MONEY Careers

Career Advice for the New Mrs. Clooney

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Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney. Chances are the name change won't hurt the human-rights attorney's career, but less famous wives may want to do some planning before adopting a spouse's name in the workplace.

Just back in the office after getting hitched to an actor in Venice, London-based human-rights attorney Amal Alamuddin is going by a new name: Mrs. Clooney. While the former Ms. Alamuddin, 36, has established a professional reputation under her own moniker, it’s safe to say that being identified as the woman who got the sexiest man alive to settle down won’t damage her career prospects.

But what about accomplished women who aren’t boldface names by marriage or—like Kim Kardashian, who announced earlier this summer that henceforth she would be known as Mrs. West—boldface names in their own right? Suddenly appearing in the workplace as Mrs. So-and-So can cause some confusion among clients and colleagues.

As we noted when Kim made it official, the fact that women are marrying later, often after they’ve spent years establishing a career, can make the change to a new name more complicated—and risky. If you’re considering going by a different handle in the workplace, here are eight steps to ease the transition without hurting your prospects.

1. Hedge your bets. Think about how costly it would be to cut off your connection to the body of work or marketing that’s tied to your maiden name. If that worries you, opt for a more moderate approach. “The easy out is to keep your maiden name at work and in professional contexts, but use your spouse’s last name socially,” says Danielle Tate, founder of MissNowMrs.com, a site that helps women change their legal name.

Another compromise is to use both surnames, either by making your maiden name your middle name, using both last names, or creating a hyphenated last name. Kim took this approach initially. Shortly after exchanging vows with Kayne, she changed the name on her social media accounts to Kim Kardashian West. And just as Kim has done, you can use both surnames for a brief transition period to help people get used to your new identity before dropping your maiden name.

2. Get help from your company. If you plan on making a complete switch, reach out for advice. “You don’t have to figure it out all on your own. You’re not the only who has gotten married or changed your name,” says Michelle Friedman, a career coach who specializes in women’s career advancement.

A good first move is to check in with your HR department, which may have policies in place outlining exactly what changes you need to make to your beneficiary designations, insurance benefits, company email and directory listing, and tax and Social Security forms. Aside from offering help with name-change paperwork, HR may be able to offer advice about managing contacts, as well as insights into how others in your industry have handled the change successfully (ask co-workers too).

3. Don’t make it a surprise. Give co-workers and clients ample notice about your name change to avoid confusion, especially if contact info such as your email address will be updated. Sandra Green, a U.K.-based executive coach, recommends reaching out a week to ten days before the wedding.

One easy way: Put a small note in your email signature in advance, says Julie Cohen, a Philadelphia career and personal coach. It’s an unobtrusive reminder and a good way to get people familiar with the change.

Not everyone in your email contact list needs to know. Run through your list of clients and sort them into groups based on the closeness of your working relationship. Some you’ll just need to include in a quick email blast, while others you should talk to directly.

“Obviously you don’t want to get on the phone with everyone, but in certain important client relationships this may be good to do,” says Friedman.

4. Stay on top of the technology. After you’ve made the switch, set up forwarding on your previous email account, or write an automatic reply that includes your new contact info. This way you don’t miss any important messages, and people have a longer grace period to update their contact info and adjust to your new name.

5. Go back in history. Give former employers and references a heads-up about this change as well. This way if you’re applying for a new job, your background check will go smoothly, and you won’t run the risk of having people mistakenly deny that you worked for their company.

6. Use this as an excuse to network. Send an email to everyone in your work circle. “Whenever someone changes jobs or retires, they send these emails about good news,” says Cohen. “Do the same with this.”

This also gives you a perfect excuse to remind your network what you’re up to. “You always want to remain in contact,” says Friedman. “But sometimes it’s hard to think of a natural reason for reaching out. This gives you a celebratory excuse.”

You could even send this blast twice, says Green. First a few days before the wedding and again after you return from your honeymoon, when the change is in place.

7. Make yourself easy to find. Think about how people locate you and your business. Is it through search, a review website, social media, or all of them? Update all your bios.

When you add your new name on sites like LinkedIn, keep a vestige of your old name. That can help people find you during the transition period. “Include your maiden name on social,” says Cohen. “If people are finding you by search it will serve you best to keep connected to both names.”

If you had a more common name or are making the switch to a more popular surname, adds Tate, having both names online could even help you come up higher in search results.

8. Update your memberships. To further help your new name show up high in search results and build up credibility for your new moniker, Friedman recommends having any professional organizations, alumni associations, company or community boards, or other groups you belong to change your name on their membership roles.

