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Motivation: Training the Mind

Motivation: Training the Mind

More Motivated in Minutes: 5 Science-Backed Tricks To Get You Going

Got a few minutes? Get ready to get more done.

Researchers have discovered some quick ways to get you more focused and motivated at what you do so that you can work smarter, not harder.

Some of these motivation tips take only seconds to do. Others require that you get out of your chair for a few minutes. All of them are derived from the results of recent scientific studies.

For some simple tips and exercises to increase your motivation, we’ll start right now.

1. Strike a high-power pose for a jolt of confidence

Time it takes: 2 minutes

Body language may be a lot more important than you imagined. It affects not just how you’re perceived by others, but also your internal body chemistry.

That’s right, holding your body in a certain position literally changes the way you are.

Amy Cuddy, a professor at the Harvard School of Business,  gave a TED Talk in 2012 on the significance of body language. Her premise is that non-verbal communication (i.e. body language) may be just as important as verbal communication. And one of the ways that you can communicate non-verbally is with a “power pose.”

There are two kinds of power poses: high and low. A high-power pose usually means having your body open rather than hunched up. That means chest out, arms spread, no slouch. Most simply, it means that you try to take up a great deal of space.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:


And what does a low-power space look like? Anything that makes you small and bunched up, like this:


The researchers found that simply holding a high-power pose for as little as two minutes increases your testosterone levels, which are associated with confidence, and decreases your cortisol levels, which are associated with stress.

This is a no-tech lifehack that you can do while you sit or stand, while you’re alone or with others: Holding certain poses gives you more confidence and helps you to work better.

Stop slouching and strike a high-power pose. Lean back, put up your legs, and if you have space, make a V with your arms. You can do these while you sit or stand.

Don’t want to look weird with co-workers around you? Do this in a bathroom, or grab a meeting room and close the door.

In addition to striking high-power pose, you can focus on the position of your feet, smile more, align yourself better with your conversation partner, and lower your voice with deep breathing.

2. Tell yourself that you’re going to have a fresh start

Time it takes: 3-5 minutes

Have you ever wondered why everybody chooses January 1 to make commitments?

Yes, it’s a new year. But it’s also an arbitrary point in the lives of most people. January 1 may be a good date to set new commitments, but it’s not much better than July 28.

Here’s the thing: You can give yourself a fresh start anytime. By doing so, you’re going to have a burst of energy. That’s one of the findings from a study by the Wharton School of Business.

The researchers found that these “intertemporal markers” encourage us in two ways: by making people disconnect from past failures, and by promoting a big-picture view of life.

These factors make us more motivated to sequester away our failures and get things done.

So think of a recent event, be it a promotion, a breakup, some other special occasion, and contrive a fresh start. You’ll find it more believable than you think.

Try sitting yourself down to craft a message. Write it down and make it concrete. Here’s an example of a note that you can write, typed or by hand:

“Gosh, I complain of being busy all the time, but how much of it is spent wasted, unproductive? From now on, I’m going to make the most of the minutes every hour, and deliver my work with time to spare.”

Or, try this out:

“I’ve been putting this off for way too long; it’s long past time for me to start the business I’ve been dreaming about. I’ll start slow as a side project for now and see where it takes me. Today I’m going to make things happen.”

Believing it helps make it true.

3. Eat some chocolate – or some other dopamine-releasing reward

Time it takes: 1 minute

Here’s another low-tech hack to increase your level of motivation: Eat some chocolate. Not only is it delicious and easily available—the effects of chocolate on the brain are well-studied.

Here are some of the things that happen when you eat some:

  • It increases both serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes calm, and also phenylethylamine, which promotes stimulation. White chocolate does both even more intensely.
  • It triggers a release of dopamine, which will elevate your heart rate and significantly increase motivation.
  • It also results in a mild antidepressant effect, literally because your brain responds to the stimulants by promoting blissful emotions.
    healthy foods

    Other dopamine-inducing foods that can help maintain a healthy diet: blueberries, spirulina, and fish high in Omega-3 fats.

    healthy foods

    4. Write a contract – and donate the proceeds to charity if you lose

    Time it takes: 3-5 minutes

    Have you ever visited


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    It’s a platform for writing informal contracts that help achieve goals and form new habits. Put down a concrete goal, on say losing weight or on becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business, then ask a friend to monitor that you’ll get it done. Put up some money, say $50, and if you succeed, you get your money back; if you fail, then your friend donates the $50 to a charity of your choice.

