Just Do It: How to Work When You Really Don’t Feel Like It

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Procrastination hurts. Hitting next episode on Netflix can provide momentary relief, but it’s a fleeting high. Whether you’re avoiding a sink full of dishes, a new presentation deck, or a date with the treadmill, delay has the power to transform a simple task into a Mount Everest of a to-do list.

Research shows that in the long term, procrastination significantly decreases our health, wealth, and happiness. For example, in a survey of 10,000 people by Carleton University’s Procrastination Research Group, 94 percent of respondents said that procrastination negatively affects their happiness. A full 19 percent said the effect is extremely negative.

The flip side of procrastination is motivation. According to Psychology Today, “motivation is literally the desire to act and move toward a goal.” When you’re building a business, that desire is essential — and it can also be infuriatingly evasive.

But success doesn’t always start with extraordinary motivation. Just like a snowball gathering speed, sometimes motivation builds after we begin. I’ve experienced this phenomenon firsthand. For example, I’m not a highly motivated person. I don’t leap out of bed at 6 am, I don’t love swinging kettle bells, and I don’t read 100 books a year.

Related: 10 Tips to Help Entrepreneurs Get Motivated

Yet, I’ve slowly grown my startup, JotForm, into a company with over 4.3 million users and 130 employees. I usually manage to squeeze in a daily workout as well.

My point? Accomplishing our goals simply doesn’t require consistent motivation. We can achieve big things, even when we don’t feel like doing the day-to-day tasks.

End the destructive cycle of procrastination.
Avoidance gradually increases our anxiety, making us even more likely to procrastinate, and then the pattern escalates. To end this vicious cycle, it’s important to identify why we’re dodging a specific activity.

Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins, co-authors of “Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World to Power Success and Influence,” explain that motivational focus affects how we approach life’s challenges. “Promotion-focused people see their goals as creating a path to gain or advancement and concentrate on the rewards that will accrue when they achieve them,” Grant Halvorson and Higgins write in Harvard Business Review.

“Prevention-focused people, in contrast, see their goals as responsibilities, and they concentrate on staying safe. They worry about what might go wrong if they don’t work hard enough or aren’t careful enough.”

These two types can also affect how we procrastinate. Prevention-focused avoidance is about preventing a loss. For example, you need to hire your first employee, but you’re worried about choosing the wrong person. A mis-hire would drain time and money, so you postpone the process entirely.

Promotion-focused procrastination occurs when we see a task as a way to level up, but we still can’t summon the drive to get started. For example, you might believe that yoga would offset some entrepreneurial stress, but you reach for an espresso every morning instead of the mat.

Clearly, our emotions are tangled up in both promotion and prevention focus. On either side of the equation, the “feeling like it” part becomes a slippery slope. But as Melissa Dahl wrote in a 2016 article for The Cut: “You don’t have to feel like getting something done in order to actually get it done.”

Related: How Mark Cuban ‘Gets Shit Done’ and Stays Productive

Let that soak in for a moment. When you’d rather visit the dentist than tackle analytics or spreadsheets, cut your feelings out of the equation. Decide in advance exactly where and when you’ll dig in and then forget about emotions. Don’t think about it or weigh the pros and cons. If you planned to start at 3 pm, simply start. Commit to the schedule you created.

Harness the power of momentum.
Every morning, I spend at least an hour writing morning pages. This daily routine creates motivation for my day. I don’t summon the inspiration for this practice; I just do it, and then I start to feel excited about the projects ahead.

Once we take even the tiniest step forward, momentum will soon keep you rolling. That’s because sustained momentum toward a goal creates a compound effect — the principle that consistent, incremental effort can produce dramatic changes over time.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is one of the world’s most successful investors, and the third-wealthiest person on the globe. He also provides a prime case study in the compound effect.

Between age 32 and 44, Buffett grew his net worth by 1,267 percent. That’s a pretty impressive number, until you look at his next 12 years. From 44 to 56, he increased his net worth by a staggering 7,268 percent. He built his chain of investments, and never looked back.

Don’t break your chain.
We often hear about the “Seinfeld Strategy,” which the comedian used to hone his famous skills. Years ago, he hung a wall calendar in a prominent location and drew a big, red “X” through the day if he had written new jokes. As the X’s began to pile up, his motivation grew. “You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt,” Jerry Seinfeld told a young comedian. “Your only job is to not break the chain.”

Related: Jerry Seinfeld Grilled Mark Zuckerberg About His Morning Habits and Secretly Broken Arm

Many people now use this strategy to track everything from jogging to cooking to saving money and working on their startups. Author James Clear says the Physics of Productivity — that is, Newton’s First Law applied to habit formation — explains why this tactic is often successful. “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion,” Clear writes. “Once a task has begun, it is easier to continue moving it forward.”

