A few years ago I wrote a book called ‘The Lessons’. It was written as a gift to my niece who was leaving South Africa for Israel. It contains 22 ‘lessons for life’ – things I have learned and that I wanted her to carry with her. It is far from perfect, and not all original. I have learned so much from so many wise souls. But it is my take on ways to live with purpose. I am going to post one lesson for every day of this weird time in which we find ourselves, with a little Corona ‘twist’ added to the mix. I am doing it mainly for myself – there are a lot of hours to fill these days! If some of the lessons help some of you, great. Either way, it gives me something to add to my morning rituals. Finding meaning and purpose at this time is no less important than at any time. Have a blessed Saturday.
TRUST THE PROCESS
‘Life isn’t meant to be lived perfectly…but merely to be LIVED… Boldly, wildly, beautifully, uncertainly, imperfectly, magically LIVED.’
Life is so much bigger than we are. At any given moment, things are happening about which we have no clue, and yet, in time, they influence our lives in immeasurable ways. Somewhere, a boy is breaking up with a girl. While she is mourning the break-up, you are somewhere wondering whether you will ever meet your ‘special one’. Months—even years—later, that girl becomes your wife. Life is scheming and planning. It sees her, and it sees you. Life knows what it is doing.
We are so limited by our sensory information—we can only see the small picture. The bigger picture is way beyond our purview. Why then do we worry so much about the things over which we have so little control? Why is it so hard to trust Life’s process?
I do not believe that worry is innate. I think that human beings have been conditioned to worry. The infant does not worry about its next meal—it simply gets fed. Only when—through abuse or ill-treatment—the food does not come will the infant begin to worry. It is a learned response.
‘Be careful of strangers’; ‘Don’t go into the woods’; ‘Watch your back’—these messages condition us to believe that all is not well in the world. Sure, bad things happen, but it is my contention that no amount of worry will prevent the bad things from happening—they will happen, whether we worry about them or not. But so will the good things.
The process of Life unfolds regardless of how much anxiety we choose to attach to it. Some even argue that excessive worry and anxiety may actually draw the negative closer, but I don’t know whether that is true or not—after all, there is a certain degree of randomness in the world. And then there is cause and effect. Somewhere between ‘shit happens’ and ‘I am in charge’ lies the human experience.
Given the choice to worry or to trust, I have found that trust serves me better. When you trust the process, you choose to believe that Life is unfolding as it should. People will die; you will get sick—it is impossible to be alive without experiencing some degree of suffering. But you will also experience love. And you will also experience good health.
The visual representation of a heartbeat on an Electrocardiography (ECG) machine is a beautiful metaphor for life. Our heartbeat is life itself—a series of ups and downs and highs and lows.
And yet, human beings want life to be a straight line.
But a straight line is death—it is the complete opposite of what life is! Once you understand this, you stop fighting Life—you take the good with the bad and the bitter with the sweet.
When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated, he was asked how it felt to be at the top of the mountain. He responded with these memorable words:
‘I have discovered the secret that, after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.’
Somehow, we believe that having achieved a goal, we will receive our much-longed-for straight line. But it doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid. There is no respite—not while you are alive! Mandela knew this. At the summit, you can see those other hills. You may certainly rest—the long upward climb may require it, but it will not be long before you have to walk downhill. Soon, the uphill climb will begin again— after all, you’re alive! Why would you want a flat line? If you know that life is full of uphills and downhills, why should you worry? Would it not make sense to trust the process instead?
For me, trust and faith are synonymous. I have met so many people who have faith in God, yet they lack trust. Whatever—or whomever—you choose to call your God, Life is God’s gift to you. You cannot have faith in God without trusting in Life—they are the same thing! You cannot trust the one without trusting the other.
In order to trust life, you must allow it to unfold without feeling the need to control it. You must, however, influence it every step of the way. Control and influence are not the same thing. Control is the opposite of trust. Influence requires taking proactive steps to create the life you desire, whereas control assumes that all the variables are up to you. They rarely are. Trust is yours for the taking. Trust the ups and trust the downs and be grateful for both. When they stop, so too does life.
Human beings are interesting creatures—when we find ourselves at the bottom of life’s pulse, we look skywards and lament, “Why me?”. When we find ourselves at the top, we look skywards and say, “Thank you’.
Enlightened souls do the opposite. When they are in trouble, they say, “Thank you”—for the trouble shall pass, and in time they will understand the gifts that it brought. When fortune smiles on them, they say, “Why me?”—acknowledging that they are deserving of the gift that has come to them. This practice is so counter-intuitive that it almost sounds absurd, but you should try it next time you find yourself at a high or low point.
The troubles don’t last, and neither do the gifts—that would be flat-line living, and there is no such thing. When you embrace it all, when you are grateful for it all, and when you trust it all, you will find yourself in harmony with Life’s rhythm. Half the battle will be won. From this place, you can begin to make your choices.
Welcome to a life of trust. It is the first—and most important—lesson.
TRUST THE PROCESS –
When I think about the things that I was ‘worried’ about in January 2020, here I sit in lockdown – with a whole new set of worries! What a waste of time. That is why I am choosing not to worry right now. I am replacing my worry with trust. Consciously and purposefully. Do I think about life post-Corona? Sure. But thoughts and worry are not the same thing. I am consciously training my mind not to worry. I breathe deeply when I feel worry and angst take over; then I breathe out the worry and I breathe in trust. Deep trust. This tiny virus is so much bigger than me, than all of us. We didn’t see it coming and we have no control over it. All we can do is our best every day. So, I continue to trust that this process, this time, will in some way serve a bigger purpose – I don’t know what it will be but, as with life, the lessons come after the experience. All I can do is keep myself safe, take necessary precautions, and trust that how it unfolds is how it is supposed to unfold. If I get Covid-19, I will deal with that. If someone I love gets it, I will deal with that. But I will only deal with it when it happens. I will not let my mind run away from me. I am my mind. I will train my mind and exercise my ability to reprogramme it – less worry, more trust. I will keep the faith. What my life looks like post-Corona is as much about what I do during Corona as it is about forces beyond my control. TTP … Trust The Process.