    StickK is an example of a commitment device, and it’s a remarkable mechanism for getting things done. Rather than a loose determination to make an abstract goal in the future, you have a concrete task to work towards on a specific date, and you lose more than your pride if you fail.

    The founder of stickK is a professor of economics at Yale University who used a commitment device himself when he was a grad student. He promised to pay his friend $10,000 if he did not lose 38 lbs by a certain date. Fortunately he succeeded in shedding weight, not dollars.

    Why do commitment devices work?

    The logic of commitment devices is based on psychology and behavioral economics.

    People tend towards hyperbolic discounting, which is a fancy way of saying that they overvalue the short run relative to the long-run. The examples are obvious: Do you sit and watch TV or go out for a run? Do you grab the fruit salad or the cheesecake for dessert?


    All of us know that what’s good right now isn’t necessarily good for the long run. Commitment devices try to change this up so that choosing what feels good in the short run gets more costly.

    In addition, it requires that you set a concrete goal. Instead of saying that “I’ll lose weight this year,” you’ll have to say something like “I’ll lose 20 pounds by June.” Having something specific makes the task more concrete and more actionable.

    And if you don’t make it to your goal after all, you can feel glad that at least a charity of your choice is going to get a donation.

    5. See some green

    Time it takes: 10 minutes

    Certain colors make us think of certain things. Ever wonder why all sales signs are red, for example? It’s because people react faster and more forcefully when they see the color. People tend to associate the color red with a danger cue, and that attracts attention.

    Guess which color provides the biggest boost in motivation and energy?

    The color green.

    Researchers have found in two studies that surrounding yourself with a bit of green provides a boost in motivation; and also that a glimpse of the color green sparks creativity.

    The first study was published in 2012 in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology via six researchers at the University of Essex.

    They asked subjects to perform three cycling exercises while watching a video of a rural cycling course. The videos were randomly selected to have green, gray, or red filters.


    The green filter made the cyclists happier and less tired. Simply seeing lots of green made them more motivated.

    The second study asked subjects to write as many uses for a tin can as they could think of in under two minutes, and graded them for creativity. Before each test they showed the subjects quick flashes of green, blue, white, and gray. The color that was most associated with encouraging creativity? Green.

    A researcher hypothesized that seeing green makes people think of growth. It’s taken as a cue that we can improve task mastery and that we have room to grow.

    How can you get more green in your life? Go outside! Take a stroll in a garden, or anywhere with shrubs and greenery. Is there a local park that people around you like to have lunch at? Are there lots of trees that you can walk around? Are there at least a few patches of grass by your workplace?


    Go out and walk in these places. In addition to seeing more green; you’ll be a lot more motivated after a brief physical exertion and some fresh air.

    Over to you!

    Can motivation be hacked? These studies that draw from psychology and neuroscience suggest that there are at least a few things that you can do to boost your motivation right now, whether that’s putting yourself in a certain frame of mind or finding a quick, no-tech way to boost your body and mind.

    So take a break at a natural point and try one of these five tricks to boost your energy. Your work will thank you for it.

    Now, over to you – What tricks and tips have you discovered to increase your motivation or give yourself a big boost in energy? Have you discovered that any of the ones offered above work particularly well for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Gamification for Progression

Gamification for Progression

You may be one of those that sees personal growth as a struggle. Something to be done, but it’s loathed as you’re growing.

You may say “It’s boring” or maybe “I’ve heard it a thousand times before.”

What can we do if we find ourselves stuck in a personal growth rut and unable to see our way out? One way is to begin gamifying our personal growth.

Gamifying? You’re probably asking yourself what the heck is gamification? You might even think gamifying and gamifcation aren’t even words. (They are, by the way)

What Is Gamification?

Let’s start with what is gamification? Wikipedia defines gamification as the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Gamification is applied to improve user engagement, return on investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning.

So, what does that mean?

I grew up on video games. So I know a thing or two about them and how they work.

Whether it was the reward of a gold coin in Mario for hitting the question mark block or the Xbox Live point system which showed off your mad Halo skills, video games have been rewarding players with instant feedback.

Gamification is taking this reward strategy into the real world, making our every day activities into score-able actions.

How Gamification Can Help Personal Growth

I’ll be honest, I’m not always enjoying my times of personal growth. The leadership book may be a very dry read. The implementation of new leadership skills may be taking longer than I want. Or it could be the fact I’ve heard the same speech a thousand times before.

Personal growth can be boring! Let’s be real.

This is where gamification can come into play. Using gamification can make personal growth a challenge that rewards us instantly.

One of the coolest iOS apps I’ve seen for the gamification of task lists or personal development has to be EpicWin (or there’s Task Hammer for Android users like myself). Using this app, you make a list of tasks that you need to complete, including personal development goals. As you check off each task, your character gains experience points, gold, and more.

You can set this up for personal growth by setting goals for:

Time spent reading

Time spent reflecting

Time spent writing

Time spent growing

I think you get the picture. Whatever personal growth goals you have that can be broken down into daily tasks can be used for gamification.

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How to Build Discipline?

How to Build Discipline?

5 Proven Methods For Gaining Self Discipline

There are many important qualities that can contribute to a person’s achievements and happiness, but there is only one that begets sustainable, long-term success in all aspects of life: self discipline. Whether in terms of your diet, fitness, work ethic or relationships,  self discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately, be happy.

According to a 2013 study by Wilhelm Hoffman, people with high self control are happier than those without. The study discovered this is true because the self disciplined subjects were more capable of dealing with goal conflicts. These people spent less time debating whether to indulge in behaviors detrimental to their health, and were able to make positive decisions more easily. The self disciplined did not allow their choices to be dictated by impulses or feelings. Instead, they made informed, rational decisions on a daily basis without feeling overly stressed or upset.

Despite what many may think, self discipline is a learned behavior. It requires practice and repetition in your day-to-day life. To improve your own self discipline, test out these 5 proven methods for gaining better control. This regimen will help you to establish good habits, break bad ones, and improve your control by making simple changes to your everyday routine. Improved self discipline will allow you to live a freer life by helping you to make healthy choices, not emotional ones. Give it a shot. Your happiness will thank you for it.

1. Remove temptations. Self control is often easiest when abiding by the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” Removing all temptations and distractions from your environment is a crucial first step when working to improve your self discipline. If you are trying to have better control of your eating, toss the junk food. Ask your office intern to leave you off of the daily lunch order email. If you want to improve your focus while working, turn off your cell phone and remove the clutter from your desk. If you’re really having trouble, download the SelfControl app on your computer to block distraction websites - Facebook, Youtube, even e-mail - for a set period of time. Set yourself up for success by ditching the bad influences.

2. Eat regularly and healthily. Studies have shown that low blood sugar often weakens a person’s resolve. When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate suffers as your brain is not functioning to its highest potential. Hunger makes it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand, not to mention making you grumpy and pessimistic. You are much more likely to have a weakened sense of self control in all areas of our life - diet, exercise, work, relationships... you name it. In order to stay on track, make sure that you are well fueled throughout the day with healthy snacks and meals every few hours. I personally make sure to always have some almonds or Muscle Milk on hand. These snacks ensure that I can get a dose of healthy protein and fats throughout the day when needed. Eating often regulates your blood sugar levels and improves your decision making skills and concentration. Allow you brain to focus on your goals and priorities instead of on your growling stomach.

3. Don’t wait for it to “feel right.” Improving your self discipline means changing up your normal routine, which can be uncomfortable and awkward. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains that habit behaviors are traced to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia - a portion of the brain associated with emotions, patterns, and memories. Decisions, on the other hand, are made in the prefrontal cortex, a completely different area. When a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot. Therefore, breaking a bad habit and building a new habit not only requires us to make active decisions, it will feel wrong. Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do. The solution? Embrace the wrong. Acknowledge that it will take a while for your new regime to feel right or good or natural. Keep chugging along. It will happen.

 4. Schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself. Self discipline does not mean your new regimen needs to be entirely cold turkey, hard core, or drill sergeant-like in execution. In fact, giving yourself zero wiggle room often results in failures, disappointments, and giving into your old ways. While practicing self control, schedule specific breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself. Dieting? Designate Saturday as ice cream sundae day. Trying to lose weight? Treat yourself with a fancy massage after a month of gym trips. Working on controlling your spending? Allow yourself a $25 splurge at the mall on Sunday. (Leave the credit cards at home, and bring cash only). Self discipline can be hard. Reward your effort.

5. Forgive yourself and move forward. Instituting a new way of thinking won’t always go according to plan. You will have ups and downs, fabulous successes, and flat out failures. The key is to keep moving forward. When you have a setback, acknowledge what caused it and move on. It is easy to get wrapped up in guilt, anger, or frustration, but these emotions will not help build improve self discipline. Instead, use the hiccups in your plan as learning experiences for the future. Forgive yourself, and get back in the saddle ASAP. The longer you’re off your game, the harder it is to keep going in a positive direction.

