How To Plan Now For The Next 10 Years

Business author Rich Allen says that running a successful business requires a clear idea of where you want your business to be 10 years from now. It means having your own North Star that not only inspires you, but inspires your team as well. Essentially, if you want to get somewhere and you want people to follow you there, you have to visualize it first; you can’t be a leader without vision.

While that seems like obvious advice, the problem is, most of us are too busy tackling the everyday challenges to sit back and look at what we’re doing and where we want to be. Buried under the daily pressures of running a business, most small-business owners can barely think six months ahead, let alone 10 years.

Here, we are sharing Allen’s four simple steps to picture your business a decade in the future, and chart the best course to get there.

1. Start with the mountaintop. Imagine your business 10 years from now. Write down all the particulars you can of what your business looks like. There are no right or wrong answers here. The point is to focus on your vision of your business in the future: where you want to go, and what you want it to look like. Don’t worry about whether it will actually turn out this way.

Think about:

  • How many team members you’ll have
  • What locations you’ll have
  • What products and services you offer
  • How your business is structured
  • What your ideal customer or client looks like
  • What kind of volume you’re doing

 

2. Back up five years. Once you have the 10-year vision in writing, back up halfway. In five years, where do you need to be in order to be on track to hit that 10-year point? Cover the same details, and write them down. For instance:

  • How many people are on your team?
  • Do you have half the locations as in 10 years?
  • Are you offering the same products as services as now, or the same as in 10 years?
  • Have you found your ideal customers yet?
  • Are you doing half the volume you’re doing in 10 years?
  • Are you still going into work every day? What’s your own life like in five years?

 

3. Back up two more years. Now that you have your five-year vision, take it back to the three-year version of your business. Ask the same questions, and think about whether or not your three-year vision backs up your five-year vision: are you on the right course? Where do you have to be in here years in order to achieve your five-year goals?

4. Back up to next year. Finally, flip the script entirely: You need to take a sharp look at the next year—and now you have a 10-year perspective to do it in. So ask yourself: where do I need to be next year to be on track to reach my three-year vision? Use the same criteria, and make sure it’s as specific as possible.

By starting at the top and working your way back, you’ve already set up your goalposts. And with a very specific outline of your one-year, three-year, five-year and 10-year vision, you can start to create a plan and structure for your business that will get you to each benchmark. The truth is, if you just go on about your daily activities and hope you’ll one day end up where you want to be, changes are, it won’t happen. Instead, plan out where you want to be and use a vision to guide you.

Source: Rich Allen helps create businesses with solid foundations, unique marketplace positions, reputable processes, high-performance team and a visionary leader. Prior to becoming an advisor, he was vice president of human resources for Texas Instruments, then division president/COO with Pella Corporation. His new book is The Ultimate Business Tune Up: A Simple Yet Powerful Business Model That Will Transform the Lives of Small Business Owners.

What Your Employees Really Want To Know About Change

Organizations are organic. They grow, shrink, shift and evolve to stay responsive to customers and the ever-changing business climate. Sometimes change is good and sometimes it’s not. Either way, change can affect people’s jobs and create a sense of uneasiness or fear.

Today, we’re sharing key tips for planning and implementing change from Liz Kislik, a contributor to HBR, who helps guide organizations through change.

Plan more time than you ever thought necessary to prepare the content, delivery and necessary follow-up. When communicating across your organization, you should expect to hold not just one initial “all hands” meeting or videoconference, but also a series of smaller team and individual conversations as follow-ups. Also, coordinate the timing of the announcements so that no one is caught flat-footed if the news is released at different intervals by individual managers and organization-wide outlets. Giving people multiple opportunities to take in and process the announcement is essential for thorough understanding; receiving the information from the right sources in the right sequence is crucial for credibility.

Equip all levels of management to explain the context. Provide training and rehearsal or role-play time to everyone who will need to communicate the message; don’t assume they’ll have the right instincts.

Describe the organizational pain, and how the new solution alleviates it. Instead of just announcing a disruptive change, give the background of what’s not working today and why the new plan is the best way to get to the desired outcome. Focus on how customers have been hurt, how the business is incurring extra expense, the negative brand impact—and how the change will help mitigate those problems.

