Escape the Productivity Pit by Taking Control of Your Email

Print It Plus Email marketing, newsletter and bulk mail concepts

Are you starting to feel trapped in a “productivity pit?”

While your mobile phone is supposed to make you more accessible and productive, it can also complicate your day, leaving you frazzled and weary. While the world is adjusting to new work-from-home scenarios, the increasing emphasis on new technology can often make workdays worse, not better.

While you may not be able to change your current working situation, you can take control of something that dominates the daily landscape: your email. DMA data from 2019 shows that the average number of email addresses owned by consumers is 2.5. Researchers estimate 132 billion business emails are sent daily, and American workers will receive an average of 126 emails every 24 hours!

5 Tips to Beat Back Your Email

Many people are drowning in digital messages, and it is not uncommon to find accounts that contain 50,000 messages. How can you beat back the tidal wave? Here are five tips to get started.

1. Change Your Mindset

Inbox overload is not just a traffic issue; it’s a priority issue.

Did you know that 84% of people keep their inboxes open all day, and 70% of emails are opened within six seconds? Many people claim to check their email and chat apps every six minutes or less. If that doesn’t stress our minds, it will undoubtedly tax our emotions.

To avoid digital overload, start with this truth: email can be a distraction that limits effectiveness.

2. Set Response Time Expectations

Because 63.5% of people say they expect an email response in one hour, reducing your email check-ins could cause unexpected conflict.

To set boundaries around email use, try using your “out of office” reply feature to let people know you will be away from the screen and when (or if!) they should expect a response. This can alleviate tension and also decrease the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that sparks you to check in so often.

3. Use Labels to Prioritize

Sometimes people feel pressured to deal with messages immediately, so they don’t get overwhelmed.

A better option is to use labels and a separate inbox to separate important from non-urgent messages. Scan your account once or twice a day and add the label @processing to any messages that need attention. Then collapse your regular inbox so you can’t see incoming messages.

Focusing on the priority list will heighten efficiency and decrease stress.

4. Draft Template Responses

Since it’s impossible to ignore or file each message, sometimes it is helpful to create a template of canned responses.

This may include apology notes, responses that hand off a request to your team, promises to follow up, or soft redirects to your website or FAQ page.

5. Pair Your Calendar with Your Follow-Up

Because some emails might require more than a simple reply, consider filing mail needing follow up in subfolders dated at the start of each week.

Then add the corresponding task to your calendar and include the folder location and date to remind you when a response is required. Dated weekly folders help clear your inbox and make for quick reference when you need to recover a task or a conversation. Dated folders can also allow you to delete timed out messages as a group, rather than deleting them one by one.

Redeem the Time

Email is many things, but a timesaver it is not.

If you work 260 days per year, AOL Jobs estimates you will spend 73 days doing nothing but staring at your inbox.

There is a better way! Set boundaries around your email so you can live with less stress and more freedom each day.

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3 Ways to Help Your Team Love Mondays

3 Ways to Help Your Team Love Mondays

In 1966, an American band called the “The Mamas, and the Papas” released a song about Monday that captured the mood of millions of people regarding that dreaded first day of the workweek:

“Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day.

Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way…

Every other day, every other day, every other day of the week is fine, yeah . . .

But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes . . . you can find me cryin’ all of the time.”

How to Kick Those Monday Blues

It’s true. Not many of us look forward to the start of the week.

Half of all workers will be late to their jobs on Monday mornings. The abrupt transition from a free weekend to the grind makes many people miserable. But Mondays don’t have to be a drag. While you can’t magically get your team excited to head back to work on Mondays, there are a few things you can do to make Mondays a bit better.

Ax Monday Meetings

How often do you say something like, “let’s follow up on that first thing Monday morning?”

The start of the week may feel like the perfect time to reconnect and launch a new week. However, research shows that Monday mornings are actually a time when many people are at their most energetic and creative levels.

Rick’s investment team found that, when scheduling Monday morning meetings, they unwittingly drained energy levels and decreased momentum. By giving team members several hours alone to start the day, Monday morning “jump starts” made mid-day meetings much more effective.

