Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt more tired than when you went to sleep? You’re not alone: It's estimated that 41 million American workers don't get enough sleep. Sleep is vital to help your brain function clearly and productively. Try these four things tonight to be your best tomorrow. 

1. E-Curfew: 30 minutes before you sleep. Tablets, phones, laptops, televisions and anything else that plugs into an outlet are bad before bed. A study by Applied Ergonomics showed that the brightness from iPad screens, when set to the brightest setting, can suppress melatonin by 22%, which can fake your body into thinking it’s morning when it’s really night. 

2. Eat breakfast early in the morning. This is one we've heard our whole lives, but a lot of people don't heed this advice. The bottom line is that people who eat breakfast are smarter and hotter. A study of 6,000 students found that the ones who ate breakfast had better grades and higher graduation rates. Breakfast eaters are also 40% less likely to develop fat around the belly than those you don't. Eating a protein-and-whole-grain-packed breakfast as close as possible to your wake-up time will keep you alert and focused throughout the day.

3. Cut caffeine out after lunch. A poll from Sleep in America stated that 43% of Americans are “very likely” to use coffee to fight afternoon sleepiness.  Late afternoon caffeine boosts can last anywhere from 3 to 12 hours and make it tough to fall and stay asleep. 

4. Exercise! But not close to your bedtime. A study done in 2009 by Oregon State University showed that people who exercised regularly - at least 20 minutes of cardio a day - slept better at night than those who didn’t. But do it three hours or more before bed, as the adrenaline rush may disrupt your sleep.

(Adapted from an article in Men's Fitness by Jennifer Cohen)

Happy camper.

Fancy Hands client Michelle, who works under the name Bombchelle (cute, right?) wrote a great article about how she's using our service.

I especially love one point that she makes about being specific with requests. The customers who click with us the most understand that Fancy Hands assistants, just like an employee that you would speak to in person, need details from you about exactly what you are hoping to achieve. They can then take that information and run with it to deliver exactly the results that you want!

The more general you are with your request, the more you're leaving it to individual interpretation - and we all know that each person has their own way of seeing things and doing things. You empower your assistant to do exactly what you want by being very specific! 

Here's Michelle's piece: 

You know how sometimes, you put off doing something that you know you need to do, or that you know is a really effing good idea? And you do that for ages, even though you know once you actually sit down and do it you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing it? 

That’s pretty much how I feel about Fancy Hands.

I started using them about 2-3 weeks ago and since then, I’ve heartily recommended them to other people at least three times…and I still get a thrill when I realize “OH WAIT, this is something Fancy Hands can handle for me!”

See, in my experience, there’s this weird niggly gray-area of tasks that are delegatable, but kind of a pain in the ass to delegate. Tasks that are so small that I feel weird handing them off to my assistant Tina, or that fall into more of a life-administrative area than a business-administrative area. Or sometimes, just questions I need a quick answer on.

Enter: Fancy Hands

The gist: they have a super-streamlined UI and a team of assistants working behind the scenes. It takes about 3-5 minutes, tops, to submit a task (which you can do by email, phone, from the website, or from their smartphone app). And then, they get to work and you go back to doing the important things in your day. The turnaround time is remarkably fast in most cases, to boot.

So far, for me, they’ve:

  • Called the IRS & sat on hold for me, patching me in when they actually got someone on the line
  • Rescheduled a doctor’s appointment and then called to verify it
  • Refilled prescriptions and called back to verify them until they were actually refilled (apparently, what happens is that my last name was misspelled in the pharmacy database – sigh)
  • Done apartment research for me (which I could have spent 3-4 hours on alone – with their help, I narrowed it down to two options with about 15 minutes worth of work)

That’s more of the life-type tasks I’ve sent them – here’s an example of a more business related one:

“Okay, I need some payment options researched. For each of these below, I’d like to know:

  • -what their fee structure is
  • -what their application fee is (if any)
  • -what the application process entails
  • -which 1-2 seem to come the most highly recommended for entrepreneurs delivering digital products

The payment options are:

  • Google Wallet
  • Stripe
  • Paymill
  • SagePay

Thank you!”

I had an answer within an hour. I’ve had them do some other research-related tasks for me too and been fairly impressed with the results.

As of writing, they’ve spent 319 minutes on the phone for me – which is damn-sure a better deal than me spending those minutes on the phone. (I signed up for the $45/month plan, and I still have 6 tasks left this billing month.)

Other features they have that you might be interested in:

  • Integration with Basecamp so that you can assign tasks from directly within Basecamp
  • They can make purchases on your behalf (So, for example, you can say “Find me a digital camera with these specs in this price range, with the highest average customer reviews; once you’ve found it, purchase it and have it shipped to this address.”)
  • Appointment scheduling/calendar wrangling is free. And they integrate with Google calendar. When I had them reschedule my doctor’s appointment, they automatically put in the new appointment without me even having to ask. *fans self* 
  • And it’s not just me benefitting – my clients are winning from this arrangement, too. The other day I was on Skype with one of my clients who was talking about how she needs to find a free or low-cost WordPress theme for a side project she’s working on, but she’s really busy preparing for a market this weekend. I tasked it out to FancyHands; I had results for the client within an hour of sending in the task (for what breaks down to $3 for the task – which is better than either of us could have done).

(In the interest of full disclosure: I’ve had nothing but a fabulous experience using FancyHands so far & I plan on keeping using them, so all links to them in this post are my referral link – which gets you 50% off your first month and gives me account credit.)

Why FancyHands is a borderline must-have for busy biz-owners:

It trains you to be really specific.

This is something I consistently see people struggle with with they start outsourcing. Instead of saying “Yes, I need a list of 3-5 WordPress themes within this price range, with these features, that have average user reviews of four stars or higher”, you say “I need some WordPress themes that’ll work for this project”. Which, depending on how much you’ve explained the project to whoever you’re delegating to, can work – but is more likely than not to just create a mess as they spend more time than necessary researching a ton of different options, since they don’t have the details & constraints they need to do a great job.

It gets you in the outsourcing/delegating mindset.

You start to see all of the little time leaks in your day that distract you from what you’re actually meant to be doing. Once you start handing them off, it’s addictive – I know for me it’s made a huge difference in the way I feel day to day and removed a burden of stress/annoyance that I didn’t even know was there. (Plus, on the more woo-woo side of things, I think it’s excellent training for the rest of your life – learning to ask for what you need, specifically, and then getting it. It’s an experience than many of us often-overworked biz owners aren’t used to, and it can definitely shift things & open them up for you.)

It frees up both you & your team’s time + energy.

Aside from it freeing up your time, it can also free up your team’s time. Delegating the little niggly gray-area things to Fancy Hands lets your assistant, or your coder, or your project manager spend their time on projects & tasks that’ll have a much bigger impact on your business, and helps to keep everyone in their zone of genius – not just you. Which is something that your team will appreciate, trust me.

That’s been my experience with Fancy Hands – I’ve loved it so much I can’t stop gushing about it, and I really think it’s a valuable tool that I’d love to see more biz-owners using. Have you given it a whirl yet?

