Happiness At Work #76 ~ a parcel of practical ideas for the festive season

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

‘Tis the season of gift giving and in this spirit I have tried to make this week’s post a Santa’s Sack of tools, techniques and practical approaches with – I do hope – a treat for everyone.  I hope you will find something here to make your festive season just that little happier, less stressful and more enjoyable…

The Power of Empathy (RSA Shorts)

What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

This sublime animation of sorts out the difference between empathy and sympathy and provides the basics on how to give it well.

photo credit: MyTudut via photopin cc

photo credit: MyTudut via photopin cc

4 Critical Skills for a Changing World

BY 

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin’” in the midst of the cultural and political upheaval of the 60s. What I remember most about those days were the endless fights with my parents over my long hair, my frayed bellbottom jeans, the Vietnam War, and, of course, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

We had a name for our extreme differences in perspective back then. We called it “the generation gap.” I doubt if it’s any consolation to Millennials – especially coming from a baby boomer – but we’ve sort of been here before. Each generation has its own ideals, behaviors and challenges.

 While there’s nothing new about generational change, when you’re in the thick of it, that’s a different story. It’s unsettling, exhilarating and terrifying, all at the same time.

Related7 Things Great Entrepreneurs Don’t Do

The high-tech revolution of the past few decades certainly fits that description. Having “grown up” in that industry, I can certainly look back and see how far we’ve come. Not only that, I’m proud that I made the transition – that I successfully adapted to this brave new world.

And I’d like to help you do the same. I’d like to help the entrepreneurs of today and the business leaders of tomorrow make the transition to a world that never stops changing. Here are four critical capabilities I think you’re going to need to distinguish yourself – to become the leaders, the innovators, the success stories of a new age:

Truly connect with real people in the real world
Any successful executive or business leader will tell you that among their most critical assets are their ability to communicate and network. Not only that, but success in business is all about relationships. Every business transaction has a human being on both ends.

These days, people think they’re connecting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, when in reality, they’re just blasting gigabytes of superficial sound bites and links at each other. It’s the Internet equivalent of talking at someone. Actually, it’s not even one-to-one, it’s generally one-to-many, and, by many, I mean thousands.

The truth is that social networking isn’t even fractionally effective when compared with a simple real-time discussion or face-to-face meeting. One real relationship with a real person in the real world is worth a thousand virtual connections.

Related: 9 Steps to Becoming a Great Writer

Shut out the noise
You don’t need me to tell you that we live in a world of unprecedented information and communication overload. We’re expected to be on 24/7. The urge to text, tweet and email is constant, addictive, and nearly irresistible.

And yet, you have to find a way to resist all that. You have to figure out how to manage distraction without completely shutting yourself off. You have to learn to shut out the noise without missing out on what matters, what’s relevant, and what’s critical.
It’s never been more challenging to prioritize and focus, to be effective and productive, to get things done, than it is today. And it’s only going to get harder.

Recognize the bullsh*t
Everyone’s aware that “I saw it on the Internet so it must be true” is a fallacy. And yet, quoting, posting, forwarding and retweeting information from unreliable sources has become the norm. It’s pervasive.

When you question assumptions and claims, challenge conventional wisdom, and avoid collectivism and groupthink, that’s called critical thinking. It dates back thousands of years to the teachings of Socrates and Buddha.

Critical thinking is fundamental to smart decision-making. It’s in short supply … and getting shorter all the time.

Be the genuine you
All the personal branding hype has turned people into Internet avatars: social-media sound bites that are nothing more than two-dimensional fabrications of how they want others to see them. The problem is you’ll never get anywhere by trying to be something you’re not.

It’s never been more challenging or more important to be the genuine you, to possess the humility and self-awareness to realize that you’re not who you hold yourself out to be, you don’t have all the answers, and calling yourself an entrepreneur or a CEO doesn’t make you one.

In a world of indistinguishable lemmings, where everyone imagines they’re unique while behaving exactly like everyone else, the true innovators will be those who possess the courage to know who they really are and become the best version of themselves that they can be.

No matter how much the world changes, your personal journey is the one that will matter most. Keep it real.

Link to read the original article

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5 Surprising Ways Writing Makes Your Life Better

Want to have a clearer head, a more engaged workday, and get wiser faster?  Then you might want to write this down…

BY 

What are we “putting down” when we “put it down on paper”: a current of thought, a torrent of emotions, the first incisions of a decision? Flannery O’Connor said that she writes in order to discover what she knows. And as research into writing shows, the act of tracing your thoughts across a page can make you more productive, more emotionally aware, and a less irrational decision maker.

Here’s why.

1. WRITING CLEARS THE CLUTTER FROM YOUR MIND

Getting Things Done author and TED speaker David Allen emphasizes that your mind is for processing, not for storage. Storage of information, after all, can be outsourced in any number of ways, including writing down your to-do list on a pad of paper. The insight underlying this is that attention is a finite resource, one that gets depletedover the course of a day. So if you’re walking around thinking about what you need to do next–rather than thinking about how you’re getting to get it done–you’re misspending your neurotransmitters.

2. WRITING LETS YOU MAKE A BANK OF KNOWLEDGE

Productive people take better notes: if somebody is dropping knowledge on you, writing down what they say allows you to commit your attention to next insight–rather than trying to remember the last one. Like the Chinese proverb says, you can trust the faintest of ink more than the strongest of memories.

As you take more and more notes on awesome things said and read, you can amass an awesome bank of knowledge. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.

3. WRITING HELPS YOU SEE YOUR OWN GROWTH

Journaling in particular helps you see how you have grown. Harvard Business School research director Teresa Amabile has discovered that people feel more engaged, more productive, and have a greater sense of meaning in their work when they record even the most miniscule of accomplishments within their days. She calls this the Progress Principle: the more you’re aware of your progress, the more involved you’ll feel in making it continue to grow–another reason to make a ritual of writing about what’s happened.

4. WRITING HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR LIFE

University of Texas psychologist James W. Pennebaker has found that writing about their lives helps people to organize their thoughts and find meaning in their traumatic experiences–from people diagnosed with HIV to Vietnam veterans. This is crucial, since the more meaning you find in your difficulties, research shows, the more resilient you’ll be in over-coming them, which reminds us of how the happiest people often have the hardest jobs.

5. WRITING HELPS YOU BECOME MORE WISE

The last reason to write about life: it helps you study your emotions, which makes you wiser, faster.

“What we construct as wisdom over time is actually the result of cultivating that knowledge of how our emotions behaved,” says USC neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, “and what we learn from them.”

This reinforces Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s recommended first step for making better decisions: buy a notebook.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: bloody marty mix via photopin cc

7 Ways to Find out What You Really Want in Life

…If you don’t know what you really want in life, you’re not alone. Thousands, if not millions, of people wander the earth every day without a quest. If you don’t want to spend your life wandering aimlessly, you can use the following 7 tips to find out exactly what you want in life.

Be selfish

You can’t pinpoint exactly what you want in life if you’re constantly sacrificing your time and dreams for other people. You have to put yourself first. Ask yourself: If you weren’t tied down by your job, family, friends, or anything else, then what would you be doing right now? Always remember that it’s okay to put yourself first, because if you don’t, then no one else will.

Regret nothing

Don’t feel bad for being selfish. It’s your life. It’s time for you to live it exactly the way you want to. If you constantly regret things you did or didn’t do in the past, then you won’t be able to move forward. Don’t live in the past. Live in the present…and the future!

