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.

How Difficult Challenges Define Your Career


When you wake up in the morning what is usually your first thought?

I need more sleep.
I can’t wait to get today started.
I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.

The first thought is important, but the next thought is more important.

What do you do with that first thought?

If your first thought is that you don’t want to go to work then…

Your next thought can continue down that negative path or you can catch that thought, shake it off and bring yourself back into a more positive mindset.

So instead of thinking how awful work is you could think about how you are going to do something great at work.

This of course doesn’t always happen, but when you try to do great work it’s much more likely to happen.

Positive Mindset

I’ve been practicing this quite a bit.

I try




to work on my mindset.

It’s that vital to my success.

It starts with me trying to expand outside my comfort zone and do something that challenges me.

I didn’t use to think this way. Challenges were my kryptonite.

If something went wrong I thought why the world wanted me to fail. I searched for the negative.

Through researching work happiness since 2008. Reading a ton of books and articles. “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck was a game changer. And I mean a ton of books and articles.

I watched all kind of TED talks like the importance of playing games.

I found that my mindset leaned toward the negative. I wanted things to be easier.

When a project failed I would fall into a depressed state.

I stopped trying at work and I coasted. I hurt my career.

Have Fun

That’s when I started meditating more and being a watcher of my thoughts. I created the 30 Day No Complaining Challenge and I got more clarity on what I needed. I needed to have more fun. I stopped taking each thought so seriously and began to be more playful with how I thought about my life.

Having fun at work meant I was doing work that mattered. I cared about the outcome and was willing to work hard to make it happen.

Now I’m more willing to take risks because the risks I take define who I am. If I play it too safe I see this in my yearly review.

I feel more alive when I’m doing something that frustrates me, but instead of letting my anger take over. I notice it, smile at it, and take a break. I know I’ll figure out an answer even if it means giving up on a project that just isn’t working.

It’s the risks you take that define a career.

Passion Projects

I teamed up with a partner to get the Core Values Method out into the world. It’s a project that’s fun and near to my heart. I continue to work here at Work Happy Now, helping companies improve their company culture, so employees can live with more passion at work. I’m working on software to help companies collect better feedback from their employees.

It’s a lot of work, but it stretches me to grow personally and professionally.

I believe leaders need to put the focus on having more ways to have fun at work. Fun that encourages better results. They need to have more fun managing employees performance. They need to find ways to get people sharing ideas.

Coaching Skills

That’s why I’m expanding my coaching services. I want to coach leaders in the workplace. I know I can make an impact that will change the course of many lives.

Last week I was in a meeting and a CEO of an accounting firm was there and he was asking me about what I did. I told him how I help my clients get feedback from their employees and customers. Then we use that to improve the employee and customer experience.

He was intrigued.

Then I explained how more companies should use feedback loops in their company with their employees.

He frowned for a split second.

I was losing his interest.

Then I explained that a passionate employee will bring in 10x the amount of referrals and revenue than a passionate customer.

I explained how one employee can affect the experience of thousands of customers depending on their role. If each customer matters then it starts with having happy and engaged employees.

Now I had his attention back.

I told him if he didn’t work on his company culture then his company would just not grow as fast as it should.

Now he was hooked.

We have a conference call scheduled for next week.

Making an Impact

I’m sharing this with you because this is one of the main reasons I want to expand my coaching services is that I want to also help leaders and business owners. If they only understood how to track and improve employee experiences they could then see how it affects revenue. 95% of the time they are closely tied together.

A company with a vision, purpose, core values, good products, and high employee engagement usually means they are wildly successful.

You keep a close eye on your profit margins then why wouldn’t you keep a close eye on your employee engagement?

So that’s what I want to help leaders do in the workplace. Help them improve their team and company culture, so employees are engaged and happy.

That means managing their performance, so you can measure their success and help them improve.

I’m using the same tools and system:

1. Create a Core Values document.
2. Develop feedback loop.
3. Work on coaching skills.
4. Develop a system to measure and improve your employees performance and happiness.

