10 Videos That Will Increase Your Productivity

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productivity videos

1. First, let’s start with the science behind productivity.

2. Getting things done is sometimes about saying, “NO!” thinks Steve Jobs.

3. Eddie Obeng tells us productivity is about…failure

4. To be productive, focus on happiness.

5. Productivity may mean ending you social life.

6. Merlin Mann tells Google how to get things done.

7. To be productive, master the “Pomodoro Technique.”

8. Tim Ferris of 4-Hour Workweek fame discusses productivity and introduces the 4 hour day.

9. Take advice from Nick Cave’s creative process and productive work habits.

10. Ray Bradbury’s persistence boosts productivity.

How Georges Simenon Wrote Nearly 200 Books

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simenon productivty tips

Georges Simenon wrote nearly 200 books and is the creator of Jules Maigret, the world’s second most famous pipe-smoking detective. Each of Simenon’s books are not only critical successes, but they remain popular and in print.

But how did Simenon do it? Follows are Simeon’s productivity strategies that we can all learn from.

1. Build Momentum

“On the eve of the first day I know what will happen in the first chapter. Then, day after day, chapter after chapter, I find what comes later,” says Simenon. “After I have started a novel I write a chapter each day, without ever missing a day. Because it is a strain, I have to keep pace with the novel. If, for example, I am ill for forty-eight hours, I have to throw away the previous chapters. And I never return to that novel.” If the momentum is lost the energy and creativity of an idea may be drained. Build momentum for projects; don’t start and stop them.

2. Work in Bursts

Simenon cannot maintain his work rate for weeks at a time. “It’s almost unbearable after five or six days [of writing],” Simenon says. “That is one of the reasons my novels are so short; after eleven days I can’t—it’s impossible…it’s physical. I am too tired.”

After six to eleven days of writing Simenon would spend “three days to a week” editing and cutting down.

He elaborates, “Five or six times a year, at the very most, I retire into my own shell for eight days and, at the end of that time, a novel emerges.”

3. Eliminate Distractions

When asked about his impressive output, Simenon says, “My literary colleagues: they live in Paris, they lead quite worldly lives, and they pursue the manifold activities of men of letters. They give lectures, they write articles, they give innumerable interviews…. But I don’t do any of those things. I live tucked away with my family.” By eliminating all other distraction Simenon can focus on one thing.

4. Don’t Listen to Critics

“All the critics for twenty years have said the same thing: ‘It is time for Simenon to give us a big novel, a novel with twenty or thirty characters.’ They do not understand. I will never write a big novel.” Simeon didn’t let the opinion of critics change is writing style or creative output. He continued to do what he did best.

5. Passion

Simenon, of course, was able to produce so much as a result of pure passion. In one interview he says, “I need to write. If someone gave me the biggest fortune in the world tomorrow, it would make me miserable and physically sick if it served to prevent me from writing.”

Simeon wrote not as a hobby, but as a physical compulsion.

6. Use a Simple Outline 

I know nothing about the events when I begin the novel,” says Simenon. Instead, Simenon simply decides on an atmosphere and, “On [a] envelope I put only the names of the characters, their ages, their families. I know nothing whatever about the events that will occur later. Otherwise it would not be interesting to me.”

Explore problems without working toward a set goal. Let creativity and playfulness yield results.


If you want to increase your productivity, it takes some planning and hard work–and a focus on things that are important to you. Even if your goal isn’t to write detective novels, you can still take a page from Georges Simenon.

How to Stay Humble

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Features, Ideas, Managerial Competence | 2 Comments

As discussed in a previous article, Don’t Let Hubris Be Your Downfall, arrogance and overconfidence can lead to the demise of many leaders. So what should leaders do if they start to go down the wrong path and feel they are losing touch with their humility? Following a few pieces of key advice can make all the difference between a leader who is disliked and must worry about maintaining authority and one who thrives with employees’ admiration and respect.

1. Stay in touch with employees in all levels of the company.

Staying in touch with employees at different levels of the company is really important as it showcases well-rounded involvement with the company and enhances presence. It is also a direct way to detect real problems that are happening throughout the company early. To implement, it can be as simple as regularly visiting other office floors and sites.