Team Breakfast

Pivotal, a software company based in San Francisco, believes company breakfasts are the key to building a cohesive company culture.

They actually serve breakfast EVERY DAY of the work week!

What makes Mondays better? Breakfast! Serving food warms people’s hearts and bonds your co-workers. Occasional Monday breakfasts can soften the workweek blues, build camaraderie in your team, and give people healthy fuel to launch into the routine.

A team breakfast doesn’t have to be strictly social. You can also use this time to brief people on announcements, share upcoming projects, or celebrate workplace wins for your team.

Friday Fun Days

A typical five-day workweek is a given for most managers.

But, did you know that 15 percent of companies have started implementing four-day workweeks?

Reusser Design, an Indiana Web app development company, slashed their hours from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursdays. Founder Nate Reusser says that the policy motivates everyone to work faster and with greater focus, much like the way people work just before going on vacation.

“You wouldn’t believe how much we get done,” Reusser said.

Four-day workweeks can boost morale and increase  Employees with a shorter workweek are usually more enthusiastic when returning to work, and those energy levels fuel higher outputs.

Could your business consider taking one Friday off each month, or implementing half days on summer Fridays? A happier, more productive workforce may be worth the sacrifice!

Lighten That Monday Mood

In the US, approximately 100 million full-time employees aren’t engaged at work, which means a staggering 51 percent of people are slogging through their days on the payroll.

Underperformers can have a devastating effect on your company, but often a simple remedy can transform negative work culture.

Look for ways to lighten up the Monday mood, and Mondays will lighten up on you!

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Practical Skills for Successful Entrepreneurs

Print It Plus Practical Skills for Successful Entrepreneurs

It’s not easy to start (or run!) a business.

Many factors compete for your time and attention. Unexpected storms dampen passion or erode your resiliency. And then there are your competitors, who often have a jump on your best ideas.

The best entrepreneurs master a broad set of skills to manage obstacles that arise each day. While you need expertise and focus to succeed in your business, you’ll also need to nurture these four practical skills:

Adaptability

In business, things change quickly.

The smartest people in business are those who grow and evolve. What works today might not work tomorrow, so to stay competitive, you need to keep a few steps ahead in the game. Be flexible and be willing to change your strategy. This requires ambition, strategic planning, and creativity.

How do you keep those a priority? By embracing change!

If you always do the same thing, you won’t enjoy greater results. Be proactive about enriching your life with new experiences, expanded networks, and unique learning experiences. This may be as simple as talking to customers, delegating your areas of weakness, or signing up for a community course. Each experience can open doors to opportunities, or open your eyes to possibilities you hadn’t previously considered.

Time Management

If you don’t manage your time, your time will manage you.

Time management is the art of telling your minutes where you want them to go, and this requires two things: self-reflection, and the ability to say no. When you’re the leader of a business, there will be many demands on your time. People will constantly ask you for input, attendance, or leadership in areas that can overwhelm and distract.

How can you manage time well? Block out calendar segments where you can’t be interrupted or double-booked.

Hold firm boundaries: end meetings on time, set timers during phone calls, and refuse to multitask (when possible). Define your priorities, give focus to individual tasks, and use laser focus on accomplishing the very next thing, and you will be one step closer to achieving your big-picture goals.

Money Management

Nothing works if cash doesn’t flow.

No matter how solid the idea, success is doomed without the ability to raise, manage, and generate money.

As a business owner, you must create (and stick with) a budget, keep up on bills and expenses, and effectively invest in the right areas. If this seems overwhelming, consider taking a class, finding a professional mentor, or hiring an accountant to keep you on track. This is a small investment that can save you a load of sweat (and cash) while you’re growing your business.

A Thick Skin

Growing as a leader is an exercise in rejection.

Investors will pass, people will criticize, and team members will leave. To be the best in your field, you’ll have to learn from mistakes – and from criticism. If you let failures get you down, your business will never succeed.

