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You Only Need 60 Seconds to Make Progress and More Tips for February

Plus Walmart saved $20 million by making one small change, what small change could you make to save big bucks?

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PLANNINGThe Call of the Wild

For true breakthroughs in your planning, try ditching the break room for the wilds. The team at Spring Hill Eyecare in Spring Hill, TN, did that last year with a retreat in the mountains. Says optical manager Amie Robinson, “One of the most productive activities was our own version of ‘Shark Tank.’ We utilized the onsite theater for our presentation area with several teams presenting ideas for new products and procedures.”

managementShrink Meetings

It’s estimated American workers attend 55 million meetings each day. And most of these run for an hour. Why? Because that’s what the Outlook scheduling tool dictates. It’s an illogicality made worse by Parkinson’s Law, which says that work expands to fill whatever time is allotted to it. But you can also use that adage to your advantage, says Steven Rogelberg, author of The Surprising Science Of Meetings. “Schedule a meeting for 48 minutes, for example, and it will take 48 minutes,” he says, urging bosses to think about how long the meeting should be and then dialing it back a bit to create some time pressure. “Research shows that teams perform more optimally under some level of pressure,” he says.

COMMUNICATIONSBlind Double Carbon

This is one of those, “how come nobody told me” tips: If you want to send an email to a large group while ensuring that only you receive the replies (thus ensuring your inbox doesn’t fill up with witty but irrelevant banter), don’t type “Please do not ‘reply all’.” Make it impossible for your employees to do so by putting them in BCC, from where they are only able to reply to you, not the group.

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SALESEasy on the Eyes

Salespersons are taught to look the customer in the eyes. But it’s easy to overdo it, especially for reserved types. “One of the ways you can spot an introvert is if you stare them right in the eyes. Introverts will often feel like they’re staring into the sun and be like OK, I need a backup here and reset a little bit, whereas extroverts tend to find eye contact much more energizing and the intensity is not the same for them,” says Wharton psychologist Adam Grant. If rapport is your goal, it helps to be “very mindful of those kinds of preferences,” he says.

BRAINSTORMINGDon’t Phone A Friend

When faced with a seemingly intractable problem, have you ever called up a friend or family member to seek help and as you were explaining the issue had the solution come to you? You’re not alone; the trick is well known enough among software engineers that it has its own name: rubber duck debugging, which was inspired by a story in the book The Pragmatic Programmer about a software coder who would carry around the bath toy and when confronted with a line of buggy code would pull it out and explain line by line what wasn’t working and, often, in doing so find the solution. Give it a try, and spare your friends a call.

MANAGEMENTProgress in 60 Secs

One of the biggest problems with being the boss is that few people will give you direct feedback on your performance or directly offer kind words to inspire you when things get difficult. If your underlings aren’t likely to supply it, you have to go out and find the feedback yourself. Business author Dan Pink advises bosses: “At the end of every day, take just 60 seconds to record and memorialize what progress you made that day.” You may be pleasantly surprised by just how much you get done.

FINANCESLittle Changes = Big Savings

According to the National Retail Federation, Walmart said it would save $20 million a year just by changing its floor wax to a cheaper, sturdier version. Simple savings add up. “It might be time to dig … into the ho-hum products you use to see if savings or innovations are available,” the association said on its blog.

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