11 Ways to have More Productive Mornings

city sunrise happiness quote

I was perfectly happy – and productive – staying up late into the night to study and sleeping in until nine or ten in the morning. Then my first full time job came along. It was a tough adjustment.

Not only did I have to learn to wake up early, but I had to learn how to be productive during those early morning hours. After a lot of a trial-and-error I found ways to make the most of my mornings. I came up with 11 techniques that will work for almost anyone.

I may not be a morning person, but I am proud to say that I can hang with the earliest of the early worms. So, if you’re anything like me and are looking to break unhealthy habits and start eating your frog in the early hours of the day, try out some of these tips for kick-starting your morning routine.

1. Get Up Early

Probably not what you want to hear, but getting up earlier has multiple benefits. Time is precious, and in the early hours you’re much less likely to be bothered by others wanting your attention.

For those who work around their families, waking up before they do guarantees you time to focus on work before your family needs you. Many famous CEOs wake up well before 6am, so it’s a habit worth emulating.

2. Make a Schedule and Stick To It

When we’re busy, it’s easy to become stressed and overwhelmed by what we have to do. To combat this, create a schedule in the morning for your day, built around when you feel it’s easier to do certain tasks. For example, you might find it easier to do creative tasks earlier in the morning, so you can schedule them before noon. Plan your time, and stick to that plan.

3. Do Easy Tasks Early

If you find it difficult to get started in the mornings, plan to tackle one or two simpler, easy tasks when you start work. Doing so will help you feel as if you’ve achieved something, and then you’ll have more motivation to move on to more complex tasks.

4. Tackle That One Difficult Task First (AKA Eat a Frog)

Alternatively, it may be better to deal with that one nagging item on your to do list that you’ve been putting off. Mark Twain said, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, that will probably be the worst thing you do all day,” and he wasn’t wrong. Deal with the event you’re dreading first, and the rest of the day will be much easier.

5. Turn Your Phone Off

Smartphones are wonderful devices, but they’re also ultimate distraction machines. It’s hard to concentrate on work when you’re busy checking social media or fiddling around with games on the side. Switch it off and put it away; you can always come back to it later.

6. Read the News – But Only Once

For similar reasons, it’s worth reading the news in the morning and then leaving it alone. Reading the news in the morning is a good way of kick-starting your brain and finding out what’s going on in the world. However, it’s very tempting to keep checking back for updates on events, especially in an age of 24-hour reporting, but resist. Instead, stick to one popular news source for all of your information and get it all in the AM.

7. Reward Yourself

If you finish a task by lunch, don’t forget to reward yourself. Even if it’s just a walk to the corner and back to get a cup of coffee, make sure you make time for yourself once you’ve achieved a goal.

8. Have a Positive Attitude

If you go into your work day stressed out, thinking you’ll never get anything done, it’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you go in with a positive attitude, achieving your goals will be much simpler. Similarly, avoid people in the workplace who complain about their workloads without attempting to solve their problems. Their attitude will only weigh you down.

9. Use the Time to Network

Workday lunches can be an interruption to your schedule, and evening drinks can veer very much off topic after a couple of cocktails. If you meet up with colleagues in the morning for a coffee, you can get much more accomplished.

10. Check Your Email

Check your inbox early on and deal with emails as you open them. Resist the urge to hit “Mark as Unread” and vow to deal with it later; if it can be answered, take the time to do it and clear it out of your inbox. Once they’re done, you can leave your inbox while you work, without the thought of what’s waiting in it hanging over you.

11. Stop Multitasking

Finally, try to only do one thing at once. Research has shown multitasking can slow you down by as much as 40%, since you’re really only switching from one to the other and preventing yourself from getting into a good workflow.

Mornings truly are the golden period for productivity, as you’re fresh and ready for the day before all the distractions and requests for your attention come piling in. Make the alarm clock your friend and squeeze the most out of your working day.

Which idea do you think you would share with a team member? Why would you share it?

Focus is important to a great team. What could you add to the list that would help you and your team have more productive mornings?

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

What Makes You Feel Good About Your Work?

Legos at the office

Have you ever been pulled from a project?

or

Have you ever had a project end abruptly? Leaving you feeling empty inside.

It’s a terrible feeling. I was pulled from a big project I spent months of my time working on. The CEO wanted to put me in a different department. Just like that my work felt like it went up in smoke. I didn’t even try to argue to let me stay on. I felt defeated. I gave up on my job, my career, and it took me awhile to get back my passion.

The key for me was to get back to basics.

Dan Ariely did a study that was focused on understanding why people enjoyed or didn’t enjoy their work. He did a study where he asked people to build a Lego character. He would pay them $3 to assemble the first one. He would take the Lego Character and put it under the table then ask them if they wanted to build another character, but this time for $2.70.

Then he created another test that was set up the same way, plus payment, except for one condition. The Lego character was destroyed right before their eyes and they were asked to build it again with a reduced price of 30 cents.

He called it the Sisyphus condition (AKA meaningful condition) from the Greek myth where he was punished for chronic deceitfulness and forced to spend an eternity to push a boulder up a hill only to have it fall back down right before he reached the top.

What ended up happening was that people in the first experiment would build 11 figures when they took the figure and placed it behind the desk vs only 7 in the 2nd test where they saw their hard work destroyed right before them.

Both groups of people knew that their character would eventually be destroyed, but the first group stuck it out because they found more meaning in their work.

Your feelings matter. The importance of feeling that your hard work is for a larger purpose makes a huge difference in your happiness. The more trivial your work feels the more you disconnect from the results.

Have you ever struggled to stay motivated or motivate your team?

Here at Work Happy Now we want to help you and your team. You can get the first 6 modules for free right here. It gives you ideas of how to create more positive experiences for you and your team, so you feel more connected to your co-workers and your work.

Believe Again

Believe again

“STOP!”

My eyes darted around looking for a car barreling toward us. No car. No danger.

My 5-year-old son ran into the grass of our front yard. Grabbed something from the air and came back to me.

“Got it,” he said.

“Got what?” I asked.

