Getting Your Best Sleep on a Busy Schedule

A busy lifestyle can cut into your sleep time, leaving you feeling tired during the day. However, that doesn’t have to be case. There are a number of things you can do to improve the quality of sleep you enjoy, even if you do have to work it in around a hectic lifestyle.

Improve Sleep Quality

You can get a jump start on a good night’s sleep by doing some transitional things after work or before you go to bed. These things include:

  • Incorporate a short yoga session, soothing stretches, meditation or taking a walk after work. This helps you let go of the day’s stresses so you transition from work to private time and finally to bedtime.
  • Install light-blocking window coverings or wear an eye mask. This is especially helpful if you’re a shift worker who doesn’t get to sleep when it’s dark or if you live in an area where there’s a light source outside your window.
  • Set up an ambient noise machine or wear earplugs to block out noise if you live somewhere that’s not quiet when you need to rest. That way, neighbours, family members, traffic and pets aren’t keeping you awake with excess noise.

Enjoy a Good Nap

When you don’t get a full night’s sleep, your energy may crash during the day, but a nap can turn that drop in energy into a positive thing. A nap after lunch, ranging in length from 20 minutes to one hour, offers rejuvenating benefits. It also helps make up for reduced night-time sleep. Choose a comfortable spot where you won’t be interrupted during your nap. Use some of the techniques that improve night-time sleep quality, such as wearing a mask to block light and turning on soft music to block noise.

Sleep is more than a luxury, it’s a necessity, and sleeping well can be part of the difference between delivering an average performance at work and being a high achiever. When you enjoy quality sleep, whether in one long night-time session or by taking a nap after lunch, it increases your ability to function at peak performance levels.

Advertisements

4 Tips for Being Aware of Your Stress Level… and Reducing It

Being Aware of Your Stress

Stress is emotional and mental pain resulting from adverse circumstances. Everyone experiences stress from time to time. It’s normal. But it can get out of control and cause serious problems. It’s important to monitor your stress levels and watch out for signs such as headaches, acne, chronic pain, poor general health, fatigue, lower libido, digestive problems, poor appetite, depressive moods, rapid heartbeats and uncontrollable sweating.

If your stress becomes unmanageable, seek the services of professionals, such as licensed mental health counsellors, social workers, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. Also, there are steps you can take to reduce your stress. Let’s take a look at four important ones.

1. Breathing Exercises

Stress-relief breathing is one of the quickest and easiest ways of reducing your stress level in any situation. These breathing exercises reverse your physiological response to a stressful situation by relaxing your body and mind. They’re great for relieving chronic stress, promoting clear thinking and reducing overall stress.

Take a five-minute break and pay attention to your breathing. Close your eyes and sit up straight with a hand on your belly. Gently inhale via your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and proceed up to your head. Reverse the process as you breathe out through your mouth.

2. Exercising

Exercising reduces stress and promotes overall wellness. In addition to stress relief, regular workouts help you manage your weight and improve your longevity. Exercise is highly effective at reducing stress because:

  • It’s a physical outlet for frustrations and stress.
  • It distracts you from stressful thoughts.
  • It gives you a natural endorphin high.
  • It improves your mental wellness in the long term.

3. Adopting an Optimistic Perspective

Research shows that optimism reduces stress. When exposed to the same stressful situations, optimists tend to be less reactive than pessimists because optimists interpret challenges and threats as opportunities. Optimists are also more likely to believe that they have the power to change their situations.

4. Meditating Regularly

Meditation has a variety of benefits, one of them being stress reduction. Taking a few minutes to meditate can center you in the present, pushing away worries about the future and regrets about the past. Like optimism, meditation can shift your perspective of a stressful situation and help you identify opportunities rather than fixate on seemingly insurmountable difficulties.

Ways to Get to Know Your Customers Better

The Business Development Bank of Canada suggests that all customers are not equal. While it’s important to treat all business connections with deference, it’s vital that you identify your top customers and give them most of your attention because they are likely the ones filling your coffers. Try to group your top clients by gross margin impact, then sort them into categories by geography, demographics and preferences. This type of analysis lets you develop targeted marketing strategies and research that produces insights beneficial to you and your customers.

