Wait Till Monday

We worked on a project for a client, who remunerated us handsomely; ’we’ being three young freelancers and me. All was good the first month. Everyone, including the client, was happy.

Then, things went south.

My business venture ran into troubled waters and demanded all my time. I hoped the team would continue to work on the project in the same vein. But slowly, the dynamics changed. Deadlines were not adhered to, quality faltered, and it became difficult to get in touch with them. I was unhappy. But I stayed a passive observer, hoping they would pull their socks up. Big mistake.

A couple of months later, the client let us go. No second chances.

Not only did we lose the client, but a sizable chunk of revenue too. I felt miserable.

When I gently broke the news to the team, they were crushed. “Where did we go wrong?”, they mused. I was tempted to lay out a list immediately, but refrained.

Jock Stein was one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s heroes. One of Jock’s biggest advices to him was never to lose his temper on players right after a game. “Wait till Monday, when things have calmed down,” he would reiterate.

“Wait till Monday.”

Those words rang in my head as I spoke with my team. So, my response to “Where did we go wrong?” was, “We must introspect.”

Jock Stein was not the only believer in not losing one’s cool immediately. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is another follower of the rule. Ravichandran Ashwin, one of Indian cricket’s most prolific spin wizards, once said, “There are situations when you feel like, ‘Oh my God!’ we are expecting a reaction and [Dhoni] just leaves his reaction in his kit bag and goes back to the room.”

When things have just gone wrong, emotions run high. Nobody is in the mood for constructive problem solving. According to Dr. Thomas Gordon, people want the fact that they are angry or upset to be known.

This is a vulnerable time for everyone involved.

Ashwin believes that ‘when emotions are flaring high, you always make the wrong decision.’ You might try your best to remain constructive. But anger and other negative emotions find their way through fissures as thin as hair.

Think of cleaning. Would you rather clean while the dust is falling, or after the dust has settled?

Waiting for two days before you breach the topic doesn’t just let the other person reflect on what went wrong. It also calms emotions down and paves the way for constructive discussion. Not fueling the fire lets you avoid needless conflict.

But merely waiting is not enough. For a positive outcome, other steps must complement the wait. They are:

1. Focus on the Outcome

You have two choices: You can show the other party and how upset you are. Or you can ensure that everyone involved learns something from the event. Which choice do you prefer?

Focus on what you want to achieve from the discussion. Accordingly, rehearse the conversation in your head. This sets the tone for a positive outcome with long-lasting takeaways.

See the bigger picture.

2. Give Time

When something goes wrong, most people are aware that they fell short. Unless they like to play victim. In such cases, any discussion is pointless.

Waiting till Monday gives people time to come up with their own answers. Thus, you empower others to learn by themselves. You develop independent thinkers who can develop unique perspectives.

3. Be Aware of Self

It takes two to tango.

It’s important to reflect on your actions as well: what you do well, what you could have done better, and what you could have avoided altogether. What did you learn from it? By losing the client, I learned the importance of staying alert and taking swift action, however uncomfortable it might be. Consistent conversation with positive mindsets are essential.

Also reflect on how you feel, and work on calming techniques. People who manage their emotions well, receive more favorable results. Managing your emotions builds resilience, which, according to research, helps people bounce back from a setback faster.

4. Find the Right Time

Timing is paramount.

Pick the opportune moment to speak to others. Beaching the subject when they are preoccupied with other thoughts is a bad idea. It doesn’t just dim your chances of success. It also makes you appear insensitive.

It’s essential to develop patience and understanding to choose the best time. That comes with experience and observation.

5. Listen

Like driving skills, most people overestimate their listening skills, a study showed.

A discussion is not just to impose your opinion. It should encourage others to share their challenges, and lessons they learned. This also makes everyone aware of their own challenges and potential areas of improvement.

managing a team

Genuinely listen to others before you jump to conclusions. Use plenty of open-ended questions. Dig deep and uncover the core of the issue. Then work on a constructive action plan. Remember, a positive outcome is more important than you expressing (read unloading) your feelings.

6. Offer Another Chance

to implement what they learned, how will they grow? How will your child become a thinker? How will your spouse take initiative when you are busy? How will your team handle critical situations at work if you are not available?

You cannot be assured that things will be better this time around. But people are more aware. A few more attempts, and they will develop into empowered, intelligent and capable individuals. This is the long-term goal you should pursue.

Summing Up

We believe in striking when the iron is hot. But the iron is also most vulnerable when hot. A weld is strong enough to hold pieces together only after it cools down.

If your child scores less in a test, refrain from scolding her immediately. Don’t pounce on the first mistake your partner makes. Don’t be quick to vilify work colleagues when something doesn’t work, or mock friends who couldn’t keep up a promise.

Being patient when frustrated is tough. Very tough. But it’s also what will set you apart from others. It will make you a better leader, partner, parent, friend… it will make you a better human being.

You won’t taste instant success with the ‘Wait Till Monday’ mantra. In the early days, you will falter often. The key is to introspect. Just before going to bed, reflect on how you handled the situation, and what you could be better the next time. Be patient. Good judgment comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgement.

The next time anger rises inside you like lava in a volcano, take a step back. Reflect on the six points mentioned in this post. Waiting a couple more days will go a long way in making your life better

How to become A Lieutenant-in-Command at Work?

Here’s an old Indian mythological story that has fascinated me since years.

