Category Archives: Time Management

9 Things You Need to Do Every Morning to Have a Productive Day

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Want to be in the same league as the most productive and successful people in the world? Then you need to make the most of your morning by doing these nine things. When you do, the rest of your day will be extremely productive and fruitful.

1. Plan the night before.

Because we have a limited amount of willpower and decision-making abilities, you want to eliminate as many decision-making tasks in the morning. This is why American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault ends his evenings by jotting down the three things he wants to accomplish the next day.

It also explains why Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama had limited wardrobes.

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,” President Obama told Vanity. Fair.

When you have fewer decisions to make your saving mental space and will have better productivity throughout the day.

2. Wake up refreshed.

You also can’t have a productive day if you don’t wake-up feeling refreshed. Think about those days when you only got 4 hours of sleep. You’re dragging the entire day.

Establish a nighttime ritual where you limit or avoid stimulates like alcohol, caffeine, and electronics right before bed. Instead, have a quiet and relaxing evening by meditating or reading. And, don’t forget to go to bed at the same time every night.

Ideally, your bedroom should be as dark and quiet as possible. It should also be a little cool. This way you’ll sleep undisturbed the entire night and will wake-up refreshed and ready to take-on the day.

3. Create a morning to focus your mind.

Claire Diaz Ortiz, a productivity expert and author of Design Your Day, says that if you want to be more productive — then you need to create a morning routine that works for you. She explains that how you start your day anchors you and ensures that you stay focused.

According to Renzo Costarella in a previous Calendar article, here’s what you should include in your morning routine:

  • Wake-up before everyone so that you’re free of distractions.
  • Drink at least one 24 oz. glass of water when you first wake-up.
  • Exercise for around 30 minutes before breakfast. If possible, do this outside since taking in that sunlight first thing in the morning lets your internal clock know it’s time to start the day.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast — that means skipping sugary cereals and pastries.
  • Read for at least 10 to 15 minutes so that you learn something new.
  • Practice mindfulness for about 10 minutes — this clears your mind and assists with focus.

My morning routine also consists of writing in my journal — hey, it’s worked for Da Vinci, Mark Twain, Oprah, and Tim Ferris.

I also make my bed every morning. It’s not that I’m a neat freak. It’s a small task that gets your day off to an excellent start.

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” said U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

4. Set a daily intention.

You know, I never really did this until I came across this article from Purple Carrot. It’s great advice, so I’ll let them explain:

“Setting your daily intention is just like paving your day ahead. In the early part of the day when things are calmer, and you have a moment to think clearly, set your intentions focusing on at least two goals that you want to accomplish for the day. Have extra time? Write these goals on post-its and bring them to work with you so you’re constantly reminded of what you want to accomplish.”

I want to emphasize that last part there. Research shows that writing down your goals enhances your goal achievement.

5. Daily affirmations.

“Affirmations are short, powerful yet simple statements intended to help you manifest a particular goal,” writes Choncé Maddox. “This is power is positive thinking and it only takes a few minutes to recite some positive affirmations.”

6. Avoid your phone.

Don’t just dive directly into emails, texts, and social media when you first wake-up. Doing so will help you lose focus. Even worse it steals your time and gives it to other people.

Instead, spend these precious first moments of the day to do something that you find relaxing, such as walking your dog, meditating, or reading, This will help set calm and positive tone for your day, as opposed to a frantic start.

This may take some discipline, but try to avoid your phone until after you’ve eaten breakfast.

7. Schedule your day.

Want to get all all of you tasks done? Then make sure that they’re scheduled into your calendar.

As entrepreneur and author Dave Kerpen explains, “If it’s not in my calendar, it won’t get done. But if it is in my calendar, it will get done.”

“I schedule out every 15 minutes of every day to conduct meetings, review materials, write, and do any activities I need to get done. And while I take meetings with just about anyone who wants to meet with me, I reserve just one hour a week for these ‘office hours.’”

Don’t forget to also schedule in breaks and your lunch.

8. Network over coffee.

Yes. Coffee is good for you. So while you’re enjoying that morning cup of Joe do a little networking. For example, you could reach out and connect with colleagues on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or, you could schedule meetings with potential business partners or investors.

9. Eat the frog.

Brian Tracy, author of “Eat the Frog,” has based his morning philosophy off of a quote from Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Obviously this doesn’t mean literally eating a frog. The frog is “your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.” As the day goes on, this doesn’t just linger over our heads, we have less energy to complete this task.

Don’t put this task off until later in the day. Tackle it first thing in the morning and get it done.

Disciplines That Pays Off: 11 Time Management Tips for Freelancers

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As a freelancer, time management is one of the most important skills that you need to develop. If you aren’t properly managing your time — then you’re not going to earn as much money.

Are you spending an hour or two of social media every morning? This may not seem like a biggie — but is this your time-suck? You have to decide this. Could you have been working, networking, or strengthening your skills? Should you have been doing that?

I’ve been freelancing for a decade. Time management was something that I definitely struggled with over the years — and still do occasionally. What I’ve found, however, is that it takes a lot of discipline to effectively manage your time as a freelancer.

These eleven time management tips for freelancers have definitely helped me in the time management area. As a result — I’ve become a more productive and successful freelancer.

1. Rethink your to-do-lists.

I’m a big fan of to-do-lists. I would say that most productive people are. The thing is, if you aren’t using them correctly — they can become too frustrating and demotivating. If you have a to-do-list containing 30 vague items like “check email,” make phone calls,” and “write blog posts,” you’re not going to be very productive.

Reasonable, specific, and prioritized.

To-do-lists need to be reasonable, specific, and prioritized. Instead of 30 items listed in the way those above  str — trim your list to under 10 items. Make them more detailed — and compelling — like: “email Jim,” return Sue’s phone call,” and “write two time management blog posts.”

How will you do your experiment?

You will need to experiment and find an approach that works best for you. Some people love the traditional checklist on paper or bullet journaling. Others rely on apps like Todoist or Trello. Some freelancers  prefer adding the to-do-list to their calendar.

There’s one of my favorite techniques — the Eisenhower Matrix — which is a to-do list that’s divided into four quadrants: Do first, schedule, delegate, and don’t do.

2. Track your time.

If you want to improve your time management, then you need to see how you’re spending your days and how long it takes you to complete tasks.

You could go old school and carry around a notebook with you for a week. Jot down how long your morning commute takes, the time you spend wasting online, or the amount of time it takes to complete a task. You can use your phone’s stopwatch to assist you.

You have many choices — including staying just as you are.

However, there are hundreds of software and apps that can do this tracking and timing for you — through timers and time sheets. How long you spend on specific websites — Timely, for example, automatically tracks your time and then makes smart suggestions on where you can  improve.

However — knowing — can help you decide.

The idea is that when you track your time you’ll be able to see how and where you’re wasting time. It will also give you a better idea on how long it takes to complete a task and when you’re most productive. Knowing this can help you create a schedule.

3. Make and stick to a schedule.

“Being self-employed means you can literally work whenever you want. Experience shows me it’s best to set specific work hours,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article. “If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of procrastinating, missing deadlines or becoming easily distracted and falling behind.”

