Why Creating an Environment of Success Will Save Your Company Money

working at coffee shop

Working in the national parks for years, I’ve learned the real cost of employee attrition. It’s almost impossible to find another qualified candidate when you are out in the middle of the forest (even for housekeeping). Finding out what you can do for that person to make their job easier could be as easy as a sliding schedule for the start of the day. Finding a solution to your employee’s issues could help you fill a shift you assume no one wants or could be as easy as moving a desk next to a window.

What is a Successful Environment

A successful work environment is one where your employees can feel productive and engaged. You can achieve this through effective leadership, better offices, and by meeting your employee’s needs. This not only means adjusting the physical environment with things like natural lighting and adjustable workspaces (an Osha requirement), but also hitting their human needs, like coffee, being an upstanding company, paying for their continuing education, or encouraging growth internally.

working at coffee shop

Rewards To Reap

An actively engaged employee is infinitely more successful than a disengaged employee, they steal less, they are there more often and longer, and even get injured less on the job. Having an employee who pumps out great work for years without getting ill or injured in an employer’s dream, so why not fulfill your employee wants.

Ways to Transform Your Office Today

You can boost morale and create an environment of success with a small initiative today like meeting your employee’s basic needs, encouraging their growth (and your’s), and listening to them.

There are many ways to improve your employee’s moral, but an indicator of a good direction is stress reduction. This could be anything from providing snacks or even breakfast options for the earliest shift, to encouraging carpooling (a great stress reducer!). Listening to people, providing them with their basic needs (money, health insurance, growth), and doing whatever you can to reduce their stress. Stress and fear are great motivators for fast results, but brandishing your employees in the fire will only make them melt faster later.

For many people, this means a focus on the individual. This could be a diverse office with a variety of workstations to sit at, a variety of ways to communicate information to you, and access to sunlight (or natural lighting). Small steps to make people more productive add up over time, so even something small, like cubicle spaces for people who prefer privacy rather than your open office can pay off.

working at coffee shop

Ways to Transform your Office Tomorrow

There are certain aspects of stress reduction environments that take time to accomplish. While a couch by a window, a conference room converted to a quiet space, or a carpool can be set up in a day, a small office or a health initiative might take a month or two to implement.

Health initiatives are great! These cover everything from HR meetings to walking groups or a paid gym membership (which pays off in the long-run). Encouraging your employees to get up every two hours for a ten-minute walk or even allowing for longer lunch breaks could help them get more done when at their desk.

Really cracking down is not a good method of getting things done. Success breeds success, and that includes personal success. You may even consider redesigning your office. Even though cubicle farms feel impersonal, open air offices can be even more dangerous to productivity levels. Consider remodelling around your workflow, it can be similar to remodelling a kitchen – workflow and budget are important.

A converted “quiet” room provides an escape from a busy open floor plan, that hinders productivity. You can also ‘hack’ your open floor plan with nooks, half-walls, and by splitting the floor into distinct individual pods that give the impression of separation. Just like above, making your office work for the majority of individuals is the way to get the best work from your employees. This could mean allowing some employees to “find the zen of fuzzy slippers” or working vampire hours.

Because a checked-in, productive individual who feels like they can accomplish things is the number one way to create an environment of success. If that means a bean-bag corner where your dev. team can hold their meetings, or allowing everyone to clock out and take a two-hour lunch to combat afternoon fatigue, then that’s what you should do. Every environment of success is different because every company culture harbors different types of workers.

What to Take From This Article:

Everyone is a little different. Some people get everything done in the morning. Other people don’t do anything until three in the afternoon. And allowing your employees to work around those constraints, will give you happier, more productive employees. There isn’t one environment of success, there are many. The real environment of success is the one that lets employees find what works for them.

How to Deal With a Difficult Coworker


No matter how hard you try — or how much of a people person you are — there is one coworker with whom you simply don’t gel. As the word “coworker” implies, you work with this person, so it’s hard to avoid him or her in meetings, on e-mail chains or even at the water cooler. Unfortunately, you can’t spend your entire workday planning how to avoid this person, either.

So, what’re you to do? Dealing with a difficult coworker takes patience and finesse, but we’ve made all of that a bit easier with the following five tips. If you need an added incentive, friendly office relations are one of the easiest ways to make yourself happier at work, too.

In other words, it’s time to get to work — at least, on smoothing things over with your least favorite colleague.

Figure out Your Move First

No matter how nice and amenable you are, your coworker has done something to ruffle your feathers. It might be tempting to lay all of your feelings out right away in order to get them off your chest, but workplace wisdom says to slow down.

Give yourself a few hours or days to compose yourself and gather your thoughts on the situation that has caused you so much stress. Observe your coworker with others and try to figure out who this person is — and why. What is it about the two of you that isn’t working? With a bit of perspective, you might be able to better understand him or her.

Do Something, Though

So much workplace angst devolves into passive aggression, which is hardly ever a solution to your problem. You’re going to have to take some sort of action in order to deal with your problem, though there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution.

Consider both personalities involved, and you’ll have a better idea of how your problem will reach a solution. You might want to involve a boss or another coworker to mediate a discussion, or perhaps you could suggest a coffee session in which you both try to smooth things over. No matter what you choose, make sure you actually do it. The post-conversation relief and positive relations will be worth the pre-conversation stress.


Look for the Positives

It might be hard to see past your office enemy’s, well, enemy exterior. But, dig deep: Is there anything you can appreciate about him or her? Perhaps she does work hard, or he can put together a killer PowerPoint presentation. You can even look for the positives while you discuss your problems, as prescribed above. A good and true point could help you see your coworker’s side, thus improving relations between you.

This is also a good tactic if the mediation techniques above don’t work or if it’s too soon in the game to sit down and talk about your issues with someone. See the good and — try to, at least — forget the bad. Maybe a great sales record will speak louder than your colleague chews in the break room.

