Category Archives: motivation


In my world productivity is more than just being productive with my time, it’s also about finishing projects. Unfinished tasks tend to constantly interrupt your thoughts, a sort of auto-pilot system reminding you what needs to be accomplished. This can really affect your productivity as the more projects or tasks you have on the go the more difficult it becomes to focus. (See the Zeigarnik effect in the September 28, 2011 blog post ‘Do Your Tasks Take Too Long?) I came across a post by Dr. Jeremy Statton called ‘7 Ways to Help You Finish Any Project’.  I really like all 7 tips but one I really believe is important is ‘Have the Proper Tools’. Not having the right tools can really make the project take longer and often gives less than professional results. Something I am sure most of us can relate to with first-hand experience. Another tip I liked was around deadlines. Creating smaller deadlines rather than just one big deadline also made sense especially when you consider Parkinson’s Law, which states; work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. I urge you to check out the post for the rest of the tips.

So how about those boring tasks that still need to get done before they clog up your focus. Often it is tough to find motivation to get those done but I subscribe to the newsletters from the Positivity Blog and in the May 22 newsletter they offered 6 tips on how to get those boring tasks done. My two favorite were don’t think about it just do it and focus 100% on the task. Often we can get that task done in the time it takes to think about ways to avoid it. As for focusing 100% on the task that reminds me of a favorite quote by Nadia Boulanger, ‘Life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.’ Other tips included; do the task in short bursts of time, create a pleasurable distraction as you perform the task and reward yourself when it is done. Here’s hoping that helps you with those boring tasks.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at


Committing to the Outcome

A few weeks ago we talked about change management (Do You Resist Change?) and how people needed control in order to stop resisting the change. In a famous experiment where people were either given a lottery number or given the opportunity to choose their own lottery number it was determined that the value of choosing their own number was in fact 5 times more. Once again giving people control but this time putting a value on it. The conclusion from the study was: When we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome – by a factor of five to one.

An article in the Harvard Business Review by Scott Keller called ‘Increase Your Team’s Motivation Five-Fold’ gives some great examples where companies have used this human trait to create a sustainable vision for change for their companies. What are you trying to change? Perhaps using this approach will make it that much easier.

I have often heard that working remotely – away from the office causes people to be more productive. Well there is new research in and it suggests that this is not always the case. Apparently when the task depends on creativity, productivity goes up in a less structured environment but the reverse is also true. So next time you need to accomplish some real creative stuff set yourself up in a really cool environment but to get those routine mind numbing tasks done better stay at the office.

I came across a blog post by Swift To-Do List that I thought was interesting. The blog called ‘5 Counter-Intuitive Productivity Tips’ gives tips that make use of those laws behind the way we work. The first tip: Make sure your work is left unfinished is based on the Ziegarnik effect (see The Value of Focus). Another tip: Work less to get more done, is based on the studies that suggest humans work best in blocks of time and that you need to take a break in between those periods of focused work. I enjoyed the article and I encourage you to check it out for the rest of the tips.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at

Motivating Employees with a Thank You Card

I recently came across an article on called ‘7 Unusual Ways to Motivate Your Employees‘. The one I saw the most value in was from Stanley McChrystal, the retired four-star U.S. Army general. Stanley served as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and was once ‘boss’ to more than 150,000 service members. In a keynote speech at the 2011 Inc 500|5000 Conference  the general said he sent out more than 2,000 thank-you notes to his troops each year. “I used to get thank-you notes for my thank-you notes,” he said in his keynote speech . “I’d find them framed in [the troops’ bunk] areas.”

You don’t have to be in charge of a large number of people to apply this tip. I used make a point of sending out thank you cards every year at Christmas. I would sit down and hand write a thank you note to every one of our employees. In the note I would write how much I appreciated their contribution to the business and what qualities I admired in each of them. It always came from the heart and I could tell how much the notes were appreciated as I too got thank you’s for the thank you’s. Showing people how much you value them is a great way to keep them motivated and productive.

Now here is a tip from another former U.S. Army member, former captain Gary E. McCullough. In a 2009 interview with The New York Times Gary says “When people ask me for time, they generally don’t need the time that they ask for. So my assistant asks people, ‘How much time do you need?’ If they say an hour, we cut it in half. If they say 30 minutes, we cut it to 15, because it forces people to be clearer and more concise.”

That makes sense to me. If I have only 15 minutes to make my point I am going to really think about what is important and focus on that. Gary seems to be using Parkinson’s law (See blog post ‘Do your tasks take too long?) specifically to focus others so they are productive with his time. Could you apply that method to the meetings people request with you? You could take that one step further and apply it to the meetings you request to have with someone else. I bet that would create a lasting impression!

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at

Give Gifts to Improve Productivity?

