November 15, 2018

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How to Track Your Successes (and Failures)

Like most people, you likely started the new year with lofty goals in which you may or may not be still pursuing. It’s easy to let our big plans and ambitions fall to the wayside. But there is one hack for staying on track: record the progress we are making. There are tons of apps and websites out there than can help you observe and assess your very own data. Your efforts will be staring right back at you. Let’s be honest–whether it reveals a failure or a success, it will be motivating!

Goodreads: We’ve touted the benefits of reading many times, and it’s a common goal on many people’s list of personal improvements. Keep track of how many books you’ve read this year, and what books you want to read next with Goodreads. Set a reading goal for the year and check your progress as you go.

RescueTime: If you’re focused on changing your habits and improving your focus while sitting at your computer, RescueTime can give you a report on how you spend your time. Want to write a novel? How much time did you actually spend on Microsoft Word? And how much time did you spend on Facebook instead? The data can be incredibly motivating.

Toggl: For those who want to track their entire day and see how they spend their time, Toggl lets you manually do so. Choose whether you want to track everything or just a few important goals. Again, the reports will be telling and can encourage you to be more intentional about how you spend your time.

Image designed with Canva.

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November 13, 2018

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5 Ways to Make Your Meetings More Engaging

In many corporate environments, the Powerpoint presentation is put on a pedestal. Someone may spend hours or even days perfecting slides for an upcoming meeting. But according to one company, the most productive meetings don’t have slide decks.

The thought process is that slide-run meetings become too much like a college-style lecture. The presenter holds all the power, and the coworkers diligently listen. That makes it harder for the audience to chime in and for everyone to have a true back-and-forth conversation. Slides also feel permanent, like the ideas stated on them can’t evolve.

Whether you agree or don’t agree with this concept, here are a few ways to make your meetings more engaging.

  1. Fill up that whiteboard. Ideas can be easily added and erased, and a marker can be placed in anyone’s hand. Ideas can flow more freely and can constantly evolve throughout the meeting.
  2. Write up a brief. Summarize the problem, goals, and potential solutions then pass it out before the meeting begins, or give people five minutes to assess and take notes at the start of the meeting. Kick off the conversation by asking for feedback.
  3. Go around the circle. Instead of letting people chime in willy nilly, make the conversation more accessible for those who may be too shy to speak up. Everyone gets a chance to share their opinions and views.
  4. Set a time limit. Time limits can be motivating and can excite participants to chime in quickly, but get their point across briefly.
  5. Get outside. Break out of the meeting room and head for a picnic table outside. Or, make it a walking meeting and have an authentic and thoughtful conversation.

Image via Lance Nishihira/Flickr.  

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November 8, 2018

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3 More Ways to Stay Positive in Work and Life

Let’s face it: everyone is busy, especially during fall when commitments surrounding the new school year as well as an onslaught of holiday planning can become incredibly overwhelming. You’re constantly wondering, Where did summer go?! It’s a rude awakening after a too-short break. If you’re feeling a little run down already, these tips can help you power through a long work week followed by an action-packed weekend.

  1. Think of the big picture.
    Don’t let the little details bog you down. Little frustrations, negative feedback, and unexpected challenges can easily dampen your spirit on a daily basis. Keep the end game in mind or remember how small this bump is in the road.
  2. Perfect your daily routine.
    Every day should be filled with a nice mix of friends, family, and you time as well as work and play. Find the perfect mix for you. Develop a schedule that meets your needs and your goals. Easier said than done, but worth a concerted effort!
  3. Utilize your strengths.
    Ideally, your current position would put your best talents to good work. If it doesn’t, offer to take on a project that does. Or find other ways throughout the day to utilize your strengths. When we do good work, we feel accomplished, we get great feedback, and it can improve our mood.

Image via Simon Varwell/Flickr.

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November 6, 2018

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Would You Hold a Silent Meeting?

New trend alert: silent meetings. Say, what? Well, say nothing. Silent meetings are group gatherings (they can be in person or virtual) where everyone silently works at the same time. Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame is said to be the originator of the silent meeting. The idea behind silent meetings is that they are more effective, productive, and democratic. Typing is involved, so while the meeting is “silent” it isn’t without discussion.

There are a lot of different ways a silent meeting can work:

  • Together, We Can: Think of it like a sprint work session. Perhaps you’re all working toward the same goal or all working on the same project at the same time.
  • Start Quiet: The first 30 minutes are spent reviewing a detailed memo and taking notes. The next 30 minutes are spent in discussion, which should be more focused and thought-out.
  • Silently Share: Give access to a shared Google Doc for a certain time period. During that time, anyone has a chance to express their opinion in writing without worries of not being heard or being talked over.
  • Group Chat: Use a messaging program like Slack and the text-only conversation will also double as meeting minutes.

How else do you envision a silent meeting?

Image via Pete/Flickr. 

 

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November 1, 2018

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How to Write More Effective Emails

You know what I’m talking about: the extra-long email chain with various people CC’d throughout sporadically, chiming in on different conversations, sharing random important details. And you’re all expected to piece together the crucial parts and make sense of it all. It doesn’t seem like the most effective way to use anyone’s time, or the most reliable way to share information.

Unfortunately, email overload and messy email chains are a reality we often face today. However, there are a few small steps you can take to write more effective emails. Perhaps the next email you send will start a more organized and thoughtful chain. It’s possible!

  1. Embrace brevity. 
    “TL;DR” is internet slang for “too long; didn’t read.” Often at the end of a long article or message board post, the writer will add a “TL;DR” summary that states exactly what they wanted to say but in a much more brief one sentence structure. Write every email as if it was a “TL;DR” summary. Emails aren’t novels. You can always explain more in person or over the phone if need be.
  2. Use bold to your advantage.
    Don’t be afraid to bold certain words, phrases, names, or dates to ensure special attention is given to those pieces of information. Make the email as easy to read as possible.
  3. Bullets and numbers are your friends.
    Could this information be better conveyed in an easy-to-read list? Again, make the information as succinct and comprehensible as possible.
  4. Make a decision and stick to it.
    Instead of ruminating over an issue and documenting your entire thought process in the email then cc’ing someone else for a second opinion, commit yourself to a decision. Embrace your own smarts and skills and feel confident in your decision-making abilities.

Image via Sue/Flickr.

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October 30, 2018

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Why Being Memorable Matters

Throughout your life, you’ll come across a lot of career advice and secrets to success that can be summed up in one phrase: be professional. When you’re professional, you show up on time. You’re a good listener. You’re diplomatic. You do your best work. You have a solid resume and references. You’re reliable.

No doubt, all of these traits will help you get hired and help you get promoted. However, there is one ingredient missing from the recipe. Anyone can be professional. But not everyone can be memorable. If you want to get hired or get promoted, you need to stand out among everyone else. How does one do that? Here are a few ways:

  • embrace your quirks
  • focus on adding value
  • smile often
  • make eye contact
  • remember everyone’s name
  • have a contagious positive personality
  • dress uniquely
  • share entertaining stories
  • explain boring things in an interesting way
  • be funny
  • show genuine interest in others
  • check in to see how others are doing
  • offer help freely
  • answer common questions (ex: how was your weekend?) with a more thoughtful response
  • give compliments
  • focus on one or two super powers (you can’t be the best at everything!)

Image via Diet Bos/Flickr.

 

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October 25, 2018

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How to Stay Positive When You Feel Like You’re Running Behind in Life

It’s easy to compare yourself to others. A VP who’s the same age as you. The startup founder who’s 10 years younger than you. The writer who published a bestselling book one year out of school. A busy  parent who also ran a marathon. The constant comparisons can easily make you question your lifestyle, the decisions you’ve made, and the journey you’ve taken so far.

But there’s no reason to beat yourself up about it. There is no right or wrong timeline in which you are falling behind. There’s no one way to run a career or a life. So instead of stressing out and second-guessing your livelihood, put one of these tips into practice.

  1. Start a journal. Keep track of the progress you’ve made so far. Revisit past wins and successes.
  2. Set goals. Write them down and share them with others. Focus on what will make you happy, not what others will think.
  3. Take inventory. Ruminate over the great things you already have in your life. Be grateful.
  4. Cut back on social media. Stop visiting social media sites that contribute to you feeling badly about yourself.
  5. Get inspired. Instead of being jealous, start learning. Find inspiration in an idol’s career path or the bold steps they took to get where they want to be.
  6.  Keep going. Not where you thought you were going to be? It doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. Don’t give up. Having something to work toward is a wonderful thing.

Image via jayneandd/Flickr.

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October 23, 2018

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4 Tips to Help You Break Your Social Media Habit

There are a lot of wonderful things about social media. It can connect people around the world, provide inspiration, and spread messages of change and goodwill. But there’s a dark side to social media that’s easy to get caught up in: one where we constantly compare ourselves to the picture-perfect lives of others, and obsessively and mindlessly scroll through feeds instead of interacting with the people directly in front of us.

According to the BBC, we spend an average of two hours a day scrolling and sharing. A recent article in Forbes found that besides being addictive, social media can trigger a sense of sadness and lead to jealousy. Do these findings sound familiar to you? If you feel like social media is time-sucking and soul-sucking, it may be time to take some drastic steps. Here are a few ways to solve your obsession with the screen.

  1. Identify your trigger. When do you use social media the most? What triggers you to reach for your phone? Boredom? A long commute? A need to relax? A thirst for information? A desire to connect? Why?
  2. Redirect your urges. Think about how you could satisfy that itch be it boredom or a need to relax. Why not load up a Kindle with some of your favorite books? Or download an interesting podcast instead? Or go for a walk? Or call a friend? Start a new habit that satisfies your needs in a more productive or healthier way.
  3. Put up a road block. Make it harder for you to access this bad habit. Try deleting the apps from your phone or logging out of the websites on your computer. Or setting up a rule such as, “I can only check social media after 5 PM.”
  4. Give yourself a break. Changing a habit takes time. You need to retrain your muscles to do something different. Keep at it, and soon enough you’ll find success.

Image via joey zanotti/Flickr.

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October 18, 2018

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How to Become More Productive Instantly

Think back on your day so far: what did you do with your time and why? If you don’t have a good “why” to what you did, you probably weren’t as productive as you could be. In a perfect world, your answers to “why” wouldn’t include “I don’t know,” “I was bored,” or “I was just killing time.”

Unfortunately, we spend a lot more time than we think on mundane activities that don’t contribute to our happiness, our productivity, or our goals. In order to get out of this rut, we need to be more purposeful in how we spend our day. One way to do this is to avoid the following activities. Cut back on these time-wasting culprits and you might find yourself getting more done than ever before.

  1. Reading the news: If you’re addicted to what’s going on around the world, restrain yourself by checking the news once in the morning and once at the end of the day.
  2. Scrolling through social media feeds: Delete the apps from your phone and log out of your profiles on your computer. The added hassle of logging in may stop you from mindlessly scrolling.
  3. Picking up your phone. Try to cut back on how many times you physically touch your phone in a day. It’s become a source of comfort for many of us. Break the habit.
  4. Checking email. You don’t have to be the first person to respond to every email. It’s okay to let the conversation start without you.

Image via Matt Gibson/Flickr.

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October 16, 2018

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Stop the Self Sabotage With Micro-Improvements

Are you constantly late to work? Always missing your deadlines? Never have time to pack a lunch every day? These are just a handful of the problems that many of us face on a daily basis. And instead of tackling these recurring problems head on, we often “kick the can down the road.” We trudge through our typical routine (that’s obviously broken) and then wonder why things didn’t go the way we wanted them to.

But–surprise!–there’s a better way. If we can take the time to just step back and analyze the problem, we can set up a better system for success. Instead of self sabotaging, we can become self aware. It may take an hour to sit down and really reflect on what needs to change–be it your habits, your routine, or your lifestyle. Some of these solutions might only take a few minutes to discover.

There are likely many micro-improvements that could drastically increase your productivity or happiness. Here are some sample solutions to common recurring problems:

  • If you’re always late to work, set your alarm 30 minutes earlier.
  • If you’re always missing deadlines, always write the deadline as one day earlier in your calendar.
  • If you forget to pack a lunch every day, prepare and package grab and go lunch items every Sunday night.
  • If you constantly deal with a low-battery phone, why not order a second charger for work and a third for your car?
  • Add in a mid-afternoon walk and you may be able to kick the caffeine habit and squeeze in daily exercise.

Image via Naaman Saar Stavy/Flickr.

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