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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog
It's not in the way you can multitask, it's not in how many devices you can juggle at once and it's not in how many meetings you can schedule in a day. Time management is a skill that -- carefully considered in proportion to your own personality type -- can be one of the most powerful tools you can learn in a lifetime. And we should know; we make it our goal every day to provide an easy-to-use interface to track your time on the job.
That being said, for this week's Monday Link-Ups, we're giving you our list of the best articles and studies we've seen out there to help you get your time on track.
- 4 Things You Thought Were True About Time Management - Harvard Business Review
- How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (and Your Effectiveness at Work) - Forbes.com
- Small Business Owners And Time Management (INFOGRAPHIC) - Huffington Post
- Data, Data: How much time people waste looking for lost information, how fast the World Wide Web is growing, and other statistics from the front lines of the info glut - Inc.com
- Work Smarter, Not Harder: 21 Time Management Tips to Hack Productivity - The Creativity Post
- Don't Delay: How Are You Managing Your Time? - Psychology Today
Want more in the social-sphere? Check out these groups that have great time management tips and tricks to follow on a daily-basis.
- Lifehack on Facebook
- Time Management Ninja on Facebook
- Time Management Skills on LinkedIn
- Organizational Skills, Time Management and Project Management on LinkedIn
- Time Management Magazine on Google+
- Time Management Community on Google+
- Time Management and Productivity Community on Google+
Have some you didn't see make the list? Let us know in the comment section below!
Today on the Journyx Blog, we have guest blogger Diana Gomez, Marketing Coordinator at Lyoness America. Lyoness is an online shopping community that operates around the world.
In this article, Diana discusses how to keep calm and carry on, all while operating your own startup.
There's nothing more exhilarating than quitting your lame day job in order to direct all your energy to your startup passion project. If you've recently made this move, first of all: congratulations! You are in for the ride of your life-complete with slow climbs to the top, gut-wrenching drops and copious amounts of upside-down loop-di-loops. But you know it's all worth it for the existential satisfaction you feel day in and day out. That day job really was lame.
A key component of running a successful small business is maintaining your positivity and composure even during those loop-di-loops. Consumers can be very intuitive of the first signs of faltering on the back end, and the front end of your business may suffer as a result.
Here are six tips for keeping your sanity as captain of the "SS Startup," so that all your consumers ever see is smooth sailing.
1. An apple a day (and exercise and plenty of sleep).
The most obvious strategy in maintaining mental and emotional health is also the most overlooked. When in decent health, people often take their wellbeing for granted. Be purposeful in what you eat and drink, and exercise for 30 minutes every day. You'll have more energy, self-confidence, and less stress. Plus, creative people generally agree that one of the best ways to get ideas flowing is to go for a walk or jog-the fresh air and boost in metabolism really can work wonders.
When your brain just can't calm down, try meditation. It may seem cheesy, but yoga and guided meditation classes have been gaining huge traction for a reason. Think of it as erasing all the old junk from your e-mail inbox-a clear mind just feels better. Check out some online resources or a local wellness spot near you for more info on how to get started.
2. We all need somebody to lean on.
Is it safe to assume your business partners, employees and interns are all fabulous people to be surrounded by on a daily basis? Excellent. But when it comes to keeping your cool, confiding in them may not be your best option. No one can do it alone - so don't be afraid to reach out for support in any way you need. Widen your circle to plenty of people who are willing to lend you their ear, and be open about lending them yours, as well.
If you've had a mentor in the past, remember that just because you no longer work with them doesn't mean your relationship has to end. Mentorship is a symbiotic relationship. Just as mentees gain knowledge and advice in their endeavors, mentors get a sense of fulfillment and sustainability in their experiences by cultivating a fresh mind. Don't be shy.
3. It may be a shark tank, but you can be koi.
It may be temping to research your competitors on a daily (hourly) basis. Are you keeping ahead of the curve? What are their consumers writing in their reviews? Do you even stand a chance? The truth is, your competitors are trying to keep their cool, too. You're never getting the full picture of their business, so you don't have to let it inform your view of yours. Allow yourself to check out what your competitors are up to once a week or less and you'll maintain your focus - and sanity.
4. Switch it up.
A change in environment can do wonders for productivity. Whether that means rearranging your office furniture, working in your kitchen instead of your living room for the day, or enjoying an overpriced latte in the hippest neighborhood hangout, you are actually more influenced by your surroundings than you might think. Never underestimate the power of natural sunlight or a colorful painting-inspiration is absorbed in even the subtlest forms.
