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Monday, December 31, 2012

14 Easy Ways to Get Insanely Motivated

These simple strategies can keep you energized both on and off the job.
By Geoffrey James

Here's a column that I guarantee will make you more more successful in both your professional and personal lives.

Here are 14 quick strategies to get and keep yourself motivated:

1. Condition your mind. Train yourself to think positive thoughts while avoiding negative thoughts.

2. Condition your body. It takes physical energy to take action.  Get your food and exercise budget in place and follow it like a business plan.

3. Avoid negative people. They drain your energy and waste your time, so hanging with them is like shooting yourself in the foot.

4. Seek out the similarly motivated. Their positive energy will rub off on you and you can imitate their success strategies.

5. Have goals–but remain flexible. No plan should be cast in concrete, lest it become more important than achieving the goal.

6. Act with a higher purpose.  Any activity or action that doesn’t serve your higher goal is wasted effort--and should be avoided.

7. Take responsibility for your own results. If you blame (or credit) luck, fate or divine intervention, you’ll always have an excuse.

8. Stretch past your limits on a daily basis. Walking the old, familiar paths is how you grow old. Stretching makes you grow and evolve.

9. Don't wait for perfection; do it now! Perfectionists are the losers in the game of life.  Strive for excellence rather than the unachievable.

10. Celebrate your failures. Your most important lessons in life will come from what you don't achieve. Take time to understand where you fell short.

11. Don’t take success too seriously. Success can breed tomorrow's failure if you use it as an excuse to become complacent.

12. Avoid weak goals.  Goals are the soul of achievement, so never begin them with "I'll try ..."  Always start with "I will" or "I must."

13. Treat inaction as the only real failure.  If you don’t take action, you fail by default and can't even learn from the experience.

14. Think before you speak.  Keep silent rather than express something that doesn’t serve your purpose.

Friday, December 28, 2012

5 Facts About Goal Setting

These practical tips on goal setting can help make it easier to set and reach goals:
  1. Specific, realistic goals work best. When it comes to making a change, the people who succeed are those who set realistic, specific goals. "I'm going to recycle all my plastic bottles, soda cans, and magazines" is a much more doable goal than "I'm going to do more for the environment." And that makes it easier to stick with.
  2. It takes time for a change to become an established habit. It will probably take a couple of months before any changes — like getting up half an hour early to exercise — become a routine part of your life. That's because your brain needs time to get used to the idea that this new thing you're doing is part of your regular routine.
  3. Repeating a goal makes it stick. Say your goal out loud each morning to remind yourself of what you want and what you're working for. (Writing it down works too.) Every time you remind yourself of your goal, you're training your brain to make it happen.
  4. Pleasing other people doesn't work. The key to making any change is to find the desire within yourself — you have to do it because you want it, not because a girlfriend, boyfriend, coach, parent, or someone else wants you to. It will be harder to stay on track and motivated if you're doing something out of obligation to another person.
  5. Roadblocks don't mean failure. Slip-ups are actually part of the learning process as you retrain your brain into a new way of thinking. It may take a few tries to reach a goal. But that's OK — it's normal to mess up or give up a few times when trying to make a change. So remember that everyone slips up and don't beat yourself up about it. Just remind yourself to get back on track.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Take Responsibility for Your Life

Need a life makeover? Dr. Phil shows you how to behave your way to success:

Define your payoffs, then cut them out.

You're getting something from your behavior, or else you wouldn't do it. Work on gaining confidence"low self-esteem and pent up guilt gives you an excuse to sit on the sidelines. It gives you an excuse to be less than you can be.

Behave your way to success.

Your past easily becomes your future because what you fear, you create. If you feel deprived of some experience, or emotion from some one else, give yourself emotional closure. Give yourself what you didn't get from someone else now. Create what you want out of life. If you want to be loved, be loveable. If you want to get your family interested in your life, get interested in their lives.

You choose your behavior; you chose the consequences.

You are an adult now and you need to take responsibility for your actions. You can't blame your family anymore. You are old enough to do something about your feelings. Your family can't take this on. The greatest stress in life is to hold someone else accountable for something they can't control. The only person you control is you.

It all comes back to the life law statement, "You've got to name it before you can claim it."

If you are stuck in an unsatisfying life, ask yourself what would make you happy? Write out what you need to hear from your family that you've never heard before. Be very specific. Give your list to your family. Ask them to read it, consider it and respond. Open your heart, put the spirit of criticism aside. Be ready to do the same for your family.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Don't Forget These Year-End Tasks

by Michael Alter
Before you ring in 2013, you'll want to get a head start on taxes, insurance, suppliers, among other things.

For many people, the end of the year means shopping for last-minute gifts, going to holiday parties, and maybe working in a few final days of paid time off. For small business owners it's often a little more intense. You're not just winding down 2012, you're gearing up for 2013.
That's why along with your shopping list and New Year's plans, you should also be making a year-end check list—and checking it twice.

