All posts by Gunjan Saini

5 Myths About Optimism That Lead to Toxic Positivity

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In times like these, it can be easy to catastrophize. Treating work situations as worse than they truly are can hurt your company culture. Be careful, however, not to swing too far in the other direction.

Optimism isn’t a bad thing, but it has its limits. Positivity becomes toxic when it’s used as an excuse to ignore negative emotions or realities. 

Social pressures, particularly at work, can push you to be positive to a fault. Just think about how easy it is to say “I’m fine” when you’re anything but. The trouble is, inauthenticity is contagious. 

If you’re looking to strike the right balance, you need to know the myths that lead to toxic positivity. Learn the truth of each, and use it to enhance your work culture:

Myth No. 1: You can fake it ‘til you make it.

If you can fake positivity, this myth claims, then you’ll be happy. Some versions even suggest faking a smile when you are feeling sad to change your mood.

There is some truth to this. In the long run, however, faking your emotional state is unsustainable. Researchers have even found that smiling through sadness eventually makes your brain associate smiling with sadness. That’s the exact opposite of what you want. 

It’s important to stay true to your feelings. Don’t put on a smile at work just to make others happy. To connect, your team needs to know that your emotions are genuine. 

Myth No. 2: Positive thinking requires ignorance.

Ignorance is bliss, right? Perhaps, but it’s also impractical and dangerous.

At work, you can’t ignore problems simply because they’re stressful. Client messages must be answered. Work relationships have to be tended to, especially when they’re weak. Rarely is personal growth comfortable or achieved through ignorance. 

It’s important to grapple with the things that need to be addressed. If you find yourself engaging in avoidant behavior:

  • Meditate
  • Reimagine and reframe negative thoughts
  • Discuss the issue with a close friend or family member
  • Join a group, either at work or outside of it, dedicated to addressing the issue
  • Seek professional mental health counseling

Myth No. 3: It helps to remember that “things could be worse.”

You’ve probably consoled yourself with this myth at one point. But speculating about how your circumstances could be worse doesn’t help you solve them. In fact, it implies that someone in a situation worse than yours couldn’t possibly be happy. 

The truth is that comparisons are wastes of time. You’ll never know the whole story behind why someone was promoted ahead of you, or why your position was cut instead of someone else’s.

What counts is being content with where you are and who you are. Once you can do that, you can start to build the best version of yourself. 

Myth No. 4: Positivity will keep you motivated at work.

At times, positivity can be motivating. The problem with this idea is that it’s a simplistic answer to a complex problem. 

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the loss of motivation. Maintaining a positive mindset doesn’t solve most of them. Dysfunctional coworker relationships, for example, will not improve simply because you’re in a better mood. 

You may not be able to control what’s going on at work, but you are in charge of your personal life. Give your home life a motivational makeover. Start by:

  • Unplugging from technology, especially in the morning and before bed 
  • Keeping a journal of your thoughts
  • Diving into your hobbies
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Exercising every day

Myth No. 5: Always looking on the bright side draws people in. 

Think about the people you like to be around: Are they always happy, or do they clue you in when something is stressing them out?

What actually attracts people to you isn’t militant optimism, but rather the courage to be genuine. Ignoring negative emotions you’re experiencing can actually push people away. 

Of all the myths on this list, this one might be the most dangerous for business leaders. Excessive cheerfulness can come across as distrust, especially if team members feel forced to match your degree of positivity. Remember, company culture starts at the top. 

Positivity should not be performative. You should strive to be relatable, thoughtful, and sincere. If you’re in a joyful mood, great — but don’t assume it’s the only reason people want to be around you.

As tricky as workplace positivity can be, here’s the good news: Getting it right doesn’t mean you have to act any certain way at all. In fact, all you have to do is stop acting. 

Being sincere is one of the smallest, yet most significant things you can do to build a healthy company culture. Your team can when something is on your mind, so you might as well share it with them. 

Don’t Let Vacation Season Dampen Team Productivity

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With summer on its way, you’re likely receiving more requests for time off. While you want your team to enjoy the season, you’re also worried: How will all the vacations affect productivity?

Even with a strong PTO policy, this can be difficult to manage. And as workers will point out, vacations can boost individual productivity. The wrinkle is, missing hands can slow down the rest of the team.

