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Learning to Speak With Clarity

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Learning to Speak With Clarity

In terms of content, it’s essential to structure our thoughts logically, as well as choose our words carefully. Just as important are projections, pronunciation, and diction. After all, in order to be a good communicator, you need to go beyond language skills.

In other words, you need to learn to speak with clarity

Whether you’re having a one-on-one meeting, speaking at an industry, or just shooting the breeze with friends or family, communicating with clarity shouldn’t be overlooked. It ensures that you’re delivering the right message. And, more importantly, that the other party gets that message loud and clear.

What’s more, it’s possible to learn to speak with clarity. And, to get started, here are nine strategies to utilize.

Identify and overcome obstacles.

In my opinion, identifying the obstacle should definitely be you’re starting point. How can you speak clearly without first identifying the overcoming the obstacles holding you back? It’s like trying to go on a bike ride when you have a flat tire.

While everyone has their specific hurdles, one way to identify your obstacle is to play time management games. These games reveal to you where you have unclear speech, as well as time issues.

Here are the most common challenges to clear speech and communication — and how you can resolve them.

Fast rate.

Unclear speech results from a variety of factors, such as being nervous. As a consequence, words become muddled up with consonants since vowels have become shortened. In fact, it’s when speaking, we should aim for about 140 words per minute.

Slowing down your speech and talking deliberately (at first) helps form your sounds more accurately. And, this gives your listeners time to process what you’re saying.

But, how can you slow down? One suggestion would be practicing deep breathing while speaking. You can also try the following;

  • “Practice Speaking and Self-Monitoring” exercises
  • Recording yourself practicing a speech. Not only does this let you hear how fast you’re talking, reciting your speech builds confidence.
  • “Shadowing” others, such as watching TED Talks and then, mimic speakers.
  • Working with a coach or consultant.

Slowing down naturally can best be accomplished by breathing deeply while speaking. After you gain clarity — in this day and age — I also think we need to step up the pace again when speaking. Slow speech aggregates those who are in a rush — which is most of us. Become clear in your speech first — then speed it up again. (I’d say it takes six months to a year to get this right, you can’t rush it — and it takes a lot of practice.)

Mumbling.

Another common culprit is mumbling. And, this usually goes hand in hand with fast speech. The reason for this is that the mouth doesn’t open as much when speaking quickly. In turn, the sound of your speech gets distorted since it’s being squeezed between your teeth.

The best way to address mumbling is by relaxing your jaw and tongue. Doing so will allow you to speak clearly and with greater precision. You can also use some of the strategies listed above, such as recording yourself. A more strange technique would be speaking with a cork in your mouth because it makes your mouth work harder to pronounce the words more clearly.

Some people mumble because of self-confidence — they don’t really believe what they have to say is important. Believe what you have to say has merit, and it will help with clarity. If you know you are mumbling today — just be quiet and listen.

A quiet voice.

Speaking too softly or not loud enough will result in a lack of clarity. What do your listeners have to work with when you aren’t putting enough sound into the room?

The more breath you take and the more vibrations you feel in your body, the more power you will be able to produce without straining. Keep in mind though, that your voice will appear louder to you than to your listeners. This is awkward, but don’t worry too much about it. Again — record and listen to your voice — continually adjust to the correct volume for the situation.

An accent.

Others may find it difficult to understand you when you have a thick accent. But, there’s nothing wrong with having an accent — all of us have one. But, depending on who is listening to it, it may be difficult to understand.

An accent is more problematic when combined with a weak voice or fast rate. As a result, a strong accent may cause confusion and frustration. Before you start speaking, make sure that you’re projecting well and speaking slowly. It could be as simple as that.

Usually, with a thick accent, you will need a coach. Listen to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first movies — you can hardly understand him. Listen when he was California’s governor — quite a bit better in his speaking. Listen to him today — he’s understandable. Schwarzenegger put a lot of time into his muscles — and in speaking better — with tons of work, many coaches, and practice. Speaking well and with clarity doesn’t happen by accident; it takes difficult work and practice.

Speaking with clarity is like anything else worth doing well — it takes practice and concentrated work to get it right. There are many YouTube’s about speaking well — look up a few of these.

Stay in your wheelhouse.

“The ‘most natural’ way to project confidence when we speak is when it’s done from the position of authority or as an expert,” says writer and wellness advocate Evelyn Marinoff. “We all tend to pay close attention to such individuals and believe pretty much everything that they say. Because they ‘know their stuff.’”

“So, find your strengths and passions, and further develop thembecome the best you can at what you do.”

This was actually a conversation my brother and I recently had. My argument was that I get turned off by people who are considered experts because they have a platform. It’s like when a celebrity champions a diet. They may not be wrong. But, they aren’t nutritionists and, so you should take their advice with a huge grain of salt.

Being an authority figure doesn’t just give you “brownie points with others—mainly, in the form of respect and appreciation, it will also breed confidence. In turn, this “makes us better armed to face the world, to weather adversities, and to calm down our nervousness and self-doubting.”

You don’t have to use big words.

It’s not uncommon for educated people and thought leaders to use a lot of big words when speaking. I can’t vouch for them all personally, but I believe it’s because they think that this will validate that they “know thief stuff.”

However, this isn’t always true. For some, having an extensive vocabulary is merely a tactic to hide behind. As a result, your arguments become misrepresented. And, that defeats the whole purpose of communicating with others.

Does this mean you should avoid big words all the time? Of course not. Sometimes they are more accurate and superior to their smaller cousins.

If you don’t want to exasperate or offend your audience, define big words before using them.

Captivate and engage others.

Piggybacking from the last point, an audience that doesn’t understand you won’t be able to benefit from your expertise. And, that might be because you’re using jargon. Remember, just because you and your colleagues throw around industry terms freely doesn’t mean that everyone is aware of their meanings.

Unless you know your audience, like their backgrounds and motivations, steer clear of the complicated words or acronyms that your audience is not familiar with. It’s a surefire way to lose them and prevent them from being engaged and captivated.

Another suggestion? Keep your explanations simple and clear. This guarantees that your audience can relate to and understand them. And, when they, you’ll be able to maintain their attention

In the words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Read a Thesaurus.

Using different words can ensure that other people will understand what you’re saying. By using synonyms and changing a sentence structure, it will be much easier to get someone’s attention. But, repetition is needed to initially grab their attention.

Repetition has a special quality that’s called “specialty.” This is because people can say the same thing in a variety of ways. It will be in your best interest to learn a wide range of synonyms and related words.

Here are just a couple of examples in action:

  • When you can’t think of a specific word, for example the word goal, you could say, “aim” or “objective” instead.
  • When you’re talking to someone and they don’t understand what you mean — you can use goals or intentions.
  • When you wish to reiterate your point — if you say, “we need to reduce expenses by creating a budget. This would save us a lot of money.” The short explanation gives clarification to the sentence.

Write more often.

It becomes easier to speak more clearly when you’re able to write well. Over time, your vocabulary, sentence structures, and arguments will become second nature.

The reason? It helps you prepare and think ahead. As a result, you do not need to focus on your structure or vocab. Instead, you can focus on your presentation structure in order to avoid mistakes. Even if you’re busy as heck, try writing in a journal during your morning routine for a couple of minutes may help.

Avoid sub-clauses.

Another benefit of writing? It allows you to put several arguments inside one another. In other words, writing allows your audience to find the beginning of your sentence so that they don’t get confused. You can’t do that when you’re speaking.

Therefore, don’t nest ideas inside each other. Be concise when writing and end one thought before starting another. When you clearly end a sentence — you won’t lose your audience. More importantly, the listeners can walk away with the key points you wanted to relay.

Our Collective Loss of What’s Normal

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Our Collective Loss of What’s Normal

While it was certainly an adjustment, overall, I felt like I came out of COVID-19 unscathed. I’m certainly not trying to brag. I was, and still am, fortunate to work from home when I need or want to — and most of our employees are able to do the same. I was really grateful for the quality time with my family, finally getting around to projects that I’d been putting off, and it even enhanced my business savvy.

