TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Fail-Proof Ways to Give Yourself the Leverage to Succeed

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Work on your greater vision and you’ll find a way to succeed

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By applying the power of leverage to business, you can (with less effort) accomplish a lot more. Without it, you increase your risk of burnout and frustration, and limit your rewards.

Put simply, leverage is all about multiplying gains and making money work for you. In this challenging new economy you need every advantage you can get, especially in entrepreneurship and business. Gaining the competitive advantage isn’t easy. Chaos is almost guaranteed, but the upside outweighs the tough times. Here are six fail-proof ways to give yourself the ultimate leverage.

Position Rather Than Prospect

Everybody is looking for prospects, clients and customers. This never-ending search process will eventually burn you out, and is tough to scale on a consistent basis. An easier way to approach your business is to position yourself as the leading authority — the expert, specialist or the trusted advisor — on your subject. This takes very strategic and intentional action, but the rewards are exponential.

When you’re perceived as the expert, people will start coming to you. Be more elite and exclusive. Define what makes your business different. Once you figure out what makes you unique, get more attention. Start leveraging your experience through other peoples proven platforms. Whom could you connect with that already has influence and impact within your target market? Some examples include publications, podcasts, features, magazines, speaking events and sponsorship opportunities. You will expand your reach a lot faster.

Know That Plans Fail, But Movements Don’t

Reposition your business and make it about something. Think about Disney; it’s not about movies or about amusement parks or about cruises — it’s about being part of a brand where dreams come true. Or think about how Subway went from being a fast-food chain to a weight-loss program. Most companies, whether startups or billion-dollar corporations, don’t have compelling stories or visions behind them. The entrepreneurs on a mission bigger than themselves are always attract top-tier talent. Life becomes much more fulfilling when you’re involved in a movement or a cause greater than yourself.

Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and you certainly don’t need to figure everything out yourself. Find something that is already working and make it better, or find your niche and do what the best are already doing. In an interview I did with Gary Vaynerchuk, he said, “A penguin cannot become a giraffe. So just be the best penguin you can be.”

A smart person learns from their mistakes. Those wanting world-class results learn from other peoples’ mistakes so they can shorten their learning curve. Nothing will make a bigger impact on your future than the people you associate with on a daily basis.

Become a People Developer

As a young entrepreneur, I had to realize I couldn’t do it all by myself. You not only need a solid team around you, but you need to know how to develop and lead that team. When you watch sports, you’ll find the most successful teams are the ones that play very well together. They complement each other, and they all have one single focus: winning.

The same goes for business and life. The people you have in your inner circle are your team. Who needs to be on that team to make sure it’s a “dream team?”

Create Raving Fans and Advocates

Business is the management of promises, and if you can consistently deliver and exceed the promises you make to all your customers, you’re ahead of the game. It’s much more expensive to get a new customer than it is to take care of the ones you already have. The purpose of business is to create raving fans and advocates who will go out of their way to promote what you do — not because you asked them, but because they want to. Every person in your organization should be responsible for outstanding client support and service, from the reception to the mail room to the CEO. You must create a culture where people are passionate about meeting clients’ needs.

Work on the Business, Not Just in the Business

One hour every week, work on your business as opposed to in your business. Most people get so caught up in the day-to-day grind of making everything work properly that they forget about working on the vision. So once a week, every week, work on your strategy for the year and where you want to be a year from now. Plan your long-term strategies before you plan your tactics: where you plan on going, who you want to be, and what types of clients you want to attract.

Peter Voogd has been running businesses since he was 15, and is labeled the Leading Authority for Young Entrepreneurs. He built an 8 million dollar empire by age 27 and has trained close to 5000 entrepreneurs. He’s the founder of the prestigious Game Changers Academy, author of the international bestseller 6 Months to 6 Figures, and runs one of the top podcasts on iTunes, The Young Entrepreneur Lifestyle.

StartupCollective is a virtual mentorship program powered by America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners, including the members of FounderSociety.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

This Is the Most Productive Time of the Day to Answer Emails

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Get email out of the way first thing in the morning

startupcollective

Based on the research, life-hacking and entrepreneurial tips that are out there, you may have started to build negative associations with email. After all, it’s just a convenient organization system for someone else’s agenda for your day, right?

