Category Archives: Business Tips

How to Leave Work at Work

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As an entrepreneur, I’m always thinking about my business. Sometimes it’s just reflecting on what I’ve accomplished or the areas that need improvement. Usually, that’s not a problem. What is a dilemma, though, is allowing these thoughts to interfere with my personal life. One example would be — bringing stress home with me or not being 100 percent present with my downtime.

If you’re in the same situation, you’ve probably been told just simply to set boundaries. Setting boundaries sounds excellent on paper. But, in reality, that’s not always possible. The good news is that are effective ways to leave work at work.

Plan your ideal week.

Yankees legend Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” For me, that means planning in advance, like mapping out your week. The reason? It’s a simple way to prevent work and life from always being at odds with each other. More importantly, it provides structure so that you can establish boundaries while also remaining productive.

While everyone has their own way of planing out their ideal week, here are some pointers to steer in you in the right direction:

  • Get a head start. Use either Friday afternoons or the weekend to list your priorities and add them to your calendar.
  • Sketch out your ideal week by using time blocks. Take into consideration date-specific events and tasks, and know when you’re most productive.
  • Create theme days based on your energy. For example, if you have the most energy and focus on Tuesday, that’s when you should schedule deep work.
  • Establish fulfilling routines. These are the activities that help you relax and make you happy, such as meditating or family game night.
  • Limit your plans. Stop overcommitting yourself by focusing on your top five high-objectives for the week.
  • Be ruthless. Delegate or drop anything from your to-do-list that isn’t a priority. Get comfortable saying, “no.” And, learn how to block out distractions.

Have a ritual to transition from work to home.

To me, this is all about changing your mindset from “work” mode to “home” mode. It’s like if you’ve ever played a sport. You’re just not going to show-up without warming up or listening to music that gets you psyched. On the flip side, when you’re done, you need to cool down and get back to homeostasis.

You can do this on your commute home by listening to a podcast that interests you but isn’t work-related. Call a friend or family member — studies have found that this energizes you more than coffee. Think about what you’re grateful for. Or, do a crossword puzzle.

Some people also immediately change out of their work clothes into something more comfortable as soon as they get home. Others go to the gym after work. Just try a couple of daily rituals out and see what works best for you.

Go on a tech detox — without stressing yourself out.

Technology is a blessing and a curse. It allows us to work whenever, wherever, and keep our fingers on the pulse of our business at all times. However, that also means we’re expected to work more hours.

In fact, according to a RescueTime study, people work an hour or more outside regular hours on 89 days of the year. But that’s not really the issue. It’s the anticipatory stress of receiving work-related messages off-hours.

Researchers from Lehigh University, Virginia Tech, and Colorado State University found that we feel more stressed and exhausted from expecting emails after hours than actually responding to them.

“It’s not only that employees are spending a certain amount of extra time answering emails, but it’s that they feel they have to be ready to respond, and they don’t know what the request will be,” said Samantha Conroy, one of the study’s authors. “So if they’re having dinner with their family, and hear that ‘ding,’ they feel they have to turn their attention away from their family and answer the email.”

What’s the solution here? Well, you can realistically go on a tech detox by:

  • Adding breaks and designated tech-free times. For instance, not responding to emails when having dinner — you can check your messages after.
  • Blocking apps at certain times, like when you’re meditating after work.
  • Assigning tech-zones in your home.
  • Allowing yourself to get comfortable with boredom. If you’re standing in line at the grocery on a Sunday, don’t look at your phone.
  • Consider removing social media apps from your phone. Some people also uninstall communication tools like Slack from their personal devices.
  • Spending your downtime in places where electronic frowned upon.
  • Stop relying on technology as much. Instead of using your phone for your alarm, invest in an old-school alarm clock.

Have mental clarity.

Mental clarity, according to Elizabeth Grace Saunders in HBR, is knowing “what needs to get done, and when you will complete it.” The most prominent example would dedicate “a place where you write down the many tasks that you need to do.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “in a notebook, a task management app, a project management system, or in your calendar.” The idea here so “that you’re not lying in bed at night trying to remember everything on your mental to-do list.”

After you’ve created this list, you’ll need to “plan out your work.” Ideally, this would be scheduling time in your calendar for your priorities. Sounds obvious. But, “this planning reduces the anxiety that something will fall through the cracks or that you’ll miss a deadline,” writes Elizabeth.

“The final part of increasing your mental clarity is to have an end-of-workday wrap-up.” At the minimum, this includes reviewing “your daily to-do list and calendar to make sure that everything that absolutely must get done.” It also wouldn’t hurt to “do a quick scan of your email to ensure any urgent messages are attended to before you leave the office.”

When you decide to check your emails and messages is up to your discretion. Some people do the last check of the night right before they leave work, like within the final 30-minutes of the day. Others prefer to do this activity during the last hour or two.

Prioritize your social life.

I get it. Some days you come home, and you just want to veg out — or get back to work. But, neither are always the answer if you want to leave work at work. The answer? Socializing.

A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that those who are more socially active are better able to recover from work strain and can sleep better at night.

To make socializing a priority, schedule social activities to your calendar. At the same time, you don’t want to overdo it. Sometimes you leave blank spaces in your schedule to allow for flexibility — like if you run unexpectedly into a friend.

Don’t hard crash your workday.

“Just as it’s never a good idea to hard crash your computer, you shouldn’t hard crash your day,” Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, Ph.D., organizational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan, told Forbes. “Closing out your day in an orderly and positive way is critical to making that clean psychological transition into the personal side of life.”

“Nobody likes that feeling of unfinished business hanging over their head while playing with the kids or dining with the family,” Woodward added. “So it’s important that you do what you can to make as clean a break as possible when walking out the office door.”

