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“Never underestimate the human capacity for self-delusion.” – Roger Cohen, American journalist and author.

Business fads come and go just as surely as fads in music and fashion, and I’ve seen too many organizations unwittingly hurt themselves with the latest flavor-of-the-year. The smart ones reverse gears as soon as they start hemorrhaging profits; however, it can take years for some to change course, even when they see the writing on the wall.

In this article, I review a representative sample of such fads, some of which you’ve probably experienced yourself. You may even be a fan. But here’s the thing: no matter how shiny something looks, all that really matters in business is productivity and profit. Ultimately you must determine if earning colored belts or making sure every document follows a standard organization’s detailed rules is valuable or a waste of time. Without further ado, let’s review.

  1. The open-plan office. This fad has infected American organizations of all types for decades. It’s usually touted as increasing communication and camaraderie, allowing for freer exchange of ideas and an increased sense of belonging. But let’s get real—open-plan offices are implemented because they’re cheap. Every worker I’ve ever talked with hates them, and any benefits in teamwork wither under an avalanche of noise, distraction, and the pervading sense that upper management don’t give a flip about the commoners with their private offices (they kept due to “privacy” reasons). Research shows collaboration tends to plummet in open-plan offices, and individual workers become less productive, which completely reverses the stated intention and the money-saving benefits. Worse, it’s easier for people to get sick in an open-plan office. All it takes is one Typhoid Henry bringing a hardy flu strain home after Christmas break to clear out most of a floor for a month. How’s that for profitable?

  2. The ISO-9000 family. Certification from the International Organization for Standardization (1SO) was once something to conjure by, as it supposedly provides much-needed standardization of terminology, methodology, process, and documentation. Many companies sought ISO certification in the 1990s and early 2000s, and they highlighted it in their advertising. Nowadays, not so much. Some large organizations, like the federal government, still require it of their service providers. The problem is, it’s only as good as management’s commitment; it’s difficult and expensive to implement; it results in excessive oversight and often-oppressive workplace conditions; and it’s practically applied only to documentation. In the long run, the ISO family most often results in unnecessary paperwork detracting from actual productivity, as well as larger management and bureaucratic frameworks that drain profits.

  3. Forced Ranking involves classifying every person in a team, office, or business from best to worst. GE’s former CEO Jack Welch famously used it to fire the bottom 10% of producers every year, and still recommends other executives do so. (One must wonder how many former top-producers lose their jobs because of a single bad year.) But forced (a.k.a. stacked) ranking kills motivation for anyone low on the totem pole, fails to consider individual strengths in favor of the broad perspective, and damages the ability of people to work together. It encourages office politics, gossiping, and personal attacks, corrupting company culture as people fight for higher rankings. Favoritism runs rampant. Depending on the executives doing the measuring and the metrics used, it may even result in racism and/or sexism.

  4. Six-Sigma. If you create your own unique set of statistical metrics, train a limited number of people in their use and oversight, and then set those few people up to review everything everyone else does, what have you done? Invented an elite group for others to resent, for no real reason. Give them colored karate-style belts and turn them lose to supervise people in meeting after meeting doesn’t necessarily make your organization more productive or more profitable than another. Instead, focus on having an organization filled with high performers and teams that is nimble and ready for the next big market opportunity.

Get Along, Little Dogie

I realize I’ll probably get pushback from those wedded to management fads… but for everyone like that, there are a hundred long-suffering workers who hate those fads and have suffered damaged productivity as a result. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not hating on useful guidelines, style guides, automation and efficiency, company policy, reasonable best practices, or proven processes. But if a faddish practice reduces productivity, it’s useless.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“A rising tide lifts all boats.” – John F. Kennedy. 35th President of the United States.

Does a rising tide really lift all boats, as JFK once famously claimed? Politicians like to say so, at least in reference to their favored brand of economics. But cynics have pointed out many exceptions to the “rising tide” meme—you could be stuck in the mud; your boat could be full of holes or overloaded with idiots; you don’t have a boat; or someone torpedoes your boat. Whatever your economics, there are always some people who can’t keep their heads above water in a particular “rising tide” economy.

