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Significant Development Goals

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Significant Development Goals

Set goals. With the start of the new year comes the bold attempt to “manage time better,” “be more productive,” and “focus on what matters.”

If you are a “project creep” person, you miss deadlines, and an ever-growing to-do list is all too frequent both in your life and business. These two areas must be put on your significant professional development goals. Large-scale polls consistently show time management abilities among the most wanted workforce talents and among the most difficult to find.

What goals could manage your time better?

There is no shortage of advice – books, blogs, hacks, and applications — all designed to improve time management.
The most irritating fact for anyone wanting to better their time management is that these techniques are unlikely to help.
Simply said, these tools and apps assume a person’s underlying talents, but time management skills come first.

Do you think buying a decent set of knives, high-end kitchen equipment, and fresh food will automatically turn you into a five-star chef? No way. Similarly, utilizing a scheduling tool without time management skills is unlikely to provide favorable results. However, developing a new skill or skill set keeps you on the cutting edge.

Fortunately, a lot of studies have been done on time management abilities.  Timing management is the practice of adjusting one’s time to changing external conditions. Time management effectiveness requires three specific skills:

First, recognize that time is a finite resource.

Organize your objectives, plans, timetables, and projects to maximize your time.

Adaptation: adapting to interruptions or shifting priorities while doing tasks.

Arranging is perhaps the most recognizable ability, given that most applications and hacks deal with planning and scheduling. However, awareness and adaptive abilities are not as widely recognized.
This presents essential development questions:
Are they equal?
Are some harder to master than others?
What about rarity?

Time Management Tests

To find out, I looked at over 1200 people’s findings from a 30-minute micro-simulation meant to measure time management abilities. Participants were assigned the role of a freelance designer and had to handle work and relationships with customers and colleagues using email, instant messaging, and cloud storage.
They had to cope with scheduling problems, prioritize customer requests, and manage their time.

Some solid evidence emerged for goals

First, all three abilities were equally crucial for time management.
So strengthening one’s scheduling and planning abilities overlooks two-thirds of the skills required to manage time properly.
That’s why it’s so discouraging to try new technology and then feel like we’ve never improved as time managers.

Second, respondents had the most trouble with awareness and adaptation abilities, with scores 24 percent lower than arranging skills.
This study implies that awareness and adaptability are uncommon talents that require direct assistance to achieve.
Also, awareness skills influence how effectively participants avoid procrastination, and adaptability skills influence how well they prioritize activities.

Third, the results contradicted prevalent beliefs about the benefits or drawbacks of multitasking.
A post-simulation poll examined how people felt about multitasking.

Their inclinations for multitasking (what academics call “polychronicity”) had nothing to do with time management abilities.
People’s time management skills have little to do with their multitasking preferences.
So the emphasis on multitasking that many time management experts place on it is unlikely to deliver genuine results.

Fourth, the research shows that people misjudge their time management skills.
For example, just 1% of people’s self-ratings matched their objective skill scores.
Also, self-ratings only accounted for only 2% of real-time management ability differences.
In prior research, people lack proper self-awareness of their competencies, which impedes transformation and leadership growth.

Time Management Skills Development

So how can people improve their time management skills?
To begin, decide where to focus. The only way to honestly answer this question is to examine your present skill levels.
You may fuel your development efforts in three ways.

Improve your self-awareness of time management. This can be achieved by objective evaluations like microsimulations, peer or supervisor feedback, or by defining a baseline of behaviors against which progress can be measured.

Perception matters more than thinking. Understanding one’s time management preferences or personality traits, such as multitasking or being proactive, can help identify areas where reform efforts may fail.
Skills, not personality, are the most flexible personal traits and deliver the best return on investment.

Identify and prioritize your skill gaps

The goal is to prevent self-improvement that is “inch deep but a mile wide” when efforts are scattered out over too many requirements. Prioritize your skill development, starting with the most urgent skill requirement and working your way up.

There are several proven methods for improving time management. Here are a few. Remember that techniques establish underlying abilities that will ultimately enhance time management.
Using these strategies isn’t the purpose.

Increasing awareness. Effectiveness is doing things well, whereas efficiency is doing things quickly. Both are vital. Efficiency is counterproductive.

Find your performance peak. Divide your day into three to four-time slots and rate them from most to least productive throughout a week (most productive is peak performance).

