TIME Careers & Workplace

The 10 States With the Worst Quality of Life

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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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Hero Images—Getty Images/Hero Images

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.

TIME Companies

20 Great Workplaces in Tech

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Google reported last month nearly $16 billion in earnings in its second-quarter, a 22% increase from a year earlier. Adam Berry—Getty Images

The tech sector is still sexy — and has an abundance of dreamy jobs. These companies have perfected balancing tough, technical work with fun and friendly cultures.

There’s no shortage of perks at the world’s best tech employers — free food, massages, on site medical centers — the industry is jam-packed with employers who offer lucrative pay and enviable extras. A new study from the culture experts at Great Rated!, the workplace review site from Great Place to Work, names some of the best-in-class employers in and out of Silicon Valley. Here are 20 companies that are attracting and retaining today’s top talent in tech.

*Revenue figures are from the most recent fiscal year and headcount figures are the latest supplied by the company. Visit the Great Rated! links for full workplace reviews.

See the full list of the 20 greatest workplaces in tech.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

MONEY job hunting

How to Ace Any Interview and Land the Job of Your Dreams

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The in-person, one-on-one job interview is getting a new look. Anna Parini

Forget the traditional sit-down with a rep from HR. Nowadays companies are employing decidedly offbeat hiring techniques. To land the spot you want, be prepared for whatever tests come your way.

Planning your next big career move? Get ­going. Job openings climbed to 4.7 million in June, the highest level since 2001, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And in a recent survey by Challenger Gray ­& Christmas, 77% of hiring managers re­ported trouble filling slots because of a talent shortage.

To succeed in this sunnier market, though, you need a firm grasp on today’s hiring process, one that may be far different from what you faced the last time you hit the circuit. For starters, businesses are going slow, spending an average of 23 days to fill a slot in 2013, vs. 12 days in 2010, according to employer review website Glassdoor. And many are replacing antiquated hiring methods with more offbeat ways to vet job seekers.

“Companies are finding traditional job interviews aren’t identifying the high-quality candidates they need,” says Parker McKenna of the Society for Human Resource Management. Numerous academic studies have unearthed flaws in the process. A 2013 one co-written by psychologist Jason Dana at the Yale School of Management found that many hiring managers are mistakenly overconfident in their ability to assess how well a candidate will perform through a one-on-one interview. To get an edge on your competition, you should prepare for these four types of tests.

The Video Chat

What to expect: Last year nearly one out of five job seekers sat through a video interview, more than double the number the year before, according to a survey by workforce consultants Right Management. Firms want to see your communication skills, says ­McKenna. Plus, recruiters can cast a wider net for candidates without the cost of flying applicants into the office, notes Paul Bailo, author of The Essential Digital Interview Handbook.

Since American Wedding Group, a Huntingdon Valley, Pa.–based provider of photographers, videographers, and disc jockeys, began video interviewing in May, the company has conducted more than 300 screenings. The firm used to interview candidates from across the country by phone. This new approach, says head of human resources Scott Mitchell, works better for a business that places a high value on professional appearance. “We want to be confident the candidate is someone we feel comfortable putting in front of our clients,” he says.

How to be ready: Most video interviews are via Skype, so make sure you have a professional-sounding username and profile photo. Then nail down the mechanics. “Don’t let technology get in the way of getting hired,” says Bailo. That means investing in quality gear instead of relying on your computer’s built-in microphone and fisheye camera. “If you want to get a job, you have to buy a suit,” he says. “If you want to nail a digital interview, you have to buy the right equipment.”

His picks: the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 ($100) and Blue Microphones Snowball sound kit ($90). To cut the risk of technical hiccups and a bad Internet connection, do a practice run with a friend an hour in advance.

As with an in-person interview, looks matter. So dress appropriately, head to toe (be ready to stand to adjust the camera). Sit opposite a window for the best lighting, and pick a backdrop that’s clutter-free; off-white is ideal.

