5 Ways to Become a Better Team Player

When I was in school many moons ago (last year), there were few things I hated more than finding out that we had a “group project” to do in a particular class. Just didn’t like them.
It’s not that I’m against working in groups, but I DESPISED group work in most of my college classes. While I’m sure you can imagine why many driven students don’t like working in groups, these group projects early on teach valuable lessons which we can use to prepare ourselves for real work.
At work, most of us have co-workers, bosses, or employees. Unless you hired them specifically, then you probably did not get to choose them- just like my case in school. Nonetheless, we are required to work with others to accomplish a common goal. So, if many of us HAVE to do it, then we may as well make sure that we are well equipped to do so. Below are 5 tips you can implement to become a better team player. Note: If everyone on our teams does this, our projects will be seamless. 

  • Personal Accountability

Let’s start with some good old fashioned “the buck stops here” methodology. It’s never fun to be the one in the wrong, but if we as members of a group do not adopt accountability early on, none of the other tips are going to help.

We should take care of our work, but also be willing to admit when we are wrong or when we mess up. No one likes being in the wrong, but we will be respected far more by our peers if we own our mistakes rather than blame shifting or giving excuses as to why we messed up. If we never take responsibility for our own actions, those at work are going to stop depending on us to get things done. Newsflash: That’s really, really bad news.

While this concept is easy to understand, it can be quite difficult to implement. For many of us, it is natural to immediately blame shift. In order to break this habit, we must decide that we are going to be accountable and then practice that sentiment. We will all mess up, but it is our responsibility to pick up the pieces when we do and move forward.

  • Establish Open Communication

Think about how easy it is to communicate with your best friend, close relative, or anyone in which you may confide. Untethered communication is a beautiful thing, and eliminating unnecessary boundaries around your work communication can be a huge breath of fresh air for the group.

Essentially, you want to know that you are free to speak your opinions without immediately being judged by your peers or getting into a severe argument. For best group results, you want to establish early on that anyone has the floor in terms of voicing their ideas. For meetings, this usually works best by segmenting different time slots according to their purpose. So, perhaps you start your meeting with a 5 – 10-minute brainstorm session, during which anything goes. Then, you can reign in the conversation to focus on specific topics.

However you want to set up your meetings is up to you, but the principle of establishing open communication stays the same. You WILL see better results this way than if everyone is afraid to voice their opinion.

  • Set a Schedule Conducive to All Team Members

If you’re a student, then you need to find times when your classmates can meet outside of other classes, studying, and extra-curricular activities. Next time you do a group project, you should ACTUALLY do this, and not just act like it :D. Far too many times, our group would set a “schedule” just to later find out that only half the members could actually make it. If you have to, get everyone to sign the schedule just to get that extra sense of accountability.

For the rest of us, we need to make sure that the entire team is on the same page regarding meeting times, but more importantly the amount of work expected to go into the project, along with clear quality expectations. Again, this doesn’t seem difficult to grasp, but I’ve personally seen teams within very large corporations who completely dropped the ball on their projects due to timetable/scheduling issues.

  • Give/Receive feedback early and often

While this ties into tip #2, feedback is a little bit different than just person to person communication. In order to have proper feedback, you need to have mechanisms in place which “grade” or “judge” your performance.

Let’s say that your team is working on search engine optimization for your company’s new Shopify page. Immediately, there needs to be some type of goal that you are shooting for; hopefully something other than “a lot of sales.” Set a specific goal, and then allow the KPIs you implement to provide that feedback.

If your goal is to increase website traffic by 40% over the course of 6 months, then there should be a few measurable, short-term objectives you need to accomplish in order to meet/exceed this goal. Once you have these measurements, use them! Determine at least 1 person who is responsible to regularly track these KPIs, and have them relay those to the team at your discretionary frequency.

