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A team that collaborates efficiently gets a lot more accomplished than one that doesn’t take advantage of the tools and best practices to help them work together as a group. Team building can work, but there are many finer details to focus on daily that will allow your work environment to be more conducive to collaboration.

Three out of every four employees state teamwork and collaboration are an essential part of a workplace environment. Creating a situation that is conducive to this type of shared, positive interaction can help you attract and retain the best candidates, which will benefit your business.

There are many reasons to work on the collaboration of your work environment. Here are 10 tips to help you work more efficiently as a team.

1.     Upgrade Your Technology

If your technology is lacking, it’s difficult to collaborate with others. There are times when you need to shoot a quick internal message to someone on your team or utilize a conference call to connect with someone in another location.

Not only should your technology be as upgraded as possible, but the connections should be fast enough to support communication. About 83 percent of employees working in a professional environment state they depend on technology for their collaboration needs.

2.     Encourage Appreciation

One problem with collaboration can be that employees don’t feel appreciated or recognized. It is aggravating to work hard on a project and feel as though someone else is getting the credit for your hard work. Encourage your team members to praise their coworkers and recognize them for the value they bring to a project.

3.     Utilize Offsite Storage

There are many times when a team must collaborate with someone off-site, whether it’s a client or a co-worker in another location. More and more companies are hiring remote workers, as well, so the entire team may not be in one office.

Storing project files in the cloud gives everyone access to the project at any time from any location. However, there are some drawbacks to offsite storage, so be aware of the pros and cons and choose the storage options that are best for your company.

4.     Stand-Up Meetings

It’s essential that everyone starts each day on the same page and feels like they’re part of the team. Short meetings first thing in the morning are conducive to keeping everyone apprised of significant changes or goals they must meet. A stand-up meeting is typically 15 minutes or less and either consists of the project leader giving an update or everyone giving an update. Questions are reserved for more in-depth sessions, but quick concerns can be easily addressed before the work day starts.

5.     Offer Incentives

One study found that if employees don’t have a compelling reason to do so, then they don’t collaborate. The incentive might be something simple, such as a party at the end of a big project, but there needs to be some reward for the extra effort it takes to work with a team. Incentives encourage employees to work together more efficiently.

6.     Movable Furniture

Adding furniture that can be easily moved around the office is a smart way to encourage collaboration. Imagine two co-workers taking on a project. This way, they can easily roll their desks together to work facing one another for a few hours, then move their desks back in place for a bit of privacy.

7.     Private Meeting Space

If possible, provide a private meeting space for your team. In many offices today, there is an open environment without walls. While this is great for encouraging people to engage and collaborate, it isn’t so great if employees are discussing sensitive information or even talking loudly. It can also be distracting to other workers who aren’t on that particular project.

8.     Add Natural Light

Dark, dim spaces are depressing for anyone. If you want your teams to work more efficiently, provide plenty of natural light. Natural light promotes better health and productivity — it can even put workers in a better mood so they have a more positive outlook on a project.

9.     Trust Your Team

Allow your team members to come together and do what they do best. Are you in the habit of micro-managing teams working on big projects? This takes time away from their work and could be demoralizing. A better option might be to have a team leader give you updates weekly or to hold a team meeting once a week. Otherwise, trust that you’ve hired the best of the best and let your team run with the task at hand.

10.  Use a Single Platform

In the lifecycle of a company, it is typical to try several types of project platforms. However, this can create a lot of confusion when collaborating with different employees.

Choose a single platform for a given project and stick to it until it is complete. Ideally, the platform will be a place where team members can access project files, read messages, add notes and check off tasks. The more the platform does, the better.

Create an Efficient Environment for Better Collaboration

The more efficient you can make your team’s work environment, the better collaborations will go. Different personality types come together in group settings — some people grow aggravated over inefficiency, while others become aggravated over people who are easily aggravated. The key is to smooth out these bumps before they occur, so the team can focus on the project at hand.

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OK, so talking about how much workers need breaks isn’t every employer’s favorite pastime — but it should be. Attempting to work long hours at a time without a single moment of rest doesn’t produce results the way we used to think it did — it’s a work model of the past. We understand the human brain more every day, and one topic we’ve nailed down is the positive effect of breaks on our productivity and work ethic.

