How Overworking Negatively Impacts Your Life and Productivity

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Have you ever wondered how overworking negatively impacts your life and productivity? Working hard is not an option for most Americans. It’s necessary if you want to put food on the table and accelerate your career. However, there is such a thing as working too hard.

We’re all guilty of it. Maybe a deadline is coming up fast or you just need to put in extra hours for the week. Every once and a while can easily turn into ever week and each weekend. Before you know it, a culture of overworking yourself has been established and can likely lead to repeated bouts of burnout. 

Overworking is a problem for both employees, employers, and entrepreneurs. Working too hard routinely over a long period of time can lead to serious illness or even death. Researchers have found that overworking routinely makes you become significantly less productive. If employees are overwhelmed by their workload they will be less efficient at work. If you’re self-employed like me, you may feel tempted to work all the time.

How Overworking Negatively Impacts Your Life

Overworking leaves you with almost no time to think about what is going on in the rest of your life. Working too hard regularly can negatively affect your health, relationships, happiness, and overall quality of life.

When you are working longer hours regularly, then there is a good chance that you are not eating healthy which can lead to poor health. Some employees are so focused on their work until it becomes too much for them that they cannot cope with the stress anymore. As a result, work becomes joyless and a negative addiction.

Overworked employees are also probably not getting much exercise and taking enough breaks which can cause long-term mental and physical health problems.

Working too hard over an extended period of time could eventually lead to all manner of health problems such as depression, high levels of stress, high blood pressure, infertility, migraine, diabetes, allergies, heavy drinking, and impaired memory.

Overworking Impairs Your Sleep

Long working hours in the office or at home impairs your sleep. It can make you feel overwhelmed and result in extremely high levels of stress. Working longer hours regularly leads to tiredness, stress and depression – all of which can negatively impact your sleep.

You are more likely to become sick due to sleep deprivation caused by overworking. Lack of sleep over an extended period of time can cause many health risks such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and impaired memory.

Overworking Often Leads to Mental and Physical Health Problems

Those who work longer hours all the time have a much higher risk of developing heart-related problems than those who do not work overtime. If you do not get enough time to recover between work sessions, your productivity will only continue to decline.

When you do not allow enough time for your mind and body, you are at increased risk of developing various mental and physical health problems.

Often, symptoms of mental and physical health problems caused by overworking are anxiety, anger/bad mood, depression, poor sleep, tension/migraine headaches, fatigue, lack of concentration, frustration and feeling stuck.

Those who work too hard have a much higher risk of heart-related problems than those who do not work too hard. There have been many cases of death as the consequences of working too hard. So do not let your work dominate your life.

Impacts of Overworking on Your Personal Life

Overworking means sacrificing your personal time to spend in the office, which means you are spending less time with your partner, children, family and friends. Your relationships with your family and friends need time to flourish. Most people I know say family is a priority to them. However, how they spend their time doesn’t demonstrate this. 

Sure, we all have to work, but when you’re overworking it means you may not get evenings or weekends off to spend time with loves ones. This also goes for having the ability to slow down and take a vacation with family.

Overall, working long hours means you will be getting less quality time to spend with people who matter to you.

How Overworking Negatively Impacts Your Productivity

Working long hours per week for a short time can be beneficial for your business, but if you or your employees continue to work too hard, i.e., work 50-70 hours per week for months after months, then productivity will only continue to decrease.

Overworking is bad for your business, as it negatively affects your productivity. Many studies have found a correlation between overworking and less productivity. It leads to decreased productivity.

Numerous studies show that our productivity is higher when we are working 40 hours a week than when we are working 50 to 60 hours or more during a week.

Therefore, it is important to reduce your working hours in the workweek to enhance your productivity and the overall quality of work.

How to Stop Overworking…Seriously

So we now that we know how overworking negatively impacts your life and productivity, it’s time to talk about how you can stop this addictive habit.

Increase Your Income and Lower Your Expenses

Overworking often means less sleep and more mistakes but people’s main motivation for working extra hours is more money. We all need money to cover certain expenses and save. To avoid overworking and all the negative effects that come with it, purpose to increase your income over time. You can do this either through raises and promotions or by getting a higher paying job. 

I know this sounds easier said than done, and it may take longer to increase your income. but it’s important to work at it. You may even be able to find something you can do on the side to earn more money with fewer hours. 

I also recommend factoring in your budget and seeing how you can lower expenses. If you could increase your monthly income by $500 per month and decrease your expenses by $500, that’s $1,000 that you can add back to your pocket every month. This can eliminate the desire to overwork yourself.

Get Clear on Your Goals

I feel like a broken record sometimes when I keep saying this, but it’s a crucial step. As someone who said yes to everything for many years, I can attest to the fact that it can drain your time, energy, and ability to be productive long-term. There have been many times where I’ve taken on extra projects just out of the habit of saying yes all the time. It turned out the projects were not something I was interested in or felt good at and I dreaded the work. 

To avoid making this same mistake, get clear on your goals and know where your expertise lies. If you know what type of work you prefer doing, stick with what you enjoy and are knowledgeable in. With a clear focus, you’ll know when to say yes and when to say no to certain projects or jobs. 

Get Help

Stop trying to do everything yourself. It’s impossible. This is why at most jobs, there are teams. Lean on your team for support and be realistic with your supervisor about what you can handle. 

If you’re self-employed, consider hiring a virtual assistant or someone who can take a time-consuming task off your plate. I know this will require some money, but it’s worth it if it allows you to be more productive and build your business. Don’t be afraid to invest in your business if you’re serious about growth. As an added bonus, you’ll avoid some of those effects that are directly tied to how overworking negatively impacts your health.

Summary: How Overworking Negatively Impacts Your Life and Productivity

Working too hard every now and then when it is necessary can be rewarding if you’re staying productive. But when you make a habit out of overworking, it is bad for your health and business. Overworking all the time leads to an unhealthy work-life balance which has severe, negative impacts on your life and productivity.

Focus on implementing these 3 steps to help you stop overworking so you can improve your work and your life all around.

14 Business Tasks That Can Be Automated

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As a business owner, you have a full plate. But, did you know that you can free-up your most valuable asset by automating tedious and redundant tasks? I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have the budget or knowledge to afford such luxuries. But here are 14 business tasks that can be automated.

In reality, these tools are affordable and user-friendly. And, this small investment will save you time and energy so that you can focus on your priorities.

Not sure where to start? Well, here are 14 business tasks that can be automated. You’ll thank us later.

1. Scheduling appointments.

Whether it’s trying to figure out when to have dinner with friends or book an important meeting with a client, scheduling appointments can be like pulling teeth. You suggest a date and time, only for the other party to throw out a completely different option. Next thing you know, you’re engaged in an elaborate game of cat and mouse.

Thankfully, with calendar scheduling apps that’s no longer a problem. Simply share your calendar with others through email or embed it onto your website. Now they can see when you’re available and select a date and time that works from them. The event is then automatically added to everyone’s schedules.

Moreover, you can make appointments with yourself, such as blocking out time for your priorities. It’s a safe way to guarantee that you won’t book something else during that timeframe.

And, better yet, tools like Calendar use machine learning to see how you’re spending your time. It will then make smart suggestions on how to schedule meetings so that those dog days of going back-and-forth are over. It’s pretty much-putting scheduling appointments on autopilot.

2. Master your to-do-list.

Are to-do-lists flawless? Of course not. But, they can still come in handy when planning how to spend your time. And, this is most true when your list has been prioritized.

As you’ve probably guessed, automation can help you make your lists mare effective. In turn, you’ll be able to conquer it. And, as you cross items off, you’ll want to keep that momentum going. In short, mastering your to-do-list will make you a lean, mean productivity machine.

If you use a tool like Zapier, then you could convert emails, notes, Slack messages, or form submissions into to-dos. Microsoft’s Flow automates workflows, while Focuster will add items from your to-do-list to your calendar.

3. Sorting and responding to emails.

According to a survey from Adobe, respondents “said they spend approximately five hours a day checking work email (three-plus hours a day) and personal email (two-plus hours a day).” That’s bonkers. And, just imagine how out of control your inbox would get if it wasn’t effectively managed!

Automation allows you to eliminate annoying emails or newsletters that are no longer relevant — thanks Sanebox and Unroll.me. You can also create canned responses in Gmail. And, most importantly there’s email automation where create emails that will reach the right people at the right time. For example, if someone placed an order with your company, they would receive an automatic message thanking them for their order and what steps to take next.

4. Posting to social media.

If you want to spread brand awareness, promote events, and engage with your audience, then you need to be active on social media. However, just like email, this can become a time-consuming task as you may get drawn into the rabbit hole of sharing, commenting, and liking.

Solutions like Buffer and Hootsuite allow you to schedule social media in advance. You can also use chatbots to deliver immediate responses. And, tools like Sprout Social can curate content and generate real-time reports.

5. Filling out online forms.

It may not seem like it. But, constantly filling out forms online can be a drag. Just think about how much time you waste plugging in the same information again and again. If you use Chrome, then the Big G will fill out forms automatically for you. But, you can also use RoboForm.

