Category Archives: Knowledge Base

How to Bounce Back from a Setback in the Workplace

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

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

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

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

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

1. Accept personal responsibility.

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

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

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

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


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

2. Don’t succumb to depression and anxiety.

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

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

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

3. Reframe the issue.

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

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

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

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

4. Address the problem with your team. 

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

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

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

5. Create a plan to remedy the situation.

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

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

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

How to Inspire Your Team’s Creative Impulses

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

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

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

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

1. Diversify your team.

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

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

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

2. Empower fresh faces.

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

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

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

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

3. Promote fictional media consumption.

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

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

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

4. Support risk-taking efforts.

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

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

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

5. Don’t lead with limitations. 

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

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

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

6. Visualize data. 

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

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

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

7. Enhance your office environment. 

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

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

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

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

Calendar Spam is a Problem (How to Fix)

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

A New Frontier For Spamming

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

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

The Calendar Invite Spam Threat is Real

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

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

How to Remove Calendar Spam from Your Google Calendar

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

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

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

How to Remove Calendar Spam from Your Apple Calendar

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

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

Remain Vigilant

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

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

Fight Back Against “Urgency Bias”

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In small doses, there’s nothing wrong with creating a sense of urgency. After all, a healthy sense of urgency can help overcome laziness and procrastination. You have to fight against making a vague promise to yourself that you’ll do X, Y, or Z when you have time. Especially right now — within the COVID lag times.

More importantly — staying urgent can keep you motivated and focused. If you know you have to complete a task by a certain date or time, then you aren’t going to let distractions interrupt your flow.

However, according to “The Workplace Therapist” Brandon Smith, we’re in the midst of an urgent pandemic. “Like a chef, how can you effectively put hot sauce on the right things (and not on everything leaving your kitchen)?” he asks.

“As someone who has studied workplace functionality in a myriad of industries and coached hundreds of mid and executive corporate leaders for nearly two decades, I’ve had a front-row spectator’s seat to the evolution of the urgency epidemic,” says Smith. “If you are the recipient of others’ urgency, how can you properly respond so as to not allow others to infect you?”

Smith’s solution, which he describes in his book The Hot Sauce Principle: How To Live And Lead In A World Where Everything Is Urgent All Of The Timeisn’t about time management. It’s about urgency management.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s impossible to be productive and manage your time when you aren’t behind the wheel. By that, I mean playing firefighter or not saying “no” to the right things. Certainly, that’s no easy feat. But, you can use the following techniques to fight back against an “urgency biasE.”

Get inside a priority box.

Not literally. Instead, I’m talking about one of my all-time favorite productivity strategies known as the Eisenhower matrix. Named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, here you would place all of your to-do-lists items into one the following quadrants:

  • Urgent and important. Tasks that you will do immediately.
  • Important, but not urgent. Tasks that you’ll schedule for later.
  • Urgent, but not important. Anything that can be delegated to someone else.
  • Neither urgent nor important. These should be eliminated from your list and schedule.

What if you have multiple items in your urgent and important quadrant? Assign a letter or number for each. For example, if you have a task that’s due to do today, then that would be assigned either an A or 1.

Here’s the problem though, a priority matrix is no-match for urgency bias. What happens if something gets sprung on you at the last minute? Furthermore, research shows that we “choose to perform urgent tasks with short completion windows.” The reason? We get a quick dopamine hit.

To solve this problem, use the 2-minute rule. It’s similar to the Eisenhower matrix expect that it creates more of a triage system. Here’s how it works:

  • If something will only take you under 2-minutes to complete, just do it.
  • For tasks that someone else could do, hand-it-off to them.
  • If a task is important but time-consuming, schedule it for when you have availability.
  • For anything that’s not important, delete it.

Embrace microproductivity.

You may have never heard of microproductivity. But, don’t get too hung up on that. It’s just another way of saying to take baby steps.

“Breaking tasks down helps us to see large tasks as more approachable and doable, and reduces our propensity to procrastinate or defer tasks because we simply don’t know where to begin,” Melissa Gratias, Ph.D., a workplace productivity coach and speaker, told Trello.

Also, by breaking large projects into smaller tasks with deadlines, you can stay motivated. Remember, we instinctively choose smaller, urgent tasks even when we know that larger, less urgent activities are more consequential.

Furthermore, this stops us from relying too much on our memory. “If we rely on our memory, we’ll stop at every step of the task and think, ‘What am I supposed to do next?’” explains Dr. Gratias, “Those stops are opportunities to get distracted, get off track, or miss a step.” Having smaller to-dos makes it easier for us to determine what needs to be done next.

