Personal Productivity

10 Work Hacks that will make your Manager Cringe

Work Productivity Hacks
wrote this on February 17, 2014
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When you think about increasing your productivity by using productivity hacks, you naturally assume that it will bring about applause from your peers or praise from your managers.  However, nothing can be further from the truth…

People at your work are probably used to certain behaviors; any deviation may raise an eye brow (best case scenario) or even create deep concerns… Change is slow and often hard. What looks like a goldmine to one, may terrify others.

The best work hacks I know of are quirky in nature.  Some of them are counterintuitive and many may appear crazy to an unknowing bystander.

Be warned!

Performing these work hacks without getting a direct approval first can, without a doubt, piss off your boss.

Your biggest challenge with these work hacks is to sell them.  Your managers may calm down after you’ll show them the improvement delta but you’ll need to get to that stage first.

What I suggest is talk about it openly, show them the research that had been done in that field and educate them. If you work in a larger firm you can always suggest this to the HR department and spearhead the change with presentations to convince the higher ups.

But again all of the above depends on your management’s progressiveness and openness.

Let’s begin with my favorite!

1# Take a 20 minute nap on your desk

Can you imagine the reaction to this?  Senior management visiting your office to find you fast asleep at your desk!

While taking a nap on your desk for 20 minutes might sound like the worse work hack ever, it’s actually an excellent way to refresh your mind.  Getting some shuteye at your desk or even having a dedicated area in the office in which you can put your weary head to rest can improve your focus and alertness.

A study conducted by NASA in 1995 tested nap benefits on 747 pilots, each pilot was given a 40 minutes nap during the day every day. The research showed that sleeping for 25.8 minutes on average improved the pilot’s performance from 16% in median reaction time to 34% compared to the No-Rest Group” (source).

Ostrich pillow

Image source

2# Relax for 20 minutes after 90 minutes of intense work

Our body has several inner rhymes that tick like a clock.  One of these rhymes, the Ultradian Rhythm, has a wave length of 110-120 minutes. At the end of that wave we feel unfocused. So in essence, we have 90 minutes productive time, and 20 minutes of little or no value.

By identifying when we’re in that 90 minutes energy peak and when we’re in that 20 minutes slump, we can pace ourselves accordingly.  The diagram below, taken from Dr. Ernest L. Rossi’s book “The Twenty Minute Break” shows that we have cycles of activity during the day that require from us to take an “Ultradian Healing Break” for 20 minutes.  If we don’t take them we build more stress. Now don’t get me wrong, stress can be actually good for your performance, but after a certain point it decreases performance and gets quite counterproductive.

Ultradian Performance Rhythm

Image source

3# Browsing the internet just for mindless fun boosts productivity

Wait what?

I imagine the following scenario, your manager walks behind you grinning with satisfaction at your efforts to be more productive by browsing aimlessly on buzzfeed.

Seems dreamy right?  Browsing the internet and visiting your favorite sites is much like taking a coffee break, it’s an excellent break from more complex cognitive tasks. Flash this study in front of your managers and awe them!

Speaking of taking a break…

4# Take a spontaneous day off when your managers need you the most!

Most employees cringe at the thought of asking for a day off, expecting they’ll receive a “NO” for an answer, especially during “crunch-time”.  But what will happen if you’ll ask your boss to give you a day off on account that it will make you more creative and, as a result, solve issues faster?

Research shows that the brain actually works when wandering, making connections and building neural pathways with previously acquired information.  Much like when you’re sleeping, your brain plays with the information it gathered. By exposing you to new stimuli, your brain can have eureka moments in which it connects that dots and provides you with creative solutions to problems you can’t solve otherwise.

In order for that to happen, we need to disconnect from what we’re doing currently and indulge in some recreational activities. So yes, tell your manager to give you a day off and you might even return to the office victorious.

