Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: productivity

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

Add More Productivity to Your Second Half of Summer

Now that we’re more than half way through the summer, we have a tendency to slow down and it might be time to think about some ways to improve your productivity. Making some small simple changes to your everyday tasks can make a big difference in your efficiency. It can be as easy as getting some extra hours of sleep, or even having a change in attitude.

This infographic from Social Caffeine, gives us some tips and tricks to keep us productive in both the office, as well as, our personal lives. Keep up with your daily tasks by keeping your days organized and productive!


Courtesy of: Social Caffeine

If You Can’t Sleep Enough, At Least Sleep Better

Sleep is a crucial component of our everyday lives as it has an impact on our health, cognitive, and physical functions. Not getting enough sleep can affect these functions leaving us much more prone to illness with slower cognitive processing and poor physical performance.

Now, do we all get enough sleep every night? Probably not, however, there are things we can do to increase the quality our sleep. This video from Med School Insiders gets into the science of sleep, and gives us some tips to get the most of our sleep to wake up feeling more energetic. Start feeling refreshed instead of drained after sleeping, and learn some interesting new ways to get energy boosts during your day.

Tips on Achieving Inbox Zero

This post by Karin Eldor was originally published on the Monster Career Advice Blog.

Tips on Achieving Inbox ZeroWhen was the last time you reached the elusive “0” in your inbox? No emails left to read or reply to. A fully clean slate. Or wait a minute: have you ever reached that goal? And should you even care? Besides, once you clear your inbox, it can take a few minutes for it to fill up again!

One thing we can all agree upon: our perception of productivity has become defined by how many emails we have replied to vs. how many are left in our inbox. But if the reason you have a lot of emails left is because you were busy actively creating strategies and having a thoughtful workday, then does the size of your inbox even matter?

Truth be told, there’s a feeling of accomplishment tied to clearing your inbox at the end of the day. And of course, there are tools to help achieve that.

Enter the “Inbox Zero” phenomenon.

The Buzz Behind Inbox Zero

The term and philosophy of Inbox Zero was originally coined by Merlin Mann, the founder and writer of 43 Folders, a blog about “finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.” Contrary to popular belief, the “Zero” doesn’t refer to obsessively keeping your inbox empty at all times. Instead, it refers to “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.”

Email is harming our ability to do smart work — although it keeps us very busy. It’s hindering our productivity and it places the control of how you spend your workday in someone else’s hands as you’re in a constant reactive state. Some people even get anxious while opening their email, anticipating the unread messages lying there.

Psychologist and author of The Best Place To Work, Ron Friedman says: “The reason it can feel overwhelming to find lots of emails in your work inbox is that each message represents another demand on your time and another decision you have to make. Even deciphering a generic announcement about the office coffee maker requires effort, which leaves less energy for work that matters.”

True that.

How to Achieve Inbox Zero

Schedule email times & be militant about it

Keep your email program closed for most of the day, except during the designated times you set aside for it. A popular system applied by businesspeople is checking and responding three times per day. And if it helps, tell people so in your signature or in a scheduled auto-response, if you can (this is a famous tip from productivity guru Tim Ferriss, author of: The 4-Hour Workweek). This is a great way to manage others’ expectations and an efficient way to ensure you are giving your current tasks or meetings your full attention.

Touch It Once!

Don’t get into the habit of opening your email between meetings, reading some messages and then letting them sit idle in your inbox. Read and reply if you can, or if an email does require more thought or strategic action, file it away in a properly labeled folder.

This can be better explained in the following system:

Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, or Do

According to Merlin Mann, follow the principle of Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, or Do, when processing mail.

Here’s how it goes:

  • If it isn’t important, delete it right away;
  • If it isn’t an item you need to handle yourself, delegate it.
  • If it’s a task you can complete in two minutes or less, do it (send a reply, file the message, make a phone call, etc.).
  • If you need to handle it, but reading the message and completing the task will take you longer than two minutes, defer it.

Create Clearly Labeled Subfolders

Use folders and labels to stay organized and help you prioritize when deferring. Here’s an easy system to use:

  • Needs action or reply
  • Awaiting reply
  • To read
  • Important info (includes all those emails that have important info to reference but don’t require a follow-up task from you)

Get unlisted

Unsubscribe from marketing emails that don’t bring you joy or add value.

Use plugins

If you’re using Gmail, then plug-ins like Streak or Boomerang can help you manage your inbox and schedule emails (they have free versions for basic needs!). Streak helps you set up templated replies that you can use for contacts in specific groups and sets certain emails to resurface at a later date as reminders, so you don’t need to worry about them. Boomerang helps you schedule emails, so if you’re replying to a batch of emails, you can schedule certain replies to go at different times (i.e. in the morning of the next day vs. at 5pm that same day, when you’re actually writing the reply).

Don’t answer every email

This can be hugely liberating. If something is simply not a priority at the moment, archive it and move on. Don’t waste your brainpower. However, use your gut; you know who and what is priority, so assess accordingly!

Become An Email Master

In your quest to clean up your inbox and avoid the constant “Sorry for the delayed reply!” message, use the tips that make most sense to you. Hopefully they will help clear the clutter and help you take control of all incoming email, rather than letting those messages take control of you!

At Least 1 of These Websites Will Improve Your Life

Today, there are over a billion websites that exist on the Internet. With thousands of websites being launched every day, it can be hard to filter out poor websites to get the practical and handy ones.

