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5 Ways to Turn Boredom into Productivity

We have easier access to each other and the world’s information right now than ever before, and yet many of us still sometimes find ourselves “bored out of our mind.” Boredom is that weird feeling you get when you have the energy to complete a task but have no tasks. Well, at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
 
Next time you sense boredom creeping into your life, try one or more of the 5 ideas listed below, and let me know how that worked for you!

  • Start exercising

 
There are few pieces of advice I can give that are as potently packed with potential as starting a regular exercise regimen. It will change your appearance, yes, but it will do SO MUCH MORE than that. Your physical and mental health can radically change just by incorporating exercise into your life.
 
In June 2018, I began to regularly stretch, do cardio, and lift weights after a couple of years of doing practically nothing active. Not only did it allow me to lose over 60 pounds and add a good bit of muscle in just 10 months, but it also allowed my mental clarity and productivity to skyrocket. You may very well find that, not only does regular exercise NOT take away from your other activities, but it actually enhances them! A healthy person can enjoy life in ways which an unhealthy person can not- remember that! Exercise isn’t the only metric of health, but it sure is a big one.

  • Write a To-Do List

 
How many times have you wasted 2-3 hours in a day, and also not accomplished everything you needed to? That used to be the norm for me, and it wasn’t until I began scheduling my day that I saw this trend drastically decrease. While I personally recommend that everyone tries out scheduling your day, or “time blocking” (link my blog post), I’m not a big proponent of any one-size-fits-all method, so try different things and do what works best for you!
 
If you aren’t quite ready to start time blocking, then your first step should be to start writing to-do lists every day so that you can easily keep track of your tasks and responsibilities. Find yourself bored? Odds are, there’s something you can do- but you just don’t know what it is! Writing a to-do list is a key to making sure that boredom does not happen until after all of your important tasks have been completed. If boredom DOES set in, then it can also help to use that time to write the list. Whichever works for you, works for you! Again, there’s no perfect way to do it- the only incorrect way is to not try.

  • Pursue a positive hobby

 
“Positive” can refer to an entire orchestra of possibilities- meaning many different things for different people. Essentially, you can ask yourself the question, “Does this hobby make me a better person?” If the answer is yes, or at least neutral, then maybe that’s a great hobby to pursue in your free time!
 
Have you been wanting to start playing that guitar you haven’t picked up in 10 years? Got an old car in the garage that needs to be fixed? Do you have great ideas that you want to share with the world?? All of these are examples of ways you can become more productive in your free time, or just when you’re bored. If there’s that 1 thing you have wanted to do that you don’t think you have the time for, then begin auditing the amount of time you spend on social media and watching TV/Netflix. This isn’t about lecturing you on your media consumption, but rather us being real with ourselves so that we can make time for things that matter.

  • Eliminate clutter

 
“Clutter” can take the form of many different things, but all of it can weigh on our minds without us even realizing it. Clutter can be that cabinet you haven’t cleaned in 6 years or the 10,000 unread emails in your inbox, but it can be equally as damaging in your mind. We have access to so much information that it can be almost impossible to turn off unless we do so intentionally.
 
Life is difficult enough without unnecessary weight on our shoulders. If you’re feeling bored, take some time to first de-clutter your mind (try Headspace), and then you can start sifting through that messy cabinet.

  • Let your current boredom tell a bigger story

 
Now, THIS is when it gets real. If you find yourself bored often, then perhaps you should be asking yourself “Why am I bored?” If it’s constant, then you may not be challenging yourself to the level of which you are capable. Every single day doesn’t have to be filled to the brim with activities, but if you’re finding that you have several unfilled hours every day, then it may be time for some self-improvement tactics!
 
Start reading, get productive, finally get back on the piano, or do whatever it is that you’ve been putting off. TODAY can be the day you decide to become more productive! It simply requires you to be real with yourself, begin assessing how you spend your time, and then take some small steps in the right direction.

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5 Ways to Have a Better Social Media Experience

Have you checked your “screen time” app recently? Pretty much every time I do it, I get a little uncomfortable. Granted, my job requires me to spend time on social media, but it certainly does not make up the majority of that time. I, like many of you reading, and addicted to my phone.
 
