TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s What Needs to Go on Your ‘Stop Doing’ List Immediately

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Just don't even

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

Most business owners think about creating a “start doing” list, with its endless recitations of things they could be doing more of in order for the company to be bigger, better or more profitable.

But there’s just as much value in asking yourself, “What needs to go on my ‘stop doing’ list?” When you create such a list, you detach yourself from the tasks that take up time without improving your bottom line.

For busy entrepreneurs, here are the top four habits that need to go on your “stop doing” list if you want to see more productivity, innovation and success:

Related: The Only 2 Good Reasons to Work for Free

1. Working for free.

It all adds up — those little favors, those “quick” phone calls with a potential client who wants to “pick your brain” without hiring you. Pick and choose when you give of your time, without forgetting that for every item you complete when you say yes to someone else, you’re saying “no” to yourself and your business.

2. Comparing.

The energy that’s taken up by looking at what other businesses are doing and worrying about why your business isn’t further along could be better spent innovating and exploring the issues not being addressed in your industry and how you could provide solutions for them.

3. Letting administrative tasks slide.

Are you forgetting to invoice clients, letting clients to pay late, restocking supplies at the last minute or not answering emails? When these administrative tasks pile up, you’re less likely to want to do them.

Decide on systems that can handle these tasks, outsource them entirely or determine that you’re going to find a way to run your business that doesn’t require them. For example, perhaps you’ll start using auto-delivery from Amazon Prime for critical office supplies or you’ll finally create that frequently asked questions (or FAQ) page that will reduce the number of emails you need to respond to.

Related: How Busy Entrepreneurs Deal With Mundane Tasks

4. Rushing.

When you book sessions back to back or overload your day with things to do, you end up multitasking, becoming sloppy and not putting enough time into self-care. It’s impossible to effectively run a business when you’re rushing. What’s most embarrassing is when the harried nature of your business starts to become noticeable to clients and colleagues.

When a company owner decides what he or she is going to stop doing, the results quickly become apparent. There’s more time and energy for the things that grow the business and inspire workers and leaders and less time spent on those things that are old, stagnant habits. Start with just one thing that you’re going to stop doing and work your way from there to create an even better business in the new year.

Related: Learning to Say No to Interruptions to Foster Creativity in Business

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Build a Million-Dollar Business in 1 Year (Yes, Really)

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You have to think about one thing—and one thing only—from the start

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

Some people go their entire lives without earning a million dollars, so it sounds crazy that some businesses might be able to achieve this milestone within their first year. But it is possible. Plenty of businesses have achieved this goal, and you can too!

Pay attention to the following tips and use them to help power up your revenue growth:

1. Find a growing market

One of the easiest ways to build a million-dollar company in such a short period of time is to find a growing trend and ride it to the top. Take the example of Micah Adler, CEO of mobile app developer Fiksu, which grew from less than $1 million to $100 million in just three and a half years — with only $17.6 million in venture capital — following its 2010 launch.

Related: Looking for Stable Business Ideas? Here Are 12 Types of Companies With Healthy Cash Flow.

Certainly, Adler’s success comes in part from building great products, but it also comes from his timing. In 2012, just two years after Fiksu’s launch, mobile-app development represented $19 billion in revenue and was experiencing annual growth of more than 60 percent a year. Finding a growing market of your own like this can put you on the fast track to massive revenue growth.

2. Think monetization from the start

It seems strange to think about objectively, but some startups start without any obvious monetization strategies. Twitter is one example of this phenomenon, but there are countless other companies out there building up their free user bases, hoping that inspiration — and, consequently, financial stability — will strike along the way.

If you want to grow a million-dollar company in your first year, you can’t afford to think that way!

Most profitable companies operate from one of two models: either they sell a lot of inexpensive products to a lot of people or they sell a few big-ticket items to a more limited buyer list. Neither model is easier or inherently better than the other. What’s more important than choosing is having a defined plan for monetization. Knowing how you’ll make money from the start will prevent wasted time spent hoping that something profitable will come together for you.

