6 Tips to Overcome Overload

We’re living in a fast-paced, technology-centered world, and that can take a toll on your productivity and performance. Use these tactics to minimize the pain associated with cyber-overload—and prevent total burnout:

  1. Limit multitasking and task switching. If you want to do something and do it well, find time during the day when you can focus on that one thing.
  2. List your drop-everything contacts. Determine the small number of people who must be able to reach you no matter what, and find a different way for them to contact you than everyone else. That way they reach you without your having to stay on call for everyone who wants your attention.
  3. Focus on your work. Ignore digital distractions until it’s time for a break. Every time you’re distracted, you’re going to take a step backward. Resist the urge to check online for the latest news, sports and gossip. Make checking the ball scores or whatever a reward after you have completed something.
  4. Know when to take a break. If you find yourself up to your eyeballs in data and can’t see the forest for the trees, take a break and come back later. Don’t feel guilty: Recognize that you’re enhancing your brain’s capability.
  5. Choose breaks that promote creativity. Opt for low-information breaks, which don’t add to the overload that you’re experiencing. Exercise is a good option. Just walking around in your office or going up and down the stairs will be enough to refresh your brain and lead you to make that next move. Walk in a park and you will enjoy the benefits of nature too.
  6. Be the grasshopper and the ant. Despite the lesson from the ancient fable, you shouldn’t be a workaholic. Breaks are important. If you keep your nose to the grindstone, you’ll never see the bigger picture. You will be less likely to make a creative connection. An unstressed mind can work for you 24/7, even when you don’t think you’re working. Alternate between intense focus and relaxation. If you intensely focus and then relax, you receive the best from your brain, and then your brain is restored. People with balance in their lives don’t need to work as many hours as workaholics, because their brains work more efficiently and effectively.

— Adapted from So You Think You Can Multitask: Making the Most of Your Time and Your Talent in the Internet Age Special Report, Practical Business Training, http://www.practicalbusinesstraining.com.

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3 Proven Management Techniques That Work in Any Business: Identify the ‘Influencers’ on Your Front Lines, CEO Advises

This is a guest post by Peder Johnsen.

In business, the only thing that matters is what works, says Peder Johnsen, a third-generation specialist in senior living communities. “The people in your company who are dealing with your customers – the clerks, the caregivers, the customer service reps – are where the rubber meets the road,” says Johnsen, CEO of Concordis Senior Living, which owns, operates and develops senior housing communities.

“That’s why it’s essential for the company leaders, the men and women in the offices that are often far from the front lines, to be where the action is on a regular basis,” he says. Concordis’ specialties include managing senior-living communities for other owners and developers, an art it has perfected, Johnsen says.

“We developed certain practices over the decades, first by building assisted-living communities and then by operating them,” he says. “These practices work in any business because they keep the leadership actively involved in what’s going well – and not – on the front lines, and provides a system for regular communication through all layers of the company.” Johnsen offers these tips for management that produces excellent results:

  • Identify the influencers in each work group. As with most businesses, senior living communities require teams of staff, from administrators to housekeepers and everyone in between. Within the various groups that make up your business, identify the key players – the people who influence others’ behavior, whether or not they hold a title or official authority. Meet with them on a regular basis so you can stay plugged in to what’s happening on the front lines.
  • Identify areas that need improvement. Talk to them about systems and areas that need to be fixed, overhauled or eliminated, and about how team members are working together. They’ll often have ideas for innovations. The idea is not to look for people or problems to blame, but to work together to develop solutions and improve the team’s overall efforts. “The information you get in speaking with these key players is invaluable,” Johnsen says. “There may be nothing at all wrong, which is great, but these meetings give you, the CEO or manager, the information you need to constantly improve. It also reinforces the message to employees that they and their ideas are valued members of the team.”
  • Figure out those “wildly important goals.” You can have the best people in the field working for you, yet if they’re not specifically guided to a certain goal, they are putting their time and effort toward an end that they’re assuming is correct. CEOs and other upper-level managers have the 30,000-foot view, so it’s up to them to guide everyone beneath them. “Short-term priorities may change slightly or drastically on a regular basis,” Johnsen says. “Your team may be self-sufficient, but their vision is limited to their daily duties. If they don’t know that a goal or objective has changed, they can’t work toward it.”

