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Productivity, Productivity, Productivity — This Week in Small Business

We know. It’s Friday. You’re dotting those last “i”s, tying up those last loose ends, and dreaming of picnics, the Sunday crossword, and watching Hunger Games again. Or maybe that’s just me. Still: even if Friday is the day we traditionally get the least done, we can all use some help getting those things done more efficiently.

In the spirit of doing more in less time, we’re theming this week’s post around productivity. You know, just in case the subtle title didn’t tip you off.

Netflix’s Unlimited Employee Vacation Policy; Why It Works

To compete for the best employees — and to keep those employees fitter, happier, and more productive — businesses offer perks. Some cater lunch, others give away baseball tickets, and still others, like the shipping company we talked about a few weeks back, do the simple thing and give a case of beer for a job well done. But Netflix’s perk might be the boldest we’ve seen: unlimited vacation. That’s right: unlimited. So how does it work? Employees at Netflix are responsible for getting their work done, not how much time they spend actually doing their work. While not every company can pull this sort of lenient, sky’s-the-limit vacation plan, it’s worth remembering that perks — from large to small — are an important factor in keeping your employees happy, not to mention keeping them in the long run.

Why Every Company Needs a Culture Chief

Can you take fun too seriously? According to Beryl CEO & founder Paul Spiegelman, the answer is “no.” Spiegelman went as far as to promote a boisterous and well-loved employee and give her the title “Queen of Fun and Laughter.” And while that obviously makes for the coolest business card ever, it did a whole lot more. Beryl now keeps employees longer, has a more collaborative workforce and, obviously, is just a more enjoyable place to work. Sure, not every company can afford a dedicated morale-booster, but if you ask around your office today, we bet you can find a volunteer.

Wasting Time at Work: Who Does It?

This is one of my all-time favorite infographics. Not only does it teach us who wastes time (hint: they tend to be younger and better educated), it shows both employees and business owners how to nip slacking in the bud. Perks — like the one we mentioned above — are helpful for businesses, as are contests and having an open door policy. For each of us on a personal level? Doing the “unpleasant tasks first” and having smaller time slots for jobs and meetings help us waste less time and get more down. It’s just an infographic, but it’s also a thorough and thought-provoking look at productivity, with ideas for how to actually Get Things Done (capital letters a must).

Secrets of the Most Productive People I Know

We can talk about “productivity” in the abstract all we want. But what actually makes someone productive? Perks and incentives can help, as can deadlines and accountability, but those are tactics that businesses use to get more out of their employees. What about each of us on our own, taking responsibility for our own work and our use of time? The secret may actually be doing less work. As Margaret Heffernan writes, the most productive people she knows have a life, take breaks, and get help. It’s not about sitting behind a computer screen and just chugging along. It’s about making that time more valuable.

Groupthink & the Myth of Brainstorming

Is the effectiveness of brainstorming a myth? That’s what Jonah Lehrer asks in this article on groupthink. And (spoiler alert): countless studies say “yep.” In fact, individuals often came up with more solutions than groups of people presented with the same problem. But the article isn’t a dour evisceration of teamwork—Lehrer posits better ways to work together and notes the occasions when coming up with answers on your own are preferable to throwing the question to the hive. It’s from the New Yorker, so it’s long, but it’s from the New Yorker, so you know it’s good.

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