Conquer the Mid-Day Lull by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Do you find yourself hitting a bit of a “wall”’ around 3:00 in the afternoon? This period, about halfway between lunch and dinner can be one of the most difficult times of the day for many people.images2

The lull you feel at this time of day can reduce productivity and make you feel bad, as well. You can waste a lot of time staring at projects and struggling to complete them. Here are some simple ways to conquer this mid-day lull.

Take a walk. If you’re like most people, you know what time of day that wall will hit. Before you feel overwhelmed by it, get up and get out of the office for a few minutes. A little fresh air and exercise may be all it takes to help you feel refreshed.

Schedule an activity. If you have something interesting planned for your “off” time of day, it can be easier to get through. For example, schedule your absolute favorite task of your job during this time of day, so that you begin to look forward to it, rather than dreading it. Whatever you do, don’t schedule a boring meeting during this time of day.

Ensure you’re well rested and well fed. Sometimes, your mid-day lull is a result of fatigue. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you won’t be your most productive at any time of the day, and you’ll particularly feel it during your mid-day lull. You’ll also exacerbate the mid-day lull if you don’t eat regularly. Be sure to eat regular meals, but don’t eat a heavy, carbohydrate laden lunch, as this may make you feel even more tired.

Change up your routine. Mundane tasks can make any time of day seem like a lull.  new ways to complete your least favorite tasks can help you stay more positive about the parts of your job you don’t love. If you have any of those mundane tasks scheduled during your mid-day lull, move these to a time of day when you feel more positive.

The mid-day lull is normal, but it doesn’t have to ruin your afternoon or make you less productive. When you know the lull is coming, and plan ways to overcome it, you can ensure that tiring time of day is as productive and happy as any other part of your work day.

Why Vacations Are Not Wasted Time by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

Recently, when dining out at a restaurant, I overheard the man at the table next to me comment about how he hadn’t taken a vacation day from work in three years. I use the term “comment” loosely, as the tone of his voice indicated he was actually bragging about this fact. He wore it like a badge of honor, as though it made him a better employee, or a better person.

Success at work is important to most people. However, it’s important to have a definition of success that goes beyond how many hours you put in at the office. In fact, some would argue that those who work incessantly are inefficient, as well as lacking the balance in their lives that help them see an alternative of perspectives.summerfun

Taking regular vacations is one of the most important things you can do for your sense of balance, your perspective and your overall well being. Here are three reasons taking a vacation can be good for your work life.

  1. You get physical rest. People who don’t take vacation are more prone to fatigue and have a weakened immune system. Even if your vacation is spent at home, you’ll get the chance to rest up and rejuvenate your body.
  1. You get a mental break. Your mind will benefit from the rest you receive by thinking about things that aren’t work related. This break can give you renewed focus and enthusiasm when you return to work.
  1. You gain perspective. Taking vacation gives you time to see the world outside the focus of work. This can often open your mind up to the kind of “thinking outside the box” that helps you to solve problems creatively and develop innovative ideas that can help your business.
  1. You increase your own level of happiness. There are people who love to work, and who thrive on getting the job done. However, the healthiest people from both a physical and mental perspective are those who have interests and relationships outside of work and who make nurturing those a priority. When you increase your own level of happiness, you will become more productive at work and you will be a person that others want to work with.

So, if you’ve neglected to take your vacation time, schedule some time off right away, and make a plan to use that time for mental and physical rest and relaxation. You’re sure to find that you’re even better at your job after some time away.

Are You Getting Enough? by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

Sleep, that is. Many people look for all sorts of ways to improve their productivity without ever realizing that they might be inadvertently reducing their productivity by burning the proverbial candle at both ends. sleep4

Sleep deprivation can cause a lot of problems, and can interfere with out ability to get things done. When we’re tired, we work more slowly and we make more mistakes. We can also be indecisive, feeling that every decision we make is a big deal. In addition, we may have poor judgment, so those decisions we make may not be good ones. Lack of sleep significantly affects our brains, causing lack of focus and clarity.

Over time, lack of sleep can also lead to health problems. When we don’t get enough rest, our immune system is compromised, so we’re more likely to catch colds and other viruses.

