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Practicing Purposeful Productivity

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purposeful productivity

Would you like to be more productive? Of course, you want to be more productive! But we want to find a better way to be more productive — and that’s called Purposeful Productivity, and likely why you’re currently reading this article.

Sure. You can devour the countless books and hacks out there that promise you’ll be more productive — we all do — and these are pretty helpful and motivational. However, even the best productivity advice won’t matter if you don’t know your purpose. As Rachel Hollis ideally put it, “Productivity is not time management, it’s purpose management.”

But, how can you practice purposeful productivity? Well, here are some tips to get you on your way.

Know Your Values

“As humans, we are most fulfilled when we enact our values,” notes Mei Burgin, Vice President of Professional Services at Opus One Solutions from GE Digital. “Weeks and months fly by, and you may feel like you haven’t accomplished anything meaningful.” Learning what drives you can help you spend your time more productively.

At the same time, everyone has their own set of values. For Mei, her top values are:

  • Positive Attitude
  • Connecting & Bonding
  • Concern for Others
  • Forward Action
  • Personal Growth/Learning
  • Courage
  • Discovery
  • Truth
  • Joy
  • Fulfillment

You might find it helpful to reflect on a few activities or experiences in your life (both personal and professional) that have provided you with high or low energy.

Questions for reflection:

  • Which aspects were high (or low)?
  • What values were reflected in this experience?
  • Describe the experience you had and how your choices or actions contributed to it.
  • During this experience, what were you truly seeking?

You can make critical decisions in life and your career more effectively if you know what drives you and what drives your values.

Identify Your MVPs (Most Value Priorities)

Prioritizing tasks is the cornerstone to becoming more purposeful and productive. At the same time, this varies from person to person based on factors like values and goals. Regardless, prioritizing boils down to being able to distinguish between important and urgent tasks.

However, according to experts, the most important tasks are not the most critical. ‌‌Despite this, we are prone to prioritizing urgent tasks.

You can use the Covey Time Management Matrix if you struggle to identify your priorities.

Using this framework, you can organize your tasks and achieve maximum productivity. ‌‌This model was devised by Steven Covey, the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” and popularized by Dwight Eisenhower. By categorizing your tasks, responsibilities, and life in this way, you can organize your life accordingly:

  • Urgency. Tasks or responsibilities that require immediate attention.
  • Importance. ‌‌High-priority, worthwhile goals.

There are four quadrants, each with a distinct property, that you can use to prioritize your tasks and responsibilities. ‌‌The four quadrants are as follows:

  • First Quadrant: Urgent and important
  • Second Quadrant: Not urgent but important
  • Third Quadrant: Urgent but not important
  • Fourth Quadrant: Not urgent and not important

Despite urgent and vital tasks needing to be completed, Covey recommends spending less time on things that are not as important. You will be less likely to get distracted by urgent tasks when you focus on these essential activities.

Creating a “to-do” list, whether on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, is a great way to prioritize. ‌‌Just be sure not to overdo it with the list-making. ‌‌You should list manageable tasks rather than long-term goals or multi-step plans. ‌‌Put your “to-do” list on your calendar and rank it by priority.

Whenever your priorities change, reevaluate your list and delegate things that no longer need to be done.

Rethink Your To-Do-List

“Time is precious, and you should value how you spend it,” Katrina Ruth, founder and CEO of “The Katrina Ruth Show,” writes in Entrepreneur. “If you don’t decide what matters in advance, you’ll spend it all doing things that aren’t moving you forward.”

“I constantly outline my goals and dreams in a document called ‘Creating the life I want,’” adds Ruth. “I make sure I set those goals for myself (not others), identify the actions that will get me there, and schedule them each week.”

Next year, picture yourself living a purposeful life. Is today’s to-do list essential? Does that explain how you arrived there? Then, decide if you want to delete, do, or delegate the items on your list, Ruth suggests. “Sometimes it’s worth paying someone else to do things so that you can focus on what really matters: the tasks that will get you where you want to go if you do them every day.”

Conduct a Time Audit

“For the next couple of weeks, keep a time log,” recommends Abby Miller in a previous Calendar article. This doesn’t require too much thought. Make a note of how you spend your time using a pen and notebook.

Let’s say that you commute daily to work. Jot down the length and how you spend that time. If you take public transportation, do you respond to emails or kill some time scrolling through social media?

By tracking your time, you’ll be able to realistically block out time and avoid overestimating or underestimating how long something takes. You’ll also be able to pinpoint interruptions, meet deadlines, and determine your biological prime time.

“It also allows you to see where you’re wasting,” Abby adds. “For example, you spend downtime, like on your commute or when waiting for an appointment, catching up on the latest Twitter feud or whether or not Spider-Man will appear in the MCU again.” You could have instead cleaned out your inbox, read a book, or prepared for the day ahead.

Aside from the good ol’ pen and paper method, there are several electronic time-tracking programs such as Toggl, RescueTime, and Timely.

Work in Sprints

“There’s a fundamental misunderstanding about how human beings operate at their best,” says Tony Schwartz, author of the best-seller Be Excellent at Anything. “Most of us mistakenly assume we’re meant to run like computers—at high speeds, continuously, for long periods, running multiple programs simultaneously.”

This isn’t true at all. Instead, we are designed to be rhythmic creatures.

“The heart pulses; muscles contract and relax,” Schwartz explains. “We’re at our best when we’re moving rhythmically between spending energy and renewing it.”

Athletes, who balance work and rest, provide valuable insight into this. “We encourage people to work intensely for 90 minutes and then take a break to recover,” he adds. We also suggest eating small, energy-dense meals every few hours rather than three big meals a day.

“We believe napping drives productivity, although that remains a tough sell in most companies,” Schwartz adds. “Still, the reality is that if a person works continuously all through the day, she’ll produce less than a person of equal talent who works intensely for short periods and then recovers before working intensely again.”

Adopt a Single-Tasking Strategy

According to research, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.” Therefore, multitasking is one of the most detrimental habits to productivity. It’s primarily because constant task-switching encourages bad brain habits.

But why do we constantly do this to ourselves? Our reward hormone, dopamine, is released when we accomplish even the most mundane task. Since we love that dopamine, our brains encourage us to switch between small mini-tasks that give us instant satisfaction.

Doing this creates a feedback loop that makes us feel like we are accomplishing a lot. But, when in fact, we aren’t. Thankfully, there is a simple way to break this multitasking addiction. First, concentrate on one task at a time. Then, you should only move on to the next task after you’ve completed the previous one.

Additionally, single-tasking motivates you to pay attention to your priorities and reduces stress.

Do Things More Masterfully

Here are a few other hints I’ve found useful, by Andy Springer, in Entrepreneur Magazine — 36 Insanely Useful Productivity Hacks.

“Essentially, this step is about going from what’s called ‘Unconscious Incompetence’ to something called ‘Unconscious Competence,’” states Michelle McClintock, aka the Mindset Mentor.

“In short, that means we go from not knowing how little we know about something to knowing it so well that we don’t even have to think about doing it skillfully,” explains McClintock

“For me, this started when I decided productivity was sexy and that mastering it could change my life,” she adds. “Someone challenged me to believe that my happiness, fulfillment, and success depended on it, just as I am doing with you right now…”

As a result, McClintock began to take it seriously. Her goal was to excel at being truly productive by learning everything she could. “By no means have I mastered productivity, but I’m getting better at it all the time — and if I can, then so can you!”

As you figure this out, you will have to make some sacrifices up front. But that effort will save you so much time in the long run.

Among the ways McClintock is becoming more masterful are:

  • Spending 45 minutes focused on “deep work.”
  • Setting a Pomodoro timer for focused sessions.
  • Limiting all distractions when working.
  • Take regular mini-breaks.
  • Getting more sleep.
  • Practicing meditation more often.
  • Exercising.
  • During breaks, McClintock likes to watch comedy.

“All these things are science-backed ways to get more done and still maintain energy, focus, and joy,” she says.

Find Your Ikigai

Ikigai, or the reason behind being, is a Japanese concept. If you’re a Simon Sinek fan, your reason is your “why.”

In Japanese culture, everyone has an ikigai. To find out what that is for you, you just have to determine what it is. You might think that’s impossible if you’re in a rut. However, the process is relatively straightforward. A person’s passion, mission, vocation, and profession are the four primary elements of ikigai.

To get started, take a piece of paper and draw four circles. Your first circle should be devoted to what you love. The second circle is where you would record your strengths. Put your beliefs into the third circle. Finally, in the fourth circle, discuss your methods of getting paid – or how you might get paid.

