Be More Productive: Flip the Switch

Editor’s Note: This post was originally for Brazeen Careerist, where I am lucky enough to be a guest blogger. If you haven’t checked out the site, I highly recommend it.

What if you could gain an extra hour in the day? Sleep better? Really reconnect with your friends and family? Extend your attention span? Be more productive at work? Hear and see things you often miss?

All of these things are possible with just one little change. This isn’t a gimmick!  No “As Seen on TV” products or a magic pills here. To get the benefits mentioned above and even more, you need to flip a switch – the off switch.

By just turning off your cell phone, your laptop, your iPod and other technological devices, you can refocus your attention. Not checking your email every five minutes will stop you from wasting time. Not having the blue light staring you in the face will help you fall asleep faster and overall sleep better. Better sleep means better productivity at work.

Attention and focus take a hit when you anticipate the arrival of more digital stimulation, according to this New York Times article, which reports on a group of professors who took a trip to a remote area in Utah in order to understand how digital technology affects the way we think. A seminal study mentioned in the article conducted by the University of Michigan showed people can better learn after walking in the woods than after walking down a busy street.

These days, everything is time sensitive. We want answers now and no one can imagine waiting on anything.

But it is possible to control the technology you use.

“Plugging in is routine and hard to break,” said University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill student Taylor Coil, who routinely unplugs in the evenings to take her dog for a long walk or to enjoy a game of cards or a board game with her fiancé.

Graphic designer Christa Jane takes unplugging a bit further. She typically unplugs for a few hours after work and for extended periods of time on the weekend. If she has the day off, she rarely checks email and online social networks during that time. While this approach made her feel left out initially, she doesn’t feel that way anymore. “I’ve gotten over it,” she said. “I have few enough friends on Facebook that I can catch up with, but I gave up on reading all tweets.”

Personally, I leave my phone at home and turn off the laptop at least once a day and not just during a workout or a run. I’ve found it to be quite liberating. The unplugged time allowed me to finish some novels and non-fictions I meant to read years ago. The extra time has also given me and my husband time to try new recipes and watch movies.

You really don’t have anything to lose by unplugging. Start with an hour here and there. Before you know it, you might be up to a full evening or whole day.

Besides, as designer Jessica Kohler points out, you have to live so you have something to talk about.

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Should You Turn Down a second Job Interview?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally for Brazeen Careerist, where I am lucky enough to be a guest blogger. If you haven’t checked out the site, I highly recommend it.

There are lots of articles about turning down job offers, like this excellent one from Penelope Trunk and this useful article from U.S. New’s Money section.

But what about the step before the job offer? Specifically, what about a second interview?

According to this guide for second interviews from Florida State University, if you are called back for a second interview you likely have a 50 percent chance of receiving an offer. However, there are several instances where it might be in your best interest not to go through with the second interview.

For example, here are some reasons you might want to decline a second interview:

  • You don’t think you would be a good fit for the position. Either because you’re not qualified or are over qualified and would be bored.
  • You don’t like the culture. The company might be too formal or too relaxed for you. If you know what kind of atmosphere you thrive best in, don’t try to force yourself into something different.
  • You have a bad feeling about your boss. As the U.S. News article points out, people leave bosses not jobs and if the manager is not someone you think you can work with, don’t fool yourself into thinking you could.
  • You research the cost of living n the area and aren’t willing to relocate.

But you should certainly consider going to the second interview if:

  • You glossed over or did not discuss salary in earlier interviews. Unless you’ve spoken about the specifics in the first interview, the salary range might be more than you originally thought.
  • You didn’t spend time reviewing the benefits, especially because they’re not always set in stone. Often things like title, training, conference attendance, work environment (example: ability to telecommute), paid time off, sign on bonus are more negotiable than salary. “Employers who want you might offer a ‘sign-on’ bonus that you can apply toward COBRA payments, college application fees or a nanny’s salary. Some bosses agree to waive the 90-day waiting period to put your name on the current health plan’s rolls,” Robert Kneip, president and CEO of employer staffing company The Oasis Group, told Bankrate.com.
  • You have another offer pending. What if the offer doesn’t come through? The old adage, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” applies.

Only you can decide if declining a second interview is in your best interest. But if you’re sitting on the fence, it is probably a good idea to go ahead and go through the second interview. You never know what might happen.

As career blogger/former recruiter Carl Mueller writes on his blog: “If there is even a remote chance that the company and job might interest you, it can be in your best interest to attend the interview anyways. I’ve seen cases where a person goes to interview for one job and then ends up getting hired for a different position. So if you don’t think you are really interested in the job after the first interview, you could attend the second one to see what transpires and to see if there are other options not yet presented to you.”

Keep learning

Editor’s Note: This post was originally for Brazeen Careerist, where I am lucky enough to be a guest blogger. If you haven’t checked out the site, I highly recommend it.

After college, you’ll likely never have to write a paper on the inhumanity of man in Don Quixote or solve 50 statistics problems using standard deviation before class the next day. However, you will have to prepare for meetings and presentations.

Learning shouldn’t end when you cross the stage at graduation.

According to a study by the Jenkins Group,  “42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.” (The validity of this study is questionable, but it’s often quoted.) Just because you aren’t going to be graded on how well you know a book, doesn’t mean you should stop reading.

Read books on management, even if you aren’t in management (yet). Read books on other businesses. Read fiction for enjoyment. Every book you read adds to your collective knowledge. Not only are books great conversation starters, but they also can nudge you into make positive changes.

Balance your checkbook. Practice math. You never know when understanding financials can help you make a good decision or keep you from making a bad one.

More than anything else, learning makes you a valuable employee. It sets you apart, makes you a more well-rounded person and keeps your skills sharp.

Every office has that one person who has always done things one way. They begrudgingly accepted email, but that’s it.  Change is glacial, if at all. Yet every year, new hires come in with baffling technical skills widening the gap even more.

“Individuals born from 1957 to 1964 held an average of 11 jobs from age 18 to age 44,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.  Job hopping is more common now than ever before. If your skill sets haven’t evolved to make you competitive with those fresh out of college, how do you expect to land that next job?