You’ll never be all things to all people. Accepting your shortcomings frees your energy for greater—albeit, more specific—endeavors.
Tons of successful leaders laud the to-do list as the key to more organized, productive, and focused days, but is there a right way and a wrong way to do your to-do?
The short answer: Yes.
Just making an exhaustive list of all the things you need to do isn’t enough to help you actually accomplish them. So, in the hopes of leading a more productive, organized life, we’ve gathered three essential ways to create a better to-do list:
We’ve already heard that we need to embrace failure. Now here’s everything we need to know about what that actually means.
It seems like everywhere we turn we’re being told to “embrace failure.” From social media to countless business books and articles and the global failure conference FailCon, the importance of mistakes is lauded as a key stepping-stone for success.
Even advertisers are realizing the power of bragging about getting it wrong. For example, earlier this year Domino’s commercials touted that at their company “failure is an option” with a nod to its failed cookie pizza of 2007.
Despite all the failure-embracing saturation we’re seeing these days, this concept is nothing new. Iterations of “embrace failure” have existed long before the slogan was popular. Before the likes of Steve Jobs and Richard Branson told us to embrace failure, Michael Jordan told us that he fails over and over again. Before that Truman Capote said failure was “the condiment that gives success its flavor.” And before that James Joyce dubbed mistakes “portals of discovery.” Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford—the list of innovators that used failure to get at their success goes on and on and on.
So why the apparent resurgence? More importantly, what does embracing failure really mean, does it work, and at what point is it too much?
In an effort to find the answers, we consulted a few experts who know a thing or two about failure.
Want to be a better storyteller? Comedian and writer Ophira Eisenberg shares the secrets of how to connect with your audience.
A story well-told is powerful. It grips us and keeps us engaged, then leave us somewhat changed—perhaps a little happier, more understanding, or determined—because of it. Good storytelling skills can be a powerful asset in business, helping you in every area from presentations to crafting a great rationale for a new project.
Ophira Eisenberg tells good stories. A stand-up comedian, radio host, and writer, she is a frequent host of popular New York City story slams staged by The Moth, a nonprofit dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. She says the rise of social media has played a huge role in our renewed interest in storytelling.
“People want something more meaty than 140 characters,” she says. “So we go back to storytelling and maybe to revitalizing the human connection.”
Whether it’s about business or life, Eisenberg says good stories have several common elements:
Tried everything to organize your priorities better, and still end up scattered? Try these outside-the-box ideas for sorting your day.
The hardest part is getting started.
When there’s a long list that needs tackling every day, the hardest part is tackling what needs to be done first. You may feel intimidated to start your next big project or pull your colleague aside for an awkward, but much-needed confrontation.
And prioritizing isn’t getting any easier. In his book Present Shock, Douglas Rushkoff blames this modern-day condition on our “continuous, always-on ‘now’“ world which has made us lose our sense of direction.
Successful people know that planning, organizing, and protecting your time is no easy feat, but if you don’t have your priorities straight, who will? Below are four unconventional methods that keep the brightest minds focus on exactly what they need to:
After a summer holiday slipping back into work mode can be a challenge.
Being greeted by an overflowing inbox and a hectic meeting schedule may cause you to suffer from the back-to-work blues, making it difficult to focus on that mountain of work in front of you. Business coach Robyn McLeod, says succumbing to the pressure to speed back into work can undo any benefits you may have received from taking a break.
Follow these tips to re-integrate to work after your holiday and avoid the post-vacation hangover.
Sure, free food isn’t as valuable as health insurance but what and how your company uses perks can still make a big difference.
While the components of a great job—support, challenge, autonomy—are hard to quantify, everyone understands free snacks in the pantry.
So perks become proxies for other upsides. They also tap into the psychology of gifts. While it seems crazy that doctors would be influenced to write prescriptions by free pens, they were (before an industry code ended the practice).
Likewise, freebies at work are loved beyond their actual dollar value. They invite reciprocity. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, “Maybe it’s just recognition,” says Danielle Saladino-Evans, who works in corporate communications at Fingerpaint, a marketing and communications firm, and is part of the committee that decides her company’s perks. “You’re working hard today. Go have something on us.”
If you’re figuring out what perks to offer, here’s how to get the most bang for your buck.
No more excuses: Stop procrastinating and get to work with these tips.
One of the biggest problems you need to solve if you work for yourself is how to make yourself do work.
The best entrepreneurs have figured it out and just pound out the work they need to do.
But many others put off their dream careers, or stay in jobs they don’t like, because they’re afraid to figure this out. Being in a job, or staying in college, means that you have someone else imposing work and deadlines on you, and you’ll get fired (or dropped from school) if you don’t do the work. So you put off doing the work until you can’t anymore because of the fear of being fired.
