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10 Support Organizations for Productive Entrepreneurs

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10 Support Organizations for Entrepreneurs

I have no regrets about being an entrepreneur. Chasing my dreams and starting my own business was the best decision I ever made. That’s not to say that it’s always been easy. I’ve had businesses fail, sacrificed relationships, and had to deal with daily challenges. Handling upset customers or motivating employees are the smaller situations to deal with.

To make matters worse, on the really big things — I’ve felt that I’ve had to overcome these hurdles all by myself.

The Top 10 Support Organizations for Productive Entrepreneurs

  1. Entrepreneur’s Organization
  2. Business Network International
  3. Young Presidents Organization
  4. Small Giants Community
  5. Vistage
  6. Young Entrepreneur Council
  7. Startup Grind
  8. 8. Founder Institute
  9. 9. Baby Bathwater Institute
  10. 10. StartUp Nation

It can be lonely being an entrepreneur.

You see, it can be lonely being an entrepreneur. And when you’re going through a rough patch or need some inspiration — it’s not always available. After all, there’s not always someone around who has shared these same experiences.

The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. There is no shortage of organizations that you can join to help support you during your journey.

Here are ten of my favorite support organizations for entrepreneurs that they should join today.

1. Entrepreneur’s Organization

Since its inception in 1987, EO is regularly considered one of the best organizations for entrepreneurs to join. For starters, this peer-to-peer network connects its more than 13,000 members from across the world. From there, EO aims to guide them in expanding and strengthening their business.

Members of the Entrepreneur’s Organization also receive perks like personal mentorships, participating in forums where you can learn from the experiences of successful business owners.

These opportunities are also extended to attend exclusive global or local chapter events. EO members can also become a part of the Healthnetwork Foundation to gain VIP access to the 30 of the most highly ranked hospitals in the U.S.

The stipulation is that your company is doing at least $1 million a year in revenue or has received $2 million in venture funding.

2. Business Network International

Started by a group of friends in California in the early 1980s, BNI has become the leading referral organization in the world with over 240,000 members. In fact, in 2017 alone, BNI member referrals generated a whopping $13.6 billion in revenue for member businesses.

BNI focuses primarily on lead sharing and networking for solopreneurs through weekly meetings and exclusive resources. For example, you can have breakfast with several other solopreneurs and salespeople at a local chapter to help each other increase sales. Even if you decide to leave BNI, it’s easy to imagine that you’ll maintain those connections.

To become a member, simply complete a brief application and if approved you’ll be contacted by BNI’s Global Alliance Approval Team.

3. Young Presidents Organization

Similar to EO in terms of events and forums, the Young Presidents Organization has been connecting and empowering its more than 25,000 chief executives in 130 countries since 1950. The main differences are that you don’t have to be the founder of a business, just its current leader, and the revenue requirements are higher.

As a member, YPO will assist you in personal development, learning business practices, and how you can impact your community. Besides the exclusive events and forums — YPO achieves this mission through a series of excellent podcasts — such as the program “Ten Minute Tips from the Top.”

This is where members and experts share advice and insights.

4. Small Giants Community

Compared to the other organizations on this list, Small Giants Community is relatively new — the groundwork was laid in 2006. It’s quickly become a community where purpose-driven leaders and entrepreneurs.

As an entrepreneur, you can share your experiences and advice through podcasts, blog posts, and virtual peer groups. There are also amazing discussion-based webinars called Fishbowls to provide you with practical systems that you can apply to your business.

Small Giants Community also offers a one-year certification program to help leaders grow.

The program consists of face-to-face meetings with a learning cohort, virtual learning sessions, and event tickets to two Small Giants gatherings.

What makes this community so unique is that the members are extremely positive and helpful, as opposed to the exhausting “What can you do for me?” mentality you experience at most networking opportunities.

5. Vistage

If you’re a CEO looking for an organization that focuses on business and coaching, then Vistage is a solid choice. Like EO and YPO, this is done through monthly forum meetings with your peers.

At Vistage, a paid coach or moderator will work with you one-on-one.

Vistage, which has been around since 1957 — states that members can become better by:

  • Gaining insights by connecting you with “salient, trustworthy and applicable insights and resources.
  • Becoming better leaders by developing new skills through training.
  • Helping you make better decisions by refining your instincts, improving your judgment, and expanding your perspectives.
  • Achieving better results. In fact, it’s been found that Vistage member companies grew 2.2 times faster than average small and medium-sized U.S. businesses.

6. Young Entrepreneur Council

Founded by Scott Gerber, the Young Entrepreneur Council is recommended for founders, co-founders, and business owners. These founders generate at least one million dollars in annual revenue — or one million dollars in financing. The catch is that in order to be invited to join you must be under the age of 45.

As a member of YEC — you have access to tools, mentorship, community, and educational resources. In addition, you have the chance to partake in monthly Q&As and connect with super connecters who will support you through each stage of your business from development to growth.

To convince you to join, you can also receive discounts for select conferences and be invited to VIP experiences at exclusive art, film, music, fashion, and sporting events.

Through a series of partnerships, you can also receive discounts on travel, insurance, and HR benefits.

7. Startup Grind

Founded in 2010, Startup Grind is one of my personal favorites. It’s a global community with members in 150+ countries where each month there’s an event for you to network with your fellow entrepreneurs.

Each event also features local founders, investors, innovators, and educators who share their success stories and what they’ve learned during their journey.

Startup Grind also shares advice and insights from these successful entrepreneurs through blog posts, podcasts, and videos.

However, what’s really drawn me to this group are its values, which are believing in making friends, not contacts; giving, not taking; and helping others before helping yourself.

8. Founder Institute

The Founder Institute is an ideal organization to join if you’re in the early stages of your startup. They’ve even dubbed themselves as “ the world’s premier pre-seed accelerator.”

As a member, the Founder Institute has developed a methodology that has helped launch over 3,000 companies since 2009. This includes creating an Equity Collective for a support network and a three to five-month program to assist you in making your idea into an actual business.

Even after completing the program, you’ll receive a lifetime of support. To join, you’ll have to pay a $50 application fee, as well as a course fee of around $1,200.

9. Baby Bathwater Institute

Yes. The name is a little out-there. But, this is an excellent and active community made up of entrepreneurs from a variety of industries. What makes it stand out from other groups are the unique events.

Instead of the traditional networking event or workshop, these all-inclusive events are held in the mountains of Utah or on Baby Bathwater Island in Croatia.

I would consider this more an experience where you can go on an adventure while meeting new friends, while also gaining fresh perspectives and business solutions

10. StartUp Nation

Last, but certainly not least, there’s StartupNation.

Founded in 2002, StartupNation provides an endless amount of resources. These topics include such help as starting your business, growing your business, and managing your business through blog posts, an engaged online community, and a radio show.

You can use the forums to exchange ideas or find a mentor or business partner. StartupNation also provides the following services:

  • Logo design.
  • Website, development.
  • Copywriting.
  • Domain name registration.
  • Incorporation.
  • Business consultation.
  • Public relations.

Best of all, it’s free to join this community of more than 101,000 registered members.

How to Collaborate, Engage, and Influence Others Using the SCARF Model

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How to Collaborate, Engage, and Influence Others Using the SCARF Model

Growing up surrounded by technology, Millennials and Zoomers take for granted how intimidating and overwhelming this can be for different generations. Case in my point, my father. I’m not sneering here — but he’s a Boomer and still has trouble navigating his smartphone — he can barely store new contacts.

Over the years, I have literally sat next to him and given him step-by-instructions — the same ones — over and over. He still misuses his phone. Eventually, he just ignores my feedback and gives me the briefest of cold shoulders.

Initially, I took his actions way too personally. Here I was trying to help him and this was his reaction? Not cool.

The thing is, after some time, I could empathize with my old man. I’ve also been frustrated or standoffish when someone has offered advice or feedback. My guess is that we all have felt a little threatened under the correction and instruction of others.

But don’t just take my word on this. Research has backed this claim up—specifically, the work of neuroscientist Dr. David Rock and his SCARF model.

What is the SCARF model?

Back in 2008, Dr. Rock, who I think has one of the coolest names ever, published the paper “SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others.” In it, he outlines the five key “domains” that influence our behavior in social situations.

  • Status — our relative importance to others.
  • Certainty — our concerns about predicting the future.
  • Autonomy — a sense of control over events.
  • Relatedness — how safe we feel when around others.
  • Fairness — the perception of fairness between people.

Dr. Rock just didn’t grab this out of thin air. He based his research on previous neuroscience research to come to the following themes.

“Firstly, that much of our motivation driving social behavior is governed by an overarching organizing principle of minimizing threat and maximizing reward,” he wrote. “Secondly, that several domains of social experience draw upon the same brain networks to maximize reward and minimize threat as the brain networks used for primary survival needs.”