Lack of sleep also negatively affects our moods, making us irritable and cranky. We find ourselves unable to enjoy the things we used to, which leads to further stress, and, potentially difficulty sleeping.

Our bodies need between six and nine hours of sleep each night. Experiment with both the short and long end of that amount, and see how much sleep makes you feel best. Once you’ve determined where your body functions optimally, aim to get that amount of sleep each night. A good sign that you’re getting the right amount of sleep is when you wake up just before the alarm goes off.

If you don’t get enough sleep because you suffer from insomnia, try natural remedies, like essential oils or breathing exercises to help you fall asleep more easily. If these don’t work, talk to your doctor about other methods to help you get back into a natural sleep pattern.

Ensuring you get plenty of sleep is a simple way to help ensure you stay healthy and productive. You’ll think more clearly and make better and faster decisions. You may have become accustomed to being tired, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering negative effects because of it. Take the time and the steps you need to get enough rest to ensure you function at your very best.

Building Resilience – Tips for Getting Through Tough Times by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

Every facet of life brings challenges, though it’s true that some periods of our life are more challenging than others. It’s said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so we can take comfort that we can come out of challenges stronger on the other side. resilience4

During the tough times, it’s important to have coping skills that can help you weather the storms, whether these are in your work life or your personal life. Here are some tips to help you get through the challenges you face now, and to make you more resilient for challenges that lie ahead.

  1. Focus on one day at a time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we try to tackle too much of a challenging situation at once. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is take the steps we need to get through today, or to make the next decision that impacts our current challenge. Then, work on figuring out another challenge tomorrow.
  1. Talk it out. It’s important to have a sounding board when you’re going through a tough time. Depending upon the situation, you may need a business mentor, a friend with a listening ear, or a professional counselor. The worst thing you can do is hold it all in. Even if talking provides no tangible advice, you’ll feel better by getting your feelings and fears out in the open.
  1. Use the challenge to create a learning situation. If your business is having trouble, consider taking a class or getting a business mentor to teach you some new skills. If you have financial troubles, choose a book to teach you new investment or money saving skills. Using the challenge as a learning opportunity will give you new skills and help you know that you are doing everything in your power to work through the situation.

 

  1. Work on your issues daily, but don’t obsess over them. Worry does nothing to solve problems, but does a great deal of harm to your psyche. Learning to relax and get your challenges off your mind periodically will help you keep your sanity, and help you have the clarity needed to face your challenges sensibly.

 

Use these tips to help you ensure you’re using every challenge to teach you and make you a better leader and a better person.

To Err is Human by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Mistakes are part of life. We all work to minimize our mistakes, but even so, these happen on a regular basis. All too often, we get far too focused on mistakes, and our focus tends to be in the wrong place. Learning to look at mistakes differently can help you to use your mistakes for growth. Consider these questions as you look at your own mistakes and those of your employees. images2

  1. Was it avoidable? If the mistake was avoidable, you may have a training issue. Take a look to see if you (or the employee making the mistake) has been thoroughly trained on how to perform the task at hand. If training isn’t the issue, look at whether the employee has too many tasks on their plate, or has a distraction that is impeding their ability to focus.
  1. Did it uncover something important? Sometimes mistakes lead to innovation. For example, the “post it” note that we all use regularly was invented as the result of a glue recipe gone wrong. Sometimes it’s all about perspective.
  1. What can you learn from it? In addition to finding a training or workload issue, or uncovering a cool new product, there are other things you can learn from mistakes. You are learning how “not” to do things, which is the first step to learning how to do things. In the early days of running a new business, you will make a lot of mistakes. Just be sure you’re working toward getting better and not making the same mistakes over and over. If you learn from your mistakes, these become tools that can help you improve your processes.
  1. How bad was it, really? Sometimes our fear of making mistakes holds us back from taking risks. Once you’ve failed a few times, however, you begin to realize that it isn’t always as bad as you imagined it might be. As long as you’re learning from the mistake, you’re seeing opportunity for growth.

Mistakes are inevitable, but how you handle mistakes makes all the difference in your growth and opportunity as a business leader. When you look at each mistake as an opportunity to improve yourself, your employees, and your organization, those mistakes can be some of the most beneficial learning experiences of your week.

