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Maximizing Productivity

Below are the articles in the Maximizing Productivity category. Each article title is followed by a brief summary introduction to the content. Click "Read Excerpt" for a more comprehensive review. Click "Add to Package" to buy or redeem the article.

Maximizing Productivity

5 Tips to Help You Stay Focused on Your Goals

Setting goals can be effortless and it's not hard to think up and write down goals, but achieving them can be a bit of a challenge. Here are some tips for staying focused on goals.

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Setting goals can be effortless. It's not hard to think up or even write your goals down.

Achieving them, on the other hand, can be a bit of a challenge.

In order to reach your goals, you must maintain your focus on the end result, especially when things get rough. Here are some tips to help you stay focused on your goals.

1. Create a visual reminder. A wish book contains pictures, personal reflections and other notes related to the finished goal. Let's pretend for a moment that your goal is to start a restaurant. Create a restaurant wish book full of pictures, such as cutouts from magazines depicting restaurant grand openings, the type of furniture you would like in the restaurant, famous people coming to visit or even a fake review that you have written about your impending opening night. Visual reminders are meant to encourage and keep your eye on the prize when you hit a rough spot in your plans.

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself Every Day

In order to achieve goals, motivation is essential. Nothing gets accomplished without it. With a few simple strategies, anyone can get motivated day in and day out.

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There are some days when it feels impossible to get motivated. Yet in order to achieve your goals, motivation is essential. Without it, nothing is accomplished. Responsibilities and tasks pile up. Life becomes overwhelming. Motivation becomes even harder to find.

However, with a few simple strategies you can motivate yourself every day. Here are seven. Even doing only one of them will help. Try all seven and you'll find yourself revved up and ready to go on a regular basis!

Understand what motivates you.

Some people are motivated by a sense of accomplishment. Other people are motivated by praise. Still others are motivated by money. It's even possible that you're motivated by something else. Understanding what you’re motivated by will help. When you're feeling unmotivated, you can tap into that desire and get the kick-start you need.

For example, if you're motivated by money, you might kick-start your day by doing something that earns a profit. Or you might look at the task you're facing differently, if you realize that it generates income.

Are You an Effective Multitasker?

Through its quiz format, the article offers tips for improving multitasking skills.

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Some people swear by the efficiency of multitasking. Recently, however, some suggest that, not only is multitasking inefficient, it’s counterproductive. Whatever theory you ascribe to, humans seem “wired” to try to accomplish multiple tasks—ever since that first, Type “A” cave-dweller tossed a tuber on the fire next to the roasted woolly mammoth to cook meat and potatoes at the same time.

Nowadays, you don’t have to look further than the drivers next to you to see how multitasking has evolved, as they try to negotiate traffic, consume coffee, and work their PDAs all at the same time.

Take this self quiz to see how your multitasking skills rate.

1. At the end of the day my “to do” list is smaller than when my day began.

2. When completing multiple tasks simultaneously, I don’t combine tasks that require similar levels of concentration. For instance, I don’t try to listen, read or talk at the same time.

A Seasonal Approach to Life

Through her natural cycle, Mother Nature offers ways to tap into greater sense of flow and productivity in our lives.

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Mother Nature certainly likes her routine. Global warming aside, she cycles through the same processes, in the same order, doing things the same way they always have worked.

Within that cycle, of course, variations exist—a dry winter or a mild fall—but we always can rely on the rhythm. One season follows the other. It's a comfortable predictability in a world that often seems to be wildly unpredictable.

Luckily, it is possible to tap into that natural cycle, to bring into our lives a greater sense of flow and order.

As you read the suggestions below, keep in mind that we all have our own rhythms as well. What works for one person might not work for another. Take the ideas as ways to get you thinking. If a particular suggestion won't work for you, is there another seasonally inspired activity that might?

Building Endurance for Maximum Performance

On paper, Teri's life is everything she's ever wanted, but lately, she just doesn't feel the enthusiasm for her work that she used to. She's often tired and impatient and also feels distant from her husband and kids. What's wrong?

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One clue: Several months ago, Teri started putting in more hours at work. She started burning out as well as neglecting other areas of her life. She wasn’t managing her physical and mental energy well.

A less obvious clue: Teri had lost sight of her passions. She worked, mothered and was a wife. But she no longer danced or painted, and she had stopped the political activism that had so fired her up in her younger years. An essential part of her, her passionate nature, had, in effect, atrophied much like an unused muscle.

"The energy that pulses through us is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual," write Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in The Power of Full Engagement. "All four dynamics are critical, none is sufficient by itself, and each profoundly influences the others. To perform at our best, we must skillfully manage each of these interconnected dimensions of energy. Subtract any one from the equation and our capacity to fully ignite our talent and skill is diminished, much the way an engine sputters when one of its cylinders misfires."