Microproductivity also lets us establish more specific goals. As such, we’re able to exclude what’s irrelevant, while inciting effort and persistency. And, this also gives us the opportunity to solicit feedback.

Slow down.

You’ve gone ahead and planned out your ideal week. Despite this, you constantly fall into the urgency trap. In turn, you rush in an attempt to get everything done.

Obviously, rushing to get everything done makes you more anxious and stressed while also interfering with your productivity. Mainly this is because you’re more prone to making mistakes or doing multiple things at once. So, you might be curious as to why you keep doing this yourself. Well, our brains get hooked on the adrenaline stimulation.

The solution? Mindfulness.

Instead of jumping from one frying pan to the next, stop, take a deep breath, and consider the following:

  • What’s the ideal outcome for today and the future?
  • What’s your definition of success?
  • Identify your lack of congruence.
  • Identify the strengths and skills needed to succeed.
  • Expand your existing strengths so that you can nurture them.

“When you consistently rush from point A to point B you miss the subtle nuances of the present moment that bring us joy, build connections, cultivate strengths, provide opportunities, and keep you focused to achieve the vision of our ideal life,” explains Dawa Tarchin Phillips for Mindful. “Instead of getting caught rushing to nowhere devote some mindful time to slowing down and outgrowing personal habits and limitations to achieve better results.”

Collaborate with long-term planners.

Whether if it’s a coach, mentor, or co-worker Liz Kislik suggests on HBR that you work with someone who is more cerebral. You know who these individuals are. They have that uncanny ability to combine high energy and careful planning to keep them laser-focused only on the big picture.

Working from a dedicated long-term business plan will help you avoid burnout.

Stop being so selfish.

That may have come off a bit harsh. But, take a moment to consider how your actions impact others. For example, you and your team have carefully crafted a well-thought content calendar. However, you constantly change due dates and titles in order to be more timely. That means your team know has to reshuffle not only the calendar but also their work to accommodate your last-minute demands.

It’s also okay to be a little selfish.

On the flip side, it’s also acceptable to be selfish at certain times. Let’s say that you have a project due at the end of the week. Since you knew this, you planned accordingly. Your schedule for the week only contains activities that will help you meet this deadline.

So, if you have a time request for a last-minute meeting or new assignment, you can politely decline. If it is an urgent matter, see if there is someone you trust who can take care of it. Or, attend to this during a break. If it’s going to take more time then anticipated, you may then have to adjust your calendar. It’s essential to learn to say “no” pleasantly.

Block out your time.

The idea behind time-blocking is straight-forward. You place an activity into your calendar for a specific period of time. An example would be a virtual meeting with your team from 1 pm to 2 pm on Tuesday. Another would be working on your most important task from 8 am to 10 am daily. And, it could also be scheduling breaks throughout the day.

Usually, time-blocking is an effective way to stay focused and maintain your productivity. block Mainly because it helps you block out distractions and discourage multitasking. But, when your blocks are too rigid, that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for anything that may pop-up.

The good news is that you can still use this method to avoid falling into the urgency trap. For instance, what if you’re most productive from 9 am to noon? Well, you would block out that timeframe to focus on your most important or difficult task for the day. You may have heard of this referred to as eating the frog.

Moreover, you can use time-blocking to protect your non-negotiables. Let’s say that you or your family member need to undergo surgery. Obviously you would put this in your calendar so that something of less importance would occupy that space.

But, on a day-to-day basis, you could leave your schedule wide-open during energy lulls, such as after lunch. You could also leave blank spaces available during the day. Maybe leave an hour blank in the morning and another in the afternoon. It’s a safe way to stick to your lists, while also having the flexibility to attend to emergencies.

6 Ways to Make Self-Growth More Fun

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Can personal growth be fun? It certainly can be, but it can also be a struggle. 

When the focus is put on growing pains, people are turned off by growth opportunities. They get anxious and decide that the outcome simply isn’t worth the effort. 

Giving up isn’t a good idea, either for your personal well being or your professional life. Even though some try to keep these aspects of life separate, they tend to spill over into one another

It’s time for a fresh perspective on personal growth. To make the process not just manageable, but enjoyable:

1. Take a focused approach.

Before the fun begins, you have to narrow your focus. Thinking of personal growth holistically can be overwhelming because it comes in so many colors and approaches. For example, personal growth could encompass any of the following:

  • Becoming a more productive person
  • Building “hard” skills, like software development
  • Gaining “soft” skills, such as empathy
  • Kicking bad habits
  • Enhancing your physical body through exercise
  • Eating better
  • Pursuing your passions
  • Growing spiritually 

Chances are, you want to improve yourself in more than one of those ways. But in order to make the growth process enjoyable, you need to focus. Multitasking will not be effective: You’ll spread yourself too thin, and your growth won’t be as substantial.  