Our Collective Loss of What’s Normal

With so many other people suffering and trying to get back to work — and the economy is struggling — I don’t take it for granted that I’m grateful every morning when I wake-up. I do, however, long for the good-ole-days.

I’m certainly not the only one. Anecdotally, when I catch up with friends, family, and colleagues — some still want to meet virtually — I can hardly tolerant virtual meetings anymore. And now, the numbers have started going up in many areas of the country because of non-vaxxers.

In short, we all started to miss what we considered “normal.” According to David Kessler, author and grieving expert, that’s because we started feeling different types of grief.

Why we’re grieving — All of these things happened in Covid — and some still feel it.

“We feel the world has changed, and it has,” Kessler told HBR. “We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different.”

“The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection,” he adds. All of these are “hitting us, and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

Additionally, we’re also dealing with anticipatory grief — like when the numbers started going up about a week ago — what if we have to do this all over again? We will go through anticipatory grief when we’re uncertain about the future. “Usually, it centers on death,” he says. “We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday.”

“Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures,” he says. “There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people.”

The reason for this is because our primitive minds realize that “something bad is happening. However since you can’t see it, “our sense of safety” is broken, he adds. “We’re feeling that loss of safety.”

“I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this,” Kessler says. “Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”

If there’s any silver lining, though, it’s that there are simple and effective ways to cope. For starters, Kessler recommends understanding the stages of grief and learning calming techniques. But, you should also try these nine other strategies to help you accept and manage your feelings.

1. Don’t get stuck.

“I see a lot of jokes on social media about drinking at 10 a.m. and sharing ‘quarantinis’ over video chats, almost to the point of normalizing these self-medicating behaviors,” writes Megan Seidman, a primary therapist at Caron Renaissance. “People are cut off from their usual methods of coping, and many are turning to unhealthy ways of immediate gratification to numb their discomfort.”

It should go without saying that not only is that dangerous in the short term, but it could have long-term implications. Besides putting your health and wellness in jeopardy, being funny about the consequences of much sadness may give people ideas who are on a different level of pain — and could lead to substance abuse.

Some people never allowed themselves to grieve, and now they think we might be back in the same problems that happened a year ago. They “haven’t allowed themselves to feel the loss, fear, and grief they have,” they may experience “complicated grief and post-event trauma.”

“Complicated grief becomes all-encompassing, making it difficult for people to think about anything else,” explains Seidman. “They cannot accept the reality of the losses they’ve experienced and therefore fail to adjust to the new reality.”

What’s more, it’s going to be more challenging for these individuals to get “back into their former routines.” Seidman warns that we could “see issues in ongoing relationships, divorces, rumination over losses, and difficulty sleeping. Once the social distancing is alleviated, if people haven’t worked through this process, they’re going to have a harder time reconnecting with others.”

2. Add predictability.

You may have never thought about this until your routine was broken due to the pandemic. But they’re incredibly important. First, Northwestern Medicine notes, “offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization.”

Now we’ve headed back to the office — but maybe you haven’t committed to going into the office every day as before. Maybe you don’t have a routine yet — this can make you suffer from stress, unhealthy eating, and insomnia.

If you gained a few (or a lot) of the Covid-pounds — you may have gotten yourself in poor physical condition. And, you may be ineffectively using your time and feeling non-productive.

To counter the above, add some predictability to your life. Personally, I’ve started a new routine. It took some trial and error. But I set a routine of when I will be in the office and when I will work from home. I also had all of the employees commit to a determined schedule. It helps all of us to know what is going on and when.

If you’re struggling with this, here are some pointers to get you on your way:

  • Build your resistance. Don’t waste your energy fighting against change. Instead, accept it, practice some self-care, and focus on your current priorities.
  • Follow your usual patterns. If you wake up at 5 am, start work at 9 am, and eat dinner at 6 pm, try to keep that schedule. You may need to be flexible, but sticking to your previous schedule as close as possible gives you a sense of normalcy.
  • Schedule your habits in your calendar — schedule healthy habits like exercise or writing so that you’ll follow through. Physical activity is a proven way to reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Create an optimal environment. If you’re working from home, create a dedicated space reserved only for work. Don’t forget to keep it cleaned and organized as well.
  • Ask for help if you’re struggling — reach out to your support systems like a mentor or friend.
  • Take a reset day. Sometimes you need to take the day off and get things in order. But don’t squander this opportunity. Instead, use it to clean your house, review your goals, or tie up any loose ends.
  • Be the tortoise. A new routine won’t happen overnight. So be patient and work your way back into a routine.

3. Connect with others.

Last year — all the stay-at-home orders, quarantine, and social distancing took a toll on your mental health. Why? According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Social Connections and Health Research Laboratory at Brigham Young University, it’s because “being socially connected in meaningful ways is actually key to human health and survival.”

While this was a concern before the pandemic, it does highlight the importance of connecting with others. So if you are still in some kind of a funk since Covid — make it a point to connect more completely with your loved ones. Just do it — pick up the phone — you are free to meet with people for now. Take advantage of that.

4. Practice gratitude.

Realize that the glass is not still empty — practice gratitude to put things into perspective.

Furthermore, gratitude can make you happier and improve your relationships. It may even help reduce physical ailments. These include headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory infections.

And, when it comes to being grateful — there are several ways to go about it. The most obvious would be writing in a daily gratitude journal. But, you could also send someone a ‘thank you,’ paying compliments to others and viewing each day as a new opportunity. Going for a walk outside and reflect for a moment at the end of the day and write down your wins.

5. Make time to play.

Your “play” doesn’t have to be like when you were a kid in school literally. But, scheduling time to play can give you that much-needed mental boost since it reduces stress hormones and releases endorphins. Additionally, it can make you more creative by encouraging problem-solving.

What counts as play? Anything. Board and video games, kicking a soccer ball around the backyard, puzzles, coloring, and singing are considered to play. If you can call someone to come over — do it. Our office has started to play pickleball every day at lunch and for an afternoon break. We invite other offices to join in our “tournaments.” It has been so refreshing. After such a long quarantine, sometimes we forget to get other people to come. If this is you — mark it on your Calendar or set an alarm.

6. Reduce screen time.

Now that the pandemic is over — determine to limit your screen time. Get outside and do stuff, especially since it’s summer and we can. Make a list and go do everything you dreamed about when you couldn’t get out. It is amazing how many great things are out there that are free or of little cost. But you can’t get out and do extra things if you are glued to the TV.

I’ve also established tech-free zones in the house. And, before listening to podcasts before bed — go back to reading books. You’ll be amazed at how well you sleep.

7. Focus on what you can control.

How to let go of control is no easy feat — especially for entrepreneurs. But, if there has been one key takeaway from the coronavirus, it’s that no matter how much you demand it — there are plenty of things in life that are out of your hands.

Right now, you can do things like getting on a plane, host a party and even go to a concert or sporting event. So go do each of those things. It is amazing how quickly you will perk up and be more productive.

If you are back at the office — go out and get some plants (all our office plants died). So we all went out and picked plants for the office together at a nursery — because we could. Also, get some new pillows for the office couch out front.

8. Stop worrying about being productive.

We live in a world where we obsess about being productive. And that can be problematic. Being “on” 24/7 and trying to maximize every minute of your day can make you anxious and exhausted. So to be productive and motivated — keep yourself fresh with new ideas and thoughts and do something fun.

If you feel up to getting things done, go for it, work fast and do it. On the other hand, if you are lagging in your new “back to the office” zone, give yourself a break — you’ve been through a lot.

9. Be aware of red flags.

Finally, pay attention to your grief if you have it. Don’t swallow! But pay attention to the red flags. Has your alcohol consumption increased? Are your sleeping or eating patterns different? Do you feel hopeless? If any of these things are still bugging you since the end of covid — look for a way to pull yourself out of it. It sounds cliché — but eat right, sing, dance and exercise. Ask around what others are doing, or if someone feels the same way you do.

If you answered yes to any of the above, then please seek help immediately. You can start by talking to your spouse, partner or best friend. But, you may need to reach out to a mental health professional. Please do this sooner than later so that you can move forward.