Creating Systems for Success

Most of us run our lives with a handful of systems, but don’t take advantage of how systematization could improve productivity, gain customers, and more.

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Between our cellphones, our planners and our e-mail inboxes, we have organized ourselves and our time. And if you ever doubt the importance of these systems, recall your panic the last time you lost your planner.

Yet as important as these systems are, most of us don’t take advantage of what systems can do to improve our businesses. Systems are simply ways of automating or structuring processes so that they can occur systematically without so much thought or attention—and by more than just one person, so that the business can continue to run if the owner takes a vacation.

Figuring Out What to Systematize

For most of us, there are dozens of similar repetitive tasks, large and small, in our businesses or jobs that could be systematized. To identify where you can apply systems, step back from your enterprise and try to look at it objectively. Ask yourself questions such as below:

Where are your frustrations? This is an important test for two reasons. First, you are more likely to be frustrated if you are redoing tasks that bring no particular satisfaction. Second, you are going to be frustrated if you have to relearn a task or “recreate the wheel” every time a specific need comes up.

Don't Miss a Step: Take Time to Celebrate!

The important fifth step in achieving a goal is too often left out.

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The path of a goal, whether a goal set for your personal life or in the course of business, is generally seen as having four steps: 1) assess the situation 2) set goals for how you want it to be 3) take steps to achieve the goals and 4) achieve the goals (completion).

After Step 4, many people return to Step 1 with the question: “OK, what's next?” And then it's on to Step 2 and 3 and 4 again.

Hold on. Stop right there.

There is actually a very important fifth step that many of us leave out. Step 5 is where we celebrate our achievements! After working hard to reach our goals, taking time to celebrate gives us the opportunity to:

• Capture the learning. When we take stock of what we’ve learned along the way to our goals, we can consciously incorporate those lessons in the future.

Getting Things Done—On Time!

If planning is the key to getting things done on time, why is it sometimes regarded as an impossible luxury? Here are some ways to help keep those projects on track.

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There is a well-known axiom in business that “failure to plan is planning to fail.” Well-known, and, all too often, honored in the breach. It is planning, in its many guises, that ultimately has the greatest impact on whether you finish a task or project on time.

But for many of the tasks thrown our way at work, planning seems to be an unthinkable luxury. Assaulted by emails, barraged by phone calls, sliced and diced by meetings and interruptions, the idea of planning a day, let alone a longer-term project, is almost laughable. And if someone else isn’t imposing unrealistic deadlines on us, we'll commit to them ourselves, agreeing to be somewhere or accomplish something in impossible time frames.

While a lot of this comes with the territory of modern life, there are some things you can do to help increase the odds of getting your projects done on time.

Protect your calendar

Your calendar isn't your to-do list. Loading up your planner with the 19 things you want to accomplish each day just creates frustration, not productivity. Instead, separate the functions of your calendar and your to-do list, and use the calendar only for events that are time-specific.

Getting Unstuck

How to free oneself from the projects and decisions one wasn't quite sure how to handle.

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Stuck projects can clutter up your desk and your mind, reduce your productivity and weigh you down. You may feel bored, restless, unmotivated, unchallenged and uncreative.

Eventually, stuck projects can erode your confidence and motivation, and begin to affect more than just your job. Stress at work can quickly lead to stress at home, and low confidence can keep you from doing the things that might improve your life or health.

Here's what you'll need:


Taking an honest look and admitting that you're stuck takes courage. You'll also need courage for other steps in this process—opening your mind to new ideas, taking action and, in some cases, making the tough choice to walk away from a project that wasn't right for you to begin with.

High-Gear Motivation: How to Hit Your Peak Day After Day

Hitting our peak every day is a challenge, but by heeding these suggestions, we can stay on a strong course.

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As challenging as your work life can be, sometimes the biggest challenge of all is just staying motivated. We have a hundred tasks vying for our attention. Or perhaps we work with difficult people but lack the authority to effect any change. Events happen in our personal lives that can get us off course. They can all take their toll on our motivation levels.

And yet these days, most of us don't have the luxury of performing at anything less than our peak. Hitting that peak day after day is a challenge in its own right. But if we pay attention to the basics, and lock them into place, we can stay on a strong course.

The very first place to start is to assess whether you really believe you can achieve your goals. This may seem obvious, but the importance of this point is easy to overlook. As motivational speaker and trainer Brian Tracy puts it, you simply cannot achieve something you don't believe you can achieve. A related point has to do with making sure your work is aligned with your talents and your values. To work at your peak, what you do must, over time, be in sync with what you enjoy doing and with what you believe in.