What overlaps in the center is what keeps you awake in the morning. Keep that in mind as you make a productivity plan.

Before Saying “Yes,” Pause

When you pause for a moment, you have the opportunity to assess what is happening by asking questions like;

  • Would you consider this a request? Is it just a suggestion?
  • What’s the cost of saying “yes.”
  • Is this going to help me achieve my goals or serve my mission?
  • Should I make this a priority?
  • Is there an alternative? For example, instead of meeting, a quick Slack chat.

When you practice this, you usually calm your anxious thoughts and prevent yourself from trying to please everyone. But, more importantly, it prevents you from overcommitting and wasting any valuable time.

Leave Some Gaps in Your Calendar

People believe that keeping a zero-based calendar will make them more productive. I can see why that makes sense. When your calendar is booked, you know exactly where and how you’ll spend your time. In addition, it makes saying no easier. There’s nothing you can do if you’re not available except decline the request – or suggest another time.

However, life does not always go as planned. Therefore, you should leave some room on your calendar for blank spaces.

Let’s say you leave 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. open. This block can then be used to put out fires if they occur. Additionally, you can get ahead of your list if you do not need to be a firefighter. If you want to take a break, you can do so as well.

Be a Quitter

Do you think that high performers are the types of individuals who never quit? That’s not true. Winners do quit all the time, says Seth Godin. “They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

Quitting strategically means saying no to things you shouldn’t do — or don’t want to do. This could be anything from takes that could be automated, pointless meetings, or nasty habits like procrastination. It also involves delegating tasks more efficiently and cost-effectively to others.

Schedule Daily Check-Ins

By checking in with yourself each day, you will be able to find out how you are doing. Here, you can sort through your emotions, assess your physical and emotional needs, and make an intentional plan for addressing them.

Moreover, you can reflect on the day to see what you accomplished and what you didn’t. As a result, this encourages you to repeat positive behavior and make the appropriate adjustments moving forward.

Image Credit: Cottonbro; Pexels; Thank you!

Practicing Purposeful Productivity was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

How to Run Appointments Effectively and Efficiently

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run appointments effectively

Appointments are inevitable. Whether it’s to get the oil changed in your car or get a cavity looked at, everyone is going to end up with an appointment or two on their calendar. While many services require an appointment, that doesn’t mean people enjoy spending all day in one.

If you’re operating an appointment-based business, it’s vital that you learn to respect your customers’ time. You should have two underlying goals in mind. Your appointments should be efficient, getting customers in and out as quickly as possible. On top of that, your appointments should be effective. The decreased duration shouldn’t come at the price of quality.

So how does one accomplish this feat? A lot will depend on the operations that are specific to your business. However, there are a few universal tips and tricks you can implement to make some improvements. Consider the following:

Enable Self-Scheduling

Appointments don’t necessarily start at your place of business. An appointment begins as soon as a customer starts the booking process. Traditionally, this involves calling a representative and listening to the available options over the phone. There’s a much easier and more efficient way of doing this in 2022.

All you have to do is enable self-scheduling. Put a calendar up on your website that shows which appointment slots are available for the coming weeks. All a prospective client has to do is click on the availability they want and reserve it for themselves.

This helps appointments run more smoothly in two ways. First, the initial booking process takes a lot less time by cutting out the middleman. Second, the middleman doesn’t have to be on the phone so often. They are now free to help move things along at your place of business instead of being tied to a phone line.

Start Check-In Early

The sooner you can get an appointment going, the quicker you can get it completed. Customers don’t want to spend all day at an appointment, and you want to service as many clients as possible. You can speed up the entire process by starting the check-in process early.

Try to accomplish as much as possible before a customer even arrives at your front desk. You can have customers fill out an online questionnaire for information pertinent to an upcoming appointment. Store that information in a customer portal, and check-ins will continue to speed up.

Part of appointment booking can overlap with check-in necessities. You can include some questions in your booking process that can check off some of the boxes required for check-in. Even a single piece of information can help get the ball rolling.

Invest in Employees

You can get a lot of mileage out of your business simply by investing in your employees. In particular, you should consider buying into training programs that can help your workers become more efficient. If your team is running efficiently, so will your appointments.

Training time should always be on your dollar. Provide all of the necessary resources to your employees and compensate them for the time they spend in training. This way they will be able to focus on training properly and apply it to their role immediately.

You should also invest in the mental and emotional wellbeing of your employees. Happy workers tend to work harder. Help them achieve a proper work-life balance and provide adequate working conditions for them. You should see key appointment metrics rise just by doing that alone.

Use Appointment Software

A lot of inefficiencies come from operator errors. A secretary can write down the wrong time for an appointment by accident, or a customer can accidentally book two appointments when they only needed one. While small, these errors can derail an entire day of appointments if left unchecked. You can avoid common mishaps by using appointment software.

Online appointment software takes care of so many factors. This is the type of program that will make self check-ins and self-scheduling not only possible, but simple and easy. Many appointment software programs are also customizable. You can pick the features and layouts that best fit your needs.

When you try online appointment software for the first time, you’ll have a harder time finding a need that isn’t filled. You can set up online payments, send custom reminders, and explore integrations. These tools will have your appointments running more effectively and efficiently than ever.

Ask yourself how you would like an appointment to be run if you were the customer. It could be as simple as wanting online booking. Perhaps businesses that do have online booking have check-in processes that are way too long. Whatever it is that you think works best, those are the aspects you should apply to your own business. Your customers will thank you for it.

Image Credit: Pavel Danilyuk; Pexels; Thanks!

4 Time Management Tips From Top Business Leaders

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time management tips

No matter who you are, time management will always be a significant factor in your success. Life is busy, and when tasks pile up, it can be difficult to make sure they’re done well and done on time.

So whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or a team leader, mastering time management skills will pay you back in spades. If you’re looking for ways to do that, you’re in luck. Many top business leaders have shared their time management wisdom with the world. Here are some of their best tips.

1. Tony Robbins on The Purpose Behind It All

Tony Robbins is an American philanthropist and motivational speaker who has helped millions of people get their lives on track. And time management is a huge aspect of that. After all, if you can’t lead yourself, how can you effectively lead others?

Robbins says, “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.” According to Robbins, the outcome of one’s effort is in relationship with the direction of one’s focus. A lack of focus, or concentration of power, leads to scattered and often disappointing results.

To find your focus again, brainstorm a list of your five most important values and desired outcomes. Once your goals are clear, focus all your efforts on achieving them. Evaluate every action by asking, “Is this bringing me closer to my goals or taking me further away from them?”

With your mind focused on your objectives, you’ll be able to view each part of your work as taking steps. These steps can move you forward or backward — the choice is yours.

2. John Rampton on Smart Schedules

Scheduling may seem like an obvious element of productive time management, and that’s because it is! But because it’s so obvious, it’s easy to forget how powerful it can be. Basic scheduling is a fundamentally effective way to break up your day into contained and easily identifiable chucks. Checking off the to-do list of your schedule psychologically rewards and subsequently motivates your brain.

Serial entrepreneur John Rampton takes scheduling to the next level. One of his greatest recommendations is to schedule time for distractions. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but it actually increases the robustness of your schedule and, thus, your output. Why?

Imagine a co-worker comes to you asking for help with something. Suddenly, you’ve got to take the time and energy to weigh your priorities. If you decide to help them, then you’ve lost focus and productivity on your own project.

Now imagine you’ve blocked time out of your day for distractions. You can immediately tell your co-worker that you’d love to help and can do so during that chunk of time.

Schedule your day wisely, and you’ll be able to keep up personal productivity while still flexing for unexpected surprises.

3. James Clear on the Power of Environment

We often believe ourselves to be in control of our habits. But habit-formation expert James Clear asserts that much of our decision-making is a product of our environment. In Clear’s view, “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” This may be a tough pill to swallow at first, as it makes the human condition appear slightly frail. However, it also means that you can use the power of your environment to your advantage.

All offices are products of environmental design. And now that many people use their homes as their offices, it’s important to channel similar design values. Just like scheduling time for distractions, it’s important to design space for them, too. Or more accurately, it’s important to design your workspace such that it’s relatively free of them. So locate the TV elsewhere, choose a space with a door, and use noise-canceling headphones if necessary.

By eliminating distractions from your workspace, you program your mind to associate your workspace with, well, work. If your environment naturally encourages you to focus on your tasks, the hours you spend working will be more productive.