2. Go into nature

Many classic poets and novelists knew this secret. Nature can have a powerful humbling effect on the mind. When leaders spend a great deal of time reigning over their man-made kingdom, it helps to get out and see the parts of nature that are more powerful than what they have created. One can take a weekend hiking trip or catch views of a powerful waterfall.

3. Spend time with family and people who like you for you

Along with success comes the presence of opportunists. Sometimes it’s hard to stay grounded when surrounded by people who just want to flatter and praise in order to extract something. It is really important to spend time with family, pets, friends from college, or any people who are more interested in quality time than what you can do for them.

4. Do some hands-on philanthropy

Many leaders are generous and supportive of a multitude of causes. Going out and doing real philanthropy hands-on is another experience. Even if the monetary donation is not high, hands-on charity work has a powerful humbling effect and allows one to appreciate all that one has.

5. Consider moving your office location

Several CEOs have described the benefits of moving their offices to more centralized and accessible locations. Like staying in touch with all employees by moving around, central office locations increase visibility and give other employees the feeling that the leader is directly involved in all company matters.

6. Create systems of checks and balances

One of the best ways to stay humble is to keep your opinions in check. A leader can do this by surrounding himself with people who maintain company values. Limit absolute powers so that several knowledgeable people are involved in making important decisions.

7. Encourage dissent

Maybe it sounds good to hear everyone agree with your views, but how many novel solutions are you really going to come up with if you do not encourage employees to digress? A humble leader knows that having a great idea is not an exclusive act. Besides, ideas are usually enhanced when everyone is encouraged to speak up.

8. Admit and fix mistakes

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you made a mistake. In fact, admitting that as a leader, you still make mistakes is admitting that you are human and real. It is one of the best ways to stay humble as proud leaders are less likely to ever admit that they were wrong.

9. Treat everyone with respect

It is easy to blame people when they make mistakes and ignore achievements of different employees. It is much more fruitful to forgive people for their mistakes, and provide mentorship and motivation so they fix their own errors. Forgiveness and respect go a long way in making you well-liked.

10. Don’t lose the traits that got you there in the first place

Many leaders change their working style once they attain a certain position. However, if the skills that led to your success include things like the ability to collaborate, then it does not make much sense to suddenly become a one-person act. Remember which traits directly contributed to your success, then work on honing those skills, not abandoning them.

How Important Is Natural Talent?

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In a recent article written in the Wall Street Journal, author Heidi Grant Halvorson tries to dispel the “Success Myth.”

So what is this myth about? According to her research, it is about how people attribute success and high accomplishments to innate ability or inborn talent. In other words, because most of us believe that there are things we are naturally better at than others, we tend to invest our time in those things that come easily to us and divest our time from things that require more effort.

The problem with this approach is that Halvorson does not buy into the idea that success is really about innate ability in the first place. As a Ph.D. in motivational psychology and an author who essentially studies achievement for a living, she repeatedly finds that measures of “ability” such as intelligence, creativity, and IQ are quite poor predictors of future success.

According to her findings, the real predictor of success is strategizing. Strategies like being committed, recognizing temptations, planning ahead, monitoring progress, and persisting when the going gets tough, are amongst those that she claims make all the difference between success and failure.

Thinking that success is contingent on innate ability can lead down a slippery slope and unnecessarily become a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Buy into her theory? If so, read about in her own words: “The Success Myth

Is Charisma Enough?

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Last week Professor Samuel Bacharach wrote Charisma Is Not Enough. Great Leaders Execute for Inc.’s online blog.

Leadership isn’t about vision, personality, or bright ideas. As the article illustrates–it’s about execution and getting things done. Here’s an excerpt:

“As an entrepreneur, as a leader, as a person with drive and ambition, what you care about is moving from potential to execution and that means moving an agenda. Charisma and vision may get you in the door, they may even get you elected, but in  the final analysis, leadership is about execution.”

Leadership in Higher Education: The Skills of Political Competence

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innovation safety leaders

In my neighborhood job security meant working for AT&T, teaching K-12, or joining the ranks or higher education. The latter career track came with the additional advantage of containing a bit of prestige. But there was also a sense of calling, a sense that you’d be serving some collective good by adding to the knowledge of society, and moving truly important agendas ahead.