Figure out what you need

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what you need. Sit down and think about what you need the most. Is it your family? The freedom to express yourself? Love? Financial security? Something else? If it helps, you can make a list of priorities. Also think about the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.

Determine what really bothers you

You can soar only by pushing back against something you don’t want. Figure out what upsets you, and be specific about it. Don’t just say that you hate your office job. Pinpoint exactly why you hate it. Could it be your micromanaging boss? Your workload? Your meaningless job title? Or all of the above? What bothers you, and how can you fix it? How much do you want to fix it?

photo credit: marsmet548 via photopin cc

photo credit: marsmet548 via photopin cc

Determine what makes you truly happy

There’s no waste to life if you’re happy living it. Your happiness is the root of your desires. So take a few moments and really think about what makes you happy. Is it traveling? Being around children? Owning a successful business? Your significant other? Financial freedom? Once you pinpoint the one thing that makes you happy the most, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of what you should strive for in your life.

Let people around you know what you’re trying to achieve

Don’t keep your goals and desires to yourself. Voice it all out! If you tell people what you’re trying to accomplish, they will most likely support you and give you new ideas. Sometimes mother does know best!

Stay positive.

Life doesn’t always go how you want it. Don’t feel dismay as your plans stray. Take control. Instead of freaking out, try your best to roll with the changes. You will get there someday. You’re just taking a little detour. Sometimes a positive attitude is all you need to keep going.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Nearsoft via photopin cc

photo credit: Nearsoft via photopin cc

Creating A Great Place To Work

by KEVIN EIKENBERRY

It’s become almost an industry itself – judging organizational culture and creating lists of great places to work. The most recent I’ve read is fromGlassdoor, as reported in FAST Company Online this morning. The findings and lists are worth reading, but perhaps not surprisingly, I want to talk about how we as leaders can impact these ratings.

So let’s do exactly that.

Quoting from the article, here are the top six themes, Glassdoor found from the top rated companies:

  • Mission: a sense of purpose in coming into work
  • Collegiality: working with awesome people
  • Challenging work: being stimulated by the work to be done
  • Meaningful advancement: the promise of growth
  • Confidence in senior leaders: a sense of trust–and transparency–with management
  • Perks: good pay, free food, a beer cart or two.

Read this list with your leadership hat on and you will see that if you are a senior leader, you have impact on all six. More importantly though is the message if you are leaders from somewhere else. Whether you lead from the shop floor, the phone room, or any middle to upper middle level, you can directly impact the first four, and influence the fifth one, from your perspective as a manager, too.

Read this list as an employee, and my guess is that is your list, too – attributes describing where you want to work.

So your job as a leader, if you want to create a great place to work (and why wouldn’t you?), is to focus on:

  • Giving people (and helping them see) the purpose in working in your organization. Help people see the biggest and most powerful picture for their work.
  • Selecting and cultivating a great team of people that others want to work with.
  • Creating challenging and stimulating work for all team members
  • Leading for growth, so there will be opportunities for people to grow their roles and contributions moving forward.
  • Being trustworthy and offering greater trust to your team members.

I know that this list isn’t simple, yet all of these are things that you can do regardless of your organizational level. To not focus on these is to deny your ability to make the difference you were hired to make.

My message?

As a leader, stop wishing you could have a better workplace. Start creating it today. The steps are clear and in front of you, and they are yours for the taking.

Greater results, higher productivity, less turnover, more job satisfaction, and more fun await.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: daveypea via photopin cc

How Positive Psychology Can Help Your Organisation

Leslie Sachs writes…

Positive psychology is providing a new focus on effective ways to ensure that teams exhibit the right behaviors in a group or organizational setting. Closely related to many agile and lean concepts, these emerging practices are helping teams to improve communication, collaborate, and emerge as highly effective groups. Leslie Sachs explains what positive psychology is all about and how to start using these practices in your organisation…

If you want an effective and healthy organization, then it seems obvious that it is essential to focus on promoting healthy organizational behavior. Psychologists Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have pioneered a new focus on a positive view of psychology, and this article will help you to understand and begin to apply these exciting and very effective techniques…

Seligman delineates twenty-four strengths, ranging from curiosity and interest in the world to zest, passion, and enthusiasm, which he suggests are the fundamental traits of a positive and effective individual. Notably, playfulness and humor, along with valor, bravery, and a sense of justice, are also listed among these traits that Seligman describes. So, how do we apply this knowledge to the workplace and how can we use this information to be more effective managers? The fact is that we all know people whom we admire and we have all had more than a few employers who seemed less than completely effective.

Effective leaders do indeed exhibit valor, bravery, and a sense of justice in identifying barriers to organizational success. The best leaders are not afraid to deliver a tough message and also use their positional power to help teams achieve success. Leaders are often particularly motivated by curiosity, interested in the world, and most certainly exhibit enthusiasm and passion for their work.

Other traits observed in strong leaders include kindness and generosity, along with integrity and honesty. Successful leaders also exhibit perseverance and diligence as well as a love of learning. It hardly comes as a surprise that so many of these strengths are specified as beneficial traits. In fact, many of these aspects have been discussed earlier by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers in their work on humanistic psychology, a discipline that focuses on helping people achieve success and realize their full potential.

Positive psychology is providing a useful framework for understanding the traits that lead to success, both at an organizational level and also for each of us individually. Much of what positive psychology advocates aligns well with agile methodologies and the agile mindset in which many organizations are finding to be so effective, especially in creating an environment where each stakeholder feels empowered to do the right thing and speak up when there are problems or barriers to success.

Quality management guru W. Edwards Deming noted long ago the importance of healthy behaviors, such as driving out fear, in order to ensure that your employees are willing to speak up and warn of potential issues [4]. Clearly, positive behaviors lead to highly effective teams and successful organizations.

Positive psychology cannot solve every problem and there is no doubt that many organizations have cultures and environments that just do not foster success. However, if you are a technical leader (or wish to emerge as a technical leader), then understanding the significance and impact potential of encouraging positive traits is essential for your success….

Link to read the original article

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adapted image from photo credit: qthomasbower via photopin cc

Get Your Free VIA Me! Character Strengths Profile

Here is a link to a great online site where you can find out the ranked order of your own 24 character strengths, mentioned in the above article.  Your top 5 strengths are recognised as your Signature Strengths and here is Martin Seligman’s activity that helps us to hugely increase our level of engagement and happiness at work, and thus our success and productivity, using the power of our Signature Strengths:

Playing To Your Strengths

A.) Identify your top 5 Signature Strengths

B.) Over the next week create a designated time in your schedule when you will exercise one or more of your signature strengths in a new way at work.  Decide what you will do for this.

C.) Write about your experience…

How did it feel before, during and after engaging in the activity?

  • Was the activity challenging? easy?
  • Did time pass quickly?
  • Did you lose your sense of self-consciousness?

What plans can you make to help you repeat, develop or build on this experience?

Link to get your Via Me! Character Strengths Profile

photo credit: Len Radin via photopin cc

photo credit: Len Radin via photopin cc

How to beat the female leadership stereotypes

Mother or seductress, pet or battle-axe: 30 years after research first identified these roles we’re still living by them

by Judith Baxterprofessor of applied linguistics at Aston University. She researches the relationship between language, gender and leadership in educational, business and professional contexts.

recent Gallup poll states that if given the choice between a male or female boss when taking a new job, Americans strongly lean towards men as their preferred choice. The figures highlight that issues with female authority have not gone away. The stereotype of the “horrible female boss” persists because expectations for women in power are set so high that it’s nearly impossible for any human being to meet them.

