Tag Archive for: self-efficiency

What makes a great business English learner?

Ninety percent of the time, when a participant tells me “I am just not good with languages,” it turns out to be false. Much more common is that the person’s previous experience with poor learning materials and inadequate methods led them to have two limiting beliefs: that they were not cut out for learning a language, and that language learning is a difficult, boring process. The following success story of InCorporate training participant Karl from Germany shows what is possible even for a busy manager in his 50’s with an active private life. Find out what attitudes and behaviors drove Karl’s rapid progress, how he enjoyed doing it, and how you can improve your own journey by learning from Karl’s success.

As business English specialists, we often talk about what makes great training. From focusing on and developing the skills and qualities that make fantastic trainers, to highlighting the importance of the behaviors and characteristics required by clients to maximize the impact of training on their organizations, we’ve learned that every stakeholder holds unique responsibilities in ensuring great results.

Of course, great trainers, innovative, pragmatic training concepts, and supportive clients are all essential to excellent training programs. Equally important however—if not even more important— are the behaviors, qualities, and attitudes of the participants themselves. The most qualified and skilled trainers, the highest-quality training materials, and an unlimited training budget cannot go very far without motivated, ambitious, and proactive participants.

So, what does it take to be the kind of participant who gets the most out of training? Most people seem to believe that there are only two options: you are either naturally good with languages, or you must spend every minute of your spare time doing boring grammar exercises and memorizing lists of new vocabulary words. Well, I’m here to tell you, from years of experience as a trainer and from my formal studies of how languages are learned, that this is simply not true, and that improving can and should be enjoyable.

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Meet Karl

Occasionally as an InCorporate Trainer, I meet a participant who exemplifies the qualities and behaviors of an excellent learner, and that’s exactly what happened when I met Karl. Karl, a group leader in an accounting department of a large German company, has attended weekly one-to-one sessions with me for the last year. When he first told me about his incredible results—that he had gone from A1 (beginner) to C1 (proficient) English in just a couple of years—I almost couldn’t believe my ears. After just a few sessions with him, though, it became very clear to me why he had made such remarkable progress. I can summarize the four key characteristics that led to Karl’s success as proactivity, curiosity, consistency, and reflectiveness.

Let’s explore each one in a bit more detail.


When Karl made the decision to improve his English to increase his personal enjoyment and professional success, he took matters into his own hands. He didn’t overthink it. Instead, he started doing whatever he could do get a basic grasp of the language. As soon as he had a basic understanding, he spent as much time as he could immersing himself in the language. Specifically, he began listening to podcasts and news in English on his commute to work and found that his understanding kept getting better and better. He also found that this was a great way to make use of the time, as he had to be in the car anyway.

When he realized that he could understand more than he could speak, he hired some ‘tutors’ online—basically just people to practice conversing with. He found that this dramatically improved his confidence using the language, and it was incredibly interesting to chat with people from all over the world.

Finally, as soon as he realized that an InCorporate Trainer was available to him for private training, he jumped at the opportunity, and began integrating his foundational language skills with his professional life. Then, things really took off.


This one might come as a surprise to hard-working, results-driven people. Why does curiosity matter and how did it help Karl achieve such great results? There are at least two reasons.

Firstly, curiosity—wanting to know and learn more—is a highly motivating trait. Karl soon realized that improving his English connected him with the world and helped him to answer questions that he had. As his understanding improved, he began to forget that he was even listening, reading, and talking in English because he was so focused on the content of what he was listening to, reading, and talking about. We know from research into how people learn languages that this is hugely important: we learn language by understanding and really focusing on the message of what we are listening to. Karl’s curiosity about the world, current events, and the forces impacting his career and company became a highly motivating force for his journey.