With that said, focusing doesn’t mean saying “no” to growth opportunities right in front of you. It’s about prioritizing what’s most important to you in your current situation. After that, look at what development processes contribute to your priorities. 

Developing a good habit, for example, may be the key to kicking a bad one. Likewise, spiritual growth could lead to mental clarity that enhances your productivity. There may be more overlap than you think. 

2. Bring a friend along on your journey.

Personal development should be about improving yourself, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary process. Doing it with a close friend can make it more fun. Not only will you be able to build off of each other, but you’ll both enjoy it more. 

The key is choosing your partner wisely. Look for someone you trust who’s pursuing similar types of personal growth.

Then, it’s about collaboration and accountability. Start a book club together. Collaborate on a passion project. Check each other’s progress toward the goals you decide on.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Whether you are on a personal growth journey with someone specific or individually, avoid comparing your growth to someone else’s. It’s better to measure yourself against past versions of yourself. 

Competing with yourself can be incredibly rewarding. Feeling like you’re better than you were yesterday is a great reason to get out of bed and work hard. 

Even when competing against yourself, avoid endzone thinking. You’re a work in progress, like everyone else. There’s no such thing as a “best” you, so don’t stress about it.

4. Get in touch with your inner child.

When it comes to personal growth, it’s important to discover things about yourself along the way. Remember how fun exploring a new subject could be as a kid?

Giving structure to your personal growth journey is good, but you need to leave room for surprises. There’s a lot of fun in self-discovery, which is a great incentive to keep growing. Expecting any one outcome from your journey is limiting and stressful. 

5. Travel to new places.

Traveling supercharges your self-growth. You can learn so much from being in another place and experiencing different cultures. 

But in order to grow from traveling, you need to interact with the people at your destination. Simply going somewhere to sit on a beach and sight-see is tourism, not true exploration. Meeting new people is a constructive way to challenge your perspective on life.

6. Try out new hobbies.

Hobbies are inherently personal. But don’t write off a hobby before you give it a shot. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it forever; just try it. 

By testing out new hobbies, you flesh out your sense of self. Just as importantly, you grow in your understanding of the community that engages in the hobby. 

Say you’re a sports fan. Role-playing games may not seem like a natural progression, but who knows? Participating in them could give you a better sense of team dynamics, which can deepen your appreciation of physical sports. 

Engaging in new hobbies is an excellent growth strategy to cross with the second, collaboration. Trying something new together is both less intimidating and tends to produce faster growth. 

Personal growth shouldn’t be something you dread. Don’t overemphasize the difficulties. In fact, if you think about self-development the right way, it can be the most fun thing you do all day. 

Too Hot to Hang: 5 Indoor Team-Building Activities to Do at a Distance

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The great outdoors is, well, great. But in the late summer, the heat and humidity can be unbearable. 

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, that can cause problems if you’re trying to plan a team-building activity. Given that they allow for social distancing, outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones. But safer yet, of course, are remote activities. 

Don’t let the heat hinder you. There are activities you can do remotely and indoors that are just as engaging and valuable. Check out the following team-building ideas that you can do when the weather is far from ideal:

1. Trivia Games

Trivia is a classic team-building activity because it gets people talking and can promote healthy competition. It’s also very simple. You just need a set of questions, two or more teams, and a way to keep score. 

Doing trivia virtually isn’t much of a stretch, either. Simply follow these procedures:

  • Assign someone to be the host at the start of each new game.
  • Use breakout rooms to allow teams to deliberate.
  • Agree on how long teams should be allowed to discuss answers.
  • Establish an honor system to dissuade people from cheating.
  • Decide on a prize to motivate employees. 
  • Use an app or video conferencing service to facilitate the match.

What about the topic? It’s up to you. The questions could be based on pop culture, history, or something specific to your company. You might even try making all the questions about whoever is hosting. It’s never a bad idea to help your team get to know the people they work with a bit better.  

2. Group Wellness Day

One of the best ways to promote wellness at your company is to get together for wellness activities. A community of people can set goals and support each other. 

Consider organizing a remote wellness day for team building. You can synchronize computer screens and do things like guided meditations, yoga, at-home exercises, mental health conversations, and more.

Putting on this kind of event will take some planning. Gather some interested employees to help you plan it out. But even though it will take time, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Lean on free video sites, such as DoYogaWithMe, and trusted wellness resources, like the Mayo Clinic.