5. Get a life.
You know you need to take some time off, so do it! Feeling like a well-rounded person with experiences and interests outside of your startup will do wonders for your perspective, charisma and overall wellbeing. You're more likely to meet interesting people if you've got more to talk about than sales projections. Laughter is important, so go see the newest Seth Rogan movie. Go skydiving - your business will look a lot different from 13,000 feet.
6. Renew your vows.
Everyone says it, but that's because it's vital: "Do what you love." Never forget why you are devoting your life to your business. True love never fades, but passion does need some nurturing. To keep your motivation raging and your fires blazing, attend a startup weekend or get a drink with other entrepreneurs. Read some small business success stories. Revisit old mission statements and e-mails you wrote when your ideas were first starting to blossom.
Stay the course. Keep your cool. Do great things. And have fun!
About the Author: Diana Gomez, Marketing Coordinator at Lyoness America, implements business and social media marketing strategies. The Lyoness loyalty rewards program, where businesses and consumers benefit with free membership and money back with every purchase, can now be accessed on mobile devices
For those of us who tend to embody the type-A persona over the type-B, planning projects to the very last detail comes as second nature. For example; few, if any, of us would begin a cross-country road trip without first planning out where we want to go, what we want to see and how we want to get there. And during the trip, a traveler will often review how far they've traveled, how far they have left to go and what adjustments to their planned route may be necessary. Even then, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.
So how do you go about setting up a plan for your project that will give your organization the desired outcome? Unfortunately, these lessons are often lost on the modern world of accounting, making poor planning, or no planning at all, one of the most costly mistakes in project accounting. So just how much will your organization be affected by poor project planning?
Let's take a look at these issues.
Just like a trip with no destination, companies often make the mistake of planning out a system for project accounting without giving much thought to their destination. In this case, the “destination” is the kind of reporting they would want to generate three, six or nine months down the road. You can get a better grasp on the desired outcome of a project by asking questions like: what kind of key performance indicators do they want to be able to measure the company by? What kind of information will they need to be able to evaluate their company strategy for the next quarter? What kind of figures will they need to be able to determine the success or failure of the given project?
By taking adequate time at the very beginning to determine what information you want to have down the road, you can then properly implement project accounting.
Asking the Wrong Questions
So maybe you have done your research and have determined the key performance indicators you will be using for your project and their desired outcome. But how do you know that you’ve implemented the correct KPIs to begin with? Going back to our road trip analogy, if you were planning a trip across country, you wouldn't use a map that focuses on local points of interest in one particular region. Why? Because it would be too specific and too narrow in focus to be of practical benefit.
Similarly, many organizations make the mistake of designing their data collection system with one department in mind, and with extremely fine-tuned KPIs limiting the site and scope of the project as a whole. The problem with this approach is that your average employee doesn't think like an accountant. As a result, just like a very detailed, but very specific map, a data collection system set up in this way will create more trouble than it's worth. Employees will get frustrated with it and can end up submitting inaccurate reports because of the flawed system.
So what do you need to do to avoid this mistake? Focus on efficient reporting. You will need ample information to track the project’s progress, but try not to create a system that focuses on acquiring every possible scrap of data, to the point that it bogs your employees – and your project - down. Decide what you need to track, and design the system to collect that information as succinctly as possible.
Here are some great options to consider when determining the data sets you’ll use in your project:
- Adherence to estimate
- Percentage of projects that are profitable
- Available resources
- Scope of milestones within timeline
Make Adjustments Accordingly
In the end, it’s all about revisiting the initial plan. Just as you periodically review your progress on a trip, it's essential to periodically review how well your project accounting plan is working. All too often, companies put a method into place and never revisit it.
Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, you may not get it right the first time, and that’s okay. Only through periodic reviews, every three or six months, will you be able to see what is working, what isn't working and what might work better with a little tweaking.
By taking the time to plan with your end goal in mind, designing the most efficient route to that goal and periodically review your progress, you can avoid some of the most common project accounting mistakes.
Last Tuesday, September 16th, Vincent Apesa, CEO of Broadleaf, partnered up with us here at Journyx to present a webinar focused on how much a government contract management system (COMS) can revolutionize the way you do your job. What does that mean, particularly? Well, for those in Federal Government Contracting, that means standardizing contract processes and getting rid of the need for using Excel Spreadsheets.