Personalize both the impact and the resolution. If you don’t, employees may not understand which specifics apply to them, or even how the company is providing support or services to help them cope. For example, in the small group or individual meetings, be prepared with all the necessary details to answer personal questions immediately. Without this, you’ll create even more anxiety and aggravation as people wait for someone to work out the specifics you didn’t research in advance.

Give the affected people as many options and as much participation as you can. When they have choices—and the necessary information or support to make them—employees feel more respected and maintain more pride and autonomy. The closer people are to the work, the more likely it is that they’ll generate practical ideas. Kislik gives the example of one organization that was having financial difficulties and provided a series of meetings about cost-cutting measures that asked everyone to look for ways to help—even though they were adversely affected by some of the very measures they proposed.

Demonstrate humility and responsibility, not just authority. Many leaders mistakenly believe that they’ll be given a pass for shaking up people’s lives if they say they’re suffering over the decision or the disruption themselves. Even treating the problem as a shared responsibility can backfire and feel manipulative to employees. Instead, say, “I’m sorry I didn’t anticipate …” or, “I was too enthusiastic about x…” This shows that you take seriously the impact of the situation on others. You can’t prepare for every curveball, so if you don’t have the answer to a question, say something like, “Wow, that’s a question we didn’t think about, but it’s a good one. We’ll get back to everyone with an answer early next week.”

Whether announcing cost-saving measures, a company restructure or an acquisition, by carefully planning your communication and providing the right level of detail at the right time, you can support your employees through the process with transparency and authenticity.

Source: Liz Kislik helps organizations from the Fortune 500 to national nonprofits and family-run businesses solve their thorniest problems. She has taught at NYU and Hofstra University, and recently spoke at TEDxBaylorSchool. Request her free guide,

How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts in the Workplace, on her website.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Retrain Workers Now For Your Future Business

Look around your organization. Do your employees possess the skills needed to lead your business into the future? Mostly likely there are a few but the tendency is to hire new employees who bring the needed skills. In fact, 62 percent of executives believe they will need to replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2030 due to automation and digitization. However, “upskilling,” or teaching new skills to your existing employees, can be a better and more affordable option, while building engagement and longevity with them.

Upskilling programs can’t be one-size-fits-all. Each employee has a different learning style, a different schedule and, potentially, a large amount of information to learn. Herey, we’ll share suggestions for developing employee retraining programs from Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group.

The Best Retraining Programs Engage and Teach. Studies have shown that the most effective training programs combine engaging elements with specialized training modules. These modules should have online options as well as in-person instruction that focuses on completing skilled tasks. This training should also include digital and physical simulations for real-world, hands-on education. Digitizing the process and using technology like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) can achieve effective results with lower cost to the company.

Personalized Learning For All. On top of engaging learning programs, technology can make it possible to tailor programs to the needs of specific individuals. Part of the capabilities of machine learning happens in the back-end where voice recognition and patterns live. As employees are going through the training program, it recognizes who is using the program and adapts to their specific needs. Employees can experience personalized learning that continues to adapt to their specific learning styles. They can also get real-time feedback based on their performance. This personalized learning fills those gaps on an individual level, boosting confidence and morale. This kind of tool replaces those boring modules that are a pain to implement.

Pattern Building For Retention. Learning is only the first step. After all, have you truly learned anything if you have no ability to recall that information and put it into practice? This is where training reinforcement through pattern building is essential. Most companies struggle with this, seldom reinforcing the information given to a new employee after the initial training.

To be effective, employees must practice these skills they have learned in order to retain and use them. Intelligent applications can be used to improve retention by helping employees to produce patterns throughout their daily work. Once a pattern is established, new techniques can be implemented without confusion and strain. It is all about retraining without huge effort on your end and a new possibility thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Measure ROI Through Learning Success. Using technology for reskilling and retraining allows organizations to gather data on both the employees and the training effectiveness. This data also allows the organization to determine the ROI per employee for retraining. This will help you tailor your program to meet the unique needs of your business while remaining productive, efficient and cost-effective.