4. Tim Ferriss on Getting More Out Of Your Work

Life-hacker and work guru Tim Ferriss achieved his initial fame from his 2007 breakout book “The 4-Hour Work Week.” Since then, he’s gone on to help millions of people optimize their decision-making and productivity, among many other life hacks.

In “The 4-Hour Work Week,” Ferriss seeks to implant in the reader the idea that less is more. One of the ways he does this is by introducing the 80/20 principle. The 80/20 principle asserts that 80% of something’s value comes from just 20% of the actual work done. The nuances, the finer details, are what make up the remaining 20% of the value and 80% of the work.

This idea hearkens back to Tony Robbins’ advice to keep your purpose and motivation at the forefront of your attention. The 80/20 principle asks you to discern what task will give you the most value for the least amount of work. Focus on accomplishing this most valuable 20%, and you will increase your productivity dramatically. Less truly is more .

Putting It All Together

So to recap: Concentrate on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Make sure to create a smart and robust schedule that can flex for unexpected surprises. Keep your environment free of unnecessary distractions that would deter you from your goals. Discover and do the work that will give you the greatest amount of value for the least amount of effort.

By using the time management wisdom of top business leaders, you may find yourself more productive than ever before.

Image credit: Ono Kosuki; Pexels; Thanks!

5 Software Tools to Ease Communication Hurdles on Your Team

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Software tools

Communication is an important part of teamwork. Miscommunications have lost Super Bowl trophies, Olympic medals, and sunk Fortune 500 businesses. Strong communication has lifted up teams past their competitors even if they lack the star power and resources of their opponents.

While you might not be in an intense competition, you are responsible for overseeing a team and leading them to success. As is the case for any other team, communication is essential. There are resources at your disposal that will help teams of all shapes and sizes to communicate more effectively. Here are five resources to consider:

1. Appointment

One of the most classic lines of communication starts with a receptionist. They’ll field a call or see an online request for an appointment. It doesn’t matter if it’s to see a doctor, dentist, massage therapist, or vehicle mechanic. The responsibility of the receptionist is to pass on necessary information to the service provider. One of the best ways to avoid communication mishaps in this scenario is to use a scheduling app like Appointment.

Appointment can be synced up with nearly every major online calendar application. As appointments are created they can be automatically sent to the calendars of everyone involved. Appointment can also be integrated into other applications for easier accessibility.

In addition to helping appointment-based businesses manage their schedules, there are some other helpful features to keep in mind. Quality security, data reporting, and appointment reminders will come in handy every single day.

2. Slack

A surefire way to ease communication hurdles on your team is to make it easier for team members to connect. Many organizations have found success through software tools such as Slack. This is a platform that allows you to create custom chatrooms for your team, enabling a constant flow of communication between teammates.

The best part about Slack is that it can be used in an office, hybrid, or remote capacity. Managers can quickly send messages to a group of individuals regardless of where they’re located at the time. Instant messaging is also faster and cleaner than using email and much easier to keep track of.

Slack is also great for team bonding. Not every message has to sound like a formal email written by a robot. Team members can send GIFs and funny images to each other or even share stories from the weekend. As long as it doesn’t derail work entirely, this can help form strong bonds that increase overall teamwork capabilities.

3. ClickUp

What’s a business without a number of due dates to monitor? There are deadlines for utility bills, employee paychecks, product releases, marketing pitches, and so much more. That many deadlines can be overwhelming for your team, especially if it’s unorganized.

Insert ClickUp. This is an example of a project management software tool. You can lay out projects and tasks with due dates for each step needed to complete them. Each task can be shared with those who are involved, so anyone who needs an update can receive one on command.

ClickUp’s calendar view is especially helpful for team planning. Teams can look at upcoming schedules to divert time and resources toward upcoming deadlines. Everyone will know their role as it will be specifically designated within the software itself.

4. Google Drive

Businesses go through a lot of data and information on a daily basis. This normally uses up a lot of paper, but most organizations have made the transition to digital filing systems. This saves a lot of money, helps the environment, and can be a more effective way to organize files. However, you have to build a system that your team can easily work with.

That’s why so many individuals and businesses rely on Google Drive for file storage and sharing. With Google you can create slideshows, documents, forms, and spreadsheets and group them in designated folders. You have complete control over the names and even the colors of the files you create.

You can set permissions for individual files or for entire folders to share with members of your team. Most of your team members won’t need access to every single document. They likely don’t want to sift through every file either. Of course, a search bar within Google Drive makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.

5. Microsoft Teams

Some things just have to be explained face to face. In those times, sometimes the best you can do is hop on a video call. This is one of the features available through Microsoft Teams. It allows you to organize and execute meetings within a single platform.

Start by using a chat room to coordinate times for an upcoming video chat. This could be a one-on-one call with a new hire or banding together your army of contracted workers from around the country. You can use team chats to share any necessary files for the meeting, like an itinerary or marketing outline.

Now it’s time for the meeting. You don’t have to go to a different software tool for this. Microsoft Teams provides an optimal video conferencing experience with features such as live captioning and real-time polls.

Take advantage of free trials to give each of these software tools a spin. Eventually, you’ll find a solution that fits your team and its needs perfectly. Communication will quickly become a strength with the help of technology.

Image Credit: Anete Lusina; Pixels; Thank you!

Daily Ways to Build and Inspire Yourself and Others

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Inspire yourself and others

We all have those days when we don’t feel like doing anything. ‌Mentally and physically, we are exhausted. ‌It’s tough getting out of bed in the morning.‌ And, it’s a challenge just to get out of bed, let alone seize the day.

As much as we wish we could stay in bed all day, we cannot. ‌So when you feel uninspired, you can overcome that emotional hurdle with these 20 daily techniques.

1. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.

“Inspiration is for amateurs,” said painter and photographer Chuck Close. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

“If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens,” he further explains. “But if you just get to work, something will occur to you, and something else will occur to you, and something else that you reject will push you in another direction.”

Instead of wasting your time and energy waiting to feel inspired, tap into the power of a daily routine. And this is actually something that successful creatives and entrepreneurs have long known. ‌William James, the famous psychologist, once said that habits and schedules are necessary because they “free our minds to advance to really interesting fields of action.”

While there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to scheduling your calendar, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Schedule time for planning. For example, every evening, create and review your schedule for tomorrow.
  • Jumpstart your day with a morning ritual. Some ideas would be journaling, exercising, meditating, or reading.
  • Time block your calendar. Establish specific times for specific tasks throughout the day.
  • Designate a “most important task.” Always include the one absolute task that needs to get done for the day.
  • Leverage the power of breaks. Breaks are needed to help you refresh and recharge.
  • Give names to time slots and downtime. This ensures that you use this time purposefully, like s “Tuesday a.m., break 15 min walk,”
  • Be flexible. Even if you’re consistent, the unexpected is always lingering around the corner. So leave blank spaces to address the unanticipated.

2. Connect to your values.

“This is the ultimate secret,” notes author and Director of Innovation at Microsoft

J.D. Meier. “If you can connect the work you do to your values, even in small ways, you can change your game.”

It’s important to J.D. Meier to learn and grow as a person — a worthy goal for all people.

“I find ways to grow my skills in any situation,” he adds. For example, he just doesn’t “call back a customer.” Instead, he aims to “win a raving fan.” He doesn’t merely “do a task.” Instead, this is a chance to “master my craft.” ‌And, it’s more than “get something done.” Rather, it’s an opportunity to “learn something new.”

3. Add your goal to your calendar.

Did you know you can boost your internal motivation by setting‌ ‌a‌ ‌target‌ ‌date? It’s true.

As‌ ‌such,‌ ‌whatever‌ ‌your goal is, schedule it. ‌If you’re working toward a goal, you might have a deadline. For example, preparing for a meeting presentation or submission date for a project.

By establishing a realistic deadline, you can add structure to‌ ‌your‌ ‌goal. Target dates also help you stay motivated. And, when added to your calendar, it lets you keep track of your progress. ‌As a result, you are always aware of how far you need‌‌ ‌‌to‌‌ ‌‌go.

Also, once you’ve established your goals, share them with someone else, such as a mentor.

You’re more motivated if you share your goal with someone higher up because just caring what they think of you makes you accountable. ‌For example, you might be more motivated to get promoted if you tell a mentor or manager than if you merely tell a friend or peer.

4. Turn off distractions.

I think this is a no-brainer. ‌However, I’m talking about turning off distractions the entire day long instead of just during certain times. When you do, you’re taking your inspiration game to a whole new level.

