Category Archives: Professional Productivity

What’s Your Excuse?

Excuses are the worst enemy of productivity, and they are best friends with procrastination. When procrastination and excuses buddy up, productivity doesn’t even stand a chance. I probably wouldn’t be too far off to estimate that 90% of all excuses aren’t even legitimate. They are just what we use to justify our procrastination, and we even convince ourselves that it is a totally valid reason for not doing what we know we should be doing.

Do you ever find yourself thinking about something you don’t want to do, and then suddenly all these reasons pop into your head for why you can’t do it right now? Excuses are your mind’s natural defense mechanism for protecting you from undesirable things on your to-do list, like getting started on that overwhelming project or writing that dreadful term paper due next week. There is always some excuse you can use to get you off the hook, but for how long? Eventually, you have to beat the procrastination, stop making excuses, and get shit done!

The best way to do this is to take a look at why you procrastinate. There are 2 main reasons for putting things off:

  1. It’s something you don’t enjoy doing
  2. It’s something you don’t really know how to do

In both cases, it’s likely that your mind is making it seem worse than it really is. There are some tips for kicking procrastination and excuses to the curb:

Just get started

It usually just takes making the first move to get a task going, but it’s this first step that’s the hardest. Once you start, you will find that it’s nowhere near as bad as you thought. Make a commitment to yourself not to accept anymore excuses, and you will find that procrastination will back off and let you get to it.

Break things up

We tend to put off things that are intimidating or overwhelming. In this case, break the tasks into pieces or set small goals that will make you feel more at ease. Beware that doing tasks in a start-and-stop manner opens up more opportunities for pesky procrastination to swoop in. To help with this, try setting firm deadlines for yourself.

Dangle a carrot

Rewards motivate, and when paired with productivity, they are a tough team to beat. Reward yourself for getting stuff done. Sometimes, for me, just knowing that I will no longer have to dread the task itself is enough motivation for me to stop putting it off.

I hope these tips make you more aware of the sneaky antics of the devious duo, Excuses and Procrastination.

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!


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What Not to do in an Interview

We conducted 6 interviews for a marketing internship position in my department this week. I know that since it’s an entry level position, the candidates were not seasoned interview professionals, so I shouldn’t set my expectations too high. But seriously? Is anyone being taught how to write a professional resume or even how to have a successful interview? I know I went through career prep exercises in both high school and college, but I’m thinking you don’t really understand the value of this practice until you actually try to enter the “real world.” It probably takes a few doses of rejection for new grads to realize that they need to get some feedback and take the whole process more seriously.

I would really like to be able to give feedback to the people I met this week, but I don’t know how to do it without it seeming rude. Instead, I am going to blog about it in hopes that I can help anyone who reads this. So here are some things you should not do in an interview:

  1. Don’t wear a short party dress and 5 inch heels
  2. You should definitely dress to impress, but remember who you are trying to impress. Think conservative, clean, and professional. Dress appropriately for the position for which you are applying. Remember you are in a business environment, not a night club.

  3. Don’t ramble
  4. It is understood that you are nervous, but be conscious of what comes out of your mouth. Sometimes what you think is an expression of enthusiasm and passion can come off as an overwhelming spout of TMI for the person sitting across from you.

  5. Don’t come off as uninterested
  6. There is a difference between being confident and appearing completely unenthused. It is possible to be excited and enthusiastic while maintaining composure and not looking like you’re trying too hard, but boring is unimpressive.

  7. Don’t tell me you don’t have any questions
  8. My company develops highly complex biometric technologies, and you don’t have anything to ask? It’s very important to ask your own questions because you are interviewing the company and your potential coworkers as well. Not doing so shows that either you didn’t do your research, or you don’t really care.

  9. Don’t submit a resume with spelling or grammatical errors
  10. If you even get an interview, errors on a resume start you off with diminished credibility right from the get-go, especially if the person hiring is a grammar nut like me. It shows that you are not thorough in your work, and depending on how atrocious the mistakes are, it may even discount your intelligence.

