Four Things to Do Before You Write That Retort

We’ve all been there. A coworker, a client, a manager, an employee, a parent, a friend, a colleague has done something that really ticked you off. They forgot an important deadline, messed with your project, or ignored your request.

And now you’ve got a huge email written out that might contain some words in all caps, a few exclamation points, and maybe a couple ultimatums. Or maybe, if you’re a little quieter, you left out your usual happy exclamation points, word softeners, and cheery salutations. Your finger is hovering over send, but before you jump down the rabbit hole, there are a few things you should do first.

1. Take a breath

It may be obvious, but that doesn’t make it easy. When we’re angry, it’s easy to react in one of two ways: passive aggression and open aggression. Passive aggression usually comes from those who don’t like or fear confrontation. We’re all familiar with the one-word response to a long email: the dreaded “Ok” devoid of punctuation and supporting language.

Open aggression is a result of anger unleashed without restraint in an attempt to hurt or halt someone else. Open aggression often comes in the form of sarcasm, blaming, shouting, or name-calling.

While they may be satisfying in the moment, neither of those responses will help you in the long run. What you want to be aiming for is assertion, not aggression. A message that is clear, thought out, direct, measured, and open-minded.

2. Decide on a goal

If you want your response to make a difference, then you need to clarify what you’re hoping to get out of it. Do you want the person to change their behavior, or just understand and appreciate why you’re frustrated? Do you want to change how things are going forward? Do you want an apology or an explanation?

Define your goal and then integrate that intention into your response. This will help you identify what you want and guide you in finding a solution. It will also create an opportunity for closure. Once your defined need/goal is met or addressed, you’ll have an easier time moving on. No one likes to hold grudges. Or at least they shouldn’t.

 3. Look at the bigger picture

Sometimes widening your perspective can be the best thing for a relationship. Take the time to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there something going on with them in their personal life that might be affecting their behavior at work?
  • How might they see this conflict? What has your role been in their eyes?
  • How do they seem to prefer to communicate?

Maybe they have a personal issue stopping them from following through or communicating effectively. Maybe they are dealing with other problems at work that are drawing their attention and energy. Maybe they don’t feel understood by you or feel you’re not holding up your end of the bargain.

Remember, everyone brings their whole lives to each conversation, fight, and relationship. More often than not, people react to you based on their perceptions and internal stories rather than your actions. So trying to understand the other person’s actions from their point of view can be invaluable in helping you see the situation more clearly and find a solution. It may also highlight areas where you had misconceptions about them and their situation.

Finally, if you’re able to meet the other person where they are most comfortable communicating, you’ll be more likely to make headway. Maybe this isn’t a conversation for email. It might be more effective to have it in person, or over the phone, or with a moderator.

4. Come up with actionable follow-ups

To prevent this sort of thing from happening again, it can be useful to come up with a few clear steps you can take to avoid future conflicts.

  • Once you’ve settled your disagreement, set up a follow-up meeting in a couple of days to talk about how things are going. Meeting after you’ve both had a chance to process feelings may allow you to come together with less volatility to talk about what worked/didn’t work and what changes you can make for future interactions.
  • Define how you could have improved your end of the conflict. What can you do better next time? What did you learn from this?

Go forward, but with caution

You may be angry and rightly so. But if you let your anger speak for you, you’ll end up regretting it. Stop. Breathe. Reflect. Do yourself a favor and step back before responding.

You’ll thank yourself in the long run. Especially as we are all navigating the difficulties of self-isolation, working from home, and communicating remotely, it’s more important than ever to deal with conflict productively and thoughtfully. Just make sure that you do respond eventually. Hanging on to anger builds grudges, communication gaps, and lowers morale for everyone. Be proactive. Be patient. Be kind. You’ve got this.

 

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Photo by SHOTPRIME STUDIO

When in Doubt, Organize

When things are chaotic, whether at home, or work, or throughout the world, it’s easy to feel like letting things slide. And honestly, sometimes that’s totally fine. When we’re in a position where we have to handle a lot at once (even if it’s just a busy morning of meetings), we have to decide what’s critical and what can be put aside for another time. Sometimes there’s no way around it.  

You simply can’t do everything all of the time. Though unfortunately, it’s human nature for us to try anyway. And what happens when we try to accomplish everything at once while we’re also navigating a challenging time? 

  • Regular, simple tasks start to feel un-doable 
  • We become more and more frazzled and stressed 
  • We start to beat ourselves up for not functioning like normal 
  • Our quality of work drops 
  • Our exhaustion rises 
  • We can’t keep track of things 
  • Our team at work (or home) begin to feel the effects of our state 
  • No one is happy 

While it’s true there will always be times when you have to put aside certain things to continue to function well, there is one thing that isn’t dispensable: organization.  

It’s a lifesaver 

Cities that are built by flood zones have canals constructed into them to drain the excess water away from the population. When life is chaotic, doing what you can to get yourself organized will work like those canalshelping remove the chaos from your life. While a flood can still damage a city even with canals, the damage would be exponentially worse if the water had nowhere to go. It’s the same with chaos.  

If you are in a position where you have to prioritize your duties and put certain things aside, you’ve got to get yourself organized enough to see everything clearly. This is true on the individual level up through an entire organization.  

Think about how your company, or your boss, or just you, handled the chaos of adjusting to stay at home orders and changing customer priorities. Was it handled smoothly? Are you still struggling to communicate with your team or your clients? Are there entire parts of your company you’ve put on hold (your marketing, for instance?). Do you have a constant feeling that you’re forgetting something?  

Don’t cut corners 

In a turbulent time, often our first instinct is to attack whatever is right in front of us. But without first sitting down and evaluating all the components, our efforts are more likely to be ineffective, inefficient, and draining.  

If you want clean results, then start with a clean slate.  

  • Evaluate all of your duties  
  • Take stock of the immediate damage, challenge, or roadblocks 
  • Look ahead to what might be affected later down the road 
  • Break it down into tiers of importance 
  • Clarify goals and their corresponding tasks  

It’s up to you 

No one can organize your life for you. It takes consistent effort for organizations and individuals alike. It’s incredible how much a little organization can change your ability to navigate chaos and challenges. The simple act of writing out a to-do list and getting your tasks organized each morning can make or break the productivity (and experience) of your day. The same goes for getting your team and your organization on the same page with clarified goals, responsibilities, and tasks.  

If you’re struggling to get things done, feeling the pressure of a hectic and demanding schedule, and frustrated by a lack of productivity, ask yourself if you’ve spent the time to get organized. If you haven’t, then it’s your responsibility to do so. Whether or not you’re struggling to deal with the chaos of the pandemic, or just the usual chaos of your life, getting organized may be the greatest gift you can give yourself. Either way, it’s up to you.  

 

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Photo by New Africa

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.

 

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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.

 

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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