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Jul

13

2017

29 of the Best Office Pranks & Practical Jokes to Use at Work

Published by in category Canonical, Daily, Office Life | Comments are closed

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For anyone who’s watched the TV show “The Office” as religiously as I have, the classic “stapler in Jell-O” trick surely sounds familiar. It’s pretty much what the name describes: Simply make a batch of Jell-O, but make sure your colleague’s stapler is hidden inside the mold. As I said — classic. But what other, less conventional pranks are out there to add some kicks to an otherwise average day at the office?

We asked our friends and combed the internet for more examples of some of the funniest office pranks, and pulled together this list to serve as inspiration for your own work pranks. Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.Every company has a story or two about that funny office prank of yore. Whether you’re doing some early April Fool’s Day research, or just feeling a little tricksy, it’s time to get a prank of your own in the books. Here are some ideas.

Funny Pranks to Pull on Your Coworkers

1) When Halloween is around the corner, these caramel onions are no match for other tricks (or treats).

caramel-onionsSource: Rant Lifestyle

2) And speaking of Halloween, here’s what nightmares are truly made of.

toilet-terrorSource: Rant Lifestyle

3) Fish food (hopefully) included.

drawer-fish-tank-prank.jpgSource: Reddit user jihadaze

4) We hope nobody called the paramedics.

toilet-prankSource: BuzzFeed

5) Tighten the zip-tie, throw it … and run for your life.

febreeze-prankSource: Emlii

6) The perfect use for those sticky notes that keep piling up.

post-it-car-prankSource: Reddit, Bzbzbzbz

7) Never ask your work buddy to unlock your phone for you.

keyboard-shortcut-prankSource: Gottabemobile

8) That’s one way to make sure everyone’s alert before a meeting.

grand-entrance-prank.jpgSource: Reddit user JJ0EE

9) At least it’s not glitter?

balloon-prankSource: Reddit, williebeth

10) For trolls, by trolls.

trolled-prankSource: Dose

11) Oh look, a budget trip to the beach.

vacation-prank.jpgSource: Imgur user Sanjeev

12) That’s it. You’re suspended.

suspended-chair-prank.jpgSource: WorldWideInterweb

13) Hey everyone, there’s cake up for grabs in the kitchen.

find-the-toenail-prank.jpgSource: Reddit user blinhorst

14) “I don’t know, I feel like my boss is always watching me.”

boss-pics.jpgSource: Imgur user DecentLeaf

15) Simple, yet brilliant.

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Source: Tumblr

16) I’m not even mad. I’m just impressed.

cubicle-homeSource: Reddit user BOOMTimebomb

17) This could actually make your cat-loving co-worker’s day.

cat-lover-prankSource: Reddit user cstyves

18) “You said you wanted to spend more time with nature.”

seeds-in-keyboardweeds-in-keyboard-prankSource: BoredPanda

19) For the prankster with NO SOUL.

 

This is just cruel 😂 #officeprank #aprilfools #krispykreme #mean #notcool

A post shared by Free Humor (@scotchandsarcasm) on May 12, 2017 at 12:02pm PDT

20) Just the adrenaline rush you needed.

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Source: Tumblr

21) Warning: It could scare the bejeezus out of you, too.

chair-foghorn-prankSource: Reddit user 12q9et

Funny Pranks to Pull on Your Boss

22) “For the man who never has enough time.”

 

Accounting is getting their toilet replaced, so we decided to play a little #prank on my boss before they install it #officeprank #workingefficiently #multitasking

A post shared by Alice (@alicetaywong) on Jul 17, 2015 at 4:33pm PDT

23) … Or anyone, really, who never has enough time — regardless of decor preferences.

bathroom-cubicle-prank.jpgSource: 22words

24) About that whole, “At least it’s not glitter” thing …

25) Sometimes, you’re not sure how to ask for another day off.

 

Morning after that long weekend.. think they’ll notice? Back to that #workgrind #mondaysbelike #struggleisreal #readyfortheweekend #officeprank bringing the #laughs😂

A post shared by L Weaver (@elleweav) on May 30, 2017 at 5:54am PDT

26) Congratulations, you finally learned about your manager’s celebrity anti-crush.

 

#officeprank

A post shared by Alice Lei (@alicerabbit1) on Aug 1, 2015 at 4:04pm PDT

27) When words just aren’t enough to express your sentiment.

 

Thanks @mg2418 and @p2theslingshot for the birthday mug! Love you guys! #smartass #birthday #officeprank #fridayfun #coffee #coffeetime #middlefinger

A post shared by David Miclette (@davidmiclette) on Apr 28, 2017 at 5:54am PDT

28) “Hey chief, I found a spider on your desk, but don’t worry — it’s been handled.”

 

#tbt to when I did a simple, but cruel joke to my co-worker. I’m just now realizing I may be the reason she left… oops. :p #officeprank #scaredofspiders #donotmove #loveyoumeanit

A post shared by Devan Harrold (@devanalyse) on Apr 27, 2017 at 8:41pm PDT

29) And finally, for the boss who has everything, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

giphy (9).gif

Source: Giphy

What’s the best office prank you’ve ever pulled off? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Jul

13

2017

Marketers Weigh In: Instagram or Snapchat Stories?

Published by in category Daily, Office Life, Social Media | Comments are closed

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Be honest: Do you spend a lot of time during your work day chatting with colleagues on messaging apps, like Slack?

It’s okay — so do we. And while some of our messages are GIFs and emojis (okay, the majority of our messages), we also get into lots of lively Slack discussions (okay, debates) about news stories and product announcements in the marketing technology space.

So when my colleague, senior growth marketing manager Niti Shah, sent around a link to Apptopia’s analysis of Snapchat’s slowing user growth, it sparked a discussion of who uses which app for sharing disappearing messages, and which is better — Snapchat Stories, or Instagram Stories.

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The conversation evolved from there, so we wanted to open it up to our inbound.org community members, too. 

So we asked marketers the following:

  1. When do you prefer to use Snapchat, and when do you prefer Instagram for Stories?
  2. When do you use Snapchat vs. Instagram for different marketing purposes?

And now, we’re sharing some of marketers’ biggest reasons for why they prefer each platform — read on for some of the highlights of the debate below.

Why Use Instagram Stories?

1) There’s more engagement.

The most resounding point that came up again and again — on both inbound.org and on Slack — was Instagram’s size advantage: While Snapchat hit 166 million users earlier this year, Instagram Stories alone has already racked up an impressive 250 million users.

And that’s probably because any one of Instagram’s 700 million total users can click on Stories to start seeing ephemeral content from accounts they follow. So it’s no surprise that marketers at HubSpot and on inbound.org saw the advantages of leveraging their reach with existing audiences on Instagram to share ephemeral content.

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Marketers found that Instagram Stories achieved higher levels of engagement than Snapchat Stories, so their sharing habits have dwindled on Snapchat — and in some cases, dropped off significantly.

insta-nick.png

Some even went so far as to delete Snapchat from their devices altogether.

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2) It’s is easier for individuals and businesses to use.

Because Instagram has been around slightly longer than Snapchat, users were already familiar with the interface when Instagram Stories was unveiled last August. So it’s no surprise so many members of our community found it easier to use compared to Snapchat.

inbound.org-snapvsinsta7.png

Benjamin Choy cited Instagram’s business tools, which are managed through Facebook’s impressive ads manager, as another compelling reason for marketers to spend more time and effort on Instagram.

inbound.org-snapvsinsta8.png

A couple of my colleagues cited the ease of permanent and Stories sharing all in one app, and my colleague, growth marketing manager David Ly Khim, made a great point about Instagram’s messaging capabilities compared to Snapchat: Individual direct messages don’t disappear, as they do on Snapchat.

insta-david aja.png

Others were more blunt about their opinions of Snapchat’s usability — or lack thereof.

insta-emma.png

3) It’s more visual for retailers on the platform.

Because Instagram is such a visual platform, some marketers have found their audience members and customers to be more engaged than on Snapchat — especially when it comes to sharing (or re-gramming) pictures of products.

inbound.org-snapvsinsta6.png

4) The audience is already there.

Like we mentioned earlier, because so many millions of users were already on Instagram when it introduced the Stories feature, many marketers find it easier to share content on the platform they were already using to share photos and videos.

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The built-in audience makes it easy for some marketers to prioritize the platform over Snapchat. Instead of rebuilding an existing audience of users, they can activate existing fans and attract new ones by sharing different types of content on Instagram.

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But one Instagram fan only likes Instagram — and not Stories.

insta-alyssa1.png

Why Use Snapchat Stories?

1) Users can share spontaneous, unpolished posts.

Snapchat was the original ephemeral sharing and messaging app, and it made its mark for showing a more authentic and unpolished side of social media, especially compared to the perfectly curated posts on Instagram feeds. 

And as it turns out, that original feeling is what keeps some of its users engaged to this day.

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2) It’s a less competitive space for brands to stand out with customers.

While some think Snapchat makes it too hard to discover and follow other users, Richie de Wit thinks Snapchat audiences could be more engaged because they have to seek your brand out so intentionally. Plus, because Instagram is so saturated with accounts, Snapchat could be a way to grab people’s attention more easily.

inbound.org-snapvsinsta9.png

3) It’s a more personal, private space for sharing with friends.

The most commonly cited argument for using Snapchat was for private use to communicate with friends and family — not necessarily for brands.

inbound.org-snapvsinsta.png

My colleague, senior growth and acquisition marketer Lindsay Kolowich, uses Instagram for personal branding — and she doesn’t post Stories. Instead, she saves her authentic and spontaneous content for her private network of Snapchat friends.

snap-lindsay.png

And in such a connected and social world online, some marketers find it valuable to have one network that’s just for them, and not for personal or business branding.

inbound.org-snapvsinsta5.png

4) It’s popular among younger audiences.

One of Snapchat’s biggest value propositions has always been its appeal to younger social media users — like teens in high school, and college students in their early 20s. Younger millennials were among the early Snapchat adopters, and they’re still the Snapchat diehards today.

So it’s no surprise that when we asked our resident youth culture expert, Clifford Chi, about Snapchat, he was a big fan. 

(Just kidding — he’s an intern writing for the HubSpot Marketing Blog.)

snap-clifford.png

So while Snapchat might be on a user growth downturn right now, who’s to say how its demographics and popularity will change when Chi and his classmates graduate, start working in social media marketing, or purchasing ad space? They’ll probably start with Snapchat — and app they already know and love.

Why Use Instagram and Snapchat Stories?

This is only a sampling of a couple of discussions, but the vast majority of people I asked chose Instagram Stories for marketing and Snapchat Stories for personal sharing.

So, does that mean that Snapchat is out, and Instagram is in? Not so fast.

Marketers should always seek to meet their audience where they already are — and not recreate them on a different platform just for the sake of it. If you’re engaging with your audience and your customers on Snapchat, don’t stop simply because Instagram might be more popular. Both networks are constantly innovating (and copying each other) to offer more business tools to make products more competitive — so stay tuned for our coverage of social media news every month to see how Snapchat and Instagram stack up against each other.

Many thanks to the HubSpot employees and inbound.org community members who participated in this discussion. Where do you stand on the debate over Instagram versus Snapchat for ephemeral content? Share your opinion with us in the comments below.

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Jul

7

2017

15 Uncomfortable Things That Will Make You More Successful

Published by in category Daily, Management, Office Life, pop culture, Professional Development, TOFU | Comments are closed

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In a truly beautiful letter to his daughter Yolande, Sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois extolled the virtues of being uncomfortable.

Yolande was headed to a new school halfway around the world from the neighborhood and people she knew. It was years before women had the right to vote, and decades before the Civil Rights Movement.

Du Bois knew she would have more than a few fish-out-of-water moments. Instead of trying to shield her from them, he asked her to revel in them:  

Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bed-room. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul. Above all remember: your father loves you and believes in you and expects you to be a wonderful woman.”

I am no W.E.B. Du Bois. I have neither his fortitude nor his stunning way with words. What I do have, however, is a small history of uncomfortable experiences that have made me stronger, and an endless sea of animated GIFs through which to illustrate those experiences.Boost your resume and join 30,000 marketers by getting inbound  marketing-certified for free from HubSpot. Get started here. 

Here are a handful of uncomfortable situations in which you should take De Bois’ advice and “Take the cold bath bravely.” You’ll be better off as a result.

(And remember: Investing in your career and developing new skills can often feel daunting — especially when you have a day job. If you’re looking for something you can work towards at your own pace, check out this on-demand marketing course.)

15 Uncomfortable Things That Will Make You More Successful

Brace yourself. It’s about to get awkward.

1) Learning to Take a Compliment

Source: Reaction GIFs

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You work exceedingly hard. You’ve honed your skills. You know when you’ve done great work and take a quiet pride in it. And yet, the moment someone verbalizes it in the form of a compliment you can’t seem to string two words together. Instead, you revert into one of the following

  • The babbling-response.
  • The self-deprecating response. 
  • The total and complete blackout. 

That nonsense has to stop. Here’s how to take a compliment:

  1. Realize that someone is paying you a compliment.
  2. Let them finish.
  3. Seriously, let them finish. 
  4. Take a breath.
  5. Smile and say “Thank you. That’s really good to hear.” 
  6. Move on in the conversation. Don’t over-explain. Don’t undercut yourself. Just thank them sincerely and move on with a question about how their work is going. 

Why is this so hard? According to a study by Acknowledgment Worksnearly 70% of people associate embarrassment or discomfort with the process of being recognized. Sometimes, this response is caused by the dissonance we feel when someone contradicts our own self-doubt.

But that doesn’t explain why people who are genuinely proud of themselves still balk at hearing that same praise from others. For those people, it often comes down to a learned-response. In other words, you are awkward when you receive compliments because I am awkward when I receive compliments — or, if not me, then your mom; your co-workers; your icons. We’re all making each other squirm. 

One way to turn that discomfort on its head is to realize that the compliment has more to do with the person giving it than with you. “When someone is complimenting you, they are sharing how your actions or behaviors impacted them,” explains Business Psychologist Mark Goulston. “They are not asking if you agree.”  So don’t rob them of that moment. 

2) Public Speaking

speaking.gif

Source: Giphy

You knew this one was coming, right? Fear of public speaking is so common it has its own phobia name: Glossophobia.  

Now, I don’t think I need to go into the reasons behind this particular juggernaut of discomfort. We’ve all been there. Having that many eyes and ears on you is stressful. It makes you feel as though any mistake or imperfection will be amplified a thousand times. I’m also certain you realize how compelling a good public speaker can be, and how much it can advance your ability to lead and inspire.

So all that leaves is the classic glossophobia question:  How do you get over it? The answer is a mix of substantial and superficial changes.

Know the essential points.

Do not attempt to memorize your speeches. Instead, memorize your key points and your pivot lines. Pivot lines are the sentences that will move you from one key point to another. They act as navigational guides for your audience and a momentary comfort zone for you. Use these pivot lines to reset, take a breath, and move to your next key point. 

Understand that everyone wants you to succeed.

You are not going into battle. You are not facing a firing squad. These people you are talking to are all decent, interested folks. Many of whom also suffer from glossophobia. So know they are friendly, and talk to them like it.