During the interview, keep looking at the camera. “If your eyes are shifting around, it distracts from the content of your interview,” says Bailo, who recommends taping a script to the wall behind the camera so that you can hit on key points without having to look down or shuffle through notes.

The Group Session

What to expect: While some employers rely on group interviews to weed through a large pile of applicants, companies more commonly use them to survey a refined pool of potential hires for certain qualities.

You’re likely to be one of three to five candidates, says Dan Finnigan, CEO of the social recruiting platform Jobvite. Typically you’ll be tasked with a group exercise. At Taste of D.C., a culinary event-planning business, groups must work together to develop a marketing campaign, say, or make a presentation. Even beforehand, the company observes how candidates waiting outside the interview room interact in a casual setting, says CEO Steuart Martens.

Adrian Granzella Larssen, editor-in-chief of career advice website The Muse, points out that interviewers are looking for a very specific set of interpersonal skills, such as leadership, communication, and collaboration.

That’s what the Boston-based international tour operator Grand Circle is after when it gives groups a task to complete, such as building a vehicle to transport an egg. “We analyze how candidates react,” says senior vice president of human resources Nancy Lightbody. “We’re looking for natural leaders to emerge.”

How to be ready: No matter how tempting it may be to grab the spotlight, don’t. “Dominate the conversation, and you’ll be perceived as aggressive,” says Priscilla Claman, president of Boston coaching firm Career Strategies. Sit back, though, and you risk being overlooked.

Give others space to offer ideas and then build on what they say. (“Josie brings up a great point …”). “Having the ability to politely piggyback demonstrates you can collaborate and work well with others while taking a leadership role,” says Finnigan. (Letting someone else speak first gives you more time to craft your idea too.)

Being in the same room as your competition, though nerve-racking, may give you a feel for the atmos­phere at your future workplace. You’re getting a glimpse into the types of people the company likes. If the competition is cutthroat, employees may be as well.

The Panel Approach

What to expect: A third of employers put prospects in front of a group, Glassdoor reports. You’ll probably meet with three to five people, such as an HR rep, your prospective super­visor, a senior peer, and heads of departments you’d interact with daily. For employers a panel interview has several advantages. “It eliminates different people hearing different things in one-on-one interviews,” says Peter Cappelli, director at Wharton’s Center for Human Resources.

The insurer Kaiser Permanente asks finalists for midlevel management positions to present to a group. “It creates efficiency for both the candidate and the company,” says Jason Phillips, vice president of national recruitment and HR operations. “Many senior job seekers have a tight calendar.”

Another upside for you is the insight you can gain into the company culture. Pay attention to how panelists interact with one another; in a healthy environment co-workers are collaborative but also welcome and respect other points of view, says Finnigan.

How to be ready: To make it past a board, you’ll need everyone’s buy-in, says Washington, D.C., career counselor Karen Chopra. Contact your point person ahead of time to learn whom you’re meeting and roughly how long the interview will last (some run two to three hours). To give yourself a preview of the folks you’re facing, look up everyone’s profile on LinkedIn.

Introduce yourself to all the panelists and jot down the seating order; you can glance at the chart throughout the session so you can address each person by name. (Save it for writing your thank-you notes.)

Eye contact conveys confidence, says Chopra, so look directly at the person who poses the question, pass your eyes around the room as you answer, and circle back to the questioner as you’re wrapping up. Bring any mum panelists into the conversation, especially if there’s a chance silence means a closed mind. Posing a question about their divisions or clients also shows you’ve done your homework.

The High-Stakes Game

What to expect: Borrow your kid’s Xbox controller—you might need it for a job interview one day. Employers in a number of fields, including energy, consumer goods, and financial services, are starting to take a look at gaming technology to assess job candidates. Through custom-made videogames, companies can measure skills and personality traits that may be tough to pick up in person. “This is in the testing phase,” says veteran recruiter Mark Howorth. “But I do feel like it is about to take off.”

