5 Things You Should be Doing to Have an Insanely Productive Week – Thomas Oppong

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A productive week depends largely on what you focus on every working day and how much time you allocate to activities that take up your time (i.e. busy work). Working harder does not necessarily mean you are being productive. There will always be a better way to complete that task. Find it, work smarter and get more done in your working week.

These are a few things can do to have an insanely productive week this and every other week.

1. Stop planning, start doing.
It’s okay to make time to plan what needs to be done in the week or month but when you get back to the planning table often, you lose precious productive hours.

So instead of plan, just do it. The option to work on a task in the future instead of now seem comfortable but not prudent. While you keep telling yourself you don’t have to do it now, that task won’t go away. And somebody will have to eventually account for it. So instead of procrastinating, get on with it and check it off your to-do list.

Also, are your meetings really worthwhile? Most people spend too much time in meetings, when they should be working and getting things done. To ensure you are making the most of your time, create a time budget. This will help you realize how much time you are losing to meetings or planning when you should be doing actual work. You will be surprised at how much you can get done every week if you start tracking how much time you spend planning or meeting.

2. You don’t have to say “yes” to every request.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.” — Warren Buffet.

Saying “yes” to a request seem easier than a simple “no”. Yet every time you agree to do something for somebody that brings low or no result, it makes it difficult to have a schedule you can really control. You don’t want that. You can achieve more if you know what you have to do, when you have to it and what you expect to accomplish. All that can be done in controlled schedule.

3. Don’t be a perfectionist.
If you keep chasing perfection, it could take you longer to get your tasks done – and you will most likely be less productive than you planned. The reason being is when you activity strive for perfection you spend more time on a single task than required, causing your other responsibilities to get pushed back. This will cause you to lose time and possibly annoy your immediate boss in the process. Perfectionism is even higher when you don’t account to anyone but yourself, as the fine tuning never ends.

4. Get everything out of your head.
Don’t rely heavily on your memory. It will fail you when you need it most. Instead, write things down.

There are hundreds of options for taking notes — everything from the good old sticky notes to applications like Evernote, Any.do, and Wunderlist. By jotting down everything that needs to get done in the week, you will have a better picture of what needs to be accomplished – and set priorities accordingly.

5. Review and measure your accomplishments.
Just before you close the week and prepare for next week, review your achievements, along with everything else that needed to be done, to see if you really got work done. Get back to your to-do list and check them off and find out what you were not able to do and why. Celebrate your accomplishments, take note of everything you postponed and learn from your mistakes. You will be better prepared for the following week.

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Rule Breakers: 5 Social Brands That Defy Best Practices – Brian Honigman

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Pablo Picasso famously remarked, “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” While he may have been talking about painting, the lesson can just as easily apply to any skill – like social media marketing, for example.

There are many brands out there that don’t follow social media best practices simply because they lack the knowledge or resources to do so.

However, a few noteworthy social brands seem to have a true understanding of the established standards but ignore them in ways that make sense for their brand and actually enhance their online presence.

Denny’s gets weird on Tumblr.
For a platform that has such diehard fans and generates so much content and activity, Tumblr seems to not get nearly as much attention from brands as other social networks do. In addition, the brands that do actively maintain a presence on Tumblr seem to play by different rules than the regular users.

Taking a look at some of the top brands on Tumblr reveals that they are almost absurdly polished.

Sure, this might make them aspirational and be good branding from a typical advertisers perspective; but they really don’t seem to fit in to the community at large. Just look at the difference between a well-done brand Tumblr and the Tumblr of an actual user.

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The standard branded Tumblr seems a lot more like a professional blog that just so happens to be hosted on Tumblr. However, there are some brands that buck this trend and create a presence on Tumblr that feels much more authentic if not a little unorthodox. The best example of this is Denny’s.

Scrolling through Denny’s Tumblr is like stepping into an alternate universe. The content ranges from fairly odd (haikus about pancakes) to downright bizarre (sausages making “yo mama” jokes). The one thing all their posts seem to have in common is that they feel like something your average Tumblr user would cobble together, just slightly more professional, consistent, and breakfast-food related.

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The result of this unique approach is that Denny’s followers actually interact with and respond to their blog. Most branded Tumblrs feel like they’re showing off, but Denny’s blog seems to take itself a lot less seriously.

