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5 Productivity Lessons From the Millennial Work Style

5 Productivity Lessons From the Millennial Work Style

Gen Y workers are often maligned in the business world for their entitlement or self-interest, but there are several productivity lessons to be learned from the millennial work style. Companies like General Electric, Cisco Systems and Ogilvy & Mather have already leveraged younger workers’ knowledge through reverse mentoring sessions, in which junior employees teach upper managers and executives about social media, the Internet, workplace culture and even management practices.

Read on for a handful of productivity-centric lessons inspired by the unconventional work style my millennial peers and I have adopted.

1. Embrace experimentation

Millennials are notorious early adopters, eager to explore new tools or experiment with different ways of performing standard tasks. Many of us spent our grade-school years blogging, instant messaging, texting and playing video games to express ourselves and blow off steam; as young adults, we proactively seek out software, apps and daily practices that facilitate our “work hard, play harder” mentality.

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To leverage this entrepreneurial attitude, try out different work “shifts,” research and begin using a new productivity tool, or pick the brain of a colleague you admire. Strive to innovate and hone your existing workflows with the goal of creating new, more effective routines.

2. Be self-centered, in a good way

A common criticism of Gen-Y workers is that they’re self-centered, but this isn’t necessarily a negative trait when it comes to productivity. Millennials focus on their specific roles and responsibilities, execute them, and move on to the next task. Completing to-dos and getting work done is more important to them than being recognized in the office as the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. Whereas their coworkers might aspire to be the “go-to” person in the office ready to dispense advice and next steps, many millennials prefer to be recognized as the top performer.

Channel this focus on self over others when managing your priorities and workload. Evaluate how taking on additional projects or delegating tasks would influence your happiness and career advancement, and do your best to avoid sacrificing the former in pursuit of the latter.

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3. Learn from failure

Video games teach children that failure presents an opportunity to learn and try new techniques; combine that habit with the fearlessness of youth, and it’s no surprise that millennials aren’t as apprehensive of failure as their older coworkers might be. We learn by doing, and are okay with sacrificing efficiency in the name of learning a new skill.

While you may never shake your fear of failure, learn to recognize it as a chance to improve, learn and ultimately succeed in your future ventures.

4. Capitalize on instability

Considering the dismal economy, skyrocketing divorce rates, real estate crisis and credit crunch, millennials haven’t had much occasion to embrace stability in adulthood. We’ve had to hustle and become proficient at a variety of skills to compete in a rapidly changing job market.

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In a piece called “Generation Flux” for Fast Company, 26-year-old Pete Cashmore, the CEO of Mashable, touched on the need to embrace change and capitalize on instability. “I don’t have any personal challenges about throwing away the past,” he said. “If you’re not changing, you’re giving others a chance to catch up. Even if you know everything about a certain market now, in a few years you’re going to have to start from scratch like everyone else.”

Recognize that today’s innovation-driven business environment offers opportunities to revolutionize your work habits, proficiencies and attitudes toward work. Think of this change positively. “The typical mindset understates the risk of not changing and overstates the risk of change,” added Cashmore.

5. Motivation matters

Gen Y workers thrive on continuous feedback and mentorship. It’s easy to dismiss this behavior as needy or lazy, but positive mentors and team-oriented leaders give younger workers three essential things they need to stay engaged at the workplace: context, collaboration and communicated expectations.

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Molly Graham, a 27-year-old human resources professional at Facebook, spoke last fall at the HR Technology conference about the positive side of millennials’ entitlement complex:

Entitlement means someone who thinks they have a right to something, a right to know, a right to be part of a process, part of decision making. We have a different word for this. We want to build a company where people believe they have a right to something — we call it ownership. Everyone should feel like it’s their company, they are responsible for the success of the company, for their decisions… This, for us, is a good thing.

Channel millennials’ natural inquisitiveness by nurturing relationships with mentors and other superiors. If you feel a strong sense of loyalty to your boss and always understand the larger implications of your work, you’ll develop intrinsic motivation that incentivizes you to work more efficiently and effectively.

Conclusion

Despite these productivity advantages, millennials still have much to learn from older generations in the working world. The ideal office scenario enables employees of all experience levels to learn from each other’s strengths through regular collaboration and mentorship.

(Photo credit: Victor1558 via Flickr)

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Last Updated on September 17, 2020

5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

There’s nothing quite like a state of “flow” when you’re working. The rare moments when your inspiration aligns with your motivation likely lead to some of your most creative work. Plus, it feels great to actually check a task or project off the list so you can move on to the next thing. Meanwhile, a mental block — its opposite — can cause work to feel laborious and uninspired. Forget creativity when you have a mental block — it makes it difficult even to start working on what you need to do.

A mental block can manifest in several ways. Perhaps your imposter syndrome is squelching your creative ideas, for instance, or you’re overwhelmed by the breadth of a project and its impending deadline. Maybe you’re just tired or stressed.