Both of these options are secure. And, they’ll also remember and manage all of your passwords passwords so that you don’t have to search for or reset them.

6. Data back-up.

When I was younger and more naive, I didn’t think about backing-up more computer’s hard drive. Sure enough, it crashed and everything I had on there was lost.

That’s not really a concern today. Most cloud services, whether if it’s Google, Apple, Dropbox, or Carbonite, will automatically back-up your data. That should definitely give you some peace of mind at night.

7. Recruiting and hiring.

Full disclosure here. You will have to actually speak with potential hires. But, automation makes this process a whole lot easier. For instance, with ZipRecruiter you could send out a job description to multiple job search sites at once.

Additionally, tools like Yello can be used to screen candidates and speed-up the interview process. And, since you’re already using scheduling tools, this can also simplify scheduling interviews.

8. Creating proposals.

“Generating a new proposal from scratch can be tedious and exhausting,” writes Sujan Patel over at Inc.com. “Plus, with so many people involved, getting a proposal approved and out the door can sometimes take forever.” And, with so much back-and-forth going on, quality can also take a hit.

“But by investing in proposal management software, such as PandaDoc, you’ll be able to consolidate all of your proposal tasks in one place,” Patel adds. “This will allow you to seamlessly coordinate with sales, marketing, legal and others and avoid confusion that could lead to issues.”

“Within the system, you and your team can also create templates so that you won’t always have to start from scratch,” says Patel. “With a streamlined system, you’ll create better proposals in less time.”

9. Document collecting and auto signature.

Regardless if you have full-time employees or a team of freelancers, there will be times when you need to gather documents and electronic signatures. Sending out reminders can be tedious. And, if you need this information by an exact date, it can also be stressful — think gathering all essential documents during tax season.

Moreover, you may need to have a vendor sign a contract or deal with client intake forms. Long story short, chasing documents, while necessary, is a huge drain on your time. Platforms like Integrify will automatically gather documents for you. Meanwhile, Docusign will automatically digitize important paperwork. It will also send out reminders via email.

10. Invoicing and billing.

We all have bills to pay, like rent, utilities, or payroll. Instead of manually writing checks like your grandparents once did set up automatic bill pay. As an added perk, it ensures that you’ll never be late or forget about paying a bill — which could result in your getting hit with hefty late fees.

Additionally, if you have recurring invoices, you can use a wide range of platforms to send out your invoice. Besides saving you time, it also can help you get paid faster.

Even if you aren’t handing your finances automation can at least free up some of your accountant’s time.

11. Lead nurturing.

The last thing that you want to do is waste your valuable trying to sell your product or service to someone who will never purchase it. That’s why gaining and retaining your leads is so clutch. At the same time, it can also be extremely time-consuming.

With automation, you can quickly respond to inquiries, assign inbound leads to sales reps, follow-up, and segment your leads. After gathering this information, it can automatically be put into a database so that you can pinpoint where they are in the sales funnel.

HubSpot, Act-On, and Marketo are some solid options for nurturing and converting leads.

12. Sales and marketing.

Arguably, the most profitable use of automation is assisting you with sales and marketing. After all, it’s impossible to stay in business when you don’t have cash flowing in.

When it comes to sales, automation can:

  • Set a framework for your sales pipeline.
  • Help you determine and focus on your hottest leads.
  • Remain engaged with prospects who aren’t ready to buy.
  • Welcoming new clients and customers.

Also, it can encourage repeat sales by reminding customers about abandoned carts and when their supply is running low. It can also suggest new products or services that they might be interested in based on past purchases.

13. Customer service and engagement.

Keeping your customers happy is a crucial part of running a business. Besides building loyalty, it can also help attract new customers through referrals and word-of-mouth.

Chatbots, as previously mentioned, can be used to address customer inquires in real-time — even during off-hours. It’s even being anticipated that by 2020, 85% of interactions without human interaction. Bold 360 and Drift are just two tools that can handle this task.

Furthermore, with so much data at your disposal, you can send personalized offers, content, and reminders to your existing customers. You could even attach surveys after a sale to gather much-needed feedback on how to improve.

There are a lot of sales and marketing automation platforms that can assist you in this area. Examples would be Constant Contact for email marketing automation, Keap for CRM, and BuzzPortal for customer engagement.

14. Update contact information.

How embarrassed are you when you call a contact only to be informed that they no longer possess this number? What if you sent out an email and it was returned?

People are constantly changing their contact info. And, if you aren’t on top of that, then you may have a contact book full of outdated information. Addappt addresses this by updating your contact information whenever it’s been changed.

There are some other cool features too, such as birthday and anniversary reminders. And, Addappt will also keep you updated on your contact’s weather conditions. You know. Just to remind them to bring an umbrella if it’s going to rain.

Productivity Journal vs. Time Trackers

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Like many others, I’ve spent years on a productivity quest. That may sound hyperbolic. But, think about it. We’re constantly adjusting productivity strategies and experimenting with new hacks.

Sometimes this works out, other times they don’t. And, that’s okay. Productivity is discovering what works best for you and being flexible enough to implement these changes.

But, I have noticed something throughout this journey. All of these hacks and techniques are pointless if you first haven’t tracked your time.

That more sound laborious. However, being productive gives you purpose. It’s also good for your health and wellbeing. And, because you’re getting more done in less time, it improves the quality of your personal and professional lives.

To figure this out, we can use one of the following methods; productivity journals and time trackers. While there are differences, both have the same goal; helping you become a lean, mean productivity machine.

Each method gives you a chance to pinpoint your personal production peaks. They also give you a chance to clarify your goals, track your progress, and reflect on what works and what doesn’t. They can even let you know where you’re wasting time and what’s getting in the way of your productivity, such as your biggest distractions.

Possessing this knowledge allows you to make the proper adjustments so that you can finally work smarter, not harder. But, which method should you use? Well, let’s figure that out.

What Are Productivity Journals?

As the name implies, productivity journals are journals that document your productivity. Although you might be tempted to think of this as a diary, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Sure, it’s a place to log your activities, but the logging of those activities is more matter-of-fact than emotionally driven,” explains Jessica Greene over at Zapier. “It’s more ‘I worked on a blog post all day’ and less ‘Writing this post reignited my dreams of launching my own blog.’

“You can add entries to a productivity journal as often or infrequently as you want,” adds Greene. “Each time you complete a task, at the end of the day, or even once a week. And you can document that information wherever you want: A paper notebook, an app, or anywhere else that saves text.”

The only criteria are you “save everything you write in it” and keep in one location. Why? Well, you’ll need this information so that you can “go back and access previous entries to see how you spent your time on different types of tasks and projects.”

How do you use it?

The best thing about productivity journals is that they’re flexible and simple to use. In fact, you can create a powerful productivity journal in just three steps:

  • Record. List your big goals for the day, week, month, quarter, or year. Keep this to no more than 8 items so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Next, break these down into more manageable mini-goals.
  • Analyze. Track your progress, tasks, and emotion for a month. You’re doing this to pick up on patterns so that you know your energy highs and lows, where you succeeded, and what needs to be developed upon.
  • Improve. Analyze your data so that can clearly see where you need to improve. For example, what if you notice that you have the most energy and focus in the morning? Then that’s when you would start scheduling your most important or challenging tasks for the day.

Another practice would be writing down your top goal for the day. It will remind you what you’re working towards on a daily basis, explains Jari Roomer. Other key components for this method would be setting 1-3 daily goals/targets/intentions, the lessons learned, and your daily wins. Roomer also suggests jotting down any thoughts or ideas that pop-up.

For more complex journaling practices you could try Interstitial Journaling. “During your day, journal every time you transition from one work project to another,” explains Tony Stubblebine—Founder and CEO of Coach.me. “Write a few sentences in your journal about what you just did, and then a few more sentences about what you’re about to do.”

He adds that this world well with the Pomodoro Technique. After working for a 25-minute block, journal for 5-minutes. At the minimum, note the time, what you just accomplished, and what you’re going to do next.

The pros and cons of journaling.

As someone who enjoys writing, I’m a champion of journaling. I find it therapeutic and it gets all of these ideas out of my head so that I can focus. Moreover, it brings clarification to my goals and allows me to reflect on my progress.

Additionally, assist you in prioritizing problems and identifying solutions. Science has also found that journaling can stretch your IQ, invoke mindfulness, improve your memory, and spark your creativity. It can also help you develop emotional intelligence, self-discipline, and stringer communication skills.

That doesn’t mean that productive journaling is flawless. It can also be time-consuming and difficult to analyze. Mainly this is because journaling focuses more on how you feel. That makes it easier to overlook certain problems, such as unconscious behaviors like spending too much time on a website.

The best tools for productivity journaling.

If you want to give productivity journaling a chance, you just need a notebook and a pen. However, there are notebooks specifically designed for this task. There are also some digital options if you want to be more eco-friendly and access your planner from your devices.