Fake it.

For this last point, I turn to Harvard Associate Professor Amy Cuddy. She is a brilliant researcher and a  self-proclaimed introvert who noticed something fascinatingly simple about skilled public speakers: They all looked comfortable, and they all appeared to be in command — even if that appearance was all a big ruse.

So she studied what happens to people’s mindset when they stood up straight, casually used the space around them, and otherwise “power-posed.” Turns out the physical act of power-posing can send biological triggers to your brain to reduce cortisol levels and increase testosterone, calming you down and empowering you simultaneously.

(Here’s a blog post on science-backed tips for better public speaking if you want to learn more.)

3) Working With Data

math-1.gif

Source: Reddit

If you don’t take to math easily, then delving into data can be intimidating. But learning to use data to find opportunities and underscore your points is a game-changer in your career.

The trick to mastering data is to learn it in context. Start by getting to know the core metrics that reflect your work. Play with spreadsheets at the close of a month. Learn to recognize trends. Alter the data to see how moving one metric would influence the others. The more time you spend with the data the more natural interpreting it will become.  Once you’ve done that, you can dig into the tougher stuff. Here are a couple of resources to get you started:

4) Waking Up Early

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It’s exhausting, this modern life. While it may seem like you should squeeze as many extra minutes of sleep out of the morning as possible, the opposite is usually true. Your energy, focus and mental capacity are at their highest during the morning hours and proceed to wane throughout the rest of the day.

Take advantage of that time before breakfast when the chaos of the day has yet to set in. For most people, waking up early is a learned practice. 

First, make sure you’re cognizant enough to make the decision. Putting your alarm clock right next to your pillow is bound to result in you hitting snooze from a dazed state. You can’t be expected to make smart choices while you’re still dreaming. In addition, waking up early needs to become a pleasant experience. So if the thought of going straight from your warm bed to a shower or treadmill seems abrupt, then don’t do it. Instead, move from your bed to the cozy corner chair in your living room and read for a bit with a mug of coffee. What you do early on doesn’t matter, what matters is that you use the time in productive ways. (Read this blog post for more tips on becoming a morning person.)

5) Taking Critical Feedback

Taking-Bad-Feedback

Source: ReactionGIFs

This one stings sometimes, but it’s important. Learning to hear criticism without turning your back to it can be one of the most fortifying achievements of your career.

Think of critical feedback as a cheat sheet. In giving you direct feedback, your manager or colleague is giving you a shortcut  — your own personal konami code — to becoming better at your job.

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, taking feedback well can be a struggle. Your impulse will be to protect yourself; to get defensive, or stop listening. So, be conscious of it. Much like accepting a compliment, take a breath when you realize critical feedback is coming your way. Listen to it all without interruption. Write down what you can. Then, ask questions to make sure you’re interpreting it right. 

6) Giving Critical Feedback

Source: Giphy

The only thing worse than taking critical feedback is giving it. I’ve written about this before: Whether you’re a manager or a friend, feedback is an opportunity to help someone get better. Don’t waste it. Good coaches give feedback directly and with respect. Don’t try to soften the blow or talk around the feedback. Doing so may make you feel better but it will only serve to confuse them.

If you’re struggling to be direct, try one clear line followed by detail. For example, “John, what you’re doing isn’t working. Let’s talk through why…”

In addition, feedback is always most constructive if accompanied by recent concrete examples. Telling someone they have a bad attitude isn’t helpful — it’s far better to point to a precise moment in which that bad attitude showed up, and then explain how moments like that can become detrimental in aggregate. Ultimately, knowing how to improve is as important as knowing what to improve. The person receiving the feedback should leave the conversation feeling empowered to change, not broken down. (Here are some more tips on how to give negative feedback without sounding like a jerk.)

7) Fighting through Conflict

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You know what’s more uncomfortable than fighting through a conflict with someone? Settling for an uninspired compromise, and then gossiping about that person over drinks with your coworkers. That’s WAY more comfortable than conflict. (Not to mention, way less productive.)

There are two ways conflict negotiations get botched: Either one side gives in too easily, or both sides are too inflexible to make resolution possible. The cleanest way through conflict is to try to discover what’s motivating the other person. Comment trolls aside, it’s pretty rare for someone to be argumentative for no good reason. Discovering the reason will help you find a better route to solving the conflict. That’s why your best asset in settling conflict is a collection of genuine questions and a patient ear to hear the answers.

8) Exercising

Exercise Gif

Source: Giphy

I keep waiting for the study that says that exercise isn’t all its cracked up to be. It’s fair to say that study isn’t coming. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, the ties between exercise and mental capacity are becoming undeniable. (Thanks, science.)

If you like working out, skip right ahead.  If you don’t, here are the only things I’ve found to work. 

Find your reason.

Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe it helps you think more clearly. Maybe you have three kids, a constantly buzzing phone, and a dog all demanding your attention and exercise is your only chance to be alone. The reasons don’t matter.  Just find the one that feels authentic for you and use it. 

Make the time.

Treat exercise like you treat showering. It’s just something you do; a non-negotiable daily ritual. (Psst … here are 10 little ways to sneak in exercise at work.)

Get over it.

I used to hear about “runners’ highs,” a sort of delusion that sets in after you’ve done it enough that actually makes you believe jogging is fun. That may be the case for some people. It never happened for me, and wanting to like running made it easy to give up when I ultimately didn’t. Du Bois’ advice is worth hearing again here: “Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.”

Find your genre.

The softer alternative to the above point is to find the exercise format that you hate least. If a crowded gym makes you want to run for the hills, then work out at home or outside on your own. If you find jogging boring, join a class or sports league. Work at it — it’s worth it.

9) Unplugging

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I love the internet. And smartphones? They’re like personal escape hatches that you carry with you all the time. But maybe “all the time” is not such a good idea.

According to a TIME poll of more than 5,000 people, 84% of respondents said that they could not go a single day without their cell phones, and 20% said they check them once or more every 20 minutes.

It’s not the frequency of usage that’s the problem; it’s what that level of usage does to our focus. Using our smartphones at night can make it a lot harder to sleep. When we use our smartphones nonstop it can be harder to think clearly.

So, here’s an experiment. For two weeks, set aside some screen free time blocks in your day. During that time fight the urge to open your laptop, watch TV, or glance at your phone. Sustain it for 60 minutes or more and see if you’ve gained better focus at the conclusion of the experiment. Then, go find some cat videos on YouTube to celebrate.

10) Networking and Making Small Talk

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Source: Giphy

Everyone has a small-talk formula. Some people start with the weather (nice, mild winter we’re having, eh?), while others ask how things are going with you at work. But here’s the trick to mastering small talk: Get fascinated by it and the person wielding it. It’s a little like being dealt a hand of cards, you can use what you have to get to bigger and more interesting plays.  

If someone asks you how work is, don’t say “fine” — or worse, “busy.” Tell them it’s good and follow up with, “You know, there’s one project in particular that you may find interesting.” If you’re doing the asking, take any opportunity to dive deeper. Use each question as a spring board to the next one. Eventually, you’ll hit on something substantial. 

11) Admitting a Mistake

Source: ReactionGIFs

You know that moment right after you realize you’ve accidentally made a mistake? You know, that moment when the dread plummets into your stomach in one sweeping motion? Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe it.

However, even that can be turned around. The most effective way to replace that sinking feeling in your gut is to assess the situation and take action. Ask yourself:

Is it immediately reversible?

On my last blog post, I had a glaring typo. This was not some extra spacing after a period, this was a blatant blemish smack in the middle of my post. And I missed it. Thankfully Claire Autruong caught it and let me know via Twitter so I could edit the post before it was too late. Claire is my favorite person of the week. (Incidentally, she is also a full-stack freelance marketer — inbound certified and nice as can be — if you’re looking.)

Who should know?

Whom does your mistake affect? Who is in the position who can help you solve it? Quickly scan the list of people that need to know about your mistake and contact them explaining what happened and what you’re doing about it.

What’s your plan?

If the mistake isn’t immediately reversible, you’ll need a plan of action. A good plan is the best antidote to mistake-induced discomfort. Shift from panic to determination as soon as possible, and that discomfort will subside.

12) Getting in Over Your Head

Source: ReactionGIFs

Of all the uncomfortable moments, getting in over your head is probably the one most worth pursuing. Sure, it’s a little scary , and there’s always the chance of failure, but nothing stretches you more or makes you more creative than having no idea what you’re doing.

So how do you put yourself in an over-your-head style situation? Raise your hand. When there’s a project no one wants, step up. When there’s a problem that has existed for years, have at it. Then break it down. Take big challenges and tackle them piece by piece. It may not always be fun, but you will almost always be better for the effort. 

13) Disagreeing With Your Boss

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Source: Giphy

There’s a reason my boss is my boss. He’s really freaking smart. He’s exceptionally good at what he does. So in the times I find myself disagreeing with him there are usually a few moments of internal back and forth before I’m ready to say so aloud. But I do so because I’ve learned that staying quiet is more damaging than polite.

It took me becoming a manager myself to realize how constructive disagreement can be. A perspective that is never tested grows shallow. Sometimes a dissenting opinion will make you reconsider. Sometimes it will make your stance stronger. Either way, the exercise of hearing different angles advances your thinking and improves your outcomes.

So spit it out. “I disagree on that point.” If that feels too direct consider framing it as a question. “What about a different approach?” Most importantly, don’t save up for a major disagreement. Practice coming at issues from different angles now. The more you present constructive counterpoints the easier it will become, and you’ll be more likely to speak up when it matters most.

14) Promoting Yourself

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Source: Giphy

Periodically we survey our team to get a sense for how each employee is feeling about the company and their own career development. One theme that sometimes comes back is how to get ahead without being self-promotional. Usually the comment goes something like this: “It seems like the company always recognizes the same people. I do good work, but it seems like no one notices.”

The honest response to these comments is: You’re right.

Growing companies are chaotic. They churn with activity: breakthroughs and setbacks, new projects and discoveries. Keeping up with it all isn’t practical, so managers rely on signals, and tasteful self-promotion is a valuable signal. 

Self-promotion is sometimes misused to serve the ego, but there’s a way to pull it off that also also serves the company.

We are taught not to be overly self-promotional. We are encouraged to value the achievement rather than the accolades. That message is almost right. It focuses on what matters most but fails to recognize that talking about an achievement can fuel its fire. Promoting an achievement can galvanize others to bring their ideas to it and ensure future efforts learn from it. And yes, it can get you noticed.

The trick here is being judicial. Not everything you do deserves broader attention. But some things do. In those cases, talking about them doesn’t make you an attention junkie it makes you a good communicator. If the personal attention makes you uncomfortable, focus your advocacy on the work itself. Draw attention to the discovery, milestone or lessons uncovered by your effort. The company will be better for it and you will too.

15) Admitting You Don’t Understand Something

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Source: Giphy

I was a good six months into my job as a product marketer for a software company before I finally owned up to not knowing what an API was. I mean I knew what an API was. I’d Googled it, obviously. API stands “application programming interface” and constitutes a set of “subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software.” Thanks Wikipedia. (I’ll hit you up on that next fundraising round), but for all my internet research, I didn’t really understand what an API did.

Then it came time for me to explain that my company, HubSpot, was opening up more of the helpful little buggers to the public and I did not know where to begin. So, I went to my product manager and did what any ego-protecting protagonist would do, I tried to fake it.

“How would you describe this  —  in layman’s terms — to the average reader?” I asked.

Smooth. Always blame the reader.

“Well, developers are pretty accustomed to APIs so don’t worry about needing to educate them on it.”

Not smooth.

I folded.

“Ok, then, how would you explain it to me? I mean, will you explain it to me? I don’t get it. “

And thus began my relationship with APIs. I still don’t understand all the details of how they work, but I’m much smarter for having gotten over myself and asked the question.

Don’t fake it until you make it. Get over yourself and ask the question.

I’ll stop there …

… but this is really just the beginning. Who knew there were so many uncomfortable things in the world? (Michael Cera. Michael Cera probably knew.)

From negotiating salary to reading “some good, heavy, serious books” as Du Bois suggests, this list could go on and on. Hopefully it will, in the comments below.

What uncomfortable moment have you conquered as a professional? Which are you still working on that you’d add to this list? Share with us in the comments. 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.

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Jun

28

2017

The 7 Best Office Music Playlists for Productivity

Published by in category Office Life, productivity | Comments are closed

office-music-compressor.jpgNot long after I first started at HubSpot, I was welcomed with a fresh pair of orange, noise-canceling headphones. At the time, I had no clue that these headphones would carry me through many long work days and some of the deepest, darkest levels of writer’s block.

Over two years later, they are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

You see, for me, listening to music while working is the secret to my productivity. All it takes is the right Beyoncé track, and I go from idle to uber productive. (Seriously, it works like a charm.)

The trouble is, finding the perfect playlist isn’t always easy. With endless streaming music possibilities at my fingertips, it can be hard to nail down just the right tunes to get the wheels turning. So, I did what we do best around here — a little research. New Call-to-action

As it turns out, there are a ton of studies that explore the influence of specific types of music as they relate to your productivity levels. To help you find just the right mix, we’ve sourced and curated seven Spotify playlists designed with specific studies in mind. Whether you’re into Mozart or Chance The Rapper, we’re confident that there’s something on this list that will do the trick.

Note: Some of the playlists contain tracks with explicit language that might not be suitable for the office.

7 Science-Backed Office Music Playlists for Productivity

1) Classical Music

One of the most frequently cited studies related to music and productivity is the “Mozart Effect,” which concluded that listening to Mozart for even a brief period each day can boost “abstract reasoning ability.” The study — led by researchers Gordon Shaw, Frances Rauscher, and Katherine Ky — employed 36 Cal-Irvine students who were divided into three groups. Group one listen to a Mozart selection, while group two listened to a relaxation tape, and group three endured 10 minutes of silence. After the listening activity, all 36 students were issued the same test, in which the Mozart group averaged an eight-to-nine point increase in their IQs, compared to the remaining groups.

Since then, the “Mozart Effect” has been hotly contested, but many researchers have gone on to explore the mental benefits of learning and listening to classical music. One recent study, for example, found that elementary-school-aged children who participated in music composition education outperformed students in a control group on reading comprehension.

Think classical music might work for you? Check out this classical-influenced playlist to find out for yourself:

2) Video Game Soundtracks

“Choosing the right video game soundtrack to work to is all about understanding what type of music motivates vs. distracts you when you need to concentrate,” says HubSpot’s Director of Marketing Acquisition (and former video game marketing consultant) Emmy Jonassen.

“For example, if you’re the type who gets amped and focused listening to high-energy music, rhythm game soundtracks, like those from Thumper or Klang, could work well. Conversely, if you need calm to concentrate, the serene soundtracks from exploration games, like ABZÛ and Journey, may do the trick. With thousands of games releasing every year, including many independent titles, there is a soundtrack to suit everyone’s ear,” she went on to explain.

Think about it: Playing a video game requires a lot of focus. To make it to the next level, players commonly have to avoid traps, dodge obstacles, and discover secret tools that will help them progress to the next level. As a result, the music selection for video games is often very strategic, in that modern soundtracks tend to reflect epic, inspiring cinematic scores rather than just basic sound effects.

