Are You Really Relaxing During Your Relaxation Time?

This post is by Karol K. of newInternetOrder.com.

We all need a little relaxation every day, just to keep our productivity at high levels. There’s no productivity without relaxation. No one is superhuman enough to be able to keep going 24/7 like a Duracell bunny.

But is there a possibility we’re getting the whole idea of relaxation wrong?

relaxing

Image courtesy stock.xchng user januszek

I can’t remember where I got this concept from, but there are basically three main areas we operate in: physical, intellectual, and emotional.

No matter what work or activity we’re engaged in at any moment, it always falls into one of these three categories.

So what’s the problem with relaxation?

“Default” relaxation

Most of us have a “favorite” way of relaxing—a favorite activity, for example. This becomes our go-to relaxation activity by default, no matter what we were doing just a minute before.

Unfortunately, sometimes this activity isn’t relaxing at all. I’m sure you experience that feeling from time to time. Let’s say that you love to read, like many people do. And you use it as your main way of relaxing whenever you feel like you need a moment off.

But there are times when you just can’t seem to enjoy it as much as usual. Times when each page isn’t that easily consumed. Times when you can’t even focus on what you’re reading, and you have to re-read each sentence a couple of times.

Does it mean that it’s not a good day for reading? No way. There’s no such thing as a bad day for reading. So what’s the problem, then?

Why your default relaxation activity doesn’t work

The reason why your favorite relaxation activity may not work today lies with the activity you were doing prior to having a moment off.

As I said, there are three main areas we operate in: physical, intellectual, and emotional, no matter what we do. And the thing is that we can’t work and then relax within the same area.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re a web designer, and you’ve just finished working on a new website, or at least you’re reached a milestone and you want to relax for a minute. So you think “I know, I’ll check what’s going on on my favorite design blogs.” This isn’t relaxing.

You can’t relax that way because you’re forcing yourself to keep operating in the same area. Designing costs you a lot of intellectual effort, and now, instead of switching to another area, you’re continuing to put your intellectual self to work by forcing your mind to consume new articles about design.

Physical exercises may be an even better example here. If you’ve just finished your workout at the gym, you’re not going to “relax” by running back home. This makes no sense, right?

So the main question is: how can you truly relax?

True relaxation is simple

To truly relax, simply switch to another area of activity.

If you’ve been using your creative, intellectual mind for the last hour or two, the only way to relax now is to either do a physical activity of some sort (like working out), or some emotional activity, so to speak.

In most cases “emotional” means “social.” So meeting your friends for a beer falls beautifully within this area. Basically, emotional activities are everything that don’t require you to think (intellectually), and don’t involve any type of physical activity.

If you’ve been working out for the last two hours, then reading a book is probably a great way to relax. If you’ve been writing an article, you might relax by playing with your dog. And so on.

On the other hand, if you’ve been writing an article then reading an article about writing isn’t relaxation. If you’ve just finished painting your house, hitting the gym isn’t relaxation.

Here’s an interesting example. Contrary to what you might think, if you’ve been in a fight with your partner then meeting your friends afterwards isn’t relaxing in most cases. What is relaxing though is working out or working intellectually, perhaps at your job.

The simple rule of thumb is: whatever you do, always notice which area you’re operating in, then switch to another area for relaxation. Give your body (or your mind) a little time off.

How long does it take to relax?

Interestingly, if you take this approach, relaxation happens rather quickly. But you have to witch areas often.

You shouldn’t ever be operating in a single area for more than two hours without a break. And I mean it. If you’re doing the same thing for eight hours, it will take you what remains of your day to relax. This isn’t efficient at all.

I’ve found that the most effective thing for me to do is to work for one hour, and then take a ten-minute break (shifting to another area of activity). After that I resume work, and repeat the process.

By using such an approach, I can easily “work” for many hours without any sign of being tired. It doesn’t even feel like working. But that’s just my story … your mileage may vary.

Anyway, give it a shot. Just try to work for one hour, and then take a ten-minute break, switching to another area. Finally, get back to work again. Do it for one week and see if it doesn’t improve your productivity and your levels of relaxation.