We do have to keep in mind that different things work for different people. If everyone achieved productivity and success uniformly, there wouldn’t be so many recommendations out there about how to do it. Of course, you don’t want all of your creative energy and decision-making willpower to be wasted on email. However, there are several reasons answering email first thing in the morning can help you to get your day off to a better start.

Let’s take a look at why starting your day off with email could be a wise move.

It’s On Your Mind Anyway

If you’re not checking your email first thing in the morning, you could be wasting your precious willpower in attempt to stop yourself from checking. When you think about it, that’s really the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish when you’re putting email on the back burner.

If you’re deliberately putting off email, it’s usually for the sake of getting something more productive done. If that’s not happening, or you keep catching yourself thinking about your growing inbox, then your efforts are likely in vain. For these reasons, email can become a major distractor and begin to cause you anxiety. If not checking your email is going to erode your energy, you might as well check it and process it earlier rather than later.

Email Is Mobile-Friendly

Thanks to mobile devices, email is easier to manage now than it ever was in the past. For example, if you take the train into work, you can use your commute time to get caught up on all of your important communication. When you arrive at work, you’ll be ready to tackle whatever projects you need to for the day.

Imagine arriving at your desk with no pending communication to handle. Would you feel freer to give your best to your current assignment? Alternatively, you could arrive early to work, and take the first 15 to 30 minutes to get your emails under control.

There are a variety of ways to get on top of things if you’re willing to problem-solve. The point is to structure your day so that you can always give your best. You can set up the game to make it winnable.

You Could End Up Becoming the Bottleneck

Before you know it, the workday can fly by and be over. Everyone on the team has a specific role to fill, and it can be hard for them to do their job without your cooperation. This can also mean unwelcome interruptions and disruptions throughout your workday. Co-workers may have to come by and ask questions or talk to you while you are busy working on other things.

If you are slow to respond to their requests, it can really slow down the completion of the pending projects, and it can end up reflecting badly on the entire team or department. Being the bottleneck in the operation is never fun. By giving your team members what they need to act, you can proceed with your day without unnecessary distractions.

There are all situations where checking your email sooner in the day can make your job life more manageable and predictable. It’s important take a look at your current situation and see where lack of efficiency is holding you back. Answering your email first thing in the morning might just be the answer that gets you off to a better start.

Jason Shah is the founder of Do.com, formerly of Yammer and INeedAPencil.com.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Startups

How Startups Have Impacted the Hotel Industry

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Hotel industry is the prime example of startups making significant impact

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If you’ve been keeping up with current events, you’ve probably heard about Airbnb’s recent legal problems. For those who aren’t aware, cities like New York have been going after Airbnb because it hasn’t paid taxes (such as the New York City Hotel Occupancy tax of 5.875 percent) and it’s violating the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law.
Startups like Airbnb are under fire by certain cities because they are absolutely disrupting the hotel industry. If Airbnb wasn’t listing over 800,000 homes or rooms and attracting more than 20 million guests, do you think people would be so concerned? Probably not as much. But how exactly have startups disrupted the hotel industry and what can we expect in the future?

Affordable Accommodations

This has probably been the most impactful disruption that startups have had on the hotel industry. For example, you could save money during a business trip by spending $50 a night for a room on Airbnb as opposed to spending $100 or $150 on a room at a hotel, which doesn’t include added costs like taxes. If you’re a college student wanting to explore the world during summer break, you can budget your trip by finding hosts on Couchsurfing.

With Millennials becoming more conscious about their spending as a result of the recession, it’s not surprising that most people seek out the best deals possible. Which is great news for Generation Y, but not so much for the hotel industry.

Personalized Hotel Pricing

The days when we’ll all be paying the same for a hotel stay are numbered. Companies like Duetto make it so hotels can enable dynamic pricing models that constantly change based on demand, weather patterns, events, online shopping behavior, and numerous additional data sets. Based on this information, they can tell hotels when to drop rates and when to increase them to always have the optimal price.