Setting specific work hours.

Choncé also says that, “It’s important to set your work hours because you also want to know how much you can realistically accomplish in a workday.” She uses block scheduling and a to-do list to organize her tasks for the day. It’s a simple and effective way to help “get a full understanding of what my day is going to look like and what I’m going to be working on.”

“Once I get toward the end of my set work hours, I know it’s time to wind down and start wrapping up. This helps me transition into other areas of my life without feeling stressed out or ‘guilty’ for stepping away from my business.”

Here’s a rough example of what my daily schedule looks like:

  • 6:00 – 7:00 A.M.: Stretch, breakfast, email, and RSS feed.
  • 8:00 – 11:00: Research and outline articles.
  • 11:00 – 12:00: Meet or touch base with clients.
  • 12:00 – 1:00: Lunch, email, texts, social media, and RSS feed.
  • 1:00 – 2:00: Exercise and take the dog for a walk.
  • 2:00 – 5:00: Write articles for clients.
  • 5:00 – 8:00: Dinner, finish client articles, and prepare for tomorrow.

Bonus Tip:
Work during off-hours. I try to get my day started early, like everyone else. This way I’m not distracted by the other people in my home, emails, or texts. I’ve even gone into coffee shops after dinner because they’re not as crowded at that time.

4. Identify and eliminate distractions.

Distractions are arguably the biggest barrier between you and effective time management, as well as productivity. The common distractions are smartphones, social media, email, and messaging platforms.

The easiest fix of all — turn off notifications.

The easiest fix is to turn off any alerts or notifications on your phone or computer — both Android and iOS devices have “Do Not Disturb” features.

However, if you’re freelancer working from home, you may have to deal with distractions like the TV, your family or roommates, household chores, noisy neighbors, or not having the right tools or equipment.

Ever heard of earplugs or “Beats?”

Find which distractions are hameping your productivity and then find solutions. For example, you may want to start working at a coffee shop or coworking space since they eliminate most of the distractions listed above.

If that’s not an option, then have a dedicated work area that’s in a quiet location. Ideally, this is would be a spare room where you can close the door.

You should also invest in noise-cancelling headphones and dedicate one day a week to household chores so that they don’t take your focus away from work.

5. Break larger projects down.

You just received a large project assignment from a client. Your first instinct is to look at the entire project as a whole. As a result, you get overwhelmed and procrastinate because you don’t know where you’re going to start.

Break down large work projects — just as you would any project.

Instead, break that project down into smaller tasks. For example, when I’ve had to write an eBook, I focus on one chapter at a time. I start by researching and outlining only that chapter that I’m working on. After it’s been outlined, I focus only on writing that chapter.

place to start and makes the project seem much more manageable.

Here’s another tip I’ve learned along the way –break your day into blocks. This is a productivity hack known as the Rule of 52 and 17.

So when I’m writing a big project, I block out two hours of writing into my calendar with a 17-minute break in-between where I go for a block, meditate, or clean the dishes real quick. This keeps me focused on what I’m currently working-on, while also preventing distractions from disrupting my flow.

6. Limit your client base.

When you’re just starting out as a freelancer you have no reservations in accepting each and every gig that comes your way. It’s not a bad idea when you need the cash and building a portfolio.

Eventually, however, you’re going to start working with more high-profile clients. Because they’re paying you decent money, they’ll demand more of your time. In this case, you may no longer be able to handle those smaller jobs.

You take the next advice — when you have the luxury to do so — and not before you are covering your bills. Until bills are paid — shut your mouth and hustle.

Additionally, you may also want to fire specific clients — even if they pay well. I know that may sound ridiculous, there are just some clients who demand constant revisions because they’re perfectionists or don’t know what they want. This prevents you from getting other work completed, which means you may have to part ways with them.

7. Just say “no!”

Your best friend texts you asking if you want to go to lunch. A client emails you asking if you can start working on a project ASAP. Your gut reaction may be to say “yes” to either situation. This means you’re getting pulled away from the work at hand.

I know that you don’t want to offend anyone, but sometimes you just have to say “no.” If you’re swamped, then you need to let the client know that you have a full plate today and can’t start on their project until next week. If you’re in the “zone,” then plan to have lunch with your friend on another day where you have some more flexibility.

8. Work in batches.

“Batching is a form of productivity where you arrange tasks in set groups,” writes best-selling author Amanda Abella. “In other words, you block off time on the calendar for similar tasks.”

For me, when I go to write — I do all of my research and outline for the day’s articles in the morning. I then write all of my article — then edit and format them. This way I’m not switching between tasks or bouncing between tabs.

When it’s time to write, I can just crank an article out, instead of researching, writing, and editing it at the same time.

9. Gamification.

This doesn’t mean that you literally turn you work into a game. It means using game principles in your process to motivate you and make work more fun.

This gamification can be accomplished by:

  • A reward system. You completed a project ahead of the deadline, so you reward yourself by going out with your friends.
  • A point system. You receive points for completing tasks, such as earning one point for cleaning out your inbox.
  • A timer. You have a specific amount of time to complete a task.

Find out which one of these suggestions beats with your heart. You will have to figure this out — if you succeed at freelancing.

  • Compete with a fellow freelancer. Set up a challenge to see who can complete a task or project faster.
  • Chart your progress. I’ve tracked how many words I can write in a day. It’s amazing how many more words I can write now compared to when I started. And, it motivates me to do even better.

10. Outsource and automate.

As a freelancer, I’ve had to learn many new skills over the years in order to market and manage my business. Whenever I have to balance my books or market my services, I’m taking time away from work.

Learn when it is time to outsource and automate the extra tasks.

For example, I recently had to launch an email marketing campaign for a client. Even though I know how to, I found someone on Fiverr to get it started for me. This way I could focus just on creating a content calendar and composing articles for the client.

Once set up, the campaign used automation to respond to clients, such as receiving a welcome email when signing-up for the newsletter or receiving a confirmation of a sale.

11. End-of-day reviews.

“Before finishing up work tonight, review your calendar and reprioritize your meetings, appointments and planned work for the next day. Look to see if you can reschedule non-priority meetings to the following day if you need to,” suggests Jason Womack, author of: Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More

You should also look into the following week of your calendar to see “if you can collapse two meetings into one by meeting with two people at the same time.”

Don’t forget to locate “and schedule 30 – to 60 – minute chunks of a time (perhaps even multiple times per day) during which you can close your door or turn off your email or phone. You can take these chunks of time if you must focus on a single project or priority without being interrupted.”

Jason Womack adds that he has found his clients like this technique and have reported that they “become more aware of the changes they can make for a more productive, engaging day.”

12 Ways to Avoid Self-Sabotaging Your Productivity

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I don’t think that’s it’s always deliberate. But, when it comes to productivity, we’re sometimes our own worst enemy. For example, you did your due diligence by adding your most important tasks to your calendar. But, you didn’t schedule them around when you’re most productive. Here are 12 ways to avoid self-sabotaging your productivity.

That may sound inconsequential. But, since you didn’t plan your day around productivity peaks, you may be working on an essential task during an energy dip. As a result, it may take you longer since you don’t have the energy and focus.

