Professional development

6 Productivity Hacks to Stop Wasting Your Time

Though many of us wish for more time in a day, we’re all given the same amount. And fortunately – or unfortunately – many of us are better at maximizing our time than others. If you’re feeling stuck and ready to get back to the grind here are some productivity tips to get your life back – and out of a Netflix rut.

Batch your time for similar tasks

Many of us still have a “to-do” list mentality, where we try to complete as many tasks on our list as we can.

“Task fatigue” can occur, however, so it’s best to group similar tasks together or group unrelated things together. So, if you have to send invoices, try to draft them at the same time you’re planning your budget. Or if you’re calling leads at work, do them all at once instead of every day for 15 minutes.

Turn off your notifications

Notifications can be distracting and divert you from bigger tasks you need to accomplish. They’ve become a substantial enough issue that even Apple CEO Tim Cook agrees. To get more time back, start turning off notifications to the apps you spend the most time on. (I’ve personally turned off all social media notifications!) Don’t be afraid to take the leap to turn off text notifications either. Be sure to limit your screen time and look into apps that help you monitor how much of your day is spent staring at electronic devices.

Try to get your primary “inbox to zero”

Though having an empty inbox may bring anxiety at first, this productivity hack may save you hours in the long haul. Schedule a few hours to do some spring cleaning and sift through your inbox for any important emails or ongoing projects that need to be saved. Then, create folders designated for important tasks.

Then, delete everything else. Make it your objective every day to have an empty inbox as you file and archive completed emails. Though it may take some time on the front end, your life will be a lot less cluttered.

Break up with Netflix

The obvious. Though we all love Netflix, track how much time you actually spend watching television. Instead of making Netflix your fall back, try to schedule times where you relax and watch TV, instead of running to it as your comfort whenever you’re stressed or procrastinating.

Use site-blocking plugins

Believe it or not, there are plenty of plugins on Google Chrome and other web browsers that will enable you to block distracting websites during specific hours. So if you’re reading articles on Buzzfeed all day, you can list distracting websites on your “blocked” list. Block Site also allows you to go into work mode!

Track your time

Plenty of project management solutions exist to keep track of your time, but you may also consider creating an excel spreadsheet or diary to track everything you do. When you really and truly do the math, it’s easy to see the holes that can be filled with more productive activities.

Know your priorities

Set firm boundaries, know your priorities, and know what you won’t commit to doing. Having a firm idea of the commitments you will honor will enable you to gauge where to spend your time to make it productive, and what to avoid.

Remember, you can always make time for what’s important to you.

The Power of the Professional Headshot

Presentation is everything, especially online. And you cannot build your brand without a professional headshot.

Unfortunately, many people think they can get away with using an image taken by an amateur, or even a poorly lit “selfie,” only to find out later that nobody trusts a professional who can’t – or simply won’t – take themselves seriously. In the end, you’re better off going to a professional photographer for help.

So when weighing the pros and cons of going with a professional photographer for your headshot, it’s important to keep these factors in mind, especially if your goal is to create an online brand that speaks for itself. 

Making a Great First Impression

Back in the day, word of mouth was everyone’s favorite marketing strategy. Ads, as a matter of fact, seldom spoke about the men and women providing a certain service as the product did all the talking. But with the introduction of the internet in our daily lives, service providers themselves became the product.

While today, word of mouth is still important, people want to see who they are dealing with before making a final decision. And when the time to choose comes, they pick someone who inspires true confidence.

When shopping for a professional photographer for your headshot, keep in mind that your image is, for the most part, how potential clients will see you. And unless you want to leave a bad first impression, investing in a professional headshot will make or break your career.

Good Photography Highlights the Best in You

Good photography is not only about proper lighting and finding the best angle. A professional photographer can help to communicate what we can’t say with words by bringing out the best in us. (They also should be able to point you to a seasoned hair and makeup artist or a stylist if you really want to go the extra mile with your photos!)

Instead of simply snapping a photograph, a pro will be able to guide you so that you may convey the confidence, professionalism, and warmth you want to communicate.  