One day, Narada muni asked Lord Vishnu, “Why is the statue of Garuda (Vishnu’s eagle and vehicle) placed in your temples? Why not mine? Am I not your greatest devotee?”

Before Vishnu could answer, a crash was heard outside the main gate of Vaikuntha (Vishnu’s abode).

“I have sent Garud on an errand,” Vishnu said. “Can you check what happened, Narada?”

Keen on seizing the opportunity, Narada rushed out and returned a few seconds later and said, “A milkmaid tripped and fell.”

“What was her name?” asked Vishnu. Narada ran out, spoke to the maid, returned and said, “Sharda.”

“Where was she going?” Narada ran out once again, and returned with the answer, “She was on her way to the market.”

“What caused her to trip?” Vishnu asked. Narada felt irritated, but he asked her. “She was startled by a snake crossing her path”, he said.

“Are all her pots broken” asked Vishnu. “I don’t know,” snapped Narada.

“Find out, Narada. I might buy some milk,” Vishnu explained patiently.

Visibly angry, Narada went out and returned. “She broke one pot. But another is intact. She is willing to sell the milk but at double price,” he said.

“So how much should I pay her?” Vishnu asked. “Oh. I forgot. Let me find out.” Narada started running back out.

Right then, Garuda flew in, oblivious to what had occurred outside. “Don’t bother,” Vishnu said to Narada, turned to Garuda and said, “I heard a crashing sound outside the main gate. Can you investigate?”

On returning, Garuda said, “It was a milkmaid named Sharda. She was on her way to the market but tripped because she was startled by a serpent. She broke one of her two pots and is worried about how she will pay for the broken pot and spilled milk. I suggested she sell the milk to you. You are the husband of the Goddess of Wealth, after all.”

“And the price of the milk?” Vishnu asked. “Four copper coins,” Garuda replied promptly. “One actually, but I think she wants to make a handsome profit because she is dealing with God.”

Vishnu laughed and caught Narada’s eye, who understood why Garuda’s statue, and not his, is always placed in front of the image of Lord Vishnu in His temples.

Sometimes people get promoted because of office politics. But we often miss an invisible Garuda-like trait in people who climb the corporate ladder fast.

The people who move up the corporate ladder quickly often work smart. They complete their tasks efficiently and quickly, AND appear like proactive employees.

They do all this by applying a concept known as “forging artifacts.”

The Subtle Art of “Forging Artifacts”

The great inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller constantly had ideas for possible inventions and new forms of technology.

Early in his career, he noticed many people had ideas, but most of them were too afraid to turn their ideas into action. Instead, they preferred indulging in critique and discussions. To separate himself from these daydreamers, Fuller created a strategy called “forging the artifacts.”

Fuller would make models of his ideas. If they proved feasible, he would make working prototypes of them. Now his seemingly outlandish ideas were no longer speculation, but reality. He would present these artifacts to the public and gauge their response.

You can use the concept of “forging artifacts” to turn into a linchpin for your team and manager.

Here’s how.

When your manager gives you a task or project, don’t spend a week working on it and then turn in it. Bright chances are it won’t be how she wanted it to be, and tempers will flare.

Instead, complete a portion of the work — a mockup, an outline or the structure — and share it with her. Collect her feedback on it. Ask if the format is okay and take some inputs. Then you can set a realistic deadline with a 20 percent buffer and get to work.

When you work, keep your manager apprised of progress. Break bad news early and don’t blame anyone when you do. Also present alternatives, not just the bad news.

After a few rounds of prototyping, you’ll know exactly what your manager expects. This will make you appear proactive and turn you into an indispensable Garuda-like asset for your boss. She will trust you enough to place more responsibility on your reliable shoulders.

You’ll also reduce the time you spend on rework. You’ll do a task just once or twice, do it well, and be done. Then you can focus on other tasks.

Once you turn into a linchpin, you no longer need to ASK for promotions. You’ll the obvious choice, not just because you possess the skills but also because the right people trust you to use them wisely.


Summing Up

We cannot demand a chance to prove ourselves. We have to prove ourselves BEFORE we get a chance.

We get what we deserve, not what we feel entitled to. This “deserving” comes from adding value to others’ lives. It comes from preempting the value they desire and presenting it when they ask.

The value you add to others dictates the value that they add to you.

Work hard like a donkey and you’ll stay right where you are. Work smart and you’ll soar like an eagle. The question is, where do you want to go?

about Calcutta

You want your cities clean and green; stick to Delhi. You want your cities, rich and impersonal; go to Bombay. You want them high-tech and full of draught beer; Bangalore’s your place. But if you want a city with a soul: come to Calcutta. 

— HT Journalist

Being Productive

Being productive

is a disease and you got to be SICK and MORE SICK everyday

and

you never graduate

because

life is a set of never-ending INTERESTING challenges.

Powerful Question & Thoughts About Higher Education

How college loans exploit students for profit

“Once upon a time in America,” says professor Sajay Samuel, “going to college did not mean graduating with debt.” Today, higher education has become a consumer product — costs have skyrocketed, saddling students with a combined debt of over $1 trillion, while universities and loan companies make massive profits. Samuel proposes a radical solution: link tuition costs to a degree’s expected earnings, so that students can make informed decisions about their future, restore their love of learning and contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

An ultra-low-cost college degree

At the online University of the People, anyone with a high school diploma can take classes toward a degree in business administration or computer science — without standard tuition fees (though exams cost money). Founder Shai Reshef hopes that higher education is changing “from being a privilege for the few to a basic right, affordable and accessible for all.”