And while studies have revealed mixed results, there is evidence to support that gamers can experience improved performance by playing a game with the volume on. For example, when psychology professor Siu-Lan Tan and her colleagues John Baxa and Matt Spackman specifically honed in on the game “Twilight Princess (Legend of Zelda),” they found that participants who played with both music and sound effects off performed worse than those who played with it on.

Want to try it on for size? Check out the playlist below:

3) Nature Sounds

According to psychophysical data and sound-field analysis published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, listening to “natural” sounds could enhance cognitive functioning, optimize your ability to concentrate, and increase your level of satisfaction.

Think: Waves crashing, birds chirping, streams trickling, and the like.

That could explain why more consumer-facing brands — from Google Home to the newer Noisli — are introducing such ambient sound features to help listeners relax or focus. It might also be behind Spotify’s multiple nature-themed playlists, like this soothing one:

4) Pump Up Songs

After observing that many athletes arrive at the stadium wearing headphones, Kellogg School of Management professor Derek Rucker and three of his colleagues — Loran Nordgren, Li Huang, and Adam Galinsky — set out to answer the question: Does listening to the right kind of music make us feel more powerful or in control?

So, back in 2014, the group of researchers set up a study to gauge how music might influence motivation and subsequent behavior. First, they played several songs for participants in a lab, and asked them — on a scale of one to seven — how powerful, dominant, and determined they felt after listening to each song. There were three “high power” winners: Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This,” and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.”

Then, to gauge how the music would influence their behavior, they asked participants to listen to the music and then determine whether or not they’d like to go first or second in a debate. As it turned out, those who listened to the high-power playlist volunteered to go first almost twice as often as those who listened to a less powerful playlist.

The lesson? “Just as professional athletes might put on empowering music before they take the field to get them in a powerful state of mind,” Rucker explained, “you might try [this] in certain situations where you want to be empowered.”

Next time you’re looking to feel empowered before a big presentation, interview, or salary review, check out this roundup:

Want more? Check out my colleague Amanda Zantal-Wiener’s picks here.

5) Instrumental Songs

In 2015, Middle Tennessee State University researchers Carol A. Smith and Larry W. Morris discovered that students who listened to “sedative” music during a test scored higher than those who listened to lyrical music. (That somewhat contrasts their initial findings 39 years earlier, which showed that while music didn’t reveal an impact on test scores, those who listened to “stimulative music” showed a significant increase in worry and highly emotional reactions.)

That isn’t to say that it’s entirely impossible to cross things off your list while listening to songs with words — I actually prefer lyrical music, but my colleague, Amanda Zantal-Wiener, has joked about hip hop verses accidentally slipping into her first drafts when she listens to songs with words. If you’re like she is and find that lyrics are too distracting, you may want to experiment with some instrumental options.

For those times, check out these lyric-less tunes — we promise they won’t put you to sleep:

6) “Feel Good” Songs

Buried in deadlines? Trying to unearth yourself from an email mountain after some time out of the office? Regretting that you came back? Whatever’s bugging you, sometimes, the best remedy for productivity loss is a solid dose of “feel good” tunes — you know, the kind that make you spontaneously use a pen as a pantomimed microphone.

But scientifically speaking, music can stimulate the same part of the brain as delicious food and other physical pleasures. Researchers at McGill University, for example, discovered that when participants received the opiod-production-blocking drug naltrexone, they didn’t respond as positively to their favorite tunes as they might normally. The verdict? Our brains are trained to naturally produce these chemicals when we hear our preferred playlist.

And while “feel good” songs vary from person to person, a search for Spotify playlists with those very keywords yields dozens of results. That said, here’s one of our favorites:

Can’t get enough? Here are a few more suggestions from my colleague Amanda.

7) White Noise

According to the BBC, about 70% of us work in open-concept work spaces — myself included. And while it’s great to be able to turn our colleagues next door and ask, “Hey, what’s another word for … ?”, many find background chatter distracting.

If that’s the case, you’re certainly not alone — according to a study led by Yamaguchi University, “When carrying out intellectual activities involving memory or arithmetic tasks, it is a common experience for noise to cause an increased psychological impression of ‘annoyance,’ leading to a decline in performance.”

But without an office to call your own, what’s a writer or number-cruncher to do? Neutral, non-verbal background sounds like white noise, which is not the same as nature sounds, can help to block out these distractions — things like the din of a restaurant or shopping mall, an electric fan, or even laundry machines.

And in case you’re wondering — yes. Like all of the above, there is a playlist for that:

So go forth — focus, get pumped, feel good, and rock out.

What are your favorite songs for getting work done? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Jun

15

2017

How to Avoid Burnout at Work: 7 Strategies from HubSpot’s Manager of Culture

Published by in category Daily, Office Life, Professional Development | Comments are closed

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Doesn’t it seem like we don’t go a day without hearing about employee burnout — mostly what a problem it is?

In a survey conducted last year by Morar Consulting, 95% of human resources professionals blamed the loss of good employees on job burnout. Headlines call it a “crisis.” Type the words “employee burnout” into the Google search bar, and one of the autocomplete phrases likely ends with, “is becoming a huge problem.” And yet, despite all the research pointing to how bad it is — for reasons ranging from physical health to how much employers lose on turnover because of it — it continues to be a huge problem.

But what are you supposed to do about it?

Many of us recognize these patterns in friends and family, but rarely ask that question of ourselves or, sometimes, our employees. So many people are afraid to take time for themselves until it’s too late and we reach — you guessed it — burnout status. Download our free guide here for more interviewing and screening tips to build  your team.

That’s why I decided to enlist the help of an expert: HubSpot’s Manager of Culture and Experience, Tamara Lilian. I asked her about the many ways her team goes above and beyond to prevent employee burnout here — and, perhaps even more important, how employees and employers everywhere can put them into practice in their own environments.

So, what did we learn? Read on to find out — or listen to our interview with Lilian by pressing “play” below.

How to Avoid Burnout at Work

For Employers and Managers

1) Learn how to recognize signs of burnout.

This tip applies more to individual managers than it does to employers as a whole. When workloads are at a peak for everyone, and there’s plenty of stress to go around, it can be difficult to remember to observe what — and how — others around us are doing. And when it comes to signs of burnout, it’s often difficult for people to recognize them even within themselves.

That’s why it’s so important for managers to be able to recognize them — and take the necessary actions to address and resolve them. And while that can be tough for new managers, Lilian says, with some knowledge and information, it’s certainly not impossible.

“We’re stepping up our manager training, and we’re working on trainings to support them with their teams,” she explains. That includes things like knowing how to manage workloads in a way that mitigates burnout before it even happens, as well as supporting employees during their time off.

Actionably, what does that mean? To start, if you have people on your team who are particularly overeager to tackle things, recognize that it’s a great attitude to have, but check in regularly to make sure that person isn’t biting off more than she can chew. That way, you’re working to manage her workload in a way that prevents burnout.

And while employees should also be encouraged to take time off when they need it, make sure they know that they should truly be offline during their times out of the office. For that reason, it’s fair to request as much advanced notice as necessary, so you can work together to make sure there’s a support system in place at the office that can allow that person to fully disconnect.

2) Set the tone with a company (or team) culture code.

Here at HubSpot, we have a Culture Code, a document created to represent our people, culture, and values. It was written by CTO and Co-founder Dharmesh Shah with the mentality that, to build the best company, he would build it much like an engineer builds a product with code.

But the keys here are the three aforementioned things that the Culture Code was built to support: people, culture, and values. And no matter how big or small your team or company, you can still build a “code” guide the way your team operates. In fact, there are a few things from HubSpot’s own that can be applied to a number of environments, says Lilian. These are things like:

Transparency

“We share everything internally, from executive leadership meeting decks, to finances, to board meetings,” Lilian explains. “That creates trust, which in turn makes people feel valued.”

One easy way to add more transparency to your team or company culture is to always add context to major changes or decisions, especially when they impact the things your employees work on. If there’s a sudden pivot, explain why, and acknowledge that it’s sudden.

Trust

“Speaking of trust,” says Lilian, “in the Culture Code, we have a three-word policy: use good judgment. There’s no employee handbook you receive on Day One, because we put an enormous amount of trust in our employees.”

Showing that you trust your employees can manifest itself in a number of ways, but a big one is to stop micromanaging. Autonomy is also a big part of our culture here at HubSpot — which means that while managers are encouraged to maintain strong communication and be available for help whenever it’s needed, they trust us to get our work done on time, ask for help when we need it, and keep them updated on projects.

In other words, employees are given a large degree of control over their own work, which has been shown to correlate with both higher productivity and overall wellness. It also allows employees the freedom to independently discover the ways in which their work contributes to an organization’s overall success, which can lead to a greater willingness to ask questions — instead of being afraid of looking like they don’t know something. Being able to obtain that information without being judged for it can encourage creativity, too, as transparent, comprehensive answers can encourage new ideas.

People > Perks

“Sure, the free beer, being able to bring your dog to work, and having a gym on-site are cool,” says Lilian. “But that’s not what keeps people here. Keeping people motivated, challenged, and welcomed with an inclusive work environment is what keeps people here.”

That said, as you begin to build your team, remember that perks don’t go unappreciated. Free coffee is great for most of us, let alone free beer. But also think about the things for which the novelty isn’t quite as likely to wear off — things like the engaging work that Lilian referred to. If your team isn’t producing quality work, don’t assume that it’s due to laziness. The issue could just be a lack of interest. Have a conversation with employees about that to find out what’s making them lose interest, and together, figure out how to make it more engaging.

3) Lead by example.

Riddle me this: If you never see your boss take a vacation, how good are you going to feel about taking one? Probably not great — you wouldn’t be mirroring the example set by your manager to never take time off.

“You have to lead by example,” says Lilian. “For example, our CEO, Brian Halligan, just took his one-month sabbatical. If he can take that time off, then others definitely can.”

In the end, leading by the example of taking time off when you need it ends up benefitting everyone. Not only will it permit you the time you need to disconnect and recharge — which boosts productivity — but also, you’re showing your team that it’s an important thing to do.

They say that actions speak louder than words, but this tip partially goes back to the idea of knowing when to recognize burnout. Don’t just take time off — encourage it, too. If you’re planning to take some time off and realize that it’s been a while since your employees have, bring that up in your next conversation. Even if that person responds that she’s too busy to take time off, discuss the importance of breaks and that you’re ready to work with her to make sure all bases are covered while she’s out.

For Employees

4) Use the resources made available to you.

And while we’re on the topic of the old “I don’t have time” excuse, when it comes to taking care of yourself, “you need to make the time,” says Lilian.

She points to the the Healthy@HubSpot program, which includes things like on-site fitness classes, a kitchen full of healthy snacks — including fresh fruit and vegetables — and standing desks. And while not every workplace will have the budget for these types of resources, it’s important to take advantage of those that are available.

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For example, maybe your workplace has a nice outdoor area. Weather permitting, don’t let it go to waste — eat lunch there, or sit there for five minutes when you’re feeling particularly stressed (more on that later).

Sometimes, though, taking advantage of what’s made available to you comes down to your colleagues. “It sound so simple, but just grabbing coffee with someone you work with can have an impact,” says Lilian, “or turning a meeting into a ‘walking meeting’ outside.”

She also encourages making time to do these things with people who you don’t necessarily work with regularly. “Getting to know folks from other parts of the business can benefit the quality of your work,” she explains, by gaining more neutral and fresh insights or ideas.

5) Get away from your desk.

I’ll never forget a quote I once read from Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport in the article “25 Ways to Practice Self-Care”:

I know what you’re thinking. The time to take care of yourself is when you have time to take care of yourself. Bright-and-early Saturday morning yoga. Sunday afternoon hike. But that’s not where my head’s at. I’m talking 3:18 p.m. on a Tuesday. When you’re sitting at your desk, ready to throttle your boss. Or quietly seething that your colleague got credit for something that your colleague totally didn’t do. That’s when you need to get up and walk away. And go do something. Anything. On such days, I head out for a coffee. Not because I need a coffee, but because I need to get out. I wander down to this little joint in a giant office complex on the Hudson River. And, then, instead of walking back to the office, I park it on a bench. And I just sit there. Breathing actual nonrecycled office-building air. Watching the ferries pull up to the dock. Because sometimes doing a better job means not doing your job at all.”

In other words, when you’re starting to feel like you might lose it — whether it’s the result of a frustrating project or a co-worker’s annoying whistling — step away. Now.

Lilian emphasizes the importance of getting away from your desk — even if it means doing your work somewhere else. “Results matter more than hours, or where we produce them. You can actually see this in the HubSpot offices, as we create ‘nomad desks’ where folks can work from in addition to their main desk,” she explains. “But we have plenty of collaborative workspaces to grab a seat at any time, if you need a change of environment or feel more creative or inspired in a different area.”

6) Take the time you need — with good judgment.

This practice falls along the lines of taking advantages of the resources made available to you. If you have paid time off — use it!

According to Project: Time Off’s 2016 State of American Vacation, the use of paid vacation has been dwindling among U.S.employees since 2000. In fact, last year, 55% of them didn’t even use all of their vacation days, with an average of .2 days taken off per employee.

I don’t know about you, but those numbers make me sad. If you’ve read the text leading up to this point, then you already know that taking time off can aid productivity. But if the refresh-and-renew benefit isn’t your thing, think of it this way: “By giving up this time off, Americans are effectively volunteering hundreds of millions of days of free work for their employers,” writes the Project: Time Off report, “which results in $61.4 billion in forfeited benefits.”

Okay, so maybe you’re worried about leaving your team in a lurch by taking time off. You’re in luck — there’s a fairly simple solution for that. “This goes back to using good judgment,” Lilian explains. “If you’re looking to take a week’s vacation with your family, make sure your team is set up for success while you are gone.”

Not sure how to start? Here are two key points:

  • Let your team know when you’ll be out of the office as far in advance as possible. My colleague, Sophia Bernazzani, uses the rule of one week notice for every day that you’ll be out of the office — so if you’ll be off for ten business days, let your colleagues and manager know about it ten weeks before you leave.
  • Be prepared to hustle before you leave in order to get ahead on the time you’ll be out. Not only will you be minimizing the amount of extra work your colleagues have to share in your absence, but also, you’ll (hopefully) be returning to that much less to catch up on when you return.
  • Make sure which regularly-occurring tasks you’ll be out for. For example, let’s say you and a colleague take turns doing something each month, like compiling a monthly performance report. If you’re going to be away during the time when it’s normally your turn, work with a colleague to rearrange the schedule so that she doesn’t have to unexpectedly take it on.

7) Don’t check in during your time off — and don’t feel bad about it.

Part of the point of working so hard before you leave for your vacation is to make sure you can completely step away during your time off. And yes — a lot of people “do a significant amount of work while on vacation,” Robert Blendon, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor told NPR. “So they’re taking their stress along with them wherever they go.”

The point of a vacation is to leave your stress behind, or at least to try your best to detach from it, so you can feel rested when you get back to work. Keeping that source of stress present during your time off is like going to the dentist with one cavity and leaving with four. It defeats the purpose of why you went there.