How should you wrap-up your workday? Well, here are some suggestions:

  • Evaluate your to-do-lists and review tomorrow’s schedule.
  • Check-in with your team to double-check deadlines and make sure everyone’s on the same page.
  • Tidy up and organize your workspace.
  • Tidy-up any loose ends like responding to an email.
  • Reflect on what you’ve accomplished.
  • Turn off your lights and equipment.
  • Commit to leaving stress behind at work.

Find ways to decompress.

Hopefully, if you’ve implemented a fulfilling routine, then you’re already finding healthy ways to relieve stress. Healthy examples of this are — meditating, exercising, and hanging out with friends and family. Other options are picking-up a hobby, learning something new, or engaging in a little self-care. You may even want to vent to someone who you trust — just don’t harp on what’s bothering you.

But, what if these examples are not enough to help you continue at your break-neck speeds? Well, establish a calm and therapeutic evening routine.

Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., and Wendy Millstine, NC., authors or Five Good Minutes in the Evening: 100 Mindful Practices to Help You Unwind from the Day & Make the Most of Your Night, also suggest:

  • Release nagging thoughts. If a work-related thought pops in your head, acknowledge it and name what you’re feeling. You can then tell this thought, “I hear you, but not now,” or “I release you.”
  • Unraveling like a thread. Use visualization to help you decompress, such as unwinding your thoughts like a spool of thread.
  • Surround yourself with humor. Watch a YouTube video, TV show, or movie that makes you laugh. Ask Google or Alexa to tell you a joke. Or, call someone who already makes you laugh.

Creating a Daily Schedule in the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic

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To-Do List

While we would all like it to be back to business as usual, the reality is that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed everything. With required quarantines, social distancing, and cancelled events and schools, it’s difficult to feel in control of our daily lives or the near future. Now faced with a lockdown that could go on for months, it may be even harder to maintain a sense of order to each day. You need to have a daily schedule in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

A New Way to Work, Learn, and Live

Remote workers most likely already are accustomed to keeping a regimented schedule while working from home. However, throw kids and a spouse into the mix, and that organized schedule may be anything but. Or, those workers who have not done remote shifts before may not know how to stay on top of their daily schedule and maintain productivity.

Schools and kids will have to adopt a new way to learn and study for the time-being. Also, companies and employees will have to find a way to keep productivity up, where possible, to maintain economic and financial stability. There are so many questions and concerns about what the near future holds that it is easy to hide under the covers or binge watch television until this crisis hopefully passes.

Stay Focused and Keep a Positive Perspective

During these uncertain times, it helps to stick to patterns that remind us of our normal lives. This can be comforting to us, as adults, as well as to our children.

These patterns give us something to focus on and a purpose regardless of how work and school may change in the coming weeks. Doing so may also help those around us adhere to similar schedules so life moves forward and work projects get wrapped up.

A Daily Schedule in the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Check our this daily schedule in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic as an approach the “new normal” of using our home as a place to work, learn, play, and live. Setting times to eat three nutritious meals, get rest, exercise, and be productive can also help keep our immune systems high to fight this virus and other health issues.

The schedule also emphasizes sticking to activities that keep us disciplined, such as getting dressed and making our beds, instead of giving up on these areas. It’s just like going to work except you are commuting from your bedroom to an office in your home.

The blocks of time also help us figure out how to work in new tasks that we might not have had to deal with because schools were covering those areas. Think of it as an excellent opportunity to enjoy more quality time with our kids and keep them on a similarly productive schedule.

Coronavirus Daily Schedule

New Opportunities

Most people may dread this new self-imposed quarantine and disruption to our lives, but we can also see it as an opportunity. With our hectic lives, we may have been missing out on a lot of time with our kids and each other. Our hobbies probably were long-forgotten and many other tasks around the house went undone. Now is the time to use those free times on the above schedule to reconnect with each other, pick up those hobbies, and catch up on much-needed activities and maintenance around the home.

Even though you are home and working differently, plan time to catch up with colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors virtually. We have so many technologies that allow us to continue meeting together online through video conferencing and tools like FaceTime and Skype. Be there to support each other and help them maintain the same sense of normalcy you are trying to keep in your own home. It’s a critical time to reach out to others around you to see if they need any help, a listening ear, or a kind word.

4 Myers-Briggs Personality Combos that Make Great Teams

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Any team is comprised of people with different personality types — and this is what you want. If you are the founder or CEO of your company, you’ll want to take an analytical approach to your team — by putting the right combination of people together. Because some differences are more subtle than others, using a personality test can be a great way to figure out which groups click the best. Here are four Myers-Briggs personality combos that make great teams.

One of the more popular personality tests out there is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which determines personalities across four axes:

  • Extroversion (E) vs. Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)

There will continue to be growth in the area of personalities. When you’re trying to run a business, it may feel like personality traits merely get in the way. But each side of the Myers-Briggs traits comes with strengths and weaknesses, and combining them for peak productivity is not as simple as putting similar personalities together. Take a look at these winning combinations to see how they can bring the best out of one another:

The Mediator (INFP) and The Commander (ENTJ).

Mediators and Commanders have a lot to offer any workforce. Mediators have a creative personality and express themselves best through writing as opposed to speaking. A Mediator is typically harder to please, and they prefer to either work with the best or just work alone. The Mediator personality type might seem suited to solo work — but the personality is great to pair with the Commander.