That said, in the workaday world where people interact in good faith, a “rising tide” of social cooperation does lift all boats. In combination with talent, training, and hard work, helping your co-workers may be your best path to maximizing your performance. Befriending and bonding with team members, being a team player, and cheerfully contributing your help when others need it can enhance your own productivity. How?

  1. Boosting Motivation. A simple feeling of belonging can improve your morale, making you willing to work harder and accomplish more in a given amount of time—the very definition of increased productivity. Knowing you’re appreciated and supported in your assigned role, based on your own actions and reliability, can also increase your motivation.

  2. Triggering the Benjamin Franklin Effect. Founding Father Ben Franklin once said, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately.” He demonstrated by asking a friend to break a thick bundle of sticks in half. The man couldn’t do it. Franklin then showed him how even a child could accomplish it: he untied the bundle and broke each stick one by one. Working to build a solid teamwork relationship where everyone helps each other allows you to support each other and build trust and confidence.

  3. Lightening the overall load so you can focus on performance, instead of how much you check off some list. A willingness to help others when needed ensures you also get help when you’re overwhelmed. Many hands really do make light work, allowing you to whittle down mountainous projects quickly and efficiently, leaving you more time to produce more. At an emotional level, having plenty of help also decreases mental stress.

  4. Filling your emotional needs as you build relationships. Everyone needs friends at work. We all feel better when we have the companionship of people we like and who like us; and we’re more willing to do nice things for them. That includes working hard for them and helping them. If you can extend this to the whole team, you’re more likely to end up pushing your own productivity higher.

  5. Fostering creativity and risk-taking. You can succeed without being creative in your work or taking healthy calculated risks, but growth is much slower, and it’s harder to hit peak performance. Thinking around corners and taking a few chances can put you ahead by leaps rather than by baby steps. When your co-workers have your back with new ideas and support, it’s more likely to succeed when put in front of senior leadership. It’s easier to take chances and generate increased team creativity when you offset your weaknesses with others’ strengths, and vice versa.

  6. Encouraging engagement. The happier you are at work, the more likely you are to fully engage with your job. When you fully engage, your sense of ownership for your job increases. If you “own” your job, you’ll work harder, spiking your productivity. It’s a simple equation, easily proven; but for some reason, it’s hard for most businesses to wrap their heads around and implement effectively.

Loop-de-loop

At first glance, it may sound odd to make benefitting your co-workers a priority, but it benefits you just as much if you take it seriously. Social lubrication is crucial in any workplace. Will some people take advantage of you? Of course; however, it’s up to you to choose how you act, just as you’d drive defensively to protect yourself on the road. Actively working to benefit your co-workers is key to increasing your own job performance, productivity, and even status, as enlightened individuals have discovered throughout history. There’s a reason most of us learn the Golden Rule in Kindergarten.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” –Warren Buffett, American businessman and investor.

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, English philologist and novelist, in The Hobbit.

To paraphrase Dwight Eisenhower, while plans might prove useless once the rubber hits the road, planning is indispensable. All but the most oblivious of companies, organizations, and businesspeople make long-term planning an essential part of their infrastructure; those who don’t go the way of the dodo. It’s a harsh type of natural selection that constantly hones productivity and its pleasing by-product, profit. In pursuit of both, over the years “long-term” has been repeatedly redefined as business, technology, and culture have evolved.

There was a time last century when five-year plans seemed sufficient for the lumbering bureaucracies of big businesses and nations; witness the Five-Year Plans intended to modernize Stalin’s USSR. But even then, such plans were often too restrictive for maximum performance. Businesses often stalled out, while Stalin’s backhanded success came mostly through military might that ground millions of people into dust setting the stage for a bankrupt ideology a few decades later.