So please — don’t come back to work with four cavities. Disconnect when you’re away, and get the rest you need.

They Say It Takes a Village

Remember, preventing job burnout requires efforts from both managers and employees. The latter can’t be afraid to ask for the things they need to be well and do the best work they can — but their supervisors also have to create an environment where it’s not discouraged. Start making some of these incremental changes, and you’ll be well on your way to your own healthy workplace.

How does your team prevent job burnout? Let us know in the comments.

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May

23

2017

10 Job Interview Questions to Stop Asking Candidates

Published by in category Daily, hiring, Office Life | Comments are closed

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When I get a job interview, there’s a lot to prepare. I diligently research the company and my interviewers, pore over Glassdoor interview questions, and print out copies of my resume and portfolio.

When I interview someone else, it’s easier to prepare. I don’t have to put together the perfect outfit, I don’t have to worry about how to find the restroom, and at the end of the day, I don’t have to worry about if I got the job or not.

Download our free guide here for more interviewing and screening tips to build  your team.

A quick Google Search for job interview questions brings up some of the most common asks you might have already answered 20 times over the course of your career. They’re popular, but that doesn’t mean they’re good questions. In fact, they could be hurting your chances of the candidate accepting an offer.

Nobody wants to feel stressed out, put on the spot, or tricked during a job interview. After all, you wouldn’t want to experience that in your day-to-day job, so why do we demand it of candidates?

Be mindful of the different personality types, cultures, and backgrounds that are applying for open roles at your company, and consider retiring some of the more common interview questions in your arsenal. Instead, try these alternatives that might give you more helpful information about the candidate — without making them feel awkward in the process.

10 Job Interview Questions to Stop Asking (and What to Ask Instead)

1) What can you tell me about yourself?

You might be surprised to see such a traditional interview question at the top of our list, but it’s not as great of an opener as you might think. In fact, from the candidate’s perspective, it might tell them that you haven’t read their résumé, browsed their portfolio, or checked out their LinkedIn profile. Candidates don’t want to brief you on their entire job history during the short time they have to make a first impression — they want to have a conversation.

Instead, ask a question based on what stood out to you most from their resume and application. Show the candidate you’re taking them seriously and want to learn more about them, beyond what’s on paper.

2) Why are you leaving your current job?

This question could lead to an awkward answer that doesn’t cast the candidate in their best light. The answer could be highly personal, and it isn’t that helpful for learning more about the candidate.

Instead, ask them about their favorite part and biggest challenge of their current role. You’ll learn more about their priorities, dealbreakers, and culture fit — without the conversation becoming too negative.

3) What’s the project you’re most proud of?

It’s useful to learn what projects a candidate enjoys working on most, but you could take this question further by asking something broader. 

Instead, ask them to talk about how they produced a piece of work with multiple different teams. The answer will reveal how they work dynamically and as a project manager — useful traits for most marketing and sales teams.

4) What’s your biggest weakness?

Simply put, it’s presumptuous to assume that you understand what a candidate’s perceived weaknesses are. The answer could exclude candidates from other cultures or industries who aren’t familiar with yours, and it puts candidates in a negative state of mind.

Instead, ask them to describe a challenge they faced in a role and how they handled it. The answer will teach you more about their problem-solving skills, without putting them in the awkward position of personal self-reflection.

5) What’s your five-year career plan?

HubSpot Inbound Recruiting Manager Hannah Fleishman has made more inclusive hiring her mission, and she suggests replacing this interview question. “It can be a loaded question, especially for women, professionals who are thinking of starting a family, and even aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a company one day.”

Instead, Fleishman suggests asking candidates a more specific question: “How does this role fit into your long-term career plans?” The answer will give you the information you’re really looking for — if the role and your organization present opportunities for them to grow.

6) What makes you passionate about your work?

Candidates don’t have to be passionate to be successful in a role. Sure, it helps — but passion is such a subjective topic, it’s not necessary for a job interview.

Instead, ask them what makes them passionate about a company. The answer will tell you about their culture priorities and if they’ll fit with the larger team they’ll be working with.

7) Are you a team player?

Generally speaking, we advise against asking yes or no questions. Open-ended questions are more conversational and will give you more information about the candidate.

When it comes to this question, the answer is valuable, but a candidate is unlikely to self-identify as an individual worker. Likewise, your company probably doesn’t have any roles that are completely solitary — everyone has to attend meetings or work on campaigns at some point.

Instead, ask the candidate what their ideal team dynamic is. You’ll get the same answer you’re looking for — if they work well with others — while allowing them to elaborate on their preferred working environment.

8) How many people do you think flew out of JFK Airport last year?

Brain teasers might be entertaining to ask — and they might teach you a thing or two about a candidate’s problem-solving abilities — but brain teasing questions like this one create too much stress for the candidate. They’re usually ridiculously hard to solve and put the candidate on the spot — without revealing a ton of helpful information.

Instead, ask the candidate how they’d solve a problem that’s common on your team. The answer will be more useful, and it won’t take the candidate by surprise.

9) Sell me this pen.

If you’re hiring for a sales role, you should know: “Sell me this pen” has become such a frequently-asked question, it can be easily answered in a quick Google search before the interview. It might not give you the candidate’s true selling abilities — something you need to know before investing time and resources in training them.

Instead, ask them how they would handle a common roadblock your sales team faces. The answer will prove if they’ve done their research, and it will give you an idea of their persuasion skills if they were on a call. 

10) What’s your salary history?

Fleishman also suggests avoiding questions or discussions of salary or benefits until an offer has been extended to the candidate. “Salary history shouldn’t determine what a candidate’s offer package is,” she says. “This question can actually discriminate against minorities who are more likely to be under-compensated compared to their peers — which is why cities in New York and Massachusetts have banned it from interviews.”

Instead, scratch this question altogether from your list altogether.

The interview is only one piece of the puzzle for the candidate, but by asking more thoughtfully-phrased questions, you could be doing yourself and the candidate a favor. For more recruiting and hiring ideas for your next open marketing position, download our free ebook.

What’s a common job interview question you wish would be retired? Share with us in the comments below.

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May

9

2017

9 Easy Ways to Get Busy People to Respond to Emails

Published by in category Daily, email marketing, Office Life | Comments are closed

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You might think you spend the majority of your time at work sitting in meetings or talking on the phone, but you could be wrong.

In fact, a significant portion of your work week could be spent writing, ready, and responding to emails.

A recent study from Adobe revealed that workers are spending 4.1 hours per week checking and interacting with our work emails. Despite the adoption of tools like Slack, workers are using email more than ever — and what’s more, it can take us up to 25 minutes to get back on task once we’ve interrupted by checking and reading email during the workday.

So needless to say, when you draft an email — whether it’s to your manager, your direct report, or a contact you want to work with — you want it to be well-crafted and impactful so it doesn’t expend even more time. So we’ve put together these tips for writing emails — that will get opened and replied to, without wasting anyone’s time.

How to Write Emails Your Contacts Will Actually Reply To

1) Write a descriptive subject line.

Your subject line should outline the reason for your email so the recipient is compelled to open and answer it. It should also be clear and succinct — after all, if your subject line is clear, your email will likely be, too. We suggest avoiding full sentences and only putting the meatiest part of your reason for emailing in the subject line.

Phrases to Avoid:

  1. “Checking in”
  2. “Touching base”
  3. “Following up”

Example Subject Lines:

  1. “Question about your blog post about Snapchat”
  2. “Meeting information for Monday, 5/1”
  3. “New data: 43% of consumers want video content”

2) Get to the point, and quickly.

In the opening lines of your email, you might be tempted to enumerate on your credentials or your organization, but you can do that later. Instead, the opening line of your email should immediately get to the point so the recipient immediately understands what’s being asked of them.

The basic format of a successful email should be:

  1. Opening greeting
  2. Reason for emailing
  3. Details
  4. Call-to-action
  5. Closing greeting

This format is considerate to your reader, who has trouble maintaining attention for long periods of time, and it compels you to write clearly and compellingly to make the recipient keep reading.

3) Use basic language.

Remember the episode of Friends when Monica and Chandler asked Joey to write them a letter of reference, and he used his thesaurus too enthusiastically?

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Source: Rebloggy

In this case, Joey changed so many words to their more advanced synonyms that his original meaning was completely convoluted. This can happen with your emails, too.

Resist the urge to use industry jargon or flowery language and stick to the basics. Make your sentences clear, straightforward, and short — if a sentence requires more than one comma, consider breaking it into two sentences. The easier your email is to understand, the easier it will be for the recipient to quickly respond.

4) Use numbers.

There are a few ways you can use numbers and statistics in your email that will make it easier to attract and keep the recipient’s attention.

  1. Numbers written as numerals (23) instead of words (twenty-three) have been shown to attract reader attention when they quickly scan what they’re reading online — which research shows internet users are more and more likely to do.
  2. Numbers as statistical data lend your email more credibility. Numbers represent facts, which your reader might be more compelled to respond to.

See what we did there? The numbered list probably drew your eye more than writing that out in paragraph format would have. Formatting helps too — more on that later.

5) Keep it as short as possible.

Keep it short and sweet.

Researchers analyzed over five years of emails, and they found that shorter emails resulted in faster response times. That’s helpful when you consider that reading and responding to emails can eat up so many hours in your week. Shorter emails help you and the recipient spend less time writing and replying to emails, which makes everyone more productive.

Our trick for keeping emails short is by typing them in Twitter first. Emails don’t have to be under 140 characters, but it’s a good guardrail for having maximum impact in fewer words. You can keep your emails shorter by using numbers, omitting unnecessary words like adjectives and adverbs, and thinking carefully about formatting. 

The ideal email length varies depending on your industry, but we suggest keeping your emails under 200 words in length. The average screen reading speed is 200 words per minute, so aiming to keep messages below that target is a good rule of thumb.

6) Use bullet points.

Whenever possible, use bullet points or a numbered list to organize your email structure. Here’s why:

  • Bullets don’t require full sentences, so you can use fewer words to get the same message across.
  • Bullets help break up the formatting of an email to maintain the reader’s attention.
  • Bulleted or numbered lists help clearly outline steps in a process that need to be taken, which is useful for email documenting meetings or initiatives.

We suggest using only three bullets. Studies have shown that our brains like to be presented with three options to consider. Use three bullets or numbered items in your emails for maximum impact.

7) Answer the question “so what?”

Just because the subject of your email is important to you doesn’t mean the recipient necessarily agrees. You need to ensure that your reader comes away from your email with the answer to the question “so what?”

Psychologist Ellen Langler found that the use of the word “because” made people more likely to comply with the request. By providing the reason behind asking someone to help you or do something for you in an email, you make it easier for the recipient to say “yes.”

When asking for someone else’s time and effort, make sure to include a “because … ” so they can understand the impact their compliance will have.

8) Make your ask clear.

Some emails have clear asks, and some emails do not. Either way, make sure to clearly state what exactly you need from the recipient of your email to make it easier for them to reply.

Remember the email structure we mentioned above?

  1. Opening greeting
  2. Reason for emailing
  3. Details
  4. Call-to-action
  5. Closing greeting

Start your email with the reason you’re emailing, provide the recipient with details and the “so what?” of your message, and close your email with a clear ask for next steps. Whether you need them to edit a blog post, attend a meeting, or you don’t need any specific action from them at that time, make sure that is the last line of your email.

The final line of your email will likely be most memorable, so if the recipient doesn’t reply right away, they’ll be able to easily remember what they need to do next.

9) Know when to take it offline.

Sometimes, the best email isn’t an email at all. Instead, it’s a phone call, a Slack direct message, a virtual conference, or an in-person meeting.

We’ve told you to keep your email as clear and succinct as possible. So if you’re drafting your message and finding that it requires any of the following, that could be an indication that it’s time to sit down and talk about what you’re working on:

  • If your email is highly time-sensitive, explore if there is a faster way to reach that person in the office or using a messaging app.
  • If it takes you multiple paragraphs to get your point across, consider if you want to produce a slide deck to present in a meeting.
  • If you need answers to multiple complicated questions (that don’t involve a yes or no answer), send a meeting invitation instead — but include the questions in the event description so the recipient can prepare.

A good indicator to determine if you should take your message offline is how long it takes you to write out your email. If you have to keep editing and rewriting to make your points clear, they might not be clear to your recipient, either. 

Luckily, meeting invites are short and sweet, and they involve a simple yes or no answer. Make sure to provide context in the event description, or a pre-meeting email, so attendees can prepare for the conversation early.

Email Is an Art

If you’re emailing your colleagues and contacts, they’ll understand a run-on sentence or a typo here and there (although we advise self-editing before pressing “send,” of course). But when it comes time to start emailing subscribers and leads on behalf of your brand, check out our free beginner’s email marketing guide for more suggestions and ideas.

What are your strategies for writing actionable emails? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

4

2017

22 Writing GIFs All Content Marketers Will Understand

Published by in category Content Marleting, Daily, Office Life | Comments are closed

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Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury once said, “I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year.”

While content creation can be a true source of joy for marketers, there are unique challenges that crop up along the way that few others would understand. Whether it’s a creative block, a harsh critique, or an impending deadline, some days can feel like an uphill battle.

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Luckily, the highs of writing can more than make up for the lows.

Below are 22 GIFs that accurately sum up the trials and tribulations of content creation. I’ve also included helpful tips and tools for writing success if you do hit those tough moments.

22 Writing GIFs All Content Marketers Will Understand

1) When you realize you need to write an ebook in two days

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Source: Giphy

In the daily content writing grind, it can be hard to get out of the weeds long enough to look ahead at what’s coming up in your queue. You walk in one morning, open your task list, and there it is: a huge project due in less than 48 hours.

To prevent this from happening again, create tasks for yourself to brainstorm and outline content projects a few weeks ahead of the actual due date. You may be capable of writing an ebook in two days (cue applause), but when you build more time into the process, you allow for greater creativity.

2) When the perfect title dawns on you after you’ve already published the post

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Source: OhNoTheyDidnt

You’d think that after writing a 1,000-word blog post, you could come up with one perfect title to lead the way. But sometimes the title can feel like the hardest part of the process.

In order to produce a stellar, attention-grabbing title, make a list of multiple possibilities. They don’t even have to differ greatly — you could swap out the verbs, make it a question, or try different keywords. Then, get some help. Ask for an outside opinion or two to find the title option that resonates the most.

You can even gauge which headline would be most successful with a Simple poll on Slack or a tool like Title Tester. These tools allow you to test title options against your target demographic and quickly make a decision for your blog post.

3) When you’ve been staring at your computer screen for 30 minutes and you’ve only written 12 words

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Source: Giphy

Writing is hard work. And anyone who ever said it was like being struck by lightning wasn’t capturing the whole story.

The reality is, writing is not just hard work — it’s a lot of hard work. There are many moments when you’re going to feel stuck, and at those times, one of the best things you can do is keep your computer safely on its desk and continue to write. Write utter garbage if you have to. That’s still a start. As Nora Roberts puts it, “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.”

A quick online search for content writing prompts yields a number of ideas if you’re unsure where to start. You can also look to your favorite publications for inspiration. Consider how you might use what these sites have written as fodder for your own content.

