Top 7 Non-techie Tips for a More Productive Day

We all have those days when our to-do lists number in the double digits, and we feel like there’s just not enough time to get everything done. And we all understand the role productivity plays in our success at work. Research shows it even boosts employee morale! (It just feels good to get things accomplished, doesn’t it?) Back in May we shared our take on the best productivity apps. Today, we’re giving you our top seven “non-techie” ways to get the most out of your workday. And it’s all about working smarter, not harder.

 

The Pomodoro Technique®

The Pomodoro Technique is based on research that shows we can only stay hyper focused for about 90 minutes, and by taking short frequent breaks we are actually become more productive than if we powered straight through. How it works: set a timer for 25 minutes. When it dings, take a five-minute break. Get up, do a short workout, refill your water bottle. For best results, after three or four rounds, take a full 20-minute break.

 

Rhythm Rules

As much as possible, arrange your work tasks according to your daily rhythms. Whenever your energy level is highest, that’s when you should schedule your most challenging tasks. Save your lower energy time of day for activities that are less demanding, like returning emails and voicemail messages.

 

Take a Hike

Researchers at Stanford found that walking boosts creative thinking and helps keep your brain firing on all cylinders. Walking anywhere works, but if your office is near any green spaces, even better. A study by University of Michigan psychologist Mac Berman showed that people who walked in a wooded park experienced even greater cognitive benefits than those who didn’t.

 

Take a Stand

We all know meetings can be a real time suck. But when meetings are a “must,” take a stand. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology concluded that sit-down meetings lasted 34% longer than stand-up meetings, yet both produced the same solutions.

 

Step Away From the Vending Machine

When that midday slump hits, don’t make a Starbucks run or raid the vending machine chocolate brownie supply. Instead, opt for a handful of nuts, or low-fat cheese with whole grain crackers. Eating small healthy snacks throughout the day helps you maintain a consistent energy level.

 

Stop Multitasking

We know, you’ve heard it before. But it’s so hard not to multitask, right? The thing is, while you may think you’re saving time, psychologists have proven that doing several tasks simultaneously actually results in lost time and productivity. It may even lower your IQ!

 

Eat, Sleep and Be Merry!

You simply can’t operate at peak performance when you’re tired. So record the latest episode of Marvel’s Daredevil to watch on the weekend, and get your full seven to nine hours each night followed by a protein-rich breakfast in the morning. And one more thing, make time for a good belly laugh. Studies show that laughing in the workplace increases both productivity and creativity. So go ahead and pull up iFunny for your five-minute Pomodoro break!

 

What other tips do you have to increase productivity at work?

 

 

#ICYMI: How to avoid workplace stress and careless mistakes

The frenzy of the 2015 holiday season is fast approaching. With tight work deadlines, holiday commitments and endless shopping lists, it’s easy to get stressed out. Inspired by the Meridian Health Fair Day that took place in our office this week, I went out in search of this week’s top articles on reducing workplace stress and increasing productivity.

 

In case you missed it (ICYMI), here’s how to manage workplace stress and avoid careless mistakes in the workplace during the holiday season!

 

How to stay focused at work during a stressful holiday season

The holidays are just as stressful as they are fun. With work projects wrapping up and new ones on the horizon, it’s hard to maintain a clear and calm mindset — especially with travel, holiday and shopping plans taking over your to do lists! To help you stay cheerful and productive, Mashable put together a list of three ways to stay focused during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

 

  1. Don’t give into interruptions. Guess what? Multitasking doesn’t work. It actually kills your productivity. Don’t give into distractions this holiday season. Mashable recommends you constantly remind yourself that interruptions are going to dramatically increase over the holidays, but it’s important to remember not to give into them. Focus on the task at hand and you’ll be far more likely to get through the day without anything falling between the cracks.
  2. Look for the right projects. The holidays are a great time to catch up on email and work on self-guided projects, according to the article. With colleagues out of town for the holidays, you can take advantage of the peace and quiet and focus on some of the bigger projects on your workload.
  3. Be thoughtful about your off hours as well. We often forget that scheduling time for our non-work commitments is just as important as scheduling time for our work-related commitments. It’s tempting to work extra hours before taking time off, which isn’t always healthy. Try to avoid overtime if you can. And don’t forget, holiday shopping takes time!

 

Read the full article for some more great insights on how to have a stress-free holiday!

