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Aim For Busy, Not Rushed and More Tips for October

And this bonus season, let them eat cake!

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time managementAim for Busy, Not Rushed

How should you feel when working? Busy, but not rushed. Research undertaken by the University of Maryland found this is when people are happiest. And when you’re happiest — meaning engaged and in the flow, as opposed to giddy with joy — you invariably do your best work. So, start creating realistic schedules, stop checking your email every 15 minutes, take breaks to exercise, and stop letting other people set your deadlines (yes, you could finish the job by tomorrow, but Friday is best for everyone).

SELF IMPROVEMENTWhat Gets Measured…

There’s much to be wary of when it comes to business advice out of Silicon Valley. But the tech mecca’s obsession with measuring data can be useful in a surprising number of areas, such as getting home for dinner in time to eat with your family. “It’s great to know how to recharge your batteries, but it’s even more important that you actually do it,” venture capitalist Vinod Khosla told Fast Company. “I track how many times I get home in time to have dinner with my family. Your company measures its priorities. People also need to place metrics around their priorities.”

MANAGEMENTBonuses? Let Them Eat Cake

Bonus season is on the way. If that includes your business, something to think about: When unequal rewards are given out there will be less dissatisfaction if they aren’t actually countable, says Kellogg management professor Neal Roese. Research showed people who received less cake than their counterparts weren’t as dissatisfied as those receiving less cash, focusing more on what they received than what they didn’t, he writes in Kellogg Insight.

MARKETINGBirthday Cheers

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, won’t be sending you a Christmas card this year. He concentrates his energies on birthdays. Why? Hundreds of businesses send Christmas cards to their clients. Few send birthday cards. And, says Ferrazzi, “Everybody cares about his or her birthday!” If you’ve got a limited marketing budget, consider skipping Christmas this year. Instead, try hand-writing birthday cards to your favorite customers … and including a cash-off coupon. Or call them. Or leave them a voicemail. Your customers will be gratified you remembered the day of the year that’s truly theirs.

SELF IMPROVEMENT Rekindle the Joy

Do one thing every day that you loved as a kid. “This is usually the fuel that can power your life,” writes entrepreneur and business author James Altucher on his blog.

ADVERTISINGCall Other Advertisers

If you’re an infrequent advertiser and are now planning your holiday ad buy, IdeaSiteForBusiness.com’s Mary Gillen suggests doing a little research first. If you’re considering a regional or local newspaper, look at the other ads in the section where you may be placing your ads. Call the companies who are already advertising there to find out how their ads are performing.

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Tip Sheet

All Sorts of Goal Setting and Productivity Hacks and More Tips for January

Including creating a personal shrine, accepting you can’t do it all and fighting bad habits.

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ROUTINEThe Golden 90 Minutes

How you start the day has an enormous effect on productivity. To get things done in the morning, “Four Hour” productivity guru Tim Ferriss suggests having the first 90 minutes of your workday vary as little as possible. “I think that a routine is necessary to feel in control and non-reactive, which … makes you more productive.”

GOAL SETTINGKeep It to Yourself

You’ve probably heard that you should tell a friend your goals for the year, because such a declaration will motivate to achieve them. But according to Psychological Science you need to make make an exception with “identity goals” because they are less likely to be achieved if made public. Tell everyone you’re committed to being a better boss, a caring doctor or a more active citizen, and you may slack off — most likely because your brain confuses telling people with taking real action, the report says.

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MOTIVATIONTime to Shrine

Need a New Year pick-me-up? Jim Krause, author of Creative Sparks, suggests creating a small “personal shrine” in your office space. Include things that are important to you — a thank-you letter from a patient, mabye—and use it to get yourself in the zone for wow-ing your patients and customers.

PRODUCTIVITYAction = Results

Want a way for your customers to leave your business feeling they’ve done some good? Urban Tails Pet Supply in Minneapolis, MN, offers a register round-up. “Customers can round up to the nearest dollar, with the difference going to a (local rescue),” manager Megan Trombley told INVISION’s sister magazine PETS+.

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PSYCHOLOGYStop Saying Should

I should really work out tonight, I should talk to more strangers at trade shows, I should fill out Brain Squad surveys. The word implies reluctance and guilt. Start saying “want” instead of “should,” recommends Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor at the University of California, Riverside and the author of The How of Happiness. The positive language will help you clarify and prioritize what you really want to be doing at the moment — and it can help you see healthy business behaviors you’re not psyched about (hey, those surveys really aren’t so bad) in a motivating way.

SELF-IMPROVEMENTFight Bad Habits

When it’s too difficult to deny yourself that cigarette, donut, or new coat, tell yourself to wait just 10 minutes before you give in. This “mini” delay in gratification will build self-control over time, says Kelly McGonigal in her book The Willpower Instinct. “Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but with practice, 10 minutes can turn into 20, 30, or 60 minutes, and soon you might be able to put off gratification for as long as you want. According to McGonigal, with this strategy the brain treats this like a “future reward” and takes away the overwhelming need for immediate gratification.

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Lifting Your Business Out of Mediocrity and More Questions for January

And how to share chores among staff to make sure they get done.

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I have two good candidates for the position of office manager, but I can’t decide between them. Can you suggest a tie-breaker?

Toss a coin and let fate be your arbiter. If they’re both equally appealing candidates and you can’t reduce the uncertainty by doing further research or interviews or trial runs, then your decision doesn’t much matter. That likely sounds like rash advice, but this paralysis you’re experiencing has a name: Fredkin’s Paradox. The computer scientist Edward Fredkin summed it up as, “The more equally attractive two alternatives seem, the harder it can be to choose between them — no matter that, to the same degree, the choice can only matter less.” To be sure, it will probably turn out to have mattered in hindsight, but by then it’ll be too late. Given that you’re unable to know how things will turn out, overthinking this one — or any similar tough choice — is futile.

How do you share the chores among staff fairly and in a way that is easy to enforce?

Store consultant David Geller feels he knows well the issues you’re facing. “Typically, we as store owners, when something isn’t done, pick our favorite person who is always willing to help to do what others should have done,” he says. “It’s not fair.” To create a system that IS fair, he suggests breaking your staff into groups and rotating the responsibilities. “Put some easy chores with some bad ones like vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom,” he says. The people whose names are under the different groups of chores (see table) do them for only one week, and then they move onto the next group of tasks. This shares around the bad and light chores and also makes it easy for the store owner to raise the issue when a job needs doing. “After doing this, I no longer need to complain to a person, I complain to a group,” Geller says.

Tell me, how do I lift my store out of the rut of mediocrity?

It’s said the toughest test of a manager is how they address lackluster performance. The reason is because it’s not so much about issuing dictates and drawing up policy as it is about fostering a culture that accepts nothing but excellence. Indeed, according to work by Brigham Young business school on high-performing teams, peers manage the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to maintaining standards. Counterintuitively, it is in mediocre teams that bosses must enforce standards and are the source of accountability. But how to get to that almost mythical land of self-enforced high standards? Joseph Grenny, a social scientist and author of Crucial Accountability, gives four leadership practices that can help: Start by showing the consequences of mediocrity, to connect people with the experiences, feelings, and impact of bad performance. Set clear goals and explain why they are important. “Use concrete measures to make poor performance painfully apparent,” says Grenny. Establish peer accountability so that people feel comfortable challenging one another when they see mediocrity. And be quick to defend the high standards. A chronic poor performer is an impediment to your goals. How you handle this situation will let your team know whether your highest value is keeping the peace or pursuing performance. “When you ask a group to step up to high performance, you are inviting them to a place of stress — one where they must stretch…where interpersonal conflicts must be addressed,” says Grenny. “If you shrink from or delay in addressing this issue … you send a message to everyone else about your values.”

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Promoting Healthy Competition and More Questions for Year’s End

Also, proper staff gift-giving etiquette and getting the most out of staff trainers.

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How do I tease out a prospective hire’s innate strengths and weaknesses during an interview?

Marcus Buckingham, a leader of the strengths-based school of business management, suggests asking this question (and revisiting it periodically if you do hire the person): What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months? “Find out what the person was doing and why he or she enjoyed it so much,” he says, adding it’s key to keep in mind that a strength is not merely something someone is good at. “It might be something they aren’t good at yet. It might be just a predilection, something they find so intrinsically satisfying that they look forward to doing it again and again and getting better at it over time.” The theory is that the best businesses are those that fully leverage the strengths (unbridled upside) of their employees as opposed to trying to fix up their weaknesses (never more than incremental gains).

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?
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Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?
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Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
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Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

How can I promote competition among staff without it turning my store into the setting of Lord Of The Flies?

The key to fostering healthy competition, according to new research done by a team at Harvard Business School, lies in how you communicate the competition. When employees feel excited, they’re more likely to come up with creative solutions and new ways to better serve customers. When they feel anxious or worried they might lose their job or be publicly humiliated, they’re more likely to cut corners or sabotage one another. Leaders can generate excitement by highlighting the potential positive outcomes of competition (such as the recognition and rewards that await outstanding performers) rather than creating anxiety by singling out low performers (think of the steak knives scene in Glengarry Glen Ross).

What is proper etiquette for gift-giving in the workplace?

Your watchwords should be considerate, fair, and inclusive. Aim for gifts that can be shared and enjoyed by everyone such as food. (If people have diet restrictions, they can simply pass on the offering without making a big fuss.) If you do decide to give gifts to every staff member, steer clear of knick-knacks. Most people can barely see their desks as it is. The last thing they need is another coffee mug or pen-and-pencil set. Keep it clean. Do not consider gag gifts that rely on sexual innuendo or ethnic stereotypes to be funny. Do not give anything that could remotely be considered intimate. And be generous down the chain. Give your assistant or intern at least as nice a gift as the one you give your manager.

I’d like to hire a trainer for my staff, but I’m worried about the return on investment?

Our reason for existing at INVISION is to make ECPs better ECPs, and we believe professional trainers can help you enormously. To get your money’s worth, focus on two things: 1.) Hard skills. Overinvest in training that helps to increase ability versus motivation. Yes, it’s nice to have your staff leave a training session all fired up, but for lasting results that will give you that return on your investment, focus on small but vital aspects of your staff’s sales skills. It could be when to pause in a presentation or how many features to stress. Break tasks into discrete actions, practice within a low-risk environment and build in recovery strategies. 2.) This is just as important. Follow up. Bring in a trainer, but only if you yourself are willing to buy into their lessons and do ongoing training and reviews.

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