It isn’t just about wanting a break to check Facebook or grab a bite to eat. It’s about the science-backed fact that taking breathers from time to time increases our performance. Here are five proven benefits of taking breaks.

1. Show Your Brain Some Appreciation for the Hard Work

Did you know your prefrontal cortex (PFC) keeps you focused and concentrated during heavy mental work? It keeps your eyes on the prize and helps you use willpower to avoid impulsive decisions. It’s also responsible for executive decision-making and logical thinking, which means you have a lot to thank it for.

Think about those moments when you feel completely stumped by some problem or overwhelmed by your task list, take a short walk or nap and return to find the issue much more manageable than you left it. Those are the powerful results of a small break for your PFC. Be sure to take the right kind of break to get the much-needed boost today’s work world requires.

2. Improve Your Overall Mental Functions

Productivity, creativity, mental clarity and emotional well-being all depend on the right number of breaks throughout the day. If you know there’s a big deadline on its way, you might feel compelled to work endless hours without even looking away from your computer screen. Rather than working on one task for an extended period of time, schedule multiple tasks in thirty-minute increments. This will allow different parts of your brain to rest while flexing other mental muscles. Learn this habit to diversify your day, become smarter and rest your brain.

Not only will you work smarter by using breaks, you’ll find yourself being more creative. It’ll be easier to engage with the task, get yourself into a flow and come up with creative solutions to whatever problems arise. Bottom line: Take a break — your work depends on it.

3. Motivate Yourself and Make Better Decisions

These two go hand in hand. It’s easy to forget about long-term goals when you’re feeling mentally and physically fatigued. Many people believe willpower isn’t an unlimited resource. No matter how much you try to force yourself to get the work done and churn out more results, you’ll eventually hit a wall that prohibits further production.

No matter what industry you’re in, you probably have to make several important decisions throughout the day — both big and small. Decision fatigue causes you to lose some of your willpower and the ability to reason logically. You’ll be more likely to choose easy, safe options and gravitate toward simplistic decisions and procrastination throughout the day. Working without breaks will mean you put in more hours with fewer, lower-quality results, so why not just take a break instead?

4. Eliminate Physical Distractions

Nobody can work long hours without distractions if they’re in physical pain, but the reality is people are trying every day across countless fields. Those who work in front of computers often suffer from wrist, forearm and hand discomfort, but there’s good news: Studies have shown taking a five-minute break each hour eliminates pain. In addition, short walks, yoga and other physical activity throughout the day reduce the likelihood you’ll develop obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even depression.

5. Improve Your Relationship With Your Boss

While the word “break” might not sound like the most productive idea to your boss, you’ll find yourself on better terms with them when you can pump out more high-quality work in shorter amounts of time. You don’t always have to take breaks in a way that will frustrate them or make them wary of your performance, either. A break can take the form of a short nap, but it can also mean a quick stretch, brisk walk, a moment on social media, a few seconds of laughter or just a chat with your nearest coworker.

In fact, you can choose from any number of apps, tools and methods to keep yourself well-rested and on track in a way that fits best for your particular lifestyle and workplace. Just know no matter what you choose, you’ll be well on your way to higher productivity and a healthier work ethic you, your coworkers and your employer will admire.

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Do you strive to be your best self? Do you value constructive criticism and use it to your advantage? If you answered yes to both questions, that’s great. You’re already climbing the ladder on your personal growth journey and making strides to becoming your best self.

Not only will personal development make you a better person, it will also improve your productivity. Here are five examples of how.

You’ll Have More Motivation

Embarking on the journey to being the best you can be will help you find your passions, which in turn can help define personal goals. Take a moment to reflect on your career path. Are you headed in the direction you want to go? Are your actions helping you get there?

If you’re not following a path you want to be on, it’ll be tough to stay motivated. Struggling to get out of bed in the morning and dreading heading into the office every day are definite signs you need to make a job change. Personal development will guide you to finding your passions, which will motivate you to achieve your goals. You’ll look forward to work each day and be eager to take down your to-do list.