“My dragon.”

He cracked open his hand and whispered something to his dragon. He skipped forward and lead the way to the playground.

I smiled, following behind him.

The greatest gift you can give anyone is fostering their belief in something greater than themselves. It’s what most lives and companies are built upon. The belief that your time isn’t being wasted on something pointless.

When is the last time you encourages someone’s idea to create something, build something, do something that sparks their curiosity?

By someone…

I mean YOU.

Yes, YOU!

Do you encourage yourself to do work on something that excites you? Or do you hold back because you let that negative inner voice keep you grounded?

Too grounded.

You will always be your biggest advocate or arch nemesis. If you don’t encourage yourself to grab your dragon and take it for a walk who will?

Do you also encourage others to do something that peaks their curiosity?

Purpose is very important, it helps you dig a little deeper for the curiosity that helps you find creative solutions.

As I type this I hesitate because of how you might view my ideas, but I keep typing. I want you to know that following your curiosity can be a wonderful experience if you don’t allow yourself to get too attached to the outcome.

The only way you will to do work that truly matters is doing work that you are curious about. Curiosity is so important to living a great career. The ideas that stand the test of time are done from curiosity not for the pursuit of money.

In every person’s life they hit that fork and take the easy road. They take a job that pays well, but doesn’t light them up inside. Or they avoid taking a job to discover what they truly love to do.

Everyone hits this fork. The people that stay on the easy road end up coasting along. Now the people that say I’m tired of this path I know what matters to me and I’m going to go for it. It’s these people that believe their lives matter. Their lives shouldn’t be about coasting, but about doing something that impacts people they care about.

You have to ask yourself these 3 questions that I learned from Jason Fried:

  1. What’s important?
  2. What should be the same?
  3. What needs to change?

This should be a regular part of your career and your team’s development.

The greatest change I made in the past year is taking my gratitude journal to a whole new level. I grab a blank sheet of paper fold it in half and then half again. I open it back up and I write.

  • Good
  • Struggle
  • Better
  • Stories

Then I list as many as I can, except for better. I only put one on the “better” list. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with trying to improve too many things at once. Just one small step that I know I can handle.

I do this to help me capture my life.

I focus on what I’ve done well, where I struggle, what I could do better, and what stories I can share with others.

It encourages me take the bird’s eye view of my life.

Then at the end of the month I ask myself the above 3 questions I learned from Jason.

Instead of piling more on to my busy plate, I focus on what’s important. It’s this focus that has made a huge difference in my happiness. The main difference is the belief in my work has come back into focus.

I stopped trying to be all things to all people.

I’m on this earth to be happy, help others, and catch the uncatchable.

“Dragon’s are real, Dad,” my sold told me as we walked to the playground.

“Yep. They are,” I said. “You know what I love about dragons?” I asked him.

He stopped. Looked up at me.

“What?”

“Riding them to the playground.”

He smiled.

“Yeah, me too.”

I smiled. He put his hands between his legs and rode off on his dragon.

When did you stop believing in dragons?

Your first “real job”?

College?

High school?

When you didn’t get the validation you expected?

It’s time to believe in dragons again. It’s time you created a project that you care about, a project that you want to put time into each day. A project that has unlimited potential to help people.

Believe again.

Believe in curiosity.

Follow it to new places. Even frustrating places that test your last ounce of patience.

The first step is to ask yourself, “What’s important to you?”

What project can you start and work on for the next 30 days? Can you write about something that changes people’s perspective? Can you make something that no one thought was needed?

What are you curious about that needs exploring?

Are you curious about your own team’s happiness and how you can create experiences that bring them closer together? Then check out the Work Happy Now Emergency Kit – Break in case of stress overload. You can get the first 6 modules in this free ebook here.

The Ultimate 3 Step Process to Help You Bounce Back from Career Failure

woman-water-no-regrets-590

A few years ago something very difficult happened in my career. Now that I look back on it…

It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

I wouldn’t wish career failure on anyone, but sometimes it can put things into perspective and give someone the kick-start they were afraid to do themselves.

I was laid off in 2011 and I looked very hard for a job. A good job, something I could get excited about. The few good ones out there were difficult to come by, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Your career is filled with learning experiences, and many of them occur because of failure. This is natural — when you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone you will fall down.

I’ve failed so many times, it’s a bit embarrassing. And it also makes me stronger. After months of searching I decided to go all in with starting my business. Along the way there have been many painful moments.

I did a radio interview for a national program a couple years ago. I went into the studio, and the engineer guided me through the whole process. The microphone was at eye level. I was comfortable and armed with knowledge to dispense. I was ready. The whole process made me feel very important. After it was over, I asked her, “How did I do?”

“You did ok,” she said.

I was expecting a more enthusiastic response. It was like a punch in the gut.

“Just ok?”

“Your tone was flat.”

“Really? How could I improve?” I asked.

“Try to vary your voice more, and if you feel passionate about a particular question, let it out in your answer.”

She was right. I held back because I was afraid of showing the true me. The next radio interview I did still lacked punch, but by the 10th one I had improved a great deal. The radio interview could have catapulted my career and it ended up doing nothing for me.

Failures are a part of everyone’s career. If it isn’t then you have to ask yourself, “Am I taking enough risks?”

I had a client max out his credit cards to start up a business that failed. He filed for Chapter 13, cleared his debt and started a new business that became successful.

You must keep moving forward, even if it’s only one little shuffle step at a time.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Thomas A. Edison

Yes, I still get upset when I mess up. My inner arch nemesis takes a bite out of me, but it doesn’t last very long any more. I let him nibble on my pain, then end it before it gets out of control. I have too many people I want to help to let my sad feelings hold me back from doing my work.

Do you want feel happier and be more productive in your career? Find out the 7 most important steps to doing work you love and getting better results while doing it. Click here to check out the Unlock Your Career Happiness guide.

1. Understand Your “Why”

You will have career setbacks. You won’t be able to prevent them. In fact you should embrace them.

It starts with understanding why you do what you do. If you can’t answer why you do what you do with any conviction, it might be time to change your career.