Treat time like cash. Make a time budget for a typical week. Then, sort time into fixed (must do) and discretionary (want to do).

Timing-up

Not how much time you have left, but how long you spend on things with defined deadlines.

Evaluate your time management skills. After concluding a job, compare your expectations to the actual time it took. This process is good development of skills.

Consider “future time.” Consider how your current actions will affect future activities (e.g., how will today’s project tasks affect next week’s tasks?).

“Sunk cost fallacy.” When you believe you’re spending too much time on anything, take a step back and assess its value (e.g., who will be affected if it’s done or not).

Learning to organize

The learning curves and time requirements for unfamiliar but critical jobs might be severe. Developing arrangement skills means taking control of your life and then organizing your job around it.

Prioritize tasks and duties

It’s not enough to just mention your assignments and meetings.

Goal Setting Not Working? Try These 8 Alternatives

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Goal Setting Not Working? Try These 8 Alternatives

Somewhere in between holiday festivities and wrapping up all of your year-end obligations, you might also be setting your goals for next year. While there’s nothing wrong with that, most of us fail to reach these goals. An astounding 92 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions never follow through, according to researchers at the University of Scranton.

Why do we keep setting ourselves up for failure? That answer varies from person to person. However, some of the most common culprits include;

  • Making goals too vague.
  • Setting unattainable goals.
  • Listing only your long-term goals.
  • Writing your goals as negative statements.
  • You get discouraged when messing up.
  • Your environment doesn’t support your goals.
  • You downplay or don’t celebrate your wins.
  • There’s no system to hold you accountable.

Furthermore, goals hardly translate to daily actions, and some of us don’t track our progress.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve found that goal setting isn’t getting it done, you might want to explore the following eight alternatives going forward.

1. Ask yourself, “Did I do my best?”

Do your best. If it sounds like advice from a kindergarten teacher, well, I get it,” writes freelance writer and Fast Company contributor Daniel Dowling. “Vague goals produce vague results, right?”

However, Dowling found that one undefined goal can prove a punch in the gut reality check when included with a system of daily goals. What’s more, it can lead to tangible results.

The reason why this can work? Firstly, many of us have difficulty determining how much time to dedicate to our goals. When setting goals, we don’t know where to draw the line between ambition and delusion. In turn, this results in us not getting the desired outcome.

When Dowling asked himself, “Did I do my best?” he was confronted with just how much effort he had actually given that day. If he “frittered away most of the day,” he would analyze why and make changes so that he wouldn’t repeat the same mistake again.

“Without asking myself if I’d done my best each day, I’d either have wallowed in self-reproach or failed to reflect on my performance at all. Instead, I’d turned self-criticism into a self-improvement habit,” he wrote.

2. Establish anti-goals.

Is your calendar packed with pointless meetings? Are you burned out from working long hours? Have you questioned your relationships?

If you’ve ever had these types of questions, you can turn things around by setting anti-goals.

While this might seem counterintuitive, “anti-Goals create a balance by showing us a tangible set of values or actions that we don’t want to be,” clarifies Ken Wu.

Originally introduced as a concept called ‘premeditatio malorum,’ which Seneca, Foucault, and Socrates used, “anti-goals give us a benchmark of failure to avoid and allow us to anticipate ourselves at our worst,” he adds. This enables us to develop our first steps of personal growth, and we remain true to ourselves as we develop.

When starting out, Wu focused on the following areas;

  • Values. Do you want to reject any standards or behaviors?
  • Habit. Which actions are you consciously trying to avoid?
  • Physical. What possible health issues do you want to minimize?
  • Emotional. Which mental states do you wish to avoid?
  • Relationships. Do you want to avoid certain relationships? What is your ideal way to interact with others?

To harness the power of anti-goals, however, Wu advises that they shouldn’t consume you. He also says that they shouldn’t make you complacent or remain stagnant. Instead, they must evolve and drive you forward.

3. Set themes.

Although there is a place and time for goals daily, goals often lead to anxiety, regret, and depression rather than fulfillment, pride, and contentment, claims Niklas Göke. This is because we exert pressure on ourselves until we reach our goals. In addition, when we finally do accomplish them, they disappear without a trace.

Moreover, we think that happiness is experienced after this burst of relief. In turn, this inspires us to set a new, bigger goal. However, it remains beyond our reach. In short, it’s a vicious cycle.

