TIME health

4 Life Lessons a Doctor Has Learned From Patients

We never have as much time as we think

Answer by David Chan on Quora.

I’ve taken care of cancer patients for several decades and they’ve taught me something about life.

1. A job is just a job. I often get into discussions about life and living with my cancer patients who have a unique outlook because they are face to face with their mortality.

Not one single patient has told me that they wished they had worked more. I’ve taken it to heart and have made it a point to be there for important events for family and friends and to take vacation days.

2. I’m reminded daily to have a big picture view of life and to understand what is a real problem. It’s so easy to be caught up in day to day dramas that we lose sight of what is a real problem.

A real problem is finding a big lump in your neck, getting a scan, then a biopsy, and being told that it’s cancer. Virtually every other problem then goes away.

3. True wealth is measured in family and friends. I’m not talking about numbers. What I’m talking about is the small group of people that will really be with you when the shit hits the fan. I’ve had very wealthy patients with big families and a large group of friends that all disappeared when things went south. Nothing could be sadder to see. And I’ve had other patients who had 2 or 3 people in their lives that made incredible personal sacrifices of time and effort to help them through. I think of it as proof of a life well lived.

4. A corollary to #1 is that we never have as much time as we think. I’m reminded of a patient who was a young and very successful executive with pancreas cancer. He wasn’t curable and it was poorly treatable given his situation. His life expectancy went from 40 years to 6 months within the week of his diagnosis.

He’d never taken a vacation with his family; his wife and 3 school-aged kids.

We reviewed the pros and cons of treatment and he decided to forego treatment, rented a sailboat and took his family through the Caribbean Islands for about 3 weeks. Because of his cancer, he didn’t feel physically great but he told me that it was the best 3 weeks of his life.

I’m grateful for the lesson he and many other patients have taught me.

This question originally appeared on Quora: If you’re a medical practitioner, what revelations have you had about health and mortality since you’ve been working in this field?

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TIME Business

These Are the Most Underrated Skills That Many People Lack

Be reliable and keep track of yourself

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Two skills are incredibly rare: (1) Doing what you say you will do (be reliable); (2) Keeping track of yourself

Doing what you tell people you will do

If you can teach your kids a useful skill that will always help them with their career: teach them to be reliable — to do what they say they will do. (It is harder than it sounds.)

If you consistently do what you say you will do, you will almost certainly be someone people desire to have on their teams. It is so rare that when you work with someone who is reliable, you never ever want to work with anyone else. You will do anything to keep that person on your team.

Doing what you say you are going to do starts with setting the right expectations. If you tell someone you will get them the deliverable by Tuesday, you need to understand that it can actually be delivered by Tuesday. If you are good, you are probably factoring in slack in case someone in corporate slows you down or your child gets sick.

And so if your boss wants something done Monday and you think it cannot be done until Wednesday, you need to be up-front. Because once a date is agreed to, you’re on the hook for accomplishing it.

On the less-skilled end of the job spectrum, many people cannot commit to showing up to work consistently and on time. There are many external factors in their life that make even these commitments hard to achieve.

So do everything you can to be reliable — because there are very few people that one can rely on.

Keep track of yourself

The corollary to being reliable is to make sure you manage yourself.

If you can manage all your tasks and deliverables without reminders, you will be treated like the golden child.

If your boss or colleagues never need to remind you about a project, deliverable, an answer to an email, etc., they will be able to take a load off their mind and be allowed to focus on other areas. And they will appreciate not having to have the uncomfortable conversation with you (“where is that item that was due yesterday?”).

This takes a lot of hard work and organization, but most people can do it. You don’t need a PhD (or even a college degree) to be on top of everything. You just need to be organized and prioritize its importance. Of course, while most people CAN do this, most people DON’T do this — so doing it will be a huge differentiator for you.

The underrated skills

If all you do is be reliable and keep track of yourself, you will be indispensable to any company.

