Blog Archives

Are Better Processes an Answer to the Labour Shortage?

It’s been a while since I did a post but yesterday I was asked to do an interview improvewith one of our local media organizations regarding our current labour shortage in this region. The interview conversation caused me to re look at where we are with regards to productivity in our area. I was asked to provide advice for employers about what they could do if they were experiencing the labour crunch. My response was to get better at their processes, to train their employees so they were really good at what they did and to make sure they were only doing the right things – things that their customers saw value in. The interviewers reaction gave me that AHA moment when she responded by saying ‘no really, what can you tell employers that will help them find more staff?’. I actually repeated myself only this time with a little more explanation to help her connect those dots.

That interview got me thinking maybe the media isn’t the only ones that feels the solution to our labour situation is to throw more people at it – even if you can’t find them. Maybe we need to look at helping people understand the connection between productivity and the labour shortage especially employers. Unfortunately I suspect we are too busy working in our business (and making money in spite of ourselves) to have a look at how we could do things differently. And perhaps we don’t understand that productivity is NOT about doing more with less; it’s about doing it better so you don’t need as much.

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 or check out our new website at

Productivity Through Apps

Apps are causing huge productivity gains in some companies as this apps1article in the Wall Street Journal points out. In some cases they are replacing employees as customers become their own bank tellers, checkout clerks, restaurant order takers and even insurance adjusters. Apps are even giving companies a way to give customers directions and answer questions without paying concierge staff. This all points to a change in customer expectations, customers are now quite happy to be part of the entire experience not just be ‘served’. Even Wal-Mart is looking at a self-checkout app that lets customers scan items with their phone as they place them in the shopping cart. What about you – are your customers part of the experience or are you just serving them and does that make them happy?

Speaking of Apps I found this Infographic that highlights important apps for running a business with a smart phone. The list includes; financial apps, cloud storage, customer service and even apps for money transactions among others.  One highlighted free app is the Square Card Reader. It comes with a free card reader for your phone that allows you to take credit cards from your customers and have those funds go into your bank account the next day. More and more being digitally savvy allows us to be productive in ways we never thought possible.

Last week we held our first ever Digital Forum and from the feedback we received it was a definite success! The event was videotaped and the intent is to turn it into a series of webcasts so those that were unable to attend can still benefit. Those webcasts will be hosted on our website in the next few weeks. I will keep you posted.

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 and how to use digital technology to do that please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at or check out our new website at

Which Work Mode do you Prefer?

According to productivity consultant Veronica Brown we basically work in three modes: Production Mode, Collaboration Mode, and Service Mode.  In this article by Lisa Earle McLeod called ‘How to Get Things Done: Separate Your Work Modes’, Lisa gives a good description of each mode and suggests that while most jobs require you to work in all three modes most of us prefer some modes over others. The different modes are very distinct and trying to switch between them would offer the same results as multitasking. The solution – separate the modes; Let your phone (Service Mode) go to voice mail as you finish that proposal (Production Mode), Focus on the discussion at the meeting (Collaboration Mode) rather than let your mind wander to the budget (Production Mode) you need to complete.  Try it for an afternoon and see if it doesn’t make a difference for you.

I find it interesting that even with all the evidence against multitasking (see blog post Multitasking; Good, Bad or Downright Rude?)  as a good way to get things done people continue to multitask and to defend their right to do so. Thanks to this article ‘Multitasking Seems to Serve Emotional, Not Productivity, Needs’, I now understand why. Multitasking makes you feel good! Apparently it makes you feel more emotionally satisfied with your work.  Multitasking is a very good way to meet those emotional needs like fun, entertainment, and relaxing, you were probably not intentionally trying to satisfy. Even though you don’t do the job as well as you could if it makes you feel good who can argue with that? One word of warning though the research indicates multitasking can be habit-forming and with emotional rewards a difficult habit to break.

Do you keep a journal? According to the article ‘The #1 Productivity Tool You Aren’t Using’ that could be one of the best productivity tools there is. Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile, in her new book ‘The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work’, suggests keeping a journal is one of the best strategies for learning about yourself and improving your professional performance over time. I have tried keeping a journal a few times but for some reason it is not something that I choose to make time for. Perhaps now I will re-look at that.

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

Are You a Super Productive Person?

I recently came across an article in Time Business by Margaret Heffernan that shared the secrets of people who are very productive. I was a little surprised at a couple of the habits so I thought I would share them with you. According to the article it boils down to four things. 1 – These people have a life. The article suggests academic research keeps showing external commitments are highly correlated with high achievement. 2 – They take breaks. From what I understand when you get tired you can quickly become rigid and narrow-minded and a quick break may be all that is needed to get those creative, productive juices going again (more on that later). 3 – These people have often worked in different industries. While this makes sense to me I was surprised to see it on the list. Having a diverse background allows you to see different frameworks and approaches. We discussed this in the Diversity Enhances Productivity post from November 2011.  4 – The final attribute – these people have great outside collaborators and networks. What the article really suggests is productive people have very wide, rich resources to call on. The secret to productivity isn’t the latest tool or being better organized, it’s having a complete life.

