TIME Careers & Workplace

15 Phrases You Should Say to Yourself Every Day

Getty Images

"I'm not perfect—and that's OK"

Inc. logo

Everybody wants to get more done, but unfortunately all the time management tips in the world can’t help you overcome one of the biggest issues affecting your productivity—your attitude. Fortunately, it’s easier to change your mindset than you might think. All you have to do is change what you say to yourself.

Be honest–most of us have a constant negative monologue playing in our heads all day. You tell yourself how tired you are, how disorganized you are, and how much you hate what you have to do. But what if you told yourself something different? Whether you say it out loud or in your mind, what you say to yourself matters.

With that in mind, here are 15 phrases you should say to yourself every day to help you meet your goals:

1. “I’m going to succeed at _____.” When you tell yourself you’ll succeed at a specific task, you’re contradicting the self-doubt that could otherwise hold you back.

2. “I’ve been successful in the past.” Rehearsing specific past successes helps build self-confidence when you need to stretch yourself and try new things.

3. “I can overcome my fear.” Acknowledging your fear is very empowering, and making a choice to overcome it will give you strength and confidence as you face it. Remember, fear only has power if you let it.

4. “That wasn’t as bad as I thought.” Many times, the things we fear aren’t all that bad—even when they actually happen. By reminding ourselves of this, we empower ourselves the next time we’re afraid.

5. “I did something no one else was willing to do.” Big or small, there’s something you’ve done that no one else was willing to do. By patting yourself on the back for it, you strengthen your ability to maintain good habits.

6. “It’s my fault.” Taking responsibility for the things we did empowers us to apologize and make the situation better. Just don’t blame yourself when it’s not your fault!

7. “I got started!” The first step is always the hardest, and celebrating it is something we all do too little of. Congratulate yourself on getting started—every step from here will be easier.

8. “You’re awesome.” No one hears this enough, but it’s true of absolutely everyone. We all have different ways that we’re awesome, so take the time to remind yourself of yours!

9. “I don’t care what other people think.” The truth is that most people think about you far less than you’d assume. So, every so often, remind yourself that other people’s opinions don’t matter. Be true to yourself.

10. “They’re no different than I am.” When you start to judge others to lift yourself up, you’re giving yourself a false sense of pride. Instead, admit that everyone is more like you than you realize, and you’ll find yourself feeling less isolated and alone.

11. “I can do this!” Right before you step into a difficult situation or take on a challenge, tell yourself you can do it. Because if you believe you can, you’re right!

12. “This time is an appointment with me.” Many people don’t make enough time for themselves. Instead, find a time you can set an appointment with yourself—to look over goals, hit the gym, or just rest. Then keep it!

13. “I’m not perfect—and that’s OK.” Feeling like we have to be perfect before we can launch our business or take our next step in life holds many of us back from success. Take a second today to admit that you’re not perfect, and that that’s perfectly OK.

14. “That’s not my job, but who cares?” Being willing to step above and beyond your specific role is a great way to stand out and get noticed in your work and life. Even if no one knows it but you, you’ll feel great knowing you made a difference.

15. “You’re good enough, right now, just like this.” We all want to improve, move forward, and accomplish more. However, sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that we’re good enough, right now, today. You’ll feel relief and a sense of peace as you accept yourself for who you are.

Talking to yourself may sound like an odd thing to do, but it’s extremely effective. Most people have an ongoing monologue in their minds already—success is just a matter of making yours more positive. By saying these 15 things to yourself every day, you’ll be well on your way to being successful, accomplishing your goals, and getting more done.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

More from Inc.:

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Conversational Tips to Be More Confident

Getty Images

Because having confidence carries many benefits

Inc. logo

Confidence can carry you through a lot in life. It can help you perform better in job interviews, appear more authoritative when addressing a crowd, and land more deals and partnerships in your business. Unfortunately, most of us don’t feel confident 100 percent of the time, and when we do feel confident it doesn’t always project outward in ways that enable us to succeed.

During the course of conversation, there are several tricks you can use to make your words sound more authoritative, and to address your audience with greater overall confidence. Here are seven of them.

1. Speak more slowly.

Some of us speak faster when we’re nervous. Some of us are naturally fast talkers. Regardless of your motivations, conscious or subconscious, speaking too quickly indicates a lack of authority or a lack of confidence. In addition, while speaking quickly, you’re more likely to make mistakes in your enunciation, and you have less time to think through your words. Focus on speaking more slowly in your conversation, allowing your words to draw out and giving your sentences a weightier rhythm. Your audience will have more time to digest the words you’re speaking, and you’ll be less likely to make any critical errors that compromise your speaking integrity.

2. Use pauses to your advantage.

Using pauses is another strategy that can help you speak slower, but it’s effective in its own right. Work on creatively using pauses to give more impact to your speaking. For example, if you have an opening for a public presentation that’s eight sentences long and you make a significant point after sentence three, throw in a sizable seconds-long pause. It will add more weight to whatever your last sentence was and give you audience time to soak it in. It also gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and prepare for the next section of your speech, adding to the total amount of authority and confidence you project.

3. Avoid asides.

In a scenario that allows for preparation, such as giving a speech to a public audience, asides are fine. You have advance time to prepare them, determine if they’re relevant, and include them if they are. In more natural conversations, however, improvised asides can be damaging. For example, if you’re in a job interview and you answer a question directly, then spiral into a related story about something that happened to you a few years ago, it could be a sign that you’re nervous and looking to fill conversational space. Instead, focus only on what’s immediately relevant.

4. Lower your vocal range.

Take a look at some of the most famous speeches throughout history, at currently popular politicians, and even at local newscasters. You’ll find that most of them have lower tones of voice, and this is no coincidence. People tend to view speakers with lower speaking voices as having more authority and confidence. As much as you can, practice speaking in a lower tone of voice. Don’t force yourself or you’ll sound unnatural, but if you can get yourself a tone or two lower, it can make a real difference.

5. Improve your posture.

Body language is just as important in conversation as the words that leave your mouth. Whether you’re sitting or standing in front of your audience, work to improve your posture. Stand or sit up straight with your shoulders back, and keep your head held high. This will make you appear bigger and more confident, and will help you feel more confident as well. Plus, you’ll get the added benefit of aligning your body so you can breathe–and therefore speak–more efficiently. Posture can demand a lot of work, so make sure to practice in advance.

6. Gesticulate.

Gesticulation–the practice of using your hands and arms to punctuate or enhance your verbal statements–is another valuable body language strategy. Speakers who use body language actively in their presentation tend to be viewed as more confident and more authoritative than those who do not. Obviously, different hand gestures can signal different things, and if you simply wave your hands wildly in front of your audience, it may make you come across as out of control. Instead, focus on reserving your hand gestures for your most impactful words, and try to keep your movements reserved and under strict control.

7. Talk more.

The conversations that matter in our lives–whether they’re in the form of a public presentation or a business negotiation–are somewhat rare. But that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for those meaningful conversations in our everyday lives. Seek out new opportunities to communicate with others whenever you get the chance, and in any context. Put these speaking strategies to practice and focus on improving your abilities over time. The only way to get better is to plunge in and keep working at it, so sign up to be a public speaker when you can and strike up conversations with strangers wherever you go.

