In the 21st century, “work-life balance” has become a buzz word. ADP states “the term was first introduced in the 1970s and 80s as stressed baby boomers strove to achieve a balance between career, family and other areas of their lives.” Now, work-life balance is promoted as the antidote to burnout. Taking vacation days and leaving work at work used to be a sign of this balance but now, with flexible hours, remote offices, and more opportunities to work in a field one is passionate about, it can be hard to define what work-life balance looks like for each of us. It can be even harder to determine if we are achieving it. While Hardly acknowledges there are a variety of work to life ratios that feel healthy depending on your work personality, here is a list of common barriers to attaining the balance you are looking for:

Work-life balance

24/7 access

Regardless of what your work style is, giving colleagues and clients 24/7 access to you can make it impossible to create work-life balance. The scary thing is, most of us don’t even realize we are doing this. While I love the creation of smartphones, one of the huge downfalls is that my work email and slack are always attached to me. I could be at dinner with the family or on a weekend trip with my friends and I still feel the pressure to keep tabs on work because notifications are flying in. Now if you are a person who likes to work on the go, having your work email on your phone might be a godsend, but that doesn’t mean you have to be available all of the time. Instead, make a habit of turning off your notifications for at least part of the day and creating a 48 hour reply rule so that others don’t expect you to be on demand all of the time.

Priorities & planning

Intimately tied to setting access boundaries, understanding that most things are not urgent is crucial to maintaining work-life balance. Setting priorities and having a plan for executing them will help you keep your boundaries consistent. If your goal is to never work past 5pm, you have to be able to determine tasks for the next 24 hours versus what can wait until the next morning. This way you are confident in your decision to stay offline. Similarly, effective weekly planning will help your boss and colleagues feel comfortable not contacting you while on vacation. It is when they feel out of the loop that panic arises and we are unable to detach.

Barriers to work life balance

Job insecurity

This next one is more of a mindset rather than a clear obstacle. Either consciously or unconsciously many of us identify work as our primary source of value. If we earn a high salary or work for a prestigious company it in part identifies us and our accomplishments. While understandable, thinking you are your job can be hugely detrimental to work-life balance. Even if work is not attached to your identity, 99% of us need a job to have financial security. If your job feels like it is all you have, you will live in fear of jeopardizing it. So when your boss asks you to take on more, your natural reaction is to say yes without question. Next thing you know, friends, family, hobbies, and mental health can all fall to the wayside. Combat this by keeping your resume and cover letter updated, networking, and knowing your capabilities. Have confidence in your ability to get another job and that your life is full outside of work to prevent your boundaries from being bulldozed.

Company culture

Another prominent boundary to achieving work-life balance is your company’s culture. While many companies now boast ideals that support employee mental health and encourage time away from work, the reality can look very different. Many times, our bosses and colleagues set the tone for expectations at work so if they aren’t taking a break, we aren’t either. Similarly, if we see that others are praised for staying late or working on weekends, we are likely to follow suit. While we don’t have control over other people’s habits, we can seek out environments where our style of work-life balance is encouraged and at the very least have a candid conversation with our superiors about how our desired balance can be supported.

Not knowing what to do

Lastly, one of the largest barriers to work-life balance is 100% in your control: not knowing what to do outside of work. It is hard to justify time away from your desk when life outside of work lacks purpose or excitement. As adults we often forget the value of having hobbies that don’t bring in money or we aren’t excelling at. Not everything has to be a side hustle for it to be important. Spending time with friends, family (pets included), and nurturing interests outside of work makes you a whole person. Valuing your home life will help you respect it and make work-life balance a priority.

Barriers to work-life balance

Barriers to Work-Life Balance

In the 21st century, “work-life balance” has become a buzz word. ADP states “the term was first introduced in the 1970s and 80s as stressed baby boomers strove to achieve

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If you’re anything like me, the hardest part about applying for a new job is writing a cover letter and preparing for an interview. It’s not the writing or the talking per se, but trying to remember the crucial aspects of my work experience. When it comes time for my yearly review, I sometimes struggle to come up with my successes, professional goals, or what I would have done differently. 

 

The good news is there’s a solution: career journaling. 

 

A career journal is not simply a diary about work. While documenting office gossip might be entertaining, the point of a career journal is to keep track of your good ideas, contributions to projects, and expectations. For this reason, many find career journals to be the least expensive and easiest form of career development. Hardly recently rolled out a new feature on our app: the Time Capsule, which makes career journaling easier than ever. Below are some tips on how to use it to your advantage.

STAR stories

career journaling, Hardly

One of the most important aspects of a career journal is logging your STAR stories. The Muse states that the STAR method is used for behavioral interview questions. These are questions that usually start with “tell me about a time when…” or “what do you do when…” and center around how you handled a situation in the past. Often answering these questions on the spot can result in rambling or a tangent that misses the mark. The STAR method enables you to answer these questions in a compelling and clear way so that your story hits the nail on the head. So what does STAR stand for?

 

Situation: Start with a situation. Here your goal is to set the scene and give just enough details so that the interviewer can paint a picture in their mind.

 

Task: Second, discuss what your role or responsibility was in the situation you just described.

 

Action: Third, it’s time to shine. Talk about how you reacted and give a play-by-play of how you addressed the situation.

 

Result: Share what your actions achieved. This will wrap up your story in a perfect bow and drive home the point you are trying to make.

 

This method will make your answers to these questions focused and signal to the interviewer your thoughts are well-organized which helps you come off prepared and polished. By journaling these stories in this format you will become intimately familiar with them. The more familiar you are, the more confident you will become telling them. Not only do STAR stories help you prepare for interview questions and yearly reviews, but they also keep you positive about your progress. Sometimes it is hard to recognize our strengths daily or remember times when we really nailed it. Reflecting on these wins can provide a morale boost when the going gets tough. I promise, writing and reviewing these stellar stories is the key success.

Lessons learned

career journaling, Hardly

The next set of items you should keep in your journal are lessons you’ve learned. This is a place where you can dive into opportunities for improvement or take note of why you excelled. Lessons can be learned in a variety of work areas from technical aspects of the job to relational ones. They can come from both positive and and negative experiences. Taking the time to analyze the “why” of successes and failures can provide a playbook for acing the task every time and help you avoid repeating mistakes in the future. The less time you spend relearning lessons, the more you can set yourself up for greater professional success.

#GOALS

career journaling, Hardly

We all know keeping track of our professional goals is important, but do we actually do it? Probably not as frequently as we should. Many of us are encouraged to write smart goals right around our yearly review but other than that, we have little idea if we are getting closer to where we want to be or staying stagnant. Maintaining a career journal can jolt us into thinking more broadly about our careers. So often we can get sidetracked or fall into what is comfortable instead of pushing ourselves. Many of us also get weighed down in the minutia and can’t remember our purpose for work. 

