How to Nail Your Next Skype Call

There is no question that technology has integrated itself so seamlessly in the world of business that almost no business transaction can be completed without its use. The need to keep up with the world of technology has never been so pronounced, especially when it comes to your career.

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A relatively recent technology that has proven extremely valuable in the world of business is Skype. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a software application that allows two people who have access to a computer to contact each other via the Internet; the webcam is also frequently used for video calling. Skype has allowed people from around the world to video-call each other for free.

More and more, Skype is becoming a convenient way of conducting meetings and interviews when a face-to-face situation is not possible. An interview over the phone is one thing, but the ability to see the other person is invaluable (we all know how important body language can be, especially in an interview setting). Skype interviews and meetings can sometimes be unnerving, so here we offer you some tips for the preparation of your next Skype call, so you can be as prepared as possible and nail it!

It’s all in the preparation

  • Although you may be in the comfort of your own home or office, that does not mean that you do not have to adequately prepare because you may have access to notes or documents that might help you through the call. It’s good to have some notes jotted down, but do not rely on them to get you through.
  • Because the individual on the other end of the call can see your home/office, it is integral that you clean before the interview! What will a potential employer think when he sees the messy room behind you?
  • Be sure to always use the washroom before your call. This may seem silly, but it won’t when you’re in the middle of explaining why you are the best candidate for the job and you have to excuse yourself to visit the restroom. This can be easy to forget, as you are already in a familiar setting.
  • Be sure to have anything you foresee yourself needing during the call at your nearest disposal. For example, it is always a good idea to have a glass of water nearby.
  • Be sure to do a test call just before your scheduled call to ensure that the framing of your computer is right, and that the lighting in the room is perfect.

Because of the comfort often associated with a Skype call (you are often in your safe space), it can be easy to forget some basic principles of a traditional job interview, such as adequate preparation, and even your self-presentation. It is important to remember, however, that the stakes are always high, and that the way you prepare for and present during a Skype call has profound and lasting effects on your executive presence!

Etiquette for The Summer Barbecue

Summer is the long-awaited and much anticipated season; dresses, patios, and of course, summer barbecues. In recent years, barbeques have grown in popularity as an easy, fun, and delicious way of getting people together. They have also spilled over into the professional world and have become an informal setting for colleagues get together outside of the office

bbqOffice barbecues can be a great place to get to know your colleagues, and perhaps even your superiors, on a more personal level, given the informal and relaxed setting.

Although the term “barbecue” holds many connotations (such as informal, fun, relaxed, and beer), there are still some etiquette rules to abide by, especially when the barbecue in question is one filled with colleagues and/or superiors. Many of the same rules in effect at a holiday cocktail party still hold true at an informal barbecue.

Never arrive ravenous

 It is important to not show up to the barbeque on an empty stomach.

  • Think of the barbecue as an incredible opportunity to network in a new space – and a comfortable one at that – where others are likely feeling relaxed and happy. Can you say the same when you are trying to network in an office setting? Don’t focus all your time on the food!
  • Have a few snacks before you arrive, so that you’re not immediately drawn to the food. Of course, it is important to indulge in what is offered so as not to offend the host.
  • Start with a small portion of what is being offered (don’t bombard your plate with a mountain of BBQ’d ribs). If it was so delicious that you must have more, make sure others have eaten first before getting seconds.

Do not drink in excess

It is sometimes easy to drink one-too-many beers when you’re in someone’s backyard, on a bright and sunny afternoon. However, you must keep in mind that this is still a work function, and there are lots of important eyes on you.

  • Pace yourself with the alcohol. After each drink, switch to a glass of water, and try to limit yourself to two, maybe three drinks total.
  • Try to stick with one kind of alcohol throughout the barbecue. As the widely known rhyme goes: “beer before liquor, makes you sicker.”
  • Snack throughout the barbeque – if you’re going to be drinking for a few consecutive hours, it is imperative that you are also eating (which is also why it’s a good idea to have some snacks before you arrive!).

Try to reach everyone, at least once

Barbecues can be a gift for those who might struggle with the idea of networking. It is much easier to network, and get to know others, when everyone is in a wonderful mood, relaxing in the sunshine and drinking sangria.

