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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

What Today's Workforce Wants from Leaders: Five Key Findings from Leadership Survey

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Jan 16, 2017 @ 10:18 AM

Pierre_Khawand_100x100_2016.jpgby Pierre Khawand, Founder and CEO

Leadership is undergoing a tremendous transformation and it’s a very exciting transformation! Having been entrenched in the field of leadership development, witnessing and being part of this exciting transformation, my co-author, Adrian Ott, and I, decided to explore this topic further. We reached out to our communities and to professional panels in N. America and posed some vital questions related to leadership. The resulting leadership survey was met with enthusiasm. The workforce seems to be ready for changes in this field. The survey examined a broad range of topics related to leadership and workplace issues.  

Leadership survey passion vision ethics
 Click here to download the infographic of today’s leadership.

More than 800 North American business professionals participated in survey and qualitative research from January 12, 2013 to June 1, 2016. Six hundred eighty-seven (687) business professionals were culled and qualified from the survey responses and analyzed in the quantitative survey. The largest segment (61.7% of the respondents) is from organizations with 1000 or more employees, followed by respondents from organizations with less than 1000 employees (21% of the respondents), and then independent consultants and contractors (17.3% of the respondents). The respondents represented a broad range of industries. In terms of their functional areas within the organization, professional services, top management, and administrative were the largest segments, followed by product development, marketing, and sales. In terms of the generations, Gen X (those born between 1961 and 1980) and Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1960) were the largest segments.

Here are the key findings from the report:

Finding 1: Gen Y emphasizes Passion, Gen X emphasizes Vision, Baby Boomers emphasize Ethics.

Different generations emphasize different aspects of leadership. Leaders need to be aware of generational differences to lead across generations. In addition, generational diversity in the workplace is essential to bring together Passion, Vision, and Ethics and therefore provide unprecedented leadership and engagement momentum.

Finding 2: Awareness of self and awareness of others are vital leadership skills in today’s work environment.

The workforce today views awareness of self and awareness of others as vital leadership skills. This shows a fundamental shift in how people perceive leadership. It is no longer sufficient to be visionary, focused on results, and portray confidence and charisma. It is more important to demonstrate increased awareness throughout to earn the “leadership” badge today.  

Finding 3: Leadership is not a fixed trait; it can be developed.

More people are realizing that leadership is not a fixed trait that you either have or you don’t. Leadership can be learned. This attitude, however, varies by generation. The idea that you are born with leadership is greatest in young Gen Y and decreases in other generations.

Finding 4: Individuals are generally happy with work, but only 10% found their “sweet spot.”

While it is important to have a happy workforce, it is also necessary to have passionate people whose strengths match the core strengths needed to bring about breakthrough accomplishments (hence, the “sweet spot”). Can more be done to have more people find their sweet spot at work? This result also varied by functional area. Product development people are the least satisfied at work.

Finding 5: The reach of leadership training and development needs to be broadened.

More people are realizing that leadership training and development needs to be made accessible to more people within the organization. This is a key finding and a new development in leadership. About 63% of the survey respondents indicated that front line employees should receive leadership training, and 58% indicated that individual contributors should receive leadership training.

Download the infographics and check out the complete survey report which presents the details of the survey results shown by generation, by functional area, by level within the organization, and by company size.

Article originally published on The Huffington Post.

Topics: career, business results, productivity, leadership

A Revision of the Pomodoro Technique for the Internet Age

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Jan 04, 2017 @ 02:04 PM

Pierre_Khawand_100x100_2016.jpgby Pierre Khawand, Founder and CEO

You may have heard of a productivity method called the Pomodoro Technique. The technique calls for a kitchen timer set to 25 minutes; the user chooses a task and focuses on it for 25 minute intervals separated by short breaks. It’s a simple technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, and has since gained much popularity.

However, things have also changed quite a bit since the 1980s. The Internet was invented. Google came along and grew into an Internet giant valued at more than 600 billion. Facebook launched and connected more than 1.7 billion users. Apple released and sold more than one billion iPhones. Tesla masterminded the revenge of the electric car and launched its self-driving technology. Uber drove the on-demand economy forward and expanded to more than 500 cities in more than 60 countries.

In this increasingly digital world of everything mobile, social, and on-demand, our way of working has changed dramatically since the Pomodoro Technique was created. For this reason I believe an upgrade to the Pomodoro Technique is in order--or maybe not just an upgrade, but a reinvention. That’s why I developed the Perfect 15-Minute Day Method (PDM), partly by my design, and partly by design thinking with a group of more than one hundred early adopters. Here are three key ways this new and updated method of focus and productivity better suits the digital environment we work in presently.

