The New Rules of Work: The Muse Playbook for Navigating the Modern Workplace

Book Summary - The New Rules of Work by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew

What You’ll Learn

  • The importance of aligning your personal values with your long-term career plans
  • How to tailor your job applications for success
  • Tricks for negotiating after receiving a job offer
  • Keys to continuing personal and professional growth

Who Is This For

  • Young professionals starting out in their career
  • Job seekers looking to advance or find a better professional fit
  • Individuals seeking to improve their professional skill set and continue their personal and career growth

Key Insights

There are more job vacancies out there than ever, and more career sites, job agencies, and social media apps than ever before where you can search for a new job. With the number of opportunities increasing and new roles seemingly everywhere you look, it can be intimidating to start the job searching process. It can be hard to know how to even begin your job search, and where to look to find your perfect job.

These new rules of work, which were devised based on years of career consultancy experience, are meant to help you navigate the changing job landscape. By assessing what you value in a career, understanding how to make informed choices, and planning for your dream career, these new rules will help you avoid getting stuck in the rat race. No matter what stage you are at in your career, these rules can help you find the perfect role that challenges you and helps you grow your career.

Key Points

Identify Your Personal Values

Traditional job searching is difficult, especially if you don’t already have a clear idea of what you want to do. One of the best ways to figure out what you want to do is to identify your personal values. Not everyone has the same values, and what makes one person happy will not be fulfilling for someone else. It is important for you to assess what makes you feel fulfilled. For some people, it could be doing something creative, while others value giving back to their communities. The important thing is to understand your personal values and use them to shape your job search.

For example, Kathryn Minshew, one of the authors of this book, was unhappy in her former role because the job did not match up with her personal values. She had wanted to work in the foreign service and even majored in international relations, but once she landed what she thought was her dream job at the US embassy in Cyprus, she realized she wasn’t actually happy. She found the job slow and unfulfilling, so she began looking for a job where she felt her hard work could make a real impact.

When you are reflecting on your values, it’s important to be mindful of external influences. Other forces, such as parental expectations, may also be impacting your career choices. For example, the other co-author of this book, Alexandra Cavoulacos, grew up in France, where she faced a large amount of external pressure on her career choices. In France, she was made to narrow her course of study very early. By the age of 15, she selected science, over literature or economics, as her course of study, and was forced to narrow it down again, to biology, in her senior year of school.

However, when Alex began studying genetics at the university level in the United States, she realized she did not enjoy the day-to-day lab work that biology required. With that being the case, she knew she would not enjoy pursuing a career in science, so instead, she decided to pursue a career that she found personally fulfilling.

Together, Kathryn and Alex were able to found their career consultancy company, The Muse, because they identified their personal values and pursued a career that aligned with these values.

Do Strategic Research

Now that you’ve assessed your values, you can better tailor your job search to roles that might be a good fit. However, even within certain industries, roles can vary wildly. Working as a designer for a small non-profit, for example, would be very different than working as a designer for a large corporation. So it’s important to consider how your interests, personal values, and skills align with both the roles and the individual companies that you pursue.

For example, a literary studies graduate named Sarah thought a job at a traditional publishing house would be a perfect fit for her because she enjoyed reading, writing, and working with other literary people. However, she ended up doing much more individual desk work than interacting with authors, and she found she was unsatisfied with her job.

She wanted to have a more hands-on role with the authors, so she began searching for a job that would allow her to interact with them directly. She found her perfect job leading the business development team of a much smaller self-publishing start-up.

The Muse advises making a grid in order to ensure your career aligns with your values. On the left-hand side, list the about six roles or industries you are interested in pursuing, and across the top, list your top three personal values. While looking at this grid, consider how each industry or role matches up to each of these three values.

To get a good sense of how a company’s values match up with your own, it’s important to do some strategic research. Look up the company to get a sense of their values, and research the LinkedIn profiles of current employees and people who hold similar jobs to better understand the skills you would need to do well in this job. You can also see what former employees have gone on to do in their careers. To get an even more clear understanding of the company, you can try to get in touch with someone who is familiar with the role or company, like a current or former employee.

For example, before starting The Muse, Kathryn reached out to another entrepreneur to get a better understanding of the ins and outs of starting your own business, and what the daily life of an entrepreneur is really like. Kathryn was even able to join him on a sales trip. After meeting with him, she had a fuller and clearer idea of what her life as a start-up CEO would be like. By getting a clear idea of a company’s values and the skills required for each role, you’ll be able to better understand how they align with your own skills, values, and interests, and you will be better able to market yourself to the company.

Develop Your Unique Brand

Developing your own personal brand will make it easier for potential employers to understand all the attributes and skills you could bring to their company. To begin developing your brand, start by asking your colleagues and peers for feedback on what they think your best qualities are. Once you have gathered their feedback, compile their answers, and consider how you can present these positive attributes in a way that expresses your value in a professional setting.

The authors use Jennifer for example, a woman whose colleagues’ three most common descriptors were “super nice,” “works hard for others,” and “easy to get along with.” By compiling her top three traits, Jennifer was able to shape descriptors that make her an appealing job candidate. She now describes herself to potential employers as: “Relationship builder, strong follow-through and motivated to collaborate.” These descriptors encompass the same attributes but sound more professional when you are trying to sell yourself to a potential employer.

You can even use this method to present your weaknesses as strengths in certain roles. For example, some of Zach’s feedback included phrases like “irreverent” and “passionate and occasionally stubborn,” but also “willing to take risks” and “authoritative.” Rather than consider these as negative traits, Zach marketed himself as confident, reliable, ambitious, and possessing leadership qualities.

These attributes make up the core of your brand. Additionally, your interactions - both online and in-person - should support your brand’s image. This includes content you post online, who and what you follow, and how you communicate on social media.

A personal website is the best way to market your unique brand. This method gives you the most freedom and control over how you present yourself.

For example, when Jillian Youngblood was transitioning from politics to a tech career, she marketed her web-development skills on her personal website, which led a company to invite her to interview for their development team. Showcasing your individual skills on this level would not be possible with a traditional social media template.

The New Rules of Networking

Networking doesn’t have to mean meeting other professionals at dry, boring industry events. It doesn’t even have to be in person. These days, a lot of professional networking happens online. Social media has expanded the ways you can interact with people, and Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other online messaging can help you expand your professional circle.

Even offline, networking events don’t have to be boring. For example, the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, holds dinner parties where he invites three people and asks each of them to invite three people, as well. This is a great way to expand your circle.

Not every professional connection will pay off immediately, but networking is about building long-term relationships. For example, the author, Alex, developed a long-term relationship with a writer she met at a conference. They stayed in touch for years, with each offering the other help when work problems arose.

Your professional network should be less about quantity and more about the value your contacts can bring. For example, it’s a good idea to connect with hiring managers at companies you have an interest in. That way, when there is an opening, they will think of you, before the job is even posted. For example, Elliot Bell reached out to one of the authors, Kathryn, on LinkedIn after hearing her speak at the Women 2.0 conference in 2o12. He expressed his interest in her team and company and explained how his interests, skills, and experience in marketing could benefit The Muse. He also provided mutual contact as a reference. Although The Muse wasn’t actively hiring at that time, Kathryn held onto his contact information and the next time there was an opening a few months later, she reached out to Elliot. He was hired as The Muse’s head of marketing.

A Good Resume And Cover Letter Is Key

A tailored resume and well-thought-out cover letter are key to your job application. They are the company’s first impression of you, and a good first impression can make all the difference. According to a September 2015 Jobvite survey, 55 percent of hiring managers don’t read cover letters. But that means that 45 percent of them do, and those are the ones you are hoping to impress.

Your resume should make all your information that is relevant to the job position easy to find. Your resume should never be more than one page, and your most relevant education and experience should appear in the top third of the page, even if it’s not chronological. While it can be exhausting rewriting your resume for each job application, you can make it easier by keeping a master document with all of your experience, and copying and pasting the most relevant points for each individual application to a more specific version of your resume.

Cover letters should include new information that is not on your resume. While your resume demonstrates your skills, the purpose of your cover letter is to grab the hiring manager’s attention, show your personality, and illustrate how you will fit with the company. A good way to do this is to begin your cover letter with a personal anecdote.

For example, Abby Wolfe, an intern at The Muse, submitted a very memorable cover letter that landed her the job. She submitted her internship application on October 21, 2015, which is the same day that the character Marty McFly travels to the future in the movie Back to the Future Part II. Abby drew parallels between Marty’s adventure into the future and her own plans for how the internship would alter her own future. She then used personal stories and memes to emphasize how she would be the best fit for the role. This unique and personal cover letter demonstrated to her future employers that she was the best fit for the position. Similarly, a Buzzfeed employee demonstrated their skills and understanding of the company culture by submitting a cover letter in the same style as a classic Buzzfeed article.

In addition to demonstrating your understanding of the company culture, cover letters should also include concrete examples of your skills. For example, sales figures or employee engagement numbers can provide hard evidence that you have the skills for the job.

After you submit an individualized and tailored resume and cover letter to a company, follow up after about a week if you do not hear back.

Negotiate Before Accepting An Offer

It’s a great feeling when your hard work pays off, and you are offered a job. But it is important not to say yes right away. Before you sign a contract, make sure to ask any questions you have about the company or role, and make sure that the position and the company are a good fit for your lifestyle.

Even if the job seems like a great career opportunity, it might not always be the best role for you. For example, if you really value traveling, but the company does not offer good vacation benefits, you might not be satisfied there for long. Additionally, if you want to start a family, it is a good idea to get to know what parental leave benefits the company offers.

But if the benefits don’t align with your lifestyle, don’t immediately turn down the offer. It’s important to know that benefits can be negotiated. Before you sign a contract with the company, do some research. Check out the company’s LinkedIn, and make sure you understand the company culture and employee turnover rate. It’s also a good idea to see what the common career progression is for employees of that company, and you can even contact current or former employees if you have specific questions that you want to be answered. While this may seem intimidating, good research is key to ensuring you don’t accept a job too quickly and end up in a work environment that is not a good fit.

If you’ve done your research and determined the company is a good fit for you, you should move on to negotiating your contract. While salary and benefits can sometimes be negotiated, it’s also worth considering other benefits. Negotiating a job title, for example, could make you sound more experienced and give you a leg up in your next job search.

And if you’ve done your research and negotiations and determined the role is not the right fit for you, don’t be afraid to turn down an offer.

Be An Effective Communicator

Strong communication is an important part of career success. Communicating effectively with colleagues helps ensure strong relationships and a good work environment. To be the most effective communicator possible, it is important to plan ahead.

When you have information to deliver, be sure to consider the recipient’s personality and communication style to determine which communication method would save time and be the most efficient. For example, some people prefer to receive information over the phone, while others hate phone calls and prefer emails or in-person delivery. Choosing the right method to fit each person helps you communicate effectively.

You should also consider how your communication methods can help you develop your professional relationships. While most people commonly focus on nurturing relationships with their higher-ups, there is a lot to be gained from building strong communications with your colleagues at every level, even new hires, who see things with fresh eyes. You can learn something from everyone at the company.

For example, the author Kathryn, received her most valuable mentorship, not from the well-established investors she initially reached out to, but by other early start-up founders. They had current and relevant knowledge that was helpful to Kathryn while she was in the beginning stages of starting her own business.

