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Lighten Up or Tighten Up

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We gotta be productive. That's a given. But how we show up - the state of mind we're in, in order to be productive and the approach we assume - well, that is different for different people.

For example, in the March 2010 issue of Inc., several entrepreneurial leaders shared their productivity secrets. Seth Priebatsch, CEO of SCVNGR, a Boston-based start-up that helps organizations engage people through location-based smartphone games, admits his approach is "Expand my day!" In addition to fully-packed workdays, he comes into the office on weekends, meets with people late at night or early in the morning, reads technical manuals and watches video tutorials late at night - even the last half-hour before sleep. And that works for him. He's very productive. And happy.

So is Krissi Barr, founder of Barr Corporate Success, a business consulting firm in Cincinnati. She said, "If I think something is going to take me an hour, I give myself 40 minutes. By shrinking your mental deadlines, you work faster and with greater focus." That's what I call "tightening up" - pushing harder - with a focused drive. And that works for her. She's productive and happy with her approach.

Question #1. Does that sound like the mode you take on when you need to be productive?

That heads-down, hunkering-hard approach doesn't mesh with other entrepreneurs' styles, however.

Like Scott Lang, CEO of Silver Spring Networks, a California-based developer of smart energy grids. For him, being productive is "being agile." He leaves large blocks of time - up to 50 percent - open in his calendar every day. That wiggle room allows him to be light on his feet, reacting in the moment to opportunities that he may otherwise miss, he thinks, if his calendar was packed too tightly.

Or Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals, a Chicago-based software firm, and author of Rework. He thinks of himself as "wildly ambitious and unapologetically lazy." He thinks laziness is the best return on investmetn out there. The opposite of driven, his focus is today. In the now. He, along with his team of 15 colleagues who have millions of users - and millions in profits - don't spend time worrying about what could, might, or may happen. They spend their time on what matters now.

Question #2. Do Scott's and Jason's styles sound more like the mode you settle into when you want to be productive?

Both styles - lightening up and tightening up - work. And there are lots of variations in-between. The secret is figuring out your own approach and then refining it every day.

Now, back to work.

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