“In other words, social needs are treated in much the same way in the brain as the need for food and water,” he clarifies. “The SCARF model summarizes these two themes within a framework that captures the common factors that can activate a reward or threat response in social situations.”

Additionally, the SCARF model “can be applied (and tested) in any situation where people collaborate in groups.” Social events, family gatherings, education environments, and all workplace settings are all fair game.

How the SCARF model affects the workplace.

Confused? Don’t be. The main takeaway is that the foundation of this model is all about minimizing threats and maximizing rewards.

For example, you weren’t invited to a team meeting or after-hours event. You might view that as a threat to your status and relatedness. As a result, that might can stimulate the part of the brain where physical pain resides.

When you receive negative feedback, like customer reviews or the mistakes you’ve made, that releases cortisol, aka the “stress hormone.” By responding to this threat, your survival response is triggered. As a consequence, this can:

  • Speed up your heart rate and increase blood pressure.
  • You’re tenser and on edge.
  • Decrease creativity and focus.
  • Reduce the ability to solve problems.
  • Make it more difficult to communicate and collaborate.

On the flip side, when you feel rewarded, like being acknowledged and celebrated for your work, your brain releases dopamine, aka the “happy hormone.” In turn, this increases blood flow to the brain. And, when this occurs, you’ll be more creative, focused, and receptive to fresh insights and ideas.

Also, because you’re floating on top of cloud 9, you’ll want to be rewarded again. So, this motivates you to keep putting your best foot forward.

How to use the SCARF model.

Overall, the SCARF model can be used to collaborate, engage, and influence others. But, to make that possible, let’s explore how you can use each domain of the model.

Status

“Status is about relative importance, ‘pecking order’ and seniority,” writes Dr. Rock. “Humans hold a representation of status in relation to others when in conversations, and this affects mental processes in many ways.” For instance, when you win a game, you feel better than your opponents, which in turn increases dopamine levels.

As a leader, you can maximize rewards through regular paise and celebrating wins — regardless of how big or small. You can also give them a chance to voice their opinions and learn new skills.

To eliminate threats, never take credit for their hard work or dismiss their ideas. Furthermore, you may want to skip the performance reviews and let them evaluate their own performance.

Certainty

Since the brain is a “pattern-recognition machine,” it craves certainty. “Without prediction, the brain must use dramatically more resources, involving the more energy-intensive prefrontal cortex, to process moment-to-moment experience,” adds Rock. In fact, even the slightest hint of uncertainty can generate “an ‘error’ response in the orbital frontal cortex.”

Why’s that a problem? When this occurs, it diverts our attention away from our goals. And, we’re more focused on correcting the error.

How leaders provide certainty in an uncertain world? Well, here are some top suggestions;

  • Establish crystal clear guidelines and expectations.
  • Break down larger goals or projects into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  • Agree on desirable deadlines and outcomes with the entire team.
  • Create an agenda, so that meeting attendees know what to expect.
  • Be transparent and share relevant information.
  • Set boundaries by having consistent operating hours.

When change does inevitably happen, you can manage it and reduce threats by;

  • Declaring your vision change.
  • Follow the “3 C’s,” which are communicate, collaborate, and commit.
  • Identify your All-Stars and get them on board.
  • Keep stress at a minimum and boost morale by celebrating milestones.
  • Reduce change fatigue by building trust and making sure everyone has a sense of belonging.
  • Follow through with your plans, but be flexible.
  • Measure and analyze metrics and KPIs to see if you’ve reached your goals.

Autonomy

Autonomy is the perception of exerting control over one’s environment; a sensation of having choices,” explains Rock. The less autonomy we have, the more a situation is perceived as a threat. When we feel like we have control, this activates the reward structures of the brain.

In order to minimize threats, encourage ownership among your team. When you do, this will tap into their intrinsic motivation. And, you can accomplish this by;

  • Encourage your team members to ask questions and express their opinions.
  • Let your team members chose how they’ll complete a task or solve a problem.
  • Permit flexible schedules.
  • Learn how to delegate effectively.
  • Provide constructive feedback.
  • Let them show off their strengths and talents.
  • Make sure that they always have the right tools and resources.
  • Build trust by not micromanaging your team.
  • Use mistakes as learning opportunities.

Relatedness

“Relatedness involves deciding whether others are ‘in’ or ‘out’ of a social group,” Rock states. It’s also “a driver of behavior in many types of teams, from sports teams to organizational silos: people naturally like to form ‘tribes’ where they experience a sense of belonging.”

In short, we want to be a part of a group. When we have this sense of belonging, this releases oxytocin. When we don’t, this can block empathy and diminish creativity.

The answer to encouraging relatedness? Creating a connected culture. You can do this through team-building activities, scheduling one-on-ones, or having team lunches. Other recommendations would be making them feel psychologically safe, providing mentorship opportunities, and showing gratitude.

Fairness

Lastly, we prefer a sense of equity and equality in group settings. When we’re faced with an injustice, this sets off a strong threat response. In fact, this might make us feel disgusted.

To promote fairness, always be transparent when making decisions. For example, a team member was promoted because they have exceeded expectations, like surpassing a sales quota or obtaining a certificate. Moreover, you must practice diversity and inclusion.

Autonomy, celebrating accomplishments, and having a culture built on shared values all can achieve this as well. And, always treat everyone with the same level of respect. For example, if you planned to meet an employee for lunch at noon, don’t arrive at 12:30.

How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

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How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

Even though technology has made working remotely possible, it was still a luxury for most employees. In fact, under 5 million worked at home before 2020. And, as you know, a global pandemic changed all that.

Since then, 62% of employed Americans have reported that they have worked from home during the crisis. And, no matter what happens, a majority of them would prefer to do so.

Because of this, leaders have had to step up their game. They’ve had to get used to communicating and collaborating virtually. And, even more challenging, they’ve had to learn to trust their team members.

How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

Unlike being in an office where you would expect to see your people working, you’ve had to believe that they’re doing the same thing at home. You’ve also had to learn that they need flexibility in order to meet both their professional and personal demands.

The good news? You can still build an accountable work from home team. When you do, you’ll still meet deadlines, while earning the trust of your team members.

Create a team-facing work-from-home policy.

“You need a solid work-from-home policy that plainly lays out how your remote team operates,” writes Jeremy Elder for Hubstaff.” It should also cover “what you ask of your teams when they’re working away from the office.”

Why? That’s easy. “Employees can’t deliver what you want unless they understand what you expect of them,” explains Elder.

When developing this policy, however, make sure that’s just not a list of procedural steps. It should be something that “inspires and educates on why your strong remote work culture is a reflection of the larger mission and values of your business.”

Elder adds that a solid remote work policy will answer the following questions:

  • Who can work from home?
  • When and how often can they work from home?
  • Who approves remote work requests?
  • What equipment and amenities are required?
  • What security and privacy measures must be taken?
  • Is remote work completed on a flexible schedule, or must the team member complete work during specific hours?
  • What meeting standards must be met while working from home?

You may also want to address things like dress codes and meeting availability. And, you may also want to be flexible with deadlines. Even though your team is working remotely, they will still have to deal handle personal issues that may pop-up.

Not only will this keep your current team members productive, but you can also use this to attract talent. Why? Because 72% of talent professionals have stated that “flexible working and remote options are very important” when attracting new workers.

Get to know your team members.

Not everyone is cut out for remote work. Knowing this, you would bring on those who are. Unfortunately, that’s not how the cookie crumbles — just look at how the coronavirus made WFH a necessity.

As such, you should spend time with each of your team members. Find out where they’re struggling so that you can mentor or help them. For example, maybe they never had a proper workspace at home. If not, you could send them a standing desk or share resources on how to create a home office.

Additionally, this lets you know when they’re most productive. Let’s say you a team member who is a morning bird. You should anticipate that they need the AM to focus on work, so you might want to have a one-on-one with them in the afternoon. Also, you shouldn’t be frustrated if they’re not available at night.

And, this can also help you know the challenges that they’re facing. If bandwidth is an issue at a certain time, you may want to recommend other locations where they can work. Or, you could be flexible with their availability.

Don’t complicate communication and collaboration.

Try to streamline your communication and collaboration by limiting the number of tools that you use. It can get confusing switching back and forth with platforms. Even worse, your team members may misplace a piece of information because it was located in an Outlook email when Gmail is preferred.

At the minimum, you should create and manage a shared team calendar. It’s a simple way to remind everyone of due dates, map out projects, track progress, and schedule meetings. Other suggestions are:

  • Messaging platforms like Slack. Create both channels for work and non-work topics.
  • Project management software like Basecamp, Trello, or Monday.com. These can help you assign tasks, share files, and track progress.
  • Google Apps like Gmail and Docs for easier communication and collaboration.
  • Web conferencing tools like Zoom or Go2Meeting. These can aid in brainstorming, check-ins, and combat the loneliness of remote working. Just be aware of Zoom fatigue so that you and your team don’t get exhausted.