However, the author Alex found it valuable to be mentored by a McKinsey & Company manager who was higher up. Alex valued her manager’s communication style, and as her mentee, she received valuable information, feedback, and opportunities.

Everybody in the office, including you, has important wisdom and knowledge that is valuable to your colleagues and the company.

Continue Your Personal Growth

Even after you’ve found your dream job, it’s important not to get complacent. Your values will change over time, and when it is time for you to advance or change your position, you want to be prepared.

You should make a point to keep adding to your skillset. You should be sure to keep up to date with new technology, or even take classes in a new skill. You could also work on increasing your productivity. According to a 2012 LinkedIn survey, 90 percent of professionals are unable to complete their to-do list by the end of the workday. By learning strategies to increase your productivity, you could be in the 10 percent that does.

The entrepreneur Robyn Scott suggests grouping tasks under the emotional rewards you will experience when it's completed, rather than by chronology or other methods. For example, exercising will make you feel healthy while finishing a tax return will make you feel more in control of your finances. This method can help improve motivation and reduce procrastination.

Another way to advance your career is by managing up. You should try to better understand your manager’s goals and your place in the company, and work on building a strong relationship with your manager. By making your manager’s job easier, you show that you are proactive, able to handle responsibility, and are dedicated to the company and your own growth, which sets you up for success in the future.

The Main Take-away

To be happy and fulfilled in your career, your personal values, interests, and skills should all align with your job position and your company. To ensure these values are in line, you should identify your values, do strategic research on companies you are interested in and don’t be afraid to negotiate and even turn down a job offer if it is not a good fit. Once you land your dream role, make sure to practice effective communication, keep developing your skills, and continue to pursue personal and professional growth.

About the Author

Alexandra Cavoulacos is the Founder & President at The Muse. She has been named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media, and Business Insider’s 30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech. She was also listed as one of INC’s 15 women to watch in tech.

Cavoulacos received her B.A. in political science from Yale University. She lives in Brooklyn.

Kathryn Minshew is an entrepreneur, author, and public speaker. She is the co-founder and CEO of The Muse. She previously co-founded the networking site Pretty Young Professionals.

She has been named Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media, listed as one of Inc’s 15 Women to Watch in Tech, and was a 2019 winner of the One Young World Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Minshew is a contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Inc, and has been featured on CNN and The TODAY Show. She lives in New York.

Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type

Book Summary - Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger

Key Insights

Do What You Are discusses the different personality types and their temperament groups, along with their respective preferences, blind spots, strengths, and weaknesses. Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can help identify which of the 16 personality types are your dominant traits. Knowing your personality type will facilitate choosing the career path that will give the best chance for success because work can be easy and enjoyable when it fits with your personality, innate temperaments, and primary functions.

Key Points

Personality Type Identification

The notion of personality types goes back as far as ancient Greece and was refined in 1929 by Carl Jung. Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed the concept further. After many years of research and testing, they created what is now called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It relies on four preference scales and identifies 16 distinct personality types.

The value of this self-test is how it helps you identify the way you interact with the world and assists you to pick a career that brings satisfaction. If you are in the wrong career, it can feel like writing using the non-dominant hand. With enough practice, you can accomplish the task, but it may be lower quality, more difficult, tedious, and less fulfilling.

On the other hand, work that suits your personality type can actually be something you look forward to doing, and which gives you energy.

When piecing together the various personality types that are revealed by taking the MBTI, don’t believe the notion that one personality type is more prone to success than another. It can be common for our culture to value an extroverted personality above the introvert, but that is nonsense. When you are doing the work that best suits you, your success will be much easier than going against your natural grain.

Four Basic Temperaments of the Personality Types

While there are 16 distinct personality types in the MBTI, they can be divided into four temperaments.

 

  • Traditionalists thrive on stability, order, and consistency. These people will follow through with whatever task they are given. A weakness is that they don’t adapt well and avoid long-term thinking. Around 50% of police officers are traditionalists, which is a high percentage from one career field. It can be understood, though, as traditionalists prefer strong organizational structures and clear procedures, expectations, and chains of command.
  • Experiencers are adventurous, outgoing, and impulsive. Their strengths are courage, innovation, and adaptability. They tend to be good at using tools. Weaknesses include impulsiveness that can result in irresponsibility and they don’t recognize patterns and connections very well. Many Experiencers are in law enforcement, but different than Traditionalists, they are there for the thrill, the variety and the unpredictability of the work.
  • Idealists are about personal growth, knowledge acquisition, integrity, and authenticity. They gravitate toward meaningful work which tends to reflect spirituality and philosophy. Strengths include being open to people and bringing out the best in others. They are highly creative. The downside of Idealists is that they lean toward moodiness, impracticality, being overly emotional, and are poor at handling criticism. Idealists will do best in non-competitive environments that are harmonious.
  • Conceptualizers are intuitive thinkers which see great possibilities everywhere and want to be agents of change to bring about improvements. Their strengths include designing and planning innovative solutions, being confident, and clever. They recognize trends and patterns. Weaknesses include arrogance, disregard for authority, and being too complex while lacking attention to detail. Their best occupations are challenging and intellectually engaging with a generous amount of independence.

 

These four temperaments can work well together, as each group’s skills are needed to complete the whole. This is especially true in large corporations where strengths in all the various areas come together to produce success.

Dominant Functions Defined

Knowing your temperament is just the beginning. Every personality type has a dominant function and when you know what your dominant function is, your work can be easy and pleasurable.

 

  • Dominant Sensors prefer cold, hard facts, and the more detailed, the better. They have excellent memories and do their best work when collecting and putting facts to work. The researcher would be a good job for the Dominant Sensor.
  • Dominant Intuitives focus on implications rather than facts, such as subtext and meaning that others may overlook. There will be a preference for employment where creativity, originality, and imagination are allowed. Advertising is a good job for the Dominant Intuitive.
  • Dominant Feelers do well in jobs that reflect their values. Loyalty, empathy, and compassion are the characteristics of this function. Work that focuses on human experiences, such as advocacy and even art, is ideal.
  • Dominant Thinkers are able to cut through the “touchy-feely” and make logical decisions. When tough decisions need to be made, people go to the Dominant Thinkers. Legal careers can be good options for this group.

 

Changes in Interest Should be Anticipated

Expectations we place on ourselves at the outset of our careers can push us in the wrong direction. Traditional education forces people to make career plans while still in their teens. This is problematic because as we mature, our interests often transform and redirect. To stay satisfied in our employment, we should strive to choose careers that can change with us.

The first six years of life is where the primary personality traits develop. Then between six and twelve, the Dominant Function comes into focus. For example, a Dominant Thinker might talk her way out of trouble while a Dominant Feeler will reflect abilities to sympathize with others in more noticeable ways than normal children.

Additional functions emerge as we age, experience life, and as our brains develop into maturity. It is suggested that the strongest function won’t be revealed until between 25 and 50 years of age and that the common mid-life crisis around forty years of age is actually a Dominant Function arising, causing someone to want to change careers. After 20 years of focusing on the same skill set, we can find ourselves needing a fresh change while at the same time, we are discovering the skills we enjoy that we hadn’t previously explored.

While these new developments and shifts may lead to new career paths, they could also be satisfied with a hobby. However, when heading towards a career choice, awareness of the potential to desire a change down the road is good to consider. At the very least, it’s good to understand just what is happening when you find yourself suddenly ready to completely mix things up. This “mid-life crisis” may not be so much a crisis as a natural transition of life as more functions are revealed.

Apply Knowledge of Your Personality to Career Selection

The chance of someone emailing and offering you your ideal job exists only in daydreams, so the first job to tackle is that of finding what your ideal occupation is and embarking on the search for an opening. The ideal job brings together what you are good at and what interests you. The Meyer-Briggs Personality Test can help you quickly identify which personality types you are and use them to narrow down the types of employment best suited for your traits.

Make a list of the occupations which are recommended for each of your personality types, temperaments, and functions. Then go through the list and rank them according to what sounds best to you. Keep a focus on which ones you allow to be in your top five. Then ask yourself the question, “If money weren’t an issue, which one of these jobs would I be happy to do for free?”

Once you’ve made your list, write down the skills and talents that would be needed to do each of the jobs. This can help you identify the ones you have a natural capability to accomplish as well as assist you in explaining to potential employers why you are the best candidate. In this process, you may also add to your list the ways you have used such skills in the past. It’s also a good idea to inventory your weaknesses and be prepared to show your awareness and intention to address those areas of your personality type as well.

When you’ve narrowed down your list, do some exploratory research into those jobs. Interview people who currently work in them. You just might discover that what you thought was your dream job isn’t so interesting after all.

Don’t Be Afraid to Change Careers

If you are already well into your career journey and find life unfulfilling, just know it is never too late to make a shift and start a new career path. More and more, people are staying employed longer than their parents did. According to research, 40% of Americans plan to work until they drop!

When you start a new career late in life, it can be called an “encore career” and be pursued with enthusiasm. No apologies are necessary. Gaining awareness of your personality type and dominant function can ensure that your encore career is the best years of your life because the likelihood that you select something you are going to love is greater. You may feel a breath of fresh air because you are finally doing what you sense you were always meant to be accomplishing.

An example in the book is Jay, whose first career took him from getting an MBA to becoming the president of his family’s company. While working in his company, he began coaching sports on the side. This brought him so much enjoyment, at 46 years old, he shifted his career to become a teacher. He now teaches social studies and history in high school and wishes he had made the change sooner.

Whether you are just beginning college or are nearing retirement, knowing your personality traits can help you plan the next phase of your life to best suit your interests and natural abilities.

The Main Takeaway:

Allowing your personality traits to lead your choice in careers can facilitate success. Knowing your personality type helps you recognize strengths and weaknesses, then work to maximize your strengths while mitigating weaknesses. The end result is that your job can be both easy and enjoyable.

About the Author

Paul D. Tieger is an expert in Personality Types. He is the Founder and first Director of The New England Type Institute. Mr. Tieger has trained thousands of managers, team leaders, HR professionals, career consultants, psychologists, attorneys, and educators in his career.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Book Summary - Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Key Insights

Originally published in 2001, Getting Things Done by David Allen is a guide to being more productive and organized in life and business. Throughout the book, Allen offers his own tips and tricks to be more productive on a personal and professional level.

With the author’s help, readers get not only systems that they can utilize to get organized, but also guidance to get unfinished tasks completed in a more effective way.

Among the methods that the author offers readers, there is utilizing physical inboxes, making lists, and using actual folders for work. There is also a model that allows you to effectively evaluate the things that need to be accomplished in any given day.

The goal is to have fewer projects that remain unfinished at the end of the day. And whether you choose to use all of the methods being taught, or pick and choose what works best for you, Getting Things Done will help you to find what works for you in terms of being more productive.

Key Points

The modern work environment is more hectic than it has ever been before, which can make it hard for you to remember things

In our work life, our job description can be even more encompassing than ever before, and at the same time, it also becomes less defined.

Every day, workers find themselves juggling more and more tasks and projects. And even with more work coming our way, it feels like we are facing an onslaught of tasks that need to be accomplished on a day to day basis.