Taking initial action, like starting the job description or emailing a colleague for references, makes it easier to continue that dreaded hiring process. Routines can also enhance the power of forward motion. If you want to write a blog post, choose a time each day when you’ll write just one paragraph. Maintain this routine until you’re done.

Want to accelerate your momentum? Create a ritual to pair with the routine. Do five minutes of mindful breathing. Open a “chill out” channel on Spotify and plug in your headphones. Or pour a fresh cup of coffee, then get started.

The act you choose is far less important than the ritual itself, because daily repetition “primes” your brain to tackle the task. Over time, a pleasant ritual can even create positive anticipation around the work, rather than a death spiral of procrastination.

Sparking the flames of progress.
Motivation isn’t the fire that will fuel your success. It’s not willpower or restraint, either. According to Jeff Haden, author of The Motivation Myth, motivation is a result, not an elusive state that precedes meaningful activity. Motivation is “the fire that starts burning after you manually, painfully, coax it into existence, and it feeds on the satisfaction of seeing yourself make progress,” writes Haden.

The drive to pursue a difficult, yet desirable goal often shows up after we get down to work. The first step might be small, but it’s a massive leap toward whatever you desire. So, do whatever you can to start.

Determine what compels you to hit the brakes, create firm schedules to dodge procrastination, and establish rituals that feel good. When we get out of our own way, progress is almost inevitable. A tiny spark quickly grows into a fire.

You Increase The Risk Of Depression The More You Do This One Thing At Work

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Is it just you and the office cleaners again? Amerisleep polled 1,188 workers, 90% of which have stayed late at work by at least 15 minutes, and 75% say they’ve had a job that’s asked too much of them.Working late is common and often necessary; 66% of employees polled work late “sometimes” or “often.”

People tolerate it – to an extent. Respondents consider one day a week working late and 29 minutes overtime “acceptable.”

Too much more may bum you out. The results of a study published in PLoS ONE in 2012 suggest that people who regularly work more than 11-hour days had over twice the chances of developing major depression, compared to employees who worked about eight hours a day.

A full 82% of respondents were asked, or pressured, by a manager to work late. Of those who felt “pressure,” to work late, 69% felt that their job was at risk if they didn’t do it.

Work smarter, not longer?

You may not even perform your best working late. According to a study, it’s easier to get stressed in the evening, because your body releases less cortisol – the body’s stress hormone – in the evening, as opposed to the morning.

The culture of working overtime slides into home life. Respondents said working late caused them to break promises to their spouse (56%), friend (55%), or child (48%). Because of working late:

  • 66% spent less time spent with family
  • 61% spent less time spent with spouse
  • 53% spent less leisure time at home

Researchers at Cornell University found that 10% of employees working more than 50 hours a week had serious issues at home. That percentage rose to 30% when they worked more than 60 hours.

Working late had a negative effect on the emotional well-being of 57% of workers, and the physical well-being of 54% of them.

A well-known study following over 10,000 civil servants in London found that overtime work is bad for the heart – people who worked three or more hours longer than a seven-hour day had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems such as “death due to heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks, and angina.”

Of course, you don’t even want to know what terrible overtime-related malady they have in Japan: karoshi, or death from overwork.

How To Spend The First Hour Of Your Work Day On High-Value Tasks

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Don’t begin the activities of your day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish. Don’t start your day until you have it planned. — Jim RohnEvery morning, get one most important thing done immediately.There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’re already in the flow.And the easiest way to trigger this feeling is to work on your most important task in the first hour.Use your mornings for high-value workLean to avoid the busy work that adds no real value to your work, vision or long-term goal.

Low-value activities, including responding to notifications, or reacting to emails keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done. Make time for work that matters.

In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.

Productive mornings start with early wake-up calls

“In a poll of 20 executives cited by Vanderkam, 90% said they wake up before 6 a.m. on weekdays.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, for example, wakes at 4 a.m. and is in the office no later than 7 a.m.

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger gets up at 4:30 to read, and Square CEO Jack Dorsey is up at 5:30 to jog.”

The first quiet hour of the morning can be the ideal time to focus on an important work project without being interrupted.

Don’t plan your day in the first hour of your morning

Cut the planning and start doing real work. You are most active on a Monday Morning.

Think about it. After a weekend of recovery, you have the most energy, focus and discipline to work on your priorities.

Don’t waste all that mental clarity and energy planning what to do in the next eight hours.

Do your planning the night before.

Think of Sunday as the first chance to prepare yourself for the week’s tasks.

Monday mornings will feel less dreadful and less overwhelming if you prepare the night before.

If you choose to prioritize …

There are one million things you could choose to do in your first hour awake.

If you choose to start your day with a daily check list/to-do list, make sure that next to every task you have the amount of time it will take to complete them.

