do list: “It says: Wake up. That’s worth a check. Get out of bed. That’s worth a check. Make the coffee. That’s a check. Drink the coffee. That’s a check. By the time I’ve had my coffee I’ve done four things and I feel like a real effective human being.”

More practically, the rigid, reductive format of to-do lists is not optimal for the kinds of work done by leaders, says Teresa Amabile, a professor and director of research at Harvard Business School. “The really important things that don’t generally have a specific deadline may be what you should be spending most of your time on,” she says. “I think many of us who have a strong work ethic feel like we are indulging ourselves when we do that more exploratory work, that deep-level learning that may not have an immediate application but, in the grand scheme of things, may be more important than anything else.”

In her book The Progress Principle, Amabile emphasizes progress (moving forward with one’s work) over productivity (getting things done well and efficiently, irrespective of their importance). A sense of making meaningful progress, she found, has much greater positive impact on engagement and motivation. Her latest research–not yet complete–suggests that the simple act of looking back on progress also positively affects your sense of accomplishment and how competent and effective you feel at work. For the new study, Amabile signed up people to work for two weeks. Some kept diaries in which they recorded at least three sentences a day about how much they had done. Those subjects who were able to review their entries were more satisfied with the progress they had made and in their own abilities.

The positive feelings derived from reflecting on accomplishments, in turn, improve productivity. Francesca Gino, also an HBS professor, asked some employees at an Indian company to spend 15 minutes at the end of each day writing about what had gone well. The group that took time to reflect had a performance level 23 percent higher than that of employees who spent those last 15 minutes simply working. If reviewing incomplete to-do lists brings us down, it appears compiling have-done lists bestows a sense of satisfaction and enhances performance.

The power of reflection is the premise behind iDoneThis, a startup that inspires people to accomplish more every day by providing a mechanism to report what they have done. (Zappos, Uber, Reddit, and other companies have used the product, chiefly to improve the performance of teams.) “If you are working on one thing all day, it is very easy to remember what you did and give yourself credit for it,” says CEO and co-founder Walter Chen. “But if you did 20 things and one is have a conversation with your kid and one is put out a fire, it’s often hard to remember those things.” Pausing to reflect is an opportunity to remember those accomplishments and to recognize their value. “Giving yourself credit helps you feel productive,” says Chen, affirming, “That actually makes you more productive.”

Bottom line: To-do lists are useful for organizing and prioritizing work. But you should also maintain a “have done” list–or at least reflect on your accomplishments for a few minutes at the end of each day–to keep yourself motivated.

Beware of Time Thieves

Ownership is a management buzzword that, sadly, is rarely applied to people’s time. Workplace culture often requires that you sacrifice time for others, whether that means acting as a mentor or maintaining an open-door policy. The benefit to others’ productivity often comes at a cost to your own.

Most people have just two really productive hours a day, says Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke and co-founder of Timeful, a time management app. (See “Four Great Productivity Apps,” page 45.) Those two hours might be sufficient if they belonged entirely to you. But even the boss can’t schedule every meeting so that it falls outside his or her optimal nose-to-grindstone stretch. And in flatter organizations, more people have roughly the same claims on the company’s collective time resource. “The biggest change in the calendar from paper days to computer days is that, because we now have shared calendars, people can kidnap our time,” says Ariely. “It’s really kind of a shocking idea.”

Still, most people would rather work alongside others than not, because humans are social creatures. When others ask for your time, saying yes feels good and is easy. Saying no feels bad and is hard. “All of us want to be nice, and all of us want to be team players,” says Kory Kogon, global productivity practice leader at Franklin Covey and co-author of The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity. At one typical company that Kogon advised, “the COO said to me, ‘We are a nice organization, so nobody knows how to say no,’ ” she recalls. “Of course he does say no. But he doesn’t feel like he is saying no enough.”

Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, recommends extreme selectivity as a check on your desire to always be accommodating. McKeown likes to ask people to imagine they have no to-do list, no inbox, no schedule of appointments. “If you didn’t have any of that, and you could do one thing right now that would help get you to the next level of contribution, what would you do?” he asks. “Maybe all the stuff you’re doing should be questioned. Start from zero every day. What would be essential?” People require space and clarity to identify what matters, McKeown explains, and what matters should dictate what you say yes to. “You can say, ‘I would love to do that, but I am already doing this,’ ” he says. “And that is completely true and understandable, because you are.”