4) When you strike gold in a brainstorm session

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Source: Imgur

Is there anything quite like a productive brainstorm? Ideas fly left and right, and then you have it — the moment all writers remember forever — a breakthrough. The golden nugget that straightens out whatever you were working on.

To have more breakthroughs more often, consider what works well for you in a productive brainstorm session. Is it group dialogue? Is it talking through things out loud? Is it having a safe space to feel like anything goes? Whatever works well — identify it, rinse, and repeat.

5) When a misspelled keyword is more popular than the correct version

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Source: Giphy

The people want what the people want. But when a quirk like this interferes with your blog’s editorial style, it’s best to just take the high road. Keep to your standard, and you’ll appear more consistent and reap more rewards than you would have from following the crowd.

6) When you first open your editor’s feedback

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Source: YouTube

When you first receive them, edits can seem utterly terrifying. They’re everywhere. Your document is a different color altogether. Did anything survive?

Take a deep breath. If you’re lucky, your editor not only provides inline edits, but they also leave comments to explain their thinking. Rather than click through everything and blindly accept their suggestions, take a moment to absorb the reasoning behind the changes so you know what you can work on the next time around.

Luckily, there are several free editing tools available so writers can catch more mistakes. Try running your drafts through Grammarly or Hemingway App to make sure your writing is clear, concise, and grammatically correct.

7) When all of the best data is several years old

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Source: Giphy

It’s an amazing, perfect, wonderful statistic that completely validates your blog post’s thesis. But, it’s four years old. In today’s day and age, four years can seem like a century ago. Things move so quickly that what was useful data a couple of years ago is now likely obsolete.

If there’s truly nothing else out there, use the statistic but call out the date in your writing, suggest further research be done to validate the claim today, and let readers know why you think it’s still useful to note.

8) When you have coffee for lunch

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Source: Giphy

If you’re like most writers, a solid portion of your belongings is coffee-stained. But that’s okay. It’s a simple testament to the obsession that fuels your creative genius.

While coffee can feel like the answer, it shouldn’t be the only answer to your lunch dilemma. Remember, you’ll perform best when you take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating healthy foods, drinking water, and getting plenty of sleep, too.

9) When structural edits force you to reorder your footnotes

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Source: TV Land

If you’re not careful, sorting through footnotes can get messy, and fast. Moving around entire paragraphs or chapters can quickly get overwhelming as you try to keep everything in order.

To keep it all straight, wait to write your footnotes until your final draft. Include hyperlinks in the text to indicate the information has to be cited, but don’t actually give it a number until the very end. This way, if you move things around, you won’t have to completely start over.

10) When someone in another department underestimates how long research takes

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Source: ABC Network

“Can you have that article on the history of payment processors to me by the end of the day, or will it take a bit longer?”

Not everyone will always understand what it takes to put together something that’s not only well-written, but well-researched, too. When you come up against this, insist on quality and give a realistic estimate. Let your colleague know that the extra time will ensure the piece is as good as it can be.

11) When Microsoft Word freezes and you lose 2 hours of work

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Source: Reddit

For those who need extra help avoiding lost work, try writing in Google Docs or Dropbox Paper. There, your piece is automatically saved when you’re working online. You can also update your settings and have your documents sync to your computer, giving you the option to edit when your computer is offline as well.

12) When your post blows up and gets all of the page views

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Source: Reddit

While some posts can feel like a swing and a miss, the home runs provide a big refuel for our writing energy.

To better understand why one post goes viral and another doesn’t, build time into your process for regular analysis. This way, you can learn from the ups and downs and apply it moving forward. Tools like BuzzSumo can help you figure out where you’re succeeding and how to replicate it.

13) When you spend half the day hunting for the right stock photo

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Source: Reddit

When you’re trying to find something that represents your topic well, is eye-catching, and is something you haven’t used before, it can feel like a pretty tall order.

If you have the resources and time, try enlisting the help of your design team whenever possible. Is your piece an opportunity for a custom image? Is there something specific they could help you look for to save time? If not, check out sites like Pexels or StockSnap.io for regularly updated, free image banks.

14) When you don’t want anyone to talk to you until your post is finished

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Source: Giphy

Between instant messaging, social media, email, your phone, and your deskmates, it can feel impossible to have a few hours of uninterrupted time to dedicate to a task.

When you really need to focus, zip your phone up into your bag and let your coworkers know you’ll be offline for a period of time. If anything mission critical happens, they can feel free to grab you. Otherwise, you’re not to be disturbed.

Worried you might still get sidetracked? Check out productivity tools like FocalFilter and StayFocusd to block certain distracting websites for set periods of time.

15) When something you loved writing doesn’t perform well

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Source: Reddit

“It’s fine.”

Actually, it’s probably not. Writing is personal. Whether you’re crafting a personal blog entry or a data-driven report, you put your personal energy and ideas into your work.

When you pour your heart and soul into something and it doesn’t perform well, consider what led to the results. Is there a more appropriate platform where you could publish the piece? Did your promotion methods fall flat? Does it need another round of edits? If you believe the piece adds value and has the potential for more, optimize it rather than scrapping it altogether.

16) When you write 1,000 words in an hour

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Source: Giphy

Whether you have a burst of creativity or are simply motivated by an approaching deadline, sometimes you just dial in and go. While fast writing can be a little sloppy, it can produce some of your best work, too.

For prime productivity, quiet your inner editor and give yourself the freedom to write less-than-perfect content. When you grant yourself this flexibility, you can write uninterrupted, knowing you’ll come back for clean-up later.

Some writing software, like Scrivener, have a “full screen” mode that allows you to block off everything else on your desktop. To make your writing sessions feel urgent, try setting a timer on your phone and writing in sprints. Challenge yourself to write 100 words in 10 minutes, and see where it takes you.

17) When your editor asks you to rewrite a post

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Source: Imgur

While many writers struggle to scrap their work, starting from scratch can be a healthy exercise if you’re struggling with a piece.

Consider the fact that everything you’ve already written lives in your head. Although you’re taking a step back and setting your first attempt aside, your second stab at it isn’t the same as “starting over.” You’ve already learned a great deal from your first draft that will power you through the second.

18) When your pitch gets accepted by another publication

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Source: Giphy

The pitch process can be lengthy and disheartening. As corny as it sounds, the key is not to give up. Set reminders for yourself to follow up on submissions. When you’re denied, ask for feedback. Not everyone will take the time to give it to you, but the few who reply may provide valuable insight.

19) When you receive an angry comment on your post

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Source: waywaw

Haters gonna hate, but don’t let it get you down. One of the beautiful things about writing is you’re often taking a stance. You identify a claim and support it with thoughtful points and evidence. When someone refutes your claim respectfully, it’s an opportunity for dialogue.

However, not all comments are respectful. Choose to take the high road and keep a level head when replying, if you acknowledge the comment at all.

20) When a major influencer tweets your blog post

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Source: Giphy

Through the power of Twitter, any one of your posts has the chance to get picked up and shared by a major influencer.

To improve your chances, take a few moments to develop a promotional strategy for each of your pieces. One tactic could include tweeting your content out to influencers and letting them know why you thought to send it to them. You could also use ClickToTweet to create tweetable links of memorable quotes readers can easily share.

21) When it takes forever to hear back about your guest blog pitch

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Source: Giphy

Sometimes it takes a while to hear back. A long while.

If you don’t hear back — even for months — it doesn’t mean it’s over.

Regularly check in to confirm your submission was received, and to inquire if there is any additional information you can provide.

22) When your family posts your work on social media

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Source: Reddit

At times, you may feel like your work is unappreciated. When you’re grinding away at your daily tasks and producing quality work, you may find yourself becoming a bit numb to the process and what you’re writing.

To keep a pep in your step about your work, take the time to share it with others outside of your field. It might sound self-involved, but sometimes a little pat on the back can be all it takes to re-inspire you.

Whenever you face a challenge in your writing process, be sure to take stock and figure out the root of it. An issue is often a sign that something needs to change in order for you to move forward. For example, if you’re not feeling creative, that might be a sign that you need to take more time to feel inspired. Take a walk, read for fun, or ask someone to share what they’re working on to re-ignite your creative flame.

Whatever your struggle, as a writer, you can rest assured you’re not alone. What are the easiest and hardest parts of your writing process? Share with us in the comments below.

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Mar

4

2017

Dagnabbit: Why We Love Marketers Who Curse

Published by in category Canonical, Daily, Office Life | Comments are closed

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We’ve been together for a while now, Marketing Blog readers. I’ve shared stories with you about business school, my surprise revelation that I’m an introvert, and other personal tidbits here and there. Here’s one that I hope won’t lower your opinion of me: I have a bit of a potty mouth.

My first instinct is to apologize for it. But then, I came across new research that shows a strong correlation between cursing and authenticity in character. If only I had known that when I was a rebellious teen and could have retorted, as my colleague Kierran Petersen suggested, “I’m being authentic, Mom!” But it’s true — the study showed a positive connection between profanity and honesty — on both a micro (individual) and macro (society) level.

I’ve seen real-life examples of this phenomenon. Gary Vaynerchuk — (in)famous for his profuse utterance of the “F” word in content and public appearances — has experienced tremendous success as a marketer. And Doug Kessler, creative director of the agency Velocity Partners, has given numerous presentations on the power of swearing in your marketing Download our free SEO template here to organize your keyword research into an  actionable plan for your site. 

So how can this whole thing be executed without risking a loss of respect? And why are we so drawn to it, anyway? We had a look at some example and research, and drew some, er, freakin’ conclusions.

Note: This post was written with civility and respect in mind. Its intention is to explore the use and potential ROI of profanity in marketing, and is not meant to offend or suggest that this practice is mandatory.

A Bit About Cursing

The History

Like any other word in a given language, curse words have their own history and etymology. My personal favorite, the “F” word, can be traced back to the 16th century and Germanic origin, most likely stemming from the Swedish word focka and Dutch fokkelen, the translation for both of which even I’m too bashful to share. But I will say this much — if you’re really curious about the etymology of your favorite curse words, chances are, the most literal meaning is at its root.

The Psychology

Amygdala.jpgSource: NANOZINE

In 1999, researchers at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College were able to trace much of the psychology of cursing to the amygdala — a “mass of gray matter” in the brain that’s responsible for us experiencing emotions. When we hear profanity, the researchers realized, that part of the brain activates with the same response that we have to “linguistic threat.” In other words, we psychologically process profanity the same way we would verbal aggression.

But there’s a reason why profanity doesn’t exactly scare us. Because the amygdala also controls memory, the researchers also deduce two things:

  1. Your memory skills are improved when you hear swear words.
  2. Repeated exposure to profanity mitigates any fearful response to it.

But psychology professor Timothy Jay says that the activation of the amygdala stems from the fact that, simply put, there are settings where we deem profanity to be “taboo” — such as a house of worship, or instances of marketing like nationally-aired commercials. And these “taboo words,” he writes, “persist because they can intensify emotional communication to a degree that non-taboo words cannot.”

Aha! So maybe that’s the fundamental reason why we like marketers who curse — because it reaches us on a more emotional level than “non-taboo” communication and content might. So what does that look like in marketing, anyway? That’s where the groundwork laid by others comes in.

The Pillars of Cursing in Marketing

To learn more about why cursing can be such an asset in marketing, I turned to the aforementioned Kessler, who’s established himself as something of an expert on the topic. He’s written about it for Velocity’s B2B blog, where he really breaks down why it’s so effective. In sum, he says, the practice of cursing in marketing is:

  • Suprising
  • Confident
  • Empathetic
  • Funny
  • Passionate

This aligns with the psychology of cursing that we explored earlier, which is also why he cautions marketers against infesting their content — in whatever format — with profanity just for the element of surprise, because it’ll eventually lose its impact with repetition. And, he adds, if it’s just not in your character or belief system to curse, then don’t.

But if it’s the type of thing that comes naturally to you, there are ways to navigate each of the above-listed factors to create marketing that does provide a dose of surprise — which can require some confidence — in order to resonate with a “like-minded” persona, make her laugh, and communicate the enthusiasm you have for your product. Are you starting to get the picture on why this type of language, when used correctly, can actually be a good thing?

Just in case it requires a bit more detail, let’s break it down a little more.

Why We Love Marketers Who Curse

1) Cursing implies integrity.

giphy (41).gifSource: Giphy

Each year, the Center for Public Integrity conducts the State Integrity Investigation: “A comprehensive assessment of state government accountability and transparency … based on existing laws and analysis of how well they are implemented.”

Researchers examined each state’s score next to how often their respective residents swear (based on data from a Facebook study), and found that some states where people reported cursing the most — like Connecticut — actually scored higher on the integrity scale. Compare that to Idaho, where the profanity rating was the lowest, but the state received a “D-” integrity grade.

In marketing, this phenomenon translates to a message that your brand isn’t trying to hide anything. That language might not be for everyone, but by using it, you’re telling the public, “It’s okay if we’re not right for you, but this is who we are.”

2) It makes a brand relatable.

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According to Jay, up to 3.4% of the words we speak each day are profane. It might not seem like a lot, but Kessler wants us to observe something else — according to the same research, only 1% of those words are first-person pronouns, like “we,” “us,” or “ours.” In other words, we utter swear words more than we talk about ourselves.

Generally, we like to use naughty language.

That’s why cursing can help make a brand relatable — with these numbers, heck, that makes them just like us. After all, 66% of employees say they would curse at work if their bosses did, implying that many of us are less inclined to use such language in certain environments because we don’t want to be alone in our actions. So when someone in a position of authority — like a supervisor or advertiser — emulates our own behavior, it makes them more relatable, and even more trustworthy.

3) You might actually appear more intelligent — or at least clever.

We potty-mouthed people sometimes earn ourselves a poor reputation with our language — it can even make people think that we’re not smart enough to come up with more civil discourse. In reality, the opposite is true, as discovered by researchers at Marist College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. In fact, a high use of profanity correlates with overall verbal fluency, and as the study’s authors put it, “Verbal fluency is the hallmark of intellectual acumen; the more words one knows and uses, the greater one’s verbal prowess or intelligence.”

In other words, a lot of smart people — and marketers — curse. Verbal fluency is also a sign of strong wit and cleverness, which is how great content is often created. Just have a look at this ad for a smart car manufacturer. You’d have no idea that’s what the commercial is promoting until the end, but it’s cleverly intriguing, with its early use of profanity making the viewer want to see how it ends.

4) You’re injecting humor into someone’s routine.

giphy (42).gifSource: Giphy

Did that commercial make you laugh? Good. It’s supposed to. Plus, as we said, its use of profanity might have motivated you to watch it through the end — otherwise, how were you supposed to know what all of those adorable children were cursing about?

That’s because, according to Jay, “Forms of humor cannot be understood without examining the context in which speakers produce them.” The commercial was funny because it had context. And when profanity is used in marketing, it has to have context in order to provide humor. But it’s okay to withhold that context until the content’s conclusion to keep people watching, as long as you get to the point in a timely fashion.

Plus, when you inject something funny into someone’s day-to-day routine, you’re actually giving them a sense of inclusion. Classic research indicates that “humor creates and maintains a sense of community for participating members,” so by letting viewers in on a joke, you’re expanding your relatability as a brand — which, as we covered earlier, profanity can also accomplish.