First, let us start with the obvious change: PDM shortens the timed focus interval from 25 minutes down to 15 minutes. This change accommodates both our shorter attention span (resulting from the constant distractions of our digital gadgets), and the highly collaborative and distributed work environment we now live in. Recent research by Gloria Mark finds that the average length of time workers spend on a particular project before switching to another project or being interrupted is only 11 minutes. The majority of our early adopters who tested the new method confirm that the 15-minute timeframe hits the spot for them. For most, 15 minutes proves to be achievable and motivating.

Second, PDM helps us manage our attention and introduces the practice of mindfulness at work by adding a journal note-taking system. Whether you try to focus for 5, 15, or 25 minutes, the core challenge remains the same. Productivity is not about managing time; it is about managing your attention. (Try to even finish this article without distraction, can you?) Managing your attention means having a focus (in this case your task for the 15-minute interval), keeping your attention on your intended focus, noticing whenever your mind wanders or you are distracted and then re-directing your attention back to your intended focus.

The Perfect 15-Minute Day Method has a journaling system for managing your attention. The NOW page of the PDM journal is your primary page for keeping you in the here and NOW. When you decide to work on a task, jot down the task name in a designated NOW page of your journal, and start your timer for 15 minutes. If your mind wanders, a quick glance at your NOW page will remind you exactly what to return your attention to. The NOW page is your compass. When the 15 minutes are up, it is an opportunity to have a mindful moment and decide whether you want to continue or switch to a new task, and then restart your timer for another 15 minutes. The 15-minute timeframe is not a deadline for finishing the task but a check point to help you stay aware of time and make conscious adjustments as needed. This is what a NOW Page might look like at the beginning of the day:

chapter3_pg46.jpg“Is it really necessary to jot down in writing what I am working on now?” You might ask.  “Aren’t we capable of remembering what we are working on? And aren’t we naturally aware of time?” To answer these questions, check out this short video (and please don’t get distracted by additional videos--remember that your task now is to finish this article).

Third, PDM lets us befriend interruptions. Interruptions are not necessarily the problem. What we do, or don’t do, with interruptions is the problem. For interruptions that can’t be avoided, our design effort led to a simple technique we call “labeling interruptions.” Labeling your interruption allows you to quickly recover from the interruption and bring your attention back to your intended focus (the 15-minute task). This works for interruptions of all kinds, whether external like chatty colleagues and urgent issues, or internal like our own thoughts and emotions.

For instance, while working on a project proposal there is a nagging voice in the back of your mind saying “I am not good at this.” If left unaddressed, this thought can grow and cause a bad mood, procrastination, and/or lingering self-doubt. Journalist Dan Harris describes this negative progression in his book 10% Happier: "Thoughts calcify into opinions, little seeds of discontent blossom into bad moods, unnoticed back pain makes me inexplicably irritable with anyone who happens to cross my path.” To stop this slippery slope, we again practice labeling the thought or emotion in our journal in order to confront the thought. Here we ascribe a THOUGHT tag and rank the thought’s seriousness to put it into perspective. Finally, you decide on closure if necessary, or at least put it to rest for now, and bring your attention back to your focus (the NOW task).

All in all, the Perfect 15-Method Day Method is much more than a kitchen timer. It is a comprehensive method that accounts for time, thoughts, emotions, and the overall management of your attention to transform you into a highly effective and well-rounded person with increased awareness of self and others. It is a method for the present, to bring our distracted minds to the NOW. To learn more PDM techniques and strategies visit theperfect15minuteday.com.

Article originally published on The Huffington Post.

Topics: career, stress management, business results, time management tips, productivity, leadership, managing stress

How to Change Your Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset with a Journal, Timer, and Method

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 @ 09:40 AM

Pierre_Khawand_100x100_2016.jpgby Pierre Khawand, Founder and CEO

We all have an inner critic, some more vocal than others. And while we do our best to stay positive, a fumble, misstep, or bad luck can start a mudslide of negative thoughts and judgements about ourselves and the world. We may not even be fully aware of these thoughts as they occur, but we notice when they add up, accumulating into a bad mood, depression, low self-esteem. This in turn affects our work and relationships. How can we solve this? By changing our mindset. The game of life is 99% mental, and our mindset, the framework of our thoughts, makes all the difference.

According to Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a Stanford Psychology professor who spent years researching why some people fulfill their potential and why some don’t, there are two major mindsets that can determine your success – the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset.” She finds that when people believe that their basic traits and abilities are fixed in what she calls a “fixed mindset,” they tend to limit themselves by avoiding challenges and have difficulty coping with failure. On the other hand, when people have a “growth mindset” and believe that their qualities are things that they can change and develop, then they tend to be better at learning new things, taking on challenges, and recovering from setbacks. Those who maintain a growth mindset in their endeavors, Dweck asserts, are the ones who succeed.