But, that’s just one example of how you may be self-sabotaging your productivity? If you want to avoid participating in this self-destructive behavior, then here are 12 ways you can do so.

1. Manage your attention.

Maura Thomas is an award-winning speaker, trainer, and author of several books, including “Attention Management.” According to Thomas, if you want to avoid self-sabotaging your productivity, then you should first pay attention to your attention.

“We have framed our efforts around productivity and efficiency as ‘time management’ for way too long, all the while knowing that no one can actually ‘manage time,” Thomas told Forbes. “It passes, no matter what we do. We can’t slow it down or create more of it, and we all have the same amount.”

In other words, not having enough time isn’t the culprit when it comes to productivity. “It’s a distraction and misplaced attention that interferes with our ability to achieve the results that are most significant to us,” argues Thomas. The solution? Attention management.

Thomas defines attention management as “the practice of controlling your attention.” While not necessarily a new concept, this idea can be traced back to William James in the 1800s, Thomas believes that this “is an essential productivity skill of the 21st century.”

At its core, attention management is about being proactive and not reactive. It’s deciding where we want our attention to go. And, it’s identifying and changing the bad habits that prevent us from being productive.

To get you started, Thomas suggests:

  • Either put your phone away or put it in do not disturb mode.
  • When on your computer, work offline or close distracting websites.
  • Allocate specific times to focus on less important tasks like email.
  • Declutter your workspace.
  • For uninterrupted work, find a quiet space where you aren’t distracted by others.

Most importantly, “plan, organize, and make thoughtful choices about what gets our attention.” Ideally, this should be based around your priorities.

2. Don’t get too comfortable.

“The critical inner voice likes to keep us in a box, pigeonholed by an identity assigned to us and not necessarily one we earned,” writes Lisa Firestone Ph.D. “It can be tricky and flood us with thoughts that are seemingly self-soothing. After all, it’s much easier “to recognize an internal enemy when it’s yelling at you that you’re stupid or a failure.”

However, most of us struggle with identifying those thoughts that encourage us to engage in unhealthy habits. For example, when you’re exhausted after a hectic week, you may tell yourself that you’ve earned the right to eat junk food and veg out on the couch all weekend.

“Listening to this voice may feel comfortable at first,” adds Dr. Firestone. But, “once we give in to bad habits or avoid going after what we want, our inner critic starts in with the self-punishing thoughts,” such as “You’ll never amount to anything.”

Definitely — make (and schedule) time to rest and celebrate your accomplishments. But, at the same, don’t get too cozy. Keep looking for ways to learn, grow, and get out of your comfort zone. When you do, you’ll embark on more productive and healthy habits. It’s also a great way to silence that pesky inner critic.

3. Create a Pavolian reinforcement system.

We all have those days when we don’t feel like doing squat. As a consequence, we end up procrastinating. Next thing we know, your productivity has taken a hit. More worrisome, this could screw up your entire schedule for the day or even week. And, you may also put your business in jeopardy by failing to meet deadlines.

The good news is that you can use some good old classical conditioning to address this problem. It’s a simple way to trick you into doing anything that you don’t want to. For example, I was having difficulty getting in the zone this week. But, I promised myself that as soon as I completed my work, I would treat myself to a trip to the movie theater. It was simple, but it worked.

The key here is to find a reward system that works best for you. If you don’t want to go to the movies, then treat yourself to a healthy snack, having lunch with a friend, or purchasing a new book.

4. Get over your preconceived notions.

I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of forming an opinion about someone or something before meeting or experiencing them. For example, you may skip a party or networking event because you assume that it will be a waste of time. Other times you won’t try new food, tool, or business process since you’ve already told yourself that you won’t like it.

Sure. There will be times when your preconception was right. But, if you always listen to this bias, then you aren’t opening the door to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives. What’s more, by refusing to try out new things, you’re potentially missing out on an improved routine or system that can boost your output.

5. Working through breaks.

In theory, it’s understandable why we do this. You’ve got a million things to do, or you’ve fallen behind on a project. To resolve these problems, you don’t take any breaks throughout the day. You even work straight through your lunch break, subsisting on a Snickers bar — or two.

You begin to believe that it’s counterproductive to stop what you’re doing merely to take a breath — a breather, or eat a healthy lunch. But, breaks are essential to productivity. We need these intermissions to decompress, rest, and recharge. We can also use these lulls to process everything that’s going around us. And, they give us a chance to refuel so that we have the stamina and mental energy to get through the remainder of the day.

6. Making decisions — quickly.

As a leader, you’re expected to make tough decisions daily. Because some of these decisions are important, you should take your time so that you can weigh the advantages and drawbacks.

But what about less essential choices? You should be able to make them quickly. If not, we’ll spend a portion of your day ruminating over something insignificant.

Author and former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes use picking a hotel as an example. Instead of doing extensive research each time you search for a room, you should have five criteria points that you look for. If the hotel meets your requirements, then book it.

“This helps me de-prioritize marginally productive behaviors, like spending 30 mins returning an unsatisfactory low-value item to a store when I could be doing something much more productive,” Boyes writes for Harvard Business Review.

7. Avoid comparing yourself to others.

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

It’s so easy to fall into this trap. Between conducting market research or just scrolling through social media, you’re tempted to compare yourself to others. Whether it’s sizing up your competition or seeing which tropical location a college friend is currently at, comparing yourself to others isn’t just a waste of time. It also sabotages your productivity because you’re more worried about others are doing than how you can improve yourself personally and professionally.

8. Don’t fear change.

Change is a part of life. But, that doesn’t mean that it comes easy. Most of us resist change because we’re petrified of the unknown. Others are just creatures of habit and don’t want to shake things up.

Whatever the exact reason, change is confusing and frightening. But, by embracing change, you can evolve into a more well-rounded, knowledgeable, and productive individual.

Some ways that you can fight back against this resistance is to seek out different perspectives and try something new. For example, if you’ve never had Indian cuisine, make visiting that new Thai restaurant in town a part of your date night agenda. And, make sure that you ask lots of questions.

9. Seek out inspiration.

Although often attributed to C.S. Lewis, it’s most likely Les Brown, one of my favorite quotes is, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” The reason? It encourages me to chase my dreams and find new sources of inspiration constantly.

If you feel like you haven’t felt excited in quite some time, then everything from motivation, residence, and productivity will stifle. Eventually, like The Boss, you’ll get stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

Thankfully, there’s an inspiration all around you. Books, podcasts, exploring your city, or taking in the arts are all simple ways to give you an inspiration spark when you need it.

10. Lower your standards.

Obviously, you don’t want to ditch your high standards when it comes to your work or the products and services you offer. You should also expect your team to deliver quality work. But, it’s unreasonable and not possible to demand perfection.

Perfectionism prevents you from improving, discovering new opportunities, and wrecks your productivity. To avoid this cycle, lower standards just a little — a smidgen won’t kill you or anyone else. Try:

11. Delay gratification.

Our brains prioritize instant gratification. The main reason for this is because of the emotional part of the brain that responds positively to immediate rewards.