It’s easy to lose track of time and focus constantly being glued to our phones, the internet, and social media. ‌It does not matter if you are reading a book on the subway or listening to a podcast or playlist while exercising. As a result, I’ve found myself instinctively reaching for my phone during periods of downtime, allowing myself to scroll mindlessly on Instagram or Facebook. ‌Despite how helpful and entertaining it is to be tuned in, tuning out can leave your mind wandering for hours.

5. Create a feeling of gratitude.

You may find it hard to motivate yourself when you’re stuck in a rut. ‌Think about how you feel before trying to motivate yourself.

Motivation comes much easier when you feel appreciated for who you are.

Gratitude is the quickest way to lift your spirits. After all, it’s almost impossible to be grateful and feel depressed  ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌time.

Get in the habit of practicing gratitude by writing down three things you’re ‌grateful‌ ‌for. ‌From your morning coffee to your pet, or even your comfortable chair, there are many things you can appreciate.

To stay motivated, you should include this in your daily routine. Also, when your grateful for the people in your life, let them know that you appreciate them through thank you notes or social media shout outs.

6. Take advantage of others’ motivation.

There are always words or artwork from others to turn to when you need extra inspiration.

Making a playlist of songs that excite and inspire you can be a great place to start. After all, ‌music‌ ‌can‌ ‌elevate your mood and change your perspective. ‌I dare you not to get up and move when you listen to “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky.

In addition to music, books, movies, and Ted Talks can inspire and guide you. Also, you can search for tweets with the hashtag #inspiration or discover blogs of people who have overcome adversity.

Furthermore, hundreds of motivational quotes from successful people can make you more optimistic immediately by changing your mindset.

7. Ask, “What Would Dolly Parton Do?”

It doesn’t exactly have to be Dolly. But, come on. She’s a national treasure.

Anyway,‌ ‌looking through a different lens can be powerful. ‌After all, when imagining yourself seeing the situation from the perspective of someone else.

Consider your favorite role model, but use their perspective to gain insight. ‌It’s a great way to think outside the box and to gain a fresh perspective.

For example, if you want to improve your leadership skills, ask “What would Richard Branson or Barack Obama do?”

If you’re overcoming adversity, ask “What would Oprah, Nick Vujicic, or Bethany Hamilton do?”

8. Embrace and share vulnerability.

Nowadays, we’re all about Instagram likes and Instagram followers. ‌Being perceived as anything less than perfect is a daunting prospect. ‌A dangerous facade of success can be created by the glossy social media statuses of our lives.

However, sharing defeats‌ ‌and‌ ‌admitting‌ ‌failure is‌ ‌a‌ ‌powerful‌ ‌motivator for moving forward. ‌Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Instead, work through them. ‌Afterwards, move on to something more productive.

As a result of sharing these vulnerable moments, peer relationships are also deepened. And, it might just inspire them as well.

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing,” states Brené Brown, a research professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. “It’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

9. Get back to nature.

Our daily lives can be enriched by learning from nature’s lessons. ‌A hike or watching the water of a river pass by, for example, is said to calm one’s prefrontal cortex, allowing it to access other regions that might produce insights or‌ ‌new‌ ‌ideas.

The experience of being‌ ‌in‌ ‌nature‌ ‌also‌ ‌inspires‌ ‌a‌ ‌sense‌ ‌of‌ ‌awe. ‌”Expansive thinking” arises when we realize the world is much bigger than we can understand. It allows us to consider different perspectives and can result in innovative solutions.

It might be tough to do this daily. But, you could start by going on a walk with a coworker after lunch or with your family during the sunset

10. Put together a win list.

“I have exchanged my to-do list with a win list,” Ken Gosnell, CEO of Experience tells Forbes. “A win list is a list of actions and behaviors that I know will create momentum for me and my organization.”

“I focus on at least one win a day and then I record all the wins, big and small, at the end of the day, to review everything that I feel good about accomplishing that day, he adds. “Often, one win can lead to the next one and many other wins.”

You can also do this with your team. For example, kicking off a meeting with what everyone accomplished in the past week. Or, create a dedicated Slack channel where people can share their success stories.

11. Compete in a friendly way.

Try to finish a boring or routine task first with a coworker at work in a friendly competition. ‌A little gamification usually keeps things lively.

In addition, you can also add a small prize, like pizza or coffee the other person, to motivate the winner.

12. Embrace positive peer pressure.

Achieving your goals is ultimately up to you. ‌Other people, however, can motivate you in a very positive way.

It has been shown that teamwork can boost perseverance, engagement, and performance — even if you’re flying solo. What’s more, this can also keep you accountable or pus‌h you when you’re not in the zone. Depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌what you want to accomplish, this might mean a running team or joining a professional organization.

And, again, sharing your goals can strengthen your commitment to achieving them, according to another study. ‌If you have work goals, consider sharing them with your supervisor or mentor.

13. Reframe questions.

“Let’s say that you are demotivated by a problem that seems impossible to solve,” writes Scott H. Young over at Lifehack. “What you can do is invest a lot of time upfront framing the right questions.”

According to Timothy Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors, readers should ask themselves, “How would it look if this [endeavor, goal, etc.] were easy?”

In The‌ ‌One‌ ‌Thing by Gary Keller asks, “What is one thing I can do that would make everything else less important or unnecessary?”

“Think about the problem you want to solve, and ensure you ask the right questions,” adds Young. “Also, consider if you have assumptions baked into your line of thinking.”

Asking (the right) questions is always better than assuming. ‌An inspiring solution can be found by using these methods.

14. Cut your to-do-list in half.

Our ability to achieve success is hindered by long lists. ‌These lists impede our progress instead of helping us advance. So, what’s the solution? ‌Focus on the most completing items first by cutting your to-do lists in half.

In some studies, people don’t accomplish any tasks if they have more than seven on their list. ‌Nevertheless, if you have only three items listed, there is a high likelihood of finishing them all.

15. Don’t be a critic, be a coach.

A person can either be their best coach or their‌ ‌worst‌ ‌critic. ‌It’s up to you what you choose.

Whether you beat yourself down or lift yourself up, you know best how to do it. ‌You can give constructive feedback to your inner coach, and give your inner critic a rest.

As soon as you choose to become your best coach, you will gain a fresh perspective on yourself. And, it can take your potential to levels you’ve never dreamed of.

Also, keep this in mind when sharing feedback with others. Instead of being too harsh, keep the feedback constructive.

16. Reflect on how far you’ve come.

When is the last time you paused to appreciate and refelct all you’ve accomplished? ‌It’s likely that you undervalue all your accomplishments in the face of all your growth.

Spend a few minutes daily reliving and feeling your successes, no matter how small. You could do this as a part of your morning routine. Or, even, when taking a break from work.

17. Declutter and tidy.

In the event of a messy desk, it’s impossible to inspire and motivate yourself. The same is true when you’re calendar is cluttered with useless tasks that prevent you from achieving your goals.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to go on a daily cleaning spree. But, you could set aside 15-minutes at the end of the day to declutter and tidy your workspace. And, maybe this will inspire yourself and others to follow suit as well.

18. Do some mood-lifting.

The quality and quantity of work are both improved when a person is in a good mood. ‌Having a positive attitude every day isn’t realistic, though. ‌Mood lifts can get you going if you’re lacking in the inspiration department.

Looking for some mood-boosting ideas? ‌The following might be helpful:

19. Treat yourself.

“Biologically, rewards increase dopamine levels in your brain,” Elizabeth Perry for BetterUp. “Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy and increases our memory retention, helps us sleep, and regulates our mood and appetite.” ‌When dopamine surges, specific behaviors are reinforced.

“Experiencing a rise in dopamine levels is addictive, and we physically and mentally crave that feeling again,” adds Perry. “When we’re content, we’re more productive.”

Don’t worry about getting hooked‌ ‌on‌ ‌rewards though. As you work hard, you train your mind to view it as‌ ‌a‌ ‌reward‌ ‌in‌ ‌itself.

Moreover, rewarding yourself reduces procrastination, sharpen your focus, and eliminate distractions.

But, when and how should you reward yourself? Well, you can treat yourself when you complete your to-do list for the day. If so, you can start rewarding a new book, watch a TV show, make plans with friends, or take the day off.

20. Shake up your routine.

While having a routine is key to inspiration, sometimes we get into a rut. So, occasionally mix things up.

Switch up your commute, rearrange your schedule, or work somewhere else. Experiment with different activities as well. ‌Simple changes these can make a big difference when you need inspiration.

