All posts by John Rampton

Leadership Shows the Way for Productivity

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Leadership Shows the Way for Productivity

In order for the company to achieve its goals, everyone from top to bottom must be productive. Additionally, productivity will motivate employees, increase morale, and promote a more positive work environment. All of these, by the way, is essential if you want you and your team to get excited about work following COVID.

As you know, you must become an effective leader to improve your team’s productivity. But, that’s often easier said than done. Thankfully, you can improve your leadership skills using the following strategies. In turn, this will pave the way for productivity.

1. Don’t be a boss.

Initially, this may sound like a contradiction. But, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” As it turns out, the Bull Moose was 100% right.

As Building Champions notes, the key differences between a boss and a leader are;

  • Leaders focus on sustainable solutions, while bosses prefer quick fixes. Leaders show subordinates how and why to do things, while managers cultivate a micromanaged environment.
  • Unlike bosses, leaders are more emotionally intelligent. In contrast to subject matter experts, leaders are emotionally and people-savvy. Great leaders are empathetic, but also very capable of controlling their emotions.
  • Leaders manage people while bosses manage work. Leaders motivate people to achieve specific goals, while bosses control them. Influential leaders influence, inspire, and encourage others to make an organization successful.
  • Unlike a boss, a leader is someone who listens and speaks. Subordinates are expected to listen and obey their bosses when they deliver orders. Regardless of the title of the individual, leaders listen to everyone’s opinions.
  • Leaders encourage rather than criticize. Even though constructive criticism is healthy, excessive and constant criticism can be discouraging. An outstanding leader strikes the right balance between constructive criticism and rewarding employees when they excel.
  • Leaders create more leaders, not just circles of power. It’s considered a form of competition by the boss to hog all the power and authority. Instead, through delegation, education, and providing the right resources, a leader creates other leaders.

2. Effective communicators.

Communication is one of the most crucial aspects of increasing productivity among your team. Overall, members of your team should feel comfortable talking to you about challenges they are facing. But, if you want this to happen, you need to provide ample time to meet with them. And, you also need to make sure that you actually listen to them without judgment.

If this is an area that needs work, encourage your team to speak up during meetings. You can also put them more at ease by informally chatting with them, like during lunch. Other suggestions you can practice would be;

  • Make sure everyone is kept in the loop. Always keep the lines of communication open. Teams are more motivated when leaders are transparent and keep them informed.
  • Listen with empathy. Communication is a two-way street. As such, you must listen attentively to your employees. The more you listen to their concerns and implement changes, the more you will display respect as well as improve productivity and work processes.
  • Be careful about the medium you choose. Cooperation and healthy work culture will be enhanced with a suitable communication medium or tool. Examples include email, Slack, and Zoom.

3. Walk the talk.

Leading by example is a simple and effective way to increase your team’s productivity. If you do this frequently, your team will eventually become more productive. For instance, if you want your team members to show up to team meetings on time, you must make it a point to arrive early.

By setting the bar for productivity, your employees will most likely follow suit. After all, leadership is about influencing others to be more efficient.

4. Grant ownership.

Ownership is a powerful business principle understood by the best leaders. The best way to give ownership to team members? Let them make their own decisions and hold them accountable for those decisions.

You can induce a sense of responsibility in your team members when they’re held accountable for their work. As a result, it becomes apparent to them that their decisions can directly impact the performance of everyone else.

There are several different ways to take ownership of a project. For example, one employee could be a project manager, while another focuses on research. Regardless of the exact responsibility, this builds their self-confidence. How? Because it shows that you trust them to get the job done on time.

5. Bring more humanity into the workplace.

“As a leader, you can be the one to ignite more humanity at work,” write Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer in Fast Company. “Take time to pause and reflect on how you may be contributing to a work environment where people are disengaged.”

“Your people are watching you all the time, taking cues from what you do and say,” they add. “What is your impact? Are you helping their work feel deeper and more connected? When you do, people will give more of themselves, and business wins.”

In other words, without humanity, your employees will continue to suffer a toxic burnout. But, thanks to the following five practices, you can successfully bring more humanity into the workplace.

  • Creating safety. Having a sense of belonging allows individuals to feel safe, fully express themselves, and know what they have to offer.
  • Working together. Establish and work towards achieving a common goal. Also, “be sure every team member feels heard and knows their contributions are valued,” they advise.
  • Claiming values. Clarity and intentionality come from knowing what you stand for. It’s your job as a leader to help your employees learn about their values and to understand why they do what they do.
  • Owning your impact. “When you take responsibility for your impact, it creates personal accountability; your words and your actions align,” add Cohen and Roeske-Zummer. In order to own your impact, you have to be personally responsible for the work you do and the culture you create.
  • Daring not to know. Leaders who show they are human, vulnerable, and do not know all the answers, allow others to step up. The strength of an organization depends on not knowing. You can take charge by saying, “I don’t have the answer for that, what do you think?”

6. Encourage learning opportunities.

Companies offering extensive training have 218% higher income per employee than companies with no formal training, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Moreover, these companies have 24% higher profit margins than those who haven’t invested as much in training.

As if that weren’t enough, employing training and development encourages engagement and retains your top talent. Whether if it’s paying for in-person/online classes, bringing in speakers, or attending workshops, everyone in your organization, including yourself, should be enhancing and learning new skills.

7. Offer incentives.

Research conducted by Genesis Associates in 2018 found that 85% of the employees surveyed felt highly motivated to perform their best when there was an incentive. Why? One reason is that when we feel appreciated, we’re encouraged to repeat the behaviors and habits that made us productive in the first place.

It is essential to consider the employee’s individual needs or preferences when deciding how to reward them. For example, some might prefer public recognition depending on your employees, while others would rather have privately expressed thanks. Besides simple words of appreciation, you can also consider the following incentives:

  • A handwritten note. By sending them a handwritten note, you show your appreciation and that you care enough to take the time to thank them personally.
  • Take them out to lunch. This is also an excellent way to get to them better. If they’re working remotely, you could have food delivered to their home.
  • PTO. If you don’t wish to give your employees a bonus or raise, you can offer paid time off in lieu of vacation and sick days.
  • Introducing a wellness program. You can reduce your company’s health insurance costs and sick days by implementing a workplace wellness program.
  • Lazy Monday/Friday Coupons. Employees can use these coupons to arrive late on Monday mornings or leave early on Fridays.

8. Reduce phantom workload.

Introduced by Marilyn Paul, Ph. D., and David Peter Stroh, phantom workload “is the unintentional work created when people either take expedient but ineffective shortcuts or avoid taking on such as essential.”

Examples include complex tasks like:

  • Clarifying mission, vision, and values
  • Asking questions that challenge what is ambiguous or unrealistic
  • Identifying and resolving conflicts
  • Clarifying and streamlining decision-making processes
  • Providing candid, constructive feedback
  • Differentiating people with sanctions and rewards
  • Launching innovative projects
  • Making decisions that require disinvestment in programs or projects

“When not addressed, the phantom workload leads to a variety of consequences such as rework, unproductive meetings, organizational conflicts, and fractured relationships,” explains Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. In addition, it wastes time since we keep working on “the same problem over and over again.” Eventually, phantom workload “leads to greater stress and a further reluctance or inability to engage in difficult tasks.”

The good news? You can rescue phantom workload through tactics, such as;

  • Setting a limited amount of realistic goals for you and your team.
  • Changing your behavior by identifying why you want to change.
  • Planning out your day and protecting your time.
  • Asking others for help.
  • Using rewards or inspirational resources like Ted Talks for motivation.
  • Overcoming procrastination through mindfulness or working on the most challenging task first.

And “experiment with different time management and strategies,” Deanna suggests. “There will be some trial and error involved. But, it’s the only way that you’ll discover what works best for you.”

9. Give each other feedback.

Introducing a team feedback process is the final but most important item on the list. When employees aren’t aware they are being inefficient, then how can they improve their performance?

With that in mind, that’s why performance reviews and constructive feedback are essential and not a nuisance. It’s a proven way to guide employees in strengthening their weaknesses.

Additionally, don’t forget to ask them how you could help them improve after giving them the feedback. For example, maybe a little bit more guidance would be useful on specific tasks. Or perhaps that could use a little more creative freedom. And, to further encourage a culture of trust and open dialogue, ask them where you can improve to become a better leader.

Increase Your Energy for a Happier Life Balance

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Increase Your Energy for a Happier Life Balance

It wasn’t all that long ago that the term “work-life balance” was all the rage. But, how exactly did the business world view the concept?

For many, it’s recognizing that an employee’s work experience is only one aspect of their lives? The other consisted of family, friends, hobbies, and overall health. The objective of work-life balance is to ensure that work doesn’t interfere with life outside of work too much. When this goal is met, employees will be happier and more productive.

“Work-life balance” may seem like a relatively new concept, but it first became popular during the 1970s and 1980s. It was actually stressed by baby boomers who attempted to achieve a balance between work, family, and other areas of their lives. The changing experiences of generational groups, however, have led HR leaders to reassess the term. Generation X, according to Forbes, has placed a high emphasis on achieving a balance between work and family. It also uses PTO to focus on family life and non-work activities.

But, as millennials have entered the workforce with gusto, Forbes adds that “they are more interested in finding a career path that will support their’ lifestyle,’ which in this context means their life outside of work.” In other words, younger age groups have focused on pursuing jobs and employers that support the lifestyle they desire. Rather than securing a job and then creating a life around its hours, income, and other aspects, this approach inverts the conventional approach more associated with Boomers.