How to Be More Productive Today

Lots of people struggle with productivity, always striving to get their task list accomplished but end up constantly moving tasks to the next day. Here are some tips that can help them make their day more productive.

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Do you struggle with productivity? Are you always striving to get your task list accomplished but end up constantly moving tasks to the next day? If this describes you, here are a few tips for making your day more productive.

Create a To-Do List the Night Before

Instead of waking up in the morning to make your to-do list, make your list the night before. This way you can go to bed relaxed and confident for the next day. You also wake up in the morning knowing exactly what you have planned for the day. You might also consider planning on Sunday night for the upcoming week. Then when you wake on Monday you have a plan in place.


Take a look at the tasks on your list. What tasks offer the largest return? What tasks offer the most value and achievement? For example, answering email or paying bills isn't a task that offers a large return. However, making a sale or meeting with a client is a very productive task. Put your most profitable or results-oriented tasks first on your list.

How to "Hack" Into Your Own Brainpower

Learn how to overcome self-sabataging tendencies with the power of your brain.

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Much like a computer responds to commands, your brain can be programmed to accept any changes you might want to make in your life. However, many of your current behaviors stem from unconstructive programming you received as a child that may stand in the way of change.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, published in 1960, says, "Beliefs about ourselves have unconsciously been formed from our past experiences ... especially in early childhood." So keep in mind, when you want to change a particular habit or belief, that the unwanted behavior was built on patterns developed over time.

In this classic book, Dr, Maltz introduced the idea of a mind-body connection and that positive outcomes are achieved through changing our attitudes. Here are some simple steps that can help you overcome self-sabotaging tendencies, much like installing new software into the computer of your mind.

Identify the issue. Write down everything you know about the habit, such as when it started and why. Be as detailed and truthful as possible because it's hard to change what you don't acknowledge. And list all the reasons you want to change. According to Dr. Maltz, "Change the self-image and you change the personality."

How Well Do You Delegate?

Whether a person work with others, or alone, he or she may still suffer from the “Lone Ranger Syndrome”—that managerial malaise that causes folks to work excessively long, hard hours because only THEY know how to do something right. Whoa, Silver! There is a cure.

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Effective delegation is a learnable time-management skill that can dramatically increase your effectiveness at work. To find out how well you delegate, take the following Self-Quiz.

1. In most cases, I can do tasks quicker and better myself than if I delegate.

2. Before I delegate something, I take the time to visualize the end result and to communicate that to the delegate.

3. I work longer hours than others doing the same kind of work.

4. A written outline or sketch of what I want always accompanies my oral description of the tasks I delegate.

How Well Do You Manage Your Energy?

It is the skillful management of energy, not time, that most significantly affects high performance. Take this quiz to see if you could be managing energy in a healthier way.

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When the seemingly relentless demands at work and burdens of a busy life take their toll on work performance, we tend to think that managing our time better will improve the situation. If we can just work faster, multitask more efficiently, things will be better, we think, as we buy the latest time management gadget or software.

However, as Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement, explain, it is the skillful management of energy, not time, that most significantly affects high performance. Too often, we squander this valuable resource through energy-taxing habits—physical, emotional, mental and spiritual habits. Take this Self-Quiz to see how well you are managing your energy.

1. I rely on sugary or carbohydrate-rich snacks for bursts of energy when I need an energetic pick-me-up.

2. Life is an endless marathon to be endured; you just have to keep on running.

3. I tend to do what feels immediately pressing and easier to accomplish rather than make intentional choices about how I spend my time and what matters most.

Improving Business Results Through Collaboration

To secure success, take another look at collaboration.

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When it comes to work, are you a lone ranger? See if you identify with any of these statements:

"I can do it better myself."

"The more people involved, the less control I'll have."

"I like MY ideas and MY way of doing things."

The truth is, going it alone can lead to overwork and burnout for you, and can create unnecessary stress and tension in your workplace. It can breed competition, fear, dishonesty, tunnel vision and inefficiency.

So before you limit your chance for success, why not open the door to other people’s skills and experience. Collaboration is a win-win solution with many benefits, including the following:

Increasing Personal Productivity

In-depth exploration of strategies for getting more done in less time—and enjoying the process.

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Often it seems we're so busy putting out daily fires that we don’t ever get to accomplish anything of real significance—those things that would make us happiest in the long run. Life becomes something to “get through” instead of an exciting path to greater fulfillment...

Below are some tips to help you to get more done in less time—and do what you really want to be doing.

