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Posts Tagged ‘time management’

How to Say No at Work – Good Business Communication

How many times do you walk by something in your house or office and think, “I have to clean that up?” Or get in your car and think, “I really need to wash this thing.” Every day we put up with things that drain our energy and attention, but we often do nothing.

What you’re tolerating may be small –a disorganized drawer or desk. But it may also be bigger –an unsatisfying relationship, a job you’ve outgrown, or a policy with which you disagree.

I took a time management class years ago and the trainer helped us organize our Word files so things were easier to find. She asked the question, “What are you tolerating?” I thought it was a funny question in relation to my laptop’s hard drive. But after my files were organized and I could access things without searching for 20 minutes, I realized how much time I’d been wasting and what I was indeed tolerating.

What frustrates you, but you’re so used to it, you no longer even notice? Perhaps you’re tired of responding to emails late at night or on the weekends? Or frustrated by people who don’t keep their word? We train people to treat us as they treat us.

Here a few suggestions for how to say no at work:

Start cleaning up the small things that make you cringe each time you look at them. Perhaps start with your desk or a drawer you’re afraid to open. Then consider when you’ve said yes, when you meant no. These situations are harder than cleaning out a drawer because they involve other people.

If you’ve agreed to something you don’t want to do, you can often renegotiate. Saying no at work could sound something like this, “I said I really wanted to lead X project and realized that I don’t have the time to do the project justice. I think I need to replace myself. I’m sorry to suggest a change so late in the game. I shouldn’t have offered to take it on in the first place. It was too ambitious. Who do you think would be a good fit?” Retracting yourself is better than doing a poor job.

Or, “I realized I said I’d plan our next family reunion. I’d love to do it and don’t feel I have the time to do the event justice. Who do you think would take it on?”

If you’ve committed to something you really don’t want to do, it will likely show. You’ll resent it and might not do the best job. Both of which are bad for your relationships and reputation. So start speaking up and saying no at work. And if that feels too big, go wash your car. You’ve got to start somewhere.

Seven years ago today I left my corporate job and started what’s now Candid Culture. Thank you for your support and for working towards having a more candid workplace. Please enjoy 20% off all of our resources through Friday May 16th. Use code: 7YEARSOFCANDOR.


Stop Wasting Your Time in Meetings – Establish Meeting Expectations

Meeting ExpectationsMeetings go long. Attendees stealthily text under the table like no one can see them. One person talks the whole time, while everyone else rolls their eyes. The decision maker isn’t there, forcing you to have another meeting. All the while, the facilitator does nothing.

Sound familiar?

The amount of time wasted in unproductive meetings and the degree of frustration meeting participants feel is astronomical.

The solution is simple.

Set clear meeting expectations at the beginning of EVERY meeting and hold people accountable when they violate the guidelines.

Most meeting facilitators don’t set expectations at the beginning of meetings. Instead they expect attendees to follow the unstated, assumed guidelines. And when the meeting facilitators’ boss, peers or customers are on their phone, it’s too hard to say something. So facilitators ignore the behavior, hoping it will stop without intervention.

The key to getting what you want in meetings (and in life) is to ask, which for the most part, we don’t. We assume people will do things as we do.

Tips for Running a Good Meeting:

1.  Set meeting expectations at your next meeting.

2.  Write the expectations on a flip chart and hang them up at the beginning of every meeting.  Or download our meeting  expectations poster and hang it in your conference rooms.

Meeting Expectations

3.  Review the meeting expectations every time you meet, even with groups who meet weekly.

4.  Ask meeting participants’ permission to manage meeting behavior. Your role as the meeting facilitator gives you the right to address bad meeting behavior. Asking for permission and letting people know you will say something if you see their phone etc., makes it easier to speak up.

5.  Tell participants they are expected to hold themselves and each other accountable.

6.  Then hold people accountable for following the meeting expectations. If you ask people not to side talk, address side talking when you hear it.  If you ask people not to be on their laptops or phones, ask people to put them away. If one person talks too long, interrupt him. You will have no credibility if you set expectations but don’t hold people accountable.

The reason facilitators don’t hold people accountable is that they feel uncomfortable. It’s hard to tell your peers, boss and other coworkers not to talk in circles. It’s almost impossible if you don’t set expectations about meeting behavior and set the expectation that you will say something when the meeting expectations are violated.

The simple act of setting meeting expectations and asking people’s permission to manage to those expectations makes doing so easier. Not easy, but easier. Asking your boss to put her phone away will never be easy, but it will be easier if you let her know BEFORE she pulls it out that you’ll do so.

You may be thinking, “I don’t run these meetings. I’m an innocent victim.”

As a meeting participant it is frustrating to go to poorly run meetings. But it’s also your role to speak up when you see things going poorly. Go to the meeting facilitator and give feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, follow The Feedback Formula outlined in my book How to Say Anything to Anyone.

Express empathy:   “That Wednesday team meeting is tough. I wouldn’t want to run it.”

Ask permission to give feedback:  “I’ve got a few observations and suggestions. Is it ok if I share them?”

Give feedback:  “I’ve noticed that several people have been missing the meeting and others are on their phones and laptops during meetings. This definitely limits what we can get done and must be frustrating to you. What are your thoughts?”

Make a suggestion:  “What do you think of setting meeting expectations at the next meeting and then telling people you’re going to hold them accountable?”

Offer help:  “You’re not alone in this meeting. I’d be happy to tee up this discussion and explain why we need to set meeting  expectations. What do you think?”

The facilitator knows the meetings aren’t going well. She just doesn’t know what to do. Offer to help. Don’t judge. She might be more receptive than you think. And you can stop suffering through poorly run meetings.


