Thank God It's Monday!® Blog

Chunking Time

There are better and worse ways to divide our time and focus. Let’s say you have three big projects for the month and each one has ten components. That’s thirty little bits that need doing.

So far so good! You’ve divided a big project into smaller steps so you can feel and track your progress better. That’s a proven way to improve productivity. But if you do a tiny bit here and a tiny bit there, skipping among the projects, checking each one off the list as you get to it, it fragments your progress. This kind of approach can shatter your focus, and you’ll wear yourself out with the constant shifting of gears.

The magic is this—things get done when time is allotted for them. Every week should start with making a list of the most important things that must be done that align with the key roles, tasks, and responsibilities of your job. Then, put As, Bs, and Cs in front of each and make sure that the As are scheduled into blocked time in your calendar. If you allot 50 minutes to complete one, no matter what, make sure you are complete at that time by making sure you focus and are not interrupted. If you have a customer-facing job with tasks, make sure someone knows they are covering for you with customers and that you are in lock down.

Researchers have found that the feeling of making real progress is at or near the top in motivation—way ahead of traditional incentives like raises and bonuses. So give yourself the boost that matters most by chunking your time so you can feel that progress happening!

Critical Thinking: Overcoming Bias

American executives have identified a lack of critical thinking skills as one of the most worrying deficits in the American workplace.

But what is critical thinking? If we’re going to fix it, it has to be more than a vague buzzword. Most people think that critical thinking just means being smart or knowing a lot. But that’s not true. Critical thinking is not about what you KNOW, but how you THINK. It’s the systematic attempt to avoid errors in reasoning, especially errors that creep in because of our own biases and preferences. Everybody has those biases, but a critical thinker knows how to counter them well.

Start by identifying your preferences. You would prefer to be one of the best performers in your company, right? But it’s important not to fool yourself into thinking you are already among the best if you’re not. That’s how we get crazy results like a Businessweek survey that found between 84 and 97% of employees think they perform in the top 10% in their companies!

Instead of trying to wish away the biases that get in the way of critical thinking, bring in the perspective of people who don’t share your bias. They’ll still be biased about THEMSELVES, of course. But they can provide a valuable point of view outside of your own bias.

Performance reviews, both formal and informal, are one way of doing this. Ask people you trust to tell you the truth: Do you think my work is solid? Do you think I’m a good candidate for promotion? If not, what can I improve?

Done right, critical thinking can be the secret weapon that allows for massive effectiveness and powerful results and returns in your organization.

Show Up Fully, And Share Your Limits

One of the tragedies of modern life is the way it fragments our attention. We are almost never completely present in anything we do. There are a dozen things on our minds and a bevy of blinking and beeping devices to make sure we stay frazzled and fractured. We bring work home with us, and we bring the concerns of home to work. As a result, everything suffers. Nothing gets our full attention.

Make a pledge to turn that around.

First and foremost, make a pledge to fully show up wherever you are. When you’re at work, be at work—100 percent. When you’re at home, be at home. Both work and home will benefit from your full attention. Schedule “free days” where you do not think about work. You need that restorative time so that you “focus days” at work can create powerful results with limited time.

At work—turn off the cell phone and don’t turn it back on again until after work. Studies show that people who have their cell phones on are 40 percent less productive than those who turn them off.

And when at work—work. Complaining to your teammates that you’re overwhelmed is not work. Stopping to chat with your neighbor is not work. Often people who are overwhelmed are just not focused. Put in a solid day’s work and then go home relaxed knowing you were powerfully productive.

And set definite limits on work done at home. Sometimes bringing work home is unavoidable. But when it becomes a norm to work through the evening, you are sapping your energy and reducing your productivity.

Finally, share your planned limits with those around you. If you’ve decided not to work after 7 pm, tell your spouse and the kids. They’ll hold you to it! It will force you to be more productive prior to that time.

Transparency: Bad For Drama, But Good For Business

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, or House of Cards, or even Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, you know that hidden agendas are great for drama. Everyone is watching everybody else out of the corners of their eyes, wondering what they’re planning to do next.

Imagine how those shows would fall flat is every character suddenly developed a commitment to transparency. It would kill the drama!

That’s exactly why transparency is essential for business. Drama lives in the shadows. Transparency kills the drama by shedding light. When we watch television, we want to see things fall apart. But the same drama that makes for great entertainment can make a workplace unbearable. It can bring productivity crashing to earth, and with it the livelihood of everyone in the company.

Transparency is one of the most essential qualities in today’s workplace. Say what you mean and mean what you say. No hidden agendas. Plenty of sunshine. Be open and honest about what you need and what you intend to do.

A workplace that embraces the need for transparency replaces drama with happy, productive team members—which is better than winning an Emmy, don’t you think?

Set Your Own Targets

Managers spend an average of 37 percent of their workday dealing with poor performers and bad behaviors. Imagine how much would be available for raises and bonuses if that hole in the bottom of the bucket wasn’t creating the need for cutting what is available for payroll!

Taking responsibility for your attitude and results is the fastest way to a promotion, a raise, and a life of sanity and abundance.

First, understand that you choose your attitude moment by moment. Just because life isn’t perfect—and it never is—that doesn’t give us the right to pout, sabotage, hold back, or otherwise give free rein to our destructive behaviors.

Next, you must take responsibility for getting a crystal-clear understanding of your critical drivers and report on those on a weekly basis. Ideally this starts by looking at your job description, but a lot of positions simply don’t have them. And even if they do, they often lack critical drivers and clear targets.

Not sure what your targets should be? Lay out what you THINK the targets are, get agreement from your boss, then take aim and fire. You won’t get a bull’s-eye every time. Just demonstrate integrity and transparency by letting your boss know what you hit, what you missed, and what your corrective action plan is to improve your aim.