On the face of it, McKeown’s advice seems at odds with that of Adam Grant, the Wharton professor whose best-selling book Give and Take has made generosity a hot topic in corporate corridors. Grant argues that helping others with no expectation of return can increase energy and well-being and, consequently, productivity. But, like McKeown, Grant advocates selectivity: saying yes only in instances when distraction is minimal and the benefit to others outweighs the cost to self. McKeown calls this practice disciplined generosity.

Bottom line: Although it feels good to say yes, be disciplined about the time you give to others. Employees and partners need your help, but mostly they need you to concentrate on what matters.

Be In-the-Moment With Everything You Do

Every businessperson knows that you have to distinguish, in the words of Dwight Eisenhower, between the “important” and the “urgent.” But demands on your time don’t come with labels indicating their level of priority. The important, the urgent, and the trivial rush past in a blur. When Franklin Covey recently surveyed 350,000 people worldwide, respondents confessed to spending 40 percent of their time on things that are unimportant or downright irrelevant. But many don’t know exactly how they are wasting their time, says Franklin Covey’s Kogon.

Perhaps it’s not surprising people are so confused. McKeown observes that when the word priority entered the English language in the 1400s, there was no plural form. Today, you moan about being distracted by everything you could be doing. But there are also more things you arguably should be doing, such as developing your talent pipeline or studying the competition. Those things cry out to you, like voracious baby birds. Your mind is not quiet. The noise hurts.

Mindfulness–which sounds new age-y but doesn’t have to be–is increasingly held up as a way to improve both performance and decision making. Scott Eblin, author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, defines mindfulness as awareness plus intention. “If you are aware of what you are thinking and feeling and what is going on around you, then you can manage the gap between that and your actions,” he says. Mindful people don’t ignore noise and distractions–that’s impossible. But they exert discipline to control what Buddhists call their restless and unsettled “monkey minds.” “You have to be aware of all the mental chatter,” says Eblin. “That’s the first step toward quieting it.”

Mindfulness is particularly effective at thwarting that bane of productivity, the fallacy of sunk costs. The more time, thought, and energy you expend going down a road, the harder it is to change course when the destination looks dicey. New research from Insead and the Wharton School shows that subjects who meditated were much more likely to abandon a lost-cause project than those who did not. Cutting bait fast is critical, because lost causes waste time and, Eblin says, “because regret kills productivity.” He recommends avoiding regret by having individuals and teams subject their failures to after-action reviews, like those conducted by the military. “That way it becomes, what did I learn from this?” says Eblin. “You reframe it as retraining. And retraining, of course, is productive.”

Another advantage of mindfulness is that it concentrates attention on the qualitative, rather than quantitative, aspects of work–why am I doing this? instead of how much of this am I doing? “To me, productivity is the wrong focus,” says Wharton’s Grant. What you want is to be maximizing quality or usefulness. “I think a lot of people accept the goal of being productive,” says Grant. “And that’s counterproductive.”

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Why Parenthood Is Great for Productivity

Parenthood seems to require average men and women to spontaneously develop superhuman capabilities–such as the ability to act like a normal person on only a couple hours of sleep, reported Inc.

And while it’s intuitive to think that this hyperactive state can be distracting and detrimental to a person’s professional pursuits, the opposite can be true, suggests a recent study.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis looked at the productivity of men and women with and without families over the course of 30 years. After analyzing data from 10,000 individuals, the study’s authors concluded that men and women with two or more children are more productive over the course of a career than those with one or no children.

How about that?

In order to measure work productivity, researchers chose to look at academia, a field where achievements are more quantifiable than in others.

“For most other highly skilled professionals, such as managers, engineers, surgeons, top officials, and so on, comparable productivity measures are either not available or not recorded,” the researchers explained.

Then to carry out their research, they looked specifically at economists’ publication records in conjunction with their answers from an anonymous survey.

The researchers found that the effect of parenthood on women’s and men’s productivity was different–namely in the way it affected mothers of young children. These mothers saw an initial loss in productivity.

However, over an entire career, “mothers of at least two children are, on average, more productive than mothers of only one child, and mothers in general are more productive than childless women,” the authors wrote.

Of course, the study has limitations. Most notably, it looks at a group of highly educated individuals who likely have the resources to plan their families carefully, wrote The New York Times’s KJ Dell’Antonia. Plus academics usually enjoy more flexible work schedules than most men and women their age in other fields.

But perhaps that’s where the lesson lies.

“What the study does, though, is reinforce the idea that flexibility, however it’s possible within a given workplace, can lead to more productivity, not less,” Dell’Antonia said.

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