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6 Tips for Working Through the Winter Blues

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6 Tips for Working Through the Winter Blues

Winter is a tough time of year. Leaving the house is hard enough; running a business can feel downright impossible.

For some people, the winter blues get so bad that they’re diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. But even if your energy levels are only a bit lower in the winter, your company could suffer. As the leader, you set the tone for your entire team.

Don’t let that happen. Take these tips to stay productive and keep your spirits up during the long, cold days:

1. Keep it warm and bright.

Studies have shown that cold, dark environments have negative effects on cognition and mood. Work is already demanding, and a chilly or dim office will make it that much more difficult. 

Don’t wait until you’re shivering to throw on those additional layers. Keep the overhead lights on, and get a lamp for your desk if you’re still struggling to make out text or other small details. Grab a cup of hot coffee or hot cocoa to sip on while you work.

2. Prioritize friends and family.

One of the most important lessons entrepreneurs can learn from holiday traditions is to stay in touch with loved ones throughout the year. They can provide motivation, someone to vent to, and a much-needed break from work. Even if you think you can tough it out, you’ll have an easier time if you stay connected.

Schedule at least one social event each week. Invite your siblings over for dinner. Go to happy hour with your former co-workers. Catch up over coffee with a friend from college.

3. Take care of yourself.

As tempting as it is to indulge in comfort foods, it’s crucial to pay attention to your health during winter. Minimize processed foods, and eat plenty of protein and healthy fats. Take a vitamin D supplement, which can ward off depression, if you do not spend much time in the sun. 

Also consider joining a gym, especially if you do not have exercise equipment at home. Exercising outside is tough in the cold and snow, and cardiovascular exercise has massive benefits for mental health. If motivation is an issue, hire a trainer to push you through your workouts. 

4. Take your time.

Although there’s nothing wrong with wanting to achieve your New Year’s resolutions, remember to pace yourself. If you’re feeling stressed, slow down. Take a 15-minute break to go on a walk, meditate, or eat a snack.

What if you can’t seem to shake the stress? Give yourself some more time away. Vacation season is over until summer for most people, meaning you’ll be able to find deals on everything from airfare to hotels. Your wellbeing is worth it. 

5. Look forward.

Setting goals is incredibly motivating, and right after the new year is a perfect time to do so. Think about what you want to achieve in 2020, and share those goals with your team.

Use the SMART goal system:

  • Specific: Don’t say you just want to grow your revenue. By how much? Over what time frame? Through what means?
  • Measurable: Be sure that you have a system for checking progress on your goals. If you can’t put a number to it, then what outcome would indicate that you’ve met your objective?
  • Achievable: Is your goal realistic? You may want to make a million dollars tomorrow, but that probably isn’t going to happen.
  • Relevant: If you’re a startup founder looking to grow your company, don’t worry about whether you can hire fifty people in a month. Focus on hiring a single great employee instead.
  • Time-bounded: Goals are just dreams if they don’t have a timeline attached to them. Remember to be realistic about the amount of time that the associated tasks take.

6. Practice gratefulness.

Do not underestimate the power of gratefulness. Research suggests that gratitude has health benefits ranging from greater life satisfaction to a stronger immune system to reduced anxiety. Keep in mind the only difference in the tested individuals was their mindset.

Be grateful for what you have and the position that you’re in. Meditate on your gifts, and share them with others. Take time each morning to journal on the positive parts of your life. 

Start the new year off with a mindset of self-care and abundance. When you surround yourself with the right people and practice healthy habits, winter doesn’t stand a chance.

4 Tips to Start the New Year Strong

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4 Tips to Start the New Year Strong

If winter weather gets you down, remember: Each new year offers an opportunity to create the company — not to mention the life for yourself — you want. Prioritizing your goals ensures that you make progress on those critical projects.

Those projects may feel endless, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a jump on your list. To start out the new year strong, make these four changes now:

1. Rethink your morning routine.

Starting your day right is one of the best ways to make it productive. Nothing is worse than waking up late, missing breakfast, and putting yourself behind schedule for the rest of the day. Crafting a morning schedule that promotes physical and mental health is a skill that will help you in 2020 and beyond. 

Start every day with something physical. Run, ride your bike, or work in the garden — whatever works for you. Be sure, too, to eat a healthy breakfast. If you’re not taking care of your body, you can’t hope to take care of a whole company. 