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How to create a Habit

How to create a habit

Adopting new habits is only ever difficult for one of two reasons:

  1. You don’t understand how habits are structured and how to leverage that structure to your advantage.
  2. You are attempting to do too much too soon and setting yourself up for failure.

Let’s break both of these points down in greater detail.

1. The Structure of Habits

All habits can be broken down into three basic components:

  1. The Cue or Trigger: This is the part of the habit loop where you are triggered to take some sort of action through a cue in your internal or external environment.
  2. The Action: Good or bad, this is the part of the habit loop where you actually take action on the habit you want to adopt or drop.
  3. The Reward: This is the part of the habit loop where your brain receives a reward for taking the desired activity (or not as you will see in just a second).

Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, and an expert on behavioral psychology suggests that most people fail to adopt new habits because they do not understand the structure of habits.

More specifically, most people fail to adequately reward themselves for taking action on a beneficial habit.

Think about it this way…

Most addictive and destructive habits have a built in reward system that requires little or no input from you.

Smoking a cigarette, snorting cocaine, or drinking yourself into oblivion are all easy habits to adopt because they light up your brain with the neurotransmitter dopamine (and a slew of other pleasure chemicals).

These substances naturally reward your brain and encourage continued usage even though they are detrimental to your overall health and well being.

On the other hand, many positive habits such as exercise, meditation, focused work, and healthy eating don’t have immediately obvious rewards.

Yes, after extended practice, exercise, meditation, and focused work will all become activities that naturally stimulate your brain in positive ways and reward you for taking action.

But they need a little bit of help to get started.

For example, studies have shown that consuming a small amount of chocolate post-workout releases similar chemicals and neurotransmitters to those that will eventually be released by the workout itself.

Finding a motivating reward can be applied to any habit if you are creative enough:

  • Eat dark chocolate after your workout.
  • Buy a time based coffee maker that has a fresh cup brewed when you wake up.
  • Reward yourself with 15 minutes of gaming after an intense 90 minute work session.

If you are struggling to make a new habit stick, then you probably are’t aware or consciouly applying the habit loop.

Before moving on to the next point, ask yourself three simple questions.

  1. What are some cues that I can setup in my environment to remind me to take action?
  2. What are some ways I can limit the barrier to action for my desired habit? (E.g. working out from home so you don’t have to commute to the gym.)
  3. How can I reward myself in a positive way that will encourage me to continue pursuing these habits?

If you have seriously contemplated and applied all of these questions and you still can’t make your habit stick… Then you are probably making this mistake:

Setting Unrealistic Goals and Expectations

What would you say if one of your friends came to you and shared the following goals:

  • “I’m going to build a $1 Billion business in 12 months even though I’ve never even launched a profitable company!”
  • “I’m going to run a marathon in 3 months even though I need to lose 50 lbs. and haven’t gone running since high school.”
  • “I’m going to go out and successfully date a Victoria’s Secret Model even though I’m terrified of women and haven’t gone on a date in 2 years”

I don’t know about you, but I would probably laugh them out of the room (lovingly of course).

These goals seem absurd and completely unachievable to the outside viewer, however, these goals are very similar to the habits that most people set.

Think about it.

Habits are effectively just daily goals and most people’s “goals” sound something like this:

  • “Even though I haven’t worked out in years, I’m going to train 6 days a week for 90 minutes and become a bodybuilder.”
  • “Even though I eat fast food 4 times a day right now, I’m going to eliminate all processed foods and eat salad 5 times a day.”
  • “Even though my body is used to waking up at 9 a.m., I’m going to start waking up at 5 a.m. every single day starting tomorrow.”

When you think about them in this way, most people’s approach to forming new habits is so blatantly absurd it’s not even funny.

So what are you supposed to do?

Well, if you really want to make your new habits stick, then you need to be honest with yourself and approach your new habits in a realistic and progressive way (after all life is a marathon, not a sprint).

Here’s a simple 5-step process for creating any habit (courtesy of Mr. James Clear).

1) Make it So Small You Can’t Fail

Most people try to change too much too quickly.

The real key to making a habit stick is to make it so small that you can’t say no.

If you want to get in shape, start by doing one push up.

If you want to become smarter, start by reading one page.