Victory is mine by Stewie Griffin

Image source –

5# Avoid meetings

Most meetings are a waste of time.  If your day includes meetings your probably an unwilling accomplice to losing precious time.  In a survey reported in Industry Week, 2000 managers claimed that at least 30 percent of their time spent in meetings was a waste of time. According to a 3M Meeting Network survey of executives, 25-50 percent of the time people spend in meetings is wasted. And according to a survey by Office Team, a division of Robert Half International, 45 percent of senior executives surveyed said that their employees would be more productive if their firms banned meetings for a least one-day a week. (Source)

Since meetings are such a waste of time, you need to learn how to avoid them, and if not avoid them, at least make the most out of them.

If your manager needs to meet you for some reason and you’re in the middle of something, explain that you can communicate via emails or Skype, you don’t have to disengage from your work environment.

Politely advise your managers of the costs of you disengaging from your work environment and try to quantify it i.e., if you earn 5K per month and meeting take 30% out of your time your manager is spending 1.5K per month on you sitting aimlessly in meetings.

6# If you must attend a meeting, tell everyone to stand

To really annoy your managers and probably a few colleagues as well, ask them to stand up during the meeting.

No one likes to stand, that’s a given. If you ask people to stand during a meeting they’ll do everything in their power to end that meeting quickly which will result in more effective meetings.  You’ll arrive at your desk faster, waste less time in meetings; everyone’s a winner!

7# Brainstorming is better alone!

I think that the brainstorm concept is a bit off. Have you ever asked yourself why managers put term “Team player” in job requirements?

When people are looking for a great team player to brainstorm with, they’re actually looking for someone who will lead the brainstorming process entirely by himself. They do that for several reasons but mainly because they want someone else to do all the heavy lifting and reap the rewards as a team because “Hey, it was a team effort”.

The concept of brainstorming was invented by Alex Osborn in the 1930’s and was coined in 1953. He believed that attacking a problem or coming up with a creative solution required combining several brains into one thought maelstrom.

But alas, not all brains were created equal. At some point of the conversation, one brain leads the session and all other participants follow.

If you’d like to forgo these brainstorming sessions, send your manager an email containing your thoughts and ideas and suggest having a call after his/her review.

If your notes and ideas are clearly written, your manager will understand how redundant the brainstorming session was.  If you’re ideas are bad…well, that’s another story :)

8# Taking your managers job from them will actually make them happier

Your managers have a job and that job includes managing you.  Their job is to make sure that at the end of the day/week/month, you provide them with your quota whilst reaching all your deadlines, or something along those lines.

Now, do you think that they want to monitor all those parameters? Sure. But do you think they want to be active about that? Not really. Your managers are under a lot of pressure to reach their own quotas and the last thing that most of them what to do it to micro manage you.

Do you know which kind of employees get managed? Reactive, i.e. employees that move only when asked.  Proactive employees on the other hand are rarely managed and for obvious reasons.

9# Replace your boss!

A sure way to piss off your boss and to increase yours (and for that matter everyone else’s) productivity is to replace them.

In a recent working paper named the value of bosses (written by Edward Lazear, Kathryn Shaw, and Christopher Stanton) the authors wrote that:

“Replacing a bad boss with a good one increases the productivity of each subordinate’s output by more than 10 percent.”

Now, I don’t know how one might accomplish such a feat without getting their own hands quite dirty so I wouldn’t recommend it. However, if you are managed by someone that you perceive as a bad manager, you might want to read the above aforementioned paper.

10# Don’t answer emails for a few of hours every day

You probably understood already by reading this post that when you’re not interrupted, you produce much more. The problem is that your attention is constantly diverted throughout the day.  When you don’t have time to work on projects due to environmental interference, you must create uninterrupted sessions for work.

Make sure to you explain to your managers the difficulties that those interruptions are causing to your work and even if they won’t like it, they will understand and try to do their best to help you.

Now a lot of times the stress of the job might push your managers to interrupt you while you’re working. When that happens, point them gently to the “DND between time X to time X” sign on your desk, and then guide their look to that “Working on really important project” sign right next to the previous sign, and only after that point to the “Available between this time and that for other things”

Remember, proceed with caution.  These hacks work but make sure to sell them first. If you have something to add please do in the comments section.

Until we meet again!

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