What Sports Knows, and Business Gets Wrong, About Motivation

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Big teams are bad for productivity. The bigger the team, the less people do.

Maximilien Ringelmann discovered this more than 100 years ago. The French engineering professor measured effort from students in a simple rope pulling exercise. Not only did people exhibit less individual effort while pulling as a group, individual effort quickly diminished as the size of the group increased.

Ringelmann found that eight people didn’t even pull as hard as four. It became known as the Ringelmann effect.

Unfortunately, many businesses are run like a giant game of tug of war. There can be a top notch team, a clear objective, everyone working toward the same goal. And maybe it’s successful. But who actually helped pull the rope? Did they do their best? We’ll never know. Stop running your business like tug of war. Want to be successful? Run it like an NBA team.

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Avoid Workplace Disagreements By Getting Things In Writing

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I was talking to a friend, who is an attorney, some years ago. We were discussing a small disagreement I was having with a coworker. The friend gave me some advice that I’ve practiced ever since.

“Have him send you an email. Make him write out exactly what his request is.”

Lawyers love this technique, he told me. And the benefits are two-fold.

For one, writing forces clear thinking. It will become obvious if someone doesn’t have a clear idea what they’re asking once they try to put it down on paper. And secondly, should some disagreement on the topic come up in the future, you will have a clear record of what was said and when. There will be no squabbling over who said what.

It’s an amazing tool that can make a big difference in your personal and professional life. The phrase “get it in writing” often conjures thoughts of a lengthy contact, formal documents with signatures and lawyers involved. It doesn’t have to be that way. “Get it in writing” can be something as simple as an e-mail.

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How Great Managers Know When They’re Doing Their Job

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There’s a piece of conventional wisdom in business: People aren’t raw materials. You can’t manage people like they’re widgets on a conveyor belt. People are fluid, emotional, volatile, unpredictable beings that need to be treated as such. You can’t manage people like an assembly line, right?

Maybe not.

The problem with that type of thinking isn’t that people actually are static and predictable. The problem is thinking that a manufacturing process is static and predictable. On a production line, unexpected problems and changes happen all the time. Raw materials arrive flawed, blizzards slow down deliveries, equipment breaks down, orders slow down and inventory piles up, some obscure agricultural disease in another continent wipes out a crop used in a chemical essential to the production process.

Unpredictable, fluid, ever-changing. Kind of like humans, right?

Great managers of people realize this. Great managers of people, in fact, embrace this and approach their job seeking the same consistency and measurable results as a production line operator. They know that their job is measured in the output of the people and departments they’re managing.

It’s the kind of thinking that helped propel Intel into the company it is today, with more than $55 billion in annual sales. It’s a central theme to Andrew S. Grove’s classic 1983 management book “High Output Management.”

The output of the manager is the output of their organization, Grove writes.

“In principle, every hour of your day should be spent increasing the output or the value of the output of the people whom you’re responsible for.”

In other words, a manager is doing their job when their department — when their people — are producing results. A manager at a candy cane factory can measure their personal productivity by the amount and quality of candy canes sent out the door. A software company manager can measure their achievements by the software shipped from the engineers.

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9 Tips for Landing a Remote Job

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This article on landing a remote job is a guest post from Tim Metz. Tim is the co-founder of Saent, a hardware and software device that blocks digital distractions and helps you be more productive. Saent is crowdfunding its initial production run on Indiegogo now. Before Saent, Tim worked in mobile gaming and electronic music, amongst other things. Tim lives and works from Beijing (China) and starts each day writing, usually about productivity on the Saent blog. You can follow him on Twitter & LinkedIn

 

When I lost my job at a mobile gaming company in August of last year, I soul-searched hard to figure out what I really wanted to do. I realized my ideal position would involve my passion and knowledge of productivity. I set my sights on landing a job Evernote, which is one of the few companies truly trying to build a great brand and community around productivity. To my amazement, they also had a vacancy at that time that I thought would perfectly suit me: Marketing Producer. I sent off a cover letter and CV.

And that was it. I never heard back from them.

Tim Metz

Tim Metz

At first I was puzzled, and a bit crushed. Then I started reviewing myself more critically. I’d done a lot of things wrong: I didn’t really highlight my passion for productivity, I didn’t talk about what I could do for Evernote, and I didn’t even showcase my relevant productivity experience. In retrospect, everything sounded a bit generic.

Fast forward 12 months and I’ve launched my own company to manufacture a productivity device and hired a globally distributed team operating under Teal organizational principles. Most recently, I’ve been going through the over 400 applications we received for our remote librarian position, and unfortunately, many applicants made a lot of the same mistakes I did. Though the Evernote job wasn’t a remote role, many of the concept translate — and at times are amplified by the nature of remote work.

So, based on my own failed attempt to land a job at Evernote and the experience hiring a remote team at Saent, here are nine tips about how to apply for a remote job.

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7 websites that make you happier and more productive at work

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I’m going to let you in on a secret. A lot of people are trying to distract you at work.

A. Lot. Of. People.

OK, so it’s not exactly the world’s biggest secret. But it is a really unique and modern problem.

Office workers in the 1970s didn’t have people kicking in their door to show them a cat video (though it would be awesome if that actually happened. I’d watch that on YouTube). Farmers in the 1800s didn’t have carnival barkers showing up in their field, promising mind blowing facts (number 6 will SHOCK you!) if they would just put down their shovels and stop working for a while.

Such distractions would have seemed insane at the time. None of them would have believed this would be the environment their children and grandchild would face at the workplace.

Sadly, here we are. Distracting our days away. It makes sense that the workplace is where we’re most vulnerable. Work is where we’re most likely to feel stressed, overwhelmed and not in control. New research shows that viral content generates more activity on social media when it triggers emotions people feel in control of, like inspiration, rather than emotions people feel overwhelmed by, like fear.

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The Comprehensive Guide to Remote Working

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Remote working can be amazing. Freedom, flexibility, travel, family. It can be an excellent way to live and work.

But it doesn’t come easy. You have to work for it.

That’s why we teamed up with Sqwiggle to create this free eBook on remote working.

Because we love remote working — at iDoneThis, we’ve been remote from day one. We know it’s not easy.

Most of us were not taught how to work remotely, we learned by doing. There were no classes in college teaching us how to work from home, or from a cafe in Berlin. Our parents, naturally, assumed we’d work in cubicles just like them.

There’s a lot to learn. So we created this comprehensive guide.

Build the work life of your dreams and download your free guide now.

Here’s a sample of what you’ll be learning:

  • How to stay high energy all day long.
  • How working alone can make you more social.
  • How to build the perfect home office.
Fill out my online form.

P.S. If you liked this article, you should subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll email you a daily blog post with actionable and unconventional advice on how to work better.

The Scientifically-Backed Best Ways to Spend a 15-Minute Break

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We have all worked with the marathoner office worker. The one with eyes glued to a spreadsheet all day, or frantically taking calls for hours on end.

Or maybe that’s you. Maybe you measure hard work in raw hours logged. Maybe you put in 12 solid hours and eat at your desk. Maybe you care so much about work you haven’t taken a lunch break in months.

Maybe you’re terrible at your job. Ever think about that?

Or at least you could be hurting your productivity. There’s a growing amount of research suggesting that work punctuated by short breaks leads to better focus and better productivity.

Also, working for uninterrupted hours on end — especially if done sitting down —can be terrible for your health.

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How to Transition to Working From Home

 

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You’re more likely than your parents to work from home one day.

Or from a Starbucks, a shared working space, you get the idea. In fact, 4.2 million American workers joined the remote working movement from 1997-2012, according to the Census Bureau.

What this means is that many of us who started careers in a cubicle and necktie are switching over to the pajamas and home office.

It’s a big change. And it’s not easy.

Thankfully, the trail has been sufficiently blazed by workers who have been remote working for years, some for decades. Many of those brave pioneers have documented their experiences. So let’s explore some of the best advice from remote workers who have learned what works, and what to avoid.

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Why You Should Always Write Down Your Bad Ideas

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Most of Thomas Edison’s ideas were bad.

At least they weren’t good enough to make it out of the laboratory. Or from the patent office to the product line. Thousands of ideas, never to see the light of day.

An associate of Edison’s, Walter S. Mallory, recalled asking the inventor about this, according to a 1910 biography “Edison: His Life and Inventions.” Mallory recalled that Edison had been working for months on a nickel-iron battery. Mallory visited Edison in his shop and learned his friend had tried more than 9,000 experiments for the battery and none had been successful.

“In view of this immense amount of thought and labor, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I said: ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’”

Mallory sympathized with Edison. He felt sorry for him that so many ideas had not yet produce one result. Edison saw it differently.

“Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.'”

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How to Have a Great First Day at Your New Job

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Day one at the new job. How’s it feel? Slightly terrifying?

It should. At your old job — just last week perhaps — you were the most experienced you ever were there. Suddenly, you’re the least experienced you ever will be at this job.

It’s enough to cause a panic. But it doesn’t have to. Fresh starts come with great opportunity. Here are a few tips on how you can capitalize on this new adventure. We’ll skip the obvious — show up on time, practice the route to the new office —and focus on some of the research behind the first day and how you can use what science and experts say about the topic.

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