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Oct

11

2017

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?

Published by in category Daily, productivity | Leave a Comment

We all have different reasons for getting up every morning and doing what we do every day.

So why is it that, on some days, it can feel harder than others to get up when your alarm goes off, do your workout, crush a work or school assignment, or make dinner for your family?

Motivation (or a lack thereof) is usually behind why we do the things that we do.

There are different types of motivation, and as it turns out, understanding why you are motivated to do the things that you do can help you keep yourself motivated — and can help you motivate others.Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your  productivity at work.

In this post, we’ll dive into the two types of motivation — intrinsic and extrinsic — to learn the differences between the types, the benefits of each, and how to use both types to inspire productivity.

Definitions of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it’s personally rewarding to you.

When you’re intrinsically motivated, your behavior is motivated by your internal desire to do something for its own sake — for example, your personal enjoyment of an activity, or your desire to learn a skill because you’re eager to learn.

Examples of intrinsic motivation could include:

  • Reading a book because you enjoy the storytelling
  • Exercising because you want to relieve stress
  • Cleaning your home because it helps you feel organized

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment.

When you’re extrinsically motivated, your behavior is motivated by an external factor pushing you to do something in hopes of earning a reward — or avoiding a less-than-positive outcome.

Examples of extrinsic motivation could include:

  • Reading a book to prepare for a test
  • Exercising to lose weight
  • Cleaning your home to prepare for visitors coming over

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?

At first glance, it might seem like it’s better to be intrinsically motivated than extrinsically motivated. After all, doesn’t it sound like it would be ideal if you didn’t need anyone — or anything — motivating you to accomplish tasks?

But, alas, we don’t live in such a motivation-Utopia, and being extrinsically motivated doesn’t mean anything bad — extrinsic motivation is just the nature of being a human being sometimes.

If you have a job, and you have to complete a project, you’re probably extrinsically motivated — by your manager’s praise or a potential raise or commission — even if you enjoy the project while you’re doing it. If you’re in school, you’re extrinsically motivated to learn a foreign language because you’re being graded on it — even if you enjoy practicing and studying it.

So, intrinsic motivation is good, and extrinsic motivation is good. The key is to figure out why you — and your team — are motivated to do things, and encouraging both types of motivation.

When Intrinsic Motivation Is Best

Research has shown that praise can help increase intrinsic motivation. Positive feedback that is “sincere,” “promotes autonomy,” and “conveys attainable standards” was found to promote intrinsic motivation in children.

But on the other side of that coin, external rewards can decrease intrinsic motivation if they’re given too willy-nilly. When children received too much praise for completing minimal work or single tasks, their intrinsic motivation decreased.

The odds are, if you’re reading this blog post, you’re not a child — although children are welcome subscribers here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog. But the principles of this study are still sound for adults.

If you’re a people manager, be intentional with your praise and positive feedback. Make sure that it’s specific, empowering, and helps your direct reports understand your expectations and standards. But make sure you aren’t giving too much praise for work that’s less meaningful for your team, or they might lose intrinsic motivation.

If you’re an individual contributor, tell your manager when their feedback is motivating — give them positive feedback, too. By providing positive feedback to your manager when they give you praise that keeps you motivated, you, in turn, will extrinsically motivate them to keep managing you successfully. (Meta, huh?)

When Extrinsic Motivation Is Best

Extrinsic rewards don’t just involve bribery (although bribery can work). In some cases, people may never be internally motivated to complete a task, and extrinsic motivation can be used to get the job done.

In fact, extrinsic rewards can promote interest in a task or skill a person didn’t previously have any interest in. Rewards like praise, commissions, bonuses, or prizes and awards can also motivate people to learn new skills or provide tangible feedback beyond just verbal praise or admonishment.

But tread carefully with extrinsic rewards: Studies have shown that offering too many rewards for behaviors and activities that people are already intrinsically motivated to do can actually decrease that person’s intrinsic motivation — by way of the overjustification effect.

In these cases, offering rewards for activities the person already finds rewarding can make a personally enjoyable activity seem like work — which could kill their motivation to keep doing it.

If you’re a people manager, use extrinsic rewards sparingly to motivate your team to take on new responsibilities or achieve lofty goals. Bonuses, commissions, recognition prizes, and promotions can be an effective way to motivate or reward your team for learning new skills, taking on new challenges, or hitting a quarterly goal. But make sure you’re giving your team members the time and resources to explore skills and projects they’re already excited about independently — without making them a part of their regular responsibilities, which could demotivate them.

If you’re an individual contributor, work for the rewards you want, but don’t over-exhaust yourself in the pursuit of extrinsic prizes. Make sure you’re taking time, in your job or in your personal life, to explore activities that you enjoy just for the sake of doing them, to keep yourself balanced.

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Sep

28

2017

How to Get More Done by Doing Less

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Productivity is generally thought of in terms of, “How do I get more done?”

If we’re lucky, we work in teams and environments where that perspective is at least softened by combining it with a measure of efficiency or impact, but even then we don’t fully escape the rat-race-like pursuit of more.

In fact, we usually answer “How are you?” with “I’ve been very busy.” And we wear our 80-hour work weeks like a badge of honor.

Speaking on his upcoming book, The Calm Company, Basecamp cofounder Jason Fried digs into the dangers of this troubling trend:

“Long hours, excessive busyness, and lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for many people these days. Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity. Companies that force their crew into this bargain are cooking up dumb at their employee’s expense.”

This was similar to the mindspace that I too occupied when I stumbled into mindfulness and meditation 18 months ago.

At the time, I had been working on my own startups for about nine hours a day, and even though I had the flexibility to work in any way that I wanted, I was in the mindset of doing more, working longer hours. I was chasing my own tail, and a proposal to sit still to meditate for 15 minutes a day, provoked a simple reaction: “Who has time for that?”

But through the evolution and expansion of my mindfulness practices since then, I’ve come to learn that an action geared towards less (like sitting, breathing, and not thinking) has the surprising effect of creating some more (calm, clarity and space).

If you’ve heard or read anything on meditation and mindfulness, that shouldn’t sound too unfamiliar. But in this article I’d like to reveal a couple of tactics where I optimized for less, only to get an exponential more on the other side. These tactics span different areas of my life, and each has their individual, contextual goals — but they are all intertwined and focused ultimately on my experience as I pursue various projects, goals and dreams in life.

I literally stumbled into mindfulness and meditation via a prompt from my therapist who had intervened as my monkey mind was running havoc and jeopardizing most good things in my life. I still work towards mindfulness today because I have experienced significant changes in my life and work as a result of my practice.

So here’s how I have managed to gain more in my life as a result of pursuing less in some situations.

Plan Slower Mornings

Waking early in the mornings has always been one of the easier things for me to do. In fact, I used to believe that I personally needed very little sleep — until I learned about the real effects of sleep debt over time.

In the past, I would use an early morning start as a way to get a headstart on the day ahead. I can remember during my time at WooThemes, I was at the office before 7am on most days. The rest of the team only arrived from 9am onwards, and most of our remote team would only sign on much later. Those first two hours were glorious though: I could just hack away at my to-do list for two hours straight without anyone or any notifications interrupting my flow.

And then I had kids.

For any parent reading this, you’ll know that babies and toddlers operate on their own schedule, which means that none of my mornings were as predictable or within my control as before. Initially, I completely resisted this change and tried to stick to my previously focused and productive morning routine. I also tried various iterations to this routine, from waking up even earlier to trying to get work done while giving Adii junior his morning bottle.

Suffice to say, by trying to multitask, I wasn’t being a great dad and I wasn’t doing great work either — everyone was getting a compromised result.

Fast-forward to today, and my morning routine looks something like this: I wake up at 5am on weekdays. I immediately get a cup coffee and breakfast (the same every morning to avoid having to make a decision). The next hour or so I spend reading, and I then meditate for 15 to 20 minutes. Then from about 6am onwards, I get my two boys ready for school. This means on most mornings I only get to my desk (and work) at 8am.

With the benefit of hindsight and comparison, I can now see how singular and rushed my old morning routine was. Because my goal was to get to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, it meant that any friction or obstacles along the way had a major negative impact on my experience. And a crappy morning would eventually turn into an even crappier day on most occasions.

These days, by the time I get to work I have a sense of space and calm. No rush to do anything specific. No existential fear about not answering yesterday’s emails quickly enough.

Instead I find that I’m more aware of the whole day and week’s landscape, which has helped me prioritize the things I need to work on (versus the things I can delegate or allow to drop off my radar).

Curiously I have also found that the first hour or so in the morning has not become less productive at all, and I still often manage to do some of my best work in that time (especially when I manage to also prioritize the most important task for the day during this time). For example, it’s currently just after 9am as I’m writing this article, and I find the words flowing easily.

In the past, I used to run out of steam later in the day due to being so rushed. This inevitably meant that I either felt that I hadn’t accomplished enough on that day, or that I would try working until late in the evening to make up for lost time. We should however all agree that our brains do get tired, and if we continue to push ourselves beyond the point of exhaustion, we end up merely sitting in front of our computers, not getting anything done.

Disconnect from Interruptions

Software makers use often use gamification, notifications, and a combination of instant gratification and FOMO to keep us as engaged with their products as possible.

I’d never given much thought to how the programs and apps I use on a daily basis impact my productivity — until I read Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world” earlier this year and was introduced to the concept of attention residue.

To explain what attention residue is and how it impacts us, Newport references a 2009 paper titled Why Is It So Hard to Do My Work?” from Sophie Leroy, a business school professor at the University of Minnesota. As Leroy explains in the paper:

“People need to stop thinking about one task in order to fully transition their attention and perform well on another. Yet, results indicate it is difficult for people to transition their attention away from an unfinished task and their subsequent task performance suffers.”

I finished the book in a single sitting, and it prompted me to really investigate my work behaviors. I would like to tell you here that it has helped me to do more deep work, yet I don’t think I have a consistent workflow to do deep work often enough (even though, my awareness of pursuing deep work is more developed).

The book did however prompt me to do something more radical: I almost entirely switched off my phone without entirely switching it off. My iPhone is now permanently on silent, and has the “Do Not Disturb” feature switched on at all times.

I also disabled all notifications — badges on my icons, popup notifications or notifications on my lock screen. The only notifications that makes it to my lock screen are from WhatsApp, which I only use for family and close friends. And yes — I also disabled Slack notifications, which is the primary communication tool we use for Conversio, a team of 14 remote team members.

This has turned my phone into less of an attention-demanding force. I don’t get interrupted or distracted as often as I used to. This helped me read 22 books in about ten weeks because I picked up a book when I was bored instead of fiddling on my phone.

I also started writing more, which helped me get more thoughts out of my mind. And most importantly, limiting my phone time has without a doubt helped me sleep better (I have always struggled to fall asleep because I struggle to switch off my thinking mind).

The flipside of this is also true: whenever I now pick up my phone, I can pay attention to the possible interactions that it presents. If an old friend sent me a message on Facebook, I can invest in replying purposefully instead of both reading and replying in a fleeting moment (when the notification of the message popped up).

I don’t have any scientific evidence to determine how these decisions have impacted my attention residue. What I do know is that by allowing less external sources to demand my attention, I have been more purposeful to prioritise the most important things to me — in a way that also brings more clarity to my life.

Change Your Reading Habits

Consider for a moment that much of your daily communication consists of reading emails, Slack messages, texts, tweets, or comments on your latest Instagram photo.

A big part of our communication is in written form, which means that we need to read in order to respond and interact. Beyond that you are likely reading articles (blog posts) like these, short rants your dad has posted on Facebook, or a firehose of 140 character opinions on Twitter.

Even if you aren’t reading books everyday, you are reading a lot.

A couple of months ago, I hit a wall. I was consuming a lot of content, but not much of it really resonated with me. To link this back to my previous point about distractions, there was a particularly relevant quote from Cal Newport’s book that best represented my reading habits at the time:

“It’s amazing how overly accessible people are. There’s a lot of communication in my life that’s not enriching, it’s impoverishing.”

So I made a simple change: I de-prioritized most shorter-form content, and started dedicating my reading time to full-length books. Mostly classic fiction — nothing that had a direct tie back to work.

I have now read 40 books this year already. I’ve worked my way through older classics from authors like Viktor Frankl, Kurt Vonnegut, Truman Capote, Herman Hesse, Marcus Aurelius, and Alain de Botton. By consuming less modern day content, I give my mind a much needed break from the usual written content I consume online.

Tackle a Big Non-Work Goal

On New Year’s day 2016, I set one goal: I wanted to complete my first marathon (and do it under four hours.)

When I started my training a month later, I also stumbled into mindfulness. The combination of these two things soon had an unexpected impact on the way I led our company.

Since my primary goal was not about work, it meant that the first priority each week was planning my daily runs. Work started to fill the spaces around these more rigid blocks. As a result, I starting giving myself more mental space from my work than ever before. Even catching up on work in the evening — a usual habit of mine — wasn’t an option after a three-hour long run — I was just too tired to work.

Working less wasn’t part of my plan or intention, but it had a profound impact on our journey at Conversio. For the first time in my entrepreneurial journey, it felt like I wasn’t tumbling up and down constantly on the proverbial rollercoaster anymore. And since I felt more grounded in my day-to-day, my leadership style started to reflect this attitude. As a result, the team was doing great work in a stable, safe environment.

The results in 2016 spoke for itself: we 3x’ed our revenue, reached profitability and celebrated with a major rebrand and product update. This was clearly a consequence of the team feeling more stable.

I then stepped into 2017 with the aim of applying all of my ambition towards really growing our business. I started pushing and pulling wherever I saw a gap. I started conversations that proposed new ideas that questioned previous decisions, and recommend brand new directions.

During the first quarter of 2017, I was focused on the wrong things, which made my behaviour erratic and meant that I lumped a lot of stress on our team. The team was confused, felt less secure, and wasn’t collaborating at our previous levels.

As these things go, the team eventually managed to pierce my stubborn drive forward and I received the message: things were not as great as they were before.

Pretty much as soon as I started unraveling my own motivations underpinning my behaviour (primarily, seeking more and faster growth), the team got back to a calmer, more efficient collaborative flow once again. We once again found alignment on both our core values, as well as shared goals, which meant we were making progress again. For the first four months of the year, our revenue only increased by 8% and in the four months since we’re up 24%. (Naturally the change in our growth rate was a result of many different things, but this change was at the core of many of those.)

The only shift here was in my own focus. When I was narrowly focused on work and had no other person goals I was striving for, it created an unbalanced approach that was neither helpful nor healthy for our progress.

When I was working towards a goal outside of work that was just for myself, it gave me more clarity in our mission and helped me be a better leader.

Embrace Not Having All the Answers Right Now

I have an annoying tendency to feel like I need to answer every question in a group setting, simply because I’m the leader.

In many situations, this isn’t an inherently bad attitude to have. Afterall, I am the leader, and in many situations I have the context, knowledge and experience to give a valuable answer.

But there’s a downside. Many times individual team members will just ask me directly for the answer, which means not involving the team and possibly excluding different perspectives and opinions. Once I’ve addressed a question, I sometimes shut the conversation down because my answer is deemed as authoritative or final (even when that is not the intention). That’s not great for inclusion and collaboration.

In recent months, I have been trying to avoid being the first to answer questions in meetings. Not only has this alleviated some of the demands on my time, but more importantly it means that the team is coming to more collaborative, creative answers on their own.

Get More Done By Doing Less

The truth — even for startups — is that most of the time it doesn’t really matter whether you finish something today or tomorrow, reach a goal this week or next month, or grow by 5% instead of 10%.

Yes, there are some exceptions to this. But for everything else, you can probably pursue the less obvious choice and route, while not compromising on your goal at all. In fact, you might be surprised that doing less actually helps you exceed your goals and expectations.

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Sep

12

2017

6 Ways Your Bedtime Routine Is Wrecking Your Work

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Last night, I began to read an excellent novel right before I went to bed. The plot twists! The engaging dialogue! The cliffhangers! It was a great read. But when I finally went to put the book down two hours later, I was completely wired and nowhere near sleep, and I wasn’t too productive the next day.

I always thought it was a good habit to read before bed. Was I wrong?

Kind of. I had failed to take my own advice — to do something mindless before bed — and had instead remained engaged in something that was mentally stimulating, instead of something that helped me wind down. Stress is stress, whether its source is work or a fictional heroine who won’t leave her unfaithful husband. And that stress is responsible for 33% of adults losing sleep.

But my story shows that external stressors aren’t always to blame. Sometimes, our own routines are getting in the way of our productivity, especially when it comes time to settle in for the evening. It’s not easy, but with a little recognition and behavior modification, your bedtime routine can go from wrecking your work, to enhancing your productivity.

