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Learning to Speak With Clarity

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Learning to Speak With Clarity

In terms of content, it’s essential to structure our thoughts logically, as well as choose our words carefully. Just as important are projections, pronunciation, and diction. After all, in order to be a good communicator, you need to go beyond language skills.

In other words, you need to learn to speak with clarity

Whether you’re having a one-on-one meeting, speaking at an industry, or just shooting the breeze with friends or family, communicating with clarity shouldn’t be overlooked. It ensures that you’re delivering the right message. And, more importantly, that the other party gets that message loud and clear.

What’s more, it’s possible to learn to speak with clarity. And, to get started, here are nine strategies to utilize.

Identify and overcome obstacles.

In my opinion, identifying the obstacle should definitely be you’re starting point. How can you speak clearly without first identifying the overcoming the obstacles holding you back? It’s like trying to go on a bike ride when you have a flat tire.

While everyone has their specific hurdles, one way to identify your obstacle is to play time management games. These games reveal to you where you have unclear speech, as well as time issues.

Here are the most common challenges to clear speech and communication — and how you can resolve them.

Fast rate.

Unclear speech results from a variety of factors, such as being nervous. As a consequence, words become muddled up with consonants since vowels have become shortened. In fact, it’s when speaking, we should aim for about 140 words per minute.

Slowing down your speech and talking deliberately (at first) helps form your sounds more accurately. And, this gives your listeners time to process what you’re saying.

But, how can you slow down? One suggestion would be practicing deep breathing while speaking. You can also try the following;

  • “Practice Speaking and Self-Monitoring” exercises
  • Recording yourself practicing a speech. Not only does this let you hear how fast you’re talking, reciting your speech builds confidence.
  • “Shadowing” others, such as watching TED Talks and then, mimic speakers.
  • Working with a coach or consultant.

Slowing down naturally can best be accomplished by breathing deeply while speaking. After you gain clarity — in this day and age — I also think we need to step up the pace again when speaking. Slow speech aggregates those who are in a rush — which is most of us. Become clear in your speech first — then speed it up again. (I’d say it takes six months to a year to get this right, you can’t rush it — and it takes a lot of practice.)

Mumbling.

Another common culprit is mumbling. And, this usually goes hand in hand with fast speech. The reason for this is that the mouth doesn’t open as much when speaking quickly. In turn, the sound of your speech gets distorted since it’s being squeezed between your teeth.

The best way to address mumbling is by relaxing your jaw and tongue. Doing so will allow you to speak clearly and with greater precision. You can also use some of the strategies listed above, such as recording yourself. A more strange technique would be speaking with a cork in your mouth because it makes your mouth work harder to pronounce the words more clearly.

Some people mumble because of self-confidence — they don’t really believe what they have to say is important. Believe what you have to say has merit, and it will help with clarity. If you know you are mumbling today — just be quiet and listen.

A quiet voice.

Speaking too softly or not loud enough will result in a lack of clarity. What do your listeners have to work with when you aren’t putting enough sound into the room?

The more breath you take and the more vibrations you feel in your body, the more power you will be able to produce without straining. Keep in mind though, that your voice will appear louder to you than to your listeners. This is awkward, but don’t worry too much about it. Again — record and listen to your voice — continually adjust to the correct volume for the situation.

An accent.

Others may find it difficult to understand you when you have a thick accent. But, there’s nothing wrong with having an accent — all of us have one. But, depending on who is listening to it, it may be difficult to understand.

An accent is more problematic when combined with a weak voice or fast rate. As a result, a strong accent may cause confusion and frustration. Before you start speaking, make sure that you’re projecting well and speaking slowly. It could be as simple as that.

Usually, with a thick accent, you will need a coach. Listen to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first movies — you can hardly understand him. Listen when he was California’s governor — quite a bit better in his speaking. Listen to him today — he’s understandable. Schwarzenegger put a lot of time into his muscles — and in speaking better — with tons of work, many coaches, and practice. Speaking well and with clarity doesn’t happen by accident; it takes difficult work and practice.

Speaking with clarity is like anything else worth doing well — it takes practice and concentrated work to get it right. There are many YouTube’s about speaking well — look up a few of these.

Stay in your wheelhouse.

“The ‘most natural’ way to project confidence when we speak is when it’s done from the position of authority or as an expert,” says writer and wellness advocate Evelyn Marinoff. “We all tend to pay close attention to such individuals and believe pretty much everything that they say. Because they ‘know their stuff.’”

“So, find your strengths and passions, and further develop thembecome the best you can at what you do.”

This was actually a conversation my brother and I recently had. My argument was that I get turned off by people who are considered experts because they have a platform. It’s like when a celebrity champions a diet. They may not be wrong. But, they aren’t nutritionists and, so you should take their advice with a huge grain of salt.

Being an authority figure doesn’t just give you “brownie points with others—mainly, in the form of respect and appreciation, it will also breed confidence. In turn, this “makes us better armed to face the world, to weather adversities, and to calm down our nervousness and self-doubting.”

You don’t have to use big words.

It’s not uncommon for educated people and thought leaders to use a lot of big words when speaking. I can’t vouch for them all personally, but I believe it’s because they think that this will validate that they “know thief stuff.”

However, this isn’t always true. For some, having an extensive vocabulary is merely a tactic to hide behind. As a result, your arguments become misrepresented. And, that defeats the whole purpose of communicating with others.

Does this mean you should avoid big words all the time? Of course not. Sometimes they are more accurate and superior to their smaller cousins.

If you don’t want to exasperate or offend your audience, define big words before using them.

Captivate and engage others.

Piggybacking from the last point, an audience that doesn’t understand you won’t be able to benefit from your expertise. And, that might be because you’re using jargon. Remember, just because you and your colleagues throw around industry terms freely doesn’t mean that everyone is aware of their meanings.

Unless you know your audience, like their backgrounds and motivations, steer clear of the complicated words or acronyms that your audience is not familiar with. It’s a surefire way to lose them and prevent them from being engaged and captivated.

Another suggestion? Keep your explanations simple and clear. This guarantees that your audience can relate to and understand them. And, when they, you’ll be able to maintain their attention

In the words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Read a Thesaurus.

Using different words can ensure that other people will understand what you’re saying. By using synonyms and changing a sentence structure, it will be much easier to get someone’s attention. But, repetition is needed to initially grab their attention.

Repetition has a special quality that’s called “specialty.” This is because people can say the same thing in a variety of ways. It will be in your best interest to learn a wide range of synonyms and related words.

Here are just a couple of examples in action:

  • When you can’t think of a specific word, for example the word goal, you could say, “aim” or “objective” instead.
  • When you’re talking to someone and they don’t understand what you mean — you can use goals or intentions.
  • When you wish to reiterate your point — if you say, “we need to reduce expenses by creating a budget. This would save us a lot of money.” The short explanation gives clarification to the sentence.

Write more often.

It becomes easier to speak more clearly when you’re able to write well. Over time, your vocabulary, sentence structures, and arguments will become second nature.

The reason? It helps you prepare and think ahead. As a result, you do not need to focus on your structure or vocab. Instead, you can focus on your presentation structure in order to avoid mistakes. Even if you’re busy as heck, try writing in a journal during your morning routine for a couple of minutes may help.

Avoid sub-clauses.

Another benefit of writing? It allows you to put several arguments inside one another. In other words, writing allows your audience to find the beginning of your sentence so that they don’t get confused. You can’t do that when you’re speaking.

Therefore, don’t nest ideas inside each other. Be concise when writing and end one thought before starting another. When you clearly end a sentence — you won’t lose your audience. More importantly, the listeners can walk away with the key points you wanted to relay.

Ensuring You Have Stamina Throughout the Summer Months

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Ensuring You Have Stamina Throughout the Summer Months

Are you experiencing “summer slacker syndrome?” Don’t beat yourself up over it. The warmer months of the year trigger this phenomenon — even among the most motivated individuals.

Why does this happen? There are actually several reasons. For starters, we tend to be more tired during the summer because we’re acclimating to the heat, and our metabolism has slowed down. In addition, if you’re a parent, you want to spend time with your kids while they’re on summer vacation. And, there are a ton of summer activities that are pulling you away from work — why stay cooped up inside when you could be sipping a cold beverage on the beach?

Regardless of the exact reason, it’s not uncommon for us to drag during the summer. But, if you still need to get things done, here are 9 ways to ensure that you have stamina throughout the summer months.

1. Stay hydrated.

If you’re dragging this summer, there’s most likely a simple culprit. You’re dehydrated.

“In the heat, one byproduct of the increased temperature could be dehydration,” Jonathan Cane, exercise physiologist, and co-owner of City Coach Multisport,” told Aaptiv. “If not in a clinical sense, certainly in the low-level, chronic, less-than-optimal hydration sense.”