Instead, view each disappointment as a chance to learn about people or to grow your courage. Be kind to yourself when others aren’t, and remember, you’ve only truly failed if you decide to quit! You can’t succeed without a few risks.

Seize the Day

Killing it as an entrepreneur isn’t easy.

But when you are flexible, courageous, and intentional, the odds tilt in your favor! Start with small improvements so you can seize the day and get the job done.

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Optimize Data to Make Better Decisions

In 2015, data and analytics guru Bernard Marr said, “I firmly believe that big data and its implications will affect every single business—from Fortune 500 enterprises to mom and pop companies—and change how we do business, inside and out.”

That was four years ago, and today Marr’s statement could not be more true.

Solve Problems with Data

Likes, clicks, counts, views . . . you dream it, and the technology can track it.

In a world of limitless measurement, data is helping companies solve problems, see performance, and scrutinize the market. And while it’s easier than ever to collect stats, knowing how to use this data can be a challenge.

Here are several markers to help you distinguish the forest from the trees.

Clearly Identify the Objective

Data seeks to support your business goals, so the best way to use data is to be precise in these objectives. For example:

  • A retail business seeking to grow revenue will measure which products are selling most quickly and if they are understocked in this area.
  • A sports team seeking to win more will use stats from individual players to analyze weaknesses.
  • A marketing executive seeking to generate greater return will analyze conversions to find which ad placements are generating the best response.

To set clear, data-driven goals, ask yourself:

  • What do I want to accomplish this quarter?
  • What are the weak areas the business needs to address?
  • What do I hope to achieve by gathering this data?

Outsource the Analytics

For many people, data shortage isn’t the problem. It’s time and expertise that are lacking.

Because it can be challenging to make sense of the data you’ve captured, sometimes the best option is to outsource. Perhaps there is someone on your team who can read, analyze, or interpret data for you. Maybe a team manager or an account representative could take ownership over their areas of expertise, and present information to your leadership in a simple, understandable way.

Your company may also benefit from third-party data providers like SAS, ClearStory Data, or Kissmetrics. Companies like these can work to combine your business’s internal data with publicly available information to help you make better business decisions.

Optimize Value

After assessing your data, you’ll want to identify the information that will increase value in your day-to-day operations. Areas to consider include:

1. Sales Patterns or Emerging Trends

What is selling the best? What is selling the worst? What product categories are growing fastest?

2. Internal Procedures

How long does each task take, and how can it be done better? Who is driving output? Can we trust high performers with more responsibility?

3. Project Management

Are we on time? Which projects or areas should we prioritize?

4. Benchmarking Competition

What is my competitor’s pricing? How do they market? Where do we fall short?

Save Time, Save Money

The market research firm IDC found that inefficiencies cost companies anywhere from 20-30% of their revenue each year.

Would you like 20% more money to use toward your business goals?

Armed with clear objectives and actionable data, your business can more efficiently market to customers, improve pain points, or streamline operations. The collection of actionable information is certainly worth your investment.

As they say, it’s never a waste of time to stop and sharpen the ax.

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3 Common Management Traps (and How to Counteract Them)

Are you looking to be more proactive in your influence?

Here are three common management traps, with practical keys for addressing them.

3 Common Management Traps

1. Avoiding a Problem or Tense Relationship

(Instead: Nip things in the bud)

Work environments and team morale can dramatically improve when managers deal with difficult relationships.

While most people avoid confrontation like the plague, effective managers deal with negative attitudes or relationships as soon as they appear. While it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt, issues rarely resolve themselves. The longer you delay correction, the more difficult it becomes.

Stuck on where to start?

When offering correction, be specific. Say something like, “the report you submitted was vague, lacking financial data, and contained several errors. Please give it another pass and plan to give more attention to your first drafts in the future.”

When confronting team members, focus on a specific behavior, rather than the person or their intentions. For example, “your jokes were distracting and disrespectful to the person presenting the report.”

Before speaking, check your motives. Do you honestly want to help people improve? If so, describe actions or behavior the individual can do something about, and offer tools or training to support them.

