Tag Archives: Productivity

Find Your Focus with Printable Coloring Pages

Do The Work

Are you looking for a way to relax and refocus?  To be more mindful?  To fan your creative spark?

Here’s a crazy idea… coloring.

Yep, like we did when we were kids.  It’s super easy and surprisingly satisfying.

Curious to try?

I’ve created a PDF of 3 coloring pages that I will be including in my new Productivity Journal.  I’d love for you to try them and let me know what you think.

Click here to download:  The Management Maven Coloring Pages

Happy coloring!

 

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How to make time for the work that matters.

how to make time

Sonja Langford via Unsplash

Stop for a minute and think of all the people you work with.  Who would you say is the busiest?

I bet one person pops into your head immediately.  Because every office has that one “busy” person – the person who always has too much to do and makes a big, passive-aggressive production about it.  The person who responds to tasks with a resigned sigh but, because they have a lot of institutional knowledge, are respected and even seen as an expert at their job.  Which isn’t surprising, since they’ve been doing that same job for years.

So why hasn’t the Busy Bee been promoted?  Because being busy is career quicksand.  You can work yourself silly, but if it’s not right kind of work, you’ll never get anywhere.

In order to move up, you have to do the kind of work that makes you management material – understanding your industry, effectively prioritizing, creative problem solving, learning to lead a team, and so on.  You have to do more than just your core tasks.  You have to take on the projects that will help you grow as a professional

But how?  You already have a full day of assigned duties and you can’t simply stop doing them, right?  Of course not.  I’m not suggesting you neglect your work.  You have to do your job and do it well.  But leaders identify ways to get what they need.  If you need more time, you’re going to have to create it.

Waste is a concept I became familiar with during my time in manufacturing.  Every process we do is full of waste – actions that take time and energy but don’t create real value.  Maybe it’s moving material from place to place.  Or sitting idle while you wait for your next task.  Or finding a defect and having to scrap your work.  Eliminating waste is key to reducing costs, improving quality and decreasing production time.

You probably don’t work in manufacturing but I believe the concept of waste is valuable in any field.  If you look closely at your day, you’ll likely see that you expend time and energy on things that aren’t really necessary.  If you can reduce or eliminate that waste, you can get more work done in a shorter amount of time and, in essence, create more time.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

Are your tools in the wrong place?  The things you use to do your job should be readily accessible, when and where you need them.  If you find yourself reaching, stretching and searching for things you need, you’re wasting time and energy.

Are you in the wrong place?  If your tasks are repeatedly taking you outside your work area, consider whether your workspace should be closer to the people you support.  Think in terms of process flow rather than department or function.

Are you doing more than is necessary?  By this I mean adding extra administrative steps for no reason – like printing reference copies of things that are readily accessible online.  Save your energy for going above and beyond in ways that actually matter.

Are you reworking things that weren’t done right the first time?  Sometimes things come to us broken and we just fix it as part of our process.  Taking extra time now to address the problem at its source will save you time over the long term.

Are you inconsistent in your processes?  Find the best way to do a repetitive task and stick with it.  The speed and accuracy you gain will free up time to do more glamorous work elsewhere.

Each of these individual examples may seem trivial, but considered together, they add up to a significant amount of wasted time – time that you can be using to do the right kind of work for your career.

 

Six things to do when you don’t know what to do.

Sylwia Bartyzel via Unsplash

Sylwia Bartyzel via Unsplash

Tell me if any of this sounds familiar:  You’re not happy in your current job but aren’t sure what else you’re qualified to do.  You’re not making enough money but you can’t afford to quit.  You want to do something meaningful but you haven’t found your “passion”.

Go back to school?  Start your own business??  Join the circus??? 

If you’ve become paralyzed by indecision, the best strategy may be to stop, take a breath, and come at the problem from a different direction.  Here are some ideas to get you moving:

Dive deep into a new subject.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  Pick something that interests you (work-related or not) and start learning everything you can about it.  Explore it from different perspectives and thru different mediums.  Follow footnotes and interesting asides.  See where it takes you.

Get an activity tracker and start walking.  Feeling aimless drains your energy and you may find yourself in a sedentary rut.  An activity tracker (I like the FitBit) will help you focus on getting up and out.  And walking will clear your mental fog and get you thinking big thoughts.

Declutter.  Our physical space and our mental space are deeply entwined.  Clearing our  material baggage has a magic way of clearing our psyche as well.  Purge ruthlessly and then examine what’s left.  It may hold clues to what really matters in your life.  (Marie Kondo’s book on the magic of tidying up explores this in depth.)