3. Be the best

There are plenty of mediocre products out there, but the odds are good that these companies aren’t making a million dollars or more during their first years. If you want to hit these big potential profits, you’ve got to bring something to the table that wows customers and generates buzz within your marketplace.

Related: Field a Team of ‘A’ Players at Your Startup

How can you tell if you’ve got a “best in breed” product? Look to your current customers. If you aren’t getting rave reviews online or positive comments sent to your inbox, chances are your clients aren’t as ecstatic about your product as they need to be to hit your target sales. Ask your existing customers what you can do to make your product better and then put their recommendations into place. They’ll appreciate your efforts and will go on to refer further sales to you in the future.

4. Hire all-stars

Hitting $1 million in revenue during your first year is no small feat, and you certainly aren’t going to achieve this goal with a team of underperformers. Yes, hiring these people will be cheaper and easier, but you’ll pay for this convenience when your end-of-the-year sales numbers come up short.

Instead, you need to hire all-stars, and the fastest way to do this is to ask around for referrals. Pay particular attention to the sales hires you make, as these key employees stand to make the biggest difference in your business’s bottom line. Get them on the bus and then encourage them to do whatever is necessary to close deals (pro tip: a good series of incentives won’t hurt!).

5. Consume data

Finally, if you want to shoot for the revenue moon, you need to be absolutely militant about gathering data and acting on it. When I approach a new marketing project, I prefer to work in short sprints of a few weeks or less where we’ll try something new, check the statistics to see how the changes impacted revenue and then either commit the changes or try a new test.

Do the same with your growing company. You have a veritable gold mine of information just hanging out in your Google Analytics account, so put it to good use by identifying your company’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and running tests designed to push these metrics even higher. If you aren’t able to carry out these tests on your own, bring on a rock-star analyst who can help you make sense of your numbers. When every penny counts towards reaching your $1-million-a-year goal, you’ll find these employees to be worth their weight in gold.

Growing a company to $1 million in revenue in your first year isn’t easy, but it is possible. Stick to the tips above and be ruthless about profitability — even if you don’t hit this particular goal, you’ll earn the strongest sales results possible for your unique company.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Metrics for Business Leaders

TIME

The Super-Simple Way to Get More Replies to Your Emails

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New data shows you how

How much of the email you send gets deleted unread? A lot of it, if you’re like most of us in corporate America. But if you switch up the times and days when you send out messages, you can improve the chances that they’ll be read and replied to.

Email tracking company Yesware analyzed more than half a million sales emails to find out when recipients are more likely to open and reply. Their main finding: Send out email when there’s less competition if you want to grab a recipient’s attention. “When there’s little else being emailed, your emails are more likely to stand out and get noticed,” the company says in a blog post.

On weekdays, about two-thirds of emails are opened, but on weekends, that figure rises to about three-quarters. Weekend days only get about one-tenth the email traffic of weekdays, which means your message has a better shot of landing at the top of your recipient’s inbox. You’re also likelier to get a reply when you send email on the weekend, but you might have to be patient. A slightly higher percentage of weekday emails get same-day responses, but roughly 46% of messages sent on weekends are returned, compared to 39% of weekday emails. Contrary to popular belief, Yesware says, there’s no inherent advantage in sending emails on Monday versus any other weekday.

The time of day when you send messages matters, too. Yesware finds that although email traffic is highest during the workday and peaks during lunchtime, reply rates are highest when traffic is lightest. For the best results, Yesware’s findings suggest that you should send emails around 6 or 7 a.m., or around 8 p.m. During these hours, 45% — nearly half — of all emails sent receive a reply.

Previous research into Yesware’s data trove finds that another good way to boost your email reply rate is to copy additional recipients. An analysis of some 500,000 sales emails shows that messages sent to two people — one on the main “to” line, one on the “cc” line — were opened around 84% of the time, and replied to in more than six out of 10 instances. Copying a second recipient rather than sending it outright to both is the key, Yesware says in a blog post. If your recipients see that multiple people are included in the message, they figure somebody else will go to the effort of responding. “When a task is placed in front of a group of people, individuals are more likely to assume that someone else will take responsibility for it,” the company says. “So, no one does.”