As you may have guessed, fixed mindset frames many of those judgemental thoughts and negative feelings that discourage and disable us during the regular workday. So how do we change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?


The key is self-awareness, or mindfulness. Be able to recognize thoughts arising from a fixed mindset, and catch them before they take root. However, so many thoughts flit through our minds within minutes, seconds, that this can be quite a challenge. I highly recommend writing things down, and regularly taking a moment to mentally check-in with yourself. A self-management method I devised helps you practice these two things and move out of a fixed mindset into a growth mindset. I call it the Perfect 15-Minute Day Method, or PDM for short.

PDM promotes self-awareness of your focus and train of thought, and encourages positive thinking. All it requires is a journal, timer, and the method itself. The method focuses your attention in 15-minute timed intervals, with breaks in between to check-in with yourself, your focus and your thoughts. The PDM Journal is a space to record your plans for these 15-minute sessions, jot down thoughts that arise and note your reflections. I find there are three major ways in which PDM promotes a change from fixed mindset to growth mindset.

For one, those stuck in a fixed mindset believe their basic abilities cannot be improved, and the PDM Journal can help disprove this. The PDM Journal serves as a record of your accomplishments, of your personal growth in your work over the short term and long term. In the short term, PDM calls for a daily End of Day Reconciliation of your notes. This encourages you to reflect on things you learned, skills you utilized and improved that day. In the long term, flipping back through the days, weeks, and months of your journal allows you to see how far you’ve come in your projects and endeavors.

Secondly, those in fixed mindset avoid challenge for fear of failure, and a core technique of PDM is to break down chunks of time and intimidating tasks into manageable bits and bites. The PDM timer technique of 15 minute focus intervals encourages you to get started on an intimidating task because it’s short enough to be approachable and long enough to make progress and gain momentum. MicroPlanning is a PDM technique of breaking large tasks into smaller steps, which helps you to think through and visualize exactly how you will do a challenging task. Together the timer technique and MicroPlanning encourage you to approach your work incrementally, 15 minutes at a time, one step at a time. Rather than seeing one big project that magnifies the potential of failure, you see many small, doable ones.

And thirdly, PDM encourages you to regularly check-in with your train of thought, listen to your thoughts and notice how they affect you, your emotions, your relationship with your work, and productivity. There are two tags utilized in the journal, Thought and Emotion. When a troublesome or distracting thought or emotion arises, PDM teaches you to jot it down, label it (what is the thought, what is the emotion?) and rate how distressing it is on a scale of 1-10. When those with a fixed mindset experience a setback they may label themselves as a “loser” or “failure.” PDM teaches you to label thoughts, not people.

Let us know in the comments if the method helps you move out of the fixed mindset and into a growth oriented one. You can also look forward to part two of this article - how the PDM helps you maintain the growth mindset.  

Check out The Perfect 15-Minute Day book, eBook, journal, or eCourse!

Article originally published on The Huffington Post.

Topics: career, stress management, business results, time management tips, productivity, leadership, managing stress

In This Age of Digital Distraction, I've Opted for an Analog Productivity Tool that Uses a Notebook and a Timer

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 @ 09:49 AM

Pierre_Khawand_100x100_2016.jpgby Pierre Khawand, Founder and CEO

Are you often distracted by your digital gadgets? How often? Do you try to solve this challenge by downloading more digital tools only to find yourself even more distracted? Maybe it is time to look for an analog solution. Perhaps you can sympathize with Kate, who writes:

“I’m good at what I do, but one can always be better. Sometimes, I surf the web when I should be preparing for a meeting or answering email. When I realize I’ve wasted time I feel overwhelmed and stressed. I end up spending more hours at work without receiving more in pay, and my personal life suffers.

“When I took a closer look at my workday, I realized that the problem was that I was relying on the internet as my number one productivity tool.  While it seemed innocuous, constantly checking my calendar and inbox undermined my focus on important tasks. While checking my email my fragile attention would inevitably wander to an interesting subject line or link. Though my web tools helped me to organize, they also distracted me.“

Kate’s story probably sounds familiar to you. The digital world offers amazing tools for productivity that promise to sync with the complexity of our modern lives. However, any given web or digital app designed to increase productivity can quickly turn on its head and become a constant distraction and time waster. While the digital world offers complex and advanced tools, analog can yield simple yet effective solutions to the same problem.

This is what motivated me to develop an analog method for productivity. I call it the Perfect 15-Minute Day Method (PDM). All it requires is a timer, notebook, and pen. The method uses “tags” and 15-minute timed intervals to help you gain and maintain your focus on important tasks.


Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick a task which will bring you closer to your goal in the present moment
  2. In your journal, write NOW: Your Task (15)
  3. Set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes, and work on your task.
  4. When the timer goes off, return to step one and repeat.

