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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

October 11, 2018

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How to Make Your Out Of Office Message Work For You

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.

October 9, 2018

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How to Prioritize Sleep and Become a Better Worker

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.

October 4, 2018

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The One Person You Need in Your Network Right Now

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.