“Dehydration is a critical component that often leads to excessive fatigue and lack of energy when it comes to how individuals handle the heat,” adds Dr. Joel Seedman, neuromuscular physiologist, performance specialist, and owner of Advanced Human Performance. “In hotter climates, individuals are more likely to become dehydrated due to the body’s adaptive mechanism of perspiration and sweating.”

Even if you feel like you’re drinking enough water, we’re sweating more often to keep cool. As a consequence, our bodies are losing water faster than usual. “This can lead to electrolyte imbalances and a number of physiological consequences that can promote lack of energy and even physical ailments if not properly attended to,” Seedman says.

To make sure that you’re hydrated, try;

  • Chugging a glass of water as soon as you wake up.
  • Keeping a pitcher of water in the fridge and/or having a water bottle in sight.
  • Setting a timer or using an app Waterlogged to remind you to drink take a swig.
  • Infusing your water with fruits or herbs, so it’s not as boring.
  • Replacing soda with seltzer water, smoothies, or juices.

2. Snack on water-rich fruits and vegetables and spicy foods.

I know on those scorching dog days of summer, I don’t have much of an appetite. But, you need food to keep running. It’s just like filling your car with gas when it’s approaching empty.

The smart move to keep your energy up is to eat lightly throughout the day. Specifically, eating fruits and veggies like celery, green peppers, oranges, and watermelon. Besides being loaded with nutrients, they also contain lots of H20.

“Make sure you pair them with a protein, to keep your blood sugar levels stable,” advises Elisah Tashjian, a holistic nutrition consultant in Prevention Magazine.

What else should you chow down on this summer? Spicy foods. That may sound counterproductive, but it’s worth it.

Curry and chili can stimulate heat receptors in the mouth, which enhance circulation and cause sweating, in turn helping to cool the body down,” says Donald Deblock, a nurse practitioner with Rutgers University Health Services in Newark, NJ.

3. Don’t skimp on the z’s.

Are you having difficulty sleeping in the summer? You’re not alone. It happens to the best of us. And, there’s a valid reason.

“The longer daylight hours and the higher, sometimes humid, temperatures make it difficult to sleep well,” says Kat Lederle, Ph.D., MSc. “Your body clock, which is located in your brain, uses light and darkness as signals for day and night,” she says. “The longer we ‘see’ light, the longer the body clock will tell the body it’s daytime and it needs to stay awake.”

Also, with longer days, comes lifestyle changes. For example, you might be staying out later with friends or family. There’s also a chance that you’re eating dinner once it gets dark. And the alcohol might be flowing more liberally.

Still, you need to get a solid 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. To make this possible, stick with a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Have a wind-down ritual, like reading, when it approaches bedtime. And, make sure that you keep your bedroom dark and cold.

Personally, I like white noise when I sleep. So, I actually sleep better when there’s a running fan or AC unit. Plus, it keeps my room nice and cool throughout the night.

4. Rethink your exercise routine.

“Exercising or performing physical activity in the heat actually burns more calories than other climate conditions,” says Dr. Seedman. “Our bodies tend to fatigue more rapidly, involving a relatively higher heart rate response, and thus require more ATP (or energy) expenditure to maintain physical activity levels.”

At the same time, physical activity is a proven way to build up our stamina and maintain our energy. It’s also one of the best things that we can do for ourselves physically and mentally. So, what can be done?

Well, go ahead and work up a sweat. Just don’t overexert yourself. For example, instead of running or cycling, go swimming or paddleboarding. Swap out cardio for exercises that work out large muscle groups, like lifting weights. You could also try team sports like beach volleyball or pickleball.

If you want to run or cycle, try first thing in the morning or during the evening. Or, stay indoors and get on a treadmill or stationary bike.

5. Get your wrists wet.

Who doesn’t enjoy jumping into a pool, lake, or the ocean on a blustering, sunny day? But, sometimes, you just can’t go for a refreshing swim. Sure, a shower might work. But, what if you’re stuck inside working?

The answer? Running cold water over your wrists.

“Arterial pulse points are the areas in which the arterial blood vessels come closest to the surface of the skin,” explains Deblock. “Arterial blood flows away from the heart, so if you cool it with cold water, it will circulate the cooler blood throughout your body and ultimately lower your core temperature.”

And, this trick also works if the heat and humidity are making it difficult to fall asleep. “Rinse your wrists or your feet with cold water before you hit the hay, and it will help you drift off,” he says.

6. Schedule your priorities.

I get it. I would much rather enjoy the summer than being chained behind a desk, even though I enjoy the work that I do. But, there’s more to life than all work and not play.

At the same time, I have bills to pay. More importantly, I have work responsibilities that I still need to attend to. Thankfully, there is a way to find a happy place.

Rather than focus on everything you think has to get done, hone in on your priorities. That’s not always the easiest feat to accomplish. But, in a previous article, Calendar co-founder John Hall says it’s possible if you;

    • Determine your “big three.” These are your three most important tasks that must be completed. No exception.
    • Enhance your time management skills. Some recommendations would be to work when you’re most energetic, keeping a time log, and following the two-minute rule. Also, don’t forget to reduce distractions, cluster smaller tasks, and avoid the “urgency trap.”
    • Feel in-balance. This is possible “by maximizing your time at work, stop overcommitting, and not bringing work at home,” says Hall. “You should also establish boundaries. For example, if you’re spending time with friends or family on a Saturday night, then don’t respond to any work-related correspondence.”
    • Innovate, learn, and grow. Brainstorm ideas to improve a product, service, or product. Take a class or attend industry events. And stay on top of the latest trends.
    • Get to know the people in your neighborhood. By this, I mean fostering relationships with customers, business partners, investors, and employees. Outside of work, spend quality time with friends and family.
    • Grow your network. Find mentors, mingle with potential employers, or just attend a local meetup or virtual conference.

After identifying your priorities, add them to your calendar so that there aren’t any conflicts.

7. Work in sprints.

Your mileage may vary on this, but I’ve found this to be an effective strategy.

If possible, kick into high gear for a couple of days. For example, you could put in 10 or 12 hour days. But, only for three or four days. Then, with your priorities out of the way, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor the rest of the week.

8. Prioritize fun.

In addition to prioritizing your work, also pencil in time for fun. You don’t need to squeeze in everything. But, if there’s a ballgame, concert, or backyard activities that you really want to attend, go for it. After all, you only have a small window of time to enjoy your favorite summer activities!

Besides, having fun reduces stress, strengthens relationships, and sparks creativity. It also recharges your batteries. And, when it’s time to get back to work, you’ll be more productive since you’re refreshed.

9. Encourage vacation.

According to Time Off’s latest State of American Vacation 2018 report, on average, employees receive 11 days of paid time off per year. However, employees only use 5 of those days. And, since there was a pandemic in 2020, most of us haven’t gone on a vacation in quite some time.

Why’s that a problem? Because vacations are good for you physically and mentally. What’s more, vacations help prevent burnout and increase happiness. But, how can you realistically take a vacation?

In another Calendar piece, Angela Ruth recommends;

  • Getting ahead of your work priorities. “You’ll feel a lot less stressed if you can clear some deadlines on the days directly following your vacation,” writes Angela. “In addition, using time management techniques in your online calendar, such as time blocking, can help you focus and get more done in the same amount of time.”
  • Bring some work with you. “This is a tricky one, but it might be worth your time to take some work with you on the road,” she adds. “Just be sure not to let it take over your entire vacation. Otherwise, you’re just paying way too much for a remote workspace.
  • Plan in advance. “Grab your online calendar and start planning when you want to take your next vacation,” advises Angela. “This way, you can weigh the pros, cons, and prices of different dates and locations. Then, leading up to your departure, you can spread out all of the tasks you need to complete before you embark with plenty of time to spare.”

How to Stay Productive During the Summer Slowdown

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How to Stay Productive During the Summer Slowdown

When warm, summer days arrive, work may be the last place you and your team want to be.

It’s the time of year when many businesses experience significant decreases in productivity. Your employees could be on vacation or taking a personal day. Or they may need time off to care for children who are now home because schools are closed. 

All of these factors can make your workplace look like a legit ghost town during the summer. 

It’s no wonder that workplace productivity usually drops 20% during the hottest days of the year, according to a Captivate Office Pulse study. 

So how can you transform the annual office work slump into a productivity jump? Here are six ways you and your staff can stay productive all summer long.

1. Emphasize Exercise 

It’s no secret that an active body equals an active mind. Studies have shown that there are tons of connections between exercise and productivity.

