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Last week the folks at The Energy Project included this in their newsletter…

“Encourage your employees to show their appreciation for each other in a positive way every day. By promoting a workplace culture where all individuals are shown that the work they do is recognized, appreciated, and valued, happiness and productivity levels in your organization will thrive, and you will be able to sustainably engage your workforce.”

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For three years we at Spark Productivity have been using Workflowy for delegating work. This one-page website and voluminous-blog powerhouse describes itself as a zoomable, powerful digital notebook that accelerates creativity and productivity while providing unprecedented flexibility in organizing your ideas. We agree.

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Although this won’t optimize every delegation situation, why not experiment with posting a banner like this to see what happens:

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degrees of initiative

Through organizational coaching I help Chicago executives enhance their time management. Sometimes it’s by changing the way they interact with their team–helping them obtain better results from their direct reports.

One such method is empowerment via improving the degree to which direct reports are required to take initiative.

Consider the five levels of initiative as Oncken and Wass described in one of the most popular Harvard Business Review articles of all time:

1. Wait until told (lowest initiative);
2. Ask what to do;
3. Recommend, then take resulting action;
4. Act, but advise at once;
5. Act on own, then routinely report (highest initiative)

What would happen if your team eliminated the two lowest degrees, and operated mostly at the top two levels? How much more do you think you could accomplish? When do you think the results would begin to show in performance reviews?

Initially this shift might result in more time committed to people development, but longer term should produce happier staff and calmer bosses.

What tricks do you use to get people to act from a higher level of initiative?

We’ve been using a free only scheduling service,, to help find agreeable dates and times for a group to meet without overloading all parties with email. In fact, using doodle often reduces email volume down to two emails per event.

Here’s how it works in three easy steps:

doodle step 1

doodle step 2

doodle step 3

We’ve been so pleased with the personal productivity this service provided, we’ve not looked for any other. Have you had success with doodle or with another scheduling service? Have you added some of the bells & whistles they offer like branded pages and Outlook integration. Tell us about your scheduling wins.

P.S. Thanks to a fellow professional organzier for introducing us to Doodle early 2009.

outsource, work while you sleep

Two recent clients situations have pointed to the possibility of outsourcing locally or internationally. Though offshore talent carries with it political/emotional forethought, there are also practical barriers to using it…if only as a starting point for eventually hiring someone locally. This post addresses those logistics.


  • A video on the concept of outsourcing
  • WSJ and NYT articles showcasing the positives and negatives


Elance (most popular)

  • Local and international talent
  • Search for virtual assistant, personal assistant or executive assistant
  • Note client feedback/ratings for each
  • Some are individuals, others are companies
  • $4/hour+


  • Based in India
  • Highly professional; business assignments only
  • Company assigns talent based on request
  • $15/hour+

    Your Man In India

  • Based in India
  • Company assigns talent based on request
  • Not as professional; interview before assigning important tasks
  • $6.25/hour+


These delegation guidelines are from Tim Ferriss, Four Hour Work Week author:

  • Request someone with excellent English skills, indicating phone calls are required (even if not)
  • Request a replacement quickly if there are repeated communication issues
  • Give precise direction and give it in 2nd-grade reading level
  • Ask for assignment to be rephrased to confirm understanding
  • Request a status update after a few hours of work to ensure they’re on the right path
  • Use more than one assistant so you can spread the work around when you need to
  • Break big projects into smaller milestones
  • Provide short deadlines…72 hours or less
  • Request one task at a time whenever possible

Do you have people working for you while you sleep? What experiences with outsourcing or delegating can you share?

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