Maintaining a Work/Life Balance: Why Perspective Is Key

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Work/life balance? No problem, right? But then those daily tasks start to add up and your nights start getting longer. You start going in on the occasional Saturday, then the “frequent” Saturday. Pretty soon you’re so bogged down with your “to-do” list that you can’t even think about taking that vacation with your family.

Maintaining a proper work/life balance is a challenge, sure – but it’s also a lot easier than you might think.

Enjoying Life is a Task, Too

When the pendulum that is your work/life balance begins to swing decidedly in the direction of “work, work, work,” you start to encounter a few key problems almost immediately. You’re trying to do too much at the same time, and the quality of work tends to suffer. You’re also getting burned out, which leads to less getting done because you lack the motivation to push on when you need it the most.

This is a large part of the reason why experts agree that you should look at downtime for what it is: a mission-critical task that you need to preserve your productivity throughout the week.

As you begin to build your schedule each week, make sure to add leisure activities at strategic points when you’ll need them. Don’t be afraid to add “go to the movies” to your calendar for Thursday, or pencil in that lunch with your old college friend on Monday afternoon.

If You Want to Move Up, Plan Some Down Time

Human beings NEED downtime to stay efficient. It’s a way to periodically re-charge our batteries. It’s the reason why people say you shouldn’t cram all your studying into the night before a big test in college and should instead break your coursework down into smaller, more manageable chunks in the weeks proceeding that moment. The former is an absolute recipe for disaster, and the latter supports the way your brain operates.

If you add in leisure items to your list of things to do, you’ll enjoy the added benefit of being able to check them off said list throughout the week. When you do this, it releases endorphins into your brain – meaning that you get a boost of satisfaction from having accomplished something, anything, and you get to take a mental breather at the same time.

None of this is difficult advice to follow – all it requires is some perspective about the things that matter most in life. Yes, work is important, but actually living your life is important, too.

 

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3 Signs to Help You Identify if Your Market is Changing

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So much of your marketing success depends on your ability to get the right message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. To accomplish this, you need to know your audience – and the market that they inhabit – as intimately as possible.

But what happens if one day, suddenly and without warning, that market begins to change? Worse yet, what happens if this trend started while you weren’t necessarily paying as much attention as you should have been? The answer is both unfortunate and straightforward: you’ll be stuck playing “catch up.”

This is a situation that you do NOT want to find yourself in. Here are a few key signs that indicate a market change may be taking place.

Product Innovation Is No Longer a Key Value Driver

You’ve worked hard to build a robust and stable business and nobody offers what you do in quite the same way. You’ve had a tremendous amount of success relying on this type of innovation up to this point as a result. However, if things start to shift in the opposite direction, you may be looking at a market change that you’ll want to adapt to as fast as you can.

Simply put, product innovation – that is, the quality of what you do and how you do it – should always be the key value driver for your business. If you start to have to fall back on things like your prices, the reputation of your brand, or simply your ability to “out market” your competition, it’s likely that your audience is reaching a maturity level that will represent a challenge in the future.

Look to Your Competitors

Competitors are not always a hurdle to be overcome. Oftentimes, they can be the “canary in the coal mine,” so to speak, especially in a situation like this one. Take a look at some of the leaders in your industry, especially competitors that are larger than you are. What are they doing? Are they growing or retracting? Are they doing something that nobody else is doing because they can see something coming down the road that nobody else does? Keeping an eye on the health of your larger competitors can be a great way to stay ahead of the larger market trends that may be right around the corner.

Listen to Your Customers

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do to identify signs that your market may be changing requires you to see your marketing strategy as a two-way street. You’re not just communicating with your audience; your audience is also communicating with you. If you’re having a hard time getting solid insight into the direction of your industry and market alone, cut out the middleman and go right to the source: ask your audience what they see as their future needs in the areas you’ve dedicated yourself to serving.

Send out surveys or questionnaires asking for raw, honest insights into the questions you’re asking yourself today. Take a current client or customer out for dinner and ask them what they see for the next five or even ten years in your industry. Never forget that without these people, your business wouldn’t exist – so it’s in your own best interest to listen to them as often as possible.

