Why Creating an Environment of Success Will Save Your Company Money

working at coffee shop

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

What is a Successful Environment

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

working at coffee shop

Rewards To Reap

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

Ways to Transform Your Office Today

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

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

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

wholesale toupee and hair systems for men

Ways to Transform your Office Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

What to Take From This Article:

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

How I got a job I Was Unqualified For

Custom backdrops DIY backgrounds for pictures

You see a job description online that jazzes you up. You read through the job ad, and you think, “I’d love to apply for that,” but you’re hesitant, because you can’t check all the boxes they’re asking for. Maybe you have an opportunity to interview for a job that you don’t feel qualified for, and you’re careful not to get your hopes up, because you know that likely every other candidate is more qualified than you, so what chance do you have anyway?

Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? I’ve been there.

Early in my career, I was working at a cafe in a large industrial park, where I’d see the same customer faces each day as they came in for their morning coffee. I’d remember their orders each morning. I wouldn’t always remember their names, but I’d know that was the guy with the “grande double decaf americano with extra room.”

My plan was to work at the cafe until I finished college, where I was getting my diploma in Business Administration. While I was at college, I stayed late one night helping a fellow classmate with economics homework. Because I had been helpful to him and “saved his butt,” he asked if I wanted to apply for a job where he worked. He said he would gladly refer me.

I was excited! My first question: Where do you work?

“Abebooks,” he said (Which unbeknownst to me was about to be acquired by Amazon).

“Sure!” I said without giving it anymore thought, “That sounds amazing! Send me the job description.”

When I got home, I excitedly checked my email. I saw this description, and I almost fell out of my chair. I realized immediately that I was not even the slightest bit qualified for this job. The only thing it had in common with me was that people would be in that office, and I talk to people at the cafe.

I wondered how my classmate even thought that I’d stand a chance here. Then I figured he was probably just being nice, even though nothing would likely come of it.

Some of the responsibilities as I read down the page included things that I didn’t even understand, like:

“Support seller acquisition campaigns and account management”

“Knowledge of SQL and/or HTML”

“Experience in Sales and Account Management”

“Associate or Bachelor Degree in Business or related field preferred”

These were just a few of the bullet points that made me think to myself, “Should I even bother with this? The other candidates surely all have more experience than I do.”

As I actively tried not to get my hopes up, I started thinking about a process to prepare for this interview that would make me different. I’d already said yes. Even if no job came of it, I knew I had to at least try. I had to pinch myself because this job paid more than I had ever been paid before. The company was prestigious and had won many awards. Looking at my background, it looked completely out of my league.

How did I do this? Decoding the process now, I attribute 3 key things to why they chose me out of what later I found out was a pool of 7 shortlisted other qualified candidates.

1. A Referral Goes a Long Way

I know now that a lot of companies give quite a high preference to referred candidates, even if the candidate doesn’t check all the boxes right away. If they’re a referral they’re more likely to get invited in for an interview. I had some courses from school that made me sound smart, and I would highlight my people skills and cross my fingers.

Before I handed in my resume, I figured if there was ever a time to invest in getting it to be as close to perfect as possible, it was now. I had a professional resume writer help me with it (actually I had three). You might not always have time for this, but it gave me the confidence and reassurance I needed to finally hit “Send.”

One of the resume writers said to me, “What makes you think you’re going to get an interview for this job?” Long story short, the resume (along with my classmate’s good word) was compelling enough to have them interview me.

2. Likeability is Underrated

I learned later that being likeable is actually more important than skills, education, or experience. At the time, I think it was a highly contributing factor. It may have been the one thing that got me the job. It’s hard to tell but I have a feeling it was big. I can’t explain getting hired any other way.

It may sound unfair or even unprofessional to hire someone that you like over someone who is more skilled or experienced, but sometimes human nature trumps logic. This was confirmed when I came across a study in the Harvard business review. It proved that people might say that they’d choose the more skilled person over the more likeable candidate; however, in practice, when it comes right down to it, they don’t.

Quoted from the HBR review:

“Generally speaking, a little extra likability goes a longer way than a little extra competence in making someone desirable to work with.”

