Hi, everyone! Thank you for the great response to our Distinguished Leader Series! Here’s the second part of my talk with GitLab’s Head of Remote, Darren Murph. If you missed part 1 of this conversation where we dig into how GitLab runs a multi-billion dollar remote-first company — you can find it here.
How would you recommend managers with distributed teams think about the time zone issue?
Time zones are the bane of any company’s existence. Unfortunately, time zones are hard for co-located companies as well. If you’ve ever worked at a co-located office in Seattle with colleagues in Singapore, you know what I’m talking about. The solution is to shift work to asynchronous workflows wherever possible. And so, if there’s anything that can be reduced to a document and written down and ingested at a time that is more suitable for a wide array of time zones, make sure that you do that.
You’re going to need to be clear with your direct reports on ways of working. Empower and enable them with the right tools to collaborate asynchronously across time zones. And although email is asynchronous by nature, it’s not a great tool for asynchronous work because it’s inherently siloed. It’s tough to get transparency on email.
At GitLab, we use the GitLab Platform to collaborate company-wide. If you’re a leader, make sure that there’s a tool in place, a central hallway where work can be done so that you break those chains of synchronicity wherever possible.
What tools in your toolkit do you recommend for people to shift from synchronous to asynchronous?
Of course, I recommend GitLab, especially if you’re already using it for engineering; use it for collaboration across the entire organization. Dropbox Space is an excellent, centralized hallway. Miro and Mural are phenomenal tools. Figma is another one for those looking for tooling design and collaboration space. If you’re trying to stand up a company handbook, Almanac.io is a fantastic tool because they have structured approvals, which is very similar to the merge request. Try to simplify your tool stack as much as possible.
At GitLab, it is written in our handbook that every work meeting must have a Google doc agenda attached in the inbox. So the meeting organizer has to draft up the agenda, the attendees’ overview, and expected outcomes, and then send the calendar invite. This way, if you’re not attending the meeting, you’re able to at least immediately click on the document, add context, add your questions, and then someone can verbalize that question for you and document the answer. This way, you’re able to contribute asynchronously, even to a process that may usually be synchronous.
Speaking of GitLab, it sounds like you can use it for various use cases that go beyond code collaboration and co-host. Can you share a bit of the primary use cases that you use GitLab for in the company for collaboration?
Yeah, we use it across the company. So, even though our designers don’t design illustrations in GitLab, they would share those in something like Figma. But we would still start a GitLab issue within the design team to collaborate on Figma links. And that enables transparency.
Even those who don’t work in design or demonstration can jump into the GitLab Platform and have visibility into their team. In addition, this approach lets them provide input and feedback. And so, when you use it as a collaboration tool, we recognize that it becomes advantageous outside of engineering. We want to work to remove silos actively, and a great way to do that is to choose a collaboration platform like GitLab and funnel your work through it.
Do you have any best practices that you would recommend for remote-first companies in their use of video conferencing software like Zoom and so on? And it sounds like for a lot of these; it’s not just the tool; it’s also how you use them and what’s the process scaffolding you put around it.
Yeah, it has to be a combination of both. We use Zoom. It’s a pretty boring solution, but it scales well. And so if we do have a company all-hands and we need 1300 people on a Zoom call, it will stand up to that. But speaking of using common tools in uncommon ways, if we have to have a work-related meeting, we will have the meeting as either 25 minutes instead of 30 or 50 instead of 60.
Now Google calls these speedy meetings, but this kind of goes back to how we use it. We cut the meeting after 25 minutes instead of 30 so that you aren’t back to back with the schedule. You will undoubtedly meet someone experiencing Zoom fatigue, and it can be as simple as adding five or 10 minutes here and there to give folks a breather. I think we’re in the earliest of innings, so watch the space. Some amazing innovations are coming out of that.
That sounds great. And earlier on, you mentioned how you like to set up these coffee chats with people within the first month to help new joiners get fully onboarded. Are there any tools or products that you found that solve that use case well?
If you want to randomize it, Donut is a great solution. But I would also say, create a community or topical channels if you’re a leader and have access to administrative space within Slack. If you create spaces like hiking or cooking, or location channels, you’ll find that people join sub-channels relevant to them. And then, once they’re in that sub-community, it becomes easier to set up coffee chats and make connections.
That’s super helpful. Can you share your advice to founders running distributed teams today? For example, how do you pull off a happy hour with a globally distributed group of people in different time zones?
Yeah, so I’ll give you an example of a 24-hour virtual pizza party. So, as a celebration for a certain team, we had a 24-hour virtual pizza party. We had our employees enjoy pizza with their families, bill it back to the company, and share their pictures. It’s a straightforward solution, but it reinforces that groupthink global demeanor. Instead, we should celebrate the differences among us, including the best in residence in geography.
You don’t have to plan a virtual happy hour, especially a synchronous one every week, to feel like you’re bringing your team together. This practice is a bit paradoxical, but the more you let go of your team and empower your people to go out in their communities and then share those videos and photos with the team, the closer the individuals on your team will get because they see each other’s real personalities, and what makes them unique.
That sounds great! Do you use Slack for messaging, or do you use some other tool?
We use Slack, but we expire all of our Slack messages after 90 days, and this is a very simple forcing function so that we don’t do long-form, deep work in Slack. When we realize incubation is happening in a Slack channel, we create a GitHub issue and port the conversation so that the work continues over there. Slack is just a medium to share different GitLab links to ensure that we continue to work in the most transparent way possible.
And what is the repository of knowledge at GitLab?
It won’t surprise you that we use the GitLab Handbook. And we use the merge request functionality so that anyone in the company can propose any page in the company handbook. So for companies already using GitLab, it is possible to build your company handbook. Also, as I’ve mentioned earlier, Almanac.io is a great place to start.
That’s good to know. Regarding one-on-ones that happen between managers in a fully distributed team, do you have any best practices for managers on how to conduct them?
Yeah, so every one-on-one has a Google doc, an ongoing agenda. And what’s great about this is it allows topics that you didn’t get to cover to stay there still, and then you’re able to move it up to the next date so that things don’t just fall away.
A side note here is that our team does async weeks where we decline all internal meetings, and we move everything async every six weeks. We do this with one-on-ones as well.
The last thing I’ll mention here is to make sure that the one-on-one is the direct reports meeting. I see many leaders have one-on-ones where they direct the entire game, which goes back to being a director. So they see a one-on-one as an opportunity to list out all of the to-dos for their direct report. But the problem with that is it doesn’t give the direct report a medium to voice their challenges or ask questions or talk about career development.
So the manager has to be very careful not to override the one-on-one. Instead, the manager should see it as an opportunity to unblock instead of just loading someone up with to-do tasks.
That’s super helpful. Have you seen any good tools that people use for recording and transcribing meetings to make a synchronous meeting count some of the benefits of an async meeting, or do you intentionally avoid doing that?
There are some tools. Firefly is one. Then there is Otter, of course. I know many sales teams use Gong, an excellent tool for analyzing those calls and helping sales teams make recommendations for changes in their behavior. I’m in favor of leveraging technology to make lives easier. However, some of those tools can be a bit finicky because they are just raw transcription tools. So sometimes they miss the context or create sentences that didn’t happen, so they’re not perfect, but they’re certainly better than no documentation at all.
As many companies think about their post-pandemic work strategy, what is your advice for previously office-centric companies? Now they’ve remained distributed. Their teams, probably a majority of the people at the company, prefer to be the work from home—work from anywhere culture. What is your advice for leaders at those companies on how they think about their post-pandemic work strategy?
So I mentioned a few points here, but before I do that, I would say go to allremote.info and download the remote playbook. That is the blueprint for making this transition, and we recently refreshed it specifically for the use case you just mentioned.
We want to help leaders build long-term sustainable remote work environments. A lot of leaders are keeping some office space, and they’re attempting to go hybrid. There’s this thought that hybrid is going to be the best of both worlds. But without a lot of intentionalities, it can easily become the worst of both worlds.
You do not want to foster an environment where a subset of your organization works office-first. And a subset works remote-first. You want everyone working remote-first because that makes your company more resilient to future crises. And if you do maintain an office, you want to make sure that it’s not the epicenter of power. You don’t want people going there to rub shoulders with the right people or advance their careers. I realize this sounds crazy, but if they go to the office, they should only go there to work remotely from the office and treat it more like a coworking space.
