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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.

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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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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Ask INVISION

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).

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

Add Fun to Your Meetings and More Tips for Year’s End

And while you’re at it build an anti-flu kit and get personal.

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Set Clear Goals

According to a study cited in Inc Magazine, 63 percent of employees reported that they wasted time at work because they weren’t aware of what work was a priority. As a leader, make sure staff knows what your key goals are heading into the holiday season: Is it to reach new customers, take really good care of your VIPs, hit aggressive new sales targets? Everyone should have no doubts.

Prep a Flu Kit

Flu activity typically starts to pick up around now. This year, be prepared with a “wellness” box in the store. A small business medicine kit might include: EmergenC, cough drops, Vitamin C drops, pain medicine, alcohol wipes, Lysol and more.

Stop at Five

In an era when we overshare information and data, here’s a bracing email policy to live by from Tim Ferriss:  Limit all email responses “regardless of recipient or subject” to five sentences or less. The rationale, he explained in his weekly bulletin: “It forces me to be concise, to choose only the essentials of what I want to say, and limits the time I spend replying to email. Keep them short, but powerful.”

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We’re All Early Birds Now

With all the emphasis in recent years on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers have learned that deals don’t get any better as the season progresses and the selection dwindles. What to do? Be ready for them now, says management consultant Kate Peterson, CEO of Performance Concepts, “with a system of refreshing best sellers and calling attention to gift items through placement and signage.”

Personalize Cards

If you’re sending holiday cards this year, do not send a greeting with nothing but your signature. Frankly, sending nothing works better, says Harry Beckwith, author of What Clients Love. Instead, write a short note — how about “Thinking about one of my favorite customers as the holidays approach …” or even “Happy, happy holidays to you…”

Fun Up Meetings

In the coming weeks, your sales meetings should be getting longer and more intense as you prepare for the holidays. Alexi Venneri, author of Balls! 6 Rules For Winning Today’s Business Game, suggests lightening the mood by having a bit of fun. For one meeting, you might ask staff members to bring in high-school yearbook photos. For another, bring in a guest speaker. Or have staff write down five or so of their favorite things … and let the others guess who created each list.

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