Cultural Experiences

One of the best perks of traveling is the chance to absorb the culture. Whether you’re a New Yorker visiting San Francisco or a Chicago native heading to Italy, the chance to chat with locals, eat regional cuisine and take in the sights and sounds unique to the area are what makes traveling worthwhile.

While you probably aren’t spending that much time in your hotel room, startups are offering travelers a richer experience by connecting them with local hosts. Take for example Homestay or Onefinestay. These companies allow you to have an authentic meal at someone’s home, receive recommendations off the beaten path or just live the daily life of local residents. Hotels just can’t offer these type of cultural experiences.

Lodgings Suited to Your Needs

What if you’re traveling with a large group of people? Do you know the organization it takes to block out several hotel rooms for a family vacation or getaway with your friends? Being able to rent out entire houses on Airbnb allow you to find a place that can accommodate your entire group.

Besides giving you the opportunity to rent houses, you can also find places that match your interest and preferences. For example, you could rent a home in a treehouse catering to travelers looking for a relaxed vacation with amenities that include a meditation room and yoga classes. That is definitely more appealing than a bland hotel to someone who wants to escape city life.

Last-Minute Options

We have all had those times when we have to dip out of town for a few of days because of a last-minute emergency. Or you just found out you have someone to watch the kids or have received bonus vacation time. Instead of scrambling to find a last-minute hotel, which could be booked or more expensive, there are plenty of homes and rooms that you can find on sites like HotelTonight. Startups can help put our minds to ease if we ever want to book a last-minute room.

Personal Connections

While review sites have helped travelers by providing feedback, they doesn’t always provide you with personal connections. On Airbnb you’ll find authentic reviews and be able to contact the host from the start of the booking process through departing the residence. Furthermore, hosts can provide personal concierge service, such as picking you up from the airport or driving you home from a local winery. And they are more than happy to recommend restaurants or attractions that you may never have had the chance to discover.

As Vikram Singh from Skift puts it so perfectly “Do I remember the guy who checked me into my last hotel room? Nope. Do I remember my last Airbnb host? You bet I do.”

These are just five ways that startups have disrupted the hotel industry. But what can we expect in the next couple of years? Maybe we will begin to see high-tech hotel rooms, data that can be used for personalized experiences and the ability to have all of our travel plans located in centralized portal. Only time will tell.

Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hosting Inc, a hosting company specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Strategies All Job Seekers Should Keep in Mind

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Take these 3 tips as you are looking for your next move

startupcollective

A lot has been talked about regarding unemployment and the job search. With that said, there are several ways to improve your chances of getting back to work. First though, always keep in mind the basics of applying and interviewing.

For instance, you need a good resume; not too lengthy, but still informative. Having different variations is also helpful. We’re taught to have one resume and include everything, or to keep it short and concise. Having been a recruiter handling several candidates a day, and now as the vice president of a job board working with these issues, I suggest having one basic template but being prepared to adjust according to the specifics of the job. In today’s environment, it’s rare to find anyone who’s had just one role throughout their life.

I work with engineers every day and I can’t begin to list the similarities and differences that relate to this one degree. So assuming you will be using a resume template, here are the top three ways to improve your chances of getting hired.

Have an Open Mind and Be Flexible

The highest percentage of placements are those who are able to relocate. Let’s face it, if there’s a job within 50 miles of your home and you haven’t already applied, you should probably stop reading this. If they are spending money on job boards, employers have probably already recruited heavily around their office and haven’t found a candidate. Which brings us to the second point.

Search the Niche Job Boards First

Niche job boards are a fast-growing industry. Unlike large mega-boards, niche boards are industry specific. They are far less competitive in that only those with appropriate skill sets can search the posted jobs. On mega-boards, anyone can post their resume with a blend of keywords and have it automatically distributed to thousands of positions/companies. The posting gets so diluted by auto-responses that the employer eventually starts deleting resumes.

When you post your resume on mega-boards, it’s open to every industry. You will get calls for everything; frequently from staffing companies looking to fill undesirable temp positions. In most cases a simple Google search is your best way to locate an appropriate niche board. To use my own company as an example, CNCJobs.Net breaks down one of the largest industries in the world — manufacturing — into a specific, focused part.