Let’s teach for mastery — not test scores

Would you choose to build a house on top of an unfinished foundation? Of course not. Why, then, do we rush students through education when they haven’t always grasped the basics? Yes, it’s complicated, but educator Sal Khan shares his plan to turn struggling students into scholars by helping them master concepts at their own pace.

The power of believing that you can improve

Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet? A great introduction to this influential field.

Academic research is publicly funded — why isn’t it publicly available?

In the US, your taxes fund academic research at public universities. Why then do you need to pay expensive, for-profit journals for the results of that research? Erica Stone advocates for a new, open-access relationship between the public and scholars, making the case that academics should publish in more accessible media. “A functioning democracy requires that the public be well-educated and well-informed,” Stone says. “Instead of research happening behind paywalls and bureaucracy, wouldn’t it be better if it was unfolding right in front of us?”

 

How to use Email Responsibly & Effectively

The use of e-mail in corporate culture is ubiquitous. I rarely get letters anymore. Even phone calls are uncommon. But I get scores of e-mail messages every day. Yet, I am continually surprised at how people often misuse this medium.

Therefore, I would like to humbly offer up 18 suggestions for better e-mail communication and etiquette:

    1. Understand the difference between “To” and “CC.” As a rule of thumb, the more people you send an email to, the less likely any single person will respond to it, much less perform any action that you requested. The people you include in the “To” field should be the people you expect to read and respond to the message. The “CC” field should be used sparingly. You should only CC people who have a need to stay in the know. The “BCC” field should be used even more sparingly. People you include in the “BCC” field will not be visible to others.
    2. Keep messages brief and to the point. Make your most important point first, then provide detail if necessary. Make it clear at the beginning of the message why you are writing. There is nothing worse for the recipient than having to wade through a long message to get to the point. Worse, if you send long messages, it is much less likely that the person will act on what you have sent or respond to it. It’s just too much work. It often gets set aside and, unfortunately, forgotten.
    3. Don’t discuss multiple subjects in a single message. If you need to discuss more than one subject, send multiple e-mails. This makes it easy to scan subject lines later to find the message you need. It also contributes to briefer e-mail messages and a greater likelihood of a response. Also, the more specific you can be about your subject heading, the better.
    4. Reply in a timely manner. I don’t think e-mail demands an instantaneous response. Responding once or twice a day is sufficient, unless you are in sales, customer service, tech support, or some other field where a faster response is expected. Regardless, you must reply in a timely manner, otherwise, you will incrementally damage your reputation and decrease your effectiveness.
    5. Be mindful of your tone. Unlike face-to-face meetings or even phone calls, those who read your e-mail messages don’t have the benefit of your pitch, tone, inflection, or other non-verbal cues. As a result, you need to be careful about your tone. Sarcasm is especially dangerous. If something gets “lost in translation,” you risk offending the other party. The more matter-of-fact you can be, the better.
    6. Don’t use e-mail to criticize others. E-mail is a terrific way to commend someone or praise them. It is not an appropriate medium for criticism. Chances are, you will simply offend the other person, and they will miss your point. These kinds of conversations are usually better-handled face-to-face or, if necessary, over the phone. Especially, don’t use e-mail to criticize a third party. E-mail messages live forever. They are easily forwarded. You can create a firestorm of conflict if you are not careful. Trust me, I’ve done it myself more than once.

       Don’t reply in anger. It almost never serves your purpose or long-term interests.