PDM utilizes simple, yet effective principles. The use of pen and paper creates a healthy separation from the distractions of our digital gadgets. This gives you a quiet space to focus and a place to record what you are focused on so you can quickly regain focus if distracted. The timer heightens your time awareness and instills a realistic sense of time. (Note, the timer can be digital or analog, as long as it is easy to use and does not offer more distraction!) Fifteen minutes is the time interval of choice because it is substantial enough to get something done and approachable enough for us to start a task that we’ve been avoiding. And the NOW tag firmly grounds you in the present moment.

Tags are the core of the PDM, because tags help users become fully conscious of their attention. For every task you take on, simply write it down with a parenthesis to indicate how long you will work on it for (the next fifteen minutes at least!). When you want to answer emails, note down the EMAIL tag and set a timer for 15 minutes. When you need a break from work, use the OFF tag and set a timer for, you guessed it, 15 minutes. This method works because creating focus is as simple as declaring your intention to focus, and specifying what you will focus on.

Kate tried this method and found it significantly improved her ability to focus. She writes “Overall, this no-frills analog method has helped me and many others become more efficient at work. The PDM helps to distance users from the distractions of the digital world and overcome procrastination.” Not only that, but it also helped her to skillfully use her digital tools so that they did not become distractions. For instance, the PDM includes an “E-Mail as a Task” strategy for processing e-mail quickly and efficiently so that you do not get lost in your inbox.

Digital tools no doubt enable us to work and communicate more productively and efficiently than ever. However, digital tools are not the solution to digital distractions. When it comes time to sit and focus on our work, the paper journal is the most effective aid for bringing our focus to the present and our energy to our priorities.

If you find the digital world to be more distracting than productive, going back to analog may do the trick. With just a journal and timer you can create the perfect day.

To learn more PDM techniques and strategies check out The Perfect 15-Minute Day book, eBook, journal, or eCourse!

Article originally published on The Huffington Post.

Topics: career, stress management, business results, time management tips, productivity, leadership, managing stress

Which Drives Your Happiness? High Net Worth or High Net Growth?

Posted by Melissa Sweat on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 @ 09:55 AM

melissa_sweat_100x100.jpgby Melissa Sweat, Customer Relationship & Community Manager

We've all heard the adage that money can't buy you happiness. But this timeworn maxim isn't entirely true.

"Once people surpass $75,00 in annual net income, which would be about $82,000 in today's dollars, they experience no statistically signifiant bump in their day-to-day emotional well-being," states author and speaker Jenny Blake, referencing a 2010 study by Nobel Prize winner in economics, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, past president of the American Economic Association.

So, once we achieve a certain level of economic security—which can provide things like a comfortable residence, travel funds, and expendable income for pleasure and activities outside work—we reach a point where money no longer contributes to happiness. So what does?

Career goals: net worth versus net growth

In her recent podcast, "Are You High Net Growth", Blake suggests that the driver of purpose and fulfillment isn't about worth, but about growth:

"High net growth individuals love learning, taking action, tackling new projects, and solving problems. They are generous and cooperative, and have a strong desire to make a difference."

Learn more in the podcast, and join us for a FREE webinar Thursday, September 1, 2016 presented by Jenny Blake, "Pivot: The Only Move that Matters Is Your Next One."

(We'll also be giving away 3 copies of her new book!)

Topics: career, business results, time management tips, productivity, leadership

Does Mindfulness Matter in the Workplace?

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 @ 09:24 AM

Pierre_Khawand_100x100_2016.jpgby Pierre Khawand, Founder and CEO

You probably have heard about the benefits of mindfulness for our physical and mental health — lower blood pressure and cortisol (stress) levels, a stronger immune system, improved sleep, and enhanced emotional stability. These benefits alone are enough to indicate that mindfulness would be an integral addition to our lives. And yet, while many of us acknowledge these benefits, we hesitate or don’t know how to practice mindfulness where we need it the most — at work. Could mindfulness contribute to our work experience, and if so, what might it contribute, and how can we achieve it?

First, to make sure we all on the same page, let’s define mindfulness. Alicia Maher, MD, author of From Scattered to Centered: Understanding and Transforming the Distracted Brain, defines mindfulness as paying attention to what is happening around us and within us without reacting to it. It is the ability to be in the present moment without distraction and without judgment. In other words, it is about paying attention to what is happening NOW! Unless we pay attention to what is happening now, how can we be effective and how can we positively impact the future? Recent research has shown how mindfulness practices can benefit us at work.

