Quick tip: Always establish a priority level

Always establish a priority level when you assign new work to employees. That allows staff to schedule their tasks over a reasonable amount of time, rather than trying to rush and get everything done at once.

Posted in Communication | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

3 Tips for Practicing Mindfulness in a Multitasking Workplace: Neurologist Shares the Science Behind Its Effectiveness

This is a guest post by Dr. Romie Mushtaq.

Google, eBay, Intel and General Mills offer classes on it. So do Harvard Business School, Ross School of Business and Claremont Graduate University, among other campuses. Mindfulness is not just a corporate trend, but a proven method for success.

Mindfulness – being focused and fully present in the here and now – is good for individuals and good for a business’s bottom line.

How can people practice it in a workplace where multitasking is the norm, and concerns for future profits can add to workplace stress?

“Even if a company doesn’t make it part of the culture, employees and managers can substitute their multitasking habits with mindfulness in order to reduce stress and increase productivity,” says Dr. Romie Mushtaq, http://www.BrainBodyBeauty.com, a neurologist with expertise in Mind-Body medicine and Mindful Living.

“The result that you and your colleagues will notice is that you’re sharper, more efficient and more creative.”

Dr. Romie says the physiological benefits of clearing away distractions and living in the moment have been documented in many scientific and medical studies.

“Practicing mindfulness, whether it’s simply taking deep breaths, or actually meditating or doing yoga, has been shown to alter the structure and function of the brain, which is what allows us to learn, acquire new abilities, and improve memory,” she says. “Advances in neuroimaging techniques have taught us how these mindfulness-based techniques affect neuroplasticity.

“Multitasking, on the other hand, depresses the brain’s memory and analytical functions, and it reduces blood flow to the part of the right temporal lobe, which contributes to our creative thinking. In today’s marketplace, creativity is key for innovation, sustainability and leadership.

Romie offers these tips for practicing mindfulness in a multitasking business:

Focus on a single task for an allotted amount of time. You might say, “For 15 minutes, I’m going to read through my emails, and then for one hour, I’m going to make my phone calls,” Dr. Romie says.

If your job comes with constant interruptions that demand your attention, take several deep breaths and then prioritize them. Resist the urge to answer the phone every time it rings – unless it’s your boss. If someone asks you to drop what you’re doing to help with a problem, it’s OK to tell them, “I’ll be finished with what I’m doing in 10 minutes, then I’m all yours.”

When you get “stuck” in a task, change your physical environment to stimulate your senses. Sometimes we bounce from one task to another because we just don’t have the words to begin writing that strategic plan, or we’re staring at a problem and have no ideas for solutions.

“That’s the time to get up, take a walk outside and look at the flowers and the birds – change what you’re seeing,” Dr. Romie says. “Or turn on some relaxing music that makes you feel happy.”

Offering your senses pleasant and different stimulation rewires your brain for relaxation, and reduces the effects of stress hormones, which helps to unfreeze your creativity center.

Delegate! We often have little control over the external stresses in our life, particularly on the job. How can you not multitask when five people want five different things from you at the same time?

“Have compassion for yourself, and reach out for help,” Dr. Romie says. “If you can assign a task to somebody else who’s capable of handling it, do so. If you need to ask a colleague to help you out, ask!” This will not only allow you to focus on the tasks that most need your attention, it will reduce your stress. “And who knows? The colleague you’re asking for help may want to feel appreciated and part of your team!”

While it is possible to practice mindfulness in a hectic workplace, Dr. Romie says she encourages business leaders to make it part of the company culture. Stress-related illnesses are the number one cause of missed employee workdays.

“Offering mindfulness training and yoga classes or giving people time and a place to meditate is an excellent investment,” she says. “Your company’s performance will improve, you’ll see a reduction in stress-related illnesses and you’ll be a more successful businessperson.”

About Dr. Romie Mushtaq

Dr. Romie is a mind-body medicine physician and neurologist. She did her medical education and training at the Medical University of South Carolina, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and University of Michigan, where she won numerous teaching and research awards. She brings to healing both her expertise of traditional Western medical training and Eastern modalities of mindfulness. She is currently a corporate health consultant and professional health and wellness life coach at the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine in Orlando, Florida. She is also an international professional speaker, addressing corporate audiences, health and wellness conferences and non-profit organizations. Her website is http://www.BrainBodyBeauty.com.