So if you have a passion for improving your leadership and business skills then you should fill out the application.

I have two applications:

Leadership coaching (Leaders in the workplace who want a more engaged team that gets great results)


Business Coaching (Business owner looking to improve how their company listens and communicates)

An Open Letter to All Bosses Who Don’t Listen

Open Letter to Your Boss

This article was inspired by an email I received from a reader last week:

Dear Karl,

I truly want to work happier, but I feel stuck. I received your email last week about being a great leader. I’m sad to say that my boss is a true jerk. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he is always too busy or when I try to speak up he just cuts me off. There is no way he would ever ask for my feedback. I feel lost. I have a young child and I really don’t want to look for another job. I like my work, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand working for my boss.

Thanks for whatever advice you can give,

Struggling at Work

Here is a nice supplement to this article – 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement

Here is my reply (An open reply to all the bosses who fail to listen to their employees problems and ideas).

Dear Struggling at Work,

I’ve been in your position before.

My first boss out of college who wouldn’t listen to me and also kept putting me down. After researching a company shirt for him he wanted an update, so I went into his office.

After one minute of explaining the different local print shops we could use, he held up his hand for me to stop talking.

He asked me if the sizes come in Double XL. I wasn’t sure. I told him I could go and find out.

He shook his head, looked down into his lap, then at me and said I could have a monkey do a better job on this project.

He killed my confidence with that one sentence.

I share this with you because I’m a proud man, but as a young man I was afraid to stick up for myself. No one deserves to be treated that way and I didn’t have the confidence to be strong.

Every time I would try to present an idea he would brush me off. He didn’t even try to pretend like he listened to me. He just ignored most of my ideas.

I wish I could share with you that eventually I stuck up for myself and my boss respected me. This never happened.

I worked there for two years and hated working for him the whole time I was there.

I was lucky to have a great manager, in another department, that helped guide me. He hated to see me leave the company, but he supported me.

That was over fifteen years ago.

Now I’m much more confident and willing to speak up. It’s taken a lot of practice, but so worth my energy.

My hope is that you have or can find someone who can help guide you a work, someone in a different department, HR, a mentor, or a coach.

I realize that many bosses aren’t very good listeners, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements in the working world. Bosses and managers should seek training to improve their listening skills and be better coaches to their employees.

They need people like you to lead the way.  They need someone to say you aren’t very good at this right now, but I know you have the talent to be a great leader.

I know it’s hard to step up and say something difficult and maybe feels impossible, but it’s not. Boss by boss and manager by manager we can encourage them to be better listeners so they create a happier work culture. When they understand that with improving their listening and communication skills they will help build a stronger team.

Real improvements in the workplace cultures through America and other top down managed cultures need a wake up call. They must know that these bad habits can’t continue.


You don’t need to do this one your own. You have a lot of power if you are willing to ask for help.

For example you could ask for help within your company. You could seek help and advice from someone outside the company as well, to see if they’ve been through something similar and how they improved their situation.

Guess what?

They probably have.

When we are willing to go find help and be a little vulnerable that’s when we can work on improving ourselves and our career.

Your turn…

How do you find the strength to ask for help when you need it the most?

Would you like to improve your leadership skills? Then take a look at how I help people with my leadership coaching program. I’m taking applications for next month.

5 Reasons You Should Write Down Your Core Values

Core Values

I waited.

I’m not sure why, but my light was green and I hadn’t pressed on the gas peddle.

Then a big truck came barreling through the intersection.

My jaw dropped.

I should be dead right now.

I don’t know if it was divine intervention, my gut instinct telling me not to go, or just dumb luck.

Whatever it was that prevented me from not pressing the gas pedal just saved me from a world of pain, maybe even my life.


We are all connected.

Quantum mechanics has revealed some amazing discoveries. Every atom that interacts with each other becomes connected. We live in an amazing world and the smarter we get the more complicated things become. I guess that’s why so many of us yearn for our younger days when we were young, stupid, and happy.