“Our emotional brain has a hard time imagining the future, even though our logical brain clearly sees the future consequences of our current actions,” says David Laibson at Harvard University. “Our emotional brain wants to max out the credit card, order dessert and smoke a cigarette. Our logical brain knows we should save for retirement, go for a jog and quit smoking.”

While you should savor the moment, you also need to find the right balance. If you stay up all night drinking, then how productive are you going to be the next day? If you keep neglecting your health, then you aren’t going to have the energy and focus to power through your to-dos.

So, definitely have fun. But, it should be within reason. And, more importantly, don’t immediately reward yourself. Save it for later so that you’ll make a better choice.

12. Embrace failure.

Finally, don’t fear failure. You should welcome it.

I know that it isn’t fun and wasn’t your intention. But, failing is one of the best ways to learn and grow. You can take that painful experience and use it to your advantage so that you can become a smarter and stronger entrepreneur. It may even make you a better person overall.

4 Ways to Maximize Your Time Between Thanksgiving and Christmas

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3 Things to Keep in Mind When Setting Holiday Hours

The holidays are a time for relaxation and reflection, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to ease up on the gas. Some people will take a turkey nap until the new year. Others will keep their noses to the grindstone — and reap the rewards while everyone else nurses a holiday hangover.

CBS News reports that 61 percent of employees admit feeling distracted by the holiday season as early as November first.

Founders can’t take that kind of break. Follow these tips to keep your company growing through the end of the year:

1. Push harder and reward more.

Your employees might be ready to slack off, but that doesn’t mean you should let them. If you push too hard, though, they will resent your leadership. Enjoy the best of both worlds by giving employees extra time off during the holidays and asking more of them in the weeks leading up to the break.

The Olson Group argues that employers should give employees longer periods of vacation time for a variety of reasons.

Not only do longer vacations make employees more productive, but they also make employees feel more motivated to contribute to the success of the company. For startups, where every employee needs to pull a lot of weight, buy-in is essential. Tell employees about the extra paid time off, then use that as motivation to keep them working harder, earlier, in the meantime.

When employees know they won’t have to worry about work for a whole week, they are less likely to spend the middle of December idly shopping for last-minute gifts.

2. Start every day hard.

The longer you put it off, the more difficult it becomes. Rather than stroll into the office at 8:30 and tackle a few easy tasks before lunch, commit to get to work a little earlier during the holiday season. Once you arrive, tackle the hardest thing on your plate first.

Many successful people disagree on this subject. Michael Hyatt starts with the easy stuff and works his way up.

However, I have found that by tackling my hardest project first thing in the morning, I am better able to respond to the emergencies that pop up later in the day. I can also attend meetings and brainstorm without that nagging feeling that something else requires my attention.

3. Plan time to handle personal errands.

Your business is important, but you still have friends and family who will expect gifts, cards and other reminders that you exist during the holidays.

Don’t be that person who waits until the last minute. Research from Needle found that shopping is now the biggest stressor during the holiday season, ahead of other factors like familial obligations and travel. Stress negatively impacts productivity in a big way, so take precautions to minimize the damage.

Take an afternoon off during one week in December to get all (or at least most) of your shopping out of the way. If you absolutely can’t miss work, put a weekend morning on your calendar and keep that appointment. Make time to take care of the personal stuff so you don’t end up trying to multitask and harm the quality of your work.

4. Leave when it’s time to leave.

Even if you work on Christmas to give your team the day off, take some time around the holidays for your own vacation. Make it last at least a week — not just for your benefit, but for your team’s.

Startup teams look to their founders for guidance. If the founder works all through the holiday without a break, team members will feel like they must either follow that example or be perceived as selfish.

Aron Ain, CEO of Kronos, moved his company from a PTO-based vacation policy to an unlimited one to keep more talented workers. During the transition, he discovered that his managers were reluctant to give new recruits as much PTO as they had at their old jobs.

Even though they were allowed to do so, they didn’t want to be the first to break the mold. Only when the executive team set the example did the dynamic change.

Time has a habit of moving quickly after Thanksgiving. Rather than admit defeat and go into hibernation until the new year, use these tips to buckle down and get more done without losing the respect of your team in the process.

Always Resolve Your Calendar Conflicts

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If you were able to have a superpower, what would it be? For me? I would want the ability to be in two places at once.

That might not sound like the most thrilling of powers. But think about it? You could tackle your work responsibilities while playing with your kids, reading, or whatever else you enjoy during your downtime.

A Properly Managed Calendar Can Feel Almost Magical

Of course, this isn’t realistic. That’s why it’s imperative that you properly manage your calendar. If you don’t, it will feel like you’re trying to be in multiple places simultaneously.

That might not sound like a biggie. But calendar conflicts are frustrating and stressful. They can also cause you to fall behind in your work. And, they could also fracture relationships if this becomes a recurring issue.

The good news? There are ways to resolve your calendar conflicts? And here are 8 such ways to achieve this feat.

1. Avoid conflicts by going digital.

Want to prevent conflicts from happening in the first place? Then you probably should make a move from a paper calendar or planner to a digital option.

I’m not completely hating on old-school paper calendars. In fact, they can still come in handy. After all, they excel at providing a quick visual reminder. And, we tend to remember events better when it’s written down.

At the same time, they can be problematic. Let’s say that you were at a networking event and agreed to follow-up with a new contact. You agree to a phone call next Wednesday at 1 pm. However, when you go to add this entry when you get back to your office, you see that you had a prior commitment.

It’s not the end of the word for you to reschedule. But, if you had a calendar app, you would have been able to see your availability right there on the spot. What’s more, most calendar software won’t even let you double-book your time and will suggest a different time.

As if that weren’t enough, you could share your calendar with others. When you do, they can either see when you’re available. Or, they can book a meeting with you directly through the calendar.

And, one more thing. Online calendars also come with time-zone recognition. That means it will automatically convert time zones to avoid any confusion.

2. Don’t wait until tomorrow.

The longer you wait to put entries into your calendar, the higher the probability for conflicts to arise. Going back to following-up with the contact you met. Until you had the call to your calendar, it doesn’t exist.

Even worse? Something else might creep in and try to claim that block of time. If that happens, you’re going to have to do some last-minute reshuffling.

In short, schedule your priorities and important dates ASAP. For instance, if you know, there’s a meeting scheduled on the 30th of the month book the conference room this very second. If you have a dentist’s appointment in 6 months, get that in your calendar before scheduling something else.

3. Keep your calendar lean and mean.

As I just mentioned, if something isn’t in your calendar, then it’s not worthy of your time and energy. But, does that mean that you need to literally plan every minute of your day? Not exactly.

By all means, get those key entries onto your calendar. But, also leave some blocks open. One example of this would be having a gap between meetings. It’s a simple way to prevent overlapping — plus, it allows you to catch your breath.

Furthermore, there’s another reason not to pack your calendar too tight. It will let you address any emergencies that might pop-up. In turn, you won’t completely ruin your schedule.

And, it’s also been found that healthy scheduling habits make you happy. Specifically, this applies to your social life. For instance, if you don’t have anything planned after running errands and you bumped into a friend, you could catch-up without feeling crunched for time.

4. Stay cool like a cucumber.

So, you’ve got a conflict? You might instinctively have a panic attack. Take a deep breath and relax. Everything’s going to be OK.