As a consequence, concepts like “work-life integration” have become increasingly popular. But, maybe we’re overthinking this. “Rather, we simply must manage our energy,” asserts Gila Vadnai-Tolub for McKinsey.

“We must learn critical skills to balance our energy levels to ensure we alternate high-performance periods with resourcing times,” adds Vadnai-Tolub. “Athletes do this by alternating training with resourcing activities, and we must do the same via activities that give us energy.”

The Primary Types of Energy

“There are four primary types of energy: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual,” states Vadnai-Tolu.

  • Physical energy. Most of us are familiar with this type. Generally speaking, it provides us with an indication of how tired we feel and how well our bodies feel. It’s for this reason that we understand we need to walk occasionally. However, it is not only long-term fitness plans that matter, but also daily refreshment moments.
  • Mental energy. This is often obtained from tasks that require analytical and cognitive abilities. For example, you may be physically fine but mentally exhausted after spending a long time concentrating. Each of us has specific mental tasks that drain or lift us.
  • Emotional energy. To achieve this, one must have connections with others – from giving and receiving love to helping a friend or colleague deal with a problem. Consequently, negative emotions such as fear, frustration, and anger drain energy and damage performance, she says.
  • Spiritual energy. When we do something we love, something that speaks to our spirit, we receive wisdom, compassion, integrity, joy, love, creativity, or peace as a result. For instance, it’s a common experience to become mentally and physically tired while working on a project. Nevertheless, we’re able to keep going because it is something of fundamental importance.

Being aware of these can help you better manage your energy throughout the day. For example, when you recognize that you’re physically or mentally zapped, you would take a break to recharge.

What’s more, you can find ways to give yourself an energy boost. For example, let’s say that you’re frustrated with how long a project has taken you to complete. Reminding yourself of the meaning behind your work or collaborating with a supportive college could reduce those negative feelings and give you a jot.

Why It’s Important to Manage Your Energy

You may be thinking that managing your energy isn’t all that big of a deal. After all, you can just brew a pot of coffee to wake yourself up. While that might give you a temporary boost to wrap up a tedious task, truly managing your energy has the following benefits, according to Karen Kallie R.N., M.A.C.P;

  • Accelerated change. Working energetically gets at the root of problems, makes them easier to resolve, and empowers you to provide positive, quick, and practical solutions, really a change from within.
  • Diminished resistance. Often, our attempts to change are stymied by the struggle, thereby impeding the flow of change. Energy work can aid in eliminating that struggle. When using energy, we can experience ease and grace instead of force and willpower.
  • The discipline of the mind. A more focused mind helps us channel our energy more efficiently towards our goals and fulfill our desires.
  • Enhanced clarity. As a result of eliminating emotional turmoil, negative attitudes, and exhausting thought patterns, one can perceive reality more clearly, oneself and others.
  • Improved intuition, creativity, and spiritual experience. By strengthening and removing old memories, beliefs, and maladaptive patterns from the overall energy system, the entire system functions better, enabling higher levels of function to expand.
  • Clearing energy blocks from our systems creates an opening for positive growth. To prevent ourselves from getting sucked into repetitive cycles filled with what we do not want, we create more of what we want in life. When our minds and bodies are relaxed, we become more open to allowing greater flow, which also helps us to quiet our ego and recognize other energies.

How you Can Increase Your Energy for Happier and More Balance Life

Establish fixed schedules for work.

When will your workday begin and end? Ideally, this should be based around when you’re most productive, aka your biological prime time. While not always possible, when you can establish a work schedule, you can avoid energy-depleting distractions, like emails or office visitors.

“Use technology to your advantage by using the various apps and digital reminders that make it more difficult for you to break your own rules and access things outside of work time,” advises Dr. Beurkens. “Although technology can feel like it’s taking over our lives and infringing on our work-life balance, we can actually use it to our benefit in helping us stick to the boundaries we know are healthy for us.” For example, you may choose to set time limits, turn off your active status, or even set up an auto-responder to let others know you won’t respond outside your regular working hours.

You should also share your calendar with others. Of course, this doesn’t have to be everyone on your contact list. But, letting your co-workers or family members know when you’re on and off the clock prevents work-life lines from getting blurred.

Eat, drink, and be merry.

No, this isn’t a DMB plug. But, if “Tripping Billies” lifts your mood and energy, then go for it. So, instead, this covers the basics of increasing your energy.

You are what you eat.

With the proper diet, you can keep your body healthy, feel energized, and stay optimistic. Plus, healthy food can be tasty. And, personally, I enjoy learning and preparing new recipes.

Additionally, cooking healthy doesn’t have to be a time-consuming endeavor if you try the following;

  • Get your hands on a cookbook featuring quick and tasty dishes, or look for health-conscious recipes online.
  • Take advantage of ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables.
  • You’ll find it easier to resist the temptation to order a pizza f you prepare a weekly menu and freeze meals in advance.

But, what exactly should you eat? As per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, an optimal energy diet should include fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.

You should also consume various foods from various food groups to get the proper nutrients to help you stay energized throughout the day. You should eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, especially dark, leafy vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, which are high in nutrients. For healthy protein options, fish and legumes are available in a variety of forms. In addition, eat three servings of whole-grain cereal, bread, rice, or pasta each day.

Stay hydrated.

Another benefit of eating healthy? You may be consuming water-rich fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, oranges, and strawberries. That’s a simple way to ensure that you stay hydrated throughout the day.

In addition to water, green tea, Yerba maté, and coffee are also drinks that can stimulate energy. Just be careful not to overdo it with the caffeine. When the body withdraws from caffeine after consuming too much coffee, as an example, it can result in energy loss.

Also, it’s alright to have the occasional alcoholic beverage. “Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and probably protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones,” states the Harvard School of Public Health.

Promote happiness and creativity.

Having a positive attitude toward life enables you to tackle your tasks more effectively. Alternatively, stress can be exhausting and negatively affect your health. In addition, research shows stress can hinder creativity.

You can relieve stress by taking care of yourself and choosing creative outlets that you enjoy;

  • Each week, dedicate some time to de-stressing and relaxing.
  • If possible, enjoy some quiet time in the morning.
  • Consider learning a new hobby or taking art classes if you’ve always wanted to take one.
  • Decrease your exposure to negativity, like avoiding news overdose or hanging out with toxic people.
  • Practice gratitude and do something meaningful daily.
  • Enjoy everyday tasks. Some ideas would be making an ethnic meal for dinner, singing in the shower, learning a language during your commute, or gamification at work.
  • Take walks outside — without your phone.
  • Find ways to laugh, like watching funny videos or playing with your dog.

Get your body moving.

Feeling lethargic by the middle of the day? Have you ever felt exhausted by simple everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping or chores around the house?

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week can add to your energy instead of taking it away. Why? When you exercise, you relieve stress and tension, strengthen your muscles, and boost your endurance, which improves your ability to perform other physical activities more efficiently.

Restrict your sleep.

“If you think you may be sleep-deprived, try getting less sleep,” states Harvard Health Publishing. “This advice may sound odd, but determining how much sleep you actually need can reduce the time you spend in bed not sleeping.”

Sleeping with this process facilitates easier sleep and results in a more restful night’s sleep. And, here’s how you can do it;

  • During the day, do not nap. If you do, keep it short and sweet, preferably under 20-minutes.
  • Try going to bed a little later the first night and getting four hours of sleep.
  • If you feel you slept well during the previous four hours, you may want to add another 15–30 minutes of sleep the following night.
  • Continue to add little by little, as long as you are sleeping soundly on successive nights.

Enter the dream world.

“Dreams play a crucial role in some of our most important emotional and cognitive systems, helping us form memories, solve problems and maintain our psychological health,” writes Alice Robb, in “Why We Dream.” Dreaming has the power to make us fitter, happier, and smarter.

However, how can we harness the power of dreams?

Just remembering can be a huge help to keep your dreams alive. “Reminding yourself of your intention as you fall asleep can yield a bounty of memories in the morning,” Robb writes.

A dream journal, she suggests, should also be kept nearby. Then, upon waking, pause for a few seconds before writing down what you dreamed.

While dreams often affect us automatically, Robb argues that they are amplified when we experience them directly.

It’s possible to improve the quality of our sleep in subtle ways as well, such as avoiding alcohol close to bedtime, exercising regularly, waking up naturally, and limiting screen time. You can also stay in deep sleep mode by meditating before bed and keeping your room cold (between 60 and 68 degrees).

And, we should treat dreams “like the real and profound experiences they are,” Robb writes. “Let’s give them their rightful place in the world.”

Overcome negative bias.

“The negative bias is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events,” explains Kendra Cherry for Verywell Mind. “Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.”

For example, on the way to work, you get into a spat with your significant other. You then dwell on this for the entire day. Consequently, you get short with your co-workers, make poor decisions, or can’t focus on the task at hand.

Our ancient ancestors had to pay “attention to bad, dangerous, and negative threats in the world was literally a matter of life and death,” adds Cherry. “Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive.” Today, however, this can strain relationships, harm your reputation, and make it difficult to be optimistic.

The good news? You can overcome the negative bias by;

  • Stop the negative self-talk. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes, you cannot change; consider what you have learned and what you will apply to the future.
  • Reframe the situation. Find a way to reframe the events in a more positive light when you interpret something negatively.
  • Establish new patterns. If you find yourself dwelling on negative things, try to distract yourself with an uplifting activity like listening to uplifting music or going for a walk.
  • Savior positive moments. Take a moment to appreciate the good things that happen in your life. Think about the wonderful feelings the memory evokes several times in your head.