(Note: In the interest of attempting to be unbiased, even as a happy customer, I did some research on employee treatment/wages on FancyHands to see if there was anything negative that came up that was worth including in this article – I couldn’t find anything.)

Botox, Kittens, and Santa.

Let's check in on our Fancy Hands assistants and see what interesting facts their research has led them to!

I learned that when bringing a new cat into your home, they should be provided with a "sanctuary room". Oh, if only we could all have one! - Denise Q.

While helping a client plan an itinerary for her trip, I discovered that Lapland (her destination) is the home of Santa Claus. - Karla D. 

I learned that to achieve basic Chinese literacy, you need to know 1,000 characters and the top 200 allow you to comprehend 40% of their basic literature. Love TEDTalks! - Tiffany J. 

Three units of Dysport is equal to one unit of Botox. - Allen L. 

Scary factoid: an estimated 50,000 fake PhD degrees are sold each year by diploma mills. By comparison, between 40,000 to 45,000 PhD degrees are awarded by accredited schools in the United States each year. - Lauri E. 

I learned that there is this awesome site that will take any website, turn it into a PDF, make it printer friendly, and/or email it with ease. Check it It's awesome! -Kelley P. 

You can be happy at work!

Working at a start-up can be stressful. Just ask Chade-Meng Tan, who, as Google's 107th employee, experienced the company back when it was a start-up instead of the behemoth it is today.

Tan was an engineer, and engineers at Google are famously given "20% time" to work on projects of their own choosing. Tan used his 20% time, working with experts, to create a course called "Search Inside Yourself," designed to help Googlers improve their emotional intelligence and mindfulness, making them happier and more productive employees, and better bosses. Ultimately, his goal is to make the world in general a happier place for everyone.

Tan, whose official Google title is "jolly good fellow (which nobody can deny)" has been teaching "Search Inside Yourself" for the past five years, and participants often report that it changed their lives–in fact one attendee reversed her decision to leave Google after taking it. Tan's book, distilled from the course, is now a New York Times bestseller.

Here are three mindfulness skills Tan recommends for every entrepreneur:

1. Learn inner calm.

Working in a start-up company often entails an endless stream of financial pressures and stresses. "The ability to arrive at a mind that is calm and clear on demand is very useful," Tan says. "The analogy is a deep ocean: The surface is choppy but the bottom is very calm. If you're able to go deep inside, you can access that calmness and exist in a world where you can be calm and in action at the same time."

Sound like a tall order? "Gaining this skill turns out to be very easy," Tan says. "It comes from mindfulness, and mindfulness is about the training of attention in a way that allows your mind to stabilize." One way to achieve this is with a brief daily meditation session, but Tan says you can also get there by quietly focusing your attention on your breath from time to time throughout the day. "Three breaths, every now and then," he says. "Or even every now and then be aware of taking one breath. You don't have to train very deep."

2. Increase emotional resilience.

"Entrepreneurs fail all the time, and if your job involves innovation, that always entails failure," Tan says. "Begin with the recognition that failure is a physiological experience in large part. For me, it's tightness in my chest, my stomach dropping, a lack of energy. I feel horrible. And the reason I feel horrible is because of the sensations in my body."

The first step, he says, is to recognize failure as a physical experience. The second step is to return to technique No. 1: Calm your mind by focusing on your breathing. "Calming the mind has the effect of calming the body as well," Tan says, adding that these steps calm the Vagus nerve, which regulates physiological stress reactions.

"Let go of the sensation," he says. "Consider emotions as simply physiological sensations, that is all. They may be pleasant or unpleasant, but they are simply experiences. Just let them come and go as they wish in a kind, gentle, and generous way. If you can do that, you can become more resilient to failure."

3. Develop the habit of wishing success to others.

"The premise is that if you have to convince someone to help you, half the battle is lost," Tan explains. "If you're going to help them succeed in a way that you also succeed, it's a lot easier. If you always frame things in those terms, people are more likely to want to work with you."

A related and very powerful habit is wishing happiness to everyone you come across, Tan says. "Looking at any human being: 'I wish for this person to be happy.'" You may not want to start with the person who cuts you off in traffic, he adds, but with people that you already like, and then people to whom you feel neutral. "The reason is to create a mental habit so that when you see someone, your first thought is, 'I want this person to be happy.' The people you meet will pick this up unconsciously."

It will also help you be a better boss. Tan recommends entrepreneurs strive to become what Jim Collins in Good to Great calls "level 5 leaders"–the kind who can propel their companies to greatness. "What's special about level 5 leaders is they're personally humble and ambitious at the same time," Tan says. "Their ambition is for the greater good, not for themselves. This type of leader is very effective in a start-up, where you want to inspire everybody. That's why the best skill a start-up leader can learn is compassion."

(Article by Minda Zetlin via Inc.)

Penny pincher.

Summer is the season when I'm the most strapped for cash. Every week brings more invitations for beach trips, rooftop barbeques, rafting adventures, and outdoor concerts. As fun as all of these things are, they require more than I've got in my piggy bank. 

I've been taking a look at how to save money at every turn, and here's what I've come up with: 

1. Clip virtual coupons. CouponMom will hook you up with deals.

2. Dip that rent. Visit Rentometer to evaluate whether or not you're paying reasonable rent. If the site determines that you're not, Google topics like "average rent in _____ (your city)" and schedule a meeting with your landlord, articles in hand, and attempt to re-negotiate. 

3. Be a bargain hunter. Check out Lowermybills for all kinds of help with bringing your overhead down.

4. Chop your cell. At Billshrink, you can enter your cell phone bill details and they'll find you a lower-priced plan. 

5. Skeep your peeps. Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past few years, Skype is by far the cheapest way to stay in touch with your friends and family out of the country.

6. Electrify your wallet. Check this article out for tips on reducing your electricity bill.

7. Say hey to AAA. Are you a member? Back when I was, I'd always forget to use my membership for its many possible discounts. Don't let that happen to you - check out their wide list of offers here

8. Pretty up your pearlies. If you don't have dental insurance, you'll need a low-cost plan before you start drilling. Get one here

9. Peruse the promos. Before you check out when making an online purchase, search "______ (Name of site) coupon codes". Often a site like Retailmenot or Couponcodes will share a discount code with you to try out during your check-out. I've received free shipping and up to as much as 25% off of my purchases using this trick. 

10. Take a bite out of the Apple. You can purchased discounted Apple products that have been refurbished and certified here

11. Boost your lift. Buy bargain lift tickets for your next ski trip at Liftopia

12. Swap your stuff. Title Trader is a community that encourages swapping your DVDs, CDs, and books. Swaptrees does all of that and video games, too.

13. Forage for food. The Co-op Directory helps you find and join natural food co-ops in your area - often cheaper than a regular grocery store, and healthier, too.

14. Play up your eyes. Zenni Optical sells insanely cheap, great-looking eyeglasses. 

15. Cut the cable. I did this 3 months ago and it's been great. I canceled my cable account, connected my computer to my TV, and signed up for Netflix Streaming. Between that, Hulu, and each networks' own websites, I get all the TV I can watch for much less money than I was paying before. 