According to a recent survey I came across, holiday gifts improve motivation and can in some cases improve  productivity. The survey suggested 75% of employees said that receiving a gift improved their morale, 60% said the gesture encouraged them to like their company more. About 33% of respondents said a gift provided incentive for increased productivity. Here’s the kicker – the survey was sponsored by Staples Promotional Products. Sounds a bit self-serving to me. From my experience I would say it isn’t nearly as simple as that. I would even go so far as to suggest gift giving to employees is a bit like money in terms of motivation (See blog post ‘Do you know what motivates your employees?) it doesn’t have too much of an effect as long as they are receiving a gift but it is demotivating if they expect a gift and don’t get one.

That does not mean don’t give gifts as that has a wonderful side effect all by itself. In his book The Happiness Equation, John A Hallward cites evidence that our brain rewards us when we are nice to others and he also states recent scientific studies have shown a longer lasting feeling of warmth due to the act of giving to someone. Moral to that story is give because it makes you feel good not to motivate someone else to be more productive.

Last week I read a blog post by Lifehacker out of Australia that suggested if you are serious about being more productive you should really start working on Sunday and then take Friday off. I really haven’t decided if this has value but the arguments made sense in terms of being more productive – take care of those important tasks on Sunday without interruption; get really ready for the rest of the week; and Fridays are usually unproductive anyway so don’t work! The post even suggested you could sleep in on Sunday and gradually ease in to the work. The comments that followed the post told a story. Most were adamantly opposed. I did like one comment in particular it suggested ‘start Monday with a Sunday attitude’.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at

32% More Employee Productivity with Plants?

I recently came across an article on New Zealand Business news called Growing Productivity with Office Plants. According to the article the trend over the last few years to a ‘lean, clean office’ really impacts employee productivity in a very negative way. But wait – before we throw lean out the window we need to look a little deeper. The problem is not the lean clean, but in fact the lack of employee involvement. According to British researcher Dr. Craig Knight businesses can improve staff well-being by up to 40% and employee productivity by up to 32% by first “enriching the space” then allowing staff to stamp their own identities on how it looks. If management can see their way to letting go a bit and allowing staff into the decision-making around their own environment the result is the optimum solution for productivity – no matter what the work space ends up looking like.

Do you encourage your employees to be active? A study in Australia recently had one group of employees walk 10,000 steps a day and another not only walk the steps but add some resistance training 3 times a week. (For a comparative a typical office worker walks about 2000 to 3000 steps a day and on average walking 18 holes on a golf course is about 12,000 steps.)

What they found was the employees’ measurable components of brain function, including the ability to plan, remember, simulate future scenarios and make decisions was improved by 2% for the walkers and 4% for the group that had extra activity. Add to that their stress levels were also reduced.  Now 2% might not sound like a lot but as I have observed with the sport of curling a 2% better performance can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Now here is a real simple test for the health of an organization from the online toolkit of Daniel Pink’s latest book, Drive;  the Reich’s Pronoun Test.  Robert B. Reich is a former US labor secretary. He devised a simple tool for measuring the health of an organization. When talking to employees he listens to the pronouns they use. Do the employees refer to the company they work for as ‘they’ or as ‘we’?  ‘They’ suggests at least some amount of disengagement, ‘we’ on the other hand suggests some ownership and possibly the employees feel like they are part of something meaningful or significant.

If you are hearing a lot of ‘they’ perhaps you need to invest in some plants and allow your employees some control over their work space  😉

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at

Do you Know What Motivates Your Employees?

In our area things are heating up again just like they were a few years ago when employees could not be found, let alone one with the skills to do the job right. For the next couple blogs I would like to focus on a few little tips that hopefully not only help with productivity but maybe help with keeping the employees we have now.

Let’s start with employee motivation.  Do you know what motivates your employees? It goes without saying that an employee who is motivated is more productive but that is just the start, they are also more creative.

It wasn’t that long ago that I had a conversation with a business owner who really felt that if he could find and implement the right monetary incentive program his employees would not only be motivated to do good work but that they would be less likely to leave. He was convinced money was their main motivation. I asked him what was his motivation, because it certainly wasn’t money. He worked long hours and would have been paid way more with less stress working for someone else. Now that made him think! Why would his employees be all that different?

If you too think employees main motivation is money I strongly urge you to have a look at Daniel Pink’s You Tube video on Drive and Motivation. It’s about an 11 minute video that is well worth the time. Daniel Pink gives some great evidence to support the idea that you need to give people enough money to take money off the table but after that it is really autonomy, mastery, and purpose that inspires people to do good work.

What about your personal motivation? Do you ever feel a bit overwhelmed? Let’s face it there are always too many things we want/need to get done and not enough time to do them. Interestingly enough I came across a blog post also by Daniel Pink  yesterday advertising a cool new (free) productivity tool called IdoneThis. According to Daniel you sign up and every evening you receive an email asking what you accomplished that day. IdoneThis then compiles your responses in a calendar and you can see just how productive you really are. Cool! I signed up because all too often I forget just how much I accomplish and it is easy to be hard on myself and think I should be doing so much more just because there is so much to be done.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at