Why The Most Ambitious People Time Block

Have you ever wondered why a few high-performers insist on scheduling (i.e. time blocking) their entire day? It’s not because they are indulging in an idle pastime. Instead, they are resorting to this little-known technique because they have no other choice.

CEO’s. Olympic athletes. Entrepreneurs. Teachers. Part-Time Students. Parents of twins, triplets or more. Employees with a side business.

These are some of the busiest people you may know. But being busy isn’t just a state of mind, or a feeling. Research shows they have a practice of creating a huge number of tasks. In other words, the backlog of demands they have set for themselves far exceeds 24 hours per day and 168 hours per week.

Furthermore, they face the same challenge we all do of living in Jamaica, with its hectic daily surprises that make it so hard to focus. Time blocking is the way they stay on top of their time commitments.
What you may not know is that they actually started using the technique relatively late in life, after progressing through other practices. Here are the steps you could follow if you are looking towards a future of increasing task volume.

  • Start Off Using a New Kind of Memory
    Like most adolescents, you probably had a goal of having a great memory. After all, primary and secondary education is almost all about memorization, recalling facts and figures, using what’s called “retrospective memory”.
    However, there is another: “prospective memory”. This is the kind of memory used to perform actions in the future, such as your plans for the rest of the day. This type has a short shelf life, unlike retrospective memory. For example, your schedule for yesterday afternoon is of little value today.
    Furthermore, prospective memory is used to help you reach your goals and intentions. However, the fact that you’re taught to use personal memory to track incomplete commitments is a problem. Why? Once you try to remember too many tasks, it fails.
    Finally, the older you get, the worse this kind of memory performs; as you may have observed with your parents. It’s not a long-term solution to the problem of task recall, even though it’s the most popular.
  • Solving the Problem With Lists
    If you came of age before 2005 you probably sought to solve the problem by using paper lists. Consequently, you developed the successful practice of carrying around a pad or notebook.
    Of course, not everyone has learned the habit. “Don’t worry yuhself, mi wi remember” is a popular refrain that often leads to problems. (My casual observation is that more Jamaican men than women are likely to utter it, and less likely to have pen/paper handy.)
    Unfortunately, there is a limit to the number of tasks a paper list can handle before the practice of continually writing a new one becomes a chore. Plus, it can be lost, stolen, wet or burned. Thankfully, new technology on our phones can help.
  • Migrating to Smartphones
    If you came of age after 2010 you may think the idea of using paper instead of a digital task app to be backward. Instead, you jumped straight to using your phone to manage your tasks. Now, your cloud-based app offers perpetual safety, plus the ability to stay on top of much more todos. 
    But you are still subject to the law which states that whenever you try to manage your tasks with tools which lack the requisite capacity, you will experience difficulties. This law applies whether you are using prospective memory, paper or  a digital task app.
    So if you happen to be using an app and find yourself unable to keep up, there’s one more level to consider.
  • Adopting a Super Calendar
    Academics in the 1990’s discovered that when you specify the time to complete a planned task, it dramatically increases the odds of completion. In other words, you are more effective when you time block a task in your calendar than if you merely add it to a list.
    While it’s possible to use a paper planner, there are two powerful digital solutions: picking up a calendar on Google or Outlook, or switching to an AI-powered auto-scheduler. The former requires you to move tasks around one-by-one by hand, which can become painful. The latter uses an intelligent robot you can train to produce a new, optimal schedule on demand.
    And if you don’t want to manage your own calendar, a third option is to hire someone (like an administrative assistant) to do the job of time blocking for you.
    All three are techniques used by most ambitious, accomplished people.

Unfortunately, given psychological and technological limits, these are your only choices. Until something better is invented, time blocking tasks directly in your calendar is the best choice for dealing with a high volume of time demands with sharp deadlines.

Why Rising Executives Don’t Find Their Real Mission

January 19, 2020

Why is it that some fast-rising corporate professionals get stalled on their path to the top position? Or, why do they fail to fulfill their potential when they assume the top role? The answer: sometimes, they neglect to revoke unproductive ways of being that operate behind the scenes. 