Make work a series of sprints.

Unable to think clearly? You’re overloaded and have the fragmented attention of a distracted person. So how can you remedy this? Sprint into your most essential tasks selectively.

This idea comes from engagement consultant Tony Schwartz. In the New York Times, Schwartz argues that since quality work helps you concentrate, and you can only focus for a short time, you should be aware of how and when you focus on doing your best work.

“… it’s better to work highly focused for short periods of time, with breaks in between, than to be partially focused for long periods of time. Think of it as a sprint, rather than a marathon. You can push yourself to your limits for short periods of time, so long as you have a clear stopping point. And after a rest, you can sprint again.”

That last night is crucial. As a renewable resource, your mental energy does not replenish on its own. You must be responsible for maintaining it. FYI, using your phone isn’t “taking a break,” either. Instead, go for a stroll, daydream, or talk to a colleague,

Take the day off.

Do you have unused vacation time from your job? If so, make sure to take use them up!

The benefit of taking days off regularly is that stress can be reduced, and burnout can be avoided. This will give you a chance to clear your head, reflect, and recharge. It may even be beneficial to take a mental health day where you do nothing except cater to your health and wellbeing — even if it’s just spending the day reading in your PJs.

Reach out for help.

As opposed to neglecting or suppressing negative thoughts or memories, address them by talking to someone. By expressing your feelings out loud to an understanding person, you’ll be able to release what’s unspoken. What’s more, the other party, whether it’s your spouse, co-worker, mentor, or therapist, can help you develop solutions to your problems.

Image credit: Anna Tarazevich; Pexels; Thank you!

10 Entrepreneurs That Will Inspire You to Define Success on Your Own Terms

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Entrepreneurs That Will Inspire You to Define Success on Your Own Terms

Success as an entrepreneur is difficult to explain. While we immediately think of it as making a tremendous amount of wealth, success doesn’t always mean that. Rather it comes down to defining it on your own terms and directing your life to live by those principles.

Below are 10 entrepreneurs who you might not have heard of, but have achieved their own versions of success and inspire you to do the same.

To me, this list of entrepreneurs represents a number of things:

  • Their views of success are very different from traditional views of success.
  • They remove all the glitz and glamour and focus on key values and principles that have pulled them through to the other side.
  • They are honest about their own stories and admit when things weren’t as good or that they made mistakes.

These reasons amongst many others are why I think these are inspiring entrepreneurs.

1. Leon Ho, Founder & CEO of Lifehack

Leon is the CEO and founder of Lifehack. His story is how he went from living a typical lifestyle to running a successful business and helping people re-prioritize life and focus on what’s most important.

For years he spent his life expanding his career thinking that in order to succeed, you’d have to sacrifice certain aspects to live it. After hitting a low point from that way of thinking, he realized what’s so wrong with that logic.

He began re-prioritizing his lifestyle and is living a happier and more successful life on his own terms. He is now even sharing all his experiences and skills he has learned throughout his journey with the Full Life Framework Course.

2. Laurel Egan Kenny, Founder of Turningpoint Communications

Laurel Egan Kenny is the founder of Turningpoint Communications and attributes a lot of her success to the relationships she’s made. While there were definitely some that were bad – such as former employees using her own training material for their own purposes – there were several good ones. Those relationships pushed her business to new heights and has shaped how she approaches clients and her staff.

3. Ameet Khabra, Owner of Hopskipmedia

Ameet Khabra is the owner of Hopskipmedia. He defines success as being able to balance work and life. Many entrepreneurs devote their entire being into a business and that can sometimes backfire. Similar to Leon, before he changed, people spend so much time on one thing that other areas of their life start to slip.

Success to Ameet isn’t always about having a massive and thriving business at the cost of your own sanity. It’s all about balancing everything.

4. Andrei Vasilescu, Founder of DontPayFull

Andrei Vasilescu, founder of DontPayFull, thinks that success is defined by how many ideas you come up with that actually work or exceed expectations. While performance is relative to one person, a simple metric of determining if you’re making a profit or not is a good baseline.

Even though that’s success in essence, looking at the number of ideas that turned profit is a good measurement of whether you’re making it or not.

5. Kevin Tucker, Founder of SOLitude Lake Management

Delving more on the performance-based success, Kevin Tucker believes success comes down to looking after four things well. He is the founder of SOLitude Lake Management and attributes looking after employees, clients, community, and environment as crucial measurements of success.

By looking over those four areas well, his business has been growing over time year after year with no issues.

6. Stephen Alred Jr., Founder of KnowCap IO

According to Stephen Alred Jr., founder of KnowCap IO, success goes beyond the surface level of making enough money to stay in business. Success is defined by the quality of life too. If you’re working long hours and barely making any money, that’s not genuine success.

What’s essential is that the money you’re making is letting you afford to change your lifestyle in such a way that you can live a more ideal life.

7. Tim Brown, Founder of Hook Agency

Founder of Hook Agency, Tim Brown is one of the inspiring entrepreneurs who thinks in a similar fashion to Stephen Alred Jr – being able to do what you wish to do. While Stephen Alred Jr focused on life in general, Tim Brown’s success comes from being able to move his business in the direction he wants to.

That kind of thinking is powerful as even though the journey has ups and downs, he is still thriving thanks to being able to move his business how he wants to without much worry.

8. Sue Duris, Founder of M4 Communications

Sue Duris is the founder of M4 Communications and has built her success around customer retention. Of course, being able to retain and gain more customers will have an increase in your revenue over time.

However it’s still shocking how this concept isn’t always applied. After all, there are some businesses out there that thrive simply because they have carved out most of that market and are the only option.

When you prioritize looking after the clients you do have, success will come and Sue Duris’s company is an example of that.

9. Nate Masterson, Founder of Maple Holistics

Founder of Maple Holistics, Nate Materson has gotten a name for himself by doing what other successful entrepreneurs have done. Taking a page from Kevin Tucker, he too looked after those four key aspects. He kept an eye on himself while looking after his staff, the community, the customers, and the environment.

Even though this success story is similar to others, it goes to show that simple methods are often the answers to thriving and being successful.

10. Erin Paruszewski, Founder & CEO of Alkalign Studios

The final of the inspiring entrepreneurs is Erin Paruszewski. Her success story of Alkalign Studios is a reminder that just putting in the effort doesn’t guarantee success. When working for someone, the payoffs are very clear – exchange your time for money. But when going into business, you’re putting a lot of risk that it might not work out.

That aspect alone drove Erin to grow a business into something that she can be proud of. Behind the scenes, careful planning and taking risks that she considered worth it brought her to a business that’s made her successful.

Final Thoughts

Even though success is about making enough money to make something of it, there are different ways to get there. It’s not always big and flashy but rather success can be something more simple. And these inspiring entrepreneurs show that to us every single day.

You don’t need a million-dollar idea to kick off. Rather you need a certain mindset and have particular values you can follow through that can drive you to success.

How to Boost Your Productivity (Without Apps)

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How to Boost Your Productivity (Without Apps)

Did you know that we spend over four hours a day in apps? While we can thank the pandemic for this surge, which skyrocketed by up to 80% in selected markets between Q1 2019 and Q1 2021, we’ve become extremely reliant on applications. Can you imagine life without WhatsApp, YouTube, Uber, Netflix, or Google Maps?

Yeah. That would be a challenge. But, we also depend on apps to make us productive. For starters, they can help you manage your time, calendar, and schedule. Moreover, we use apps to keep track of daily tasks, to-do lists, and collaborate with others on big projects.

As if that weren’t enough, we benefit from communication apps that can help us maintain our focus. And, we lean on these tools to generate and share content, track our progress, and make that upcoming travel trip a breeze.

In short, productivity apps just rock. Without them, life would be chaotic and ineffective.

Why productivity apps are problematic.

Despite these benefits, there’s also a dark side to productivity apps.

  • There is an overabundance of choices. How do you decide which app to use? After all, the majority of them do everything the same. But which is most likely to fit your unique needs? You don’t want to spend a lot of time searching and sifting through hundreds of applications — unless you want to ignore your priorities, waste time, and get overwhelmed.
  • Learning how apps work takes time. It may still be confusing if you are not as comfortable using technology, even when you find the perfect app that fits your brain and workflow. Although you may be attracted to technology, you may end up spending more time learning how to use it as opposed to getting things done.
  • Sometimes the developer disappears. You will find that app developers often update your favorite apps with new features and improvements. Using the new systems and features will likely require a learning curve. Occasionally, some developers will leave without a trace. Because of this, an app that you use regularly won’t get further support. As a result, you’ll need to download a new replacement app.

Apps lead to information overload.

“Our lives and work are increasingly digital,” Almuth McDowall, professor of organizational psychology at Birkbeck, University of London, told the BBC. “But it’s a complex world, and there is an information overload.”

“Good apps, well used, can help us to negotiate this,” McDowall states. “But there is still a question of whether we’re really interested in becoming more productive, or simply ‘doing more to seem effective’.”

There is definitely evidence to suggest that employees are overloaded with software. A study conducted in 2018 found that the average operational support worker switched between 35 different applications 1,100 times during the course of their shift. Despite the availability of these apps and tools, productivity has declined in most highly industrialized countries, while burnout has risen.