Planning For The Future. As AI is permeating many aspects of our lives and businesses, digital transformation is taking hold and we must do everything in our power to keep up. Our employees are the future of our business and must be skilled in these areas of technology to keep us competitive. By starting now, you are ensuring your employees are receiving the education through retraining programs they require to be successful for themselves and for your business.

Source: Daniel Newman is CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, a principal analyst at Futurum and author of Futureproof.

Simple Ways To Recognize Greatness

How hard do your employees work for you? When your employees produce excellent work, do you take the time to thank and reward them? Not only does recognition make employees feel good, your praise incentivizes them to excel and helps retain them. Cultivating an atmosphere of continued achievement begins with giving credit where credit is due.

Research from Bersin & Associates reveals that 80 percent of surveyed employees feel more motivated to work when they believe they are appreciated. Another 71 percent say they’re motivated by the competition when peers are recognized for their work at least monthly. Proper recognition can do wonders for engaging your employees, even if they aren’t the ones being recognized.

Today, we share five simple and effective ways to recognize outstanding work from employees.

1. Buy a gift. The best employees give a lot of time and effort to their job, and you can return the favor with a gift. Put some thought into what you give. Generic gifts, such as gift cards, are appreciated, but they hardly show how much you truly value your employee. Instead, consider the needs and wants of your employees and don’t be afraid to spend a little cash to make them feel appreciated.

2. Create a personalized plaque. When an employee produces particularly good work, they deserve recognition beyond a simple gift. Give them something to forever commemorate the occasion, such as a glass plaque or award that can be displayed publicly on a shelf or mantel, and becomes a long-term keepsake for the recipient. Within the promotional products industry, the options are almost limitless. Opportunities to recognize good work can include special designations such as Employee of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, or other top-performer recognition awards. You might also reward employees for sales, leadership, milestones, customer service, safety, partnership or special categories.

3. Designate an Employee of the Month. If you’re in an informal setting and a banquet or award plaque seems too formal, consider developing an Employee of the Month program. It might seem like a simple way to recognize great employees, but it’s effective, and engenders productive competition and helps boost morale.

4. Invest in professional development. When you have high-performing employees who are eager to learn and advance their skills, reward them by providing professional development opportunities. You might pay for them to attend an industry conference (bonus points if it’s located somewhere tropical) or education program that provides training in their area of specialty, or pay the tuition for college classes related to their current work or career goals.

By investing in an employee’s education, you’re sending the message that they’re truly valuable. In addition, it motivates the employee to do a better job. It’s an investment in the employee and your company.

5. Donate to a nonprofit. Do some good while showing your top-performing employees you care. Allow your best employee to select a charity, and then donate a high-dollar amount to that organization. Studies show that when employees are enabled to provide service or donations to those in need, even vicariously, they tend to be happier and more motivated in their careers.

Source: Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer in Renton, Washington, who is interested in travel, nature and parenting.

The Importance Of Working For A Boss Who Supports You

Does your boss support you? Most people would say “yes—and no.” It often depends on the situation.

Employees who believe their company cares for them perform better. What value does an employer place on you as an employee? Are you there simply to get the job done and then go home? Are you paid fairly, well-trained and confident in your job security? Do you work under good job conditions? Do you receive constructive feedback, or do you feel demeaned or invisible?

Today, we’re sharing these valuable tips from Forbes contributor and digital marketing specialist, Sarah Landrum, on how to have a healthy and happy relationship with your boss.

Invest In A Relationship With Your Boss. When you’re first hired, you should get to know your company’s culture and closely watch your boss as you learn the ropes. Regardless of your boss’s communication style, speaking up on timely matters before consequences are out of your control builds trust and establishes healthy communication. Getting to know your boss begins with knowing how he or she moves through the business day, including their moods, how they prefer to communicate and their style of leadership.

Mood: Perhaps your boss needs a cup of coffee to start the day. If you see other employees scurry away before the boss drains that cup of coffee, bide your time, too.