Mental health is often overlooked but is equally important. As an entrepreneur, you will experience moments of fear and doubt. One of the best ways to improve your mental health is by practicing grounding habits, such as meditation, reading, or writing, in the morning. Not only do these activities kickstart the brain, but they give you time to address personal issues that would otherwise weigh on your mind throughout the day.

2. Map out your day — but be flexible.

For many entrepreneurs, their planner and calendar are their most important tools. Before you ever arrive at the office, map out your day. Things can change quickly, though, so build in breathing room. That way, if a colleague ropes you into an unexpected meeting, your whole day won’t be thrown off.

Breaking your day in 15-minute blocks is a fantastic way to see work get done while also building in time for things like responding to emails and calls. If you use a digital calendar, set it so that you receive notifications 15 minutes ahead of time. Then, when it’s time to switch tasks, you’ll get a notification.

3. Write out the “why” behind major tasks.

If you’re going to spend a significant number of those 15-minute blocks on a project, you need to be clear on your reason for doing so. In a single sentence, write out your larger goal behind each of those tasks.

To slot those tasks into your schedule, think about the goal associated with each. Order them not by the difficulty or the size of the task itself, but by the goal behind it. Even if finding that next salesperson takes time and is less important in the moment than other tasks, you might prioritize it because boosting revenue is your biggest goal for the new year. Good things take time.

4. Learn your natural rhythm.

Knowing when you are most productive, when you tend to slow down, and when you want to be around people is key for entrepreneurs. The better you know yourself, the better you’ll be able to make use of your time. 

Start with standard business hours. If you are most effective with sales and relationship development between 8 a.m. and noon, schedule your appointments in the morning. If you struggle to get work done between 12:30 and 2:30 pm, schedule this time to respond to phone calls and emails.

Think about your after-hours productivity as well. If you have some clean-up work to do later in the evening, should you do that around 7 p.m. or 9 p.m.? Make sure to leave ample time for family, self-care, and personal development as well. And don’t forget about your commute time: Could you respond to proposals or reach out to leads during that time?

2020 will be here before you know it. Re-evaluate how you’re spending your time, think back to your goals, and know when you’re best equipped to tackle each task. The more changes you make now, the easier next year will be. 

5 Tips for Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Workday

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5 Tips for Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Workday

When you’re building a business from the ground up, it’s tough to slow down and smell the leads. But if you don’t, your mental health will start to show it. 

The success of your company starts with you. Both for your personal well being and for your performance as a leader, you have to make mindfulness part of work life. Here are some ways to do it:

1. Take better breaks.

As a founder or CEO, unplugging from work can feel downright irresponsible. In reality, refusing to give yourself downtime is even more dangerous.

Your core hours might be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but you’re probably doing something business-related soon after sunrise and well after sunset. That “always on” mentality is a fast track to burnout, and you can’t be an effective leader when you’re burned out. 

Make time during the workday to take breaks — real breaks. Working while you eat lunch does not count, nor does the walk you took to the microwave to warm up your meal. Each day, get a real lunch break away from your computer and, ideally, outside of your office. 

Smaller, periodic breaks during the day are just as important. Tony Schwartz, president of the Energy Project, recommends taking one every 90 minutes to increase your productivity and alertness.

2. Get up and move.

Exercise doesn’t just feel good; it’s a key self-care technique embraced by CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Elon Musk.

Find ways to incorporate light exercise into your workday. Use that post-meeting break to stretch at your desk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Rather than call a co-worker, simply walk over to his or her cubicle.

Before or after work, get a real workout in. Although some studies suggest that aerobic exercise is best for mental health, do whatever is sustainable for you. If swimming, bicycling, or lifting weights is what gets you moving, go for it.

3. Schedule it on your calendar.

One of the best ways to make mindfulness part of your daily routine is to literally schedule time for it on your calendar. Not only does doing so help you hold yourself accountable, but it keeps others from impeding on your self-care time. 

Try blocking off just 15 minutes each morning for a quick meditation session. Alternatively, schedule one for times when you know you’ll feel stressed, like after each sales meeting. Search YouTube or use a meditation app to find a guided session you can listen to from your desk. 

If you’ve never meditated before, the process is pretty simple:

  • Identify a quiet space where you feel comfortable.
  • Sit in a cross-legged position or lie down.
  • Listen quietly, either to ambient noise or to a guide.
  • Let thoughts pass, noticing but not judging them.
  • If your attention wanders, bring it back to the sounds around you.

4. Breathe deeply.

Although many people meditate to the sound of their breath, paying attention to it all the time is an even better idea. Researchers have found deep breathing to reduce blood pressure, improve energy levels, and help the body to release stress.

To breathe in a deep, relaxing way:

  • Start every breath in your belly. 
  • Let your chest rise slowly, feeling the cool air enter your lungs.
  • Hold your breath for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly and completely release your breath.
  • Pause for 1-2 seconds before repeating the process.

While you’re sitting at your desk, breathe deeply and consistently throughout the day. When stress or anxiety creep up, acknowledge the feeling and take a few cleansing breaths. Notice the changes in your body when you breathe mindfully.

5. Be a single-tasker.

It’s natural to want to make the most of each day. But when you focus on too many tasks at one time, your brain gets overloaded and doesn’t function at its best. 

Rather than try to tackle multiple tasks at once, prioritize them. Tackle the more intensive, important one during your “magic hours.” Fill remaining slots in your schedule with second and subsequent tasks. If you can’t fit something in, it can wait until tomorrow. 

Nothing is more important than your mental health. Make mindfulness a priority during your workday, and you won’t just become a better version of yourself; you’ll also build your business into a better vision of itself.

7 Tips to Develop the Perfect Morning Schedule

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Ask any entrepreneur how they do it, and they’re bound to tell you it starts with their morning schedule. “If you win the morning, you win the day,” business guru Tim Ferriss likes to say.

What does it take to “win the morning”? While every entrepreneur has a different routine, they all know the importance of maintaining a healthy, consistent morning schedule. Here are their secrets:

1. Improve your sleep regimen.

The most important part of any solid morning routine is what happens beforehand: sleep. To build the energy, focus, and stamina you need for the day, get between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted rest each night.

How can you maintain that when there are so many demands on your time? Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Keep technology, bright lights, and anything that makes loud noises out of the bedroom. If you experience uneven or poor sleep, keep a sleep journal and ask a medical professional.

2. Wake up early enough.

Although some entrepreneurs swear by waking up before sunrise, not everyone is a morning person. What’s important isn’t necessarily waking up at 5 a.m., but rather waking up early enough to focus on yourself and prepare for your day.

Determine how early you need to wake up by writing down your morning habits. Include everything from brushing your teeth to eating breakfast to taking a jog. Note how much time each task typically takes you. Then, work backward from when you need to leave the house, leaving a five- or ten-minute cushion in case everything doesn’t go as planned.

3. Meditate on the day ahead.

Many health conditions that working professionals suffer from can be traced back to stress. Entrepreneurs have high-stakes meetings with investors, budget reviews, HR matters, and more weighing on their minds.

One of the best ways to start the day well is to meditate. Meditation is proven to reduce stress, fight depression, and increase energy. Some people simply listen to their breathing, while others pray, and still others chan a mantra. Whatever helps you find calmness and clarity for the day ahead, go for it. 

4. Squeeze in quality time.

The proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” has stuck around for a reason. Almost 10 million Americans work 60 or more hours per week, including a good number of entrepreneurs.

Rather than get to work as soon as you wake up, treat your mornings as time away from it. Write in your journal, read a book, go for a walk, or eat breakfast with your family. Whatever is fun for you first thing in the morning, make time for it.

5. Eat a healthy breakfast.

Work days are long. To ensure you have energy for the whole thing, start your day with a glass of water and a healthy breakfast. Even if you’re not a “breakfast person,” water will wake up your body and flush out toxins. Follow it with a banana, a couple of eggs, or a cup of yogurt. Avoid foods heavy in simple carbs, such as sugary cereals and fruit juice.

6. Do more with your morning commute.

Between work and family life, there’s never enough hours in the day to get everything done. If you have a daily commute, use it to your advantage: Accomplish minor tasks, such as online scheduling and answering emails, on your commute so you can focus on the big tasks during your scheduled work hours. If background noise is an issue, use ear plugs to preserve your focus.

7. Know your most productive hours.

Balancing work and life doesn’t necessarily mean that you must work a 9-to-5 job. Think about the hours when you feel sluggish: Is that post-lunch lull a problem? Do you struggle with mid-morning meetings?

If you’re an entrepreneur, simply tell your team that you’re shifting your schedule. Otherwise, talk to your manager about it. If you really shine during the 6-9 a.m. period, she might let you come in early and take off before everyone else. Just be sure you’re available for your work appointments and meetings.

Entrepreneurs who succeed maximize their time. Set up your morning schedule for success, and watch everything else follow in its footsteps. 

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