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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trouble With Tools

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

Marketers are using a ton of tools.

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

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

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Source: Chiefmartec

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

Marketers underestimate how many tools they’re using.

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

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

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

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Source: HubSpot Research

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

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

Too Much Tech = Too Little Efficiency

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

Marketers are wasting time.

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

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Source: HubSpot Research

Marketers are getting frustrated.

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

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Source: HubSpot Research

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

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Source: HubSpot Research

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

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

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

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Source: HubSpot Research

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

What’s the Solution?

So, let’s recap.

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

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

1) Do an audit.

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

2) Consolidate and integrate.

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

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

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

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

12 Tools That'll Keep You Productive Morning, Noon & Night

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When I need to have a very productive day, I tell myself it’s going to be easy.

I’ll just wake up early, grab a big cup of coffee, and then begin powering through my to-do list. Maybe I’ll break for a meal, or a stretch, or a quick conversation with a coworker. But I’ll truck on, energy unwavering until bedtime, where I’ll promptly fall asleep for eight, wonderful, uninterrupted hours of sleep.

Cool fantasy, self. Real life is rarely — if ever — that picture-perfect. Our bodies aren’t designed to operate at a constant 100% efficiency level. So if you want to be more productive throughout the day, you’re better off relegating certain activities to certain times, and devoting yourself to doing those activities within those windows. Download our complete guide here for more tips on improving your productivity.

And to make sure you get the right things done at the right times of day, you can lean on a plethora of different free or relatively cheap apps and tools. Below, we’ve collected some of the highest-rated and often-recommended productivity apps for each part of the day. Try them out and see if they work for you.

15 of the Best Productivity Tools for All-Day Efficiency

Morning

1) Headspace

Price: Free, with subscriptions available on iPhone, Android, Web

Starting your day off with a quick meditation session can be a great way to gear up for the day — even scientists say so. According to a 2012 study, people who meditated “stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative feedback after task performance.”

Sold … but not sure how to get started? We recommend downloading Headspace. It gives you 10 free guided meditation sessions, and if you end up getting hooked, you can sign up for a monthly subscription.

2) Prompts or Writing Challenge

Price: Prompts is $2.99 on iPhone | Writing Challenge is $1.89 on Android

You may have heard about the benefits of writing something — anything — in the morning. But actually making time for morning freewriting a reality can be a challenge. How do you actually find something to write about when you’ve barely had time to make your coffee?

By downloading a writing prompts app, of course. Prompts and Writing Challenge are both great options. They give you a jumping-off point for a piece, and then let you dive right into writing. Prompts is especially cool for folks who like to track their habits to stay motivated because it offers some basic analytics for you to analyze your writing habit progress.

3) Todoist

Price: Free, with premium subscriptions available on iPhone, Android, Web

You don’t have to actually write down your to-do lists in the morning, but you should definitely take a look at them before you dive into your work. And if your to-do list is cluttered and confusing, you’ll end up losing precious time to reorganizing and re-prioritizing it.

To prevent that from happening, I’d highly suggest a tool like Todoist. HubSpot Senior Marketing Manager Lindsay Kolowich introduced me to it, and it’s completely transformed the way I keep track of what I need to accomplish. It allows you to add deadlines and labels to each list item, then automatically sorts your whole to-do list by what you have to accomplish that day. That can help you keep you on top of what you need to accomplish on a given day, and prevents you from getting sidetracked by down-the-road projects.

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4) Jell

Price: Free, with premium subscriptions available on iPhone, Android, Web

After you set your own to-do list, chances are, you’ll need to check in with your teammates about what’s on their plates for the day. One super easy way to do this — especially when you have a remote team — is by using an app called Jell.

Instead of calling a 30-minute meeting to debrief on what everyone’s doing, you simply fill out a form in Jell that gets sent to the rest of your team. (If you’re using Slack, it has a handy integration to have these messages posted in there, too.)

This way, you can quickly get on the same page with your team, and then move on to the most important work of your day. Here’s what Jell looks like in action:

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5) Feedly

Price: Free for desktop, iPhone, and Android

Before I get started on my work every day, I like to check in on what my peer influencers are writing or talking about in the marketing and technology space. With Feedly, you can add a feed of the latest blog posts and articles from your favorite publishers to get inspired and informed to kick off your day. I even set Feedly as my homepage so I have to check it out. Here’s what it looks like:

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Afternoon

6) Do

Price: $10/month on iPhone and Web

Fast-forward a few hours, and chances are, you’ll have a block of meetings on your plate. (That is, after all, the best time of day to have them.) But if you’re going to take time out of your day for meetings, they better be productive. There’s nothing worse than wasting a bunch of people’s time on something that could have been handled over email.

