7 Productivity Tips for Virtual Workers

I got this question a few times, about how to work effectively virtually or as part of a virtual team. It’s like a dream.. We get more flexibility.  In the words of Spiderman- “With great power comes great responsibility”. This is a growing trend and the freedom and flexibility, do create a different layer of challenges.  I’ve always worked in a virtual capacity in one way or another, with global organizations, with boards, community groups and so on.  I tend to work longer hours and really try to provide a lot of value, so that the meetings are very productive and shows that I’m dedicated to moving the needle forward.  

Let’s be very clear, it means that your work is outcome based versus time based.  This means that you need to produce quality outputs.  Our employers are saving us time from commuting to the office, getting dressed up etc…   I want to emphasize that it’s very important NOT to bite the hand that feeds us!  We need to produce quality deliverables and outputs, because our employers are trusting us and empowering us to be more successful.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of watching TV, playing on our phone more and other distractions.

I think one of the most public one.. was when Professor Robert Kelly, was doing a live television broadcast on the BBC and was interrupted by TWO of his kids! It was hilarious and more impressive of how he kept his composure!  Here is the YouTube video  

Of course, Jimmy Fallon had to do a spoof on it as well.

Kids will be kids.. Interruptions will be interruptions. Working remotely has its many PROs and CONs, but the intent is to have a mutually beneficial relationship that enables both of us (us and our employers) to be successful!  Working remotely has lots of challenges.  

I thought I’d put together some tips to make it more feasible to navigate across this noisy and busy world.  Here are some of my favorite best practices that I've utilized. 

Calendar Control

Get a clear picture and understand of your calendar, both personally and professionally.  Those that are going to be in your work environment, let them know up front of some key meetings that you cannot be interrupted.  You need to have one complete view of what is happening around you, so that you can adequately plan to mitigate disruptions. If you need to travel somewhere, include travel time in your calendar.  If you need time to prep for a meeting, include that into your calendar. Have a clear picture of all the moving elements.

Get a morning routine

Morning Routine

Morning routines are so incredibly important.  You wake up, work-out, meditate, shower, get dressed (like you’re going to the office), make a smoothie,  grab a coffee, read the headlines, check your emails. Whatever it is.. Have a morning routine. Once your morning routine is established, over time it will go on auto-pilot, which means, you won’t use unnecessary brain power to get your day moving.  You’ll save your brain, for the harder tasks and accomplishments.

Eat Your Frogs First

One thing that I do, is that I do my key activities in the morning and save the meetings for the afternoon. I pick the hardest thing first, to get it over and done with. That way, I don’t delay or procrastinate from getting it done.  I don’t want it to sit on my mind and fester. I find that once I get the hardest thing done or the one that I dread the most, then the rest of the day runs smoothly.  Slay the dragon!   I often find, that having a couple of hours dedicated to outcome related tasks and activities are key, especially when it needs your brain and concentration.  Then, the afternoon calls are less stressful, rushed, more productive as I’m able to focus better.

Everyone deserves a break

Schedule Breaks

This one is hard one. We don’t have people to randomly chat with in the kitchen, or by the water cooler or my favorite, the coffee machine.  It’s easy to sit and work for hours and hours, without a break. We get on a roll and don’t have anyone to make small talk with. This was one thing that I was really missing.  So, I used to schedule breaks. I might make a coffee at 10am or go for a walk and schedule a catch up with a colleague. Or I’d book a lunch with someone, to get out of my house or apartment.  Make sure you schedule little breaks. Once a month, I have a BrainFood Virtual Book Club on Monday’s during lunch, so we can eat, connect and chat about our business book.  It’s a great way to Network.

**PRO TIP: If you’re working in a coffee shop or taking to someone, make sure that you’re NOT talking about confidential information.  There is ALWAYS someone listening. Remember, to respect your employer privacy guidelines.**

Another popular tactic is the TheTechnique, which is that you work 25 minutes and take a 5 minute break. You can check your phone/emails And once you’ve worked 100 minutes, you take 15-20 minute break.  It’s popular technique that was created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. You can set a timer beside you. I think it’s important to get up out of your chair and move around…

Face to Face meetings

With all this amazing technology, it’s easier to have more face to face meetings.  Skype for business, Zoom and the list goes on. It was one of our favorite things to do.. We get on video and laugh at our hair, or that one person was wearing PJs still and so on… we all know this happens.  But, we had fun with that! Face to Face virtual meetings are great because it allows us to connect and really hear and listen to what is going on. We tend to do less multi-tasking and more be more focused and engaged in the meeting.