“Evidence shows that working hours and the time that we spend in online meetings is increasing, so it may be that we are working harder, not smarter,” suggests McDowall. “Why are we not getting better at managing the quality of our output?”

The good news? It’s still possible to boost your productivity without apps.

Don’t follow a “normal” schedule.

Traditionally, we assume there’s a ‘normal’ schedule we should follow. And, that would be the traditional 9 to 5.

However, each of us has our own prime time where we are the most productive and alert. As such, it’s counterproductive to follow arbitrary and antiquated rules. For example, proclaiming “I should finish my daily writing before 9 am, or else I won’t get to it.” Or, “It’s already past 7 pm, so it’s time to call it a day.”

The problem here is that following a “normal” schedule not only goes against your circadian rhythms, it also interrupts your state of flow. As a consequence, it will take you longer to complete tasks with diminishing returns.

Is there another option? Consider blocks, instead of hours.

When you work in timed, focused sprints, you do more than just minimize distractions. You will create a new unit of measurement and rhythm to follow. As a result, this will help you set clear boundaries without losing your flexibility, while also tracking your progress effectively.

Work in layers, not silos.

“Our days tend to be a blend of different projects, software, and conversations,” writes content marketer Jimmy Daly. “These layers make up our work, but we don’t often extract as much value from them as we could.”

For example, we tend to do research in silos, but we can do it as a layer. Throughout the workday, you can pick up useful tidbits as you jump between projects and talk to coworkers, he says. You’ll find that you have more ideas when you need them when your mind is a dragnet for good ones.

For writers, this is especially useful. Keep your eyes open for interesting articles, ideas, graphics, and quotes. “Save them, tag, categorize them,” Daly advises. “Even the ones that seem entirely unrelated to your current work can be useful in the future.”

Your taste develops as you collect ideas. Having this database also provides you with a wealth of inspiration, since it’s regularly updated.

Evaluate and reduce your to-do list.

It can be really helpful to organize your mind and tasks you have to accomplish at work with to-do lists. Having too much on your plate, however, can also lead to stress and feeling overwhelmed.

The most likely reason is that you have added too many items to your to-do list and that you can’t possibly complete them all in a day. If you overpack your day, you might believe you will be more productive and finish everything in time. But believing that you’re going to finish everything can be a costly mistake.

You can reduce stress, work smarter, and maximize your productivity by accepting that you won’t get everything done. After all, you are but one person with a limited workload. To rectify this, clear a few things off your list. Your brain will automatically choose the task that has the lowest priority if you force yourself to do it once a day.

The second reason for limiting your daily to-dos, even if it’s only by one — is because of task debt. Task debt occurs when you never cross-off items and they sit on your list for a long time — whether it’s a paper list or online board.

You should consider reducing and prioritizing your to-do list if you constantly find yourself overwhelmed by it. After your mind has been cleansed, it will be easier for your brain to determine what tasks to prioritize.

Give yourself a break.

There’s no need to feel guilty if you check your messages, the news, or social media notifications every now and then — or even if you check them a lot. The benefits of giving yourself a break have been known for a while — but, sometimes we all need this reminder.

As a matter of fact, scientists have found that you’ve been increasing your focus when taking these brief mental breaks.

Research has shown that well-timed breaks spent on non-related activities improve performance. The reason? The brain will switch off after prolonged exposure to the same stimulus, such as staring at spreadsheets all day.

In order to avoid becoming overburdened, you need to maintain a balance between these two activities. So don’t wait too long before taking a break to stretch or go for a walk.

Best of all? You don’t need an app for this. An hourglass or old-fashioned kitchen timer will suffice if you want to implement something like the Pomodoro Technique.

Build your energy.

Just like PB&J, energy and productivity go hand in hand. After all, the less energy you have, the less you will be able to accomplish. And, you can gain energy through the following app-free practices.

  • Get the best sleep ever by following a sleep schedule based on your circadian rhythms. Also, avoid blue light at least an hour before bed. And, keep your bedroom cool, dark, and silent.
  • Improve your diet. Suggestions would be having carbohydrate-rich breakfast foods, lean meats, and plenty of fruits and veggies. And, drink lots of water.
  • Close open-loops, like making that dentist appointment or trip to the post office.
  • Get outside and bask in the sun.
  • Go for a daily gratitude walk.
  • Spend more time with positive and supportive people.
  • Say “no” to time-wasters.
  • Keep your workspace clean and organized.

Train yourself to innovate.

Finally, thinking about innovation may not be top of mind. But, innovation encourages continuous growth and improvement, while keeping you relevant. It can also assist you in developing resourcefulness and overcome your fear of failure.

And, you can also train yourself to innovate sans applications. Examples would be reading actual books and reciting back what you read. You could change up your routine or seek out experiences that put your talents to good use. And, while brushing your teeth, you should use your non-dominant hand to utilize your left and right brain.

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013 — “Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools. And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post. “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC. “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today. “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

  • Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”
  • Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”
  • Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set limits.

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a not-to-do list.

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be vulnerable.

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with this, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

4. Understand why you procrastinate.

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t be a copycat.

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say yes to less.

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop focusing on what’s next.

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack.

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify.

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn how to relax.

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try.
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward —  just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus,  put in big time and then relax.

22 Ways You Can Power Up for Productivity

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22 Ways You Can Power Up for Productivity

What would you rate your level of productivity on a 1-10 scale? I know — sometimes you feel like you don’t want to keep thinking about productivity. But you have to keep thinking about productivity for the renewable energy in yourself.

You can power up for productivity by thinking about it differently — think of productivity as your power source. Productivity is your PERSONAL RENEWABLE POWER SOURCE.

Start rethinking your thoughts about productivity and make it your best friend. Train your brain to have positivity about productivity and work if you want to keep going strong.

Even if your current level of productivity is high, there’s always room to improve.

Since I’m very results-oriented, I’ve been on a seemingly never-ending quest to boost my productivity. As such, I frequently experiment with different approaches and systems. If I find one that has helped me achieve my goals, I keep it. For the techniques that don’t work, I throw them out like yesterday’s trash. Ultimately, this ensures that I’m only using the best of the best.

With that in mind, here are 22 strategies that I’ve found to be the most useful for powering up my productivity. So, without further ado, let’s get ready to level up your productivity.

1. Choose your own prioritization method.

I’ve been a baseball fan all my life. And, I’ve always been fascinated with batting stances and swings. Sure. There are the sweet ones like Ken Griffey Jr. and Ted William. But, I always enjoyed the more unique stances from players like Gary Sheffield and Kevin Youkilis.

While Junior had the most beautiful swing in baseball, it didn’t work for everyone, especially players like Sheffield and Youkilis. The same is also true with prioritization methods.

Learn everywhere and from anyone you can. I’ve learned a lot from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the popular Eisenhower Matrix.

“The Eisenhower Matrix works by dividing tasks into four quadrants,” writes Max Palmer in a previous Calendar article. “The rows and columns help you determine which tasks should go where.

The columns represent urgent and non-urgent tasks, while the accompanying rows indicate essential and non-important tasks. Combined together, you get these unique quadrants:

  • First Quadrant: Do
  • Second Quadrant: Decide
  • Third Quadrant: Delegate
  • Fourth Quadrant: Disregard

But, just because this works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you. As such, you should experiment with various prioritization methods until you find a swing that works best for you. Some suggestions, besides the Eisenhower Matrix, include:

Two Big Traps

“Be sure to watch out for ‘decibel prioritization,’ in which the loudest voice heard gets top priority, and ‘threat prioritization,’ in which stakeholders holding the most political power always get what they demand,” writes Karl Wiegers in a Medium post. “These traps can skew the process away from addressing your true business objectives.”

In or Out

“The simplest method is for a group of stakeholders to work down a list of requirements and decide for each if it’s in or it’s out,” states Wiegers. Using the project’s business objectives as a guide, pare down each task to the absolute minimum required for the first release.

“When that iteration is underway, you can go back to the previously ‘out’ requirements and repeat the process for the next cycle,” he adds. “This is a simple approach to managing an agile backlog of user stories, provided the list of pending requirements isn’t too enormous.”

Pairwise Comparison and Rank Ordering

Priority sequence numbers are sometimes assigned to requirements. Rank ordering involves comparing all the needs pairwise to see which one is more important. Over a few dozen criteria, however, this becomes cumbersome. As a whole, it might not cover all the requirements for a system of this size, but it may work for granularity.

“Rank ordering all requirements by priority is overkill, as you won’t be releasing them all individually,” explains Wiegers. Instead, it’s best to organize them by release or development iteration. The dividing of requirements into features, or into small groups of conditions that share the same priority or need to be implemented together, is sufficient in most cases.

Three-Level Scale

“A common approach groups requirements into three priority categories,” he writes. When you use three categories, you will have high, medium, and low priorities. They are typically subjective and imprecise. Each level in the scale must represent a specific outcome that the stakeholders can agree on.

“I like to consider the two dimensions of importance and urgency,” Wiegers suggests. “Every requirement can be considered as being either important to achieving business objectives or not so important and as being either urgent or not so urgent.” It’s a relative assessment of a set of requirements, not an absolute comparison.

MoSCoW

A MoSCoW priority scheme is divided into four different categories indicated by capital letters:

  • Must: The requirement must be met for the solution to be deemed successful.
  • Should: The requirement is crucial to success, but it is not essential.
  • The capability is desirable, but it can be delayed or eliminated. If resources and time permit, implement it.
  • Won’t: A requirement that won’t be implemented at present may be implemented in a later version.