Even though one is an introvert and the other is an extrovert, this yin and yang duo can work well together if they accept one another’s differences and focus more on their similarities. Both the Mediator and the Commander have a common trait, and common ground — they both have intuitiveness (N). They both enjoy thinking about the possibilities that the future holds. Commanders can help Mediators become more organized, encouraging them to plan and communicate effectively in a work environment. Mediators can trim off the impulsive-brashness of the Commander.

In this team pairing — have the Commander initiate the plan of action. The Mediator may be tempted to wait for instructions. The Commander may also appreciate the challenge of helping the Mediator become more assertive. You will want to speak to this combo together and speak frankly about how you want them to operate together, and then let them take the process of working together, forward from there.

The INFJ (the Advocate) and the ENFP (the Champion).

You might be excited to have an outgoing and ambitious team member such as the Champion, but this personality type can be tough to work with.

Although the Champion has strong people skills, this person tends to rely on approval from others to feel accepted. The Champion tends to get stressed out if things aren’t going their way. The Champion dreams and has huge plans, which they can make work if they have a cheerleader behind them. Nothing squashes the productivity of your Champion faster than being unsupported. The Champion does not take directions from others well. With those challenges in mind, it might be best to find your Champion an Advocate.

The Advocate derives energy from within; they are humble, and always there to offer support to those who need this type of support. Without even realizing it, Advocates often think about the feelings of others before themselves.

When you put the Champion and the Advocate together, they tend to balance each other out. Give this pair of team members projects that require attention to detail. The Champion can put together the plan of action, while the Advocate can make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

The ESFJ (the Caregiver) and the ESTJ (the Director).

The combination of the Caregiver and the Director is one that has two extroverts. The dynamic duo makes a lot of sense for sales teams. Both the Caregiver and the Director types get energy from interacting with others, and both are suited to a fast-paced work environment.

Directors do well in an office environment and hold on to a sense of tradition. Getting up to go to work isn’t a chore for them; it’s part of their identity. The Director gives much thought to their decision-making. They are hard-working, and they have excellent leadership skills. Introverted people might take the Director for being a little bit harsh and demanding, which makes them a good match for other extroverts, such as Caregivers.

Caregivers love to interact with people and won’t feel like they’re getting pushed around by Directors. While the Caregiver and Director both enjoy structure and organization, Caregivers will typically have higher emotional intelligence, so they will be able to spot emotional problems and regulate their own emotions in ways that Directors will not. When the Caregiver controls their emotions, it gives support to the Director which allows them to function better.

Learning about emotional regulation and why it matters, Dr. Amelia Aldao, Psychology Today suggests ways that people can up-regulate or down-regulate their emotions to get a benefit.

While some personality types might try to hide problems that are going on at work, both the Director and the Caregiver would rather face challenges head-on. Trust these two team members to speak up if something isn’t working right in your business or organization.

INTP (the Thinker) and INTJ (the Architect).

If you need strategic thinkers, the duo of the Thinker and the Architect are a great pick. These two personality types are introverts. The Thinker will think outside the box, while still relying on the facts to come up with their hypothesis. The Thinker tends to do better with team members who don’t need a lot of attention, and who share similar interests. While the Thinker might not have the best people skills, and won’t talk much — they’ll get right to the point without beating around the bush when something has to be said. The Thinker also dives directly into projects without delay.

What’s the Architect’s role? The Architect team member is the person who can challenge any point and help you see all angles of any situation. You should listen to what they object to because they likely see something that other team members cannot. The Architect is great at implementing the Thinker’s ideas. Both of these individuals are intuitive — and what they can always flesh out is the stakeholders’ motivations. Put the Thinker and the Architect types in a quiet and creative environment, and let their minds run free. Assign the Thinker and the Architect tasks that require a little more abstract thinking.

It’s tempting to focus on personality differences when you are working on a team. But keep in mind that diverse types can work well together. Personality typing should serve to help you create great conversations and projects. Using personality typing doesn’t need to drive a wedge between people of different types. Take a moment on your team and sleuth-out the differing personality types. Pair them well — and reap the rewards.

Why Are Remote Workers More Productive?

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Did you know that, on the average day, 8 million people in the U.S. work remotely? That’s 5.2% of the population.

During the COVID crisis, the number of people working from home may be ten- or twenty-fold greater than the usual figure. But is working in pajamas from the comfort of your home actually productive?

Sure, it’s easy to get distracted by disgruntled pets or your roommate’s blaring music. But studies  show that working from home actually increases productivity. Here’s why:

1. Flexibility 

When you work from home, you have more control over your schedule. If you’re tackling a long-term project, you can dig into it at your own pace. What matters is that you finish by the deadline. 

If you work on a team, it’s important to indicate those preferences on your calendar. Some people work better at the last minute, while others prefer to work ahead. Use time-blocking to tell your team when you’ll be working on each project.

2. Independence  

Nobody likes to be micromanaged. Big brother looking over your shoulder all the time makes most people self-conscious. 

While working remote, take advantage of your independence. You don’t have to report to the office, so you can get started working earlier. Your work space can be as messy or as clean as you like. You don’t even have to work at a desk. 

Most importantly, working from home allows you to take breaks on your schedule. Try the Pomodoro Technique. With this technique, you focus intently on one task for 25 minutes or so, followed by a 5 minute break.

3. No commute

You know what it’s like to wake up late: You grab the clothes nearest to you and throw them on. You run out of the house with coffee in hand, heading for a 45 minute commute. By the time you get to work, you realize you forgot your lunch. There’s another half hour gone to find food out.

When you work from home, there’s no commute. All your food is but a room away. And working a little late isn’t a big deal because there’s no rush hour traffic to worry about.

When you save time, you can work on new projects and further your career. Take a free HubSpot course on content marketing. Learn how to code. Read a book on personal development. 