Harvard researcher Tal Ben-Shahar calls this “the arrival fallacy” — the illusion that “reaching some future destination will bring lasting happiness.” To combat this, author and entrepreneur James Altucher lives by themes instead of goals that encourage meaning over pleasure.

Göke says that a theme could be a single verb, a noun, or an adjective. “Commit,” “growth,” and “healthy” are all valid themes, he adds. As are “invest,” “help,” “kindness,” and “gratitude.”

“Themes are immune to anxiety about tomorrow,” states Göke. So your regrets about yesterday don’t matter to them either. “All that matters is what you do today, who you are in this second, and how you choose to live right now.”

4. Focus on systems.

According to James Clear, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, asserts that there are several problems with goals, including;

  • Both winners and losers have the same goals.
  • Attaining a goal is a momentary change.
  • Goals can restrict your happiness.
  • Goals are often at odds with a long-term process.

Because of this — look at, Clear champions systems over goals. These are simply daily processes and habits. For example, exercising for 30-minutes before work or learning a new skill for 10-minutes after lunch. Even though you didn’t set a specific outcome, like losing 50 pounds or becoming fluent in Spanish, systems are flexible and help you make progress.

This is well described by Clear using a rowboat metaphor. Consider goals as the rudder and systems as the paddles: “Goals determine your direction. Systems determine your progress.”

5. Burn or burn.

Okay. This might seem a little radical and potentially dangerous. However, it might be worth trying if you struggle to complete those necessary but dreadful tasks needed to reach a goal. And, here’s how it works, according to Nir Eyal in an Observer post.

  • Pick your routine. For instance, going to the gym.
  • Book your time. Block out time in your schedule for the routine. Routines can’t be performed if you don’t reserve the time to arrange an appointment or meeting.
  • Find a crisp $100 bill — or any denomination that you wouldn’t want to lose.
  • Find a lighter.
  • Buy a wall calendar and place it somewhere you’ll see daily.
  • Place the lighter near the wall calendar and tape the $100 bill to today’s date.

There are now two options available to you. On any given day, when it’s time to perform your routine, you have the option to choose either option A and perform the routine, in my case to feel the “burn” in the gym, or option B and literally burn money, explains Eyal. The money can’t be given to someone or spent on anything; it must be set ablaze.

Not only is it dangerous to actually light the bill, but it’s also illegal. However, science has found that just the thought of watching your hard-earned money aflame can motivate you to complete the tasks that you don’t want to.

6. Adopt a mantra.

The process of achieving a goal often involves changing your habits as well. Of course, this is always easier said than done. After all, when some of us experience setbacks, we tend to get so disappointed that we simply quit.

Perhaps you should adopt a “mantra” instead of a resolution if this describes you. As a result of being overextended, entrepreneur Reshma Chamberlin tried this approach by incorporating a yearly “anchor.”

For Chamberlin, as she told Fast Company’s Jenna Abdou, “It’s not a single objective, like go to the gym every day. Instead, your mantra is a conscious choice to take control of your life.” For example, her 2017 mantra was, “Ask, and you shall receive.” Through this motto, she was felt more empowered to pursue new experiences.

When setting mantas, though, Chamberlin suggests that they are positive and deliberate. And, the mantra is too unrealistic or making you unhappy; try a different one.

7. Make a PACT.

“Instead of SMART goals, which don’t encourage ambitious, long-term endeavors, I prefer to make a PACT with myself,” notes Anne-Laure Le Cunff over at Ness Labs. “While a SMART goal focuses on the outcome, the PACT approach focuses on the output.”

In short, rather than pursuing a well-defined goal, it’s about continuous growth. In this regard, it can be a valuable alternative to SMART goals.

But, what exactly does PACT stand for?

  • Purposeful. An appropriate goal should be relevant to your long-term purpose in life, not just to your immediate needs. It’s much easier to get and stay motivated when your goals are aligned with your passions and priorities.
  • Actionable. You should have a goal that is both actionable and controllable. Focusing on immediate outputs rather than overplanning for distant outcomes in the future is the key to shifting your mindset.
  • Continuous. Choice paralysis prevents so many people from achieving their goals, explains Le Cunff. This happens when you have so many options that you spend more time researching than actually doing things to further your goal. One benefit of continuous goals is that they’re flexible and repeatable. That means focusing on continuous improvement is more important than a pre-determined endpoint.
  • Trackable. Not measurable, Anne-Laure Le Cunff adds. Often, statistics are overrated and don’t apply to a wide variety of goals. As with the GitHub tracker, Le Cunff likes the “yes” or “no” approach to goal tracking as it makes tracking progress a breeze.