 

Print Advertising Feels Like Printing Money

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could print your own money? Life would be so much easier, right? Well, maybe not, but here’s a little secret that feels like printing money: print advertising.

Print Advertising is Like Printing Money

Good advertising can go a long way for your business. Sometimes it’s hard to explain what good advertising is, but you know it when you’ve seen it. Whether it’s a heartfelt image or a tagline that makes you think, there’s just something about incredible advertising that has a way to move and motivate you.

Good print advertising can inspire you to make a change, donate to a cause, or purchase that cool, new tech device. It provides everyone who passes it, holds it, or takes it out of a mailbox the chance to see that printed information. And, since print advertising is often locally targeted, it means that you can create a far more personal connection to your community than you can with digital ads.

Every time someone sees your printed advertisement and, in turn, goes in and buys a product or service from you, you’re essentially printing your own money! These customers may have never come to your business and purchased your product or service without seeing the advertisement.

You Like What You See, You Buy What You Like

Picture this: You’re walking down the street. Maybe you just finished grabbing a coffee with a friend, and you’re heading back to your car. You check your watch to make sure you’re still on time to pick up the kids from school. You look up and there, on the side of a building, is a poster for a brand new product one of the local boutiques is offering. It stops you in your tracks as you gaze up at it. It’s incredible! How come nobody else ever thought of that before! You pull out your phone and snap a picture, so you remember to pick up the item later.

All of this is the power of print advertisement. People pay little mind to online advertisements, and TV ads are often on while the viewer is off grabbing another beverage from the kitchen. Print ads, however, are there regardless of what a person is doing and how often they pass a certain intersection. And every time someone sees the advertisement and buys something, you’ve just printed more of your own money.

So, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to start printing your own money in the form of print advertising!

 

Want to Be Successful? Take Time to Dream

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One of the most famous dreamers of our time is Steve Jobs, the Co-founder and CEO of Apple, an iconic visionary who believed so deeply in the power of his dreams that he was able to bring them to life for millions of people. Jobs believed that the era of mediocrity was over and that you should put in the work on every project to make it great. His famous recommendation to a Disney retail executive to “Dream bigger” when it came to Disney stores resulted in a new type of store experience that continues to delight children of all ages. How can you leverage these same tactics and take the time to dream big in your own life?

Dream Fearlessly

Individuals often lose confidence in their dreams because everyday reality creeps in and has a way of tamping down your passion. Big dreamers are different. Even if you think they’re relentlessly optimistic, it requires constant hard work and commitment to make dreams come true, and a fearless need to be successful.

Believe in Yourself

Constantly second-guessing yourself doesn’t leave a lot of time for forward movement, making self-confidence a critical requirement for living your passion. You have to identify every element of your vision down to the smallest detail, and then break it down into the small steps required to make it happen. Professional athletes are very familiar with this concept, as they are coached to visualize making a basket, getting a hole in one, or nailing a complicated gymnastics floor exercise.

Take Action

Dreaming is great, but once the dream is solidified it is time to begin moving! Harness your beliefs and stay focused on reaching your goal. There will be others who will support you along the way — great! There will also be those individuals who are constantly looking to undermine your skills, your ability, and your passion. Graciously ignore them, and keep taking steps to move your dreams forward into reality. Pausing too long to consider the consequences can often result in a missed opportunity, which may not come around again.

Compete to Win

Successful dreamers are by nature quite competitive. They’re always looking around for how their competition is doing something and finding a way to improve upon the concept, or better yet — revolutionize it in their own way. Solving problems for your customers is a daily devotion, allowing you to rise to any challenge and overcome it as you follow your dreams.

Leave Space for Dreaming

What can you stop doing (immediately, next week, in six weeks) that will free up additional time for dreaming? It can be incredibly difficult to fuel your passion when you’re so caught up in everyday activities and overall busyness that you aren’t able to stop and think. Actively look for ways that you can create space in your daily activities that provide a block of time in which to think about the future and how you’ll get there. Your future self will thank you!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, persevere. When things don’t work out exactly as you had planned — keep going. Remind yourself that nothing good comes overnight, and success can take years to achieve. Stay resilient, be patient and keep dreaming!

