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Email Lets Other People Schedule Your Life—Here’s How to Stop It

The following is adapted from Phil Simon‘s Message Not Received: Why Business Communication Is Broken and How to Fix It.

If you feel like you’re playing Whac-a-mole with your inbox, you’re not alone. Somewhere along the line, email became the default means of communication in corporate America. The Radicati Group estimates that the average knowledge worker receives around 100 emails every day, a number that is rising at around 15 percent per year. In July 2012, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) released a report titled “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies,” which found that typical employees now spend fully 28 percent of their work time managing email.

Think about it. If you work 50 hours per week, then 14 of them are spent reading and writing emails. I doubt that you spend as much time in any one application, including Microsoft Word and Excel.

Perhaps these numbers wouldn’t be problematic if email were an effective communications medium. To be sure, it can be—for certain types of discrete exchanges. Much of the time, however, it’s not. Yes, email has its place, but we’ve become far too enamored with it. Constantly ...

How Not to Be a Rotten Co-Worker

I've worked with rotten people. I'm sure you've had your share of negative experiences, as well. Although it is well known that we leave jobs because of our managers—the support of our co-workers also plays a key role in work-related outcomes. With the advent of flatter organizations and increased teaming, whom we work with takes on an even greater level of importance at work. Studies have indicated that the behaviors of our co-workers, both supportive (for example, mentoring) and antagonistic (social undermining, etc.), can influence both our attitudes toward work (job satisfaction, commitment) and ultimately our behavior (effort toward work).

In this vein, I often hear stories of "less than positive" co-workers. Some of the situations are tolerable for a time, others are not. Unfortunately, these experiences can spoil work life on many levels—with lasting personal and organizational outcomes.

Rotten co-workers can change the course of both our work and career.

Research has shown that with regard to specific outcomes, your co-workers may have a greater impact than leaders or managers. (Specifically, when we consider job involvement, effort reduction and absenteeism.) What matters most to us where co-worker support is concerned? Focus on both effective ...

What Do Data Analytics Have to Do With the Way You Play the Game?

I’m not an NBA fan, but a recent rant from former NBA MVP and current TNT talking head Charles Barkley certainly caught my attention. In discussing the Houston Rockets, Charles said, “They are awful defensively.” To which Inside the NBA host Ernie Johnson replied, “If you look at the metrics they are number five in the league defensively.”

Enter Sir Charles’ rant on analytics: “I’ve always believed analytics are crap . . . Analytics don’t work at all . . . Smart guys want to fit in [to the NBA], so they made up a term called ‘analytics.’ Analytics don’t work.”

Never mind the fact that the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks had a “director of basketball analytics” coach on the bench during games, or that in 2013, all NBA teams were given access to big data collected by SportVU, “a camera system so technologically advanced that it has opened the door for Big Data to invade and shape the NBA.”

It’s obvious that Sir Charles has his head in the sand when it comes to understanding the implications of and advantages gained from integrating advanced statistics and analytics into every phase of the NBA game.

The question I began to ...

The Best or Worst: Government Has a Choice

Last week, Fortune magazine published the 2015 “100 Best Companies to Work For.” This year’s list includes 13 health care providers. Ironically on the same day, the Veterans Affairs Department, which operates more than 1,700 health care facilities nationwide, was described in a congressional hearing as “a terrible place to work.”

A report on the annual employee survey used to compile the list says health care “employees’ sense of pride in their work—an essential component of a great workplace—consistently ranks highest amongst survey participants . . . employees regularly see the tangible, positive and immediate impact their work has in the lives of others, making it easy to see how pride has become health care’s greatest strength.” In fact, pride is common in every truly successful organization because it contributes to high performance.

The report highlights four strategies for making a hospital a great place to work:

Fostering communication and transparency. One of the keys to maintaining a healthy work environment is making employees aware of progress on achieving goals and resolving problems. They want to know what’s happening.  Health care depends on communication, teamwork and collaboration. “Management by walking around” is an effective strategy in health ...

The Power of 'Good Enough'

Over a decade ago, psychologist Barry Schwartz published what might be the ultimate psychological life-hacking tome, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.​ In it, Schwartz argues that the modern world's smorgasbord of options—Brawny or Bounty? Coke Zero or Diet? Major in sociology or anthropology?—makes us less happy, not more. "Choice overload," as he calls it, makes us question our decisions, set our expectations too high, and blame ourselves for our mistakes.

The book spawned the usual TED talks and counterintuitive Internet takes. More recently, Schwartz has been interviewed in a variety of publications andplatforms about how his advice holds up 10 years later. The rise of social media,he argues, has only heightened the agony of decision-making through phenomena like FOMO (fear of missing out).

One of my favorite Schwartzisms is this: If you ever aren't sure if you attended the very best party or bought the very best computer, just settle for "good enough." People who do this are called "satisficers," and they're consistently happier, he's found, than are "maximizers," people who feel that they must choose the very best possible option. Maximizers earn more, Schwartz has found, but they ...