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The Ultimate Productivity Tool: Why I Have to Test It in 2013

The Ultimate Productivity Tool: Why I Have to Test It in 2013

Structure, process, and productivity tools are four of my favourite words. I make happy places for teams inside of these—as a productivity specialist, I thrive on walking into chaos and creating order.

Over the years of working with numerous companies, the single biggest challenge that I have come up against is the reality that most businesses are built around a collection of email in-boxes belonging to its team members. If I am lucky, those in-boxes have folders and labels attached to them, but this is rarely the case.

The problem is that a collection of in-boxes is not an open system. An open system is characterised by transparency in communication and a flat approach to team structures, which makes blame-shifting very hard to do. Closed systems, on the other hand, are not transparent and lean towards a hierarchical team structure. Closed systems are ultimately counter-productive: they slow work down; they make finding information harder than it needs to be; they make communication impersonal and difficult; they make blame-shifting easy.

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Stop-Gap Measures and Real Solutions

With the arrival of social everything, business has changed to a wide open system, but people aren’t adapting at a fast enough pace. To combat this I generally organise teams around open-system productivity tools which meet specific business needs such as implementing the following:

  • CRM tools for managing sales
  • Project management tools for assisting internal business projects and external client projects
  • Collaboration tools for managing virtual teams
  • Accounting tools for managing financial processes
  • List tools for managing personal accountability within teams

Implementing all of these is only a stop-gap measure, though: doing so meets a specific need within the business, but by implementing systems that address specific needs, you are still creating walls because these systems don’t talk to each other. On a global scale this means that big businesses that are able to implement systems like SAP still have a competitive edge over a smaller, more agile business because SAP has modules and those modules talk to each other.

In comes Podio and the open-system, productivity-loving nerd in me gets very excited.

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A Solution

Podio is a cloud tool that can be used to manage the following areas:

  • Virtual office
  • Project management
  • CRM and Sales
  • HR
  • Finance
  • Meetings
  • Lists
  • Software development
  • Event management
  • Marketing
  • Product development
  • Customer management

Podio is built around a basic workspace that is highly customisable to suit your team and business. This tool has made it very easy for businesses to select workspaces that are already set up and built around specific types of businesses: for example, there are workspaces specifically for HR teams, or development teams.

Podio is highly customisable because of  its own app marketplace, where you can either install or build your own apps that meet specific needs within your business. This app marketplace is arranged in two ways:

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  • Around business clusters such as law, fashion, travel, healthcare etc.
  • Around functional business requirements such as HR, IT, marketing, finance, legal, and the like.

Why Open Systems Are Important For The Future:

Open productivity tools such as Podio, which allow for transparent business communication and workflow across the entire organisation, are important because the cloud and new media technologies mean greater competition with faster disruption. This in turn means that every small business owner needs to have their systems talking to each other to ensure a competitive edge in all respects. Tools that do not allow for this cross-pollination between business functions will eventually die. If finance doesn’t know what development is doing, and development doesn’t know what editorial is doing, you have an unhealthy ecosystem. It really is that simple.

The Implications

The implications of a productivity tool like Podio are far-reaching and numerous, but the most important implication is what will happen to the individual in the workforce: gone are the days where single-domain knowledge was enough to remain competitive in one’s career. We are now in the age where strategic thinking/planning is something that every person will need to learn, and quickly. Every individual in the workplace will need to know the basics about all business functions to be able to function and work collectively in open-system productivity tools like Podio. If marketing can see what finance is doing and development and editorial are working closely together, then marketing and finance need to understand each other, and development and editorial should be singing off the same hymn sheet.

I look forward to introducing Podio to my team and to my clients. Here’s to an open system world that looks very different to the in-box world we have gotten ourselves so used to. I look forward to thinking outside this box.

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Featured photo credit:  Hard working on documents business woman via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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