3. Anonymous Letter Writing

Writing letters is therapeutic. Plus, 81% of people consider it more meaningful to receive a handwritten letter than high-tech options, such as an email.

Think about it like a Secret Santa game. Assign each member of your team a colleague to write to. Then, decide on a theme for the letters. Ideas include:

  • Gratitude and thankfulness
  • Summer reflections
  • Hope and change
  • Mental health
  • Lessons learned
  • Funny stories and jokes
  • Frustrations and challenges

Once everyone receives their letter, get together for a video conference. Figure out who wrote what to who, and share high points from the messages. 

4. Book Club Meetings

You’ll be stunned by the way reading can bring a team together. And book clubs are a perfect way to learn and discuss various topics with colleagues. It’s as simple as choosing a book for your team and setting a date to discuss the insights you’ve gained. 

Not only can you meet virtually, but you can also set up recurring meetings to chat about each chapter. Don’t make it an obligation, but do invite anybody who might want to join. 

5. Dramatic Readings

Have you ever dreamt of being an actor? Well, a virtual play reading might be your chance to show off your acting chops. If you fancy something different, you could even recite a screenplay from a movie you all love. 

Reading through a play is simpler than it sounds: Assign a character to each team member. Encourage them to really get into the role. Costumes and accents can take dramatic readings to the next level.

How should you organize your reading? One way is to do a dry run all in one sitting. Merely getting through the play can give people a sense of accomplishment. Team members who worry about the time commitment might prefer this option.

Although it takes more time, the better choice is to give your team members some time to prepare. That way, they can get props together and really get into their character. The rest of your team can watch the performance remotely and give their standing ovation in the comfort of their own home. 

Who says team-building has to be a headache? There’s no need to suffer through sweat and dehydration to get people together. Summer team-building can be fun, simple, and yes, even comfortable. 

5 Ways to Lead Effectively as an Introvert

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We tend to think of good leaders as charismatic and extroverted. But being able to work the room doesn’t necessarily make someone a good leader.

In reality, good leadership is more about holistically solving problems than being outgoing. Introverts tend to be thoughtful, contemplative people. Thanks to those traits, they tend to be better leaders than people expect. 

Introverts enjoy low-key, solitary experiences. That enables them to make solid decisions without being unduly influenced by social pressures. 

Sound familiar? If you’re an introvert in a leadership role, use your personality to your advantage. Here’s how to do it:

1. Lead by example.

Setting the right example is important for any leader. But introverts are especially well suited to this: When you have a more reserved posture, people will be drawn to what you do more than what you say. 

Leading by example means showcasing the very characteristics that make you an introvert. Accomplish your with the same excellence you expect from your team. Model not just good quality of work, but good productivity habits. Treat others with respect and deference. 

When people see those traits in action, they gain a deeper appreciation of what introversion brings to the table. It’ll also inspire the introverts on your team to reach for leadership roles. 

2. Hold fewer meetings.

Nobody in their right mind would complain about having fewer meetings. But getting a whole team together for a meeting can be especially draining for introverts. Cutting them down can save a lot of energy. 

Yes, meetings are opportunities to display leadership, but they should be used like a spice. Some leaders hold so many meetings as a way to assert their leadership. At a certain point, it just comes across as overcompensation. 

Consider cutting out the following kinds of meetings:

  • Informal meetings without an agenda
  • Status updates that can be emailed
  • Brainstorming meetings
  • Meetings to discuss client issues 

In most cases, those meetings can be handled with a simple Slack or phone conversation. Introverted leaders know not every topic is best addressed in a meeting.

3. Delegate more.

When you’re leading a team, there’s already a fair amount of delegation happening. But if you’re an introvert, you could benefit by delegating even more than you think you should. 

Delegating isn’t just about lightening your workload; it’s also about building trust with your team members. And what better way to do that than by giving them opportunities to take charge?

Some ways to do this include:

  • Putting others in charge of team-building activities
  • Letting a new recruit lead a marketing campaign
  • Rotating speaking roles in meetings
  • Appointing a talented creative to manage brainstorming sessions

As a leader, your role is to facilitate rather than interfere. You can do more by doing less. Encourage others to take the reins in areas they excel but you struggle.

4. Take advantage of one-on-one time. 

Speaking with a group may not be your strong suit as an introvert, so be sure to make one-on-one interactions meaningful. These moments are more personal, so they deserve some extra attention.

You can make the most of both intentional and unintentional one-on-ones. If you are reviewing someone else’s performance, make the situation conversational. Play to your listening strength, and show empathy. 