Take Knack’s Wasabi Waiter, a 10-minute game that has job seekers act as a sushi server at a virtual restaurant. Not only are your customer service skills tested, says Guy Halfteck, founder and CEO at the game developer, but “the game evaluates everything from your problem solving to critical thinking, logical reasoning, empathy, conscientiousness, and emotional intelligence.”

How to be ready: Gaming is in its infancy as a hiring tool, and how well the approach identifies ideal workers remains an open question. Nonetheless, get used to the technology. You can play Wasabi Waiter on Knack’s free mobile app, “What’s Your Knack?,” but don’t overthink your strategy: Your instincts are what interest employers, says Halfteck. When you’re finished, though, get back to working on your in-person interview skills. Odds are the last leg of the hiring process will be a face-to-face one.

TIME Careers & Workplace

33 Ways to Fix Being Utterly Bored at Work

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Bob Handelman—Getty Images/Photographer's Choice

Here's how to keep yourself motivated

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

You’ve taken on new projects. You’ve gone above and beyond. You’ve talked to your boss about additional responsibilities and gotten the old “definitely—once we have a position open / more budget / don’t need you to focus on X anymore.”

Frankly, you’re bored with your job.

And while sometimes, that’s a sign that you should hightail it out of there, others it’s a matter of keeping yourself moving forward (and not gouging your eyes out) until the next busy season, new client, or promotion comes along.

If you’re in that boat, you’re in luck: Here’s a roundup of things you can do in the office or during off-hours to up your professional game even when your current job isn’t exactly doing it for you.

If You Want to Network

1. Start a Book Group

Pick books that are related to your field—or a general business read that everyone can get some use out of, like something from the 99U book series orGood to Great. A great cadence is once per month—take over a conference room for your lunch hour or, better yet, meet for happy hour and chat at a bar.

2. Create a Networking Group

Have a few friends in your field you see from time to time at industry events? See if they’d all want to get together every month for an informal networking group, where you all meet to chat (and get advice!) about challenges you’re facing.

3. Go on Lunch Dates

Ever heard of “Let’s Lunch?” It’s a (free!) online network that matches you up with someone in your area for lunch during the workweek. Connect your LinkedIn profile, provide your availability and geographic flexibility, and the site’s algorithm matches you up with a like-minded lunch partner. It’s a great way to grow your network utilizing the free time that’s already built into your day. (Via Allison Stadd)

4. Ask a Co-worker to Join You

Go out to lunch with a co-worker you don’t know well. Not only will you get to know someone new, you’ll learn more about how your company operates—and potentially find new ways to collaborate and get involved.

5. Start a Lunch Club

Grab four other officemates, and assign everyone a day to bring enough lunch for everyone else on a specified day of the week. Cook once, get delicious meals (and team bonding) all five days!

6. Start the Company Softball League

Or frisbee team. Or 5K for charity. Showing some initiative to get everyone out of the office and hanging out with each other on a non-work basis will show the higher-ups you have what it takes to shine in the office, too.

7. Build Your LinkedIn Following

One expert suggests we should be using LinkedIn more like Twitter—finding and engaging with as many followers as possible. So start building your network. Here are a few more things you can do on LinkedIn every month, week, and day.

If You Want to Boost Your Skills

8. Try Morning Pages

Start every day with 15 minutes of creative writing. Entrepreneur Chris Winfield says it has “become an essential way to clear his mind, unleash creative ideas, and quiet his inner critic, reducing his anxiety.”

9. Start a Blog

It can be a place for you to write about happenings in your field, share thoughts on pop culture, or even pursue a hobby—just be clear on what your purpose is and who you want to read it. Then, get started by making a long list of topics you could potentially write about. Commit to pushing something out at least once a week to keep your (obviously avid) followers engaged.