Secondly, Karl had an attitude of curiosity about the language itself. Every week, he came to his training session with questions and comments about something he had encountered in English at work. An idiom, a pun, a slogan, an abbreviation—Karl noticed that there is always something to be learned, discussed, and explored. He also brought in presentations, documents, and emails from his working life. This openness means that he is always paying attention to the little details, and attention drives learning. (In contrast, I sometimes ask participants about what the English around them means or if they have ever explored it or thought about it. “GPD? I have no idea…it’s just what we call the talk with our boss each year.” Karl wouldn’t let the abbreviation GPD pass by him without dissecting it, analyzing it, and learning something from it).


This one is easy to understand but particularly important in practice. Not only was he consistent with his self-directed learning, but he also prioritized attending his training sessions very regularly, ensuring near-weekly practice. This gave us plenty of time to review previous material and integrate current work issues and world events into our ongoing conversation.

Under consistency, I would also file Karl’s focus on ‘little wins.’ Instead of needing to be perfect right away, he learned to enjoy the small successes, from delivering a successful presentation at work, to navigating a difficult situation while traveling in the US. He focused on what he could do thanks to training and learning as opposed to what he couldn’t do yet.


We’ve already seen how Karl reflects on the English around him as an active and curious learner. But importantly, he also reflects on the learning process itself. Not only did he come to training with specific language related questions, but he also came with questions and reflections about the process of learning a language and the strategies he used to improve.

It was interesting to hear how many of his experiences matched what I know about learning from a scholarly perspective. For example, Karl would often say things like  “I don’t really know any rules, I just have an intuitive feel for what I’m saying.” Karl’s experience matches research in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) —knowing about language (knowing ‘rules’) is a very different thing than knowing language (being able to use language naturally). In fact, with such a good intuitive understanding, developed through many hours of listening, reading, and conversing in English, when Karl did need to polish up his English with a rule, he was able to grasp it very quickly and easily. In contrast, people who focus too much on the rules of language, without enough exposure to input and practice using language, often struggle for many years to improve their skills. Karl’s experience highlights the importance of learning by doing when it comes to language learning.

Learning from Karl

While having a great trainer, quality training materials, and a supportive client are essential for effective language training, the behaviors, qualities, and attitudes of participants themselves are equally important. Participants like Karl, who are proactive, curious, consistent, and reflective, are the ones who achieve remarkable progress in their language learning journey. Here are some practical takeaways from Karl’s success story:

  • Be proactive: There has never been a better time to be a language learner. Find ways to include more English in your daily routine. Listen and read about things that interest you and take opportunities to practice speaking and writing. Take your learning into your own hands. If you are lucky enough to have an InCorporate Trainer, use them! Your trainer is there to support you with on-the-job training.
  • Be curious: Use your natural interests to drive your learning and develop an attitude of curiosity towards the language itself. Here’s an easy way to start: Go to YouTube. Search for a hobby, an interest of yours, or a professional topic or skill you want to know more about, in English. Find content that truly interests and engages you and get lost in it.
  • Be consistent: Practicing a little but often beats a lot of practice once in a while. Karl listened to podcasts on his commute to and from work, had two conversations per week with his tutors, and showed up every week to his private training session. Think of ways you can take a little-by-little approach. If you have InCorporate Training, attend training as often as you can. Also, focus on the small successes. Can you do or say something in English this month that you couldn’t last month? Congratulations. That’s real progress.
  • Be reflective: If you work for an international company like Karl, chances are, English is all around you. Engage with it daily. InCorporate Trainers are thrilled when participants bring in documents, emails, questions, and ideas to explore in training. You don’t need a coursebook when you are surrounded by a real-world coursebook and have a professional trainer to guide you.

Mastering a language is a lengthy process, but you’d be surprised at how quickly things get moving when you get the basic behaviors and mindset in place. Importantly, you have to find ways to enjoy the journey itself, just like Karl.



Seven Exercises for Overcoming Loneliness and Isolation when Working from Home

In the 2020 State of Remote Work survey, respondents identified loneliness as their top struggle with working from home. Even among experienced home-workers, loneliness and isolation are challenges. This year, millions of workers are suddenly sent home to work, indefinitely and with no preparation. Only a select few will be able to thrive in perpetual solitude; the rest will probably need a little help. This post offers seven exercises you can do to overcome loneliness and isolation when you are working from home. Think of these as your ‘daily to-do list’. In fact, this list is a good practice for looking after your mental health in normal circumstances; in present circumstances it has become a lot more relevant.

