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Executive Summary: 5 Best Management Tips of the Week

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Welcome back to Excellence in Government's round up of the best management tips from around the web. This week we tell you to stop worrying about your inbox, to be funnier and provide you some great tips to prepare your office for the summer intern(s).

Read on…

1. Stop Worrying About Your Inbox – Go Do Something Awesome

From the man who created the concept of “Inbox Zero” comes this quote: “A life in which we habitually abandon the known Good Things in order to helplessly stab at ‘managing’ a nebulous morass of chaoses that we can never control is not much of a life at all.”

Creative safe-haven 99U adds:

At the end of the day a box full of email is just a box full of stuff that may or may not hold any relevance to your work and life. Obsessing over keeping that box empty at the expense of the really cool projects you’ve already accepted responsibility for isn’t a great trade-off.

From the man who literally coined the phrase “Inbox Zero” — you have permission to close your email and do something awesome.

Learn more…

[via 99U]

2. Stop Trying to Think Harder…You Can’t

The folks over at GTD Times posted an except from Todd Brown’s blog post for Next Action Associates in which he rejects the notion that we can “think harder.” If you’re walking, can you walk faster? Yup—that’s easy enough. Just move faster. But if you’re thinking…can you actually think harder? Brown says no:

What does seem to work is removing barriers.

I start by reducing distractions, both internal and external. If I’m feeling diverted by my thoughts, I do a quick “mind sweep.” I write down everything that’s on my mind, big or small, personal or professional. I need to call Ed regarding the contract. I want to talk to Debbie about booking the hotel for our holiday. The client needs the proposal by Friday. Just getting these things out of my head goes a long way toward reducing internal distractions.

I also consider external distractions. I check my surroundings. If I’m feeling distracted by my environment, I see first whether I can minimize or eliminate some sources of that distraction. I close my email client (yes, it can be done). I put my phone on silent. If possible, I get out of a distracting environment altogether. If that’s not possible, I recognize that my ability to get work done that requires deep thinking may be limited. In that case it might be better to focus on quick and easy wins that require less mental resource.

It’s about focus, says Brown. Not “thinking hard”...whatever that means.

Learn more…

[via GTD Times]

3. Learn to Dance with Fear

Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin entreats us to stop confusing that which we actually fear with the emotion of fear. Most of us, he says, are taking actions to avoid the things that might “merely trigger the emotion of fear itself.” He proposes we learn to dance with fear, “to seek out the interactions that will trigger the resistance and might make us uncomfortable.”

Are we trying to avoid the unsafe? Or merely the feeling of being unsafe? Increasingly, these are completely different things.

Due to 'enhanced security' a recent bike event in New York City forbade the 30,000 riders from carrying hydration packs. No practical reason, just the desire to avoid fear.

The upcoming exam doesn't get studied for, not because studying is risky, but because studying reminds us that there's a test coming up.

Avoiding the feeling of fear itself is no way to live—leveraging fear, and understanding it, will improve how you perform in every aspect of your life.

Learn more…

[via Seth’s Blog]

4. Humor Makes You More Creative…and Your Office More Innovative

Drake Baer at Fast Company writes of a Stanford professor Tina Seeling’s book InGenius, in which a study found that artists, musicans and creative types whose brains were monitored via fMRI saw the part of the frontal lobe in the brain associated with judgement go quiet as they performed. Meaning, they stopped self-monitoring their own actions.

According to Seelig, “Creative people have apparently mastered the art of turning off this part of their brains to let their ideas flow more smoothly, unleashing their imagination.”

Office’s rich in humor can unlock the same effect, reducing the self-shaming we cycle through on a daily basis. Writes Baer:

Take Pixar, where "jovial discussion" animates the culture. In Little Bets, Peter Sims writes that a playful environment is most helpful when ideas are incubated or newly hatched--and the more ideas you hatch, the more you can innovate.

People withhold their ideas if they think they're going to be judged, snuffing out innovation-sprouts before they take root. (Shame alert!) A playful culture, on the other hand, encourages ideas to be batted around, ideas which could become side projects, side projects which could become full-fledged businesses.

Learn more…

[via Fast Company]

5. Hiring an Intern This Summer? Four Things You Should Do

Jodi Glickman of HBR Blog writes that if you’re looking to hire an intern this summer you need to do some prep work to make sure they have a good experience and can contribute to your team. “Interns can be a great addition to your team, but beware of the well-meaning twenty-year-old who lands in your lap without any direction or guidance,” she warns.

Here’s how to get the most out of, and for, an intern:

  1. Choose a few specific programs for them to work on: “Anything with a clear beginning, middle, and end is a good place to start,” says Glickman.
  2. Write a job description for them: “This will help you identify the goals and objectives of the internship, determine how you'll measure outcomes and success, and communicate the qualifications and skills you're looking for,” she says.
  3. Focus on their takeaways: “What will your intern walk away with?” asks Glickman. “Make sure you communicate your value proposition to potential interns up front and hold yourself to the standards you set as the summer goes on.”
  4. Know the difference between a manager and a mentor: If you don’t have the time (or desire) to manage an intern, find the “rising start in your organization who is excited about managing some junior,” she advises. If you’re better suited to being the interns mentor, embrace that role—but make sure the distinction is clear.

Learn more…

[via HBR Blog]

Have a great management tip to feature in the weekly round up? Send them to me at mmicheli@govexec.com.

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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