Cluttered space = Cluttered mind

Does your work desk resemble a miniature city of paper-skyscrapers? Are you the Mayor of this miniature urban jungle?

Are you concerned about the 3 new strains of Penicillin harboured by your small colony of coffee cups? Are you considering filing a missing persons report for the 3 staplers you’ve lost to ‘the desk’ over the past 6 months?

Yes, it sounds like Hell and yet this is the environment many people ‘work’ in, every day.

In order to drive greater workplace efficiency, productivity and even creativity, the work environment is crucial. Yet it’s something very few of us ever do anything about – save for a ‘token tidy’ before a holiday or when we start a new job.

This article isn’t just about empowering you to minimise clutter and perhaps allowing the cleaner to wipe down one of those hidden surfaces every now and then. This is about being able to find things when you want them, minimising ‘search time’ and distractions and boosting productivity, all while simultaneously cutting down on the mental ‘clutter’ that is all too often a reflection of our physical work spaces. It’s about fostering personal organisation and making your own space ‘work-enhancing’ not ‘work-limiting’.

PEPworldwide’s study of workplace stress among several thousand workers measured the correlation between the piles of papers on one’s desk and workplace stress; unsurprisingly, those who reported ‘always’ or ‘often’ having papers on their desk, unrelated to the project at hand, reported higher stress levels.

A similar relationship was found between stress levels and the volume of emails in one’s inbox. You know how your blood starts boiling somewhere near your heart as the number of unread emails reaches 3-figures again? That’s stress – and it’s not good for you.

With access to emails now potentially 24/7 via smart phones and tablet technology ‘conveniences’ at every turn, this accessibility will ultimately have ramifications on health and wellbeing if workers mismanage it – to the further detriment of workplace productivity and efficiency.

Next week we’ll show you how to create a clean space = an organized mind.

Mark Rigby, PEPworldwide – New Zealand

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør. Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

Our addiction to Urgency – Solution

Those who seldom or never put off what they could address now reported markedly lower stress levels in a PEPwordwide study of 4,200 workers. A similar relationship was found for those who seldom or never accumulated a backlog of work.

“Nice for some”, you may argue, “but I’ll bet they were working overtime to do it”.

Not necessarily.

It’s all about ‘prioritising by importance’.

To do this, simply assess a task’s importance to you, your team and your business.

An important and urgent task is delivering a time-bound report to a client. An urgent but relatively less important task is the weekly team meeting to discuss and share ideas.

Last month, we emphasised the usefulness of the PEPworldwide ‘Do it Now (if it will take you less that 10 minutes) or Decide Now’ philosophy to help personal management and efficiency. Use it to prioritise new tasks that appear on your list of demands.

If you’re not going to address the issue right this minute, then decide exactly what you are going to do with it.  Develop it (take it to the next level), diarise it in your Outlook, designate it to your task list, delegate it, do it routinely (for example, checklists or invoices you can regulate), deposit/file it, dump/delete it or get help if you need more information.  These guidelines can help you apply priorities to tasks and build personal organisation and thus, efficiency.

With your tasks prioritised, manage your exposure to external influences. Access to emails is now potentially 24/7 with smart phones and tablet technology ‘conveniences’.  According to PEPworldwide research of 5,000 workers, 50% of the population received more than 25 emails per day. This equates to at least 25 moments of reactivity and distraction and is not going to be conducive to efficient and productive work streams!

In 2008, scientists concluded that people consume three times more information on a daily basis as they did in 1960. New research shows that workers change computer windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour.  That’s a lot of kerfuffle!

Do not be afraid to turn these gadgets off for a period of time while you’re working on something important. Old-school, but effective. PEPworldwide recommend not more than 2-3 inbox checks a day – any more than that and you are escalating your stress levels and feeding your urgency addiction.