Set hard deadlines, but trust they’ll be met.

You don’t want to be a nuisance. However, you should frequently check-in with your team members to see how they’re progressing. Some leaders prefer a daily check-in, while others are cool with doing this weekly.

The reason? Just to make sure that there aren’t any hiccups. If so, you can either jump in and lend a hand or push back a deadline.

At the same time, if you’re set goals with hard deadlines, you won’t have to communicate with them as often. Why? Because deadlines make us feel the pressure of accountability and can counter procrastination.

Focus on output, not time-in-seat.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced more people to work from home. While some thrived, others had to adjust — particularly employers and managers. “One of the biggest holdbacks of remote work is trust — managers simply don’t trust their people to work untethered,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “They’re used to managing by counting butts in seats rather than by results. ”

As a consequence, employers embraced tools to monitor and track everything from keystrokes, email, app usage, and file transfers. They also used time tracking tools and screenshots.

The thing is, working remotely doesn’t mean you’re sticking to a traditional 8-hour workday. You might put in an hour or two, but then do laundry or homeschool your kids. Or, you may be more of a night owl and get most of your work done in the evening.

“I think there’s an opportunity here to learn how to be a manager that values output, not time-in-seat,” Natalie Nagele, cofounder of Wildbit, told Fast Company. “To me, the value of remote work is that trust and that ability to empower every person to manage their time, to manage their days and their responsibilities around an output.”

“We make a promise to each other,” adds Natalie. “I’m gonna deliver on this thing, and if I can’t deliver it to you, I’m going to communicate why.”

Provide (and solicit) feedback.

What happens if a project has been delivered and it’s not exactly what you wanted? Don’t belittle the person responsible. Instead, go over with them what they did wrong and how to improve.

On the flip side, ask them where you can improve. Maybe your instructions weren’t crystal clear. Now that you’re aware of this, you’ll set clear project expectations and guidelines going forward.

Know when it’s time to micromanage.

Make no mistake about it. Micromanagement drives employees crazy. That’s why you should grant autonomy and let them do their thing.

However, there will be times when this is necessary. Examples include:

  • Employee engagement has become stagnant.
  • Your company is going through a period of uncertainty.
  • Your business is changing direction.
  • You want to unleash the full potential of a team member.
  • The results have been disappointing.
  • There’s a new leader, employee, or unit.
  • You want to build a culture of collaboration.
  • Your business is venturing into new territory.
  • A project requires very specific results.
  • Your team is struggling with time management.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should interrupt your team when you know that they’re working or off-the-clock. Instead, it’s al about balancing micro and macro-management.

The 6 Reasons Most Miscommunications Occur

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The 6 Reasons Most Miscommunications Occur

Miscommunications happen frequently with most everyone I know. Technology has allowed us to communicate faster but not necessarily better. While some miscommunication is merely annoying, it’s those awful miscommunications that occur at the most inopportune moments that put unnecessary stress on us all, creating conflict and can be a disrupting influence in relationships.

While some of the root causes for miscommunication seem obvious, I’ve found others by being on the receiving end or being when I’m the guilty party. From my own experiences, here are six reasons why I believe most miscommunication occurs:

1. You know what you are thinking but it’s not actually what you say. Sometimes what you are thinking makes no sense to anyone else but you.

I’ve been on both sides of this miscommunication link and it can be confusing for all parties involved. Writing or verbalizing what we think can be challenging, especially when we’re rushing. We may be delegating while in the midst of a business event or trying to multitask when we shouldn’t.

My team suffers a lot from this because of me. I delegate a task and expect them to know what’s going on in my brain. Well… that’s not the case and will never be.

Learn to let others know everything you’re thinking, even if it’s not all the way thought out so that together you can come up with the best possible outcome. I also like to verbalize my instructions as well as write them down in a recap so others know exactly what I mean. This over the years has helped me to sound a lot less like a jerk.

2. You are saying too much and complicating the communication. This leads to more and more miscommunications.

You are the only one of you. Not everybody is going to be able to do things as fast or as perfect as you. I had to learn this the hard way with my first business partnership. I would word dump things that didn’t need to be said. This cause a lot of miscommunication and ultimately ended our working arrangement.

I especially see this with the creative types because they have a tendency to use a lot of words that ends up complicating their messages. This can be just as confusing because the main point tends to get lost in the sea of words and explanations. In this case, write down what you want to say and then start trimming it back until you can create as simple a message without losing the primary idea. You most likely don’t need adjectives or exclamatory phrases to get your point across.

3. You are using poor grammar.

While it may seem more annoying than confusing, poor grammar can dramatically change the meaning of what you are trying to say. Even a misplaced comma can alter the entire context for someone who is reading it.

In this case, you need to bookmark a grammar page and start studying how to use certain punctuation and phrasing to help you clearly communicate. It just takes practice!

If you’re still bad after this, have someone proofread everything you put out. I personally do this and it’s improved my writing and communication greatly.

4. You overthink what you are reading or writing.

In either case, it’s important not to overthink your communications. This overthinking can involve your own perceptions that may be the polar opposite of the other person involved in the communication. This leads to different opinions of what the content of a message says and means.

For example, if we are already in a bad mood, we may read something the wrong way that the other person never intended. While the person writing the message can’t necessarily control the reaction of the receiver, you can make a concerted effort to take any emotion out of a communication and keep a professional tone to all business communications.

I personally always say “You can say anything to anyone, but how you say it will dictate if you get a positive or negative reaction.”

5.You are using texting shortcuts and emojis as replacements to part of what you are saying.

While I’ve used these myself in certain situations, it is typically just a smiley face to let the person on the other end know I’m pleased with their message. However, when I start seeing texting shortcuts and emojis I’m not familiar with, I don’t know how to take what the person is saying and I certainly don’t have time to go look up their cutesy emoji.

I was angry early one day with an employee. Later on in the day we had worked on a project. I thought everything had settled down and was okay. This was until she sent me a text with a string of emoji’s of a baby, baby bottle, a hospital and a pink bow. I thought, “Oh, so the little snot is calling me a baby! She surely should know it was not wise to call the boss a baby!” Later that evening in another work conversation over the phone someone told me how happy that employee had been because she had just found out that day about my new baby daughter. My temper had been wound-up, and I had nearly fired her over a miscommunication where she was being sweet.

You should probably avoid using these types of communication tools unless it’s with your best buddies. Stick to professional language because you can’t assume everyone knows what all these new acronyms and emojis mean.

6.You make too many assumptions.

There are those times when people don’t really listen because they think they already know what the person is going to say or they are just busy preparing their own answer. The same idea applies when making assumptions on what you think a person means in their email or text message without actually really reading it for context. It could be that you are tired, emotional, or distracted, or the messages could be coming from someone at work that you don’t necessarily like.

Slow down and read a message more than once while clearing out your assumptions. Focus, reflect, and then read it again before you draw conclusions. And, if you are still not sure, ask questions to make sure you understood the message correctly. I find that people with this skill can be hidden leaders in my company.

Conclusion

Effective communication takes practice, and I know haven’t perfected it yet. However, I keep these reasons for miscommunication in mind to remind me to take more care in how I read, write, and verbalize what I want from the communication I am sending out or receiving. Now, if I become angry over something, I take a step back. I decide to give the person the benefit of the doubt. Next, I assume they mean the best in the writing and in text.

One morning I noticed an employee highlighting and deleting an entire email. I asked about it. He said that he and his girlfriend had had a big fight and she had sent him a mean email. I inquired, “What did it say?” He said, “I have no idea.” He then explained to me that if he reads some long scathing remarks he can’t forget what was said or get them out of his mind — so he simply doesn’t read it.

When he sees the person again, he feels no animosity because he doesn’t know what was said. Later in the day, in comes the girlfriend to the office. “Oh hon, I didn’t mean what I said, I hope you will forgive me.” “Of course,” he says. “You are the most forgiving person I know,” she says. He just smiled. I realized then that there are many types of miscommunications that occur — and not all of them are bad.

15 Life Rules to Inspire Motivation

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15 Life Rules to Inspire Motivation

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. – Lou Holtz

Without motivation it’s kind of tough to reach your full potential. Of course, there are moments in your life where motivation is non-existent. When that happens, you should follow these 15 life rules to keep inspiring motivation day-in and day-out.

1. Trust yourself.

During his 2009 USC Commencement Speech, Arnold Schwarzenegger shared his “rules of success.” This included his epic first rule; trust yourself.

And what I mean by that is, so many young people are getting so much advice from their parents and from their teachers and from everyone. But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourselves, who do you want to be? Not what, but who.

And I’m talking about not what your parents and teachers want you to be, but you. I’m talking about figuring out for yourselves what makes you happy, no matter how crazy it may sound to other people.