The worst possible outcome is that you might disappoint someone or have to adjust your schedule. It’s an annoyance. But, if you’re honest and aren’t making last-minute changes, everything will get back to order.

Additionally, if the other party made a mistake, show a little empathy. As humans, that’s going to happen. Besides, chastising them won’t help correct their time management problems.

5. Don’t have a communication breakdown.

While your handy online calendar can help avert possible conflicts, you can’t solely rely on it. Case in point, you have a family emergency a couple of hours before a meeting. Your calendar obviously doesn’t know this information. As a result, it’s still going to assume that the event will take place as scheduled.

In this case, you need to let the other attendees know. You also need to cancel or reschedule that event. If you don’t have a new date in mind, just let them know that you will pick a new date as soon as possible.

Long story short, keep the lines of communication open. It may take you a couple of minutes. But, it shows others that you respect their valuable time. And, it may also help you de-escalate any possible workplace conflicts.

6. Have a backup plan.

You can’t possibly prepare for every scenario. Personally, I just don’t think that’s possible. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a Plan D, C, and D.

For instance, if you have to reschedule a virtual call, come up with a couple of other possible alternative dates. The reason? Since you have a proposal ready, you won’t play the time-consuming game of cat and mouse.

What if you don’t fill these blocks of time up? No worries. You can use that block to tackle backburner tasks, get the head start on a new project, or kick back and relax for a minute.

Another suggestion could be when it comes to employee scheduling. You might want to have some back-ups in cause someone can’t make it into work. To make this process a little easier on you, you could even permit your team members to pick their own subs.

7. It’s OK to say no.

What if you said yes to a time request only to find out that there’s a calendar dispute? The answer is easy. Just say, “no.”

I know that you don’t want to upset anyone. However, you aren’t doing anyone any favors by spreading yourself too thin. So, if you are already going to a party on Saturday, then you’ll have to pass on another invite.

When it comes to working, you also need to know your limitations. If you’re at full capacity, then don’t accept or volunteer for new assignments.

What exactly should you decline? That’s really up to you. But, some of the most common examples would be:

  • Anything that could be easily delegated or outsourced.
  • Actions that don’t align with your vision.
  • Things that distract you.
  • Unhealthy habits.
  • Things that aren’t in your control.

I’d also add that just because you reject a time request doesn’t mean you should feel guilty. In fact, you could offer an alternative date when you have the availability. After all, if you don’t protect your time, then who will?

Is WFH Making You Miserable?

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7 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout at Home

For years those who were fortunate enough to work remotely praised its benefits from the rooftops. In fact, numerous research backed-up these claims. For example, Owl Labs found in its 2019 State of Remote Work Reportthe following:

  • 83% of survey respondents agree that the ability to work remotely would make them happier.
  • 82% of respondents agree with the statement that working remotely would make them feel more trusted at work.
  • 81% of respondents agree that working remotely would make them better able to manage work-life conflict.
  • 81% of survey respondents agreed that working remotely would make them more likely to recommend their company to a friend.
  • 80% of all survey respondents agreed that the ability to work remotely would make them less stressed.
  • 80% of respondents agree that working remotely would make them feel like their employer cares.
  • 74% of survey respondents agree that working remotely would make them less likely to leave their employer.

In short, remorse workers are happier, productive, and loyal. Reasons include autonomy, flexibility, and fewer workplace distractions. In turn, this is beneficial for their careers and well-being, as well as the bottom line.

Then the global pandemic yet. Suddenly people who had always dreamed of working from home who thrust into this new way of life. Some thrived, others didn’t.

You can’t fault them. A lot of folks just aren’t cut out for the WFH-life. Furthermore, there’s a dark side that’s making people downright miserable.

Why working from home is making people miserable?

“Working from home entails some degree of isolation,” explains business consultant Larry Alton. “If you live by yourself, you may go an entire day without seeing or talking to anybody.” But, even if this isn’t so, “you might customarily shut yourself away in a separate office.”

Why’s this such a big deal? Various research shows that social contact is paramount when it comes to our mental and physical health. Interacting with others can also calm and soothe us.

“Across multiple studies, controlling for factors like income, geographic regions, and even genetics, the single most important ingredient for long-term happiness appears to be how and how often we connect with other people,” adds Alton. “Loneliness, especially on a chronic basis, can subject you to depression, frustration, and career burnout.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s tempting to fall into unhealthy habits. For instance, during your routine, you might tell yourself that you’re only going to catch-up with the local news. Next thing you know, you’re playing along with The Price Is Right.

It may also be easier to sleep-in, make frequent trips to the fridge, and get less physical activity. If you have children, it’s a struggle trying to homeschool them while trying to get your work done. It’s more challenging to leave work at work — I mean, you are essentially living at work.

When you’re working by yourself, there isn’t an opportunity to take advantage of Equity Theory. According to Alton, “This is a sociological phenomenon in which individuals gauge their own performance and sense of belonging against the habits and actions of others. When there are no coworkers around to help you measure your own performance, you might develop a constant, nagging feeling that something is not right.”

The good news? If working remotely has gotten you down, there are ways to turn that frown upside down. And you can start by trying out the following.

Overcome detachment.

In a pre-COVID world, this really wasn’t much of a problem. You could set-up a shop at your favorite cafe. You could join a shared workspace or actually go into work a couple of days per week.

Outside of work, you could socialize with friends or family. I’ve even taken breaks from work to chat with my neighbor. And you could attend local networking events.

While you might be able to do some of the above, it’s definitely more difficult living in a pandemic. If you’re uncomfortable being around others or can’t safely practice social distancing, you can still connect with others.

Obviously, the most popular way is via video calls using a platform like Zoom. Whether it’s meeting with your team or catching up with a friend, this has been a lifesaver. Just be cautious not to overdo it so that you miss a case of Zoom-fatigue.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with just picking up the phone and making a call. If you feel isolated, give your best friend or mentor a ring.

Set rituals, routines, and boundaries.

When you went to the office daily, you had a routine. That structure made it easier to schedule your time. More importantly, it helped you establish boundaries between work and home.

Does this mean you have to follow the exact same routine? Not exactly. The beauty of working from home is that you can set your schedule to fit your productivity peaks and personal obligations.

For example, if you’re a morning bird, you could wake-up before everyone else in your house. While it’s quiet and you have the energy, you can work on your most important task for the day. During your breaks, you could spend time with your family and get some exercise in.

Regardless of how you schedule your day, be consistent. And find ways to transition between your personal and professional lives. It could be something as simple as turning off your computer to changing your clothes.

Create a home “office” space.

I know it’s tempting to work from the comfort of your bed or couch. But, remember, you need separation between where you get things done and chillax. As such, you need a dedicated space that you associate with work.

Ideally, it should be somewhere quiet. A spare bedroom, basement, garage, or even closet would suffice. Additionally, it should also have the right tools and equipment — think desk, high-speed internet, and whatever else you need to work.

But, those are just the basics. Brighten your workspace with natural light, plants, and colors that match your work. For instance, if your job requires a ton of focus, surround yourself with the color blue.

