Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Time Management

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to time management.

Contractor Quick Poll: How Do Independent Contractors Waste Time?

Entrepreneur recently published a slideshow outlining to be what they believe are the biggest time wasters, based on how much time the average person spends on each.  To no surprise, TV, Facebook and YouTube made the top 3, with cell phones, gaming, traffic, parking and meetings completing the list.

This sparks an interesting discussion and the perfect topic for June’s contractor quick poll. What are your top time wasters? Feel free to select up to three of the options below, or add one that we may have missed.

Believe It or Not, Meetings CAN Be Productive!

Most people will agree that meetings can be one of the more brutally time-consuming parts of one’s day. There’s nothing worse than having to sit through a meeting with a client’s team, discussing matters that don’t pertain to your project or going in circles on the same subject.

Depending on your role as an IT contractor, you may have little control over how a meeting is facilitated and you must suffer through it. Other times, though, you can plan how the meeting is run and which process tools will be used to ensure it’s productive.

You never want the other people on your team thinking that your meetings are dull and useless, so you should always consider new ideas. Take a look at this extensive infographic about running meetings from Active Presence. It describes 16 proven process tools for effective meeting facilitation. Use it to increase your team’s productivity by either implementing some ideas into your meetings, or casually slipping it under the door of the manager who keeps wasting your time.

Believe It or Not, Meetings CAN Be Productive!

15 Time Wasters Successful People Avoid

Time management has a massive influence in an independent contractor’s success. You need to be able to juggle multiple projects, all while building your network, seeking new job opportunities, filling out grids, managing your business and balancing the rest of your life. It’s true that any contractor can lead a good career without this ability, but those who can master their organizational skills are those who are most successful.

It’s one thing to know what needs to be done to manage your time, but you also need to know what not to do. There are so many distractions throughout the day and it seems like there are an infinite number of ways to waste time and interrupt productivity. In this infographic, n2growth put together 15 of the most common time wasters that you need to avoid if you want a shot at being successful.

15 Time Wasters Successful People Avoid

Top 5 Cool Free Software You Need (Video)

The Internet is filled with hidden features. Just spend a few minutes searching out Google’s Easter Eggs and you will fill your day doing absolutely useless things, like turning the screen around with barrel rolls or searching for Chuck Norris and the meaning of life.
There are also practical items to find on the Internet, like free software that will raise your productivity and secure your computer when downloading. In this video from ThioJoe, you can learn about 5 different programs (plus one bonus) that just may change how you work today. Have a look. If you have any other favourites not included in the video but you’d like to share with our readers, please feel free to include them in the comments below.

Are You Addicted to Work? (Infographic)

As much as clients and recruiters love to know they’re working with a hard-working IT contractor, it is possible to work too hard, to the point where you may be addicted to work. The result can lead to overall unhappiness in life, an unhealthy body, and, ironically, lower productivity.

What can you do about a work addiction? The first step is to find out if you really are addicted. From there, work at breaking that addiction. This infographic from The Business Backer provides advice on both of those, making it the perfect tool for an independent contractor to review. Take control of your work in 2017, before it takes control of you.

Courtesy of: The Business Backer

Does Coffee Really Make You More Productive?

How often have you been up all night because you lost track of time binge watching Netflix, gaming, or working on a tech project? It happens to the best of us. And after just a few short hours of sleep, our solution in the morning and throughout the day is to pound the coffee or energy drinks into our bodies, with the hope that productivity will be as superior as it is any other day. Even on an average day, with a good night’s sleep, many IT contractors still start the morning with a cup of joe or break up the day with a coffee break, often saying they can’t function without it.

What are the realities of all of this? Is coffee really that miracle drink? According to this infographic from TollFreeForwarding.com, not quite. Check it out and learn the real facts about coffee, so you can still enjoy your favourite hot drink and maximize your productivity.

Does Coffee Really Make You More Productive at Work?