You’re Not Sleeping Enough, and Your Bedtime Routine Could be to Blame

As you may have guessed, we are faced with a sleep deprivation epidemic — 34.8% of U.S. adults sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours each night. And it’s getting expensive. In the U.S., the lack of productivity caused by sleep loss costs employers as much as $411 billion a year.

Less than seven hours in one night is what the CDC calls “short sleep”: a term we’ll use throughout this post. Among such side effects as high blood pressure and diabetes, short sleep can also lead to “frequent mental distress.” In other words, it can really mess up our work, and life in general.

On top of that, short sleep is linked to a higher probability of obesity, probably due to its correlation with poor eating habits. When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to mindlessly eat or make less-than-healthy food choices. But we also eat poorly when we’re stressed, and when we’re stressed, we don’t sleep well. All of these behaviors are linked and, ultimately, are leading to this epidemic of exhaustion.

That network of cause-and-effect does more than illustrate that you’re probably not sleeping enough. It shows the complexity behind why you’re not sleeping enough, which is where your bedtime routine comes in. So let’s explore some of the “why”s. Once you’re aware of them, you can fix them.

6 Reasons Why Your Bedtime Routine Is Wrecking Your Productivity

1) You’re eating a bunch of crap (and probably too late in the day).

In addition to short sleep causing bad eating habits, the same thing works in reverse — diets high in saturated fat and carbohydrates, for example, have been linked to lower sleep quality. Plus, our tolerance for glucose decreases later in the day, so eating late at night can also throw off our circadian rhythm, the biological sleep-and-wake pattern of humans.

But willpower is hard — and as my colleague Mike Rehahan once told me, it depletes as the day progresses. So, the later it gets, the more tempted we are to indulge in comfort food that we don’t have to cook ourselves. After a long, tired day, it’s a recipe — no pun intended — for disaster. You’re not just more likely to indulge. You also risk depriving yourself of quality sleep, creating a vicious cycle of exhaustion.

Here’s where planning ahead can tremendously help. When the weekend rolls around, all we really want to do is watch Netflix and shop online. But setting aside two hours on Sunday afternoon to cook meals for the week can help preserve your willpower on those late nights. 

2) Sleep isn’t in your schedule.

When our days are already so overbooked, it seems ridiculous to schedule something like sleeping. But it’s called a routine for a reason — “setting a pattern of going to bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning,” according to the CDC, is key to sleeping well.

Last year, I shared a technique I use called time blocking. It’s the formal term for my habit of creating calendar events for everything — getting dressed, working out, and feeding my dog. But when I realized that I was slipping into the bad habit of being liberal with my bedtime, I knew that I would need to schedule time to turn off my electronics, too.

Devices Off.png

When I asked my team to share the bedtime habits that mess with their productivity, HubSpot Director of Marketing Emma Brudner replied, “Falling into the rabbit hole of the internet for hours.”

She’s not alone — I have a bad habit of turning a simple search for a carbonara recipe into an hours-long research session on the culinary arts. And when that happens, my desired bedtime falls to the wayside.

That said, too much screen time before has other impacts on sleep quality, which we’ll discuss later. But scheduling a time to unplug can prevent those evening hours from wasting away. Depending on your bedtime, try programming a recurring calendar event to shut down two hours before you actually want to get to sleep for Monday through Wednesday. As it becomes habitual, start adding additional nights.

3) You’re planning your next work day at home.

I’m a big believer in the separation of home and office. Even when I work from home, I have a special space set aside to attend to my tasks — every other area is an off-limits, no-work zone.

That accomplishes two things. First, it helps to keep certain distractions out of sight while I’m working. And when I’m not, having a something like a designated “weekend chair” keeps me from checking work email when I should be recharging — as 50% of us are wont to do.

That’s why I also believe that all work-related tasks, including planning for the next day, should be limited to designated work spaces only. Thinking about that seemingly endless schedule can cause some anxiety, which you don’t want to bring into a place that’s designated for personal time — especially at a time of day when you’re supposed to be winding down.

It might mean staying at the office a bit later, but planning your next day at a designated workspace can help maintain your home and sleeping areas as a stress-free sanctuary. Try it tonight — chances are, you’ll be glad you left your work at work.

4) You’re putting off morning stuff until the morning.

We know — when else would you do morning things?

But my colleague, Sophia Bernazzani, stresses the value of getting certain morning tasks done in advance, and she suggests taking “15 minutes to lay out your outfit, pack your lunch, and prep your coffee” the night before.

If you’re not a morning person, she explains, “decision-making abilities are limited — so you should save them for work.” So, completing these items ahead of time not only gives you the peace of mind of having them done — but also, it frees up a bit of time in the morning to sleep more, work out, or meditate, which is shown to lower stress levels by 31% and increase energy throughout the day by 28%.

5) You’re ignoring your tension.

We have instincts for a reason — we’re built to instinctively seek out the things that will help us survive. Those are represented in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which includes sleep at its baseline.

2000px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg.pngSource: Wikimedia Commons

When we ignore our instincts, things start to go haywire because we’re essentially fighting biology. And when we ignore our instinct to sleep — by reading “just one more” chapter, or watching “just one more” episode — it can lead to even more tension over the fact that we’re losing sleep.

It’s very meta, but stressing over a loss of sleep will only make you less likely to fall asleep, since — say it with me — stress causes sleep loss.

But when you can’t get that stress off your mind, write it down. It makes sense that journaling before bed has shown to improve sleep quality — it gives your troublesome thoughts somewhere else to “live,” rather than being mentally recycled when you’re trying to quiet your mind.

6) You’re looking at screens.

We’re starting to feel a bit like a bunch of broken records with this one — yes, we harp away about ditching the screens before bed. And yet, nearly half of us continue to use our smartphones before bed.

But if you’re getting as sick of reading about it as we are of nagging about it, here’s a quick rundown, courtesy of Harvard:

  • Blue light is the kind emitted from most electronics.
  • It’s often cited as the culprit for sleep loss, because it sends a signal to your brain that daylight is present.
  • That — like so many of the behaviors we’ve listed here — causes disorder to your circadian rhythm. When your brain thinks there’s daylight, it also thinks it’s time to wake up, not go to bed.

Seriously. Put the screens away before bed.

And if you absolutely must look at your screen close to bedtime, consider investing in an app that will adjust its blue light depending on the time of day, like f.lux or PC SunScreen.

Give It a Rest

Our cultural sleep deprivation might make things look a bit bleak. It’s causing us to be grossly underproductive, which is causing our collective employers to lose a lot of money. Not only that, but it’s making us sick.

But we hope this post emphasizes that it doesn’t have to be that way, and that our bad bedtime habits can be modified. Don’t try to tackle all of these things at once — start with the one that’s easiest for you to change, and once you master it, slowly work your way through the list.

Consider the fact that people who sleep six hours or less each night lose about six days worth of productivity each year. When you feel tempted to stay up late, ask yourself, “What could I do with six extra days?” Let yourself dream — it’ll be worth it.

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Sep

6

2017

8 Brainstorming Ideas to Inspire Brilliant Pitches

Coming up with fresh, new ideas isn’t easy. And when your job requires churning them out on a daily basis, it can be easy to hit a wall. (Not to mention frustrating.)

That’s why brainstorming sessions can be so helpful. But, as many of you probably know by experience, some brainstorming sessions are more productive than others.

Ever been to one where you left feeling like your team didn’t really come away with anything useful? It’s draining — and it can feel like a waste of you and your team’s time. Great brainstorming sessions, on the other hand, can be wonderfully revitalizing.

The best way to get the creative juices flowing isn’t by sitting your team around a conference table and asking them to shout out ideas as they come to them. It’s by creating an atmosphere that breaks people out of their traditional mindset.

Here are a few creative ways to help liven up your brainstorming sessions to improve your team’s output of ideas.

8 Brainstorming Ideas to Inspire Brilliance

1) Come up with bad ideas first.

The best brainstorming sessions come when everyone in the room feels comfortable throwing out all of their ideas, regardless of whether or not they’re gold. But some members on your team might be worried they’ll sound stupid or uninformed if they pitch ideas that aren’t well thought-out. Studies have shown people are especially apprehensive when people in positions of power are present — this apprehension can lead to major productivity loss in brainstorming groups.

One way to loosen people up and get the ideas flowing? Start out brainstorming sessions by spending 10 minutes coming up with a bunch of bad ideas first. You might throw one out yourself first to show them what you mean. This will help you set a much more open and playful tone than a formal atmosphere would. Gerry Graf of Barton F. Graf 9000 has his team come up with 4,000 bad ideas before coming up with good ones.

Once you’ve spent some time sharing throwaway ideas and having a few laughs, you can refocus on brainstorming ideas that could work. And who knows: An idea that isn’t so great on its own could spark some really ingenious ones that inform the direction of the rest of the meeting.

2) Break and build ideas.

One way to turn a few ideas into many is by breaking them down or building them up. If you’re starting with a really general theme, try breaking it down into parts and details and seeing if other ideas branch from it. Or, you can do the opposite, and build up a more specific idea to have it cover a broader perspective.

One way to break down or build up ideas is to have each person in the room jot down two or three ideas on their own pieces of paper. Then, have them trade papers with other members of the team, and build off their coworkers’ ideas. You can rotate papers several times, and start a discussion based off the new ideas that emerge.

3) Play word games.

Word games can be powerful ways to help remove you from the traditional mindset that tends to produce generic, unoriginal ideas. If you’re trying to get out of an idea rut, try adding a few games to your meeting to drum up some out-of-the-box thinking.

One great word exercise is creating a “word storm.” To create a word storm, write down one word, and then brainstorm a whole slew of words that come to mind from that first word. Try thinking about the function of that word, its aesthetics, how it’s used, metaphors that can be associated with it, and so on. Let the ideas flow naturally, and don’t over think it — this is meant to be a creative exercise.

Once you’ve listed out a bunch of words, group them together according to how they’re related to one another. The goal? To come up with those less obvious words or phrases your audience might associate with whatever project you’re working on.

Source: CoSchedule

You can record the word storm on a piece of paper or a whiteboard or by using this online word storm tool to create a visual map — which you can save, export, and send to the team after the meeting.

Mind mapping is another powerful brainstorming tool to visualize related terms and ideas. Create a diagram starting with a central idea, and then branch out into major sub-topics, then sub-sub-topics. You can create mind maps either on paper or a whiteboard, or by using something like MindNode app.

Finally, another word game you could try is coming up with what Creative Bloq calls “essence words”: Words that capture the spirit, personality, and message you’re trying to put across — even if they seem crazy. You might find that it helps spark other ideas down the line.

4) Create a mood board.

Combining imagery, color, and visual-spatial arrangements can help surface emotions and feelings that will spark fresh, new ideas. It’s also been proven to significantly improve information recall in comparison to more conventional methods of learning.

While there are many ways to use visual prompts in brainstorming, creating a mood board is one of the most common — especially in coming up with new branding and design concepts.

A mood board is simply a random collection of images, words, and textures focused on one topic, theme, or idea. Like with mind mapping, the visual components of the mood board can be anything branching off that central topic.

Source: Behance

Mood boards can either be physical boards (e.g., a poster or cork board) or virtual (e.g., a Pinterest board). You can also use a tool such as the MoodBoard app to help you collect, organize, and share all the visual components needed for your board.

5) Play improv games.

Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like a little improvisation. This may sound silly, but hear me out: The more relaxed and playful the environment is (without being distracting), the more your team will feel comfortable thinking and sharing freely with one another.

Corey Blake, the CEO of RoundTable Companies, told The Huffington Post about a time he and his executive team opened a brainstorming session with a series of improv games. “That experience opened our minds and readied the team for play before diving into more traditional brainstorming,” Blake said. “The result was a deeper dive into our exploration and more laughter and fun, which increased our aptitude for creativity.”

If your team can relax briefly and laugh together, your creative energy will be much higher when you refocus on the project at hand.

6) Doodle.

Did you know that doodling can help spur creative insight, increase attention span, and free up short- and long-term memory?

Sunni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, wrote that, “When the mind starts to engage with visual language, you get the neurological access that you don’t have when you’re in linguistic mode.”

While many brainstorming sessions are based on talking and reading, doodling helps people break out of the traditional mindset and think about familiar things in a different way, perhaps leading to unexpected connections.

What should you doodle? Here are two ideas from Brown’s book:

  • Take an object and visually break it down into its tiniest parts. So if you start with the word “dog,” you might draw paws, a tail, and a collar. Thinking about all the elements of that object and the environment it is found in will allow you to view an object in a new way.
  • “Take two unrelated things, like elephants and ice cream, and draw them in their atomized parts,” writes Jennifer Miller for Fast Company. “Then create drawings that randomly fuse these parts together. Like trunk-cones or melting ears. Brown has used this technique to help journalists think up unique story angles.”

Source: FastCompany

7) Change your physical environment.

Switching up your physical environment isn’t just a fun change of pace; it can actually affect the way your brain works. Neurobiologists believe enriched environments could speed up the rate at which the human brain creates new neurons and neural connections. That means where you conduct your brainstorming sessions could have an affect on the ideas your team comes up with.

Try holding brainstorming sessions in rooms that aren’t associated with regular team meetings. If you can’t change the room itself, try changing something about the room to stimulate the brain, such as rearranging the chairs or putting pictures on the walls. Another idea is to have your team stand up and walk around while brainstorming, to encourage fluid creativity.

8) Don’t invite too many people.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a rule when it comes to meetings that applies to brainstorms too: Don’t invite more people than could be fed by two pizzas.

Now, we’ve all probably crushed a pizza on our own before, but generally speaking, two pizzas could comfortably feed between six and 10 people — but more than that, and people will be hungry — not to mention, unproductive.

Keep brainstorms smaller so everyone has a chance to surface ideas — and so the conversation doesn’t become cacophonous with interruptions and diverging tangents. A group of 10 people or fewer will still be able to feed and build off each others’ ideas — without drowning anyone out or getting too off-track.

Sep

4

2017

I Tried These Productivity Hacks for a Month So You Wouldn’t Have To

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not the most together person in the world.

I eat three meals a day, but one of them is usually takeout. I hit snooze so often it should be considered a nap. And I definitely don’t drink enough water. But I imagine I’m not alone.

There are plenty of productive members of society like myself who work and go to school and have fulfilling lives — those lives just don’t always involve waking up at 5 a.m. for morning meditation or listening to stimulating podcasts on their commutes the way so many famed morning routines do.

So here’s to the snoozers, the night owls, and the TV binge-watchers. I celebrate you, and I want to help you figure out if any of the most dreadful-sounding productivity hacks will actually work for you.

Over the course of a month, I spent each week trying out a different productivity hack to see if it made me more productive — in the morning, and throughout the day. Some of these techniques were brand new to me, while others had been feebly attempted (and abandoned) before.

Keep reading for a detailed explanation of why I went on this productivity journey, or skip ahead to the hacks you want to read more about:

Why I Tried Out Productivity Hacks

I spent a month this summer testing out different productivity hacks as part of a larger initiative my fellow HubSpot Blog team members participated in. Traditionally, during the summer months, we experience a slight dip in traffic due to seasonality — after all, we want you to enjoy summer vacations away from your email inbox, even if it means missing some of our blog posts.

With that in mind, we decided to take a month to run different experiments and report on the results — and I decided to devote time to testing out different productivity hacks so I could report on the results to you fine people, our readers.

I spent each week trying out a new hack — with varied results. Read on to learn more about how I became the most productive woman in the world in just 30 days (just kidding).

4 Productivity Hacks (& Results)

1) Eating Breakfast Every Day

Before the Experiment

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. But between the aforementioned snoozing and my lengthy commute time to work, eating breakfast before work was darn near impossible for me.

And by the time I got to work, which was usually slightly later than I wanted for the previously mentioned reasons, I would dive right into my to-do list — only to find myself ravenous and ready for lunch by 10:30 a.m. Or worse, scarfing down a Pop-Tart to tide myself over until my immediate sugar crash as a direct result of eating said Pop-Tart.

But starting your day with a healthy breakfast can have a huge impact on your productivity. The food we choose throughout the day impacts not only our productivity, but also our moods, focus, and energy. In fact, a study found that the more servings of fruits and vegetables people ate throughout the day, the more engaged, happy, and creative they were.

As it turns out, 31 million Americans (roughly 10% of the population) end up skipping breakfast every day — probably for reasons like mine. So I committed to a full week of making — and eating — a healthy breakfast.

During the Experiment

I quickly realized that changing the way I sleep and get up in the morning would require a lot longer than a month to complete, and I needed a healthy breakfast solution that also didn’t take too long once I finally made it into the office.

The solution? Smoothies.