1. The Productivity Planner

Printed on sustainable paper, this planner is pretty straightforward. It helps you set your most important and secondary tasks for the week. It also allows you to rate your productivity for the day, plan your week, and stay focused with the Pomodoro work system.

2. Bullet Journal

“Created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer, in 2013 bullet journaling is simply a method for note-taking and day-planning using good ol’ paper and pen,” explains Calendar co-founder John Hall. In other words, it’s a “customizable journal that’s a cross between a planner — to-do list — and diary” designed for rapid logging.

3. Franklin Covey Planners

Considered the grandfather of all planners, these will help “you to identify values, create successful habits, and track and achieve your goals.” What’s more, there is a variety of options ranging from daily planners to monthly calendar tabs.

4. Passion Planner

Sure, the #pashfam rely on this to organize their lives and keep track of their goals. But, for them, they consider the Passion Planner as a “paper life coach.” They offer a variety of colors and options like weekly, annual, and academic.

5. The SELF Planner

“The Self Planner helps you master your time, focus on what’s important, and take control of your life — every day,” states it’s site. “Use the various templates to get clear on your priorities, mastermind your future, and infuse every day with the things that matter most to you.”

6. The ONE Thing Planner

Based on the personal planners of coauthors Jay Papasan and Gary Keller, this planner is intended to help your identify your priorities. From there, you can use it to make sure that your daily activities are aligned with them.

7. The Mastery Journal

The makers behind this journal state that this “will guide you in mastering productivity, discipline, and focus in 100 days.” It was developed by entrepreneur John Lee Dumas, who used these skills to build multiple multi-million dollar businesses.

8. The High-Performance Planner

You can use this planner to get into the right mindset, prioritize your goals, rate your performance, and strategically plan your day. Since it’s also a journal, you can capture thoughts and ideas and take note of where you need to improve.

9. The Morning Sidekick

If you want to have a productive day, then you need to start off on the right foot. And, that’s exactly what this journal does. It encourages you to self-reflect, plan your day, and map out your biggest task. There are also pages to track your progress to hold yourself accountable.

10. Note-taking apps.

Finally, if you want to go digital, you’re in luck. If you use the big three, then there’s Microsoft OneNote, Apple Notes, and Google Keep. But, there’s also the popular Evernote app that’s ideal for everyone. If distractions are an issue, try out Simplenote.

Of course, you could also track your productivity using a spreadsheet management expert and author Jim Collins or this one from Chris Baily. There are also premade worksheets like the 168 Hours Timesheet.

What Are Time Trackers?

Time trackers essentially do the same thing that productivity journals do. They shine a light on when you’re most energetic, focused, and motivated. Additionally, they can pinpoint when and where you’re wasting your valuable time.

The key difference? Time trackers are digital tools that run in the background of your devices. That means they track your time automatically without you even realizing it. Better yet, they analyze the data and make suggestions on where and how to improve.

How do you use it?

Here’s what’s great about time tracking apps and software. Just download it and you’re pretty much all set. Some tools will just automatically track and categorize how you’re spending your time on your computer or phone.

Others, however, will require you to hit start, pause, or end. Usually, these types of solutions are used more for billing purposes. But, they can still provide an accurate picture of what your screen time looks like in real-time.

The pros and cons of time trackers.

The main advantage with time trackers is that you don’t have to manually do this task. You can essentially set it and forget it. That’s perfect if you feel that journaling is too time-consuming and tedious.

Another perk is that these tools are more accurate and objective then productivity journaling. They are literally monitoring your activity to see when you’re most productive and what distracts you. They will then analyze this information and show you how you can work better.

But, just like journals, there are issues with time tracking. Most notably, they don’t take into account the emotional context of work. Why is that important? Because emotions provide insights into what motivates you and how to improve your performance.

Another drawback is that there isn’t offline functionality. You may even forget to track tasks like checking your email or attending meetings. And, there are also times when the app or software is buggy and provides inaccurate reports.

The best time tracking tools.

If you decide to use a time tracking tool, here are some of the best options available.

1. Calendar

Calendar is a scheduling tool that also provides analytics to see where your time is going. It uses machine learning to review data like meeting distribution. As a result, it will make smart suggestions on when and where to plan your next event. It can even provide a breakdown of who you’re spending time with.

2. Toggl

Available for iOS, Android, the web, Toggl offers a basic version or a more robust paid option. It’s a popular time tracking tool thanks to its simple interface. In fact, you can get started with just one-click. If you forget, it will remind you to start tracking. Another cool feature is the ability to track idle time.

3. RescueTime

As with Toggl, RescueTime is available for Android, Apple, and desktops. It also only takes one-click to get started. However, it automatically tracks the time you spend on apps, websites, and documents. It can even block the most distracting sites and apps as well.

4. Timely

Timely is another tool that will start to automatically track your time by running quietly in the background. It also uses AI to analyze and categorize how you’re spending your time. It can be used for individual use or for teams.

5. Harvest

If you’re flying solo, Harvest is an excellent tool for tracking billable hours. If you have a team, Harvest can keep track of your team’s time via timesheets. In addition to being compatible with most phones and browsers, it also integrates with tools like Slack, Trello, and Zapier.

6. Clockify

What makes Clokify stand out is that it’s 100% free. But, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s subpar. With this tool, can track hours using a timer, categorize time by project, and mark time as billable. It also provides a visual breakdown of how you’re spending your time.

7. Timeular

Unlike the other selections listed here, this is actually a nifty 8-sided dice. After assigning an activity to each side, you simply place it on your desk. When it’s time to start an activity flip it to start. It is accompanied by a mobile and desktop app as well.

8. Wrike

Wrike flawlessly combines project management and time tracking. Although it may not be the most accurate time tracker, it’s definitely helpful when collaborating with others.

9. Time Doctor

Time Doctor is a fully customizable tool designed for teams. It takes screenshots to track activity, reminds you to stay off distracting apps and sites, and even monitors when users take breaks. You can also organize it to track the time spent on specific projects and clients.

10. Forest

Forest is an app that’s mean to keep you focused and present. How? By being a gamified Pomodoro timer, time tracker, and app blocker all rolled into one. Even better, the app has partnered with Trees for the Future to plant real trees.

The Final Verdict

Which method is more effective? Well, that’s totally up to you depending on your preferences and goals. If you want to stop wasting time on your screen, time trackers can produce more accurate insights. If you want to improve your motivation, productivity journaling may be the way to go.

In my opinion, I think a hybrid approach is best. Journaling gives you that much needed emotional context, while time trackers deliver hard data. Combining that information gives you a better understanding of how you’re spending your time and where to improve.

Major Hurdles for Startups of Productivity

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It’s not easy launching a startup. What, with overcoming obstacles like finding your niche, getting your finances in order, and working with partners. Oh yeah. You also have to worry about building your brand, marketing, and recruiting and retaining top talent. That’s a lot for anyone to take on.

But, one area that tends to get overlooked is productivity, which often gets confused with efficiency.

“While efficiency means doing more with less, wrote JotForm Founder and CEO Aytekin Tank for Entrepreneur. Productivity, on the other hand, “is about doing more with the same” while still pursuing quality. “After all, who cares whether you cross four extra tasks off your to-do list, if those activities don’t move the needle for your business?” asks Tank. “An effective morning routine or work schedule should help you to do more of what really matters,” he adds. “That’s why I believe founders and CEOs should focus on productivity, not efficiency.”

Additionally, when you focus on productivity, you’ll be able to finish what you start, boost morale, and achieve your goals. Ultimately, that will make your startup a success.

With that in mind, here are 10 major hurdles for startups to overcome so that they’ll be more productive.

1. Inefficient time management.

Despite the fact that time is your most valuable resource, it’s still astounding that so many founders don’t use it effectively. There is a multitude of reasons why this is the case. But, I think it boils down to the fact that they’re wasting too much time on time-wasting activities. For example, couldn’t your delegate or outsource your bookkeeping responsibilities or use automation and machine learning for customer service inquires and scheduling?

Freeing up your schedule of less important tasks and the things that you don’t enjoy doing, allow you to spend more time on what you love and do best. Moreover, it gives you the chance to learn and attend to your health and well-being.

That’s a crash course in time management, I know. But, here are some other time management tips startup founders should try:

  • Find out when you’re most productive and schedule your important tasks then.
  • Chunk up your week by doing similar tasks on the same day.
  • Establish new habits and strategies like the Pomodoro Technique, Mind Mapping, and Completion Bias.
  • Monotasking instead of multitasking.
  • Identifying common distractions and finding ways to avoid them.

And, most importantly, keep it simple. Relying on too many complicated strategies or tools can be overwhelming and counterproductive. If all you need is your Google Calendar to keep you in-check, then you do you.

2. Productivity tools aren’t being used correctly.

You’re probably tired of hearing it. But, it’s true. There really is an app for that. And, that can be a wonderful thing if you want to improve communication, collaborationplanning, and task management.

But, at the same time, haven’t we become too reliant on productivity tools? Again, I have nothing against them. It’s just that we forgot that these tools are here to help us and not solve all of our problems.