10. Or a Podcast

Blogging not for you? Start a podcast. Better yet, invite industry leaders to be interviewed on your podcast. You’re boosting your personal brand and your professional network at once!

11. Write an Article

Then, try to get it published on an industry website. You’ll hone a new skill—writing and researching—and you’ll start to build your name as a thought leader in your space.

12. Get Your Voice Heard

Look for an upcoming conference or event you could speak at, and pitch yourself as a panel speaker or leader. Here’s exactly how to do it.

13. Look for Hidden Benefits

Browse your company’s benefits page, and make sure you’re taking advantage of all of them. Many companies offer free financial planning services, a professional development budget, or even sabbaticals or trips to other offices. Hey, if it’s cool with HR, it’s bound to be cool with your boss.

14. Learn to Code

No, really—it’ll boost your career no matter what you do (take it from this PR pro).Here’s a cool way to get started.

15. Or Learn Something Else

Pick a class, any class—here are 50 (cheap) ideas.

16. Or Teach Something

Consider developing live or online courses, workshops, or seminars in your areas of expertise. (Platforms like Skillshare make it easy to share what you know.)

17. Build a Personal Website

No matter what field you’re in, it’s a great idea. We have a seven-day plan that makes it super easy, and at the end of it all you’ll have an online presence that shows off who you are and displays your best work.

If You Want to Make Your Office Happier

18. Revamp Your Cubicle

It’s amazing what some fresh photos, some non-fluorescent lighting, and some organization can do for your inspiration (not to mention sanity). Here are a few ideas to get you started.

19. Fix Something

Look for a process, procedure, or meeting that everyone grumbles about, and think of one or two ways to improve upon it. Put together a plan, present it to your boss, and see if you can be the one who turns it into action.

20. Teach the Group

Offer to research and present on something to your team—whether it’s socially responsible business practices or a new project management tool.

21. Launch a Brown Bag Program

Once a month, invite cool speakers in to chat with your team about something in your field.

22. Mentor a Junior Employee

Look to see if your company has an official program you can participate in, or just look for younger co-workers who you could take under your wing.

23. Make a List

Create a list of resources you find helpful, sites you love to read, the best conferences or classes in your field, or anything else you think your co-workers might find useful, and send it out to everyone on your team.

24. Ask for a New Employee

If you don’t already have one, come up with a proposal for getting an intern or other direct report. Having someone to take some work off your plate can open up space for you to work on more inspiring projects—and having someone to mentor can be a great growth experience.

25. Create a Client Survey

Ask your customers and potential customers key questions that could help you better serve them (as well as for their general feedback). At minimum, you’ll get some helpful guidance for future sales or initiatives, and you’ll probably look like a star while you’re at it.

If You Want to Get Out of the Office

26. Plan a Trip

Research shows that just the act of planning a trip makes you happier, as you’re anticipating what’s to come. While we don’t recommend doing the actual planning on company time, daydreaming about your destination will certainly make the day go by faster.

27. Plan a Fundraiser

Or otherwise get involved in a cause you care about. Bonus: It’s a great way to network—reach out to people you haven’t talked to in a while or think are interesting with an invite.

28. Do Something Totally Unrelated to Your Job

Take a bartending class, sign up for a half-marathon, get SCUBA certified. While it might not have anything to do with your job, you’ll definitely be more inspired in your off hours, and that’ll give your life inspiration an overall boost.

29. Learn a New Language

Along similar lines, even if you don’t speak Spanish or German at work, speaking and reading in a new language can get your brain thinking in totally new ways. (Here are five fun ways to give it a whirl.)

If You Want Something Totally New

30. Take on a Side Project

Start that funny Tumblr you’ve always wanted to, sell your wares as a consultant in your field, or start an Etsy store. It’ll give you a good challenge outside of your day job—not to mention some cold, hard cash.