The value of the of putting time to tasks is that, every time you check something off, you are able to measure how long it took you to get that task done, and how much progress you are making to better plan next time.

Get the uncomfortable out of the way

You probably know about Brian Tracy’s “eat-a-frog” – technique from his classic time-management book, Eat That Frog?

In the morning, right after getting up, you complete the most unwanted task you can think of for that day (= the frog).

Ideally you’ve defined this task in the evening of the previous day.

Completing an uncomfortable or difficult task not only moves it out of your way, but it gives you great energy because you get the feeling you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

Do you have a plan from yesterday?

Kenneth Chenault, former CEO and Chairman of American Express, once said in an interview that the last thing he does before leaving the office is to write down the top 3 things to accomplish tomorrow, then using that list to start his day the following morning.

This productivity hack works for me.

It helps me focus and work on key tasks. It also helps me disconnect at the end of the day and allow time for my brain to process and reboot.

Trust me, planning your day the night before will give you back a lot wasted hours in the morning and lower your stress levels.

Try this tonight.

If you’re happy with the results, then commit to trying it for a week.

After a week, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to add “night-before planning” to your life.

Want to get more done in less time?

You need systems not goals. I’m creating a new course, Systems For Getting Work Done to help you create a personal productivity system to get 10X more done in less time. Sign up to be notified when it launches.

This article first appeared on Medium.

To Feel Happier At Work, Share ‘The Real You’

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The study examines 65 studies focusing on what happens after people in a workplace disclose a stigmatized identity, such as sexual orientation, mental illness, physical disability, or pregnancy.

Eden King, a coauthor of the study and an associate professor of psychology at Rice University, calls the decision to express a stigmatized identity highly complicated.

“It has the potential for both positive and negative consequences,” she says.

The research overwhelmingly indicates, however, that people with non-visible stigmas (such as sexual orientation or health problems) who live openly at work are happier with their overall lives and more productive in the workplace. Self-disclosure is typically a positive experience because it allows people to improve connections, form relationships with others, and free their minds of unwanted thoughts, King says.

Workers who expressed their non-visible stigmas experienced decreased job anxiety, decreased role ambiguity, improved job satisfaction, and increased commitment to their position. Outside of work, these people reported decreased psychological stress and increased satisfaction with their lives.

But the study found that the same results did not apply to people with visible traits, such as race, gender, and physical disability.

“Identities that are immediately observable operate differently than those that are concealable,” King says. “The same kinds of difficult decisions about whether or not to disclose the identity—not to mention the questions of to whom, how, when, and where to disclose those identities—are probably less central to their psychological experiences.”

Because most people appreciate gaining new information about others, the expression of visible stigmas is likely to have less of an impact, King says.

“Also, people react negatively to those who express or call attention to stigmas that are clearly visible to others, such as race or gender, as this may be seen as a form of advocacy or heightened pride in one’s identity,” she says.

The researchers say more work will help understand the motivations for expressing different stigmas. They say they hope the meta-analysis will help workplaces and policymakers protect individuals with stigmas from discrimination.

The study appears in the Journal of Business and Psychology. Additional coauthors are from Rice University; Texas A&M University; the University of Memphis; Xavier University; Portland State University; and the University of California, Berkeley.

Source: Rice University

How To Make The 4-Day Work Week Possible, According To Someone Who’s Done It

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Andrew Barnes is a fervent advocate for the four-day work week. And we might want to listen to him, because he knows what he’s talking about.As the head of Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based company that provides estate planning, philanthropy and investment advisory, Barnes did a trial run of the shortened schedule in March and April 2018. It was so successful that he adopted the policy full-time last November.


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“We are all recognizing that how we work today is not fit for the 21st century, that the pressures of work-life balance are intense, and that the concept of how we work needs to change,” Barnes told Quartz at Work.

Most people may assume that the four-day work week is all about work-life balance and employee wellbeing, and it may well promote both. But, Barnes cautioned, that can’t be the emphasis when business owners decide to adopt the policy.

Instead, he said, the secret to successfully transitioning to a shorter work week is highlighting something else over wellbeing.

So what is it?

It turns out that, to not lose revenue and be happy with the transition, employers should focus on productivity when announcing the change to their workers.

“We sat down with each team and we said, ‘Right, let’s agree what is the base of productivity that you’re delivering now,’” Barnes told Quartz at Work. “And then the deal was, provided you delivered on the productivity goals, you would be gifted a day off a week.”

That gift could be revoked at any time if a team isn’t doing what they need to keep up their output. For some people, Quartz notes, that can mean increased stress, as “employees tend to police one another’s behavior.”

“It’s almost like a social contract with the team and the rest of the business,” Willem van der Steen, a manager at Perpetual Guardian, told Quartz. “You can’t really hide anymore.”