Before building up an arsenal of productivity tools, filter your search to the ones that improve your skills or fill an organizational gap. Or, in other words, use the tools that will work best for you. For example, a lot of people rave about tools like Freedom that can block distractions. But, if you have enough willpower and don’t need assistance in this area, then why spend the time learning and using it?

3. Keeping up with demand is impossible.

“While this isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have, it can definitely cause problems for your business,” writes Chalmers Brown, CTO and Co-Founder of Due.com. “Just as you would prepare for the worst, you should also prepare for the outcome you are working toward — growth.”

“In this case, if you can’t keep up with production due to lack of resources or manpower to service demand you may be in serious trouble,” he explains.

“Make sure you have a well-defined plan for growth,” suggests Chalmers. “If you’re just launching your business, make sure you set clear and reasonable expectations.” An example of this would be if you have a limited amount of your product. If so, “make sure your customers know there may be delays if supplies run out.”

Additionally, “you should pay attention to surges in demand, like during the holiday season,” adds Chalmers. “A surge in demand should never be your biggest issue.” And, if it is, it could create bottlenecks that prevent you from being as productive as you should be.

4. Lack of planning.

Someone much wiser then I once said, “if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” As a founder, that probably means creating a business plan and taking into account things like sales, hiring, funding, scaling, and preparing for the unexpected.

However, it also involves planning. After all, as Angela Ruth perfectly put it, “productivity doesn’t happen. You need to make a plan.” And, here are a couple of ways to get you there.

  • Make the choice to be productive, not busy. At the minimum, prioritize your tasks, block out distractions, and be proactive instead of reactive.
  • Think 168 hours, not 24. Find out how you’re spending your time and eliminate time-wasting activities. You could also create theme days and set an intention for the week.
  • Harness the power of KPIs. Monitor your KPIs to make sure that you’re achieving your goals.
  • Fight off decision fatigue. Preserve your mental energy by spending less time on unimportant decisions. For instance, prep your lunch for the week so that you don’t have to make this decision every day.

5. Organizational culture is in disarray.

“So, you want a productive day, but it’s not possible because of your working environment, notes,” Dragan Sutevski, Founder and CEO of Sutevski Consulting. Since you have an open-door policy, people can come and go as they please. And, because you’ve made yourself so available, people will email or call you “for every possible problem.”

“These are only the fraction of possible distractions that will decrease your productivity level,” Dragen writes. “They are the results of the organizational culture that you have built in the past and is still active in your company.”

Unfortunately, this problem is this won’t just interfere with your productivity, “but also the productivity of your whole company.”

How can you change your organizational culture?” Dragen suggests your “spread responsibilities, and decision making among your team members and ensure that your culture will make all your team members accountable for their decisions and work they are doing.”

I’d also add that you should create a more positive work environment. You can do this in a variety of ways. But, you can use your values and priorities to guide you in the right direction. Most importantly, you should encourage everyone to speak up and remove any toxins from your organization to keep morale and collaboration healthy.

6. Lack of respect.

Whether you’re a startup, mom and pop operation, or Fortune 500 company, it’s imperative that you treat your team with respect. If not, you can expect poor morale, unfinished tasks, a lack of collaboration, and lots of wasted time.

How can you respect your employees? Well, Amanda Abella recommends focusing on the following areas:

  • Don’t be a jerk. “If you want your employees to stick around, treat them with dignity,” she writes. “This means you can’t have unrealistic expectations, you must compensate them fairly and you need to be flexible when emergencies come up.”
  • Prioritize health. Encourage your team to take time for self-care. You could also offer gym memberships, healthy snacks, flex schedules, and access to mental health resources.
  • Don’t waste people’s time. Don’t arrive late for meetings or keep attendees longer then the time allotted. Get back to them in a timely manner. And, don’t overload their work capacity or message them non-stop during off-hours.

Amanda also suggests that you respect yourself. “Keep an eye on the nasty tendency to be way too hard on yourself,” writes Amanda. “Take care of yourself and be a stellar example to the people who work for you.”

7. Autonomy isn’t being encouraged.

“The best way to encourage productivity and creativity in your team is for the managers (and founders!) to step back,” wrote SINC Founder Sam Dolbel. “Let your team manage their tasks freely and independently; you trusted them enough to join your start-up, so you should be able to give them a task and let them fly with it.”

Encouraging ownership drives motivation. And, “you’ll find that the more ownership someone is able to take of their role, the better job they will do at it.”

Of course, this is a tough pill for entrepreneurs to swallow. But, you can start small, like letting employees work remotely 2 days a week. You could also let them choose how they want to work and share their unique skills and talents. If you’ve clearly stated your expectations, then you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

8. No one is able to stay on track.

Tim Hyer, Founder of Getable, told Business News Daily that the biggest lesson he’s learned is the importance of focus. By nature, a startup is extremely resource-constrained,” he said. “The last thing it needs is to be spread even thinner than it already is.”

“When working on a brand new problem that no one has attempted to solve before, the possibilities are limitless — as are the distractions,” Hyer added.

Ty Morse, the CEO of Songwhale agrees. “The early years of a startup can be chaotic and desperate,” Morse wrote for Yahoo! Small Business. “Even a great idea needs capital to get off the ground.” As a result, you say “‘yes’ to anything and everything because you need clients; you need investment; you need to turn your idea into an actual business.”

“Too quickly you’ll take on too many things,” Morse adds. And, this “disrupts your focus.”

If you want to stay on track, Morse recommends:

  • Putting together a business model that works best for you.
  • Only sticking to one or two things that you excel at.
  • Firing your bad clients.

As for focusing on your daily activities, Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article suggests that you:

  • Build your concentration like a muscle. “The ‘Pomodoro Method’ is a great technique to help you get started,” Denna writes. “Yes, it’s the same calendar and productivity hack where around 45 minutes straight and then take a 15-minute break.” But, since “you’re gradually building your focus muscles here, cut that time way back.”
  • Meditate. It’s a fast and effective way to keep you in the present and “bounce back from distractions and tame stress reactions.”
  • Optimize your environment. Maintain a clean and clutter-free workspace.
  • Stop multitasking. Seriously, it doesn’t work. Do one task at a time.
  • Manage your energy, not your time. Work during the hours when you have the most energy and concentration.

9. Success has a different definition for your employees.

If you’re no longer flying solo, then this is an important thing to remember when you want to empathize with or rally your team. Why? Because entrepreneurs and employees have different definitions of success.

Case in point, work-life balance.

For employees, balance an important factor that determines if they’ll join a stay with a company. But, it’s not for entrepreneurs since balance isn’t feasible. At the same time, founders also need breaks. So, you may want to focus on seasons instead. That means that if you’re on the verge of a product launch, you may put in 12 hour days. But, after the launch, you could disappear for a two-weeks if that’s your prerogative.

10. The workspace hasn’t been adapted to various needs.

Your workspace plays a huge role in how productive you and your team members are. If you aren’t comfortable and working from a filthy desk in a dimly lit room, do you honestly think you’ll be all that productive?

At the same time, we all have our personal preferences. Some people enjoy working in an office where they can hear background noise like typing and chatter. Others want absolute silence.

While you may not be able to accommodate everyone’s needs, you can allow them to decorate their workspaces however they want or listen to headphones. You could make certain areas of your office as silent as a library or permit people to work wherever they’re most productive.

Also, don’t forget to provide them with ergonomic furniture, a standing desk, and all the tools and resources needed to get their work done.

How to Structure Your Day When Working from Home

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Up until recently, working from home was almost taboo. It was a luxury. Only a small percentage of very trusted people and freelancer’s enjoyed this freedom. But, the worldwide COVID epidemic has made the old luxury — the new normal for thousands of people. Here is how to structure your day when working from home.

How how you done working from home?

Some, have embraced working from home — and they have thrived. Others, not so much. I’m not passing any blame here. Getting used to working from home and your new schedule will take time to adjust to. And you had to adjust mighty fast as things shut down.

If there’s something you’re still, struggling with, here’s the best way that you can structure your day when working from home.

Find your most productive hours.

Here’s the best thing about working from home, you have the flexibility to set your own schedule. The caveat? You must determine when your most productive hours are. An issue to consider, right now, is that you have to do a little bit better balancing act.

If you’ve recently made the switch from the traditional 9-to-5 workday, knowing your most productive hours may seem odd. However, thanks to ultradian rhythms (and many other productivity tips we have on Calendar) — we can teach you how to find your “best” time of day. different times of the day when alertness, energy, and focus are high. Hence this explains if you’re a morning bird or night owl.

Now, you may have an idea of when these hours are. I mean if you’re an early riser and ready to tackle your work in the AM, then that’s a sign that you’re a morning person. If it’s the opposite, then you wouldn’t want to force yourself to work on your most important task before the sun shines through your curtains.