Along with all the physical benefits exercise brings, it also improves memory, cognitive skills, and mood. All these are factors that can make your employees healthier, happier, and way more productive at the workplace.

So how can you reap these benefits for yourself and your team during the slow, summer months? 

If your office has (or is near) a gym, encourage your employees to get in a quick workout during the day. Or take some brief time out to do a fitness class like yoga, spin, or Zumba. You and your team will appreciate the extra energy boost and glow that a good workout can bring.  

2. Encourage a Growth Mindset 

The workplace should always be a place that encourages growth for everyone. Many businesses experience sales lulls in the summer as clients go on vacation and responses slow to a trickle. That dip in activity makes summer a perfect time for you and your team to update knowledge or learn new skills you need in the workplace.

By focusing on growing your knowledge, you and your team members will be prepared to provide solutions that the company needs. For example, you can organize summer training for skills such as web design, social media marketing, communication, or leadership. You can also offer e-learning courses that allow employees to study at their own pace, away from the office.

3. Conduct an Office Clean-Up

With many of your employees out on summer vacation, why not seize the opportunity to organize the office? Organizing your office setup may not seem exciting, but it plays a big part in keeping productivity levels up at the workplace. A clutter-free space contributes to clutter-free minds.

A summer cleanup can be as simple as sorting and putting items where everyone can find them. Clear filing cabinets of outdated documents and tidy shelves. Do an inventory check of office supplies and restock any that are needed. Buy desk organizers, whiteboards, or any stationery that you think will help life at work go as smoothly as possible.

4. Embrace Flexible Work Arrangements

Who wants to slog away in an office while warm weather and endless sunshine beckon outside?

It may seem counter-productive, but if you want your team to get more work done during summer, consider reducing work hours. You can experiment with a four-day workweek in the office or have reduced hours on certain days.

For example, Iceland saw productivity rates go up when workers participated in trials where they worked a four-day week. It was considered an “overwhelming success.” Now around 85% of workers there can choose to work a four-day week with the same pay. 

Recent studies have also shown that employees are more productive when they work from home. Because of COVID-19, many companies have already adopted remote working. For your employees whose children are on summer vacation, it’s a solution that lets them work and be with their families. Because workers feel like they have more freedom and control over their work, they ultimately get more work done.

5. Take Time to Get to Know Each Other

Between WFH arrangements and employee vacations, summer can make your workplace look like it’s perpetually in the midst of mass exodus. The last time you counted, it was just you, a few colleagues, and the office fish left behind. 

Although engaging with this depleted group may not sound tempting, this is a good time to get to know whom you’re working with. If you make time to interact with your staff, it almost always results in better communication and increased productivity. Those who might feel stuck in the office while their peers are off recreating will appreciate your overtures.

You can make interaction easier for introverts and extroverts alike by organizing work lunches away from the office. It’s a nice way for everyone to get to know each other outside of the work environment. It is also an opportunity for you to get feedback from your employees on company or personal issues they may face.

Team-building activities are another fun way to get people talking with each other. A group hike or family picnic can go a long way toward creating positive feelings among your employees.  These positive vibes often lead to stepped-up productivity when employees get back to the office.

6. Process Vacation Requests in Advance 

According to a study by Healthline Media, 50% of Americans plan to take a summer vacation this year. This could mean that half of your staff would be unavailable at some point during summer if vacations aren’t planned in advance. Productivity will take an instant hit just because there are not many people working.

Having employees submit vacation requests before summer starts is key to ensuring that there are always enough people at the office to keep work flowing. In addition, it allows your HR department to find fair ways to deal with those who have conflicting vacation times. They can also make plans to hire temporary staff if needed.  

Summers Don’t Have to Mean a Productivity Slowdown

If you plan ahead, summer months don’t have to mean reduced productivity for you and your team. Less office work and extra time mean everyone is able to spend more time on personal and professional growth. You can also use this time to recharge your mind and body for busier days that will come.

11 Morning Routines to Save Your Day

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11 Morning Routines to Save Your Day

The morning routines of nearly every person have been turned upside down over the past year. As a consequence of lockdowns, self-isolation, working from home, and other family responsibilities, creating productive morning routines can seem like a difficult task. And, now that things are somewhat returning to normal, routines are shifting yet again.

However, instead of dismissing these changes as an inconvenience, implement a morning routine that will save your day. As Hal Elrod, author of “The Miracle Morning”, writes, “Focused, productive successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days – which inevitably create a successful life.”

With that in mind, here are 11-morning routines you should try out today.

1. Wake up 15-minutes and be selfish.

Mornings, according to Chief Hop in Stranger Things, “are for coffee and contemplation.” And, I couldn’t agree more.

Personally, I’ve never been the type of person to roll out of bed and jump into the day. I need to wake up and just be for a couple of minutes. Coffee or tea is another requirement. And, as I’ve gotten older, this quiet time allows me to catch up on the news, respond to emails, or review my plans for the day.

At the same time, I also understand that this isn’t possible for everyone. If you have a newborn, having any amount of free time is wishful thinking. But, if you constantly feel like your mornings are a chaotic rush, you might want to get up earlier.

That doesn’t mean forcing yourself to get up at 5 a.m. — especially if you’re not a morning person. But, you could just set your alarm 15-minutes earlier. It might not seem like much, but you can spend that time however you want, like engaging in a daily self-care routine.

2. Engage in creativity.

“Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world,” Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the former president of the American Art Therapy Association, told NPR.

“Anything that engages your creative mind — the ability to make connections between unrelated things and imagine new ways to communicate — is good for you,” adds Girija Kaimal, a professor at Drexel University and a researcher in art therapy. Specifically, being creative helps you imagine a more hopeful future and activates the brain’s reward center. And, it can lower stress and strengthen your focus.

Know that you have 15 extra minutes in the morning, you can color, sketch, write, or knit part of a scarf.

3. Exercise…for under 10-minutes.

“The benefits of breathing and meditation are undeniable; just a couple minutes of relaxation can make your mind sharper, your senses more alert, and your entire body more peaceful,” notes Lily Herman over on The Muse.

“But in practice? Taking time to step away and meditate can seem daunting, not to mention confusing and difficult in the beginning,” says Herman. “I’ve personally tried getting in the zone to meditate on many occasions and have never really been able to find pure relaxation.”

The answer? Trying out the following two super-quick exercises;

  • To increase your energy, set a timer and close your eyes for two minutes. Next, breathe in through your nose and four counts and out for three. This will stimulate your sympathetic nervous system making you feel more active and animated.
  • To feel calmer, do the opposite. Inhale for three counts and exhale for four. This will trigger the parasympathetic nervous system making it easier for you to relax.

If you want to get your body moving, and you have the time, consider going for a morning run — or at least a brisk walk. You could also try a 10-minute yoga workout. Physical activity increases blood flow, stimulates the brain, and enhances your mental performance.

4. Establish a tech-free zone.

For the most part, I’ve done a solid job of following my circadian rhythms. Because of this, I tend to follow the same wake-sleep pattern. And, that means I’m not reliant on an alarm — my dog also shares this routine and gets me up at the same time every morning.

But, not everyone is as fortunate. So, it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra layer of security. In this case, an alarm clock.

Instead of using your phone though, go out and purchase an actual alarm clock. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. After all, it serves one purpose, to wake you up at a specific time.

The reason? It’s a simple way to prevent you from laying in bed and scrolling through emails, social media, or the news. In addition to being a waste of time and distraction, it’s not good for your health and well-being. Case in point, in the midst of this seemingly neverending pandemic, doomscrolling has become an unhealthy habit.

5. Take care of the little things and then eat your frog.

If you’ve ever searched for productivity hacks, I’m sure you’ve come across the saying “eat the frog.” You’re not eating an amphibian for breakfast. Rather, it’s a metaphor for your tackling your most important or challenging tasks for the day first.

In theory, this makes sense. We tend to have the most energy and focus not too long after waking. What’s more, this presents distractions and procrastination from holding us back. And, we can all take a sigh of relief once these responsibilities are done and over with it.

But, there’s something to be said about addressing the little things first. While you may not consider these a priority, they can interfere with your focus by creating mental clutter. For example, if you have to make an appointment with your vet or answer a question in an email, these will keep nagging at you until they’re crossed off.

So, why not get these out of the way bright and early? As an added bonus, this will also help you build momentum to actually eat that frog.

6. Quell negative thoughts and refocus.

Dr. Greg Hammer, a physician and professor at Stanford University Medical Center and author of Gain Without Pain: The Happiness Handbook for Health Care, recommends taking a four-step intentional approach to start your day.