Now let’s take breaks and take that one step further. I receive regular newsletters from Patricia Katz and her April newsletter focused on getting the most out of your breaks at work so you have more energy to be productive. Patricia got her information from an article that examined Knowledge Workers’ Energy Management. The newsletter suggests some of the things we do when we take breaks may not be as recharging as we thought. Basically the things that really renew our energy relate to learning, strengthening relationships and finding meaning at work. Patricia actually lists 8 different re-energizing strategies and I challenge you to incorporate even one of them in your breaks. Perhaps with all this advice we can all turn into one of those ‘Super Productive People’.

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 Resist Change?

Today I want to talk about change because if we want to become more productive or if we want others to be more productive, then often that requires some kind of change. I have continuously been told people don’t like change. They resist it. Don’t get me wrong I am sure there is evidence to support this. However there is also evidence to the contrary. Just look around people are making major changes every day; changing jobs, moving, having a family, learning new technology, developing new skills. Not all of those changes are easy but most of the time people actively seek out those changes. That doesn’t sound like resistance to me. So what is the problem? Well according to Peter Bregman, in his blog for the Harvard Business Review, the problem is we assume people resist change so we do all kinds of things to counter that resistance. But in reality people don’t resist change they resist being controlled. Now that should be an Aha moment!

This would be why 70% of all the major changes corporations try to make fail. If you want to find out more try following this link to an article by the Harvard Business Review on a classic called ‘Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail’ by John Kotter.

So how do you get around people’s resistance? According to Peter give them control. Much easier said than done but Peter also gives a bit of guidance in the form of three steps on how to do this along with an analogy that makes perfect sense to me. Basically you need to be more outcome focused and while you can suggest a route to get that outcome, you also need to be open to different routes as long as the outcome is satisfied.

Do you sneak in a nap during the day? Well according to this article in the Gulf Today a short snooze not going beyond 10 minutes increases productivity, improves intelligence and maintains emotional stability. The article goes on to suggest that a mid-day nap is not only accepted in many cultures but some go as far as to set up a special room to allow workers to have a siesta. Mmm  I wonder if you would have trouble getting people to buy into that change.

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

It’s the Small Steps

Have you ever given thought to the most productive way to learn? According to Robert Bjork, the director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, in a recent article I found on Geekdad, “People tend to try to learn in blocks, mastering one thing before moving on to the next, ” which really isn’t the most productive or effective way to do things. Instead Bjork suggests we should interweave the skills. Don’t just practice one thing – a tennis serve for example – but mix in a whole range of skills like backhands, volleys, overhead smashes, and footwork. What this does is it forces you to make almost unnoticeable steps forward with many skills that are seated among each other. Over the same amount of time the improvement is much greater learning this way than if you would have spent time focusing on one element at a time. In fact this approach uses our natural ability to leverage other things already in our memory to make learning more powerful. A word of caution however this does not mean multitasking (see blog post Multitasking; Good, Bad or Downright Rude?). The skills you are trying to perfect must be related in some higher-order way. Trying to perfect your synchronized swimming and your tennis game at the same time won’t give the same results.

Bjork also states that once you learn something you never actually forget it – it’s just the recall that is tricky and he has some suggestions for that too.

Do you feel overwhelmed or burned out? According to Tony Schwartz in a recent article on Harvard Business Review between 25% and 50% of people do and I would venture to say this number is higher in our area. Tony goes on to say it’s not just the number of hours we work but the number of hours we spend juggling too many things at the same time. We no longer stop to smell the roses. We take our technology with us everywhere which means we have no stopping points, finish lines or even boundaries. And because we are constantly doing something we are burning down our available reservoir of energy. According to Tony the biggest cost is to our productivity. Any time you are partially engaged in multiple activities and rarely fully engaged in one you are increasing the time it takes to finish a task by 25%. I don’t know about you but I don’t have that kind of extra time. Apart from the obvious Tony does have a few suggestions including ‘stop demanding instant responsiveness at every moment of the day’ from the people around you and most importantly from yourself. 

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

Which Productivity Method Would You Choose?