Yep — a tool can help you with that too. The Do app can help you keep yours more organized and actionable — that way, no one’s wasting time sitting in unnecessary meetings. If you’re looking for a free option, Solid (available on Web only) is a great choice.

7) Stormboard

Price: Free, with premium subscriptions available on Web

When your attention starts to wane, it can be hard to get things done. For many people, that tends to happen in the afternoon.

Turns out, that can be a good thing: When you’re less focused, you have more room to be creative. So the afternoon is a great time for brainstorming, collaboration, and breaking through cognitive barriers.

If you and your team are feeling particularly creative one afternoon, a great tool to consider using is Stormboard. It allows everyone to easily brainstorm and collaborate — even if they aren’t in the same room. Then, you can prioritize the best ideas to be put into action at a later date.

8) Unstuck

Price: Free on iPhone, Android, Web

But what if you’re not focused or feeling creative? You’ve got to get work done, but you’re feeling … stuck.

Unstuck can help. It’s an app that acts like an in-the-moment personal coach. It’ll ask you a series of questions to unearth what exactly is blocking you, and then give you steps to get through that block. Having this “outside” perspective can be a game-changer to breaking through some seriously inhibiting time-sucks.

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9) StayFocusd and Freedom

Price: StayFocusd is free | Freedom is less than $3 per month after a free trial for iPhone

StayFocusd and its mobile app Freedom can help you stay focused (get it?) throughout the day, by blocking access to distracting websites for certain periods of time. So whether it’s Twitter, Reddit, or YouTube, you can customize certain periods of time when you’re allowed to be distracted — and when you’re not. As the day goes on, you might be more tempted to slack off and lose your steam, and these apps will help keep you going with a reminder — and a countdown clock:

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You should still take breaks throughout the day — but instead of getting sucked into procrastinating online, get up from your desk and take a walk. More on that next.

10) Daily Water

Price: Daily Water is free for iPhone and Android

When you’re in the zone getting work done, it can sometimes be hard to remember to take care of yourself. Daily Water is a handy app that reminds you to take a break, stand up, and rehydrate. You can set the app to remind you to drink water during different intervals of the day, so you can schedule breaks for in between projects to stay healthy, focused, and productive all day long.

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11) Quartz or Inside

Price: Quartz is free on iPhone | Inside is free on iPhone, Android, Web

When you’ve been in the weeds all day getting important projects done, it can be tempting to take some time to catch up on what you missed in the news.

The trouble is, those reading breaks can sometimes get unruly. That 15 minutes you thought would be enough turn into 45 minutes of reading, and you’re suddenly late for your train home.

To feel in-the-know about the day without breaking your productivity streak, try catching up via your favorite news summary app. Mine is from Quartz: a chat-themed news summary app that’s quickly become a staple of my phone’s home screen. A few quick clicks, and I’m on my way to catching a ride home.

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Night

12) 7 Minute Workout

Price: Free on iPhone, Android

Everyone has their favorite time of day to work out, but science says that your lung function peaks around 5 p.m. So if you want to squeeze in a quick workout sometime in your day, right before dinner might be the trick.

If you don’t have a regular routine or are just trying to do something fast, I’d recommend checking out J&J’s 7 Minute Workout app. You can pick from its programs, or design one of your own — and all can be done in less than 30 minutes.

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13) Podcasts or Stitcher

Price: Podcasts is free on iPhone; Sticher is free on iPhone, Android, Web

Chances are, you’ll have spent most of your day looking at things. Reading on the computer. Watching slides on the projector. Scanning news on your phone. So when you leave work, you should strengthen one of your other senses, such as your listening comprehension. It’s an underdeveloped skill — especially in adults — but it can have a big impact on our professional and personal lives.

If you want to strengthen your listening skills, try playing a few podcast episodes on your phone during your commute home. If you have an iPhone, you have a Podcasts app already built-in. Otherwise, you can access them through Stitcher.

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14) Grid Diary or Journey

Price: Grid Diary is free with premium options on iPhone | Journey is Free on Android, Chrome App

Many might think that journaling is just a teenage pastime, but it has many benefits for people of any age.

If you don’t love the idea of actually penning your ideas and experiences to paper, you can use Grid Diary or Journey. Both allow you to not only capture written recaps of your day, but also add photos to your entries. Plus, they both have built-in prompts — so even on the most hectic of days, you can distill some insights for your future self.