    7. Don’t reply in anger. In the heat of the moment, I have written some brilliant replies. I have said things in writing that I would never have the guts to say face-to-face. This is precisely why you should never ever fire off an e-mail in anger. They almost never serve their purpose or your long-term interests. They burn up relationships faster than just about anything you can do. If it makes you feel better, go ahead and write the message, then delete it. Usually a day or two after you didn’t send an angry e-mail, you’ll understand the wisdom of restraint.
    8. Don’t overuse “reply to all.” Last week I received an e-mail from human resource team who needed to know my interest and other minute details about an event. He sent the e-mail to about ten or twelve people. No problem with that. However, some of the recipients, hit the “reply all” key (out of habit, I am sure) and sent their interest & minute details about their taste and type to everyone on the list. This, of course, just adds more clutter to everyone’s already unwieldy inbox. Your default response should be to reply only to the sender. Before you reply to everyone, make sure that everyone needs to know.
    9. Don’t forward chain letters. These can be forgiven when they are from your mother, but they only add clutter in the workplace. Nine times out of ten, the information is bogus. It is often urban legend. If you feel you absolutely must pass it on, please make sure that it is valid information.
    10. Don’t “copy up” as a means of coercion. It’s one thing to copy someone’s boss as a courtesy. I do this whenever I am making an assignment to someone who is not a direct report. (I don’t want their boss to think I am going around them, but I also don’t want to bog my communication down in bureaucratic red tape.) But it is not a good idea to do this as a subtle—or not-so-subtle—form of coercion. You may be tempted to do this when you don’t get a response to an earlier request. But I would suggest that you will be better served to pick up the phone and call the person. If they are not responding to your e-mails, try a different communications strategy. Sometimes, it works to send the copy to the boss and expect a response. But, It’s is not the right way. If you really need other’s boss to get into this, talk to him separately and get him into this.
    11. Don’t overuse the “high priority” flag. Most e-mail programs allow you to set the priority of the message. “High priority” should be reserved for messages that are truly urgent. If you use it for every message (as one person I know does), you will simply be ignored. It’s like the boy who cried “wolf” one too many times.
    12. Don’t write in ALL CAPS. This is the digital equivalent of shouting. Besides ALL CAPS are harder to read (as anyone in advertising will tell you.)
    13. Don’t send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks. If you do so, you can put yourself or your company at risk. You could be sued for simply passing something along, even if you aren’t the original author. Remember that company e-mail isn’t private. You have no legal protection.
    14. Remember that company e-mail isn’t private. You have no legal protection. Anyone with sufficient authority or access can monitor your conversations on company-owned servers. If you need to communicate privately, then get a free account at Gmail. Use it for anything personal or private.
    15. Use a signature with your contact information. This is a courtesy for those receiving your messages. It also cuts down on e-mail messages, since people don’t have to send a second or third e-mail asking for your phone number or mailing address.
    16. Provide “if-then” options. This is another tip I picked up from Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week. He says to provide options to avoid the back and forth of single option messages. For example, “If you have completed the assignment, then please confirm that via e-mail. If not, then please estimate when you expect to finish.” Or, “I can meet at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. Will one of those times work? If not, would you please reply with three times that would work for you?”
    17. Use your spell-checker. I take my correspondence seriously. It reflects on me. As you grow in the ladder, the bar is even higher. If I misspell words, use bad grammar or punctuation, then it reflects negatively on me and my company. Lapses in grammar or punctuation can be forgiven. But misspelled words are just too easy to correct. That’s why God gave us spell-checkers. Make sure yours is turned on.
    18. Re-read your e-mail before you send it. I try to do this with every single message. My fingers have difficulty keeping up with my brain. It is not unusual for me to drop a word or two as I am racing to transcribe a thought. Therefore, it’s a good idea to re-read your messages and make sure that you are communicating clearly and observing good e-mail etiquette.

If you have other e-mail etiquette suggestions, please post a comment at the end of this post. If there’s something that drives you crazy, I’d like to hear about that as well. Most of us, I’m sure to have ideas that can make e-mail a more civilized, effective tool for communication.

The 34 Best Tools for Improving Your Writing Skills

Words are hard.

Whether you’re a published author or just getting started with blogging, it’s not always easy to string words together in a way that makes sense, sounds good, and makes the reader feel something.

But every marketer should be able to write — and, more importantly, every marketer can write. It’s just a matter of finding the writing environment that works best for you, expanding your vocabulary, asking for feedback (and listening to it), and practicing.

Luckily, there are a slew of great tools you can use to help improve your writing. Check out the list below, and feel free to add the most helpful ones you use in the comment section.

The 34 Best Tools for Improving Your Writing

1) Daily Page

“Writer’s block is a comforting lie we tell ourselves so we can stop writing and go do other, more pleasurable things,” said Beth Dunn, HubSpot’s UX writer and editor. “If your fingers still work, you can write. Sit down at the same time every day and start typing.”

Want to get into the habit of writing every day, but don’t know what to write about? Daily Page emails you a writing prompt every morning, and you have the rest of the day to write your response. Once you’ve written your response to the prompt, you can either share it or keep it private.

2) 750 Words

Another way to practice your writing is to do a “brain dump” exercise using a tool like 750 Words. “Brain dumping” means getting all that stuff in your head down on paper — without having to worry about incomplete ideas, tangents, and private stuff.

It’s not blogging or status updating — it’s just you, writing whatever you want on a totally private account, without ever having to title your content or tag topics or share with your friends.

What it does do is track your word count so you’re sure to write 750 words (about three pages of writing). Plus, it’s gamified, which makes it kind of fun: You get a point for writing anything at all, two points for writing 750 words or more, and more points if you write consistently. And every time you write, it’ll give you some cool statistics on how much time you spent writing, the feelings and themes of your words, and so on.

Image Credit: 750 Words

3) Twords

Publishing content on a consistent basis is crucial in the blogging world. Our own research concludes that companies that commit to regularly publishing quality content to their blogs tend get the most website traffic and leads — and those results continue to pay out over time. Tools like Twords can help bloggers commit to writing consistently.

Twords calls itself “the app that nudges you to write.” It notifies you when you haven’t written in a while so you can keep yourself accountable — and even gives you the option to connect with others who will help keep you accountable. It also tracks your writing so you can start to see patterns for the days you’re blogging more versus less, and so on. Finally, it includes some cool resources like a prompt library and articles about habit formation, writing resources, and so on.

Image Credit: Twords

4) Your Own “Swipe File”

I read about a “Swipe File” on the “Kopywriting Kourse” blog and loved the idea. Basically, a swipe file is just a folder where you can curate cool stuff you come across, like advertisements, copy, emails, etc. “Save things that make you click, sign up, laugh, or go ‘whoa!'” says the post. The purpose? To flip through it for inspiration.

A swipe file can be physical or digital.

