TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Bad Habits to Abandon for Increased Productivity

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Make it a point to be proactive rather than reactive

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Question: We talk a lot about daily habits and productivity. But what’s one thing entrepreneurs should STOP doing every day?

Talking About Themselves

“Entrepreneurs tend to get so wrapped up in the pitching, convincing and selling of their day-to-day life that sometimes it becomes all they ever talk about. Being well-rounded and conversational will help you have rapport with others around you. While talking about yourself and your business is important, doing so constantly comes off as being self-centered and oblivious to the world around you.” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

Focusing on a To-Do List

“The best leaders I know focus on building the right culture and energy in the office. Sitting in a corner and pounding out to-do items may feel productive, but don’t forget about doing the things that aren’t fully quantifiable. Helping teammates who may be having a bad morning or struggling with a project could be the single most valuable thing you do all day!” — Tyler Arnold, SimplySocial, Inc.

Eating Pizza

“When you head into the startup phase of your company, everything you used to do that was healthy is going to stop. You are going to put on weight. You are going to end up with too much stress and a back that is in constant pain. Don’t eat pizza. It will make it easier to get back in shape when you’re out of that phase.” — Andrew Angus, Switch Video

Using Social Media Distractions

“Shut down all your personal social media distractions during the work day. Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Twitter will all be there after you complete your daily tasks. Many entrepreneurs don’t realize just how much time they waste reading and engaging on these mediums and also just how much it decreases their daily productivity. To succeed, use your time wisely.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Multitasking

“Multitasking has its place in the business realm, but there are also times when it should be avoided. If you multitask two separate and very important projects, you can end up with two sets of dismal results. Know when to multitask and when to focus on a single task.” — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Waiting for the Right Moment

“Stop waiting for the right time, and just get things done. Define the one thing you can do today that will help grow your business and not just keep you busy.” — Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group

Attending Management Meetings

“Admittedly, management meetings are sometimes necessary and useful beasts. But a culture of meetings is ultimately just a time suck. Everyone has had that experience of waiting for a meeting to end so that real work can resume. To increase productivity, reduce management meetings and time in meetings in general. When you must meet, have a clear agenda and stick to it.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Letting Interruptions Happen

“Interruptions are just a part of life, but I take steps to prevent them. It is so hard to refocus after multiple interruptions. I don’t even want to calculate how much time I lose to redirecting my attention several times a day. If it gets to be too much, I go into do-not-disturb mode. I close the door, only take scheduled calls and tell my staff that they can email me and I’ll get to them later.” — Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

Going out for Lunch

“The lunch hour is one of the most active times of the day and a great time to get work done. After work is when most socializing should be done. Instead of worrying about getting back to the office or getting work done before you dip out, meeting at the end of the day takes off the edge. You can drink without a conscience, leave the office behind and invite others to join to optimize your time.” — Rameet Chawla, Fueled

Working on the Fly

“One habit to break away from is working on the fly rather than with an agenda. With a startup, things will happen, and you can be pulled in different directions. Don’t make it a habit to make that the way you operate. Make it a point to be proactive rather than reactive.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Pleasing Others First

“If you are allowing your time and energy to be diverted from your priority tasks simply to make professional acquaintances (e.g., individuals not in your inner circle) happy, then you’re not investing your time well. Focus on the people and activities that really matter, and you’ll be better off in the long run.” — Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

Emailing Coworkers

“The biggest breakthrough at ThinkImpact has been the realization that we don’t need to email each other. We can use different tools to communicate. Our new favorite is called Slack . It allows you to communicate in one of three ways: via office-wide messages with a related subject, a direct message with a colleague privately or a private group of colleagues.” — Saul Garlick, ThinkImpact

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

MONEY productivity

6 Ways to Maximize Productivity on a Snow Day

A woman gathers snow for a friendly snowball fight in Central Park.
Chris Hondros—Getty Images A woman gathers snow for a friendly snowball fight in Central Park.

Winter Storm Juno threatening your plans to make it into the office? These tips can help you get so much done that you'll even be able to sneak out for a snowball fight.

If you’re a resident of the Northeast, you’re probably going to be affected by the big snow storm that’s already begun hitting the area.

Your office may be closed. Your kids might be home from school.