3. The Questions YOU Ask Are Everything

At the very beginning (before they had a chance to go “stream of consciousness” with their questions), I asked them what the top priorities would be for someone entering the role in the first three months on the job. This was a strategic move. I wanted to find out in their words what exactly they wanted from their new hire. I was looking for anything other than the gibberish on the job description. My thought was that once I knew this, I could position myself as a better candidate as I answered questions throughout.

The truth is the answer wasn’t super helpful, but it was good enough. They said, “The successful candidate will spend the first three months training, learning our systems, tools, and procedures.”

This information helped me enough that I talked about my love for learning new things. It gave me a focus that I knew was desirable to them. I made a point to talk about examples and stories of learning new software programs and new concepts, and how I loved putting time and effort into learning, because it always paid off in the end. I talked about techniques I used for learning, and I captivated them with some things I’d learned that were interesting. People also like people that are interesting and can share interesting, entertaining and new info.

Another thing that I think contributed was that at the time Abebooks didn’t have a way for customers to provide feedback on their site for whether or not books were received on time and in good condition. I said, “I notice that you don’t have a way for customers to provide feedback on your site at the moment. For such a large site with so many customers, I would think something like that would be beneficial.”

I brought up this gap in their business, and I noticed the interview panel glance over at each other and smile. The gentleman on the end, who was one of the Department Managers, looked over at the Director (who was seated in the middle) and said, “Do you want to take this one?” She laughed as she started telling me how they’re excited to launch their feedback feature. After long and hard hours of working on it, the release date was less than six months away! She talked excitedly about how it worked on a star rating system, which is what you see if you go to their site today.

Sometimes it’s not about what they have in place; it’s about what they don’t have in place yet (and who notices).

The takeaways from my story include:

  • Being qualified isn’t everything
  • People will more likely hire who they like vs. who is the most skilled or the smartest
  • If you can get referred, that’s even better
  • Be strategic with when and what you ask

Try out these ideas at your next interview, and keep the doors open. Unlikely things do happen, even if they seem impossible. When that opportunity came up, I had no idea how I was going to approach it. All I knew was that there was something inside of me that was nagging me (perhaps it was my dad’s voice). “Just say yes,” he would say, “and then figure out how to do it later.”

I may have hated this advice when I was younger, but I will admit that it was not the worst advice my dad ever gave me.

Natalie Fisher is an enthusiastic HR Generalist who loves her job! She’s been on over 50 interviews and received 48 job offers. Download her Free Guide: How to Nail an Interview You’re Unqualified For.

Alternative Sleep Cycles to Improve Quality of Work and Life

peeking-in-box-595

On average, we sleep for almost one third of our life. That’s a lot of time, if you think about it.

Now, imagine if that time was spent doing, constructive and useful things like making breakthroughs in scientific research, discovering the secrets of black holes or watching Gossip Girl reruns in your pajamas (We aren’t judging).
Want to maximize your potential during your awake time?

Well, read on!

I’m going to give you a crash course on all things sleep cycle related, looking at which one works best for your occupation.

The key is that hours of sleep do not equate to the amount of rest your mind and body gets. There are a lot of factors at play. Quality of sleep is one but most important is time spent in REM (random eye movement) sleep. So you can get more rest with fewer hours spent sleeping.

The monophasic sleep cycle

For most of us, our sleep cycle is monophasic. As the name suggests, we go to sleep at night for around 6-7 hours and then wake up in the morning. We stay awake for around 17-18 hours each day.

Forty-five to 55% of a typical monophasic cycle is spent in light sleep and only about 20% of the time is spent in deep sleep. The majority of us follow this monophasic sleep cycle. This is your garden-variety sleep cycle, pretty tame stuff, yawn.

Polyphasic sleep cycles

Did you know that there is also something called polyphasic sleep cycles? And, that there are four types? Some people actually DO sleep more than once every day and (if done right) they are better off for it. In fact, companies in Japan encourage their workers to sleep on the job!

Yes, you read that right. Workers are encouraged to take 20-30 minute power naps if they are feeling sleepy.1 Employers believe that it enhances their productivity and efficiency and improves their quality of work. Keep that little trivia fact to casually mention to your boss next time you are getting chewed out for dozing on the clock.

Planning sleep for productivity and efficiency

When and how we sleep is not something to be taken lightly as it affects our productivity and efficiency at work. Just like in Japan, a lot of research is being done on Polyphasic sleep cycles globally, as they are related to increased workplace efficiency.