Peder Johnsen is the CEO of Concordis Senior Living, which owns, operates and develops senior housing communities. He’s a third-generation assisted-living specialist whose grandfather and father built one of the first contemporary-style ALFs in Florida more than 30 years ago. Johnsen took over administration of two small facilities at age 18. Today, he runs the full spectrum of ALFs – from “ALF lites,” where most residents live very independent lifestyles but know assisted-living services are available if they should need them, to homes specializing in care for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia. He is an industry leader in staff development and training, and has overseen the development, acquisition and financing of several communities.

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Conquer Fear to Tackle a Big Project

When you are faced with the challenge of taking on a huge project at work, your anxiety can lead you to procrastinate, which only worsens your fears.

Robert Pozen, author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, offers this process for breaking through your anxiety and completing that intimidating task:

  • Find out what’s stopping you. Are you scared of failing? Does the work seem out of your scope? Identify your challenges so that you can come up with solutions.
  • Quit expecting perfection. You’ll never attain it, and you’ll end up overworked and frustrated in the end. That doesn’t mean that you do low-quality work, but you should figure out what is the required quality level for your project and meet it. If you have time and resources, you can always go back and make improvements—if the benefits are worth the effort.
  • Involve others. You don’t want to let others down, so if you delegate some work to employees or ask your colleagues to play a role in the project, your sense of obligation will motivate you to complete high-quality work and meet your deadlines.
  • Reward yourself for reaching milestones. Stop focusing on the negative and what will happen if you miss a deadline. Instead, treat yourself when you have completed 25% of the project with a dinner out, a massage or some other special gift.

— Adapted from “Tackle Big Projects Productively: 5 Tips,” Kevin Daum, http://www.inc.com.

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5 Essential Building Blocks for a Thriving Work Culture: It’s All Premised on Having the Right Players, Says ‘Coolest Young Entrepreneur’

This is a guest post by Adam Witty.

What makes a successful business thrive? That’s what eight out of 10 new entrepreneurs would like to know, because their businesses fail within the first 18 months, according to Bloomberg.

Adam Witty has managed to turn plenty of heads in the business community as founder and CEO of Advantage Media Group, an international publisher of business, self-improvement and professional development books and online learning.

Witty, who was selected for INC Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list of “America’s coolest young entrepreneurs” in 2011, says creating the right environment is crucial for success. The magazine also featured his company in their top 500|5000 list of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in America for 2012 and 2013, when the company ranked No. 42 in Media and No. 36 for Top 100 South Carolina Companies.

“You don’t have to be a business guru to recognize when a business is firing on all cylinders, that everyone is putting their skills to maximum use, working together and actually having a good time. How to create that chemistry – that’s the question,” says Witty, the author of five books and an in-demand speaker and consultant on marketing, business development, media and publishing, and entrepreneurship topics.

“Of course, you need folks with the right qualifications who are willing to bring their A-game every day – that’s crucial. But there are also character traits to look for: a positive, can-do attitude, for instance. If a person doesn’t fit in the mix, not only will he or she be less likely to bring [his or her] best, [he or she] can also compromise everyone else’s game.”

Witty talks about what it takes to get that hum every CEO wants, both in the office and in one’s respective industry.

