Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: productivity

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

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

Listening to Music While You Work

Listening to Music While You WorkIf Snow White & the 7 Dwarves taught us anything, it’s the benefit of whistling while you work or, at the very least, having some background music. When in an office around other IT contractors or client employees, other people’s conversations can be loud, distracting and, frankly, annoying. Music is a helpful way to shut them out. More importantly, the right tunes for you can be motivating and uplifting, and is scientifically proven to improve productivity.

That said, this article by no means recommends you blast your favourite Pantera album in the office and expect that your development team to suddenly work double-time. In fact, music with lyrics and a complex structure can have the opposite effects. That’s because it causes the brain to focus on too many items and becomes the equivalent of multi-tasking. An article from Medium suggests these are the best genres of music to listen to while working if you want to increase your productivity:

  • Classical
  • Nature
  • Epic
  • Video Game Music
  • Ambient Soundtracks

And, if you’re looking at this list concerned that Bieber is no longer an option for your workday, have no fear. The Telegraph published a similar article a couple years ago saying that, although Pop music is not always the ideal choice, studies have proven that it helps for repetitive tasks such as data entry or proof reading and is good when working to deadlines.

We can conclude that listening to music can be great… unless you’re trying to make friends with your colleagues and those around you, then it can be a hinderance. Here are five etiquette tips for listening to music at work.

  1. Wear headphones. Keep the enjoyment of your music private by using headphones so only you can hear it. And by “only you” that means keep the volume low so neighbours don’t hear that irritating white noise. Low headphone volume also ensures you won’t accidentally miss phone calls or ignore co-workers trying to get your attention and will save your hearing in the long run.
  2. Don’t sing. Or whistle. Or dance. Or anything else that’s distracting (and weird) for your colleagues to have to endure. Regardless of how talented (you think) you are, there’s a time and a place for everything.
  3. If using speakers, ask those around you first. This is common courtesy. If you have no headphones and want to turn your speakers on low, ask anybody sitting around you if they mind. They may even have a suggestion for music where you have a mutual interest and you can all be happy!
  4. Keep the music appropriate. If you have a more private workspace and have ignored rules 1-3, it’s time to start paying attention. People may pop by unexpectedly and, when they do, they don’t want to hear offensive lyrics and swear words. Keep it PG.
  5. Remember to turn it off for phone calls. And, if the first four points do not apply to you because you work from home, you at least need to remember this. When you pick-up the phone or host a face-to-face meeting, ensure that music is gone. Otherwise, it becomes a distraction and if you skipped over rule #4, things can get even worse.

Do you listen to music at work or do you dread those around you who do? Do you have a preferred genre that you find works best, or do you mix it up? As usual, we love hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

The Age of Working Remotely: Tried and True Advice for Working from Home

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Permanent Placement Specialist at Eagle

The Age of Working Remotely: Tried and True Tips for Working from HomeAs a long-standing employee at Eagle, I have had the benefit of participating in the company’s work-from-home program, “WORKshift”, for a few years now. The program allows staff to work from their home office once or twice per week but I have now transitioned to a new role that allows me to work remotely 100%. As referenced in a recent post, working remotely brings lots of pros, but certainly has its share of challenges. More and more clients and employers are embracing this style of work. With very effective collaboration and communication tools at the ready, it can make it a feasible option and a definite benefit or ‘value proposition’ when trying to attract new talent.

Whether working full-time or in a contract role, there are several important factors of consideration if you are going to move to a remote work scenario.

Anyone will tell you that the single most important facet of remote work is having a dedicated work space or office. Not only does this allow you to stay focused and engaged during the work day, but one of the biggest challenges is that it can be difficult to differentiate and separate your home and personal life from work. One of the things I’ve found most beneficial is ensuring that I have a set work schedule and adhering to that. I personally have found that ending the work day with a routine or a ritual allows me to best transition from my work day to my evening (taking a brisk walk, running an errand, etc.).

Working remotely does allow some flexibility in terms of schedule but it’s essential to always be readily available during work hours or keep team members apprised of availability, if for any reason you will be away from your computer. It only takes a few missed calls or delayed responses for clients or colleagues to assume you are not in fact working — never a good scenario, especially if you need to get a timesheet signed!

Working remotely can be somewhat isolating, but if you use team messaging or instant messaging software it can go a long way in helping you to feel part of the team. It also helps if you have the type of career that requires that you are on the phone a lot – which, in my case, recruiting certainly does!

From my perspective, the benefits of remote work far outweigh the challenges and I have thoroughly enjoyed the transition. There are time savings (no more commuting), financial savings (gas or transit costs, eating out), health benefits (less fast food and more time to fit in exercise) and it’s much easier to find a good work/life balance.

If you are thinking about exploring the option of taking on some contracts remotely be sure you set yourself up for success, and you will likely never look back!

Quick Poll Results: Are you an Early Bird or Night Owl?

The early bird gets the worm… but the second mouse gets the cheese! The time of day a person is most productive at work differs by the individual, but we were curious to learn if there’s an overwhelming trend among IT contractors. That’s why our contractor quick poll last month asked if you’re an early bird or night owl.

