“When,” by Daniel Pink: Book Review

The book, “When,” by Daniel Pink is crammed full of things about time and timing that make so much sense. It’s delightful to have research to back up stuff you’ve always had hunches about. Like why beginnings and endings are important, the reason synchronizing is so powerful, and the fact that you really DO need a break!

Daniel Pink’s book, 'When,' reveals the secrets of great (and sucky-bad) timing. More highlights in my Business Book Review!  #businessbookreview #when #timingiseverything Click To Tweet

Here are some highlights…

Your days have a natural pattern to them

Pink’s research shows that a few people are at their best in the evening (“owls”), but most people are morning people (“larks”) or somewhere in the middle of the two (“third birds”). Each “bird” type is better at certain types of tasks at different times of day.

Not only that, our brains don’t function at the same level throughout the day – and the difference from high to low is significant (on average, about 20% different).

Knowing what time of day you’re most effective can have a huge impact on your productivity.

You really DO need that break

Taking a break, especially before an important task, can help you improve performance. They help you focus and increase commitment to your goal.

What are the characteristics of the best, most restorative breaks? They include some sort of movement (walking is fine), are outside rather than inside, and are taken with other people. So walking around the block with your BFF and chatting about anything but work (disconnected is more restorative, too) could make you more effective at work.

Synchronicity helps groups perform better

From competitive rowing, to lunch deliveries in Mumbai, to choral ensembles, being in sync with others is crucial for top performance. And it delivers additional benefits of physical and psychological well-being.

Pink recommends activities like singing in a chorus, running together, dancing, yoga classes, and cooking together to give you a “syncher’s high.”

Starting off on the right foot is even more important than you thought…

When you start things, from your day to your career, can have a profound effect on everything from your productivity to your fortune.

For instance, if you start your career during an economic boom, it can positively affect your earnings for your lifetime. Unfortunately, the opposite is true if you start your career during a recession.

We don’t have control over the economy, but one thing that can help mitigate less-than-perfect beginnings is to leverage the power of a group. Studies show that starting as a part of a group, rather than alone, boosts success rates.

…and endings are even more important than beginnings

We love a happy ending. It’s human nature to want to end on an upswing. If you’re going to get some good news and bad news, almost everyone wants to end on a high note.

Pink also says that the end of an experience, whether it be a meal at a restaurant, a purchase, a job, or a vacation, affects our memory of it at a disproportionately high level. Which is why so many customer service reviews are about how things ended, good or bad.

Want to make a habit of ending each day on a high note every day? Make the last thing you do before going to bed writing in a gratitude journal.

Pink has tools he calls “Time Hacker’s Handbooks” in the book where you can figure out your “bird” type, and get tips and tools to apply the science of timing to ramp up your effectiveness.

What’s your “aha” from “When,” by Daniel Pink? Let us know in the comments below.

Leaders: Help Your Team Manage Their Time

One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to help your team manage their time better. You’ll get more and better results, and your team morale will go up – it’s a virtuous cycle.

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Set a good example

Arguably the most important thing you can do as a leader to help your team manage their time is to set a great example. Don’t answer email at 3:00 a.m., do use the tools and practices you’d like your team to use, and turn off notifications when you’re doing focused work.

Be clear (about the what and the when)

The clearer you can communicate what results you’re looking for and the delivery date, the more time you’ll save your team. Answer the question, “what does it look like when this project is done, and done well?”

Make sure you’re clear about timing for each stage of delivery, as well as dependencies on other projects or deliverables, and what kind of flexibility you have to move dates out (or in).

Get out of the way

Your job is not to do your team’s work, so create clear expectations and help the team understand how what they’re working on links to your overall vision, and then step back.

In almost all cases, your team will do a better job (and learn more while they’re at it) if you spend your time removing barriers to the team’s success rather than micro-managing their tasks. Oh, and micro-managing takes more time for you AND your team.

Protect “heads down” time

Your team needs time to get stuff done. Without interruptions. Allow them to schedule chunks of time where they’re not responding to phone calls and emails. And don’t interrupt them when they’re at it. You’ll see the payoff in their better results.

