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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.

4 Inspiring Books for Entrepreneurs to Read in 2020

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4 Inspiring Books for Entrepreneurs to Read in 2020

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. 

5 Tips for Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Workday

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5 Tips for Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Workday

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

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

1. Take better breaks.

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

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

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

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

2. Get up and move.

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

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

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

3. Schedule it on your calendar.

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

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

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

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

4. Breathe deeply.

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

To breathe in a deep, relaxing way:

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

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

5. Be a single-tasker.

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

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

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

Motivation Secrets of Productive People

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Make no mistake about it. Motivation will increase your productivity. “Motivation and productivity are twin concepts in organizational development,” wrote Kristina Dems for Bright Hub. “First, motivation works as the means toward attaining productivity as an end. Another point: Motivation is the best road to follow to reach productivity as a favorable effect. Lastly, motivation is the stimulus to trigger productivity as a response.” Think about how this effects you and effects your life. When you’re not feeling motivated, you’re not going to accomplish much. That’s because you don’t have the drive to get things done. And, to put it lightly, that sucks. Now you’re behind on your planned goals or a task, which means you’re going to get behind another and another. Eventually, everything starts to pile-up. With no end in sight, you become even less motivated. That’s why the most productive people employ the following motivation secrets to guarantee that they’re always ahead of the game.

1. When plans are made, they anticipate obstacles.

Peter Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology at New York University, in New York City, conducted a study in 2009 that compared two groups of women who wanted to be more active. The groups were both provided information on how to live a healthy lifestyle. However, the second group was also taught how to foresee obstacles by using if-then statements. For example, if they wanted to jog, but the weather is poor, then what will you do? The women would say, “if it’s snowing, then I’ll go to the gym and use the treadmill.” Suffice it to say, the second group fared far better. Gollwitzer concluded that those who plan for obstacles are more likely to follow through on projects. This is because they don’t have any excuses for completing the task at hand.

2. They “don’t break the chain.”

Years ago software developer Brad Isaac asked Jerry Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comedian. Seinfeld told him that the only way to become a better comic was to create better jokes. And the only way to create better jokes was to write daily. But, that was just scratching the surface. Ultimately, the legendary comic unveiled his unique calendar system that kept him motivated every day. Jerry told Isaac to get a huge wall calendar “that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall.” Then, go get a red magic maker. He told Isaac that for each day he writes to to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.” “Don’t break the chain,” Seinfeld said again for emphasis. Isaac says that this “works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes.” And, those daily actions build habits.

3. Live life from their calendars.

According to The Busy Person’s Guide to the Done List, by Janet Choi and Walter Chen of iDoneThis:
  • 41 percent of to-do list items are never completed.
  • 50 percent of to-do list items are completed within a day, many within the first hour of being written down.
Why is this the case when so many people swear by to-do-lists? For starters, tasks on your to-do-lists are distinguished between those that only take a couple of minutes and those will last hours. Additionally, they emphasize the urgent instead of the important. And, they can add unnecessary stress. Because of these reasons, highly productive people don’t use to-dos. They live from their calendars instead. “Use a calendar and schedule your entire day into 15-minute blocks,” says Jordan Harbinger, co-founder of The Art of Charm. “It sounds like a pain, but this will set you up in the 95th percentile as far as organization goes.” “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t get done. If it’s on the calendar, it gets done no matter what. Use this not just for appointments, but workouts, calls, email blocks, etc.”

4. They don’t multitask.

Despite the myths, multitasking doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, it slows you down. This is because your brain is switching tasks and focus, which means it takes you longer to complete tasks. In order to stay productive, you need to focus on thing at a time. Due’s Miranda Marquit uses the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused on one specific task at a time. This also boosts productivity since you’re dedicating your mental energy on one specific item. As a perk, since you’re giving this one task 110 percent, chances are that there will be fewer mistakes. This means you won’t have to back and fix your errors, you can just move onto to something else.

5. Not controlled by technology.

“I was a Division I college athlete, and I grew up with five brothers and two sisters. I’ve always been a competitor. [But] I’ve learned that productivity should not be a competitive sport. You’re never going to win,” Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte, tells Fast Company. “I am responsible for almost 80,000 people. I prioritize people over tasks. One Note allows me to put different tasks [involving] each of my executive-team members in a tab. That way when I talk to them, I can be more effective, because the five things I want to talk to them about [are right there].” “If I looked at email and Twitter and texts [during the day], I don’t think I would ever give my full attention to anything. You cannot be insightful if you’re deluged with information.” Engelbert adds, “We’re all drowning in data. We all need moments of recovery. For me, that includes not going right to my phone when I wake up in the morning. I got on a plane about six months ago, and I forgot my phone. For two days, I didn’t have my phone, and nobody died.” Her final words of advice? “Technology should help you do your job, not control your job.”

6. They use a notebook.

Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Sheryl Sandberg all carry a notebook around. The reason? They rely on pen and paper to keep track of and remember all of their thoughts and ideas. “I can’t tell you where I’d be if I hadn’t had a pen on hand to write down my ideas as soon as they came to me,” Branson wrote in a blog post. “You think you’ll remember, but you won’t, and you’ll forfeit all the thoughts that flood you after you’ve freed your mind from remembering the initial spark,” adds Drew Hanson. For Sandberg, she uses a notebook as a kind of daily planner. She jots down her to-do lists. Once she’s accomplished those items, she rips the pages out of her notebook. It’s a simple way to stay motivated for staying on track.

7. They work backwards from the future.

Steve Jobs once asked, “If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” “If too many days passed by with the answer being ‘no,’ he’d adjust his lifestyle until he hit a consistent yes,” explains HubSpot’s Scott Tousley. “This forced Steve to define long-term goals and stay motivated.” This may sound drab, but the most productive people “think about the end of their lives,” which helps them define their legacy. With this in mind, they then “work backwards to achieve those goals.” “This touches on the psychological theories and models of motivation. If we’re driven by a purpose, we’re more likely to work extra hard,” says Tousley. But, how does starting with your purpose keep you productive and motivated? Starting with a purpose or “personal mission statement,” leads to the creation of long-term goals. Long-term goals lead to smaller goals, which create to-do-lists. So, if you want to productive like Steve Job, define your purpose first and everything else will fall into place.

8. They’re friends with time.

Really productive people, or RPPs as Marie Forleo calls them, are friends with time. In other words, “they don’t look at time as the enemy.” If you do, you’ll end-up always struggling with productivity and motivation. And, this makes sense. Whenever you could something the “enemy” it’s only going to end-up being a source of pain. Instead, make time your ally. You can start by ditching time-stealing habits like multitasking and procrastination. You can achieve by practicing:
  • Mindfulness. This will help you focus on one task at a time.
  • Acceptance. Concentrating only on what you can control.
  • Authenticity. This encourages self-management since it helps you decide what to do and when to do it.

9. They create theme days.

Want to know how Jack Dorsey juggles all of his obligations at Twitter and Square? He creates theme days. Here’s what Jack said about this in 2011:
“The way I found that works for me is I theme my days. On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company, the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.”
How has that schedule help Jack work eight hours at both companies? The first reason the schedule works is that it establishes a rhythm. You know what to expect every day because you’ve created a routine to keep you focused. Secondly, it challenges you to complete tasks on certain deadlines. If you record a podcast every Tuesday like John Lee Dumas, then you know that you have the podcast prepared by that day. Finally, it batches similar tasks together. This keeps you productive since it streamlines activity and eliminates distractions.

10. Bring optimism and fun back into the picture.

This may sound hokey, but research shows that the key to motivation is bringing optimism and fun. Ron Siegel, a psychology professor at Harvard University, explains: “Our modern brains are still wired up for the ancient evolutionary purpose of surviving in a dangerous environment. Over a million years or so, we developed specialized neural structures that selectively tuned in to danger signals. The prospect of getting attacked necessarily outranked all other neurological priorities.” And, unfortunately, we still go into that survival mode. Instead of thinking about the pleasurable and rewarding experience of conquering a task, we focus on anxiety and fear. For example, you just started a new business. You’re probably dwelling more on the fear of failure instead of the excitement of improving your community. The best way to overcome this? Create basic two-columned pros and cons list so you can notice that the joys outweigh any fears or anxieties. When you actually see the positive, you’ll get yourself out of the rut you’re headed into. As Rick Steves has written, “Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic. If something is not to your liking, change your liking.”
Originally published here.
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