‘Somewhere between ‘shit happens’ and ‘I am in charge’ lies the human experience.’
Written by: Trevor Waller – View on Facebook
Contact Trevor: firstname.lastname@example.org
MONDAY BEFORE TUESDAY
“The one thing we know about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”
“How am I going to keep this up?” I ask myself—and I’m on Day 2. Then I remind myself that it is Sunday. All I need to do today is write this piece. Tomorrow, I’ll write the next one. And the day after, the next one. That is how goals are achieved—you do what needs doing today, and you allow tomorrow to take care of itself. Of course, tomorrow doesn’t take care of itself, you do. But take care of tomorrow—tomorrow. First, you need to take care of today—today.
It is my experience that one of the greatest reasons we don’t achieve our goals is not because we can’t, but because we keep taking ourselves out of the present. We plan, we scheme, we spend, we dream—and, in the process, we don’t actually do anything. Whenever I find myself paralysed by fear or worry, I literally stop and say, “Monday before Tuesday”—this allows me to do what I need to do today. If there is nothing to do today, then so be it—I do nothing. I will do what needs doing tomorrow—tomorrow.
Human beings are not mind readers, but we think that we are. We spend so much time anticipating what someone might do and say that, when we are finally face-to-face with that person, it does not go as we imagined it would. The lesson is the same: deal with reality—deal with what is.
If the past ‘was’, and the present ‘is’, what, then, is the future? When I have asked this question at my training sessions, I get all sorts of answers: “What will be”, “What could be”, ‘What may be”, and so on, but that is not the answer.
The truth is that the future ‘is not’.
Many people are skeptical when they first hear this. What do you mean the future is not? Of course, there is a future. It is now Monday and tomorrow will be Tuesday. But when it is Tuesday, it will not be the future—it will be the present. The only control I have over Tuesday is what I do on Monday. Ditto for any time in the future. So, protest all you want. Worry all you want about tomorrow and all the future days of your life, but today is the day that needs you to give it your all.
[I was introduced to the above exercise at a workshop called ‘Breakthrough’ that I did in 1988. I do not know who the originator of the exercise was, but s/he is acknowledged with humility and gratitude. This concept changed my life.]
This lesson is nothing new. The ‘power of now’ has become something of a cliché—popularised by Eckhart Tolle in his book of the same name. [Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, Hodder & Stoughton, 1999]. I highly recommend this book, as well as ‘A New Earth’ by the same author.
That is the thing about clichés—they are so true.
The only thing we can really do with the past is forgive or take revenge. It is unfortunate that English speakers have put the words ‘forgive and forget’ in the same phrase—as if they are the same thing. But they are not. Because so many people can’t forget, they think they can’t forgive. Human beings are not forgetters—not of the things that really matter. The big things—the things that require forgiveness—do not require forgetting. You can, however, forgive what is past, recognising that it is the past. At the same time, you can allow the future to be—recognising that it does not exist until it is the present.
And so, we are left with the present. What a delightful word it is in English—a synonym for the word gift. Today really is a gift. It is Life’s gift to you. One day, today will be your last day—that’s how it works. Don’t waste today regretting the past and worrying about the future.
Many people think that living in the now means that they must not have dreams or set goals. This is not true. In fact, one of my heroes, Viktor Frankl, said the following:
“Man cannot really exist without a fixed point in the future. Under normal conditions, his entire present is shaped around that future point, directed toward it like iron filings toward the pole of a magnet.”
[Viktor E Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul:
From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, page 104.
Souvenir Press, London, 2004]
By all means, set goals and dream big, but remember that your goals and dreams require action—and action can only be taken in the present. Do not miss today’s rainy day by dreaming of sunshine tomorrow. There is as much joy to be found in today’s rain as there is to be found in tomorrow’s sun. Today’s rain is certain—tomorrow’s sunshine is not.
My father died when I was twenty-three. He was much older than my mother and, growing up, we were reminded of his life insurance policies that would ensure that we—my mother, my sister and I— would be taken care of once he was gone. After he died, my mother, in a desperate attempt to save their ailing business, ceded all his policies to the bank (and other creditors) leaving us with nothing when the business eventually closed.
My father spent his entire life being future-focused. There were no overseas trips and there was no lavish spending—he wanted to be certain that his family would be taken care of in the future. But when the future came—surprise, surprise—he was gone, and we were penniless. [This does not mean that I think one should not save money or take care of the future by investing in policies and annuities. But find the balance between enjoying today and saving for tomorrow.]
I wish my father had taken an overseas trip. His life would have been richer for it and, in the final analysis, we would have been no poorer.
Carpe diem, dear ones, carpe diem. Seize the day.
Do not miss today’s rainy day by dreaming of sunshine tomorrow.
Today’s rain is certain—tomorrow’s sunshine is not.
MONDAY BEFORE TUESDAY – CORONA TIME
If ever there was a time for present moment awareness, this is it. We are truly in a situation where all we have is today. Yesterday, in response to my post, I reconnected with someone I last saw in 1999! She asked if we could Skype this morning and we had an amazing 90-minute chat. There was no way I could have anticipated that yesterday. No amount of thinking (on Saturday) about what I was going to do on Sunday could have anticipated a beautiful reconnection on Sunday. So, today, I intend to focus only on Sunday. I will take care of Sunday and Life will take care of Monday for me. Today I heard about people who are planning what they intend to do on 17 April, when the lockdown is over. That’s 18 days away! Don’t spend too much time thinking about the ‘after’. It’s neither guaranteed nor predictable. Sunday before Monday; Monday before Tuesday. Whenever I feel myself going into what ‘isn’t’, I imagine an invisible string between myself and the future and, in my mind, I pull myself back into today. Today, today, today … be here and stay here. Enjoy the gift of the present. The future is really not ours to tell.
