Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Time Management

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

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.

9 Simple Tricks to Beat Procrastination Today

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

“Don’t put off for tomorrow… what you can put off for the day after that!”

Ahh, the mantra of a procrastinator.

I recently came across a brilliant TED Talk about procrastination, why it happens, and what exactly is going through the mind of a procrastinator.  It is both humorous and insightful.  I’ve shared this video with my family and my daughter is sharing with her class in high-school.  It is impactful because the presenter speaks truth.

Some people are serial procrastinators but everyone has times when stuff– sometimes important stuff — gets put off to the detriment of their work, their home projects, or their relationships.  So, in addition to the TED Talk link above, I thought I would share some of my own advice on how to manage important things that just can’t be deferred.

  1. If it is important but distasteful, just do it now. Drop everything else and complete the task.  End of story.  It will be done and over with and you can get on to something else that you care more about.
  2. Put a time limit on it. Look at the task (or break the project down into a series of tasks) and determine what a realistic time frame should be for completing the task (each task).  Say, you have all afternoon to complete a task, but realistically you should be able to complete it in an hour and a half.  Without the time limit, many people will kill the whole afternoon working away at it.  Although this isn’t exactly procrastination in the sense of putting something off, it does waste a LOT of time that you could use more productively… perhaps working on the project that you have been putting off.  Additionally, a time constraint can be a motivator of sorts so another aspect of this is if you have a month to get something completed and the task won’t take more than a week, set the time limit to be one week and commit to this.  That way you won’t find yourself “cramming” to get the work done in the last week of the month. This is especially good if there is a chance that there may be an overage of time needed if something goes sideways or if other new and urgent work should happen to present itself during the last week of the month. Starting early allows you to more easily manage the unexpected.
  3. Tell someone about your time limit verbally or through email. Be specific.  Two things are working for you here: one is that you now have someone else who has expectations of you that you won’t want to disappoint; the other is that you’ve committed to a specific timeframe that may also act as a motivator for you.  By drawing a line in the sand in a very visible/obvious way, the onus to actually complete it goes way up.
  4. Rotten jobs don’t get better with age… see point #1.
  5. To-Do Lists. Without to-do lists, busy people may procrastinate without even knowing it.  Things, sometimes important things, will slip between the cracks and never get done.
  6. Prioritize. When you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and the sheer volume of tasks that you’ve undertaken is keeping you from starting anything, it is time to “ruthlessly prioritize”, tossing those tasks that aren’t critical and be done with them.  This way you clearly know what you need to work on first, second, third… and you are clear to commit more confidently to your list of projects/tasks.
  7. Understand that what you produce may be an input for someone else. Business/work needs to get done and, in today’s world, it is often that you are working as part of a team.  Identify which of your tasks have a deliverable that someone else needs to start or complete their own piece of the project and give this a higher priority.  It is one thing to hold up your own success in work or in life, it is quite another to hold up someone else’s.  This can be a great motivator in itself.
  8. Start. Often what keeps one from completing a task is the inability to envision the complete solution so you never even begin; you just keep putting it off for later when you have more information.  Just starting the work, even if you don’t know where it will all go, is often enough to generate the ideas and insights that you need to complete the project.  Or it will, at least, help to more clearly define the gaps that you need to research so that it can be completed.  Once begun, people find that the task isn’t nearly as daunting or complex as they’d expected it to be.  So start and you will greatly increase your chances of completing.
  9. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it. [quote: W. C. Fields] Love this quote.  A certain practicality needs to be taken when reviewing something that you just don’t want to do.  There will be items that can’t be avoided, that you know really shouldn’t be avoided, or that you just won’t allow yourself to avoid — these things need to get done (use one of the 8 points above to motivate you).  But there will be tasks that just don’t matter as much to you or that you really are poor at doing.  Sometimes you just need to “cut bait” on something you’ve started and let it go.  Either delegate it or drop it all together. In the end, you may be happier for this.

I hope that an idea or two presented here might help you out of your own “dark playground” when your “panic monster” comes calling!  [References to the video, you really do need to watch this! Maybe later??]

Bonus 10th Point:   Ask yourself if what you are doing right now, this very minute, is driving you to accomplish one of the tasks that will move you closer towards completion of your key business or personal objectives.  There are a lot of distractions out there that will feed your procrastination.  If your answer is “no”, then stop what you’re doing and re-focus yourself on one of your outstanding high-value tasks/projects. [Why I mentioned this idea last:  If you answered this question honestly, right now, you’d probably stop reading this article and get back to work! 😉 ]

The High Cost of Multitasking: 40% of Productivity Lost by Task Switching

This article originally appeared on the Wrike Outcollaborate Blog on September 24, 2015. It was written by Andrea Fryrear, content marketing for MarketerGizmo.

The High Cost of MultitaskingThe temptation to multitask is ever present in a modern office, whether that office is at a kitchen table or in a massive collection of cubicles. From email and chat notifications to the siren song of social media, there’s always somewhere else our mind could wander.

The problem is that when we jump from task to task, we aren’t really getting more done. We’re forcing our brains to constantly switch gears, working harder to do things at a lower level of quality, and exhausting our mental reserves.

We multitask in a lot of ways, but regardless of the form, the costs are high. It’s unrealistic for most of us to eradicate the multitasking monster altogether, but with a better understanding of how it impacts our productivity (and which personality types are most vulnerable) we can mitigate the negative effects.

3 Types of Multitasking

Texting and driving is a multitasking situation that gets a lot of media attention, but this kind of double-duty attention split is just one way that we try to force our brains in multiple directions at once.

