Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category
We can hardly believe that Memorial Day weekend is upon us! Most of us are gearing up for barbecues, picnics and trips to the beach—and what’s more appropriate then a cold glass of lemonade this time of the year? We rounded up five lemonade recipes that put a tasty twist on the classic summer drink.
This simple Lavender Lemonade recipe from Sunday Suppers is so pretty—we can’t wait to serve it at our next party.
This Vanilla Lemonade infuses a sweet, aromatic flavor into the traditional recipe.
This sweet Rosemary Lemonade gets a savory kick from sprigs of fresh rosemary.
A sugared rim makes this Blueberry Mint Lemonade a festive addition to your barbecue—not to mention a delicious base for a cocktail!
Sparkling Rosewater Lemonade?! You don’t have to ask us twice!
They’re small things, but each has the power to dramatically change someone’s day. Including yours.
Want to make a huge difference in someone’s life? Here are things you should say every day to your employees, colleagues, family members, friends, and everyone you care about:
“Here’s what I’m thinking.”
You’re in charge, but that doesn’t mean you’re smarter, savvier, or more insightful than everyone else. Back up your statements and decisions. Give reasons. Justify with logic, not with position or authority.
Though taking the time to explain your decisions opens those decisions up to discussion or criticism, it also opens up your decisions to improvement.
Authority can make you “right,” but collaboration makes everyone right–and makes everyone pull together.
“I was wrong.”
I once came up with what I thought was an awesome plan to improve overall productivity by moving a crew to a different shift on an open production line. The inconvenience to the crew was considerable, but the payoff seemed worth it. On paper, it was perfect.
In practice, it wasn’t.
So, a few weeks later, I met with the crew and said, “I know you didn’t think this would work, and you were right. I was wrong. Let’s move you back to your original shift.”
I felt terrible. I felt stupid. I was sure I’d lost any respect they had for me.
It turns out I was wrong about that, too. Later one employee said, “I didn’t really know you, but the fact you were willing to admit you were wrong told me everything I needed to know.”
When you’re wrong, say you’re wrong. You won’t lose respect–you’ll gain it.
“That was awesome.”
No one gets enough praise. No one. Pick someone–pick anyone–who does or did something well and say, “Wow, that was great how you…”
And feel free to go back in time. Saying “Earlier, I was thinking about how you handled that employee issue last month…” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then. (It could even make a bigger impact, because it shows you still remember what happened last month, and you still think about it.)
Praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient. Start praising. The people around you will love you for it–and you’ll like yourself a little better, too.
Think about a time you gave a gift and the recipient seemed uncomfortable or awkward. Their reaction took away a little of the fun for you, right?
The same thing can happen when you are thanked or complimented or praised. Don’t spoil the moment or the fun for the other person. The spotlight may make you feel uneasy or insecure, but all you have to do is make eye contact and say, “Thank you.” Or make eye contact and say, “You’re welcome. I was glad to do it.”
Don’t let thanks, congratulations, or praise be all about you. Make it about the other person, too.
“Can you help me?”
When you need help, regardless of the type of help you need or the person you need it from, just say, sincerely and humbly, “Can you help me?”
I promise you’ll get help. And in the process you’ll show vulnerability, respect, and a willingness to listen–which, by the way, are all qualities of a great leader.
And are all qualities of a great friend.
We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support…
Say you’re sorry.
But never follow an apology with a disclaimer like “But I was really mad, because…” or “But I did think you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.
Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. No less. No more.
Then you both get to make the freshest of fresh starts.
“Can you show me?”
Advice is temporary; knowledge is forever. Knowing what to do helps, but knowing how or why to do it means everything.
When you ask to be taught or shown, several things happen: You implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice; you show you trust his or her experience, skill, and insight; and you get to better assess the value of the advice.
Don’t just ask for input. Ask to be taught or trained or shown.
Then you both win.
“Let me give you a hand.”
Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness. So, many people hesitate to ask for help.
But everyone needs help.
Don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will give you a version of the reflexive “No, I’m just looking” reply to sales clerks and say, “No, I’m all right.”
Be specific. Find something you can help with. Say “I’ve got a few minutes. Can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. Model the behavior you want your employees to display.
Then actually roll up your sleeves and help.
“I love you.”