From a high-level view, the highlights included points such as how to track your contracts, generate billing documents, track deliverables, and get access to contract information instantly.
For a more detailed perspective, the way that COMS works at it's finest is giving you a dashboard overview of things like "number of contracts by type", "expiring contracts", and dividing up those projects in a way that makes the most sense for your working processes.
It can also interface directly with Excel should that be a process you would like to keep involved, and automatically inputs values into your spreadsheet to get you a full picture of your aggregated data.
If you want to see more about this handy tool, check out the full webinar and see for yourself in the video below!
For the past few weeks we've been asking our (very gracious) customers to take a second of their day to fill out our 2014 Journyx Customer Satisfaction Survey. We've carefully parsed together the results--comparing our findings with the 2012 survey from two years ago--and the data is so fascinating we thought it couldn't go unshared. Each and every one of you that answered our survey contributed to helping us figure out ways we can do better, ways in which our product is used the most and how we can be of service. See the results for yourself in our interactive infographic below!
Happy Monday, everyone! It feels like we're finally moving into the Fall season. For us here in Austin, that means three days of beautiful 60-degree weather and then it's time to break out the parkas. For American businesses - large or small - that means getting ready to close the books and start fresh, and one of the best ways you can do so is by hiring new staff. We've got all of the best forums and resources below for you to do just that.
- StaffingIndustry.com has a blog full of helpful advice, tips and more on how to get the best employee for your buck in the coming hiring season.
- The Staffing Stream is a blog that goes by the mantra of, "voices of the staffing industry". They're all about inside perspective for the best possible information, and it shows. Check them out.
- The Staffing Robot is an agency designed to help staffing firms get noticed on the web with graphic design services, SEO management, branding and more.
- Staffing Talk is a news and blog website, offering more than just advice - it offers the latest statistics in the job market, aggregated industry news, the fastest growing cities and more.
Want to find more on social media? Check out these groups:
- LinkedIn - Recruitment Consultants and Staffing Professionals
- LinkedIn - HR, Staffing and Recruiting Professionals Forum
- LinkedIn - IT Staffing & Services
- LinkedIn - Temporary Staffing Professionals
- Google+ - IT Staffing - Recruiters and Candidates Unite
- Google+ - Staffing Events
- Google+ - Staffing Daily
This last Tuesday we demonstrated and revealed what the latest updates in the new version of Journyx 9.5 will do and how it will massively affect how you spend your time. These new features ensure that you are able to get a complete picture of your project costs and revenues both in terms of forecasts, and as they are realized. v9.5 also includes greater flexibility in calculating your project costs and contract-based bill rates as they are applied to your project work. Other major features in the list include:
- Custom project costing and billing rates based on project roles and/or assignments
- New custom entry environment that can be used for tracking equipment utilization, widget completion, etc.
- Single tracking environment for entering employee reimbursable expenses and mileage
- Leave request handling improvements
- New option to set up entry screen column-to-column filtering via imports
- New option to set up a custom semi-monthly time period that is not always limited to the end of a month
The full webinar is below, as well as on our Journyx YouTube page for those that want to learn more.
Many business owners have reached the point where their current software is no longer working or is out-of-date and are forced to examine the alternatives. At the rate technology is evolving, that point is realized once every two years; or every other week when it comes to smartphones. But when it comes to business software, the thought that crosses many minds is, “I have a talented developer on my team--why can’t I just have them code a solution?” Building your own solution may seem more budget-friendly in the face of high monthly fees from enterprise-level SaaS companies, but when it comes down to the wire, how do you determine what the best choice is for your business?
All-in-one options: Are they really that simple?
The idea of building your own software often stems from looking at the all-in-one applications available on the marketplace and believing that your team may have the technical chops to build something as good or even better. The problem is that many all-in-one products aim to be good at everything -- packed with pedigrees and assured by awards -- but they aren’t as comprehensive as they seem; even a giant company like SAP can’t be all things to all people (and all businesses, for that matter).
So where do you start? The first step is to have a thorough understanding of costs so you can create a budget, and that means knowing what works for your bottom line and what doesn’t..
Building your own software: Not actually time or budget-friendly
When considering the build versus buy scenario, budget is obviously a major factor -- but make sure it’s not the ONLY factor.
