Staying Productive and Getting Your Best Work Done

Staying Productive and Getting Your Best Work Done

Have you ever ended a busy work day without being able to recall one assignment or project that you actually completed? Or maybe you end the day with an even longer to-do list than you started with and countless emails sitting in your inbox.

What if instead of working harder, you could work smarter and gain the satisfaction of crossing tasks off your to-do list, simply by altering some habits? Lucky for you, I’m sharing 10 tips that help motivate me and keep me on track for completing tasks as efficiently as possible. We all can use some help in the productivity department from time to time.

  1. Get a Good, Early Start to Your Day

First things first, a productive day begins early. No, I’m not suggesting you start your day at 3:45 AM like many head honchos do, but wake up early enough so you can gain control of the day before it gains control of you. I always find that no matter how challenging it is to get out the bed in the morning, I never regret waking up early.

Sometimes it’s simply just not fun, but rising early allows you to be proactive about your to-do list, instead of overwhelmed and reactive to everything going on around you. This is probably the most challenging tip on the list, but it will tremendously impact your productivity throughout your entire day.

     2. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

    Being aware of your professional strengths and weaknesses will allow you to better work in your sweet spot. Take a moment each day to reflect on what times you were most and least productive. Once you’ve established your peak productivity times, focus on getting your most important work done during that window. Don’t spend time replying to emails when you are typically most productive. This simply isn’t conducive to getting the most quality work done possible! Help yourself out and let time work in your favor!

Another thing to remember while you’re working hard is to make sure to take care of yourself by taking mental breaks. Your brain wasn’t made to work for hours and hours on end (more on that here if you’re interested in understanding the human brain’s circadian rhythm cycle) and you will quickly burn out if you don’t give yourself a break.

I personally like to take quick five minute breaks and completely step away from my computer and allow my brain to rest from time to time. Sometimes I get a drink of water, eat a snack, or simply just get up and walk around. I actually used to work for a company that had ping pong tables in the office for employees to take “brain breaks”, but I only recommend this if your co-workers aren’t overly competitive, as this might stress them out more than their real work ;) Regardless of what you chose to do, get up and move and let your brain rest every now and then! You’re not a robot.


       3. Focus on the First 80% and Put Your Perfectionism Aside!

      If you’re unfamiliar with the 80% approach principle, it involves putting perfectionism and procrastination behind you and achieving 80% results of any task or project as quickly as possible. The thought behind this principle is that you should simply take action to complete something that you can later refine or get help with from someone else. Don’t be nit-picky or overly critical in the early stages, but produce a product to its initial state.

This principle dramatically improved my workflow because I felt freed from perfectionism and able to just produce something without the mental hold backs. If you feel stuck on a project or find yourself procrastinating on getting something done, just start somewhere, and allow that to motivate you forward.

    4. Stay Inspired

    We all have spaces, images, music, and people that inspire us. Take time everyday to be inspired by these things! For some, that may mean reading an article every day on a topic that truly interests you. It may mean working from a coffee shop that makes you feel motivated. And for others, it may mean surrounding yourself with people who inspire you to produce great work. Whatever it is, let the things that inspire you also motivate you!

One thing to note with this: When it comes to inspiring environments, it’s important that you surround yourself with positive and productive people while you work! Laziness and negativity can almost be contagious, but so can productivity and goal achieving, so be mindful of your working space and who you are allowing yourself to be surrounded by! This can greatly impact your work.

     5. Prioritize and Set Deadlines

    Time management and prioritizing play a huge role in staying productive. When new tasks come your way, immediately discern them as being either urgent or not urgent, and focus on getting those urgent tasks done first. Some things can simply wait until tomorrow or at least for a few hours. As I mentioned earlier, this means not spending your your peak productivity time responding to your never-ending inbox. I personally like to save this for the middle and end of the day because I don’t have to use as much brain power to reply to emails. I would rather use my best brain power (in the morning and early day for me) to knock out a killer presentation or any creative work!

It’s also important to set deadlines for yourself when prioritizing so you don’t fall behind on the important things. It’s easy for work to get piled on your to-do list, but setting deadlines for specific tasks will force you to be motivated to complete them in a timely manner!
  6. Utilize the Tools Around You

Although a simple tip, sometimes the best way to be productive involves using the tools you already have around you. This includes the great power of delegation (interns love when you give them meaningful tasks!), the ability to Google anything and everything you may need help with, and simply asking for help from those who may excel in a certain area you’re struggling with. Have you been assigned a project you know someone else in the office has a great background knowledge of? Ask them to share some of their wisdom with you! You’re only punishing yourself if you struggle to get stuff done and don’t use the tools around you!