8. Don’t set goals at all.

According to Leo Babauta, the author behind Zen Habits, sometimes the best goal is no goal at all.

“Today, I live mostly without goals. Now and then, I start coming up with a goal, but I’m letting them go,” he writes. “Living without goals hasn’t ever been an actual goal of mine … it’s just something I’m learning that I enjoy more, that is incredibly freeing, that works with the lifestyle of following my passion that I’ve developed.”

That may sound liberating in theory, but how does this actually work?

He explains that there’s no goal for the year, the month, the week, or the day. You don’t obsess over tracking or actionable steps. There’s even no need for a to-do list, though jotting down reminders is fine.

“What do you do, then? Lay around on the couch all day, sleeping and watching TV and eating Ho-Hos?” he asks. Of course not. You just do.

“You find something you’re passionate about, and do it, Leo states. “Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing — you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.”

As a result, Leo says that he can accomplish more than if he had goals since he’s always doing something that excites him. But, that’s ultimately not the point. Instead, he emphasizes, “all that matters is that I’m doing what I love, always.”

Work Less Because It’s Done and Play More in 2022

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Work Less Because It’s Done and Play More in 2022

You may have seen folks around you who get everything done and then some. How do they get so much done so fast?

Time management is the answer.

Time management is the art of organizing and allocating minutes, getting things done. This maximizes productivity and achieves goals. Time management improves job performance and life satisfaction while reducing stress. High achievers don’t just happen. Rather, they’ve honed the talents required to achieve more in less time.

Productivity is a skill.

It’s an acquired talent that everyone must learn. However, it is feasible (and simple) to learn time management. There are several tools, strategies, and approaches available to assist you. We’ve rounded together our finest 32 day-saving ideas.

Planning Your Time to be Done Faster

Planned calendar management will help you build solid habits, get things done and increase your chances of success.

1. Conduct a time audit.

First things first: figure out where you spend your time. Often, what you believe is taking up your time isn’t. Humans are lousy at estimating task duration. Let’s say you need to send a 300-word email. Think: “Emailing is easy. It should just take 5 minutes.” Proofreading, checking language choice, and identifying email addresses are all duties that might add to the task’s duration. Your 5-minute email may take you 20 minutes, 500% longer than expected with such changes.

Assume you have the same issue with numerous tasks. A balanced workload will inevitably turn into a hectic to-do list during the day. You need to know what you can do and what is genuinely eating up your minutes. That’s why a time audit is useful. The most straightforward approach to undertake a time audit is using calendar tracking software. Many firms provide free software, but Toggl Track is the easiest, with applications for all devices.

Track your activities for a week to get an accurate time utilization picture. Then, examine the reports at the end of the week and analyze the time you spend on various chores. With this data, you can quickly improve. For example, you may waste time in useless meetings or busywork.

Now you can see how you spend your time and prepare accordingly.

So here’s the next piece of advice.

Tip #2: Set realistic goals and prioritize and be done.

Time management won’t assist you if you have too much to do. After doing a time audit, you’ll know if you need to manage your time better or if you have too much on your plate.

For attainable goals, skip to suggestion 3.

If you feel overwhelmed, create an Eisenhower matrix or use the 4 Ds of time management: Do, Defer, Delegate, and Delete. Your duties are divided into four categories into both methods:

Do: Important and urgent tasks.

Defer: Important yet non-urgent tasks.

Delegate: Urgent but unimportant tasks.

Delete: Non-urgent or non-critical tasks.

These methods will help you decide what jobs to prioritize, schedule, delegate, or remove. They should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

Tip #3: Make a daily management strategy.

You can do this in the morning or at the end of the day. Creating a daily to-do list is one of those time slots. Keep your to-do list simple. The sight of half-completed lists is discouraging.

Even in personal productivity, it’s preferable to under-promise and over-deliver. Write your list as though you’ve already finished it. Submit Report to Project Manager instead of “Submit Report to Project Manager.”

This tiny method will give you an extra push of desire to finish your duties.

Tip #4: Sunday planning management

A strategy will help you focus on your critical goals during the workweek. It also enables you to move from weekend mode to “work mode” on Monday morning. First, spend a few minutes on Sunday planning your entire week. Then, break down weekly goals into daily chores to increase achievement.

You’ll be able to see your daily tasks at a glance. Schedule low-priority work for Fridays and other low-energy days. The week’s energy and creative levels change. Finish creative projects on Tuesday and Wednesday. Plan meetings for Thursday, when your team’s energy drops. Plan and network on Fridays and Mondays.

Personal productivity has hundreds of variations. Because everyone works differently, experimenting with these time management techniques will help you find the ideal strategy for you.

Tip #5: Finish your most critical and time-consuming activities first thing.

The first few hours of work are usually the most fruitful. This is because you can focus better while your brain isn’t completely awake.

They have less energy for daydreaming and other duties. So, preferably, do your most intellectually demanding responsibilities first thing in the morning.

How to Optimize Your Appointments in 2021

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Struggling to think of a New Year’s resolution for your business? Focus on your customers and their appointment experience. The steps you take to meet your appointment goals will improve your operations from top to bottom.

What specific appointment goals should you set? Here are eight great ones to choose from:

1. Increase Total Appointments

One clear choice for your 2021 goal list is to increase your total appointment volume. Get a base measurement by looking at your totals from 2020. What kind of growth do you hope to see? This goal should be realistic, but still challenging enough to stretch your limits.

In order to up your total appointments in 2021, take a fresh look at your marketing strategy. Use content to push for more appointments, using deals and incentives to convince customers to book. 

2. Decrease Wait Times

After successfully increasing your appointment volume, start working on your customer experience. More customers means longer wait times, which can frustrate and turn away new visitors from your business. Lowering wait times will not only appease them, but increase the overall efficiency of your operations.

If you’re seeing a lot of growth, consider hiring some new employees to take on the extra load. Increased capacity will decrease wait times for customers. You can also implement a notification system that alerts customers of changing wait times to help walk-ins arrive at the right time.

3. Move All Bookings Online

Make life easier for everyone by moving appointment booking online. You might be comfortable with your current system because it’s familiar, but ditching the phone lines for software can make a night-and-day difference.

For starters, online appointment software is available 24/7, meaning customers can make bookings whenever they’re available. Software will also automatically keep track of scheduling, avoid double bookings, and send reminders to both customers and your team about each commitment. Last but not least, customers can pre-pay online, saving you even more headache.

4. Optimize Your Efficiency

Sluggish, drawn out appointments are tiresome and irritating for customers who want to get in and out as quickly as possible. They’re also costly for your business, which makes more money the more customers it serves.

How can you make appointments more efficient? With sub-goals. One might be to start at least 90% of appointments on time. Another might be to cross-train every member of the team on customer service. 

5. Boost Customer Retention

Once a customer books their first appointment, your goal should be to convince them to keep coming back. Customer retention is much less expensive than acquisition, and recurring revenue provides financial security. 

How do you increase customer retention? Using data. With appointment software, you can see how many repeat customers you have and choose a goal number to pursue. One example of a retention strategy is a punch card that rewards customers who make frequent appointments.

6. Raise Referral Rates

The best leads come from existing customers. Set a goal to raise the percentage of your new appointments that come from referrals. Referred customers are more likely to commit to your business and to refer you to even more people.

Incentivizing referrals is the best way to make this happen. Offer discounts or prizes to customers who bring a friend to their next appointment. Then, focus on making their experience with you unforgettable. Get it right, and you won’t even have to ask them to book a return visit.

7. Experiment With Virtual Appointments

If your business provides a service that can be delivered online, virtual appointments are a great way to reach customers who are still wary of COVID-19. Even a partial move to virtual appointments can put you ahead of the curve.

Virtual appointments are often used by doctors to treat patients without exposing themselves or others to illness. Personal trainers, nutritionists, counselors, marketing firms, and more can provide guidance through videoconferencing. 

8. Learn to Let Go

While you want as many customers as you can handle, some may just not be worth it. Toxic clients can upset your employees and even scare other customers away. It’s better to start fresh in 2021 by saying “no” to customers who are holding your company back.

Did you think of a particular client while reading that last paragraph? Look for ways to shift their business elsewhere, either by referring them to another company or gently confronting them about their behavior. The interaction might not be pleasant, but it will be worth it. 

Reach new heights in 2021 by setting one or more of these goals. Sit down with your team and talk through how, exactly, you’ll make this year your best one yet. 

5 New Year’s Resolutions to Take Your Business to New Heights in 2020

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Regain Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No

New Year’s resolutions are good for more than personal growth. If you want to grow your business in 2020, now is the time to set goals for the new year. Simply putting your goals on paper makes you 42% more likely to achieve them.

Growth comes in many flavors. Whether you want to give your culture, marketing, sales, or something else entirely a facelift in 2020, consider making one or more of these New Year’s resolutions for your business:

Resolution No. 1: Extend the holiday cheer.

The holiday season makes people happy. Unfortunately, the boost to workers’ mood and motivation doesn’t always last. If leaders don’t make an effort to maintain that environment, team members quickly reacclimate. Soon, stress seeps back in.

Leaders need to promote workplace harmony to keep tensions low and spirits high. Set out a box so colleagues can make cultural suggestions without worry. Review them at an all-staff meeting, and decide together which to implement. Give gifts and encourage gratefulness year ‘round, not just around the holidays.

Resolution No. 2: Be more transparent.

If there’s one resolution every company should make, this is it. Transparency plays an underappreciated role in productivity. Workers who feel included and understand company goals are more willing and able to achieve those goals. 

Make revenue and expenses an open conversation. Map out the business strategy for everyone to see. Encourage top-down, bottom-up, and peer-to-peer feedback. Use tools like Slack and processes like weekly updates to keep people in the loop.

Resolution No. 3: Manage time methodically. 

Another great way to boost productivity is to improve your time management skills. It’s easy to get caught up in daily distractions and busy work. Ask yourself each day, week, month, and quarter: What needs to get done, and where will it fit?

Start by implementing a zero-based calendar. Fill every 15-minute block with something, even if it’s merely meditating or responding to emails. Encourage your team members to do the same, and be sure to share calendars so everyone can see what others are working on.

Resolution No. 4: Set Sales Goals.

A business is nothing without sales. If you don’t have specific targets set for 2020, take a moment to do so. Think in percentages: You might want to increase revenue by 10% compared to last year, for instance.

To get there, you need a plan. Ask salespeople about kinks in your pipeline. Interview current customers about high and low points in their sales experience. If you haven’t already, invest in sales tools to automate outreach.

Resolution No. 5: Get more attention online. 

Digital channels are how most companies get business these days. If you buy billboards or newspaper ads, shift that spend to more modern tactics. Research suggests that organic and paid search, as well as social media and email marketing, have the highest ROI of digital channels.

Social media, in particular, allows you to create virtual customer environments. Online groups and forums are nearly free to set up. Beyond their branding benefits, they allow you to provide support to customers who might not be willing to call in.

Resolutions are powerful because they help you hold yourself and your team accountable. Think about where your business needs that discipline the most, and set your 2020 goals to suit. 

7 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Holiday Traditions

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7 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Holiday Traditions

For entrepreneurs, the holidays mean more than an annual sales bump. They’re a season to reflect on what holiday traditions can teach us about business.

Everyone celebrates the holidays differently. Some people are happy to enjoy the season sitting in front of a Christmas tree or yule log. For others, all that matters is spending time with family. Still others spend the time attending bake-offs and holiday parties.

But however you celebrate the holidays, you can learn a few things from common traditions:

1. Enjoy others’ lights, but don’t be blinded by them.

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to take stock of what others are doing. But just as you shouldn’t drive around all day just to look at Christmas lights, you don’t want to focus so heavily on other companies that you neglect your own.

Take the time to hang your lights. Differentiate yourself, and keep in mind that every budget is different. It’s all well and good to be inspired by others, but it would be pretty lame to copy someone else’s lighting scheme.

2. Do something nice for your neighbors.

Reach out to other businesses in your metaphorical neighborhood. Seeing other companies in your industry strictly as competition can cause you to miss out on key mentorship and partnership opportunities. 

Start small: Reach out on LinkedIn, and share content that you think might be helpful. Offer to get lunch in order to discuss ways you might be able to lend a hand in the new year. 

3. Reconnect with family and friends.

There are two major holiday letter-writing traditions: Christmas cards and thank-you notes. Both are a means for staying connected with the people you care about.

Just as important as establishing good relationships is maintaining them. Check in with the people that care about your business and express appreciation for their support. This includes not only customers and clients but also colleagues and suppliers. Don’t be that person who only reaches out when you need something. 

4. Give yourself something to look forward to.

Advent calendars are used to count down the days until Christmas and meter out daily treats. Start each business day by checking your calendar and scheduling something fun for yourself, like a lunch out or leisure activity after work.

Be flexible, but set boundaries for when you will and won’t be working. Effective scheduling can save time and make the time you do spend working more productive. 

5. Throw a party. 

The centerpiece of most holiday traditions is a party or celebration. Family and friends gather for food, fun, and good company. Bring everyone together by hosting a similar year-end party at work.

Celebrations have business value: They build trust, deepen relationships, and release stress. Tension in the office can be culturally destructive, and periodic parties are a great way to alleviate it. 

6. Make yourself a wish list. 

Remember how, as a kid, you’d jot down everything you wanted from the new year? Pick that habit back up as an entrepreneur.

Creating a wish list helps you make your desires more concrete. Create two of them: one that’s aspirational, and another that is more practical. Know the differences between what you want, what you actually need, and what you can afford. 

7. Take time to rest. 

Both at work and at home, the holidays are busy. Although it’s good to celebrate, it’s just as important to give yourself a break. Taking a break is a great way to boost your productivity down the line.

Give yourself some grace: You’ve worked hard this year. Don’t beat yourself up for spending a few days away from work, taking a midday nap, or lounging around on a wintery day.

Enjoy the holidays, but remember what they stand for. When you get back to business in the new year, you’ll be that much more ready to reach for the next rung.

4 Inspiring Books for Entrepreneurs to Read in 2020

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5 Ways to Encourage Reading at Your Workplace

Did you read the books you wanted to this year? Whether you conquered your list or barely touched it, you’re about to get the chance to start fresh.

If you want to be the sort of entrepreneur who stands out from the crowd, it’s important to choose reads that inspire and challenge you. Whether you want to increase sales, learn the art of stress management, or start a new company altogether, books can help you get there. 

1. “The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau

Not every new business idea costs a lot of money to turn into reality. The New York Times bestselling author Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead a life of adventure, meaning, and purpose — and earn a good living along the way. 

Guillebeau explores case studies in which people with no “special skills” discovered how to monetize their personal passions. In each case, Guillebeau shows how the person restructured his or her life to live a life of greater freedom and fulfillment.

You don’t need to be rich or have previously founded a company in order to succeed, Guillebeau shows. All you need is passion, a product or service, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.  

2. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

In case you haven’t read this classic, add it to your list for 2020. One of the most popular self-improvement books in American history, Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends & Influence People” has sold more than 30 million copies.

Carnegie’s book isn’t simply about expanding your circle of friends. Negotiation, sales, marketing, HR, and leadership skills all get some love within it’s pages. Dig in to learn to close a partnership, take the focus off of price, and provide a better customer experience in 2020. 

3. “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown

Brené Brown, another New York Times bestselling author, is looked up to by leaders everywhere. “Dare to Lead” is a thought-provoking book born from the years Brown spent at enterprises, startups, and companies of every size in between.

What did Brown find? She learned that leaders not just in business, but at nonprofits and civic groups all ask the same question: “How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?”

Courage cannot be built in a single day, or even by reading a single book. Brené emphasizes empathy, patience, and helpfulness as key ingredients for leading workers into an unknown future.

4. “That Will Never Work” by Marc Randolph

Netflix may be a behemoth of a company now, but it has come a long way. This book covers the previously untold story of how Netflix went from a concept to a Blockbuster-beating enterprise.

Marc Randolph, the company’s co-founder and first CEO, is exceptionally open in his telling of Netflix’s history. From early-stage conversations about cash flow to employee disagreements, Randolph walks the readers through his choices in a calm yet amusing style.

Not every entrepreneur will found the next Netflix, but bear in mind as you read this book that Randolph’s company could have crashed and burned. It didn’t because Randolph persevered, took care of his team, and had the courage to ask whether an existing model needed an overhaul. 

Entrepreneurs have no shortage of good read to choose from, but these four are great choices for the new year. Make the most of chilly weekends by curling up in your favorite chair, grabbing a book, and keeping your notepad close at hand. You never know what ideas you’ll stumble upon, or just how much they’ll help your company grow in 2020. 

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. 

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