Luckily, HubSpot’s Cambridge office has a fully-stocked kitchen with a lot of the materials and equipment needed to make a healthy breakfast. With the help of plant-based protein powder and spinach I brought from home, I was able to quickly make healthy smoothies that were easy to consume and fairly tasty. I can’t, however, speak for their appearance:

smoothie is gray.jpg

Look, my smoothie matches my gray desk divider!

Gray smoothies notwithstanding, this was far and away my favorite productivity hack of the experiment.

Results of the Experiment

Ironically, my interest in smoothies was to save time so I could dive right into work, but dedicating time to making and consuming breakfast before I got started with every work day helped me be more productive. I ended up taking a few minutes before getting started to a) enjoy my breakfast, b) surf Twitter without feeling guilty for procrastinating and c) prioritize my day.

Besides the health benefits of eating healthful foods first thing in the morning, I think there’s also something to be said for forcing yourself not to dive into work right away and reflect on your priorities. It’s easy when you’re swamped in to-dos to feel so stressed and overwhelmed that you start working the second your eyes open. But by making breakfast or spending your morning doing something not directly work-related, you can organize your thoughts, prioritize the mounting list of tasks we all have, and enjoy a little “me time” — and debriefing on which projects and tasks to tackle to make your day as efficient as possible.

There were definitely days when I wanted a Pop-Tart (but I promise, I didn’t have one). Also, one day that week, I decided to treat myself to a technically healthy but fairly enormous breakfast at a vegan diner. Delicious? Absolutely. But I also fell into a food coma shortly after and had a less productive day than my smoothie days.

2) Exercising Every Morning

Before the Experiment

For those of you already rolling your eyes, trust me — I know how you feel. Working out is the worst.

But actually, it’s not. Apart from the health benefits we all know and forget as our sneakers collect dust from the corners of our closets — like decreased risk of chronic disease, weight control, better sleep, and stronger muscles and bones — it can have a positive impact on your productivity all day.

Regular exercise can improve your memory retention, sharpen your concentration, help you learn faster, make you more creative, and lower stress. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t say no to literally any of those things.

I’m still in the process of recovering from an ankle injury, so I wasn’t exercising at all before starting the experiment for a week — let alone exercising in the morning. Saying I was not excited about trying out this productivity hack was an understatement, but I wanted to do it in the morning to get it out of the way — and to achieve those promised benefits even sooner.

During the Experiment

I decided to work out using 30-45 minutes Pilates videos every morning — mostly because I wanted to do something that would be low-impact on my ankle, but partly because I didn’t want to actually have to leave my house to get a workout in.

On the first day of testing out this hack, as my alarm went off 45 minutes earlier than normal and I stared at my yoga mat, I said out loud to no one in particular, “I already hate this.”

Luckily, I had a supportive family member who got up when I did and motivated me to keep going:

philates-2.jpg

We’ll call our workout routine “Pilates with Phil”

Unfortunately, his support waned the longer the workout went on every morning.

philsleeping-1.jpg

Results of the Experiment

As a side effect of exercising and waking up early, I started getting tired and falling asleep much earlier, which definitely made me feel more productive at work. I felt more alert and focused at the start of my day — having already been awake for a couple of hours — and I found myself making healthier eating choices (see above) after starting my day off on the right foot. On a few of these days, I didn’t even feel the need to drink coffee once I got to my desk!

I’ll confess that, halfway through the week, I snoozed through my alarm and worked out in the evening instead — but it definitely weighed on me as one more item on my to-do list, and getting it done early in the day was far superior.

So, while I don’t think I can commit to daily morning exercise, I can confirm that getting up and moving once a day definitely made me feel more alert and relaxed, which lasted for the entire rest of the day.

3) Using the Pomodoro Technique

Before the Experiment

Before I tested out this productivity hack, I was familiar with the concept of blocking off time for specific tasks, as well as blocking off time for breaks, but I wasn’t doing it with any particular rhyme or reason.

Simply put, I would totally disregard calendar appointments I’d set for myself and would stay in a groove if I hit one — until I looked up from my computer, hours later, with bloodshot eyes, wondering what had happened to the rest of my to-do list.

old calendar example.png

Not exactly easy to follow.

So for the next week of my experiment, I decided to test out the Pomodoro Technique — and no, it isn’t a delicious cooking method as I previously thought. It calls for working in 25-minute bursts with short breaks in between. Once you’ve completed four Pomodoros (25-minute increments), you could take a longer break before starting work again.

It sounded like a great way to balance the demands of my writing workload writing several blog posts per week in addition to various other meetings and projects.

During the Experiment

I cannot overstate the degree to which this time management method did not work for me.

I downloaded the Pomodoro Technique Chrome extension to remind me of when to start working and to take a break, and I grew to hate that little tomato — a real shame, since it’s one of my favorite fruits/vegetables.

pomodoro break.png

Tomatoes will never be the same.

I really missed being able to get into the groove working on a project — particularly when it came to writing blog posts, which typically takes more than 25 minutes.

I even tried hacking together my own Pomodoro Technique calendar when I couldn’t handle the tomato reminders, but the pop-up calendar reminders irked me even more.

pomodoro calendar.png

I was in notification hell.

By the Wednesday of the week I started testing out this productivity hack, I was back to my old ways — and loving it.

pomodoro calendar 2.png

Writing blocks, how I missed thee.

Results of the Experiment

The Pomodoro Technique definitely didn’t work for me, but I don’t think it’s the fault of the technique itself — I think it doesn’t work for my particular job requirements, which involve multiple daily deadlines.

When I write blog posts, I don’t necessarily need (or want) my time split into 25-minute bursts — I want to get blog posts out the door so I can get started on the next one.

My very unscientific assumption is that the Pomodoro Technique works better for people working on longer-term projects and daily tasks, rather than deadline-driven bloggers and creators turning things in every day.

4) Freewriting Every Morning

Before the Experiment

When I come home from writing blog posts all day, the last thing I want to do is sit down and write more — even if it’s creative writing on my own.

So when I read that morning freewriting can increase productivity, I was skeptical about whether or not it would work for me — wouldn’t it just be adding more work to my plate?

Before I tested this productivity hack, the closest thing I did that could be called morning freewriting was my morning tweeting. So I decided to try it out for a week.

During the Experiment

I blocked off 30 minutes each morning for freewriting when I got into the office each day and went to work. And let me tell you, it was hard.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything else to write about besides marketing topics for the blog — it’s that I didn’t want to write paragraphs. I wanted to write lists.

I’m in the process of moving, and I’m a bridesmaid in two upcoming weddings, and during these 30-minute blocks, I honestly couldn’t stop myself from creating list after list of things I needed to do — like this one:

bridesmaid list.png

A Maine wedding without bug spray is a non-starter.

apartment list.png

I learned from this experiment that a comfy rug is essential to at-home workouts.

Over the course of the week, I eventually started writing longer pieces with more sentences and fewer bullet points — and freewriting shifted into journaling.

Results of the Experiment

I don’t know that I did freewriting exactly correctly — technically, it was freelisting. But going through the motion every morning got me in the right mindset to braindump — which any blogger will tell you is a critical part of the writing process, when you write down any and everything you know about a topic before filling in gaps in knowledge with more research.

As a side-effect of the list-writing, I believe I was a more productive worker by handling and organizing my personal to-dos before getting started on work tasks. It was a lot less stressful knowing I had an organized game plan for calls to make and research to do on my lunch break and during personal time after work too.

There’s No Such Thing as “Hacking” Productivity

Like many other things in life, there isn’t an easy way out when it comes to working efficiently and successfully at your job every single day. There will be days when you crush your to-do list, and there will be days when you eat Pop-Tarts and get hit with a wicked case of writer’s block.

My biggest lesson from this experience was that all hacks aren’t created equal — it’s about figuring out how and when you work most productively, and optimizing your strategies from there.

My strategies could still use a little tweaking, and my next big experiment will be trying to change my disastrous sleep habits to kick the snooze button to the curb. But until then, I’ll be drinking smoothies, attempting to work out, and avoiding every tomato I come across.

Sep

1

2017

How to Identify Which Experiments to Run

Published by in category Daily, productivity | Leave a Comment

The last time I made an appearance here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, I wasn’t shy about my love of experiments.

At the same time, I wasn’t shy in my sense that, all too often, they’re conducted for the wrong reasons. We talked about how the purpose of online experiments is to answer questions about how people use your website.

But how do you know which questions to ask? And how do you know whether experiments are even a viable option to answer your questions in the first place? Before you jump in, you need to make sure you know these things.

soi-anchor-cta-2017

Not sure where and when you should start? Fear not — we’re here to help. Let’s get to it.

How to Tell If You Can Run Experiments

Before you come up with experiments to run, you need to make sure you can accurately run them. Experiments should be completely off the table until you have an established online presence and means to track behavior. To do that, you’ll need five things.

1) Traffic

In order to trust that the results of an experiment are unlikely to be influenced by randomness, you need to have a high volume of traffic. Some experiments require larger sample sizes than others — even hundreds of thousands, in some cases — but typically, you’ll need a minimum of 100 unique page views per day to reach statistical significance within a reasonable amount of time.

2) Goals

In an experiment, your hypothesis is the statement you’re working to prove. But what is it that you’re trying to improve as a result of this test? Those are your key performance indicators (KPIs) — the quantifiable measures of the experiment’s success. Without those, you have no North Star to guide the purpose of your experiment, or the objectives behind it.

3) Tracking

In order to measure and observe the performance and results of your experiment groups, you’ll need to establish which data you’ll be tracking and monitoring. In the digital realm, that might include factors like:

  • Which pages are people visiting?
  • Where did they come from?
  • What are they doing once they arrive at those pages? Are they converting, bouncing, or taking another action?

4) Baseline Metrics

Even if you’re hoping to make improvements to your funnel, before you start an experiment, you should have an established, recorded funnel conversion rate (CVR). In other words, before you begin, you should be able to track:

Funnel visit -> retained customer

If you try to start an experiment without that information, you’ll have no benchmark to compare where you were prior to running it — and therefore, you won’t know if you’re any better or worse off as a result.

5) You’ve picked all of the low-hanging fruit.

Make sure you’ve fully built out and iterated on all of the basic requirements for your funnel to work or even operate correctly. For example, in the ecommerce sector, you might want to do something like optimize your online product catalogue. But you can’t do so until you’ve made sure every product is listed there, you have a complete online checkout system, and have a way for visitors to contact you for customer service.

We have a phrase for this step: “Don’t start hanging up pictures before you paint the walls.”

How Do I Know If I Have These Five Things?

If you find yourself asking that question, we recommend running an A/A test — an experiment where you go through all the motions of running and tracking an experiment, without actually changing anything. We do this in three steps:

  1. Run the dummy test for five business days.
  2. Take the test down.
  3. Analyze the results.
  • Do you have 500+ unique users enrolled in the experiment?
  • Can you track both experiment groups full funnel?
  • Is funnel CVR about equal for both experiment groups?

So, do you have those five things? Nice job — you’re already ahead of the curve. But experimentation still only makes sense when you can identify questions worth answering through quantitative research.

Identifying experiments

First things first, you need to pick a funnel that you want to optimize through experimentation. Once you have your funnel, identify the unanswered questions you have about how your audience moves between its stages. To identify unanswered questions, we need to take stock of what we already know.

Identifying who moves through your funnel, and why

Do you know exactly who’s entering the funnel and from where, with quantitative and qualitative data to back it up? How about why they’re entering the funnel, with the same supporting data? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, this is where you should start.

Next, if you look at your funnel, can you figure out why people aren’t converting between steps?

buyers_journey-resized-600-1.pngSource: Apolline Adiju

Identifying knowledge gaps for how people move through your funnel

Let’s look at the following conversion:

Basic visit > purchase

Our goal is to identify why people do not convert between steps in our funnel. To find out, we need to list reasons why we think people are not converting, and seek out data to back up our claims. We will know that we have listed the right reasons when we can account for more than 100% of unconverted users, with supporting data.

  • Are people not purchasing because:
  • They have unanswered questions about the product? (Let’s say this reason accounts for 5% of non-purchasing users.)
  • They aren’t ready to make a purchase yet? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • They don’t see how the product fits into their lives? 40% of non-purchasing users
  • The product doesn’t align with what they are looking for? 5of non-purchasing users
  • There are better-priced alternatives? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • There are alternatives with more or better features? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • They lack confidence in the product or the company that sells it? 30% of non-purchasing users

Note: These percentages total >100% — each given user often has multiple reasons for deciding not to purchase.

If you find that you’re struggling to put together a list of reasons as to why people don’t convert, you’ll need to gather qualitative feedback from your customers.

Once you’ve put together a thorough list, take a step back and look for areas of opportunity. For example, on the list above, hone in on, “They don’t see how the product fits into their lives,” and ask, “Why?” Assuming we have product market fit, there must be something we don’t understand here. Otherwise, how can 40% of non-purchasing users be unable to see themselves using the product? It could become a fundamental question that we aim to answer through quantitative experimentation.

To boil it down: Experiments answer questions. To identify experiments, you need to identify gaps in your knowledge, and to do that, list what you do know — that will help you more easily identify what you don’t.

Next Steps

We hope that this post has provided you with the tools to identify when you should run experiments. In my next post, we’ll get into ways you can discover the unanswered questions about your funnel, and prioritize those questions to maximize your investment in a given experiment. Plus, we’ll provide a helpful framework for doing so.

How do you identify which experiments to run? Let us know your approach — and hey, we might even feature your experiment on our blog.

Learn more about HubSpot Classroom Training!

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Sep

1

2017

How to Identify Which Experiments to Run

The last time I made an appearance here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, I wasn’t shy about my love of experiments.

At the same time, I wasn’t shy in my sense that, all too often, they’re conducted for the wrong reasons. We talked about how the purpose of online experiments is to answer questions about how people use your website.

But how do you know which questions to ask? And how do you know whether experiments are even a viable option to answer your questions in the first place? Before you jump in, you need to make sure you know these things.Click here to start A/B testing using our guided instructions and tips from  professionals.

Not sure where and when you should start? Fear not — we’re here to help. Let’s get to it.

How to Tell If You Can Run Experiments

Before you come up with experiments to run, you need to make sure you can accurately run them. Experiments should be completely off the table until you have an established online presence and means to track behavior. To do that, you’ll need five things.

1) Traffic

In order to trust that the results of an experiment are unlikely to be influenced by randomness, you need to have a high volume of traffic. Some experiments require larger sample sizes than others — even hundreds of thousands, in some cases — but typically, you’ll need a minimum of 100 unique page views per day to reach statistical significance within a reasonable amount of time.

2) Goals

In an experiment, your hypothesis is the statement you’re working to prove. But what is it that you’re trying to improve as a result of this test? Those are your key performance indicators (KPIs) — the quantifiable measures of the experiment’s success. Without those, you have no North Star to guide the purpose of your experiment, or the objectives behind it.

3) Tracking

In order to measure and observe the performance and results of your experiment groups, you’ll need to establish which data you’ll be tracking and monitoring. In the digital realm, that might include factors like:

  • Which pages are people visiting?
  • Where did they come from?
  • What are they doing once they arrive at those pages? Are they converting, bouncing, or taking another action?

4) Baseline Metrics

Even if you’re hoping to make improvements to your funnel, before you start an experiment, you should have an established, recorded funnel conversion rate (CVR). In other words, before you begin, you should be able to track:

Funnel visit -> retained customer

If you try to start an experiment without that information, you’ll have no benchmark to compare where you were prior to running it — and therefore, you won’t know if you’re any better or worse off as a result.

5) You’ve picked all of the low-hanging fruit.

Make sure you’ve fully built out and iterated on all of the basic requirements for your funnel to work or even operate correctly. For example, in the ecommerce sector, you might want to do something like optimize your online product catalogue. But you can’t do so until you’ve made sure every product is listed there, you have a complete online checkout system, and have a way for visitors to contact you for customer service.

We have a phrase for this step: “Don’t start hanging up pictures before you paint the walls.”

How Do I Know If I Have These Five Things?

If you find yourself asking that question, we recommend running an A/A test — an experiment where you go through all the motions of running and tracking an experiment, without actually changing anything. We do this in three steps:

  1. Run the dummy test for five business days.
  2. Take the test down.
  3. Analyze the results.
    • Do you have 500+ unique users enrolled in the experiment?
    • Can you track both experiment groups full funnel?
    • Is funnel CVR about equal for both experiment groups?

So, do you have those five things? Nice job — you’re already ahead of the curve. But experimentation still only makes sense when you can identify questions worth answering through quantitative research.

Identifying experiments

First things first, you need to pick a funnel that you want to optimize through experimentation. Once you have your funnel, identify the unanswered questions you have about how your audience moves between its stages. To identify unanswered questions, we need to take stock of what we already know.