There’s an invisible transition that should occur during an executive’s ascent to their ultimate destination:  the big corner office. They work hard – that’s not in question. However, by mistake, they rely on two weak “skills” for too long

To listen to this podcast, visit Source

The Hole in the Fence Theory of Productivity

January 10, 2020

There are many reasons being given for our lack of economic growth and corporate profitability. I suggest a different one, aptly named by columnist and friend Dennis Chung: “The Hole in the Fence Theory.”

We Jamaicans love a business rebel; the person who finds a hole in the fence to a concert then sneaks in as many friends as possible before discovery. With good reason. Our ancestors used short-term opportunism to survive and thwart the profit-makers who enslaved them.

To listen to this podcast, visit Source

On Ways to Persuade Others to Act

How do you get groups of people to take non-sales related actions? Is it a matter of using a catchy graphic or video to tell them what to do? Or interrupting them while they are doing something else? Or applying pressure with multiple reminders?

Sales and marketing professionals aren’t confused: persuasive messaging is required to sell products and services. However, if you aren’t a salesperson and you need to persuade a group of individuals to take a certain action, what skills should you employ?

Perhaps you even hate to use the word “sales” in reference to what you are trying to accomplish. But the task remains daunting: you must still say or write stuff that causes people to act. Whether they are employees, peers, board members, customers, the public or another stakeholder, where do you start?

In my column of November 17, 2019, I offered a solution. Begin by analyzing the “Unmet Needs” of individuals in the target group you are trying to influence. When their needs aren’t being met, people’s typical response is to co-opt a low-quality substitute into playing a “better-than-nothing” role. 

However, knowing these needs is just the beginning. The fact is, we live in a world of distracting messages and influences. Whether cash payments are involved or not, you must compete against these distractions for your subject’s time. Even your free offerings need to displace Facebook, Netflix and the news in order to be effective, going up against the millions those entities spend to get attention.

If you are willing to win the battle, I suggest a four-step framework from Michel Fortin, the experienced copywriter. For example, let’s assume that you are trying to arrange a Neighborhood Watch meeting for your community.

Step 1 – Enumerate the Features
These are elements that make your event attractive. They are factual: visible to the naked eye, incontrovertible and distinct. Make a list of these features such as: “The meeting is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 4pm” or “The nice policeman who drops in occasionally will be there.”

Step 2 – Detail the Advantages
Each of the features you listed can do something that makes your product special. In other words, it provides an advantage. To craft them quickly, simply add “so that” to the end of each feature, and then complete the sentence. For example, “We have scheduled the meeting for Sunday afternoon so that everyone can attend.”

Step 3 – Compile the Motives of Your Prospects
These are the deep psychological drivers, motivations inherent in your targets’ minds. As such, they lie dormant even before the prospect is aware of your solution. You may find these within the Unmet Needs, and they should help you understand why they will take action.
For example, your targets may have a “Hassle-Free” motive for the meeting. Therefore, avoiding the busier days of the week should help.
Continue mapping motives to advantages until the list has been exhausted.

Step 4 – Craft Benefits
The final and most important step is to develop benefit statements you can use in your verbal, written or visual messages. These are practical outcomes which occur when features, advantages and motives are combined to produce a meaningful result. I use the phrase “which means” as a prompt.

For example, “The meeting is on Sunday so that everyone can attend, which means that we can finally come together to plan detailed strategies to protect each and every unit from the thieves living across the gully.”

In benefit statements, I often describe what will happen if the action I want fails to be realised. In the example above, I’m trying to imply that those neighbors who miss the meeting are putting their homes at risk.

When these statements are stacked together, the end-product can be quite persuasive. It should be. After all, it began with your prospect’s Unmet Needs.

However, many individuals don’t want to exert the time and effort to do such rigorous thinking. “De people dem fi know dem need fi come a di meeting” is used as a reason to avoid the hard pre-work needed to craft convincing statements. In the minds of those who are already persuaded, all that’s necessary is a nice, simple flyer.