Common sense would say to type in a key word like “manufacturing” or “medical” when searching, but you need to do more homework than that. Using generic phrases will take you back to the mega-boards, because these companies spend millions of dollars positioning themselves to rank first on Google. But if you break it down to your specific part of that group, such as “CNC” in manufacturing or “nursing” in medical, job boards such as CNCJobs.Net or NursingJobs.com will pop up.

Make Finding a Job Your Job

Now that you have found your niche board, you need to be proactive in landing a position. Even though you’ve targeted your job hunt, you need to exhibit your enthusiasm.

This is where the resume template comes into play. Your skill set will most likely cross over to more than one position. Although you may consider certain of your skills stronger than others, there’s no way to determine what every hiring manager is seeking. It’s a good idea to adjust your resume to show as much as possible that applies directly to the job description.

If an employer is interested in pursuing you they will probably reach out within the first week of application. If not, it’s possible that your resume didn’t go through. A successful technique is to send an email to the HR department with a polite and professional message, such as “I want to introduce myself as John/Jane Smith. I submitted a resume last week and wanted to follow up to make sure you had received it, and to see if you had any further questions.” This sets you apart by exhibiting that you’re willing to go above and beyond, and it will usually get a response.

These three simple points can tremendously increase your chances of being hired. You can gain a leg up on your competition by being flexible, specifically targeting industries and putting in some extra effort — rather than just sending out resumes to as many jobs as you can. Any time you can reduce the competition and improve the quality of what you are doing, you’re going to come out ahead. Never be afraid to take that extra step.

Blake Lawson is currently the Vice President and CMO of CNC Jobs Inc., the parent company of CNCJobs.Net. The CNCJobs.Net website is the only Video Supported Job Board specific to Manufacturing & Technology. CNCJobs.Net brings employers and job seekers together much quicker at a fraction of the cost.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Personal Finance Books Every Professional Should Read

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If you’re not sure where to start, these books will really help out

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Question: What is a great personal finance book to read for a young entrepreneur trying to get better at managing their money while launching a startup?

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

“I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad in high school, and it started me on a personal journey to learn about personal finance and entrepreneurship. Whether or not you agree with all of the principles, it’s a great jumping-off point.” — Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less

Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less is a solid introduction to accounting principles, including GAAP compliance, cash versus accrual methods, and financial ratios. It’s a good foundation for young entrepreneurs and a good resource for the early stages when you want to set up a clean accounting system but don’t have the resources to hire a professional.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Solving the Money Puzzle: Personal Finance Made Simple

“I recommend Solving the Money Puzzle: Personal Finance Made Simple because it’s crucial for young entrepreneurs to properly manage their personal finances before being endowed with startup capital. If you can straighten out your own house, the pressures of being responsible for vast capital will diminish, and your positive habits will carry over.” — Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net

Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties

Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties is a great primer on the basics of personal finance and money management. A lot of the tips and advice in the book are invaluable.” — Josh Weiss, Bluegala

The Richest Man in Babylon

The Richest Man in Babylon is 100 pages, was written in the 1920s and has stood the test of time with simple personal finance lessons such as “Pay yourself first.” Head into a bookstore one afternoon for some nuggets of financial wisdom.” — Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

I Will Teach You To Be Rich is a great book on how to automate your savings by creating a sound system. The author has personally gone to businesses like Google to speak about his systems that are simple and effective.” — Eric Siu, Single Grain

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup is a phenomenal piece of work that inspired me in how I operate my own business. Managing finances is an important aspect of the book, and it will definitely help readers lay some necessary cornerstones for their company.” — Daniel Wesley, Quote.com

Predictable Revenue

Predictable Revenue is a fantastic book for startups with a B2B sales process that want a more modern perspective on consistent quality lead generation and more predictable revenue.” — Ryan Stoner, Publicis

Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money

Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money has some unique tips such as always saving a $5 bill instead of spending it. The book is a fast read, comes with a strong website portal and has beneficial information.” — Raoul Davis, Ascendant Group