You’ll Learn Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Part of the personal development process is learning your talents and areas where you need more improvement. Maybe you excel at communication, but lack time-management skills. Having a firm grasp on your strengths and weaknesses is the first step toward honing your skills and developing strategies to overcome your shortcomings.

Not sure where to begin? Start by reviewing personal development websites. (I’ve blogged about some of my favorites on my personal productivity blog in the past.)

Each site offers guidance on different areas of personal development, ranging from relationships to fitness to achieving your career goals. Find the area that speaks to you the most, and dive in.

Your Self-Esteem Will Improve

Suffering from low self-esteem? You’re not alone. Approximately 85 percent of the world’s population suffers from low self-esteem. A lack of trust in yourself can be debilitating. Second-guessing your decisions will cause you to spend more time on basic tasks and prevent you from moving forward.

To be your most productive self, you need to trust yourself and listen to your gut. Higher self-esteem will allow you to move seamlessly from task to task, without wasting time questioning your abilities. You’ll see productivity improvements immediately.

Your Confidence Levels Will Soar

Self-confidence goes hand in hand with self-esteem. A firm belief in yourself and your talents will allow you to perform at your peak ability. Self-confidence is also an attractive quality. Supervisors, colleagues and upper management will view you in a new light and keep you in mind for new opportunities. Before long, you’ll be on your way to achieving your goals.

As you become more confident, you’ll spend less time worrying about your ability and have more energy available to focus on others. You’ll be a happier person, which will naturally lead you and those around you to be more productive. Your relationships will improve, as you’ll be more empathetic and compassionate.

You’ll Become the Best Version of Yourself

Working on personal development will make you a better person. Instead of blaming others for mistakes, you’ll take responsibility for your actions and reflect on preventive measures for the next time around. You’ll feel calmer, more relaxed and self-assured. As you venture further on your journey, you’ll be able to quiet the negative voices inside your head.

Once you’ve let go of negativity, you can focus on developing useful routines to streamline your daily activities and help you be more productive. Soon, being productive will be a habit.

It’s worth it to put in the effort to work on personal development. You’ll gain confidence, trust your decisions and be more productive.

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Did you know that it’s been scientifically proven that night owls get more done?

Yes — you read that correctly the first time.

Just because you dread early mornings, and have trouble focusing (and maybe even being human) before noon, it doesn’t mean you can’t be super productive. Night owls may have a bad rep because their internal clocks run a little differently than the bulk of the population, but that doesn’t mean they accomplish any less than everyone else.

Working at night is great and can be an extremely productive time for people who enjoy staying up later, but how can you best optimize your work time when you’re a night owl?

Check out the tips below to discover how to optimize your productivity.

Find a Distraction Free Zone

No matter the time of the day, it is easy to become distracted if you don’t take steps to keep yourself on track.

Time wasters like checking your cell phone every few minutes, getting sucked into new social media posts or doodling horns on a picture of your boss can really kill your productivity.

The evening is a time when you can avoid all distractions, and get into a good work zone. It’s the best time for night owls to use their creativity without any interruptions. During the day we’re constantly receiving notifications, texts, phone calls, email alerts, etc., but at night it all lays to rest. Use this to your advantage.

Schedule Your Work Strategically

Morning people sometimes perceive night owls as lazy because they are not up at the crack of dawn, but this is not true. Night owls just work on a different schedule.

The key to creating an optimal productive period for anyone is sticking to a schedule, and night owls should be no different. You should set “time blocks” that lay everything out: time to get things done, time to wind down, time to sleep, time to wake up, and the list goes on.

Although your “morning routine” will be different than a morning person’s routine, you should still set one so you get started on the right foot at the start of your day. Having a set schedule will ensure that you get your work done to meet deadlines rather than procrastinating and cursing yourself tomorrow.

Go Ahead, Exercise at Night

Tired of hearing all the benefits of exercising in the morning when you know the snooze button will be the only one getting a workout?

It’s hard for night owls to wake up, and that’s okay. Exercising at night can be a great thing for people who like to stay up late. Since happiness can increase productivity by up to 12 percent, taking advantage of that post-workout high can give you nice boost.