Written by: Trevor Waller – View on Facebook
Contact Trevor: email@example.com
THE INFORMATION IS NEUTRAL
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Viktor E. Frankl
I walk my dogs every morning but, because I live in Johannesburg, I drive to a park and walk them there. One morning, driving back from the park, I stopped at a stop street—as one does. Cars were coming in both directions, and a pedestrian was waiting to cross.
I have a thing for pedestrians—I tend to notice them. To most people in the world, that would sound odd. But South Africans—and Jo’burgers in particular—seem mostly to ignore them. As the traffic flow eased up on both sides of the road, I motioned to the pedestrian to cross. She, unaccustomed to being noticed, hesitated before crossing. As she started walking across the street, the driver of the car behind me hooted. Of course, this all happened in a matter of seconds. And it was early. And it was winter. And—Lord forgive me—as the person hooted, I raised my left hand and showed them a finger. ‘Bloody rude South African! Can’t you see that I’m waiting for the pedestrian to cross?” I muttered under my breath as I pulled a zap sign—becoming that very rude South African in the process. The pedestrian crossed, and I drove the final three hundred metres to my house. As I pulled up to my gate, my phone beeped. It was a text from my friend, Simone. “Nice, Trev,” it read. It turns out that Simone had been the person behind me at that stop street—she was taking her children to school, which was in the same area. And she hadn’t been hooting at me to drive—she was saying hello! Thankfully, Simone is a good friend and she forgave me for my rudeness.
The hoot was just a hoot—it had no intrinsic meaning. To Simone, the hoot was a “hello”, whereas to me, the hoot was a “Move!”. I gave the hoot its meaning, and, having decided what it meant, I reacted. Had I taken one second to breathe, and another to look in my rear-view mirror, I would have interpreted the hoot differently.
Life is full of ‘hoots’—bosses, children, spouses, and total strangers are ‘hooting’ at us all the time. We are bombarded by sensory information everywhere we go. We see, hear, taste, touch and smell. The sensory information has no absolute meaning—the truth is that the information is neutral. Human beings are meaning-making machines—we are designed that way. But we forget that it is our beliefs that give rise to our reactions to this sensory information, rather than the information itself.
When you understand this, you begin to listen to your self-talk. Being aware of what you say to yourself is the beginning of freedom because as soon as you consciously tune into how you are interpreting what is happening to you, you stop reacting to it. Instead, you begin to respond. A reaction is not a response. We react when we believe the sensory information. We respond when we choose our interpretation of what is happening to us. It is such a powerful thing to do, and it slows life down in the most beautiful way. We open ourselves up—we are unafraid of what may come our way. We breathe, we consider what is happening, and then, from a place of choice, we decide how we will respond. We begin to become ‘response-able’.
Let life come at you. You have—between your ears—the ability to give meaning to the things that happen to you. What a precious gift! Don’t waste it in reactivity—cherish it in choice.
Let life come at you.
Don’t waste it in reactivity—cherish it in choice.
THE INFORMATION IS NEUTRAL – CORONA TIME
We live in the Information Age. We are being bombarded by information in a way that no previous generation has ever experienced. Imagine a daily tweet by Anne Frank about her conditions in the attic. The absurdity of that picture should give you some indication of how we are living and, hence, the craziness of it all. We cannot afford to be in a reactive mode right now. I understand that there is nothing ‘neutral’ about the actual Corona virus. It is invisible and it kills. But we still have, within us, the power of interpretation and, therefore, of response. In the BC (Before Corona) years, I believed that I did not have time to write. Now, I do. That is response-ability. I can spend an hour a day watching CNN, freaking out at Trump, or I can spend it in quiet contemplation and writing. I can react to every tweet, newsflash and horror story. Or I can just be an observer of it – responding only to that which is affecting me personally right now. I am grateful that I have the privilege of choice. My current personal circumstances allow me to give Corona its meaning.
Yesterday, two beautiful things happened to confirm my beliefs.
A friend in Israel shared a metaphysical healer’s interpretation of Corona. It is Life forcing us to go inside. Literally and figuratively. How will I choose to be when I am inside? What will I choose to do when I am inside? Those are the questions I will allow myself to reflect on today.
Another friend sent me this text: “I have never felt a greater sense of freedom in my life. It’s bizarre. For the first time in my life, I have just surrendered to what is because there is NOTHING I can do. I’m facing my biggest fears and I’m OK. Still fighting the fight where I can but, on another level, just being at peace with what is. It’s an incredible feeling.”
That is her interpretation of, and response to, Corona. Neither I nor my friends are in denial. There are many people suffering. My empathy levels have never been higher. At the same time, I can only live my reality. And my reality is as much a function of how I choose to respond, as it is about what is actually ‘out there’. Tune out the noise. Go inside. Have a blessed day.
Written by: Trevor Waller – View on Facebook
Contact Trevor: firstname.lastname@example.org
The term modern workplace is frequently used once an organization introduces new products or software. However, transforming into a modern workplace requires much more than a new software package. An organization must evolve into a flexible environment that allows for continued communication and collaboration.
With new products, software, and practices being created and implemented daily, businesses need to adapt in order to remain innovative and competitive. In fact, according to several sources, these three workplace practices will become extinct in the very near future: (1) Email as a primary communication tool; (2) Traditional office spaces; and (3) The 9-to-5 schedule.
Organizations, both established and emerging, are working to create more modern environments for their staff that includes advanced communication and many other collaborative ways for employees and management to work. However, the modern workplace means far more than just modern tools for the staff. True modernization is having a fully collaborative workplace that’s integrated with technology in order to boost productivity.
Below are five characteristics that typically make up a modern workplace:
1. They Have a Mobile Workforce
Allowing employees to work remotely is a change that many businesses have already adopted. By 2020, mobile workers will account for nearly three-quarters (72.3%) of the U.S. workforce, according to a report from International Data Corporation (IDC). Most employees see the ability to work remotely as a huge benefit as it instantly introduces a more flexible work schedule. The ability to work remotely is a key aspect of the modern workplace for a few reasons. First, giving employees the option to work from a different location, such as their home, allows for a better work/life balance. They also don’t have to take as much time off from work due to the added flexibility.