So, here are the four Polyphasic cycles and how they affect your body and increase your efficiency. These cycles are very carefully tailored to match the healthy human body and its highs and lows, and used by some high performing individuals that have stressful, time constrained jobs.

The Biphasic Cycle total hours slept

For this cycle you need to sleep twice a day, Get 5-6 hours of sleep at night and then take a nap at midday. Adhering to the biphasic sleeping cycle improves cognitive and memory function and reduces stress. It is ideal for people who work multiple shifts or, desk jobs that involve complex calculations. It is also a very effective sleep cycle for students, especially during exam week crunch time.

The Everyman Cycle

Don’t get fooled by the name, it’s not to be taken literally. It may sound like this cycle is for every man, however, If you want to follow this cycle, you need to get 3.5 hours of core sleep daily and three 20 minute power naps during the day.

This cycle has the least sleeping hours at a stretch and you get to spend the maximum time awake. If you have upcoming projects or deadlines that you have to meet, this cycle is best for you. Naps will keep you refreshed and the lower core sleep duration will give you maximum time to focus on your work.

This cycle can be viable for a senior manager at a busy workplace, financial analysts who have to keep tabs in real time on different world markets and even programmers working across different time zones who are awake at odd hours.

The Dymaxion Cycle

One of the most difficult cycles to adopt since it consists of a total of four 30-minute naps throughout the day. That equals to just two hours of sleep per day. Whew!

This cycle is perfect for the people who don’t require much sleep and can stay awake for longer periods of time without it affecting their productivity.

This is sometimes necessary for high-stress professions like doctors dealing with emergency rooms, air traffic controllers, or other professions where being available and alert is crucial and may even mean the difference between life and death.

The Uberman Cycle

Start taking 30 minute naps after 4 hours and Voila! You are now following the Uberman sleep cycle.
This cycle is most suitable for people whose activities do not last more than 3 hours. Pilots and long haul truck drivers can benefit from this, taking a short nap after each stretch to keep them alert and avoid risking bungling up important operations due to lack of sleep.

Musicians and entertainers can also make use of this cycle. It gives you the flexibility to perform acts and gigs throughout the day. The short naps keep you fresh and relaxed, for a brilliant performance.

The most common and approachable Polyphasic cycle is the Biphasic sleep cycle. You might have used this without even realizing it. Students follow this cycle most often.

Needless to say, this is the most recommended cycle to improve productivity and efficiency at work.

The Uberman is another commonly attempted (and most commonly failed sleep cycle). Many who attempt this cycle don’t realize how difficult this is to adapt to it, with your body only adapting over time.

The Dymaxion sleep cycle is also seen as a cycle that increases alertness.

Apps to monitor your sleep

There are a lot of mobile and smart wear apps available which monitor your sleep. With these, you can figure out which sleep cycle suits you best.

These apps monitor your movement to track the stages of sleep. With the importance of creativity and intellect today, creative and alert minds are often the difference between a successful or a failed project. Creativity needs fertile ground to breed.

Polyphasic sleeping has highlighted the way sleep cycles affect work performance and efficiency. It gives the brain the right amount of sleep at the right time, increasing alertness and productivity.

So if your regular sleeping cycle isn’t working for you, try something different. But be warned, it takes a little patience and discipline, which can go a long way to optimizing your sleep.

Ali Jan Qadir is fascinated by sleep, a boring subject but this idle act is crucial for an enriched life. He regularly writes about effects of sleep on work performance and quality of life. Follow him on twitter @alijqadir

Unhappy at Work? How to Tell Your Boss

mentor-work-talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Get a Grip on What’s Bothering You

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

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

2. Scrutinize Scrupulously

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

3. Prepare a Plan

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

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

4. Try Talking

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

5. Set the Stage

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

6. Sit in the Spotlight

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

7. Paint the Picture

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

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

8. Recommend Resolutions

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

9. Solicit Suggestions

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

10. Take Action

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

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

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

Stretch Your Career

Group Stretch

One of the most important aspects of a career that makes you happy is…

Growth

When you see personal and professional growth you have a deeper understanding of your purpose.

You see what you were able to accomplish and how it helped.

I recently had the privilege to talk with Barbara Mistick for my Domino Experience podcast. Barbara is the President of Wilson College. A seasoned veteran of teaching young people to do work that they care about.

