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How to Become More Productive Instantly

October 18, 2018


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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Stop the Self Sabotage With Micro-Improvements

October 16, 2018


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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How to Make Your Out Of Office Message Work For You

October 11, 2018


Whether you’re taking a day, a week, or a month or more off work, that “out of office” message is the official signal that your break has begun. Turning on our auto responder is usually one of the last things we do before heading out of the door. It’s often done quickly and without a lot of thought. A simple, “I’m out of the office until Monday!” is as descriptive as most people get. But did you know there’s a better way? Here are some tips for making your out of office message work harder for you, which can ensure you have a more relaxing time off be it vacation, maternity/paternity leave, or work travel.

  1. Get personal. Explain why you are out of the office. A small glimpse into your life will let those who’ve reached out to you feel connected to your experience, and may give them better insight into why you are gone.
    • Ex: “I’m currently at [insert name of conference] in [insert name of city] gaining awesome insight that I hope to share with you upon my return. Let me know if you want to meet up for coffee and talk about what I’ve learned.”
  2. Give a back-up. Share the name and email address of someone who is covering for you while you are gone. This prevents the sender from getting frustrated and may even allow for some problems to get solved while you are gone.
    • Ex: “For anything marketing-related, reach out to [coworker’s name] at [insert email address here]. She should be able to fully answer any questions in my absence.”
  3. Share some inspiration. At the end of your message, share an interesting article that’s relevant to those who are reaching out to you, or a quote that they might appreciate.
    • Ex: “In the meantime, check out this great article on why a yearly vacation makes you a more productive worker.”
  4. Set some rules. Some people don’t check the backlog of emails that were sent during a vacation. Others read them all diligently upon their return to work. Let your connections know what you plan to do.
    • Ex: “I won’t be reading the emails I’ve missed during my leave of absence. Please re-send me an email upon my return on [insert date here].”

Image via Robert/Flickr.

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How to Prioritize Sleep and Become a Better Worker

October 9, 2018


When you’re in the throes of a busy work work, sleep is the easiest thing to give up. After all, there are deadlines that need to be met, meetings that need to be had, and loose ends that need to be wrapped up. It often seems like there are just not enough hours in the day.

Unfortunately, giving up sleep is only hurting you. Even just one night of lost sleep can negatively affect your workday in more ways than one. So the next time you think about pushing your bedtime later, remember the reality behind sleep: you need it! Just as much as food and water.

If you’re still feeling pressured to cut back on your precious snoozing time, recite these mantras to yourself:

  1. Sleep is restorative. It’s no secret that those who are well rested can function better the next day. Deep sleep is important to many brain function including the ability to creatively problem solve and make decisions. If you want to be a better employee, you need to be well rested.
  2. Quality is more important quantity. Working longer hours means that, yes, you will accomplish more on your to-do list. But the question is: will it be good work? Give yourself permission to close your laptop and go to bed (or to sleep in a little bit longer) knowing that you’ll be more productive once you return to work.
  3. Caffeine cannot be my crutch. If you need caffeine to power through an additional nighttime work session…and then you need a cup again in the morning and again in the afternoon, that’s likely a sign that you need more sleep. And that’s not OK.

Image via julochka/Flickr.

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The One Person You Need in Your Network Right Now

October 4, 2018


You’ve likely invested time and money in your education, training, and job search…but how much time and money have you invested in your network? A recent Harvard Business Review article touts The Key to Career Growth: Surround Yourself with People Who Will Push You. And we have to say that we agree.

Who is this person? A friend. An advisor. A confidante. An idol. Someone whose advice you respect and whose career you admire. A person who can tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Someone who’s willing to meet in person or talk on the phone regularly. It can be someone who’s a few levels higher than you or an especially talented counterpart. When you find this kind of relationship, magic can happen. And you career will never grow stale!

There are many reasons why your network should include at least one of these kinds of people.

  • This person can act as your mentor, and encourage you to take your career to the next level or branch out of your comfort zone.
  • They can act as your inspiration. Meeting face-to-face and knowing of a “real” person who has achieved your career goals can make those goals feel more attainable.
  • They can act as a sounding board, and provide feedback and advice when you find yourself at a crossroads or stuck in a slump.
  • They can act as a motivator either by encouraging you to keep on trucking on, or by your own desire for competition and similar success.

Don’t know where to look? Here’s some advice on how to find a career mentor as well as some advice on networking.

Image via David Merrett/Flickr.

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It’s Time to Redefine “Career Path”

October 2, 2018


Newsflash: you know that career path you’re envisioning? The nice linear one where you graduate with a degree then get a job that’s relevant to your major then get promoted from an associate to a senior position then a manager and finally a director? It might not exist. At least according to a recent article by the Harvard Business Review.

Even the phrase “career ladder” is a myth–or at least not a must. There are lots of non-linear opportunities that can be found throughout one’s career. When it comes to career paths, a lot of the focus is traditionally placed on job titles and the linear progression of promotions from a junior position to a more senior position. But it’s important to think about more than just titles: what lifestyle do you want to live? What excites you? How do you want to grow? Finding a position that better suits your lifestyle and goals is a step in the right direction–regardless of the title!

There are so many different ways to measure career growth beyond a promotion or title change. Think about what new skill you can acquire, what new training you can undertake, or what kind of new project you can complete. It’s time to stop beating yourself up about that promotion and instead look inward. Just remember this: your career path can be defined however you want it to be!

Image via Mike Lewinski/Flickr.


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How to Leverage Your Experience into a Stepping Stone

September 27, 2018


Not 100% satisfied with where you currently sit? That’s ok! More than likely this position is simply a stepping stone, or a step in the right direction toward the position or the career that you desire. Feelings of unhappiness mean that you have greater ambitions–and that’s a good thing. Here are some tips on how you can leverage your current experience into the next big role.

  1. Dive deep. Think about the skills or experiences you are earning in this current position. Now perfect them. Become the best you can be and learn everything there is to know. In other words, take advantage of this opportunity to the fullest. That way, when you do leave you’ll have no regrets.
  2. Branch out. Talk to your manager about how you can dip your toes in other waters. Perhaps there are peripheral projects that are interesting to you. Show how your current skills translate to the needs of that peripheral space. Raise your hand and put yourself out there.
  3. Keep inventory. Literally write down all of the skills you are using on a day to day basis–and don’t forget the soft skills. Many of these can be translated across multiple fields and multiple positions. So there is no need to ever feel locked into a certain role or path.
  4. Start talking. Networking is incredibly important and always will be throughout your career. Start planting the seeds now, and you will reap the rewards later when you need them most. Connect with people inside your company and throughout your industry whom you admire.
  5. Make a map. Think of your current position that you hold today. Now think of the position you want in five years. What small steps can you take between now and then to get you there? What skills do you need? Draw a path and follow it. (And if you can’t quite figure it out yourself, find a career mentor.)

Image via Chris Gin/Flickr.

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Accepting this One Thing Will Make You a Better Speaker

September 13, 2018


Whether you’re giving a big speech in front of a crowd or simply presenting at a meeting with your closest coworkers, upping your speech game can only help you. Not only will you get your point across more effectively, you could also gain more respect and trust from your coworkers–and your boss. (And that’s always a good thing!)

What is one of the most common problems people have when speaking? You guess it… the dreaded “um,” “ah,” “like,” “so,” or “you know.” It’s a filler word or phrase that you use while you’re thinking. It can make you sound nervous or distracted or–even worse–unprepared. These words are crutches, and you need to stop using them. But how?

Instead of using the filler word or phrase, say nothing. That’s right. Say nothing! Accept the silence and be comfortable with a pause. We often feel the need to fill the silence with more words, but it’s perfectly okay to sit quietly and gather your thoughts. In fact, a pause can make us seem cool, calm, and collected–and it may even build some suspense and keep your audience glued to your words.

Still feel uncomfortable with the pause? During your next speech, any pause you take is likely much shorter than you think it is. This recent Harvard Business Review article points out that we think faster than we speak–a lot faster. That means we speak at 150 words per minute but we think at 400 words per minute, which can distort our perception of time. And if you let one crutch word slip, it’s ok. The occasional use can make you seem relatable. But the next time you feel one rolling off your tongue, bite it and stay quiet until you can gather your thoughts.

Via Institute for Web Science/Flickr.

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3 Creativity Hacks to Help You Come Up With Great Ideas

September 11, 2018


It may seem that some are born with a more creative mind than others, but that may not be the case. If you can create the perfect storm, it may be easier for great ideas to rain down on you. Follow these tips and you may find that you do have at least one creative bone in your body.

  1. Talk it through with someone else.
    Whether you’re in a brainstorm meeting with multiple people or you’re sitting by yourself waiting for an idea to strike, back-and-forth conversation is crucial to creativity. Hearing your own thoughts spoken out loud, regurgitating the thoughts of others, and the questions that arise from this process will lead you down new paths and open new doors. Don’t sit silently in a corner!
  2. When lightning strikes, write it down.
    The reality is that an idea will pop into your head when you least expect it and possibly at the most inconvenient time. Even if you’re 100 percent positive that you’ll remember that great idea, write it down! Pull out your phone and put it in your notes or jot it on a napkin. Not only will the act of writing it down will help you remember it, but you’ll also now have a running list of great ideas.
  3. Surround yourself with creativity.
    We get inspired by the things we consume. If you’re feeling that your creativity well is dry, fill it up! Consume high-quality books, movies, TV shows, music, musicals, dance, food, conversation, and more. We’ve never been more connected to culture and people than in this moment. Take advantage of it!

Image via Image Catalog/Flickr.

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How Small Talk Can Make You More Likable at Work

September 6, 2018


Think about how you act in these situations: at the beginning of the meeting, when you pass someone in the hall, when you see your coworkers for the first time in the morning. Are you more likely to be starting down at your phone? Do you give a quick nod? Or do you honestly stop and interact with them?

Small talk is an easy way to show that you care, to show that you’re friendly, and to show that you’re approachable. And it really only takes 30 seconds to a minute. Here are some situations you might find yourself in, and how to change your behavior:

  • Instead of typing away at a laptop before a meeting starts, strike up a conversation with others who’ve arrived a few minutes early.
  • Instead of standing quietly in the cafeteria line, get chatty with whoever is behind you.
  • Instead of diving right into a meeting that you are leading, ask everyone how their day is going.
  • Instead of heading straight to your desk in the morning, greet your coworkers.

Here are some easy small talk questions that work in multiple work settings:

  • “Nice to see you. How are you doing?”
  • “What are you working on right now?”
  • “How was your weekend?” or “Do you have any plans for the weekend?”
  • “How is your day/week going?”
  • “What do you think about… [insert relevant topic here]?”
  • “Do you need any help with… [insert relevant topic here]?”

How do you stay approachable at work? Share your talking points below.

Image via Marc Wathieu/Flickr.

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