11 Secrets to Staying Productive and in Control

TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that the upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence (90% of top performers, to be exact). The hallmark of emotional intelligence is self-control — a skill that unleashes massive productivity by keeping you focused and on track.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Image credit: Shutterstock

Unfortunately, self-control is a difficult skill to rely on. Self-control is so fleeting for most people that when Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed two million people and asked them to rank order their strengths in 24 different skills, self-control ended up in the very bottom slot.

And when your self-control leaves something to be desired, so does your productivity.

When it comes to self-control, it is so easy to focus on your failures that your successes tend to pale in comparison. And why shouldn’t they? Self-control is an effort that’s intended to help achieve a goal. Failing to control yourself is just that — a failure. If you’re trying to avoid digging into that bag of chips after dinner because you want to lose a few pounds and you succeed Monday and Tuesday nights only to succumb to temptation on Wednesday by eating four servings’ worth of the empty calories, your failure outweighs your success. You’ve taken two steps forward and four steps back.

Since self-control is something we could all use a little help with, I went back to the data to uncover the kinds of things that emotionally intelligent people do to keep themselves productive and in control. They consciously apply these behaviors because they know they work. Some are obvious, others counter-intuitive, but all will help you minimize those pesky failures to boost your productivity.

1. They focus on solutions. Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions which hinder self-control. When you focus on the actions you’ll take to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.

2. They eat. File this one in the counter-intuitive category, especially if you’re having trouble controlling your eating. Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable to impulsive behavior shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble keeping yourself out of the company candy bin when you’re hungry, make sure you eat something else if you want to have a fighting chance.

3. They forgive themselves. A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behavior. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.

Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.

4. They don’t say yes unless they really want to. Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout and even depression, all of which erode self-control. Saying no is indeed a major self-control challenge for many people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them. Just remind yourself that saying no is an act of self-control now that will increase your future self-control by preventing the negative effects of over commitment.

5. They don’t seek perfection. Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of moving forward excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.

6. They stay positive. Positive thoughts help you exercise self-control by focusing your brain’s attention onto the rewards you will receive for your effort. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well and your mood is good, self-control is relatively easy. When things are going poorly and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, self-control is a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, or will happen, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the past and look to the future. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative, so that you don’t lose focus.

7. They avoid asking “What if?” “What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to self-control. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend taking action and staying productive (staying productive also happens to calm you down and keep you focused). Productive people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want — or need — to go. Of course, scenario planning is a necessary and effective strategic planning technique. The key distinction here is to recognize the difference between worry and strategic thinking.

8. They sleep. I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and maintaining your focus and self-control. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough — or the right kind — of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present, which are a major productivity killer. Being busy often makes you feel as if you must sacrifice sleep to stay productive, but sleep deprivation diminishes your productivity so much throughout the day that you’re better off sleeping.

When you’re tired, your brain’s ability to absorb glucose is greatly diminished. This makes it difficult to control the impulses that derail your focus. What’s more, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep — every night — is one of the best moves you can make.

9. They exercise. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to let somebody have it, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.

10. They meditate. Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine. Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involves taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason. Give it a try.

11. They ride the wave. Desire and distraction have the tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. When you feel as if you must give in, the rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.
Bringing It All Together

The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at these strategies and giving them a go before you give in.

Source : 11 Secrets to Staying Productive and in Control

Things unsuccessful people do over the weekend

Have a mindful weekend.National Library of Australia/Flickr

Have a mindful weekend.National Library of Australia/Flickr

Everybody’s working for the weekend, but how you spend your two days off may say something about how successful you are.

What you get up to doesn’t really matter, per se. If you prefer lounging around the house to spontaneous adventures, that’s great! You probably need that time to wind down.

When it comes to weekends, the main thing that separates successful people from unsuccessful people is mindfulness.

Are you planning ahead and truly thinking about how to spend your free time?

Here are 11 things that unsuccessful people tend to do over the weekend — and why to avoid them.

they-dont-have-a-plan
They don’t have a plan
Not every minute of every hour of your weekend needs to be planned out — but it’s good to have a general idea of what you’d like to do or get done … even if you’re just scheduling downtime.