I was lucky growing up because I did not have television or didn’t have telephones, I didn’t have the computers and the iPods. And, of course, Twitter was then something that birds did outside the window. I didn’t have all these distractions and all this.

I spent a lot of time by myself, so I could figure out and listen to what is inside my heart and inside my head.

And I recognized very quickly that inside my head and heart were a burning desire to leave my small village in Austria — not that there was something wrong with Austria, it’s a beautiful country.

But I wanted to leave that little place and I wanted to be part of something big, the United States of America, a powerful nation, the place where dreams can come true.

I knew when I came over here I could realize my dreams. And I decided that the best way for me to come to America was to become a bodybuilding champion, because I knew that was ticket the instant that I saw a magazine cover of my idol, Reg Park. He was Mr. Universe, he was starring in Hercules movies, he looked strong and powerful, he was so confident.

So when I found out how he got that way I became obsessed, and I went home and I said to my family, “I want to be a bodybuilding champion.”

Now, you can imagine how that went over in my home in Austria. My parents, they couldn’t believe it. They would have been just happy if I would have become a police officer like my father, or married someone like Heidi, had a bunch of kids and ran around like the von Trapp family in Sound of Music.

That’s what my family had in mind for me, but something else burned inside me. Something burned inside me. I wanted to be different; I’m determined to be unique. I was driven to think big and to dream big.

Everyone else thought that I was crazy. My friends said, “If you want to be a champion in a sport, why don’t you go and become a bicycle champion or a skiing champion or a soccer champion? Those are the Austrian sports.”

But I didn’t care. I wanted to be a bodybuilding champion and use that to come to America, and use that to go into the movies and make millions of dollars.

So, of course, for extra motivation I read books on strongmen and on bodybuilding and looked at magazines. And one of the things I did was, I decorated my bedroom wall.

Right next to my bed there was this big wall that I decorated all with pictures. I hung up pictures of strongmen and bodybuilders and wrestlers and boxers and so on. 

I was so excited about this great decoration that I took my mother to the bedroom and I showed her. And she shook her head. She was absolutely in shock and tears started running down her eyes.

She [my mother] called the doctor, she called our house doctor and she brought him in and she explained to him, “There’s something wrong here.” She looked at the wall with the doctor and she said, “Where did I go wrong? I mean, all of Arnold’s friends have pictures on the wall of girls, and Arnold has all these men.

But it’s not just men, they’re half naked and they’re oiled up with baby oil. What is going on here? Where did I go wrong?” So you can imagine, the doctor shook his head and he said, “There’s nothing wrong. At this age you have idols and you go and have those — this is just quite normal.”

So this is rule number one. I wanted to become a champion; I was on a mission. So rule number one is, of course, trust yourself, no matter how and what anyone else thinks.

2. The KISS principle.

If you’re like, you had a father who liked to throw around the phrase “Keep it simple, stupid.” In case you were curious, there’s a perfectly good explanation for this. It was a design principle popularized by the US Navy around 1960.

For those who are unfamiliar with the “keep it simple stupid” (KISS) principle, it simply that states that systems perform best when they have simple designs instead of complex ones.

Personally, I use this principle almost daily.

For example, when I have to tackle a large project I break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks. This makes completing the project simpler since I can chip away at specific goals, instead of worrying about completing everything at once.

3. Follow the Goldilocks Rule.

Do you remember the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? It wasn’t just a memorable bedtime story. It also inspired the aptly-named Goldilocks Rule.

“The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities,” explains James Clear. “Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.”

According to Clear, the Goldilocks Rule is actually backed by science. That’s because even though we love challenges, we prefer them to be within an optimal zone of difficulty.

Clear uses an analogy of playing tennis. If you played against a child, you would get bored because the match was too easy. But, if you played against a pro like Serena Williams, you’ll find yourself demotivated because the match was too difficult.

4. Embrace change.

People don’t like change. In fact, we resist it as much as possible. One study found that the reason for this is because the longer something is thought to exist, the better it’s evaluated.

Change is inevitable.

The fact of the matter is that change is inevitable throughout life. So instead of fighting it, learn how to embrace it. Start by taking baby steps and just going with the flow.

And, also keep in mind that change is good for you. It helps you grow and learn, as well gain new ideas and perspectives. That can open a whole new world of possibilities.

5. Choose possibilities, not problems.

“With personal power you possess the deep belief there are available solutions for problems. When you approach challenges from a solutions-focused perspective it engages the creative process of examining and architecting alternate routes in lieu of staying stuck in false beliefs of why things cannot be done,” writes Sherrie Campbell in Entrepreneur.

“If you cannot find a solution, open your thoughts to others, seek their ideas and suggestions. Solution-focused minds reward and inspire each other. When solutions are the focus you learn to fail and adapt, moving away from the fixing and failing approach.”

6. Measure twice and cut once.

Here’s another lesson I’ve learned from my old man; measure twice and cut once. This meant when cutting a piece of wood, you would measure it twice to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes. He would often tell me this when he noticed me rushing through something I didn’t care about.

I use this principle to guide me in almost everything I do today.

Let’s say I want to write a blog post. If I’m not feeling the topic, I may write a sub-par article that’s going to get rejected.

Instead of wasting everyone’s time, I would rather discuss a topic that I’m passionate about. When I do, the article isn’t just well-written, it has less errors and is faster for me to compose.

7. ASK.

This is an acronym for always seek knowledge. And this could be one of the greatest life rules I’ve learned. That’s because obtaining knowledge improves our lives by empowering us.

Think about it. You just read a leadership book or took an online course to learn a new skill. You most likely took that newly acquired knowledge and eagerly put it to use. As a result, you become a more well-rounded individual.

8. Be truly fulfilled.

“Michael Gerber, the guy that wrote The E-Myth, talks about why so many businesses, young businesses fail. One of the things he says is most people are not really entrepreneurs, but they think that’s what they should be. They think that’s the sexy thing, that’s the most attractive thing, that’s the best answer,” says Tony Robbins.

“What I say to you is you’ve got to separate the vehicle from the outcome. Is it going to truly fulfill you? What is it that’s going to give you that extraordinary life? What’s going to make things magnificent, on your terms, not somebody else’s terms, not your father, your mother, your background? What is that, really?”

“Separate the vehicle. There are many ways to get to that vehicle, but I’m saying, sometimes you have to reevaluate what’s going to really make you fulfilled.”

You can find this answer by asking yourself questions like:

  • What is your gift?
  • Are you an artist?
  • Are you the talent that can produce something no one else produces as a skill, a product, a service or some impact?
  • You incredibly good at management; you really know how to manage or lead people?
  • Are you an extraordinary entrepreneur that can take that gigantic gut-load of risk, create the vision, attract the talent that you need, the managers and leaders?

“You may have all three abilities, but which one really fulfills you the most, is going to be the critical question. We tend to want to do them all, especially in a room like this, because you’re all overachievers; right?”

“Me, too. You say, ‘Well, I can do all these.’ Yes, you can, but what will it do to your quality of life? See, again, the secret is going to be this. What is an extraordinary life, on your terms, today?”

9. Obey the Golden Rule.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I don’t know how many times my mom beat that into my head. And I’m glad she did. It’s helped guide me throughout life.

Take my business, for example. I treat my employees like I want to be treated. As a result, I have a highly motivated team – even though most are remote workers.

My team feels valued, respected, and delivers top-notch work on a consistent basis. That wouldn’t be possible if I mistreated them.

Besides my team, I also treat my customers with respect by delivering outstanding customer service. When I hear how my business helped a customer I want to keep that up. It’s almost like a video game, I want to keep playing until I get the highest score.

10. Give more than you take.

It’s true. Those who give, receive.

Whether if it’s through volunteering or sharing your wealth or knowledge, when you give more then you take, you’ll be rewarded. What kind of reward? It could be anything from developing new skills, gaining new experiences, or meeting new connections.

And who knows where these rewards can take you. Maybe you learned a new skill while volunteering that you can now use to enhance your business.

As an added perk, it feels pretty good too.

11. Try new things.

Here’s why we don’t try new things; we’re afraid.

The thing is, by letting that fear control us, we’re depriving ourselves from expanding our minds and experiencing new perspectives. Also, those who try new things are more likely to retain positive emotions.

So, stop being afraid and just do it. It’s better than living with could have, might have, and should have.

12. Smile.

You wake-up in the morning in a foul mood. How motivated do you think you’ll be for the rest of the day?

It’s no secret that our mood influences motivation. And one quick fix is to smile. Yep, it’s that simple.

It’s been found that smiling can instantly lift your spirits, boost your immune system, and relieves stress. As an added perk, smiling is contagious.

13. Take action.

Jim Rohn once said, “What we know and how we feel merely determine our potential for achievement. Whether we actually achieve our goals is ultimately determined by our activity.”