Those were the biggies. Being on the hiring end of the interview process has been eye-opening for me. I hope that these suggestions help someone; even if it’s just one person, I would feel like I’ve done my part. With unemployment rates like we have now, the competition is fierce, and you just can’t afford to make simple, yet major, mistakes like these.

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!

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How to Tackle New Project Anxiety

I always get overwhelmed when first assigned a new project. It’s that point in time when you have no answers, limited information, and no plan that evokes the fear of the unknown. My head begins to swim with questions, ideas, and thoughts as the new assignment is laid on me. It’s not until I have a moment to sit down and organize the muddled mess in my mind that I begin to relax and move forward with confidence.

When tackling a new project, organization is key. You have to organize your thoughts before you can even begin to make sense of it all. Here is what I do during the initial stages of project planning:

Ask questions

Get as much information as you can right from the beginning, and take notes. Make sure you are clear on expectations, timelines, and assumptions. If you don’t know something, leverage the knowledge and experience of others. The more details you can get from the beginning, the less chance you have of losing time by heading in the wrong direction.

Make a list (1 of many!)

This is how I release all those thoughts clogging my brain, so I can think clearly. I write things down in lists, starting with the major components of the project. I sort these sections in order of urgency and sequence. From there, I break down all the actionable items into tasks for each.

Create a timeline

Once you have a better understanding of the work breakdown structure, it’s easy to start creating a timeline or Ghantt chart. Be realistic with your time estimation; you have to find the balance between over ambitious and dragging your heels. Give yourself a little cushion because overly aggressive timelines could set your project up for failure.

I always feel much better once I have done these things. What do you do when journeying into the unfamiliar territory of a new project?

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!

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10 Self Confidence Boosters

Self confidence boostersDo you need a little help feeling more confident? Even if you don’t, there’s always room for growth in this area. Self confidence comes from challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and real that you really are capable of more than you thought. Now, maybe you know you want to be more confident, but don’t know how. Here are 10 things you can do to boost your self confidence:

Start a conversation with a stranger

This can be the grocery checker, the person standing behind you in line, or even someone in your office you’ve never had the chance to meet.

Try something new

We get comfortable with the things we know and do really well. Try something new because you may discover one more thing you can be confident doing.

Do something that forces you to face a fear

Many of our fears are silly. Nothing says confidence like fearlessness, even if you have to fake it.

Get published

Start a blog or join a social network. It’s exciting when you discover that there are people out there who want to hear what you have to say.

Go to a networking event

I get terribly anxious at networking events, or any social situation where I don’t know anyone. I make myself set a goal, like “I’m going to talk to 3 different people in the next 30 minutes.” Being on a mission makes me feel more confident.

By a new outfit

There’s something about new clothes that makes you walk a little taller and carry your head a little higher. When you look good, you feel good.

Set a fitness goal

Beyond the health benefits of working out, it also helps you create a more positive mental image of yourself.

Develop new skills

Learn the skills you need to do the things that are going to make you succeed and accomplish your goals.

Say “No” to something

People who aren’t confident say “Yes” to everything because they are too afraid to rock the boat. Don’t get taken advantage of. Stand up for yourself, and say “No” if you have too much on your plate.

Take notes

We all have role models we look up to. Take mental notes on what makes them confident and emulate these qualities. How do they behave? How do they carry themselves?

Do you have any other ideas for how to boost self confidence?

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!

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Boosting Productivity with Warm Fuzzies

Do you feel like you get more done when you are in a good mood? It’s probably because you have a more positive attitude, higher energy, and greater optimism when your mood is elevated. In his Positive Organizational Behavior blog, Dr. Bret Simmons recently wrote on the topic of feeling good by doing good. He suggests that engaging in helping behaviors at work creates a more positive mood, and in turn, increases the productivity of employees.

This is based on the idea that doing good for others makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and who doesn’t like feeling warm and fuzzy? People like to do things that make them feel good, and if you can incorporate this into your company culture, you may end up with happier, more motivated employees. Here are some ideas for encouraging helping behaviors in the workplace:

  • Create a mentorship program
  • Promote courtesy and gratitude
  • Start a charity drive (clothes, food, toys, etc.) competition between departments
  • Engage in volunteering
  • Collect donations for an employee/family in need
  • Encourage employees to help each other with projects

Not only can this positive mood be obtained through employees helping each other, but also through helping customers. I work for a company that is developing a technology with the capability to assist paralyzed individuals with communication. I find myself highly motivated to work for a company with such an altruistic purpose.

