The Monday Survival Guide

The Monday Survival Guide

Do you hate Mondays? Has “Monday Sucks” become your mantra? 

Most people experience feelings of discomfort and distress as Monday approaches. These feelings typically sneak up on you during Sunday evening and can sometimes linger until you leave work Monday afternoon.

Does it have to be this way? Is “Monday Sucks” a physical law of the universe?

Of course not.

Mondays suck because you allow them to. If you fall into something like a minor depression every Monday, then you need to do something about it. Consider the following quote:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

If you don’t take action and bring on a change, chances are you will continue to suffer every Monday for the rest of your life.

If you live to see your 80th birthday, that means that you will have spent 4160 Mondays suffering. That is a lot of suffering.

Sitting-on-the-bed

Was this you sitting on the bedside Monday morning? Never again!

Here is a guide to surviving this Monday and all the Mondays to come:

Spread out the workload

If you feel that starting the week is a real challenge, remember, you don’t have to do everything on Monday. Some people start the week feeling energized and motivated to get back into a productive routine. But if this is not your case, be kind to yourself and give yourself a smooth start.

It is easy to look at this week’s TO DO-list and be overwhelmed by the tasks ahead. But there are four other days of the working week and you don’t have to do everything on Monday.

This includes the TO DO’s you have outside of work. If you have a plan to eat more healthy and get into a workout routine, then perhaps Monday isn’t the best day to start doing all of these things. Be easy on yourself by making Monday the day when you get to have pizza for lunch or get to skip the workout.

Let your limitations be your liberation. You simply can’t do everything today and you don’t have to. Remember the saying:

how_do_you_eat_an_elephant

Make Monday feel more like Friday

Most of the suffering related to Mondays comes from the automated emotional responses you have when you think about Mondays. You associate Mondays with work, stress, responsibilities, boredom etc.

The way to deal with this is to build positive associations through infusing your Mondays with more fun, freedom and relaxation. Through planning something fun for the evening, something you can look forward to, such as dinner or drinks with friends, going to the cinema or getting a massage, you start replacing the negative associations with positive ones.

Remember: This too, shall pass

When you are at home Sunday evening or waking up Monday morning, feeling overwhelmed by the Monday blues, remember that the feeling passed before and it will pass again. Most of the time, the Monday blues is experienced in anticipation of going to work and actually disappears when you start working.  Remind youself of all the times when you have felt this way before and how it disappeared after 20 minutes in the office.

Get enough sleep and eat breakfast

This sounds like a no brainer. But surprisingly many people go to bed way too late Sunday evening, setting themselves up for failure Monday morning. Without proper sleep everything seems worse than it actually is.

Even if you don’t believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it is important enough. Again, Monday doesn’t have to be the day you completely change your diet. But make sure you eat something to kickstart your brain and get it out of Zombie mode.

Learn from your Monday mistakes

“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

If you are experiencing feelings of unhappiness every time Monday arrives, why are you not doing anything to change it? Analyse what went wrong last Monday or all the other Mondays. Lack of sleep? Woke up too late? Missed the bus? Out of coffee? No breakfast? No umbrella? 

These kinds of things have terrible implications for your state of mind, but can easily be avoided through preparation. 

See this as a wake-up call (if all else fails)

If you are doing everything described above and have no positive results, then you may need to see it as a wake up call, a sign that you are fundamentally unhappy about your work. If this is the case, then it is time to start analyzing what it is you dislike about your job and what else you would like to do if you can’t make the necessary changes at your current workplace. 

Hopefully you found the Monday Survival Guide useful. Life has too few days to spend 4160 of them suffering!

Keep cool under pressure: 6 tools to calm your mind

Keep cool under pressure: 6 tools to calm your mind

The ability to keep cool under pressure increases your performance and general well-being. Calming your mind and your emotions is key in stress management. Here are 6 tools to calm your mind:

1. Imagine the intimidating person naked

A situation can appear particularly stressful when it involves dealing with a person that you find intimidating. Perhaps it is your boss, a colleague, a customer or even a family member. You feel intimidated because you perceive the person in question as authoritative. You can undermine the influence the person has on your emotional state through picturing him or her in a ridiculing way. You can picture the person sitting on the toilet or talking to you wearing pink, fluffy bunny ears. It doesn’t matter what you imagine, what matters is that the image makes the person seem less intimidating to you.

2. Breathe deeply

One deep breath can bring peace and clarity to an otherwise hectic and confusing situation. Deep breathing is a simple, yet powerful relaxation technique. But there are many breathing techniques out there. If deep breathing is not for you, you can try “Equal Breathing” where you inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four, or you can try breathing through one nostril at a time while keeping the other covered. Doing this works as a natural resistance, forcing your body to slow down and relax.

3. Make “keeping calm” a decision

If you feel under pressure, make a conscious decision to remain calm. When finding yourself overwhelmed and unable to decide on the appropriate actions to take, let “keeping calm” be the action. You are more likely to come up with the appropriate actions if you keep calm.

My father used to say to me, ‘Whenever you get into a jam, whenever you get into a crisis or an emergency, become the calmest person in the room and you’ll be able to figure your way out of it.’
Rudolph Giuliani 

4. Will this matter tomorrow, a month or a year from now (or a hundred years from now)?

Asking yourself this question puts your problem in the right perspective. Typically, you get stressed out about something because you fail to see that it is just a drop in the ocean that is your life.

 5. Ask for help

There is no shame in asking for help. You might be facing a challenge or problem that you for some reason can’t solve at the moment, perhaps because you are feeling particularly stressed out today, and that is OK. Reach out to your friend, colleague or boss and ask for help, support or advice.

 6. Take a break

Most tasks can wait a couple of minutes. So, if none of the above strategies work for you: take a break, step back from the situation and come back with a calm and refreshed mind.

How to impress your boss: 7 great ways to boost your career

How to impress your boss: 7 great ways to boost your career

Your boss has the ability to improve your current situation, through giving you the best assignments, or promote you to a better position. If you want to get ahead in your career you need to stand out and impress your boss.

Here are 7 ways to impress your boss and get ahead in your career:

1. Ask yourself what you can do for your boss

You have to realize that your job is all about how you can make the life and work of your boss easier and better. It may not be obvious if you are young, ambitious and longing to make a career, but the truth is that the most important thing for your boss is not your career, what you like or how you feel. If you want to develop your career, you have to address the middle-step, which is what value you provide to the organization and how you help your boss do the same.

2. Argue for your opinion in a respectful manner

In the long run, your boss will promote smart people with integrity, who can argue for their point of view. If you are good at what you do and if you have reasons and facts to back up your opinion, then argue for your position. The point is NOT to be right, to “win” or to boost your ego. You are supposed to do the best job you can and this involves providing your insights and your suggestions. In the end, you have to accept that your boss has the final say, but at that point you have provided your boss with a great alternative viewpoint.

3. Look your boss in the eyes

Eye contact is a crucial part of any human interaction. You don’t need to, and you really shouldn’t, spend every second of a conversation staring into the person’s eyes, but you should have enough eye contact to appear confident, engaged and believable.

4. Take responsibility and take on responsibility

Don’t come up with excuses when you make mistakes. Show that you own your actions and that you will learn from what you did wrong. It is ok to provide reasons for why things went wrong, as long as it’s clear that you are not trying to distance and detach yourself from the responsibility. Take responsibility for you actions but also take on responsibility. Taking on responsibility, in the form of new or more complex assignments for example, shows maturity, control and reliability. If you want to grow in your current role or get a promotion, you need to take on responsibility.

5. Be proactive and take initiative

Don’t sit around and wait for your boss to tell you what to do. Nothing shows potential like someone taking initiative, coming up with ideas and finding new, better ways of doing things.

6. Underpromise and overdeliver

Don’t try to impress with the promises you make, impress with the results that you deliver. Expectations management is a very important part of impressing your boss. It is natural that you want to do a good job, and this might cause you to make promises you can’t keep. If the results of your work are great but you had promised more, your boss will be disappointed. Make an OK and satisfactory promise based on realistic estimations on what you can achieve, and impress your boss by delivering more than expected.

7. Be positive

Do you see problems or do you see ways to solve problems? Being positive has nothing to do with pretending that problems don’t exist – they do. It’s about identifying and coming up with solutions to problems. It’s about discovering new opportunities for growth. Negativity is toxic and should be kept out of the workplace. Let’s face it, no one wants to be around someone who is constantly negative. If you want to impress your boss, maintain a positive attitude at work.

7 amazing ways to quickly build great confidence

7 amazing ways to quickly build great confidence

Do you suffer from lack of confidence? Is your confidence holding you back in your career or in your private life? There are several fast and easy ways to boost your confidence. 

Great self-confidence can improve your job search and make your perform better at interviews and at work.

Here are 7 ways to quickly build great confidence:

1. Observe your thoughts

The first step toward overcoming your lack of confidence is identifying your negative thought patterns. Through observing your thoughts you will become aware of the kind of mind-chatter that is breaking you down. You’ll be surprised to see what terrible things you tell yourself. Make a habit of observing the thoughts passing through your mind and consciously replace every negative thought with a positive one. Everytime you come across a thought saying something like “I can’t do this”, say to yourself “I CAN do this”.

2. The Positivity ratio: the 3-to-1 ratio of positive thinking

A negative thought has three times greater influence on your mind than one positive thought. In other words, you need three positive thoughts to match a single negative thought. This is the 3-to-1 ratio of positive thinking, or simply, the positivity ratio. The 21 days positivity challenge makes great use of the 3-to-1 ratio of positive thinking. For 21 consecutive days express 3 things that you are grateful for or 3 things you have achieved. Why 21 days? Well, research shows that it takes 21 days to rewire your brain to think more optimistically and successfully. Watch the following video of Dr. Frederickson discussing the positivity ratio:

3. The achievement journal

Make a list of what you’ve achieved. Better yet, keep a journal in which you regularly write down your achievements – big and small. If you are really struggling with your confidence then you should make sure to note down all the little things that you otherwise don’t reward yourself for. If you came up with a great idea during a team meeting – write it down. If you made that call to a client that you have been dreading to make – write it down. Through keeping a journal your achievements become more tangible. Your confidence will improve as the number of entries in the journal grows. The achievement journal works very well with the 3-to-1 positivity ratio.

4. Power posing

Your body language not only affects how other people perceive you, but it changes how you look at yourself. Standing in a powerful position, also known as power posing, gives an immediate boost to your confidence and reduces your stress levels by tricking your mind into thinking that you are confident. Through power posing for just 2 minutes before an intimitading or stressful situation, a presentation at work for example, you increase your testosterone levels and reduce your cortisol levels, making you more confident and less stressed. Watch this popular TEDtalk where Amy Cuddy explains how power posing can help build your confidence and change your life:

5. Overcome fear of failure

People are often crippled by their fear of failing. This is because people tend to exaggerate the negative consequences of failing. If the stakes are great, we tend to question even our most basic abilities. Put a one-foot wide wooden plank on the ground and you will be able to walk on it without a problem. Put the same plank 100 feet up in the air and you will feel like you have lost the ability to take a single balanced step. So what should you do? First, ask yourself if the consequences of failing are really that bad – in most cases they are not. Second, if the consequences of failing really are that bad, remember that your ability to walk are the same, regardless of whether you are on the ground or 100 feet up in the air.

 6. Stop bad-talking yourself

We learn that we should not bad-talk other people. The truth is you shouldn’t bad-talk yourself either. People often downgrade themselves by saying things like, “oh, this article is just a silly little thing I wrote, it’s really not any good”, in the belief that it shows humility or self-distance. But if this is something you do repeatedly, you are continuously undermining your self-confidence and self-esteem. Being able to joke about yourself and not taking youself too seriously has its benefits, but if this behaviour is a habit of yours, it is less about self-distance and more about self-depletion.

7. Exercise

Regular exercise is a key component of building and maintaining great self-confidence. Your body and mind goes together. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which increases your feelings of well-being and happiness. As your physical health improves so does your mental health. If you are physically weak and tired you are not well-equipped to tackle stressful and intimidating challenges. Regular exercise increases your energy levels and builds mental stamina, making you feel stronger and less vulnerable. The idea is not to prepare your body for Iron Man (unless you want to), but to exercise at a level that you can incorporate into your life for the long run. Find a form of exercise you enjoy, take on a regular workout routine and see your confidence skyrocket. 

Use these 7 ways to quickly build your confidence today!

How to best manage a team: 8 rules for effective teamwork

How to best manage a team: 8 rules for effective teamwork

The value of teamwork is both vastly underestimated and dramatically overstated. That people should be working in teams is taken for granted. Working in teams is constantly promoted, yet it is one of the most hated forms of working among employees.

The reason people hate teamwork is because neither managers nor team members know how to work effectively in teams. Unfortunately, great team management is a rare skill.

Do you want to know how to best manage a team?