Studies also show that night owls motor cortex and spinal cord excitability increase later in the evening. So besides being physically stronger in the evening, you’ll also notice the gym isn’t as crowded at 9 p.m. Take advantage of this and use it to make the most of your optimal productive period. Practice an assortment of exercises, like yoga or running before you get to work, and see which type helps your concentration and productivity.

Make it Feel Like You Are at Work

Instead of lounging in your bed with your pajamas on, find a specific place where you can get your tasks done. Working in your bedroom can be negative in a number of ways. For example, your brain may start to associate work with your bedroom, which will make it harder for your body to wind down when you are trying to sleep later on.

Another tactic that you can use to make it feel like you are at work is to get dressed as if you are on your way out the door. It’s hard to feel good about yourself and your work if you are wearing sweatpants and a dirty t-shirt. Dressing for work can actually heighten your attention, making you more focused into the late evening.

Also keep in mind, that if you were in an office with co-workers, a TV would not be playing in the background. You might think that it is not distracting, but it is impossible to focus on more than one thing at once. That means, every time you pause and hear something on the TV, your brain switches focus and you disrupt your thoughts and creative flow.

Bonus: Tips for Night Owls With an 8 to 5 Job

Sometimes you don’t get to be the maker of your schedule….

When you work for a company where you are required to be into work before your eyes are even fully open, try starting your work day with tasks that are more simple and don’t require too much focus. Allow yourself some time to “wake up” before you start diving into deeper work.

Another strategy you can use (if you’re able to work it out with your employer) is to take some work home with you. Companies that understand the benefits of reward and recognition, might even give you the opportunity to come in an hour later if you work at home in the evenings. Demonstrate to your employer that you are responsible before you request a later start time to increase your chances.

Lastly, schedule your most difficult tasks at a time when you perform your best. Make sure those on your team also know what times are better for you so they can try to work with you when these types of projects roll in.

Are you ready to have one of the most productive nights of your life? Ease into some of these suggestions so you don’t get too overwhelmed all at once. Do you have any other advice for night owls? What routine works best for you?

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Work can be a daunting and stressful endeavor. Whatever field you find yourself in, stress seems to be the common denominator. Whether you’re raising cattle and planting corn on a farm in Nebraska or exchanging stocks dozens of times a day in New York City, you’re likely to feel pressured at some point.

To combat this stress, people need to realize there is so much more to life than work. It may not seem like it, but obtaining a wider perspective can do wonders for you. If you just stop and take a breath, you’ll gain a great appreciation for life and the interactions within it.

To help with managing work stress, here are some tips that will help turn your work-induced stress sessions into high-quality and productive work.

Find Your Optimal Stress Level

This can sometimes be a bit difficult, but with practice, you’ll be able to find it and make use of it whenever you need to. When people think of stress, they generally see it as a bad thing. It’s the stress of the world that’s making your hair turn grey. It’s the stress of my boss that’s making my stomach churn. Stress is there, but it’s how you handle it that can make your work productive and enjoyable.

Stress helps get things done. Knowing you should do something is a great motivator, especially if you need to meet a deadline. Slight pressure can do wonders for you. It’s the overburdening pressure people can’t handle and hate.

Recognize Stress Is a Choice

This may sound weird, but you must realize that everything in life comes through your lens. Your eyes and your perspective on the world is what makes you unique. You may react to situations differently than your co-workers. It’s your individuality that makes you the special person you are.

When you begin to feel stress, recognize that you have to choose: You can either harness it or let it incapacitate you. The latter choice is not a good option. Take the stress and use it to enhance your work. Do you have a looming deadline? Work your butt off. Do your absolute best and you won’t be disappointed.

Focus on What You Can Control

This is a tried-and-true method that cannot be stated enough. For many people, stress is something that is scary and, more importantly, uncontrollable. People fear what they can’t control. It’s a natural reaction for a human being to feel this way. What you need to focus on is not how your boss reacts to you or what your coworkers are thinking of you. You have to focus on what you can control.