That’ll allow you protect your time (and maybe even schedule in some fun events).

they-dont-make-time-for-loved-ones
They don’t make time for loved ones
It can be hard to make time for the ones you care about during the hectic week. Make up for that over the weekend.

they-let-technology-take-over
They let technology take over
Put away your phone. Shut off your work email (and make it clear to your coworkers that you won’t be responding). Don’t get addicted to technology.

they-dont-enjoy-themselves
They don’t enjoy themselves
Whether you’re unwinding alone or going out with friends, make sure to do something that makes you happy during your time off.

they-sleep-the-entire-time
Maybe you drank too much on Friday and are recovering. Maybe you’re just super tired. Either way, this could really mess up your sleep cycle and you probably need ot fix that.

they-rack-up-expenses
You pinch pennies all week, and then blow it all over the weekend.

Heck, you should treat yourself every once in a while. That being said, if you’re overspending on the weekends, on frivolities that you don’t need, it’s time to consider some cheap but fun options, like staycations or free local events.

they-dont-reflect
They don’t reflect

During your busy week, it can be difficult to snag some time to just think about your life and goals. It’s important to check in with yourself every once in a while.

they-cant-stop-thinking-about-work
On Fridays, it’s a great idea to set out an agenda for the next Monday. Being prepared is great. Being a workaholic is not. Kick back and relax a bit on Saturday and Sunday!

they-laze-around--and-regret-it
They laze around — and regret it
I’m a big proponent of just chilling out over the weekend. It’s definitely a great way to unwind. But if your slothfulness is making you bored or bummed out — or causing you to neglect important errands and chores — you may want to re-think how you spend your Saturdays and Sundays.

they-dont-relax
They don’t relax

At the other end of the spectrum are people who pack too much into their weekend schedule.

In order to be productive, and therefore successful, at work, it’s important to use the weekend to recharge your batteries. If your weekends include zero downtime, you’ll never feel rested or refreshed, which can be detrimental to your success.

they-dont-prepare-for-the-week-ahead
They don’t prepare for the week ahead
Sunday nights are the perfect time to plan for the week ahead. You can make a to-do list; update or review your calendar; or just think about what it is you’d like to accomplish in the coming days. Unsuccessful people fail to do any of the above.

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11 things unsuccessful people do over the weekend

25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships

You can quickly ruin your workplace relationships by saying any of these things.

CREDIT: Getty Images

CREDIT: Getty Images

Over the years I’ve destroyed a few workplace relationships without even realizing it. There are a few words and phrases that we’re programmed to say on a day to day basis that prevent us from having strong relationships with our coworkers.

The average American spends 8.9 hours working per workday. Some of us entrepreneurs spend upwards of 12 hours. Because of that, it’s only natural that you would want to be as comfortable as possible at your workplace. And the best way to be comfortable at work is by building strong and healthy relationships with your colleagues.

Unfortunately, you can quickly ruin those workplace relationships by saying any the following 25 phrases.

1. “I know, right?”

First off, do you really know what you’re coworker is going through? There may be some circumstances that you can relate to them, but if you don’t, you’re coming off just a bit insincere. Obviously, if it’s a scratch on a monitor that everyone gets, this phrase would not be offensive nor insincere. However, if it is an experience of feeling your coworker is having, that is another issue. The other problem with this phrase is that you’re feeding into their complaints and not helping them resolve the problem at hand.

2. “Why?”

As Kira Asatryan says in Psychology Today, “‘Why’ is the language of accusation (“Why did you do that?”; “Why do you feel that way?”).” Instead use “why” or “what” to help them understand the root of the problem. Kira suggests that you try “why” out on yourself. Like, “why did I just sit down? Why am I eating this?” A person will immediately notice themselves feeling defensive. Try other words that indicate that you are willing to listen or that you want to understand what someone is thinking or feeling, such as, “What did I learn from this?” or “How would you do this project differently if given the chance?”

3. “In my experience…”

This phrase is basically letting your coworker that you know more than they do. A better approach may be to ask them a question like “Have you thought about…?” Or, “Could I help you with…?” If you are older in the workforce, it just makes you look — well, older.

4. “That’s a stupid idea.”