Here are 8 rules for effective teamwork:

1. Should you be working in teams?

Ask yourselves if teamwork is the best approach to the problem at hand. Working in teams is not optimal for all types of projects or tasks – in some cases individuals should be working on their own. Teamwork is suitable when the value the team delivers is greater than the sum of its parts. If this is not the case, you should not be working in teams. In teams, you are supposed to leverage the fact that you are several people.

2. Make sure everyone knows who is on the team

You need to clearly define who is on the team and who is not. This might almost seem too obvious, but the truth is that even most executives cannot correctly identify who is on their team. If you don’t know who is on the team then you cannot possibly know what to expect from whom, let alone work well together. 

3. Define a team purpose

Every team needs a purpose. There must be a reason why you are working together in a team. This purpose should be shared by everyone on the team and the members should help define it. Partaking in shaping the common purpose gives each team member a sense of ownership, fuelling their motivation and their will to perform.

4. Set specific and explicit performance goals

You need to set specific and explicit performance goals that derive from, and are aligned with, the team’s common purpose. Otherwise you have no way of knowing whether or not the team has achieved what it set out to do. You need to set both team goals and individual goals. Remember, what gets measured gets done. If the goals are not specific and explicit, you are making it easier for team members to avoid accountability.

5. Team members with complementary skill sets

In great teams, members’ skills complement each other. If you need a specific set of skills for your team, everyone on the team does not need to possess all those skills. Remember, teams are supposed to leverage the strengths of the individual team members, and by doing so also overcome individual weaknesses.

6. Agreement on how the work gets done

There needs to be an agreement on how team members are expected to work. This concerns practicalities such as work schedules, expected deliverables and rules for decision-making.

 7. Provide favourable conditions

Facing challenges is inherent to teamwork. As a leader you need to rid your team of unnecessary hindrances and provide the best possible conditions for overcoming these challenges. You need to put structures in place that ensure effective and efficient teamwork. For teams, this typically means creating structures and processes for great communication and coordination.

8. Assign clear roles and responsibilites

There should be no confusion about where one person’s responsibility ends and another’s begin. If there are areas or situations in which you need greater flexibility, this should be clearly decided on. If your team members are flexible enough to cover for each other – that’s great. But don’t let that be an excuse for a poor assignment of roles and responsibilities

Make use of these 8 rules for effective teamwork and witness the improved performance of your team and the increased happiness of your team members.

Mindfulness at work: benefits of meditation for your performance

Mindfulness at work: benefits of meditation for your performance

Mindfulness and meditation make you a better manager. Research on mindfulness at work shows how meditation can boost your career and increase your performance and that of your business.

Mindfulness is the conscious, non-judgemental awareness of the emotions, thoughts and sensations experienced in the present moment.

Too many people consider mindfulness to be little more than a fad, but if you don’t already practice meditation or mindful leadership you are making a serious mistake.

This is how mindfulness makes you a better manager

Recently published research on the effects of mindfulness shows that managers who meditate make better decisions. The long-term effects of meditation on managers’ behaviors included:

Strategic thinking: More time spent on strategic thinking.

Focus on root causes: Greater focus on root causes rather than symptoms.

Openness and honesty: More open and honest relationships with colleagues.

These benefits of mindfulness are impressive. If you previously ruled out mindfulness techniques from your managerial toolbox, these points should make you think again. What kind of professional (in his or her right mind) would reject a method that not only improves your general well-being but also makes you a better manager and leader?

However, if the above points for some reason weren’t enough…

Here are 6 more ways in which mindfulness makes you a better leader:

Stress management

Mindfulness improves your stress management abilities. On a general level, it reduces stress and anxiety, making you feel more calm and relaxed, but it also makes you better equipped to handle particularly stressful situations so that they don’t overwhelm you. Coping with stress is key to meet and exceed the expectations of today’s demanding business world and it is a must for any professional who wishes to be in it for the long run.

Positive thinking

Mindfulness makes you think more positively because the constant chatter in your mind is reduced and silenced, so you can avoid getting caught in downward spirals of negative thinking. Through being able to distance yourself from your thoughts you can gain new and positive perspectives. New perspectives and positive thinking make you a better problem-solver and increases your resilience in the face of adversity.

Focus and concentration

Mindfulness strengthens your ability to concentrate. In the modern world, you are constantly fed with information and distractions, often through digital media, so your attention-span is getting shorter. Unfortunately, interruptions are a costly, but very common, source of inefficiencies. Once interrupted, it takes an average of 23 minutes for you to get back to your task. The ability to fend off distractions and focus your full attention on one task for an extended period of time is a must-have for your performance.