And, go ahead and personalize your workspace by throwing in personal items like photos or memento from a past trip. Most importantly, keep this area clean and organized.

Use your breaks to get a dose of joy.

It’s no secret that frequent breaks throughout the day can boost productivity. The key is to use these breaks to rest and recharge and do something fun.

For me, that’s taking my dog for a walk after lunch — san phone. It’s been found multiple times that spending time outside can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. But, you could try anything that makes you happy, such as phoning a friend, drawing, or dancing.

Take advantage of working from home.

While there are disadvantages of remote work, look on the bright side. You don’t have to put up with a daily commute. As a result, you’re saving more time and money — which can be spent on something more fulfilling.

Also, you might be able to have your dog be by your side all day. Or, you get to spend more quality time with your kids. And, unless you have a video meeting, every day is casual Friday.

Accept your negative feelings.

Finally, embrace any negative feelings that you’re experiencing. It’s a proven way to help you work them. Besides, constantly seeking happiness can backfire.

“Any time you’re setting a standard for your mood when you don’t meet that standard, it’s painful,” said Brett Ford, a psychologist who studies emotions at the University of Toronto. “You’re basically adding pain on top of a lack of happiness.”

“We can’t be happy all the time, but we can be OK with whatever emotions we are having,” says Dr. Judson Brewer, a psychiatrist who studies behavioral change. “And in that sense, there’s a level of contentment that comes with that.”

“I’m content that I’m happy,” says Brewer. “I’m content that I’m not happy. Whatever emotion is here is here.”

Arrest These 12 Time and Productivity Thieves

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Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive: 10 Ways to Get There

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It’s no secret that positive work cultures are more productive. That’s because these types of environments lead to more creative, happy, and collaborative employees. Research has even found that happy employees work harder and smarter. If positive work cultures are more productive, how can you establish a more positive work environment? Well, here are ten ways to get started today.

1. Develop a set of core values and priorities.

The development of a set of core values and priorities will vary from one business to another. A foundation of any positive workplace culture starts with clearly defined values and priorities. Establishing these items give your work meaning and guides you in how you treat your team and customers. Knowing these goals will help you find the right personalities for your startup and aligns everyone towards a common goal.

What’s interesting, however, is that these core values can be whatever you want. “One of the exciting things I found from the research is that it doesn’t matter what your values are. What matters is that you have them and that you align the organization around them,” said Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

“And the power comes from the alignment, not from the actual values,” he added. “We’re not out there telling people [that they should adopt the Zappos values] and culture because that would probably not work in most cases. Our message is more ‘you should figure out what your values are and then align the entire organization around them.”

2. Greet your team.

“A little hello goes a long way in the workplace,” Ashely Alt writes on the SnackNation blog. “Your team members want to feel and be happy, so give them a little nudge in the morning with a big old smile that says, ‘I’m happy you are here, and I want you to love your job.’”

Additionally, make it a point to get out of your office and walk around the office. Do a quick pop in to check on your team and ask them if there’s anything you can help them with. If they’re taking a short break, go ahead, and chit chat with them so that you can both get to know each other better personally.

While it may sound simple, kicking the day off on positive note with a smile and a “Good morning!” sets the tone for the day. It can even turn that crummy morning into an awesome day. “Being upbeat and genuine in your approach boosts your team’s self-esteem, causing them to be more motivated and reminds them that working with you is pretty great,” adds Ashley.

3. Enhance your emotional intelligence.

There has been a lot of emphasis on emotional intelligence over the years. And, for a good reason. Those with high EI are more productive, successful, and effective leaders. In a nutshell, this is because of what EI can do for an individual.

  • Strengthens our self-awareness so that we know what our strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Helps us self-regulate our emotions.
  • Encourages us to be more self-motivated.
  • Increases our empathy.
  • Using the methods of emotional intelligence will help you develop stronger interpersonal skills like active listening and conflict resolution.

As you can see, when you sharpen your EI, you’ll be better suited to communicate with your team, as well as handle how you to respond to them. After you’ve worked on improving your emotional intelligence, provide opportunities for your team to strengthen their own.

4. Show your gratitude.

Think about how you feel when someone thanks you or acknowledges your hard work. Even if you have an ego that’s in check, it still makes you feel great about yourself. So, imagine how your team feels when you show your gratitude.

The best thing about this is that there are a variety of ways to achieve this. For example, you could give an employee a shoutout at the beginning of a team meeting. You could send them a handwritten note. Or, you could engage in random acts of kindness like buying them lunch or surprising them with a gift, raise, or new perk like flexible hours.

5. Grant employees autonomy.

A tried and true way of cultivating a more positive and productive work environment is to stop micromanaging. Instead, offer your team autonomy. Micromanaging makes your team ineffective and nervous. Independence in work conditions means giving them the freedom to work however and whenever they like — within reason of course. It also encourages them to share their opinions and feedback.

On your end, however, this involves learning how to delegate more effectively. You also have to hold your team accountable, frequent feedback, and making sure that your team has the tools to succeed.

6. Improve the physical workplace.

It’s almost impossible for you to be in a good mood and productive when you’re not comfortable. As such, you may want to look into making your office more comfortable. Some great places to start is by keeping the office at a steady temperature, letting in as much natural light as possible, and filling the office with plants.

Additionally, provide your team with ergonomic furniture and encourage them to take frequent breaks throughout the day. Also, keep the workplace clean so that germs aren’t spreading like wildfire. And, don’t be afraid to let your staff personalize their own workspaces.

7. Be respectful of everyone else’s time.

Time is the most valuable resource we have. Because of this, if you aren’t respectful of everyone else’s time, then it shows your team that this is a less then ideal culture. After all, if you can’t be respectful of other people’s time, then how can you be trusted in other areas?

There’s no one way to do this. But, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Don’t leave for vacation or business trip without debriefing your team. They should know what to do while you’re away.
  • Always start and end the meeting on time.
  • Do not annoy your employees during their “off-hours,” like nights and weekends.
  • If your employees are at full capacity, then do not add to their workload.
  • Clearly define any guidelines and expectations so that they do not always have to redo their work.
  • Create and share a team calendar so that everyone knows what’s going on.

8. Encourage fun.

Your team is working their tails off for you. Help them blow off some steam while showing your appreciation by having a little fun. Recognition and fun could be as simple as celebrating milestones or even events like birthdays. You could also take everyone out of the office and go on a retreat or volunteer in the community.

As an added perk, this could be an excellent way to strengthen relationships and encourage collaboration among your team. It can also boost morale.

9. Prioritize your team’s well-being.

There’s a strong correlation between your well-being and productivity. I mean, how can you have the energy and focus on getting work done when you’re stressed, sleep-deprived, and feel like garbage because of your diet?

While it’s not always your responsibility to improve other’s health, you can at least encourage a healthier lifestyle at work. You could fill the healthy with healthier snack options instead of the standard vending machine options. You could offer gym memberships, hold more standing meetings, or provide weekly meditation sessions.

10. Don’t use fear.

Mistakes will happen. So, instead of freaking out on your team whenever they slip up, use that as a learning opportunity. The last thing that you want is to have your team be afraid of you. That’s not a healthy work environment for anyone to work at. And, fear is not an effective way to motivate your team.