TIME

This Is the Easiest Productivity Hack in the History of Work

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You can literally do this in one second

To learn better, hit control-s and “outsource” your remembering.

In a new study, scientists found that people tackling a mental challenge on a computer did a better job if they saved the previous work they had been doing beforehand.

“Saving one file before studying a new file significantly improved memory for the contents of the new file,” the authors write. “Saving has the potential to significantly influence how people learn and remember.”

In a series of experiments, participants were instructed to study two PDF files and remember words it contained. Subjects did a better job remembering material from the second file if they successfully saved the first file before proceeding onto the second one.

“Saving allows us to maintain access to more data and experiences than would be possible otherwise,” says says Benjamin Storm, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the study. “Memory now works in concert with technology, and by saving information we are able to keep that information from interfering with the learning of something new.”

The act of saving something digitally gives us a sense of reassurance that the information is there when we need it, which psychologically frees up our mind and allows us to focus on the next batch of information we need to learn. Essentially, we’re reallocating our mental resources.

“To maximize memory and productivity we need to be able to set stuff aside and move on to other matters,” Storm says.

In earlier research, he found that thinking of new things makes it harder to remember old thoughts. If you’re worrying if or when you’ll need to refer to earlier information in the future, hitting the “save” button or shortcut is a quick, easy and low-risk way way to virtually hang onto that information without forcing it to occupy the forefront of your mind.

“Saving may protect us from this type of thinking-induced forgetting by allowing us to think of new ideas while keeping our old ideas safely saved and out of the way,” Storm says.

Storm points out that his experiments just looked at what happens when someone saves a file before closing it and starting a new task, but he says it’s not a bad idea to save your work on a regular basis anyway.

When new information crowds out older thoughts, people can even forget their own ideas, Storm says. “Save or write down good ideas as soon as you get them,” he advises. “Even if you think you’re going to remember them, chances are that you won’t, especially if you continue to try to think of new ideas.”

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways Gmail’s New Inbox Will Make Your Email Life Infinitely Better

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You’ll love the “pin” feature

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

We all love to hate on email. For good reason: It’s time-consuming, dull, and requires constant attention. But while email isn’t going to disappear in the foreseeable future, your worst email woes might.

Last month, Google rolled out Inbox, a new email interface. It’s like Gmail’s younger, hipper sister—clean, sleek, and loaded with lots of productivity-boosting features designed to help make dealing with email, well, suck less.

In other words, if you currently use Google products at work, your professional life is about to be changed. Here are just a few ways Inbox has answers for your biggest complaints about email.

1. If You’re Constantly Forgetting About Important Emails

You’ll love the “pin” feature. Just hover over an email, tap the push-pin icon, and voilà—the message is put front and center in your inbox until you un-pin it. You can even turn on a function that will only display pinned emails.

Put it to Work

Your boss sends you extremely detailed instructions for a project. Instead of having to do a search for the message each and every time you work on the task, just pin the email to your inbox. You’ll have it open in your browser within two seconds.

2. If You Hate Wasting Time Opening Messages Just to See the Attachments

You’ll love the “preview” future. With regular email, attachments are indicated by a little paperclip. But Inbox takes this way, way further by actually showing you what the attachments are and allowing you to open them without opening the email. This includes documents, pictures, Excel spreadsheets, videos—you name it.

Put it to Work

You’ve been waiting for your client to send you a revised contract, and you finally see her name in your inbox. Instead of spending time opening her email, scrolling all the way to the bottom to see if she’s attached it, and then downloading it, you can quickly pull up the contract and get to work.

3. If You Hate How Cluttered Your Inbox Gets

You’ll love the “bundle” feature. Bundling automatically sorts your email into categories—kind of like Gmail’s primary, social, and promotions tabs, but much more sophisticated (and easy to use). The built-in categories include travel, purchases, finance, and updates, and you can also add your own. Emails of the same category will appear together in your inbox.