 

Unique ways to burn off stress

Job-related stress is costing us an estimated $300 billion a year. It wreaks havoc on our minds and bodies. As more and more research is released about the damages of work-related stress, companies are looking to innovative ways to battle anxiety and increase happiness at work. This week, Fast Company put together a list of some of the innovative ways organizations are proactively managing stress.

 

  1. Workplace venting sessions. One company put together a weekly venting report where employees could anonymously publically submit frustrations. They also held a meeting once a month where they could address the issues.
  2. Offering one-on-one attention. Another organization hired stress management coaches to offer employees specific techniques that address their individual needs.
  3. Mindfulness on demand. Google takes it a step farther by offering specific classes like, Meditation 101, Search Inside Yourself, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. They even created a virtual and in person community called gPause that encourages mediation and stress-reduction.

 

Check out the full article for some more funky examples of reducing stress at work!

 

10 mistakes you might be making in the first 10 minutes of your workday

I bet you didn’t realize how much the first 10 minutes of your workday set you up for success (or failure). Business Insider, did some research on some of the common mistakes we make at the beginning of the day. Here are 10 traps that are keeping you from success:

 

  1. Getting in late. This is obvious, being late will certainly throw you into a tailspin.
  2. Not greeting your coworkers. It’s important to be friendly, or you’ll come off unapproachable.
  3. Drinking coffee. The best time to drink coffee is 9:30 am, when your cortisol levels are declining and you’re more likely in need of a caffeine boost.
  4. Answering every email in your inbox. Before you start responding, scan and prioritize your inbox!
  5. Launching into your work without a tentative schedule in mind. A prioritized to do list is the only way to make sure your day and workload doesn’t go sideways.
  6. Doing the easiest task first. Save the easy stuff for when you’re suffering from the 3 o’clock feeling, you’re much more prepared to tackle the big projects in the morning.
  7. You can’t devote 100% of your brain to three different tasks at once.
  8. Dwelling on negative thoughts. Leave the negative thoughts about your soul-sucking commute at the door. Dwelling on them all day will kill your mood and productivity.
  9. Having a meeting. According to experts, morning tasks should be focused on things that take a lot of brainpower, like writing. Dedicating that precious time to meetings will throw your brain off.
  10. Not following a routine. Healthy habits and routines help your brain save mental energy.


Check out the complete article packed full of good research on how to start your day off on the right foot.

The difference between being at work and working

“Understand the difference between being at work and working.” — Unknown person

 

I saw that quote the other day and it reminded me of a really awkward comment that an executive tweeted a few months ago. In 140 characters (I’m paraphrasing here) the tweet said something about how they looked at their employee’s calendar and saw that they didn’t have any meetings scheduled that whole day, and they questioned if that person was actually working. The comment seemed totally ridiculous to me. You don’t need to be on back to back conference calls to get your job done, especially if you’re in the trenches doing the actual work.

 

The situation sort of begs the question – do you know the difference between being at work and actually working?

 

Work and working

What you do throughout the day really varies based on level, industry and role. The executive mentioned before spends a lot more time in meetings and a lot less time doing the day-to-day tactical activities that keep the programs moving. Lengthy email chains and over scheduled meetings doesn’t always constitute as work. It’s been proven that unproductive meetings are costing companies an estimated $37 million dollars a year.

 

I’m not going to argue what does and doesn’t constitute as work, because each job is so vastly different than the next. But I do think that there’s a least one point throughout the day or week where we’re pulled into a situation disguised as work, but it really isn’t the biggest priority we need to be focused on, and it takes us a while to bounce back and tackle the more important deliverables.

 

Sitting back down and getting focused isn’t easy. To help with the struggle, we’ve put together a list of five tips to help you be less busy and more productive.

 

5 Tips to being less busy and more productive

 