Without this, clients may not believe what you say about your own accomplishments. 

Stand Out in the Crowd

When you use a professional headshot for your online portfolio, you let prospective clients have a better idea of who you are.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And it is precisely because it speaks volumes that you want to use a professional photographer who can capture your personality with ease.

Furthermore, you want your headshot to be authentically you so anyone who sees it will be able to identify you in a crowd!

By familiarizing potential clients with how you look, you also make them more likely to trust you. 

In a world that is saturated with professionals competing for the same clientele online, having a good following on social media isn’t enough, but having an exceptional headshot will get you where you need to go.

Boost Your Morale (And Your Pocketbook)

Adding a personal touch to your professional website isn’t just about adding an image that speaks to your audience, it’s also about feeling good about yourself!

When we boost our self-confidence, we also feel more likely to take on more challenges.

And while headshots are key in building a prosperous career online, they serve an additional role: to make us feel confident in ourselves. 

I had my latest headshots taken by Meagan Gilbert Photography and my hair and makeup done by Ashley Troxel, Professional Makeup Artist. I am beyond happy with their work and fully recommend them for professional headshots and all your photography or styling needs!

Ditching the 9-5: How to Find Remote Work Opportunities

Digital nomads use telecommunications technologies to earn a living. I’ve been working remotely since 2016 and have been a digital nomad since July 2018. I often work remotely from countries other than the United States, coffee shops, public libraries, and sometimes co-working spaces.

It’s starting to become the newfound “millennial dream,” but without hard work, it can be difficult to make it a reality. The daily grind, cultural norms, and rising student debt can also get in the way. Though landing a remote position may seem daunting, nearly 38 percent of workers will be able to work remotely in some capacity over the next decade, according to Remote.co.

Here are some easy ways to get started researching opportunities regardless of your background to begin settling into remote work.

Earn your way there with your current company

Though it may seem impossible to earn remote status with your employer, step out of the lens in which you view your position and ask yourself: “Is it possible to work remotely within my current role? Does anyone else at my company do this?”

Even if only one person works remotely, you may have the leverage to begin initiating conversations with your employer if you’ve paid your dues.

Though it may seem to be a risk, if you’ve been loyal to your company, nothing is impossible. Though it may mean moving to a different position or leveraging odd hours, be open to discussing new possibilities.

Pick up clients as a freelancer

If you’re interested in this workstyle but are unsure if working remotely may be the right lifestyle for you, consider taking on several clients as a freelancer, initially.

This way you can begin to establish work rhythms that will benefit you if and when you do make the decision to transition into remote work.

If you have a skill like graphic design or photography where you could grow your client base, consider starting your own small business.

Look for startups on websites like Angie’s List and note the companies

There are websites that can guide you on your search to finding the right remote positions, just like Angie’s List. Many tech companies offer remote opportunities directly from this website. As you search for positions online, Google also offers “work from home” as a filter as you aspire to search for positions as well.

Consider making a spreadsheet of all the companies you find that have these opportunities, and connect with hiring managers on LinkedIn. Though there may not be a position you qualify for immediately, begin scoping out companies you would like to work for and continue to check back for the right opportunity.

Look into creative circles

Creative Mornings and Creative Circle are great resources as you continue the search to help you land remote work, in addition to networking with like-minded digital nomads.

Co-working spaces are another creative outlet to network and collaborate with other entrepreneurs. Seek out any opportunity to cultivate relationships with people who currently work remotely and aspire to learn from them.

Take on multiple jobs and passions

Though some may find certain jobs unappealing, a compromise to obtain a remote lifestyle may mean sacrificing your full-time salary, in exchange for a lower paying job.

Therefore, taking on multiple passions – like your remote position that gives you work flexibility in addition to another revenue stream – may make this lifestyle possible for you a bit sooner. Explore different options and combine the passions that generate revenue.

Go all in! 

Even if you hate your job, remember that no one is forcing you to work there. Be thankful for the income, development, and stability your company provides no matter your frustrations.

But when the time comes, don’t be afraid to take the leap and go all in to embrace remote work.