Keep It to Yourself

You probably have other friends at work, and it has to be so tempting to fill them in on all of the reasons why someone is your least favorite colleague. There are good and bad things about venting — permanent damage to relationships falls into the latter category.

In the heat of the moment, you might not care whether or not you remain cordial with your colleague, so you could feel inclined to vent away. Beware that your words can get back to the person about whom you’re talking, and everyone in the conversation — including your work friends who are listening to your story second-hand — could be looped into the drama and discomfort.

Make a Move

Finally, if you’ve made the above efforts and more and still can’t get along with your coworker, it might be time to do something a bit more permanent. Talk to your boss about opportunities within other departments or even in other branches. You might even be able to scoop up a job within your same department without as much communication or contact with the person causing you so much grief.

You spend at least 40 hours a week at work — it’s time to make it a more pleasant experience. By rising above it all, talking it out and hopefully smoothing things over with your coworker, you’ll feel that much better about being at the office. Now, to work on speeding up the clock to make Friday come faster…

About the Author

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

How to Expand Employee Happiness

Do you feel engaged at work? If you don’t, you are not alone. Around the world only 13% of employees say that they feel completely engaged at work. Half of employees are actively thinking about working somewhere else.

What is so great about engagement anyway? If you aren’t already craving more engagement at work or want to convince your boss that this is important, here are some reasons to focus on engagement. Engaged employees are less likely to leave their jobs and are more likely to display excellent performance.

How do we become more engaged at work? Some of the answers lie with your boss. A boss that you feel comfortable asking questions of contributes to engagement.   

Strengths also contribute to more engagement at work. If your boss focuses on your strengths, you are more likely to be engaged at work. But, if YOU focus on your strengths Ayers notes that you are ‘6 times more likely to be engaged at work’.

I think we can all agree that we would prefer a positive workplace, but is there hard evidence that supports this preference? Absolutely. Positive workplace morale means people stay home less, they are more likely to put in extra hours and productivity improves. It also inspires teamwork and is the precursor to a thriving organisation.

Ayers, tells us more about, ‘How happy employees can lead to a happy company’, in the infographic below:


If you want to learn more about bringing more passion and happiness to your career, check out our ebook and audio program called Proven Path. It helps you start and complete a project that will help boost your career.

Unhappy at Work? How to Tell Your Boss


I had it all — a great company, terrific coworkers and a short commute. The only problem was I really didn’t like my job. I spent most of my day alone, crunching numbers for data research. There was no creativity and little human interaction. I wasn’t happy, but I labored on, dejected and frustrated.

One day, everything changed. I had stopped by my boss’s office to answer a question. Instead, I faced one: “Is something wrong?” Instead of brushing it off, I told him I wasn’t happy. It was more than a bad day, I needed something more in my job.

My boss sat back, stunned. Trying to backpedal, I added, “I like the office and everyone here. I’m just not satisfied in this role anymore. I need a change of pace, a challenge, something.”

That was all it took. My brilliant boss saw a good worker in distress and took action. I still crunch numbers, but I can deal with it because I also get to lead a new team. It’s not easy, but I love the challenge, interaction and creativity it brings.

A friend of mine had a similar experience. He was really good in sales, but, at the end of the day, he wasn’t fulfilled. He was more proactive than I and took the matter to his supervisor. I’m pleased to report that he’s now a satisfied — and effective — client manager.

If you’re discontent at work, you don’t have to suffer in silence or change jobs. Don’t wait to have an outburst like I did, either. There’s another option. Get some help by going to your boss and asking for help. Not sure how to do that? Here are some ideas:

1. Get a Grip on What’s Bothering You

Do you know why you’re dissatisfied? I felt unhappy for weeks, but I never took time to pinpoint the problem. Don’t make that mistake. For a week, write down everything that bugs you about your job, no matter how insignificant. When that’s done, you have data. Time for analysis.

Read through your list looking for commonalities, patterns and repetitions. Then you’ll be able to name your issues, such as too many assignments, interrupting coworkers or lack of a challenge. When you approach your boss, you can be specific. Even great bosses can’t read minds.

2. Scrutinize Scrupulously

While you’re considering what makes you unhappy, look at your life outside work as well. Sometimes people are sad and disinterested all the time, but it’s more obvious at work because of expectations and pressure. If you constantly feel helpless, tired, negative, irritable or worthless, these are all signs of a bigger problem. You may be one of the 14.8 million adults affected by a depressive disorder. In this case, a doctor will be more help than your boss, at least initially.

3. Prepare a Plan

Now that you’ve identified your problems, you may see ways to fix them. Since you’re in the middle of it all, you might be the best person to suggest some changes — or not. Either way, you’ll probably be asked for solutions, and you can either make proposals or honestly admit you’re flummoxed.

Think about what it is that would make you happier in your job and list out some things that can help you get it – maybe it’s taking on an additional project or getting to work from home once per month to get done the writing you’re too unfocused to do in your cubicle. Sure, it may mean asking for more work but if it’s fulfilling work it could be the answer to your troubles.

4. Try Talking

OK, you have a handle on what’s bugging you, and you may even have some changes to propose. Time to set a meeting with your boss. Just don’t approach this as a doom and gloom scenario, or your boss’s schedule may suddenly be full for the next two months. When you request the appointment, keep your attitude positive. You really do want things to get better, and this meeting is another step along the way.

5. Set the Stage

You hope the meeting will send you on a path toward a happier workplace, so show it. Have a productive mindset. Go in calm, cool and collected. You’ll be more efficient — and you won’t make your boss uncomfortable or annoyed at having to deal with shouting, sobbing, whining or whimpering. Be positive about the process, and your boss will be, too.

