Happiness at Work and Play

In the upcoming issue of Extreme Profits, I write about how happy employees can help a company be successful. The flip side of course is how unhappy employees can drive customers away and create increased costs to the company in terms of employee turnover and hiring expenses.

While research has linked happiness to our genetic makeup, the “nature-nurture” theory certainly has a role here as well. Our culture and upbringing bear some responsibility for our happiness as does our socio-economic status, but if work continues to be a constant source of stress for you, you’re not scoring points with either yourself or your employer.

Leger Marketing surveyed 58 countries in 2011, ranking their happiness based on per capita income and hope about the nation’s economy. The Happiness Barometer for 2011 identifies Fiji as the happiest country overall. Canada comes in as #23 and Afghanistan fares better than the United States. Overall findings show that 53% of the world is happy compared with 13% who say they are unhappy.

So as this year comes to a close, it’s a good opportunity for all of us to take stock of our own happiness index in not only our work, but in our personal lives as well. If you’re unhappy, you need to get happy. Make 2012 your year to improve your happiness.






Moving to Efficiency

Why are some people “uber” efficient and productive while others sloth through their daily lives envying those show off efficients? Since none of us are born lazy or efficient, our learned behaviours can be unlearned.

If you’re efficient, kudos to you! Keep up the great work (we should compare notes!). If you’re a procrastinator, please read on so I can share with you some ways in which you, too, can become uber efficient not only in your place of work, but also improve your life dramatically. But first let me tell you why you may be choosing not to embrace efficiency in the first place.

First, change is hard, no matter how small or big the change. And it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t change because it never occurs to us that we need to change. If you’ve cruised through work and life thus far and lightening hasn’t struck, you convince yourself that things are good. After all, your friends like you just the way you are, right?

But if you’ve convinced yourself that becoming more efficient may help catapult your career beyond the boardroom, you realize that you will need to take time away from friends, television, video games, or other timewasters. And this is a second reason for resisting change. It  seems like such an inconvience, a chore, and the payoff for becoming efficient just doesn’t seem worth it at this juncture.

The third reason you might be resisting changing your behaviour is fear of failure or rejection. What if you change and you don’t implement efficiency techniques effectively? Won’t you look silly? Well, listen. The only people who will look silly are those that are not implementing efficiency in their work and their life. They will remain in the jobs they have (or be at a threat of demotion over time). You, on the other hand, will be moving forward to a better future.

A fourth reason for resisting change is that it takes a lot of work to be efficient. And most people don’t want to work that hard, especially if you’re starting from a point of procrastination. That’s a full 180 degree turnaround!

If you’re serious about becoming more efficient, but don’t know where to start, here are three things to consider:

  1. Find someone to show, teach, coach or mentor you on how to be more efficient. Or do research in the library or the Internet. Learn how to be more efficient.
  2. Identify someone who is already efficient. Ask them to share their efficiency techniques with you. It could be a colleague at work or someone you admire.
  3. If you know an efficient colleague, ask them if you can watch them work for a day, so you can see how they manage their workload. Most leaders are happy to teach their techniques to their peers. Learn their secrets to being more efficient.

Once you’ve got the principles down, start practicing by getting out of your comfort zone. Remember that it takes about three months to develop a good habit. Stick with it. It will be the best three months that you’ll ever invest in yourself.






Do you think that those who procrastinate are productive?

The instinctive answer would be “no,” because you think back to that one time when you had that one boss or that one colleague who, despite your best efforts to have them complete a task that you were waiting on, they just didn’t meet your schedule. But does this really mean that they weren’t productive? Or did they even hinder your productivity? Let’s think about this for a moment by first considering the meaning of procrastination.

Procrastination means “to put off or defer until a later time.” There are several reasons why one would defer an action.

This includes anxiety about completing the task (fear of failure, perfectionism), uncertainty about a task (how do I do it? what’s the outcome of the completed task?), unattractiveness of a task (it’s boring work, I don’t like it), low priority of the task (for them, but perhaps not for you!), etc. If the deferred action is done with the knowledge that the delay will cause the procrastinator (or organization) to be worse off because of the delay, then procrastination is definitely counterproductive.

While it may be necessary in some instances (e.g., to thoroughly review important information before making an important decision or writing a critical report), by its nature, procrastination can create unnecessary stress and reduce productivity for everyone affected (remember that one boss or colleague that was holding up your work on that one task?).

There are many ways to overcome procrastination, but here are my best anti-procrastination techniques that I use (and let’s face it, we all procrastinate sometimes – whether or not it’s counterproductive!):

  1. Use project management principles. When you have to complete a task, first determine the deadline. Second, determine the steps needed to complete the task by breaking the task down into its component parts (i.e., chunks of actions that need to be completed as part of the overall task). Third, determine how long each part/chunk will take to complete. Fourth, working backwards from the deadline, schedule sufficient time within your calendar for each chunk. You now have your absolute latest starting date for the task. Fifth, get started as scheduled! If you need help with this, the Project Management Institute website is a good resource.
  2. Stop worrying about what “might” happen. Worry only about what you know will happen. “Worriers” are highly creative and typically high functioning people (to worry about what “might” happen, you really have to have a good imagination!), but if you worry without basis for the worry, then the anxiety created by worrying will kill your productivity. Instead, channel your worry into conducting a risk assessment for your task/project. This will make you more productive and ensure your task is done on time and with minimal stress and worry.
  3. When you develop your schedule for your task/project, stick to it. If you find yourself meandering, try meditation or yoga to re-energize and bring your thoughts and energy back to the project. No one is capable of working on a task for hours on end without an energy or creativity break. Check out this video on how to meditate.

Next time when you think about procrastinating, try the above three techniques to make you more productive, creative, and energized.