I’m still on this earth for a reason.

I’ve survived Cancer and I’m enjoying my work and life a little more each day.

I’ve survived working with many difficult bosses and I’m still here.

That’s why understanding my why to my major decisions is so important to me.

I don’t want to waste my time making a decision. I want to be able to say Yes or No quickly so I can enjoy my life instead of feeling insecure.

My Core Values bring clarity to my choices.

You might find other reasons how your core values help you, but here are what I believe to be the top 5 for me and many of my clients.

1. Your Core Values show you your true nature

Before working with Tim, one of my coaches. He asked me to send him my top 8 core values from a list he sent me. I smiled. Easy peasy.

I sent him my top 8 values.

Then we got on the phone and he had me compare each value to each other to one another.


Happiness was my #1 core value.

After we ranked them he began to ask me questions. I soon discovered that for me happiness was a crutch for me. If it didn’t make me happy then I wouldn’t do it.

The problem with this is that sometimes you need to do hard work that feels uncomfortable so you are happier in the future. Hard now, happy later.

As humans we are very bad at making good decisions based on future happiness, but allowing me to get a deeper understand of my values and Tim not allowing me to take the easy way out my values become more clear.

2. They guide your life.

Within a week I my top core value had switched from happiness to truth. I seek to uncover the truth in myself and others. I stopped taking the easy way out and began to get more curious about the truth behind my problems.

For example I would get frustrated with reports that I would write for my boss because he either didn’t like them or wouldn’t read them. I would rationalize that I needed to keep them short.

The truth was that I was being lazy because writing the reports didn’t make me happy. So I saw my true nature and knew it wasn’t fair to my boss or me. I believed in doing my work well or not at all, half my effort wasn’t cutting it. I began to put all the detail necessary to make sure that he saw the full picture and that I was delivering great work.

What do you know?

I was happier because I was delivering a reports. My boss began to read them too.

3. They help you with your career goals.

After I was laid off and started my own business, I was using more of my core values than ever before. My clients formed a deeper connection with me. It started off slow at first, but it began to happen again and again.

I decided to publish my core values because I wanted my clients to see who I was and how I delivered my services. A few of my clients have asked me about my core values, but many of them just feel confident and safe in who I am because I’m so public about who I am and what I deliver.

It’s become one of my best trust building tools. I wouldn’t be as successful without being so open about my core values.

4. They save you from making bad choices.

I get a lot of emails asking me to promote products and give me money to advertise on Work Happy Now. I turn down 99% of them because of my vision for my company. I want everyone to do work that they are passionate about and have a great group of people helping them reach their goals.

If I was worried about making an extra $100 from the site I don’t think I would have the trust that I do with my clients and readers.

5. They ease your stress levels.

This is a big one for me. I didn’t live my core values for many years. I avoided work to avoid getting in trouble.

When I started my own business and I get to choose who I work with and who I don’t I began to go after more purpose driven companies, which means I get to work with people who are as passionate about their work as I am.

Because I choose to work with companies that are purpose driven instead of money driven. I believe that we have similar core values. We believe in working toward a larger goal instead of immediate gratification results.

I work harder now than I ever did, but because I believe in the growth mindset every project has an opportunity for me to learn. If a project doesn’t grab my curiosity I say no to it.

How about you?

Have you ever ranked your personal core values? It’s really cool experience. I do it with 99% my clients. The real secret sauce is how we use your core values to help you make smarter choices.

If you are interested in uncovering your top core values then you are in luck. I’m scheduling 5 free core values sessions with people who read Work Happy Now.

Are you an owner of a company, feel stuck in your career, manager of a team, or want to improve your leadership skills at work?

Then fill out my contact form (type “core values” into message, so I can separate you from other contacts) and I’ll send you an email.

