Productivity Simplified

The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day by David Horsager is not your typical productivity book. First off, he's better known for his other book, The Trust Edge, and for speaking about the impact trust has on a company's bottom line. But after incorporating some simple productivity tips he observed from others, and mentioning them in some of his speeches, he was asked to elaborate. This book is the result.

It's a short quick read with many tips ranging from managing your energy to more effective meetings. Every tip ends with one or two relevant quotes, or a quote and a statistic to drive the point home.

Some of the tips I really liked are—
  1. excellence is efficient, perfection is not, so do it right the first time and move on;
  2. manage your energy and schedule your day according to your natural rhythms so you can get more done;
  3. plan tomorrow today so your best time can be spent doing;
  4. ditch the multitasking which neither people nor computers are meant for;
  5. don't touch anything more than once so decide now if you can do it, use it, throw it away, or complete it now;
  6. SEEDS first (sleep, exercise, eat right, drink water, and find your source) which powers everything else;
  7. have a "power hour" where no interruptions are accepted at all and you can do your most important work;
  8. figure out your DMA (difference-making actions) on a daily basis so you know what to focus on;
  9. keep your in-box down to 10 or less e-mails by deleting/archiving, dealing, filing, or flagging for follow-up anything you cannot tackle within two minutes.
Many of David's tips are not new but are expressed well and with pointers on how to implement them, so I'd recommend the book for anyone looking to be more efficient and effective.

What's your favorite simple productivity tip? 

Never Stop Asking Why

Penguins Can't Fly: +39 Other Rules That Don't Exist by Jason Kotecki is probably not something I would have picked up if it had not been discussed at our monthly Actionable Book Club call, but I'm very glad I did.

Jason and his wife Kim are founders of Escape Adulthood. The premise of the book and the movement is that many of us suffer "adultitis" and follow rules that don't really exist.

The book, which is a fun and quick read, has great quotes, and is illustrated by Jason, takes us through 40 of these rules and encourages us to break them.

Some of my favorites:
  • thou shalt act thine age;
  • thou shalt not wear white after Labor Day;
  • thou shalt not eat dessert first;
  • thou shalt not eat breakfast for dinner;
  • thou shalt brag about how busy thou art;
  • thou shalt wait thirty minutes to swim after eating;
  • thou shalt clean thy plate;
  • thou shalt hide thy weirdness;
  • thou shalt not play hooky.
Although some of the "rules" have more obvious limitations (you can't play hooky all the time and only eat dessert), others have absolutely no sense to them (why not wear white after Labor Day and cleaning your plate when you're full is bad for you). 

At the heart of this is that as we become adults, we stop asking why and enjoying life; instead, we do what we're supposed to and/or has always been done, even if there's no rule behind it. 

So to cure ourselves of adultitis (and you can even take a test to see if you're afflicted at, we have to think about what we're doing and why, and start living life our own way. As Jason says at the end of the book, "Your life is a story, and a short one at that. Make it a good one."

What rules are you following that don't exist? 

Apply Your Genius

I've been a fan of Marcus Buckingham and the Strengths Movement since reading First Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently. I have since read all his books and taken each of his assessments.

If you're not familiar with his work, the premise is that to be at your best, you need to play to your strengths both in work and life. Your strengths are talents you're born with and unlike skills and knowledge that can be taught, strengths cannot. So for you to be truly happy, productive, and successful at work, you need to find a job that plays to those strengths. 

Marcus and his team have developed several online assessments to help people determine their strengths, and the latest was just released with his newest book, Standout 2.0.

In addition to explaining all the 9 role types and how this test is better than its original version, Marcus starts the first chapter with three lessons:
  1. Your Genius is precise
  2. Remember who you are
  3. Always sharpen your edge
Genius is what he calls how our top two roles define our strengths, and they are precise and unique to each of us. Marcus and his team consciously kept the results to the top two roles so that we can easily remember who we are.

But knowing yourself is not enough. By using our genius daily, not only will we be happier but we'll also be sharpening our "edge." Instead of trying to expand our boundaries, we should be digging deeper within them and within our genius, where we can be at our best and most productive and happy.

What appeals to me most about this movement is that it encourages us to be more of who we already are naturally, instead of trying to become someone we're not. It's the difference between having work be an extension of yourself and energizing, or struggling and being exhausted and miserable at the end of each day. 

I've been in both situations so can speak to the difference it makes and its impact on every part of your life. I can also attest that using your strengths is the only way to be truly happy and successful.

Do you know what your genius is? Are you applying it daily?

Quick Update

Just a quick note that I've happily landed at a great publishing startup, It's streamlining and simplifying a part of the publishing process that hasn't really had the benefit of digital tools—the manuscript submission and query process—helping both publishers/agents and authors. If you're in that space, please check it out and let me know if you have any questions.

Since I want to keep posting great content and won't be reading or writing as much, going forward I'll post once a week on Sunday evening and will retweet it throughout the week. I'm hoping this is sustainable so I can keep it going long term.

Thanks again for reading.

IQ, EQ, and now CQ?

You've all heard of IQ and probably even heard of EQ (emotional quotient or emotional intelligence), but have you heard of CQ? 

CQ is Cultural Quotient (or Cultural Intelligence), which as David Livermore explains in his book Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success, is becoming more important.

As companies either go global or hire a more diverse workforce, all leaders, managers and even employees need to become more aware of how different cultures view things. Although I knew this was something to be aware of and have come across it to small degrees in my career, this book has made me realize how harmful a low CQ can be.

Without going into too much detail about all the stages and ways one can develop CQ, reviewing cultural values is a quick and interesting way to highlight how different we are. A culture can emphasize—
  • individual goals and rights vs. group goals and personal relationships;
  • equality and shared decision making vs. differences in status and decisions made by "superiors";
  • flexibility and adaptability vs. planning and predictability;
  • collaboration and nurturing behavior to get results vs. competition, assertiveness, and achievement to get results;
  • immediate outcomes vs. long-term outcomes;
  • explicit communication (words) vs. indirect communication (tone and context);
  • quality of life vs. being busy and meeting goals;
  • rules and standards that apply to everyone vs. specific and unique standards based on relationships;
  • non-emotional communication (hide feelings) and expressive communication (share feelings openly);
  • linear approach to time and keeping work and personal lives separate vs. multitasking and combining work and personal lives.
Do you see how the above can be challenging? Imagine an American manager trying to motivate someone from a culture where time isn't linear? Or imagine him or her giving direct instructions to someone from a culture where either indirect communication or flexibility are valued? How about rewarding someone for individual tasks when they were raised to emphasize group goals and relationships?

As David explains, it's impossible for anyone to know all the cultural differences and nuances, but being aware is the first step. He shares many more details and examples, which I recommend everyone read.

Have you had a cross-cultural encounter? How did you handle it? How did the other party react?