According to Rohn, there are two rules of activity:

  1. Do what you can. Ask yourself the following question, “What simple thing could I do, which I’m not doing, which could increase my health and/or my wealth?”
  2. Do the best that you can. Follow this philosophy from Ecclesiastes 9:10 — “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.”

14. Work to live; don’t live to work.

Close your eyes for a second and reflect about your life so far. Are you more satisfied about the time you spent working or the time you had living? Hopefully it’s the latter.

Remember, life isn’t about work. It’s about building relationships and how you made an impact in the world. That should keep you motivated during even the most of trying times.

15. Inspire Motivation and Keep dreaming.

Never stop dreaming. No matter your age.

Dreams help you discover yourself. They help you reach your goals. And they ensure that you don’t live a life full of regrets.

4 Covid-19 Changes to Keep for the Long Haul

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4 Covid-19 Changes to Keep for the Long Haul

Covid-19 has forever changed our work, our social interactions, and even how we view ourselves. We’ve come to understand our own limits better, even as we’ve learned the importance of self-care. That doesn’t mean, however, we’ve enjoyed the experience. 

Let’s be honest: Plenty of those changes we’ll be happy to discard once it’s safe to do so. Which of them, however, should we consider keeping for the long haul?

While you’re likely sick of social distancing, there are a few changes beyond more frequent handwashing that you should keep long after the pandemic has ended:

1. Setting Your Own Schedule

Covid-19 turned our world upside down and turned our days into a grey fog of sameness. We learned, intentionally or not, how to clear the haze by controlling our schedule. 

We need our work time, our quiet time, and our family time. As Calendar suggests, we thrive on routine, and losing it can leave us feeling lost and disoriented. 

Make a point, if you don’t already, to separate your work and play spaces. Set clear work and “office” hours. When it’s time to put one down, take the other up with a vengeance. 

To be clear, you don’t need to have every minute of the day rigidly scheduled out. But if there’s one thing you should hold on to once the pandemic is over, it’s the importance of making time for all aspects of your life. 

2. Embracing Mental and Emotional Care

You’ve likely heard the phrase “collective trauma” more than once over the past year. You may have even experienced its symptoms: chiefly irritability, frustration, and depression.  

For many of us, this has required making a conscious effort to cope. It’s meant figuring out what keeps us sane in a world that has, too often, seemed like it’s gone mad. 

Maybe you need to schedule in gym time, some counseling sessions, or even a Covid-safe spa day. Or, to the point above, it might just entail making sure you have uninterrupted family time on your calendar.

Do what you need to take care of yourself. Make your mental and emotional health your top priority this year.

3. Taking Being Sick Seriously

Too often, we treat common colds as annoyances we have to push aside and power through. It’s understandable: colds aren’t, generally speaking, serious illnesses. Covid-19 reminded us that some infections, however, are. 

According to LinkedIn, workers took an average of just 2.5 sick days in 2018. Sick employees aren’t only less productive, but they risk infecting others and affecting their productivity. 

The bottom line is, overextending yourself when you’re sick doesn’t help anyone. Focusing on what’s important and taking the time to recover, on the other hand, helps everyone.

That might involve staying in when you want to go out with friends. It might mean rescheduling a meeting or moving an in-person appointment to a virtual one. Realize that your being ill affects others. So stay home and focus on recovery. 

4. Telecommuting

This change should catch no one by surprise. Over the past year, “telecommute” has become almost as familiar a word as “pandemic.” 

To be sure, not every job or industry is suited for at-home work. Not everyone will have the option to work remotely once Covid-19 has passed. 

For those who can telecommute, however, the arrangement can be a godsend. Remote workers are as productive as, if not more productive than, their in-office team members. Leaders can leverage the perk to expand their talent pool and to save on office costs. 

Make no mistake: offices, gyms, and schools will reopen once the pandemic is over. But at the same time, telecommuting is here to stay. 

Although it can be difficult to see silver linings in something like a pandemic, Covid-19 has its share. The challenge, of course, is seizing them at the same time you steer your life back to “normal.” Fortunately, you have the entire world as company. 

Self-Service Your Customers Will Actually Appreciate

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Self-Service Your Customers Will Actually Appreciate

Reliable customer service is at the center of your business’s client retention strategy. When your team is available for real-time support, customer satisfaction will follow. 

However, 24/7 customer support requires significant resources and isn’t always sustainable. The solution? A comprehensive self-service platform. 

Recent data shows that 67% of customers prefer to self-serve rather than talk to a customer service representative, so now is the time to implement this strategy. 

Self-service allows customers to book appointments and find answers on their own, which in turn saves your business time and money. A robust self-service framework paired with traditional customer service features can help businesses streamline client support, boost customer satisfaction, and allocate resources more effectively. 

The real challenge, though, is getting your customers to use these tools. This guide will cover the basics of self-service and offer some tried-and-true methods for bringing your customers on board. 

Prioritizing Efficiency: The Basics of Self-Service 

Before diving into the how-tos of customer self-service, it’s important to break down this popular approach. In a self-service framework, the client is able to find the answer to their question without contacting customer support. Self-service also applies when customers quickly make online appointments rather than calling or emailing your business directly. 

The benefits of self-service are twofold: clients find the answers they’re looking for without picking up the phone, and your business saves money on customer support personnel. This cuts down on wait times and boosts customer happiness, while allowing your business to focus on everyday operations. 

There are a few self-service options that businesses should keep in mind when building out their framework. 

Online Booking Systems 

In traditional customer support models, clients call or email a business to make an appointment. However, this method can lead to phone tag, long wait times, and simply too many calls for the business to manage. Online booking platforms are a highly effective way to streamline appointments and provide accessible scheduling to a diverse customer base. 

Knowledge Bases 

If your customer service lines are routinely flooded with the same types of questions, a knowledge base can be a useful tool to implement. This page on your website will include answers to your most frequently asked questions, as well as multimedia features like video tutorials and graphics. You can organize the questions by topic and use this page to point customers toward other self-service features, including your online appointments platform. 

Automation 

One of the most common ways that businesses automate customer service is through chatbots — an industry that’s projected to be worth $9.4 billion by 2024. AI-powered chat features can answer questions automatically and point customers to the tools they’re looking for. You can also set up the chatbot to funnel customers to service representatives when necessary. 

Self-service will look different for every business. Appointment-based businesses will benefit greatly from online booking systems, while businesses that sell products might focus more on bolstering their knowledge base. Pinpointing the services that will best serve your customers will set you up for success. 

Leading Your Customers to Self-Service: 5 Key Steps 

When it comes to creating useful self-service tools for your customer base, developing the platform is only half the battle. You also need to get your customers to use it. 

The reality is that many of your clients will tend to stick to what they’re used to. With a bit of persuasion, though, you can change that. Here are a few key ways to show your client base the value of self-service. 

1. Promote Your Self-Service Features 

Customers won’t use self-service tools if they don’t know they exist. So be sure to market your self-service features just as you’d market your product or service. 

Email marketing, onsite pop-ups, and social media posts can be effective ways to highlight the service. Remember that it can take time for customers to adapt to these changes, so plan to keep marketing your new platform long after its launch.

2. Incorporate Multimedia 

New online services can be intimidating. However, you can make these platforms as accessible as possible through multimedia promotion, incorporating videos and graphics when marketing your self-service tools. 

For example, you might create a pop-up video that guides customers through the online booking process. This technique brings the self-service feature to the client’s attention, while showing them exactly how to use it. 

3. Create Clear Navigation 

Ask yourself these questions: Are our self-service tools easy to find on our website? Is our platform easy to use? Can customers easily jump between services? 

Keeping your customer on the site and encouraging them to self-serve starts with clear website navigation. Be sure that your self-service tools are in your header and footer menus. It can also be helpful to route customers to these tools through onsite buttons. 

4. Make It Social 

With over 1 billion Facebook Messenger messages flowing between brands and consumers every month, it’s clear that social strategy and customer support are often one and the same. 

Consider how your business can use your social platforms to guide customers to self-serve. This can involve setting up automated message responses that include a link to a self-service tool. You can also link directly to your online appointments system through your social media pages. Your messaging should promote the idea that your new services are available 24/7 for your customers’ benefit, not yours.

5. Gather Feedback 

Self-service should truly serve your customers’ needs, so it’s important to collect feedback from them and assess whether these tools are effective. You also need to watch your data. 

Keep track of how much traffic these tools are generating, how long customers are staying on the self-service pages, and how your sales numbers change after implementing these platforms. This information will help you adjust your self-service tools to better support your clients. 

Self-service is a user-friendly and scalable solution for customer support. As more consumers flock online, your investment in a self-service platform is likely to reap fast dividends. Once you direct your customers to these tools, your business can renew its focus on providing a better product or service.

Want to Get More Done? Organize Your Thoughts

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Want to Get More Done? Organize Your Thoughts

I’m dragging today because I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep because my mind was racing.