 The explanation is usually psychological: both women and men unconsciously view men as leaders and women as followers, so that when a woman is promoted to senior leadership, she disrupts unconscious collective norms.

Yet this unconscious bias must emanate from somewhere, and I suggest that this “somewhere” is rooted in the language we use to represent women and men.

 We have been raised in a culture that has historically constructed successful leaders as male. The “great man” theory of leadership prevails in the western world heralding male leaders as heroic, charismatic, commanding, competitive, creative, cut-throat, masterful, and sometimes just plain quirky. Think Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, even Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg.

 There is simply no room for women to fit into masculine archetypes of leadership. Female leaders are seen as the exception and often as socially and professionally deviant. Consequently, women get pigeonholed and labelled by narrow and limiting language. They become caricatures.

 In 1983, American businesswoman Rosabeth Moss Kanter famously identified four “role traps” for women in the public domain: the pet, the mother, the battle-axe and the seductress. Today, if you look at the way women are represented in the media, these role traps heavily influence the way we see female leaders.

 A woman falling into the pet role-trap is viewed as cute, sweet or girly. We all like her, she may be a favourite of the boss, but ultimately she is not seen as serious. Think Tory MP Louise Mensch, famously the pet of David Cameron before she fell from grace. A pet will rarely make it to the top of her chosen field.

 The mother or schoolmistress is perhaps the most traditional leader role-trap. She is routinely described as school marmy, bossy, frumpy or mumsy. Think Fern Britton before her makeover on Strictly Come Dancing. The mother may command authority and respect but her manner is characterised as too arch, parental or humourless for serious leadership positions.

 The seductress is disliked by both men and women, and gets described as a bitch, witch, cow, vamp or man-eater. Think MP Nadine Dorries or presenter Carol Vorderman. She eats men for breakfast and no boyfriend or husband is deemed safe. If she flirts with senior men, her behaviour is condemned as inappropriate, unprofessional, distracting and misjudged.

 Finally, the most opprobrium is reserved for a woman who falls into the battle-axe role-trap. She has historical form in the tradition of Lady Macbeth or more recently, Margaret Thatcher. She is caricatured as scary, tough, mean, bossy, or just like a man. While she patently can make it to the top, she is then viewed as “a horrible female boss”, although her reputation may be redeemed over time.

 Can female leaders escape from these role-traps? Research I conducted in 14 multinational businesses compared seven women and seven male board directors chairing meetings with their senior teams. One notable finding from the research was that colleagues represented women leaders in stereotyped ways using words such as “scary”, “tentative”, “flirty” or “bossy”. However, in my own observations, I saw senior women refusing to be entrapped by such monolithic stereotypes but rather, turning them to their advantage to be effective in the workplace.

 I saw women leaders move skilfully between the four roles, using them as resources to draw on to achieve different business and political goals. Recent media representations of Angela Merkel, known by the Germans as “the Mother”, depict her moving flexibly between the iron-fisted chancellor and the charming token female bantering with male heads of state.

 But it is a dangerous game. Ultimately the fact that such role-traps continue to thrive in our collective unconscious, and are daily reconstructed in media representations, is a barrier for women. Now we have to ensure that such media representations are challenged, and to create multifaceted leadership archetypes for both women and men.

Link to read the original article

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The History of the To-Do List (And How To Make It More Effective)

BELLE BETH COOPERY writes…

…As I researched this post, I realised how hard it is to pinpoint the origin of something as simple and widespread as the list (to-do or otherwise), but I did find out some interesting stories about how lists have been used in the past and why we find them useful in everyday life.

Why Do We Make Lists in the First Place?

Philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco is a big fan of lists and has some fascinating ideas about why they’re so important to humans:

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists…

Umberto explained in an interview that lists are often seen as relics of primitive cultures — simplistic devices that don’t belong in our modern day and age. However, the simple form of the list prevails again and again over time, because, as Umberto says, it has “an irresistible magic.”

When we struggle to express ourselves, we use lists. Like Umberto says, lists help us to make sense of the world around us. We create lists of the sights we see on vacation, the places we want to visit, the food we need to buy at the grocery store, and the tasks we need to get done. It’s a simple habit of increasing our day to day productivity. We pack all the madness and ambiguity of life into a structured form of writing. In short making lists is a great way to increase our overall happiness and feel less overwhelmed.

Not only that, but we also form and challenge definitions of the things around us by making lists of their characteristics. For instance, if we were to describe an animal to a child, we would do so by listing characteristics like colour, size, diet and habitat. Regardless of whether this matches the scientific definition of the animal or not, that’s how we make sense of it.

Benjamin Franklin, the Godfather of the To-Do List?

Benjamin Franklin is a great example of someone known for using lists to encourage his own self-improvement. He famously detailed a thirteen-week plan to practice important virtues such as cleanliness, temperance, etc. Each day he tracked his progress on a chart.

Benjamin also set himself a strict daily routine, which included time for sleeping, meals and working, all set for specific times of the day. Unfortuantely, the demands of his printing business made it difficult for him to always stick to his routine.

Lists for Productivity

These days, we use lists for productivity as much as anything else: shopping lists, reminders, planning for events, and the to-do list are all variations on a productivity-based list that we use to help us get past procrastinating. The to-do list in particular is one that we spend a lot of time and energy on perfecting. Somehow, we don’t seem to struggle when it comes to making a shopping list and buying everything on it, but getting the tasks on our to-do list done is a whole other ball game.

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4 Tips for a To-Do List That Will Actually Help You Get Things Done

Looking at the history of lists and how they’re used, we can glean some insights about how to create a to-do list we can actually complete.

Break Projects into Tasks and Don’t Succumb to the Zeigarnik Effect

We kind of have a reminder system built-in to our minds that nags us about unfinished tasks called the Zeigarnik effect. It sounds pretty cool that we already have this, but it’s actually not that reliable or healthy for us.

What really happens is that there’s a disconnect between our conscious and unconscious minds — the unconscious mind can’t plan how to finish the task, but it gets annoyed with the feeling of it being unfinished. To shake off that feeling, it nags the conscious mind with reminders about the task — not to finish it, but simply to encourage us to make a plan.

If you’ve heard of David Allen’s GTD method, you’ll be familiar with his concept of “next steps,” which is pretty much the same thing. It’s the process of breaking down a project or task into smaller tasks, and planning which one will be the next step towards completing the whole thing. This abates the nagging of the unconscious brain, as it’s satisfied that at some point we’ll get onto that task, and we know exactly how we’ll do it. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings says the essentials of creating these do-able next steps are to make “a few very specific, aactionalbe, non-conflicting items.”

Prioritise Ruthlessly

Maria’s post on the history of the to-do list also describes the story of a psychologist who gave a talk at the Pentagon about managing time and resources. Before the talk began, the psychologist asked everyone in the group to write a summary of their strategic approach in 25 words. Apparently, 25 words was too little for the men to express their strategies, and the only response came from the single woman in the group, whose summary read as follows:

“First I make a list of priorities: one, two, three, and so on. Then I cross out everything from three down.”

