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5 Ways to Make Sure Your Emails Actually Get Read

February 21, 2019

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On an average day you likely read 200 emails, and you spend about two and half hours per day doing so, according to Forbes. That’s a lot of emails–too many emails. It’s no wonder people have to skim through their inboxes to survive. But how can you make sure your emails not only get opened, but actually get read? Here are some tips.

  1. Write very specific subject lines. A detailed subject line keeps the receiver and the sender on topic and is easier to search for later. This means you can keep the conversation going on one chain instead of sending sporadic emails that branch off into other topics and priorities.
  2. Keep it brief. While still being polite, get right to the point. The shorter, the better. Emails are not replacements for phone conversations. Keep it concise and suggest a phone conversation if there are too many details.
  3. Increase the readability. Bullet points, short paragraphs, and bolded actionable items make your emails easier to read.
  4. Don’t respond right away. Often our first response might not be our best response. Both the sender and receiver can benefit from a little breathing room. A delay could give someone a chance to simmer down if they’re feeling angry. Or inspire someone to be more proactive instead of relying on someone else’s email response. And it may even allow you to come to a better more thoughtful response. Carefully written, well thought out emails are more likely to be read thoroughly than hastily-written, indecisive blabbering.
  5. End with instructions, not questions. Instead of proposing a question at the end of your email, such as “Should we meet in person to discuss more?” just make a decision and propose something like “I can meet up tomorrow at noon to discuss more if you’re available.” This will prevent follow up emails and conversations that are dragged on far beyond their need.

Image via Marie-Chantale Turgeon/Flickr.

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How to Be Productive When You Work From Home

February 19, 2019

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Whether it’s a sick kid, bad weather, or simply a Friday, working from home is becoming more acceptable in the workplace. But for those who are used to cubicle life, back-to-back meetings, and interruptions from coworkers, working from home can feel so different. It’s quieter. No one’s watching you. For once, you actually have some time to get work done! It’s easy to see why you’d feel so out of your element. If you’re  having trouble staying productive, follow these tips:

  1. Set up a work space. It doesn’t have to be a traditional office or desk. A kitchen table works just fine. (And is probably better than a couch or bed.) Wherever it is, designate a certain area for “work” so when you sit down, you know it’s time to stay focused.
  2. Take a lunch break. Use your lunch break to walk around the house and tackle all those errands or social media websites that have been distracting you. Throw in a load of laundry, check Facebook, sweep the floor, swipe through Instagram, unload the dishwasher… If you know that you’ll tackle these tasks during your lunch break, you won’t waste precious work time doing them.
  3. Have an end of day routine. It’s hard to end your work day when you’re working from home. If you can’t close the door of your home office, be sure to shut off your laptop and put it away. Before that, run through your agenda next week or whatever else you usually do at the end of the day.

Image via Matt Clare/Flickr.

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Common Interview Questions: What Should I Bring?

February 14, 2019

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Question: My big interview is tomorrow. I know what to wear and what questions to ask, but I’m wondering… what do I really need to bring with me?

Answer: Always bring a few extra copies of your resume in case one of your interviewers hasn’t had a chance to glance at your credentials–or if you just want to doubly remind them exactly who you are. Remember, that you are likely not the only person interviewing for this position. Also, your interviewer is squeezing this interview in between meetings and work demands. In the same vein, consider bringing copies/visuals of your best work (if that’s relevant to your line of work).

It always helps to have a notepad and pen on hand so you can jot down any questions that arise during the interview, important information about the position, as well as the email addresses and names of those who you’ve spoken to. This all can fit into a simple writing portfolio, also known as a padfolio (found at office supply stores), or a professional looking tote bag or briefcase.

Might as well throw in a water bottle, breath mints or gum, a small snack to nibble on before your interview, and of course your (silenced) cell phone. What else do you usually bring to interviews? Comment below!

Image via Carla Escobedo/Flickr.

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Break the Ice with these Networking Conversation Starters

February 12, 2019

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Whether you’re at a networking event, a conference, or a work function, you’ll likely need to spark up a conversation with a stranger. It’s the exact reason why so many people don’t love networking. But it’s such a crucial career skill (as we’ve talked about here, here, and here). The good news is that to network, all you need to do is speak one sentence. Really! Here are a handful of conversation starters that will bring you one step closer to foraging a new relationship.

What’s your story?

What do you do?

How did you get into the industry?

How long have you been in this industry?

What brought you here tonight?

How did you hear about this event?

Have you been to one of these events before?

What are you hoping to take away from this event?

Have you been to this venue before?