This phrase might fly with your friends, but not in the workplace – and actually not with your friends. No one should be told their idea is stupid — even if it is. And, if it is a stupid idea, there are better ways to indicate that you don’t see the value of this particular idea, however, someone else might. The use of the words, “stupid idea,” undermines the coworker or friends’ capabilities and can prevent them from assisting you in future projects since they’ll believe that you’ll immediately write their ideas off.

5. “It’s not fair.”

Dr. Travis Bradberry, the cofounder of TalentSmart, says; “Everyone knows that life isn’t fair. Saying that it’s not fair suggests that you think life is supposed to be fair, which makes you look immature and nave. If you don’t want to make yourself look bad, you need to stick to the facts, stay constructive, and leave your interpretation out of it.” This statement belongs on the “why” shelf. It also feels accusatorial.

6. “No.”

While learning to say “no” is important if you want to prevent getting stressed out, immediately telling a coworker “no” is a turnoff. Give them a chance to explain either their request or opinion first. Especially don’t break in and interrupt your coworker mid-sentence with “no” as they are explaining their idea or concern to you.

7. “Who are you voting for?”

Politics never belong in the workplace. It can divide people, paint you as a bully, make you sound opinionated or foolish, or even get you fired. Save the political talk for outside of the office. And, it may be advisable to have a non-committal answer to give when you are the one being asked.

8. “That’s not my problem.”

How gut wrenching does it feel when you come to someone with a problem and they respond with “It’s not my problem?” It’s a lousy feeling that leaves you also feeling unsupported and lonely. The person using this phrase is also saying, “Get lost!” That’s not saying that you have to get too involved with whatever’s going on with this coworker — most people just want to get something off their chest — they don’t need you to fix the problem. You may want to at least attempt to listen and if they ask for it, offer the best advice possible. If it’s truly a serious issue and you really don’t want to get involved, or can’t get involved, you can still be more empathetic and transparent and say that you’d rather not get involved.

9. “Don’t tell anyone…”

No one likes the office gossip. If it’s that big of a secret then keep it to yourself or if the information is eating a hole in you, go ahead and confide the “big secret” to someone outside of the workplace.

10. “Does that make sense?”

This may not be intentional, after all you want to make sure that your colleague understands, but this statement it really implies that you believe your coworker is not capable of understanding a concept. “Does that make sense” is also admitting that you may be incoherent in your ramblings.

11. “Just trust me.”

Don’t force your colleagues to trust you just because you said so. Let your actions prove they can trust you. Better not to try this phrase on your friends, either. I’ve even gotten the blank stare from my spouse for using this one.

12. “You need to…”

Asatryan says that phrases like this can “hinder closeness because they imply that your partner should change in some specific way, based on your opinions.” It also “creates a mandate that will drive a wedge between people.” Again, this is a phrase that puts a person on the defense.

13. “But…”

We often use “but” to offer a balanced point of view, as we may suppose. However, it really implies that you’re colleague isn’t right. Be aware most people only give their true opinion after the word, “but.” I really like her, but…

14. “Check your emails.”

Instead of demanding that your colleague read your email, which may be important to you but isn’t their top priority, send them a follow-up email, quick call, or visit and ask if they had the chance to read the email that you sent. If they ask for information from you, that was in your previous email — don’t merely refer them back to that email. Just answer the question anew.

15. “This is the way that it’s always been done.”

The perfect phrase that illustrates how much you’re reluctant to change. As opposed to resisting change, be receptive and embrace differences. It may actually make you more productive and efficient. Often, the way its always been done is out of date, and there’s a better way.

16. “Just calm down.”

Dianna Booher, author of ‘Communicate With Confidence: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time,” says “This statement sounds parental. Worse, it implies that the person has lost control and has no right to be upset and that you’re judge and jury.”

17. “I’m so tired.”

Well, we’re all tired. What makes your exhaustion worse than your coworkers?

18. “I’ll try.”

Whenever you tell someone that you’ll “try” you’re implying that there’s is a possibility that you won’t come through. This forces them to handle the situation themselves – even if they could really have used your help. Consider that if someone is saying, “I’ll try,” to you personally — you are probably putting too much pressure on them, or asking something unreasonable, or giving them an unreasonable time frame.

19. “Yeah, no problem.”

