9 Communication Strategies for Peak Productivity at Work

Communication strategies for peak productivity at workIn our efforts to be productive, sometimes we cut corners, thinking if we can just push through to the end of the project we’re working on, everything will be okay. Oftentimes, we cut out important communication steps from our work routine, just to save a few minutes to get things done.  

It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes, it’s better to add a few steps to our process of getting things done, in order to ensure that when we arrive at the finish line, all will be in good order.

Consider using the following communication strategies to get the results you desire:

  • Get the specifics.  Don’t make assumptions.  Make sure you know the parameters of the project you’re working on by checking in with others you are working with. Determine the project’s requirements so you have a clear sense of how it should run from beginning, to middle, to end.
  • Announce your plans.  Let other people know what work you will be taking on. This way, they are clear your time is spoken for, and they know they can focus their own work efforts elsewhere.  When we communicate our plans, we reduce the chances for misunderstanding and duplicating work.
  • Be open about your lack of certainty when you feel unsure.  Don’t be afraid to speak up when you don’t know how to proceed.  Let other people help you. Don’t stay silent.  Your efforts to minimize error and confusion will give you a much better payoff than hiding the fact that you are confused.  
  • Communicate clear start and end times to yourself.  Decide what your intentions are for your work.  Start with a sense of how the project should progress, including a list of intermediate deadlines to shoot for.  Keep your end goal in mind at all times.
  • Arrange for coverage when you cannot take care of things yourself.  Be clear about the start and end of the period of coverage you will need.  Check in before the start date, and thank the person who will be covering you once they have finished their period of coverage for you.
  • Check in with people you are supervising or cooperating with mid-project to evaluate how things are going and to see if you can be of help. You’ll be able to avert problems from occurring by checking in with your co-workers. Making this extra effort to keep communication open will enable others to work at their best as well.
  • Be in frequent communication with your calendar.  Review your calendar to see what items need to be followed up on or dropped from your to-do list.  Make sure your schedule stays clear of any clutter or distraction.  Being mindful of how you are spending your time will enable you to work with less stress and more focus.
  • Keep a running log of your communication contacts.  This technique will take a few extra minutes of your time, but will give you the peace of mind of knowing what conversations you’ve had and what interactions you might expect going forward.
  • Keep in touch with people you care about.  Let’s remember to check in with those special people in our lives who might have nothing to do with our work. When we do this, we give ourselves a mood boost and strengthen our relationships.

When you take care of yourself first and keep yourself in good spirits, your work will tend to reflect your care and good attitude.  

Use some or all of these communication tips to make your work easier to complete, quicker to finish, and of better quality.  Minimize any potential areas of confusion in order to maximize your productivity.  Remember that healthy communication habits are key for clarity throughout your day.

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How the Procrastination Cycle Gets Underway (and How to Break It)


A Real Path

There are many paths by which simple Procrastination develops into a full-blown Procrastination Cycle.  Perhaps you know a few of them.

One avenue by which Procrastination takes hold is the absence of communication. When we are reluctant or unable to speak what is on our minds, we teach ourselves that only we can manage our own distress and that we are voiceless.

When we start to feel that way, our anxiety begins to escalate and then the stakes seem even bigger, because all of a sudden we become the only person responsible for the outcome of the work we are supposed to be doing.  As our anxiety begins to escalate, we feel confused about how to break away from it.  We begin to focus on calming our anxiety. This draws our focus away from our work.

As time goes on, we lose the connection between the start of the assignment and the end and we get very lost in the middle space.  We know exactly what needs to be done, can even think of it as being “easy,” but cannot push ourselves to get to the finish line.  The Procrastination Cycle drains our motivation and our spirit for doing our work.

How did we let ourselves get this way?  How did we allow this cycle of inefficiency and stress to take root?