 

Goal setting can help increase our intrinsic motivation and prevent burnout. By journaling, you can connect the work you are doing now to what you want to do in the future. An article referencing Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky states that spending 20 minutes a day writing a narrative description of your best possible future self can help cultivate optimism and an overall sense of happiness. Journaling your goals will not only document where you want to go, but how you are going to get there. This is hugely helpful when looking for a new job position and thinking about whether the position you are applying for will propel you forward or not.

Good advice & good ideas

career journaling, Hardly

My husband always talks about how midshipmen at the Naval Academy are taught to keep a reflective journal noting the words and actions they like and dislike of officers. The purpose of this is to encourage those in training to become the officers they would want to be led by. Similarly, your career journal can serve as a place to keep wise words of mentors and good ideas of your own. Being able to remember the valuable advice of a boss or colleague is priceless. Referencing their words can serve as inspiration and even be passed on to a mentee of your own someday. 

 

Additionally, there is nothing worse than racking your brain trying to recall the great idea you had when you need it most. Your career journal is a convenient way to keep track of solutions that come to mind as you lay in bed and share them with your boss or team the next day.

Our time capsule

career journaling, Hardly

On the Hardly app, you can easily document all of the above as well as your experience at work. The Hardly career Time Capsule allows you to organize and search your work stories so that they are easy to access for interviews and yearly reviews. It also allows you to flag certain entries to be emailed to you in the future so you can gain perspective on how far you’ve come in your career journey.  Lastly, the Time Capsule will take your career journaling to the next level by serving as a more personal place for you to reflect on your work-life balance, reflect on what’s going right in your career, and vent about your current workplace frustrations. Documenting your work experiences can actually be a great form of self-care and reduce stress according to the HECEC at Cornell University

 

Let us know what other functions you would find helpful as a part of your career journaling toolkit and try our Time Capsule out for yourself at app.hardly-work.com.

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When I interviewed for my first job at a market research firm in D.C., I distinctly remember them asking questions around ‘culture fit.’ My future boss asked me to take a personality test, while the HR manager asked which values I shared with the company. I later found out that my boss and I were both ENFJs, and the Vice President of HR said she felt like I would be a great fit for that team and the office. Everyone on the team, including my boss and the HR Manager, was a Caucasian female who seemed to have a direct but friendly demeanor. They all enjoyed team lunches and happy hours outside of work but also worked overtime and felt the need to go above and beyond. My only difference was that I am Black. We were a culture fit and 90% of the time we worked well together.  

  

Recently, there has been an uptick in articles exploring the ways in which ‘culture fit’ actually perpetuates bias in the workplace. The worry is that in industries that are struggling to diversify, searching for candidates who fit the current culture leads to more of the same: i.e. white men. But I’m curious, is there an inherent problem with the idea of ‘culture fit,’ or just the implementation of it? If so, how can we improve and change the narrative?

Perpetuating biases

Culture fit, Hardly

According to Jeremy Turpen, executive recruiter in Silicon Valley, ‘culture fit’ creates a clan mentality where hiring managers only seek out their own kind. This mentality focuses on nurturing the already existing tribe and therefore fails to bring in diverse people. He finds this evident in how hiring managers have been trained to scan for ivy league schools and markers of privilege. Even if you are a diverse person who makes it through this initial scan, you can be weeded out during the interviewing process if you aren’t able to quickly create rapport with the interviewer over shared experiences. 

The Intercept highlights this particular kind of situation in an article about a Black woman who applied for a position at Facebook. Even though she was exceptionally qualified, she was passed over for the job and the company told her they were looking for a strong ‘culture fit.’ In the article, she adds that she felt the company did not prioritize her application and that the only other Black person she saw at Facebook was the receptionist.

 

In a Medium article, Stephanie Barnes goes so far as to say “Culture Fits Only” is the Jim Crow 2.0 “Whites Only” sign. She states that ‘culture fit’ has been a way for companies to hide racism. But race is not the only basis on which ‘culture fit’ potentially discriminates. It can also perpetuate sexism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, and more. This twisted version of culture fit becomes clear when hiring managers state that the candidate had the right skills or had great references, but they just wouldn’t fit with the team. When asked to elaborate, they can’t come up with a clear answer as to why they don’t match the company culture, it’s just kind of a feeling. 

An alternative viewpoint

Culture fit, Hardly

These articles are clear examples of how ‘culture fit’ has been distorted. But could it be used effectively to weed people in rather than weeding people out? ‘Culture fit’ often brings up ideas around being of the same ethnic culture, socioeconomic status, personality type. Overall, people think of it as hiring who you’d want to grab a beer with. However, this definition is skewed because it focuses on individual cultural values rather than company ones.

Fortunately, the articles mentioned above provide some hope by illuminating a similarity in companies that use culture fit inappropriately. Most of these organizations don’t have defined values. When companies do not define their culture clearly, they risk perpetuating a homogenized culture. In other words, if recruiters aren’t clear on company culture, they revert to their personal culture to find a match. 

As Stephanie Barnes states, “the purpose of company culture is to ensure that everyone is on the same page in terms of mission, values, goals, attitudes and practices in an organization.”

What if instead of asking themselves “do they look like me or have the same college experience as me?” hiring managers asked “does this person thrive in a company that encourages outside-the-box thinking or an entrepreneurial spirit?” Effective culture fit is about helping candidates decipher if this company will help them flourish based on the work-related values. 

The alternative is that companies solely hire based on skills. What happens when company culture is implicit rather than explicit? If you’re very capable and hardworking but prefer structure and instruction, will you excel with a hands-off managerial style? Plenty of companies pride themselves on hosting quarterly company outings and offering unlimited vacation. But if you prefer educational stipends and performance bonuses, will you stay there for long? 

Hardly’s social impact

Culture fit, Hardly

What if ‘culture fit’ was not only neutral, but actually worked against prejudiced hiring practices? Hardly stands firmly against homogenization in the workplace and strives to promote diverse perspectives and inclusion. The difference is, we believe ‘culture fit’ could help us in the fight against perpetuating bias in the workplace.

Hardly’s platform uses blind hiring practices until after the candidate and company match. While we are still figuring out the balance between hiding too much or too little, the goal is for employers and employees to match without revealing factors such as age, race, gender and even which university you attended, which often lead to bias hiring. Unlike LinkedIn which requires a picture of oneself, Hardly allows users to express themselves in a more robust way. Instead of focusing on ones background, user profiles showcase their future. The platform utilizes assessments to analyze work-related values. Values link to organizational structure preferences, management styles, priorities, and more. This ultimately helps candidates and companies select one another based on complementary factors. The goal is for them to align on values, goals, and expectations rather than on superficial markers.  

