Productivity In Other Countries

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My wife and I lived in Mexico for awhile.  This post was a look at how people approach productivity differently in different countries. I am currently living in Mexico for a year. It is amazing how much our productivity is based on being familiar with our culture.  It has taken a while to get into "the groove" of things here, but I'm finally getting to the point where I feel like I'm starting to be productive again.  Here are a few things that are different in Mexico: Time - There is a different view of time here.  In the USA if a bus says it is leaving at 9pm, you plan to be there by 8:45pm. Here in Mexico if the bus leaves around 10:30pm or 11pm it is considered to be leaving pretty … [Read more...]

10 Steps Toward Safely Relying on Technology

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I know many people who have easily lost a week of their valuable time because of a technology glitch.  If you are willing to invest time and money on technology to make  you more productive, you need to make sure you don't wipe out all of the productivity gains through an unexpected failure of your equipment. The following list covers 10 things you can do to minimize the impact of of Murphy's Law on your productivity: Expect things to go wrong. This seems simple, but most people are far too optimistic about technology.  You need to assume that, at some point, your hard drive is going to crash, your cell phone will be stolen, your PDA will lose all of its information, etc.  Now, maybe … [Read more...]

Development: Make yourself smarter

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In this interview we asked people: What is the best way you have found to make yourself smarter and more valuable? Below are the answers with the highest voted ones at the top. Read, read and read. Then act and implement. Rinse and repeat. Joel from Joel Falconer (rss) There are few things that are as valuable as a regular plan for reading over your entire lifetime. Listen, listen, and then listen some more. Notice the patterns in everything. Notice what is good before you try to fix what could be better. Notice the way things work instead of wishing things were different. Accept what is before you try to change it. Surrender to what you cannot change. Truly care … [Read more...]

CodeWeavers Giveaway

This is coming a bit late, but if you use OS X or Linux and need a way to occasionally run Windows programs, CodeWeavers is doing a one day giveaway of software that will let you do just that.  The giveaway looks like it ends on the end of Tuesday. … [Read more...]

Protecting People From Themselves

With credit markets freezing up, I thought it might be a good time to put some money into Prosper.com--a site that lets you loan money to individuals.  It seemed reasonable that if people couldn't get loans elsewhere you might be able to make a reasonable return filling the role that banks have filled in the past.  Unfortunately they aren't allowing you to lend money to people.  The best I can tell the SEC has decided that they need to be more tightly regulated and wants them to apply for some type of license or certification.   I'm concerned that in trying to fix things the government is going to put too many regulations in place to try to protect people from themselves and in the end … [Read more...]

Worry vs. Problem-solving

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There are some circumstances that you have no power to change.  Worrying about these types of circumstances is pointless.  On the other hand, you shouldn't give up looking for a solution just because you don't see an immediate solution. It is important to be able to differentiate between worry and productive problem-solving. Worry usually has the following characteristics: It involves repeating the same thoughts over and over. Any "solutions" deal with things that you don't have the power to change. It focuses on changing things that have already happened. Problem-solving on the other hand has the following characteristics: It doesn't involve thinking about the same thing … [Read more...]

Dealing with Clutter

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Everyone seems to have some degree of clutter in their lives.  The paperless office is still a dream, so we still have to deal with many pieces of "stuff" all around us.  This stuff can be paper, equipment, books, printouts, electronics, or any number of things. A certian amount of clutter may be productive.  Some people just function better when things are in site.  However when clutter gets to the point that it slows you down, you need to do something about it.  If you find yourself spending time looking for things, that is a good indication that clutter is controlling you. Here are several tips for reducing clutter in your life: Open your mail over the trash can. This will help … [Read more...]

Jamming Paper Shredders

After a large batch of scanning items into my paperless office, my shredder seemed to be jamming more than normal for my assistant. After helping her clear the stuck paper I got to wondering if there is a way to minimize the jams.  Fellowes claims they have created a jam proof shredder.  It look like it basically just stops before the paper gets packed in so tight that you can't remove it.  Has anyone used one of these?  Do they work very well? … [Read more...]

How Good do you Look

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In the perfect world, our opportunities would be directly tied to our skills.  Luck wouldn't play any part in our successes and our looks would most certainly not be a factor.  We don't live in a perfect world and no matter what we do, there isn't a single thing we can do about it.  In the real world, luck plays a big part in success and good looking people are picked for promotion over their more skilled peers.  You can fight the system, but it won't make a difference.  What people think of you is at least partially dependent on how you look. In some ways this isn't so unfair.  If you are looking to hire someone, would you be more likely to hire the person who hasn't cut his hair in 6 … [Read more...]