Informal one-on-ones are just as valuable: Why not join someone sitting by themselves for lunch? Strike up a deep conversation whenever you give other team members rides. Simply drop by offices for coffee on occasion. 

Strong one-on-one interactions are particularly important with new team members. Not only can it help them feel like part of the team, but it builds trust. Together, those are ingredients for employee retention. 

5. Create a calm work environment.

Introverts need a calm space for focused work, but even extroverts can benefit from it. The good news is, creating one isn’t hard.

Put some potted plants around the office. Encourage people to hang a sign on their office door when they’re doing deep work. Give noise-cancelling headphones to team members as gifts. 

In a calm space, you can work around others with the same focus as when you’re alone. Rather than feeling drained after work, you’ll have enough energy to get out of your comfort zone. Isn’t that the sort of work environment you want to cultivate?

You don’t need to be someone you’re not to be a good leader. Introverts can command respect, rally team members, and plan ahead every bit as well as extroverts. If you count yourself among them, lead with your strengths. They’re more valuable to the team than you might think. 

6 Team Reads That Are Perfect for COVID-19

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Finding time to read is tough. One silver lining of COVID-19 is that many of us are spending more time at home — the perfect excuse to crack a book. 

Between that and remote work’s cultural challenges, an office book club might be just what your team needs right now. Reading a book together is both a bonding opportunity and a recipe for team-wide continuing education. 

With all the books out there, though, settling on one can be overwhelming. Narrow it down by suggesting the following options to your team:

1. “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Live in a Busy World” by Cal Newport 

In a world of constant updates and notifications, it’s easy to get distracted. That’s why a book like “Digital Minimalism” is so important: Not only does it bring awareness to digital time-wasters, but it suggests strategies for breaking free from them. 

Newport goes beyond the typical tech-detox advice. Instead, he argues for a complete rethinking of how we interact with digital technology. Especially on a remote team, it’s a topic worth talking about. 

Distractions destroy productivity. Use this read to get your team talking about what a more focused digital life might look like for each of them. 

2. “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo

For good reason, leaders are taking a hard look right now at racial biases and tensions that might be affecting their team. Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” is an unapologetic look at how and why those things often get swept under the rug. 

DiAngelo comes from the world of corporate diversity programs. Throughout her book, she refers to that experience when explaining why white people struggle to talk about racism.

Your team needs to read things that challenge and inspire them. Use “White Fragility” as a jumping-off point for a heart-to-heart chat about how inclusive your company really is. Having a book to refer to can open space for people to acknowledge others’ experiences and right wrongs.

3. “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

At times, the pandemic can feel positively apocalyptic. Why not lean into that? Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” offers a lot of parallels.

A finalist for the 2014 National Book Award, “Station Eleven” tells the story of a traveling group of performers twenty years after a devastating flu pandemic destroys the world. After making their home in an abandoned airport, the group tries to reconnect with what’s left of humanity. 

“Station Eleven” bucks the myth that only nonfiction books are valuable team reads. In fact, reading fiction can sharpen employees’ emotional intelligence and creativity. Plus, they tend to be engaging, fast reads. 

4. “Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me” by Charlamagne Tha God 

For a great book about mental health, look no further than “Shook One.” This memoir by Charlamagne Tha God traces his emotional challenges as an adult, as well as his success in media, to the traumas he experienced as a child. 

To add depth to Charlamagne Tha God’s story, the book also includes insights from Dr. Ish Major, a clinical psychologist. These sections provide a professional edge and tips for managing anxiety to the radio star’s story. 

Why read this one with your team? Because mental illness is still stigmatized in many workplaces. Maybe it could encourage someone on your team to ask for help in these trying times. 

5. “Acting with Power: Why We Are More Powerful Than We Believe” by Deborah Gruenfeld 

COVID-19 has made many of us feel powerless. Fight that sense on your team by reading Deborah Gruenfeld’s “Acting With Power.” Gruenfeld manages to be radically positive in a way that’s authentic and original. 

The best part about Gruenfeld’s book is that it’s steeped in her own research. By analyzing the techniques of actors, she redefines personal power as the part you play in someone else’s story. “Acting With Power” encourages the meek to embrace their power by adopting an actor’s mindset.

6. “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker 

At risk of repeating a worn-out joke, this book will put you to sleep in all the right ways. That’s because many of us could benefit from getting some more sleep. 

Sleep is one of the most underestimated and least understood parts of life, but it’s also one of the most important. In “Why We Sleep,” Walker explores the things that sleep does for our bodies and our brains. After reading it, you’ll definitely think twice before staying up past a reasonable bedtime. 

These books touch on different concerns and topics. Put your team’s heads together, and decide what you need most right now. And if the one you’re interested in isn’t chosen, remember: There’s always another read down the road. 

