Even when all the right elements are in play at the office – a strong team, good management, healthy communication, a positive culture – a little workplace finesse can come in handy to strengthen your skill sets, improve job performance and maybe get a leg up on the corporate ladder.
Work is such a big part of our lives that we can all use some strategies to get out of our cubicle comfort zones. We asked five area experts for their advice on how to get the job done. Here are their tips for successfully hacking your workday.
Hit A Home Run
How To Set And Achieve Goals
Set aggressive goals. You’ll get better results by setting specific, aggressive goals versus more generalized “do-your-best” goals, says Dr. Deborah Searcy, an instructor of Management Programs – Strategy at the College of Business at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Even if you don’t reach your goal, you will have achieved more in trying to get there.
Do the mind dump. Dr. Searcy is a big fan of the “mind dump” – getting every task, however insignificant or non-work-related, written down on a to-do list to free up space in the brain. “You can only keep three to seven pieces of information in your brain at any time,” she says. Taking 20 minutes at the beginning of the day to organize and prioritize the list will help you focus and concentrate on important tasks.
Avoid multitasking. Don’t think that you’ll get more done by doing several tasks at once. “Humans cannot multitask,” Dr. Searcy says. “We can do a series of things in quick succession.” For example, we can’t talk to a colleague and write an email. When we try to multitask, each task usually takes longer and is done less effectively. “You end up being much less productive,” she says.
Resist checking emails frequently. Interrupting your work flow to check email regularly is counterproductive, Dr. Searcy says. In fact, she notes that some workplaces are installing filters on email so that the server releases emails only two or three times a day. “Eighty percent of emails never need a response,” she says.
Sleep on it. If you get stuck on a project, do something else. “We have different levels of functioning in our brains,” Dr. Searcy says. “There’s the conscious brain, but there’s also stuff that’s going on in back of the brain, subconsciously. If you reach a point where you can’t work anymore, take a break. Your brain is still trying to solve the problems.” She advises: “Sleep on it.”
Wow The Crowd
How To Make An Amazing Presentation
While wooing your audience with a convincing presentation is more of an art form than a science, Jennifer Bate Richy, executive director and COO of the Boca West Children’s Foundation in Boca Raton, has some practical advice for how to knock it out of the park.
1. Engage your audience: An engaged audience is following along, understanding and interested in your message.
2. Start with the end: You want your audience to do something. It could be to buy your product, donate to your cause or believe in your beliefs. This is your call to action; state it early on and clearly.
3. Explain why: Focus on what the audience wants to know, and answer the “why” of your proposition. (Why should they buy? Why should they donate? Why should they believe?) It will ensure everyone understands your basic underlying message.
4. Be yourself: Once you have their interest and understanding, work in other things you’d like them to know. Show your personality a bit, and don’t be afraid to use some light humor. Talk with your audience – not to your audience – to connect with them and help you relax.
5. Make a new friend: Pretend as though you are with friends, colleagues or clients – and that is who your audience members will become.
Keep The Peace
How To Resolve Office Conflicts
When you put people together in a closed environment for 40 hours (or more) a week with the pressure of achieving tasks, professional and personal conflicts are sure to arise.
Positive energy, gratitude and open communication are key to resolving office conflict, says Tracy Tilson, president of Tilson PR in Boca Raton. Being in an industry where communication is priority No. 1, she ensures that lines of communication with her team are always open.
“If you build a strong core team with openness and camaraderie, deflecting office conflict is easy,” says Tilson. “Everything radiates from that.”
Setting an open door policy – when anything can be discussed – and addressing any issues that arise quickly and promptly can help prevent misunderstandings and discord.
“Conflict comes from confusion,” Tilson says. “If expectations and directions are clear, it’s amazing how that takes away from conflict.”
An “attitude of gratitude” is part of her marketing strategy and is a meaningful team builder. On Thank You Thursdays, the staff meets to share handwritten thank you notes they’re sending to clients. Staffers explain whom they are thanking and why.
“Conflict hurts energy, and positive energy is a lot of what we are,” says Tilson.
Be Well At Work
How To Use Mindfulness To Reduce Stress
Many employers are jumping on the bandwagon and championing workplace wellness. But, while some only pay lip service to the practice, others put their money where their mouth is – including JM Family Enterprises Inc., with headquarters in Deerfield Beach.
The $16.3 billion automotive company ranked No. 17 on Fortune’s nationwide 100 Best Companies to Work For list this year. Benefits for its 1,426 Deerfield Beach associates include gym facilities, a fitness trail and an indoor lap pool. An onsite health and wellness center and a wellness incentive program complement stellar medical benefits.
Two years ago, the company initiated a series on mindfulness, the concept of focusing on the present moment, as a way to manage stress. This past summer, JM Family partnered with the South Florida Center of Mindfulness to offer a Lunch and Learn Program on mindfulness, featuring guided meditations and discussions.
Millie Lemajich, senior health and group benefits manager at JM Family, says mindfulness is a great way to reduce stress, improve decision-making and decrease anxiety.
“We feel practicing mindfulness can help our associates both personally and professionally,” she says. “Everyone is on their own path on the continuum of mindfulness. With this series, it doesn’t matter what your experience is. They’re focused on breathing and educating participants on how to live a more mindful existence.”
The sessions have received resoundingly positive feedback, Lemajich says, with participants noting “how much better their lives have become,” from improvements in sleep to better day-to-day experiences.
A few ways you can practice mindfulness at work include doing breathing exercises, taking a few minutes to meditate, making sure you leave the office for lunch and practicing gratitude. There are also many mobile apps for mindfulness, including Calm, Headspace and Sattva.
Get Time On Your Side
How To Practice Good Time Management
Time management is a mindset – not a schedule, says Dr. Amanda Main, associate professor of management at Lynn University’s College of Business and Management in Boca Raton. She specializes in industrial and organizational psychology and is also an organizational coach and consultant. “Learn how to manage yourself and your choices to competitive advantage,” she says. Here’s how.
- Take ownership of your productivity habits. Objectively look at how you tackle work, and assess whether your approach is really working for you.
- Prioritize your tasks; tackle urgent and important ones first. This is where you want to spend most of your time.
- Use a three-list method for your goals. The first list includes big things you want to accomplish quarterly or yearly. The second list contains weekly goals that’ll help you accomplish the goals on the first list. The third list comprises what you need to do daily to reach your weekly goals.
- If a task is not important, delegate it or get rid of it.
- Good enough is often good enough. Don’t go overboard
- with lots of bells and whistles on everything. It’ll only bog you down.
- Get comfortable saying no in person – not by email, which can be misconstrued. If you’re overwhelmed, ask your boss to help you prioritize, or suggest another resource that can help get the job done.
- Turn off devices to avoid burnout and losing sleep due to after-hours emails and texts. O