But before you deny those requests, beware: You don’t want to create a company culture in which people are afraid to take time off. Workers are already taking fewer days off out of fear of appearing “replaceable.”

You need to strike the right balance. Here’s how to keep your team strong while ensuring everyone gets a taste of summer:

1. Preview the season’s work.

Setting expectations before summer takes off is a great way to get team members to think about timing. If they know a major project will be due in early July, then you shouldn’t see a flood of PTO requests for the week before.

This is the kind of discussion to have at a team meeting. Plot out upcoming campaigns and talk through how much work each will take. Revisit the company’s mission, and explain how each campaign connects to it. 

If employees know what’s coming and why, they’ll plan ahead. There may be phases of a project that involve them less than others, during which workers can squeeze in a summer camping trip. 

2. Review your PTO policy.

During the same meeting when you preview the summer, bring up your company’s PTO policy. Often, violations occur when workers simply forget the rules. 

Explain how many consecutive days they can request off. Also, discuss how much prior notice employees must provide beforehand in order to get approval.

Be transparent about the approval process. There are a number of ways to decide who gets to take time off if requests conflict:

  • On a first-come, first-serve basis
  • A rotating vacation schedule
  • Based on seniority
  • Based on who took time off least recently

If you do have to deny someone’s request, work with them. Perhaps they get first dibs over another desirable slot, such as Labor Day weekend. 

3. Create a company vacation calendar.

A calendar that shows who’s taking time off when is an important organization tool. This can help cut down on overlapping vacations.

Make sure you have a system to separate pending from approved requests. Consider color-coding them, or perhaps you simply reply “Maybe” to requests you’ve seen but have yet to approve. That way, workers can be courteous of others’ vacations and rearrange their own schedules to stay productive.

4. Ask people to work ahead.

There’s no substitute for working ahead. Not only does it help the team member on vacation keep their mind off work, but it also minimizes dependencies. Otherwise, the rest of the team may have to wait for the worker to return. 

Before they go on vacation, help employees outline what they’ll accomplish before they leave. Encourage them to get a jump start on a project they’ll be expected to contribute to when they return.

Remember, this applies to leaders as well: If you were expecting their help on a project during their week off, you may have to put together the brief ahead of schedule. Model the behavior you want to see from your team.

5. Over-communicate.

It’s critical that nobody on the team is caught off guard by a vacation. A vacation calendar identifies who’ll be out when, but it’s not enough.

Before someone’s time off begins, initiate a conversation: What’s been done, and what’s left to do on projects that span the out-of-office period? That way, team members can plan to work around the missing person’s portion or pick up the slack when necessary.

If you need to cross-train an employee to handle the work, touch base with them before the other worker leaves. Encourage them to shadow the vacationer for a day to see how he or she works.

6. Promote working at peak vacation times. 

If you get an overwhelming number of requests at similar times — say, around the Fourth of July — consider rewarding employees who hold down the fort. Doing so can give those who really need a vacation more space while showing appreciation to the rest of the team.

Great ways to incentive working at peak times include:

  • Bonus pay
  • Gift cards
  • Additional time off to be used later
  • Free snacks or meals

Don’t buy them a yacht, but don’t worry too much about how much those incentives cost. A fully functional team is more than worth a catered lunch or a few Starbucks gift cards. 

Vacation season doesn’t have to mean making new hires or sacrificing productivity. If you plan ahead and prepare your team, everyone can enjoy the summer. You might even be able to take a vacation of your own. 

Get Some Sun With These 7 Team-Building Activities

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There are plenty of ways to promote teamwork at the office. Many favorites, however, can only be done outside.

As the weather improves and social distancing drags on, people are spending more time outdoors. Getting outside together strengthens bonds at a safe distance, building trust and promoting productivity.

Best of all, team-building delivers those benefits even when it’s unstructured. Making memories outdoors doesn’t require metrics or days of planning. Fresh air and positive attitudes are all it takes.

What are the easiest, most enjoyable ways to get your team outdoors? Our favorites include:

1. Have a picnic.

The company picnic is a staple for a reason: Breaking bread brings people together without breaking the bank. 

If you have the means, you can get your picnic catered. You can also keep it simple, however, by asking everyone on the team to bring a dish to share. Create a sign-up list to make sure you don’t wind up with nine bags of chips and no entrees.

Play some games, invite family members, and have fun. Nothing beats a classic. 

