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The Benefits of Chat Texts, Why to Embarrass Yourself, and More Tips for March

Plus, the secret of how to get “the small stuff” done without distracting from your more important tasks.

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COMMUNICATIONSMaster Chat Messages

Can’t decide whether to text or call a customer about an upcoming event at your store? Send a voice note instead: They are not intrusive, are more personal than a text, and “sound like personal mini podcasts,” notes a list of life hacks in The Guardian newspaper.

SECURITYDon’t be rushed

Our emotions lead us into places we’d often be wise to avoid. It’s a thing con men know too well, says psychologist and writer Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game. The answer? To pause. “Time is the great antidote to emotion,” she says. “Scammers will rush you; taking space to reflect is your best defense against con men. The same applies when reading a news headline — or a tweet — that wants you to hurry up and feel something. Don’t be rushed.”

MANAGEMENTEmbarrass Yourself

Humans will normally go to extraordinary lengths to avoid embarrassment. But if you want to trigger fresh thinking, you should do the opposite, says Leigh Thompson of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. At the start of your next brainstorming meeting, ask everyone to tell an embarrassing story about themselves. “Sharing reduces inhibitions, which makes it more likely new and novel ideas will flow. By increasing your vulnerability, you become more likable and everyone else becomes more amenable to building on your suggestions,” she says.

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SHOPBuy the Best Tools

The standard financial advice for items that you use every day, such as phones, office chairs and beds, is to buy the best you can afford. Kevin Kelly, author of the guide Cool Tools, says a similar approach should be applied to tools, although with a tweak: “Start by buying the absolute cheapest tools you can find. Upgrade the ones you use a lot. If you wind up using some tool for a job, buy the very best you can afford,” he says.

MANAGEMENTUnderstand the One Percent

According to business author Dan Pink, there is always a core takeaway — the one percent — that will allow you to get a grip on the sea of information coming at you. “If you’re getting bogged down in some minutia, ask yourself what’s the one percent that you need to know. If you figure out the one percent, the rest of the 99 percent makes sense,” he says. It’s particularly useful when you get stuck on a creative project.

PRODUCTIVITYAttain Forced Focus

Does the endless flow of small items that need attending sink your day? Try embracing them. “Here are the rules: All work must be done in blocks of at least 30 minutes,” writes Cal Newport, explaining his method for attaining what he calls “forced focus.” You’re free to abandon your most important work whenever you like in favor of emails, minor errands and the like, but with a caveat: If you switch, you must stick to such “small stuff” for 30 minutes only. The double benefit is that you “batch” your smaller tasks, clearing the decks more speedily while creating a disincentive for getting distracted from the major ones.

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