Here are five things I think should be at the top of your list. 
  1. Reserve cash for taxes. It’s important to remember that even if you've had a good year, cash is not the same as profit. You don't want to get hit with a big tax bill on April 15 that's going to deplete your cash reserves. The end of the year is an excellent time to shore up your balance sheet. 
  2. Be ready to file. Along with the cash supply, you want to have all the right documents in place for filing taxes. Remember, if you terminated an employee back in March, you still need to file his W-2. Also, incorrect Social Security or name information on a W-2 could lead to penalties, you have to account for 1099 employees, and the list goes on. Don’t wait until the last minute to put everything together.
  3. Eliminate insurance headaches. Give your agent or payroll provider a call and make sure you're covered and up-to-date. A great example is workers' comp insurance. The old way of doing it was to pay a big premium based on your number of employees and risks associated with your business (you’ll pay more if you're selling knives), and then face the possibility of an audit at the end of the year that could mean another big check. With pay-as-you-go, offered in partnership with payroll companies, it's a bimonthly payment and both parties know the risks, so there are no billing surprises.
  4. Review your suppliers. You may be paying more than you have to for various suppliers. In today's market, cloud computing and software can you save a lot. Online tools to help you manage customer relationships, content, and expenses are all typically less expensive than traditional software. 
  5. Build your road map. Don't forget about the big picture while you're taking care of the nitty gritty. You need to have a vision for the future. Where is your company going in 2013? What are your goals? How will you grow from what you've learned so far?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reaching Your Goals

by Rhonda Abrams
Well I did it! Last year on my birthday, I promised myself I'd get certified for scuba diving before my next birthday rolled around, and I just did it. I've wanted to get certified for years, but I've never managed to find the time. How did I do it now and what does it mean for my business?
If you're like me, you have a long list of things you'd like to accomplish, both for your business and for your life. This list is a mix of big things (make more money, find new customers) and small things (install the new software, return those phone calls). You probably write many of these down, especially the small, pressing tasks you have to accomplish before the end of the day or the week.

What happens, though, is that the big things -- our overall goals or highly desired but not pressing desires (like scuba certification) -- get pushed aside for the necessary, deadline-oriented tasks. As a result, we often feel unsatisfied even if we've managed to check off everything from our "to do" list.

How can you break out of this cycle and achieve more of your overall ambitions?
  • Set your goals. One of Rhonda's Rules is, "You can't reach a goal you haven't set." You have to be clear about what you want if you are to have any chance of achieving it. This sounds easier than it is. It was a tough question when I asked myself, "Which one thing do I want to do before my next birthday?"
  • Make your goal specific. Sit down and think about all the many things you want in life and business. Our big goals are usually fuzzy feelings, along the lines of "I want to be rich," "I want to be happy," "I want to be loved." Those aren't really goals; they're states of being. Instead be very clear, "I want to make $100,000," "I want to spend at least one day a week with people I care about and who care about me."
  • Make it positive. It's usually easier to add something good to your life than to remove something bad. For instance, if I need to improve my employee relationships, it's easier for me to set a goal of taking an employee to lunch once a week than to stop losing my temper at employees who make mistakes. Often, of course, it's equally or more important to cut out the bad habits. Even then, try to state your goal in positive terms. Instead of "quitting smoking," state your goal as "I'm going to take care of my health by getting free of my smoking addiction."
  • Set a time frame. Your small tasks have deadlines; why not your important goals? I would never have got certified if I didn't have a deadine: my next birthday.
  • Make it achievable. You want to actually do this, don't you? So choose a goal that you have a realistic change of being able to reach. Don't set a goal you've continually failed at; start fresh and give yourself a chance to succeed. Examining whether a goal is achievable also helps you start planning how to get it done.
  • Remind yourself. Something that helps me remember my goals is to give myself visual reminders. I kept pictures of underwater and tropical scenes around. I reset my Microsoft Windows program to the use the Display scheme called "Underwater," which meant I had a little diver go searching for my files. You can even turn your screensaver into a reminder. In Windows, go to "Control Panel," "Display," "Screen Saver," select "Scrolling Marquee," and under "Settings," type your message in the "Text" box.
Ask yourself which one to three things would you like most to achieve by one year from your birthday (or Labor Day or my birthday, August 2). Don't choose more than three because you'll never get them done. Make at least one goal just for you, not for business. Then write those down and put the list where you can be reminded of your goals. Good luck! Now, what do I want to achieve by my next birthday? Hmmm.....

Copyright © Rhonda Abrams, 2001

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Living Authentically

by Dr Phil McGraw

Being real with yourself is hard, but it needs to be done if you're going to live authentically:

Be honest. Know your patterns. Recognize your typical excuses, rationalizations and justifications for failure. Look ahead and see which excuses you are most likely going to rely on and write them down in a story. Perhaps you could begin it by writing, "After reading and studying this book, I did not create meaningful and lasting change because ..." Be creative, thorough and brutally honest when doing this exercise. This is a test to see how willing you are to recognize that con job that sabotages you. It is a test to see if you can tell it like it is, or if you want to just live with the same old, tired excuses and be right in instead of happy.