  • Staff your team with A-players; they’re worth the wait. An A-player is someone who brings all of the necessary qualifications to the table – perhaps more than you were expecting – and that something extra as a human being. Of course, that isn’t always readily apparent during a 45-minute interview; it can take time to see the true colors of a talented individual to come through. That speaks to the importance of having an intuitive hiring manager. Also, it’s important to have A-players who put the team first. Egomaniacs who cannot collaborate tend to grind productivity to a screeching halt.
  • Have fun. “Having fun not only helps your team do well but also it’s a sign that you’re doing things right,” Witty says. “Where fun and work meet is the understanding from employees that they’re making a difference. You want a team of individuals who are motivated by the ‘why’ of what they do.” Fun at work means having energy and enthusiasm while tending to the tasks at hand.
  • Make employees and clients your extended family. A family environment significantly facilitates a team mentality, especially for those quiet geniuses who like to keep to themselves because they’re shy. But why stop there? Extend the love to clients, suppliers and other crucial stakeholders in the business. Without those folks, your business couldn’t survive.
  • Provide direction. Guide staff to understand why you do what you do and encourage difference makers. “Our team members are driven by the ‘why’ of what we do,” Witty says. “The right content in the right person’s hands at the right time can change the world forever. We believe in sharing stories, passion and knowledge to guide and help others learn and grow.”
  • Commit to lifelong learning. Seek to uncover and promote the leader in every one on your team by encouraging all members to follow a path of personal and professional development. With increased knowledge, experiences and skills, people lead to a more fulfilled life, which can profit everyone within a working environment.

About Adam Witty

Adam Witty is the founder and CEO of Advantage Media Group, an international publisher of business, self-improvement and professional development books and online learning. He has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, business leaders and professionals to help them write, publish, market and monetize books to grow their business. Witty has been featured on ABC and Fox, and was selected for INC Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list of “America’s coolest young entrepreneurs” in 2011.

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Hey, Women! Stop Trying to Be So Perfect at Work!

This is a guest post by Aimee Cohen.

So many women are trapped inside the Perfectionism Prison.

First of all, there isn’t enough room to house all the women that are perpetually trapped inside the Perfectionism Prison. This prison may not have metal bars and armed guards keeping watch, but it’s powerful enough to keep us locked inside our own destructive thoughts and behaviors.

Second of all, we know better. Intellectually, we know that perfection doesn’t exist, but emotionally we still strive for it. We know that super-models need a glam squad and endless air-brushing to appear flawless in magazines, yet we spend millions of dollars on cosmetic surgery each year to achieve that perfect look.

This is not a new phenomenon. The quest for perfection existed back in the Stone Age when cave women agonized over the cave decor and scoured the plains to find a recipe for the perfect mammoth burgers. Then in the 1950s, women worried about being the perfect homemaker, the perfect wife, the perfect mother and the perfect hostess.

Today, we still strive for perfection in all those areas, but we’ve added “perfect professional” to the list. After we are perfectly prepared, we want to pursue the perfect professional opportunity that will guarantee the perfect outcome and lead to the perfect career path.

When evaluating a job description, women believe they need to have nearly 100% of the requirements and qualifications in order to apply for the position. In stark contrast, men only need 60%. Women want a perfect match before moving forward. Otherwise, they will hyper-focus on the one skill they don’t have, or don’t have enough of, and convince themselves they’re completely under-qualified and no hiring manager on earth would ever consider them for an interview. Just for the record, a 100% match with any job description is like walking on the moon … it’s possible, but very few people actually experience it.

Women become crippled with self-doubt and insecurities to the point where it sabotages their careers. By nature, women are low risk-takers and are paralyzed by the thought of looking stupid, silly or incompetent … of appearing imperfect. The Perfectionism Prison is a self-imposed trap, a limiting mindset, and one of the fastest ways women kill their careers.

The following five tips “You Know You’re a Perfectionist When …,” will reveal if you are trapped inside the Perfectionism Prison. They are written from my experience as a successful career coach and shared in my book, Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success.

  1. You miss deadlines because the project is never good enough to be done.
  2. You instantly become defensive if someone questions or criticizes you.
  3. You secretly love it when someone else fails because it makes you look better.
  4. You truly believe there are no letters between “A” and “F.”
  5. You put up a wall so others can’t get close enough to see your imperfections.