4. More free time

When you work from home, you have more free time. People who have more free time tend to be happier, and happy people are more productive. 

Try scheduling a little fun in the middle of the work day. Watch a TV show, take a walk, or exercise during your lunch break.

If you decide to try time blocking, it’s important to block out your entire day. Relaxation and family time are important, too. Blocking out your entire day might look like this: 

5–6 a.m.: Morning routine 

6–7 a.m.: Eat breakfast

7–7:30 a.m.: Email & social media

7:30–9 a.m.: Deep work

9–9:30 a.m.: Break

9–10 a.m.: Conference call meeting

10 a.m.–Noon: Lunch and exercise

Noon–1 p.m.: Lunch

1–1:30 p.m.: Email

1:30–2:30 p.m.: Remote team meeting 

2:30–3:30 p.m.: Available for phone calls 

3:30–4 p.m.: Email

4–5 p.m.: Personal development

5–9 p.m.: Quality time with friends & family

9–10 p.m.: Wind down for bed

5. No Office Distractions

With remote work, you can say goodbye to office distractions. You don’t have to worry about your deskmate asking you every question under the sun when a deadline is looming. Your work friend won’t randomly stop by to chat. You won’t freak out when the break room is out of your favorite coffee.

Fewer distractions means more productivity. But it’s still important to be an effective remote team member

  • Keeping up to date with company culture
  • Looking into coworking memberships 
  • Keeping communication simple 
  • Complimenting your coworkers  
  • Keeping information security front of mind 

Not every worker is more productive while remote, but many are. It’s all about choices: Choose to use saved time to better yourself. Keep distractions out of your home office. Enjoy — but be responsible with — your flexibility and independence.

 

6 Ways to Identify to Whom You’ll Delegate Sensitive Tasks

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Mastering the art of delegation is a skill everyone should learn to master. I know that giving up control is never easy. But, admit it, Tiger. You just can’t do everything on your own. Besides, when you learn how to effectively delegate, you’re able to lessen your workload. As a result, you have more time to focus on areas like growing your business and attending to your own well-being. It’s not always easy, but you’ll need to identify to whom you’ll delegate sensitive tasks.

Delegating specific sensitive tasks cultivates a culture of trust.

What’s more, assign some of your responsibilities can help team members develop and enhance their skills. Delegating specific tasks also cultivates a culture of trust. Having trust in your business can take your business to the next level since you have the right people working on more suitable tasks.

For example, let’s say you do not have a background in accounting. Moreover, crunching numbers paralyzes you with fear. To save time, your sanity, and to avoid potential mistakes, accounting and financial matters would be something that you would hand over to someone else. As soon as your startup can afford it, you definitely would hire an accountant. But, for now, you’ll delegate this specific task to one who is more familiar with accounting and bookkeeping.

Are you’re still uncertain of which tasks to offload? Right upfront in the delegation of jobs, Jenny Blake, in a piece for the Harvard Business Review, suggests using the six T’s:

  • Tiny. These are any small and inconsequential tasks that are neither urgent nor important.
  • Tedious. Straightforward assignments that aren’t deserving of your time, like filling out a spreadsheet.
  • Time-consuming. Important responsibilities that do not require 100% of your energy.
  • Teachable. These are tasks that you teach someone else to take over, such as showing an employee how to draft a presentation deck. Just remember to conduct quality checks and give a final stamp of approval.
  • Terrible at. Anything that you’re not strong at should be assigned to someone who does possess the right skills.
  • Time Sensitive. These are deadlines or urgent matters that compete with your other priorities. For instance, leaving your phone or tablet on a plane. Instead of spending all day on the phone with the airline, this could be done by someone like your assistant.

Delegating work that involves personal information, intellectual property, or company intelligence has to have special care taken with it for security purposes. 

But, what about work that is more sensitive? I’m talking about things that could involve personal information, intellectual property, or plans for a merger. You just can’t assign them willy-nilly. For the safety of you and your company, you’re going to have to identify an individual trusted person. Make certain that sensitive information is in the hands of someone you have complete trust and confidence in — someone who has proven loyalty.

If you’re in this situation, here are six ways to identify the right person to delegate sensitive tasks to..

1. Select someone that you already trust.

When I started my business, my first hires were family members since I trust them wholeheartedly. I was also familiar with what their strengths and weaknesses were. And, even as my business has grown, I still turn them when I need to pass on delicate tasks.

Outside of your spouse, parents, or siblings, you could also relegate these types of responsibilities to friends. I would be careful here, however. Personally, I would only reach out to the people who you know are responsible or who you consider to be confident. If possible, focus on those whom you’ve worked with previously.

And, there are also employees that have been entrusted with such work in the past. When I started Calendar, I hired people who I had worked with before or was currently working with already. I knew what they could and couldn’t do. I also was aware of how dependable they were. If they hadn’t let me down in the past, then I was certain that I could trust them going forward.

2. Get to know your team members.

What about new hires or team members that you’ve never handed over sensitive tasks to? Well, take the time to get to know them better. You could do this by chatting with them during breaks or through team-building activities. Afterward, you’ll get to know their personalities, interests, unique talents and limitations. Now you should be able to match the requirements of the job to the right person.

If you’re stuck on determining which employees are best suited for specific tasks, here are some pointers to guide you in the decision-making process:

  • Any work that is tedious and repetitive should go to employees who are task-focused.
  • Confident employees should be given project management responsibilities.
  • For tasks the require planning, scheduling, or due dates hand them over to organized team members who never miss deadlines.
  • Seasoned employees could be delegated new or unique tasks to break-up the monotony.
  • Your most easy-going staff members could be assigned the things that you hate-to-do.
  • Delegate smaller tasks to newer staff to help them build their confidence and develop new skills. It also allows you to identify what they can be trusted with and what they can not.