Productivity shines in a short work week

Still, the benefits are fairly indisputable. During Perpetual Guardian’s trial last spring, productivity went up by roughly 20%, while far more staff members felt they could “manage work and other commitments,” according to Quartz.

With the program in place for perpetuity, Barnes has set up a system where employees can opt in, but they don’t have to if it’s not their work style. Only about half of the company’s staff chose to take him up on the four-day work week, though he expects those numbers to continue to grow. Those who already went through the change have more time for family or additional training, they say.

For those in leadership positions who are interested in potentially trimming their work hours, Perpetual Guardian is releasing a paper on Feb. 19 with advice on how to move forward.

“We’re saying to companies all over the world: Just try this,” Barnes said. “What’s the worst that can happen? If you do a trial, your staff will love you for it, even if it fails.”

5 Thoughts That Are Making Your Work Day Harder Than It Needs To Be

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PHOTO: ALEXANDER MILS

Whether you work in a traditional office environment or in a more freeform professional atmosphere, the way you personally frame interactions and activities in your mind contributes enormously to your overall career satisfaction. According to Inc. journalist Jessica Stillman, 5 particular thought patterns can interrupt your progress and stifle your ability to find fulfillment in any situation, including in the workplace.

Here, you’ll find the mental scripts to avoid at work and what to do instead.


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1. “It’s about me.”

To a certain extent, we as human beings take every interaction personally. That’s natural and normal. But in the workplace, it’s important to remember that your individual thoughts and feelings aren’t always central to professional discussions. So if your colleague responds to a question more brusquely than you’d like, don’t assume that she dislikes you or that you’ve done something to upset her. She may just be stressed and overworked in ways that have little or nothing to do with you. Keeping perspective on these circumstances will go a long way toward keeping you centered and focused.

2. “This has to be perfect.”

If you constantly strive for excellence at work and feel disappointed if a project turns out less-than-perfect, you may fall victim to an “all or nothing” mentality that can ultimately undermine your professional progress. Remember that there’s no such thing as a flawless triumph, and as long as you’re investing effort and resources in your job-related tasks, you’re setting yourself and your company up for success.

3. “I’m not happy, so it’s not worth it.”

In her piece, Stillman mentions the current cultural fixation on “happiness,” “wellness,” and “joy,” positing that many Americans see these emotions as the be-all-and-end-all of satisfaction and dismiss anything that doesn’t fall into those categories. However, difficult situations and challenging scenarios come with the territory of almost any professional workplace. If you can accept those not-so-fun realities and handle them with aplomb, you’ll be well-positioned for future happiness at work.

4. “Becky is right, this all stinks.”

We’ve all worked in atmospheres populated by dramatic colleagues and tactless managers. These make for a tough office climate, but telling yourself that you won’t fall victim to the negativity of others will keep you motivated and will allow you to focus on the parts of your job that bring you satisfaction.

5. “I’m too stressed to exercise/eat well/sleep more.”

When in the throes of work-related chaos, it’s easy to let your health fall by the wayside. Sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, too much caffeine…that’s all part of the deal, right? Well, it shouldn’t be. Keeping yourself as strong and physically healthy as possible positively affects every aspect of your life, including your work performance. Make these goals the priorities they deserve to be.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.

7 Ways To Get Paid For Your Knowledge

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Create extra streams of revenue by sharing your knowledge.

I spent most of my career working as a psychotherapist. I saw patients in my office five days per week. And while it was good income, I felt stuck on a hamster wheel. I only earned money for the hours that I worked.

Fortunately, in 2013, I realized I could start earning even more money by sharing my knowledge in other ways. And soon, I was able to earn money in my sleep. I created several different revenue streams by sharing the same advice I was giving to clients in my therapy office in new ways.

You don’t have to be a therapist to get paid to share your knowledge. Whether you’re a plumber, accountant or entrepreneur, you have knowledge and expertise that other people want.

You might start by creating a small side hustle that allows you to earn extra income. After a while, however, you might find you can earn more money with these extra income sources than in your day job (I certainly did).

Here are seven ways to earn a living from the knowledge you already have:

1) Provide coaching/consultation.

Coaching doesn’t always have to be about your exact area of expertise. For example, if you’re an author who writes about happiness, you might not coach people how to be happy.

Instead, you might coach other authors about how to write, launch, and sell books. Or, if you’ve launched a successful home-based side hustle, you might find there are plenty of other people out there who want to learn how to do the same.

Think about what questions people ask you. That will help you see what information people are eager to learn and you can begin to provide coaching services.

2) Write articles.

While some bloggers earn a decent income, most never do. Blogging is a good way to drive traffic to your other products, but you’re not likely to earn much from sponsors or ad revenue.