6. Sit in the Spotlight

Remember, this isn’t a gripe session about the rest of the staff. It’s about you. Tell your boss you want to be more engaged in your work. Make the case for becoming a better employee. You’re more likely to get assistance if it improves the bottom line.

7. Paint the Picture

Be upfront with your unhappiness, and use your data to back you up. Feeling overwhelmed? It’s no wonder — you had to start five new projects in the last week. Constrained? Because of the chain of command, you’ve wasted time seeking approval for little decisions you’re capable of making. Unappreciated? You put in way more than 40 hours last week but saw no additional compensation through overtime or comp time.

Don’t be accusatory or negative. In a professional manner, state your facts.

8. Recommend Resolutions

This is the time to pull out your list of suggestions — if you were able to generate it. Your boss will appreciate knowing what you think will solve the problem. They’re not a mind reader, remember? You won’t necessarily get everything you want, but it’s a good starting place. If not all your ideas are feasible, go on to step nine.

9. Solicit Suggestions

Request advice and make sure to take notes. This not only helps your recall, but it also shows the boss you’re serious. If an answer seems vague or incomplete, ask for details. You’re here for help, so it’s up to you to get it.

10. Take Action

By the end of the meeting, you should have a plan of action, so it’s time to get busy. If it’s a long list, don’t become overwhelmed and give up. Take it one step at a time. If the going gets tough, remember: This is about you being happier at work. Your boss will also notice — and appreciate — that you followed through.

Get out of your rut at work. You may not have put yourself there, but, with help from your boss, you can crawl your way back out.

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

10 Leadership Secrets From Top Business Books


Think about your boss for a moment. What do you think are the reasons for his success? What are his qualities that inspire you? Why do you want to become like him? Let’s learn about the answers to these questions by taking help of the leadership books.

Leadership has got multiple facets and each and every facet plays a key role in the success of the leader. Everyone wants to become a leader. People like to have followers who admire them. Leaders are responsible for the success or the failure of the organisation. If they could effectively manage the people, culture and work in the organisation, no one can stop the organisation from achieving heights.

If you are a student who is about to enter the corporate life in a year, learning leadership lessons can help you get an edge over your competitors. If you are a manager who is facing challenges in managing people, work or culture in the organisation, leadership lessons are essential for your career.

1. Every team member should wear the crown of a ‘leader’ and take charge

Becoming a leader and leading a team is an achievement, but when the responsibilities of the leader becomes overwhelming, the achievement can soon turn into a nightmare. Rather than having a single leader loaded with work, developing a team of leaders with each member acting as a leader can help in developing a team with excellent team coordination. By growth of each employee ultimately the organisation grows. This idea is suggested by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Cliff in their book ‘A team of Leaders‘.

Imagine a situation, where you don’t have to give explanation for a decision, instead your team members point out the benefits of your decision as they can relate themselves to you. Life will become so easy for the leaders and the overall potential of the organisation increases.

2. A Motivated Employee is twice efficient than a demotivated employee

What do you think is the reason behind the continuing success of an organisation like Google? It’s the Motivation. Not just external motivation of the employees is important, internal motivation plays a crucial role in the long term success of the organisation. This idea is given by Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth about what motivates us who is connecting the dots between motivation and Organisation Effectiveness.

If the employees are just externally motivated by giving rewards and appreciation they may adopt an unethical behaviour in order to achieve the rewards which destroys the culture of the organisation. If they are internally motivated they’ll trust the values of the organisation, put in extra effort and be ethical.

3. Empathy towards your employees will win half battle for you

If you empathize with people and understand their emotions you can learn about things like ‘what motivates them?’, ‘What are the different problems faced by them’ and ‘How can you help them grow?’ It you want to become an effective leader, you need to influence your employees which is possible only if you are emotionally intelligent.

Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence relates Emotional Intelligence with leadership. He describes how leaders can positively influence the people they lead so that they can work at their best potential.

If you are empathetic to your employees, you can get the insights about inside the organisation as well as outside it by developing a healthy equation with your employees. Invite your employees to a dinner party after they failed in a project, appreciate the effort put in and see the difference in their behaviour.

4. Focus on developing the strengths of your employees

Have you ever heard of a leader who is the master of all? Even Steve Jobs was fired from a company he himself created. No one is perfect. As Devora Zack suggested in the book ‘Single Tasking’- Multitasking is a myth. Successful leaders are successful because they can delegate work to their followers on the basis of their strengths and don’t focus on managing their weaknesses. By surrounding themselves with the right people having the right skills they can develop an effective team.

Tom Rath and Barie Conchie in their book Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, And Why People Follow explains that effective leaders focus on developing strengths of the people instead of managing their weaknesses.

By knowing your strengths you can use them to become successful in academic, career and personal success. It can help you become a successful leader because now you will be able to identify strengths of other people and recruit them accordingly.

5. You can’t become a leader overnight

What if your employees are not satisfied with your leadership? Instead of talking to you about an issue, they talk against you behind your back? Leadership is about influencing the people and gaining followers which can’t happen in a day. By prioritizing effectively both people and tasks it is possible to become an effective leader.

Maxwell in his book Developing the Leader within You and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership explains the different laws and steps to be followed to become a successful leader.

It requires patience, commitment and learning from your mistakes. Along with personal development if you can contribute to the development of others you are an effective leader.

6. Predict the uncertainties of future and decide the right path

Leader is a person who could successfully navigate his followers in times of uncertainty and help them deal with difficulties without getting demoralised. It’s important to develop a strategy to achieve the long term goal of the organisation.

Alfred Lansing in his book Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage tells the story of the leader Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 members voyage across the Antarctic Circle in a very difficult environment of extreme cold, no food and stormy winds.

There will be times when you face opposition from people against your decision, but staying confident, firm and strong with your decision will help you gain followers slowly and exponentially.