Are any of the following excuses familiar? Did some of them get on your list?
  It was just too hard.
  He doesn't really understand me.
  That's all for other people.
  I couldn't focus because of the kids and my job.
  He's just too harsh. I need a gentle approach.
  My problems are different.
  I need to read it again.
  Until my spouse reads it, I'm just spinning my wheels.
  I'm right and he's wrong.

Help yourself by evaluating your life, behavior and thinking. Instead of asking whether the way you are living, behaving and thinking is "right," ask whether the way you are living, behaving and thinking is working or not working.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Small Business Year-End Web Site Checklist

By Matt McGee

The time of year when we make resolutions is fast approaching. I’m not much of a resolution-maker myself, but I’m going to suggest that small business owners make one. Namely, it’s a suggestion that you resolve to fix up your web site and pay attention to things you might’ve ignored for too long. I know you’re busy and time is at a premium, so chances are good that you’ve missed a few minor issues that are making your web site look old and outdated.

Think about this way: Your car needs a tune-up every 15,000 miles or so to keep it running at its best. Your teeth need a checkup at least once or twice a year. I bet your doctor would also like to see you regularly, too. Well, a regular checkup will also keep your web site running in peak condition.

With that in mind, here’s a small business web site checkup that you should tackle at least once a year.

1. Review your company information
If you have a staff listing or directory, is it up-to-date with correct names, titles, and other contact information? If you have an “About Us” page or something similar that discusses company history, make sure it’s updated—especially references such as “We’ve been in business for eight years.”

2. Review your contact information
Are the phone and fax numbers, mailing and email addresses listed on your site all current? You’re obviously losing customers if the phone number has changed.

3. Review your email routing
If you list as the main contact address on your site, is it being routed to the correct person? If your shopping cart sends order information to, is that going where it needs to go? Make sure your email routing reflects any organizational changes you’ve had.

4. Review and test your contact forms
If you have contact forms on your site, review them to make sure they work, they’re easy to use, and to see if they need to be updated. You might want to start asking people how they found your site or something else that your contact form doesn’t ask now. Also, be sure to “break” the form—submit it without the required information and see how understandable the resulting error message is.

5. Review your automated outgoing messages
Do you send an automated confirmation message or receipt after someone orders a product or uses your contact form? If so, review that outgoing automated message to make sure it says what you want it to say, and that it has the right contact information, etc.

6. Update your copyright and/or privacy policy statements
If you have a copyright notice on your site, make sure it’s not outdated. If you have a privacy policy, review it to make sure it accurately describes your current policy toward handling your customers’ personal information.

7. Test all outgoing links on your web site
Outdated or broken links make your site look stale. It’s also a source of frustration for your customers who click on links that don’t work. Check all links on your site to make they’re accurate and up-to-date. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) offers an online link checker that makes this easy to do.

8. Review the hidden sections of your web site
If you have any password-protected areas, do the passwords need to be changed? If you had staff changes during the year, this might be a good idea. It might be a good idea even if you didn’t!

9. Review your domain record
Make sure your domain registrar has current contact information for you. If they don’t, you might miss renewal notices and other important announcements about your domain. You might also want to read How to Protect Your Domain, which has some additional things to look for on your domain record.

10. Do an overall review of your web site
This is something you should really be thinking about on a regular basis, but web sites often get ignored in the daily grind of running a small business. Ask yourself: How fresh is the content on my site? Do any pages need to be updated? How does my site look? Is it time for a more professional or modern design? Does my site offer the kind of features or tools that let my customers get what they want when they visit?

Some of these suggestions will only take minutes to complete, while others will be more time-consuming. But no matter how busy you are, checking your web site at least once a year is a resolution worth making … and keeping.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Great Leader's Year-end Checklist

The year is almost over. Great leaders know how to tie up loose ends and make sure their employees are happy and ready to move forward.

Salespeople live and die by the annual review. Auditors have built an entire industry around it. For the next month, print and television media will pour out gallons of coverage of the past year in review.

And yet, as leaders, we often move from one year to the next with little or no time spent reviewing the year just past from a purely leadership perspective. To help counter that, here's my five-point year-end leadership checklist:

1. Manage the narrative. Every business, division, department, project, group, or team ends the year with an often unspoken (but widely accepted) narrative:
--"We blew it."
--"We nailed it."
--"Our customer service team let us down."
--"The first three quarters sucked, but the fourth wasn't too bad."

Your mileage will vary. As the leader, it's your job to understand what narrative has taken hold in your team and to manage it accordingly. 

This isn't the same as PR or spin. Managing the narrative isn't about manipulating what people think. It's about knowing what has taken root in your team's perception and helping the team members understand its importance.

So--as this year closes, what narrative has your group or team subliminally adopted? How accurate is it? Do you need to amplify or clarify any of it? Does it need to be discussed as a group? What lessons can you all learn from the narrative?