You can, however, earn money writing articles for magazines and high-end websites. Some pay by the page view while others offer a flat fee.

3) Create courses.

Online courses are a lucrative source of passive income. You can create a course that you host on your own website or put it up on a website, like Udemy.

If your content appeals to organizations or private companies, you may be able to get big licensing deals. While it’s a fair amount of work upfront to create a course, you can earn money in your sleep for years.

4) Give talks.

Whether you offer full-day workshops or 60-minute keynotes, professional speakers earn money by teaching and motivating audiences. It can be a tough industry to break into, but once you begin speaking regularly—and you do a good job—you can earn a living through speaking alone.

5) Write a book.

While some people insist a self-published book is the way to go, others say traditional publishing is more profitable. But, publishing isn’t a one-size-fits-all. It depends on your topic.

If you have (a) small niche market, you may need to self-publish. Then, it’s up to you to decide whether to create a $50 manual or a $l.99 eBook.

If your book is likely to appeal to the masses, a traditionally published book might help you best reach your audience. You’ll earn an advance and you might earn royalties. Your publisher will be in charge of paying for editing, design and printing fees. You’ll also have professional publicists and a sales team working to sell your book.

6) Create a live event.

From intimate retreats at luxury resorts to a giant conference at a hotel, host your own event. The event might feature your content only or it could include several other speakers.

Just make sure you don’t try to do anything too crazy. No one wants their event to end up like the Fyre Festival debacle.

7) Develop a mastermind group.

Professionals want a place to network and ask questions. So why not bring people together for a fee?

Charge a monthly or annual membership fee to become part of a mastermind group. You might offer regular webinars or exclusive content as well as an opportunity for members to connect with one another regularly.

How to Get Started

If you’re thinking about adding some new streams of revenue to your income, start testing your ideas. Put content into the world and see which of your ideas sparks interest.

The simplest way to do that is through social media. If people appreciate your content, they’ll like, share, or comment.

You can also start a blog, vlog or podcast to gauge interest. Once you establish you have an audience who wants to learn more, begin creating content that will help you earn money from your knowledge.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do.

Sleep Deprivation Is Killing You And Your Career

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The next time you tell yourself that you’ll sleep when you’re dead, realize that you’re making a decision that can make that day come much sooner. Pushing late into the night is a health and productivity killer.According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus, and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.

Why You Need Adequate Sleep to Perform

We’ve always known that sleep is good for your brain, but research from the University of Rochester provides the first direct evidence for why your brain cells need you to sleep (and sleep the right way—more on that later). The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think—something no amount of caffeine can fix.

Skipping sleep impairs your brain function across the board. It slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity, and catapults your stress levels and emotional reactivity.

What Sleep Deprivation Does to Your Health

Sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It stresses you out because your body overproduces the stress hormone cortisol when it’s sleep deprived. While excess cortisol has a host of negative health effects that come from the havoc it wreaks on your immune system, it also makes you look older, because cortisol breaks down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. In men specifically, not sleeping enough reduces testosterone levels and lowers sperm count.

Too many studies to list have shown that people who get enough sleep live longer, healthier lives, but I understand that sometimes this isn’t motivation enough. So consider this—not sleeping enough makes you fat. Sleep deprivation compromises your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates and control food intake. When you sleep less you eat more and have more difficulty burning the calories you consume. Sleep deprivation makes you hungrier by increasing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and makes it harder for you to get full by reducing levels of the satiety-inducing hormone leptin. People who sleep less than 6 hours a night are 30% more likely to become obese than those who sleep 7 to 9 hours a night.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

Most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to feel sufficiently rested. Few people are at their best with less than 7 hours, and few require more than 9 without an underlying health condition. And that’s a major problem, since more than half of Americans get less than the necessary 7 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

For go-getters, it’s even worse.

A recent survey of Inc. 500 CEOs found that half of them are sleeping less than 6 hours a night. And the problem doesn’t stop at the top. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of U.S. workers get less than 6 hours of sleep each night, and sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses more than $63 billion annually in lost productivity.

Doing something about it

Beyond the obvious sleep benefits of thinking clearly and staying healthy, the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence (EQ). These individuals are skilled at understanding and using emotions to their benefit, and good sleep hygiene is one of the greatest tools at their disposal.

High-EQ individuals know it’s not just how much you sleep that matters, but also how you sleep. When life gets in the way of getting the amount of sleep you need, it’s absolutely essential that you increase the quality of your sleep through good sleep hygiene. There are many hidden killers of quality sleep. The 10 strategies that follow will help you identify these killers and clean up your sleep hygiene. Follow them, and you’ll reap the performance and health benefits that come with getting the right quantity and quality of sleep.