How do you stay productive when you’re unexpectedly forced to work from home with the kids begging you to play with them? Use these strategies:

Postpone Powwows

The most pressing items are scheduled meetings that involve others. If you had a live meeting planned, notify attendees of the cancellation and work on rescheduling it.

Get Set Up in Advance

If you haven’t left the office yet, do a sweep of your desk, and bring home with you any paperwork you’ll need to continue to operate from home this afternoon or tomorrow. Particularly if you have important calls, make sure you have all of the material you need so that you aren’t the one holding up progress.

If you haven’t been set up to work remotely and don’t have access to your files, you may have to work with IT and/or your boss to gain access—this takes time so do this early.

Do Some Task Triage

Already at home? If you’re not used to working there, you may not have the best setup. You may not have all of the files you need; you may not have the best equipment; you may need to interact with colleagues who are not readily available.

Itemize what you had planned to do and categorize by what you can postpone for when you’re back in the office, what you still can do from home, and what you can do but might need some preparation (e.g., help from IT in downloading a file).

Knowing what you can do, and by when, enables you to focus on feasible activities and gives you a heads-up on how your days will unfold when you return to the office.

Eliminate Distractions

Your kids’ unbounded excitement over having a snow day can distract from calls that require quiet or deadlines that require focus.

You have a few options: Trade babysitting with a neighbor. Pay your older kid extra chore money for impromptu babysitting. Tap the electronic babysitter—extra TV or computer time—for when you need silence or uninterrupted blocks of concentration.

Take Advantages of the Perks

Even if you don’t have the best setup, you still might be more productive overall.

You’ll probably eat better, since you can fix a nutritious meal instead of rushing out for fast food. If meetings have been postponed, you now have blocks of time to catch up on another project. Even your break time can be productive, as you grab a snack with your kids or put in a load of laundry or do a quick home workout.

Start Planning for the Next Work-at-Home Emergency

If you find that you’re ill-equipped to work from home, work with IT when you return to the office to improve for next time. Plan for remote access of files, invest in a faster laptop or mobile device, and know which activities and projects are equally effective when done remotely.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Easiest Way to See if You’re Spending Your Time Right

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Get your paint tool or color pencils ready

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

When Info We Trust’s graphics depicting the average days of creative geniuses of yore went viral earlier this week, we were impressed like so many others—after all, it’s pretty cool to see how the masters made it work!

But more importantly, we thought this method of visualizing time was an awesome way to quickly understand what each of these masters spend their time doing—and would be something that all of us could use to get a better handle on our own time. After all, the first step in becoming more productive is understanding where your time is going now!

It’s simple—grab the visual below and then either print it out or open it up in MS Paint or Photoshop. Using the paint tool (or your colored pencils), give each activity a unique color, and then color in each hour of the circle based on the activity you usually fill that time with.

You’ll quickly be able to see how you organize your day, the things you’re doing well, and the things you could probably improve upon. For example, I filled out a Wheel of Productivity for my own days below, and can easily see that I do well on the sleep front, but could probably try and break up my big block of green work time (by taking an actual lunch break, perhaps, or going to the gym midday instead of in the morning).
Fill out your own Wheel of Productivity, and then give it a hard look: Are you devoting enough time to the colors that matter most to you?

More from the Muse:

TIME psychology

5 Simple Things That Will Make Your Life Better

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Want to be happy?

It’s more about perspective than anything else. Write down three good things that happen to you every day.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?”

(More on happiness here: Things that are proven to make you happier.)

2) Want to be more creative?

Expose yourself to as many different perspectives as possible and get them crashing around in your head.

Via Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:

The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, reinvent. Build a tangled bank.

(More on creativity here: The four principles that will lead you to breakthrough creativity.)

3) Want better friendships?

Stay in touch every two weeks and make sure that the good moments outnumber the bad.

Via The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature:

It turned out that the fifteen high-performance teams averaged 5.6 positive interactions for every negative one. The nineteen low-performance teams racked up a positive/negative ratio of just .363. That is, they had about three negative interactions for every positive one…

Also:

Curiously, the magic number also seems to have a close parallel in the ratio of positive behaviors…and negative behaviors…among monkeys and apes. Thus the five-to-one ratio begins to look suspiciously like a basic primate need.