31. Go Pro Bono

Use some of your free time to do some work for a nonprofit or early-stage startup with a mission that you’re really excited about. This will give you a chance to grow your skills (or potentially learn new ones) and remind you why you loved your work in the first place, plus it could even turn into an exciting full-time opportunity down the line.

32. Get a New Job

If you’ve tried everything and are still bored at your current gig, it’s probably time to look for a new one. Start making a list of your favorite companies, polishing up your resume, and getting some informational interviews on the calendar. On that note:

33. Take a Day Off

Hey, if you’re bored at work, you can probably afford it. Try this one-day, 10-hour plan to totally kick start your job search on a day off.

TIME Careers & Workplace

28 Secrets of Exceptionally Productive People

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Cavan Images—Getty Images

Want to work smarter, not harder? Learn from the best

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 Jeff Haden

Occasionally, I stumble on my own productivity tools and strategies, but mostly I borrow them from others.

So does Ryan Holiday, the author of the best-selling The Obstacle Is the Way (a really great book) and the compulsively readable Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.

He’s also the founder of Brass Check Marketing and somehow finds time to give monthly book recommendations to 30,000 people.

“Like all people, I like to think I am a productive person,” Ryan says. “If I am, though, it’s because I’ve been ruthlessly efficient at one thing: stealing secrets and methods from people a lot smarter than me.

“In my career, I’ve had the fortune of coming in contact with best-selling authors, successfulentrepreneurs, investors, executives, and creative people. Others I didn’t meet but found their thoughts in books. Whether they knew it or not, I cased all of them and took from them what I thought were their best ideas on productivity.”

Here are productivity secrets Ryan has borrowed–and you will, too:

Bryan “Birdman” Williams

Birdman founded Cash Money records and is worth about $500 million. I was shocked the first time I was supposed to meet him at the studio at 1 a.m. on a Sunday. His day was just starting. He works at night and sleeps during the day.

Like I said, at first it was weird, but then I realized: He picked the hours that were most productive for him.

Screw what most people think is normal.

Casey Neistat

From this popular YouTube filmmaker and artist I picked up the trick of keeping a small Moleskine journal I write in every day: thoughts, reminders, notes, lessons. I prefer one that can fit in my back pocket; that way, I always have paper on me.

The past few months have been incredibly difficult, and my journal helped me cope. More important, I learned how to keep track of these journals (and everything else I own) in case I lose them: In big letters, write “If Found Please Return [insert name & number].”

Tim Ferriss

From Tim, I learned the art of the to-do list. A simple, straightforward to-do list: one note card, five to six big items, that’s it. Every day, I cross items off and tear up the card. Simple and extremely effective.

Another from Tim: You don’t have to be the first person to sign up for things. Wait a bit on new apps and social networks. Let things sort themselves out, let other people do all the trial and error, and then when you come into the picture, just be the best.

Robert Greene

Robert Greene, renowned author of The 48 Laws of Power, showed me how he creates books.

His note-card system has changed my life. Every book I read I fold key pages and later go back through and transfer the information to note cards I organize by theme in card boxes. I now have hundreds of thousands of these cards, which I always turn to if I need an anecdote, a fact, inspiration, a strategy, a story, or an example.

From Robert I also learned that swimming is a great productivity tool. Why? Because it requires total isolation: no music, no phone, no possible interruptions–just quiet, strenuous exercise.

I’ve had some of my most productive brainstorming sessions in the pool.

Dov Charney

The first time I called Dov, I got his voice mail. It said: “I don’t use voice mail; email me.”

I’ve taken it a step further; I don’t even have a voice mail message. If it’s important, they’ll call back. If I have time, I’ll return the missed call. Either way, having “6 new voice messages” is something I haven’t worried about in years, because they don’t exist.

Ramit Sethi

Ramit has built a 40-plus employee, multimillion-dollar education business right before our eyes (he and I grew up in the same small town).

One trick I learned from Ramit–after first ignoring his advice several times–is that if you’re going to hire an assistant, make sure the person you hire is older and more responsible than you are.