Turn Negative Reviews into Repeat Customers

According to Inc. magazine, a personal touch often wins back disgruntled customers. Sometimes, picking up the phone and making a connection helps the customer realize that there are caring people behind your company’s logo. It’s also a great way to find out more about what matters to consumers and how you can better meet their needs.

Learn More About Your B2B Customers

Finding out why your B2B clients went into business gives you valuable insight into their ultimate goals and motivations. Here are a few essential questions you can use to suss this out via a survey or, better yet, a quick phone call:

  • How did they get started in their business?
  • Why do they believe their product or service is superior to competitors?
  • Why is their offering better than their competitors?
  • How can you make their lives easier?

Keep your objectives in mind throughout this discovery process. At the end of the day, you are collecting business intelligence to improve or expand your product line and make more money.

Create a Customer Advisory Board

According to Small Business BC, you can get to know your customers by including them in the process. This approach may work best for larger businesses that provide products and services directly to the public, such as schools suppliers, subcontractors for municipalities, commercial developers and transportation businesses. Here are some ideas for whom to include on your advisory board:

  • Current Customers. Choose a group of excellent customers to provide valuable product feedback.
  • Potential Customers. Find out why they don’t use your products yet.
  • Agents/Distributors. Include agents or distributors so they’re tuned in to customer needs.
  • Investors. Investors may have important insights into current market trends.
  • Strategic partners. Any business that serves the same market segment, such as suppliers, can be considered as strategic partners.

Whether you choose to approach this challenge from a personal or technological perspective, getting to know your customers better is the key to providing them with products and services they want and fatten up your revenue stream at the same time.

9 Ways to Think Like an Explorer

Each year, Yukoners celebrate Heritage Day on the third Friday in February. It’s been a holiday for government workers in the Yukon since 1976. In 2015, Nova Scotia became the seventh province to legislate a paid holiday in February. Nova Scotia uses the day to celebrate important places, events and individuals in its history and picks a new person of interest every year.

In honour of Canada’s great adventurers, this article looks at how you can incorporate the spirit of an explorer in your operations.

Unleash Your Inner Explorer

Being an explorer in business terms is synonymous with embracing an entrepreneurial spirit in everything you do. It embodies a can-do attitude that empowers business owners and managers to create something new for the benefit of everyone in the enterprise. Here are some tips that can help you unleash your inner explorer:

  • Use the left and right hemispheres of your brain to analyze and react quickly to new opportunities.
  • Break habits and routines by thinking beyond boundaries and limitations to see the full potential of a project or investment.
  • Avoid making assumptions that lead to negative thoughts, which sap your energy and erode your confidence.

Ambiguity can lead to indecisiveness, but narrow definitions stifle the imagination. Cultivate ambiguity by reading or participating in activities outside your comfort zone. This can give you a fresh perspective when it comes to business decisions.

Learn from Customers Forging New Paths with Your Products

Sometimes, you can find explorers among your own customers. These forward-thinkers can help you realize new usage patterns that can lead to growth or cost savings. They may have some suggestions for product and service enhancements that fulfill their needs and add revenue to your bottom line. You can find adventurous customers among those who:

  • Use your product in a unique way
  • Derive value from your product that contributes to their gross margin
  • Care about a product characteristic that implies a possible niche for your product
  • Need much less or much more service and attention than average
  • Use your product in a new product for resale
  • Use your product in a location your sales channel doesn’t serve

Partner with these customers and explore opportunities to expand your market even further. You may be able to realize economies of scale that save both companies money. Most of all, dare to be daring if it’s something that can help your business grow.

3 Tips for Beating the Winter Blues in Your Workplace

Keeping your spirits up in the dark winter months can be a trying task for many people in the workplace. The lack of sunshine and frequent cold and stormy weather can reduce workplace efficiency. Staying healthy is a top priority to avoid dry throats and colds during this season. Finding small ways to boost morale can go a long way to improving productivity in the cold dark months.

Add More Greenery to Your Workplace

According to a several studies, there were significant changes shown by office workers who had plants nearby and those that didn’t. Concerns like difficulty concentrating, fatigue and an increase in sore throats and coughs were present when the plants were removed from the workers. Plants purify stale air by absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen. Fresh oxygen in a closed office can help workers breathe freely and fight off colds. Try using office-friendly plants such as spider plants, philodendron and lemon balm.

Increase the Lighting

There is a literal lack of sunlight during the winter months, which can negatively impact efficient workflow. As there are fewer and fewer daylight hours in the winter, employees may end up starting their workday in the dark and leaving in the dark. This can cause fatigue, low energy and a lowered attention span. Keeping the lights bright in a workplace can help increase productivity. Try adding more lights during these months to encourage a bright and cheery atmosphere. A small lamp on each desk and a bright break area help offset gloom brought on by the dark season.

Break Down Large Tasks and Delegate

Winter blues affect workers in various ways, but one of the most common ways is a lack of attention and fatigue. This reduces productivity and efficiency. Bounce back by breaking large projects down into smaller ones, and delegating tasks to workers. Giving your workers small tasks to do makes it easier for large projects to get accomplished, and completing a small concise list of tasks recharges the brain and improves productivity. Delegating tasks to employees encourages a busy and efficient workspace. Workers gain in confidence and workplace moral increases when they are given responsibilities.

10 Mid-Afternoon Pick-Me-Ups That Won’t Let You Down

If you get sleepy or lethargic around two in the afternoon, you’re in good company. Many people experience a mid-afternoon slump due to any number of reasons, from eating the wrong thing at lunch to spending too much time in a chair. But unless you have the luxury of taking a nap, finding ways to recharge is essential if you want a productive afternoon. Try these 10 pick-me-ups, and see how easy it is to reboot your energy and make the most of the rest of your day.

Drink Up
Sluggishness is often the result of being dehydrated. In fact, if the body loses just two percent of its water, feelings of fatigue can set in. When mid-afternoon hits, turn to the best hydrator around: water. Fill a tall glass with cool, fresh water and keep it nearby throughout the afternoon, sipping regularly for a boost of energy.

Cool Off
Heat and humidity cause a rise in body temperature, making it hard to stay alert. If you’re working in a warm room after lunch, open a window or turn on a fan to cool off. Remove your sweater or suit jacket if that offers relief. Or, try spritzing with a facial mist. The cooling sensation will refresh and re-energize you.

Grab Your Pet
Spending time with your furry companion is both therapeutic and invigorating — and a great activity for a mid-afternoon break. Play a game, have a grooming session, do some obedience training, or just talk to your pet. You’ll both benefit from the experience and be ready and rejuvenated to tackle whatever comes next on the schedule.

Switch Tasks
A boring or tedious task could be a contributing factor of mid-afternoon fatigue. If possible, set aside what you’re doing and switch to a different task for a refreshing diversion. Giving yourself something new to focus on, even if temporary, can provide the burst of adrenaline you need to perk up your mind and body.

Eat Some Energy
While certain foods can weigh you down and make you sleepy, others can revitalize you. If you ate heavy carbs at lunch, for example, you’ll likely feel drained within a few hours. Reach for an energizing snack to counter the effect. A tablespoon of peanut butter on whole grain crackers or a handful of almonds will do the trick.

Converse with an Optimist
Ever notice how optimists energize you? Conversing with someone who exudes positivity can be the perfect antidote to a mid-afternoon slump because it will boost your mood and inspire you. Take a break and call a cheerful friend or family member or visit with a half-glass-full co-worker for some stimulating conversation.

Bend and Stretch
Rejuvenating the body and mind in the middle of the afternoon can be as simple as a stretch. That’s because stretching and bending increase blood flow and activate the nervous system. Take your stretching session a step further and do some yoga poses; yoga has been shown to fight fatigue and encourage vitality.

Walk the Block
While going for a walk may be the last thing you want to do if you’re feeling tired, it’s an effective way to get energized — and you don’t have to do it for very long. Short bursts of exercise awaken the body and mind and can keep you alert for hours. Instead of lowering your head on the desk, take a brisk walk around the block.

Plug In a Song
Music has the power to heal all kinds of health problems, from stress to poor blood vessel function, thanks to its ability to stimulate the brain. But music can also curb boredom and fatigue, which lead to sleepiness. When mid-afternoon hits, plug in your favorite upbeat songs and hum the mid-afternoon yawns away in no time.

Laugh
Research has shown that a good laugh releases endorphins in the body. Endorphins enhance your mood and give you an overall uplifted, invigorating feeling. Simple ideas for mid-afternoon humour? Read the comics in the paper, search for jokes online, or have a good old-fashioned laugh with a coworker.