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay —You Can Still Work

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50 Top Productivity Quotes For Work and Life

In addition to your existing responsibilities, you’re probably also worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and the uncertainty of the future. It’s fair to say that feeling overwhelmed is the new normal. But, it’s okay not to be okay. You can still work.

Obviously, “not being okay right now” is going to interfere with your work. And, here’s where it becomes a vicious cycle. You can’t focus and fall behind — then it’s A LOT worse — and you’re even more anxious.

Here’s the thing though. It’s okay to not be okay right now. There’s a lot going in the world and you have every right to feel this way. At the same time, you can still be productive — even if it’s not at the level you’re accustomed to.

Clear your calendar.

When you have a minute, pull up your calendar and give it a look. Are there any tasks that could be delegated or deleted? Any upcoming meetings that could be rescheduled or replaced with a quick phone call? What about recurring events or commitments that no don’t fit into your schedule?

The point of this exercise is to clear the clutter from your calendar so that only your priorities are booked. The reason why this can be effective is that your day may not seem as overwhelming since there isn’t much left on your plate.

And, whatever is left can then be broken down into more manageable pieces. That makes getting started a whole lot easier.

Meet in the middle.

Sometimes we tend to get stuck in the linear trap. What exactly does this mean? Well, take writing a blog as an example. If you’re generating a top ten list you start with one and follow the sequence until ten.

But, sometimes when you’re stuck, that can be overwhelming. That’s why a writer friend suggested to Therese Borchard to start in the middle.

“There is less pressure in the middle,” explains Borchard in an Everyday Health article. “The beginning and the end are too weighted.”

“I’ve been using this wisdom not only when I am stuck as a writer,” Borchard adds. “But also when I’m paralyzed by the laundry, when the dishes chase me, when my cluttered desk scowls at me, when I can’t concentrate at work, when socializing is less enjoyable than a dental cleaning.” And, you can even apply it “to larger things, too: choosing a career, navigating a stagnant relationship, figuring how I’m supposed to parent.”

Why is this effective? Because life isn’t always linear. “As much as I want to place it between bookends, it’s messy and confusing, absurd and irrational,” states Borchard. “It lacks a beginning and an end, a straightforward path with an explanation” and is “full of questions with few answers.”

Lean into the wind.

Raymond DePaulo, M.D., author of Understanding Depression has a phrase to use whenever you’re trying to work while depressed: “You have to lean into the wind.”

What on Earth does this mean? Well, there are several ways to interrupt this phrase. But, personally, I think it’s about reminding yourself that this is temporary. And, more importantly, using these changing patterns to your advantage.

For example, when you’re in a good place and feeling uber-productive, get as much work out of the way. If you do happen to fall into a slump again, you’ll be ahead so that you won’t have that anxiety of falling behind.

On the flip side, when you’re feeling down, use that time to attend to yourself. Maybe engage in a little self-care, recite positive affirmations, or just take the day off.

Spruce up your workspace.

When was the last time you cleaned and organized your workspace? If you can’t recall, then right now is a great time to do so. After all, a tidy workspace saves you time, reduces stress, and can even fuel creativity.

And, while you’re at it, decorate and personalize your workspace as well. A study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology discovered that this can increase productivity and overall energy. Additionally, you may want to invest in a standing desk and ergonomic furniture.

Deactivate the “Me” centers of your brain through meditation.

What exactly is a “Me” center? Well, according to Rebecca Gladding M.D., this is “the part of the brain that constantly references back to you, your perspective and experiences.” It’s referred to this “because it processes information related to you, including when you are daydreaming, thinking about the future, reflecting on yourself, engaging in social interactions, inferring other people’s state of mind or feeling empathy for others.”

Since this is the default mode network (DMN) that’s responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts we want to turn this off. After all, it’s been found that mind-wandering is associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about both the past and future.

Thankfully, meditation can deactivate these “Me” centers. As a result, this will help pull you back into the present and encourage you to focus on the task at hand.

Don’t believe the 8-hour workday lie.

Prior to social reformer Robert Owen calling for “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, and eight hours rest,” factory workers put in a brutal 12 to 14 hours. While that’s definitely progress, this remains that standard for employees well over a century later. And, that’s not conducive to most modern gigs today.

“It’s all but impossible to actually work for eight hours a day in the jobs so many of us now have,” writes Lizzie Wade opines over at Wired. “Like most people writing hot takes and think pieces about productivity, I’m focusing on knowledge workers here—those of us who work at desks, mostly in front of computers, in offices or from home.”