There’s one more factor that differentiates Hardly’s use of culture fit from companies who select only like-minded people. We help hiring managers focus on who is complementary rather than the same. While we do believe candidates and companies should share overarching values and goals, differences can be advantageous. That is part of being the right fit too! For example, it’s important to balance out risk-takers with risk-averse individuals in an organization. If you lean too much in one direction it could cause problems. It’s better to have both.

Conclusion

Let us know what information you would want disclosed or hidden, and how you think companies can fight workplace bias. We invite you to tell us stories of how the hiring process has included or excluded you in the past. As always, your feedback is an important part of our growth and development!

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Last month, we talked a lot about motivation: What type of motivators there are, how companies can keep employees engaged, and what works best for you. We quickly realized understanding motivators is only part of the equation when it comes to finding a company that fits your individual values. Another important aspect that determines whether or not you’ve found your match is your definition of work-life balance. In other words, do you like your work and personal life to bleed together or be kept separate? Lastly, there is the matter of organizational culture. Do you lean towards an individualistic model of management or a collective one? These three aspects combined make up one’s work-life values. 

 

Recently, Hardly’s consumer insights have pointed towards four different work-life value profiles. Based on consumer research, we found many people fall into one of the following categories with slight variations based on where they are in their career trajectory:

The Discoverer or Trailblazer

Work-Life, Hardly

If your work is also your passion, you are probably in this category. Discoverers and Trailblazers think outside the box and want to be on the cutting edge of their field. They find themselves motivated at work simply because of internal desires. They love the challenge without a need for additional rewards. Therefore, they allow their work to permeate throughout their lives. While everyone needs money to live, these curious employees are more concerned with whether their work is engaging and purposeful. 

 

Visually, their work-life balance is like a swirl with work and play mixed together. You might find discoverers and trailblazers talking about work with their friends over dinner or reading articles on the topic just for fun. As one survey participant described, work-life balance is “being self-employed, having a daily blend of life and project work.” Others might burn out from a lack of delineation, but members of this group are energized by this style of work. 

 

Discoverers and Trailblazers fit best with a company culture that values adaptability and agility over rules and tradition. Given the freedom to try new things, they love to be a force of change for the greater good. They prefer to be given more freedom and flexibility to make changes as they see fit.  When their boss offers them the opportunity to do things differently, they thrive. 

 

This work-life style’s favorite perk is flexible dress codes, business travel, and employee outings so they can continue to blend work and play.

 

So what’s the difference? Discoverers are still novices. They like to try new things but aren’t necessarily leading the pack with their new ideas. Trailblazers are a bit more seasoned and are innovating at a higher level and willing to take more risks to make their vision a reality.

The Apprentice or Captain

Work-Life, Hardly

This group holds the most “traditional” work-life values. Apprentices and Captains are happy to pay their dues in the beginning and earn the benefits that come with being at the top. Their motto is “work hard, play hard.” They separate their personal life from their professional one, believing turning their passion into a paycheck would ruin it.  Apprentices and Captains believe structure and clear expectations are required to be productive. They value efficiency and are more inclined to push themselves when stimulated by external benefits, rewards, praise, and above all, respect. Having their hard work acknowledged by other people and/or in exchange for something quantifiable sustains their engagement. 

 

They value giving their all to their job when they are present. Then, checking out completely when it’s time to enjoy friends, family, and hobbies. As one participant stated, work-life balance is when “work stays as work, and my time off is respected.” 

 

Apprentices and Captains fit best with a company culture that respects level of rank and responsibility. They value a chain of command and specific processes.  Apprentices and Captains prefer organizational cultures that care less about face time or hours online and more about accomplishing tasks. In addition, praise from the boss goes a long way. The best perks to entice this group are early Fridays, milestone gifts, and performance bonuses. 

 

The difference between the two is that Apprentices are still at the bottom of the totem pole but are eager to climb the corporate ladder. Captains have already worked their way up and are role models for those they manage. To the Apprentice, a Captain’s success represents a promise that hard work pays off in the long run.

The Collaborator or Mentor

Work-Life, Hardly

Collaborators and Mentors are a bit more nuanced. They are motivated by outside forces, but they don’t mind if their personal and professional lives become intertwined. A survey participant nailed this idea when saying, “[work life balance is…] enough sleep, eating healthy, time to workout/hobbies, but paid enough.” Their balance comes from their sense of duty to others and being able to complete personal tasks throughout the day alongside work.

 

Collaborators and Mentors don’t mind answering emails on the weekends or entertaining clients in the evening. But, their high level of productivity is dependent on others acknowledging  their accomplishments. In addition, they like to pursue goals as a team rather than individually. Their motto is usually “we win together, and lose together!”

 

Collaborators and Mentors match well with a company culture that functions like a large family or tribe. They love to be surrounded by like-minds and want to make sure there is consensus among colleagues before moving forward with new ideas. Believing each person is a valuable member of the team, they don’t want to feel like they are competing against their coworkers. They flourish at a company where getting to know one another holistically is encouraged and rewards are intertwined with collaboration and socializing outside of work. Their favorite perks are wellness programs, free social outings after work (hello, trivia night), and employee discounts on everything from gym memberships to meals.

 

Earlier in their career, Collaborators work well with those at the same level as them. On the other hand, Mentors are more focused on facilitating interdisciplinary work across the company. They lead their teams while fostering open dialogue amongst employees of all ranks. Many times, Mentors are protective of their younger Collaborators and invest a lot of time in nurturing their growth.

The Striver or Challenger

Work-Life, Hardly

Strivers and Challengers are highly motivated by internal feelings of autonomy, mastery, and connection to their projects. However, they still value separation of church and state (metaphorically). Feelings of accomplishment and purpose at work drive intrinsic separators, and they like to detach from work and experience these same feelings from friends, family, and hobbies. 

Their work provides a great amount of fulfillment in their lives, but it is not everything. They are at their best when they can compartmentalize the two as they see fit. As one participant stated, “my ideal work-life balance would be the ability to have a complete disconnect between work and personal life. I’m fine with talking shop outside office hours with other folks, but I want to be able to control when and where.” Strivers and Challengers are most productive when they are able to dive deeper into their specific interests and have a designated workspace to concentrate.

 

People in this camp fit best with companies that foster a bit of competition. Strivers and Challengers are very self-motivated and prefer to work for organizations that focus on achievement at an individual level. They typically have tunnel vision when working on a project and hold themselves to a high standard. In addition, they want to work for companies that stress individual accountability and self-promotion. They appreciate it when their boss offers them a challenging assignment and respects their free time. This work-life value profile’s favorite perks are professional development stipends, unlimited vacation time, and stock options.  They also value companies that promote employees based on individual performance. 

