Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.
ARCHIVES

The Procrastination Doom Loop—and How to Break It

When I woke up this morning, I had one goal: Finish this article by 11 a.m.

So, predictably, by the time it was 10 a.m., I had made and consumed two cups of coffee, taken out the trash, cleaned my room while taking a deliberately slow approach to folding my shirts, gone on a walk outside to clear my head, had a thing of yogurt and fruit to reward the physical exertion, sent an email to my aunt and sister, read about 100 Tweets (favorited three; written and deleted one), despaired at my lack of progress, comforted myself by eating a second breakfast, opened several tabs from ESPN.com on my browser ... and written absolutely nothing.

What's the matter with me?* Nothing, according to research that conveniently justifies this sort of behavior to my editors. Or, at least, nothing out of the ordinary for writers, as Megan McArdle has explained on this site. I'm just a terrible procrastinator.

Productive people sometimes confuse the difference between reasonable delay and true procrastination. The former can be useful ("I’ll respond to this email when I have more time to write it"). The latter is, by definition, self-defeating (“I ...

The Complete Guide to Swearing at Work

For those of us with a fondness for profanity, testing the bounds of cursing in the workplace can feel at once satisfying—and fucking terrifying. But fear not, there’s reason to believe that indulging your impulse to drop an f-bomb in the office is worth it, according to some experts. Here’s why:

Everybody’s doing it

Modern media tell us that workplace swearing is cool. Take Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, whose brash yet professionally successful characters dropped 506 f-bombs, a record for a feature film. In a 2006 survey by Associated Press/Ipsos (pdf), 74% of Americans said they encountered profanity in public frequently or occasionally and 66% said that as a rule, people curse more today than 20 years ago.

There are some prominent examples. After the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, US president Barack Obama famously commented on the Today show that he’d been talking to experts about the spill to figure out “whose ass to kick.” T-Mobile CEO John Legere, a renegade executive known for his potty mouth, badmouthed competitors AT&T and Verizon at a recent press event by saying that “the fuckers hate ...

Strategic Planning: Are Agencies Set Up to Fail?

Most federal leaders understandably focus on the important work of meeting public needs in the here and now. To the extent they consider the future, few look beyond the five-year Government Performance and Results Act time-horizon.

In focusing on today’s needs, it is easy to lose sight of the longer term. As baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Given our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, agencies in 10 to 15 years will be lucky if their budgets are flat, if not declining. The baby boomers will have retired in mass—decreasing institutional knowledge and increasing human service agencies’ workloads. New technologies will have to be adopted quicker. And the public will expect services to be delivered in new and innovative ways. These trends are having some impact today, but they will be a much bigger force a decade from now.

By focusing so much on immediate demands, the federal government is woefully unprepared for the future. It’s time to strike a more appropriate balance. While current operations must remain a priority, agencies must institutionalize long-term planning to make sure issues critical to future mission performance are addressed ...

How I Lead: Read the Sign on Their Backs That Says 'Make Me Feel Important'

Lori Aquilino, former manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's San Francisco International Field Office, spent 20 years leading a virtual team of aircraft safety inspectors worldwide. She and her team at FAA created an award winning telework program to manage a global workforce. Aquilino, now retired, works as an aviation consultant.

What is the best leadership lesson you've learned? 

Everybody walks around with a sign on their back that says "Make me feel important!" If you treat people as if you see this sign on their back, you will always remember that people respond well to being treated as a valuable member of the team and not so well when they are considered just a tool to accomplish management’s plan. 

How did you get to where you are today?

Persistence. I came into aviation at a time when it was not a common field for women. I learned that with persistence you will always get where you want to go -- it just may take a little time. 

What leadership lessons did you try to convey to your team? 

To work as a team. We can do so much as a team and so little as individuals. If ...

Working From Home Seems More Legitimate If You Have a Kid

"How can you become a telecommuter?" asks one of a profusion of online guides on this topic. "You can start by doing your homework, creating an action plan, and being flexible." 

You can add "don't be female" to that list.

For women, there are major drawbacks to requesting to work remotely, according to a new study by Christin Munsch, a sociologist at Furman University.

Munsch had 646 people read a transcript of a fake phone conversation between an employee and a human-resources representative. The employees asked to alter their schedules for a period of six months, requesting either to work from home two days per week or to come in early and leave early three days per week. Perhaps unsurprisingly—given what we know about women and likability—this went over better when the worker was a man.

From the study release:

Among those who read the scenario in which a man requested to work from home for childcare related reasons, 69.7 percent said they would be "likely" or "very likely" to approve the request, compared to 56.7 percent of those who read the scenario in which a woman made the request. Almost a quarter—24.3 ...