Once you’re done with this experiment don’t forget to come back and share your opinion about this whole idea. Is it working for you like it is for me?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old writer and web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland, and a grad student at the Silesian University of Technology. He shares his thoughts at newInternetOrder.com. Tune in to get his Getting Things Done (GTD) tips and other personal productivity advice.

How Reading More Can Benefit You

This guest post is by Nick Baker of The Daily Encounters Blog.

The act of reading can be tricky, but also rewarding at the same time.  The main setting of reading at a young age is in school, yet the reading of school books can sometimes be boring, and seem pointless.  This is one reason why we stop reading once we get out of school—we think back to how reading all those educational books was boring, which in turn gives us no motivation to read books when we no longer are forced to.

Reading

Image used with permission

This lack of motivation to read once we grow older stops us from benefiting from the many advantages reading provides to us.  Reading is able to make you more valuable as a person in many ways: as an employee, as a friend, and as an innovator.

Employers rarely ask people if they read or what their favorite books are while they conduct an interview.  That doesn’t mean that your next boss can’t tell whether or not you read, or that you can’t find an opportunity to bring up books you have read.

Vocabulary is one way people can tell if you read. The more you read, the broader your vocabulary gets—as long as you have the motivation to look up what words mean when you come across words you don’t know.  You can use your vocabulary in conversation with employers or business associates to show them you’re knowledgeable. You can even intimidate them with your extensive vocabulary!

Reading books that are centered on your area of business is a great way to boost your career and give you an advantage over others, making you more valuable to your company.  Of course, being more valuable to your company puts you in a better position to get a raise or promotion.

Reading can also be used as a social tool either to make friends, or to further your friendship with current friends.  Reading provides you with insight into other cultures whose people have different backgrounds and personalities. It can help to make you more confident in talking to people from different places, with different interests, since you’re more knowledgeable thanks to your reading.

Along with broadening your knowledge of other cultures, reading always gives you something to talk about with other people, whether you’re discussing a book you’ve read with someone who’s read it or is interested in it, or talking about world or local events you’ve read about in newspapers or magazines.

Innovation is spurred by thought and creativity, both of which reading amplifies in the brain.  No matter what book you’re reading, your brain is working hard and new ideas are always popping up.  Fantasy books can lead your brain to think of more out-of-the-box ideas, whereas biographies and documentaries can spur an idea in your head to follow someone else’s example.

Reading has always had a place in society as a learning tool; however, the learning from books does not have to stop once we leave school.  Books always hold valuable lessons that can advance you in certain aspects of your life—as long as you maintain reading a part of your daily activities.

Nick Baker also writes a Blog about Daily Improvement which gives its readers daily articles on simple things they can do every day to make them happy and improve their life.

 

5 Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

This post is by Lior Levin.

Whether you loved Steve Jobs or hated him, whether you are a Mac or a PC user, whether you are an iPhone or an Android owner, there is one thing that there’s little doubt about: Steve Jobs was an amazing leader who expected and got the most out of those who worked for him.

With his recent passing and the release of his biography, other leaders have gotten a chance to take a closer look at how Steve Jobs lived, thought, and ran his company. It’s an interesting opportunity to look at the inner workings of one of the tech world’s most private men.

So what lessons can leaders glean from Steve Jobs? There are too many to choose but here are five of the critical lessons one can learn from Steve Jobs’ life and success.

1. Have strong opinions, just not always your own

Jobs was not known as a man who held weak opinions. He was quick to make decisions and strong in them. He didn’t waffle or waiver, nor did he delegate his decision-making process to others.

Jobs realized that, with most decisions, making no decision was as bad as, if not worse than, making the wrong one. He also knew that having one person at the wheel helped maintain a unified vision and direction.

However, this doesn’t mean he never changed his mind—just that his reversals were equally decisive and strong. Jobs always encouraged others to challenge his viewpoints and, when he was wrong, would change position and hold to his new one just as strongly.