Investment allocation

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Usually when people talk about properly allocating investments, they refer to money.  Even more important is how you allocate your time.  With money you usually want to have some investments in areas that will pay off over time, some investments in areas that will pay off quickly, some risky, and some safe.  This strategy is to protect you from future events that are outside of your control. Your time needs to be allocated with the same type of care.  For example, if you put all of your time into earning money at a high paying job, that does nothing to develop your skills or talents as a person and you could be wiped out by a lawsuit and be left with nothing.  On the other hand, if you … [Read more...]

Focus for Results

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Computers are a great tool, but they can tend to make it hard to focus when you are trying to do planning.  I've heard it said that the people who get the most done spend the first half of their day planning and the second half executing the plan.  However, when I'm sitting at my computer trying to do planning and research simultaneously, it is easy to get distracted--especially when I'm trying to research something on the web. I've found a simple solution for this.  By sitting down with a paper and pen away from a computer, I can better focus on my plan.  In many cases, my plan will involve answering several questions that require using the internet.  If I can stay focused on my planning … [Read more...]

Procrastinating in Sheeps Clothing

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Most of the time, procrastination is easy to spot.  However, there is a subtle and very dangerous type of procrastination everyone should be on the lookout for.  It looks like productive work, but the result is the same...it keeps you from accomplishing the things you need to accomplish. This type of procrastination can take several forms, but in the most dangerous one, the victim appears to be involved in good habits of organizing and planning their work.  In reality, they are being lured into doing nothing that will actually move them closer to their goals. To avoid this type of procrastination, you must be alert. When you get the urge to suddenly rearrange your office from … [Read more...]

Man of the Year Contest

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Brett McKay over at The Art of Manliness has launched a contest with Old Spice to find the Man of the Year. You have until November 8th, to nominate the person you feel displays the ideal traits of "Manliness". If you know of a special man who would be ideal, head on over and nominate them. … [Read more...]

Choosing a PDA

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Personal digital organizers can be a a great tool for your productivity when used correctly.  They can also be huge time wasters.  I've used a number of digital hand-held devices over the last few years.  Some were great time savers and others cost me more in productivity.  Here are some tips on choosing a device that will help you save time and be more organized. Make sure you'll actually use it.  For example, if the device requires you to select letters one by one using a stylus, be honest about whether or not you'll have the patience to actually type anything that way. Will you carry the device with you? If you are already toting a cell phone, wallet, pager, etc. are you going to … [Read more...]

Streamlining your business

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Owners of small businesses are particularly concerned about productivity.  For a small company the difference between being highly efficient and moderately efficient can be the difference between profit and going out of business. Most efficient  practices are also applicable to personal productivity as well. However, with businesses, small productivity gains can be replicated over many people multiplying the  gains well beyond the benefits you'd get just for yourself. A focus on productivity can let you cut your costs so you can make a profit even when your competitors are losing money. Here are eight key points to consider when establishing productive practices for your … [Read more...]

Ergonomic Giveaway

We are doing another give-away of the fine products donated by Fellowes. To enter, just sign up for our new weekly newsletter below (you can always unsubscribe after the contest). We will be giving away your choice of a wrist support mouse pad or a back support. We will be drawing names later this week and sending out prizes this weekend. Productivity501 Newsletter Name: Email: Don't forget to verify your email address by clicking on the link in your email. If you don't see the above signup form in your email or RSS reader, you may have to visit the site to sign up. … [Read more...]

My EVDO Connection

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The Internet lets me work from just about anywhere. In this video, I talk about using an EVDO connection to get the internet in areas where there is a cell phone signal, but no wired options. It includes a speed test comparing the cellular connection to a cable modem and talks about some of the bandwidth limitations from various carriers. Here is the video from VIMEO. You should be able to click the HD button watch it in high definition if you like. Broadband EVDO Speedtest Demonstration from Productivity501 Let me know what you think of these videos--particularly if it works better to use YouTube or Vimeo. I'm still trying to decide if they are worthwhile to do so let me … [Read more...]

Dealing with an Unorganized Boss III

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Bosses who don't communicate Many managers with no previous leadership experience are poor communicators.  This isn't surprising, because the communication skills required to be a good manager are generally only learned through experience. One common situation you'll find yourself encountering under this type of person is working on a team of people who are out of sync. For example, your boss may tell you about an important upcoming project, but no one else hears about it until the last minute.  On the other hand, you may also find yourself in a position where everyone else knows some crucial piece of information except you. The best solution is for your boss to learn how to … [Read more...]