Barbara Mistick

One of my favorite stories is how one student almost dropped out until she understand one important fact about college.

We also covered these topics:

  • The importance of happiness at work.
  • Taking responsibility for your own career.
  • Carving out time to learn something new to grow your career.
  • Expanding in the fear. (Where the biggest growth happens)
  • Be prepared when the unexpected happens.
  • Learning a living.
  • What you can learn from a bad boss.

Biggest Takeaway

Think about 5 people that you know that have helped you grow personally or professionally over this past 12 months. Go and reach out to them. See if you can help them in some way.

Relationships do matter. The more you work at building stronger relationships the more you will be able to grow your career.

Listen to the podcast here:

You can subscribe via iTunes to the Domino Experience podcast that shares stories about building better business relationships for entrepreneurs here. If you liked the interview please give us a review on iTunes. The more people that know about this podcast the more people we can help.

If you thought the book could help your career then you can buy the book on Amazon (this is an affiliate link and will help me buy a cup of coffee).

As always if you have any questions just let me know.

Thanks!

How to Build Habits that Stick

custom made dresses

I eat a lot more broccoli than I did 5 years ago. I actually enjoy it now.

I also still walk, jog, play, bike, etc. regularly. It’s why my gut isn’t any bigger than it probably should be.

I’ve been able to develop habits that have made me happier and more productive.

I’ve slacked on my meditation practice. Just yesterday was my first time in over a month.

I love it so, but it alludes me to turn it into a habit.

Yoga is a habit that I need to do every single day, even if it’s just a quick 5 minute sun salutation.

These habits help me with my energy levels at work.

Does your organization need help improving habits at work? Then let’s chat! Then fill out the short form at the bottom and we’ll see how more happiness can help your organization.

Last Month

I sat down to do meditation. My son came barreling in the door.

“Oh, Yoga!” he said.

I open one eye.

“Hi,” I whisper.

“Hi, Baba.”

“I’ll be done in just 10 minutes.”

“Can I join you?”

“Ah, sure.”

He sits down next to me.

“You know what I feel like right now?” he asks.

“What?” I ask.

“A giraffe.”

“Why?”

“I’m not sure. I just feels like my neck is very long right now.”

“That’s cool”

“Baba?” he asks. (That’s dad in German.)

“Shh. We are meditating.”

“Ok, just…What do you feel like right now?”

“I feel like me.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Baba?”

“Shhh.”

“Baba. Just real quick.”

“What?”

“After we’re done do you want to play pirates?”

“Sure.”

I close my eyes.

“Baba?”

“Buddy, I really want to meditate right now. It’s quiet time.”

“Ok, just really quick.”

Then I hear the door open. My wife peeks in. It’s time for dinner.

I smile.

“We’ll be right there.”

Now this is a wonderful memory and one I wouldn’t ever want to forget.

Power of Habit

The book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is one of the best books on habits I’ve read in a long time. In it, Duhigg talks about one technique that will help you develop habits that stick with you – have a backup plan when you don’t follow through.

The key is start with your passion behind your desire to build a certain habit. You might want to take a walk during lunch every single day to clear your stress out.

Then focus on creating a happiness map that fits your personality. Then incorporating your new habit into your schedule.

Now meditation doesn’t play to my strengths of sitting still, but it doesn’t have to because my passion is stronger and I’m willing to build this strength muscle because of the benefits of meditation. The more I meditate the less prone I am to anger and frustration. Strengthening this part of my daily routine pays dividends for my happiness.

Here is where I faltered. If I didn’t meditate I didn’t have a backup plan. Let’s say I wanted to meditate for 20 minutes before dinner and my son happens to walk into my office, wanting to spend time with me.

Do I give up on the meditation for the day?

I used to.

Now I plan for a possible disturbance and have a backup plan. If I try to meditate in the morning and my youngest son gets up and I have to stop at the beginning of my meditation, I write a note to myself to practice after the kids go to bed. This is very important. I try to write where and when. The more specific the better. I’ll meditate in my bedroom at 9pm before I wind down for the night.

The more details I put into my plan the more clear my desire becomes to actually do it. Then have a backup in place to help you stay on track even when you get off track.

If you can visualize how you will take your walk (route) and schedule it (time) then you are 90% more likely to actually practice your habit.