It does you absolutely no good to focus your energy on everything around you. Instead, focus on yourself, your actions and your energy. If you do this, not only will you be happier, but you’ll also turn your stress into productive stress. You’ll be able to focus on the big picture and realize that everything will be OK.

Practice

It may sound weird, but a great way to turn your stress-filled day into a productive one is to practice. Do this by focusing on your tasks. Try to do everything a little better the next time you do it. You’ll see your skill levels improve, which will take a lot of your work stress away. Practice will not make you perfect, but it will make you better.

Use stress to your advantage, and soon you’ll see positive and productive results.

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Think about this for a minute: why is it when you have something truly big and important to do, that’s the time when procrastination strikes the hardest?

That’s because your brain has the tendency to avoid pain and run towards pleasure. And with instant pleasure at the tip of your thumb (no thanks to your smartphone), it’s become that much harder to tackle the truly hard work when you need to.

One way to hijack this process and get back to being productive is to use your distractions as rewards.

Using Distractions As Rewards To Boost Productivity

The basic thought here is to use something you already enjoy doing, like browsing Instagram or hanging out on Reddit, and make it an incentive for getting some work done. It’s not that you’re abandoning your guilty pleasures, you’re just delaying them and taking charge.

And that’s the key here: take control over your distractions, instead of the other way around. Soon, your distractions will stop bugging you while you work and motivate you instead. It’s a minor change in mindset but it does put you back in charge, where you belong.

Two Strategies For Using Distractions As Rewards
  1. The Pomodoro Technique.

    This technique teaches you to work for a stretch of time then take short breaks afterwards. In this case, your Pomodoro breaks are the times when you handle your distractions. This stops the distractions from nagging your brain, since you’ll be taking care of them every half hour or so anyway.
  2. Set Small Goals With Rewards
    The other way is to cater to your distractions after you’ve achieved a small goal. If you enjoy that particular distraction, it’ll help spur you towards finishing your work.
Bonus Tips For Making Distractions Productive
  • Add a limit to your distraction rewards. To maintain their effectiveness as rewards, you don’t want to overindulge in your distractions. Set a time limit or stop doing them after a couple of rounds.
  • Share this technique with people. By telling your colleagues, friends, and maybe even your boss, you set yourself up to be accountable to someone. You don’t want them to check up on you and see that you’re still distracted, right?
  • When distracted, write the distraction down. A list is a powerful tool for keeping distractions at bay. It removes the cognitive load of the activity now so you can handle it later. You can also use this list to decide which of your distractions you can use as rewards.

What you need to do now is to start taking control of your distractions. Use them as rewards for work done and they’ll stop being productivity blockers and instead start becoming productivity boosters.

Want to overcome distractions once and for all? Here’s how to practice mindfulness at work.

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Facebook might be a huge distraction for most, but there are still a few ways to stay productive without abandoning the ubiquitous social network. You can do this by becoming a Facebook “phreak”.

TODAY’S ARTICLE
Facebook Phreaks and the Fight to Reclaim Time and Attention
by Cal Newport (@StudyHacksBlog)

Tips & Tricks Productive ways to use Facebook:
  1. Participating in high-quality Facebook groups.
  2. Communicating with family and friends who mainly use Facebook.
  3. Marketing your products and services.
How to become a Facebook phreak:
  • Uninstall the Facebook app on your phone so you aren’t constantly distracted.
  • Cull your news feed. Unfollow or even unfriend people that share distractions. Unlike pages that do the same.
  • If browsing Facebook on your computer, install a custom add-on that can block the feed altogether.
  • Use Facebook apps that cater to your specific needs for the platform. Instead of the Facebook app, you can install Messenger, Facebook Groups, and Facebook Pages.
  • Delegate your Facebook marketing to someone else to avoid getting sucked in altogether.

Yesterday’s phreaks are today’s “hackers”. Here’s how you can hack your day for maximum efficiency.

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It’s important to read non-fiction books, but it is just as important to remember what you read and make productive use out of it.

TODAY’S ARTICLE
Reading Comprehension Strategies: How to Retain More of Everything You Read
by James Clear (@james_clear)

Tips & Tricks: 1. Write down notes as you read

This helps with comprehension and also stores any new ideas that come to you as you read. For ebooks, this is easier since you can highlight text on your Kindle or computer and then import these highlights later.