4 Bad Habits You May Have Developed During 2020 and How to Break Them

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4 Bad Habits You May Have Developed During 2020 and How to Break Them

It’s been a long year — nobody can deny that. You’ve spent entire months in your home doing the same tasks once reserved for the office, and your work ethic has suffered for it. 

Now your workplace may have opened its doors again, and you can finally return. But how many of the trappings of remote work are you taking with you? Or maybe you’ll still be toiling remotely for the foreseeable future. How can you get your work mojo back?

Whatever your current work situation, consider these four bad habits you may have developed during 2020 and how you can break them.

1. A Decreased Capacity for Self-Accountability

The unpredictability of 2020 may have caused your productivity to falter in ways you did not expect. Perhaps you had to set aside your spreadsheets to oversee your child’s online schooling, or the neighbor’s barking dog interrupted your concentration. Each remote day seemed to feel more like an independent challenge. Without the office environment to spur you forward, it became quite easy to lose sight of the importance of your work.

Instead of giving into the urge to slack off when you are struggling, keep yourself accountable by scheduling your day in advance. Checking off each item on your to-do list will give you a visible sense of accomplishment. Follow up the completion of particularly difficult tasks with a reward. Doing your monthly reporting will surely be much more fulfilling with a piece of chocolate waiting at the end!

If this tactic isn’t for you, there are other productive habits you can cultivate to foster self-accountability. You may find that prioritizing “deep work” or batching your tasks will help increase your productivity and keep you focused.

2. An Inconsistent Sleep Schedule

When you’re following the same routine day in and day out, the escape provided by sleep can become incredibly enticing. You’d hardly be the only remote worker to take an unscheduled nap! At the same time, the activities that take a backseat during the workday (spending time with family, watching TV, etc.) fill your evenings. The time spent on these activities adds up, and you may have found yourself shifting your sleep schedule to accommodate them.

While we’ve all been there, it is important to understand just how essential consistent sleep is for your daily energy levels. A bad night’s rest can translate to an unproductive day. 

So the next time an 8 a.m. start to your workday looms, ensure you’re ready for it by scheduling eight hours of shut-eye. Although you may have to sacrifice that second episode of “Schitt’s Creek,” establishing a regular sleep schedule will pay dividends. A nightly routine can improve your REM sleep quality and give you reliable energy for the day ahead.

3. Blurred Work-Life Boundaries

After a year of working remotely, an oversized T-shirt and pair of sweatpants may be your definition of “business casual.” Because of the home comforts you’ve likely become accustomed to, it can be hard to readjust to the workplace dress code. But whether you’re going into the office or just to the spare bedroom, dressing for success can boost your mental outlook for the day.

Picture wearing a cozy set of pajamas in the conference room versus slacks and a tasteful jacket. The pajamas would provide more comfort, but the business wear would be more appropriate (and help bolster your confidence!). This is just one example of how workspaces and living spaces can and should be separated in a post-pandemic world.

Another important consideration is your immediate environment. Make it easier for your brain to distinguish work from play by establishing a desk space that is conducive to concentrating on work responsibilities. Place your go-to reference works on a desktop book rack, or tack up some motivating decor. Even habitually placing your coffee in the same spot each morning can get you in a work frame of mind. Once your day ends, leave your duties at your desk, whether you’re already at home or heading back there.

4. Online Procrastination

During a period of remote work, you are usually expected to be on your computer for most of the day. This is easy enough, but with that constant screen time comes a gateway to the ultimate enemy: online procrastination

Why not take a moment in between tasks to check your Instagram feed or scroll through Amazon? It’ll only take a second, right? One second can quickly become five minutes, and five minutes can become 10. How can you avoid falling into that hole?

If you have been using a schedule to improve your self-accountability, set aside specific time slots for online breaks. This will assure you of their availability and keep your focus uninterrupted during work time. Nothing feels better than taking a well-deserved break, and your work quality will improve in return.

Although some of the workplace changes wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic may prove to be temporary, others are likely here to stay. Many companies, for example, have given their workers the opportunity to work remotely whenever it suits them. Yet repetitive days at home have brought old and new work habits to the forefront of our minds. 

While some of these habits are good (no commute equals fewer carbon emissions, for example), others are less so. Fortunately, with the right tools and mindset, these bad habits can be remedied. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we are all capable of rising above bad habits for our own good.

10 Realistic and Unconventional WFH Tips

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10 Realistic and Unconventional WFH Tips

I’m trying to be completely honest —  I’m tired of writing, discussing, and thinking about working from home probably because most of us have been back in the office for months. The vaccine has made all of us feel a lot safer and we are grateful for that. However, despite the vaccine — many of our employees, and even management continue to need hybrid solutions to work from home when they want to do so.

It’s been found that nine months into the pandemic, 41.8% of the American workforce remains fully remote. And, managers are anticipating that this will continue. In fact, they believe that 26.7% of the workforce will be fully remote in another year.

Clearly, WFH isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon — at least not this year. As such, it’s still necessary to talk about how to remain engaged and productive while working virtually.

But, here’s the issue. We’ve heard the same advice over and over again. You know what I’m saying? Have a routine, get dressed, set boundaries, yadda, yadda.

Moreover, these WFH hacks are approached as a one-size-fits-all approach — but are they?

Not everyone has a home office. Parents can’t always work when they’re most productive. And, how can we focus on work when COVID has taken such a toll on how mental health and wellbeing?

These are all lessons that we’ve learned about working from home through the last year and a half. As we continue to try and find where the real balance in work will be — here are 10 realistic and unconventional tips you can try for the next year and a half.

1. Biohack your way to peak productivity.

According to performance expert, New York Times bestselling author, and founder and executive director of the Flow Research Collective Steven Kotler, you need to take a physical and cognitive approach if you want to enhance your productivity. “If you’re interested in peak performance, you have to be doing these things,” he says. “Otherwise you can’t even get into the game.”

How can you accomplish this? Kotler advises that you focus on the five following non-negotiables:

  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If possible, maintain a consistent schedule that’s based on your circadian rhythms.
  • Find social support to counter loneliness. Additionally, being surrounded by high-quality connections has the ability to lift your spirits.
  • Manage your anxiety levels. “Anxiety is a huge break on people,” says Kotler. Gratitude, mindfulness, and exercise can all help.
  • Set tangible, specific, and process-oriented goals. A long-term goal, like I want to be the greatest author in history, won’t stick. “That’s a moving target. It’s an aim,” says Kotler. “You want to chunk those down into hard, one to five-year goals.” Instead, try; I’d like to write a New York Times bestseller.
  • Discover your intrinsic motivations. “There are five major intrinsic motivators that matter,” says Kotler. Curiosity, purpose, autonomy, purpose, and mastery. They’re all aligned and cannot thrive without the other.

“When we screw up peak performance, it’s nothing more than getting our biology to work for us rather than against us,” says Kotler.

2. Create a “zen” zone.

“No matter where you work — the dining room table or a dedicated home office — it’s essential to create an environment that helps you focus,” says Marie Kondo.

“Clutter overwhelms the brain and compromises the ability to take initiative; a calm and clean area will enhance both productivity and joy,” she adds. How can you get there? Kondo recommends identifying “the items that are crucial to getting your work done” and designating them a home.

“If you don’t have an office, a box or portable carrier will do,” Kondo adds. “Move all unrelated items off of your workspace and add one thing that sparks joy when you look at it.” For her, “it’s a crystal and small vase of fresh flowers on my desk.”

If space is an issue, you can find some inspiration from IKEA’s 2021 Catalog. Some ideas include using the IVAR storage combination as a room divider or a NISSAFORS cart to hold supplies.

3. Embrace mono-tasking.

Is it possible to have a conversation with a friend while doing household chores? Absolutely. But, can that’s probably not a good idea when it comes to tasks that are more challenging, such as deep work. Even if you believe you’re a pro at this, then you’re in the minority — only 2% are actually capable of this.

So, instead of trying to do the impossible, embrace mono-tasking.

“We’ve been sold the myth that multi-tasking is a valuable skill, giving us the ability to get it all done – but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” explains business coach Ryan Jackson, author of The Success Rebellion.