If you hold a leadership position or are listed elsewhere on an association website, perhaps for winning an award, request that the name change appear throughout. Ask to have any older content that can easily be altered, such as a post listing you as a guest speaker at a conference, updated too.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Powerful Habits for Getting Important Things Done

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With a bit of effort, you can build the habits and the willpower to take care of your pressing tasks much more effectively

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

We all know that sinking feeling. A deadline is drawing closer and you haven’t even started yet. You begin to panic and a dull nausea sets in. There is nothing worse than having two hours remaining to complete a project that you know will take more like five. You sit there saying to yourself, “Why didn’t I get this started yesterday?” or “What the heck happened to the time?”

Wouldn’t it be great to build the habits that will get you working on that project well before it is due so this never happens again? The good news is that by following these tips, you can be productive and get your most important projects and assignments done on time—every time.

1. Do the hard stuff now

Do you have a long laundry list of things you have to accomplish? Prioritize your list and do the hardest thing to accomplish on your list first and put it to bed. Once you complete your hardest assignment, the rest of your list will be a cakewalk.

2. Or do the easy stuff now

Sometimes, taking the opposite approach works best: Take on all the easy and smaller things on your list and save that huge project for last. Taking care of the little things first can actually help you muster the willpower to tackle that last biggie. A side note here: Set up a time frame for getting your smaller jobs completed so you have plenty of time for the big stuff.

3. Be nice to yourself

When we constantly bash ourselves for not living up to our own high expectations, we make ourselves feel even more defeated and less likely to produce anything at all. Be nice to yourself and encourage yourself to go on. Positive thoughts will lead you to better results.

4. Grow your willpower

Did you know that if you practice pushing yourself every day—even a little—your willpower strengthens? It’s true. Try it. Push yourself each day to do something you keep putting off, even if you work at it for only a short time. Over time, your willpower muscles will strengthen, making you even more effective at getting things done.

5. One thing at a time

Do you have a huge report that needs to go out and you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by the research, interviewing, and writing involved? Break it down into small, edible portions. Write your deadline on a piece of paper, and then break down your contract into half-hour or hourlong portions with numerous 15-minute to half-hour breaks or rewards sandwiched in. Before you know it, you will be taking that project off your to-do list.

6. Go for a walk

It’s true: People who exercise regularly have greater willpower and are more effective. The extra oxygen to the brain that the activity brings along with it can do wonders for your productivity. You don’t have to hit the gym for an hour every day or really run a marathon. Go out for a walk to grab a coffee with a co-worker, or take a jog, or go for a bike ride during lunch.

7. Reward and then pounce

Tell yourself that after one more episode of The Big Bang Theory, or making one more phone call to a friend, that you will begin that long-overdue project. Yes! Reward yourself with something fun, but tell yourself that as soon as that reward is over or finished, you will dive into your project. Try it–it really works!

8. Expect the unexpected

Remember, not everything goes as planned. Sometimes, we begin our project in earnest, and then, bam, we get an urgent phone call from a client and the project gets put on the side burner. Prepare yourself for these interruptions and expect them. Scribble a few quick notes so you don’t forget where you were—your thoughts at that moment—and then focus on the emergency. Once the interruption has passed, start by reviewing where you were; look at your notes, refresh your brain, and then get back to it.

9. Just do something

Even if you just type the first sentence or the first paragraph, just get started—small steps lead to big things. Once you get some momentum going, you’ll find yourself moving toward your goal. And if you don’t? Then put it aside for a little while and get back to it later.

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Reasons You Should Consider Quitting Coffee Today

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Here's why you should consider swearing off coffee for good

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

Thirteen years ago, I was the No. 1 sales rep in the country for Radio Disney. I was passionate, full of energy and drive, and committed to being as productive as I could each day. I was also hopelessly addicted to coffee. I began each morning with an extra large coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. Then at lunchtime I had a second large cup of coffee. On most days, I’d follow that up with a third large cup of coffee around 4 p.m. for the final sales push of the day.

When the local Dunkin’ Donuts knows your name and order and begins to make your coffee the moment you walk in the door, you probably should know you have a problem. (Thanks Benny, the manager of the Allston-Brighton, Mass., Dunkin Donuts!) But I didn’t think I had a problem. How could I? I was making great money and achieving everything asked of me at work and more.

Fast forward to last year. I was running Likeable Local, serving as chairman for Likeable Media, writing books, and raising a family all at once. And I was still leaning on my good friend coffee to get through each day. Coffee in the morning, coffee at lunch, coffee in the late afternoon. Some later nights I even had a fourth large coffee to help me work until 2 a.m. or so. Then at 6 a.m., I’d start it all over again.