2. Openness hurts sometimes

Few would have described Steve Jobs as a “nice guy.” He was known for being brutally honest and saying what was on his mind. He even once quipped, “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”

Never one for pleasantries or sparing feelings, Jobs was legendarily tough to work for. However, his approach not only pushed people to generate great results, it ensured that the message was never muffled or muddled.

Being clear, concise, and direct sometimes doesn’t leave a lot of room for spared feelings. While it doesn’t mean being needlessly cruel, it means recognizing that emotions tend to heal faster than broken projects.

3. Focus, focus, and focus

According to Walter Isaacson, the author of Jobs’ biography, focus was very important to this man, who limited his company to focusing on two or three things at a time.

Jobs recognized that it’s much better to do one thing well than to do dozens of things poorly. The more you spread your focus, the less attention you can pay to each item and the more often crucial details begin to slip by.

Jobs once famously said that “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” a philosophy evidenced by Apple’s iPhone and iPad lines, and the limited versions and differences between them.

4. Working in teams means talking

Jobs loved working in teams and loved meetings, but he hated PowerPoint and Keynote presentations. He felt that meetings should be about conversation and dialog, not passive listening.

Jobs felt that, in general, teams, especially large groups, made the best decisions and developed the best products—but only if they were leveraged correctly. This is why he favored demo units and other physical objects for visual aids rather than slides on a screen, as Jobs felt these tools got people more engaged.

According to Jobs, the purpose of a meeting was to “Get people talking about it (the idea), argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people … and just explore things.”

5. Planning succession

Jobs, especially in his later years, realized he would not be running the company forever and had to make plans for Apple to live on after he left.

However, he focused on succession not just by planning for the company after his departure, but focusing on ensuring that he hired the best executives possible. Those executives were then groomed and trained so they were able to take over after his departure.

“My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do,” Jobs said.

If you put your loyalty to your company above all else, you’ll hire people that are the best for it and they can take over after you leave. That, in turn, is the best succession plan of all.

In the end, Jobs was a man driven by his own mortality, long before he was ill. He reminded himself of his mortality so he could focus his energy doing the things that mattered, instead of worrying about failure or the expectations of others.

He was driven and dedicated almost to the point of insanity, and that, combined with his attention to detail and obsession with perfection, enabled him to drive Apple not only to become the powerhouse it is, but also to make some of the best-loved products on the market.

Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs is proof that one person can make a huge difference and impact the entire world in a very big way. Who do you feel has had a similarly large impact on the leaders around the world? Let us know in the comments.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a company that offers the  best psd to xhtml service, and who also works for a neon sign store that provides custom made neon and LED signs.

Self-Promotion Tips for Nice People

This post is by Jarie Bolander of EnduranceLeader.com.

Ever wonder why nice guys finish last?

It’s not that they are any less talented, smart, hardworking, or ambitious. In fact, lots of nice people are just as talented as those brash, self-centered, type-A CEOs that grab all the national headlines.

Talking about yourself

Image copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

The reason why it appears that nice guys (and gals) finish last is because they don’t brag about their accomplishments. There are many nice people who have been successful (Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill Comes to mind), yet all we ever hear about are the self-promoting egomaniacs that can’t seem to shut up.

I know, it’s unfair. But you can do something about this by realizing that self-promotion is not just for all those self-centered braggarts—it can be for us nice people as well.

Self-promotion is not evil

Most nice people are cringing right now. How can self-promotion not be evil, vile, conceited, self-serving, and ego-centric? Self-promotion can be all those things, but it does not need to be.

The art of self-promotion for nice people is to leverage your nice qualities so that you get the credit you deserve, make your voice heard, attract others to work with you, and get—and give—credit where credit is due. It’s as simple as the right thing to do. You owe it to yourself and the other nice people around you.

The root of the problem

Let’s step back a bit and get to the root of the self-promotion issue for nice people. Most nice people have a strong sense of justice, of right and wrong. They strive to treat their fellow humans (and other creatures) with respect, reverence, and compassion. In the nice person’s mind, this should be all that is required to earn recognition for their accomplishments. In a perfect world, it would be.