Wade is right on. According to a study from Stanford, working long hours doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, once you’ve clocked in 55 hours per week, productivity plummets so much that it’s pointless to work any more.

So, I propose that you change that mindset. If you’re able to knock out your top priority for the day, some administrative work, and a video meeting in around 4-hours, I would say that you had a productive day. In other words, focus more on the quality of what you’re doing instead of the hours you’ve put in.

Phone a friend.

If you have someone that you trust a friend, family member, or colleague, call them up when you’re not at 100%. Mainly this is because talking can lead to catharsis. In turn, you feel a sense of relief and have cleared your head so that you can focus.

What’s more, talking to someone else gives you the opportunity to spitball ideas or solve a problem together. Even if you aren’t using these ideas at the moment, you can use them to steer you in the right direction. For example, if you’re struggling with fresh content for your business, you and a co-worker could at least develop a list of ideas to work from. They may not be developed just yet, but it’s a starting point.

Cut yourself some slack.

I can’t stress this enough if there was ever a time to be kind to yourself, it’s now. So what if you only worked for 4-hours or took an hour-long walk outside? Is it really the end of the world if you didn’t respond to an email today or cross-off all the items on your to-do list?

Give yourself a break here and do the best you can. Giving yourself a break may mean admitting that you’re not perfect. It’s about making yourself a priority and practicing self-kindness. And, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your goals to make sure that they’re reasonable.

But like David Kessler says — “You don’t have to find a meaning.” Sometimes you just have to go through this “meaningful moment.” (I just watched David Kessler at a grief conference – Open to Hope. Amazing.)

Stop chasing productivity.

“Every waking moment of your life does not need to be optimized to make you a better, more profitable you,” says career coach Meghan Duffy. “Pandemic or otherwise, you have worth outside of your output.”

Personally, I’ve found that between the pandemic, social issues, and a lot more time to myself, that being included in the 48% of Americans who considered ourselves “workaholics” was no longer a priority. There are just more important things in life besides work.

In fact, I’ve cherished the moments of literally doing nothing as of late.

“Sometimes doing nothing, lounging on the couch and relaxing are great forms of self-care,” explains Elizabeth Beecroft, LMSW. That may sound counterproductive. But, having disconnecting and unplugging have done wonders for the mind, body, and soul.

Ask for help.

Finally, if you are truly struggling then please meet with a mental health professional. Since many of them provide online or phone sessions, it’s never been easier to fit a session into your busy schedule. Most importantly, you have someone to talk to and they can offer strategies to help you cope and manage your anxiety or stress.

Some of your productivity right now, in this current moment, may be taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself will mean that you can get back to your work.


The Art of Surrendering: Learning How to Let Go of Control

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You’re not going to like this. But, as a parent, I’m so tempted to belt out “Let It Go” right now. But, well, I just have to let it go. Obviously, it’s for some people to let go of control. And letting go of control is easier said than done. Here is the art of surrendering — learning how to let go of control.

As Steve Maraboli wrote in Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience:

Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!

For so many of us, we simply just can’t let go of control. As Dr. Amy Johnson writes, there are three reasons why this is true.

The first is that control is rooted in fear. As such, we “control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t. Secondly, it’s “a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us as if we always know what’s best.” And, thirdly, when you’re in control mode, your “vision gets very narrow and focused,” and the adrenaline is pumping.

“And it doesn’t work,” proclaims Leo Babauta. “You can’t get a firm grasp on the fluidity of life.” As a consequence, “we get stressed, procrastinate, feel hurt, get depressed or anxious, get angry or frustrated, lash out or complain.”

What’s the solution then? Practice the art of surrounding.

As Leo explains, that may sound “lame to many people, or perhaps scary.” But, when you give into surrender, you’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. In turn, your performance and productivity will improve. It’s a win-win.

So, how can you stop fighting against yourself, reality, and the universe? Well, here are the best ways to let go of control and embrace surround.

Accept the truth and be thankful.

“To let go is to be thankful for the experiences that made you laugh, made you cry, and helped you learn and grow,” writes Marc Chernoff. “It’s the acceptance of everything you have, everything you once had, and the possibilities that lie ahead.”

At the same time, it’s also “about finding the strength to embrace life’s changes.” What’s more, it’s also trusting your intuition, learning as you go, realizing that every experience has value, and continuing to take positive steps forward,” adds Chernoff.

Focus on what you can control.

“We can influence situations and people, but we have zero control over what the outcome will be,” states Stefan James. “Our emotional response is the only thing at our disposal.”

Here’s the thing, according to James, focusing too much on what we can’t control, steals “precious time and energy away from what we can control.”