Identifying who moves through your funnel, and why

Do you know exactly who’s entering the funnel and from where, with quantitative and qualitative data to back it up? How about why they’re entering the funnel, with the same supporting data? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, this is where you should start.

Next, if you look at your funnel, can you figure out why people aren’t converting between steps?

buyers_journey-resized-600-1.png
Source: Apolline Adiju

Identifying knowledge gaps for how people move through your funnel

Let’s look at the following conversion:

Basic visit > purchase

Our goal is to identify why people do not convert between steps in our funnel. To find out, we need to list reasons why we think people are not converting, and seek out data to back up our claims. We will know that we have listed the right reasons when we can account for more than 100% of unconverted users, with supporting data.

  • Are people not purchasing because:
  • They have unanswered questions about the product? (Let’s say this reason accounts for 5% of non-purchasing users.)
  • They aren’t ready to make a purchase yet? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • They don’t see how the product fits into their lives? 40% of non-purchasing users
  • The product doesn’t align with what they are looking for? 5of non-purchasing users
  • There are better-priced alternatives? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • There are alternatives with more or better features? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • They lack confidence in the product or the company that sells it? 30% of non-purchasing users

Note: These percentages total >100% — each given user often has multiple reasons for deciding not to purchase.

If you find that you’re struggling to put together a list of reasons as to why people don’t convert, you’ll need to gather qualitative feedback from your customers.

Once you’ve put together a thorough list, take a step back and look for areas of opportunity. For example, on the list above, hone in on, “They don’t see how the product fits into their lives,” and ask, “Why?” Assuming we have product market fit, there must be something we don’t understand here. Otherwise, how can 40% of non-purchasing users be unable to see themselves using the product? It could become a fundamental question that we aim to answer through quantitative experimentation.

To boil it down: Experiments answer questions. To identify experiments, you need to identify gaps in your knowledge, and to do that, list what you do know — that will help you more easily identify what you don’t.

Next Steps

We hope that this post has provided you with the tools to identify when you should run experiments. In my next post, we’ll get into ways you can discover the unanswered questions about your funnel, and prioritize those questions to maximize your investment in a given experiment. Plus, we’ll provide a helpful framework for doing so.

How do you identify which experiments to run? Let us know your approach — and hey, we might even feature your experiment on our blog.

Free Guide AB Testing

 
Free Guide AB Testing

Jul

27

2017

AI in Marketing: 10 Early Use Cases

Published by in category Daily, productivity | Comments are closed

ai-marketing-use-cases-1.jpg

Just a short while ago, robots were the stuff of fiction.

Sure, artificially intelligent beings graced movie screens and the pages of novels, but the robot revolution hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe in another few decades, along with flying cars.

But the truth is, artificial intelligence is already here, and you probably engage with it more than you think.

As it turns out, you’re not alone. We surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and determined that 63% of respondents were already using AI technologies — they just didn’t realize it.

And that’s because AI technologies are being developed, in part, to help make humans’ lives easier by independently — and intelligently — completing tasks for them.

AI is already in use in a myriad of marketing use cases. From content curation, to SEO, to email marketing, different tools are already being used by brands — not only to make human marketers’ lives easier, but to make them better at their jobs. When processes are optimized and made faster by technology, not only can businesses achieve better outcomes, but humans also have more time freed up for critical thinking, data analysis, and long-term planning when they aren’t bogged down with more rote tasks.

Here’s a rundown of how forward-thinking brands are already using AI in marketing.

10 Marketing Use Cases for AI

1) Website Design

AI can assist marketers in a variety of use cases — even from the very beginning of the marketing process — including the building of the website.

The Grid uses AI named Molly to design websites, and a few creators are already using platforms “she” has built.

The Grid’s value proposition? Molly can build websites at a fraction of the time — and cost — it would require hiring a team of developers and software engineers to complete the same task. The Grid starts at less than $100 per year for one website — a bargain compared to a salary.

Creators can input content into The Grid — like images, text, and calls-to-action — and Molly builds the site using the power of AI. Check out the demonstration below:

2) Content Creation

Content writers might think jobs are safe from being replaced by AI, and for now, that’s mostly true. But tools like Wordsmith and Quill are already being used by the likes of The Associated Press and Forbes to create clickable news content. Using templates and fill-in-the-blanks to enter relevant data and keywords, these tools can generate unique written content that actually reads like it was written by a human. (Maybe not a Pulitzer Prize-winning human, but the sentences and stories make sense.)

Here’s an example from The Associated Press:

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Then, marketers can edit AI-generated content using Hemingway App, a simple AI that makes prose bolder, clearer, and more concise by highlighting complex sentences and suggesting different word choices, as shown below:

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3) Content Curation

There’s nothing worse than the moment when you finish an amazing new series on Netflix. But luckily, you can usually start binge-watching another show right away — thanks to the power of AI.

Brands like Netflix and Amazon are already using AI to curate recommendations to keep customers engaged and consuming and continuing to subscribe. Using AIs like IBM Watson, brands can learn more and more about consumers by analyzing their behavior — and providing curated content and recommendations for them.

Under Armour uses data from Watson to customize emails it sends to its app users, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art uses an “artbot” that answers requests to see specific types of art with curated photographs and paintings. I tried out the artbot below — send it a request at 572-51:

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4) Search

AI has already had a tremendous impact on the way users conduct online searches, and, in turn, that’s changing the way marketers create and optimize content.

Two big AI advances have changed online searches — and search engine optimization: voice search, and Google’s RankBrain.

Innovations like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana make it easier for people to conduct searches with just the press of a button and voice command. That means the terms they’re searching for are changing, too — now, instead of typing in “restaurants in Boston,” users can ask a device, “where should I go to dinner tonight?” 

RankBrain is Google’s machine-learning algorithm that was created to deliver more relevant search results. It interprets queries and, using the power of AI, serves up the best possible results according to what it interprets from the language. For example, if you searched for “president” on Google in the United States, RankBrain might interpret that you wanted information about the current president and would serve you information about the individual — and not just the office of government. 

Conversational search queries and algorithms are changing thanks to AI — and, in turn, these changes are forcing search engine marketers and content creators to adapt. Long-tail keywords have been replaced by conversational keywords, and writing blog post after blog post about every topic imaginable has been replaced by the topic cluster keyword strategy, as outlined in the video below. In fact, we’re adapting our blogging strategy to this new model here at HubSpot — and that’s partly because of AI.

5) Marketing Automation

Brands are using the power of AI to customize marketing emails based on customer preferences and behavior to engage them more and — hopefully — prompt them to convert or make a purchase. 

Using tools like Boomtrain, brands can send out customized email newsletters based on previous interactions recipients have had with content. AI helps send customized, personalized content recipients might be more likely to interact with — and click through.

Online lingerie brand Adore Me used Optimove‘s AI to segment its customer list into different types of prospects and customers to increase purchases and subscribers to its membership pricing program. The AI automated the segmentation process and started sending customized content based on each recipient’s lifecycle stage via email, text messages, and in-app notifications. Segmenting customers and contacting them on different platforms helped Adore Me increase its monthly recurring revenue (MRR), average sales price (ASP), along with doubling its active customer base.

When it comes to marketing automation, AI can free up valuable human marketers’ time — and quickly create more targeted marketing materials that convert better among customers.

6) Social Media

What’s wonderful about social media is its ability to connect people from around the world to talk about and share topics or stories they care about. It’s something users have clearly gleaned to — considering that global social media users number in the billions.

Of course, that also means advertisers want to capitalize on social media’s popularity — and not all advertisers are good advertisers.

So platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have made it easier for social media users to hide ad content they don’t like or derive value from — and this information helps customize the user experience for them while providing advertisers and publishers with more audience insights on the platforms.

Here’s an example of an ad I can hide on Facebook — and I can even choose a reason why I don’t want to see it:

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Platforms use these insights to algorithmically curate a news feed better suited to user preferences, and ad buyers don’t have to waste money serving ads users have already indicated they don’t like.

Facebook is using AI to mitigate and prevent websites from sharing content that provides a bad user experience. It’s training artificial intelligence to identify and recognize patterns in low-quality sites — things like little original content, clickbait headlines, and multiple disruptive ads. These low-quality links — and the original domain — will be penalized in the News Feed and likely result in significant decreases in traffic for the publisher.

7) Images

Do you like playing around with neat filters and facial lenses that turn you into a dog, a bumblebee, or a cat on Snapchat? These augmented reality capabilities are powered by AI image recognition.

Using neural networks to recognize and identify shapes and faces, Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram have made it possible for you to barf rainbows, turn into a cute animal, or swap faces with your friend — to horrifyingly funny results.

cat-snapchat-faceswap.jpgSource: BoredPanda

These disappearing messaging platforms are used by millions of people worldwide — not only for private communication with friends, but also by brands trying to connect with audiences on a more authentic and personal level. Through the power of AI, brands can connect with people in unique and personal ways where audiences are spending time online — namely, on social media.

8) Advertising

If you’ve purchased keyword ad space using GoogleAdWords lately, you’ve already used AI — in the form of its automated bidding system. Advertisers can automatically bid for the lowest possible cost per click (CPC) to efficiently and effectively capture traffic from Google results.

And now, Adgorithms has AI that they want to take over entire advertising campaigns — named Albert. Programming advertising will make up the majority of ad buying going forward, but Albert will handle the bidding, integration, management, and execution of ad campaigns across platforms — from email, to search engines. to social media.

Human marketers and business leaders tell Albert about a campaign’s desired outcome, target audience, and geographic area, and “he” handles the rest. And because Albert is AI, he works a lot faster than people, and he can identify different audience niches and buying patterns by analyzing data, too.

Harley-Davidson of NYC started using Albert, and “he” made triple the sales the in-person dealership typically made in a single week. The brand credits Albert for its 40% motorcycle sales growth and 566% growth in website visits.

9) Chatbots

Lots of brands have started communicating with customers using messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Slack. It’s fast, customers are already using these tools to communicate with friends and coworkers, and let’s face it — sometimes, you just don’t want to hop on a phone call to get an answer.

And chatbots seek to make that process even easier. GrowthBot seeks to provide answers to commonly-asked questions about marketing and sales professionals — without them having to hunt down the information themselves. 

Here’s how GrowthBot works in action on Slack: Users can ask specific questions about different industries and brands, and the highly technical answers are served up quickly without having to track them down:

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Chatbots’ wealth of information — like GrowthBot’s — helps marketers and salespeople quickly find and analyze information about their industries and competitors to get their jobs done more efficiently. Neat, huh?

10) Sales Handoff

And finally, once marketers have successfully created content that’s generated leads ready to work with a salesperson, AI can assist with the handoff process.

Conversica created AI named “Angie” to work for CenturyLink, one of the world’s largest telecommunications providers. CenturyLink needed help identifying hot leads among the thousands of leads it generates every day from its large presence online and in media. Angie sends initial emails to new leads to determine if they’re ready to talk to a human sales representative — which saves reps time and effort, more efficiently segments leads, and saves CenturyLink money on hiring another human being.

At CenturyLink, Angie can identify 40 hot leads per week, and for every dollar spent on “her,” she brings in $20 in revenue. The AI can understand 99% of email replies sent when “she” reaches out to leads — which saves the company time and helps leads communicate on their desired platform.

What About Me?

At this point, learning about all of the use cases for AI in marketing might be giving you a bit of anxiety about your own job security. If that’s the case, you’re not alone.

While it’s true that part of the appeal of using AI is its low cost and high levels of efficiency, there are only so many things AIs can replicate. In fact, some of the best use cases for AI in this blog post involve AIs and humans working together to solve problems and achieve goals faster and more efficiently. So don’t think of AI like a robot trying to steal your job — think of AI like technology that will make your job easier, much like computers and internet did over the last century.

If anything, the growth of AI in marketing might make you excited about a future where you have more time freed up for higher-level projects, and more rote tasks are taken off your plate. Learn more about how AI is used and the future of artificial intelligence from new HubSpot research.

Which AI technologies will you consider implementing? Share with us in the comments below.

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Jul

15

2017

22 of the Best Motivational Speeches of All Time

Published by in category Canonical, Daily, productivity, Professional Development | Comments are closed

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It was halftime during one of my 7th grade football games. And we were losing 14 – 0. With our knees planted in the grass, my team was quietly huddled, drenched in sweat and defeat. We all knew the game was over.

That’s when our assistant coach bursted through our circle and shattered our pity party, delivering one of the best motivational speeches I’ve heard to this day.

I can’t directly quote him because he said some things that are inappropriate for a blog post (and, in hindsight, probably for a bunch of 13-year-olds too). But the point is, he harnessed the power of words to rejuvenate a physically and emotionally drained team. And we came back clawing to win the game.

Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

Just like in sports, being motivated at work is crucial for your performance. This rings especially true when you have a looming deadline, an important presentation to give, or colleagues or customers depending on your performance.

To help you stay motivated, no matter what your job throws at you, we decided to compile 22 of the best motivational speeches from business, sports, entertainment, and more. If you want to get fired up for a project, watch these videos. Trust me, I was ready to write a 5,000 word blog post after I saw them. And while the messages vary from speech to speech, they will put you in the optimal frame of mind for tackling and crushing your next big challenge.

(Disclaimer: Some speeches — *cough* Al Pacino *cough* — may contain NSFW language.)

22 of the Best Motivational Speeches

1) J.K. Rowling: “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination” (2008)

In J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech, the Harry Potter author explored how two phenomena — failure and imagination — can be crucial to success. While failure can help you understand where your true passion lies, and where you should focus your energy moving forward, imagination is what will allow you to empathize with other people so you can use your influence to do good.

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

2) David Foster Wallace: “This Is Water” (2005)

From the opening minutes of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, in which he questions commencement speech conventions, it’s clear that Wallace has some serious wisdom to share. The crux of his speech: Many of us are oblivious to our own close-mindedness. We picture ourselves as the centers of our own, individual universes, instead of seeing the bigger, more interconnected picture.

If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important, if you want to operate on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you’ll know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer hell-type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred — on fire with the same force that lit the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.”

3) Brené Brown: “The Power of Vulnerability” (2013)

The video above is an animated excerpt from researcher Brené Brown’s speech, “The Power of Vulnerability.” In the speech, Brown explores how our fear of not being good enough (among other fears) drives us to shield ourselves from our own vulnerabilities. The alternative to wearing this emotional suit of armor: Embrace vulnerability through empathizing with others.

Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable choice. Because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. “

4) Al Pacino: “Inch by Inch” (1999)

Yes, this speech is from a football movie (Any Given Sunday), but trust me: This isn’t your stereotypical rah-rah-go-get-’em sports speech. It’s deeper than that. It’s about life, and loss, and … gosh darn it just listen to Al Pacino, he’s pouring his soul out!

Either we heal as a team or we’re gonna crumble, inch by inch, play by play, till we’re finished. We’re in hell right now, gentlemen, believe me. And we can stay here and get the $&#@ kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell, one inch at a time.”

5) Steve Jobs: “How to Live Before You Die” (2005)

Considering the YouTube video of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech has 24 million views (not counting the 10 million+ additional views from duplicate uploads), it’s likely that you’ve seen this one already. In the speech, Jobs plays on two themes: connecting the dots (anecdote: how taking a calligraphy class helped inspire the design of the Mac) and love & loss (anecdote: how getting fired from Apple helped inspire his greatest innovations). Perhaps the most memorable part his speech comes at the end, when he quotes the (now-famous) lines from the final issue of his favorite publication, The Whole Earth Catalog:

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

6) Ellen DeGeneres: Tulane University Commencement Speech (2009)

Ellen’s speech, as you might expect, has its humorous moments. But it also explores some of the very personal and tragic episodes in her life that helped push her into comedy in the first place. Two key themes of DeGeneres’speech: overcoming adversity and being true to yourself. ForDeGeneres, that meant pushing onward with her career after her sitcom was canceled in response to her publicly coming out as gay.

Really, when I look back on it, I wouldn’t change a thing. I mean, it was so important for me to lose everything because I found out what the most important thing is … to be true to yourself. Ultimately, that’s what’s gotten me to this place. I don’t live in fear. I’m free. I have no secrets and I know I’ll always be OK, because no matter what, I know who I am.”

7) Will Smith: Speech from The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Here’s another speech from the big screen, this time from the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness. In the scene above, Will Smith’s character explains to his son why he shouldn’t pursue basketball (because he’ll end up being “below average”) before having a major change of heart.

Don’t ever let somebody tell you … you can’t do something. Not even me. All right? You got a dream. You gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.”

8) Sheryl Sandberg: Harvard Business School Class Day Speech (2012)

In her speech to the HBS class of 2012, Lean In author and tech executive Sheryl Sandberg deconstructed the idea of the “career as a ladder.” For Sandberg, a career is about finding opportunities where you can make an impact, not about chasing titles and planning out a meticulous path. “If I had mapped out my career when I was sitting where you are, I would have missed my career,” she commented. What’s more, Sandberg eschews the traditional wisdom of keeping emotions out of the workplace. For Sandberg, you need to care not only about what you’re working on, but also who you’re working with.