“A more productive approach is to devote days or half-days to themes, or closely related tasks,” he adds. “That way, it’s easier to knock jobs down one at a time and even if you do get distracted, it’s quicker to pick up the thread again.”

4. Take a shower in the middle of the day.

It’s been regularly suggested that taking a shower, or bath, should be a part of your morning or evening routine. However, if you’re dragging, take a shower in the middle of the day. Seriously.

“The relaxing, solitary, and non-judgmental shower environment may afford creative thinking by allowing the mind to wander freely,” said Ron Friedman, Ph.D., founder of Ignite80, during a 2016 online summit. In turn, this lets “people to be more open to their inner stream of consciousness and daydreams.”

5. Do household chores when you’re stuck.

“Whenever you are hitting a wall on trying to brainstorm ideas or solve a certain problem, turn to simple, undemanding, household chores like washing dishes,” recommends Nick Rizzo, Fitness Research Director at RunRepeat. “That’s because studies have shown that engaging in undemanding tasks significantly boosts performance and creative problem-solving when compared to switching to a different demanding task or taking a break.”

“While your brain is mildly focused on the undemanding task, your mind wanders and expands up its problem-solving capacity,” he adds. I can attest that this is 100% true. Other household chores that have helped me get unstuck are folding the laundry, prepping meals, and light cleaning like wiping down the kitchen counter.

6. Straddle the line between comfort and class.

I get it. Changing out of your pajamas into clothes that you would wear to the office can help you transition into work mode. But, why bother when comfort is ket right now?

Instead, find a balance between the two. For instance, you could wear your cozy, broken-in jeans with a semi-casual button-down, henley, or sweater. If you need some ideas, here are some suggestions from Vogue and Men’s Health.

7. Avoid (COVID) decision fatigue.

“35,000. That’s one estimate on how many decisions we make each day,” writes Calendar co-founder John Hall. “And, if true, that would come out to around 2,000 decisions per hour or one decision every two seconds.”

“Even if you don’t believe those exact numbers, the truth is that we do make a lot of decisions on a daily basis,” he adds. And, in the midst of COVID, the number of decisions we have to make has increased.

“People working and schooling from home have had to figure out where everyone is going to do their work, what times are best and worst for focused work, when to take breaks, and how to eat lunch without disrupting others,” clarifies Kathleen Vohs, Ph.D., Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota, and a behavioral scientist who worked on early research about decision fatigue. “The lack of a routine in such a big part of our lives — the period from 8 am to 4 pm — has created a whole host of new decisions.”

What can be done about this?

Simplifying your life is an excellent starting point. “For example, on Sundays prep your meals for the week,” suggests Hall. “Go through your closet and donate the clothes that you no longer wear. And, remove unnecessary events and tasks from your calendar.”

Moreover, automate as much as you can, such as eating the same breakfast every morning. You can also lower your expectations. “Things don’t have to be perfect right now, and maintaining mental health is worth wearing the same jewelry in every Zoom call,” Dr. Vohs says.

And, you can also make upfront decisions with those around you. “Whoever is in your network — roommates, family, friends — it’s worthwhile to spend some time talking through decisions together.” When you do, “you can figure out what are priorities” and “where you’re willing to take risks.”

8. Fight back against loneliness.

“Remember we’re social animals,” says Dr. Angela Carter, an associate fellow at the British Psychological Society. “Part of the reason we go to work is that we love being with other people.” And, this has been one of the greatest challenges we’ve had to overcome in 2020.

Weekly video calls are a start. But, a lot of the interaction that takes place in the workplace is non-work related. As such, schedule virtual coffee breaks, lunches, and off-hour events.

Additionally, make sure to keep in touch with family and friends during your downtime. I know that we’re all experiencing Zoom fatigue. But, it’s still essential for our health and wellbeing.

9. Adopt a “Blue Zone” approach to exercise.

As you’re well aware, exercise is essential. Besides being key to your physical health, working out is beneficial to your mental wellbeing and productivity. And, this is particularly true during COVID.

However, it’s been impossible to maintain a regular exercise regiment this year. As such, you may need to be more flexible. The folks over at Well + Good have dubbed this as “Blue Zones.”

In a nutshell, these are mini-workouts that you squeeze in throughout the day. Examples include walking your dog, biking to the store, or stretching before a Zoom call. Overall, it’s all about incorporating some sort of physical activity into your daily routine.

10. Cut everyone some slack (including yourself).

“It’s not realistic to expect full productivity while people are juggling working from home, extra family and household responsibilities, for many, and managing pervasive stress and anxiety for just about everyone,” says Joshua Zerkel, head of global community for the work management platform Asana. “It’s a lot, and we need to remember that we are humans and not productivity machines.”

However, “we can still be productive and connected,” he adds. “It just looks different than when we’re sitting with our coworkers at the office.”

Rather than beating yourself up, forgive yourself and those around you. “We’re all doing the best we can,” says Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, organizational psychologist and author of Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life. “The silver lining to me of this whole crisis is that when we come out of it, those of us who’ve been perfectionists are learning how to let that go. Learn how to set expectations but also let go of those things that don’t serve you well.”

Create a Summer Reading Program for Your Kids

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Create a Summer Reading Program for Your Kids

School’s out for summer, but that doesn’t mean the learning should stop. Parents will be looking for ways to keep their children mentally engaged with some of the extra time they have off. Of course, reading isn’t an on-off sport. Reading is year-round fun, relaxation and enjoyment.

Reading is one of the best academic activities your kids can participate in throughout their entire lives. In fact, reading is an essential component of child development, so you’ll be setting your kids up for future success by getting them to read during their offseason and all year round.

The Three B’s

I’ve always said that the three main components for good readers are the three B’s. Books, Bookshelf, and Bedlamp. Have these three available and your child will be a reader.

Create a Summer Reading Program for Your Kids

A great way to get your kids’ reading organized is with an online calendar. The following tips will help you make this summer a summer of reading while still balancing the rest of your fun in the sun.

Take a Trip to the Library

Kick things off by taking a trip to your local library. The library will contain all of the books your kids could ever dream of. Sign them up for library cards and browse through all of the books until they find one they like. There will be many options (and opinions) at the library that are not available at home, providing a greater chance for each child to find a book they’re interested in.

Additionally, most libraries will host learning activities throughout the summer that your kids can attend. While at the library, ask for a schedule containing all of the events and activities that are planned for the coming months. Add the books you’re interested in, onto your online calendar so your kids can participate.

The library also has lists of Cauldacot Book Awards and other Award-Winning Books that can be enjoyed.

They also have reading level lists that can guide the parent. I sometimes have my kids (grandkids) read a level or two lower so that they can speed through stacks of books. It’s a blast. “Yeah, I read 250 books this summer.”

Speeding through stacks of books cements little concepts that the children have missed in reading. It also helps kids gain a deeper concept of remembering content. Be sure and have conversations, “tell me what this book was about,” and “what was your favorite part of this book?”

Be sure to add your own reading schedule on your Calendar also so that the kids can see that you have your own personal reading goals. Yesterday I said, “Well, I finished the Oprah book, “What Happened to You?” My grandchild said, “What was your favorite part, grammy?” “I saw you cry.” Wow! I thought. Then I remarked candidly, “It was a hard book to read, but I learned many things, and I think maybe I was hurt as a kid.” It was a solemn talk.

What book talks are you having with your kids?

Plan Reading Times

Many kids are taking the initiative to do some reading on their own time. If your kids fall under that category, you are lucky to be able to guide them into exciting adventures in reading. Scheduling specific times for reading is great. My mom would let us read together as a child if we had showered and were ready for bed at 8:00 PM. We ran to the living room to get the best seat and read whatever we wanted for an hour.

Ask your kids when they would prefer their reading time to be. Do they like reading right before bed or in the afternoon when it’s too hot to bear going outside? Or both? Set those reading times into your online calendar and resist the urge to assign anything else at that time for your kids. Let them relax and unwind with a book.