Habits At Work

You may be interrupted during a time you are trying to focus on a project. Are you quick to anger or frustration?

Then try building in a plan “b”. If you are pulled into a meeting then schedule time in the later afternoon or next morning to do this work.

It will be important to strengthen your “no” muscle. If you keep getting interrupted then you won’t have time to do your high level work. If you are interrupted once then schedule the next time and stick with it. By setting these boundaries you’ll help train your coworkers to allow you to get your important work done.

When my son or a client interrupts my work I try to be flexible, but then set limits to my flexibility. I want people to know my time is valuable too.

You can do this at work by putting on headphones while you work, scheduling a private room at work, or working outside of work to get what you need done quickly.

Here is how it breaks down:

  1. Know why you want to build a habit into your routine.
  2. Write down when and where so you can visualize yourself doing it.
  3. Create a backup plan that allows you to do it even in a shortened amount of time.
  4. Set boundaries that allow you to be flexible, but also set limits on how much time you give to others.

The 4 step process to building habits that stick.

What habit would you like to add to your life?

How to Stop Worrying About Mistakes at Work

worried-man-talking-cell-595

I’m standing next to a powerful woman at this networking event. She introduces my friend and I to her friend.

There is a slightly longer than usual pause and I rush to fill the empty space.

“Oh and this is my friend Alfred.”

“We already met,” Alfred says.

“Oh, I’m sorry. You knew each other already.”

“No. Mary just introduced us.”

Another awkward pause and I say.

“I’m sorry.” I flush red.  “Wow. I have a 10 month old at home and my brain just isn’t working well today,” 

They rush to fill the empty space and Mary says she has a 11 month old at home.

So the conversation steers in that direction.

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

Compassion

The whole drive home I replay my stupidity over and over.

I can’t believe I totally spaced out and didn’t notice that my friend was also introduced to this guy. It didn’t even register.

I was tired and I was nervous, but still it’s no excuse. I should have been paying attention.

Then I woke up in the middle of the night.

What a jackass I was, I thought to myself.

Then I thought about what this meant for myself in the bigger picture. Does this affect my career?

Not much.

Even it if did I can recover. I’ve recovered from stupid mistakes before.

Perspective

It would have helped to be much more suave, but in the grand scheme of things I still had great clients, a loving family, and food in my fridge.

I screwed up, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Nothing we go through is the end of the world.

Unless it really is the end of the world. And if that happens, nothing else matters.

I should be more concerned with the state of our oceans more then looking like a douche bag to a powerful woman in my city that could help my business.

Positivity

I thought about 5 good things in my life:

1. My wife

2. My sons

3. Turkey sandwiches

4. Cold glass of water with a dash of cranberry juice.

5. My soft pillow

I decided to just laugh at my nerdiness. I get nervous in front of others. It’s actually very interesting to see myself flub over something like that situation.

I can give a presentation to 200 people without too much difficulty, but I can’t stay focused long enough around an important person to avoid looking like an idiot.

You may notice I’m calling myself names throughout, but I do it to show you that I’ve stopped taking myself so seriously. We all make mistakes, but it’s all about accessing them and letting them go.

Move on so you can get back to doing great stuff.

Why Taking Short Breaks More Often Will Make You Smarter

take-break-at-work-595

Before I start a project I take a break. It could be a short pause with a deep breath or a quick walk to help me get my mind focused.

The worst thing anyone can do at work is start a project without looking at where to put their focus.

They jump in and make a ton of mistakes.

Lately I’ve been taking a Kermit the Frog dancing break. I swivel my arms from side to side and stamp my feet. It helps clear out the cobwebs that can form from focused work.

It helps that half my work week I work from a home office where no one can see me.

I don’t dance like Kermit the Frog at my co-working space. I might spin around in a cool swivel chairs walk down 7 flight of stairs and then back up.

Your energy is the most important resource that you have.

Time is great, but if you are exhausted you will never do great work.

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

I would rather have an hour of high energy and focused work vs. 2 hours of tired and sluggish work.

You’ll also retain more of the information you learn in a day because you took the time to let it soak in and process.

Stop Pushing Through

Last week I jumped into writing a blog post and I got halfway through and I hit a wall. I didn’t know where to go next. Instead of pushing through I decided to take a break.