You also entered higher ed because you felt it wouldn’t be a pressure cooker and the ruthlessness of the private sector wouldn’t rear its head every time you made a mistake.

Well, things have changed.

In a world where AT&T can’t provide job security and the U.S. auto industry almost disappeared, we can’t assume that you favorite college or university will be there tomorrow.

For years higher ed has been dominated by two mantras. One for administrators: “Leave well enough alone and things will get done in their due time.” The other for academics: “Let’s have a faculty meeting.”

But now the clock is ticking.

Higher ed is no longer the proverbial, angelic, oasis amidst a sea of private-sector sharks (if it ever was). Today, higher-ed organizations must keep moving in order to stay afloat. The Ivy League right down to the smallest of community colleges can no longer be guided by the stars—they need leadership that is proactive, pragmatic, and aware that change is crucial. They need the type of leadership that gets things done.

First and foremost leaders in higher ed must understand the three reasons universities and colleges often resist change.

  1. Intransigent culture: Leaders in higher ed must appreciate how to subtly move around the deep culture which has been celebrated and worked for so long. The very culture that has given higher ed its identity must now be adjusted.
  2. Turf protection: Higher ed is an arena of turf and silos. In a world of minimum resources, zero-sum games, and department elimination, this is becoming more evident. We need leaders who have political competence and can mobilize around these issues.
  3. Tension between administration & faculty: Traditionally, there has always been tension between administrators and faculty and each group quickly dismisses the other. Each has their own stereotypes of the other. It’s the false distinction between a stereotypical bureaucrat and a stereotypical academic. In a world where we want to increase shared services and shared missions, leaders must help administrators and faculty come together.

In the context of all this leaders within both the faculty and the administration must develop a degree of political competence. They must understand how to bring people together, mobilize around agendas, and sustain change.

A number of years ago, a colleague of mine told me, when assuming the chair of a large science department, “I don’t do politics.”

My answer was, “Don’t be a chairperson.”

The university is a maze of mixed interests, mixed agendas, and inconsistent visions. Political competence is the minimum we should ask of leaders in higher ed.

Word Processed Plagiarism

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Creativity, Features, Ideas | One Comment

I used to doze off at night chanting obscure citation formatting rules from all the major players in town: MLA, APA, Chicago, even Turabian on some particularly insomnia-stained evenings. For a brief period before I fabricated some semblance of a social life, my homepage was EasyBib.com. As a law-abiding citizen who only jaywalked when a red light obstructed a closing kitty-corner Chipotle, plagiarism seemed like a surefire way to win a date with the 5-o. I figured citations would avoid (police) citations and I cited to within an inch of my life. I even fantasized of winning a Pulitzer someday for one of my immaculate bibliographies.

Why then do I feel like a corrupted, plagiarizing criminal? Maybe it is because even as I compose this confession, I wage a literary crime spree. I plead the Fifth as I reveal that everything from that last paragraph to this clause is riddled with lifted language. If someone handcuffed me now I would start typing with my nose because you should know of the unprosecuted plagiarism saturating our word-processed existence.

The culprit: Almost everyone

The mechanism: A Thesaurus

Aliases: Review: Proofing: Thesaurus; Shift-F7; Thesaurus.com;

I’d pause for dramatic effect but my thesaurus suggests that I might alternately adjourn for theatrical suspense. So go to the bathroom/lavatory, call your lawyer/attorney, and we’ll resume/commence in the next section/paragraph.

Ok welcome back…We’re all guilty of the occasional thesaurus indulgence. Personally, when my creative juices run dry, I’ve leaned on the thesaurus like it’s a Segway that will effortlessly transport me to my conclusion. My thesaurus probably deserves a Cornell degree for its brilliant text on subjects ranging from “Scientology and American Dissent” to “Andorra’s Crisis in Democracy”. You can argue that the thesaurus is as innocuous as an internet translator but when you’re translating from shoddy slang to polished prose is it really a pardonable offense?

Well you tell me. I think similar to sourcing Wikipedia and leaning on a Smartphone during a trivia competition, thesaurus plagiarism falls into a certain ethical purgatory. Is it dishonest, corrupt, amoral, immoral, devious, deceitful, wrong, unethical, and dishonorable? Possibly. But maybe it’s also practical, proactive, pragmatic, realistic, and sensible.

