The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
Work-Life Balance - Take Control
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that 58% of Canadians experience 'overload' due to the multiple roles they have to play. If only small business owners were asked whether they felt overloaded with business and personal responsibilities the percentage would undoubtedly be far higher.
Running a small business is not a 9 to 5 job, and the demands of the business are often 24x7. While entrepreneurs thrive on the mostly positive stress of running a business - in fact it may even improve their efficiency and metal acuity - at some point stress becomes harmful.
The CMHA provides four signs that indicate the juggling act you are performing between work and personal responsibilities is starting to harm your health:
You feel like you've lost control of your lifeYou often feel guilty about neglecting your different rolesYou frequently find it difficult to concentrate on the task at handYou're always tired
If that sounds a lot like you, here are 6 tips to help you bring equilibrium back to your life.
Take breaks - seems simple but small business owners all too frequently battle through, often believing they are indispensable. Studies have been undertaken that show as little as ten minutes away from what you are doing every two hours actually increases productivity and efficiency. So there is NO excuse for not stepping away from your desk, or out of the office to catch your breath and switch that brain off, or at least focus it on something less taxing such as smelling the roses! Think of it this way - you owe it to your company to take breaks!Does your company overpromise and under deliver? Hopefully not, nor should it! Bring that level of commitment to your daily priorities. Every evening list what you need to do the following day and make the list achievable. Don't set yourself up for failure - don't overpromise and under deliver, or it will simply increase your stress and you'll be tempted to work late to finish the unrealistic number of tasks you set yourself.Here's a tough one - when at home switch off your cell phone. You are not indispensable - things can wait. If you work from home, set a time when your workday ends and turn off the phone. If you have a business where customers need to get hold of you 24x7, share the 'on-call' hours with someone else. Or, have a voice mail message that offers callers an alternative way of reaching you if the situation is urgent. This will filter out most callers. If at all possible have a work cell phone and a personal cell phone. Most providers offer multi-phone accounts at a low cost.Whether you work from home, or out of an office try to take a break between work and home - it could be as simple as taking a walk, going to the gym, or sitting and reading a book. The thing is don't jump from one set of responsibilities to another without giving yourself a break.You've probably heard it before, but exercise is important. It doesn't have to be an hour at the gym, or a game of racquetball - a 20-minute walk around your neighbourhood will help clear your head, release some endorphins and recharge your batteries. And remember, a dog can be a wonderful asset to work-life balance!Learn to say no! It's so easy to get involved in business associations and volunteer for charity work, or coach local kids' hockey, but choose wisely. Take on those things that you enjoy, that are fulfilling, and that don't add to the stress you feel. Don't say yes to everything!
The Canadian Mental Health Association has a short quiz which allows you to see whether your life is in balance. Click: http://goo.gl/kgC5UH
Look for a follow-up article in the coming months on how to build work-life balance into your company for your employees.
Advanced Searching with Google
Last month we looked at some basic but often overlooked search tips using Google. This month we cover ten advanced tips that will help you search more effectively.
10 ways to refine your searches
You don't need to use capitals, nor do you need to use the word AND - every time you add a space Google reads it as AND. So, a search for cats dogs would actually give you cats and dogs. However, the operator OR overrides AND and asks Google to give you either cats or dogs. The latter is like doing two searches at the same time.If you want to search for badminton, but don't want results that include reference to the Olympics, your search criteria should be badminton -Olympics (note the dash, or minus sign, immediately before the word Olympics). This works well for the main results, but Olympics' images and news items may still be included when searching Google Images or Google News.If you want Google to search for a specific phrase, just place it between quote marks e.g. "16 GB flashdrives" - Google will only give you results to pages containing that exact phrase.Using the asterisk as a wild card. If you search for "a * in the hand is worth * in the bush" Google will find all references to "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." This can be handy when you know part of the name of a book, a song, a report etc.If you want the definition of a word, simply use the word define in the search box followed by what you want a definition for. No need for a colon.If you want your search terms to be contained within the title of a webpage, use intitle: i.e. intitle:entrepreneur small business tips. In this case Google will search for any of the words in the title of a web page. If you want all of your search words included add "all" to the phrase, as in: allintitle:entrepreneur small business tips.Using the same principle explained above you can tell Google to find your results within a URL: inurl: or allinurl:.Furthermore, if you want your search criteria to be found within the main body of a website then use: intext: or allintext:If you are searching for something between two numbered parameters, for example you are considering purchasing a printer, use: printer $200..$500 and Google will give you results for printers costing between those two prices. This works for years, or any other form of number.If you find a useful site, for example the Canada Revenue Agency website, and would like to find similar sites, simply put the word "related" followed by a colon in front of its URL, i.e. related:cra-arc.gc.ca. This will give you other websites offering similar or allied information.
On a personal note one useful Google feature is if you want a conversion say from pounds to kilograms, simply put: 120 pounds in kilograms in the search box and the answer will pop right up (it's 54.43 by the way!). This works with anything you want to convert - try it for yourself!
Coach's Corner - Ideas for Becoming a Better Listener
Recently, I was presenting a workshop for managers. As I coach people I find that most challenges, especially with managing and working with people, surround communication. And, at the heart of true communication is listening not speaking.
To fully understand other people, we need to truly listen without judgment, without jumping in with comments, without thinking what we are going to say next, and without filling in the blanks.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself to see if you are a good listener.
Do you avoid interrupting when others are speaking? Are you able to give the other person your full attention? Do you ask open-ended questions to ensure you understand their position? Can you listen without giving advice or solving their problem? Are you able to restate what they have said accurately so they know you truly have listened?
If you honestly didn't answer these questions in terms of usually or almost always, then you may find some of these ideas helpful in becoming a better listener.
Why Am I Talking? This is a good question to ask yourself when you are in a conversation. You can't talk and listen at the same time. WAIT is the handy acronym, I use, to remember to limit my own talking.
How would you feel in their situation? Often to be a better listener, it's important to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Empathy goes a long way to understanding another person's viewpoint.
Using questions that are open-ended help us to have that deeper conversation with greater understanding. An example of this type of question is something like, "What is important to you about this decision?" As you can see, these types of questions do not allow for a simple yes or no answer, they require more depth, more thoughtful responses.
How often have you found yourself in a conversation where you start thinking about what you are going to say? How you are going to respond? Listening is about truly hearing what the other person says and understanding them completely. Try to refrain from mental arguing, or forming opinions in the midst of their speaking. Once you start to form opinions or think of arguments, you are not giving them your full attention.
These are a few ways to help you truly listen and better understand people in your personal or business life.
Paul Abra, Motivated Coaching
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