Unfortunately, most flyers include little more than a list of features; hardly enough to produce the desired result. In a world of relentless demands on our time punctuated by rude surprises, that approach won’t do.  Don’t arrogantly assume your targets should know better and complain when they refuse to comply. Instead, plant the seeds of your success from the start by doing the in-depth work required to convert unmet needs into action. 

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To search prior columns on productivity, strategy, engagement and business processes,  send email to columns@fwconsulting.com

How to Reward Your Employees Effectively

Could you make a mistake and offer the wrong gift to employees during the holiday season? What if it’s based on outdated assumptions that do more harm than good? Here are some findings from recent research to ensure your organization makes the most of the occasion.

The season for giving gifts to staff is fast approaching and, right now, someone in your company is making an important decision. What gifts should workers receive? It may seem like a small-time concern, but take a closer look: it’s tied up with management’s idea about what motivates employees.

In some years, managers get this wrong, thereby amusing or even insulting staff with their choice of gifts. In others they get it perfectly right, and it resonates in a way that lifts morale and engagement. What can you learn about employee motivation that results, at the very least, in doing no harm?

The big finding is that there’s a huge paradox at play:  the story employees tell their managers about gifts just isn’t true. To wit, when surveyed, most staff members say they prefer cash rewards. With regards to money, most respond with a knee-jerk, cultural reaction – of course they “want more of it”, as soon as possible.

 However, when employee performance is measured after the fact, cash turns out to be less effective in changing behavior than verbal praise or other visible rewards.

Why is that?

I believe that, when surveyed, employees are literally reporting what they should want, rather than what actually produces higher performance. This is especially true for complex or creative work which can’t be quantified easily.

In fact, monetary awards undermine intrinsic motivation in these situations in a phenomenon called “crowding out.” It implies that staff becomes distracted by the money, focusing away from the job at hand. This ruins quality and productivity.

Part of the reason this happens is that raw cash, when rewarded, offers only a temporary spark. In no time, it devolves into a commodity to be traded for ordinary goods and services such as JPS, NWC, rent and phone bills.

However, this isn’t true for other kinds of gifts which have more staying power. Here are some examples and the reasons why they perform better than one-time cash rewards.

1. Luxury Items

These are identified as goods and services which the recipient wouldn’t purchase for him/herself. Apparently, the fact that the gift is a luxury allows an additional level of indulgence. After all, once a reward has been given, it cannot be returned. Instead, it must be consumed and enjoyed which prolongs its effective life, even after completion.

In addition, the luxury gift grants permission to the recipient to partake in an “impractical” expenditure which takes them outside habitual behavior. This heightens the experience, usually increasing a sense of gratitude.

However, one-size-doesn’t-fit-all. Each person has their own ideas about what’s special. Choosing the right gift means knowing something about their personality and making a proper match.

2. Hedonic

Another element which augments the effect of a reward is an intention for it to generate positive emotions. In particular, in the workplace it could evoke feelings of being “included, appreciated, invested in and feeling valued.” This is so important that some researchers have attributed 80% of voluntary attrition to a lack of recognition by employers, echoing similar studies performed here in Jamaica.

In this context, sometimes the most meaningful rewards have no real tangible component whatsoever. Instead, they hit other emotional chords which are more powerful. For example, the words spoken when the gift is given should be accurate and specific, focusing on the unique contribution. This increases the impact.

3. Social

Finally, it’s also best if the reward is public, so that others can honor the individual. 
Furthermore, try to choose something that’s perishable, such as a physical object; not a dinner for two.

Such visible rewards keep doing their job long after the event is over and can continue to be a talking point. Its line of sight reminds people of the reason the gift was given and continues to honor the recipient.

Too many companies treat their employees as if they are simpletons who just want more money or food (e.g. Christmas cake and Easter bun). It’s a not-too-subtle form of classism which needs to be traded in.