7. Storytelling and Character Building are an effective way of getting followers

Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. in his book Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership through Literature tries to emphasize the storytelling is an effective way of making a resonating effect in the minds of the employees where by relating themselves with the characters of the story they can modify their behaviour according to the needs of the organisation.

If you want to be the inspiration of others, develop character and trust among people, and only then you can help others to grow. If your employees perceive you as honest, fair and intelligent, then only they’ll be able to understand your vision and will be willing to contribute their 100 percent.

8. Promoting Innovation by developing a favourable culture in the organisation

Leader who ensure creating a conducive environment for creativity to flourish; values employees, customer and competitors; and works in the interest of everyone is a real leader.

Tony Hsieh in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by telling about his journey from selling Linkexchange (his first company) to getting Zappos (second company) out of bankruptcy and selling it to Amazon, highlights the effect of culture and core values of the organisation on the creativity and productivity of the employees.

Lazlo bock in his book ‘Work rules’ highlights the reasons behind the success of the Google from an HR perspective. The key behind Google’s success is its culture where no unilateral decisions are made. Every decision is made after the consent of all the group members whether it is performance appraisal or product design or launch of a product.

Employees when given freedom, equal powers and responsibility become more loyal, confident and creative. When people who are more intelligent then you are hired, commanding them may result in reducing their efficiency. They are smart enough to manage their work and innovate independently.

9. Expand the pie

Imagine working with people who competed with you for the position you are currently on. Appointing them to work under you is a big risk. They may try to throw you out and take your position.

Doris Kearns Goodwin in his book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln explains the reasons behind the success of Lincoln who took the risk and appointed his competitors to his cabin as he considered them to be the best men whose service is needed by the country.

Understanding the human behaviour and knowing what motivates them can work wonders for a leader and turn enemies into allies. You can talk and analyse the situation of conflict with other person to find a way that ensures benefit of everyone.

10. Guide the Change

Assume that you work in an organisation which lacks creativity. Being aware of the rising competitive forces, you know that your organisation won’t sustain for long. How will you guide the cultural change of the organisation?

Developing your strategy, gaining trust of everyone and analysing the positives and the negatives of the change will help you guide the change that you are planning to bring in your organisation. Have a plan B ready if the change doesn’t go according to the way you planned. For example- If you are adopting a new technology for your product, don’t discard the old technology completely.

Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to great‘, studies the reasons behind the sustained success of the great companies like Kimberly-Clark, Nucor, Walgreen’s and Wells Fargo. These companies could move from below average to successful company’s status only because of the vision and guidance of their leader.

In the book ‘Only the Paranoid survive‘, Andrew Stephen Grove emphasizes that it is important for long term success of the business to be prepared for changes in the market by anticipating them. The earlier and more accurately you identify these changes, the more freedom you have to choose your response, because your original business will provide the resources to jump-start the new business.

Leadership is not about micromanaging or making your employees scared of you, it has multiple aspects. Each and every aspect is important. You become a successful leader only when you adopt a holistic approach and contribute in the growth of others. Don’t dictate people because of your positional power. Instead influence them with your leadership power. Read these books and apply its suggestions in your life and become an effective leader.

This is a guest post from Vandana Shivani of Keynote where you can read Book summaries.

* All links are affiliate links to Amazon.

How to Say No to Soul-Sucking Tasks


You’re busy. I get it. You get lots of emails. You work a lot. You’re really important to lots of people. You usually get nods of approval when you talk about the depths of your busyness.

But I’m not impressed.

Look, everyone is busy. It’s not impressive anymore. Bragging about being busy is like a fish bragging about floating downstream. Neither busyness nor floating requires any effort. Busyness is an inevitable consequence of our culture.

You do, however, have to do quite a bit of work NOT to be busy. You have to do even more work to be busy with the right things. Saying “no” is one of the most difficult parts of my life. Falling asleep thinking about work happens more often than not. Giving my time to the right people in the right proportions happened once in 2007 (and it was an accident). The current of busyness is strong and swimming upstream is not easy.

So how do we swim upstream?

Do you want to be a better leader at work? Then we should talk about you can improve employee engagement and happiness. Click here to see how more happiness can help your organization.

Your Goals Aren’t The Problem

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.  – Steve Jobs

There is a common practice among productivity gurus called the “M.I.T.” or “Most Important Task.” An MIT is a single, actionable task for the day. If all you accomplish today is your MIT, you’ve had a good day. Setting daily MIT’s is a great habit.

But when I first implemented MIT’s, I failed constantly. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t decide what needed to be done. I couldn’t decide what didn’t need to be done. I had too many priorities. I wanted too many things. My MIT’s were inconsistent. I couldn’t focus on one task without feeling guilty for not completing the other 10 things I also considered “most important.”

Sure, I could write down one MIT every day. Sure, I had a mission statement. Sure, I could tell you about my passions. But for every spoken priority, I had so many more unspoken, unwritten priorities. The truth is that clarifying one’s goals and aspirations is only half of the equation. And it’s the easy half.

The hard part is clarifying one’s anti-goals. The almost-passions. Someone else’s aspirations you’ve unknowingly adopted. The I.I.T.’s (“Important-ish Tasks”). The passions you’re “supposed” to have.

The Un-Priorities.

The Un-Priority

The thing about an Un-Priority is that it often looks and feels just like one of your real priorities. An Un-Priority isn’t something you don’t want to do, but something you do. Un-priorities are the mostly-good things that make you too busy to follow-through on your priorities. They’re the shadows of your real priorities. Prioritize an un-priority and it will give the illusion of progress, but will bring very little long-term satisfaction.