  • Try to connect with everyone at the barbeque at least once. If you talk to the same group of people throughout the event, think of all the potential new contacts you didn’t
  • Although you likely work with most of the people at the party, colleagues may have brought guests. It’s always a good idea to bring business cards so that you’re prepared if and when someone asks you for your information.

Just like any other office party, barbecues can be a great place to relax, enjoy, and get to know your colleagues on a deeper level. Although they are often informal and casual, the same etiquette rules of a fancy Christmas party still apply! Remember, if you’re surrounded by colleagues and/or superiors, you’re still working!

Set Goals to Reach Executive Presence

 

Executive-PresenceAs we teach at Corporate Class Inc., Executive Presence is neither exclusive nor elusive – it can be learned. Still, a powerful presence is not something that you can acquire instantly without guidance or practice. You must take time to understand and incorporate Executive Presence into your life while building your reputation to go with it.

However, do not let this discourage you from pursuing Executive Presence. Instead, set achievable goals and identify stages on the path to developing an impressive presence – and suddenly it will seem easier than you think!

Here are a few helpful milestones on your path to Executive Presence:

  • Attend an Executive Presence Training Program or Seminar
    When you attend a half-day, one-day, or two-day intensive training program, you gain a solid foundation on which to build your Executive Presence. We provide you with knowledge of all the components of Executive Presence as well as opportunities to practice them in a small-group setting.

    With our training on all aspects of Executive Presence, including interpersonal and digital communication, non-verbal cues, executive dining, workplace best practices, professional image, and more, we set you well on your way to reaching your goal of developing Executive Presence.

  • Update your wardrobe
    Once you understand how to achieve your look of success, act upon it by updating your wardrobe, accessories, and makeup tools accordingly. For example, does your wardrobe match the workplace culture and dress code of your current position? Do your garments appropriately fit your body type and your personal style? However you answer these questions, swap out the items that do not put forth your best professional image. Even investing in 1 to 2 polished and appropriate pieces can go a long way for your image.
  • Attend networking sessions to sharpen communication skills
    Do not simply practice your interpersonal communication skills at random when the occasion arises. Instead, purposefully attend networking sessions so that you can sharpen these skills. Start by working a room – learn to enter a room while feeling at ease yet confident and strong. Also make a point to introduce yourself to several strangers and engage in small talk. The more often you do it, the more natural it will feel.
  • Practice conducting business over a meal
    Just as you can practice interpersonal skills at networking events, schedule a business meeting over lunch in order to refine your executive dining. Start by inviting a close colleague or friend to a meal, so that you can focus on best practices for business dining in a low-pressure situation. This way, when you are meeting an important client or contact over lunch or dinner, you will feel in control.

    Watch our video on 5 Business Dining Etiquette Tips to learn more.

After you develop your Executive Presence foundation at a training program or seminar and then apply your skills in real-life scenarios, your Executive Presence will become increasingly stronger over time.

Additionally, with these single initiatives working together, ultimately Executive Presence will come naturally to you and you will have built a winning reputation. Focusing on small, achievable goals makes the path to Executive Presence attainable for anyone!

 

Work Efficiently, Not Hastily

Have you ever heard the phrase “haste makes waste”? There is truth to this expression, especially in the workplace – as making decisions and producing work too quickly can have negative effects. However, getting caught up in a rush can be difficult to avoid: the fast-paced environments of many workplaces demand immediate results.

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How, then, do you reconcile the requirement for prompt action and production with high-quality work? There are a few strategies to take so that you can work efficiently but not hastily.

When Making Decisions

Especially for major decisions, a hasty choice made with poor judgement can have repercussions that carry far into the future.

  • Even if a decision requires a fast response, ensure that there is enough time for proper reflection and consideration of possible results. This not only includes your own reflection, but also implies that there is enough time to reach all other individuals who should be consulted in the process.
  • Ensure that everyone involved in the decision-making process agrees on an appropriate timeline to reach a conclusion. This will set expectations and clarify uncertainties. If you do not set a proper timeline, certain individuals may feel more urgency, stress, and anxiety when an answer isn’t reached within their expectations.

When Responding to Emails

The immediate nature of email sets the tone for constant and prompt communication. However, do not be tempted to send messages quickly that may require further contemplation.