  • Positive Reinforcement

Odds are, something will go wrong. That is expected, and that means you and your team members are human. Most larger group issues are not formed from the initial problem, but rather the team’s reaction to the problem. Let’s be clear- there are absolutely times when the group needs to call out someone if they aren’t pulling their weight. If you want to be accountable as a group, then naturally you have to hold others accountable as well.
However, when something does go right, LET THEM KNOW!! Praise the team, thank them for their work, and then praise the again. Positivity leads to momentum, which under the right circumstances can lead to synergy. If your entire team can develop synergy, then it’s time for other teams in your industry to watch out! For more on this topic, check out Habit #6 from Stephen Covey’s“7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” 


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.

time block_thumg

5 Ways Time Blocking Changed My Life

Before the beginning of 2019, I did a lot of thinking. It was quite a transition period for me- for the first time in my life I was no longer in school. Now it’s not like I had a lot of free time on my hands- I already co-owned a sales and distribution startup with my friend and business partner Ross.
This was around the same time I decided to start the blog and podcast. I knew that I wanted to pursue another creative outlet which could also serve as a way to help others, but I also knew that it was going to take up a lot of time. And, newsflash: it absolutely has!
I don’t regret it for one second, though. I really enjoy doing this, and I hope to continue to improve as I keep making content. Since taking on this venture, I’ve had to get really good at time management.
One of the first things that I looked to optimize was my daily schedule. It seemed like a pretty simple equation: make a daily schedule + filling it with valuable tasks + time = success. That’s all fine and dandy, but it can be difficult to implement if we do not have a plan.
THAT, my friends, is when I discovered time blocking- and it changed my life! Let’s talk about 5 ways that this method has significantly impacted my routine over the last few months:

  • Time blocking prepares my mind for the following day/week

Have you ever heard the advice to lay out the clothes you plan on wearing the next day before you go to bed? This is kind of like that, except on steroids.

My definition of Time Blocking is the practice of categorizing your day into smaller, more manageable segments. These segments can range from 5 minutes to a couple of hours, and can include everything in your day from work, to physical fitness, to personal care and spending time with friends and family.

If you take time each day to plan your next day, then you have already alleviated yourself of unnecessary stress by knowing your schedule. This gives you extra time to strategically think about the tasks you need to complete and empties your mind of clutter. 

  • Time blocking drastically improves my productivity

I will say this once for all of you to hear: No single practice/tool has had a greater positive impact on my productivity than time blocking. NOTHING!

Every day, my schedule is pretty much built out for me from 7 AM until 10 PM, and that’s been the case since the beginning of 2019. While every single minute of the day doesn’t have a specific assigned task, 85% of it usually does. That may sound like a bit much, but I cannot stress enough how much more I’ve been able to enjoy both work and creating content by placing these time parameters on myself every day.

For me, “working against the clock” gives a sense of urgency that I may not have had otherwise. It says: Get this done, and you only have 30 minutes to do so! Try it out, you’ll become more productive (almost) guaranteed.

  • Time blocking eliminates my “need” to multi-task

I used to scoff at the idea of not being able to multi-task. After all, only the unintelligent people of the world have to take things 1 step at a time, right? WRONG. 

While multi-tasking makes you think you’re accomplishing 2 things at once, many times we’re actually accomplishing NEITHER thing. Or at best, giving 50% to both tasks rather than 100%.

I don’t feel that I need to spend too much time here. If you need to be convinced that multi-tasking is usually a bad idea, don’t take it from me, take it from Tim Ferris“Don’t be a donkey!”

  • Time blocking allows me to have a micro & macro view of my life/habits

For the first time ever, I was able to have an excellent understanding of what I was doing on the “micro” (day-to-day) AND the macro (year-to-year). It was almost like I had developed a superpower when in reality all I had done was give myself a schedule.

Something that was seemingly so small gave me such a sense of clarity and understanding of my current situation that I began to be more motivated just by reviewing and updating this schedule. I always filled it up with mandatory work first, creative side projects second, and whatever time I had left would go to extra activities or “free time.”

Don’t get it twisted- there are very few days that I do not have some personal time scheduled. You need to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically, because a fat wallet is useless to a sick person. The beautiful thing is that time blocking actually shows you that you CAN have a full life of physical and mental fitness, work, family, and friends if you will take the time to plan!

  • Time blocking forces me to be honest with myself

Perhaps the most challenging (yet probably my favorite) aspect of time blocking is that it almost immediately suffocates all of my BS excuses for not being able to do something. What’s even funnier is that the piece of paper, google calendar, or whatever you use never says anything inherently- it only shows what you put in there.
I have definitely fallen victim to binge-watching 20 hours of Netflix over the course of a weekend in the past. I promise you- if you are not in a good spot mentally, physically, or financially and you pull a stunt like that, time blocking will make that type of thing so repulsive to you that you even feel guilty.
Keep in mind, this content is ALWAYS only for those who are not happy with their position in life. If you’re happy, you’ve made it! Keep doing you! But, if you’re not happy; if you’re looking for more; if you feel stuck: I sincerely encourage you to try this out.
What makes up our days will make up our lives, and it is absolutely amazing what we can accomplish by just changing a few small habits and doing them every single day. 


5 Ways to Get More out of Brainstorming

Have you been feeling creatively stuck? Perhaps you work a 9-5 and want to consider looking for a new job or adding a side hustle, or maybe you want to quit everything and pursue a dream. Whatever reason you may have for reading this, you need ideas, and you need them fast!
My favorite way to spark as many ideas as possible is a good, old fashioned brainstorm session.
Brainstorming is very popular, and I have been in several sessions which have been less than ideal. From these experiences, plus trying some out on my own, I’ve been able to curate a list of 5 essentials to which any good brainstorming session should adhere:

  • The real brainstorm should start prior to the meeting

Most of these points are addressed to a group, although they can work for individuals as well. In groups, a common misconception that I’ve seen carried out in these sessions is that most of the members have not given the topic any thought prior to the meeting. While a brainstorm is supposed to be less structured, it should have some structure.
In order for everyone to be on the same page, and for the brainstorm to have the most potential, everyone should do some reading/research on their own prior to the meeting. This allows all involved to have a basic understanding of the concept at hand, which hopefully means that they will come to the meeting having already formulated a couple of good ideas.
For individuals, give yourself a chance to research before you sit down and brainstorm. I’ve been very surprised with how just a little bit of prior knowledge can vastly increase the sessions’ efficiency, and even more so the amount of that brainstorm that actually gets turned into actionable ideas.

  • Use a “talking stick” method

If you’ve been in a couple of brainstorm sessions, you understand that the extroverts in the room tend to dominate 70% or more of the conversation. While everyone is not required to have the exact same amount of time, it is crucial in this type of meeting for everyone to feel heard and respected.
There’s no quicker way to kill the vibe of a brainstorm session than to make someone feel like their ideas aren’t as important as someone else’s. Thus, the talking stick method was born. At its most literal level, this process involves grabbing a stick from outside and stating at the beginning of the meeting that you aren’t allowed to talk unless you are holding the (you guessed it) talking stick! Just set a time limit on how long each person can hold it, and watch the pistons start firing!
For individuals, this is not as much of an issue because you’re the only one talking/thinking. While the literal method may not work for you, you can try a virtual one! Give yourself ample time to write down the ideas you can think of, and then consult ole reliable: Google.

  • Keep a strict schedule

Meetings without time frames usually run too long. That’s just a fact, and the sooner everyone realizes this, the less time we will waste in meetings. You know what I’m talking about, right? You’ve been in that one meeting (or several) that just drags on and on, always seeming to go a few minutes long.
No one likes wasting away in a meeting, especially when it’s a brainstorm session and everyone has other work to finish. So, let everyone know the length of the meeting ahead of time, and don’t go 1 single second over! Seriously, not 1 second.
For individuals, set a timer on your phone and force yourself to stop when the timer goes off. If needed, you can take a small break and then set another timer. However, the practice is still the same. This idea has actually been studied for quite some time and is officially called Parkinson’s law. I highly encourage you to look more into this, and I’ll make a mental note to do a video on this topic later.

  • Challenge your routines

Brainstorming has a very interesting way of inadvertently addressing problems you didn’t even know you had. As you know, some of the deadliest words in business are “We’ve always done it that way.” I don’t think I have to do much explaining here, just ask Toys R Us how “doing what you’ve always done” works out. Newsflash: it doesn’t!
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about/doing things a certain way because it’s always been like that. Use these sessions to grab the status quo by the horns, rough it up a bit, and come away with ideas refined with 2025 in mind (plan for the future, not for now).
This idea works with individuals just as it does with businesses. We all have certain areas where we are set in our ways, when in reality we could be making more money, spending more time with friends and family, or doing other things that give us fulfillment if we got real with ourselves and did things the “right” way because they were right- not because they were normal.