The more we try to do and remember, the harder it becomes to handle everything required of us, as we lose the capacity to retain the information we need to get things done. It becomes hard to concentrate on what needs to be done.

This is where Getting Things Done comes in, as it gives us the tools we need to not get overwhelmed. Thanks to the author, we get a workflow guide that offers five easy to follow steps.

This workflow includes writing down everything you need to do, and any thoughts you have about the work that needs to be accomplished. Everything needs to then be clarified to make it easier to organize. Creating a more structured list will allow for more organization. Figure out what is most important and review what is on the list. And finally, it is about picking a task that needs to be done and getting started on it.

Ultimately, the entire goal of Getting Things Done is to give you control of what is happening in your life and your work to make it easier to be productive.

Having the right tools can make all the difference in your productivity levels

To avoid anxiety when things need to be done, utilizing lists can be an effective tool in staying on track. Lists can also prevent a sense of anxiety that will have a negative impact on productivity.

Whether you use a physical piece of paper and a pen to create a list, or use a program on a computer or phone, creating lists and using inboxes is a way to keep track of the important things that need to be done. From scheduling to keeping track of ideas and thoughts, lists are the way to push forward.

Another vital tool for productivity is having a dedicated workplace when you can create those lists and work on projects that need to be completed.

Whether you are using a digital system or not, you are creating a filing system of sorts that will keep you on track with every project.

Keep track of all of the tasks that you need to accomplish

Using the external tools at your disposal, capture all of the tasks that you need to get finished. No matter what it is, write it down. From ideas to dates and times, write everything down so that it won’t be forgotten.

It is important to think of this as your personal in-box.

Don’t worry about if something is important or not, it’s not about what’s important, it is about keeping track of everything that comes up so that it can be reviewed in the future.

Make sure that you have whatever tool or tools you are using to collect your thoughts at hand at all times. And whether it is an app on your phone or different notebooks, make sure you have enough to keep track of what you need, without going too far and having excess clutter.

Once it has been written down, organize your thoughts 

Now that the tasks you need to get done have been written down, along with any thoughts and ideas you may have, it is important to get rid of excess clutter and organize those thoughts.

At least once a week, it is important to go through your notes and clarify what needs to be done. From there, you will then properly organize everything so that the things you need are easily accessible within your notes.

By getting organized, you will eliminate undue stress and anxiety, while also making it easier to plan for your next steps in getting tasks completed.

When you are writing things down, you don’t need to really think about what you are writing. The important thing is capturing all the details as they pop up. But in the organization and clarifying stage, it is about going over what you have written and determined whether it is something actionable.

Even if an idea is not actionable, it might still be important, either as something that needs to be acted upon in the future or as information that may be needed later on. However, even actionable notes need to be properly organized and make sure you know what the outcome you want is.

By keeping track of everything you write down, it can help promote productivity without the added stress of either not remembering something or being overwhelmed by too much information.

How do you get your thoughts and notes organized?

Getting things written down is only as effective as your ability to pull up the information you need at a given time. And the best way to have this information at your disposal when you need it is to be organized.

The question is, how do you get everything organized once you have gone through it all to keep things clear and concise.

While items that are not actionable can be removed from our to-do lists, actionable items that can be done quickly are typically taken care of right away. This still leaves other things that need to be done but may require more thought and attention. It is these items on the list that need to be properly organized for best results when it comes to being productive.

For physical documents, you will want to file them in a relevant folder. And even in virtual storage, you will want to use proper labels and email folders to make searching and finding things you need as easy as possible.

Whether utilizing physical documents or virtual documents, make sure that things have relevant labels and can be easily searched for when you need it.

Good project management is the key to being successfully productive

For Getting Things Done, a project is being defined as a course of action that requires multiple steps to complete.

It is important to realize that writing notes or emails are not a project, however, a big meeting or trip being planned is a project.

The best way to stay organized when it comes to projects is to have a master list that keeps track of projects that need to be completed. It is important to make a note on this list about when projects are due, so that way you can stay on top of the important things, focusing on things in the order in which they need to be done.

Every week, you should be reviewing your list of projects and making sure that every project has a clear set of actions next to it in order to make it easier to get it completed. This is also what you need to push your projects forward.

Once you know what actions need to be taken, you will want to make sure it is added to a calendar so you can keep track of what needs to be done and when.

Utilizing this tool of keeping track of what actions you must complete next can be a useful habit even outside of project management. Even during a meeting, knowing what needs to be done next and who needs to do it can be such a useful tool that can increase productivity across the board.

Project planning can be a crucial step towards project completion

Complex projects can require a lot of steps before you can get things done. In order to complete your project, you may be looking for planning tips that can make things easier.

Use a planning method that we already utilize in everyday life, which is typically known as the natural planning method, and consists of five key steps.

  • Identify the purpose of your project. Make sure you know why you are undertaking this endeavor. And you should also make sure you are identifying the principles you want to achieve. This establishes boundaries right from the planning stage.
  • Envision the outcome. Think about what you want the project to look like when it is completed. By having a clear goal in mind, it can give your project a focus.
  • Brainstorming can help you come up with ideas for what will make your project easier to complete. Don’t judge the ideas, just write them down and keep coming up with potential ideas, as this will give you the best chance to find things that will work.
  • Organizing the ideas you put together while brainstorming is the next step to planning anything. This allows you to identify the best ideas from before and also group ideas that work together.
  • Identify what comes next. In order to move forward with any project or plan, you must define your next action.

The more you utilize this planning method, the easier it becomes, and the easier it is to work on a project with confidence.

Keep a calendar and actionable list

Instead of having daily lists of things to do, keep a calendar and/or a list of actions that need to be done.

To-do lists can lead to planning that is unrealistic and wasted time. It can be frustrating working off of a to-do list because you can’t always know in advance what you can get done at any given time.

Calendars keep track of appointments and help provide structure for any planning that needs to be done. However, a calendar should really only have specific information listed on them.

Calendars should have time-specific appointments, Day-specific events and things that need to be done, and day-specific information, like things that may need to be had when going to an appointment.

Anything else is added to a calendar just causes confusion and can take away from the importance of other activities that must be accomplished.

All tasks that need to be completed, which are actionable but do not fall into the calendar specific tasks, should be added to a master list of actionable tasks.

This list is the heart of managing what needs to be achieved for a project and allows you to put things that will require more than a few minutes to get finished.

Even on this list, it can be important to organize tasks by their context. This means putting like tasks together, particularly tasks related to a single project.

Keep a list of things you are waiting for

Projects typically require other people to get things completed. And this means relying on others for things you need.

In order to keep track of all aspects of a project, you will likely need a list of things you are waiting for. This list acts as a guide of things that other people must do or provide you with in order for you to complete whatever you are working on.

This list will include deadlines and projected dates for when other people will be doing their part in a project.

Every week, you should be reviewing your list of waiting for tasks and make sure that people are staying on top of what they need to do. This will make it easier to keep track of what others are doing and if they are getting things to you in a timely manner. This will also give you an idea if you need to remind people about their deadlines.

Create a list of someday ideas

When you were brainstorming ideas, you may have come with ones that are not necessarily relevant right now. These ideas should be put on a someday list.

This list is a collection of ideas that may be relevant at a later date. This is a list of ideas that may not be fully formed or actionable just yet.

And while this may seem like a list of unimportant things, they actually can become important down the line. The thing is that if you don’t have them written down when they do become important you won’t be able to act on those ideas if you don’t remember what they are. This is why even the ideas that seem unimportant should be cataloged for future use.

As with any list, make sure you are reviewing your someday list regularly. This is the only way to effectively utilize your lists and the ideas that you come up with. In general using lists like this can help you remember ideas that make sense and will, in fact, help you at some point in time.

Constantly reflect on the system you have created to get things done

It is important to always reflect on your project planning. Reflecting can also prove to you that you are on the right track when it comes to getting things accomplished.

This step also allows you to see that you are moving forward with your project, rather than getting stuck and stagnant.

Reflecting on things also includes constantly checking your calendar for any appointments and tasks you need to complete. It also means checking your action list and making sure you are getting things done as you are able to.

Checking your schedule and lists on a daily basis is important to move forward with a project. It is also important to do a more comprehensive weekly review, which lets you clean up all of your lists and add anything new that you think up as well.

With every list, check to make sure things are progressing the way you want them to and that your project is moving in the right direction.

The final step to getting things done is the actual engagement

The final step of project planning is the actual engagement which is actually getting things done.

This step is determining what you can do right now. These are the tasks that are feasible at the moment.

You also determine what you have time to do at a given moment. So, if you only have a limited amount of time to do work before a meeting or something, you probably won’t be starting a task that will require hours of your time.

It is also important to know what you can get done. This means knowing where to put your energy. If you have been putting all your energy into a grueling task, then you likely want to do a task that won’t require too much work.

Finally, it is important to determine what is the highest priority task on your list. These are the tasks you will need to start off with. Know your goals and find a way to stay productive.

Know your priorities

Know what is important within your project and as part of both work and life.

Work from the bottom up and make sure you are dealing with the nitty-gritty details. Handle the day to day activities that you need to manage your project. This allows you to put your energy into more creative endeavors.

The Main Take-away

The Getting Things Done system is all about finding a way to tackle all of the tasks required to complete a project. This system allows you to tackle things with less stress and more control.

One of the primary keys to this system is keeping track of every single idea and task. Writing things down allows you to free up your creative thinking, so you can better solve problems.

Once you have written things down, it is important to make sure you are staying organized, clarifying your ideas, and constantly reviewing your lists and calendar.

The more you adopt from this method, the more likely you are to be productive and get things done in terms of projects that need to be completed.

About the Author

David Allen is a productivity consultant and creator of the time management method known as “Getting Things Done.”

He grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the won the state championship in debate. He went to college in New College of Florida. He then went on to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley. He started using heroin and was briefly put into a hospital. He worked many trades, including as magician. He is also an ordained minister with the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness.

He is the founder of David Allen Company, an executive coaching firm using his “Getting Things Done” system. His subordinates provide one-day public seminars on the methodology. Allen is also a speaker and gives lectures about his methodology. He is one of the founders of Actioneer, a company that makes productivity tools for the Palm Pilot.

He lives in Amsterdam with his fourth wife, Kathryn.

Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future

Book Summary - Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Key Insights

PayPal founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel taught a course on entrepreneurship at Stanford. Zero to One gives readers the key lessons from that course. Thiel has an insider’s perspective on how to succeed as a startup.

Thiel especially knows about the tech space. He was in Silicon Valley for the dot com rise and fall. Coming out the other side of the dot com bubble, Thiel has insights to share to help tech-based startups.

Anyone can create their own business. You don’t have to be a Silicon Valley tech wizard to have a startup company. Just because it’s easy to start doesn’t mean it’s easy to succeed. These key insights from Thiel’s book can give you a better chance of success.

Key Points

Innovative startups are more likely to succeed.

Thiel says that there are two kinds of progress: horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal progress takes what already exists and expands it. Globalization is horizontal progress. You take an existing product and expand its distribution to other countries. The improvements you see are incremental. Think of different generations of a cell phone. They’re similar products with slightly better features.

Vertical progress creates something new. This progress is known as going from zero to one. The progress comes from creating that one new technology or method. Horizontal progress takes one and grows it to some bigger number, n.