Things were going great on the outside, but like any addiction, my coffee intake wasn’t without its consequences. I had gained a lot of weight. I was irritable and anxious. I felt simply out of balance—the coffee felt great, but each time the caffeine wore off, I felt depressed and tired and struggled until I got my next fix.

I wasn’t happy with myself. Eventually, with the help of the Morrison Health Center, I quit coffee (replaced with green tea) and began eating better and exercising more. I lost 50 pounds and felt better than ever. Most surprising, I could still work long days and late nights (every entrepreneur’s necessity) without coffee.

That’s just my story. Admittedly, most people I know drink coffee—especially entrepreneurs. But before you grab that next cup, consider these seven reasons it might be worth calling it quits:

1) Caffeine stimulates the flow of stress hormones, which can cause increased levels of anxiety, irritability, insomnia and muscular tension.

2) Caffeine can cause depression and attention disorders that make it difficult to focus.

3) Too much caffeine can cause insomnia and fatigue, making you tired throughout the day—and less effective.

4) Caffeine dehydrates the body. The acidity of coffee can cause digestive discomfort, heartburn and indigestion.

5) Caffeine can cause insulin sensitivity, making it more difficult for your body to regulate blood sugar.

6) Caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, the source of the “fight or flight” response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to email.

7) Coffee addiction is expensive. At my worst, I was spending $50 per week on coffee alone. Since I quit, I’m saving $2,500 per year.

I’ve never felt as great as I do now that I’ve conquered my coffee addiction. I still get together with people for “coffee” all the time. I just get green tea or water instead. And I’m still as productive as ever, sometimes late into the night. So today, consider celebrating National Coffee Day by calling it quits.

Now it’s your turn. What is your experience with coffee? Could you live without it? Do you think it makes you more productive at work? Do you feel any of the above side effects?

MONEY pay gap

3 Ways Women Can Make Sure They Get the Raises They Deserve

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Career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine weighs in on the controversial comments made by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella last week. Her take: They underscore the need for women to find sponsors and sponsor others.

I imagine that the savvy, self-starting executive women of Microsoft felt particularly deflated by CEO Satya Nadella’s recent remarks (later withdrawn) that women shouldn’t negotiate for more money. Here they are most likely doing all the prescribed “right” things:

  1. Entering a high-growth industry, such as tech
  2. Working for a brand-name firm, like Microsoft
  3. Proactively working on their negotiating skills

…and then BAM! Here comes Nadella essentially saying that they should just wait for the system to even out the gender pay gap. If the CEO isn’t going to support your efforts, why even bother?

Actually this is precisely why you should bother with all of the proactive hard work. Your effort and skills belong to you, and you can take them somewhere else if you should hit a brick wall.

Sure, Satya Nadella’s unfortunate admission shows that a CEO of a major corporation may thwart your efforts just as a mid-level manager or even a narrow-minded friend (in the guise of well-meaning advice) might. You may not get the support you expect. But if you keep doing the prescribed “right” things below, you will collect some supporters to your cause along the way—including more open-minded, equitable executive sponsors.

Create an amazing body of work

It still starts with getting results, establishing your expertise, and contributing to the bottom line. Don’t let your own work product suffer because there is someone at the top of your company who doesn’t care—others do care and are watching for promotion-worthy candidates. You want your name to surface.

But you cannot simply let your accomplishments stand for themselves. You need to advocate for your them, to ensure they are recognized. See my previous post on preparing for your next review for step-by-step instructions on making sure you get your due.

Build a strategic and supportive network

So Nadella is out of step, and there are probably other CEO’s who share his view. But there will be men and women—at every level, in every industry, in every functional area—who are supportive.

I once had a banker at a big-name firm encourage me to “follow my heart” and take an unexpected career turn, even if it meant turning down his firm’s offer. He was so supportive and generous and gave me courage when I needed it most—and this was a BANKER! If I managed to find a mentor with a heart of gold in that industry, there will certainly be supportive senior people in any industry.

Find them. Enroll their support.

Be a strategic and supportive of others

Be the anti-Nadella. Don’t just throw your hands up at the amorphous system; proactively help others along and do your part to change the game.

Pick the smart but shy person in your group and plan to call on that person in the meeting; let the person know what you will ask so they have a chance to prepare. Think of that colleague from another department who always helps you and write a commendation to her (or his) manager, cc’ing the person you’re writing about. Return to your alma mater for a networking event or career talk.

As you build your amazing career and advocate for yourself, reach back and better the system for others.