3. Pick someone with availability.

There have been times when I overloaded some of the freelancers I hired. Because they want that extra cash and don’t want to lose me as a client, they hardly turned down the work I sent them. Most of the time this isn’t a problem. But, there have been a few occasions when the workload was too much for them. As a result, they either missed deadlines or deliver subpar work.

Now, I always ask them upfront what their capacity is like. If they have availability, I’ll assign them more work. If not, I’ll either change the due dates or work with someone else. To give them peace of mind, I do assure them they when they’re free, I will give them additional work.

I also use this technique with my in-house team. If they’re already swamped they may rush through these sensitive tasks. As a consequence, they either won’t give the work 100% of their focus and are more likely to make errors.

In short, if someone doesn’t have the time, then do not delegate delicate work to them. Ask them what their workload is like or use a shared calendar to see what their schedule looks like.

4. Ask for volunteers.

I’m not gonna lie, this can get tricky — especially when dealing with people who you’re not that acquainted with. But, this does provide an opportunity for you to test their skills. It also gives them a chance to do something that they enjoy or enhance existing talents. And, you’ll be able to see if they can hold themselves accountable.

With that said, I wouldn’t recommend throwing highly sensitive tasks their way right from the get-go. Instead, relegate smaller tasks and give them a chance to prove themselves.

5. Socialize your problems.

There a couple of ways to do this. For one, you could send out a poll to your team asking for their input. You could also hold brainstorming sessions. Or, you could solicit their feedback during less formal interactions. Not only does this create more opportunities for fresh perspectives, but it also lets you discover their interests and skills.

6. Get referrals.

Finally, get referrals from trusted sources. For example, if you feel overwhelmed and need to offload some work, ask your business partner if there is anyone they trust with certain responsibilities. Because they’re already worked with this individual, they should know if they handle the sensitive task that needs to be delegated.

If you’re looking for someone outside your inner circle, like on a freelancing site, carefully read the reviews this person has received. Like with new employees, I wouldn’t immediately ask them to work on something that’s extremely delicate. But, you could start small until you do trust them.

The don’ts of delegation.

Even after you’ve identified the right person to delegate sensitive tasks, here are some common mistakes that you should avoid:

  • Don’t pick your favorites. Word will spread and the rest of your staff will see this as “unfair.” Give everyone a chance to prove themselves and continue to develop.
  • Be wary of fairness. At the same time, don’t get too hung up on fairness. Always select the right person for the job. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to ask handover accounting tasks to your coders.
  • Don’t always go with the most skilled or willing. Again, give your entire team the opportunity to develop or enhance their skills — as long as they’re capable. Also, don’t always pick the person who always volunteers. You need to spread the love.
  • Clearly explain your expectations and outcomes. Before delegating tasks, make sure the person comprehends what needs to be done. And, when it comes to sensitive tasks, make it known that this is a delicate matter so that they are a complement to your guidelines, regulations, or the law.

What Are the Main Priorities in Your Business Life?

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Regardless of whether you’re looking to climb your way up the corporate ladder or grow your business, we need to have priorities for our professional life. Without establishing your priorities, we won’t be as effective at our jobs or meet goals and deadlines. Priorities are also needed to protect resources like time and money. Essential to business and personal growth — are priorities.

But, you already knew that, right?

Even if you are aware of the importance of priorities, what are the main ones for you to focus on? Well, here are six main priorities that are required if you want to thrive in your business life.

Determining your “big three.”

Here’s an experiment. Write down all of the tasks that are tied to your professionally for the next month. I have no doubt that it’s quite the list. And, it probably contains several high priority items. But, in reality, this list could be drastically trimmed down.

I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t trim down my list; it isn’t possible because everything on my list is a top priority.”

“If you review your list carefully, item by item, you will find that only three items on your entire list account for 90% of your value to your business,” writes Brian Tracy. So, how can you determine your “big three”? “Make a list of ALL your work tasks and responsibilities, from the first day of the month to the last day, and throughout the year,” suggests Tracy. “Then answer these three magic questions.”

The first question would be, “If I could only do one thing on this list, all day long, which one activity would contribute the greatest value to my business?” Because it’s so important, it will probably stand out from the rest of the items on your list. If you’re uncertain, it should be the one thing that will have the most significant impact on your business or career.

The second would is, “If I could only do two things on this list, all day long, what would be the second activity that would make the greatest contribution to my business?” These items should also jump out at you. However, they may not seem as apparent at first.

The third question is, “If I could only do three things on this list, all day long, what would be the third activity that would contribute the most value to my business?” As a general rule of thumb, only focus on completing three tasks for the day. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to accomplish any more than that.

Enhancing your time management skills.

Time management should never be overlooked. Sure. It’s nice to have some downtime. But, managing your time is a surefire way to improve your business life.

The most obvious reason is that you’ll be able to achieve more in less time. Because you’re more productive, you’re ready to meet deadlines. You will also earn the reputation of someone who is never late and is reliable. I don’t know about you. But, that is someone that I would want to business with or retain if I were a business owner.

Additionally, time management can be beneficial to your health. Since you have the time to attend to your well-being and aren’t working excessive hours, you’re less stressed. You’re also able to find time to exercise, make healthy meals, meditate, or get enough sleep. And, because you aren’t behind on your work, you’re not as anxious.