Put it to Work

You’re planning your vacation, and you’re being flooded with ticket confirmations, tour reservations, hotel bookings, and so on. Meanwhile, your mom keeps sending you old pictures she’s found, and your boss has emailed you multiple spreadsheets to review. Instead of having all of those emails appear jumbled together—a one-way ticket to distraction city—they each show up in separate little boxes, making it easy to deal with each task one at a time.

4. If You Hate Clearing Out Your Inbox

You’ll love the “sweep” feature. This allows you to archive whole bundles at once: Just click the checkmark above a bundle, and it’ll be swooped out of sight, saving you the trouble of manually going through and archiving individual messages.

And don’t worry—if you’ve pinned a message, it’ll stick around in your inbox.

Put it to Work

You’ve just gone through scads of LinkedIn and Google+ invitations, and now you want to de-clutter your inbox. You scroll down the social bundle and click sweep. The bundle vanishes!

5. If You Hate Having to Remember to Answer Emails

You’ll love the “snooze” feature. If you get an email at an inconvenient time, Inbox lets you schedule it to come back later. Just click the clock icon and pick a time (from an exact day and hour to “someday”). It will disappear from your inbox until then, so you won’t have to keep reminding yourself you still need to answer.

Put it to Work

At 8 AM, your colleague shoots you an email asking for the latest sales numbers, but you won’t have them until the afternoon. You snooze his email to 3 PM so you remember to get back to him once you can.

Loving the sound of Inbox? Send an email to inbox@google.com to request an invitation. I got mine within a week, so yours should arrive shortly. Let me know what you think—and if I missed any cool ways to use it!

More from the Muse:

TIME psychology

6 Secrets of Top Performing Work Teams

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Don’t just throw the best people together. How members get along is far more important than their capacities as individuals.

What makes for smart teams?

It’s not average IQ. It’s social skills. From MIT:

A new study published in Science found that three factors were significantly correlated with a group’s collective intelligence — in other words, its ability to perform a variety of tasks collectively, from solving puzzles to negotiating.

The three factors are: the average social sensitivity of the members of the group, the extent to which the group’s conversations weren’t dominated by a few members, and the percentage of women in the group. (The women in the study tended to score higher on social sensitivity than the men.) In other words, groups perform better on tasks if the members have strong social skills, if there are some women in the group, and if the conversation reflects more group members’ ideas. The groups studied were small teams with two to five members.

What’s the best predictor of team success?

How the team members feel about one another.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

The better we feel about these workplace relationships, the more effective we will be. For example, a study of over 350 employees in 60 business units at a financial services company found that the greatest predictor of a team’s achievement was how the members felt about one another. This is especially important for managers because, while they often have little control over the backgrounds or skill sets of employees placed on their teams, they do have control over the level of interaction and rapport. Studies show that the more team members are encouraged to socialize and interact face-to-face, the more engaged they feel, the more energy they have, and the longer they can stay focused on a task. In short, the more the team members invest in their social cohesion, the better the results of their work.

How well do they need to get along?

Remember the 5 to 1 ratio.

From The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature:

It turned out that the fifteen high-performance teams averaged 5.6 positive interactions for every negative one. The nineteen low-performance teams racked up a positive/negative ratio of just .363. That is, they had about three negative interactions for every positive one…

Do people touch each other more if they like each other or does touching actually increase performance?

Can’t be sure but we do know one thing: “The teams that touched the most cooperated the most, and won the most.”