Add Some Incentives

When pushing your kids to be more productive this summer, don’t be afraid to use incentives as encouragement. Make sure reading isn’t used as a chore. Reading is fun — free time. Always provide wonderful books for the family trip. Occasionally have a special treat. We’ve done the read at the park, read in the balls at McDonald’s, read at the mall, read on stairs outside the capitol, the lawn of the museum, on the bike trail — and many other “kids’ choice” reading spots. (At midnight on the lake with flashlights.) Epic!

Work to make reading an experience — a great experience.

Some schools have reading requirements that your kids will have to meet this summer. For this type of reading — I try always to support the schools — and I try not to show the “bad face” about it. For example, an hour of reading can qualify them for an hour of video game time or a chance to go hang out with a friend. This way, your kids will know that before they can participate in other activities of choice — they have to give some time to clear off the school reading assignments.

Being read to can be just as good as private reading for young kids, especially those just learning how to string words together. Reading to your kids can become a daily tradition that everyone looks forward to and will make a happy addition to your online calendar.

Favorite childhood stories

This summer might be a good time to introduce your favorite childhood stories to your own kids. A recurring event set for each night can mark the time everyone snuggles together to listen to Mom or Dad read aloud.

As a child, whoever got to the living room first got to sit on the back of the sofa and brush mother’s hair while others read. This was a singular event each night because mother’s hair was perfect and never out of place, and her hair was not touched at any other time.

Try something unusual. Reading and how well you read will affect an entire lifetime — you can give this profound gift to a child.

Make sure to answer any questions your kids might have about the story or words they don’t recognize.

Put Together a Movie Night

We know that books are always better than movies based on them. Luckily, kids aren’t typically as harsh of film critics. In fact, it can be quite exciting to watch the cinematic version of the book they just finished reading.

Set a goal with each child to finish their chosen book by a certain date. When that day comes, plan a movie night together in your online calendar to enjoy the plot of the story on the big screen. Grab some popcorn and dim the lights and watch the tale unfold like never before. I love to have neighborhood kids over for these events.

Bring the Stories to Life

Besides the silver screen, you can bring stories to life with other activities that bring reading to life. For example, let’s say one of your kids finished reading a nature book. Plan a day in your online calendar to go bird watching or go to the zoo to see real-life examples of what they read.

Adventure and fantasy books have a lot of potential for creative activities for your kids. Spend some time creating the perfect Harry Potter wand or drawing pictures of dragons together to spend a summer afternoon.

The last couple of weeks, my granddaughter went to a pirate and ocean summer camp. They read about oceans and spiked the kids’ interest with pirate things. She made an aquarium, a bed of coral (out of pipe cleaners), sea kelp and they made a wonderful spyglass. Interactive stuff, when reading, helps your kids exercise other aspects of creative thinking and expression.

Stay Consistent

Don’t be the parent that enforces a strict reading schedule — just enjoy the experience. For summer reading to have a lasting impact — don’t just enjoy — feel joy. Your Calendar will be your weapon of choice when developing an at-home reading program, and it will help you be consistent so that you don’t have to do all of the rememberings yourself. What a great time to live with all of the tech-helps to make it easier.

Set up all your reading times and events in your online calendar. Then, your reminders can prompt you to take action on your plans. Soon, your schedule will turn into a reading habit that no longer needs an online calendar to hold you accountable (it will still help, however).

This will be a summer for the books as you incorporate reading into every day.

Strategies and Habits that Can Help You Reach Your Full Potential

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Strategies and Habits that Can Help You Reach Your Full Potential

This year is all about new beginnings and discovering strategies to help us reach our full potential. 2020 threw everything it had at us — and yet we overcame all of its challenges. Better yet, we grew stronger, found new opportunities, and learned more about ourselves in 2020 than we ever knew prior.

To honor those new beginnings, we should all be striving to become better versions of ourselves in 2021. It’s time to shed those quarantine pounds, budget out your dream home, and pursue your highest aspirations.

One formula that I have found to be a good resource in helping people reach their full potential is the Full Life Framework developed by Leon Ho, the founder and CEO of Lifehack. This framework is built on five steps that enable you to live your life to the absolute fullest. Let’s break them down:

Life Missions

What do you hope to get out of life? This is the question to answer in the first step of the Full Life Framework. You need to have a mission, and specific strategies to reach your goals. Without these two vital pieces in your life — you’ll end up wandering aimlessly without purpose or direction.

Some people’s mission in life is to work hard and retire with the house on the hill. For others, it’s to help people through service or a meaningful career. Others still want to pursue their passions in art, music, or travel. Any of these goals are a wonderful representation of a life well-lived and are okay, as long as your mission is deeply personal and worth dedicating your time toward.

Compromise the Method, Not the Mission

Once you’ve honed in on your life’s mission, don’t let go of your dream. Too many people let the obstacles they face in life derail them from pursuing their life’s mission. One twist in the road and some will let their entire mission be compromised. But twists and turns are a part of life — and life is difficult. Don’t put your heart and life in the rearview mirror to be left behind forever — pick yourself up — over and over again.

Let’s say your dream job is to work for NASA (SpaceX might be more likely at this point), but you get offered a comfortable desk job right out of college. While the pay and benefits are nice, you know that taking this job might dash all hopes you have of getting your dream occupation. Is anything worth the sacrifice to leave your dream behind — or should you take a new strategy that keeps your vision intact?

Adopt a Progress Mindset

There’s one thing that stands in the way of your full potential; failure. Not only failure itself but the constant fear of failure that stops you from stretching your limits and challenging yourself. In order to adopt a mindset of progress, you’ll want to cast off such fears and thoughts.

Instead of beating yourself up when you make a mistake, think to yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Learning from each error you commit makes you stronger and smarter. You’ll rarely make mistakes twice if you use each of them as a strategy to move forward.

Self-Control Systems

True progress doesn’t come overnight. Nothing worth doing comes easy — all proficiency requires hours upon hours of diligent strategies to get from where you are now to where you want to be. The learning curve kind of dedication requires a lot of work and self-control.

The truth is, few people are capable of self-control based on sheer willpower alone. Recognizing and understanding the value of this step is important because it teaches you to develop a system that makes self-control become automatic.

Managing your time and efforts to develop habits will pave the way for you to reach your full potential, rather than climbing a metaphorical mountain every single day.

Life Multipliers

Last but certainly not least are the life multipliers. These multipliers are exactly how they sound; skills and attributes that when self-applied will greatly add upon the value and experience you get out of life.

There are eight life multipliers, each of which can be deeply expounded upon. For the sake of brevity here’s an outline of each multiplier and its importance.

    • Self-Empowerment: Your goals are as far away as you make them. If you don’t take the initiative, you won’t get any closer.
    • Self-Control: As was just discussed, you need to show some self-control so that procrastination doesn’t take hold of your life.
    • Renewable Vitality: Your health is incredibly important. If you’re not physically and mentally caring for yourself, you won’t be as well equipped for life as you’d like.
    • Emotion Mastery: Life is full of trial and error, which can get frustrating at times. Don’t let your negative emotions get the best of you.
    • Conscious Communication: Rarely will anyone make it through life by themselves. Communicating with your family, friends, and colleagues will make the journey much easier and a lot more enjoyable.
    • Smart Focus: Work smarter, not harder. Definitely work hard, but try to put an emphasis on efficiency whenever possible.
    • Learning and Adaptability: Constant learning is how you will be able to reach your full potential. Applying what you learn and even relearning some topics keeps you in the driver’s seat.
    • Constructive Thinking: Brush up on your problem-solving skills. You’ll need them quite frequently on your journey to the top.

The Full Life Framework

The Full Life Framework

The Full Life Framework by Leon Ho

Fulling your life, your passions, and your dreams through The Full Life Framework is a lot to take in — but don’t sweat it.

You have a lot of life left to live; give yourself a few years to get the hang of The Full Life Framework system. It is worth every effort you determine to put into your plan.

Start working on living your life to the fullest today and you’ll always look back with no regrets.

How Tech Will Help Your Productivity

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How Tech Will Help Your Productivity

Let’s not beat around the bush. Improving your productivity, using tech or not, takes a lot of hard work and self-discipline.