Communication: If you have important news, deliver it to your boss promptly. Use email or a phone call to check in, and schedule a meeting for in-depth topics. Show you respect your boss’s time, and, in return, your time will be respected, too. Remember, everyone has a different style of communication and you must respect your boss’s style. For example, some bosses may appear cold in anecdotal discussions, but their analytical style may prefer discussions

based on hard data.

Leadership: What kind of leader is your boss? Autocratic leaders assume total authority on decision-making without input or challenge from others. Participative leaders value the democratic input of team members, but retain the authority to make the final decision.

A Healthy Relationship With Leaders Makes The Company Better. A Gallup report reveals that 71 percent of Millennials aren’t engaged on the job and half of all respondents are planning to leave their current job within a year. What is the cause? Bosses are responsible for 70 percent of employee engagement, and engaged bosses are 59 percent more prone to having and retaining engaged employees.

These bosses exhibit supportive behaviors such as being accessible for discussions, motivating according to an employee’s strengths rather than weaknesses, and helping to set goals. The most positive engagement booster was identified as when managers focus on e

mployee strengths. According to the report, the people responsible most often for employee retention and engagement are those in leadership positions. The boss is poised to directly affect employee happiness, satisfaction, productivity and performance.

The same report reveals that only 21 percent of Millennial employees meet weekly with their boss and 17 percent receive meaningful feedback. In the end, one out of every two employees will leave a job to get away from their boss when unsupported.

A healthy relationship between boss and employee is vital to company success, and is especially important to the progression of careers among Millennials as the workforce continues to age.

Read PCT again tomorrow when we will talk about customer reviews.

Source: Sarah Landrum writes about howcan be happier at work. She is also a digital marketing specialist, freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career advice blog that focuses on happiness and creating a career you love.

Asking Questions Can Make You A Better Leader

The Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said the ability to be a great leader comes down to one very important skill: asking questions. The challenge is that too few leaders, managers and employees know how to do this well.

Here, we share these insights from business author Michael Lindenmayer on asking good questions and other key elements of Socratic leadership.

1. Quest For The Best Answers. The key to getting your team to embrace questioning is to help them see it as a tool to get the best answer versus an interrogation. In getting the best answer, everyone has a role to play and different insights to bring to the table. If it feels like an interrogation, morale will drop and defensive attitudes will stifle the ability to find the best answer. So, make the quest for the best answers a part of your corporate culture.

2. Be Humble: Admit You Don’t Know. Check your ego at the door when finding the best answers. If a team member is missing an answer, then the next question to put forth should help them find it. This eliminates any excuses and sets everyone right back on the path to finding the best possible answers.

3. Build Stamina: Get a Brain Work Out. Most people can handle only a few questions before they experience cognitive overload. Too many questions with too few answers kicks in the flight response. People can shut down. The good news is that people can build up their stamina so that they can handle more questions. The best way to do this is to work the brain out like a muscle. Engage. Rest. Recover. You will get stronger and better at asking questions and engaging in the quest for answers.

4. Empower Everyone. Want to unleash the potential of your team? Then ask questions and be up for digging for the best answers. Also encourage others across your team to ask questions. When asking questions becomes part of your company culture, you drive consistency across the organization.

5. Concentrate. If you want good answers, you need to concentrate on getting them. Our brains are splintered by multitasking. Stanford Professor Clifford Nass’s research showcases how multitasking both reduces the speed of decision-making as well as the quality of the decisions generated. Instead, engage in thinking that is deliberative and logical. It helps you clear through the rapid, automatic and subconscious default settings that often guide us and push us further to get at thoughtful decisions.

6. Questions For The Three P’s. The three P’s are: possibilities, probabilities and priorities. Certain questions generate possibilities. Other questions sharpen the team’s ability to assess the probable outcome of potential decisions. The third set of questions help empower team members to prioritize. Learn to apply different questions to the three P’s; it will help advance your endeavor.

Try this Socratic method with your team. Determine great questions you will ask your team that will advance your mission.

Source: Michael Lindenmayer, a Forbes contributor, is a purpose-driven entrepreneur, writer and systems designer. He is the co-founder and CEO of Toilet Hackers, a social enterprise focused on securing 100 percent sanitation for the 2.6 billion people living without a toilet. He is an advisor to Sesame Workshop’s Global Health Initiative. And he is on the advisory board of the Girl’s Fund at the World Wide Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. He also collaborates with the leading minds at the University of Chicago’s Booth Business, where he is an associate fellow at the New Paths to Purpose Project.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Four Reasons To Be A Lifelong Learner

Continuing your education and learning as both an individual and as a professional is important. While you may already be a very capable marketer and you read plenty on the subject, but learning is a lifelong skill that keeps one motivated.

It’s a popular belief amongst many professionals that continuing education should be reserved for people who need to learn new skills to stay employed. But, lifelong learning can benefit everyone. What’s more, lifelong learning can also directly benefit your employer, so it’s important to let them know that you wish to continue your professional development.

Today, we share the career benefits of professional development and education from career writer Mariliza Karrera.

1. It Keeps You Current And Up To Date: According to research, adult learners are the fastest growing segment pursuing education. The reason behind this trend is the fact that many professionals are beginning to realize that to remain competitive in the ever-changing world of business they need to stay current and updated. This is especially important since recent graduates may be a threat to your position as they will be more up to date with the changes in the industry.

And it’s not as simple as learning a few computer skills here and there. Professionals across all industries should closely follow trends and seek to provide depth in industry knowledge to remain relevant.

2. It Can Motivate You: Lifelong learning can also help make you happier, which in turn, can make you more productive. According to one study by economists at the University of Warwick, employees who are happy can be 12 percent more productive than unhappy employees.

Therefore, it’s especially important for professionals who aren’t satisfied with their careers to try and learn something new. The process of applying the new information to your job can help stimulate your brain and help you become more interested in your work. So, if you feel like you are losing interest in your career, consider signing up to learn a new skill. You might find meaning in your career again.

3. It Can Help You Grow Your Network: If you are interested in changing careers, taking a course is the first thing that you should do, not just because you’ll need to learn new skills but because it can also help you grow your network. Continuing education is a great way to meet other professionals in your industry. Your teacher or instructor is a great professional connection, so make sure that you form a close relationship with them as well.

4. It Helps Keep You Employed For Longer: According to recent data, it’s estimated that by the year 2020 over 60 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education. Many professionals are beginning to realize that a bachelor’s degree is not sufficient. You can’t expect information you gained before you started your career to keep you up to date, especially at the rate that the world is changing. Continuing education will help you remain equipped with valuable tools and information, and it will help you achieve the career development you seek. Keep in mind that the more current you keep your knowledge and skills, the better your chances are of remaining valuable to the team.

Source: Mariliza Karrera is a staff writer for Career Addict, the leading online career and employment website that provides tools and industry knowledge to help people succeed in their careers and achieve professional goals. Career Addict provides a wide range of services, from a comprehensive career advice blog and professional CV writing services to a state-of-the-art job board.

Ask The Most Important Interview Question

Business blogger Brendan Reid says there is one specific question you can ask during an interview that will help you to clearly understand a job candidate. 

Ask this question: Walk me through how this role and company will be different from previous experiences you’ve had.

The Research Test: Reid says he likes this question because the answer always reveals how much the candidate has researched the company and the position. If they don’t refer to specifics or cite examples that indicate they’ve done their homework or if they don’t demonstrate a clear understanding of the role, then it will be apparent.

The Self-Awareness Test: Self-awareness is an attribute that Reid says should be highly valued in candidates. If you aren’t self-aware and you can’t evaluate yourself objectively, it’s very difficult to be successful on a team. This question is great at revealing self-awareness. The candidate is forced to think critically about their own experiences and compare them with this new one. In the process, they must point to gaps and deficiencies to provide a thoughtful answer. The best candidates will be able to thoughtfully analyze and identify areas of difference and speak to how they will manage through them.

The Depth of Competency Test: Many candidates can speak at a surface level about a topic or function. The Internet makes it easy to prep basic answers to most questions, so the goal here is to force candidates to demonstrate a depth of understanding. It allows them to show how they can apply concepts from one job to a different situation.

