Is Multitasking Making You Stupid?

The ability to multi-task is something that managers are increasingly required to display. This talent, however, is not something that we are born with.

Nobody teaches us how to multi-task; it’s a skill we learn through experience. Some people seem to breeze through a multitude of jobs and be in control. But how effective are they really?

The inability to multi-task effectively in today’s office environment quickly leads to important tasks being left uncompleted. [Read more…]

How a TO-DO List Silently Boosts Your Efficiency

Time is money.  As a business owner, or manager, in order to be competitive today, you must quickly learn to sort through the multitude of tasks facing you each day and narrow down to only the key revenue-generating activities, while letting the majority of the “noise” fade away.

How you work and your effectiveness in managing a multitude of duties and information can make the main difference between having a profitable business, or getting promoted.
[Read more…]

How the Butterfly Effect Can Propel Your Forward

How does the Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect apply to our lives?

Can implementing these principles improve personal and organizational performance?

Most people have heard of Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings over the Atlantic can cause hurricanes in Florida. A huge, dynamic system, like the weather, is influenced by innumerable tiny factors. These are practically impossible to predict and may seem innocuous at the time, but they can have severe repercussions.

The Butterfly Effect: Ripples and Consequences

The Butterfly Effect can influence human interaction together, and it is built around the idea that any action you take starts a reaction that will reverberate and grow, having an impact further down the line. Whenever you make a choice in life, try to think about the potential repercussions, because every action you take will have a consequence.

To give an example of the Butterfly Effect in action, imagine a manager who is having a stressful, busy day. She takes her anger out on one of her supervisors, shouting at him and making him feel very uncomfortable. This places him in a bad mood and he proceeds to be very abrupt with his staff, and they become tense and on edge, becoming less pleasant to customers.

The manager’s stress cascaded down the chain, increasing in intensity and in the number of people it affected at each stage, potentially costing the company money and increasing the chance that disillusioned staff will leave the company or even worse, become less productive and negatively influence others around them.

Use the Butterfly Effect as a Force for Positive Change

Luckily, the idea of the cascade Butterfly Effect can also be used to your advantage. Imagine that the above manager kept her stress to herself and instead praised her supervisor for working well under pressure. He will pass this goodwill onto his staff and they, in turn, will interact with customers much better. This principle lies at the core of harnessing the Butterfly Effect to improve productivity.

Although we often have to think on our feet and have to react to situations quickly, there is always time to think about the consequences of our actions. Most organizations are built around a hierarchy, and clear vision, drive and simple kindness at the top will soon filter down throughout the organization. While we are all governed by emotion, an effective manager is cool and calm under pressure, aware that any they action they take can have serious repercussions.

The Butterfly Effect can also be used on a personal level, as a way to organize and, most importantly, plan ahead. Small changes to a business plan or an operational procedure can have far-reaching effects that may not be apparent immediately but reap dividends in the long term. In a business environment where “short-termism” dominates far too often, thinking ahead and making the small decisions for the future is a great way to get ahead.

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The term “butterfly effect” is attributed to Edward Norton Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist who was one of the first proponents of Chaos Theory.
More information about the Butterfly Effect:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-butterfly-effect.htm

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Putting the Butterfly Effect in Practice

…continued in the Ebook

Why Creative Thinking Leads to Success

In our knowledge-driven economy, creative thinkers excel. They have more success in work. Why? Because they have learned the art of managing their thought processes in a productive way.

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
– Steve Jobs

Creative thinkers are the pioneers and problem solvers in their chosen fields. The truly creative thinkers are constantly expanding their mental horizon, which helps them come up with novel approaches, fresh ideas and new insights. This gives them the power to transform the world around them in creative and imaginative ways.

As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases. It is no longer enough to do the same thing better . . . no longer enough to be efficient and solve problems
— Edward de Bono

When we fall in to a routine, or the boredom of repetitive tasks, creative thinking goes out the window. Are you feeling stuck, or without creative ideas? Are you not having success at work? Creative thinking is not a mere indicator of your intelligence. It also reflects the clarity of your thought processes.

Creativity boosts performance levels at the workplace by providing clarity and fresh ideas. Do you want to be more creative?  Do you want more success in work? Start by reading current thought on creativity and practice applying the principles of creative thinking.

Some of these creative thought processes are a simple as the ‘reverse thinking’ method. For example, the late CEO of General Motors, pioneered installment purchasing when he reversed the assumption that people had to buy a car in full payment before they could drive it.  What assumptions can you reverse?

7 Tips for Unblocking Your Creative Energy

1) Stop thinking: Creativity needs a trouble-free mind. Don’t critically analyze or judge your thoughts, your life, your work, your friends, or your seeming lack of creative thoughts.  Let your mind wander around for a bit and give your body some time to replenish itself to get the creative juices flowing. Continuous thinking is not only futile but it also worsens the situation. Clearing your mind of unnecessary and de-energizing thoughts will help you create a work environment that is highly interactive, rich and brimming with creativity. Allow yourself to daydream. When you daydream, you’re stimulating the right side of your brain, which is in fact a hub of creativity.

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.
— Henry David Thoreau

2) Change your pattern of thinking: When entrepreneurs think differently, they create and expand businesses that scale new heights. This is the gateway to new business opportunities. Try breaking your habitual thinking patterns, and practice asking yourself this one simple question “What is the opposite of this thought?” When you think along these lines, you open up a treasure house of new ideas and possibilities.

Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.
— Albert Einstein

5 more Tips for Unblocking Creativity…
…continued in the Ebook

Use These Proven 22 Time-Saving Tips To Work Smarter

“You must master your time rather than becoming a slave to the constant flow of events and demands on your time. And you must organize your life to achieve balance, harmony, and inner peace.”  – Brian Tracy

Are you putting in extra hours at the office, or spending an hour or more a day commuting? Here are 20 proven shortcuts and tips for saving time and making your day more productive. [Read more…]

5 Ways To Reduce Stress at the Office

“I also think stress is related to control. When you’re in charge of your life, you tend to not care about losing control of things that don’t really matter like traffic jams.”
– Marilu Henner

1) Privacy & Focus Time – Open work spaces and cubicles are popular in many companies where continual employee interaction is considered productive. However a constant lack of privacy and quiet focus time adds to stress and reduced productivity over time.  If you work in an open space, find a quiet, private space where you can work for at least a couple of hours daily.

Ask for management and co-worker buy-in by having a “Focus Time” sign that people can post at their office or cubicle entrance.  Hanging of that sign is a gentle reminder to passersby that you are in focus time and not available for any drop-by meetings or interruptions during this time.

2) Turn off Email – Email can become addictive – and stressful. There’s a psychological need (curiosity) to open every email as it comes in.  Yet constantly opening email throughout the day can lead to overwhelm and an email in-box overflowing with emails requiring your attention.  Turn off your email alert sound and schedule two or three times daily to open and process your email.

Think of your email inbox as a virtual desk.  An overflowing with email is then akin to sitting at a desk overflowing with paper and files requiring your attention.

When you open an email, process it in the moment.  Is an action required? Handle the action immediately if you can do it within a few minutes.  If the action requires more time, note the action on your task list or calendar.  Remove ‘processed’ email from your inbox and place them in another folder.

3) Voicemail – Answering every phone call throughout the day can quickly become counter-productive.  Set aside a focus time period each day where you allow calls to go to voice mail while you focus on one task or project.

4) Breathe – One of the simplest relaxation techniques is deep breathing.  Taking in more oxygen relieves stress.  Sit in a comfortable position and place your hands on your stomach.  Inhale slowly and fully.  Allow your stomach to expand fully.  Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale through tight lips as if you are whistling.  Repeat several times.

5) Visualize – Sit in a private space and spend five or ten minutes in a relaxing daydream. Imagine yourself on the beach or in a natural environment that you enjoy.  Still feeling stressed about all the work that awaits you?  In your daydream, imagine yourself easily completing your work and achieving your work goals.