“Focusing on what you can control takes preparation, effort, and discipline,” he adds. “It requires that you adopt the mindset of, ‘I am going to be the very best that I can be with what I have.’” That’s no easy feat. But it is possible. For example, you might not have control over the failure of the success of your business. But, “you can control how much time you devote to building it.”

Live in the moment.

In my opinion, this can be a challenge — especially if you struggle with anxiety. But it’s not impossible. There are plenty of simple ways for you to become more present.

The most obvious place to start is practicing mindfulness. As Dr. Travis Bradberry explained in a previous Entrepreneur article, this “requires you to observe your thoughts and feelings objectively, without judgment, which helps you to awaken your experience and live in the moment.” And, more importantly, it prevents life from passing you by.

Bradberry adds that even if you have a packed schedule, you can practice mindfulness by focusing on your breathing or going for a walk. He also suggests that you repeat one positive thing yourself and to stop what you’re doing whenever you feel stressed.

And, if you don’t have a chance to stop what you’re doing, touch your body. It “requires you to observe your thoughts and feelings objectively, without judgment, which helps you to awaken your experience and live in the moment. This way, life doesn’t pass you by.”

Other ways to live in the moment? Well, here are some techniques that I’ve tried out:

  • Become more minimal. I’m talking about decluttering your entire life. And I mean everything from your calendar to possessions to people that you no longer need or don’t bring your joy.
  • Focus on your priorities. Take a look at your to-do-list or calendar. While everything may appear to be a priority, the reality is that this isn’t the case. So, start focusing only on the things that are bringing you closer to your goals.
  • Stop and smile the roses. Excuse the cliche. But, what this means is slowing down and savoring what you’re doing at this exact moment. For example, let’s say you go for a walk after dinner with your family. You notice a stunning sunset. Just stop for a second and admire its beauty.
  • Don’t live in the past. Learn how to forgive and move on from past hurts. And, don’t obsess over your recent accomplishments. Instead, use both experiences to grow.
  • Stop worrying about tomorrow. It doesn’t exist. But, telling yourself that doesn’t always silence these thoughts. Try coming up with a plan to overcome most obstacles or turn to healthy distractions, like reading or speaking with a mentor.

Stop perfectionism in its tracks.

“Perfectionism prevents you from improving and discovering new opportunities,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a Calendar article. “And, it also wrecks your productivity since you’re spending too much time second-guessing yourself.” Overall, “it’s a terrible trait that can do serious damage to your business, relationships, and health.”

So, how can you let go and move if you’re a perfectionist? Well, here some strategies that you might want to employ:

  • Accept that perfection doesn’t exist and enjoy the process instead.
  • Set realistic goals that you’ll reach.
  • Welcome feedback.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Use “hypothesis” testing, like sending an email without proofreading it. You’ll realize it’s not the end of the world.
  • Thwart ruminating. For instance, distance yourself from a past event if you’re dwelling on it.

Conquer your fears with a list.

“Control is rooted in fear,” notes Lauren Stahl. “We try to control things because we are scared about what might happen if we don’t.” Here’s the key takeaway here, “fear is an allusion.” It’s “false evidence appearing real.”

Writing a fear list gives you a chance to identify what frightens you so that you can find ways to overcome them. Furthermore, a fear list can also help you track your progress.

And, speaking of lists, Stahl also suggests creating a freedom list. “Freedom means surrendering,” she explains. “It means you are at peace with yourself and have trust.”

Express yourself creatively.

Whenever I really can’t let go of something, I write my thoughts down in a notepad. There’s no rhythm or reason. I just pour whatever’s on my mind to that piece of paper. And, sometimes, that’s enough to acknowledge my feelings so that I can proceed.

Some people will burn that piece of paper, while others get more creative by composing lyrics instead. And, if you’re not a writer, then express yourself however you like through drawing or painting. Besides feeling like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders, you may be able to use these creative juices for improving your business.

Be your authentic self.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are,” writes Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. “Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”

In short, welcome vulnerability and stop viewing it as a weakness. Instead, realize that this means embracing your mistakes and shortcomings. When you do, you can highlight your strengths and be comfortable with who you are.

Seek moments of silence and solitude.

I know that this doesn’t seem possible. But, take a closer look at your schedule. The chances are that there are moments throughout the day for you to have some peace and quiet. For me, it’s in the morning before everyone else wakes-up. For others, it could be during their commute, in between meetings, or during an afternoon walk.

Regardless of when you have time to yourself, the idea here is to eliminate distractions, reflect, and enjoy your alone time. When you do, you’ll have an opportunity to make plans that align with your purpose.

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