To help you identify some of the un-priorities in your life, I’ve broken them down into a few categories. Just like the first step in reaching your goals is to identify them, the first step in eliminating un-priorities from your life is to identify them. Grab a piece of paper as your read through these categories and see how many un-priorities you can identify in your own life.

Someone Else’s Priority

Many of the priorities we adopt from others are really good. My mom is a priority in my life because she is a priority to my dad. I learned to prioritize my mom by adopting someone else’s priority until it became my own. Of course, I’ve adopted a lot of priorities that I don’t want. Those are tricky. My dad wants me to move closer to home. My boss wants me to start traveling to give presentations. Acquaintances want to “stay in touch.”

These priorities didn’t originate with me, but I feel pressure to keep them. These un-priorities don’t bring fulfillment to my life, but rather function to please someone else.

Our lives only have room for so many priorities, so we need to be quick to label the expectations of others as un-priorities and turn our attention somewhere else. It may feel weird (or even mean), but the sooner you label someone else’s expectation of you as an un-priority, the quicker you can move forward with your true priorities.

Too Many Priorities

The people on this planet who end up doing nothing are those who never realized they couldn’t do everything. -Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy

In any sport, there is a clearly defined out-of-bounds. Un-priorities are your out-of-bounds. The grass may look the same on either side, but the line tells you where you need to be. Un-priorities aren’t bad things. They’re good things that take you a little too far out of the game. Shrink your field of play. Define your out-of-bounds so that you can play the game you want to play.

If you’re like me, you default to treating every project, every opportunity, every goal, and every person as a priority. But if you want your life to matter in any way, there can only be room for a few priorities. To be busy with the right things means you have to label a lot of really good things as un-priorities. Not the bad stuff. The good stuff.

What are the good things that are stretching you so thin that you can’t give yourself to what matters most? Where do you need to draw an out-of-bounds line, even for the things you value?

Everyone Else Is Doing It

Some un-priorities are so commonplace that they are generally believed to be priorities. They look and feel like priorities, but they aren’t. They’re counterfeit priorities. Let me give you some examples.

Priority: Cultivating friendships

Un-priority: Daily Facebook use

Un-priority: Christmas cards

Priority: Rest

Un-Priority: Netflix

Un-priority: Excessive alcohol use

Priority: Communication with customers and co-workers

Un-Priority: Constantly checking email

Priority: Lifelong learning

Un-Priority: Over-consuming the news

Priority: Being a loving father and husband

Un-priority: Over-working to “provide”

Cultural stigma and peer pressure are powerful forces. Don’t let them push you to make pointless or harmful activities a priority. Label them an un-priority and move on.

Unspecific Priorities Are Un-Priorities

When is enough enough? If I’ve never taken the time to decide, I will be susceptible to over-work and giving my best time to the wrong priorities (or maybe the wrong proportions to the right priorities). Let me throw out some examples. In all of these, your ability to say no to un-priorities is dramatically increased if you have been specific and clear on your priorities.

Vague Priority: Serving my local church

Specific: Serving through handyman work for widows and single mothers

Specific: Volunteering once every month in the church’s nursery

Specific: Mentoring a high school student every other week

Vague Priority: Loving my wife

Specific: Asking a thoughtful question every day after work

Specific: Planning (and never missing) a weekly date night

Specific: Being home by 5:30 every day, leaving all work at the office

Vague Priority: Improving my resume

Specific: Working on a side business daily from 5-7 a.m. (no more, no less)

Specific: Spending 30 minutes every day learning Spanish via Youtube videos

Specific: Increasing measurable work metrics by 20% over the next 60 days and then asking for a raise

How can we know when enough is enough? Be specific. How can we prevent our most important priority from overshadowing our other priorities (and becoming its own un-priority)? Be specific. It’s all about drawing that out-of-bounds line.

Closing Remarks

While it’s not bad to be busy, it’s dumb to be busy with the wrong priorities.

If you don’t want to be defined by your un-priorities, you need to identify them. Remember the tips we discussed.

  • What un-priorities are the expectations of someone else?
  • What un-priorities are the result of having too many priorities?
  • What un-priorities are the product of peer pressure or cultural normalcy?
  • What un-priorities have resulted from lack of specificity?

If you haven’t started an un-priority list, start one now. What is your most profound un-priority? Check the comments to see if others are struggling with the same ones.

Author bio:

Matt Smelser is an aspiring doctor, the founder of GY20R, and is glad that you read this entire post. He is from Colorado, but currently lives in Lincoln, NE. He often speaks in the third person, like he is doing right now. Whether you’re young or old, he thinks that you should check out his blog Get Your 20’s Right.

10 Tips to Get Your Boss to Listen to You

listen to your employees

Have you ever felt like a cog in the corporate machine? Feeling unheard and unknown leads to feeling undervalued. Believe me, I know. A few years ago, the ownership of the company I worked for changed three times within two years. Employees were herded around like cattle, and many were laid off. Morale was low.

My new supervisor had this do-or-die personality, and her statements were cutting. Our communication styles were different, and we both took statements personally. Conversations weren’t going anywhere. So, I reached out to the Human Resources department.

My concerns were listened to impartially, and a few weeks later, Human Resources arranged team-building challenges between all teams. These exercises raised morale, and my boss and I got to know each other better. I could have kept quiet, but why let communication issues cause trouble? There are ways to get your boss to listen to you.

1. Discover your boss’s communication style and use it to your advantage.

People communicate in many different ways. Does your manager like to listen to or read details? Does your boss like facts and figures or an overview? Is your boss hands-on or hands-off? Identify their point of view, and then pitch your idea or talk about your concern from that perspective first.

Does your organization need help improving communication? Then let’s chat! Then fill out the short form at the bottom of this contact form and we’ll see how improved communication can help build a happier company culture.