2. Straighten the angels. Next week, we'll put up the Christmas tree in our house, and as always, the final thing we'll do is to straighten the angel at the top.

Whether you've had your best year ever or the worst year imaginable, some--probably all--of your top performers will have been bent out of shape getting you through it. 

Some of them will have developed less than helpful traits - of arrogance, perhaps, or gruffness, or maybe just thoughtlessness. Some will be harboring grudges or feeling hurt or confused. Others may have been blindsided by events and are finishing the year off their game. One or two may simply be exhausted.

They're your angels. You're their leader. You need to go straighten them out.

3. Cull. In the course of any year, there's a whole bunch of individual and group dynamics that lose efficacy and that only you can untether. Practices that have become outdated; policies that no longer work; routines, rituals, and habits that now just get in the way; meetings that have lost their purpose.

Ask for nominations of less-than-useful activities from your team, but make the final decision yourself--and make everyone's life simpler by culling those that truly yield no ongoing benefit.  

4. Restock. During the year, you and your team will undoubtedly have used up one or more of the staples of healthy group interaction: energy, perhaps, or enthusiasm. Maybe as a team you've lost a sense of fun, or maybe you've run short on objectivity or perspective.

Take a moment and think about it. Again, take soundings from your colleagues. One way or another, you don't want to start the new year with one or more of those staples missing from your team's pantry. 

When you've identified which is missing or has run down to dangerously low levels, think through how to restock in the next 30 days--can you give the holiday retreat or your end-of-year address a theme? Do you need to give your folks some mentoring or coaching or training; or just a rest or a new perspective?

5. Center yourself. Finally, what about you? How have you changed as a leader this year? 
Draw a line down the center of a page, and list in one column your defining characteristics at the start of the year, and in the other, your defining characteristics at the end of the year. How do the two lists differ, if at all?

Ask someone who knows you well to repeat the exercise, from his or her perspective of you. How similar is his or her list to yours? 

As you look at the two lists, which characteristic of yours most helped your group or team this year? Which characteristic caused the most trouble? (When you've decided, ask your team members if they agree--you may be surprised by how differently they view which characteristics are your strong points and which are weaknesses.)  

Next year, how can you do more of the first characteristic and less of the second?

Monday, December 17, 2012

10 Leadership Practices to Stop Today

by Paul Spiegelman

If you want to be the best in your industry, you have to get rid of your outdated management style.

You might not feel it day-to-day, but business management is in a major transition.  The old days of command-and-control leadership are fading in favor of what might be better termed a trust-and-track method, in which people are not just told what to do, but why they are doing it.  More formally, we're moving from what was called "transactional" leadership to "transformative" leadership. And there's no turning back.

Business owners certainly have a long way to go, especially in more established companies where old practices die hard.  But you can see increasing evidence that by creating a company with a clear purpose and values, you'll find your employees connect themselves to something bigger, and that increases productivity.  In other words, a culture of engagement leads to greater customer loyalty, and better financial success.

Here's my list of "old school" practices you ought to chuck, and "new school" practices to champion instead:

1. Out: Micro-management, or the need to control every aspect of your company. In: Empowerment, the ability to give your people some rope--even rope to make mistakes without blame.

2. Out: Management by walking around the office; it is no longer enough to be visible. In: Leadership by watching and listening, engaging in conversation, implementing the ideas presented to you, and distributing the results.

3. Out: Pretending you know everything. You don't have all the answers, so why try to make people think you do?  In: Knowing your leadership team members and trusting them. Choose great people who have the right skills and fit the culture.  And get out of the way.

4. Out: No mistakes, or a "no tolerance policy" some still think works. In: Learning from mistakes, or being the first to admit an error.

5. Out: The balance sheet drives the business, and informs all other decisions. In: People drive the business, boosting customer loyalty, and profit.

6. Out: Job competency is sufficient. Do the job asked, and you'll survive. In: Recruit "A" players who will go the extra mile. They're out there.

7. Out: Invest in technology to increase productivity. In: Invest in people.

8. Out: Demand change; be very specific about what you want and when. In: Nurture change; your people can come up with the best ideas and you can give them credit for it.

9. Out: Fried food in the cafeteria. In: Wellness in the workplace.

10. Out: Incentives; pay employees more money and they'll do more. In: Rewards; being valued matters more than money.

So ask yourself which of these out-of-date practices you're still using. There's no time like now to try something new.

Friday, December 14, 2012

5 Ways to Get People to Actually Listen to You

by Marla Tabaka

 You may be a fact- and logic-driven leader, but others don't think like you do. Learn to get your point across through emotional connection.

Have you ever stood before an audience, uncertain whether you are truly connecting with them? Or, have you spoken to an employee who appears to be getting the message--but whose actions later tell another story?

To you, it's simple: Communicate your thoughts and the facts quickly and concisely and anyone will understand.