●Managers often view the cost of their own employees as free--which isn’t the case. If you have billable client work that your employees could be working on instead of building and maintaining software for your company’s infrastructure, then you’re actually losing money by having them build your software.
●If you’ve got competent employees, you’re likely underestimating the amount of work it’s going to take to get a software solution built. It seems like they always get things done quickly and on time, so you assume this will be quick and easy for them too, but that may not be the case, especially if you have a small team.
●Even after the solution is built, you still have to factor in maintenance and support of the product. Think about all of the security holes that are discovered every year in software that’s built and maintained by companies --and imagine taking on the work of finding all of those security bugs and fixing them yourself. That’s what you’re doing when you build your own piece of software.
An article from The Next Web delved into this very idea and asked Henrik Werdelin, the Managing Partner of Prehype, to give his best estimates of how much it would cost to essentially create your own product from the ground-up.
“You could still build an Instagram-like product inexpensively, in the $100,000 to $300,000 range over a three-to-six-month period,” said Werdelin.“But even with a billion dollars of investment on day one, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be in a position where you might grow as quickly as Instagram.”
You really can’t underestimate the amount of time and evolution that goes into a software solution. Which brings us to our next point.
Find the happy medium
The best solution that will save you both time and money is this: research, research, research. Do some digging, look at reviews and testimonials online and buy the best software packages that do 80-90% of what you want, and integrate them together. Most software solutions today integrate with other industry leaders (Quickbooks, for example, integrates with Bill.com, Shoeboxed, and more), and the ones that don’t usually have open APIs--which means you can often make them play nice together with much less work than custom-building your own solution. If you look at this list of integrations on Zapier, someone else may have already done the work of making them work together for you.
How to tell if you’re the exception to the rule:
That said, there are a few circumstances where building your own solution might be the right move. If you have:
●A very specific problem and there doesn’t seem to be anything currently on the market that solves it
●A talented developer with nothing to do and no client to work on
●And (most importantly) needs that won’t be changing anytime soon (that are truly not met by any solution available on the market)
If any of those are the case, then it might be time to look at building your own software.
Have you ever faced the build vs. buy debate in your business? If so, what solution did you go with?
A little while back we focused one of our Monday Link-Ups blog posts solely on GP Support communities. Now it's Dynamics SL's turn. With that, this weeks Monday Link-Ups brings you SL support tools of all types. Check out the resources here!
- Dynamics SL Users Group - the official community for users and VARs alike, this is a great place to share ideas, resources, tools, questions and meet in groups around the world.
- Dynamics SL Software Advice Review - just looking around in the market and wondering if SL is right for your organization? Check out this Software Advice review. It lists specs like functionality, support and product quality and rates it based on actual user reviews. You can even connect with a Partner to get an installation going.
- Dynamics SL Overview from Microsoft - this overview from Microsoft themselves lists video demos (both interactive and non) of the product to get you a better feel of the tool, connects you with Partners and more.
- The Official Microsoft Dynamics SL Support Community - Maybe you already own Microsoft Dynamics SL? Check out this great support community. Aside from help from your VARs, you can connect with other users and see what problems they're experiencing, what's been resolved, upcoming product releases and enhancements, CRM Connectors and a great forum for all involved with SL.
Maybe you're looking for more socially-focused communites to get connected with? Check out these great LinkedIn and Google+ groups below!
Business Analyst Times, partnered with Project Times.com, both leverage and excel the understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur, CEO or in a leadership role. This might be because many of their contributing writers are actually CEO's offering up their best advice, penning the changing world as they see it or simply relaying new info they've learned to the masses. They've even published work from our very own CEO, Curt Finch.
This article, "5 Timeless Communication Truths the Digital Age is Changing" was written by Speaker and Blogger Ryan Jenkins. Visit their site here for the full story.
Do you know the fool-proof way to know if someone desires a connection with others? They are breathing. For those playing at home…that’s everyone among the living.
Even the most introverted introverts still have a deep desire to share and connect. Humans crave connection. The explosive growth and adoption of social media is proof. We are all communicating but are we connecting? Why is it that in our always-on and always-connected culture we struggle to truly connect with people?
Perhaps we need a refresher on the truths of effective connection. These truths are timeless but their application has changed due to the three communication disruptions: technology, social media, and the emerging generations.
