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The Best Productivity System for Procrastinators

In an age where an overloaded schedule is a badge of honor, there’s no shortage of time-management apps and systems for the ambitious worker. But the classic Pomodoro Technique remains one of the most popular productivity options—and for good reason.

The Pomodoro Technique, designed by developer and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, is named after those cute tomato-shaped kitchen timers that start ticking with a twist of the top. (Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.) Initially, Cirillo created the system to help him get through the frustration of his low productivity at university. In the 1990s, the technique started to take off in professional teams, and more recently it’s become a popular personal productivity system as well.

But while the Pomodoro Technique has been vaunted in the pages of the New York Times and the Harvard Business Review, it’s not necessarily right for everyone. This article will break down the classic technique, and then explain how to adapt it to your personal working preferences.

To get started, all you need is a timer that can count down from 25 minutes. Then you just follow the next few steps:

  1. Choose a task (or a batch...

The Upcoming Presidential Transition: A Guide for Career Managers and Executives

The political party conventions are over and earlier this week the transition teams for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump moved into office space near the White House. Departmental briefings are underway in preparation for an orderly transfer of power to the 45th president of the United States, who will take office on Jan. 20, 2017.

Both parties are hoping for a smooth change in administrations under the Presidential Transitions Improvement Act of 2015, signed by President Obama in March, and the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010. The laws call for the current administration to begin planning for the transfer of power no later than six months prior to the swearing-in of the next president. The General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget play leading roles in coordinating transition briefings and logistics.

With the transition beginning to hit full stride, Government Executive is reprising a four-part guide for career managers and executives originally published in 2008. The guide was assembled by Alan Balutis, a former federal executive with more than 30 years of government experience. He guided three presidential transitions and seven secretarial transitions while serving in a senior leadership role at the Commerce Department. He also...

The More Powerful You Are, the Less You Should Assume You’re Right

Imagine a group of strangers wash up on a desert island. It wouldn’t take long for a hierarchy to emerge, with a few leading and the rest following.

Society naturally evolves into power structures, as individuals exert their authority over others, writes Brian Lowery, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford. There are six sources of power, first described by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven:

  • Reward: Giving people what they want
  • Coercion: Using fear to control others
  • Information: When we we know something others don’t
  • Legitimate: Power that derives from mutually agreed upon roles, such as the power of a CEO
  • Expert: Power that comes from the possession of skills or expertise, such as the IT expert at a small firm
  • Referent: The power that comes through fame or charisma

Reward and coercion may be the most easily understood, but are the least efficient, Lowery says. You can only force people to do your bidding if they have reason to fear you, which requires surveillance. Rewards work only as long as incentives are aligned; paying someone by the hour can result in work being done slowly.

As individuals increase their power, they lose perspective over how...

Harness the Power of Thanks

If you’re grateful but don’t take the time tell anyone, does it count? Maybe, but it’s a bit like clapping with one hand. You know you’re doing it, but does anyone else? Probably not. When shown appropriately, gratitude has tremendous power. At a minimum, it will keep you from appearing like an ungrateful and uncouth toad. On the other end of the spectrum, well-expressed thanks can open doors, solidify relationships, and change careers. The key to giving and getting with gratitude is knowing who to thank, when to thank them, and how to do it.

Who to Thank

Thank up. When bosses take the time to support you, provide you with an opportunity, or include you in something to which you’re not usually privy—thank them. Chances are, the next time they are deciding to whom they will extend an invitation, your name will appear higher on the list than it might have had you failed to recognize an earlier kindness.

Thank down. Maybe your team stayed late to finish a project. Perchance someone put forth extra effort to create a presentation. Perhaps an employee who has had a hard time meeting expectations finally does...

Five Strategies for Leading a High-Impact Team

Nobody sets out to lead an ineffective team. In fact, leaders agonize over fostering teams that work well together and deliver smart solutions time and time again—the kind of teams that, in Leigh Thompson’s words, “go through the various storms, the successes, the failures, and keep coming out alive.”

The only problem? Many of the strategies leaders have adopted to improve teamwork, while well-intentioned, are not all that effective. Thompson, a professor of management and organizations at Kellogg and an expert on teamwork, clears up five popular misconceptions. In the process, she offers a roadmap for building and maintaining teams that are creative, efficient, and high-impact.

1. Teams are not cocktail parties: don’t invite everyone.

When building a team, business leaders often fall into two traps: they make the team too big and too homogenous.

Trying to be overly inclusive leads inevitably to a team that is too large. One strategy for managing team size is to consult specialists only when their expertise is required rather than keeping them on full time.

Adding some fluidity to team membership can also help with the problem of homogeneity. In team sports, you hear a lot about the importance of...

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