As the world moved on, it became clear that multi-year plans were less and less effective. By the turn of the century, one-year plans were the norm. But in the face of social changes and Moore’s law, even those were too long. Many companies, like Home Depot and Zappos, made quarterly reviews and flexibility the standard for their “long-term” plans.

You can do the same for your work goals. Here’s how.

  1. Prepare your yearly goals, insofar as possible. Where do you want to be in twelve months? Consider the big picture, based on your corporate/team goals and the projects your manager has assigned you, for as far ahead as you can see. You may not be able to forecast specifics more than a few months in advance, but you can extrapolate general goals based on your job requirements and what you suspect is coming over the horizon.

  2. Focus on just a few major goals. You can have as many goals as you like, but you can effectively focus on only 1-3 big ones. Demote the rest from “must-do” to “want-to-do” status. You can add them to your to-do list after you list out the “must-dos” and maintenance tasks (like handling email and going to meetings), if you have the time to spare.

  3. Segment your goals into three-month increments, then further into weeks. Taken as one huge piece, a specific goal may seem impossible; however, split into first four and then 48-52 pieces, the plan seems doable. Let’s say you and your team must get the latest iteration of your company’s flagship video game out in a year from a standing start. If you split the work into quarters and then further refine your schedule to weeks, you’ll know exactly how much you’ll need to accomplish to finish on deadline.

  4. Shift as necessary. Sometimes emergencies arise, or priorities change. Make your plans flexible enough to change with them.  Quarterly, monthly, and weekly segmentation of your goals will make it easier to change, especially if you add some space for known contingencies you can’t plan for.

  5. Schedule milestone reviews. Don’t skip them, as much as you may be tempted. Use these opportunities to review the previous period with your team or against your outline, so you see how much you’ve accomplished, how much you didn’t, and anything you’ve learned from the process. Then look forward. Knowing what you do, how should you retool your processes, recalculate and redistribute the remaining work, and realign your objectives?

Sands through the hourglass

Carving shorter-term goals out of your long-term plans is straightforward; I recommend, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. (Your daily to-do list represents daily goals.) It’s just a matter of splitting that goal-mountain into foothills, then boulders and gravel.

The hardest part may be remembering to review your goals occasionally. Amidst the hustle and bustle of productivity, your periodic reviews of your accomplishments, deficits, and alignment can slip your mind. But you can’t allow that, or you’ll have learned little or nothing. So, while you’re planning, make reviews a hard target, mini-goals you must hit before moving on. There’s nothing like a nice milestone to make you stop and assess your performance.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” –David Brinkley, American journalist

Just because you may lack the title of “manager,” that doesn’t mean you don’t manage other people at work. You manage co-workers sideways, in the sense that you help them when you can and ask for help when necessary. You also “manage up,” managing your own manager’s expectations for you, as well as getting him or her to do what you want and need. Managing up and sideways helps you maintain smooth, productive relationships with others. It’s not about “sucking up” or flattery.

Effectively managing up means you know your leaders well enough to anticipate their needs and support their mission. Here are four ideas on how to do it well:

  1. Communicate clearly and appropriately. Don’t guess what your leaders want. When you start working together, simply ask. In addition to your duties and deadlines, inquire about their favored mode of communication (phone, email, or face-to-face), how often you should check in, and how much detail they prefer on your deliverables. Some managers like a quick check-in every few days, while others prefer a written memo outlining your accomplishments for the week and your expectations for next week, or even several emails daily. Be clear about what they expect of you, and don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions. (It should go without saying that you’ll work to meet or exceed those expectations). Finally, learn your manager’s goals so you can help him or her meet them. This isn’t fawning—it’s teamwork.

  2. Clarify clashing priorities. If your manager gives you two or more “top priorities,” don’t assume you have to work overtime. The scheduling issue might be an unawareness of how much is on your plate, so ask which project should be completed first. If your manager makes everything top priority and doesn’t care about schedule clashes, meet to determine which project must absolutely be done first. If your manager says, “it’s all critical,” choose one yourself and explain when each will be done or ask for the resources necessary to complete both simultaneously.

