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12 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees

12 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees

If you manage a team, you know hard it can be to keep everyone engaged, happy, and productive.

Some days, simply getting your employees to show up and get the job done feels challenging enough. But as a manager, you have a unique opportunity to help your team members learn and practice life skills that will help them become happier, healthier, and more productive, both at work and at home. They’ll love you for pushing them in new directions, and you’ll love seeing the increased collaboration and energy in the workplace.

One way to engage your team is to issue a new challenge each week that’s fun and simple to do — and if adopted as a habit, can become a powerful new life skill.

Here are 3 months’ worth of weekly challenge ideas. Announce a new challenge every Monday and check in with everyone during the week. A weekly team meeting is a great time to ask each team member to report on their progress, experience, and learnings.

These challenges were borrowed from the free e-book: 26 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees.

Week 1: Tiny Steps

Procrastination is a huge time waster, but overcoming the inertia can be as easy as taking one tiny step. After that the Zeigarnik effect kicks in — the voice in your head that prompts you to finish what you start. For this challenge, organize your team into pairs. Ask each person to choose one task they’ve been avoiding at home or work and break that task into 5 tiny steps. Starting Monday, each person’s goal is to complete one of the 5 steps each day and report back to their accountability partner by an agreed-upon time. For some people, finishing one step may generate the momentum to complete all 5 steps on the first day, and that’s great!

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    Week 2: Mindful Meetings

    When everyone is present and tuned into the discussion, meetings are more fun, productive, and efficient. For this week, challenge your team to commit to being mindful during meetings. This means taking a couple of deep breaths before the meeting, setting an intention for what they will each contribute and take away from the meeting, and staying engaged for the duration of the meeting by taking notes, listening actively, and speaking up thoughtfully.

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      Week 3: Authentic Smiling

      A genuine smile conveys warmth, trustworthiness, and interest. It’s the number-one way to boost likeability. To smile authentically, you have to engage the muscles around your eyes, not just those around your mouth. Practicing this in the mirror first may seem silly, but it does help! Challenge your team this week to smile at everyone they pass in the building or, for extra credit, everyone they come in contact with inside and outside of work.

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        Week 4: Hunger Awareness

        Overeating during the workday can leave you feeling sluggish and unproductive. Tuning into your hunger will help you slow down, enjoy your food, and feel satisfied with less, so you finish your meal feeling light and energetic. This week, challenge your team to stop and note their physical hunger level on a scale of 1 (famished) to 10 (stuffed) before, during, and after eating each meal. By the end of the week, their goal should be to start eating when their hunger level is at a 3 and stop when it’s at a 7.

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          Week 5: Walking Breaks

          Walking breaks ease mental tension, free your mind for creative thinking, and help to counteract the physical stress caused by long bouts of sitting. The challenge this week is to integrate 10-minute walking breaks into the work day. Have your team schedule their walking breaks into the calendar the day before to ensure they don’t forget them. You can set a good example by converting any 1:1 meetings you have this week to walking meetings, whether you walk outside or just around the building.

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            Week 6: Tech-Free Hour

            Disconnecting from technology, even just for an hour a day, can help you reconnect with the people in your life and experience the world more fully. Challenge your team this week to pick one hour every day when they would normally be connected and completely unplug — no phone, tablet, or Internet access of any kind! It could be during the work day, first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Encourage them to use the tech-free time to do something no-tech like writing with pen and paper, reading a book, sketching, or having a face-to-face conversation.

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              Week 7: Must-Do List

              Taking a few minutes at the end of each day to set your top priorities for the next day is a powerful time management and productivity technique. This week, challenge your team to set aside time at the end of every day to write down the 3 most important tasks they will tackle the next day. For extra credit, ask each person to post their 3 tasks in a shared document. This will add both transparency and accountability, and you might be surprised by the discussion and collaboration it creates.

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                Week 8: Small Talk

                Small talk at the office may seem like a waste of time, but it’s actually one of the most effective ways to build rapport with other people, and that leads to open communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving. This week, challenge your team to practice making authentic small talk with someone they barely know, whether it’s a customer, client, coworker, or even their barista. To establish genuine rapport, you need to go beyond “Crazy weather we’re having!” and generate conversation by offering up an opinion or story: “What did you do over the weekend? Even though it was crazy cold, my kids wanted to go out for ice cream, so we did!

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                  Week 9: Posture Check

                  Chronic sitting triggers back pain and neck tension, contributes to stress, and saps energy and productivity. While a daily stretching regimen can help counteract all that, what affects your posture most is how you hold your body throughout the day. This week, challenge your team to set a reminder on their phones or computers for an hourly posture check. At each reminder, they should adjust their seated position, stand up straight and stretch for 5 minutes, or scooch forward to sit upright on the edge of their chair.

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                    Week 10: Mindfulness Meditation

                    The idea of stopping to meditate for even 2 minutes during a hectic workday may be hard to contemplate, but the benefits make the sacrifice worthwhile. You’ll notice reduced stress, improved creativity, and enhanced focus. This week challenge every person on your team to stop and take 2 minutes during the workday to meditate (this guided track will help). For extra credit and to help reinforce the benefits, encourage them to take note of how they’re feeling before and after each session.

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                      Week 11: Eye Contact

                      Eye contact is one of the best ways to establish trust and rapport with other people, but many of us struggle to make and sustain eye contact, especially with people we don’t know well. The challenge this week is for your team to practice making eye contact with everyone they pass in the building or with friendly strangers. They should try to hold the contact for a few seconds before looking away, and for extra credit, add an authentic smile.

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                        Week 12: Pomodoro Technique

                        Do you often look back after a day at work and struggle to identify what you actually accomplished? We have so many temptations and distractions vying for our attention that it’s hard to get anything done. The Pomodoro Technique helps solve that problem: You carve up the work day into 25 minute chunks separated by 5 minutes of indulgence in social media, online shopping, or socializing. Challenge your team this week to work in “pomodoros,” using a phone, an app like Freedom, or a kitchen timer to signal the start and end of each break.

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                          These challenges were borrowed from the free e-book: 26 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees.

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                          Last Updated on March 23, 2021

                          Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

                          Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

                          One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

                          The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

                          You need more than time management. You need energy management

                          1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

                          How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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                          I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

                          I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

                          2. Determine your “peak hours”

                          Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

                          Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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                          My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

                          In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

                          Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

                          3. Block those high-energy hours

                          Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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                          Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

                          If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

                          That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

                          There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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                          Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

                          Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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