7. Write Down Distractions to Handle Later

    If you’re anything like me, you probably have a million thoughts going through your head at any given moment. As you’re working hard getting a task done, this can be extremely distracting, but never let it pull you away from the important task you’re focusing on. Instead, write down those ideas and come back to them once you’ve completed your task. If you remember while you’re working on a project that you need to email someone by the end of they, write it down and deal with it once you’ve finished the task at hand. This is complete discipline in dealing with distractions, but you’ll thank yourself when you no longer have 25 internet tabs open at once.

     8. Touch it Once

      This productivity tip is super simple but effective. Just touch a task one time and one time only. If you open an email (during your designated time for responding to emails, of course!), respond right then and there. If you are having a conversation with someone and they ask you to send them a file, do it immediately. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll deal with it later, because chances are you’ll get too busy and forget. Handling little tasks right then and there improve your efficiency. Coming back to the same simple task multiple times clutters your head-space and weighs you down. So instead, just touch it once and be done with it!

    9. Keep your work in perspective and stay grateful

    It’s easy to get bogged down while going from one project or task to the next. I find it very helpful to stay motivated to get work done by recognizing the bigger picture in the work I’m completing. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, remind yourself that the work you do is contributing to bigger company goals. Think of the value you are able to add to the organization through your work, whether it’s paying the company's bills or closing large sales. Tasks simply have to get done, and you’ve been trusted to do a part in that! Perspective is everything, and it’s easy to lose that perspective when you’re in the constant grind. So take time to be mindful of the bigger picture of it all!

It’s also helpful for me to find at least 1 thing to be grateful for in the work I’m doing and let that motivate me to make things happen! For example, I am very grateful for the ability to work remotely from anywhere with my job, which greatly impacts the quality of work I produce. When I feel discouraged or overwhelmed with tasks, I remind myself of this very thing among others, and am motivated to keep on keepin’ on!


    10. Hold Yourself Accountable, But Don’t Forget to Show Yourself Some Grace!

    When you’re in a productivity rut, remind yourself that you are being relied on to complete a task (duh!) but take that responsibility seriously and show those around you how seriously you take your role and your projects - no one will ever question your work ethic!

Although it’s important to understand the importance of the work you complete, it’s also important to celebrate your wins! No matter large or small, celebrate your victories! Think Pavlov’s dogs. You’re more likely to continue working hard if you know there’s a reward coming -- I highly recommend rewarding yourself with chocolate or coffee (just ideas!).

To be honest, there are simply just days where you get way more done than others, so show yourself some grace when you don’t mark everything off your to-do list in a day. Focus on starting with a clean slate tomorrow and being better than you were the day before. Nobody is 100% productive at all times, but it’s a skill to constantly practice and cultivate!

There you have it. The ways I stay productive and motivated throughout the workday! Hopefully you found at least one tip to implement into your daily grind. What helps you stay productive and get your best work done?

 

 

 

 

 

5 Tips for Promoting Intern Success

5 Tips for Promoting Intern Success

If a college student is planning on getting some sort of business degree, internships are often the key to success after graduation. Internships help students gain real life experience outside of the classroom, without real life consequences if they mess something up (or don’t quite exactly know what they’re doing.)

I am entering my senior year of college and have had an internship each summer between the end and start of a new school year. My first summer, I was working at home in Ohio for my local government center. The next summer, I landed a paid summer internship in my college town with some friends as a Social Media Intern at a “conservative political watchdog” company. Both times I was super excited to get some marketing experience, and both times I quickly found there was not much for me to do. Very few tasks were delegated to me. It was as if they expected me to waltz in and know exactly what needed to be worked on. My first summer I spent most of my hours during the day talking with the other intern about our astonishingly opposite views on religion.

This summer, going into my senior year, I’m working as an intern here at Elevate United. Although a young company, the intern program here is far better than anything I have ever experienced. After doing some comparing of work experiences, I have narrowed down my top five tips for employers for how to treat an intern:

  1. HAVE SPECIFIC WORK FOR THEM TO DO. 

Please, please, please do not just hire an intern because you think you might have some extra work that needs to be done. When interviewing and hiring, have a specific list of possible tasks they will be required to do. They’re devoting their time to be there and want to be as useful as possible.

2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO LET THEM WORK.