Ergonomically Friendly Desk Environment

This sounds odd especially since I just said it’s important to get out of your chair, it’s important to have a great chair.  It’s easy to get poor posture, being hunched over a laptop. Get your station set up, so that you have what you need in order to be successful. Put a picture or two of your family or a vacation spot.  Or get an office playlist ready. Have a plant. Create a work environment that makes it your environment to be relaxed and successful. Your body and mind is important.

Clean up your desk

This one is a hard one for me.  Even in this digital world, I have clutter on my desk all the time.  I have a lot of books and reference documents that I utilize. It’s been a constant struggle and a discipline that I’ve tried to enforce in myself.  I now, ensure I clean my desk at the end of each work day, as I prepare my to-do and priority list for the next day. If you’re already great at decluttering, you may only want to do this once a week. For myself, I have to do it every day and I’ll tell you… It sets me up for success for the next day.  By the way, don’t forget to actually log-off your computer. Turn it off! It creates a barrier, to log-on again in the middle of the evening. When I get to my desk and log on the next morning, I know what my desired outcomes are going to be for the next day. Last point.. Always, purge, purge and purge!  Marie Kondo, your desk!

These are my favourite tips, that have really enabled me to be more productive and have more control in both my personal and professional life.  

Do you have some other best practices? Feel free to share and comment.  

Best Always,
Sapna

P.S.  Did you grab the Networking Cheat Sheet-  Less Effort and More Results → Avoid the 10 Biggest Networking Mistakes!

P.S.S  The Future Proof Your Career Online Course is extending their waiting list… Ready to get Noticed and Promoted?  Then make sure you’re on the list to get Early Bird Access!

What we can learn from the Hootsuite Layoffs

What we can learn from the Hootsuite Layoffs

There is a lot that Canadians can learn about the Hootsuite layoff.  CTV reported that ‘Hootsuite laid off approximately 10% of their employees, as they weren't meeting their sales goals and targets”.

With this whole start-up ecosystem, AI hub and small business push. Are we really supporting our own Canadian ecosystem?  Many of us are starting up companies and need a social media tool, like Hootsuite. Did we give them the business to support a Canadian business or did we all shop around and go to the competitor?  Canadian businesses may start to support other Canadian businesses, if we knew what they were.

All of our go-to markets is the USA. After all, isn’t 1% of 330 million is better than 1% of 38 million. I advise my clients to do the same thing.  However, if we thought about all the support tools and vehicles that we need in order to run our business. Would the extra $10 a month be worth it, if we knew that we were supporting our backyard?  Supporting our own economy, jobs and people? This is why it’s really important to have brands & create Canadian awareness of the different Canadian brands.

Prior to starting the CanInnovate Podcast , I surveyed over 200 people. Different demographics/ages/city or urban. I asked what are some of the most Innovative Canadian companies. Only about 45 people could answer that.  23% of Canadians were aware of Canadian brands. Ummm… what about Shopify, Hootsuite, Slack? However, all 200 people could tell me the Canadian failures! Nortel, Research in Motion and the list goes on.

If Canadians are unaware of our big brands that are being grown and brewed out here, then how can we support our Canadian businesses?  MUSE/Planswell/Mindbridge AI/ Inkbox/ WorkTango and many many more. I truly believe that education and awareness is instrumental in overcoming obstacles both locally and globally.  

Hence the birth of the CanInnovate Podcast in 2017.  To help create more awareness & a platform for our Canadian innovators and thought leaders.  It’s important and imperative that we start to support our own economy. We have amazing brains and talent here in Canada.   Canada has some of the brightest minds (Canadian Brain-drain) & we know that business innovation requires diversity as it provides a new range of insights … Canada has a cultural mosaic & commitment to diversity & inclusion.  So, we should have the best innovations out there.

We have now published over 80 different episodes, each week focusing on another Canadian Innovator, Rainmaker, thought leader and more importantly, having a point of view! Time to start really walking the walk, when we talk about supporting Canadian businesses!

Would love to hear your thoughts, comments and feedback..

How to say NO elegantly!

I get this question quite a bit… how do you say NO and not burn bridges… simple.. Be honest, scope out clearly and provide options…

IMPORTANCE OF SAYING NO

One of my mentors told me early in my career that “You can either be good at a few things or fail at everything”.  Those words have stuck in my head for my entire career, which has really enabled me to truly provide quality and over deliver.   I have always championed the idea that all I have is my name & credibility. As I’ve worked across the globe, my reputation for driving ideas into action is known and vouched for by many senior executives.

THE VALUE OF UNDER COMMITTING & OVER DELIVERING

Let’s remember what a small world it is… I’ve had many recruiters, executives and other acquaintances reach out to me and ask me.. “I see that you know Pat, what do you think of their quality of work? Their values?”.  It happens all the time.

It’s really important to NEVER OVER COMMIT & UNDER DELIVER!  It’s so damaging to your name, your reputation and your credibility.  I have worked with management consultants that have failed miserably in this area and it’s hard for me to recommend them to other clients, opportunities because of the broken trust.  When I recommend people, I am vouching for their reputation and credibility. They are a reflection of me and my word.

MATURITY

With so many demands on our time, it’s important to have those conversations with the ones that request your time. Having a discussion regarding timelines, expectations really shows experience and professional maturity.   The message that it shows is that you care about your reputation, their reputation and providing high quality outcomes.

SOME TACTICAL TIPS

You know I’m all about tactical tips.  Never commit to a request before understanding the effort and time commitment required.  I never sign a blank cheque for my time.

The key is not to say NO, it’s to provide options and help your client/boss brainstorm or even re-prioritize. If you only have 5 hours of bandwidth left, its okay to say “I have limited cycles this month, but I’ll have more time in two months after this project is completed”.  Then, it’s easier to have a dialogue. The biggest compliment, is when someone wants your help in something.

  1. Understand Intent: What is the intent of the request? Really try to understand the overall objective and where they are trying to go to.
  2. Understand Scope: Ask good questions to really understand the scope and the impact.  Is it required as an input in other activities? There could be a downstream impact on other strategic initiatives.
  3. Be Honest: DO NOT, I repeat.. DO NOT overcommit to activities and underdeliver. It’s the fastest way to lose a client and respect.   Do you have the skills? expertise?
  4. Understand Timelines:  Ask the question “When is the latest that I can get this back to you by?”.  This is key, they may only need a portion of a deliverable or request by a certain time.  Or you may think they need it in the next day or so, when in reality, they just need it in two weeks.  
  5. Break it Down: If they want everything and the scope is too big, then break them into smaller activities. If it’s still not feasible, offer a few options.   Perhaps, person XYZ could do ABC tasks.

People will respect you more for being honest with them, versus being a YES person!  People like options as it provides them with more ideas and allows them to think more broader.  

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback!  Feel free to share with others that are struggling with the art of saying NO elegantly…

P.S. Did you check out my tools & resources page? https://caninnovate.io/tools-2/

Best Always,
Sapna

E62: Blockchain: A Revolutionary Technology That Is Changing The World with MLG Blockchain CEO, Michael Gord

E62: Blockchain: A Revolutionary Technology That Is Changing The World with MLG Blockchain CEO, Michael Gord

Michael Gord is the founder and CEO of MLG Blockchain, an enterprise blockchain and ICO consulting and development firm. He was the first enterprise blockchain developer at TD Bank, one of the largest Canadian banks.

Michael is also a director of the Blockchain Education Network, a robust global network of blockchain enthusiasts, sits on the board of directors of the Blockchain Association of Canada, is an advisor and investor into several prominent blockchain ventures.

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Episode Overview:

This week I get to chat with Michael Gord. As you know, I’ve become quite the blockchain junkie and even got certified as a Blockchain Business Professional. I’m more a fan of the technology versus Cryptocurrency.

In this episode we will learn:

  • What have been challenges getting into this space and launching MLG Blockchain consultancy
  • Why is Blockchain Technology seen as so innovative
  • What are some typical ways that companies have been utilizing blockchain technology
  • Which industry &/or countries have the highest adoption rate
  • What are some key legal implications/considerations

What is Blockchain?

As for Michael, Blockchain in the new internet. It is a better way of storing information and creating applications. The hype behind blockchain is based around the fact that we are reinventing the current internet, the current finances system, the current government system, the supply chain system and almost every existing industry is being disrupted by blockchains.


What have been challenges getting into this space and launching MLG Blockchain consultancy?

The biggest challenge that Michael experienced upon the blockchain industry is education and scalability provocation because most people are not yet familiar with blockchain. For scalability, MLG row-block is, for enterprises put on a hundred millions of users on top of blockchain today because blockchain systems are not scalable enough compared to 20 years ago.


Why do people say that Bitcoin is Blockchain?

Bitcoin on the topic, is a cryptocurrency that lives on a blockchain protocol. Bitcoin is also one of the thousands of cryptocurrencies and one of dozens of protocols which makes it one of the first cryptocurrency and the first to introduce blockchain as we know it today.


How do we classify cryptocurrency?

As of today, the use of cryptocurrency is still very few in terms of using it in our everyday life but Michael expects that by next year, the use of cryptocurrency will become normal to us. We will see the use of cryptocurrency mostly on games, restaurants, online shopping and everything else that accepts cryptocurrency.


How other company uses the blockchain technology:

Most companies use the blockchain technology through privy concepts and pilot applications. We have seen a similar case on the Venezuelan government that released cryptocurrencies. This made Michael believe that every government will release a government issued cryptocurrencies to power services to their country. Some countries are also looking into using cryptocurrencies for their government power services.

Which industry &/or countries have the highest adoption rate?

Seoul, Korea and Tokyo, Japan currently have the highest adoption rate of companies and people who uses blockchain on their daily life. China and India also have a high adoption rate due to their online retail companies such as Alibaba or such. Most of these countries are used to paying using QR codes or digital dollars which is very simple to use.

In North America on the other hand, we are still predominantly cash-based or credit economy. It can be a culture shock if people will start paying with QR codes.


What are some key legal implications/considerations?

Traditionally, it was only banks that have to care about knowing your customer for doing money processing. Today, with token sales there are people all over the world needing to know their customers.

At the end of the day, it is not just about knowing your customer and raising capital in your country. You are raising potential capital for people in hundreds of countries. So you have to touch, know and understand the legalities from the very beginning because it is necessary.


Some companies are using ICOs (Initial Coin Offering) as a way to raise capital instead of going through the traditional VC approach. Is this a new growing trend?

ICO represents a better way of raising capital, according to Michael. Everyone should be able to have the support of raising their capital on a global perspective rather than forced to raise capital exclusively and locally.

Consider your thoughts, thoughts are real because what you think about is bound to happen.

About MLG Blockchain:

MLG Blockchain is a global blockchain development and consulting firm headquartered in Toronto with a distributed team across North America, Europe and Asia that is focused on building next generation applications using blockchain and smart contract technology.

We are blockchain agnostic and are experienced working with many blockchain fabrics including the Bitcoin Blockchain, Ethereum, Hyperledger, Ripple, Factom, Eris. We are also experienced working with many blockchain development APIs, software frameworks, databases, and devOps tools for testing and agile development.

Resource Recommendation:

Book Recommendation:

Favorite Hot Spot:

Connect with Michael:

Website: MLGBlockchain.com

LinkedIn: Michael Gord

Twitter: @BitGord

Farewell to 2018

Farewell to 2018

What an amazing 2018!  As 2018 is coming to an end, I wanted to take some time to share my adventures and misadventures this year. It has been a world wind of lessons learned, lots of trail and errors, victories and laughter.

I have learned a lot of lessons this year… but I also had some big victories to share!