The last piece of advice I want to reiterate to leaders is if you are reopening an office, I would advise you not to go back at all, and definitely don’t be the first one back in the office, because it sends the signal that the office is still the epicenter of power. And if you have spent the last 18 or 24 months building remote muscle through the pandemic, all of that will evaporate if you send the signal that everyone needs to be in a physical space, else they are risking their career. So leaders need to be mindful of the signals they are sending.
And what have you seen so far, Darren, regarding companies that run surveys in their team? I’m curious what you’ve seen from your vantage point about what the employees prefer. And is that any different from what management tends to choose in a choice like this?
We just surveyed almost 4,000 people globally. You can search for GitLab’s Remote Work Report and dig into all sorts of data, but I want to call out a few points here that I think are pertinent to this conversation.
One in three people said that if their work refused to allow flexibility coming out of COVID, they would just find another job. And I think this number will only increase as we move out of the pandemic. People at large already enjoy the freedom and autonomy of remote work during the worst of times.
So from a talent acquisition and retention standpoint, there’s no going back for many people. Organizations are going to have to answer the question as to what is their stance on workplace flexibility.
The other thing is this disconnect between people saying that they love remote work and saying that the organization hasn’t yet built the infrastructure to support them. So people are raising their hands and saying: “I love remote work,” but they’re also saying: “My company feels disorganized and unprepared for this change.” So I think this is an excellent opportunity for leaders to acknowledge where people generally want to go and build proper infrastructure for them to work in a remote setting.
Based on what you just said, what can a company do to be best in class to prepare for a remote-first workforce?
Honestly, the first thing you can do is hire a Head of Remote or put someone in charge of the remote transition. There’s nothing more important to the company than signaling that this is a serious and long-term consideration. Most importantly, if someone is in charge of the transition, they can then be responsible for going around the organization and pressure testing, all of the things that we mentioned earlier.
The other element I would recommend here is to invest in L & D. You have to remember that not everyone will know how to work well in a remote setting. Not every manager fully understands the nuances of managing in a remote environment. And for some of these people, you will have to upskill and teach them. So L & D organizations are spinning up things like editorial workshops to teach people how to communicate well through the written word. In a remote setting, that’s a critical skill. So the organization will be on the hook for upskilling employees, which will be setting them up for success when the future is remote.
That’s super interesting. When you hire global talent worldwide, people come from different cultures and backgrounds; there are societal, cultural norms for people growing up in other countries. Is there something GitLab does intentionally to bridge that cultural gap to get people more comfortable with a particular way of working?
For example, in some cultures, people are not comfortable speaking out against a manager’s deadline. They don’t feel comfortable debating and disagreeing with an idea and brainstorming. Is this something that you observe, and if so, is there anything you do at GitLab to bring together people from different cultures to do a more standard way of working?
There are two things you can do here. The first is to be explicit in powering, recommending, and encouraging things like dissent. We have a sub-value that’s titled ‘The Value in Dissent.’ So we write down that you are empowered and encouraged to show disagreement. I understand that having it written down for some cultures isn’t enough because perhaps the employee has worked in an organization where dissent was encouraged. Still, when they tried to do it, the outcome wasn’t so positive for them. So now they’re a bit hesitant to believe what’s written down.
In that case, I think the only next thing you can do is reinforce it by leadership. It pretty much has to be top-down. Ensure that your senior leaders are open to dissent and open to that kind of feedback from people. Make sure that you share it as transparently as possible so that when other people see things like this happening, they’ll perhaps be more comfortable and more likely to read into it themselves. It’s critical from a cultural standpoint to lead by example. Because to your point, not everyone’s going to believe a document.
I’ve seen you reference these written-down values a few times in our chat. So how does the company go about compiling this handbook of values?
It started a long time ago, and it’s a living, breathing document. We made hundreds of updates and iterations to the GitLab Values page in 2020. So for many companies, values were written one time by the founding team, and then they just collect dust in the corner.
I would encourage teams to build it with a tool like GitLab or Almanac and empower the entire team to contribute feedback to make it more robust. If it’s a living, breathing document, people are more likely to adhere to the values. In truth, culture is just a barometer of how well values are adhered to. So a lot of teams will wonder: “How do I create culture?”. Well, write great values, and the culture will be how well those values are adhered to.
I think that’s a great place to start, Darren. This conversation was super helpful and valuable for all leaders trying to think about building successful remote-first companies. Thank you so much for taking the time to have this conversation with me today. And what’s the place where people who enjoyed listening to you can learn more, where should they go?