Let them post on social media. Let them write a blog post. Let them have the login to your analytics database. Let them talk to the customers. Unless you hired a complete idiot, they will be able to handle basic tasks without hurting your company's reputation. They want to feel trusted and confident in the work they are doing. Which brings me to…

3. DON’T CALL THEM BY “INTERN.”

...Especially on their email! At a previous internship, the email they gave me was “internleanna@....com”. Every time I went to send an email, I automatically felt devalued and as if I had zero credibility. Customers, or anyone else, who receive an email with “intern” in the name will not feel as if their concerns are being addressed properly. Let your interns have a real email and be a real employee.

4. INVITE THEM TO TEAM MEETINGS.

Your intern is only going to feel as involved and needed as you let them. If they are not invited to weekly meetings, they are not going to be able to understand the full picture or focus of a business. Make them aware of weekly tasks, goals, and successes. Update them on what is happening and how the business is growing, or, in some cases, not growing. This will help them understand the focus of their job and they may even surprise you with awesome new ideas.

Additionally, have someone conduct weekly check-ins or meetings with interns. Give them company updates and ask them what they would be interested in helping with. Advocate for them and give them an opportunity to prove themselves.

5. MAKE SURE YOUR STAFF IS ALL ON THE SAME PAGE.

An intern can often play many different roles within a business. They can be working on social media, filing reports, contacting customers, creating marketing plans, writing content, and more. Often these tasks spill over into different departments within a business, and often the freedom across departments is not spread evenly. Make sure your head of communications is on board with an intern writing content before assigning it to them. Let your leader in marketing know that an intern will be practicing their social media skills with a couple posts. Get the “okay” from everyone before delegating tasks that might later get rejected.

***BONUS TIP!***

6. PAY THEM!

    Most internships for credit are unpaid. While this is normal, this is extremely inconvenient to the student. College is not cheap--that’s not news to anyone. Often, having an internship for credit while being a full-time student means that there is no room for outside work (other than the typical valet or babysitting job on weekend nights). With student loans and a future ahead of them, it is very impractical for a student to not be making any money while in college. If your company is large, well established, and has a gross profit in the green, interns should be paid at least minimum wage. Receiving a paycheck will motivate student workers to have a positive outlook on their daily tasks and complete them with more intentionality.

 

 

 

Why Vulnerability Wins in the Workplace

Why Vulnerability Wins in the Workplace

There’s been a lot of hype recently around “being vulnerable.” I was fascinated by this raw emotion and inspired by the stories I read of people implementing vulnerability in their lives. So much so that I decided to try it out for myself.

What I found? When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you’re demonstrating a higher (maybe the highest) level of trust and respect for the person you’re communicating with or towards work you are pouring yourself into.

I’ve been practicing vulnerability for the past two years and most recently, I started practicing it intentionally in the workplace. In the workplace, I have seen it to be especially powerful for three reasons.

1 - It Enables You To Create Authentic, Deep Relationships More Quickly  

You never know where you are going to meet a best friend, soul mate, mentor or kindred spirit. For me, I used to close myself off to the idea of having best friends at work because I wanted to separate my “personal” and “professional” life.

With my most recent job, I said “Screw that - I’m not going allow a stigma to prohibit me from creating community and potential lifelong relationships.” So I dove in deep as I would with any new friend. I asked personal questions, hung out outside of working hours regularly with my “co-workers,” shared personal struggles and victories, laughed and cried, and just let the relationships happen naturally.

Allowing myself to be vulnerable with the people I met through my job has been incredibly rewarding. My life feels richer because of this experience.

2 - It Increases Creativity

As my girl Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation, and change.” When you allow yourself to be vulnerable with your work, you’re smothering out fear.

This allows you to just simply create, without the little voice in your head talking negatively to you. Basically, this is when the magic happens--pages are filled with words, canvases are layered with color, the world wide web is created...you get the point.

3 - It Allows Room For Failure and Growth

We just established that vulnerability smothers fear. With the absence of fear, we can fail greatly. By failing greatly I’m referring to the messiest kind of failing. The super painful, vivid kind of failing. When we allow ourselves to truly fail, we can allow ourselves to truly learn from our failure, but without the guilt, shame, and self-doubt that fear brings.

All in all, vulnerability wins in the workplace. When you’re vulnerable, you’re inviting others to be vulnerable too which can create deep relationships, spark creativity and inspire growth. For more education on vulnerability, check out anything by Brene Brown. She rocks.