The CanInnovate podcast officially turned 1! We celebrated our Pod-iversary! Not sure if that’s even a word. We had over eighty (80) guests, some were podcast guests, some were listeners, some friends, some were my college students.

It was such an amazing evening. Lots of love, laughter, food, drinks and lots of new connections were made. We had a chef on site, that prepared amazing food. I can’t help it.. I’m a foodie and I think people connect more around great food.

It was such a wonderful night.  I’m so honored and lucky to have such amazing support.  The event was made possible with the generous sponsorship of CSG – where Innovating Means Outmaneuvering. I just love their tag line!


Check out the video that was made to share the experience

Another massive surprise was when Planswell named us one of their top 9 Canadian Business Podcasts. Talk about a massive honor. There are some notable greats listed here

There were a few big lessons that I learned this year

One- I had to make some staff changes.  I wish I had done it earlier. In fact, Alain Gorbeau, from Farmlead (Episode 19) had given some great advice, Learning to really have the discipline or be able to realize faster that you’re in one of those situations and pull yourself back when you’re tempted to either hire someone that isn’t exactly right or to make excuses for someone that just isn’t fitting for whatever reason.  

Oh boy… I didn’t do this properly. I didn’t trust my instincts, I kept thinking that I haven’t coached them enough or that I’m not clear enough. I took the blame. Nope, not any more. I need to trust my instinct. I need people that can help drive things forward, with minimal supervision. I have hired experienced people, so I need them to step up to the plate and be the CEO in their own domain.  So, that was a big ‘aha moment for me’

Second lessons learned – I need to stop overplanning things and get faster into execution mode. I need to let go of my wanting it to be perfect. I can’t help it! I love what I do and I want it to be perfect. I’m just passionate at what I do. However, I do recognize that time is a precious commodity and there are places where I can go to get additional support. I’m going to switch into 10% planning mode and 90% into execution mode.

Lastly, The Value of Pivoting. I often forget that I can shift and move and make changes, whenever I want to.  It’s actually quite fun. So, we decided to pivot. It’s the management consultant in me. As these Innovators share their best practices and lessons learned. I also wanted to depend my knowledge and skills in this area by offering masterclasses, where we can gain those tactical skills.  

We’ve had a few of these masterclasses from mindset (Episode 45: Innovation Mindset), negotiations (Ep 57: Art of negotiation), vulnerability (Ep 58: Vulnerability is the new advantage). We have lots more coming. It’s really imperative to stay on top of industry trends, update our skill sets and not wait, for our bosses to guide us. We need to take control of our careers.

So, being that I’ve learned that pivoting is a good thing, i’ve actually only planned for Q1 & Q2 of 2019. That way, I can be open to shifting and conducting lessons learned.  Who knows where the future will take us…


So, what’s in store for the next six (6) months

  1. Publishing my Networking book – it’s nearly done and I can’t wait to share it. It’s inspired by my students at George Brown as this was a topic that they wanted more help in. The idea is that it’s about connecting as individuals for multiple reasons, not just for career development. We all have different reasons, different challenges – so, whether you’re looking for career opportunities, or new friends or new relationships. It’s about connecting with people that share common values.
  1. Conducting free sales webinar & even local workshops- I’ve already got the materials developed from the course I taught and I’m going into execution mode. You can find the link to register for the free webinar in the show notes.
  1. To finalize the volunteer partnership, so that we can start to make an impact on the world. I truly believe that education and awareness is instrumental in overcoming any challenges and obstacles. If children start teaching their uneducated parents, then we have a hope for the future. We need to provide opportunities for those that don’t have that privilege.

I’m pretty excited about 2019 and all the new twists and turns that I’m about to discover. My new year's resolution is to continue to push the boundaries and unleash my curiosity. Every time, I try something new.. A new adventure presents itself.

Thank you for being part of my journey and I really can’t wait to hear about your new adventures in 2019. I really wish everyone a very happy and healthy holiday season that is filled with lots of love curiosity and laughter!. Get some much needed rest and lots of TLC.  

Talk soon!

Got all the goody photos here so take a look and enjoy!And hopefully next year you will be in here with us! 🙂


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