When Life Happens, Ask for Help

As much as we may strive to be, we aren’t perfect. There are days, weeks, and sometimes months, when our best isn’t quite enough. You may have a sick kid, be taking care of an elderly family member, or be dealing with physical or mental illness yourself. Whatever it is, the challenges of life are unavoidable, and sometimes they start to affect our performance at work.

It happens to the best of us. But it can easily feel like you’re the only one having a rough time. Think about a life challenge you’ve struggled with. Did you feel alone? Did you compare yourself to others at work and feel isolated? It’s incredibly common for humans to feel this way. Chances are, you’ve experienced it yourself.

While it may be unfortunately common for us to deal with personal issues that affect our work performance, it’s critical to remember we aren’t alone in our struggles, for more reasons than one.

Understanding you’re not alone is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and getting through whatever it is you’re dealing with. But it’s also essential to recognize how it influences the way that you act at work and the impact you have on your peers.

Unwrapping yourself

It’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up with your struggles and to feel like you deserve a break at work because of it. While this may indeed be true, it’s critical to approach any change of responsibilities in a way that takes into account the people who rely on you to do that work.

Ignoring the work until someone asks about it isn’t a solution. Think about the last time someone failed to follow through on work you were relying on them to do. How did they break it to you that they hadn’t completed the work? It can be frustrating, stressful, and create resentment between colleagues when a peer fails to hold up their end of the load.

Dropping the ball every once in a while isn’t so bad. But when someone has extended time dealing with personal problems, they are likely to drop the ball more than once. This can put intense pressure on their teammates and start to damage morale.

Feeling like you’re alone in your struggles may seem real at the time, but it isn’t ever true. Every one of us faces challenges every day we have to navigate around, often with only partial success. So telling yourself it’s ok to drop the ball at work because you’re going through a difficult time isn’t just bad for your standing among your peers, it’s also misguided and damaging to the community you’re a part of.

You may need some extra space and support to help you get through a challenging period of time. But it’s critical you gain the courage and insight to recognize when this is the case and to do something about it before you fall behind.

Reach out

Get in touch with your manager or your team members. Let them know what you need. It’s scary to ask for help. You may be afraid you’ll look weak, or your manager will retaliate. But a strong leadership team will recognize it’s much more cost-effective to help existing employees through rough times than to hire anew.

Working with employees in times of need builds loyalty and trust and will help you recover and be able to return to your best all the sooner. Your colleagues will thank you for preventing things from falling behind and making an effort to find solutions that support the team and the work.

It takes strength and insight to ask for help, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll ensure your peers aren’t left to deal with a mess and that you don’t get lost under a pile of projects you can’t complete. Above all, it shows you have the integrity to be honest and to take the necessary steps to care for yourself and your team.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by New Africa

Productivity: What’s Mine is Yours

Every day, the average American is interrupted 50-60 times, adding up to approximately three hours of wasted time. Every day. That leaves five hours a day a person gets to concentrate at work.  

Now add in the time it takes to prepare for and participate in meetings, take breaks, and eat lunch, and you’re left with a relatively small window of time for uninterrupted productivity.

This is not merely an issue of meeting the bottom line. Being able to work productively and actually accomplish projects and tasks is a significant part of avoiding workplace burnout. When people are flustered, trying to accomplish too many things at once, and having difficulty prioritizing and managing tasks, they’re going to work themselves to exhaustion. 

Remember that kid in school who would arrive with a backpack full of loose papers and assignments, much to the frustration of their teachers? They’d miss homework deadlines and could never seem to find anything. When your schedule is unstructured and disorganized like that kid’s backpack, you’re going to feel completely overwhelmed by the smallest tasks. You’re less likely to enjoy your work, and more likely to build up accumulated stress. No one wants to be that kid.

Learning to take accountability for your time is essential for managing stress, staying on top of deadlines, and growing in your role. Whether it’s you who needs some ideas to become more structured, or people on your team, here are a few great tips to help you along the way. 

Block it out

As small as it sounds, setting time aside on your calendar for specific projects or tasks is a great tactic to stay focused. 