In this video, TechGumbo shows us 10 useful websites that can be helpful in our everyday lives. Who knows? You might have wished you had known about these earlier! From quick and easy photo editing sites to free coding courses, one of these websites might just catch your interest. Tell us about your favourite websites in the comments below!

Make Every Weekend a 3-Day Weekend!

In our society, working overtime is not an uncommon practice. According to recent research, picking up all those extra hours might be negatively impacting our health and putting us at risk of various physical and mental health issues. InvestmentZen believes that instead of making employees work an entire 5-day week, we should be giving them an additional day off. Latest scientific studies support the idea that we can resolve this ever-growing problem with 3-day weekends which have proven to be beneficial to not only employees, but companies as well.

There is already a multitude of companies giving an extra day off to their employees in Japan, America, United Kingdom, and Sweden. If companies are doing it for their employees, why aren’t you doing it for yourself. As an independent contractor, you’re your own boss, so it’s just a matter of negotiating it into your next contract. In addition to increased productivity as these studies show, working different hours from your client’s employees will also help separate you as a contractor in the eyes of the CRA.

Why Every Weekend Should Be A 3 Day Weekend

Via: InvestmentZen.com

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

10 Cool Command Prompt Tricks You Should Know

How much do you use Command Prompt in Windows 10? If you’re an in-depth Windows user, you’ve most likely used CMD many times throughout your career, but you may not using it as efficiently as you could be.

This video from Beebom provides ten cool command tips for topics such as shortcuts, encryption, customization, Wi-Fi hot spots, and even a way to watch Star Wars! At least something in here will be new for you. If not, and you have even more tips, please share them in the comments below.

Take a Break, Gain a New Perspective!

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

Take a Break, Gain a New Perspective!When determining whether or not to go the consulting route (vs. finding a job as an employee), there is an old adage often used: Which fallacy do you prefer? The one that suggests employees have more job security or the one that suggests that consultants have more flexibility in choosing their own work hours?

Of course, there is some truth to both but anyone who has been a part of the IT industry for any length of time also knows that neither is always the case! As my blog entry today is aimed at contractors or aspiring contractors, I thought I would share a few thoughts on the topic of using some of your “flexibility” by building in some down time for yourself.

This, it turns out, is really quite hard to do. It takes planning and conviction; and potentially some negotiating as well. A common prairie saying is “Make hay while the sun shines“, meaning that while you’ve got the work, you should be doing it. Especially for those working here in Calgary, given the down-turn in the economy, it is really hard to set some time aside for yourself knowing that many others don’t have the work opportunity that you are enjoying. Additionally, as a contractor, if you’re not working you’re not billing, and that can be a powerful detractor as well.

That said, many contractors have been “running hot” for a long time. Burn-out is becoming more common place, as are mental health issues which can range from being slightly irritable to limitless issues that can be caused by working too hard for too long in a too stressful a situation. There are rare individuals who are truly (and healthily) motivated and invigorated by this lifestyle, but most people would benefit from some respite. Most companies demand that their employees use the vacation time given to them each year and, as an incorporated contractor, you are running your own business. Part of your responsibility as a business owner is to look after the health of your employee(s)… which in most cases is just you.

How would your client/agency like you to plan time off? The key is to begin discussing this early. It gives them a chance to work it into their schedules. Also, being as flexible as possible shows that you are intent on your project’s/work’s success and will make it easier to accommodate your absence. Finally, look at the milestones set for your project and speak with your management contact to decide where your absence might have the least negative impact. There will be times/projects/clients where they simply cannot accommodate an absence request for a certain period of time, but those are more rare and most people are quite reasonable… especially if they recognize that there is likely to be a productivity and/or quality boost to your work when you return fully recharged!

One of the aspects of taking a break from work that has made the biggest difference to me is that it helps to regain a sense of perspective. When you’ve been head down/tail up working for many weeks/months straight, one tends to lose a broader perspective or, rather, your perspective becomes fixed and rooted in the day-to-day problems and issues. Creativity suffers and you can quickly find yourself in a “rut”. Some ruts are straight-up bad while others can become “comfortable” and these are the ones that can last a long, long time. The daily grind becomes routine, you aren’t as bothered by your failures, and you can become numb and ambivalent to both your work and your life outside of work. A good break changes things up, it allows you to see the bigger picture and your role in it, and it both refreshes and regenerates. That way, when you return to your work, you do so with renewed enthusiasm and energy.

If this last paragraph at all rings true for you, you may be overdue for a vacation. Instead of trying to decide whether you can afford to take a break, consider whether you can afford not to. There are plenty of benefits to taking a vacation, and this article perfectly summarizes 7 of them.

Summer is coming soon! What are your plans??!

Stay Focused and Impress Your Clients

Clients, phone calls, email, social media — there are so many distractions around our office that prevent us from getting work done faster.  And if you work from home, you can expand on those distractions when you factor in family, pets and (for some of us) the kitchen.

A common criticism we hear back from clients at the end of a contract is that a contractor wasn’t focused on their work enough, and they felt they were sharing their time with personal phone calls, emails or social networks.  Sure, the client’s employees do the same, but companies hold independent contractors to a higher standard. After all, how would you feel if the carpenter billing you by the hour took 45 minutes each morning to check Facebook instead of building your deck?

Because independent contractors can stand out with exceptional customer service and high productivity, you should make it a priority to remain as focused as possible, regardless of all of the distractions around you. Almost everyone can improve in this area to some degree, so have a look at this infographic from On Stride Financial for ideas to impress your client.

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?