  1. Write it down. Prioritize your workload the old fashioned way. Writing out a list of everything you need to accomplish that day will help you visualize your workload and increase productivity. Once you’ve got your list ready, cut out the stuff that doesn’t impact the bottom line.
  2. Stop multitasking. Busy people multitask, productive people focus. Only 2% of people can multitask successfully. Multitasking gives you the false impression that you’re accomplishing a lot of work at once. But in reality, you’re just giving two (or maybe even three) projects a fraction of your attention.
  3. Manage the interruptions. A recent study by the University of California-Irvine revealed that regaining our initial momentum following an interruption can take almost 20 minutes. I’ve already been interrupted by a handful of emails and a phone call since I started writing this post. If you have a big deadline coming up, go off the grid for a little bit. Silence your phone, sign out of your email, or do whatever it is you need to do to avoid the constant pinging. You’ll save time and a lot of frustration trying to get back into the groove.
  4. Delegate. Only one in three managers are considered good delegators by their subordinates. You simply can’t do it all, you have to learn to delegate. Trust the people around you. Give them projects clogging up your workload.
  5. Stop saying yes. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re not a team player. Warren Buffet defines integrity as, “You say no to most things.” While integrity and productivity aren’t exactly the same thing, I think the meaning still applies. If you say yes too much, you’re going to spread yourself too thin and compromise the results of all of your work. Don’t be afraid to decline a meeting you know you don’t need to attend, or push back on a project you know you can’t devote time to.

There are a lot of shades of grey between work and working. Hopefully these tips will help you differentiate between the tasks we get caught up in and the ones that we need to accomplish.

 

Photo credit: Someecards

#ICYMI: How to stay cool, calm and collected at work

Fall is in the air! With cooler weather (at last) and days that seem to be getting shorter, it seems that everyone is busier than a bee!  In case you were busy getting back to the grind, here’s a collection of tips and tricks we pulled together this week focused on how to become more a proactive and productive employee.

 

NOTHING TO LOSE AND ALL TO GAIN

Work smarter, not harder. We have all heard that saying but there is only 168 hours in a week. And if you take out 56 hours or so for sleep we are down to 112 hours to achieve everything we desire. It doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but for some people it seems like they have enough time to do what they need and more!

 

To keep yourself productive, it’s essential to build habits that help you organize your day and get the most out of your time. Find out the 3 things that Ultra Productive People do differently and learn how changing your focus can make a difference in your life. By consciously managing your time, you will be amazed at how much more productive and happier you will become.

 

 

OFFICE SWEET OFFICE

When you are spending most of your day at the office, you want to make sure it is an environment that doesn’t suck the life out of you. Companies are focused on creating offices that are not only fantastic places to work but enhance employees’ overall well-being and engagement.

 

We at Meridian have a lot of experience with creating a new work environment this since at the end of the month we are (finally) moving into a gorgeous new office space. During the planning process there as A LOT of great ideas discussed. Everything from massage chairs to game rooms to stand-up desks for all. That being said, how do you create an office space that makes people want to come to work? Read about the 3 Tools To Make You Feel Better At Work because we all know that the office is more than a just a place to work – it is about a place that empower employees and help businesses grow and thrive.

 

SHOUT, SHOUT, LET IT ALL OUT!

The guy in the cube next door that talks too loud, the person on the bus that takes too both seats, the parking lot that is completely full – some days everything just sucks! Frustrations happen and venting is a way to let off steam.

 

It is generally better to let these things out than bottle them up, but should we vent at the office? We take our humanity to work every day – our happiness, excitement, frustration, anger and worry. We bring all of ourselves to work and this results in emotions and the need to vent.

 

In the moment venting almost feels like problem solving. It alleviates tensions and stress and makes you feel in a weird way lighter and somewhat better. Here are 4 Ways to keep your Workplace Rant Professional and Productive and release your frustration the right way.

#MondayMotivation: 25 Funny, Powerful and Inspiring Quotes

During the warm days of summer it can be difficult to find motivation to get through the workday. Instead of procrastinating on Facebook and getting jealous of your friend’s vacation pictures on Facebook, read these 25 inspirational pick-me-up quotes to get your Monday started off right! They will lift your spirits and help you tackle the day! (#22 is the funniest!)

 

  1. “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”—Zig Ziglar
  2. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” –Thomas Edison
  3. “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi
  4. “Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn
  5. “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” – Babe Ruth
  6. “I believe in being positive.”- Joe Greene
  7. “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door” – Milton Berle
  8. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there” –Theodore Roosevelt
  9. “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ – Muhammad Ali
  10. “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” – Walt Whitman
  11. “Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.” – Robert Kiyosaki
  12. “A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.” – Joyce Meyer
  13. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand
  14. “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
  15. “Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.” – Victor Kiam
  16. “You can’t expect to hit the jackpot if you don’t put a few nickels in the machine.” – Flip Wilson
  17. “We aim above the mark to hit the mark.” – Ralph Walso Emerson
  18. “Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.” –Dr. Seuss
  19. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
  20. “To be a good loser is to learn how to win.” – Carl Sandburg
  21. “A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.” – Unknown
  22. “Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path then by all means you should follow that.” – Ellen Degeneres
  23. “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” –Roger Staubach
  24. “Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing ‘till it gets there.” – Josh Billings
  25. “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” – Charles Schulz

 

 

 

10 Best Productivity Apps to Help You Organize Your Workday

We all know that our day-to-day jobs can often feel overwhelming. Between managing to-dos, attending meetings and conference calls, tracking expenses, and doing the always-delightful (*heavy sarcasm*) inbox sweep, it can often seem like we never have time to actually get things done.

