Deep work and how to shield yourself from distraction

Today’s business world is a loud world. Information and knowledge workers spend most of their time in open office spaces. E-mail and Social Media Messages chase people across all digital devices 24/7. Attention is switched between subjects so quickly, that the mind can barely keep up. This article is about the need to find a way out of this state of constant distraction and into what Cal Newport calls “Deep Work, (the) professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to the limit.”

shield yourself from distraction

The new world of information work

After years of optimising production and manufacturing with concepts like Kaizen, the focus has changed to the productivity of the knowledge worker. Inspired by the spirit of the New Economy  companies introduced open office space concepts in an attempt to resolve boxed thinking and “sitting”. Almost simultaneously the world of business software picked up on the newly introduced social media and networking concepts. A billion people on Facebook had to be an indicator that people loved being connected in the digital world. But e-mail had already become the every day, and sometimes all night, companion of the employee who wants to show dedication and climb the career ladder as quickly as possible. Being “present” on the other end of the digital line – irrespective of personal situation or time of day – was turned into an implicit requirement for the ambitious. The new social messaging, chat feed and collaboration channels now add to the already constantly humming e-mail box and have begun to chase people with additional notifications across all devices.

Nowadays, the walls of time zones, offices and hierarchies have been (almost) broken down. Combined with a 24/7 exchange and information flow, the knowledge worker is facing a completely new challenge: a million voices that want an answer – ideally a quick one.

The inbox dictates every day’s agenda

Mobile e-mail, social-style communications and ever present wireless internet have changed expectations for turnaround times. “Immediate” is the new “well informed”. Too often it’s not about substance anymore but the availability of an answer in almost real time. Inboxes dictate the day’s agenda across all devices and because there is more than one person waiting for an answer, actual “work time” gets pushed back…and back…and back.

The information worker is conditioned to an unhealthy multi tasking mode in order to even stay somewhat afloat in the avalanche of requests and digital distractions. The Bryan College has published an impressive info graphic on the annual loss of productivity (est. US$ 450bn globally) because, based on their research, millenials switch their focus 27 (twentyseven!!) times an hour.

Source: Bryan College – Millennials Multitasking in the Workplace

How to shield yourself from distraction?

Self organisation and discipline sounds like the lame advice that parents gave when school got tough. “You just need to be a bit more organised and ignore all the distractions”.

If you listen to people like Jeff Bezos or Ashton Kutcher, it doesn’t seem so far off the actual solution to the problem, though. In an interview with TechCrunch Bezos said: “(…) I like to be doing whatever I’m doing. I don’t like to multi-task. If I’m reading my email I want to be reading my email (…) I multi-task serially.” Ashton Kutcher, a serious business investor for those who only know him as a goofy guy from television, revealed his simple secret to getting ahead of work at an AirBnB Spotlight event: “When I wake up…I spend the first hour of my work not looking at email, and actually just writing out what it is that I want to accomplish in a given day. And then before I go through my emails, I’ll do all my outgoing, outbound stuff, which is what I want everyone else to do for me. And then I’ll go and get reactive to whatever’s going on.”

“Yes, but I am neither a billionaire nor a TV star. I have to do what people ask me to do,” is what you’re probably thinking right now. However, if you take a step back it’s not about “full control”. It’s about taking the amount of control that it necessary to get things done. According to Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, this won’t be for more than 4 hours of the day, even for the really advanced.

Turn off the voices & temptations and take control over your work

Cal Newport believes that 2 hours of Deep Work, the state of mind in which substantial value creation happens, is realistic for the average Joe. For those two hours it’s about stepping away from all the channels that scream for your attention and from all the notifications, likes & shares, that want to reward you for the small contributions that you have made to the digital world.

Then it’s about being in control of the personal agenda:

  • What do I have to do?
  • When do things have to be done?
  • Where is the information I need, to make well informed decisions?

The more organised the personal workspace or better still, work eco system is, the easier to retain the overview and have all the pieces at hand to solve the puzzle. Two hours of focussed, undistracted work in an organised world can be an eternity. Compared to the 27 attention fractions, that are cramped into a colleague’s hour, it’s productivity on steroids.