If you are like me you are always on the lookout for new ways to be more productive. There are several methods and methodologies out there so I was quite intrigued when I came across this post from Lifehacker highlighting the Five Best Productivity Methods.  The Pomodoro technique came in first on the Lifehacker’s list.  This method is pretty simple. Basically you set a timer and really focus for 25 minutes. Then take a 5 minute break. Each 25 minute session is called a ‘pomodoro’.  And of course there is an app for that.

The next most popular methodology was ‘Getting Things Done’ by author David Allen. I read David’s book years ago and it had a real impact on me. While I don’t employ the majority of his methods I definitely subscribe to the ideology behind them which is; get the ideas and tasks out of your head and organize them so they are easy to manage in terms of priority and time required. The fourth most popular method was Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret – Don’t Break the Chain and I already talked about that one in my February 22 blog ‘Getting Things Done’.

What was really interesting was the third most popular method was actually a hybrid or custom personalized method. Basically people had adapted or revised different techniques to fit their own style.  I definitely fit into this group. I have even revised Jason Womack’s three list recommendation (from February 22 blog ‘Getting Things Done’) to four as I needed a ‘Next Week’ list or at least something between 96 hours and 3 months. This goes back to my version of David Allen’s ideology of getting things out of your head.

There is one more way of becoming more productive that we haven’t mentioned and that is taking a nap! A recent article I came across suggests doctors now say a short snooze not going beyond 10 minutes increases productivity improves intelligence and maintains emotional stability. So there you go – your best approach to all this might be to figure out what productivity method works best for you given your work and how you approach it and then go take a nap.

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

It’s the Little Things

its the little things that make you productiveI am repeatedly reminded that in most situations it’s the little things that make the difference. Being more productive is no different. I have compiled quite a list of ‘little things’ that can make us more productive and today I thought I would share some of the pointers on that list.

Email is always a time user and there are a number of articles on how to do this better. 9 Healthy Habits to Manage Your Email Overload being one of them. But for a ‘little thing’ that works try the Barbara Hemphill FAT method; File, Act or Trash. If you need the email for reference file it, if it needs to be acted on and you can do it in less than 2 minutes do it, if it takes longer add it to a list, finally trash everything else. I know from personal experience having an empty inbox is a great place to be in terms of productivity.

Another of those little things: Write everything down. David Allen says “Use your head to have ideas not to hold them”. Great advice. Science says you need to deal with things or else they take up memory space. (see The Value of Focus) One of the ways to do this is to write things down.

Business Insider recently did an article where they asked 6 companies for tips on how to be more productive with technology. The companies included; Brother, Dell, Epson, HP, Local, and Research in Motion (RIM).  Most of the tips were backed up with justification and made sense. For example using all-in-one printer/fax/scanner units to maximize both cost and space or using a printer that allows printing on both sides of the page and a draft mode for internal documents.  As the Product Manager at Epson says, it’s the little things that can have the biggest impact.

Now here is an interesting twist on being more productive. Machen MacDonald suggests in the Business News section on that you only need to ‘Follow your bliss to more productivity’. Basically MacDonald suggests you need to get out of your own way and be your authentic self. This is not usually on the list of productivity tools but well worth the read.

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

Getting Things Done

Jason Womack, author of ‘Your Best Just Got Better’, recently did an interview with Susan Heathfield in which he gave 8 tips on how to improve your performance. One of the first tips Jason gave has already improved my performance! As I have said before I have been a list maker for years but what Jason Womack suggested in this interview has caused me to refine my lists. Jason suggests we need three lists, no more, no less. The first list is ‘Things to think about some more’. This helps me by capturing those things for a later time and allows me to focus on the task at hand knowing they will not be forgotten. The second list is ‘Things you’re managing over the next 3 to 9 months’. This helps me see what I have going on in the future. Womack recommends updating the list monthly but reviewing it weekly. I really like this approach because sometimes if you tackle things too early the landscape changes and you have wasted your time. The third list is ‘Things to do in the next 96 hours’. So here is my To Do List, uncluttered with those things I need to think about and my future projects. Simple. Womack goes on in the interview with more tips – including maximizing interruptions. Well worth the read.

Now here is something to help you manage that ‘Things to do in the next 96 hours’ list. Have you heard of Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret? Seinfeld suggests spend some amount of time doing a desired activity every day and when you do, cross off that day on a calendar. This creates a chain of Xs showing your progress. It’s based on the idea that daily action builds habits. Small improvements or actions accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides ‘compounding interest’. I like this approach because for me any lasting changes need to be incorporated in my lifestyle or they just don’t last. Adam Dachis who wrote this post uses this method for getting in better shape and keeping his apartment clean. For a more detailed explanation click here.

One last tip in closing today. When sending emails instead of putting a subject in the subject line, use an action. That will let the recipient know exactly what you are asking them to do – immediately, helping them be more productive in answering your emails.

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