 

Our smartphones seem to only add to the noise, with endless push notifications and pages upon pages of apps that we download and only open once. But, believe it or not, there are a rare few that can actually help us take control of the chaos and become more efficient.

 

Here is our must-have list of apps sure to make your workday easier:

 

  • IftttIfttt allows you to create connections or “recipes” to determine how your apps will interact with one another. Want to save some time? Instead of adding a photo to Instagram and then adding it to Dropbox, you can instead create a recipe where any photo you add to Instagram is instantly added to Dropbox (or vice versa). Another great example for sales people – a recipe to automatically invite any new iPhone contacts to connect on LinkedIn. Price: Free

 

  • Dispatch – We have all been there. You are traveling for work, but the emails don’t stop pouring in. Dispatch helps you empty your inbox quickly by assisting you in archiving, starring or marking items as unread. Price: $4.99

 

  • Focus@Will – Based on neuroscience, Focus@Will streams music that is intended to boost your concentration and get you into the metaphorical “zone” while you are at work. Just make sure if you are in an open office situation that your co-workers are onboard with your music choices, or invest in a great pair of noise cancelling headphones for them! Price: Free 30 day trial, then a monthly or yearly subscription

 

  • Letterspace – My new favorite note-taking app! Super clean and easy to use, the app uses hashtags or @ mentions to organize your thoughts and notes by topic – a great way to organize thoughts during meetings. Price: Free

 

  • EasilyDo – Ever wondered what it would be like to have a personal assistant? Introducing EasilyDo, an app that anticipates your daily tasks and offers to execute them for you… so kind of a personal assistant, minus the trips to Starbucks. The app checks traffic so you know when you have to leave for a meeting, adds flights to your calendar and notifies you of delays and security wait times, tracks packages for you, and even identifies emails that you may have forgotten to respond to. Price: Free

 

  • HuminHumin is designed to help you keep track of your contacts and your relationships in a more “personal” way. If you are as bad at remembering names as I am, this app is great. You can search for contacts based on how you met them, like “met last week,” “lives in Austin,” or “met at training conference.” Humin will also auto fill the contact with missing information and a photo so you can save time and never worry about putting a name with a face again. Price: Free

 

  • Talkboard – Originally designed as a virtual tool for the online classroom, Talkboard is a collaborative whiteboard that enables you and your team to sketch and brainstorm together in real-time. It is great for remote teams that need a visual representation of thoughts or ideas – because sometimes lengthy, descriptive emails just don’t cut it! Price: Free

 

  • 1Password – Is exactly what it sounds like, an app that creates strong passwords, keeps track of them and then logs you in. Because, let’s face it, the list of passwords that I have on a sticky note in my desk drawer…not that secure (and yes, I am going to move it now). Price: Free

 

  • Carrot – A to-do list with a bit of a “personality.” Carrot gets angry at you for procrastinating and rewards you for being productive. The more that you check off of your to-do list, the more upgrades and mini games you can unlock. Price: $2.99

 

  • Prezi.com – Sick of PowerPoint (who isn’t)? Check out Prezi – a simple way to spice up your presentations. This is an oldie, but a good one that I still haven’t seen catching on the way that I thought it would. There is a bit of a learning curve to using Prezi, but once you have it figured out, you will be the master of quickly created, visually stunning presentations! Price: Free

 

What apps help you get through the day? Tweet us at @MeridianKS to start the conversation!

Unplugging: A Lesson in Mindfulness

In my quest to make 2015 a year of living more joyously, authentically and gracefully, I thought I should jump on the bandwagon of the hottest (and maybe oldest!) health trends out there — mindfulness. Mindfulness, a meditative practice dating back thousands of years, has roots in Buddhism. Meditating encourages you to focus on the present, rather than on the anxieties of past or the future.