Mission possible

Often busy-ness is a cover for not really knowing what’s the best thing to be doing. To get around this, you have to know what your priorities are in the moment. To determine this you need know what your larger life priorities are.

Stephen R. Covey, best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests writing a personal or organizational mission statement, a statement that summarizes your higher purpose and goals in life...

Without a mission, you won’t be able to say no to tasks. You can only know what to say no to when you know what to say yes to first.

Overwhelm-Busting Strategies

Employ these intervention techniques when overwhelm starts to descend.

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Symptoms of overwhelm can be physical (nail biting, clumsiness, neck ache); psychological (forgetfulness, rudeness, defensiveness); social (poor hygiene, inadequate boundaries); or spiritual (loss of sense of purpose, unsure of what’s important).

Its triggers are just as individual: a deadline, a certain tone of voice, change.

Noticing these symptoms and triggers is like setting off the two-minute warning buzzer—giving you time to implement your intervention techniques.

The Strategies

Write down all the nurturing things you can think of to do when overwhelm begins to visit. They’ll help you reconnect with yourself, to re-collect and re-focus your energy inside. Keep a copy with you and one at home. When you begin to notice your particular symptoms and/or triggers, use the list to remind yourself of things that have worked in the past. Here are a few suggestions. Be as creative as you want.

The Active Leader: Harnessing Willpower to Move from Ideas to Action

We know what we should be doing, now how can we get it done?

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For so many of us—whether CEOs for major corporations, small business owners or solo-entrepreneurs—there is a fundamental disconnection between knowing what should be done and actually doing it. Calling this disconnection the “knowing-doing gap,” Stanford University researchers Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton pose the question: "Why does knowledge of what needs to be done frequently fail to result in action or behavior consistent with that knowledge?”

The answer, argue Bruch and Ghoshal, is both simple and profound. They sum it up with the term “willpower.” The problem they say is not that managers’ time is sliced, but that their intention or “volition” is sliced as well.

Getting things done requires two critical components: energy and focus. And both are at risk in the modern workplace. Building a bias for action in yourself and your organization requires developing and reinforcing the skills to become a “purposeful” or “volitional” manager. These are people who can consistently achieve their objectives by making an unconditional commitment to their goals and then leveraging the power of that intention to overcome the obstacles in their way, whether their own doubts or the bureaucracies within their organizations

The Importance of Follow-Through

How important is follow-through? Learn the components of follow-through and suggestions for increasing one’s success.

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Whether you're learning to swing a golf club, baseball bat or tennis racquet, coaches always emphasize the importance of follow-through. It's not just hitting the ball that matters, it's how you continue your swing once contact is made...

So often we feel we've completed a task because the action of it is "done," but we underemphasize how powerful it is to continue developing, tracking and monitoring operations and relationships even after they've been set in place. As Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan note in Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, “Follow-through is the cornerstone of execution, and every leader who's good at executing follows through religiously. Following through ensures that people are doing the things they committed to do, according to the agreed timetable.”

It's Not Just What, But How

When we think of follow-through, we tend to think of taking action. But a large part of follow-through is about first figuring out how things will be done. Once you define your goals, set aside some time to decide just how you will reach them. What steps will be needed to accomplish them? Who will do which steps and when? What is the desired timeline? If a strategy does not address the hows, it is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Take meetings, for instance. A plan for follow-through should be detailed at the end of every meeting. “Never finish a meeting without clarifying what the follow through will be, who will do it, what resources they will use, and how and when the next review will take place and with whom,” Bossidy and Charan suggest.

Time for a Productivity Tune-Up!

Scheduled maintenance. It's not just for cars.

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Main-te-nance (noun): work that is done regularly to keep a machine, building or piece of equipment in good condition and working order.

Considering the 1967 Porsche Targa in your driveway, the issue of a tune-up is a no-brainer. No one would risk ruining such a finely crafted (and expensive) machine by neglecting routine—but critical—maintenance.

Ah, but when we turn our attention to the finely crafted “machine” reading this article, and the equally finely crafted enterprise you’re responsible for, suddenly “tune-up” starts to sound like your mother nagging you to brush your teeth. Yet the same principles apply: Maintenance is what it takes to keep us “in good condition and working order.”

Step #1 in any productivity tune-up has to start with a quick assessment of where you stand today. What’s frustrating you? Where do you feel you are failing, or just failing to achieve your potential? What are the sources of stress? Next, take a hard look at the source of these problems. Or, as productivity expert Julie Morgenstern puts it, answer the question: “Is it me, or is it them?” Taking a hard look at these issues will help point out what needs attention. Then consider some of these tips and resources from well-known productivity experts to identify ways you can accomplish more while reducing stress and putting some enjoyment back in your life.