Don’t meet without a great reason to

Face it. We all spend a lot more time in meetings than we’d like. And some meetings aren’t even all that productive (shocking!).

While you won’t have control over many meetings your team attends, you can influence the ones you run. Simple things like having an agenda, taking notes, and keeping to the time allotted can help your meetings be time well-spent.

And, of course, if you don’t have anything pressing to cover, cancel the damned meeting!

Reward proactivity rather than diving catches

Some folks get a huge kick out of “diving catches,” where they get to swoop in at the last minute and save the day. These are your crisis junkies, and they can wreak havoc on time management for the rest of the team.

While some diving catches are unavoidable, rewarding – and celebrating – proactivity and great time management will give your team a better shot at bringing projects in on time with a minimum of thrash.

What’s made the biggest difference for you in helping your team manage their time? Tell us in the comments below!

The Give and Take of Managing Your Time

Getting better at managing your time is forever work, and requires lots of give and take. Managing your time well gives you an edge in both productivity and satisfaction with your work (and home) life.

Get better at managing your time with this set of gives & takes. #timemanagement #clarity Click To Tweet

Give your all

Let me clarify that: give your all to the thing you’re doing at the moment.

Whether it’s writing an email, participating in a meeting, talking with your kid, or sleeping, being “all in” means less re-work and more focus and clarity.  Especially since research shows that multitasking doesn’t actually work.

By being present to what you’re doing and who you’re being – right at this moment – you’ll take in more and make better decisions.

Take time for clarity

The clearer you can get on your vision and mission, the less Phantom Workload (stuff you have to do that you wouldn’t have to if you were clear!) you’ll need to process.

When you thoroughly understand the assignment in front of you and how it relates to the strategic direction of the organization, you can get down to the real work that needs to be done. Eliminating “bring me a rock” work can free up tons of time.

Give electronic notifications the heave-ho

This one is especially important when you’re doing heads-down work, whatever that is for you. Every time you’re bombarded with the latest box scores or super-awesome deals on shoes, it takes time to get focused and back on track.

Look on your phone (and computer) to identify what applications you’re allowing to interrupt your day. Do you really need a popup from Reddit about a response to your comment about how cute someone’s dog is? (Maybe you do, I’m not judging!)

It’s pretty easy to customize those settings to get exactly what works for you, instead of the defaults.

And even if you normally do want to get a little beep for your texts & emails, do yourself a favor and turn them off when you’re doing focused work. You’ll be amazed at how big of a deal micro-interruptions can be!

Take a new look at your planner

Whatever system you use to organize yourself (you DO have a system, right?), it can help you with managing your time. It doesn’t matter if it’s paper (DayTimer, Circa) or electronic (OneNote, Asana, or my favorite, Evernote), as long as you use it. Consistently.

Your planner can be so much more than a to-do list. (Although organizing my to-dos by strategic objective has been a game changer for me!) It can hold links to articles you want to read (when you have a dedicated block of time), meeting notes, tasks you’ve delegated, and all sorts of other stuff.

Having specific places to store different pieces of information – and knowing where things are – can save tons of time you would otherwise spend looking for it.

Give yourself a break

Time management isn’t a one-and-done thing, of course. And there are times when you need to do things less efficiently in service of another goal. (I may or may not have written a work email or two while watching baseball games…)

But do make conscious choices about how you’re using your limited resource of time, and celebrate when you’re moving in the direction that serves you.

Take back your focus

Whether it’s writing, designing, analyzing, or planning, you need chunks of time to focus on specialized tasks. Just sneaking in a few minutes here and there to work on a project increases your chances of error and not connecting all of the dots.

This one can be tough to do, but proactively scheduling in advance can really help here.

For instance, I reflect on what I’ve accomplished each week and sketch out next week’s plan every Friday afternoon at 3:30. It’s blocked on my calendar as a repeating meeting with myself out into infinity. That’s not saying I never do anything else at that time of the week, but the default and path of least resistance for Friday at 3:30 is my Weekender practice.

Many of my clients (including top executives) block time for their specialized work, fitting meetings and other obligations around it.

If you like this idea, but are skeptical, try planning a single hour out of your week for specialized work. Then, turn off notifications, don’t answer the phone, and get after it. And see how it works for you.

How will you start managing your time, give or take? Pop a note in the comments!

“Essentialism,” by Greg McKeown : Book Review

I’ve become fascinated by the topic of productivity – it comes up frequently with my leadership coaching clients and in my management consulting. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, is all about getting more done — and done better — by getting down to the essentials.

Clarity, focus, whatever you call it, Greg McKeown calls it 'Essentialism.' #bookreview #leadership #timemanagement Click To Tweet

Here are some of his book’s most fascinating points:

Understanding the concept of choice

Selection

Choosing, whether it’s an ice cream flavor, or a strategic direction for a company, shows intent – by selecting one choice, you’re de-selecting others. This intent allows us to focus on a single choice, so you’re not wasting energy by going off in all directions.

Importance

McKeown says that most things aren’t all that important, anyway, and trade-offs are crucial to getting not just the right stuff done, but more of it. It’s as I tell my coaching clients: you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Lifestyles of the Essentialist

Limiting your availability

One of the key recommendations of Essentialism is to limit your availability. When you’re not available to everyone for everything, you can be more focused and creative.

Play and sleep

Two counterintuitive parts of the essentialist lifestyle (given habits of overachievers) are play and sleep. Play, exploration, and other non-work activities give our brains the opportunity to make connections they might not during work hours. And sleep is essential to optimal brain function; as McKeown says, “Our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritize.”

Paring things down

Clarity

To pare things down to their essentials, it’s important to be clear about what you want to accomplish. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which road you take. Another great take on clarity is covered in The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller.

Saying “no”

Probably the most uncomfortable (and important) advice in Essentialism is saying “no.” Separating the “no” from your relationship with the person you’re saying “no” to is the key. McKeown also talks about why it’s so hard to say “no,” as well as some graceful ways to do it.

Cutting your losses

Cutting your losses – “uncommitting” to something after you’re already in the process of doing it – can help to whittle things down to the important few, too. McKeown uses the analogy of getting rid of something in your closet by thinking in terms of, “how much would you pay for it if you didn’t own it?”

Act on your essential essentialism

Given all of this, how can we get even better at essentialism?

Preparation & buffering

We can prepare for whatever we’re doing, thoroughly and well (and early). And we can add buffers to our time estimates (people are notoriously bad at estimating how long it will take to complete a task or travel from one place to another.

Habits & routines

Essentialism finds genius in habits and routines. And when we know when during the day we do our best work, we’re more efficient and effective.

Celebration

Another key to great productivity is celebrating small wins along the way rather than “forcing” a big win.

There are so many great ways to do better work well in Essentialism – what’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

The New College Grad’s Guide to Pay

In a recent talk with college students about pay negotiation (at Skidmore College – go Thoroughbreds!), lots of questions came up that don’t typically arise with my mid-career and executive salary negotiation clients. So I thought I’d write a post just for the new college grad.

Here are my 5 best salary negotiation tips for recent college grads:

  1. Get clear.
  2. Your pay package is more than just base pay.
  3. Do your homework, and it’s okay to have questions.
  4. Use the 7 magic words.
  5. It’s not personal.
Hey, recent college grads! Want some tips on pay negotiation? Check out these 5 tips! #paynegotiation #7magicwords Click To Tweet

Get clear.

The most important part of your pay negotiation (and arguably, the most overlooked) isn’t about pay at all. It’s getting clear on what you want out of a job – and an employer. Papering the universe with your resume might feel productive, but ultimately, it doesn’t serve you (no matter what your uncle says).

Are you targeting a specific location, or are you flexible (and how flexible are you)? Do you have principles that you want to see reflected in the place you work (things like sustainability, community service, “work hard/play hard,” or justice)? Are you looking for a large/small, private/public, profit/nonprofit organization? And what types of roles fit your education, experience, and career goals?

It sounds a little counterintuitive, right? Why would you want to narrow things down? It’s pretty much impossible to make a case as to why you’re the perfect candidate for a wide range of jobs and employers. And it’s hard for other people to help refer you without a specific goal in mind.

When you can clearly articulate what exactly you’re looking for, it’ll be easier to target specific employers and get help networking, which can help you connect with the right job for you.

Your pay package is more than just base pay.

Base pay

When most people think about their pay packages, they think about base pay. But in reality, base pay is just one element. Granted, for your first job out of college, it’s almost certainly the largest element in your pay package, but there are other things most jobs will have, too.

Annual bonus

An annual bonus might be part of your pay package. If you’re eligible, your offer letter will generally tell you what your bonus target is (typically a percentage of your base pay), explain that you have to be a strong performer to receive it, and when your first payout might happen.

Benefits

Benefits, like paid time off or vacation, health insurance, and retirement savings are pretty common. Both the benefits and the amount you have to pay every month (or paycheck) can vary widely between companies.

Relocation

Relocation benefits or a “relo” allowance is relatively common if the company wants you to move your stuff across the country or the world. These benefits can also vary widely from place to place.

Equity/Stock

Equity, stock options, and/or RSUs aren’t common in jobs right out of undergrad (much more common for grad school graduates), but some high-tech companies do offer them.

If you’re in the enviable position of comparing offers, it’s important to look at how the entire packages stack up, and not just the base pay numbers.

Do your homework, and it’s okay to have questions.

Don’t forget to do your research. There are lots of great sources of information about the going market rate for the new college grad in different locations. I recommend starting with your college’s placement office – a great source of information, and from people who really super-want you to be successful in your job hunt.

Sources

Other sources include job posting sites (like Indeed.com), workplace information sites (like GlassDoor.com), and friends who are looking for similar jobs. Make sure you check out the website for the company you’re interviewing with, too. Many organizations have a page dedicated to their pay and benefits.

And read everything that comes with your offer letter/email. Every. Thing. There will usually be information about benefits (and relocation and stock, if applicable). And information about the company itself.

Questions

You are definitely going to have questions. Like, “what is PTO?” (Paid Time Off, btw). That’s natural and normal. If you don’t understand something that’s included in your offer, ask the hiring manager or HR person to explain things to you.

Once you’re at the offer stage, the company is really hoping you say yes, and getting answers to your questions can help you feel more comfortable.

But remember the homework piece, too. If you have tons of questions that can be easily answered by reading the stuff the organization already gave you, that can get irritating after a while. You want to save that energy for negotiating!

Use the 7 magic words.

Salary negotiations can be tricky, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.

My best tip for first-timers is to think about what you’d like more of, and then use these 7 magic words: “What kind of flexibility do you have?”

Not, “Do you have any flexibility?” or, “Are you willing to negotiate?” or anything like that. Just the 7 words. Even if you’re already okay with the offer. Even if you hate the idea of negotiating.

As a new college grad, you might not get more of what you’re looking for (base pay, vacation days, relocation allowance, or whatever it is), but what if you do?

Try the 7 magic words and let me know how they work for you! And if you want even more tips on pay negotiation, check out this post, this post, and this post.

It’s not personal.

The job hunt and pay negotiations feel intensely personal, because their outcomes affect us personally. But the answer to the question, “why do I keep getting rejected?” isn’t “because you’re a bad person.” It’s because it’s not a good match. And trust me, that’s something that you’d much rather discover before you accept the job.

Sometimes there’s no match because you haven’t been clear about what it is that you want and what you can offer. More often, though, it’s because the employer is trying to solve a specific problem that they think another candidate is a better match for.

If you can remember that hiring managers and talent acquisition experts come to work wanting to do a good job (just like pretty much everybody but sociopaths do), it can take a bit of the personal sting out of the match/no match process.

Are you a new college grad in the middle of a job search? Tell us your best tip below!