If you can answer your why, then this is where you can dig a little deeper to understand how you can get better results.

Next time you have a career setback, just ask yourself, “Why should I continue working?”

By phrasing this question to garner a positive response, your brain will gravitate towards finding solutions that will help you grow in new directions.

“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” – Benjamin Franklin

Your mindset is the most important aspect of letting go of failure. The quicker you can let go and bring back a happy and positive mindset the easier it will be for you to take action again.

2. Ask for Feedback from Quality People

The feedback that many people give you at work isn’t always well thought out or what you want to hear. That’s why asking quality people for feedback is important. You want to ask people who have good values and who won’t let their feelings get in the way of giving you feedback that you can use to grow.

Once you’ve asked for feedback, you need to listen very deeply to the response. Especially if it’s done with pause and consideration for your best interest.

That’s why I suggest not asking to anyone who could have trouble putting their love aside for you. (*cough – your mom, dad, or a best friend – cough*)

By asking people who believe honesty is more important than making you feel good, you can find out where to put your focus. Once you find a few quality people, just tell them openly about the situation, and ask them, “Using mostly facts and as few feelings as possible, what do you think I could do to make this situation better?”

3. Create a 30-Day Project

Now that you have feedback on how you could improve, you have to look at how you can use this information to make your career more enjoyable. What were they able to tell you that you didn’t already know?

This is where it can get difficult.

You have to separate the super-helpful from the non-helpful.

Look at what they said and what resonated with you. Then think about three ways you could improve on this part of your career. Look at each idea and pick the one that you like the best. Turn this into a flexible goal. Better to start with an idea that you like and that can grow with you than procrastinate on taking action trying to figure out which is the perfect idea.

Then schedule a daily plan for the next 30 days. What project could you accomplish in the next 30 days to level up your career?

Not sure how to create a 30 day project that will boost your happiness and career? Check out the Unlock Your Career Happiness guide that walks you step by step through a proven process that’s worked for hundreds of people.

Pick how much time each day you want to spend on accomplishing this goal. Try to be flexible and understanding with yourself. Depending on how intense your career setback was, you may want to schedule some recharge days, not work on your project every one of the 30 days.

I was laid off from my job 2011, and it took me a couple of weeks to figure out what my next move was going to be. I panicked trying to envision my entire future instead of starting with a short-term plan that I could build on and adjust as I went along.

You need to focus on slowly building a better, stronger, and happier career that allows you to grow. Each day is a chance to build habits that can help you feel happier and help more people.

When you’ve come to the end of your 30 days, then look at what went well and what could be improved for your next 30 days. It’s this measuring and refining process that most people slip up on. That’s why 30 day increments are important.

You can improve your career one day at a time andone month at a time. If you do, I promise you’ll get results over the course of the next year.

Your Next Step

Look at your career and make sure you understand your why, then follow up with honest feedback from a friend then create a project that will give your career a boost.

What project could you start and work towards in the next 30 days to help more people that you care about?

10 Unique Ways to Boost Your Happiness and Creativity

happy and relaxed with laptop

Let’s not pretend that happiness and creativity is something as easy to come by as taking a pill. There are no quick fixes, but that does not mean that there aren’t tools that you can use.

A few weeks ago I was stuck in a rut, battling and a severe case of writer’s block. All creative juices, which had previously flown free, were as stagnant as a tepid swamp, rendering me nearly incapable of creating even the simplest of sentences.

During my dry spell I had plenty of time to reflect on my condition and my life, and found that not only had my creativity disappeared, but also my happiness. After some serious introspection, I learned that the key to curing my writer’s block simply involved boosting my mood.

Recent studies have shown that creativity and happiness go hand in hand, with each boost of joy giving way to free-flowing thoughts and ideas. While the moody, brooding starving artist stereotype is widely accepted, it’s not actually the best way to inspire original ideas. In fact, there’s a strong correlation between creativity and physical and mental well-being, as people that take care of themselves can experience heightened creativity.

Fully equipped with this information, I began a quest for good vibes and creative juices, coming across several successful strategies along the way. If you’re facing a creative dry spell and are searching for solutions, give these get-happy tips and tricks a try.

Special notice: The Unlock Your Career Happiness Guide is now available. Click here to learn the 7 most important steps to doing work you love and getting better results while doing it.

1. Go to a Café

Aside from copious amounts of caffeinated beverages, there may be a reason why writers often frequent local coffee shops and cafes. According to a recent study, certain levels of white noise can help boost creativity, and a specialty drink has been known to sweeten the deal too.

2. Laugh

As trite as the saying may be, laughter truly is the best medicine, even for writer’s block. Even if you’re not in the most cheerful mood, attempting even the smallest of giggles can engage the part of your brain responsible for making decisions, creating ideas and changing your mood.

3. Grab a Drink

When you’re at a literal lack for words, sipping something strong is known to boost brainpower. According to a recent study, participants who drank alcoholic beverages were more creative than those who didn’t imbibe. One or two drinks seems to be the sweet spot, though, since the real effects of alcohol start after that and our brain starts to slow down.

4. Exercise

Believe it or not, getting in a daily sweat session may be just what the doctor ordered for a case of inconsistent creativity. Not only will getting fit help to activate your mind, exercising will also release a ton of endorphins guaranteed to give your mood a serious boost.

5. Break From the Norm

If your life is full of rigid routines, taking a break from your daily habits could bring you a much-needed mental wakeup call. Whether you choose to make a new recipe for dinner, take a different route home from work or try a new class at the gym, this change in your routine will help increase mental activity, paving the way for new ideas.

6. Take Time to Doodle

While you may be suffering from a creative dry spell, if your pen is full of ink, your ideas could be restored. According to the book “The Creativity Cure”, putting a pen to the paper – instead of fingers to a keyboard – can engage the brain and ignite a mental spark.

7. Explore

There’s nothing like new experiences to elevate your happiness and creativity. As you meet new people, try different food and take in sights you haven’t seen before, you will no doubt be filled with questions to ponder, new opinions and ideas. Don’t have the time or money to travel the world right now? Plan a weekend staycation, instead.