Don’t let the mid-afternoon slump affect the rest of your day. Try the above pick-me-ups when sleepiness sets in after lunch, and get pumped for an energizing, productive afternoon.

7 Bulletproof Stress Management Techniques

Stress is a force that catches us all off guard at some point. Life can be going well, but you will still experience eustress, the emotional, physical phenomenon that you begin feeling when great things happen. Stress has a downside too, known as distress. This is the knot in your stomach, the black cloud in your head and the weight on your back that doesn’t seem to go away. Here are seven stress management techniques you can try, perhaps the only seven you’ll ever need.

1. Acknowledge That Stress Has Benefits

Stress has its benefits. Social scientists discovered that stress, or cortisol, is what gets you out of bed and facing the day in the morning. Without natural stress, you would be lying in bed all day, getting nothing done.

Eustress is your best friend; it’s that feeling you get when you finish a huge project, get a fantastic review, transition to a new job or enter a new relationship. Harnessing and capitalizing on eustress is what takes your existing action to the next level of focus and efficiency.

2. Avoid Stress “Dumpers”

There may be people in your life who seem to spread stress wherever they go. Called “stress dumpers,” these individuals bring others down to their level simply because they have nothing better or more productive to say.

You must protect yourself from potential distress by recognizing manifest stress in others and limiting your interactions with them. You cannot control how stressed other people feel; you can only control how often you see and talk with them. Keeping a circumstantially appropriate distance from stressed people prevents their ability to “stress dump” on you.

3. Observe and Learn From the Best

On the flipside of stress dumpers are people who seem to keep their cool in the most challenging of situations. You can further manage and mitigate your own stress by learning from them.

The next time you’re in a group or conversation where one or more people are already starting to melt down, observe anyone who seems to be unusually collected. They may be avoiding eye contact with the stressed person, breathing normally, or even talking in a normal tone of voice. Any of these (and other factors) can contribute to keeping calm in otherwise messy scenarios.

4. Practice Socially Acceptable Deep Breathing

As ludicrous as this can sound, your body and mind can be tricked into relaxing just by using deep breathing. To try it out, breathe in slowly for a count of seven, and breathe out slowly for a count of 11. Take your time, enjoy the process, and repeat until you notice that your heartbeat has slowed down. Continue if desired, but use this tip as necessary when you don’t have other options and want to melt some stress away.

5. Give Stress-Oriented Thoughts the Red Light

The human mind is so powerful that we can create whole trains of negative thought just by entertaining one unsavory idea. We often think, “If X happens, then Y is sure to happen and consequently ruin my day.”

Fortunately, these thoughts need hold no influence over your emotions. All you have to do is remind yourself that most negative things never happen. Instead, plan for the best each day by starting your day with positive reinforcements from the day or week prior. There’s no need to give power to negative what-ifs as long as you replace them with something uplifting and constructive.

6. Know Your Stress Triggers and Hot Buttons

Whether you are introverted or extroverted, type A or type B, you have stress triggers. Oftentimes, we struggle with distress because we only experience the emotional or mental meltdown after something else has happened.

There are two ways to combat your personal hot-button moments. First, if you have a pen and paper handy, take notes after the next time you feel stressed. This will allow you to reflect on the notes later and examine what might have led to your experience.

Second, intentionally structure and prepare for your day against distress. Whether that’s having a water bottle handy, arriving early to a meeting, talking in person rather than over email or getting some extra sleep the night before, do whatever it takes to counteract stress. Preparing to live your day with a fortress against stress will minimize the possibility of getting stressed at all.

7. Place Limits on What You Are Able to Do

You may feel like staying late at the office today or working all the way through the weekend just to be productive, but being a workaholic has serious drawbacks. Doing too much in too short a period of time can cause you to burn out and get stressed unnecessarily.

Commit yourself to eating nutritious, whole foods, drinking plenty of water throughout the day and getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night. If you ignore these tenets, your health and social sanity will suffer. Not burning the candle at both ends allows you to enjoy your work that much more when you are getting work accomplished.

Stress, like eating and sleeping, is bound to happen as a normal part of life. Stress does not have to be your enemy, though, as long as you know how to interact with and manage it. Make healthy decisions with diet and sleep, observe people who you can learn from and avoid your unique stress triggers, and you will be on your way to perfect stress management in no time.