3 Tips to Set The Right Daily Productivity Habits

I spoke to Margaret H. Greenberg, the coauthor of Profit from the Positive, and a pioneer in applying positive psychology to the workplace and sought-after executive coach by Fortune 500 companies. In 1997, after 15 years in the corporate world, she founded The Greenberg Group, a consulting firm dedicated to coaching business leaders and their teams to achieve more than they ever thought possible. In the following brief interview, Greenberg talks about setting the right daily productivity habits, why managers should preview performance, what she looks for in an interview and her best productivity tips.

Dan Schawbel: How do you set the right daily habits that you can stay productive and not get off track?

Everybody is different. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another.  Here are three of my personal work habits that I recommend to you:

First, forget about to-do Lists. I’m a big fan of making appointments with myself instead. Whenever I accept a new piece of work, I estimate how much time I’ll need and then I send myself an appointment that lists exactly what I’ll be working on. That way when I sit down at my desk I’m not wasting time figuring out what I should be working on.

Second, don’t flip flop. We lose up to forty percent of our productivity when we flip flop between tasks. For example, I check email four times a day, not every time one pops up. In fact, turn-off your pop-ups or log-off of email so you’re not tempted, and for God’s sake, silence that darn beeper so you’re not distracted. One of our readers said this tool itself made him 30% more productive in less than a month.

Three, make sure Facebook hasn’t become Facewaster. I limit the time I spend on social media, like Facebook and LinkedIn, to no more than 45-minutes a day. Many aspects are fun, like updating research on our Profit from the Positive FB page. However, in my family we like to call it Facewaster. Sure it’s fun, but you can get sucked in and next thing you know an hour has gone by.

Schawbel: Why should managers preview, not just review, performance?

Previewing performance simply means asking employees to imagine that it is a year from now and you’re meeting to discuss how well they performed. Ask them to visualize what a successful year would have looked like and what specifically they did to accomplish it. If you want to really make it stick, ask your employees to write down their thoughts in what I like to call a “Hope Letter.” My co-author and I each write one of these every January, and so do most of our clients. Review it at least once a quarter and I’ll think you’ll be surprised how many items on your Hope Letter are already in play.

Schawbel: What do you look for during the interview?

Chances are you have already screened the applications or resumes, looking for specific skills and experiences that are required. These more technical skills or competencies tend to be very evident on a resume or application and are what most people talk about in an interview. However, hiring managers often overlook the more intangible qualities, such as the candidate’s ability to collaborate, manage stress, and take initiative. For example, taking initiative has been shown to correlate with productivity. If qualities like these are important to be successful in the job you are hiring for, then be sure to ask questions to uncover them. Otherwise, you’ll end up starting the hiring process all over again when the candidate doesn’t “work out.”

Schawbel: What are your top three productivity tips?

First, trick yourself into getting started. I did just that when writing Profit from the Positive. I already mentioned that I had created a habit of working on the book Friday mornings. At the end of the day I sent an email to my co-author describing my progress. But when did I write the email? When I sat down at my computer, first thing in the morning. I wrote the email in the past tense, as if I had already accomplished my work. I tricked myself into getting started.

Second, ask yourself the “5, 1, smallest” questions:  What can I do if I only had 5 minutes? What can I do to move this project along by just 1 percent? And my personal favorite, what’s the smallest step I can take that would have the biggest, most positive impact?

Third, replace “Just Do It” with “Just Plan It.” In our culture, we have come to believe that the Nike mantra “Just Do It” is the pathway to greater productivity. However, what I’ve found is that if we spend just fifteen minutes at the start or end of our day to plan our day or week, we are more focused and stay on track.

The best part Dan?  None of these tools cost a dime! Here are some practical free tools you and your team can use that appear in Profit from the Positive.














Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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