Image Credit: Designecologist; Pexels

Daily Ways to Build and Inspire Yourself and Others was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie

Is Your Startup Failure Holding You Back?

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Startup Failure

Every person fails at some point in their‌ ‌life. ‌And, it’s undoubtedly one of the scariest parts‌ ‌of‌ ‌starting‌ ‌your‌ ‌own‌ ‌business.

Though, that concern is valid. After all, it’s long been reported that an astounding 90% of startups fail. Moreover, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open. ‌After five years, 45%, and after ten years, 65%.

But, let’s say that you’ve considered the possibility of failure. ‌To‌ ‌stop this from happening, you made a checklist of everything you’ve done to prepare for your startup launch. ‌You’ve done your‌ ‌research. ‌Plus, you know people need/don’t have this product/service/company.

Despite making all the right moves, your startup still fails. Maybe it was because there were flaws in your business plan, ‌your sales strategy was sloppy, or perhaps you trusted the wrong investor. And, sometimes, there are things out of your control, such as a declining market.

Whatever the exact reason, to build a successful startup, you have to face your fears and overcome them. But what if you just can’t shake this off? Well, that means you’re less likely to pursue new opportunities.

The good news? It’s possible to break free from your fear of failure And when you do, the sky’s the limit.

Signs That Your Fear of Failure is Holding You Back

If you haven’t admitted to yourself that you’re afraid of failure, here are some telltale signs.

You’re cautious about trying‌ ‌new‌ ‌things.

To be brutally honest — failure sucks. And, one reason why? It takes away your ‌zeal to break out of your comfort zone.

There once was a time when I leaped at trying new things. Whether it was eating at a new restaurant, seeing a band you’ve never heard of, or attending a networking event. But, after the failure of your startup, you hesitate.

While there’s nothing wrong with saying “no” occasionally, you must be open to new opportunities. ‌I‌ ‌get‌ ‌that‌ ‌you‌ ‌only‌ ‌want to‌ ‌tackle challenges you believe you can achieve. However,‌ ‌avoiding failure by not taking risks can prevent you from developing new skills, taking risks, and making cool stuff.

Get in the habit of saying “YES” when‌ ‌someone‌ ‌invites‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ ‌try something‌ ‌new. ‌You’ll be surprised what can happen when you step out of‌ ‌your‌ ‌comfort‌ ‌zone.

In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

You procrastinate or avoid responsibility.

“Did you know there’s a direct correlation between the fear of failure and a person’s ability to manage assignments within the time allotted?” asks Kate Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, LMHC. “According to Adam McCaffrey, a researcher discussed that those who continuously have negative thoughts and panic at the idea of failing exhibit a lower sense of self-determination.”

Often, this makes people feel unmotivated‌ ‌to‌ ‌finish‌ ‌deadline-driven‌ ‌projects. ‌Also, it makes them insecure about taking‌ ‌on‌ ‌significant ‌responsibilities. ‌When the fear of failure paralyzes you, you won’t be able to get things done.

“It might be helpful to ask yourself: ‘what fears do I have around success?’” suggests Rosenblatt. “You can journal or voice note your answers and see what comes up so you can figure out any best next steps for you.”

For example, if you experience low self-esteem or perfectionism, journal about it. ‌Then, you can figure out how to support yourself here to get past your fears and closer to your ‌goals.

The quality of your life, relationships, and mental health has declined.

“When you fear failure, it can paralyze you at times,” writes Deanna Ritchie, Editor-in-Chief at Calendar. “Many people believe that going after anything wouldn’t be worth it because all efforts are bound to fail.” As a result, ‌this can cause missed chances and an inability to succeed.

“The potential negative consequences of such a mindset can go far beyond the failure to achieve a goal,” Deanna adds. “Mental health, relationships, and overall quality of life are adversely affected by fear of failure.” ‌Plus, it could‌ ‌lead‌ ‌to;

  • Procrastination or avoiding tasks
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low self-efficacy
  • Reduced resilience
  • Underperformance
  • A sense of helplessness
  • A high level of anxiety elsewhere in life
  • A state of emotional instability and upheaval

It’s counterintuitive to fear failure. “Since you’re terrified that you won’t reach a goal, you won’t even start,” Ritchie adds. “In turn, this inhibits you from living life to the fullest.”

You settle‌ ‌for‌ ‌less‌ ‌than‌ ‌you‌ ‌‌‌are worth.

You absolutely adore your creativity-stifling, monotonous job. You’re thrilled with your non-committal partner, who isn’t all that nice to you. No, it’s not that you’re afraid of change – you’re just ecstatic at the thought of living every single day the exact same way as you have for the last year.

You don’t want to be complacent just because you’re content with your life. ‌In reality, you can change your situation and your life if you want to. ‌For that to happen, though, you have to admit that you want and deserve it.

Sure. There’s a risk involved. ‌And you’ll be more likely to fail if you do that. ‌However, on the flip, you’ll also have a higher chance of living a more fulfilled and happy life.

If‌ ‌you’re like this, take some time to think about how your life is going. ‌Assess your work, relationships, and current situation. ‌What‌ ‌are‌ ‌you‌ ‌satisfied‌ ‌with? ‌What‌ ‌would you change?

You can then think about what changes you could make to improve your life. ‌Think about what good could come out of facing your fears. And put a plan in motion that helps you take a step toward your goals.

You’re projecting onto others.

According to Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed, LCSW, projection‌ ‌is when you unconsciously attribute unwanted emotions or traits to someone else that you don’t like about yourself.

A‌ ‌cheating spouse who’s suspicious that their partner is unfaithful is a classic example. ‌They transfer their partner’s infidelity rather than admitting it to themselves.

So, if someone is uber-successful, you assume they must be excellent. ‌Yet when you see someone failing, you automatically assume they screwed up. ‌Or‌ ‌perhaps they aren’t cut out to be an entrepreneur.

You should be mindful of how you see failure and success when they don’t involve you. ‌After all, this can be very insightful in learning what you did right and wrong. ‌Furthermore, you avoid acknowledging a part that you dislike about yourself by projecting it onto someone else.

When assessing how you’re doing, focus on your internal qualities instead of your external success. ‌Also, be careful not to compare yourself with‌ ‌others. ‌However, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from other people’s successes and failures. ‌Therefore, measuring yourself against them isn’t productive. ‌

You make excuses.

There are a million reasons why you shouldn’t, can’t, or won’t ‌start‌ ‌a‌ ‌business. ‌It’s too expensive. ‌There’s no time. It’s not the right economic condition. ‌So there is a good chance your awesome idea does not work out.

Fear‌ ‌spouts excuses like a river. ‌Sure,‌ ‌some of them are valid. Nonetheless, ‌if‌ ‌you‌ ‌genuinely want to start a business, you should never let an excuse stand in the way.

You can’t move on from your failures.

“Those with fear of failure still accomplish much in life,” notes Team Tony Ribbons. “The difference between reaching your peak state and simply existing lies in your reaction when you do fail.”

“It’s normal to feel sad and disappointed,” they add. “But if you tend to wallow in these emotions or experience prolonged distress, it could be because you’re unable to find the lessons and move on – two absolute necessities if you are to learn how to overcome fear of failure.”

How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure

Fear can only be overcome by facing it head-on. ‌Despite your fear, you still have to take action. ‌And, yeah, there will be moments when your fears creep in again. However, you can learn to ignore it and focus on what you’re doing.

How? Well, you can give these strategies a spin.

Choose the right reasons to start your business.

“There are a lot of different valid goals,” says Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. “It may be important not to have to answer to somebody else. That’s a reasonable goal.”

“Maybe you want to make enough money not to have to balance your checkbook,” he adds. “Maybe you want to work with friends. All of those are valid goals for being an entrepreneur. The trouble is when you confuse those goals.”

Redefine failure.

A significant reason why many aspiring entrepreneurs fear failure is that they view it as a‌ ‌negative. ‌It’s interesting to note that all successful entrepreneurs had “failures” ‌before‌ ‌becoming successful.

In other words, you can’t have success without failure. So it’s a part of success.

Failure consists of getting results that you didn’t ‌want. That’s it. ‌Failure is just feedback, so it can’t be all bad. The key is learning from this feedback so that you can take the next forward. And more importantly, avoid the mistakes you’ve made.

Failure reveals flaws.

“There is an essential function to failure that most people miss, at a severe cost to their development,” adds entrepreneur Aaron Vick in Forbes. “When you fail at something, you get a rare chance to see your deficiencies.” Failure shows flaws and weaknesses that must be addressed.