Making Your LinkedIn Connections Matter

In some respects, LinkedIn can make or break you in terms of networking and applying for jobs. Recruiters and peers will spend time looking at your profile if you’ve taken the time to create it, so it’s important to make your online impression just as great as in person.

As you continue to take your networking online, here are the do’s and don’ts to make your connections really count.

Do respond to connections quickly

Just as it is appropriate to respond to emails, phone calls, and even text messages within 24 hours, LinkedIn is another communication channel to add to your stream. Ensure you respond within two business days as contacts reach out.

Don’t ignore requests because you don’t know the person

Though it may seem creepy, on LinkedIn it is perfectly normal for different connections to add you. Whether it’s a recruiter, a potential employer, or just a person who wants to network with you, see if the connection will be mutually beneficial before you disregard it.

Do update your headshot

Keep your headshot clean and professional. Don’t include other people or pets in this photo, and ensure your photo reflects the way you want to be seen in the workplace. Again, your headshot is one of the first online impressions you’ll make.

Don’t confuse your Facebook audience with LinkedIn

Respond to connection requests as soon as possible, and add contacts as you meet them.

Unlike Facebook, it’s socially acceptable to add someone on LinkedIn immediately after meeting them. Think of it as the follow-up email you would send after a networking event. Furthermore, recognize that the content you post on LinkedIn should look different than on Facebook. Keep your LinkedIn profile professional and focused on your career aspirations – not your family photos or dinner recipes.

Do personalize your connection requests

Instead of adding connections at random or sending generic messages, do include a brief personalized note when connecting. Include how you met or any mutual connections, common groups or interests, or any other information that can bridge the gap so you can actually build your network instead of having miscellaneous connections that don’t really know you.

Don’t spam your connections

Even though LinkedIn is a professional network, no one appreciates messages that sell to them. Though connecting and networking are important, be tactful. Invest in relationships first.

Do endorse your connections

If you recognize that someone you are connected to possesses certain skills, always endorse them. Likely, they’ll return the favor. You never know when an endorsement could lead to another position.

Don’t ignore opportunities that may arise

Even if you’re content in your career, you never know when your company may go under, the economy may turn, or when you desire to grow beyond your current position. Be open to potential opportunities that seem promising, and don’t limit yourself from going through the process.

Remember, you are in the driver’s seat and have the upper hand to say, “No, thank you.” Don’t discount the potential you may encounter. It may just be your next big break.

10 LinkedIn Templates to Make Messaging Simple

Sending formal messages on LinkedIn can come with anxiety. But LinkedIn messages don’t have to be as stressful as they may seem. In fact, here are 10 LinkedIn templates to make messaging your connections a breeze.

New Connection Invite

If you’re looking to reach out to someone new to expand your network, bridge the gap for the reason you’re connecting, and make your connection a bit more formal.

Hello Erin! Your name appeared in my network as someone I should connect with, so I wanted to reach out and introduce myself. I look forward to connecting and learning about your company, and how we may be able to help one another.

Regards, Chloe

Former Coworker

Your former coworkers can be beneficial not only as references but also as connections to land your dream job. Be sure to keep these connections intact.

Hi Matt! It’s hard to believe how much time has gone by since our time at Lilly in 2013. You always had such a positive disposition that made the office environment enjoyable and I hope you’re doing well. If you have the chance, I’d appreciate the opportunity to learn more about your new role in the SaaS industry.

Thanks, Chloe

A person who works at a prospective employer

Even though this approach may seem strange, you may just find a connection to help get your foot in the door at the company you’d like to work for. Try something like this:

Hi Jamie, I wanted to reach out because I noticed you work at Quip, and I have always heard rave reviews about the company culture and opportunities. Would you be open to chatting about your experience with the company?

Thanks, Chloe

Recruiter

There are plenty of them on LinkedIn, but sometimes reaching out to a recruiter can be intimidating. Get to the point, and try to find common ground if you’re able.

Good afternoon Jim, I came across your profile on the hiring and promotions hashtag and wanted to connect with you to discuss what it could look like to work together. With my marketing management background, I’d love to explore any opportunities you may have open and see if my experience may be a great fit. I look forward to speaking further.