  • For simple emails such as meeting requests, it is fine to respond promptly. But if a question or request over email demands a more lengthy response, don’t feel tempted to type as fast as you can to appear efficient to your contact. Under most normal circumstances, a good benchmark for responding to emails is within 24 hours. Use that time to think about how to convey just what you want to say.
  • Never send an angry email in the heat of the moment. If you are in the midst of a confrontation and type an emotional response, do not hit send – instead, save the email to your draft folder and revisit it a few hours later when you are calmer. Chances are, you will revise the email or start over from scratch.

When Producing Work

The quality of your work reflects directly on you as a professional. Ensure that it is a positive representation of your abilities.

  • Proofreading a document, spreadsheet, or report can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. If a close colleague can spare a few minutes, ask him or her to look over your work as well. Taking even a small amount of time to ensure you have done a good job can make a huge difference. For more on this topic, see our previous post, “How the Little Details Matter for Executive Presence.”

Adding time for proper reflection and review of your work does not have to compromise your promptness and efficiency. Instead, it will prevent you from working in a hasty, thoughtless manner – and your conscientiousness will enhance your presence in and out of the office.

 

Is it time to rebrand?

Many companies choose to rebrand from time to time in order to stay relevant and up-to-date, or to establish a new direction for their organization. This does not mean changing the core foundations of a company, but rather refreshing its look or brand imagery, repositioning its strengths, or changing its marketing tactics for a new target audience.

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Just as rebranding occurs on a corporate level, it is also a good idea to consider whether your personal brand needs a refresh. Here are three tips to re-positioning your brand so it best reflects you and your professional goals.

  • Before You Begin: Self-Reflection
    Before you even think about what kind of changes you will implement to your brand, first consider high-level questions about how you see yourself as a professional. Where do you want to be in five years? What are your key strengths that could help you reach your goal? Who are important contacts that you should connect with?

    Revising a personal brand is not a decision to be made on a whim – it should be viewed as a long-term strategy in helping you establish your name, accomplishments, skills, and ideas to get you where you want to be now and in the future. Once you consider big questions about your professional path, it will be easier to think of how to position your brand.

  • Refreshing Your Brand Image
    Even if you are not planning for major career changes in the near future, it is still advisable to keep your personal brand image current.

    Replace your headshot at least every ten years to ensure that you are recognizable to new and existing contacts on your website and LinkedIn profile. For personalized stationery, business cards, and digital platforms like your website, ensure that visual elements such as colour scheme and typeface still represent you properly and do not appear outdated.

    If you choose to change up colours, fonts, or your professional headshot, make sure that the visual elements align on all platforms associated with your brand. This includes your resume, stationery, business cards, email signature, blog, website, and social media accounts. A mixture of old and new branding can appear sloppy.

  • Rethinking Self-Marketing Strategies
    How you present yourself to new contacts, on both digital platforms and face-to-face contexts, is an essential part of your personal brand.

    For meeting new professionals, it is helpful to have a clear and concise “elevator pitch” about yourself, including your interests and experience. Developing a self-summary will enable you to introduce yourself consistently to different people and will assist you in considering your objectives.

    Ensure that your self-introduction on digital platforms serves the same purpose. Your LinkedIn summary and profile should highlight the same elements of your verbal self-introduction. Further, the content you create on digital platforms, such as LinkedIn updates, blog posts, and tweets, should at least indirectly align with your brand identity.

Do not take a personal rebrand lightly: it should set the tone for your personal brand in years to come. Yet when done properly, a personal rebrand can set you on the right path to reach your professional goals.

For more on this topic, see our previous blog post, “Building Your Personal Brand.”

The (Often Dreaded) Conference Call: Survival Tips and Tricks

Conference calls are often an inevitable part of any major company’s management system, and they are, more often than not, a dreaded exercise for those involved. We live in an age where we expect instant gratification and in which we’ve developed short attention spans; we anticipate our questions being answered immediately, we expect those to whom we’re talking to listen effectively and react accordingly, and we hope (and often expect) that our problems will be solved promptly. This is due, in large part, to the age of technology. Technology, such as email, text messages and Internet on-the-go, has led to this sense of entitlement, this desire for instantaneity. During a conference call, the likelihood of instant gratification is slim, and your full attention is required to get the most out of the call. It is imperative that you take this into account and adjust your behaviour accordingly in order to protect your EP (executive presence).

conference call        The reason why instant gratification is unlikely during a conference call is simply due to the amount of people on the phone at the same time; there are many opinions on the line, many voices to be heard, and many questions to be asked and answered. Our egos can often get in the way and we may abandon what we know to be good, professional behaviour in order to get our thoughts heard. We may also think that our EP is protected because our colleagues can’t see our face, but that is not the case.