Second, new features make it easier to have your team spread out and still be in constant communication. Applications from Microsoft like Skype for Business and OneDrive allow for people to stay in touch easier. OneDrive is a cloud based storage system that users can upload files to and access from various locations. Documents you’re working on in your office computer can be accessed on your laptop at home as well. This makes getting information as immediate as possible, expanding your reach and ensuring increased productivity.
2. They Collaborate Effectively
What exactly does it mean to have a collaborative workplace? It means having all people and products working together to get more done in the most efficient way possible. 39% of employees surveyed in a recent study felt that people within their organizations did not collaborate enough, while 86% of executives and employees cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.
Office 365’s online services let teams share and edit documents, schedule meetings, and collaborate in real time. This gets rid of multiple versions of a document that needs to be combined. Applications like Microsoft Teams provide a central network for teams to work on projects together. Others like Basecamp cater to helping teams know who is working on what and how to collaborate effectively with the projects assigned. That’s the point of true collaboration: working together, seamlessly, to get the best for your business.
3. They are Smarter with their Data
Companies are collecting more data and information from customers than ever. IDC reported that by 2020, 1.7 megabytes of data will be created every second, for every person on Earth. With the massive influx of data, companies are in need of a better place to store it. What better way than to get rid of physical servers and switch to the more secure option of the cloud. The cloud offers more value and is more economical than traditional, physical storage.
Microsoft Azure is an integrated collection of cloud services to help businesses move faster, achieve more, and save money. This data is valuable and sometimes sensitive or confidential. With quite a few major breaches this past year, businesses need to be sure they have the best protection in place. Like any system, there is threat of attack but Microsoft Azure has been tested by the Security, Trust & Assurance Registry (STAR) and passed through three rounds of testing where many other companies stop after passing the first.
4. They Believe in Open Communication
A challenge many companies face while transitioning to a modern workplace is the idea of having decision makers separate from everyone else. Many new workers want to know what is going on within the company, like what decisions are being made and why. Open communication channels are a big step forward for companies.
Traditional email and the standard office meeting can only go so far. According to a survey conducted by Career Builder, 26% of employees think email is a major productivity killer, while 46% of employees rarely or never leave a meeting knowing what they’re supposed to do next. Group collaboration and social media tools may prove more beneficial. Yammer is a tool part of Office 365 that works as a private social media network for a business. It lets private groups be created and monitored by individuals or teams, such as an idea group run by one team where all can contribute. Modern workers want to feel valued at their companies, and they want their voices are being heard. Given that opportunity, employee loyalty and retention is certain to rise.
5. They Utilize Modern Tools
Tools are advancing at a rapid pace and your staff can benefit from being prepared on how to use the latest updates. Providing better tools and training leads to increased motivation, productivity, and engagement. More so, not using the most modern tools can keep your business from getting ahead. Imagine having a world full of smart phones, but your company still only had land lines. Whether it be tools or skills, it is important that your employees continue to grow and learn. Some organizations worry that investing in their employees will make it more likely for them to leave. According to the American Staffing Association, “68% of workers say training and development is the most important workplace policy, while 55% of employees say they think they could advance professionally if they were offered greater training opportunities.” Employees want to feel valued and continually investing in their development benefits both the employee and the business.
Becoming a modern workplace is easier than you think. The best way to go about it is to invest in your employees and the technology they use. Simple adaptation can lead to bigger changes and better innovation for your business. Above all, having those two key pieces of staff and technology in top shape can help your business collaborate more. Which leads to more productivity in the long run.
The verdict’s in: Your boss approved your request to work remotely full-time. Congratulations! 🎉You’re no longer tied to the geographical location of your office.
As someone who’s been working remotely full-time for over a year, I know and appreciate the many benefits of this lifestyle. I tend to keep the same working hours as my co-workers, but I still have so much more ownership over my time. I can work from wherever I want, and my commute is only seven seconds long (hello, home office)!
But one fact remains: I don’t see the people I work with every day. In fact, I’ve never even met some of them face-to-face. Our relationship exists purely on Slack and is built on a steady supply of GIFs.
Due to this lack of face time, I actually put a lot of effort into proving that working remotely doesn’t affect the quality or timeliness of my work. Because whether I like it or not, many people are skeptical about other people working remotely. Some even think it directly correlates with decreased productivity.
But that’s not the case. Remote work is so much more than the stereotype of Netflix binging and spending the whole day in pyjamas. It can be hard to go about your daily work routine knowing that these opinions exist. And if your company isn’t 100% remote, you’ll probably even have some of these remote work stereotypes left to fight within your own teams.
Based on my experience going from an in-office environment to a remote one, here are some quick and easy ways that you can be the remote employee your boss and teammates love to work with. Now let’s prove those doubters wrong 💪
Ramp Up The Communication
Here’s one fairly obvious fact: If you work far away from your office, you won’t see your co-workers (in-person, at least). I know, I know—duh! Stay with me.
Because you won’t physically be in the office, you’ll miss out on crucial in-person connections with your co-workers. Sure, this might not be the worst if your cubicle neighbor chews loudly.
But the thing is, you’re not just missing out on the watercooler chat as you pass each other in the kitchen or the awkward faces you make at your teammates during team meetings. (Those things are important in their own way, though.)
Your absence in the office means that you can’t quickly ask your deskmate how to do an Excel formula or run down the hall to consult with your supervisor about a tricky client email. It also means that you’re not there to answer others’ questions either.
When you don’t work in the same space with your colleagues every day, you need to ramp up communication. By a lot. Here are some tips for becoming the communication queen (or king!) on your team:
1. Schedule Regular Meetings
If you and your boss don’t already have a regular check-in scheduled, get that on the calendar right away.
Whether it’s an hour every other week or a half hour every week, you need to set aside time so the two of you can touch base. And make sure to use this time wisely. Before each meeting, come prepared with updates on your work and any questions or concerns you might have.
If possible (i.e. if your employer provides the necessary equipment), turn it into a video chat. You and the others on your team will feel more connected if you see each other’s faces, which is always good for team morale.