Fleep wants to help enable Deep Work experiences

Besides the discipline to “take time out” from the voices and distractions, at Fleep we believe that Deep Work requires a new place to organise communication around knowledge work. The inbox has reached its limit. Conversations and facts get distributed and disconnected in e-mail threads. Action items get lost in digital ping pong. Enter Fleep, a place where all your digital conversations take place, in one place.

We have consciously decided not to hound our users with notifications and bouncing icons in task-bars by default. We want our users to decide for themselves how notifications appear. Or the frequency in which e-mail reminders are sent.  Or even when others see whether their message has been read or not. We want you to shield yourself from distraction.
Fleep is built to radically improve the way people work alone and together on projects. And this irrespective of whether they are all Fleep users or engaged in conversations with others via e-mail. With this confidence, users can visit the conversation they want to focus on in the moment when they want to focus on it – and they are always in charge. Always.

Fleep focusses heavily on making digital communication a pleasant experience again. But we have gone even further, in Fleep you’ll find baked-in light weight collaboration features like assignable task lists or pinned messages (aka reminders) within conversations, primarily for those users who aren’t using suites like Trello or Asana.

Shield yourself from distraction and try the Deep Work experience!

Sign up for Fleep today. It’s free. It’s addictive. It can become your one single hub for private and business conversations thanks to it’s open network and inter-operability with E-mail.

Yes, let me try Deep Work mode!

Manage Business Conversations with Fleep.

Get your team ready for Deep Work. Put the power over their attention span back in their hands. At the same time Fleep for Business offers full control over access & user accounts through extended administration features. So you and your team can enjoy the full Fleep experience plus the admin rights you need for a business environment​​​​​​​.

My Team deserves the Deep Work experience. Sign me up!

 

About the author

philipp

Philipp is a  business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!

10 Helpful Tools That Can Make Your Remote Team Work Faster

Remote work has become the most influential trend on the labor market in the last few years. It enables employers to cut the logistics costs, while employees have the opportunity to achieve a work-life balance and avoid commuting. This is why freelance economy grew to 55 million Americans last year, which is more than a third of total U.S. workforce. It’s also why it’s important to pay attention to tools that can make your remote team work faster.

Make Your Remote Team Work Faster

Hiring a group of remote workers doesn’t guarantee success because you still need to establish the right kind of company culture and utilize a set of digital tools to make your business profitable. In this article, let’s take a look at 10 helpful tools that can make your remote team work faster.

Best tools to make your remote team work faster

The Internet is full of useful collaboration tools, so it’s rather difficult to choose only 10 items. But after a couple of weeks of weighing pros and cons, I picked two tools in each of the five different categories.

Tasks

Remote teams demand extra attention to task management and can use tools like Trello, Worksection, or Fleep to set, monitor and control tasks completion process.

  • Trello

Trello, the card-based project management software, is perfect for teams of all sizes which conduct multiple tasks simultaneously. Each task is presented on the dashboard and everyone can see how it progresses. Besides that, team members can add comments, checklists, and due dates. Although it offers a lot of collaboration functions, Trello is simple to understand and use. It doesn’t come for free but the prices are reasonable – around $12 per user per month.

  • Worksection

Worksection has only one purpose and it’s to make your business easier. It splits projects into stages, tasks, and subtasks. Using its timeline visualization, you can never forget due dates. Its user interface is friendly and simple, allowing you to see all details at a glance. This tool is perfect for large units with dozens or even hundreds of remote workers involved in the everyday business. The price depends on the features you choose such as the number of users or projects and file storage capacity.

  • Fleep Tasks

Fleep Tasks offer lightweight task management planted natively in the chat for teams. While they are not as complex and feature-rich as Trello or Worksection, Fleep Tasks definitely have the benefit of context – of being able to discuss and refer back to the discussions and decisions made regarding the tasks, right in the same chat app. Additionally, the main functionality is available to use for completely free – with Fleep for Business offering admin controls for those who need them.

Productivity

Some employers don’t like remote workers because of their low productivity but you can avoid this issue using Pomodoro or Forest.

  • Forest

Forest is an alternative method to save your time and use it productively. It enables you to stay focused on work planting a digital tree. As long as you keep working, the plant will continue to grow and become a beautiful tree. But as soon as you open one of the websites from your blacklist – Facebook or Reddit, for instance – the tree will wither away. The app is cost-free.

  • Pomodoro

Pomodoro helps users to improve time management. It’s a great app which integrates with other software products that you use and allows you to handle tasks in a timely manner.

Time control

This is a key element in each business, especially when making payments. Toggl and RescueTime will give you a hand with this feature.

  • Toggl

Toggl is an online time-tracking app which follows and analyzes time entries to determine the productivity of each remote employee. It monitors all activities in real-time through the cloud service and reports about the efficiency of any given project. It detects where you lose most of the time and suggests what it is that you can change to become more productive. You can use the starter pack, enterprise solution, or a premium member option.

  • RescueTime

RescueTime follows and analyzes your daily habits to see how you spend your time online. It runs in the background of your IT gadgets and gives you a precise overview of activities each day and you can set it to remind you of certain tasks. The best thing about RescueTime is that it sends you a notification when you surpass a daily usage limit, for instance on Facebook. You can take a free 14-day trial before switching to the premium version. Or you can simply use RescueTime Lite for free.

File exchange

A convenient and fast file exchange is extremely important for remote teams, which is why they use Google Drive and Dropbox.

  • Google Drive

Google Drive is one of the most popular online collaboration tools worldwide, so we really think it doesn’t need a big introduction. To put it simply, Google Drive changed the way professionals in all industries share and exchange ideas, files, and documents. It allows individual users up to 15 GB of free file storage.

  • Dropbox

Dropbox is another world-known remote work service. This cloud-storage provider gathers more than 500 million registered users globally thanks to the effective file sharing solutions. All your documents are stored centrally and you can find them without problems using anyone of your electronic devices anytime you need them. It is free for freelancers and individual users but you can also try Dropbox Business free of charge.

Editing

Serious businesses demand precise and serious writing skills.

  • Bestessays.com.au

Bestessays.com.au is a highly professional editing service. Bearing in mind that most of the remote teams don’t include expert editors, it is essential to keep your official documents error free. This is especially important when it comes to public files, company presentations, and client proposals. Bestessays.com.au can help you with all sorts of tasks: from case studies and research proposals to speeches and PowerPoint presentations. Their prices differ based on the type of work, timing, and the level of quality that you demand.

  • Professional Editing Services

Professional Editing Services is one of the best agencies in the field when you demand value for money. Their turnaround times are excellent while the price is just $0.032 per word. You won’t be charged for document revision if it’s the writer’s mistake. There is a 25% price increase in case you demand a specific styling work – but it’s definitely worth it.

Conclusion

The market is full of good tools – and the tools highlighted in this blog post are the ones that came in most handy for me. These tools can really make your remote team work faster.

Zake AlfieZake Alfie is an SEO blogger and search engine optimization expert. He is in charge of several online projects and provides consultations on optimization and website promotion. He loves experimenting and finding new SEO tactics. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter!

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3 Simple, but Powerful Ways to Boost Company Culture

Boost Company Culture

In September 2016, The Alternative Board interviewed hundreds of business owners to discover what helps boost company culture. Not only did the results reveal that company culture plays a huge role in driving productivity and profits, but the study also showed that company culture requires a lot more than team building exercises to be effective.

According to the results, 86% of entrepreneurs agree that company culture is a major contributor to their success. What was less unanimous is how that company culture is established.

More business owners who identified their company as having a “strong company culture” believe that flexible schedules (78%), telecommuting (36%) and continuing education (82%) boost productivity than business owners who identify their company as having  “average or weak” culture (58%, 23%, and 77%, respectively).

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how these 3 factors help boost company culture.

1. How & Why Flexible Schedules Boost Company Culture

A study led by Clare Bambra at Durham University measured employees with flexible working arrangements (self-scheduling, non-traditional office hours, flextime, etc.) vs. employees whose schedules were strictly dictated by their employers. The results showed positive impacts on the health and well being of employees who were given more flexibility, including improvements in sleep, mental health and even blood pressure. In fact, one study found a decrease in systolic blood pressure and heart rate as a response to flexible scheduling.

It’s not surprising that the traditional work schedule causes stress on the mind and body. Having little-to-no time to get personal tasks done during the workweek turns weekends into to-do lists rather than much needed recharge breaks. Not being able to pick up the kids from school or the dry cleaning before the shop closes are unnecessary stressors that distract employees from peak productivity.

Matt Fiedler, TAB Member and CEO of Vinyl Me, has found that flexible work schedules are incredibly important (and valuable) to his employees, allowing them to “catch up on whatever they need to do, while allowing them freedom to do laundry, run errands, take a long weekend, etc.”

Many companies that emphasize flexible schedules also encourage employees to use the time to hit the gym midday. Not only does this boost afternoon energy, but it ensures employees are healthier inside and out.

After experimenting with taking an exercise break midday for a week, Twitter cofounder Evan Williams found that he needed fewer breaks and less coffee throughout the day. “It feels weird (at first) to leave the office in the middle of the day,” said Williams, “but total time spent is nearly the same with higher energy and focus across the board.”

remote work

2. How and Why Remote Work Boosts Your Company Culture

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average travel time to work in the United States is 25.4 minutes. That’s 4.23 lost hours a week and 220.13 hours a year. Long traffic-filled commutes often get in the way of getting a good night’s sleep, starting your day off right, among other surefire productivity killers.

A survey from TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm, titled “What Leaders Need To Know About Remote Workers” compared responses from full-time remote employees to employees with more traditional working arrangements. According to the results, the average remote worker rates their happiness at work as 8.10, compared to other workers, whose average score was 7.42.

While more traditional employers worry that remote work will compromise communication and culture, employers who have tried remote work in their office disagree. “Working remotely means not having to deal with culture sucks [commute, hours, etc.], and we can still create a fun, positive environment to work in,” says Dave Nevogt, Co-Founder of the fully remote Hubstaff.com. “In fact, we can take time saved from meetings and commuting and use it to get to know our employees better.” So it’s no wonder remote work can boost company culture.

Continuing Education

3. How and Why Continuing Education Boosts Your Company Culture

A study from Louis Harris and Associates revealed that 41% of employees with little-to-no training opportunities were committed to leaving their company’s within a year. Meanwhile, of those who rated their company’s educational opportunities as “excellent,” only 12% had any intentions of leaving.

According to Inc. Contributor Lou Dubois, “Investing in your employees through a continuing education program shows that you value their contributions and want to see them succeed.” Dubois recommends implementing a continuing education program for employees through local university departments, certification instructors and/or tuition reimbursement.

“Investing in employees’ future is more important than immediate compensation,” says Eric Rolfe Greenberg, AMA’s director of management studies.” Programs that improve work skills and future career development are seen as particularly effective.”

According to the majority of business owners who completed TAB’s Company Culture survey, the #1 function of company culture is to “empower people.” Flexible schedules, working at home, remote work and continuing education all help to empower employees by allowing them the freedom and resources to thrive.

Of course, you don’t have to jump in the deep end with any of these strategies. Get started by offering flex time on a probationary basis, or offer one work-from-home day a week – and do look into some tips on how to work in a remote team. Or perhaps offer each employee $500 per quarter for the continuing education of their choosing. Start small and measure the effects. If it could boost your bottom line, it’s certainly worth a try!

Jodie ShawJodie Shaw is the Chief Marketing Officer for The Alternative Board (TAB). Prior to joining TAB, Jodie was the Global Chief Marketing Officer and CEO of a global business coaching franchise, which operated in 50+ countries. Results orientated, Jodie is focused on growing TAB’s presence on a local, national and global level.

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Introducing Fleep for Business

Fleep for Business

Today we are thrilled to announce Fleep for Business for organizations who want administrative control over accounts, conversations and teams in Fleep.

Why Fleep for Business?

We have built Fleep for everybody and we want everybody to use it. That means you get unlimited message history, teams, integrations and everything you’ll ever need for free. We don’t want to put essential things behind a paywall.

We have also built Fleep in a way that would minimize administrative overhead. So for example, everyone can add and remove members from conversations and teams, or change the settings for them. As there’s always visibility into who has changed something through the system messages, this works fine for many of our users.

However, what we’ve also been hearing year after year is that many businesses need administrative control over their employees’ Fleep accounts, conversations and teams.

It’s not so much that businesses don’t trust their employees. In the end, you just want to prevent accidents, have a smooth way to bring people on board and inevitably some day, remove people from your company’s Fleep conversations.

So, we developed Fleep for Business to offer a powerful set of admin features designed specifically to address the needs of businesses using Fleep, and help the managers sleep peacefully at night, knowing they have full control over their company’s Fleep content through the Admin panel.

Fleep for Business

More control, fewer worries

You don’t have to just take our word for it. This is what pilot users of Fleep for Business have said:

“With 100+ employees all around the world, automation is key for us. The benefits of an admin control panel allows us to create predefined teams and conversations, so when on-boarding a new member of staff its a simple as adding in an email address and selecting the correct team, they are operational in minutes.” – Jo from WUN

“While our team has been very dependable and trustworthy regarding staying organized in Fleep, centralized administrative control is a feature we have wanted for quite some time now. The feature gives us peace of mind that accidental history disclosures and unauthorized configuration changes are a thing of the past. Also, seeing our own logo in the Fleep client is awesome!” – Devin from Oxide Network

In addition to all of our functionality that will remain available for all free users, here are the additional, new features available now with Fleep for Business.

  • Admin controlled accounts

In the free version of Fleep all users own their accounts. Admin controlled Fleep accounts belong to the organization paying for Fleep for Business. This means the organization admins can deactivate and delete the admin controlled accounts, for example.

Do note that any free user can be invited to Fleep for Business. Then, they need to accept the invite to hand over the account to the organization. Also, all admin controlled accounts can be removed from the organization, and thus converted into free accounts.

  • Admin controlled conversations and teams

In the free version of Fleep, everyone can add and remove members to conversations and change the settings. With Fleep for Business, you have admin control over conversations. This means the admins have full control over the membership and settings of these conversations. Same applies to admin controlled teams.

In addition to that, admin control means that when someone is removed from a conversation, it is now possible to remove their access to the message history. This is not possible with the free version of Fleep.

  • Use your own logo in Fleep

Fleep for Business organizations can use their own shiny logo in Fleep. This means the logo you upload will be shown to all of the admin controlled accounts in their desktop version, instead of the Fleep logo. For example, if Google started using Fleep for Business, this is how Fleep would look like to them:

Fleep for Business

Additionally, all admin controlled accounts will have the organization’s name shown in their Profile. So, in any communication across organizational borders, you’ll be identified with your organization.

  • Priority support

We value your time as much as you do – we understand that in a high-performing business, any questions and problems must be addressed quickly. This is why support requests coming from any Fleep for Business user (admins as well as regular admin controlled accounts) will be highest priority for our support team.

How to get started

All you need to do is start the free 30-day trial on our Pricing page or just head directly to fleep.io/admin.

If you’re a Fleep user already, it couldn’t be easier to convert your existing team – it will be offered to you after you start your trial. All the team members will be invited to join your Fleep for Business organization, and the team and its conversations will be converted into admin controlled ones. All of this is reversible, if you decide to go back to free use of Fleep.

Fleep for Business is €5 per account per month (when paid annually). Learn more at fleep.io/pricing or in this Help Center article: What is Fleep for Business?

Launching a paid subscription allows us to build a sustainable business model. This in turn allows us to deliver the best messaging solution to all of our users. It’s a win-win!

This is the beginning of Fleep for Business. Your feedback and requests will play a crucial role in what will become of it. So do let us know what you think via support@fleep.io . Let’s also stay in touch through our social media channels. We’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

15 Myths about Productivity

15 myths about productivity

It seems like the topic of productivity has been completely covered. Oh, it’s so covered… we can’t even recognize its essence under the pile of tips. Have you ever noticed how the most common productivity tips are making you less productive when you implement them?

That’s because they are myths. Today is the time to expose them in all their falseness and hollowness. We’ll list the top 15 myths about productivity.

1. The More You Work, The More You Accomplish

Oh no, no, no! All those articles keep telling you to wake up early and seize the day. Well, guess what: quantity does not always mean quality. One hour of work beyond your capacity will easily lead to a burnout.

Let me remind you again: what does productivity mean? Achieving more by doing less.

You should find a strategy that helps accomplish more not by working more, but by working more productively.

2. Focus on the Big Picture

Yes, the big goal matters, but so do the small steps you take towards it. When you’re too focused on the big picture, you tend to lose the details. Why don’t you focus on the entire picture instead?

3. Multitasking Equals Efficiency

The multitasking “productivity tip” actually hurts your efficiency. If you’re preparing a meal while working on that paper, you’re distracted again. Yes, the pasta may cook itself while you do your work. However, the thought of the meal being prepared will constantly be at the back of your mind. It won’t let you focus completely.

When you’re working on a specific task, devote all of your energy to it. That’s the only way to achieve full efficiency.

4. Create a Quiet Working Space

Yes, that might work for some – those who like working in quiet. But what about those who don’t?

If you feel like you’re working better at a coffee shop, library, or even a noisy office, use the work environment that suits you.

15 Myths about Productivity

5. Always Busy Means Always Productive

Saddle yourself with unnecessary tasks that take a lot of time is one of the most useless things one can do. You should avoid this behavior as much as you can. Instead of focusing on the things that have little results for your work, do something really important.

6. You Work Best Under Pressure

No, you don’t. This tip just justifies procrastination. Procrastination is never good. Start your work on time, without being pressured by the deadline.

7. Wage Inspires You to Be More Productive

A bonus or a raise may inspire you to work more effectively… for some time. But, keep in mind that your employer won’t be constantly raising your pay so that you could stay productive.

Why are you doing what you do? If it’s just for the money, you can’t achieve full productivity. You have to look for other motivation, such as personal and professional growth.

8. Breaks Are a Waste of Time

Did you know that American workers took less vacation when compared to the workers of any other high-income nation? Did you know that they were also more stressed? Make the connection. Breaks are necessary.

9. Remote Work Is Less Effective

If time organization is all on you, it’s most likely that you’ll slip. That’s a myth!

If you organize your schedule according to your productivity patterns, you can be much more productive than what the office environment can allow.

15 Myths about Productivity

10. Clear Your Desk, Clear Your Mind

Clear working environment works for some people. Others feel stressed when working in a space that’s too organized and sterile.

11. No One Can Do It Better than You

That’s another myth.

If you have the budget to delegate part of your work, do it! You’ll get more time for your other tasks. The entire work will be completed much faster, with even bigger effectiveness. Isn’t that what productivity is all about?

12. Eat the Frog First

In other words, tackle the biggest, most challenging task first thing in the morning. That may work for some people.

However, the strategy doesn’t work for everyone. Productivity has its ups and downs, which are different for each person, but repetitive throughout the days. You may feel more productive in the morning. Maybe it’s during the afternoon. Whenever it is, you can eat the frog then.

13. Learn!

“The more you know, the more productive you become. It’s important to keep learning.”

That’s just a myth. Knowledge without application is useless. Stay focused on developing skills and knowledge you could actually use. Learning for the sake of learning is overestimated.

14. A System Will Make You Inflexible

No, it won’t. A system can be flexible enough to allow you to respond to unforeseen events. Adopting a system means you know what your priorities are and you can arrange your time accordingly. You really need a system.

15. There Are Universal Productivity Hacks

No, there aren’t. I think we made that clear by now.

Some of the most popular productivity tips on the Internet are completely useless. Why do you need to know about them? So you’ll stop applying counterproductive strategies that actually kill your productivity. Now that you’re aware of them, you can finally tackle your own productivity from a fresh perspective.


Zoe Carter Zoe Carter
is a lifestyle blogger, ESL teacher and editor at BestDissertation.com. She is always in search for innovative ideas for learning languages and developing writing skills. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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