Want To Succeed? Don’t Check Your Email – And Work Out At Lunch

working out at lunch

David Morken practically sparkles with energy, even over the phone.  Morken is Co-founder and CEO of Bandwidth, a 15-year-old company that focuses on IP-based communication technology – and is proud of the fact that they’re “challenging the standards of old telecom” in everything they do.  Their stated mission is to unlock remarkable value for our customers – and, as I discovered when I spoke to him, Morken is convinced that a big part of doing that involves ‘unlocking remarkable value’ for their employees: making Bandwidth a place that supports employees’ body, mind and spirit.

One Bandwidth policy supports all three: the company has (and enforces) a total embargo on email to and from the company during vacation.  That is, when you’re on vacation, you may not communicate with the company and they may not communicate with you.  And to make sure the policy is followed to the T: when someone goes on vacation, all the folks he or she would ordinarily communicate with (employees, partners, boss, etc.) get an email, saying “so-and-so is on vacation.  If he or she contacts you for any reason, please let us know.”

While it may sound a little draconian, it means that folks generally only break the rule once: getting a phone call from the CEO reconfirming that you’re on vacation and shouldn’t be emailing anybody seems to convince everyone that the policy is real. And, according to Morken, while lots of people have told him it’s difficult at first, no one has ever told him they think it’s a bad idea.

The results? Employees experience vacations as vacations: rejuvenation, reconnection and relaxation. And managers put more attention toward developing their folks  – because their folks can’t call them when there’s an emergency during their absence; they have to be willing and able to handle it themselves. Finally, Morken says, it makes managers more thoughtful about preparing for vacation: if you really can’t give added instructions or sort things out while you’re gone, it’s essential to get as much clarity as possible beforehand about what’s supposed to happen when you’re not there.  He’s convinced that this has impact outside of vacation time, as well: that the increased clarity and trust ‘leak’ out into employees’ interactions every day.

Then there are the 90-minute lunches.

This part is voluntary vs mandatory, but it’s still an important aspect of the culture.  Any employee can take a (paid) one-and-a-half-hour lunch to pursue fitness.  Not only will Bandwidth pay you for the time, they’ll pay your gym membership, shuttle you to the gym, provide access to a personal trainer, and offer you a comprehensive “know and go” assessment of your physical condition that gives you a foundation of information for getting in better shape.

It’s a big investment for a relatively small (400 employee) company – so what’s the payoff?  Morken believes that because everyone has limited time outside of work to be a significant other, a parent, a friend, or to pursue other non-work passions, making time for fitness during work hours makes it more likely that employees will both get and stay fit, and have time to focus on the non-work parts of their lives –  improving both morale and productivity.

These unusual policies seem to be paying off in terms of business results: Bandwidth is set to make $150M this year – up about 20% from last year –  and they anticipate $200M in profitable revenues next year.

I love hearing about companies and executive teams that are willing to do more than just talk about creating a culture focused on supporting people to be their best: who are willing to put dollars into it and create policies that support it. -Erika Anderson, Forbes Magazine Contributor

5 Things Super Successful People Do Before 8 AM

Thatcher-locRise and shine! Morning time just became your new best friend. Love it or hate it, utilizing the morning hours before work may be the key to a successful and healthy lifestyle. That’s right, early rising is a common trait found in many CEOs, government officials, and other influential people. Margaret Thatcher was up every day at 5 a.m.; Frank Lloyd Wright at 4 am and Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney wakes at 4:30am just to name a few. I know what you’re thinking – you do your best work at night. Not so fast. According to Inc. Magazine, morning people have been found to be more proactive and more productive. In addition, the health benefits for those with a life before work go on and on. Let’s explore 5 of the things successful people do before 8 am.

Working out

2. Map Out Your Day. Maximize your potential by mapping out your schedule for the day, as well as your goals and to dos. The morning is a good time for this as it is often one of the only quiet times a person gets throughout the day. The early hours foster easier reflection that helps when prioritizing your activities. They also allow for uninterrupted problem solving when trying to fit everything into your timetable. While scheduling, don’t forget about your mental health. Plan a 10 minute break after that stressful meeting for a quick walk around the block or a moment of meditation at your desk. Trying to eat healthy? Schedule a small window in the evening to pack a few nutritious snacks to bring to work the next day.

healthy_breakfast_meals

3. Eat a Healthy Breakfast. We all know that rush out the door with a cup of coffee and an empty stomach feeling. You sit down at your desk, and you’re already wondering how early that taco truck sets up camp outside your office. No good. Take that extra time in the morning to fuel your body for the tasks ahead of it. It will help keep your mind on what’s at hand and not your growling stomach. Not only is breakfast good for your physical health, it is also a good time to connect socially. Even five minutes of talking with your kids or spouse while eating a quick bowl of oatmeal can boost your spirits before heading out the door.