No, not at work, but everywhere you mean it–and every time you feel it.
Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. If you’re upset, frustrated, or angry, stay quiet. You may think venting will make you feel better, but it never does.
That’s especially true where your employees are concerned. Results come and go, but feelings are forever. Criticize an employee in a group setting and it will seem like he eventually got over it, but inside, he never will.
Before you speak, spend more time considering how employees will think and feel than you do evaluating whether the decision makes objective sense. You can easily recover from a mistake made because of faulty data or inaccurate projections.
You’ll never recover from the damage you inflict on an employee’s self-esteem.
Be quiet until you know exactly what to say–and exactly what affect your words will have.
For $3.99, you can help your colleague throwback to the tech of yesteryear, with colorful post-it notes shaped like 3.5″ floppy disks. It’s a simple, yet goofy gift with a practical twist.
Image courtesy of ThinkGeek.
For the co-worker/networking butterfly in your office, get a mini filing cabinet. At only 6.5″ tall, the cabinet can store 600 business cards and help your friend keep their many contacts squared away. It’s only $9.99.
Image courtesy of ThinkGeek.
Calendars are a tried and true office present but can get dull. This cubes calendar is a colorful adaptation to the hanging wall version, and will brighten up your giftee’s desk space for only $15.
Image courtesy of the MoMa Store.
The New York coffee cup is an iconic symbol of the city, so get your co-worker the ceramic version. It’s perfect as a collector’s item for the NYC enthusiast or just the coffee junkie who keeps using up the office’s paper cups. It’s $15.
Image courtesy of the MoMa Store.
There has to be one of them in your office — the paper collector whose desk is no longer visible because of all their printouts. Help them organize their life with these humorous folders. The rest of the office will be jealous, and it will only cost you $6.99.
Image courtesy of ThinkGeek.
This dock runs a little high at $39.95, but would be perfect for your closest office buddy. Combining a rustic, outdoorsy feel with modern tech, the dock stores pencils and your smartphone cords.
Image courtesy of the Etsy, BlakeAvenue.
If the office prankster is on your gift list, get them this paper paperweight. It will get a few laughs when people think you actually gave someone crumpled paper as a present, and afterwards, it’s still functional as a steel paperweight. It will run you $30.
Image courtesy of the MoMa Store.
Here’s the present for the Chatty Cathy in your office who can’t seem to get off the phone. The handset will help add a retro vibe to their talk time and features a high quality speaker. It costs $30.
Image courtesy of CoolMaterial.
You can’t go wrong with a notebook, especially for the colleague who constantly seems to take notes (even during the holiday party). Add a touch of creativity with this Andy Warhol Ideas Pad that even includes vellum inserts featuring Warhol’s own quotes and illustrations. The notebook is $18.95.
Image courtesy of the MoMa Store.
This is no typical mousepad and works perfectly as the present for the office multitasker. The pad lets you jot down notes using a stylus or just your finger. Simply lift the top sheet and the notes disappear (works well if your colleague has a lot of secrets as well). The mousepad is only $9.99.
Image courtesy of ThinkGeek.
If you are constantly tripping over cords on the way to the bathroom because of one particularly plugged-in co-worker, get them this cable monkey for the holidays. It’s adorable and will help keep those cables in check. The monkey is only $5.99.
Image courtesy of ThinkGeek.
Is there someone at your office who is always mopping up their desk after coffee and soda spills? Grab them this drinklip as a present. It will keep their drink safe and desk dry for $19.99.
Image courtesy of ThinkGeek.
While drinking is generally frowned upon at work, we all know it’s fair game after 5 p.m. on Friday. So for those work happy hours, get your colleague a bottle opener that doubles as a nice desk ornament the rest of the week. This bird is $11.50.
Image courtesy of Etsy, riricreations.
Coffee will never go out of style, so get your over-caffeinated co-worker this cozy. Request a different phrase, like their initials, to be embroidered to add a touch of personalization. The leather cozy is only $15.
Image courtesy of Etsy, HideyHideyHide.
If one of your co-workers always seems to be itching for the outdoors, get them this air plant to add some nature to their desk. The pod planter is sleek and simple, and the air plant means minimal maintenance for them. It’s only $11.
Image courtesy of Etsy, seaandasters.