1. Stay Away from Sleeping Pills

When I say sleeping pills, I mean anything you take that sedates you so that you can sleep. Whether it’s alcohol, Nyquil, Benadryl, Valium, Ambien, or what have you, these substances greatly disrupt your brain’s natural sleep process. Have you ever noticed that sedatives can give you some really strange dreams? As you sleep and your brain removes harmful toxins, it cycles through an elaborate series of stages, at times shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams). Sedation interferes with these cycles, altering the brain’s natural process.

Anything that interferes with the brain’s natural sleep process has dire consequences for the quality of your sleep. Many of the strategies that follow eliminate factors that disrupt this recovery process. If getting off sleeping pills proves difficult, make certain you try some of the other strategies (such as cutting down on caffeine) that will make it easier for you to fall asleep naturally and reduce your dependence upon sedatives.

2. Stop Drinking Caffeine (at Least after Lunch)

You can sleep more and vastly improve the quality of the sleep you get by reducing your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that interferes with sleep by increasing adrenaline production and blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. Caffeine has a 6-hour half-life, which means it takes a full 24 hours to work its way out of your system. Have a cup of joe at 8 a.m., and you’ll still have 25% of the caffeine in your body at 8 p.m. Anything you drink after noon will still be near 50% strength at bedtime. Any caffeine in your bloodstream—the negative effects increasing with the dose—makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.

When you do finally fall asleep, the worst is yet to come. Caffeine disrupts the quality of your sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep when your body recuperates most. When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with a cognitive and emotional handicap. You’ll be naturally inclined to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to try to make yourself feel more alert, which very quickly creates a vicious cycle.

3. Avoid Blue Light at Night

This is a big one—most people don’t even realize it impacts their sleep. Short-wavelength blue light plays an important role in your mood, energy level, and sleep quality. In the morning, sunlight contains high concentrations of this “blue” light. When your eyes are exposed to it directly (not through a window or while wearing sunglasses), the blue light halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and makes you feel more alert. This is great, and exposure to a.m. sunlight can improve your mood and energy levels. If the sun isn’t an option for you, try a blue light device.

In the afternoon, the sun’s rays lose their blue light, which allows your body to produce melatonin and start making you sleepy. By the evening, your brain does not expect any blue light exposure and is very sensitive to it. The problem this creates for sleep is that most of our favorite evening devices—laptops, tablets, televisions, and mobile phones—emit short-wavelength blue light. And in the case of your laptop, tablet, and phone, they do so brightly and right in your face. This exposure impairs melatonin production and interferes with your ability to fall asleep as well as with the quality of your sleep once you do nod off. Remember, the sleep cycle is a daylong process for your brain. When you confuse your brain by exposing it in the evening to what it thinks is a.m. sunlight, this derails the entire process with effects that linger long after you power down. The best thing you can do is avoid these devices after dinner (television is okay for most people as long as they sit far enough away from the set). If you must use one of these devices in the evening, you can limit your exposure with a filter or protective eyewear.

4. Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day

Consistency is key to a good night’s sleep, especially when it comes to waking up. Waking up at the same time every day improves your mood and sleep quality by regulating your circadian rhythm. When you have a consistent wake-up time, your brain acclimates to this and moves through the sleep cycle in preparation for you to feel rested and alert at your wake-up time. Roughly an hour before you wake, hormone levels increase gradually (along with your body temperature and blood pressure), causing you to become more alert. This is why you’ll often find yourself waking up right before your alarm goes off.

When you don’t wake up at the same time every day, your brain doesn’t know when to complete the sleep process and when it should prepare you to be awake. Long ago, sunlight ensured a consistent wake-up time. These days, an alarm is the only way most people can pull this off, and doing this successfully requires resisting the temptation to sleep in when you’re feeling tired because you know you’ll actually feel better by keeping your wake-up time intact.

5. No Binge Sleeping (In) on the Weekend

Sleeping in on the weekend is a counterproductive way to catch up on your sleep. It messes with your circadian rhythm by giving you an inconsistent wake-up time. When you wake up at the same time during the work week but sleep past this time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired because your brain hasn’t prepared your body to be awake. This isn’t a big deal on your day off, but it makes you less productive on Monday because it throws your cycle off and makes it hard to get going again on your regular schedule.

6. Learn How Much Sleep You Really Need

The amount of sleep you need is something that you can’t control, and scientists are beginning to discover the genes that dictate it. The problem is, most people sleep much less than they really need and are under-performing because they think they’re getting enough. Some discover this the hard way. Ariana Huffington was one of those frantic types who underslept and overworked, until she collapsed unexpectedly from exhaustion one afternoon. She credits her success and well-being since then to the changes she’s made to her sleep habits. “I began getting 30 minutes more sleep a night, until gradually I got to 7 to 8 hours. The result has been transformational,” Huffington says, adding that, “all the science now demonstrates unequivocally that when we get enough sleep, everything is better: our health; our mental capacity and clarity; our joy at life; and our ability to live life without reacting to every bad thing that happens.”

Huffington isn’t the only one. Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Sheryl Sandberg have all touted the virtues of getting enough sleep. Even Bill Gates, an infamous night owl, has affirmed the benefits of figuring out how much sleep you really need: “I like to get 7 hours of sleep a night because that’s what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat.” It’s time to bite the bullet and start going to bed earlier until you find the magic number that enables you to perform at your best.

7. Stop Working

When you work in the evening, it puts you into a stimulated, alert state when you should be winding down and relaxing in preparation for sleep. Recent surveys show that roughly 60% of people monitor their smartphones for work emails until they go to sleep. Staying off blue light-emitting devices (discussed above) after a certain time each evening is also a great way to avoid working so you can relax and prepare for sleep, but any type of work before bed should be avoided if you want quality sleep.

8. Eliminate Interruptions

Unfortunately for those with small children, the quality of your sleep does suffer when it is interrupted. The key here is to eliminate all the interruptions that are under your control. If you have loud neighbors, wear earplugs to bed. If your mother likes to call at all hours of the night, make certain you silence your ringer before you go to bed. If you had to wake up extra early in the morning, make sure your alarm clock is back on its regular time when you go to bed. Don’t drink too much water in the evening to avoid a bathroom trip in the middle of the night. If your partner snores . . . well, you get the idea. If you think hard enough, there are lots of little things you can do to eliminate unnecessary interruptions to your sleep.

9. Learn to Meditate

Many people who learn to meditate report that it improves the quality of their sleep and that they can get the rest they need even if they aren’t able to significantly increase the number of hours they sleep. At the Stanford Medical Center, insomniacs participated in a 6-week mindfulness meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy course. At the end of the study, participants’ average time to fall asleep was cut in half (from 40 to 20 minutes), and 60% of subjects no longer qualified as insomniacs. The subjects retained these gains upon follow-up a full year later. A similar study at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that 91% of participants either reduced the amount of medication they needed to sleep or stopped taking medication entirely after a mindfulness and sleep therapy course. Give mindfulness a try. At minimum, you’ll fall asleep faster, as it will teach you how to relax and quiet your mind once you hit the pillow.

10. When All Else Fails: Take Naps

One of the biggest peaks in melatonin production happens during the 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. time frame, which explains why most people feel sleepy in the afternoon. Companies like Google and Zappos are capitalizing on this need by giving employees the opportunity to take short afternoon naps. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, you’re likely going to feel an overwhelming desire to sleep in the afternoon. When this happens, you’re better off taking a short nap (even as short as 15 minutes) than resorting to caffeine to keep you awake. A short nap will give you the rest you need to get through the rest of the afternoon, and you’ll sleep much better in the evening than if you drink caffeine or take a long afternoon nap.

Bringing it all together

I know many of you reading this piece are thinking something along the lines of “but I know a guy (or gal) who is always up at all hours of the night working or socializing, and he’s the number one performer at our branch.” My answer for you is simple: This guy is underperforming.

We all have innate abilities that we must maximize to reach our full potential. My job is to help people do that—to help the good become great by removing unseen performance barriers. Being number one in your branch is an accomplishment, but I guarantee that this guy has his sights set on bigger things that he isn’t achieving because sleep deprivation has him performing at a fraction of his full potential. You should send him this article. It just might shake something loose.

After all, the only thing worth catching up on at night is your sleep.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

How To Get A Job Without Prior Experience

Author Article

Here’s the challenge everyone who starts their career faces: You can’t get a job because you don’t have experience, but you can’t get experience without getting a job.It’s called the experience paradox or Catch-22 of getting a job. It’s a real challenge. And if you can’t overcome it, you can easily set your career 3 to 5 years back.


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Worse, I’ve seen young folks and people who switch careers destroy their potential by making the wrong decisions early on.

I don’t want to scare you. You can still overcome the Catch-22; but not with conventional career advice. Because what’s the standard advice for people who want to build a career?

“Create a resume, browse job boards, and respond to job applications.” Sorry to disappoint you. If you take that route, you will end up like most people: Frustrated and underpaid.

Don’t worry, there’s a different way. With the right strategy, you can break into any industry and earn what you’re worth.

But I have to warn you. It takes at least twice as much work. However, that shouldn’t be a surprise to you. If you want to have a better career than most folks, guess what; you have to BE better than most folks.

When you do the following 2 things, you will become better—that will significantly increase your odds of getting a job without prior experience.

1. Be The Person You Would Hire

Why is it that companies prefer to hire experienced people for a role? When I started my career, I didn’t understand it.

The reality is that there’s a massive difference between someone who doesn’t have experience at a particular job and someone who has two years under their belt.