Via Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior:

So are touchy-feely people more successful at getting things done? There is no data on whether bosses who dole out the occasional pat on the head run a smoother operation, but a 2010 study by a group of researchers in Berkeley found a case in which a habit of congratulatory slaps to the skull really is associated with successful group interactions. The Berkeley researchers studied the sport of basketball, which both requires extensive second-by-second teamwork and is known for its elaborate language of touching. They found that the number of “fist bumps, high fives, chest bumps, leaping shoulder bumps, chest punches, head slaps, head grabs, low fives, high tens, half hugs, and team huddles” correlated significantly with the degree of cooperation among teammates, such as passing to those who are less closely defended, helping others escape defensive pressure by setting what are called “screens,” and otherwise displaying a reliance on a teammate at the expense of one’s own individual performance. The teams that touched the most cooperated the most, and won the most.

For creativity, mix it up a bit. The most creative teams are a mix of old friends and new blood.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

“The best Broadway teams, by far, were those with a mix of relationships,” Uzzi says. “These teams had some old friends, but they also had newbies. This mixture meant that the artists could interact efficiently— they had a familiar structure to fall back on— but they also managed to incorporate some new ideas. They were comfortable with each other, but they weren’t too comfortable.”

Teams with men and women performed better:

We investigate whether the gender composition of teams affect their economic performance. We study a large business game, played in groups of three, where each group takes the role of a general manager. There are two parallel competitions, one involving undergraduates and the other involving MBAs. Our analysis shows that teams formed by three women are significantly outperformed by any other gender combination, both at the undergraduate and MBA levels. Looking across the performance distribution, we find that for undergraduates, three women teams are outperformed throughout, but by as much as 10pp at the bottom and by only 1pp at the top. For MBAs, at the top, the best performing group is two men and one woman. The differences in performance are explained by differences in decision-making. We observe that three women teams are less aggressive in their pricing strategies, invest less in R&D, and invest more in social sustainability initiatives, than any other gender combination teams. Finally, we find support for the hypothesis that it is poor work dynamics among the three women teams that drives the results.

A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Team trust is not determined by an average of the members, it’s at the level of the least trusted member:

In a team negotiation context, the authors empirically explored how judgments of team-level trust are derived from individual-level trust. Basing their argument on both the negativity bias and the discontinuity effect, the authors posit that people will focus most on the least trustworthy individual member of a team when making judgments about collective team-level trust. Findings from two studies demonstrate that perceptions of team trust are indeed lower than the average ratings of individual trust and are statistically equivalent to the least trusted member. In addition, compared with average individual trust levels, perceptions of collective team trust were found to be more predictive of (a) impasse rates in distributive negotiations and (b) the level of joint gain in integrative negotiations.

What inspires team morale? Great stories:

“Institutions that can communicate a compelling historical narrative often inspire a special kind of commitment among employees. It is this dedication that directly affects a company’s success and is critical to creating a strong corporate legacy,” said author Adam Galinsky, Morris and Alice Kaplan professor of ethics and decision in management.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Things You Seriously Need to Reconsider Emailing

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Your subject line is the caller ID of your email—it will determine whether it gets answered or ignored

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Let’s be real. The fact that Gmail allows you to divide your inbox into five sub-folders can only mean one thing: Most emails we receive are total crap. And when you’re sending a note to a colleague, your boss, or a hiring manager, it’s likely landing somewhere between something critical and Viagra spam or BuzzFeed GIFs.

So, how do you make sure your message gets noticed and—more importantly—read? Put yourself in your recipient’s shoes, and make sure any email you write answers these five questions.

1. Why Should I Open This?

Your subject line is the caller ID of your email—it will determine whether it gets answered or ignored. Make it specific and direct so that your recipient knows exactly what to expect from the message. If you’ll need your co-worker to give you feedback by Tuesday, don’t bury a note in the last line. Title your email “Reply by Tuesday: notes from today’s meeting” instead of “Hey” (which is the email equivalent of hearing “we need to talk”).

If you’re applying for a job, use key words like the name of the position or your experience to stand out. Writing “Community Manager With 4 Years of Experience” is a short and sweet way to offer your credentials up front.

2. Who Are You?

If you’re writing to someone for the first time—for instance, a hiring manager or someone you heard speak at an event but did not meet—you’ll want to establish rapport as quickly as possible. For example, before I wrote a cold email to a company about open freelance positions, I learned that the founder and I both attended the same college. I put “Yale alum” in both my subject and the first sentence of my email; I got a response and scheduled an interview within 48 hours.