(More here: 5 ways to strengthen your friendships.)

4) Want a better romantic relationship?

Add some visceral excitement. Roller coasters beat counseling. It’s called “misattribution of emotions” — thrills become associated with the people we share them with — even if they had nothing to do with them.

Via Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior:

When the men who crossed the wooden bridge saw the research assistant, most of them looked at her and saw just that, a studious research assistant. But for the men who crossed the rope bridge, anxiety and adrenaline translated into a heightened romantic interest in the assistant. Their physiological reactions affected their perceptions. …The bridge’s ability to enhance the men’s romantic attraction earned it the moniker “the love bridge” within the psychological community.

(More here: This simple thing kills many relationships.)

5) Want to be more productive?

Religiously use checklists. They’re simple and they work.

What happens when you consistently use checklists in an intensive care unit? People stop dying.

Via The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right:

The proportion of patients who didn’t receive the recommended care dropped from seventy per cent to four per cent; the occurrence of pneumonias fell by a quarter; and twenty-one fewer patients died than in the previous year. The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the I.C.U. make their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that, within a few weeks, the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.

(More here: 6 things that will make you more productive.)

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Join over 145,000 readers and get a free weekly email update here.

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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.

TIME

The Super-Simple Way to Get More Replies to Your Emails

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New data shows you how

How much of the email you send gets deleted unread? A lot of it, if you’re like most of us in corporate America. But if you switch up the times and days when you send out messages, you can improve the chances that they’ll be read and replied to.

Email tracking company Yesware analyzed more than half a million sales emails to find out when recipients are more likely to open and reply. Their main finding: Send out email when there’s less competition if you want to grab a recipient’s attention. “When there’s little else being emailed, your emails are more likely to stand out and get noticed,” the company says in a blog post.

On weekdays, about two-thirds of emails are opened, but on weekends, that figure rises to about three-quarters. Weekend days only get about one-tenth the email traffic of weekdays, which means your message has a better shot of landing at the top of your recipient’s inbox. You’re also likelier to get a reply when you send email on the weekend, but you might have to be patient. A slightly higher percentage of weekday emails get same-day responses, but roughly 46% of messages sent on weekends are returned, compared to 39% of weekday emails. Contrary to popular belief, Yesware says, there’s no inherent advantage in sending emails on Monday versus any other weekday.

The time of day when you send messages matters, too. Yesware finds that although email traffic is highest during the workday and peaks during lunchtime, reply rates are highest when traffic is lightest. For the best results, Yesware’s findings suggest that you should send emails around 6 or 7 a.m., or around 8 p.m. During these hours, 45% — nearly half — of all emails sent receive a reply.

Previous research into Yesware’s data trove finds that another good way to boost your email reply rate is to copy additional recipients. An analysis of some 500,000 sales emails shows that messages sent to two people — one on the main “to” line, one on the “cc” line — were opened around 84% of the time, and replied to in more than six out of 10 instances. Copying a second recipient rather than sending it outright to both is the key, Yesware says in a blog post. If your recipients see that multiple people are included in the message, they figure somebody else will go to the effort of responding. “When a task is placed in front of a group of people, individuals are more likely to assume that someone else will take responsibility for it,” the company says. “So, no one does.”

TIME

This Is the Easiest Productivity Hack in the History of Work

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You can literally do this in one second

To learn better, hit control-s and “outsource” your remembering.

In a new study, scientists found that people tackling a mental challenge on a computer did a better job if they saved the previous work they had been doing beforehand.

“Saving one file before studying a new file significantly improved memory for the contents of the new file,” the authors write. “Saving has the potential to significantly influence how people learn and remember.”

In a series of experiments, participants were instructed to study two PDF files and remember words it contained. Subjects did a better job remembering material from the second file if they successfully saved the first file before proceeding onto the second one.

“Saving allows us to maintain access to more data and experiences than would be possible otherwise,” says says Benjamin Storm, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the study. “Memory now works in concert with technology, and by saving information we are able to keep that information from interfering with the learning of something new.”

The act of saving something digitally gives us a sense of reassurance that the information is there when we need it, which psychologically frees up our mind and allows us to focus on the next batch of information we need to learn. Essentially, we’re reallocating our mental resources.