Foster an environment in your organization that encourages employees to engage in helpful behaviors. Not only will it boost their mood, it can also increase motivation and productivity as well.

Do you work for a company that emphasizes helping others? Please share your thoughts!

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!

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How to Give a Productive Presentation

Let’s face it. The moment you lose your audience’s attention, you are wasting both their time and your own from that point forward. It is impossible for a presentation to achieve its purpose, whether that’s to persuade, inform, or entertain, if your audience has drifted to some other place in their mind. These are some tips for catching and keeping your audience’s attention, so everyone’s time is used productively:

Start off with a bang

You have no more than 30 seconds to convince someone to listen to what you have to say. Start your presentation with something that is going to leave them wanting more. Contrary to common belief, this is not the time for a personal introduction and life story overview. A powerful way to start is with a shocking statistic, an entertaining (yet relevant!) anecdote, or if you have the guts, something humorous, but tasteful of course. You want to engage them from the start.

Don’t read to them

No one wants to listen to you stand up there and read to them. Whether it’s off your notes, your PowerPoint slides, or the palm of your hand, it is never ok to dictate to your audience what they can read for themselves. The only exception would be a brief quote or a crucial statistic. If you are going to write your entire presentation on your slides, you might as well print everyone a copy and call it a day.

Use PowerPoints as a visual enhancement ONLY

We have become a PowerPoint dependent society, so much so that we’ve forgotten the intended purpose of this application. When used properly, a PowerPoint can be used to enhance your presentation and engage your audience; however, there are way too many guilty of PowerPoint abuse. Remember, it’s called Power”Point,” not Power”Paragraph.” Use visually interesting images and graphs that illustrate your point visually. If you must use bullet points, each bullet should have no more than 7-10 words, and there should be no more than 5 bullets per slide.

I’m sure we’ve all fallen victim to poorly conducted, unproductive presentations. I hope these tips help you maximize the success of your presentations, and I’m sure your audience will thank you.

To a happy, healthy, productive life!

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4 Reasons You’re Stressed & It’s Your Fault

You’ve heard it all before: “It’s just one of those days,” “I hit traffic,” “My dog ate my homework.” We find excuses for the consequences of our actions and try to blame them on some external force out of our control. We often use stress itself as an excuse: “Sorry, I’ve been under a lot of stress lately.” I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t want to hear… it’s probably YOUR fault you’re stressed. It’s not traffic, and it’s not your poor dog. There are many cases in which stress is self-induced, and here are some examples:

Poor time estimation

One of the most frequent causes of stress is time constraint. Deadlines, appointments, and other obligations put pressure on us to be somewhere or have something accomplished by a certain time. If you don’t manage your time effectively, you create more stress for yourself than if you had planned properly.


We’re all guilty of putting things off to the last minute sometimes. If you procrastinate, however, you are just asking for stress. No one else is to blame for waiting until the last minute but yourself.

Should have said “No”

Are you a “yes” person? Do you take on too many things and wind up spread too thin? It is ok to say “no” sometimes, especially when you already have a full plate.

Distorted perspective

This one is the trickiest source of stress to identify because it usually takes someone on the outside looking in to say, “hey, it’s really not as bad as you are making it.” When you lose perspective of how things really are, you lose sight of the big picture. When you place too much importance on things that are actually insignificant in the long term, you cause yourself undue stress. Ask yourself, “Is this really something worth the energy, time, and mental capacity I’m giving it?”

The good news is, these self-induced stressors are actually the only ones you have control over. There are circumstances that cause stress which are out of your hands, but the ones you impose on yourself can be prevented if you recognize you are doing them and assume full accountability. You must admit that the stress is your fault before you can take action to fix it.

To a happy, healthy, productive life!


Filed under Personal Productivity, Professional Productivity, Time Management/ Organization