  • A physical swipe file would be something like a folder or envelope where you can keep print ads, pieces of copy, letters, and so on for inspiration.
  • A digital swipe file on desktop would be a digital folder, like one on your desktop. Whenever you see something interesting, screenshot it (by pressing Command + Shift + 4 on a Mac or Ctrl + Shift + 4 on a PC) and dragging that screenshot to your swipe folder.
  • A digital swipe on your mobile device is good for all the stuff you see when browsing the internet on your phone or tablet. The author of the post, for instance, created a specific folder in his iPhone and made a Phone Swipe File there. He stores screenshots when he sees something on mobile that grabs his attention.

Image Credit: KopywritingKourse.com

5) Help me Write

What better way to make sure you’re writing about stuff your audience actually wants to read than by actually asking them? When you create a profile using Help me Write, you can post ideas of what you’re thinking about writing about. Then, you can share those ideas with your network via Twitter, Facebook, email, and so on — and ask your networks what they’d like to read most. They’ll be able to vote on their favorites, and you’ll be able to pick topics and better manage your time.

Image Credit: HelpmeWrite

6) Blog Topic Generator

Do you have an overarching theme or keywords in mind for your next blog post, but you’re not sure at which angle to tackle it? HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator could come in handy. Simply type in three keywords, and the tool will auto-generate five potential topics for your post. If you’re not keen on the suggestions, you can always click “Try Again” and it’ll give you five more topics.

7) Trello

Writing efficiently and organizing well is a part of writing well. Use a tool like Trello to collect content ideas, assign them to different members of your team, attach due dates, collaborate with other team members, track their progress, and move them from conception to completion.

Here at HubSpot, we add all our blog post ideas to Trello, turning each idea into a card that we can expand on with notes and move from list to list with a simple drag-and-drop.

8) Google Docs

There are many ways you can use Google Docs to improve your writing. For example, you can use the research tool to do online research on the topic you’re writing about, find quotes or educational information, and so on (see #4 on this list). You can use it to request edits or comments from your peers. It even has a built-in dictionary.

One of my favorite ways to use Google Docs to improve my writing is by crowdsourcing ideas from my coworkers. Here at HubSpot, the blogging team uses this method all the time — and it shaves off a significant portion of research time that goes into curated posts. The result? Better examples and more comprehensive posts with less effort.

9) Quora & 10) inbound.org

Speaking of crowdsourcing, Quora is a great place to go for crowdsourced answers if you want to reach outside your network. Simply search for a keyword, follow topics related to the topics you’re interested in, and/or post your own questions.

If you’re looking for answers from inbound marketers specifically, inbound.org is a great place to source answers from professionals. Here’s an example of a post where the author asked about people’s productivity and time management habits.

11) Blog Post Templates & 12) Ebook Templates

If you’re all set on a topic but need help with organizing your writing so it’s interesting to read, you may want to check out Hubspot’s free, downloadable blog post templates or ebook templates, depending what you’re writing.

  • The blog post templates will give you an outline of five different types of blog posts: how-to posts, listicles, curated collections, SlideShare presentations, and newsjacks.
  • The ebook templates are available as both PowerPoint and InDesign files. All you have to do is paste in your text, drop in your images, add your company’s logo, and voila — a finished ebook.

13) HubSpot Composer

For HubSpot customers, Composer is a new distraction-free writing tool that helps writers easily turn their brainstorm ideas and research notes into a blog post. Composer handles the work of formatting drafts into blog posts — users can copy and paste text from Microsoft Word or Google Docs into Composer, and Composer will automatically reformat them for blog publication with the press of a button.

Other team members can collaborate and share comments on documents in Composer so bloggers can get team feedback prior to publishing content on their blogs. Check it out in action below:

composer.png

14) oTranscribe

If you’re writing something that includes an interview with someone else, oTranscribe is a great tool that’ll make the transcription process much less painful — allowing more time for your own writing and analysis.

There are a lot of transcription tools out there, but this one is one of my favorites. It’s a web app for transcribing interviews created by Elliott Bentley, a graphics writer at Wall Street Journal. The audio player is integrated with the editor meaning you won’t have to click back and forth. You can pause, play, rewind, and fast-forward using keyboard shortcuts. Every second, it automatically saves the transcription to your browser’s storage. You can export it to plain text or Google Docs. Finally, it’s open source under the MIT license.

15) Coffitivity

Ready to start writing? Here’s a tool that’ll boost your productivity. A study out of the University of Chicago found that a moderate level of ambient noise, or “white noise,” helps people be more creative. While there are a lot of white noise generators out there, Cofftivity is my favorite. It offers non-stop café background sounds at varying intensities, from “Morning Murmur” and “University Undertones” to “Lunchtime Lounge” and “Brazil Bistro.”

16) E.ggtimer.com & 17) Tomato Timer

If you like to write with a little pressure (or you’re just on deadline), then tools like e.ggtimer.com and Tomato Timer are useful (and free). Both of these tools offer a “pomodoro” option, which refers to the Pomodoro technique: a time management technique created by Francesco Cirillo based on periods of distraction-free work followed by short breaks — which is supposed to be optimal for productivity.

18) ZenPen

If you don’t do well with distractions while you’re writing on a computer, then use a tool like ZenPen to help block out all the distractions and focus on your writing. It’s a web app that gives you a “minimalist writing zone.” There are a few, minimalist features available to help you stylize the text, add hyperlinks, and block quotes. Once you’re done, simply copy the text and paste it in your blog editor or wherever you’d like it to go.

19) Power Thesaurus & 20) Thesaurus.com

Power Thesaurus isn’t just any thesaurus: It’s a crowdsourced thesaurus that provides alternative word choices from a community of writers. The word suggestions are totally original, and are based on the editorial work of a team of writers and years’ worth of reviews visitors’ suggestions.

But hey, when you want a good ol’, regular Thesaurus, you can’t beat Thesaurus.com.

21) OneLook Thesaurus

In addition to its thesaurus functions, OneLook Thesaurus also has a “reverse dictionary”: users can type in a definition or group of words related to the word they’re searching for and find the right word for their piece. Users can also type in a category of items, and OneLook will serve up multiple words that fall under that umbrella.

For example, here’s what happens when you search for “study animals.” OneLook then ranks synonyms according to how related or distance they are from the original search query. This is a great tool for when you have that “what’s the word for this?” moment and can’t bug your deskmate.

onelook.png

Image Credit: OneLook Thesaurus

22) Twinword Writer

Here’s another help that’ll help you if you get stuck on a word and don’t want to leave your browser or skim through synonyms. If you type using Twinword Writer, it’ll automatically sense if you pause because you’re stuck on a word. Then, it’ll analyze the context of your writing and open a box suggesting alternate words you can use. You can also click any word to get suggestions.

23) Prompts

If you like typing out posts or ideas using your iPhone and tend to hit a wall in the middle of a thought or idea, this $2.99 iOS app may be worth the investment. It uses an algorithm to make suggestions for what you should write next. It also tracks stats about your writing habits, can remind you to write regularly if you allow it, and lets you schedule the best day and time to write based on your writing history.

Image Credit: Prompts

24) BrainyQuote

You may also find you want to include a quote from a famous author, politician, celebrity, or other public figure to strengthen your writing or inspire your readers. BrainyQuote is a library filled with millions of interesting quips that you can search by speaker (from Aristotle to Dr. Seuss to Audrey Hepburn) or by topic (like peace, success, leadership, and more).

25) Hemingway App

Ernest Hemingway, admired for his succinct writing style, is the namesake for this handy editing app. Want to make your content more easily readable? Paste your text into this free web app and it’ll assess your writing and identify opportunities to make it simpler. First, it sums up how readable your writing is with a grade. Then, it suggests how to improve readability.

26) AtomicWriter 

Here’s another tool that’ll assess your writing — but this time, it’ll assess it depending on your specific target audience’s reading level and which content they relate to the most. After all, writing for your target audience is an important part of content marketing.

How? Simply hook up your Google Analytics and social media accounts to AtomicWriter, and then paste your content into the app. It’ll analyze your historical data and engagement data from those accounts, and then tell you whether it’s suitable for your target audience.

Image Credit: Jeff Bullas

27) ProWritingAid

Here’s another tool that evaluates your writing, but it boasts some unique features that differentiate it from the tools above. For example, ProWritingAid highlights overused words, redundancies, plagiarism, and sentence length, making it easy for writers to identify trouble areas and strengthen them.

The free version of this tool only analyzes 3,000 words at a time, so the $40 investment per year for Premium may be worthwhile if users publish multiple pieces of content per month.

Here’s an example of what ProWritingAid looks like in action:

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Image Credit: ProWritingAid

28) Grammarly & 29) Correctica

Once the actual writing part is done, it’s time to edit. While human editors will be able to catch most grammatical errors, editing tools like Grammarly and Correctica are great tools for triple-checking before you press “publish” or “send.” Both free tools check for grammatical errors — and Grammarly even checks for plagiarism.

30) Draft

When you upload your document to draft (from cloud services like Dropbox, Evernote, Box, or Google Drive), there’s a lot you can do with it. You can edit your document, share it with colleagues or friends, and manage your friends’ suggestions — much in the same way you can with Google Docs.

One big differentiator, though? It calls itself the “Uber for copyediting”: Draft lets you call on a staff of reviewers to get suggested edits, for a price. (Learn about more features here.)

Draft Screenshot.png

Image Credit: Draft

31) Cliché Finder

Unleashed too many clichés in your most recent piece of content? To help your writing be more specific, it’s generally best to avoid clichés. To ensure you leave no stone unturned, paste your text into Cliché Finder and it’ll highlight any you missed so you can replace them with more specific text.

32) Listly

When you’re creating list posts — like this one — it’s easy to hit a wall. Sure, you know there are other great examples out there, but you’ve already exhausted the ones you know of. With Listly, you can invite your audience to contribute to your list. The Listly community can then vote on list items to move them up the list.

You can either embed the interactive list in your post or use it do conduct research before you publish to ensure that the examples, items, or tips you’re including are the best of the best.

33) Style Guide

The more content your business puts out, the more consistent that writing and messaging should be. This includes everything from what official names to call your products or services, down to whether to use an Oxford comma.

At some point, most companies accept that they’ll need to develop a writing style guide: a document that indicates the basic rules of writing we’ll all agree to follow (like whether I should’ve capitalized the “a” after the colon in this sentence).

Most businesses adopt either the AP Stylebook, or the Chicago Manual of Style. If you want to customize your style guide.

34) WritePls

If you type “how to improve writing skills” into Google, you’ll notice that there are almost six million search results. WritePls has organized the best of the best articles about writing into specific categories for different writing types (fiction, nonfiction, and emails), as well as articles about general writing, growth hacking, and resources for ebooks and online education.