Bonus tip: Schedule these types of check-ins every once in a while with the rest of your team to ensure they know what you’re doing, you know what they’re doing, and that you’re all on the same page. It’s also a great way to see if they need any help with projects (unless, of course, your plate is already too full). Many bosses are concerned about how a remote employee’s rapport will be with the rest of the team, so this is a good way to say, “Hey! I’m still here, and I’ve got your back.”
2. Be Incredibly Detailed
I am a big fan of over-communicating in general, and I truly believe that this is a rule all remote employees should swear by. Again, the inability to speak face-to-face on a consistent basis means there will be even more gaps in information sharing than may have existed before. That’s where persistent communication comes in.
Instead of writing: “Hey Ryan, here’s that report,” your notes to people should look more like:
Here’s the link to the product usage report I mentioned. Can you please check my numbers on Slide 5? I want to make sure I grabbed the page number views from the right spot.
It’s due by tomorrow at 6 PM, so if you could have it back to me before noon tomorrow, that’d be great.
Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.
I’m not saying every single message needs to look like this. The goal here is to provide as much detail and context that’s needed so your teammate can respond with the right information you need to keep doing your job. Use your own discretion, but I always err on the side of caution (and over communication), even if it seems like overkill.
Email or chat are not the only places you should include detail. If you and your team use Trello, for example, you’ll want to provide all relevant pieces of information within each project card. This includes the most recent updates, a checklist, and any necessary files. Having all of the information in one place is really helpful for everyone (including yourself!).
Right now, in reference to this very article, I can go into Trello and find every detail about it—my original pitch, different phases of feedback from editors, due dates, the link to the working document, and more—all on one card. No one has to dig through email chains to figure out what’s going on, nor do I have to call my editor and say, “Wait, how long is this article supposed to be again?” Because I can see the word count right there, in the card.
And a chat tool like Slack, where you can create individual and group chats, comes in handy for filling in any blanks there may be, brainstorming your way through challenges, and providing real-time updates.
This type of communication (read: asynchronous) is vital for remote teams. When the whole team abides by it, it means that every single team member can stay in the know and will have everything they need to carry out their responsibilities, no matter where they log on from or what time zone they’re in.
3. Respond Promptly
No, I am not telling you to check your email every five minutes or even every hour.
Talk about a major productively killer, right? Nor am I saying every email requires a response—plenty can go without one, and everyone’s inbox will thank you.
But if someone messages you asking for something, you do need to respond within a reasonable time frame. Otherwise, your team is going to assume that you’ve gone silent and are skipping out on your responsibilities.
They’ll probably envision you lounging on the couch, munching away on Doritos, and binge watching reality TV. That’s not going to aid in changing their negative opinions of remote work!
For the times that you need to be laser-focused, activate the away or snooze functions on the office chat tool. If you’ll be out of the “office” even for one day (with your manager’s approval, of course), remind your team ahead of time and set up an automatic email reply and status in chat. You can even set up a shared team calendar to log vacation days and out of office statuses that everyone can access. That way, they won’t wonder why you haven’t answered them.
4. Provide Progress Updates Via Email, Slack, Or Trello
Because you won’t be in the office, your boss may be concerned that you won’t stay on task. And yes—I know. It’s just as easy to get distracted and hinder your productivity in the office. The alluring free snacks, the chatty deskmates, the ping pong table—oh my! When I worked in an office setting, I had at least four to five hour’s worth of co-worker coffee dates and “mid-day walks” scheduled each week!
So, yeah, being at the office actually hindered my productivity 🤭 Many believe working at home is way too distracting. Welp, that’s not true for me. Folding laundry or scrubbing dishes doesn’t tempt me because, uh, I never actually want to do those things.
You know what tempted me in the office, though?
Hiding away in my friend’s office to gab about non-work things and share snacks. Or grabbing a two-hour lunch to “discuss the state of the workplace.”
At home, those distractions don’t exist. My cats don’t talk back (why?!) and I don’t like their snacks. Bottom line: I get a lot more done in a lot less time. Shocking, I know!
But this sad truth remains: For some unknown reason lacking solid scientific evidence, people just assume that if they can’t see you, you’re not getting any work done.
To alleviate this potential concern, try sending your manager regular updates about your work. These could occur at the beginning of the week or the end of the week—just choose a day and stick with it. Here’s an example:
Here’s my weekly update. This week, I worked on:
Next week, I’m going to tackle:
Is there anything else you need me to work on next week?
Hold Yourself Accountable
This is a given. But I truly can’t stress this enough for remote employees —having no one watching over your shoulder can be good in a lot of ways, especially if you can’t stand micromanagers. But it also means you won’t have that built-in accountability that you get just by physically being around your team every day.
Missing a deadline when no one can see you is one thing. Having everyone stare at you in the conference room because you messed up is a whole different ball game.
It’s a lot easier to get distracted at home. Piles of laundry taunt me and resisting cuddling with my cats is near impossible. I am pretty much the sole person holding myself accountable day in and day out. You should always be an accountable human being, but trust me, the pressure really gets cranked up when you work remotely.
But guess what—I have even more good news for you! You may be the sole human in your workspace, but you don’t have to go at it alone. Trello can help.
You can create a card for each project you have and attach due dates to them. The due dates are color coded to indicate how soon they’re due (or how far they’re past due) and you can choose when you want to be reminded about them so you never miss a deadline. If you and your boss have that kind of working relationship, you can add them to your board so they can receive status updates automatically by subscribing to your updates. Pretty great, huh?
Remote Work Stereotypes, Be Gone
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a big fan of this lifestyle. And, honestly, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon (sorry, haters).
The percentage of people in the United States who work remotely full-time has increased 159% from 2017 to 2019. And some people even predict that remote work will soon be the new normal. It’s a cultural shift we all need to get used to because it’s here to stay (and the naysayers just need to get over it).
Despite its increasing popularity, though, it’s not an easy adjustment for everyone. These shifts don’t happen overnight, you know? And you can’t let your preferred lifestyle interfere with your team’s productivity or morale. You need to put a little bit more time and effort in to make communication and projects run smoothly.
Set regular check-ins with your supervisor and other colleagues you collaborate with. Add more detail into all modes of communications (with reason—no one cares that you’re taking a bathroom break). Be responsive, proactive, and reliable. If you do all these things, it’ll feel like you never left the office.
article from www.blog.trello.com
In early 2017, Shelly Schneider accepted a new job at a large insurance company. With a desk surrounded by hundreds of coworkers, she expected to have a robust social experience at work.
But after two years, Schneider found herself isolated, unhappy, and unproductive.
Schneider excelled in her role as an underwriter, working across all of the company’s service lines and receiving consistently positive feedback from her director. But her role required very little contact with her colleagues, and she found herself falling out of touch with her office neighbors and team members.
“There were many days when no one would even speak to me unless I left my cubicle to talk to someone,” explains Schneider. On the rare occasions when she did try to speak to her colleagues, she was reprimanded by her line manager for wasting company time. Her workplace social life quickly devolved into a series of empty greetings and meaningless small talk. Each day, Schneider would sit at her desk, surrounded by a sea of strangers, alone and frustrated.
After two years, the loneliness grew too much to bear. “I realized that no one really cared as long as I achieved the goals asked of me. It made me feel like I was wasting my time.” One Tuesday morning in the fall of 2018, Schneider quit. As she walked out of the office on her final day, carrying a small box of personal effects, no one asked where she was going, no one told her they’d miss her, and no one hugged her goodbye.
Schneider guesses that many of her former colleagues were experiencing similar issues. Walking out of the building on her final day, Schneider says she felt sorry for the people who had to return to their desks the next day. And she was right to worry. Loneliness at work is a huge issue across the world. According to the EY Belonging Barometer, 40 percent of employees feel isolated in their role, driving higher disengagement and lower productivity.
If we don’t have genuine personal connections with those people surrounding us, they are really just strangers whose professional or social circles overlap with ours.
What is workplace loneliness?
“Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, left out, and isolated, regardless of how many people are around you,” explains Jenny Maenpaa, a psychotherapist specializing in professional and organizational development. “It’s only alleviated by fostering meaningful human connection with one another, so our artificial transactions of polite chit chat with a colleague, barista, or fellow commuter don’t count.”
Maenpaa says loneliness is a growing problem in our society, especially in our workplaces. “As an average single urban-dwelling adult, we walk to the subway with our headphones in, order coffee on an app, enter our offices with a keycard, and sit down at our computers to email and message our colleagues sitting just feet away,” says Maenpaa. “We eat lunch at our desks or in a corner of the lunchroom glued to social media, and when the day is over, we walk back out with our headphones in and ride the subway home again to order delivery from an app. And we do it day after day.”
As Schneider discovered in her role, merely being surrounded by people doesn’t alleviate loneliness. Maenpaa explains that people often feel loneliest at work, in public, or at parties. If we don’t have genuine personal connections with those people surrounding us, they are really just strangers whose professional or social circles overlap with ours.
Maenpaa also highlights a lesser known dimension of loneliness: people also suffer from loneliness when they are not heard or understood. In roles like this, it feels like you are working for the sake of working, which undermines your very purpose. According to Maenpaa, silos like these are increasingly common, leaving a growing portion of our workforce cut off from their colleagues.
What does loneliness cost?
The effects of loneliness are damaging for both the individual and the company. Lonely workers are significantly more unhealthy than their connected colleagues, exhibiting increased risks of cardiovascular disease and depression and compromised immunity. Lonely workers also perform worse in their roles, exhibiting impaired creativity, productivity, and decision making.
Research suggests that companies with high disengagement and loneliness experience almost 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 16% lower profitability.
Of course, this has an effect on the performance of organizations as a whole. Without strong interpersonal relationships, people quickly dehumanize each other, which inevitably leads to abrasive team dynamics. Research from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and the Gallup Organization suggests that companies with high disengagement and loneliness experience almost 37 percent higher absenteeism, 49 percent more accidents, and 16 percent lower profitability.
As former United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy summarized in Harvard Business Review, “Our understanding of biology, psychology, and the workplace calls for companies to make fostering social connections a strategic priority.”
Why are we lonely?
Before we can tackle loneliness, we need to understand what causes it. But loneliness is a complex emotional response, and any specific occurrence is likely caused by a multitude of different structural and cultural drivers.
“New communication technologies like email and instant messaging are reducing face-to-face meeting time,” explains health researcher Bart Wolbers, and these technologies “cannot replace real social connections.” While modern communication strategies are functional, Wolbers explains that they strip us of the in-person social interactions we need to feel a sense of belonging.
Related to this is the growth in flexible working conditions. “During the last few decades, companies have increasingly adopted more flexible work environments, which means you’re no longer spending your work days with colleagues you see every day,” said Wolbers. Sometimes, that means working unusual hours when no one else is in the office. Other times, it means working in a physically isolated location away from your colleagues. Ultimately, it means less in-person contact.”
Beverly Friedmann, for example, works as a content manager for a consumer website. She has a great team with a personable line manager, whom she speaks to on a daily basis. Despite this, she admits the long hours spent writing on her own can be tough. After eight hours with only her keyboard for company, Friedmann says feelings of loneliness can start to creep in. Considering the rapid rise in remote working—IWG discovered that 70 percent of professionals now work remotely at least one day a week—millions more people are dealing with similar feelings each year.
While it’s right to highlight the drawbacks of modern working practices, it’s also important to recognize the benefits they offer. Friedmann, for example, works remotely for a company based far away from her home. Without the option of remote work, she simply would not have had that opportunity.
Wherever possible, Scott recommends you default to in-person communication. It’s faster, clearer, and strengthens the personal connection among staff members.
Then there’s the growth in non-participatory jobs. “More and more jobs today don’t require any face-to-face interactions,” says Wolbers. “The entire Information Technology sector barely existed 30 years ago. Now, it employs millions of people who don’t have to communicate frequently to get their daily tasks done.”