I went to the bathroom then made myself a mug of green tea.

The hard part is actually getting yourself to slow down before you start a project. Many of you don’t think you have the time to take a break before you start.

I thought the same thing, but with a little practice my breaks have helped me complete work faster then if I just jump in.

Next time you are about to do something difficult from writing a detailed email to analyzing data try taking a break.

Taking an active break is very simple.

Step 1: Take 3 deep breaths.

Step 2: Think about what you would like to accomplish in the next hour.

Step 3: Think about how to best accomplish your goal.

Then go for it. This Active Break could take 1 or 5 minutes, but it will help you make smarter decisions with your time. I’ve found that I actually am more energized because I have a vision for my next hour instead of just jumping in.

I can be impulsive with my actions. Like I said I get an idea and want to run with it. I don’t want to slow down my motivated momentum. Sometimes I will run with it and see what happens, but 99% of the time I end up hitting a wall. I used to try to power through.

Worst choice in that situation.

You can’t find a way through a brick way by ramming your head against it. You’ll just get blood all over the place.

So I’ve learned to take 3 deep breaths and step back from my work. I’ll usually go for a short walk. If I’m at my co-working space I’ll take the elevator down to the basement and walk up the 7 flights of stairs. If I’m at home I’ll walk out into my backyard.

The key is not to try to solve my problem.

You can’t fight a problem with more fire. You need an active break.

A break that helps you create emotional distance and see the problem from new angles.

Then the problem/project becomes easier to solve.

I would rather solve a problem/project in 2 hours than 4. I’m pretty sure you would too.

You’ve probably heard the phrase:

Work smarter not harder.

Here are a few weird breaks that I’ve done and seen other people do at work. 🙂

When I have my clients survey their employees. We use the DPS system. One comment that occurs again and again is that they aren’t encouraged to take breaks. If you want to learn how to survey employees at work so you can create more engagement and happiness, just let me know over at Domino Connection.

I believe active breaks are how to make this happen.

How do you use breaks to help you work smarter?

Why Mastery Won’t Make You Happier Unless You Implement This Habit

daily habits

There’s a myth I want to dispel right now.

People believe that if you chase mastery you will be happy. This makes me mad. They say don’t pursue your passions just focus on being really good at something. They are fools because they want to give you the magic bullet to solve your career unhappiness.

Before you yell at me and site 10 articles that say we shouldn’t pursue our passions. Like this one and this one. I know how hard it is to chase career happiness. There is no magic bullet.

Chasing mastery can only make you happy if you have a balanced approach.

This is where most people get tripped up.

They chase after what they think will make them happy without looking at other factors.

I love music, but you won’t catch me up on stage with a guitar belting out my latest song.

Appreciate Your Weaknesses

I know my limitations. Maybe a bit too well.

You must be honest with yourself. Your weaknesses matter as much as your strengths.

This is where it gets tricky for most people. They see themselves up on stage with an excited crowd cheering them on. They want this feeling. They think it will make them happy. They believe that if they try hard enough they will make it happen. They negate their strengths and try to make their dreams a reality.

That’s why I advocate to all my clients to create a plan that fits their strengths, passions, and focus. I like to call this trifecta your superpowers. It’s the last one that’s maybe the most important.

Passion focus strengths

Focus allows you to get lost in the work. You’ve heard the phrase:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

That’s why getting lost in the work is as important as getting great results. Because the journey is where 99% of your time is spent. If you only enjoy 1% of your work then you have a terrible happiness ratio.

This is why passion is as important as strengths. If all you did was focus on your strengths and you became the best in your industry in your field, you could still feel empty.

Know Your Purpose

It’s the people that love their work and are amazing at what they do that are the happiest and get the best results.

You can be extremely happy just doing projects that make you happy, but not a lot of money. In fact you should be doing projects that are solely done to make you happy. That’s what Work Happy Now is for me. It’s my passion project.

You can make a lot of money mastering skills that others admire and pay you well for, but true happiness is mastering work that you love.

To be able to do work that makes you happy and played to your strengths and focus is a trifold effort and always a moving target.

I might master weeding my garden, but it probably won’t make make happy for very long. There is not a lot of difficulty in weeding.

New Challenges

What made you happy 10 years ago won’t make you happy today. Skills you mastered 10 years ago won’t be as enjoyable today. Your brain craves new challenges.