They could have simply posted dolled up photos of diner food, or some equally slick campaign; instead Denny’s decided to take a risk and create content that actually genuinely fits with Tumblr’s weirdness. Looking at their page and the success it’s enjoyed, the risk seems to have paid off.

The TSA makes the mundane interesting on Instagram.
Government agencies are known for many things, but being interesting on social media is certainly not one of them. Most agency social accounts are simply channels for relaying information and/or patting their own backs.

Given that the standards are so low, it’s surprising that one of the most entertaining Instagram accounts out there is run by the exceedingly unpopular TSA. Articulating exactly what makes the TSA’s Instagram so intriguing is hard, but it has something to do with the contrast between the matter-of-fact governmental tone and the absurdity of the content.

The TSA Instagram features the most unusual and ridiculous items that people try to sneak on to airplanes around the country. Whether it’s a de-activated grenade orbrass knuckles with a blade attached they use the same straightforward voice to calmly inform us that “Trench knives (and all other knives) are prohibited from being transported in carry-on bags.”

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A Battarang! Seriously!?

The TSA’s account still achieves the same goals that other government accounts do (informing the public); but by giving us a glimpse into just how much the TSA actually catches, their Instagram also helps demonstrate why they are a beneficial agency.

The oftentimes hilarious posts don’t come off as unprofessional, because the humor genuinely seems unintentional. The account simply presents the situations as they happened and allows their followers to make of it what they will. And who knows, maybe after seeing a few posts someone will think twice about packing that Battarang in their carry-on.

Zara lets their photos do the talking on Facebook.
Even before Facebook acquired Instagram, it was the world’s top photo-sharing site with 250 million photos being uploaded daily. With that in mind, it only makes sense that photos are among the most popular content posted on Facebook. However, most photos are accompanied by caption to give them context and make their message clearer.

Indeed, nearly every big brand on Facebook (especially apparel brands) publish posts that use photos along with a line or two of copy. Zara is not one of those brands. Instead nearly every Zara post consists of a high-quality photo, some hashtags describing that photo and a link to the product. There is no other text.

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The effect is a little jarring, and seems counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t these posts benefit from a little more explanation? Who actually uses hashtags on Facebook?

A little more investigating reveals that their posts from Facebook are nearly identical to their posts on Instagram and very similar to their Twitter posts. This is typically regarded as poor form in the social world.

Related: A New Model for Results-Driven Networking

Yet, despite all these broken rules and questionable decisions Zara has one of the most liked Facebook pages and a rabid fan-base. One interesting component of this social strategy is the dedicated section of their website titled “#zaradaily.” This section features daily product photos and many of the posts blasted across their social channels all point back to this one page.

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Breaking the rules make sense for Zara in this case, because their social channels are merely acting as an avenue to lead shoppers to their site, where the content has the appropriate context.

The enigmatic Facebook posts are sparse on purpose. The goal is to grab the user’s attention and get them to click to the site, where they will hopefully be sold on the product. It’s an interesting strategy and one that seems to be working.

Parks and Recreation highlights their fan’s reactions on Twitter.
Fewer and fewer people simply watch TV anymore. An increasing number are simultaneously using another device while watching their favorite TV. A recent study showed that 44 percent of viewers were viewing another screen while watching television.

As a higher proportion of viewers tune into multiple devices, networks are clamoring for ways to hold their attention on all these different media channels. Due to its real-time nature, Twitter is the perfect fit for keeping fans constantly engaged.

As such, nearly every TV show has a Twitter account and most are run in similar fashion. These accounts consist mostly of tweets promoting the show and blasting micro-content created by the networks.

One show that bucks this trend is NBC’s irreverent comedy, Parks and Recreation. Instead of focusing on posting their own content, they almost exclusively re-tweet fan-created content and personal reactions.

Another notable feature of their account is that there is not many promotional tweets regarding the show. Contrast this to accounts like Modern Family’s that tweet their own content and rarely re-tweet user generated tweets.

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Although this may seem like a strategy born out of laziness, it actually requires Parks and Recreation’s community managers to pore over fan reactions and find the best and most relevant bits.

What they understand is that a fan’s piece of content (if it’s good enough) will be much better branding than their own manufactured content – especially when it comes to promotional tweets.

Instead of telling their followers to watch the Halloween episode, it is so much better to re-tweet a fan who excitedly proclaims that to honor Halloween he is going to watch every Halloween special ever aired.