How many of us can resist responding to a text message? How often do we engage in busy work? And, are we being as active as we should be while working from home?

However, thanks to technology, these are yesterday’s problems. In fact, with tech, you’ll be able to finally become more productive in 2021 and beyond.

Utilize trackers.

People have been tracking their time for centuries. In fact, the oldest record of tracking time for completing work responsibilities was the Code of Hammurabi, dating to about 1754 BC! But I’m referring to more modern time trackers.

As explained previously in another Calendar article, time trackers “shine a light on when you’re most energetic, focused, and motivated.” Furthermore, “they can pinpoint when and where you’re wasting your valuable time.”

These digital tools also run quietly in the background of your computer or phone. “That means they track your time automatically without you even realizing it.” From there, “they analyze the data and make suggestions on where and how to improve,” such as determining when you’re most productive.

While not as ancient as the Code of Hammurabi, time tracking software has been around for years. But, tools like Toggl, RescueTime, Harvest, Timely, Clockify, and Calendar remain invaluable. Considering that your schedule is vastly different from last year, it wouldn’t hurt to utilize time trackers once again.

Already tracked your time? Well, have you tried a fitness tracker?

Whether it’s a FitBit or Apple Watch, fitness bands can help combat the sedentary lifestyle that we’ve been experiencing since COVID-19 struck. In turn, you’ll be healthier, happier, and more energetic. All of which will increase your output.

Get on board with a smart calendar.

As with time trackers, smart calendars aren’t exactly new. I’d even go as far as to say that solutions like Google, Apple, or Microsoft Calendar have become ingrained in your daily life. But have you tried anything beyond the “big three”?

No disrespect to these online calendars. They’re accessible and come loaded with features ranging from finding meeting times to receiving reminders. However, depending on your exact needs, they may not always be the best fit.

For example, if you’ve found that scheduling meetings consume too much of your time, consider Calendar. It uses machine learning to make smart suggestions for future meetings — it can even automatically schedule them for you as well. And, it integrates with your existing calendar, like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, so that you aren’t always bouncing between them.

AI is a new reality.

“Artificial intelligence is real and helping leading-edge companies gain an advantage in the market through improved automation, enhanced decision-making, and improved productivity,” writes Stephen Boals for Accounting Today. “Whether it’s a simple algorithm that enhances reporting, a cloud-based AP automation suite, or an ERP module your accounting department can leverage, AI point solutions are available and built to solve specific business problems.”

In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2024, 69% of routines done by managers will be fully automated. If you don’t want to be left behind, it’s finally time that you improve your workflow automation game. If you need a starting point, Capterra has an extensive list of automation software for you to review.

Declutter your digital workspace (and mind).

As you know, your workspace and environment have a direct influence on your productivity. I mean, it’s near impossible to focus when you have a cluttered desk or noisy background. But, the same is true of your digital workspace.

It may not be on the top of your mind. But, the biggest distractions that you have at work are, in fact, coming from your smartphone notifications and the internet. While you could evaluate and remove time-wasting apps, I’m looking at your social media; you can use the following tools to achieve digital minimalism.

  • Keep your email in check with Sanebox, Unroll.me, and FollowUpThen.
  • For Mac users, there’s Magnet. It keeps your workspace organized by arranging windows into organized tiles. As such, this eliminates switching back and forth between browser tabs and apps.
  • Don’t worry, Chrome users, I’ve got you. Toby is an extension that allows you to organize and manage your browser tabs — you can also share and collaborate with them.
  • Station is another browser extension. It provides a shortcut for all your apps, documents, notes, and messages so that you aren’t switching back and forth.
  • I’m known for jotting down notes. But, all those stickies and notepads can also cause physical clutter. Google Keep solves this problem. You can use it to take photos of whatever you’ve written down, add audio notes, draw, and set reminders.
  • Do you want to reduce screen time and avoid distractions? Apps like Offtime, Freedom, Moment, and FocusMe let you block app notifications and visiting websites at certain times.

Communicate and collaborate with dispersed teams.

Even if you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, you still have to be in-tough with your clients. For businesses, however, working remotely will most likely be the new normal for the foreseeable future. In either case, you need to have the right tools to seamlessly communicate and collaborate.

While Zoom has been the de facto videoconferencing tool, there are others worth considering. These include Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and GoToMeeting. Verizon has also gotten into the game with BlueJeans.

For my money, though, I’m all about Google Meet. It’s much easier to use than Zoom. More importantly, it’s a part of the Google ecosystem. That means I can use one platform for email, scheduling, docs, spreadsheets, notetaking, and there’s even a whiteboard called Jamboard.

Simultaneously, phone and video calls, texts, emails, and Slack messages can be overwhelming. That’s when collaboration tools like Slab, Eloops, Bluescape, and Figma come in handy. You can interact with team members, create and share content, brainstorm, track projects, or host team-building activities virtually.

Stay focused and on track.

Have you ever been zoned in on a task only to have a thought interrupt your flow? It could be to return a phone call, make a dentist appointment, or pursue a business idea. As opposed to stopping in your tracks, just let Alexa or Google Home know. Using your voice, you can create reminders, add events to your calendar, or generate to-dos.

Besides smart devices and home assistants, apps like Forest, Brain.FM, Serene, Noisli, and [email protected] can keep you focused and motivated. And, if stress or anxiety has gotten the best of you– Calm, Headspace, and Rain, Rain was designed for meditation and relaxation.

Make the shift to 5G.

For roughly the last year, telcos has been updating their infrastructure to 5G to deliver faster internet speeds. More recently, both Google and iPhone have unveiled 5G phones. But, what exactly is 5G and how can you make the shift?

“It’s not simply another ‘G,’ as it has been in previous generations,” explains Amol Phadke, global network practice lead at Accenture. “It has the potential to completely disrupt the way we work and live.”

“The speed of the connection will bring the biggest change by far,” says Carsten Schaefer, founder and CEO at crowdy.ai. “Given how amazingly fast the Internet connection is, it will make work much more efficient.” That may make downloading files faster, but there are additional benefits. For example, this technology can detect malfunctions before they occur, which will reduce downtime.

Moreover, 5G will improve remote work. For instance, it will drastically improve videoconferences. It can also speed up real-time collaboration or provide VR training and mentorship.

However, to tap into the potential of 5G, you need to make sure that your phone and carrier support it. It’s a little foggy right now. The Galaxy S 20 5G, the iPhone 12, and the Pixel 4a 5G are described as 5G.

As for coverage, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all provide maps on where 5G is available. Not all of them are straightforward. But, you can expect more coverage as 2021 rolls on.

Schedule telehealth appointments.

When you aren’t feeling 100%, either mentally pr physically, your productivity stifles. But, the link between health and productivity hasn’t exactly been a secret. What has changed, though, is how more accessible healthcare has become in response to COVID-19.

To limit potential exposure and address mental health concerns like isolation, virtual care visits have skyrocketed. For example, in the first week of March 2020, there was a 154% increase in telehealth visitsForrester Research anticipates that in early 2021, U.S. virtual care visits will almost reach a billion.

Specifically, Forrester expects one-third of virtual care visits to be for mental health. In fact, this will account for 31% of all virtual care visits this year.

With telehealth literally at your fingertips, there’s no excuse to schedule anything from a checkup with your physician to weekly sessions with a mental health professional. When you do, you’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive.

How to Use Your Online Calendar to Promote Mental Health

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How to Use Your Online Calendar to Promote Mental Health

Your most important asset isn’t your car, your house, or even your professional expertise; it’s your mental health.

The rest of your life relies on your mental wellbeing. Especially while the world is facing COVID-19, you have to protect it with every tool available to you — including your online calendar.

What Your Calendar Can Do for You

Your online calendar can’t change your mental state by itself, but it can help you implement and maintain healthier habits. You might be surprised at just how much your mental health improves when you:

1. Schedule Breaks

Going full-throttle all day, every day is exhausting. If you don’t permit yourself to take a step back, you may begin to burn out. Scheduling short breaks throughout your day can help you stay productive without getting overwhelmed.

