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Stever Robbins' Top Productivity Tip: Tame Your Technology

More productivity, less technology?Yesterday on ELR, author Stever Robbins explained in the first half of a lengthy interview that the foundation of productivity isn't tips and tricks, but deciding what to be productive at in the first place. But just because Robbins's is most passionate about this fundamental principle of productivity, doesn't mean he doesn't also have plenty of tips and tricks to share (in fact, he also regularly offers them in his popular podcasts).

Today, in the second half of ELR's interview with Robbins, he explains his best advice for young people looking to increase how much they accomplish at work -- and most of it revolves around taming technology:

Young people just starting out in their careers are probably not too set in their ways when it comes to their work styles and productivity routines -- any habits they should focus on developing straight off?
I'm going to stereotype what I've heard about Millennials. I haven't worked with a lot of them in the workforce, but I certainly have heard that there are an awful lot of people under the age of 25 who spend an inordinate amount of time communicating via text and email and other ways of communicating, and they do it even when they should be working. Get that under control. Because the people who your future depends on â€"- your bosses, and the people who will hire you -- are not judging you on the basis of all that stuff. They're judging you on the basis of the results you produce.

Especially in an economic downturn, imagine everyday when you walk into work, at the end of the day you're going to have to point to exactly what you did, and exactly how much you got paid and convince someone that what you did was worth that much money.

I think that's one of the best things that anyone can do â€"- become aware that they are in a job situation because they are adding value. Get really clear on what the value is and make sure that's what you're concentrating on and not all the other stuff that you may spend time on.

And what bad habit or habits do you recommend they avoid right from the start?

Studies recently have shown that college age kids today have considerably less empathy than any previous generation, and there are theories that this is caused by the lack of face-to-face communication and the prevalence of electronic communication.

Develop empathy, especially if the thought scares you. Commit to spending two weeks without using your cell phone. And without texting and tweeting. Do all of your communications by planning in advance and by meeting up with people and doing face to face interactions. If you can't do that for two weeks to a month, seriously fix that, because it is simply the case that the way human beings are wired, the way relationships get formed is face to face. Relationships do not get formed textually. Very shallow relationships do, but the people you're going to depend on for big breaks are going to be people you have relationships with and not necessarily the people you tweet with all the time.

Even if you don't use it very often, you need the skill set of empathetic face to face interaction if you want to be a long-term success. If you're a fabulous musician and I am a booker for a venue, and there are two fabulous musicians â€"- and there will be â€"- vying for a spot, the one I am going to hire is the one I get along with and like spending time with.

It's weird but that seems to get lost on a lot of people. I have a 22-year-old intern and he's much more comfortable texting. I say, fine, I'm happy to text, but understand that means when I'm thinking about who are the relevant people in my life, your image doesn't come to mind because I don't have an image of you. All I have is a bunch of texts.

Technology is obviously sometimes a great productivity booster but it can also be a huge time sink as well. How do you recommend young people tame their technology so they're getting maximum productivity out of it?

Turn it off.

All the time?

Well, no because unfortunately in a lot of jobs you now need it to communicate with people. But technology is a giant trap, because our technology does so much. Back when the only things phones did was make calls, they were productivity boosting devices, but now they're productivity inhibiting devices because they surf the web and send text messages.

And by the way, text messages are a really inefficient way to communicate. Even people who are phenomenally fast at texing, the reality is that people speak three to five times faster than they can type on a keyboard. At the end of the day when you reflect on what you did and you say 'I sent ten emails to clients' and you compare that to the head sales person who made 25 phone calls. He's getting to more clients than you are.

Do not visit Facebook at work . Do not open your private email at work. Keep a really clear boundary. Just because you can, doesn't mean it will be good for you. You will get sucked in and not get stuff done.

What's one thing a young person could start doing today that would be a big productivity booster?

At the end of the day, stop and make a list of what results you accomplished, what things helped you get those results, and what things didn't, which things got in the way. And do more of the stuff that helped. When was the last time you did that?

In a conscious, structured way? Almost never.

That's one of things that I find most fascinating about most of the stuff I talk about. Most of it is common sense. It's just that you actually have to do it for it to work, and most of us believe that understanding a concept is sufficient to get a benefit for it because in school it is.

But understanding doesn't produce the results. It's the actual doing of it.

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user dirkjanzanzijn, CC 2.0)
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