Thanks, Chloe Anagnos

Colleague

Like coworkers, your colleagues from different areas of your professional life or in other organizations can help you make valuable connections.

Hey Tara, I’ve always enjoyed some of the projects we’ve worked on together in the past, and I’d love to learn more about what you’ve been up to recently. Let me know if there’s a time we can get together for coffee in the next few weeks to catch up!

Talk soon, Chloe

Networking Contact

Those who make the most out of networking events go into them ready to play the long game and continue building into those relationships over time. Be sure to keep up.

Hi Chad, I truly enjoyed speaking with you in regard to your work at Cummins last week. I look forward to the next Chamber event and would like to stay in touch.

Until next time, Chloe

Introduction

If your connection would like to be introduced to someone within your network, share the wealth and briefly introduce them. After all, you may need them to return the favor.

Hi Andy, my colleague Sarah is a brilliant manager and considering your sales development experience and her drive to find explore similar opportunities, I wanted to make sure I connected you both.

Best, Chloe

Reference

And when the time comes for you to take your turn being introduced by one of your connections to a secondary connection, you can use the prompt below.

Hello Jane, I noticed you are connected to James Hendricks, who is an account executive at a company I’m very interested in learning more about. Would you mind briefly introducing us?

Regards, Chloe

Someone who had a job you want

Though it may seem unorthodox, don’t be afraid to reach out to people you find who worked for your former company or in a position you may want. They could be more open than you think.

Hi Amy, I noticed that you’re also a connection of Bryce’s. He and I worked together at Salesforce for quite some time. I noticed that you used to work at Roche, and I’m wondering if you could give me some advice on the company culture, and share any feedback you may have had about your experience there. Is there a time at your convenience we could chat briefly?

Regards, Chloe

Someone to potentially hire

If you’re beginning to freelance or develop your own company, you’ll likely find better talent on LinkedIn than Fiverr. Though LinkedIn professionals may come at a higher price, asking can’t hurt.

Hi Andrea, I wanted to connect with you on the recent project you did for Chic Boutique. Your marketing campaign strategy was excellent, and I would love to chat with you in regard to hiring you for a project of the same nature. If you are interested, let me know when you’re available for a brief phone call.

Best, Chloe

How to Develop Yourself When Your Company Won’t

According to a study by Gallup, 85 percent of people hate their jobs. For every 4 out of 5 people you come across, four of them will not like their boss.

That’s pretty substantial.

From my observations, many folks don’t like their positions because of unclear expectations of roles in the workplace, lack of resources to perform well, the purpose behind their work, the community around the workplace, and treatment of employees.

If you don’t have the developmental resources you may hope for, it’s time to stop playing the victim and take your professional development into your own hands.

If you’re motivated enough to take charge, there are goals you can aspire towards to develop your career – whether your employer will help or not.

Communicate with your employer

Though it may seem risky, have the conversation with your employer in regard to professional development opportunities.

Ask if there are any resources accessible for you to take advantage of. Regardless of your occupation, there’s always something to learn. Work in a sales environment? Try different ways of tracking your leads.

Find a solution to be more productive in the day? Share it with your employer and team and encourage others to join you. Maybe after you’ve proven yourself, they’ll give you an opportunity. Maybe your direct report is drowning in work that they don’t even realize this desire of yours to improve. Or, maybe not. Still, have an open and honest conversation that you’d like to grow, and that will give you a basis to start.

Continue to educate yourself

 Though finding an employer to pay for continued education is a treasure, it’s not always plausible. But if you would like to continue your education or develop certain skills, think outside of the box.

Maybe for a season you can juggle working part-time at Starbucks in exchange for their higher education program. Or, it’s arguable that online programs are quickly becoming more relevant than college courses based on the applicable skills taught.

Try taking courses with Udemy or Skillshare, or even free certifications through Hubspot and Google. Even if only for 30 minutes a day on your lunch break, find a way to educate yourself and diversify your skill set.