This upcycled hard-drive-turned-clock is a sweet present for the computer genius you constantly run to for IT help. This one-of-a-kind clock is sure to help them geek-out their desk space. It’s $34.
Image courtesy of Etsy, pixelthis.
This artsy Doctor Who poster will add flair to any office cubicle. And if they aren’t a Doctor Who fan, there are plenty of other options for wall artwork that any colleague would appreciate. Posters run $18.
Image courtesy of Etsy, UnikoIdeas.
A boring, impersonal coffee mug is a good way to end that friendship with your office lunch buddy. But a Star Wars themed coffee mug only says clever. You can personalize the mug to say their name (and make sure no one in the office steals it) all for $7.
Image courtesy of Etsy, GelertDesign.
For that manager of yours who is living in the future, here’s a Star Trek collector’s item for their office. The door chimes when someone enters their office through motion detection. It’s $19.99 and will make going to the boss’s office less scary from now on.
Image courtesy of ThinkGeek.
The ultimate goofy and useful gift, this toaster shaped USB hub will help keep any wired-up co-worker productive. And the mini toast USB drives are simply hysterical. Since the toaster, and each piece of toast is sold separately, it could work well as a group idea when everyone is chipping in for the boss’s present. Cost is $24.99 to $27.99.
Image courtesy of ThinkGeek.
Sometimes the route to happiness depends more on what you don’t do.
Happiness–in your business life and your personal life–is often a matter of subtraction, not addition.
Consider, for example, what happens when you stop doing the following 10 things:
People make mistakes. Employees don’t meet your expectations. Vendors don’t deliver on time.
So you blame them for your problems.
But you’re also to blame. Maybe you didn’t provide enough training. Maybe you didn’t build in enough of a buffer. Maybe you asked too much, too soon.
Taking responsibility when things go wrong instead of blaming others isn’t masochistic, it’s empowering–because then you focus on doing things better or smarter next time.
And when you get better or smarter, you also get happier.
No one likes you for your clothes, your car, your possessions, your title, or your accomplishments. Those are all “things.” People may like your things–but that doesn’t mean they like you.
Sure, superficially they might seem to, but superficial is also insubstantial, and a relationship that is not based on substance is not a real relationship.
Genuine relationships make you happier, and you’ll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start trying to just be yourself.
When you’re afraid or insecure, you hold on tightly to what you know, even if what you know isn’t particularly good for you.
An absence of fear or insecurity isn’t happiness: It’s just an absence of fear or insecurity.
Holding on to what you think you need won’t make you happier; letting go so you can reach for and try to earn what you want will.
Even if you don’t succeed in earning what you want, the act of trying alone will make you feel better about yourself.
Interrupting isn’t just rude. When you interrupt someone, what you’re really saying is, “I’m not listening to you so I can understand what you’re saying; I’m listening to you so I can decide what I want to say.”
Want people to like you? Listen to what they say. Focus on what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they say.
They’ll love you for it–and you’ll love how that makes you feel.
Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems makes you feel worse, not better.
If something is wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put that effort into making the situation better. Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you’ll have to do that. So why waste time? Fix it now.
Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.
And do the same with your friends or colleagues. Don’t just be the shoulder they cry on.
Friends don’t let friends whine–friends help friends make their lives better.
Yeah, you’re the boss. Yeah, you’re the titan of industry. Yeah, you’re the small tail that wags a huge dog.
Still, the only thing you really control is you. If you find yourself trying hard to control other people, you’ve decided that you, your goals, your dreams, or even just your opinions are more important than theirs.
Plus, control is short term at best, because it often requires force, or fear, or authority, or some form of pressure–none of those let you feel good about yourself.
Find people who want to go where you’re going. They’ll work harder, have more fun, and create better business and personal relationships.
And all of you will be happier.
Yeah, you’re more educated. Yeah, you’re more experienced. Yeah, you’ve been around more blocks and climbed more mountains and slayed more dragons.
That doesn’t make you smarter, or better, or more insightful.
That just makes you you: unique, matchless, one of a kind, but in the end, just you.
Just like everyone else–including your employees.
Everyone is different: not better, not worse, just different. Appreciate the differences instead of the shortcomings and you’ll see people–and yourself–in a better light.
Criticizing has a brother. His name is Preaching. They share the same father: Judging.
The higher you rise and the more you accomplish, the more likely you are to think you know everything–and to tell people everything you think you know.
When you speak with more finality than foundation, people may hear you but they don’t listen. Few things are sadder and leave you feeling less happy.
The past is valuable. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others.
Then let it go.
Easier said than done? It depends on your focus. When something bad happens to you, see that as a chance to learn something you didn’t know. When another person makes a mistake, see that as an opportunity to be kind, forgiving, and understanding.
The past is just training; it doesn’t define you. Think about what went wrong, but only in terms of how you will make sure that, next time, you and the people around you will know how to make sure it goes right.
We’re all afraid: of what might or might not happen, of what we can’t change, or what we won’t be able to do, or how other people might perceive us.
So it’s easier to hesitate, to wait for the right moment, to decide we need to think a little longer or do some more research or explore a few more alternatives.
Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass us by.
And so do our dreams.
Don’t let your fears hold you back. Whatever you’ve been planning, whatever you’ve imagined, whatever you’ve dreamed of, get started on it today.
If you want to start a business, take the first step. If you want to change careers, take the first step. If you want to expand or enter a new market or offer new products or services, take the first step.
Put your fears aside and get started. Do something. Do anything.
Otherwise, today is gone. Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever.
Today is the most precious asset you own–and is the one thing you should truly fear wasting.
Change the way you think about the future, and you can reduce (or even eliminate) stress.
Most people are convinced that stress is an inevitable part of the working world. They are wrong.
The level of stress that you experience is very much under your control. The trick is finding ways to exist “in the now.”
Think about it: Why do people feel “stressed”? In every case that I’ve ever seen, it’s because they’re dwelling on future events over which they have no control. In other words, stress is just plain old worry–but rebranded so that it sounds less wimpy. (Nobody ever gets called a “stress-wart.”)
For example, many people feel “stressed” because they “have way too much work to do.” That sounds perfectly reasonable, but in fact, it’s not the work that’s creating the stress. It’s worrying about what might happen (or not happen) if all that work doesn’t get done.
Similarly, it’s “stressful” if you have a job (like customer support) in which people sometimes scream at you. There’s no question that such events are unpleasant, but the real source of the stress isn’t the event but the anticipation that it’s going to happen again.
Since stress is all about the future, the real cure for stress is to live in the present. Here are some suggestions for doing this:
1. Meditate or pray every day.
When done correctly, meditation and prayer place your thoughts in the present. When you’re focused on your breathing, the energy flowing through your body, or the presence of God in your life, there’s no opening for stress to get inside you. These activities not only create a respite from stress, they help train your mind to remain “mindful.”
2. Set aside a daily time to plan.
Achieving goals is impossible without planning–and planning, by its very nature, involves imagining the future, including possible setbacks and problems. Limit your “future thinking” to a set time every day–and then spend the rest of your time executing the steps in your daily plan.
3. Detach yourself from results.
Though it’s true the business world is all about getting good results, such results are usually achieved through the execution of a well-thought-out plan. Therefore, once you’ve made a plan, put your attention on the steps, not on the outcome. Until events prove otherwise, trust that you’ve created (and are now executing) the best plan possible.
4. Observe what’s working (and what’s not).
As you take action, note which actions seem to be leading toward your goals and which seem to be leading you further away. Rather than getting stressed about your “failures” while they’re happening, use these notes to adjust your plan during your next planning session.
Do these steps take some practice and discipline? Absolutely. But the benefit–a largely stress-free working life–are well worth the effort.
For example, if you’re “stressed” because you’ve got “too much work to do,” following the guidelines above will quickly force you to realize that the concept of “too much” is meaningless and that you’re going to get done what you get done. You’ll start prioritizing what’s most important and forget about what’s simply not going to get done.
Similarly, if you’re “stressed” because people scream at you, following the guidelines can help you better prepare emotionally for the screamers (e.g., learn how to shrug it off) or, failing that, help you plan to find a job in which you don’t have to deal with such people.
Being focused on the present eliminates stress even when disaster strikes. Suppose, in the middle of your workday, you get news that your biggest customer is jumping ship.
You could react to the news by freaking out and obsessing about how the lost revenue might ruin your company or your career–even though none of that has happened yet. Or you could remain in the moment, note that the event happened, continue with whatever you’re doing–and then, when you’re relaxed and feeling creative, devise a step-by-step action plan to win the customer back or find some new customers.
The moment you truly realize that stress is only a creation of your imagination, you’ll feel a vast burden of dread fall from your shoulders. And if you practice the steps and start living in the moment, you’ll find that stress, far from being inevitable, is simply a bad memory.
Technology’s great, but it can distract us to the point where productivity suffers. Here’s how to minimize the disruptions.
Let’s face it: Despite all of the positives associated with today’s rapidly changing business environment, technology can also cause distractions and put a strain on our productivity. You answer 10 emails only to have 20 more in your inbox. You are expected to be available 24/7. You have to schedule conference calls with people across the globe. You are tempted to text and email during meetings. You can’t stay off Twitter during the workday.
Whatever your personal distractions may be, following these six simple steps should help you to increase personal productivity and job performance.
1. Do the Worst First
Whenever possible, we like to get up early, sometimes before others are even awake (especially Bill), and knock out the most important (or most arduous) tasks of the day before the phone calls and emails start rolling in. This can be the most productive part of the day, and it feels great to have your most time-consuming or undesirable task completed first thing. If you are not a morning person, then identify your personal peak time in which you are able to fully dedicate yourself to your highest-priority task.
2. Break Projects Into Chunks
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with large, ongoing projects. A good trick is to consistently chip away at the project to avoid procrastinating and finding yourself in a bind. By taking one large project and separating it into individual mini-projects with individual deadlines, you can achieve small wins each day to keep yourself motivated and on track.
3. Pay Attention
We’ve all had that moment in a meeting where we are asked a question only to realize we weren’t fully paying attention. Put down your phone and shut off your laptop during conference calls or meetings. Don’t just go through the motions; nothing is worth doing unless you are fully engaged. We understand it might be difficult to disconnect, but give it a shot. Trust us–you will be amazed at how much more you get out of meetings by giving them your full attention.
4. The Inbox Can Wait
Responsiveness is critical for professionals at all levels. However, don’t let the influx of emails distract you from getting your work done. Designate communication-free times in which you dedicate 60 to 90 minutes to real work. If you are a manager, it is also helpful to set the tone at the top by not expecting others to be available 24/7.
5. Write Everything Down
This tip comes from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. Any time an idea or to-do pops into your head, immediately write it down. This isn’t rocket science, but we often have so much on our plates or so many back-to-back meetings that we can forget critical thoughts and ideas we have throughout the day.
6. Take Breaks
An often overlooked pillar of productivity is to make time for yourself to do something you truly enjoy. Whether it be reading industry-related articles, taking an exercise class, or leaving a little early to eat dinner with your family, it is important to take the time to refuel and recharge so you are ready to attack your to-do list again tomorrow.
The most important part of this process is finding a system that works for you and sticking to it. And always remember to fully engage in whatever it is you are doing, whether it be a project, a client meeting, or even vacation.
Understand the unique brain and personality types of your employees to keep them invested in work. You’ll see amazing results.
I am often asked about how I keep employees inspired and productive. It’s an essential question since companies today must accomplish more, with fewer people. The most successful start-ups must be lean, nimble, and fierce.
In a nutshell, you should hire bright, energetic, innovative employees. Then offer them the right incentives–the ones that will impact their personal brain and personality types–to keep them mentally and emotionally invested in doing their best.
It’s impossible to talk about motivation without mentioning Drive, a book by best-selling author Daniel Pink. (His TED lecture was turned into a fabulous video.) Pink notes that people perform best when they are given autonomy, opportunity for mastery, and the belief that their task is meaningful. He says money is not the best motivator, and that employees want to be “players, not pawns.”
Pink believes Google’s “20% time,” in which employees may spend one day a week on whatever they want is a shining example of how allowing intrinsically-based motivations (a sense of accomplishment or purpose) can flourish. Personal endeavors from “20% time” resulted in Gmail, Google News, Orkut, and AdSense. Long before Google–back in 1948–3M instituted the “15% solution” or “dream time,” which yielded both Scotch Tape and Post-It Notes.
There’s no question that intrinsic motivation is essential. However, I do not agree with Pink that all extrinsic motivation (raises, bonuses, commissions, awards, titles, flex time, and other perks) is harmful. A skillful entrepreneur keeps employees motivated with a combination of both.
That said, there is no cookie-cutter approach to motivating your people. What inspires one person may leave the next cold. When you understand an employee’s thinking and behavioral preferences, you’ll be able to maximize his or her enthusiasm. This will help you get your workforce aligned and moving in the same direction, and you’ll see incredible returns.
1. Analytical types want to know that a project is valuable, and that their work makes a difference to its success. They need a leader who excels in a particular area, and whose expertise they believe benefits the group. They prefer compensation that is commensurate with their contribution. If they have done a tremendous amount of work on their own, don’t expect them to be happy if you reward the whole team.
2. People who are “structural” by nature want to know their work aids the company’s progress. They prefer a leader who is organized, competent, and good with details. They like to be rewarded in writing, in a timely manner, in a way specific to the task. An encouraging email is appropriate to communicate with them.
3. Social people want to feel personally valued, and that what they are doing has an impact on a project. They go the extra mile for a leader who expresses faith in their abilities. They prefer to be rewarded in person with a gesture that is from the heart. If your own preference is for written communication, send a handwritten note to a particularly social employee.
4. Innovative employees must buy into a cause. To them, the big picture matters more than the individual who is leading the charge. They prefer to be rewarded with something unconventional and imaginative, and would find a whimsical token of your esteem very meaningful.
5. Quiet staffers don’t need a lot of fanfare, but they appreciate private, one-on-one encouragement.
6. Expressive people feel more motivated when assignments are openly discussed and an open door is available. They like public recognition, with pomp, and ceremony.
7. Peacekeepers hope everyone will move in the same direction. They’ll never demand a reward or recognition, so it’s up to you to offer it.
8. Hard-drivers are independent thinkers. If they agree with you, they’ll be highly motivated. They will let you know what they’d like as an extrinsic reward, and they tend to want whatever it is right away.
9. Those who are focused team members must have confidence in the leader and in the project, or their motivation may falter. They want know up front what kind of reward they can expect. Make sure you follow through on whatever is promised.
10. Flexible people go along with the team, as long as a project does not contradict their morals or beliefs. They’re also happy with any kind of recognition.
Watch for the weakest link among your employees. If you have a slacker who consistently does less than everyone else but seems to get away with it, this can dampen the motivation of everyone else.
Workplace stress is not inevitable. Here are some simple techniques to lower your own levels.
Stress sucks. According to the American Psychological Association, stress can result in headache, muscle tension, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue, upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, lack of focus, irritability, depression, eating problems, addiction … and social withdrawal. Yow!
Fortunately, stress isn’t inevitable, even in today’s hyper-connected, highly competitive world. Here are six techniques that I’ve picked up over the years and now use on a daily basis.
1. Create an Oasis
In the past, people worked 9 to 5; in today’s business environments, there’s pressure to work (or at least be available) 24/7. Needless to say, that pressure generates oodles of stress.
An absurdly easy way to get reduce that stress is to shut down your computer and your cell–not just while you sleep, but also an hour before and after you sleep.
This takes discipline, because you’re probably in habit of checking email, texts and so forth. This also takes self-confidence, because you must believe that you need to be at the constant beck and call of your boss, colleagues and customers. Do it anyway.
2. Find the ‘Sweet Spots’
Having a overlong to-do list can a huge source of stress, because it feels like you can never get them those tasks completed. Here’s a thought: Why bother?
Instead, categorize each task by difficulty (e.g. easy, medium, hard) and then by potential impact (e.g. large, medium, small). You’ll probably find there are about 10 tasks that are both easy and will have a large impact. Hit those “sweet spots” first.
In most cases, you’ll achieve 80 percent of your goals by only doing 20 percent of the work. And that takes the pressure off, thereby reducing stress. As a bonus stress-reliever, ignore those tasks that are hard and won’t have much of an impact anyway.
3. Renegotiate Your Workload
Unreasonable expectations of what you’re capable of accomplishing are a huge source of stress–regardless of whether those expectations come from yourself, from your boss, or from your customers.
The cure for this kind of stress is a dose of reality. Look at how much time you’ve got to spend, assess the amount of work that needs to be done, and, based on that, be realistic about what’s actually going to get done. If you’re expected to accomplish A,B,C and D, and there’s only time to achieve three of the four, decide–or force your boss to decide–which three will actually get done and which one will not.
4. Turn Off the News
The news media, like every other form of entertainment, makes money by producing strong emotions in its audience. Outside business news, those emotions are almost exclusively negative: anger, fear, anxiety, dread, and frustration.
While those manufactured emotions do provide momentary distraction from work stress, they do it by adding more stress. Watching or listening to the news in order “to relax” is like having a beer to dull the pain of a hangover; it only makes things worse in the long run.
So whenever there’s a news story that starts to make you angry or upset, change the channel–unless it’s 100% relevant to your life–or click to another page.
5. Disconnect from the Uncontrollable
There are always events that you simply can’t control: the economy, traffic, politics, other people’s emotions, customer decisions, and so forth.
While it can be useful to observe and predict such events (in order to know how to react to them), once you’ve decided how you’ll deal with them, it’s stressful (and, frankly, a little nutso) to continue to focus on them.
Worrying about stuff you can’t control isn’t going to make an iota of difference either in the short or the long run. It’s wasted energy and extra stress you don’t need. Change what can change and shrug off what you can’t.
6. Avoid Stressed People
You may not realize it, but your physiology is programmed to mirror the physiology of the people around you. (This is a neurological phenomenon resulting from the”mirror neurons” in your brain.) In other words, you can “catch” stress from other people.
So although it may not be possible to avoid stressed people all the time, you should try, as far as possible, to limit your contact with such people–at least until you’ve conquered your own stress. At that point, the opposite effect kicks in, because the calmness you will have achieved is also contagious–provided you’ve made it into a strong enough habit.
The best managers have a fundamentally different understanding of workplace, company, and team dynamics. See what they get right.
A few years back, I interviewed some of the most successful CEOs in the world in order to discover their management secrets. I learned that the “best of the best” tend to share the following eight core beliefs.
1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.
Average bosses see business as a conflict between companies, departments and groups. They build huge armies of “troops” to order about, demonize competitors as “enemies,” and treat customers as “territory” to be conquered.
Extraordinary bosses see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships with other companies, customers … and even competitors.
2. A company is a community, not a machine.
Average bosses consider their company to be a machine with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by “pulling levers” and “steering the ship.”
Extraordinary bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community–and company–at large.
3. Management is service, not control.
Average bosses want employees to do exactly what they’re told. They’re hyper-aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments where individual initiative is squelched by the “wait and see what the boss says” mentality.
Extraordinary bosses set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies.
4. My employees are my peers, not my children.
Average bosses see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can’t be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude, expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.
Extraordinary bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the loading dock to the boardroom. As a result, employees at all levels take charge of their own destinies.
5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.
Average bosses see fear–of getting fired, of ridicule, of loss of privilege–as a crucial way to motivate people. As a result, employees and managers alike become paralyzed and unable to make risky decisions.
Extraordinary bosses inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it. As a result, employees work harder because they believe in the organization’s goals, truly enjoy what they’re doing and (of course) know they’ll share in the rewards.
6. Change equals growth, not pain.
Average bosses see change as both complicated and threatening, something to be endured only when a firm is in desperate shape. They subconsciously torpedo change … until it’s too late.
Extraordinary bosses see change as an inevitable part of life. While they don’t value change for its own sake, they know that success is only possible if employees and organization embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business.
7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation.
Average bosses adhere to the old IT-centric view that technology is primarily a way to strengthen management control and increase predictability. They install centralized computer systems that dehumanize and antagonize employees.
Extraordinary bosses see technology as a way to free human beings to be creative and to build better relationships. They adapt their back-office systems to the tools, like smartphones and tablets, that people actually want to use.
8. Work should be fun, not mere toil.
Average bosses buy into the notion that work is, at best, a necessary evil. They fully expect employees to resent having to work, and therefore tend to subconsciously define themselves as oppressors and their employees as victims. Everyone then behaves accordingly.
Extraordinary bosses see work as something that should be inherently enjoyable–and believe therefore that the most important job of manager is, as far as possible, to put people in jobs that can and will make them truly happy.