But don’t stop at changing the gift you give. Examine the underlying theory managers harbor about the motivations of their staff. Challenging this old thinking may avoid a problem this holiday season.

The Power of Innovating on Unmet Needs

Innovation is hard. What is the hit-rate like for new products and services in your organization? If the track record is poor, then you may need to delve into the hidden drivers of behaviors in your target market.

Most innovation in Jamaica follows the same process. First, someone high enough in the company has a bright idea – a flash of insight. Their intuition tells them that there’s revenue to be made from customers who will willingly pay for a new offering.

Then, the idea is shared, but more often than not, a directive is issued. An employee in a lower position is given the job of evaluating the concept. They return with misgivings but it soon becomes clear that the high-level originator won’t be easily swayed. A final decision is made to proceed.

However, when the product fails in the market, everyone is mystified, except those employees closest to the prospects. They have their pulse on customer behavior, and can see the shortcomings of the idea clearly. However, they lack enough clout to make a difference.

Companies try to compensate for this power imbalance by surveying workers for ideas, but the truth is that lower-level staff often draw a blank when polled for new product suggestions. They just don’t have the skills to speak to the executive suite. Fortunately, there’s a better way.

At the heart of Tony Ulwick’s “Jobs to be Done” theory is the idea that everyone is going about their daily routine trying to get certain tasks executed. Here is a method that links this notion to innovation.

1. Ask for Unmet Needs

An “unmet need” is expressed as a three-part statement: “When I feel/need__________ I want to ____________ so that____________.” In other words, it’s an expression of a psychological state lying deep within the customer’s experience which then leads to action.

While this desire may be weak at the start, if it continues to be unmet it grows until an actionable decision is made. Consider that customers of your company are a walking bundle of unmet needs. Normally, your marketing department would simply assign them to a well-defined segment. Set that approach aside and, instead, start looking for unmet, emotional drivers.

The challenge is that customers cannot be surveyed directly about their deeper, driving feelings. Why? People give unreliable answers in questionnaires, often telling the surveyor the answers they believe the person wants to hear.

Alternately, it’s far better to have a conversation with customers about their actions, then gently probe them for the reasons behind them. Their explanations may be unclear, but their past behaviour offers important clues. Keep asking until a pattern of actions and underlying emotions emerges.

2. Look for Substitutes

Strong unmet needs cause people to take concrete steps, even if it only leads them to partial, temporary substitutes. By definition, the fact that the need persists means that the substitute is doing a poor job. For example, someone who has a feeling for some quick, new ideas to use in their organization may go searching on television, the local bookstore or Facebook. While these substitutes are all readily available and inexpensive, they are time consuming and foreign, so the need never gets fulfilled.

Therefore, your new product or service should be so well-crafted that it displaces the substitutes currently in use. They are, in fact your real enemies.

Take this fortnightly business column as an example. At first blush, you may think that another newspaper represents the competition. However, when I performed the Ulwick analysis I realized that the real competitors are television, books and Facebook.

From a traditional point of view, these conclusions makes no sense. Yet, in the customer’s world, the psychological gap that drives them to these substitutes has its own, perfect logic.

3. Use Benefit Statements

Closing the psychological gap isn’t easy. In fact, innovators often have a difficult time articulating the emotional-filled reasons their new product or service improves the customer’s life.

However, once the unmet needs and substitutes are known, the task becomes easier. For example, one benefit of reading this column regularly might be that “It gives you fresh ideas for your Jamaican organization with a minimum investment of effort, so you don’t have to waste precious time searching the internet.”

Contrast this approach with that taken by traditional marketers who imagine distinct market segments. These are usually formed around demographic data such as “an employed woman between the ages of 30-45 with two children and a bachelor’s degree.” Unfortunately, segments don’t work as well because people are actually individually and psychologically motivated by unmet needs in particular circumstances. Not by generic characteristics.

In summary, use these three insights to dramatically improve your connection with your prospect’s hidden motivators.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2018, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com

On Separating Breakthrough Strategic Plans from the Others

November 7, 2019

Have you ever been presented with a strategy document that appears to be nothing more than a list of projects? If so, the good news is that you aren’t crazy if you thought that something was missing. A sound plan is more than a grab bag – it should bring an intangible hypothesis to life in words and images that staff members can use in their daily activities.

To listen to this podcast, visit Source

Are you Cutting Meetings to the Bone

October 31, 2019

Is it possible to simultaneously cut the total time people spend in meetings while improving their quality? Not only is it possible, but there is a natural link between the two results that your company could exploit to increase its overall productivity.

To listen to this podcast, visit Source

What Does it Take to Truly Be In Communication?

Most people consider the phenomenon of “being in communication” to be a simple matter: it’s the state which follows a discussion between two or more persons. But is this standard high enough to get your organization through challenging times?

Others believe that communication is just about sending messages in the general direction of their intended recipients. Based on what we know of electronic messaging, that’s also not true. It’s too easy with new technology to blast another person with loud, confusing or random notes that do nothing to achieve the precious end-result of “being in communication”.

A definition: to “be in communication” means to be on the same page as others. People are together and in sync, achieving a high level of cohesion. A large frequency of authentic conversations occur which put prior issues to bed.

Take a look at working groups in your office. Sometimes, the least effective ones are stuck with a list of matters which cannot be discussed. The breakdown in communication inevitably drags down performance, making it hard to complete the simplest of tasks.

Given these realities, what should leaders do to bring about a new level of communication to their organizations?

Understand that Being in Sync Is Unnatural

Functional teams are an aberration. Getting people to work well together is always going to be an ongoing, uphill challenge. Why?

To explain, it’s somewhat abnormal for a group of individuals to “be in communication”. If anything, our survival instinct leads us to scan our world for threats. We have a natural, inherited suspicion.

This invisible vigilance treats vulnerability and openness as weaknesses to be shunned. In other words, our very nature constantly pushes us out of communication with each other and ruins teamwork. Unfortunately, these are the very traits that teams need to bring into reality in order to “be in communication.”

Just take a look around. Most people would rather stick to themselves and share as little as possible with others.

In spite of this challenge, too many managers prefer to effect a level of casual nonchalance in their working groups which makes things fun and easy in the beginning, but causes havoc when the going gets tough. Instead, the best leaders don’t let their guard down.

Fully aware that mediocrity is always at the door trying to sneak in, they prepare themselves to communicate in group settings in a focused, intense way. Others react by calling them anal. But they persist, insisting that certain processes be followed by every high-performing team they  sit on, bar none.

What are some disciplines your leaders can implement to ensure quality teams operate from the same page?

Tune into Group-Based Routines Which Work

Here is a process Caribbean groups should follow to allow communication to flow. First, it’s important to start every team activity by giving people an opportunity to connect. Once that requirement is satisfied, the approach is the same as that used in other countries: define the purpose of the gathering, the agenda / steps to be followed and the logistics which must be in place. (I was taught to use PAL – Purpose, Agenda and Logistics.)

When this formula is adopted, “being in communication” becomes easier to accomplish because the team’s core activities are already being managed in the background. In other words, taking care of the basics yields added bandwidth. It can be applied to the careful speaking and keen listening required to get on the same page and stay in communication.

Tune into the Group’s Connections

When humans aren’t working closely together, but should be, some surprising behaviors manifest. For example, they may start blaming each other for what appears to be minor matters. This sometimes escalates into name-calling and even acts of verbal violence – “Bad Mind”.

As a leader, you must be hyper-aware of these small gaps before they become major issues. Often, all that’s needed is an insistence that people talk to each other, rather than rely on electronic channels. However, in extreme cases, you may need to intervene with outside help.

Therefore, it’s essential to learn how to tune into and monitor the degree to which individuals in your team are in communication with each other. Call this a kind of ESP if you will,

an ability to tap into intangible, emotional data that your inner self serves up. Most of the time we ignore these private urgings, but a leader should never do so.