Find or start a networking group

Organizations like Meetup, Eventbrite, or your local Chamber of Commerce are great resources to help you network. Most people approach these events completely wrong and only go looking for clients. But, if you pursue them with the perspective of building relationships, you’ll gain so much more over time.

Otherwise, volunteer in your city. Find organizations that connect you to both like-minded and diverse groups of people that challenge your thinking, and help connect you to others.

The larger your network, the larger your resource pool when looking for prospective employment opportunities, personal growth catalysts, or just support in whatever season of your career you may be in.

Create a contact database

As you continue to develop your professional development community, develop a contact database to keep track of your connections. Almost like a prospect list, note names, phone numbers, emails, and identifying pieces of information – like where this person goes to church, how many kids they have, something you have in common, or when you last saw them – to keep on file.

Stay in touch with the connections over time that may be valuable to your career and growth, and allow them to contact you to do the same. You never know where it may lead.

Find a mentor

Finding a mentor can sound overwhelming, but may just be the push you need to help you grow in your field. A mentor can offer insight, advice, and experience that can save you significant time and energy when you’re starting off in your career, or even changing your career path.

Once you’ve established a networking community and contact list, consider thinking of people within your sphere that can help you establish and work toward your career goals. And, don’t be afraid to reach out to your dream mentor to connect. 

Remember: it’s your career, not theirs

At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own career path. Ultimately it is not your employer’s responsibility to develop you, it’s your own.

So take charge of your career, and find ways to add value and relevant experience at your 9-5 until you’ve developed yourself for the next season.

How to Build a Professional Wardrobe On a Shoestring Budget

Building a professional wardrobe can be overwhelming. With so many brands to choose from, it can be challenging to sift through what to purchase. But building a beautiful, professional wardrobe doesn’t have to be expensive.

Even on a shoestring budget, it is possible to build a professional wardrobe. Here’s how.

Purge your closet

Tidying up like Marie Kondo and choosing to live minimally will help you see all of the clothing you already do have. Even when it seems like many of us have “nothing to wear,”  sometimes when we have a lot of clothes, that doesn’t mean they fit well or interest us. 

If you’re struggling to decide which pieces stay and go, tie a piece of string or ribbon around the rod of your closet. As you wear clothing, put pieces on one side of the string. At the end of a month, get rid of the clothes that are untouched on the opposite side. 

Then, choose to keep only items that you truly enjoy, and that fit you well. Everything else can be sold or donated.

Budget and pull out cash

To avoid overspending, do plan to invest in your attire. Come up with a number you can afford, and save extra money through smart savings apps like Albert or Clarity Money. Sell the old pieces you don’t need. Pull out cash and place it in envelopes or use automated savings apps to stay on track when you’re ready to purchase.

Go for basic, neutral pieces

Most people coordinate their closet around one of two colors: black or navy. Choose one to be the foundation for your closet, and purchase essential staple pieces of that color and some matching neutrals that can be worn with different outfits.

Having a black blouse, blazer, slacks, and pumps – for example – would be a great place to start, along with a white, cream, and blue blouse.

Focus on timeless attire

Instead of opting for professional trends like high waisted trousers, block sandals, chunky jewelry, or vibrant patterns, choose timeless pieces that will continue to remain in style. Though there’s a time and place to purchase the latest trends, focus on creating a capsule wardrobe.

Add accents

Accents offer a great chance to add bold and bright pieces to freshen up your look. Choose pieces that reflect your personality. With any basic outfit, try adding a pair of shoes that pop, or a statement necklace to add to your appearance.

Try a bright colored blouse with a black blazer. Though accents shouldn’t make up the bulk of your wardrobe, they should be sprinkled in.

Don’t be afraid of thrift stores

Thrift stores may have a bad reputation, but some of the best pieces in your closet may be found there. Use thrift stores as your chance to look for those classic pieces to invest in as they’ll likely save you a fortune from looking in department stores. 

Invest in pieces you love

Don’t beat yourself up for splurging on one or two pieces that you absolutely adore. Find clothing you feel confident in and take great care of them.

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