Of course, every conference call has a different purpose, however there are some simple tips and tricks that can help you make it through your conference call, all while protecting, and perhaps even enhancing, your EP.

Conference call tips and tricks:

  1. Keep excellent track of conference call dates and times, as missing a call due to disorganization definitely doesn’t enhance your EP. It is also often a good idea to call in a few minutes early to ensure you will be on time.
  2. Eliminate background noise! There is enough going on over the phone already without the need for those on the call to hear your Starbucks barista grinding coffee beans for ten minutes.
  3. Remember, you can’t read body language over the phone. That’s why it’s so important that you ask for clarification if you’re not sure what a colleague meant. We can often tell, by a person’s body language, if what they are saying is positive, negative, or neutral (or something else for that matter), but this gift is not available to us over the phone.
  4. It is important to always state your name before speaking. Because all attendees are not in the same room together, it is important for the effectiveness of the call that all members know who is speaking.
  5. Wait your turn to speak. Interrupting someone mid-sentence can be perceived as a huge EP blunder.
  6. If, however, you feel it necessary to interject because you have something integral to add, it is important, to protect your EP as well as your colleagues confidence and ego, to bring the conversation back to what they were saying before you broke into the conversation.

It can often be harder to protect and enhance your EP over the phone, mostly due to the lack of visual cues that are so integral to thorough and complete communication. That is why it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to adopting proper conference call etiquette – these manners and communication skills will serve you well over the course of your career, and can often translate into the physical workspace.

 

Do Not Let Fear Limit Your Executive Presence

fearaction“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

What do you think you could accomplish if you simply let go of your fears? Fear influences all of our choices and decisions, and often limits us where we most want to succeed. However, when we stop and take a good look at our fears, we often find that what is behind them is not so perilous after all.

If you want to develop your Executive Presence, you must address your fears and work through them. After all, Executive Presence is built on a strong foundation of confidence and strength in trying moments. And just as Executive Presence is a learned skill, you can also learn to confront your fears until they are simply a challenge that you have overcome.

Professionals hold many fears that prevent them from reaching goals in the workplace. Here are three common fears with tips on how to address them.

Fear of Public Speaking
This is one of the most prevalent fears in the workplace. The anxiety of making a mistake or delivering a poor presentation in front of a large group can be an enormous burden. If this is one of your fears, consider the following tips:

  • Practice, practice, practice – and then practice again. The more you practice your prepared notes, slide changes, and any other elements of your presentation, the less likely it is to go wrong. This alone will give you more confidence to proceed.
  • Keep in mind that the audience likely will not know if you have made a mistake. If you do, calmly keep going as if nothing happened.
  • Before taking the stage or the podium, take a few deep breaths. This will help to calm you before you begin.

Fear of Networking
Some professionals have great discomfort not with standing in front of a group of people, but rather in trying to make a connection with another individual. The potential awkwardness of networking leads some professionals to avoid it altogether. However, since making meaningful professional connections is integral to success, think about these strategies:

  • As with presentations, you can also practice networking. Discuss your professional interests and ideas with a family member or close friend before you converse with strangers at a conference or networking event.
  • Remember that networking events aren’t all about “selling” your professional goals – small talk is equally important for making connections. Before heading to an event, think of a few talking points in advance, so you don’t struggle to come up with conversation topics on the spot.

Fear of Advancement
Are you too apprehensive to assert yourself in the workplace and aim for a promotion or a raise? Or do you think that if you advance to a higher position, you will not be able to perform and won’t “deserve” the promotion? Consider these points:

  • If you are promoted, do not overthink it or doubt the decision. If the management team acknowledges that you should advance within your company, then it is clear that others recognize your successful performance and trust in your capabilities. Now it’s your turn to trust in your own ability.
  • If you aim to get ahead but fear rejection, remember that you will never advance if you simply do not try. When you try to succeed, there is an inevitable risk that you will not. Choose to accept this risk and proceed to strive toward your goals.

