Monday, November 29, 2010

5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Productivity

Feel like you're drowning in work? Rosemary Tator of 2beffective LLC and Alesia Latson of the Latson Leadership Group might be able to help. They describe how in More Time for You: A Powerful System to Organize Your Work and Get Things Done (AMACOM). Here's a taste:

When our actions aren’t aligned with our intentions, then a breakdown in our productivity occurs. Here are five steps you can use when you find yourself misaligned and in conflict with yourself such that you are saying one thing and yet doing something altogether different.

Step 1: Notice What You Are Doing Without Judgment
The first sign of being in conflict with what you should be doing is when you feel the “warring.” The warring is a physical sensation in the body. It is an acknowledgment that you aren’t doing what you said you would do. It begins in the pit of your stomach; you feel nervousness and uneasiness. Then it travels to the palms of your hands, which become sweaty. At last, the struggle moves to your face as you furrow your brow.

Then, after the warring comes the thrashing. You tell yourself, “You’re doing it again! What’s wrong with you? How come you can’t do what you say you’re going to do? Look at you. You’ve squandered a half-hour. You could have been done already!”

Be aware of how long it takes you to notice your behavior. It may take forty-five minutes before you realize that the war is raging: “Oh, yeah, that’s right; I’m supposed to notice when I’m avoiding my task.” The next time, your reaction will be faster. The goal is to shorten the time it takes to notice your habit, thinking, or behavior. As soon as you recognize yours, you have a chance to make a choice.

Step 2: Name Your Feeling
Identify the feeling you are having right now. Pick two or three of the following words to describe what you are feeling: angry, sad, scared, glad, happy, overwhelmed, frustrated, put upon, controlled, resentful, unappreciated, unworthy, incompetent, irritated, impatient, lonely, isolated, defeated.

You can have your feelings, but you don’t have to be your feelings. You can have the feeling of being angry, but you don’t have to be angry. You can have the feeling of being unworthy, but you don’t have to be unworthy.

Next, reflect on your feeling in relation to the task you are doing. Does your feeling have anything to do with the task? Now that you know how you are feeling, decide whether you are still committed to completing the task you set out to accomplish. Once you’ve separated your feeling from a task at hand, you can choose again.

Step 3: Breathe
Use a breathing exercise to bring yourself back to balance. One of our favorite yoga exercises is called the Breath of Joy. It is a quick and refreshing breathing exercise that instantly lifts your spirits and clears your mind of negative thoughts and tension. It oxygenates your brain and rejuvenates your body.

The Breath of Joy is three inhalations taken with the arms swinging shoulder height forward and then fully outstretched to the side, over head and finishing with the arms swinging downward with the body in a slight forward crouching position. Inhale one-third of your capacity with each swing of the arms forward, to the side, and up. Then when you drop your arms down as you bend forward at the hips and knees, exhale with a “Ha!”

As you perform the Breath of Joy ensure that you are taking one continuous breath in three parts, rather than three separate breathes. Exhale loudly with a Ha!” (When your arms are swinging downward and you are bending at the hips and knees) allowing tension to escape from the body. Repeat the exercise several times. Remember it is one continuous breath in three parts. Each swing of the arms is to be done vigorously.

Step 4: Know That You Have a Choice
The great thing about having choices is that as long as you are breathing, you have an endless supply of them. They don’t expire or evaporate.

So you might say to yourself, “Oh, look, I noticed that I’m playing this little game with myself again, where I thrash myself for not working. I noticed it, and now I can make other choices.” You might make a choice to continue doing what you’re currently doing, take on the task you were avoiding, or choose something else altogether. By choosing, youare back in control, rather than your habit being in control. It’s not only about reaching your goals; it’s about living the life you create, including playing spider solitaire, if that strikes your fancy.

Step 5: Make a Two-Minute Choice
If you are still not ready to tackle your task, make a choice that you can live with for the next two minutes. Given the tender state that you are in at this moment, it is often best to make an initial choice that expires quickly. The goal of this short-term choice is to create movement that will get you unstuck.

For example, if you’re resisting getting up from watching television to check your e-mail, you may say to yourself, “For two minutes, I’m going to choose to get up, sit at my desk, and answer my e-mail and, after the two minutes, I can stop.” You can even set a timer. By the time the timer goes off or the two minutes have expired, you’ve taken the action to overcome the habit and are back in choice again.

s+b's Best Business Books 2010

As in the past, it was a real pleasure to edit the Best Business Books special section for strategy+business. We had a terrific team of eight expert reviewers, who chose a great list of books. Here's my introduction to the essays and a link to the entire section:

Two years after the financial collapse, the idea of hunkering down and waiting for a return to business as usual — as people did in previous recessions — seems a less and less viable strategy. But what should you do instead?

In this edition of our annual review of the year’s best business books, you will find a reading list that offers intriguing and compelling answers to this question. The list, assembled by a distinguished team of experts, starts with a select guide to the year’s tallest stack: titles that parse the recession of 2007–09 for lessons in preventing another collapse. The reviewer is David Warsh, who covered economics for the Boston Globe for more than two decades and won financial journalism’s Gerald Loeb Award twice.

Next up is Walter Kiechel III’s essay on the best business books on leadership — in a year when the spotlight revealed an unflattering view of too many of our leaders. Kiechel, whose career included stints as the managing editor of Fortune and the editorial director of Harvard Business Publishing, reviews a handful of books that confront “traditional notions of leadership with new circumstances,” including the rise of social networking. (We didn’t cover the topic of strategy this year, but Kiechel’s engaging book The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World [Harvard Business Press, 2010] is featured in “The Right to Win,” by Cesare Mainardi with Art Kleiner, s+b, Winter 2010.)

The ramifications of technologically enabled societies play a starring role this year in University of Southern California Stevens Institute executive director Krisztina “Z” Holly’s review of the best books on innovation, and a supporting role in journalist Sheridan Prasso’s choices for the best books about China, now the world’s second-largest economy. Both are especially timely as organic growth becomes a top priority at many companies.

In the doing-more-with-less theme, strategy+business contributing editor Sally Helgesen returns with a selection of titles that call into question the “star” system of talent (a factor in the recent recession) and argue for a far more inclusive definition of human capital. In a complement to Helgesen’s essay, neuroscience author Judith E. Glaser examines the year’s best books on the human mind, which offer executives the means to improve their decision making and galvanize their workforce.

David K. Hurst, our longtime Books in Brief reviewer, finds that the Great Recession has not only emphasized the shortcomings of the managerial status quo, but also yielded a number of books that offer alternatives in its art and practice. Finally, University of Denver Daniels College of Business professor James O’Toole returns with his ninth consecutive annual best business books essay, which plumbs biographies and histories on subjects as diverse as Henry Luce and Chinese tea for business lessons that are as relevant as today’s headlines.

In a time of halting recovery, frugal consumers, tight money, and increasing government activism, companies urgently need winning strategies. For executives charged with creating and executing those strategies, this year’s best business books are a valuable source of insight and the essays here>