  • Gratitude. Regardless if this is in a journal or a mental note, acknowledge three things that you’re grateful for.
  • Acceptance. Observe, feel, and accept whatever you can not change.
  • Intention. Make the decision to direct your energy towards the things that“are healthy, whole, kind, praiseworthy.”
  • Non-judgement. If you catch yourself categorizing something as good or bad, stop yourself and embrace“benevolent indifference”

7. Listen to your morning playlist.

“Regardless of whether you end up at a downtown office or sitting behind your in-home office desk, the morning is where you find the energy you need to power through the day,” writes Jordan Taylor Sloan for Mic.

“Scientists have found that songs with heavy bass (hard rock and hip-hop) inspire feelings of power, and produce a surge of confidence and more complex conceptual thought — a perfect start to any day,” he adds.

8. Activate all of your senses.

You’ve probably never realized this before. But, as soon as you rise and shine, all five of your senses are being put to work. It could be the sound of the alarm clock or birds chirping. If you have a coffee maker with a timer, you might smell that brewing. And, you can feel and see the sun on your skin.

Instead of tuning out, pay attention to these five senses. And, infuse them into your morning routine. Examples could be noticing how your feet feel on the floor when you first get out of bed or what colors you see. Savor the taste and smell of your breakfast. And, consider how your morning playlist makes you feel.

Tapping into your senses will help you make better decisions. And, more importantly, it can help you slow down, be more present, and appreciate what you have at the moment.

9. Take a shower.

“Humans tend to perspire at night,” says Dr. Gary Goldenberg, a dermatologist in New York and a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “When you wake up in the morning, there’s all this sweat and bacteria from the sheets that’s just kind of sitting there on your skin.” So, taking a shower in the morning will “wash all of that gunk and sweat off that you’ve been sleeping in all night.”

While we tend to balk at taking a cold shower, you might want to give it try. Exposing yourself to cold water can increase blood flow and neurotransmitters.

10. Soak up the sun.

In the morning, sunlight promotes wakefulness in the body. The reason? It suppresses the production of melatonin, which gives you more energy. Open the blinds as soon as you wake up and/or flip on the lights to give your body energy. And, make sure you get plenty of sunlight throughout the day, whether you’re walking your dog or sipping your cup of coffee on the patio — just don’t forget the sunscreen.

What if you wake up before the sun has risen? Purchase an alarm clock that can mimic a sunrise. Examples include the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock or the HomeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock.

11. Don’t overload your morning routine.

It may seem counterproductive to say this after giving you so much advice. However, your own morning routine should be one that is most effective for you. Also, make sure to keep it short and simple so that it’s not overwhelming. After all, it’s not sustainable to have a morning checklist or routine that makes you stressed before you even wake up.

Why You Need a Productivity Purge

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Why You Need a Productivity Purge

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you were able to juggle only one thing at a time? You know — if you didn’t have to always manage multiple projects? Remember in Covid when you were juggling homeschooling with your kids while you’re on a Zoom call? Now it’s summer and it’s dèjá vu — same scenario! So how is everyone else doing with this reality?

Our lives are so busy it seems like a pipe dream to manage only one task. However, we’ve had a lot of science information come about in the last few years that tells us not to multi-task — have we been listening?

It is actually possible to do one thing at a time — and have great success. For example, take a look at when Albert Einstein was working on his theory of relativity.

The Einstein Principle

Let’s give credit where it’s due. Cal Newport popularized the Einstein Principle. If you recall, Newport is the author of the influential “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.”

In a blog post, Newport explains that from 1912-1915, Einstein was primarily focused on his theory of relativity — please don’t ask me to explain that! But, while Einstein had to make sacrifices, he published one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in history.

“We are most productive when we focus on a very small number of projects on which we can devote a large amount of attention,” writes Newport. “Achievements worth achieving require hard work. There is no shortcut here.”

“In a perfect world, we would all be Einsteins,” he adds. “We would each have only one, or at most two, projects in the three major spheres of our lives: professional, extracurricular, and personal.” In turn, we’d be able “to focus on this specialized set, in exclusion, as we push the projects to impressive conclusions.”

Of course, most of us aren’t that fortunate. And why would we? Newport argues that it’s risky, boring, and a tad unrealistic.

But, something does come close. It’s something that Newport calls a productivity purge.

What Exactly is a Productivity Purge?

A productivity purge “a simple strategy for coming as close as possible to satisfying the principle without giving up a quest for the unexpected next big thing.” The principle works as follows:

  • Grab a sheet of paper and create three columns; professional, extracurricular, and personal. Under “professional,” you would list all of the major projects you’re currently working on. Beneath “extracurricular,” jot down your side projects. And under “personal,” note all of your self-improvement projects, like reading.
  • Under each list, “select one or two projects which, at this point in your life, are the most important and seem like they would yield the greatest returns,” explains Newport. “Put a star by these projects.”
  • Next, identify whatever you can “stop working on right away with no serious consequences. Cross these out.”
  • Whatever projects are left unmarked, “come up with a 1-3 week plan for finalizing and dispatching them,” Newport adds. “Many of these will be projects for which you owe someone something before you can stop working on them.” If so, develop “a crunch plan for the near future for shutting these down as quickly as possible.”
  • After you’ve “completed your crunch plan, you’ll be left with only a small number of important projects. What that means is you’ve “purged your schedule of all but a few contenders to be your next Theory of Relativity.”

Newport offers a final important tip. “Try to go at least one month without starting any new projects. Resist, at all costs, committing to anything during this month.” Rather, target “with an Einsteinian intensity, on your select list.”

6 Ways to Purge for Productivity

The strategy listed above, in my opinion, is pretty straightforward. And, when done regularly, it is certainly effective. But, I’ve also applied this concept to known productivity thieves.

The result? I’m spending less time and energy on the unnecessary. In turn, that’s made me a lean, mean productivity machine.

1. Update your routine.

Routines can come in handy. They provide structure and make planning easier. And, when you have a routine, you don’t have to make as many decisions.

Here’s the thing, though. Is your routine actually effective? Just because you’re on autopilot doesn’t mean that you’re not on the right course.

Take a moment and assess your daily schedule. And answer the following questions:

  • Are you working when you have the most energy?
  • Have you left white space on your calendar?
  • Are you actually getting close to your short-and-long-term goals?
  • What recurring tasks can you delegate or remove?

Is there a perfect schedule? Of course not. But, in the words of Stephen Covey, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

2. Let go of old tasks.

Do me a favor and take a glance at your to-do list. If you haven’t updated this list in some time because you’re on autopilot, you may be in for a surprise. These tasks may no longer be relevant — or even worse, they may now be unimportant or vague.

Those items are actually clutter. So scratch them off your list. As for what’s left, prioritize your list using something like the Eisenhower Matrix.

Whatever is important and urgent, you would do immediately. Important but not urgent tasks will be scheduled for another time. Remember — anything that’s urgent but not important can be assigned to someone else. So, really, copy and paste these tasks to someone else right now.

3. Share your workspace with Mr. Clean.

Not literally. After all, Mr. Clean is a fictional character. So, that would be just weird if he were actually with you in person.

What sharing your space with Mr. Clean means is cleaning and organizing your workspace. It doesn’t have to be sparkling. But don’t let your space become a pigpen.

Some tips:

  • Whatever you don’t need, chuck or recycle it, such as junk mails.
  • Organize both paper and digital files so that they’re not on your desktop.
  • Think like a chef and practice mise en place. The French culinary phrase mise en place means “everything in its place.” Give everything a home and keep your most frequently used items close to you. Then, at the end of the day, put everything back where it belongs.
  • Create zones. You may do your deep work at your desk. But, you should have other zones for different activities. For example, you could create a resource area or outdoor spot for brainstorming.

4. Avoid information overload.

Being plugged in 24/7 and being surrounded by too much data is causing information overload. When left unchecked, it can hinder your productivity, performance, and collaboration. After all, the brain can only remember so much before popping like a circuit.

The best course of action? Be more selective about what you consume. Preferably, have the things you consume be relevant to what you’re working on right now. Additionally, you could also set a time limit on information gathering and learn to block out distractions.

Not enough? Give batching a spin. Don’t forget to occasionally let your mind daydream and wander.

5. Ask, “Does this bring you joy?”

I know — you associate this question with Marie Kondo when organizing your home. And while many people have found this helpful — I’ve only used the question when it comes to my calendar.

Here’s a recent example. Last weekend a friend had a small outdoor gathering. While I could have fit this into my schedule, I wasn’t just feeling it. That may sound selfish. But, I felt other things were more important, and, in my opinion, that event just wasn’t a priority at the time.

Just to let you know, I gave them plenty of notice that I wouldn’t attend. I also scheduled another time to catch up. I now apply this principle to any time request — whether it’s a new project, meeting, or networking event.