  • It forces you to intentionally think about your priorities and time in advance.
  • If you share your calendar, others can see you are busy and avoid communicating with you during this time.
  • It helps you stay accountable to your commitments and priorities and pinpoint potential disrupters that get in your way.
  • It can offer insight into how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks, which will help inform future planning.

Answer your own questions 

How often do you ask others for help? When you come across a problem, what is your first instinct? If you’re in the habit of first asking for help, think about how you might become more self-sufficient. When you stop what you’re doing to ask a coworker, you’re not just halting your own creative flow; you’re asking someone else to do the same, so be sure your questions are targeted and necessary.

Take consistent breaks

There are many schools of thought around the best way to break up your day, but it’s safe to say no one can focus for eight hours straight. Learn to identify when your mind begins to wander, or when you reach for your phone. Watch the clock and see how long you go between these moments. Schedule breaks that correlate with when you naturally begin to lose focus.

Learn to listen to your inner clock and adjust your day around it. By personalizing your schedule, you can set more accurate expectations, reduce stress, and develop greater confidence. Everyone is different. Some people need music to concentrate, and some people like noise or absolute silence. Your attention span is the same.

Keep meetings on task 

Whether you’re running or participating in a meeting, make sure you’ve clarified the agenda and stick to it. If you have something you need to talk about, but it isn’t on the agenda, hold it for another meeting or manage it outside of the meeting through other appropriate discussion or project-tracking channels. The more efficient and precise you can keep your sessions, the more productive they will be. And the happier the participants will be. It’s a win-win.

Cleanliness is focusedness 

The average person who works at a messy, disorganized desk wastes an average of one and a half hours every day attempting to locate things or being distracted by what’s in front of them. Take the time to clean your area. It will help you focus on what needs to be in front of you, allowing you to prioritize the focus of your attention.

It’s a group effort

Remember, not every day is the same. Be kind to yourself. Take each day as an opportunity to learn and improve. Regardless of your role as a leader or a team member, the way you manage time will create a ripple effect among those you whom you work.  

Either by setting an example or creating some simple boundaries around your availability, you empower others to do the same. When you take the time to develop a schedule that enables you to be at your most productive, you bring your team one step closer to that goal.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Theeraphong Khamsawat

Want to Save Money on Healthcare? Five Things Not to Do.

No matter which team you cheer for, what your political party is, or whether or not you think pineapple is an appropriate pizza topping, there is still one thing we can all agree on: Healthcare costs are ridiculous.

There are lots of reasons this is the case, many of which we have no control over. As individuals, we can’t change the structure of our hospitals, the way our prescription drugs are priced, or the fee-for-service model our doctors operate under. We can’t reduce administration costs, and we can’t change the fact we love our expensive screenings and diagnostics.

The good news is that there are some things we can do to keep our individual and family healthcare costs down. They may not be big, exciting, life-altering changes, but in our own little ways, we can take steps to reduce health expenses and improve health results.

And yet so often we don’t actually do them.

Instead, we fall into patterns and habits that make our ridiculous healthcare expenses even more ridiculous.

Here’s how to be your own worst healthcare enemy:

1. Consult with Dr. Google

Have a symptom? Or two? Or seven? Just Google it! Chances are you’ll come up with sixteen different conditions, at least three of which are fatal. In no time, you’ll be at your primary care doctor, begging for referrals and testing. And because your physician knows the stress of self-diagnosis can be dangerous, she will go ahead and order those tests.

Dangers: Your blood pressure and anxiety will rise. You will think you’re dying. Fearing for your life, you may try to reunite with your long-lost neighbor or cousins.

Cost savings: How much is a CT scan? An MRI? An EKG? We’ll never know. Until the bill comes, that is.

2. Avoid establishing a primary care physician

Why would you call a doctor when you’re not even sick? So dumb, right? I mean, why spend precious minutes getting set up with a physician who can actually help you when something does go wrong? This would take away all the fun of frantically trying to get an appointment with random doctors all over town while you have a 103-degree fever. Seeing the same doctor regularly allows them to become familiar with you and your medical history instead of always starting fresh. So boring!

Dangers: You may not be able to get care when you need it. If you do get seen, your diagnosis could be less accurate. You may avoid going to the doctor entirely— or head to the ER instead. You might let your drunk uncle diagnose you with Small Pox on Thanksgiving.

Cost savings: Did you see that part about going to the ER? Have you ever been to the ER? Have you ever gotten an ER bill? What about a misdiagnosis? Treating someone for the wrong thing isn’t cost effective. Neither is avoiding the doctor until a small problem becomes a big one.   

3. Don’t get a second opinion

Did a doctor say you need an expensive test, medication, or procedure? Did you simply take their word for it? Even though you had a nagging feeling it wasn’t necessary or appropriate? If you’re feeling unsure, it’s okay to get a second opinion. Yes, it means an additional office visit, which will cost you in the short run. But if it helps you better evaluate your diagnosis and treatment options, it can also do wonders for your wallet— and your peace of mind.

Dangers: You may get treatments you don’t need. You could forget how to ask questions and/or advocate for yourself. Your doctor will start seeing dollar signs when you walk in the door. You could become a medical zombie.

Cost savings: The right diagnosis and treatment is important for your health— and your bank account. High expense does not equal high value. And here’s a not so fun fact: Some medical providers may have referral relationships with other providers, which means they could be benefitting from suggesting procedures, treatments, equipment, and drugs you don’t need.

4. Ignore telemedicine

Easy, quick, and inexpensive medical consults from the comfort of your couch? That’s the stuff of fairy tales! You should definitely be suspicious of this new technology. Plus, who would want to give up those time-and-money-sucking trips to the urgent care clinic? If it doesn’t take three hours and include a co-pay, it must not be real medicine.

Dangers: Wasting time and money on germ-spreading trips to the doctor. Having to drag your sick, cranky toddler to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy.

Cost Savings: Spend less money on gas, parking, and co-pays. Eliminate mandatory bribes for sick, cranky toddlers.

5. Stick with your unhealthy habits

  • Are you still smoking cigarettes and paying for that gym membership you never use?
  • Do you think Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are a major food group?
  • Are you into street racing and base jumping?
  • Did you give up sunscreen back in ’96?
  • Do you hate seatbelts, helmets, and anything else that might keep you safe and healthy?

Yes, life is short. And you should enjoy it. But you probably aren’t going to enjoy the medical bills that accompany these unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Dangers: Chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and COPD. High risk factors for cancer and other diseases. Perpetual orange fingertips from those dang hot Cheetos.

Cost Savings: Do you know how much those cigarettes cost? Fewer speeding tickets, car repairs, and expensive emergency surgeries. Oh, and you might fit into your old jeans again.

Do yourself a favor

The healthier you are, the easier it is to prevent expensive treatments and avoid getting constantly dragged back into the healthcare system.

A few small choices can make a big difference. Ditching bad habits can save you money— and maybe even your life.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by studiostoks

 

How to Tackle Your LinkedIn Summary

Not many people enjoy writing summaries. Or bragging about themselves online.

It’s no surprise that the idea of creating a LinkedIn summary is terrifying to a lot of people, but if you want to establish a professional online presence, that’s a fear you’re going to have to face. And we’re here to help.

What is it?

Your LinkedIn summary is a short description of who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

When properly written, it provides valuable insight into your motivation, your area of expertise, and what it’s like to work with you. These are the kinds of things people are looking for when searching for new business connections, partners and talent.

Having no LinkedIn summary in your profile is like having toast with no jam. Crackers with no cheese. Cake with no frosting. You may have the basics covered, but you’re not giving anyone much to get excited about. And you’re seriously lacking in flavor.

What are the key ingredients?

Your inspiration. Your skills. Your experience. Your personality. And guess what? You only get 250 – 500 words to convey all of this information. It may sound impossible, but it’s really not. You just need to be concise and to the point.

If you feel those nerves kicking up, don’t worry. We’ll break these things down one by one.

Your Inspiration

What’s the best part about your job? That one thing that keeps you going, even on your worst day. For a lot of us, it’s helping people. But helping people do what?

  • Helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life
  • Helping businesses take care of their employees
  • Helping people discover their true passions

But don’t get stuck on the word helping. There are plenty of other words you can use to explain your why.

  • Delivering life-saving medicine
  • Creating beautiful spaces that bring peace
  • Empowering collaboration through fun and play

They key here is not to tell your life story. Let people know what inspires you about your work but do it in a way that is short and concise.

A third-generation physician, I grew up in hospitals and scrubs. And there’s no place I’d rather be. Being able to help a family during a medical crisis is an incredible gift, and one that I take very seriously. 

Look at that. 38 words. And you kind of want this person to be your doctor, don’t you? Now you just have to come up with one to three short sentences on what motivates you. Deep down. Where it counts.

Your Skills

We’re not talking about your entire resume here. What you want to do is pick two or three things that really define your strengths. Are you super organized? A data whiz? Do you have a way with words? People? Processes?

Choosing your skills can be difficult. Often, people think the things that are easy for them must be easy for everyone. This is not the case! If something is easy for you, it’s because you’re really good at it. Think about your personal superpowers– the things people always ask you to do. Not because they don’t want to, but because you’re just so darn good at them! Those are the kinds of things you want to include here.

An organizational fanatic, I can make your garage sale look like a meticulously stocked convenience store, your kitchen function like a five-star restaurant, or your sales department run as smoothly as a new Ferrari.

Is this a bit of an exaggeration? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it gets the point across. Want someone who is detail-oriented and loves processes? Need systems that work more efficiently? Work with this person.

Your Experience

When it comes to experience, no one is looking for a laundry list in your summary. That would not only be boring, it would be redundant. If you’ve filled out your profile correctly, your full work history will already be listed.

What you can do, however, is include some additional information about the kinds of experiences you’ve had.

My experience as a business owner, board member, and part of a fledgling start-up team has given me a wide-ranging perspective on both business and employee lifecycles. This allows me to evaluate the employment relationship from all sides and find that perfect employer-employee match. 

Rather than reiterating what you’ve done, summarize how your past work has made you better at what you do today, and well-equipped to take on more in the future. 

Your Personality

In the great scheme of things, this may seem like the least important factor on the list but remember— we’re talking about social media here. It’s all about bringing your authentic self to the party. Make sure your summary section looks, sounds, and feels like you. If it doesn’t, you’re setting everyone up for disappointment.

Think about the sample LinkedIn snippets above. Did you feel like you knew some of these people? Like you wanted to hear more? Like they might make good connections or coworkers?

This is the jam on your toast. The brie on your cracker. The raspberry buttercream frosting on your cake.

Make sure your personal flavor is shining through, and you’ll attract people who are interested in what you have to offer.

Are we there yet? (a helpful checklist)

Not sure if you’re finished? Here’s a quick checklist for you:

  • Is your summary between 250 and 500 words?
  • Does it include your personal motivation and why?
  • Did you pinpoint one or two skills that set you apart?
  • Have you demonstrated how your experience has made you better, stronger, and more capable?
  • Does your summary sound like you wrote it? Does it fit your personality? Is it consistent with your personal brand?

Great! You’re just about done!

The last step is to have at least one other person read through it and provide feedback. Not only will this save you from having typos in your LinkedIn profile (always a bad idea), it will also help you determine if you’ve let your personal strengths and personality shine through.

Happy writing!

 

Photo by inbj

Is Your Need for Speed Holding You Back?

Getting stuff done is great, right? Checking those little boxes feels super productive, and super validating. You’re happy because you’re cooking through your To Do list, and your boss will be really happy because surprise! You’re done already!

Except that you could be making more work for everybody on the team.

The myth of productivity

Many of us have been trained to think that it’s the volume and pace of our work that matters most. But in the frantic frenzy to finish first, we can miss a lot of things along the way.

I once worked with an intern who was a very stellar person. I liked her immensely. But she was super competitive and fixated on completing her work as quickly as possible. Popping her head into someone’s office to say, “I’m done! Got anything else for me?” was her favorite thing to do. Impressing people with her speed and productivity was how she demonstrated her value.

The thing is, she was so busy flying through her task list that she was skimping on processes and details. More often than not, the jobs she considered done needed to be fixed or redone. But because she would speed through those processes as well, she was often asked to do or fix things multiple times. 

At this point, staff members would often get frustrated and take their tasks back. Over time, it became apparent this was more efficient than continuing to:

  • explain the assignments over and over
  • issue warnings about the consequences of mistakes
  • coach her on how to slow down and work more deliberately

Eventually, most of us stopped giving her anything of substance because it was easier and less risky to simply keep doing those things ourselves. I discovered I could take her for coffee instead of giving her work— and still save time in the long run!

As a result, she became the queen of mundane tasks: envelope stuffing, mail runs, office storage organization. She completed these things quickly, and with a great attitude. But at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure everyone would have liked to see her to get more out of her internship experience.

Unfortunately, her focus on speed and multitasking kept her from gaining more advanced skills and experience. And it kept us from using her to her full potential. 

Slow down to improve results

Our society places a huge value on working quickly, doing multiple things at once, and being constantly accessible. But all of these things can actually cause your work to suffer.

If your team operates at a frenetic pace all the time, you could be holding your business back. People will become frustrated, mistakes will increase, and accidents will be more likely to happen. More importantly, goals that could be achieved through thoughtful intention, detailed planning, and diligent follow-through will remain unmet. And that’s no good for anybody.

So how do we retrain our brains (and our teams!) to work more carefully, thoughtfully, and efficiently?

Start single-tasking

There are lots of articles and studies about the myth of multi-tasking.

  • Research has shown that multitasking takes as much as 40 percent more time than focusing on one task at a time — more for complex tasks.
  • One study revealed that people who were considered heavy multitaskers were actually worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details.
  • Still not convinced? Try this little exercise.

Get in the habit of focusing on a single task. Schedule time on your calendar or even set a timer if you need to. Commit to working on one thing in that time period and one thing only.

Ask questions

Is your mind starting to work on an assignment even before the person explaining it to you is finished? This is your first mistake. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Make sure you fully understand the project, the process, and the purpose.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during the process. Clarity is your friend. Taking five minutes to discuss details as you go can save you tons of time in the long run. Many speedy employees have had to go back and rework things they thought were “finished” because they either jumped in too fast or didn’t slow down long enough to get the facts.

Prioritize

Yes, you have a million things to do. So does everybody else. But working in a scattershot manner won’t help you get the right things done at the right time. For that, you need a plan.

Work with your team to determine which items are the most important and the most time sensitive. Rank your daily or weekly tasks so that you know which ones to funnel your time, efforts, and energy into. Choose one thing that you will get done, no matter what. If you find yourself getting sidetracked or distracted, refocus on your priority item of the moment.

Reduce distractions

Even with the best intentions, we all get distracted. But some of us are better than others at letting those distractions in— or keeping them out. Are you constantly checking your phone, texts, and email? If so, you’re using up valuable time and brain space switching back and forth between your inputs and outputs.

Questions, phone calls, and emails take a huge toll on your focus.

  • According to one research study, it takes approximately 20 minutes to return to task after an in-person interruption, 15 minutes for a phone call interruption, and 64 seconds after an email interruption.
  • The same study found that workers were dealing with email interruptions about every five minutes.
  • This means we are wasting one out of every six minutes per day on email interruptions alone— not including phone calls and in-person questions!

Want to focus on a task? Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Turn off your email alerts. Hide your Slack. The world won’t end if you’re offline for 15 or 20 minutes. And you’re much more likely to make real progress.

Quick vs. Quality

If you’re having brain surgery, do you want it to go quickly? Or do you want it to go well?

There’s a big difference here. And I think we can all agree which one sounds more appealing. 

 

Photo by Earl Walker