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Category: Good Habits

How to Make the Most of a Long Weekend

Filed under: Good Habits, Productivity, Time Management, Vacation, Work-Life Balance

Long weekends are the perfect opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. So, to spend them in front of the television would be almost criminal.

“If we don’t plan our weekends, they just kind of go by,” Phoenix-based productivity expert Nicole Bandes told HuffPost. “Be intentional with the time you’re going to have for the three days.”

The key here is balance. You certainly don’t have to plan each moment of the long weekend. But making time for a few activities can leave you recharged and happier once the holiday has passed.

Here are some expert and research-backed ideas on how to make the most of your long weekend while improving your wellbeing in the process:

1. Enjoy a staycation.

Sure, adventures like camping can be fun, but they also require a lot of work to plan. This may lead to feeling the opposite of relaxed, Bandes said. (Unless, of course, you are a hardcore camper and you wait all year to go. You do you!)

Instead of tackling a big trip, she recommends trying activities that are close to where you live. For example, visiting a local winery, going to the zoo or checking out a nearby waterfront are all low-effort ways to recharge your batteries.

2. Tackle a big project.

A three-day weekend is a great opportunity to tackle the “never-quite-get-to” projects, Bandes said. This could come in the form of painting a room, clearing out the garage, working on the car or finally getting around to organizing your closet using the Konmari method (which comes with its own added wellness perks).

3. Host a group gathering.

Invite family or friends over for a meal over the weekend. A meal-centric hangout with your crew can bring some perks: Not only are there psychological benefits to baking for other people, research shows that being around a best friend can help lower stress.

4. Take a digital detox.

Some research suggests that too much time on your devices is correlated with more negative thoughts, anxiety and depression.

Bandes recommends putting your phone away for a few hours or even half a day. It’ll pay off: unplugging every so often can increase focus, lower stress, increase sleep quality and help you think more creatively.

5. Volunteer for a worthy cause.

Carve out some time this weekend all in the name of generosity.

A 2013 study found that people who volunteer are more likely to improve their overall wellbeing and life satisfaction than people who aren’t altruistic. Giving and unselfishness is also associated with having a lower risk of early death, a stronger marriage and decreased depression.

6. Catch up on sleep.

Schedule in some rest. An estimated 1 in 3 American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Good sleep makes your memory sharper, improves mood and focus and literally clears your mind: Neurological science shows that proper sleep clears toxins which build up in the brain.

You can continue reading this article on Huffington Post.

How to Work More Efficiently (Even When You’re Feeling Unmotivated)

Filed under: Efficiency, Focus, Good Habits, Productivity, Strategy, Time Management

Research shows that kids experience a “summer slump.” When they’re out of school, they’re not actively focused on learning, and their brains check out. But they’re not the only ones susceptible to summer slumps. Adults seem to channel their inner child during the summer, making it hard for them to be productive at work.

A 2012 study by Captivate Network reveals that workplace productivity drops 20%, workers are 45% more distracted, and it takes 13% longer to complete projects in the summer. Also, 53% of workers who leave early on Friday report a decline in productivity. People often work longer Monday through Thursday to make up for leaving early on Friday, and 23% of them believe that schedule causes an increase in stress.

So how can you stay productive during the summer and throughout the year? We asked Dana Brownlee, the creator of the New Time Management Model. She’s the president of Professionalism Matters and a corporate trainer and speaker..

According to Brownlee, the New Time Management Model involves four questions:

  1. Should I do this?
  2. How should I do this?
  3. What’s the right level of effort?
  4. How can I increase my efficiency?

Should I Do This?

Brownlee recommends starting every week by assessing the most important activities for the week. Then, every day, do a reassessment. “Resist the temptation to just add a task to your to- do list because someone asked you to do it,” she says. “There must be a mental ‘vetting process’ to determine if any activity should be on your list.” Her own to-do-list only includes five items for each day.

“Another technique that I sometimes use in my classes is to ask each person to write down each of their tasks for the next day on a small slip of paper.” Then she tells them that one of those items can’t be completed – and they have to decide which one it will be. The participants have to throw away that sheet of paper and start over with a shortened list. They continue the process, until the list is down to five items. “These types of activities are just meant to reinforce the mental process that you’d go through weekly and daily to identify your truly important activities,” Brownlee says.

She also recommends using the 80/20 rule. “Figure out which 20% of your efforts will yield 80% of the results.” For example, you may need to determine which clients or client types are providing most of your revenue, and then adjust your business model or activities accordingly.

How Should I Do This?

This is a strategic step that encourages you to work smarter, not harder. Should you do it alone or with a group? Should you do it yourself or delegate or outsource it? Could the task be automated or streamlined in some way?

“As a small business owner, I often resisted outsourcing because I didn’t think I could afford to pay someone else to do things for me,” Brownlee says. “However, when I started using assistants, freelancers, and other specialists, I quickly realized that I couldn’t afford not to outsource (particularly those time-consuming tasks where I had little expertise — like website updating and newsletter formatting).”

She says that pausing to answer the “how” question can save a lot of time later. “For example, if you’re developing a client list, consider putting the information into a simple database so that it’s easily retrievable, sortable, and exportable later (and you’re inputting the information only once).” Next to each task, Brownlee recommends making a note of how you can work smart to complete the task.

What’s the Right Level of Effort?

When deciding how much energy to expend, consider assigning a percentage (from 0% to 100%). Another option is to set a time limit for each task. Brownlee uses this method with her assistant. “Instead of using vague terms like ‘don’t spend too much time on it,’ I’ll often say, ‘don’t exceed 90 minutes.’ Those limits can be helpful for us as well.”

It’s also helpful to add the times together to see if your daily plans are realistic. “If you add up your to-do-list tasks and it adds up to 4 hours of tasks (to be completed outside working hours) and you have a 1.5 hour round-trip commute, that list probably isn’t realistic.”

You can read the rest of the article on TalentCulture.

How to Boost Productivity During the Dog Days of Summer

Filed under: Attitude, Behavior in the Workplace, Distractions, Focus, Good Habits, Organization, Productivity, Quick Tips, Strategy

You may have loved your job when you started, but it’s not unusual to get in a rut. If you’re experiencing burnout, changing your mindset can bypass it, says Daniel M. Cable, author of Alive aWork: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do, during his interview with Stephanie Vozza of Fast Company.

“Our brains are not wired for routine and repetition at work,” he says. “Disengagement isn’t a motivation problem; it’s a biological one.”

Cable was a professor at the University of North Carolina when he says he lost his zest for his own job and slowly descended into boredom. After being diagnosed and treated for Hodgkin lymphoma, his perspective changed, and he found a sense of gratitude for his job. He stumbled on research about the part of the brain called the ventral striatum, also called the “seeking system,” and its role in being your best self.

“This part of our brain urges us from the time we’re babies to explore what we don’t know,” he says. “Little kids can be given an awesome toy with noises and buttons and they’ll be really into it for a week or few days. Then they find something else that hadn’t seen before, like car keys, and they find that way more interesting. It wasn’t because the thing is cool; it’s because the thing is new.”

When we succumb to these urges, our brain delivers dopamine to reward us and that makes us feel more alive, and the same thing can happen at work, says Cable, currently a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School.

“When we’re in the rut of routine for the 502nd time, this part of the brain shuts off,” says Cable. “Your brain is saying, ‘You’re better than this. We’re not built of this. We’re built for bigger things.’ Then the brain stops the release of dopamine, which makes it seem not only boring but that it takes forever.”

There are three ways you can trigger your brain release dopamine, and get out of your rut, says Cable.

1. Play to your strengths

Identify your signature strengths and the impact you can have by using them on a daily basis. “How can you bring value to the team by using your unique strength?” asks Cable.

When he started tapping into his strength—humor—Cable says he regained an appreciation for his job. “It made me feel good and I saw my students lean in when I used humor,” he says. “As a professor, it was something unique to me. I decided to bring it when I teach class instead of leaving it at home.”

Think of your job as a flexible vehicle and determine how you can bring your strength to it.

2. Be willing to experiment

Avoid the risk of routine by shaking things up. Cable decided to develop new classes instead of teaching the same class over and over.

“A sales manager who was promoted and never got a chance to get out in the field might start going into the field again to talk to clients,” suggests Cable. “It’s just a way to refresh and learn new things.”

Activate that seeking system by going outside of your comfort zone, suggests Cable.

3. Tap into purpose

Finally, analyze cause and effect in your role. We all want to see the impact of our actions, says Cable. Leaders can help employees personalize the purpose of work by providing direct conversations with the people who use work as well as internal decision makers.

“Try to think about the story you want to tell yourself about why you do your job,” says Cable.

You can read the rest of the article on Fast Company.

17 Skills that are Hard to Learn but will Pay off Forever

Filed under: Good Habits, Professional Development

The best things in life may be free, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take time, sweat, and perseverance to acquire.

That’s especially the case when it comes to learning important life skills.

To ascertain which talents are worth the investment, one Quora reader posed the question: “What are the hardest and most useful skills to learn?”

We’ve highlighted our favorite takeaways, as well as a few other skills we thought were important.

1. Empathy

“You can be the most disciplined, brilliant, and even wealthy individual in the world, but if you don’t care for or empathize with other people, then you are basically nothing but a sociopath,” writes Kamia Taylor.

Empathy, as business owner Jane Wurdwand explains, is a fundamental human ability that has too readily been forsworn by modern business.

“Empathy — the ability to feel what others feel — is what makes good sales and service people truly great. Empathy as in team spirit — esprit de corps — motivates people to try harder. Empathy drives employees to push beyond their own apathy, to go bigger, because they feel something bigger than just a paycheck,” she writes.

2. Mastering your sleep
There are so many prescribed sleep hacks out there it’s often hard to keep track. But regardless of what you choose, establishing a ritual can help ensure you have restful nights.

Numerous studies show that being consistent with your sleep schedule makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up, and it helps promote better sleep in general.

Continue reading on Time…

9 Skills that Pay Dividends Forever

Filed under: Good Habits, Personality, Professional Development, Psychology, Self Reflection

Some of the most important skills in life are not taught in school. Here are 9 you won’t want to miss out on.

The further along you are in your career, the easier it is to fall back on the assumption that you’ve made it and have all the skills you need to succeed. The tendency is to focus all your energy on getting the job done, assuming that the rest will take care of itself. Big mistake.

New research from Stanford tells the story. Carol Dweck and her colleagues conducted a study with people who were struggling with their performance. One group was taught to perform better on a task that they had been performing poorly. The other group received a completely different intervention: For a task they performed poorly, they were taught that they weren’t stuck and that improving their performance was a choice. They discovered that learning produces physiological changes in the brain, just like exercise changes muscles. All they had to do was believe in themselves and make it happen.

When the groups’ performance was reassessed a few months later, the group that was taught to perform the task better did even worse. The group that was taught that they had the power to change their brains and improve their performance themselves had improved dramatically.

The primary takeaway from Dweck’s research is that we should never stop learning. The moment we think that we are who we are is the moment we give away our unrealized potential.

The act of learning is every bit as important as what you learn. Believing that you can improve yourself and do things in the future that are beyond your current possibilities is exciting and fulfilling.

Still, your time is finite, and you should dedicate yourself to learning skills that will yield the greatest benefit. There are nine skills that I believe fill the bill because they never stop paying dividends. These are the skills that deliver the biggest payoff, both in terms of what they teach you and their tendency to keep the learning alive.

Continue reading the original article on Inc…

Here’s How to Spend the First Hour of the Workday for Maximum Productivity

Filed under: Cognitive Ability, Focus, Good Habits, Productivity

Let’s divide work into two categories.

There’s “work,” and then there’s real work. “Work” is email correspondence, and group meetings, and other administrative tasks that are technically necessary, but don’t meaningfully contribute to your professional success.

Real work, on the other hand, encompasses those bigger projects and tasks that help you achieve your goals and your organization’s. It’s the kind of work that drew you to your job and your line of work in the first place.

Click here to read the rest on Business Insider >>

Communication is Key. Here’s How to Tell if You’re Good at It.

Filed under: Communication, Confidence, Good Habits, Professional Development

Whether you regularly speak in public and write online, or you mostly express yourself over email, being a good communicator is part of every single job description. But how can you really know if it’s something you’re good at?Here are 17 questions that can help you identify whether you’re awesome at communicating—or a bit rusty. (And don’t worry if it’s the latter, there are simple ways to improve each of these skills.)

1. Do you have a message?
People are bombarded with information every day. Make sure you know what it is you want to communicate—this could be as broad as your brand or as specific as the main point in one email. (And remember, if you can’t boil your message down in a sentence, chances are, it’s not clear.)

Click here to read the rest on Mashable >>