“The MoSCoW scheme changes the three-level scale — high, medium, and low — into a four-level scale,” clarifies Wieger. “It doesn’t offer any rationale for deciding how to rate the priority of a given requirement compared to others.”

MOSCoW leaves room for ambiguity, especially regarding the “Won’t” rating: does it mean “not in the next release” or “not ever?” This scale takes urgency and importance into account and focuses specifically on the forthcoming release or iteration.

2. Break the procrastination and perfectionism loop.

If you haven’t received the memo, procrastination and perfectionism reduce productivity. Mainly this is because they can cause anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Moreover, they impede innovation, limits opportunities, and make you reluctant to make decisions.

If you want to break free from the destructive procrastination and perfectionism loop, Deanna Ritchie in another Calendar piece, recommends:

  • Lowering your standards and expectations — You don’t have to be perfect! Just get ‘er done — and done is way better than not done.”
  • Keeping your tasks bite-sized.
  • Focusing on one thing at a time.
  • Practicing self-compassion.
  • Surrounding yourself with positive support.
  • Incorporating mindfulness.
  • Reducing your commitments.
  • Rewarding yourself.
  • Tracking your time.

3. Get your body moving.

No surprise here. If you feel sluggish all of the time, then you aren’t going to have the energy and stamina to make it through a full day of work.

While you could hit the gym before or after work, go for an afternoon stroll when you take a break at work. Sit and stretch at your desk — some of us may feel strapped for time, and we use it as an excuse not to move our bodies — don’t get in this mentality.

The good news? You can work out and stay active from anywhere. For example, you could switch to a standing desk, have walking meetings, playing your kids or dog, or launch a fitness challenge. You could also get creative, like doing heel-raises while making coffee or squats while folding the laundry.

The point is what? Just do something — absolutely anything to raise your body moving quotient.

4. Master your skills.

Your skills must be mastered before you can do your work efficiently and well. Gamers refer to this as leveling up. Practice the skills you do most often. Make sure you don’t have to look up a YouTube on a how-to-do part of your job you should have memorized.

Photographers, for example, cannot take the highest-quality photos unless they master their tools and photography skills. You can improve your skillset through training, learning, and reading tutorials specific to your core responsibilities.

5. Dilute micro-distractions.

“We are an over-connected society which is addicted to our devices and a slave to our notifications, “writes resilence keynote speaker Heidi Dening. “In open-plan workplaces that are poorly designed with no opportunity to do distraction-free work, we take longer to get our work done and we make more errors.”

The reason for this phenomenon? Because humans are wired to not switch tasks like that, we cannot focus if we’re being interrupted constantly by beeps, tweets, pop-up windows, and other interruptions.

“The number one adjustment you can make that has MASSIVE impacts to your productivity is to turn off the sounds and notifications on your devices,” suggests Dening. “Now, if this statement has scared you because you realize you are addicted to being notified when someone likes, comments, re-tweets, or contacts you, then take it one step at a time.”

  • For the first week, turn off the sounds on your devices.
  • Then turn your email pop-up off for the following week.
  • Once that is done, turn your social media feeds off for the following week.

“If you take little steps, it won’t seem so overwhelming, and you can test the impact these small modifications have on your productivity, she adds.

6. Try intelligent planning.

When you plan intelligently, you will learn how to be productive while switching between various activities throughout the day — or staying fresh while working on larger responsibilities.

Researchers have found that you should work in sprints that last no more than 90 minutes. More importantly, you need to take frequent breaks.

The reason? You need breaks to rest, recharge, and clear your mind. Overall, this keeps your concentration and performance high.

Furthermore, breaks can be beneficial for your physical and mental health as well. You might consider a short gym session or yoga during your workday if you feel your energy is waning. Increased workplace productivity, a boost in metabolism, more efficient brain function, and a positive attitude will follow.

7. Suck it up and ask for help.

There’s no shame in asking others for help. In fact, it’s not a sign of weakness. Rather it’s a strength as this is a surefire way to gain new perspectives and insights.

Furthermore, various research shows that this develops resilience, relationships, and is a sign of high performers. It can also improve your mental health. Additionally, it’s been found that sitting next to hard workers boosts one’s work ethic.

8. Create a productivity playlist.

Depending on the type of music, this is another effective way to power up your productivity. So, as you create your super-awesome-productivity playlist, focus on the following genres:

  • Classical. In 2001, a literature review stated that listening to music by Mozart improved short-term spatial-temporal reasoning. However, it didn’t affect general intelligence.
  • Coffee shop sounds. According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2012, medium levels of ambient noise increased creativity. But, low or high levels decreased it.
  • Ambient music. Spotify surveyed 4,000 adults from the U.S. and UK in 2021, and 69% of them said ambient music works best for study, with 67% saying slower beats are essential. Thankfully, there are already ambient playlists waiting for you in Spotify, such as Lofi Beats, Deep Focus, and Chill Lofi Study Beats.
  • Upbeat tracks. Listening to high-tempo music (170-190 bpm) enhanced athletic performance, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2020. Does this translate to productivity? 180BPM Instrumental music may be able to give you a productivity boost.
  • Nature sounds. According to a study by the Acoustical Society of America, in an open-plan office, the sound of a flowing mountain stream significantly increased workers’ mood and productivity. However, only 12 participants were included in the study.
  • Pink and white noise. One study published in Scientific Reports in 2017 found that listening to white noise while learning new words resulted in greater recall than listening to silence. White noise may enhance the acquisition of new words, according to the researchers.

9. Go on a productivity purge.

A productivity purge is “a simple strategy for coming as close as possible to satisfying the principle without giving up a quest for the unexpected next big thing.” The concept was popularized by Cal Newport and based on the Einstein Principle.

Newport points out that Einstein’s primary focus from 1912 to 1915 was his theory of relativity. But despite sacrifices, Einstein produced one of history’s most significant scientific works.

“We are most productive when we focus on a very small number of projects on which we can devote a large amount of attention,” explains Newport. “Achievements worth achieving require hard work. There is no shortcut here.”

Thankfully, going in a productivity purge isn’t as complicated as trying to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity.

  • Create three columns on a sheet of paper or word document; professional, extracurricular, and personal. In the “professional” column, you list all of the major projects you’re currently working on. Beneath “extracurricular,” include your side projects. Finally, under “personal,” have all self-improvement projects.
  • Then, under each list, “select one or two projects which, at this point in your life, are the most important and seem like they would yield the greatest returns,” Newport adds. “Put a star by these projects.”
  • Next, identify anything you can “stop working on right away with no serious consequences. Cross these out.”
  • If any projects remain unmarked, “come up with a 1-3 week plan for finalizing and dispatching them,” suggests Newport. “Many of these will be projects for which you owe someone something before you can stop working on them.” In that case, develop “a crunch plan for the near future for shutting these down as quickly as possible.”
  • By the time you’ve “completed your crunch plan, you’ll be left with only a small number of important projects. In other words, you have “purged your schedule of all but a few contenders to be your next Theory of Relativity.”

In his final tip, Newport emphasizes the importance of security. “Try to go at least one month without starting any new projects. Keep all commitments to a minimum during this month.” Rather, target “with an Einsteinian intensity, on your select list.”

10. Rethink what you eat.

Which is going to give you more energy to finish strong through the afternoon, a bacon cheeseburger or a salmon salad? Junk food affects more than just your weight. In addition, it can cause energy crashes and decreased productivity.

As such, be sure to keep healthy snacks at your office so that you can remain productive throughout the day.

11. Identify your productivity ebb and flows.

Everybody has times when they are more productive than others. Identify these times via a productivity journal or time tracker and plan your most challenging tasks around them. Then, in the other times, just complete the tasks that are simpler or of lower difficulty.

For instance, if you’re more productive in the morning, that’s when you should tackle your most important task of the day. In the afternoon, schedule meetings or mapping out your content for the next week.

12. Improve your work environment.

Don’t neglect your workplace. After all, this has a significant impact on your productivity. With that in mind, start by keeping your workspace clean and organized. You also might want to spruce it up with a standing desk and plants.

Also, maintain a comfortable temperature in the office. You will be distracted if the working environment is too hot or too cold. Ideally, the temperature should be between 68 and 70° F.

13. Move on.

Jobs in the creative industries can be extremely frustrating, especially during those gray days when nothing is inspiring to do. By repeatedly focusing on the same problem, you will create even more obstacles to your productivity — it’s like spinning your wheels when stuck in the mud.

As a result of frustrations like these, you begin to doubt your abilities or procrastinate. To avoid this, move on to an unrelated task. This way, you still get things done while calming down since your attention is elsewhere. And, with a clear head, and maybe even fresh ideas, you may be able to return to the original task with gusto.

14. Focus on meaningful work.

Several studies indicate that individuals who find meaning in their work are more motivated, engaged, empowered, and have greater career fulfillment and job satisfaction. In addition to being productive, meaningful work can help boost performance and engagement.

How can you find meaningful work? One suggestion would be doing what you love. Or, at least you are passionate about aspects of your job, like helping others or having an unlimited vacation.

Other recommendations would be seeking autonomy or asking others, “What’s the purpose of my work?” Or, you could amend your job description, aka job crafting, so that it’s more meaningful.

15. Become a master-batcher.

Did you know that focusing on more than one thing at a time reduces productivity by 40%? Peter Bregman explains why in a piece for The Harvard Business Review. See, we’re not really multitasking. Instead, “We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.”