Not true. Facts and statistics may tell a story, but if you truly want to effect change and influence the way your audience thinks and feels, you will have to go beyond straightforward communications. The key to really getting people to listen--and act: Touch them on an emotional level.

Author Helio Fred Garcia, who is executive director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership, reminds us that members of a typical audience don't think like leaders do. According to Garcia, your audience must be able to feel and experience your communications, or you simply won't have the impact that you set out to achieve.
"Humans are wired to connect with each other," says Garcia. "And we connect with one another by feeling, not thinking."

Why? Because of the structures in the brain that allow people to experience someone else's plight as if it were their own. These structures, called mirror neurons, are also referred to as empathy neurons.

"Emotion is now increasingly recognized as the key to moving hearts and minds," says Garcia. "All too often leaders assume that facts matter," he says. "That if only we let the facts speak for themselves, people will understand and agree with us." 

In his latest book, The Power of Communication, Garcia notes that when leaders know they are not actually connecting they tend to double down and push more data and facts instead of trying a new approach. That's where things get really toxic. Here are five strategies Garcia says can help you stop reciting facts--and start making a true connection.

1. Keep your mouth shut--for a couple of moments.
Don't say anything substantive until you have an audience connection. Note that their first impression is visual, not verbal. You, the speaker, whether you are in front of a large group or a single employee, prospective investor, or prospect, have to be in complete command. You can gain that command by the way you carry yourself, before you even open your mouth. The body speaks before the mouth is open. Avoid rocking, looking down, and fidgeting. Stand and walk with confidence.

2. Get your audience engaged.
Get the eyeballs looking up before you say anything. Move with quiet confidence and smile, inviting people to look up and pay attention. Invite your audience to engage on the emotional level by offering a warm greeting. You might even ask them a question that prompts a response. It can be simple, as in: "How is everybody doing today?"

3. Grab their attention to make it memorable.
People remember the very first substantive that you say. Once you have their attention, jump right in to the most important thing you have to say. This powerful beginning will stick with your audience, creating the impact you're looking for.

4. Use verbal cues.
Use attention-provoking signals when you move from one part of the speech to the next. For instance, you might verbally number your key points or use other verbal signals like "Let's move on" or "My next topic is..."  Always give the audience verbal cues to look up at you.

5. Recap what matters.
Take all of the substantive points from your talk and group them all together at the very end of the presentation. Remember your provoking signal and say something like, "In summary," then recap everything from your presentation that matters the most.

"In summary," your audience must be able to feel and experience your communications, or you simply won't have the impact that you set out to achieve.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Do More Faster: 10 Best Apps & Tools

Five-time entrepreneur Frank Addante lists the digital gems that help him be organized and save time.

1.  Organize your email: Sanebox
Sanebox uses algorithms to organize your email into what's important and what's not. I was skeptical and had trouble giving up control of my inbox, but now I'm hooked. 
Tips: Trust it. Check @SaneLater twice a day, @SaneBulk whenever you feel like reading newsletters or promotions, and @SaneBlackHole for all the junk you never want to see again.
2.  Keep track of all your notes: Evernote 
Evernote stores your notes in the cloud, so you can access them from any computer or mobile device.
Tips: Use Evernote for both business and personal reasons. I take all of my business meeting notes directly in Evernote and scan or fax documents to Evernote that I want to keep. On the personal side, I take photos of wine that I like and store them in a notebook called Favorite Wines and keep copies of all critical identification (like my driver's license, passport, and insurance papers) in a notebook called Wallet.
Download App: iPhone | Android
3.  Store your documents in the cloud: Dropbox
Securely file away your digital documents in the cloud, so you can find and work on them from any computer or mobile device later.
Tips: I created two Dropbox folders--~Working Drafts and ~To File--and put them on my Mac in my Finder Favorites and on my Dock. I set the default sort order to be by Date Modified. This way, my most recent documents show up at the top of the list, and I can quickly drag or find documents there. I use ~Working Drafts as if it's my desktop and never actually store anything on my computer desktop. When I'm finished with a document, I drag it to ~To File, and every once in a while, I go into the folder to organize folders that make more sense long term. Note: I include the tilde (~) in the filenames so that, when sorted alphabetically, these folders always show up at the top.
Download App: iPhoneAndroid
4.  Prioritize your to-do list: Action Method
It's an online app that helps you organize to-do lists and track and delegate tasks.
Tips: Use Action Method's three color codes to set your priorities. Use orange for tasks that must be done on the scheduled day, blue for tasks that should be done that day but can push a day if necessary, and grey for tasks that you'd like to get done that day but will push if there are other deadlines. I follow the same color code in my calendar. The website is great, but definitely download--and set to open at login--the desktop, iPad, and mobile apps. Start every "to-do" item with an "action" word. The only negative about the Web application is that it can't be used offline. I use either the iPad or iPhone app while on a plane and sometimes will print a PDF of my to-dos before I take off and leave it on my desktop.
Download App: iPhone | Android
5.  Assemble your travel plans: TripIt
TripIt files all your itineraries in one place. You can even have it automatically send your itineraries to your significant other, kids, or always-worried mom. The Pro version alerts you of flight delays and gate changes.
Tips: Download the mobile app and put it on your home screen. Create a contact for and forward all itineraries to that contact.
Download App: iPhone | Android
6.  Automatically transcribe your voice-mail messages: YouMail
This voice-mail service transcribes your voice-mail messages and sends them to you by email or text (or both). The mobile app makes it easy to view, listen, read, and forward your voice mails.
Download App: iPhone | Android
7.  Consolidate your social network accounts: HootSuite 
This website allows you to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer, and others all from one place.
Tips: I tend to have pockets of time when I can read and post on social media. Try HootSuite's new "auto schedule" feature, so you can spread out your posts and don't flood your networks with many in a row.
Download App: iPhone | Android
8.  Communicate in real time with your whole team: Yammer
Yammer is like a private Twitter stream just for your company.
Tips: Get everyone in your company to sign up, and then use it as your main means of communicating information. This way, everyone will adapt to Yammer, because no one wants to miss out. Allow employees to post things that are "business" material and "fun" material. The fun material makes it more entertaining, and, in turn, the business material is more likely to be read.
Download App: iPhone | Android
9.  Stay fit: miCoach
Exercise keeps your mind sharp. The miCoach iPhone app acts like your personal trainer. I lost 20 pounds using it at home and while on the road.
Tips: Set up your workouts in advance. I selected Get Lean for running and Get Fit for gym workouts. Buy the heart-rate monitor and stride sensor; it's worth it. What gets measured gets done.
Download App: iPhone | Android
10.  Sleep better: iSleep
It's important to get a good night's rest. If you're like me, your mind is constantly racing, and the day's work never ends. The iSleep meditation app helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. It's particularly helpful when you have jet lag or can't fall asleep. I use the Deep Sleep playlist at the end of a long, stressful day.
Download App: iPhone | Android