TRUTH #1: CONNECTING REQUIRES SELFLESSNESS
But first…DO NOT take a selfie. First, focus on others. The moment you become more concerned with your own agenda during communication is when you’ve lost the connection with your audience. Turn “selfies” into “youies.”
Happy Tuesday, and hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! Today, we're looking at oil & gas industry resources. Journyx has a special focus in the oil & gas industry that helps Journyx customers to understand their costs better at the source – on a per-well basis.
Here are a few publications, upcoming conferences and other resources we've found to sink your teeth into.
- Pipeline Week Conference and Exhibition is a global conference that will be hosted in Houston, Texas on October 14-16. Register to attend before spots fill up!
- Deepwater Operations Conference & Exhibition is right around the corner. This conference will be in Galveston, Texas on November 4-6 2014.
- The Society of Petroleum Engineers is the largest individual-member organization serving managers, engineers, scientists and other professionals worldwide in the upstream segment of the oil and gas industry.
- We've heard Oil & Gas Journal referred to as the Wall Street Journal of the oil industry. This publication definitely keeps us in the know.
- Well Servicing Magazine is the competing publication to Oil & Gas Journal, and is a hub of latest geological developments, updates from Congress on the latest bills as well as a Rig Count roundup that they keep regularly updated.
Still want more? Here are some great LinkedIn groups we've found that will help get you started in the right direction:
- Texas Oil & Gas Professionals & Executives
- Houston Oil & Gas Professionals
- Petroleum, Oil & Gas Industry Professionals
- Oilfield Services
- Journyx for Oil & Gas Professionals
We're interested in learning all we can about the oil & gas industry - tell us what resources we missed in the comments below!
The Vistage Blog - Executive Street has been considered a converging hub, if not a home for executives and c-level businesspeople alike to glean new info, tips and read interesting articles from fellow executives on the topics they care about the most. They've even been kind enough to publish articles from our very own CEO, Curt Finch.
The following article written by Marc Emmer titled, "Are you Building a Business; or Something More?" is about the importance of cultivating a strong company culture and what it means in today's society. Check out the full article on their website here.
I spent several years serving on a not-for-profit board that was recently honored for its work in my community. Our charter was to build schools, and the school district commemorated our service with a plaque in a local high school. As the school board President gave his opening remarks, he spoke about the courage and determination required to overcome obstacles and erect something that can last into perpetuity.
Whenever we build something, whether it is a school or a business, we have the opportunity to build something larger than ourselves; we have the opportunity to create a legacy.
I have also been honored to work with very successful businesses built on the sweat of entrepreneurs, whose vision stood the test of time. In some cases, the businesses thrived as new generations innovated, and others faded away with the persona of their founder.
As companies build culture, it is important they tell stories, and reinforce the foundational elements that make a company strong and resilient. I am not talking about hanging a black and white picture of a founder (like something out of Mad Men). Companies have traditions and norms, often rooted in another time, when things like quality, or caring for others were not taken for granted.
I was facilitating a strategic planning meeting with a 35 year old company recently. The founder had died, and his nephew took over the reins. As we recast the vision for the company, and established a growth plan, I saw my clients eyes tear up. He could see the promise of the future, and the realization of the dreams of his uncle before him.
Whether it’s a group meeting or a one-on-one appointment, we’ve all had the experience of conversations running long. And it can be a real drag on productivity; one study shows that the average worker only actually works three days per week, or about 1.5 hours per day, with unproductive meetings being at the top of the list for wasting the rest of the work week.
At the same time, you don’t want to be that guy--you know, the one that cuts people off, acts like people are always wasting his/her time, and leaves abruptly--so how do you end a meeting gracefully and save the time of everyone involved?
All too often, we go into meetings with a list of topics, not an actual agenda. For example, “Marketing Plan for Q3”. A lack of clear purpose leads to directionless meetings that don’t actually resolve anything.
Instead, create an agenda that consists of what each team member needs to bring to the meeting, with specific questions to be discussed, and distribute it to your team prior to the meeting so everyone knows what they’re responsible for. Like so:
Marketing Plan for Q3:
●Sam: What did well on social media last quarter? What are your suggestions for building on those initiatives to improve in Q3?
●Brenda: What was our ROI on the webinars we hosted? Did one of the webinar topics do better than the others? What are your plans for next quarter?
●Catherine: What topics did well on our company blog and helped with lead generation? How will we use this information to improve?