In the immortal words of Derek Sivers, “When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’”

Keep this mantra top of mind right now when we, in business, are working to save the economy and our businesses. If you aren’t building yourself and your company, help someone else build or save their business!

6. Break free of stress.

Finally, purge stress from your life. If you don’t, you’re just not hurting your productivity; you’re also putting your health and wellbeing in jeopardy. And, you can get started by:

  • Identify your triggers so that you can remove them. For example, if a client keeps you up at night, you might want to let them go and work with someone else.
  • Take care of your body. You know the drill. Get your body moving, eat a healthy diet, and don’t neglect your sleep.
  • Meditate. Take a break from work and engage in mindfulness — even if it’s just for five minutes.
  • Learn how to self-soothe. When you’re stressed, try breathing exercises to calm down.
  • Do something that you enjoy. Examples could be reading, hiking, or spending time with friends and family.
  • Focus on what you can control. Seriously. Don’t waste your time obsessing over things that are out of your hands.
  • Take time off. When you’re overwhelmed, spend some time away from work in order to recharge.

Time Blocking and Appointment-Making: 6 Tips to Get Started

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Time Blocking and Appointment-Making: 6 Tips to Get Started

The jig is up. It’s time to admit that multitasking is not a productive strategy for getting stuff done. Research actually proves that the opposite is true. Multitasking makes you less effective at all of the tasks you’re juggling, but time blocking can solve this issue.

The question now is, how can you hope to get multiple tasks done in a single day without multitasking? If you’re using an appointment software package, the answer is right in front of you. This program can be leveraged to use time blocking to increase productivity. Here’s how to get started:

1. Get to Know Time Blocking

To get started, you first need to understand what time blocking entails. This is a time management practice that involves the use of a calendar or scheduling tool to organize your time. 

You start by dividing your daily schedule into blocks of time. Each block is then assigned a specific task. During that time period, all of your attention is focused on the task at hand until the time block transitions to the next.

For example, let’s say you have a bad habit of checking your email throughout the day, diverting your attention away from other tasks and projects. You can use time blocking to set specific times during which you’ll read and respond to emails. Outside of those time blocks, email will be left out of the picture. 

2. Create a To-Do List

How do you figure out which tasks belong in which time blocks? Start by creating a daily to-do list. Write out everything you need to accomplish in the coming days, both small tasks and large-scale projects.

Next, rank your tasks in order of importance. Some tasks will require more time and attention, while others have specific deadlines that must be met. Prioritizing these tasks as such will give you a better idea of how to organize your time blocks. 

Now that you have your list, it’s time to transfer it to your schedule. Make time blocks for your urgent tasks early in the day. Follow up with larger time blocks for your other projects and fill in the cracks with meetings, breaks, and anything else worthy of your time. 

3. Practice Discipline

Time blocking will not work if you don’t practice discipline. Your appointment schedule will mean nothing if you constantly allow outside forces to penetrate your time management plan. 

If you find yourself struggling to stick with the same task without getting distracted, try using the Pomodoro Technique. This time management approach is a spin on time blocking that helps you break down your schedule into manageable pieces. 

It works like this. You schedule your time out in small windows, or blocks, anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour. During that time you focus on nothing but the task at hand. After the block ends, take a scheduled break of five to 10 minutes to recharge. These small sprints will keep your focus level high and help you accomplish tons of tasks in a single day. 

4. Ease Into It

Time blocking will take some getting used to. It can be overwhelming to attempt to schedule out every minute of your day if you haven’t done so before. Instead of diving right in, ease yourself into time blocking for a smooth transition.

There are a couple of ways you can ease yourself into a time blocking schedule. First, consider setting only large blocks of time that don’t come with the stress of a tight deadline. Keep each time block at least an hour long to get started.

Another method is to use time blocking for only a portion of your day. For example, intense time blocking can help you have a productive and structured morning, while the afternoon is left more open and free. 

5. Make Time for Everything

One of the most common mistakes people make when time blocking is not leaving enough time to complete tasks properly. Not everyone can be like Elon Musk, who schedules his day in five-minute increments. You’ll almost always be better off blocking off more time than you anticipate needing for a task.

Let’s use a team meeting as an example. Normally these meetings would last about an hour. Instead of blocking off exactly 60 minutes in your schedule, block off 75 or even 90 minutes. This ensures you have the necessary buffer time to move to another meeting or project even if this meeting runs a bit long. 

If you finish a task before your time block is up, there’s no need to stress. Rather, do just the opposite. Use that extra time to stretch your legs and organize your thoughts before moving to the next time block. When your schedule is laid out to your liking, you don’t need to move things up when extra time appears. 

6. Get Some Rest

It’s been mentioned a few times already, but getting rest is so important that it deserves its own subheading. While time blocking can help you accomplish more with your day, it’s not meant to burn you out quickly. Blocking off time for rest and relaxation is key to unlocking your full productivity. 

Using the Pomodoro Technique builds in some short breaks, but to really stave off burnout, you need to schedule more rest than that. Use time blocking to get more done in less time so that you can get home to your family earlier or take that fishing trip you’ve been longing for all summer. You’ll feel just as accomplished and have more time to enjoy life outside of the office. 

Time blocking will show you just how much you can get done in a single day. Start using your appointment software of choice to organize your time and see just how much more you can accomplish with this time management technique

Strategies and Habits that Can Help You Reach Your Full Potential

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Strategies and Habits that Can Help You Reach Your Full Potential

This year is all about new beginnings and discovering strategies to help us reach our full potential. 2020 threw everything it had at us — and yet we overcame all of its challenges. Better yet, we grew stronger, found new opportunities, and learned more about ourselves in 2020 than we ever knew prior.

To honor those new beginnings, we should all be striving to become better versions of ourselves in 2021. It’s time to shed those quarantine pounds, budget out your dream home, and pursue your highest aspirations.

One formula that I have found to be a good resource in helping people reach their full potential is the Full Life Framework developed by Leon Ho, the founder and CEO of Lifehack. This framework is built on five steps that enable you to live your life to the absolute fullest. Let’s break them down:

Life Missions

What do you hope to get out of life? This is the question to answer in the first step of the Full Life Framework. You need to have a mission, and specific strategies to reach your goals. Without these two vital pieces in your life — you’ll end up wandering aimlessly without purpose or direction.

Some people’s mission in life is to work hard and retire with the house on the hill. For others, it’s to help people through service or a meaningful career. Others still want to pursue their passions in art, music, or travel. Any of these goals are a wonderful representation of a life well-lived and are okay, as long as your mission is deeply personal and worth dedicating your time toward.

Compromise the Method, Not the Mission

Once you’ve honed in on your life’s mission, don’t let go of your dream. Too many people let the obstacles they face in life derail them from pursuing their life’s mission. One twist in the road and some will let their entire mission be compromised. But twists and turns are a part of life — and life is difficult. Don’t put your heart and life in the rearview mirror to be left behind forever — pick yourself up — over and over again.

Let’s say your dream job is to work for NASA (SpaceX might be more likely at this point), but you get offered a comfortable desk job right out of college. While the pay and benefits are nice, you know that taking this job might dash all hopes you have of getting your dream occupation. Is anything worth the sacrifice to leave your dream behind — or should you take a new strategy that keeps your vision intact?

Adopt a Progress Mindset

There’s one thing that stands in the way of your full potential; failure. Not only failure itself but the constant fear of failure that stops you from stretching your limits and challenging yourself. In order to adopt a mindset of progress, you’ll want to cast off such fears and thoughts.

Instead of beating yourself up when you make a mistake, think to yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Learning from each error you commit makes you stronger and smarter. You’ll rarely make mistakes twice if you use each of them as a strategy to move forward.

Self-Control Systems

True progress doesn’t come overnight. Nothing worth doing comes easy — all proficiency requires hours upon hours of diligent strategies to get from where you are now to where you want to be. The learning curve kind of dedication requires a lot of work and self-control.

The truth is, few people are capable of self-control based on sheer willpower alone. Recognizing and understanding the value of this step is important because it teaches you to develop a system that makes self-control become automatic.

Managing your time and efforts to develop habits will pave the way for you to reach your full potential, rather than climbing a metaphorical mountain every single day.

Life Multipliers

Last but certainly not least are the life multipliers. These multipliers are exactly how they sound; skills and attributes that when self-applied will greatly add upon the value and experience you get out of life.

There are eight life multipliers, each of which can be deeply expounded upon. For the sake of brevity here’s an outline of each multiplier and its importance.