Before you begin to answer these questions, please consider that you began your Procrastination Cycle in order to take care of something.  Perhaps you meant to:

  • save someone the trouble of having to help
  • spare someone the time that they would have needed to contribute
  • act like a good kid, a good student, a good employee, a good patient, or a good spouse
  • spare yourself the trouble of communicating to someone who wouldn’t be able to understand you or what you needed

Perhaps you were going to answer the questions above by responding “I am lazy.”  I want to stop you from doing that.  In all my years of doing this work, I have not found any Procrastinators to be lazy.  They are not lazy because they care, they are motivated, and they are invested.  They may be misunderstood as being lazy, but they are not actually lazy.  But they are trapped. Trapped in the seemingly never-ending cycle of stress-avoidance-stress-avoidance.

I believe whole-heartedly we all can break the Procrastination Cycle.  The good news is that all it takes is one behavior to break a cycle.  The not-so-easy news is we have to have the courage to change our ways.  We don’t just have to change our actions, we need to change the underlying beliefs we have which tend to keep the Procrastination Cycle in constant motion.

So if it is a lack of communication that keeps you stymied — communicate.

So if you feel you need to be a good ____________ all the time, assume you are always good and — communicate.

So if you think you need to protect someone else’s schedule, decide to let them decide for themselves what they’ll do and — communicate.

So if you want to unburden someone else of their chores, start focusing on your own burdens, ask someone for help and — communicate.

You’re really not going to break anyone by talking out loud.  Ever.  What you will get from talking out loud is a sense of what’s going on, how to feel, and how to get going on your way again.  You’ll know just how to get out of your Procrastination Cycle.  Find a real path to your own freedom and take it.

If you’d like to hear more tips and thoughts on Procrastination and how to break away from it, please consider signing up to receive regular blog posts from me.  You can also choose to join me on Twitter@ChristineLiPhD.  

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Communication Needs to be Transactional {to be Good}

temp_collage_1411618365.173272Since I spend my days working as a psychologist, I spend a lot of time thinking about, participating in, and looking at communication and communication dynamics.  I think about:

  • what people are saying
  • what they are not saying
  • what they want to say
  • what I want and don’t want to say
  • the meaning of periods of silence

Of course, that’s not an exhaustive list, because communication is such a fascinatingly broad field of play.

Here’s a list of some of the lessons about successful communication I’ve learned over the years:

  1. What we communicate is not conveyed just in words, but how we add our intention, motivation, and feeling into the words we use.  Inject your words with your curiosity, your wisdom, your humor, your drive, and/or your personality when you speak.  When you do, your words will really resonate with those listening.
  2. The energy of communication between two or more people is live, and not fixed.  Though we may try mightily to predict what others might say, we have slim chances of doing so because communication is a veritable dance of human energy and creativity.  Enjoy the playing involved in communicating, and avoid trying to control what’s being said.
  3. Listen well to be a good communication partner.  Let others know you are interested in what they say by listening closely (to what is and is not being said) when they are talking.  Good communication often involves patience, as there may be misunderstandings to work through before communication becomes clear.
  4. What people say to us does not bind us.  We decide to be bound or not bound to those words and to people.  Do not be afraid of what’s being said.  But do be very aware and mindful of how you react to what’s being said.
  5. Fulfill your own responsibility in making sure the communication is clear.  If there are discrepancies in times or dates, for example, play it safe and reconfirm details ahead of time to avoid finding yourself in a last-minute rush or panic.  I’m including this lesson here because I recently screwed up a lunch date because I assumed everything will work out just as I think it will.
  6. Communication is an incredibly powerful method to combat anxiety.  That’s the whole premise behind psychotherapy, after all.  When you put words to your problems, you begin to develop a sense of mastery over your fears.  Talk it out.  You can do it.
  7. What you are most afraid of saying aloud is likely the issue you need to address most.  What you are trying to say matters so much more than how you say it, also.
  8. When you feel free to communicate openly and when you need to, you are likely in a healthy environment or relationship.  The inverse of this is also true.
  9. Communication needs to be transactional.  We need not fuss and worry over what we say or feel our words will “make” or “break” things.  We are not the only ones responsible for making communication successful; those we are speaking to share that responsibility and should participate as such.