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#1 Talk to someone

Loneliness is a cycle. The more alone we feel the more we think that other people don’t want to talk to us, and so we don’t reach out. Break the cycle by having at least one conversation a day, with anyone. Talking about how we feel can help see that other people are feeling exactly the same and that we are not alone.

#2 Talk to yourself

We are all doing this most of the time, but we don’t realise it. Psychologists call this our ‘inner dialogue’ made up of recurring thoughts and emotions whirling inside our heads. If we don’t listen to this dialogue, we won’t be able to control it. Luckily, there are some proven techniques to help us listen more intently to ourselves; daily journal writing, labelling the emotions we are feeling, writing a letter to our third person self. These techniques allow us to view ourselves as an outside observer in order to tackle negative thoughts and emotions before they become actions and behaviours.

#3 Keep fit

‘Healthy body – healthy mind’ is not just an expression. Science has shown that physical exercise has a positive effect on our mental state. Intense physical activity releases mood-lifting chemicals called endorphins into our blood stream. Even just going for a walk can make us feel better, due to the fresh air, change of scenery and being around people (at an appropriate distance!). If you can’t, or don’t want to go outside, there are lots of free videos on the internet offering live fitness routines!

#4 Tune out

News channels and social media are full of one story at the moment and while it is good to be informed and in touch with what’s happening on the outside, the noise this makes can be over-whelming and reinforce negative feelings. Tuning-out from news and media can help us to tune-in to ourselves, find some peace and quiet from the noise and focus on doing something that makes us feel good. This is an example of a term that has become highly popularised in recent years – ‘mindfulness’.

#5 Take charge

Get a piece of paper and draw a circle. On the outside of the circle write the things that worry or bother you. This could be anything from becoming ill to a noisy neighbour. Now work in the inside of the circle and write all the things in your life that you can directly control. For example, you can’t control your neighbour, but you can ignore the noise. You can’t control events, but you can definitely control your reactions to them. The area inside the circle is your zone of control. This is the area you should work on and put your energy into because being in control of things gives us positive feelings, compared to worrying about things we can’t control or influence. When you start using any of the exercises in this post you have actually started to take control already!

#6 Do something for someone

Human brains are reward-driven, which means our senses become heightened when we enjoy things. Recognition and gratitude from other people are among the most common types of reward which our brains seek. A good way of doing this is to offer a kind act to someone else. For example, giving a compliment, holding a door open, giving a nice smile. It makes no difference if these things are reciprocated or not; just the act of doing them makes us feel better about ourselves and more connected to others, lighting up those important reward centres in our brains.

#7 Do something for yourself

Acts of kindness also extend to yourself. Being isolated can be a struggle but it’s also a potential gift. Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read, a recipe you haven’t had time to try, a new hobby you’ve been interested in but not had the time? Doing something new can help take your mind away from feeling lonely and build purpose and self-esteem.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you did, and it helped you, you could choose to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing it with someone else – a little act of kindness that could make a difference. You can also share your tips and advice for dealing with working at home, in the comments section below.If you would like to know more about our experience of helping teams with remote working, feel free to contact us. We also offer training on managing your focus, energy and impact when working from home and leading people when they are working from home.

Three steps to adapt to working from home

In March 2020 it is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population is confined to their homes in some form or other. For millions of workers this means having to adapt to working from home. In this post you will read about the 3-step approach to make that change a bit smoother and a little less painful. Even after this current crisis has ended, there may be times in the future where we need to make a radical and sudden shift in the way we work due to external circumstances. This could be anything ranging from unemployment or re-location, to geo-political events. So, we have put together the advice and approach in this post to be helpful in any situation where we need to change the way we work.