Why Business Leaders Should Talk About Their Mental Health

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For those of a certain age, I’m sure that being transparent about your mental health was taboo. Take my friends’ father, who’s a boomer, as an example. He never opened up about how he was feeling until one day he lost it. The stress, and the emotional and physical toll it took on him, finally came to head. And, he just started crying. I was floored. I mean I was always told that boys don’t cry. Here is why business leaders should talk about their mental health.

There’s been a sea of change when talking about mental health, and we can all learn from the shift.

Take Gen Z. They are more likely to seek help then other generations. Unfortunately, that figure is still low with only 37% reporting that they’ve received help from a psychologist or mental health professional.

Considering that some 450 million people suffer from a mental disorder, we still have a long way to go. And, this is particularly true for those in a leadership role.

For starters, as noted by the World Health Organization, “mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.” As a consequence, this can affect people’s behaviorally, emotionally, and physically, such as:

The Link Between Mental Health and Work

Economically, mental health costs the global economy $ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity! Aetna Behavioral Health has also found that employee mental health costs rise twice as fast as other medical costs.

More specifically, mental health can be negatively affected by businesses:

What’s more, via the CDC, “Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time.”

Besides impacting your bottom line, there’s another reason why you need to prioritize mental health at your company; employees demand it.

One study has found that 62% of employees want leadership to speak openly about mental health. But, other research has found this to be higher.

“Mental health is becoming the next frontier of diversity and inclusion, and employees want their companies to address it, write Kelly Greenwood, Vivek Bapat, and Mike Maughan over at HBR. “Eighty-six percent of our respondents thought that a company’s culture should support mental health.” However, it “was even higher for Millennials and Gen Zers, who have higher turnover rates and are the largest demographic in the workforce.”

“Half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers had left roles in the past for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with 34% of respondents overall — a finding that speaks to a generational shift in awareness,” add the authors. “It is not surprising then that providing employees with the support they need improves not only engagement but also recruitment and retention, whereas doing nothing reinforces an outdated and damaging stigma.”

How to Promote Mental Health Wellness in Your Workplace

So, yeah. Mental health needs to become a priority for your business. By being transparent and removing the stigma around mental health, you’ll improve every facet of your organization. And, to get started, here are the steps you should take.

Change the culture.

Changing the culture is a top-down process,” writes Greenwood, Bapat, and Maughan. “It starts with transforming leaders into allies. Encourage executive teams, managers, and senior employees to share their experiences (or those of close family members or friends) at all-staff meetings or in other interactions with their teams.”

“Modeling disclosure and vulnerability as strengths, not weaknesses, goes a long way toward reducing the stigma and setting the tone for transparency,” they add.

Considering that almost half of entrepreneurs have experienced at least one form of mental health condition during their lifetime, you probably already have first-hand knowledge of this struggle. The challenge is to be open up about your experience. Once you do, this will help remove the stigma and encourage others to be more open about their struggles.

Additionally, if you want to change the culture, then you need to walk the walk. That means setting an example by showing others that you are addressing your well-being. For example, take breaks throughout the day and eat a healthy lunch. Most importantly, offer suggestions on how you addressed your mental health. If you spoke with a counselor, then refer an employee to that mental health professional.

Create an employee wellness program.

If you’re unfamiliar, an employee wellness program simply encourages healthy habits within the workplace. More importantly, it helps create a culture where health and wellness is a top priority.

To get started though, Howie Jones in a previous Calendar piece suggests using a Health Risk Appraisal (HRA) to assess your needs. “This is a questionnaire that reviews lifestyle practices like smoking and exercise,” explains Howie. “You could also conduct an interest survey and have your team rank what they would want the program to include.”

With this information, you can then design a program that works best for your company. For example, if a majority of your employees have admitted to dealing with a mental illness, then you may want to select a health insurance plan that covers mental health. You could also offer gym memberships, support services, or training to help them combat stress.

Focus on early intervention/prevention.

Let’s say that your bathroom faucet has a drip. You keep ignoring it thinking that it’s no big deal. Eventually, you may have to replace your sink because of water stains. Leaky faucets may also deteriorate caulk, grout, and damage ceilings and floorboards.

In short, don’t wait to solve this problem before it gets any worse.

The same is true with mental health. Educate your team on how they can cope with stress and anxiety. Provide support services, even if it’s paying for an app like Headspace. And, don’t punish them if they need to take a mental health day or leave early to speak with a therapist.

Enforce working hours.

Promote a healthy work-life balance by establishing boundaries. For instance, limit communication outside of office hours. That means not emailing an employee at midnight asking them a question that could wait until the morning.

You should also encourage them to set an out-of-office message in their calendar. Google and Outlook calendars have this feature. And, it’s a simple way to automatically reject event invites when you’re not available.

Cultivate a healthy and positive work environment.

Besides boosting productivity, healthy and positive work environments can improve morale and decrease turnover. Best of all, it’s not all that complicated to implement if you do the following:

  • Establish organizational guidelines that prevent bullying and harassment.
  • Show your gratitude and appreciation to your team members by recognizing their hard work.
  • Invest in your team’s well-being by investing in ergonomic furniture, providing healthy snacks, and placing plants throughout the workplace.
  • Help your employees curb vices and unhealthy habits.
  • Never motivate your team using fear.
  • Celebrate milestones and have fun through games and volunteering.

Frequently check-in with your employees.

Yes. You’ve got a million things to do. But, spend quality time with each team member. Get to know them better and ask how they’re doing. You don’t want to pry into their personal lives. But, checking-in with them builds trust. That means if they do have a mental health concern, they won’t be afraid to come to you for assistance.

Grant autonomy and flexible schedules.

Don’t micromanage your employees. Even better, provide flexible schedules and working arrangements so that they have opportunities to attend to their well-being.

Help them solve their time management problems.

Finally, help your team members improve their time management. That may not sound like much. But, if they’re struggling in this area, then don’t have the time to attend to their mental health. For example, help them prioritize their time so that they aren’t taking their work home with them. In turn, they’ll have more availability to work with a mental health professional or engage in healthy habits like exercising or meditating.

25 Productive Hacks and Things to Curb Your Boredom

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Last weekend was cool and rainy. I was ahead of my work, and I was trapped inside. Suffice to say; I got a little restless because I was bored with a capital B.

Here’s the thing though, being a little bored is not always a terrible position to be in. Research shows that boredom has the ability to inspire creativity. And, because boredom gives us a brief escape from the daily grind — it’s good for your mental health.

The catch? You have to get bored the right way. If that’s confusing, then there are 25 productive things that you can try the next time boredom strikes.

1. Plan way ahead.

If you want to be productive, then you need to make a plan. Of course, this isn’t always something that you have the time to do. But, if you ever feel restless between meetings or on a dreary Sunday, it’s one of the best ways to kill some time.

In my opinion, this should be a weekly activity. However, don’t be afraid to make plans for the next month or even year. It may sound overwhelming. But, this will let you book your priorities so far in advance that you’ll never have to worry about conflicts.

What’s more, it’s an effective way for you to get a head start on upcoming activities. You can also block-out some me-time in advance or identity tasks that can be assigned to others. It’s a win-win.

2. Tidy up your home or workspace.

Some people thrive when a mess surrounds them. But, for most of this isn’t true. In fact, clutter can be distracting and stressful.

Since you have some availability, pick an area and tidy it up. For example, if you only have a couple of minutes, throw the trash on your desktop, and file important documents. If you have nothing to do this weekend, you could organize your kitchen or clean out your bedroom closet.

3. Organize/clean your computer, phone, or tablet.

Just like your home and workplace, your electronics also have to be periodically be cleaned and organized. Some suggestions would be to remove apps that you no longer use, organizing your electronic files, and clearing your cache. You could also make sure that your contacts are up to date and backup any relevant digital data.

4. Clear out inbox.

If you don’t keep your inbox in-check, it can become so out-of-control that it can kill your productivity. Just think about the time you waste searching for important messages or trying to prevent it from interfering with your workflow.

Right now is the perfect time to tame your inbox. Go through and clear out your spam and unsubscribe to newsletters you aren’ reading. And, while you’re at it, set up filters and unify accounts.

5. Pursue a hobby.

Hobbies aren’t just fun. They can also help you professionally. Research shows that hobbies spark creativity, rescue stress, and improve your physical health. As if that weren’t enough, those with hobbies are more satisfied with their jobs and have a lower likelihood of burning out.

Just keep in mind that depending on where you’re at, you might have to be flexible. For instance, if you’re at home, then baking, gardening, homebrewing, or airplane modeling isn’t a problem. But, you probably can’t do them at your workplace, so you’ll have to opt for hobbies like writing, drawing, or coding.

And, who knows? Maybe your hobby can become a new business venture — or at least a way to earn a passive income.

6. Read.

I love to read. I have since I was a wee lad. And, it turns out that it’s one of the best activities to enjoy.

Reading has been found to strengthen your brain, vocabulary, and ability to emphasize. It can also reduce stress and bolster both focus and analytical skills. So, instead of complaining that you don’t have time to read, pick-up a book the next time you’re bored.

7. Play around on Spotify.

I use Spotify. But, if you’re using a different app like Apple Music, the idea is the same. Listen to educational or inspiring podcasts. Or create various playlists for activities like exercise or to drown out background noise.

I’ve also made a little game with one of my friends, where we create different playlists of our favorite songs and podcasts. Besides giving us something to talk about, it’s a great way to discover new auditory experiences.

8. Watch a TED Talk.

What’s not to love about TED Talks? They’re informative, motivational, and are always under 20-minutes. In my opinion, when you have some time to spare, this is the best way to spend it.

9. Compose a learning bucket list.

I’ve come across many lists that suggest when you’re bored; you learn something new. Obviously, that’s an excellent use of your downtime. The thing is, what exactly are you going to learn?

I might be an anomaly here. But, I’m not the type of person to say, “I’m bored. I think I’ll learn how to speak Italian today.” I’m more likely to wander around aimlessly until I bump into something.

To prevent, I have a list of things that I always wanted to learn. The next time I’m looking for something to do, I can refer to the list. To create your own learning bucket list, think about anything you’ve always wanted to know or try.

10. Practice your current skills.

Becoming an expert in your field can be extremely beneficial. It makes you more marketable. And you’ll be able to work smarter and more easily.

Whether if it’s keeping up with the latest industry trends, attending an online class, or working with a mentor, sharpen your ax.

11. Try something new.

Are you just sitting around the house? Why not hop in the car and try out something like geocaching or exploring a different part of town? Did you work up an appetite? Order dinner from a restaurant you’ve never patronized before.

When you try something new, you open yourself up to new opportunities and perspectives. And it forces you outside of your comfort zone.

12. Go for a stroll.

Spending time outside is one of my favorite activities. In fact, I cherish my daily walks with my dog.

Besides being good for us physically, it’s been found that walking can increase creativity levels. Additionally, being outside makes you happier, relieves stress, improves concentration, and boosts your energy.

13. Journal.

Journaling is hands down one of the best things to do for your mental health. After all, it can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression. Moreover, journaling can help you prioritize and solve problems, track your triggers, and practice gratitude.

14. Play a brain game.

Unlike Trix, games aren’t just for kids. In fact, chess, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and even certain video games are worth your time. Why? They’re able to boost your mental focus and fitness.

15. Meditate.

Meditation is one of the most effective ways to help put your mind at ease. It can also improve your focus. The reason for both is that when you meditate, you’re brought back into the present.

Even better? It takes just 5-minutes of meditation to change your life. And, it can be done wherever you’re at.

16. Update your resume/online profiles.

When was the last time you updated your resume or online profiles? If you can’t remember, then now is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Even if you aren’t looking for a new job, you never know when the opportunity will knock on your door. It’s better to have these items up-to-date instead of scrambling to do so when you’re crunched for time.

17. Network.

Whether it’s attending industry events or introducing yourself to relevant online communities, expanding your network is a must. After all, there’s no better way to grow your business, improve your skillset, and stay afloat on trends.

18. Hang out with friends or family.

Be spontaneous and see if a friend wants to grab lunch. Pick-up the phone and call your parents. Or, plan a last-minute day trip with your kids.

In addition to strengthening these connections, it’s good for your overall well-being. In fact, according to an 80-year-old Harvard study, relationships are key to happiness and long life.

19. Deal with financial stress.

Did you know that 60% of Americans feel stressed about money? As a consequence, this could lead to anxiety, insomnia, and poor coping habits. It can even put a strain on your marriage.

To counter this, think about ways to alleviate financial stress. It could be improving your financial literacy, launching a side-hustle, or creating a budget.

20. Run an errand or two.

Why put off going to the grocery store, dry cleaner, or whatever errand you have to do? If there’s nothing else going on, go out and knock these off your to-do-list.

21. Plan your next vacation.

You might be grounded right now. But, just the act of planning your next vacation can make you happy. And, with so much notice, this ensures that you won’t worry about work while away.

22. Help others.

You don’t have to be selfish with your boredom. If there’s a colleague why needs assistance, lend them a hand. You could also volunteer or share your expertise through blogging or webinars.

23. Self-reflect.

If you’re bored, go somewhere quiet and spend some alone time reflecting. It’s a proven way to improve your self-awareness, provide perspective, and challenge your thoughts. Also, self-reflection helps you review and track your progress, as well as make sense of things,

24. Daydream or take a nap.

Some might scoff at this. But, daydreaming can make you more productive. The reason is that it sparks creativity, reduces stress, and assist in problem-solving.

Similarly, napping can reduce fatigue, increase alertness, and improve your mood. Naps can also speed-up your reaction time and better your memory.

25. Veg out.

Here’s the main takeaway from this article; you need to stop worrying about being productive 24/7/365. That may sound counterproductive. But, when you obsess over maximizing every minute, you’re putting unnecessary stress on your health and well-being.

Furthermore, this can diminish the quality of your work. It also puts a strain on your relationships. And, eventually, you’ll get burned out.

So, the next time you’re bored, just kick back and relax. Use this downtime to recharge your batteries and reconnect with your priorities. When you’re refreshed, you can come roaring back to work.

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