Next month, we’ll dive deeper into the magic of email efficiencies – until then, deep breaths…

Top tips for ditching the urgency fix:

  • Adopt a “Do it Now or Decide Now” approach to tasks – it will simplify your life
  • Prioritise by importance: assess the impact to you, your team, your business
  • Use your Outlook calendar to your advantage: set time for important work or tasks and ensure what’s physically on your desk represents exactly what you need to achieve in that time
  • Do not allow for external factors to influence your task at hand; turn off your phone and shut down your Outlook – the world will continue to turn while you get something important done
  • Don’t go to the opening of an envelope – do you really need to go to that meeting? Decline if your presence won’t benefit you or the team (Remember: prioritise by importance!)
  • You are a finite resource – learn how to calm down when the going gets tough; be it through meditation or deep breathing, a walk around the block or a gym session (in other words, don’t rely on a vino at the end of the day to get your zen on).

 

Mark Rigby PEPworldwide – New Zealand

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør. Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

 

Our addiction to Urgency

What would you think if you saw a crab canoodling with a butterfly? A hare hauling a snail shell?

Too busy rushing through your working day to give it much thought? How ironic, given these unusual couplings are symbolic of an oft-quoted maxim: Make haste not speed.

The meaning of this little adage is that activities should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence. If tasks are rushed too quickly or ‘reactively’ then mistakes are more likely to be made and positive long-term results are less likely achieved.

However, so often in the workplace, and even more generally in life, a misplaced and sometimes omnipresent sense of urgency can lead us all into a world of pain; never completing tasks or completing them poorly, feeling stressed, overwhelmed or to quote one Bilbo Baggins, like “butter scraped over too much bread”.

So, where does this familiar urgency and panic routine come from?

Stress is a natural human response when we lose control over our workloads and as demands made on us, as a resource, escalate.  Stress is simply a fine balance between efficiency and demand.  A small to moderate amount of stress is ok – it can even help fuel our focus and efficacy to complete tasks, but too much has a physiological impact on our bodies and our productivity, which then kills our efficiency.

Physiologically, stress fills us with a potent cocktail of cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline – designed to give us a rush of blood to the head to either face the imminent danger of that 24-hour turnaround report head-on, or run for the hills.

Chronic stress has been linked to health problems ranging from heart disease to asthma to ulcers, and “the cardiovascular health risk it poses is not dissimilar to the risk conferred by cigarette smoking” says Laura Kubzansky, Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health (March 8 2013).  So you see why it’s important for us all to quit our urgency cycle in the workplace; Make haste not speed.

So how do we do that? Find out next week.

Mark Rigby, PEPworldwide – New Zealand

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

 

 

Multi-Tasking: Solution.

It’s good. It’s bad. Make it pay!

Last week, I wrote about how out-of-control Multi-Taskers damage businesses. Of course, to succeed in business, you have to walk and chew gum at the same time!

As a business coach, I work with real people, in real situations. I believe all the studies on Multi-Tasking, both for it and against it.

Multi-Tasking is like alcohol, drugs, food and gambling: you control it, or it controls you.

Unless you are pathologically focused, you will find yourself Multi-Tasking.

Learn to control Multi-Tasking. Focus its power into things that matter.  Demonstrate focus, and you demonstrate value.

Demonstrate to others that you pay attention. Do something. Say something.

- People notice rudeness.  They don’t notice politeness. Show them.  “Let me turn off my cell    phone. What you say is important to me.” Pay attention to the reaction.

-Does your boss ask you to be more focused? Ask for her expertise:   “I notice you’re able to     focus even in distracting situations. Will you teach me how?” Pay attention to the reaction.

 -Practice ignoring distractions.  Let the phone ring when you are talking to someone. Pay attention to their reaction when you demonstrate focus.

Buy time to focus. Start by removing some of the stimuli:

-Turn off all the noises that scream “You’ve got mail!” You’ll get to your e-mail.  Focus.

-Turn off your cell, or put it on “vibrate”. You have voicemail. Focus.

-Turn off “call waiting”. If it’s important, they’ll call back.  Focus.

-Clean up the clutter in your office and computer. Your vision will clear.