“If you want to win hearts and minds, you have to lead with your heart as well as your mind. I don’t believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time … It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time.”

9) Dan Pink: “The Puzzle of Motivation” (2009)

Commissions, bonuses, other incentives … in the business world, these are the things that motivate people, right? According to Dan Pink in his 2009 TED Talk, such extrinsic motivators (a.k.a. “carrots and sticks”) could actually be doing more harm than good. The most recent sociological research suggests that the real key to producing better work is to find intrinsic motivation inside of yourself.

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And what worries me, as we stand here in the rubble of the economic collapse, is that too many organizations are making their decisions, their policies about talent and people, based on assumptions that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than in science.”

10) Denzel Washington: “Fall Forward” (2011)

In his 2011 UPenn commencement speech, Denzel Washington highlighted three reasons why we need to embrace failure in order to be successful. First, everybody will fail at something at some point, so you better get used to it. Second, if you never fail, take that as a sign that you’re not really trying. And third, at the end of the day, failure will help you figure out what path you want to be on.

Fall forward. Here’s what I mean: Reggie Jackson struck out twenty-six-hundred times in his career — the most in the history of baseball. But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs. Fall forward. Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn’t know that—because #1,001 was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.”

11) Sylvester Stallone: Speech from Rocky Balboa (2006)

I had to put this one next since it plays along the same themes as Denzel Washington’s UPenn speech. In the scene above, from the 2006 film Rocky Balboa, the title character (played by Sylvester Stallone) is having a heart-to-heart with his son. The advice he gives him: Don’t let your failures or the adversity you face slow you down. Keep. Moving. Forward.

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

12) Elizabeth Gilbert: “Your Elusive Creative Genius” (2009)

Following the extraordinary success of her book, Eat, Pray, Love, people began asking author Elizabeth Gilbert the same question over and over and over: How are you going to top that? In her 2009 TED Talk, Gilbert explores that question while also examining how our ideas of genius and creativity have shifted over the generations. While once seen as separate entities or states of being that anyone could tap into, genius and creativity have increasingly become associated with individuals. And according to Gilbert, that shift has been putting more and more pressure on artists, writers, and other creatives to produce great work.

I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years.”

13) Charlie Day: Merrimack College Commencement Speech (2014)

Best known for his role in the sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, actor Charlie Day had lots of wisdom to share during the 2014 commencement speech at his alma mater, Merrimack College. Day explained to the audience how college degrees are inherently valueless, since you can’t trade them in for cash. Instead, it’s you, your hard work, and the risks you take that provide real value in life.

You cannot let a fear of failure or a fear of comparison or a fear of judgment stop you from doing the things that will make you great. You cannot succeed without the risk of failure. You cannot have a voice without the risk of criticism. You cannot love without the risk of loss. You must take these risks.”

14) Frank Oz/Yoda: Speech from The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This speech fromThe Empire Strikes Back felt like a natural follow-up to Charlie Day’s speech. In the scene above, Yoda — voiced by Frank Oz — is teaching Luke the ways of the force. One of his key teachings: Whether or not something can or can’t be done (e.g., lifting an X-Wing out of a swamp) is all in your head. So instead of doubting yourself, believe in yourself.

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

15) William Wallace: Speech From the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297)

OK, I’ll admit it: I couldn’t find a recording of the actual speech Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace gave at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 (the historian I spoke with said something about “nonexistent technology” and me “being an idiot,” but I digress). Historical accuracy aside, there’s no denying that Mel Gibson’s version of the speech from the 1995 film Braveheart can help get you pumped up.

“Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!!!”

16) Orlando Scampington: “The Pillars of C.L.A.M.” (2015)

Sometimes humor is the best motivator. So here’s an INBOUND Bold Talk from self-proclaimed author, thought leader, dreamer, cat owner, visionary, and “believer in unlimited human potential,” Orlando Scampington. As you’ll soon realize upon reading the quote below, it’s hard to explain what his speech is actually about — so I think it’s better that you just dive in and enjoy.

“Culture is the bitter drunken coachmen lashing motivation into the ungrateful workhorses, so they drag the wagon of growth down the road of success. I think that’s a very accurate analogy.”

17) Kurt Russell: “This is Your Time” (2004)

The Miracle on Ice is still considered the biggest upset in Olympic hockey history. And for good reason. The Soviet Union won six of the last seven Olympic gold medals, and the U.S. team consisted only of amateur players. It was obvious the Soviets were better. But, in the movie Miracle, which told the incredible story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, Kurt Russell’s character — Coach Herb Brooks — knew that this game was different. The U.S. was better than the Soviets that day. And his speech conveyed such a strong belief in his team that they pulled off one of the greatest sports moments of the 20th century.

“If we played ’em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game… Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can! Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players, every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time.”

18) Jim Valvano: ESPY Speech (1993)

Less than two months before he lost his battle to cancer, Jim Valvano delivered one of the most impactful and timeless speeches about living life to the fullest. My words can’t do it justice, so be prepared for some laughter, tears, and thought.

“I just got one last thing; I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day, and Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm,” to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.”

19) Mel Gibson: “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” (2002)

The movie We Were Soldiers takes place in one of the most racially charged decades in American history, but Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore — played by Mel Gibson — delivered such a rousing speech that it brought an incredibly diverse group of soldiers together as one unit. He knew if his troops could set their differences aside, then they would form a true brotherhood, increasing their chances of survival as a whole. That way, the memories of their lost brothers could live on forever when they returned home.

“I can’t promise that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear before you and before Almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me God.”

20) Kal Penn: DePauw University Commencement Speech (2014)

In 2014, Kal Penn delivered an uplifting speech that DePauw University will never forget. He advised graduates to strive for success but to not let it loosen their grip on the things that actually matter, like staying connected with loved ones, being adventurous, and acting selflessly. He also comforted millennials everywhere, convincing them that their futures are full of potential and promise because their generation’s identity is rooted in innovation.

“Opportunity is all around us. You’re graduating at a time where youth unemployment is high. And yet your peers are refusing to sit idly by. You’re the most active, service-driven generation, the most imaginative, the most tech-savvy. You’re creating opportunities, inventing gadgets, placing an emphasis on social responsibility over greed. So stop worrying so much. Why are you worried?”

21) Charles Dutton: Speech from Rudy (1993)

In the film Rudy, Sean Astin’s character, Rudy Ruettiger, quits the Notre Dame football team because he has to watch one of his last games from the stands. After two years of grueling practices and never once being apart of the team on the sidelines, he’s done dealing with the humiliation. But his friend Fortune — played by Charles Dutton — flips the script on him. He shows Rudy that he shouldn’t be humiliated. He should be proud because he’s proven to everyone that his perseverance and heart can carry him through any challenge. He just needs to realize that himself. And the only way he can do that is if he stays on the team for the rest of the season.

“You’re 5 feet nothin’, a 100 and nothin’, and you got hardly a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in with the best college football team in the land for two years. And you’re also gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this lifetime, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody – except yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen. Now go on back.”

22) Vera Jones: “But the Blind Can Lead the Blind…” (2016)

Last year at INBOUND, Vera Jones told a moving story about the life lessons she’s learned from raising her blind son. She explains how having faith in your future and letting it lead you toward your true purpose will help you overcome blinding obstacles. She also discusses how following your passion and trusting your vision develops empathy, which is a critical leadership skill.

“Passionately play your position no matter how bad things get. You are significant. Why we are here is not for our own glory. Ultimately, we’re here to lead and serve everybody else. By doing that, we encourage others to do the same.”

Seen any other motivational speeches that should be on this list? Share them in the comments section below!

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Jul

8

2017

How to Focus: 5 Ways to Overcome Distractions at Work

Published by in category Daily, productivity | Comments are closed

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When I was a sophomore in college, I developed a terrible addiction to Facebook. By the time finals week arrived, I couldn’t go 30 minutes without a dose of dog videos.

I was officially distracted. And after a week of all-nighters, I realized my attention span was inferior to a squirrel’s.

Checking my RescueTime dashboard confirmed that I could only concentrate on distracting videos … and not my books. I had spent 50% of the week on Facebook, which means I could’ve actually slept before each exam. Why couldn’t I focus on my studies during the most critical time of the school year?

Distractions can infest any place of work. They might seem tiny in the grand scheme of things, but when compounded together, they can ravage your productivity. In fact, entire companies lose 31 hours per week to attention-sucking activities. That’s like losing the contributions of a whole employee.

Fortunately, I’ve researched some science-backed tips for maintaining focus, interviewed HubSpot employees about their concentration habits, and fleshed out the deepest insights in this blog post. So take a look at these five productivity hacks to effectively overcome distractions and stay laser-focused at work.

How to Focus at Work: 5 Productivity Hacks

1) Plan the work day around one main project.

Do you “eat the frog” first thing in the morning? Or do you just plop it on your desk and let it fester, reminding you that the worst part of the day is still yet to come?

Prioritizing your main project ahead of lesser tasks on your to-do list is crucial for productivity. Humans possess a cognitive bias towards completing as many tasks as possible — because regardless of magnitude, finishing something always feels amazing.

This is why we tend to work on a lot of easy, short tasks first, while putting our main project on the back burner.

Crossing things off your list is addicting. But don’t give into the temptation of completing the simple tasks first. Since they’re short and quick, you can easily finish them at the end of the day. Your major tasks have much more pressing deadlines and require a lot of time and effort. So do the big tasks first to avoid scrambling through them last minute.

Jami Oetting, who manages HubSpot’s content strategy team, plans her week out so she can eat the frog every morning.

“I start the week listing off all my priorities prior to my team’s weekly stand-up meeting on Monday. This is my time to consider all the projects the team is working on, what needs to get done by the end of the week, and how I could be most effective,” she says. “Then, I map out the tasks that need more focus or larger chunks of time to accomplish. After prioritizing this list, I’ll block off time on my calendar to accomplish one ‘big’ project each morning.”

Your brain’s peak performance period starts two hours after you wake up, and lasts until lunch time. So why waste these optimal morning hours on things you could do in your sleep?

The end of the day is also the worst time for doing meaningful work. You’ve already exhausted your daily energy on an assortment of trivial tasks. So when it’s time to chip away at your main project, you’ll either drown in complacency completing it or put if off until the next day, repeating a vicious cycle of procrastination.

2) Block the obvious distractions for greater focus.

Your phone buzzes. A new like on Instagram! Did the picture get as many likes on Facebook? You click to open a new tab. The funniest Chevy ad spoof is the first post on your newsfeed. This is must-see content.

20 minutes later, you’re reading an article about Mark Zuckerberg running for president when your manager walks by your desk. Which reminds you … your blog post is due tomorrow. And all you’ve written is the meta description.

Does this sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone because it happens to everyone. It’s also the reason why it takes 23 minutes for people to refocus on their original task after an interruption. Distractions breed more distractions.

So right when you walk into the office, throw your phone in your desk drawer and keep it there all day. Lock it up if you can. And download a site blocker like Block Site or StayFocusd to restrict access from all the websites that veer you off the path of productivity.

Even email, which is supposed to streamline the day, sidetracks you. In fact, we spend 20.5 hours of our work week reading and answering emails. That’s half of our work week! So if an uptick in unread emails always seems to lure you away from your current task, don’t open your Gmail tab in the morning.

Remember, unless it’s an absolute emergency, you can respond to anyone’s email within a few hours. So designate time blocks for internal communication. This way, you can channel your undivided attention on a major project and slash the time wasted switching from one task to another.

Sophia Bernazzani, a staff writer for HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, blocks off time for both email and Slack to maintain her concentration throughout the day.

“It’s impossible to focus if I have too many incoming notifications. So I commit to only answering emails at the beginning and end of my day,” she says. “I also set myself as offline on Slack and snooze my notifications to minimize distractions when I’m working and save them for when I’m taking a break between tasks.”

3) Take short breaks.

Do you pride yourself on lunch being your only break? Do you believe allocating the rest of your attention on work is the only way to achieve optimal productivity?

Well, according to researchers at the University of Illinois, constantly working without a break actually hampers concentration over time. Taking short breaks throughout the day is what sustains your focus.

“Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness,” says Alejandro Lieras, the experiment’s leader. “And if sustained attention to a sensation makes that sensation vanish from our awareness, sustained attention to a thought should also lead to that thought’s disappearance from our mind!”

Lieras describes a psychological tendency called habituation. An example of this is putting your shirt on in the morning and noticing the feeling of smooth cloth touching your skin. But after some time, your brain acclimates to the shirt and you won’t sense its softness anymore.

The same thing happens with work. Applying nonstop tunnel vision to a project actually withers your attention to it over time.

The brain is wired to recognize and react to change. So take mental breaks to let your brain distance itself from your work. When you return, you’ll perceive your current task with a fresher lens and engage more deeply with it.

Alicia Collins, a multimedia content strategist at HubSpot, considers mental rest a pivotal part of the creative process.

“Taking short breaks throughout the day is a great way to sort out your priorities and boost your focus. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or stuck on a particular issue, I take some time to eat lunch away from my desk or go for a walk around the block,” she says. “These simple activities help clear my head and enable me to tackle problems from a new, creative angle.”

There are several productivity techniques that leverage short mental breaks, like the pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes and then rest for 5 minutes. A study by the Draugiem Group also discovered that the employees with the highest productivity spent 52 minutes working, followed by 17 minutes of rest.

You can test each method and stick to the one that enhances your focus and productivity the most.

4) Don’t stuff yourself at lunch.

I have a love-hate relationship with the food coma. By noon everyday, I’m so starved that I gobble up the most filling meal I can find. It tastes incredible. And after devouring my plate, I love placing my hands on my bloated belly, admiring the fact that I’m full and satisfied.

When it’s time to get back to work, though, you’ll find me slumped in my chair. My brain feels like it’s in a fog. So I just sit there and barely even attempt the easy tasks on my to-do list.

Eating rich meals fulfills your hunger, but it also dulls your mental acuity. Your digestive system expends so much energy digesting all the fat and carbs that it chokes the circulation of oxygen to your brain. This devastates your ability to focus.

One way to resist a daily indulgence is to snack on light, healthy foods throughout the morning. This stabilizes your blood sugar and combats growling-stomach hunger. You’ll notice you’ll eat less and select healthier options for lunch, allowing you to stay sharp for the rest of the day.

Karla Cook, a HubSpot Marketing Blog editor, usually eats a salad with whole grains and vegan protein for lunch, and avoids anything processed. Her motivation? To be productive in the afternoon, she needs to feel good.

“When you eat bad things, you feel bad. It’s pretty much instant retribution,” she says. “Eating a solid, healthy lunch is a super simple way to set the course of your afternoon.”

5) Limit Auditory Distractions.

Background noise in the office — like colleague chatter or the clacking of a keyboard — can shatter concentration. According to several studies, ambient noise causes stress, which triggers a release of cortisol into your body.

Cortisol is designed to ease that initial stress, so your body can return to homeostasis. But too much cortisol disrupts your prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that regulates your ability to plan, reason, and remember things.

These subtle, but potent noises will fracture your focus, so invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or find a quiet space to work.

Aja Frost, a staff writer for HubSpot’s Sales Blog, likes to explore every nook and crannie of HubSpot’s Cambridge office to find her own quiet spaces.

“I look for places that are slightly tucked away, like a booth or a small table. These places are always really quiet — and free from distraction,” she says. “When I’m ready for a more social atmosphere, I’ll go back to my desk or an area of the office that gets more people randomly walking by.”

How do you maintain your focus? Teach us your productivity hacks in the comments below!

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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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May

27

2017

The Harmful Effects of Sleeping With Technology [Infographic]

Published by in category Daily, IGSS, productivity | Comments are closed

sleeping_with_technology_compressed.jpg

Did you know that the average technology user in the United States spends nearly 11 hours per day looking at screens?

Sure, a lot of that time is spent at work on computers and mobile devices, but the rest of it is spent at home. And as it turns out, exposure to screens and other technologies can have adverse health impacts — especially if it’s too close to bedtime.

Two-thirds of Americans report that they have trouble sleeping, and too much technology could be the cause. Webpage FX created the following infographic that outlines how technology is being overused, the health impacts it can cause, and how you can improve your sleep habits with a few simple changes.

technology-and-sleep-infographic-1-1.jpg

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May

13

2017

7 of the Best Mood-Boosting Websites We Could Find

Published by in category Daily, productivity | Comments are closed

mood-boosting-websites-compressor.jpg

I will never forget the day I learned that watching cat videos is proven to enhance your mood.

