Category Archives: Knowledge Base

9 Easy Website Changes to Enhance Your UX

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For a solid online appointment system, you need a website with a good user experience, or UX. The more easily a customer can navigate your website, the more likely they are to book an appointment. On the other hand, UX difficulties can frustrate customers and drive them away.

The good news is, you don’t need to tear down your website entirely to improve your UX. Small changes in the right places can make all the difference. These nine website adjustments are bound to improve your site’s UX:

1. Clearly Display Your Call to Action

If the goal of your website is to guide customers toward booking an appointment online, make it easy for them. Finding where to make an appointment shouldn’t be a treasure hunt; it should be front and center. 

Place your appointment CTA in an obvious place, if it isn’t already. A large button with bold lettering will attract attention and make it abundantly clear where customers need to go to book appointments

2. Adapt to Mobile

Not all of your potential clients will visit your website on a computer. More and more consumers rely on their mobile devices to do research, make purchases, and book appointments. If your website isn’t optimized for a mobile experience, you’ll be missing out on a lot of traffic.

There’s no need to create a whole app for this. Optimizing your website for mobile should only require a couple of tweaks. The layout will need to be slightly different for smaller screens, but the design and content can likely remain the same. Most content management systems will make sure your site is easy to navigate no matter the device.

3. Optimize Loading Speed

Run a test to check how long it takes for pages of your website to load. In particular, see how your online appointment system’s buffering time stacks up against your competitors’.

Long loading times discourage customers from sticking around and booking. They’ll either look for options elsewhere or opt to walk in instead.

A simple way to optimize your load speed is to compress any images you use. This is one of the leading causes of slow response time and one of the easiest to fix. More in-depth solutions, such as backend optimizations, can further improve your site’s performance.

4. Smooth Out — and Punch Up — Your Writing

Websites with beautiful designs and images immediately catch attention. But to persuade potential clients to book an appointment, you will need — as any preschooler can tell you — to “use your words.”

Headings and bodies of text should be easy to read, both in design and content. Text that is difficult or tedious to wade through will render your website almost useless.

You know the strengths of your business better than anyone, so express them in clear, engaging language. By laying out the benefits of an appointment with you in a concise and attention-grabbing way, you will guide customers to their first booking. 

5. Tighten Up Your URL

On a scale from 1 (booknow.com) to 10 (supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.com), how long is your website’s URL? While bookmarks and autofill settings certainly help out with long links, short and sweet is usually the way to go. Customers can discover your website much more easily and can commit your site to memory when the URL is a manageable size.

There are many companies that buy and sell domain names you can use for your business. If your .com choice is already taken, consider a .biz as an alternative.

You can also use a service that shortens existing URLs when including them in online promotions. Whatever you can do to make your URL more manageable and memorable for customers is a must. 

6. Keep It Simple

Customers attempting to navigate your website shouldn’t be forced to jump through hoops. Information and resources should be easy to access and locate. A complicated website will lead to a poor user experience.

That’s particularly the case when your goal is encouraging clients to schedule appointments. If setting up an appointment takes too many steps to complete, customers will bail out. Keep things simple, and you’ll encourage customers to return in the future. 

7. Include Communication Tools

Want to click with your customers? Adding communication features to your website can really reel them in when they visit your site. The right tools can quickly guide visitors to exactly what they need. When you reduce the time it takes site visitors to find what they’re looking for, you increase user satisfaction. 

For example, a chatbot can be programmed to respond to customers’ basic questions. These rapid responses will set the user up for success as soon as they access your site. If you get a lot of website traffic, you can even consider hiring live customer service agents to handle questions and concerns.

8. Add a Form

Forms are a simple yet effective tool for generating leads. Not only can you gather new customers this way, you can get feedback that reveals improvements you can make to your business.

Site visitors can use a form on your homepage to do something simple, like request email updates with promotions or coupons. You, in turn, can attach a survey to the form asking customers about their user experience. Act on their feedback to improve your UX and your general business operations based on their responses.

9. Incorporate Analytics

All kinds of website-related activity will yield useful data. Clickthrough rates, landing page hits, and conversions are all metrics that have value to your business. They also tell a story about your website’s user experience.

Set up an analytics tool that can start tracking key data for you. As you gather data, it will guide you to changes you need to make to your site. Whether the data points to some of the steps above or something entirely different, data-driven decisions are some of the most effective. 

Customers are the lifeblood of your business, and these days, they increasingly come to you through your website. Ensuring your site offers a good UX is key to encouraging that first appointment and prompting repeat visits. So conduct a website audit and identify ways you can improve your user experience today.

Operations Team Productivity: What They Do (and How to Build and Improve Yours)

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Even with the most competitive offerings or the most capable people representing them, it’s almost impossible for companies to achieve great things without reliable operations.

Not all small and mid-sized businesses have dedicated operations support, of course. Until they grow more sustainable, smaller companies might integrate operations into other divisions instead. But the danger there is allowing your teams to work in silos. And “by denying the opportunity to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas,” says The 20 Media founder Pratik Dholakiya, “businesses contribute to their own speedy demise.”

Guess what helps reconnect those dots to keep everyone working toward the same goal? A dedicated operations team.

If you think it’s time to scale your operations workforce, you’re in the right place. In this post, you’ll learn how ops teams run businesses like well-oiled machines and the best ways to build your own.

First, the basics: What are operations, and how does this business function work?

The Operations Team Productivity: Roles and Responsibilities

Would you climb Mount Denali without a guide?

It’s a little easier to climb a behemoth like Denali with a trained mountaineer who can plot the course, gather all the right supplies, and plan for emergencies like bad weather.

In a company, that’s the operations team’s job.

An ops team’s #1 mission is to manage and optimize the details that keep its organization running profitably. That means delivering the resources that enable other departments to do their job – at peak efficiency and effectiveness – and cost-effectively converting their efforts into products and services that meet customers’ needs.

Phew. Let’s break that down a little. Here are a few examples of how the team supports each of the company’s stakeholders:

Employees

Operations might be responsible for keeping plenty of talent in the recruitment pipeline, promoting interdepartmental communication, supervising other teams’ activities, and figuring out how to best leverage resources to prevent and solve problems.

Executive team

Operations also lead business predictability by helping the C-Suite plan KPIs and holding them financially accountable. Some ops professionals are specifically trained to neutralize legal issues, too.

Customers

Ops teams rarely come into direct contact with customers, but it’s still their responsibility to make sure the company delivers the right products to the right customers on time. The product team relies on operations to recommend improvements, as ops are best positioned to weigh customer feedback against the company’s capacity.

Vendors

As any great ops professional will tell you, ensuring quality output means ensuring value at the source. To do this, the ops team focuses on acquiring inventory and services that maximize productivity, minimize risk and costs, and deliver on customer expectations.

You might have noticed a common thread here. For just about all activities, operations teams prioritize quality management. Not necessarily Steve Jobs-level attention to every detail of the business, but enough to:

  • Produce what needs to be produced without delays, errors, or rework.
  • Drive down failure costs, both internally and externally.
  • Find the best possible solutions to problems in any situation.
  • Ultimately inspire all stakeholders to champion the company’s value.