Too many people make the mistake of hiring someone young and cheap, which is ridiculous, because it’s impossible for the person to understand the value of time and organization and he or she will wind up making you less productive, not more. If you’re going to have an assistant, do it right.

Another from Ramit: You don’t have to answer every email you get. The Delete key is a superquick way to get to inbox zero.

Tobias Wolff

In his book Old School, Tobias Wolf’s semi-autobiographical character takes the time to type out quotes and passages from great books. I do this almost every weekend.

It’s made me a) a faster typist, b) a much better writer, and c) a wiser person.

David Allen and Merlin Mann

Inbox zero.

Never touch paper twice.

Let these two phrases sink in, and follow them.

Napoleon Bonaparte

There’s a great quote from Napoleon about how he would delay opening letters so that by the time he did unimportant issues would have resolved themselves.

I try to do the same thing with email and issues from staff.

Marco Arment

Instapaper changed my life. I don’t play games on my phone; I read smart articles I queued up for myself earlier in the day. I don’t get distracted with articles while I am working at my desk–because I can easily put them in the queue.

James Altucher

No is a powerful, productive word (James also wrote a book about it). We think we’re obligated to say yes to everything, and then we wonder why we never have enough time. Learning to say no–more specifically, “No, thank you”–will energize you and excite you.

Use it–as much as you can.

Another from James: Entrepreneurs (and writers) are nuts. To save yourself many wasted hours of time and insanity, find a spouse who is better adjusted and balanced than you. James and his wife, Claudia, are an inspiring example of this important pairing.

Montaigne

From Montaigne I also learned the importance of keeping a commonplace book. If something catches your eye, write it down and record it. Use it later. Simple as that.

Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie has a great line about “being introduced to the broom” at an early age. In other words, intimately know even the most “lowly” tasks.

That doesn’t mean you still have to do the grunt work, but you should know how.

Aaron Ray

Aaron Ray was my mentor in Hollywood. He’s a hugely successful movie producer and manager, but I noticed one thing: He was never in the office. And he always had a ridiculous excuse why he wasn’t.

Eventually, I realized why: He was avoiding the office BS that sucks up most peoples’ time. By staying away, he got way more done. He could see the big picture.

And as an extra bonus, everyone was always talking about him: “Where’s Aaron?” “Has anyone seen Aaron?”

Tucker Max

You may be surprised, but Tucker has the biggest library you’ve ever seen. Why? He buys every book he wants.

So now I don’t waste time thinking about which books I want or where to get them cheapest. I buy them, read them, recommend them, benefit from them–end of story. (See my library here.)

I’m never without something to read, and I’m always driven to read more–because the shelves are looking down on me as a reminder of what I have left to do.

I also think Tucker was the guy from whom I learned the practice of listening to the same song over and over. It lets you space out and get into the zone (or flow state). My iTunes playlist is embarrassing, but I don’t care. Listening to the same song hundreds of times is how I get so much done.

Nassim Taleb

Speaking of books, from Nassim Taleb I learned about the “anti-library.” Don’t just collect books you have read; collect the books you haven’t read. It’s a testament to what you don’t know–and an on-hand resource whenever you need it.

Samantha Hoover

From my fiancée I learned a nice little trick: Delete Facebook from your phone. Just do it. Trust me. (Note: Pretty sure she’s relapsed, but I haven’t.)

Samuel Zemurray

The entrepreneur behind United Fruit (and one of my favorite books) said, “Don’t trust the report.”

We waste a lot of time trusting numbers and opinions we’ve never verified. Going backwards and doing something over ends up costing us far more than we saved by skipping over the work in the first place.

Anonymous

I forget who gave me the idea, but never buy in-flight Wi-Fi. Go off the grid for the whole flight. Catch up on stuff. Think. Read.