Even to a bonafide dog person, the news was good. In a study conducted at Indiana University Bloomington, participants reported “fewer negative emotions, such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness, after watching cat-related online media than before.

And it’s not just cat videos — the same conclusions have been drawn about humor in general. Researchers at Loma Linda University found that, in aging adults, watching comedic videos correlated with improved short-term memory. In other words: Funny is good.

We believe these findings particularly apply during the work day. When our days reach a stressful climax, or we’re feeling particularly frustrated, that’s when self-care becomes imperative. But there’s time and efficiency to consider. In the middle of a winter afternoon, for example, a long walk might not be the best option. That’s where the internet becomes especially useful — it’s full of those mood boosting videos that even academic researchers have found to be mentally beneficial. New Call-to-action

But what are some of the best go-to websites for mood-boosting content? I surveyed the web and my colleagues for some favorite online sources of a quick pick-me-up, and selected the seven best ones to seek out in the middle of a hectic work day. So go ahead — click, and smile. You’ll be glad you did.

7 of the Best Mood-Boosting Websites We Could Find

1) Animal Planet Kitten Cam

Live video by Animal Planet L!ve

Sophia Bernazzani, Staff Writer, HubSpot Marketing Blog:

I’m a huge animal lover, and during a hectic and stressful workday, watching a live feed of a bunch of kittens playing is a fun way to take a quick mental break without getting too distracted.”

Visit this online destination if:

You love watching adorable things happen in real time. There’s a reason why live videos get 3X more viewing time than pre-recorded ones — it’s fun to watch things unfold as they happen, even if it’s a cat discovering yarn for the first time.

Author’s note: For my fellow dog people, there’s also an Animal Planet Puppy Cam.

2) Huffington Post Good News Section

HuffPost Good News

Aja Frost, Staff Writer, HubSpot Sales Blog:

When I need a quick reminder about all the cool, heart-warming, inspiring things people do for one another each and every day, I check Huffington Post’s Good News vertical. It’s a curated collection of happy news — often stories that are overshadowed by more dramatic (read: more depressing) events.”

Visit this online destination if:

You get overwhelmed by coverage of less-than-positive current events. This site provides great fodder for watercooler talk, but focuses on, well, the good stuff.

3) Find the Invisible Cow

Invisible CowSource: StrauberryPlays

Nick Carney, Social Media Marketer:

Sometimes, there are days when you just need a win — something to pick you up and carry you through the rest of the day. For me, there’s nothing much more satisfying than finding an invisible cow. It makes me feel more accomplished and ready to take on the world, one elusive cow at a time.”

Visit this online destination if:

You like a tiny challenge with your midday break. While it’s not exactly a mind-bending game, Find the Invisible Cow provides just enough stimulation for your brain to feel like you’ve accomplished something. Plus, the more you win, the more animal options you have to choose from.

4) Cute Overload

Cute Overload

Janessa Lantz, ‎Principal Content Marketing Strategist:

Cute Overload is my go-to rainy day pickup. Puppies wearing red galoshes and kittens snuggling with hamsters will always make me feel better about life. And even though it’s no longer publishing new content, the archive is still filled with joy.”

Visit this online destination if:

You’re the nostalgic type. In January 2016, Cute Overload decided to stop publishing new content — read more about that here — but its previous posts are still alive and well at the original URL. So if you’re the type of person who never gets sick of seeing videos about seals, bunnies, and polar bears that have been curated from a variety of sites, this destination is for you.

5) Spotify

When I told Bernazzani that I would be writing this roundup, she quickly pointed me in the direction of Spotify. The digital music provider, she explained, “has curated playlists that are specifically about mood and attitude.” Some of our favorites? “Brain Food,” “Songs to Sing in the Shower,” and, of course, “Mood Booster,” which we’ve embedded below.

Visit this online destination if:

Working in silence makes you bonkers — or, if you really do need a quick and easy mood boost. Music is known for its multiple physiological benefits, which are reviewed quite thoroughly in this study of its neurochemistry. But not only can it help to regulate your mood, but also, it can be intellectually stimulating, making it a great way to take a break before resuming a challenging task.

6) BarkPost Humor

BarkPost.png

BarkPost is one of those delightful websites full of content that either leaves you in stitches, or clinging to your pets for dear life. If you prefer to avoid the latter — which is likely here, considering you’re seeking a mood-booster and not a downer — we recommend checking out BarkPost Humor, which is packed full of trending stories, photos, and videos of dogs being unintentionally hilarious. Is it hard news? Not really, unless you consider one woman’s tale of sending her dog and cat to a marriage counselor to be heavy-hitting journalism. But honestly, who wouldn’t want to read that story?

Visit this online destination if:

You never, ever, ever, get sick of seeing funny dog videos — whether you’re in a bad mood or not.

7) Audiotree

You might be thinking, “Are all of these sites related to animals and music?” Well … almost. But hey, as per the studies cited previously, those are two of the biggest mood boosters out there.

For the latter, there’s Audiotree, the aptly self-described “artist discovery platform.” Whether you’re into studio sessions, live-streamed concerts (and remember — that type of video gets over 3X the views as others), or documentaries, this site has something for you.

But what makes this site particularly mood-boosting? For us, it’s the variety of content. It might seem like music is intuitively consumed one way — by listening to it — but Audiotree has made it a mission to diversify the way we do that. Plus, they share interesting stories about the people who write and perform it, adding a learning element to the way we enjoy a great song.

Visit this online destination if:

You love your favorite artists, but want to find something new. You may not have heard of the ones featured on this site before, but what better way to boost your mood than with a new favorite song?

Get Happy

I don’t know about you, but I feel better already. Many of these sites were unfamiliar to me when I first began working on this article, and just listening to my colleagues describe them with such enthusiasm was a treat. Experiencing them was even better — and I definitely found myself feeling slightly less stressed and preoccupied once I explored some of what they had to offer.

And if you feel like you’re too busy to take a break, know this: The top 10% of most productive employees take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work they put in. So if you feel your earlobes starting to leave marks in your shoulders, please — watch a cat video, listen to an awesome new song, or read about some good news. Take notes right afterward on how you feel, and see how taking these mini mood-boosting breaks impacts your disposition over time.

What are your favorite mood-boosting websites? Let us know in the comments.

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May

5

2017

The Best Schedules for Productivity (No Matter What Time You Wake Up)

Published by in category Daily, IGSS, productivity | Comments are closed

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If you’re a lover of sleeping in and staying up late like I am, titles such as the ones below might stress you out.

“The Morning Habits of 5 Fortune 500 CEOs”

“Why These Startup Founders Swear by Exercising in the Morning”

“Train Yourself to Be a Morning Person”

Download our complete guide here for more tips on improving your productivity.

To all the early birds out there, I salute and admire you — I simply can’t fathom the idea of waking up before sunrise. A lot of content about productivity and scheduling espouses the importance of getting up early, but an early alarm isn’t the only way to get things done.

Whether you wake up early or like to sleep in, the key is to schedule your tasks accordingly. You won’t see benefits from waking up early to exercise if you haven’t slept enough, and your evening routine will influence how early you’re able to get to bed. Syracuse University created the schedules below to optimize your day for productivity, whether you wake up at the crack of dawn or like to hit snooze a few times. Try them out, and see if they help you have a more productive — and restful — day.

scheduling-your-day-infographic_1.jpg

Source: Communications@Syracuse

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Apr

18

2017

Is Technology Actually Making Us Less Productive? [New Research]

Published by in category Daily, Editorial, productivity | Comments are closed

productivity_tools_compressed.jpg

After working in my role here at HubSpot for almost eight months now, I’ve started to go into autopilot when I turn on my computer every morning.

I open up my email app, my calendar app, my organization and productivity app, my grammar-checking app, my note-taking app, my analytics tool, and my blogging tool.

And that’s only when I first get into the office.

By the end of most days, my browser is full of different tabs, and so many apps and tools are running that they eventually start shutting down of their own accord. When all of these sites, apps, and tools are working, I spend a significant portion of my day using them: to write, to proofread, to extrapolate data, to keep track of what I’m working on, to update notes — all in the name of efficiency.

But as it turns out, the tools and apps that we marketers use every day could actually be making us less efficient. If you feel the pain of switching between 1,000 apps per day like I do, read on for new data from HubSpot Research.

The Trouble With Tools

We surveyed more than 2,000 business owners, salespeople, and marketers in the U.S. and U.K. The biggest finding from our research? Marketers and salespeople are using too many productivity tools and apps, and it’s actually making us less efficient.

Marketers are using a ton of tools.

You probably knew this one already from your own day-to-day experience, but it bears repeating: There are an enormous number of marketing tools out there, and marketers are using a lot of them to get their jobs done every day.

HubSpot Research analyzed our customer base of over 20,000 websites, and we found that each website has an average of 13 tool integrations — one website even had 88 tools and apps. The marketing app and tool landscape is incredibly crowded and constantly evolving, a phenomenon Chiefmartec.com chronicled in this extremely busy graphic:

marketing_technology_landscape_2016_3000px-1.jpg

Source: Chiefmartec

Now, before you keep reading, think about how many tools you use every day to do your job. Keep that number in mind as you keep reading the results of our survey.

Marketers underestimate how many tools they’re using.

When I counted up the number of tools I use every day, my initial count landed at seven tools and apps. But then, when I started digging into my internet history, I realized the number was actually higher. HubSpot’s internal communications platform is a tool I didn’t consider. The same goes for our file-sharing service, my social media scheduling tool, and an analytics bookmark.

By the time I fully audited every single tool and app I use in a given day to do my job, the number was in the double-digits. And as it turns out, I’m not alone.

When we asked our survey respondents how many technologies they used in their day jobs, their answers were surprising — and perhaps too low.

Tools-report-graphics3-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

The majority of survey respondents said they only use between one and five tools to do their jobs every day, and we think these numbers err on the conservative side for the same reason my initial number was so low. When technology becomes a part of your day-to-day routine, it’s easy to forget you’re using it — and to notice that it could make your day less efficient.

When apps and tools are built into your workday as browser extensions, bookmarks, homepages, and push notifications, for example, it can be easy not to count them. But as it turns out, using them is taking up valuable time.

Too Much Tech = Too Little Efficiency

In an ironic twist, tools designed in the name of productivity and efficiency could be impeding those results.

Marketers are wasting time.

We asked marketers to estimate how much time they spend each day logging into, using, and jumping between the different tools and technologies they use. The results were surprising: Marketers are losing up to five hours per week managing and operating apps to get their jobs done.

Tools-report-graphics6-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

Marketers are getting frustrated.

The two biggest pain points for survey respondents were how much time it takes to work in and operate the myriad of different marketing tools out there, and how much time it takes to switch between tools using different logins and passwords.

Tools-report-graphics1-3.png

Source: HubSpot Research

That hour lost to managing different tools and technologies each day is all the more aggravating if the tools share functional capabilities, and a majority of the marketers we surveyed think up to five tools they use could be redundant.

Tools-report-graphics10-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

I don’t know about you, but there are definitely redundancies between some of the tools I use. Heck, I use two to-do list apps and still write my list down with a pen and paper every day. How many tools do you use that work to do different versions of the same functions?

Marketers could be using that time to do other cool things.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the inefficiency of tools is that time spent managing tools takes away from time that could be spent tackling big-picture challenges, creating content, or closing prospects. Here’s what the marketers and salespeople we surveyed said they wished they could be doing with that time:

Tools-report-graphics5-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

The three things marketers would prefer to focus on — growing web traffic, creating content, and converting new leads — might look familiar. They’re critical pieces of the inbound and content marketing funnel, and without ample time to dedicate to these tasks, marketers might not be able to generate as many leads as needed for their sales teams’ success.

What’s the Solution?

So, let’s recap.

The results of this survey aren’t great. Marketers and salespeople are having trouble being as efficient and productive as possible because they have to manage so many different tools. They’re sacrificing time to work on projects of greater impact and magnitude to log into tools and extrapolate data.

But not to worry — we suggest two steps to maximize efficiency and stay productive in the face of hundreds of productivity tools to choose from.

1) Do an audit.

If you didn’t do it earlier while reading, sit down and write down (or type) a list of all of the websites, tools, apps, extensions, and bots you use every day to get your work done. From your sticky notes app on your computer to your pen and paper to-do list, make an exhaustive list of everything you use to get everything done.

2) Consolidate and integrate.

Then, try to categorize your tools and apps into different functionalities to identify any redundancies in your productivity system. If you’re using three different types of to-do lists, as I do, can you cut two and just use one? If you’re spending time reporting data from three different analytics programs, sit down with your team to determine if there’s a more efficient way you could be reporting, or if your KPIs are up-to-date with your team’s needs.

The ultimate goal should be to create a system of tools that are easy to use and make marketers’ jobs as productive as possible. To learn more about how we’ve done that here at HubSpot, read about our completely integrated Growth Stack here.

How much time do you think you lose each day to redundant tools and apps? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

11

2017

How to Build a Productive Company Culture

Published by in category Company Culture, Daily, productivity | Comments are closed

Every company has a culture, much like every individual has a personality.

And like a personality, a company’s culture can develop organically over time. Or, it can be purposefully molded, shaped using specific values and practices to achieve a particular goal, like productivity.

This article is about the latter. It’s about creating a culture that’s productive by design.

Fostering a Productive Company Culture

Culture consists of set values and practices that are shared by a group of people. A club, for instance, or a company or a country.

Values are the concepts that dictate our sense of right and wrong.

Practices are the specific actions we take to reinforce our values.

For example, an honest person:

  1. Values integrity
  2. Practices leaving a note after damaging a stranger’s car with a shopping cart

Now that you know the building blocks of culture (and personality, for that matter), here’s a crash course in the values and practices proven to foster productivity at work:

1) Value: Health

People ignore their health because being unhealthy is so much easier and cheaper, so much more fun. But that’s the wrong way. We all know it is.

And while employers can’t force their people to live better, healthier lives, it’s certainly in their best interest to make it easier for them. Because, as you’re about to find out, health is the bedrock of productivity:

Practice: Sleep

At 9:00 AM, Freddie walked into his office clutching a cup of black coffee. He’s been up for about six hours.

At his desk, he took off his backpack, unzipped the main compartment and removed his laptop, setting it down gently next to a framed photo of his newborn daughter, Sofia.

He smiled at the picture and thought, She’s worth every waking moment.

TRY: Office Nap Rooms

Harvard researchers say that sleep deprivation causes creativity lapses, memory loss, and job burnout, which costs employers $63 billion a year in lost productivity. To put that into perspective, each tired worker zones out for almost 8 cumulative workdays a year.

A nap room is a designated, comfortable space employees can use to recharge. It’s a place to go if you’ve had a restless night, for any number of reasons.

HubSpot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, told The New York Times that his best ideas come to him either right before or after a nap. “I’m trying to encourage more people to have naps,” explained Brian, “because, hopefully, more people will have these brilliant ideas.” It may be unorthodox, but Brian’s pro-napping philosophy is backed by research proving that even quick “power” naps will boost memory, creativity, and energy levels.

Practice: Nutrition

“Hey Eddie,” said Marvie, my colleague. “You okay? Have a headache?”

I picked my head up off my desk and cracked a smile. “No,” I said. “Had a burrito.”

TRY: Healthy Office Kitchens

I have a problem. It’s called eating-Chipotle-at-noon-on-a-workday.

I love Chipotle. I love the way it smells when I walk in, and the anticipation that washes over me in line. I love the way it tastes when I finally bite into it, and the “full feeling” I get after I consume an entire burrito and Coke and chips and guac …

But my brain hates it — and here’s why: My body digests Chipotle burritos very slowly. In fact, my digestive system works so hard to process all the carbs and fat that the flow of oxygen to my brain becomes stifled. Grogginess sets in. I become unproductive. Of course, I’m not alone. Most people react this way after eating a lot.

Thing is, we all know that a heavy work lunch is a bad idea. We just don’t care. By noon, we’re too hungry and drained to make the right decision, so we go with what’s easiest, or most tempting. Employers that stock their office kitchens with light, healthy options are making it easier for their people to graze throughout the day. Grazing keeps employees’ blood sugar stable, which helps them make good choices come lunch time. Choices that will support healthy bodies as well as productive, healthy minds.

Think of it this way: Eating healthy isn’t about resisting temptation. It’s about making the decision to eat healthy as easy and simple as possible.

Practice: Exercise

Kim and Sarah stepped out for lunch before their 1:00 PM conference call. The two women have worked together for years.

“How much do you pay for your gym membership?” asked Kim, making conversation.

“Oh, man … ” Sarah said, “almost $60 a month.”

That much?

“Yeah,” said Sarah. “Work pays for half of it, but I still don’t go. Hard to find the energy, you know?”

TRY: Office Exercise Competitions

Recently, a team of British researchers launched an app designed to collect data on human happiness. Here’s how it works: Once a day, users receive a home screen notification asking them 1) what they’re doing and 2) how happy they are doing it.

They found that sex makes people the happiest, but exercise is a close second. Exercise also increases energy levels in the short-term while slowing brain degeneration over the long-term. These benefits, however, don’t make it any easier to start an exercise routine. The more sedentary you are, the more uncomfortable it can be to get moving.

That said, few things compel action like peer pressure: After studying elite rowers at Oxford University, researchers concluded that exercising with others releases brain chemicals that suppress pain and induce happiness. Therefore, companies that organize team exercise competitions are making it easier for people to take that first step, which is significant because happy people make productive employees.

2) Value: Autonomy

An autonomous employee is empowered to make decisions on behalf of her or his organization. They’re also held accountable for those decisions, which seems intimidating and stressful but, in fact, has been proven to increase job satisfaction and, in turn, productivity.

Furthermore, empowered workers are generally more satisfied at the end of a long day. They’re also less likely to quit, largely because they have a sense of ownership over their work and time, brought on by:

Practice: Flexibility

“Is he asleep?”

“Yeah, out like a light.”

“I’m so sorry, Matt,” said Yona. “I should’ve been there to pick him up when I said I would.”

“It’s okay, Yona. I understand. Nate’s school understands. Work’s work. What can we do?”

The electric teapot clicked off. Yona stood up to pour herself a cup of tea, adding honey and a lemon wedge for her sore throat. Then she sat back down and let the teabag steep.

“I’m exhausted,” she said.

“I know,” said Matt. “I am, too.”

TRY: Flextime

A flextime policy gives employees more freedom over when and where they work. It throws out the convention that workers must abide by a uniform schedule, which people appreciate. People value the work-life balance flextime provides, the control it gives them back over their time.

Flextime empowers professionals to focus less on time and more on deliverables, on quality. It also helps parents be parents, and caretakers be caretakers. Forcing people to choose between work and family is wrong because it’s unfair. The fact that technology makes it largely unnecessary adds bite, too.

Practice: Generosity

Genevieve was too eager to wait for the elevator. She took the stairs.

She
made
her way
down the
steps quickly.
Two flights and
a walk-down-the-hallway later, she was where she was going: Her manager’s office.

The door was open. She walked in with a smile and told her boss the good news:

“Dan proposed yesterday!” she said. She was flushed. She asked for a week off next month. Dan had asked her to take a trip together. “Something to celebrate, I guess,” explained Genevieve.

“Vievie,” said her manager, “I’m so, so happy for you. I am. But I don’t know if I can sign off on this.” Genevieve pursed her lips. Her eyes shot down to her toes. “You’re already a couple days in the hole from that last vacation you took eight months ago.”

“I know, I am,” said Genevieve, “and I hate to ask, but I just had no idea,” she smiled a genuine smile.

“I’m sorry,” said her manager. “I am.”

TRY: Unlimited PTO

In 2015, the CEO of Mammoth, a HR company, decided to give his employees unlimited vacation time. A year later, nothing really changed: His employees took roughly the same number of vacation days under the unlimited policy as they did the year before.

Interestingly, even though people hardly took advantage of the generous policy, they still cited it as one of their most valued benefits. Why? To understand, consider the message an unlimited vacation policy sends to employees:

  • You’re independent: “We hired you to do a job. How you get it done is up to you.”
  • You’re trusted: “We’re confident you’ll make the responsible choice for the company, and yourself.”
  • You’re an individual: “We respect that your situation is unique.”

Being employed under these terms is empowering. Empowerment, then, breeds productivity.

Practice: Accountability

Oliver works from home three or four days a week. He wakes up around 9:00 AM, just as his wife is arriving at her own job in a corporate office complex 45 minutes away.

Most days, he hops out of bed refreshed. He puts on a pair of sweatpants and a Henley shirt. He brushes his teeth. He fries a couple eggs. He eats. No rush. Eventually, he sits down at his desk, muttering the same two words damn near every day, his entree into work: “What now?”

TRY: Short-term goals.

While flexible schedules and generous time-off packages give people space, goals keeps people grounded and focused, accountable for their time and performance. Goals let employees know what the business expects of them, and when it’s due.

Short-term goals, specifically, are effective time-management devices because they can be refreshed every day, even every hour. Knowing exactly what’s in the work queue each morning is a comforting feeling. Plus, taking the first step is easier when you know what the second will be, not to mention the third and fourth and so on.

3) Value: Tact

Tactful people get along. They’re well-liked because they’re generally considerate and respectful. Their emotional intelligence drives healthy collaboration, which is productive on it’s face.

Organizations that value and reinforce tact are enabling employees to get more done in less time.

Practice: Respecting Inertia

John was staring again.

Not at anything in particular, just at an arbitrary spot on his desk. It had no significance, really. It just happened to be where his gaze landed as fell deeper into thought, on the brink of an idea … something valuable … something that would change the way …

“Hey, John?” said a voice.

Concentrate, John thought, still fixated on the spot. Don’t lose this.

“Hey John, so-listen-to-this …”

Fffff … it’s gone. “Yeah,” said John, deflated. “What is it?”

TRY: The “Headphones” Rule

Inertia is a terrible thing to waste because starting something, especially at work, is so difficult. But it still happens all the time, especially at work. In offices, particularly those with open layouts, sudden interruptions force professionals to repeatedly start over, losing their focus and, more painfully, their ideas in the process.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, who studied office workers, say it can take more than 23 minutes for an employee to get back on track after being interrupted. That amounts to more than 28 billion wasted hours every year. The cost? More than a $1 trillion.

The “Headphones” Rule is a small action that can help change this behavior. It’s rooted in a simple gesture: If a colleague has headphones on, don’t interrupt them. Instead, send them an email or a meeting invite.

You can be sure that, unless it’s an emergency, they’ll appreciate it.

Practice: Respecting Time

The conference room was quiet. Nobody wanted to start.

“Does anyone want to start?” asked Sam. Earlier that day, she had called the meeting to discuss next steps for the new eBook idea she’d proposed in the last team meeting. Her Outlook invite was brief and to the point:

Team, it started, this meeting is to discuss next steps for the new ebook idea I proposed in our last meeting.

“In that case, I guess I’ll start,” Sam said, awkwardly. “Though I’ll admit I really just wanted to spitball ideas here. Brainstorm, I guess … ”

TRY: The “Meeting” Rule

It’s estimated that unnecessary or unorganized meetings cost U.S. businesses $37 billion a year.

In fact, you’re going to waste 31 hours in meetings this month. That’s 31 hours you could be putting towards getting shit done, towards being productive. Instead, you’ll be forced to make up that company time, probably by digging into your own.

The “Meeting” Rule curtails the impact by attaching several minimum requirements to each invite. Specifically, every meeting must:

  • Start with a general goal (e.g., Generate 10 article topics for the blog.)
  • Follow a timed agenda (e.g., Mike’s Ideas: 11:00 – 11:10 | Rob’s Ideas: 11:10 – 11:20 | Cindy’s Ideas: 11:20 – 11:30, etc.)
  • End with specific actions: (e.g., Pick two topics for a next-Wednesday delivery.)

Adding these requirements to every invite will give attendees an opportunity to prepare beforehand. These minimums will also continually refocus people during the meetings, keeping them on-time and on-subject, productive.

Practice: Respecting Opinions

The family sat down to eat dinner:

“We got a call from school today,” said Mom. “She said you called someone’s finger painting ‘stupid’?”

“So?” said the kid. Mom looked at Dad.

“Son,” said Dad. “Rule #1 in life: Be nice to people.”

TRY: The “Triple-R” Rule

If you’re not nice to people, nobody will like you.

That’s why being respectful, especially at work, is so essential to productivity. The more tolerant you are, the easier it’ll be for others to appreciate your presence and consider your feedback. The easier it’ll be to form healthy collaborations.

The “Triple-R” Rule calls for employees to willingly be receptive, respectful, and reflective when confronted with a new idea, methodology, or concept. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  1. Being receptive demands actively listening to people. You know, making eye contact, leaning in, and not interrupting when a colleague is speaking.
  1. Being respectful demands empathy. Recognize that your colleague has a different perspective, one that’s shaped by unique experiences.
  1. Being reflective demands deep thought. Before rejecting your colleague’s opinion, give yourself some time to think about it acutely, alone, without bias.

This can be hard. In your personal life, it may even be impossible. But at work, remember: You want to be easy to talk to. You want to be easy to work with. It’s really good for business.

What now?

That’s up to you.

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Mar

16

2017

Good Bots vs. Bad Bots: How to Tell the Difference

Published by in category Canonical, Inbound Marketing, productivity | Comments are closed

Good-Bots-vs.-Bad-Bots-compressor.jpg

Navigating the web these days can make a person feel like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

There’s so much to be seen here that — until somewhat recently — was fairly unheard of. And we don’t know what’s good or bad. It’s as if we’re constantly coming across a new cast of characters and are forced to ask, “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?”

Replace the word “witch” with “bot,” and you might be summing up the modern digital landscape. There’s a lot of talk about AI, but it can be confusing. Is it helpful, or harmful? Is it going to make us better at our jobs, or take them away from us? And these bots of which we’re constantly speaking — which are good, and which are bad? Download our free guide to web design here for more tips on designing a  user-friendly website. 

As it turns out, there are ways of distinguishing them. It requires a bit of a discerning eye, but you certainly don’t need to be an expert — you just need the right information. So, without further ado, allow us to present our tips for distinguishing good bots from bad bots. 

Good Bots vs. Bad Bots

The Good Bots

Copyright Bots

These bots search the web for content that’s potentially been plagiarized. Think: Illegal uploads, copying someone else’s work without proper attribution, or other improper use of proprietary content. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, these bots are commonly used within the realm of social media, especially where original content creation is a major part of the platform’s use. One prime example is YouTube’s Content ID, which is assigned to copyright owners on the network.

Data Bots

According to eZanga, data bots are those that provide up-to-the-minute information on things like news, weather, and currency rates. With that criteria, tools like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Siri could be classified as data bots — especially since eZanga also calls these “media” bots. However, one technology developer, Botler, classifies one of its products as a data bot — “a new way to quickly store and access info that is important.” Its primary use, it appears, is for the academic sector, as it allows course information to be easily shared between students and faculty.

Botler.pngSource: botler

Spider Bots

Think about what a spider does — it crawls. Search engines do the same thing, by crawling the web’s content to produce query results, and using spider bots to do so. Google, for example, has its very own Googlebot, which uses the constantly-evolving Google algorithm to determine which sites to crawl.

These days, spider bots aren’t limited to search engines. The Siemens Robotics Lab, for example, has developed spider-shaped robots that combine the ability to autonomously perform physical tasks with information-crawling capabilities. How does that work, exactly? Siemens Research Scientist Hasan Sinan Bank explains:

The robots use onboard cameras as well as a laser scanner to interpret their immediate environment. Knowing the range of its 3D-printer arm, each robot autonomously works out which part of an area – regardless of whether the area is flat or curved – it can cover, while other robots use the same technique to cover adjacent areas.”

Trader Bots

These bots might be my favorite. They’re the ones that crawl the web to help you find the best deals on something you might be looking to buy online. eZanga notes that these bots are used by consumers and retailers alike — for the latter, the biggest advantage is their ability to “help inch out the competitor by posting a better price.

As for the consumer, these bots come to mind with tools like Honey: A browser extension that automatically presents coupons and discount codes when you’re about to initiate a site’s checkout process. Here’s how it works on Amazon, for example:

HoneyTraderBot.gifSource: botler

The Bad Bots

Click Bots

Each year, Incapsula publishes a Bot Traffic Report, which measures and analyzes the website traffic generated by bots. And in 2016, bad bots accounted for 28.9% of that traffic — outnumbering the good bots by 6%.

One of those bad bots is often found to be the click bot — the kind that fraudulently click on ads, causing data reported to advertisers to be skewed. But not only does that result in misinformation for marketers, but if you’re using pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, those clicks add up to wasted dollars on fake visits that didn’t even come from humans, let alone your audience.

Download Bots

Similar to click bots, download bots also fraudulently game engagement data, but for download counts, instead of website visits. If it sounds familiar, it might be because of a 2012 incident involving Apple, in which many iPhone app developers were using “third-party advertising services guaranteeing top rankings,” according to AdWeek.

Imposter Bots

It’s easy to confuse imposter bots with click bots, since the former work by “masking themselves as legitimate visitors,” according to the Incapsula report. But the intention of imposter bots is much more malicious than generating a false clickcount. Instead, their purpose is to bypass online security measures. And of the aforementioned traffic generated in 2016 by bad bots, imposter bots accounted for over 84% of it. They’re often the culprit behind distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks — in fact, you might recall a day in October 2016 when it seemed like half of the internet, including Twitter, stopped working. That was a DDoS attack, and an imposter bot dubbed Mirai was responsible for it.

bot-report-2016-graph-2.pngSource: Incapsula

Scraper Bots

Web scrapers achieve the opposite effect as copyright bots. Rather than protecting proprietary content, scraper bots are designed to steal and repurpose it elsewhere, often unbeknownst to its owner.

itemeditorimage_55b0075c5aaaa.pngSource: Distil

Spam Bots

You would think that spam bots (often spelled “spambot”) have been around long enough that they would have become a thing of the past, like VCRs and the plague. But it seems that they’re just getting smarter, and finding new ways to permeate our lives.

These are the bots that basically distribute “spammy” content like unwarranted emails, or senseless comments on articles and blog posts. More recently, you’ve probably come across them on social media — one 2015 study found that nearly 8% of Instagram accounts, for example, are actually spambots.

It’s worth noting that in 2014, Instagram made efforts to purge the network of millions of spam accounts — but people were less than thrilled about it. Even if they weren’t “real,” it seems that many Instagram users were upset to see their followings drastically shrink.

instagram.0.0.jpgSource: The Verge

Spy Bots

Have you ever received an email from a complete stranger, and wondered how that person got your contact information? Maybe the sender got it from someone you know, or is just particularly good at research.

But it also might be the work of a spy bot, which is the kind that mines data about individuals (or businesses) and often sells it. There’s a reason, after all, why the HubSpot Email Marketing Software prohibits the use of purchased or third-party lists. Emailing people who didn’t ask or expect to be contacted by you completely contradicts the inbound methodology.

Zombie Bots

Contrary to what the name might suggest, zombie bots don’t try to eat humans. Rather, they’re the kind that find a way to permeate your computer’s security system, but take it a step further than imposter bots — once they gain access, they operate in the background, often using your computer to transmit viruses and other malware.

It might begin with one machine, but often this type of bot activity leads to an “army” of zombie bots — a.k.a. a “botnet” — which Cloudbric describes as “a network of zombified sites [that] receive commands from the head zombie, who is likely a spammer, a hacker, or a mercenary.” Many times, the motivation behind this is financial, as these “head zombies” have been known to sell this type of hacked computer access to others, allowing them to use it for similarly malicious distribution.

But Don’t Be Afraid

As terrifying as some of these bad bots might sound, don’t let them scare you — there are ways to prevent them from encroaching on your content and technology.

First, awareness is a good first step. Now that you’ve reviewed the different types of bots out there, you might be able to more easily recognize any potentially harmful activity. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and if you suspect any malicious bot activity, let your network administrator know as soon as possible.

But try to prevent these attacks before they can even start. Always make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date, and learn more about the security protocols available for your iOS, web hosting platform, or internet service provider.

What other bots should marketers be aware of? Let us know in the comments.

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Mar

16

2017

Are Notifications Driving Us Crazy?

Published by in category Editorial, productivity | Comments are closed

How do you start your mornings?

If you’re like me, your morning routine might look something like this: You check email from your phone before even getting out of bed, you scan headlines on Twitter while you brew your morning coffee, and you look at Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat during your commute to work to see what your friends are up to.

I do all of this because I’m curious to see what’s going on online, but I also do it to clear out the red symbols that pop up when I have an unread email, text message, like, snap, or tweet.

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As it turns out, there could be a downside to all of the benefits mobile technology provides. We might be able to work from anywhere on our smartphones or tablets, but such mobility and accessibility come at a cost — and too much technology could actually be making us less productive.

In this post, we’ll explore how notifications impact your brain and your mental and physical health, and what you can do with your devices to help minimize the negative impacts of the little red dot.

Notifications, or Drugs for Your Mind

Studies have shown that receiving text messages and other mobile notifications triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward-seeking behaviors and addiction. And like drug or alcohol addiction, notifications can make us feel great when we’re receiving them — and go into negative feelings of withdrawal when we aren’t. That’s right, people — notifications are sort of like drugs.