What are your greatest fears in the workplace? For more on this topic from our blog, see our previous post on Conquering the Fear of Public Speaking.

 

Your Selfie, Your Professional Self

How much information do you share about yourself online? On your personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts, how large of a window do you let into your life?

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Posting personal photos and updates on social media is nothing new or unusual. If you do it, you are among millions of other users worldwide who share some elements of their private lives on a public platform. When this becomes an issue, however, is if the presentation of yourself on social media – whether through group photos, self-taken images or “selfies,” or written posts – is vastly different from the image you try to cultivate in the workplace.

“But this is my personal profile,” many have argued. “I have a separate profile for my work-related tweets and Facebook posts.” This may be the case, but lines become blurred between personal and professional on social media. A boss, client, or potential employer could have access to both – and it may not work to your advantage.

  • Be Careful What You Selfie For
    In some cases, the selfie and its subjects have acquired a connotation of being self-centred, overly indulgent, and simply unnecessary. Aside from this annoyance that some people feel when viewing the selfies of others, such images can harm the photographer if they reveal him or her participating in inappropriate behaviour.

    Although selfies have become normalized and encouraged – there is now even a professional camera designed for taking selfies – be wary of your own selfie-image and how often you post them. Before posting a selfie to social media, ask yourself if it aligns with the image you present in the office. One useful tip is to think of an actual person in your professional circle – whether an employer, client, or otherwise – and ask yourself whether you would mind if that individual saw the selfie you were about to post.

  • Don’t Compromise Your Reputation
    Reputation is an indispensible component of Executive Presence. However, even if you have worked for years to build up a flawless reputation in the boardroom, inappropriate online posts or images on personal accounts can shatter that reputation in an instant. Although you can heal a bruised reputation, it takes much more time and effort than maintaining a good reputation in the first place.

    Not only can questionable images hinder your reputation, but also hateful or negative written posts can do damage as well. Even something that seems like a harmless complaint can have a massive effect, especially if it is related to your company or line of work.

  • First Impressions Are Not Always in Person
    First impressions do not always occur face-to-face. In fact, an increasing number of employers admit to reviewing job candidates’ social media accounts before hiring. According to a 2014 Jobvite poll, some employers not only factor in appropriate images and posts, but also details such as spelling and grammar.

    If you are concerned about your online first impression, take steps to improve its quality – or limit its accessibility. If others tag you in images you would not like to be widely available, remove the tag and ask friends not to tag you in the future. Increase the privacy settings on your Facebook account and consider making your Twitter private as well.

Remember that if your social media accounts are widely accessible, there is no difference between your professional and personal image – anyone can see both. For more on social media and professionalism, see our previous posts “Dining Etiquette in the Age of Food Selfies” and “Spring Cleaning for Your LinkedIn Profile.”

 

How to Handle Difficult Colleagues

No matter where you work, it is a certainty that you will have to work with a difficult co-worker at some point in your career. In fact, you may have met him or her already: a difficult colleague can be someone who complains constantly, does not contribute equally, is always ready to start an argument, or even engages in bullying.

In many circumstances, it can be hard to know the right thing to say or do in response to someone whose behaviour is uncooperative and irrational. However, there are a few responses you can rely on that will make the situation easier to handle in many contexts.

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  • Don’t fight fire with fire.
    If someone is getting into a heated argument or accusing others without thinking, you might begin to feel yourself getting worked up and ready to fight back.

    While it takes great restraint, try not to let someone’s passion or anger influence your own behaviour. “Fighting fire with fire,” as the saying goes, will only escalate the situation. Instead, take a deep breath, try to maintain a cool head, and counter his or her irrationality with logical and measured responses. While doing so, do match their emotions. If someone is on fire and you speak in a slow and calm voice, you will only aggravate them even more. You do not have to yell and tell, simply match the passion in your voice and the cadence of your speech with theirs.

  • Don’t take it personally.
    When a colleague is acting rudely and is difficult to work with, know that this behaviour is not directed at you personally. Instead, a colleague’s challenging behaviour in the workplace is often a result of his or her own stress, whether in the office or at home. He or she also may be coping with problems that you are not aware of.