That’s what development is about. “Your company finds flaws in itself after failing at something and then works to improve them,” Vick adds. “Over time, those efforts pay off as the company gets the skills it needs to take on larger and harder projects.” ‌And‌ ‌when those more significant projects are completed, you can use the profits to grow your company further.

“Don’t ever languish in failure; it’s not something you should be comfortable with harboring,” Vick advises. ‌Instead, get back on your feet whenever you lose and do your best to avoid it again. “There’s nothing shameful in failing fast; it’s admirable.” ‌

Overall, failure is part of growing.

Tap into your intrinsic motivation.

According to Harvard leadership expert and best-selling author Bill George, entrepreneurs should chase intrinsic motivations rather than extrinsic motivations. ‌To accomplish this, align‌ ‌your‌ ‌strengths‌ ‌with‌ ‌your intrinsic‌ ‌motivations.

In Bill Gates’ case, he wanted to make a positive impact on‌ ‌the world. Instead of trying to make money, Guy Kawasaki aimed for meaning. Doing great work was what motivated Steve Jobs.

And, personal growth and accomplishment have motivated other entrepreneurs.

Get in touch with your passion before moving on from failure. What‌ ‌makes you happy? ‌What‌ ‌excites you?

If you are motivated by your intrinsic motivation, you will be able to overcome any obstacle.

Find techniques to help you disconnect emotionally from the business.

“This may sound strange, but I’ve found that I’m much less afraid of failing in business if I use techniques to help me disconnect myself emotionally,” Erik Bergman, co-founder of Catena Media, writes for StartupNation. “For example, after my party planning business, I started calling new ventures’ hobbies’ instead of businesses.” ‌He adds that I‌ ‌began with a few hobbies before starting Catena Media, an affiliate marketing business.

“From a psychological perspective, calling new projects’ hobbies’ rather than ‘businesses’ allowed me to distance myself.” ‌This‌ ‌also‌ ‌relieved some of the associated fears. “After all, have you ever heard of someone failing at a hobby?”

Distancing‌ ‌yourself‌ ‌from‌ ‌something doesn’t mean you stop being passionate. Instead, it “simply means delineating between what’s business and what’s personal and learning how to identify yourself beyond your work.”

Focus on the present.

“I once had a conversation with an oncologist about what it’s like to give people a dire, late-stage cancer diagnosis,” Arthur C. Brooks writes in The Atlantic. “He said that some of his patients—people with a particular need to control all parts of their lives tightly—would immediately go home and start researching their prognosis on the internet.” ‌However, he ‌advised them that this would only make them sick with anxiety.

His advice to them was to start every‌ ‌day‌ ‌with‌ ‌this‌ ‌mantra: “I do not know what will happen next week or next year. But I know I have the gift of this day, and I will not waste it.” Besides changing their outlook on the disease, he said it made them happier in general.

“I recommend this same refrain to anyone suffering from a fear of failure,” adds Brooks. “Own the unknown future through gratitude for the known present, and watch your happiness rise, as you enjoy what you have in front of you.”

Start small and keep track of your accomplishments.

Lastly, what’s the best way to overcome your‌ ‌fear‌ ‌of‌ ‌failure? ‌Take baby steps, achieve some success, and keep building.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “go big or go home.” ‌People use it to justify taking massive action or talking themselves out of it. ‌In‌ ‌some‌ ‌cases, this is sound advice. ‌However, it can be more beneficial to start small in the case of startups.

Don’t forget ‌that success‌ ‌‌leads to ‌success. ‌As you consistently produce positive results on a smaller scale, momentum builds. ‌It’s that momentum that helps you make more significant gains‌ ‌later.

Image Credit: Canva Studios; Pexels; Thanks!

Is Your Startup Failure Holding You Back? was originally published on Calendar by John Hall

Share Your Troubles With Your Coworkers; Boost Productivity

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boosting productivity

Boosting productivity is always important, but it’s also important to note that each of us has problems; and we all need a listening ear. ‌Maybe it’s a friend, spouse, or parent. Whatever the case, it’s nice to know that you’ve got someone you can talk to whenever you’re feeling low.

Further,‌ ‌the‌ ‌boundaries between work and home have become increasingly‌ ‌‌‌entwined over the past two years. In these cases, turning to a coworker could be beneficial. ‌‌‌In particular, Susan Cain, author of Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, found that it could result in stronger coworker connections and a greater boost in ‌productivity.

In her book, Cain cites the example of a company that normalized sharing personal issues. The billing department at Midwest Billing, a community hospital in Jackson, Michigan, created a culture in which every employee was assumed to have a personal problem. ‌Rather than be seen as a problem, teammates demonstrated compassion by sharing their troubles. Employees‌ ‌helped each other out with divorces, domestic violence, deaths in the family, and even when someone was ill.

Not only is sharing troubles with others good for your mental health, but it is also good for business productivity as well. “During the five years prior to the study, Midwest Billing got its bills collected more than twice as fast as before, beating industry standards,” writes Cain. “The turnover rate in the unit was only 2%, compared with an average of 25% across all of Midwest Health System, and a significantly higher rate across the medical billing industry.”

Honestly, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Why Talking About Our Problems Helps

Talking about our problems helps us a lot, according to previous research.

In research from U.C.L.A., “affect labeling” is a method for putting feelings into words so that the amygdala is less triggered when confronted with upsetting things. ‌In this way, you can slow down your stress response over time. ‌

Being in a car after a car accident, for example, can be emotionally overwhelming. ‌But, as you talk the situation through, put your feelings into words, and process what happened, you won’t feel that way when you get back into the car.

Additionally, studies at Southern Methodist University found that writing about traumatic experiences or undergoing talk therapy helped patients’ immune systems and health. ‌It was found that suppressing thoughts and emotions increases stress. ‌Either way, the negative feelings are there, but you must work to suppress‌ ‌them. ‌When your brain and body are overworked, you are more susceptible to getting sick or feeling miserable.

How to Your Troubles At Work

While you may feel awkward sharing your troubles with your teammates, here are some pointers on how to do so.

Think about whether it’s a topic worth discussing.

Work may seem like the perfect place to vent, but it is not. ‌Never share what you are going through personally at work. ‌The exception? When a problem affects your career, sharing personal information should be reserved.

In fact, this kind of sharing can sometimes‌ ‌help‌ ‌‌‌strengthen ‌work‌ ‌relationships. Some examples‌ ‌of‌ ‌appropriate personal topics to share are:

  • An‌ ‌illness‌ ‌that’s impacting your performance.
  • You’ve got a family issue that’s affecting your‌ ‌work‌ ‌schedule‌ ‌or‌ ‌ability‌ ‌to‌ ‌work.
  • Pregnancy.

On the flip side, you should avoid discussing the following:

  • Financial concerns.
  • Problems with your children include drugs, arrests, and troubles‌ ‌at‌ ‌school.
  • Relationship problems of any kind.
  • Litigation, neighbor wars, car troubles.

If you steer clear of these conversations, you avoid being labeled as someone who has so many issues that it hinders your career.

And, one more thing. If you have a serious medical problem or family emergency, it’s probably best to discuss this with your boss. You can then brainstorm possible solutions like a leave of absence or a flexible work schedule.

Speak with the right people.

In the past, if you shared how you felt with someone and didn’t seem to yield any results, ‌it might be because you weren’t talking to the right‌‌ ‌‌person. ‌The support of someone you trust (without enabling bad habits such as co-rumination) is critical.

Find someone who has experienced the same problem and hopefully solve it. For example, if you’re struggling to meet deadlines or understand the scope of a project, ask a coworker for help. Hopefully, they can share their time management tips or clarify the work with you.

What should you do if you need a lot of time to talk? ‌Well, maybe you could schedule a recurring bi-weekly check-in. Or divide your conversations among several‌ ‌people. ‌Having a comprehensive social support system lets you distribute the load if one is worn out.

Schedule the right time and place to talk.

Even if it is a serious issue, it isn’t worth allowing to fester and linger. But, at the same time, you also don’t want to pour your heart when your coworkers are rushing to a meeting. So if you know when they’ll be less busy, pick a time that works for you. ‌

Also, pick a time when they’ll ‌be‌ ‌alone. After all, you don’t want to disclose a medical problem, for instance, at the water cooler or on a team call.