Thank you for the forum. Thanks all for your attention. Be sure to check out allremote.info to download the playbook that I’ve authored for GitLab. You’ll find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, the usual places at @DarrenMurph.
Image Credit: provided by the author, jonathan siddharth; thank you!
5 Ways To Grow Your Business With Technology
“I’d like my business to remain stagnant.” No entrepreneur, owner, or CEO ever uttered those words. You can be sure none ever will, either. That’s because corporate growth is always an overarching goal for any organization. Growing your business comes with its challenges, of course, like figuring out which steps will make it easiest for you to scale and expand.
One thing’s clear: You need to develop a clear-cut growth strategy. And technology needs to play a huge part in that strategy. After all, we’re living in a primarily technological world. If you’re not making the most of the tech at your fingertips, you regularly miss opportunities to strengthen your brand’s position.
Where can you start? Below are a handful of ways that you can leverage technology to grow your business’s footprint. Try these recommendations, whether you’re a micro startup or a mid-size corporation headed toward a Fortune 500 future.
1. Automate repetitive manual processes.
Is it worth automating all the mindless to-dos in your business in order to grow? Yes, especially if you do the numbers.
McKinsey research studied the ordinary tasks of several occupations. They concluded that around 33% of the tasks of six out of 10 jobs could be automated. For example, let’s say your company is modestly sized at 50 workers. If your staffers work a traditional 40-hour week, 30 of them are frittering away 13 hours. In other words, you’re losing nearly 400 hours weekly to pay employees to handle repetitive duties.
To be sure, not all tasks can be automated. However, you owe it to yourself to find ones that can. For example, is your finance department team processing payroll or inputting invoices by hand? Then, invest in software to remove the tedium—and reduce the chance of human error.
Check out your sales and services processes next. Do your salespeople or support agents have to cut and paste information? Are they forced to switch between two or more programs that don’t communicate? Look for ways to integrate those systems to free up everyone’s valuable time so they can concentrate on growth-based responsibilities.
2. Strive to make customer first impressions stickier with tech tools
Tons of articles highlight the importance of growing your business by retaining customers. It’s true that retention tends to be less expensive than acquisition. Nevertheless, you can’t hold onto your customers until you get them in the door. So put a premium on delivering impeccable first impressions that urge people to stick around.
The right type of technology can assist you in wowing your best leads via an unforgettable customer experience. Take first-time logins, for instance. Okta reports that asking a visitor to set up an account turns off 37% of prospects. So what can you do to overcome this friction point? First, you can rely on social logins to streamline the process. From the customer’s viewpoint, being able to login via already-existing Facebook, Google, or credentials is effortless. From your company’s viewpoint, you can begin marketing to yet another buyer or potential buyer.
A strong CRM can be equally beneficial to moving leads into and down your sales funnel. Once you’ve captured prospects’ data through a social sign-in, personalize future communications like emails, texts, and DMs. Only two years ago, McKinsey found that 80% of retail buyers valued the personal touch. So whether you’re in retail or not, strive for individualization to keep new buyers coming back.
3. Bring a virtual assistant to your team.
You may not have the funds to hire live customer service representatives 24/7. That’s okay. Chatbots can give your organization the ability to offer visitors self-service, even during non-business hours. And they can do it for a fraction of what you’d pay a live agent.
Not sure you’re ready to put your faith in a chatbot? A New York Times article explains that today’s AI-fueled chatbots are only getting smarter. They’re also gaining widespread acceptance, with chatbot growth poised to hit around 15% in 2022. One Gartner executive even predicts that a genuinely conversational AI chatbot program is just around the corner.
Already, some chatbots are inching toward humanlike responses. A University of Florida experiment found that about a third of people could not tell a chatbot from a real person. Consequently, there’s little harm in exploring the wide world of chatbots for your company. Your chatbot doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated by customers with questions who want fast answers.
4. Investigate tech solutions to tap into your data.
Tremendous amounts of data flow into your company. Yet it would be impossible for you and your team to make sense of it all. Does that mean you have to give up on finding a way to unearth your data’s insights? Not at all. You just need a tech-based data mining solution.