A simple enough phrase that is often a brush-off, proving you are unreliable. Better to be clear with, “I’m happy to do that for you, or, if you can’t help them out, politely inform your colleague. But, don’t commit to something that you aren’t able to do. It could seriously impact their career.

20. “This will only take a minute.”

We’re all busy. If you know this is only going to take a minute, then do it yourself. And, if this is going to take up more time than literally ‘just a minute,’ then give your coworker a heads-up so that they can plan accordingly. “This will only take a minute” is usually code for, “this will take hours so I’m putting you down and shaming you into doing this task.” Really, don’t say this. How about, “I know this will take some work and time, but can I impose upon you to help me?”

21. “Now what?”

We all have those days when we’re overwhelmed. Guess what? Your colleagues are in the same boat. Don’t take your stress out them when they just asking you a quick question, or asking for your assistance. It’s even more imperative not to ask this question if you are in a management position.

22. “Let’s just get this over with.”

This is a dismissive phrase that gives the impression that whatever you’re coworker is coming to you with isn’t worth your time. More than dismissive, it’s berating.

23. “He/she is so lazy/incompetent/rude.”

Darlene Price, author of ‘Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results’ tells Forbes, “Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it’s language that is liable and fire-able.” Speak well about everyone to everyone, and watch the measurable results.

24. “I wish I could go home, but I’m swamped.”

There’s plenty of times when we get bogged down with work. But, that isn’t always your coworkers problem that you either can’t manage your time more effectively, you do have too much work – or you just need to complain. If you get overwhelmed, you could always ask them for a lending hand instead of whining. If you hear this from a coworker, try asking if you can help.

25. Anything sexual

I once had colleague who frequently made inappropriate sexual remarks about a female team member. While this is obviously a fire-able offense, it was infuriating and disrespectful to me as well as my colleague – who was excellent at her job and awesome to work with. After hearing those remarks from this person, it was hard to work with him. What negative remark did he have about me? Needless to say, I wasn’t all that disappointed when I no longer had to work with this person.

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25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships

11 Body Positions and Gestures That Can Improve Your Performance

Sure, you control your body. But your body can also control you. Simple gestures, simple postures — each can make a dramatic impact on how you think, feel, and act. Best of all you don’t have to be a yogi or athlete — you can just be you. Only now you will be a better you. — Jeff Haden

Be More Determined by Crossing Your Arms

Oddly enough, crossing your arms will make you stick with an “unsolvable” problem a lot longer — and will make you perform better on solvable problems. Which is definitely cool, because persistence is a trait most successful entrepreneurs possess in abundance. Whenever you feel stuck, try folding your arms against your torso. Who knows what solutions might result?


Gain Willpower by Tensing Your Muscles

You know how you instinctively stiffen before you get a shot? That’s your body’s way of trying to minimize pain. Flexing your muscles also helps you stay more focused when you hear negative information. Flexing can even increase your ability to resist eating tempting food. Sounds like I should spend my entire day flexing.


Be More Creative by Lying Down

According Australia National University professor Dr. Darren Lipnicki, lying down can lead to creative breakthroughs. “It might be that we have our most creative thoughts while flat on our back,” he says. One reason might be that more of the chemical noradrenaline is released while we’re standing, and noradrenaline could inhibit our ability to think creatively. Now you have a great excuse to lay back and think.

Gain Confidence by Standing Like Superman

According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing — standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on your hips — will dramatically increase your level of confidence. Try this one before you step into a situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.) I do it for a few minutes before every speaking gig. Trust me: it definitely works.

Smile to Reduce Stress

Frowning, grimacing, and other negative facial expressions signal your brain that whatever you are doing is difficult. Your body responds by releasing cortisol, which raises your stress levels. Stress begets more stress begets and in no time you’re a hot mess. Here’s the cure: make yourself smile. You’ll feel less stress even if nothing else about the situation changes. And there’s a bonus: when you smile other people feel less stress, too. Which, of course, will reduce your stress levels. Go ahead: kill two stresses with one smile.