The easiest way to approach this? Share your calendar with them. This way, they can see when you’re available. From there, they can book a time to chat when they’re also free. You can even add a location, like a nearby coffee shop, to the invite to prevent other coworkers from eavesdropping. This will not only boost productivity, but it will help you be able to lean on someone for a quick listening ear.

Use “I” statements.

Thomas Gordon introduced “I statements” in the 1960s as a way to help kids understand emotions and behaviors‌ ‌during‌ ‌play‌ ‌therapy. ‌However, they can have many advantages during communication, including:

  • Feeling‌ ‌statements‌ ‌are a way to express assertiveness without provoking blame, accusation, defensiveness, or guilt in other people.
  • It’s easy to solve conflicts‌ ‌without putting‌ ‌people‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌defensive. ‌This focuses the conversation on solving a problem rather than assigning blame by focusing on the feelings and needs of the speaker.
  • Using I-messages can also be an excellent way to give constructive feedback to others. ‌The conversation is focused on the speaker’s feelings rather than how they feel‌ ‌about‌ ‌it.

Of course, not every situation requires using “I” statements. However, they can be helpful in the following situations:

  • If we need to confront someone‌ ‌about‌ ‌their‌ ‌behavior.
  • Feelings of injustice when others treat us poorly.
  • When‌ ‌we‌ ‌feel‌ ‌angry or defensive.
  • If someone is‌ ‌angry‌ ‌with‌ ‌us.

At the same time, there are potential disadvantages to “I” statements. These include being seen as expressing emotionalism, weakness, and what’s best for you.

Despite these concerns, when sharing your troubles with a coworker, they can boost productivity. For example, let’s say you’re collaborating with them, and they have a habit of not providing updates on their progress. You could say, “I get anxious when I don’t receive updates.”

Take action on solutions.

“Problem-solving makes you feel better, but getting things off your chest alone doesn’t make you feel better,” advises Kristin Behfar, Ph.D. ‌So keep multiple solutions in your back pocket, whether you offer advice or ask for it. ‌

Your next step should be to act. ‌This will ensure that you won’t complain simply for the sake of complaining.

Of course, putting that into practice isn’t always easy. ‌Here is a 10-step process devised by Brian Tracy for putting your plans into action:

  • Positively frame the problem.
  • Clearly define the situation or problem.
  • Take several different approaches to the problem using critical thinking.
  • Decide on‌ ‌the‌ ‌ideal‌ ‌solution‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌problem.
  • Select the most appropriate solution to ‌your‌ ‌challenge.
  • Prepare‌ ‌for‌ ‌and overcome the worst outcome possible.
  • Keep track of‌ ‌your‌ ‌progress.
  • Be fully responsible‌ ‌for‌ ‌your‌ ‌decision.
  • Set‌ ‌a‌ ‌deadline‌ ‌to solve the problem.
  • Solve your problem by taking action.

Set time limits.

If a colleague has taken the time out of their day to listen to you, then you need to pay them the same level of respect. How? By being respectful of their valuable time.

To boost productivity and make sure you stay focused, the first place to start is setting time limits. It’s unreasonable for them to block out three hours of their day to listen to your life story. So instead, a 30-minute should suffice.

To keep you on track, prepare an agenda — just like you would with a meeting. That means focusing on the work problem that’s giving you the most distress. Then, after identifying this issue, jot down and rehearse what you want to say to keep the talk concise.

Also, just like scheduling a meeting, leave a few minutes for possible response and brainstorming.

Another thing to keep in mind? Be on time. If you have scheduled this talk for 11 a.m. on Friday, then make sure you’re on time.

What Role Do Leaders Play?

Leading by example is often the first step in creating a sharing culture. ‌Ultimately, sharing culture can lead to a productivity boost. Cain tells the story of Rick Fox, one of the leaders of a Shell Oil oil ‌rig‌ ‌case‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌Gulf‌ ‌of‌ ‌Mexico. ‌Fox hired Lara Nuer, co-founder of Learning as Leadership, to solve problems with drilling schedules and oil production numbers. ‌Following a conversation with Fox, Nuer revealed that his biggest‌ ‌problem‌ ‌was‌ ‌fear. ‌Not only was the work dangerous, but also managing people and ensuring their safety.

As they worked together, Nuer encouraged them to speak with each other about their fears, including their personal problems. ‌During the transition from a macho culture to one in which the men supported each other, the culture shifted from one of the hiding weaknesses or asking questions.

“There were fewer accidents because the guys on the rig got more comfortable opening up when they didn’t know how to do something or didn’t understand how something worked,” says Cain.

Leaders, however, may find it hard to share their own struggles, Cain notes. “At least one study suggests that confiding one’s troubles in subordinates can cause them to lose confidence in and comfort with you,” she says. “At the same time, the best way to shift a culture is for leadership to go first.”

Leaders‌ ‌don’t have to share all their problems to be a perfect example or boost productivity. “They don’t need to speak to their employees the same way they’d talk to their therapist,” Cain adds. “It’s enough to move in the direction of open-heartedness.”

Image Credit: ANTONI SHKRABA; Pexels Thank you!

Share Your Troubles With Your Coworkers; Boost Productivity was originally published on Calendar by .

5 Software Solutions for Better Time Management

By | Time Management | No Comments

As an entrepreneur, one of the most difficult things to manage is your time. You wear multiple hats, trying to balance everything from checkbooks to customer complaints and internal affairs with your employees. Making sure you have time for all of that, plus a personal life to keep you sane, is just as important as it is challenging.

While discipline and hard work are certainly answers to time management concerns, there are other solutions worth exploring. In particular, consider these five software programs that have already been proven to help improve time management and overall productivity.

1. Project Management Software

If you were able to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably became familiar with at least one type of project management software. These tools made it possible for teams to continue working together despite not meeting in the same place. Even as offices return to normal, project management software is still seeing use because of how helpful it can be for time management.

Project management software can help you manage your time in many ways. Delegating tasks can be done much more quickly, and roles can be assigned publicly for the whole team to see. Many software programs include messaging capabilities to send quick updates and questions, whether you’re on your computer or mobile device. Most programs also allow you to integrate other apps such as Google Drive and Zoom.

Your entire team will become more efficient thanks to the features that project management software provides. Meeting times can be cut down due to increased communication, and resources can be more easily stored and accessed within the program. Over time your team will adapt the software to its needs making it become increasingly effective as time goes on.

2. Time-Tracking Software

One of the best ways you can improve your time management is to keep a daily record. You can do this on paper, but you’ll have a much easier time using time-tracking software. Not only is it faster to track your time through a digital program, but the software often comes with additional, helpful features.

One such example is Calendar, the aptly named online calendar application. One of its features is time analytics. As you update your events and appointments within Calendar, it breaks down your daily and weekly time usage. This allows you to visualize how your time is being spent. You may notice you’re spending too much time in meetings and not enough time networking thanks to these analytics.

Time tracking will also help you keep yourself accountable to projects and commitments. For entrepreneurs trying to get a start-up going this is especially important. Time tracking ensures that you’re putting in the effort required for success while still spending quality time with your family and friends.

3. Checklist Software 

When you have so many tasks staring you in the face it’s difficult to decide where you should start. Do you need to begin your day by checking emails, or should you finish that high-profile sales pitch first? What you need is a good game plan for your daily checklists. The less time you spend mulling over your to-do list, the more time can be spent toward action.

The first step is to make good lists. Checklist software can provide good templates for your to-do lists. You can organize tasks by type and urgency while adding colors and designs to set them apart. Visualizing your checklists will improve your ability to complete them.

Ranking your to-do list and prioritizing items in your schedule will be a little tougher. Try something like the Eisenhower Matrix to help determine which tasks should take precedence each day.

4. Automated Scheduling Software 

When it comes to time management, automation will always be your best friend. The more tasks you can automate, the fewer things you have to worry about each day. This frees up a lot of time for you to focus on a more concentrated list.

Let’s say you operate an appointment-based business. Clients can use automated scheduling software to book their appointments without needing to go through an agent. All of the time and effort needed to schedule appointments is now spent by the customer.

You can use automated scheduling software within your organization as well. A scheduling link can be shared with employees who might want to meet with you periodically. That same link can be shared with other companies or investors who work with you for optimized communication.

5. Knowledge Base Software

Also known as help center software, knowledge base software allows you to set up self-service content for your customers. A common use for this software is creating a Frequently Asked Questions page for your website. Informative blog posts or tutorial videos also fall under this category.