  • Have an implementation plan

Few things kill momentum quite like getting several great ideas and then executing on none of them. Brainstorming is completely pointless if you’re not going to follow through with implementing the ideas, but that’s a very easy thing to do if we don’t adequately plan.
Put together an implementation PLAN, which allocates certain tasks to certain PEOPLE (or yourself if it’s just you), who will complete these certain tasks in a certain TIME, all of which have KPIs which indicate your success in achieving the GOAL.
Being stuck is no fun, but it doesn’t have to stay that way! We just have to be intentional about what we want, and then set a plan to go get it. If you don’t yet have those ideas fully formulated, that’s just fine- try a nice little brainstorm!


5 Dangers of Perfectionism

I’m an imperfect person, writing to an audience of imperfect people. No one’s even close- we all have flaws and idiosyncrasies and make mistakes every day (sorry). The good thing is, that’s okay… the bad thing is that we don’t think it is.
So, what do we do? We perfectionists slave over tedious work, spending hours and hours perfectly crafting and formulating each sentence, or b-roll, or whatever your creative tool- we lose our minds over every last crevice of our work- it must be 100% perfect!
When, in reality, no one cares! Well, let’s back up. It’s not that no one cares, it’s just that no one cares THAT much- other than you. It is extremely easy for us to get caught up in the details of our work when really most of our “audience” doesn’t know the difference between our 95% and 100%. Have you ever had a project that you kept changing and editing over and over again? Just guessing, then second-guessing, then editing your guesses.
It is a beautiful thing to be able to take pride in your work, but trying to make everything perfect may actually do just the opposite. Here are just 5 dangers of perfectionism:

  • You’re chasing an illusion

What’s the first danger of perfectionism, you ask? Perfection doesn’t actually exist! In fact, not only do many of us think “perfection” is attainable, but we even tell ourselves that it’s the only way.

Charly Haverstat, a recovering perfectionist, performed a Ted Talk in 2016 discussing this very topic, explaining how perfectionism is a target which we will never hit and even one for which we shouldn’t be aiming.

  • Perfectionism keeps you from “starting”

Do you have a dream of starting a side business, volunteering with a non-profit, making a YouTube channel, getting back into the dating world, etc.? Whatever your dream is, we talk a lot in the blog and podcast about making it happen for yourself. In order to do so, you have to START.

Start somewhere- anywhere! Perfectionism completely kills that message, because you cannot start in a “perfect” place. Almost nothing is ever perfect, much less at the very beginning when you’re just starting out. Opportunities often present themselves to you disguised by hard work, commitment, and uncertainty. If you ever want to break out of your shell and start something for yourself, you’re going to have to cope with the fact that things will not be perfect at the start, and perhaps never will be. And that’s okay!

  • Perfectionism drains creativity

If you’re a creator (everyone is a creator whether they know it or not- you create environments, emotions, and feelings all day long), then you have probably gone through some type of creative process which helps you ‘get the ball rolling.’ During this process, it is absolutely paramount that you focus less on the final “product” and more on getting ideas down. Otherwise known as “brainstorming”, the art of getting ideas down on paper is crucial to the creation process.

The easiest way to kill creativity is to run every idea you have through a perfectionist model, aka filing through every little possible thing that is wrong with your idea, strategy, or whatever it is you’re working on. When you want to be creative, the goal is to think and write- not critique! Researching and finalizing your thoughts happens at the very end, not at the beginning. Doing this at the beginning will stunt your creativity, and may actually cause you to never start.

  • Perfectionism kills productivity

If every piece of content we put out or task we complete has to be perfect, our productivity and speed drastically decrease. In 2019, quality is still important, but speed and quantity are becoming increasingly vital to our success. Speed and perfectionism cannot coexist.

If you want to maximize your productiveness, you need to be okay with putting out “A” work, not “A+” work. Don’t be deceived- you need to do good work, whether that’s at the office, at home, or in your personal life. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be fully dedicated to doing your best. However, I am insinuating that perhaps you should redefine what “best” actually means.

Is it better to put out consistent work while staying physically and mentally healthy, or to make every single thing you do 100% perfect before moving on? There are some arguments we’re willing to accept here, but USUALLY, the 1st scenario will be optimal for most people.