This question originally appeared on Quora: From the perspective of a CEO, what are the most underrated skills most employees lack?

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TIME Business

This Is the Most Important Thing You Can Do at Your First Job

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Get on the right path

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

The most important thing to optimize for on your first job is growth. Growth is king, queen, and emperor combined. Optimize for growth above compensation, above location, above lifestyle, and above anything else.

Getting a young person on a high growth path will set that person up for success much more so than even the quality of the university they attended. That’s because so many super talented people grow way more slowly than their potential.

In your first job, you should be growing at least 25%/year. That means at the end of the first year, you are at least 25% better and by the first three years you are roughly twice as good. Unfortunately, most people grow way slower than that.

When you are old (like me) and presumably at a much higher base, growing at 10%/year is very acceptable. But early in your career you need to grow much faster to get to that very high base.

Your compensation change should lag your growth — but there will likely be a correlation. If you are growing at 30%/year you likely are getting a higher percentage raise than if you are growing at 10%/year.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What’s the best advice for someone looking for their first job?

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TIME Business

Uber Engineer: This Is the Most Important Tool for Productivity

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Control your calendar

Answer by Pedram Keyani, Engineering Director of Growth at Uber, on Quora.

If you think of your time and attention as the most scarce resource then your calendar is the most important tool in your arsenal. You must make sure you control your calendar and that it doesn’t control you.

Alignment
This may sound obvious but is worth saying anyways. If you have goals and a mission that you are responsible for (all of us do) and you don’t have time allocated in your work week to accomplishing those goals then you aren’t aligned with yourself. Block off times to dedicate yourself to the things that matter.

Defragmentation
Be thoughtful of how you string together meetings and calls so that you have big blocks of time and aren’t just scrambling around from meeting to meeting.

Say No
Every single meeting request adds up. If you look out at your calendar for a month from now it is probably pretty clean (with the exception of repeating meetings) but your current week is probably a mess. The reason it gets that way is because of all the small little meetings and requests that pile up to become a “lost” week. Learn to say no. Better yet, learn to ask “what is the goal of this meeting? Is there a way to accomplish that without taking 30 minutes?” and then if the meeting still needs to happen make sure everyone is engaged and that the output is what you were hoping for.

Reboot
Certain meetings continue to live on out of habit. Evaluate them and make sure they are adding value to everyone and/or that the right people are in the room (yourself included.) If a meeting is on there but no value add be the brave person who asks “Is this meeting still worth having?” It is worth looking over your calendar and how you spend your time on a regular basis. Ineffectiveness is not a state that you step into all at once, it happens over a thousand small decisions over many weeks and months.

Decompress
The most effective people are not the ones who work 100 hours a week. They are the ones who know how to make the best use of their time. A part of that is being fresh and having a sharp mind. Using your brain is just like exercise, you can’t sprint and sprint and sprint without taking a break otherwise you will collapse or your “sprint” will actually look like a crawl from the outside. Most people get sidetracked with the Internet, Facebook, online games, etc. at some point in the day and usually they feel guilty about it which adds more stress and tension and doesn’t serve the benefit that it is supposed to. Schedule a few times throughout the day to read a book, listen to music, take a walk, take a nap, go for a run, etc. Investing 15-20 minutes a few times a day will ultimately make you more effective during the rest of the time.

Controlling your time is the key.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some little-known productivity tips from various professions?

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TIME Education

How My High School Lunch Lady Helped Me Get Into Princeton

Be nice to your lunch ladies, people

This is the story I tell whenever someone asks me how I got into Princeton, mostly because that question is always awkward and begets SAT score questions, which isn’t a very exciting topic. Anyway, back to 2003.

We had an array of hall monitors in my high school, most of whom were older women who had retired or wanted a relaxing not-quite full-time job. Some were moms of classmates, others locals. They were all generally friendly, some a little cranky and more on the disciplinarian side.

