Email is like life: It is messy, imperfect, full of surprises, and everybody handles it differently. There is no perfect email system. Embrace the daily challenge of keeping your work life under control by using email as your ally rather than your nemesis. Another meeting-filled day? Meetings don't have to feel like time-sucks. With these tips and strategies, they can be efficient and productive.
Spend a week or two identifying the email issues that consistently frustrate you or slow you down. Your guru could be a super-efficient co-worker or someone from tech support, but it should be someone who can show you how to use built-in features that you may not be aware of, like filters that can block unimportant messages and send them to spam. Ask about how you can use labels, folders, filters, archives, starred messages, unsubscribe lists and other features to help you spend less time on email.
No email guru in your office? There are plenty of online resources for email management tips. Does an overflowing space where books, papers, and yes, pencils, pile up everywhere feel more inspiring to you? Sometimes the best way to get something done is not to work on it for a while. Standing up and moving around improves blood flow to the brain, which enhances cognition. Alan Hedge, an ergonomics professor at Cornell, suggests that workers try a combination of sitting, standing and walking to keep altering their body position and give their minds a break from work.
A timed combination of sitting, standing and walking can help you work at your best.
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Where were you the last time you had a great idea? Your desk? Or was it when you were in the shower, while you were walking your dog or driving your kids to school? Instead of powering through, consider intentionally taking a break from a large project for up to 10 hours. That will allow new ideas to marinate in your subconscious, causing your neurons to make new connections.
Sleep is one of the most effective ways to take a long break, so try not to give it short shrift. Research shows that sleep allows our brains to make new and unexpected connections , leading to insights and breakthroughs — which explains why we so often have brilliant ideas during our morning shower. Learn to identify the signs of mental fatigue, like reading the same sentence over and over websites or writing emails with no real goals or priorities in mind. Your body naturally wants to go to sleep about seven hours after waking, and this is amplified by the effects of digestion.
Unfortunately, this biological reality collides with an economic one: Most offices frown on napping. To best increase your energy, it may be a good idea to drink a cup of coffee before your nap. Research has shown that this method likely works because the short power nap helps clear the brain of the sleep-inducing compound adenosine.
Caffeine, meanwhile, takes about 20 minutes to have its physiological effect — kicking in just as the napper is awakening. If a nap is out of the question, however, train yourself to quickly recognize the signs of the post-lunch dip: drowsiness and an inability to concentrate.
Then, get up and walk around, talk to a colleague at another desk or work on something less demanding of your brain power until the sleepiness passes. When we feel overwhelmed at work, our fight-or-flight response tends to come into play, leading us to take quick, shallow breaths. This sends less oxygen to the brain, causing us to become even more stressed and to think less clearly.
Counteract the effects of stress by breathing more efficiently. Most people are vertical breathers, in that their shoulders move up when they inhale, according to Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and breath instructor. Many people also breathe from their upper chest, whereas the biggest part of the lungs is in the middle of the body.
Horizontal breathing may seem unnatural at first, but it is actually the way animals and small children breathe. Working with your body rather than against it, you will maximize the blood flow to your brain — and your mental capacity. When you feel stressed, you may start to lift your shoulders up toward your ears, clench your face or tense up all over. Over time, these actions become so habitual that you become unaware of them. The purpose of good posture is to expand our bodies rather than to compress them.
Good posture allows you to breathe more fully, prevent chronic pain and think more clearly.
An epidemic of exhaustion
As you do your work, try to be aware of any excess tension you are holding in your body. For example, you may tense up your hands far more than necessary when you type or use a mouse. If you start to feel any tension, try to stretch that area of your body. This exercise is a component of the Alexander Technique, a way of learning about how to rid your body of harmful tension.
When you see people hunched forward in front of their screens, chances are they are end gaining. Good posture enables you to meet your work in the present moment, and therefore get it done more efficiently. An author explains how seeing problems from a different perspective may have a similar outcome as the Eastern approach of suspending thought.
Treadmill desks can be good exercise, but they may impair the ability to concentrate and remember. Fact: Multitasking is an illusion. Research shows that people get more done if they concentrate on one task at a time. Switching frequently between tasks — or believing that you are actually doing more than one thing at once — will actually slow you down.
Among other things, this variety helps bring more blood to your brain, improving your cognition and therefore your productivity. Fact: It is important to take breaks throughout the workday. Even a five-minute walk around the office can boost your mood with no impact on your ability to focus. Getting enough rest and sleep can serve you better than working longer hours.
Walking away from your work for a longer period — overnight, over the weekend or on vacation — gives your ideas a chance to marinate in your subconscious mind , allowing for new bursts of productivity when you return. Myth: The secret to improving productivity is to find the right system and stick with it.