  3. Know and follow the organization’s mission and vision. Doing so can guide your course even in times of uncertainty. Your manager’s goals and the organization’s goals should already align, but if you’re unsure, ask for clarification. If the way remains hazy, set your compass by the overall mission and vision statements of your organization. If needed, look deeper to the organization’s core values. Even if they’re not necessarily yours, it’s hard to go wrong by following those principles.

  4. Manage your meetings. You may not have full control over meetings, but you can clarify with your manager which ones you must attend, ignoring all others. You can also limit the length of those you attend by making your presentations concise, your questions clear, and your comments or answers brief. If you have the option, make it clear to everyone you’ll need to leave when the meeting hits its scheduled end-time, as you have other pressing business.

Whenever you face management hindrances that prevent you from reaching your productive peak, your best shot is to hone your skills at managing up.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” –Viktor Frankl, Austrian Holocaust survivor, in Man’s Search for Meaning.

Emotion affects and informs everything human beings do. As such, you may find it difficult, at times, to separate work from the rest of your life. Some people can do it as easily as flicking a switch, but it’s rare for anyone to remain completely productive in the workplace while facing difficulties elsewhere. So here are seven ways to help you maintain high workplace performance, even when you’re experiencing issues in your personal life.

  1. If your organization has an EAP, take advantage of it. Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) exist specifically to help employees work through personal crises and other issues, from substance abuse to marital problems. Whatever your troubles, they can usually help. If your company offers an EAP, find the time to schedule an appointment to speak with a counselor. You’ll feel better for it.

  2. Talk it out with someone else. If your company lacks an EAP, seek someone else to speak to or otherwise help you get by. Look to your social support network of good friends and family to vent to. For a more structured approach, speak to a professional counselor. It’s worth it, even if your insurance won’t pay for it.

  3. Don’t overshare with co-workers. It’s enough to let people know you’re working through some tough personal issues and ask them to give you a little leeway. Most experts recommend you leave out the juicy details, unless you’re confiding in someone you completely trust. Why? Because on the one hand, some people love to spread juicy gossip—and you may soon find your secrets known all over the office, distorted in odd ways. You don’t want co-workers to treat you differently or keep you out of projects.

  4. Take a few mental health days off so you can get yourself back on an even keel. Better a day or two of PTO than a series of mistakes it takes longer to fix than you would have taken off in the first place.

  5. Isolate yourself from others. If you can still perform as long as you aren’t overly distracted, remove yourself from potential disturbances—especially if you work in an open plan office. This will decrease your sensory input and help you tighten your focus. You may find workplace “tunnel vision” calming. After letting your team lead know where you are, slip into an unused conference room, a break room, or a distant cubicle to do your work. Wear noise-canceling earphones to block out the din, and sit where you won’t see any motion, even peripherally. If you have your own office, either close the door, or face away from high traffic areas.

  6. Do something that usually cheers you up. When’s the last time you and your friends went out to a game, a movie, or the opera? When did you last hit a few at the batting cages, or exchange volleys with another tennis player? Whatever you like to do away from work, get out there and keep doing it. It’s better to go out in public than to stay at home, even if your favorite thing is normally a solitary activity; but engage with your social network if you can.

  7. Set boundaries between work and the rest of your life that you’ll respect. Use these boundaries to keep the negative emotions at bay. This may mean boxing up your feelings to make your workdays more productive. However, don’t leave them locked away long-term. You need to be able to push through them, to feel them fully so you can think of solutions—or come to terms with them until time dulls your pain.

You’ll inevitably have bad days. But when into your life some rain must fall, you can’t allow it to poison your productivity. There may be days when you should avoid work altogether, though only briefly, as avoiding a problem won’t fix it. Burying yourself in work might actually be best for you; try it if you must. Take these tips to heart, and it will be easier to steer yourself back onto the course of high productivity.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“Coffee is a beverage that puts one to sleep when not drank.” –Alphonse Allais, French writer and humorist.