Such a tool is extremely valuable for small business owners who are more likely to be answering questions for customers. If prospective clients can get their questions and concerns answered on your website, there will be fewer calls to field and emails to respond to. Since most of these customer interactions can’t be planned for in advance, you’ll have an easier time sticking to a concrete schedule while building your business.

In addition to this list, there are many other types of software solutions that can help you better manage your time. Give at least one of them a try this month and pay attention to your time usage. Compare it to last month, and you’ll see which solutions are actually fixing your problems.

5 Ways to Prepare This Summer for Employees Going Back to School

By | Scheduling | No Comments
back to school

It’s normal for business to shift as the school year approaches, and this transition can affect employee availability and general operations. The academic calendar and breaks from school affect your business and your employees’ lives. So, how do you make their lives easier and maintain your daily operations?

Summer is an important time to prepare your business for the coming changes as some employees take classes in the fall. Don’t wait to plan your accommodations. Here are a few tips for managing back-to-school preparations during the summer:

1. Schedule Around School Hours

It’s a good idea to schedule your business with school hours in mind. As classes are in session, depending on your business, you may have more clients or less. If college students are a large portion of your customer base and they leave town for summer break, you might choose to be open less hours during that time. Then, the opposite is true for the fall when they come back.

It’s important to monitor these trends and adapt your operations. Ensuring business hours meet demand means that you’ll be able to schedule the appropriate number of employees and plan more strategically, even if your employees are in school themselves. You can also make sure these hours work for clients by asking them on social media, which improves brand engagement. Do your best to accommodate everyone’s schedules, and you can make up potential income dips elsewhere.

2. Consider Additional Hires or Shifts

It could be worth hiring additional employees to fill gaps as the availability of summer employees may shift as classes begin. Say that one employee will soon need a certain time frame free from work due to upcoming classes. You could hire a part-time employee to ensure their role is still fulfilled.

In addition to this change, you could also adjust your shift system to offer even more flexibility. Many businesses have a four shift system, with individuals working morning shift, mid-shift, evening, and overnight. To accommodate more workers’ schedules, you could offer additional hours. Maybe it’ll be easier for your new employees to come in with shorter shifts or different start and end times.

3. Stay Up to Date With Your Employees’ Schedules

Your business may be a seasonal one or have different workers during different shifts. In any case, you want to make the transition for incoming employees as smooth as possible. Check in with them as summer progresses, so they can update you with new needs and schedule changes. This also gives you the benefit of alerting customers should business hours need to change as a result.

If you have set up a shared employee shift calendar already, this is the perfect reason to use it. While you have all of the shifts organized on it, your employees can include their timelines right in the application. There won’t need to be any delay in finalizing shifts and operating hours for all to see online.

4. Permit Remote Work, If Possible

For a not-necessarily-in-person business, the remote option can make it much easier for employees to be available, faster. Being a student requires a lot of time dedicated to studying, and it’s typically easiest to do so at home. The less time they need to spend commuting, for instance, the longer they can focus on work before switching gears. They can even use the same devices to switch between these responsibilities, increasing efficiency on both sides.

Allowing remote work can also show your employees and clients how much you care about your personnel. In such cases, the former will feel a lot safer coming to you and therefore have higher morale and bandwidth. And the better the work your employees do, the more satisfied your clients will be.

5. Help Streamline Your Employees’ Workflows

Alongside scheduling around school hours, it can make the work feel more fulfilling if you streamline things for everyone. One way to do this is by planning difficult or high-effort tasks to be done earlier in the shift. When an employee needs to leave, they won’t feel guilty or anxious that important things are being momentarily put aside. Also, if you set up programs to automate little tasks, it can free up time for the important ones.

Instituting a new management system to keep projects on the public radar and up-to-date for those involved also improves workflow. This can eliminate the need for someone to sit down and plan something when they may not have the time. It can also keep everything and everyone organized without much human effort.

The end of summer doesn’t have to be a bad omen for business, if you prepare accordingly. The most important takeaway is to make sure that you’ll have the hands you need when you need them. Take your time and consider your employees’ needs, and you can help make them happen. When the fall comes around, you’ll be ready for anything.

Image Credit: Olia Danilevich; Pexels; Thank you!

5 Ways to Up Your Workplace Efficiency

By | Business Tips | No Comments
workplace efficiency

“Work smarter, not harder,” they say. We’ve all heard this modern productivity axiom by now, but there’s actually a lot of truth in the statement. Working hard is important, but working efficiently is even better. The two combined can lead to incredible results.

So, what’s the secret to making work more efficient? This is a question that business owners and managers ask themselves every day. This article outlines some ways employers can enable and motivate their workers to become even more efficient without working them into the ground.

1. Implement Self-Service Options

This one is a no-brainer for appointment-based businesses operating in the modern era. Self-service can open up so many possibilities for both your business and its customers. For example, having online booking options takes a huge load off of your employees and simultaneously empowers your customers. Clients can set and adjust appointment times whenever they want, and employees no longer have to spend hours on the phone coordinating bookings.

This frees up a lot of time for your employees during a regular shift. Instead of manning the phones all day, they can work on other projects. This could be as simple as staying on top of office organization or taking part in training to prepare for other roles.

In addition to online appointment scheduling, you can implement a self-check-in system for when customers arrive to their bookings. A tablet or kiosk can do all of the work that a front desk representative can. Customers can signal their presence and make relevant notes in their customer portal upon their arrival.

2. Embrace Office Automation

Businesses have myriad ways to automate processes, from CRM systems that will auto-email leads to social media tools that will auto-post on Instagram. But even humbler forms of automation can improve your workplace efficiency. There are myriad small tasks that consume workers’ attention during the day. A coffee maker set to auto brew will give your office manager 15 minutes back each morning, and that’s just one example.

A smart thermostat saves energy and keeps the temperature even so that extreme heat or cold don’t throw your employees for a loop. Smart light fixtures are likewise energy efficient and can also be set to dim or turn off without any human intervention. No one will have to traipse through the office at the beginning or end of the workday turning lights on and off. While these solutions might seem small, together they can make your workplace more efficient than you realize.

3. Retool — or Replace — Meetings

Companies waste a lot of time in meetings. Some estimates state that over 30 hours are squandered each month in meetings that aren’t necessary. Simply put, most meetings can be condensed or bypassed entirely to allow for greater workplace efficiency.

One solution is to plan meetings more effectively. Have an agenda prepared and share it with all participants beforehand. Practice getting to the point and rein in discussions to make sure the group doesn’t get sidetracked. Better yet, replace frequent meetings with constant communication through technology.

Take project management software, for instance. Instead of a status update meeting, you can use a digital chatroom to send messages, updates, and reminders. These can be addressed to the entire company, a specific department, or even to an individual. Such communications keep parties informed and don’t cut into productivity like a formal meeting where everyone is trapped inside a room with no escape.

4. Crunch the Numbers

The value of data cannot be underestimated. Insights gleaned from data can help you serve your customers better, increase revenue, and also make your workplace more efficient. Gathering data is easy; it’s knowing what to do with the data you have that’s the trickier part.

Let’s focus on workplace efficiency, which you can monitor with a time-tracking tool like Toggl or Harvest. Here are some examples of workplace data you can track:

  • Number of tasks completed on average per day
  • Amount of time spent per task
  • Amount of time spent per task category
  • Average time spent in meetings
  • Hours worked per week

This doesn’t have to be your full list, but it’s certainly a good place to start. Once you have a sufficient sample size, you can start to make some conclusions about what needs to change to increase productivity and efficiency. You may notice that efficiency takes a huge dive for the last hour of the day, for example. You might opt for a shorter workday or add an additional 15-minute break to try to keep energy levels high.

5. Improve Employees’ Quality of Life

No matter what the numbers say, sometimes the best adjustments you can make are to the quality of life in the office. Happy employees are more productive employees, so seek out work-life enhancement opportunities. Ergonomic solutions such as sit-stand desks and optimized keyboards can help employees work more comfortably for longer periods of time. Improved lighting can make early mornings and gray days more bearable.

Helping your employees outside of the office will often improve their efficiency on the clock. Benefits such as hybrid work or childcare services give workers fewer things to worry about at home, so they’ll be less distracted while working. Workers who also feel cared for by their employers are also more likely to stick around for the long haul. High retention rates improve company efficiency, as you won’t be spending a lot of time and resources on constant training and hiring cycles.

With greater workplace efficiency, you’ll see improvements in company profits, customer satisfaction, and work quality. To maintain optimal efficiency, you’ll need to continue to adapt, so keep looking for new ways to enable your workers to be the best they can be.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

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