What does this say about us? It’s saying that we can’t trust ourselves enough to figure out how to motivate ourselves. I know, because I was in this boat for many years. It wasn’t until I started to learn to solve this problem that I found the courage to work for myself.
It’s solvable. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. And you can do it just as much as I can—I’m no superman, trust me. I feel lazy, I procrastinate, I fear failure, just like anyone else. But I’ve learned a few things that work for me.
What works for you will be different, but here are some ideas I use that might help:
There’s nothing fashionable about the millions of tons of plastic trash fouling the earth’s oceans and littering her shorelines. But a revolutionary denim clothing line called G-Star RAW for the Oceans is bringing the ocean’s salvaged plastic debris, from algae-covered drink bottles to doll heads, center stage. The result is a denim line that not only helps clean up the world’s oceans and shorelines but also is desirable to customers, says the company’s chief marketing officer, Thecla Schaeffer.
Have you ever received an amazing email, one that you’d like to print out and pin to your wall, one that made you grin from ear to ear or slow-clap in appreciation and reverence?
When I come across these gems, I drop them into a “Snippets” folder. I study them, I swoon over them, and I borrow bits and pieces of them to send better email.
Now imagine that every email you send is as great as these occasional all-stars you receive.
Impossible? Not at all.
Worth shooting for? Definitely.
What it takes to get hired at these top tech companies: A mixture of hard problem-solving skills and the right rapport with company culture.
When you’re hiring, how do you know when someone is right for the job? Is it an intuitive decision, or based solely on the facts of their experience?
It’s not so cut and dry, these leaders say.
“The one piece of advice that I would tell young people getting into the tech industry today is to surround yourself with smart people you can learn from,” says Jess Lee, CEO of Polyvore. When having inspiring comrades around means handpicking them from a crowd of applicants, the process of assembling your all-stars can be overwhelming.
A candidate’s success or failure at your company depends on more than their cover letter and resume. These industry influencers don’t rely on an applicant’s list of experiences, but read between the lines to what makes a great hire.
I have a lot of ideas in my head. And for the most part, that’s where they used to stay.
In my head. Where other people couldn’t see them, interact with them or build upon them. Where they were safe and untested and uncriticized. All mine.
Sure, I’ve created some. Some might say I’ve created plenty. But that’s only because they can’t see what I’m not creating. For example, this very post sat dormant for at least a month while I pondered, waited and nitpicked at it.
Because the riskiest, most dangerous and potentially most interesting ideas are the easiest to hold back. I would pin them down like butterflies on a mat, like art at a museum. They were in spreadsheets, in notebooks, on scrap paper around my desk.
And while it might feel creative to think of these ideas, they were dying a lonely death when I wasn’t doing anything with them. They didn’t get their chance to add anything to the world. To affect someone. To spark something.
I lost out, too, with this arrangement. I didn’t push myself to think deeper and harder. I lost out on the feedback or insight or even criticism of others. I missed the chance to discover uncharted territory within myself. I stopped before I could start.
It wasn’t the best life I could give my ideas—or myself.
So I decided to change. To find a way forward, I cataloged all the things that had ever stopped me from creating so I could shoot them down, one-by-one. It turned out to be a helpful exercise, so I thought I’d share.
Do any of these reasons for not creating something sound familiar to you?
“You can tell someone is right for the job by learning what they care about and whether they say ‘I’ or ‘we.’”
Life is full of new beginnings. Here’s some valuable advice to help you along the way.
My son leaves for college this week, and I’ve realized that it’s one of several fresh starts many of us make in life. This adjustment will be followed by new jobs, new relationships, and maybe career changes. In fact, chances are good that my son will have more fresh starts than I did; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person stays with an employer for 4.6 years, while millennials average just 1.3 years on a job.
As I pull together my thoughts, grab some tissue, and prepare the words of wisdom I’ll leave with my son as we unpack his dorm, I’m reminded of the great advice I’ve heard over the years. One of the perks of being a writer is that you get to interview a lot of experts. Since I write about time management, productivity, and leadership, I hear plenty of tips and new ways of thinking aimed at getting more out of life. Here are 10 of my favorite words of advice for starting anew:
When we’re left to our own pace to complete training, do we take advantage of the flexibility or fizzle out?
Employers and employees still value training. But the old gold standard—sequestering employees in classes for extended periods of time—is falling out of favor.
“We’re seeing a huge decrease in the amount of time people are spending in training rooms and classrooms,” says Janet Pogue, principal and global workplace leader at Gensler, a design firm that studies how people use office spaces (among other things). Instead, employers increasingly rely on modules that allow people to learn at their own pace, on their own schedules.