- Check with your doctor. If you have an attention deficit challenge, get support.

Invest your skills in the right place. State your priorities and live by them.

-Write down your 10 top priorities, in order of importance.

-Write down the percentage of your annual hours that you must invest to each one (hint: you   get 100%. “110%” is for sissies).

-Post that chart on your wall where everyone can see it.

-Live by it.

Live by your priorities. Put a price on your “Yes.”

-Invent some handy phrases that say “No” without using the word.

-Practice using them when you’re under false pressure to lose your focus.

-These work when you say them with a smile:

“Yes! I know someone who can do that for you right away!”

“Yes! I can do that in March, after the Social Media project is over!”

“Yes! E-mail me your project plan. I’ll see who can help.”

“Yes! What budget should I bill for the extra help we’ll need?”

Gain confidence in yourself: Some Multi-Taskers are so desperate to please!  They look needy. Treat your work and your time as important, and you’ll gain confidence.

If you have control issues, get help. If you grab all the work, then complain about how hard you work, you will lose.  Learn to delegate. And before you wail “I’ve got nobody to delegate to” think:

-If you’re too disorganized to delegate, get organized.

-If your project plan is “all in your head” you’re doomed to do it all. Write a plan and share it.

-You have machines, suppliers, colleagues, clients and a boss. Learn to delegate in all directions.

-If you’re a leader and cannot delegate, get out of the Big Chair and let someone else lead.

So, go ahead. Multi-Task. Use it as a skill to drive the business. Use it to get and share information, to drive action and decisions.  Why waste your Multi-Tasking skills on silly stuff, like doing e-mails while on a conference call? Why endanger lives by driving and texting?  Pay attention. Focus.

Let others use Multi-Tasking as their “default” position.  They get eaten alive.  Work smarter.  Use  Multi-Tasking only as an occasional, strategic choice.

Do you have ideas about using Multi-Tasking as a smart business strategy, rather than a waste of your energy? Let us hear from you!

Ann Searles: PEPWorldwide Canada/Caribbean

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

Multi-Tasking: What are you going to do about it?

 “Multi-Tasking”. The meaning of the word – and our attitudes about it – has gone full circle.

Years ago, companies demanded employees who “must be able to Multi-Task.”

Then, an avalanche of studies blamed Multi-Tasking-tasking as a productivity killer.

A new study says companies whose employees Multi-Task perform better.

So: to Multi-Task, or not to Multi-Task?

If you like how you manage your work, and have achieved work / life balance, congratulations! Read no further.

If you wonder about Multi-Tasking, and want to work smarter – not harder – read on.

Yes, I read scientific studies. I also watch real people work in real-life situations every day. What follows are my opinions of Multi-Tasking.

If you want answers about Multi-Tasking, first ask yourself some questions:

How old are you?

Up to about age 30, people do better at Multi-Tasking. Later, shifts in the brain’s frontal lobe cause a decline in the ability to Multi-Task.

Where are you located on your career path?

Bright, young people who Multi-Task often look courageous and ambitious – even if they make mistakes. Many managers like that. But when you’ve been around a while, and you keep dropping the ball because of Multi-Tasking you are seen as “non-promotable.”

Do you feel like you are out of control?

Many people who Multi-Task are sucked into it against their will. They don’t know how to stop, and cannot control it.

Are you constantly reacting to crises?

Some people are distracted by any interruption – big or small. They cannot focus on one task. They react to any stimulus, whether it is a crisis or not.

Do you lack confidence in yourself?

Multi-Tasking can be a way of trying to please everybody, all the time, to get approval. It projects an image of someone who thinks their own work is unimportant.

Are you a rude person by nature?  Does your company reward rudeness?

Even nice people can be unaware of the message they send by Multi-Tasking.  Multi-Tasking is a great way to insult others.   Think about it: when you answer the phone and say “I can’t talk now. I’m in a meeting with 10 people.” Congratulations! You’ve insulted eleven people at once! Of course, you or your company may like using insults as a business strategy. Or, you may simply be an arrogant bully. Which is it?