Finally, Wolbers highlights underlying economic changes. “Most lower- and middle-class people have to work much harder to make ends meet,” says Wolbers. “Labor compensation as a percentage of the total economy has gone down and workplaces are getting streamlined, leading to a society in which every five minutes count.” Wolbers explains that this economic squeeze usually decreases the amount of time people are granted to socialize within the workplace. Shelly Schneider experienced this firsthand when her employers pushed her to maximize the time at her desk to the detriment of informal conversations with her colleagues.
Wolbers admits that these drivers are both significant and deeply-ingrained—but he remains optimistic. He believes that with careful intervention from senior staff, most organizations can reduce loneliness and begin fostering genuine connections among their employees once more.
Building a better workplace
While some companies have scrambled to address loneliness with lavish parties, dinners, off-sites, volunteer trips, and so on, there are also simple, everyday changes that can have just as profound an effect.
Default to in-person communication
According to communication expert Kim Scott, many people opt for digital communication tools like email or text, believing that they’re more efficient than an in-person conversation. But usually, they’re wrong.
“Around 80 to 90 percent of communication is nonverbal,” said Scott, during an interview with Dropbox. By communicating via email, instant message, or phone, you lose that meaning, which can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. And worse, these communication methods poorly mimic real in-person conversations and fail to provide the social experiences we need to thrive.
Scott explains that there is a hierarchy of communication mediums. “A video call is better than a phone call. Video is better than just audio. A phone call is way better than an email.” But wherever possible, Scott recommends you default to in-person communication. It’s faster, clearer, and strengthens the personal connection among staff members.
In June, 2011, Alex Burbidge moved hundreds of miles across the UK to start a new job in the engineering industry. As a young graduate, the unknowns of the situation fanned the flames of doubt in his mind, burning away the excitement he once felt. On his first morning, Burbidge’s line manager showed him to his desk, briefed him on his work, and left him to it. After four weeks, Burbidge was coping with the role but felt very much like an outsider—and it would stay that way for the rest of his one-year contract.
According to CEO of MyCorporation, Deborah Sweeney, Burbidge’s onboarding experience—or more precisely, his complete lack of an onboarding experience—is surprisingly common. Many line managers thrust new hires into roles and expect them to immediately perform at the level of a seasoned employee. This, Sweeney says, leads to employees panicking and withdrawing from their colleagues and the organization.
Sweeney, however, has implemented a simple change to her onboarding process to help engage new hires with their colleagues and the organization. “We help employees integrate into our organization by assigning them a mentor,” explains Sweeney. “Our mentors not only help employees better develop their skill sets and ease into their role, but they also develop personal relationships with mentees.”
As Anthony Tjan, founder of venture capital firm Cue Ball, explained in Harvard Business Review: “At its highest level, mentorship is about being “good people” and having the right “good people” around us — individuals committed to helping others become fuller versions of who they are.”
By surrounding new staff members with outstanding people, Sweeney believes she shows that her organization genuinely cares about its employees. And that type of environment can help employees feel less lonely.
While mentoring is most prevalent in workplaces with formal schemes, the onus is not solely on the employer. Individuals should seek out informal mentoring relationships or recommend more formal mentoring schemes to their line manager.
Bake in social time
When Ollie Smith was building his startup team, he decided to recruit from all across the world. That way, he could pull from the widest talent pool and push ahead of his geographically-limited competitors.
But last year, Smith noticed some of his staff were starting to act strangely. They were more disconnected from their work and seemed more abrasive in their interactions. He decided to run an all-team video call to discuss the problem. Many of his team members identified the same issue: after a year at the startup, it still felt like they were working with strangers.
It was suddenly so obvious to Smith. His team spent eight hours a day working together but they were never really together. They never had time to socialize and get to know each other as actual people beyond their profile pictures and email addresses.
Smith’s solution was to manufacture relaxed social time. Each Thursday afternoon, Smith’s team members log on to a video call and simply hang out—something he dubbed Team Thursday. While they’ll often play simple games, much of their time is spent chatting and getting to know each other on a personal level.
Smith admits that Team Thursday might seem like a waste of time—after all, his staff members are purposefully not working—but he believes the benefits are worth it. And he believes all teams could benefit: “Although my team is geographically distributed, I would encourage all organizations to manufacture some level of social time, even if it’s 10 or 20 minutes per week. You would be amazed at the bonds that form when people are allowed to just enjoy each other’s company.
Build effective social spaces
When Steve Jobs designed Pixar’s headquarters, he structured the building around a central atrium. Jobs envisioned the atrium as a melting pot for Pixar’s diverse staff of artists, writers, and computer scientists. By encouraging spontaneous meetings between staff members, the space would lead employees to find acquaintances, develop friendships, and spread ideas.
“At first, I thought this was the most ridiculous idea,” said Pixar producer Darla Anderson, during an interview with The New Yorker. But, after experiencing the melting pot atrium firsthand, Anderson realized that Jobs was right. “I get more done having a cup of coffee and striking up a conversation or walking to the bathroom and running into unexpected people than I do sitting at my desk.”
Few organizations have the budget to redesign the architecture of their workspace, but that doesn’t mean they should ignore their social spaces entirely. “To cultivate more social interactions employers should create social gathering places at work, such as break rooms with lots of food options, seating options, music and so on,” explains psychologist Wyatt Fisher. “The more inviting the space the more likely it will be used.”
Share your successes
With technological, economic, and cultural factors cutting off connections between staff members, it’s easy for their work to become siloed and insulated. A graphic designer, for example, may produce a beautiful illustration yet never see how it slots into a larger marketing campaign. According to entrepreneur Sandeep Kumar Aggarwal, this can lead to employees feeling disengaged from their organization and isolated from their colleagues.
“We all have the same desire for meaningful work, belonging, social connection, ownership, and purpose,” says Aggarwal. “These reasons fuel pride and connection to the workplace and motivate us to strive for personal excellence.” To highlight meaningful work in his team, Aggarwal uses something called a Crush it Call.