…To-do lists invariably crop up when we have so many things to do that we can’t keep track of them all in our heads (Aha! We’re back to Umberto’s thoughts on how lists help us to create order from the chaos of our lives!). Which means that we end up with lists far too long for us to complete. Prioritizing ruthlessly seems to be the only way to actually get done what’s most important in the little time that we have.

Plan Ahead

Here’s another story of how to-do lists evolved in the workplace:

Almost 100 years ago, the President of the Bethlehem Steel company in the USA was Charles M Schwab. His company was struggling with inefficiency and Schwab didn’t know how to improve it, so he called in Ivy Lee, a well-known efficiency expert at the time. Lee agreed to help the company, with his fee being whatever Schwab felt the results were worth after three months. Lee’s advice to each member of the company’s management team was to write a to-do list at the end of each day, which consisted of the six most important tasks to be done the following day. Then they were told to organise the list based on the highest priority tasks.

The next day, the employes worked through the list from top to bottom, focusing on a single task at a time. At the end of the day, anything left on the list would get added to the top of tomorrow’s list when the employees once again planned for the following day. As the story goes, the company was so much more efficient after three months that Schwab sent a check to Lee for $US25,000.

In your own planning, you can take Lee’s advice for free and use the night before to plan your workday. Setting out the most important tasks you want to complete the following day will help you to avoid time-wasters and distractions by knowing what to work on immediately.

Be Realistic

…If we’re struggling to complete our to-do lists on a regular basis (we’ve all been there at some point!), we need to make a change to the list — make it more realistic. Although a to-do list can be infinite, our time is not. We need to match the tasks we require of ourselves to how much time and energy we can afford to spend on them. This is where prioritizing can really come in handy, as well.

Starting to develop your own, personal daily routine is one of the most powerful ways to become a great list maker. You might find some inspiration from these 7 famous entrepreneurs and their routines.

Find a Way That Works for You

As with pretty much any kind of lifehacking or productivity topic, individual mileage will vary. We all need to take into account our unique situation when experimenting with advice like this. For me, prioritizing and planning the night before has really helped. For you, being realistic might be more useful…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: jakuza via photopin cc

photo credit: jakuza via photopin cc

The 5 Best and Worst Things About Working from Home

For those trapped in a cubicle or an open plan office, working from home may sound like pyjama-clad heaven.  But there are two sides to every coin.  Here the trials and triumphs of the home office…

Is working from home a blessing, or a curse?

That’s what we wanted to find out last week. So we put out a call on Facebook and Twitter asking for your input. Many of you, after all, have experienced both sides of the coin.

The results came streaming in and after just a few days we received over 100 detailed–and passionate–responses.

Below, we’ve singled out some of the most common positives, and negatives that you have found. We’ve also listed respondents’ Twitter handles so you can continue the conversation!

The Good:

1. FREEDOM

My rules. My way. My pace. My goals.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to me that I’m working for something I personally care about in a creative manner. When I create I get messy and my bosses usually were too psycho-rigid… @Alan_RY

Freedom to use your time as you see best fit, and working only as much as you need to. @nagra__

2. THE AMENITIES

Sitting on my patio on a warm summer’s day with Wimbledon on my iPad in the background whilst I worked! @thewheelexists

3. BEING CLOSE TO LOVED ONES

My grandparents and I live in the same apartment building. Being at home working gives me the chance to just drop by to share a meal together or even sometimes cook for them. I would not trade those precious moments for a job that pays me enough to buy a Porsche. @Alan_RY

No question–being near my family. For eight years I worked more than an hour away from home, so there were many early mornings and late nights. Working from home, I am able to help around the house and experience life with my family–like watching my daughter take her first steps. @trent_scott

4. WORK HOW YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT

The greatest benefit from working from home is the ability to work on any project at any time. You can start your day early or late and finish when you like. You have the flexibility to plan your day and include your errands and be there for others. @imediaexposure

I’ve worked in offices for about 40 years. I was recently hired in a great job working from home. It took me a while to not to worry about ‘looking busy’ during slow periods. No one is watching and judging! What freedom that is!@lmpratscher

5. NO COMMUTE

No commute during Chicago winters, no office politics except when one of my dogs decides he no longer likes the other, being able to take a guilt-free break whenever I want and having complete control over my environment–noise, temp, decor/aesthetics, etc. @ResuMAYDAY

I save a lot of money on the days I work from home. Not having to spend money on buying lunch or a subway ticket or gas is a HUGE benefit.@jaiathomaslaw

My morning commute now consists of walking from the bedroom to the office, which has saved me gas money, and there’s no line for my morning cup of coffee. @salesbuddy

The Bad:

1. THE STIGMA

Dealing with managers (and CEOs) who are set in the antiquated way of thinking that if they can’t see you, you can’t possibly be doing work.@jaynawallace

2. NO BOUNDARIES

When I have relatives over while I’m working, it’s hard for me to say: Sorry, I’m busy now… but they just take my presence and open door as an invitation to just talk to me openly without my consent. I’m an introvert, I hate when my thoughts are interrupted! @Alan_RY

Sitting down at your computer as soon as you roll out of bed only to realize upon opening the door to the courier at 4 p.m. that you are still in your bathrobe and have not eaten lunch. And possibly not brushed your teeth. Not sure if that’s the best or the worst thing about working from home: high on productivity but low on the social health scale.@aromacentric

Friends and family think that when you’re working from home, you’re available to help with other things. While this has gotten better over time for many people, I still get occasional lists of things that I don’t have time for through the day.

3. ISOLATION

Loneliness and inability to work face-to-face with others to talk creatively, bounce ideas, etc. Distractions are plentiful, so it’s always a challenge to avoid them. @LouMongello

There are moments of loneliness. That deck I’m working on, the copy I just wrote; while I can email it to a friend or co-worker there’s no one in person to sit and review/collaborate/iterate with me on it. I can’t exactly have my dog review it. The companionship that you get by going into an office and developing live relationships is something that I miss. @icyfrance

4. THE DISTRACTION

The worst is definitely having friends and neighbors think that because I’m home, we can “hang out”, get coffee, go run errands, or the flatmate who thinks that because I’m home, it’s not an issue to expect, rather than ask, me to walk her dog twice a day, because I’m home anyway, when I actually have work to do or calls to make.
@michelejmartin

Sticking to a schedule is the hardest because there a tons of distractions while at the same time not being “watched over” gives my lazy side more temptation. Inconsiderate friends and relatives and who assume you don’t really work and call you out to help them move or pick them up from the airport. @Kapilbulsara

Very little intellectual mind stimulating discussion with like minded work colleagues–really miss that! @Kapilbulsara

5. STAGNATION

Sitting too much, which is very bad for my health. I know I need to get up and walk (run, dance) around more, but I get into what I’m doing on the computer and forget. @escapeartist02

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Stephen Poff via photopin cc

photo credit: Stephen Poff via photopin cc

How To Boost Your Self-Confidence After Failure

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s nothing like good old-fashioned failure to send your self-confidence into a nose dive.

I’m not talking about the little flubs and foibles of life.

I’m talking big, fat, fall-on-your-face failure.

Failure like . . .

getting fired from your job;

loosing a major account;

flunking the final exam;

forgetting your big speech;

your business going belly-up;

your marriage ending;

not following through on a major goal;

making poor life choices that hurt yourself or others.