    Although it is unprofessional and unkind to be rude to others as a result of one’s own stress, keeping this idea in mind will help you to cope when faced with difficult behaviour, as well as to be empathetic to your colleague.

  • Focus on your positive professional relationships.
    While you might have one demanding co-worker who overshadows your workday, try not to focus all your attention on this single relationship. Instead, remind yourself of all the supportive, friendly, and professional relationships that you have in your network.

    When you maintain your attention on building and maintaining strong relationships with the people who are truly a joy to work with, it will help you to feel more positive and productive rather than diminished by one individual’s difficult personality.

  • Hold your ground—and pick your battles.
    You do not always need to take someone’s challenging behaviour lying down – and you must know when to fight back and when to let it go. Constantly trying to resist and argue with a difficult colleague can become extremely exhausting and stressful. Additionally, always reacting to a co-worker’s behaviour can affect your own professional image by portraying you as someone who is combative and reactive to provocation.
  • If it becomes a serious issue, involve HR.
    A difficult colleague can simply be testy or uncooperative. However, when an individual engages in sustained workplace bullying or any form of abuse, this becomes a much more serious issue. If the problem escalates to this level, it is appropriate to contact the Human Resources department within your company and report abusive behaviour. Your HR department will help to take the necessary steps to solve this critical workplace issue.

Relying on your Executive Presence can help you to navigate many challenges in the workplace, including dealing with difficult colleagues. For more on this topic, see our previous blog post, “How Executive Presence and Other Skills Can Help You Solve Issues in the Workplace.” How do you cope with challenging personalities in your working environment?

Multitasking Can Hinder Your Executive Presence

55777753In recent years, several studies have suggested that it is actually impossible for the human brain to multitask. Yet we continue to persist in our attempts: every day many of us juggle simultaneous responsibilities at work and an endless to-do list at home, all while managing alerts and messages on multiple devices.

Not only is your brain truly incapable of multitasking, but also trying to multitasking constantly can hinder your Executive Presence. In this post, I discuss how multitasking can weaken your presence and I provide some suggestions for cutting back on this habit.

First, imagine yourself working a room – you walk into a space and instantly feel confident, at ease, and ready to make a great impression. You are prepared to connect with others in a meaningful and sincere manner. With this approach and attitude, you exhibit great presence.

Now imagine yourself trying to work a room while simultaneously sending texts and emails from your smartphone. It’s impossible! Your body language will show that you are more interested in your phone than the situation at hand, and in your distraction you will remain disconnected and isolated from the individuals in the room. In other words, you will have no presence.

Constantly attempting to multitask can hinder other aspects of work life that contribute to your Executive Presence as well. For example, it can impact the effectiveness of your communication. Have you ever tried to work on a task or write an email while talking on the phone? Chances are, all results from this type of multitasking will turn out sloppily. On the phone you will sound distracted, and your task or email may contain careless mistakes. A combination of these elements over time will begin to reflect poorly on your overall presence.

If this is the case, how can you reduce multitasking to improve your Executive Presence? At the pace of today’s corporate culture, it is incredibly difficult to prevent yourself from multitasking. Our working environments and tools are designed for it. However, use this idea as motivation: you will improve your presence as well as become more productive when focusing on a single task at a time.

A few tips for staying focused and directed in your work:

  • Start your day focused. Do not wake up and immediately check your email or phone. Instead, leave enough time in the morning to have a quiet moment or a brief walk outside. This can be refreshing and help you to take on one task at a time throughout the day with renewed energy.
  • During meetings, leave technology behind. Do not try to catch up on emails when others are leading a meeting. It will show disrespect to your colleagues, and you will not retain any of the information exchanged. Additionally, you will not be able to contribute anything of value if you remain distracted throughout the meeting.
  • Allocate set amounts of time to each of your tasks. For example, if you allow yourself one hour to complete a single task, chances are you will be much more productive and efficient in that single hour than if you worked on it throughout the afternoon while getting distracted by other things.
  • What are your tactics for staying focused and dedicated to the task at hand? For more on the disadvantages of multitasking, see Time’s “Don’t Multitask: Your Brain Will Thank You” or “Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work” from Forbes.