“During our Crush it Calls, every employee calls out a particular coworker for crushing it,” explained Aggarwal. “This is a chance for coworkers to show appreciation through recognition and engage an individual with the team.” After introducing Crush it Calls, Aggarwal says his employees are happier, less burned out, and more willing to experiment with new ideas.
Maenpaa believes there’s a strong psychological explanation for this. “Shouting out another person’s wins is a great strategy for combating impostor syndrome and fostering meaningful connections,” explains Maenpaa. “When we highlight another person’s accomplishments, we’re saying, ‘I see you, I respect you, and I want everyone else to hear my endorsement of your work.’”
As New York University sociologist Eric Klinenberg writes in his book Going Solo: “It’s the quality, not the quantity of social interaction that best predicts loneliness.” As we’ve seen, a handful of organizations are already starting to implement innovative processes and policies to improve the quality of their teams’ interactions and reconnect people with their colleagues.
After leaving her role, Shelly Schneider went on to work in a number of businesses that did tackle loneliness. Schneider explains that in her experience, a workplace’s treatment of loneliness depends on the company culture and ownership of the problem at the very top. If an organization doesn’t have someone driving progress, it’s likely staff members will end up like she did: alone, isolated, and disengaged.
To drive real change and effectively combat loneliness, Schneider believes we need founders, business owners, managers, and HR teams around the world to own the problem of loneliness and implement effective employee engagement solutions. Once we do that, we can push back against the harmful effects of loneliness and reconnect people with each other.
Article from www.blog.dropbox.com
As a small business owner or member of a startup team, your day is most likely a balancing act between working in your business and working on your business.
You want to work less and achieve more but there’s not enough time in the day—or week—to turn all of your brilliant ideas into actions.
So, how do you work less and achieve more in your business? A great place to start is automating sales, service, and marketing processes in order to help your team do more, faster.
Through the magic of automation, your small business team can transform into a productivity machine.
Here are seven easy automation ideas to get you started:
1. Auto-respond To Email Contact Requests
First impressions are crucial, especially as your business is growing and expanding in its market.
You don’t want to be known as the team that takes two weeks to respond to an email inquiry, especially from a potential new customer. Inbound leads are gold and you want them to shine from the first touchpoint until you can celebrate winning the deal.
Make a good first impression on prospects by using email automation to reply to their inquiries right away. Create a template that uses personal info captured by your Web-based contact form:
“Hi, [First Name],
Thank you for reaching out! We’re excited to hear from you. A member of our team will be in touch with you shortly regarding your inquiry.
Let us know if you have any questions in the meantime.”
The super-quick reply establishes a relationship with your new potential customers, and the automation can then assign follow-up to the right sales rep on your team.
You can also use the auto-reply feature built into Gmail, Outlook, and other email services to send replies to customer messages sent directly to your service dept, eg “email@example.com.”
Consider adding your brand’s personality to this auto-responder in order to set the tone of the conversation from the get-go. Do you use emojis on social media? Sprinkle them into your emails as well! ✨🤠🏓
2. Assign Inbound Leads To A Sales Representative
Speaking of assigning follow-ups, automation is the perfect way to keep leads moving through your sales funnel. Many Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems feature integrated automation technology perfectly suited to this task. Expand on the tip above by creating a workflow to auto-assign leads to specific team members when they contact your business.
Enter the prospect’s contact information, along with any relevant notes, into your CRM, and use automated routing to get them to the right team member. If they contacted you via email, add an automated, “Thank you for contacting us!” reply to start your new customer relationship on the right foot.
Again, personalize these automated responses as much as possible to delight your prospects throughout their entire journey.
3. Turn Business Cards Into Relationships
Did your team make some great connections at a conference?
Take a few minutes to log your new contacts’ information in your CRM before you leave the show—or take a photo of each of the business cards and upload them to a lead card in the Trello app that’s linked to your CRM.
Then, use a marketing automation tool to schedule a campaign of follow-up emails to your contacts. You’ll be able to send automated emails on specific dates after the event and turn those business cards into active leads. 💼
4. Schedule Meetings Without The Back And Forth
Booking an appointment can sometimes feel like a game of ping pong, it usually takes a lot of back and forth, but with scheduling software, you can send your customer your availability in one email and have it automatically schedule a time that works for the both of you.
If the client or lead cancels, or you if are suddenly booked, the automation you set will update the calendar to reflect the availability of all.
5. Make It Easy For Clients To Ask For Help
Offering killer service is perhaps the best way to win new customers and keep loyal ones happy. Make it easy for customers to contact you when they need it most by including “Contact Us” links on all of your website pages and emails.
The trick is, when customers click the link, your customer service software routes the request to the right person on your team, reminding them to follow up. You can integrate this process into your CRM in order to open an official support case then send an automated follow-up email so the customer knows you’re on the case.
6. Use A Chat Box Or Bot
Chat boxes pick up where FAQs leave off, encouraging visitors to reach out to you immediately with questions about your offerings. That means you can start talking with them right away, cultivating them as a new lead.
While chat boxes require a person on your end to handle any inquiries that your shortcut answers don’t cover, chat bots offer full automation thanks to Artificial Intelligence. Chatbots require more time and effort to deploy and fine-tune than chat boxes. That said, this roundup of some of the most popular chat bot services is a good place to start if you’re interested in deploying your own bot.
7. Clean Up Your Email Lists
“The more, the merrier” doesn’t apply to email lists. At first, all of your subscribers wanted your emails. But over time, people change their minds. Paring your lists down can help you hone your marketing messages, and it’s just good karma to stop sending those unwanted emails. Because who doesn’t love getting closer to inbox zero?
Marketing automation software can help prune your lists. Leverage engagement metrics to identify subscribers who haven’t opened your messages in the past 120 days. Then schedule a series of three automated emails to those inactive subscribers asking, “Do you want to keep receiving my emails?” If they answer “yes,” the software will remove the “inactive” label. If they click “no” — or don’t open the messages at all — they’ll be unsubscribed.
Looking to get started with automation? Check out this blog post on automation with a small business CRM to help you on your path to productivity.
Article from blog.trello.com