If you’ve experienced a major life failure, as most of us have, the memory of the experience likely still stings. And perhaps your self-confidence has never fully recovered from the blow.

When you fail to live up to expectations, your own or others, it’s like stepping into an open manhole and landing in the pit of despair. At first you simply want to huddle at the bottom and pray someone will cover the manhole and leave you with your misery.

But eventually you must face the light of day and find a way to resume your life and regain your dignity. After a big life failure, it’s natural to feel shell-shocked and insecure. Your weakness, inability to perform, or bad decisions have been spotlighted for the entire world to see. It seems nothing will boost your self-confidence ever again.

For some people, the wounds of these fiascoes are so profound they never recover their confidence. Their self-esteem is compromised, and they sink into malaise or depression which further undermines their feelings of worthiness and competency.  This becomes a vicious cycle driving them further and further away from success and happiness.

Fortunately, most people eventually recover from life failures and can move past them. But the scars are ever-present and flair up again when one is faced with the prospect of taking risk or attempting any endeavor similar to the previous failure. They live a compromised life, never fully reaching their potential or experiencing the richness of life for fear of failing again.

However, low self-confidence isn’t a life sentence, even after a colossal bungle. It is possible to boost your self-confidence and recover more quickly from failure when you are determined to do so — if you know how.

Here are some thoughts on building confidence and self-esteem after the initial shock of failure passes.

Pick over the ashes

Once you are back on your feet, revisit the failure to find nuggets of information and areas of personal growth. What did you learn from this failure to help you become a stronger and better person in the future? What would you do differently? How do you need to make amends, right a wrong, or correct a mistake?

It’s not pleasant to look at the evidence of your failure, but this analysis and reflection show emotional maturity and resolve. Facing your failure forthrightly and learning from it will boost self-confidence immediately.

Put it in context

A big failure does not define your entire life. It may feel that way at first, but try to perceive it within the context of everything else in your life. You’ve had plenty of successes. You’ve accomplished many things and done well in many areas of your life.

The pain of failure taints your perceptions and paints your life with the broad brushstroke of negativity. But consciously regain control of your perceptions, and remind yourself of these positive things. Remind yourself that failure doesn’t define your essential character, your intelligence, or your future.

You likely will need to practice this positive thinking repeatedly until you begin to believe it and feel confident again. But eventually your feelings will catch up to your thoughts.

Build your skills

One of the best cures for low confidence is gaining mastery or proficiency in areas where you failed. If your failure was caused by lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, or lack of skill — then figure out what you need to do to gain the preparation, knowledge or skill — and go do it.

With practice and time, you will feel more confident in your abilities. As you study other people who are successful at the endeavor you are polishing, you’ll set a standard for yourself which will make you feel more secure about the likelihood of success the next time.

Cut your losses

Sometimes failure is a painful clue we’re doing the wrong thing, with the wrong person, or working against our authentic selves. This is a great time to examine whether or not you need to move in a different direction entirely.

Ask yourself the deeper questions that will lead you to the best decisions and choices.

Is this the career I really want?

Are these the people who feel like my “tribe?”

Am I really suited for a management position?

Is my former spouse (or business partner) really the right type of person for me?

Taking the time to know yourself, your inner desires, your aptitudes and preferences, will help you avoid future failures. In general, it is best to play to your strengths, live according to your own values, and follow your inner wisdom — rather trying to be something or someone you’re not.

Face your fears

Once your self-confidence has a small foothold, begin taking small and manageable steps to stretch yourself, to try again. Act in spite of your fear of failure, which will not truly dissipate until you challenge it.

Use what you learned from your failure to help you recalibrate, and then get back in the saddle again and take a few steps forward. Push yourself slightly past your comfort zone every time you try. This is a great time to have an accountability partner or coach who can help you continue to move forward by challenging and supporting you.

Lean into your fear and accept it as a natural response to the aftermath of failure. But don’t allow it to control you. If you allow fear to have the upper hand, your self-confidence will remain harnessed to it. View your fear as a small child that needs comfort, but one that also needs a firm hand and mature direction. Let your higher self, the self who knows you to be strong and capable, be in charge.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

Manage Your Email, Manage Your Life—3 Ways to Get Started

by , a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in performance, productivity, and self-leadership

What is one of the biggest time wasters leaders deal with on a regular basis? For many, it is the daily barrage of email. How much email do you send and receive each day? How much time is spent reading, writing, or responding to email? Here’s some practical advice for managing your email instead of letting it manage you.

This advice falls into three basic categories: Reduce the amount of email you send and receive, Send clear, concise messages, and Keep your inbox clean

Reduce the Amount

Sure, it sounds easy enough, but how do you do it? Believe it or not, the easiest way to reduce the amount of email you receive is to send less. The less email you send, the less you receive. Here are some ways to accomplish this goal:

  • Pick up the phone. When you expect a conversation, don’t use email. Pick up the phone or get up and go talk to the person.
  • Use cc: and Reply All sparingly. Only copy or reply to people who really need the information.
  • Use No Reply Needed in the subject line or in your signature. Too many emails are sent just to say thanks or to let the sender know their email was received. If you don’t need someone to reply, let them know in a prominent spot.
  • Create an alternate email address for junk mail. Create an email account to give out to people or companies you don’t need to interact with on a daily basis. Once a month, go to that account and do a quick scan to see if there’s anything you need to read or act on.

Send Clear, Concise Messages

Clear, concise messaging can dramatically cut down on the time we spend on email. Consider the following:

  • Use descriptive subject lines. Help readers know the intent of your email in the subject line.
  • Put required action in first paragraph. For example, you might type Approval needed,Information Only, or Need Help Immediately to let the receiver know what you expect.
  • Only send email that’s okay to forward. If you wouldn’t want the message to be sent to others, use the phone or communicate face to face. It also helps to go with the assumption that your email will be permanently stored.

Keep Your Inbox Clean

Manage your email so your inbox stays empty. A full inbox is a major time waster.  To keep your inbox clean, each time you open an item for the first time, do one of three things with it:

  • Act on it. To act on an email, you can:  handle it immediately; delegate it by forwarding it to another person; schedule it as a task for later; or schedule it as an appointment in your calendar. Once you have acted on it, either file it for later or delete it.
  • File it. If you think you may need the email later, put it into a specific folder for that client, project, or individual. Consider saving attachments and deleting the email. If you are unsure whether you will need it later, create a 30- or 60-day Hold folder for items you might need to go back to. Periodically clean up this folder or simply set it up to automatically delete mail older than 30 to 60 days. If necessary, make a note on your to-do list or calendar to remind you where you filed the email.
  • Delete it. If you don’t need the email after you’ve read or scanned it, simply delete it.

I hope you find one or more of these ideas for managing your email helpful in the New Year. Let me know any other best practices you use to manage your email.

photo credit: Courtenay via photopin cc

photo credit: Courtenay via photopin cc

How To Fight Afternoon Exhaustion Without Coffee

…It can be hard keeping up with your work when you’re feeling tired, and sugary foods and energy drinks just leave you feeling groggier when they wear off.

The best solution is to try some of the many natural, healthy ways to fight midday exhaustion.

Get your Blood Pumping

You’re most likely spending a large part of your day sitting and working at your desk without much variation. This relaxed, steady state can lull your body and mind into relaxation and make it even harder to stay awake.

Whenever you’re feeling especially tired, start by taking a few minutes to get up out of your chair and get your blood pumping by doing some simple, easy workouts. Exercises like jumping jacks, push-ups, or even some light, full-body stretches will help you wake up.