While not all office workers drink coffee, the clear majority imbibe some form of caffeine; and woe betide anyone who breaks the office coffee pot. If you don’t drink caffeine in the morning, you’re one of the few and the proud. I salute you—as long as you don’t get between me and my Keurig.

Tongue out of cheek, caffeine—most often in the form of coffee, tea, or soda—is actually a useful tool for boosting alertness and productivity. It doesn’t just perk you up; it also enhances your motor skills, improves cognitive performance, decreases mental fatigue, increases the efficiency of your daily energy expenditure, and more. While you can overdo it and end up with a caffeine crash—it’s legal, socially acceptable, and it tastes good—all good stuff.

Oddly enough, the way caffeine works jibes pretty well with Allais’ quote. Each time a neuron in your brain fires, it produces a neurochemical called adenosine. The more adenosine your brain absorbs, the more tired you get. Eventually, it puts you to sleep. Caffeine keeps your brain from absorbing adenosine, up to a point. Eventually, it gives in and lets your brain absorb the chemical. Meanwhile, theobromine—an important chemical in chocolate also found in most caffeinated drinks—triggers tiredness about half an hour after you have the drink.

The secret for effective caffeine usage is to drink your coffee, tea, or soda strategically. For the best effects (since you’re probably going to drink it in some form), here are some suggestions:

  1. Take a caffeine vacation. If you want the best possible productive enhancement from your caffeine, reduce your intake for a week. That will give your system a little time to flush out any existing caffeine, overcome its effects, and regain some sensitivity to it. By the time you start your normal levels again, caffeine will be more effective and give your productivity (and alertness) a noticeable boost. If you follow the remaining rules, you can maintain this caffeine streak indefinitely.

  2. Drink water first and often. Before you drink your first cup of brew in the morning, down a cup of water first. Then drink at a cup of water for every cup of caffeinated beverage to stay consistently hydrated.

  3. Don’t drink it immediately upon rising. Assuming you’re adapted for the standard day shift, you don’t need caffeine until after about 9:00 AM. That’s when the stress hormone cortisol, which gives you an alertness kick, hits its peak. Caffeine can interfere with your cortisol cycle (another reason water needs to come before caffeine). So, wake up a bit and then add the caffeine about 1-1.5 hours after you rise.

  4. Drink less overall. If you want to maintain your caffeine boost, don’t drink your drink all at once. Instead, spread out the same consumption across the workday, so you can keep a consistent level of caffeine in your system. Know your cut-off time so it doesn’t keep you up at night.

  5. Drink it black. If you can stand it (some of us can’t) drink your caffeine without any additives, especially sugar. Sugar has its own cascade of effects that may either stack with or interfere with caffeine’s effects. Low- or no-calorie sweeteners are okay, as well as some milk or low-cal creamer if you wish.

  6. Eat well. Maintain as healthy a diet as possible. A well-balanced meal of protein and complex carbohydrates will improve caffeine’s effects, since it doesn’t need to compete with junk in your bloodstream.

For many of us, getting a cup of a refreshing, hot, caffeinated beverage first thing in the morning is a welcome ritual that helps us get our motors running. Is it a crutch? Maybe, but it’s a gentler one than most, and offers a proven way to ratchet up your productivity as your physical processes, like adenosine production, work to ratchet it down. You can put caffeine to work effectively if you follow the simple rules I’ve listed above.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“Just living isn’t enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” –Hans Christian Anderson, Danish fairytale writer.

The Danes have an interesting approach to work and productivity they refer to as “hygge” (pronounced “hoogah”). Hygge refers primarily to emotional and physical comfort—the kind of coziness that lets you achieve more from a place of contentment. While the rest of the world promotes getting out of one’s comfort zone to get ahead, the Danes embrace comfort as one more way to increase individual productivity. Hygge doesn’t mean being complacent—it means having good wellbeing. Think about it: most of us spend more time working than we do sleeping. Something as minor as a bad chair can make you uncomfortable, and we all know we work better when we feel better.

