Get to know LifeSpeak expert and author Steve Prentice.
How did you end up in your field of work?
I love public speaking and I love writing. My dual passions for knowledge are technology and psychology. I looked around for a place where I could apply all four of these things and be also be largely in control of my own time. I found there was a need among people for more knowledge about productivity and life-balance in the workweek. It was a perfect fit.
What is your favorite topic to teach and why?
My favorite topic actually is project management, because it is so practical. It’s about planning and communication, and you see tangible results at the end.
If you had to give one tip on how people can better manage their time, what would it be?
Follow the 80/20 principle: Spend 80% of your time doing work, and 20% of your time planning, talking with people, resting and building work relationships.
How do you think that people should manage the onslaught of email every day?
Answer them in blocks, on your own terms. There is a great deal of medical evidence that shows that taking on a task by choice rather than reacting to it keeps you more productive. It’s a proactive vs. reactive thing. Take stock of how many emails you can reasonably expect in a day, and reserve 2 or 3 time blocks to handle them.
What are your thoughts on accessing the internet for personal reasons while at work?
I’m in favor of it – in small doses. A 2-minute mental vacation will do more for your productivity than will complete abstinence. Each of us has the professional responsibility to keep these breaks short, but aligning mental breaks with your personal attention span is key to staying productive and engaged.
Do you think that the fact that most people choose to email colleagues instead of walking to their desks or phoning them is making people less or more efficient in the workplace?
Less efficient, because there is no context or goodwill in email. Every time you talk to someone face-to-face or even by phone, the synergy of the conversation will lead to a successful conclusion far more quickly than email. In addition, you build a credit rating of goodwill with someone when you learn to talk positively and listen actively. This goodwill goes a long way towards getting things done on a team scale.
What is one of the biggest problems that the workplace faces today in terms of productivity and how could it be resolved?
The increased speed of expectation combined with a decrease in the willingness to take accountability for things causes stress and consequently, delay. People need the courage to communicate with others and manage their expectations.
What is your perfect idea of happiness?
Doing what I like to do on my own terms. It is possible. I have done it and so have many others, even those who work in large companies. It’s all about relationship management.
Which historical figure do you identify with most?
T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) because he did amazing things, in spite of resistance from others. He believed fully in himself. He was also a great writer.
What is your greatest extravagance?
It was my guitar collection, but I sold it because I wasn’t playing each of them enough. Guitars are meant to be played.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Making a great living doing what I love.
What is your motto?
Never, ever, ever give up.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what (1, 2, or) three items would you take with you?
My prized Martin acoustic guitar. A big bottle of Laphroaig Single Malt. A solar powered PC with wi-fi booster.
Are you working on any current projects?
My current project is travelling around North and South America by RV. Stopping where I want for as long as I want, and continuing to write and speak professionally from wherever I am.
Are there any current events that really irk you right now?
People seem to want to cocoon themselves and their children inside bubbles of self-protection. There seems to be a reduced willingness to take risks, fall down, get up again and achieve things.