You have plenty of choices regarding software that can analyze data and find trends. First, though, determine where your data exists. Is it in your CRM? Or a legacy piece of software? Once you know where to find your data, you can search for highly-rated data mining systems.
Be aware that some data mining programs have been developed with specific industries in mind. These can include healthcare, finance, e-commerce, or manufacturing. It never hurts to see if something’s already been created for your sector.
5. Invest in a branded mobile app.
Mobile app use continues to rise. By 2025, one Forbes writer notes that the app market will approach $1 trillion. So why, then, doesn’t your brand have an app of its own?
This is the question a lot of business leaders are asking themselves. Offering customers the chance to interact with your company through an app makes sense. Not only does it give them an immediate connection to your organization, but it simplifies the purchasing process. At the same time, it helps buyers feel that they’re getting special treatment as you deploy push notifications and exclusive offers.
How can you make the most of your app once it’s been developed? First, make sure your customers know it exists. Lots of brands have apps that get very few downloads. The issue isn’t necessarily the app itself. It’s that they don’t know the app is available. Therefore, be diligent and consistent about talking up your app to drive higher usage and conversions.
You’re not alone if you feel that growing your business isn’t happening as fast as you like. Most leaders wish that they could get to the next plateau faster. One method to add a little speed to the process is to lean into the technologies you’re not using yet. Then, with the right combination of tech tools, you should begin to see a positive difference in your numbers.
Image Credit: Artem Podrez; Pexels; Thank you!
The Developer’s Guide to Mobile Authentication
Mobile app developers must ensure that the mobile app is effortless while keeping internal information protected and secure. Complex or repeated authentications can be frustrating for your mobile app users.
This article discusses various means of simple and secure mobile authentication, ensuring frictionless UI and UX of mobile authentication screens and data security.
What is Mobile Authentication?
Mobile authentication is a security method to verify a user’s identity through mobile devices and mobile apps. It caters to one or more authentication methods to provide secure access to any particular app, resource, or service.
Let’s look at the various mobile authentication methods developers can utilize depending on their business use case.
Mobile Authentication Methods
Email-Password and Username-Password are common types of password-based authentication. While utilizing these methods, developers should consider setting secure and robust password policies in their authentication mechanism, such as:
- Mandatory use of symbols and numbers
- Restricting the use of common passwords
- Blocking the use of profile information in passwords
These measures ensure better quality passwords and prevent user accounts from brute force and dictionary password attacks.
Limitation: Passwords are hard to remember, and typing in passwords on a small mobile screen degrades the user experience. Hence, developers must use authentication that does not compromise the security postures yet provide an appropriate user experience.
Patterns and Digit-based Authentication
The user must set a pattern or a digit-based PIN (typically 4 or 6 digits). Developers can utilize this as an authentication factor for their mobile application, as this authentication method is faster and more comfortable than entering passwords on a mobile screen.
Limitation: Both patterns and 4 or 6 digits PINs are limited. Also, users tend to use simple patterns and PINs like L or S patterns and 1234, 987654, date of birth as their password.
Users use an OTP received via SMS or email to authenticate themself. Thus, users do not have to remember a password, pattern, or PIN to access their account. At the same time, developers don’t have to implement password-based security mechanisms.
Biometric authentication uses unique biological traits of users for mobile authentication. Some common examples of biometric authentication are fingerprint scanning, face unlocks, retina scans, and vocal cadence.
Developers can implement pre-coded libraries and modules to enable authentication through mobile components like the finger scanner, camera (for facial recognition), and microphone (for voice-based identification).
It acts as a single sign-on authentication mechanism. Developers can implement this in mobile apps to use users’ login tokens from other social networking sites to allow access to the app.
Also, with social login, developers don’t need to worry about storing passwords securely and managing the password recovery option. It helps the user sign in to the mobile app without creating a separate account from within the app, hence increasing the user experience (UX).
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) in Mobile Authentication
Login and registration screens are a gateway to your mobile applications; if they are a hassle, the user might not bother using the application. Thus, developers should pay a lot of attention to these screens regarding user experience and usage.
Here are some quick tips for mobile authentication screens:
- Simple Registration Process: Lengthy registration forms are a big no-no. Brainstorm essential information for creating an account via mobile application and only include those fields.
- External or Social Login: Allow users to log in via external or social accounts. This way, users don’t have to remember another password or credentials for your app.