Mindfulness at work

Mindfulness practices have been shown to help workers excel in dynamic work environments. In a field study conducted by Dr. Eric Dane from Rice University, trial lawyers used mindfulness to gather critical inputs from the courtroom environment — such as the reactions from the judge, the jury, and the opposing lawyers — in order to build their cases. Dr. Dane argues that the wide attentional breadth associated with mindfulness helped these lawyers unite numerous streams of information in order to make a strategic response. Outside of the courtroom environment, he expects mindfulness to benefit individuals who work in “dynamic task environments.”

Our modern work environments are increasingly dynamic, requiring us to “multi-task” to juggle multiple tasks, projects, and sometimes even multiple jobs. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve performance under such attention-dividing demands. Researchers from the University of Washington tested participants’ ability to perform multiple tasks in a work setting. They found that mindfulness practices over an eight-week period improved the participants’ ability to switch between tasks and to monitor their attention resulting in a more effective overall management of attention and related mental resources. Aren’t these exactly the capabilities we badly need in today’s overloaded workplace? Wouldn’t you describe your workplace as a “dynamic task environment”?

If you believe increased stability and control of your attention may increase your working potential but don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. Breaking old habits and achieving the benefits of mindfulness at work requires some tools and some consistency, but the rewards are immense. To help cultivate mindfulness at work, I developed a method called the Perfect 15-Minute Day Method (PDM).

All that is required is a journal, a timer, and the method itself in order to get started. PDM uses “tags” and 15-minute increments to encourage mindfulness of tasks, goals, time, in addition to thoughts and emotions. Most importantly, PDM provides a method for recording distractions of all kinds. It is like a new “language” that makes mindfulness achievable every step of the way. There are four core techniques through which the PDM promotes mindfulness at work.

First, when you start to work on a task, write down on your journal a NOW tag and the name of the task. The NOW tag prompts you to be decisive about which task you will focus on for the next 15 minutes at least. This, as journalist and meditation practitioner Dan Harris asserts in his book 10% Happier, is a critical part of being mindful as it allows you to work assertively rather than reactively. This engages your active thinking and brings you to the present moment. Instead of hastily making decisions based on temptation, anxiety, or acts of randomness, you make more informed decisions based on wisdom by taking into consideration current reality and desired results (mindful task selection). Once you decide on the NOW task and write it down, the timer keeps you aware of time and keeps your attention on the NOW task throughout the 15-minute time frame (mindful task execution).

The Perfect 15-Minute Day Method Chapter3 Pg24 Illustration
Second comes MicroPlanning™. MicroPlanning is a PDM technique that involves breaking down the task that you are about to undertake into smaller steps and jotting them down in writing right under the NOW task. This helps you dissect the NOW task, which might otherwise be overwhelming or ambiguous, into smaller steps that are digestible and actionable. This breakdown also deepens your understanding of the NOW task, engages your active thinking even further, and provides you the framework you need to be able to recover when your mind wanders or you get otherwise interrupted, thus allowing you to return to the present moment.

The Perfect 15-Minute Day Method Chapter5Third, the NEXT column, CAPTURE page, and TODAY page all help you notice and capture thoughts about things to do. Having a designated spot to jot down these items allows you to quickly return to your NOW task and thus return to the present moment. The NEXT column for instance is a column that you create on your NOW page in your journal so you can quickly and easily “park” interrupting thoughts about things to do after your current 15-minute focus session, instead of doing them right away and getting distracted from your NOW task. A study published in the American Psychological Association found that when distracted, people forget their intended task up to 40% of the time. Therefore avoiding these distractions is a huge step towards completing your priorities and feeling accomplished.

The Perfect 15-Minute Day Chapter6 Journal1Fourth, PDM encourages you to notice distracting thoughts and emotions by using the THOUGHT and EMOTION tags to label, rank, and move beyond them. MRI scans show that labeling emotions engages the higher order parts of the brain associated with thinking and planning; this indicates an awareness with less reactiveness to the emotion (remember, mindfulness is being aware without reacting). According to Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself, How to Master Your Mind, and Joy on Demand, holding on - whether by refusing to let something go or by refusing to let something come - is what Buddhist meditators identify as the main cause of human suffering. Instead of holding on, PDM encourages you to welcome and transcend your thoughts and emotions, and, consequently, experience moments of happiness that quickly add up.

The Perfect 15-Minute Day Method Chapter7 Journal1Enough said! Mindfulness at work is needed and is achievable. It is the path to happiness and accomplishments and the best response yet to our work overload. PDM and the teachings of mindfulness thought leaders like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dan Harris, Chade-Meng Tan, and the research of Dr. Eric Dane, the University of Washington, and the other thousands of individuals and organizations who have undertaken this topic are all here to guide us in undertaking this essential journey to happiness and accomplishment at work.

Take your productivity to the next level
with The Perfect 15-Minute Day
book, eBook, journal, or eCourse!

Article originally published on The Huffington Post.