To get you on the right path, here are the necessary time management skills that you should develop:

  • Work the hours that best suit you.
  • Keep a time log.
  • Focus only on what you do best.
  • Implement the “two-minute” rule.
  • Break your activities down into simple problems.
  • Don’t fall into the “urgency” trap.
  • Schedule “me” time.
  • Cluster similar tasks.
  • Identify and eliminate distractions.
  • Arm yourself with the right tools.

Feeling in-balance.

Work-life is often a perk that employees demand. Some studies have previously found that this was a top priority for demographics like millennials. But, it’s also top of mind for small business owners.

It’s easy to understand why. Even if you’re a workaholic and love what you do professionally, you also need time away from work.

The reasons vary from person-to-person. But, mainly when you don’t let work bleed into your personal life, you have a chance to rest and recharge. You can also spend time doing things that are truly important to you. As a result, when you return to work, you’ll be more focused and rejuvenated enough to persevere.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Thanks to technology, we’re expected to be on-call 24/7/365. Sometimes you need to be kept in the loop, especially when you have to address an emergency.

Some ways that this is possible is by maximizing your time at work, stop overcommitting, and not bringing work at home. You should also establish boundaries. For example, if you’re spending time with friends or family on a Saturday night, then don’t respond to any work-related correspondence.

Innovating, learning, and growing.

If you want to advance your career and stay ahead of your competitors, then innovating, learning, and growing must be the main priority for you professionally.

For example, you should always be brainstorming ways to improve a product, service, or process. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. But, you should be on the lookout for ways to update or upgrade these areas. It may make you more efficient and stand out from the pack.

What’s more, you should seek out opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally. As an example, if you were to enhance your skillset, you would be more proficient at your job. Not only will this make you more valuable, but it will also help you work smarter and not harder.

You should also stay up-to-date on the latest trends, technologies, and external factors that may influence you professionally. Again, besides making you more useful, this will also help you adept.

And you should also find ways to grow. For instance, you may want to improve your communication skills by taking a public speaking class. You can use this new talent to make your meetings more effective. You could also apply to seek out speaking engagements to help you become an authority figure.

Getting to know the people in your neighborhood.

You don’t have to get to know everyone in your neighborhood — unless you want to. But, when you’re surrounded by kids, sometimes you have to do things like watch the 50th anniversary special of Sesame Street. I’m not complaining. But, I do have this song stuck in my head now.

Anyway, your neighborhood, when it comes to your business life, would be your business partner, employees, customers, or investors. The reason? Well, it will help foster a more positive and collaborative work environment. You’ll also be able to ease the pain points of your customers. And, if you need funding, you’ll know which investors to connect with.

Growing your network.

Whether if you do this online or in-person, growing your network is a priority that I feel many of us neglect. After all, networking is another way to improve your skillset or stay abreast of the latest trends. It can also help you find mentors, partners, or clients.

If you’re job searching, networking is a great way to mingle with potential employers or get hooked up with a referral. And, if you are self-employed, networking can be used to build your brand.

Do a little digging and find local meetups or conferences that you should attend for the upcoming year. And block out specific times in your calendar to schedule a phone with an industry expert or interact with your audience on social media.

4 Business To-Dos to Tackle For Spring Cleaning

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Business professional sitting outside working on laptop next to spring flowers

Just as spring brings nature back to life, spring can also be a time to renew your business. Spring-cleaning your company can mean less clutter, more clients, and more time to interview prospective employees.

But unlike your home, spring-cleaning your business isn’t as simple as throwing things in the dumpster. Here’s how to be strategic about it:

1. Give your brand a fresh look. 

You know the saying: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Although this applies in certain contexts, your company’s brand is not one of them.

Ask yourself: Is our website outdated? Does our motto still ring true? Does our product’s packaging attract attention? If you’re second guessing the success of something, chances are it should be changed. 

According to Forbes contributor Jessica Kleinman, there are five words to live by during the rebranding process: research, input, goals, support and process. 

Rebranding brings drastic changes, so you must be prepared before making any decisions. Start by meeting with your team to talk about the pros and cons of your company’s brand. Compile the feedback, and then make the final call about what’s in your budget to improve. 

When announcing your plans, explain how you expect the company to benefit from the brand changes. Support is key: If your team isn’t behind the changes, make tweaks until you all agree. Build all those details into a brand style guide. 

2. Get organized. 

Spring means it’s time to kiss the office clutter goodbye. 

Start by throwing away anything that you no longer need. This means no more stacks of papers, capless pens, and broken staplers sitting on your desk. Next, find an organizing strategy that works for you. Try out color coding, filing documents chronologically, or digitizing old records. 

Once your physical space is decluttered to your liking, shift your sights to your schedule. This is the work of becoming a better time manager: Create a master list of the tasks on your calendar, decide on what’s important, and adopt a prioritization method. 

Just like the organization of your desk, how you shift your schedule requires you to decide on a system that works for you. You could use the chunking method (blocking out specific times for uninterrupted work) or the ABCDE method (assigning a letter to a task depending on importance), for example.

3. Reflect on old goals and create new ones. 

This business to-do is similar to a New Year’s resolution — except that the chances of success are hopefully greater.

Whether you’re assessing personal or team goals, it’s important to think about previous ones. Did you achieve them, or did you forget about them? Can they be altered and improved?

Whatever the answer, one helpful approach to goal reflection or setting is the SMART method. Pin down what your goal is and then follow the break down. 

A SMART goal should be:

  1. Specific: Achieve specificity by using the 6 Ws: who, what, when, where, which and why? If the goal doesn’t answer these, narrow it more. For example, would you rather “get more clients” or “increase your account volume by 50% in eight months”? 
  2. Measurable: From minutes spent on the phone to dollar amounts, use measurable parameters to anchor your goal.
  3. Attainable: Your goals should be within your reach. It’s important to challenge yourself, but be realistic and recognize your limitations.
  4. Relevant: Any goals set should align with the company’s mission. 
  5. Timely: Create a clear timeline with action items to work toward goal achievement. 