The beauty of these conversational tricks is their sheer practicality; they can be used anywhere, in almost any context where you’re speaking to one or more other people. Experiment with them by practicing on a friend or a colleague. Over time, they will become second nature to you, and your natural speaking voice will convey a greater overall level of confidence and authority.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

More from Inc.:

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Life-Changing Lessons on How to Be Happy

Getty Images

Start by smiling

Inc. logo

What makes us happy? Thirteen happiness experts, including psychologists, researchers, monks, and the inimitable Malcolm Gladwell, try to shed light on this surprisingly difficult question in a series of TED Talks about happiness.

Over and over, the same two themes emerge. First, we’re usually wrong about what will make us happy—or unhappy, for that matter. For example, research has demonstrated that people who win the lottery are no happier about that event one year later than if they’d lost the use of their legs instead. And second, happiness is largely a matter of choice. Which is good news, because it means we can pretty much all be happier if we want to be.

How can we make this happen? Here’s some of what the TED speakers advise:

1. Don’t expect happiness to be one-size-fits-all.

In a fascinating bit of product history, Gladwell recounts how the food industry discovered to its astonishment that some people like chunky tomato sauce. And what that discovery means in a broader context–that what makes me happy won’t necessarily do it for you, and vice versa.

2. Stop chasing things like success, fame, and money.

Or at least, keep chasing them but don’t expect them to make you substantially happier than you are right now. As psychologist Dan Gilbert explains, our brains have a defense mechanism that’s hard-wired to make us happy with the lives we have, whatever those may be. Even Pete Best, a drummer best known for getting fired by the Beatles just before they hit it big, now says he wouldn’t want it any other way.

3. Keep challenging yourself.

If you love your work, you’re good at it, and you’ve been doing it for a while, you probably have experienced “flow,” that state where you get so lost in what you’re doing that you forget yourself and everything else. That state of flow is where true happiness lies, says psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and we can also find it when doing something creative, or even something recreational. But only so long as we keep challenging ourselves. Boredom is the opposite of flow.

4. Be generous.

Connecting with other people and feeling part of something larger than ourselves takes us a long way toward happiness. Social scientist Michael Norton recounts a fascinating experiment that proves–contrary to popular belief–that money can buy happiness, so long as you spend it on someone other than yourself. Not only will you have made someone else happy, you’ll have made yourself happy too, a happiness buy-one-get-one-free special.

5. Be grateful.

We tend to expect that being happy will make us feel grateful, but actually it’s the other way around, explains Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast–being grateful is what will make us feel happy. And gratitude is a choice, he says. How can we remember to be grateful? By reminding ourselves of all the gifts in our lives. Even something so simple as a water faucet was a true occasion for gratitude for Steindl-Rast after a stint in Africa where drinking water was scarce. When in time it started to seem ordinary again, he put a sticker on the faucet to remind himself what a wonderful thing it was.

6. Train your mind.

The way to do this is by meditating on compassion, says Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. It takes time, he says, but it’s worth doing. Brain scans show that monks who are practiced at such meditation show happiness activity in their brains that is “off the charts” compared with everyone else.

Though he doesn’t mention it, Ricard himself is the poster child for this approach. According to Google’s happiness guru Chade-Meng Tan, Ricard’s own brain scans show him to be the happiest person on the planet.

7. Smile!

It sounds too simple to be true, but research actually shows that if you smile, you’ll have better health, a better marriage and other relationships, and increased life expectancy, says HealthTap founder Ron Gutman. So if you haven’t smiled yet today, what are you waiting for?

8. Tell the truth.

In a highly personal talk, The Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler recounts the epidemic of worldwide violence against women she learned about as a result of her hit show. For a while, these stories threatened to overwhelm her. But then she found herself at the head of a movement to end that violence and give young girls in Africa a refuge from violence she herself had lacked as a child.

And then she says, she learned, “this really simple thing, which is that happiness exists in action; it exists in telling the truth…and giving away what you want the most.” That’s the kind of happiness all of us can reach for.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

20 Commonly Misused Phrases (and How to Use Them Correctly)

Getty Images

Using an idiom incorrectly is akin to walking into a meeting with messy hair

Inc. logo

When you hear someone using grammar incorrectly do you make an assumption about his or her intelligence or education? There’s no doubt that words are powerful things that can leave a lasting impression on those with whom you interact. In fact, using an idiom incorrectly or screwing up your grammar is akin to walking into a meeting with messy hair. That’s according to Byron Reese, CEO of the venture-backed internet startup Knowingly. The company recently launched Correctica, a tool that scans websites looking for errors that spell checkers miss. And the business world is no exception. “When I look for these errors on LinkedIn profiles, they’re all over the place—tens of thousands,” he says.

Correctica recently scanned a handful of prominent websites and you might be surprised at how many errors it found. Here is Reese’s list of the some of the most commonly misused phrases on the Web.

1. Prostrate cancer

It’s an easy misspelling to make–just add an extra r and “prostate cancer” becomes “prostrate cancer,” which suggests “a cancer of lying face-down on the ground.” Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mayo Clinic websites include this misspelling.

2. First-come, first-serve

This suggests that the first person to arrive has to serve all who follow. The actual phrase is “first-come, first-served,” to indicate that the participants will be served in the order in which they arrive. Both Harvard and Yale got this one wrong.

3. Sneak peak

A “peak” is a mountain top. A “peek” is a quick look. The correct expression is “sneak peek,” meaning a secret or early look at something. This error appeared on Oxford University’s site as well as that of the National Park Service.

4. Deep-seeded

This should be “deep-seated,” to indicate that something is firmly established. Though “deep-seeded” might seem to make sense, indicating that something is planted deep in the ground, this is not the correct expression. Correctica found this error on the Washington Post and the White House websites.

5. Extract revenge

To “extract” something is to remove it, like a tooth. The correct expression is “exact revenge,” meaning to achieve revenge. Both The New York Times and the BBC have made this error.

6. I could care less

“I couldn’t care less” is what you would say to express maximum apathy toward a situation. Basically you’re saying, “It’s impossible for me to care less about this because I have no more care to give. I’ve run out of care.” Using the incorrect “I could care less” indicates that “I still have care left to give–would you like some?”

7. Shoe-in

“Shoo-in” is a common idiom that means a sure winner. To “shoo” something is to urge it in a direction. As you would shoo a fly out of your house, you could also shoo someone toward victory. The expression started in the early 20th century, relating to horse racing, and broadened to politics soon after. It’s easy to see why the “shoe-in” version is so common, as it suggests the door-to-door sales practice of moving a foot into the doorway to make it more difficult for a prospective client to close the door. But “foot in the door” is an entirely different idiom.

8. Emigrated to

With this one there is no debate. The verb “emigrate” is always used with the preposition “from,” whereas immigrate is always used with the preposition “to.” To emigrate is to come from somewhere, and to immigrate is to go to somewhere. “Jimmy emigrated from Ireland to the United States” means the same thing as “Jimmy immigrated to the United States from Ireland.” It’s just a matter of what you’re emphasizing–the coming or the going.