2. Make your notes easy to search

Store them in a text file or write them in ScribblePost, where you’ll be able to easily find and access them across all your devices.

3. When taking notes, connect ideas to ones already in your head

New insights are often found at the intersection of one or more ideas.

4. Summarize the book

Creating a short, one paragraph summary can be a challenge, but a useful one that helps you really grasp the lessons of the book. It also makes the book actionable since you cut to its core ideas that you can use in your life.

Reading is a fact of life for many students, but many still struggle with taking down notes. Here are a few tips on how ScribblePost helps students.

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The world is hell-bent on your distraction. Not a moment goes by that you potentially can’t lose focus on your work.

There are the usual focus-killing suspects: your computer, your phone and your co-workers. But there are also a few hidden distractions around you: a cluttered desk, an open office, even the food you ate (or didn’t eat) for breakfast! These things can occupy your mind and keep you from giving 100% of your attention to the task at hand.

What Happens When You’re Distracted

We give in to distractions and interruptions because that’s how our brain works. Part of our survival instinct involves being aware of our surroundings and acting on impulse to protect ourselves. That’s all well and good, but we don’t live in predator-filled jungles anymore. At least, I hope you don’t!

We work in comfortable offices, far from scary disasters and man-eaters. But we still have this reactive instinct, an impulse to keep ourselves safe and content even if it means harming ourselves in the long run.

Being reactive means doing your first impulse when faced with a situation. It’s why you panic when the boss slams a deadline in front of you. It makes you lash out when someone criticizes you. It raises your blood pressure when your internet is running slowly.

As you can see, your first reaction often isn’t very pretty. Sure, you might know how you should act in those situations. But go ahead and ask someone else how you really react to those types of situations. The answer will probably shock you (and will probably provoke another ugly reaction).

What You Need Is Mindfulness

The solution to the age of distraction and reaction is learning how to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means taking control of your actions by being in the moment. Don’t let other things like emotions, situations and other people dictate your actions.

Let me give an example. Remember that scene in a movie when the hero seemingly slows down time and starts talking to themself? He describes what’s happening around him, weighs his options, and chooses the best course of action. Then time speeds up again and the hero executes his plan perfectly. That’s the kind of superpower you get with mindfulness.

How to Practice Mindfulness: Take A Second

Now you might think that being mindful is for monks in the mountains or yoga moms. Well, it is too, but you can also be mindful through this simple exercise:

  • Before you react to anything, pause for one second. Then ask yourself: why? Why are you reacting this way? Is this the right reaction given the situation?

And yes, it’s really that simple. But like all exercise, you need to keep practicing to make it part of your life. Try these two steps during your morning routine:

  1. Take a moment to focus on what you are sensing, thinking and feeling. Act like a data sponge, soaking in all of this information.
  2. Next, ask yourself “why” questions: why? For example, why do you have this routine? Why does it make you feel a certain way? Why do you do it?
Other Ways To Be More Mindful

Aside from the above, you can also do a few other things to help you be more mindful:

  1. Remove notifications from your devices. You don’t need something buzzing all day that interrupts your workflow. Just check your alerts during breaks and you’ll be much more focused and productive.
  2. Monotask. Avoid the urge to do more than one thing at a time. Multitasking prevents you from being mindful because you’re juggling several things at once. When you feel the urge to do something else, gently nudge your thoughts back to the task at hand. Remind yourself again why you want or need to do it.
  3. Use tools. What you need is a simple activity that will help exercise your focus, such as meditation, prayer, or even journaling. There are also a lot of apps that will help you be more mindful, from meditation exercises to tools that give you focus.
  4. Be mindful with friends. Habits are best built with friends to encourage and support you. Get a close friend or even your team at work to check each other’s mindfulness journey. Work on issues together and motivate each other to keep practicing daily.

It’s time to take control of your work. Stop reactions and distractions.

Learn how to practice mindfulness: all it takes is a few seconds.

Still having a hard time with distractions? Here are four common distractions at work and how to deal with them.

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