If you want to build a business, start by prospecting for one minute a day.

Set yourself up for success and make your new habits so easy to achieve that they are impossible to fail.

2) Apply the Compound Effect to Your Habits

If you were to take the habits listed above and compound them by only 1% each day, in one year you would have improved each habit roughly 37%.

While that might not seem like a lot, if you compare this progress using something easy to understand - say finances - that’s the difference between making $100,000 a year and $137,000 a year!

If you were to extend the compounding effect to 10 years, you would start off earning $100,000 a year and $1,370,000 a year!

3) Break Big Habits Down

If you continue compounding habits, you will make dramatic improvements in the first 2–3 months.

But it’s important that you keep your habits easy and reasonable.

For example, if your goal is to write your new book for 60 minutes a day, break the 60 minutes in four 15 minute chunks that you complete throughout the day.

If you want to do 100 pull-ups a day, do 10 sets of 10 to make the habit easier to complete.

4) Never Miss Twice

Look, you WILL mess up and slip on your habits.

And it’s OK.

The rule of thumb is that when you fail, you get back on the horse immediately so that you never miss twice.

It’s ok to miss one workout this week, but don’t you dare let it extend to 2 or 3.

It’s fine to miss one day of meditation practice, but you had better plant your butt on a yoga mat tomorrow.

If you follow the rule of “Never Miss Twice” you can fail your way to any goal you desire.

5) Be Patient and Find a Sustainable Pace

If you are reading this and you are under the age of 40, then chances are very high that you will live past 100 years old.

So why in the world do you feel the need to rush everything in your life?

Greatness takes time, building an exceptional life takes time, and building exceptional habits that make you an exceptional human being take time.

Instead of fighting this law, work with it.

Play the long game, be patient, and go at a sustainable pace.

As you’ve already seen, even a 1% daily improvement will have a huge payout if you stick with it for long enough.

So be patient and remember that slow and steady wins the race.

18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick

Wouldn’t it be nice to have everything run on autopilot? Chores, exercise, eating healthy and getting your work done just happening automatically. Unless they manage to invent robot servants, all your work isn’t going to disappear overnight. But if you program behaviors as new habits you can take out the struggle.

With a small amount of initial discipline, you can create a new habit that requires little effort to maintain. Here are some tips for creating new habits and making them stick:

1. Commit to Thirty Days

Three to four weeks is all the time you need to make a habit automatic. If you can make it through the initial conditioning phase, it becomes much easier to sustain. A month is a good block of time to commit to a change since it easily fits in your calendar.

2. Make it Daily

Consistency is critical if you want to make a habit stick. If you want to start exercising, go to the gym every day for your first thirty days. Going a couple times a week will make it harder to form the habit. Activities you do once every few days are trickier to lock in as habits.


3. Start Simple

Don’t try to completely change your life in one day. It is easy to get over-motivated and take on too much. If you wanted to study two hours a day, first make the habit to go for thirty minutes and build on that.

4. Remind Yourself

Around two weeks into your commitment it can be easy to forget. Place reminders to execute your habit each day or you might miss a few days. If you miss time it defeats the purpose of setting a habit to begin with.

5. Stay Consistent

The more consistent your habit the easier it will be to stick. If you want to start exercising, try going at the same time, to the same place for your thirty days. When cues like time of day, place and circumstances are the same in each case it is easier to stick.

6. Get a Buddy

Find someone who will go along with you and keep you motivated if you feel like quitting.

7. Form a Trigger

A trigger is a ritual you use right before executing your habit. If you wanted to wake up earlier, this could mean waking up in exactly the same way each morning. If you wanted to quit smoking you could practice snapping your fingers each time you felt the urge to pick up a cigarette.

8. Replace Lost Needs

If you are giving up something in your habit, make sure you are adequately replacing any needs you’ve lost. If watching television gave you a way to relax, you could take up meditation or reading as a way to replace that same need.

9. Be Imperfect

Don’t expect all your attempts to change habits to be successful immediately. It took me four independent tries before I started exercising regularly. Now I love it. Try your best, but expect a few bumps along the way.

10. Use “But”

A prominent habit changing therapist once told me this great technique for changing bad thought patterns. When you start to think negative thoughts, use the word “but” to interrupt it. “I’m no good at this, but, if I work at it I might get better later.”


11. Remove Temptation

Restructure your environment so it won’t tempt you in the first thirty days. Remove junk food from your house, cancel your cable subscription, throw out the cigarettes so you won’t need to struggle with willpower later.