    • Self-Empowerment: Your goals are as far away as you make them. If you don’t take the initiative, you won’t get any closer.
    • Self-Control: As was just discussed, you need to show some self-control so that procrastination doesn’t take hold of your life.
    • Renewable Vitality: Your health is incredibly important. If you’re not physically and mentally caring for yourself, you won’t be as well equipped for life as you’d like.
    • Emotion Mastery: Life is full of trial and error, which can get frustrating at times. Don’t let your negative emotions get the best of you.
    • Conscious Communication: Rarely will anyone make it through life by themselves. Communicating with your family, friends, and colleagues will make the journey much easier and a lot more enjoyable.
    • Smart Focus: Work smarter, not harder. Definitely work hard, but try to put an emphasis on efficiency whenever possible.
    • Learning and Adaptability: Constant learning is how you will be able to reach your full potential. Applying what you learn and even relearning some topics keeps you in the driver’s seat.
    • Constructive Thinking: Brush up on your problem-solving skills. You’ll need them quite frequently on your journey to the top.

The Full Life Framework

The Full Life Framework

The Full Life Framework by Leon Ho

Fulling your life, your passions, and your dreams through The Full Life Framework is a lot to take in — but don’t sweat it.

You have a lot of life left to live; give yourself a few years to get the hang of The Full Life Framework system. It is worth every effort you determine to put into your plan.

Start working on living your life to the fullest today and you’ll always look back with no regrets.

How Tech Will Help Your Productivity

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How Tech Will Help Your Productivity

Let’s not beat around the bush. Improving your productivity, using tech or not, takes a lot of hard work and self-discipline.

How many of us can resist responding to a text message? How often do we engage in busy work? And, are we being as active as we should be while working from home?

However, thanks to technology, these are yesterday’s problems. In fact, with tech, you’ll be able to finally become more productive in 2021 and beyond.

Utilize trackers.

People have been tracking their time for centuries. In fact, the oldest record of tracking time for completing work responsibilities was the Code of Hammurabi, dating to about 1754 BC! But I’m referring to more modern time trackers.

As explained previously in another Calendar article, time trackers “shine a light on when you’re most energetic, focused, and motivated.” Furthermore, “they can pinpoint when and where you’re wasting your valuable time.”

These digital tools also run quietly in the background of your computer or phone. “That means they track your time automatically without you even realizing it.” From there, “they analyze the data and make suggestions on where and how to improve,” such as determining when you’re most productive.

While not as ancient as the Code of Hammurabi, time tracking software has been around for years. But, tools like Toggl, RescueTime, Harvest, Timely, Clockify, and Calendar remain invaluable. Considering that your schedule is vastly different from last year, it wouldn’t hurt to utilize time trackers once again.

Already tracked your time? Well, have you tried a fitness tracker?

Whether it’s a FitBit or Apple Watch, fitness bands can help combat the sedentary lifestyle that we’ve been experiencing since COVID-19 struck. In turn, you’ll be healthier, happier, and more energetic. All of which will increase your output.

Get on board with a smart calendar.

As with time trackers, smart calendars aren’t exactly new. I’d even go as far as to say that solutions like Google, Apple, or Microsoft Calendar have become ingrained in your daily life. But have you tried anything beyond the “big three”?

No disrespect to these online calendars. They’re accessible and come loaded with features ranging from finding meeting times to receiving reminders. However, depending on your exact needs, they may not always be the best fit.

For example, if you’ve found that scheduling meetings consume too much of your time, consider Calendar. It uses machine learning to make smart suggestions for future meetings — it can even automatically schedule them for you as well. And, it integrates with your existing calendar, like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, so that you aren’t always bouncing between them.

AI is a new reality.

“Artificial intelligence is real and helping leading-edge companies gain an advantage in the market through improved automation, enhanced decision-making, and improved productivity,” writes Stephen Boals for Accounting Today. “Whether it’s a simple algorithm that enhances reporting, a cloud-based AP automation suite, or an ERP module your accounting department can leverage, AI point solutions are available and built to solve specific business problems.”

In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2024, 69% of routines done by managers will be fully automated. If you don’t want to be left behind, it’s finally time that you improve your workflow automation game. If you need a starting point, Capterra has an extensive list of automation software for you to review.

Declutter your digital workspace (and mind).

As you know, your workspace and environment have a direct influence on your productivity. I mean, it’s near impossible to focus when you have a cluttered desk or noisy background. But, the same is true of your digital workspace.

It may not be on the top of your mind. But, the biggest distractions that you have at work are, in fact, coming from your smartphone notifications and the internet. While you could evaluate and remove time-wasting apps, I’m looking at your social media; you can use the following tools to achieve digital minimalism.

  • Keep your email in check with Sanebox, Unroll.me, and FollowUpThen.
  • For Mac users, there’s Magnet. It keeps your workspace organized by arranging windows into organized tiles. As such, this eliminates switching back and forth between browser tabs and apps.
  • Don’t worry, Chrome users, I’ve got you. Toby is an extension that allows you to organize and manage your browser tabs — you can also share and collaborate with them.
  • Station is another browser extension. It provides a shortcut for all your apps, documents, notes, and messages so that you aren’t switching back and forth.
  • I’m known for jotting down notes. But, all those stickies and notepads can also cause physical clutter. Google Keep solves this problem. You can use it to take photos of whatever you’ve written down, add audio notes, draw, and set reminders.
  • Do you want to reduce screen time and avoid distractions? Apps like Offtime, Freedom, Moment, and FocusMe let you block app notifications and visiting websites at certain times.

Communicate and collaborate with dispersed teams.

Even if you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, you still have to be in-tough with your clients. For businesses, however, working remotely will most likely be the new normal for the foreseeable future. In either case, you need to have the right tools to seamlessly communicate and collaborate.

While Zoom has been the de facto videoconferencing tool, there are others worth considering. These include Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and GoToMeeting. Verizon has also gotten into the game with BlueJeans.

For my money, though, I’m all about Google Meet. It’s much easier to use than Zoom. More importantly, it’s a part of the Google ecosystem. That means I can use one platform for email, scheduling, docs, spreadsheets, notetaking, and there’s even a whiteboard called Jamboard.

Simultaneously, phone and video calls, texts, emails, and Slack messages can be overwhelming. That’s when collaboration tools like Slab, Eloops, Bluescape, and Figma come in handy. You can interact with team members, create and share content, brainstorm, track projects, or host team-building activities virtually.

Stay focused and on track.

Have you ever been zoned in on a task only to have a thought interrupt your flow? It could be to return a phone call, make a dentist appointment, or pursue a business idea. As opposed to stopping in your tracks, just let Alexa or Google Home know. Using your voice, you can create reminders, add events to your calendar, or generate to-dos.

Besides smart devices and home assistants, apps like Forest, Brain.FM, Serene, Noisli, and [email protected] can keep you focused and motivated. And, if stress or anxiety has gotten the best of you– Calm, Headspace, and Rain, Rain was designed for meditation and relaxation.

Make the shift to 5G.

For roughly the last year, telcos has been updating their infrastructure to 5G to deliver faster internet speeds. More recently, both Google and iPhone have unveiled 5G phones. But, what exactly is 5G and how can you make the shift?

“It’s not simply another ‘G,’ as it has been in previous generations,” explains Amol Phadke, global network practice lead at Accenture. “It has the potential to completely disrupt the way we work and live.”

“The speed of the connection will bring the biggest change by far,” says Carsten Schaefer, founder and CEO at crowdy.ai. “Given how amazingly fast the Internet connection is, it will make work much more efficient.” That may make downloading files faster, but there are additional benefits. For example, this technology can detect malfunctions before they occur, which will reduce downtime.

Moreover, 5G will improve remote work. For instance, it will drastically improve videoconferences. It can also speed up real-time collaboration or provide VR training and mentorship.

However, to tap into the potential of 5G, you need to make sure that your phone and carrier support it. It’s a little foggy right now. The Galaxy S 20 5G, the iPhone 12, and the Pixel 4a 5G are described as 5G.

As for coverage, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all provide maps on where 5G is available. Not all of them are straightforward. But, you can expect more coverage as 2021 rolls on.

Schedule telehealth appointments.

When you aren’t feeling 100%, either mentally pr physically, your productivity stifles. But, the link between health and productivity hasn’t exactly been a secret. What has changed, though, is how more accessible healthcare has become in response to COVID-19.

To limit potential exposure and address mental health concerns like isolation, virtual care visits have skyrocketed. For example, in the first week of March 2020, there was a 154% increase in telehealth visitsForrester Research anticipates that in early 2021, U.S. virtual care visits will almost reach a billion.

Specifically, Forrester expects one-third of virtual care visits to be for mental health. In fact, this will account for 31% of all virtual care visits this year.

With telehealth literally at your fingertips, there’s no excuse to schedule anything from a checkup with your physician to weekly sessions with a mental health professional. When you do, you’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive.

Don’t Be Busy. Be Present

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Don’t Be Busy. Be Present

From the moment your alarm jolts you from a dream to when your head hits the pillow at night — your day is non-stop. Between all of your work and personal responsibilities — you somehow have to squeeze in one day, you’re “busy.”

Take a second to think — this may not be the way to live. It’s an idea that Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard explored in his 1843 treatise Either/Or: A Fragment of Life by writing, “Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be someone who is brisk about their food and work.”

“Therefore, whenever I see a fly settling, in the decisive moment, on the nose of such a person of affairs, or if he is spattered with mud from a carriage which drives past him in still greater haste, he adds. “Or the drawbridge opens up before him, or a tile falls down and knocks him dead, then I laugh heartily.”

In short, Kierkegaard’s response to the “busy” individual was to laugh at them. That may sound mean-spirited. But he may have been on to something here.

Don’t Be Busy. Be Present.

To be busy and productive feels great, but people who have to fill every waking moment with something — anything — even if it’s unimportant are the ones who are not present. For some, frantic busyness provides an escape. Others, however, seem to belong to a cult of busyness.

Interested in this phenomenon, researchers from Columbia University, Harvard, and Georgetown explored why we’re so impressed with being busy.

“In general, we found that the busy person is perceived as high status, and interestingly, these status attributions are heavily influenced by our own beliefs about social mobility,” wrote the authors Silvia Bellezza, Neeru Paharia, and Anat Keinan. “In other words, the more we believe that one has the opportunity for success based on hard work, the more we tend to think that people who skip leisure and work all the time are of higher standing.”

The problems with being too busy.

Are there obligations that must be met? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean you have to be doing something constantly.

It’s been found that being a member of “the cult of busy” creates a chronic stress response in your body and mind. As a consequence, you might experience symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and gastrointestinal discomforts. You’re also asking for possible cardiac issues as well.

But, it’s not merely our physical well-being that we’re putting in harm’s way. There’s also a link between stress and depression. Additionally, relationships and work performance suffer too.

Specifically, when you’re busy, you’re;

  • Not giving essential tasks and relationships you’re undivided attention.
  • Missing out on new opportunities
  • Not effectively prioritizing your time.
  • Making excuses for actual problems.
  • Forgetting about your “why” and self-care.
  • Aren’t working to your full potential.
  • Failing to set healthy boundaries which can lead to burnout.
  • Not giving yourself time to think, reflect, and dream.

In other words, being busy negatively affects every part of your life. As such, it’s time to leave this cult. And, you can make that possible by focusing on the present instead.

Don’t ignore the past and future.

Let’s be real here. Living in the moment is a formidable force. And, you can thank evolution for that.

“Human psychology is evolutionarily hard-wired to live in the past and the future,” explains Eyal Winter Ph.D. “Other species have instincts and reflexes to help with their survival, but human survival relies very much on learning and planning.”

“You can’t learn without living in the past,” adds Dr. Winter. And “you can’t plan without living in the future.”

Rather than trying to shut out the past or future completely, find a healthy balance. For example, you could reflect on a past accomplishment or mistake during your morning or evening routine. If you’re worried or anxious about a future event, jot it down and develop a plan of action.

Most importantly, take and do these new actions in small steps and small doses. Personally, I allocate no more than 15-minutes of worrying time per day. During this time, I get all of these thoughts out of my head and organize them for later so that I can focus on the task at hand. You may need a little longer — but too much time worrying can easily overwhelm some people.

Fewer, but better.

As I’ve already said. There are responsibilities that you must follow through with. However, most of the items on your to-do lists could probably be removed. Maybe that’s why 41% of to­-do items are never completed.

The fix? Do less.

That may sound easier said than done. But, it’s possible to use techniques like the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule.

“The Pareto Principle is a concept that suggests two out of ten items, on any general to-do list, will turn out to be worth more than the other eight items put together,” clarifies Brian Tracy.

“The sad fact is that most people procrastinate on the top 10 or 20 percent of items that are the most valuable and important,” which is known as the “vital few. Instead, they “busy themselves” with the least important 80 percent, aka the “trivial many.”

You can encourage this by;

  • Simplifying your to-do lists with the Eisenhower Matrix. You can also try mapping out your main priority, 3 medium priorities, and 5 smaller to-dos.
  • Tracking your time so that you dedicate the right amount of time to complete your most important tasks.
  • Restructuring your routine so that you’re working on your MITs when you’re most productive.
  • Training yourself to bolster skills like concentration.
  • Thinking beyond work. Following the 80/20 Rule will allow you to pursue other interests outside of the workplace that can make you healthier and happier.

Consider the opportunity cost.

The opportunity cost is often used when making a financial or investment decision. In a nutshell, it’s determining the return you’ll receive from each option you’re weighing.

For example, you decide to spend $2000 on a new Macbook. While you now have a new laptop, you also can’t put that money towards something more beneficial in the long run — such as making sure your emergency fund is full.

You can also use this concept when it comes to how you want to spend your time. You could accept that meeting invite. But, it’s an hour-long and doesn’t have a clear purpose.

Instead, you may determine that that block of time could be better spent finishing an important task so that you can leave early to spend time with your family.

Let go of the narrative so that you can focus.

“If you are feeling fear, shame, overwhelm, anxiety, worry … this is completely natural,” writes Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. “Let yourself feel it fully for a moment.” From there, “see if you can let go of the narrative that’s causing the fear.”

“What narrative are you playing in your head that’s making you afraid?” he asks. Are you concerned about not meeting a deadline you set or being perfect? “These are not necessarily false narratives, but they’re hurting you no matter how true they are.”

Narratives, like the examples above, “keep us from being present, pulling us instead to thinking about other things,” states Babauta. They also “add fear and worry to our experience, which makes it harder to focus.”

“So think of the narrative as a soap bubble that you can just pop,” he advises. “Pop! And it’s gone.”

Bring more mindfulness into your life.

Well, you know that this was eventually going to pop up.

“According to thousands of years of tradition, Buddhists meditate to understand themselves and their connections to all beings,” writes Jill Suttie, Psy.D. in Greater Good. “By doing so, they hope to be released from suffering and ultimately gain enlightenment.”

Research, however, also shows that “mindfulness affects many aspects of our psychological well-being,” adds Dr. Suttie. These “include improving our mood, increasing positive emotions, and decreasing our anxiety, emotional reactivity, and job burnout.” Moreover, mindfulness is good for our hearts, improves immune response, and decreases cognitive decline.

Even better? You can introduce mindfulness into your daily life via;

  • Start each day on the right foot. Rather than jumping directly on your phone, ask, “What is my intention for today?”
  • Visualize your goals.
  • Practice peaceful eating and savory every bite.
  • Conduct body scans throughout the day.
  • Take frequent mindful breaks, such as going for a 20-minute walk outside.
  • Activate the “slow brain” by creating new patterns, such as a series of “If this, then that” messages.
  • Be more clear about the aim of your physical activity.
  • Drive yourself calm during your commute. For instance, before turning over the engine, engage in breathing exercises and checking for any body tension.
  • Review your day and practice gratitude.

Stop overscheduling yourself.

There’s a rule that I’ve followed for years when you feel over-committed and need to decide where to trim the fat. “If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about something, say ‘no,’” recommends Derek Sivers.

“When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’”

“When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say ‘HELL YEAH!’”

Whatever you’re invited to, regardless if it’s a meeting or social function, if you’re not 100% into it, politely say “no.” And use this thinking with any other time requests that come your way as well.

Connect with people — in real life.

“In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? Or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?” writes Omid Safi.

“What is this haal that you inquire about?” Safi asks. It’s “the transient state of one’s heart.” That means that you’re genuinely asking, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?”

“I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox,” he states. “I want to know how your heart is doing at this very moment.” Whether it’s filled with sadness or joy, this builds a stronger connection with others.

“Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing,” adds Safi. “Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch.”

“Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence,” he advises.

Make everything negotiable.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” — Charles Buxto

I can’t stress this enough. You are the gatekeeper of your time. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be disrespectful of others. For instance, when you get paid to do a job on an agreed-upon deadline, then you have to see that through. On the flip side, if you’re at full capacity, don’t commit to anything new until you have the availability.

The key is to be transparent and flexible upfront. Sharing your calendar, in my opinion, is the easiest way around the stress of being transparent and flexible. As opposed to role-playing as Tom and Jerry, they can see when you’re free to have a conference call, meet for lunch, or start a new project.

Establish tech-free zones.

While you can’t completely go-off-the grid, you do need to establish boundaries with technology. Your phone, as an example, has a knack for distracting and pulling you from the present. Just think about how many times you’re in the zone or relaxing only for a text to transport you to some future event.

While turning off notifications or blocking apps/websites at certain times can help, there’s always the temptation to look at our phones. In fact, there’s even a phenomenon known as phantom vibration syndrome where we think that our phone is ringing or vibrating when it’s not.

The best way to counter this? Go on a tech detox by designating tech-free zones.

When it’s time to eat dinner, leave your phone in the living room. Have your family do the same is that everyone is fully engaged in conversation. When it’s bedtime, turn your phone off and keep it somewhere else in your home — even if it’s just across the room.

While leaving your phone in another room may be uncomfortable initially, it will get easier over time. Eventually, you’ll realize that you don’t always have your phone beside you 24/7. And, that will improve your relationships, encourage a better night’s sleep, and make you in-tune with your surroundings.

Over Everything? 11 Ways to Regain Motivation

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Over Everything? 11 Ways to Regain Motivation

We’ve all been there at one point or another — saggy-baggy motivation. You just lose your drive to achieve the goals that you’ve set. And, that’s a problem that can hold you back from solving problems, exploring new opportunities, and breaking unhealthy habits.

Over Everything? 11 Ways to Regain Motivation

If you find yourself in this rut, don’t lose hope — just don’t. You can still get back on track even if you feel like you’re in charge of, or — worse — you’re done and “over” everything. Getting your zip back will involve doing the following 11 strategies.

1. One goal.

“Whenever I’ve been in a slump, I’ve discovered that it’s often because I have too much going on in my life,” writes Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta. “I’m trying to do too much.” As a result, “it saps my energy and motivation. It’s probably the most common mistake that people make: they try to take on too much, try to accomplish too many goals at once.”

It’s impossible to “maintain energy and focus (the two most important things in accomplishing a goal) if you are trying to do two or more goals at once,” he adds. “You have to choose one goal, for now, and focus on it completely.”

“I know, that’s hard,” Leo says. “Still, I speak from experience. You can always do your other goals when you’ve accomplished your One Goal.”

2. Go back to square one.

Do you feel like throwing in the proverbial towel? I think we all have at some point. But, when this becomes too unbearable, it’s often best to give yourself a time out and remember your “why.”

For me, this involves having some “me” time. Usually, it’s a really long walk with my dog and without my phone. During this time, I ask questions like;

  • Why did I choose this work in the first place?
  • What were the initial goals?
  • Is what I’m doing helping my pushing me closer to my long-term goals?
  • Do I enjoy working with my current team?
  • What’s the reason I get out of bed every morning?

You don’t have to ask these exact questions. The idea is to carve out some alone time in order to remember why you started.

3. Give yourself a fresh start.

At the same time, you might just need to turn over a new leaf. I get that this can be tough. But, sometimes you just have to be proactive and move on to something else.

But, did you know that you can do this at any time? Well, that’s what a study from the Wharton School of Business discovered. Researchers found that “intertemporal markers” encourage us by;

In short, talk yourself up and contrive a fresh start when you need a shot of motivation.

4. Make a Ulysses Pact.

“Named for the clever hero of the Trojan war, the Ulysses Pact is a technique for holding yourself accountable to stick with a goal even when it’s hard,” explains Nick Wignall.

What’s the key ingredient in a Ulysses Pact? It’s “that we make a choice in the present (when things are relatively easy) that binds us to perform an action in the future (when things are hard).”

“For example, suppose you want to stick to a plan of going for a run two times per week in the morning with a friend,” adds Wignall. “You could write your friend a series of checks, each for $20, and instruct them to cash one and use the money on whatever they want if you miss a workout with them.”

“In short, the Ulysses Pact helps you maintain high motivation when things get tough by locking in a future behavior ahead of time.”

Why do commitment devices work? They’re “a way to overcome the discrepancy between an individual’s short-term and long-term preferences,” clarifies economist Jodi Beggs. “In other words, they are a way for self-aware people to modify their incentives or set of possible choices in order to overcome impatience or other irrational behavior.”

5. Go on mini-sprints.

“Our brains are wired to focus on the short term versus the long term,” explains high-performance coach Shefali Raina. “So mini-sprints help us get focused, energetic, and motivated to complete shorter-term tasks and feel good afterward.”

Keep that in mind whenever you perceive a task as too big too long, overwhelming, or tedious. Instead of forcing yourself to get into the zone, break these tasks down into min-sprints or shorter blocks of time.

How you go about this is ultimately up to you. For me, I’m all about eating an elephant one bite at a time. For instance, when writing this article, I focus on one point at a time instead of “Oh man, I have to a 1,000 word plus article!”

Another suggestion would be to tap into your ultradian rhythms. For most of us that means, we can work for around an hour before taking a break. One study found that the ideal formula is working for 52-minutes followed by a 17-minute break.

6. Limit wishes.

“You begin to fly when you let go of self-limiting beliefs and allow your mind and aspirations to rise to greater heights.” — Brian Tracy

It’s true. Limiting beliefs hold us hostage from pursuing our goals and desires. For example, they prevent us from asking someone out on a date or starting a new business.

What do we do next? We make limiting wishes, such as “If I were thinner I would be attractive to others” or “If I had a million dollars I could launch my startup.”

While there are times they can be useful, like protecting us from breaking the law, they’re often barriers. Overcome this by challenging limiting beliefs. Some suggestions are asking “What if I’m wrong” and “How this belief is serving me?”

7. Set goals that are intrinsically rewarding.

“In my research, I find that immediate rewards when pursuing long-term goals increase goal persistence and that this occurs by increasing intrinsic motivation — the desire to pursue the activity for its own sake,” says Kaitlin Woolley, assistant professor of marketing at Johnson College of Business. “For example, focusing on the positive taste of healthy food, or the fun in working out, can increase healthy food consumption and persistence with an exercise.”

Immediate rewards are also an effective motivator when developing new habits as well. “A large part of the problem stems from the fact that people are focusing too much on the delayed reward — the outcome of their workout or healthy eating,” notes Woolley. “But when people are in the middle of something, they care a lot about the experience and having fun, more so than the delayed outcome.”

Woolley’s research has also found that fun is key when pursuing long-term goals. “People often get wrapped up in the outcome of their actions,” she says. “And it’s not that the outcome isn’t important, but having fun along the way is the key to persisting with goals.”

8. Change your scenery.

If you’ve properly set up your workspace, it can be inspiring and motivating. I would dare say that it’s somewhere that you actually enjoy being. And, the comfort and routine you’ve established can reduce anxiety and the number of decisions to make.

However, it can get boring. It’s like if your favorite meal is spaghetti and meatballs. If you have this for dinner every night, you’re going to get sick of it. To avoid this, you need to have a variety of meals.

If you feel like you’re getting tired of your routine, shake things up. Instead of going to work in your office, work from a coffee shop, coworking space, or local library. Better yet, get yourself outside as the color green has been proven to boost energy and motivation.

9. Place the negatives out on the curb.

“The brain is a complex muscle that solves complex mathematical problems, creates innovative ideas that have put humans on the moon, invented the internet which changed the way we live and the mind gave us the intelligence to cure serious diseases saving countless lives,” writes Chris Delaney for Addicted2Success. Despite all that, it can still be tricked.

Delaney suggests that you say “I Love London In The Summer Time” out loud.

Your eyes didn’t deceive — and no one made a grammatical error. But, did you spot the double use of the word “the?” Don’t worry, most people didn’t.

What’s the point of this? The “same psychology can be used to trick the mind into Motivation,” says Delaney.

First, “Think of a task that you need to complete but procrastination has stopped you in your tracks,” he adds. “When thinking about this goal, do you imagine how hard this task is, the number of steps you have to take and do you second guess how you will fail?”

“With a focus on the problems and pain of the goal, your mind magically deletes the positives, the potential fun, and your optimistic outcome.” Instead, focus on the positives.

One strategy you can try is imagining that you’re watching a small black-and-white TV. Visualize any negative thoughts or bad memories getting smaller and dimmer. Next, replace “this image by imagining a large, colored film” that’s full of fun and laughter.

10. Hang out with the right crowd.

There’s a popular adage that goes, positivity breeds positivity. Believe it or not, that’s pretty sound advice. The reason being that this type of energy is contagious.

Think about this for a second. When you’re surrounded by positive-minded people who are go-getters, it’s more motivating than hanging out with naysayers and people without ambition.

11. Pump yourself up.

Finally, create routines and rituals that get you amped. For instance, before getting into your most important task for the day, psych yourself up by listening to a playlistleveling up with gamification, or tapping into the power of nostalgia.

Over Everything? 11 Ways to Regain Motivation was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

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