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Step 1 – Acknowledge

The first step to dealing with any big change is to acknowledge what is happening. If we don’t do this, we may get stuck in a little bit of denial, which will prevent us from dealing with the present situation effectively. Here are examples of what you can acknowledge in the current situation:

  1. For a lot of people right now, being asked to work at home full time is not voluntary. This is a decision made for us, not by us.
  2. This situation may last a long time. At the moment, authorities and businesses are talking about isolation as ‘indefinite’.
  3. ‘Working from home’ is not the same as ‘being at home’. There will be obstacles you will need to overcome, from dealing with family members to the state of your home internet connection.
  4. You will need to adapt by making changes to both home and work life. Put another way; you will need a new set of rules for both.

There will be other things you need to acknowledge – everybody’s situation is different. Spending a little time considering what is different or missing from your new home working situation is a good way to prepare to make some changes, which is our next step.

Remember that difficult periods can also be
personally rewarding. As someone once said, “the worst that
can happen is that you might learn something about yourself”.

Step 2 – Make Changes

Now that you have acknowledged the situation, you’re ready to make the changes you need in order to adapt to it. A good way to approach this is to make a list of difficulties/things you miss and then come up with counter-measures to each one. We did this exercise recently in our own team, and we discovered that although our team is made up of experienced remote/home workers, they still have challenges that they need to work on. Here are some of the things from their lists:

Difficulties I Face/Things I Miss:

  • Making a mental and physical separation of work and home life
  • Knowing how to organise my day
  • Being able to stop and tune-out from work
  • Seeing and socialising with colleagues
  • Little routines e.g. morning coffee with a croissant in the canteen!
  • Interruptions and distractions from family members
  • Feeling like I’m at work rather than at home
  • Team huddles and bouncing ideas off each other


  • Find a dedicated space to work (can be anywhere) and put on work clothes in the morning
  • Start the day with a ‘stand up’ team meeting on Skype – hearing others’ priorities can help us shape our own priorities and organise our days
  • Set up rules for family members e.g. knock on your home office door if they want something, put a sign up ‘Can talk/In a meeting/Busy until 11.’ etc.
  • Stick to your old routines where you can e.g. schedule a coffee break to go grab a coffee somewhere local
  • Use technology to connect to colleagues and agree how to use them, e.g. WhatApp group for idea bouncing, Zoom for team meetings
  • Make time for fun with colleagues to relieve boredom and lift your mood (e.g. sharing internet memes, funny videos, doing online challenges)
  • Talk often to colleagues about feelings on working at home
  • Fix a daily schedule and stick to it (share it with family members and colleague so that they can help you)

Step 3 – Look After Yourself

Sudden changes to our lives can be traumatic. In Step 1 we advised spending time acknowledging the change. Step 3 is all about managing your mental and physical health through a period of sudden change. Here are some practical ways you can do this:

Get some exercise

Even if you don’t wear a fitness gadget on your wrist, you will soon realise that working from home means moving much less compared to being in the office. So, plan some exercise into your daily routine, even just a 30 minute walk at lunchtime can help. Research shows that lack of exercise and fresh air has a real impact on our mental capabilities.

Ask for help

From colleagues and especially your manager. This could be asking for solutions to technical problems, or for a bit of slack if the home/work balance is getting overwhelming. We are all in the same boat and asking for and giving help and support is what we need to do now. You can read our tips and advice for managers in the post How to Lead a Team that is Working from Home.

Be kind to yourself

You are not going to make this change successfully in one day or even one month. It’s ok to be frustrated, angry, impatient and it’s healthy to consider the emotions you are feeling and where they come from. It’s also important to understand the emotions of those around us – whether family or colleagues – and be kind and understanding of those people too. You can find tips and advice on dealing with the emotional side of home-working in the post Dealing with Loneliness and Isolation When Working from Home.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post and please share what works for you in the comments. If you would like to know more about our experience of helping teams with remote working, feel free to contact us. We also offer training on managing your focus, energy and impact when working from home.

3 thought-provoking business books from 2016 that you may have missed

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Cal Newport

Do you ever feel that you can’t get any work done because of the countless emails, calls, updates and web-meetings? Do you feel that you spend all day “communicating” without getting things done properly? Then this hugely topical book is for you.

In Deep Work Cal Newport argues that one of the key skills for productivity and success in such a “connected age” is the ability to focus  on demanding tasks. He then brings this to life with science, stories, anecdotes and examples. Finally he then shares 4 “rules” for building habits and transforming your approach-

  1. Work deeply
  2. Embrace boredom
  3. Quit social media (see below)
  4. Drain the shallows

Check out the author’s excellent and generous blog to get a quick overview of the ideas.  Then put your smart phone in a drawer, turn off the TV, pour yourself a glass of wine and make the time to read it.


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Managing in the Gray: Five Timeless Questions for Resolving Your Toughest Problems at Work

Joseph L. Bardacco

In contrast to the previous “21st century” recommendation, the core themes of this book are timeless and universally applicable regardless of your situation. Every manager needs to accept and work with ambiguity.  Do you support your manager when you know the decision is terrible – and your team know it too?  Do you promote a driven and successful team leader who has regularly rubs people up the wrong way?

This book offers five deceptively simple questions to help you navigate through “gray areas”.

The questions are …

  • What are the net, net consequences?
  • What are my core obligations?
  • What will work in the world as it is?
  • Who are we?
  • What can I live with?

These 5 questions provide an ethical compass. To quote the author “When you face a gray area problem at work, you should work through it as a manager and resolve it as a human being.”

Certainly worth your time, and it also provides an excellent framework for teams, talent programs and management training programs.

How To Have A Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioural Science to Transform Your Working Life

Caroline Webb

And finally, our third suggestion is perfect for December. As the year comes to an end. many of us will be reflecting on what we’ve achieved (or not), how we’ve achieved it, and what we should be doing more or less of.  In How to Have a Good Day, Caroline Webb shares findings from behavioural economics, psychology and neuroscience and then shows how you can build on big “scientific” ideas to transform the quality of your everyday life.  The book is divided into seven areas

  • Priorities
  • Productivity
  • Relationships
  • Thinking
  • Influence
  • Resilience
  • Energy

And concludes with a transfer-oriented “Making it stick”.

Speaking openly, it can be a heavy read. There’s a lot of research and findings shared, BUT there’s a clear focus on your working life too.  Don’t let the “self-help” moniker put you off reading this – the stories and examples avoid slipping into fantasy or “business book bullshit”.

The author’s excellent blog is also well worth your time.


Finally, I know we’ve shared our 3, but its Christmas so check out “HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2017: The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year from Harvard Business Review”.  The summary of “Collaborative Overload” by Cross, Rebele and Grant connects back with Cal Newport’s Deep Work and is hugely relevant to anyone working in virtual teams. Plus check out the  excellent summary of Erin Meyer’s “Getting to Si, Ja, oui, Hai and Da” if you need to negotiate across cultures.


4 TEDs on Increasing Work Productivity

When learning a foreign language, it’s definitely beneficial to vary techniques and shock the brain so that it becomes more alert and is more apt retain information such as new vocabulary. In this vein, listening to native speakers is one of the best ways to learn. The learner can hear how the language is used in a variety of situations as well as intonation and pronunciation. This technique works best when the learner has interest in the topic being discussed; otherwise, the learner loses interest and stops listening. TED Talks are a great place to find interesting topics. TED means Technology, Entertainment and Design, but the talks now cover just about any topic you can think of. One great thing about the videos is that you can choose subtitles (English, please!) or follow along with the interactive transcript if you want. These are helpful tools for understanding an unknown word. I recently perused the website and found a few videos of varying length on the topic of increasing office productivity that I would like to share.

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How sweet are your emails?

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How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings

David Grady shares with us his ideas on How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings in his talk where he uses the analogy of office furniture theft to explain how and why the listener can and should bring order back to their daily work schedules by avoiding unnecessary meetings. After watching, you can learn how to avoid MAS, too!