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Wisecrack treats their YouTube channel like a TV channel.
There has been much talk about how YouTube is set to overthrow traditional television, and the past half-decade or so has shown that even independent creators are capable of creating content that rivals that of networks.

One key difference though is that a lot of these content-creators don’t seem to abide by the same strategies that the television industry used so successfully.

Instead of often banding into consolidated networks that have many programs under a single umbrella, many YouTubers prefer instead to maintain looser affiliations with fellow content-creators.

The highly successful Vsauce channel for example has two associated channels named Vsauce2 and Vsauce3 instead of simply creating those channels within the original channel they are only tangentially promoted.

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However, a young upstart channel named Wisecrack has decided to take the opposite approach. Wisecrack has created an informal YouTube network that has quickly risen to prominence.

The channel first began as Thug Notes (which you can still see in the channel’s url), which was an educational/entertainment channel that analyzed classic literature with gangsta-rap terminology.

Thug Notes was a runaway success, and it’s creator/star (who goes by Sparky Sweets Phd.) decided that he wanted to expand the purview of the channel into other areas.

Instead of creating a separate channel for each of these new programs, he simply rebranded the channel under the name Wisecrack, and chose to have it encompass the addition of 8-Bit Philosophy and, more recently Earthling Cinema both living within their own playlist.

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This strategy has multiple advantages. First of all, by using all three channels to court viewers, they are more likely to get more subscribers and views on their videos.

In addition, if they ever decide to release a new channel, they will have a captive audience to broadcast it to. There’s a reason that television networks adopted this practice. It makes sense and consolidates your efforts.

What all of these various examples have in common is that these social brands were aware of the rules and had such a strong understanding of the reasons behind them that they knew when it made sense to break them – and they defied these best practices them much to their own benefit.

Which reminds me of the famous quote by journalist, Miles Klington: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

What do you think about the idea of brands purposefully defying best practices? Are there any brands that do this particularly well that I didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for reading.

Need to Hire a Web Developer? A Marketing Manager? Get in Line. – Anne Fisher

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One thing is certain about the new year: It will be a great time to look for a new job.

With about 3 million vacant positions in the U.S., and hiring on the rise, CareerBuilder and its job-market research arm Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) set out to find exactly where the most jobs are. The researchers pulled data from about 90 sources, including job boards, and compared the average number of new hires per month with the number of advertised openings in about 700 occupations.

“Job seekers are gaining leverage, since the rate of workers being hired isn’t keeping up with the frequency and volume of job ads,” says Matt Ferguson, CareerBuilder’s CEO.

The study also looked at advertised pay, breaking annual salaries down to their hourly rates to directly compare exempt and non-exempt jobs. (The calculation divides yearly salaries by 2,080, assuming 40 hours per week for 52 weeks.)

Here are the 10 fields with the most job openings now, and where CareerBuilder projects opportunities will keep growing well into 2015:

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Need to Hire a Web Developer? A Marketing Manager? Get in Line.

It’s not news that tech expertise is in short supply, but why the surge in demand for marketing mavens? Chalk it up to the proliferation of social media, and the relative scarcity of people who can make a company’s message stand out amid the ever-growing clutter. The onset of health care reform, meanwhile, had led to a call for more medical managers, and the aging of the U.S. population will lead to even more demand for all kinds of rehabilitative therapists in the years ahead.

If anything, CareerBuilder’s figures understate employers’ appetite for talent, since the data only reflects advertised job openings. Other studies have shown that as many as half of all management and professional jobs never appear on any job board but are instead filled through networking and word-of-mouth.

10 Local Marketing Predictions For 2015 – Court Cunningham

2015 promises to be another interesting year in the fast-changing local online marketing space. We have just seen the rollout of Amazon Local Services and can expect numerous other companies to jump into the fray. Technology providers jostling for a bigger slice of the local pie will keep raising their game by offering better and more comprehensive services to help small businesses. And that can only be good news for entrepreneurs who are laser-focused on growth.

Much of what happened in 2014 has set the stage for 2015. Jeff Bezos’s new offering—which lets consumers find, schedule and pay for local services using the familiar Amazon shopping cart—is just one representation of a growing trend around online booking that we saw in 2014 and will continue in 2015. Another case in point is the successful launch of HubSpot CRM, which illustrates the ongoing move towards more integrated CRM systems for small businesses, and helped contribute to a successful IPO for HubSpot.

This is just the start of what you need to know about local marketing in 2015. Here are 10 trends that we can expect to see in the next 12 months.

1. Booking payments and scheduling keep moving online. Many consumers don’t want to pick up the phone to make an appointment anymore—or pay for a service in-person they have booked online. They expect small service businesses to let them do these tasks online—with the same ease with which they buy things on Amazon. Players like Full Slate—which book services for a variety of industries—will pick up momentum in 2015. And expect to see continued growth in industry specific-sites like Uber, for ride sharing; ZocDoc, for medical practices, and Open Table, for restaurants.

This trend isn’t lost on key players like Angie’s List and Yelp. They’ve both added widgets to their profiles that let visitors book appointments with the businesses that appear on their sites.

2. Social media management gets simpler. CRM providers have realized there’s money to be made in making it simpler for clients to respond to reviews on social media sites. As a result, more CRM providers are closely integrating their services with social media marketing platforms. To speed things up, sites including Constant Contact, Main Street Hub and, yes, Yodle, have already automated more of the processes involved with this. Expect even easier solutions that are more integrated with mobile in 2015.

Meanwhile, content marketing through social media will get easier. More options like Rallyverse, the content curation and publishing platform, should be springing up on 2015.

3. Small business marketing metrics evolve. With many businesses focused on growth, they increasingly value help in closing deals above simply getting leads. Local marketing providers who can deliver actual revenue to them on a platter will have an edge over lead-gen firms.

4. “We are the Uber for X” pitch keeps working—but not for everyone. We’ve already seen that the Uber model works for purchases that don’t take a lot of forethought, like cab rides. More players in other industries will try to use the Uber model to win their own customers in the coming year. New players range from venture-backed Urgent.ly, which offers roadside assistance, to house cleaning site Homejoy and heavily funded competitor Handy that connects users to handymen.

However, the jury is still out on whether consumers will be comfortable using these types of sites for higher-consideration purchases—especially those where service providers will come to their homes. I expect that services like house cleaning won’t be as big as people think.

5. People recognize there isn’t a difference between marketing to acquire customers—and retain customers. Small businessowners are tired of using separate tools for acquiring customers and retaining them to generate revenue, particularly when there’s such a strong correlation between the two. For example, a positive review on Facebook can be leveraged with both existing and potential customers. Expect to see more small business marketing providers broadening their tools—and hot competition to offer the best marketing solution in a box.

6. Johnny-one-notes fade. “Point solution” companies—ranging from email newsletter firm MailChimp to social marketing provider Sprinklr—have brought some useful services to the marketplace. But increasingly firms that offer just a single marketing service will die, get acquired or merge, as small business owners turn to technology that help them on many fronts rather than dealing with the complexity of multiple point solutions.

7. “Do-it-with-me” service model sets the pace. Many marketing applications of the past were so complicated they drove away users. Recognizing this, more providers will shift to a do-it-with-me service model, where they teach a local business how to tackle key processes such as getting more reviews or building a strong social media presence, in an easy-to-follow approach. Small businesses will be turned off by “do-it-for-me” models that don’t enable them to maintain their brand identity and interact authentically with their customers.

8. The Empire strikes back. The Yellow Pages of yore, made of dead trees, may have had their day but the brand itself still has tremendous firepower. Expect YP.com to become a threat to Yelp and Angie’s List in 2015. Recent research by comScore for YP found that adults who search on the site are both more engaged and commerce minded than searchers in general.

9. Reviews become even more powerful. If small businesses are not paying attention to online reviews for their business, it should be a priority in 2015.Seventy-eight percent of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by online reviews, according to the market research firm Ipsos.Google favors business profiles with lots of reviews in local search, and in 2015, reviews will also be increasingly essential to conversions on sites such as Facebook.

10. Square will launch new products—but fight to win attention for them. No doubt the heavily-advertised brand has had a giant impact on the mobile payments space. But as it adds new products it is likely to face intense competition. Recently, Square announced it was offering Snapcash, an app that lets Snapchat users store debit card data and send money to friends. Square has also started offering gift cards through merchants and has acquired Caviar, a startup that allows customers to get food-delivery from restaurants that don’t otherwise deliver.

Will these new offerings broaden Square’s market? Yes. But will they get a lot of attention? I’m not holding my breath.

Stress, Anxiety, Loneliness: How This Entrepreneur Lost Himself and Bounced Back Stronger – Catherine Clifford

Brian Bordainick remembers when he snapped.