One though, Rose, was the sweetest woman. She would always chat us up at lunch, make sure we were staying out of trouble, ask how classes and sports were going. Just a really friendly lady who knew we were good kids and cared about our success. We didn’t know much about her other than that she was the “cool” one and took a liking to us. We appreciated that.

Come spring semester senior year, everyone is waiting on college admissions and Rose knew that I had applied early to Princeton. Around the week or so that you’d expect to hear back, she would ask me every single day. “Lev, did you hear from Princeton? Did you get in?” Without fail, every single day. She took an interest, but this was a bit much for me. “Rose, I’ll tell you when I know.”

One afternoon that week I came home early because I had a few free periods toward the end of the day and didn’t have sports practice or anything after school. I peeked in the mailbox and found a big fat letter from Princeton. Good sign. Open it up and the first word is “YES!”

Naturally, I was a pretty excited 17-year-old and drove back to school to tell everybody. It was still the middle of a class period so nobody was around. Except, of course, Rose, hanging out by the main hallway door.

“ROSE! I GOT IN!”

“I know! I’m so excited for you!”

“Huh? What do you mean, you know?”

“It’s been killing me these last few days not telling you, but I’ve known for the last week. That’s why I’ve been asking you every day.”

Ummm…what?! You’re the lunch lady, the hall monitor. What could you possibly know about my college admissions before I do? Isn’t that kind of sensitive information?

Turns out, before Rose retired she was the executive assistant to an important and wealthy business person who also happened to be a Princeton alumnus and had some power in the University.

When she found out I applied and it was around admissions time, she made a phone call to her good friend and former boss. He made his own phone calls and reported back that I got in, apparently on my own. I’ll never know if I got in on my own or not, but Rose and everyone else are convinced I did. I get the feeling that if I hadn’t, this guy would have changed that for Rose.

Either way, when people ask how I got into Princeton I tell them my lunch lady got me in. Or at least she would have had the need arisen.

Be nice to your lunch ladies, people. They’ll get you into college.

Lev Berlin graduated Princeton in 2007 and runs the food software business ReciPal.

This article originally appeared on Quora.

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TIME psychology

How to Improve Your Memory Skills

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Focus on what interests you

Answer by Kevin Horsley, author of Unlimited Memory, on Quora.

Many people are focusing their energy on concern about memory loss, but few focus on how to keep their memory. What you focus on will dominate your reality, so rather focus on what you want and not on what you don’t want.

Nobody has ever taught you how to use your memory. I believe that there is no such thing as a good or a bad memory, only a good or bad memory strategy.

Many of the things you call memory problems, like forgetting your car keys etc, are quite normal and can be solved with a bit of attention and a better memory strategy. To keep your memories you need to store them effectively and if you follow these few principles then you will be able to remember more:

1. Catch your memory doing things right — Too many people become members of the ‘Bad Memory Club’ and focus on the 5% of the time that their memory fails them. If you think you have a bad memory, it means you have a good one because you can remember where your memory has gone wrong. Think about how much data you already have stored in your memory. Think about what an incredible memory you need just to have a conversation. You have to listen, create meaning from your store of millions of references and then search your memory for a response. Your memory does a lot right, so ask yourself, “How does my memory serve me – how did it serve me today?”

2. Get interested — As you get older you narrow your focus of attention. You know what you are interested in and therefore focus more on those things. Uninteresting things are not attended to and therefore not remembered.

3. Practice single tasking — To create a memory we first have to pay attention. In this day and age we are filling our lives up with interruptions, like social media, and we are dividing our attention and we wonder why we can’t hold onto information for long periods of time. We are training ourselves to become scattered by creating a state of ‘busyness.’ When you multitask, you divide your attention and you will never be as effective as focusing on only one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth!