16. Manage your music. Spotify is free if you agree to listen to commercials, $4.99 a month takes the commercials out, and $9.99 a month lets you access all of their music from your mobile as well as your computer. Compare that to the cost of buying per-song or album on iTunes, and, if you're an avid music-buyer, you could save a chunk of dough.

Have a great and afforable summer! 

Organize your life into peace.

Leo Babauta wrote this great article about why - and how - to stay organized: 

A trusted organization system that you actually use regularly can turn your day from one of chaos to one of focus, effectiveness and calm.

This is something I’ve learned through repeated failures, actually: when I become loose with my organized habits, my day becomes worse. It gets stressful and crazy, and I can’t focus on anything. Everything is on my head all the time, and I’m always worried that I’m missing something, that I should be doing something else.

But when I get my system down, and the habits are on track, things are smooth, I feel good about what I’m doing, and I’m much better able to let everything else go and focus on what’s in front of me, confident that everything else is in its place.

I’ll show you my system in a minute, but first let’s talk about what a good organizational system does and how it works.

Why Form Habits of Organization

Several important reasons:

  • Stress: An excess of stress very negatively affects your health. If you have good habits in place to deal with all the stuff in your life, you stress out about everything less. You feel less worry that things are slipping through the cracks. You feel trust that you are OK working on what’s in front of you.
  • Effectiveness: If you are able to externalize all the things you’re worried about into a trusted system, you can better focus on the task in front of you. You can single-task, and be more effective at each task, because it’s getting your full focus.
  • Relationships: I’ve found relationships to be about the most important thing in my life, personal but also business. And the best way to build relationships is to be trustworthy. And the best way to be trustworthy is to keep your commitments. If you’re organized, you are more likely to keep your commitments. Organizaton is largely about managing your commitments.

Building a Trusted System

So what does a trusted system look like? Honestly, there are a million tools and combinations of tools you might use, but there are a few things that are important in building a trusted system:

  • You find a place for everything — todos, passwords, appointments, repeating tasks, incoming info and requests, other info you need to store, documents, receipts.
  • You actually use the system and put things where they belong, as soon as you can (see next section, for the habits).
  • You recognize when things are sitting in your inbox or open browser tabs or computer desktop, and find a place for them.

With that said, here’s my current system (it changes over time)...just note that you don’t need to use my system, and there are lots of great tools for each type of item:

  • Incoming: Most of my incoming requests, tasks, info, and appointments come in through Gmail. Sometimes through other channels, but 90% of the time through Gmail. When I check Gmail, I try to take each thing out of Gmail and put it where it belongs — in one of the tools below.
  • Todos: Lately I’ve been using Trello. I stole this system from Ryan Carson of Treehouse: Create a tasks board in Trello, with lists for:
    • Most Important (my family, writing, reading, fitness, mindfulness)
    • Today (includes appointments and tasks), Incoming (for things I haven’t placed yet)
    • This Week (move tasks from here to Today each day)
    • Later (move tasks from here to This Week as needed)
    • Done (move things I finish here), and
    • Waiting On (for things I’ve requested but haven’t received yet)

Each morning I review this for 20 minutes, moving things as needed to the right places, so I know everything is in its place.

  • Other Work & Personal Info: I’ve been using Workflowy, which is a cool web app (with an iPhone app too) that allows you to store just about all the info in your life in one place. I used to put everything in Google Docs, but now I just dump it in Workflowy and it’s all together and searchable.
  • Passwords & secure info: I use 1Password, which not only stores (and generates) passwords, but bank info, credit cards, passport info, airline frequent flier numbers, and pretty much everything else I might need to remember.
  • Timed or repeating items: Google Calendar. Whenever I need to do something regularly, I create a recurring appointment in GCal. Reviewing my idea list (stored in Workflowy) twice a month, for example.
  • Receipts, financial docs, drafts, tickets: I’ve set up folders in Dropbox for these things — files which don’t fit into the other buckets.
  • Things to read later: If I have a tab open to read later, I put it into Instapaper, and open Instapaper when I have time to read.

That’s pretty much everything. What’s important is that everything has a place, and I know exactly where that place is.

Building Organized Habits

Of course, it won’t be a trusted system unless you actually use it — there’s the rub. We often forget to use our system because we have old habits that don’t die easily.

Luckily, we can replace the old habits with better ones, with practice. It takes about a week of very conscious effort to do this, and after that it gets more and more automatic.

Here are the habits:

  • Create a place for everything. I showed how you might do that above, but find whatever tools work for you. The habit, though, is noticing when something is sitting in your inbox or in an open browser tab or somewhere else, not in its place. And then finding a place for it — sometimes that means consciously designating a new bucket just for that type of thing.
  • Don’t procrastinate — put it away immediately: The old habit is to put it off (procrastinate) to be put away later. No. That procrastination is what leads to the system falling apart. For one week, make a very conscious effort to not put this off, but instead to take a few seconds to put information, tasks, appointments and other such things right where they belong, right now. It doesn’t take long, but you have to be very conscious about it at first.
  • Don’t live in the inbox: We have a tendency to keep the inbox open, or to open it often. That means you’re constantly responding, instead of focusing. Instead, open the inbox, and one by one, put incoming items where they belong, and archive them in your inbox. You might not get to the bottom of the list, but you save yourself from having to contstantly look through the same things in your inbox over and over.
  • Review the system every morning: Make it a habit to review your task list and calendar every morning for 20 minutes (set a timer), so you know things are in their place. Move things from the Today list to Done, from This Week to Today, from Later to This Week, from Incoming to the appropriate list, and so on. Put calendar items on the Today list. Know where everything is. Then get out and start doing.

With these four habits, and a trusted system, you can now relax, and focus!

Path to Productivity.

Joel Kelly, an enthusiastic client of ours and one of our favorite Tweeters, wrote this article on Medium and we'd like to share a part of it:


My path to productivity

 "A few months ago, Justin McElroy — co-host/co-brother of the incredible podcast My Brother, My Brother and Metweeted, 'Ugh @FancyHands is the most ludicrously useful thing in the world.'

I figured out what Fancy Hands was and in an instant my life changed, a little. We’re not talking I’ll-tell-my-grandkids-about-this changed, but still. It was big.

You see, Fancy Hands is a personal assistant application. Their motto is, 'Do what you love, we’ll do the rest.' You pay a monthly fee to have access to a set number of requests, and then you tell them what you need done, and an assistant somewhere (they're all U.S.-based) will make it happen. You enter your requests through their website or through the iPhone or Android app.

It’s that simple.

You’re thinking, 'but I don’t need an assistant.' Of course you do. In the past two months, Fancy Hands assistants have spent 166 minutes on the phone on my behalf. Almost 2.8 hours.

My Fancy Hands stats, available via their great dashboard

They’ve placed 85 calls:

  • calling my doctor
  • finding me products at the store
  • haggling with online merchants to send me my items faster
  • making sure sites will ship to Canada
  • making me reservations

Not to mention the internet research:

  • finding me gift ideas for friends
  • researching case studies for my work
  • researching management techniques to make me a better boss (well, they did what they could…)
  • researched and priced honeymoon ideas
  • and so many more things

I can’t begin to calculate what this has saved me, not just in time, or money, but stress. I’m a worrier. I stress about things like phone calls and to-do items. Fancy Hands takes that away.

Because I’m not just a worrier, I also have a horrible, horrible memory. So my life is a hilarious combination of being convinced I’ve forgotten something absolutely crucial, at all times.

Fancy Hands has given me a piece of my life back, or perhaps one I never really had."


Thanks for the thanks, Joel! We're happy to hear how much your Fancy Hands assistants are helping to simplify your life! 

Android App Alert!


Just in time for July 4, we're proud to announce the launch of our Android App!

If you're a new customer, coupon code "next-web-android" will give you 50% off your first month on monthly plans, this week only! 

Strategy Secrets for Powerful Productivity.

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

Below, some of the most productive people - from successful investors to “always-on” executives - share their secrets on how to be your most productive self, despite the overflowing in-boxe, the constant buzz of the phone and the never-ending ping of meeting alerts.

Clear Your Mind, Define Your Focus

Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction and principal at The Chatham Group, shared two tips that keep her focused, energized, effective and productive both personally and professionally. “There are two things I do to get the energy, capacity and focus I need to not only be efficient, but effective. Personally, I take 15 minutes every morning for contemplation and to empty my mind. I take a bag full of thoughts I need cleared and each morning I pick one out, read it, and send it down the river near my house. Watching the thought float away really helps clear my mind, reorient things and increase my focus for the rest of the day,” said Lea, who successfully juggles several roles across various companies including CEO, investor, advisor, mentor and principal.

“Professionally,” Lea added, “I send an email to my team each Monday morning with the top five things I will be focused on for the week. This really keeps me on track and gives me the focus I need. These two things set the pace for me every day, both in my personal and professional life.”

Cut Back On Meetings

Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), said he keeps productive by being diligent about meetings--sticking to the allotted time and only scheduling in-person meetings when it’s absolutely necessary. “I leave meetings at their allotted end time regardless of whether they are finished,” said Komisar, who authored the book, Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model. “I do not reschedule an appointment for a more important one unless it is an emergency. If an email will do, I don't make a call; if a call will do, I don't have a meeting; if a 30-minute meeting is sufficient, I don't schedule an hour.”

Embrace Evernote

Dylan Tweney, the executive editor at VentureBeat, said Evernote, the popular note-taking and archiving service, is his go-to productivity tool. “I use Evernote to collect everything I might possibly need to save for later, with the exception of emails--Gmail is fine for that. I store all of my important documents--from notes to interviews--in Evernote. I also use Evernote tags as a kind of to-do list: I have a set of tags that I can use to prioritize things that need to happen immediately or that I'm waiting for someone else to finish: ("1-next," "2-soon," "3-later," "4-someday," and "5-waiting"). When I get an email that I need to act on but can't respond to immediately, I forward it to my private Evernote address and then prioritize it,” said Tweney. “Finally, I use Instapaper liberally to save articles that I run across during the day, but don't have time to read during the busy hours. It sends stories to my Kindle automatically, so I always have something interesting to read on the train ride home or in the evening. That helps keep me focused on work, even when people are sharing fascinating things on Twitter and Facebook all day.” (Fancy Hands integrates with Evernote!) 

Get Tunnel Vision

Kevin O’Connor, the serial entrepreneur who founded both DoubleClick and more recently FindTheBest, a data-driven comparison engine, said he makes an effort to focus on only the top few things that really are going to move the needle. “Most people tend to focus on the 100 things they should do, which can be overwhelming and result in the failure to actually accomplishing anything of importance. I try to focus on the three to five things I absolutely have to do. I don't get distracted by those ninety-seven other unimportant things that don't ultimately contribute to my success or the success of my company.”

Get Physical 

Patrick Dolan, the EVP and COO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), said what keeps him productive, focused and energized is going for runs in the morning. “I love to run in the morning before I get into work. Running clears my mind, gets the blood flowing and ultimately makes me much more focused and productive. During my morning runs, I try to come up with solutions to any unresolved problems at work, brainstorm new ideas, and really prioritize my work in terms of the top things I want to accomplish that day. By the time I get into work, I already have a set of focused priorities, and I also have the energy to make them happen.”

Police Your Own Internet Habits: Notifications Are Evil

Fred Bateman, the CEO and Founder of Bateman Group, said he uses a tool called StayFocusd to keep track of how much time he’s spending on various sites. “To stay ‘in the zone’ and increase productivity in today's digital age, I strongly recommend blocking all audio and visual notifications from Outlook, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think all notifications are evil because they typically have both audio and visual distraction triggers, which can wreak havoc on your concentration. This extends to my iPhone, which is always, always set to vibrate with all notifications on all email accounts and mobile apps turned completely off, said Bateman. “I also have a tendency to begin earnestly researching something online with the very best of intentions and then get lost viewing irrelevant content and wasting way too much time. To limit this, I turn on a browser extension to Chrome called StayFocusd where I maintain a list of sites I can get lost on for hours--the New York Times and Facebook are my top two. StayFocusd alerts me after ten minutes have passed and then blocks the offending sites to help me resist temptation and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Put Email In Its Place

Anne-Marie Slaugher, a professor of politics and international relations at Princeton University and author of the popular article published last year in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” said basing your work day around the never-ending flow of incoming emails is a huge productivity suck. “My principal productivity tip is that if you are caught up on your email, your priorities are in the wrong place. An extra of hour of email will accomplish very little in the long run, but that hour could be spent reading to your kids before bed, cooking a meal, or taking a walk and clearing your head--all far better choices,” said Slaughter, who previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department. “More generally, email puts you in response mode, where you are doing what other people want you to do, rather than send mode, where you are deciding what you want to do and taking action.”


Let's not forget that most CEOs have an assistant or two to do their bidding. Having support when you're at your busiest is crucial. Can't afford to pay the salary of a full-time assistant? No problem. That's what we're here for. 

For a mere $25, this month, I've had my Fancy Hands assistants order a gift, sort out a problem with a flight I booked, get me a quote for a new phone plan with T Mobile, make my cat an appointment at the vet, find my favorite tomatoes, and get a credit from Time Warner. 

Having a Fancy Hands account keeps me focused on productivity at my job by taking the little "to-do's" off of my plate. 

(Adapted from an article in Fast Company by Grace Nasri)

6 months down, 6 to go: Finish 2013 strong.

The coming July holiday is a great time to take stock of your situation so you can set an action plan to make the rest of the year as productive as possible. Regardless of your position or status, there are actions you can take to drive forward your company, division or even your own career.  Here are seven actions to take immediately:

1. Solve at Least One Communication Issue

Nothing gets in the way of accomplishment more than poor communication. No one has perfect communication. Figure out where yours is falling short. It might be ineffective meetings, how you deal with conflict or how you manage criticism. Ask around and self assess. Chances are you'll find several breakdown issues from which to choose. Pick the one that is the biggest obstacle to your end-of-year goals.

2. Eliminate at Least One Useless Practice or Policy

Nearly everyone has daily activities that are inefficient or even unnecessary. These practices often go unnoticed due to habit. Sit with a colleague and list out the actions in your day or in a company process. Brainstorm together how to eliminate or refine the process for efficiency. The more bureaucracy you remove, the more you'll wonder why you were foolishly doing things that way in the first place.

3. Remove at Least One Useless Item From Your Budget

This is a great time to trim the fat. Go through your entire budget, line item by line item. You're bound to find some left-handed smoke shifting or bacon stretching service you really don't need. At the very least, figure out how to finally empty out that storage facility that no one has touched for five years. Then, reapportion the funds toward something that is truly useful and appreciated.

4. Commit to at Least One New Experiment

Once you complete tips #2 and #3, you'll have some extra resources. You might use these to take some new risk that could propel things forward in a big way.  Experimentation is necessary for exponential advancement. It might turn out to be a wasted effort but even failure can be valuable for learning. At the very least, you'll learn what doesn't work.

5.  Make at Least One New Major Connection

It doesn't matter whether you are focused on sales, operations or development. Adding smart people to your circle can help you grow faster. Bring on the employee you have been coveting or go engage the mentor that you've always wanted. Build the team that will take you beyond your expectations.

6. Add at Least One New Competency

There is always some skill you crave to help you advance. If you don't start getting good at it now, you may never get there. According to Malcolm Gladwell, you'll need 10,000 hours to master it; that doesn't leave you with much time. (But actually, a company can achieve the requisite hours before the end of the year by assigning 10 people to it full-time for the next 6 months.)

7. Inspire at Least One Colleague

You can accomplish far more with support from others. Find people who are floundering and help get them on track. By unlocking the key to inspiring them, you'll inspire yourself more in the process. You'll feel good about moving them from a place of mediocrity and together you can take pride in accomplishment.

(By Kevin Duam via Inc.)

Stop Procrastinating.

Procrastination is something that everyone deals with. It’s hard to place too much blame on ourselves though, as the internet offers an unlimited amount of alternatives to doing our work. Since that’s the case, what are some proven ways to combat procrastination? 


What’s the deal with "cramming"? Remember your college days, where everyone would practically brag about how they were able to pull off a miracle all-nighter? The crazy thing is, although cramming is far from optimal in terms of the quality of work that is produced, it is quite useful in getting a fire lit under our asses, isn’t it?

According to a study on procrastination, this last minute hoorah is inspired by the fact that there is no way out. Better yet, this feeling can be controlled (without the worry and paranoia) by "pre-committing" to a task before it’s begun. There are a couple ways to go about this, depending on the severity of your lethargy.

One of the more extreme (and highly creative) alternatives is a web app called stickK, which allows you to pre-commit to a goal that you must complete by a certain deadline. Big whoop, how is that going to stop me from procrastinating? Well, before you can set a goal up, you have to lay down some cash, and if you miss your deadline the money becomes locked and is donated to a charity that you hate! You can select other options and you don’t have to put in money, but c’mon, go big or go home! Also, can you honestly think of a better way to get yourself to take action than an impending deadline that will send your hard-earned cash to an organization you despise? What if you knew that $50 was headed to a place like the Westboro Baptist Church if you don’t get that new wireframe/article/logo finished? I rest my case!

Two other less dramatic ways to achieve a similar effect are to do the following:

  • Write down when and where you will complete a task (students who did this were far more likely to complete assignments).
  • Make a public commitment by sharing your plan with a friend or simply emailing someone (“I will have that for you tomorrow by 5 PM”). Leave a healthy amount of time for emergencies, but don’t give yourself a week when you really need a day or two.

Set Macro Goals and Micro Quotas

Motivation is inter-woven with what goals you make as well as the plans you construct to achieve them. In a surprising study on motivation, researchers found that abstract thinking about goals can actually help with discipline. In the most basic sense, “dreaming big” isn’t all that bad advice (though dreaming too much can be harmful, more on that later).

But there’s also the problem of setting up grandiose plans and becoming intimidated by your own lofty expectations. Since you don’t want to stop dreaming big, the best way to find a balance is to simply set “macro goals” and “micro quotas." Your goals should be the large scale things that you hope to accomplish, that much is obvious. But your quotas are what you must get done everyday to make it happen.

For instance, writer/designer Nathan Barry forced himself to write 1000 words per day come hell or high-water to get his 3 self-published eBooks done. The quota made each day approachable, and the goal was achieve because of it.

Quotas help you take one day (or even hour) at a time, so setting the bar low can actually be beneficial, as it’s what gets you started. At the same time, these quotas shouldn’t impede on your long term goals, which help fuel the fire that keeps your motivation alive.

Always Hit the Ground Running

I’ve covered a plethora of research that shows "analysis paralysis" is one of the #1 causes of procrastination. Not knowing what to do is often worse than the work itself. That’s why you should always strive to hit the ground running for new commitments, especially in terms of how you start each and every day.

The night before, create a simple to-do list (forget apps, pen and paper!) that consists of 3 big things that you want to get done, and what work it will entail. Keep it at your desk for when you sit down, or in your bag if you commute to work, and get it out right away when it’s time to get down to business. With a clear list of what to work on right now, you won’t have to stare at a long list of obligations that should get done “someday.”

The Redirect Technique

Being too hard on yourself for procrastinating isn’t healthy. In fact, this study shows that self-blame is definitely counter-productive. The study examined study habits in particular, and had this to say:

“Forgiveness allows the individual to move past their maladaptive behavior and focus on the upcoming examination without the burden of past acts to hinder studying.”

Now, that doesn’t mean you should just give up, but rather that you shouldn’t let the fact that you don’t want to do something make you feel bad. Hell, if you read books like Daily Rituals, you’ll see that many great writers struggled with their work ethic throughout their entire career. Instead, you should try to redirect your worst procrastination sessions into anything productive.

For instance, when I just can’t get myself to sit down and write, I will do small tasks that still need to get done, like answering support emails. While this technique can lead to ‘busybody’ work if you aren’t careful, it can also get you in the mood to work during periods where you have to do something. This research points out that it’s important to evaluate each task to make sure you aren’t engaging in "automatic behavior":

Often our behaviour is robotic. We do things not because we’ve really thought about it, but because it’s a habit or we’re unconsciously copying other people. This type of behaviour can be an enemy of goal striving. Ask yourself whether what you are doing is really getting you closer to your goal.

As long as the task you are redirecting to is still relevant to your goals, (say, finishing up some edits instead of creating a new article), it’s okay to forgive yourself and redirect your behavior.

Identify the Four Pillars of Procrastination

According to an academic study titled The Nature of Procrastination, there appear to be four pillars of procrastination that influence the population at large. Identifying which pillar is stopping you from doing a certain task may be helpful in overcoming the initial barrier in getting started. After all, research on the Zeigarnik Effect shows us that getting started really is the toughest part!

Here are the 4 pillars:

  1. Low task value: Simply put, tasks that we perceive as low value, either in terms of fun or long-term rewards. When a task in unpleasant or boring, we can attempt to tie more enjoyable activities to the task (“I’ll go knock out this project at the coffee shop while I grab my favorite drink”) as this research suggests, or we can forcefully add on artificial elements such as “no turning back” deadlines (as mentioned above).
  2. Personality: Unfortunately, personality plays a role in procrastination. Some people are just more impulsive than others. The upside is that although it’s hard to control our personality, it is far easier to control our environment. For instance, I love beef jerky, and I will literally stuff my face with it if it is in my cabinets. To keep my binges to a minimum, I put it on a high cabinet that requires a step-ladder to reach it, relying on the annoyance of getting to it rather than my own willpower. For work, I block out distractions by heading to quiet locations (like the library) and restrict myself from time-wasting sites with tools like StayFocusd.
  3. Expectations: If you expect to complete a task easily, then you are less likely to procrastinate. This pillar is a bit more difficult to hack, but the best trick is to simply realize that the first step is often the most psychologically difficult. It is usually the case that an impending ‘to-do’ will be far less horrific than we imagine it to be, so if we can just commit 5-minutes to trying it out, we can see what it’s really like.
  4. Goal failure: Fear of failure is a real thing for many procrastinators. This pillar really has to do with being confident in your abilities. For a more extensive take on that subject, I recommend this article in Inc, as well as this one in NerdFitness.

Do the “Right” Kind of Fantasizing

Fantasies about the future are generally okay to have and are all in good fun. But excessive fantasizing has been proven to be a goal killer and a huge reason people procrastinate (it tends to tie in with perfectionism). According to this study on motivation and fantasies, when you ‘build castles in the sky’ you may be sabotaging real, obtainable goals. The researchers tested subjects on how commonplace fantasizing about their future was, and followed up on their performance on a number of categories.

Take those subjects looking for a job. Those who spent more time dreaming about getting a job performed worse. Two years after leaving college the ‘dreamers’:

had applied for fewer jobs,

had been offered fewer jobs,

and, if they were working, had lower salaries.

Not good! But we also know that positive visualizations can be motivating and inspire us to push ourselves, so what’s missing? According to this study from the UCLA, the mistake is in what we visualize. Researchers found that those participants who engaged in visualizations that included the process of what needed to be done to achieve the goal (ex: fantasizing about learning another language, and visualizing themselves practicing every day after work) were more likely to outperform their peers.

There were two reasons the visualization the process worked:

  1. Planning: visualizing the process helped focus attention on the steps needed to reach the goal.
  2. Emotion: visualization of individual steps led to reduced anxiety.

So don’t fret your day dreams, just make sure you’re not solely focusing on the rewards of the “good life” without remembering the very doable steps that are necessary to make it happen!

Go Get Em’, Sport

“No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.”

Wise words from the notorious Fight Club, and a final lesson on procrastination that I’d like to impart. For many of us, procrastination comes from an overload of obligations. Our ability to say “no” to things that aren’t really moving us towards our goals is a tough skill to learn, but since it becomes impossible to tackle difficult tasks when we’re suffocating under a bunch of meaningless obligations, it’s necessary that we acquire it. Productivity requires radical elimination. It may seem selfish, but you’ve got to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else!

(By Gregory Ciotti via Lifehacker

39 Ways To Make Someone's Day.

1. Smile at a stranger

2. Put change in an expired parking meter

3. Mail someone a hand-written card

4. Hold a door open 

6. Give a friendly wave to a neighbor

7. Do a simple, free, quick kindness for a charity - eight examples here

8. Tell a friend why you appreciate them 

9. Walk instead of driving, and interact with the world around you

10. Teach a group in your community about something unique you do or enjoy

11. Drop off dinner or groceries to an elderly friend who can't get out much

12. Mentor someone - a child or an adult

13. Help someone get set up on social media so that they can connect with their loved ones

14. Call your family just to say hi and tell them that you were thinking of them

15. Invite a friend you haven't seen in a while to the movies or coffee or...

16. Sign up for an unusual class at a community college and make new friends 

17. Read a book on something new to gain new perspective, and apply it to the world around you

18. Make a Top 10 (or 25, or 100) list of things you're thankful for and share it

19. Ask someone for a recipe of theirs that you love - then surprise them by making it for them 

20. Ask someone for their insight, and tell them that you value their opinion

21. Sit down with someone eldery and ask them questions about their life

22. Give a stranger a sincere compliment

23. Say "Thank You" and "I Love You" often

24. Use your skills to do some pro-bono work

25. Organize memorable photos in a virtual or paper album for someone

26. Ask someone how their day was, and actually listen attentively

27. Treat someone you admire to lunch

28. Volunteer to speak on a topic that you know about to a group who wants to learn

29. Buy a magazine subscription and have it sent to a nursing home

30. Sell some cool stuff online and give the proceeds to charity:

31. Read these 25 amazing social good blogs and pick something to do 

32. Share inspiring quotes and stories online

33. Donate your airline miles here

34. Pick up an errant piece of trash off the ground and throw it away

35. Offer to babysit for a single parent

36. Run an errand for a busy friend

37. Give a gift of a housekeeping service (or Fancy Hands!) to a new parent

38. Tell someone you see regularly at a business how much they make your day

39. Share something without being asked

(Via Amy Neumann at HuffPost)

Take a shortcut.

Shocking but true: if you're not using keyboard shortcuts and you work on a computer 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, you're wasting 64 hours a year! That's 8 whole work days that are totally lost because you're taking 2 seconds a minute more than is needed with your old-school, mouse-driven ways of navigation.

Yes, of course, there's an app for this. Brainscape offers a free app to teach you keyboard shortcuts right here, and you can put an download an app for your Mac desktop here that pulls up cheat sheets for each program that you're working on. 

And here are cheat sheets that you can print out and keep next to you for reference. 

And, some social media shortcuts: 

Now - reclaim those 8 lost days and fill that time with something you love doing! 

8 Things You Shouldn't Do Today.

If you get decent value from making to-do lists, you'll get huge returns in productivity and happiness by adding these items to your not to-do list:

1. Don't check your phone while you're talking to someone.

You've done it. You've played the, "Is that your phone? Oh, it must be mine," game. You've tried the you-think-sly-but-actually-really-obvious downwards glance. You've done the, "Wait, let me answer this text..." thing.

Maybe you didn't even say, "Wait." You just stopped talking, stopped paying attention, and did it.

Want to stand out? Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they're talking to you, like you're the most important person in the world?

Stop checking your phone. It doesn't notice when you aren't paying attention.

Other people? They notice.

And they care.

2. Don't multi-task during a meeting.

The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room.

You'll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multi-tasking and start paying close attention. You'll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you'll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you'll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter.

It will be easy, because you'll be the only one trying.

And you'll be the only one succeeding on multiple levels.

3. Don't think about people who don't make any difference in your life.

Trust me: The inhabitants of planet Kardashian are okay without you.

But your family, your friends, your employees - all the people that really matter to you - are not. Give them your undivided time and attention.

They're the ones who deserve it.

4. Don't use multiple notifications.

You don't need to know the instant you get an email. Or a text. Or a tweet. Or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer.

If something is important enough for you to do, it's important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you're doing. Then, on a schedule you set - instead of a schedule you let everyone else set - play prairie dog and pop your head up to see what's happening.

Then get right back to work. Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing.

They can wait. You, and what is truly important to you, cannot.

5. Don't let your past dictate your future.

Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them.

Then let them go.

Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn't know - especially about yourself.

When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding.

The past is your training. It should definitely inform, but in no way define you.

6. Don't wait until you're sure you will succeed.

You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best.

And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail.

Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and you have everything to gain.

7. Don't talk behind someone's back.

If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.)

If you've talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn't everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it's "not your place" to talk to Joe, it's probably not your place to talk about Joe.

Spend your time on productive conversations. You'll get a lot more done, and you'll gain more respect.

8. Don't say "yes" when you really mean "no."

Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don't, should you care too much about what they think?

When you say no, at least you'll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don't want to do, you might feel bad for a long time - or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn't want to do in the first place.

(By Jeff Haden via Inc.)

Meet Karyn: Director of Communications

I haven't ever added a bio of myself to our Fancy Hands staff page because, as the company blogger and social media chick, it's more fun for me to interview other people. But one of my stock questions is always "what's your favorite Fancy Hands request?" and I just have to tell you guys about what my Fancy Hands assistant did for me yesterday. So I answered all of the other bio questions, too, and here we are. 

What are your interests? 

This year, I've dedicated myself to becoming athletic. I'm not fully there yet, but I train 6x a week and I'm completely addicted. 

What are you good at?  

I'm pretty good at figuring out what other people's problems are, and knowing how they could fix them. Not as nearly as good at this trick for myself.

What is your worst quality? 

Sometimes I tell people what their problems are when they aren't interested in hearing what I have to say. 

Who is your spirit animal? 

Giraffe, obvie. We're both tall and freckled. 

What is the biggest risk you've ever taken? 

I drove across the country to move to Los Angeles without ever having been there before, and with no plan for what to do when I got there. It worked out just fine.

What's the most memorable request you've seen from a customer? 

I don't have one in particular, but I love seeing when a customer truly "gets" us and understands how to use our service perfectly to de-stress their life. Ari Meisel is one of our "power users" and he often tweets about what he's asking his Fancy Hands assistant to do. 

Also, our company mascot, Fancy Hans, tweets a task a day. Check him out for great ideas!

What's your favorite request to give our Fancy Hands assistants? 

OK, so this is what I really wanted to share today. 

Tomatoes are my favorite food. I have happy memories of being young and eating amazing tomato sandwiches in the summer. As I've gotten older, tomatoes have become tasteless and awful. Then I found a brand called "UglyRipe" at my grocery store, and the taste of them took me back to my childhood. 

Last month, my grocery store closed, and I've been on a fruitless search (excuse the pun) since then for more UglyRipes. I thought, this is the perfect thing to ask a Fancy Hands assistant to help with, and I submitted a request that they track down a store near me that carries these tasty 'maters.

The response I got back from my assistant was: 

"Just spoke to Ken at Procacci Brothers, the distributor of UglyRipes, and it seems there are none available in stores near you at the moment, so he's shipping a package with 6 tomatoes to your address via Fedex. Here's the tracking number. Hope you enjoy your tomatoes!"

Um. What!? 

I don't know why I'm lucky enough to get free tomatoes, but check out what was on my doorstep last night:

So awesome! Big thanks to Ken, and to my assistant Amy P.! Tomato party at my house!

This is a perfect example of why I love Fancy Hands. I didn't have the time or energy, or frankly even the motivation, to call the company that distributes my favorite tomatoes. I put my Fancy Hands assistant on it, and I never imagined that this would be the outcome! Sometimes, enlisting help can bring you a very happy surprise. 

What advice would you give to the 16 year old version of yourself?

Stop worrying about what you look like and what boys think of you. Pay more attention in class. Don't wear those Birkenstocks.

Banish Bad Thoughts.

Our minds are so very powerful. Anyone who has been cured with a placebo can attest to that. They're given sugar pills, but because they believe that something positive is happening, their disease disappears. 

It stands to reason, then, that negative thoughts can cause you harm. They crowd your brain with doom and gloom, when what we all need is as much light and positivity as possible in order to be happy, creative, and productive. 

If you're having trouble ridding yourself of negative thoughts, try these techniques from Corrine Pikul to banish them for good: 

Show Them The Door 

We've all had the frustrating experience of going into another room to get something and then realizing that we've totally forgotten why we're there. What's happening, say scientists from Notre Dame University, is that the act of passing through the doorway serves as a cue (an "event model" in science-speak) to your brain, telling it that it's finished with the immediate task and to move on to something else, freeing up space and energy for new memories.

You can take advantage of this mechanism in order to help you "forget" more strategically: If you find yourself getting worked up about something while you're preparing dinner, stop and exit the room. And if you happen to have an open-plan layout, keep on walking right out the front door (just come back in before the water boils and the pot overflows).

Wash That Thought Right Outta Your Head

Decisive people have no idea how lucky they are to be spared the kind of second-guessing that can lead to sleeplessness, queasiness and general obsessiveness. But the rest of us now have a secret weapon against waffling: soap. Psychologists at the University of Michigan found that washing your hands with soap and water can help you stop questioning your judgment. The study authors explain that the act of washing up serves as a powerful metaphor of "cleaning the slate" and helps us mentally wipe away doubts and misgivings.

Go To Your Happy Place

When our brain insists on reminding us of that awful thing we said at the party last night, most of us react by suppressing the thought (and perhaps groaning). This often works, found British neuroscientists Roland Benoit and Michael Anderson, who used an fMRI machine to trace the brain activity of people who were trying to forget something. In a study published in the journal Neuron, they explained that when we push a memory out of our head, activity in the hippocampus, the region of the brain critical for remembering the past, is inhibited. However, there's always the threat that the thought will pop up again... and again.

One trick that the scientists tested was thought substitution: Whenever you start rehashing the night, tell yourself instead to think about your vacation to Aruba, or reimagine every bite of a meal you enjoyed. Doing this will induce frenetic activity in the parts of the brain that need to work to retrieve memories and along the pathways to consciousness. The two thoughts will literally compete for your attention, so make the substitution memory engaging and pleasurable enough to win.

Toss Them

Those troubled souls who vent their grievances on paper are on to something, found Ohio State University psychologist Richard Petty, Ph.D., and his colleagues. In one of their studies, high school students who were asked to write down thoughts about body image and then rate their own figures were only affected by their thoughts if they were asked to hold on to their papers and review them. Those who were told to chuck the papers in the trash showed no difference in how they rated themselves, regardless of whether they confessed positive or negative thoughts.

"By physically throwing away or protecting your thoughts, you influence how you end up using those thoughts," Petty said. So write them down and then—this is key—be sure to shred them, burn them, toss them in the compactor or drag them into the trash can on your desktop—and empty it.

Squash Them With a Challenge

You're surprisingly vulnerable to negative thinking when you're doing something that's practically second nature to you, says psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding, MD, coauthor of You Are Not Your Brain. When you're in the flow - say, knitting your 24th scarf - the brain's prefrontal cortex, which handles executive function, kicks back and lets the basal ganglia, or the habit center, take over. This is when the toxic thought sneaks in and gains control, while your knitting needles continue to clack away rhythmically.

Get your prefrontal cortex to refocus by turning your attention to a challenging activity that requires your full attention, like listening to Coffee Break French podcasts, playing Words With Friends with a responsive pal or whipping up a new recipe in the kitchen. Gladding says that it's important to do this as quickly as you can when you feel your bad thoughts approaching, because the more time you spend dwelling on things, the stronger those mental pathways become. "Then every time you get anxious, you'll automatically switch into obsessive mode," she says—and that's something you definitely want to avoid.

Work Them Out 

At any road race, you'll find dozens of running enthusiasts who have successfully kicked bad habits (as well as chronic bad moods) by following a regular training schedule. And intense physical activity has been shown in studies to raise serotonin and dopamine levels and lower the stress response. But while distance running, biking and swimming can boost general mental wellness, these solitary, repetitive activities can be the worst thing when you're dwelling on something specific and unchangeable. They can provide you with uninterrupted time to obsess, and that may reinforce negative thought patterns.

Consider seeking out physical activity that makes your brain work as hard as your body, like a class (spinning, Zumba, Bikram or Ashtanga yoga), a group sport (community soccer, pickup basketball) or a team activity (rowing, a running group, a master's swim team). 

Now Feel Like Yay!

The end. 

(Adapted from an article by Corrine Pikul in O Magazine)

5 Steps to Being a Leader.

Find Purpose

Purpose is the one thing all great leaders have in common. Great leaders have a clearly defined purpose, while average leaders just show up to work. Purpose fuels passion and work ethic. It is these characteristics that afford great leaders a competitive advantage over those who don’t understand the dynamics of this linkage.

People First

Leaders are nothing without people. People will make or break you as a leader. You’ll either treat them well, earn their trust, respect and loyalty, or you won’t. You’ll either see people as capital to be leveraged or humans to be developed and fulfilled. You’ll either view yourself as superior to your employees, or as one whose job it is to serve them, learn from them, and leave them be better off for being led by you.

The best leaders don’t put people in a box – they free them from boxes. Ultimately, a leaders job isn’t to create followers, but to strive for ubiquitous leadership. Average leaders spend time scaling processes, systems, and models – great leaders focus on scaling leadership.

Develop Awareness

Great leaders are self aware, organizationally aware, culturally aware, contextually aware, and emotionally aware. They value listening, engaging, observing, and learning over pontificating. They value sensitivity over insensitivity and humility over hubris. Leaders who come across as if they know everything haven’t fooled anyone – except themselves.

Great leaders avoid the traps, gaps, and blind spots average leaders so easily step into. Leaders who choose to live in the bubble of their own thinking rather than understanding the benefits of seeking others input and counsel make things harder on everyone. The willingness to allow your positions and opinions to be challenged is a sign of strength not weakness. I’ve often said the most powerful and overlooked aspect of learning is unlearning. Leaders never willing to change their mind ensure only one outcome – a lack of growth and development.

Shun Complexity

Complexity is a leader’s enemy not their friend. Great leaders live to eliminate or simplify the complex, while average leaders allow themselves and those they lead to be consumed by it. Complexity stifles innovation, slows development, gates progress, and adversely impacts culture. Complexity is expensive, inefficient, and ineffective.

I’m not minimizing the fact we live in a complex world, and I’m not suggesting that profit cannot be found in complexity. But great leaders understand opportunity and profits are extracted from complexity through simplification, not by adding to the complexity. While many think it was Einstein who said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” the statement was actually borrowed from Leonardo de Vinci – both gentlemen were correct.

Get Personal

If I only had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say, “It’s not personal; it’s just business.” Great leaders understand nothing is more personal than leadership, and they engage accordingly. The best leaders understand a failure to engage is in fact a failure to lead. Average leaders remain aloof and distant – great leaders look to know and care for their people.

The best leaders understand it’s not a weakness to get personal, to display empathy, kindness, and compassion – it’s the ultimate strength. Peak performance is never built on the backs of others, but by helping others become successful. Treat your people as if your life depends on it, bevcause it does.

(By Mike Myatt via Forbes)

Caviar, narwhals, and fancy phone calls.

The Fancy Hands assistants clock some interesting facts while completing client tasks, and share their new knowledge with you: 

Caviar isn't always fish eggs. Vegan caviar is made from seaweed. - Mandie S. 

You can rent a school bus from a bus rental company, even if you aren't a school, doing something related to a school, or will be having kids on board! I never thought of using a school bus to transport a bunch of adults, but in most cases, it's cheaper than a more typical party bus. - Lauri E.

I learned that an ice sculpture of a Narwhal will run about $500. Then I learned what a Narwhal was (a toothed whale who lives in the Arctic). - Nicole C. 

An Australian low-rider car with an open back is called an "ute". - Sandy M. 

An American needs an International Driver's Permit to drive in other countries. It is issued by the American Automobile Association. It contains a translation of the information on your home country's driver's license into ten different languages. - Allen L. 

I'm learning so much every day, but the most helpful tip today came from my fellow assistant, Kelley. She shared a wonderful link to help with international calling. -Jackie S. 

Delegation Salvation.

Espree Devora, founder of and Fancy Hands client, wrote a great post on The FoundersCard blog about all of the ways she delegates. Here's what she has to say about Fancy Hands (I added two of my own notes, in parenthesis and without italics): 

"For virtual assistance helping me with short tasks, research, scheduling and reservations, I turn to Fancy Hands. I can’t talk about Fancy Hands without mentioning how absolutely incredible their dashboard is (I've attached my own here):

They really understand how to properly track task progress so that we as clients have all our questions answered without having to ask. I can assign tasks via email, phone or dashboard. Very very easy.

With this service you have multiple assistants, they pick up the tasks you assign, so you can’t plan on having the same person doing your job each time. Fancy Hands integrates with Google Calendar and various project management tools like Asana, Evernote and Basecamp so that you can simply authorize access rather than share private passwords.  Each job is limited to 20 minutes. So if I have a task that takes longer than that to complete, I need to assign it again, and the next person continues where the last person left off. Our fellow FC member Aaron Boerger, owner of DVI360 says that they also have an incredible iPhone app. Unfortunately I’m an Android user, so I have yet to experience its glory.

(Our Android app is now in beta-testing! Click here to sign up!) 

Tasks I have assigned:

  • Research events
  • Plan my birthday
  • Find out how to heal knee pain
  • Tons of scheduling
  • Create templates
  • Edit photos
  • Edit logo
  • Data entry
  • Get shoes repaired
  • Research case studies
  • Research statistics
  • Write overviews
  • Give video feedback for my website
  • Find merchandise
  • Shopping
  • Call clients
  • And the list goes on…

The biggest challenge to effectively outsource is being able to clearly write out instructions.  This is what I think leaves people who do dabble with outsourcing disgruntled.  How I  phrase and put together my instructions is where the majority of my time should be - and is - spent. Regularly I write out tasks step by step ‘1,2,3…’ and test it out myself to make sure I am not missing anything.  If there is a spreadsheet involved, I include the link or attachment right there with the project instructions so everything is in one place. I carefully title my task subject line so it is clear what type of project the worker will be dealing with.  More times than not, I also create a screencast using Snag It (very simple to use) showing a video visual of the instructions to compliment the ‘1,2,3s’ so there is absolutely no confusion." 

We like the "take care of yourself" option. 

(Graphics by Angie Wheeler)

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