We don’t live in a perfect world.

Instead, we are bombarded with lots of stimuli that make it hard to interact with the world around us. It’s actually hard to seek and understand the truth about who’s responsible for what. That’s why we take shortcuts.

Cognitive shortcuts

All of us take shortcuts to make sense of the world. We rely on patterns, and fill in the blanks when bombarded with data and stimuli. That’s one of the reasons we always remember the loud-mouth bragger. It’s not that we want to—it’s just they have jumped above the noise and caught our attention.

Through repetition, we get tuned into these blowhards and remember what they did—even though we don’t like them. It’s strange but it’s just like all those obnoxious ads we get inundated with daily. We think they are bad. We acknowledge they are in poor taste. But we remember them and, when it comes time to buy, we tend to buy those brands.

What a nice person can do

Okay. I hope by now all you nice people now realize that you need to speak up and be heard. Most people won’t give you the credit you deserve unless you ask for it. I know, it’s not in your personality, but yet you get frustrated when others take credit or you are not recognized for your accomplishments.

You can change but you don’t need to sell out or change who you are—you just need to politely self-promote.

Just because you’re nice does not mean that you can’t or shouldn’t self-promote. In fact, nice people can do a great job of self-promotion, and be more effective at it. The fact is that, deep down, everyone hates those blowhard braggarts anyway. Actually, nice people have a big advantage over blowhards, since we’re actually are more inclined to help others promote themselves as well.

Nice people unite!

One of the strongest assets nice people have is that they care about others. Think about your own life. How often do you help out a friend, brag about a co-worker, or encourage others to succeed?

So, you have it in you—now you just have to apply it to yourself. The easiest way to do this is to find a couple of other nice people, and work together. Complements and praise are far more powerful when someone else gives them to you. This is why actively collaborating with other nice people can make it easier to self-promote.

Obviously, as a nice person, you know that whatever is said must be true, accurate, and correct.

Beyond collaboration

Having others promote you is powerful, but it’s not always practical or appropriate. Eventually, you are going to have to toot your own horn. To help you do that, take a look at the tips below:

1. Be subtle and tactful

Self-promotion does not need to be grandiose or in-your-face. It can be subtle and tactful.

There are natural places in a conversation to add a useful bit of self-promotion. For example, let’s say you’re talking with co-workers about the project you just finished. You can ask them to give you feedback on the part you did by simply saying “What did you think of the financials in the report we just did? I’m curious to know how they could be improved,” or something like that. This subtle hint that you did them, under the context of improvement, will get you credit as well as valuable feedback.

2. Practice on and with other nice people

I know this might sound strange, but you can practice self-promotion with others. Doing so will give you the confidence to perform on your own.

The best people to practice with are—you guessed it—other nice people. You can team up (as I suggested above) and practice on each other. I know this seems a little weird, but the more you practice in a safe environment, the better you will get.

3. Just the facts

All those braggers out there usually distort the facts to their advantage. While it’s not technically lying (although it feels like it), nice people have a hard time embellishing. That’s why it’s easier to just state the facts about what you did. It may not be as powerful but, over time, it does get through.

4. Promote others

Promoting others is a great way to learn how to promote yourself, and it’s also a great way to share credit when it’s due. It’s best to promote others that will promote you in return. Otherwise, you are just amplifying the impact of braggers and blowhards.

5. Give mutual credit

When you do take credit or self-promote, make sure to spread the credit around. Us nice people can find it a lot easier to share the credit with others then to take it all yourself. In fact, it can sometimes lead others to jump in and give you more credit.

6. Keep it simple

Simple self-promotion works the best. What I mean by this is don’t overly complicate the message or pile on everything you have done. Keep the self-promotion context specific and don’t dominate the conversation. Expanding too broadly will just bore people and turn you into the kind of person you already despise.

7. Be a little funny

Humor is a great way to break the ice and get over your self-promotion nerves. Take a shot at yourself before telling everyone what a great job you did. You can also poke a little fun at co-workers before telling them what a great job they did. Just make sure to keep it classy, respectful, and not trashy.