●All: What are the common threads here? We’ll pick 2-3 takeaways and next steps.
We tend to think in blocks of 30 or 60 minutes, without realizing that this is actually quite a long time for a meeting. And since we’ve booked that time, the meeting just naturally expands to fill it, a la Parkinson’s law (the idea that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”).
Instead of booking 30 minutes, aim for a 15 minute meeting.
Reports vary on whether the optimum meeting length is 15 minutes or 45, but either way, the evidence is strong that when a meeting runs over an hour, it’s at the cost of the productivity and attention spans of everyone in attendance.
Not to go without mentioning, it’s best to never book a meeting on a Monday or a Friday. According to this article from Inc.com, a company polled their employees and found that, “if you're thinking of arranging a meeting for 9 a.m. on a Monday, only one in three employees is likely to attend...”
Meetings end and people have become lost in the details discussed, and may not be clear on what the final action item is, who owns it, and what the timeline is.
Have a five minute wrap-up at the end of the meeting. This works especially well in a one-on-one setting or in a small group (3-4 people). When you start to get to the end of the allotted time:
●Verbally make the group aware by stating, “Okay, we’re about five minutes out.”
●Recap what’s been covered so far in high-level points. For example, “We discussed the next steps for project XYZ, which are...”
●Especially as a project manager it’s important to remind them that you’re fully available to assist. “You’ve got my email and my phone number if anything comes up...”
●And leave room for their quick questions with, “Is there anything else I’m forgetting?”
This is a quick, polite way to keep everyone on the same page, impress the main takeaways from the conversation on both parties, and end the meeting on time.
What’s your best productivity tip for politely getting out of a long meeting?
It's getting close to that most wonderful time of the year, and that means that you'll either soon be upgrading your gadget, ERP Software, CRM or timesheet system. So for our Monday Link-ups this week, we've compiled a list of blogs, advice columns and forums all listing out their best ways to know when it's time to upgrade -- and giving the best solutions they've seen on the market.
- Your Accounting Software: For those using Quickbooks or Sage 50 Accounting Software, here's how to know when it's time to upgrade.
- Your Computer: 10 signs that it's time to upgrade your PC
- Your General Gadgets: Knowing when it's time to upgrade your gadgets
- Your Solid-state drive: Why you need to upgrade to an SSD right now
- Your PC and Server hardware: You know it's time for an upgrade when...
- Your time tracking system in the cloud: Top 5 reasons companies everywhere are using SaaS
The social media sites are on top of the latest updates in any of these tools, and will be the first to report on the latest gadget:
The International Community of Project Managers (ICPM) is a great website where project managers and HR directors alike can come together and read informative articles, grab free downloads and learn from each other on the best tips and tricks of being a project manager. They've even been kind enough to publish articles from our very own CEO Curt Finch.
This article titled, "Use These Eight Sections for a Terrific Status Report" highlight the key areas on how to accomplish the most data driven and insightful reporting for your company. Visit their site here for the full story.
Why is it that most of us don’t have a problem working 60 hours a week taking care of our stakeholder’s needs, and yet we have difficulty writing a decent status report? There are two major problems. First, some people do not have great written communication skills. However, in most cases, the problems with communication are not a lack of skills, but a lack of focus. Many project managers do not appreciate the value of communicating proactively. When they do communicate, it tends to be short and cryptic, as if they are trying to get by with the minimum effort possible.
The key to communicating is to keep the reader as the focal point – not the sender. Try to think about what the receiver of the communication needs and the information that will be most helpful to them. Ask yourself whether the information on the status reportis there to really communicate something valuable or is it just taking up space.
Typically the complete status report should include the following information:
In between TV, Internet, smartphones, tablets, new apps and the latest gaming systems, it’s no wonder the current generation has been dubbed “the most distracted”. On any given day, the average American has their pick between reading the latest industry research on their iPad, digging into a new book on a Kindle, playing Angry Birds, or watching the latest episode of a TV show on Netflix at any given time. In fact, according to a recent PEW Research study published in the New York Times, “nearly 90% of 2,462 teachers said that digital technologies were creating ‘an easily distracted generation with short attention spans’.”