Use whatever common ground you can find—schools, mutual friends or interests, professional associations—to let recipients know that you are worth connecting with. Or if you work in a large company and you’re contacting an executive whom you’ve met before, a quick reminder of when and where you last connected will help jog her memory.

3. What Do You Need?

This is why you’re writing in the first place! Now’s the time for the big explanation, right? Not yet. Aim to be clear and compelling in one or two sentences. At work, think of your email as just a brief initial contact that can set up a live conversation by phone or in person if more explanation is necessary.

This is especially true for cold emails when the recipient isn’t anticipating your message. If you are writing to request a coffee meeting, be specific but leave room for intrigue. For instance, write “I would love to share what I’ve learned on content marketing as well as learn how I can contribute to your current projects.” Remember: Busy people don’t want to have their brain “picked,” they want to get smarter by exchanging ideas.

4. What’s in it for Me?

Think of your email as a transaction: What you want from your recipient should benefit her as much as it benefits you. On the job, we are all seeking approval from our colleagues, managers, and customers. How can what you’re requesting help your recipient accomplish this? Be explicit with phrases like, “I can be an asset to your team,” “this may help present your ideas more clearly,” or even “customer feedback shows that they are looking for solutions like these.”

5. Will You Appreciate It?

With so many impersonal emails arriving in our inboxes each day, make yours stand out by showing a little humanity. Whether you’re addressing a colleague or a cold contact, you are requesting that person’s time to follow up thoughtfully to your email. Show that you appreciate the effort by signing off with “thank you” or “sincerely” (seriously, “best” is way too confusing). A little etiquette will go a long way to getting the response you want.

Keep these questions on a Post-it note and check your messages against them before you send. Not only will you master the email craft, you’ll be a damn good communicator in any professional setting.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

Should You Work With Family Members?

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How to answer one of the most difficult questions in business

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Question: Working with family members: yes or no, and why?

No: How You Get Along Personally and Professionally Might Be Different

“My wife has been my business partner at my startup for the past four years. I’ve been lucky enough to find a wonderful partner in her, both personally and professionally. However, I never advise working with family. It’s too risky. Getting along with a family member personally is no indication of how you work together professionally. Money and business can damage your relationship. It’s not worth it.” — Eric Bahn, Hustle Con Media

Yes: You Can Be Compeletely Honest With Each Other

“My twin brother is my partner in my oldest company, and it’s great because we can be honest with one another, and I trust him significantly more than I’ve trusted partners in the past. It also just so happens that our skill sets are completely opposite and complementary. If you can share a womb, you can share a business!” — Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Yes: They Are the Most Loyal

“We actually have 10 family members that work with us, and they are very loyal and always watch our backs. Although, I will say it is very important to define roles and boundaries with family immediately. They do tend to push the limits of what is acceptable if rules are not clearly defined.” — Laura Land, Accessory Export, LLC

Yes: It’s Less Expensive Than Using Consultants

“My immediate family members each work in the marketing, entertainment and retail industries, which is the complete opposite of my area of expertise (finance). They were able to give me constructive criticism when I ventured into their major areas of expertise, and their advice and help has allowed me to grow the business without having to pay for an expensive consultant.” — Derek Capo, Next Step China

Maybe: Your Relationship Could Get Stronger, or Get Worse

“It depends. If you put family first and sure you always will (and they do too), then it can create complications and risks. But if you’re willing to accept those complications and risks, it could also enhance your relationship with your family.” — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

Yes: There Are Fewer Trust Issues

“We love hiring family at our companies. The upside is that you know you don’t have to worry about trust issues. Having that out of the way is a huge plus. However, you must make it clear that business is business. This means not taking things personally and accepting criticism just as you would from any other co-worker.” — Peter Awad, GoodBlogs

