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5 Productivity Lessons From the Millennial Work Style

5 Productivity Lessons From the Millennial Work Style
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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.

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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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