Adam Corolla

When he was doing Loveline, Adam would complain about how the producers wanted him to arrive 15 minutes before the show started. His refusal was simple: Every week that added up to an extra show–for free.

Important people can get a lot done in “just” 15 minutes, so they don’t give that time away. And they don’t mind looking bad in order to protect their time.

Niki Papadopoulos

My editor always says, “OK, well, try writing it then.” In other words, she means, get started. She usually says this right after I explain a big sweeping idea for a book or a chapter or an article.

Planning is great, but productive people get moving.

Frederick Douglass

“A man is worked on by what he works on.”

Steer clear of quagmires, toxic work environments, busywork, and unsolvable problems.

Aaron Ray

One more from Aaron: As a talent manager, Aaron showed me why you never waste your time, or your own money, doing your own negotiating.

His lesson has served me well. I pass incoming inquiries to a speaking agent, book projects to a book agent, interview requests to an assistant, movie or TV stuff to Aaron, etc. Yes, that means I pay them a fee, but guess what? All valuable services have a cost.

Only a fool represents himself or herself.

TIME Careers & Workplace

40 Inspiring Motivational Quotes About Gratitude

Sometimes, a totally different perspective can be found in a few simple words

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 Jeff Haden

Whatever your definition of success (everyone’s definition of success is and should be different), we all want more. That desire for more can blind us to what we already have–and should be grateful for.

Here are 40 quotes about gratitude that will not only remind you that what you have is pretty awesome, but will also, I hope, spur you to express that gratitude to the people who deserve it most.

  1. “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”William Arthur Ward
  2. “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton
  3. “‘Enough’ is a feast. Buddhist proverb
  4. “If you count all your assets, you always show a profit.” Robert Quillen
  5. “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault
  6. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy
  7. “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
  8. “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle
  9. “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” Frank A. Clark
  10. “If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” Gerald Good
  11. “Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
  12. “The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” Michael Josephson
  13. “Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
  14. “The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Charles Schwab
  15. “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Epictetus
  16. “At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer
  17. “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” William James
  18. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
  19. “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Buddha
  20. “Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.” Gertrude Stein
  21. “Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” Henri Frederic Amiel
  22. “You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  23. “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson
  24. “It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” Naomi Williams
  25. “One can never pay in gratitude; one can only pay ‘in kind’ somewhere else in life.”Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  26. “Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” John Wooden
  27. “No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” Alfred North Whitehead
  28. “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne
  29. “Forget yesterday–it has already forgotten you. Don’t sweat tomorrow–you haven’t even met. Instead, open your eyes and your heart to a truly precious gift–today.”Steve Maraboli
  30. “We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” Neal A. Maxwell
  31. “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  32. “The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” John E. Southard
  33. “I truly believe we can either see the connections, celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings, or we can see life as a string of coincidences that have no meaning or connection. For me, I’m going to believe in miracles, celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity, and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect in the lives of others. This is my choice.” Mike Ericksen
  34. “Gratitude also opens your eyes to the limitless potential of the universe, while dissatisfaction closes your eyes to it.” Stephen Richards
  35. “Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.” Robert Braathe
  36. “They both seemed to understand that describing it was beyond their powers, the gratitude that spreads through your body when a burden gets lifted, and the sense of homecoming that follows, when you suddenly remember what it feels like to be yourself.” Tom Perrotta
  37. “Gratitude is more of a compliment to yourself than someone else.” Raheel Farooq
  38. “Keep your eyes open and try to catch people in your company doing something right, then praise them for it.” Tom Hopkins
  39. “In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day–or to celebrate each special day.” Rasheed Ogunlaru
  40. “This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” Maya Angelou
MONEY office etiquette

Germans Say “Nein!” to Late-Night Work Email. Here’s How You Can, Too

Mariella Ahrens attends the Dresscoded Hippie Wiesn 2014 at Golfclub Gut Thailing on August 28, 2014 in Steinhoering near Ebersberg, Germany.
Turns out Germans may have us beat when it comes to balancing work and play. Gisela Schober—Getty Images

Sick of your boss's 3 a.m. emails? Maybe you should move to Germany—where support is growing for a law banning late-night work communication.