No: The Risk of Losing The Relationship Is too Great

“While I love my family, starting a business is a risky proposition. While it’s nice to think about the upside of your family getting rich, I prefer to think about hedging risk. The downside of losing money — and possibly a friend if there is contention — is too great to ignore.” — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

Maybe: Only if You Can Separate Personal and Business

“Working with family can be great, and it can be terrible. If you and your potential co-working family members have the ability to completely separate personal and business, it can work well. But if you can’t, which is really difficult, it can be disastrous. If you do indeed take the plunge, it’s important you understand that other workers will view your relationship as if there is special treatment.” — Adam Callinan, Beachwood Ventures

No: People Are Different at Home and at Work

“The people you know and love in the family room can be polar opposites of themselves when they’re sitting in a conference room. People sometimes act differently in the workplace, and you might not like what you see or hear. If you value your family relationships, be prepared to experience another side of your family that you haven’t seen. Depending on the person, this could be a good or bad thing.” — Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

Yes: Family Will Stick With You Through Good and Bad

“Family is the strongest bond that you will ever make in your life. Friends may come and go at their own convenience, but family will stick through the good and the bad, which naturally make good business partnerships. However, you need to set clear expectations up front to ensure that each family member involved understands what’s expected of him or her.” — Andy Karuza, SpotSurvey

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Guaranteed Ways to Become the Most Proactive Person You Know

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Use these steps to make your business goals more manageable

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

One of the things I often tell my team is, “Be proactive in your own becoming.” This sounds like a weird phrase at first, but when you break it down, it makes sense — and it will put you on the path of achievement.

In short, being proactive in your own becoming is a mix of hustle and problem-solving. I have broken it down into eight key points. Some of them are based on words of wisdom from mentors, and some of them are based on my own experiences. All together, they create a clear path to success.

It’s All About You

No one else is going to get you where you want to go – it’s up to you. Your family and friends are a support system, but that is all they are supposed to be for you. They cannot succeed for you. Only you can do that. Take ownership of your problems, and realize that nobody else is going to solve them for you.

Be Solution-Focused

One of the greatest traits of effective people is good problem-solving skills. We are all going to run into problems. It’s how you handle them that makes you effective. The most effective way to handle a problem is to focus on finding a solution. Focusing on things that are out of your control is a waste of time, so focus on what you can control with the final outcome. Your team will learn to approach problems and solutions effectively if you lead by example.

Be Accountable

Your level of accountability for completing tasks is really important. One of my favorite books is “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler. Their approach to achieving goals is both simple and effective: set your goal and then work backwards from that goal to establish metrics to track and evaluate it.

It’s important to have a clearly defined goal that is quantifiable so you can determine if you actually reached it or not. For example, a goal to “get in shape” does not make sense. What does that mean? When are you “in shape?” A goal to “run a mile in under 10 minutes” is something you can physically measure and attain.

Use “SMART” Goals

This acronym has been around for a long time and its meaning varies, but the basic concept works across all areas of life. This is the version I use to set goals:

S: Specific (Pick something particular instead of using a broad category.)

M: Measurable (Choose something you can quantify.)

A: Attainable (You should actually be able to reach this, and it may just require the right steps.)

R: Realistic (Be honest – it’s probably unrealistic to say you will go from making $10,000 to being a billionaire in one year.)

T: Timely (Give each goal a timeframe to create a sense of urgency.)

Make Your Own Luck

Being successful is not about having the right kind of luck or expecting the right break to come your way. It is not about the mere expectation that you will succeed. It is about taking steps every day to be better than you were the day before by moving in a positive, forward trajectory. Make a blueprint and set out milestones for yourself in specific timeframes, or you are not going to hit your goal. Things do not come to fruition just because you really, really want them to happen. You have to make them happen.

Be Consistent

Ultimately, success is not about getting everything right. It is about being consistent. Are you consistently and persistently taking steps every day to steadily move toward your goal? Do you stop making progress or do you continue on when you encounter a seemingly insurmountable problem? Be consistent in what you do. And even though the steps may seem small at the time, doing the right things day in and day out will move you further down the path to success.