Rather than focusing on one thing at a time, it’s best not to isolate. In other words, group together similar tasks and complete them all at once. As an example, instead of checking your inbox every time you receive a notification, you would check your emails three times a day, like in the morning, after lunch, or before you quit for the day.

16. Eliminate limiting beliefs.

Are you concerned about some hypothetical situation that has yet to happen? Negative thoughts weighing on your mind? Put an end to these negative habits and beliefs by deleting your thoughts. After all, you don’t want these things to prevent you from achieving your goals.

If you want to remove negative thoughts and instill empowering ones, one suggestion is referring to Day 26 and 27 of Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program.

17. Be optimistic.

“Rescue—if people are facing a daunting task, and their instinct is to avoid it, you’ve got to break down the task. Shrink the change. Make the change small enough that they can’t help but score a victory,” Chip and Dan Heath write in Switch.

Breaking down challenging tasks and boosting your self-confidence can help you feel more optimistic about completing them, even if you’ve avoided them for some time. Then, celebrate your progress as your sub-tasks are completed.

According to experts, keeping optimism alive during a project’s completion is possible by acknowledging progress instead of dwelling on setbacks.

18. Listen to your body.

If your body is screaming for nutrients, your mind cannot be productive. The problem is that unhealthy drinks containing energizing ingredients and junk food are favored by people seeking short-term energy boosts.

Coffee and Tea aren’t my thing — however (gag, my friends, if you must), sometimes a Red Bull is in order. But experiment with what works for you.

Also, unless it’s imperative that you’re available if you’re exhausted, go for a walk or take a catnap. It’s often a better solution than fighting against your tiredness.

19. Use a “blast-off” method.

It’s rare for us to have enough time to finish everything on our plates in a single day. Especially if the task is relatively simple and we aren’t inspired to do it. As a result, we procrastinate. But, this is most true on the things that we aren’t looking forward to doing.

The Five-Second Rule is a method that says you should count down 5-4-3-2-1 before starting a challenging task. Developed by entrepreneur Mel Robbins, this allows you to be more in control.

You can also succeed in any task by following the Five Second Rule. And, your sense of accomplishment will be palpable, and you’ll be inspired to keep going.

20. Challenge your mind.

The troubling lack of inspiration mentioned earlier shouldn’t keep you from starting your day on the right foot. Rather than allowing others to deal with that problem for you, take matters into your own hands by challenging yourself with intellectual challenges like Sudoku or crossword puzzles.

Fortunately, there are plenty of these games available online, and you can pick the one that suits you best.

21. Delegate like a boss.

Are you ever unsure of how you’ll possibly accomplish all the tasks on your to-do list?

Most of those low-value tasks can be outsourced, I’m sure. However, all of these activities will consume the precious hours of your day that you have to get work done. They include data entry, document formatting, and running errands.

Thanks to the internet, you can outsource these tedious tasks so that you spend more time on what’s truly important. Find out what you could outsource by checking out TaskRabbit, Fiverr, or Upwork.

22. Chronicle your development and achievements.

You could do this at the end of every day. But if that’s too laborious, doing this weekly could be an alternative. Regardless of how often you do this activity, the idea is the same. Take a couple of minutes and take note of your specific accomplishments.

It sounds simple. But, this is an effective way to acknowledge what you’re good at, as well as your progress. In turn, this will make you more self-confident and keep the motivation train rolling.

Great Shared Calendar Apps for Startups

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Great Shared Calendar Apps for Startups

It may not be at the top of your priorities, but sharing a Calendar with the rest of the folks in your startup is a must. After all, it’s the best way to keep everyone on the same page. It also boosts productivity and prevents precious time from being wasted. But, creating and managing your team’s calendar starts and ends with the right calendar app. And, here are ten of the best options for startups.

1. Calendar

Calendar is a time management and scheduling tool that eliminates those lengthy back-and-forth communications when setting up an event. Instead, share the app’s scheduling link, and it does the rest of the work for you. It’s not magic, if you’re wondering. Instead, Calendar relies on machine learning so that it will make smart suggestions on how to schedule your next meeting.

But, that’s just scratching the surface. Calendar also uses machine learning so that you can add new events quickly. It’s also time zone friendly, meaning that it takes care of availability for you — as opposed to you attempting to figure this when traveling or scheduling meetings with remote teams. Finally, Calendar integrates with your Apple, Google, and Office 365 calendars so that you have one real-time view of your life.

2. Google Calendar

Is this an obvious choice? Sure. But, Google Calendar has proven to be one of the best online calendars on the market. Mainly this is because it’s easy to use and comes packed with features that allow you to get the most out of it, such as color-coding and sharing your calendar via email or embedded link.

Google Calendar also allows you to add your team’s calendars, create out-of-office messages, and add events with natural language. Also, because it’s part of the Google suite of tools, your events from Gmail are automatically added to your calendar. And, you can share and collaborate on docs, spreadsheets, Keep, and Jamboard.

Even if you can’t use the free version, this is still an affordable option. Business plans start at just $5 per month.

3. Any.do

Any.do is more than just a calendar app. It’s one of the best tools to house your agenda, to-dos, and goals. As a result, it’s arguably one of the best options to keep you and your team organized and productive.

There are also some pretty cool features within the app. For example, there are location-based reminders and the option to receive your agenda every morning. In addition, the color-coded dots for all of the events in your calendar make it easy to identify what you have on the docket for the day.

Any.do does have a free version. However, for teams, you may want to switch to the premium plan, which starts at $2.99 per month.

4. Teamup

This tool was designed specifically with groups in mind. As a result, you can schedule assignments, track progress in real-time, and share calendars with everyone on your team. And, you can organize all of this information by using color-coded sub-calendars.

One of my favorite things about Teamup is that you don’t need an account to access your calendar. That means anyone you share your calendar with a view without having to waste time logging in. Best of all, for small teams, it’s free. For larger one’s plans start at just $8/month,

5. Calendly

Calendly is another app that makes scheduling a whole lot less stressful. Less stress because it reviews your existing calendars, and checks your availability. You then share your availability with others, and they pick a time when they’re free.

You can then set buffers between meetings and block last-minute meetings requests. There’s also time zone detection, and it works with a wide range of apps like Zapier, Salesforce, GoToMeeting, and Stripe.

The basic plan is free. But, if your startup has various event types planned each month, you’ll need to get with a paid plan. The premium version is $8 per user/per month.

6. Float

Float is a scheduling and planning tool. It provides real-time scheduling updates and the ability to edit events through drop-and-drag. You can also create recurring events and receive reports to help you improve your efforts.

There are also features like time-off tracking and overtime alerts for your full-time staff. But, if you’re working with contractors, you add short-term gigs. It also plays nice with iOS, Android, Slack, and Zapier. And, there’s a flat fee of $5 per person scheduled per month.

7. Plan

Described as part calendar and part project manager, Plan goes beyond creating and sharing a team calendar. There’s the ability to create agendas and a working timeline. The team feed can be useful when working together on a project since you can see what’s been completed and solicit ideas.

Plan organizes all of the data you have stored in your calendar, email, Salesforce, Zendesk, and Github. Doing so means that all relevant projects and scheduling information are in one convenient location. Because of this, teams report that they save 15 hours per week.

The plan is free if your startup has no more than four users. For larger groups, the premium plan is $6.67 per user per month.

8. Woven

Woven is an intelligent calendar that uses a visual graph for scheduling and planning. As a result, you can see how you’re spending your time so that you can better manage your days. The app also comes with a virtual assistant that handles all of your scheduling for you.

It also lets your team collaborate on any upcoming events. You can share your schedule via email, text, and Slack to speed up the scheduling process. As of now, Woven syncs seamlessly with Google and G Suite calendars. However, the free tool is working on Office 365 integration.

9. Teamweek

Teamweek is another tool designed with teams in mind. It also takes a more visual approach to planning and scheduling the projects within your startup. Teamweek lets you see what everyone is working on, as well as their progress so that you can hit the goals you’ve set.

Additional features include project roadmaps and timelines for your team. There’s a free plan if you have fewer than five people. But, for larger teams, you’ll have to select a paid plan for $39/month.

10. Trello

Trello is a project management tool. Because of this, it’s ideal for assigning and keeping tabs on tasks and projects. But, what sets it apart from other similar tools is that it uses digital boards.

How does this work exactly? Well, let’s say that you handed off an assignment to someone. You would place a card on the board. Now, when switching to the calendar view, you can see when the task is due. Additionally, you’ll be able to see all due dates on that specific day, week, or month.

Getting Back to Peak Productivity After Your Summer Break

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Getting Back to Peak Productivity After Your Summer Break

It’s been a long time since we’ve celebrated the 4th of July fireworks. The laundry room is full of damp towels and bathing suits. And, the BBQs, outdoor concerts, and visits to the ballpark are winding down.

It’s a drag. And, while it was fun while it lasted, it’s time to get back to reality. But, of course, returning from your summer break is no easy feat. Thankfully, you can use the following nine tips to help you refocus and get back to peak productivity after your summer of sun.

1. Add a buffer day.

Flying back on a red-eye flight when you’re supposed to work the following day is rarely a good idea. You aren’t traveling across time zones? It’s still advised that you give yourself one buffer day between when you return from vacay and get back to work. The exception to the rule is if you are on a staycation.