Before it can manage the quality of other business units, of course, operations must first manage itself. What’s the best set-up to achieve all these goals?

How to Build an Effective Operations Team

Step 1: Start from the Top Down.

A functional and well-run operations team relies on great support from the top down. Beyond the usual traits of great leaders, your ops manager will need a solid grasp of:

  • Various processes across the company, so your team can confidently coordinate and develop new methods.
  • Supply chain management, including knowledge of manufacturing, logistics, and transportation, if you’re a product-based company.
  • Problem-solving means pulling information from both an analytical and creative perspective.
  • Learning how to communicate effectively with all stakeholders.

Sure, all leaders need to communicate and solve problems. But an ops manager uses these skills on a bigger scale to unite people and processes seamlessly across the entire organization.

TIP: You can make your ops manager’s job much easier by making lines of communication easy to access. Digital channels (like project management or messaging apps) should be accessible for your ops teams to use on the go when they’re on a call, for example, while regular meetings can be a powerful way to sync up teams (as long as they’re not too regular). A written manual on communications processes can help clear up any confusion.

With those resources in place, you’re ready to think about the structure of the rest of the team.

Step 2: Organize Your Operations Team Structure.

In their book, The Practice of Cloud System Administration, three Silicon Valley-based authors describe the three sources and categories of operational work:

Sources of work

  1. Life-cycle management or the functional work — means to run a service within the company.
  2. Stakeholder interaction means meeting the needs of the people who use the service.
  3. Process improvement and automation mean the operational work needed to improve and upgrade various processes continually.
 

Categories of work

  1. Emergencies like power outages or emergency requests from other teams.
  2. Standard requests include questions about how to use a service or reports of the problems users experience.
  3. Project work, or the projects that automate and optimize team/company systems.

“It can be tempting to organize an operations team into three subteams, each focusing on one source of work or one category of work,” the authors write. But that creates those dreaded “silos of responsibility.”

Luckily, there’s a much simpler way to organize your team: Make project work the priority.

If you want to run your ops team at peak efficiency, you’ll need to focus most of its bandwidth on projects. Projects save them running from emergency to emergency until they burn out, or from slowing down to deal with interruptions (a big productivity killer).

How do you prioritize project work while responding to emergencies and requests promptly? There are two ways:

  1. Assign an emergency response team. If one person owns emergencies, and other standard requests, means that the rest of the team is free to focus all its energy on projects. TIP: Make sure the ERT emails out reports to the rest of the team, including alerts logged, action taken, trends noticed, and recommendations going forward.
  2. Take turns. Using a useful calendar management tool, you can move the team through a rotation for on-call duty (emergencies) and ticket duty (standard requests). TIP: Schedule each shift for no more than a week. Say you had a team of eight people; this would give each member a full six weeks of the cycle to focus on projects.

Depending on the size of the team’s workload, your ops manager might want to assign both on-call and ticket duty to one person or multiple people to one task. As long as they cross-train all team members, you’ll always be able to cover unexpected absences.

Bear in mind, though, that it’s best to limit each rotation to one person for a smoother hand-off to the next. Involving entire teams might lead to unnecessary meetings. It’s also good practice for the ops manager to include him- or herself in the rotation so they can keep tabs on what’s going on.

Step 3: Optimize Your Teamwork.

Congratulations: you now have a well-organized ops team.

But team-building doesn’t end there. It’s a journey – starting with every team member’s commitment to using the following six practices.

A knowledge bank

By documenting and sharing processes and templates across the team, you can streamline project management, cut time and effort wasted on reinventing the wheel, and ultimately ensure customers get the best results.

TIP: As with your communication channels, make it as quick and easy as possible for everyone to find these resources – using a tool like Box, for example.

A system of delivery

Take a standardized approach to deliver high-quality products and services by establishing bite-sized, repeatable processes in which everyone knows their role.

TIP: Projects are best accomplished in small teams. While solo projects disconnect team members and inhibit feedback, large teams face setbacks from decision-making challenges.

A system of measurement

Collect objective data on everything you do. How else can you improve your team’s output?

TIP: Google’s Objective and Key Results (OKR) is a great model to use. The aim is to set aggressive quarterly or annual targets, create incentives for your team to hit them, then stack up against your results against your forecasts.

(Keep in mind that because they’re so aggressive, you should only run 70% of your OKR goals.)

Productivity tracking.

To meet their many demands, operations teams should focus on getting the most done with as little time and resources as possible. Enter: time-tracking and productivity tools.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Team building.

Team-building activities are beneficial for many reasons, including productivity. Think of opportunities to bring the team together to take a break, reconnect, celebrate wins, and have a little fun.

Team sports are a simplified example and one of the best ways to foster teamwork and personal connections.

A safe space to vent.

Operations are one of the most complex and demanding functions of the business. That’s why it’s also the most in need of transparency.

There will be times when team members need to deliver criticism, hold others accountable, and admit their own failures to reach goals. The most important lesson they can learn, though, is that effective team performance isn’t always about hitting numbers. It’s about being agile enough to deal with missing them and confronting sensitive issues for the collective good of the team.

Is everyone on board with all six practices? Remember: Feedback makes the dream work.

Final Thoughts

By now, you should have all the ideas you need to build a capable operations team, assign smart roles, and streamline operations over time.

That leaves us with one last important question: What happens when challenges arise?

Nobody enjoys finding shortfalls in their teams or processes. But especially in operations, where one mistake sets off company-wide chains of events, it’s the name of the game. As the leader, your goal should be consistency: bringing underperformers up to standards, encouraging top performers to keep doing their very best, and keeping burnout at bay.

Does your company have a small operations team? What other best practices do you use to improve team performance? Share with us what worked for you in the comments.

How to Kick Yourself Out of a Slump

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How to Kick Yourself Out of a Slump

We all get in slumps. Sometimes it’s because you’re under the weather. Or you’ve got that summertime sadness feeling. But, what if you’re really in the gutter and you don’t know why?

It happens to all of us from time-to-time. However, that doesn’t make it any easier. When your mood plummets, everything from your health, relationships, to career suffer. Even worse, you may not want to get better. It’s just easier to close yourself off and stay down. But, that’s no way to live. Instead, you have to kick yourself out of your slump so that you can enjoy your life and get back to being your bad-self.

Saying that from the outside, though, is easier said than done. But, I’ve been there more times then I would care to admit. And, through some trial and error, I used the following tricks to break free of my downward spiral.

Be on the lookout for red flags.

I’m going to tell you all an embarrassing story. Not that long ago, I was walking my dog before going out for the night. In my hurry, I didn’t pay attention to where I was going and tripped over a flowerpot. It happened so fast that I didn’t realize I was falling until I crashed to the ground.

Sometimes, that’s the case with slumps. There’s so much going on that you don’t realize that you’re down in a hole until you’re already in it.

Now and then, check-in with yourself so that you can spot any potential warning signs. While this varies from person to person, here are some of the more common symptoms that you may be in a slump:

  • You’re bored day, in-and-out.
  • You’re stuck in the past.
  • Daydreaming eats-up too much of your time and energy.
  • You refuse to get out of your comfort zone.
  • You continuously don’t feel well.
  • No one asks for your advice or feedback.
  • You put others ahead of yourself.
  • Business isn’t thriving.
  • You’re searching for an escape, like vacation deals or selling your business.