Dealing with an Unorganized Boss II

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Bosses who contradict themselves. This can be a really annoying type of person to work for.  In mild forms, it just seems like they are slightly confused.  In really bad situations, these bosses seem totally deranged and malicious.  If you have a boss who will tell you to drop everything and work on X and then come back and ask why you aren't working on Y, you are dealing with one of these bosses. In most cases, these types of people aren't outright malicious; they just have a very short memory, no clear goals, and are very unorganized.  You can usually improve the situation by putting their statements in writing.  For example, if your boss comes in and asks you to drop everything and … [Read more...]

Not Used to Television

We haven't had a television for around 5 years.  Tonight I was thinking about watching the Presidential debates and considered a few ways I could watch it (webcasting, etc.).  Once the debates were over I looked for some summaries online. Then it hit me. That 32 inch black thing mounted on the wall behind me in my hotel room was perfectly suited for watching the debates.  I'm so use to not turning on a TV that I overlooked the fact that there was one right behind me. … [Read more...]

Dealing with an Unorganized Boss

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In the last few months, I've spoken with several people who are having a difficult time working with their boss.  In each case, the boss isn't a bad person, but they are so unorganized that it is difficult to get much done under their leadership.  Obviously, the fault lies with the boss.  However, for people who are used to being highly productive, knowing where to place the blame offers little consolation. This is the first in a series of posts listing common problems you'll face with an unorganized supervisor and some suggestions on how to best deal with them. The boss who doesn't know what needs to be done. This happens in two different forms. Some bosses know exactly what they … [Read more...]

Make Decisions in Advance

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A good portion of our time goes into make decisions.  Sometimes these decisions are big, important things, but often they are mundane simple things.  Most decisions require some type of investment in time.  Let's look at an example: If I'm in a video store trying to pick out a movie to watch that evening, there is a certain amount of time that will go into evaluating the options and selecting a video.  From personal experience, this process can take 10 to 20 minutes, easily. For most people, this 10 to 20 minutes is completely wasted time because at some point in the last 6 months they have already made a decision about a movie they would like to see, but they just don't remember.  … [Read more...]

Personal Development: How do you know it is time to look for a different job?

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We are getting back to posting the answers to our interview questions. I've found it is interesting to hear how individuals decide it is time to move on to another job. Here are the answers from the people we interviewed. If you have a method you use, please share in the comments. I think when you start counting down -- hours to the end of the day, days to Friday, weeks to vacation -- it is time to start finding something more fulfilling.  Wishing your life away is no way to live -- when you are doing something deeply satisfying, time disappears and each day becomes exhilarating! Kristen from BOOK CLUB CLASSICS (rss) I think we underestimate the value of a minute spent doing … [Read more...]

Thoughts on the Bailout

If the bailout doesn't happen, I will probably lose money.  However, I am still not in favor of the proposed bailout.  Why?  Because I would rather lose money over the next 3 or 4 years in order to keep my country strong over the next 10 to 50.  The last time we heard this much talk about the bad things that would happen if we did nothing, we went to war in Iraq. It now seems that the "bad stuff" that was suppose to happen if we didn't go to war was overrated and based on faulty information.  My guess is that this is happening again. It seems to me that the long term damage from a bailout is likely to be worse than the shorter term damage (if any) of not passing the bailout. But what do … [Read more...]

Keep People from wasting your time

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I'm sure everyone has been in situations where a coworker is wasting your time, but there doesn't seem to be a polite way out of it.  Here are several simple strategies for keeping your distractions to a minimum without appearing impolite or rude. Stand - By standing when someone walks into your office, you will usually prevent them from taking a seat.  This can help keep them focused on the purpose of their visit and getting back to work (where they can sit again). Meet them at the door - If you see someone about to come into your office, meeting them at the door puts you physically between them and your area.  You are being polite because you've walked toward them to meet them, but … [Read more...]

Your Not to Do list

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Everyone is familiar with having a "To Do List".  But for many individuals the bottleneck to their productivity isn't the lack of knowing what to do.  Just as important as knowing what to do is knowing what not to do.  That is where a "Not To Do List" comes in. Your not to do list should contain the activities that you consistently find yourself doing that don't contribute to your life in a productive way.  For example, most people would have "check email" as an item on their To Do list.  But if you find yourself consistently distracted by incoming messages, you might want to put checking email every 5 minutes on your Not to Do List.  Other things that might make their way to a Not To … [Read more...]

Books I’m Reading

I just finished Never Eat Alone (a book on how to network with people) and would highly recommend it.  I'm also half way through Work the System by Sam Carpenter (a book in the style of The 4 Hour Work Week) and just starting Brain Rules by John Medina.  (These two books were given to me in hopes of a review, but they look pretty good so far.) Another book I recently read and recommend is Physics of the Impossible. … [Read more...]