A goal with these five components has a greater chance of becoming a reality than one without them. And when your employees understand what, exactly, you want to achieve, they’ll be more likely to buy in. 

4. Plan a getaway. 

All work and no play isn’t sustainable. If you’ve been working hard, it’s time to reward yourself with that long-awaited vacation. 

To avoid inconveniencing yourself or coworkers, avoid overlapping out-of-office periods. Also, do any work you can ahead of time. Write down deadlines or delegate tasks for anything you can’t finish before taking off. 

Do your best to minimize the amount of work you’ll have to do when you get back. Vacations are a time to kick back and relax. They give you time to clear your head in order to hit the ground running once you return. Increased productivity, less stress, and better mental health lie on the other side of your trip. 

If you’re a city person, why not spend a few days in New York City or Chicago? For seclusion, opt for a backpacking trip through the wilderness or a yoga retreat. 

Don’t let spring pass you by before planting seeds for a stronger year. Plan ahead, focus on business needs, and don’t forget to take care of yourself as a person, too. 

5 Best Practices for Controlling Your Calendar Notifications

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5 Best Practices for Controlling Your Calendar Notifications

Buzzes, beeps, dings, and swishes are the sounds of the workday. They’re useful, but they’re also distracting.

Constant notification noises put you in reactive mode. Working reactively is stressful, gets in the way of proactive thinking, and zaps energy you should be spending on focused work. But aside from silencing your computer or phone entirely — which may cause you to miss a call or a key appointment — what can you do to control them?

Setting boundaries is important if you want to use your time wisely. Try these five best practices to quiet the noise and boost your productivity:

1. Know your options.

The default settings in your scheduling software are not your friends. Find the settings menu, and start exploring. Keep in mind your options will differ depending on the device you’re using. 

Start with your device’s global settings. If you have an iPhone, you’ll see a notifications menu in the “Settings” app. A similar menu exists on Android devices. Here, you’ll find options for where notifications appear, how long they linger, and if your phone buzzes or dings upon receipt. 

Take the same approach on your computer. You might find an option that provides a heads up without annoying noises. For example, did you know that Microsoft Outlook can send you text notifications, summarizing your calendar for the day? Knowing your alert options is the first step in developing a system that serves you. 

2. Be selective.

Again, notifications exist to serve you, not the other way around. To regain control of your calendar notifications, choose which apps you actually want to hear from.

Say you’ve elected to receive Slack notifications on both your laptop and smartphone. Slack can notify you about every message in every channel, only on select channels, or only when you’re tagged. Those settings can be customized for each device. 

If you operate on-the-go, you might turn off all desktop alerts but opt to receive notifications from certain channels on your phone. If you stay close to your desk, you could opt for the opposite.

Personally, I prefer to turn off all notifications on my phone, except for those directly related to calls or texts. On my computer, I opt for email and Slack notifications. 

3. Use your senses.

Toggling the on/off switch isn’t the only way to control audio alerts on your devices. Your device’s notification settings allow you to adjust which apps send you vibration or audio notifications.

A favorite trick of mine is adjusting the sound alerts in Outlook. I don’t want to hear a chime every time a new email or calendar reminder occurs. Only when I receive an email directly from my team do I hear a chime. That sound signals to me that I should put down whatever else I’m working until I check whether the email is important and time-sensitive. 

4. Do more with your inbox.

Even if my email inbox is overflowing, I prefer to receive a notification there instead of on my phone. Here, I can sort, prioritize, and save messages until I’m ready to address them.

Many scheduling tools, including the one I use, allow you to send yourself reminders at appointed times. I set a monthly reminder to pay my credit card bill, so I receive an email at 9 a.m. the day before the bill is due.

I might accidentally dismiss the notification on my phone, but I can’t miss the email reminder in my inbox. Then, I mark it as important to keep it top of mind.

Try setting your calendar to email you 15 minutes before a meeting. To take it a step further, assign that email a special sound. 

5. Get focused.

Notifications are the enemy of deep work. Especially if you are about to engage in multitasking, turn your devices to “silent” and move them out of sight. Close Gmail, Slack, and any other applications that you’ve set to send you notifications.

If you need a notification to know when to stop, set a kitchen or online timer. Don’t use your phone for this because once the timer dings, you’ll be tempted to dive back into the notifications. 

Give yourself a block of uninterrupted work time — as well as one for personal time — every day. Sleep with your phone in airplane mode (or out of the bedroom entirely) so that your morning alarm doesn’t greet you with a list of notifications. Ironically, setting a calendar reminder for notification-free time can help with this. 

If you’re constantly feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, try taming your notifications. Trust your brain to remember what’s essential, and set your devices to remind you of the rest.

7 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout at Home

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7 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout at Home

You know that feeling when you just can’t find the will to work? It’s more than simple stress: You physically and emotionally drained; you don’t feel competent; and it’s causing you an existential crisis.

That feeling is known as burnout, and according to Mayo Clinic, it has real health implications. Burnout is associated with excessive fatigue, insomnia, alcohol abuse, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

But while burnout can be tough to solve, it’s relatively easy to prevent a few at-home approaches:

1. Get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation is a risk factor for dozens of different health conditions, including burnout. Stop burnout before it starts by getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night. 

Give yourself enough time to prepare for sleep. Organize some of the things you’ll need in the morning so that you can sleep in peace. And be sure to stay away from screens for a couple of hours before going to bed. 