If any of these ring true, then it’s time to admit that you’re in a slump. From there, you can begin to get to the root of the problem so that you can dig yourself out. For example, if the main culprit is your business, then maybe it’s time to consider selling it and moving on to a new venture.

Prioritize yourself.

There’s nothing wrong with helping others. Helping others is a proven way to increase your happiness. Which, in turn, can pull yourself out of your slump. But, you still need to take care of yourself.

Always putting others first is exhausting and can impair your work performance. What’s more, “when you put yourself at the bottom of your to-do-list, you’re more stressed and less energetic and creative,” writes Angela Ruth in a previous Calendar article. “Your sleep is impaired, and you may turn to other vices.” Overall, without engaging in some self-care, you’re harming your physical and mental health.

So, how can you prioritize yourself so that you don’t drive yourself into a rut? Angela suggests:

  • Take a “me” moment, like blocking out specific times for you to something that you enjoy.
  • Increase your emotional intelligence.
  • Swap out the negative self-talk with more positive and supportive language.
  • Take a social media break.
  • Recite empowering mantras.
  • Remove the toxic elements from your life.
  • Get comfortable setting boundaries and saying “no.”
  • Remember your “why.”
  • Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Schedule downtime.

Decline your invite to the pity party.

Have you ever received an event to a function that you really don’t want to attend? You probably don’t hesitate to decline the invite.

Take the same approach whenever you have the urge to throw yourself a pity party. I know that it’s easy to fall into this trap and wallow. But, as Helen Keller correctly put it, “Self-pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in the world.”

Get your fill of inspiration and motivation.

Being in a slump sucks. There’s just no other way to put it. You’re not in a good mood. Energy and productivity have been drained. And, the things that you usually enjoy doing just don’t cut it anymore.

A simple way out of this? Surround yourself with as much inspiration and motivation that you can.

Inspiration and motivation are different for everyone. For me, I know that when I’m down, I might watch a comedy like “Step Brothers.” No matter how many times I’ve viewed it, it busts my guts every time. And guess what happens next? I’m in a slightly better mood and want even more. The next thing, I’m climbing out of my descent.

Whether if it’s a movie, song, podcast, book, or going for a hike, turn to the things that lift your spirits and give you a zap of energy.

Shock your system.

One of the easiest ways to get yourself in a rut is by staying within your comfort zone. You know how it is. Every. Single. Day. Is.The. Same.

The best way to counter this? Change things up. For example, instead of going to your office every day, try working somewhere else — even if it’s just one or two days a week. Try out a new exercise program or restaurant. Wake-up a little earlier so that you try out a new morning routine. Try out a new hobby, or do something that scares the crap out of you.

In short, shake things up so that you don’t get stuck in the same routine. And, if this is too nerve-racking, start small and work your way up. For example, instead of going to the same grocery store every Sunday morning, visit a local farmer’s market on Saturday morning.

Reach out to others.

The worst thing that you can do when you’re down is to keep it to yourself. As long as you’re reaching out to others because you’re looking for a way out of your slump — you’re not going to be bothering anyone. They are probably more than willing to listen and offer advice.

Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and calling a trusted friend or family member. In my experience, a family member or best friend should always be your go-to. If they’re not around, consider reconnecting with an old friend. If that’s not an option, then please consult a support group or mental health professional.

Practice gratitude.

Research has found that gratitude has the power to change you and your brain for the better. Most notably, because it comes with psychological benefits like unshackling us from toxic emotions.

Best of all? Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be a complicated activity. It’s a simple activity that you can do daily. Examples are writing in a journal, saying “thank you,” and spending quality time with your nearest and dearest.

Play hooky.

Of course, you don’t want this to become a frequent occurrence. But, everyone could benefit from taking a mental health day now and then. It’s most beneficial when you’re feeling rundown or don’t have any time off planned.

Whether you feel guilty about taking the day off, or don’t want to pry yourself from the couch, make the most of your day-off. You don’t have to go all-in like Ferris Bueller. But, definitely go out and have some fun. Indulge in a little self-care. You might take a moment to catch up on some cleaning or reading. Or, meet-up with a friend for lunch.

You’re going to survive, and work will be just fine without you for an hour or two or half a day. When wake-up the following day, you’ll find yourself refreshed and in a better state of mind.

Squash the ANTs.

And, finally, get those pesky ANTs out of your mind. Coined James Phu, these are Automatic Negative Thoughts that ruminate and prevent you from getting out of your rut.

The first step is to try to keep those thoughts from occurring in the first place. James suggests you can do this by avoiding toxic people, office gossip, and the news.

The next step is to become more self-aware so that you can catch any negative thoughts as early as possible. Some techniques that James has used are meditating, breathing exercises, and checking-in with yourself throughout the day. He also recommends using the rubber band trick. Whenever a negative thought pops in your head, “pull that elastic band and release.” That small amount of pain reminds you to stop and focus on something more positive.

Finally, find ways to defeat the negative. Gratitude, mindfulness, and keeping yourself busy are all great options. You can also try putting things in perspective and challenging these thoughts. For example, let’s say that you gave a presentation and made a couple of mistakes. You may tell yourself that it was a complete disaster. But, in reality, you got a standing ovation.

The Relationship Between Confidence and Productivity

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When it comes to productivity, there are hundreds of ways for you to step-up your game. You could learn how to prioritize, manage your energy, or spruce your workspace. Unfortunately, we often neglect to discuss the role that confidence plays in this game. Here is the relationship between confidence and productivity.

But, what exactly is confidence? Well, depending on your ask, that definition can vary. However, I think that Kathy Kay and Claire Shipman have a solid explanation in their book The Confidence Code; “confidence is life’s enabler – it is the quality that turns thoughts into action.”

The authors add that being confident “isn’t about throwing your weight around or talking over people or always being the first to jump in.” It’s not even an attitude of faking it until you make it. Instead, it’s all about taking action — even if you stumble along the way.

Richard Petty, a psychology professor at Ohio State University who has studied confidence for decades, told Kay and Shipman “that confidence is essentially the stuff that turns our thoughts into action.” Or, to put it another way, “it greases the wheels for action.”

What’s more, research from Cameron Anderson, a University of California, Berkley professor, found that confidence improves a person’s social status. It also provides them with psychological benefits. These include self-esteem, task motivation, and persistence.

Additionally, a lack of confidence can hold us back from succeeding and forging forward. That’s because this keeps us locked-up in our comfort zones. We also ruminate about failing, what we can’t control, and how we measure against others. As a consequence, we procrastinate or obsess over being “perfect.”

The good news? It’s totally feasible to become more confident. And, when you build this up, you’ll bolster your performance and productivity.

1. Commit to fear and failure.

In his book, The Mindfulness Solution, Harvard Medical School professor Ronald Siegel recommends:

“Think about your worst fear. Spend time with it. Now make your fear worse by getting closer to it. Imagine the worst that could happen. Now focus on your breathing. Feel your body relax. See, you didn’t die, did you? You’re on your way to conquering your fear.”