 

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart®career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY Careers

This Guy Emailed His Boss for a Raise — And Cc’d the Entire Company

Hand waiting for money
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A Wells Fargo worker asked his boss for a company-wide raise of $3 billion, and he CC'd about 200,000 people. But his manager says he won't be fired.

In what might be the ultimate power negotiating tactic, a Wells Fargo employee asked his boss for a raise over email and intentionally copied the entire company.

As the Charlotte Observer reports, Tyrel Oates, age 30, wrote Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf asking him to give each of the company’s approximate 263,500 workers a raise of $10,000. According to the Observer, roughly 200,000 of those employees were copied on the exchange.

Why did Oates demand such a hefty pay bump? He wants to reduce the nation’s income inequality.

In the full letter, which appears to have been posted on Reddit, Oates writes: “Wells Fargo has an opportunity to be at the forefront of helping to reduce [income inequality] by setting the bar, leading by example, and showing the other large corporations that it is very possible to maintain a profitable company that not only looks out for its consumers and shareholders, but its employees as well.”

After noting that Stumpf made $19 million dollars last year, Oates proposes his solution: “My estimate is that Wells Fargo has roughly around 300,000 employees. My proposal is take $3 billion dollars, just a small fraction of what Wells Fargo pulls in annually, and raise every employees annual salary by $10,000 dollars. This equates to an hourly raise about $4.71 per hour.”

“By doing this, Wells Fargo will not only help to make its people, its family, more happy, productive, and financially stable, it will also show the rest of the United States, if not the world that, yes big corporations can have a heart other than philanthropic endeavors.”

Oates told the Observer he currently makes $15 an hour processing requests from Well Fargo customers wanting advice on how to stop debt-collection calls. Despite working at the company for seven years, his hourly wage has increased by only $2 since the day he started.

The letter concludes with a plea for fellow employees to organize and stand up for themselves. “While the voice of one person in a world as large as ours may seem only like a whisper,” it reads, “the combined voices of each and all of us can move mountains!”

Luckily for Oates, while the CEO hasn’t (yet) responded to the letter, his employment doesn’t appear to be in danger. Oates’ manager has said he won’t be disciplined. “I’m not worried about losing my job over this,” Oates told the paper.

When contacted by the Huffington Post for comment, Wells Fargo would not address the letter’s text (which the Post confirms is authentic), but issued the following statement: “We provide market competitive compensation that combines base pay with a broad array of benefits and career-development opportunities for team members. Team members receive an annual performance and salary review. And all of our team members’ compensation levels significantly exceed federal minimums.”

MONEY Careers

Microsoft’s CEO Wasn’t the Only Male Exec to Say Something Clueless About Women This Week

Microsoft Satya Nadella gives a lecture about dream, struggle and creation at Tsinghua University on September 25, 2014 in Beijing, China.
Microsoft CEO Sayta Nadella isn't smiling after his comments about women in the workplace were universally panned. ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Yesterday, Microsoft's CEO said something really wrong about women. But he's just one of a number of tech executives to make similar gaffes in the last few days.

Updated—3:52 P.M.

This has not been a great week when it comes to equality in the workplace. On Thursday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made waves when he advised women against asking for pay bumps. “It’s not really about asking for the raise,” he told a mostly female audience at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, “but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.”

By Thursday night, Nadella was in full damage-control mode, renouncing his previous statement in an email to Microsoft staff. “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask,” he wrote.

It’s good that Nadella acknowledged his mistake, but the gaffe shows how many in the business world still have difficulty understanding the prejudices faced by their female colleagues. And as our colleague Margaret Magnarelli points out, “he still doesn’t realize it’s not as simple as ‘just asking’ for us.”

What’s more, the Microsoft chief wasn’t the only boss even in the past few days to make clueless comments about how women should behave in the workplace. Earlier at the same conference, a group of male execs from Facebook, Google, GoDaddy, and Intuit participated in a panel purporting to offer tips on how both men and women could help stamp out tech’s bro-centric culture. A video of the event is available here, and Readwrite gave the blow-by-blow.

It did not go well. Here are a few of the most most off-base observations:

“It’s more expensive to hire women, because the population is smaller.” – Mike Schroepfer, CTO of Facebook

Actually, it’s not. While Schroepfer was trying to say that it’s more expensive to recruit women because they are underrepresented in computer science, it’s been widely reported that women make 78% of what men make. This is the so-called gender pay gap.

And yes, the gap persists even in the supposedly meritocratic tech world: According to a recent analysis of Census data, men with a graduate or professional degree working in Silicon Valley earn 73% more than women with the same degrees working in the same industry.

While some of the pay gap is explained by factors like experience level and industry choice, economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn found that even when you control for those factors, 41% of the gap remains “unexplained.”