2. Make it a cook-off.

Do a couple of people at the office claim to have the best chilli recipe? Add a little healthy competition to an afternoon outside by making it a cook-off. 

If you’ve got a large group, split people into teams. Mix and match across departments that you don’t wind up with marketers v. salespeople. The whole point is to help people create new connections.

Set up a scoring system. Maybe the best salad is worth two points, the best appetizer three, and the best entree five. Ask board members to be judges, or select them from the team through a lottery system.

Give a small prize, such as a gift card, to members of the winning cooks. The real winners, however, are the people who get to enjoy the tasty food. 

3. Join a sports league.

In the mood for more healthy competition? Join a local sports league. Look for opportunities to face off against other businesses, which can encourage company pride. 

Find a sport that appeals to as many people as possible. Some popular sports likely to have organized leagues include:

  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Volleyball
  • Bowling
  • Ultimate frisbee

Sports leagues promote health and wellness. To a degree meals and movie nights don’t, they also pull people out of their comfort zones. Just be sure to emphasize the team aspect rather than trying to win at all costs. 

4. Attend a sporting event.

Would you rather watch sports than play them? In that case, treat everyone to an outdoor sporting event. 

Yes, many matches are on pause during the pandemic. That makes them all the more special, however, when people can enjoy the experience again. 

Plus, sporting events aren’t just for sports lovers. Stadiums offer lots of food, shopping, and tailgating opportunities.

With that said, stadium prices are steep: Consider giving team members an allowance so that they can grab a beer or a t-shirt without stressing about what’s in their wallet. 

5. Experience live music.

If you want to have a good time with your team, you can’t go wrong with live music outdoors. Music has so much connective power that it’s often referred to as a universal language. 

Of course, not everyone listens to the same kind of music. If an artist that a lot of people like comes to town, though, why not get the team tickets? Those who don’t want to attend can simply give their tickets to family members of the workers who do. 

Better yet, attend a nearby music festival together. Because they include multiple acts, their appeal is broader than any one show. 

6. Take a field trip.

Remember how much you looked forward to field trips when you were in school? Your team members think about them in the same way: as a break from the daily grind. 

Consider the following activities to engage your team:

  • Visiting an amusement park
  • Going to the zoo
  • Hiking at a national park
  • Enjoying a day at the beach

Everyone could use a day away from work now and again. Charter a bus to your destination, and enjoy the thrills of a roller coaster or the calm vibe of a park. 

7. Go camping.

Camping is not for everyone, and it takes a little more planning than the other ideas on this list. With that said, spending a day out in the elements can rally everyone together. 

Camping does not need to be hardcore. Adjust the trip to a level that works for your team: Cabins might be a better choice than tents, and pre-made meals can avoid the challenges of cooking for a group over a fire.

Don’t underestimate the business value of enjoying an afternoon outside together. The best memories are made not in the office but in the great outdoors. Get out there, and start making them. 

The 10 Best Calendar Apps (What You Should Look For)

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Perhaps the number one reason why we’re addicted to smartphones is that they contain our entire lives in the device. You can check-in with friends, family, and clients, while booking a flight, running your business, and listening to a podcast. Here’s what you should look for in the ten best calendar apps.

But, they’re always useful in organizing our lives. Especially when you have the following ten calendar apps.

1. Calendar

Tired of those back-and-forth emails when scheduling a meeting or appointment? If so, then Calendar has got you covered.

This handy app lets you share your availability with others through an embedded link or email. This way, they can find a date and time that works for them. Once they do, the event is added to everyone’s online calendars.

Calendar can also harness the power of machine learning. Machine learning means that it uses previous data to make smart scheduling suggestions, such as when, where, and what types of meetings you should schedule.

You can also easily create an event using natural language, while the map view gives you a glance at your upcoming schedule.

2. Fantastical 2

This iPhone app has often be cited as the best calendar app for the iPhone. That’s because it’s packed with features, such as:

  • Multiple views including a list view in portrait mode by either week or month or a landscape mode for a week “block” view.
  • Supports multiple languages, like English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese.
  • Ability to create event using natural language.
  • Also, it works with the iPad and Apple Watch.
  • The addition of the view widget — replaces the stock iOS Calendar widget. With this extension, you get a snapshot of your day without opening the app.

You will have to purchase Fantastical 2 for $4.99.