What do you think about this event so far?

What did you think of the speaker?

Do you mind if I introduce myself?

Where did you get that great bag/pair of shoes/jacket?

Which appetizer is your favorite?

Do you like networking events?

Image via Kasa/Flickr.

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How to Be a Minimalist in Work and Life

February 7, 2019

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Everyone’s jumping on the Marie Kondo train and getting rid of piles of clothing, shoes, toys, and more that don’t spark joy at home. While the idea of “minimalism” may be a little off putting to some, organization experts like author Joshua Becker of the Becoming Minimalist blog may change your mind.

It turns out that minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of things. It’s about adding too–by taking away the unimportant excess in our life, you’re getting more time to enjoy the things you love. When your time isn’t spent caring for, consuming, cleaning, and stressing out about things, you have more time for family, friends, and, well, life. Here are some ways you can apply this thought process to your work life.

  1. Clean out the clutter. Get rid of the items on your desk that you don’t need, you don’t use, or that don’t make you happy. The goal is to give yourself some breathing room so you feel a sense of calm when you approach your desk each morning.
  2. Add a little happy. Now add some things to your workday that bring you joy. Keep in mind that things don’t have to be physical objects. It could be a framed photo of your family or it could be a non negotiable 15 minute walk over lunch time. Or a favorite podcast that you tune into on your way to work every day.
  3. Design your ideal day. If you could paint the perfect workday (from sunrise to sunset) what would it look like? Find ways to incorporate that happiness into your day and find a way to automate, remove, or simplify the processes, things, or people that don’t bring your happiness.
  4. Protect your time. Pick three priorities, mantras, or values that will guide you throughout the work week and help you more easily say yes or no to the pressures of the outside world. Stay focused and true to yourself and you’ll find more calmness and clarity in your life at work and home.

Image via Image Catalog/Flickr.

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How to Stay Excited About Your New Year’s Resolutions

February 5, 2019

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It’s only February, but has your passion for your 2019 resolutions already waned? You’re not alone. There’s something about that first week of January that excites us and gives us the kick we need to get on the right track. (Maybe it’s just peer pressure!) But just a few short weeks later, we’ve often lost that motivation. These two steps can help you stay focused on your goals throughout all of 2019.

Step 1: Set a monthly goal.
Use the start of each month as a goal post. You can break one goal down into twelve steps or milestones (one for each month). Or try setting a small goal, or theme, for each month such as drinking more water in January or walking 10,000 steps each day in February. Conveniently, one month is about the exact amount of time that productivity experts believe it takes to set a new habit in motion.

Step 2: Grade yourself.
Hold yourself accountable! At the start of each month, check in and see how you’re doing. Or, if you need the motivation, keep track of your goals daily, like a star chart or a little X on a calendar so you can visually see that you’re staying on track. Read more about this tip in detail in our post on how to track your success and failures.

How else do you stay excited about your resolutions and goals?

Image via Bill Dickinson/Flickr. 

 

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10 Ways Working Parents Can Get More Sleep

January 31, 2019

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Life as a working parent is not easy. And there’s one complaint all parents have: I’m tired. So what’s the solution? Get more sleep, obviously. HA! Right? But there are a few steps you can take to ensure that you get a bit more sleep than you do right now. It all starts with prioritizing that sacred sleep time knowing that you’ll be a better parent and a better employee when you’re well rested.

  1. Prepare for the next day the night before. You’ll be able to sleep better knowing that you set yourself up for success tomorrow morning. That might mean packing lunches, picking out clothes, or just mentally going through the day’s schedule.
  2. Cut the caffeine in the early afternoon. (And try cutting back on it overall if you can. You’ll wake up more rested and without a caffeine headache.)
  3. Consider purchasing an alarm clock instead of having your phone sit next to your bed, tempting you to pick it up.
  4. Set an alarm each night for 30 minutes before your bedtime. At that time, put everything away, head to the bedroom, and start your evening routine. No excuses.
  5. What evening routine? You have a bedtime routine for your kids, why not yourself? Start a process that calms you down from drinking decaf tea to taking a shower to reading a book.
  6. Get some help. Perhaps you can hire someone to clean your house, do your laundry, or deliver your groceries, which can give precious time back to your sleep schedule.
  7. Invest in some sleep aides like a white noise machine, a weighted blanket, or room darkening curtains. These investments will pay off big!
  8. Avoid the blue light before bed. That means no TV, no phone, and careful on the e-reader.
  9. If you have a baby monitor, consider turning off the video feed and only keeping on the audio so the light doesn’t distract you as you sleep.
  10. Dress appropriately. That means yourself and your bed! Upgrade your pajamas, socks, and bedding so that you’re comfortable and warm–or cool if that’s what you’re looking for! Set yourself up for success.