In fact, at a conference last month, Australian tech mogul Evan Thornley made the opposite point: that women are “Like Men, Only Cheaper.” That quote comes directly from his slideshow. “Call me opportunistic,” he elaborated, “I thought I could get better people with less competition because we were willing to understand the skills and capabilities that many of these women had.” Thornley later apologized.

“The only thing I would add is speak up … Speak up, be confident.” – Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy

This isn’t bad advice by itself — studies have shown that women who self-promote and negotiate harder do end up with with higher salaries — but like Nadella’s email to employees, it fails to acknowledge that women are often punished when they do speak up. “Assertive or competitive qualities are usually associated with men, and are thought to be essential for successful leaders. But for women, they can be a landmine,” said Daina Middleton, global CEO of Performics, in an interview with Fast Company.

Need evidence? Economist Linda Babcock ran a study where she videotaped men and women asking for raises using the exact same script. Viewers of the tape agreed that the man deserved the raise. But they did not like the woman who asked for the exact same thing, in the exact same way.

“People found that to be way too aggressive,” Babcock told NPR. “She was successful in getting the money, but people did not like her. They thought she was too demanding. And this can have real consequences for a woman’s career.”

Other data suggests that women entrepreneurs also get turned down more often than men do. One study found that investors are more likely to accept pitches from male entrepreneurial teams than from female teams — even if they’re making the exact same pitch. In another study, business school students read a prospectus for a mock company. In some versions, the CEO was listed as male; in others, the CEO was female. The students were four times more likely to recommend the company led by the male CEO.

“It will be twice as hard for you … but you can make a big difference in your company.” – Alan Eustace, senior vice president of search at Google

True, but unfortunately women are often absent from the kind of high level positions that would allow them to “make a big difference.” Only 4.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female — and those 24 women represent a record high.

Women already know it’s at least twice as hard for them to succeed. They just wish business leaders would do something about it.

To Eustace’s great credit, he acknowledged the panel’s issues on Twitter and made a great suggestion for future male allies.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Harder

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You know success comes down to hard work. Now all you need are the tools to help you actually put in the hours

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

Most of the time there’s no mystery to success–it comes down to simply putting in the hours and the sweat. But as we all know, the gap between knowing what’s required and actually getting yourself to do it can be vast.

How do you cross that chasm? That’s what a recent visitor to question-and-answer Quora wanted to know, asking “How can I motivate myself to work hard?” The query apparently touched a nerve, as a host of respondents piled on with several hundred answers, ranging from spiritual pep talks to nitty-gritty time-management strategies. For those struggling to make sure their energy and commitment match their aspirations, it’s a goldmine of assistance. Here are a few of the best responses:

1. Get clear on the end goal

The trick to keeping your motivation up through low points and exhausted periods, traveler Marie Stein insists, isn’t any particular productivity technique or energy-boosting idea; rather, it’s being really, really clear about why you’re doing what you doing.

“There is only one way for me to motivate myself to work hard: I don’t think about it as hard work. I think about it as part of making myself into who I want to be,” she writes. “The ‘hard’ part for me is choosing and accepting what it is that I have to do… Once I’ve made the choice to do something, I try not to think so much about how difficult or frustrating or impossible that might be; I just think about how good it must feel to be that, or how proud I might be to have done that.”

Struggling to keep your focus on that end vision? “Just ask yourself: If you were the person that you want to be, then what would that person do?” suggests student Karl Bradley Saclolo.

2. Take care of yourself physically

Sometimes the problem isn’t mental, it’s physical. Your willpower can be at an all-time high, but if you don’t have the physical energy to complete your work, keeping your motivation up is still going to be difficult.

“Are you tired a lot? Do you get enough sleep? Do you experience some constant unpleasantness, such as poor sinuses or a constant pain? Are you sad or upset or just lethargic all the time for no reason you can pinpoint?” asks freelance writer April Gunn. If so, “get to a doctor if you can for a routine physical, just to make sure everything is working properly. Try your best to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Listen to your body when it’s telling you things, seek out the causes of your discomfort, and deal with them as best you can.

“It’s really hard to get and stay motivated to work hard if you’re not feeling your best,” she concludes.

3. Think habits, not motivation

Getting yourself to do something again and again by sheer force of will is extremely difficult. Getting yourself to do something by force of habit is easier. “Because motivation/willpower is a limited resource, it has helped me to instead build habits which, once instilled, don’t use willpower,” explains entrepreneur Bud Hennekes. “Start with small habits that help you be more productive and make you feel good. For example, you could aim to walk 15 minutes a day or work in short bursts of intense focus.”