It can be tough to take breaks when things are hectic. That’s where your online calendar comes in: If it never seems like a good time to take a break, schedule one every few hours. Your calendar can be set to remind you 10 minutes before it’s time, letting you wrap up what you’re working on.

2. Take a Mental Health Day

Frequent breaks throughout the day are helpful, but sometimes you need a full day to yourself. Although it’s best to schedule mental health days for weekends, don’t be afraid to talk with your employer if you need one stat.

Once you’ve decided on the right day, add it to your calendar. Either put together an itinerary for yourself — replete with food and fun activities — or give yourself an unstructured day. There’s no wrong way to do it!

3. Remind You to Move

Regular exercise is tightly correlated with better mental health. Physical activity feels good, takes your mind off your stressors, and gives you something to do with friends.

Why not use your online calendar to put together a workout schedule? That way, you don’t have to decide at the moment whether or not you want to work out — and if so, what exercises you’ll do. After a few days, physical activity will be just another part of your daily routine.

If you’d rather attend fitness classes or play a team sport, your online calendar is also a great place to record those sessions. Add other attendees to the event to create some positive social pressure.

4. Set and Achieve Goals

Setting goals gives us something to work toward, and achieving them provides a sense of fulfillment. That’s why many experts recommend goal-setting for both mental wellbeing and productivity.

Goals should be:

  • Specific: What, exactly, do you want to achieve? Instead of becoming happier, maybe you want to have five low-stress days each week.
  • Measurable: If your goals aren’t measurable, you’ll never know whether or not you’ve met them.
  • Achievable: There’s no sense in setting a goal you have no hope of achieving. Shoot too high, and you’ll only discourage yourself.
  • Relevant: If your priority is your mental health, your goal shouldn’t be to get a promotion. Do you really need more responsibilities at work right now?
  • Time-bounded: A goal without a time horizon attached is just hope. When is a challenging but realistic amount of time for achieving your goal?

5. Schedule Affirmations

Self-affirmations are mantras designed to encourage during moments of hardship. They take little time to say but can deliver big mental health benefits.

Even something short, such as “I won’t give up,” can do wonders when you’re feeling down. Repeat them as often as needed. If you worry about others judging you for talking to yourself, step into a private space.

6. Start a Journal

Sometimes, a little self-reflection is all it takes to get yourself to a better mental state. Remind yourself that if you’re looking for reasons to be sad, you’ll find them. Looking for the good instead can help you see things from a more positive perspective.

Journaling doesn’t take hours to work its magic. Start with a five-minute session: Add a reminder to your calendar to reflect on something that makes you happy. Soon, you’ll be reminding yourself to save your gratitude journaling for the time slot you selected.

7. Eat Well

The food we eat directly affects our emotional state. Eating a healthy, balanced diet ensures our brain has the nutrition it needs to be at its best.

Online calendars are ideal tools for meal planning. Mapping out what you’re going to eat makes it easier to stick to a diet or, perhaps, more importantly, limit the unhealthy foods you spoil yourself with.

8. Get Into a Groove

Adding structure to your life helps you feel in control. While scheduling every minute of your day isn’t always necessary, using your calendar to establish a healthy routine is critical. Moving forward with your routine can give you a sense of optimism even when the odds are stacked against you.

A good place to start is a morning routine: What do you need to be your happiest, most productive self at work? Routines are also important for other times of day, such as bedtime: How do you prefer to wind down, especially when you have a lot on your mind?

You have to make your mental health a priority because no one else will. Think through what you need to take care of yourself, and use your online calendar to make it happen. Remind yourself — as often and in as many ways as you can — that you deserve to be happy.

It May Be Summertime, but the Living Ain’t Necessarily Easier

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It May Be Summertime, But the Living Ain't Necessarily Easier

In reality, it’s mostly only teachers and students who get to take the entire summer off. Even so, the summer months are heavily associated with vacations, beach days, and other fun extracurricular activities. Warmer weather certainly enables a lot more outdoor fun than the other months of the year.

Don’t let all the fun in the sun go to your head, though. There’s still work to be done.

It can be all too easy for business owners to adopt a summer vacation mindset and allow things to slide a bit. When you feel the heat slowing you down, it’s important to set appointments — with yourself — to stay productive. Below are five examples of the types of appointments you should set to keep up your forward momentum.

1. Weekly Planning Sessions

Summer often arrives coupled with a “go with the flow” attitude. While this can be an attractive way to spend your days, a sustained lack of structure often leads to decreased productivity. To keep yourself — and your business — on track, schedule weekly planning meetings for yourself.

Weekends might be an ideal time to hold these personal planning sessions for anyone who operates on a regular 9-to-5 schedule. Whatever time slot you select is less important than keeping that appointment each week. If something does come up, reschedule this time immediately.

When the time for your planning session arrives, open your calendar and plot out the next seven days. Are there any events you need to prepare for? Block out time to do so. Is there a milestone you need to reach in pursuit of a summer goal? Write down your task completion percentage. Use this time to organize your time and efforts to pursue a productive week.

Make your plans as specific as possible. Vague notes are more easily overlooked. Plenty of blank spaces in your calendar may unintentionally provide room for idleness. The more you can plan out your work hours, the better.

2. Self-Care Appointments

Scroll through enough summer vacation photos on social media, and you may begin to feel left out. Burnout and idleness are common during the summer months as workers dream about the beach and count the days until the next weekend. One way to avoid such burnout is to regularly schedule smaller blocks of time for yourself.

Self-care might sound counterintuitive when talking about productivity, but it’s been shown to be an effective long-term play. Approaching your personal time by setting appointments ensures that you’re making time for yourself and that you do so responsibly.

Two dangers to be aware of are taking too much personal time or not taking enough. Scheduling a spa day or a movie night will give you quality time to unwind without taking it too far. By being well-rested and in good spirits, your energy and focus during work hours will be increased.

3. Personal Budgeting Meetings

Over half of the U.S. population takes their spending up a notch during the summer months. Oftentimes this is because summer is strongly associated with fun and new experiences. Extra trips and excursions are planned and taken. If you’re not keeping a personal budget, you run the risk of overspending.

What does budgeting have to do with productivity? As it turns out, a lot.

Money problems are one of life’s biggest stressors. The realization that you’ve spent more than you should have can cause anxiety, which in turn reduces your productivity and overall well-being. You might feel inclined to counterbalance stress by working more hours, but that doesn’t always equate to more effective work. This tactic is often self-defeating.

You may not need to set personal budgeting appointments as often as you do for weekly planning. Once a month might suffice unless you have to accommodate a major event such as a summer wedding or an unexpected medical bill. Document your expenses, necessary or not, and do your best to stay within that budget for the rest of the month.

4. Review Your Metrics

Let’s get down to business. When was the last time you checked your business metrics? These will be one of the greatest indicators of overall productivity this summer. Any slump will be directly reflected in your numbers. This is especially true if you’re a small business owner or operating a startup where even the slightest action can have a big impact.

Set a recurring appointment with yourself to review your business metrics. Doing so will ensure you actually glance at them from time to time. Here are a few metrics you should consider:

  • Response time: How quickly are you following up with a prospective customer?
  • Website traffic: How many customers are using your website in a given time period?
  • Social media followers and engagement: What’s the number of customers supporting your business online and interacting with posts?
  • Cash flow: What’s your total revenue minus total expenditures?

These numbers and others are good indicators of how healthy your business is. A commitment to your personal productivity should cause these numbers to improve. As you look at data metrics, set goals and formulate plans that put your productivity to work instead of throwing ideas at the wall until something sticks. Make appointments with yourself to check progress.

5. Self Check-In

Some of us need constant reminders to keep productivity up. If you’re one of these people, feel free to set personal appointments as often as you see fit. This could even be a daily occurrence where you check in with yourself to gauge your progress that day.

Let’s say you’ve set a personal goal to make 20 cold calls a day to grow your startup business. A self check-in appointment at midday can help you get into gear if you’re falling behind on your quota. Regular self-check-ins will also hold you accountable for the different goals you set throughout the summer.