Find the Right People

Surrounding yourself with driven, effective people is a proven way to help you succeed. Proximity can be an excellent motivator. You get to choose between driven people and people who will drag you down. You cannot have both and expect to succeed. You cannot spend time with lazy people all day and also achieve your daily goals. Lazy people are like quicksand. They bog you down slowly without you knowing it, until you wake up one day and realize you are consumed by laziness.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Be humble and take a hard look at what you are doing and how you are doing it. Be completely honest with yourself about what is not working instead of making excuses. It is easy to stay busy and tell yourself you are taking the right steps, but it is harder to be honest if you are not actually making progress. At the end of the day, if you don’t hit your goals, you are only doing a disservice to yourself. You cannot get better if you tell yourself, “Oh, it’s okay, I’m fine where I am.”

Living by this approach has made all the difference in my success. Did I miss something you think is important? Please comment on what has worked for you.

TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Resume ‘Tricks’ That Are Sure to Backfire Spectacularly

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Avoid these at all costs

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Bad job search advice. It’s everywhere.

Don’t shoot the messenger (even though she’s also a purveyor of job search advice).

It’s everywhere for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Those delivering it often have a bias that affects the nature of the counsel (e.g., husbands, parents, BFFs).
  2. There are no licenses or certifications that career coaches are required to carry (which results in a mixed bag of talent in the world of “experts”).
  3. Textbook advice—the kind that many of us have the most ready access to during our formative years—can be severely old school (or worse).

Unfortunately, if you don’t use care in choosing trusted sources for job search advice, you may run into resume advice that teaches you how to “trick” the applicant tracking system (ATS) or hiring managers. I’m not here to say that there are no effective “resume tricks,” but there are a few that could very well backfire on you.

Here are four of them.

1. “Borrowing” Entire Phrases Right out of the Job Description

Yes, yes, yes: You absolutely should study the job description for each job you plan to pursue, and you should mirror some of the keywords that describe the skills and qualifications on your resume. You should not, however, lift entire sentences or text blocks from that job description. This will put you on the express train from solid on-paper match to shyster who’s trying too hard.

2. Thinking a Functional Resume Will Serve as the Perfect Disguise

It’s so common for job seekers with career gaps to use the old “hide the gaps with a functional resume” trick that, every time I see one, I just assume there’s going to be a gap. And then I set out to find it. Functional resumes are almost never the right solution. Not only can it be difficult for an ATS to read and parse a functional resume into the electronic database, it also screams “I am hiding something!” Better to use a hybrid resume with a strong summary at the top of the page followed by career history (with details) in reverse chronological order.

3. Listing Completed College Coursework as a Degree

Oh, have I seen heartbreaks with this one. Among them, a job seeker who was about to be hired by one of my recruiting clients—a global manufacturing firm—for a field engineering role. He actually didn’t need the degree as a requirement for this job, but he still felt it necessary to list a bachelor’s degree on his resume. Unfortunately (for him, me, and the hiring manager, who loved the guy), he was a few credits short of having that degree. This little nugget of information came out when the firm’s HR department did a standard degree verification. He did not get the job.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or two credits away from earning the degree. If you didn’t finish it, you need to state “Coursework completed toward…,” not “Have degree.”

4. Fudging Dates (and Then Having Different Dates on Your Application)

Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s just easier to say that the job you stormed out on last July actually ended in November. Smooth over that gap, right?

Wrong. Fudging dates is not only called lying, it’s an easy way to land yourself in hot water with decision makers, especially if you accidentally list out different dates on the official job application. You can certainly strategize if you need to de-emphasize time gaps (for instance, use years instead of months and years), but fudging dates can be a true recipe for disaster.

Without a doubt, it can be confusing, overwhelming, and downright mind-numbing trying to figure out how to set up a resume that snags attention and positions you to sail through the hiring process. As you consider the “tricks,” always keep in mind that some are clearly better than others.

(Avoid these.)

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