But Has It Been Successfully Executed?

Maybe you’re skeptical about the types of brands that have made this work. Automotive brands are one thing, especially in a somewhat contemporary category like smart cars. But what about more old-school, family-oriented brands? Believe it or not, profanity can work for marketing in that sector, too, as Kessler showed with an unexpected example: Kmart.

In the ad below, Kmart leverages a colloquial curse-riddled phrase in the U.S., and uses it to promote its online shopping features.

This instance is one that Kessler calls a cursing alternative, when marketers are hesitant to use curse words for fear of appearing vulgar, or looking unaligned with the brand. That can be remedied with the use of “cheats” like homonyms or asterisks — read: F*ck, or “ship” instead of, well, you know.

But it goes to show that cursing isn’t one-size-fits-all. It can be customized according to each marketer’s tastes or clientele, and still be effective. So go ahead — get inspired by these tips and examples. With the right kind of strategic execution, your brand can join the ranks of successful, foul-mouthed marketers.

Are you a marketer who curses, and have you seen success from it? Let us know in the comments.

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Dec

5

2016

30 Secret Santa Gift Ideas Your Coworkers Will Love

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They see you when you’re slacking. They know when you come in late. They know if you’ve been bad or good so be good for your work’s Secret Santa exchange.

But that’s not how the song — or the Secret Santa exchange — really goes …

You spend all day with your coworkers, but come time for your annual gift exchange, you’re stuck trying to figure out exactly what Suzie will want that’s also in your price range. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHub

We want to help. We’ve compiled a list of awesome Secret Santa gift ideas that are bound to meet all different budgets and personality types. From hot sauce kits to leather mouse pads, this roundup should take some of the stress out of your shopping experience.

30 Secret Santa Gift Ideas for Your Coworkers

$10 and Under

1) Engraved Pencil Set

Price: $8.00

Whether you type your notes or take them by hand, these hand stamped pencils are just plain cool. The sets come in a variety of different themes — from motivational words to Harry Potter references — and they’re guaranteed to make putting together a to-do list a lot more fun.

Willing to chip in a few extra bucks? Pair a set of these pencils with a journal for a thoughtful and practical gift.

Motivating Pencil Set.jpg

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2) Toaster Grilled Cheese Bags

Price: $9.99

While almost every office has a toaster, few have a stovetop. This rules fresh, delicious grilled cheese off the list of lunch options … or does it? When you give the gift of toaster grilled cheese bags, your recipient can toast up the perfect sandwich in minutes. The reusable, Teflon-coated bags can also be used for heating up other foods like pastries and leftover pizza.

Got a gluten-free coworker? They can even protect their food from cross contamination using these handy bags.

Toaster_Grilled_Cheese_Bags.png

3) Printed Socks

Price: $8.00

Nothing beats a great pair of socks, am I right? Not only does everyone need them, but there’s also such a wide variety of options available online that you’re bound to find a pair for any and every personality.

Know of a few pizza lovers in the office? This pepperoni-clad pair would make the perfect gift.

Pizza_Socks.jpeg

4) Sushi Pushpins

Price: $9.00

Shopping for the office sushi addict? Look no further than this trendy desk trinket.

Stuck in a maki cushion, each pearl-shaped fish egg is a pushpin in disguise. Pin up your favorite notes, photos, and menus using these handy tacks — or just admire the holder on your desk.

Sushi_tacks.png

5) Waterproof Notepad

Price: $7.00

You never know when your next great idea is going to strike. In fact, it might even be the shower.

With a waterproof notepad from AquaNotes, you can jot down important shower notes before they slip your mind — perfect for whipping up impromptu grocery or to-do lists.

aqua-notes-home.jpg

6) Tech Cloth

Price: $9.99

Between oil, dust, spills, and smudges, our devices take a beating. But with a Smart Cloth on hand, you can polish up the screen on your smartphone, tablet, camera, or computer without having to worry about scratching the surface. No liquids or sprays needed.

You can even toss The Smart Cloth in the wash, making it easy to keep germ-free.

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 8.10.35 AM.png

7) Reusable To Go Box

Price: $9.99

There’s no shame in brown bagging your lunch at work, but why opt for a brown bag when you can reheat last night’s homemade Pad Thai in style?

This eco-friendly container is reusable, microwavable, and dishwasher safe. What more could you want?
Ecofriendly To Go Box.jpg

8) Portable Hot Sauce

Price: $9.99

Coming from a hot sauce addict, there’s nothing worse than suffering through a bland meal without access to your favorite spicy condiment.

Thanks to this convenient set of Sriracha2Go key chains, you can carry a personal stash of the good stuff around with you at all times. Simply toss it in your purse or attach it to your keys to ensure you’ve got access to heat when you need it most.

Sriracha2go.png

9) Dry Erase Sheets

Price: $6.16

Use these sheets as an impromptu discussion tool, a place to post motivational quotes, or a home for your to-do list. Each sheet has a full-adhesive backing that leaves behind no residue, making them easy and convenient to tack up in the office or at home.

Dry-Erase-Sheets.png

10) Cord Keeper

Price: $9.99

While the world of technology continues to push us in the direction of a more wireless world, we’ve all got a pair of standard headphones we keep holding on to — no matter how tangled the cord gets.

Lucky for all of us, these handmade cord “wontons” exist to help keep our headphones, USB cords, and other accessory wires nice and neat. They come in a pack of three, so you can throw one in your car, keep one on your desk, and toss one in your bag.

Cord Keeper.jpg

$25 and Under

11) Salsa Grow Kit

Price: $12.00

Got a coworker with a green thumb? Gift them this awesome salsa growing kit, complete with six seed packets for Roma tomatoes, jalapeños, verde tomatillos, cilantro, scallions, and beefsteak tomatoes.

Once the seeds sprout in the recycled egg carton planter, transfer them into larger pots until they’re ready for picking.

Not sold on salsa? There are kits available for pizza and cocktails, too.

Salsa Grow Kit.jpg

12) Wine Infused Coffee

Price: $19.95

Gift hunting for a coffee drinker who also loves wines? Why not pick up a bag of Merlot-infused coffee beans.

This brew is made with 100% Arabica beans that are aged in oak wine barrels. Serving as the perfect post-meal treat, this unique gift will be a hit with any adventurous coffee enthusiast.

Merlot_Infused_Coffee.png

13) Plant Nanny

Price: $16.95

Don’t let the burden of watering plants keep your coworker from taking time off to relax and recharge. With the help of these terracotta watering stakes, they can throw on their OOO message and hit the road without having to hire a plant sitter.

How does it work? It’s simple: The stakes house a recycled bottle that’s designed to release just enough water to keep plants alive and well.  

Wine Plant Nanny.png

14) Smartphone Card Game

Price: $19.99

The name of the game is “Game of Phones.” And the rules are pretty straightforward: Grab your smartphone and have one player (the judge for the round) draw a card. Everyone else gets 60 seconds to dig up a funny response to the prompt on the card using their phone. It’s like a digital scavenger hunt — and it’s bound to be hilarious.

This one’s perfect for anyone that loves to host friends or family for game night.

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15) Travel Cup

Price: $14.99–$19.99 (+$3.99 for travel lid)

There are a ton of travel mugs out there to choose from, but Tervis tumblers seem to offer it all: customization, portable cooling, self-warming system, dishwasher armor, and a lifetime guarantee.

Whether you’re buying a gift for an avid golfer, shopper, foodie, or Patriots super fan, there’s bound to be a Tervis that lines up with their interests and personality.

ShowDesignImage.jpg

16) Adult Coloring Book

Price: $12.18 (Paperback)

Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. Believe it or not, this trendy hobby offers more than a dose of nostalgia — adult coloring books are actually believed to relieve stress, too. In fact, while The American Art Association doesn’t think these books are enough to replace therapy for those who need it, it does support the use of coloring books for “pleasure and self care.”

There are a wide variety of books to choose from, but we recommend “Color Me Calm” by Lacy Mucklow: a Zen coloring book that supports meditation and relaxation. Trust us, your stressed out deskmate will thank you.

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 8.22.44 PM.png

17) Fruit Infuser Water Bottle

Price: $18.65

Stay hydrated and enjoy the sweet taste of your favorite fruits with this handy water bottle from Fruitzola.

Fill the inside tube with fruit or a combination of your choice — strawberries, lemons, kiwis, watermelon, and mint all work well — and enjoy the taste of fresh, flavored H20 all day.

Fruit_Infuser_Water_Bottle.png

18) Musical Pillow

Price: $19.19

For many, listening to music, a meditation app, or a podcast before bed can make it easier to drift off to sleep. Trouble is, it’s tough to get comfortable with a pair of headphones in.

Enter: The Sound Asleep Pillow.

Deep inside this unique pillow lies a built-in speaker that connects to your phone or music player via a headphone jack. The coolest part? The sound from the speaker is only audible to the person resting their head on it, which is great if you don’t want to disturb your spouse or significant other.

Musical Pillow.jpg

19) Espresso Sampler

Price: $23.00

Treat your coworker to this four-part specialty espresso sampler from Seattle’s world-renowned roasters. Each sampler comes with tasting notes, roaster profiles, and brewing tips. (If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll share.)

espresso sampler.jpg

$50 and Under

20) Smartphone Projector

Price: $31.95

Transform your smartphone into a big screen projector with this retro-inspired cardboard structure. Simply slide your device into the compartment for an instant cinema-like feel.

You can make this gift even better by throwing in a box of popcorn to complete the viewing experience.

iPhone_projector.png

21) Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit

Price: $34.95

Whether you’re making chili for a rainy day, wings for the big game, or tacos for Tuesday’s dinner, a little homemade hot sauce can make all the difference.

With this awesome kit, recipients can whip up six signature sauces that are seasoned to their exact liking. The kit even includes customizable labels for a fun, personalized touch.

Hot Sauce Kit.png

22) Bottle Loft

Price: $38.00

Seriously, how cool is this? These handy storage strips adhere to the ceiling of your refrigerator and can hold up to a six pack of bottles of your choice. Plus, the magnets are super strong: they can hold over 3X the weight of an average 12 oz. bottle.

With all the space you’ll save, you’ll have plenty of room for snacks. It’s the perfect gift for your office beer enthusiast.

Bottle Loft.png

23) Leather Mouse Pad

Price: $36.00

Looking for a sophisticated, practical gift option? Grab a leather mouse pad from Ugmonk’s shop.

Not only does this sleek pad provide a smooth surface for your mouse, but the leather is also known to weather and darken slowly over time to take on a one-of-a-kind look. How cool.

Black Mouse Pad.jpg

24) Gourmet Marshmallows

Price: $30.00

Step your hot chocolate game up with a box of gourmet marshmallows. From boozy flavors like bourbon to sweet flavors like eggnog, these handcrafted marshmallows are good enough to eat straight from the box.

Screen_Shot_2015-12-04_at_3.12.21_PM.png

25) Streaming Stick

Price: $49.99

The Roku Streaming Stick works with any television that has an HDMI port, and offers over 1,200 apps, including Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and many more. It’s a perfect gift for nearly any coworker.

Streaming-Stick-Partners-Remote-US-wShadow-RGB-WEB1.jpg

26) Tea Drops

Price: $34.00

Enjoy hot and fresh tea on the go thanks to these dissolvable, pressed tea drops. Made from just a few simple ingredients — finely-sourced tea, sugar, and spices — these tiny morsels are perfect for a busy coworker looking for an easy, healthy beverage to sip on.

This particular sampler set includes five drops of each of the following flavors: citrus ginger, vanilla white, rose earl grey, sweet peppermint, and matcha green tea.

Tea Drops.png

27) Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Price: $35.00 (17 oz.) / $45.00 (25 oz.)

We’ll admit it, we actually have a crush on this water bottle from S’well. Yes, a water bottle crush. Not only is it sleek and stylish — it comes in tons of colors and prints — but it’s non-toxic, non-leaching, vacuum sealed, and BPA free.

What’s more, it keeps your drinks cold for 24 hours, and hot for 12.

17oz_White-Marble_Cap-Off.jpg

28) Wireless Speaker

Price: $39.99

Wireless speakers are the perfect gift for anyone in your office. Whether they use it to listen to podcasts while they cook, bring tunes to the beach, or create a custom surround sound movie experience, this little Jam Plus speaker packs a big punch. (Full disclosure: I love this speaker so much I bought another one … and one for my brother.)

Screen_Shot_2015-12-07_at_7.29.38_PM.png

29) Cacti Coasters

Price: $31.00

Help your coworkers keep their desk nice and neat with this buildable set of cacti coasters.

The set comes complete with six green leaf coasters that you can mix and match to create different landscapes within the pot. Build them up or stack them close, they’re there when you need a place to put your drink — and still look really cool when you don’t.

cacti-coasters.jpg

30) Mobile Lens Kit

Price: $26.00

If you pulled your social media manager’s name out of the Secret Santa hat, we’ve got just the thing: Help them up their Instagram game with this handy mobile lens kit. The kit includes fisheye, wide angle, and macro lenses, complete with a universal clip that’s compatible with most smartphones and tablets.

Mobile Lens Kit.png

What are your go-to gift ideas? Share them with us in the comments section below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Nov

28

2016

How to Turn a Bad Day Around [Infographic]

reverse bad day.png

“I had a bad day.”

How often do you find yourself saying that? Once? Twice? Several times throughout the day?

If it’s more than once each week, you’ve got company — 29% of people say that they have at least two bad days at work every week

Well, shoot. That’s not good. I mean, I can understand having a “bad day” after you’ve spilled coffee all over your new jeans, or got a wicked papercut. But that same study says that these bad days go beyond little accidents — they’re caused by factors like negative co-workers, a lack of recognition, or generally poor work-life balance.

This stuff has got to stop.

But what is a person to do? It turns out, it’s possible to turn around a bad day — and, some might say, kind of easy with the right kind of approach. And luckily, the folks at Headway Capital put together this nifty infographic that shows you all the ways to do just that. So go ahead — turn that frown upside down. Today doesn’t have to be bad.


How-to-turn-a-bad-day-around-DV2.png

 

free productivity tips

Nov

28

2016

How to Turn a Bad Day Around [Infographic]

reverse bad day.png

“I had a bad day.”

How often do you find yourself saying that? Once? Twice? Several times throughout the day?

If it’s more than once each week, you’ve got company — 29% of people say that they have at least two bad days at work every week

Well, shoot. That’s not good. I mean, I can understand having a “bad day” after you’ve spilled coffee all over your new jeans, or got a wicked papercut. But that same study says that these bad days go beyond little accidents — they’re caused by factors like negative co-workers, a lack of recognition, or generally poor work-life balance.

This stuff has got to stop.

But what is a person to do? It turns out, it’s possible to turn around a bad day — and, some might say, kind of easy with the right kind of approach. And luckily, the folks at Headway Capital put together this nifty infographic that shows you all the ways to do just that. So go ahead — turn that frown upside down. Today doesn’t have to be bad.