4. Bring information to life — Our mind never wonders away, it only moves towards things and to information that is outstanding, important and interesting. We want to make information ‘sticky’ and the only way to do that is to surprise the mind by turning information into an exciting movie or image. Just because you have seen or heard something doesn’t mean it will stick, but if you use your imagination the information will become more outstanding. My surname is Horsley and if you just repeat it over and over, there is no guarantee that it will stick, but if you see a Horse putting on Lee jeans and you make it vivid and alive then it is hard to forget.

5. Connect to what you already know — If you wanted to remember that the Zulu word for dog is inja, then you could think of an injured dog. The Zulu word for Snake is inyoka, so imagine a snake in your car. If you connect the new information to what you already know then you will strengthen your memory network. If you consciously do this then the more you know the easier it will be to get to know more. The older you get the more general knowledge and references you acquire. So theoretically if you apply this principle, the older you get the better your memory should become.

6. Review — As we get older we don’t review enough. The average person will only remember about 18% of information just 28 days after studying it. That is why it’s important to go over information that is stored in your memory in order to keep it fresh in your mind. If you haven’t thought about someone in years you can’t be expected to recall information about them instantly. We have to review our memories to keep them alive. No matter how many times you learn something, you will have to start over from the beginning if you let yourself forget it. Review your memories over longer and longer periods of time and keep them ‘alive.’

There is so much you can do to keep your memory and improve your concentration. I hope this helps.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the fastest and best way to improve my memory, cognitive skills and span of concentration?

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TIME Business

4 Basic Principles of the Art of Negotiation

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Ask questions and really listen

Answer by Mira Zaslove on Quora.

I’ve spent the majority of my career negotiating. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve also learned from some great negotiators. Something surprising: better negotiators focus more on the other side, than they do on themselves. Instead of telling other people what to think, they ask questions, and really listen.

Following are some basics:

1. Once someone says yes, shut up!

You’d be surprised how often smart people make this mistake. What usually happens is that they are trying to prove their point, not to negotiate. Great negotiating is more about listening than talking. Once you’ve said something, you can’t take it back. Be careful with your words. I’ve gone into negotiations prepared to give the other side something, only to have them talk me out of it.

2. Be respectful

When you get an objection, don’t get defensive. Instead, ask for clarification. For example, if someone says they don’t like the strategy, ask them why. Ask for specifics. Seize objections as an opportunity to listen carefully, not to fight back. Don’t interrupt. Trying to win an argument rarely gets you what you want. Don’t be rude or pushy. Don’t negotiate if you are feeling emotional. Similarly, if the person you are negotiating with is in a bad or unreceptive mood, table the conversation. Respect people’s time.

3. Focus on common ground

Don’t assume you know what matters to the other person. They may view the situation completely differently than you expect them to. And great negotiators craft their negotiation based on what the other person wants, not on what they want. Do your research. However, don’t shove all your opinions down your counterparties’ throat. They may disagree with most of your analysis, and that’s fine. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost. Focus on where you agree. Changing somebody’s mind is difficult and exhausting. And it rarely works. Spend energy building on where you already have agreement.

4. Know what you want

I once managed someone who was very charismatic and likable. People wanted to help him. However, he rarely collected on this goodwill because he didn’t know what he wanted. Good opportunities are missed when you are unprepared. It’s hard to get what you want if you don’t know what it is. The best negotiators know what they want at every step. Negotiations are often give and take, so aim high. Give yourself some wiggle room.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the basics of the art of negotiation?

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TIME Business

This Is How Successful Leaders Spent Their Teenage Years

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco.

Spending time alone is really, really important

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Note: I don’t think I have ever before been compared with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. I am no where near as successful or accomplished as most of the people on this list. But for what it is worth, I’ll give you a trait that I think is common among most of these people (including myself).

Lots of alone time
Most of these people spent a massive amount of time alone when they were kids and young adults. And most of these people still spend a much larger percentage of their time alone today than most outsiders would think.

Especially when people are growing up, spending time alone gives one the space to explore, to be weird, to learn, to imagine, and to dream.