However, there’s good news: social media is not inherently bad. While many of us waste our time on these various social platforms, there are plenty of people who actually get a lot of benefit from them. The difference? They have optimized their experience.
 
While each of you may have different methods which work for you, I’ve experimented and found these 5 ways to have a better social media experience:
 

  • Stop following accounts with which you vehemently disagree

Why do so many of us purposefully follow accounts we hate just so we can be reminded of why we disagree with them? It’s crazy!

Why do we do this? In actual life, you’d never do this, right? If you see someone you dislike, you do whatever it takes to avoid that person. So, what is up with the phenomenon people call “hate-following?”

I was quite interested in understanding this, and after searching Google, apparently many others are as well. Dr. Sean O’Connell, a registered psychologist in Dublin, Ireland, was recently interviewed by Stellar Magazine’s Victoria Stokes, who asked him why so many of us follow accounts we don’t like.

He answered, “It can be a range of factors. We might feel that they have wronged us in some way, that we can’t challenge them, or that we are holding on to some ‘unfinished business’ with them. It can be jealousy, envy, resentment. A significant factor is comparing and contrasting, especially in social media.”

Whatever your “reason” is, odds are it’s a bad one. If you follow an account with, say, a differing political view so that you can deeply understand their arguments, then that’s about the only exception. However, if you constantly find yourself angry or sad about the content those accounts post, do yourself a favor and hit “unfollow.” Life is too short to waste your emotional energy!

  • Follow accounts which provide positive and informative content

Now that we’ve unfollowed all the pointless content on our timeline, now we need to fill it! Obviously, friends and family can take priority #1 here. After all, it is SOCIAL media. However, how many of you have found yourselves spending just as much time on branded accounts as you do your friends’ pages?

It’s very easy to do, and with as much time as we spend on our phones, it will absolutely affect our attitude. Following accounts which promote positivity & productivity, naturally, will help keep you focused on being positive and productive. Think of it this way: If you REALLY want to optimize your life, then you need to audit what you’re consuming on these platforms. Take the time to be cognizant of what takes your social time- you might just find out how much is wasted. 

  • Understand the amount of time you spend on social media

Notice how I didn’t immediately say “limit” or “drastically reduce.” For many today, social media is a main source of income. In our society, social media carries so many implications to personal life, business, etc. that many actually depend on it for their livelihood.

Social media is not inherently good or bad, it’s what you do with it that carries the moral burden. If you depend on social platforms for a living (like I do), then the conversation needs to shift from the outdated “technology is bad” method.

Focus less on limiting your time, and more understanding WHY you are spending that much time. If you sell a product through Shopify and have a multi-channel approach to sell that item, obviously you need to be spending time on social media so you can understand your audience, engagement analytics, ad spend, etc. However, if you’re just going on every 5 minutes to check on random memes or sports highlights, then THAT’s your opportunity to audit the time spent on these apps.

  • Turn on post notifications for your favorite accounts

This is a simple yet effective way to optimize your social media experience and make sure that you are consuming the content you wish to see. You’ll be notified every time this account posts on their timeline, and you will also see their FB statuses, Tweets, or Instagram stories as one of the first few options.

Also, apps like Instagram have developed algorithms dedicated to optimizing this experience for you, so the more you visit certain accounts, the more frequently their content will be at the top of your feed, or one of the first Instagram stories. If you are wanting to cut down your social media time in general, then following your top accounts will allow you to quickly read and engage with the top few posts, and then log off without having to dig through hours of pictures and videos.

  • Provide valuable content yourself

 
Part of the fun in becoming a part of a social community is contributing to the fun! Especially if you are using these platforms as a networking opportunity, you should be actively engaged within the community you are trying to reach.
 
Want to start selling furniture online? Find the top 30 furniture hashtags on Instagram, understand their theme, and then start sourcing/posting content with that focus. Want to make music? Share your videos for free on social media, and engage with other artists to find out what they like and want. Then, deliver it.
 
Social media can waste 6 hours of our day, and it can also be a stepping stone toward a thriving life and social community. It all depends on how we use it!

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5 Ways to Become a Better Listener

Growing up, there were many interesting, descriptive terms one could use to describe my behavior. One of them, however, was NOT “Sean is a GREAT listener.” I’ve always enjoyed the interaction with others- as a young extrovert (so I thought), talking to people gave me a huge boost of energy. Any time I could be talking to someone else, usually, that’s exactly what I would be doing.
 
