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There’s no weakness in forgiveness.

Enter [what’s been on my mind]

Forgiveness is not a natural human response. At times, it’s even easier to forgive people for being wrong rather than being right. In a competitive environment like a workplace, forgiveness can seem more like a sign of weakness rather than a helpful step towards resolution. With so many reasons of why it’s hard to forgive, are there any arguments that can be made for forgiveness?

Blink [see a new perspective]

Studies completed by the scientific community (such as the Mayo Clinic) illustrate the positive effects of forgiveness. They have found that resentment impairs your thinking and negatively affects your health (i.e. high stress and blood pressure). Therefore, freeing yourself of resentment by practicing forgiveness can actually benefit your health. It also creates a more effective work environment where communication flows more clearly (and without the passive aggressive undertone).

Shift [try it out]

Keep in mind that forgiveness is a choice. No matter how you feel about the situation, you can always choose to move through it and take steps towards forgiveness and reconciliation. A book that I’m currently reading explains this process perfectly:

“You must forgive in order to understand. Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding…If you forgive you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand, and that is the posture of grace” Home, by Marilynne Robinson.

This week, do a self-check and ask “Who am I resentful towards?” If a person comes to mind, remind yourself about the benefits of forgiveness, stop defining the situation based on emotion and hurt, and take the steps to forgive.

Listen [hear from our community]

Forgiveness is the choice to not hold the wrong-doer accountable anymore. Holding a grudge only hurts the grudge-holder, but forgiveness frees you up to have more and better opportunities. Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean reconciliation or closeness, although it can in the best case scenarios. Forgiveness means that you give up your right to be angry, bitter or vengeful toward the wrong-doer. The result is peace and personal power.

  1. Identify the wrong that’s been done.
  2. Identify what justice would look like.
  3. Choose to forgive and let go of your right to get even.
  4. Be released of the power that person’s wrong-doing has had over you.
  5. Verbalize well-wishes for the person.

– Michelle Holloman, Eastside Counseling and Coaching

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Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration

Most entrepreneurs and founders know – and strive – for work-life balance; that middle ground between keeping productivity up at the office and maintaining a healthy environment at home. But this idea implies that work is separate from life, and that a unique portion of time is devoted to each.

But what if you could integrate life into work, and vice versa? This trend of work-life integration, instead of work-life balance, is becoming more idealistic as entrepreneurs and founders are becoming not only more of the norm, but starting to face the realities of growing companies – and growing families.

The New York Times recently published an article explaining this new trend of work-life integration, especially as Silicon Valley businesses begin to offer perks that extend beyond the workplace and into the homes of the employees. Perks given by companies like Evernote, Facebook, and the Stanford School of Medicine aimed to reduce employees’ overall stress at both work and home, so that employees can worry less about the little things and enjoy both work and life more, without necessarily thinking abou them as separate entities. Evernote, for example, offers free housecleaning – which we all know can be quite a chore – twice per month.

The idea of work-life integration also addresses some of the problems with work-life balance, such as the very notion it prescribes – that work and life are separate and must be balanced. In an article on Forbes Lisa Quast described a conversation between herself and a group of MBA student mentees about the concept of achieving a work-life balance. She asked the group what work-life balance looked like, and where the idea came about that it’s so vital. She wrote, “The answers surprised the women because, unanimously, they each believed they needed better work-life balance because someone else had told them they needed it.”

For many people, including Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer, the idea that someone could achieve a healthy work-life balance when having a baby seemed too hard to believe. How could someone run a major corporation when they’re dealing with a newborn at home? One of the worst-kept secrets among executives is that the line between work and home is often blurred thanks to a significant amount of help, which gives them the ability to schedule around these two components in a way that allows them to maintain control and make the most of their time.

As a full-time consultant, part-time writer, and full-time daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to many other like-minded entrepreneurial-minded types, work is life is work. There is no beginning or end to “what I do”, but also no beginning or end to time with friends or family. Ideas ebb and flow, creativity sometimes kicks in over morning coffee or evening cocktails. Consulting sessions happen between a morning run and lunch with a colleague I haven’t seen in a year. Or sometimes that lunch is with a friend in the industry and we end up discussing fall fashion trends, inspiring one of us to make the next move on a side-project.

