Why Pings, Pangs, Buzzes and Alerts Are a Productivity Wasteland

Posted by Richard Moran.



I have lived the ritual.  I have seen the ritual a thousand times.  The day goes like this… You get to the workspace and turn on the computer; it pings to attention.  You sit down, enter your password, and it pangs with approval.

You go to the kitchen, grab your coffee out of the Keurig K Cup machine when it buzzes, and then sit down.  But before you get into the details of the spreadsheets, your phone vibrates with a text from your mom that you need to read.  Also, you need to check Facebook. Wow, there is a new “10 Celebrity Facts You Need to Know.” Ugh, too hard to navigate.  Back to FB, never mind, always the same people. Let’s see what’s going on with my Twitter feed. Then, a glance at CNN.com to see what new in the world.  You look up and it’s after 10 a.m.  Time for another coffee.

It is impossible to go through a day without dealing with hundreds of distractions that kill productivity.

We seek connectivity; we are frustrated when it is not available but it can be the productivity wasteland. Connectivity is the problem. When one is connected, the constant pinging of emails and notifications and texts are like mosquitoes buzzing around the bedroom – you have to deal with them.  Those enticing tidbits we receive every day are just too damn interesting to ignore. The constant “urgent updates” about NBA coaches getting into fisticuffs or “Why Elephants Rarely Get Cancer” are just as addictive as crack cocaine. And opening one of those tidbits is like pulling on a string of a sweater — it may never end. The fighting NBA coaches will lead to athletes in jail which will lead to your alma mater website, which will lead to your old friends, which will lead you to a cat playing the piano and so on and so forth.

STOP.  All the emails and requests and pings from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other addictions that require immediate attention can wait. The Nigerian Prince who needs a bank account number who is always with us.  It never ends.

The best productivity hack is to disconnect. I know it seems impossible, but for an hour during the day disconnect to get real work done.

I have a writer friend who gets up each day and locks himself in a dark closet with no Internet connection. He takes his laptop in there with him but does not ever connect. His job is to write. He stays in the closet until he has written one thousand words.

Think about how productive some airplane trips have been for you.  Web access is spotty, if available at all, so we can put on noise-canceling earphones and work on the project, the book, the plan, the spreadsheet or so many of the important activities that are usually interrupted but require focus and concentration.  Although counter-intuitive, airplane time can be productive because of the disconnection.

There are no tricks to being disconnected other than disconnecting.

No matter the job, at the end of the year we are measured in production.   You need to know how production is defined. Is it in dollars? Clients? Saves? Points? Customer service? Widgets made? Hours?  The list of productivity measures is almost infinite. I doubt that knowing about Kim Kardashian is one of those measures. Disconnect to be more productive.

I don’t know any one who has made a major scientific discovery between the constant pinging of emails. I don’t know of anyone who has written a great book while the Twitter feed is clinking along. I don’t know of anyone who is not distracted by the buzz of a text. For me, I know that productivity is connected to being disconnected.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender – The Clarion Call of the Hiring Process

Posted by Richard Moran.


The movie Galaxy Quest was released in 1999.  It was a big success as the crew of the Protector battled the aliens to save the Thermians.  The film parodies classic science fiction films like Star Wars and all the sci-fi television series like Star Trek.  The cult following of those space shows does not escape lightly either.  In short, it was a great film.  It may be a stretch, but the film includes lessons about the hiring process.

The hiring process lessons in the movie are summarized in the immortal words of Captain Nesmith, the hero of Galaxy Quest. “Never Give Up, Never Surrender.”  The call from the Captain applies today – to both who are hiring and those who are seeking a job.

Although hard to understand for those seeking a job, organizations are often desperate to fill positions.  The process can be incredibly frustrating for a hiring manager.  Often, when the need is greatest, a job will go unfilled.  I have heard more than one hiring manager declare, “I know there are thousands of people out there looking for a job exactly like this.  Why can’t we find the person to fill it?”  This is exactly the time not to settle.  As I often say, “availability is not a skill”.  But when the waves are crashing, the bombs are exploding, the customers are barking and the boss is threatening, any hiring manager might let the guard down to fill the job.  Although instincts might tell you otherwise, you settle for less than what you really wanted to fill the job.  Don’t do it.  Never give up on what you are really looking for in a candidate.  Never surrender to the pressures and settle just to fill the job.  We have all done it and we all suffer the consequences of a poor performer – sometimes for years.