However, it was not until I was made aware of my communication issues that it became apparent I was not a very good listener. During my Junior year of college at Coastal Carolina University, I read Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Specifically, I was assigned to examine and present Habit #5 to my class, which states: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
 
 That’s really what true listening is, isn’t it? To empathically listen in order to understand the other party’s views, values, and perspectives, so that we may create engaging, uplifting dialogue with that person.
 
Covey uses the example of an individual visiting an optometrist, explaining how they have had some trouble seeing clearly. The optometrist then takes off his glasses, hands them to the patient, and says, “Try these- they’ve been working for me for years! As a patient of this optometrist, you would be absolutely appalled that he did this, as you should be. However, Covey makes a very strong point in that many of us do this with co-workers, employees, friends, and family on a regular basis.
 
You see, he’s saying that we are prescribing solutions before diagnosing the problem.  Just as this would be a backward practice for an optometrist, it is backward for us to try to speak our opinions or solutions into the lives of others without first fully understanding their issues. This practice results in unreliable co-workers, unhelpful friends, and disinterested family members.
 
I have studied this simply because it is one of the biggest aspects of my life which I am currently developing. I write this, not from a lectern or podium, but as a faulty human being who’s trying to get better every day. Here are 5 ways to become a better listener:
 

  • Maintain Eye Contact

I don’t think you can discuss listening without first mentioning the importance of eye contact. How many times have you been at school, work, or home and tried to have a conversation with someone who was looking EVERYWHERE except your eyes? Not only do you not feel engaged, but it seems that the other person does not care about what you are saying. This is not a good feeling for the person talking and is one of the quickest ways to get them to shut you out of future conversations.

While we’re on the subject, it is IMPOSSIBLE to be texting or scrolling through social media while simultaneously staying fully engaged with another person. You may think this works, but it really doesn’t and is obvious to the person talking to you. If you must answer your phone, be polite enough to excuse yourself momentarily from the conversation, but do not nonchalantly try to keep it going while blatantly showing the other person that your phone is more important than them. I am guiltier of this than I care to mention, and have made a conscious effort to put the phone away when addressed by someone else.

  • Practice Active Listening

Great listeners have a way of making you feel like what you are saying is important. Please note, this is NOT on accident. They have practiced active listening, and while it may be involuntary now, for a long time that person had to purposefully try to do this.

Nodding your head when you understand, repeating what the other person said in a summarized fashion, and clarifying when necessary are all forms of active listening. Not only does it help you stay engaged and allow the other person to feel valued, but you actually get more out of it as well because you genuinely understand their point of view. Which brings us to points #3….

  • Realize that Great Listening is a Win-Win

Choosing to work on your listening skills does not just help the other party, it helps you just as much! Great listening means that you have a better understanding of your peers, which leads to deeper, more meaningful relationships.

You’re going to be more valued when you develop these listening skills, whether you realize it or not. You become a better person when you realize that sometimes the best strategy is to SHUT IT and listen J

  • Use Listening as a Learning Opportunity

If you only ever listen to yourself, you’ll only grow as much as you can muster. If you listen with the intent to understand others, limitless knowledge and potential are at your fingertips. Knowledge is power and is not easily obtained by simply digging into your own reserves. We NEED to practice listening in order to maximize our learning potential.

Think of being a great listener as being very well read. You can almost always tell when someone reads often by the knowledge they obtain, and in a similar fashion, you can tell if a person is interested in learning new things by how willing they are to listen. I think you’ll find that as you focus more on listening, you will also gain valuable pieces of insight which you would have otherwise not known.

  • Understand When Interrupting Is Okay

 
Interrupting someone seems a bit conflicting with this article’s message, but can actually be necessary/helpful in certain situations. For instance, let’s say a marketing intern at Company A is speaking with the Chief Marketing Officer. The intern begins stating an issue they have had with implementing leads from the old CRM into the new one. As the intern is talking 1,000 MPH, the CMO politely interrupts and assures them that the issue can be resolved. The CMO then shows the intern why the issue was occurring, and then gives specific instruction to ensure there are no further issues.
 