When Procrastinators begin to rely heavily on avoidance and denial, good communication tends to go out the window.  When Procrastinators feel backed into a corner because of disorganization, lack of preparation, anxiety, or workblock, they may lie to others or isolate themselves in order to feel better.  Unfortunately, when we lie or isolate ourselves from others, our stress tends to escalate quickly, because communication is no longer meaningful or effective at getting our point across.

It’s never too late to change how you communicate.  But good communication only happens with good practice and trust that your words will see you through.

News to Share:

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Registration Going on Now for the October Workout Group

If you are interested in learning more about communication or feel you could use some coaching in that area, sign up for the Procrastination Coach October Workshop Group. The first lesson will be on communication.  The weeks following will include lessons on time management, control and perfectionism, and tools to maintain progress post-Procrastination.  Membership for the month is $10.  I think you’ll dig it.

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Now It’s Personal

I have been thinking about what it means to be personal lately.

The first thing that got me thinking was when my blogging coach Courtney Carver persuaded me to write from a personal vantage point on this blog.  I really wanted to believe I had already been writing in a personal voice, but I hadn’t.  When I made that shift to a more personal voice in my blogposts I really started enjoying writing them more.  Then, my blogging buddy, Diane Elkins, decided she would write with a more personal voice on her blog.  I immediately saw her personality coming through in her blogpost “Single-Tasking Put to the Test” when she started to write this way.  I found myself getting really excited for her.

In thinking about being more personal, I always have to think about my work with my psychotherapy patients.  What is therapy but a longstanding, successful technique to get people to be more themselves.  To be more personal.  It’s often said that it is the ultimate goal to be “happy.”  What I’ve found in working with patients is that sometimes, happiness is not the ideal.  Oftentimes, the unspoken goal for patients is to feel comfortable enough to be their crabby, sarcastic selves (as an example).  In other words, patients begin to feel better after some time spent speaking in a personal voice about their experiences in therapy.  They see the difference it makes when they are able to speak in an unfettered way.

I have found when patients/people/I struggle with working towards ideal versions of how we/I should be, we end up feeling not good enough.  What are we to be if we are not supposed to be ourselves?  All of our flaws, our funnies, our idiosyncracies, our quirks.  Really, where would we be without them?  Without them we would be vanilla, flat, and impersonal.  Kind of like a hotel room for a night.  Nice for a vacation break from reality, but — we probably wouldn’t want to live there.  Our stamp isn’t on the room.  When we don’t express our more personal side we become harder to relate to than we really need to be. That idea, by the way, got Disney over $1.07 billion dollars in the form of one great movie — Frozen.  What will you get out of it?

Where can you add your stamp today?  What factors are holding you back?  How would you feel differently if you let yourself be more personal?

Continue reading

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Let Your People Know

Let people know of changes in your life, both big and small.  It will be calming for you and them.  Here are some situations you might need to let others know about:

  • Did you oversleep?
  • Did you run overtime?
  • Do you feel regretful over what you did?
  • Did you change your mind?
  • Did you realize what you really wanted or needed?
  • Are you changing offices? Or jobs?
  • Are you going to be more available?  Less available?

I think we hesitate to share the running details of our lives for a number of reasons.  We fear people:

  • won’t understand
  • won’t believe us
  • will judge us
  • will think less of us
  • will be inconvenienced by us
  • will be mad at us
  • won’t care

In general, we fear people.  And we fear engaging others because we believe that makes us vulnerable to feeling ashamed, nervous, humiliated, and bad.

Try to remind yourself that other people also know about change.  Other people are going through change right now too.  Don’t be so freaked out about letting other people in on where you are at.  Your situation is not that bad.  If your situation is that bad, you need to let your people know even more urgently.  Isolation when you are experiencing change is a recipe for bad decision making, guilt, stress, and mounting fear.  When you let people know what is going on with you, you will reduce the negative impact of the change you are going through and you will make room for a more positive adjustment.  Best wishes to you as you make this change.

Who do you need to talk to today?

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Resources: Twitter in My Pocket

TwitterI have hesitated to post about using Twitter because I am very new to the Twitter scene and because I am pretty sure Twitter can be used as a method of Procrastinating, rather than a resource for avoiding Procrastination.  That said, I am pushing forward with the post because Twitter is my new favorite thing.

I, of course, Procrastinated on starting Twitter because in my very funny circle of acquaintances, no one uses Twitter.  Yep.  I’m in that crowd.  Then, I started blogging, and well that crowd uses Twitter.  I, of course, still Procrastinated on starting Twitter because I couldn’t fathom how to communicate in the small, alien language of 140 characters.  But, I was increasingly curious and because of the kind mentions (called “retweets”) from my blogging guru Courtney Carver, I was in.  I made the initial Twitter mistake of tweeting an empty message by accident and was also struck by the fear of making a social gaffe while tweeting.  Then I realized what I typically realize — nobody cares about these things and I should keep moving.  I also found myself intrigued.

What I quickly learned after a bit more tweeting is that Twitter is a tremendous resource.  It is:

  • immensely personal as you choose whom to follow and whom to hear from
  • immensely communal as you connect with others when you follow them and when they follow you
  • immensely useful as a way to get recent, relevant information curated by people you look to for that information
  • immensely easy on your time
  • immensely powerful as a learning tool

Here’s a list of some articles that may help you get comfortable using Twitter:

Here are some ideas for what to do next:

  • Sign up and send me a tweet @ChristineLiPhd and I will get back to you to help you get started.
  • Follow me on Twitter (@ChristineLiPhd).  It’s great each time you get a notification of a new follower.  I can’t explain it, but you will understand what I mean when you join up.  You will be the first to know about my newest posts.  You will also get relevant, useful information about fighting Procrastination as I come across it via Twitter.
  • Follow your friends and family on Twitter.
  • Explore people and topics you are interested in.  My recent fascination with Imagine Dragons led me to look them up on Twitter (@ImagineDragons), just to peek at what people were saying about them.  I discovered I am their oldest fan, but not their loudest.
  • Keep up with different companies you might want a job with by following the company on Twitter.  Ear to the ground, people.
  • Get inspiration from authors/authorities/bloggers you admire when you are feeling unsure of how to spark your own writing.
  • Download the Pocket app to keep articles you’d like to read later in your “pocket” and to make sure you don’t use Twitter as a way to distract you from what you want to do.

I am sure you will find ways of engaging with Twitter that are useful to you specifically.  Be creative.  Have fun.  Join in the conversation.  Remember your goofs will soon be forgotten.  See you there.

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Talk In a Straight Line

I wholeheartedly believe one of the more major ways to beat Procrastination is to communicate well.

There are myriad reasons we may feel unable to communicate well:

  • wanting to be polite
  • wanting to not seem pushy
  • wanting to be agreeable
  • wanting to not seem greedy
  • wanting to be liked
  • wanting to not upset the other person
  • wanting to avoid embarrassment

All this wanting leaves us distracted from what we really need to say.  It also causes us to delay, oftentimes unknowingly, communicating anything useful at all.

When we do not represent our needs and wants with our words, then we get messed up.  We end up feeling:

  • distracted
  • nervous
  • burdened
  • misunderstood
  • resentful

So, to avoid this, I recommend talking in a straight line.  What does this mean?  It means say what you mean, and say it in a very straightforward way.  Say it plainly, with a calm voice, and with good eye contact.  Communicate as soon as you have the impulse to, because that is often the best, most well-timed moment to speak.  Ignore your own thoughts that you need to delay speaking to improve your situation.  Speaking up will improve your situation.  Delay, most likely, will only make your situation worse.  Let other people know what you are up to, what you need, how you feel, how you can help, what you think.  Do it straight away.

If you are still doubting the wisdom of talking in a straight line, think football.  We are always impressed by Tom Brady’s passes (straight line) but also can’t help following along when the football is fumbled and no one knows which end is up.  Straight line.  Straight line to the receiver.  The person you need to understand you.

Be like Tom Brady.  At least like he throws a football.

What do you need to communicate today?  Let me know by leaving a reply here or by letting me know on Twitter @christineliphd.

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