“To maximize memory and productivity we need to be able to set stuff aside and move on to other matters,” Storm says.

In earlier research, he found that thinking of new things makes it harder to remember old thoughts. If you’re worrying if or when you’ll need to refer to earlier information in the future, hitting the “save” button or shortcut is a quick, easy and low-risk way way to virtually hang onto that information without forcing it to occupy the forefront of your mind.

“Saving may protect us from this type of thinking-induced forgetting by allowing us to think of new ideas while keeping our old ideas safely saved and out of the way,” Storm says.

Storm points out that his experiments just looked at what happens when someone saves a file before closing it and starting a new task, but he says it’s not a bad idea to save your work on a regular basis anyway.

When new information crowds out older thoughts, people can even forget their own ideas, Storm says. “Save or write down good ideas as soon as you get them,” he advises. “Even if you think you’re going to remember them, chances are that you won’t, especially if you continue to try to think of new ideas.”

MONEY Tech

8 Free Apps Guaranteed to Make You More Productive

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Looking for a quicker way to burn through your to-do list? Try these tools to amp up your efficiency.

I feel fortunate to be in my thirties. In my opinion, it’s the sweet spot for all things related to technology. I’m old enough to remember life before computers took over entirely. Yet, I’m young enough to quickly adapt and learn new things that make my life happier and more productive. No matter your age, however, you could be using your computer (and time) more effectively and efficiently.

Here are some free applications you can download today to do just that.

1. Inbox Tamer

There’s no greater distraction than those little email notifications popping up at the bottom of your screen. I used to waste a lot of time checking email whenever I’d get anything new. Eventually, I tried closing the application entirely, only to find I’d forget to check and miss important messages. Well, now there’s Inbox Pause, which delays the notifications so they won’t interrupt your workflow.

2. Social Director

There are a lot of tools out there to block social media and other programs while you work, butCold Turkey happens to be free. You can even customize the settings to block certain pages during certain activities through specific groupings. There are upgraded versions with scheduling capabilities, the power to identify certain users (for parents), etc. — but the basic version gets the job done.

3. Blue Light Blocker

I downloaded f.lux just last month, and I already see it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship. The software makes the colors on your screen adapt to the time of day. If it’s late and nearing bedtime, it’ll filter out the blue light, which can disrupt sleep patterns, and replace it with an amber glow. You can customize how little or much you want your display to shift, but I’m already falling asleep much faster after firing off articles before my head hits the pillow.

4. Message Wrangler

If you use Gmail, Boomerang is your new best friend. It lets you draft messages now and schedule to send later. It reminds you if you don’t hear back on that important email you sent last week. And it even lets you clear out your inbox — and mind — temporarily and return the messages when you’re ready to read them.

5. Time Tracker

Do you know how you’re spending your time on the computer? RescueTime can make it a lot easier to track. The Lite version (it’s free) enables you to record your time on websites and in different applications and set goals for yourself. The application also provides you with a weekly email report of your progress (or lack thereof).

6. Program Launcher

Have you ever wanted to open your programs with just a few keystrokes? Launchy lets you do just that. You’ll forget about your menu, the icons cluttering your desktop, and even your file manager with this smart application. With over 120K users, I’d say it’s working well for the masses.

7. Image Manipulator

Can’t afford the leading image manipulation software? Try GIMP for your photo retouching needs. You can paint, add text, create layers, rotate, scale, and much more. This application will save you time on creating images for your presentations and give you some powerful tools for personal use as well.

8. Password Keeper

Over time, all those passwords can get quite hard generate and remember. And keeping them in a book next to your laptop isn’t exactly convenient — or safe. Enter LastPass — the last password you’ll need to remember. The application manages all your login information for different sites and autofills for you. You can even streamline your online shopping experience by setting up secure payment accounts. Best of all, LastPass helps create unique passwords that follow the best security practices.

Read more articles from Wise Bread:

10 Critical Steps to Protect Your Data in the Cloud

10 Self-Improvement Apps to Make You Smarter, Stronger, and Happier

10 Ways You’re Wasting Time Without Realizing It

 

 

TIME productivity

For a Better Life, Do This Simple Thing Every Week

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A better you isn't that hard to achieve

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

In recent years, walking has gone from a generally healthful mode of transport to a public health crusade. Why? Lately, science has shown sitting all day to be the newest public health menace, right behind Big Macs and cigarettes on the list of things that will shorten your life and damage your body. The silver lining to this evolving line of research is that fighting back seems to be as simple as getting up and wandering around for a few minutes every hour or so (standing desks are another option).

An occasional stroll, therefore, has become akin to a morning vitamin or regular cancer screening–something you know you really ought to do. There’s no denying the truth of the necessity of adding a bare minimum of movement to our days, but there’s another side to walking that may be getting lost in the rush to remind people of its salutary effects.

Walking might save your life, but that’s far from all a good wander has to offer.

Traveling by foot isn’t just medicinal. It’s also a meditative pursuit with a long and storied pedigree that can lift your mood, improve your creativity, and give you the space you need for life-changing self-reflection.

Less Anxious, More Creative

The first couple of items on this list are the simplest to prove. Again we can turn to recent studies that reveal being outside in natural settings is powerful anti-anxiety medicine. Blog Wise Bread summed up the new findings this way: “The sounds of birds chirping, rain falling, and bees buzzing are proven to lower stress and evoke a feeling of calm.”

Similarly, science attests that getting out for a walk can spur creative thinking. Stanford News, for example, reports on studies out of the university showing that “the overwhelming majority of the participants in these three experiments were more creative while walking than sitting … creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when the person was walking.”

Walking to Find Yourself

It’s clear, then, that walking has short-term utilitarian uses–if you need an idea to finish that work project, a spin around your local park might help shake one loose. But there’s also lots of anecdotal evidence that longer walks can yield a deeper sort of creativity. The mental space created by long rambles offers the stressed and scattered the time and brain real estate needed not only to solve specific problems, but also to gain perspective on their own lives and rebalance out-of-whack lifestyles.

When blogger David Roberts decided to fight his profound burnout with a year-long digital detox, for example, he soon settled into a daily rhythm of long hikes. “Reliably, after about a half-hour of walking, ideas start bubbling up,” he reports in a fascinating writeup of the experience for Outdoor magazine. The wandering had other effects, too. “I spent hours at a time absorbed in a single activity. My mind felt quieter, less jumpy,” he says.

Roberts is far from the only thinker to notice these deeper effects of longer walks. On Medium recently, writer Craig Mod composed an ode to long walks, unearthing a treasure trove of historical figures and great thinkers who celebrated and dissected the benefits of walking. The common thread running through these accounts isn’t just that experiencing a place on foot offers a unique perspective and plenty of unexpected details to delight the walker, but also that “walking moves or settles the mind–allowing for self discovery.”

If you’ve lost touch with the art of the long ramble, it’s a must-read piece. And it begs the question:

Will you take time for a long walk this week?

MONEY Workplace

3 Ways to Keep Your Workload From Crushing You

lucas zarebinski For salaried employees, the typical workweek now totals 49 hours.

Feeling overwhelmed and overloaded at work? Here's how to take back your time.

So much for 9 to 5. The average full-time salaried employee is now putting in nearly 10 hours a day, according to a recent Gallup poll (up slightly from a weekly average of 47 hours in 2007). Even grimmer: 25% say they’re regularly working a 60-hour week.

Feeling overwhelmed and overloaded? There are some simple tactics that will help you keep your workday in check.

Get your priorities straight. “Do the most important or most difficult task first,” says Mitzi Weinman of professional development firm TimeFinder. Starting with the quick, easy jobs is tempting, but delaying the thornier tasks just increases the odds that you’ll need to stay late to finish.

Plug productivity leaks. Try tracking your activities: Write down everything you do in half-hour increments. You may discover that you’re spending more time, say, browsing social media than you thought. Set a limit for how long you can spend on any time-sucking activity and stick to it.

Manage messages. Email, while necessary, can be a distraction, says Patricia Thompson, a psychologist and career coach. Decide how often you need to check messages, then shut down your email program between checks (mute smartphone alerts as well).

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Horrible Habits You Need to Stop Right Now

Author Tim Ferriss suggests some common bad habits you should definitely add to your not-to-do-list


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

For the full list, click here.

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