At some point, this happens to all of us. You may be thinking about an upcoming deadline, vacation, or just how much the world has changed. Obviously, not all of these are bad thoughts. But, they can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest to being productive — it’s impossible to focus when your mind is preoccupied with something else.

The answer? You need to organize your thoughts. In addition to improving your sleep and output, you’ll also become more positive, able to absorb information better, and finally, achieve your goals.

But, how exactly can you stop thinking too much and bring order to your thoughts? Well, here are 7 strategies that you can try today.

1. Choose your preferred thought-collecting method.

The first step in organizing your thoughts is figuring out how you want to get them out of your head. If you don’t do this, they’re just going to occupy valuable real estate in your mind. And, even worse, they’re just going to and you until addressed.

The method that you rely on is totally your decision. But, as a general rule of thumb, here are some pointers:

  • Anything that requires action, like scheduling a meeting or picking-up items at the store, could be placed on a list, calendar, or both. After all, we love lists since they bring order to chaos, relieve stress, help the mind focus, and prevent us from procrastinating.
  • Ideas, thoughts, or wishes can be placed on a sticky note, whiteboard, or organizational app like Evernote.
  • Numbers and contacts need to be added to your address book or phone.
  • Household responsibilities can be placed on your to-do-list, Evernote, or shared family calendar or apps like Cozi or OurHome.

Ways to organize your thoughts.

Rashelle Isip, aka the Order Expert, goes even more in-depth on how to organize your thoughts. Here are some of her excellent suggestions:

  • Practical ways for “those times when you need to take stock of the thoughts in your mind,” she writes. “Simply transfer thoughts from your mind onto sticky notes, index cards, or a piece of paper, and you’ll be able to analyze, evaluate, and manipulate your thoughts and ideas as needed.” Other suggestions are drawing a mind map or making a pie chart.
  • Unleash your creative side, and shake things up, by composing a handwritten letter or making a collage. Isip also says that you could create a table of contents, develop a timeline, or voice record yourself. Or, you could just take a shower.
  • “You may not have realized it yet, but you can ‘organize’ your thoughts through a variety of less active methods,” she adds. Examples include working on repetitive tasks, meditating, or sleeping on them.
  • Physical activities that “force you to step out of your mind and express your thoughts through body movement and interactions with others.” Spending time outside and exercise are obvious. But, you could also vent to a friend or family member or become a storyteller.

Personally, when I need to sort things out, or just slow down my racing mind, I take my dog for a long walk. Of course, being outside is awesome. But, I engage in a little self-talk to work things out in my mind.

Regardless of what method you use, just know that you need some sort of system to gather and catalog your thoughts.

2. Add thought-collecting to your daily routine.

Sometimes, you just need to get a thought out of your head as soon as it pops up. For example, while writing this article, I randomly remembered to add pears to my shopping list. I made a note of that and immediately got back to the task at hand.

Other times, you need to strike when the iron is hot. Let’s say you met a contact at a networking event. You should scan their business card or add their contact right there on the spot. And, definitely add a calendar reminder to follow up with them in the very near future.

In most cases, however, you want to be consistent with organizing your thoughts. For me, that means making this a habitual process.

During your morning and/or evening routine, spend 5 or 10 minutes dumping everything out of your head via your preferred method. You don’t have to be overly detailed here. The jest is that you need to free these thoughts and decide what to do next with them.

For instance, you reserve Friday afternoon to plan for next week. You list everything you want to get done. However, you notice that most of your list aren’t priorities meaning you can outsource or eliminate them.

3. Chunk it down.

Have you ever wondered why Social Security numbers are in chunks, such as 123-45-6789? How about why there are hyphens in phone numbers? According to Mike Byster, Founder of Brainetics, LLC, “it’s much easier to remember information when it’s grouped into smaller chunks.”

“I find that my brain prefers to remember things in groups of five, but maybe groups of four or eight will be your magic number, he states.

“Groupings allow you to organize information and sometimes apply other memory strategies, such as keywords, or a code you totally make up using your imagination,” clarifies Byster. What’s more, “this method can be used for a wide variety of tasks,” ranging “from recalling lists of items to remembering basic concepts.”

“In a studying environment, if you’re trying to figure out how to commit to memory a long batch of notes, see if you can break down your detailed notes into chunks of five main concepts,” he suggests. You may find that this can “help you mentally organize all the material and recall the important facts.”

4. Make your ideas work together.

In addition to chunking, you can also sort your ideas by categories. Why? It’s a quick and easy way for you to notice a common theme or how they’re related.

You can even come up with subcategories. “For example, if you’re a fiction writer, you could group some of your ideas under ‘Stories’ and the form you think the story should be told,” writes Lifehacker Founder and CEO Leon Ho. “A drama script, a novel, or short story, etc. Then with separate subgroups for genre such as historical fiction or sci-fi.”

Ho also recommends that you “kill your darlings.”

“‘Kill your darlings’ is important advice for writers,” he adds. “It means that you have to get rid of your most ‘precious’ ideas and words.”

“Not all ideas are equal,” he continues. “In your notes, there could be a truly brilliant original idea, but the chances of them all being like this are unfortunately slim. There is no point wasting your time on an idea that will never work.”

“Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell which of your ideas are great and which are not,” adds Ho. “Trusting your gut can be a good way; talking to people about your ideas and seeing how they react can also be a good idea.”

Just remember to be honest and not let emotions cloud your decision. If that’s a challenge, ask for feedback from someone you trust.

“Once you’ve trimmed your ideas down to the very best, you can work on making them a reality.”

5. Reframe anxious thoughts.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more anxious. And, thanks to COVID-19, my anxiety is now through the roof. And, that’s a problem since anxious thoughts can be hard to shake — even if you’ve written them down, gone for a walk, or tried to categorize them.

Even worse? They can be paralyzing. And, they will certainly warp your view of reality.

How can you deal with these types of thoughts? Reframe them so that you can change your perspective and remove what’s not true.

To get started, here are some therapist approved tips courtesy of SELF:

  • Fact check yourself by making factual statements as opposed to emotional ones.
  • Switch from asking “Is this true?” to “Is this helpful?”
  • When engaged in negative self-talk, think about what you would say to a friend if they had the same thoughts.
  • Focus on being realistic and not just positive.
  • Swap “finding the bright side” with “finding meaning.”
  • Turn a thought into action.
  • Experiment with various techniques until you find what works best for you.
  • If reframing isn’t working, try something else, such as breathing exercises.

6. Take breaks and set shifts.

“Our brains and bodies simply aren’t wired for prolonged periods of work,” notes author and cofounder of TalentSmart Dr. Travis Bradberry. “While it might seem as though sitting at your desk for eight hours straight is the best way to get all of your work done, this can work against you.”

“Research has shown that the most productive work cycle tends to be fifty-two minutes of uninterrupted work, followed by seventeen-minute breaks,” he adds. “While it probably isn’t realistic to structure your schedule this rigidly, for most people, the battle is won by just remembering to take breaks.” I’d add that creating calendar reminders or using the Pomodoro Technique can encourage you to take frequent breaks throughout the day.

If that is too regimental for you, I’d say that you take breaks whenever it’s convenient for you. For example, if you’re trying to focus on your work, and your mind is racing, it might be better to stop what you’re doing and go for a walk to clear your head.

“Once you’ve taken a break, you must shift your focus back to your task,” advises Dr. Bradberry. “No matter how ‘in the zone’ you were before taking a break, you’ll sometimes find that you’re back to square one when it comes to focus.”

How can you do a proper set shift? “You have to reorganize your thoughts by:

  • Making sure that the task at hand isn’t too challenging or easy.
  • Controlling and managing your emotions.
  • Sustaining your focus by removing distractions.

“You’ll find that getting back into flow quickly after a break is very doable, he says. “But it must be done purposefully.”

7. Master the art of letting go.

Anger, frustration, and worry are all natural emotions. But, they’re not healthy or necessary. Furthermore, they consume your valuable time and energy.

If you can, let these feelings go. I know, easier said than done. But, it’s possible by trying tactics like:

  • Accepting what’s true and being thankful.
  • Focusing on what you can control.
  • Living in the moment through mantras and meditation.
  • Admitting that perfection doesn’t exist.
  • Finding creative outlets, like drawing or writing.
  • Being authentic by embracing vulnerability.
  • Seeking moments of solitude and silence to reflect and develop a plan.

What’s next?

After getting your thoughts out of your head and organizing them, you can pursue those that have value. As for the rest? You can toss them aside like yesterday’s trash.

15 Ways To Kick-Start 2021

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15 Ways To Kick-Start 2021

2020 was definitely something else. And, like every other person in the world, I’m happy to be done with it. Here are 15 ways to kick-start 2021.

How am I saying good riddance to this terrible, no-good of year? By trying to make 2021 the best year possible. Obviously, the virus isn’t in my hands, but I do have control over the following.