2. Delaying Decisions

(Instead: Use decision-making timelines)

Many times, people postpone decisions for fear of failing or making a poor choice.

But most failure stems from inaction, not from mistakes made in the process. And the decision not to act is often the most costly choice of all.

When you struggle with passivity, don’t keep kicking a pain point down the road. Instead, give yourself a time frame to research options and set a deadline for making a choice. Putting “deliberation dates” on the calendar transforms possibilities into reality.

3. Refusing to Delegate

(Instead: Start small and consider a mindset change)

The biggest problem most leaders face is the inability to let go of their work.

Are you micromanaging or failing to release projects someone else could handle? If so, you may be the ceiling that prevents your organization from growth.

How can you start delegating when it is painful to do so? Experts suggest starting small (with basic tasks) and gradually working your way up. Improve trust by partnering with someone to do a task together the first time. Or schedule checkpoints to review work done by your team.

Delegation can also begin with a mindset change, illustrated in this example:

When Anika realized she had become a bottleneck for her organization, she had to redefine her core responsibilities. Previously, her mandate looked like this: “I’m the one in charge of getting the job done.” This “doer” mindset consumed her time and lowered her leadership ceiling.

As Anika considered her obligation to delegate, she redefined her leadership mandate to being “involved but not essential.” The result looked like this: “I lead people, priorities, and projects – in that order – and the work gets done because the right people are focused on the right tasks.”

With a refreshed vision, Anika could review her calendar, count the hours she devoted to “doing” versus leading or empowering, and identify mismatches where she was spending too much time on low-grade priorities. Within months, Anika streamlined work, expanded her influence, and multiplied her leadership.

Simple Course Corrections

While individual management mistakes are not catastrophic, over time, they can have a crippling effect.

Be intentional about addressing these areas, and you can improve team productivity, morale, and competitiveness in your field.

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How to Build Unity in Your Team on Three Critical Levels

They are the most exceptional basketball team there ever was, or ever will be.

The 1992 Olympic Basketball Dream Team, made up of legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Scottie Pippen, dominated the Olympics, winning by an average of 40 points each game. The team seemed invincible, except for the day it wasn’t.

The game was a 20-minute scrimmage, which took place in June of 1992, in San Diego, California. The shocked victors were a star-studded college line-up. The reported margin was around eight points, with a final score of 62-54 (though coach Chuck Daly cleared the scoreboard before media were allowed in afterward). How could a powerhouse lose to amateurs? The answer was simple. Individual stars could not work together as a team. The talent was not enough to compensate for the lack of unity in the team.

Acceptance, Agreement, and Alignment

Without a unified team, the mission of your organization is lost.

Unity refers to the synergy of individuals working together to make a larger vision happen. This means each contributor to the team must be wholeheartedly focused on the same outcome to create consistency and achieve success.

What builds unity in business settings?

Generally, if people trust their leader and believe they have a voice at the table, they feel aligned with the greater purpose of an organization.

But the responsibility for building alignment lies with the leader, and includes three levels of unity:

Acceptance

Most companies already have this first (and lowest) level of unity, appointing a formal leader with team members who agree on this hierarchy.

At this level, people go along with the status quo because if they happen to object, they perceive the cost of speaking up as too great.

Agreement

At this level of unity, people agree with a team’s direction and generally support it.

Unfortunately, they are not necessarily invested in the leader’s ideas or committed to making them happen. While leaders may not experience outright resistance, at this level, teams lack momentum and can’t seem to make things happen.

Alignment

Here leaders find that people are not just with them, but fully behind them.

They’re committed to making the shared vision a reality and give tremendous effort to making it happen. They voice support in public and aren’t afraid to share concerns in private.