Reading is really (REALLY) important.
Read a wide variety of books and articles that stretch your imagination. Don’t just read easy books (like Harry Potter). Read difficult texts that really stretch your mind.

Read fiction and non-fiction. Read wonderful novels written by authors from far-away lands. Read things that challenge your political thought. Read the Bible, the Koran, Buddhist texts, and ancient mythology. And don’t just read conventional things assigned to you in school (like Hemingway, Shakespeare, and more) but try to seek out authors on your own.

Because most of the people mentioned grew up in a different era, they spent a big portion of their time just reading the encyclopedia. Many of them would eventually read every encyclopedia volume letter. These people had an insatiable need to learn new things.

When these people walked to class, they were probably reading a book or a magazine (in those days, it was a paper book). Some of these people even got injured walking into things because they were reading.

Most of these people had parents that asked them to read less.

Today the encyclopedia is free and on the internet. But today the encyclopedia is so big that it would be impossible to read in a lifetime — so today choices about what you read could be a bit harder. But reading is still really important.

Play acting
At an early age, most of these people spent more time play-acting than others. Very few of these people spent their time playing organized sports … they instead were in their bedroom, backyard, or nearby park playing by themselves. They were letting their imagination run wild.

They were imagining themselves as secret agents, slaying dragons, marshaling their toy soldiers to do battle, starting businesses, dealing with family situations, and more.

Experimenting
It is amazing how many successful people lit things on fire, blew things up, captured and studied bugs, built bird nests, and more. My guess is that every single one of the people listed subjected themselves to multiple electric shocks (some on accident, some on purpose).

They were building, creating, viewing, and observing. And they were the ones in charge of the experiment — they were the prodders.

Lots of creative activities
While most of the people listed are known for their right-brained prowess, most spent a very large percentage of their childhood and adolescence doing very creative things. They were writing short stories and plays, painting, sculpting, writing poems and lyrics, writing computer programs, and more.

Creating versus consuming
Reading, watching wonderful movies, listening to music, etc. are all great ways to spend time. But they are passive — these are consuming functions.

Most of these successful people spent a large percentage of their time creating vs. consuming. They were building things, starting things, etc. This is really important.

Today it is harder to spend time creating because there are so many more options to consume. In the days when most of the above people grew up, one would get bored pretty quickly of the consuming options (usually the best option was to read a book or watch bad television) where today there are just so many more options. In fact, the tablet is essentially designed to maximize consumption (unlike the PC which is a better tool tool for creation).

Get away from the social pressures of school
School, especially middle school and high school, is socially incredibly high pressure for everyone. People are jockeying for position and cliques are forming and unwinding constantly. There is a Game of Thrones aspect to the social standing within high school that is ultra competitive and hard to escape.

By spending time alone, people get needed breaks from the high school Game of Thrones. Alone-time allows you to spend time actually exploring yourself (rather than spending time conforming to some sort of norm).

Today, alone-time is frowned upon
Something happened in the last 30 years to encourage parents to spend more time with their kids. Another huge trend has been for parents to give their kids opportunities by enrolling them in lots of sports, weekend classes, summer learning retreats, and more.

While there are so many good things about the trend of more involved parenting, one of the very important unintended consequences is that kids have significantly less alone-time then they once did. And even when they are alone, they have the means to be a part of of the larger group through social networks, SMS, and more. So it is harder of them to escape the social pressures of school.

So we should expect the best strategy for kids today to not be the same as the best strategy for past generations. But most everyone (young and old) — especially those that have good social lives and have been reasonably successful — could use more time alone and more time to themselves.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How did successful people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Max Levchin, Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel, Vinod Khosla, Oliver Emberton, Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Auren Hoffman etc. spend their time when they were young, between ages of 10 and 22?

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TIME Business

Optimize These 3 Areas in Your Life for Highest Productivity

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Optimize your environment, mind, and process

Answer by Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana, on Quora.