Really, it’s not that slimy

I’m sure some of you are still not convinced that self-promotion is a good idea. I’m also sure that you sometimes get frustrated when people glance over your work and give others credit. It’s hard to face, but there is so much noise out there that you do have to self-promote in order to get heard.

As long as you do it responsibility and are nice about it, you will probably find that it’s kinda fun—it does feel good to share your accomplishments with others!

Jarie Bolander is an engineering by training, entrepreneur by nature and leader by endurance. His new site, EnduranceLeader.com combines two of this passions – leadership and endurance athletics. Endurance Leader’s main premise is that by enduring through hardships and struggle, we can conquer anything. You can follow him on Twitter via @EnduranceLeader.

Use the Internet to Boost Job Seeking Confidence

This post is by Stephanie Staszko of Blue Octopus Flat Fee Recruitment.

Being unemployed can be an extremely stressful period in anyone’s life, and feelings of worthlessness and frustration can soon surface. Unemployment is a vicious circle for some people: the longer their period of unemployment stretches, the lower their confidence becomes, thus lowering their chances of getting a job.

Job hunting

Image copyright Elenathewise - Fotolia.com

Keeping confidence high when you’re out of work is important so as not to enter this vicious circle. If you’re currently unemployed and feeling low, there are many ways which you can utilize the Internet to boost your job seeking confidence and, ultimately, get hired.

Safety in numbers

Knowing you’re not alone when going through times of hardship can be comforting and, currently, unemployment rates are unusually high. If many of your friends and relatives are working it can feel like you’re alone during your bout of unemployment.

Bookmarking a page on the Internet that you can refer back to, which states unemployment rates and statistics can help to remind you that you’re not alone when you’re feeling down. This can help to raise your self-belief and confidence once again and give you more enthusiasm.

Join a community

Joining an online community which relates to one of your interests can be a great way to meet new people online and forget about your unemployment for a while. The community could be related to the industry you’re in, or would like to work in, or it could just be related to a general hobby or interest.

Communicating within this niche community can help to occupy your mind, and meeting new people can open up new career opportunities. Inform people in your community that you’re looking for a job, as someone may know of a vacancy you haven’t heard about and may even have the power to put a good word in for you.

Read recruitment blogs

Recruitment blogs can help you with a variety of different job-related problems. They generally provide information on everything related to employment and many provide job seeking tips and tricks which you may not have thought of trying before. Some recruitment blogs even provide advice and allow you to write posts explaining your career problems, and answer them on the blog.

It may also be worth reading a recruitment blog which is aimed at employers so you can keep up-to-date with the latest hiring and firing strategies—knowledge is power!

Don’t be unsociable

You can use your social profiles as a job seeking/networking tool as well as a personal messaging service. Many employers view candidates’ social profiles before hiring them so make sure you have nothing inappropriate on there!

You could also use social networking sites to inform friends that you’re unemployed, as they may be able to help to find you a position within the company they work for. Finally, keeping in touch with friends is important at difficult times—no one can put a smile on your face more readily than your close friends.

How the Internet can ruin your confidence

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud, and there are ways in which using the Internet can ruin your job search. Here are a few bad habits to avoid when in front of the screen:

  • Don’t job-seek for excessive amounts of time, as it can actually be counterproductive as well as bad for your health. Sitting at the screen for too long can cause eye strain and fatigue—which certainly aren’t confidence boosters!
  • Avoid falling into the “nocturnal routine”. When you’re unemployed, it can be easy to fall into the trap of staying up really late at night and lying in bed all day. Although this may initially sound appealing, it can be a hard routine to break and can actually be quite depressing.
  • Don’t become a “success stalker”. Avoid “stalking” your successful friends online. Obsessing over what you haven’t got is a sure-fire way to knock your own confidence. Be proud of your friends’ success and inspired by it, but avoid turning into the green-eyed monster. Jealousy can destroy relationships and right now, you need the support of the people who are close to you.

What tips can you add from your own experiences being out of work? We’d love to hear them!

Written by Stephanie Staszko on behalf of Blue Octopus Flat Fee Recruitment. Steph enjoys writing various posts on recruitment for candidates and employers alike. You can find her on Twitter @StephStaz where you’ll find more career/recruitment posts.

7 Tips to Help You Concentrate

This post is by Andy Boyd of edugree.com.

Many people are easily interrupted and struggle to stay on topic and task until complete. However, staying concentrated on a single task isn’t as hard as you might first believe. Following these simple tips will help anyone concentrate on a task to get it finished as easily and quickly as possible. Hopefully you can concentrate long enough to read the whole article!

1. Envision the task at hand

Concentrate

Image copyright Robert Kneschke - Fotolia.com

Think through the process you must use to finish the task. Are you writing a paper, studying for a test, or planning for an event? It doesn’t matter what the task is. Simply mentally walk yourself through the process so you know what it entails.

2. Prepare the work space in advance

Choose a work space that is large enough to accommodate all of the materials you will need to complete the job. Move all of the necessary materials into the space so they are easily accessible without having to leave. You should not have to leave the work space to get materials once you begin because this causes unnecessary distractions to occur. If you have mentally walked yourself through the process in advance, you will know what materials are essential to the completion of the task.

3. Remove all barriers to your concentration from your work space

The work space should not house a phone (unless you really need it for the project), television, or other distracting gadget. In fact, choose a time to work that others will not be around you to distract you or break your concentration—working from home is notoriously difficult for some, especially those who are naturally easily disrupted. If you must work in a public place, use headphones to eliminate noise and show others you are too busy to be bothered.

4. Begin the task by breaking it down into achievable pieces

Make a list of what needs to be accomplished. Then, rewrite the list in the order of importance. Breaking down the task into smaller parts can make it easier to concentrate since you are only concentrating on one idea at a time. It is also easier to concentrate when you know what piece you are working on and what piece will be coming up next. You don’t have to worry about what is coming up next.

5. Allocate each task a time

If the deadline or time frame of a project has you worried or stressed, this may cause you to lose your concentration. To avoid losing your concentration over this, you may find that it eases your mind to allocate given amounts of time for each task on your task list. Since you have already broken down your job into specific tasks to accomplish, go back to that list and allocate specific amounts of time to make sure that you don’t spend so much time on one part that you can’t finish the whole. Adhere to the timeline as closely as possible to take the guesswork out of when you will be finished.

6. When you begin the job, check off each piece as you finish it

This helps you see what parts have been accomplished and allows you to only concentrate on the jobs that are left. This relieves stress you may be feeling about the overall project and allows you to use all of your focus to concentrate on the current job you are trying to complete.

7. Don’t forget to schedule breaks periodically during your work session

Concentrating so hard on one task can easily be tiring. To avoid overtiring yourself or letting your concentration waver, schedule five to ten minute breaks each hour. During the break session, stand and stretch. Get a cold drink or snack and let your mind wander from the task at hand.

It is important that you don’t do anything during a break session to cause you to lose focus for more than the allotted five to ten minutes. Making a phone call or checking an email account during a break may not be smart since these could cause possible distractions that break your concentration or cause you to abandon your work.

What helps you concentrate? Share your tips in the comments.

Andy blogs about how you can advance your career through education and provides advice on drafting your resume on his blog. You can visit his blog at edugree.com.

How to Make Decisions: 10 Useful Questions and 5 Simple Techniques

This post is by Barry Demp of dempcoaching.com.

I like things to be simple, and yet if you read even a fraction of the information about decision-making, you could get a brain cramp! For that reason, I will share some simple ideas that you may “try on” as you navigate your professional and personal life decisions.

General questions and techniques for great decision-making

Decisions

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When you’re making any decision, it’s useful to ponder these questions:

  1. What are my needs, preferences and the objectives I desire?
  2. How can I use both my heart and head in making this decision?
  3. What creative alternatives can I generate?
  4. What are the drawbacks and risks associated with this decision?
  5. What are the positive outcomes that will occur if I make this decision?
  6. What would logic and an objective approach have me decide?
  7. What do my intuition and gut tell me to do?
  8. What does my knowledge and experience suggest?
  9. What decision will benefit the most people?
  10. What process or techniques are available to make this decision?