Do you have control issues?

Some people just cannot let go, cannot trust others, cannot delegate. Are they “control freaks?” Control freaks complain about having to do everything themselves – yet they will not ask for help, nor will they train others to help them.  They want to control it all by doing it all, all the time.

What did your manager say in your last performance review?

If your manager said you are scattered, that the quality of your work is suffering, that you need to learn to focus, then you may be using “Multi-Tasking” poorly.

Next week, I’ll offer some opinions about how to control Multi-Tasking, and use it to your advantage.

 

Ann Searles: PEPWorldwide Canada/Caribbean

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

De er en pest og en plage. De er en tidsrøver. Og det er møteplikt. Ja nettopp. Det handler om møter. Igjen!

Uvel møtt (DN-artikkel) forfattet av Cecilie Enger

Norske ledere og en stor del av resten av organisasjonen tilbringer store deler av arbeidstiden i møter. Men mange av møtedeltakerne opplever at store deler av tiden i møter er bortkastet. Cecilie Enger har gjort et ærlig forsøk på å dokumentere riktigheten i denne påstanden. Konsernledelsen i Hafslund har stilt ledermøtet sitt til disposisjon for dokumentasjon og læring av og om møteeffektivitetens hemmeligheter.

I artikkelen kan det se ut som forfatteren stuper rett inn i et ledermøte som er i ferd med å avsluttes. Og hva opplever vi som leser: Leder gruppen sitter og evaluerer seg selv og sine egne bidrag i møtet. Åpenhjertig og ærlig “feedback” på godt og vondt.

Men sånn har det ikke alltid vært. I løpet av det siste året har konsernledelsen i Hafslund endret formen på møtene sine. Antallet møter er halvert og de er blitt svært mye mer effektive. Og deltakerne er svært fornøyd med disse endringene.

Halve dagen i dårlige møter. Nylig kom boken “Livet som leder. Lederundersøkelsen 3.0″ der de siste tallene fra Administrativt forskingsfond ved Norges Handelshøyskole (AFF) viser at toppledelsen i bedrifter med mer enn 100 ansatte i snitt bruker 19 timer i uken i møter. Dette tilsvarer omtrent 40% av den totale arbeidstiden.

 

Hva så med kvaliteten på møtene? Verre er det at 40% av lederne i undersøkelsen svarer at tiden i møtene er bortkastet fordi møtene er dårlig ledet. Dette er resultatet av en studie gjennomført av org. psykologene Henning Bang og Karin Nygaard Øverland blant 80 ledere fra offentlig og privat sektor.

Et under! Henning Bang, er en av landets fremste forskere ved UiO med spesialitet på organisasjonsutvikling og møteffektivisering, og han hevder at majoriteten av moderne arbeidsfolk blir teppebombet med møter. Det er et under at så mange finner seg i å bruke så mye av sin tid på det ene dårlige møte etter det andre.

Henning Bang hevder: «Jeg tror mange ledere (og møtedeltakere) glemmer at poenget med et møte er å produsere noe av verdi». Men verdiene som skal skapes i møter er ikke direkte forbundet med nøkkeltall i et budsjett.

Vi i PEPww har i mange år bistått våre kunder med å forstå dynamikken i møter og analysere seg frem til riktige tiltak for få mer verdifull «output» av interne møter. Ethvert møte løper gjennom 3 faser. Før møte: Planlegging og forberedelser, Gjennomføring: Struktur og disiplin og Etterarbeid: Referat med klare formuleringer om Hvem-Hva-Når i betydningen: Hvem er ansvarlig for hva og når skal resultatet leveres. Vi hjelper kunden til å utvikle: Sånn gjør vi det hos oss…….. type spilleregler. Det dårligste utbytte av møter er der hvor det ikke er utviklet spilleregler eller de er utviklet men de følges ikke.

Henning Bangs oppskrift for gode møter er der møteleder hanker inn diskusjonen når den beveger seg bort fra temaet samtidig som deltakerne selv klarer å hente seg inn når man havner på et sidespor. Gode møter har en kultur for å si fra når møtene er uklare og når man ikke når målene som er satt. Gode møter har en leder som etterspør kvaliteten på møtet i etterkant.

Slik vi ser det i PEPww er noen av de største møtekillerne tilgjengelighet til pc – internett og mobil i møterommet. Husk at den hjernen vi er utstyrt med bare kan være konsentrert om en konkret tanke av gangen. Altså, enten er den (hjernen) ute og svever på internett eller den befinner seg i møtet sammen med gode og effektive kolleger. Vel  møtt!

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

 

Stress. Solution

Clearly there is a huge gap between the results employees are expected to deliver and the energy and calm they have to have to make it happen. Suppose that the mentioned problems have been solved, how would it look like then?

If there is something that you need to do, but it’s not getting done, one of the first places to start is to clear out the clutter around you and inside you. Clutter can block precious new energy from flowing into your life by filling up your world with old stagnant energy that loves to build up and stay right where it is. Clutter in your life might include a messy environment, a pile of paper on your desk, a non organized computer… When we free up this old energy around our space, we feel more lively and energized. And if we can set up a good system, it will help us to take the right actions that will lead us to our objectives.

The same goes for mental clutter. When you get rid of unneeded information, tasks and thoughts, you eliminate the energetic clutter that holds you back. Your mental self-management will create a clear head. You will be able to do the right thing in the right way at the right moment. Your searches will result in finding the right information, leading to better decisions in less time. The improved information processing will also result in time savings with regard to creating and modifying documents. Duplicated efforts within different divisions/projects will diminish. Processes will be better managed. Productivity and sales will increase because employees and customers are able to find the needed information, products and services, and customer satisfaction improves. And as a result of this, you will begin to feel more comfortable.

In order to help people and organizations to have this kind of results, the Personal Efficiency Program (PEP) has been developed as a coaching program to co-create the best possible solutions in making choices and setting objectives, to develop the best information processing techniques, to enhance personal and team success and performance. Based on our extensive experience with hundreds of organizations, in different sectors, and with different dimensions, we can conclude that PEP helps you and your organization to go through a maturity and engagement process towards improved results with less stress.

Hugo Van den Bergh PEPworldwide – Belgium

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

 

STRESS. WHAT DO WE WANT INSTEAD?

We live in a digital time. Our rhythms are rushed and relentless, our days carved up into bits and bytes. We celebrate quick reaction more than considered reflection. Expectations related to response time have shrunk from a few days to a few minutes. There is little opportunity to consider decisions or the content of communication. We race through our lives without pausing to consider who we really want to be or where we really want to go. We’re wired up but we’re melting down.

Most of us are just trying to do the best that we can. When demand exceeds our capacity, we begin to make expedient choices that get us through our days and nights, but take a toll over time. Faced with relentless demands at work, we become easily distracted and feel exhausted. The term 24/7 describes a world in which work never ends. We use words like overwhelmed to characterize our everyday lives. We spend much of our time reacting to unplanned events and making quick decisions with minimal analysis. Feeling forever starved for time, we assume that we have no choice but to cram as much as possible into every day. Job satisfaction is becoming merely a concept.

Considerable research has been conducted on the topic of stress in a variety of settings and disciplines. A common definition includes the negative impact on performance due to stress e.g. caused by information overload and is measured by decision-making ability. If a decision-maker (and we all are) obtains more information than he can process, overload occurs and decision-making ability decreases. Any information received beyond that point will not be processed, may lead to confusion and could have a negative impact on the ability to set priorities as well as remember previous information.

It is not difficult to imagine the affect this has on both individuals and organizations. It is common knowledge that stress, over an extended period of time, has a negative impact on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, including the following symptoms:

  • Poor concentration due to the overloading of short-term memory
  • Multi-tasking often resulting in diminished rather than increased productivity
  • Hurry sickness, which is the belief that one must constantly rush to keep pace with time
  • A chronic state of irritability or anger
  • “Plugged in” compulsion or the strong need to check email and the internet in order to stay “in touch”
  • Lowered immune response, endocrine imbalance, depression and the experience of “burn out”

The causes of these situations will not disappear by themselves. They require thoughtful solutions. An awareness of what is better, combined with an understanding of the symptoms will allow us to generate useful and practical solutions to the problem of stress.

Join us next week when we will explore some solutions to minimize and eliminate STRESS.

Hugo Van den Bergh PEPworldwide Belgium

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

Increased availability, are you handling it, or is it handling you? Solution!

Last week I wrote about some of the negative effects  of “always being available” ? This week let us look at some of the solutions.

Firstly, if you think this is challenging, know that there is hope. You can most likely do something about the situation by a few small steps. Though you should also know that the way you perform your work today has created a pattern and a way of working that actually has become a habit. This is your habit, and if you have read anything about changing habits, or as most people you have tried to change a habit, you might have realized that it can be quite hard. You need to force yourself to do (or not do) the thing you have decided upon quite a few times before it starts to feel natural. Psychologists say it takes 21 consistent days on the average to change a habit.  If you miss a day you must start over again.

Now back to what you can do about the increased availability. You need to be assertive and protect the time that you do have available for doing important high value work.

How do you to do this? One way is  to put in chunks of time in your calendar that belong only to you. We call them “appointments with myself”. These chunks of time should be respected by yourself and also others as if it was a client meeting. Unless something really urgent and important occurs of course. When you do this a couple of times per day, realize that you have actually organized yourself so that you can more easily follow your plan.

Another way is to turn off all your notifications announcing new emails arriving. Oh, you say “that is not possible for me! It could be something important…” I agree, then try to create agreements with your colleagues so that urgent and important tasks don’t arrive by email. These items are often better handled by phone or face to face. That way you will not be checking your mail every 5 minutes.

Improve your planning, and stick to what you have planned. Remember that when you once made the plan, it probably made perfect sense, so when it is time for the planned activity, it is time to act, and not start debating with yourself whether or not you should do it. Re-planning, reorganizing or reprioritizing should be done when  conditions change, but don’t go looking for it, because you will always find a reason for not doing something.

Good luck.

By Jojo B. Holst, PEPworldwide Norway

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no

 

Increased availability, are you handling it, or is it handling you?

You may not think much about it today, but we have for many years strived to increase our availability. We got cellphones to be able to reach each other outside the office or home, but we still had to go to the office to access the client database or to send an email. This is for most really old fashion thinking in today’s business world. Our availability or accessibility has over the years increased so much that we now with a smartphone in our hands can do about anything anywhere.

What a great thing! We can do whatever we need to do wherever we want to do it and at any time during our 168 weekly hours. Amazing! Or is it? From different opinion leaders we are told that it has never been more difficult for us (in this lane on the information superhighway) to stay focused at the task, or subject, that an increasing amount of people are spending more and more time jumping (mentally) from one thing to another without being able to finish the first one.

The reasons for not finishing a task can be many, but one clear reason for this is because we have become more and more accessible: firstly always being available ourselves and secondly expecting that others should also always be available for us. Or maybe it feels like the other way around? And that is exactly the issue. We have become so available for everyone else that it can be hard to focus on our own priorities, our own tasks  and follow our own plans. If you don’t make and follow your own plans you will most likely be a part of someone else’s plan. Am I saying that this increased availability is not a positive contribution in our mission to do, or perform our daily tasks? No, and let me just be clear, I am not saying the problem is the increased availability itself, it’s what we do with it, and how we choose to handle it, or rather lack of doing so.

What are your thoughts about this? Please share your experiences with us.

By Jojo B. Holst, Man.dir. PEPworldwide Norway

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

Tilbake til hjemmesiden: pep.no