You don’t exactly have to dive in headfirst. The idea is to do something that scares you in implemental steps. For example, if you’re petrified of public speaking, take a class, improve your communication skills, and practice in front of friends or family.

As for failure, you don’t want to make a monumentally bad decision. Instead, start small. For instance, send an email without proofreading it. Just like facing your fear, you’re still alive to fight another day.

More importantly, failure allows you to learn and grow from your mistakes. In my personal opinion, failing is the best teacher you’ll have in life.

2. Pay attention to your speech, posture, and body language.

Close your eyes and visualize someone whom you consider to be confident. They’re probably well-dressed and have a clean workspace. What’s more, they don’t slouch and seem to always remain calm, cool, and collected.

That’s a tall order to fill. But, you can follow in their footsteps by:

  • Dressing for success. What you wear definitely affects your productivity. That doesn’t mean that you always need to be dressed to the nines. But, if you need a little confidence boost, putting on your “power” outfit can do the trick.
  • Keep your workspace clean and organized. Besides emitting a sense of professionalism, this is simple to reduce stress. The reason? You aren’t scrambling around searching for misplaced items.
  • Speak slowly and loudly. It gives the impression that you know what you’re talking about. And, it ensures that everyone hears what you have to say.
  • Strike a pose. If listening to the Madonna song helps, go for it. Additionally, studies show that open, expansive postures make you feel more powerful.
  • Pay attention to your body language. Stand up straight, make eye contact, and control your breathing.

3. Focus on the bright side.

“Thinking positive can manifest itself in several ways.” For starters, change your focus. The reason, according to Tony Robbins is because “Where focus goes, energy flows.”

The thing is, we have a tendency to harp on what could go wrong as opposed to what could go right. “Think about how you’re going to nail your presentation and how pleased your coworkers will be to hear it,” adds Robbins. “What you focus on becomes your reality – and that includes what you focus on within your own mind.”

To start, scrap negative words from your vocabulary. Next, replace them “with positive ones and start seeing the bright side of situations,” he suggests. “By changing your focus, internally and externally, you’re changing your state. And by changing your state, you’ll change your life.”

4. Raise your curiosity.

“Curiosity is at the base of all intelligence — without the desire to learn things, there is no advancement, innovation, or growth,” writes Laura Winter over at Thrive Global. “It drives creativity and innovation, fills us with wonder, and is a source of intrinsic motivation,” adds Winter. And, this “desire to know pushes us beyond fear and towards our goals.”

How can you achieve this? Ask questions and be open-minded. Find opportunities to learn and experience new things on a daily basis. Meet new people. And, dabble with different interests.

5. Manage confidence-killing thoughts.

It’s normal to be paralyzed by negative emotions when stepping out of your comfort zone. However, Angie Morgan, cofounder of the leadership consulting firm Lead Star and co-author of Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success, suggests that you challenge these negative feelings.

“If it is real, decide how you would manage it,” Morgan says. “If you’re manufacturing the danger, let it go.” The best way to go about this? 20-minutes of daily meditation.

6. Take care of your health and well-being.

In my opinion, taking care of your health and well-being is self-explanatory — but it’s not self-explanatory to some people. If you don’t feel good emotionally, mentally, or physically, then how can you be confident in your performance?

Mainly this is because physical activity releases endorphins. It also boosts your energy and reduces stress. And, one study found that it can improve body image and self-esteem.

In addition to exercise, make sure that you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. You also need to eat a healthy and nutritious diet. As an added bonus, this will can also improve your mental health.

7. Rethink your inner circle.

How can you become more confident when you’re surrounded by negative individuals. You know who I’m talking about. Those toxic, naysaying folks who hold you back.

Instead, spend more time with those who are supportive and inspiring. They should also be the ones who will build you up instead of tearing you down.

8. Implement a “Daily Success Review.”

According to Meg Sigler in a piece for Psychology Today, this is similar to the gratitude exercise “Three Good Things.” For those unfamiliar, this is where you list the awesome things that you experienced during the day. To make this stick, however, you also need to explain why.

In this case, though, you want to “focus on three successes, large or small, that you had on a particular day.” Next, set aside just 3-minutes to reflect or write down your accomplishments.

Sigler clarifies that you should bask in both major accomplishments and small wins. “By focusing on daily victories, you reinforce your constructive actions and thoughts,” writes Sigler. As a result, you’ll be more likely to repeat this behavior and become more confident along the way.

How To Focus on the Vital Few

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One fateful day around 1895 avid gardener and economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed something peculiar. Only 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced an astounding 80% of the crop. Here is how to focus on the vital few — meaning the vital few (in everything) that are producing your biggest results.

Pareto then applied this to principle to the macroeconomics in his homeland of Italy. What did he find? A whopping 80% of the land was owned 20% of the people.

Since then, the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80/20 Rule, has been applied to nearly every facet of life.

In business, 80% of a company’s sales come from 20% of its customers. For athletes training, 20% of the exercises and habits have 80% of the impact. And, when it comes to traffic accidents, 20% of motorists cause 80% of them.

But, it’s also a popular technique when it comes to time management and productivity. Perhaps that’s why some influential people have modified it throughout the year. Examples include:

  • Peter Drucker. In his book The Effective Executive, Drucker suggests that in order to highlight the vital 20%, you must eliminate the trivial 80%. He calls these “posteriorities,” which are pretty much just the opposite of your priorities.
  • Richard Koch. As the author of The 80/20 Principle, Koch definitely knows a little about this concept. He suggests that you can unlock enormous potential by leveraging the magic of 20%.
  • Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The authors of The One Thing suggest you focus on your lead domino. When you do, all of the other dominoes will fall into place. “You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects,” they write.
  • Tim Ferriss. The author of The 4-Hour Workweek pairs the Pareto Principle with Parkinson’s Law to reduce time by setting deadlines.

How the Pareto Principle Impacts Productivity

There might be a misconception that the 80/20 Rule means working less. That’s not exactly true. After all, it has nothing to do with actual periods of time.

Instead, it’s a way to help you laser-in on what’s most important. When you identify these areas, that’s where you want to dedicate most of your time and energy. As a result, you won’t be squandering these valuable resources on the unnecessary.

But, if you’re still a little lost, I think Brian Tracy has a clear explanation. “The Pareto Principle is a concept that suggests two out of ten items, on any general to-do list, will turn out to be worth more than the other eight items put together.”

“The sad fact is that most people procrastinate on the top 10 or 20 percent of items that are the most valuable and important,” which is known as the “vital few.“ Instead, they “busy themselves” with the least important 80 percent, aka the “trivial many.”

Why’s that a problem? Because the “trivial many” do not contribute much to your success. In fact, it’s counterproductive since this can lead to:

  • More stress. If you devoting too much time on activities that don’t produce results, you’re going to feel overwhelmed. Eventually, because you’re constantly playing catch-up, you’re going to get burned out.
  • Increased engagement. Will there be some tasks that aren’t always the most exciting? Absolutely. But, spending too much time on them will leave you feeling bored and frustrated. Over time, you may decide to just check-out all together.
  • A cluttered calendar. Even if you love what you do, you still need time away to pursue passions, interests, and hobbies outside of work. But, if your calendar is jam-packed with trivial items, then how can you achieve this healthy balance?