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Fact: Every person and every workday is different. Your prospective boss is evaluating your moral compass by asking how you handled a delicate situation that put your integrity to the test, Taylor said. Did you publicly blow the whistle? Did a backlash ensue? What was your thought process? Interviewers want to know how you manage sensitive matters and are also wary of those who bad-mouth former employers, no matter how serious the misdeed.
It's wise to be clear, concise, and professional in your answer, without revealing any internal practices of prior employers.
Something like this might work: "There was one time where a fellow worker asked me to get involved in a project that seemed unethical, but the problem resolved itself. I try to be as honest as possible early on if a project creates concern for me about the company, as I'm very dedicated to its success. Prospective bosses want to know if there are any glaring personality issues, and what better way than to go directly to the source?
You can easily shoot yourself in the foot with this question. If you flip and say, "I can't think of a reason anyone wouldn't like working with me," you're subtly insulting the interviewer by trivializing the question. So you have to frame the question in a way that gets at the intent without being too hard on yourself. You don't want to say, "Well I'm not always the easiest person to be around, particularly when under deadlines. I sometimes lose my temper too easily. Taylor suggested this response: "Generally I've been fortunate to have great relationships at all my jobs.
The only times I have been disliked — and it was temporary — was when I needed to challenge my staff to perform better. Sometimes I feel we must make unpopular decisions that are for the larger good of the company. The implication is that you might not be motivated enough to secure a job; you are being distracted by other pursuits; your skills set may not be up to date; there is an issue with your past employers, or a host of other concerns.
The way it's worded is naturally designed to test your resilience. The key is not to take the bait and just answer the intent of the question in a calm, factual manner. The hiring manager wants to be assured that you possess initiative even when unemployed, as this drive and tenacity will translate well in a corporate setting. Make sure you're accountable. Don't blame the unemployment rate, your market, industry, or anything else. This is about how active and excited you are to be making a contribution to the employer.
To determine your decision-making ability, ease of working with others, and most importantly, whether the candidate will speak up after identifying an area in need of improvement. Companies want leaders and employees to follow the rules, but they also want people who are going to review potential outdated policies and have the courage to push back and propose changes to maintain a current, competitive edge and productive workplace.
Talk about a time when you opposed a policy for a logical and business reason. Speak up on the research that you conducted, the facts that you presented, and the outcome of your attempts to have the policy rewritten," Taylor said. Hiring managers want to find out if your priorities are in the right place: current job first, interviews second. Ideally, your interview is during a break that is your time, which is important to point out. The implication is that you're breaking a company rule. For most employed job seekers, it's uncomfortable to lie about their whereabouts.
So they're vague and treat it like any other personal matter they handle on their time. It's wise to explain that you always put your job first, and schedule interviews before or after work, at lunchtime, during weekends if appropriate, and during personal time off. Try something like: "My boss understands that I have certain break periods and personal time — he doesn't ask for details. He's most interested in my results.
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What do they ask this? This gives hiring managers a lot of information in one fell swoop, Taylor said. They want to know "not only know how you handle stressful situations, but also how you think through problems, how you define 'difficult,' and what courses of action you take when faced with any form of adversity.
It's easy to interpret this as an invitation to brag about the success of your turnaround. Don't fall for it. Were you creative, resourceful and prompt in its resolution? Did you follow a logical path in doing so? Interviewers want to see that you're a good problem solver, Taylor said. To ace the question, be sure you go into the meeting by preparing with a few examples of times you successfully overcame significant professional challenges.
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How to support mental health at work
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Read the company blog if they have one. Although company web sites can tell you a lot, you can learn even more with a broader Google search. Look for recent articles about the company in the mainstream press and industry publications. These articles can also provide useful information about the latest trends in the industry and how the company compares with competitors. Your network or LinkedIn account may be your most valuable research source. Reach out to trusted contacts in your network for information.
A search on LinkedIn can quickly reveal who you know at the hiring company or who you know who knows somebody. Look for those currently at the firm and those who worked there in the past. You can also ask around to determine if any trusted contacts former colleagues, professors, etc. A good answer will demonstrate a knowledge of the company and industry. That means you must do your homework so that you can identify specific reasons for wanting to work for the firm. You can probably think of other reasons that would also work. You can find out a lot about the culture of a company before the interview.
If you feel the culture aligns well with your own preferences and abilities, make it clear in the interview. Also, a good friend of the family has been working in corporate finance at JP Morgan for the last two years and he told me that the culture supports learning and development on the job — and really rewards hard work. She also singles out the bit from the article about innovation and articulates that this is a shared value. A little flattery can be effective — just be careful not to cross the line into pathetic kissing up.
So you love the company and you can prove it.
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