Bow Slightly to Put Yourself at Ease

Inclining your head forward slightly when you meet someone shows deference and humility and helps remove any perceived differences in status. The next time you meet someone, tilt your head forward slightly, smile, make eye contact, and show you are honored by the introduction. We all like people who like us. If I show you I’m genuinely happy to meet you, you’ll instantly start to like me. And you’ll show that you like me, which will help calm my nerves and help me be myself.


Mimic Others to Understand Their Emotions

Sounds strange, but research shows that imitating other people’s nonverbal expressions can help you understand they emotions they are experiencing. Since we all express our emotions nonverbally, copying those expressions affects our own emotions due to an “afferent feedback mechanism.” In short: mimic my expressions and you’ll better understand how I feel – which means you can better help me work through those feelings. Plus mimicking facial expressions (something we often do without thinking) makes the other person feel the interaction was more positive.


Take an Angle to Reduce Conflict

When tensions are high standing face to face can feel confrontational. When what you have to say may make another person feel challenged, shift your feet slightly to stand or sit at an angle. And if you’re confronted don’t back away. Just shift to that slight angle. You’ll implicitly reduce any perceived confrontation and may make an uncomfortable conversation feel less adversarial.


Take an Angle to Reduce Conflict

When tensions are high standing face to face can feel confrontational. When what you have to say may make another person feel challenged, shift your feet slightly to stand or sit at an angle. And if you’re confronted don’t back away. Just shift to that slight angle. You’ll implicitly reduce any perceived confrontation and may make an uncomfortable conversation feel less adversarial.


Use Your Hands to Improve Retention

Research shows requiring children to speak while they learned had no effect on solidifying learning — but requiring them to gesture while learning helped them retain the knowledge they had gained. If it works for kids”¦ it will work for us, too. According to one researcher, “Gesturing can thus play a causal role in learning, perhaps by giving learners an alternative, embodied way of representing new ideas.” Sounds good to me.


Chew Gum to Feel More Alert and In a Better Mood

Okay, so chomping on a wad of gum may not look particularly professional. Still, a number of studies show chewing gum can make you more alert. And improve your reaction times. And improve selective and sustained attention. And improve your disposition. Here’s a thought: the next time you need to solve a difficult problem, lie down, cross your arms, and pop in a stick of gum. Maybe, just maybe, that is the winning combination you need to achieve your next breakthrough.

A common piece of public-speaking advice could be making you more nervous

 People with social anxiety have a bias towards negative social signals. Het Nieuwe Instituut/flickr

People with social anxiety have a bias towards negative social signals. Het Nieuwe Instituut/flickr

We already know from past research that people with social anxiety seem to have a bias towards negative social signals.

For instance, they’re more likely to notice a frown of disapproval than a smile, which of course only fuels their anxiety.

But a lot of this research has been unrealistic, involving static photos of faces and the task of looking out for dots on a computer screen.

A new Chinese study has ramped up the realism by asking dozens of participants – some low in social anxiety, some high – to give a three-minute impromptu speech over Skype to an apparently live audience shown onscreen.

In fact the audience was made up of actors who’d been recorded earlier and whose facial expressions and body movements were deliberately positive (smiles and nods), negative (frowns and yawns) or neutral.

Writing in Cognition and Emotion, Muyu Lin and her colleagues describe how they tracked their participants’ eye movements as they gave their speeches, recorded their physical anxiety via sweating and heart rate, and how they also asked them to rate how anxious they felt.

The participants with high social anxiety spent more time looking at negative audience members and less time at positive audience members, than did the low anxiety participants. Moreover, the low-anxiety participants showed a bias towards spending more time looking at positive audience members than the other people in the audience, while the high anxiety anxiety participants lacked this positive bias.

The high-anxiety participants reported more anxiety, as you’d expect, and this was shown in the physiological measures, especially heart rate. Finally, the greater their attention to negative audience members, the more anxious the socially anxious participants said they felt.

The researchers said their study is the first ever investigation of “attention allocation patterns in individuals with high and low social anxiety levels under real-life analogue social threat.” They added that if anxious people spend more time looking at bored or disagreeable faces in the audience, this is only going to fuel their fear. By contrast, less anxious people seem to have a healthy bias towards looking at happy, engaged listeners, and this may be something that anxious people could learn through practice or training.