1. Reflect on the past year.

John Maxwell, the author of The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, has an annual tradition. During the week in between Christmas and New Years’, he revisits his calendar and reflects on how he spent his time.

“The seven days I spend reviewing my year are the most productive days I’ll have in any 12 months,” he writes. “They help me focus on what I’ve accomplished and have yet to do.” And, they aid him in identifying “habits or patterns that need attention.”

Additionally, this assists him in refining his daily schedule to continue his personal growth journey. “Nothing else I do compares to the return on investment my year-end review brings me,” Maxwell states.

How can you put this into practice? Well, here’s what Maxwell does every year:

  • Set aside time to review. “Good intentions aren’t enough here—you have to make time for the process,” he stresses. “If you’re just starting out, you won’t need a full week; a solid half-day (4 hours) will do.”
  • Gather the right materials. “You can’t review how you spent your time without a record of that time.” Have your calendar, journals, and even checkbooks handy.
  • Ask the right questions. Maxwell “interrogates” his calendar by asking tough questions. These can include, “Was that a good use of my time?” “What’s there that should’ve been deleted?” and “What will I do differently this year?”
  • Write down what you learn. Maxwell says that this a crucial step. “You need to record your thoughts as you have them, or else they’ll get away.”
  • Look for the patterns. “Between your calendar and what you write down, you will notice patterns emerging from the data,” he adds. “Grab onto them because they become your roadmap for action.”
  • Plan out next year. “Once you’ve had time to interrogate, think, write, and discover, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned into motion,” he adds. That means putting “your biggest priorities and put them into your calendar first. ”

2. Define (and schedule) your priorities.

Let’s piggyback off that last piece of advice from Maxwell. Why? Because, in the timeless words of Stephen Covey, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

But, what exactly are your main priorities in life? Well, that’s different for everyone. However, in a previous Calendar post, Albert Costill suggests that “they should be the things that don’t cause you pain. And, they should “assist you in becoming the best possible version of yourself, such as the following areas:”

  • Your MBS. “Your main priority in life, without question, should always be your mind, body, and spirit,” writes Albert. “Maybe it’s because we perceive this as being selfish that it’s often taken for granted. But, take a second and really think about it.” Do you neglect your well-being? If so, “then how can get the most out of life, be productive, or be of service to others?”
  • Healthy relationships. Close relationships, mainly friends and family, are vital for a healthy and happy life.
  • Dreams and aspirations. “Whether you want to call this your calling, passion, purpose, or why, if you want to have a fulfilling life, then you need to identify what makes you tick,” says Albert. “Then, you need to pursue it no matter what.”
  • Self-development. “Continuous learning and growth are essential,” he adds. “Whether if it’s enhancing your hard and soft skills and knowledge, this will make you a more well-rounded individual personally and professionally.”
  • Time and productivity. Reviewing your calendar and journals, as Maxwell does, can help you conduct a time audit to see how you spend your time.
  • Happiness. Life is way too short. Always make the time to do what you enjoy.
  • Security. “Finally, you need to attain a level of security,” says Albert. “At the minimum, that means having a job that can put a roof over your head and food on the table.”

After you have defined what’s more important to you, block them out in your calendar so that they always come first.

3. Plan your goals.

Without fail, we make resolutions because we get swept up in the spirit of the season. Here’s the reality, though.80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February.

If that’s the case, then we do keep setting ourselves up for failure? “By establishing objectives, resolutions create an end result to center your goal-making on,” explains team Tony. A goal, on the other hand, “is a series of calculated steps designed to help you achieve the resolution.”

“Goals, not resolutions, are the key to long-term growth and success,” they continue. “And the secret to setting compelling goals is knowing why it is you want what you want – finding purpose and meaning in your goals.”

With that in mind, forget about making New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, replace them “with objectives that work.” And, you can achieve this by:

  • Decide and commit to making a change. “Make the decision now that you’re going to change some aspect of your life, and then commit to making it happen,” recommend Team Tony.
  • Document what you want. Jot down exactly what you want so that you’ll remember. You can also refer to this if you get off-track.
  • Find absolute certainty and take action. When starting out, it’s OK not to know how you’ll make it a reality. “But regardless of how far along you are in your plan to achieve your goal, you must operate from a mindset of absolute belief and faith that you can accomplish it.”
  • Measure your progress. “Set a reasonable timeline for your goals, and measure your progress along the way,” advises Team Tony.
  • Keep going. Setbacks are to be expected. Don’t throw in the towel, though. Learn, grow, and continue moving forward.

4. Organize your activities for the next 6 to 12 months.

There’s another benefit of reviewing your calendar that Maxwell didn’t include. It’s able to spot recurring events. It could be anything from weekly meetings, fundraisers, birthdays, vacations, or your kid’s school schedule.

Obviously, the exact dates won’t line-up. But, it will give you an idea of what activities to anticipate this year. And, if there’s one lesson I remember from G.I. Joe, it’s that knowing is half the battle.

In other words, if you know that during the first two weeks of July, your family goes on a trip, then put that in your calendar so that nothing else will get scheduled. More importantly, this gives you enough of a head’s up to plan accordingly, so that you won’t worry about work when away.

5. Fine-tune your routine.

Compared to the beginning of last year, your routine has been disrupted. Don’t harp too much on this. After all, none of us foresaw a pandemic that would change the world.

While you might have made do to get through this tumultuous year, it’s time to get back on track. Ideally, this means setting morning and evening rituals to refill your emotional gas tank. And creating a schedule that allows you to follow through on your goals and priorities.

6. Take out the trash.

Before you can move forward, you need to let go of what’s holding you back. Think of it this way. You want to ride your bike more often to get in shape, but your garage is so full of junk you can’t reach it.

In the scenario above, you might just throw your hands up in defeat. But, if you clean and organize the space, you can finally get to your bike. And, since you removed the obstacle, there’s no longer an excuse for not going on a bike ride.

Give the new year a fresh start by decluttering your home, workspace, and vehicle. You don’t have to do this in one marathon session. Just tackle one area at a time, like spending a weekend in your home office and the next in your kitchen.

Next up? Digital clutter. Organize your inbox, electronic files, and remove unnecessary apps from your phone. And, don’t forget to go on a social media cleanse.

Also, remove toxic people from your life. Rather than continuing to waste your time and energy on these types of people, connect with those who will support and inspire you.

7. Commit to doing something new — every day.

Personally, I enjoy learning. It’s probably my favorite pastime. This is a proven way to gain new perspectives, foster innovation, become more self-confident, and reduce stress.

But who actually has the time to do this daily? Truth be told. We all do.

When it comes to learning, it doesn’t mean spending a couple of hours each day or week taking a class. It could be as simple as listening to a podcast while exercising or subscribing to feeds like Did You Know.

Other suggestions? Read a book right before bed, sign-up for newsletters, or just talk to people. For example, you could have a weekly phone-call with an elderly family member or team member and just listen to their past experiences.

8. Find your focus.

If you’ve already begun taking out the trash, then you’re well on your way. For instance, those with an organized desk are less stressed and more focused. Moreover, studies have found that smartphones, the internet, social media, and email are the most common distractions at work.

Again, clean, organize, and spruce up your workspace. Furthermore, uninstall apps that you no longer use. And, when you’re working, silence your phone or block apps/websites during this timeframe.

Since you’re probably working from home, try to work in a quiet area of the house. If that’s not an option, be transparent with your housemates. Let them know when you don’t want to be disturbed and when you’re available.

9. Give yourself more time.

This isn’t exactly true. I mean, we all have the same amount of time each day. And, it’s not like a genie is going to grant us the wish of having more than 24-hours.

Instead, brainstorm ideas on how to find little nuggets of free time throughout the day. For example, you could set your alarm 20-minutes earlier so that you can meditate, write, or exercise. If you wake-up in the middle of the night, this might be an ideal time for creative work.

Another idea would be to take a work call when taking your leisurely walk. When organizing your workspace, invite your kids to join in on the fun. Or delegate and outsource less important tasks to others.

10. Make your mental and emotional wellbeing a priority.

“Mental health is the silent pandemic that is also happening right now,” says Uma Naidoo, M.D., nutritional psychiatrist, chef, nutrition expert, and author of This Is Your Brain on Food. “With lockdowns, quarantine, physical distancing, and ongoing uncertainty—loneliness is at its peak for many. The individuals who are thriving are few and far between, as the majority of individuals are lonely and isolated with limited supports.”

In fact, research shows that the prevalence of depression symptoms was three times higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than before. More troubling? In August, the CDC surveyed 5,412 adults, and 10% admitted they seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days (compared to 4.3% in 2018).

“2020 has taught us that instead of sticking metaphorical Band-Aids on things, escaping from symptoms, or simply chasing temporary relief, we have to look at the source and redesign a life,” Perpetua Neo, DClinPsy, a psychologist and executive coach.