You can use these simple techniques to help with any decision:

  1. Create a Pros and Cons list of advantages and disadvantages of each decision.
  2. Prioritize by choosing the options with the highest probability of success.
  3. Choose the first option that comes to mind. It is often correct.
  4. If the option is between two equally good decisions, flip a coin and get into action.
  5. Check your moral compass and values and ask yourself what is right.

“The pain of discipline weighs ounces whereas the pain of regret weights tons.”  Jim Rohn

The power of making effective decisions and taking decisive action is the source of professional and personal success. If you happen to make a mess—and we all do from time to time—you can always decide to clean it up.

What decisions are you facing in your professional or personal life today? Which of the above questions and techniques will you use to help you choose a route forwards?

Barry Demp is a highly-skilled Michigan Business and Personal coach, working with small business owners, executives and other professionals. He has a free ebook Time Management Strategies and Tactics: A Workbook available on his website, and he blogs regularly about self-improvement.

Why I Love … Photographing Kids

This post is by Rachel Devine of Sesame Ellis photography.

I’m a professional photographer who works with kids, and I have three of my own that I photograph frequently. So I’ve taken a lot of shots of kids over the years.

Yet one photo in particular has hung framed on a wall in every home I have lived in since 1997. It is an image I took on the same day that we had our professional family portrait taken.

kids

My niece and nephew (Image copyright Rachel Devine)

I did not have my camera out while the hired photographer was working, but later that night I wanted to take a few shots of my niece and nephew.

The littlest member of our big family, my niece, always seemed to take center stage, so I decided to capture an image of her standing on the coffee table just before she was told to get down. As my flash lit up the scene, it revealed her older brother in the background, haphazardly standing on his head on the couch.

To some, his crazy disruption could be seen as ruining the shot, but this is what has made the shot so memorable and special. Even in black and white, I can tell that they are in the ‘sweater and pants combination’ we as a family wore on that important portrait day.

When I look back at our professional portrait, my nephew Ian sits quietly for the camera and Kellan’s ever present pile of stuffed animal security objects are nowhere to be seen.

However, when I look up at the photograph I took that day, I can clearly remember the children that they really were and I can see the beginnings of the adults they have since grown to be.

Child photography is more than tack sharp eyes and big smiles; it is made of memories and true personality. Children change daily. As a mother, I know those mornings when the children have grown and changed overnight. And I’m glad I can use photography to capture those moments.

Do you have some great photographs of the kids in your life? Tell us about them in the comments.

Rachel Devine owns Sesame Ellis photography and shoots commercially in the children’s industry—as well as photographing her own three kids on a daily basis. Her ebook Click! How to Take Gorgeous Photos of Your Kids was recently released on Digital Photography School, and her book on photographing life will be released on Amphoto/Random House in 2012.

5 Fast Tips for At-home Parents

This guest post is by Crystal of CounselorMom.

Being a parent is hard work. Parenting comes with the wonderful challenges that all of us parents know too well. Some parents make the decision to work from home, which can be rewarding in itself. However, after some time, working from home can become a little stressful if the kids are home during those hours (like me writing this post right now).

Family at home

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Parenting is a full-time job in itself; try to complete work projects on top of that, and it becomes a bit more stressful. Here are five tips to help out the work-at-home mom or dad.

Go outside

Feeling the sun on your face can make a world of a difference. Take the kids outside and let them play a bit. This will wear them out, so when it’s time to go inside they will probably be quiet.

Organize your day

Treat your job working from home like you would a job outside of the house. If you can, try to schedule the times you plan to work around your child’s nap or quiet time. If you don’t have a choice in what time you work, try to find activities for the kids ahead of time so you can concentrate and focus when it’s time to work.

Get dressed when the kids get dressed

Take a shower in the morning and get dressed like you would if worked outside of the house. This will help get you in the working mood. Get the kids ready also even if you don’t plan to go anywhere. This will save time if you decide to go out later.