At the end of the day, I have surrounded myself with both work and people that I not only love, but inspire me. This idea of work-life integration  may not make sense to those who find themselves running for the door at 5pm. But to many other entrepreneurs, founders, and those working with them – this may just make more sense, too.

What do you think – do you strive for work-life balance, or work-life integration? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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5 Reasons Email Is Evil And Kills Productivity

tools, social media, productivity, emailThey say Monday is the day you catch up on all those things from the weekend and that Tuesday is the day you really start working. Well, email may just have something to do with how unproductive Mondays can be.

Across a variety of studies, email is shown to reduce your ability to focus on important tasks for the period of time it takes to complete them. In one study, researchers showed that it took 64 seconds for people to recover a train of thought after checking a single email! With a 100 to 200 or more emails a day, that’s a lot of time and a related study says that checking email throughout the day makes it extremely difficult to “achieve the psychological flow” necessary to work on complex tasks.

Take a look at some of these other email statistics and see if email is killing you. (Thanks to PsyBlog, BNET, and others for this information):

  1. 59% check email from the bathroom
  2. You check your email more often than you think, on average, every five minutes
  3. 23% of the working day is spent on email
  4. People feel less cooperative via email
  5. 50% lie over email

The crazy thing is, as recent as these studies are; they were done before everyone got Blackberrys, iPhones, and Droids which almost undoubtedly makes these numbers even worse. Does this scare you? Check out these 7 easy tips for crushing email where it stands.

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Set Your Priorities Before You Start Your Business

Business PrioritiesSo many entrepreneurs have it together. They own successful businesses but still spend time doing the things that they love; spending time with their family, working on their hobbies, or playing their favorite sport. Every once in a while I meet business owners whose families have fallen apart, they work really long hours and generally just forget about their priorities. While this can work for a certain time period, it’s really not something that any business owner should keep up. Eventually, whether its 6 months or two years, they will get burnt out.When you are thinking about starting your own business, begin thinking right away about your schedule and what you will be spending time on. If you started your business before you were sure of your priorities, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start now. Take some time to consider what’s really important to you and make a numbered list with your most important priority at the top. Then, take a look at your calendar and plan out chunks of time during the week where you can spend time working on your priorities.

Mapping out your activities is the best way to ensure that you won’t burn out too quickly. Also, the people in your life will be happy to see what you are still planning on spending time with them. More than likely, they will be even bigger supporters of your business knowing that you have a plan in place to keep your priorities where they should be.

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Vacation 101 for Small Business Employees

Summer is in full swing and everyone in the office wants to take a vacation, but there is a catch. When small businesses lose just one employee to vacation it means they have lost 15-20% of their staff.  This can be brutal for a small business, but with a bit of preparation you can rest assured knowing your coworkers and clients are taken care of.

1.   Decide if you will be “available” during your vacation
Let’s be honest, you’re either completely on vacation or you’re not.  There is no in between.  If you plan on working from the white, sandy beaches make sure you pack the necessities (laptop, Internet card, etc.).  If not, take the time to plan ahead before you leave town.

2.   Tie up loose ends
Have a deal you’re trying to close? How about that deadline the day you get back into town?  While it may be impossible to tie up all of the loose ends, try to get all of your projects to a point where you can let them be for a few days, even if that means working late.  If you know your vacation may impact specific clients, give them a heads up you will be gone and be sure to include an alternate contact.

3.   Create a cheat sheet for coworkers
This single document has the potential to make or break your vacation.  Depending on your position, you might consider including the following:
·         Detailed instructions for tasks that must be completed
·         List of potential questions that might arise
·         Your emergency contact information
When you’re finished, send it via email to your coworkers.  As they complete your tasks or help with projects have them send you the updates in one mass email at the end of your vacation.  The email updates will act as your own personal newsletter when you get back into the office all of the information in one place.

4.   Set your “out of office” email (don’t worry…this one is fun!)
Out of Office (OOF) replies are a necessity these days, but why not spruce your drab response up with a few OOF tips from Matt Heinz at Heinz Marketing?  I got my first OOF reply from Matt a few months ago and in addition to the standard, “I’ll be back in the office on…” Matt includes links to articles that might be of interest to his clients.

5.   Clean your workspace
Growing up, my mom always made us clean our rooms before we left on vacation so we would come back to a clean house.  The same applies to your workspace.  There is enough chaos to deal with upon your return and the last thing you want to face is a messy workspace.  You might even consider dusting your keyboard with that fancy compressed air?

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How to be Lazy, Productive and Successful

This is a guest post from one of our thinkspace members, Matt Heinz president and founder of Heinz Marketing.

Some of the most successful and productive people I know are lazy. They’ll tell you so.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done and the godfather of productivity. Lazy. He will tell you this at the beginning of his seminar.

Seth Godin, who writes daily blog posts and has published four hundred books and continues to launch new businesses. Lazy. He told us so in a talk a couple weeks ago.

There’s a theme and a lesson here. You can be highly productive and very successful – but also lazy. The trick, of course, is to make better use of your time. Work smarter, not harder. Here are eight ways to do that.

1. Do the opposite of what the lizard brain tells you to do
Seth’s right, we all have a lizard brain telling us what to do. It’s what makes us procrastinate, keeps us from shipping, and leads us away from taking risks or having courage to do something new. Seth told a crowd in Seattle a few weeks ago that the secret to his success has been simply to do the opposite of what his lizard brain would prefer that he do. Not bad advice.

2. Delegate & outsource
No matter your role or level or experience, you shouldn’t be doing everything that’s on your plate. There are things you should delegate to others on your team, or outsource to someone who’s better suited to do it. Some activities should be delegated because they’ll get done better by someone else. Other tasks can be done faster or cheaper elsewhere. But be crisp about what your time is best spent doing, and what would be easier/faster/better to do elsewhere (for a fraction of your time to instruct and/or manage).

3. Do less (but choose wisely)
Cut at least 33 percent of the work from your current plate. Would you really miss it? Would it really impact your performance, your company’s performance, or your customer’s overall satisfaction? I’m not talking about short-term conversations or loss. It’s critical to triage what you have on your plate against what will have long-term, lasting and scalable impact.

4. Say “no” more often (or, stop volunteering so much)
Type-A people want to lead. They want to own things. They’re more likely to say “yes” to a new project, or volunteer for something new. Dial that back a bit. The potentially awkward and uncomfortable moment in which you need to decline a new opportunity will save you hours or days of time down the road.

5. Network
The more people you know, the more likely you’ll find people you can turn to when you need help, or for something that can help both of you. It doesn’t work if you’re merely adding volume to your network and follower lists. But if you genuinely and consistently add new qualified people to your network, the chances that they’ll be able to help you sooner or later increases exponentially.

6. Listen, watch or learn more
The next time you’re in a meeting, shut up. Spend more time listening to others, asking for their feedback, watching what’s going on. In too many meetings, people compete for attention. They talk over each other. They fight to see who can say the smart thing first. It’s a losing proposition for everyone. The more you listen, the more likely someone in the meeting will stop the conversation and ask what you think. At that point, all eyes are on you. In less time, and after listening to the preceding debate, your feedback will more likely be thoughtful, better received, and could drive the output of the meeting more frequently.

7. Have other people read for you
I could spend all day reading the various sources of content (print, online, Web, email, blog, video, etc.) that I subscribe to. My favorite sources of content are those where others have already done far more reading, and have filtered the best content up to me. Read less but learn more.

8. Stop working nights & weekends
The amount of work you have will consume the time you give it. And if you cut yourself off at 6:00 p.m. on weekdays and on Friday night, it forces you to be more focused and productive during your active work hours. You know that you’re checking ESPN headlines or Facebook or other non-work stuff during the workday. What if you cut some of that out and forced yourself to focus (and focus on the shorter list of work we identified above)? You’ll get more done, in less time, and feel better about refreshing nights and weekends.

What else do you do that’s both lazy and productive? Where have you cut back to be more productive and successful?

Read more from Matt Heinz’s blog at Matt on Marketing.