Life

SG Approved Work Tips

Lessons learned about productivity, power moves, and happy hour

By Megan Collins | Last Updated: Aug 1 2016

I’ve been working for myself for four-plus years now, first in freelance writing after leaving the advertising industry, and now running an actual business (Style Girlfriend LLC) for a little over two years.

In that time, I’ve learned several lessons the hard way, and others thanks to the growing stack of business books I consume like they’re mozzarella sticks. Whether you’re an entrepreneur like me, working for the man, still in school, or just want to brush up on your biz sense, these #SGapproved business tips will help you get where you want to go.

Succeed at any job with these work tips:

PRODUCTIVITY

Step away from the computer

When I’m having trouble concentrating (which happens..oh, let’s say “often”), I use the Pomodoro app to schedule my workload into 25-minute bursts. After that I get five minutes – also allotted by the app – of cruising People.com, making myself a snack, or chatting with a friend on Gchat. When the bell rings, it’s back to work.

Don’t check your email first thing in the morning

While it drives my editor a little insane, I try not to check my email after 10pm or before 9am (thankfully there’s always Slack if she really needs me).

That might sound late to sit down in front of the computer, especially considering I’m usually up by 5:30am most days. But starting my day without email is crucial to being productive once I do finally get to my waiting correspondence. Productive morning work hours, before anyone else is up and demanding your attention, are like breast milk (stay with me here) – a precious and scarce resource that’s vital to the health of your baby. If, like me, your baby is your career. Spend that time getting major projects out of the way, not responding to Hank from accounting who wants to know why your expenses are late..again.

Do get your workouts in

No matter how busy I am, I always make time to work out. It clears my head and makes me feel more equipped to take on whatever the day wants to throw at me.

And while I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, studies show that scheduling your workouts for first thing in the morning mean they actually, y’know, happen.

EMAIL ETIQUETTE

Don’t sign your name after the first email exchange

No need for a “Cheers, Brian” “Thanks, Will” “Best, Tom” every single time. The recipient know who you are – your name’s in the email address, after all.

Avoid exclamation point overload

And never double them up. There’s showing enthusiasm for your work, and the work of others, and then there’s coming off like a seventh grader on her way to a Taylor Swift (check) concert.

If you’re going to start a business, or even a side-business, get a real email address

People inherently distrust – or worse, disregard – a business-centric email coming from a gmail address. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to get a bob@mybizname.com email up and running. Style Girlfriend runs its email through Google Apps – you can easily get an email address for $5/user per month.

Proof your emails before sending

If there’s one thing I love, it’s writing emails. True story. They’re like mini-blog posts that you don’t even have to create graphics for.

But too many people hit “send” before reading back through what they’ve written, to ensure their message is received with clarity and diplomacy. Maybe after checking through what you wrote, you drop in a “Hope you’re well” up front; perhaps you realize your request isn’t super clear. A quick scan from the recipient’s point of view could save you from a round of clarifying follow-ups.

IN-PERSON POWER MOVES

When offered a beverage while waiting for a meeting, take it

Even if you’re not thirsty. It puts you in a position of power to make the other party – whether a receptionist or the person you’re taking the meeting with – to do something for you. Sounds like cheesy, Art of War-esque machinations? Maybe, but hey, you can’t count out thousands of years of human behavior. Even if it simply gives you a feeling of being in control, that’s enough reason to do it.

Be standing up when someone walks into the room for a meeting

This may be uncomfortable at first, but give it a shot and I swear you’ll come around to it. You’ll look more empowered than if you’re seated, patiently waiting like a well-behaved third grader when the teacher’s out of the room.

Do whatever you have to do – gaze out the window, examine a painting on the wall – anything to keep your butt out of the chair and shift the balance of power.

Use people’s names as often as possible

…without being weird about it, of course. This one is especially hard for me, but so important. I have a tendency to forget people’s names as soon as they’ve introduced themselves (it’s a problem. I’m working on it). Not that that’s why most folks don’t use others’ names in conversation – at least not why for everybody – but just notice how you feel the next time someone uses your name.

Hearing your own name gives you super positive vibes about the person using it, and why wouldn’t you want to instill those good vibes in everyone you interact with? (Unless it’s your wife or neighbor or boss yelling at you for something, I suppose, but that’s another story…)

MIXING BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE

Take the lead

Not necessarily applicable for a lunchtime meeting (unless you work in finance or pharmaceutical sales, in which case, you might already be drunk by the time you read this), but if you want a drink, get a drink.

No one wants to be the first to order alcohol, but if it’s after 5pm it would be strange if you ordered a ginger ale (unless you don’t drink, of course) at a bar or restaurant. Many people want to wait to follow the lead of the boss, but that’s silly. Don’t feel bad about asking for a cocktail or beer; in fact, know that secretly everyone’s glad you were the first out with it.

As for that drink…

Make it a respectable one. Ideally your palate is refined to a point that you no longer need to even glance at the cocktail menu. Those drinks are full of sugar anyway, and most have dorky names you’d rather not say in front of colleagues.

Below, drinks ranked in order of “Least likely to get you a side eye from the waitress” to, “Seriously are you ordering that in front of other grownups?”:

1. Classic drink like a Manhattan, scotch on the rocks, Old Fashioned, or martini

2. Craft beer

3. Seasonal drink (rosé in the summer, spiced cider in the winter) or drink appropriate for the venue (margarita at a Mexican restaurant)

4. Hi-vis drinks favored by the Sex and the City gang (I’m looking at you, cosmos)

5. Anything with an umbrella

6. shots

Be interested

Whenever you meet someone new and come away thinking, “Wow that guy is awesome,” it’s usually not because he shared his penchant for hang gliding and at-home brewing; it’s because you spent a majority of the conversation talking about yourself.

Seems counter-intuitive, but science tells us  the way to make a good impression is to be curious about the person you’re talking to. Whether it’s a breakfast with a vendor, lunch with a potential hire, or dinner with a client, ask enough questions to seem interested (and duh, of course try to actually be interested, too) without it turning into an interrogation.

Don’t get (too) drunk

You know “that guy” who acts like it’s the company holiday party every Tuesday night? Don’t be that guy. You can have fun with co-workers without having to peel yourself off the floor after the last round.

Tell Me:

What’s the best work tip you’ve learned? 

Want more life advice from the female POV? Check out how to flirt at the gym, end a relationship like a man, and deal with conflict maturely