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5 Tips for Balancing Your Clients’ Calendars With Your Own

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5 Tips for Balancing Your Clients’ Calendars With Your Own

It’s easy to be the client’s yes-man: agreeing to last-minute projects and too-fast turnarounds, booking back-to-back meetings, and worrying about how you’ll complete the work you take on.

Don’t get me wrong: Clients’ needs are important. In fact, they’re the reason you see profits at the end of the quarter. But if you’re constantly reacting to client needs, when will you have time to work on all of the other things that keep your company moving forward?

Resist the urge to overload your schedule. Not only does it put you at risk of letting a client down, but it can lead to all sorts of chronic health problems. 

Balancing your client’s calendar with your own can feel like walking on a tightrope. Cut yourself some slack with these five tips:

1. Know when you work best.

When do you feel most energized? It could be in the morning right after a cup of coffee, or in mid-afternoon as the office gets quiet and your inbox traffic slows. Identify the time of day when you’re at peak productivity.

No matter what part of the day works best for you, block this time out on your schedule for focused, distraction-free work. Don’t let the whirlwind of meetings and emails keep you from spending this time on your most pressing projects. 

This is the work of setting boundaries, which benefit everyone involved: You finish projects on time, and your client gets a better outcome. Don’t feel guilty for it. 

2. Use an online scheduling tool.

Although paper planners and calendars have their benefits, working from an online calendar is the best way to stay on top of the fast-paced work environment.

To that calendar, add not just your meetings and appointments, but also those blocks of time when you want to do deep work. Set it so that your team members and, if you so choose, your clients can see your availability. 

Giving clients open access to your calendar might be nerve-wracking. But think about the advantages of such a system: Clients who can see your calendar will understand that you can’t meet at a time that you’ve already committed to someone else. Make rearranging your schedule the last resort. 

3. Build a buffer into timeline estimates.

When setting the project timeline, be realistic. Give estimates according to when you could comfortably complete the work, not when you could do it if you pushed everything else out of the way.

Sure, it’s nice to impress a client with a quick turnaround. If you do that for every client, though, you’ll quickly run out of time and energy. 

Apply the “buffer” approach to your meeting schedule as well. Give yourself small blocks of time between appointments to decompress, answer emails, and prepare for the next one. 

4. Look at the big picture.

You know what times of year are most and least profitable for your business. The same is true of your clients.

It’s likely that your clients have an idea of how their year will look and what they might need in a given season. At the start of the calendar year, ask your long-term clients what projects they anticipate needing your help with. Not only does reaching out early show that you want to maintain your relationship with them, but it lets you know well in advance what’s coming.

Go ahead and add those projects to your calendar. Set reminders to follow up with each client for details as the start dates draw closer. 

5. Get creative.

Make use of every minute of your schedule. If you find yourself squandering interstitial periods, ask whether you could use them to buy yourself time elsewhere. 

For example, you could take lunch meetings or chat with clients over happy hour. If you usually commute to appointments, could you take some of them via a videoconferencing service?

Videoconferencing is a good solution for all sorts of meetings. Not only does it keep you at your desk, but it allows you to share your screen and record the conversation.

At the end of the day, remember that you’re the captain of your calendar. It’s OK to occasionally feel overwhelmed by your workload, but it shouldn’t be the norm. Client needs are important, yes, but you should not live by their beck and call.

5 Best Practices for Controlling Your Calendar Notifications

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5 Best Practices for Controlling Your Calendar Notifications

Buzzes, beeps, dings, and swishes are the sounds of the workday. They’re useful, but they’re also distracting.

Constant notification noises put you in reactive mode. Working reactively is stressful, gets in the way of proactive thinking, and zaps energy you should be spending on focused work. But aside from silencing your computer or phone entirely — which may cause you to miss a call or a key appointment — what can you do to control them?

Setting boundaries is important if you want to use your time wisely. Try these five best practices to quiet the noise and boost your productivity:

1. Know your options.

The default settings in your scheduling software are not your friends. Find the settings menu, and start exploring. Keep in mind your options will differ depending on the device you’re using. 