Posted in Time Management | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rein in Runaway Projects

One of the biggest barriers to any project’’s success is “scope creep”— – changing requirements that come without corresponding budget and deadline adjustments. The key
to managing that is to stay in control.

First, define objectives. In writing, set out the scope of the project, and ask both internal and external customers to review, revise and sign off on that plan before you begin.

Then, plan for change. Start with the expectation that the project plans are not written in stone, and create a system for handling change requests using these strategies:

  • Specify from the beginning that any new request must come with a change-request form that includes a cost-benefit analysis. Determine who will hold the authority to approve changes.
  • Boost your time and cost estimates by 15% to 20%, and you gain breathing room to handle inevitable changes.
  • Keep priorities in sight. Draft a list of the critical success factors for the project. Along with that, post the budget, deadlines and feature requirements in a place where you can refer to them often as you decide how to proceed.
  • Work the plan. Even for a single-person project, use a spreadsheet to create a management plan that details the work you must complete for each stage, from training through documentation. The bigger the project, the more detail you need.

Result: With clearly established change processes in place, you maintain control.
—

- Adapted from “”Preventing Scope Creep in Project Management,”” Rick Cusolito, Boston University Corporate Education Center.

Posted in Management | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Quick Tip: Link Errands in a Chain

Drivers use a technique called mapping to plan their route in a loop to save gasoline while running errands. Apply that strategy to your walks around the office. Instead of taking several trips back and forth, make one circle around the building to drop off files, fax a  document and fill your coffee cup.

Posted in Small changes with big results | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Avoid Goal Overload

If you focus on achieving one personal improvement goal at a time, you will have more success than if you try to accomplish multiple goals.

The problem isn’’t lack of motivation or intelligence, says executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. The problem is goal overload. “Everyone has profitability goals, growth goals, quality goals, customer goals, health goals and on and on,” he says.

When you set multiple goals in each area, Goldsmith says, you “quickly reach a number of goals that are not only impossible to achieve— but also they are impossible to remember.” That’’s why Goldsmith counsels his clients to pick the one area for personal change that will make the biggest difference —and to focus on that exclusively.

If you pick the right area, he says, increased effectiveness in that behavior will influence many other aspects of your work life.

Example: Let’’s assume you need to become a better listener. More effective listening will lead to higher scores in all kinds of related behaviors such as building teamwork, treating people with respect or even becoming a better friend. But how do you make sure you pick a goal that really matters?

Goldsmith relies on this deceptively simple exercise developed by psychologist Dr. Nathaniel Branden:

Pick a behavior that you may want to change. Complete the sentence ““When I get better at …” …” Do that repeatedly. Listen closely as you recite potential benefits. If after the first two or three iterations your benefits begin to sound meaningful, no doubt that goal is important to you.

Posted in Goals | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What to Say to a Procrastinator

Review this exchange between a manager and an employee for some clues that could help you better manage the known procrastinators on your team:

Manager: ““Do you have the information I told you I will need by tomorrow?””
Employee: “Don’t worry. I’’ve started on it.””
Manager: “You know I need it for my report tomorrow. And I don’’t want you to rush it.””

Analysis: The manager earns high marks for knowing that you have to help procrastinators see where their priorities are. And you must stress the importance of a task.

Employee: ““I’’ve got everything under control.””
Manager: “I’m sure that’’s true. You’’ve handled research well before. But I know it’’s a time-consuming process. Why not let me do a part of it? I don’’t want any pressure-
related mistakes.”

Analysis: Give the manager a plus for complimenting the employee but a minus for taking on part of the task. By doing that, the manager signals that procrastination earns a
lighter workload.
—

- Adapted from Overcoming Negativity in the Workplace, Alexander Hamilton Institute.

Posted in Communication, Management | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Assign Homework Before Meetings

How can you coax creative ideas and input from meeting attendees?

The key is to have them prepare before the meeting. Make sure they have all the background they need to hit the ground running. Withholding information until the meeting will only slow the group down. A few best practices:

  • Highlight what’s important. If background material is long, flag or highlight key parts of the documents. Avoid overload.
  • Provide a “brain dump” memo that lists everything you know about the issue at hand. Include background on products, the marketplace and current competition. That allows the group to digest information and do some creative thinking in advance.
  • Assign homework. For example, challenge all participants to bring three solutions to the problem being discussed. Or, to start a meeting on a positive note, have all participants recall their biggest success since the last meeting, and ask one person to share a success with the group. The benefit: The practice generates excitement and involvement from participants.

 

Posted in Meetings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment