As an executive with decades of management experience at top Silicon Valley companies including YouTube, Google, and Twitter, Bruce Daisley has given a lot of thought to what makes a workforce productive and what factors can improve the workplace to benefit a company’s employees, customers, and bottom line. In his debut book, he shares what he’s discovered, offering practical, often counterintuitive, insights and solutions for reinvigorating work to give us more meaning, productivity, and joy at the office.
RECHARGE: 12 Performance-Enhancing Actions to Make Less Awful
Hack #1 Have a Monk Mode Morning
Think about the last time you had a satisfying block of work done. Are they ways you could replicate the same conditions for your next assignment? What would you need to avoid to give yourself three hour of undivided attention twice a week?
Most people find the Monk Mode works best in the morning, but it’s all subjective. In your case, an afternoon might work better. It’s up to you to experiment different times and days of the week. But once you find your Monk Mode, put out all distractions and interruptions. Silence is the key driver of Monk Mode.
Hack #2 Go for a Walking Meeting
Suggest a walking meeting with a colleague instead of your normal sit-down meeting. Embrace the awkwardness the first couple of attempts might bring. Bear in mind there are people who will go along with your suggestion, but it’s also likely some will come off as hostile partners to dampen the experience. Don’t waste good science on bad people.
Try different time lengths. It might be a five-minute walk-out or a fifteen or a thirty. Find what works best for you and tailor your walk-out session accordingly.
Hack #3 Celebrate Headphones
People love headphones or hate them. So before you put your headphones on, make sure your colleagues feel comfortable with headphones in the office. Perhaps you can divide your workspace into two areas: headphone area and conversation area. Some teams choose to put in anchor times and their teams try to gather together to work alongside each other.
Hack #4 Eliminate Hurry Sickness
Often our best ideas and epiphanies come when we’re just setting around and letting our minds wander. If you drive everyday, try driving with no music on. Try showering with no song. Exercise with no Spotify. See what thoughts fill the silence.
From time to time, allow yourself to do nothing. Pay attention to how you feel afterward. Do you feel less anxious and stressed? You may find meditation helps you because for most people it pushes always pressing concerns and re-creates the mental space.
Hack #5 Show Your WorkWeek
Stop celebrating overwork. Working in concentrated blocks allows you to achieve just as much, if not more, and it leaves you plenty of scope to relax, think and reflect. Discipline yourself to leave work on time unless there’s something really pressing. Split work into one-hour chunks. If you take on something extra, promise yourself what you’ll stop doing as a trade-off.
Remember working longer dilutes energy, creativity and imagination. At worst, it can lead to exhaustion and eventually burn out.
Hack #6 Overthrow the Evil Mill Owner WHo Lives Inside You
Focus on what you and your team have committed to achieving rather than how you’re doing it. If you think you aren’t achieving enough, address that concern rather than simply suggesting more work. Consider a ‘de-slugging session’ where your team can discuss times they’ve felt the burden of colleagues’ catty comments and requests.
Hack #7 Turn Off Your Notifications
Reduce stress by giving yourself restorative breaks. As in sports games, musicians and novelists, we can hardly be creative when we’re stressed. Turn off all notifications on your phone. There’s a one percent chance you’ll miss something important. But there’s a one hundred percent chance you’ll focus on the present moment.
Hack #8 Go to Lunch
Taking a break as simply as going for a lunch can force a change of scene. It mitigates the sense of stress hung over you over the course of the day. Going to lunch isn’t the only option. Sit in the park, go for a walk, book yourself into exercise class. Try scheduling time for something that’s been sitting on your calendar for a while. Decline requests that impinge you to do so and politely ask them to find another time.
Hack #9 Define Your Norms
Don’t assume your work culture is inevitable. Agree with your team on when people can go off-grid, and stick to what you’ve agreed
Hack #10 Have a Digital Sabbath
Avoid emails on the weekend and after 6pm. Have a glass of wine instead, or some cheese or teak out, whatever. If you want to get an urgent email done, save it as a draft and then send it first thing on Monday. Some email applications allow you to delay sending to a specific time.
Hack #11 Have a Good Night’s Sleep
Set a regular bedtime and protect it at all costs. There’s nothing as restorative for your mind and body as sleep.
Hack #12 Focus on Only One Thing at a Time
Find ways to focus your one thing. It might not make you feel as accomplished as endlessly crossing-off times on your to-do list. But focusing on your one thing and accomplishing it instead makes everything else on your to-do list easier or even unnecessary.
SYNC: 8 Fixes to Make Teams Closer
Hack #13 Move the Coffee Machine
Get people talking to each other. Even small changes that bring teams into close proximity with one another cna build collaboration, trust and creativity. Relocating water coolers and refreshment points is one way to do just that. You can also experiment with adding Tvs, sofas or other reasons for team members to get out of their cubicles and chat together.
Hack #14 Suggest a Coffee Break
Suggest a break to the people around you. Perhaps use your break to walk to a coffee shop or wander to a kitchen on a different floor of your office. Try initially to take a break two or three times a week and make a mental note of its impact by Friday. Breaks seem to work most effectively at moments of stress and exhaustion.
Hack #15 Halve Your Meetings
Start asking yourself and your team if the meeting could be done in less time. By asking you invite others to question what they might have considered non-negotiable. Suggest your poss testing a meeting free time. Some companies found desk-based chats accomplish the same objectives as meetings but in a more dynamic and energy-filled way.
Hack #16 Create a Social Meeting
Ignore the cynics and try to organize a social meeting. Teams experience Sync at its best when they meet in a social way rather than in a professional setting. At first, you may need to incentivize people by adding a quirky or entertaining element to the social meeting.
Hack #17 Laugh
Find time for laughter in your meetings – a social meeting is a good space for this, but some are send-off speeches, milestone work anniversaries and the like. If there’s someone funny in your team, celebrate it. Everyone isn’t born a joker and there’s no shame in recognizing someone who has more of it. What applies in teams also applies to customers. Use humor to build a stronger and faster rapport with the people you do business with.
Hack #18 Energize Onboardings
Think about how you can encourage new hires to feel more at home, more quickly. The better the welcome, the sooner the new joiners will feel part of your team and deliver results. So remember, first impressions count.
Hack #19 Don’t be a Bad Boss
‘Do no harm’ is the golden rule of leadership and management. Empathizing with challenges and realities of every job is vital for managers. If your team complains about someone or something, never dismiss it. Spend the week in their shoes and experience their reality firsthand. The best bosses always go out of their way to fully understand the gap their team members have and try their best to help bridge them.
Hack #20 Know When to Leave People Alone
Remember creative ideas are sparked and nurtured in one person’s brain. It’s up to everyone else in the team to build on that idea spark and make feedback loops better. Monk Mode in the mornings or moments of silence and reflection are a vital part of the creative process.
BUZZ: 10 Secrets of Energized Teams
Hack #21 Frame Work as a Problem You’re Solving
Try framing the meeting agenda into a problem-solving session. Practice saying and also encourage others to say ‘I don’t know’, instead of bluffing your way through the uncertainty. And don’t be afraid to look at things from a different angle ‘What could go wrong here? Is a valuable question to ask. Understand that problem-solving is an exercise of discovery, not opinion. You’re trying to build a list of questions that will open up to a topic of possible solutions.
Hack #22 Admit When You’ve Messed Up
Encourage others to say what he or she did wrong or might have done better. Never say ‘Sorry… but’. That’s an excuse in apology clothing. Focus on the mistake and explain how you will do better next time to prevent it from happening again.
Hack #23 Keep Teams Lean
Regularly assess the size of your team. Ask how much ‘work about work’ your team does and how you can increase your efficiency. Remember the best teams rarely contain more than eight or nine people.
Hack #24 Focus on the Issue, Not the People
Find ways to discuss the issue, not the people. It might be worth getting team members to present problems and issues in diagram form so that others focus on the message rather than the messenger.
Hack #25 Introduce a Hack Week
Set up a hack week (or even a hack day). Consider what your desired outcomes from the hack week are and then work backwards from it. Set yourself SMART goals and don’t expect something revolutionary like the iPhone to come out from the hack week. Instead treat it as a way to freshen everyone’s look on their day jobs. Once the week is over, review what you achieved and what improvements could be made next time. And then schedule another week.
Hack #26 Ban Phones from Meetings
Turn meetings into genuine face-to-face interactions. Discourage any potential distractions that could interfere with your concentration and reduce trust with your team. Also find ways to reach out to remote workers. Everyone needs human Sync to build trust and forge a sense of belonging.
Hack #27 Champion Diversity
Don’t select team members based on how similar they are to you. That way you’ll end up with the group think. Remember the best ideas come from including people from as many different backgrounds as possible. The world is not homogeneous. Companies shouldn’t be, either.
Hack #28 Replace Presenting with Reading
Experiment Amazon’s six-page narrative instead of PowerPoint presentations. It might be uncomfortable or even excruciating at first because of the homework you have to do beforehand. And make sure everyone in the meeting gets equal airtime. Avoid favoring the single loudest and charismatic voice.
Hack #29 Conduct a Pre-mortem
Whenever you’re faced with an immediate task that’s complex or involves various stages, draw up a pre-mortem (checklist). It gives you a sense of security and a powerful last glance behind before you jump out the plane.
Hack #30 Relax
Sometimes the secret to unlocking laughter within a group is finding the quirky soul who can catalyze it. Remember laughter creates conditions for comfort and psychological safety.