The Learning Test: Another important attribute to look for in candidates is dedication to learning. The best teams are the ones that learn and improve every day. By asking a question about differences and gaps, you provide the context for the best candidates to talk about learning. Some candidates will try to minimize the relevance of differences. The best candidates, on the other hand, will speak to specific steps they intend to take to close the gaps. They’ll talk about learning.

Try this question in your next interview as an efficient way to discover the capabilities of your job candidates.

Source: Brendan Reid is an executive at one of the largest software companies in the country and the author of Stealing the Corner Office. He also writes a business blog and provides one-on-one career coaching.

Managers: Pay Attention To The Back Row

I recently read an article about a woman attending a  Zumba class at the local recreation center. It’s a class made up of all ages of women and men (yes, men do Zumba too) from high school to retirement age. Some people try it a few times and never come back. Some are seasonal attendee, and there are the regular diehards-those of us who show up as often as we can.

Over time, a pecking order has emerged among this hodgepodge group. The back row is typically made up of newbies who are trying to learn the steps or who have a difficult time keeping up in class. The next two rows are typically a mix of regulars and sporadic attendees. Some of them are uncoordinated and need some extra space to move around in. Others in these rows tend to be somewhat experienced, but they don’t want any attention as they go through the steps. In the next two rows, right behind the instructor, are the regular attendees. They know the steps, they put in 100 percent effort and sometimes they even throw in some additional moves or use hand weights for the added challenge. Finally, we get to the front row-those who do Zumba alongside the instructor. Obviously, space there is tight here, so this self-appointed, elite group is typically comprised of three to four proteges who like to interact with the instructor and don’t mind having all eyes on them.

During the time in this class, what she noticed about the front row. No matter how crowded the room is, these people always make their way to the front assuming they have a reserved spot there. These participants like to observe themselves in the mirror and they are confident in knowing all the steps. This group has confidence, expertise and there’s a sense of elitism. But if anyone else from the class attempts to step into the front row, there’s an unspoken threat that they don’t belong there.

One of the most difficult jobs as a manager is to create a fair and equitable approach to team development and team dynamics. In an environment where personalities and personal agendas impact team dynamics, sometimes the loudest get the most attention and others with potential but softer voices go unnoticed.

As a leader, what can you do to optimize your team members to get the most creativity and productivity? Try these steps:

1. Manage the spotlight. Every team has a super star—that individual or group of individuals who stand out. They are experienced at what they do and they let others know it. While they might be cordial to the team, they control the team culture. They believe they deserve the spotlight and can take up the boss’s time and attention because of this.

It’s easy to give into these individuals because they make their presence known. Sometimes these individuals will self-appoint themselves as “second in command” due to their tenure or experience. Be careful with this as it can be confusing, and frankly, degrading, to other team members. As a leader, you certainly don’t want to discourage high performance. However, you also need to manage your time and attention across your entire team if you are going to optimize the team and get results. These individuals do best when they know they’ll have time with you, so set up one-on-one meetings with these individuals so they can share ideas. And make it clear that your job, as the leader, is to set the direction and goals. It’s not up to them.

2. Give the second and third rows a chance to break through to the top. Often there’s great talent on a team that’s held back or doesn’t get exposure because of the front-rowers. Take time to identify that second- and third-row talent. Who does their job well? Hits deadlines? Brings new ideas to the table? Identify those individuals and give them some additional responsibilities that will grow their exposure across the organization. Whether it’s running the next staff meeting or planning the next corporate customer event, give them their own spotlight moments that won’t get overshadowed.

3. Groom those diligent attendees into front-row experts. Remember the team members who show up each week and are getting better and better at their skill sets. These team members might not have the skills down like other team members, but they are learning and have the potential to be part of the “front row” someday. If that’s the case, invest in these team members. Send them to professional development programs to hone their skills. Set them up with mentors in your organization. Help groom their skills and give them the confidence that they are up-and-coming high performers. By investing in them, you are not only building your bench strength for the future, you are also building employee engagement and, hopefully, employee tenure.

4. Don’t let those back-row success stories go unnoticed. Finally, don’t ignore the back row. The truth about the back row is that some of these team members will drop out or move to other teams. However, there are a few who will begin to move their way up in terms of skill development.

Be available to coach these back rowers and provide them with clear direction and instruction. With these team members, you’ll need to be proactive, reaching out to them individually and assessing their level of interest and engagement. By spending the extra time, you can determine where there are opportunities for improvement and where there are gaps in skills and contributions to the team.

There is also the opportunity to identify back-row success stories. These are individuals who quietly and unassumingly contribute in a very significant way to the team. Discover these successes and let others know.

Pay attention to your team dynamics and adjust the time you spend with team members based on their level of expertise and visibility.

Source: Cassandra Johnson is a tech-savvy marketing communications consultant and freelance writer. She reports on the latest trends in the promotional products industry, public relations, direct marketing, e-marketing and more. She supports clients in a variety of industries, including promotional products, hospitality, financial services and technology.

The Real Facts About the Coffee Shop Effect

Myfavorite invention of all time is the one I can’t live without—my laptop. It’s not because of its powerful software or its ability to create content, but because of its flexibility. My laptop gives me

freedom. I can work in the office, from home, by the pool or at my local Starbucks. Changing my work location helps me with productivity when I get brain fog or writer’s block. In fact, I can often get more done in one hour at Starbuck’s than in an entire morning at the office. The question is, why? Freelance writer Kat Boogaard asked this question, too, in her recent blog.

1. Your brain loves novelty. Boogaard says that the human brain has been proven to constantly seek novelty, rather than the repetitive and mundane. It’s a classic case of “shiny object syndrome.” Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’re always keeping your eyes peeled for what’s new and exciting.

When you’re presented with something different, your brain releases dopamine. Known to many people as the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine was previously thought to be a reward in itself. Recent studies, however, have shown it’s more closely tied to motivation—meaning dopamine inspires you to seek out a reward, rather than acting as a reward itself.

So, by creating a fresh, new work environment, a la Starbucks, you are providing a blank canvas for your brain to get stimulated. By focusing on your to-do list in your new environment, you are exercising your brain’s neuroplasticity. So, what you see as being more efficient in a different location is your brain thinking about the tasks in a different light. By doing this, you are climbing out of the stale rut you were in before, activating your brain’s ability to think about things in a new way.

2. You easily fall victim to unproductive routiness. We all have routines in our lives, and sometimes these routines, or rituals, are comforting. However, sometimes these routines can become—well, so routine—that they are unproductive. That’s why, when you need to put something together for work, it’s easy to get distracted by the blackhole known as Facebook or Twitter, or another social media channel. Sometimes a different work environment helps to counteract these bad habits and get productive again.
Boogaard shares this quote from Ralph Ryback, M.D., in an article in Psychology Today. He says, “Environmental cues are essential when it comes to habit formation, in part because the brain is excellent at connecting an environment with a specific situation.”

Pay attention to what productivity boosters you enjoy most and think about how to incorporate them back at your desk.

3. You set intentions to get more done. Is it the actual change of environment that makes you more productive, or is it your intention to work better or smarter in the new environment? Boogaard says that it’s both of those things. Changing your work environment does indeed have an impact on your brain and your level of motivation. But, there’s a lot to be said for good intentions as well. It’s as if you’ve snapped your brain into saying, “I’m going to get through my list.” Intention can be a powerful tool.

As reported by the Harvard Business Review, William A. Tiller, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, is quoted from the book, Intention Experiment, by Lynne McTaggart, as saying, “For the last 400 years, an unstated assumption of science is that human intention cannot affect what we call physical reality. Our experimental research of the past decade shows that, for today’s world and under the right conditions, this assumption is no longer correct.”

In other words, your intention makes a difference. The next time you feel like you’re just barely slogging through your workload, consider heading to a new environment with the intention of getting things done. You’ll likely be surprised by how much it helps your productivity.

Source: Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer and blogger who finally gathered her courage, sprinted away from her cubicle, and started her own business. Now, she lends her voice to various brands and publications to help them craft content that engages their audience. Beyond that, she helps other hopeful freelancers figure out how to jump ship from their jobs and create their own heart-centered and hustle-filled businesses.