This is an example of someone in authority who decided to interrupt BECAUSE further conversation would have gotten them further away from the solution. Rather than allowing the intern to further confuse themselves with the issue, the CMO decides to quickly explain why it’s occurring, and then works with the intern to ensure they understand how to fix it. Notice that the CMO is not condescending, and was willing to hear the problem in the first place.
 
Be careful with this point- usually the answer is to allow the other person to fully finish with their thought before interjecting. However, with enough practice, we can all develop the necessary skills to determine when to interrupt, and how to become GREAT listeners!

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5 Ways to Be Taken More Seriously

  • Don’t speak confidently on topics you don’t deeply understand

The quickest way to look foolish is to act like you’re informed on a topic when you clearly aren’t. It’s okay to be ignorant of a subject, but pretending to be an expert in fields which you are a novice will get annoying to your peers very quickly. If you do it often, you will develop a reputation around that. You DO NOT want that.

This is something I take very seriously regarding 5 Minute Mission. I often cover interesting topics, but certainly not areas in which I’m an expert (I’m probably not an ‘expert’ at anything haha). This doesn’t mean that I cannot write/talk about things I haven’t experienced, but rather that I must do research and keep an open mind. That’s really what this whole thing is about- growing together as a community who haven’t figured it out yet.

My hope is that anyone reading this realizes that we can grow exponentially just by having an open mind. Part of that is learning new things, but not being naïve about how much we don’t truly know. It’s a process!

  • Take yourself more seriously

Perhaps this should be point #1, but regardless it’s paramount to your end goal of being taken seriously by others. Speak with purpose, dress well (or at least appropriately), be on time, and have a general sense of respect and integrity in the things you do.

It’s a simple concept, but so many of us demand respect from others when we aren’t even respecting ourselves. Just like you wouldn’t take fitness advice from a morbidly obese person, you tend to not respect those who clearly don’t respect themselves or value their own time. Key thought: Want respect? Become respectable. If you’re looking to improve, ask those closest to you how to do that. Odds are, they’ll know exactly where you fall short.

  • Listen to understand, then respond

Your co-workers, friends, and family will take what you say more seriously if they know that you are speaking from a place of understanding. Be willing to deeply listen and understand others before speaking into their lives. If they don’t think you understand them, they will not take your words seriously, whether that be advice or anything else.

Listening before speaking shows people that you care about their thoughts, which automatically makes them more interested in what you have to say. Take what they say seriously, and most people will reciprocate. To further understand this idea, I highly recommend you check out Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, specifically habit #5.

  • Don’t make excuses for your shortcomings

Everyone has faults- own them! Seriously, there’s no need to skirt around your idiosyncrasies just to put on the façade of perfection, and you shouldn’t blame shift your shortcomings onto your environment, lack of training, or any other excuse we use. Own up to your faults, and double down on your strengths.

People are smarter than you think, and while it may not be immediately apparent, eventually “faking it until you make it” isn’t going to work out for you. People close to you will see through your attempts to mask your weak areas, and you will lose respect in the process. If you suck at something, there’s nothing wrong with that!! You can either get better at that thing, or outsource it. There’s no 1 right answer, but THE wrong answer is to make excuses.

  • Eliminate filler words from your vocabulary

 
Constantly using “like”, “um”, or “uh” is an immediate sign that the person speaking is not confident (or at least not well practiced) in what they are saying. Think back to the most powerful presentation you’ve ever seen. Re-watch it on YouTube if you have to; I guarantee you’ll notice that they use no filler words, but rather powerful pauses.
 
This one is very tough, and something I struggle with consistently. I’m under 25, so my go-to filler word is “like.” Don’t know why, but I just love to throw that word in about 2 or 3 times per sentence. Eliminating these unnecessary words can be difficult, but recognizing where you can improve is the first step in doing so. Becoming conscious of an issue allows you to notice when it happens, and begin taking measures to prevent it.
 
Want to be taken more seriously?
 
– DON’T “front” on topics you don’t understand
– DO start taking yourself more seriously
– DON’T always talk over people. Listen!
– DON’T make excuses, learn and execute
– DO become more confident by eliminating unnecessary filler words from your speech

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5 Reasons Why You Aren’t Meeting Your Potential

Do you feel like you’re letting yourself or others down? Are you worried that you aren’t growing as you should? Are you simply just not meeting your potential?
 