Even though two years might not sound like a lot of time, it’s actually a lot of time to learn the ins and outs of a job. And especially when you recently got out of college; because your first two to three years are all about learning to be a professional.

Some people never become serious about their careers. They wake up at a time so they can come to the office just in time. They prefer to sleep in. And they are the first to leave at 5 pm. They don’t ask questions, don’t seek out mentors, LOVE their lunch break, and chit-chat with their co-workers every chance they get.

Imagine you would be the CEO of a company. Would you want a person like that on your team? Of course not.

I must be honest; I used to be like that too. But I realized that attitude will not bring you far. If you want career success, you need to take it seriously. You only get rewarded for results. And what brings results? Skills.

Now, the good news is that increasingly more companies are putting emphasis on the skills of the people they want to hire—not their experience.

In his book, The Virgin Way, I read that Richard Branson, the famous founder of Virgin (that employs approximately 71,000 people), hires for character and skills. He prefers to actually get to know applicants instead of asking them a bunch of boring questions.

If you seek out companies who hire for experience and skills, you have a good chance of getting hired—even if you don’t have experience.

There’s only one condition: You must be a person YOU would hire. Someone who’s not only a professional but also has the skills to do a good job. If you feel like your skills are not that good yet, spend more time on your craft.

So how do you find a company that hires for skills and character? You ask.

Look, getting a job is NOT easy. It requires a lot of manual labor. Sometimes you need to reach out to hundreds of people to even get an interview. So that’s what you do. Be ready to do whatever it takes.

You reach out to people in HR of companies you’d like to work for. And you ask them about their interview process. How does the application process work? What are the characteristics you’re looking for in candidates?

You can use that information to apply for jobs you’re interested in. But unlike people who blindly apply, you know what they are looking for.

2. Do Free Work

Often, being good at your job and having information about the application process won’t cut it.

I’m a big fan of demonstrating your skills instead of talking about it. During the interview, we only talk. But when you offer to do free work for a company, you actually demonstrate your skills in a real-life setting.

So how can you do free work? Larry Stybel, a clinical psychologist, wrote an article for HBR about his experience launching his career. He shares 3 great tips:

  1. Look for a company you’d love to work for and then be specific about what value you will provide—What will you exactly do for the company? No need to overpromise. It’s better to be honest about what you can. Identify a person you want to work for, and reach out to them directly. Also send your resume along (watch my video on how to create a graphic resume with Canva for tips).
  2. Be specific about what value you will receive—Start with the end in mind. What do you want to get out of it? A reference? A potential job? Experience?
  3. Be specific about the time frame—You don’t want to keep working for free forever. In Stybel’s example, he said: “I promised to work two days a week for two months.” Often, you can’t even work full-time for free. Nor is it something I recommend. Use your time to keep searching for a job.

One of the key lessons for everyone launching their career is to consider yourself as a learning machine. When you feel too proud to learn or work for free, you will be stuck sooner than later.

But when you keep improving yourself and reaching out to people in the industry you want to work in, it will ultimately lead to a real job.

This article first appeared on Darius Foroux

3 Ways Meditation Can Catapult Your Career

Author Article

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Anyone that’s been to a yoga class recently has heard of the concept of meditation. Chances are, in 2019, you will start hearing about it more in the workplace, too. According to a report by the CDC, the number of American adults saying they meditated jumped from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2018.

The benefits of meditation can help you in many aspects of your life, but here are three ways in which the practice can benefit your career.

  • It can help you realize what you really want. For the most fortunate of us, the hunt for a job meant finding out what truly makes us happy and turning that into a career. When that dream isn’t realized right away, it can cause depression and complacency, and ultimately result in the death of that dream. Meditation can not only help you practice self-awareness, but acceptance, as well.
  • It reduces stress. Work can be a huge stressor for most people, especially if there is a large sum of money on the line. When it comes time to grind, that stress can be a real hinderance. For example, a survey from EveryDay Health found that 57% of respondents say they are paralyzed by stress. Mindfulness meditation, even done for only a few minutes a day, can help reduce stress and anxiety, as demonstrated in a 2013 Massachusetts General Hospital study.
  • It gets creative juices flowing. If you work in a creative realm, you understand the concept of walking away and revisiting. Sometimes, when you’re stuck on an idea that you can’t seem to work yourself through, it is best to take a walk around the block and come back to it. When you don’t have that much time, however, focusing on your breathing and meditating for a few minutes allows your brain to do a soft reset.

While it may still seem like a foreign concept to some, the importance of meditation cannot be diminished. As I tell many of the entrepreneurs and job seekers I coach, even if it feels strange, what do you have to lose? I invite you to try it today and see how you feel.

Ashley Stahl is a career coach who helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Visit AshleyStahl.com for free courses, resources and more.