Apply the Pareto Principle to Focus on the Vital Few

So, how can you focus on the vital few? Well, there are a variety of strategies you can employ. Some are more complex than others. But, I’m all about simplicity. As such. I feel that there are five strategies that can encourage this.

1. Simplify your to-do-lists.

Have you found yourself never finishing your to-do-lists? It’s a common problem that most of us experience. In fact, 89% of people fail at crossing off all of the items on their list.

While there are a variety of culprits, like easily getting distracted, the main reason is that you have too many items listed. To counter this, you need to make your list more manageable. And, you can realistically achieve this by:

  • Mapping out your 1-3-5 items. Here you would identify your main priority, 3 medium priorities, and 5 smaller to-dos. Determining these lets you know what priorities to schedule first and what you can focus on afterward.
  • Employing a priority matrix. The most common example of this would be the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s a simple strategy where you place everything you have to do into one of the following quadrants; Important and Urgent, Not Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Not Important, and Neither Urgent of Important. Again, this lets you know what your vital few are. Even better, it helps you determine what can be delegated or deleted.
  • Identifying your MIT. Your MIT is your most important task and comes before anything else. Ideally, it should be aligned with your goals.
  • Creating a “done” list. “Don’t throw away your completed lists,” writes Abby Miller in a previous Calendar article. “Instead, get a binder and place these ‘done’ lists in there.” Why? It helps you “track your progress, see if they are any recurring tasks, and it builds morale. After all, seeing what you’ve already accomplished can motivate you to keep on trucking.”

2. Track your time.

Whether you use a productivity journal or time tracker, this is an essential step. Without tracking your time, you aren’t able to see how long commitments truly take you to complete. More importantly, this will help your spot and eliminate time wasters.

For this to be effective, you should track your time for about a month. Afterward, you should analyze the results. Hopefully, you’ll notice that it takes your 3 hours to complete your MIT. Knowing this, you would block out that amount of time in your calendar — preferably when you’re at your peak performance.

There’s also another benefit of tracking your time. It lets you know when you’re more likely to get distracted or interrupted. That means you can then plan accordingly. For example, if a colleague or housemate bursts in your office at the same time every day, you can schedule a break at this time or ask them to come back at a better time.

3. Restructure your routine.

Here’s another reason why you should track your time. It lets you create a daily routine. Again, that means scheduling your most important items onto your calendar when you’re most productive. It also makes planning easier and provides you with structure.

But, there’s more to it than that. It also helps you eliminate unhealthy habits and engage in healthier ones. For instance, if you know that your energy dips after lunch, that’s when you could engage in physical activity or catch-up with a friend.

4. Train yourself.

To be more specific, you should be constantly enhancing or learning new skills. The reason is straightforward. It will guide you in working faster and more sensibly.

However, you should also work on other areas where you’re struggling. For example, let’s say that you have difficulty concentrating. You could fix this through meditation, organizing your workspace, the Pomodoro Technique, or single-tasking.

5. Think beyond work.

Finally, use the 80/20 Rule outside of work. Why? Because it will promote a healthier and happier life.

Take reading as an example. While it’s one of the best ways to spend your downtime, trying to read too many books can be overwhelming. Instead, focus on the couple that will have the greatest impact on your life.

You could also apply this to the apps on your phone, customers, interpersonal relationships, or products/services that you offer. In short, you can use this concept to pinpoint what’s most deserving of your time and energy.

8 Morning Habits of High Performers

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“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” — Wayne Huizenga

I really appreciate that quote. I truly believe your morning habits set the stage for the remainder of the day. For example, if you keep hitting snooze until you realize that you’re running late, how do you think the rest of your day will be? You all “get it.” You all “know.” But, do you DO the actions that support the habits you know to be correct?

You may forget an important document at home. Since you didn’t have time to eat breakfast, you grab a doughnut. And, it totally slipped your mind that you have an important meeting today — which you totally didn’t prepare for.

If that’s your version of “Groundhog Day,” then how successful and productive do you think you’ll be? That’s why top performers get the most out of their mornings. And, they do so by embracing the following 8 habits.

1. Wake from a good night’s sleep.

According to a global sleep survey conducted by Royal Phillips, 44% of respondents reported that their sleep has worsened over the last five years. What’s more, nearly 1 in 3 Americans sleep fewer than six hours per night.

Why’s that a problem? Well, it’s recommended that we get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. If not, that can lead to a myriad of problems including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, cognitive decline. As a consequence, this can lead to death.

While not trying to make light of this, it’s obviously impossible to be a high performer when you’re in poor health physically and mentally. That’s why the most successful people prioritize sleep. But, if you’re having trouble, the CDC suggests embracing the following habits:

  • Be consistent. That means going to bed and waking up at the same time — even on weekends.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet — kind of like a cave.
  • Ban electronics, like TVs and smartphones, from your bedroom.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Engage in physical activity during the day.

I’d also add implementing a relaxing evening routine. Some ideas would be meditating, reading, journaling, taking a bath, or reviewing tomorrow’s schedule. These are all simple and effective activities that clear your mind and help you chill out.

2. Find some quietude.

“Silence is one of the best ways to immediately reduce stress while increasing your self-awareness,” Hal Elrod wrote in the Morning Miracle. “And gaining the clarity that will allow you to maintain your focus on your goals, priorities, and what’s important for your life, each and every day.”

I know what you’re thinking. How can I possibly achieve such a feat? Well, Leo Babuta recommends waking-up before everyone else in your home. But, if you’re not a morning person, you can find silence later at night when everyone else is asleep.

How should you spend your quiet time? You could take a walk, read, write, visualize, or meditate. Personally, I’m also a fan of not using my phone as an alarm clock. Instead, I use an old school alarm clock so that I don’t get sucked into the rabbit hole of emails, social media, or whatever nonsense that’s out there.

3. Smile and think of something positive.

Is this the first thing that’s on your mind as you groggily open your eyes early in the morning? Probably not. But, it’s been found that smiling releases those feel-good neurotransmitters known as dopamine and endorphins. For the uninitiated, this will lift your mood and kick your day off on the right side of the bed.

Furthermore, cracking a smile releases serotonin which will relax your body and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. And, it can also fortify your immune system.

Additionally, think of something positive. It could be reflecting on what you’re grateful for or something that you’re excited about, such as an upcoming vacation. You could also recite uplifting quotes like this gem from the Dalai Lama; “Every day, think as you wake up: today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.”

4. Make your bed.

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” said Naval Adm. William McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, in his commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin. “It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”

“By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed,” he added. “Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right,” said McRaven.

“And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

5. Find your own rhythm.

After you make your bed you may be asking,” What’s next?” Here’s the problem with that. Making these micro-decisions every morning could put you into a collision course with decision fatigue.

If you weren’t aware, that’s a big no-no. After all, it can lead to procrastination, avoidance, indecision, and impulsivity.

To avoid this, create your ideal morning routine. For some, that could be slamming a glass of water, going for a jog, eating breakfast, and taking a shower. Others may prefer to brush their teeth, stretch, and do something creative.