12. Associate With Role Models

Spend more time with people who model the habits you want to mirror. A recent study found that having an obese friend indicated you were more likely to become fat. You become what you spend time around.

13. Run it as an Experiment

Withhold judgment until after a month has past and use it as an experiment in behavior. Experiments can’t fail, they just have different results so it will give you a different perspective on changing your habit.

14. Swish – A technique from NLP

Visualize yourself performing the bad habit. Next visualize yourself pushing aside the bad habit and performing an alternative. Finally, end that sequence with an image of yourself in a highly positive state. See yourself picking up the cigarette, see yourself putting it down and snapping your fingers, finally visualize yourself running and breathing free. Do it a few times until you automatically go through the pattern before executing the old habit.


15. Write it Down

A piece of paper with a resolution on it isn’t that important. Writing that resolution is. Writing makes your ideas more clear and focuses you on your end result.

16. Know the Benefits

Familiarize yourself with the benefits of making a change. Get books that show the benefits of regular exercise. Notice any changes in energy levels after you take on a new diet. Imagine getting better grades after improving your study habits.

17. Know the Pain

You should also be aware of the consequences. Exposing yourself to realistic information about the downsides of not making a change will give you added motivation.

18. Do it For Yourself

Don’t worry about all the things you “should” have as habits. Instead tool your habits towards your goals and the things that motivate you. Weak guilt and empty resolutions aren’t enough.


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Unemployed? 5 Things You Should be Doing with Your Downtime

Unemployed? 5 Things You Should be Doing with Your Downtime

When you’re unemployed, it’s tempting to spend a few hours a day looking for work and then use the rest of your time enjoying the reprieve from a job. And while this is a rare and worthwhile opportunity to decompress from the stress of a steady 40-hour work week, you need to spend your downtime doing more productive activities if you want to find a quality new job faster. Here are five ways to make better use of that time.

Volunteer Your Time

Volunteering your time at a not-for-profit organization is a great way to stay active and keep your skills current. For example, if you have web development skills, offer to update the website of a local charity.  This helps get you out of the house, keeps you engaged with professional communities, and gives you something to add to your resume.

Update Your Skills

Picking up new skills can be difficult when you’re working a full-time job. Now that you’re not, use the surplus time to learn a new coding language or software package. There are a number of free or low-cost resources available to you. Try to pick skills that are in demand and that will make you more appealing to hiring managers. And be sure to mention your professional development initiative on your resume or in your cover letter.

Grow Your Network

Networking is one of the best ways to find a job. Use your downtime to connect with similar professionals, especially if they work at companies that are attractive to you. Be proactive about making these connections, and don’t start off by asking for a job. Effective networking is all about reciprocity, so be sure you have something to offer in return.

Pick Up Freelance Work

Freelancing is a great way to make some extra money while you are out of work and still have plenty of time to conduct your job search. Plus, it helps you refine your skills, shows that you are committed to staying busy, and potentially connects you with people who have a job to offer. You might even find that you prefer the flexibility of freelancing, and decide to do it permanently.

Build Your Online Presence

Making yourself visible online helps potential employers find you. Start a blog, stay active on LinkedIn, participate in message boards, and connect with decision makers at top companies. Online searches are part of any recruitment effort, so the larger your presence is, the larger the impression you’ll make.

Stay active and you can turn your unemployment into an asset that ultimately benefits your career over the long term. Learn about other ways to enhance your job search by working with The Squires Group.

Get busy during your unemployment

If you can’t think of a single resume-worthy activity or pursuit to show how you’ve used your time off, then you need to get busy. “I coach my clients that unemployment is not vacation time,” says Kathy Sweeney, president of resume-writing firm The Write Resume. “If they haven’t been involved in some sort of activity, I implore them to investigate options to gain further experience.”

Many activities can provide compelling resume content. For example, volunteering; tutoring; coaching sports; learning a new computer program; studying a foreign language; or pursuing temporary, freelance or contract work can show current experience on the resume.

For example, a stay-at-home parent can highlight her accomplishments as a volunteer like this: “Won board approval to establish a community parent/child playgroup at the town hall. Led grassroots group to raise $47,500 annually and opened new revenue stream for county.”

Sweeney tells her clients “that experience is experience, regardless of whether it is paid or volunteer. If a client is enrolled in school, for example, I will make that a full-time job on the resume. I’ll include information on the certificate or degree program as well as any quantifiable results, such as grades or instructor praise.”