The best way to make mastery an important part of your happiness program is to review and adjust on a regular basis. At the end of each day I review my progress. It’s this habit that has helped me make sure I have a balanced approach to my work.

I make sure that following my passions or mastering a skill doesn’t over consume my life.

Reviewing your day is one the best habits you can implement in your career. You may want to start with a gratitude journal. It’s where I started and one of the best habits I’ve ever implemented into my life.

How you do this is important. It’s important to have a system that fits your personality.

Do you use reflection to improve your career?

I’m working on creating the Work Happy Now podcast, so you can grow your work happiness on your commute or lunch hour. I could use your input. What do you need from me to help you be a better leader at work? Just fill out this 2 minute survey and let me know how I can serve you better.

What’s Your Next Step?

Curious Cat

Many well-intentioned parents, grandparents, and teachers urge kids to get a job with good benefits.

I couldn’t agree more.

Except.

Except that when most people talk about “benefits,” they usually mean really, really good health insurance (with full dental!) and some sort of retirement plan that will take care of you when you’re put out to pasture.

When I was going through high school, trying to decide what I wanted to do in life, I got the impression that these specific benefits were very important. Even more important than liking the actual job I was doing to obtain said benefits.

That seemed backward to me. The idea of doing a job I hated (or only kinda liked) just for the so-called benefits made shooting myself out of a cannon into a brick wall more appealing.

Fortunately, my parents did support me as I gravitated toward a career in art that pretty much assured there would be no such benefits.

It blows my mind how many people make major life decisions based almost exclusively on this narrow view of “benefits.” They are willing to stay stuck in dead-end jobs that eat their soul just because they have a good vision plan. I think that a Cadillac health insurance program or generous vacation packages are fine factors to consider when hashing out the pros and cons of any potential job. But they should never be the only ones. And maybe not even the main ones.

The truth is that my job offers NONE of the benefits in the traditional sense. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. In fact, my job as an artist, author, and speaker, comes with TONS of benefits:

  • The work I do makes a difference.
  • I spend every day doing things I love.
  • I set my own hours.
  • I am rewarded for the results my hard work generates.
  • I don’t have to answer to clueless middle managers, corporate suits, or short-sighted shareholders.
  • I get paid to travel to cool places.
  • I have no dress code. (I literally wear jeans or sweatpants every day.)
  • I can take time off whenever I want. (Kim and I were BOTH able to take a maternity leave when our kids were born.)
  • On most days, I get to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family.
  • My daily commute is seven seconds long.

Now these benefits don’t come without a price. (In fact, ALL benefits come with a price of some sort.) Most of mine have required many years of hard work and persistence. Then there’s the pressure of being responsible for generating income (no sales = no groceries). Also, I don’t have a pension or company-matching 401k program, but I love what I do so much that I don’t envision ever really retiring. Oh yeah, and I have to pay a few hundred bucks a month for health insurance.

Totally worth it.

So yes, you should definitely have a job with benefits.

Just make sure they’re the ones you really want.

Do here is what you can do.

Write out a list of at least ten benefits you’d like in your idea job. They could be things like a good health plan, zero commute, freedom of schedule, relaxed dress code, doing work that matters to me, lots of variety, etc. Then decide on the three most important benefits to you and circle them.

If your current job has all three, great! You’re in a good spot. If not, your next step is…to decide what your next step is. I know that sounds flip, but on the road to our dreams, we rarely know ALL the steps we’ll need to take to get there. We often don’t even know the next three. But we always know the NEXT step (and it’s usually not to just quit your job!)

Get a little curious about about what you could do to bring more benefits to your career. It’s your curiosity that will drive your next step. Maybe it’s to make a phone call. Buy a book. Attend a conference. Or design a new logo. Do that, and the next step will materialize.

What’s your next step?

Jason Kotecki is an artist, professional speaker, and author of the book “Penguins Can’t Fly +39 Other Rules That Don’t Exist,” (Amazon link) which uncovers some of the most useless so-called rules we can find ourselves living by. It explores some small but mighty actions you can take to turn your life into the fun, adventurous and exciting story you deserve. This beautiful 240-page hardcover work of art is a magical combination of Jason’s whimsical illustrations, humorous wit, and poignant anecdotes. Learn more at RulesThatDontExist.com.