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The most powerful ways to defy digital distraction and infobesity

(Business News) Distraction levels are at an all-time high as our culture becomes increasingly obsessed with multi-tasking, but it’s counter-productive. Here’s how to focus once and for all.

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What is “infobesity” and how can it be fought?

Microsoft UK has announced its findings from a recent study labeled ‘Defying Digital Distraction.’ Employees are experiencing ‘infobesity,’ and it’s costing all of us.

Some highlights:
– 40% of employees check their mobile devices constantly just in case something important comes in from work.
– 45% of workers feel that they should reply to work email instantly – no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
– 55% often experience information overload, 43% are stressed as a result, and 34% are just plain overwhelmed.
– 52% check their mobile device for work within 15 minutes of going to bed

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In other late breaking news, my extensive research has found that the results of this study has surprised exactly no one. We all know it. So what can we do about it? As a soon to be father, I find myself thinking often of the lessons from my childhood, and I find that they apply quite well to the current situation.

1. No toys in the bed

My parents wouldn’t allow me to have my GI-Joes in bed for a simple reason: it kept me from falling asleep. Today, we are guilty of the same crime. When we use our phones on work while in bed, we mentally shift back to the problems of the day. Nothing wrecks sleep quicker and slowly erodes our capacity for focus.

Overcoming the endless available digital distractions requires significant mental executive control (powered by glucose). If you aren’t sleeping well, you will not have what you need to be excellent at your job. It’s time to keep the toys out of our beds (and start dreaming of fantasy baseball trades).

2. Keep the Sabbath holy

I stole this advice from my elementary Sunday School teacher. He stole it from God. Which makes sense because more and more research is coming out about our human need to take intentional breaks from work.

Throughout most of history, separating work from the rest of life was far simpler. Your environment dictated your task. If I’m in the field, I’m working. If I’m in the house, I’m playing with my kids. That’s how our brain likes it. Habits are developed in environmentally specific settings.

The problem- multi-use devices wreck these environmentally distinct roles we play. I work anywhere. Play anywhere. Deposit checks anywhere.

Sabbath is simply an intentional time set apart from work to replenish our energy. My wife and I will not use our phones between 7pm and 9pm. Set the times that work for you and stick to them. Keep your Sabbath holy. Because God said so.

3. Spread out on the soccer field

If you want to watch an exercise in wasted energy, go to a Kindergartener’s soccer game. They spend the entire game sprinting after the ball. Eventually, you learn that by spreading out and ‘kicking said ball to person who is relaxing with a mai tai’ you can both save energy and score more goals.

Many of us do the kindergarten equivalent in our email responses. ‘Where do you want to eat.’ ‘I don’t care, you?’ ‘Mexican?’ ‘sure. when?’ ’11:45?’ ‘works for me.’ ‘so what is convenient for you?’… 17 emails later, you have arrived at a decision. This is just one of the 37 ways that we feel productive, but waste our time.

How to stop wasting time and energy

It’s time to stop wasting energy and time. A few ways to do this:

  • Eliminate the expectation of immediate response time. The quicker you respond, typically the less useful your response.
  • Quit with the cc’ing everyone on everything phenomenon. Just stop it. Bosses- stop asking for it. Please.
  • Change the cultural expectations by actually talking about what you expect. It’s time to meet together and discuss when people should be expected to respond. I actually get work done at 8pm while my family watches TV. I don’t need you to respond at 8:35PM. You don’t know that unless I tell you.
  • Ask yourself, ‘what’s the goal of this communication, and how can I eliminate steps to reach that goal?’ (ie. first email: lunch at 11:45 at Mi Cocina on Commerce?”).

Good thing we all learned these lessons in third grade. Now, let’s put them back into practice.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

Business News

So you were asked an illegal question in an interview, now what?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Interviews are nerve racking enough without having to wonder if your potential employer is playing by the rules. Be aware of these tips in case you find they aren’t.

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Interviews are universally nerve-wracking. You’ve got the resume, the references, the outfit – but you never know what your interviewer(s) are going to throw at you.

You expect questions relating to your skills and your ability to do the job, but sometimes a question comes out of left field and you’ve got to scramble for a coherent answer.

“If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors,” asks Apple. And Gallup wants to know, “What was the last gift you gave someone?”

Well, when I ordered a pizza last night, I tipped the delivery person with scissors . . .

Unfortunately, some questions that seem just wacky, or harmless and friendly, are not just inappropriate to ask in an interview, but are actually illegal.

Illegal questions are generally those that request information irrelevant to the job description. Here are the most common categories of illegal questions, shared across all states:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex/Gender/Orientation
  • Military discharge
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability/Health status
  • Marital/family status

Any of this personal information could be used, intentionally or not, to discriminate against them. A direct inquiry regarding any of these topics is obviously off-limits, but sometimes the question might come from a tricky angle.

“When did you graduate college?” = “How old are you?”

With this information, employers could decide you’re too young or old for the role, no matter how qualified you may be.

“Orizaga is an interesting surname – is it Spanish?” = “Are you Hispanic?” A biased interviewer could use this information to determine that you are or aren’t a “good fit.” Similarly, “Is English your native language?” = “Are you from an English-speaking country or not?”

“Is that your maiden name?” = “Are you married?” And so on.

These questions are often asked innocently, by untrained interviewers looking to make conversation. Nonetheless, you don’t have to answer them, and your best bet is to tactfully avoid the question without demanding your constitutional rights in the middle of the interview.

Tone is everything, but if you respond to an illegal question with something along the lines of, “Is that relevant to this role?” in a calm, mild voice, most interviewers will take the hint and move on.

If the situation allows for it, you can keep your answer nice and vague without avoiding the question.

For example, if you’re asked about your college graduation date, you could say, “It’s been a while, but I still view college as one of the best experiences of my life.”

It’s important to note that asking an illegal question is not equivalent to committing a crime. The information must be used in a discriminatory manner, as determined by a court.

If you believe that an act of discrimination has been committed, you should contact a labor attorney, or file a charge with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. Then, order yourself a pizza and ask the delivery person about their scissors.

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Business News

10 time tracking tools for productive freelancers, entrepreneurs

(PRODUCTIVITY) We’re all obsessed with squeezing more out of each day, but what if we used one of these time tracking tools to inject more chill time into our lives?

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Part of today’s culture is seeing how much one can get done in a day. We’re always so “go, go, go” and we treasure productivity.

This is incredibly true for freelancers, and, as such, it makes total sense that app and software technology would capitalize on this need. The following apps and programs are designed to help you save time and/or increase productivity.

1. Timeular: This app is designed to visually show you how you spend your time and, as a result, become more productive. Instead of wondering where your time goes every day, you’ll see it visually. This is done through a physical time tracker, where you can define what you want to track and customize your Tracker. You then connect via Bluetooth and place the Tracker face up with the task that you are working on (if you’re taking a phone call, the symbol facing up would be a phone). It then tracks all of your tasks into a color-coded visualization of the day’s activities. Dangerous for people like me who waste a lot of time on Instagram…

2. Bonsai: This bad boy is time tracking for freelancers. You can break down each project and track time individually in order to see where your time is going and how much is being spent on each entity. You then are able to automate invoices based on the time spent. Genius!

3. Tasks Time Tracker: Say that three times fast. This is a phone app that has multiple timers so you can track more than one thing at a time. This app gives you the option to input billing rates to easily track your earning. You can then export all of the info in a CSV format.

4. Azendoo: Everything in one place. This is a time-tracking service that assists your team’s needs and workflow. It puts project organization, team collaboration, and time reporting all in one place. A cool feature on this is you can input how much time you anticipate spending on a project, and then Azendoo compares that to how much time you actually spent.

5. Continuo: Similar to Timeular, you get to see all of your activities in a color-coded format on a calendar. This lets you easily breakdown how much time is spent on each activity and allows you to plan for the future. You are able to see your progress over time, and see how you’ve gotten faster and more productive.

6. PadStats: Described as “a simple app will help you to learn more about yourself”, PadStats will help you track and analyze your daily activities or daily routine. This app includes more quanity-based tracking, allowing data to be more user-oriented and stats to be more accurate.

7. Pomo Timer: This productivity boosting app is a “Simple and convenient pomodoro timer based on the technique proposed by Francesco Cirillo in the distant 1980s made in a simple and clear design,” according to iTunes. For those who like visually simplicity, this app is for you.

8. Blue Cocoa: This program overturns the stigma of a smartphone being a distraction, by turning it into a productivity tool. You start by creating a timer and working on something, and, if you get distracted, the timer senses this and tries to help. This is all in an effort to keep you on track of your task, while tracking the time spent.

9. Timely: A fully automatic time app. This features automatic time tracking, project time management, and team time management. It works to improve timesheet accuracy, increase project profitability, and optimize team performance.

10. Toggl: This is a simple time tracker that offers flexible and powerful reporting. It works to crunch numbers that you’ll need for reporting, all while syncing between all of your devices.

Pick one or two of the above ten, and reclaim your time. No need to “go, go, go,” if you’re a more productive person – this way you can “chill, chill, chill.”

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Business News

This fake company weeds out crappy clients

(BUSINESS) The former CEO of Highrise used a fake website to weed out toxic clients. How can you keep problematic customers out of your business?

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Sorting through your client list to weed out potentially toxic customers isn’t a process which garners the same attention as a company removing problematic employees, but it’s every bit as important — and, in many cases, twice as tricky to accomplish. One innovative journalist’s solution to this problem was to set up a fake website to act as a buffer between unwanted clients and his inbox.

If you’re anything like Nathan Kontny, your inbox is probably brimming with unread emails, product pitches, and pleas from people with whom you’ve never met in person or collaborated; unfortunately, many of these “people” are simply automated bots geared toward generating more press for their services.

Nathan’s response to this phenomenon was to create a website called “Trick a Journalist” in order to see which potential clients would sign up for the service.

Hilariously enough, the trap worked exactly as planned. Anyone signing up for Trick a Journalist was blacklisted and prevented from signing up for Nathan’s CRM software, with Nathan’s justification being that the CRM software in question should never be used for something so egregiously predatory as Trick a Journalist.

By creating a product which sets apart unwanted clients from the rest of the pack, Nathan succeeded in both attracting and quarantining present and future threats to the integrity of his business.

While this model may not be practicable at face value, there’s an important lesson here: determining the lengths to which your clients will go to gain the upper hand BEFORE working for them is an important task, as your clients’ actions will reflect upon your product or services either way.

Ruthlessness in business isn’t unheard of, but you should be aware of your customers’ tendencies well in advance of signing off on their behavior.

Of course, one minor issue with Nathan’s model of operation is that, invariably, someone will connect Trick a Journalist to his brand and miss the joke entirely.

There are less risky routes to weeding out potentially problematic clients than blacklisting them via a satirical website — though one might argue such routes are less fun — but the end result is essentially the same: keeping unsavory clients out of your inbox and off of your product list.

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