I’ll pick 5 people to work with. The process usually takes about 30 minutes. I’ll send you a list of core values then after you send me 8 I’ll send you access to my calendar to schedule a call. I will be recording the session and I’ll ask for your feedback.

This is a $250 value that I’m giving away for free because I’m looking to get a better understanding of using values in the workplace. I want to do this session then hear from you a week later to see if it helped you at your job.

What are your top 3 core values?

Why Great Leaders Have a Growth Mindset

Growth mindset quote

It’s 10am.

Mark knew it was time for the team meeting, but he really didn’t want to go.

It was always the same thing. People would joke around for 10 minutes. Then Cindy and John would dominate the conversation to see who could one up the other. Alex would try to chime in with calm and reason and Cindy and John would talk over him.





Mark would look over at his manager and he would be rolling his eyes or looking down at his iPad. Mark liked his boss, but at some point he stopped caring.

Old Patterns

Many of the old patterns exist because that’s what people do. They get into habits. Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but habits are at your work.

It’s the bad habits that hold us back.

I came across a popular talk from Carol Dweck.

She talks about the growth mindset. I clumsily wrote the growth mindset back in 2008. I believed I could be a good writer someday. Almost there. Just a few more years. :)

Read what she has to say about her research:

“We found that students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset).” Carol Dweck

Do you believe you are still learning and growing?

Every leader must be able to believe that s/he can learn and grow. If they are stuck in old habits and can’t break free you get the typical scenario that I described above.

Breaking Old Patterns

Habits are not easy to break, but it’s possible, if you believe it’s possible.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

A man after my own heart. He had the growth mindset back in 1901. He was also an Environmental Activist. The dude was amazing.

Enough about my man Theo.

You can break these bad habits by creating an employee feedback loop. This is where leadership separates the average from the really good. Listening to tough feedback and using it as an opportunity for growth.

Now imagine if Mark’s boss had a growth mindset.

He would see the meetings weren’t productive and he would take action. He would probably start the meeting by stating the obvious then begin by asking each person, what we should do to improve the meetings.

He would list each idea on the meeting room white board. Then ask people to vote on the ones they think would work the best.

Then he would implement the top 3 ideas by asking the group who would like to make sure we follow these ideas in every meeting. If no one steps up then he would do it. If someone stepped up he knew he had an ally to help him.

Either way it would happen.

Be a Great Leader

A great leader knows when to make the tough choice. Even the best leaders can lose sight of what is working well and what needs to be improved. So that’s why you have to create a feedback loop to help keep you in check.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

I truly believe that everyone should consider themselves a leader at work. So you should be asking your co-workers and your boss how you can improve.

It can be a hard conversation to have, but one that will help you grow your career.

If you consider yourself a leader at work then you should get the 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagementto help you at work. I’m also offering a new type of coaching that I haven’t offered before. I want to help more business leaders improve their employees happiness and productivity. If you are on my email list I’ll send you a special offer to help you create happier and more engaged employees. Just click the button below:

7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement
Below is a cool infographic from Carol Dweck that helps you understand how to bring more of a growth mindset to your work. It’s focus is on students, but you can apply these mindset techniques to your work as well.


5 Free Tools Top Professionals Use

Positive action

You look across the meeting room.

He has a slight smile on his face.

Why is he always smiling?

He never seems stressed.

What does he know that I don’t know?

You look down at your notes and the only thing you did was title the top of your sheet and that’s it.

You sigh.

How much longer will this meeting be?

Some people have a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Most of us, me included, don’t.

That was until I began to practice #1 on my list on a daily basis.

I struggled at every job then I began to keep a gratitude journal. It changed my life.

I found positives where I struggled before. I would be stuck in a meeting and I found ways to enjoy myself and be more engaged.

Now that I work for myself I rely on gratitude even more. Owning your own business is tough. Clients leave. Ideas fail, but my gratitude is how I stay positive.

Once my gratitude for my career improved I then implemented the other 4 tools and now I feel like I have a great career. I’m not a millionaire, far from it, but everyday is a challenge that lights me up inside.