- Facilitate Resetting: Include forget password on the login screen for good visibility and reach if the app provides password-based login. Also, setting the new password should be seamless and fast.
- Keep Users Logged In: Not logging out users on app close is helpful in a good experience. However, this depends on the type of app you offer. Developers should include MFA for better security if the app stores sensitive information or skip the stay logged-in feature altogether.
- Meaningful Error Messages: Errors and how they are handled directly impact user experience. Thus, developers should keep error messages meaningful and clearly state what went wrong and how to fix it.
Tip: Customize the mobile app keyboard for the type of input field. For example – display a numeric keyboard when asking for a PIN and include @ button when asking for an email address.
Considering the above points would result in a great and secure user experience for your mobile app users. However, if you feel executing these guidelines would take ample time, be informed that CIAM solutions are available in the market to handle all these requirements for you.
10 Practical Ways to Maximize Your After-Work Time
After work, you probably want a relaxing, stress-free night. And that makes sense. Planning activities like reading or meditating can help relieve stress when things get tough at work.
In addition, you can use this time to expand your knowledge or develop your skills. Additionally, you can engage in new experiences or pursue a passion.
The benefits of participating in these activities can range from increasing your productivity to improving your health and general well-being.
With that said, here are 10 practical ways to maximize your after-work time.
1. Tie up loose ends.
My mom had a tradition that she followed every evening when I was a child. As soon as we got home from school, we had to clean up the house. It wasn’t a long bit of cleaning — usually, she set a timer for 20-minutes. Obviously, we whined about this and the time trying to get out of it was likely longer than the actual time spent. But this effort and habit kept the house tidy and saved us from major cleanings if the cleaning had waited until the weekend.
After I finish working for the day, I will set a timer for 20-30 minutes and tidy up. Or, I can handle items on my to-do list I couldn’t do during the day. Even though that’s not a lot of time, you’d be surprised at what you can actually accomplish.
You can clean dishes, fold laundry, make a grocery list, clean your calendar, or send an important email. In addition, a timer can be a great way to tie up the day’s loose ends and help your transition from work.
2. Get a weeknight hobby.
Commit to an out-of-the-home activity after work. Some ideas could be an exercise class, volunteering, or a night out with friends. Then, rather than spending your time at home, you’ll have more time to do what you care about.
“By scheduling your time after work, you are more likely to stick to your most important ‘to-do’ items. Many people find that they are most productive when they have more to do,” says Dr. Lisa N. Folden, licensed physical therapist and naturopathic lifestyle coach, owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants. “By having a scheduled event after work—especially one that can double as exercise—you have more accountability to avoid sitting around aimlessly scrolling through your phone or watching TV.”
3. Sweat it out.
Yes, I am aware. You’re well aware of the importance of physical activity. However, this still can’t be stressed enough. There is no doubt that a regular exercise program boosts your creativity, confidence, and resilience — whether in the workplace or the home.
In short, moving your body is one of the best things you can do to boost your productivity. After all, exercising relieves stress and relieves mental strain. The result? You’ll sleep better and be more energetic.
So, block out time at the end of the day — to go for a run, ride a bike, or join an exercise class. Other ideas would be playing with your pet or kids, dancing, or getting caught up on a chore.
4. Enjoy the company of those you love.
Spend quality time with those who are important to you, such as family, friends, and colleagues. Not only does it make life worthwhile, but it’s good for you too. It releases endorphins and lowers stress when you talk to your spouse, kids, siblings, parents, or friends. Even a simple phone call with a loved one can benefit your well-being.
What’s more, with friends and family, there are lots of fun things to do, such as;
- Go to a restaurant or host dinner at home.
- Visit a museum or art gallery.
- Go for a walk after dinner.
- Host a game night.
- Attend a concert or sporting event.
- Go to the movies.
- Participate in a group activity, like bowling.
- Attend classes together.
5. Address your needs.
“This may seem totally out of place in an article about getting a lot done after work, but hear me out,” writes Rachell Buell over The Muse. “While it’s very important to make the most of your time, the only way you will have enough energy to do so is by first attending to your basic needs.” Also, get plenty of sleep, eat, and relax. “By addressing these needs, you allow yourself the quintessential element to productivity: sustainability.”