Fundamentally, does a leader use a thesaurus? Is leadership synonymous with plagiarism?

Pic Credit: autumn_bliss

Mourning Commute

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As a freshly minted college graduate waiting for the paint to dry on my diploma (there was a spill…), I’m still developing my capacity to complete the daily commute. I have heard horror stories of road weary professionals commuting by plane, train, Segway, or blimp to locations ranging from Andorra to Mordor. This stands in distressing contrast to my understanding of a commute, which during academia years meant the journey from my bed to the bathroom. During that voyage, the only traffic I encountered was other roommates and debris from last night’s party. Now, as I ricochet from school into real world, it’s time for my real education in the morning commute.

I live on the border of two Chicago neighborhoods: Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village. Occasionally I straddle this abstract border and loiter in Wicker Village or Ukrainian Park. One phantasmagorical afternoon I think I even discovered a Wicker Ukrainian.

I work on the 16th floor of the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago’s downtown Loop. Google Maps tells me it is 2.6 miles away but as someone who struggles with punctuality I think they should factor in the vertical commute at the receiving end. So with a 331 ft elevation change let’s call my commute an even 2.6627 miles.

Until Chicago finally completes a zeppelin and zip line system—sustainable, but a safety hazard—my commuting options include the paradoxical underground elevated train, bus, taxi, foot, bike, hitchhiking, Zamboni, or infant stroller. While I’ve considered each individually and in combination, I’ve settled on bicycling because I have a snazzy helmet that reminds me of the Commander Keen video game.

So after the howls from my “Agitated Lemur” alarm clock rouse me from slumber town I sprint through my bathroom commute, toss on a neck noose, and jump on my wheels. The first person I interact with in the morning is the drowsy Dodge driver I cut off as I cross Ashland Ave. Then like butter on a chalkboard, I glide over to Milwaukee and sew myself into the string of bicycles commuting to work.

Every morning has ups, downs, potholes, snowdrifts and loopty-loops when I enter the Loop. At the corner of Kinzie and Milwaukee, I bike past the Blommer Chocolate Company where I enjoy approximately 13 seconds of sublime olfactory bliss. Soon fudge melts into urban haze and I arrive at the Thompson Center.

It would take an intricate novella or nimble interpretative dance to explain how I deposit my bike in my building’s basement and trek up 331 ft but let me just say Blommer Chocolate is not the only Willy Wonka-esque moment of my commute.

So I suppose I’m now an adult with an adult commute. Yet is this really something to mourn when my mornings are full of cocoa loops in addition to Cocoa Pebbles? Maybe I should celebrate the quacking lemurs as a sign of a new morning adventure. That or I should just lobby the governor to finish the zip line…

Pic Credit: Art Rock (Hennie)

Recycling Plant & Recycling a Plant (Part 2)

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Part 2: Recycling a Plant

Ok here we go. A “Part 2”. This is a very adventurous and presumptuous endeavor on my part to attempt a Part 2 of anything. Part 2 suggests that I have some loyal audience that meticulously follows my work and was left trembling in anticipation at the end of my Part 1. I think George Lucas had it right in his Star Wars chronology. Next time I’ll start a blog post at Part 4 and leave readers scrambling to find the previous contributions. When they discover these do not exist, perhaps they will appreciate the creativity and eagerly await the missing posts. Ok, enough of this meta blog analysis. On to Part 2:

In Part 1 of this series, I praised the efforts of a for-profit recycling plant in Chicago, IL. Now with the insertion of “an” indefinite article, I have the opportunity to share a story of Chicago creativity and innovation that elevates modern recycling into the stratosphere (or onto the 5th floor of a Chinatown loft to be more precise). Consider this story of “Recycling a Plant”.

In an earlier post on this blog, I introduced the site CouchSurfing.com, “a social networking site designed to connect travelers around the universe,” to generous hosts. The site also offers a local events page that sustains and enhances community involvement. On that page, I discovered this event for “Funky Chinatown – A Funk, Soul, and Disco Loft Party.” The page included this notice about the event:

For exact directions, please RSVP to CHINATOWNFUNK@GMAIL.COM
– include Name + # of Guests so I can get a good headcount.”

My mom once mentioned something in passing about avoiding secret, funky, CouchSurfing, Chinatown parties staged in abandoned lofts with “a ton of beer and cocktails for free.” On the other hand, my mom often offers advice so sometimes I have to pick and choose when to comply…

I’m glad I followed my gut (even if my liver is slightly peeved) because the evening illustrated how a group of creative individuals can convert an abandoned loft into a productive community music and art space. In between funky dancing that put my Bar Mitzvah to shame, I connected with travelers from around the world and exchanged gripping stories of Couch Surfing exploits. Instead of wasting my evening consuming money, time, and space at a neighborhood haunt, I recycled stories and a stunning loft space and converted them into an unforgettable evening.

I started this series with the question: what is the difference between a recycling plant and recycling a plant? The answer is that they offer distinct and innovative ways to enhance sustainability and create community. The recycling plant promoted environmentalism through pragmatic corporate action while the loft party enhanced community while using an abandoned industrial space.

I guess the essential difference is then that the recycling plant did not play funky tunes. Maybe that would increase efficiency?

To read (or re-read) Part 1: Recycling Plant, click here.

Recycling Plant & Recycling a Plant (Part 1)

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Part 1: Recycling Plant

What’s the difference between a recycling plant and recycling a plant? Just to clarify, I am not speaking about agriculture here; in my urban Chicagoland jungle, plant means industry. As is my nature, after moving to a new location, I frenetically bushwhack through metropolitan mulch. I dodge chain restaurants like weeds (aside from Chipotle) and sniff out those hidden flowers that flash the true colors of the city.

My recent harried wanderings have delivered me to this recycling riddle comparing a recycling plant and recycling an (industrial) plant. This first post introduces the recycling plant with my commentary progressing soon on the interwebs.

During my first month blustering around the windy city, I have happened upon various hidden gems of the visual, theatrical, and edible persuasions. All were stunning or enlightening with the exception of an unfortunate goat tostada from La Basura Bodega that seemed to enlighten nothing but my septic system.

A rapid run bike through of my few weeks here would reveal adventures including but not limited to:

1)  Watching the sunrise over Lake Michigan

2)  Doing headstands in my office where I work for the Governor of Illinois

3)  Driving an entirely electric car from Nissan at sunset along the lake

4)  Going out for pizza with the Governor

5)  Assembling a bicycle (with help) and then biking 20 miles roundtrip to Chicago’s Desi corridor for delicious delicacies from Pakistan and India

6)  Hula hooping with 500+ people and professional fire dancers/drummers during a Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam. Click here and here for stunning pictures.

7)  Attending and participating in various art and performance installations around the city

8)  Blasting Kanye/Jay-Z while driving a government car around Illinois to report on hearings

9)  Mingling with glitterati at a wine and hors d’oeuvre reception at the Chicago Yacht Club

10) Exploding over bike handlebars and onto pavement after losing a battle with a curb

Yet this week may take the cake (or flan depending on where you are).  Last Thursday in a nostalgic reminder of the pleasures of elementary school, I took a field trip during work. No need to forge any parental permission slips, though. It was a sanctioned tour of Recycling Services, a private company that exists as the largest recycling service in Chicago.

My tour was a refreshing reminder that matter does not simply disappear after you flush the toilet or drag a trash bag to the curb. My enthusiasm waxed as I watched in graphic, gory detail the process of collecting, sorting, sanitizing, and monetizing our recycling goods. I saw employees meticulously extract waste materials from accelerating conveyor belts and shred materials before compressing and packaging the scraps. The tour culminated with a delicious feast of wine, cheese, shrimp, and gourmet hamburgers after which I was sure to recycle and compost my utensils and food.

It was an impressive display in a city that proactively sustains recycling infrastructure. It even allays conservative or libertarian environmental skepticism because it succeeds through capitalistic, free market participation. This for-profit recycling plant wants to make money. It makes money by increasing recycling. It’s a win-win.

In a recessionary world of big industry that wants to Thank You for Smoking, it’s exciting to see this type of plant thriving. As the owner explained, “Paper is booming in the capital markets”. It’s almost enough to make me print this blog out and recycle the paper. But not quite. Yet how does one go further and actually recycle an industrial plant. Stay tuned…

The adventure continues in Part 2: Recycling a Plant, available by clicking here.