Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Time to Get Serious About Eliminating Distractions on the Job

The directive is pretty clear from the employment world in these tough economic times: "Remain relevant." But the unspoken addition is this: "Or you could be out on your ear."

Right now, it's critical that you become more focused than ever on your job and your employer. That means the first thing you've got to do is cut down on distractions. Because if you're distracted, you're not as productive, as creative or as critical to your company. While we all know we should turn off the e-mail and check only every couple of hours, there are other distractions that we are less inclined to eliminate.

It's time to get serious. Things are scary out there, and no one can afford to perform at less than 100 percent. It's time to get real, and get tough. Let's talk about some ways that you need to kick your own butt into gear:

* Stop socializing online. I know this is going to get some heat from some people, but I think it's gotten out of control. Right now, we all need time to let our minds relax and recharge by going to a local park with our family or friends or reading something enjoyable. I know one person who recently decided to stop using Facebook. He told me it was something he had been thinking about for a long time, but this week he was brutally honest with himself and said he knew his work was suffering because of the constant distraction of keeping up with his Facebook page and the "social" aspect of it was just too stressful. Here's an interesting aside: Facebook didn't want to make it easy to end the addiction. It asked him the reasons for leaving, and each time he clicked on an answer, a solution popped up. Harden your resolve and step away from MySpace, Twitter and Friendster. If you can't go cold turkey, eliminate all but one or two sites, and never check it at work, unless these sites are part of your job description.

And your personal blog? Think about taking a break. I find many people who started blogs now believe they're nothing more than burden -- just one more task they have to take care of. It's really OK if you decide to take a break or stop altogether -- it it your blog, after all.
If you're not sure how much time you're spending on your social network site, get an old-fashioned timer and set it for 30 minutes. Every time you have to reset it, mark it down. I did this, and was stunned to see that an hour had gone by -- it seemed like I'd only been on it for 15 minutes.

* Quit texting: "Where R U?" may seem innocent enough, but it's the first salvo in a time suck that will have you texting yourself right out of a job. Turn off your personal cell phone or Blackberry and only check on your lunch hour for emergency messages. Ignore everything else until after work.

* Do something monotonous. I came up with my book idea while blow drying my hair. Another friend came up with a great marketing idea while taking a shower. Stop trying to entertain yourself all the time, such as listening to a podcast while working out, or watching YouTube on your laptop while waiting in a airport. Let yourself get bored -- you'll be amazed at how it will turn on your brain and get you thinking more creatively and freely. (I get some of my best column ideas while doing laundry or driving.) It's those creative thoughts that are going to make you stand out at work, to help you remain relevant to your boss.

* Be selective with your information input. The Internet is wonderful because it offers us 24/7 information. The Internet is terrible because it offers us 24/7 information. With the financial mess and the upcoming election, it's tempting to check CNN every 10 minutes. Don't. It won't do your job any good to focus too much on things beyond your control right now. Get your news fix before and after work, either in print or on air, then move onto something else.

* Keep moving. Yeah, exercise is good for you, but moving feet are also a good idea at work. Don't stop to chat in the bathroom, around the coffee pot or anywhere else that seems to be a "bulls**t zone." Just keep moving with a friendly wave and a "I've got a deadline" comment.

What are some ways you've found to cut down on distractions?

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Friday, July 20, 2007

An Idea for the Inexperienced

When Jason Alba found himself laid off from his job a couple of years ago, he came to an important realization: While he was a manager and had an MBA, he was competing against those with much more experience in the job market.

“People I was competing against had a lot more depth,” he says. “Most of the recruiters were looking at people with a lot more years than me.”

That experience impressed upon him the need to continually manage his own career by networking more effectively and establishing his own personal brand so that he would stand out to potential employers now and in the future, even if he didn’t have decades of experience.

Alba, founder of JibberJobber ( says that it’s the need for breadth and depth in the job market that spurred him into creating the “You Get It” award (, for someone who is doing a great job to develop their professional presence, often through a blog and Web site.

“You can quantify your depth and breadth of experience through a blog over time, to show what you can do,” Alba says. “It’s not a job seeker blog. I don’t like those. It’s more a way to show what your passions are, how good you are at what you do.”

That said, Alba cautions that anyone blogging should do it wisely, avoiding the all-too-common pitfall of “using bad language and being screwy and unfocused,” he says.

“You want to see someone’s personality, and show your depth and breadth as your blog is developed,” he says. “But you don’t want to stand out in the wrong way.”

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Be Cautious About Revealing Personal Details

A Wall Street Journal article today noted that it might be a problem when co-workers or bosses wanted to be your "friend" in an online social networking site like MySpace or Facebook. The problem, it seems, is that many of you are uncomfortable with the boss or co-workers seeing photos of you at a "kegger", or nearly naked on a beach.

I'm so happy to hear that.

Why? Because lately, I've had it up to here with people feeling like they should share every intimate detail of their lives, whether we want to know it or not. They call it "transparency." But the dictionary on my desk says that transparency is being "candid, open, easily understood." Still, I see people abuse this term daily. They use the word “transparency” to be naricissitic, rude, demeaning and immature. “I’m being transparent,” they say.


Don’t get me wrong. I like transparency. As a journalist, I want both private and public organizations to be candid with me, to be easily understood so that I can do my job. But I think we’re doing ourselves a real disservice to claim that our bad judgment is not just that, but is instead our being “transparent.”

Those responding to the WSJ article ( said that it was a matter of maturity -- anyone over the age of 24 shouldn't be doing Facebook or MySpace, anyway. Very good point. And, anyone who has a job must seriously consider how “transparent” they want to be. Another good point.

As I wrote in the blog discussion about transparency ( ) there’s no problem if you’re independently wealthy and need never be employed again. But if there’s a chance you’re going to be looking for work one day, or are currently employed, you need to tread very carefully when leaving your footprint online. It can, and will, be seen by professional colleagues somewhere, sometime.

Your willingness to be “transparent” online could very well be one of the biggest mistakes you make in your career. With so many things often out of our control – bad bosses, a tough job market, deranged co-workers – why would you hurt your future success simply because you couldn't keep from blabbing about matters best left private?

If you feel the need to be “transparent,” do so with close friends and family at a face-to-face gathering – or with your therapist. Tell your stylist about your personal problems, share with your best friend the story of how your boyfriend dumped you. Show your brother the photos of you doing kamikazes at a local bar with your partner. But, please, I beg you -- just don’t do it in an arena where professional contacts can see it.

Let’s add “common sense” to our definition of transparency.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blogging notice

I am new to the blogging world, but I have to say it's been a very gratifying experience so far.

I originally started my blog as a way to facilitate discussions among those interested in improving their experiences at work or boosting their careers. I also thought it would be a good chance to build a community of people who support one another and offer advice on various workplace dilemmas or issues.

I've already been interviewed by two bloggers about my book, "45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy...and How to Avoid Them." One of the bloggers was in the U.S. -- the other in Pakistan. To me, it's amazing how quickly communities of people come together under a blog, and how they support one another, argue with each other and discuss various issues. Sort of like when families get together at the holidays!

So, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to two bloggers who, I think, have blogs worth checking out and learning from. Two blogs that have interviews with me:

At the same time, I'd like to hear from anyone who is using a blog to further a career. What do you think is important to include on your blog, and what should you avoid? What advice could you offer to others about blogging?

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