Better sleep

Mindfulness improves your sleep because it helpts you to let go of the worries of the day. Problems tend to be blown out of proportion during the small hours of the night, but mindfulness helps you put them back into perspective. There is probably no need to tell you that you can’t function normally without proper sleep, much less perform at your best.

Self-awareness

Mindfulness helps you understand yourself more clearly. If anything, great managers need to be self-aware. Self-awareness is needed to identify and understand strengths and weaknesses in oneself. You also need self-awareness for self-regulation and to interact appropriately with others, be it your boss, customer or subordinate.

Complex thinking

Mindfulness works as a reboot for your system. Every time you meditate you clear your system of distracting thoughts that cloud your mind and slow down your thinking. Through mindfulness you free more awareness and attention to focus on performing complex thinking.

Still not convinced that you should practice mindfulness? Then you should:

Learn about the importance of mindfulness from the best

Mindfulness is a natural practice at Google. The company has incorporated mindfulness practices because it knows that the well-being and performance of their employees ultimately affects the performance of the company. Thousands of Googlers attend one of the company’s many courses on mindfulness and meditation each year. Google’s Search Inside Yourself program, launched by spiritual guru and Googler Chade Meng-Tan in 2007, is the most famous one and is frequently cited among employees as both a personal and professional life-changer.

At this point, there should be no doubt in your mind that you should start practicing mindfulness and meditation. What are you waiting for?

The best way to take notes: 10 steps to note-taking mastery

The best way to take notes: 10 steps to note-taking mastery

Forget all the advanced note-taking techniques out there. Here is the only guide you will ever need to master the art of note-taking.

Are you writing down every word that is said in class? Or maybe you don’t take any notes at all? Note-taking is an art and can make the difference between and average student and an A student.

Do you want to become a note-taking master? Do you want to know the best way to take notes?

This is all you need to know about taking notes:

1. Keep it simple

Forget all the advanced note-taking techniques that are out there. Note-taking shouldn’t be so difficult or time-consuming that you cannot focus your attention on what the professor is saying or what is going on in class.

2. Purpose is to categorize

The purpose of note-taking in class is to help you categorize information. We learn through sorting and storing information in our brains into categories. The purpose is NOT to write down every single piece of information you hear – we have books for that (and the internet).

3. Structure is everything

In class, you should always be thinking about how you structure your notes. Through structuring your notes you are helping your brain to categorize the information. This is when information becomes knowledge. Without a structured set of categories in your brain, it is that much more difficult for you to remember details. Your brain needs boxes in which to place the information.

4. Three basic sections

Three sections should be the basic structure for every lecture: An introduction to what the class is about, three to five main points on the content and one take-away point.

5. Use colours (in moderation)

Using colours when you take notes can be very inducive to learning. Colours help people remember, as colours are more richly represented in memory. But don’t overdo it! The point is not to overwhelm your brain with an explosion of colours. If you choose to use colours, then they should be aligned with the structure you have for your notes. Examples of colouring logic can be: by theme, topic, class or week. In this way, the colouring enforces the structure you use and helps your brain categorize the information.

6. Write by hand

When it comes to learning and retaining information, writing by hand is far superior to writing on a laptop. People who take notes on their laptops tend to write down everything exactly as it was said. When you write by hand, you are forced to pay greater attention, be more selective of what you note down and use your own words. This greatly increases both your conceptual understanding and your retention of information.

7. Spaced repetition

You need to look through your notes regularly. Your memory is just like a path in the forest. It grows the more often people walk it (and it grows shut when no one walks there). The number of times you repeat is more important than the time you spend repeating. In other words, take several short trips down memory lane.

8. Review your new notes 

Review the material straight after class and, preferably, again in the evening. Transcribe and clarify if your notes are messy or something is unclear. This need only take a few minutes. By doing this simple trick you save hours, if not days, of studying for your exams.

9. Look through your old notes

By looking through your old notes before every class you not only expose yourself to more repetition but you help build linkages in your brain between different sets of categories. The linkages are important to understand how all the pieces fit together and to see the greater picture.

 10. Add details to your structure

Once you have a structure in place, a structure you know, your brain has boxes of categories in which you can put detailed information. At this stage, you will be amazed with how fast you can learn great heaps of detailed information.