As I looked back over many of my more recent articles, a noticeable theme arose. Almost all of them referenced how the concepts in the article first came to me while I was swimming. This might lead many readers to wonder if I live my entire life in the water. I don’t, but I do get 10 to 60 minutes in the ocean each day.
For me, however, it raised a different question: Why? Given that I am in the water between 0.7% and 4% of my time, why did my ideas for articles seem to exclusively arise during this period? Digging into this question I gained yet further insight into the working of my mind, and of our brains more generally, that I thought worth sharing.
Exercise And Effectiveness
As someone who runs a company, many people might think that my daily swims are detrimental to my effectiveness. This time “away” from the business is time that should be spent working on the business.
As I researched this question, I found the opposite to be true. In a study of more than 1 million Americans, researchers found that “regular exercise reduced the number of days per month of poor mental health by more than 43%.” Why would my business benefit from me having more positive mental health? Because, as the World Health Organization finds, workplaces that promote mental health “are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.” The time “away” exercising benefits me, my employees, my clients and our business as a whole.
Exercise And Creativity
Fine, exercise might make me more productive, and increase the economic benefits to my company, but what does that have to do with helping me come up with new ideas for articles? This is where another benefit of exercise comes into play. It does not just help with physical and mental health and wellness; exercise has also been found to make you more creative.
A study cited by the World Economic Forum showed that “activity and creativity are linked.” In particular, “[s]tudy participants with active lifestyles proved more creative than those with more sedentary habits.” Being active, as I am while swimming, unlocks a part of me that might otherwise be closed off were I to spend my entire day sitting in front of my keyboard and monitor.
These benefits are not unique to me, or to merely coming up with new ideas for articles. The boost in creativity carries over into all that I then do, from ideas for new products and improvements on existing products to problem-solving when problems (inevitably) arise in the business to writing an entire book. This boost in creativity makes me, and my business, more innovative, and simply better.
And for those reading who are perhaps more exercise shy, don’t worry. The same study found that “extremely vigorous exercise performed no better than moderate exercise in boosting creativity levels.” You don’t have to go out and train to be the next Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky. You simply must go out and start moving.
A Quiet Mind
And in moving, why swimming versus running, walking or going to the gym? All are forms of movement and exercise, so why has swimming proven particularly impactful on my creativity and productivity? For me, this comes down less to what swimming offers as compared to these other forms of movement and exercise, and more down to what it doesn’t have, namely noise.
When I am on dry land, I am invariably in a live conversation or on a phone or video call. If not that, I am reading something; listening to music, a book or a podcast; or in some other way being inundated with new information. Perhaps this is not surprising given we are creating new information at a pace never before seen or countenanced in human history. For example, in 2017 alone we created more data than in the prior 5,000 years of human existence! And the pace of data creation is only accelerating. With so much information forming constantly around us, it is perhaps unavoidable that we end up being deluged with the same.
Or is it?
This is where swimming, especially ocean swimming, has been a game changer for me. It is a time with no headphones, with no other people, with no noise other than the rushing of the water past my ears. And in this period of “quiet,” my brain does something different. In her article, “Why 'Stepping Away' Increases Your Creativity,” Dr. Susan Weinschenk, explains why.
"If you keep your [prefrontal cortex] too focused on the 'task at hand' then it can't go searching for interesting combinations of information you have stored in memory. When you take a break... then your PFC is freed up to go searching and combining."
Swimming provides just this sort of break that makes the difference for me. That being said, you don’t need an ocean in your backyard to start accessing these same benefits. If you need a few tips for getting started and following through, here's what I recommend:
1. Make time for it. We all know our days "get filled," but what if they were only filled around what you already prioritized? Block time to get up and move or even exercise.
2. Track your performance. This helps you see both if you are staying true to your stated goal and if and where it makes a difference. If you see a noticeable positive difference when you move/exercise, you are more likely to stick with it.
3. Lower your bar. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good! You don't need to train for an Ironman. Just start moving.
Knowing the power of exercise and movement, the benefits of taking breaks and the desirability of periodically quieting the incessant noise in your life, you can start crafting your own routines and rituals to tap into your own inner creativity and productivity.
Image Credit: Getty
When starting a new business, we tend to focus on all the here-and-now elements involved in designing products or services, branding, researching the target market and competition, creating websites and other marketing collateral, sorting out finance, etc.