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A common piece of public-speaking advice could be making you more nervous

10 Ways to Improve Your Chances for Featured Snippets

10 Ways to Improve Your Chances for Featured Snippets

10 Ways to Improve Your Chances for Featured Snippets

Google, in an effort to provide quick and accurate answers to questions, has been increasing their use of featured snippets over the past few years. In fact, according to research done by Stone Temple Consulting, the volume of rich answers in the SERPs has almost doubled just since last year.

Now, some marketers aren’t terribly excited about this shift. They wonder why they should optimize their content for featured snippets, since it means users will get the info they need without ever actually visiting the site.

What they may not realize, however, is that having your content shown in a featured snippet doesn’t necessarily mean less traffic. In fact, research indicates just the opposite is true. Showing up as a featured snippet actually increases traffic to your site (see how one site experienced a whopping 516 percent jump in traffic after getting a featured snippet).

Screen-Shot-2016-06-13-at-10.26.14-AM

Given the potential gains to be had, this post will show you how to optimize your content to give you the best chance of ranking for featured snippets.
1. Identify a common question in your niche or field.

Featured snippet: How to fix a leaky faucet

Your very first step is to figure out which questions to target. You can use all your usual available strategy to find content ideas…the only difference is you’ll specifically be looking for questions.

These questions can be as simple or complex as you like. Keep in mind, however, that focusing on extremely simple questions (e.g., “How old is Donald Trump?”) is unlikely to result in a ton of traffic to your site. The reason? Users who have already gotten a simple, straightforward answer have no reason to look for additional info on your site.

Related: SEO Strategies: How ‘Rich Snippets’ Can Improve Your Web Traffic
2. Explicitly ask that question in your content.

In terms of SEO, we’ve gotten away from the one-to-one relationship between keywords and ranking. For general SEO purposes, I rarely even focus on targeting specific keywords anymore, choosing instead to focus more on topics and themes.

However, explicitly incorporating your chosen question into your content is important for featured snippets. Be sure to use a question format if at all possible (for instance: “How tall is LeBron James?” rather than just variations like, “LeBron James height.”).
3. Use your question in at least one header.

Using your keywords in your header tags is a common best practice for SEO. However, it is important for featured snippet optimization too.

In their analysis of over 1 million high-CTR URLs, Get Stat found that featured snippet URLs included an exact match query in the tag 21.2 percent more often than regular results.

Get Stat header chart

I recommend using your full question (in question format) in your H1 and H2 tags. This is an important practice for getting featured snippets, and also for quickly showing your readers what your page is all about.

Related: 15 Ways to Get a Top Google Ranking for Your Small Business
4. Provide a clear, concise answer to that question.

Short-form content regularly ranks for featured snippets. This means you don’t necessarily need to provide in-depth information in order to rank. In fact, research suggests that featured snippet content only contains a 2.2 percent higher word count than regular content.

Generally speaking, providing a clear, direct answer to the question is enough. Answer the question directly under your question heading, and keep it to no more than 2-3 sentences.

Keep in mind that the average featured snippet is only 54-58 words in length (when shown in the SERPs). If your answer is significantly longer than this, a big chunk of your content will be left out of the snippet.

Related: 7 Simple Changes to Make Your Website More Visible in Search Engines
5. Provide more in-depth information following your direct answer

You’ll likely want to make sure your page is optimized both for featured snippets (“position zero”) as well as for subsequent ranking positions.

So, while you may only need short-form content to rank for featured snippets, you’ll need longer, more comprehensive content in order to rank for positions, 1, 2, 3, etc.

After you’ve directly answered your question, move on to provide more in-depth information. Use relevant and proof terms, and find related questions you can answer using Google’s, “Autocomplete” and “Searches Related to,” feature.

Many featured snippet pages I’ve encountered actually contained a much wider range of information than just the main question…so don’t be afraid to add content that supplements your primary question.
6. Use lists where relevant

Using ordered and unordered lists within content has now become the norm. It’s widely known that lists help readers scan content more quickly, and therefore providing a better user experience.

However, research has also found that content that uses numbered lists is more likely to show up in featured snippets. According to Get Stat’s research, there was a 41.6 percemt higher rate of ordered lists on featured snippet URLs than on regular URLs.