 

While both prefer working solo, Strivers are still trying to prove their individual value to a company whereas Challengers have most likely either reached the top where they get to call the shots or have gone out on their own. For example, Challengers make excellent solo-consultants, writers, artists, etc. Basically, the more they can tie their own work to their success, the better. Both tend to be successful at entrepreneurial endeavors due to their ambition and intrinsic motivation.

Conclusion

These four work-life value profiles are trending but are not yet set in stone. We would love your input to get a better idea of what other buckets exist and which work-life values are most popular. Click here to check out our app and take the survey to find out which work-life value you’re most aligned with. We look forward to incorporating your answers!

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How to motivate employees and keep them engaged is a question management teams continue to ask themselves. Long gone are the days when Joe joined the firm right after graduation, was promised a pension in exchange for loyalty, and stayed for 20+ years at the same company. Now, the reality is searching for jobs has become more like a dating game. It’s not enough for a job to offer a livable salary and standard medical benefits. Employees ask themselves whether the brand matches their values, what the company culture is like, and how the organization will contribute to their personal and professional growth. 

 

However, figuring out the best practices to motivate employees isn’t just about getting the best talent to choose your company over others. A Forbes article states highly-engaged teams are on average 21% more profitable and have 59% less turnover. Earlier this month, we explored how employees could motivate themselves intrinsically and extrinsically. Here are some tips on how companies can motivate employees by celebrating milestones effectively.

Make sure the connection is clear

Motivate employees, Hardly

While my motto has always been the more celebrations the better, the event must be linked to a specific achievement or mission in a work setting. It’s like when you tell children, “Good job!” without telling them what it is for. They don’t know which behavior to repeat. So, it’s mucho importante to make sure whether it is a gift, party, or pat on the back, you provide a clear explanation to go along with it. 

 

Secondly, when celebrating an individual, team, or everyone in the organization, connect the dots to how their actions fulfill the mission. Oftentimes in the daily grind, we lose sight of the big picture, but zooming out reminds employees why they do what they do. By mixing the extrinsic motivation with intrinsic feelings of being part of a greater purpose, you keep your employees doubly engaged.

Celebrate personal milestones

Hardly team

Another way to motivate employees is to show you see them as whole people, not just workers. The best way to do this is to celebrate personal milestones. 

 

Try congratulating them on anniversaries, baby showers, and accomplishments related to their hobbies. One time at work, my boss took the team out for lunch to celebrate a colleague who had just run a marathon. Doing this shows your employees they are valued and cared for in more ways than one. Additionally, well-rounded employees who have a healthy work-life balance are less likely to burn out, break down, or quit. Celebrating non-work-related achievements, even in small ways, is a great way to encourage this balance and implement a company-wide “life first” policy.

Don’t go big or go home

Motivate employees, Hardly

As a manager, you might feel overwhelmed by the idea of having to make a grand gesture every time a team member does something celebration-worthy. However, when it comes to motivating employees, the level of thoughtfulness is more important than the level of extravagance. 

 

Something as simple as buying an employee’s favorite breakfast sandwich and leaving it on his or her desk with a note goes a long way. Want to celebrate the whole team but don’t have the budget for an office party? Give them an early Friday as a way to say thank you for their hard work.  

Encourage colleagues to celebrate one another

Motivate employees, Hardly

Remember, as a manager, it’s not all on you. The best strategy to motivate employees is to create a company culture of gratitude. By encouraging employees to celebrate their colleagues’ hard work and achievements, appreciation becomes woven into the fabric of the company. This creates a breeding ground for productivity, high performance, and loyalty. Just like in the Olympics, many athletes give it their all for their teammates. What drives them is not wanting to disappoint one another. They encourage one another to be their personal best. 


 While these tips are sure to motivate employees to continue doing great work, there is a bonus. Celebrations offer an opportunity for colleagues to connect in new ways and even become friends. In a recent meeting, a leader at Hardly expressed that one of the keys to having a happy and healthy work-life was comradery within the company. So remember, colleagues that play together, stay together!

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At Hardly, we’ve been thinking a lot about what drives behavior. What propels us into those productivity windows or makes us want to go above and beyond? Goals are great, but only if we have the motivation to achieve them. Motivation is about increasing your desire or reason for doing something, whereas willpower is about having the self-control to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do. 

 

When I think of willpower, it is better used as a stop system. It helps you refrain from certain behaviors like eating too many sweets or letting distractions get you off track. Motivation is more about what makes you go. Below are some suggestions for how to motivate yourself intrinsically and extrinsically so that you have a variety of tools to pump yourself up when you need it most.

What is intrinsic motivation?

How to motivate yourself, Hardly

Defined by researchers Deci & Ryan, intrinsic motivation pertains to activities done for their own sake. In a sense, the reward or satisfaction lies in the act itself. You are typically intrinsically motivated when you are doing something you find inherently interesting or enjoyable. Simply put, you are motivated to do it because you genuinely want to even though there is no external reward like money or accolades. Research shows that being intrinsically motivated is energizing, nurtures wellbeing, and boosts our performance. But, not all of us work on passion projects, so how can this concept be translated?

It’s not what you’re doing, but how you are doing it

Figuring out how to motivate yourself is not about pretending you like what you are doing, but making the process enjoyable. Marketing toothpaste or managing your boss’s calendar might not be your cup of tea, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be satisfying. 

 

We recommend tapping into the power of choice and autonomy. Post-covid work has become a lot more flexible. Workers are able to design their lives with fewer limitations. Get excited about mundane tasks by relishing your ability to blast your favorite song or sit on the beach while doing it. Take that first call in the morning while hanging in downward dog or soaking in a foot mask while you reply to the last couple emails for the day.

Take pride in your work

How to motivate yourself, Hardly

We have all experienced that feeling of doing something to the best of our ability. When you turn in a piece of work that is truly reflective of your expertise it’s magic, you can’t help but smile! Try reminding yourself of this feeling before you start a task you know is going to be challenging and/or time consuming. Feeling competent and that your work is valuable will intrinsically motivate you. All you need to do is think of yourself as the handler. This task was especially assigned to you, because you are the only one for the job.

Bring passion in & keep progress in perspective

Learning how to motivate yourself intrinsically is easier when you know what you do like. Make a list of things you enjoy about your job as a whole and about the project you are currently working on. Even if it’s a small detail, it is a lifeline when you fall into a slump. 