Keep a time log.  “I don’t have time.” is probably the biggest excuse we use for not moving forward.  But you probably have more than you think.  Track everything you do for a week and see where your time is really going.  Then evaluate what you can change to make time for something new.

Start a blog.  Pick something that interests you and start writing about it.  It doesn’t have to be ground breaking stuff, but commit to writing something on the regular.  Explore other blogs and start connecting with people online.  Be open to the process and again, see where it takes you.

Volunteer to work with someone from another country.  Volunteering is good experience in general, but working directly with someone from another culture – tutoring a non-native speaker, for example – is an excellent way to put your own life in perspective.

 

How about you?  Have you ever felt aimless?  How did you deal with it?

 

(This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.)

Four tips for having a better day.

lemon ginger water

Dominik Martin via Unsplash

I don’t know about you, but I find it often takes hearing the same advice many, many (many?) times before it actually sticks.  But eventually, I internalize good ideas and am the better for it.  Here are a few oft-cited “make your day better” tips I’ve recently adopted:

Hydrate in the morning.  One reason we often feel tired and icky in the morning is because it has been several hours since our last drink of water.  We wake up mildly dehydrated and drinking coffee first thing just exacerbates the problem.  I enjoy reading about productive morning routines and this advice pops up frequently.  As does…

Don’t check email or social media first thing.  It sends you down a productivity rabbit hole and puts you in reactive mode for the whole day.  It’s better to tackle your most important, meaningful work before anything else.  Which ties into this next one nicely…

Utilize your peak energy.  For me, this is the first two hours of the day.  If I “ease in” to my day with Facebook and Bloglovin’, I miss that important energy window.  My energy drops dramatically in the afternoon and I rarely feel like doing focused or creative work.  And of course…

Pay attention to Benedict Cumberbatch.  Seriously, I just did not see the attraction for the longest time.  I was vaguely aware of him from the Sherlock series (and found Watson more interesting).  But now I get what everyone is talking about.  This interview with Fast Company is good and this episode of Graham Norton is better.  (Plus, you get Miranda Hart, who is just beyond hilarious.)

 

How about you?  Is there any good advice that you’ve been slow to adopt?

 

Fighting negative self-talk…with water?

monochrome by Steve Johnson

Do you have a phrase that seems to pop into your mind unbidden, like a sort of mental tic?

I do:

“I’m tired.”

Now, I have a toddler, so I actually am tired quite a lot of the time.  But not nearly as often as this phrase runs through my head.

It’s like an internal sigh, when I’ve gotten plenty of rest but my energy is low or my task list seems extra long.  Sometimes, I hear myself say it and I don’t even know why.

It’s a negative habit that impacts my perspective and I need to break it.

So here’s what I’m trying:

When I hear myself think “I’m tired“, I quickly go and chug a glass of water.

The action takes me out of my head and refocuses me elsewhere, so I don’t start to dwell on the negative thought.  And, since tiredness can be a symptom of mild dehydration, drinking water helps improve how my body feels overall.

Mind and body taken care of?  Seems like a win-win.

Let me know what you think.

 

(Photo by Steve Johnson via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Stumbling into focused work.

Focused Work

Today’s the day you’re going to get some serious work done.  You sit down at your device of choice and start by checking your email…then a quick stop on Facebook…over to see what’s happening on Twitter…oh, this article looks interesting.  Okay, one more check of email…

Sound familiar?  Suddenly an hour of “work” has passed and you’ve gotten nothing done.  For me, it’s that plus a splitting headache.  I’ve had my eyes checked and they’re essentially fine for my age (sigh) and I did invest in those funky orange-tinted readers to reduce computer eye-strain.  My office ergonomics could use some work and I’m looking for a good yoga class. But mostly, if I stay in one position too long, my neck and shoulders punish me.

So I’ve adapted by working in short increments, interspersed with other activities.  15-20 minutes of focused work on the PC, then onto something that requires movement – stretches, chores, chasing the toddler, etc.

And I’m finding that this is actually super productive.  Out of necessity, I’m breaking my to-do list down into small tasks that can be done in a short window.  So, for example, instead of one big item like “write blog post“, I have several smaller tasks – “write draft“, “find blog photo“, “prep links“.

I’m liking the satisfaction of crossing multiple items off my list each day and it has given me an increased sense of momentum.  And most importantly, it’s forcing me to be focused when I’m at the computer.  I’m able to avoid social media and other distractions because I have a clear idea of what I want to get done and a limited window of time in which to do it.

I have this fantasy of long stretches of uninterrupted work, but as a mom, I don’t really have that luxury much.  And, honestly, waiting for that special time to work is just another form of procrastination.  So for now, I’m glad that my aching head is forcing me to be more efficient.

How about you?  Have you found that having a time limit increases your productivity?