Constant information overload puts our decision-making and productivity skills at risk, too. According to Microsoft Research, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back on task after being interrupted by an email notification during the work day. Multiply that by however many emails you receive in a given day, and think about how much time you could be wasting.

canva_notifications1.png

Push notifications, or notifications that are automatically sent to your phone, are particularly pernicious. A study of more than 2,000 workers in the United Kingdom found push notifications were causing toxic levels of stress, especially when email notifications were left unread. This issue was most prevalent among media, marketing, and PR professionals, 60% of whom used push notifications as part of their day-to-day job.

FWC_email_study.png

Source: Future Work Centre

Additionally, excessive social media use, especially Facebook, is linked to negative feelings of social comparison and the fear of missing out (FOMO). Research shows that users who check social media apps often start to believe their friends lead better lives, and these feelings of FOMO and competition can lead to social anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and mood swings.

This constant liking and seeking behavior — eagerly clicking to learn what the email, notification, or text says — is impacting our ability to pay attention to things, especially the written word, says Emily Yoffe at The Atlantic. It’s also hurting the dopamine centers in our brain and making these behaviors stressful and less enjoyable the more we do them over and over again.

To prevent all of this, there are a few steps you can take to avoid notification overload — while still being able to use your phone and do your job.

What You Can Do to Minimize Push Notification Anxiety

1) Turn off notifications for specific apps.

Turn off desktop notifications, sounds, and icons that will distract you during work hours so you only receive notifications when you choose to look at them.

How to turn Gmail notifications off:

Navigate to your Settings gear icon and select “Mail notifications off” on the Desktop Notifications menu.

gmail_desktop_notifications.png

gmail desktop notifications-1.png

How to turn Slack notifications off:

Tap the bell icon to manage your notification preferences. From there, you can customize how and if you want to receive desktop notifications by clicking “Notification Settings.”

slack notifications.png

You can even turn off the pesky red dot that indicates any unread activity if you really need to focus.

slack desktop notifications.png

You can also manage notifications settings for specific channels by tapping the gear icon at the top of each channel.

slack_channel_notifications.png

2) Turn off notifications entirely.

Turn off push notifications for every app you don’t absolutely have to check immediately. A recent study showed push notifications can be as distracting as a phone call — even if you don’t immediately check the notification. Turn them off entirely for apps where you can manage how often you jump in to check on things, like social media or gaming apps.

How to turn off notifications on iOS devices: 

Navigate to your Settings menu, tap Notifications, and scroll down the list of your apps. There, you have the option to turn off “Allow Notifications.”

steponeiphonenotifications-1.png

step2iphonenotif-1.png

How to turn off notifications on Android devices: 

Navigate to your settings menu, select “Sound & notification,” tap into “App notifications,” and block notifications from specific apps, as shown in the second image below.

androidstep1-1.png

block-toggle-1.png

3) Customize notifications.

Customize the sound or vibrations patterns different applications make so you know what messages you receive without having to check your devices. For example, create a longer tone for text messages, and a shorter tone for incoming emails.

How to customize notifications on iOS devices: 

Navigate to your Settings menu, select “Sounds,” and scroll down to “Sounds and Vibration Patterns.” From there, you can click into different events (“Ringtone,” “Text Tone,” “New Voicemail”), and choose a specific pattern for each.

mobile notifs 2.png

mobile_notifs2.png

mobile_notifs3.png

How to customize notifications on Android devices: 

Navigate to your Settings menu, tap “Sounds and notifications,” then “Vibrations, and click “Vibration intensity” and “Vibration pattern” to change how different events sound and feel when you receive alerts.

android_vibrations_final.png

Source: Inside Galaxy

4) Change how your mobile device displays are organized.

Organize your mobile device desktop and move less important apps to your second screen off your default phone screen. That way, when the notifications do pop up and start flashing, you’ll only have to access them by choice when it’s time to see what’s going on.

For example, if you’re an iOS mobile device user, you know the App Store has a near-constant red notification symbol indicating an available app or device update. This isn’t an exact science, but I’ve organized my iPhone’s two screens by moving my notification-prone apps to the second screen. This way, I have to decide to go look at them instead of getting stressed and distracted when I open my phone to make a quick phone call or text.

homescreen_1.png

homescreen_2.png

The notifications are still there (unless I turn them off), but at least I’ve achieved some separation and minimized distraction from the dreaded red number icon.

5) Designate specific times for answering emails, texts, and social media messages.

Try turning off your email push notifications when you leave the office at the end of the day. Set time limits on when you can use your social media apps during your personal time. At the very least, try to enforce one limit on yourself so you feel like you have enough time to check your notifications, and enough time to enjoy life without notification stress.

You could also monitor your usage habits on a productivity tool to restrict the amount of time you spend on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others — especially while at work. Here are a few you might like using:

6) Delete apps you don’t use.

This one’s simple enough. It’s easy enough to forget about an app you’ve downloaded but aren’t using anymore. If there’s an app that’s sending you notifications you don’t use, just delete it from your browser or mobile device.

How to delete Chrome browser extensions:

Tap the three dots on the right-hand side of your browser to access your Chrome settings on the drop-down menu. Then, go to the Extensions menu, and either disable notifications or delete the extension altogether by clicking the trash can icon.

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How to delete iOS apps:

Delete iOS apps by holding your finger down on an app icon until all icons start floating with small gray x symbols in the upper left-hand corner. Then, simply tap the x icons of the apps you want to delete.

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How to delete Android apps:

Head to the Settings menu, click “Apps,” then tap on the name of the app you want to delete. From there, tap “Disable” or “Uninstall.”

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Source: UpToDown

How do you deal with push notification stress? Share with us in the comments below.

Productivity Guide

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Mar

9

2017

A Tale of Two Teamwork Apps: Microsoft Teams vs. Slack [Infographic]

Published by in category IGSS, productivity | Comments are closed

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Confession: I am a bonafide productivity junkie. It seems like there isn’t a hack I haven’t tried — from calendar tricks, to new break-taking structures, to time management experiments, I love trying every get-more-done-in-a-day tip I come across.

Among them are different app recommendations, especially the ones designed to make teamwork more efficient. In fact, 74% of teams say custom apps like these boost their productivity. But which apps are the best?

There are two apps of this kind that are making headlines at the moment: Slack — which, in the interest of transparency, we use here at HubSpot — and Microsoft Teams, which is due to launch this quarter. And many people, it seems, have been curious as to what makes each one different. That’s why TechWyse examined the features of both, and compiled them into this side-by-side comparative infographic. Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your  productivity at work.

So, where does this each app stand? Feast your eyes, and decide which one might be best for you.

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AI YouTube Live

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Dec

8

2016

28 of the Best Chrome Extensions for SEO, Productivity & More

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For all of the greatness that the internet affords — cute animal videos, GIFs, and interesting blogs — I think its biggest downside is how distracting it can be. How many times have you sat down to work and been pulled into a pit of procrastination?

Perhaps you get absorbed in updates on social media, or maybe you click through Wikipedia trying to determine what exactly Gina Rodriguez’s first TV role was (it was on Law & Order). No matter where you click online, it’s easy to be pulled into a black hole of distraction and low productivity.

Enter Google Chrome browser extensions. The Google Chrome web store offers a variety of different tools that help you be more productive with just one click. We can’t guarantee that they will make YouTube videos less tempting to watch, but we recommend them for busy marketers who want to make their time online more efficient. We’ve broken them down into different categories if you want to jump ahead:

Social Media, SEO, Content Sourcing, Blogging, Productivity

Please note: All of these are free tools, but some of the services that they work with have paid features or subscriptions, and those prices are included below.  

28 of the Most Useful Google Chrome Extensions for Marketers

Social Media

1) bitly

This extension lets marketers quickly and easily shorten links and share them on social media directly from their browser. This is particularly useful for social media marketers, given that Twitter has a 140-character limit.

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Image courtesy of bitly.com

Price: Free; bitly Enterprise pricing varies depending on company size

2) BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo provides insight into how content is performing. When you’re on a web page, click the extension to show metrics such as the number of social shares and backlinks to a piece. This tool provides an easy way to see how much engagement your content is generating. You could also use BuzzSumo to perform competitor analysis to uncover strategies that might make your content more shareable.

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Price: Free with limited number of link analyses; BuzzSumo Pro starts at $99/month

3) Pinterest

This extension allows you to easily save items onto your Pinterest boards without navigating away from what you’re doing. What’s neat about this tool is that it shows you multiple pinnable items available on each website so you can save more than one item to your board at a time. (Normally, you would have to click into each blog post or image in order to separately pin each to your boards individually.)

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Price: Free

4) Save to Facebook

Facebook’s new “Save” feature lets users aggregate links, images, and videos they find on Facebook in one location in their account. This bookmark allows you to do the same from anywhere on the web, making Facebook a centralized place to save content you’re interested in checking out later. (As you can see, in addition to inbound marketing, I’m also interested in learning more about footwear and vegan recipes.)

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Price: Free

5) RiteTag

RiteTag shows you how hashtags are performing on Twitter and Facebook before you post content. Once you log in to RiteTag using your Twitter or Facebook credentials, it checks the hashtags you begin typing in real time and color codes them: 

  • If your hashtag is green, it means the hashtag will help your content be seen now.
  • If your hashtag is blue, it means the hashtag will help your content be seen over time.
  • If your hashtag is gray, you should select a new hashtag because it has low levels of engagement.
  • If your hashtag is red, you should select a new hashtag because it’s so popular, your content will disappear into the crowd.

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Price: Free

6) List Builder for Twitter

If you’re following a hashtag or event on Twitter, you may want to make a list of users tweeting about topics you’re interested in, which is time-consuming to do manually. With the List Builder for Twitter, you can navigate to a hashtag or trending topic and build a list of all users tweeting, or you can select which users you want to add to a list. Here’s an example of the tool in action: I built a list of all users tweeting “#INBOUND16.

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If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can easily create lists using the social streams featuring in the HubSpot Social Monitoring tool

Price: Free

7) Instagram for Chrome

Want to keep tabs on Instagram notifications without having to constantly check your phone? With this extension, users can see what’s happening on their Instagram content directly within their browser.

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Price: Free

SEO

8) MozBar

The MozBar is a Chrome extension that allows SEO marketers to easily get insights about different websites without leaving their web browser. With one click, you can find search ranking and link coding information about all of the search results on a Google results page.

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Image courtesy of Moz

Price: Moz subscriptions start at $99/month

9) Check My Links

Check My Links does what it says it will: It quickly scans web pages and shows you which links are working properly and which are broken. With this extension, marketers can ensure that their own websites are functioning properly for their visitors. Additionally, marketers can check for broken backlinks to their content on other websites to build backlinks to their content and increase their domain authority.

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Price: Free

10) NoFollow

NoFollow quickly indexes web pages and identifies links that are coded with the nofollow metatag. Nofollow links aren’t crawled by search engines and don’t contribute to search engine authority, so SEOers can use this extension to determine if external sites are backlinking to them with followed, or indexed, links. Additionally, you might use nofollow links on web pages you don’t want crawled, such as a landing page or thank you page, and this extension can easily double-check if you’ve coded links correctly. In the example screenshot below, nofollow links are highlighted in red.

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Price: Free

11) Impactana

Impactana’s Chrome toolbar offers a wealth of SEO, social media, and content marketing information about any web page. Its two biggest metrics are “Buzz,” which measures a website’s reach on social media, and “Impact,” which measures SEO metrics such as clickthrough rate, backlinks, and time on page. It also shares details like author and publisher contact information that are useful for PR professionals.

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Price: Impactana subscriptions start at $99/month

Content Sourcing

12) HubSpot Collect

Whether you’re conducting research for a project or simply reading different articles online, you most likely come across resources that you want to save and return to for later use. That’s where HubSpot Collect will come in. Instead of saving content to another application or document, you can save it directly to your HubSpot software for easy reference when you sit down to write a blog post or web page. Coming soon to HubSpot software, Collect will automatically generate author attributions and citations if you want to cite a link you saved for a blog post.

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Price: HubSpot Marketing Software starts at $200/month

13) AwesomeScreenshot

AwesomeScreenshot is a screen capture extension with capabilities for annotation and photo editing while staying in your browser. Once you take a screenshot of a selected area of your screen or an entire web page, you can crop, highlight, draw shapes, and blur sensitive information.

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 Price: Free

14) Evernote Web Clipper

Evernote is a note-taking and organization app that can be shared across teams for content collaboration. With the Evernote Web Clipper extension, users can save links onto a clipboard within their Evernote app for later reading and reference.

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Price: Free

15) Giphy for Chrome

Everyone loves animated GIFs. They make emails, blogs, and social media posts engaging and funny, and with this extension, you can easily grab a GIF from Giphy’s huge database for whatever content you’re working on without navigating away.

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Price: Free

16) Bookmark Manager

Manually bookmarking websites can sometimes be a tedious process, so Google created this extension to organize websites you want to save without having to open a new tab. Save websites to bookmarks, create folders, and add notes for later reference.

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Price: Free

17) OneTab 

When you conduct research for a piece of content, it’s easy to get swamped in multiple open tabs with great resources you want to cite. The trouble is, once it comes time to write and refer back to the sources, it’s hard to navigate between all of the tabs. Luckily, OneTab lets you put multiple different URLs into a single tab for easy reference.

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Price: Free

Blogging

18) Grammarly

Grammarly is my go-to app for reviewing blog posts for proper spelling, grammar, and word use. You can drop large pieces of text into the desktop application for review, or you can use the handy Chrome extension to call out any grammar errors you’re making while typing on the web. Here’s an example of Grammarly pointing out an error I was about to make in a tweet:

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Price: Free with subscription upgrades for more in-depth reviewing

19) Google Dictionary

Have you ever come across a word you’re not familiar with while doing research online? Instead of Googling it in a separate tab, quickly highlight the word and click on the Google Dictionary extension to get the definition.

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Price: Free

20) Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides

For those times when you and your coworkers are working on computers with different operating systems, or want to collaborate on a live document together, check out Office Editing. This extension lets you easily drop Microsoft Office files into Google Drive to view and edit them without needing the software installed on your hard drive. Here’s an example of an Excel file that I dropped into my Google Drive:

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Price: Free

21) QuickWrite Text Editor 

Sometimes it’s hard to free yourself of distractions to write productively, especially if you’re writing online. This extension quickly opens a new tab for a clean and neutral text editor that auto-saves while you’re working if you need a break from where you normally write.

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Price: Free

Productivity

22) ToDoist

ToDoist is a project management tool that lets you create highly organized and visually appealing to-do lists across all of your devices. What’s neat about the Chrome extension is that you can see your to-do list, or your team’s shared lists, and add tasks to it without having to open a separate tab, app, or device.

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Price: Free for Basic; $29/year for Premium

23) Rapportive

Rapportive uses LinkedIn account information to provide details about the recipient of an email you’re drafting. This is a great way to get details about someone you’re trying to connect with and to ensure that you’re contacting someone on their correct email address.

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Price: Free

24) Momentum

Momentum is a simple Chrome extension that replaces blank new tabs with beautiful photography, inspiring quotes, weather reports, and a space for you to write down a priority for the day when you open up your browser for the first time. (Don’t worry — the temperature is in Celsius, it’s not that cold in Boston.)

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Price: Free

25) StayFocusd

StayFocusd lets you budget your time on specific websites so you can eliminate distractions when you need to buckle down and work. It’s highly customizable — you could set your time limit to 20 minutes on Twitter and only five minutes on Facebook, for example. It also has neat features like the Require Challenge: Once you set time limits on sites, if you want to go back and change your settings, you have to complete a challenge (think: retyping a piece of text without typos or answering questions).

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Price: Free

26) LastPass

LastPass is a password manager that auto-fills in passwords for all of the accounts you save with this extension. You only have to remember one password: your LastPass password. This saves you time, headaches, and increases the security of your personal data.

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Image courtesy of LastPass

Price: Free

27) Add to Trello

If you use Trello for project management, team collaboration, your content calendar, or just a personal to-do list, this extension lets you easily add links as cards to your Trello boards.

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Price: Free; Trello subscriptions start at $9.99/user/month

28) Extensions Manager

We couldn’t give you 27 different extensions to try out without also suggesting Extensions Manager. Try this tool to organize all of your extensions so they don’t take up half of your browser’s screen. It shows you what extensions you have operating on Google Chrome and gives you the option to hide some of the icons to keep your browser better organized.

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Price: Free

Now that your browser is loaded with extensions to make marketing easier on a day-to-day basis, test them out to see what time and efficiencies you’re able to save. When you’re ready to work on your next piece of content, try these content curation hacks and tools to make that process simpler, too. 

What’s your favorite Google Chrome extension? Share with us in the comments below.

Learn about all the product launches from INBOUND 2016