 

 

Team Retreats: Why It's Beneficial To Go

Team Retreats: Why It's Beneficial To Go

 

 

Just recently the Elevate United team spent a few days lakeside in order to take some time to look at the company on an individual and team level. I am just an intern, but found it was beneficial for me to go and participate, here’s why:

 

1. Get to know those you work with

How well do you really know those you work with? For me, I didn’t know anyone well before attending our retreat. As an intern, and a new one at that, I felt like I barely knew people’s names. Considering our office culture doesn’t require us to be in the office, there was little interaction with coworkers outside weekly team meetings. By going on the retreat and participating in various company activities, as well as just having conversations in the evenings when the activities for the day were done, I got to know those who I work with on a professional and personal level.

2. See how the company is learning and growing

Elevate United is still considered a “start up” and so while I, as an intern, am constantly learning because of my lack of experience, the company itself is still learning and growing because we’re still so young. For me, it was so great to see that everyone was interested in taking a step back and saying “This is what we’ve been doing well, and this is what we haven’t been excelling at that needs to change.” Admitting that the company doesn’t have it all figured out, and that we’re all still learning is an encouraging environment to be working in. The “Start, Stop, Continue” exercise seemed to be the most beneficial take away, and it’s something that I can even use on a personal level. Asking “What do we need to start doing? What do we need to stop doing? and What needs to continue?” Is an incredibly beneficial way to evaluate how you’re working and how different things you’re doing, or not doing, are either needed, hurtful, or necessary to be more efficient in your work, moving forward.

3. Learn something new

On the Elevate team we have many talented people with a variety of skills. Different sessions on our retreat involved members of the Elevate team talking to everyone about a book or concept they either knew about, or had expertise in, that they felt could benefit the group. A few of my favorite presentations, or “sessions”, included Ryan, one of our designers, when she presented on design and how the way something is designed can cause us to feel or perceive something in a specific way. And when Ben presented on the book The War of Art. Learning more about The War of Art, everyone was invited into thinking about areas of resistance in their lives that are keeping them from doing things they really want to do.

These small sessions allowed us to learn from those we work alongside, and to learn

about a topic or concept that could be new or different to us. I felt every session on the retreat was beneficial and informative.

 

Just this week, in our team meeting, getting another retreat scheduled on the calendar was mentioned. I have no doubt the next retreat will be equally as beneficial, if not more so, than the most recent one.

 

5 Google Chrome Extensions to Simplify Your Life

5 Google Chrome Extensions to Simplify Your Life

If you’re anything like most people, a majority of your time on a computer is spent browsing the web. If you don’t use Google Chrome for this, I suggest switching immediately. Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, and it’s not even close.

Chrome has...

  • a minimalistic interface.

  • Google account integration.

  • mobile integration.

  • a massive library of extensions and apps.

Chrome’s extension library is very important to me. Extensions add functionality to your browser in useful and creative ways. With the right extensions, you can get Chrome to work for you and increase productivity.


Don’t let fear control you. Love yourself and take back your life with my top 5 free Chrome extensions:

 

1. Adblock Plus

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Annoying ads are everywhere on the internet, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Adblock Plus blocks ads, tracking, and malware. I am still amazed by its ability to block YouTube ads. Say goodbye to Minions holding you hostage for 30 seconds when you’re just trying to watch some Worldstar fight compilations.

 

 

 

2. SearchPreview

Google and I have been through a lot together. She taught me that the Earth isn’t flat and men can’t get pregnant. I have a thirst for knowledge and I want my knowledge fast. That’s why I started using SearchPreview.

SearchPreview shows a thumbnail of each search result, so that you can scope out a website before you click on it.

3. Honey

You just paid $39.95 for a Himalayan salt lamp. Not bad for a purifying rock hand carved in Pakistan. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: coupon code SUMMERFUN17 could’ve saved you $11.

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If only you had Honey, which looks for and applies coupon codes when you shop online. Honey saves you money!

4. LastPass

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To simplify my life, I made all my passwords “password.” I was all set on the Internet…. Or so I thought. The next day, I’m signing up for Club Penguin and I come across this bona fide garbage.

I’m almost 23 years old, so I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning. How the f*#% am I supposed to remember more than one password? That’s where LastPass comes in. LastPass remembers this vital information for you. It’s like having a better brain, but it’s in your computer and not your head.


5. Weather

Do you like knowing the weather? Sure you do, but who has time to look outside? That’s where Weather comes in.

Weather puts this little icon in your taskbar that tells you the temperature. Click on it, and this happens.

Now, that’s a forecast. Weather is the easiest way to check the weather. Comes in handy especially if you decide to get off of your computer and go outside.

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Thanks for reading! I hope that these Chrome extensions have added some value to your life. There are countless other great extensions out there, so try them out until you find your favorites. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite Chrome extension is.