2. Don’t poke holes in things because you can.

Instead, be constructive and have actionable ideas. Do you only see what’s being done wrong? Is there a simple solution that would improve productivity? Don’t nitpick and come off as being a critic. Instead, sit down and actively think about actionable ideas. Arrange a face-to-face meeting, perhaps with another employee present whose position is relevant in this case, and present a few fix-it solutions.

3. Remember bosses need to know what they’re doing right, too.

We all like to receive compliments. Raise your boss’s morale, and you’ll raise employee morale in turn. By telling your boss what’s working well, they will be able to better strategize goals for the future of the company. By keeping quiet, whether you have “positive” or “areas-of-improvement” things to say, you’re hurting more than yourself.

4. Let go of details that are irrelevant and see the bigger picture.

Will this concern matter tomorrow, next week or next month? Is there something else really wrong here? Your boss has a lot going on, and so do you. Is it relevant? If this really matters to you, take your idea or concern to someone who will be unbiased and will be able to act on it.

5. Don’t count out Human Resources or another relevant party.

Feel like you’re snitching? There are adults who still think they’re in third grade. If this concern is bigger than a petty issue with your boss, you may need to take it higher or take it elsewhere to be heard.

6. Don’t take things personally.

What is your communication style? Do you have a tendency to handle criticism too harshly? Surround yourself with positive quotes and colors and remind yourself of what you have successfully achieved in your position. Remove emotion from the equation and look at the facts. Emotion and a positive work environment do matter, but so does a reasonable perspective.

7. Use technology appropriately for communication.

Different forms of communication are more effective for certain tasks than others. Email is better for brevity with scheduling and confirming meetings. Phone conversations are necessary for two-way communication, and they’re good to be heard without worrying about being intimidated by body language.

If an issue relies on much factual evidence and background is needed, don’t discount the memo, which can be reread for more information intake over time. Video conferencing is a great way to have face-to-face communication when everyone can’t physically be present. Save face-to-face communication for serious concerns and consensuses that needs multiple layers of conversation where tone and body language are important.

8. Practice active listening.

Most of us are terrible listeners. Don’t interrupt. Don’t assume anything. Summarize, objectively and briefly, the point your boss has made. Repeat back, in your own words, what your boss has said to you to show you are listening. Add your point or interpretation when appropriate. Don’t ramble. Ask for clarification if you need it.

9. Mind your body language.

The rules for showing interest in class are the same in the workplace. If you don’t look like you’re interested, then why would your boss call on you? Sit up straight. Don’t cross your arms. Nod and smile when appropriate. Sit back, relax and let your body participate in the conversation, too. Show that you are also approachable.

10. Move on.

Whether that’s brushing the issue aside or physically leaving, move on. Accept that your boss may not see the need to listen to the employee. If your needs are not being met, know that there is a more fulfilling position out there for you. Know when to walk away. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words, and sometimes you have to do what’s best for yourself.

Being approachable is a trait that employees highly value in a boss. Communication through text, email or social media is most common these days, but meeting face to face has the added value of multiple layers of perception. Remember, your boss is human, too. Consider your communication styles and don’t take things personally.

Remember the bigger picture: Your voice and what you have to say are important.

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum


How to Improve Your Work Culture in an Office

open office

When I first started work at my current job, I was bowled over by the overwhelming sense of fun that permeated the office. There were video games, BBQs, raffles, and frisbee tournaments on the patio. Free food and schwag was so prevalent, you couldn’t walk 500 feet without encountering a giant plate of cookies or a comfy new t-shirt.

We were all about that hip ‘tech company culture’ — that is, until it backfired.

Does your organization need help improving communication, feeling grateful, or creating a happiness plan? Then let’s chat! Then fill out the short form at the bottom and we’ll see how more happiness tools can improve communication at your company.

When Internal Culture Goes Wrong

While the effort to keep company morale sky high 24/7 was appreciated, it was also abused. The abundance of distractions competed for the attention span of the employees — and eventually, some of my colleagues just quit working all together.

We had no system in place to make sure employees were meeting their production goals, and no real threat to anyone’s job if poor performance was noticed. Once that became apparent, quite a few people took advantage of the system.

Upper management was confused and unsure of where things had gone wrong. With so many fun happenings around the office, why weren’t the employees happy and productive?

The problem really boiled down to one thing — engagement. Did our employees like the company? Of course, they were paid to sit around and play all day, what’s not to like? Were our employees engaged? No — not even a little bit.

Engagement & Culture

Engagement is more than employee attraction or retention. Employees who are engaged are emotionally connected to and passionate about their work. They’re proud of their company and look forward to coming to work each day. They’re willing to go the extra mile to make sure the organization is successful.

Furthermore, engagement and culture go hand in hand. Company culture impacts how an employee experiences and perceives the organization they work for. Engagement is how an employee feels about themselves and their work.

If the company culture is toxic or apathetic, and employee won’t have positive feelings about the organization and their role in it then they’ll end up just coasting along instead.

My coworkers and I weren’t emotionally connected to our work at all. Hell, half of us had never even heard of our product before we started working here. And as for being proud of our company — well, that’s hard to do when the only way you know what the company stands for is a values poster in the lobby. Without strong leadership, clear communication, and solid expectations, our employees were set up to fail from the very start.

Management eventually identified the problem with both our internal culture and lack of engagement and began to take steps to set things right.

Our leadership made three main changes:

  • We all created agreed upon goals with our team leader.
  • Communication channels were opened up.
  • We began to hear more about what our company really stood for.

And you’ll never guess what happened.

Productivity soared.

Distraction’s Impact on Engagement

It’s hard for an employee to be fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, their work if they can’t actually get any work done.

Employee distraction is one of the biggest hurdles companies face, and my company is no exception. While the X-Box and popcorn machine no longer pull focus like they used to, the open office environment is another story entirely.

