Rise and Shine Blog

Best Productivity Hack Ever

Confession: I am not the most organized person in the world. I’m your classic creative type – all big, messy ideas. I am the opposite of “Type A.” The upside of this is that I’m pretty easygoing; the downside is that organization is a struggle.

The important thing is, I know this about myself.  I realize that organization, discipline and attention to detail do not come naturally to me, so I work really hard to expand their presence in my universe. There are a lot of things I do that help me to achieve this:

  1. I have my home office in a room far from TVs and refrigerators so I can minimize distractions while I work
  2. I rely on spell and grammar-checking tools since I think faster than I write – and whenever I can, I get someone to proofread my writing
  3. I carry an actual paper notebook everywhere (hardcover) and jot down anything that might become an action item
  4. I record important calls, especially calls that provide information I need to produce content
  5. I use a task manager with a Pomodoro Timer to keep me focused, productive and on-task

So, those first four may seem obvious, while that fifth one may have introduced a new term to many of you.

What the heck is a Pomodoro Timer??tomato-1981314_1280

Basically, it’s a timer that allows you 25 minutes to focus on one single task. No checking email. No perusing Facebook. You work on one thing and one thing only for 25 minutes. After each pomodoro,  you get a five minute break. After three pomodoros, you get a longer break.

It’s so simple, but it’s so insanely effective! When you consciously focus on a single task, you can get so much done in that 25-minute chunk of time. I’m far more productive in three pomodoros than I am in three hours.

Now, I can’t use the pomodoro technique all day, every day – sometimes I have meetings. Sometimes I get into a groove on a longer writing project and don’t want to take breaks. But for at least three days out of the work week, using a task manager with a pomodoro timer is the best way for me to ensure I get everything done.

The tool I rely on to manage my tasks is called Kanban Flow. It’s got a built in pomodoro timer, and it’s free. It works really well for me, but there are loads of others out there. Zapier built a pretty comprehensive list.

And, in case you’re interested, here are some great articles that explain the benefits of the pomodoro technique way better than I did!



It’s Just As Easy To be Nice

Many years ago, I was working in a PR firm with two of the kindest, calmest, almost ridiculously nice women I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. One day, we were following up on a press release with a little “smile and dial” – one of my least-favorite professional activities, but this was in the earlier days of email.

My colleague Danielle unfortunately reached a very nasty reporter who shared his displeasure at hearing from her in no unclear terms. Danielle, who never lost her cool (even when she was hugely pregnant at the office), seemed a little ruffled, but kept the smile on her face. “That’s OK,” she said. “Nope, I totally understand. No problem. OK, thanks. Bye!” Then she slammed down the phone and looked at it as if it had sprouted wings and a tail. After a moment, she looked at our boss and me and said, “You know, it’s just as easy to be nice.”

That moment, that quote, has stayed with me for nearly two decades now. It was epiphanic. It’s a simple lesson, but easy to forget: Be nice.cropped-roosters.jpg

From play dates to fights with siblings, these are words we hear throughout childhood, but seem to forget when the hormones kick in. “Be nice,” we’re reminded by our moms, our teachers, our caregivers. Your brother changes the TV channel in the middle of The Brady Bunch. Your first instinct, naturally, is to smack him with a sofa cushion, but as you’re grabbing the pillow, your mother says (a bit sharply), “be nice!”

They’re words we should remember beyond childhood. (I can think of more than a few times in high school I wished someone remembered them, honestly.) And they’re words we need to remember when we’re in the professional world, too.

Have you ever called a vendor and yelled at him or her because there was an error with your order? How willing was the vendor to help your remedy the issue after that? Do you think it might have made more sense to call the vendor calmly, discuss the issue, then ask (nicely but firmly) how they intended to remedy the situation? Maybe even let them know how much you’ve enjoyed working with them until this point, that you value the relationship, but you really need to work together to solve the issue?

Or, have you been in a situation with a colleague or a direct report where they dropped the ball on a client deliverable? Did you give them a frustrated look, a “REALLY?”, and then a quick and huffy, “never mind, I’ve got it.” Worse, did you throw in a demeaning comment like about how they “always” do things like that? A better option might have been to say, “OK, how can we fix this? How about if you gather these documents, while I shoot him a quick email to let him know he’ll have it in the morning. Then we can work together…” And, once you have a solution, maybe you can work together to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it next time.

Looking at both these scenarios, it’s likely that either course of action might have yielded a satisfactory solution. But let’s consider this:

  1. If the more aggressive course was taken, how would the vendor or colleague have felt? Would they have felt good about themselves? About you? How likely would they have been to really want to find you a solution?.

2. Again, if you took the path of greatest resistance, how likely is it that either of these people would want to work with you again? How well will that vendor treat you the next time you need brochures, or pens or business cards printed – and what’s the likelihood of them offering you preferred pricing, or delivering quickly in an emergency? How long will that colleague or report stay close, and how will it reflect on you when they quit or request a role on another team?

3. How will you feel about yourself? If you’re yelling at people all day long and making demands, do you feel like you’re a good, kind person at the end of the day? Do you feel likeable?

Think about how much better it would feel if you were respectful of others’ feelings in your everyday business dealings. How much better would your life be if, instead of being impatient, self-important, and demanding, you were empathetic and warm? What if people enjoyed working with you and recommended you because you were such a nice associate?

At the end of the day, being nice serves everyone better. Not only will the people around you feel better about you, and more importantly, themselves – but YOU’LL feel better about you, too. Being nice is a win-win, and more importantly, it’s just as easy as being a jerk.

So which path will you choose next time? Think you can remember to be nice? It’s worth a shot.

Rise and Shine!

Looking to WAKE UP your prospects?

I’m Aimee (Hi!),  a marketing and public relations professional with more than13 years experience. I’m passionate about:

  • Helping small business get BIG
  • Leveraging online and offline channels creatively to drive maximum results – for minimal spend
  • Improving your online and offline communications with your clients, prospects and/or membership and positioning you as a trusted resource/genius
  • Planning events that make your clients, prospects, staff or members fall in love with your brand

So if you’re looking to grow your startup, small business or organization, call me today!