Work Styles

Which work style do you have? Which is best for your personality and career?

Do You Schedule Breaks to Increase Your Productivity at Work?

schedule breaks to increase your productivity at workWe recently discussed taking breaks at work: how long we work between breaks, if or how long we leave our workspaces on our breaks, what we do during them, and so on. While we’ve had many posts about productivity, including how to keep track of work to-dos, how to focus on work when other things are on your mind, and the best Spotify playlists to help you focus, we haven’t talked a lot about taking breaks throughout the day. Can you schedule when you take breaks at work? If so, do you tend to take a break at the same time every day? Do you schedule breaks on your calendar as appointments so that others know you are unavailable?

Even though breaks were allowed and even encouraged at most full- and part-time jobs I’ve held, I still wouldn’t stop to take my first “break” until 1 p.m. or later. Even then, it might’ve only been break time because I didn’t want to miss out on the last call for the office cafeteria salad bar at 2 p.m. I did, however, almost always take 45 minutes for lunch when I could. I would make it a point to take a long walk, read a book, or meet up with a friend.

We realize that for some of our readers’ high-demand jobs, it’s just not possible to take breaks, at least not frequently. For instance, as a trial attorney, on my docket days or days with back-to-back-to-back client meetings, or when I had trial prep, breaks weren’t always an option. I would often eat lunch at my desk, if I had time to eat at all, and I was lucky if I could get a few minutes to check my personal texts or emails.

Here are some tips we hope you find helpful when it comes trying to schedule breaks to increase your productivity at work:

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How to Keep Track of Work To-Dos

how to keep track of work to-dosHow do you keep track of different task items at work, readers? What are your best tips for how to keep track of work to-dos? Reader E wonders…

I would love a post on how people keep track of work to-dos. Do people write down their assignments on their calendars, keep a paper to do list? Some other system?

Great question, E! We’ve talked about different tools for time management, how to organize your office, as well as how to choose a great planner, and how to find a system like Getting Things Done, but I don’t think we’ve talked about how to keep track of different work to-dos. My own system is kind of simple (she said, preparing multiple bullet points) — OK, it’s not terribly simple, but it KIND of works for me. I could definitely improve, though, so I’m curious to hear what works for you guys!

Here’s the best ways I’ve found to keep track of work to-dos (and to-dos in general):

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Learn How to Become a Better Communicator with These Books

How to Become a Better CommunicatorCommunicating at work often requires women to walk a very fine line to avoid being seen as “aggressive,” “bitchy,” “pushy,” and so on (for exhibiting the same behavior as a typical male employee, of course). The double standard was perfectly captured by Sarah Cooper in last year’s “9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women” (which you can now buy as a poster!). Reader L recently sent us a question about how she can become a better communicator while counteracting years of being socialized as a woman to be easygoing and “go with the flow.”

She asks:

I am a new associate at a mid-size firm and am realizing that communicating strategically is a huge weakness for me. I think a lot of this is societal (it’s ingrained in me as a woman to be agreeable and not make a fuss), and based on my personality (I believe everyone is telling me the truth and I am conflict averse). I hope that I can build this skill with experience, but I’d rather learn from a book or mentor than by trial and error. What are the best books or other resources for this?

We recently reached out to three women who’ve thought about these issues a lot and asked them to recommend helpful resources to help you become a better communicator:

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How to Give Notice When You Leave a Job

how to give noticeWhat are some “best practices” you should follow when it’s time to quit? Reader T asks about how to give notice when you leave a job…

We’ve discussed in the past about how to know if it is the right time to move on to a new job, how to interview while working, and how to transition files to other coworkers after you give your notice — but I would love to hear everyone’s stories of how they actually gave their notice. Procedurally, logistically, how does one “give notice”? Whom do you tell? In person or via email? How have Corporette readers given their notice when they have left a job in the past?

Congratulations on your new job, T! We have talked about how to quit gracefully, how to quit when your mentor is your boss, and how to handle exit interviews, but not in a while, and I’m excited to hear what readers say. Personally, every time I’ve quit I’m surprised at how maudlin I become. Even with jobs I couldn’t WAIT to quit with some dramatic “blaze of glory” action (um, remember this story about the flight attendant sliding to freedom?), I’ve inevitably sat across from my “evil” soon-to-be-former boss and gotten teary-eyed about how much I would miss everyone. So, hey. For my $.02:


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The Bad Assistant: When To Switch, When to Fire

When to Fire a Bad Assistant | CorporetteWhat should you do when you’re stuck with a bad assistant, secretary or subordinate — and your assistant doesn’t assist? When is just time to switch assistants, or even fire the person? Reader K wonders:

We are a small (12 people) conservative professional investment firm serving high net worth clients. I recently moved from front office to portfolio assistant. The young woman who replaced me thinks she is doing a great job even though she was told by management that she needs to work on skills. She says she has a photographic memory and doesn’t take notes on anything I try to explain. I prepared “how to'” notes for her, but have had to print them for her repeatedly. She makes “to do” lists but rarely does items on the list. When I try to explain something, she has gotten up and walked off or continues to stare at computer screen. Her history shows that she is constantly on the Internet. I was told to monitor these things, but feel uncomfortable. I am working an extra 15 hours a week trying to do my new job and picking up slack on hers. Needless to say, I am stressed. Management is aware of issues, but not that I am really stressed out over this. How should I handle this?

Wow — I’m sorry, K, that sounds like it really stinks. You say she’s been warned; you say management is already aware of these issues. That all leads me to the following advice:

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Do Multiple Devices Boost Your Productivity — or Your Overwhelm?

multiple-devices-boost-productivityHow many devices do you have? Does having multiple devices boost your productivity — or just add to the feeling of being overwhelmed? Reader A has an interesting question:

So I was wondering, how many pieces of technology do you and your readers have? I am increasingly getting overwhelmed by it all. I have a desktop both at home and at work of course, then an iPad, then a MacBook Air, then my personal iPhone, and my work iPhone!! Too much I am thinking. So, if you had to ditch one (or more than one), what would it be? I would think the home desktop; yet, it is a pain to connect remotely to my desktop at work from my laptop or others. What then?

Interrrrrresting question — I’ve talked about my being overwhelmed by information, but not about device overwhelm. I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but I may have some solutions for you to help prevent device overwhelm… (That said, if possible I would ditch one of your two iPhones if at all possible — but if you’ve maintained two for so long I’m guessing it’s because there is a valid reason for it, and of course work/life separation is important.)

There’s a lot of interesting reading about how having different devices can actually boost your productivity; as this Wired article describes, it helps you focus by associating certain tasks with certain screens. (Question for the hive: does anyone have a multiple-monitor setup? How do you like it?) Here’s how I use this method:

  • I use my desktop almost exclusively for daily blog stuff.
  • I use my laptop (which doesn’t do well without a power cord) as a standing workstation (I just set it on top of our credenza), usually when I’m opening a zillion bookmarks and shopping for TPS reports or the like.
  • I use my iPad for work email as well as for focused writing with my Bluetooth keyboard. (OK, I also use my iPad for fun web surfing while watching television.)
  • I still use my netbook for work whenever I travel. (It’s very clunky but gives me a PC experience.)
  • I’m pondering getting a Kindle because I’ve learned that I simply do not read books and other long-form things on my iPad but would like something to bring to my bedside table. (Although really, if I could find the cord for the Orbo my son hates I could use that as a Kindle!)

That said, I do depend on a few different services to keep everything aligned among my devices, and I highly recommend them if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

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