Many women adopt an extreme black or white, all or nothing, perfection or failure, type of attitude that leads to very destructive self-sabotaging behavior in the workplace. If the opportunity isn’t perfect, if the circumstances aren’t perfect, or if the confidence level isn’t perfect, women will hold themselves back or take themselves out of the running completely. It’s time to realize that perfection is a façade. None of us are perfect nor do we really want to be. It’s the flaws and imperfections that make us unique and interesting. Liberate yourself from this prison once and for all and Woman UP!

About the Author

Aimee Cohen is a career expert, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success. For more than 20 years, and a nearly 100% success rate, Aimee has empowered women to pull on those “big-girl panties” and take control of their careers.

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When Opportunity Knocks, Do This

Take the guesswork out of accepting or declining opportunities. Logically analyze the pains and gains. As you discover more about the offer, consider these important questions:

  • Does the opportunity align with my career goals? An opportunity that deviates from your 5- or 10-year plan may not be worth your time.
  • How will I benefit from this opportunity? Identify the specific advantages and challenges of the opportunity before moving forward.
  • What is the cost of pursuing this opportunity? Whether money, time or effort, everything comes with a cost. Make sure what you gain from the opportunity outweighs its price.
  • Is the opportunity right for me at this time? Since timing is everything, contemplate your readiness, schedule, resources and other practical considerations before accepting the offer.

— Adapted from “Five Questions to Ask Yourself When an Opportunity Comes,” Brandon Jones, Leadership Done Right, http://leadershipdoneright.com.

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Recover from a HUGE Productivity Killer

After a relaxing, fun weekend, I started this past Monday full of energy, completely ready to plunge headfirst into work. Naively I thought “This week I am actually going to work ahead.” I had so many goals, including organizing my files, planning through the end of the year and more.

And then this happened (ignore the dusty keyboard and focus on my fabulous duct tape skills).

Productivity Killer

Somehow, I caused pretty serious damage to the portal required to power my laptop.

If I am lucky enough to position the cord and tape it just so, I can power my computer for short increments before it dies. Most often, however, I haven’t been able to power my laptop at all. I work from home, and while our fantastic IT department was very quick to send me a replacement, the whole thing absolutely killed my productivity. Now, I’m feeling behind, hurried and anxious because I’ve lost hours of work.

Both you and I know that setbacks are inevitable, and daily we will have urgent issues and unexpected problems pop up that will completely throw us of off track. It is how we recover that makes the difference between success and failure.

When someone or something kills your productivity, follow these steps (I promise to do the same):

  1. Breathe and take a moment to put things in perspective. That eases your anxiety so that you can focus on what needs to be done.
  2. Prioritize. Every task isn’t urgent. Establish a list of the three most critical tasks for you to complete first. If you aren’t sure how to prioritize your work, ask your boss to outline the tasks he or she deems most important, or focus first on those items that other people are waiting on, for example, reports that you need to sign off on.
  3. Commit to “power hours.” Start with your top priority and focus on it for a full hour. Turn off your phone and email, shut down social media, and concentrate totally on that task. If you finish it within the hour, great. Take a break, and when you return, move on to another task for an hour. If you don’t finish your top priority, still take a break and resume work afterward. Keep that up until you have completed your priorities. Then start the whole process over.

While intense focus like that may not be possible every day, all day, it is critical to getting back on track and striking items off your to-do list.

What is the biggest productivity killer you’ve faced at work? Share your stories and how you recovered in the comments section!


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8 Habits of Effective Critical Thinkers

This is a guest post by Jen Lawrence.

Critical thinking – the ability to make decisions, solve problems, and take appropriate action – has been identified as a key skill by educators business leaders and governments. Here are 10 ways to become a better critical thinker at work and in life:

1. The five second rule. Nope, this isn’t about the edibleness of that cookie you just dropped on the floor. We are talking about the brief pause you should take before making a decision. Some decisions require the triune or instinctive brain (“Hungry!), others the limbic or emotional brain (“That cookie would make me feel better”), and the rest the neocortex or rational brain (“That cookie fell where the wet dog was sitting and therefore should not be eaten.) By taking a brief pause of a few seconds, we allow the appropriate brain the time to function.