According to Thiel, vertical progress is better. Society advances through innovation. A startup with something new to offer is more likely to succeed.

To innovate, you can’t accept the status quo.

Progress is about what the future looks like. To get to something better in the future, you have to think about how the present can be different.

During interviews, Thiel asks people to name one thing that they believe that most others wouldn’t agree with. If everyone thinks the same as you, your idea isn’t the new thing.

If you want to change the world, you need to see the world (and its potential future) differently.

Focus on your startup’s future.

Many startups fail. Success is possible under specific circumstances. There is only one best of everything, so focus on getting there.

You want to get to the best product. You should target the best market for your product. Launch at the best time. Reach the best level of sales.

A plan is important for mapping out your startup’s future. But you do not want to get distracted. For example, students pile on extracurriculars to look good on college applications. They might stand out more if they were the absolute best in one area.

Focus on the future where your startup succeeds in its area. Don’t get distracted with alternatives. You want to look for the right conditions to get to success.

Monopolies are good for you and society.

It is better to have a monopoly than forced competition. A monopoly doesn’t necessarily mean there is an evil conglomerate killing competitors. If you are simply better than the rest, the others won’t last or can’t meaningfully compete. This results in a monopoly.

Look at Google. With the best technology, Google has something close to a monopoly for search engines. For a new company to compete, they would have to be better than Google. If that happened, society would benefit from having a better search engine.

Startups should aim for a monopoly. This is good for revenue and you can help the world by bringing something innovative. To get to a monopoly you can offer a unique product. With an innovative product, there is nobody around to compete.

You need technology, network, scale, and branding for an effective monopoly.

A tech startup should have a technology that others can’t copy (at least not easily). This means a brand new technology or a huge improvement on what is currently available.

Use a network that grows to protect your business. Facebook started with a limited pool of people that had access to the network before growing. As the network grows, it is harder and harder for anyone new to pull away customers.

Economies of scale can reinforce a monopoly. The more you produce of something, the lower the costs for each unit. With a monopoly, you have economies of scale in place. It would be hard for someone new to compete on price.

Your brand may be harder to copy than your product. For example, Apple has a look to its products that others have copied. But the Apple brand is a tech giant. Just knowing it is an Apple product gives it a certain value. Branding alone may help get you to a monopoly.

Vertical progress usually comes from optimists that plan.

Thiel talks about four types of people: indefinite pessimists, definite pessimists, indefinite optimists, and definite optimists. This last group has the innovators.

Indefinite pessimists think the future looks bad and do not plan for it. Definite pessimists plan for the future, but think things will be worse then than now. Indefinite optimists see a bright future, but don’t plan for it.

Definite optimists are the key. They believe in a brighter future and make plans to get there. Vision plus execution is essential for startup success.

Startup to success is about the long game.

Yes, there are companies that grew very quickly before selling for over $1 billion. That’s not the norm. Building a successful monopoly takes time.

Build your monopoly over time. Start with a narrow focus and conquer that before moving on. Amazon did exactly this. Jeff Bezos started with books. He expanded to CDs and videos. Now, there’s little you can’t buy on Amazon.

Just because you don’t have an overnight monopoly doesn’t mean your company is worthless. Projected profits are also part of your company value. If your goal is to sell your business, don’t forget about future sales.

Secrets help you succeed.

Like a barbecue dish with a secret sauce, you need something that others don’t know or have. Your secret may be a new technology you developed that didn’t exist before. Or, your secret may be a groundbreaking way of using technology that already exists. Either way, secrets are your not-so-secret weapons.

Choose people wisely from the start.

It may be tempting to try to do everything yourself, but you can’t. From the beginning, you need people that will benefit your company.

Thiel highlights the four Cs: competence, capabilities, compatibility, and commitment. You obviously want people that can do their job and do it well. They should bring essential skills to the job, limiting your need to train them. Staff should work well together to support the company. Everyone should be committed to seeing the business succeed.

Vet cofounders as well. Just because you like someone as a person doesn’t mean your interests and vision are aligned. Figure out how to resolve your conflicts or go your separate ways.

In a startup, the role of each person is magnified because there is usually only a small team. This team is part of your foundation for success.

If you can’t sell your product, your innovation is worthless.

Sales are critical to startup success. This doesn’t mean you have to personally peddle it like a door-to-door salesman. You can use tools to enhance your sales.

Think about your distribution. This includes your sales channels and weighing the effort for sales against potential benefits. For example, you may want to reach out to the biggest potential clients yourself. For smaller accounts, rely on staff.

Look for sales strategies that can help with your product. Creativity can boost your numbers.

Founders and entrepreneurs provide an essential vision but can become liabilities for their companies.

The greatest founders are usually unique individuals. They may have been outsiders from an early age or have strange hobbies. There are shared traits, like drive, focus, and energy. But not everything they offer is a hit.

For example, Steve Jobs co-founded Apple and was ousted before coming back in 1997. His iPod was not initially seen as innovative but then he moved into the groundbreaking iPhone and iPad world. The portrayal of Steve Jobs in a 2013 film also highlighted his personal problems in addition to his genius.

The founder can have a positive or negative impact on the company. You provide a vision for your business that only someone who was there before there was a business can. But you have to be mindful of how you are seen in the media. You are the face of the company.

The Main Take-away

Anyone can start a business, but not everyone can succeed. The strongest path to success is through a monopoly that benefits you and society. You create a monopoly by innovating and continuing to improve. You can protect that monopoly with a strong brand, customer base, and pricing strategy. Be the best at what you do and focus on making the best decisions to help your startup succeed.

About the Author

Peter Thiel is a venture capitalist and entrepreneur. He is best known for co-founding Confinity, the company that developed PayPal. Thiel was also the first outside investor in Facebook. In Silicon Valley at the time, Thiel witnessed the dot com rise and fall, drawing lessons for tech startups from the experience.

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know

Book Summary - The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Key Insights

Most people believe that women are less confident than men or women don’t behave as if they are as confident. But in many male-dominated fields, confidence is essential to workplace success.

In The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman break down what confidence is and why it is important. Confidence is especially complex and problematic for women, but the authors explain how to crack the code to become more confident.

Key Points

Confidence lets you act, even if you’re not sure you’ll succeed.

If you’ve ever regretted not being able to get yourself to do something, you’ve suffered from a lack of confidence before.

Kay and Shipman define confidence as believing in yourself enough to do or say something. This is not to say that you assume you’ll get it right or that you assume everything will just work out. You can be nervous or afraid, but you act anyway. This is confidence.

The other side of this is inaction because of a lack of confidence. Rather than risk failure, we choose not to do anything at all.

Confidence differs from perfectionism, optimism, and arrogance because there’s no assumption of a good outcome. You do not wait until you’re sure that you will be right. You do not act out of a positive outlook that everything generally works out fine. You do not have an unshakeable belief in your ability to succeed.

Taking action is a key part of confidence. It takes your attitudes or thoughts, and it turns them into something tangible. Of course, a positive outlook about the world and yourself can help boost your confidence. It means you take more action.

Women are more likely to lack confidence than men.

The difference in confidence between men and women generally is seen most clearly once you understand that it is about taking action despite a risk of failure.

Kay and Shipman provide an example of a professor who gave his students complicated puzzles to solve. It seemed that the male students were doing better on these puzzle tests than the female students. Then, he realized that his female students were leaving a lot more puzzles blank. The professor had everyone retake the puzzle test and instructed them to provide an answer to every question. The men no longer outperformed the women in the class.

A lack of confidence prevented attempting the answer questions, even though the eventual results showed that they could answer more correctly than they thought.

Confidence generally looks different in men than women.

The way women show their confidence isn’t the same as the way men do. It also likely wouldn’t be received the same way if it were.

Men, especially confident men, are more overt, dominant, and loud about their confidence. They are energetic and ready to voice their opinions. Confidence in men can also appear aggressive. In the workplace, this is often expected and may even be desirable.

Women are less aggressive with their confidence. Even if they are sure of themselves, there may be femininity or softness to the way they express it. For example, women are often more humble, collaborative, and cooperative. This does not detract from the confidence because women can still voice their opinions, defend their positions, and be certain of their actions. Women just don’t have to do it in a loud or aggressive manner to show their confidence.

The challenge for women is when an attempt at faking confidence reflects poorly on them. With the expectation that women act differently than men, putting on a tough front comes off fake. Rather than undermining your own confidence, you should use the approach that feels natural to you and take pride in it. The confidence will shine through.

A lack of confidence hurts women in the workplace.

Business is a male-dominated field. There are female CEOs at only 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies. A boost in confidence could be part of the equation for gaining more ground.

Women are more likely to accept less than what they demand at work. This lack of confidence affects the work that they get to do, what they get paid for it, and how they are treated in the workplace.

The workplace differs from a classroom in many ways. In a classroom, good work speaks for itself. In the workplace, good work may not be enough. You have to take the initiative and promote your work and your abilities. Otherwise, good work alone may not get you noticed. This means you may miss better projects and opportunities.

Asking for more money and negotiating for yourself requires confidence. A series of studies by a Carnegie Mellon University economics professor showed the impact on women. Men negotiate their salary four times as frequently as women. Even the women who do negotiate set a lower bar for themselves. They expect to get 30 percent less of a raise than men expect to.

To thrive at work, you also have to be able to put your best ideas out there. Unfortunately, women speak way less than men. If there are more men than women in the room, the women speak up to 75 percent less. Good ideas might be missed by not speaking up, but you have to have the confidence to put your thoughts out there.

The business world can be cutthroat and you can’t allow self-doubt to handicap you. If you can’t advocate for yourself, you may miss good projects, promotions, and a higher salary.

Competence doesn’t equal confidence.

If you lack confidence, you probably doubt your own capabilities. This does not mean you are actually incompetent. Confidence has to do with your perceptions, and whether or not you allow insecurities to stop you.

Low confidence can also keep you from increasing your competence. If you cannot envision being successful in your field, there is no motivation to better yourself. If you doubt your abilities and your potential, you can miss opportunities.

Even successful people have faced self-doubt. Christine Lagarde, who served as the head of the International Monetary Fund, is an incredibly successful woman and one of the best in her field. Even she had issues with confidence during her career. Obviously, her competence was not a problem and she found the confidence to get to where she did.

There is a genetic component to confidence.

If you’re now feeling a lack of confidence about your confidence, take comfort in knowing that some of this was out of your hands.

Scientists have found that a variety of character traits, like aggression, have some genetic component. Confidence is no different. Your genes determine half of your confidence.

Research in monkeys found a connection between a serotonin-regulating gene and confidence. A monkey that had the gene linked with confidence could turn out confident even with an unsupportive mother. Similarly, a monkey with a gene linked with low confidence could end up more confident than the monkeys with the “better” gene if they had a caring mother.

It isn’t all up to the gene. The gene makes a certain trait more likely, but your environment can bring it out or help you overcome it.

Society generally treats girls and boys differently, which impacts confidence.

From an early age, girls are rewarded for being good and diligent. Boys are expected to run around, take risks, and get messy. They aren’t punished for not being “good.”

Treating boys and girls in this way pushes girls to focus on being perfectionists to get everything right. A desire to not be wrong or “bad” makes it hard to have the confidence to put yourself out there.

Beyond genetics, the environment for girls sets them up to have lower confidence.