How To Take The Stress Out of Multitasking

One worthwhile task carried to a successful conclusion is worth half-a-hundred half-finished tasks.”
Malcolm S. Forbes

In the modern workplace, it is impossible to completely avoid having to multitask, but a few simple measures can lessen the effects. A little organization and planning helps a lot.

1. Focus on your goals and objectives – give priority to tasks that bring you closer to meeting your goals and objectives.

2. Spend your first few minutes in the day thinking about the day ahead and making a to-do list. Prioritize tasks and making sure that the most important jobs are worked on first.

3. Schedule periods of time when you allow no distractions, that includes not looking at email or picking up the telephone. To prevent interruptions, hang a sign on your office door or cubicle, such as: “Focus Time, Please Speak with Me Later.” Use this time to give your undivided attention to one task. Remove all projects and files from your desk area except for the task you are focusing on.

4. Do not look at email throughout the day. Schedule two or three times during the day to process your email.

5. At the end of the day, review your list for accomplishments and list of three to five of the most important tasks that you intend to complete the next day.

Good questions to ask yourself daily:

1) What will I do today to help the organization achieve our mission?

2) What does the company most need me to do?

3) What is the most productive use of my time?

Parkinson’s Law: Your Ticket To Getting More Done in Less Time

“Never confuse motion with action”
Ernest Hemingway

Remember Parkinson’s Law

A project will tend to grow in perceived complexity and importance in relation to the amount of time allocated for it.

A task will tend to take the amount of time you give it. Give yourself one thing to do during an eight-hour day, it will likely take eight hours to complete it. Give yourself two things to do in the same period of time, and you will probably finish both. Give yourself twelve things to do in eight hours, and you may not get all twelve done, but you may complete many of them.

Applying Parkinson’s Law to your work

Shortening your work time, causes you to focus on only the most important tasks. Have you ever noticed your productivity increase just before leave for vacation? It’s because we have more motivation – or urgency – to achieve completions within a limited amount of time. If you had two weeks to complete a task, you’d likely take the entire amount of time. If you had just one day to complete the same task, you’d be forced to focus on execution. You could only do the most important elements of that task (the 20% that would give you the 80% of the results).

The lesson? Shortening the work time assigned to a task, limits tasks to the important. Timelines are critical to creating focus. Without them, unimportant tasks can swell to fill our entire day.

Try this: Commit to leaving the office earlier than usual for the next two weeks (no taking work home). See how much more you can achieve when you are forced to complete your work in a shorter work day.

How the 80/20 Can Cut Your Workload – in Half

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.”
– Lin Yutang

What is the 80-20 Rule?

In 1906 the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, constructed a mathematical formula to describe the distribution of wealth in his country – that 20% of the people owned 80% of the wealth. In the late 1940’s, Dr Joseph M Juran incorrectly attributed the whole 80-20 rule to Pareto, and it became widely known as the Pareto Principle.

The 80-20 rule is a lot further reaching than merely describing the uneven distribution of wealth, and is applied to many different fields, from management science to the physical world. The rule follows the belief that 80% of outputs result from 20% of the inputs. Other ways to state this depending on the context, include:

* 80% of profits come from 20% of the products
* 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes
* 80% of our results come from 20% of our time and effort

Two men laboriously cut wood throughout a long and hot day. One of the laborers worked straight through, without once stopping to rest. At the end of the day his endeavor had created a sizable pile of logs.

The other man chopped wood steadily for 50 minutes and then took a ten-minute break. At the end of the day he had amassed a much larger and more impressive pile of wood. ‘How could you chop more?’ asked the man who had worked continuously, disbelieving the evidence of his own eyes.

His friend replied, ‘When I stopped for rest, I also sharpened my ax!’
– Author Unknown

Applying the 80-20 Rule to your work

We have all seen good managers in action, who manage to achieve results without appearing to break into a sweat. Often, we wonder how they manage to breeze through the day with the greatest of ease. These people have learned to focus their effort on the most important 20% of their tasks instead of futilely attacking the 80%.