Entrepreneur James Clear has endorsed this advice on Inc.com, though he frames it a bit differently. Rather than habits, he talks about the power of “schedules,” but whichever term you use, the effect is the same–automating a behavior by integrating it into your routine means you rely less on willpower.

4. Embrace discomfort

Manager Mart Nijland suggests that those struggling with motivation remember the wisdom of bodybuilders: no pain, no gain. It is a cliche, but there’s no way to expand your abilities without going outside your comfort zone, so stop letting a little bit of unpleasantness sap your motivation. In fact, struggling a little is a good sign.

“For anything you want to work harder for, you have to go beyond that threshold,” he writes, “because you grow into a totally different, much stronger person.”

5. Bribe (or punish) yourself

Not all routes to improved motivation are high-minded. One of the more effective ways will also motivate your dog–simple reward and punishment. “Make yourself an offer that you can’t refuse,” suggests analyst Deepak Singh (but don’t go as far as Don Corleone, please).

Both positive and negative incentives can work. “For example, if you want to read a book, set a deadline and a reward. Say, if you love ice cream, you could eat some as soon as you finish the book,” suggests Singh. It might not sound very grand, but pushing yourself to complete a task by dangling treats (or the threat of public humiliation or a pay-out on a bet with a friend) appears to be effective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 10 States With the Worst Quality of Life

Map of America
German—Getty Images

How’s life in your region?

This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247WallSt.com.

The United States is one of the world’s most prosperous economies, with a gross domestic product that exceeded that of any other country last year. However, a vibrant economy alone does not ensure all residents are well off. In a recent study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), U.S. states underperformed their regional counterparts in other countries in a number of important metrics that gauge well-being.

The OECD’s newly released study, “How’s Life in Your Region?: Measuring Regional and Local Well-Being for Policy Making,” compares nine important factors that contribute to well-being. Applying an equal weight to each of these factors, 24/7 Wall St. rated Mississippi as the worst state for quality of life.

Click here to see the 10 states with the worst quality of life

Click here to see the 10 states with the best quality of life

Monica Brezzi, author of the report and head of regional statistics at the OECD, told 24/7 Wall St. considering different dimensions of well-being at the regional level provides a way to identify “where are the major needs where policies can intervene.” Brezzi said that, in some cases, correcting one truly deficient measure can, in turn, lead to better results in others.

In order to review well-being at the regional level, the OECD used only objective data in its report, rather than existing survey data. Brezzi noted that current international studies that ask people for their opinion on important measures of well-being often do not have enough data to be broken down by region.

For example, one of the nine measures, health, is based on the mortality rate and life expectancy in each region, rather than on asking people if they feel well. Similarly, another determinant of well-being, safety, is measured by the homicide rate rather than personal responses as to whether people feel safe where they live.

Based on her analysis, Brezzi identified one area where American states are exceptionally strong. “All the American states rank in the top 20% of OECD regions in income,” Brezzi said. Mississippi– 24/7 Wall St.’s lowest-rated states — had the second-lowest per capita disposable household income in the nation, at $23,957. However, this still placed the state in the top 17% of of regions in all OECD countries.

However, the 50 states are also deficient in a number of key metrics for well-being. “With the exception of Hawaii, none of the American states are in the top 20% for health or for safety across the OECD regions,” Brezzi said. Alabama , for instance, was rated as the second worst state for health, with a mortality rate of 10.6 deaths per 1,000 residents and a life expectancy of 75.4 years. This was not just among the worst in America, but also in the bottom 13% of all OECD regions. Similarly, Louisiana — which was rated as the least state state in the nation — was the bottom 10% of OECD regions for safety.

Across most metrics the 50 states have improved considerably over time. Only one of the nine determinants of well-being, jobs, had worsened in most states between 2000 and 2013. Brezzi added that not only was the national unemployment rate higher in 2013 than in 2000, but “this worsening of unemployment has also come together with an increase in the disparities across states.”

Based on the OECD’s study, “How’s Life in Your Region?: Measuring Regional and Local Well-being for Policy Making,” 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 states with the worst quality of life. We applied an equal weight to each of the nine determinants of well-being — education, jobs, income, safety, health, environment, civic engagement, accessibility to services and housing. Each determinant is constituted by one or more variables. Additional data on state GDP are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and are current as of 2013. Further figures on industry composition, poverty, income inequality and health insurance coverage are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey. Data on energy production come from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and represent 2012 totals.

These are the 10 states with the worst quality of life.

10. Georgia
> Employment rate: 64.7% (10th lowest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $26,426 (13th lowest)
> Homicide rate: 5.7 per 100,000 (13th highest)
> Voter turnout: 61.9% (tied-22nd lowest)

Georgia residents have among the worst quality of life, based on the nine well-being factors measured. The state fared particularly poorly on the OECD’s jobs metric, as more than 9% of working-age adults were unemployed last year, among the highest rates nationwide. The high unemployment rate may be due, in part, to poor educational attainment rates — as was the case with a majority of the states with the worst quality of life. Less than 85% of Georgia’s workforce had at least a high school diploma in 2013, among the lowest rates in the country. Many Georgians also struggled with poverty, as 19% of the state’s population lived below the poverty line last year, versus 15.8% of all Americans.

ALSO READ: America’s Most (and Least) Educated States

9. New Mexico
> Employment rate: 63.8% (7th lowest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $25,183 (7th lowest)
> Homicide rate: 6.7 per 100,000 (4th highest)
> Voter turnout: 61.6% (19th lowest)

New Mexico is bigger than many European countries. Yet, its population hovers around just 2 million because it has large portions of virtually uninhabitable terrain. A low population density likely partly explains the state’s poor infrastructure. For example, only 54% of households had broadband Internet last year, less than in all but one other state. New Mexico residents were also not particularly wealthy, compared with other Americans. An average New Mexican had slightly more than $25,000 in disposable income in 2013, among the lowest in the country. And nearly 21% of the population lived in poverty that year, second only to Mississippi.

8. Louisiana
> Employment rate: 62.3% (3rd lowest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $28,418 (24th lowest)
> Homicide rate: 10.9 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Voter turnout: 66.3% (14th highest)

A typical Louisiana resident is expected to live less than 76 years, a lower life expectancy than in all but three other states. Many Louisiana communities are also quite dangerous. There were nearly 11 murders per 100,000 people in the state in 2013, the highest homicide rate nationwide and in the worst 10% of all OECD regions. Nearly 20% of the population lived in poverty in 2013, more than in all but two other states. Louisiana boasts a highly productive natural gas industry, with more than 3,000 trillion BTUs produced in 2012, more than any other state except for Texas. However, this also exposes the state’s economy to fluctuations in energy prices.

For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

TIME Startups

5 Reasons You Want to Become a ‘Growth Hacker’

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Short answer: dramatic impact on business growth

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

I’m elbow to elbow with everyone in a room packed with around 180 people, and all I can hear is the dizzying murmur of words like “SEM” and “User Acquisition Costs.” One person I meet is an engineer at a company that is changing the mattress industry by selling directly online to the consumer. Another person is a communications professional from England who recently moved to New York City to find opportunities as a marketer for startups.

We’re all here, at a GrowHack meetup in New York City hosted by Conrad Wadowski, to hear Sean Ellis speak about growth hacking. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we all want to learn about the little things we can do that can have a dramatic impact on business growth. Sean was the first marketer at Dropbox, Lookout, Xobni, and led marketing teams at companies like LogMeIn and Uproar through IPO filings. He now runs a successful data insights startup called Qualaroo, and is credited with coining the term “growth hacker” in his post, Find a Growth Hacker for your Startup.

Sean revealed unique insights about growth strategies and reassurance to all those working hard every day to grow their business.

First, Hustle to Get Traction

There was natural curiosity about how Dropbox became what it is today. Sean revealed that in the beginning, it was all about hustling. Drew Houston first created a video with some clever tongue-in-cheek humor that caught on with the tech crowd. They also gamed Digg and Reddit to get more exposure. In fact, their efforts landed them on the front page of Digg, which in its heyday, could drive meaningful traffic to a site.

Such hustle is not uncommon among startup stories. Whitney Wolfe, co-founder of Tinder, visited sororities to get girls on Tinder. Shortly after, she went to their neighboring fraternities, which then gladly joined. The founders of Flickr commented on photos regularly in order to create an engaged community.

Our first product, EasyBib, now has 40 million yearly users. We started without any in 2001. We invaded AOL chatrooms to talk about our product, spammed thousands of teachers individually, and sent emails to dozens of publications. We ended up being published on the front page of the business section of the Chicago Tribune.

Optimize Your Product for Marketing

Sean talked about how Dropbox had a strong focus on making their product do the marketing for them. In particular, they introduced the concept of a dual reward: When you invite someone to access your Dropbox, they receive 250MB of free space, and so do you. Therefore, the more people used Dropbox, the more beneficial it was.

But the Dropbox team made their product even stickier. When someone you shared a Dropbox folder with created an account, you would be pleasantly notified that you have more memory. If you’re familiar with Nir Eyal’s hook methodology, such variable rewards keep you highly engaged in a product. Seeing the success of the referral program, the Dropbox team doubled down on the idea by strategically placing prompts to share throughout the product, testing what would make it more shareable.