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15) Sleep Genius

Price: $4.99 on iPhone; Free with in-app purchases on Android

Finally. You’ve made it through the day and kept yourself productive. You take a moment to celebrate … but then, you realize that tomorrow’s to-do list is already jam-packed. You need a good night’s sleep, and you need it now.

Sleep Genius might be the cure. The app has built-in relaxation techniques and gentle alarms to wake you up at a natural moment in your sleep cycle, helping make sure you feel rested come morning.

After all, if you’re feeling sluggish the next day, even the best apps might not be effective. (But that cup of coffee might do the trick.)

What are your favorite productivity tools for different times of day? Share with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Source: 12 Tools That'll Keep You Productive Morning, Noon & Night
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

12 Brainstorming Techniques for Unearthing Better Ideas From Your Team

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If you want to hold brainstorms that unearth better, more creative ideas, it all starts with the people in the room. Like, the actual number of people in the room.

That’s my first tip for you: Follow the “pizza rule” for brainstorming. If you’re unfamiliar with the “pizza rule,” it’s the idea that if you have more people in a room than you could feed with a pizza, there are too many people in that room to hold a productive meeting.

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The same rule goes for a brainstorming session: If you’ve got a dozen people sitting around a table, expect a really long list of truly mediocre ideas.

So, what else can you do other than bribe a group of two to six people with pizza to unearth good ideas? So glad you asked.

12 Team Brainstorming Techniques for Getting to Good Ideas

1) Invite a diverse group of people.

If your team works on all of the same projects together, goes to team meetings together, sits next to each other in the office, and hangs out in the same group chats all day … well, needless to say, the ideas will likely start to get pretty homogenous.

Instead, invite new people from other teams to your brainstorms — people with different skill sets and experiences to help get you out of your rut and see things in a new way. It’ll give you that great mix of new perspectives and contextual knowledge that’ll help you land on ideas that are both original and doable.

2) Keep the meeting to 22(ish) minutes.

Nicole Steinbok advocates this technique, and it’s one I’ve used with positive results. (I usually round up to 30 minutes, but what’s a few minutes among friends?) It works particularly well for people like myself that thrive under the threat of a deadline.

In my experience, having a limited amount of time to brainstorm only works if all participants are actually ready for the meeting. (More on that in a minute.) But two other tenets Steinbok harps on are a no-laptop rule, and a no off-topic-banter rule. While some might disagree with the latter, I have found that aggressive time constraints help keep people on task and delivering their best ideas as a result.

3) Provide context and goals well before the meeting.

“Well before the meeting” doesn’t mean that morning. Offer any pertinent information at least two business days in advance so people have a fighting chance at actually being prepared for the brainstorm.

In addition to providing any reading materials or contextual information that help set up the reason for the brainstorm (and explicitly asking that they read it, too), describe what the ideal outcome of the meeting looks like. This will help people come into the meeting understanding the scope of what you’re all trying to do. I think you’ll find this helps you avoid wasting time catching everyone up so you can get to the brainstorm right away.

If necessary, run your meeting like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and dedicate 30 minutes specifically to quietly reading in a group to bring everyone together — especially if they won’t have time to read before the meeting.

4) Ask people to come prepared with some ideas.

Often, great ideas don’t show themselves when you ask them to. They pop up on the train, in the shower, while you’re watching TV … basically any time you’re not actually trying to come up with the idea.

This is one reason why it’s good to provide a few days of lead-time before your meeting, but it’s also why you might want to explicitly ask people to think of some ideas beforehand. With this approach, you might find that you start the meeting off with pretty strong ideas from the get-go, and the group can add to and modify them to make them even stronger. In fact, this hybrid brainstorming approach was found to be more effective in a University of Pennsylvania study.

Frankly, I’ve also found that when everyone comes in cold turkey, the brainstorm often ends with a long list of very uninspired ideas. At the very least, whoever runs the brainstorm should come with a few ideas to kick off the brainstorm and give an indication of what a good idea looks like.

5) Say “no” to the bad ideas. Fast.

It might be brainstorm heresy to recommend people squash bad ideas, but I’ve seen one too many brainstorms go astray because people are too scared to say “no.” This is particularly important if you’re trying to run a quick brainstorm session.

Yes, there’s a fine line: Squashing bad ideas could lead people to fear speaking up, missing out on good ideas as a result. But if you’re giving every idea equal due regardless of merit, then you get off-track real fast and end up down a bad idea rabbit hole.

Better brainstorms that yield better ideas leave time to nurture the strongest inclinations.

On that note …

6) Foster an environment where bad ideas are okay.