2. There is no “I” in Critical Thinking. (Scratch that, there are several of them.) Thinking is, in many ways, an individual activity (“group think” and “sharing a brain” are not overly positive terms.) This does not mean that most decisions should be made in isolation however. The more people who are involved in making a decision, the more successful it tends to be. With differing points of view, you will get better ideas on the table as each person can draw from his or her experience (“My aunt once got very sick from eating a cookie off the floor.”) Effective critical thinking involves four key skills: gathering information, generating ideas, evaluating options and gaining agreement. Nobody has equal strength in all four areas. The best thinking happens when several people pool their individual thinking strengths to arrive at a collective solution.

3. Not my circus, not my monkeys. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to change what is outside your sphere of influence. Take a page from the oft-quoted Serenity Prayer: “Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and learn to recognize the difference.” Put your time and energy into the issues over which you have control: your team, your clients, your product line. If someone else’s cookie falls in the floor and they eat it, that’s not your concern.

4. Assume nothing. Have you ever been at a training session where the guy at the front of the room reminds you that to assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” Annoying, huh? It’s also totally correct. Critical thinkers never assume. They ask open questions to find the information they need, rather than trying to confirm what they already think (“Cookies on the floor are fine to eat, right?”) Don’t assume that other people think the same way that you do. Ask them for their perspectives. You’ll arrive at better solutions this way.

5. No band-aid solutions. Often we are so eager to fix the problem that we don’t take the time to figure out what the problem really is. A big trap here is correlation versus cause. Correlation means that two things happen at the same time. Cause means that one thing causes the other. Let’s say that ever since your birthday, you’ve been dropping cookies on the floor. Has age made you clumsy? Perhaps. Or perhaps the new hand cream your aunt gave you for your birthday is making your hands slippery. Critical thinkers always seek the root cause.

6. Stay at the reins. Plato, a 5thC B.C. philosopher, used the concept of a charioteer driving two horses to describe human nature. One horse had an ethics-driven code of conduct. The other one simply followed his emotions and appetites. The job of the charioteer, Plato’s symbol for the rational mind, was to keep these two horses going in the same direction. Critical thinkers keep a tight hold on the reins to bring reason and emotion into balance. They know that just because we want to believe the cookie is edible, doesn’t mean it is.

7. Don’t jump to conclusions. Perhaps your significant other always eats the last cookie. So when you get home from work and see that the cookie you have been craving all day is gone, you blame your spouse. He looks guilty. There are crumbs all over the floor. Jumping to conclusions too quickly can lead one to wrong information and poor decisions. Before you start to yell, take a look at the dog in the corner with the oatmeal-cookie crumb beard. Critical thinkers draw conclusions from their evidence, not evidence from their conclusions.

8. Consider the risk. A lot of life focuses on risk mitigation. Think about fire safety: We install smoke alarms, fire hydrants, fire extinguishers and emergency exits. While those things reduce the damage of fire, they do nothing to prevent the fire in the first place. In order to prevent a fire, you must do complicated things like update building wiring to prevent electrical fires, initiate strategic ground fuel burns and tree cuts to prevent wildfires, and disallow smoking and campfires in high risk areas to prevent controlled fires from spreading. Installing a couple of new batteries in the smoke detector each year is so much easier. Effective critical thinkers know how important prevention is, however. They will keep their kitchen floors sparkling clean so that if someone happens to drop the cookie, there is little risk it will make them sick.

Keeping the above points in mind will make you an effective critical thinker. You will solve problems more easily, reach better decisions and gain more agreement from stakeholders. Your life will be easier, you will be more popular, and your enemies will have more reason to hate you. But hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Lawrence, who holds an MBA in Finance, has widely written and spoken on corporate culture, critical thinking and strategic planning. She has been interviewed by media outlets including The Toronto Star, Report on Business TV, National Post, and Toronto Life. A resident of Toronto, Lawrence is a proud mother of two children. Read her blog at http://jenlawrencedesign.blogspot.ca.