Top 10 Best Email Habits

What’s the secret to success? The joke’s twist of the adage answers: 10 percent hard work, 90 percent ignoring email. Luckily, we don’t have to go that far.

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Improving your email habits can drastically increase your productivity. Like any new approach, these take focus and practice. But after awhile, they will become habits that support you.

1. Check email only at scheduled times for a specified amount of time. Twice a day for 30-60 minutes works well for many. Unplug until the next scheduled time.

2. Unsubscribe relentlessly. Make sure you receive only the things you really want to—and do—read.

3. Reduce the amount of routed email (i.e., cc’d from coworkers) to only that which is essential.

4. “Slash and burn” on your first pass through your inbox. Use the second pass for replies and other follow-up actions.

Top 10 Steps to Achieve SMART Goals

Making SMART goals is a great beginning. Then one has to accomplish them.

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Making a SMART goal—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound—is just the first step in making your goal a reality. It's what you do after that can make or break your objective. Below are 10 essential steps to achieving your SMART goals.

1. Make sure your goal passes the SMART test. To the letter.

2. Align your goals with your values. Without values alignment, you are likely to struggle—if not fail—to implement them.

3. Share your goals with three to five key people to become more accountable. Don’t sabotage yourself: choose people who are and positive.

Top 10 Ways to Cope with an Increased Workload

Good habits are essential in times of stress created by an increased workload.

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As businesses lay off workers and cut costs, those remaining usually face an increased workload. Stress is almost a given. Here are some ways to cope with all that extra work. The habits will serve you whether the economy is weak or strong.

1. Let go of perfection. It could not serve you less at this time. Good enough is good.

2. Identify time-wasters. Once you're clear what they are, start reducing them.

3. Plan everything. It will help keep you sane, centered and on track.

Top 10 Ways to Have Productive Business Meetings

Business meetings: stressful, a waste of time, nothing ever changes or gets done. They don’t have to be that way.

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Like a football team’s huddle, meetings should be held to bring players together, assign individual responsibility and energize the participants—all as quickly as possible. And yet a common complaint is that too many meetings are stressful and a waste of time. Below are some guidelines for successful meetings.

1. Define the purpose of the meeting. Without a clear purpose, achieving results is almost impossible.

2. Make an agenda. Be sure to focus meetings on key issues that require a meeting.As with anything else, poor planning produces poor performance.

3. Rigorously stick to your agenda. Allow discussion only on agenda items.

4. Begin and end on time. Doing so shows that you value the participants' time and builds trust.

Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Work Environment

Ten tips for enhancing one’s surroundings at work.

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Our surroundings play an important role in how we feel and, consequently, how we perform. Here are 10 ways to make your work environment support your best work.

1. De-clutter. Do whatever it takes to bring order to your workspace. Clutter is the #1 enemy of productivity.

2. Add flowers/plants. Living things help clean the air and clear the brain. Keep them within eyesight…and keep them fresh!

3. Focus on relationships. Unresolved conflict with workmates can poison even the best workspace.

Top 10 Ways to Take Care of Yourself at Work

Self-care at work increases effectiveness and productivity. So how can a person begin?

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Self-care is not an “emergency response plan” to be activated when stress becomes overwhelming. When we consistently take care of ourselves and our energy, we are noticeably more effective and more productive—and usually in fewer hours. Put these tips into practice, and see what good business sense they make.

1. Create a nurturing work environment, with healthy air and lighting, supportive décor, ample water, high-protein snacks, etc.

2. Keep writer's hours, even if you're not a writer. Reserve blocks of focused time that are yours with no, repeat NO, interruptions.

.3. Start each week and each day with planning. Doing so increases productivity and success, and eases anxiety and stress.

Why Happiness Matters at Work

Happier people make better team players and more effective leaders, but unhappy people are not doomed. Article offers ways to cultivate happiness at work.

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When you were little and the teacher asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, bet you didn’t answer “miserable!”

At every stage in life, unhappiness is not a state to which we aspire. But with the economy rolling downhill, our jobs and businesses can seem like tiny inflatable rafts in a big scary ocean of fear. So, we hold on. But what if we have a boss who's overly demanding and doesn’t appreciate us? Or what if our worries about sustaining business are exhausting us to the point of burnout? Or what if we just feel gloomy and don’t know why? In unstable times, it’s especially hard to know what to do when we’re unhappy in our jobs and businesses.

Happiness Matters

We all have a natural capacity to derive pleasure and satisfaction from hard work. But reports from The Conference Board conclude that many of us are not happy at work. Medical evidence suggests being unhappy at work affects our memory and our capacity to learn, while increasing the risk of illness.

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