Archive for the ‘In The Workplace’ Category

Being Productive at Work Requires Effort

Posted by Nick Murphy on October 6th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Importance of Work/Life Balance

Posted by Rob Ropars on September 10th, 2015

BalanceWe all have experienced the “do more with less” mantra in business. As people retire, or positions are eliminated, they aren’t always replaced. Instead, the remaining workforce must pick up the slack and wear more hats every day. Often, we can become victims of our own successful multitasking meaning businesses don’t feel an immediate need to fill any open vacancies.

To keep up with deadlines and workloads that surpass the reality of a workweek, more employees are sacrificing personal time to finish work, or at least keep from fully drowning. Each hour spent outside a normal workday, often without overtime compensation, family events are missed, eating habits get worse and exercise falls off the radar.

We’ve all known for years that our sedentary lifestyle and workplace inertia at desks staring at monitors would have a cost. We plug away on the phone and typing incessantly for hours on end without standing up, walking around or averting our eyes to give our vision a needed break, and a new study finds that all of this is having a very dangerous impact on our health.

It is now estimated that those extra hours of work are leading to a 33 percent increase in stroke risk (the study took into account risk factors, such as smoking, drinking and physical activity). The long hours also contributed to a 13 percent increase in heart disease risk.1

So what’s the solution? We have to prioritize better (see my prior post on this topic here) and delegate as much as possible. In addition, we need to force ourselves, once an hour to stand up, walk around the office, focus out a window at far off objects, etc. In addition, there are several things we can do on our breaks, in addition to actually taking them, to improve our health. We’ll be more productive as a result so your employer “wins” as well.

A study featured in the journal Environmental Science & Technology proved a link between exposure to nature and improved mental health. Looking at people who moved from urban to greener/more natural areas had a higher level of happiness versus those who did the reverse.2

Moving isn’t a practical solution to every day stress, but this study boosts other findings over the past few years. Multiple organizations’ research and studies have found that exposure to nature yields clear and immediate positive impacts on a person. With regard to the workplace, a nature break can reduce fatigue, improve your attention/focus, and increase productivity.3

Adding plants to your cubicle is a start, but find local parks and green areas to visit on your breaks. Getting outside will refresh you, make you more productive and give you some movement during your day.

Beyond communing with nature, you can also explore meditation. I know it’s something many people talk about, some try and most have a hard time doing (guilty). But, as with nature, it’s been proven that those who can add some form of even brief, recurring meditation to their lives reap many benefits. But you don’t have to join a cult to meditate. Meditation is a very subjective thing in terms of how you achieve a mindful state. It isn’t always crossed legs humming on a mountain. In addition to the health rewards, the workplace will benefit from your increased focus, energy and creativity and decrease in illness/stress.4

Time is the enemy of best intentions, but there are always ways to add healthy elements to our lives. Creating a routine and following through regularly will help us be healthier, happier and more productive at work and home. Listening to music, tea breaks, artistic endeavors, etc. can all be ways to escape the bonds of the present, stressful “world” and relax.5 You can read more ideas in this great article by clicking here.

Until next time, give yourself a break and focus on a better work/life balance.







Help! Four Tips to Keep Your Customers Happy

Posted by Nick Murphy on June 9th, 2015

Customer EngagementFinding new customers isn’t easy. It takes time, resources and money. There’s no doubt that to continually grow your business a steady stream of new customers isn’t a bad thing, but what about keeping the ones you already have?

According to, “sales campaigns launched at a base of existing customers often have success rates as high as 70 percent vs. campaigns launched at new customers touted as successful if just 5 percent or more end up buying.”1

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at the numbers and come to the conclusion that selling to and keeping your current customers happy makes a great deal of sense. Here are four tips you can use to help keep your customers happy:

  1. Understand and anticipate their needs. Frontier marketers are using “big data and sophisticated analytics to detect where a given customer is on the purchase path and what information he/she needs most.”2 Before your customer picks up the phone and asks you about a new service, product or updated feature, your business should already be armed with details, so that you can initiate a beginning dialogue with them.
  2. Check in on them even when they don’t ask. You’ll want to make sure that customers are being reminded that they are important to you. We all need help from time to time, but not all of us are willing to seek it out. It is key, not only for your success, but to the success of your customers to make sure everything is going smoothly on their end and that they are satisfied with your product or service. Staying ahead of the game keeps your business top-of-mind and gives consumers more reason to block out your competition.
  3. Don’t let their frustration fester. Address your customer’s concerns immediately if you can. The quicker you can resolve a customer issue… the more credibility and trust you will build with them. If one of your customers is irritated with a product or service, make sure you keep on top of it and keep them in the loop. Each client touchpoint you make is another sign of relief they have on their end.
  4. Do one thing better than anyone else. If you are already checking off the first three tips, then it is more than likely you are doing something better than the competition. Whatever it may be, look at your business and find the main differentiator and build on it. Here at Harland Clarke Digital, we put an emphasis on assisting our customers better than anyone else and developing partnerships with each business.

In a world where technology and intellect keep moving forward, how do we as businesses help our customers do the same? No answer will ever be sufficient, but one simple phrase is an excellent starting point, “Help them.” When we are able to help our customers, it allows them to help theirs — and if that isn’t a success, then what are we in business for?





LinkedIn® Part 2: Discovering the Person Behind the Profile

Posted by Molly Livermore on May 21st, 2015

LinkedIn ConnectionsWe’ve all done it. You search LinkedIn® for connections and find someone who attended the same marketing conference you did in 1990. You quickly send an invitation that states, “We attended the same conference 25 years ago. Please link with me.” Or worse, you take your investigation a step further and find your potential connection’s Facebook® page, home address and children’s names. You then proceed to invite this person to connect with an email that reads, “I just love where you live. My family and I visited once and had the best ice cream! I’ll bet your two daughters ask you to go there every night. Incidentally, I also have a daughter named Melissa! Small world.” OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is — one common historical moment does not a make relationship nor does giving your children the same name. While LinkedIn is a rich resource for gleaning more information about a person than one would learn on a first date, there are boundaries that must be respected.

Social selling is incredibly powerful, but you have to make sure you always, and I mean always, stay professional.

In this social digital age, it is way too easy to cross a line that quickly earns you the label of “stalker.” Think about why you are contacting this person in the first place. What is your objective? More importantly, why would this person want to connect with you? Remember you’re asking for someone’s time. The LinkedIn invitation is a sales call and should be treated as such. It’s about building relationships, so please stop writing a “Hallmark” card when inviting someone to connect.

Here are some best practices for ensuring you steer clear of being perceived as creepy:

  1. Avoid becoming too personal too fast.
    • Never give information to anyone that can be used against you. For example, don’t share negative opinions about ex-coworkers, how your former company was run or any trade secrets that could land you in court.
    • Avoid divulging details about any upcoming projects that have not been made public or allude to the fact that you can “do someone a favor.”
    • Don’t complain. About anything. Not your job, your boss, the weather, the last time you were stuck in traffic or that you never get credit for all of the hard work you do.
  2. If you have collected a fair amount of information on a contact, don’t use a “fun fact” about him or her every time you have a conversation.
    • It’s acceptable to look up someone and read where they worked, went to school and view their contacts. But, the creep factor rolls in when you begin every conversation with something you know about the person. “So, I see you went to college for five years. What’s up with that? Too much partying? I can relate.”
    • Stay away from the three professional conversation taboos: money, religion and politics. Many LinkedIn profiles contain information about a person’s religious or political affiliations, but LinkedIn is not a forum that should be used to debate these issues.
    • Do Not use LinkedIn as a dating site.
  3. Utilize content as a springboard for conversation.
    • If you receive an alert that your contact published an article or a piece of content on LinkedIn, it’s not only appropriate, but also flattering to start a conversation about it.
    • If your contact is a member of a group you are curious about, go ahead and ask them about it. Just make sure your inquiry is genuine and makes sense within the context of your professional relationship. Just because you worked at the same company 15 years ago doesn’t mean you have to bring it up every single time.
    • Congratulate your connection on a professional milestone or new position, but please keep out that you know there was a party for his/her Mom’s birthday over the weekend.

Always remember you are constantly building your personal brand and the information you use during any conversation contributes to how you are perceived, as does the information you divulge about yourself. Once you go too far, it’s hard to recover, and you can’t control the message once it’s out there.

So please, stay professional. Keep your communication focused on your business objective and remember that relationships take time and need to be nurtured. Knowing someone’s biography doesn’t make you best friends any more than having had similar experiences. Connect carefully.

LinkedIn is all about business — keep it smart.

Read part one of my three-part series where I discuss the value of the connections on LinkedIn and the right ways to approach them.


Finding the Right Conference for You, Today

Posted by Deanna Cruzan on May 8th, 2015

ConferenceFor direct marketers who have been in the industry for at least one decade, there were just a handful of conferences that most direct marketers would attend: DMA, Catalog Show and NEDMA. Even if you could only attend one, these conferences gave you the opportunity to set up meetings, schedule classes, catch up with old friends and have a bit of fun.

But as marketing channels continue to expand from direct mail and call centers to email, social media, web and mobile, the focus has evolved into more specific categories, such as blogging, SEO, analytics, customer loyalty, etc. Therefore, many more conference options are available. I have been asked numerous times from my clients what conferences they should attend. This is no longer an easy answer, and what makes sense for one marketer does not make sense for another. Therefore, I created some questions that marketers should ask themselves when trying to narrow down their conference options:

    1. What is your main goal for the conference?
      • Classes
      • Meetings
      • Hands on demonstrations
      • Vendors
      • Networking
    2. If this is for educational purposes, what do you need to learn about?
      • A specific channel
      • Creative/Design
      • Copywriting
      • Best practices
      • Industry trends
      • Upcoming technology
    3. Is there a conference that fits these needs in your state or neighboring state (to keep travel costs down)?
    4. Do you belong to any groups who might also be attending this conference?
    5. Do you have enough money in the budget to cover all of your expenses?

With anything, once you choose a conference, do a little more research. Check out reviews and see what other people in your industry are saying about their experiences. When budgets are tight, you want to be sure that the conference you attend is everything that you need it to be. I recommend keeping a close eye on attendance lists. Oftentimes, conferences improve over time while others can decline in attendance and standards. A good indication of quality is maybe not necessarily the size the audience, but who is actually attending.

Conferences are a great tool to meet many objectives at one time in one location. Determine what you are looking to accomplish, do your homework and have fun!