Right now, it’s OK not to be OK. You’re not weak if you need to reach out for help. Once you admit that and remove the stigma, find ways to attend to your mental and emotional wellbeing.

While this will vary from person-to-person, you can use teletherapy or your support system. You can also schedule a time for self-care or physical activity. It’s also recommended that you strengthen your emotional muscles by reflecting on positive feedback.

11. Start a 30-day challenge.

It’s not uncommon for us to overindulge throughout the holidays — especially during the year, we just survived. I can tell that I’ve put on a couple of pounds between not exercising as much and enjoying one too many sweets. And that’s exactly why I’m getting back into the swing of things in January.

A popular way to get back in shape and drop a few lbs is to partake in a month-long challenge, such as Whole30 or Dry January. There even challenges, like the 52-Week Money Challenge, to help you get your finances in order.

What’s appealing about something like a 30-day challenge is that they’re pretty much mini-goals to encourage healthy habits. As such, they seem more attainable than those lofty and time-consuming New Year’s Resolutions — which, again, we don’t stick with.

Here’s the thing to remember, though. Building new habits take time. In fact, research shows that it usually takes 66 days to form new habits.

What a 30-day challenge can do is at least get the ball rolling. To ensure that you succeed in making a lasting change, choose a challenge that is realistic and aligns with your goals.

And, tye a new habit to an existing one. James Clear calls this habit stacking. An example of this would be, “After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.”

12. Find (or become) a mentor.

Regardless of what stage of life you’re in or the level of success you’ve achieved, finding a mentor is more important than ever. After all, they are here to coach, challenge, motivate, and protect you. They can also pass along advice, as well as help you set goals and grow personally.

Of course, finding a mentor and working with them in-person is a challenge during the era of COVID. But, you can still connect with them virtually, like through social media or webinars. And, you can meet with them consistently through video calls.

What’s more, a mentor doesn’t have to be someone you personally know. Let’s say that an entrepreneur like Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, is someone you look up to. Reading her books and watching YouTube speeches could count as being a mentor.

And, when you feel like you no longer need to be mentored, pay it forward by mentoring others. You may think that you don’t have the availability. But, if you recall, it’s all about work-life integration. You could catch-up with your mentee for 3-minutes every Friday while on your afternoon walk.

13. Keep connecting with others.

Between lockdowns, social distancing, and remote work, most of us feel lonely and isolated. Personally, I was able to make it through the year. But, the holidays were tough since I couldn’t be around friends and family.

While certainly not the same, block out times in your day to connect with others. It could be a text to a friend, a nightly phone call with your parents, or a weekly virtual lunch to check-in with your team.

14. Go easier on yourself.

One of the most important lessons to come out of 2020 was going a little easier on yourself.

Remember those extremely high expectations you set? You probably didn’t achieve them — in no fault of your own. There was a pandemic surging, and you had no control over how they would impact your plans.

Are you still holding on to past failures or losing sleep over the “shoulds”? Are you striving for perfection? None of that matters at the end of the day.

In the new year, cut yourself some slack. Learn from past failures and mistakes. Let go of the things that you can’t control. And, practice daily affirmations, such as Stuart Smalley’s, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me.”

15. Slow down and enjoy life.

“Slowing down is a conscious choice, and not always an easy one, but it leads to a greater appreciation for life and a greater level of happiness,” writes Zen Habits founder Leo Babauta. After the year that was 2020, I think truer words have never been spoken — or written in this case.

How can you actually slow things down in 2021? Leo suggests that you do the following:

  • Do less. “Focus on what’s really important, what really needs to be done, and let go of the rest,” he advises.
  • Be present. Focus only on what you’re doing at the moment.
  • Disconnect. Find opportunities to unplug, like leaving your phone in another room when you’re reading or playing with your kids.
  • Focus on people. When you’re talking to someone else, be fully engaged with them.
  • Appreciate nature. Even if it’s cold outside, spend some more time hanging out with Mother Nature.
  • Eat slower. “Instead of cramming food down our throats as quickly as possible — leading to overeating and a lack of enjoyment of our food — learn to eat slowly,” writes Leo.
  • Drive slower. Let your foot off the gas a bit to appreciate your surroundings and contemplate your life.
  • Find pleasure in anything. “Whatever you’re doing, be fully present … and also appreciate every aspect of it, and find the enjoyable aspects,” he states.
  • Single-task.Stop multitasking and focus on one thing at a time.
  • Breathe. “When you find yourself speeding up and stressing out pause, and take a deep breath.”

So, those are my suggestions on how to kick-start 2021. Do you have any other ways on how to get the new year started on the right foot?

9 Gadgets to Warm Up Your Waiting Room

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How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

While some people love winter, no one enjoys being cold. Customers who are freezing in your waiting room won’t be very happy during their visit. And if they’re not happy with their visit, they aren’t likely to come back. 

Although it might sound like a small consideration, it means a lot to your customers: Keep your waiting room warm and toasty. If your HVAC system isn’t up to the task, these gadgets can go the distance:

1. Smart Thermostat

The No.1 problem with keeping a waiting room warm is the constant opening and closing of doors. Each new customer brings with them a chilly breeze, preventing those already in the room from getting comfortable. You can solve this dilemma with a smart thermostat. 

A smart thermostat sense uses predictive technology to crank up or down the heat. Yours might signal to your HVAC unit that it should preheat the office at 9 a.m. to account for how frequently your front door opens. To save money, you can lower the office temperature when people aren’t there, perhaps from 5 p.m. until the next morning. 

2. Space Heater

Remember how your family kept that back bedroom warm in the winter? A small space heater can make even the chilliest of offices comfortable.

Space heaters come in many shapes, sizes, and price ranges. Do your research to find the right one for your waiting room. Smaller waiting rooms can get away with smaller heaters. Rooms that are larger or draftier, or have doors that are constantly opening and closing, may need a larger model. 

3. Electric Fireplace

Why not take the power of a space heater and add some holiday flair? An electric fireplace provides a cozy atmosphere that creates psychological comfort as well as actual heat. 

The one drawback to an electric fireplace is that it requires more setup than a standard space heater. You can’t just plug a fireplace into the nearest outlet and call it good. 

Look for a place where a fireplace would be appealing. If you buy a wall-mounted unit, pay for professional installation. Not only will doing so save you a lot of work, but it will reduce the risk of fire. 

4. Hot Chocolate Machine

Some days are so cold you need to warm yourself from the inside out. When layers of clothes and space heaters just won’t cut it, a mug of hot chocolate will do the trick. This delicious solution can liven up any waiting room. 

When installing a hot chocolate machine in your lobby, be sure to keep COVID-19 in mind. Use disposable cups. Clean the area as frequently as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. 

5. Draft Stoppers

Even when your company’s doors are closed, chilly air can still slip through the cracks. Stopping those winter winds will keep everything inside warm while cutting your heating bills down to size.

Best of all, draft stoppers are easy to install. A simple door skirt takes only five nails and five minutes to attach. A crack-sealing foam takes all of 30 seconds to spray. Give stoppers and filled cracks a fresh coat of paint to improve their visual appeal. 

6. Heating Pads

Many businesses provide little treats for their customers, like a doctor’s office with a jar full of lollipops. Who’s stopping you from doing the same with hand and feet warmers? Little personal heating pads would make a great addition to your waiting room for those customers who just can’t seem to warm up.

One difference between heating pads and treats is that the latter doesn’t need a warning sign. Encourage customers to be cautious with heating pads, especially on direct skin. Provide towels for them to wrap heating pads in. 

As with any shared office item, be sure to clean heating pads and towels after use. Look for ones that are machine washable to make this easy. 

7. Heated Massagers

A waiting room with a massage chair is an instant winner. Plus, back and feet massagers often come with a heating setting to melt away stress and sore muscles. 

Providing enough massage equipment for a full waiting room can be a tough bill to foot. Consider providing a few and placing a time limit on how long each customer is allowed to use it. That way, every customer gets a chance to de-stress and warm up. 

8. Drying Rack

Snow, hail, and freezing rain leave customers not just cold, but wet as well. Don’t make customers sit in their wet clothes. Provide a rack near the door so they can hang coats and gloves up to dry.

Unlike the massage chair, this is an inexpensive upgrade. If you want to do something unique, offer a shoe-drying station where customers can put their cold, wet feet until their name is called.  

9. Face Masks

This two-for-one solution might already be in place. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many businesses are requiring all customers to wear masks. While their goal is to reduce viral transmission, face masks also provide warmth.

To feed two birds with one scone, provide masks at the entrance of your business for all visitors. Doing so will keep everyone healthy and warm up noses that have been nipped by Jack Frost.

A warm customer is a happy one. Be careful not to bake them, but do make them as comfortable as you can. That way, as soon as they leave your business, they’ll want to go back. 

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