You can build confidence even without genetics and childhood on your side.

No matter the genetics and how you were raised, it is still possible to improve your confidence.

Brain plasticity means even adults can alter their brains. In other words, you can change the physical structure of your brain. There’s no brain surgery involved, just being committed to changing your thoughts.

This may sound impossible, but studies show how you can change your brain. A mere two hours of behavioral therapy for people afraid of spiders changed everything. Brain scans showed that the part of the brain responsible for fear was not active even though they were touching a live tarantula!

Focus on changing the way you think about yourself to improve your confidence. Everyone has negative thoughts, often automatically. Redirect negative thoughts into positive ones. Try to reframe a criticism into a compliment.

Changing the way you think, especially the unconscious negativity, may feel hard. But if you keep at it, you can spark your confidence.

You will fail. Handle it with confidence.

If you are worried that your plan might not work, you could take yourself back to the drawing board. Unfortunately, women often stay in the planning zone and overthink things.

Building confidence requires risking failure. Instead of worrying about whether you’re good enough to win a contest before entering, just enter and see what happens. You may not win, but you’ll be better prepared for the next one.

Failure itself can also build confidence. You can realize that getting something wrong didn’t break you. Maybe you didn’t win the contest, but you’re still alive and relatively unharmed.

A confident response to failure is to think of it as a learning opportunity. Your natural talent isn’t the issue, but maybe there are areas of your execution that can be enhanced. Think of what happened in terms of a specific situation. Failing on one task doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough.

The fear of failure can cripple you. Embracing failure can help you soar.

The Main Take-away

Confidence does not come as easily to women as it does men. Between genetics and a childhood environment that doesn’t leave girls room to fail, women are set up to lack confidence. But it is possible to change that by shifting your thoughts. Redirect negative into positive and reframe failures into opportunities. Cracking the confidence code will help women thrive in male-dominated workplaces and all aspects of their lives.

About the Authors

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman are both television journalists. Kay is a presenter for BBC World News America and Shipman is a correspondent for Good Morning America. The Confidence Code is their second book together. The first book, Womenomics, proved the corporate value of female management.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

Book Summary - Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

Key Insights

In our working lives, we all encounter good and bad bosses. A good boss makes us feel creative, needed, and excited to come to work while a bad boss makes us dread our jobs. In Wiseman’s book, she considers what qualities set these people apart, specifically how good bosses are Multipliers: people who inspire productivity that is multiples higher than that under mediocre leadership. Wiseman explains what it takes for anyone to become a Multiplier by creating a fair and encouraging environment for all their talent and simultaneously explains how to avoid becoming a bad boss that diminishes the possibilities of their team.

Key Points

Bosses call into two categories: those that diminish the strengths of their team and those that multiply them. These are known as “Multipliers” and “Diminishers”

Most people have had a diminishing boss at some point in their lives. The hallmarks are familiar: you don’t feel excited about going to work, are frightened of their barking feedback, and always feel them looking over your shoulder.

Bosses like these are bad not only for the individual employees but for the function of the entire organization. Employees become worried about missteps and avoid creativity and honest communication. Ideas get left unsaid or undreamt. According to Wiseman, employees with these sorts of bosses only gave 20-50% effort on a daily basis.

Good bosses, on the other hand, create a thriving environment for their employees. By encouraging their team to make the most of their talents, ideas, and intelligence, they help raise the game for their entire organization.

Most bosses lie somewhere in between, not quite an extreme of one or the other. But by becoming aware of the distinction between multiplier and diminisher, any boss can change the way they approach their employees and start the path towards excellent leadership.

“Talent Magnets” find teams in unexpected places and make the most of individual strengths. Meanwhile “Empire Builders” can attract teams, but neglect to nurture the talent they onboard.

L writes that there are different ways that bosses can exhibit Multiplier qualities. The first type that she considers is the Talent Magnet or a boss that attracts excited and motivated people.

She tells the story of Ernest Shackleton, an explorer who wanted to launch an expedition to Antarctica. Shackleton advertised his mission in the local newspaper, explaining plainly the realities of the dangerous but exciting mission. In response, he received hundreds of applications from around the world and was able to put together an ideal team. As a result, Shackleton and his team made it through their mission with no casualties or injuries.

Wiseman explains that Shackleton is an example of a Talent Magnet because he was not afraid to look everywhere for his talent. In his search, he was not afraid of traditional boundaries and vetting processes and opened his search to anyone who felt interested in his mission. By avoiding limiting hierarchies he was able to find the team of his dreams.

Bosses can implement this skill by also widening their conception of where talent can be found. By doing this, they may find unexpectedly useful skills or qualities. This sort of searching can improve the diverse nature of teams.

After a team is founded, Talent Magnets make sure to appreciate and nurture the talent they’ve onboarded. Talent Magnets praise the special qualities they see in their workers and communicate these praises to the entire time. They also put their employees in positions that let them thrive— they know which roles will suit their talent and allow them to run with their responsibilities.

Once diverse teams are assembled and responsibilities allocated most efficiently, Talent Magnets know that it is their responsibility to remove obstacles in the way of each team member so their talent can thrive as individuals. They may go so far as noticing when a person has reached the capacity of their work and offering them a larger role or even offering that they move on to bigger and more rigorous opportunities.

The opposite of Talent Magnets is Empire Builders. Empire Builders may be able to find talent, in the interest of collecting it, but that is where their interest stops. Instead of appreciating and nurturing their talent, they move on to their own agendas. In this case, the real potential of workers goes unnoticed and the entire operation becomes limited by these oversights.

“Liberators” create a fair and inspiring workplace rather than a stifling one

Another form of Multiplier is the Liberator. Liberators know that the workplace can be stressful, and therefore limit a person’s ability to put their best foot forward. In response, they make sure they create an environment that encourages experimentation and free thought. They know that making their employees comfortable does not necessarily sacrifice productivity.

Liberators also know that a comfortable work environment doesn’t mean one without a certain amount of pressure and expectation. To encourage employees to work to the best of their abilities, they also create a feeling of intensity and seriousness in their workplace. This intensity encourages employees to seriously consider how they can help their team the most.

Wiseman provides Steven Spielberg as an example of a well-known liberator. According to those who’ve worked for Spielberg, he creates a sense of pressure at every film set, setting the expectation that the cast and crew are working towards something great. This inspires his people to want to do offer their best work in every scene in an effort to be apart of excellence.

The opposite of Liberators, according to Wiseman, are Tyrants. Instead of making the workplace seem comfortable, they prioritize intimidation in an effort to get their employees to do their best. Although employees might continue to contribute to their jobs, this stressful atmosphere limits their interest in sincerely trying their best and makes them fearful of experimentation.

Bosses can start employing Liberator tendencies by considering whether they are giving their employees room to do their work. Wiseman explains that Spielberg knew the duties of everyone on his crew but trusted them to perform without offering his input. Bosses should trust the expertise of the people they hire.

Bosses should also make it clear to their employees that failure should not be feared. This sort of allowance allows breathing room for employees who may feel anxious about trying new and potentially better methods to their work. Mistakes should be completely acceptable, as long as employees know to own up to them and then learn from them.

“Challengers” push their teams to their limits by inspiring belief in new opportunities

Multipliers are also expert Challengers. Challengers are leaders that can show their team ambitious goals and express the possibility of these results. By seeding these opportunities, they motivate a team to see their potential and push towards these new limits.

Wiseman gives the example of Matt McCauley, the CEO of children’s retailer Gymboree. McCauley was able to raise the price of Gymboree's stocks by five-fold after stepping in as CEO by always aiming high. He expressed to his company that they could raise their share prices to a dollar within a year, and soon the team met and exceeded that goal. Gymboree ended up raising their share prices by four dollars thanks to McCauley’s vision.

To become a Challenger, bosses should help their team define challenges and understand ideal outcomes that may not have been considered before. To identify these challenges, bosses should pose questions about what a team’s dreams are. Then, they can help the teams set appropriate and achievable goals that push towards these ideals. By setting these targets, teams can feel they are moving in the best direction and believe in their capability.

Bosses should also avoid telling people what to do exactly, and instead point them in exciting directions. By letting teams develop their own ideas on how to meet these goals, bosses can stay out of the way of any progress.

The opposite of a Challenger is a Know-It-All. Instead of challenging their teams to figure out the best solutions to ideas, they feel they can find the answers themselves. They feel they can decide on goals themselves without asking their teams what seems possible to them or where they hope to end up. To avoid being a know-it-all, always consult with your team about potential challenges and whether they feel this to be ambitious or not ambitious enough. Inspire them to push their strengths to new heights by their volition instead of just asking for larger and larger results.

“Debate Makers” create space for open conversation within a team. They are interested in the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of everyone involved.

Debate Makers are another type of Multiplier. These types of bosses understand the importance of debate as a discussion of ideas and where everyone in an organization stands on certain decisions. They seek input from everyone, regardless of title, and make final decisions based on these conversations.

Wiseman gives the example of Arian Mengerink, a police chief in a Dutch city. Mengerink grew tired of the hierarchical structure of his decision after a series of failed initiatives. He decided to rearrange the structure of his police force by instituting practices that would allow for more dialogue. Mengaerink’s restructuring can be applied to any organization by Debate Makers.

First, he decided to prepare issues for debate by making clear presentations before facilitating discussion in order to bring everyone onto the same page. Next, he allowed his police force to debate each other and invited everyone in the department to these sessions. This included secretaries and lawyers and created a space for a diverse set of opinions and perspectives. He expressed that disagreements were encouraged to keep the debate honest and civil. Finally, he made sure to take what he learned from these debates and worked towards a strong decision to present to his constituency. After making this decision, he made it clear to everybody that he’d reached a conclusion. Because of these initiatives, Mengerink’s people felt well-represented. In believing they had a say in decisions made by the department, they felt more interested in contributing their ideas for the success of the department and can understand the process in which their ideas are used.

The opposite of a Debate Maker is a Decision Maker. These people make decisions without consulting their teams. They announce their ideas rather than developing them with the inputs of others. To avoid this, always weigh your options only after consulting various experts— evidence and facts are an important part of any decision. This could avoid a team feeling that decisions were forced on them or like their individual voices do not matter.

 “Investors” put others in charge and invest in their success

The final type of Multiplier than Wiseman presents is the Investor. These types of bosses understand that instead of micromanaging their team, they can instead invest in resources that will allow employees to work through challenges on their own. This investment could involve education, space, or coaching and allows employees to feel in charge of any responsibility given to them.

This sort of leadership differs from micromanagement because it doesn’t shield employees from failure, headwinds, or natural consequences. Instead, it gives them the resources to weather these things on their own terms.

Wiseman gives the example of Larry Gelwix, a rugby coach. Gelwix gave the responsibility of improving the rugby team’s fitness to the team captains. The captains started to come to him for help on the most efficient exercises and Gelwix happily explained what he knew and then pointed them to the appropriate resources. By the end of the season, the team was fit and ended up winning the championship after an undefeated streak. Gelwix’s story reveals how Investors aren’t afraid to delegate their power to capable employees and how their success can be encouraged by supporting them in material ways.

To avoid becoming an accidental “Diminisher” practice self-awareness. Then, start becoming a Multiplier by simply focusing on one strength and one weakness.

Well-meaning bosses can easily slip into a diminishing role. They may not notice the ways they are smothering their workers by constantly checking in and offering their input.

The first step to avoiding this behavior is to try and understand the way you appear to your employees. Ask for honest feedback from peers, employees, and customers. Be open to hearing about your flaws. Noticing these flaws will allow you to correct what is needed and avoid slipping into detrimental habits.

After understanding your effect on your employees, the next step to becoming a multiplier doesn’t have to overwhelming. Start with considering which type of Multiplier you are most similar to, whether it be a Debate Maker, Investor, or Challenger. Lean into this natural tendency of yours and practice embodying this role in your everyday leadership.

Next, consider your weaknesses. Which type of Multiplier is you least similar to? Practice taking this thing and working on it regularly, implementing the strategies above.

Wiseman recommends focusing on these two adjustments at the start of a thirty-day effort to become a multiplier. Within thirty days, she says, it is possible to shed Diminisher tendencies and transform into a Multiplier.

Within these thirty days, question everything you do as you reset your role as a leader. Are you rethinking the intelligence of everyone you manage? Are you trusting they will figure out their tasks on their own accord? Wiseman states that once bosses start to believe these things, they will watch and notice as it proves to be true. Change is not immediate, but by the end of the thirty-day experiment, bosses can celebrate their new positive habits.

Workers dealing with Diminishing bosses can learn how to defend themselves

Diminishing bosses are unfortunately very common. If you are a worker dealing with a diminishing boss there are steps you can take to protect yourself from their behavior.

If you want to make a suggestion to a difficult boss, you can be the one to diffuse the conflict. First, you can offer that the team regroups to figure out the issue. Then, once you have cooled off, you can approach the boss and see if your soft approach softens their position as well. You can offer a solution that combines both ideas with a new compassion for your boss.

If you are being micromanaged try and find patient ways to remind your boss that you are qualified and that you can work without their input. This could mean explaining to them that you need space to complete a project and that after you will bring it to them for their opinion.

You can also ask for feedback and resources yourself, extracting the resources of a Multiplier boss whenever you need it. For example, ask for insight in key moments where a boss’ perspective might guide your own vision. This requested input could lessen a boss’s need to give input on their terms. Finally, invite a boss to see your talent by inviting them along in your work. By showing bosses how you do your work, they may better understand your expertise and how their interruption affects your process.

The Main Take-away

A boss’s tendencies can severely affect the productivity of those that work for them. Leaders should be conscious of the effect they have on their employees and strive to maximize the possibilities of their people. This multiplier effect can occur through several avenues, like making a comfortable workplace, trusting the intelligence of employees, encouraging debate and feedback, and investing in the independent development of workers. By practicing these ideal behaviors and avoiding harmful ones, bosses can inspire the most out of their company and experience the best results for everyone involved.

About the Author

Liz Wiseman is a researcher, author, and executive advisor. She teaches leadership skills to executives around the world. She is CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research firm in Silicon Valley California. Her research focuses on the field of leadership and collective intelligence. Her clients include Apple, AT&T, Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Salesforce, Tesla, and Twitter. She writes for the Harvard Business Review and is a guest lecturer at Stanford University. She holds a BA in business management and a MA in Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business

Book Summary - Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business by Paul Jarvis

Key Insights

Most people who start a company are thinking about how they can make it bigger. Success is determined by having more of everything. You want more employees, more customers, more office space, and (of course) more profit.

Company of One challenges the push to have more, cautioning against the higher costs and lower control that come with growth. If you keep your business small, you are more agile. You also have more autonomy over your day inside and outside of work.

If you’re interested in being a company of one, you have to distinguish it from a freelance career. While both have the freedom to decide how much to work, a freelancer doesn’t get paid unless they work. A company will be able to make money even when you’re not working.

Key Points

More isn’t always better.

The focus of a company of one is not growth. Many organizations have their sights set on becoming large operations. That means hiring more staff to cover marketing, accounting, legal, human resources, and more. These organizations will put more money into real estate for offices and technology to have cutting-edge tools and systems.

A company of one takes a different approach. You purposefully start small and scale very carefully. When there are issues, you don’t believe that putting “more” into the problem is necessarily the solution. Instead, you use the autonomy that comes with being a lean operation to your advantage.

A company of one doesn’t just have to be one person.

It may feel like a misnomer, but the principles of a company of one aren’t limited to a single-person business. It is about the mindset more than the actual organizational structure. This means that you can be a company of one even if you work at a large organization.

Questioning whether or not growth is the solution is the key to being a “company of one.” As a company that just has you or a small number of employees, you keep the organization from growing unnecessarily even if that means not taking on additional clients. If you’re a company of one within a large organization, you also question growth and keep your part of the operation lean.

Done well, a company of one is efficient and offers simplicity and autonomy.

When there’s just you at the company, you have to be good at what you do. There’s no safety net or a team of people to pick up the slack. If you’re going to set out to be a company of one, it is helpful if you have experience in traditional companies building your skills.

For example, a digital strategist works for five years with an agency before hanging out her shingle. She is an expert in what she does, but she has also discovered how she works best. This includes the time of day that is best for her to do the actual work and when she can do other things like taking meetings.

Understanding how you work best and operating around that is a benefit of the operation of a company of one. You can set up the company to function around you. This means that you’re more efficient at getting good work done. Which will make you more competitive with clients.

Being small also helps with agility. You don’t have a complicated organization or a lot of bureaucracy that gets in the way. So, if a customer needs something, you can pivot quickly to meet their needs. The ability to shift priorities and the autonomy to make decisions are at the core of why a company of one works well.

Focus on profitability by starting small and launching quickly.

If you are considering setting out on your own with a company of one, the goal is to set up a lean operation that you can launch quickly. The longer you allow an idea to languish, the longer you are missing out on potential revenue. And you want to start small to keep your costs low and offer a better opportunity to reach profitability sooner.

To keep profitability at the forefront, a company of one must define its minimum viable profit (MVP). This figure tells you at what threshold you will become profitable. What do you need to do to achieve this minimum profitability? Keep expenses as low as possible to get to that figure quicker.

A traditional company believes profitability will follow after growth. So, rather than prioritizing growth, these companies will invest in people and technology at the start. The idea is that they will eventually reach profitability, but they’re focused on setting up the large-scale operation first.

Remember that so many companies didn’t start out with a groundbreaking idea. They just offered a simple solution to a problem people had or took something that existed and tried to make it better. Keeping it small and simple is a good way to start. You can always expand your offerings later.

Take advantage of what makes a company of one competitive.

If you want to thrive as a company of one, you have to exploit the qualities that make you unique. You’re more likely to interact directly with the clients. Provide a personal touch such as a thank you note written by hand. It’s something that you can offer that the CEO of a big company probably doesn’t.

You also have the ability to solve problems in whatever manner you think is best. A non-traditional or creative idea is perfectly fine. If you think that’s the best solution, you can run with it because there’s no approval chain to worry about in a company of one. Even as a company of one inside of a bigger organization, you can approach problems by thinking about how to address them without resorting to pouring more resources into it.

You have to motivate yourself and hold yourself accountable.

Not having a boss can be great, but if you can’t make yourself work you’re going to be in trouble. Only self-motivated people can cut it at a company of one.

Figure out how to optimize your productivity. Set up a workspace that allows you to focus and doesn’t welcome distractions. Studies also show that your ability to focus starts decreasing after working 55 hours in a week. That and other factors that affect your personal productivity should be taken into account.

A personal productivity audit can also help you work more efficiently. Once or twice a year, you figure out how long each of your tasks takes you. Write them down, see what’s taking up your time without providing as much value, and automate what you can. Identifying wasted time allows you to correct and work smarter.

Learn to say no.

The beauty of a small company is the control you have. This means setting your own hours and workload. Rather than overstretch yourself, you have a goal for earnings and just aim to meet that.

In the beginning, you probably will have to take whatever clients come your way. But as you establish yourself, you can be pickier about the projects you want to take on. Companies of one can even be booked well in advance or have large waiting lists.

If you want to balance, you cannot do everything. Set a minimum financial goal and upper limit, aiming for a balance that sits within these parameters. Identify how to get in that range in terms of contracts, customers, or whatever fits your business model. You don’t have to say yes to every project, but you will have to get good at saying no.

Use networks to generate business and funding.

You have networks you can turn to when you’re launching a business. A company of one works well in these settings. For example, if you’re offering writing services, your regular contacts may be able to refer small projects to you. These can grow to bigger projects over time and also lead to word-of-mouth referrals.

A large company wouldn’t be able to thrive by just asking everyone they know to send business their way. Marketing is more of an undertaking in these situations. Like everything else, traditional companies would just throw more resources at it in order to generate business.

Networks are also a good tool for raising capital. If you need money, you’re better off using crowdfunding if possible. You can put out the idea that you have in mind and essentially take preorders while you work on it. You’re collecting money in advance of having a finished product to purchase. You retain all of your ownership interest.

The alternative is venture capital. It can offer fast cash if you get a deal, plus VCs have relationships that can grow your business. But that assumes you want to grow and are willing to give up some of your profit in the exchange. Also, VCs require you to give up some of the autonomy and control that is inherent to the company of one.

Beyond your business goals, demographics can play a role in which of these may work better for you. VCs made up of white males generally support other white males. On the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, women do nearly one-third better than men.

If you have to seek capital externally, think about your goals and how to best accomplish them.

A company of one is not as risky as it may appear.

You may think that venturing out on your own is a risky move. But if the alternative is to stay at a big company remember that there are risks there too.

Any company, no matter how big, can fail. And the more overhead costs that a company has, the more pressure points they have to deal with if there are financial constraints. Big companies are constantly dealing with ownership changes, layoffs, and bankruptcy. Working for an organization like that has plenty of risks.

Small businesses can do just fine. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of companies of one (self-employed people without employees) that generate at least $1 million in a year is growing. The company of one offers a place for you to be successful without staying in a traditional corporate role.

Your own venture is not without risk, of course. There are a lot of things you have to be able to handle that aren’t the core product or service you’re offering. You need to take care of or outsource marketing, accounting, and sales. Be aware of and plan for those needs to mitigate the risk.

Communicate with customers to share your purpose and understand their experience.

Small businesses can offer a more interesting narrative than a big company. The faceless corporation that has its hands in a little bit of everything is not as compelling as the story you can tell about setting up your company of one from your kitchen table.

You have a purpose and passion for what you do. It may not be your one true passion in life because those don’t always make the best business ideas. But you care about what you’re offering. Find a way to share that message and your personality with your customers.

Communication is a two-way street. You can get valuable feedback from your customers. It’s more than just what they liked or didn’t like about a product. You want to know what made them buy from you over others. Use that information to get more clients.

Build relationships to help build up your business. Research shows that about 83% of new business comes from word-of-mouth referrals. People want to support trustworthy companies. If their friends and families trust you, then they feel they can trust you by proxy.

Connection can’t be faked. Share your unique story, listen to customers, and show that you genuinely want to help them with your product or service. And if customers feel valued, they’ll want to bring you more business.

The Main Take-away

Business doesn’t look the way it used to. You don’t have to have a whole team of people to be running a company. You just need you.

A company of one prioritizes profit over growth. Starting small with a simple idea and launching it as quickly as possible to begin generating revenue is the first step. Products and services can always be expanded later.

Your approach is not to think of what “more” you can add whenever there’s an issue. Instead, you think of creative ways to solve problems. When you need to pivot, you do it without wasting time dealing with hierarchy. With everything your company of one does, you’re able to be nimble without the bureaucracy to deal with.

Of course, there are challenges. Only you can make yourself work, which is critical to your company of one succeeding. The regular company needs like accounting don’t go away just because that’s not your expertise. You have to find ways to meet all the business needs without drowning in additional expenses and more overhead.

But you’re poised to compete well. You have a lean operation. If you can resonate with customers, you’re on your way. Tell people your story and connect with them. Build their trust through great work and listening to their feedback. Then use networks to keep your business growing even if it stays a company of one.

About the Author

Paul Jarvis is a writer and designer with a vast amount of experience in IT and digital media.

His previous work has been consulting with a variety of clients. Corporate clients included Yahoo, Mercedes-Benz, and Microsoft. He also worked with professional athletes to help them navigate their online presence. Big names in this group include Shaquille O’Neal, Warren Sapp, and Steve Nash. After that, he helped online entrepreneurs build their brands.

Jarvis walks the talk of his book as his own company of one. Since venturing out, he’s created online courses reaching more than 10,000 students. He also spends time writing, creating podcasts, and developing software.

He does all this from his home. Jarvis lives with his wife on Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia.

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

Ever had one of those days where you promised yourself you’d do something, but you continue to put it off instead? Maybe you promised you’d go to the gym, but you skip the workout and head home instead. Or maybe you’ve been trying to get a passion project off the ground, but you can’t seem to find the time to work on it.

The key to following through with your goals might be simpler than you think. In fact, simplicity is the aim of The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. This book helps you narrow your focus to one primary thing at which you can excel. Then, it guides you through developing the tools to successfully get the one thing you’re most passionate about getting.

Ready for some extraordinary results? First, you’ve got to dream big.

Dream Big

Think of your biggest, wildest dream. For this exercise, the bigger the better.

Now that you have that dream in mind, what if I asked you to go ahead and achieve it?

Most people would argue that attempting to reach that dream is useless because the dream feels impossible to achieve. It's too big. You might wonder why anyone bothers to have big dreams at all since the likelihood of achieving them might feel smaller and smaller with each passing day.

However, failing to dream big leads to, well… smaller things. Which can be ok, but why strive for that?

JK Rowling, when she first wrote Harry Potter, wasn’t thinking to herself that she would just write a single book. Even as she was writing the very first book, she knew there would be seven. Arthur Guinness, when purchasing his first brewery, got a lease for 9,000 years. Neither of them failed to dream big, and it paid off BIG time.

Thinking big is scary. Having dreams is scary. Especially if you’ve experienced failure. However, if it weren’t for thinking big, much of our scientific expansion wouldn’t have happened. A man on the moon seemed impossible at one point, but because of expansive thinking, it became possible.

Let yourself dream big, or you risk missing possibilities and opportunities.

Dream big, and determine what you would like to accomplish. This is ONE thing on which you want to focus all of your energy.

Got it? Good! Let's step into action!

Know how to prioritize your to-do list

Every item on your to-do list is not equally important.

When Joseph M. Juran was working for General Motors, he noticed most of the errors made in the manufacturing of cars were from only a few specific production flaws. A few flaws created a lot of mistakes. Juran called this finding the “Pareto Principle” After Pareto, an economist, who had shown that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people. His findings were echoed when Juran realized that 20% of the errors had caused 80% of the flaws. He speculated that the 80/20 principle could be a universal law.

This principle has been found replicated in many things, from nature to sales records (20% of the clients produce 80% of the sales). If 20% of your work influences 80% of your outcomes, you need to get clear on what exactly that 20% is. Then, make it your priority.

In order to achieve what you desire to achieve, it is absolutely essential that you focus your energy on high priority items. However, establishing what even goes on the list in the first place can be a complex process. Here’s how:

Ask the “Focusing Question”

Now that you have an idea or a goal, bringing it down to workable parts is challenging. The way to begin the process is by asking yourself, “What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”

There are two levels on which you can ask this question:

Macro-level: What’s the one thing that I want to do? Simplify the goal. What do you want at the highest level? An example of this would be: “I want to graduate college”. “I want to purchase a large African bird”. Creating clarity in your overall goal is the key here.

Micro-level: Now, what is one thing you can do right now that will put you closer to achieving this goal? Say your goal was “I want to graduate college”. One thing you could do in the next moment is research schools you would like to attend. If you want the bird, your next step might be to do some research on the legality surrounding the ownership of large, foreign birds.

The first level will help you to clarify where you’re going, the second level will uncover the most important steps to get there. Continuously ask yourself the second question as you clarify the steps you must take to achieve your goals, and you’ll have that bird in no time.

Here, the challenge shifts to continuing the effort needed to get the thing you desire. You can do this by forming new habits.

The secret to creating discipline is selectively forming new helpful habits

Michael Phelps is a well-known athlete and awarded Olympian. He also struggles with ADHD, which makes it hard for him to focus. One thing Olympians are credited with is exhaustive levels of discipline, which it seems someone with ADHD would find challenging. Phelps overcame his struggle with ADHD through consistent habit-forming. His habit was swimming. And for roughly a decade, starting as a 14-year-old in the pool, and continuing as an Olympian at the Beijing Olympics, he swam every day.

Habits are a powerful thing. Harnessing them can mean the difference between success and failure. The key to managing them is to slowly introduce new habits once the previous habit has been mastered. It is easier to continue an old habit than to start a new one: so once things get started, it might be easier to keep them going than you might think initially.

For instance, you can begin by starting a new habit of waking up ten minutes earlier than you usually do. After continuing this habit for a while, you may begin going for walks in the morning, too.

By slowly introducing better habits, you will be able to change your behavior and become more disciplined. On the topic of discipline, here’s how you can also increase efficiency.

Don’t multitask, give whatever you’re working on your complete attention

We can’t do two things at once, so we switch between two different tasks whenever we’re trying to multitask. This comes at a cost to both the amount of time it will take you to complete your task and your ability to do it well. The time cost can be less when a person is switching between easier tasks but can be substantial when the two tasks are difficult or complex. Say you’re giving a complex demonstration, and someone asks a question. Since you’re now switching your attention between the person and the task at hand, you’re losing focus. Every time you look back at your complex demonstration, you have to remember your place and start again.

This is not ideal. Especially since studies indicate that the average office worker is distracted every 11 minutes, and spends up to ⅓ of their day recovering from the distractions. That’s a lot of time lost. The solution? Figure out what you want to accomplish, and give your undivided attention. But how can you focus on something for a long period of time? One element is willpower.

Use willpower wisely: it can run out

Willpower is not a constant force. You may have noticed this when it became harder to resist a delicious candy bar after a stressful day at work. That lag in your willpower might because willpower is a resource: and it can run out.

Once you use your willpower to focus your attention, suppress your emotions, or change your behavior so you can achieve a goal, it gets depleted. Once it's drained, it becomes harder to use it when you need to.

Unfortunately, depletion of willpower can have huge repercussions. Israeli Parole Judges were more likely to make favorable judgments at the beginning of the day, or after meals and snacks, because judges started to default to “no parole” as it was easier when they were depleted.

Take care of your willpower. Skipping a meal to get some work done or staying late at the office might mean short term satisfaction, but the repercussions of overstretching your willpower can be harmful to your goals. Conversely, if you find that you are having a hard time harnessing your willpower, examine where it might be getting depleted and if determine if there’s a solution: or risk running out when you need it most. Here’s a great way to conserve your willpower: say NO!

Don't be afraid to say NO

Steve Jobs was a huge fan of this one. After he came back to Apple in 1997, he shrank their product count from 350 to 10. He explained, “When you think about focusing, you think ‘Well, focusing is about saying yes.’ No! Focusing is about saying `no’!”

Though it seems like saying “no” was easy for Steve Jobs, it can be difficult in real life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. You can say “no” and still be kind and thoughtful by offering helpful suggestions or another person who can help.

Your time is valuable, and so are your resources. Saying “no” means you can focus them on your plans and goals, instead of being depleted by everyone else’s agenda. Saying “no” will allow you to focus on your most important tasks. Which will be defined when you define the steps to achieving your goal.

Defining the steps to achieve your goal and living with purpose can lead you to an extraordinary outcome

Without any goals, dreams or ambitions, life can feel pointless. Why continue? What’s the point? Where’s the meaning? You might ask yourself. Imagine being faced with a challenge, or needing to weather a difficult storm in this condition. It's hard to face the storms in life when you don’t feel like you have anything to fight for.

Creating a meaningful goal can allow you to live with more purpose and can give your life meaning beyond survival.

Once you’ve created a meaningful goal, visualizing the steps to accomplish it can actually lead you to a better outcome. In a study, it was found that students who were taking a test performed better if they visualized the outcome of taking the test beforehand. Students who did the visualization reported increased motivation, which leads to better performance. Visualization is key! Understanding what your goal is, knowing the underlying meaning behind it, and then visualizing the steps to achieve it can lead to extraordinary results.

Now that you have a goal that you’re obsessed about, balancing personal and work time well is essential!

Don't compromise your personal life for your work life: instead, be ruthless in how you prioritize your work

James Patterson said, “Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball - if you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls are made of glass”.

Certain things can be compromised, other things can’t. The damage we do when we prioritize work over our personal lives can, much like the shattered glass ball, be impossible to repair.

The way to avoid dropping one of the glass balls is to find ways to manage things at work. Ruthlessly.

To do this, determine what you cannot reasonably do. Find ways to get those tasks done by other means, or is possible, do them later. Determine what your most important tasks are (sound familiar?) and focus on those. Speaking of creating priorities:

Focus on one thing means chaos in other things: utilize time management strategies

Just because your energy is focused on a major goal doesn’t mean life stops showing up. In fact, sometimes it seems like things get extra chaotic in your personal life when another area needs extra focus. The only way to resolve this is to let the chaos pile up while you focus on your big goal. Delegate smaller tasks that need to be addressed to others and use other strategies to knock things out, but accepting that chaos will emerge is essential. Trust that by focusing on your main goal, the issues that generated the chaos will likely be resolved, and you will simplify other areas of your life.

Make the most of your time. Find a workspace that doesn’t contain many distractions, consider working away from your office. Most importantly, defend the time you choose to spend working on your main goal like it's the most important appointment you’ve ever made.

You will need to give your primary goal the unwavering attention it needs, which means chaos will grow and challenges will arise. Address this by avoiding distractions, cutting chunks of time out of your schedule to work, and defending this time so you can give it the attention it requires.

Now that you’ve got the tools to simplify your life, the only thing left is to get out there and get some extraordinary results!

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels

The First 90 Days By Michael D. Watkins

Key Insights

Have you ever been intimidated to enter a new company?

Or even, take on a new role in your current company?

Let’s face it, the first couple of months can feel like a nerve-wracking transition where you’re always tip-toeing around afraid to mess up.

“Joining a new company is akin to an organ transplant—and you’re the new organ. If you’re not thoughtful in adapting to the new situation, you could end up being attacked by the organizational immune system and rejected.”- Michael D. Watkins

In his book, “The First 90 Days” Watkins breaks down the things you should be focusing on during this transition period to create smooth-sailing throughout the rest of your time there.

It will help you to feel more at-ease with the change because you will have all the tools to make a good impression and succeed in your new leadership position.

The first 90 days don’t have to be so scary! It’s actually the best time to make an impression and improve on old systems. So, what are you waiting for? Go make a good impression!

Key Points

  • The First 90 Days Map Out Success

It’s vital to know that first impressions are everything. The first 90 days in a company are what map out your success. If you start on a bad foot, no one will respect you or want to follow your lead. But, if you start out strong, people will automatically be drawn to you and look to you for leadership.

A lot of people will make judgements before they even get to know you. It’s only natural! However, you can easily combat negative judgements by taking the time to speak to all the employees one-on-one to get a gist of what they are looking to improve on and what they want in a leader.

Being a kind and thoughtful leader will help others to listen to you and respect your judgement.

  • You Must Adapt Quick

Many people jump from company to company nowadays. And, they are always trying out new roles. Ladder-climbing is at an all-time high. So, that’s why it is so important to master the art of the transition.

By transitioning within 90 days successfully, it will allow you to get the most out of your role during your time of power. It will also allow you to help a company benefit from your time there.

Another helpful quality is being able to identify role changes that have no change in title or position. Oftentimes, your role in a company will change silently based on new technology or a new company strategy. Learn to identify this and go with the flow of advancement.

  • Learn Don’t Change

It’s tempting to go into a company and want to completely change the way the process goes. But, it’s smarter to observe for the first 90 days before making any drastic changes.

“Effective leaders strike the right balance between doing (making things happen) and being (observing and reflecting).”- Michael D. Watkins

This will allow you to see the ins and outs of the process, helping you to identify the real issues at hand. Changing things too quickly may worsen the issues. Just because a process doesn’t seem to be working at present, doesn’t mean it never has or never will.

Also, by observing you will gain the trust of the employees. No one wants to be told they’ve been doing their job wrong. Hold out for 90 days, then start implementing small changes.

  • Every Transition is Different

Not every transition should be treated the same. It all depends on where the company is at in development.

STARS stands for the different types of companies a new leader may enter…

S: Start-up

T: Turnaround

A: Accelerated Growth

R: Realignment

S: Sustaining Success

Depending on what kind of environment a leader enters, they will have to tailor their strategy accordingly.

For example, a start-up might require a bit of hiring and defining roles within the first 90 days. Because 90 days of not knowing your job could definitely hinder the success of the company!

A turnaround company needs a drastic change, so the first 90 days would be key in taking that step-by-step to observe and turn it around.

An accelerated growth company must work hard to brand their company and product in order to make a name for themselves.

A realignment company is making big changes, but not a complete change in the system.

And, sustaining success company must reach new heights and perhaps adhere to higher guidelines.

  • What Does Success Mean to You?

It’s vital for a leader to know what success means to them. If you can’t define it, how will you be able to attain it?

This success should be based off of a discussion with not only yourself, but with others in the company. What are people expecting of you? And, what are you expecting of yourself?

It’s important to also share this information with your employees so they can work toward success and so that they can see after 90 days where the company is at.

  • Early Wins

Wins within the first 90 days definitely help to create respect. But, it’s important to note, not all wins are created equal.

If you focus on a bunch of small wins, you may be overlooking a huge issue that needs addressing. Addressing the huge issue step-by-step, even if it takes more time, is more vital.

  • Focus on Organization

Organization in a company is important in order to do business smoothly. There are four aspects of organization that must align in order for the company to run:

 

  1. Strategic Direction
  2. Skills
  3. Organizational Units
  4. Work Processes and Rewards

 

“Aligning an organization is like preparing for a long sailing trip. First, you need to be clear on whether your destination (the mission and goals) and your route (the strategy) are the right ones. Then you can figure out which boat you need (the structure), how to outfit it (the processes), and which mix of crew members is best (the skill bases). Throughout the journey, you keep an eye out for reefs that are not on the charts.”- Michael D. Watkins

All of these things must align in order for a company to run properly. The direction should be clear and all other elements should back it. The skill sets of workers should make sense for their positions and the organizational units such as marketing and warehouse should all be in communication. The work processes should have a solid way of running and a reward should be issued as motivation to employees and the company as a whole.

  • Building A Team

In the first 90 days, take the time to see which employees are performing best and which ones would rather be at home in bed.

If a leader thinks that someone is underperforming, it is important to find out why. Are they being underpaid? Or, are they having family troubles?

By identifying the problem, a leader can work to fix it rather than letting go employees who may just be having a tough month.

Once the team is built and full of eager employees, the company is sure to run smoothly.

The Main Take-Away

The first 90 days is a transition period one must master in order to be a successful leader. A great first impression will set you up for success. All you need is the skill for observation, identifying, and building a successful team and flow with kindness and understanding.

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

Never Eat Alone By Keith Ferrazzi

Key Insights

Isn’t it easier to achieve your dreams when you have people by your side?

That’s why networking in business helps you to be successful and reach your end goals.

Seriously, nobody in business can be successful long-term without the help and support of others in the business.

In business you need a strong foundation if you are ever going to make it to where you want to be. You need a network.

“Success in any field, but especially in business is about working with people, not against them.”- Keith Ferrazzi

In “Never Eat Alone”, Keith Ferrazzi tells of the importance of having a network and how you can gain one in order to be successful in your business endeavors.

Key Points

  • Learn How To Network

Anyone can learn how to network. But, many times people are deterred from the idea of it because they are afraid of rejection.

But, there are a couple of secrets to help people take the leap into reaching out to others that could help them succeed:

 

  1. Observe expert networkers. See how they go about approaching others, and take lessons from them.
  2. Always be learning. Take classes on communication, or read articles about the art of networking in order to help you develop your own tactics and become comfortable reaching out.

 

Eventually, though, you’ll have to just leap in and do it. That’s the hard part, but like everything else in life, once you do it, it’ll become much easier. Experience will make you more confident in the process.

  • Loyalty and Generosity

Networking is not all about “take, take, take” but rather, how you can give back. It’s a two-way street. Good network connections are based on mutual respect, appreciation, and benefit.

Networking relationships should not be sought out for short-term benefits. Rather, they should be seen as long-term relationships. The stronger these relationships build, the more you will get out of them in return.

“It’s better to give before you receive. And never keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.”- Keith Ferrazzi

When you are a selfish networker, your business will not succeed. No one wants to help another business if there is no return to them. The return, however, does not need to be instant, it can be over time, such as a well-placed investment.

These networking connections must also include kindness. No one wants to work with someone who is hard to talk to. Being personable can go a long way when it comes to networking.

  • Always Be Building

Even if you are at the very beginning stages of your company, it’s important to actively be building your network.

Networking shouldn’t be done only when you need help, it should be a foundation you already have in place on which you can rely on when you need assistance.

Having something already in place doesn’t only make you prepared, but it also makes it so the trust between you and the other party is already there.

You can’t build a network overnight, however. This is something that must be done one step at a time.

  • The Relationship Glue

Relationship glue is a term used to describe the factors that keep a relationship together. For example, a co-worker might turn into a friend if you share the same interest in pottery making or if you both love rap music.

And, this is not only true in friendships and romantic relationships, but also networking and business relationships. Relating to someone on a personal level and approaching them outside of the workplace, often can be the key to finding that relationship glue.

“I’ve come to believe that connecting is one of the most important business—and life—skill sets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like. Careers—in every imaginable field—work the same”- Keith Ferrazzi

When people are not in the workplace, they are more at ease and willing to be open and honest. This is a great time to take the opportunity to introduce yourself and start to create a relationship with the person behind the company, not just with a company itself.

  • Be Social and Patient

Good networkers know that they must be social, but that they also must be patient.

Some business owners make it their daily goal to outreach to at least 50 people a day. They can do this by email, phone, or even walking around their office and talking to people in all aspects of the company.

Networking takes time and effort. You won’t always hit the jackpot on the first person you speak to. But, it’s important to keep reaching out to people in your pursuit of growth and success.

  • Always Have Something to Say

It’s important to have opinions on things and always have something to say. If you are networking, you want to be interesting and relatable to whoever you are trying to talk to. That’s why it’s smart to be up-to-date on all things buzzworthy and be knowledgeable on many different subjects.

And, if you really want to stand out to your potential future network, try spreading unique messages about different topics. Thinking differently is attractive to networkers as they are always looking for new innovative ideas.

But, your idea cannot be too crazy or not backed up by your expertise. So, make sure you really know what you’re talking about before you start spewing information to potential relationships.

  • Super-Connectors

Super-connectors are the people in the business world that seems to have hundreds and thousands of contacts in their books.

Super-connectors are usually in politics, PR, journalism, and restaurant management.

In order to boost your own network and add some people to your book, try connecting with one of these super-connectors. They will be able to link you to people that will help you.

  • Your Goals

One of the big tricks to being successful is to have the right goal. These goals must be clear to yourself and to your network. When these goals are clear, then you will be able to work toward success.

When you decide on a clear goal, you must look at your passions and your abilities. Looking at both of these simultaneously will help you to make a choice about your goal.

It is proven that people who follow their passion live much happier lives. And, people who work jobs that they are not right for, are much more unsatisfied.

To find your true purpose in life, make a list of all your dreams. Then make a list of the things you do that make you happy. When you put the two lists together you will start to see an overlap, which is the goal forming between the two. This is your clear goal.

  • Networking Action Plan

Networking should be strategic. You should have a clear plan, just like you have a clear goal.

A plan is important because it allows us to put our goals into our daily lives. It allows us to slowly work toward success on a daily basis. This also helps to keep our passion ignited and motivated.

You should break your plan up into long, middle, and short-term goals. Think of the big picture first of three years into the future, where do you want to be? Then, work backwards to see how you can get there.

It is important to note the tools you will need in order to achieve these goals, so that you make sure to attain those before you even need them. This is the same idea of building a network before you even need it.

  • Be Your Own Brand

You should have a personal message that you want the world to recognize you by. This is your personal brand. It is what you stand for and what you wish to emmunate.

To develop a personal brand you must ponder on your skills, your weaknesses, your qualities, your achievements, your dreams, and everything else that makes up you.

Now, you must make your external match your internal. We all know that a Mac laptop is a Mac because of the Apple logo. So, what will allow people to identify you?

Then, you must spread awareness of your brand. You should be focusing on getting positive attention from others in your field as well as the media.

  • Find Good Mentors

By surrounding yourself with good mentors, you will have an easier time becoming successful.

A good role-model can go a long way in not only sports or university, but also in business. It is important to observe and take note of the higher-ups that are doing a good job so that you can do the same.

“Wherever you are in life right now, and whatever you know, is a result of the ideas, experiences, and people you have interacted with in your life.”- Keith Ferrazzi

It is also a good idea to ask questions to your mentors, so that you can gain even further insight to their business craft.

Being surrounded by people doing their job well will ultimately motivate you to do your job well. When you surround yourself with successful and motivated people, chances are you will succeed too.

The Main Take-Away

A successful network is kind and generous and sees the networking relationship as beneficial to both parties. When you have a strong network, your chances to succeed in your goals is much greater.