 

How hard can meditating be?

 

This seems like a health trend that could excel in – no sweating, no kale, no over packed and overpriced Pilates classes – this was going to be my sport! Honestly, how hard could it be to sit still and focus on your breathing for a few minutes?

 

For a busy person with a million balls in the air, it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

 

In an age where there are so many distractions – checking email, texting, playing with Trivia Crack with friends, or just obsessively thinking about what’s next on the to do list – stopping to be in the now seems almost impossible. Closing my eyes and taking a 10 minute break quickly reminded me of when I got the giggles in my first yoga class and was asked to leave the room.

 

Finding inner peace is not easy for me, but the benefits are profound!

With that in mind, here are my top 5 reasons you might want to consider incorporating mindfulness meditation into your daily life:

 

  1. Reduce stress and anxiety – Research published in the journal Health Psychology shows that mindfulness is not only associated with feeling less stressed, it’s also linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
  2. Create better relationships – Another study found that people who practice mindfulness are less judgmental, more self-aware and better listeners.
  3. Helps you get skinny – A study from the Journal of Nutritional Education & Behavior found that mindfulness helped participants eat slower and allowed them to reconnect with their body’s cues for hunger and satisfaction.
  4. Be a better person – According to a study in The Journal Psychological Science, researchers from Northeastern and Harvard University found that meditation is linked with more virtuous, “do-good” behavior.
  5. Stay healthy – Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Health found that people who engage in meditative practices miss fewer days of work due to acute respiratory infections, and also experience a shortened duration and severity of symptoms while sick.

 

Meditation and mindfulness are backed by science! I know that practicing for a few minutes a day can actually make a big difference in my health and well-being.

 

Every day I try to sit for five minutes (I usually give up after two) in silence, breathe deeply and when my mind wanders try to pay attention to my breath.

 

Is it helping?

 

I don’t know yet, but I do feel like I making an effort to reduce stress, increase my self-awareness and improve both mental and physical health is paying off both personally and professionally. And sometimes just trying makes me feel better and more productive!

Taking the misery out of meetings

Have you ever looked at your calendar and cringed at the idea of spending the day in back-to-back meetings? Or, have you ever received a meeting invite that left you wondering why you have to attend? If I were to bet, the answer is probably yes.

 

An astonishing $37 billion dollars is wasted every year on unproductive meetings. That number alone is enough proof that it’s time rethink the way we get together and collaborate.

Here are 5 tips on how to get the most out of your meeting time:

  1. Set the agenda. Stop sending empty meeting invites. Twenty five percent of meetings are spent discussing irrelevant issues. It’s imperative that you take the time to clearly set the agenda. State what the meeting is about, how people are expected to prepare and what they would like to achieve.
  2. Cut down the invite list. Personally, I’ve lost track on how many useless meetings I’ve been invited to throughout my career. Spend a few minutes really thinking about who you are inviting and how they will contribute. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is known for the Two Pizza Rule: no meeting should have more people than can be fed with two pepperoni pizzas.
  3. Start 5-10 minutes after the hour or half hour. A whopping 37% of meetings start late. Mainly because one or two people aren’t on time. Kickoff your meetings 5-10 minutes after the hour or half hour. That gives employees time in between meetings to grab a glass of water, get a quick snack, respond to emails and use the bathroom.
  4. Forbid multitasking. Seventy three percent of employees do other work in meetings and only 2% of people can multitask successfully. Require people to put down their devices and shut off their computers. That way you have everyone’s full and undivided attention.
  5. Solve the task at hand. One of my favorite commercials is a Google Hangouts commercial from a few years back. It shows a virtual meeting coming to a close where the attendees are discussing next steps, action items, etc. The guy leading the meeting goes, “there are no next steps. We just solved it.” This pretty much sums up my point. All too often we spend hours meeting and deliberating on how to solve a problem, only to then follow up with additional meetings on how to execute. If you’re meeting to solve the task at hand, try and solve it then and there.

Bonus: Invest in professional training and development.

Did you know 75% of people have received no formal training on how to conduct a meeting? It’s no wonder so much time and money has been wasted to poorly organized and mismanaged meetings. Learning and training programs are a fantastic way to invest in your workforce’s professional development and educate them on how to hold productive meetings. Just think about how much money you could save!

 

And, if you want help getting started, let’s talk! Contact Meridian today.