Open offices are incredibly popular in many tech companies as they’re considered a boon to communication and camaraderie. In truth, lack of privacy, uncontrolled social interactions, and constant noise pollution have left workers more dissatisfied and unproductive than ever. Not to mention, open offices make it far easier for illness to spread.

I loathe open offices. I am quite easily distracted and the uninterrupted stream of noise from my coworkers keeps me from reaching my potential. I don’t think I could be more productive in a private office or cubicle, I know I could.

But one major upside to the open office is cost — they’re incredibly cheap to set up. Expecting my employer to pony up the dough to set us all up with our own private space is, frankly, ridiculous.

The trick is to find a middle ground.

There are a couple of easy to apply solutions companies can employ:

  1. Within the open space itself, they can create different zones for different types of work (collaborative, individual, etc) using architectural elements like alcove sofas, low walls, or sheer paneling.
  2. They can give their employees the freedom to move around campus by supplying tablets or versatile 2-in-1 laptops. Individual rooms can be set aside for quiet, independent work.

In order for an organization to see its workers reach the highest level of engagement and productivity, it will need to cultivate an environment that supports optimal performance — both physically and psychologically.

My company is young. We’re learning a lot as we go, and playing many things by ear, but I have high hopes that one day we’ll be considered on of the top places to work in Idaho.

What does your company do to limit distractions so people can be productive and get in the zone?

Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.

6 Paths to Work You Love This Year

Conquer Your Inner Fear

If you’re in a job you can’t stand, you’ve probably said something like, “Is it just me? Do I need to just buckle down and make this work?” And the truth is that most Americans are unhappy at work. it’s not just you. If you’re having these thoughts, chances are the job isn’t that good for you.

There’s a reason you feel sick to your stomach when you meet with your boss, or that you dread Monday mornings. Trust your instincts.

I didn’t trust my instincts, and ended up staying in a job that made me miserable for several years – and I dreaded going in on Monday mornings. In hindsight, the cost of staying in that job was not worth it, and I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes the cost is too high – you can never get back the lost time and the missed opportunities.

So what are your options? How can you move toward more fulfilling work as soon as possible?

You have at least six possible paths – three involve staying in your current job, and three involve making a switch to another job. Here they are:


These three options involve staying in your current job while making a big enough change to make it work for you.

Do you want do work you truly care about? You have to start by building a resume that draws people to you.  Click here to check out the Unlock Your Career Happiness guide. You’ll find out the 7 most important steps to doing work you love.

1. Redefine your job – shape it into what you want.

This requires three things: A willingness to envision specifically how your current job could be better, the guts to ask for that change, and a willingness to be told no.

I had a colleague who loved facilitating groups, and she proposed adding that responsibility to her role, and got an immediate “yes!” from the VP. By choosing to focus on the work she loved, the organization was better for it, and she was much happier.

This path has the potential to be the least disruptive while still accomplishing the goal of increasing your fulfillment at work. You might be amazed at what is possible within the structure of your current job if you are willing to ask.

2. Change how you think about things. Change your mind, change the story, change your attitude.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” — Maya Angelou

For many people, this can be the most powerful path because it not only affects how you experience your job, it affects your outlook on all aspects of life.

In psychology and counseling this technique is referred to as reframing. Reframing can be highly effective in changing the way you experience situations, and it keeps the power in your hands. Think about someone you know who always has a positive outlook, or who always manages to be successful despite the circumstances.

This is not about ignoring the undesirable elements – sometimes life can suck, and that’s a reality. This is about acknowledging the reality, and deciding to take control over the how we interpret it, and what we decide to do about it.

3. Build another job on the side.

Moonlight, freelance, explore a passion, start something you care about. This path can take many forms and lead to many outcomes.

It could be a small business doing something that energizes you and enables you to rethink how you experience your current day job, or it could be a venture that eventually replaces your income and allows you to quit your day job.

Focus and persistence are the key ingredients here. Get laser focused on what it is you are willing to spend your free time pursuing, and stick to it until it works.

I know people who have successful side businesses doing things like wedding photography, running a martial arts studio, and consulting for small nonprofits.

If you absolutely know that you can’t (or won’t) stay in your current job, the next three paths are for you.

GO…SWITCH to another job.

These three options involve seeking another job. Sometimes you know when it’s time to leave.

4. Switch to a new job at the same organization.

Maybe you like where you work, but your boss is a jerk. Talk to HR and explore whether there might be options for an internal transfer, or seek out other managers and inquire about openings that might be on the horizon. It can be tricky, so be discreet about it.

If you have good relationships and a good reputation in your organization, this is a realistic path that isn’t as drastic as jumping ship.

5. Switch to a new job somewhere else.

This is often the first path people think of when they are unhappy in a job, and while it can offer the needed change, it can also require significant investment of time and energy.

If you are sure this is the right path for you, there are many wonderful resources that can help you make the switch. I explore find solid tips here in an article on this site.

6. Quit. And create your own job.

You are absolutely done. Sick of the grind, sick of the people. Hopefully you have some cash saved up or a couch you can crash on for a while.

Before you take the leap, get a few things in place while you still have the security of a paycheck. Do some networking, draft a business plan for your next move, tighten up your expenses. Then get on with it – seriously consider what’s the worst that could happen? Chances are, it’s not as bad as you think.

If you’re ready for change, you have options – at least six. Pick one and get to work.

Let me know which path you’re taking in the comments below.

* Rex Foster is a writer and career coach who helps people discover how to achieve fulfillment in their careers. If you are miserable in your job and ready to take action, you can start by downloading his free eBook here: “5 Practical Steps for Making a Switch to a Job You Love” and connect with me on Facebook and Twitter at @rexdfoster.

Be effective. Change the world.

10 Examples of How to Use Your Strengths at Work

Strengths at Work

An organization I work with recently brought in a consultant. At meetings he furiously types away at his keyboard.

