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Published on January 2, 2019

How to Focus on Work Better and Boost Productivity

How to Focus on Work Better and Boost Productivity

What comes to your mind first when it comes to boosting your team’s productivity?

Until everyone on your team knows how to focus, they will never be able to think clearly and solve problems efficiently.

However, staying focused has become harder these days. Every time your mind wanders, you waste time and energy trying to get back on track.

Interruptions are bound to happen every now and then among your team members, so how to increase team productivity and help everyone stay focused?

Recently, I’ve had an interview about how to focus better with Wade Foster, the co-founder/CEO of Zapier, a Y Combinator company that’s bringing all of these services together so people can focus on work that really matters.

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    In the interview, Foster shared with us the greatest enemy of productivity today, and how we can make good use of productivity tools to help the team  stay focused.

    The Greatest Enemy of Productivity

    Why do you think people are getting harder and harder to focus on work these days?

    There are two main reasons why many people struggle to focus on work:

    There are many different types of productivity tools at our disposal, and context-switching between these tools is hard to do.

    Think about how many different apps or software you use at work: depending on what you do for a living, you might use as many as 15 apps to do your job. Switching between all of these different tasks, apps, and steps is tough for most people to do, and it often decreases productivity.

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    More tools and technologies are emerging that will help us streamline and prioritize our work lives and quiet the noise. Some of these tools include automation, “do not disturb” functionality, and time limit caps on app usage.

    What’s your suggestion on staying focused and progressing forward?

    Automation is the easiest thing you can do to be more efficient with your time, yet it’s one of the most underused productivity tactics. It helps you complete the small, tedious tasks on your To Do list, so you can focus on higher value work.

    We work with a law firm called Chi City Legal who use automation to create proposals, service requests forms and other documents.[1] Simply cutting out the manual, repetitive process of creating all of those documents made the team more productive. In fact, the Chi City Legal team now has more time to take on more clients and dedicate more attention to their cases.

    The Role of Productivity Tools These Days

    Some people say that productivity tools distract people from working, what do you think?

    I did a podcast interview with David Zisner, a Zapier customer, partner, and expert recently and he said something that stuck with me: “Automation is a mindset.”

    The same can be said for productivity. It’s less about the tools and the technical skills, and it’s really more about how you approach your work.

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    There are simple habits we can build and ways of thinking that can help us achieve our goals. Productivity tools are a way to help us get there because they remove a constraint, but they’re only part of the solution.

    In order to remove those constraints, you have to get into the right mindset to recognize that the constraints exist, and find creative ways to remove those constraints.

    What is the best way to use productivity tools?

    If you’re new to productivity tools, ask your co-workers what types of apps they use to stay organized. Try just a small handful of tools (chat, email, and calendaring) over a period of time so you can see if they help you get more work done. Ask your co-workers what tools they use, so it’ll be easier for you to collaborate with them.

    At Zapier, we use a variety of cloud-based apps to manage projects, share designs, you name it. We’re a 100% remote team, so productivity tools are essential to our collaboration.

    Lastly, try introducing automation into your work. A good place to start is by listing all of the tasks that you need to do on a regular basis, and noting which ones seem manual or repetitive.

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    If you can automate those tasks, you have the potential to free up a lot of time that could be better spent on projects that advance your career or impact the bottom line.

    The Bottom Line

    As Foster shared, productivity is less about the tools and the technical skills, but more about how you approach your work. In order to increase productivity, start paying attention to the existing constraints and try to figure out ways to tackle them — this is when you should find the suitable techniques and tools to help you.

    More Practical Tips to Boost Productivity

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on March 15, 2019

    How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

    How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

    When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

    Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

    In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

    What Makes a Leader Fail?

    A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

    If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

    And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

    What Is Effective Leadership?

    Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

    Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

    Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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    “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

    How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

    To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

    1. Courage

    The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

    “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

    Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

    For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

    In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

    It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

    Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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    2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

    If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

    The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

    To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

    3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

    Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

    Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

    4. Likability

    Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

    When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

    Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

    So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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    5. Vulnerability

    Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

    When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

    6. Authenticity

    Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

    Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

    7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

    Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

    Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

    Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

    Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

    As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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    “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

    8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

    Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

    This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

    9. A Passion for Continual Learning

    Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

    These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

    Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

    The Bottom Line

    No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

    Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

    More Resources About Effective Leadership

    Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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