This is a great home base for new and experienced writers alike. Blogging and email writing are two very different crafts, and WritePls has collected a variety of great resources to help any writers working on any type of project to refer to in a one-stop shop.

Which tools for improving one’s writing would you add to the list? Share with us in the comments

Source: hubspot.

3 Important Levers to Stay Productive, Healthy & Better Relationship

For years I struggled with my daily routines and making myself productive. The goal was to make money by investing EFFECTIVE time in business, make time to spend with family for better relationships and nurturing a habit to spend time with me to stay healthy.

It was really a daunting task while growing on the ladder and wearing multiple hats. Then I discovered a very simple thing that changed my life and made me the stress-free, healthy with tucked tummy and no disease.

You can learn these brilliant yet simple techniques, too. Today, I want to show you the most amazing – yet simple levers that I use to stay productive, healthy and have better relationships. And it will change your life too.

You might have heard these: – Tons of other people focus on tactical minutiae: “USE THIS APP! MAKE SURE YOU EAT DRINK WATER BEFORE MEAL! And this app will change your life”

None of those shits matter.

How your day will be – It’s your choice. Not your boss’s, your girlfriend’s, or your kids’. You can engineer a great day, every day.

The value in these levers is not in the novelty, but in the utility. These are not tips that secluded Buddhha monks used in 700 AD. These are practical levers of your time- my time that I use right now, every day, to stay productive. And I focus on applying them into daily routine, not chasing some tactics.

Awesome LEVER #1: ACT: DON’T REACT

The key is to: Design Your Calendar for Tomorrow a night BEFORE. Most of us wake up, go to work, and spend the entire day reacting to other people’s expectations. If you flip that on its head and “design” your calendar to look the way you want, you can still answer people’s emails/calls – but on your own time. Plan your tasks for tomorrow in your calendar and set the meetings with people than responding to their urgent unscheduled meeting calls. Say “No” for uninformed meetings if you’re not available.

LEVER #2: WAKING UP EARLY

Stop sighing and saying, “I’m not a morning person.” It’s not what your biological body says – but your silly mind frames this excuse for you to be lazy. You can change that in less than a week. If you start your day 1-2 hours earlier than everyone else, you have an indomitable edge. I used a very strong & effective methodology to get out of this “no morning person” statement. Here is what you can do, too.

  1. Set up a “sleep alarm” & Finish Your Dinner Early and go to bed by 10PM. No Exception.
  2. Put Your Phone/Gadgets and TV remote away from you after 10PM.
  3. Set up a “wake up alarm” for 5:00 am and define what you’ll do when you get up at 5:00 am next day. {that’s important}

I worked with many smart but lazy-at-mind people in last few years and I realized that they were failing to be a morning person not because they were not able to wake up early – but they had no plans – what to do after waking up. Our brain gets wired with old habits in such a way that it usually finds many excuses to get into the comfort zone. When you prepare for it in advance – and repeat it for 21 days, you get better in dodging your brain from making wrong/biased decisions for you. So plan your next morning so that you don’t have to think what to do when you wake up.

You can plan Yoga Session (Learn how to do Best Yoga – Balance Yoga at Home), or you can plan to go to Gym as soon as you open your eyes. No Second Thought. And many more things like that.

LEVER #3: GET FASTER AT REPETITIVE TASKS

I developed a unique but interesting philosophy over years. If I’ve to do some repetitive tasks 20 times a week – I’d use automation to make it happen. Some of the repetitive things cannot be automated – So I learned how to do them quickly. Such as skimming & responding to emails – I literally go through and respond to 400+ emails every day. You can do, too. Just you need to learn some keyboard shortcuts and build a mental ability & workflow to tackle these emails. And I do it at a given time – not every time of the day. If you have repetitive tasks, there is someone who does it faster. Learn from them – just look on YouTube for “gmail efficient.” Gmail has keyboard shortcuts. Excel has templates/formulas. These can easily save you an hour a day.

What powers all of this?

Now, I could have the most amazing sleep methods so I wake up on time, every morning (I do). I could have perfected my method of email so I can read hundreds of emails/day (I do). I’ve seen people looking for the “Best Productivity App” to stay productive. Trust me, I’ve used most of the obvious and so called outstanding tools – and concluded that Excel or Google Spreadsheet is the best to-do-manager. Notepad or Word Document or Google Doc is the best writing tool and Gmail is the best email tool. Nothing works better than them.

If you, too, are looking for best productivity tool, or water intake tracker – you are chasing the wrong problem. Water intake tracker won’t change your habit and force you to drink more water. Simply keep a bottle filled with water next to you on the desk at approachable position. It is the only thing that can help you drink more water every.

Solve the right problem!

And no change in behavior would work in silos. You cannot have heavy dinner (booze too,) and get up at 500 am. Impossible. If I eat a huge lunch and I’m sluggish all day, my Gmail keystrokes don’t mean a thing. This is why YOU HAVE TO GO DEEPER THAN OBVIOUS SYMPTOMS and strike the right problem all at once.

What makes me have a wonderful, effective and highly productive day is: Having the energy to tackle everything in front of me. That doesn’t come from an iPhone app. It comes from the food you eat. That’s why it’s so important to optimize the food in your life. It is truly one of life’s Big Wins. And because it affects every other part of your day –every single day – it is the perfect example of leverage.

Get your food right, and everything else follows. To truly master a Rich Life and “engineer” a great day, every day, look deeper than apps. Look at the food you’re eating.

I hope you enjoyed the articled and learned it piece-by-piece. If you practice some different – unique- productivity hack – please do share in comments. That will help thousands of readers to get-set-go.

PS: Do subscribe to the blog with best of your email address so that you can get the hacks and tips of life and business – 4 times a month. I don’t send more than one email a week and your email is safe with me.

Best Ever Books under $20 that Makes you smarter in the world

Top Books under $20 that Makes your smarter in the world

No book makes your smarter. But it will get you over the top on anything.

1. The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger 

“Fail nine times. The next time you face a daunting challenge, think to yourself, ‘In order for me to resolve this issue, I will have to fail nine times, but on the tenth attempt, I will be successful.’ This attitude frees you and allows you to think creatively without fear of failure, because you understand that learning from failure is a forward step toward success. Take a risk and when you fail, no longer think, ‘Oh, no, what a frustrating waste of time and effort,’ but instead extract a new insight from that misstep and correctly think, ‘Great: one down, nine to go — I’m making forward progress!’ And indeed you are. After your first failure, think, ‘Terrific, I’m 10% done!’ Mistakes, loss, and failure are all flashing lights clearly pointing the way to deeper understanding and creative solutions.”

2. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi 

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times — although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”

 

3. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen 

“In your life, there are going to be constant demands for your time and attention. How are you going to decide which of those demands gets resources? The trap many people fall into is to allocate their time to whoever screams loudest, and their talent to whatever offers them the fastest reward. That’s a dangerous way to build a strategy.” “In order to really find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things, to succeed, and be given more and more responsibility to shoulder.”

 

4. Mindfulness by Mark Williams 

“Pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step outside the chattering negative self-talk and your reactive impulses and emotions. It allows you to look at the world once again with open eyes. And when you do so, a sense of wonder and quiet contentment begins to reappear in your life.” “Gradually, moment by moment, you may have come to realize that although you can’t stop the unsettling thoughts from arising in your mind, you can stop what happens next. You can stop the vicious circle from feeding off itself.”

 

 5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson 

“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame. Pain is an inextricable thread in the fabric of life, and to tear it out is not only impossible, but destructive: Attempting to tear it out unravels everything else with it. To try to avoid pain is to give too many fucks about pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not give a fuck about the pain, you become unstoppable.”

A Perfect Sales Pitch to Sell even if you’re expensive

If your customer says your products are too expensive, here is what you need to say.

You need to understand why people buy something.

“There is a big difference between selling your cost vs selling your values.” says Vinni Balyan, the founder of a green India startup Bonsai Plants in India Abana Homes.

In this cut-throat-competition market, most of the startups find it easy to sell by slashing the price and end up losing on the margin in the end. It’s very difficult to build a sustainable and profitable company where your primary strategy is to beat the competition in pricing. Because, in the end, you’ll end up fighting for the small margin which makes it difficult to survive and scale being a newcomer in the market.

You want to create a brand – not the cheap selling version of your competition. Correct?

Then why are you taking the route where you sacrifice your margin in the name of outperforming your competition?

I asked this questions many times to the entrepreneurs who came to build a brand but end up being a cheap seller of their competition. The unanimous answer I got which is based on a question that the customer asks.

“Your product is as good as your competition but it’s too expensive.”

And trust me, this is the challenge with every new business owner in the market. Here I’ll suggest the ways to overcome this problem and give you a pitch that can help you outsell your competition.

The one key combat arsenal for you is Outstanding Customer Service. It’s worth, it’s unbeatable and it’s a real brand making painful effort.

You need to build your brand by offering the outstanding customer service.

“Fast response, continuity in communication, proactive approach, great quality of products and empathy based customer service. That’s the key to my business and I thrive on my returning customers.” Vinni from Abana Homes comments when asked about what holds her customers.

Define Values

You can justify your price based on the values that you provide. And remember, values cannot be quantified in the price tag.

For that, you need to understand that why a customer buys something.

  1. To solve a pain in the present
  2. To solve a pain in future
  3. To get the pleasure in the present
  4. To get the pleasure in future

So you need to find one of these reasons based on your product and service and create your pitch first.

Usually, when we start negotiating with our potential customer, we try to sound not like our competition but we end up using the same terminologies and examples as them.

You need to find where the values are in your business.

Now comes the hardest part of it. What to do when a potential client or customer asks the question of all time: “I can get your product or service from somewhere else. Why should I work with you?”

It’s best to start with “disarming honesty.”

Say something along the lines of, “That’s a great question. But depending on what you’re looking for from a new provider, and depending on your relationship with competitor X, maybe it makes sense that you do nothing and stay with that competitor. Can I make a suggestion? Let me ask you a few very straightforward, tough questions about what you are looking for in a supplier, what challenges you’ve had over the years, and then we can figure out together whether I truly add value. And if we decide together there’s a good fit, then you and I could spend the last five minutes figuring out where we might get started on a business relationship. Does that sound OK?”

Finally, if you notice your competitors are slashing prices, you need to know when to say “no” just as often as you say “yes.

It’s not about competing with everyone else and taking the same route. Your strength lies in your values and understanding what you’re really selling — and being able to effectively communicate that value in a way that puts your cost into perspective.