Get Stat chart: Ordered lists and featured snippets

Of course, you can also use unordered lists (bullets). While the research found no difference in the use of unordered lists in regular and featured snippet content, the occurrence was high in both categories: 90 percent occurrence in featured snippets and almost 89 percent for regular results.
7. Re-optimize pages that are already ranking highly

You don’t need to hold the first spot in the SERPs in order to rank for featured snippets. In fact, Hubspot found that for keywords where they ranked #1, they only appeared in featured snippets 18 percent of the time. In contrast, for keywords where they ranked #5, they appeared 28 percent of the time.

That said, it’s unlikely you’ll appear in featured snippets if your page ranks lower than 5th…and especially if you’re off the first page entirely.

Look through your analytics to find pages you can re-optimize for featured snippets. Focus on pages that are already ranking in the top 5 or so spots for related questions or keywords, and use the optimization strategies outlined in this post.

I personally was able to do this with my “invoicing” page on my company site. First, I added more content to the page. Seconds, I build a few internal links on higher ranking pages. Third, I then leveraged that page to help others. This increae traffic to this page almost 300 percent. This additionally, helped our organic traffic jump by almost 60 people a day. This may seem small but these are targeted customers that are now coming to may page by something small that I did.

8. Create content around the costs of your products or services.

Create content around the costs of your products or services.

Create content around the costs of your products or services.

Featured snippet example: cost of bracesUsing the keyword modifier “cost” results in featured snippets more than half the time. Whether you have a product or service-based business or are simply a content publisher, creating content around the costs of various products or services will likely bump your featured snippets.

9. Aim for an 8th-grade reading level.

To provide the best user experience, it’s important to match your content’s reading level with that of your audience. However, for featured snippet optimization, aim for a slightly lower than average level.

Featured snippets tend to have slightly easier copy than that of regular URL’s. While we’re not really sure why this is, they recommend aiming for an 8th-grade reading level. Use a tool like Readability Score to gauge the complexity and reading level of your content. In my content marketing guide I recommend keeping all your blogging at an 8th grader level. This makes it easier to digest for readers.
10. Create Q&A pages.

While many featured snippet URL’s contain a single question and answer, I regularly see URL’s that actually answer a number of related questions.

For instance, the featured snippet URL for “What is the coldest planet?” contains the answers to both this question as well as “what is the hottest planet?” (interestingly, the page only shows up for featured snippets for the former).

Featured snippet: what is the coldest planet

Generally speaking, it’s easier to optimize a page for a single question. However, for simple topics it may be preferable to answer a number of questions on the same page. This will make you more likely to rank beyond just featured snippets, as you’ll be able to provide more comprehensive, in-depth information.

Source –
10 Ways to Improve Your Chances for Featured Snippets

7 Ways To Improve Your Contact Centre’s Culture

 
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Great companies are enabled to achieve great business driven by great corporate cultures. An excellent contact culture helps to hire new and retain the star employees. By motivating employees at all ranks stimulate the employees to perform their best that too for organizational benefits, boost a quality customer service and takes the overall the business to a higher level.

It has been often noticed that contact center companies are quite popular for a few short stints or hazardous lifestyle but not as a career. Adding to it developing an excellent work culture in the top most priority and a considerable challenge. Below are the seven ways to incorporate a positive work life of employees and improve your contact centre’s culture:

#1 Set Achievable Targets!

Make sure that your priority target should be in the numbers. After everything you are doing to get maximum revenues for your company isn’t it? Don’t ever get your target out of focus, it should be your top on your priority list. Get your target numbers right, and accordingly, formulate your planning and strategy to meet your team / organizational target timely by conveying same to your associates and agents.

Most of the decision makers just work on statistics and generates unrealistic targets. Thus, by doing so no matter how much your team members work hard or achieve numbers, but the set target is still unreachable. This further results as one of the most demotivating factors for employees towards their work, management, and company at large. To avoid such consequences make sure you set a realistic and achievable goals for your team. So, remove unworkable targets from your target list.

Moreover just managing by numbers with metrics like AHT (average call handling time) for customer calls will not bring desired results. Thus, focusing merely on numbers, but not other areas can lead to misunderstanding and gap between management and workmen, and entailing to a demoralizing culture.