Either way, having a mental block feels like being trapped in your own head, and it can seriously dampen your ability to think outside the box. The problem is, you’re so locked into your own perspective that you don’t see more innovative approaches to your problems.[1]

Luckily, jumping over these mental hurdles is simpler than you think. You just need the right strategies to get your flow back.

Try these five practical ways to overcome a mental block.

1. Break Your Project Down

A few years ago, I was working on changing a company product that I believed would hugely benefit our customers. Sounds great, right?

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As inspired as I was to make people’s lives easier, though, the sheer magnitude of the task at hand felt overwhelming. Every morning, I cracked open my laptop to work and felt totally paralyzed. I loved the idea, yes, but actualizing it felt risky. What if it didn’t turn out the way I pictured in my mind? More importantly, where would I even begin?

A former colleague gave me great advice over coffee:

Change how you think. Start by breaking the big project down into small tasks.

When a major project overwhelms you, you only see the entire forest instead of the individual trees. And as you stare it down, you start to feel discouraged by your own lack of progress, thus slowing you down further.

Breaking down a massive task into smaller chunks makes the work feel more manageable. You’ll have multiple clear places to start and end with, which will lend a motivating sense of productivity and mastery to your process. Learn more about it here: The Motivation Flowchart: The Mental Process of Successful People

Think of it as accumulating small wins. When you realize you’re more capable than you have once thought, you’ll develop the momentum and confidence needed to get your big job done little by little.[2]

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2. Change Up Your Scenery

Of course, there’s a time and place for sitting down to get things done. But if you’re experiencing a mental block, switching up your surroundings can make a big difference in your output.

Have you ever noticed how your environment directly impacts your performance and mood?

Your brain associates your physical surroundings with certain feelings and activities. So, if you feel mentally stuck, your mind may need some new sensory stimuli.

During this time in your life, it may not be possible to set up shop at a cafe or move from your cubicle to a conference room, so you may need to think outside the box. If you’re working remotely in a home office, try going to your dining table or couch. If the weather cooperates, sit outside for a bit with your computer or take a walk around the block.

You can also simply rearrange your workspace. Not sure where to begin? Try decluttering. Some studies show that an organized desk enhances productivity.[3]

The point is to stimulate your brain with new sounds and sights. You may find a much-needed dose of inspiration when you work while breathing in the fresh air, listening to city sounds, or staying in the comfort of your own living space.

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3. Do an Unrelated Activity

When it comes to productivity, a bit of distraction isn’t always a bad thing. That’s especially true if your chosen distraction helps you get things done in the long run.

Have you realized how your most creative thoughts tend to bubble up when you’re, say, lying in bed or taking a shower? In their research of the “incubation period,” scientists have discovered that people’s best ideas seem to surface when they aren’t actively trying to solve a problem.[4]

In a 2010 study, participants needed to look for a roommate or new employee based on the profiles that the researchers gave. The people who had a brief “incubation period” — in this case, working on an anagram — consistently made better choices than those who spent more time weighing their options.

If you can’t seem to prime your brain for a project, try doing something completely unrelated to work, such as washing your dishes, working out, or calling a friend. Some experts say finding another low-stake project to work on can help jump-start the creative part of your brain and activate your flow.[5]

The key is to allow your unconscious mind to do its best work: eliciting the new knowledge your conscious mind may be ignoring or suppressing.[6]

4. Be Physical

Feeling antsy? When your mind won’t seem to settle into a state of flow, it may help to swap out your mental activity for a physical one and see how it impacts your perspective.

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While any physical activity is beneficial for your body — and getting up to move can serve as a helpful form of distraction — certain forms of exercise can more directly impact the mind. To be specific, relaxing, flow-based exercises like dance, yoga, or tai chi can create a gentle sense of momentum in your body, which can prime your brain for the same state.

Stress-reducing activities may also be necessary. Meditating or taking slow, deep breaths will also calm your nervous system if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Evidence shows that the logical, creative part of your brain essentially shuts off when you’re stressed.[7]

On the flip side, when your mind and body are relaxed, you can think more clearly, be more creative, and focus for longer periods — all of which will help you overcome a mental block.

5. Don’t Force It

It can be frustrating to fight against your own mind. If your mental block won’t go away after some effort, it may be time to take a break. Forcing creative thoughts only adds to your stress levels, which in turn inhibits your ability to think creatively. And if you sit and stare at a project for too long, you’ll not only waste valuable time but also begin to associate this specific work with frustration and produce work you’re not proud of.

“I know that forcing something is not going to create anything beyond mediocre, so I step aside and work on a different project until it hits me,” the artist Ben Skinner said about his creative process.[8]

If your work isn’t time-sensitive, then it may make sense to step away for a while to focus on something else, be it an administrative task that requires less creativity or a project that you feel motivated to work on.

When the time is right, you’ll find your way back to the original task with a fresh, creative perspective (hopefully).

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Featured photo credit: Jonas Leupe via unsplash.com

Reference

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