3. Google Calendar

While this stock calendar comes preinstalled in every Android device, Apple users can download it as well. They probably should go ahead and do that.

With a free account, this powerful app will events and schedules from your Google account. If you used your Gmail address to book a flight, hotel room, or doctor’s appointment, the date and time would be added to the calendar. You’ll then receive a reminder through a push notification on your phone when the event approaches.

When creating events, you can color-code your calendar so that you can quickly identify the various types of activities you have scheduled.

4. Calendars 5

If you’re curious, this is the fifth version of Readdle’s Calendars app. That explains why it’s called Calendars 5. It also means that the developers had plenty of opportunities to make this iPhone app as high as possible.

Calendars 5 comes with features like several view options; list view, day view, week view, and month view, as well as an integrated task manager and ability to enter events using natural language. Additional features include being able to create custom alerts, recurring events, and sharing your tasks and activities with others.

5. Microsoft Calendar

For business owners, it’s tough to find a better suite of tools than Microsoft Office 365 — although Google is pretty much right at the top as well. That’s because this app combines your emails, calendar, and much more into one convenient location.

The calendar itself is loaded with functions like being able to import or export to other calendars and share your calendar with others. You can also personalize your calendar using add-ons, like getting a weather report, automating responses to invites, receiving reminders, and receiving an agenda in your email every morning.

6. Tiny Calendar

If you want a simple calendar app that’s available for either Android or iOS, then look no further. Tiny Calendar is a straightforward calendar app where you can view multiple layouts. You can create emails or push notification reminders, and make edits offline. You can even use your device’s GPS to add specific locations to events, and it syncs with other calendars, such as Google Calendar.

The free version should be enough if you need the basics. The paid version — which is $7 — comes with additional features like accepting and sending invites. It also exports other calendars and can create recurring events.

7. Jorte Calendar

Jorte isn’t just another calendar app. It’s also an organizer where you can take notes and manage tasks. It also integrates with Google Calendar, Evernote, and Microsoft Office to make your life run a bit smoother. And, it works for Android and iOS.

As for the calendar itself, it’s pretty solid. There are daily, weekly, or monthly views, the ability to create recurring events, and there are even countdown features that let you know how much time is remaining for a specific event.

For the more robust features, you’ll have to select the Jorte Premium option at $3 per month or $30 for the year.

8. SolCalendar

SolCalendar is known for being one of the most well-designed calendar apps on the market. Some people claim that it’s more of a life management tool than just your standard calendar app.

This app comes with a widget so that you receive a summary of your most important activities. There are stickers and emojis for marking select dates. You can also receive weather reports, share your calendar with others, and integrates with Google Tasks.

Best of all? It’s free for Android users to download.

9. TimeTree

Do you need an app to keep your family or team on the same page? Then download this free app for both Android and Apple users.

With TimeTree, you can share everything from work schedules to tasks to notes. This way, your team knows when you away on travel while your family knows when your flight arrives. It also ensures that every family or team member stays on-top of assigned tasks. You can also send reminders to others.

10. 24me

Finally, there’s this handy personal assistant that comes equipped with a calendar, to-do list, and notes. This way, you can automate everything from paying bills to wishing a happy friend’s birthday. It has reminders — like calling a client or scheduling appointments — by linking to your contacts. You can link to Facebook, TaskRabbit, and your bank account.

Put, if you want to stay on top of your bills, remember birthdays, schedule events, and manage your to-do list, this is the app for you.

The free app is available for Android and iOS.

Criteria for an Amazing Calendar App

What makes these apps considered the best? It’s because they fit the following criteria:

  • Can easily and quickly view appointments — preferably in a click or two.
  • Can easily add, edit, or search for appointments, like being able to use natural language.
  • Integrates with the apps you use daily, such as Calendar or Google Calendar.
  • It is compatible with all of the devices you use. For example, if you have all Apple products, then go with Fantastical 2. If you have a Samsung phone and iPad, then you’ll want an app that works on both Android and iOS.
  • Comes with a clean and contemporary design.
  • Integrates with your email — not a problem if using Calendar, Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook.
  • Allows you to schedule an unlimited amount of appointments.
  • Has the features you need. If you work with a team, for example, then you need to be able to share your calendar with others. If not pre-installed, then look for an app that can be customized to meet your needs.

What criteria do you look for when choosing a calendar app?

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