How to Improve Your Meetings (Infographic)

How much time do you waste on useless meetings? Most people will tell you too much and, for independent contractors, wasted time can have negative consequences. Not only will your projects fall behind, but you also lose out on time doing work you may have committed to doing for other clients. Eventually, all of that creeps into your personal time and you find yourself consumed in work all because of inefficient meetings. Then there’s the fact that clients will start questioning all of the hours you’re charging when, in their eyes, little progress is being made.

Certainly, everybody can work harder to improve their meetings and step up efficiencies. You may not know where to start, you may think your practices are already “good enough,” or you may be somewhere in between. Regardless of where you fall, check out this infographic from Meetin.gs to for some pointers to help you in your next team meeting.

Improve you meetings infographic

How to Be Productive at Work? Master Your Sunday!

This post by Karin Eldor first appeared on the Monster Career Advice Blog

How to Be Productive at Work? Master Your Sunday! Sunday has two different identities: there’s #SundayFunday and then there are the Sunday Blues.

Well, I’m campaigning to create a new image for Sunday: #SuperSunday.

The timing is actually perfect. With Labour Day having come and gone, September has become the new month for turning over a new leaf and having another go at your New Year’s resolutions (author Gretchen Rubin has even coined September the “other January”). Maybe it’s the back-to-school vibe and back-to-work feeling — likely both — regardless, it’s nice to get a second chance to make those resolutions work.

And does this look like one of your resolutions? Be more productive.

It seems many of us are still learning how to be productive and take control of our days — and one of the ways to do this is by mastering your Sunday.

If you flip Sunday on its head and make it more about looking forward to the week ahead rather than dreading it, your entire perspective changes. (Pro tip: start to perceive Monday as an opportunity to make changes during the upcoming week rather than counting down the minutes to Friday).

It starts with feeling refreshed, rebooted and reorganized enough on Sunday, that you don’t head to work stressed and already overwhelmed by the massive to-do list you need to tackle.

Of course there are the obvious Sunday activities, like doing the laundry, getting groceries, and watching football or Netflix.

Below are the other important tasks to check off your list, which you should try to finish before Game of Thrones starts.

The Sunday success plan

1) Map out your week

Sit down with a calendar and task list, and map out all your deadlines, checkpoints, meetings, and appointments.

Take it even further and block off your gym time and/or sports activities for the upcoming week. This will help ensure that your fitness plans don’t fall by the wayside.

The other key thing about this practice is that once complete, you’ll be able to see where you have some breathing room and can schedule social activities. Conversely, this will help you visualize your challenging days that are chock-full of deadlines; as a result, you might need to plan ahead in order to complete your tasks on time.

I once heard someone say this and I am compelled to share: If something is not blocked off in your agenda by the time you get to the office Monday, it’s not happening that week. So as ruthless as this sounds, it’s important to be disciplined. Of course this doesn’t apply to projects your manager is assigning for that week, as it’s challenging to give that kind of pushback. But it does mean that if a friend texts you to go for coffee, it will have to be shifted to the following week if there is simply no wiggle room between events.

2) Reach out to contacts

Networking is one of those “always on” activities. Sending friendly “How are you?” emails to former colleagues, mentors or even a previous manager that you had a great rapport with is simply good practice — and there’s no better day to do it than Sunday.

You want to avoid only emailing contacts when you need them, so keep cultivating your relationships by touching base every now and then. (BTW: no need to email them every week…)

3) Read up about your industry

Sunday morning is a great time to sit with a hot drink while tackling your favourite magazines and/or papers. Or even all the articles you bookmarked throughout the week and finally have time to get to!

This helps you keep abreast of industry movers and shakers, and any disruptive news you need to know.

4) Work on your hobby

Make time on Sunday to dedicate to a passion project. Studies show that hobbies are important in order to be successful as they help you relax and unwind, which leads to greater creativity.