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

5 Things That Really Smart People Do

by Kevin Daum

Don't get in the way of your own learning. Here are five ways to step aside and continue to increase your smarts.

Most people don't really think much about how they learn. Generally you assume learning comes naturally. You listen to someone speak either in conversation or in a lecture and you simply absorb what they are saying, right? Not really. In fact, I find as I get older that real learning takes more work. The more I fill my brain with facts, figures, and experience, the less room I have for new ideas and new thoughts. Plus, now I have all sorts of opinions that may refute the ideas being pushed at me. Like many people I consider myself a lifelong learner, but more and more I have to work hard to stay open minded.

But the need for learning never ends, so your desire to do so should always outweigh your desire to be right. The world is changing and new ideas pop up everyday; incorporating them into your life will keep you engaged and relevant. The following are the methods I use to stay open and impressionable. They'll work for you too. No matter how old you get.

1. Quiet Your Inner Voice

You know the one I am talking about. It's the little voice that offers a running commentary when you are listening to someone. It's the voice that brings up your own opinion about the information being provided. It is too easy to pay more attention to the inner voice than the actual speaker. That voice often keeps you from listening openly for good information and can often make you shut down before you have heard the entire premise. Focus less on what your brain has to say and more on the speaker. You may be surprised at what you hear.

2. Argue With Yourself

If you can't quiet the inner voice, then at least use it to your advantage. Every time you hear yourself contradicting the speaker, stop and take the other point of view. Suggest to your brain all the reasons why the speaker may be correct and you may be wrong. In the best case you may open yourself to the information being provided. Failing that, you will at least strengthen your own argument.

3. Act Like You Are Curious

Some people are naturally curious and others are not. No matter which category you are in you can benefit from behaving like a curious person. Next time you are listening to information, make up and write down three to five relevant questions. If you are in a lecture, Google them after for answers. If you are in a conversation you can ask the other person. Either way you'll likely learn more, and the action of thinking up questions will help encode the concepts in your brain. As long as you're not a cat you should benefit from these actions of curiosity.

4. Find the Kernel of Truth

No concept or theory comes out of thin air. Somewhere in the elaborate concept that sounds like complete malarkey there is some aspect that is based upon fact. Even if you don't buy into the idea, you should at least identify the little bit of truth from whence it came. Play like a detective and build your own extrapolation. You'll enhance your skills of deduction and may even improve the concept beyond the speaker's original idea.

5. Focus on the Message Not the Messenger

Often people shut out learning due to the person delivering the material. Whether it's a boring lecturer, someone physically unappealing, or a member of the opposite political party, the communicator can impact your learning. Even friends can disrupt the learning process since there may be too much history and familiarity to see them as an authority on a topic. Separate the material from the provider. Pretend you don't know the person or their beliefs so you can hear the information objectively. As for the boring person, focus on tip two, three, or four as if it were a game, thereby creating your own entertainment.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stop Procrastinating & Plan for 2013

By Kevin Duan

If you're not planning for the coming year then you better believe that your competitors are. Here are three solutions to get you going before it's too late.