I’m a software developer, designer, and entrepreneur. I’m the co-founder of Asana, team productivity software that many great companies (e.g. Uber, Pinterest, Dropbox) use to run their companies. Back when I was an engineering manager at Facebook, I designed the internal team productivity tool that the company still relies on.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been obsessed with productivity for a long time.

Here are the tips that I’ve found essential to my creative output. Each tip relates to optimizing one of three areas: your environment, your mind, and your process.

Optimizing your environment

Turn off all distractions. The verdict is clear: “multitasking” makes people feel more productive, but research shows that it makes us less productive. The temptations of email are strong. But frequent interruptions make us dumber and it takes much longer than expected to get back on task. So when it’s time to focus,

  • Set your phone to Do Not Disturb. On iPhone: swipe up from the very bottom of the phone, and then hit the Moon icon.
  • Close all browser windows that aren’t directly related to the task at hand.
  • If part of your work is composing emails, get into a state where you can write them without seeing new ones come in. In Gmail, bookmark Gmail (filtered to show nothing)
  • Turn off email push notifications on your computer.
  • Log out of chat.

Find your flow time. If your day is constantly interrupted by meetings, it’s very difficult to get into flow, a state where you’re really jamming and go deep on complex tasks.

  • Add 3-hour “meetings” to your calendar where you’re the only attendee. Coworkers will schedule around these busy times, and you can get uninterrupted work done.
  • If you can, get your whole company to agree to a day per week where there shall be no meetings. At Asana, we have No-Meeting Wednesdays.
  • Track what times of the day work best for you for different activities. Do your hardest work during your “Superman time.” Here’s the process I used to determine that mine is from 10:00a-noon: Finding Your Superman Time.
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Justin Rosenstein

Master your tools. If you use a computer all day, every time you reach for your mouse, it slows you down a little, and you lose a little bit of flow. You want to interact with your computer at the speed at which you think. Doing so requires learning the keyboard shortcuts of the software you used most.

  • Every time you find yourself using your mouse, see if there’s a keyboard shortcut. Usually it will appear right next to the menu item, or on the little tip that shows up when you put your mouse cursor over a button. On a Mac: ⌘ means Command, ⌥ means Option, ⇧ means Shift, and ⌃ means Control.
  • Use SizeUp to quickly rearrange your windows without a mouse.

Optimize your mind

One of my favorite books on this topic is Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. Even the book’s name is a powerful reminder.

Take regular breaks. Common sense tells us that the more time we spend working, the more work done we’ll get done. But that’s just not true. Humans are not robots. Our minds need time to recharge. Research suggests that a 15-minute break every 90 minutes is a good rule of thumb for accomplishing more by doing less.

Meditate. Here’s how I picked up a daily habit.

Take care of your body.

  • Hydrate. At the beginning of the day, I put 5 tall glasses of water on my desk. I drink them all by the end of the day. Seeing them sitting there is a good progress indicator.
  • Eat well. A carb-heavy lunch is often a disaster for afternoon energy.
  • Take supplements. According to the book Power Up Your Brain:

• Vegetarian DHA: 1000mg daily
• Olive oil: 1tbsp daily
• Alpha-lipoic acid: 600mg daily, 30minutes before meals
• Coconut oil: Virgin, organic; 1 tbsp in morning
• Pterostilbene: 50mg morning & evening
• Sulforaphane: 30mg morning & evening
• Curcumin: 200mg morning & evening
• Green tea extract: 200mg morning & evening

  • Fast. One day a month to one day a week.
  • In short, make sure you’re using your time outside of work to get nourished, so that you have the energy to give it your all when you’re at work.

Overcome procrastination by facing discomfort. I don’t procrastinate because I’m lazy; I procrastinate because my highest priority task makes me subtly (or not-so-subtly) uncomfortable. When this happens you should:

  • Be honest about what’s making it uncomfortable. Explicitly, compassionately write down (or share with a friend) the exact source of the discomfort. Why does this feel so dreadful?
  • Identify one easeful next step.
  • I’ve written more on this technique at How to Overcome Procrastination by Facing Discomfort.
  • If you don’t have the energy to face the fear right now, then at least do the second-highest-priority thing on your list, rather than switching to Facebook. Prolific Stanford professors John Perry calls this “Structured Procrastination,” and attributes most of his success to it at StructuredProcrastination.com.

Optimize your process

Get clarity of plan. A lot of un-productivity arises from a lack of prioritization. It being unclear what you actually need to do to achieve your goal, and what’s highest priority.

  • Don’t do any more work until the next steps are 100% crystal clear to you, and agreed upon by everyone on your team.
  • Start by grounding in: What is our goal? Why do we want to achieve it? What are all the steps required to achieve it? Who’s responsible for each step? What order must they be done in?
  • Here’s more on how to get clarity of plan.

Buddy up. Some people love working alone, but, for complex tasks, I generally find it painful and prone to distraction.

  • Find a teammate who would enjoy collaborating. Sometimes tasks that would have taken me 2 days can be completed in 2 hours with the right partner. “Pair programming” is common in software engineering, but it works for anything.
  • Alternately, you can have a conversation with yourself by buddying up with a text editor or journal: start asking yourself the big questions and write out your answers. I’ve had long, strategic, and productive dialogues with my computer by simply writing out questions and answering them in free-flow form.

Publicly commit to a deadline. Harness peer pressure to your advantage. If an important task doesn’t have a natural deadline, I’ll tell people confidently, “I will send you a copy by end of day Friday.” Now I don’t want to look ridiculous in front of my teammates, so I will naturally make damn sure it’s ready for them by Friday.

Use software to track your work. Unsurprisingly, I believe Asana is the best place for this. Not only does it keep track of your own to-do list; it also manages the flow of work among the entire team, so you don’t need endless meetings to stay on the same page. And it keeps the conversations alongside the work, so you’re not constantly wading through emails to get the information you need.

Take time to reflect. Budget just a few minutes at the end of each day, and consider what went well and what went less well. Are there improvements you could make in your workflow next time? If every day you could get 1% more efficient, then by the end of the year you’d be 15x as productive.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some little-known productivity tips from various professions?

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5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Game of Thrones

Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister in HBO's "Game of Thrones."
HBO Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister in HBO's "Game of Thrones."

“Any man who must say, I am the king, is no true king”

Answer by Mira Zaslove on Quora.

1. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. — Eddard Stark.

Don’t shy away from making tough calls. And just as importantly, do the unpleasant work to follow through. As Ned reminds us, “He who hides behind executioners soon forgets what death is.” Leaders who spend time in the trenches, doing the tough work, will take making tough decisions more seriously.

2. “A Lannister always pays his debts.” — Tyrion Lannister

In the workplace, the quickest way to lose respect, and power, is to promise things you can’t deliver. The surest way to get people to do things for you is for them to trust that you will do what you say you will in the future. Leaders follow through on their word. When they say they are going to do something, they do it.

3. “Any man who must say, I am the king, is no true king.” — Tywin Lannister

True power comes from where people believe it comes from. Not from where you say it comes from. The best leaders are followed based on the collective will, not because they say, “I am the boss.” Power and influence, often come from unexpected places.

4. “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” — Littlefinger

Chaotic times reveal a leader’s strength. When times are good, it’s easy to be the leader. Only when chaos reigns, do many leaders rise. Effective leaders aren’t thwarted by challenges. They use challenges to foist them higher. As Littefinger, highlights: “Many who try to climb fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them.” Leaders are not broken. They continue to climb.

5. “Winter is coming.” House Stark

Leaders remain vigilant. The world is uncertain. The best leaders always innovate, stay strong, and plan for the future. Being prepared for the unexpected is essential. Embrace winter, especially when everyone else is distracted and basking in the sun.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the best leadership lessons you can learn from Game of Thrones?

More from Quora:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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