Back to Work Blues – 5 Tips to Get You Motivated

It’s hard to come back to work after a long weekend, no matter how much you like your job. As fun and fulfilling as work can be, we all struggle with back to work blues from time to time.

If you’re having a hard time getting back into it today, here are a few things to try:

  1. Be realistic about how much you’re going to do today. Move a few things on today’s to-do list to tomorrow, or maybe Wednesday. Setting unrealistic goals sets people up for frustration and feelings of failure.
  2. Pick one or two things you’re going to do today, and finish those two things.
  3. Do one thing at a time. Not five.

Stress occurs when we’re thinking about the past or the future. When we’re in the moment, there is nothing to stress about. You’re focused on what you’re doing, nothing else. This is easier said than done, which is why I do yoga. If I’m thinking about anything but the teacher’s instructions, I fall over.

  1. Plan something fun. When is your next vacation? What are you looking forward to? Having something fun and exciting on the horizon is motivating and keeps us going.
  2. If you’re not having fun at work or you’re feeling stuck, tell someone who can do something about it. Most people are so afraid of being fired, they don’t speak up at work. From my experience it’s not so easy to get fired. Look around. I suspect there are several people you work with who you think deserve to be fired, yet there they are. Worry less. Speak up more. No organization is going to fire you for wanting and being willing and able to do more.

If after all of these BRILLIANT suggestions you still find yourself in the back to work blues, gossip about a few people who haven’t made it in yet today, eat someone else’s lunch from the refrigerator that looks better than what you brought, and re-arrange the most organized person’s desk. And all will be well.

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Increase Productivity By Sleeping More

increase productivityYou have too much to do and not enough time. Something has to go. You have four choices:

  1. Get further behind at work
  2. Have less fun
  3. Spend less time with your kids, spouse and/or friends
  4. Sleep less

Most people forgo sleep in favor of work, fun, and time with family and friends. But this choice, like all choices, has consequences.

I’ll admit to being a bad sleeper. I stay up too late stalking people on Facebook who I don’t care about. Then I wake up in the middle of the night to use the facilities and have trouble falling back to sleep. Instead of quieting my mind, I make to-do lists on my phone, which, yes, I sleep with. I am quite functional with five hours of sleep for one or two days. The third day I’m a disaster – cranky and unproductive.

Most people need more sleep than they’re getting. With enough sleep everything works better. With a lack of sleep nothing seems to work. We would actually increase productivity if we slept more. Mornings would start better, days would be more efficient, and the people we work and live with would like us more.

But the problem remains, most people don’t feel they have enough time. And something has to go.

Here are a few things I’m trying to increase productivity:

  • Set realistic goals. I’m probably not going to go to be at work at 8:00 am, go to the gym, and see friends five days a week. Three days is more realistic.
  • Put the phone on the other side of the room when I go to bed, so it still serves as an alarm clock but isn’t within arm’s reach.
  • Don’t read or reply to email in the middle of the night.
  • Wind down earlier. Start getting ready for bed 30 minutes before I want to go to sleep.
  • Accept that I need more sleep and that while four or five hours worked while I was in college, I’m no longer 20.
  • Realize that when I get seven hours of sleep I’m nicer to be around. I feel better and am more productive.

When human beings sleep seven or eight hours a night we are more focused, happier and we increase productivity. Thus sleeping more actually creates more time.

Commit to feeling better and enjoying your work and personal life more by getting more sleep. But if you opt to stay tired and cranky, email me at 3:00 am and we’ll catch up.


Stressed? Want Work Life Balance? Create It.

Your job will not tell you that you need a vacation. Your company won’t tell you that you look tired and it’s time to go home. Your job is like a toddler. It wants and will take more, more, more. You need to decide what you’re willing to give.

Admittedly, I’m terrible at work life balance. I’ve always lived twenty minutes or fewer from my office so that I could easily go in on evenings and weekends. I gained twenty pounds the first year I worked at OppenheimerFunds because I never left the office before eleven p.m., and the only thing around to eat late at night was candy. No one told or expected me to work the hours I did. I put this pressure on myself.

Some of us enjoy working long hours. We love what we do. Work is where we derive a great deal of fulfillment. There is nothing wrong with working long hours and getting a great deal of enjoyment from your work. Just don’t blame your organization when you’re tired, stressed out, or out of balance.

You are accountable for your happiness at work.

Every time you email an internal or external customer on a weekend, take a work-related call at 8:00 pm, or check your email while you’re on vacation, you’re training the people you work with that you are always available.

Some of my clients’ employees tell me they feel taken advantage of by their organization and feel leaders’ expectations are unrealistic. As a result employees work more hours than they want to and miss vacations and evenings with their kids. The managers tell me they’re not expecting employees to work the hours employees say they feel pressured to work, so where’s the disconnect?

I suggest talking with your manager about her expectations.

The conversation could sound something like this:

“I want to make sure I’m meeting your expectations. When are you expecting X project to be done?

How are you evaluating my success? What does a good job look like?”

Or, “I’m stressed and am finding myself working evenings and weekends. I’d like to get a better understanding of your expectations about X project. I might be putting this stress on myself.”

I’m not suggesting being lazy or cutting corners. Work hard. Do good work. And know your limits.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In, Sandberg shares a story from her career when the manager of one of the McKinsey & Company offices, where Sandberg worked, realized that every person who left the organization blamed burnout and exhaustion for the reason for their departure. Upon some research the manager discovered that each of these exiting employees had unused vacation time.

Here are my work life balance tips:

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Under promise and over deliver.
  • Work reasonable hours, then go home.
  • Recharge your batteries in whatever way fills you up.
  • Get enough sleep. Everything feels and works better when we’ve had enough sleep.

See yourself as accountable for creating work life balance. Stop waiting for your boss to tell you you need a break. Send yourself home.


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