Yes, you should call out bad ideas. But you should also make it okay that people had them. Call out your own ideas, in fact. If people can speak freely, but not feel stupid for doing so, you’ll get more ideas out — which makes it more likely you’ll land on a good one.

7) Lean into constraints.

If you have every resource and opportunity in the world, creativity will naturally stifle. Lay out the constraints you’re working within in terms of goals and resources for executing any idea you come up with. Then, try to see those as opportunities for creativity instead of roadblocks that make it impossible to come up with a good idea.

8) Lean into silence.

Anyone in sales already knows: Silence is power. In a brainstorm, silences are times when people get thinking done — either about their own ideas, or how to build on the last idea that came up.

And hey, it might also encourage more people to speak up with an idea, just out of their hatred of uncomfortable silences.

9) Lean into failure … outside of the brainstorm.

If you have a team where taking smart risks — regardless of outcome — is rewarded, people will have a better sense of what ideas are worth pursuing and what’s worth passing on. Because, you know, they do it a lot and get a second sense for these things.

If experimentation is a part of your team culture, that’ll manifest itself in better ideas than if your team is stuck in stasis. You’ll have better brainstorms where creative and smart, yet risky ideas come out.

10) Be prepared to ditch the meeting altogether.

Sometimes in-person meetings aren’t the right format for unearthing good ideas. Certain brainstorms can be better performed digitally.

For example, we often resort to Google Docs or Slack for brainstorms when curating blog post or title ideas across a large group of people. There’s really no need to pull everyone away from their work to participate in a brainstorm like that — and the benefit is that people can participate on their own time, when they’re ready and eager to contribute ideas, not when the meeting happens to occur.

11) Provide a place for anonymous submissions.

For some people, the “right” format might be an anonymous submission. Provide a place for anonymous idea submission both before and after the meeting. People might have some ideas that they’re reticent to bring up in front of the group. It’d be a shame to miss out on those ideas due to shyness, discomfort, or simply a preference for writing out ideas instead of speaking about them. This is easy to set up through a Google form.

12) Be prepared to pursue absolutely nothing that came out of that brainstorm.

Don’t feel like you have to choose and pursue an idea just because you had a brainstorm. If the brainstorm didn’t yield any good ideas, that’s fine. It wasn’t a waste of time. But you will waste your time if you pursue an idea that isn’t worth doing. Moving forward with the lesser of all evils is still … evil.

Instead, do some reflection on your own about why the ideas aren’t ready to see the light of day, and see if any are worth more thought before ditching them. Perhaps you’ll get another group of people in a room to iterate on them — or even the same group once they’ve had some distance from the ideas. Now that ideas have started flowing, you might find a second round of brainstorming yields something even better.

What other tips do you have for getting more out of brainstorms? Share with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

15 Business Blogging Mistakes

Source: 12 Brainstorming Techniques for Unearthing Better Ideas From Your Team
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

How to Build a Productive Company Culture

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

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

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

Fostering a Productive Company Culture

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

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

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

For example, an honest person:

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

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

1) Value: Health

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

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

Practice: Sleep

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

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

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

TRY: Office Nap Rooms

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

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

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

Practice: Nutrition

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

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

TRY: Healthy Office Kitchens

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

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

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

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

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

Practice: Exercise

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

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

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

That much?

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

TRY: Office Exercise Competitions

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

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

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

2) Value: Autonomy

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

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

Practice: Flexibility

“Is he asleep?”

“Yeah, out like a light.”

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

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

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

“I’m exhausted,” she said.

“I know,” said Matt. “I am, too.”

TRY: Flextime

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

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

Practice: Generosity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRY: Unlimited PTO

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

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

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

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

Practice: Accountability

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

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

TRY: Short-term goals.

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

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

3) Value: Tact

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

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

Practice: Respecting Inertia

John was staring again.

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

“Hey, John?” said a voice.

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

“Hey John, so-listen-to-this …”

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

TRY: The “Headphones” Rule

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

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

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

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

Practice: Respecting Time

The conference room was quiet. Nobody wanted to start.

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

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

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

TRY: The “Meeting” Rule

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

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

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

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

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

Practice: Respecting Opinions

The family sat down to eat dinner:

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

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

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

TRY: The “Triple-R” Rule

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

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

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

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

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

What now?