visualization

4. Visualization. These days we talk about our physical health ad nauseam, but sometimes our mental health gets overlooked. The morning is the perfect time to spend some quiet time inside your mind meditating or visualizing. Take a moment to visualize your day ahead of you, focusing on the successes you will have. Even just a minute of visualization and positive thinking can help improve your mood and outlook on your work load for the day.

guy on ladder

5. Make Your Day Top Heavy. We all have that one item on our to do list that we dread. It looms over you all day (or week) until you finally suck it up and do it after much procrastination. Here’s an easy tip to save yourself the stress – do that least desirable task on your list first. Instead of anticipating the unpleasantness of it from first coffee through your lunch break, get it out of the way. The morning is the time when you are (generally) more well rested and your energy level is up. Therefore, you are more well equipped to handle more difficult projects. And look at it this way, your day will get progressively easier, not the other way around. By the time your work day is ending, you’re winding down with easier to dos and heading into your free time more relaxed. Success! – Forbes Magazine

7 Things I Wish I Had Known at 25

 

work-advice-known-25-ftrWe’ve all had transformative moments.

You know what I’m talking about: those brief instances when you find yourself reflecting on lessons you’ve learned over the years. They may come professionally or personally. Sometimes they’re huge life lessons that really shake things up. Other times, they’re small things that are easily forgotten if not put to use.

I’m a firm believer that no one’s born a leader or expert. It’s the experiences we encounter that help transform us into better, brighter, and more successful versions of ourselves. For me, I started out as an entrepreneur, a move made with little thought at the nontraditional age of 16. Today, my experiences as a serial entrepreneur, CEO, leader, father, and husband have taught me a lot.

But imagine if you could bundle up the key lessons you’ve learned in your professional years and hand them to those just starting out. I want to do just that.

Here are seven things I’ve learned professionally that I was fortunate to gain, but wish I had known when I was just starting out:

1. Proactivity is a secret weapon. There’s this general stereotype I want to put an end to immediately: Jobs aren’t about waiting around and doing things as they’re assigned. Far too many people—even those with passion to spare—fall into this trap.

Begin building your proactive habits as soon as possible by seeking out ways to go above and beyond your role every day. This could mean kicking your projects to the next level, finding new ways to impact your company, or even just improving internal processes to make things run smoother. Proactivity is a crucial part of advancing your career.

2. Perfection isn’t attainable. Being a perfectionist and micromanaging others—even if they aren’t your direct reports—can be damaging. These are two things I personally struggled with early on. I learned quickly that people don’t like being told what to do, and good leadership and management don’t come from tweaking things to perfection. Instead, I learned to live by the 80/20 rule and ask questions to derive answers when it comes to managing others.

3. Great public speaking skills create influence. When I was just starting out, I had a mentor who took me under his wing. Tom Antion was a successful entrepreneur and great public speaker, but I never thought much of it until the time came for me to really dive into public speaking.

It’s important to understand that those who can speak well, be it in a company meeting or at a presentation, typically become trusted leaders. Never stop improving as a public speaker, even if it’s something you initially fear. If you have a strong voice and show confidence, authority will follow.

4. Work isn’t just about cashing your paycheck. If you’re in it for the money alone, you’re probably not going to get very far. Work is truly about passion—finding and doing what you love. Being driven by passion is an insanely beneficial motivator.

So, if you’re not passionate about the job you’re doing today, what can you do to find your passion? Would it be a new job? What about a new role within your company? Whatever it takes, find and pursue your passion sooner rather than later.

5. Seek out a mentor. As I stated above, I was fortunate enough to have started and fueled my career due to the guidance of a great mentor. If you don’t already have a mentor, it’s time to go out and find one.

You may find a mentor in someone within your company or a person you look up to in your industry. If you don’t already know of someone who would make a great mentor, there are plenty of websites, organizations, conferences and networking events that can hook you up with someone who shares your professional vision and can offer helpful advice.

6. Know what makes you better than the rest. The days of fitting into a professional mold are dead and gone.

Today, knowing what sets you apart from the crowd professionally is the way to build your career. Knowing your top skills and using them to establish your personal brand will catch the eye of employers and maybe even lead you to starting a business of your own.

7. Always risk it. We all know that risks and rewards go hand-in-hand. If you aren’t open to taking the occasional risk, you’re likely to get stuck in a flow that you can’t break from. This doesn’t always mean starting your own business or quitting your job for something less conventional. Taking risks often means overcoming your fears and reaching for opportunities you may have overlooked with more thinking.

I wish I had known these seven lessons when I was 25, but I’m thankful to be able to share them regardless. One thing’s for certain: there is never any time to stop learning and growing as a professional. -Ilya Pozin

What do you wish you had known professionally in your 20s?

The 7 Sleep Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

 

Sleep

We all know lack of sleep is harmful to our health — sleep affects mood, increases risk of psychiatric disorders and depression, cardiovascular disease and lowers immune system health. Yet the stress of running a company and long working hours means entrepreneurs often find themselves functioning on little sleep.

Evanston, Ill.-based sleep expert Dr. Lisa Shives says getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night is a critical component of entrepreneurs’ business success. “Sleep affects our executive function; the area of the brain responsible for decision making, creative thinking, memory and reaction time,” says Shives.

Follow these seven sleep habits and dream your way to business success:

1. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. 
While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it will affect the quality of your slumber. “Sleep is lighter, you have less REM (the deepest stage of sleep),” says Shives. Alcohol can also wake you up in the middle of the night. “Many people wake up after about four hours, because that’s how long it takes to metabolize alcohol, then they have trouble getting back to sleep,” says Shives. Although studies have shown a glass of wine at dinner can have positive effects on cardiovascular health, Shives says to avoid drinking any alcohol within three hours before bedtime.

2. Turn off electronics before bedtime.
Shives recommends shutting off gadgets an hour before bedtime. “The light that’s emitted [from the screens] slips your neurotransmitters into an awake position,” says Shives. Our gadgets also force our brains to stay active when they really need relaxation time to distress before bedtime. Shives recommends using the hour before bed to do something relaxing and enjoyable like reading a book or having a chat with your partner.

3. Write your worries away. 
If you find yourself lying in bed stressing about the events of the day, Shives recommends keeping a worry journal to write down the issues that are bothering you. For those who find their heads swimming with to-do-lists, Shives says putting the list on paper rather than thinking about it can help to clear your head and shut off your mind before bedtime.

4. Create the perfect sleep ambience.
The optimal sleep environment is one that’s cool, dark and quiet. “Part of becoming drowsy in the evening is that your core body temperature starts to drop,” says Shives. Eliminate noise and light distractions by charging smartphones outside the bedroom door to avoid the glow, the ding and the temptation to get up and check on something.

5. Exercise. 
Exercise promotes healthy sleep patterns by releasing serotonin and dopamine. These are the same neurotransmitters that are important for regulating our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.

 
6. Avoid sugary snacks before bedtime.
If you have a hankering for a snack, Shives recommends grabbing a bite containing protein and fat such as yogurt rather than one containing starch or sugar. “[Protein and fat] have very low glycemic levels which means they will give a steady release of energy throughout the night,” says Shives. Simple carbs or sugary snacks give you a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash which can disturb the quality of your sleep.

7. Wake up to the light. 
The morning is just as important to your sleep habits as the evening. Getting sunlight when you wake up re-sets your body’s circadian rhythm, helping to ensure you’re more tired at night. Enjoy your morning coffee sitting next to a large window is a great way to start your day right.

Entrepreneur Magazine Sept. 2013

ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES: BECOMING ‘STRESS HARDY’

Stress Ball

Stress is caused by three emotions: fear, anger, or sadness. The bad news is that you can’t avoid some stressors. They will always be part of life. What’s important is how you react to them. You trigger negative responses when you doubt your ability to cope with what life presents you. The good news is that we all have available to us many approaches to help reduce the harmful impact of stress. You can become “stress hardy.”

Stress is an inevitable part of life. The key is not to avoid stress, but to learn to recognize your own personal stressors and to develop coping mechanisms that will help you deal with unavoidable stress.

Here is a sequence of three steps that have been helpful to me in coping with stress–and that I have seen work for others.

 SELF-MONITORING

Lie down and get comfortable. Then mentally scan your body head to toe. Become a witness to your own stress responses by reflecting on any tension and on your emotions: fear, anger, or sadness.

 DETACH

Try to make a sudden break with the stressful situation by saying to yourself: “Stop!”

MEDITATION/DEEP RELAXATION

Slow your breathing, and count your breaths from ten to zero several times. Then again scan your body head-to-toe, first tensing then relaxing each part of the body. Let yourself feel inert (heavy or like jelly). Finally, focus on a pleasant thought, place, or image.

START A STRESS JOURNAL

A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:

  • What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
  • How you felt, both physically and emotionally
  • How you acted in response
  • What you did to make yourself feel better

One other thing that has proven helpful to many is to develop some of the following habits of stress hardy people:

  •  Recognize your unique stressors.
  • Don’t let problems in one life area spill over to other areas.
  • See troubles as temporary (“This will pass”).
  • See meaning in troubles.
  • Focus on immediate matters: “What do I do right now?”
  • Don’t “awfulize.” Ask: “What’s the worst that can happen and how likely is that?”
  • Ignore others’ “shoulds”…as in, “You should . . .” Turn inward. Trust yourself.
  • Know you are not alone. Take consolation from knowing others face similar or worse problems.
  • Trust you can cope. Seek options. Don’t get trapped.
  • See the opportunity in troubles.

And finally, science proves optimists can better handle stress. So….. do you see the glass half full or half empty?

glasshalffull