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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Monday, October 1, 2007

LinkedIn Sparks Ongoing Debate

Thom Singer has a rant going about the problems with some people wanting to make a connection to him through LinkedIn when he really doesn’t know them very well. It seems someone got a bit snippy at Singer’s connection rules, and fired off a less-than-professional e-mail to him.

That’s got a lot of people discussing how social networking fits into the networking rules of the workplace. Singer has asked other bloggers to weigh in, and after giving it some consideration, here are some of my thoughts:

1. Would I recommend you for a job? I don’t link to you unless I’ve worked with you in some way or know you personally and feel good about the experience. I don’t want anyone calling me about your work and saying, “What are this person’s strengths?” and I say, “Gee…I dunno.” That makes me look bad, and that’s not what networking is about. It’s supposed to be a win-win for everyone. So, if I don’t connect with you, it’s nothing personal – it’s just that we need more time to get to know one another.

2. Do I think you’re headed in the right direction? If I see someone connecting to a lot of people really fast, throwing invitations out like confetti on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, I hang back. It makes me a bit nervous to see someone collecting connections like they’re Pokeman cards. Those links seem a bit too rushed, and the lack of solid foundation concerns me. It’s sort of like social spamming.

3. Are you doing your homework? If you have no real understanding of what I do and how I do it, then I ignore you. Again, nothing personal, but I’m not into connecting with you if you’re not willing to take the time to get to know me, and help me get to know you. Lazy linkers will always move on to the next person, and that's fine with me.

Finally, I really consider myself a sort of gatekeeper for the other people in my network. They see me as someone they trust, and I don't want to betray that by trust by letting someone in that I really don't know. But, hey, once I get to know you and we connect in an honest way,then welcome to the party, pal.

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