If you never seem to have enough hours in the day, and an inbox that fills up quicker than the outbox empties, then you need to analyze your work practices. 80% of our efforts account for only 20% of the results achieved. Most of us are spending 80% of our time in activities that give us just 20% of our results. And 80% of our results come from just 20% of our effort and time. This approach lengthens the work day and is a great contributor to the level of stress we feel.

The first step in applying the 80-20 Rule requires you to make an honest appraisal of yourself and how you approach your work.

At the end of a particularly busy day, ask yourself the following few questions to establish whether you are floundering in the 80% zone of hard and fruitless labor.

* Do I spend more time on urgent tasks, rather than completing the most important tasks?
* Does my work always seem to take longer than I expected or hoped?
* At the end of the day, am I unhappy about how I spent my time?

Answering ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions means that there is room for improvement and a streamlining of your workflow practices. The truth is that we all have default activities – those tasks we engage in that help us postpone making an important decisions. Some of us answer email 30 times a day, or create elaborate systems for tracking our incoming email. Others allow frequent interruptions throughout the day, making it difficult to concentrate on one task to bring it to completion. Are you inventing work in order to avoid the important?

* What 20% of your activities and effort produce the 80% of your results? (Focus on these.)
* What 20% is causing 80% of your problems? (Eliminate these.)

Calculate how much time you spend upon each task and then assess the final outcome, honestly. Ask yourself which tasks are necessary and bring the best results. You will find that you are expending far too much effort on the minutiae and not enough on the easy gains.

The tasks which do not bring results should be scaled down or delegated to others. However talented you are, there will always be people on your team who enjoy certain tasks and will achieve better results than you. Apart from saving you the bother of performing a task you don’t enjoy, you will be allowing someone else to achieve results using their skills.

In summary – Do you want to work less and achieve more? Just concentrate on the 20% that matters. You can adopt this philosophy by assessing your workflow practices on a daily, weekly, monthly and even annual basis. To practice applying the 80-20 rule to your work, ask yourself these questions throughout your day:

* Am I spending time on activities that fulfill my goals and purpose?
* Am I being productive (or am I doing busy work?)
* Am I creating busy work in order to avoid the truly important?

Goal Setting: The S.M.A.R.T. Way

“We want to set the goals that our heart conceives, that our mind believes and that our bodies will carry out.”
Jim Rohn
Business Philosopher

What would you try to accomplish,
if you knew that you could not fail?

People who are successful at work know there is always time for what matters to them. They spend their time wisely, knowing their life is a matter of the choices they make.

At work, the best performers focus on results, on their goals, rather than accepting whatever comes their way. They are action-oriented, while others just talk of taking action. They plan each day, while others don’t plan. They are self-motivating, while others simply wait for someone or something to motivate them.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Goals are more likely to be achieved if they are written down. The SMART method provides a structure for creating your written plan. The acronym SMART has several slightly different variations, here’s one of them:

Specific
A goal is more likely to be reached when it is specific. To set a specific goal, answer the five “W” questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why. What is your overall vision for successful completion of this goal? Write your goal statement as a first step towards achieving your goal.

Measurable

Is your goal measurable? How will you know when it is accomplished. Ask yourself ” how much?” and “how many” in order to measure your progress. Measurable goals will help you stay on track and reach your target goals.

Achievable
Is your goal achievable? Once you identify a goal and begin to take action towards the goal, the capacity to reach your goal starts to show up. You develop the abilities and skills to accomplish the goal. Opportunities and resources become available to help you achieve your goals. Achievers know that they can accomplish almost any goal once they create a written plan and take the actions towards their goal.

Relevant

Do your specific goals help you achieve your larger goals (your purpose and mission)? Do you believe that you can accomplish the goal? Are you willing and able to work towards the goal? Can you find the resources, knowledge and time to work towards the goal? Are you highly motivated towards accomplishing the goal?

Time Based
A goal should be time-based. Without a time line attached to the goal, there is no sense of urgency. Yet too much time can lower your performance. Identify the actions that you need to take in order to achieve your goal and assign a timeline to each action.