Let’s look at five ways you can use hygge to improve your emotional and physical comfort, so you can be more productive.

  1. Upgrade your workspace. How can you make your workspace more inviting? Besides keeping it neat, how can you personalize it in ways that make you happy or give you a warm feeling? Decorate it to your liking. Post cartoons and pictures drawn by your young children, nieces, and nephews. Add a bowl of potpourri with a scent you like. A few plants will not only brighten up the place, they’ll clean the air and provide extra oxygen.

  2. Listen to quiet music or ambient sound. Soothing music or white noise may help you feel more at ease, especially when you listen wearing noise-canceling earphones that block the normal office hubbub. Unfortunately, if yours is one of an increasing number of workplaces that have banned headphones, you’ll have to find another alternative. There are some great websites offering the sounds of rain or the quiet chaos of a coffee shop, which soothe many and can passively boost productivity.

  3. Take action to keep warm or cool. Most of us don’t have access to the office thermostat, and even if we did, it wouldn’t be fair to set it at your favorite temperature. Instead of complaining about it, keep a small heater or sweater on hand to help keep you warm when necessary, or use a little desk fan when it’s warmer than you like. A fan can also generate white noise.

  4. Leave your desk at lunchtime. For comfort’s sake, get up and go elsewhere at lunchtime. Eat in the breakroom, go out to lunch, or do something else you like: sit on a bench and read, take a walk around the courtyard outside, or chat with friends. Just don’t sit there and work through lunch! Force yourself to get away from work and do something else for a time.

  5. Nurture your work relationships. Check in with your co-workers on a regular basis. Go out to lunch or schedule an occasional coffee or evening event. Ask about their families, see how they’re doing in general, and help them celebrate their triumphs. A good, solid team dynamic not only makes you feel good, it improves team morale and productivity was well.

Feel Better, Do Better

There may be a few among us who are more productive when they’re not feeling their best, but if they exist, they’re rare. You don’t have to grin and bear it all the time; nor should you. While you don’t want to go too far and over-clutter (since it can distract you when you need to concentrate), embrace your workplace, and make it your own.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” –Japanese proverb.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the world, you know the only true constant is change. Everything evolves, from the NFL, to your favorite TV show, to your family, and to your circle of friends. Even your job will change, no matter whether you hop from place to place or remain in one position your entire career.

Once upon a time, you didn’t have to worry much about the bedrock of your job changing, particularly the mission and vision underlying much of what you do. But as society and technology evolved from roughly 1980 until today, tremors and earthquakes have rocked and even shattered that bedrock, so your footing is rarely solid and assured. This has proven true even in monolithic cultures like Japan, where a salaryman’s job was once more or less guaranteed for a lifetime. No more.

In recent years, mission and vision have changed often in most organizations, even those that have preserved their underlying core values—and they continue to change regularly, as they must. In most cases, those changes are minor, intended to shore up the organization’s values and business in ways ensuring effective competition in a fast-moving business arena. However, no matter how limited the changes, it’s easy to fall into a crack if you’re not careful or end up taking the wrong road… especially if you’ve lost track of your organizational objectives.

You have no choice but to adapt or die when your organization’s mission and vision change. Survival of the fittest doesn’t apply only to the biological world. Here are some ways you can adapt and thrive when mission/vision changes:

  1. Accept that mission/vision must evolve along with your industry. Remember those punch dummies that always pop back up no matter how hard you hit them? You have to be like a punch dummy in today’s business world. These days, your world’s rocked regularly as mission, vision, and even core values shift, and it may happen annually or even more often. If you can’t accept and roll with those changes, and then find your footing quickly and accurately identify the new direction, your productivity will suffer.