8. Hang Out With Friends, Especially the Sarcastic Ones

When facing a creative dry spell, spending time with snarky friends can pull you out of a mental rut. Whether it’s the wordplay or the dark humor, spending time with a sarcastic friend can give you a much-needed mental boost.

9. Play at Work

Nothing will make your day more enjoyable or pass more quickly than playing around at work. Surprisingly, getting off task sporadically throughout the day can give your mind a break, allowing it to wander and create new and innovative ideas.

10. Go Outside

There’s no place more inspirational than the great outdoors. Spending time in nature will engage all of the senses, promote positive energy and spark the imagination. As an added bonus, if you choose to work up a sweat outdoors, you will experience extra mood-boosting benefits.

While coming down with a case of writer’s block was nothing short of dreadful, the antidotes were both effective and enjoyable. I found that taking the time to relax with friends, spending time in nature and even just doodling were all underrated but powerful tools to increasing creativity and breaking out of a rut. I won’t dread the next time I temporarily lose my creativity, but will relish in the opportunity to relax, refresh and restore my imagination.

What has helped you feel happier or more productive at work this week? Leave a comment and spread happiness by helping 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

10 Lessons to Help You Excel in Your Career in Your 30’s and Beyond

live your core values

I was drinking a beer with a friend who told me he never wanted to retire. He explained the benefits of not retiring, from reducing your risk of cancer and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

A laugh popped out.

“Hey, don’t laugh. I’m serious,” he said.

“I’m not laughing at you. I feel the same way,” I told him.

“I just don’t want to be one of those old guys that is bored and watches day time game shows all day and sports all night.”

Passion is the reason we get up in the morning. Passion is why we try hard. Passion is a connection to something greater than ourselves.

That’s where the secret to happiness lives.

Doing work that matters lights us up inside.

More and more people are working past the usual retirement age. And why not? They live longer. As of this article, Warren Buffett is 83 years old, loves what he does, and gets amazing results.

Special notice: The Unlock Your Career Happiness Guide is now available. Click here to learn the 7 most important steps to doing work you love and getting better results while doing it.

Here are 10 Lessons to Excel Your Career

1. Know why you choose to do your work.

Take a step back and really understand why you choose to go to work. Be honest with yourself. Know that you have a choice. If you stop understanding why you should choose to do your work, then you may need a change in your career.

2. Share your career vision with your friends.

You have dreams that are inside of you. When you share them with a friend, you are more likely to follow through on them. You feel obligated to give it your best shot so you won’t let yourself and them down.

3. Live your core values.

In your 20’s, you were typically trying out different things outto see what sticks. You typically know yourself better in your 30’s, so now is the time to look at how you can live more of your core values at work. Does the work that you currently do fit with your core values? If not, then how can you adjust this to do work that is more in line with your core values and happiness?

4. Fight for what you believe in.

Your core values are one of the most important aspects of your work. When you can live your core values at work, you are more connected and happier. When you fight for what you believe in, you are staying true to your core beliefs, which also allows you to sleep better at night.

5. Do work you care about.

The work you do really does matter. It’s this purpose that can convince you to dig a little deeper than you might otherwise try. Because if you give up before you are able to achieve great results, then you won’t be helping as many people or enjoying the satisfaction of great results.

6. Ask for help more often.

Too often we feel like we need to do everything on our own. Great co-workers and bosses ask for help because they know that they can’t be good at everything. And the key to people saying yes to you freely and joyfully is in the next lesson.

7. Give help to others more often.

Helping others releases endorphins in your body and helps you live longer. The more we help others, the happier and longer we live. We are social beings that enjoy making other people’s lives better. Next time you see someone struggling at work, offer a hand and make them happier as well as yourself.

8. Make work more fun.

Your work should be fun. If it’s not fun, you lose interest. You stop engaging and making progress. Bring the fun back to your work. Here are 101 ideas to make work more fun. I’m working on a kit to help managers and team leaders create more fun at work. If you are leader and want your employees to be happier and get better results then let’s set-up a quick chat to see what tools you can use.

9. Find time to do work that gets you in the zone.

When you are getting lost in your work, you are doing work you care about and you are getting great results. Most people only have 2-4 hours of very focused work each day. You need to protect this like a Doberman protects his master’s house. You need blocks of focused time every single day. How can you find more time to get in the zone?

10. Push outside your comfort zone a bit more often to build internal strength.

The best way to strengthen your mind is to push outside your comfort zone, then take a break to allow yourself to relax and strengthen your mind. You can do this by creating a project that you are excited about and setting an easy goal. For example, if you want to write more, you can set an easy goal of writing at least 100 words every day from 6:30am to 7am. Then after one week, add another 50 then another 100 the next week. The key is to make it so easy that you meet your goals, then keep increasing just a little bit outside of a goal that you previously reached.

Are you ready to do work that lights you up inside? Then check out the free email course that walks you through the process of unlocking your passions in your career.

7 Ways to Treat Your Winter Blues (Seasonal Affect Disorder Emergency Kit)

winter blues

Forget everything you learned about surviving the winter blues.

It’s not about the cold.

It’s not about the snow.

It’s not about money.

I wish money could buy happiness.

If I had my way, I’d boil a full pot of hot green tea, snuggle on the couch and hibernate all season long. That scenario, though, is a tad unrealistic.

Aesthetics aside, the thing that bothers me the most about winter is how it makes me feel. Lethargy settles into my bones and doesn’t want to leave until spring arrives.

I understand seasonal depression. When you don’t have that Vitamin D beating down on you every day, you’re bound to be affected. You can let it drag you down or you can do something about it.

I’m going to give you a short guide to treating your Seasonal Affect Disorder. Think of it as your Winter Blues Emergency Kit.

1. Get Social

If you’re spending winter cooped up, miserable and alone, you’re going to stay that way. Actively making plans to interact with friends and family will lift your spirits. Make it a goal to get out and catch up with friends at least once a week. Even if you have to drag yourself there, you’ll be happy you did.