“A few weeks ago, I had a serious moment of panic,” Buell shares. “Feeling completely overwhelmed by everything on my plate, I lost my cool.” Regaining my composure, I came up with a brilliant idea: a sanity list,” she added.
“The list included things like doing daily yoga and drinking 64 ounces of water every day of water and cuddling with my husband. Whenever I cross everything off my list, I feel like a million bucks, and I’m fired up for more.”
“After a long day of work, most of us need time to switch gears and give ourselves a mental break before we try to accomplish anything else,” Buell says. “Whether that’s plopping in front of the TV to catch up on the day’s news or going for a jog to take the edge off, take a moment and consider what you need to feel recharged during the week, and keep it on your sanity list.”
6. Write out your priorities.
Is there ever a time when you feel like something is a high priority when it’s not? When prioritizing productivity, it can be easy to focus on getting more done rather than considering what is really important.
At the beginning of each week, I find it helpful to prioritize everything on my to-do list. Then, during the week, I navigate my time more efficiently by determining how essential a given item is. Personally, I use the Eisenhower Matrix to assist me with this.
By figuring out where each item fits in, you can focus on where to begin. For example, when doing home projects, start with the most essential stuff — then move to the middle and lower priority stuff. With work projects, you can start the next day knowing what needs to happen in what order.
Best of all? Creating a list of priorities can help you feel accomplished even if you don’t start the project yet.
7. Get outside.
Are you familiar with “nature deficit disorder”? Initially, Richard Louv used the phrase in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv says our indoor lifestyles are causing a lot of health and behavioral issues.
Even if you think that’s a stretch, studies have found that we spend 92% of time indoors. And that can negatively influence our physical and mental health. Why? Because it’s a simple way to reduce stress, increase happiness, and live healthier.
Moreover, connecting with nature and the outdoors can replenish your energy.
With that in mind, Rachel Hopman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Northeastern University, suggests that you live by the 20-5-3 rule;
- 20-minutes. Twenty minutes is how much time you should spend outside, like at a neighborhood park, three times a week.
- 5-hours. Five hours is the minimum amount of time you should spend each month in semi-wild nature, like a forest, city, or state park.
- 3-days. You should go camping or rent a cabin three times a year to escape it all.
8. Power down.
In today’s culture, many of us are overly attached to social media and our smartphones. In fact, DataReportal estimates the average American looks at a screen for 7 hours and 4 minutes a day. So why’s that a problem? Research has found too much screen time cal lead to digital eye strain, impaired sleep, and diminished mental health.
Furthermore, too much screen time can result in information overload. And it’s also distracting when we’re trying to get things done.
Therefore, setting boundaries around your phone and social media use is vital. For example, set a timer to limit how long you play games, watch videos, or scroll on social media. If that doesn’t work, keep your phone in a different room or make sure you shut down all social media at a specific time each night.
Initially, this will be awkward. But you may be surprised how much more alive you feel when you’re away from screens. Eventually, you’ll feel re-energized rather than worn out after work.
9. Invest in yourself.
Did you know that the former CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, studied improv comedy? Why? Learning improv comedy improved his leadership skills.
Investing in yourself is vital to success, whether that means getting some coaching, participating in psychotherapy, taking a workshop, working on more hours for graduate school, or completing a certification program. You could also learn how to play a musical instrument, join a book club, watch a documentary, or take a language course.
Overall, you’ll succeed in your professional career whether you invest in your mind, body, or spirit.
10. Follow an evening routine.
“It’s clear that you need a specific morning routine to optimize each day and be more efficient,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar post. However, “a successful morning routine actually starts the night before,” she adds. “Simply put, you need an effective evening routine to maximize efficiency and productivity the following day.”
So, what should your evening routine consist of? Well, that’s up to you. But, here are some suggestions worth exploring;
- Plan out your day. Look at your calendar to find out what’s on your agenda for tomorrow. Doing so gets you mentally prepared and makes any adjustments.
- Pick out your clothes. The task may sound insignificant. But it will save you a lot of time and energy that you could use elsewhere.
- Eliminate negativity and reflect. You can reflect on your day in the evening and choose gratitude over negativity.
- Read. Turn off the television and read a book while you wind down for the evening.
- Prepare meals. Mornings are already hectic. Save your sanity and energy by preparing your meals the night before.
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Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska; Pexels; Thank you!