9. Slight of hand

“Sleight of hand” is a common phrase in the world of magic and illusion, because “sleight” means dexterity or cunning, usually to deceive. On the other hand, as a noun, a “slight” is an insult.

10. Honed in

First, it’s important to note that this particular expression is hotly debated. Many references now consider “hone in” an proper alternate version of “home in.” That said, it is still generally accepted that “home in” is the more correct phrase. To home in on something means to move toward a goal, such as “The missile homed in on its target.” To “hone” means to sharpen. You would say, “I honed my résumé writing skills.” But you would likely not say, “The missile honed in on its target.” When followed by the preposition “in,” the word “hone” just doesn’t make sense.

11. Baited breath

The term “bated” is an adjective meaning suspense. It originated from the verb “abate,” meaning to stop or lessen. Therefore, “to wait with bated breath” essentially means to hold your breath with anticipation. The verb “bait,” on the other hand, means to taunt, often to taunt a predator with its prey. A fisherman baits his line in hopes of a big catch. Considering the meaning of the two words, it’s clear which is correct, but the word “bated” is mostly obsolete today, leading to ever-increasing mistakes in this expression.

12. Piece of mind

This should be “peace” of mind, meaning calmness and tranquility. The expression “piece of mind” actually would suggest doling out sections of brain.

13. Wet your appetite

This expression is more often used incorrectly than correctly–56 percent of the time it appears online, it’s wrong. The correct idiom is “whet your appetite.” “Whet” means to sharpen or stimulate, so to “whet your appetite” means to awaken your desire for something.

14. For all intensive purposes

The correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes.” It originates from English law dating back to the 1500s, which used the phrase “to all intents, constructions, and purposes” to mean “officially” or “effectively.”

15. One in the same

“One in the same” would literally mean that the “one” is inside the same thing as itself, which makes no sense at all. The proper phrase is “one and the same,” meaning the same thing or the same person. For example, “When Melissa was home schooled, her teacher and her mother were one and the same.”

16. Make due

When something is due, it is owed. To “make due” would mean to “make owed,” but the phrase to “make do” is short for “to make something do well” or “to make something sufficient.” When life gives you lemons, you make do and make lemonade.

17. By in large

The phrase “by and large” was first used in 1706 to mean “in general.” It was a nautical phrase derived from the sailing terms “by” and “large.” While it doesn’t have a literal meaning that makes sense, “by and large” is the correct version of this phrase.

18. Do diligence

While it may be easy to surmise that “do diligence” translates to doing something diligently, it does not. “Due diligence” is a business and legal term that means you will investigate a person or business before signing a contract with them, or before formally engaging in a business deal together. You should do your due diligence and investigate business deals fully before committing to them.

19. Peaked my interest

To “pique” means to arouse, so the correct phrase here is “piqued my interest,” meaning that my interest was awakened. To say that something “peaked my interest” might suggest that my interest was taken to the highest possible level, but this is not what the idiom is meant to convey.

20. Case and point

The correct phrase in this case is “case in point,” which derives its meaning from a dialect of Old French. While it may not make any logical sense today, it is a fixed idiom.

Worried that poorly functioning spell checkers will make you look bad? Run things like your résumé, blog posts and the content of important emails through Correctica’s “Proof It Free” tool.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

Read next: 39 Commonly Misused Words and How to Use Them Correctly

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME Careers & Workplace

14 Motivational Quotes to Keep You Powerful

Getty Images

And the reasons why they can actually make a difference in your life

Inc. logo

I once despised motivational quotes, probably because my wrestling coach liked to say, “If you’re not puking or passing out, then you’re not trying hard enough.”

(Feel free to bask in the glow of that little gem.)

Now I think inspirational quotes can be inspirational, but only if we actually apply and live those words.

So instead of just pulling together some famous quotes—besides, I’ve done that before—I’ve chosen things people told me that caused me to act differently.

I probably won’t remember what, say, Ben Franklin once said, no matter how poignant or witty, but I definitely remember what certain people said to me at critical moments in my life.

Statements like these:

1. “Only a genius can do things his own way. You? You’re no genius.”

I worked a construction job one summer and kept questioning what I was told to do. The foreman finally, in no uncertain terms, set me straight. It’s OK to reinvent the wheel, but only after you know how the current wheel works. Never assume you know better when you don’t really know anything.

2. “If you want to know how much you’ll be missed when you are gone, put your finger in a bucket of water and then remove it. The hole that’s left will be how much you are missed.”

No one is irreplaceable. No one. Not even this guy. Instead of depressing, the thought you’re professionally replaceable is liberating. You may not leave a hole, but you can leave a mark on a person, a team, or a culture that lives on after you’re gone.

You may not be missed, but you can be remembered—in the best possible way.

3. “We all have limits. Almost no one reaches theirs. You definitely haven’t.”

You could swim faster if a shark was after you. You could run faster if your child was in danger. You could work harder if the payoff was truly exceptional.

What you think you can do is always—always—less than what you can do if you really, really try. You always have a little more in you. Find your true limits and you may find that success is limitless.

4. “Unless you’re the lead dog of the sled, the view never changes.”

Following the crowd means living the same life as the crowd. You don’t want that.

5. “There are two types of pain you will go through in life: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces, while regret weighs tons.”

(Original to Jim Rohn.) The worst words you can say are, “I just wish I had…” Push yourself to do what you hope to do so you will never have to regret not having tried.

6. “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

(Gotta love Dean Wormer.) I haven’t overcome the stupid part, but I’m trying.

7. “The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.”

(Original to Ernest Hemingway.) Think about easing into a cold ocean; every inch is excruciating. Dive in and it sucks big time, but then it’s over. It’s even worse to turn away from what scares you, because when you do, deep inside, a little piece of you withers and dies.

Dive in. It’s never as cold, or as bad, as you think.

8. “Today’s pain is tomorrow’s power. The more you suffer today, the stronger you are tomorrow.”

Self-pity is self-defeating. Tomorrow’s success is based on today’s discomfort. Plus, willpower is like a muscle: The more you exercise it, the stronger your will gets.

And the easier it is to call on when dedication and persistence make all the difference.

9. “Bravery means finding something more important than fear.”

Courage without meaning is just recklessness. Brave people aren’t fearless; they’ve simply found something that matters more to them than the fear they’re facing. Say you’re scared to start a business. Find a reason that has greater meaning than the fear: your family’s future, your desire to make a difference, or your dream of a more fulfilling life.

When you find a greater meaning, you’ll find the courage to overcome your fear.

10. “Do it or not. There is no try.”

(Original to Yoda, philosopher and avant-garde sentence constructor.) A boss once gave me what I thought was an impossible task. I said, “OK. I’ll try.” He explained that I would finish as long as I didn’t quit. Trying didn’t enter into it. Persistence was all that mattered.

Often someone says, “I’ll try…” because it gives the person an out. Once the person says, “I will,” his or her perspective changes. What previously seemed insurmountable is no longer a matter of luck or chance but of time and effort and persistence.

When what you want to do really matters, never say, “I’ll try.” Say, “I will,” and keep that promise to yourself.

11. “Stop waiting for the ‘right time.’ Success is a numbers game: the number of times you take a shot.”

You’ll never create the perfect business plan, never find the perfect partners, the perfect market, the perfect location, but you can find the perfect time to start.

That time is now.

Talent, experience, and connections are important, but put your all into enough new things and some will work. Take enough shots, and over time you’ll grow more skilled, more experienced, and more connected. And that will mean a greater percentage of your efforts will succeed. Take enough shots, learn from what didn’t work, and in time you’ll have all the skills, experience, and connections you need.

Ultimately, success is all about taking your shot, over and over again. Sometimes you may win, sometimes you will definitely lose, but the more things you try, the more chances you have of succeeding. Put the power of numbers on your side. Take as many shots as you can. There’s no guarantee of success, but when you don’t take a shot, there’s a definite guarantee of failure.

12. “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die.”

The same holds for bitterness. And jealousy. And dislike. Let it go. If you don’t, the only loser is you.

13. “The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.”

(Me.) People say they go the extra mile, but almost no one actually does. Most people think, “Wait, no one else is here. Why am I doing this?”

That’s why the extra mile is such a lonely place. That’s also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities. Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don’t wait to be asked; offer. Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do—especially if other people aren’t doing that one thing. Sure, it’s hard.

But that’s what will make you different—and over time will make you incredibly successful.

14. “It’s just a flesh wound.”

The Black Knight never gives up.

And neither should you.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 9 Books Every Leader Should Read

Getty Images

Inc. logo

There are more than a million business books in print, and thousands more published every year. But what if, for some reason, you were only allowed to read nine books about managing people? (Why nine and not 10? I’ll explain at the end of the post.)

After giving it a lot of thought, here are the nine that I would recommend:

The Effective Executive

Subtitle: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Author: Peter F. Drucker

Why it’s a must read: This book is literally definitive in the sense that it definesmanagement at the executive level so clearly that most other serious management books takes this book’s concepts for granted. The Effective Executive also rejects the concept that an executive should encourage a personality cult among employees and the press. For Drucker, management means getting things done without grandstanding or being concerned about your public visibility.

Best quote: “Men of high effectiveness are conspicuous by their absence in executive jobs. High intelligence is common enough among executives. Imagination is far from rare. The level of knowledge tends to be high. But there seems to be little correlation between a man’s effectiveness and his intelligence, his imagination, or his knowledge. Brilliant men are often strikingly ineffectual; they fail to realize that the brilliant insight is not by itself achievement. They never have learned that insights become effectiveness only through hard systematic work. Conversely, in every organization there are some highly effective plodders. While others rush around in the frenzy and busyness which very bright people so often confuse with ‘creativity,’ the plodder puts one foot in front of the other and gets there first, like the tortoise in the old fable.”

The One Minute Manager

Authors: Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Why it’s a must read: The One Minute Manager, along with The Greatest Salesman in the World, is the best of the “teach through parables” style of business book. The advice it offers is mostly common sense, but it’s laid out in such easily understood terms and actionable advice that it makes common sense into something that’s uncommonly valuable.

Best quote: “The managers who were interested in results often seemed to be labeled ‘autocratic,’ while the managers interested in people were often labeled ‘democratic.’ The young man thought each of these managers–the ‘tough’ autocrat and the ‘nice’ democrat–were only partially effective. ‘It’s like being half a manager,’ he thought. He returned home tired and discouraged. He might have given up his search long ago, but he had one great advantage. He knew exactly what he was looking for. ‘Effective managers,’ he thought, ‘manage themselves and the people they work with so that both the organization and the people profit from their presence.'”

Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel

Subtitle: A Guide to Outwitting Your Boss, Your Coworkers, and the Other Pants-Wearing Ferrets in Your Life

Author: Scott Adams

Why it’s a must read: Adams’s earlier book, The Dilbert Principle, outlined the absurdity and inconsistency of the business world. This book goes deeper into management and decision making, explaining why everyone’s experience at work differs so greatly from the idealized picture that’s provided in books like The Effective Manager and The One Minute Manager. If you’ve got a sense of humor, this book will definitely make you laugh, but it will probably be the uncomfortable laugh resulting from seeing a bit too much of your own inner weasel.

Best quote: “There’s a gigantic gray area between good moral behavior and outright felonious activities. I call that the Weasel Zone* and it’s where most of life happens. (Note: *Sometimes known as Weaselville, Weaseltown, the Way of the Weasel, Weaselopolis, Weaselburg, and Redmond.)”

The Age of Unreason

Author: Charles Handy

Why it’s a must read: Every book you’ve read about the digital age, disruptive innovation, massive change, etc., is based on this book. This was the first book to really nail the fact that what we now call the Mad Men era was disappearing and that we were about to slip into a crazy period where none of the old rules work and nothing makes much sense. It’s a quick read and some of his observations are dated, but it’s really amazing how much he got right and how much later business writers have stolen his ideas.

Best quote: “We are now entering an Age of Unreason, when the future, in so many areas, is there to be shaped by us and for us–a time when the only prediction that will hold true is that no predictions will hold true; a time, therefore, for bold imaginings in private life as well as public, for thinking the unlikely and doing the unreasonable.”

The Art of War

Author: Sun Tzu

Why it’s a must read: This book is usually read as if it were a collection of fortune cookie proverbs. That misses the point, though, because this book is actually a philosophy of life that extends to every type of leadership. It’s one of those books that you can read 50 times and get something different with each successive reading. The edition that I’ve linked into the heading above is not just a beautiful work in the art of publishing but also contains the best commentary and notes, all of which can deepen your understanding.

Best quote: “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

Don’t Bring It to Work

Subtitle: Breaking the Family Patterns That Limit Success

Author: Sylvia Lafair

Why it’s a must read: If you’ve ever wondered why the people you work with behave in such strange ways, wonder no more. As this book clearly explains, whatever happened or is happening in their family is reflecting and repeating itself at work. What’s truly valuable about this book is that it identifies the personality types that cause problems and then explains exactly how to use and redirect the problematic behavior so that it serves the goals of the team.

Best quote: “Once you learn how people’s past family life and their work behaviors connect at a core level, you’ll know where performance problems originate and conflict starts. Then you’ll gain skills to do something about it. The reason most organizational programs abort is that they fail to deal with our life patterns, which are at the foundation of workplace anxiety, tension, and conflict.”

The Prince

Author: Niccolo Machiavelli

Why it’s a must read: This is a book of bad advice. It was supposed to be “how-to” guide for leaders in Italy at a time when every city was fighting every other city and the entire region was full of mercenaries, inquisitors, and other unsavory types. Why do I include it? Simple. This book accurately predicts the decisions of a sociopath in a management role. As such, it’s perfect defense against predatory competitors and allows you to keep one step ahead.

Best quote: “And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Subtitle: Follow Them and People Will Follow You

Author: John C. Maxwell

Why it’s a must read: Sometimes it seems like everyone in the management consulting business has a list of principles, habits, laws, rules, and so forth that explain everything you really need to know. What’s funny about all those books, though, is that they’re all valid! Leadership is such a complicated phenomenon that it’s possible to describe it in hundreds of different ways. That being said, this book (of all the other books of this type) is the easiest to read, with techniques that are easy to apply. (Note: In this category, I went back and forth between this book and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But 7 Habits gets a little preachy, so I finally settled on this book.)

Best quote: “Instinctively, successful people understand that focus is important to achievement. But leadership is very complex. During a break at a conference where I was teaching the 21 Laws, a young college student came up to me and said: ‘I know you are teaching 21 Laws of Leadership, but I want to get to the bottom line.’ With intensity, he raised his index finger and asked, ‘What is the one thing I need to know about leadership?’ Trying to match his intensity, I raised my index finger and answered, ‘The one thing you need to know about leadership is that there is more than one thing you need to know about leadership!'”

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Author: Dale Carnegie

Why it’s a must read: The writing style is a bit corny and the anecdotes incredibly out-of-date, and yet it’s a well of wisdom that has yet to run dry. Everyone I’ve known who has read this book cover to cover (and made the effort to implement its lessons) has been successful, if not in business then in their personal life. This book has been a bestseller for decades and is likely to be a bestseller for decades to come. There’s so much in this book that for the quote, I just plucked out one that’s helped me in my interactions with colleagues and family members.

Best quote: “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

Why Only Nine?

I was going to make this a top 10 list but then it occurred to me that every reader probably has a favorite that’s helped them to be successful but that is not on this list. If that’s the case with you, leave me a comment or send me an email. I’d love to know what’s working for you.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

TIME Gadgets

32 Useful Productivity Gadgets for 2015

From all-in-one printers to all-in-one cards to gadget chargers, bring productivity to next level

Inc. logo

Budget is a four-letter word at most small companies, but keeping one is a necessary evil. As you plan your spending for 2015, you might keep track of these upcoming business gadgets (a few of them are already shipping). They can give you that razor-sharp competitive edge.

  • Archos 80b Helium Tablet


    This low-cost eight-inch tablet has a fast quad-core processor and a bright 1280×800-pixel screen, but the big selling point is that you can sign up for 4G wireless service and skip Wi-Fi. That means better connectivity at hotels and on business trips.

  • New Matter MOD-t 3D Printer

    New Matter

    This low-cost 3D printer uses Polylactic Acid (PLA) plastic filament, which is a fancy way of saying it can make 3D objects that are about 6x4x5 inches in size. The main perk is that you don’t have to know a ton about 3D printing-you just load up and press print.

  • Wocket Smart Wallet

    For those who travel frequently for work and have multiple credit cards—for business and personal use—this wallet holds just one card that you program with the credit card details you need for that transaction—say, a Best Buy card or a Visa card.

  • HP Zvr 23.6-inch Virtual Reality Display


    HP is on a roll lately with innovative new products. First it announced the HP Sprout, which has a secondary display used for scanning objects.The HP Zvr shows a 3D holographic image and knows the position of your head so you can interact with virtual objects.

  • Solpro Charger

    Helios-orange-image B

    After 90 minutes in direct sunlight, this solar charger will have enough power to charge your smartphone once. There are two USB ports and the device can charge your phone as it draws energy from the sun (even if the charger itself is at zero).

  • Primera Trio All-in-One Printer

    Primera Technology, Inc.

    At just 2.7 pounds, this all-in-one printer is ready for any business excursion. You can scan, copy, and print documents. No word yet on print speed, but you can scan and copy images at 600 DPI and print at 4800 x 1200 dpi. An optional battery means you can print even on an airplane.

  • ZutaLabs Pocket Printer

    One of the most unique business products you’ll find, this portable printer moves across a sheet laying flat on a table and prints out the document. You connect from your phone or laptop using Wi-Fi. The battery lasts long enough for one hour of printing.

  • Signal Edge Plus

    dreamGEAR, LLC

    Not all phone chargers are the same. This unique product works as a stand so you can prop up your phone and view the screen while you charge. It pumps out enough power to recharge at least once from fully drained. The stand folds up for easy transport.

  • Canon MAXIFY MB5320 Wireless Small Office Printer


    The best feature on this fast office printer is that it also doubles as a duplex scanner. That means you can scan a double-sided sheet in one pass. If you store documents in the cloud using Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive, you can also print directly from those services.

  • Phorce Freedom Laptop Bag


    A lower-cost version of the Phorce Pro bag, this model is thinner, lighter, and a bit more business-friendly. Yet, it still has an interior battery for charging up phones and tablets. The cables are hidden within the compartments. Comes only in black.

  • Flapit Counter


    Another unusual product for business use, this counter is like a stock-ticker for social media. It sits in an office or retail store and can show Facebook likes, YouTube hits, and other data in real-time. It connects over Wi-Fi from a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

  • Epson WorkForce WF-100 Mobile Printer

    This smart business printer uses a quick-drying ink to avoid smudges. You can output 4×6 glossy photos as well, and the printer can be connected to a power outlet or used with the built-in battery from anywhere. Fully charged, you can expect to print 100 sheets.

  • Sony Smartwatch 3 Stainless Steel


    The latest version of the Sony smartwatch uses Android Wear for easy syncing to your smartphone and a bountiful selection of apps. The wrist strap is stainless steel and looks more like a standard watch. You can control the watch with voice, touch, and finger gestures.

  • Lenovo ThinkCentre Tiny-in-One 23


    Not every monitor you buy these days can also house a mini computer on the back (sold separately). The ThinkCentre Tiny-in-One is innovative because it saves precious desk space. Once you drop in a mini computer like the Lenovo M83 for $749, it can be locked for security.

  • Dell XPS 18 Portable All-in-One


    Massive tablets might not seem too portable, but this 18-inch monster is designed for conference rooms and meetings. There’s a kickstand so you can use it like a normal Windows 8 touchscreen computer. It has a 178-degree viewing angle so even the CEO can participate.

  • XPlore RangerX Tablet


    Drop, kick, throw, or dunk this rugged Android tablet and it will just shrug and keep working. Designed for serious industrial use, it has an RFID and NFC reader, front and rear cameras, and support for built-in 4G LTE wireless service (need to hunt around for Wi-Fi).

  • IoSafe 1513 NAS RAID


    Protecting your data just got a little safer. This storage device will keep operating even in extreme temps (up to 1,550 degrees for 30 minutes) and flood (up to 10 feet for three days). It also handles massive amounts of data–as much as 90TB if you add expansion bays. The base price does not come preloaded with any disk drives.

  • ChargeHub


    For an office environment, this seven-port charging device is a boon for productivity. You can charge one or two tablets plus several smartphones all at once. The device comes in a wide range of colors including boardroom-friendly white and a bright blue.

  • Plastc


    With just a swipe of your finger, you can unlock this powerful new credit card–which can be used to replace gift cards in a store and standard credit cards. It works as a magnetic stripe card or using Near Field Communication (the same tech as Apple Pay).

  • Asus Transformer T300 Chi Notebook


    The big selling point on this detachable laptop/tablet computer is the crystal-clear display, which runs at 2560×1440 pixels. It uses a wide-angle viewing technology so you can show it off in a conference room and everyone will see the screen just fine.

  • Philips UltraWide 34-inch Curved Display BDM3490UC

    This curved monitor helps you focus on documents, images, and videos by cocooning you with a slight curve. The screen is widescreen to help with productivity apps so you can run them side by side. The QHD 3440×1440 resolution screen is crisp and bright.

  • Mophie Juice Pack Plus for iPhone 6


    A slightly beefier version of the acclaimed Juice Pack case for the iPhone 6, this model will charge up your phone once plus 20 percent. (There’s also a standard Juice Pack for the iPhone 6 and one for the iPhone 6 Plus that charge up once.) With the case, it means you get two full charges and can enjoy all-day usage plus extra protection from spills and drops.

  • Zolt Laptop Charger


    The Zolt charger comes with interchangeable tips designed for different laptops. It doubles as a phone or tablet charger as well with three USB ports. As a bonus, if the charger doesn’t quite fit behind a table in the hotel, it rotates 90 degrees for an easier fit.

  • Intel Compute Stick


    Intel tends to focus on high-end computing, chipsets, and innovation video tech like RealSense. but this all-in-one thumbdrive computer is worth considering. You plug it into the HDMI port of a monitor or television and then boot into Windows 8 or Linux.

  • Acer Chromebook 15


    With a 15.6-inch screen and a powerful Intel Core processor, this notebook competes easily with the best Windows 8 notebooks. (It doesn’t have the same overhead for drivers or an operating system and boots into a browser.) The screens runs at a crisp 1920×1080 pixels and looks clear and colorful, but the best feature is the low $249 price.

  • iRobot Ava 500


    The iRobot Ava is designed to reduce airfare costs–you can control it from any computer. Videoconferencing robots came out a few years ago, but now they are starting to appear in business because they now support more applications and integrate into networks easier. (it works with Cisco telepresence software and can be managed on a cloud service.)

  • Toshiba Portege Z20t Detachable Ultrabook


    This detachable tablet/notebook is packed with extra features. It has 8GB of RAM and an intel M5 processor to speed up your software. The spill-resistant keyboard helps you type up business docs quickly, and the 1.6-pound tablet helps you go mobile.

  • Acer H7550ST Short Throw Projector


    A short-throw projector is ideal for smaller conference rooms. You can place one on a desk near the screen and still project an image that’s as large as 25 feet. This model sports a nifty feature. You can plug in a Google Chromecast USB dongle to show slides without a computer.

  • Prong PWR Case 5


    This durable case for the iPhone 5 (an iPhone 6 version will be out soon) comes in two versions, one that charges your phone to 80 percent for $100 and one that charges to 100 percent for $120. The main benefit is that the case itself has the two-prong connector for a standard outlet.

  • LaCie Rugged RAID

    This drive can be partitioned as a RAID, which means it keeps data safe and runs faster than a single drive. Since it’s portable, you can use it anywhere–plus, it’s rugged enough to withstand shocks, drops, and light water spills. The drive comes with 4TB of storage.

  • Lenovo ThinkPad Stack


    The ThinkPad Stack includes a Bluetooth speaker for videoconferencing, a power charger for phones and tablets, 1TB of storage, and a Wi-Fi access point. Each component is stackable and you can mix and match the ones you want to use. They all use the same power source.

  • Dell XPS 13 Laptop


    Dell deserves credit for making a laptop with such a razor-thin display. It looks like a tablet screen and is super-thin at just 0.2 inch. The 3,200×1,800 resolution screen makes business docs much easier to read when you zoom in and makes photos and videos pop. The laptop lasts a full 15 hours, and that’s without any additional (larger) battery pack.

    This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How Steve Jobs Trained His Own Brain

Steve Jobs gestures during a conference in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.
Paul Sakuma—AP Steve Jobs gestures during a conference in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.

He was far ahead of his time in the technology of the mind

Inc. logo

Steve Jobs is one of the two or three greatest icons of high tech, rivaled only by Bill Gates and perhaps Mark Zuckerberg. He’s mostly known for his legendary ability to create innovative, groundbreaking products.

What’s less known, though, is that Steve Jobs was a pioneer in what was once a rather esoteric “mind technology”–the use of Zen mindfulness meditation to reduce his stress, gain more clarity, and enhance his creativity.

As the Financial Times recently pointed out, Jobs was quite specific about how he went about practicing this “discipline” (as he called it). Biographer Walter Isaacson quotes Jobs as saying:

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things–that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”

What Jobs described in that passage is readily identifiable as a specific type of meditation, usually called “mindfulness,” that’s taught in Zen Buddhism and its Chinese antecedent, Taoism. When Jobs was talking to Isaacson not long before he died, he had been practicing such meditation for many years.

I know that for certain because, by coincidence, in the early 1990s, I had a brief one-on-one conversation with Jobs about how Zen related to computer programming. (That’s a story for another post.)

In any case, it’s now clear that Jobs was as far ahead of his time in the technology of the mind as he was in the technology of computers. According to no less an authority than Scientific American, the latest neuroscience research proves that meditation techniques that have been around for thousands of years have beneficial effects on both your mind and your body.

The mind technology of meditation has since gone mainstream. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, companies as diverse as Target, Google, General Mills, and Ford have begun to teach their employees the same kind of mindfulness that Jobs embraced decades ago.

While the idea of corporate-sponsored meditation sessions strikes me as a bit creepy, you don’t need corporate sponsorship to get the benefits of mindfulness. I learned mindfulness meditation from world-renowned martial artist Yang, Jwing Ming. From what I can tell from Jobs’s description of his meditation, Yang’s method is either identical or closely related to Jobs’s own practice.

Here how the technique was taught to me as far as I recall it:

  1. Sit cross-legged in a quiet place, preferably on a low pillow to reduce strain on your back. Take deep breaths.
  2. Close your eyes and listen to your inner monologue, the thoughts that spin through your mind all the time: work, home, TV, whatever. Those thoughts are the chattering of your “monkey mind.” Don’t try to stop it from chattering, at least not yet. Instead just observe how it jumps from thought to thought to thought. Do this for five minutes every day for a week.
  3. After a week, without trying to silence your monkey mind, during the meditation, shift your attention to your “ox mind.” Your ox mind is the part of your brain that thinks slowly and quietly. It senses things around you. It doesn’t try to assign meaning to anything. It just sees, hears, and feels. Most people only really hear their ox mind when they experience a “breathtaking moment” that temporarily stops the monkey mind from chattering. However, even when your monkey mind is driving you crazy with rush-rush-rush and push-push-push, your ox mind is still there, thinking its slow, deep thoughts.
  4. Once you’re feeling more aware of your ox mind, ask it to start quieting your monkey mind down. What worked for me was imagining the monkey mind going to sleep due to the slow walking of the ox as it moves patiently along a road. Don’t get upset if your monkey mind keeps waking up. It’s a monkey, so it can’t help acting like one. However, you’ll find that, despite its protests, your monkey mind would rather give it rest and stop making all that tiring and tiresome noise.
  5. As your monkey mind calms down, continue to shift your attention to your ox mind. Each breath will seem to take a long time. You’ll feel the air on your skin. You may feel your blood flowing through your body. If you open your eyes, the world will look brand new and even rather strange. A window, for example, becomes just a square thing that full of light. It doesn’t need to be opened or closed or cleaned or repaired or anything else. It’s just there. You’re just there.
  6. While it can take a while to get there, you’ll know you’re doing the exercise correctly when it seems as if no time has passed at all between when you started the timer and when it goes off. When you succeed at that, gradually increase the amount of time you spend each day. Weirdly, no matter how long you practice, it will seem as if no time has passed.

In my experience, daily practice of mindfulness has three valuable results:

First, it completely eliminates stress. While the stress may return, it’s starting from scratch and thus has less chance of snowballing into something unmanageable.

Second, it eliminates insomnia. When I was practicing this regularly, I was able to close my eyes and go to sleep within two or three seconds. That alone is worth the effort, in my view.

Third, and most important, it allows you to think more clearly and more creatively about everything happening in your own life. In my case, I used the sense of calm to extract myself from an unhealthy relationship and a job that made me miserable.

So, while I can’t promise that practicing mindfulness will make you as creative as Steve Jobs, I can promise from my own experience that mindfulness will create positive change in your life.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

20 Simple Productivity Tricks Anyone Can Use

Use your mind for thinking, not remembering

Inc. logo

Even though we all want to be more productive, it’s hard to make major changes. Small changes are easy– and can be incredibly powerful. That’s why the following 20 tips are simple enough you can immediately incorporate them into your daily routine. Some tips will help you better use your time. Others will help you harness your energy. Others will help you stay more focused. No matter what, they all work. So try a few – or try them all!

  • Create Systems, Not Goals

    Commit to a process, not a goal. Don’t just set a goal of creating better customer relationships; commit to calling at least two customers a day to ask how you can better serve them. Don’t just set a goal of landing new clients; commit to cold-calling at least two leads every day. Commit to a process that leads to a goal and you’re much more likely to achieve that goal. Focus on what you will do, not on what you want to happen.

  • Make Temptations Hard to Reach

    Call this the “pain in the butt” technique: when something is hard to do, you’ll do it less. Store sodas in the refrigerator and keep bottles of water on your desk. Put the TV remote in an upstairs closet. Shut down your browser so it’s harder to check out TMZ. Use a “productivity” laptop that intentionally doesn’t have a browser or email, leave your phone behind, and move to a conference room to get stuff done. Convenience is the mother of distraction, so make it a pain in the butt to satisfy your temptations.

  • Maximize Your Most Important Tasks

    All of us have things we do that make the biggest difference. (For me it’s actually sitting down and writing.) What two or three things contribute most to your success? What two or three things generate the most revenue? Then eliminate all the extra “stuff” to the greatest extent possible so you reap the benefits of spending time on the tasks that make you you.

  • Purposely Allow Less Time for Key Projects

    Time is like a new house. We eventually fill a bigger house with furniture, and we eventually fill a block of time with “work.” So take the opposite approach. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to complete an important task. You’ll be more focused, more motivated, your energy level will be higher… and you’ll actually get more done.

  • Chunk Housekeeping Tasks

    Even though we’d like to focus solely on our most important tasks, we all have stuff we still need to do. Instead of sprinkling those activities throughout the day– or, worse, taking care of them when they pop up– collect and take of them in preplanned blocks. Better yet, schedule that block for when you know you’ll be tired or in need of a mental break. That way you’ll still feel (and be) productive even when you’re not at your best.

  • Just Say No

    You’re polite. You’re courteous. You’re helpful. You want to be a team player. You’re overwhelmed. Say “no” at least as often as you say yes. You can still be polite while protecting your time. And you should protect your time – time is the one asset no one can afford to waste.

  • Start Small So You Won’t Mind

    Say you decided you should cold-call 20 new prospects every day. Great idea – but sounds daunting. Sounds really hard. Sounds almost impossible… so you won’t. Instead, start small. You can call 2 people a day, right? That sounds easy. That you will do. Then, in time, it will feel comfortable to increase the number. Whenever you want to create a new habit, start small so you will actually start – and stick with it through that tough early time when habits are hard to form.

  • Build In Frequent Breaks

    Small, frequent breaks are a great way to refresh and recharge. Like the Pomodoro Technique, a time-management strategy where you work on one task for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. (To time yourself you can use a kitchen timer or your phone…) The key to not burning out is to not let burnout sneak up on you. Scheduling regular short breaks ensures that won’t happen.

  • Follow the 2-Minute Rule

    Here’s one from Getting Things Done: when a task takes less than 2 minutes, don’t schedule it, don’t set it aside for later, don’t set a reminder… just take care of it. Now. Then it’s done. Besides, don’t you have enough on your schedule already?

  • Actively Schedule Free Time

    Free time shouldn’t just happen by accident. Free time shouldn’t be something you get around to if you get a chance. Plan your free time. Plan activities. Plan fun things to do. Not only will you enjoy the planning – and the anticipation – you’ll also actually have more fun. And the happier you are, the more motivated and productive you will be over the long term. Which, of course, is what personal productivity is all about.

  • Exercise First Thing in the Morning

    Exercise is energizing. Exercise will make you healthier. Exercise can make you smarter. Plus exercise can improve your mood for up to 12 hours after you work out. So there you go. Work out for 20 minutes first thing. Feel better. Be smarter. Be less stressed. Have a more productive day. Can’t beat that.

  • Eat a Healthy Lunch Every Day

    We’ve all eaten a heavy lunch that seemed to kill the rest of the day. So take a different approach. See lunch as fuel for your afternoon – and as one meal you knowwill be healthy. Plan to eat a portion of protein that fits in your palm and a couple vegetables or fruits. Make it easy and pack your lunch and then you won’t waste time driving to and from a restaurant.

  • Drink a Lot More Water

    It’s extremely likely you don’t drink enough water. That’s too bad, because feeling good sparks motivation and effort. Plus if you drink water first thing in the morning you’ll boost your metabolism. Drink more water throughout the day and you’ll be less hungry, feel more energetic, decrease your chances of contracting certain diseases… and you’ll have to get up more often to use the restroom which ensures you’re more active throughout the day.

  • Take a Productivity Nap

    A quick nap can improve creativity, improve your memory, and improve your ability to stay focused. Besides that, neurologists tout the learning benefits of mid-day siestas.Silicon Valley companies compete to see who can design the the coolest napping rooms. Napping is not just napping anymore; it’s a skill. And it’s a skill that can super-charge your productivity. (Here are some great tips for productive napping.)

  • Make More Time For Your Favorite People

    Think about the people you’ve met recently. Who left you feeling more motivated, more excited, more energetic… who made your life better? Then seek to spend more time with them. Surround yourself with people who can improve your life and your life will naturally improve. Sounds obvious – but is also something we all too often forget.
  • Count Your Blessings Before Bed

    Take a second before you turn out the light. In that moment, quit worrying about what you don’t have. Quit worrying about what others have that you don’t. Think about what you dohave. You have a lot to be thankful for. Feels good, doesn’t it? Count your blessings every night and you’ll start the next day in a much more positive way.

  • Use Your Mind For Thinking, Not Remembering

    Here’s another Getting Things Done tip. Don’t clutter your thoughts with mental to-do lists or information you need to remember. Write all those things down. Then you can focus on thinking about how to do things better, how to treat people better, how to make your business better. Don’t waste mental energy trying to remember important tasks or ideas. That’s what paper is for.

  • Turn Off Alerts

    Your phone buzzes. Your email dings. Chat windows pop up. Every alert sucks away your attention. So turn them off. Go alert-free, and once every hour or so take a few minutes to see what you might have missed. Chances are you’ll find out you missed nothing,but in the meantime you will have been much more focused.

  • Be Inspired By Small Successes

    Change is tough. Habits are hard to form. If you want to learn a new skill, don’t decide you’ll become world-class. The goal is too big, the road too long. Instead decide you’ll learn to do one small thing really, really well. Then build on that. Success, even minor success, is motivating and creates an awesome feedback loop that will motivate you to do another small thing really well. One step at a time you might someday become world-class… which, after all, is how that works. Start small, stick with it, and someday your big dream will be a reality.

  • Stop In the Middle

    Take it from Ernest Hemingway: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck.” His advice applies to all kinds of work. When you stop in the middle of a project you know what you’ve done, you know exactly what you’ll do next, and you’ll be excited to get started again.

    This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Things Successful People Keep to Themselves at Work

Getty Images

Sharing the right aspects of yourself at work is an art form

Inc. logo

You can’t build a strong professional network if you don’t open up to your colleagues; but doing so is tricky, because revealing the wrong things can have a devastating effect on your career.

Sharing the right aspects of yourself in the right ways is an art form. Disclosures that feel like relationship builders in the moment can wind up as obvious no-nos in hindsight.

The trick is to catch yourself before you cross that line, because once you share something, there is no going back.

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 percent of top performers, to be exact). Emotionally intelligent people are adept at reading others, and this shows them what they should and shouldn’t reveal about themselves at work.

The following list contains the 12 most common things people reveal that send their careers in the wrong direction.

1. That they hate their job

The last thing anyone wants to hear at work is someone complaining about how much she hates her job. Doing so labels you as a negative person and not a team player. This brings down the morale of the group. Bosses are quick to catch on to naysayers who drag down morale, and they know that there are always enthusiastic replacements waiting just around the corner.

2. That they think someone is incompetent

There will always be incompetent people in any workplace, and chances are that everyone knows who they are. If you don’t have the power to help them improve or to fire them, then you have nothing to gain by broadcasting their ineptitude. Announcing your colleague’s incompetence comes across as an insecure attempt to make yourself look better. Your callousness will inevitably come back to haunt you in the form of your co-workers’ negative opinions of you.

3. How much money they make

Your parents may love to hear all about how much you’re pulling in each month, but in the workplace, this only breeds negativity. It’s impossible to allocate salaries with perfect fairness, and revealing yours gives your co-workers a direct measure of comparison. As soon as everyone knows how much you make, everything you do at work is considered against your income. It’s tempting to swap salary figures with a buddy out of curiosity, but the moment you do, you’ll never see each other the same way again.

4. Their political and religious beliefs

People’s political and religious beliefs are too closely tied to their identities to be discussed without incident at work. Disagreeing with someone else’s views can quickly alter their otherwise strong perception of you. Confronting someone’s core values is one of the most insulting things you can do.

Granted, different people treat politics and religion differently, but asserting your values can alienate some people as quickly as it intrigues others. Even bringing up a hot-button world event without asserting a strong opinion can lead to conflict.

People build their lives around their ideals and beliefs, and giving them your two cents is risky. Be willing to listen to others without inputting anything on your end because all it takes is a disapproving look to start a conflict. Political opinions and religious beliefs are so deeply ingrained in people that challenging their views is more likely to get you judged than to change their minds.

5. What they do on Facebook

The last thing your boss wants to see when she logs on to her Facebook account are photos of you taking tequila shots in Tijuana. There are just too many ways you can look inappropriate on Facebook and leave a bad impression. It could be what you’re wearing, whom you’re with, what you’re doing, or even your friends’ commentary. These are the little things that can cast a shadow of doubt in your boss’s or colleagues’ minds just when they are about to hand you a big assignment or recommend you for a promotion.

It’s too difficult to try to censor yourself on Facebook for your colleagues. Save yourself the trouble, and don’t friend them there. Let LinkedIn be your professional “social” network, and save Facebook for everybody else.

6. What they do in the bedroom

Whether your sex life is out of this world or lacking entirely, this information has no place at work. Such comments might get a chuckle from some people, but it makes most uncomfortable, and even offended. Crossing this line will instantly give you a bad reputation.

7. What they think someone else does in the bedroom

A good 111 percent of the people you work with do not want to know that you bet they’re tigers in the sack. There’s no more surefire way to creep someone out than to let her know that thoughts of her love life have entered your brain. Anything from speculating on a colleague’s sexual orientation to making a relatively indirect comment like, “Oh, to be a newlywed again,” plants a permanent seed in the brains of all who hear it that casts you in a negative light.

Your thoughts are your own. Think whatever you feel is right about people; just keep it to yourself.

8. That they’re after somebody else’s job

Announcing your ambitions at work when they are in direct conflict with other people’s interests comes across as selfish and indifferent to those you work with and the company as a whole. Great employees want the whole team to succeed, not just themselves. Regardless of your actual motives (some of us really do just work for the money), announcing your selfish goal will not help you get there.

9. How wild they used to be in college

Your past can say a lot about you. Just because you did something outlandish or stupid 20 years ago doesn’t mean that people will believe you’ve developed impeccable judgment since then. Some behavior that might qualify as just another day in the typical fraternity (binge drinking, minor theft, drunk driving, abusing people or farm animals, and so on) shows everyone you work with that, when push comes to shove, you have poor judgment and don’t know where to draw the line. Many presidents have been elected in spite of their past indiscretions, but unless you have a team of handlers and PR types protecting and spinning your image, you should keep your unsavory past to yourself.

10. How intoxicated they like to get

You might think talking about how inebriated you were over the weekend has no effect on how you’re viewed at work. After all, if you’re a good worker, then you’re a good worker, right? Unfortunately not. Sharing this will not get people to think you’re fun. Instead, they will see you as unpredictable, immature, and lacking in good judgment. Too many people have negative views of drugs and alcohol for you to reveal how much you love to indulge in them.

11. An offensive joke

If there’s one thing we can learn from celebrities, it’s to be careful about what you say and whom you say it to. Offensive jokes make other people feel terrible, and they make you look terrible. They also happen to be much less funny than clever jokes.

A joke crosses the line anytime you try to gauge its appropriateness based on how close you are with someone. If there is anyone who would be offended by your joke, you are better off not telling it. You never know whom people know or what experiences they’ve had in life that can lead your joke to tread on subjects that they take very seriously.

12. That they are job hunting

When I was a kid, I told my baseball coach I was quitting in two weeks. For the next two weeks, I found myself riding the bench. It got even worse after those two weeks when I decided to stay, and I became “the kid who doesn’t even want to be here.” I was crushed, but it was my own fault; I told him my decision before it was certain.

The same thing happens when you tell people that you’re job hunting. Once you reveal that you’re planning to leave, you suddenly become a waste of everyone’s time. There’s also the chance that your hunt will be unsuccessful, so it’s best to wait until you’ve found a job before you tell anyone. Otherwise, you will end up riding the bench.

Bringing it all together

Let me know what you think of this list. Do you disagree with any of these items? Did I miss any? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

More from Inc.:

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com