But surprisingly, many researchers think boredom is a good thing--especially for kids. The argument is that it allows for imagination stimulus and unstructured play, which is how we learn to be creative. Some people argue that it’s not limited to children, including writer Mark McGuinness, who finds that boredom leads to curiosity, which leads to new ideas for writing projects. Not only that, but research itself finds that distraction combined with relaxation is great for stimulating creativity, even going so far as answering the question of why we tend to get our awesome ideas in the shower. But what if you’re stuck on how to channel that boredom toward better productivity and creativity on the job?
Healthy boredom solution #1: Creative side projects are your friend
If you’re more goal-oriented and having a set amount of unstructured free time doesn’t work for you, consider starting a creative side project. Having a project to gear your right-brained energy toward will allow for some downtime and relaxation without making you completely unproductive. The best creative side projects are low-risk (i.e. not attached to your income, which means there’s no pressure to fail or succeed), don’t have a deadline, and have a purpose (personal or professional).
There’s also some compelling research that people who actively work on creative side projects are better employees (being rated by coworkers as more helpful, creative, and collaborative on the job). And those same people feel more relaxed and in control of their lives. Having a creative side project gives people a way to escape from their work constraints without resorting to unhealthy escapism, like being on Facebook too much on the job or overeating to relieve the stress.
You could also choose to learn about something entirely unrelated to your day job, in a way that isn’t necessarily project-based. Coursera and Udemy have free courses on everything from Latin American culture to how to play the electric guitar, and Duolingo is a great free way to learn a new language from your computer or phone.
Healthy boredom solution #2: Let it go
Don’t try to fill up all your spare time with activities. Leave some time without structure, whether it’s going on a walk around the office, choosing not to listen to your favorite business podcast so that your mind can wander, or simply browsing Pinterest on your lunch break instead of working. The key is to set aside a half-hour or so; as long as the unstructured activity isn’t taking over your day, you should be fine. If you want to take it to the next level and cut out your devices as well, there are apps like AntiSocial and SelfControl that will take a set amount of time and block your phone/computer/tablet from being able to access email and social networking sites.
It’s our natural instinct to avoid boredom, because hey--it’s typically not inherently fun! In our daily lives, we crave feeling like we have a purpose that we’re working toward, so much so that we’re now filling it up with as much technology and communication-oriented activities as possible. Regardless of personality type, to function at our best, our brains need some off-time. The next time you find yourself feeling a sense of “I’m boreeeed” syndrome, lean into it instead of fighting it and take some time to yourself, guilt-free.
If you've been keeping a close eye on our list of upcoming events and webinars, you've seen that we're about to dive right into a webinar all about government contracting management systems (COMS). And we're so excited about it that we're bringing you a list of our favorite blogs, tips and tricks about (and for!) government contractors. Check it out below!
- SBA Classroom: The U.S. Small Business Administration has a classroom with multitudes of articles, workbooks and videos just to help you get on your feet and get certified (for those that need the certification).
- USAJobs.gov: Need to get on your feet, first? This is definitely the first place you need to check if you're wanting to dive into government contracting jobs. Take a look here first, and then follow that with CareerBuilder, Indeed.com and the like.
- Small Business Government Contracting Goals Met - First Time in 8 Years: In an article close to the topics you would already be seeing on the popular site SmallBusinessTrends.com, Anita Campbell powers through the 'why' and 'how' government contracting is working, and how it is now the prime time to break into the field.
- Broadleaf: Actual software solutions for those working in government contracting - a contract management system that can help track your contracts, generate billing documents and track deliverables, this software is a must-have on our list.
Still want more? Here are some groups on LinkedIn and Google+ that can help you get involved with the government contracting community. Have even more to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below!
Smallbiztrends.com is a popular site geared toward - you guessed it - small businesses! They offer a massive swath of wonderful advice, trends and latest tips for small businesses owners, entrepreneurs, or even just employees working in a small business or startup environment. They've even featured some articles from our CEO Curt Finch.
This article titled, "10 of Our Best Email Marketing Articles for Small Business" by Shawn Hessinger offers advice to small businesses on how to kick your email marketing into the next gear.
If you think that email marketing is dead, think again. With most online businesses making most of their money from their email followers, it’s clear the approach is still quite vital.
First, email has always been one of the main communication channels on the Internet. It was there even before social media was born. So there is still a segment of the market that is more accustomed to communicating that way.
Second, email will always be a personal communication channel. Sure, some may feel that most email they get is spam. But almost everyone has an email account just for the sake of sending messages and files. This is exactly the reason why business owners should not take email marketing for granted.