A recent article published in Quartz magazine, fittingly titled “If you want to be a better person, find something to do outside of work,” makes a strong case for having a hobby: “Hobbies are of central importance to our psychological well-being.”

The article quotes a recent study by Kevin Eschleman at San Francisco State University, which found that workers recovered more quickly from the day-to-day stress of their working lives if allowed to indulge in hobbies in their free time. The Quartzarticle also mentions that Google has a 20% rule, which allows employees to spend 20% of their work time pursuing projects of their own choosing — a perk that leads to more fulfilled and productive employees.

So whether your thing is painting, gardening or playing sports, allow yourself time to dedicate to the personal activities that energize you.

5) Work out your body and/or mind

Speaking of hobbies, perhaps yours is weightlifting, yoga or meditation. Dedicate some time to your deadlifts or downward dog — it will help revitalize you and will make you feel less guilty about all the food you indulged on all weekend.

6) Make time for a digital detox

Whether you go device-free for 10 minutes in the morning or during your mindfulness / fitness session, it’s important to let go of your digital reliance at some point throughout your Sunday. So make a habit of either not checking into your social media feeds for a determined amount of time, not checking your email all day (Meep, is this even possible?!?) or best yet, being away from your phone completely for a couple of hours, at least.

In France this is known as “the right to disconnect” — and you can also exercise this right when it comes to evenings and weekends!

7) Plan your meals

OK so the idea of cooking for the entire week might be totally overwhelming — I get it. At least prep your menu so that you can get the ingredients in one shot when you do go grocery shopping. Planning your lunches in advance is efficient, healthy and a cost savings.

8) Write your Monday to-do list

In the same vein as mapping out your week, take a few minutes to write your Monday to-do-list, so that you’re ready to tackle the new day and week the second you arrive to the office.

It’s also a great way to do a “worry list” — i.e. a brain dump of all the minutiae on your mind, which might be keeping you up at night.

Sunday strong

Many of these habits are important for every day of the week, but especially on Sundays. It also goes without saying that getting enough sleep is key in having a successful, productive week — so make sure to decompress before going to bed by reading (not your email though!).

By flying through your daily to-do lists and feeling more productive, Mondays will feel less manic — and even enjoyable.

7 Productivity Hacks for Work From Home Newbies

This post by Kiera Abbamonte was originally posted on the Freshbooks Blog on May 2, 2016.

7 Productivity Hacks for Work from Home NewbiesHaving the flexibility to work from home is a blessing. You get to tailor your workday to what works for you — so that means you’ll be super productive, right? Well, this isn’t always the case. Working from home (WFH) has its own way of messing with your schedule and making it difficult to get real work done.

When you work in an office all the time, a snowstorm or other excuse to WFH for a day is exciting; it’s a novelty, and you can indulge and allow yourself to be as productive as you want to be. You might have certain tasks that lend themselves to working from home, that you can focus on for that day.This can even create the impression that you’re more effective when you work from home.But when working from home becomes your new normal, you simply have to find a way to get all kinds of tasks done in that setting.

Now, there’s a lot of content out there about how to work from home effectively. And most of it all says the same thing — put on pants, have a designated workspace, communicate expectations with roommates and children, etc. Those tips probably work for some people, but they weren’t enough for me when I made the transition. Here are the few hacks that helped turn my apartment into my temple of productivity.

  1. Know Your Personal Rhythm

A lot of literature will tell you that getting up super early is the key to being productive. Today’s “most successful executives” supposedly wake up at 4am,work out and get 5 hours of work under their belt by 7am. I tried this for about 2 days before giving up. Getting up at 6am left me groggy and ready for a nice, long siesta by lunchtime — not exactly a recipe for doing good work.

The truth is that everyone has their own natural rhythm. Find out when you’re most productive and schedule your day around that time. If that means hopping out of bed at 4am, do that. If it means snoozing until 10 and working a little later in the day, go with that.