Start with your device’s global settings. If you have an iPhone, you’ll see a notifications menu in the “Settings” app. A similar menu exists on Android devices. Here, you’ll find options for where notifications appear, how long they linger, and if your phone buzzes or dings upon receipt. 

Take the same approach on your computer. You might find an option that provides a heads up without annoying noises. For example, did you know that Microsoft Outlook can send you text notifications, summarizing your calendar for the day? Knowing your alert options is the first step in developing a system that serves you. 

2. Be selective.

Again, notifications exist to serve you, not the other way around. To regain control of your calendar notifications, choose which apps you actually want to hear from.

Say you’ve elected to receive Slack notifications on both your laptop and smartphone. Slack can notify you about every message in every channel, only on select channels, or only when you’re tagged. Those settings can be customized for each device. 

If you operate on-the-go, you might turn off all desktop alerts but opt to receive notifications from certain channels on your phone. If you stay close to your desk, you could opt for the opposite.

Personally, I prefer to turn off all notifications on my phone, except for those directly related to calls or texts. On my computer, I opt for email and Slack notifications. 

3. Use your senses.

Toggling the on/off switch isn’t the only way to control audio alerts on your devices. Your device’s notification settings allow you to adjust which apps send you vibration or audio notifications.

A favorite trick of mine is adjusting the sound alerts in Outlook. I don’t want to hear a chime every time a new email or calendar reminder occurs. Only when I receive an email directly from my team do I hear a chime. That sound signals to me that I should put down whatever else I’m working until I check whether the email is important and time-sensitive. 

4. Do more with your inbox.

Even if my email inbox is overflowing, I prefer to receive a notification there instead of on my phone. Here, I can sort, prioritize, and save messages until I’m ready to address them.

Many scheduling tools, including the one I use, allow you to send yourself reminders at appointed times. I set a monthly reminder to pay my credit card bill, so I receive an email at 9 a.m. the day before the bill is due.

I might accidentally dismiss the notification on my phone, but I can’t miss the email reminder in my inbox. Then, I mark it as important to keep it top of mind.

Try setting your calendar to email you 15 minutes before a meeting. To take it a step further, assign that email a special sound. 

5. Get focused.

Notifications are the enemy of deep work. Especially if you are about to engage in multitasking, turn your devices to “silent” and move them out of sight. Close Gmail, Slack, and any other applications that you’ve set to send you notifications.

If you need a notification to know when to stop, set a kitchen or online timer. Don’t use your phone for this because once the timer dings, you’ll be tempted to dive back into the notifications. 

Give yourself a block of uninterrupted work time — as well as one for personal time — every day. Sleep with your phone in airplane mode (or out of the bedroom entirely) so that your morning alarm doesn’t greet you with a list of notifications. Ironically, setting a calendar reminder for notification-free time can help with this. 

If you’re constantly feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, try taming your notifications. Trust your brain to remember what’s essential, and set your devices to remind you of the rest.

7 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout at Home

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7 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout at Home

You know that feeling when you just can’t find the will to work? It’s more than simple stress: You physically and emotionally drained; you don’t feel competent; and it’s causing you an existential crisis.

That feeling is known as burnout, and according to Mayo Clinic, it has real health implications. Burnout is associated with excessive fatigue, insomnia, alcohol abuse, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

But while burnout can be tough to solve, it’s relatively easy to prevent a few at-home approaches:

1. Get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation is a risk factor for dozens of different health conditions, including burnout. Stop burnout before it starts by getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night. 

Give yourself enough time to prepare for sleep. Organize some of the things you’ll need in the morning so that you can sleep in peace. And be sure to stay away from screens for a couple of hours before going to bed. 

2. Exercise.

Many big-name business leaders make sure that they exercise daily. Some go to the gym early in the morning, but there are plenty of ways they get their workout in other than hitting the weights.

this doesn’t have to happen in a gym or other indoor setting, especially for those who are indoors during their working hours. The great outdoors provides ample opportunities to get physical activity. 

Take a walk in the morning, or go for a hike in the afternoon. The great outdoors provides plenty of opportunities to get physical. Stretching and calisthenic exercises are two other ways to keep your stress levels in check.  

3. Keep a journal.

Often, burnout stems from a lack of purpose. Scheduling time to journal is a great way for business leaders to release these anxieties and keep things in perspective. 

When you journal, think about the reasons that you do what you do in the first place. Consider the people you work with and how you impact their lives. Remember that regardless of what you do, you are helping people or fulfilling someone’s needs with your job. 

4. Engage in hobbies.

Another element of burnout is a sense of incompetence. That feeling can be demoralizing and significantly reduce your motivation. 

Hobbies give you a break from the work you typically do. More importantly, they allow you to do something that you enjoy without the stress of having to get things just right. 

If you don’t have a hobby, take this opportunity to find one. If you’re creative, sewing or crafting could be your cup of tea. If you’re interested in cooking, check out a book of recipes to try out. You might like to take and edit pictures on your phone. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

5. Unplug.

When there’s so much going on in the digital world, it can be overwhelming to keep up. If the constant chime of appointment notifications, emails, and news updates gets on your nerves, practice putting down your phone. 

What about while you’re working? You might not be able to change the fact that you work from a computer, but you can keep only a single tab open and turn notifications off — and if all else fails, go take a walk. 

6. Schedule breaks.

Be sure to include breaks in your calendar. Working nonstop is a surefire way to burn yourself out. Scheduling tools can help you get through your daily tasks more efficiently and place breaks at times when you tend to be the least productive. 

7. Make motivational playlists.

Sometimes, all it takes is the right song to put you in a good mood. Listening to music is proven to reduce depression, speed recovery from trauma, and sleep better.

There are plenty of playlists pre-built by streaming platforms for different moods. If you can’t come up with a specific artist or song, treat them as a starting point to find songs that motivate you. 

Playlists are the perfect way to power through household chores and workout sessions. Build one for every activity you dread or put off. 

Regardless of your career path, you’re likely to face burnout at some point. Add healthy habits into your schedule so you can avert a crisis. The best antidote to burnout, bar none, is self-care. 

How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

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How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

Entrepreneurs have it hard. Not only do they have to operate a business, but they also have to ensure that they can manage their day-to-day tasks on top of it.

Staying busy isn’t a bad thing, but many entrepreneurs find themselves trying to fit too many things into their schedules. 

If you’re an entrepreneur who is feeling overwhelmed, or the days just keep getting busier, here are a few ways you can free up your time for the most important things on your calendar:

1. Get Rid of Pointless Meetings.

Your time is valuable and deserves your respect. It might not always feel like it, but you have control of your own calendar. In order to free up your time, it’s critical to take a closer look at some of your meeting schedule.

Stop letting people put unnecessary appointments on your calendar.

Make clear to employees, clients, and vendors what constitutes a meeting and what the expectations are for that meeting. A meeting should have a defined purpose, an approximate start and end time, and a detailed agenda. 

Implement a policy that you won’t take a meeting that does not include these items. If someone feels they can’t include these items when scheduling a meeting, perhaps a phone call or email might be a better use of your time. 

Evaluate your current schedule and make changes as needed.

As a leader, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of your current schedule so you can make the most of your time. Are you meeting deadlines? Is your meeting schedule working each week? Do you feel the pressure of the clock? 

Answering these questions and making changes where you see fit will help clean up your calendar and free up more time in the day.

Learn to say “no.”

Although the word “no” has an inherently negative connotation, go ahead and get comfortable with it. Others will understand if you need to decline the occasional meeting. Offer to reschedule it or suggest an alternative solution. 

Leverage an online scheduling tool.

Appointment scheduling software like Calendar are incredibly helpful for calendar management. Use them to minimize email back-and-forth, avoid overbooking yourself, and getting a quick glimpse of your day’s appointments.

Go ahead and block off one day a week for deep work. A popular method is to implement a one-day-a-week no-meetings policy. Use that time to prevent or solve complex business problems. 

2. Reduce the Amount of Time Spent at Your Desk.

Entrepreneurs often feel like they are “too busy to take a break.” But that simply isn’t true.

Breaks are good for the brain, and spending 8 hours at your desk doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve had a productive day. When you find the luxury of a free, 15-minute time period, try filling it by doing something for yourself, rather than trying to cram in another task.

Options include:

  • Meditating: If you feel anxious or overly stressed during the workday, use your free time to meditate. It could significantly reduce your stress level and give you the boost you need to continue on with a productive day. Even something as simple as going into a quiet room, focusing on your breathing, and clearing every thought in your mind can make a huge difference in your day.
  • Listening to a short podcast: Podcasts can be a way to unwind, and a great learning tool. Thousands of podcasts are uploaded every day on topics like business, money, news, politics, comedy and more. Listening to a podcast that aligns with your line of work can offer inspiration on a slow day. 
  • Reading a book: A short, 15-minute break is plenty of time to catch up on a chapter of your favorite book. Whether you’re reading for business or pleasure, reading is relaxing and can heighten brain function.

Don’t be afraid to take that little bit of time for yourself. You’ll be less stressed and more productive.

3. Cut Out Busy Work.

While it’s important to fill up your free time with non-work tasks, you’ll also find that much of your schedule is filled with busy work. Identify these tasks and limit the time you spend on them. To assist with busy work, appoint your top employees to managerial roles, and don’t be afraid to delegate these tasks as you see fit. 

Cutting out busy work will free up time for business development. For example, you can focus on managing your business’ social media pages. As an entrepreneur, people want to hear what you have to say, and find your experience and opinions very valuable. By putting out thought leadership pieces or video content, you can gain your following, and next thing you know, you’re viral—and so is your business. 

You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you pare down your calendar. Be proactive, and don’t try to take on too much. And if you have already, make changes so you can be your best self. 

How to Squeeze More Interviews Into Your Schedule

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How to Squeeze More Interviews Into Your Schedule

“There aren’t enough hours in the day,” is a phrase everyone in business has thought, if not said aloud.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, recruiter, sales leader, or another role entirely, interviews likely make up a good portion of your day. If you’re looking to make more time in your schedule, why not start with one of your biggest time commitments?

Here are some helpful hacks for fitting more interviews into your busy schedule:

1. Dig deeply into your goals.

As with any new personal or professional project, it’s important to first identify your objectives. If you’re an entrepreneur trying to find the right candidate for an open role, how long are you willing to wait to fill it? How many candidates do you want to meet before you make a decision?

Take your time with this. Hiring is not something to rush. The more narrowly defined your criteria and assumptions, the more satisfied you’ll be with the end result. Ask yourself:

  • How many rounds of interviews are required throughout the entire interview process (depending on the job position)?
  • What is the maximum number of candidates that can move forward to next-round interviews?
  • How long should interviews run to properly evaluate candidates for the position?
  • Do other executives need to be present? If so, can they fit these interviews into their schedules?

2. Determine availability digitally.

One of the most time-consuming aspects of interviewing is all the back-and-forth communication required to coordinate and confirm an available time slot for two or more parties. For internal meetings and interviews, be sure you’re using a consolidated digital calendar so you can see one another’s availability?

What about interviews with people outside the organization? Tools like Calendar simplify this by letting users embed their availability into their email messages. Calendar automatically prevents double-booking, just in case the interviewee selects a time that’s been taken. 

3. Account for interstitial time. 

Although it’s tempting to stack interviews one on top of another in order to maximize your time, avoid doing so. Allow for at least 5 minutes, and ideally 15, between each interview.

Interviews are unpredictable. You never know who will show up late or which interviews will go long. You don’t know what else might come up during the workday. Those buffer zones are a great time to catch up on email, take a break, or prepare for the next meeting. 

4. Learn to say “no.”

If you’re trying to fit more interviews into your schedule, you have to get better at refusing unnecessary meetings. Even a few meeting-happy clients can eat up hours of a workday that you may need to spend speaking with employees, candidates, or investors.

Just because you’re saying “no,” though, doesn’t mean you need to be rude about it. Do your best to help the person whose meeting you can’t take over email. Could you introduce them to someone else on the team who can handle the situation? If the client is insistent, could you suggest a shorter time slot or a different meeting time?

5. Automate what you can.

Sometimes, to have more time, you need to make more time. Besides refining your scheduling processes, it’s still a good idea to audit other tasks to see what can be handled via a digital automation tool.

Even if it’s something as simple as sending an automatic payment reminder, every little increment of saved time adds up. Email marketing, social media posting, sales follow ups, and even first-round interviews can be automated.

Interviewing takes time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t streamline the process. Use these tips to get more done, hire faster, and have more conversations. 

Wake Up, Listen Up: 7 Podcasts to Kickstart Your Day

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Wake Up, Listen Up: 7 Podcasts to Kickstart Your Day

In the car, on the train, or while you walk to work: Your morning commute is an ideal time to kickstart the day with a podcast. 

Unlike articles and videos, podcasts let you keep your eyes on the road and your mind on your bigger things. Multitasking may not work in many contexts, but audio content lets you learn new things while you go through your morning routine.

What show should you choose? You probably aren’t looking for a dense, data-heavy podcast. But when you’re gearing up for work, you probably don’t want a fluff-filled talk show, either. These podcasts offer the perfect balance of educational and easy:

1. The Daily

This one’s for the news junkies out there who don’t have time to sift through multiple sources. Published each weekday by The New York Times, The Daily is a quick, 20-minute recap of the day’s biggest stories.

Think of The Daily like a first cup of coffee. Host Michael Barbaro brings New York Times reporters in to share a bite-sized version of a larger story they’re reporting. It’s sharp, thought-provoking, and over before you know it. 

2. HBR IdeaCast

If you like to start the business day thinking about business, give HBR IdeaCast a listen. Harvard Business Review’s weekly podcast features cutting-edge thinkers in business and management on subjects ranging from digital transformation to combating subconscious biases. The shows, which run between 20 and 30 minutes, invariably offer actionable ideas to help entrepreneurs grow personally or professionally. 

3. How I Built This

Have you ever wondered how big-name brands and movements came to be? In NPR’s How I Built This, host Guy Raz interviews innovators, entrepreneurs, and next-generation thinkers about how they developed their signature achievements.

Who are those entrepreneurs? The founders of Patagonia, Zappos, and Lyft have made appearances, as have the owners of “Main Street” companies like Tate’s Bake Shop and Chicken Salad Chick. If you’re looking for a place to start and like the NBC show “Shark Tank,” check out Raz’s interview with Daymond John

4. The Pitch

Speaking of “Shark Tank,” The Pitch takes the investing show’s approach to the airwaves. The Pitch’s tagline says it all: “Where real entrepreneurs pitch to real investors—for real money.” New episodes air only once a week, but they’re anything but predictable. As with “Shark Tank,” investors sometimes bite on unexpected products and pass on ones that, to the listener, seem promising. Some listeners might find it a little high-stakes for the morning, but it’s certainly a good way to wake up. 

5. TED Radio Hour

If you’re a fan of TED Talks, try the TED Radio Hour, which companies multiple Talks around a single theme. The podcast hits on everything from how to be more creative, the power of positivity, and why kindness is so important.

One thing to beware of: TED Radio Hour episodes last, as the name implies, a full hour. Be prepared to hit pause when you pull into the parking lot at work. 

6. StartUp

Think of StartUp like How I Built This but for the startup ecosystem. Gimlet Media’s Alex Blumberg hosts an eclectic lineup of leaders who fall outside the lines of traditional business. With his signature offbeat humor, Blumberg interviews personalities from cycling whistleblowers to gay country music stars. With episodes running roughly half an hour, StartUp is a great way to laugh while you explore the nooks and crannies of entrepreneurship. 

7. Planet Money

Planet Money might be best described as a podcast about money for people who hate money. Although each episode has some sort of tie to the finance world, they’re often looser than expected. The tale of the FCC taking on robocalls, the cost of free doughnuts, and the business side of choosing the color of the year are some of the more noteworthy topics the show has recently covered. Short, 15-25 minute episodes make Planet Money a great choice for commuters.

Whatever your business background and listening tastes, there’s a podcast for you. Put one on, sit back, and start your day with a good story.

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.

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.

6 Stress-Management Tips From Top Business Leaders

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6 Stress-Management Tips From Top Business Leaders

Nobody is immune to stress. So how do business leaders who make it big manage to keep their heads on straight?

They learn to befriend their stress response. But if that’s the first step, then what are the day-to-day, ongoing things they do to harness their stress in healthy ways? 

The following tips, collected from top business leaders throughout the country, will equip you with the necessary tools to manage your stress:

Become The Master Of Your Own Stress

The ultimate goal of stress management is not a stress-free career; it’s to get the upper hand when you’re under pressure.

Small habits add up. Master your stress levels by incorporating these hacks from respected business leaders into your own routine:

1. Be proactive.

Often, stress and procrastination go hand in hand. Instead of putting off that major task or big project, get the ball rolling by taking initiative. 

That’s what Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, would advise: “Stress primarily comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over,” Bezos told the Academy of Achievement.

Every marathon begins with the first step. Whether you make that initial phone call or send an email to jumpstart a project, taking action alleviates stress and puts you back in the driver’s seat.

2. Tackle one to-do at a time.

When faced with multiple projects and responsibilities, many founders try to juggle everything at once. But author and leadership consultant Devora Zack sees single-tasking as both more efficient and less stressful.

Research by the American Psychological Association supports Zack’s idea that multitasking actually makes us less productive, which creates more pressure to get things done.

Go through your to-do list one item at a time. You’ll enjoy it more, come up with a better product, and get the job done faster. 

3. Get grounded.

When you need a break, you need a break. Research shows that giving yourself a break during the workday not only allows you to recharge, but it can also boost creativity, memory, stamina, and decision-making skills. 

There are many ways to achieve this mental state referred to as “resting mind.” Oprah Winfrey admits she retreats to the bathroom when she needs time for quiet reflection. Many leaders start off their day with ten or fifteen minutes of silent meditation.

No matter your method, check in with yourself throughout the day to calm your stress response. Even just planting your feet on the ground while sitting at your desk and allowing yourself a few deep breaths can do wonders.

4. Block your day.

How does Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, keep his cool when working 100 hours per week at the two companies? With time blocking. Musk carves up his day into five-minute pieces, associating each with a specific task or activity. 

Stress management and time management are twin siblings. Instead of pushing your mental limits to finish a project deadline — and throwing everything that comes later in the day off-schedule — organize your time into similarly sized blocks.

Not only does this allow for much needed breaks, it also provides you with the opportunity to break down bigger projects. The more pieces you can split them into, the less stressful any one of them will be. 

5. Get enough exercise.

Physical activity is one of the best tools in your stress-management kit. Exercise, particularly cardiovascular exercise, releases endorphins and refreshes your mind.

Leaders from Mark Cuban to Mark Zuckerberg to Richard Branson to Warren Buffett exercise daily. The Facebook founder loves to run, while Mark Cuban is known for his basketball game.

Exercise doesn’t have to happen at the gym, either. Try doing calisthenics at home. Go for a run. Haul your bike out of the garage for your daily commute each morning. Whatever gets you moving, do it. 

6. Refocus on a mental puzzle or game.

What if your mind is simply stuck on something stressful? Stick it to something else: Play a game of sudoku. Break out a crossword puzzle. Merely count stripes on the road as you walk.

Here, Brad Pitt has an interesting approach: the actor and investor walks around and analyzes building architecture when he’s feeling overwhelmed. Inevitably, Pitt’s mind moves to his own home’s structural needs. 

Overcoming pressure and tension when you’re a business professional or entrepreneur can seem insurmountable. However, altering small daily habits can make a huge impact in managing and mastering your stress for good.

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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