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Tag Archives: productivity

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to productivity.

Work Smart, Not (too) Hard in your Job Search

Work Smart, Not (too) Hard in your Job SearchContract or permanent positions — job searching is not easy. You must work hard if you want any chance of getting that phone call for an interview and, depending on your skill, job market and industry, it’s going to take time. But that doesn’t mean you should give into long hours and no social life just because you need to find your next gig.

Working hard is great if you’re doing the right things. Otherwise, 90% of that “hard work” will be wasted time, while only 10% of those hours are what get you a phone call from a recruiter. Create a successful, smart job search by bringing that percentage of quality time as close to 100% as possible. Here are four ways you can work smarter, and not harder, next time you’re looking for an IT job.

1. Manage Your Time

There’s a common illusion that putting in more time automatically means you will get more results. That is false. Whether you put in 5 minutes of 5 hours, time is irrelevant if you achieve the desired outcome. To best manage your time, embrace common time management practices and batch common tasks together. Check email during scheduled time blocks, answer the phone during certain periods and schedule specific time for breaks (yes, breaks are important!)

Avoid getting caught in common time-sucks due to misconceptions. Recruiters stress that a quality resume will set you apart from the competition, but, just like many software projects, searching for “perfection” is not always beneficial. Know when it is “good enough” to submit and move onto the next job application. Another misconception is that multi-tasking will save you time. Studies prove time and again that multi-tasking lowers productivity and leads to shabby work all-around. Still, so many of us fall into the trap, thinking we’re being more productive because we feel busy juggling multiple projects at the same time.

2. Take Advantage of Technology and Tools

There are so many technologies, tools and apps available (often at no charge) that will help you save time, maximize productivity, and work through the job search process. Start with your existing ones and learn how to maximize their shortcuts and settings. Templates, styles and macros throughout Microsoft Office can make resume-writing a breeze. The settings, automations and filters in Gmail (or any email client) will help you manage applications and recruiter responses as though you have a personal assistant.

After you’ve exhausted those options, evaluate other productivity tools. (Be careful, because here’s where you can fall down a rabbit hole.) Most major job boards allow you to set-up job alerts and some have apps that will send you push notifications. Make sure you review the leading tools to manage your calendars and reminders, store your resumes, keep your notes, and secure your passwords.

The more you can automate your life, the better – most of the time. Over-relying on technology, however, can also have disastrous effects. Working smarter can mean knowing when to eliminate the fancy stuff and sticking with tried, tested and true techniques, like picking up the phone and calling somebody.

3. Set Goals and Measure Results

The easiest way to let your job search (or any project) go off-track and waste your time is to have no defined direction. Ensure you know exactly what you want to accomplish — What kind of job do you want? Where and in what kind of industry? Which staffing agencies do you want to work with most? Then start each day by setting SMART goals. Review x jobs descriptions and apply to y of the postings. Call these recruiters, reach out those past colleagues on LinkedIn and follow-up on last week’s applications.

With proper goals and objectives, it’s easier to measure your success and track how you’re doing. Keep statistics and track data points to know what’s working and what’s not. Do certain job boards and staffing agencies bring better opportunities or rates? Is there a resume or email format that performs better than others? In the end, you’ll know where to focus your time and where time is being wasted.

4. Embrace Change (and know when not to change)

Change is inevitable and companies around the world are embracing it. If you want to succeed at your job search, you need to embrace change as well. A classic example of job seekers falling behind due to resistance to change is when the internet took recruiting by storm. Companies and recruitment agencies wanted to move to electronic formats, yet some job seekers were determined that the paper resume were still the way to go. The result? Recruiters ignored paper resumes because they were not in their electronic database and not searchable.

It’s smart to always adapt to changing environments and look for better ways to do those tasks you currently run through on autopilot. But, don’t change just for the sake of changing and never unnecessarily reinvent the wheel. Create templates of resumes, emails and interview questions that worked, or revisit and tweak those that did not. Trying a brand-new approach, simply for the sake of being different, is going to waste your time and is not smart.

Working smart is a must for anybody looking to get ahead in today’s busy world where time is a hot commodity. If you don’t believe us, then take it from Scrooge McDuck, the world’s richest duck. He relayed the message to his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie in his famous quote “I made [my fortune] by being smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies.

 

“Having a Great Week Does Not Start on Monday… It Starts Sunday Night!”

Sunday night. A night full of great weekend memories (or regret) and next week blues. Everyone’s heart drops at the reminder that in 12 hours they will be in their car, on the bus or on the train commuting to their office. Even if you are going to your dream job, it’s human nature to feel a bit reluctant to be a slave to the office hours.

Things might be stacked against you but if you are able to channel your productivity, there are 5 simple things you can — and should do — every Sunday night to make sure that you start your week on the right foot. Just watch this video from The Art of Improvement.