  • In many cases, it’s unhealthy

Perfectionism can be an unhealthy trait for people of all ages. Amanda Ruggeri recently wrote about some of The Dangerous Downsides of Perfectionism, which includes a meta-analysis of perfectionism rates from 1989 – 2016. 
The findings of this study showed that not only is perfectionism on the rise, but related mental/physical health concerns are also rising. We highly recommend that you check out Amanda’s article.
If we wish to grow and meet our full potential, we must get used to not trying to perfect every single thing we touch. We must realize that ambition and perfectionism are two very different things- one drives you to be great, the other drives you insane. Understand the difference, and you will find more enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

Free time_thumb_edited

5 Reasons Why You Should Schedule Free Time

Do you feel like you’re swimming in work? Are you often feeling tired or burned out at the office or at home? You aren’t alone.
According to a poll conducted by Gallop in 2017, only 15% of workers worldwide are actually engaged in their work.  That number is absolutely staggering- 85% of people don’t like their job! Well, at least according to that poll.
While hating your job isn’t something I have any particular advice for (other than quitting), we can at least look to empower ourselves during our free time, and give ourselves the best chance of advancement at work, and in our relationships with family and friends. I have been scheduling my free time for a few months now, and here are 5 reasons why you should consider it, too:

  • You’ll ACTUALLY have free time!

How many times do we get to the end of our day and realize that we didn’t do 1 single thing for ourselves all day (other than eating that unclaimed donut at 3:00 PM)? When we get busy, this gets very easy. Over time, we’re going to take time for ourselves one way or another. I’ve never met someone who has the motor to go 24/7 for very long before they crash.

While I’m all about the “hustle and grind” of being an entrepreneur, it’s important to know when to take off that hat and just be a person- feeling the emotions of right-this-second rather than thinking about investments 2, 5, 10 years down the road. Determination is healthy, and even obsession is fine, but only as long as it’s kept in perspective.

  • You won’t feel guilty about taking breaks

Have you ever been so busy that you felt that you couldn’t take a break? Not a good feeling, is it? I used to do this to myself on a regular basis during my first 2 years of college. Granted, it was 100% my fault, as I tended to procrastinate on assignments and then finish them last minute. Nonetheless, not scheduling free time + procrastination leads to a downward spiral that’s difficult to overcome.

You should not feel guilty about taking free time for yourself. If you do, it’s because you know you still have work to do. However, get on a normal schedule, get very consistent with your work output, start scheduling your free time, and you’ll be amazed at the result.

I’ve mentioned before that I started scheduling my entire day via “time blocking.” If you’re interested in going straight to this step, check out Thomas Frank’s video on the subject.

  • You will increase focus/productivity at work

When you give yourself time to relax, reflect, or just get out of the office, you find that your time spent in the office is more productive. Your focus is increased because you don’t feel the weight of working all day, every day with no break or end in sight. You know exactly how much work you have to do before taking a break, which gives you a goal to work toward.

Think of “free time” as a chance to prioritize your mental health. If you are not mentally healthy, then there’s a very high chance that you are not performing to your full potential at work or home. Free time gives you a chance to release, not worry about every single detail in life, and recuperate before it’s time to work again.

Scheduling your free time is a great step toward keeping you fully engaged in all facets of life, not just work. Be present- not a zombie.  

  • Free time adds flexibility to your life

Another beautiful thing about free time is that you do not have to use it! Sometimes, life hands us a full plate that must be finished before we can leave the table. That’s fine on occasion, we just want to be cognizant of that fact and not let it become the norm.

If you have free time scheduled in your day and you HAVE to work, no worries! You’ve already planned the extra time, so you can use it to finish whatever you need to do. You now have flexibility which you may not have previously championed. Flexibility means that you can bend and mend your schedule to fit your desires and goals- AKA you aren’t going to BREAK the second something doesn’t go as planned.

  • Free time gives us perspective

As ambitious people, it’s easy to use phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or “money isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” or “I’m on that 24/7 grind.” Quite frankly, I’m not here to judge your life, nor am I remotely qualified to do so. However, I’ve found personally that the ones who don’t “make it” are the ones who burn out, who put too much of their own identity in their work.
Passion, long hours, dedication, and an absurdly positive outlook is what you need to make it in this world. However, these things are not possible to keep up long-term without some type of balance. Work is important, but it’s not everything. It doesn’t define us as people, and it certainly doesn’t speak to what is inside of us.
Scheduling your free time gives you the chance to reflect on what is actually important, and have the perspective to live intentionally. When we’re on our death bed, will we be focused on the extra money we made, or the extra time we spent to take care of our health and the health of our friends and families? You’ll have to answer that for yourself.