How to Work Quietly

Here’s an excerpt from our fresh-of-the-presses eBook, What You Don’t Know About Management: How to Take Back Your Work Day. If you like what you read, download the 50+ page eBook for free!

smartphone_in hand

While teamwork is exciting and camaraderie a wonderful source of intrinsic motivation and purpose, getting stuff done also isn’t a matter of adding more people to the tasks at hand. In fact, collaboration can be too noisy.

What with all the open offices, unwelcome chit-chatters, dreadful meetings —not to mention the digital inundation of posts and pings of a never-ending stream of information — it can be near impossible to hear yourself think.

Ultimately, productivity requires producing, creativity creating — and while interaction is a key part of these processes, it isn’t everything. If you don’t actively think and process, if you don’t actually turn input and inspiration into something, if you don’t take time to reflect and analyze, then you’re shortchanging yourself.

It sounds so simple and obvious, but it’s easy to forget these days that we need solitude, quiet and time. 

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Don’t Manage Projects or Tasks, Manage People

Here’s an excerpt from our fresh-of-the-presses eBook, What You Don’t Know About Management: How to Take Back Your Work Day. If you like what you read, download the 50+ page eBook for free!

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One of the biggest misconceptions of management is about what really drives people. In a survey of hundreds of managers by Amabile and Kramer, 95% failed to correctly identify the best motivator at work. This has huge consequences.

The most powerful motivator isn’t monetary incentives or even beneficial management techniques such as providing recognition or interpersonal support. The best motivator is simply making progress on meaningful work.

As a manager, understanding that you can have a large impact on people’s sense of progress can transform and clarify your focus on how your team gets stuff done. Your job isn’t so much to manage the tasks themselves or be “inspiring” or dictate turn-by-turn directions on what to do. Your job is to manage people and facilitate their progress by providing support, tools, resources, and feedback.

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How to Go Beyond Trust Falls to Strengthen Your Team’s Camaraderie

Here’s an excerpt from our fresh-of-the-presses eBook, What You Don’t Know About Management: How to Take Back Your Work Day. If you like what you read, download the 50+ page eBook for free!

buffer team trust

For the amount of our lives that we spend working, you’d think it would be more common to spend time tending to our coworker relationships. Yet, the default is to treat the social aspects of work as a given instead of managing them in any significant way.

Team-building goes way beyond trust falls. Successful people recognize the importance of establishing and cultivating meaningful connections.

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3 Practical Mindsets to Empower Introverts to Succeed at Networking

I’ve never been good at networking. I’m usually standing in the corner talking with a friend at parties, if I’m at a party at all. I get worn out from being around people and need my alone time to recharge.

There’s a certain efficiency in the glad-handing ways of a freshly-minted MBA because knowing the right people is in large part a numbers game. But to an introvert relating to people in that way isn’t just uncomfortable, it seems morally repugnant. The introvert aspires to treat people as ends themselves and not as a means to feed the ego or further our careers.

The problem is that not networking, bluntly, means stunting your career and financial prospects. Not networking may sound noble to you, but all that it amounts to is a litany of missed opportunities.

introvert networking mindset

Not to worry, networking doesn’t mean changing who you are, 95% of it is in your mindset and approach to it. Here are 3 practical mindsets that’ll empower you not just to network, but to make you successful at it.

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Writing is Power

Guy writing in notebook

We’re writing more than ever these days. Every day, you’re texting, emailing, and chatting. As many of us sit at our computers at work all day and our phones everywhere else in between, we’re writing.

Successful leaders believe writing is a crucial ingredient of great work. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, insists that writing replace other forms of communication to make the most of meetings. Instead of jumping straight into a conversation, or snoozing through bullet-pointed sentence fragments in a slideshow presentation, he requires his senior executives to write six-page narrative memos.

He explains in a 2012 interview with Charlie Rose, “When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.” In this age of knowledge work, we’re hiring people to think and communicate those thoughts — which means people who can write have a leg up.

Like most things worth doing, writing can be a chore. But the more fluent and practiced you become at the writing process, the more you’ll be able to own your success.

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The Science Behind How Emotions Lead to Smarter Decisions

Range of Smiley to Angry Faces

There once was a man named Elliot. An intelligent, pleasant thirty-something guy, he had built a pretty good life for himself, with a family and a good job. But his life started to fall apart when he got a brain tumor the size of a small orange that compressed his frontal lobes — causing debilitating headaches and an inability to focus.

Even after a successful surgery to remove the tumor, Elliot’s life continued go downhill. His relationships unravelled, he couldn’t hold a job, and invested in a disreputable business scheme that lost him his savings. Something was still wrong with Elliot’s brain — damage to parts of his frontal lobe somehow resulted in an inability to feel emotion.

You’d think that this might have been beneficial at least for his work ventures, some ability to make calculating, rational, optimal decisions. But the opposite was true. After losing his emotions, he’d become hopelessly ineffective at business.

That can be a jolting lesson for many of us who consider emotion something to regard very lightly in the workplace. Emotions work, not as a barrier to getting things done, but to help us reason at a basic level and thrive.

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Stop Telling Yourself These 3 Productivity Lies

Pinocchio statue

One of the trickiest things about trying to be more productive is how much we deceive ourselves along the way. It’s like trying to eat healthier and then convincing yourself after one walk up the stairs that you totally deserve a donut.

Productivity lies can be sly, wolves in sheeps’ clothing, making you feel better in the moment, even as you’re actually falling behind and letting priorities slip.

It’s better to work smarter than work harder — and part of working smarter is to be more truthful about why you’re choosing to do, or not do, something and whether you’re actually spending your time wisely.

Outsmart your lazier, sneakier self. Here’s how to face the truth when you catch yourself claiming these three common productivity lies.

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Managers, Are You Sabotaging Motivation at Work?

3 Ingredients of Intrinsic Motivation: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose

Given a choice between solving puzzles for free or for pay — which would you pick?

If you want to stay motivated and solve more puzzles, the surprising thing is that you should do them for free.

In the early 1970s, psychologist Edward Deci wanted to study how money affects motivation. In one experiment, he paid one group $1 (that’s about $6 today) for each puzzle solved within three sessions, while the control group received no payment. In the middle of each session was an eight-minute free period in which people could continue puzzling, read magazines, or otherwise spend the time how they wished.

It was the paid group who chose to spend less time working on puzzles in the free periods. The extrinsic monetary reward made them lose intrinsic motivation, where the reward is the activity itself.

Over forty years later, managers still rely on the old model of dangling external rewards like money and prestige to motivate their people — but in today’s era of knowledge work, this model is increasingly misguided. If you think your people are going to continue to put in their best efforts with monetary rewards, you’re sabotaging the most powerful sources of motivation.

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The Science Behind Why Jeff Bezos’s Two-Pizza Team Rule Works

Two pizzas

Once at an Amazon offsite, managers had the reasonable-sounding suggestion that employees should be increasing communication with each other. To their surprise, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos stood up and announced, “No, communication is terrible!”

This stance explains his famous two-pizza team rule, that teams shouldn’t be larger than what two pizzas can feed. More communication isn’t necessarily the solution to communication problems — it’s how it is carried out. Compare the interactions at a small dinner — or pizza — party with a larger gathering like a wedding. As group size grows, you simply can’t have as meaningful of a conversation with every person, which is why people start clumping off into smaller clusters to chat.

For Bezos, small teams make it easier to communicate more effectively rather than more, to stay decentralized and moving fast, and encourage high autonomy and innovation. Here’s the science behind why the two-pizza team rule works.

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How to Finally Make Peace With Your To-Do List


How to Make Peace With Your To-Do List

The person who’s going to complete all the tasks on your list is not you. It’s some superhuman version of you, who gets all the things done without breaking a sweat. Perhaps the biggest problem and allure of the to-do list is how aspirational it is.

In the early days of iDoneThis, there used to be a to-do task feature. While we decided to focus on helping people harness the benefits of keeping and sharing a done list, we gained some fascinating insight into what really happens when it comes to your to-do list along the way.

Two of the most interesting discoveries we made were how 41% of to-­do items were never finished, while a whopping 85% of dones were unplanned tasks that never started out as to-do’s.

There’s a huge gap between what we hope to get done and what we actually accomplish — and that might just be part of the human condition. The problem is when we let our to-do lists dishearten and demoralize us because we feel we’ve somehow failed. The way to conquer those negative feelings is to look backwards.

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