Why work doesn’t happen at work

Jason Fried details three suggestions on how to improve productivity in the workplace in his talk on Why work doesn’t happen at work. In it, he explores where people feel more productive and what causes involuntary distractions at the workplace. He compares work to sleep phases where you need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get work done. What is the longest you can go at work without getting interrupted by managers or meetings?

Got a meeting? Take a walk

In her short talk, Nilofer Merchant advises the listener Got a meeting? Take a walk. Not only is this idea good for the health, it also allows you to get out of the office and see things a bit differently. As she says, fresh air drives fresh thinking!

As work gets more complex, 6 steps to simplify

Sometimes work gets unnecessarily a bit too complicated. Yves Morieux has thought about this and came up with six ways towards streamlining in his talk As work gets more complex, 6 steps to simplify. He looks to answer the questions why productivity is so disappointing, why there is so little engagement at work and what this has to do with the increasing complexities faced by businesses today. His answers just might surprise you!

If you found these talks interesting, I suggest you explore other TED talks on a topic that intrigues you. There are many compelling talks available, and the more engaged you are with the topic, the more likely you are to retain any new vocabulary you pick up whilst listening. Not only that, but you can also use the talks to train your ear for understanding foreign accents such as Yves’ wonderful French accent. Let us know what interesting talks you discover!

Being effective in 2015 – 2 time management tips I know will make an impact

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m not the most structured and organized of people. Like many managers I’ve got multiple roles – some I enjoy, others are a “necessity”. At the end of last year I was, quite frankly, ready for a break. Over the holidays I walked the dogs and reflected on the causes and possible solutions – and, like many of us, I’ve resolved to make a few changes this year. Drawing on the techniques we share in some of our seminars, these are two concrete time management tips I’m going to focus on going forward, and I know from past experience that they’ll make an impact. Maybe they can support you too.

Time management tip #1 – Talk with people about how they communicate and interact with me

Identifying why I seemed to be so busy was a first step. I then split these reasons into “time sins” , “time thieves” and “time wasters”. Time sins are things I do to myself, for example getting easily distracted, poor planning etc. Time thieves are things that others do which mean I’m not as effective as I could be, for example sending me too many emails when a phone call would be more effective, not preparing for a meeting which means everyone loses time, pushing problems up to me that they can and should be dealing with themselves. Time wasters are those things that just happen and are out of my immediate control e.g. delays caused by traffic, IT issues etc.

I’ll address time sins in the tip below – but in my case time thieves are also clearly a problem. So, going forward in 2015, I’ve resolved that, as and when time thieves reappear this year, I’m going to take (or make) the opportunity to talk with my colleagues. I’ll try to understand how they see things and why they are working like this, explain how I see things and then together agree to build new routines and habits. I know that time thieves won’t just disappear by themselves unless I talk with the “thief” directly. These conversations won’t always be easy but having them is important.

Time management tip #2 – Eat my frogs

Do you ever have that feeling that you just don’t know where to start? Everyone procrastinates at some time, and Brian Tracy’s “eat that frog” technique is an approach I’ve relied upon time and time again when things are getting a little too crazy at work and I don’t know where to start. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it goes something like this…

Your alarm goes off, and you roll over, turn it off and rub your eyes. Another day has begun and it’s time to get up and get ready to go to work. However before you get out of bed you sit up, reach across to your bedside table and pick up that big glass jar you keep next to you. You unscrew the lid, put your hand in and pull out … a frog. A living, croaking, slightly slippery frog. You then open your mouth, push the frog in, and start to chew it. Bones crunch, you resist the temptation to throw up, and then you swallow it. You then get up feeling relieved that this dreadful task is over. That was probably the worst thing that’ll happen to you all day .

Got your attention, right? Obviously this is a metaphor – eating frogs doesn’t actually help you become more effective. “Eating the frog” is a metaphor for doing the task that you’ve been avoiding, delaying or ignoring – and doing this task first thing! Most of us start work with the same comfortable routine. We get into the office, start up our computer, talk with a colleague, grab a coffee (and perhaps even read the news online) and then open and read our emails. Eating your frog means the very first thing you do when you get to work is that task you’ve been avoiding, delaying or ignoring. It could be a task that you’re nervous about tackling a task that you just don’t enjoy doing, or a task that you just don’t know where you should start. But before you open your emails, before you allow yourself the luxury of perusing the morning paper, before you even start chatting with a colleague – you do the thing you don’t want to do (for me this could typically be an administrative task). Once you’ve got your frog out of the way you’ll hopefully then spend the rest of the day being more effective, feeling more effective and focussing on other challenges.

These are 2 approaches I’m going to commit to. How about you? What tips and tricks do you have to share? How will you make sure that you are effective in 2015?

Prioritizing Work: 4 Categories to Help

4 Simple categories to help in prioritizing work

Prioritizing work can be a challenge for anyone, especially managers. I have just returned to work after being on holiday for two weeks. After reading all of my emails and speaking to my colleagues, I now have a huge to-do list. In the past, I wouldn’t have known where to start but I recently learned a very simple method for prioritizing. Based on The Eisenhower Matrix, I label each task on my to-do list with a letter, A, B, C or D.

Prioritizing work with A, B, C, or D


1.  ‘A’ tasks: Do it

These tasks are:

  • urgent, very important and should be done straight away
  • directly affect the work of others and they are waiting on you to continue their own tasks

2.  ‘B’ tasks: Plan it

These tasks are:

  • important but not urgent, so you can take the time to plan when you will do them
  • ones that require extra thought and consideration and should not be rushed

3.  ‘C’ tasks: Delegate it

These tasks are:

  • ones that aren’t overly important but need doing quickly
  • easily done by others who have more time to do them

4.  ‘D’ tasks: Drop it

These tasks are:

  • not urgent, nor are they necessarily important
  • ones that could be skipped, forgotten about, or done only if you have extra time at the end of the day


The A tasks are the most important, so I start with them, then the B and so on. One challenge I face is to find the time for the C tasks. Normally, at the end of the day, I find it useful to make my to-do list for the next day, along with the priorities; that way I know exactly what to do when I arrive at the office and I can get straight to work. It also stops me from brainstorming tasks for the next day when I should be listening to my bedtime story!

What methods do you use for prioritizing work? Let us know in the comments area below.  Are you interested in improving your time management?  Click here for information on how.


Time Management: 2 Simple Tips

Time management does not come naturally to me. Managing my own time is something that I have had to work at. And, good time management is something that I find works best if you apply one or two systems. Here are my two tips for improving your time management:

1.  Use a calendar

Sounds simple, yes? But, I use a calendar for everything. Every meeting and discussion that is planned goes into my calendar. Additionally, I also include tasks that need to be done, followed by planning the time for these tasks and then blocking the time in my calendar.

I plan long-term, non-urgent tasks in advance and block the time to complete them.

At the start of each day, I write a list of any additional tasks that need to be completed. Where possible, I include the time of the day when I will do these things. Each task gets crossed out once it is completed. If it is the end of the day and something has not been crossed out, I put it into the list for the following day, or find an actual time-slot in my calendar to perform the task at a later date.

2.  Keep your inbox clean

Again, this sounds simple. But, almost every day I see someone’s inbox with 200+ emails and 50+ not even read. Part of my solution is to be honest with myself. If I really don’t think I will do anything about an email, I won’t keep it in my inbox “just-in-case”.

When reading a new email, I immediately decide if I’ll do something with the email. If not, I will delete or archive it. If I plan to do something with the email, I’ll either do it straight away (for small tasks) or plan the task into my calendar. Once the task is planned, I’ll move the email to the relevant folder and also put a copy in my calendar if necessary.

It seems that a lot of people use their inbox as a “to-do” list. They leave the email in the inbox as a reminder to do something and this is how they “plan” their work. But, cleaning out my inbox forces me to actually plan tasks in my calendar and make time for the tasks.

Both of these ideas are simple. What works for me is the combination of the two ideas.  Why not share your own time management ideas in the comments below?  Also, click here for information on how to further improve your time management.