How-to-turn-a-bad-day-around-DV2.png

 

free productivity tips

Nov

24

2016

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

InboundThanksgiving.png

When Thanksgiving rolls around, there are a few questions that we don’t exactly look forward to hearing. “When are you getting married?” “When am I getting grandchildren?” “Have you been moisturizing?”

And yet, none of those oh-so-polite questions even come close to the complexity of explaining what, as an inbound marketer, you actually do for a living.

It’s not that inbound marketing requires a long, drawn-out answer — after all, it can be described in 140 characters. But explaining it requires some fundamental knowledge of how technology, marketing, and the internet work. You know, the things that your grandparents might not fully grasp in one fell swoop. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHUB

Good news — all you really need are a few storytelling strategies. We found five ways you can explain inbound marketing to your family. And sure, some of these are useful, and some are just sarcastic. But hey, family is family, right? They’ll still love you.

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

1) The Food Analogy

Pumpkin Pie

Source: Giphy

In the U.S., Thanksgiving typically consists a few staples — turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, to name a few. And while it might sound strange, you can use that knowledge to your advantage by using food preparation as an analogy for different aspects of inbound marketing.

To explain lead nurturing, you can use the pumpkin pie. Sending unnurtured leads to sales is like giving an unbaked pumpkin pie to your guests. I suppose the pumpkin pie could be eaten raw, but … gross. Instead, you should bake the pumpkin pie — that ultimately makes it richer and more palatable.

Nurturing leads before sales contacts them works in the same way. It warms them up to your brand, and starts to qualify them with better information on what they might need. “Warm” leads, like the cooked pie, are already familiar with your business, and will close at a much higher rate than those that are “cold.”

Use whatever analogy you like to describe inbound marketing — it clarifies confusing issues by comparing them to something that, quite literally, is right in front of everyone.

2) The Real-Life Scenario

Telemarketers

Source: Giphy

When I’m asked about inbound marketing, I like to use real-like examples of interruptions that they’ll likely recognize, and explain how the inbound methodology pertains to it. It usually sounds something like this:

Amanda: Hey, Dad. You know how much you hate telemarketers calling you in the middle of dinner?

Dad: Yes. Hate it. Why? Is that what you do for work?

Amanda: No, actually. Inbound marketing is the exact opposite. That’s interruptive marketing. They literally interrupt you. So annoying, right?

Dad: Yes. I’m surprised they’re not interrupting us right now.

Amanda: Well, in my job, I create marketing that doesn’t interrupt what people are doing. In fact, I create content that people are actively looking for, because it’s helpful, entertaining, or informative. Instead of a telemarketer was calling to sell you spoons, I create stuff that someone looking for information about spoons might be searching for on the internet.

Dad: So I would find you, instead of you calling to bother me?

Amanda: Yes! I provide you with actual value from my company, which makes you more interested in what my company sells.

The keys here: 1) Identify which interruptive media your dinner guests are familiar with, and 2) play into their pain points when dealing with that media. Inbound marketing is much more logical when you explain it that way — even if your family doesn’t work marketing or communications.

3) The Theatrics

Thanksgiving theatrics

Source: Giphy

If you’re feeling especially creative — and you have at least one Thanksgiving guest who is willing to participate — you could set up a roleplay. There are lots of scenarios you can act out, but a classic one would be the telemarketer/dinner guest scenario.

Let’s use the telemarketing example above — and be warned, it might require a few minutes of planning before everyone sits down to dinner. You play the role of the telemarketer, and your dinner guest can be, well, the dinner guest. First, put his or her phone’s ringer on the highest volume possible. Then, as soon as someone asks you about your job, excuse yourself and duck out to a quiet area with your own phone. Then, call the dinner guest, have him or her answer the call on speaker, while you pretend to be a telemarketer selling something completely unnecessary at that point — Halloween costumes.

Be sure your dinner guest uses key phrases like “You’re interrupting me in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with this irrelevant call,” or, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be calling me about Halloween?” or, if you really want to go nuts, “I wish you had sent me a targeted, personalized email in October about those costumes — I would have bought them.”

Then, have them slam down the phone on the table. You can return from your “bathroom break” and say, “See? Telemarketing, or any type of interruptive marketing like that, is profoundly annoying. In my job, I create marketing that helps people — not annoy them.”

End scene.

Depending on the talent of your guest, you might be able to improv the entire thing. Otherwise, you might want to type a script out and email it to the guest beforehand. And if you really want to go overboard, stay in character the entire dinner. The sight of you dressed up as a skeezy telemarketer with a headset will be just too intense to forget — that is, at least, until your mother requests, “Please remove your headset from the table.”

4) The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles

Source: Webnode

This technique boils down to an age-old philosophical question — is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Aristotle thought so, but when you’re describing inbound marketing to an unfamiliar audience, it’s probably okay to explain each tool that goes into it.

Try isolating inbound marketing into the different pieces that pull it off — things like blogging, email marketing, social media, closed-loop analytics, and call-to-action buttons. The folks who haven’t worked in marketing might not know what these are, either. In that case, try using the analogy technique we opened with to explain them. In fact, you can even act out something like social media, by taking a picture of a decadent cranberry relish and showing how you would share it on Instagram in real time.

5) The “I Write Articles on the Internet”

Writing on internet

Source: imoviequotes

If the previous four have all failed, you can always say, “I write articles on the internet for a living.” I mean, it’s somewhat accurate — you drive real business results with inbound marketing, and you don’t just spew out nonsense blogs about your feelings to get paid — but it can get your family off your back, especially if you’re not sure they’d be interested in hearing the whole shebang. If you choose this path, be prepared to hear how easy it is to blog, and how many of your family members wish they could get paid to do it.

Then, try to switch the subject quickly to something everyone can relate to. “Hey, Uncle Eddie, I’d love to get your amazing stuffing recipe.” Trust us — it works every time.

We’re Grateful for You

Good luck out there. And remember: There are so many people who want to know what you do — which, admittedly is why we love writing about it every day.

We always give thanks for you, our amazing readers. And to express our gratitude, we put together what we hope is a hilarious video of what our families think we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What other strategies do you use to explain inbound marketing to folks who’ve never heard of it? Let us know in the comments.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Nov

24

2016

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

InboundThanksgiving.png

When Thanksgiving rolls around, there are a few questions that we don’t exactly look forward to hearing. “When are you getting married?” “When am I getting grandchildren?” “Have you been moisturizing?”

And yet, none of those oh-so-polite questions even come close to the complexity of explaining what, as an inbound marketer, you actually do for a living.

It’s not that inbound marketing requires a long, drawn-out answer — after all, it can be described in 140 characters. But explaining it requires some fundamental knowledge of how technology, marketing, and the internet work. You know, the things that your grandparents might not fully grasp in one fell swoop. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHub

Good news — all you really need are a few storytelling strategies. We found five ways you can explain inbound marketing to your family. And sure, some of these are useful, and some are just sarcastic. But hey, family is family, right? They’ll still love you.

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

1) The Food Analogy

Pumpkin Pie

Source: Giphy

In the U.S., Thanksgiving typically consists a few staples — turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, to name a few. And while it might sound strange, you can use that knowledge to your advantage by using food preparation as an analogy for different aspects of inbound marketing.

To explain lead nurturing, you can use the pumpkin pie. Sending unnurtured leads to sales is like giving an unbaked pumpkin pie to your guests. I suppose the pumpkin pie could be eaten raw, but … gross. Instead, you should bake the pumpkin pie — that ultimately makes it richer and more palatable.

Nurturing leads before sales contacts them works in the same way. It warms them up to your brand, and starts to qualify them with better information on what they might need. “Warm” leads, like the cooked pie, are already familiar with your business, and will close at a much higher rate than those that are “cold.”

Use whatever analogy you like to describe inbound marketing — it clarifies confusing issues by comparing them to something that, quite literally, is right in front of everyone.

2) The Real-Life Scenario

Telemarketers

Source: Giphy

When I’m asked about inbound marketing, I like to use real-like examples of interruptions that they’ll likely recognize, and explain how the inbound methodology pertains to it. It usually sounds something like this:

Amanda: Hey, Dad. You know how much you hate telemarketers calling you in the middle of dinner?

Dad: Yes. Hate it. Why? Is that what you do for work?

Amanda: No, actually. Inbound marketing is the exact opposite. That’s interruptive marketing. They literally interrupt you. So annoying, right?

Dad: Yes. I’m surprised they’re not interrupting us right now.

Amanda: Well, in my job, I create marketing that doesn’t interrupt what people are doing. In fact, I create content that people are actively looking for, because it’s helpful, entertaining, or informative. Instead of a telemarketer was calling to sell you spoons, I create stuff that someone looking for information about spoons might be searching for on the internet.

Dad: So I would find you, instead of you calling to bother me?

Amanda: Yes! I provide you with actual value from my company, which makes you more interested in what my company sells.

The keys here: 1) Identify which interruptive media your dinner guests are familiar with, and 2) play into their pain points when dealing with that media. Inbound marketing is much more logical when you explain it that way — even if your family doesn’t work marketing or communications.

3) The Theatrics

Thanksgiving theatrics

Source: Giphy

If you’re feeling especially creative — and you have at least one Thanksgiving guest who is willing to participate — you could set up a roleplay. There are lots of scenarios you can act out, but a classic one would be the telemarketer/dinner guest scenario.

Let’s use the telemarketing example above — and be warned, it might require a few minutes of planning before everyone sits down to dinner. You play the role of the telemarketer, and your dinner guest can be, well, the dinner guest. First, put his or her phone’s ringer on the highest volume possible. Then, as soon as someone asks you about your job, excuse yourself and duck out to a quiet area with your own phone. Then, call the dinner guest, have him or her answer the call on speaker, while you pretend to be a telemarketer selling something completely unnecessary at that point — Halloween costumes.

Be sure your dinner guest uses key phrases like “You’re interrupting me in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with this irrelevant call,” or, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be calling me about Halloween?” or, if you really want to go nuts, “I wish you had sent me a targeted, personalized email in October about those costumes — I would have bought them.”

Then, have them slam down the phone on the table. You can return from your “bathroom break” and say, “See? Telemarketing, or any type of interruptive marketing like that, is profoundly annoying. In my job, I create marketing that helps people — not annoy them.”

End scene.

Depending on the talent of your guest, you might be able to improv the entire thing. Otherwise, you might want to type a script out and email it to the guest beforehand. And if you really want to go overboard, stay in character the entire dinner. The sight of you dressed up as a skeezy telemarketer with a headset will be just too intense to forget — that is, at least, until your mother requests, “Please remove your headset from the table.”

4) The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles

Source: Webnode

This technique boils down to an age-old philosophical question — is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Aristotle thought so, but when you’re describing inbound marketing to an unfamiliar audience, it’s probably okay to explain each tool that goes into it.

Try isolating inbound marketing into the different pieces that pull it off — things like blogging, email marketing, social media, closed-loop analytics, and call-to-action buttons. The folks who haven’t worked in marketing might not know what these are, either. In that case, try using the analogy technique we opened with to explain them. In fact, you can even act out something like social media, by taking a picture of a decadent cranberry relish and showing how you would share it on Instagram in real time.

5) The “I Write Articles on the Internet”

Writing on internet

Source: imoviequotes

If the previous four have all failed, you can always say, “I write articles on the internet for a living.” I mean, it’s somewhat accurate — you drive real business results with inbound marketing, and you don’t just spew out nonsense blogs about your feelings to get paid — but it can get your family off your back, especially if you’re not sure they’d be interested in hearing the whole shebang. If you choose this path, be prepared to hear how easy it is to blog, and how many of your family members wish they could get paid to do it.

Then, try to switch the subject quickly to something everyone can relate to. “Hey, Uncle Eddie, I’d love to get your amazing stuffing recipe.” Trust us — it works every time.

We’re Grateful for You

Good luck out there. And remember: There are so many people who want to know what you do — which, admittedly is why we love writing about it every day.

We always give thanks for you, our amazing readers. And to express our gratitude, we put together what we hope is a hilarious video of what our families think we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What other strategies do you use to explain inbound marketing to folks who’ve never heard of it? Let us know in the comments.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Nov

24

2016

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

InboundThanksgiving.png

When Thanksgiving rolls around, there are a few questions that we don’t exactly look forward to hearing. “When are you getting married?” “When am I getting grandchildren?” “Have you been moisturizing?”

And yet, none of those oh-so-polite questions even come close to the complexity of explaining what, as an inbound marketer, you actually do for a living.

It’s not that inbound marketing requires a long, drawn-out answer — after all, it can be described in 140 characters. But explaining it requires some fundamental knowledge of how technology, marketing, and the internet work. You know, the things that your grandparents might not fully grasp in one fell swoop. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHUB

Good news — all you really need are a few storytelling strategies. We found five ways you can explain inbound marketing to your family. And sure, some of these are useful, and some are just sarcastic. But hey, family is family, right? They’ll still love you.

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

1) The Food Analogy

Pumpkin Pie

Source: Giphy

In the U.S., Thanksgiving typically consists a few staples — turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, to name a few. And while it might sound strange, you can use that knowledge to your advantage by using food preparation as an analogy for different aspects of inbound marketing.

To explain lead nurturing, you can use the pumpkin pie. Sending unnurtured leads to sales is like giving an unbaked pumpkin pie to your guests. I suppose the pumpkin pie could be eaten raw, but … gross. Instead, you should bake the pumpkin pie — that ultimately makes it richer and more palatable.

Nurturing leads before sales contacts them works in the same way. It warms them up to your brand, and starts to qualify them with better information on what they might need. “Warm” leads, like the cooked pie, are already familiar with your business, and will close at a much higher rate than those that are “cold.”

Use whatever analogy you like to describe inbound marketing — it clarifies confusing issues by comparing them to something that, quite literally, is right in front of everyone.

2) The Real-Life Scenario

Telemarketers

Source: Giphy

When I’m asked about inbound marketing, I like to use real-like examples of interruptions that they’ll likely recognize, and explain how the inbound methodology pertains to it. It usually sounds something like this:

Amanda: Hey, Dad. You know how much you hate telemarketers calling you in the middle of dinner?

Dad: Yes. Hate it. Why? Is that what you do for work?

Amanda: No, actually. Inbound marketing is the exact opposite. That’s interruptive marketing. They literally interrupt you. So annoying, right?

Dad: Yes. I’m surprised they’re not interrupting us right now.

Amanda: Well, in my job, I create marketing that doesn’t interrupt what people are doing. In fact, I create content that people are actively looking for, because it’s helpful, entertaining, or informative. Instead of a telemarketer was calling to sell you spoons, I create stuff that someone looking for information about spoons might be searching for on the internet.

Dad: So I would find you, instead of you calling to bother me?

Amanda: Yes! I provide you with actual value from my company, which makes you more interested in what my company sells.

The keys here: 1) Identify which interruptive media your dinner guests are familiar with, and 2) play into their pain points when dealing with that media. Inbound marketing is much more logical when you explain it that way — even if your family doesn’t work marketing or communications.

3) The Theatrics

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Source: Giphy

If you’re feeling especially creative — and you have at least one Thanksgiving guest who is willing to participate — you could set up a roleplay. There are lots of scenarios you can act out, but a classic one would be the telemarketer/dinner guest scenario.