Topics: career, stress management, business results, time management tips, productivity, leadership, managing stress

When Work is Oh-So Boring: 5 Ways to Stay Focused and Beat ADHD

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 @ 11:01 AM

Pierre_Khawand_100x100_2016.jpgby Pierre Khawand, Founder and CEO

When you landed your current job, you were so excited to get started. You had so many plans, so many ideas, and so much passion. Eventually, that passion fades and not even your second cup of coffee can give you enough motivation to start the long-term project that you were so pumped about just a few months ago!

Adults with ADHD know their strengths. They are an asset to any team with their out-of-the-box thinking, ingenuity, and creativity. Their high energy is infectious and can carry big ideas to fruition and make impactful changes within a corporation.

But, as adults with ADHD also know, with the highs come the lows. While some days are focused and productive, other days are blanketed by brain fog, hopelessly distracted, forgetful and altogether disorganized.

When ADHD throws you lemons, you do what you can to stay focused at work and make the most you can out of it. Here are 5 tips to make work bearable and even fun and to keep you engaged and productive in the face of ADHD.

Distracted and bored at work

1. Make a Game Out of It

Games are inherently fun and engaging. Work isn’t necessarily so. Stay on your toes by making work a game. First, break your project down into small, discrete tasks. Second, set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes--or your smartphone timer of course, and try to finish your task or a portion thereof before the time runs out. This adrenaline-pumping activity will keep the boredom at bay and help you finish your tasks for the day.

2. Keep a Record of Your Activity

When distraction strikes, keeping a record of your activity, and yes, even your distractions, can help you get back on track. I developed a tool to help me and my clients remain engaged whether the workday is long and repetitive, or hectic and variable. I call it “The Perfect 15-Minute Day Method” (PDM). PDM incorporates the 15-minute technique of tip #1 and a simple journal system of “tags” for recording current tasks and managing distractions. This encourages goal-setting and time mastery, both essential for motivating your work.

The PDM method of recording your activity helps you to better focus and regain focus after distractions or interruptions. For instance, when you begin to work on a task, note this down with a NOW tag followed by the name of your task, then set your timer for 15 minutes. Simply writing down what you want to work on helps quiet your mind to focus on the task; setting the timer solidifies your intention to work on that task. During the task, if you are interrupted or distracted, note this down as well with the applicable PDM tag. By becoming aware of your interruptions, external or internal, you can learn to better manage your focus.

Take your productivity to the next level
with The Perfect 15-Minute Day
book, eBook, journal, or eCourse!

3. Clear Your Environment to Clear Your Mind

Having irrelevant materials in your workspace can subconsciously distract you from your current task. Metaphorically declutter your mind by clearing your desk and computer screen. Then, repopulate your environment with only the information that is relevant to the current task. Remind yourself of your current task by consulting your Activity Record (see tip #2). Pro Tip: keep all documents related to a certain project together in a paper or electronic folder, either in a file cabinet or on your computer desktop.

4. Take a Mindful Moment

Taking a 5-minute break before starting a new task can help decrease the impact of “attention residue” on your productivity. Attention residue occurs when thoughts of your previous task linger and divert vital attentional resources away from your current task. According to a recent study, 5-minutes of mindfulness (shifting your attention to your breath or the sensory input in your environment) can reset your brain and enhance concentration on the present task. On days when distractions and boredom are already eating away at your attention span, use this technique to take control of your attention and hit refresh.

5. Reconcile at the End of Each Day

If you make a to-do list every morning and are keeping a careful record of your daily activities (see tip #2), it should be easy to go through the list and determine which tasks are still incomplete and need to be reassigned to another day. On especially distracted days, there may be more items than usual requiring reassignment. Don’t let this worry you. Variations in day-to-day performance are a normal part of being human. Forgive yourself for having an off-day and don’t dwell on it. Instead, remind yourself about the things you enjoy about your work and the achievements you’ve made. Hopefully, your boredom subsides by tomorrow, but if it doesn’t, use these tricks and tips to help you stay focused and stimulated.

To learn more,
check out The Perfect 15-Minute Day!

Article originally published on The Huffington Post.

Topics: career, stress management, business results, time management tips, productivity, leadership, managing stress

Mindfulness at Work Meets Time Management with “The Perfect 15-Minute Day”

Posted by Melissa Sweat on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 @ 12:27 PM

melissa_sweat_100x100.jpgby Melissa Sweat, Online Community Manager

I have a confession to make: I consider myself pretty darn productive and organized at work, but I have to admit that I do tend to let myself get distracted from time to time… Whether it’s checking social media, my smartphone, or popping back into email. And I feel a bit guilty about it—that I’m not performing at my best.

But, even more than that, on those days when I succumb to the temptations of distraction, I find myself far more tired and stressed out at the end of the day.