5 Different Strategies to Be More Productive

Last week we shared an infographic outlining 12 bad habits you should break if you want to be more productive. Productivity is a massive asset for an independent contractor. The faster you deliver quality work to clients, the more likely they are to want to hire you again or, at the minimum, give you a glowing reference. As an added bonus when you’re productive, you have more time for yourself to either make more money or accomplish other personal goals!

Everybody is unique and different approaches to productivity work better for different people. This infographic created by NFIB summarizes five options:

  1. Eat That Frog
  2. The Seinfeld Approach
  3. Getting Things Done
  4. The Pomodoro Technique
  5. The Action Method

Do any of these work for you?

5 Different Strategies to Be More Productive

Break These Bad Habits if You Want to be More Productive

We are often told that we are our own worst enemies. Often we get in the way of our goals without even noticing. We continue to perpetuate these bad habits into our lives until they are harder to spot out.

As independent contractors it is important to address possible bad habits that may be holding back your productivity and frustrating your clients. Check out these 12 bad habits you should break, compiled in this infographic from Business Insider! If you address even some of these habits that you could benefit with more personal time, happy clients (better references), better time management skills and have the potential for a heavier coin purse. If you can’t identify the bad habits in your life, send this to a friend!

Break These Bad Habits if You Want to be More Productive

9 Steps to Better Business Meetings

Meetings. Never really touched upon in our educations but quickly become a driving force in our lives once we reach the work force. Independent contractors host a number of types of meetings for clients but if you lack the proper guidance and instruction, no attendee will get the most out of the interaction.

If you want to improve your meetings, check out the infographic below with 9 tips to a better business meeting from Teamweek and see how it can apply to your business whether it’s meeting with colleagues or your next big interview. If you like what you see, check out the original post for more in-depth details.

Better Business Meetings
Infographic by Teamweek

Help Your Clients Run Better Meetings with This Infographic

How many of the meetings you recently attended were 100% productive and 0% waste of time? If you answered all of them, you’re either a dirty liar or the most fortunate IT contractor in the world.

Meetings are a necessary evil when working on technology projects. Afterall, teams must get together to collaborate, exchange ideas and update on progress. Surely you can make those meetings more productive, though. According to this infographic created by CBTS, ineffective meetings cost the U.S. economy up to $283 billion each year, with ineffective communication being one of the major culprits. The infographic goes on to describe technologies that hurt communication in meetings and suggests tech that will help make the most of your meetings.

If you’re looking to bring suggestions to your client so they can be more respectful of everyone’s time and increase efficiency, this infographic is a great start.

Learn to master meetings with the right technology

15 Shortcuts that Will Change the Way You Work

Operating systems regularly blow our minds with their bugs and inefficiencies. Windows and yes, OS X too, have subtle annoyances built into them that make advanced users shake their head. Wouldn’t it be nice if for once you could have your mind-blown in a good way? This Brightside video is sure to do just that.

All operating systems have hotkeys and shortcuts built into them and we rarely use them all to their fullest potential. This video shows us examples of how you can be more efficient while working on either your PC or your Mac. Check it out. You will learn something.

10 Productive Things to Do When You’re Not Making Money

10 Productive Things to Do When You're Not Making MoneyThe concept of income is pretty simple for the independent contractor — if you don’t work, you don’t make money. But that simple notion is perhaps also one of the most stressful elements of IT contracting. When one job ends and you still haven’t found that next gig, you find yourself at home knowing that you made $0 today along with the uncertainty of when the next cheque will come in.

The fact is, there is nothing you can do to change the current situation but there are many tasks you can do that will ensure you’re set up well to find your next technology-related job quickly and reduce stress in the future. Here are 10 things you can do that are better than stressing over no income:

  1. Update Your Resume (or make multiple versions of the same one). Very frequently in the IT contracting world, a job is filled within hours of it being posted to a job board. You need to be ready with your resume as soon as you learn about it. Create an extremely detailed resume of everything you’ve done or multiple resumes with different themes. This will make it easier to quickly customize a resume the second an interesting job posting becomes available.
  2. Review Your Social Media. Now that your resume is up-to-date, take a look at your social networks, specifically LinkedIn. Recruiters often check here first when searching or they cross-reference it with your resume to look for red flags. Having all of the details from your resume on LinkedIn will help significantly.
  3. Search and Apply for Jobs. Don’t expect your favourite recruiters to call you just because you’re available. Continue searching for jobs on all of the major job boards and apply to all of the ones for which you’re qualified. The more staffing agencies with your resume, the more chances you have of getting a phone call down the road.
  4. Review Your References. Have you been giving the same list of references for a few years now? It may be time to review. Check to ensure all contact information is up-to-date and look at some recent contracts to see if there are better references you can use.
  5. Go to Interviews. If you have done a good job at updating your LinkedIn profile and resume, as well as applying to plenty of jobs, then you’re hopefully also receiving phone calls from different recruiters. Take the interviews even if they do not have an opportunity at the moment. Meeting them now means, with your consent, they can quickly submit you to a client when a job opens up.
  6. Organize Your Accounting. Your accountant might take care of your accounting but it’s still up to you to have the information together. The more organized you can be with credit card receipts, invoices, and reconciliations, the lower your bill will be from your accountant.
  7. Professional Development. Downtime is the perfect opportunity to improve your skills. You’re well connected in your field of IT and should already know exactly where you need to improve (be honest with yourself). Look for resources online or sign-up for a course. The investment will be worth it on your next contract.
  8. Join a Networking Group. Being around like-minded professionals can be a better way to build skills than formal training. We guarantee there are plenty of networking groups available that meet your needs (either locally or online), you just need to find them. Get involved and meet people!
  9. One-person businesses need marketing too. Have you updated (or even created) your website recently? Do you have business cards to hand out? Not only do these tasks make you more professional and memorable to recruiters and clients, but they are another step you can take to protect yourself when the CRA is reviewing your independence.
  10. Take a Vacation. Take advantage of the fact you’re suddenly without work. Unplugging and destressing is extremely important to your mental health and makes you more productive when you do start working again. If it’s been a while since your last holiday, you caught up with friends, you’ve done work around the house, or you’ve just done nothing, then don’t feel guilty about taking time for you.

The least productive thing you can do when you have no work is sit around and worry about money. In fact, any experienced independent contractor will tell you it’s the nature of the beast and you should plan for it. When you are working, ensure a portion of your income is being allocated for these “rainy periods.” Then you can work on any of the above tasks with no stress and full commitment.

Choosing the Right White Noise to Improve Your Productivity

Choosing the Right White Noise to Improve Your ProductivityMaintaining a productive atmosphere, no matter where you are, is difficult over extended periods of time. To fight these ongoing distractions, many companies, including Apple and Spotify, have created “white noise” apps and playlists to help their listeners/buyers create the ideal, portable, distraction-free bubble. The small problem is that Apple and Spotify are not the only companies on the white-noise bandwagon; so then, how do you pick the right playlists/apps to use? Here are a few things to consider:

The type of sounds you are downloading/looking at:

Many of the apps and playlists do not create actual white noise, which is defined as “noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities” to create a noise-cancelling barrier. Most popular apps and playlists create perpetual background noises such as waves, rain, birds, or even coffee shop noises (distant chatter and the tinkle of utensils/coffee cups).

The quality of the playlist/app you purchase:

Because the creation of “white noise”, or background noise, apps have become so popular in recent months, there are quite a few options to go with, including apps such as Noisli where you can pick, choose, and customize noise “playlists” that will play on repeat for extended periods of time. Experts say that ways to tell if the app is worth the install (or purchase), is the size of the app’s installation, as this will give an indication on the size of the sound file (essentially the bigger the file, the better, as all the megahertz’s will have been fully recorded and replicated).

The type of environment where you are most productive:

We can all think of a specific place/time where we are the most productive. The joy of having so many white-noise application/playlists is that most of these environments will have been replicated; you just have to search for it. For instance, Coffitivity offers three types of sounds: morning coffee shop, lunchtime, and university library. Users can pick what song they want and the never-ending background noises will play until the user presses “stop”. The sounds are authentic and the murmuring is quiet enough that it does drown out subtle/small noises in your immediate vicinity (i.e. people walking by your cubicle/desk/office). If you are a person who truly works better in pure silence, however, getting an actual white-noise app (there are no playlists for this type of sound), rather than a background noise app, should achieve that type of environment.

To download an app or playlist, that is the question:

Now that you’ve figured out what type of environment is the best for you, you’re able to start whittling down the what, where, and how of your noise-cancellation bubble. If you’re the type of person who concentrates best with background music, a playlist may be your best option (Apple and Spotify both have fantastic generic playlists for musical genres such as “classical”, “jazz”, and even “videogame/soundtracks”). If listening to noises, such as ocean waves, rain, or birds are more appealing then apps are a perfect choice.

What do you like listening to most when working? Do you have any preferred white noise playlists or apps? We’d love to hear from you. Please share your suggestions below.

These 12 Scents Will Make You a Better IT Contractor

Are you an aroma therapy enthusiast, or just curious about it in general? Do you want to improve your problem solving skills, performance, attention and energy? Then this infographic from FrangranceX is exactly what you need to get through the work day.

You’ll need to be aware of scent-free office policies, but did you know that rosemary, vetiver or coffee can improve your problem solving or lemon, jasmine and citrus helps improve your overall performance? There’s more and all of the information can be seen below.

Do you have any preferred scents that help you? Will you try any of these? Let us know in the comments below.

These 12 Scents Will Make You a Better IT Contractor