Let’s use the telemarketing example above — and be warned, it might require a few minutes of planning before everyone sits down to dinner. You play the role of the telemarketer, and your dinner guest can be, well, the dinner guest. First, put his or her phone’s ringer on the highest volume possible. Then, as soon as someone asks you about your job, excuse yourself and duck out to a quiet area with your own phone. Then, call the dinner guest, have him or her answer the call on speaker, while you pretend to be a telemarketer selling something completely unnecessary at that point — Halloween costumes.

Be sure your dinner guest uses key phrases like “You’re interrupting me in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with this irrelevant call,” or, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be calling me about Halloween?” or, if you really want to go nuts, “I wish you had sent me a targeted, personalized email in October about those costumes — I would have bought them.”

Then, have them slam down the phone on the table. You can return from your “bathroom break” and say, “See? Telemarketing, or any type of interruptive marketing like that, is profoundly annoying. In my job, I create marketing that helps people — not annoy them.”

End scene.

Depending on the talent of your guest, you might be able to improv the entire thing. Otherwise, you might want to type a script out and email it to the guest beforehand. And if you really want to go overboard, stay in character the entire dinner. The sight of you dressed up as a skeezy telemarketer with a headset will be just too intense to forget — that is, at least, until your mother requests, “Please remove your headset from the table.”

4) The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles

Source: Webnode

This technique boils down to an age-old philosophical question — is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Aristotle thought so, but when you’re describing inbound marketing to an unfamiliar audience, it’s probably okay to explain each tool that goes into it.

Try isolating inbound marketing into the different pieces that pull it off — things like blogging, email marketing, social media, closed-loop analytics, and call-to-action buttons. The folks who haven’t worked in marketing might not know what these are, either. In that case, try using the analogy technique we opened with to explain them. In fact, you can even act out something like social media, by taking a picture of a decadent cranberry relish and showing how you would share it on Instagram in real time.

5) The “I Write Articles on the Internet”

Writing on internet

Source: imoviequotes

If the previous four have all failed, you can always say, “I write articles on the internet for a living.” I mean, it’s somewhat accurate — you drive real business results with inbound marketing, and you don’t just spew out nonsense blogs about your feelings to get paid — but it can get your family off your back, especially if you’re not sure they’d be interested in hearing the whole shebang. If you choose this path, be prepared to hear how easy it is to blog, and how many of your family members wish they could get paid to do it.

Then, try to switch the subject quickly to something everyone can relate to. “Hey, Uncle Eddie, I’d love to get your amazing stuffing recipe.” Trust us — it works every time.

We’re Grateful for You

Good luck out there. And remember: There are so many people who want to know what you do — which, admittedly is why we love writing about it every day.

We always give thanks for you, our amazing readers. And to express our gratitude, we put together what we hope is a hilarious video of what our families think we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What other strategies do you use to explain inbound marketing to folks who’ve never heard of it? Let us know in the comments.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Nov

11

2016

The Science Behind a Happier Commute [Infographic]

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Here’s what you definitely shouldn’t do the next time you’re stuck in traffic on your way to work: calculate just how much time you spend commuting to and from the office.

Seriously, don’t do it. The realization that you spend weeks of your life behind the wheel (or choice of public transport) could just be enough to ruin the rest of your day.

But what if your commute didn’t automatically have to be the worst part of your day? The people at job search website Adzuna put together an infographic that claims to have the answers — backed by science — to a happier commute. Check out the tips below.

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Productivity Guide

Nov

11

2016

The Science Behind a Happier Commute [Infographic]

Science of Happier Commute.jpg

Here’s what you definitely shouldn’t do the next time you’re stuck in traffic on your way to work: calculate just how much time you spend commuting to and from the office.

Seriously, don’t do it. The realization that you spend weeks of your life behind the wheel (or choice of public transport) could just be enough to ruin the rest of your day.

But what if your commute didn’t automatically have to be the worst part of your day? The people at job search website Adzuna put together an infographic that claims to have the answers — backed by science — to a happier commute. Check out the tips below.

Happier Commute.jpg



Productivity Guide

Sep

7

2016

Are You Addicted to Work? [Flowchart]

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How many of you out there wrestle with the urge to work outside of normal working hours?

If you have a hard time taking a break from work to the point where your physical and mental health are on the decline, it’s very possible you’re actually addicted to work. And you wouldn’t be alone: 27% of workers claim to be workaholics, and an estimated 10% might be clinically considered work addicts.

Working too much might not sound like a serious problem. In fact, nowadays, complaining about how much work you have has become a mark of social status for some people. But letting your job take over your life can have serious health repercussions — not to mention hurt your relationships with others.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to break your work addiction if it’s becoming a problem, like asking your friends and colleagues to keep you accountable, practicing mindfulness, and redefining what “success” means to you.

So, are you addicted to work? Quiz yourself using the flowchart below from The Business Backer. If it looks like you’re addicted to work or are at risk from becoming addicted, then keep reading for helpful tips on taking control and learning to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

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Sep

6

2016

7 Ways You’re Letting Guilt Sabotage Your Work

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When was the last time you felt bad about something you did — or didn’t do?

For me, it happened about 30 minutes prior to typing this sentence. I left the house later than I had planned, because I allowed extra time for my workout. I felt guilty for dedicating time to my own stuff, when I knew I had a looming deadline.

But guess what? Yesterday, when I skipped my workout to get to the office earlier, I felt bad about that, too.

I can sense the proverbial chorus nodding in unison with me. That’s because guilt is an epidemic — in fact, one in five people cite it as the reason why they don’t take breaks. And it’s killing the quality of our work.

Many of us accept that as common sense — overwork = underproductive. So why do we continue to self-sabotage and feel bad about the time we don’t spend getting things done? Read on to learn the different ways we let guilt overtake our productivity, and why we do it.

7 Ways You’re Letting Guilt Sabotage Your Work

1) You feel like you can’t take a break.

The correlation between workplace happiness and productivity isn’t exactly news at this point. And yet, we continue to ignore that advice. 

A survey conducted by Staples, for example, showed that 90% of employers say they encourage breaks. But here’s the thing — 55% of employees feel like they can’t leave their desks for one. It’s not like we don’t know any better, though. In that same survey, 86% of workers acknowledged that taking a break would make them more productive.

So what’s stopping us?

I‘ve definitely experienced mixed feelings about leaving my desk frequently throughout the day. What if my colleagues think I’m weird, or that I’m not getting my work done? In today’s workplace, we’re big on perception.

Luckily, I work somewhere that encourages taking that time to breathe, and has resources in place to support it. Maybe that’s why Staples Advantage, the division that conducted the aforementioned survey, says that employers need to play their part in creating a break-taking culture.

Even if employees are fundamentally encouraged to take breaks, putting tangible resources behind it will create the cultural shift that really allows them to step away. Something like a break room goes a long way — 76% percent of respondents said that having a well-equipped one would help relieve stress throughout the workday.

And the result of that relief? Getting more done, with higher quality. According to data collected by DeskTime, the top 10% most productive employees take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work they put in. And during those periods, they use hyper focus: No work during breaks (that includes email), and no distractions during the work time.

2) You feel bad asking for help.

Earlier this year, New York Times Magazine did a great job of summarizing the fine line between stress and guilt.

Guilt, Susan Dominus wrote, is “an especially corrosive form of distress: It’s that feeling that nags at you as you rush into the office, sweating, knowing that you are already late, or as you slip out for a ‘meeting’ that is, in fact, a much-needed haircut appointment.”

Lying about the time we put toward self-care indicates how guilty we feel for acknowledging that we need it. So maybe that’s why we feel like we’re falling short when we can’t do everything ourselves.

In turn, that makes us less likely to ask for help. In a survey of working mothers, Care.com found that 29% of respondents felt guilty about hiring someone to assist with things at home — they feared missing out on important moments, for example. But at the same time, 79% of them also felt like they were falling behind at work.

The guilt had multiple sources. That’s the case for many of us — not just working moms.

It makes sense that 75% of these survey respondents also saw an overall reduction in stress when they did hire outside help. That’s not limited to home or family care — asking for help at work, too, can be hugely productive.

In fact, that’s something my own boss told me on my first day at HubSpot: “To help you be more successful, I’ll help you with whatever you ask me for help with. The most successful people ask for help when they need it!”

I wish everyone’s boss would say the same thing. Because she set that tone for me from the very beginning, I knew that I didn’t have to feel guilty about not knowing something, or not being able to do something completely on my own. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, the person you need it from is happy to step in.

3) You’re comparing yourself to everyone else.

We all have those friends — or distant acquaintances who we observe on social media — who seem to have the so-called “perfect life.” And many of us are sometimes guilty of comparing our own lives to theirs, wondering if maybe — had we just done things a little differently — we, too, could have the perfect life.

It’s no wonder, then, that 62% of folks think that their peers are holding it together better than they are. When we perceive that someone is doing a better job than we are, we feel guilty or inadequate.

In the past, I’ve had to remind myself that anyone’s life can look perfect on the outside — especially on social media. I like to think of Facebook, for example, like tabloids. People can paint any picture they want, and post it for the world (depending on their privacy settings) to see.

And even if someone else really is doing things “perfectly,” which is completely subjective, feeling guilty about how your performance stacks up to others’ is a waste of time. And we’ve already talked about how to use our time productively — squandering your precious minutes comparing yourself to others isn’t going to accomplish anything of value.

4) You have Vacation Shame.

Remember earlier, when we talked about how many of us feel bad taking time for ourselves? Vacation is no exception.

In fact, that phenomenon has a name: “Vacation Shaming.” It was coined by Alamo Rent A Car after the company’s annual Family Vacation Survey revealed that 47% of workers feel shame or guilt at work for taking that time off. The same percentage feels the need to justify using their vacation days to their employer — even if they’ve earned it.

There are certainly other reasons — financial ones, especially — why people don’t go on vacation. Nonetheless, 28% of people don’t take advantage of paid time off because they’re afraid they won’t look as dedicated to their work.

But that logic is kind of counter-intuitive. I mean, for all intents and purposes, managers place the most value on your productivity, right? And in regions where people tend to take more vacation (like Brazil and Sweden, where paid time off is mandatory), employees tend to bring greater urgency to their work.

That could be due to the fact that, according to the Harvard Business Review, “spending less time at your desk forces you to waste less time.” That echoes the research done by DeskTime about the productivity levels of people who take regular breaks.

Simply put: Don’t feel bad about giving yourself the opportunity to step away, whether for a few minutes or a few days. It’ll enhance your productivity while you are at work, and give you a chance to decompress when you’re not.

5) You’re just not busy enough.

How many of you out there work best under pressure?

Me. I do. I have never met a deadline I didn’t like. Am I insane? Probably. But also, I just don’t get as much done when I’m not bound by a timeline.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it was reported that people feel more motivated to complete tasks when they’re busy — even if the deadline to get it done has passed.

“Being busy may make people more likely to fail to achieve a specific goal,” the authors report, but “it can also make people more likely to achieve the goal by augmenting the perception that a different goal [like using one’s time effectively] is being achieved.”

In other words, when we mess up as a result of having too much to do, we don’t feel as guilty about it. After all, it’s not like we were sitting around doing nothing — we were being productive. But when we make a mistake and don’t have the excuse of our industriousness to fall back on, we feel bad.

Staying busy at work might seem like a tall order when only 31.5% of us — in the U.S., at least — are actually engaged there. But there are ways to keep up your motivation and productivity, which my colleague Lindsay Kolowich wrote about here.

6) You have action bias.

We’ve all had friends who have gotten a bit upset with us at one time or another. When that happens, the best thing is to step away and give her space, right? I don’t do that, and that’s because I have action bias.

Also known as a “bias for action,” the Business Dictionary defines action bias as the “propensity to act or decide without customary analysis or sufficient information,” or to “’just do it’ and contemplate later.”

It reminds me of something that a leadership professor said to me about extroverts: “We tend to operate in the order of: Ready? Fire! Aim.”

We’re all about taking action and getting things done, before all else. So when our time has to be spent on something other than our most essential tasks, or even inaction — like in the case of our angry friend — we freak out.

Kolowich has experienced something like this. “In the past, I’ve felt guilty whenever I’ve been doing work that doesn’t have measurable output, like brainstorming, strategizing, and even catching up on industry news,” she told me. (She writes more about these biases here.)

“Ironically, that can make you less productive because you’re less thoughtful in approaching the work you do do,” she continued. “I’m far more productive when I take the time to understand a project and plan it out rather than jumping right in.”

That’s why it’s valuable to take the time to be thoughtful when it comes to your work, and even take the time to reflect on it. On the surface, that might seem like a waste of time, but it can actually be tremendously beneficial.

Take this a Harvard Business School study, for example. A team of employees was divided into two groups. The first was instructed to spend the last 15 minutes of the workday writing their reflections. The other group kept working during those 15 minutes. When each group took a final training test, the one that spent the extra time reflecting performed 22.8% better than the one that worked longer.

It might seem counter-intuitive, given our advice above about deadlines and staying busy. And we get it — for those of us with action bias, according to a Barclays white paper, “inaction can make a stressful time even worse.”

But you can be industrious and also be patient, without feeling bad about it. Even when a deadline is present, take the time you need to bring quality to your work — you’ll be glad you aimed before you fired.

7) You’re experiencing the Zeigarnik Effect.

“The what?”

The Zeigarnik Effect. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the psychological tendency to remember an uncompleted task rather than a completed one.”

Sound familiar?

At the end of the day, no matter how productive we’ve been, it seems like we always dwell on the things we didn’t get done. So maybe we can chalk it up the aforementioned Effect, named for Bluma Zeigarnik, the Russian psychologist who found that having a task interrupted can actually improve the focus you put toward it later.

That’s good news — and it supports the advice to take breaks and step away from your work, without feeling bad about it. And even though I’m a repeat offender of what we’ve discussed, like action bias, I actually have experienced the value of letting a task go until the next day.

I find that to be particularly applicable to writing. Of course, I have deadlines to meet, but every time I let an article “marinate” overnight, I see multiple things I want to change in the morning — and in the end, I’m actually glad I put it off, despite not feeling great about letting it go “unfinished” the night before.

It probably took you a few minutes to read this blog, right? It likely took time out of your day. But hopefully, the time you spent reading it — and next, thinking about it — will actually help you bring more focus and less guilt to your work. 

How do you keep guilt from getting in your way? Let us know in the comments.

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Sep

6

2016

The Best Time of Day to Do Everything, According to Science [Infographic]

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We often talk about optimizing your website and optimizing your marketing … but what about optimizing your day?

Think about all the things you do in a given day, from eating meals and cleaning your apartment to brainstorming ideas and holding meetings. Believe it or not, there’s an optimum time of day to complete every single one of these activities.

A lot of it has to do with taking advantage of your body’s natural rhythms. For example, neuroscientists recommend waiting until 9:30 a.m. to drink your morning coffee because that’s when your stress levels tend to drop, and you really don’t need the caffeine boost until afterward. Others have to do with weekly schedules: Studies also show that scheduling meetings at 3:00 p.m., especially on Tuesdays, increases the likelihood of high attendance.

What other activities have an optimum time in the day? Check out the infographic below from NetCredit for a full list.

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