One, because I likely haven’t accomplished all the tasks I intended to by being distracted. And two, because our minds don’t perform at their highest capacity when engaged in constant “multi-tasking,” which is essentially “task-switching.”

As People-OnTheGo Founder Pierre Khawand writes in The Perfect 15-Minute Day, “Multi-taking contributes to stress and overwork. Studies show that those who multi-task feel like time moves more quickly and that their workload is much heavier than those who focus on a single task.”

So, how can we train our distracted brains to focus on a single task and not be tempted by all the various interruptions in the workplace of co-workers, technology, and even our own thoughts and emotions?


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Getting Focused Just 15-Minutes at a Time

A few months ago when I first experimented with the “The Perfect 15-Minute Day Method” (or PDM), I was amazed at the results I saw in my reducing my stress level and increasing my productivity in just a few days.

With only a journal, a timer, and the method, I was able to drastically reduce my distraction and get much more accomplished each day. The key, I realized, was how the method combined mindfulness at work with strategic time management.


Here’s a quick summary about how PDM works:

“PDM helps you a) be always aware of what you’re working on and b) stay focused on the task at hand by working in highly productive bursts of short 15-minute increments. The method includes the use of tags to help you track your tasks, manage interruptions, manage thoughts and emotions along the way, and be able to reconcile and close the loops on unfinished items at the end of the day.”

The most compelling aspects of the method for me were the use of tags to keep me aware of exactly what I was working on, combined with the use of the 15-minute timer. Setting the timer and focusing for just 15 minutes at a time made each “focused session” feel like a success! No longer was I tempted to turn to another distraction at work. I could successfully focus on the task at hand and get so much more done because that task had my full attention.

When I needed to keep working on a task, I would start another 15-minute increment and keep going. If I needed to attend a meeting or was starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed, I’d also mark that in my journal and could easily get back to what I was working on when I returned.

With The Perfect 15-Minute Day Method, I had a clear game plan that enabled me to navigate through all the potential interruptions at work and achieve a whole new level of “workplace Zen.”

To learn more, check out The Perfect 15-Minute Day book or join us at the complimentary webinar on July 7!

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Topics: career, stress management, business results, time management tips, productivity, leadership, managing stress

How Women Can Get Ahead at Work: Develop Your Voice

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Fri, Dec 05, 2014 @ 10:51 AM

Pittman.headshotby Marilyn Pittman, Voice Coach at ScreenPresence

Women for the most part do not have the deep low registers that men do. In a professional setting, especially one in which women are a small minority, we sometimes have to fight to get heard. Yet when we raise our voices, we don’t necessarily get more respect or attention. Many of us don’t know how to use our voices to engage the listener and lead the team.

Developing your voice and your presentation skills of all kinds, for that matter, requires training and technique. Start with knowing your strengths and weaknesses and learn how to maximize one while you fix the other.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I remember to breathe when I’m making a speech or presentation?

  • Do I get people’s attention and keep it?

  • Do I sound nasal and high-pitched, or do I sound authoritative?

  • Do I speak with confidence? Do I feel confident?

  • Do I vary pitch and rhythm when speaking to sound dynamic?

woman speaking work resized 600

Photo by dfid (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Once you can identify your weaknesses, you can begin to chip away at fixing them. Recording your voice whenever you can and playing it back to yourself will help you hear your voice how we hear it.

Also, finding good public speakers to emulate will help you develop your ear so that you can be a better coach to yourself. Do they vary the pitch and rhythm and emphasize the right words? Do they seem authentic and engaged? Do they project the volume of their voice enough? How’s their diction, is it crisp? Paying attention to these variables helps your ear distinguish between what voice commands attention and what doesn’t.

When it comes to your own voice, notice how you talk when you leave voice messages. Experiment with playing them back before you send them if you can, and pay attention to the clarity of your speech and thoughts, as well as the tone in your voice.

When you’re preparing for a speech or presentation, or even just a meeting with a few people, make time in your schedule to rehearse it out loud, practice it, finding the pauses and the meaning of words. Record it and listen back, pretending you’re in the meeting or audience. Keep at it until you’re satisfied that you sound cogent, present, committed to the content, and confident in your manner. When it’s show time, do something fun or relaxing just before you go on or enter the room. Stretch out the facial muscles, do a few tongue twisters, sing, hum, laugh. That’s right, laughing helps you stimulate the endorphins or pleasure chemicals so you can present from a more relaxed and confident place.

Ready to use your voice more effectively at work? Contact Screen Presence for a consultation: bizpresence@gmail.com.