2. Add Exercise

Nothing says winter slump like sitting on the couch counting the ceiling tiles. One way to feel productive is to fit a workout into your schedule a few times every week. We love to use winter as an excuse to be lazy because it’s too cold to go outside. And a drive to the gym seems unbearable. Luckily, there are other ways. Dig up a few workout DVDs or follow a fit account on Instagram that will kick you into gear. With all the endorphins running through your system, you’ll be smiling and feeling good in no time.

3. Eat Right

I don’t know about you, but whenever I choose a box of McNuggets over a nutritious salad, I could not feel any lower. Foods that are highly processed and have a lot of sugars and fats will undoubtedly bring you down. Opt for lots of veggies, fruits and whole grains.

B-vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids are important, so loading up on both of them will help repel unwanted depression. Although the carbs and Christmas leftovers are calling your name all winter long, there are actually a lot of healthy foods you can take advantage of this winter.

What you put in your body is vital to how you feel, so don’t try to drown your sorrows in bottles of Pinot Grigio. Large amounts of alcohol will only make your depression worse. There are a lot of common threads between alcoholism and depression, and studies have shown that the abuse of alcohol is likely to result in more negative thoughts.

4. Find Hobbies Inside

Sometimes you have no choice but to be stuck inside during the winter. The temperature is below zero and the roads are slippery. Though this scenario might not seem ideal, learn to make the most of it. Create a list of things around the house that you’d like to accomplish over the winter season, from cleaning your closet to baking a cake. This way, you’ll know just what to dive into when you’re feeling stranded and bored.

Karl’s note: Hobbies are a great way to bring more passion into your life. They help your personal and professional lives support each other.

5. Take Advantage of the Good Stuff

There are probably some things you actually love about the season. Maybe it’s ice skating, tapping into your scarf fetish or loading up on red velvet candles. Whatever it may be – indulge yourself. The more pleasure you find in these wintery treats, the less miserable the season will feel.

6. Bundle Up 

If you’re walking around under-bundled and taking the brunt of the cold, of course you’re going to hate winter. There’s nothing worse than shivering the days away. Get cozy by the fire, and shop for lots of wool this season. Always be prepared with a hat and gloves, just in case.

7. Find the Light

What’s missing from winter are those golden rays beating down on you. As it turns out, sunlight is important for treating seasonal depression. Serotonin, the chemical that normalizes your mood, is created when sunlight hits your skin. Open up the blinds in the morning because this is when getting light is the most crucial. You can also invest in a light therapy box, which is a great substitute when battling seasonal depression.

Sometimes we choose to sit and sulk when instead we should be taking action. Fight seasonal depression by integrating a few of these tips into your winter routine. Your mood will improve and you’ll be happier as you wait for the spring sunshine and blossoms.

What would you add to the list? Share a bit of your own avoiding the winter blues wisdom.

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 Habits of Brilliant Leaders

Zuckerberg quote
I recently shared a drink with a friend who runs a small company. He told me a secret that I’ve never heard him discuss before.

He talked with me about his employees’ moods and how they can fluctuate in such a broad way, which really affects the quality of their work.

“A few years ago I caught one of my employees sleeping at his desk. He wasn’t a bad employee, but he wasn’t great either. He was never late, but there were times he didn’t seem interested in his work at all. Then there were other times he was fantastic. It would fluctuate like this all the time. I didn’t know what to do.”

Shortly after finding his employee asleep he decided he had to make some changes. He told me he took my advice from a conversation over a couple beers last year. He began to explain his vision and why he made certain decisions. He opened up his thought process to all his employees every month. He explained the companies income and costs, what direction the company was trying to go in and why. This also opened up a dialog with his employees that he never knew was possible.

His employees responded better than he thought they would. He even got ideas from his employees of how the company could save money and how to improve the customer experience.

“It was like someone flipped a little switch on in our company. I wished I had done it sooner. Almost everyone was happier and much more engaged. It’s funny though. I never got through to the guy that sparked it all. I eventually had to let him go. Hope he’s at a job he enjoys. I still think about him and feel grateful for the idea he sparked.”

People often stop looking at the larger picture because they get comfortable. This comfortable feeling reduces their desire to go above and beyond. They coast along, slowly disengaging and disliking their work.

A study at the University of Alberta showed that people need a sense of purpose in order to feel engaged with their work. A ‘Spirit at Work’ intervention program for a group of long-term health-care workers boosted morale and job retention. This program urged employees to rethink their job, which reduced absenteeism by 60% and turnover by 75%.

“We discovered that people who are able to find meaning and purpose in their work, and can see how they make a difference through that work, are healthier, happier and more productive employees,” said Val Kinjerski, a University of Alberta PhD graduate who co-authored the study in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

By helping your people understand why they do what they do – you can increase happiness and productivity.

I’m going to give you a few ideas that should help your employees feel more engaged with their work.

Are you interested in bringing more fun and happiness to your team? I’m creating a beta program to help you improve employee engagement. I would like to help a small group of leaders grow a happier culture and improve communication at work. If you are a team leader, manager, HR, or CEO then reach out to me. The program will be extremely affordable (big discount) in exchange for your help in making the program better. If you are interested please fill out this short form and I’ll get back to you right away.

1. Empower employees to improve the company

When a leader listens and empowers his employees to fix the small things, there are more people responsible for creating a great customer experience. Each small improvement quickly adds up, improving innovation and helping keep customers happy.

“We try to have as many channels for expression as we can, recognizing that different people, and different ideas, will percolate up in different ways,” Laszlo Bock, VP of Google

When employees believe that their voices matter, they are more likely to feel appreciated by the company. This feeling then encourages each employee to do better work.

Your organization employs smart people, otherwise they probably wouldn’t hold the positions that they do. They just need a chance to unleash that creativity and wow their co-workers and customers.

2. Share positive stories

Your organization has many stories of how employees solved problems, helped others in need, and other ways in which they went above and beyond to make someone happy. However, a lot of companies like to play the modesty card. They hesitate to flaunt their achievements.