That’s up to you.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

The Harmful Effects of Sleeping With Technology [Infographic]

sleeping_with_technology_compressed.jpg

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

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

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

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

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Source: The Harmful Effects of Sleeping With Technology [Infographic]
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

7 of the Best Mood-Boosting Websites We Could Find

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

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

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

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

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

7 of the Best Mood-Boosting Websites We Could Find

1) Animal Planet Kitten Cam

Live video by Animal Planet L!ve

Sophia Bernazzani, Staff Writer, HubSpot Marketing Blog:

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

Visit this online destination if:

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

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

2) Huffington Post Good News Section

HuffPost Good News

Aja Frost, Staff Writer, HubSpot Sales Blog:

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

Visit this online destination if:

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

3) Find the Invisible Cow

Invisible Cow
Source: StrauberryPlays

Nick Carney, Social Media Marketer:

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

Visit this online destination if:

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

4) Cute Overload

Cute Overload

Janessa Lantz, ‎Principal Content Marketing Strategist:

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

Visit this online destination if:

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

5) Spotify

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

Visit this online destination if:

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

6) BarkPost Humor

BarkPost.png

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

Visit this online destination if:

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

7) Audiotree

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

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

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

Visit this online destination if:

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

Get Happy

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

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

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

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Source: 7 of the Best Mood-Boosting Websites We Could Find
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

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

productive_schedules_compressed.jpg

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

“The Morning Habits of 5 Fortune 500 CEOs”

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

“Train Yourself to Be a Morning Person”

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

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

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

scheduling-your-day-infographic_1.jpg

Source: Communications@Syracuse

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

3 Time-Saving Strategies the Best Sales Reps Use

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It was the mid-90s in Washington, D.C., and I was a rookie stockbroker at Merrill Lynch. I was your typical rookie — making hundreds of dials a day from copied pages out of the phone book.

I did a good job of setting appointments with prospective clients. There was just one problem: I kept setting them up at the prospect’s house. I figured if they trusted me to come into their home, they would trust me with their money.

Because I was young and had no money, I was driving an old, beat-up Datsun with questionable AC. In the summer.

While I may have gotten some pity for being a soaking wet, sweaty fool, I did not instill confidence in prospects their money would be safe.

I did this all summer, not once realizing the business I was bringing in was due to the prospect coming into my office. When the client came to me, it was in my environment — they were giving a buying signal by making a commitment to come in. If I went to them, they only had to hear my pitch, and give me a glass of water.

Driving to my prospects’ houses was hugely inefficient — and didn’t give me an accurate sense of their interest. To get better results, I needed to change my approach. Here are the top three selling time-wasters I’ve discovered.

1) Going to your prospects

This used to be part and parcel of old-school sales, since communication with prospects was limited to the phone, direct mail, and face-to-face meetings. Travel time, traffic, gas, tolls, delays and an audience that can afford to tune you out all add up to reduced ROI. Anyone ever book a flight, land and then find out the prospect (maybe even a highly qualified one) cancelled?

The solution: Make them come to you. Ask prospects to visit your office — this shows commitment and a higher level of buying signal. If you sell software, you can accomplish the same effect by signing them up for a demo or trial. They’re more likely to buy if they’ve invested time and energy into researching and testing your product.

2) Smiling and dialing with no targets

Ready. Fire! Aim. That’s what spray and pray prospecting looks like. Randomly calling names off of an unqualified list is a total time suck. When you’re required to make a certain number of dials, targeting goes out the window.

The solution: Pursue qualified prospects. My friend Mike Weinberg, in his book “New Sales, Simplified,” lists targeting clients as the first step in an effective prospecting plan. He says your target list must be Finite, Focused, Written and Workable. Ask yourself “who” and “why” questions to help identify targets when building a list. Asking these questions will help you create targets that fit the profile of your best customers.

3) Not using a CRM

If you’re still writing in your Franklin Planner, checking off handwritten lists to compile your daily prospecting totals, and writing notes that get lost in the pile on your desk, you are wasting time. How much time is spent manually entering data on paper notes that could be spent prospecting?

The solution: Leverage a CRM. With a CRM, every call, email, interaction, and data point is automatically recorded and optimized for the most leverage. Your prospecting time has just been increased because all of the necessary info you need for your targeted prospects and your interaction with them has been saved and stored and analyzed in your CRM.

Your CRM can be set to manage your communication’s cadence and medium. Engage your prospects where they want to be engaged – whether that’s by phone, email, text, or social.

I wasted a lot of time as a young salesman. I had no plan and chased down every lead with no clue if they were worth the effort. I made little use of the tools I had at my disposal.

Today, we have analytics, content, automation, demos, CRM, and more that let us maximize our productivity, sales, and commissions.

Don’t be a sweaty fool: Be a pro.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales