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6 Work-From-Home Habits to Kick Before Heading Back to the Office

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6 Work-From-Home Habits to Kick Before Heading Back to the Office

The day has finally arrived: After months of working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the office is about to reopen. But what will it be like going back?

Transitioning to working from home took a great deal of preparation. Similarly, you can’t expect to return to the office and thrive automatically. 

You may be thrilled to return to a more traditional work environment. Or maybe you’ve mastered working-from-home and would rather not go back. Either way, there are likely habits you’ve picked up that won’t be conducive to the office. 

What are those habits? Nip the following tendencies in the bud before heading back to the office:

1. Sleeping In

You know how tempting it is to hit the snooze button. When working from home, getting ready for work takes less time, so you may have gotten into the habit of indulging that temptation. 

When returning to the office, you can’t afford to slack. Sleeping in shortens the amount of time you have for a morning routine. Let yourself sleep in, and you’ll find yourself stressed out and off-rhythm.

 If you’re having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, try waking to light. Also, consider starting your morning routine with an activity that makes you excited to wake up. And if the problem is the amount of sleep you’re getting, turn in earlier at night. 

2. Poor Grooming and Hygiene 

When you don’t have to physically interact with people during a workday, you might have let your grooming habits lapse. When you’re the only one who has to smell yourself, that’s OK.

In the office environment, though, you’ll want to be diligent. Be sure to shave, trim, shower, shampoo, and anything else you need to look and feel your best.

Remember that others are coming back to the office as well. Make it easier for them to share a space with you. Take care of yourself so you can all focus on work.

3. Not Dressing Up

Do you work from home in your PJs? Once you’re back in the office, that won’t fly. 

Being comfortable is great, but sweatpants don’t exactly say “professional.” Be sure you look the part before and at your first in-office meeting. 

How should you get into the swing of it? Make it exciting by buying some new clothes for work. Treat it as a chance to improve your fashion game. 

4. Eating Junk Food

In the comfort of your home, it’s easy to grab a snack whenever you want. And who cares if you eat chips and queso for lunch every day?

At work, excessive snacking isn’t a smart idea. Not only is it a distraction, but you need to keep your energy levels high during the transition. Plus, unhealthy eating sets a bad precedent for others. 

Make healthy eating easier by preparing your meals in advance. If you struggle with snacking, bring an apple or a bag of carrots. Alternatively, ask your employer to buy some healthy office snacks for the team to enjoy. Single-serve packaging minimizes the risk of transmitting the virus. 

5. Bringing Your Work Home with You

The funny thing about working from home is that your work is literally home with you. This makes it more difficult to separate your work life from your personal life. And that’s not good for your productivity or your mental health. 

If your work-life boundaries have blurred together, take steps to separate them. The following steps measures can help: 

  • Set limits on your laptop so you can’t access work-related things at certain times.
  • Create an end-of-work habit, like taking a walk, that signals it’s time to stop thinking about work.
  • Repurpose your work-from-home space when you get back to the office.  
  • Ask an accountability partner, such as your spouse, to discourage you from working after hours.
  • Uninstall work apps like Slack from your mobile devices.
  • Manage your mental health with habits like meditation, exercise, and yoga.

6. Constantly Checking Your Phone

Do you find yourself mindlessly checking Facebook or Twitter when you’re bored? When you’re working from home, there’s nobody around to see you goof off. But back in the office, constantly pulling up social media isn’t a good look. 

Experts report that we pick up our phone 58 times a day on average. Most of these are not for intentional or urgent purposes. The result is aimless scrolling when we should be working. 

Don’t let your phone control you. If you’re having trouble staying on task because of your phone, put it in a different room. Turn off notifications from apps that aren’t urgent. If necessary, block yourself from accessing certain sites until you get off work each day. 

Every transition has a few bumps along the way. But if you plan ahead, you’ll make it that much easier on yourself. After all, you knew you’d have to head back sooner or later. 

5 Small Habits That Can Make or Break Your Productivity

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If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, it can feel like your whole day got turned upside down. Why? Because your first 90 minutes set the stage for the rest of your day. 

Pivotal habits, such as eating breakfast and journaling, can significantly change the trajectory of your productivity. They give you a better outlook on the day and clarify your work intentions. 

What small hacks can keep you motivated and productive throughout the day? These five are key:

 

  •  Defining your ‘why’

 

Get used to it: You won’t enjoy every task you have to do in a day. Nobody gets inspired by things like taking out the trash or sorting through emails.

That’s why you need to establish your “why.” It’s never a smart idea to rely on willpower alone to get you through menial work. 

Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why,” suggests treating your “why” as your root. Yours might be different than someone else’s, and that’s OK. What’s important is that your goals and your tasks logically grow out of it. 

Ask yourself: What do you ultimately want out of your productivity? To enjoy leisure time? To live out your potential? 

Make your goal something greater than paying the bills. For example, you could think of it as: “providing a secure life for my family and children.” When you have a clear direction for what you’re doing, it’s easier to get through rough times. 

 

  •  Mapping out your week on Sunday 

 

If you want to be more productive, you have to plan your week out on Sunday.

There are probably a million things you would rather do on Sunday, but you only have to spend 30 minutes to plan out the rest of your week. Then you can go to the beach or catch up on your favorite television show. 

Here’s how you can map out your week on Sunday: 

  • Write everything down that needs to get done.
  • Separate main priorities from what can wait. 
  • Add main priorities to your calendar. Stick to three or fewer per day.
  • Add sub-priorities to your main priorities. If you want to landscape your yard, for example, you may need to make a trip to the hardware store. 
  • For to-do items that can wait, schedule them during leftover availability.

Now you have a weekly schedule. Review it and make sure it truly reflects what you have to get done. Also ensure that you don’t have any events conflicting with each other. You wouldn’t want to schedule a client visit the same time you have to conduct employee training. 

With your remaining time on Sunday, take care of housekeeping items. Prepare meals, do laundry, and clean up. This ensures you can keep your focus on more important things during the week than what you’ll be eating for lunch the next day. 

 

  •  Having a morning routine 

 

Is your go-to morning routine hitting snooze on your phone several times and throwing your wrinkled clothes on? Habits like that ruin the rest of your day. You set the stage for hurriedness and laziness from the moment you open your eyes. 

Some tasks you might consider including in a morning routine:

 

  • Reviewing your goals

 

Are the goals you set out for yourself on Sunday still valid. Focus on finishing those first. Once your priorities are done, work on the ones that are not as pressing. 

 

  • Making your bed 

 

Making your bed is a small task that can make you feel like you accomplished something big. It takes less than five minutes and builds your confidence.

 

  • Exercising

 

Did you know that experts say mornings are the best time to exercise? Exercise wakes you up by getting your blood flowing bright and early. 

 

  • Implementing a get-out-the-door routine 

 

Getting out the door on time helps you feel ready for work. This means having your clothes ironed and ready to put on the night before. Have essential items — like your laptop bag and lunch box — packed and in a specific spot. Place pre-planned meals in the fridge and ready to pack.  

 

  •  Decluttering your workspace 

 

Have you ever tried getting work done when your desk is full of junk: pencils that don’t work, papers you don’t use, knick knacks that are collecting dust?

It can feel impossible to work in that environment. Clutter makes it difficult for you to focus, and hard to relax. It also reminds you of all the cleaning you should have done but haven’t.

Take a few minutes to clean your workspace, starting with your desk. Put items in a box that you don’t need. Get rid of the paper agendas from old meetings. Return books that belong to another department.

Then, clean up your computer. Delete old files, and archive your emails. Organize the documents you actually need into folders.  

Finally, take care of the area around your work station. Vacuum the carpet. Clean out your filing cabinet. 

 

  •  Working smarter, not harder

 

There’s no point in discovering your why, having a schedule, morning routine, and decluttering your workspace — if you’re overworked. Why grind it out when you can find alternative ways of working?

Working smarter might mean outsourcing data entry tasks to a digital assistant. It could mean listening to your favorite podcast on your walk instead of when you’re trying to meet a deadline. 

Working smarter helps you focus on priority tasks. It also shows you the value of delegating appropriate tasks, allowing your time to be better spent elsewhere. Working smarter allows you to get tasks done quicker, which lets you use the leftover time to relax. 

To get the big things done, start small. Know what you need to get done, take care of yourself (and your workspace), and find efficiencies where you can. That’s all there is to it. 

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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Calendar Spam is a Problem (How to Fix)

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.

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