Being Productive at Work Requires Effort

Posted by on October 6th, 2015

ProductivityIf you asked one hundred people what they learned in college most would not say, “how to be productive.” In fact, most employees probably wish they knew how to be more productive at work – heck, they’d probably like to be more productive in their personal lives too. Wouldn’t you?

Our lives have become overwhelmingly busier thanks to technology, but the time we have in a day has stayed the same. So how do we “do-it-all” and then some in the same amount time during a typical 40-hour work week? believes being organized plays a fundamental role in an individual’s ability to be productive.1 If you look up articles around productivity, you’ll find the word organized right around the corner. The two work side-by-side because typically to have the one you need the other. So, let’s take a look at five tips that will help you be that much more productive.

1. Give 100% focus to one task a time. Experts say the average person needs three to eight minutes to really refocus after any distraction.2 Think about how difficult it is to avoid the temptation to check e-mails that are coming in while you are working on a particular client project that needs all of your attention to complete, or the smartphone that sits on your desk that occasionally receives a text or call, or all the other distractions that occur during your work day. All of these, most of which are hardly noticeable, play a large role in taking your focus away from each task and result in a less productive day.

To regain your focus and increase productivity, get your calendar involved. Use your work calendar to fill in spots within your day where you need to be 100% dedicated to your work. Before you realize it, these spots will be taken up by your priorities. Maybe, it’s the noise of the office that is distracting. If so, look into different headphone options. You can find noise canceling headphones from almost every major brand like Bose® and Sony®. If headphones aren’t an option, work on single-tasking during the day and take the appropriate amount of breaks to give your brain minute to reset.

2. Check your work email with a purpose. At the start of your day, right after you’ve filled up your cup of coffee, tea, juice, or whatever gets your mind in motion, you check your e-mail at your desk. However, it’s likely you haven’t formulated a game plan around how you are going to attack the dreaded filled inbox beforehand. But if you want to save yourself a bunch of time so you can become a productive champion, don’t just “check” your e-mail – “process” it.3

By simply checking your email each morning, there’s a very large chance that most the e-mails you read are also getting marked back to “unread” or flagged to look at more closely later in the day. As minimal as it may seem, you are losing a TON of precious time doing this because, well, you’re doing twice the work…reading it now and then reading it again later.

Creating and using an organized method for the way you process your inbox is crucial to having a productive day. A couple things that could get you started is to analyze the “types” of emails you consistently receive and categorize them. If Category “A” is meetings, then move these onto your calendar right as you get them. If Category “B” is a task that takes up five minutes or less – attack it immediately. Once you have your email playbook all set, you’ll see your productivity increase for the day.

3. Technology is your best friend – use it to your advantage. A lot of the time the word technology is associated with being a distraction at work, but what if you were able to use it to your advantage? If a large majority of your workday is spent using a computer, it’s possible the internet has become a distraction, causing you to lose focus on what you were looking for in the first place. It could be that you have numerous small to medium sized tasks that you don’t know how to prioritize, and instead of organizing them and crossing each off your list, you spend more time trying to figure out when and how to do them.

Smartphones, computers, the internet, email, and technology aren’t going anywhere. They’ve invaded our daily lives and have become an extension of who we are. If we look hard enough we can use them to help usbe better at what we do. There are tons of apps to help you stay focused, get more done, and be better at everything you do. If you need help staying on track at work, I recommend looking into Asana for project management. If it’s organizing notes from meetings and training sessions, check out Notational Velocity, which organizes all of your notes on your desktop in a centralized, searchable location.

4. Setup a strategy session at the beginning of each week with yourself. Sit with yourself and try to organize as much of your week as you can to eliminate any extra stress you could cause yourself. Thinking of your week like this keeps you from becoming overwhelmed with meetings, daily responsibilities and deadlines.5 It will also help you to slowly organize everything you’ve got going on that’s important and eliminate or handoff a task or two.

5. Work hard but don’t forget to take a break. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional athlete or have a regular day job, if you work hard you’ll see results. However, you can’t expect to increase the amount you produce without taking smart breaks. According to a recent article, “As we work, our alertness drops off, increasing the lure of distractions.”6 One way to maximize your focus is to group your work into 60 – 90 minute chunks. Just as a football team resets its offense or defense after each play, you should reset your focus after each cycle.

There’s a number of different ways you can reset your focus and it’s completely up to you, but remember when you do, be smart about it. Examples include taking a short walk, meditating, listening to music, and leaving the office for lunch. Giving yourself these little breaks/distractions helps you work smarter and harder and ultimately increases your productivity, while making you better at what you do.7

Each day and each week comes with their own challenges, but the way you prepare for them allows you to deal with them differently. Formulate a solid strategy around your upcoming workday or week and use technology to track and evaluate how you do each week so that you can continuously apply new methods to help yourself become more efficient. At the end of the day, your goal shouldn’t be to “do more,” but to become better at what you do. By doing so, you will not only be able to take on more, but also allows you to free up time in your day so you can help others or learn a new skill.


Yes, Competition is Good — Even For Financial Institutions

Posted by on October 1st, 2015

Healthy CompetitionSome industries seem to not only accept competition, but also use it to their advantage. Retailers are masters at this, while most banks and credit unions struggle with the concept but could benefit from embracing it.

Ever wonder why competitive businesses are often located next to one another? It’s hard to imagine any city that doesn’t have a cluster of fast food restaurants, streets lined with vehicle dealerships or gas stations on opposite corners of the same intersection. And, does anyone question the logic of shopping malls with all their shoe and clothing stores catering to the same audience?

Competition isn’t only good for the consumer, because it provides information, holds prices at reasonable levels and creates options. It’s good for many businesses as well in that it actually increases the size of the market. So while it might seem counter-intuitive, the same competition that could limit a financial institution’s (FI) slice of the pie helps develop a larger pie and thus more business overall. Think of it this way: infinitely more consumers visit the mall than they would an isolated shoe store. So while each merchant only gets business from a share of the shoe shoppers, the total number of shoppers is so much greater that all the businesses benefit. Unfortunately, all FIs don’t embrace that concept as readily as other retailers.

Two major television shopping networks consistently offer comparable products, such as a vacuum cleaner or air purifier, as their daily special either on the same day or one immediately after the other. This happens too frequently to be coincidence, so they may intentionally be creating competition. When similar offers are made on consecutive days, this practice extends the reach of the joint message (“you need this appliance”) and the total response window. The retailer that makes the offer first pulls in the early adopters, while the latter retailer benefits from the first’s promotion and attracts those who were slower to purchase.

Even with gas prices clearly visible to drivers without having to stop in and acquire, lines can be seen at the pumps for various stations immediately across the street from one another despite some stations charging more for a commoditized product. This doesn’t mean that businesses pricing themselves out of the market will be as successful as their neighbors, but it does confirm that price isn’t the only factor. The lesson for FIs is that they don’t have to be promoting the lowest rate, though they should have a reasonably competitive offer, but they absolutely need to be among the promotional mix. It’s important that they are one of the many telling their message and making sure their story is in the mailboxes of consumers. By doing so, they are positioning themselves in the consumers’ decision set.

Some banks and credit unions actually seem less willing to accept the “competition is good” premise than they have in the past, especially when it comes to direct mail. In the mid-90’s when CDs were regularly promoted in newspapers, FIs knew their weekly specials would be printed next to one another and consumers knew just where to look to compare rates. FIs didn’t refuse to advertise just because they would share the real estate with others. Yet now, some banks and credit unions seem reluctant to want to mail offers in a market where their competitors are also mailing, as though the mere presence of those offers will undoubtedly cause their initiatives to fail. Yet, a strong argument can be made that the repeated messaging created by multiple FIs not only adds value to the consumer, but it also reinforces important information and actually creates additional business for the FIs overall.

Consider the example of refinancing existing loans. While consumers may decide on their own to purchase a new vehicle, most are probably not thinking about refinancing an existing auto loan as they are arriving home from work and collecting the day’s mail, which contains loan offers. However, the repetition of refinance offers, regardless of the institution sending them, helps the idea penetrate increasing the pool of potential refinance opportunities for banks and credit unions. This phenomenon was evident during the home loan refinance boom when account holders who never initially considered refinancing started to feel as they were missing out by not researching the idea.

By thinking more like other retailers, financial institutions can reap the benefits of healthy competition. The alternative isn’t to try to find the perfect time to promote a product when the rest of the market is silent, which is unlikely to happen. The only real option is to make sure their message is being heard, and their name is out there among the other competing offers when consumers are ready to make their decision, thereby ensuring that their institution gets its slice of the pie.


Virtual Reality Is Becoming Ad Reality

Posted by on September 29th, 2015

Brand AdvocacyA new point of view is taking the advertising industry by storm and it’s allowing consumers to get in on the action. Many tech savvy companies are beginning to give consumers a virtual look into their brands providing an experience that they will likely always remember. With the cost of the equipment necessary to give customers a virtual experience being a large hurdle that brands must overcome, research firm MarketsandMarkets, “forecasts that companies that manufacture virtual reality hardware will generate $1.06 billion by 2018.”1

So for now, virtual reality advertising is limited to large events, but it doesn’t make it less impactful.

Take Gatorade®. The well-known sports drink brand uses athletics and competition to appeal to the dreams of many who want to be part of the big game. Gatorade has used virtual reality to allow Washington Nationals fans step into the shoes of MVP contender Bryce Harper. You hear the crowd cheering while you are thrown a ball at a speed like you have never seen done before. You hear the sounds of the crowd, almost smell the hot dogs and stale beer and most of all, feel like a major league baseball player at bat.

Other brands riding the VR wave are Coca-Cola®, Nissan®, Jim Beam®, Mountain Dew® and Volvo®. Many others will be following on this bandwagon as digital advertising dollars are increasing to keep their brand on the cutting edge of technology and top-of-mind.




For the People, By the People

Posted by on September 24th, 2015

Brand AdvocacyContent marketing has made a major impact on marketers within the last few years, as it’s become an integral part of any successful marketing program. The thought process behind content marketing hinges on creating relevant messages for customers and potential clients. When consumers’ interests are in mind, there is a greater likelihood that content will be downloaded, shared, viewed or liked. But, are there other ways to keep up with consumer interests and continue to promote targeted, relevant content? Enter user-generated content.

User generated content (UGC) is defined as, “Any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasting, pins, digital images, video and audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available by social media websites.”1 So, how can brands use UGC to improve the awareness of their products and services?

Brands can use personalization to build awareness and then use social media to promote that piece of content. That piece of content can then be retweeted, reposted or go viral creating the time of positive publicity brands crave. For example, a popular brand used personalization on its product by creating a campaign where people could “their name.” Those people could then upload a photo of him/herself drinking “their name,” which not only advertised that drink brand, but it also prompted others to do the same.

Companies are also setting up contests for individuals to share their creative ideas or artwork for a particular product on social media. Allowing that type of consumer involvement gives the organization the ability to show that it not only wants input from its customers and potential clients, but also it will use that input and feedback to build its brand and increase awareness.

Finally, organizations are building campaigns that include customer video testimonials. Once uploaded to social media, these videos are shared and give consumers the ability to watch learn more from people just like them. Customer perceptions are important for others to see and hear especially when they are making purchasing decisions. Positive reinforcement from people who have used and experienced an organization’s product is sometimes the deciding factor when potential buyers are contemplating whether to or not to make a purchase.

Creating relevant content has become a big factor when determining the success of a marketing program. Trust is crucial for every consumer and generating content based on what consumers believe and understand is an impactful way to target consumers.




App Helps Parents Keep
Track of Children

Posted by on September 22nd, 2015


With iPhones® being commonplace in most kids’ hands these days, it’s a huge challenge for parents to manage and limit their child(ren)’s device — and data — usage. The reality is texting, Instagram®, Snapchat™, Vine®, and a variety of other apps occupy their time and, for the most part, it’s become their social and school hubs. With two teenage daughters, my wife and I have to monitor all of the activity within each of their accounts and constantly remind and reinforce our personal policies on social media usage.
That said, there are also benefits to children having iPhones and for us parents to get a little ROI on the iPhone investment. One way in particular, is a tracking app that my family has found to be invaluable. It’s called Life360. By setting up a “Family Circle,” you can track the whereabouts of each family member on a map, just like you would see on Google Maps.™ I know for some people the idea of being tracked may seem invasive, and we cracked some jokes about it initially, but now that we’re all using it, we love it.
The app comes in handy in so many ways. Just the other day, my wife and daughters were on foot at a parade and needed me to drive and pick them up in a very unfamiliar neighborhood. I used Life360 to locate them, and it worked like a charm. Recently, my oldest daughter and her friends decided they wanted to take a train 30 miles into Chicago and then walk 3 miles to the the beach on Lake Michigan. This was a big deal as she had never taken a train by herself or been to a beach or the city without us. There was plenty to stress about, but the Life360 app gave us visibility into where she was at all times. We could even zoom in and see she was on railroad tracks after the departure time coming home from the city.
For all of us parents who have made the investment in iPhones for our kids, adding a little bit of tracking and security makes it worth it especially for peace of mind.