Just getting up and moving a little bit will help to keep you alert throughout the day.

Use Aromatherapy

Smell is one of our most powerful senses, and we can use it for everything from recalling powerful memories to staying awake during a long, tiring day.

Bright, strong scents like eucalyptus and peppermint can be a great pick-me-up in place of that second cup of coffee. Try getting a few essential oils to keep around, but use them only when you’re feeling tired or else you risk getting used to the scent.

The smell of fresh herbs like rosemary can also be useful in staying alert.

Drink Green Tea

If you’ve tried other methods already and still find that you need caffeine to make it through the day, green tea is a great alternative to coffee.

Green tea contains a smaller dose of caffeine when compared to coffee, but it might be the perfect amount to help give you that energy boost without the extra sugar or the jittering that can come along with coffee.

Green tea also has no calories, is a great source of antioxidants and alkaloids, and contains vitamins like A, D, B and B5. It’s also quick and easy to brew.

Healthy Smoothies

Smoothies packed with healthy, high energy ingredients like almond milk and protein powder can give your body the energy it needs to keep going. They also have the benefit of being cold and refreshing, so you’ll feel more alert from the first sip.

You can make your smoothies using whatever fruits you like, or you can even make them using vegetables like spinach or avocados for a super healthy variation.

Snack Right

Snacking is a good way to stay awake, but candy and heavy, starchy foods like potato chips will just make you more tired. Foods high in protein are the fuel your body needs to provide consistent, lasting power throughout a long day.

Try snacking on a mix of lightly salted nuts with raisins or dried apricots to give you a boost while staying healthy.

Listen to Something Engaging

It can be easy to zone out when you’re very focused on one single task. By providing a little background noise, you’ll be giving yourself some much needed variation and helping to keep your brain active.

Listening to podcasts or audiobooks can be a great way to stay awake. The conversational nature of these things requires more concentration, making for a more engaging and energizing experience.

If your work requires more focus from you, though, listening to music is another good option. Listen to any of your favorite songs that get you energized, but instead of cranking the volume up, listen to them quietly so your brain stays active and works to pay attention.

Turn up the Lights and Open the Windows

Dark, dreary offices will immediately put you in the mood to go to sleep instead of doing any work. Open the blinds or turn on all the lights to help stay alert and convince your brain that it’s the middle of the day and not time for sleep yet.

Fresh air can be another great way to perk up your senses, so open a window if you can.

Consider a Short Nap

If you’ve tried everything else and you just can’t shake that feeling of lethargy, consider taking a short nap during your lunch break.

The key to productive napping is to set an alarm and sleep for only 15 to 20 minutes. This time frame gives you the perfect amount of rest so you’ll wake up feeling more alert and revitalized.

If you sleep longer, you’ll not only take more time out of the day, but you’ll have a higher chance of waking up during your deep sleep cycle and end up even groggier.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Nils Geylen via photopin cc

photo credit: Nils Geylen via photopin cc

4 Things To Avoid for a Good Night’s Sleep

By 

Good sleep can mean the difference between crazy and sane the next day… Between crying between meetings at work or lashing out at your husband over laundry and a semi-functional person who can fake it enough to keep her marriage and her job intact.

It’s one of the members of my holy trinity of good mental health (along with a good diet and regular exercise).

Over the ages, sleep and depression have proved to have a dysfunctional, angry relationship…

But getting your zzzzs is a tad like a chess game: do I get up, don’t I? Do I check my email? No? Do I count sheep? Will those vicious animals keep me up? I had been engaged in a list of bad behaviors until I read “Quiet Your Mind & Get to Sleep” and set myself straight.

Don’t Do These 4 Things to Try & Sleep

Here are just four things you should avoid to hit the sheets and stay there:

1. Stay in bed when you can’t sleep.

Despite sometimes-conflicting advice, it is important to leave the bed when you find yourself awake. Leave the bed within 15 to 20 minutes of waking up or when you realize you won’t be able to fall back asleep.

If you are upset about anything, leave the room. That action sends the message to your brain that there is a separation between the place of rest, which is your bed, and feelings of being awake. Although it seems counterintuitive, it is recommended that you stay out of your room until you feel like you can sleep.

By continuing this behavior night after night, you are strengthening the connection between sleeping and your bed.

2. Watch the clock.

For some people, watching the clock feels like counting sheep, or, in my case, praying the rosary; however, this activity can be very arousing, making it that much more difficult to nod off again. We are programmed to live by the clock, allowing it to direct our actions throughout the day.

However, when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, it is better to base your decision strictly on how you feel.

3. Doing arousing activities in bed.

Falling asleep with the laptop in hand not only will keep you awake, but will give you bad work nightmares. So will bringing a carton of ice cream to bed. You’ll dream about a big cow coming after you.

Other activities to be avoided: listening to music, texting or talking on the phone, smoking cigarettes, watching television, planning your day, working, and paying bills. The bed should be for sleeping and sex. That’s it. Again, by establishing the connection between your bed and sleeping, you are conditioning your body and mind to sleep.

4. Try to sleep.

If you breathe and eat, there has most likely been a time in your life when you have tried your best to nod off. The primary difference between good sleepers and bad sleepers is that the latter group tries to sleep, while the former group doesn’t have to. There are a few ways you can condition your minds not to try so hard:

  • Go to bed at a normal bedtime, no earlier.
  • Do not linger in bed after the alarm goes off.
  • Do not nap.
  • Do not stay in bed when you can’t sleep.
  • Challenge catastrophic thoughts about sleep with true statements such as: “It’s okay to be awake; it’ll pass. I’ve survived it before.” Or “I can be at peace while awake during the night.”

It’s best to keep in mind a famous study from the 1980s, where a group of subjects were told to think about anything but a white bear. The results: they all thought about a white bear.

Link to read the original article

5 Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Position

Jobsearch advice by WILL THOMSON

As a recruiter, I encounter candidates in different stages of their job search. I talk to people who haven’t looked for a job in years, and I also who talk to people who change jobs regularly. It could be personal preference/choice, or it could or it could be necessity. If you work for the State, you may never change jobs. If you are a recruiter, you may change jobs every 18 months because you have to go where the hiring is hot. If you are a Java Developer, you need to keep your skills sharp in a rapidly changing technology world. You may need to change jobs to learn new things just to keep up, and keep your skillset relevant.

The other day, a candidate fell into the bucket where she did not change jobs very often and felt very uncomfortable with the whole negotiation process. Before you say “Yes” to an offer, you need to talk about the basics such as 401k, Benefits, Time off, etc. Here are 5 things that you may have not thought of that are important questions to ask before you accept an offer.

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE ACCEPTING A POSITION

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF ME AS AN EMPLOYEE?

This sounds so basic! What happens often is that an employer will expect much more than you can give. You have made it through the process and they want you. Great. Do you want them? So- you CAN do the job. So what?! Do you have the time to do what is expected of you on a day- to- day basis. If the manager wants you to work until the job is done and you have a family that needs to be fed at 6 PM, is this going to work? No!

WHAT IS YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE?

Double & triple check this one. This should have been covered, but make sure that how they manage is how you want to be managed. Some people may need constant guidance. Some people may need to be left completely alone. Some people are very detail oriented, others may not be. Who are you? Can you work with this person? Different styles CAN complement each other and bring out the best in both, or it can be a disastrous situation.