According to the American Psychological Association’s overview of multitasking research, there are threetypes of multitasking(1):

  1. Performing two tasks simultaneously.This includes talking on the phone while driving or answering email during a webinar.
  2. Switching from one task to another without completing the first task.We’ve all been right in the middle of focused work when an urgent task demands our attention; this is one of the most frustrating kinds of multitasking, and often the hardest to avoid.
  3. Performing two or more tasks in rapid succession.It almost doesn’t seem like multitasking at all, but our minds need time to change gears in order to work efficiently.

To be clear, none of these is necessarily worse than the others; all three reduce our effectiveness and result in mental fatigue. Be on guard for all three types of multitasking so you can regain control of your focus.

The Myth of Multitasking Ability

It’s estimated that only 2% of the population is actually proficient at multitasking, and ironically, these people are the least likely to actually multitask. The problem is that we all think we’re part of that 2%, and use our perceived ability as justification to juggle too many tasks. In fact, recent research indicates that people who multitask the most often are likely the worst at it.(2)

David Sanbonmatsu, David Strayer, Nathan Medeiros-Ward and Jason Watson of the University of Utah’s Department of Psychology dive deep into this problem in their study on multitasking:

“Perceptions of the ability to multi-task were found to be badly inflated; in fact, the majority of participants judged themselves to be above average in the ability to multi-task. These estimations had little grounding in reality as perceived multi-tasking ability was not significantly correlated with actual multi-tasking ability.”

Don’t assume that you’re part of the 2% can multitask, and focus on excelling at one task at a time.

Why Bother Single-Tasking?

Jumping from task to task doesn’t seem like it takes very long when we’re in the moment, but these tiny time-wasters add up quickly.

According to the American Psychological Association:

“[A]lthough switch costs may be relatively small, sometimes just a few tenths of a second per switch, they can add up to large amounts when people switch repeatedly back and forth between tasks. Thus, multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error. Meyer has said that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.

Wouldn’t you like to get back 40 percent of your productive time? That’s 16 hours every week that we might be able to recover by eliminating multitasking. That kind of valuable time is surely worth muting your phone for!

The 4 Most Common Multitasking Personalities

To be fair, some of us have a harder time avoiding the multitasking menace than others. The University of Utah study referenced earlier identifies four types of people with a greater tendency to multitask:

  1. You’re approach-oriented or reward-focused.You consider the possible benefits to multitasking and are attracted to the higher potential rewards it represents.
  2. You’re a high-sensation seeker.You need constant stimulation, and enjoy the novelty of switching to new tasks.
  3. You’re convinced you’re part of the 2%.Those who think they’re good at multitasking are more likely to engage in the behavior more often than those who think they’re just average at it. But, as we saw, our perceptions of our own abilities are usually inaccurate.
  4. You have trouble focusing.If you’re prone to distraction or have trouble blocking out external stimuli, multitasking may be harder for you to shake.

If you fall into one of these categories, don’t despair. You can always improve your multitasking behavior — and even getting back 20% of the time you’re currently losing is a pretty big win.

Getting Started With Multitasking Management

The first thing to remember is that you won’t be able to eradicate multitasking completely — at least not right away. Your best bet is to try to confine it to certain parts of your day.

To start, create a space where multitasking is very difficult. These two strategies work in tandem to help you recover more productive hours from your day:

  1. Identify and Segment Complex Tasks

Figure out which of your regular tasks are most complicated, and create a distraction-free time and space for them. This goes for working on new things too.

According to the APA, the more complex or unfamiliar the tasks, the more time you’ll lose switching between them. Save yourself a whole lot of time (and brainpower) by getting into a laser-like mindset during your most complicated tasks and tackling one at a time.

  1. Manage Multitasking With Familiar Tasks

Which times and places does multitasking rears its ugly head for you most often? When you’re in those situations, focus on repetitive or familiar tasks. This helps minimize switching costs, while also letting you indulge a little in your natural multitasking tendencies.

Creating a space where multitasking is allowed is particularly important if you fall into one of the four personality types above. You’ll have the hardest time weeding out multitasking during times of focused effort, so allowing it at other times can help make that process easier.

How Much Time Will You Recover?

Identify the situations where multitasking costs you the most:

  • Are you focused on the potential accolades for “getting so much done”?
  • Does every ding from your computer draw your instant attention?
  • Are you worried about missing a breaking story on Twitter?

Whatever your trigger, identifying it will help you shut it down during your most complex tasks, so you can focus and get more done. Understanding the multitasking monster more fully means you can take steps to minimize its negative impact on your productivity.

How much time could you get back?

Sources:
1. American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx Sanbonmatsu DM, Strayer DL, Medeiros-Ward N, Watson JM (2013) Who Multi-Tasks and Why? Multi-Tasking Ability, Perceived Multi-Tasking Ability, Impulsivity, and Sensation Seeking. PLoS ONE 8(1): e54402
2. Rubinstein, Joshua; Meyer, David, E.; and Evans, Jeffrey E. Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 2001, Vol. 27, No. 4, 763-797.

About the author:
Andrea Fryrear is a content marketer for MarketerGizmo, where she dissects marketing buzzwords and fads, hoping to find the pearls of wisdom at their core. Her pet topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for businesses. She’s happy to connect on 
LinkedIn.

The Time Management Strategy for Your Personality

Managing your time is a critical key to success in every profession. With all of those articles out there providing “golden rules,” surely you must be a master of it by now, right? Perhaps if you work identically to the authors providing that advice, you would be, but the truth is everybody is different. Depending on your personality type, time management look different for you than it does for others.

This infographic from the University of Pheonix understands that unique time management tactics are needed for different personality types. It starts with five examples of personalities — Social Butterfly, Driver, Professor, Creative and Philosopher — and provides expert advice for each.

Where do you fit in? Perhaps you’re a hybrid of a multiple types? Share your results below.

Infographic - The Right Time Management Strategy for Your Personality