Author of Work Smarter: Live Better, Cyril Peupion shares his thoughts and advice on why challenging people’s work habits will improve your life.

1. You say in your book people are not taught how to work. Is this an issue and who should be responsible for teaching us how to work? 

It is an issue that could be addressed by a variety of people, however there is certainly significant benefits for people both in the workplace and education to have a better understanding of how to be efficient and effective. People believe that in order to increase performance they need to do more. People worker hard but not always smarter.

2. Many people would think they already work proactively? What advice would you give them?

Some people do but most people react. In fact, only 15% of the average worker's time is spent in the proactive zone, the rest of it is spent reacting, this includes emails, interruptions and ineffective meetings.

3. Is better work efficiency just a matter of reducing our time spent on emails?

Efficiency covers a wide range of areas, we broadly define it as information management and behavioural management. This includes managing hard and soft files, using outlook, lotus or whatever the system to its full advantage as an efficiency tool as well as managing procrastination, time wasters and ineffective meetings. However email does play a big part. On average people get between 60 and 70 emails a day and spend 1 to 2 hours of their time each day dealing with it. This obviously has a significant impact.

4. What do you say to those people who work in an ‘organised mess’? (Who work  under piles of papers, but know exactly where everything is and what they must do.)

If it works for them, then its fine. However what we usually find when we scratch the surface is that by working in a mess these people are often using their desks as a time and task management system - Your desk is not a good task management system - and that they are wasting significant amounts of time trying to find information - in fact, research shows that people on average waste 6 weeks each year looking for information that they already have. Obviously this is neither efficient or effective.

5. Should management & supervisors be enforcing daily/quarterly KPI’s to their tem which align with company goals? Would reviewing these KPI’s daily be intrusive on staff or be seen as a ‘big brother’ mentality?

Reviewing these daily would not be the most efficient use of time, either for the manager or the staff member. That is why we recommend our 'think quarterly, plan weekly, act daily approach.' This allows managers to work with their team on a quarterly basis to review their key priorities, then the staff member can plan their time weekly to make sure they are focusing on those areas and then they can just act daily to implement their weekly plan.

6. How would you motivate your team to go from ‘I should’ to ‘I must’?

Nietzsche said, "If you have a strong 'why', you will find the 'how.'" It is impossible to change people who don't want to change so the key to motivating people to go from 'I should' to 'I must' is finding the 'why'.

7. Often teams are disconnected from company goals as it is seen as a management responsibility. Should teams be involved in the planning stages to become more involved in managing the outcomes of these goals?

Yes. The team should own the goals.

8. What percentage of the workface do you think are reactive instead of proactive?

It is hard to put a percentage on it but the vast majority of people tend to be driven by reaction.

9. What are the top five worst habits people do at work?

These are in no particular order
• lack of focus
• procrastination
• being reactive rather than proactive
• prioritising by urgency
• ineffective meetings

10. If someone could change one thing about their work habit, what would you recommend they change?

Adopting the simple logic of 'think quarterly, plan weekly, act daily'

See a review of Cyril's presentation at the Institute’s Work Smarter Live Better seminar on 8 September 2011..