 

What Leadership Really Means in the Era of Working Remotely

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More employees are working remotely than ever before. According to research conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, roughly 50% of the workforce in the United States holds a job that is “compatible” with at least partial telework. Of those people, about 20 to 25% of them actually do work remotely at some frequency.

More than that, a further 80 to 90% say that they would really like to work remotely at least part time – pointing to a trend that is only going to get more popular as time goes on.

Employees who are all able to work from home (or wherever they’d like, really) sounds fantastic… if you’re an employee. But what if you’re an employer? More than that, what if you’re a leader? How do you continue to do your job of bringing people together to benefit the greater good if they’re all spread out over a potentially massive geographic area?

The Job Hasn’t Changed…

The “good news” is that the leadership qualities required to steer any organization towards success have not changed, nor are they likely to ever do so. You still need to be an excellent communicator, making sure that everyone is on the same page, that they know what “success” looks like, and that they all still feel like they’re contributing to something much more powerful and important than themselves.

You still need to be willing to lead by example, never asking someone to do something that you’re unwilling to do yourself. You still need to inspire people to give their all not because their paychecks depend on it, but because they just can’t help themselves.

… But the Tools Have

Things have changed, however. In terms of communication, for example, you need to be willing to adapt your process to rely less on face-to-face interaction and more on the digital resources that you have available to you. Collaborating on a project no longer involves sitting in the same room and hammering out ideas. Now, it’ll involve using some cloud-based solution to give everyone editing access to the same files at the same time.

This type of thing will require an adjustment from your perspective, but it is one that is undoubtedly worth making. Typical telecommuters tend to be much happier with their jobs than people forced to come into the office every day, which will directly affect both productivity and work quality in a positive way. 73% of telecommuters say that they’re more satisfied with their company than they’ve ever been before. Most of them work more than 40 hours per week. They also tend to work harder to create a friendly, cooperative, and positive work environment – something that you’re also trying to do by being the best leader you can be.

In truth, how you’re able to change your management style to keep up with the demands of the modern telecommuting workforce will go a long way towards deciding what type of leader you’ll be today, tomorrow, five years from now, and beyond.

 

The Persisting Power of Loyalty

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What is loyalty? Loyalty is words combined with actions. It is devotion tested by time. It is steadfast security that grows from a most prized character quality. Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is better to be faithful than famous.” American author Elbert Hubbard agreed: “If put to a pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.”

Relationally, loyalty builds trust, security, affection, and the ability to thrive. The same is true professionally – only as we build loyal customers and employees will we begin to see business prosper and flourish to its fullest potential. So how can you grow something so intangible, yet so critical, to the foundation of your organization?

Three Primary Pathways

The good news is, you already have buy-in at some level. Whether you have a small business or thousands of employees, customers and co-workers have entrusted you with their money, their well-being, or their future. And people who have “bought in” are looking for reassurance that they’ve made a good decision! How can you move them from the point of trial commitment to a place of wholehearted ownership? Here are three pathways to press into:

  1. Cultivate Loyalty. Being so focused on bringing prospects through the front door, sometimes, you can forget about those going out the back. Enduring connections happen when you urge your clients and employees to stay the course by encouraging them to renew their commitments and helping them VALUE what is VALUABLE.
  2. Celebrate Loyalty. This can be as simple as a Christmas card or as heartfelt as a personal phone call. As a company, be sure to set tangible goals and conspicuously celebrate the progress that’s been made. Look for strategic ways to cast vision, gather testimonies, craft impact pieces, and honor important milestones. Creatively appreciate your clients and co-workers, and publicly commemorate a job well done!​
  3. Reward Loyalty. According to the book Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent, and they typically spend 67 percent more than first-time clients. Additionally, persuasive personal recommendations are most likely to flow from your base. What are you doing to reward that devotion? Aren’t your most valuable clients or employees worth a little extra expense? Consider personalized incentives, tailored service packages, or preferential terms, discounts, or benefits. Give these influencers personal access to your leadership and go the distance to meet and exceed their expectations. Don’t forget, authentic personal relationships are a powerful motivator.

Prioritize People

Are you looking to cement your customer base so your organization can flourish to the fullest? Prioritize people as you cultivate, celebrate, and reward loyalty. Companies that can do this will experience enormous benefits through a thriving reputation, consistent customer retention, and enhanced employee satisfaction.

 

Your Company’s Waste Makes This Man Rich

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Matt Malone would probably be considered an odd fellow and maybe even mentally ill by those seeing him on the street. However, for those who know Malone personally, they might think that he’s a genius.

Malone is, in modern terms, known as a dumpster diver. That involves essentially going into large dumpster bins and rummaging around to see what people have thrown away.

Malone was first introduced to the practice by accident when working in a company that got rid of far too much valuable, working equipment. What he realized at first was that the items were still usable, valuable, and most importantly, functional. However, when he took them home and started making inventions with the items, he realized something more – people wanted what he was finding and were willing to pay real cash for the items.

Diamonds in the Rough

Today, Malone is at an expert level, finding gems in the rough and converting them into sales of hundreds and even thousands of dollars. In fact, he makes more in dumpster-related sales than he does in his regular job.

However, this article is not about Malone’s success. It’s about the fact that Malone’s earnings are possible because businesses regularly throw away thousands of dollars of perfectly fine commodities and equipment simply because it’s not needed, no longer perfect, or no one knows what to do with it in the office. As a result, companies small and large are bleeding expenses daily without seeing the full benefit from what was bought. And that makes Malone a rich man.

Whether it’s security cameras, unused ink toner, or usable furniture, companies move out perfectly viable goods and products to their collective dumpsters every day. And this obvious waste and loss of company money is because there is no incentive within most companies to try to make things stretch further. Don’t need that toner anymore? No problem, buy a new one and throw the old one in the box in the hallway. The janitor will take care of it regardless of the fact we spent $300 to buy it on the last office supply order.

Reuse, Resell, Recycle

People regularly make fun of the TSA and government airport security, but the security agency has one step up on some of the smartest companies. Instead of adding more trash to landfills with all the nail clippers, pocket knives and nail files they confiscate from travelers at the security gates, they bundle them into large bins and sell them on eBay, recouping actual cash from free confiscations. How many companies actively recoup funds by reselling what they don’t need? Not enough, which is why Malone and dumpster divers like him are becoming rich people.

Many parts of the world look at the U.S. and see it as synonymous with waste and laziness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A simple bit of attention on equipment and inventory can change behavior dramatically in every office and program.

General Motors got smart and now saves a $1 billion a year. By simply making it clear not to waste and to proactively consolidate extra material for reuse or resale, companies can add a small, but valuable additional revenue stream to their bottom line. That may be bad news for Mr. Malone, but he’s likely not too worried. So many businesses are throwing away so much product daily, he’s unlikely to run out of free trash discoveries and supply for a long time.

 

4 Productivity Tools That Will Give You Back Your Sanity

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Whether you’re working from home or the office, distractions happen, and they can be a productivity killer. Nearly everyone has an example of weeks that you look back on and wonder “What happened? I know I was busy . . . ” while still feeling as though you’ve accomplished nothing. With deadlines crashing down on your head and the constant demands of family and work, it’s important to be as productive as possible to maintain your sanity. These productivity tools are vetted by experts to help bring balance back to your life — while still getting things done.

1. Time Trackers

Even if you’re not a fan of tracking every task that comes across your desk, a time tracker can provide a valuable way to give yourself mental freedom from specific tasks. For instance, what if instead of tracking the time you’re doing something, you track the time when you’re not doing something — like checking email? Set a timer for three hours and (gasp!) close your email client completely. Turn your phone over on your desk, and turn off the ringer. For three hours, allow yourself to focus on something other than responding to others. You will be pleasantly surprised at how productive you’re able to be without the constant distractions caused by emails, text messages, and social media without feeling like you’ve been out of the loop for too long. Of course, you can always use time trackers in the traditional way, by setting estimates for time and tracking how long specific tasks will take. Either usage will help bring your productivity back into focus!