That feeling is no fun and can lead to some serious mental health issues if not dealt with properly. Luckily, if you’re alive, then you have time to change. Plus, with free resources provided on the internet, you have plenty of tools to help! However, you have to be willing to change, and you have to be okay with dealing with your shortcomings.
 
I use the term “meeting” your potential rather than “reaching” because the word “reach” implies some type of end goal or finality. As long as we’re breathing, we should always strive to get better every day. So, from the very beginning, view this as a dynamic process, and let’s dive into 5 reasons why you may not be meeting your potential:
 

  • You aren’t challenging yourself enough

Humans are capable of amazing things. We trade paperclips for houses and even knit designs and artwork for entire buildings.  

We have the potential to accomplish feats we never thought possible, but we will never realize this potential if we do not challenge ourselves. Question: Are you feeling comfortable with life right now? Have you felt like you’re coasting, or not experiencing any type of friction?

This is a big sign that you aren’t challenging yourself as you should. Do hard things; do NEW things; do things that make you uncomfortable. We grow through pushing ourselves through discomfort into learning and success. If it doesn’t make you a little uncomfortable, it probably won’t change you.

  • You don’t have KPIs to measure yourself

Doing challenging things isn’t enough, you need to have metrics which measure your progress! Think about it: Imagine Usain Bolt practicing on the track without a stopwatch, or Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen making food without ever tasting it. Doing the work isn’t enough, you have to have a general understanding of how you’re doing.

Start with setting some goals, and try to start small. List out some things you’d like to be doing better in your life right now. Once those goals are clear, set some KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to help track your progress with the set goals.

Example: Let’s say you set a goal to lose 10 pounds. Great! Now, set some KPIs. Your key metrics are probably centered around exercise and nutrition, so set a goal to go to the gym x times/week, and then set a daily caloric goal, or alternatively set aside 1 meal per day which you will cook yourself and include only whole foods.

See how that works? It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, but proper implementation can change your life.

  • You don’t communicate well with others

Have you ever heard the phrase “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know”? While I do not completely subscribe to that idea, there’s definitely some truth to it. It certainly doesn’t hurt to know some people- the RIGHT people! However, you know what is NOT the correct tactic to meet more people? Only giving people the time of day if you need something from them.

Communication is key, both in your personal and professional life. You’ve probably heard the phrase “treat the janitor like the CEO.” It is a breath of fresh air to meet someone like that in the corporate world because they are few and far in between. People talk about it all day- very few commit to actually doing it.

If you will take the time to communicate well with everyone you know, regardless of priority or task, you will grow as a person and in the minds of others. Great communication is an art form which must be perfected over a lifetime, and the only way we’re going to get better is by practicing. Promote kindness and empathy, edifying speech, and positivity in your communication with others, and you’ll start to notice a change in your usual interactions. 

  • You don’t listen to constructive criticism

These final two points are for those of you on one extreme or another. First, for those of you on this side of it, it’s time to drop the “know it all” attitude. You allow criticism to offend you, even if it is positive/constructive. If you do this, it’s pretty much impossible to meet your potential.

As much as it stings to hear that we suck at something, it’s much better to actually hear it out and change it now than letting it fester for years untouched. This isn’t to say that you should change every single time someone finds fault in what you do, but it does mean that if you hear patterns in people’s criticism of your actions, then maybe it’s time to look into it.

If accepting criticism is below you, leading people is above you!

  • You care too much about someone else’s opinion


On the other side of the aisle are those of us who can’t think for ourselves! Every time someone says something you don’t like or criticizes you, you automatically cave. In fact, let’s change the language here and say “we” because for a long time I acted this way.
 
I’m naturally a people pleaser, and I want others to like me. When I was younger, I was willing to sacrifice far more than I should just for a laugh, for people to think I’m cool, or just, in general, accept me. Let me be clear: There is no single act that will stunt your personal growth quicker than caring about someone else’s opinion about your life more than your own.
 
There’s a balance- you should hear criticism, but then be able to weigh that against your intentions to see if it holds any merit. If it does, change! If it doesn’t, keep pushing forward! The choice is yours and only yours to make, but if you want to meet your potential, you must be willing to do what it takes!