With this in mind, Small Business Trends has come up with a list of past articles that can help you in this area. Here’s a collection of the best email marketing articles from our archives.
Maybe a “stress-free office” is a bit of a misnomer, because let’s be honest: if we totally eliminated stress in any and all forms, nothing would get done because we’d lose our sense of urgency. But too much stress has a lot - no, really, a lot - of negative effects, not just on work performance but on health and quality of life in general.
Here at Journyx, one of our philosophical tenets is “don’t make things more stressful than required.” Stress due to personal conflict or something as trivial as an unnecessarily strict dress code lowers performance and generally has a negative effect on company culture. We want our company to be a fun place to work.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t require high quality results from your employees. You should absolutely expect high performance. But it’s another thing entirely to stress out over a small mistake (or even a perceived mistake) that has no actual negative effect on, well, anything at all.
So what’s the right balance between a healthy amount of stress and too much?
Many people operate under the idea that negative feedback is simply a part of management, and it is, but it also isn’t. Unfortunately, oftentimes a manager leaves an employee alone until they do something wrong. Then the employee gets negative feedback and tries to improve based on that negative feedback, without ever having a clear idea of what they are doing well.
As an engineer, it’s really just my nature to be more negative. That’s just how my brain works - I see all the problems remaining to be solved and want them to be fixed as soon as possible. It’s a natural instinct. As managers, we often just assume that our employees and team members know that the other work they do is great; it’s just that we want these other three things fixed, as well. (Of course, we don’t necessarily feel the same way when we are on the receiving end of the feedback!)
Research shows that the number one motivator of employees isn’t cash, isn’t promotions - nope, it’s personalized, immediate recognition of good work from managers. You know, getting a “thank you” here and a “great job” there. And really - how much time does that take out of our day? As long as the employee actually is doing a good job and isn’t phoning it in, why not? Consider this: even though we try to keep employees motivated with cash and bonuses, it turns out that positive reinforcement actually stimulates the same neural pathways as receiving money.
It’s a win-win: You can motivate your employees better and cut costs! (Just kidding, don’t take away your employees’ bonuses.)
So, how do you apply this to your management style?
Here are a few pointers:
●Make sure you’re not using the “Leave Alone/Zap” management style described earlier (term coined by Ken Blanchard). Do your employees, or even just your other team members, only hear from you when they’ve done something wrong?
●When it comes to positive reinforcement, an immediate response from you is best. Don’t have employees wait until the end of the year to find out all the good stuff they’ve done, because chances are either they’ll have forgotten or you will (not exactly ideal for keeping people motivated!)
●Keep your positive feedback sincere and specific. You don’t have to go on and on - but make sure they know what you liked about their work.
Managing is certainly an ever-evolving art seeing as how everyone is different and no two people will respond exactly the same way. But minimizing stress and maximizing positivity is a great place to start. What tips do you have for making the workplace more pleasant?
Last week our Monday Link-ups blog post featured our top 5 favorite project management apps. This week, we're taking it to part 2 where we'll feature 6 more apps that can save you minutes in any given project, regardless of industry. Check out this list and see just how much time it can save you.
- Freshdesk: depending on how long your support teams ticket queue is, simply responding to customer support emails can take up a lot of an employees time. Malleable to different types of personalities and workflows, this tool not only helps out the support desk but also the manager overseeing it with a simple UI. You can prioritize, assign and label the status of a ticket with just a click.
- Unroll.me: May actually be the best thing since sliced bread, Unroll captures all of your most-frequently-mailed marketing emails and compiles it all into one sheet where you can unsubscribe all at once. It's a dream for those who have accidentally clicked one too many times on the accidental "subscribe me" button.
- Concentrate: a popular app that's stellar if you're not the greatest at multitasking (myself included) and need a little extra help shifting from say, a left-brained task to a right-brained one.
- SelfControl: one of those apps that's quickly cropping up on the market as something of a lifesaver, it actively blocks incoming/outgoing email for a set amount of time so you can get prioritized and focus on the task at hand.
- Localist: this app centralizes your event planning and poses a 70 percent increase in attendance.
- Anti-Social: one of our personal favorites, this one blocks the ever-so-distracting social media sites from your radar for a set period of time so that you can put more focus into your project and less into Twitter.
Still want a little more? The following are some must-follow blogs on time management. Have more that weren't on this list? Leave a comment in the section below!