One factor that gets left pushed down the list or isn’t thought of very much by many entrepreneurs, though, is human resources. If you’re an owner or manager of a startup, you may not have a big team yet, but this doesn’t mean HR should be an afterthought.
In fact, if you want to increase the likelihood that your venture becomes a great success, human resources should be top of mind. You can follow some top HR tips to help you cover this area effectively now and into the future.
Hire the Right People
Managing a team is a whole lot easier if you hire the right people to begin with. Before you start advertising roles, interviewing candidates, or telling anyone they have the job, sit down and determine what goals you have for your business and the jobs you want to hire for. Ensure you know your current and future needs, too. This clarity will help you see what you need to find in potential hires and how to ensure you pick someone who will satisfy your short-term and longer-term goals.
Also, consider the culture you want to create in your company. What types of personality traits, values, beliefs, etc., do you place a lot of credence in and want to see in your team? For instance, you might be on the lookout for people who live and work with a focus on perseverance, kindness, creativity, integrity, excellence, growth, and more.
As you interview people, you can ask questions to get a feel for these traits, in addition to learning about candidates’ skills, knowledge, and experience. Then, as you build your team, you can create a group of employees who should get along at least reasonably well because they have some core values and ways of interacting and seeing the world in common.
Outsource Functions to Specialists as Needed
Human resources involve a wide variety of tasks, including handling payroll, employee onboarding, paperwork, training, hiring, firing, promoting people, performance reviews, and a whole lot more. As a startup business owner, you will likely find it hard to find the time and energy to handle all these areas or complete them effectively.
As such, it’s worth outsourcing some tasks. Hire a specialist HR firm such as Workhuman for one or two tasks or many or all of them, depending on your needs and budget. You still need to have a good understanding of leadership and management, but external firms can help you take care of a lot of the nitty-gritty details, big-picture planning, and so on.
Use Helpful Tech Tools
Another way to save time and energy is to streamline your HR processes wherever possible. Using helpful tech tools is one way to do this. There are many great options on the market, including free and low-cost tools. For example, you could invest in payroll automation programs, online training software enabling you to roll out the same instruction repeatedly, and applicant tracking systems to initially sort candidates when you advertise a job.
You can utilize employee recognition tools to enable colleagues to reward and recognize one another, regardless of location, which is handy if you have a team located around the country or the world. Plus, some programs offer a suite of feedback tools so you and your workers can make reflection and communication a part of your routine, with surveys, individual agendas, performance review templates, etc.
These are just a selection of tools available these days that can help startup and small business owners better manage the various tasks involved in human resources. If there’s some tech help you require, do some research, and you’re sure to find an option that will deliver your requirements.
Other HR tips for you to consider as you plan out the rest of your year include offering your staff members good benefits and perks, enabling flexible working hours and locations, and continuing to train, educate, motivate, mentor, and challenge employees, so they continue to grow and develop. Provide regular feedback, recognize, thank, and award workers, and create policies and processes for as many different HR tasks and topics as possible.
Every step you take to manage human resources elements more effectively will help you improve yourself as a manager, boost morale in the workplace, mitigate risk, and create overall better results for your organization.
Image Credit: Getty
A company's mission serves as the foundation for everything it does. While the specific goals of the business may change over time, your original mission, vision and values should remain intact until you and your team consciously decide to change them.
If you find your business moving away from its original mission unintentionally, it may be time to figure out the next steps. To help, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council share some recommended first steps you should take when you sense your company moving away from its original mission, vision and values. Follow their advice to reassess where you stand and decide whether it's best to return to your core mission or make a conscious pivot.
Young Entrepreneur Council members share tips for finding your way back to your company mission.
1. Show Everyone Their Value
Although a company culture can be subject to change—implementing remote work, for example, is a strong incubator for change—this should be done consciously, without endangering the common values and mission. A mission is a goal that motivates people to get work done and reach targets. It brings people together and is the foundation of a team. To get that mission back, we would need to go back to the foundation. One crucial aspect is to show everyone within the company how important their role is. Every single person contributes to the mission. By making everyone aware of the value of their work in achieving your mission and safeguarding your values, a deeper connection and commitment can be achieved. - Brian Pallas, Opportunity Network
2. Consider The Circumstances
Shifts are a natural part of business and entrepreneurship. While the initial reaction may not be positive, a shift away from a company's original mission, vision and values need not spell disaster if it meets these three criteria: 1. it's informed by market conditions; 2. it's more congruent with team leadership, executive preference or business reality; and 3. it represents a purposeful and strategic evolution within the company's growth cycle. If you're inclined to update these foundational elements of the business, chances are good that these changes are overdue and should be well-documented. Reflect on why the shifts occurred, how they are showing up for your key stakeholders and what should be done about it—then it will be a positive and transformative experience! - Christopher Tarantino, Epicenter Innovation
3. Take Time To Meditate On It
Guided meditations work for me when I feel the path paved has taken a different course. I spend five minutes quieting my mind and focusing on my breath. This puts me in a calm state to receive what my intuition and gut instincts tell me during the rest of the meditation. I supplement with journaling right after so I get all my thoughts down, exploring what my goals are and the “why” behind them. Pen to paper is different from typing your thoughts and feels more personal. I then take what I wrote and explore the big picture goals and the “why” behind them. I sleep on it for a day or two and then identify action steps to execute my goals. I block time on my calendar to get those goals done, reminding myself that change is normal and necessary and to trust the process. - Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office
4. Forgive The Uncertainties And Embrace Your 'Why'
Forgive yourself for your own uncertainty. You can't reevaluate your own vision if you're "in shame" about it. Recognize that, as we come closer to our goals, we sometimes find that we no longer want them, and we in fact are striving for something different. That's okay; there's no shame in that. It is, however, your responsibility to set your team's target and know your "why." Ask yourself: Where am I headed with this business? How is it different from my initial target? You probably made plans and projections when you first set your goals. Revisit them and compare them to your current ones. There's a deeper reason why you're aiming toward these new goals, and you will need to embrace that "why" so that you can capture what you've been placed on this earth to do! - Jonathan Sparks, Sparks Law
5. Understand The Reason For The Shift
When you feel like your company may be moving away from your original vision, mission and values, start by asking why. Make sure you also carefully review the company's other key performance indicators, such as growth, customer and employee retention, profitability and more. Sometimes an evolution from the company's origin can be a good thing, such as when there has been a major shift in the marketplace or the world. Of course, companies can also lose their way due to a lack of communication and discipline on behalf of the founder, CEO or executive team. Before you jump into action though, be sure you understand why things have changed and correctly diagnose the root problem. - Ben Landers, Blue Corona
6. Write Down Your Objectives And Key Results
Some mission drift is unavoidable and could even be beneficial depending on the context, but if your company is drifting due to a loss of direction and focus, the first step you should take is to grab a pen and pencil. Next, write down, on paper, your company's objectives and key results (OKRs). The act of writing them down on paper will help you remember the framework of your company's goals and if they are evolving in a successful direction. Once you write down the OKRs, hold a work visualization session with your team and ask them to visualize how their specific tasks and priorities help maintain this framework. Especially when you have a hybrid work environment, work visualization can help stop mission drift and, ultimately, preserve your competitive edge. - Shu Saito, All Filters
7. Expand Your Mission Statement
I live by the idea that what you start with is not what you will end with. However, when it comes to moving away from your mission, vision and values, it's about finding out why. Why are we moving away from these things? Do we like where we're headed? Are we happy with this new direction? Is this helping us move closer to our goals? If the answer is “yes,” then it's time to reevaluate the mission and vision. I'm open to being fluid as long as it doesn't impede on my personal morals, ethics or values. But the idea that we should have one mission statement and live by it forever is outdated, and probably holding a lot of companies back from growth. - Ryann Dowdy, Uncensored Consulting, LLC
8. Consider Your Original Mission's Relevancy
To resolve this issue, the first step is to examine your original vision, mission and values statements. Are they relevant today? Do they still accurately reflect what your company does and stands for? If not, it may be time to update them. This will help to ensure that your company is aligned with values that matter. You may find that people don't resonate with your stated mission, or that your company has outgrown its original vision. If this is the case, work with your team to draft something new. This will help to ensure that you get input and that everyone's in sync with the stated values. - Blair Williams, MemberPress
9. Converse With Your Team
The first step you should take if you feel like your company is moving away from your original mission, vision and values is to have a conversation with your team. During this conversation, you'll want to ask them what they think the company's new mission, vision and values should be. This will help you get a better understanding of where the company is headed and how you can get everyone on board with the new direction. It's important to have this conversation early on so that you can make sure everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction. Sometimes, you'll discover that it's time for your original guidelines to change—and that's okay. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
Image Credit: Pexels.com
Whether your business is still just an idea or you're in the research phase, it's never too early to think about determining market need. It's essential to figure out what consumers need from your product and pinpoint a target audience.
However, there are many ways to effectively determine market need for your particular product or service. To help you do this, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council explain some specific strategies for uncovering the need for your idea. Follow their recommended tips to complete this essential part of your business research.
Young Entrepreneur Council members share tips for determining market need.
1. Identify Solvable Problems
Don't overthink it. Too many "ideas" get stuck at the starting gate and never turn into a reality because of overthinking. I’m the founder of six different companies, and every one of them has been built on the same concept: identify a problem I can solve that people are willing to pay me to solve. Not every idea will be the next Uber or Facebook, and if you spend your life trying to do that, you may end up disappointed. My businesses have not been unique. I haven't developed any proprietary tools. I've consistently been able to leverage or build off of existing systems and build a better mousetrap. There will always be someone willing to pay for expertise, and if you can identify those areas and capitalize on them, the market will gladly pay a fair price for a quality experience. - Frank B. Mengert, ebm
2. Talk To Potential Consumers
The only thing that matters is whether customers want to buy your product—so talk to customers. To validate whether they would buy your product if it was built, try and get some form of commitment from them. For example, get them to commit to being a beta user, say that they would spend X amount of money on it if you built certain features or, ideally, say that they would pre-pay to become a beta customer. If you can get strong commitments from early customers, you know you're on to something. If you've had a lot of conversations but you can't quite get anyone to commit, maybe you should rethink your idea. - Ashwin Sreenivas, Campfire
3. Follow The VC Dollars
One of the best ways to identify a substantial profitable business opportunity is to look at where venture capital dollars are going. VCs push money to areas where help is most needed. If you see growth capital going into one area, you can bet that business ideas involving that will be very good. Otherwise, you are wasting time solving too small a problem. Additionally, and of equal importance, you need to talk to the customers. Let the market tell you where to go; don’t lean on your own brand. - Kevin Marcus, Versium Analytics, Inc.
4. Google It
Do a Google search. What question would a potential customer type into Google to find a product or service like yours to meet their need or solve their problem? That’s the question you should type into Google. The search results will help you determine if the need is generating a large number of inquiries and if any other companies are already fulfilling that need with a different product or service. Don’t stop there. Think of different questions people would ask to find a product or service like yours and type them all into Google. Look at the related queries that Google provides at the bottom of the search results page. Dig deeper. Visit the results pages and see what people are talking about and what products other companies are offering to meet their needs. Then, offer something better. - Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com
5. Get Feedback From Others In The Industry
Talk to people in that field and industry. Some ideas are brilliant; others are terrible. You will really want to figure out which one yours is before investing time, energy and resources. Absorb feedback from others. Change and edit your plan as needed. The worst thing you can do is think you know it all and fall flat on your face. Opinions and feedback are free. This is your best tool in determining if your idea is worth pursuing or if it still needs some fine-tuning before it is ready to release. - Mary Harcourt, CosmoGlo
6. Get Involved In Your Target Community
The easiest way to find out if there's a market for your business idea is to get involved in the community you would like to enter. I suggest spending time in relevant social media groups. You could start new conversations, comment on existing posts or even conduct a survey. Write down what you learn during these encounters and use the data when planning your product and website. For example, let's say you want to create a new email marketing software. Everyone in your social groups says they want to see more segmenting options, so you can safely assume that this feature would do well if you included it with your software. I believe this step is crucial to your success because you have to meet and exceed customer expectations if you want to thrive in a crowded industry. - Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
7. Consider The Competition
Look for a competitor for your business idea. There is always a competitor; if you think there is no competition, then your idea is not a business idea yet. After identifying your competitor, analyze their sales trends, their market and their flaws. This will give you an idea of whether your product will be accepted in the market and what the possible sales trends for your product will be. It is important to do this early on because you will learn what not to do in your business. Someone's failure or success strategy can be a cheaper learning lesson for you. It will allow you to adapt your idea and strategy to a way that works practically as opposed to what you think will work. - Kripa Shroff, AK Multinational LLC
8. Leverage A Focus Group
Conduct a market research focus group. You can do it on your own or employ a company. That way, you’ll find out from normal, everyday people if your business idea will actually gain traction, and the feedback will be honest and valid. - Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
Image Credits: The Individual Members
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.