Not sure when your most productive hours are? No worries. Here are some strategies you can try to find out:

  • Track your time for a specific period. Ideally, you want to track your days for around a month to get a more accurate picture.
  • Use the right tools. A simple pen and paper method will suffice. You could also create a spreadsheet. But, there are also digital tools like RescueTime, Clockify, Toggl, ATracker, and Calendar that can do this for you.
  • Maintain your time log. There are two ways to track your time. The first is by the time of day. For example, you can write down everything you accomplished in a specific timeframe and how you felt. The second is by the task. Here you would note when you started an activity and when you moved on to something else.

Whatever tools or methods you use, be honest and consistent. You should also record your data in real-time. And, try to be as meticulous as possible.

Start the day right.

I know that the first step to starting your day right involved a little elbow grease. But, from here on out, it’s going to be much easier to plan out your day.

Regardless if you wake-up at five am or noon — if you want to have a productive day, you need to establish a morning routine. While the exact activities can vary, the idea here is to let your brain know that it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

What should be including in this ritual? Well, here are some of my personal favorite techniques:

  • Plan the night before. You don’t have to overthink this. Just simply jot down the three main things you want to accomplish tomorrow. You could do things like reviewing your calendar and prep your meals.
  • Wake-up feeling refreshed. Get enough sleep, preferably between 6 and 8 hours. And, if possible, try to wake-up naturally or use an alarm clock. It’s a simple way to avoid looking at your phone first thing in the morning.
  • Focus your mind. I like waking-up prefer everyone else to take advantage of the peace and quiet. I then use this time to exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, read, and write in my journal.
  • Set a daily intention. It’s been found that writing down your goals enhances your achievement of them.
  • Have a daily affirmation. “Affirmations are short, powerful yet simple statements intended to help you manifest a particular goal,” writes Choncé Maddox. “This is power is positive thinking and it only takes a few minutes to recite some positive affirmations.”

Another suggestion would be to create a daily compass. These are any activities you should check before jumping into work. For instance, you might want to check your email or Slack messages to make sure that the afternoon meeting hasn’t been rescheduled.

I also strongly suggest that you get dressed. And, I would also remove distractions like turning off your phone before starting your workday.

Have a dedicated workspace.

There’s a belief that when working from home you’re just plopped on the couch all day. That’s not exactly the most productive environment to work in — what with distractions like the TV, kids and housemates.

In a perfect world, you would have a swanky home office. You know, like all of those amazing pictures you’ve seen on Pinterest. The reality is that most of us don’t have such a luxury. But, at the very least, you should have a quiet space that’s dedicated to work.

Make sure that you have all the tools you need and you keep it free from clutter. And, if you work from the same place daily, it gives you some much-needed structure.

Add work blocks to your calendar.

“A more tactical piece of advice, particularly if your work situation had regularly provided this structure for you, is to use your calendar as a friend in helping you manage your time,” suggests Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young. “Setting work blocks on your Google Calendar and color-coding them to match different projects or tasks will give you a visual cue for the way time is breaking down for you.”

But, let me go a little more in-depth here. Remember when you determined when you were most productive? You would block out those times for your most important work.

Let’s say that you’re peak performance hours are from 9 am to 11 am. You should reserve that time period for your most important or challenging task of the day. By adding that to your calendar, you’re ensuring that something that’s less important will occupy that slot.

Furthermore, time blocking untangles your mind and helps you identify your priorities. And, you can even use this strategy to create buffers between tasks and block apps when you don’t want to be interrupted.

Give yourself permission to take breaks.

Data from NordVPN Teams found that remote workers in the U.S. increased their average workday by almost 40%. That means we’re adding an extra three hours to our workdays!

“The data as well revealed that employees are starting work earlier, but finishing at the same time,” said Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams. “This is perhaps because people are not commuting, and instead of sitting in traffic, they choose to work.”

That’s just not going to fly. Putting in more hours may work right now. But, eventually, you’re going to burn yourself out. That’s why taking frequent breaks is essential.

Whether if you use the Pomodoro Technique or follow the 52/17 Rule, make sure to give yourself a breather. You need this downtime to recharge and refocus.

And, here’s the best part. You can spend this time however you like. If you want to go for a bike ride, take a nap, chat with a friend, or watch a TedTalk, that’s your provocative.

Enforce boundaries.

“If this is your first time working from home and you still haven’t found a routine that works for you, then you might find you’re just as distracted as you were at the office,” writes Laura Martisiute in a Calendar article.

“From loud kids to a chatty spouse to household duties (doing laundry never seems so appealing as when you have to write a boring report), it’s critical that you learn how to overcome distractions when working from home,” adds Laura. The key is to let others know your schedule.

In my experience, sharing my calendar is the most effective way to do this. When my family can see my schedule, they know when I have meetings and focused on deep work. On the flip side, they also know when I’m available to spend time with them.

Make time to socialize.

It’s not surprising that remote workers struggle with depression and loneliness. It can also be difficult to commute and collaborate with your team members. The solution to both? Block out time to socialize with others.

Now, in a non-COVID world, you could meet up with others at a coffee shop or conference room. But, the way things are now, you’re going to have to rely on tools like Slack or Zoom. Just be mindful of your usage as there is such a thing as Zoom fatigue.

Set an end time and stick to it.

Another way to prevent working too much is to establish a stop time. More importantly, though, you need to set up a routine to help you transition from work to relaxation.

Similar to your morning ritual, this can vary. But, here some ideas to help you wind down:

  • Clean out your inbox.
  • Organize your workspace.
  • Create a to-do-list for tomorrow.
  • Send a “goodnight” message to your colleagues.
  • Log out of your work accounts, like Slack.
  • Turning off your computer.
  • Reflect on what you accomplished.
  • Have a mini celebration, like going for a walk or putting on your sweats.

It may be tempting to worry about work. But, like breaks, you need your evenings to rest and recharge.

Example of a structured WFH workday.

  • 6 am – 8 am: Exercise, breakfast with family, get dressed, and review calendar.
  • 8 am – 9 am: Write in a journal, catch-up on emails, update social media, and check-in with coworkers and employees.
  • 9 am – 12:00 pm: Deep Focus on your top priorities.
  • 12 pm – 1 pm: Eat lunch with family, go for a walk, check inbox.
  • 1 pm – 3 pm: Deep Focus on second priority.
  • 3 pm – 3:30 pm: Have a video call with your team.
  • 3:30 pm – 5:30: Work on your third most important task of the day.
  • 5:30 pm: Wrap up whatever you are working on and wind down.

I usually try to get a couple of hours of work done in the evening after relaxing for a couple of hours. These hours have turned out to be quite productive, as well. You have to be flexible enough with your work schedule to add and subtract your times to meet the situation.

If your kids are kind of wild between nine to noon in the morning — get up at five and get your work done then. Don’t sit at your desk from 9 am to noon and scream at everyone to shut-up because you are working! Written here is the ideal work from home schedule.

But, please, change your schedule to fit your situation — and make this time of COVID better than ever.

6 Mentorship Problems to Avoid

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No doubt: Mentorship is the best way to build new leaders. A system of senior professionals investing in younger ones can also create camaraderie and share skills across the team.

The truth, though, is that not all mentorship programs are created equal: Some build real relationships, while others simply make mentors and mentees go through the motions.

What’s the difference? Some of it comes down to individual relationships, but many dysfunctions are due to the program itself. 

Everyone can benefit from sharing wisdom and encouragement. If you want to build a meaningful mentorship program, watch out for the following pitfalls:

1. Forcing mentorship on all new hires

Requiring mentorship for all new hires is one of those ideas that sounds good but doesn’t work well in practice. That’s because when something is forced, people become less willing to partake in it. 

Don’t undercut new employees’ autonomy. Realize that mentorship may not be the best way to integrate them into your team. 

Onboarding and orientation are short-term, one-size-fits-all processes. Employees don’t need a senior member of the team to show them how to fill out a benefits application.

Mentorship, in contrast, is a long-term endeavor that seeks to support employees’ individual goals and development. It’s more about helping people find fulfillment than getting a company process down pat. 

Misunderstanding the purpose of mentorship can cause frustrations down the line. Provide the opportunity to everyone, and emphasize the benefits. After that, let each member of the team engage when they are ready. 

2. Making it all about leadership roles

Mentorship is a lot more than management training. To be valuable, mentorship must be holistic and guided by the mentee. 

The truth is that leadership means different things to different people. Some people are suited to management positions. Others lead by excelling in their work or being a strong team player. 

A solid mentorship program encourages employees to chart their own path. The mentor’s role is to help them become the best version of themselves. 

3. Matching the wrong people

The mentor-mentee relationship can thrive or fail simply based on the people involved. Each person needs to feel like they can relate to the other on some level. That could mean that they have a lot in common; it could also mean that they have mutual respect for each other. 

One way to begin the matching process is to understand people’s personalities. A personality test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can help you identify pairings that might work well together. However, personality tests should only be a starting point.

After getting preliminary data, check the fit. Hold a mentorship mixer for interested mentors and mentees to interact. Use team-building events to determine who works well with who. 

4. Having unrealistic expectations

Mentors and mentees should challenge one another, but expecting too much can be detrimental. Neither personal nor professional growth is linear. 

Both parties should always be in agreement about the terms of the mentorship. Mentors can overstep their boundaries and overwhelm mentees. And on the other side, a mentee might expect the mentor to put in all the work. In some cases, both parties can feel like the other person is too clingy. 

Check in with mentors and mentees periodically. Ask both parties whether they’ve experienced tension with the other. If their answers don’t match, get them in a room together to talk it out. 

5. Failing to prioritize 

Many mentor-mentee relationships fail due to neglect. Balancing work and life can be difficult in the best of times, and stressors can cause people to shut down or ignore their partner. 

Nip this in the bud by structuring your mentorship program. Don’t leave the dynamic completely up to the pair. Help them decide when and how often to meet. 

 

Support both sides by sharing tips about how to prioritize their time. Key steps include: 

  • Setting achievable work goals
  • Deciding what is essential and non-essential
  • Keeping a work log
  • Tackling your toughest task for the day first
  • Minimize interruptions and distractions

6. Structuring the program too rigidly

A mentorship program needs structure in order to be successful, but don’t overdo it. Nobody wants to open a binder of to-dos every time they meet with their partner. There should be some level of informality. 

Too much structure can stifle relationships. It can also create a crisis for people who feel like they aren’t reaching the outlined growth outcomes. It’s better to let people develop at their own pace — and that’s true for mentors and mentees alike. 

Mentorship can be remarkably rewarding. But if one or both sides aren’t willing to put in the effort, it can also fall apart. 

Make sure mentees and mentors are invested, and remember that adjustments may need to be made. As long as you’re flexible and fair in your expectations, your mentorship program will work its magic. 

20 One-Minute Hacks that Will Boost Your Productivity

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Even the most successful people have had their struggles with productivity. If they didn’t, then there wouldn’t be the insurmountable resources available at their disposal. But, whether it’s a book, video, podcast, or article like this one — the quest to produce more in less time goes on forever. Here are 20 one-minute hacks that will boost your productivity.

Here’s the thing though. Boosting your productivity doesn’t have to some grand, life-altering spectacle. In fact, sometimes the most powerful methods are the smallest ones. Case in point? The following 20 hacks that only take around a minute to complete, but will definitely give you that much-needed productivity boost.

1. “What’s one thing I’m committed to doing today?”

When you wake-up in the morning don’t look at your phone. After all, it will make you more stressed out and overwhelmed, as well as more difficult to prioritize tasks. And, it can even make you feel like you’re already behind in your day.

A better idea is to ask one simple question, “What’s one thing I’m committed to doing today?” It’s a simple and effective way to focus and prioritize what’s most important. If you can’t just settle on one item, then consider creating a 1-3-5 to-do list. Here you would simply jot down one large task, three medium-sized tasks, and five small tasks that you want to complete.

2. Make your bed.

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,″ retired U.S. Navy Admiral Seal William H. McCraven said in a commencement speech at the University of Texas. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.

“And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed,” added McCraven. What’s more, research from the National Sleep Foundation has found that making your bed in the morning can lead to better rest at night.

3. Eat cake for breakfast.

“It doesn’t literally have to be cake,” says Beyond the Headline podcast host Jenna Abdou. But, “the point is to find a way to eat something that brings you joy in the morning.” Additionally, Abdou believes that this can also be used as a mindfulness exercise and help you practice gratitude — both of which boost your productivity.

Whatever you have for breakfast, Abdou says, “Savor it without using your phone or thinking about work and responsibilities.” Instead, “Enjoy the moment, and think about all of the things that are going right in your life.”

4. Disable notifications.

According to one study, it was found that when working in front of a computer, the average person gets distracted or interrupted every 40 seconds. That’s just mind0boggling. The easiest solution here would be to just turn off your smartphone or at least disable email, social media, or instant messaging notifications.

You can also set screen time limits on your Android or iPhone. Or, you can block apps or distracting websites at certain times using tools like Offtime, Freedom, Moment, or RescueTime.

5. Adopt positive affirmations.

“We tell ourselves things we want to believe and over time we convince ourselves that they are true,” explains Deanna Ritchie, Editor-in-Chief at Calendar. “If we allow ourselves to repeat self-deprecating thoughts, we will also start to believe these thoughts — even if they aren’t true.” Eventually, “These thoughts weaken our well-being and can lead to loss of motivation, decreased self-worth, and even depression.”

Want to counter this debilitating mindset? Repeat positive self-affirmations. In fact, research shows that these have the power to decrease stress, increase creativity, and improve problem-solving skills.

Deanna suggests that when you aren’t feeling motivated, try out the following four self-affirmations:

  • “I Will Make Today a Great Day.”
  • “I Have a Lot to Offer.”
  • “I Will Never Give Up.”
  • “I Am Imperfect, and That’s OKAY.”

6. Say “no” to at least three things.

I do this every Friday when planning out next week. I just scan my to-do-list and calendar. I then identify three commitments that aren’t worth my time. For instance, I could swap out an hour-long virtual meeting with a 15-minute phone call or not RSVPing to an event that I was on the fence about.

7. Abide by the two-minute rule.

Made famous by David Allen in “Getting Things Done,” this is a straightforward concept. If there’s something that takes you under two minutes to do, just do it instead of putting it off.

Moreover, as James Clear explains, you can also use this technique to stop procrastinating and form new habits. Examples would be reading one page of a book at night or tie your running shoes as opposed to proclaiming that you’re going to run 3 miles.

8. Work on Pomodoro time.

Hopefully, you’re aware of this popular time management strategy. If not, it’s where you break your time into 25-minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break. After four Pomodoros, you would take a longer break, like 15-minutes. The reason why this works is that it helps you eliminate burnout and manage distractions.

9. Apply the spider technique.

Another way to fight back against distractions? Try out the spider technique.

“If you hold a vibrating tuning fork next to a spider web, he will come out because he thinks it is a prey,” explains Sabine Staggl. Co-founder of Noisli. “If you repeat this over and over, the spider won’t come out anymore because he has learnt that there will be no prey waiting for him.”

“The same goes for your distractions,” adds Staggl. “You can train yourself and learn to not pay attention to the distractions around you.” And, you can do so by forcing yourself to re-focus, knowing your weaknesses, and avoiding them. For example, if noise is an issue, then you could invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones.

10. Optimize your life in seconds.

Here’s a common problem when it comes to productivity. We tend to add things to our life. For example, because health plays such an integral role in how productive we are, you might begin an exercise regiment.

What’s the issue here? Well, if you’ve never made much time for physical activity before, then suddenly adding an hour to your day for this activity can be overwhelming. Instead, you make incremental improvements. In this case, you could walk when on the phone, go outside for one-on-one meetings, or invest in a standing desk.

Other suggestions would be learning keyboard shortcuts or avoiding Parkinson’s Law. You may also want to download time tracking software to help you see how you’re spending your time.

11. Try one-moment meditation.

Why should you meditate? Well, science shows that it has the ability to reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness, and lengthen attention spans. But, that’s not all. It can also improve sleep, prevent age-related memory loss, and diminish the perception of physical pain.

Best of all? You can meditate anywhere. Seriously. Martin Boroson, Founder of the One Moment Company, states that instead of wasting time when stuck in traffic or waiting in-line, use that moment to find peacefulness and become more present.

12. Learn your ABCs.

As noted over at HBR, the ABC method is a quick and easy way to improve your focus and prevent distractions from interrupting you. First, you need to become aware of what’s distracting you. Next, breathe deeply. And, finally, choose what you want to do next thoughtfully.

13. Clear up your computer and desktop.

A clean desk or desktop can be like taking a deep breath, allowing you to focus,” says psychologist Pamela Rutledge. On the flip side though, a cluttered one can make you feel anxious. It’s also much harder to locate items when you need them.

And, if you make this a daily habit, it will only take a moment to achieve. For example, throw away any trash that’s on your desktop, return items to their home, remove unnecessary desktop icons, and close tabs when not being used.

14. Eat, drink, and chew gum.

I’m talking about consuming “brain” food like blueberries, fish, and avocados. Staying hydrated and drinking coffee more strategically. And, when do need an energy boost, smell citrus or herbs like rosemary. These have been found to stimulate alertness and improve focus.

And, when all else fails, chew a piece of gum. It’s very simple. But, this can increase the flow of oxygen to parts of the brain in charge of attention.

15. Look at a photograph.

“When I face a tough decision, I look at a picture of myself as a toddler that I carry in my wallet,” said Google Associate Product Marketing Manager Martin Aguinis. “I ask myself, ‘Am I making this younger version of me proud?’”

“Looking back at this picture reminds me that I need to compete with myself to produce more,” adds Aguinis.

If that’s not your cup of tea, then view images of cute animals like puppies. As one study shows, this can improve your focus since it can make us more alert and engaged.

16. Delegate by following the 70 percent rule.

As you know, delegation is a tried and true way to free-up your time. But, what tasks should you hand-over to others?

Don’t spend too much time thinking about this. Instead, follow the 70 percent rule. In a nutshell, this means that if 70 percent of something can be done better by someone else, then delegate the responsibility to them. Like, I know a little bit of coding. But, when it comes to troubleshooting my company’s app, I have more talented developers work on it.

17. Automate recurring tasks.

For all of those tedious and recurring tasks you have, use a tool like IFTTT or Zapier to automate them. One example could be having a recently published WordPress article automatically shared on your social channels.

18. Use dictation.

According to a study from Stanford, speech-to-text is three times faster than writing. So, consider using your voice to add calendar entries or compose messages or to-do-lists.

19. Change-up your work location.

I’m known for working in multiple places throughout the day. Like I might work from my desk in the AM, but then get out of the office and work from a local cafe. Even if you can’t do that, at least experiment with different work stations in your office or home to keep you from falling into a rut.

20. End each day by asking “Did I do my best?”

To me, this reminds me of Ben Franklin’s daily routine. But, this technique has been used by freelance writer Daniel Dowling to replace ambitious and unrealistic goals.

While it may seem vague, it completely transformed his productivity. “Without asking myself if I’d done my best each day, I’d either have wallowed in self-reproach or failed to reflect on my performance at all,” explains Dowling. “Instead, I’d turned self-criticism into a self-improvement habit.”

The Importance of Giving Up – to Soar

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The Importance of Giving Up – to Soar

Way back in the day, I came home from little league. My mom asked me how it was. Without hesitation, I told her that I wanted to quit. She asked me why? I told her I was sick of the coach letting his son pitch because the son was so awful. Then, when the game was nearly lost — Coach would put me in as pitcher — and he’d expect me to win the game — no matter what had to be done.

If I couldn’t pull out the win — Coach would rant and scream at me and the whole team. I wanted to quit. If I complained, Coach would stick me in the outfield swatting away at flies. I didn’t mind if I was playing first base like Frank Thomas or Jeff Bagwell. My mom told me that I’d never get as much training as I would receive pitching under that kind of pressure.

It was then that my mom threw a Vince Lombardi quote in my direction. “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” And, in case I forgot, there were also some pretty amazing outfielders I could emulate like Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwenn, and Mickey Mantle.

I gave up on my dream of being the starting pitcher for every game — I stopped resenting the coaches’ son. Instead, I focused on what I was good at — hitting and running, and I tried to make sure I helped pull out a win under stressful circumstances. And, in hindsight, that was a win-win.

I gave up on my dream of being a major league baseball pitcher.

That’s not to say it was easy to switch my mindset. No one likes giving up on their dreams. But, this taught me a valuable lesson. There are times in life when throwing in the towel is important.

The Scientific Case for Giving Up

“Realizing that an attempt to achieve something is not accomplishing its goal, and then stopping that behavior, can actually be beneficial,” writes Claudia Lopez-Lloreda for Inverse. “When confronted with a difficult challenge or obstacle, animals often ‘give up’ to conserve energy between attempts or to identify other strategies to succeed — or reassess if the effort is even worth it.”

A research group led by Misha Ahrens at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was responsible for this finding. But, Ahrens is far from the only researcher to scientifically prove the benefits of giving up.

“A laser-like focus on one goal (like a promotion) often prevents us from seeking out new opportunities for learning and growth,” writes Jennifer Gueringer on the NetCredit blog. “In fact, a survey of Stanford Business school alumni found that those who held five or more positions in 15 years were nine times more likely to reach senior management than those with fewer roles.”

“The effects are physical, too,” adds Gueringer. “A Concordia University found that teenage girls who were unable to disengage from difficult goals exhibited increased levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory molecule linked to diabetes, heart disease and early aging in adults.”

You’ll Accomplish More

I know that sounds counterproductive. But, bear with me for a second.

Recall a time when you were procrastinating. Maybe you were dreading the task, just not feeling it, or didn’t have the skills or knowledge to complete it. Regardless of the exact reason — you stubbornly kept trying to tackle this task.

What happened next? You may have originally blocked out two hours of time to get this thing done. Now you’re approaching three or four hours. And, before you know it, you’ve screwed up your entire schedule for not just the day, but the entire week. The reason? What you have planned to do today gets moved to tomorrow and so forth.

Also, even if you were able to cross this item off your list, you’ve spent way more energy on it then you should have. As a result, you’re too drained to focus on anything else that’s of importance.

The better option here would be to move on to something else that you can actually do well. You may even want to delegate or outsource to someone else.

You’ll Be Happier and More Creative

As Raj Raghunathan Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today, there is something called ego depletion which suggests that “willpower is a limited resource.” If you’re obsessed with achieving a goal, that means you’re sacrificing other goals “whose achievement also depends on the same pool of willpower.”

There’s also hyperopia. It’s similar to the above where you “sacrifice your present-day enjoyment for the sake of a future that may never really arrive.” What does that mean? Well, “it may be more important to give up on goals that take too much out of us than to pursue them at all cost.”

Speaking of goals, if a goal is tied to a reward — it may sometimes hinder creativity and problem-solving.

“Rewards can perform a weird sort of behavioral alchemy: they can transform an interesting task into a drudge,” Daniel Pink wrote in his book Drive. “They can turn the play into work,” Pink adds. “And by diminishing intrinsic motivation, they can send performance, creativity, and even upstanding behavior toppling like dominoes.”

Besides goals, here are some other things that you should give up if you want to be happy and successful:

  • Perfection. You already know that perfectionism is unrealistic, stressful, and prevents you from finding new opportunities.
  • FOMO. The so-called, Fear Of Missing Out can cause you to spread yourself too thin and it diverts your attention away from your priorities.
  • Negative self-talk. If you engage in negative self-talk, it holds you back from achieving your dreams — and it can do other weird things to you too. Just watch someone who loves this awful habit — you hate to be around them, huh?
  • Comparing yourself to others. Comparing yourself to anyone but yourself is unproductive and self-destructive.
  • Toxic relationships. Spend time with people you love and who love you back. Toxic people are a waste of time, energy, and will only drag you down.
  • The fear of failure. Everyone fails. Accept that fact, and learn from each experience — or don’t learn from it — just get past it.

The End is the Beginning is The End

Do you need one final reason for quitting? How about it gives a clean slate to live the life you want?

Yes — quitting at anything is usually easier said than done. But, take that leap of faith and ditch the things that are holding you back and causing you distress. For example, if you’re miserable because you feel like you’re in a dead-end job, quit and launch your own business.

Quitting a job may not be in your future and it’s going to be hard and scary. But, this type of quitting is a better option than being stuck in a situation that is depriving you of living the life that you want. Remember, life is short. So, use your life, and spend this valuable resource however you want.

How to Know When It’s Time to Give Up

There isn’t an exact answer to whether it’s time to give up. But, Cloris Kylie Stock from Tiny Buddha has put together five signs that may help you decide if now is the time to quit — or if it’s time to buckle down and win.

  • You aren’t enjoying life to the fullest because your quest to solve a problem as taken over your life.
  • No matter how hard you try, you can’t visualize a positive outcome.
  • You start to feel poorly about yourself.
  • Even though a goal involved others, you’re the only person who has an interest.
  • When you wake-up in the morning, you think about giving up.

Remember to analyze the pros and cons of what and when to give up. The “give-up” should come rarely in your life, and it should only be deployed when it will be for your greater good. Plan carefully — make your give-up a win-win.

How to Make Group Counseling Work for Your Team

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Even the strongest team sometimes hits a rocky patch. That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause, but rather that a group conversation is in order.

Group activities are critical for whole-team wellness. If group dynamics are an issue, however, a basketball game isn’t going to solve them. Group counseling may be just the ticket to get things back on track.  

Similar to individual talk therapy, group counseling involves unpacking things together in order to create space to grow. The beauty of this approach is that it can be used regardless of the team’s challenges. 

But you can’t simply sit everyone down and hope they figure it out. To make group counseling work on your team:

1. Discuss why you’re doing it.

The word “counseling” can be scary. Don’t blindside members of your team. When people don’t know why they’re being asked to engage in group counseling, they may approach it with apathy or even hostility. 

To create a sense of safety, give your team an honest “why.” Although there’s no wrong reason to invest in group counseling, common reasons for doing so include:

  • Resolving tensions that have been building on the team
  • Promoting harmony through stronger communication
  • Building a stronger sense of community in the office
  • Giving team members tools for conflict resolution
  • Ensuring a new hire gets a great team experience

2. Destigmatize counseling.

Unfortunately, mental health services are still stigmatized in some circles. Things are changing, but years of assumptions are difficult to break. And those assumptions can lead employees to resist the idea of group counseling.

Do your best to normalize the concept of counseling. If you go to therapy yourself, that would be a good time to bring it up. If not, mention a few celebrities or other cultural icons who’ve benefited from it. 

Make clear, too, that group counseling isn’t designed to diagnose anyone with any disorder. Nobody is going to walk away with a prescription or in a white coat. The goal is merely to promote harmony on the team. 

3. Be clear about who needs to be there. 

A group counseling session is similar to any other team meeting in at least one way: If someone doesn’t need to be there, then they shouldn’t be. You’ll want to limit attendance to the individuals who need it. 

If it’s just the sales team that is struggling to get along, don’t add marketers into the mix. If just three salespeople seem to be at odds with each other, you might not even need the whole sales staff. 

What if multiple departments could use counseling? Start with the most interested one. Let them show the rest how productive group counseling can be. 

4. Get a professional to facilitate.

Counseling is a skill. It may look easy, but that’s because facilitators spend years practicing it. 

Because many group counseling sessions look like any other conversation, business leaders are sometimes tempted to take it into their own hands. But having a certified counselor lead the session both ensures a better outcome and takes pressure off the leader. 

Look for a counselor with a Master’s in the field and an active license. As a neutral party, that person can come into the situation without the baggage that employees and managers have.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask for referrals. Chances are, someone in your entrepreneurial network has tried team counseling. 

5. Consider the when and the where.

Part of getting everyone on the same page involves scheduling. Before choosing when and where to hold the group counseling session, ask yourself:

  • Will the session happen during or outside of regular work hours?
  • What day of the week works best for everyone? Are weekends an option?
  • Will you use the office space or go to a more neutral location? 
  • How long should the session last?
  • Might a follow-up session be needed?

If someone on the team isn’t comfortable with a certain time or place, listen to them. It’s vital that everyone involved is ready to open up. 

6. Decide what to do afterward.

After the group counseling session, bring everyone back to discuss their experience. Assessing how helpful the session was will help you decide whether to schedule a second one. 

There’s nothing wrong with a one-off counseling session. If the team found it valuable, however, it might be worth setting up a monthly or quarterly conversation. If budget is an issue, consider attaching an annual session to a team development day.

Group counseling can help not just struggling teams, but also thriving ones. Simply being more comfortable around your co-workers is reason enough. When in doubt, talk it out. 

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay —You Can Still Work

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In addition to your existing responsibilities, you’re probably also worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and the uncertainty of the future. It’s fair to say that feeling overwhelmed is the new normal. But, it’s okay not to be okay. You can still work.

Obviously, “not being okay right now” is going to interfere with your work. And, here’s where it becomes a vicious cycle. You can’t focus and fall behind — then it’s A LOT worse — and you’re even more anxious.

Here’s the thing though. It’s okay to not be okay right now. There’s a lot going in the world and you have every right to feel this way. At the same time, you can still be productive — even if it’s not at the level you’re accustomed to.

Clear your calendar.

When you have a minute, pull up your calendar and give it a look. Are there any tasks that could be delegated or deleted? Any upcoming meetings that could be rescheduled or replaced with a quick phone call? What about recurring events or commitments that no don’t fit into your schedule?

The point of this exercise is to clear the clutter from your calendar so that only your priorities are booked. The reason why this can be effective is that your day may not seem as overwhelming since there isn’t much left on your plate.

And, whatever is left can then be broken down into more manageable pieces. That makes getting started a whole lot easier.

Meet in the middle.

Sometimes we tend to get stuck in the linear trap. What exactly does this mean? Well, take writing a blog as an example. If you’re generating a top ten list you start with one and follow the sequence until ten.

But, sometimes when you’re stuck, that can be overwhelming. That’s why a writer friend suggested to Therese Borchard to start in the middle.

“There is less pressure in the middle,” explains Borchard in an Everyday Health article. “The beginning and the end are too weighted.”

“I’ve been using this wisdom not only when I am stuck as a writer,” Borchard adds. “But also when I’m paralyzed by the laundry, when the dishes chase me, when my cluttered desk scowls at me, when I can’t concentrate at work, when socializing is less enjoyable than a dental cleaning.” And, you can even apply it “to larger things, too: choosing a career, navigating a stagnant relationship, figuring how I’m supposed to parent.”

Why is this effective? Because life isn’t always linear. “As much as I want to place it between bookends, it’s messy and confusing, absurd and irrational,” states Borchard. “It lacks a beginning and an end, a straightforward path with an explanation” and is “full of questions with few answers.”

Lean into the wind.

Raymond DePaulo, M.D., author of Understanding Depression has a phrase to use whenever you’re trying to work while depressed: “You have to lean into the wind.”

What on Earth does this mean? Well, there are several ways to interrupt this phrase. But, personally, I think it’s about reminding yourself that this is temporary. And, more importantly, using these changing patterns to your advantage.

For example, when you’re in a good place and feeling uber-productive, get as much work out of the way. If you do happen to fall into a slump again, you’ll be ahead so that you won’t have that anxiety of falling behind.

On the flip side, when you’re feeling down, use that time to attend to yourself. Maybe engage in a little self-care, recite positive affirmations, or just take the day off.

Spruce up your workspace.

When was the last time you cleaned and organized your workspace? If you can’t recall, then right now is a great time to do so. After all, a tidy workspace saves you time, reduces stress, and can even fuel creativity.

And, while you’re at it, decorate and personalize your workspace as well. A study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology discovered that this can increase productivity and overall energy. Additionally, you may want to invest in a standing desk and ergonomic furniture.

Deactivate the “Me” centers of your brain through meditation.

What exactly is a “Me” center? Well, according to Rebecca Gladding M.D., this is “the part of the brain that constantly references back to you, your perspective and experiences.” It’s referred to this “because it processes information related to you, including when you are daydreaming, thinking about the future, reflecting on yourself, engaging in social interactions, inferring other people’s state of mind or feeling empathy for others.”

Since this is the default mode network (DMN) that’s responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts we want to turn this off. After all, it’s been found that mind-wandering is associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about both the past and future.

Thankfully, meditation can deactivate these “Me” centers. As a result, this will help pull you back into the present and encourage you to focus on the task at hand.

Don’t believe the 8-hour workday lie.

Prior to social reformer Robert Owen calling for “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, and eight hours rest,” factory workers put in a brutal 12 to 14 hours. While that’s definitely progress, this remains that standard for employees well over a century later. And, that’s not conducive to most modern gigs today.

“It’s all but impossible to actually work for eight hours a day in the jobs so many of us now have,” writes Lizzie Wade opines over at Wired. “Like most people writing hot takes and think pieces about productivity, I’m focusing on knowledge workers here—those of us who work at desks, mostly in front of computers, in offices or from home.”

Wade is right on. According to a study from Stanford, working long hours doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, once you’ve clocked in 55 hours per week, productivity plummets so much that it’s pointless to work any more.

So, I propose that you change that mindset. If you’re able to knock out your top priority for the day, some administrative work, and a video meeting in around 4-hours, I would say that you had a productive day. In other words, focus more on the quality of what you’re doing instead of the hours you’ve put in.

Phone a friend.

If you have someone that you trust a friend, family member, or colleague, call them up when you’re not at 100%. Mainly this is because talking can lead to catharsis. In turn, you feel a sense of relief and have cleared your head so that you can focus.

What’s more, talking to someone else gives you the opportunity to spitball ideas or solve a problem together. Even if you aren’t using these ideas at the moment, you can use them to steer you in the right direction. For example, if you’re struggling with fresh content for your business, you and a co-worker could at least develop a list of ideas to work from. They may not be developed just yet, but it’s a starting point.

Cut yourself some slack.

I can’t stress this enough if there was ever a time to be kind to yourself, it’s now. So what if you only worked for 4-hours or took an hour-long walk outside? Is it really the end of the world if you didn’t respond to an email today or cross-off all the items on your to-do list?

Give yourself a break here and do the best you can. Giving yourself a break may mean admitting that you’re not perfect. It’s about making yourself a priority and practicing self-kindness. And, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your goals to make sure that they’re reasonable.

But like David Kessler says — “You don’t have to find a meaning.” Sometimes you just have to go through this “meaningful moment.” (I just watched David Kessler at a grief conference – Open to Hope. Amazing.)

Stop chasing productivity.

“Every waking moment of your life does not need to be optimized to make you a better, more profitable you,” says career coach Meghan Duffy. “Pandemic or otherwise, you have worth outside of your output.”

Personally, I’ve found that between the pandemic, social issues, and a lot more time to myself, that being included in the 48% of Americans who considered ourselves “workaholics” was no longer a priority. There are just more important things in life besides work.

In fact, I’ve cherished the moments of literally doing nothing as of late.

“Sometimes doing nothing, lounging on the couch and relaxing are great forms of self-care,” explains Elizabeth Beecroft, LMSW. That may sound counterproductive. But, having disconnecting and unplugging have done wonders for the mind, body, and soul.

Ask for help.

Finally, if you are truly struggling then please meet with a mental health professional. Since many of them provide online or phone sessions, it’s never been easier to fit a session into your busy schedule. Most importantly, you have someone to talk to and they can offer strategies to help you cope and manage your anxiety or stress.

Some of your productivity right now, in this current moment, may be taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself will mean that you can get back to your work.

 

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