Destroy Student Debt: A Combat Guide to Freedom

“An employee of mine recently recommended Destroy Student Debt: A Combat Guide to Freedom. He said the most valuable advice in the book was that we often aren’t aware of the influence of consumerism in our lives. We buy things because that’s what we do. Being thoughtful consumers — or, as the author suggests, questioning why we purchase things at all — is helpful.” — Mike Seiman, CPXi

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Reasons Why Your Job Is Rough and How You Can Fix It

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If you wake up dreading work, it’s time to reflect on what changes you can make

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Many people are working jobs they don’t enjoy. They’re bored, they aren’t working on things that matter to them, and are possibly even miserable. They lack the freedom and control necessary for daily happiness and self-esteem.

In this article, I’m going to describe five reasons why your job is so rough, and then a few solutions to help. My hope is that by describing them here, you will have more power in your situation, and the confidence to change it.

  1. You don’t decide your schedule. Maybe you’re a morning person; maybe you’re an evening person. It’s not that you’re lazy or you don’t want to work, it’s just that you want to work when you choose to. However, you can’t always work when you know you work best. So each day you wake up and hear that alarm as a reminder you are on someone else’s time.
  2. You don’t decide what you wear. Few people are happy to be stuck wearing a tie every day. I’ve heard even worse from a friend who used to be stuck in a dead-end job. Now he’s working on his own terms at a startup. This lack of freedom is another killer of the human spirit.
  3. Your boss is not who you want to become. It’s hard to show up to work for a boss you don’t respect. If you look at your boss and don’t want to be them — what are you working towards? Speaking with them only leads to frustration, especially since they are your direct superior.
  4. You leave feeling drained and exhausted. Maybe your co-workers are difficult or unenjoyable to work with. If you work on a team with people who make your life difficult, it doesn’t matter how positive you try to be yourself. At the end of each day, you’re left feeling exhausted and drained. Thankfully, I work with the most brilliant and considerate team I could imagine. And I hope others can find these teams as well.
  5. You can’t change anything. You want to make an impact and help your company, but you can’t. It’s hard to be stuck in a situation where you can’t change the rules, and you wonder why you’re there anyway.

If you want more freedom and a happier work life, look for a job you enjoy with a team or company culture that doesn’t have these conditions.

How to Fix It

It’s important to know that most companies really want you to be happy. Most companies care about you and don’t want you to leave. As an employee, you hold far more power than you realize. So if you’re unhappy, share this with your boss. Work with your manager to figure out terms that are better for you.

  1. Schedule an appointment with your boss or higher up. Mention that you have a few things you’re unhappy with, and you’d like to have a private conversation. This message will get any boss’ attention.
  2. During the meeting, share your feelings. Not just your opinions, but your experiences and emotions.

Simply by doing this, you’ll feel better because you are sharing honestly. You’re being proactive about making changes. You’ll also notice that if your company is worth working for, they will make changes to improve your happiness. As an alternative, you can become an entrepreneur, but this certainly isn’t for everyone.

Dane Maxwell is the creator of The Foundation, a no-nonsense approach to finding painful problems and solving them with software. You can learn how to find a profitable business idea for your next venture at our website.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

11 Simple Ways to Increase Your Happiness at Work

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Happiness at work can come from a number of things — both in and out of the office

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Question: What is one simple practice I can adopt to be happier at work?

Leave the Office

“There are ample opportunities to get up and go for a quick walk throughout the day. Disagree? Then you need to learn to delegate. If you have a scheduled call that doesn’t require you to be on a computer, plug in your headphones and take the call while walking around the block. There is also an Internet hotspot about every 15 feet; you might give them a try from time to time.” — Adam Callinan, Beachwood Ventures

Form Morning Rituals

“In the morning, do you get on top of the day or does it get on top of you? Solid morning rituals can help ensure you get on the right track — and stay there. I meditate, exercise, have a healthy breakfast and write out the things I’m grateful for all before I get into the office. I find that these rituals center me and help keep a smile on my face for the entire day.” — Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

Incorporate Family

“Whether it is working with family or doing activities with employees and their families, this is something that shows that each person is a member of a family working together. Also, it will make people more comfortable and therefore, more productive.” — Bryan Silverman, InStall Media

Think About Your Team

“Thinking about the members of my team makes me happy. These are the people I enjoy working with who are really motivated, recognize problems and opportunities and take action. I just try to remember each and every one of them and how grateful I am to have them in my life. I also think of our customers as individuals and how grateful I am to have these great people in my life.” — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

Meditate

“Meditation is a key tool I use to work happy, and there are so many benefits of a daily meditation practice. In its simplest form, it’s about taking a minute to close your eyes, tune into your body and focus on your breath. Even Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll incorporated meditation into training leading up to the Super Bowl. And you know how that game turned out…” — Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Outsource

“Figure out the things that are sucking time and making you miserable, and find a way to outsource them. Whether you hire support staff or outsource to freelancers, figuring out what you like to do and focusing on those things will make you infinitely happier and more productive!” — Alexis Wolfer, The Beauty Bean

Be Grateful

“Say “thank you” every day to your staff, your partner and your family. Show gratitude and appreciate what you have.” — Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

Try Improv

“For the past few years, I’ve been sneaking off to musty classrooms and tiny theaters to learn and perform improv comedy. Initially, I started this as a fun hobby, but it’s turned out to have an enormous impact on the way I work. It taught me tricks such as “Yes, and,” along with the importance of stating the obvious. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to be happier and have more fun at work.” — Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

Keep Your Team Happy

“Don’t be caught up in the traditional 9 to 5. It’s okay to have your staff start at 10 a.m. on certain days or end early on Friday. Reward yourself and your team for hard work with small perks. Keeping a happy team keeps you happier at work and makes working long days worthwhile. ” — Amanda L. Barbara, Pubslush

Learn Every Day

“Work can get mundane when you’re doing the same thing day in and day out. An easy way to make work more engaging is to learn new things as you contribute to the company. Grow your mind as you help your company grow. Don’t be afraid to be open with your employer about learning. Bosses love employees who want to build skills, and many of them will bring you into the fold if you show promise.” — Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Take It One Day at a Time

“Take it one day at a time. Each day has its own problems, so why stress about tomorrow?” — Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

11 Ways to Maximize Your Creative Brainstorming Time

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Creative brainstorming can lead to success — if you make time for it

startupcollective

Question: How can leaders carve out time/space for creative thinking each week?

Walk Away

“Get out of the office and into nature, engage in a hobby or just go to the grocery store. Raise your head up to experience the world while you’re in it. The world has so much to offer you creatively — if you’re open to it. But it won’t present your best ideas to you while you’re on the computer or at your desk. It will present them while you are away from the grind. So, give yourself space.” — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Wake Up Early

“At the beginning of a day, all the responsibilities of work can have a very strong gravitational pull. It’s usually hard to break away once you engage. Waking up early and taking time to meditate, write and think of creative ideas is a great way to avoid the inertia of your work because, chances are, no one is trying to contact you at that time.” — Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

Put an ‘Hour of Power’ in Your Calendar

“One of the secrets to carving out time for creative thinking and goal setting is by physically scheduling it as a reoccurring weekly event on your calendar. I call it my “Hour of Power,” which takes place on Sunday evening, and I haven’t missed it in four years.” — Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

Timebox It Every Week

“The only way that’s worked for me is putting a three-hour time block on my calendar every week and sticking to it. That’s easier said than done, but a way to make it even more real is to communicate it openly to your team and encourage them to do the same!” — Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

Meet With Thought Leaders

“It’s important to meet with a wide variety of thought leaders. Ask people you find interesting to meet for coffee before work. It’ll give you a different vantage point and will get your wheels turning. Being internal and insular within your industry or company creates tunnel vision and acts as a barrier to great ideas.” — Luke Skurman, Niche.com

Draw It Out

“Take out a big sheet of paper and simply draw out all your ideas for an hour per day or week. Don’t use a computer. Feel free to draw pictures of words or branch out tree limbs filled with every problem — business or personal — you have. By drawing out your ideas, you can find hidden solutions from your subconscious. Collect these papers, and review them regularly.” — Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

Take ‘Walkies’