Silence is Golden by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As a busy professional, it’s a good bet that you always have a task or a problem vying for your attention. But, did you know that you may be negatively impacting your ability to effectively deal with those tasks and problems simply by letting too much come at you at once?

The workplace today is stressful, at best. Often times, however, we create more stress than need be by letting allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed and failing to give ourselves indexthe down time we need. Here are some tips to help you manage your tasks and issues effectively and calmly.

  1. Take one thing at a time. At times, you may feel like you spend a lot of time putting out fires. But, even when the fires come at you in multiples, you can only put these out one at a time. Taking each issue on its own will allow you to think more clearly about it, leading you to make a better decision. In fact, by slowing down and making a better decision about that fire, you may prevent it popping up again.
  1. Use stress relief techniques. If you find that you feel stress or anxiety symptoms when dealing with a barrage of issues, use traditional stress relief techniques like taking deep breaths or meditating for a few minutes before dealing with the issue.
  1. Take time out. Don’t underestimate the benefits of taking down time. Business is busy, overwhelming and noisy, and can sometimes be overstimulating. Taking time to relax with your family, rest, and do the things that you enjoy can help you be better mentally prepared to deal with the next crisis when it arises. Schedule your down time just like you would an important meeting so that you don’t neglect it. Regular breaks provide the most benefit. These don’t need to be a week in Tahiti to be effective, either. A date night out or an afternoon spent on your favorite hobby is often enough, as long as it’s done regularly.
  1. Knowledge is power. Learn as much as you can about problems that are likely to arise in your business before these happen. When you’re well informed, and know the options for handling common situations before you’re faced with these, they will seem less overwhelming when they do arise.

By minding these tips, you should be better equipped to handle whatever problems your business throws at you, and to maintain your composure while doing so!

 

 

OMG! Technology Has Failed! Now, What Do I Do? by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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We’ve all come to rely heavily on technology. It saves us time and makes us more productive. However, it can also leave us dead in the water when it fails, especially if we don’t have good backup plans in place.

Here are some backup plans that might save you when technology has failed. images

  1. Have a list of tasks employees can perform when computers are down. Filing, clearing out old files and other paperwork tends to get behind anyway. Use the down time to catch up.
  1. Use backups. Employing backups and cloud storage is imperative for the small business. When technology in the office fails, you should be able to revert back to last night’s version of the data either on a separate hard drive, on the network backup, or on the cloud. Having yesterday’s data available to you is far better than losing everything.
  1. Paper files. Whether or not to keep paper files is a huge debate, and it really depends on the size of your business and whether or not it is feasible to keep paper files. Contracts and other important items may need to be kept on paper as well as in electronic format.

These three tips can help you survive during technology failures. Be sure to put together a plan, in writing, of the steps you’ll take to continue to function when you have a technology problem. These three items can help you, but won’t be as effective if you don’t have a game plan that lets employees know who should perform which tasks and under what circumstances your office will revert to backups, etc.

Once your game plan is written, go over it in a staff meeting to ensure each person knows exactly what to do and how to do it in each potential failure scenario.

Technology failures are not a matter of “if” but “when”. Eventually, no matter how careful you are, something will go down, at least for a short period of time. Technology failures can make people panic, losing even more productivity. But, there’s really no reason to panic, when you have a plan, and backup measures in place. You’ll be sailing along smoothly in no time.

Can I Really Count on You? by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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We’re all busy, and we all have a lot of personal and professional priorities tugging at us. It’s easy to fall into the trap of over committing ourselves. There are several pitfalls to this bad habit. One of these is having to cancel on commitments you’ve made, whether it’s bringing cookies to the class party or having to miss an important business conference because we’ve fallen behind at work. index2

Over committing yourself takes a toll on you, leaving you tired and feeling guilty. But, it also takes a toll on those you have to cancel on, and takes a toll on your reputation, too.

One of the most important characteristics of a good leader is that this person is a “person of their word”. If you want to be viewed as a leader in your business, your community or your family, you must be someone others can count on.

When we drop the ball and don’t come through on a commitment we’ve made, it isn’t usually intentional, and it isn’t usually because we believe the commitment wasn’t worth our time. It is generally a problem of over-scheduling ourselves or being unable to say no when we’re asked to do something.

Both of these problems are worth taking the time to solve. Keep a calendar at all times that includes your personal commitments as well as business commitments, and be sure this calendar makes room for down time. When you can see in print how busy you are, you might think twice about committing to something else. In addition, you can see right away if you already have an appointment on your calendar that would interfere with this upcoming event.

Learning to say no is very difficult for many people. However, if you are regularly backing out on commitments you’ve made, the damage you’re doing to others is worse than if you’d said no when asked. If you say no upfront, the person has time to make other arrangements. When you back out at the last minute, or fail to follow through, you may leave others in a bind.

Being a person of your word is important in all of your relationships. If you tell a customer you’ll call them back on Tuesday with an answer to their question, it’s important to call them on Tuesday, even if you don’t have an answer, simply because you said you would. If you promised your daughter you would be at her dance recital, you can’t pick that night to work late.

Take stock of how much people can really count on you to do what you say you will. If you find you’re lacking in this area, make strides to improve your credibility.

Are You Really Listening? by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Listening is a critical skill. Many of us think we’re good at listening, but what we are doing when others are talking may not be really listening. In many cases, we’re just waiting for our turn to talk.

You see, often our minds are formulating our response to what’s being said while the other person is still talking. This isn’t really listening, and often our response isn’t based on the entirety of what was said, because it was created before we had all the information.images2

The next time you’re having an important conversation with someone, do your best to turn off your natural urge to start thinking about what you’re going to say and just listen to what’s being said to you. Then, taking all of what you heard into account, formulate your response.

We often listen only with the intent to respond because we believe we need to have a response at the ready. This isn’t necessarily the case, and you’ll find that people won’t be upset with you if you take a minute to think about what is said before you answer.

The more intense the subject and the more passionate you are about your opinion on the subject, the more likely you are to not really listen to what the other person is saying. (Think about fights with your spouse.) You’re eager to make your own argument. This is when listening only to respond, however, is most dangerous. You may be shutting out the feelings and opinions of someone who is important to you. In your quest to be heard, or to be right, you’re jeopardizing the entire relationship.

So, next time you’re having a conversation with someone, whether it’s business or personal, practice listening just to listen. It isn’t easy at first, especially if you’ve never realized that you listen to respond. Over time, you’ll learn to really hear what is being said and you’ll formulate well thought out responses more frequently. You’ll likely find that you make better decisions, and that your relationships with those you love are better, too. That’s when you can truly say you’re a really good listener.

When in Doubt, Check it Out by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As a busy professional, there can be many things that legitimately get in our way of reaching our daily goals. Crises at work must be managed, as well as crises at home. However, sometimes we’re simply our own worst enemy, causing ourselves our biggest headaches of the day by simply not prioritizing correctly, not asking the right questions, or not planning ahead.index

We can greatly increase our productivity by learning to avoid these pitfalls. One of the biggest is making assumptions about what we are expected to do or how we are expected to do something. There is nothing worse than working hard to complete a project only to realize you either didn’t accomplish the project’s goals or you didn’t do it correctly. Problems like this can plague us in everything from simple household tasks to large, complex work projects. The bigger the project, the more problematic it will be if we don’t get it right the first time.

Don’t Let Your Pride Get in the Way

Sometimes we fail to ask questions out of fear of looking stupid, or because we think we should know how to do something. This is a huge mistake, regardless of the reason behind it. You sully your reputation much more by making assumptions about how to do something and then doing it wrong than by asking questions or gaining clarification.

Don’t Waste Your Time Doing It Wrong

Protect your time by ensuring you really understand what is expected of you before you begin any task. Seek clarification by explaining your perception of how to perform the task to see if you are on the right track. If not, seek further clarification. In some cases, it’s a wise idea to ask if there are written objectives or instructions.

It takes far less time to ask a few questions than to have to do something over again, and it hurts your pride a lot less, too!

Once you get in the habit of ensuring you truly understand the requirements of any project, you may find that you gain some precious time in your work day because you don’t have to repeat steps or entire projects. This can help you to be more productive and have more free time, as well.