If you want others to like you, don’t criticize them.

Famous airplane test pilot Bob Hoover was flying back from an air show in San Diego when all of sudden both of his engines cut out. Through some impressive flying he was able to land the plane, saving those on board. Unfortunately, the aircraft was badly damaged.

The reason for the harrowing engine failure was that the World War Two propeller plane had been accidentally filled with jet fuel.

Back at the airport, Hoover saw the mechanic who had made the mistake. The young man was in tears, knowing how furious Hoover must be over the loss of his expensive airplane and the danger posed to the three people on board.

So did Hoover yell at him? Scold him? Criticize him?

Not at all. In fact, Hoover said that to demonstrate his faith in the mechanic having learned his lesson, he'd like the same mechanic to service his plane the next day.

The reason for Hoover's benevolence was perhaps that he knew something that psychologist B.F. Skinner had discovered a long time ago: animals rewarded for good behavior will learn more effectively than those punished for bad behavior.

The same is true of people: criticizing them won't encourage them to change their behavior because they're not primarily driven by reason but by emotion. Thus the person you criticize won't truly listen to what you're saying. They'll just feel like they're under attack, and their natural reaction will be to dig in and fight back.

So while voicing criticism might help you blow off steam, in the long-term, it will just make others like you less.

Many successful people actually made it a habit to never openly criticize others. Benjamin Franklin, for instance, claimed that the secret of his success was to "speak ill of no man."

Abraham Lincoln learned this lesson as well. He used to publicly criticize his opponents until one day his criticism so offended someone that he was challenged to a saber duel! The duel was only called off at the last instant, and from then on, he stopped openly criticizing others. Even during the Civil War he famously told those who spoke harshly of the Southerners, "Don't criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances."

Criticizing someone is easy, but it takes character to be understanding and to forgive others for their mistakes and shortcomings.

So if you want others to like you, think about why they did what they did, accept their shortcomings and make it a rule to never criticize them openly.

Teams that offer psychological safety are happier and more productive.

In a 2013 experiment, members of eight teams in an upcoming business school pitch competition were asked questions, including whether they liked horror movies and whether they got annoyed by spelling mistakes. The data-scientist running the experiment, Alastair Shepherd, knew nothing about the team members' business experiences, intelligence or leadership abilities. However, he accurately predicted the ranking of the eight teams in the subsequent competition, using only the quiz answers. That's because teams perform better if they're tolerant and welcoming of different perspectives.

There's plenty of evidence to back up this idea – what matters in a team is not the seniority or experience of the people involved, but their attitudes toward each other. And what really matters is the extent of psychological safety within the group. This is measurable by the degree to which members of the group feel free and able to propose ideas and thoughts without any risk of embarrassment.

When Google analyzed 200 teams in 2012, it found that the best performers were those who were part of teams with high levels of psychological safety. Not only were they less likely to quit; they were also twice as often described as effective by their superiors.

When teams aren't psychologically safe, performance suffers. A 2017 Wall Street Journal article recounted a simulation in which teams of doctors treated a supposedly sick mannequin. Some teams were assigned an observer who then treated them rudely, belittling their efforts during the simulation. These teams made serious mistakes, like misdiagnosis or failure to ventilate properly.

So if you're in a leadership position, how can you help create an environment of psychological safety? Well, a fun way to show that it's okay for your team members to share their ideas is to kick off discussions with a bad idea brainstorm – asking for deliberately absurd ideas. Taking the pressure off a little will loosen things up when it comes to the serious discussion.

Another way to encourage diverse ideas, particularly if there are introverts in a team, may be to ask everyone to write down their thoughts. Then the group leader can share them aloud and invite follow-up discussion. This way, it's possible to build a foundational framework for a safe, thoughtful exchange of ideas.

Taking control of our possessions helps us to take stock and reflect on the rest of our lives.

Taking control of our possessions helps us to take stock and reflect on the rest of our lives.

Many of us struggle to keep an orderly home or workspace. What's the big deal, we tell ourselves, if things are a little messy? Unfortunately, in truth, the tidiness of your external surroundings can have a bigger impact on your inner peace than you might think. In other words, your overflowing desk drawers and jumbled wardrobe are not a trivial issue. They're getting in the way of your happiness.

Importantly, clearing up our stuff and taking control of our possessions can give us a sense of control in other areas of life. Just consider the author's friend, who once remarked that when she eventually cleaned and organized her fridge, she finally realized that she could change her career as well.

What's the connection between your fridge and your work life? It all comes down to the promise of new possibilities.

When the food in our refrigerator or the dirty clothes in our laundry basket start to accumulate, we feel a creeping sense of paralysis. Working ourselves free of the mess we've created can start to feel like an insurmountable task. So we freeze up and get stuck in a trapped frame of mind.

But when we finally shift all that clutter or throw out all that old food, our sense of hopelessness will be replaced by a feeling of renewal. And we'll start thinking about the future again: what do we want to buy, and what sort of lifestyle do we want? This is what happened to the author's friend. As she was throwing out old mayonnaise and jam jars, removing stains and carefully arranging her condiments, she saw that there was a possibility for her to change her working environment too.

Crucially, getting your external world in order also means prioritizing the here and now, as well as looking to the future. Once you're no longer crowding your house with those giant stuffed toys your children played with as babies, you'll be able to reflect on your family as it is right now, not as it was several years ago.

Productivity lessons: Ignore perfectionism and seek effectiveness

To get things done in a team, put someone in charge.

In a team, if the responsibility for a project is distributed equally among team members, no one person will feel that they're in charge. Consequently, nothing will get done – not on time, at least. But if you ensure that one team member is made responsible for the whole team's outcome, the chances that important tasks will be actioned increase dramatically.

Be organized but flexible. 

Don't try to manage every little aspect of your work, as this won't make you more productive. Instead, it will consume too much of your precious time and energy – resources that are better used elsewhere. Of course, you do need to have an organizational plan, but it should be flexible at the same time.

Ignore perfectionism and seek effectiveness 

At one time or another, you've probably spent so much time on small, simple tasks that you never got around to completing the tasks that truly matter. That's why, when doing work, it's important to get the smaller pieces out of the way right off the bat.

After all, spending too much time on a small, low-priority task will waste both your time and your patience. So instead of allocating a lot of time to work that's not super important, do the simple things quickly to free up more time for the meatier tasks.

For instance, each day you'll be faced with different requests from your colleagues, your boss and your family. As these tasks come in, it's important to decide as quickly as possible whether or not you're going to handle them. If you are, it's then up to you to do so hastily.

A good approach here is to apply the OHIO principle, also known as "Only Handle it Once." For example, say you receive an email inviting you to a conference. You quickly browse the email then set it aside. Three days later, you remember the message, but don't remember the name of the sender. As a result, you spend countless minutes scrolling back through your inbox. From there, you've got to read it again, wasting yet more time!

On the other hand, if you were using the OHIO principle, you'd check if the date was free and the topic interesting and make a decision straight away.

Another way to move forward with your work, is to fight the temptation to be perfect when it comes to your low-priority tasks. Remember that not everything needs to be done flawlessly. You should reserve this privilege for your top-level work, since this is what your boss will see and judge.

Nobody is going to be pleased if you spend loads of time answering meaningless emails, so handle such tasks accordingly: get through them quickly and move on to the important stuff.