Despite their reputation for industriousness, it turns out Germans have a thing or two to teach us about work-life balance.

The country has shaved nearly 1,000 hours from the annual schedule of its average worker (compared with 200 hours in the U.S.) in the last half-century. And now a movement is growing there to make after-hours work emails verboten.

A newly initiated study on worker stress led by the German labor minister is expected to lead to legislation preventing employers from reaching out to employees outside of normal office hours. (That might surprise those who’d expect such a thing only from the French.)

Though the law wouldn’t come to fruition until 2016, Germans—and Europeans in general—are still slightly better off than Americans in the meantime. While the average work week in major developed countries is 47 hours, that number balloons to about 90 hours per week for U.S. workers (vs. 80 for Europeans) if you include time that people are checking email and staying available outside of the office.

“We have become such an instantaneous society,” says Peggy Post, a director of The Emily Post Institute and expert on business etiquette. “We’re expected to be on call 24/7.”

And all this late-night work isn’t without consequences: Studies have found that staying up checking work emails on smartphones actually makes workers less productive the next day because of effects on sleep. Other downsides include more mistakes and miscommunications.

In lieu of practicing your Deutsch and moving your whole life overseas, take back your “offline” time by doing the following:

1. Become an email whiz while at work.

One major reason we’re forced to take to our phones late at night and on weekends? Because it’s so hard to get actual work done during work these days, due to smaller staffs, long meetings, floods of email, and noisy open floor plans.

At least in some jobs, the more you get done during regular hours, the less you’ll be penalized if you aren’t available during evenings or weekends. Some experts suggest giving yourself a specific window during the day to handle emails. See nine specific tips on more efficient emailing from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt here. With smart rules, like “last in, first out,” you can become a speed demon.

And if you just can’t pack it all in, you might also think about a quick end-of-day meeting (preferably at the scheduled end of day) to check in with whomever you’re most likely to get emails from later on.

2. Make sure you understand the expectations.

You assume your boss wants an immediate response to that late-night brainstorm, but are you sure? It’s worth finding out.

Alison Green, who blogs at AskaManager.org has suggested phrasing your question as follows: “Hey, I’m assuming that it’s fine for me to wait to reply to emails sent over the weekend until I’m back at work on Monday, unless it’s an emergency. Let me know if that’s not the case.”

But what if the boss says that you really are expected to be at the ready? You might need to communicate your dissatisfaction with these terms—rather than succumbing to burnout.

Again, the words you choose are important. Green suggested the following: “I don’t mind responding occasionally if it’s an emergency, but I wonder if there’s a way to save everything else for when I’m back at work. I use the weekends to recharge so that I’m refreshed on Monday, and I’m often somewhere where I can’t easily answer work emails.”

Post agrees that how you speak up goes a long way toward getting the result you want. “Without whining, try to share specific constructive solutions,” says Post. “For example, you could suggest having employees take on separate after-hours times to be on call for different days of the week.”

3. Stop the cycle.

Remember, you’re perpetuating the expectation when you engage in these email chains. Should you write back once at 10 p.m., those above you will likely begin to assume that you’ll be available at that time (even if they didn’t initially expect you to be).

Likewise, if your boss emails you, you might feel that you’re in the clear to contact those below you in their free time. But that’s a no-no, according to many experts.

While you may simply be trying to send something while you remember it, you are actually putting someone else in the same predicament you’re in. Some suggest limiting yourself to answering or writing emails to between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., unless there’s a particularly urgent need or project—though the right window for you probably depends upon your company and office culture.

And if you do have your most brilliant thought at 2 a.m.? Go ahead and write it, but then use a tool like Boomerang that lets you schedule it for a more reasonable post-shower hour.

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