WHAT DO YOU FORESEE THIS DEPARTMENT LOOKING LIKE IN A YEAR?

So, they are going to ask you what you want to do in 5 years. Why don’t you flip the question right back on them? If you are going to be in sales, what exciting things are coming to the company that could help you in your sales efforts? This is two sided! Find out as much about what the future holds as what today holds.

TELL ME ABOUT PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN PROMOTED?

If you are joining a company and you want to make more money in the future, how realistic is that at this company? Are you getting hired for $50k and will you make $50K the entire time you work here? Is that okay with you? It may be, but it may not align with your goals. You may get frustrated because there is no upward mobility. Do people move up within the company or is it a place where there is constant turmoil. What is the longest tenured employee that works here and in your department?

WHY ME?

Seriously. There is a reason they want to hire you. If you are going to succeed at this company, you need to know what you need to bring to the table. If you are a social media expert, be prepared to really help the company in that area.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: comedy_nose via photopin cc

An Introvert’s Guide To Better Presentations

Improving Your Public Speaking Despite Hating Crowds

Matt Haughey writes

I am an introvert and I have always feared public speaking, and despite having given an industry conference presentation every year for the last fourteen years, it’s only gotten marginally easier for me. As I’ve gotten older and learned more about myself, I’ve noticed a few things that have helped me greatly and I wanted to share some of those here.

Equip yourself with some knowledge

There are good biological reasons why no one likes public speaking. Knowing this changed the game for me personally and maybe it will for you too.

Think about this: is having 30 or 300 or 3,000 pairs of eyes staring at you from the darkness while you stand alone on stage good for you? Deep down, you know it’s bad right? Did you ever stop to think why that is? I have heard this hypothesis from lots of people but in the normal course of human existence, any more than 5 or 6 pairs of eyes on you means trouble. If there are 300 pairs of eyes looking at you, you are about to be ambushed — you are someone’s dinner. That is why your palms get sweaty thinking about a stage and where butterflies in your stomach come from and once I realized that, I started to became ok with this.

I suggest you embrace this curse of biology. The next step is to realize that those hundreds of pairs of eyes aren’t there to kill you, but to learn from you. They’re not lions and you’re not a zebra separated from the pack, they’re all monkeys and you’re the prettiest monkey and they desperately want you to tellthem where the best bananas are located that will turn them into pretty monkeys as well.

“You’re a pretty monkey, and you know where all the bananas are.” That’s what I tell myself before I go on stage to hundreds or thousands of people. I really do. It makes me laugh and it calms me down.

Stamp out your self-doubt

Introverts shy away from the spotlight in more ways than one. We don’t blow our own horns, we don’t network at events, we’re not handing out business cards, or shaking strangers’ hands. We don’t brag, and if pressed, we’ll likely become self-deprecating to attempt to deflect your attention with humor. But it gets worse: while introverts are self-deprecating on the outside, we’re also self-doubting on the inside. …

Conference organizers asked you to speak (and sometimes even paid you!) because you’re good at something and have knowledge worth sharing. Embrace that, and know that everyone that flew to the conference, paid hundreds-to-thousands for a ticket, woke up early and walked to the auditorium all are pulling for you and want you to succeed and give the best presentation possible. You’re not going to let them (or yourself) down because you’re going to tell a story, practice the shit out of it, and make it look good.

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photo credit: Tatiana12 via photopin cc

Craft a story

This may seem like an obvious point, but when I learned about basic story structure, it changed my presentations forever. If you don’t create a narrative with an introduction, some semblance of a plot, and a resolution, your audience will attempt to do those things in their heads for you, because that’s how humans share knowledge. We love stories and patterns that look like stories and you can look at anything and see storytelling tying it all together…

When it comes to presentations, Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson is your new bible. This book’s premise is trashing typical Powerpoint usage we’ve all had to suffer through in meetings: those giant slides filled with 5-10 bullet points and hundreds of words of text, as the speaker just reads from their slides. And while the book does a fantastic job helping you create better looking slides, the opening chapters begin with describing basic story structure going back to the origin of theater in ancient Greece, and bring it back to a model for organizing your presentations that will change your life…

At first, it feels silly to learn about how a basic 3-act story structure works and the book furnishes you with a presentation template (here’s a Google Docs version I whipped up) that is literally fill-in-the-blank. Despite the structure feeling forced at first, I swear if you follow the advice, you will give much better presentations. Once I read this book and began following the advice within it, everything got easier and audiences started enjoying my talks much more (my feedback honestly improved overnight).

…the gist of it is building your presentations around a basic story structure by outlining your story in three stages, writing an introduction where you set up a thesis and a challenge to it along with an ending that restates the introduction but reinforces your solution to the challenge. The book also offers step-by-step advice on making beautiful slides (full bleed photos with just single words or short phrases on them), and using those beautiful slides as a jumping off point to support the thesis statements you made in your introduction in a very organized way.

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

You can’t over prepare

One of the ways I ensure I’m at my best for any presentation is by thinking back to my very worst ones. The one or two bad experiences I’ve had on stage were due to me procrastinating for weeks as the date approached (while getting increasingly nervous about disappearing time), throwing together something in the last few days, practicing the talk a couple times, then winging it up on stage. I noticed this pattern led to sub-par results about 7 years ago and since then I’ve taken on a more serious approach of spending three months working on every major talk I do. My typical timeline follows this pattern:

  1. Three months out, I start with a title and a basic thesis I am going to build a presentation around. I begin to create a basic outline in Google Docs, adding major points and sub-points for a week or two. After I’ve got a fairly full outline, I transfer it to a Beyond Bullet Points template for a talk, filling in the blanks as much as I can.
  2. Two months out, I start to lay out my presentation into slides. It’s pretty straightforward to go from an outline to slides. This is also the fun part, where I can start picking nice looking photos and illustrations for slides. I use presenter notes in Keynote/Powerpoint and typically write a paragraph or two about each slide below. I begin practicing the talk this month by myself, editing along the way, adding, removing, and rearranging slides to fit my thesis.
  3. One month out, I give my talk to a few friends and my spouse, asking for feedback. I continue editing and refining the talk, working on timing, jokes, and incorporating feedback from those that have seen it.

Three months might sound like a lot of time, but I typically spend about 10 hours a week on the talk during the lead-up, just doing a little work on it here and there through my normal week. By the time I’m a week or a few days away from the presentation, I’ve given the talk 100 times in my head and often a dozen times out loud to myself and peers. I’ve typically added half a dozen slides, modified a dozen to make my points clearer and removed a few. I know it forwards and backwards and refined it through weeks of editing. I take the stage with confidence due to all the preparation leading up to it, exuding expertise instead of undercutting my command of the subject. I don’t think it’s possible to over prepare, but it’s almost guaranteed you’ll sabotage yourself if you under prepare.

Don’t skimp on the visuals

The greatest free stock photography source is probably one you don’t even know exists. It’s the Creative Commons licensed archive at Flickr, where you can search through hundreds of millions of photos. I personally stick with an extremely permissive attribution-only license (cc-by). Here is the URL in large text so no one misses it:

http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/by-2.0/

Go ahead and pop any word you can think of in the search box and you’ll likely find some impressive results (here is one for “Yosemite”). You can also sort results by interestingness, relevance, and time. The attribution license requires that you give the photographer credit and typically presenters will either put a small photo caption in the corner of each slide or include a list of Flickr source URLs on their final slide.

photo credit: BC Gov Photos via photopin cc

photo credit: BC Gov Photos via photopin cc

Fewer words = better

Nice, full-bleed images with just 5-10 words max, with fonts at very large sizes. You rarely want to have more than a short sentence of text on any slide. About the only exception is when I want to share a really important quotation, and I’ll typically have it close by to read from instead of having to read off my slides.

In the last few years, most of my presentation slides don’t even have words on them, they’re just images (sometimes screenshots) that are somewhat related to whatever point I want to make. My presenter view looks like this on stage, with the current slide shown, time elapsed, and my notes.

Timing

… I typically shoot for about 5-10% less than the allotted time, to ensure that I finish early instead of running long, and getting the timing right is a major component to practicing a talk for months leading up to a presentation.

Some final technical bits

Find out as much as you can about the presentation venue and specifics of the A/V setup as early as possible. Travel with a bag of every connector your laptop will need, and format your presentation to the final presentation screen size. Have copies of your presentation on your laptop, in the cloud (I save mine to Dropbox), and on a USB stick just in case. I also create a plain exported PDF backup of my slides in case everything goes wrong and I have to borrow someone’s laptop.

Some Examples

Over the years I’ve uploaded a few presentations to Slideshare and you can view them and see a lot of the tips and approaches I’ve covered. If you’d like to see the actual talks I’ve given, I like how my Webstock 2012 talk about turning 40 and having a long term project turned out:

Link to read the original article

C OK

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

How To Champion Learning In Your Organisation

Written by: global innovation insurgent and author, Jorge Barba

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo

Innovation is increasingly becoming something businesses strive for, yet most cannot define. Innovation is messy and complex. It is not something that can be scripted with a predictable outcome. It involves throwing out the rules and rethinking solutions. It involves being creative and reaching beyond the 5-year calendar and targeted sales goals. It involves creating a culture that invokes passion, creativity, and thinking.

Innovation is often something that is felt rather than taught. It’s something that happens when a group of people come together to solve a problem. And it often starts at the top, and trickles down to every department of an organization—large or small.

So how do leaders go about creating an environment for innovation and innovative thinking? …

Here are five ways to always be learning:

1. Learn by doing. There is no better way to learn than through action. With the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), it’s now very easy to gain new knowledge at minimal cost—all that is needed is time. But, acquiring knowledge without doing is only half the battle. That’s why it’s important to act, learning in the process, while uncovering personal insights. It’s about putting ideas into action.

2. Learn by asking. If you’re not asking questions, you’re not going to find answers. Questions open the mind, and the more questions you ask, the more insights you’ll uncover. The best questions are those that provoke—not with the intent of irritating, but of exploring the boundaries of what is known and unknown. Probe, and then probe some more. The only boundaries that exist are those that go unquestioned.

3. Learn by networking. We all network, however it’s not the size of the network you have that matters, but how diverse it is. To think differently and become more valuable, you need to know and understand multiple topics. You need to develop an idea network, which feeds you insights and ideas, and will keep challenging you and helping you grow.

4. Learn by observing. There is much being said around you, and it has nothing to do with the words people say, but rather how they act. Listening doesn’t just happen with your ears, but with your eyes too. True attention makes use of all of our senses, so make an effort to take a step back and soak it all in—there is a puzzle waiting to be solved.

5. Learn by sharing. Doing is great, but sharing what you’ve learned with others is even greater. When you share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences, your influence expands dramatically, not to mention that you’ll also learn more because others will do the same with you.

Innovation certainly starts from the people at the top—people who need to walk the walk and take responsibility into their own hands to become a champion for change. Curiosity is the engine of creativity and innovation, and if you can be the champion of curiosity, there is nothing that will stand in your way. Get uncomfortable, roll up your sleeves, open your eyes, ask why, then why again, and share what you’ve learned with your network.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

How To Be More Creative (Infographic)

Don’t consider yourself creative?  Nonsense.

James Webb Young likened the production of ideas to the production of cars – there is a definitive process involved.

Here are a few simple steps you can take next time you’re in need of an idea.

Step 1 – Gather the Raw Materials…  Remember, gathering is a lifelong activity…

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”  (Leo Burnett)

Step 2 – Digest…  Sift through the gathered materials and look at them in different lights…

“Creativity is just connecting things.” (Steve Jobs)

Step 3 – Don’t Think…  Let your thoughts unconsciously bubble away…

“Don’t think.  Thinking is the enemy of creativity.” (Ray Bradbury)

Step 4 – Wait For Eureka… Out of nowhere an idea will appear.  It’ll happen when you least expect it, so be ready and keep a notebook handy…

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Step 5 – Bring The Idea To Reality… Submit the idea to criticisms.  Be pragmatic when adapting the idea as a viable creative solution…

“It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.” (Edward de Bono)

Tool and Techniques To Try

  • Oblique Strategies…
  • Lotus Blossom Technique…
  • Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats…

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  (Albert Einstein)

Link to the original article and find the tools and techniques to try

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

5 Simple But Often Forgotten Ways to Keep a Relationship Strong

 sifts through the wisdom gained from first making a relationship work at long-distance, and then living every moment together…

I truly believe that we learned and practiced the universal truths that are essential for every relationship regardless of the distance.

Trust

…If you are in the relationship for the long term, you simply cannot afford to have trust issues. There is no room for doubt. You have to trust with a full heart that your partner loves you.

Quality time

…Quality time is essential. Whether you are in a long-distance relationship or just live a busy life with full-time jobs and outside activities, you may not be able to spend as much time as you’d like with your loved one.

Do something fun together, do something meaningful, have meaningful conversations, pay attention to each other, and express your love like crazy.

Communication

Communication is always crucial, especially when you communicate through Skype. We quickly realized that the way we communicated with each other was key to maintain a loving conversation.

When you communicate with your loved one, remember that love is the key. Speak from the heart.

Have good intentions and be clear. Discuss problems in a peaceful and loving manner.

Practice effective active listening skills; do not interrupt the other person, listen and watch. Be mindful.

Remain calm. Be respectful. Be loving.

Small acts of kindness

Small acts of kindness have always been a big part of our relationship. When we were apart we sent each other postcards, eCards, handwritten letters, and songs over email. When we were in the same country we bought each other flowers and made each other some wonderful meals.

Small acts are vital. Whether it is a small gift, doing the dishes, or giving a hug, it shows your love and support.

Send flowers, send an ecard, or leave a small note on the table. Bake cookies or make breakfast in bed. Give hugs and kisses for no reason other than to show your love.

Express Your Love

Expressing our love for each other was probably the most crucial thing in our relationship. It still is. We always make sure to tell each other how much we love each other, and do it with meaning.

Love is always the foundation. It’s nearly obvious, but sometimes so obvious that couples tend to forget about it, and saying “I love you” becomes monotonous. But love is the basis and the reason of your relationship.

So express your love through actions, words, and non-verbal communication. Don’t make “I love you” a routine, but instead always, and I do mean always, say it from the heart.

Link to the original article

photo credit: *Sally M* via photopin cc

photo credit: *Sally M* via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #76

All of these articles, and many more, are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #76.

We wish you a very happy celebrations and a great yuletide cauldron of pride and shared sense of accomplishment for all that you have achieved and made and made happen in 2013. 

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