2. Take it to the Cloud

Cloud-based document and data storage platforms allow you to be productive regardless of your physical location — a critical need in today’s always-on business world. Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box are a few of the options that offer low-cost ways to sync your information between tablets, mobile phones, and laptops or desktops, so you’re never truly away from the office. More corporations are utilizing these cloud alternatives to traditional enterprise data storage due to the relatively inexpensive cost and ease of use for employees.

3. Expense Management

Mobile apps such as Expensify allow you to take a quick snap of receipts and classify them by project, something that is invaluable for today’s busy professional. Keeping track of receipts and ensuring that they get assigned to the right account is yet another of those small yet nagging tasks that can reduce your available mental space without a single return. Clear out the clutter mentally and physically when you use a digital expense management tool.

4. Email Productivity

Professional emails can be a hassle, from trying to remember to send something at just the right time to getting off the myriad of email lists that tend to stack up in your inbox. Tools such as Unroll.me will quickly unsubscribe you from a wide range of email lists in a few short seconds, while tools such as Boomerang allow you to schedule messages for delivery at a later date. This keeps your email from hiding at the bottom of an inbox that is stuffed full overnight.

Ultimately, these productivity tools will help you squeeze a few extra moments into your day by automating simple tasks such as unsubscribing from email lists and having the information at your fingertips when you need it. When you’re able to take these actions when you think of them, you’re clearing your mind for additional productivity — instead of having to maintain a mental database of open tasks to be completed. Take back your sanity by becoming more productive and regaining some of your focus!

 

4 Ways to Incorporate Humor at Work

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Nothing is more embarrassing than telling a joke and having it fall flat at work, but don’t let that stop you from adding appropriate humor to the workplace, as it can be a great way to reduce tension and improve overall relations.

Having fun with the people you spend at least 40 hours per week with can raise your mood and boost camaraderie throughout your office. Here are some of the top ways you can incorporate humor at work:

1. Hire for Personality and Cultural Fit

When you’re the hiring manager or simply someone able to have input into hiring processes, try to look for someone to join the team who approaches work seriously, and themselves lightly. This could come in the form of an easy smile, a little self-deprecating humor, or the ability to find the amusing side in everyday situations that others may consider stressful. When you have someone on your team who can inject some fun into the workplace, it gives others permission to crack a smile as well.

2. Encourage Silliness

Sure, you don’t want to be silly all the time as you’d get nothing done, but a little wackiness once in a while can break up an otherwise boring or tedious day. Send a cute animal meme or 30-second video to a small group of work friends and enjoy the smile on their face when they view it. If it’s not against your rules, post a humorous cartoon that has a positive message. It is important to be careful, however, as longer videos beyond two minutes or so sent to a large list of people can effectively kill productivity (which won’t make your boss happy at all!)

3. Keep it Professional

A great rule of thumb is that if you would be embarrassed having whatever you want to say plastered on a billboard — don’t say it! Same goes for the grandmother test. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear what you’ve been saying, you probably should abstain. Don’t make fun of others even when it’s “just for fun,” and keep teasing to a minimum. This especially holds true if you’re a supervisor or in another position of power. You may not realize that your good-natured poking fun at others can be taken much more seriously when there’s an imbalance of power.

4. Inspiring Others

You’re more approachable to others when you’re smiling, which may be one of the reasons that many leaders work hard on keeping a pleasant look on their face. When you work hard to uplift others with a pleasant word, even sharing amusing inspirational videos can provide you with some personal collateral to be used at a later time. It’s important to note that individuals who appropriately use humor at work are likely to be promoted more quickly and make more money, so there are definite reasons to putting some fun-loving vibes into the air!

Using humor appropriately at work can tighten the bond between co-workers, keep those creative juices flowing, and make the days fly by! However, you always have to balance the good times with ensuring you’re being as productive as possible on the job. Jokes and effective banter can improve your standing within the organization specifically because it is assumed that you are mature enough to understand the proper use of humor and that you’re relaxed and confident enough to call attention to yourself.