 

Now that you’ve changed your mindset to zoom in on the aspects you enjoy, zoom out to understand how accomplishing this task will propel you forward. Look at the big picture to give the task context in your greater plan. Feeling like we are on track helps build confidence in the choices we’ve made and in our future which intrinsically keeps us motivated.

What is extrinsic motivation?

How to motivate yourself, Hardly

Extrinsic motivation is reward driven behavior. Ever hear of B.F. Skinner? Well, he’s the psychologist who is known as the “Father of Operant Conditioning”. Basically, he found humans either do things or don’t do things based on whether they are rewarded for their behavior or punished for it. Regarding work, external factors, such as money, praise, or not getting fired, extrinsically motivate us to do our job. But, how can you customize extrinsic rewards yourself that are effective?

Adopt an accountability buddy

I personally work best on a reward system. However, it is sometimes hard to have the discipline to deprive myself of the reward when I don’t accomplish what I said I would. After all, only I know I didn’t finish that powerpoint, and no one will call me out for still eating a cookie. 

 

A quick fix for this is to ask a friend or coworker to keep you accountable. In fact, make them part of the reward. Tell a coworker if you send them the proposal by noon, the two of you should go out for a lunch date. Or, schedule a movie night with a friend, but only if you get through at least half of your caseload. You wouldn’t want to disappoint them, would you?

Celebrate your wins

How to motivate yourself, Hardly

If you are struggling with how to motivate yourself during longer projects over longer periods of time, celebrate your accomplishments. Since the pandemic, we haven’t had office parties or popped champagne when we are selected for a bid. Not only are the celebrations fun to look forward to, but they fuel us for the next big project. 


Our advice is to not wait for your manager to celebrate your wins; plan a celebration yourself. Organize a happy hour with your team the day after a project is complete, and definitely go all out when you have risen to a challenge or gotten a promotion. I think you deserve that new gaming system!

Use them sparingly

One of the reasons extrinsic motivations can be ineffective is because the rewards are given too frequently. If you give yourself the reward often enough, it loses its allure. However, if you are strategic and determine a few rewards that you are really craving they can be highly effective. One of my rules is that the size of the reward must align with the difficulty of the task. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to equate a new pair or running shoes with one day of exercise. I would need to prove consistency and discipline over a month to justify such a reward. Think of it this way, you won’t want what you already have. 

Let us know if you prefer intrinsic or extrinsic motivation by commenting below. Also, check out our tips for effective goal setting so that you can put your new found motivation to work! 

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At the start of the pandemic, many of us productivity hackers thought, “working from home I can be efficient and effective on my own timeline without the time wasting formalities of the office.” People made Pinterest-worthy to do lists and color coded calendars thinking that these were the keys to productivity. We had high hopes of being able to make healthy breakfasts and take virtual pilates before our Monday morning meetings. The goal was to fit in grocery runs during lunch or be uber focused from 12-3 finishing projects so that we could get off an hour early. But for many of us these expectations of remote work did not become a reality.  Instead we found it hard to stay in focus-mode past lunch, snacking throughout the day just because we were bored in the house, and juggling household chores during working hours resulting in everything taking longer to get done. Now that we have come out on the other side, it is time to get back on track and get rid of the procrastination monster.  Here is Hardly’s guide to creating a productivity plan that works in reality so that you can meet your expectations:

Do what feels natural

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: You are going to up your productivity by suddenly becoming a morning person. 5am is your new wake-up time and you will accomplish two or three personal tasks before work even begins. Your new productivity plan also includes taking a break every hour for 10 minutes even though you typically are the type of person who works best when they are on a roll. 

 

Reality: While we are all for making healthy changes, one of the pitfalls many encounter when trying to increase productivity is wasting time trying to do things that are unnatural for them. In reality, if you have been a night owl for 30 years and it’s because you get a boost of energy later in the day, you will be working against the grain for minimal gains. You will take your scheduled breaks but find that they are actually interrupting your productivity, not helping it. Instead, your productivity plan should include understanding your natural patterns. What already makes you productive and how can you capitalize on that? Retraining yourself is time consuming and not always necessary.

Plan for the present, not the future

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: You set a goal for the end of the month. You think the bigger the goal, the better. You will rise to the occasion and get more done by reminding yourself of the overall objective. You try to stay motivated by thinking about what you can accomplish next month if you stick to your plan for this month.

 

Reality: You overwhelm yourself and it paralyzes you. The big goal was a good idea but you don’t know what is required of you right now to get the job done. Instead, your productivity plan should be rooted in the present. What do you plan to accomplish in the next hour? How are you going to do that successfully? Focusing on the step in front of you will help you be more productive in the moment and will make you feel accomplished more frequently.  

Slowly build habits

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: Tomorrow is the end of procrastination. You have downloaded all the productivity apps you need to block distractions and read up on the best practices to stay on task for longer periods of time. You expect results immediately and think you will transform yourself into a productivity hacker overnight!

 

Reality: Two weeks later you are still struggling to stick to your plan and end up working later into the evening despite your efforts to get more done before 3pm. In addition, your way of regaining time is skipping your lunch break which makes it hard to focus later in the day. Giving  yourself grace is super important in your productivity plan. Consistency is the name of the game and slow and steady wins the race. In order for your productivity plan to be sustainable, your changes should take place incrementally and you shouldn’t be surprised if you have to establish your new habits for at least one month before seeing results.

It includes redos

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: You believe being productive means getting it right on the first try. If you don’t make any mistakes then you are your most productive self. Mistakes cost time, and more time is the antithesis of efficiency. 

 

Reality: Mistakes happen because we are all human. Your productivity plan should be centered around making progress, not being perfect. The best thing you can do is learn to recover as fast as possible. You will inevitably do something wrong and need to redo it because our work evolves and grows just like we do. We recommend learning how to dive in so that you can receive feedback quickly. If something goes wrong, don’t ruminate on the time lost. Bounce back and think about how learning this lesson will save you time in the future!

Out of place is okay

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: Everything will be organized to a T, always. My planner will have sticky notes that correspond with my calendar. My desk will be orderly at all times. My emails will be categorized by topic and I will increase my productivity by never having to search for anything.

Reality: Organization is great, but in reality we can let the organization become a distraction. Have you ever finished cleaning your office and feeling great until you look up at the clock and three hours have past? While I do believe it is easier to focus with less clutter, accepting a little disorganization could do wonders for your productivity. Working on the actual projects you need to complete will become the main task and organizing will become secondary rather than vice versa.  In fact, some of the best brainstorming or laser focused writing result in a mess of papers and pens strewed about. 

 

Let us know what is realistic about your productivity plan and what is wishful thinking! For more on productivity, check out the 5 Best Apps you can download to get work done a whole lot faster.

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“Productivity” is one of the hottest buzz words in today’s work environment. The word is plastered all over self-help books and is the topic of podcasts and motivational speeches alike. We all aim to be productive, but sometimes we aren’t sure how to get the best out of ourselves. So, I thought it would be fun to choose 9 quotes about productivity to serve as advice and inspiration when we get to a sticking point. Why not take advice from others who have already become uber successful?

Action over thought

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done” – Bruce Lee

This quote about productivity seems intuitive, but when you say it out loud it’s really powerful. So many of us ruminate over the same idea until we are blue in the face but never actually take the first step towards doing it. An idea person is only as good as their ability to follow through, whether that is on their own or by enlisting the help of others.

Time is valuable

“The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

It’s important to remember time is the only finite resource we have. You can’t make more of it, so spend it wisely. How do you do this? Automate and delegate where you can. Productivity is all about knowing what you have to do and knowing what can be done for you.

Quotes about productivity, Hardly

Commitment is key

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort” – Paul J. Meyer

If the pioneer of the self-improvement industry, Paul Meyer says it’s about consistently doing your best, strategy, and purposeful work then it must be true. The key to productivity is partially realizing that you have to consciously make an effort to improve your productivity. Like everything, practice makes perfect.

The less meetings the better

“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings” – Thomas Sowell

We all know meetings can sometimes be where productivity goes to die. Collaboration or focused brainstorming can be hugely beneficial but meeting frequently to just talk about things that could have been communicated by email. At their best meetings bring coworkers together and help provide greater context to individual responsibilities. But at their worst, they are an interruption that keeps you from doing the real work.

Quotes about productivity, Hardly

Quality over quantity

“Never mistake motion for action” – Ernest Hemingway 

I am sure this famous author encountered a writer’s block or two that he had to overcome. Hemingway knew the difference between quantity and quality. Just because you look busy doesn’t mean you are making progress. This productivity quote is about efficiency. Remember, it is better to take breaks than waste time pseudo working.

Keep it simple silly

“Simplicity boils down to two steps: identify the essential, eliminate the rest” – Leo Babauta

Prioritization is crucial. We can’t do everything all of the time so it is important to move away from complexity and know how to make cuts. Productivity is best when it is used to get the best result in the shortest amount of time. If accomplishing something is not going to have a big impact, move it to the bottom of the list and don’t stress over getting it done. Instead use your brainpower where it counts.

Quotes about productivity, Hardly

Embrace mistakes

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is buy making mistakes and becoming superior” – Henry C. Link

This is one of the best quotes about productivity, because it rhymes. Just kidding. But for real, I love this quote because it reminds us that the antithesis of productivity  (and creativity) is perfectionism. The more we obsess over the details, the less we are able to accomplish. Being thorough is great, but it shouldn’t be crippling. Making room for mistakes might be the very thing that propels you forward.

Play to your strengths

“All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else” – Plato

This ancient Greek philosopher states that productivity is all about narrowing your focus and capitalizing on your talents. What we often leave out of the conversation about productivity is that we usually struggle the most when we are doing something we don’t like or aren’t good at. This is where the whole idea about following your passion comes from. You will be most productive when you do the things you naturally excelle at. That doesn’t mean quit your job and pursue your hobby full time. It means to figure out what you are best at and figure out all of the ways you can apply it to your current role. 

Quotes about productivity, Hardly

Rome wasn’t built in a day

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it – but all that had gone before” – James Clear

This is one of the best quotes about productivity from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. It highlights the fact that productivity takes slow and steady progress. It is about incremental success due to the development of micro habits and consistency. You might not feel like turning your phone on silent from 9am-12pm is working until after a month when you realize you were able to get through your morning emails twice as fast as you used to. The point is, improving your productivity in sustainable ways is how you plan the long game, so don’t sweat it if you don’t see instant improvement. 

We hope you enjoyed Hardly’s top 9 quotes about productivity. Let us know which quote is your favorite!

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Summer 👏 is 👏 here 👏!  It’s time for the beach, barbeques, and early release on Fridays. Unfortunately, for us adults, summer does not mean school’s out. But, if you play your cards right you can work hard and play hard. The name of the game is productivity. The more you can get done in a shorter amount of time the better. Check out these top 5 apps for productivity so that you can spend less time working, and more time enjoying the sunshine with friends and family.

Serene - a 3 tiered approach

Serene is a macOS app that layers three techniques to boost focus and limit distractions. This is one of the best apps for productivity because it helps you plan your day. We all know how powerful goal setting can be, especially when they are small and achievable. Each day Serene prompts you to identify a goal, specify the timeframe to complete it, and how you will get started. 

The second step in Serene is to block digital distractions. The app allows you to block apps and websites that you know take you off track such as Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter. While you can customize which websites you would like to block, you aren’t able to block “some” distractions or prioritize “some” information. The app or website is blocked entirely during the session you choose so you have to be sure your focus is more important than missing any messages.

The last step is to enhance your focus. Serene helps customers do this with focus music, countdown timers, and scheduled breaks. Overall, this product is great for someone who likes a plan but needs help sticking to it. The distraction blocking is a nice addition but the options are somewhat limited.

|| Try Serene for a trial period of 10 hours here.

 

Hardly - Notification Customization

Apps for Productivity, Hardly

When developing the best apps for productivity, companies must balance simplicity and customization, and Hardly does just that. Hardly’s interface is very straightforward making it easy to use. A productivity app is no good if you are distracted by figuring out how to use it.

At the same time, the app offers users a high level of personalization with the ability to prioritize certain alters and block some distractions. Instead of going totally silent, the app allows you to filter notifications by person, project name, and urgency. This means you can go into focus mode without fear of missing anything important or time-sensitive.  To me, this feature is priceless.

Want to learn more about how Hardly can help you reach your productivity goals? Read our deep-dive article from earlier this month and sign up for our beta test here.

Shift - all of your apps & accounts in 1 place

Apps for Productivity, Hardly, Shift

Shift is for those of you looking to declutter your desktop. The app helps you focus and improve your productivity by shortening the time it takes to switch back and forth between different email accounts, browser tabs, and apps. Shift becomes your browser for work; having everything in one place makes the process seamless and efficient. With Shift, you can snooze or mute your notifications and sync them with your calendar to avoid distractions during meetings. Lastly, Shift works across Windows and Macs so it’s perfect if you work on both platforms. 

Try Shift for a trial period of 7 days here.

 

Todoist - gimmick-free task management

Todoist is one of the best apps for productivity if you are looking to improve task management for your team. As a remote, international employee at Hardly, Todoist helps me stay on top of my assignments and assign tasks to others easily. The app allows you to transform a note into a one-off or recurring task, color-code priorities, share projects, and record your progress. After using Todoist, I realized group work doesn’t have to be painful. A seamless task management system makes all the difference in getting work done efficiently as a team.

Try Todoist for free here.

 

IFTTT - a seamless series of events

Apps for Productivity, Hardly, IFTTT

IFTTT, which stands for “If This, Then That”, is one of the best apps for productivity if you love automation. As we all know, time is money so being able to have small tasks taken care of without a second thought is a godsend. The website and mobile application allows you to connect internet-aware apps, services, and devices, without any coding.  For example, you could request your computer track your work hours when you are at a certain location in google calendar or automatically share your company’s new LinkedIn posts on your personal page. Basically, you can work smarter by concocting your own recipe of commands that triggers second and third order tasks automatically. 

Try IFTTT for free here.

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My time in Japan has come to an end and I am now in the process of PCSing. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the term is used to describe the hellish moving experience for military members and their families that happens on average every three years. What makes this process so painful? All of the emails, phone calls, and signatures required to move myself and my belongings from one place to the next. Some are important and some aren’t but the one time you select “off” on your notification setting or throw items is the virtual trash, you will regret it.  Therefore, operating on a zero or one scale isn’t an option.

 

I need a spectrum or gradation. It would be amazing if I could turn my notification setting to off but still be alerted whenever an email titled “PCS” came through. Then, I could filter out the unimportant stuff when trying to remain focused.

 

Moreover, there is nothing worse than being bombarded with rings, dings, and pings when you are in a work rhythm. But, some people, topics, and projects are worth the distraction. The problem is most platforms only allow you to have all the notifications or none at all. That’s where the Hardly app comes into play. Let me introduce you to the notification setting filters of my dreams:

Notification Setting #1: Give certain people a VIP pass

Hardly Notification Customization

I love my grandmother to death but I know a conversation with her will last hours. Even when we both have the intention of simply checking in, our conversation becomes tangential and any work flow I previously had dissipates.  A phone call from her, while wonderful, is the ultimate distraction.

And I’m not alone. In our last team meeting, coworkers mentioned that their family group texts were at the top of their distractions list and something they wish they could filter out when they are in Zoom meetings or quickly approaching a deadline. We all want to know what Uncle Jack thinks about the latest COVID restrictions, just not when our website edits are due by the end of the day.

Without Hardly, my only option is to put my phone on silent or constantly be swiping away messages off of my laptop screen. With Hardly, I can silence my family drama while still receiving notifications if my deployed husband tries to contact me. Communication is few and far between so making sure I see his messages is a must!

This feature of the notification app is a game-changer. It gives you the power to hand out passes to the very important people you need to be in contact with to stay on top of your work while pressing the pause button on distractors (we want to hear from them, just not now!)

Notification Setting #2: Allow top-shelf topics to come through

Hardly App Alert Manager Notifications

In addition, the Hardly app allows you to filter notifications by topic. I love that my workplace values coworkers getting to know one another personally, not just professionally. However, I can do without the string of nonstop notifications from coworkers sending each other cat pictures while I am trying to enjoy a dinner date or working on writing a blog. 

I love this notification setting because I can limit distractions while allowing alerts from the blog or social media channels. Meaning, when my phone buzzes in the middle of getting some great thoughts down on paper, I know that it’s a notification pertinent to my work and actually worth checking. Any app that prevents me from losing my train of thought over random conversations is a winner in my book.

Notification Setting #3: Push through priority projects

Hardly App Alert Manager Notifications

Lastly, while other applications allow you to filter notifications by person or category, our software offers customization like never before. You can filter your notifications by urgent words. For instance, any messages that say “urgent,” “end of day,” or “ASAP,” can bypass my do-not-disturb notification setting on my computer so that I don’t miss anything pressing.

 

Don’t believe me? I bet you can think of at least one time where you had your notification setting off and when you turned it back on realized you had missed a question or request that was time-sensitive. Hardly will make sure you can keep your focus without missing anything that requires your immediate attention.

Why does all this matter?

Notifications Hardly Superhuman

The percentage of employees that would rather go back to their daily commute than continue sorting the deluge of emails and Slack or Teams messages. Source: Superhuman

Not sure if a notification filtering system will truly have an impact on your remote work experience? Superhuman just released a new survey that found nearly two in three remote workers would rather go back to their daily commute than continue sorting through the avalanche of emails and chat messages. Additionally, over half of men and women say they can’t go more than 5 minutes without opening a notification for an email or work communication.

 Click here to learn more about the Hardly app and let us know which notifications you love filtering out! Need more tips to keep the distractions out and the productivity in? Read our blog on how to overcome notification nerves

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In elementary school, I planted trees; cleaned up the beach; and made recycle, reduce, and reuse posters every Earth Day. After a month of learning about “going green” and estimating our own carbon footprint, I remember telling my parents they couldn’t purchase an SUV, and we needed to stop using plastic straws and be more sustainable.

Since then, my environmental awareness has taken a nosedive. However, this spring, I have been thinking about whether remote work supports sustainable living. Are we all sustainable superheroes now that we don’t commute in our pollution producing cars? Or, have we become extra energy consumers working from home?

Hardly, More Sustainable

From one office to thousands

While the future of work is unknown, we can all agree that going back to a commute would be tough. Eliminating daily commutes to work in gas guzzling cars is a major point for the affirmative side. No commute means better air quality, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and less consumption of fossil fuels. Sounds like sustainable living to me!

Highway vehicles alone put out almost 35% of the total nitrogen dioxide and contribute to the 3.3 million world-wide deaths due to poor air quality every year. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the USA came from transportation in 2017. Conversely, remote workers in the United States avoid emitting 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gasses every year, which is the equivalent of planting 91 million trees.

Sustainable living in a singular office

While getting to one office might have had a negative impact, working in one might have been positive. Companies were making huge efforts to reduce their carbon footprint before the pandemic. Fast Company shared how Shopify launched a sustainability fund in 2019, committing to invest at least $5 million every year into technology and projects to fight climate change. Since then, they have offered remote work to all of their employees indefinitely.

Whereas before they could control their sustainability by making environmentally friendly choices for one massive building, they are now dealing with “more than 5,000 offices scattered around the globe. All these offices have different heating systems, different energy grids, and each employee making different decisions now that they’re untethered from a central office.” Therefore, sustainability is not only less controllable but also less trackable. Without clear data, the jury is still out on which is better for the planet.

Hardly, More Sustainable

Different region, different impact

In addition to the inability to track everyone’s home energy usage, where you live and work complicates the questions of whether working from home is having a positive or negative effect on sustainable living. BBC brings up two important factors.

The first factor is workers in other countries, such as Norway, were using electric vehicles at high rates. Therefore, the lack of a commute is far less impactful there than in other countries that are highly reliant on petroleum, including the US and UK. In other words, sustainable living practices were already in place.

Additionally, cities where public transportation is used at large to get to and from work might not see any major changes in energy consumed since buses, trains, and metros are still running.

Where you derive your energy matters

Secondly, where your energy comes from plays a role in determining whether working from home positively contributes to sustainable living. For example, if you live in Iceland (where a significant amount of clean geothermal energy powers commercial buildings), virtual work is not scoring you many brownie points. Conversely, if you live in a U.S. city where coal power is the main source of commercial electricity but many homes have solar power, remote work could have a positive impact.

Similarly, the temperature varies greatly across the U.S. and the globe. In places like Florida where the heat is treacherous, fossil fuels are pumping from every home all day and required in large office spaces. Therefore, cutting out the cooling of big buildings could be beneficial. Versus if you live in San Francisco where the weather is mostly mild, heating or cooling systems might be turned off when leaving the house so the change is negligible.

Hardly, More Sustainable

Small habits or big changes

Do the small habits of individuals or the big changes at the corporate level make the difference? I don’t have the answer, but here is some food for thought:

Let’s take the use of paper and plastic. I don’t know about you, but I print various things when I’m at work, using someone else’s printer. Every time there is a meeting, we receive a paper agenda, which everyone throws in the trash on their way out, and a paper copy of the Powerpoint presentation (even though it was emailed to everyone the night before). But, when working remotely, I let the digital version suffice. Who wants to pay for all of that paper and ink?

On the other side of the coin, I see plastic Starbucks cups on everyone’s desk at the office, a product of getting their morning vice on the way to work. Yet,  my guess is  most drink the energizer from a reusable mug when working from home.

Also, what about the lights? In my apartment, I get great natural light all day so I don’t use much electricity, while my office is required to power overhead lights from 7am to 5pm.

More Sustainable? The takeway

Not everyone is environmentally conscious. Therefore, minor habits might not hold a candle to the millions of dollars that corporations can put into environmental efforts. For example, Zapier offset 647 tonnes of carbon through reforestation and Microsoft charges an internal fine of $15 per metric ton of carbon emission to encourage its departments to be as sustainable as possible.

At Hardly, we are striving to be environmentally conscious on all fronts. From our commitment to the sustainable packaging of products to our CEO’s use of S’well bottles, Hardly is making sure we do our part as a company of remote workers. Are you doing yours?

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Finally, the days of hibernation are over, and spring is here. In Japan, springtime is marked by sakura or, as we say in the States, “cherry blossom” season. The delicate pale pink petals are in bloom for just 10 short days before they fall or are swept away by wind and rain. As I hanami, which is a Japanese term for “enjoying the transient beauty of flowers”, through the streets of Gion, I am reminded howI need to conquer some spring cleaning so that my workflow and productivity could bloom, too. What about you?

 

Here are Hardly’s tips to help you eliminate stressful chaos and bring order to your workday this spring season:

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Declutter your desk to destress

A clear desk equals a clear mind. Common sense tells us that a cluttered workspace literally prevents us from getting as much work done in a set amount of time. Everyone knows searching among a sea of papers for notes from a specific meeting or having to stop your workflow to clean up yesterday’s coffee you elbowed and spilled is a waste of precious time but the Harvard Business Review shares how a mess at your desk can affect your mind too. Research has shown

 

“cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep.”

 

In 2009, an American study found levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to anxiety and depression over time, were higher in mothers whose houses were cluttered.

 

Scientists at Princeton University found that our brains respond best to order. In fact, they have proved constant visual reminders of disorganization such as pens strewn about and overstuffed filing cabinets deplete our cognitive resources and reduce our attention span.  Therefore, it’s not surprising that when you clear your desk the results are positive; you are more likely to focus, process information, and manage your emotions effectively. The moral of the story is to get rid of the distractions!

 

So what’s the best way to go about cleaning your workspace? 

Step 1: Assess what gadgets you frequently reach for and which ones are in the way. Then determine what is working for you and what isn’t. 

Step 2: Sort through all the papers and cabinets and return everything to its rightful home.

Step 3: Purge! Ruthlessly throw out anything that is not helping you be productive, feel good, or is a duplicate of a tool you recently upgraded. 

Step 4: Actually break out the cleaning products, the broom, the mop, the wipes, and the soap and water. A fresh start is best when it smells fresh.

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Organize your emailing for smooth sailing

One of the biggest headaches of remote working for me is emails. I feel like I receive 10,000 emails a day; some important, some from a subscription I signed up for just to get 10% off three years ago. The worst is when I am looking for a prior email to or from coworkers that was not clearly labeled in the subject line so I have to sift through one by one to find what I’m looking for. 

 

What’s the solution?

 

I highly recommend unsubscribing to anything you no longer read. Fewer emails coming in means fewer notifications, which means less anxiety from your phone or computer buzzing. Next, creating digital folders and having emails automatically file into them is a godsend. Last but not least delete all the emails that you no longer need. I know, this last one is crazy time-consuming, but the peace of mind you gain from having 1,000 emails instead of 10,000 emails is blissful and will definitely take your work stress from an 8 to a 4.

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Get your apps in order for a productive quarter

The more apps the merrier, right? Wrong. There is an app for everything these days and it’s up to us to make sure they are helping not hurting our workflow. Take stock of how frequently you use the applications you have. If you are using them less than once a week, chances are they aren’t that helpful and there is a better solution out there that meets your needs. In addition, try to find apps that serve more than one purpose so that you aren’t wasting time checking multiple apps throughout the day.

 

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Renew your routine so you can be a lean, mean, working machine

Now that you have gotten rid of all the things that no longer benefit your workday, it is time to recreate your daily routine. Take the hint from nature and make some changes with the season. It could be as small as switching from hot coffee to a cold brew or as impactful as clocking in and out an hour earlier. Additionally, look at your habits such as how often you need a break to step away from the computer or what times during the day you are connecting with colleagues the most and gauge whether adjustments can be made to streamline your schedule.

 

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Refresh your mind to redesign

Finally, you made it to the fun part! You have done all of the hard work of spring cleaning and now it’s time to re-envision your home office. Breath in the freshness of the space and think about how to curate a space that encourages clarity, calm, and creativity. For example, an aromatic diffuser or picture of the ocean. Maybe reposition your desk to get more light or swap out the bookshelf for a comfy reading chair. The important thing here is to not replace junk with more junk. So be judicious with your choices and go for more of a minimalist aesthetic. 

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