How should you spend this day? Some suggestions would be to unpack, do laundry, get your home back in shape — run errands, and review your calendar. I’ve found that laying out my clothes for work puts my mind back in the zone.  You should also try to reinstate your routines, like going to bed at your normal time or resuming your workout regimen.

You’ll have a much easier transition from vacation to work when you take this extra day off. However, if you don’t have that time — don’t give yourself an excuse — just do what you have to and get back to work.

2. Clean and declutter.

Even if you left your workspace is nice and neat, spend your first couple of minutes cleaning, decluttering, and organizing. Examples would be removing desktop clutter, going through your drawers, and filing paperwork.

This may sound elementary. But, organizing your workspace unlocks the power of a “tidy desk, tidy mind” mindset. More importantly, this simple activity can help you build up momentum to tackle your priorities.

3. Make a list of active projects.

To get back on track, try to get a clear idea of what you left on hold while on vacation. In addition to helping you pick up the pace, this will prevent you from getting discouraged.

To get started, list all your active tasks and decide which steps need to be taken to resume them as soon as possible. If you really want to make this effective, start with the project that you enjoy most.

At the same time, don’t get too carried away. Rather, try to limit yourself to no more than three manageable tasks. You don’t necessarily have to focus on big goals. But, they should be achievable so that you’re making progress.

4. Get caught up.

Ryan Kahn, founder of The Hired Group and author of “Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad,” recommends taking a step back before diving back into individual emails and projects.

“Figure out if there were any major events or changes that occurred,” he said. “This way, you’ll generally be up to speed before diving in deep into the day-to-day details of your work.”

Whether it’s through an informal team meeting or coffee chat one-on-one, this also gives you the opportunity to reconnect with your team. And, this may even assist you in getting back into work mode.

5. Keep distractions at bay.

Your inbox, Slack messages, and other notifications await your attention once you return to work. So, go ahead and catch up on these messages. After you’re all caught up, eliminate these distractions.

After all, how can you focus on more important tasks when communications are constantly pinging you from all fronts? The simple solution? Put your phone out of sight, close all nonessential apps, and inform others that you’re unavailable. You can accomplish the latter by blocking out your calendar or just closing your office door.

I’d also suggest that you schedule times to check your communications. Maybe during the first couple of days back, you could do this each hour or whenever you’ve completed a task. Answer any important messages you receive when you spot them. And, as for the messages that can wait, schedule a time to reply.

6. Take a five.

The human brain is incapable of focusing on a single task for an extended period of time. And, this especially after a long break like a summer vacation. So, as a result, your mind might wander, which will definitely hinder your productivity.

How can we avoid this? First, take short breaks throughout the day. That may sound counterproductive. But, these 2 to 5 minutes are needed if you want to reset your brain.

Consider setting a timer to alert you when you should take a few minutes to rest and recharge. Try deep breathing, stretching, or walking around your office.

7. Shake the rust off.

“During my years as a coach, when players enter into the preseason, they tend to have rustiness in two specific areas that stand out to me,” said Sharman White, head coach, Pace Academy (Ga.). “Those areas are ball handling and shooting. Those two skills tend to require the purest development when it comes to fundamentals and are easily detected when we evaluate our players early in the preseason.”

“To sharpen the skill of ball handling, we like to work on drills that require two-ball ball handling as well as weak-hand development drills,” adds White. “These drills help restore muscle memory as well as a keen sense of comfort with the basketball, which is needed as the competitive play nears.”

Obviously, I’m not talking about athletes like basketball players here. But, the concept is the same. If you’ve been away from work for a while, then it’s going to take some time to get back into a rhythm.

Go ahead and pace yourself. Take frequent breaks. And, give yourself time. You need time to reacquaint yourself with your environment and finding out what you missed.

And, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not working as fast as you normally do. Just like a basketball player entering preseason, you’re rusty. So, give yourself more time than you need to work on tasks until you’re back to game condition.

8. Perspective is key.

“Coming back from vacation is a great thing because you’ve had valuable time away to look at your working landscape differently,” states Carina Parry-Stevens for Productivityist. “When you return from vacation, you’re likely full of ideas.”

Instead of tossing them aside, “Take note of those little changes you would like to see that could improve the business,” she recommends.

9. Plan your next getaway.

You may have just gotten back to work. However, planning your next vacation can help alleviate the post-vacation blues. After all, having something to look forward to makes working a whole lot easier.

Best of all? It doesn’t need to be a long vacation either. It could be a day trip or a weekend excursion. But, again, the idea is to give you something else to look forward to if you’re struggling to get back into the swing of things.

How to Effectively Measure and Track Employee Productivity

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How to Effectively Measure and Track Employee Productivity

Prior to Covid-19, employers were increasing efforts to monitor the productivity of their employees. In fact, according to a 2018 Gartner report, 50% of 239 large corporations admitted that they were monitoring their employees. In particular, the content of their emails and social media accounts. What’s more, these companies also stated that they monitored who their employees utilized and who’s meeting with whom.

According to an Accenture survey of C-suite executives one year later, 62% of their organizations collect data about their employees. Of course, the pandemic has only accelerated employee monitoring. And, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing.

An ExpressVPN survey found;

  • Even though 83% of employers think employee monitoring is unethical — 78% use monitoring software.
  • More than one-third of employees believe their employers don’t monitor their online activities, and 15% don’t know it’s possible.
  • The majority of employees (56%) feel stressed and anxious about their employer monitoring their communications. Moreover, 41% wonder if they’re being watched, and 32% take fewer breaks because of it.
  • The majority of employees (48%) would be willing to lower their salaries to prevent surveillance. In fact, 1 in 4 workers would take a cut of 25%.
  • Employees admit that 41% of their recorded work calls contain evidence that could lead to their termination. Additionally, 37% of employers claim to have used stored recordings as evidence for firing.
  • Moreover, employers use stored emails, messages, or calls to inform their decisions regarding performance reviews (73%) and to track potential worker unionization (46%).

So, what’s the answer here? After all, with the latest wave, companies may be rethinking their plans for re-opening. But, even when things do return to normal, remote work, or at the least hybrid offices, are here to stay.

At the same time, employers will need to measure and track their team’s productivity without making them feel anxious. It’s certainly a precarious situation. But, you can use the following ten techniques to make this possible.

1. Set clear expectations and reasonable deadlines.

I’m still baffled at how many leaders and project managers still fall into the trap of not setting clear expectations and reasonable deadlines. In my opinion, these topics should always be a top conversation priority — regardless if your team works at the office or works remotely.

If you tell your employees what you expect from them, especially in a remote working environment, they’ll be happier and more productive. If “the big talk” is an area that you’re struggling, try using the following;

  • Focus on clearly defined objectives or goals.
  • Objective and goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
  • Explain the “why” behind your expectations so that they know that their work is meaningful.
  • Provide examples and access to the right tools and resources.
  • Agree on reasonable deadlines.

2. Arm yourself, and your team, with the right tech.

“Having a surplus of communication and collaboration tools is great,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “At the same time, you don’t have to collect them all. We’re not talking about Pokemon here.”

“Instead, limit the tools that you’re using,” Deanna recommends. “Besides decreasing distractions, it prevents everyone from bouncing back-and-forth between tools. Furthermore, it can also help reduce information overload.

Some suggested tools to measure and track your team’s productivity include;

  • Calendar can automatically schedule meetings. More importantly, with its analytics feature, you can see where your valuable time is being spent.
  • Slack is a popular messaging tool that allows you and your team to communicate and collaborate in real-time.
  • Basecamp is a project management tool designed to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Hub Staff is packed with features like time tracking, screen recording, employee monitoring, and scheduling, and payroll software.
  • Google Drive will let you and your drive collaborate on online documents together.
  • Kickidler is more than just employee monitoring software. It also comes with time tracking, employee productivity analysis, and efficiency dynamics. The Autokick feature will notify employees of their productivity stats or if they’ve been on a website too long.
  • Time Doctor is a time tracking application. It also breaks down how much time has been spent on a specific task or project.
  • Teamwork allows you to track every of your team and convert that into invoices.

3. Trust is a must.

“Trust is the foundation of every relationship in our life,” says Jen Fisher, U.S. chief well-being officer for the consultancy Deloitte. “Every positive relationship starts from a place of trust.”

Work environments built on trust are healthy and productive, adds Fisher, co-author of Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines. Moreover, trust is perhaps more important than ever during this uncertain time caused by the pandemic.

“The pandemic has catapulted us into the future in many ways,” she says. “With uncertainty, you need trust and meaningful and supportive relationships.” And, you can build trust with your remote team by;

  • Reduce your team’s stress by not micromanaging, be respectful of boundaries, and communicating frequently.
  • Help them learn and grow by offering frequent feedback.
  • Get to know each team individually, even if it’s a virtual one-on-one meeting.
  • Again, have goals, objectives, and expectations that are crystal clear.
  • Share your expertise, but also admit that you don’t have all of the answers.
  • Freshen up your virtual events and meetings, like sharing achievements or going on a virtual field trip.
  • Be consistent, such as always being respectful of their time.

Above all else, be transparent. If you’re monitoring your team, let them know this in advance. And explain to them that they’re not being monitored to spy on them. Rather, you need this data to eliminate time wasters and bolster their productivity.

4. Focus on measuring outcome, not input.

“Employee monitoring was pervasive before the crisis,” notes Ryan Wong in Entrepreneur. “In 2018, research found that 50% of large corporations were using email monitoring and location analysis..” However, “in the early months of lockdown, use of monitoring software skyrocketed, with industry leaders like Teramind and ActivTrak reporting record increases in sales requests.”