The success of your enterprise may rely on the accomplishment of difficult goals. They won’t happen without the deep cohesion that brings people together on the same page. It’s a phenomenon which most leaders must consciously will into existence or it just won’t happen.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20191006/francis-wade-what-it-takes-be-truly-communication?

Why You Need to Sweeten Up Your Emails

As a manager, have you ever been shocked at someone’s adverse reaction to a seemingly innocuous email message? Perhaps you also wondered “What is wrong with him?”, then questioned your own judgement. The answer is that neither sender nor receiver is at fault. People’s response to email messages is unique, making this communication skill a must-have for leaders of all organizations.

Daniel Goldman, brain expert, confirms something you may already know: email  can be dangerous. While it’s a necessary element of corporate life, problems often  arise when no harm is intended.

Why? Compared to visual and auditory channels, text communication is bereft of all the emotional cues we, as humans, are conditioned to distinguish. Consequently, miscues occur.

For example, someone asks you a question and you respond with a one-word answer. Their conclusion? “You are probably angry.” Or, you get busy and take a bit longer than usual to reply. “You must be unhappy,” they assume.

Perhaps you yearn for the day when recipients of your messages will simply read your words without adding unintended meaning, but that’s not likely to happen soon.  In fact, Goleman reports, “people interpret your positively intended email as neutral, and your neutrally intended email as negative.” Their survival instincts thwart your best intentions.

You may complain that this isn’t fair.

However, you are better off adapting to this reality, while correcting for the fact that we live in a nation with a violent past. Even today, disrespect sometimes triggers death.

It’s no wonder then, that your email style may need a makeover, especially when communicating with those below you in the chain of command. Here are some recommendations.

  1. Never send emotionally fraught communication via email.
    While some managers have fired employees via email messages, avoid this temptation. Instead, reserve your text communications for good news and sharing information. Don’t try to coach, give feedback, correct, counsel or apologize for anything critical.

If you must have a paper trail, write it out before the conversation and send it afterwards, as clarification. But never let it be the first point of contact if the message is likely to be a sensitive one.

The reason is simple. Imagine if your note is read an hour after the recipient receives news of someone’s passing. Obviously, if you were speaking to her in person, you would sense that the timing is bad and change gears. However, it’s easy to violate this accepted norm via text.

But what should you do to prevent a face-to-face conversation on a difficult matter from escalating into a shouting-match? Instead of looking for shortcuts, practice the challenging discussion with a colleague who can provide feedback in real time. This technique, often used by life coaches, should become a part of your regular training.

  1. Never communicate in haste.
    The worst moment to hit “Send” is when you are upset. A better alternative is to save the message in your drafts until you have calmed down and can reconsider your options. After a night’s sleep or a day’s work, things may look dramatically different and you want to be in your best, right mind when you make your final decision.

However, if you have difficulty knowing when you are upset (or in denial about ever being off-kilter) then try improving your Emotional Intelligence (EQ.) Doing so will benefit every aspect of your life.

  1. Learn modern writing skills.
    You may hate emojis. Ending a sentence with an “LOL” might be something you think you should never do. Perhaps in your world, “GIF” means nothing.

Even if you believe that these elements of modern communication “are not my style”, consider adding new skills. These seemingly silly add-ons are now part of the language most are using because they impart important, emotional context to dry textual content.

Here in Jamaica, for example, WhatsApp has long surpassed email as the most effective form of daily communication. One reason is due to its flexibility. A short message can be sent in multiple ways, via a range of media, enhanced by a variety of optional elements. The result is a faster, more precise method of sending brief messages that reduces the risk of misunderstanding.

But these fancy add-ons are not the point. Instead, the idea is to use every tool at your disposal to convey the emotional intent of your communication. Remember, Goleman tells us that recipients are likely to downgrade your message from  positive to neutral and from neutral to negative. To be an effective leader, you must compensate for this tendency.

If you willfully refuse to sweeten up your messages, be warned: it’s only a matter of time before they bear bitter fruit. Don’t blame the recipient. Instead, improve your skills.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2018, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com