Ditta emphasizes the importance of showcasing what you accomplished during your unemployment, just as you would for paid employment. “‘Devoted four years to managing a large estate and complex/difficult medical decisions while caring for terminally ill parent’ will be better-received by an employer than ‘took time off to care for a sick relative,’” she says.

Remain proactive—with a little assistance

“When it comes to covering resume gaps created by unemployment, it’s best to be proactive rather than reactive,” Rose says. By focusing on what you’ve achieved during this challenging period, you will demonstrate to employers your can-do attitude, resourcefulness and ability to drive successful results. Could you use some additional help? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way Monster's experts can lend you a hand as you make your way through the job search process.

Take Advantage of Downtime at Work

We often dream of having downtime at work. But when we actually get it, we don't know what to do. You should realize this is the perfect time to complete the tasks you've put off or to pick up some new skills.

Stretch Yourself

You may have passed on projects you did not feel you had the skills necessary to complete. Those projects may still be sitting on your boss's desk.

Tell your boss you would like to take a stab at one of them. With the slowdown in your workload, you will be able to take the time to research the best way to complete the project.

If you need help getting started, don't hesitate to ask your boss for suggestions. Just because you have more time on your hands doesn't mean you should waste it.

Explore Self-Development

Now's the time to pull out your file of seminars and workshops and start selecting courses that will help move your career forward.

If your boss gives you a hard time about the cost, simply remind him of how your attendance at the program will benefit both your boss and the department. If your boss still is not willing to spend the dollars and you are in a position to invest in yourself, say so. Your offer to pay for the course will show how committed you are to taking it and may prompt your boss to cough up some bucks.

Go Back to School

You've been thinking about pursuing an advanced degree but have hesitated because your job has required you to work a lot of nights and weekends.

There is no time like the present. Even if you have not taken any necessary admissions tests to officially get started, see if you can take some courses that might be transferable to a degree program.

Be sure to let your boss know of your intentions so you're not overloaded when things do pick up again.

Update Your Resume

Use this time to refresh your resume. If the downtime appears to be never-ending, you will be one step closer to finding other employment.


Perhaps you swore you would get involved in a local professional organization, but you've never made it to any meetings. Your excuse of not having time is now gone. Attend some of those dinner meetings to which you've been invited.

Relax and Enjoy Yourself

Leave work at 5 p.m. to attend a Little League game. Take that knitting class you've been talking about for months. Do something for yourself or your family.

Consider joining a gym and getting back into shape. You'll need to be fit when things start moving again at warp speed.

Remember, downtime can be a good thing. Before too long, your job will be super busy, and you'll wish you had more free time to do all those things that are once again on the back burner.

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Managing Downtime: Discipline is the Focus vs Urgency

Managing Downtime: Discipline is the Focus vs Urgency

The Effects of Poor Time Management Skills

Whether at school or in the workplace, effective time management skills are an important part of achieving success. People who manage their time effectively are more productive, less stressed, more positive and more in control than those who do not. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to identify the effects of poor time management skills whether in yourself or in others.


Poor time management skills inevitably lead to procrastination. Procrastination is putting off important or necessary work until the very last minute. Usually, when work is put off until the last minute, it is not as well done as it would have been if you devoted more time to it. Procrastination usually leads to poor productivity when you do not complete tasks in a satisfactory manner.

Habitual Lateness

Another effect of poor time management skills is habitual lateness. People who do not plan their use of time properly usually have a difficult time being on time to appointments or turning in work at the scheduled due date. This habitual lateness can also negatively affect their productivity and give them a reputation of being less serious or lazy even when that is not the case.


Poor time management also leads to people overextending themselves, which is a problem that occurs when they take on too much work and do not allocate enough time in which to complete it. People who overextend themselves have a difficult time delegating tasks and figuring out what is a good use of their time. Since they are not aware of how much time they need to complete a task, they also tend not to know when they are taking on too much work and setting themselves up for failure or frustration.

8 Powerful Ways To Cultivate Extreme Self-Discipline

Learning to effectively lead yourself and others all comes down to discipline. Happiness, success, and fulfillment stem from focus and self-control. It may be hard to believe when you’re facing an all-you-can-eat buffet, the prospect of making a quick buck, or the lazy lure of sleeping in versus getting on the Peloton, but studies show that people with self-discipline are happier. Why? Because with discipline and self-control we actually accomplish more of the goals we truly care about. Self-discipline is the bridge between goals defined and goals accomplished.

Chapter Eight of my new book - Embrace the Suck: The Navy SEAL Way To An Extraordinary Life - is titled ‘Win More Through Discipline And Accountability.’ People with a higher degree of self-control spend less time debating whether to indulge in behaviors and activities that don’t align with their values or goals. They are more decisive. They don’t let impulses or feelings dictate their choices. They are the architects of their own beliefs and the actions they take to achieve a desired outcome. As a result, they aren’t as easily distracted by temptation and tend to feel more satisfied with their lives.

“You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ~ MARCUS AURELIUS

There are specific strategies you can execute to learn self-discipline and gain the willpower to live a happier, more fulfilling life. If you are looking to take control of your habits and choices, here are the eight most powerful things you can do to master self-discipline—which is imperative for life beyond your comfort zone—and maybe even redefining “extraordinary.”

6 Ways To Develop The Self-Discipline Necessary To Reach Your Goals

You hear people say things like, “I don’t have the willpower to do that,” as they watch their friend order the salad instead of the fried chicken. It’s as if they believe that some people were simply born with divine willpower while others were overlooked as self-discipline superpowers were being handed out. The truth is, self-discipline is a learned skill, not an innate characteristic .

It's clear that many people don't know how to increase their self-discipline, however. In the 2011 Stress in America Survey, 27% of respondents said the lack of willpower was the biggest barrier to making healthy lifestyle changes. Many of the respondents agreed that they could likely increase their willpower, but the vast majority felt like the key to improved willpower was having more time to themselves. What many of the respondents may not have recognized is that increased leisure time doesn’t automatically equate to increased self-discipline.

Instead, the only way to improve your self-discipline is through intentional and dedicated practice. As with all types of self-improvement, change is difficult and it takes time. Here are six strategies to increase your self-discipline:


1. Acknowledge Your Weaknesses – Whether cookies are the downfall to your diet, or you can’t resist checking your social media accounts every two minutes, acknowledge your pitfalls. Too often people either try to pretend their weaknesses don’t exist or they try to minimize the negative impact their bad habits have on their lives. For example, many smokers think, “I could quit if I wanted to,” because they don’t want to admit they’re hooked.

2. Establish a Clear Plan – No one wakes up one day suddenly blessed with self-discipline. Instead, you need a strategy. Whether you want to increase good habits – like exercising more often, or you want to eliminate bad habits – like watching too much TV, you’ll need to develop a plan to outline the action steps that will help you reach your goals.

3. Remove the Temptations When Necessary – Although we’d all like to believe we have enough willpower to resist even the most alluring enticement, it only takes one moment of weakness to convince ourselves to cave to temptation. Making it difficult to access those temptations can be pivotal to increasing self-discipline. If your weakness is Facebook, turn off the internet while you’re working. If you can’t resist overspending when you go to the mall, leave the credit card at home and only take a small amount of cash.

4. Practice Tolerating Emotional Discomfort – It’s normal to want to avoid pain and discomfort, but trying to eliminate all discomfort will only reinforce to yourself that you can't handle distress. We can usually stand a lot more discomfort than we think we can. (See my previous article Think You Can't Stand To Do Something? Prove Yourself Wrong). Practice allowing yourself to experience uncomfortable emotions like boredom, frustration, sadness, or loneliness and increase your tolerance to the negative emotions that you may experience as you increase your self-discipline.

5. Visualize the Long-Term Rewards – You’ll be less likely to cave to temptation when you focus on the long-term gain. Giving in to today’s temptations may make you feel happy now, but long-term happiness and contentment requires you to forgo immediate gratification. Visualize yourself meeting your goals and reaping the rewards that you’ll gain by practicing self-discipline on a daily basis.

6. Recover From Mistakes Effectively – Self-discipline comes easier on some days than others. If you’re feeling stressed about an upcoming presentation, you may convince yourself to skip your workout. Or if you’re ecstatic about your most recent business deal, you may let your good habits slide for a bit. Making mistakes is part of the process to becoming better. The way you recover from those mistakes is what’s most important. The key is to acknowledge your mistakes and move on from them with even more resolve to do better next time.

It’s not surprising that those who lack self-discipline are somewhat envious of those who seem to be able to exert impressive self-control. After all, self-discipline is the key to reaching your goals and creating a better life.  The good news is we all have the ability to be self-disciplined - we just have to practice.