Another way to make fewer decisions? Plan the night before. For me, that means picking out my meals and outfit, as well as prioritizing my to-do-list.

6. Craft results-oriented affirmations.

I’ll be direct here. Affirmations are the bomb! Besides combating self-deprecating thoughts, they can boost your motivation. Also, studies show that they can reduce stress, increase creativity, and improve your problem-solving skills.

However, Elrod suggests that you affirm your commitments — opposed to who you are or who you want to be. And, you can accomplish this by answering four simple questions:

  • What are you committed to?
  • Why is this important to you?
  • What activities will help you succeed?
  • When will commit to doing these activities?

If that’s not your cup of tea, then at least set your intention for the day. It’s a simple way to keep you focused on what truly matters.

7. Do an “hour of power.”

“Motivation doesn’t last forever, so you need to replenish yours regularly,” writes Lianne Martha Maiquez Laroya for Lifehacker. And, here’s a little secret I have for you, high performers are well aware of this. As such, “they dedicate ample time to increase their supply.”

Moreover, when you’re emotionally invested in something, you’re more motivated to see it through. In order to accomplish this, block out a power hour. While you can spend this time however you please, I’d stick with things that get you pumped. Examples include listening to a playlist or inspirational anecdotes, watching TED Talks, or reading empowering quotes.

8. Don’t isolate yourself.

Prolonged isolation is connected to cognitive decline. Even if you have a family and collaborate with others, it’s still important to put these relationships first. When you do, you’ll be healthier and happier — at least according to a famous 79-year Harvard study.

Best of all? You can easily achieve this by doing things like eating breakfast with your family. And, when you get to work, greet your co-workers as they enter or a daily stand-up meeting.

17 Work-From-Home Opportunities Worth Your Consideration

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Work-from-home opportunities don’t pay you to hang at home, but they get pretty close. Between emails, you can raid the fridge, throw a pizza in the oven, or even help your kids with their homework.

But, like most things in life, work-from-home opportunities are not one-size-fits-all. Everyone has their own aptitudes and preferences. Know yourself, and then know your options.

What are the Best Work-From-Home Gigs?

The good news is, there’s a work-from-home opportunity out there for every lifestyle. Take a look at the list below to find one that fits yours.

Best work-from-home opportunity for single moms: Zirtual

Single moms can do it all, which is why they make great virtual assistants. Between managing their kids’ appointments, shuttling them around, and helping them with homework, single moms are already accustomed to doing most of the tasks VAs do.

Working for Zirtual doesn’t require a lot of qualifications, either. As long as you’re college-educated, based in the U.S., and have an internet connection, go ahead and apply.

Zirtual provides on-the-job training, and most of its team members make $12-$16 per hour. Zirtual VAs work for Fortune 500 companies, investors, and mom-and-pop shops.

Best work-from-home opportunity for passive income: Airbnb

If you want to make some extra money and have a space to rent out at home, why not list it on Airbnb? Airbnb hosts make nearly $1,000 per month, on average, simply for giving people a place to stay.

Sure, being an Airbnb host means keeping the rental space clean and tidy. But if you’re already on top of your household chores, it’s not a lot of extra work. Plus, you’ll get to meet people from all around the world in the comfort of your own home.

Best work-from-home opportunity for artsy types: 99Designs

If you know your way around graphic design software, 99Designs can be a lucrative work-from-home opportunity. There are two ways to do it: Either you can compete with other members of the 99Designs community on design challenges, or you can work directly with clients.

Our advice? Start with competitions. There’s no commitment, and you can choose projects that inspire you. Realize that you’ll probably need to enter a few before you start winning them.

Once you’ve won a few contests, brand representatives will begin to reach out to you directly. You can also bring your own clients to the platform, which makes it easy to save and share your work.

Best work-from-home opportunity for recent grads: Tutor.com

It’s hard out there for recent grads. If you’re not sure how to put your education to use but would prefer to work from home, check out Tutor.com. Whether your background is in math, science, history, or some other discipline, you’ll find students in need of support.

Affiliated with the Princeton Review, Tutor.com lets you work as few as 5 hours per week or as many as 29. Plus, you can pick up unscheduled sessions in your spare time.

Why can’t you set up your own tutoring service? You could, but finding clients can be a pain. And once you do, you may have to spend hours tracking down payments. Tutoring on an established platform avoids both time-sucks.

Best work-from-home opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs: Nu Skin

Opportunity platform Nu Skin makes it easy to become an entrepreneur. Nu Skin’s independent brand affiliates sell skincare products directly to consumers in nearly 50 markets. As they build teams, they also have the potential to earn commissions on the products which their team members sell to consumers, which encourages them to mentor the newcomers in their group.

Like other entrepreneurs, Nu Skin’s brand affiliates are responsible for their own expenses, but a unique leg up they have is that they have products that are tried, tested, and supported by a reputable company. Brand affiliates can set their own hours, manage their own teams, and they have the resources and tools to grow their businesses. This helps them be able to have some of the benefits of the gig economy, but have the potential to do more. Brand affiliates engage with customers remotely through social media, in-person meetings, and other platforms.

Best work-from-home opportunity for full-time hours: Amazon

In a lot of cases, work-from-home opportunities offer part-time or inconsistent hours. If you want a full-time job you can do from your couch, check out Amazon. Positions range from sales to software development to customer service.

Because positions range widely, however, so do salaries and benefits. Know your worth, and remember that you can always cobble together a full-time gig from two or more part-time ones.

Best work-from-home opportunity for writers: Verblio

Can you turn a phrase on a dime? Check out Verblio, an online freelance writing platform. Verblio writers pen a range of content, from 300-word blog posts to website copy to e-books. Editing opportunities come up on occasion.

If you want to work for Verblio, you’ll need to have great grammar, research, and content marketing skills. You’ll get to choose industries that align with your expertise, ranging from healthcare to cannabis to real estate.

Best work-from-home opportunity for social butterflies: Arise

Arise’s remote customer service representatives provide support for big-name companies, including Intuit and Airbnb. Earning up to $14 per hour, Arise workers choose their hours and need nothing more than a phone and a quiet space at home.

One plus of this work-from-home opportunity? You’ll never get lonely. The work is a matter of answering questions, triaging support needs, and helping clients deliver exceptional customer experience.

Best work-from-home opportunity for fashionistas: Stella and Dot

Do you want to have a future in fashion, but you can’t pick up stakes for a place like New York City? Stella and Dot’s work-from-home opportunities are second to none.

In a nutshell, Stella and Dot stylists get paid to share and wear jewelry. Many of them sell on social media, while others put on “trunk shows” — which are essentially Tupperware parties for the fashion world.

With that said, Stella and Dot is also a good way to earn some income on the side: More than eight in 10 of them actually hold full- or part-time jobs elsewhere.

Best work-from-home opportunity for multilingual people: Gengo

Are you fluent in two or more languages? Apply to work at Gengo. Gengo is a language translation service that serves Amazon, YouTube, The New York Times, and even the U.S. government agencies.

The company has more than 21,000 translators across all major time zones, covering more than 70 language pairs. Gengo translators earn an average of $417 per month, but income varies depending on customer demand, hours worked, and job availability.

Best work-from-home opportunity for English buffs: VIPkid

If you’re a “word nerd” or love to read, VIPkid has the perfect work-from-home opportunity for you: English tutoring. VIPkid students are primarily Chinese, but because it’s an immersive program, tutors don’t need to be able to speak the language.

Although VIPkid does require a six-month commitment, the pay is good. Tutors earn between $15 and $22 per hour, depending on their prior experience and hours worked. Tutors must be authorized to work in the U.S. or Canada and need a bachelor’s degree, but all majors are accepted.

Best work-from-home opportunity for role-agnostics: Kelly Services

What if you’re a multi-talented person who’ll take pretty much any work-from-home opportunity, so long as the pay is right? Kelly Services is an employment agency that focuses on remote work.

Founded back in 1946, Kelly Services employs almost 440,000 workers. It fills positions in an enormous range of industries, from accounting to automotive to IT to life sciences. Kelly Services fills temporary positions, as well as part- and full-time ones.

Best work-from-home opportunity for healthcare experts: United Healthcare

Although a lot of healthcare jobs must be done in person, a surprising number of them can be accomplished remotely. United Healthcare offers hundreds of work-from-home opportunities, ranging from customer service to clinical care to medical billing.

One of the world’s largest healthcare companies, United Healthcare employs nearly a quarter-million people across all 50 states. Plus, positions in the healthcare industry tend to pay handsomely.

Best work-from-home opportunity for home-decor junkies: Williams-Sonoma

Does a beautifully decorated room make you swoon? Consider work-from-home opportunities with Williams-Sonoma. The California-based retailer sells everything from bakeware to wreaths to barbeque grills.

Most of the remote-work opportunities with Williams-Sonoma are customer service positions. The perks and pay are good, though: Agents start at $12 per hour, with three weeks of paid training from home. They also get a 40% discount on most Williams-Sonoma products.

Best work-from-home opportunity for tech gurus: Dell

If you’re happy to spend all day writing code or troubleshooting consumer tech, a work-from-home opportunity with Dell might be right for you. Dell has team members in more than 15 countries and is consistently named a “best place to work.”

Although most people know Dell as a computer brand, it’s actually a do-it-all tech company. Partnerships with companies like SecureWorks enable Dell workers to get their feet wet in cybersecurity, a notoriously in-demand field.

Best work-from-home opportunity for travel fanatics: Dream Vacations

If you’d like to either be at home or on an adventure, Dream Vacations has work-from-home opportunities you might want to check out. As a franchisee, you get the flexibility of working from home — or on whatever beach you might be enjoying at the time — with the credibility of a brand.

Beware, though, that work as a travel agent is fast-paced. Not only do franchisees need to develop their own client relationships, but they also have to manage bookings and handle billing. To make it a little easier, Dream Vacations provides online training modules and social media support.

Best work-from-home opportunity for tax experts: Intuit TurboTax

If you’re a certified public accountant or enrolled agent, consider a remote tax preparation role with Intuit’s TurboTax division. Intuit welcomes tax experts at all levels of their career, but experience with tax-prep software is a must. Bilingualism is a plus.

One plus of this work-from-home opportunity? Overtime pay around peak times. Because tax preparation is a seasonal industry, home-based tax preparers can make a pretty penny around quarterly tax filing deadlines.

Work-from-home opportunities have never been more plentiful. But as is true of in-person opportunities, you shouldn’t take a position simply because it’s open.

Check out the company, talk to other members of the team, and find the right fit: Yours is out there, and the best part is, you don’t even have to leave your home to find it.

How to Bounce Back from a Setback in the Workplace

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10 Deliberate Sacrifices You Must Make if You Want to be Successful

Business is full of pressure to succeed. As a leader, your team members depend on you to have a vision and answers to their questions. So what happens if you fail in front of them? 

Perhaps you dropped the ball on an important project. Maybe you misdirected your team in a way that hurt the company. Or maybe, you’ve upset your team in a personal way. These actions jeopardize the rapport you’ve built with them.  

As a leader, solving problems is an essential aspect of your role. But when you’ve caused the problem, solving it gets a bit more complicated. What’s more, the impulse to overcompensate is ever-present and can make matters worse.

Despite the complications, there are basic steps you can take to bounce back from major setbacks. Take a look at the following ways to do so without overcompensating: 

1. Accept personal responsibility.

Often when we fail, we may get defensive. These tendencies cause us to blame others or deflect from the issue. But bouncing back from a setback starts with accepting your mistakes. 

When you deflect and blame others, you become a victim of circumstance. But accepting personal responsibility gives you a sense of control. By seeing the ways that you contributed to a problem, you are able to be part of the solution. 

Accepting personal responsibility is a multi-step process. Get started by:

  • Reflecting on the process that led to the failure
  • Unpacking your thoughts and feelings associated with the failure
  • Responding graciously when others point out your mistake
  • Being intentional about rectifying the situation

 

Even if others contributed to the problem or failure, you’re better off focusing on your role. From there, you can begin to rebuild.

2. Don’t succumb to depression and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety are common responses to your problems and failures. And they can creep in as a result of accepting personal responsibility. 

When you’re going through these emotions, it’s best to take a step back. This might mean taking a short break from work. Or it might mean engaging in an activity that you love in order to recover. 

You don’t need to rush your recovery. Whatever it takes, take the time to get to a healthier state of mind. 

3. Reframe the issue.

One way to stop yourself from wallowing in your problems is to reframe the issue. It involves taking a step back and thinking of your situation from a different angle. 

Instead of viewing a setback as an insurmountable problem, try seeing it as an opportunity to grow. For example, if you’ve strained a relationship with an employee, focus on how reconciling can strengthen the relationship.

Reframing an issue is not necessarily about looking at the bright side. That approach can lead to toxic positivity. On the contrary, reframing is looking at the objective facts of a situation. Those facts will show you that failure is inevitable for everyone — but is also fixable by everyone.

From there, use those facts to embrace your potential. You are defined more by how you rise from failure than the failure itself. 

4. Address the problem with your team. 

Actions speak louder than words, but words are also important. It can be awkward in the office to carry on regularly as though nothing significant happened. You might think you’re saving face, but this is nothing more than overcompensation. You need to acknowledge these issues with your team. 

Doing so is key to maintaining transparency at your company. Unless you speak up, you’ll struggle to build and maintain trust with your team. This is especially important when your failure in leadership has caused persistently problematic team relations. 

A moment like this calls for a meeting. Give your team a heads up about what you’d like to talk about, and encourage them to bring their own challenges. After all, you’ll need everyone on board to move forward. 

5. Create a plan to remedy the situation.

Detailing the actions you’ll take to solve the problem is the final and most important step in a successful bounceback. As a leader, it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your competence. 

The good news is, you won’t be in it alone. The input from your team members will help you refine your plans and put them into practice. Lean on them to build a healthier, more stable culture across the team. 

Good leaders are built through tests. A major setback might be hard to go through — but it may also be just what you needed to transform into a better version of yourself. 

How to Inspire Your Team’s Creative Impulses

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Creativity is more than the ability to crack a clever joke or paint something beautiful. At work, it’s essential for growth and innovation. A team that thinks outside the box can solve difficult problems in new, cost-effective ways. 

The trouble is, genuine creativity is tough to incentivize.. Simply telling your team to be more creative certainly won’t work. But rewarding creativity can also have adverse effects. It can stifle a creative process that should be rewarding in and of itself. 

Because of this, some take an “either you have it or you don’t” approach to creativity. But creativity can be cultivated, just like sales or leadership skills can be. 

With the right leadership and culture, creativity can flourish. Here’s how to be that leader for your team:

1. Diversify your team.

There are plenty of reasons to be inclusive at work, but there’s no question diverse teams are more creative. If everyone on your team comes from a similar background, you’ll likely approach issues the same way. That may make coming to a consensus easier, but challenges are necessary to refine ideas. 

Diversifying your staff involves bringing people from different cultural, religious, ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds together. Gender, sexuality, and age are also important axes to consider. 

To deepen your team’s diversity, bring in a broad range of personality types, values, and abilities. This approach helps you appreciate the perspectives of a full person rather than a single demographic component.  

2. Empower fresh faces.

When people first start out at your company, they’re still getting used to your processes and culture. That doesn’t mean their perspective isn’t valuable, though. 

In fact, someone who isn’t fully integrated into your organization may be more valuable, creatively speaking. They can bring fresh ideas that aren’t hindered by the baggage that seasoned employees may have. 

Ask for their input during meetings. Run proposals and innovation ideas by them. Better yet, give them a project of their own to lead. 

A new employee’s creativity can also fuel the creative impulses of senior team members. In this case, a little competition can be healthy: Let employees of different tenures push each other to come up with new ideas and ways of working. 

3. Promote fictional media consumption.

The media we consume impacts us immensely. Fictional media, whether it be books, film, or television, positively impacts our creativity

Why? Because fictional narratives engage us in scenarios that aren’t found in the real world. They allow us to think through unfamiliar possibilities. Non-fiction and journalistic media simply can’t do that. 

The good news is, your employees are probably already watching TV and movies on their own. Encourage them to think critically about what they’re viewing. Consider following a series or franchise together and discussing it. Another option is to start a book club at the office to promote fiction reading. 

4. Support risk-taking efforts.

A primary reason people shy away from taking risks is they fear the consequences of failure. However, risk-taking is inherent to creativity. You can’t have one without the other. 

Ease the pressure of risk-taking for your team. Compliment people who are willing to take risks. And if an effort fails, don’t punish the people who gave it a shot. In fact, throw a party for the “biggest fail” each month.

A supported team is a risk-taking team. The more confident you can make people feel in themselves and their actions, the more willing they’ll be to try new things.

5. Don’t lead with limitations. 

When embarking on a new goal or plan, some leaders kill creativity by starting with the negative. Before the first dollar has been spent, they worry about costs. With no reason to worry about the team’s commitment, they wonder whether contributors are up to the task.

Don’t stifle your team’s imaginations. Give people the resources they need, empower them to try new things, and express confidence in them.

What if roadblocks come up? Worry about them at that time. When you set expectations around a project, what matters most is opening space for people to articulate their vision. Ground these ideas in practicalities later.

6. Visualize data. 

Words and numbers on a page can only do so much. Being more creative with how you construct and communicate data creates a flywheel effect, spurring more creativity. 

Mindmapping, flowcharts, diagrams, and hierarchical charts are great ways to represent information. They spark creativity by showing the relationships between sets of data and illuminating nuances.

Invest in a data visualization tool that even non-technical team members can use, like Tableau. Challenge people to come up with their own intriguing visualizations.

7. Enhance your office environment. 

A drab, depressing office environment doesn’t exactly encourage creativity. An inspiring office space feels fresh, exciting, and joyful. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be expensive. Paint the walls a lively color. Bring in some plants and natural light. Hang your favorite art pieces up, and decorate your desk. 

While you’re at it, give employees more creative control over their personal space. Autonomy breeds creativity, which you can tap for work tasks. 

Creativity isn’t just for people in the arts. Just about everyone has a creative impulse that can be valuable to a team. The key is to invest in those impulses and bring them out whenever you can.

Calendar Spam is a Problem (How to Fix)

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Calendar Spam is a Problem (How to Fix)

First, there was email spam. Then came text spam. Now, as more people use digital calendars on their computers and calendar apps on their mobile devices, many people get digital calendar spam. That means more clutter in our in-box from people we don’t know. Calendar invite spam has to stop.

A New Frontier For Spamming

Spammers are always looking for that way in to get their messages or links in front of more people. Now, they’ve found that they can take advantage of Google’s convenient email and calendar integration feature to inundate more people with their junk. Spammers previously went after Apple to exploit a similar calendar invite feature a few years ago.

Created as a way to help Google Calendar users save time with scheduling and meeting invites, the Google Calendar invite feature lets you  automatically add meeting invites to your calendar.  Although the meeting invite only appears as an outline until the recipient selects “yes” or “no,” the meeting invite still appears on a user’s Google Calendar.

The Calendar Invite Spam Threat is Real

Spammers have upped their game with this ploy. When a user clicks on the event description within that meeting invite, it reveals a spam message, which can have malicious links embedded in it. Spammers want users to cllick on those links, of course, because it can lead to the potential of capturing personal information. If a user does click on the link, it tells the spammer that it’s an active email account. From there, the spammer can inundate the user with unsolicited emails.

Except for the spammers, no one, including Google, is pleased with this new scheme. Google has reiterated its privacy policy and focus on protecting its users. Plus, the company has provided guidance on how to address calendar invite spam.

How to Remove Calendar Spam from Your Google Calendar

There are some quick ways to shut down calendar spam notifications from within your Google Calendar.

  1. Open your Google Calendar.
  2. Click on the gear icon, which is located at the top of the Google Calendar page.
  3. Select “Settings” from this menu.
  4. Next, choose “Event settings” from the list located on the left side.
  5. Change the “Automatically add invitations” option to the other choice listed, which is “No, only show invitations to which I have responded.” This means a meeting will only be added to your Google Calendar if you accept the meeting invite.

This process should remove all calendar invite spam from your Google Calendar so you can stop wasting your time opening invites that aren’t real and minimize your risk for becoming a victim of something more malicious.

How to Remove Calendar Spam from Your Apple Calendar

You may also receive calendar spam in your Yahoo Calendar. Yahoo has a very basic process for dealing with these spam Calendar invitations. Yahoo recommends treating the calendar invite spam like normal spam email by clicking the ‘spam’ button.

From there, you have to delete the individual event from your calendar separately. Choose the option that says “Delete” when clicking on the event. Don’t respond to the invitation itself or click any of the notifications within the invitation like where it says “Decline” because this will send a response to the spammer, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid. Then, you can also report calendar invite spam to Yahoo.

Remain Vigilant

Spammers will continue to “innovate” their exploitive tactics by studying new software and app features to get what they want. To slow the pace of spammers’ efforts and perhaps even discourage them, it’s important that we all remain vigilant when it comes to understanding and blocking their schemes.

Here’s to a spam free calendar in the coming years!

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