  2. Keep an eagle eye on the company’s direction. Revisit your company’s mission and vision often on your own recognizance. You can usually find them somewhere on your company website. Not every leader has the presence of mind or leadership skills to properly explain or even communication a new direction the company might have taken. It’s your duty to listen not just to what your leaders say, but also what they don’t say. Sure, it’s easier just to keep going the same direction, changing direction only when forced to, but inertia may prove your undoing. Once in a while, take a few minutes to be sure you’re going the right way.

  3. Clarify any mission or vision statement that seems confusing to you. Talk to your boss about anything nebulous, too broad, or too complex, and get a solid understanding from them. If they, too, seem confused, you may want to jointly suggest something more easily understandable in layman’s terms. Whatever the case, ask questions if the meaning doesn’t jump out at you, so you don’t make any mistakes when choosing your direction.

  4. Study the new mission and vision closely, so you can familiarize yourself with them, and work your way to acceptance. Eventually, you will internalize the mission and vision, and it will become easier to move forward automatically. Occasional spot checks, per the suggestions above, will keep you on track.

  5. Use the mission and vision to inspire and drive your work. Use them to become more innovative. As one writer recently pointed out, Apple isn’t a computer company any more than Amazon’s a retailer. They may have started out that way, but they’ve become so much more. What kinds of innovations can your mission and vision statements point you toward, especially as your company evolves beyond its original boundaries?

Riding the Tides of Change

The business world is littered with the corpses of companies that failed to evolve their mission and visions as the world changed. Sometimes they’ve taken associated businesses or even entire industries down with them. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take a good look at your new mission/vision when they change, find a way to square them with your organization’s core values, and support your team with your excellent productivity.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller, American business magnate.

Average gets a bad rap among productivity gurus. No one really wants to admit that most people are by definition, well, average. They are the middle-of-the-pack, hardworking employees who do the majority of the work in the corporate environment. Many are happy with their positions, happy with their pay, happy with the level of effort they must put in to maintain their jobs. They’re the backbone of business. We need people who come to work, do their jobs, and go home.

If you’re a reader of my blog, you know I’m not a huge fan of average—mostly because, as Rockefeller points out in the above quote, “average” people can learn to perform magnificently without killing themselves. Burnout, in my eyes, hurts worse than mediocrity; at least the mediocre aren’t totally wrecked. But average doesn’t mean mediocre. There’s nothing wrong with average, if you don’t mind it.

As much impact as super-efficient workers have, they’re rare. Organizations would accomplish very little if they depended entirely on their top 1%, while ignoring their conventional, solid middle. While I believe in always reaching for your full potential, unlike some, I don’t push workers to become SuperCompetent There’s no reason you can’t leverage your knowledge and authority to lead from the middle. How would this work?

  1. Act modest, even if you must fake it. As Dale Carnegie once wrote, “The surest way to antagonize an audience is to indicate that you consider yourself to be above them.” It doesn’t matter if you know you do something better than everyone else, don’t bring it up unnecessarily. Just do it. Circumstances may sometimes require you to point out your superior ability; but when you do bring up your strengths, don’t just brag. Narcissism and vanity won’t help you wield any reins of power you may get your hands on.

  2. Consistently improve yourself. This should go without saying… but then, most things that “should go without saying” need to be said loudly and often. People have short memories. So, “never stop never stopping,” to use the amusing title of a recent movie. Find ways to improve your work processes, writing ability, and performance. Take classes, attend workshops and conferences, and brush up on, well, everything. It will all improve your productivity and leadership ability.  

  3. Increase your communication skills. In addition to learning how to speak and write in a clear, unambiguous way, study the basics of non-verbal communication. Keep an eye on body language and expression; ask for honest feedback and provide it when asked; stop over-communicating; and give the person you’re communicating with the gift of your full attention.

  4. Be a wingman. If you don’t lead the pack but want to contribute your knowledge and experience, you don’t have to present it like a backseat driver. Instead, serve as your leader’s wingman. In this critical supporting role, you communicate tightly with your team lead, keep an eye out for potential problems and obstacles, and smooth the way. This isn’t about sucking up. It’s about aiding the team leader as she or he leads the team into the future, supporting the leader and the team in general. You don’t have to agree with everything leaders do, so discuss options with them in a private setting. Your goal: to keep everyone afloat.

