Reduce the odds that a conversation will bog down when people take things too personally by avoiding statements that begin with “you.” Example: Instead of saying, “You’re wrong,” say, “I disagree” or “Here’s my position on that.”
Learn how you can add more value at the office by conducting your own “listening tour.” Example: When business slowed at Paige Arnof-Fenn’s marketing firm, she filled her schedule with lunches and coffees with clients, asking what they worried about. The result: a new business strategy. She began offering clients more bite-size products and services. What do your “internal clients” feel they’re not able to accomplish? How could you help?
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Organize your boss’s desk so he can more easily organize himself. One admin suggests buying baskets or trays that the boss can use for project-specific papers. When the project is over, the tray is available for the next project. “The most clutter on my boss’s desk are the ‘I’m not ready for it to leave my desk’ files,” she says. Project trays resolve the problem.
Walk fast to make a great first impression. Studies show that people who walk faster than others are seen as important and energetic. So pick up the pace and walk with purpose. You never know who may be watching.
Take responsibility for your own professional development, says Steven DeMaio on HarvardBusiness.org, with this strategy: Set a goal of having one major learning experience each quarter. If work isn’t challenging you enough, seek out a volunteer opportunity or enroll in a class.
Put off work—constructively—with a tactic from Stanford University philosophy professor John Perry. Calling it “structured procrastination,” he advocates doing small, low-priority tasks as you defer a larger, important task, to build a sense of accomplishment and energy. It may not help you overcome the urge to procrastinate, but it keeps your productivity high while you defer work.
Another way to beat procrastination? The Swiss cheese technique. Punch holes in a task like it’s a block of cheese. Do a five-minute portion of an important task. Then another five. Anything can be broken down into small, doable chunks.