Interesting, Fresh, and Actionable Productivity Advice From Experts

Reaching New Heights in Productivity: Expert Perspectives

Excuse me, do you have a second?

We get hit with minor interruptions every three minutes during the workday. Major interruptions? Every 15. It’s a wonder that anything ever gets done!

Meanwhile, we read news that Sweden — the whole nation! — is switching to a 6-hour work day, saying that it boosts productivity and helps Swedish employees to better resist distractions.

We can’t promise you a shorter work day, but we do have a roundup of the latest thinking on employee productivity — including getting a grip on those distractions and interruptions. We also offer a productivity hack you probably have never heard of, and an exposé on the dangers of taking a coffee break.

Turn off your notifications, don your headphones and have a read. Who knows, your productivity might just double afterwards.

Manage Your Attention, Not Your Time

What do the experts have to say about productivity? Is there anything new under the sun?

Psychologist and author Ron Friedman asked 26 bestselling science and productivity writers for their best advice — and they didn’t disappoint. He condenses their advice into 9 tips for achieving top performance in 9 Productivity Tips from People Who Write About Productivity for Harvard Business Review.

This is a list you’re going to want to read.

The remarkable part of this roundup is the underlying trend that Friedman highlights. Twenty years ago, the focus was time management. A decade ago, productivity advice centered on energy management and maintaining boundaries. Current advice — in the midst of information overwhelm and endless opportunities for distraction — spotlights attention management.

To wit: Tip #2 urges us to recognize that busyness is simply a lack of focus. “There’s a satisfying rush we experience when there’s too much on our plate: we feel needed, challenged, even productive.” Such feelings aren’t just hollow, explains Friedman. They have a corrosive effect on productivity.

Intrigued? If you’re eager to explore further, there’s a link out to all of the interviews (access is offered in exchange for your email address) for those curious to dig further. For the rest of us, this article is summary enough — plenty of food for thought for an area that we’re all consistently looking to improve.

Worker, Interrupted

Speaking of attention management challenges, interruptions are a workplace menace. It takes 23 minutes to recover full productivity after an interruption, cites Tim Cynova, Deputy Director for the nonprofit Fractured Atlas. What’s a worker to do?

Cynova helps us out in his article for Medium, 10 Ways to Manage Your Time & Avoid Endless Distractions,” which is full of advice on how he manages his time and fights off distractions.

One of the best tips: leave breadcrumbs.

When you absolutely can’t shake the interruption, delay it enough to write a quick note of where you’ve left off and what your next step would be. This works for end-of-day and Friday wrap-ups, as well.

The very best tip? It involves our favorite phrase — “meeting-free” — and we’d love to see this become an even bigger workplace trend. Check out the article and see if you aren’t persuaded.

He goes even bolder in another tip…if you’re daring enough to try it. Without giving too much away, the first two words are “delete everything.”

This is interruption insurance for the intrepid — and a very good read.

The Ultimate Productivity Hack: Forgiveness

Aargh! It’s not something typically on our radar, but workplace grudges can have a significant negative effect on employee productivity.

Frederic Luskin studies how grievances — which occur in nearly every office — affect workers’ morale, decision-making and performance. As director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, he counsels employees on work-related grievances.

In his article for Quartz, “The Scientific Case for Letting Go of Your Workplace Grudges,” Luskin — who essentially works as a forgiveness coach — offers tips for us to address our resentments and shed our grudges.

When we ruminate over past drama, something Luskin says many of us do, we generate feelings of anger and bitterness. We end up letting our workplace nemesis “occupy so much of our brains’ real estate” that it begins to interfere with our well-being.

The remedy?

Luskin has pioneered a “secular methodology of forgiveness” that’s based on his research and experience. Forgiveness, he says, interrupts our stress cycle and ends our ruminations. It’s a 9-step cycle — there’s a link to a full explanation in the article — that can restore us to balance, and our workplaces to harmony.

The workplace is full of power dynamics, and understanding how much control we have over our own resilience can be the key to a peaceful work-life. By addressing this touchy subject, this article can kick-start a whole new way of being happy at work.

Productivity Enemy No. 1: Going for coffee?

Some days, the innocuous phrase “Let’s grab coffee!” can be deadly for your productivity.

It’s not the beverage itself that torpedoes productivity (in fact, there’s scientific evidence that it’s beneficial) — it’s the wishful thinking we all have that the conversation we have over coffee is actually a productive act. At least, so says Praxis CEO Isaac Morehouse in “Coffee Is Killing Your Productivity.”

It’s a productivity myth that we’ve all bought into, says Morehouse. It’s fun to talk big ideas over java and flattering to issue advice to those who pitched the coffee-date idea. But, who are we kidding? Morehouse calls it a “meeting-as-work conflation” that we’re all susceptible to.

Maybe it’s not as dire as all that (begging Morehouse’s pardon), but it sure is a fun read. He rants about the lost productivity. He names names (well, he names industries) who are the worst offenders. He has an alien theory about coffee meetings. He puns.

If you’ve ever felt sucked into the coffee klatch of lost momentum — or you yourself are perpetuating the “coffee meeting malaise” — this article is a must-read. Over coffee, perhaps? We won’t tell.
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