2. Exercise.

Many big-name business leaders make sure that they exercise daily. Some go to the gym early in the morning, but there are plenty of ways they get their workout in other than hitting the weights.

this doesn’t have to happen in a gym or other indoor setting, especially for those who are indoors during their working hours. The great outdoors provides ample opportunities to get physical activity. 

Take a walk in the morning, or go for a hike in the afternoon. The great outdoors provides plenty of opportunities to get physical. Stretching and calisthenic exercises are two other ways to keep your stress levels in check.  

3. Keep a journal.

Often, burnout stems from a lack of purpose. Scheduling time to journal is a great way for business leaders to release these anxieties and keep things in perspective. 

When you journal, think about the reasons that you do what you do in the first place. Consider the people you work with and how you impact their lives. Remember that regardless of what you do, you are helping people or fulfilling someone’s needs with your job. 

4. Engage in hobbies.

Another element of burnout is a sense of incompetence. That feeling can be demoralizing and significantly reduce your motivation. 

Hobbies give you a break from the work you typically do. More importantly, they allow you to do something that you enjoy without the stress of having to get things just right. 

If you don’t have a hobby, take this opportunity to find one. If you’re creative, sewing or crafting could be your cup of tea. If you’re interested in cooking, check out a book of recipes to try out. You might like to take and edit pictures on your phone. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

5. Unplug.

When there’s so much going on in the digital world, it can be overwhelming to keep up. If the constant chime of appointment notifications, emails, and news updates gets on your nerves, practice putting down your phone. 

What about while you’re working? You might not be able to change the fact that you work from a computer, but you can keep only a single tab open and turn notifications off — and if all else fails, go take a walk. 

6. Schedule breaks.

Be sure to include breaks in your calendar. Working nonstop is a surefire way to burn yourself out. Scheduling tools can help you get through your daily tasks more efficiently and place breaks at times when you tend to be the least productive. 

7. Make motivational playlists.

Sometimes, all it takes is the right song to put you in a good mood. Listening to music is proven to reduce depression, speed recovery from trauma, and sleep better.

There are plenty of playlists pre-built by streaming platforms for different moods. If you can’t come up with a specific artist or song, treat them as a starting point to find songs that motivate you. 

Playlists are the perfect way to power through household chores and workout sessions. Build one for every activity you dread or put off. 

Regardless of your career path, you’re likely to face burnout at some point. Add healthy habits into your schedule so you can avert a crisis. The best antidote to burnout, bar none, is self-care. 

4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

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4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

The meeting that could’ve been an email: We’ve all been there. As much as we want every meeting we attend to be productive, almost every one of us has left a meeting wondering: “Was that really necessary?” 

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers in a range of industries say meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Executives spend 23 hours per week in meetings, on average, up from 10 hours in the 1960s.

Almost nobody actually enjoys meetings. So why do leaders waste so much time in them?

1. They get sidetracked.

Given how long they spend in meetings, many leaders struggle to create an agenda for each of them. Some are thinking ahead to the next one, while others try to tackle every meeting on the fly. 

Meetings should always have a defined purpose. Make that reason clear when calling the meeting, and prepare an agenda immediately after scheduling it. Give other participants a chance to comment on and contribute to it.

Setting a specific agenda ensures that you show up prepared, and it also gives your team members an idea of what to expect. Whether you prepare to use a written list or a series of slides, developing an agenda allows you to guide the discussion. 

2. They are disorganized.

Business leaders have hectic schedules as is, and meetings only add to the craziness. Staying organized is key for productive meetings.

Use scheduling software to manage your meetings. Calendar allows you to pick times and dates for your events, share your availability with others, and avoid scheduling conflicts. What’s more, Calendar’s dashboard shows where and with whom you spend your time, helping you make sure that your schedule aligns with your priorities.

Without a shareable scheduling system, it’s tough to know who’s coming to a meeting or whether someone might need to duck out part way through. Those details let leaders structure meetings in ways that make the most of everyone’s time. 

3. They have too many meetings on the calendar.

Between meetings, interviews, and training sessions the number of meetings on your calendar can add up quickly. It’s important to know when meetings are appropriate and when they are not:

  • When you should have a meeting: when you need to plan for the long term, get or give feedback on major projects, host executive-level negotiations, or deliver employee performance reviews.
  • When to keep meetings short (or not have them at all): when you need to share weekly progress updates, present revenue and expense breakdowns, brainstorm for marketing assets, or explain changes to your personal schedule.

When leaders use good judgment, they can cut out meetings that are unnecessary and focus on the ones that matter.

4. They can’t keep their employees focused.

The most wasteful type of meeting is one that attendees do not find valuable. If you want your employees’ meeting time to be spent effectively, it’s important to keep them engaged throughout.

There are multiple ways to make meetings more interesting:

  • Add visuals to presentations. Photos and videos can drive home key points. Beware, though, that adding too many visuals wastes time by distracting attendees.
  • Encourage group participation. Activities encourage buy-in from non-presenting members of the meeting. Ask people to raise their hands in response to certain questions, or request suggestions around a challenge. 
  • Keep all meetings under 50 minutes. Meetings that last for an hour or more should be split into two or more sessions. Set a timer if your meetings consistently overrun their slots.
  • Identify key takeaways at the end of each meeting. Concluding meetings with action items not only makes them more meaningful, but it provides markers for future measurement. When meetings begin with a review of the prior one’s action items, participants feel a sense of purpose and accountability.

Unproductive meetings may seem like a fact of life, but they do not need to be. Schedule only the meetings you need, always develop an agenda in advance, and keep participants engaged. Neither you nor your employees have time to waste.

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