For the job seeker, the same clarion call to action applies.  Even after sending out more resumes than seems possible without ever receiving a response; even after dressing up and going on dozens of “informational” interviews; even after those unpaid internships that were supposed to lead to a job, even after moving back home with Mom and Dad and little brother; even after your friends all get jobs at Google; even when your career seems on a track to no where – Never Give Up, Never Surrender.  But that doesn’t mean sitting on a couch watching “Lost in Space” re-runs.   What “never give up” means is stick with it.  The job you are seeking will happen.  But “never surrender” may require a new strategy and asking some hard questions like:

  1. Should I develop a different skill set so that you will be hired? The skill might be as simple as learning about spreadsheets or how to give a better presentation.  Or the skill could be much more technical or require a return to school.  Even if learning the new skill may not fulfill a lifelong dream, the new skill can get you the job that will allow to get in the proverbial door.
  2. Should I keep waiting around until an organization is desperate and willing to take a chance on me? This usually does not turn out well. There is the possibility that something good will happen once you are “in”, but it’s a long shot.  Hard as it might be for job seekers to understand, waiting is not a good strategy.  Waiting is sort of giving up/surrendering.
  3. Should I change directions by choosing a different career? This is not giving up, this is being practical.

I suspect Captain Nesmith (Tim Allen) never knew the far-reaching impact that he would have on all parts of the galaxy.  He saved the Thermians, satisfied his adoring fans and, taught us something about the hiring process.

Happy Postscript – it was recently announced that the Galaxy Quest crew has found a new home.  Amazon Studios is developing a series based on the film.

About Stealing Office Supplies…

Posted by Richard Moran.

Or, How Red Licorice Can Kill Your Organization


I was waiting in the lobby of a cool high tech company.  Or, at least they thought they were cool.  The company was a high flyer just a short time ago but now it seemed stuck – not big enough to go public but not small enough to be a startup.

Lobby waiting and observing can reveal a lot about a company.  While sitting there I watched a young man duck into the break room, reach into the Red Vines tub and stuff a big batch of them into his backpack.   Then he reached into the cupboard and stuffed a few packages of Cup-a-Soup into a different compartment of the backpack.  Maybe he was about to hike the Appalachian Trail but it looked like he was stealing the free stuff in the break room.

While still waiting, a young woman on her way out of the office, helped herself to a few notebooks, pens and, while we’re at it, how about a printer cartridge.  Maybe she was delivering office supplies to another office.  Or, maybe she was contributing to a remote village in Africa.  Or, maybe she was stealing office supplies.  It was clear to me that both employees had just taken advantage of a their employer by stealing.

Stealing supplies at the office is a common practice. Anonymous surveys show that between forty and seventy five percent of workers steal everything from post-it notes to toilet paper.  (Really people, toilet paper?)  The surveys say the items most often taken are pencils and pens.

It’s terrible in so many ways.  (Forget about the toilet paper.)  Besides the stealing thing, there is the cost to the employer.  And, no you don’t deserve it because you worked late last week.   It is not a victimless crime.  In a workplace where stealing office supplies is a regular occurrence, the biggest problem is the culture that is created.  Stealing those pencils is not OK.

Think of it this way.  When you board an airplane and the seat pocket in front of you is stuffed with used tissues and candy wrappers, doesn’t it make you wonder?  If the cleaning is so lax, what about maintenance?  Is the crew that handles the fuel and the brakes as sloppy as the crew that handles cleaning?  It might not seem like much but it is not ok to have airplane cleaning poorly done.  It sets a tone and perception (culture) in the organization.

The same is true of office supply stealing.  A few pencils missing may not seem like much but it sets the standard and tone of the organization.   (Stealing printer cartridges is another matter.) It’s not ok.  Corporate cultures are formed by what is accepted as well as what is prescribed.  Plus, who wants to work with thieves?

Take a look around.  Each of us helps create the corporate culture and pilfering a few supplies sets a tone of loose standards.  Keep the sticky fingers off the sticky notes.  And remember, eating too much licorice is not good for you.