“Me and my creative team go on walks for 10 to 15 minutes every day. We like to refer to these as “walkies,” and everyone in the office knows that it’s time to drop everything and go for a walk. Around half the time we are just talking about our lives and getting to know one another better. The other half of the time, we have the best creative thoughts. Our best ideas have come out of these walks.” — John Rampton, Due

Adjust Your Sleep Schedule

“Start going to bed and waking up an hour earlier. Don’t check your phone when you first get up. Use the extra time to work out for 20 to 30 minutes, have a healthy breakfast and then do some active thinking about your day/week. I like to take a walk or just pace inside if the weather’s bad. Make this a non-negotiable item on your schedule. Afterward, begin your normal morning routine.” — Nick Lavezzo, FoundationDB

Have ‘Think Tanks’

“One thing we do at GothamCulture is something we call “Think Tanks.” It’s not something that’s reserved for leaders. Anyone can call a Think Tank. If employees have an unusual situation they’re grappling with, they invite the entire team to an optional meeting where they provide the context and the need, and the participants collaborate to come up with creative solutions.” — Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

Make It a Priority

“Schedule weekly recurring blocks in your calendar to keep creative thinking a high priority by either working alone or with others. Working alone can be very productive, and collaborating with colleagues or professionals from different industries is a great way to absorb new perspectives. I schedule these sessions three mornings a week and consider it a win when one or more yield results.” — Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting

Know Yourself

“First, everyone has different times and circumstances when their creativity is at its peak. Chart a week, and you’ll learn your peak times for strategic and creative thinking and your less-than-peak times for emails and administrative tasks. You will also learn what distracts you, so you can determine the best approach to staying in the creative zone.” — Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways to Make Your Workday More Productive

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Eliminate distractions in your daily routine

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It’s easy to get distracted given the countless details that come with running a successful business. If you’re ready to outshine your competitors and take your business to a whole new level, there are five things you need to start doing today:

Outsource

Proper investment of time versus money is an art. Smart outsourcing ensures that a qualified professional handles every aspect of your business and frees up your time to focus on the parts of your business you’re best at.

If you’re used to running a one-person operation, it’s natural to feel anxious about giving up control and trusting others with your hard-earned money. The beauty of outsourcing is that it doesn’t have to come with high financial risk — since you don’t have to commit to hiring full-time or permanent staff, you can try it out in small steps.

Try an experiment: Identify one relatively simple task and outsource it to an independent contractor for a temporary position of a week or two. Commit to using those extra hours to work on something you’ve been putting off. At the end of the week, evaluate your results. You might be surprised at the time you end up saving for a minimal investment.

Automate

Evaluate your current strategy to ensure that you’re automating everything you possibly can without detracting from the quality of your product or service. If you’re still struggling to keep on top of everything but you’re not sure what to change, you may need to consider adjusting your business model or product offerings.

For example, if you find yourself spending intensive hours each day addressing queries about minor items, you may benefit from trimming back your product line, instead investing in a PPC campaign to promote higher ticket items that require less customer maintenance. In many cases, less is more.

  • Use an autoresponder to send out pre-written email blasts to your subscribers.
  • Introduce a policy to curate a higher percentage of your content.
  • Use HTML forms to streamline staff intake processes.

Improve

Successful entrepreneurs learn by doing. It’s entirely possible to build a multimillion-dollar business without ever having gone to college, but if you really want to maximize your long-term potential, you can’t neglect to invest in self improvement.

There are an abundance of quality learning resources available online. Sites like CourseBuffet make it easy to browse an array of free courses offered by top universities. You can also try out subscription-based learning services such as Lynda.com. If you’re interested in improving your skills in SEO, social media marketing or web analytics, check out Udemy for a wide variety of affordable courses to help boost your business.

Simplify

Perhaps the most common obstacle to success for today’s entrepreneur is lack of focus. Allowing yourself to become distracted at the most critical times of the day can be detrimental. Try out these tips for eliminating distractions in your daily routine:

  • Check emails only at certain times of the day.
  • Resolve to put aside any interesting blog posts or articles you come across during the day.
  • Each morning, identify one major task and assign the best hours of your day to work on getting results.