Now, a month later, the results are below. There was definitely a range of responses, but it’s interesting to see that the stereotype of IT enthusiasts staying up late and slamming energy drinks did not hold true for this month’s respondents. In fact, more than half said they identify as early birds more than anything else. What part of the day are you most productive?

Quick Poll Resulst: Early Bird or Night Owl?

Contractor Quick Poll: Early Bird or Night Owl?

Perhaps one of the top benefits of being an independent contractor is that you get you set your own hours. Certainly, your client will request you are available and on site for some meetings but overall, IT projects can be worked on during any time of day.

While the old “early bird gets the worm” adage holds true in many circumstances, studies have proven that all individuals are different when it comes to productivity. While many people are most productive when they wake up early and get a head start on the day, it still isn’t feasible for a large portion of the population. That segment prefers their sleep in the morning and are much more productive later into the evening.

In this month’s Contractor Quick Poll, we’re asking IT contractors which sleep schedule makes them most productive. Assuming you get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep (ha!), are you an early bird who likes to get up with the sun and go to sleep sooner, or do you consider yourself to be more of a night owl who does phenomenal work well into the night and then sleeps in the next day?

The Benefits of Working Remotely for IT Contractors and their Clients

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Delivery Manager, Eastern Canada at Eagle

Are you looking for a way to improve your work/life balance? Or are you looking for ways to increase your productivity and lower the number of unpaid sick days you have to take? Then maybe the introduction of remote work should be considered. Each day, more and more independent contractors are joining the “working from home” bandwagon.

The reality is that commuters face delays on a regular basis. Whether it’s because buses are late, trains are delayed or cancelled or there is congestion on the roads, it causes our commute times to double or even triple in length. This is one of the strongest reasons why more IT professionals are implementing flexible working schedules and working from home on client projects.

We all know commuting can often be time consuming, stressful and expensive. The modern business model includes more flexibility for their workers. Companies are providing their employees with an incentive to work from home a certain number of days each week, which allows the workers to avoid long commutes and is saving them the transportation costs. So why not do the same for yourself?

In this technological age, even educators are paving the way to learn from home. Students often have the option to listen to seminars remotely or take quizzes online from the comfort of their home. And even though they are doing a large majority of the work from home, they are still successfully graduating, proving that people can be successful from wherever they work.

Many of your clients and their employees are already on board with this way of thinking. An article from WomensPost.ca shows that a 2017 FlexJobs study of 5,500 people found that a work-life balance was critical to the productivity and success of a company. Out of all the survey respondents, 62 percent said they have left or considered leaving a job because of the lack of work flexibility. An even higher response of 66 percent said they were more productive working from a home office as there were less interruptions from coworkers, fewer distractions, less commuter stress, and they were removed from any office politics.

So will you be more productive when working remotely? You’ll be able to work (and therefore bill) extra hours in the time you’re not commuting. The better work-life balance also means you are less likely to get ill in the first place because stress levels are typically lower. And since you are not commuting, you’ll find more time for your activities, such as going to the gym or spending more quality time with your family. According to an article from the Telegraph, a study by Canada Life found that home workers took fewer sick days compared to those based in the office. The study found that employees working in an office took on average 3.1 sick days last year, whilst homeworkers only took 1.8 sick days and employees who have a cold or are mildly sick can still get work done at home, while office workers are more inclined to take the entire day off to avoid leaving the comfort of their home.

There are, of course, some challenges in working from home:

  1. First of all, the job itself must have the necessary tools to allow for remote work.
  2. Secondly, you must be independent and self-directed in order to be productive while working without guidance.
  3. Thirdly, trust is a big factor for this. If there is no trust between you and your client, then they will begin questioning your timesheets and you will lose out on future references.

Personally, I think a mix of both models is best. One in which you work from home on a certain day or days, but otherwise spend time at the client site to connect with the employees and managers for face-to-face meetings and collaboration. Even one or two days out of the work week spent working remotely does wonders for your mental health, morale, and productivity.

The world of work is dramatically changing. In a competitive world, flexible working schedules are creating healthier and happier workers and increasing productivity. The evidence so far suggests that working remotely benefits clients just as much as it benefits their independent contractors.

It’s Alright to Quit and You Need to Know When

It’s healthy to set complex goals that are a stretch but will force you to step outside your comfort zone and work extra hard to accomplish that goal. Sometimes those goals are personal and sometimes they’re professional. Sometimes they’re attainable and sometimes… they’re never going to get completed. So, is it alright to quit? According to this video from Med School Insiders, it’s not just alright, it’s encouraged!

An important step to working on any project is knowing when to evaluate and know when you need to keep pushing through or when it’s time to quit. As the video explains, the decision is not easy and requires many considerations, but it’s an important question to ask yourself in order to maintain maximum productivity and, more importantly, your health.

As Kenny Rogers says “You gotta know when to hold’em, and know when to fold’em.”