Here are the 5 Free Tools that Top Professionals Use to Get Ahead:

Do you want the free PDF to remind you of these ideas? Just Click here to get the 5 Tools PDF now, so you can reference it whenever you need it.

1. Gratitude Journal

Keeping track of gratitude, fun events, and future plans is a great way to keep your focus on what is going well in your career and how to build upon it. I suggest creating a journal to write in at the end of each work day. The journal doesn’t need to be fancy. Write down 3 things you were grateful. The idea is to pick a time that you write in your Gratitude journal every single day. I write in mine at the end of each day. In less than 7 days you’ll notice a boost in your attitude and energy level at work. You’ll be more productive and happier. It’s my favorite career tool on this list.

2. Jedi Council (Mentors)

Who do you look up to and is willing to help you with your career? It’s these people that you need to connect with and learn from. I call this my Jedi Council. I borrowed the name from Pam Slim. It makes it fun to think of people who I can reach out to, care about me and want me to grow. I have this with individuals as well as a group mastermind. Both work well for me. I try to find two people per year to add to my Jedi Council.

3. Feedback loops

How do you improve your ability to get better results? Great questions lead to great answers. Are you asking for feedback? Are you asking your boss and co-workers how you can improve or what what do you think is my greatest strength? The more you can create structure around your feedback loops the more you will learn about yourself from the people around you the more you can improve your career.

4. Reframing

One of the best tools I’ve added to my career toolbox is the idea of “Reframing”. The idea is to try to find the positive in any situation. For example when you are stuck in traffic on your commute to work you don’t think, “Arrrrgh this stinks.” You say to yourself, “Yes, I get to listen to a few more songs before I get to work.” It was tough for me at first, but with a lot of practice this has helped me be more resilient and positive in my work. I’m happier and much less stressed.

5. Passion projects

I believe everyone should have a system for projects that you are passion about and helps you grow your career. That could mean writing a book or volunteering at a local charity. I started Work Happy Now and Domino Connection as a passion projects and now they support my family. Also most of the people in my Jedi Council have come from Work Happy Now and Domino Connection relationships. These projects have changed my life.

Your Turn

What tools do you use to stay happy and motivated? Let me know via contacting me on this site or in the comment section.

Why Feeling Grateful Will Boost Your Career

Oprah Winfrey quote

One of the most important tools I’ve used to improve my life and my career is a very simple tool. It has transformed my thinking as well as my results.

I grown two businesses while taking care of my 1 year old son.

The tool is…

Gratitude Journal

Practicing gratitude at every chance I can get is one of the main keys to my success.

“Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take.” Christopher Reeve

Its taking me years of practice.

Before I started Work Happy Now I was miserable at every single job I had. I worried about what other people thought of me. I fretted about making more money. I whined about how boring my job was.

Then I made a step toward a happier career.

My Challenge

I created a 30 Day No Complaining Challenge. This kick started my career.

Instead of whining I started finding little joys in my work. Each thought build upon the next.

As I steered my thoughts away from complaining and focused on a more positive outlook I found it easier to stay productive. The more productive I was the more my boss noticed my hard work.

I remember one particular day I had an idea about how to go to local high schools to help with financial literacy to bring in younger customers. A actually had the same thought a couple of years earlier, but dismissed it as an ideas that would be shot down by my boss.

This time around I focused on being more grateful for my work and when I did get shot down I waited a few weeks and tried again. The second time I approached my boss I was a little more prepared and he said “Yes.”

Passion Project

Now I had a passion project to help me level up my career.

Learn how I did it in my guide that I created to help people unlock more passion in their career.

It’s this project that helped me figure out how to create something to help you find your own passion projects at work to boost your career.

Because I was more grateful I found creative ways to keep my attitude positive and find work that got me excited.

This took years for me to improve.

I kept a gratitude journal, but I was very sporadic.