Re-energize

We all do our best work when we’re feeling inspired. It’s crucial to take some real time off every now and then — that is, time spent thinking about anything other than your business.

Often, all it takes is a change of pace to break the cycle of monotony and get re-energized. For example, if you’re an extrovert, attend after-work meet-ups with locals who share your interests. If you enjoy reading, ask your friends what books have inspired them lately and set aside some reading time during your daily coffee breaks. Once you’re feeling rejuvenated, take advantage of the opportunity to tackle that big fish you’ve been putting off.

Old habits are hard to break, so don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to find your groove. Once you do, you won’t look back.

Robert Sofia is a best-selling author, award winning public speaker, and financial industry thought leader. He has developed marketing strategies for Fortune 500® companies, consulted with over 1,000 companies nationwide, and is the cofounder of Platinum Advisor Strategies – ranked #362 on the INC 5,000 list of America’s fastest growing privately owned companies in 2013, and #10 on the Agency 100 list of the nation’s fastest growing agencies.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs in Between Jobs

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Making a positive impression at networking events is all in how you position yourself

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Question: I am an entrepreneur in between companies. How can I succinctly explain this in networking situations?

Explain a Positive Past, Optimistic Future

“In one sentence, explain a positive portrayal of your past experience. Transition to one sentence on what you look forward to doing in the future or what opportunities you’re seeking. It’s always important to keep it light and positive.” — Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Appear Goal-Oriented

“Even if you haven’t solidified your next move yet, prepare a few concrete business or personal development goals that you can rattle off when attending networking events. Basically, you want to sound like you know what you’re doing. The last thing you want is to appear like you are simply drifting from one company to the next.” — Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work

Say You’re Looking for Your Next Venture

“The phrase “looking for your next venture” implies a previous venture and also implies an amount of choosiness (as opposed to desperation) while getting across the fact that you are not currently working on a project.” — Brennan White, Cortex

Own It

“Rare are those with a clear career path or the entrepreneurs who have not seen deals fall through. Partnerships fail or simply decide to do something different. If you can articulate with intelligence what brought you to this transition point and where you are trying to go next, then maybe your conversation is about to get interesting.” — Henry Glucroft, Henry’s / Airdrop

Give Your Elevator Pitch

“In any networking situation, you should present yourself in an assured, positive way. You knew how to give the elevator pitch for your last venture, so what’s the pitch for where you are now? What did you learn from your last experience? What is your next goal? Thinking through these things ahead of time will help you network with confidence.” — Heather Schwarz-Lopes, EarlyShares

Be Real

“Every entrepreneur has been in your situation. Whether your past business is boring you or just went bust, networking is all about connecting for new opportunities. Be genuine about your past experience. Others will be grateful if you share something they can learn from or may offer feedback to help your situation. My best advice has been given to me when I needed it most.” — Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

Be Yourself and Listen

“Be yourself, and when in networking situations, make sure you listen and make eye contact. Feel out the person or group you’re talking to. Find ways to present your past experiences when they fit into the conversation. Be positive. There is always something that people can relate to in most conversations. Listen and learn what that is, and you will be fine.” — Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Explain That You’ve Structured Your Startup

“It is important to put the emphasis on your entrepreneurial spirit. Explain that you have already structured your startup and established a team that is running the business as if you are present with minimal supervision, and you are now ready for your next passion/challenge.” — Evrim Oralkan, Travertine Mart

Say Just That

“People understand that entrepreneurs sometimes switch projects. To say that you’re an entrepreneur in between companies makes people think that you’re still working just as hard as when you are at a company and inspires confidence that you’ll be an entrepreneur at a new company soon. When networking, remember that it’s more about the other person and how you make him feel than it is about you.” — Mike Seiman, CPXi

Be Proud

“Be proud of your situation. Embrace the lessons learned from each venture and articulate how it helped shape your current view or developing view. At the end of the day, it is about telling the evolution of you as a brand. Don’t be short, hide it or shut down. Most people are afraid of starting and failing in business; you have a powerful story to tell.” — Ilya Bodner, The Shipyard

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

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