Do Whatever It Takes to Learn About Your Users

Sean advocated that every marketer should be surveying their audience. At his past companies, he didn’t think on his own how to position the product. Instead, he would ask users how they would describe it to a friend, and what one word they would use to describe the product. Having gained this insight, he would then test and iterate on messaging.

Surveying goes beyond the purpose of understanding messaging. Sean would look at a user funnel and identify where drop-offs existed. He would then reach out to those who dropped off at a particular point to understand why. He cited an example where LogMeIn users from a new channel were dropping off on a free offer. It turns out they they thought the offer was too good to be true. As result, Sean’s team created an option to download a trial of the premium version or download the free version, which increased conversion by the tune of 300 percent.

More importantly, Sean would survey to benchmark whether users found value in the product, and why or why not. He would utilize that information to better demonstrate the product’s value, and survey again to gauge if his changes were improving upon the initial benchmark.

In my experience, talking to the customer is invaluable. When we show someone our new GetCourse product, we ask how they would describe the product, and why they would recommend it to a friend. These questions have helped us understand how we should position the product. To learn more about surveying, ConversionXL has a great post on the best questions to ask.

Think Beyond Content

Sean created a community website to drive conversation around the plethora of great marketing content circulating the Internet. His ultimate goal was to educate readers of GrowthHackers about his Qualaroo product. What’s fascinating is that Sean realized that in order to make Qualaroo stand out, he would have to go beyond pumping out content like all his peers in the space. He could distinguish his efforts through curation and technology.

GrowthHackers exceeded expectations. Not only did it provide exposure to Qualaroo as intended, but the community that rallied around it became so strong that GrowthHackers has the potential of becoming it’s own business. Sean now hosts conferences with the Growth Hackers brand.

Indeed, the future of content marketing is thinking beyond content. Above all else, Sean constantly reminded the audience of the importance of testing your ideas, which is a core tenant of growth hacking. His lessons aren’t textbook, they’re tested.

Neal Taparia is Co-CEO of Imagine Easy Solutions. This post originally appeared on the author’s Forbes column.

TIME Careers & Workplace

You Should Avoid These Work Mistakes at All Costs

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If you want to build better communication skills, a good first step is identifying and avoiding these common problems

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

By Lolly Daskal

Everyone communicates and occasionally misspeaks. But the best leaders, the greatest bosses, and the entrepreneurs we admire the most are the ones who take great care with their communication.

Here are some common communication mistakes we are all guilty of and it would be best to avoid:

One-size-fits-all communication. When you try to communicate to a group of people, you may notice that some get it right away while others need more explaining. Different people have different needs and expectations. Consider the range of learning styles of those you’re communicating with and plan a communication strategy that addresses them all.

Lack of attention to tone. Often in times of crises, you may have an edgy tone. Tone is important at any time, but especially when in the middle of a challenge. No matter what the circumstances, learn to pay attention to tone. One trick: Before you speak, pause and take a breath. Then communicate what needs to be said.

Avoiding the difficult conversation. Everybody faces conflict, and avoiding conflict does not make it go away. Learn how to plan for and carry out a difficult conversation by providing clear and actionable feedback, even when it is difficult for you.

Holding back what’s on your mind. Speaking up is about stating what you need while still considering the wants and needs of others. Speak clearly and make your requests known, gently but with self-confidence, while maintaining good relationships.

Reacting instead of responding. When it’s your impulse to react with anger and frustration, wait. Take a deep breath and consider all the facts (including those you may not know). When you pause to reflect, you can respond instead of react.

Indulging in gossip. Unfounded talk not only ruins reputations but also erodes trust. Even if it’s not intended to be cruel, it can have devastating consequences. Leave no place for gossip, innuendo, or speculation if you want to be trusted and esteemed as a communicator (and, for that matter, as a human being).

Closing your mind. In today’s workplace, there are all kinds of religions, cultures, and ethnicity orientations. Excluding any of them would reflect a closed-minded point of view. Instead, open your heart and begin to embrace diversity. When you embrace, you improve your communication via a diverse range of experiences and creativity benefiting all.

Speaking more and listening less. To stay on top of any situation, stop speaking and listen. When you listen more than you speak, you open yourself up to learning and empathy–which in turn help you accomplish more.

Thinking you are being understood. Take the time to check that people have understood your message. It seems like a simple thing, but misinterpretations abound and can have terrible consequences.

Communication is a precious commodity. When you can avoid these fundamental blunders, it will benefit you, your communication, your leadership, your effectiveness, your success, and your business.

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