Hooray! The election season is finally done. The holidays are close behind, and 2013 is just around the corner. And yet a good many companies still don't have a formal strategic plan on the books. Many don't even have a meeting scheduled before the end of the year to create a strategic plan and align their team. Often executives will manage for the current quarter with little consideration for three to five year objectives or even a one year plan.  Sadly, as the executives of these companies try to navigate uncertain times, they will wonder the following:

  • Why aren't we hitting our goals?
  • Why aren't we all on the same page?
  • Why can't our people execute without having to ask questions at every turn?
  • Why aren't we more prepared?

The answer is simple... procrastination. That sounds harsh but those of you regularly reading this magazine and website have seen plenty of material about the value of long term strategy. You have heard experts such as Collins and Peters, tout the benefits of long term strategic planning and alignment. Many of you know other successful companies who plan and execute consistently. So there is little question that you are just putting off what you know must be done. But perhaps there are solid reasons for your procrastination. Allow me to identify and resolve some of them for you.

1. Complacency

Maybe things are going well for you. Or at least they seem good enough. I am sure that's exactly what your competitors are thinking too and none of them are developing strategy  on how to steal your customers and gain market share. Keep telling yourself that and soon you'll find out the hard way that your business is always vulnerable to others who strategically plan and can out-execute you. This why many businesses fall into what Jim Collins calls the "Doom Loop" as outlined in his book Good to Great. Why be lazy? Taking a long-view approach in your business will insure you are ready for the next disruptor in your industry and can remain competitive.

2. Confusion

Perhaps you would like to execute a strategic plan for the company, but can't focus because you aren't really clear about where you personally want to be in life. Perhaps you spend too much time thinking about what you want to DO in your life, and not enough about who you want to BE. In fact many companies miss their mark because their management team doesn't focus enough on individual objectives beyond the company's goals. If your people are not clear on who they want to be and what motivates them to contribute, the results will suffer and you will likely wander off course. But this is resolvable. Ask everyone "Who are we as a company and where do you see your role in five years?" See if his or her answers align with your perceptions. Taking time to consider your own future might be a good start and better prepare you to lead strategic talks for your executives and your company.

3. Priority

So many executives are constantly battling with competing priorities. As my father always says: "When you are up to your rear end in alligators it's hard to remember that your primary directive is to drain the swamp." It's very difficult to make the transition from working IN the business to working ON the business. But one thing is for sure. If you don't start prioritizing strategic planning you will forever be letting the business run you. The sooner you make your strategy and alignment a priority, the sooner you'll achieve goals effectively and create efficiencies that will free up time and resources in your company. You don't have to be the CEO of a company to raise the priority of strategic planning. Any individual can drive the process and show their value to the company at the same time. Here are the first three steps.
  1. Set a date for a 2-day planning retreat before the end of the year. If you don't do it now, you'll forget. Once the date is set you can figure out all the other details.
  2. Hire a facilitator or a coach. For a successful retreat, you need methodology and objectivity. A good facilitator can provide both of these things and is well worth the money.
  3. Engage your team. Email them this column right now. That way you'll demonstrate your commitment to strategic planning as a priority and get the conversation started. Share the pressure of accountability and you are assured of getting a long term strategic plan in place before year end.
Execute on these actions and you'll surely surpass your procrastinating competitors.

Monday, December 10, 2012

9 Daily Habit that will make you happier

by Geoffrey James

Happiness is the only true measure of personal success. Making other people happy is the highest expression of success, but it's almost impossible to make others happy if you're not happy yourself.

With that in mind, here are nine small changes that you can make to your daily routine that, if you're like most people, will immediately increase the amount of happiness in your life:

1. Start each day with expectation.

If there's any big truth about life, it's that it usually lives up to (or down to) your expectations. Therefore, when you rise from bed, make your first thought: "something wonderful is going to happen today." Guess what? You're probably right.

2. Take time to plan and prioritize.

The most common source of stress is the perception that you've got too much work to do.  Rather than obsess about it, pick one thing that, if you get it done today, will move you closer to your highest goal and purpose in life. Then do that first.

3. Give a gift to everyone you meet.

I'm not talking about a formal, wrapped-up present. Your gift can be your smile, a word of thanks or encouragement, a gesture of politeness, even a friendly nod. And never pass beggars without leaving them something. Peace of mind is worth the spare change.

4. Deflect partisan conversations.

Arguments about politics and religion never have a "right" answer but they definitely get people all riled up over things they can't control. When such topics surface, bow out by saying something like: "Thinking about that stuff makes my head hurt."

5. Assume people have good intentions.

Since you can't read minds, you don't really know the "why" behind the "what" that people do. Imputing evil motives to other people's weird behaviors adds extra misery to life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.

6. Eat high quality food slowly.

Sometimes we can't avoid scarfing something quick to keep us up and running. Even so, at least once a day try to eat something really delicious, like a small chunk of fine cheese or an imported chocolate. Focus on it; taste it; savor it.