  1. Use Tools That Work for You

The best part of working from home in 2016 is there are so many tools to help you ace time management and productivity. You can find tools to help you schedule your day, write to-do lists, communicate with coworkers, and create the ideal environment for productivity, among other things. The trick is to find the optimal mix of tools that work for you.

Think about what areas you struggle with — is it prioritizing? Keeping track of long projects? Focusing? Once you know what you need help with, you can start experimenting with solutions. Find a recipe of tools that helps you be your most productive self. For example, I use Trello to manage projects, TextEdit to build my to-do list, and Rainy Mood to help me focus.

  1. Don’t Underestimate the Benefit of Distractions

When you’re in the office, distractions are all around you — the fully stocked kitchen, your coworker dancing at his desk, watercooler gossip, you name it. Working from a quiet room in your house can seem like a dream for productivity. But the truth is, those little office distractions can actually give your brain the quick breaks you need to dive back into work.

Sometimes a good distraction-filled environment is exactly what you need to get work done. It’s important to be able to recognize when your at-home environment just isn’t working today. When those days happen, simply relocating to a Starbucks or coworking space can make a huge difference. Remember, you have the flexibility to make a decision about what works for you every day: Don’t replace the office by shackling yourself to a home office that isn’t stimulating enough!

  1. Use Flexibility to Your Advantage

When I first started working from home, I was worried about keeping work and life separate. It was easy to do when I left the office at 5pm and didn’t have access to my work materials until the next morning. I was hyper-vigilant about when I stopped working for the day, but that sometimes meant interrupting the flow of my work. The reality is, some days it makes sense to work 10 hours instead of 8 — other days, 6 hours will do the trick.

Working from home gives you the flexibility to decide when it’s time to work and when it’s not. Some people will thrive on a super regimented schedule. But for me, allowing myself to work a little longer some days — without worrying about work-life balance going up in smoke — has helped keep productivity running.

  1. Be Deliberate About Taking Breaks

This is connected with the point about distractions being hidden blessings. Our brains can only focus on one thing for so long. In an office, all the distractions create inadvertent little breaks. When you don’t have those, it’s important to be very deliberate about taking time for your brain to relax during the day.

For me, that time is my lunch break. I make sure to take a real, genuine break (as in walk away from the computer) from 1-2pm. It’s easy to find yourself thinking about work even when you aren’t at the desk, so I try to be active during the break — reading or running errands — so my mind is always on other things.

  1. Don’t Stress Over an Off Day

Off days happen. You had them when you worked in the office, and you’ll have them working from home, too. While we work toward being super productive all the time, it’s natural to experience a lull in productivity every now and then. The danger is when you stress over it and let yesterday’s (un)productivity impact today.

The key to overcoming an off day is just to let it go. It’s cheesy but tomorrow really is a new day — and if you shake off yesterday, you can more than make up for any lost productivity.

  1. Fall in Love With Working From Home

Being able to work from home has its positives and its challenges. Getting it right doesn’t always happen immediately — but knowing yourself and your habits will take you a long way when it comes to settling into home work. You’re sure to fall in love with the flexibility and benefits of working from home once you do.

About the Author: Kiera Abbamonte is the Content Marketing Specialist for Citrix Grasshopper. She loves a good New England fall and finding new ways to make content awesome. Catch up with her on Twitter @kieraabbamonte.

You’re Not As Busy As You Think You Are (Video)

Sometimes, when a co-worker or good friend tells you that they’d love to help but they’re just “way too busy,” it leaves you wondering what they could possibly be doing, because you know their schedule and there’s very little on it. Maybe there is something in their calendar that you don’t know about, maybe they’re disorganized with poor time management skills, or maybe there are other factors involved that are changing their perception “busy.”

This video from DNews shares some interesting research that explains what it is that makes people feel like they’re busier than they really are. It also gives some tips on how you can put it back into perspective, which will ultimately decrease your stress. Have a watch and see how much time you find in your day again.