He was in the process of building what is now a $16 million trendy data-driven dining startup called Dinner Lab. Many would have loved to trade spots with him. Things were happening fast.

But he wasn’t able to focus in conversations. He was often overcome with an odd, out-of-reality sensation where he would watch people’s mouths move, but couldn’t concentrate on their words.

Bordainick had fallen into that perfect maelstrom of stress, anxiety and too much to do. He had hit that infamous and clichéd “wall.”

In retrospect, it makes sense: In less than two years, he had gone from running a grassroots startup out of his basement apartment in New Orleans to being the boss of a rapidly growing venture-backed company with national reach. In June, Dinner Lab received a $2.1 million investment from John Elstrott, Chairman of the Board of Whole Foods Market.

As many founders know, when your company grows that fast, your life changes just as quickly. One of the toughest lessons Bordainick learned along the way was how to take care of himself.

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A Dinner Lab in progress.
Image credit: Dinner Lab

Before he was devoted to building Dinner Lab full time, Bordainick worked at 4.0 Schools, an education technology nonprofit. Juggling the two was grueling. One day last September, he flew to New Orleans for a ground-breaking ceremony tied to his work with 4.0 Schools. That same night, he flew back to New York to celebrate Dinner Lab’s launch in the New York City market. It was a momentous day for him, and on both legs of his day, he received tremendous amounts of praise and attention.

He hardly noticed the accomplishments. He was locked in go-mode. “I passed it along like any other day. I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever, guys. Let’s move onto the next market,’” he says.

Bordainick launched the first iteration of Dinner Lab in August 2012 from his basement apartment in New Orleans as a late-night dining option for his friends. Most restaurants in the Big Easy close down on the early side. Bordainick envisioned running pop-up dinners at midnight in New Orleans and eventually turning that concept into a brick and mortar restaurant, down the line. The idea was unsustainable. Not only did guests arrive painfully inebriated, but running an operation that serves dinner at midnight proved exhausting.

He pivoted early. His model today involves a rotating cast of up-and-coming chefs serving pop-up meals in underutilized spaces in cities across the country. The dinners – which have been held in venues such as helipads and abandoned churches – are never held in the same place twice. Diners are only alerted to the location the day before the event.

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Communication is central to the Dinner Lab model. Participants are asked to provide feedback on every course.
Image credit: Dinner Lab

The membership-only experience depends on users giving extensive feedback on each food and wine pairing presented. Members pay anywhere from $100 to $200 per person per year to have access to the events and then from between $50 to $95 per dinner event (including drinks, tax and gratuity), depending on the city. Chefs use the feedback from diners to make decisions about future meals. Dinner Lab is currently auditioning chefs for its first ever brick and mortar restaurant, which is expected to open in the second quarter of next year.

For a period, Bordainick was hiring a new employee every five days to keep up with his company’s rapid growth. The company currently has 56 full-time employees and then another 20 part-time servers and bartenders in each of the 19 U.S. cities it operates in. In the busiest cities — which are New York City, Austin, Nashville and New Orleans — Dinner Lab hosts as many as 150 dinners a year.

Managing Dinner Lab was a crash course in entrepreneurship for Bordainick, and one of his first observations was that he really didn’t like his peers. Fellow entrepreneurs, he said, often paint a rosy picture that’s both pie in the sky and hard to compete with.

“Everyone was telling me how great it is and how amazing life is and how they are hiring a bunch of people and closing out rounds of funding. And it was like, ok, yeah, I get that, but let’s have a real conversation,” he says. “I found it very difficult to find people in my life who were willing to let their guard down and be honest and real.”

Talking to other entrepreneurs when Dinner Lab was in the throes of growing pains was challenging, but then so was talking to even some of his family and friends. Naturally, people were intensely curious about the hot — and growing hotter — business he was building. “Everyone wants to talk about things all the time, and you are stressed out. And that is a really hard place to be as an entrepreneur. It’s a really lonely place to be.”

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Dinner Lab meals are served in underutilized spaces.

Image credit: Dinner Lab

One of the most important lessons Bordainick learned was the importance of keeping people in his life who care and love him for who he is outside of his fast-growing, uber-trendy food-tech business. “I still have friends who still don’t really know what I do, and I love those friends,” he said. “Those are the people you need to keep close to you because the people who want to talk about your company and and how great you are, are going to, ultimately, make you go insane.”

Learning how to manage his external relationships was one thing. But the other piece of finding psychological equilibrium was learning how to be in a healthy relationship with himself.

Having always prided himself on being able to “do more than other people could do,” Bordainick reached a point where he couldn’t keep up. He decided to work with a CEO coach, a move that the three-years-ago version of himself would have mocked. The coach encouraged him to write and reflect on what he had already accomplished — in addition to where he wanted to go.

The experience gave him new perspective that has stuck with him as he’s continued to build his business. “Being an entrepreneur is like climbing a mountain, right. You are always looking up, and when you hit a peak, you want to climb the next one. But every now and then, you have to look back and say, wow, we are really far off the ground. You can’t look back for too long because someone will step on your head and go past you. But that balance of celebrating past successes and setting up systems where you are holding yourself accountable to just be in a moment, be really present,” says Bordainick.

3 Bad Sleep Habits You Need to Break

As an entrepreneur focused on how to grow your business, taking the time to develop a sleep routine is probably the last thing on your mind. But some sleep advice simply can’t be ignored without paying the price in productivity. Deprive yourself of quality sleep long enough and you’ll wind up chipping away at your business and health.

Here are three bad habits you’ll need to break, if you want to improve the quality of your sleep:

Bad Habit #1: You pull all-nighters then oversleep on weekends.
You’ve likely heard you should go to bed and get up at the same time every day to help optimize your sleep. It is advice entrepreneurs often ignore because they’re busy burning the midnight oil and think they can compensate later. Think again. Experts say it’s critical to keep a target sleep time in mind — even if it’s midnight — then meet it consistently.

Why is this so important? Our bodies are extra sensitive to conditioning, says Daniel Taylor, associate professor of Psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. When you go to bed and wake up at drastically different hours, you disturb your circadian rhythm—the 24-hour cycle linked to brain activity, hormone production and cell regeneration.

“It’s like living on the east coast for the week, flying to the west coast for the weekend and then turning back around and flying back to the east coast on Sunday night,” says Taylor. “If you do that every weekend, you’re going to have problems.”

Bad Habit #2: You check email in bed.
Your bed should be used for sleep and sex — that’s it, says William Kohler, medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Fla. “The brain likes routine,” he says. “When the eye sees the bed, it should be associated with sleep, not activity.”

If you can’t get to sleep for more than 15 or 20 minutes, Kohler suggests you get out of bed. Lying around obsessing about ideas for your business is not going to help you fall asleep. In fact, you’re conditioning your brain to be awake in bed. Instead, get up and write those thoughts down on paper or maybe read a book, but don’t lie down again until you’re good and ready to sleep.

Bad Habit #3: You never unwind before bed.
You can’t expect to fall asleep quickly when you try to go straight from work-mode to bed. Taking at least an hour each night to unplug from your day can help you sleep more soundly, says Taylor. You could use that time to take a hot shower or bath.

In fact, slightly increasing your body temperature within an hour of bed can help you get a better night of sleep, says Michael Perlis, associate professor of psychology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania. A 2008 study by researchers out of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience found that a slight increase in skin temperature before bed helps people shift into deeper stages of sleep. Of course, you should also follow the standard advice of keeping your room cool too, since the body’s temperature decreases when you’re snoozing.

Lessons From Burning Man on How to Unlock Creativity and Think Big – Catherine Clifford

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If you aren’t already an entrepreneur, you may become one by the time you leave Burning Man — in some shape or form.

You won’t make money in the desert; the exchange of money isn’t allowed at the annual, weeklong arts festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. But you will have created something for someone. You will have seen a need and met it. You will have innovated a solution to a problem or decided to spontaneously create a new service or product for yourself and your fellow Burners (that’s what attendees are called).

And that energy, that entrepreneurial spirit, is priceless. It’s what so many management consultants charge top dollar right now to bring to stuffy corporate offices.

As a business owner, it may not be feasible to take your entire company out to the desert to get them to start thinking more entrepreneurially. So, what is it that Burning Man has? How can you set the stage so that kind of innovation will grow in your community, business or brain?

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Image credit: Jared Mechaber
Whether your goal is to get your creative juices flowing, or to facilitate a more experimental and productive workplace, you need to start by eliminating unnecessary regulations and burdensome structure. At Burning Man, “an entrepreneurial spirit is going to come to the forefront very easily because there aren’t a lot of rules, but there is opportunity,” Harley K. Dubois, a co-founder of the event, told Entrepreneur earlier this fall at The Feast, a social innovation conference in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In the nearly three decades that the Burning Man festival has been around, 10 philosophical principles have emerged as guideposts for behavior in the community. But there aren’t expectations or schedules. The community self-regulates, encouraging creativity and discouraging judgment. “It is unrealistic to think people aren’t going to judge. People are people and they do, but when they do and somebody calls you on it, you have to reflect on yourself,” says Dubois.

Burning Man, like entrepreneurship, is an event that requires equal parts organization and whimsy. Festival participants — of whom there are tens of thousands — dress in elaborate costumes and spend significant amounts of time and money preparing accommodations for their stay in the desert. They have to bring everything they’ll need to camp out in the desert and, at the end of their stay, clean up so that the desert is exactly as it was. Participatory art installations dot the landscape of the “playa,” as the area used for the festival is called, and the weeklong celebration culminates in a massive structure of some sort being burned.

Part of the entrepreneurial culture at Burning Man, says Dubois, is that there are no repercussions or penalties for failure when you are out in the middle of the desert. “Failure is part of it. I mean, you should be happy you failed because that means you can get it right next time!”

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Image credit: Ales aka Dust To Ashes
Burners attempt everything from building airships made of color and light to sail across the Burning Man playa at night to creating man-made mobile “icebergs” for Burners to cool off in and listen to music in. And then there are more practical entrepreneurial operations, like the mobile “Dust City Diner,” which serves hot grilled-cheese sandwiches and coffee to fellow Burners. “We create a vessel and the participants who come to our event bring the content. We are vessel creators. Without the people coming and bringing those costumes, bringing their ideas, bringing their art, bringing everything they bring themselves, this wouldn’t happen,” says Dubois.

While the first iteration of Burning Man was largely about stereotypical “hippie/artist” sorts sleeping in tents on the desert for a week, the last few festivals have been increasingly attended by the Silicon Valley elite in a sort of hedonistic party meets business networking opportunity. Entrepreneurs get funded, co-founders meet and come together and deals are made, all against the backdrop of dust for days and almost-naked revelers. Dubois wishes the Burning Man team had been tracking the businesses that were incubated in its dust-covered-temporary city.

“If we had tracked all these businesses that had come out of the inspiration of Burning Man, we would have a really amazing tree to look at,” she says.

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Image credit: John Chase

9 Things Successful People Won’t Do – Dr. Travis Bradberry

My last post, How Successful People Stay Calm, really struck a nerve (it’s already approaching 1.5 million reads on LinkedIn). The trick is that managing your emotions is as much about what you won’t do as it is about what you will do.

TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that the upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence (90% of top performers, to be exact). So, I went back to the data to uncover the kinds of things that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in order to keep themselves calm, content, and in control. They consciously avoid these behaviors because they are tempting and easy to fall into if one isn’t careful.

While the list that follows isn’t exhaustive, it presents nine key things that you can avoid in order to increase your emotional intelligence and performance.

1. They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy
When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

2. They Won’t Forget
Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Emotionally intelligent people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

3. They Won’t Die in the Fight
Emotionally intelligent people know how important it is to live to fight another day. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

4. They Won’t Prioritize Perfection
Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.

5. They Won’t Live in the Past

Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.

6. They Won’t Dwell on Problems
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.

7. They Won’t Hang Around Negative People
Complainers are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. You can avoid getting drawn in only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix a problem. The complainer will then either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

8. They Won’t Hold Grudges
The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event involved sends your body into fight-or-flight mode. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when a threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Learning to let go of a grudge will not only make you feel better now but can also improve your health.

9. They Won’t Say Yes Unless They Really Want To
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for most people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

Visual listening is the next big thing in social. Here’s why. – Will McInnes

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The human brain can process images in as little as 13 milliseconds, according to research from MIT released this year. That’s a hell of a lot faster than earlier studies, which suggested it takes 100 milliseconds. Visuals are just easier to consume: fact.

This is no secret to marketers. It’s the reason images have always been a huge mainstay in advertising, as well as the driving force behind the tidal wave of photos and image-based content shared on social networks — as many as 500 million per day, according to last year’s Internet trends report from Mary Meeker.

Images have surpassed text as the currency of choice in social conversations. Just look at the growth of image-based social networks like Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, Vine, and Tumblr. Twitter and Facebook encourage the use of images too because, as socially savvy people know, posts with an image get more views and shares.

Brands are actually using Instagram as a mainstream advertising platform as well. In fact, some of the biggest consumer brands in the world now count Instagram as one of their three or four core social platforms along with Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Looking ahead, as brands experiment with virtual reality innovations like Oculus Rift and Google Glass, you can expect new kinds of visual experiences that will look and feel quite different — immersive and multi-sensory.

Today there are a handful of standalone listening and analytics tools for networks like Pinterest but, on the whole, today’s social media listening and measurement platforms are built for a textual world, with limited abilities to fully register the nuances of visuals. This means there’s an enormous chunk of visual Web content that is not being fully “heard.”

Here are six reasons why we can expect visual listening to become a top priority for savvy brands in 2015:

1) Following the money.
Brands rely on campaigns targeting bloggers and influencers to organically build buzz among followers on image-based social networks, and it’s a tactic that works incredibly well. But now, Pinterest and Instagram are introducing advertising with the goal of dramatically monetizing their currently-bare bottom lines. There are several recent reports that show Pinterest is pricing CPMs at $30-40 and that Instagram’s CPMs will also be on the high-end, with month-long campaigns starting at $350,000 and up. In 2015, you can expect to see major brands diverting advertising spends from traditional channels like TV into image-based social networks to up their game and stand apart from the competition. After all, glossy and gorgeous imagery is easily transferred to digital and social campaigns. Where there’s money spent, there is always the need for analytics and measurement in order to optimize and prove ROI.

2) Brand protection
Brands have enormous vested interest in knowing where and how their images are being used and shared – deliberately or otherwise — and to glean insights about people’s relationships with, and reactions to, their content. Equally important, visual listening will help brands ensure that other parties are not misusing their images.

3) Serendipitous insights
Visual listening will open up a world of insights and new business opportunities by discovering more about the moments in which branded images are used in relation to other images, content, and social markers. Using visual listening, you’ll be able to spot patterns and correlations that could lead to serendipitous discoveries, fuel new under-the-surface campaigns, reveal untapped audiences and stimulate product development ideas. For example, imagine the type of campaigns a sneaker brand can create after discovering that consumers are frequently sharing photos of their latest kicks while drinking coffee at Starbucks.

4) Tech innovation
Data science has come a long way. I believe that in 2015 the industry will innovate to make it possible to train a computer to recognize the difference between an image of a dog and a cat. It could even be sophisticated and powerful enough to discern a highly nuanced brand signal, like the crown within the Starbucks logo or the leaf at the top of Apple’s logo. Word on the street is that Facebook is already using some pretty advanced image recognition technology to identify faces in photos and images posted. These kinds of leaps in technology will unleash the potential and sophistication of visual listening.

5) Emotions front and center
Emojis, emoticons, and stickers are an integral part of our social vernacular as well as everyday conversations on text and chat. Earlier this year, the Unicode Consortium introduced approximately 250 brand new “pictographic symbols,” including such recognizable additions as the middle finger and the Vulcan salute. In 2015, more racially diverse emojis will be released. Since emojis are technically code, not images, they can today be measured through standard textual tools but for brands, the visual listening (and learning) opportunity lies in understanding how emojis are used contextually, alongside their logos and images.

6) Command centers as real-time visual listening sources
As the social environment matures in 2015, I anticipate that command centers will spread as a mainstream business tool. By tapping into unified views of textual and visual listening in a totally engaging way, marketers will create a compelling source of social intelligence and action.

***
How far off is this fantastic future of visual listening? Not that far! Today there are a few standalone solutions but the true future – and power – of visual listening will happen when it will be possible to mesh textual and visual social listening together. I see this coming to reality within the next six to eight months. Just imagine if we could add audio to this mix and create truly multi-sensory — even immersive — social listening. Now that’s something to watch out for.

He Walks Around For Hours In The Snow. Once You Zoom Out… WOW

He walks with a purpose.

Simon Beck is an artist who uses nature to construct his beautiful masterpieces. Walking in snow shoes for miles and miles, he creates highly detailed, elegant designs risking the fact that new snowfall could destroy hours and hours of work

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The intricate patterns are huge – some span the equivalent size of six football pitches.

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Each step is as important as the last.

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The final results are breathtaking.

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© Simon Beck

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© Simon Beck

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© Simon Beck

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Depending on the angle, the design make look completely different.

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The patterns are created in the French Alps, where he lives during winter.
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Beautiful

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You can visit him on facebook.com/snowart8848

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The man himself

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