7. Let go of your results.

The big enemy of happiness is worry, which comes from focusing on events that are outside your control. Once you've taken action, there's usually nothing more you can do. Focus on the job at hand rather than some weird fantasy of what might happen.

8. Turn off "background" TV.

Many households leave their TVs on as "background noise" while they're doing other things. The entire point of broadcast TV is to make you dissatisfied with your life so that you'll buy more stuff. Why subliminally program yourself to be a mindless consumer?

9. End each day with gratitude.

Just before you go to bed, write down at least one wonderful thing that happened. It might be something as small as a making a child laugh or something as huge as a million dollar deal. Whatever it is, be grateful for that day because it will never come again.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Feeling Negative? How to Overcome it

By Geoffrey James

Because you're a human being, you're going to feel emotions while you're at work. It's hoped that the bulk of your emotions will be positive, such as excitement, wonder, gratitude, and joy.
However, it's inevitable that you'll also feel some negative emotions. But here's the thing: The way you handle your negative emotions will largely determine how successful you'll eventually become.

After all, it's easy to manage a business or do a job when everything's all sweetness and light. What's difficult is making things happen when times are rough and things don't work out the way you'd prefer.

With that in mind, here are the six most common negative emotions that people feel at work, along with a plan to transform those emotions into something to help you become more, rather than less, successful.

1. If you're feeling fear...

Step back for a second and try to see the situation objectively. Ask yourself: "Is my business or career truly at risk?" If not, then you may just be feeling nervous and excited rather than fearful, just like when you get on a roller coaster. So enjoy the ride.
If you decide that the situation is truly serious, then do something physical, like taking a walk, to clear your mind. When you return, create an action plan for how you're going to handle the situation right now.
Think of all the times that you've successfully handled similar situations or other situations that were personally challenging. Have faith that you'll be able to do the same this time. Then take the first step in your action plan.

2. If you're feeling rejected...

Decide whether you actually respect the opinion of the person who "rejected" you. If the rejection came from an idiot, a blowhard, or a mooncalf, a "rejection" is actually a backhanded compliment.
If you DO respect the other person's opinion, recognize that you may be interpreting the situation incorrectly. The only way to find out is to ask. Say something like: "The other day, you said ____ and I felt hurt. Can you clarify what happened?"
Finally, realize that, in a very real sense, "rejection" is an illusion. It almost always stems from a difference in the "rules" by which people interpret events. Probably you got "rejected" because the other person had different rules. So where's the sting?

3. If you're feeling angry...

Your first task is get some distance from the situation. If you can, get up and go for a walk, or do something that will distract you for a moment. If you can't take any of those actions, use Mom's old standby and slowly count from one to 10.
Now that you've calmed yourself down, pinpoint the reason that you're angry. You will find that in EVERY case, it's because somebody has violated a rule or standard that is deeply important to you.
Rather then "blowing up" or "letting off steam," figure out how to communicate to the other person the importance of that rule or standard so that the same situation doesn't recur in the future.

4. If you're feeling frustrated...

At work, this emotion emerges when you feel that your results aren't what you expected, given the amount of work and effort that you've expended. You know your goal is achievable, but it continues to seem out of reach.
Your first step here is to reassess your plan and your behavior. Is this really the best way to achieve this goal? If not, your frustration is telling you that you need to change the plan and the execution of the plan.
If your plan is solid and your behavior appropriate, it's time to exercise patience. Stop worrying about the goal. Let go of your results and concentrate on the behavior and have faith that "God's delays are not God's denials."

5. If you're feeling inadequate...

Welcome to the club! Whether people admit it or not, even those who seem the most self-confident secretly worry that they're not going to measure up or that they're ill prepared for the challenges ahead.
The wonderful thing about this emotion is that it's the easiest to handle. Your sense of inadequacy, like everyone else's, stems from a lack of skills, experience, and strategies in an area where you'd like to be successful.
Your plan is therefore simple: Decide that you're going to work on your skills in this area until you master them. Find a role model or a mentor. Read books or take seminars. Worst case, you'll learn in the "school of hard knocks." It's just part of life!

6. If you're feeling stressed...

There's no question that today's business world puts extraordinary demands on people's time and energy. Whether you're an entrepreneur, an executive, a line manager, or a worker, you're constantly being asked to do more with less.
Even so, you (like everybody else) are constrained by the limits of time and space. Regardless of how you feel about it, you've got a limited amount of time to get things done and to keep yourself healthy and happy at the same time.
Therefore, the best way to use stress is as a signal that it's time to prioritize. Do what's important rather than what's urgent. Remember: Twenty percent of your work generally produces 80 percent of your results! So focus on the 20 percent!
By the way, the above is loosely based on some notes I took at an Anthony Robbins seminar a couple of decades ago, along with additional perspectives gleaned from the brilliant speaker and savant Art Mortell.