Resources & Workshops/Webinars

Topics: career, guest bloggers, leadership

How to Create a Professional Image in Social Media and Online

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 @ 02:47 PM

Marianne small headshotby Marianne Wilman, Founder/Principal of ScreenPresence

If a professional photographer is responsible for the images you use on your social media profiles, that was probably a smart move. You’re also in a tiny minority.

Most people find a photo taken of them by a friend, family member, or even a smartphone “selfie” shot that they don’t absolutely hate, and use that image. Others might go for something arty or mysterious, but it may not be eliciting the intended response.

Here are some tips for improving your social media profile images, and presenting a professional image of yourself online:

  1. Don’t use the same image for all your social media profiles. As we know, the intended purpose for LinkedIn is different than Facebook or Twitter, and your image should reflect this fact. For example, your LinkedIn photo should look appropriate for your line of business and career. Does it?

  2. Review your pic and ask yourself what it says about you. Your image will dictate how people are going to perceive you. If you’re not sure what the image projects, ask a friend for feedback.

  3. Change your profile image regularly. If you haven’t changed your profile pic since you first signed up for a service, now might be a good time. Actively updating your images keeps you interesting. On LinkedIn it will also trigger a post saying, “Kate has a new photo” – so it might be worth doing just for the incoming compliments!

Most profile pics could do with some image editing help, such as brightening, cropping and color correcting.  Rules of thumb include being able to see your eyes and avoiding the bobblehead look by including at least your shoulders. So, if you’re not ready for a new image you might start by re-working the one you already have.

However, if you are ready to hire a photographer to capture a picture of you for your website or your social media profile there are several things to consider. It’s easy to imagine that you’ll show up looking your best and the photographer will do the rest. That’s one approach, and you may get the result you’re looking for, especially if you’ve chosen a photographer for a specific shooting style.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be working with a photographer who has come recommended but you know little about, figure out what you really like for a self-portrait so that you can communicate your preferences in advance.

Take a look at photographs of other people on their company websites or on LinkedIn and consider the following:

  • Do you prefer images that are shot within a professional environment or those taken in nature?

  • Do you respond to naturalistic photographs or do posed images do more for you?

  • Do you like images with blown out or abstract backgrounds, or do sharper backdrops appeal more?

  • Do standing or sitting poses speak to you?

It’s possible to pick and chose. You may be a company owner who prefers a standing, posed image taken on a beach with a soft background. Or you may be a manager who relates to professional looking images taken under studio lights with abstract backgrounds.

Take a look around and observe what you’re drawn to. This will inform the conversation you’ll have with your photographer about the location for the shoot. “People are more particular about what they like and don’t like than they want to believe,” says Screen Presence photographer Stefanie Atkinson.

Recently we worked with a client, Ronda, who was interested in an updated headshot. Ronda had previously been an actress and a singer but has for many years been working very long hours in Learning and Development at a Fortune 500 company. It’s a job she’s great at, but she was ready to re-capture her inner creativity and project her more theatrical side back out into the world.

In the pre-shoot call with Screen Presence photographer Stefanie Atkinson and hair & makeup pro Sarah E. Hyde we discussed the feel for the image. Ronda’s keywords for the shoot were “inviting,” “magnetic,” and “twinkle.”

Here’s Ronda, before and now:

rondav3 2

Ronda looks great in both the before and after images! So, what’s the real difference here?

Sarah says that in the “Before” image Ronda doesn’t look professional, “It looks more like she’s just had a cocktail with friends!” Ronda’s hair is flat, her lips are shiny. In the “Now” image we’ve smoothed out her hair and gone with a modern looking blowout. In terms of makeup, Ronda looks clean, fresh and dewy. Sarah enhanced Ronda’s best feature, her eyes, framing and defining them but not overpowering them, and she went with a matte lipstick. With her mouth closed Ronda is more serious, and she looks friendly, warm and approachable. “There’s more depth and self confidence in the new image,” Sarah says.

Stefanie notes that the lighting in the Before image is flat and the image has been taken with a flash: “There’s glare on her lip, nose and face and there are bars behind her head. It’s not a professional image,” Stefanie says. “There’s dimensionality, depth and warmth in the Now image. The eye goes directly to her, and it feels like she’s really looking at me.” The cleaner background, softer lighting and hair and makeup also accentuate Ronda’s beauty.

So, how did we do?

“I feel like you captured the real me… it is so reflective of me, both inside and outside,” says Ronda.

Creating the right image of you may be as simple as editing a photo you already have. Or it may be time to go further and have an image made by a professional photographer skilled at capturing the essence of you. It’s easy to lose oneself in the business world, so honor yourself with an image that represents who you are now.

For more information, visit Screen-Presence.com. If you're interested in a headshot consultation, or a full business makeover for 2015, contact Marianne at bizpresence.gmail.com

 Additional Resources & Webinars

Topics: career, social media