Stop socializing

If social networks are not part of your job, then don’t use them during work hours. Don’t check your personal email, Facebook, Twitter, or browse CNN while working. This really does take up a lot of wasted time especially when at any minute your children might need you. So put your time to good use while the kids are sane and work instead of socializing.

Find a mother’s or father’s helper

Find a babysitter, local preschool, or family member to watch the children a few hours a week while you work. This will help give you some breathing space.

Do you have any tips to offer the parents who work from home?

Crystal is a stay at home mom with a master’s degree in school counseling. She is a blogger at CounselorMom where she discusses parenting issues and household tips.

Take the Stress Out of Your Small Business—Today

Stress isn’t always bad.

A certain level of stress gets you up for the game. It keeps you excited, keeps you on the edge, and keeps you hungry. But if you’re bathed in this amount of stress constantly, you don’t have enough recovery time. Your immune system will be weakened so you may get sick more often.

How much stress is “too much”?

We all have different tolerances for our ability to deal with different levels of stress. We need to be self-aware so that we can monitor how we’re doing.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story about boiling a frog. If you put a frog in a pot of warm water and gradually raise the temperature, the frog won’t hop out—it’ll stay there as the water reaches boiling point.

Small business

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Your small business is like that pot. The “temperature” gradually rises—perhaps you feel overworked or you’re pulled in lots of different directions. Are you monitoring the temperature of your business?

You don’t necessarily have to work fewer hours. Some people work 14 hour days and love it; others work seven hours and hate it because they’re in a toxic environment.

You have the opportunity to design your environment. That means asking yourself:

  • What do I want to do more of?
  • What do I want to do less of?
  • What do I want to start doing?
  • What do I want to stop doing?

You can tweak all the different elements of your business (and personal life). Perhaps you want:

  • More rest, more recovery, more collaborative relationships—or just more fun!
  • Less stress, and fewer toxic people.

Aim to start things that will recharge your batteries and fulfill your vision.

Stop doing things that no longer serve a purpose—remove them completely from your life. They might have been there for a very long time, but that doesn’t mean they need to stay forever.

How does your small business fit into your life?

We all need to make conscious decisions in the different domains of our lives.

Having a small business is one big part of your life—but you also have family, relationships, and health matters to juggle.

How many balls can you keep up in the air? Are they the right balls for you?

When do things get too stressful? When do balls start falling? What balls should you drop?

Strategies for avoiding and managing stress

#1: Say “no” more often

Saying “no” and stopping certain things gives us the freedom and flexibility to say “yes” to other things that are more fulfilling for us. This is fundamental to avoiding stress.

If you went to a buffet and sampled food that you didn’t like, you wouldn’t put it on your plate again. Yet in life, we allow things—events, people, other circumstances—to stay in our world, even though we dislike them.

#2: Stop doing so much

For many of us, the hardest thing is to stop doing so much.

We pile more and more onto our plates, instead of looking at what to remove. In a small business, you have many different roles so it’s easy to create an endless list of tasks. Try setting boundaries on your work day so that you get enough down-time.

#3: Find ways to relieve stress

There are lots of different ways to de-stress. You might try deep breathing, exercise, walking in nature, mediation, yoga, talking with a friend, or taking a bath.

Some people like to come home, work out, and take a shower—they wash the day away.

Others like to play with their kids, or with a pet—they change their focus, and so the cares of the day go away.

Taking frequent breaks throughout the day, or having a power-nap or a brief walk in the sunshine, can also help. If you’re running your own business, then you have the freedom to arrange your day to suit you.

Cleaning up clutter can also be very helpful: getting the car washed, having your hair cut, rearranging a file—anything that gets you back in control.

But unless you’re aware that you’re under stress, and that you have options, then it’s impossible to deal with it.

What steps could you take, today, to reduce stress in your own life and business?

Barry Demp is a highly-skilled Michigan Business and Personal coach, working with small business owners, executives and other professionals. He has a free ebook Time Management Strategies and Tactics: A Workbook available on his website, and he blogs regularly about self-improvement.