In order to improve, the steering leaders should look into the past for team performance, goals, and strategy they used to achieve the desired goal, this will help to measure the potential of team/ team member potential and align it towards contact centre’s goal focusing on the journey, employees enthusiasm, customer experience and other useful metrics.

By avoiding such unrealistic targets you can drive the behavior of your employees the way you want and then numbers and results will eventually follow.

#2 Reflect Dynamic Leadership Characteristics

Leaders are meant to reflect a dynamic personality with their action, words, and behavior. Great leaders bring a sense of belongingness towards the organization, consistent performance, and builds strong core values amongst all levels of employees. Great leaders drive great work culture, you must have often heard, “People do not leave the company, they leave their bosses”. Similarly, contact centre’s corporate culture evidently depends on the core values, attitudes, and behaviour of employees.

A key to developing and maintain right corporate culture is great leadership at all levels. No organization is created with poor work culture, it is developed gradually via bad leadership and behaviours of the people. Leaders must think beyond numbers, develop a strong internal communication between managers and agents to get maximum results with action plans and other disciplinary.

#3 Invest in Technology & Innovations

Yes, investing in innovations and development in technology is as important as investing in manpower. As new innovations can help your contact agents to work easily and even more efficient. By empowering your employees with the right technology, and innovative strategies it will eventually cultivate a motivated staff, and thus a better customer experience.

#4 Build More Job Opportunities

Create a brand value by integrating inside-out for to promote positive work culture. Encourage calling agents from within by engaging them in extra-curricular activities. Persuade managers to spend quality time with customer service teams and drive employee engagement program.

It has always been believed that working in a call centre cannot offer you good career growth. This perception towards their job is negative and yet, it is difficult for any manager to most of his team and stimulate motivation for the same. No job is without any occupational hazard, every job or occupation has its own set of benefits and challenges. Unfortunately, occupational hazards of a call centre, are publicized out of proportion without highlighting the benefits for the same.

Formulate incentivising career opportunities and make sure your team understands the numerous benefits of this customer calling job, which other job doesn’t possess. Also by creating a new job position like more numbers of TL, Team manager, project manager or any given corporate fancy name will not cost much to the company as compared to employee’s attrition rate due to ‘no job growth’ and recruiting and training a new employee from square one.

#5 Awards & Recognition

Who doesn’t liked to be praised? Obviously, everyone love to get compliments, rewards, recognitions, awards, appreciating notes. Awards and recognition help your employees stay motivated, perform better, and thus achieve targets on time. When a manager can step in to point out your mistakes, then why it becomes difficult to come forward to pat a back of someone who is doing a good job.

When was the last time someone recognized you for doing a great job? How did it make you feel? All recognition, need not be monetary or any financial incentive, it can be in any form a phone call, an appreciating email, motivating cards and so on. These small things bring big returns to the company at large, as each and every employee feels motivated to do better, perform best consistently, aspires other teammates to bring the best in them too.

#6 Happy People Sell More

Happy people tend to spread more positivity around them and they are super influencing personality, and thus they have an ability to sell more and bring more business opportunities.

Keep your customers and clients happy by building a strong link between your customer service efforts and sales gratification. A job in a contact centre is redundant, however by organizing employee engagement activities can stimulate employees to be self-motivated. Doing a job in a contact centre need not be always about grades or ranking, but to do the same job with a different approach, more enthusiasm, and a positive attitude.

#7 Pay High Attention To Customers’ Feedback

Overlooking your customers’ or clients’ feedback is the most harmful for any business. Maintain a secured central database in order to store, track, and monitor each and every channel of communication to leave no possibility of communication gap. Customer’ feedback will enable you to rework on your strategy and work delegation areas. Make sure your team takes stern action to rectify or to improve, according to the customers’ feedback.

Conclusion …

Unlike technologies and physical amenities, a great contact centre’s culture cannot be integrated easily and quickly. Developing a sound corporate culture that reverberates with employees takes years of consistency and thus which cannot be pretended. Once the company employs great work culture, it becomes even more difficult to maintain it and raise its standard higher. Thus, with a conducive environment and right culture, an organization can produce the greatest man resources with a competitive edge.