Image via Stewart Baird/Flickr.

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How to Make Sure Your Coworkers Don’t Hate Your Meetings

January 29, 2019

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Ugh. Meetings. We can all agree that there are too many of them! It’s hard to, you know, get your work done when your day is filled with back-to-back engagements. In fact, too many meetings suffocate productivity and morale. It’s no fun to show up to a meeting and feel like your time would have been better spent elsewhere. Make sure that the meetings you host aren’t a cause of dread or stress for those who attend.

  1. State the purpose of the meeting.
    Open your meeting by describing why you’ve all gathered here at this moment. Why are you here, what will you be talking about, and, most importantly, why did you ask each of these people to attend? Describe whether you’re looking for feedback, approval, or ideas.
  2. Start–and end–the meeting on time.
    Respect everyone’s time by holding your meeting within the designated time frame. That means arriving on time and ending on time. Your coworkers have other commitments. Even when a topic may need more discussion, it’s best to give everyone the respect they deserve.
  3. Know when to call it. Don’t be afraid call a meeting short or schedule a follow-up when necessary. Some meetings are really effective and you’ve discussed a topic enough and can end early. Other times, you find yourself in the deep end. Instead of going over your scheduled time, set up a follow-up meeting.
  4. Don’t be afraid to cancel. If you have a standing weekly meeting, assess whether it’s really necessary today. Perhaps a quick email chain can suffice this week. Again know that everyone is pressed for time and your coworkers will much appreciate an additional 30 minutes added to their schedule.

Image via Gabriel Garcia Marengo/Flickr.

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Are You Mentally Strong?

January 25, 2019

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When things don’t go your way, is your first instinct to get angry? When something bad happens, do you dwell on the negativity? Do you often blame others before taking responsibility for your own life? Your answers to these questions may give you insight into how mentally strong you are. But what exactly does it mean to be mentally strong?

According to psychotherapist and author Amy Morin, mentally strong people “know how to regulate their emotions.” Even in the worst case scenario, “they can control their feelings well enough that they can move forward.” Self pity is thrown to the wayside. There’s no time to dwell on the problems because that takes time away from looking for solutions, which is another important characteristic of mentally strong individuals.

The ability to take positive action and identify concrete steps that will lead to success and happiness is imperative. They also know how to regulate their thoughts, Morin adds. They’re aware when their thoughts are overly exaggerated or negative and they can shift their minds to fix that thought process.

Morin recommends identifying your worst mental habit, whether it’s comparing yourself to others, dwelling on the past, being too hard on yourself, or forgetting to look on the bright side. After identifying this bad habit, work slowly on a daily basis to fix it. Become more self aware when your mind shifts to a bad place. Good habits like practicing gratitude, hanging out with friends, and exercising are also a key component to becoming mentally strong.

Watch the full video on CNBC here.

Image via Hey Paul Studios/Flickr.

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How Travel Can Help Your Career

January 23, 2019

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If you think “vacation” anytime someone says the word “travel,” think again. Travel is about exploration, adventure, and discovering. And the rewards this pursuit can bring are far and wide. In fact, they may even help you advance in your career. Here are a few ways travel can help you find more success at work.

You’re trying new things. Travel inspires us to get out of our comfort zone and do things that may not have done in the comfort of our daily routines and home life. Pushing your boundaries can teach you new things about yourself, increase your confidence, and maybe inspire you to make a change back at home.

You’re problem solving and making decisions on the fly. If there is one thing you can guarantee while traveling it’s that things won’t always go as planned. Learning how to deal with the unexpected is a life skill that’s worth mastering. You’ll learn how to temper your emotions and come up with the best solution in a less than ideal situation. You’ll have to trust your gut and make decisions that are best for you right now.

You’re making new friends fast. Whether you’re traveling alone, with family or friends, or as part of a tour group, you’ll absolutely stumble across new faces while traveling. Despite any language barriers and vast differences in backgrounds, you’ll communicate and thrive in order to survive. Getting along with all kinds of people is a skill that’s a necessity in the workplace.

You’re gaining a new outlook. Whether you’ve taken a relaxing vacation close to home or a taxing adventure far away, you’ll come out of it a changed person. Maybe it was a nice reminder to sit down and breathe every once in a while. Or perhaps it was a reminder of how great your life back at home really is.

Image via Hernán Piñera/Flickr.

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