Move People Forward with Brave Communication

What happens if your team is stuck at level one or two? Leaders can take several steps to build unity in practical ways:

  • Discuss the levels of unity with your team, asking people to speak honestly about where things are at or share sensitive feedback in private.
  • Clearly articulate your vision, strategy, or your reason WHY. People can’t get on board with a vision if they don’t understand it. Be consistent in sharing the vision. The gravitational pull is always toward individual roles rather than team vision, and it’s your job to keep the end goal in sight.
  • Encourage debate and deliberation by positioning yourself as a learner. When weighing decisions, gather as much input as possible, then share why you decided on a particular direction.
  • Ask for buy-in. When you sense underlying tension, consider addressing it directly. Ask people who disagree with you to get on board anyway. On dicey decisions, it may be important to ask people (publicly, one by one, during a meeting) this question: “_____, can you align with this decision?”

Be brave in your communication, and you will cut to the core of disunity in your team. Remember, people can’t authentically buy-in until they’ve voluntarily committed first.

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4 Nonverbal Communication Hacks to Streamline Your Success

“Few realize how loud their expressions really are. Be kind with what you wordlessly say.” 
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

Do you appreciate it when you are telling a story and your listener sneaks a peek at their watch? How about when you ask your child for help with a chore and they mumble a begrudging “yes” while dramatically rolling their eyes?

Communication is a nuanced endeavor.

Whether you’re using hundreds of words or simply standing in silence, you are in constant communication with those around you. Experts estimate that a minimal amount of communication happens through the exchange of words, while up to 93% occurs through tone, expression, and gestures.

Nonverbal interactions are our primary mode of communication (coming so naturally, even the smallest child has it mastered), and it is difficult to “fake.” Nonverbals usually tell the truth, even when our words are lies.

Be a Better Communicator in Your Professional Environment

Here are four interesting strategies to use nonverbal communication to your advantage.

1. Break the Tension

In moments of high tension, people feel more defensive when they sense you are trying to “win.”

Nodding your head during a conversation communicates that you are listening and making an active attempt to understand an opposing point. Nodding can also win people over to your viewpoint, as people subconsciously mirror the body language of those around them. When you nod while speaking, it adds authenticity to your words and makes people more likely to compromise with you in heated situations.

2. Understand the Relational Bonds in the Room

Sometimes the quickest way to grow trust in a group is to figure out where loyalties lie.

One trick is to watch for eye contact. When a group of people laughs, members of the group can’t help but make eye contact with the people they feel close to.

Another clue is the direction of a person’s feet. In group conversations, if the feet of the listener are pointed at the person speaking, it conveys interest and respect. If the listener’s feet are pointed away, it often shows they are disinterested or disconnected.

3. Communicate Confidence Even When You are Nervous

If projecting confidence can determine the outcome of your conversation, how can you add weight to your nonverbals?

Confidence is something you can practice before you enter a room. Research shows that the use of “power poses” (placing your hands on your hips, standing tall with your chin raised, or raising your fists above your head), can trick your brain into feeling more confident. Do this for 30 seconds before a meeting, and you’ll walk into a room with more natural confidence, resulting in a smoother conversation and a more poised disposition.

4. Increase Influence Without Saying a Word

Sometimes the biggest distractions in a conversation are the fillers.

To establish trust while listening, avoid needless “noise” like pacing, tapping your foot, or fidgeting with your hands or pen. When you ask a question, and someone is slow to respond, resist the urge to jump back in. Remain silent for a few extra beats to show you respect this person’s thought process and that you’re confident in moments of negotiation. Quieting your impulses also helps you come across as competent and in control.

A Springboard for Success

These tips won’t make you a communication ninja, but streamlining these natural cues can help you better understand the relationships of those around you.

Intentionally sharpen your nonverbal skills, and you will build your network and streamline a path to success!

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How to Effectively Guide Your Customers Through the Journey of Decision

How to Effectively Guide Your Customers Through the Journey of Decision

Do you want to be more intentional and effective in your marketing?

Maybe it’s time to refocus on the journey you want customers to take. As a map is to a road trip, a sales funnel can serve as a guide for your prospects.

Sales are more than just transactions; they involve several stages of decision. Push too hard, and people run. Keep it too casual, and they delay. What is the ideal balance? Creating a sales funnel (or a content path for prospects to follow) can engage people every step of the way.

People can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist, and they won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you.

Here are five stages to consider as you seek to move them from a posture of spectating to the point of final sale.

1. Awareness

In this step, prospects learn about your existence.

Just like dating, before you can introduce yourself to someone, you need to catch their eye. As you consider this stage of communication, ask yourself, “what will drive traffic in our direction? What will spark curiosity or attract interest?” Combining excellent print and digital marketing will put a memorable face on your business.

2. Interest

Now that you’ve got their attention, be sure to keep it!

Here, prospects move beyond general awareness to intentional engagement. Ask yourself “what will engage them enough that they won’t drift away?” Seek to grow a top-of-mind presence while you showcase your skills and build their trust.

3. Consideration

Beyond just flirting, now two parties consider a match.

Your prospect evaluates your product or services, and you work hard to gain their commitment. Ask yourself, “what information do they need to make a decision?” Identify what is holding them back and outline unique selling points or benefits.

4. Action

Now it’s time for the big ask.

What irresistible offer or personal touch can you use to tip them toward action? Use incentives, bonus products, or hints of urgency to close the sale.

5. Retention

Did you know that the probability of selling to a new customer is 5-20 percent, while the chances of selling to an existing customer are estimated at 60-70 percent?

Perhaps the most essential part of your funnel is convincing current customers to keep coming back! After closing the deal ask yourself, “what messages of gratitude or additional incentives can I offer? How can I invite feedback, involve customers in an on-going conversation, or upsell the clients I already have?” The best part of a working funnel is turning one purchase into 10, or 10 sales into 100.

Begin with the End in Mind

To build a successful funnel, you need to start at the bottom. What is your ideal outcome? Define how many subscribers you want or how many products you hope to sell. Quantify the goal, then work backward to plan your marketing. Here’s one example:

The Apple Blossom boutique noticed that when they sent a printed direct mail teaser, about 20% of recipients visited a specific Apple Blossom URL that was created as an online landing page. Of these online visitors, 10% of browsers made a purchase. Using this data, Apple Blossom started at the bottom of the funnel to work backward for their marketing goals. The boutique wanted to make 100 sales for its spring promotion. If 10% of URL visitors would ultimately purchase, Apple Blossom knew they needed to bring around 1,000 people to this online landing page. If only 20% of direct mail recipients would visit them online, the boutique needed to send printed mail teasers to 5,000 individuals.

The Backbone of Customer Relationships

Sales funnels are the backbone of your customer relationships, helping you focus on the right customers and honing these relationships for maximum potential.

Offer people value at every stage and customers will put their trust in you with their wallets and their loyalty.

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Exert Influence While You’re Stuck in the Middle

Are you stuck in the middle when it comes to your job?

Perhaps you supervise many, but you still answer to a few. Or maybe you frequently advise a superior who seems less competent than you. Leading from the middle is tough. But managers who influence from the middle are often in a perfect position to collaborate with others, solve problems, and have significant organizational impact.

Want to make the most of your time in the middle? Here are three ways to hone upward influence in this transitional season:

Honor Decisions You Disagree With

People who lead from the middle are sometimes forced to settle for less than the ideal.

In your position, often you’ll receive instructions you don’t like or decisions you disagree with. In frustrating moments, you may be tempted to badmouth the decision or the organization. In a meeting you may say something like, “I would have done it differently, but . . .” Or during office chit-chat, you may casually question your leader’s judgment.

Real leaders make the best of a situation and honor decisions in healthy, unifying ways. If you want to be respected by those around you, speak with integrity and uphold the reputation of others. This builds trust, which gives you more influence when it’s time to speak up or offer solutions.

Be Intentional

One challenge for mid-level employees is knowing when or how to speak.

When you are strategic and consistent in sharing, your perspective can make a more significant impact. What is the best way for you to communicate? Consider a short, weekly e-mail update to your boss. Highlight 2-minute success stories in meetings to put a face on your “win.” Or use printed presentation notes when sharing needs or asking for additional resources. This demonstrates thoughtful preparation and makes your request more memorable.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, take a serious interest in the organization as a whole.

Don’t just focus on your department. Instead, look for ways to lend a hand to those above, below, and around you. When your supervisor sees that you care about the whole company, you may be surprised how quickly your influence grows.

This may bring friction. Working from the middle gives you a great vantage point to see the big picture, to recognize patterns or uncertainties, and highlight tension within the organization. When you bump into turbulence, remember that trying to please everyone is impossible.

Global Portfolio Management Director Michelle Maloy, says it’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re always trying to please:

“[This balancing act] requires self-control and clarity. You need to have understanding and empathy for others, but you can’t let everybody’s ‘stuff’ allow you to lose focus.”

It’s All About Perspective

While there are times that leading from the middle is difficult, you are often ideally positioned to collaborate with others to generate new ideas and solve problems.

This allows you to gain experience, be involved in meaningful work, and affect large scale change. It is possible to successfully lead from your position while developing skills that serve you throughout your career.

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Get Ahead at Work by Busting These Bad Habits

Work and sleep are two of the most time-consuming things we do.

The average American will spend nearly 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so the way you approach your job can have a huge impact on your quality of being. As Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Do you want your experience at work to be as happy and anxiety free as possible? If so, perhaps it’s time to put the scalpel to some of your less-than-desirable work habits.

Here are just a few ways bad choices might make your life more difficult at work.

Habits that Hurt You Personally

Skipping Breaks

Sometimes we think we’re too busy to take breaks or grab some fresh air.

But this simply isn’t true. Research shows productivity is highest when people work in “sprints” with frequent breaks (around 90 minutes with 15-minute rests).

Winging it on Mondays

Do you struggle to get down to business at the start of each week?

Devote part of Fridays to making a “start here” list for the following week so you can hit the ground running on Mondays.

Negative Attitudes

A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 62% of employers say they are less likely to promote employees with a pessimistic attitude.

Avoid complaining (which comes across as unprofessional) or responding to suggestions with negative comments like “that won’t work,” or “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Even when things go wrong, focus your energy on what you’ve learned rather than despising your situation.

Habits that Annoy Others

Eating Smelly or Loud Foods

While a small snack may be fine, avoid eating foods that are messy, noisy, or smelly to protect your reputation with co-workers. Top stink generators include reheated fish, raw onions, tuna, smelly cheese, and hard-boiled eggs.

Grooming at Your Desk

When you are distracted, do you tend to chew your nails, play with your hair, pick at your face, or pull food out of your teeth? What if the co-worker next to you did this? Yuck. Enough said!

Interrupting or Asking Too Many Questions

While a willingness to contribute can be great, often you may be repeatedly cutting off others without realizing it.

Interrupting is rude and shows a lack of self-control. Similarly, asking an abundance of abrupt questions can be draining or annoying to others. When you need further information, gather a list of questions and pose them in an organized, positive way so you are respectful of others’ time.

Habits that Harm Your Reputation

Using Work Time Improperly

Be honest: while at work, how often are you handling texts, personal e-mails, or private phone calls?

If you think others don’t notice, you’re wrong. While co-workers may tolerate this behavior, it will certainly hinder the respect or opportunities you receive in the future. Keep your personal life out of sight (perhaps tucking the phone away or on silent) and you will be more efficient and more valued.

Distraction or Delays

Why is texting while driving illegal?

Because it’s impossible to concentrate fully on two things at once. If you are jotting personal notes, sending e-mails, or galloping through the fields of your imagination during meetings, it sends an inconsiderate message and communicates a lack of integrity. Come to appointments on time and ready to focus.

Being Nosy or Political

While small talk goes a long way to build rapport with others, avoid uninvited personal inquiries or incessant curiosity that won’t let things go.

And remember, if certain topics are divisive in politics, they’ll be divisive at work. Keep conversations focused on work-related issues to avoid insulting others, hurting your professional image, or causing rifts in your company.

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