You definitely want to make time to enjoy summertime, but a small business owner can only afford to get so comfortable. The summer months may be pivotal for your business and your personal progress. Experiment with setting personal appointments to stay motivated so that you don’t let too many opportunities pass you by. 

Over Everything? 11 Ways to Regain Motivation

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Over Everything? 11 Ways to Regain Motivation

We’ve all been there at one point or another — saggy-baggy motivation. You just lose your drive to achieve the goals that you’ve set. And, that’s a problem that can hold you back from solving problems, exploring new opportunities, and breaking unhealthy habits.

Over Everything? 11 Ways to Regain Motivation

If you find yourself in this rut, don’t lose hope — just don’t. You can still get back on track even if you feel like you’re in charge of, or — worse — you’re done and “over” everything. Getting your zip back will involve doing the following 11 strategies.

1. One goal.

“Whenever I’ve been in a slump, I’ve discovered that it’s often because I have too much going on in my life,” writes Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta. “I’m trying to do too much.” As a result, “it saps my energy and motivation. It’s probably the most common mistake that people make: they try to take on too much, try to accomplish too many goals at once.”

It’s impossible to “maintain energy and focus (the two most important things in accomplishing a goal) if you are trying to do two or more goals at once,” he adds. “You have to choose one goal, for now, and focus on it completely.”

“I know, that’s hard,” Leo says. “Still, I speak from experience. You can always do your other goals when you’ve accomplished your One Goal.”

2. Go back to square one.

Do you feel like throwing in the proverbial towel? I think we all have at some point. But, when this becomes too unbearable, it’s often best to give yourself a time out and remember your “why.”

For me, this involves having some “me” time. Usually, it’s a really long walk with my dog and without my phone. During this time, I ask questions like;

  • Why did I choose this work in the first place?
  • What were the initial goals?
  • Is what I’m doing helping my pushing me closer to my long-term goals?
  • Do I enjoy working with my current team?
  • What’s the reason I get out of bed every morning?

You don’t have to ask these exact questions. The idea is to carve out some alone time in order to remember why you started.

3. Give yourself a fresh start.

At the same time, you might just need to turn over a new leaf. I get that this can be tough. But, sometimes you just have to be proactive and move on to something else.

But, did you know that you can do this at any time? Well, that’s what a study from the Wharton School of Business discovered. Researchers found that “intertemporal markers” encourage us by;

In short, talk yourself up and contrive a fresh start when you need a shot of motivation.

4. Make a Ulysses Pact.

“Named for the clever hero of the Trojan war, the Ulysses Pact is a technique for holding yourself accountable to stick with a goal even when it’s hard,” explains Nick Wignall.

What’s the key ingredient in a Ulysses Pact? It’s “that we make a choice in the present (when things are relatively easy) that binds us to perform an action in the future (when things are hard).”

“For example, suppose you want to stick to a plan of going for a run two times per week in the morning with a friend,” adds Wignall. “You could write your friend a series of checks, each for $20, and instruct them to cash one and use the money on whatever they want if you miss a workout with them.”

“In short, the Ulysses Pact helps you maintain high motivation when things get tough by locking in a future behavior ahead of time.”

Why do commitment devices work? They’re “a way to overcome the discrepancy between an individual’s short-term and long-term preferences,” clarifies economist Jodi Beggs. “In other words, they are a way for self-aware people to modify their incentives or set of possible choices in order to overcome impatience or other irrational behavior.”

5. Go on mini-sprints.

“Our brains are wired to focus on the short term versus the long term,” explains high-performance coach Shefali Raina. “So mini-sprints help us get focused, energetic, and motivated to complete shorter-term tasks and feel good afterward.”

Keep that in mind whenever you perceive a task as too big too long, overwhelming, or tedious. Instead of forcing yourself to get into the zone, break these tasks down into min-sprints or shorter blocks of time.

How you go about this is ultimately up to you. For me, I’m all about eating an elephant one bite at a time. For instance, when writing this article, I focus on one point at a time instead of “Oh man, I have to a 1,000 word plus article!”

Another suggestion would be to tap into your ultradian rhythms. For most of us that means, we can work for around an hour before taking a break. One study found that the ideal formula is working for 52-minutes followed by a 17-minute break.

6. Limit wishes.

“You begin to fly when you let go of self-limiting beliefs and allow your mind and aspirations to rise to greater heights.” — Brian Tracy

It’s true. Limiting beliefs hold us hostage from pursuing our goals and desires. For example, they prevent us from asking someone out on a date or starting a new business.

What do we do next? We make limiting wishes, such as “If I were thinner I would be attractive to others” or “If I had a million dollars I could launch my startup.”

While there are times they can be useful, like protecting us from breaking the law, they’re often barriers. Overcome this by challenging limiting beliefs. Some suggestions are asking “What if I’m wrong” and “How this belief is serving me?”

7. Set goals that are intrinsically rewarding.

“In my research, I find that immediate rewards when pursuing long-term goals increase goal persistence and that this occurs by increasing intrinsic motivation — the desire to pursue the activity for its own sake,” says Kaitlin Woolley, assistant professor of marketing at Johnson College of Business. “For example, focusing on the positive taste of healthy food, or the fun in working out, can increase healthy food consumption and persistence with an exercise.”

Immediate rewards are also an effective motivator when developing new habits as well. “A large part of the problem stems from the fact that people are focusing too much on the delayed reward — the outcome of their workout or healthy eating,” notes Woolley. “But when people are in the middle of something, they care a lot about the experience and having fun, more so than the delayed outcome.”

Woolley’s research has also found that fun is key when pursuing long-term goals. “People often get wrapped up in the outcome of their actions,” she says. “And it’s not that the outcome isn’t important, but having fun along the way is the key to persisting with goals.”

8. Change your scenery.

If you’ve properly set up your workspace, it can be inspiring and motivating. I would dare say that it’s somewhere that you actually enjoy being. And, the comfort and routine you’ve established can reduce anxiety and the number of decisions to make.

However, it can get boring. It’s like if your favorite meal is spaghetti and meatballs. If you have this for dinner every night, you’re going to get sick of it. To avoid this, you need to have a variety of meals.

If you feel like you’re getting tired of your routine, shake things up. Instead of going to work in your office, work from a coffee shop, coworking space, or local library. Better yet, get yourself outside as the color green has been proven to boost energy and motivation.

9. Place the negatives out on the curb.

“The brain is a complex muscle that solves complex mathematical problems, creates innovative ideas that have put humans on the moon, invented the internet which changed the way we live and the mind gave us the intelligence to cure serious diseases saving countless lives,” writes Chris Delaney for Addicted2Success. Despite all that, it can still be tricked.

Delaney suggests that you say “I Love London In The Summer Time” out loud.

Your eyes didn’t deceive — and no one made a grammatical error. But, did you spot the double use of the word “the?” Don’t worry, most people didn’t.

What’s the point of this? The “same psychology can be used to trick the mind into Motivation,” says Delaney.

First, “Think of a task that you need to complete but procrastination has stopped you in your tracks,” he adds. “When thinking about this goal, do you imagine how hard this task is, the number of steps you have to take and do you second guess how you will fail?”

“With a focus on the problems and pain of the goal, your mind magically deletes the positives, the potential fun, and your optimistic outcome.” Instead, focus on the positives.

One strategy you can try is imagining that you’re watching a small black-and-white TV. Visualize any negative thoughts or bad memories getting smaller and dimmer. Next, replace “this image by imagining a large, colored film” that’s full of fun and laughter.

10. Hang out with the right crowd.

There’s a popular adage that goes, positivity breeds positivity. Believe it or not, that’s pretty sound advice. The reason being that this type of energy is contagious.

Think about this for a second. When you’re surrounded by positive-minded people who are go-getters, it’s more motivating than hanging out with naysayers and people without ambition.

11. Pump yourself up.

Finally, create routines and rituals that get you amped. For instance, before getting into your most important task for the day, psych yourself up by listening to a playlistleveling up with gamification, or tapping into the power of nostalgia.

Over Everything? 11 Ways to Regain Motivation was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

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