Productivity systems are the behaviors we repeat consistently and methodically to get more done. People often change their systems in order to improve productivity but find themselves reverting back to old habits. It’s hard to change your productivity system without modifying your environment, since previous behaviors may have been mapped to certain spaces. And even when new behaviors make sense, it’s easy to remain convinced that old habits are more effective. However, you can change the way you think about your routine. Start by identifying parts of your daily routine (such as arriving at the office) that happen with relative consistency and use them as cues for new behaviors: “When I arrive at the office, I will let my task list dictate the morning’s priorities instead of checking email like I used to.” Just don’t overthink it — the whole point is to create new habits that become automatic.
When working with a person from another culture, your instinct might be to try to identify cultural differences so that you can alter your own behavior to avoid any faux pas. But focusing on differences alone won’t help you build connections. To do that, you have to focus on similarities. Perhaps it’s a hobby you have in common, a shared love of football (European or American), or the fact that both of you are trying to Skype your families back home. You can discover these commonalities in conversation, through basic research, or simply by noticing the pictures and memorabilia on the person’s desk. The possibilities are endless. By focusing on similarities, you have the power to create connections and build relationships that either supersede cultural differences or make them irrelevant.
Problems at work tend to be repetitive. No one complains because their boss was angry one time or a colleague failed to pitch in once. The next time you’re in a familiar noxious work setting where someone is doing the same thing as usual, try something different: improvise. Break the routine. For example, if you have an employee who’s chronically late to meetings and reprimanding her in the past hasn’t solved the problem, the next time she’s late, stop the meeting and praise her for all that she’s doing right. Everyone will be caught off guard, and it may actually resolve the problem once and for all. By introducing an unfamiliar dynamic, you encourage your counterpart to respond differently in turn.