Among Equals

Just because you’re not a part of management doesn’t mean you can’t contribute leadership to the team, especially if you’re highly experienced. Whether you just haven’t made it to the top yet or don’t want to try, you can still influence your team’s course and the decisions that decide it. Don’t hide your light under a bushel just because you don’t feel it’s your place to influence decision-making. Your team leader depends on you and your co-workers to help guide the team’s direction.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz, American football player and coach.

Stress gets a bad rap sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with a little stress if it spurs you to action, focuses your mind, or helps you handle a new job. Psychologists call this eustress: minor physical, mental, or even biochemical stressors that have a positive effect on your outlook or body.

But if the stress is cumulative or unremitting, it becomes strain, which derails your productivity. Even relatively minor stress compounded over a workweek can have negative effects, so find ways to blow off steam simply and quickly. Ideally, you’ve got a nice hobby to help you work off tension at home, or a membership to a health club where you can play a satisfying game of squash (or go to Orange Theory Fitness, my addiction). But you also need tension relievers for work, when you can’t go run a quick mile on the treadmill.

Try these ideas to give your productivity a quick boost at work:

  1. Get some coffee. Here’s where burning off stress joins with eustress to buoy you a bit. As a stimulant, coffee is a kind of eustress; however, many of us just enjoy the steam, the flavor, or the scent. While too many coffee breaks can slow you down or affect your sleep at night, sometimes the best thing you can do is step away from your desk for a quick break. Walking to the breakroom helps, and the ritual of prepping your coffee lets you stop exercising your mind for a few moments. Any short break can help you reset your stress meter. It may interrupt your workflow, but sometimes that’s what you need.

  2. Take a walk. Spend a few minutes walking briskly outside. This is especially invigorating during cool weather. It may not release the natural endorphins more vigorous exercise does, but it can jar you out of a rut, wake you up, and encourage your mind to wander. Plus, it gets you out of your chair, so you can stretch and get your blood circulating properly. Even a five-minute walk can have beneficial effects.

  3. Squeeze a stress ball. This may seem silly, but the silly things really work, and they’re easy to get. Pouring a few tons of stress into a rubber ball works better than putting it elsewhere. You don’t even have to pretend it’s someone’s neck (but you could if it makes you smile).

  4. Practice mindfulness. Focusing on the now while disregarding the past or future may seem a bit Zen, but the purpose isn’t to wreck your planning and ignore what’s coming up. It’s intended more to keep you noticing and following along every single minute of the day, without going into automatic or coasting. Having routines is an important way to manage time, but sometimes you need to be fully present. This might include taking a few minutes to meditate or just close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing for one minute. You can’t eliminate stress, but being mindful allows you to recognize and reduce it.

  5. Listen to music. Music therapy can make you feel better. Typically, quiet instrumental music or music you know well works best (so you don’t waste part of your attention trying to figure out the lyrics). If your company allows headphones, slip a CD of music or ambient sound into your player. The music may spur you on to greater productive heights if you really enjoy it. Just remember others might be watching if you use your air guitar.

  6. Talk with a friend. According to an old joke, workers accumulate “gripe time” in addition to PTO on their pay stubs. If only it were true! Be careful about airing your dirty laundry to a co-worker, because politics can come into play. Talking things over with a friend who doesn’t work at your company is a better idea. If nothing else, your friend can sit quietly and let you vent, and you can do the same. Even better, your friend might provide some ideas or solutions about your problems you may never even have considered before.

Avoid the Explosion

Old-fashioned steam boilers had release valves for those times when overpressure threatened to cause a catastrophic explosion. Engineer similar stress relievers for yourself. It’s much better to release tension gradually than to blow your top!

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Nadine@TheProductivityPro.com.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland

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