“For employers, monitoring tools might seem a useful stopgap at a time when teams aren’t in the office,” he adds. The problem? “Time spent at a keyboard or in front of a webcam is hardly indicative of performance or productivity.”

Monitoring in this manner is actually detrimental to obtaining the results you desire. Employees who are aware their keystrokes are being tracked, for example, are incentivized to produce high-volume work that has little commercial value.

“The deeper issue is that, in many ways, we’ve measured productivity all wrong — confusing inputs for outcomes,” states Wong. “Even tracking ‘hours,’ the oldest of workplace metrics, is fundamentally misleading. Just knowing someone has worked a 40-hour week gives little insight into what they actually accomplished.”

The better approach? Measure and reward business outcomes. “These will differ from business to business and employee to employee — and that’s precisely the point,” he explains. “Taking the time to first define what success looks like, and then finding ways to measure — is the surest way to boost output. Handy schema like KPIs, OKRs, and KRAs, all circle around this central premise.”

5. Reward quality, not quantity.

When it comes to your employee’s work, it’s important to find a way of measuring quality. As an example, think about the customer service you provide. Your brand’s reputation depends on it, but it’s hard to measure.

With that in mind, consider quality when putting systems in place to track employee productivity. And, ask yourself, “What can you do with it to track job performance?”

For instance, is there any feedback you received from a distributor regarding an employee who went beyond the call of duty? While your employee might have needed more time to complete this level of work, the value you received is incalculable. And that should definitely be measured and rewarded.

6. Use positive reinforcement.

It should come as no surprise that happy employees are more productive. However, happiness doesn’t always mean giving them a raise. While that can help, you can increase employee happiness through positive reinforcement, such as;

  • Showing compassion, empathy, and gratitude
  • Focusing on meaningful work
  • Treating employees with respect
  • Not blaming others for failure
  • Providing constructive feedback
  • Rewarding good work with acknowledgment or promotions.

7. Manage task distribution.

Identifying each employee’s strengths and weaknesses can be accomplished by analyzing the data. For example, you might notice that one team member completes a task much faster than anyone else. Ideally, you should give this employee all these responsibilities going forward to increase your team’s productivity. By doing this, everyone will have more free time in their schedules, which will increase productivity.

Understand why your weakest performers are less productive than other team members. For example, perhaps they’re having difficulty with certain programs, applications, or tasks related to their work. In this case, you may consider training them to improve their skills and increase their productivity.

8. Measure both short-term and long-term.

Track-specific key performance indicators for both short- and long-term goals.

Recognizing small accomplishments will keep employees motivated to work towards bigger goals.

Furthermore, this presents an impressive picture. While it may not seem obvious, the little things can have a huge impact on pushing your team towards the big goal.

9. Eliminate time-wasters.

Analyze the data to see where your employees spend a lot of time. For example, you might want to restrict employees’ access to these websites or apps during the workday so that they aren’t distracted.

Data may also indicate that certain clients are taking up a lot of your employees’ time, making them less productive than they should be. It’s possible that your business isn’t even making money from that client. As such, it may be worthwhile to revisit a time-wasting client relationship to make your team more productive.

10. Focus on the bottom line.

Increasingly, small companies are focusing on their bottom line instead of the hours worked by employees. This allows them to track progress while ensuring that their employees have more flexibility — mainly how and when they work.

Moreover, there are several cost benefits to having a remote team. This includes reducing rent and utilities, cleaning services, food, and taxes. In fact, the average real estate savings with full-time telework is $10,000/employee/year. Additionally, remote teams tend to be more productive. They’re also less absent, more likely to stay with your company, and would prefer working from home than accepting a pay raise.

Are Mandatory Vaccines Legal in the Workplace?

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Are Mandatory Vaccines Legal in the Workplace?

As we ride out yet another COVID-19 wave, returning to the workplace is now in jeopardy. In fact, some businesses are delaying this until next year. Others, however, are still planning on bringing back employees in at least some capacity this fall.

As a result of the spread of the delta variant, physical safety concerns are making some employees reconsider their return to work plans. According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, which was on behalf of Glassdoor, nearly 9 in 10 employees, 89%, still worry about returning to the office. In addition to their physical safety, employees are concerned about how they’ll interact with their employers, present themselves, and how they commute to and from work.

How can you address these concerns? Well, you may want to allow your team to work remotely. Or, at the very least, build and manage a hybrid team.

Even with a hybrid team, there will still be concerns about the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. And, one answer might be the controversial topic of requiring your team to get vaccinated. But, is this legal, and how can you have this discussion with your team?

Is There a Legal Precedent for Requiring Vaccines?

“There is Jacobson v. Massachusetts, [a Supreme Court case from 1905]. The case itself was about a vaccination mandate,” Lindsay Wily, a law professor at American University, told NPR.

“In the early 1900s, smallpox outbreaks were fairly frequent, and many people had been vaccinated earlier as children, but needed to be vaccinated as their immunity waned,” adds Professor Wily. “The state of Massachusetts passed a law that gave authority to local boards of health to decide at any given moment in response to an outbreak that smallpox vaccination should be mandatory for all residents of their local area if — in the opinion of the medical experts who were serving on the board — it was necessary to protect the public’s health.”

That decision was made by the city of Cambridge. After that, outreach efforts were undertaken to reach out to everyone in the community. When they approached Henning Jacobson, however, he objected. Vaccines, he said, are ineffective. According to Jacobson, they do not prevent transmission. Moreover, he argued that these practices are harmful.

“The court described those arguments as not seeking a medical exemption, but rather reciting the alternative views that differ from medical consensus and that those arguments did not warrant an exemption from the requirement to be vaccinated,” says Wiley.

But, what about private employers?

Flu shots and other shots are often required by employers in the health care industry. This is a precaution to protect patients, as well as to offer some protection for employees. “So, for example, many require hepatitis vaccinations in addition to flu shots and all of the kind of childhood vaccines that we tend to get as a condition of attending school,” explains Wiley.

“The other kind of common requirement applied to adults who are over the age of 18 has been university requirements — college attendance requirements,” Wily adds. “College students in many states are required by law, not just by the [decision] of the college, to get a meningitis vaccine because of a higher incidence of meningitis outbreaks in the kind of congregate setting on campuses.” So as far as vaccination requirements for COVID go, we’ve seen this group lead the charge.

Can Employers Make COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory?

Short answer? Yes.

If you’re an employer, you can require your employees to be vaccinated. However, this is considered a “condition of employment,” which is equivalent to job qualification. And, while employees can refuse to get vaccinated, they don’t have much legal protection.

“Employers generally have wide scope” to create rules for their workplace, said Dorit Reiss, a law professor who specializes in vaccine policies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “It’s their business.”

But, wait a minute? Isn’t asking your team about their vaccination status a HIPPA violation? Despite what folks like Majorie Tayor Green and Dak Prescott have proclaimed, nope.

At the same time, there are valid exceptions that you certainly should be aware of.

“An employee with a religious objection or a disability may need to be excused from the mandate or otherwise accommodated,” clarifies John Lomax, an attorney with Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix. “Additionally, if an objecting employee is a union-represented employee, the employer may need to bargain and reach an agreement with the union before mandating vaccines.”

If you do have employees who can be exempt from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, try to make reasonable accommodations. The most obvious would be allowing them to work remotely or take a leave of absence. You could also have them sign waivers or work under specific conditions, like wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

“If an employee cannot get vaccinated because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, an employer could exclude the employee from physically entering the workplace,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, the Society for Human Resource Management’s president and chief executive officer. “But this doesn’t mean an individual can be automatically terminated. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities.”

Having a Conversation With Your Team About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Because this is such a controversial and polarizing issue, you must sit down with your team and discuss the COVID-19 vaccination. Afterward, the employee can then make a more informed decision.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind if you want to talk with employees about a supportive COVID-19 vaccination.

Set the stage.

You can talk to your team either one-on-one or as a group. You can then let them know why you want them to get vaccinated. Mainly to prevent illness, which is for the greater good of the team.

Address possible concerns.

You will no doubt come across numerous questions and concerns regarding the vaccine. Keep the following in mind to put your team at ease;

  • Consider flexible scheduling options that are not punitive (such as paid sick leave) for employees who experience side effects after vaccination.
  • Remind everyone, even if they’re young and healthy, that the vaccine is effective. While the research is ongoing, COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to be about 95 percent effective in preventing serious illness.
  • Not everyone enjoys getting jabbed. Assure them that the COVID-19 shot isn’t any worse than getting a flu shot.
  • Encourage them to seek out reputable information regarding the vaccine, aka not getting their info from social media. Steer them in the direction of the CDCJohns Hopkins University, or the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
  • Host a vaccination clinic at your workplace to make this more convenient for your team. Contact your local health department for assistance.

Closing the conversation.

Finally, if you have team members who aren’t vaccinated, but plan to, find out what’s holding them back. Do they need further information? Or are they just afraid to ask for time off? Finding this out can help you assist them in getting vaccinated.

What if you have employees who still refuse to get vaccinated? Again, you could ask them why. You don’t need to press too much. But, it could be something as simple as them not wanting to take time off for work.

If they have valid reasons, try to accommodate them. If possible, for the time being, allow them to continue working from home. But, if that’s not possible, and they’re in jeopardy of the health and well-being of the rest of the team, you may have to let them go.

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