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power points

Management columnist Harvey Schachter's weekly compendium of tips – 13 today – from the Web to power your performance.

From an early age, we are told not to be selfish. But to be successful in life – and happy – blogger Cornelia Wagner says we need to consider some selfishness.

First, be selfish about the people surrounding you. You don't control them completely – work throws you into contact with your colleagues, but even there, you often have wiggle room. So whenever possible, avoid people who drag you down. "It is essential to have a positive environment if you want to be happy. You know what isn't helpful? Being around people who are always complaining, don't strive to improve themselves or aren't interested in you or your struggles," she writes on the DumbLittleMan blog.

Also, be selfish with your body. She calls it a temple, and says it must be treated with reverence rather than abused. It determines how active you can be – your energy levels. She urges you to be careful what you put into it, to keep fit and healthy, and to pamper yourself.

She doesn't emphasize sleep but a recent sleep deprivation study offers some sobering results. Journalist Jill Duffy notes in Fast Company that when participants in a lab were scheduled for either four, six or eight hours of sleep a night, the subjects allowed eight hours fared best on tests of cognitive performance and reaction time. The worst were those kept to four hours. Subjects permitted six hours actually held their own for 10 days, but then deteriorated. Indeed their cognitive performance sunk to the levels of a group that went three days without sleep.

"One of the most alarming results from the sleep study is that the six-hour sleep group didn't rate their sleepiness as being all that bad, even as their cognitive performance was going downhill," she adds. So be selfish: Ensure proper sleep.

Our to-do list is a daily manifestation of our selfishness. It sets out what we intend to get done, until we get sidetracked by other people's demands. On, Kelsey Humphreys shares some other lists for a more satisfying and productive life, including: Your essential priorities, big life dreams, books to read, new things to try, places to visit, next steps to take for work advancement, conferences to attend, people to connect with, things you no longer will do. After interviewing successful people, she learned "successful, satisfied, happy people have multiple ongoing lists that are prioritized and edited regularly."

Two more tips for a selfish, more productive you:

Determine what sets you up in the morning for the rest of the day, wellness coach Louise Thompson writes in the New Zealand Herald. Perhaps it's a four-minute shower or 15 minutes to meditate. Don't make a long list, just pick one thing, because then it's more likely you'll do it before scrambling off to work. Write it down, and keep it in mind tomorrow morning – and every morning after that.

Identify where you do your best thinking. It may be the gym, a particular place in your home or office, a coffee shop, or your car. But the Innovation Resource Group says it's vital for creativity to know where it is – and to selfishly spend time there.

Abolish pay for performance

It's common for 60 to 80 per cent of a senior executive's pay to be tied to performance, determined by quarterly earnings, stock price, or some other factor. But London Business School professors Dan Cable and Freek Vermeulen say it would be smarter to abolish pay for performance for top managers. Instead, give them a fixed salary.

In Harvard Business Review, the academics say research shows contingent pay only works for routine tasks. And your top executives supposedly are doing the opposite of routine tasks. Yet strong evidence over decades makes it clear that large performance-related incentives are detrimental when the tasks are not standard and require creativity.

They dismiss the argument that we need such pay for performance to motivate executives, noting that what counts is intrinsic not extrinsic motivation. Indeed, they quote Deutsche Bank co-chief executive officer John Cryan: "I have no idea why I was offered a contract with a bonus in it because I promise you I will not work any harder or any less hard in any year, in any day, because someone is going to pay me more or less."

Contingent pay can also lead to cooking the books. "When a large proportion of a person's pay is based on variable financial incentives, those people are more likely to cheat," they note.

So for those – and a number of other reasons they cite – we need to move away from bonuses and other contingent pay for the executive suite.

Do you frustrate your colleagues?

Take this quick quiz: Here are seven kinds of behaviour that consultant Ron Edmondson says will frustrate colleagues on a team. How many apply to you?

– Promising to do something and not following through;

– Saying one thing to one person and something different to another;

– Never being serious;

– Having an excuse for everything;

– Always having a story that trumps somebody else's comments;

– Complaining consistently;

– Only looking out for yourself (there is, after all, a limit to selfishness).

Quick Hits

– When asking for a favour in an e-mail, don't begin with a windy preamble to warm up the individual. Put your "ask" at the beginning and follow it with the pleasantries. That increases the chance your e-mail will be received as sincere. Source: Shepa Learning Company Weekly Tip

– Today's quote: "The first principle of self-deception is you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool," said Nobel Prize winner for physics Richard Feynman. Source: Monday Morning Memo

– Want to improve your writing in a report or even e-mail? Try it longhand – or, if using a keyboard, type with only one hand. Research found that touch typing can be too fluent or fast and the individual types the first word that comes to mind. Slowing down gives the mind more time to find the right word, PsyBlog reports.

– To help team members know their colleagues better, ask them to tell others of one person, living or dead, they would like to share a meal with. Source: Leadership & Learning Blog

– Follow this rule today: If, when carrying out a task, you realize you aren't doing it for a reason, don't do it. Source:

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column, Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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