Great leaders understand the power of positive stories when they show the value that they bring to the customer.

A client recently told me about how I helped her feel happier. She explained that medication that she took to keep her emotionally balanced didn’t help, but I did. She thanked me profusely. (I put her quote on my Happy Employees page.) I sent the email to my editor. I think she got a better understanding of who I’m trying to help and why I work so hard to create great content. Since she edits many of my articles, I need her to feel engaged with the work, so we keep putting out the best content to help the readers of this blog.

You need to flaunt your greatness!

You have to share similar stories with each other. Talk about how a customer gushed over your attention to detail. It shows the rest of your co-workers why you do what you do. Most of you aren’t working just for the paycheck. You are also working because you make a difference in people’s lives.

The more stories an organization can compile the more powerful it becomes. If your organization is huge, then break it down into departments. Even departments such as marketing and accounting need to compile stories. Many of these stories may be more internal, but it’s still important to document what is happening so you can share with your people why you do what you do.

3. Focus on great culture

Great results are the bottom line of every company. The only way to get great results is to have support at every level. If one domino falls short the customer experience weakens. You can’t have great marketing and bad customer service. That’s why empowering employees to create their own happiness systems, we’ll discuss more in #5, is vital to improving every aspect of your company culture.

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Simon Sinek

When a leader makes the company’s culture a top priority it ripples throughout the whole organization. They want create as many avenues for employee happiness that their resources will allow. It’s this habit that helps an employee feel engaged with their work and deliver great results.

4. Explain the vision again and again

A great leader has vision that guides everyone in the organization. They are able to plan for next year like it’s next month. They know how they want to get there and help explain what he wants done to make it happen.

It’s this vision that helps put into focus every action an employee makes within the company. Without explaining this vision many employees become lost, unable to see what is truly important.

“If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.” – Larry Page, CEO of Google

Every company helps someone. It’s up to the leaders in your company to bring clarity to who you serve and how you will make it happen. The more ways you can explain your visions the clearer it becomes.

5. Allow employees to design their work systems

Your employees know their strengths. They know whether they enjoy certain projects and which ones drive them crazy. Utilizing this information is vital to getting great results out of your employees.

Allow your employees the freedom to design how they would get the task done. They will own the project and work harder to make sure it succeeds.

6. Listen to Feedback

In order to stay engaged in our work, we have to recognize our mistakes and understand how to fix them. By listening to employee, customer, and vendor feedback, an organization is taking the time to understand their mistakes and correct them.

I have known many people who like to solve problems. They get an energy boost from making a solution happen. I worked at K-Mart in my teenage years and I’ll never forget a look on one customer’s face because of what one of my co-workers was able to do for her.

A woman came into the store asking for a patio umbrella that wasn’t in stock. The salesperson called 4 different stores before she found the lady’s umbrella. He asked the store to transfer it and he would call the lady as soon as it came in.

I remember when the lady came into the store to pick up the umbrella. She was gushing because it was the only one that fit her patio furniture.

You could see the manager of the employee beaming with pride.

I’ve seen and been on the receiving end of an employee just not caring. They can hear and/or see that I’m upset and they choose not to help.

You need to give your people a chance to create solutions so they can feel like they are a superhero.

7. Encourage employees to fix mistakes

Yaro Starak wrote a blog post about his experience at Starbucks. It made great advertising for Starbucks. Starbucks empowers their employees to make good decisions, which leads to the best type of advertising in the world: word of mouth.

Yaro ordered a tea and an oat brownie. He waited for it to arrive on the counter. After a few minutes he told the barista that he was still waiting for his tea. The Starbucks employee had forgotten about his order. He quickly made the tea, apologized and handed him a piece of cardboard that said…

We apologize if your Starbucks experience was anything but wonderful. We want to know how we can make things better and always invite you to share your thoughts with us. The next time we see you, please enjoy a beverage, on us. We hope your next visit is better.

Yaro might bring a friend in with him the next time he goes to Starbucks. Now that extra expenditure almost balanced itself out.

Yaro explained how he felt…

I waited about an extra minute longer for my tea than I should have. That is definitely not long enough for me to get angry and I was served very quickly once I notified them that my tea was missing.

Yet, despite this, the Starbucks policy is to offer a complimentary beverage even if their system is slightly out of whack. I walked away impressed that I scored a free beverage voucher, but not really because of the beverage itself, I was impressed with the customer service policy I just witnessed (hence I’m writing a blog post about it!).

Starbucks did not diminish in my eyes as a result of this incident. In fact they impressed me, so much so that I’m now writing a blog post that will be read by thousands of people proclaiming good things about Starbucks service (that’s some good word of mouth). Of course not every Starbucks customer has a blog they can rave to when something happens, but every person has friends and people they talk to, and this one policy of Starbucks will encourage word of mouth through normal social interaction too.

It all started because Starbucks empowers their employees to make the customer feel good. That’s the benefit to happiness at work. The employee corrects a mistake, and the customer is happy after receiving a free voucher for something of such little inconvenience. Everyone feels good. The drinks that Starbucks make don’t cost them that much, so in reality they are probably losing less than a dollar on the whole transaction.

Gaining a loyal customer.

8. Recharge internal battery every single day

When you run a company you can’t go 9 hours straight without stopping. You probably can’t even go 4 hours without recharging. That’s why smart leaders take the time to recharge their mind and body.

Listening to your body instead of powering through, it’s vital to making quality decisions.

“Manage your energy, not your time.” – Tony Schwartz

Next time you feel sluggish try going for a walk or taking 10 deep breaths. The idea is to do something that gets you away from thinking about work and allows you to let go of your tension loop. You’ll feel refreshed, happier, and make better decisions.

9. Celebrate hard work and great results

The number one reason people leave their job is because they don’t feel appreciated. If you are ho hum about showing your appreciation then your people may stop trying.

You can do something simple like walk up to them and just thank them for their hard work.

People want to know that what they do matters. That means celebrating all the good things.

This should be done in large and small groups. The larger gatherings can occur about 1-4 times a year, while the smaller groups (celebrations within a department) should be done more often.

Making your celebration a regular routine is the key, because you want to make a habit out of celebrating your successes. Try celebrating once a quarter to start. If you overload people and celebrate too often, they will get bored and also be unable to find reasons to rejoice in their hard work.

To avoid allowing this practice to fall away, it’s important to make the celebration fun. That might mean bringing food, let people play a game, and finding other ideas that get people excited about attending your party.

10. Develop company core values 

Making the values visible for the employees to read and hear every day helps each employee connect to a larger vision. We all need to believe that our work means more than just completing our tasks.

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.”
― Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

I suggest to my clients that they encourage their teams to come up with core values as well. What truly matters to the company is important, but team values are just as important. They will help guide daily decisions.

Help your people connect to a larger purpose. Ask them what they believe are the core values of the organization. You may be surprised by the responses.

Good Habits Build a Better Company

After implementing just one of these habits, assess how these changes affect your organization. You will probably notice that people are more engaged and willing to try a little harder.

“I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

I know one of these ideas will help make a big impact in your company. The companies that succeed are the ones that make these ideas a regular habit. It needs to become part of the culture, so when something difficult happens there are good habits to fall back on. And when something great happens everyone can celebrate together.

* Do you want your employees be happier and encourage them to become more engaged? Then check out our Happy Employees Beta program and see how the Work Happy Now 10 step process can help your company retain it’s great people, improve their focus, and deliver a great customer experience.

9 Powerful Tips to Help You Ace Every Job Interview

Job Interview

Here’s an important point no one ever shares. You do not have to be the most qualified person applying for a job to get hired. You just have to be the person your interviewer likes for the job!

Most managers hire for personality and passion, not your skill set. A lot of skills can be learned by people who bring a positive attitude to work.

You can always become better trained on the job. It comes with experience. But no manager wants to hire a person they don’t find likable. They’re looking for someone who will be pleasant to be around and will work well with their current team as a productive member.

In the past six years, I have tripled my income by moving up and moving on to better opportunities. I’ve used these practices to ace all my job interviews, including the latest one that landed me my present, new general manager’s position.

I am happy to share my tips with you that always get me the job.

1. My best “secret” is: Pretend like your interviewer is your own real friend!

Pretend to yourself that the interviewer is a friend you’re meeting for a casual chat, like getting together over coffee or lunch.

Relax: You aren’t stiff around your friends. Hold your shoulders relaxed. Make your attitude warm and friendly. Be yourself!

Be confident: You wouldn’t be nervous and scared visiting with your own friends. You are awesome, smart, and qualified! Be confident. But not cocky. No one likes that.

When you are out with your own friends, you aren’t trying overly hard to impress them. You’re just being yourself and enjoying their company! Your interview will be more successful if your interviewer likes you than if he feels impressed by you.

You also don’t want to smell of desperation because you need the job. You don’t act like that in your friendships, right? You like your friends, you want to spend time with them. You are not desperate for those friendships. So act like you’d like to have the job, but you’ll also be fine if it doesn’t work out. You can still be glad you met the interviewer, and there are other good things that could come from your new connection with him or her.

Smile: Be warm, friendly and genuine. Smile a real smile. Like you would for a real friend. Not just when you are first introduced, but during the whole interview, at appropriate times in the conversation, not frozen throughout. Let your facial gestures naturally follow the conversation. Pleasant, serious, smiling, thoughtful. Just as if you were having a conversation with your own friend.
Repeat: That was a warm, genuine, friendly smile. NOT flirty! Never flirt in an interview! You are negotiating for your livelihood here. Don’t give anybody the impression you could possibly be anything other than a professional.

Eye contact: Don’t concentrate on the eye contact and stare too intently; that is just uncomfortable for people. Maintain the normal eye contact you would if you were sitting down with your best friend.

2. Positive Attitude

Never say anything negative about present or past employers or coworkers! You could come across as difficult or complaining. Don’t let the interviewer think you are someone who does not take responsibility for himself, but looks for someone else to pin blame for his problems.

If the real reason you left your last job was because you had an evil supervisor, or you were harassed at work, or you were passed over for a promotion you earned, don’t say so. Just say you are looking for a better opportunity to grow or to better provide for your family. Don’t try to explain anything else. It might seem like you’re making excuses.

3. Attentiveness

Don’t fidget. Keep your feet firmly on the floor and your hands loose in your lap. Sit upright in your chair. It helps if you lean slightly forward toward your interviewer, but only slightly so that he feels you are interested and alert, not like you’re trying to show off cleavage. Speaking of that:

4. Appropriate dress

Women, never dress sexy at an interview! No low cut tops, no too-short hem lengths! Keep it conservative, and keep it covered! Makeup should be kept conservative also.

All interviews are not created equal. Some companies are more conservative than others, and some jobs are more conservative than others. If your target job is artistic, creative, or tech-y, your coworkers may go to work in shorts and flip-flops. Even if that is the case, if you want to stand out at your interview, always kick it up a notch and dress better than is expected.

5. Preparation

Think ahead. Do some research about the company. Google it. Map out directions to the interview. Learn what you can so that you know about the business and its customers. How can you be an asset to the company? Make sure you have a good understanding of the business.

I checked out the website of my new employer before the interview so I was armed with pertinent information as well as suggestions for improvements that I could help implement. I also did a drive-by so I knew exactly where to go and how long it would take me to get there.

Google interview questions, and practice your answers out loud until you feel comfortable and natural. Be prepared to tell your interviewer how you can help their business succeed.

6. When asked a negative question, always spin it into a positive!

When my interviewer asked, “What do you see as your weakness?” I said, “I’m too much of a perfectionist. I expect too much of myself and always want everything I do to be perfect.” See, a positive spin. They want everything you do to be perfect. That’s how you ace interview questions!

7. What to say and what NOT to say

Don’t talk too much, and especially do not volunteer information about your personal life. Keep the conversation at a professional level.

You want them to see you as a professional, not as a husband or a mom. If you present yourself as such, they’ll imagine you allowing your wife or kids to let your work suffer.

Although my children are more important to me than my own life, I did not mention that I had a family during my interview. I didn’t want to put it on my interviewers’ minds that I could ever need to leave or miss work for their activities or illnesses.

My family is none of their business. My personal life is none of their business.

My professional life is their business.

When they ask you if you have any questions, this is your opportunity to turn the conversation to what you need to know about working there. It is NOT the time to discuss salary, unless your interviewer brings it up. That usually comes after you are offered the job.

You should, however, ask what is expected of the position. Make sure you are clear about the job responsibilities and your ability to perform them. Which brings up this point:

8. No lying about your qualifications

I’ve read lots of advice about “beefing up” your resume and “overstating your qualifications” (lying) to get a job.

Don’t do it!

You will set yourself up for failure, and you’ll probably lose the job anyway. It is not worth it. Dishonesty is never a good idea.

A supervisor who works for me recently interviewed several men for a new maintenance assistant.

One guy told him outright that he did not understand a lot of mechanical and repair work, but he would do any difficult or dirty work he was asked to do. He had good character references and a good work ethic, a likable personality, and an eagerness to work.

We appreciated his honesty. Because he was up front about his qualifications (or lack thereof!), and we liked him more than the other candidates, we hired him. We gave him our landscape guy’s job and promoted our landscape guy to maintenance. Everybody won a victory!

9. Practice for more confidence.

The more practice you have, the more comfortable you will get with the interview process. If you are someone who gets very nervous, you can practice interviewing for jobs you don’t even necessarily want, in order to prepare for the one you do. If you don’t care about the opportunity, you don’t have to feel nervous or feel rejected if you don’t get it. It’s not like you’re obligated to accept if you are offered a job, and it’ll add to your confidence if so! Interview any chance you get. You can take away something new from each experience.

You are amazing; you are smart; and you are perfect for your dream job! Go get it!

If you are in HR or a manager who interviews a lot of people then think about how you can reverse engineer these ideas. For example look at #5. Watch how well prepared they are as they answer each question. Are their answers clear and concise. Do they give details that shows their passion and creativity?

Do you have any great interview tips to share? What is your favorite advice that works?

* Deborah Shelby is a life and happiness enthusiast, voracious reader, full-time working mom of teenagers, and writer. She shares inspiration and ideas for a more positive and joyful life on her blog, Happier Better Life.

5 Ways to Make Meetings More Fun and Useful

Fun meetings

Meetings can be very powerful or big time killers. Very rarely do they fall in between.

Your focus should be improving workflow and communication through better meetings, training and technology. For example there are different kinds of collaboration software that can open communication and increase productivity without having to have a formal meeting. I use Asana and Trello with my virtual team.

Many meetings don’t need to be held if collaboration happens naturally within the flow of the workday. Meetings definitely have their place when conversations spark unique ideas that otherwise wouldn’t happen.

I know you can’t get rid of meetings, but you can make them more fun, efficient and encourage creative collaboration.

Now let’s look at how you can improve your meetings:

1. Create a detailed agenda and goals.

The person who created the meeting should also create an agenda. They should have a vision for how the meeting should go and a plan for communicating what they want to cover.

I’ve worked for companies where the agenda was a standard practice, but they often still missed out on the most crucial part. What are the goals? When you can identify a goal for each agenda item, it will help the whole team understand how they can help each other reach their goals.

2. Set a time limit.

Too often meetings have an open time associated with them. If they start at 10am and they go to lunch there is probably some wasted time in there.

By putting a time limit on the meeting, people will be more focused and will likely complete their discussions within the allotted time. This reduces the fluff and banter that can be done in the meeting.

Quick tip: try scheduling fun meetings, which are more about team building, creativity, and sharing instead of following a strict agenda. You can allow people to have fun in a meeting, just set the rules on what type of meeting you are having before it starts.

3. Gamify your meetings.

As kids we learn by playing games. Tapping into this kidlike feeling at work will help your team create bonds and help everyone feel a little happier.

For example, you can give out stickers to people who give the best ideas in response to a problem. The person with the most stickers wins a free lunch.

If you don’t want to create this type of environment during the meeting, try a game at the end of the meeting. This works well especially if your meetings are optional, because it might entice people to stick around instead of rushing off.

The game could be fun for the sake of fun (ex: what is your favorite animal and why, or what has been your favorite project in the last 6 months that you worked on and why). Everyone who participates gets thrown in a drawing for a $10 Starbucks giftcard or they get to pick where the next meeting will be held. The prizes should depend on what your employees would like to win.

The most important component of the game is to help people bond. The more you can create fun experiences that they can share with each other, the more connected they will feel toward each other.

4. Come up with a possible solution when you present a problem.

As a good leader in meetings you have to know you can’t know or do it all. Your job is to help explain the vision and let your team help you get there. So next time someone has a problem and they just throw it out there, take a pause and ask them what they think is the best option that we should take and why.

You can lead co-workers in the same way. Many times co-workers start their own mini-meeting with you. They come up to you expecting you to solve the problems because you have strong skills in this area. If you just solve their problem they’ll just come back to you again. Try to be a leader and see if they have any possible solutions that they think would work.

When meetings are done well they bring smart people together to find solutions to problems that can’t be solved by just one person. The more you can encourage everyone to pitch in ideas and solutions the more you empower them to do great work, building confidence and employee engagement.

5. Let everyone share one thing they want to celebrate.

Depending on your time limit, you can set a small amount of time for everyone to celebrate something that is going well with their team, project, or life.

We don’t celebrate as often as we should because we are an “on the go” business culture. We usually move on to the next thing instead of taking the time to appreciate what is right before us. By encouraging celebration you are giving people the stage to celebrate each other.

You can even encourage people to celebrate a team member instead of themselves. This encourages your team to share appreciation for each other, building camaraderie and affection for each other.

Your Turn

Meetings can be lousy if not run well. What “meeting improvement” tips can you share with the Work Happy Now community? I like when people add to my ideas and we give people even more options.

What have you seen work well in meetings you enjoyed?

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