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Category: Work-life balance

Supercharge your productivity: 3 big ideas from Bob Pozen

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 20 days ago

3 big ideas from Bob Pozen

Are you overwhelmed by work obligations? Not enough time for friends and family? Wish you wasted less time and got more done? In his recent Executive Education webinar, MIT Sloan Lecturer Robert Pozen shared three "big ideas" for extreme productivity, addressing common hurdles to time management such as procrastination, email overload, and the challenge of working effectively when you seem to have more tasks than time.

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Snow storms and wind chills got you down? 5 tips from Tara Swart for beating seasonal depression

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 17 days ago

5 tips from Tara Swart for beating seasonal depression.

If you’re feeling sluggish, tired, and more down-beat than usual, your mood change is not merely in your head. Numerous studies have documented an overall feeling of malaise this time of year, referred to as seasonal affective disorder—or most appropriately, “SAD.” MIT Sloan Lecturer and neuroscientist Tara Swart shares five practical suggestions for how you might improve your mental resilience in spite of the shorter days (and the record cold temperatures.)

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5 commitments worth keeping: New Year’s resolutions from our faculty

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 18 days ago

New Year's Resolutions from MIT Sloan Executive Education Faculty

Do you want to become more productive, balanced, and impactful in the New Year? Before you set lofty resolutions that are hard to keep, try these research-based recommendations from our faculty, from asking more questions to getting more sleep. These five committments might just help you attack your challenges with renewed energy and inspiration.

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Want to be more productive in 2018? Take more breaks.

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 21 days ago

MIT's Bob Pozen says take a break

Most of us are trying to be more productive. As a result, our calendars often look like the reservation book of the hottest new restaurant. But our back-to-back meetings and constant workflow might be backfiring. According to MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Bob Pozen, taking regular timeouts can help you refresh your focus and get more done. He says that the question to ask is not how many breaks you should take in a day, but “what is the appropriate time period of concentrated work you can do before taking break?”

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Time-maximizing strategies of highly-successful people

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 months and 30 days ago

Bob Pozen on maximizing productivity

There are few executives today who don't wish they could be more productive. Even the most successful individuals are looking for new and better ways to get more accomplished while maintaining or increasing their quality of life.

"Regardless of location, industry, or occupation, productivity is a challenge faced by every professional," says Bob Pozen, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan and author of the bestselling book, Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. Pozen was Executive Chairman of MFS Investment Management and previously President of Fidelity Management & Research Company (while a full-time lecturer at Harvard Business School and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review). In other words, he knows a thing or two about time management.

Nonetheless, Pozen still finds himself working to improve his own skills, both at work and at home, to get the most out of each day. He also believes that staying tuned into the perspectives of other productivity experts is critical to a well-rounded outlook.

With that in mind, here are some tips from Pozen and other highly successful people who do their best to keep time on their side.

Get your priorities straight
"Most professionals have not taken the time to write down their goals and prioritize them," says Pozen. "Without a specific set of goals to pursue, many ambitious people devote insufficient time to activities that actually support their highest professional priorities." This discrepancy between top priorities and time allocations can happen to anyone, in any field, at any level of an organization.

His MIT Sloan Executive Education course, Maximizing Your Personal Productivity: How to Become an Efficient and Effective Executive, begins with an important session on goal setting that forces participants to reflect on their core values and professional priorities. "No matter what your career aspirations are, you should begin by thinking carefully about why you are engaging in any activity and what you expect to get out of it." Pozen takes participants though a six-step exercise to establish their highest-ranking goals and to better match their time allocations with these top goals. Learn more about these steps in a previous post.

Pozen also reminds us that time, in and of itself, is not the best measure of your productivity or of your employees' commitment. "“The key metric is what you get accomplished, not how many hours you’re in [the office].” Read more in this recent Talent Economy article, "Is Time Still the Best Measure of Work in the Knowledge Economy?"

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How to beat the winter blues--tips from neuroscience

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 1 month and 9 days ago

What Dr. Tara Swart has to say about the Winter Blues

For many, the cold winter weather--with its endless, dreary days and forecasts of impending blizzards--is not the most uplifting, especially towards the end of winter, when we feel we should be seeing daffodils rather than snow. Concomitant with gloomy forecasts is a similar state of mind known as the "winter blues." Research says this mood change is not merely in our heads. In fact, numerous studies have documented the overall feeling of malaise, which has a name: seasonal affective disorder, or most appropriately SAD for short.

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Tara Swart, neuroscientist, leadership coach, medical doctor and executive advisor, says that SAD is thought to be caused by the way our bodies respond to daylight.Melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleep, is released by the pineal gland in the brain into the bloodstream. Because this gland is activated by darkness, in shorter daylight hours in the winter, higher levels of melatonin are produced, causing lethargy and feelings of low energy.” Swart explains the production of serotonin--a hormone responsible for maintaining mood balance--can also decrease because of a lack of sunlight, which can lead to feelings of depression and negatively affecting our sleep and appetite.

Does winter weather affect productivity?

While the changing seasons can have a physical impact on our brain, to what extent is our cognitive function and performance level affected by the colder weather? Swart says opinions differ. While some studies show our brain activity is reduced in the colder months and can lead to sluggishness, other studies show that although brain activity is reduced, our performance levels remain the same--or that the brain is actually more efficient in the winter. Those who believe brain activity is reduced during the winter think shorter days may be the reason. Conversely, research has also shown that our attention span increases during the summer when days are longer

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Nothing says love like putting down your devices

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 2 months and 10 days ago

Nothing says love like putting down your devices

It's hard to find bigger fans of technology than the staff, faculty, and global participants of MIT and MIT Sloan. We love using it, inventing it, and sharing it with the world. Tens of thousands of innovators have masterminded new technologies while here, or took programs to understand how best to bring those innovations to market. We also love using technology in the classroom itself, from management flight simulators and collaborative software to some of our newer experiments with telepresence and virtual reality. MIT researchers have even launched a new decision-making tool to help teachers, administrators, governments, and development practitioners around the world make smart decisions about incorporating technology in the classroom.

Given all of the above, the title of this post may seem counterintuitive. And yet, in light of Valentine's Day, we thought it worthwhile to remind our readers and ourselves that our love of all things digital can sometimes thwart true connection.

Breaking up [with smartphones] is hard to do

Smartphones, the most likely culprit, have been reshaping our etiquette for years now. Particularly in America, our "always on" state of mind has posed significant challenges for users vis-à-vis their relationship to others--whether colleagues in the boardroom or a romantic partner across the dinner table. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, for many Americans, cellphones are always present and rarely turned off, and this constant connectivity is creating ever-evolving social challenges. Of the 3217 people surveyed, 89% of cellphone owners say they used their phone during the most recent social gathering they attended. And similar studies have shown that the mere presence of cellphones in face-to-face conversations inhibits the development of closeness and trust and reduces the amount of empathy we feel from our partners.

Americans are not alone in their smartphone temptations. A national study released last week in Australia shows that nearly a quarter of Australians have played second fiddle to a smartphone on a first date, with their prospective partner switching their attention to their digital device. The Intel Security study of 1200 Australians found more than a third of people have argued with friends or family about their smartphone use.

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Sleeping your way to the top

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 4 months and 23 days ago

Contributed by Tara Swart, MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer, neuroscientist, and executive leadership coach.

What makes a good leader?

Senior executives, managers, and business leaders are paid to use their brains. So it is surprising how little emphasis many put on this vital organ.

In a fast-paced world that is constantly changing, the brain's executive functions, such as creative and flexible thinking, task-switching, bias suppression, and emotional regulation, are becoming increasingly important. But our ability to perform well at these outputs will be enhanced only if fed the right inputs. These include nourishing, hydrating, and oxygenating the brain appropriately, simplifying tasks to give the brain mindful time, and resting it.

That final element—rest—is one of the most crucial. We often hear stories about famous leaders such as Margaret Thatcher surviving and even thriving on very little sleep (Thatcher did suffer from dementia in her later life). It is true that an extremely limited number of people (1-2% of the population) have a genetic mutation that reduces the amount of sleep they truly require for optimal functioning to 4-5 hours a night. But for the rest of us, getting seven to nine hours of good, quality sleep every night is vital for staying on top of our game.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep deprivation will negatively impact your cognitive performance. Getting less sleep than the recommended amount can cause an apparent IQ loss of five to eight points the next day, and population norm studies have shown that losing an entire night’s sleep can lead to up to one standard deviation loss on your IQ. In other words, you're effectively operating with the equivalent of a learning disability.

Shorting your sleep can have longer-term effects as well. Our glymphatic system requires 7-8 hours to clean our brains, a process which flushes out protein plaques and beta amyloid tangles that can lead to dementing diseases if allowed to accumulate. Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep (which includes sleeping after drinking alcohol) inhibits this process and can therefore increase the risk of developing these types of disease.

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