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How to Escape Your Unemployment (or Under-Employment) Trap Principal Recruiter Lays the Blueprint

This is a guest post by Richard B. Alman.

There’s good news for jobs in the United States.

In June, the private sector added 288,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • The unemployment rate has shrunk to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008, when the Great Recession was just starting. The rate has dropped nearly 2 percent since the beginning of 2013.
  • The U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate (P2P), as tracked by Gallup, now stands at one of its highest points since tracking began in January 2010.
  • More companies, states and cities are either raising their minimum wage or considering it.

Does this mean that we can put our minds to rest regarding jobs and prosperity? Not exactly, says Richard B. Alman, principal and chief career/employment strategist of Recruiter Media, owner of www.RecruiterNetworks.com, the world’s largest owner/operator of career websites.

“It’s great that reports show improvement, but the good news comes with an asterisk; we need to keep in mind the term that has become so common since 2009 – the ‘new normal,’ which, in part, refers to a lower expectation for prosperity,” says Alman, who has managed human resources for Fortune 100 and smaller multinational companies.

“Raising the minimum wage, for example, is a step in the right direction for many, but it’s certainly not happening everywhere and it doesn’t guarantee a living wage. California raised its minimum to $9 per hour, but that’s a state with a very high cost of living.”

What is the quality of these new jobs, and how many hours do they offer? What about the Catch 22 ensnaring the long-term unemployed, who can’t get work because they don’t have jobs? And where’s the hope for the recent college graduates who are deeply in debt and can’t find the jobs they’ve prepared for?

Alman has a blueprint that can help would-be employees in these tough positions.

One word: volunteer

“This is, by far, the best advice I can offer if you feel like you’ve tried everything and it hasn’t worked,” he says. Volunteering can pay very high dividends for anyone who is unemployed, under-employed or simply looking for a new career trajectory. It helps current and future employees of any age.“You may not see the payoff right away, but volunteering has many long-term benefits,” he say

Volunteer in positions that will build your resume. “When you volunteer, you can update your skills and resume, which shows potential employers that you’re not lazy,” Alman says. “Ask for jobs that use the career skills you have. For instance, if you have a background or degree in marketing, look for opportunities to volunteer in marketing for a non-profit.”

For those with stretches of long-term unemployment on their resume´, volunteering is the best way to show future employers that you value staying active and building new skills. And, if you’re a low-wage worker at a fast-food restaurant, for example, you can have a whole new headspace in which to consider your future.

Work on developing leads

“You can be just like everyone else who’s desperate for a decent job or you can be proactive and build professional relationships, which do more than resumes to earn interviews and employment,” he says.

The non-profit sector attracts people who are passionate about a cause, a wide range of associated professionals and, frequently, people who are in high income brackets.

Where can folks go to volunteer?

A half-hour of research online can yield viable options for legit non-profit organizations. Other great sources are hospitals, which tend to work closely with non-profit organizations. Hospitals also involve a wide variety of professionals.

“Once again, if you work well and develop great working relationships with others, you open yourself up to a whole network of possibilities,” he says. “Who you know can make the difference.”

About Richard B. Alman

Richard B. Alman is the principal and chief career/employment strategist of Recruiter Media Inc., the world’s largest owner/operator of career websites, which offers recruiters, employers and job seekers a smarter alternative to the impersonal, less-specific “universal” employment websites. www.RecruiterNetworks.com has been the only national, city-specific job board on the planet for more than a decade, serving more than 1,000 US cities with their own unique career web site. Alman has worked in all aspects of recruiting and career/employment strategies with corporations such as General Motors and UBS and privately owned multinational companies.


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Are You Presenting a Professional Image on Social Media?

Despite the enormous membership on LinkedIn and Twitter, many employees still aren’t in professional shape, failing to maximize the potential of their social media presence.

Social guidance company, PeopleLinx, has compiled this infographic summarizing the three main planks of social business, as a checklist to ensure that your are representing yourself and your company in the best way possible.

Anatomy of a Social Businessperson

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