I wished someone had helped me with improving how I practiced gratitude when I struggled in my career.

I wanted something to help me be more consistent with how I practice my gratitude.

So I decided to create it.

My Gift to You

On average it takes about 30 days to develop a habit. It takes that long to get the synapsis in your brain close enough, so it’s easier to access these positive thoughts.

The more I practiced the easier it got.

I created the 30 Day Gratitude Course to help you develop the gratitude habit to help you with your career.

The free 30 Day email course works well for:

  1. Leaders who want to recharge their career.
  2. People who want to be more positive at work.
  3. People who want to bring more passion to their work.

The cool part is you also get the 5 Tools that Top Professionals Use to Improve Their Careers. Just click here to join the 30 Day Gratitude Course.

Here is an example email that you will be receiving:

Gratitude Email

Your Turn

What tools do you use to stay motivated to do your work?

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


What is an Employee Feedback Loop?


To the boardroom.

At least that is where I thought she was taking me.

I entered a room with a big desk and a large man to match.

“Have a seat,” he said.

He gestured to the seat in front of his desk.

“Ok, so tell me why is it important for my employees to be happy?”

He got right to the point.

I was told he was a straight shooter.

Just a little more straight than I was expecting. It stunned me for a moment.

He got right to it.

I paused and smiled.

His eyes creased curiosity.

I told him the most important tool 99% of businesses aren’t utilizing well are feedback loops.

He asked me to explain.

A feedback loop is an ongoing conversation with your employees about what is going well and what could be improved.

I asked him if he heard of the example that we only use 10% of our brains, which helped demonstrate my point. He had heard that percentage before.

I explained that most companies are only using 40% of their employees potential. I created a resource guide to improve your leadership skills. Click the link to get the 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement.

He leaned forward.

A super small company of less than 10 employees can usually create a natural feedback loop by talking to individuals throughout the month. The busier and larger a company becomes the more layers that are created. The harder it becomes to listen.

Listening is a key skill that most companies don’t teach. They want great results, but don’t make it easy for their people.

A small to large size company should have some sort of system in place.

I told him about Domino Feedback based off of Net Promoter Score. I explained how each employee is a domino tipping out into the world and they usually fit 3 categories.

  1. Promoters – They love working for the company and tell their friends about their experience.
  2. Passives – This group is just ho-hum about working for the company. Not saying anything good or bad.
  3. Detractors – They talk bad about you behind your back every chance they get. They bring other people down and hurt the company culture that you are trying to improve.

The more promoters you have the more you can gauge the health of your company culture. The more detractors you have the more likely they are creating a toxic culture.

He was hooked.

The hard part was making sure that people could be honest. You don’t want them to fear giving honest feedback. You also don’t want them to be afraid to make you mad.

That’s why I suggest most companies create a feedback loop that is anonymous. You get to gather as honest feedback as possible.

The next part is to be consistent about getting this feedback. Asking for feedback once a year isn’t good enough. How much change happens in your industry can be astounding, almost hard to keep up. The same goes for issues your employees have to deal with on a regular basis.

The change is rapid and the only way to keep up is to have every employee onboard, listening to customer’s needs, each other’s needs, and supplier’s needs.

Once you have a system in place to capture these problems and ideas then it’s time to put on your listening hat.

I knew a CEO who actually had a listening hat. He would put on a cowboy hat every time he would review his company survey with his team.

Then it’s using this information to help you get a birds eye view of your company. You can learn what is going well and what needs to be improved.

It’s very important that you or your team don’t take any of the feedback personally. Employees will use the forum to vent their frustration. This is a good thing. They get to vent, feel heard, and find ways to move on.

I’m curious about your company.

How well do they listen to you?

Do you have a feedback loop in place that allows you to give your boss and/or company feedback? If so how to they gather it? Do you use software, in person, meetings, etc.?

If you have any questions about creating an employee feedback loop to create more engagement at work, just reach out to me (contact page) and we’ll set-up a quick consultation.

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.