What gives? I record the minutes for the group. I’m the writer, remember?

His summaries were for his own benefit. Still, we were both doing the same task.

Could I be flexible enough to hand over this job? Heck, yeah. It’d be one less thing for me to do.

So I approached our consultant about the overlap, and he was more than happy to take on the responsibility. Because I was flexible, I lost a bothersome chore.

The organization also benefitted. I’ll admit that the consultant’s notes are better than mine. (I’m a writer, not a note-taker, after all.)

Consider your skills in a new light, and see how it wins you points – or brings you relief – in the workplace.

Does your organization need help improving communication, feeling grateful, or creating a happiness plan? Then let’s chat! Then fill out the short form at the bottom and we’ll see how more happiness can help your organization.

1. Adaptability 

Adaptability is essential in life and to live. If species hadn’t adapted, evolution wouldn’t have happened. We never would have made it out of the primordial soup.

Naturally you must be adaptable within your field of work, but what if you’re suddenly outside the box?

Several years ago, a college student accepted a summer job as construction coordinator for an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. One minor complication: He had no construction experience.

However, he was adaptable. He quickly learned everything he needed to get other people working hard building houses. By the end of the summer, several families had new homes and the college student found he could learn way, way outside his field.

2. Assertiveness

It’s not too difficult to be assertive at work: speak up at meetings, take credit when it’s due and make recommendations when you see a solution. It’s about being on your toes all the time.

However, another – and less-used – aspect of assertiveness is saying no to unrealistic expectations, to unfair demands, even to unrealistic requests.

For instance, a career coach was asked at the last minute to provide a follow-up workshop to a lecture she was giving – at no extra compensation.

Heck, what’s the big deal? She knows all the info, and she’s already there.

However, this is her profession. You just can’t go around giving it away at the drop of the hat and still make a living. It’s O.K. to be assertive in order to keep the paychecks coming in. Saying no is another way to stand up for yourself.

3. Consistency

At work it’s important for people to know they can count on you. If you’re consistent, your output is always on time and high quality. What happens if being steady at work makes it possible for you to do your job without having a meltdown?

Consider what it’s like to be a wedding photographer. Yes, you’re helping couples document one of the most important days of their lives. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s also often insane.

What if the reception is a disaster, tensions are running high, too many people are running around and you still have to produce lovely pictures? If you have a set routine, nothing is going to throw you off. You can take chaos as it comes. You have a plan, and you won’t deviate from it.

4. Design 

People in artistic fields naturally need design skills, but they also come in handy in many workplace settings. You can use your keen eye to make the environment better and more productive for everyone.

What if the office is being repainted? You make suggestions, knowing what you know. Green suggests tranquility, while red is intense. White opens up a space, and blue encourages productivity. What color fits best with your work culture?

Perhaps you’re ordering new furniture. What’s going to enhance your specific setting? Geometric shapes encourage organization and discipline. Softer, flowing pieces enhance creativity. Which does your office need?

5. Empathy

When you’re empathetic, you can look at a situation from someone else’s point of view. At work, this can be enlightening for you, especially if you’re considering things from a client’s perspective.

However, what if you extend that empathy outside your office … far outside? A tech firm regularly sends employees to other parts of the world to simple help out. The causes range from preventing rhinoceros poaching to helping low-income families obtain needed baby equipment.

Sure, this wasn’t bad PR, but the intended and achieved goal is to encourage employees to think about larger issues and work together to have an effect. It’s not all about the bottom line.

6. Flexibility

Covered in the introduction. You did read it, didn’t you?

7. Focus

Being focused on your work helps you crank it out better and faster, but what if you could be more focused about your focus?

Some workers try batching: setting aside a significant chunk of time to accomplish a specific task. Interruptions are forbidden: no email, Facebook, coffee breaks or texting. All work, all the time.

It takes a lot of focus to be so focused, but setting up rules you’re determined to follow really cuts down distractions and interruptions. Productivity soars.

8. Listening  

Of course it’s important to be a good listener at work. This encourages clear understanding among all stakeholders.

It can also help avoid conflict. A probate mediator was working on a longstanding dispute among family members. One, in particular, had been volatile and out of control.

Rather than jumping all over the man or trying to keep him under thumb, the mediator simply listened. The man had been yelling and cursing to try to get someone to understand the situation from his point of view.

When the mediator chose to listen rather than react, the formerly explosive man was calm and appreciative. So was the rest of the family.

9. Peacekeeping 

Speaking of keeping the peace, it’s essential in the workplace. Someone’s got to negotiate disputes. If you use your peacekeeping skills early, you can prevent problems before they even start.

A manager who regularly checks in with employees just to see how things are going will help morale and encourage productivity. Workers have the opportunity to get things off their chests before problems escalate.

It’s kind of like formulating a truce before any real hostilities have erupted. Do it right – and often – and your office won’t feel like a middle school, full of resentment, animosity and grudges.

10. Self-Confidence

At work, believing in yourself and your abilities helps keep you on track and focused, even when things aren’t going your way. You’re sure that you’ll rise above the noise and distraction.

Self-confidence on the job can also help prevent some devastating potential consequences of insecurity: alcoholism and drug abuse. If you know that things will get better because you can make them better, you won’t lose hope and have to look outside yourself for solace.

That’s a powerful strength that can see you safely through some tough times.


This is valuable in many ways, but use it right now to think about what talents you regularly bring to the workplace. Don’t be modest – you’ve got skills. Probably a lot.

You’ve just read about 10 strengths. Do you see yourself there, or are there others? Creativity? Competitiveness? Time management? Teaching? Writing? Learning? Speak up and don’t be shy. Then, consider how you can use these abilities in other ways to make work better for yourself and others.

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum