Simple Zen Habits to Start Your Day

By Alyssa Lahham

Starting my morning off calm and relaxed always makes me happier throughout the rest of the day. Here are a few of my tranquil morning habits that I recommend trying. You don’t need to do everything on the list, but figure out a few that work for you, and make your day start more peacefully!

Stretch

Whether it’s yoga, Chinese Lajin, or your third grade PE stretches, stretching will help reduce body aches, increase blood flow, and increase your energy levels for the entire day according to LiveStrong.com. I prefer yoga, but I don’t always have time to go to a studio to practice. If you’re in the same situation, check out AthleticMindedTraveler.com for a few ways to practice yoga from home or on the go.

Drink a big glass of water

After 8 hours without drinking any water, you’re dehydrated in the morning, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Drinking a large glass of water helps to rehydrate you and fuel your metabolism according to ALifeOfProductivity.com. Plus, it helps wake you up and makes you feel refreshed.

Go for a walk

Or a run, if that’s your thing! Just get outside and get a breath of fresh air. Starting the day off with exercise will put you in a better mood, and it will help you get better sleep that night. Walk every morning, and you’ll establish a great cycle of calm mornings and restful nights. Plus, walking or jogging around where you live can help give you a new appreciation for its beauty.

Do something nice for someone

Give a genuine compliment. Hold a door open. Altruism is a very zenful act. According to Psychology Today, altruistic acts give you “helper’s high.” Doing nice things for other people releases endorphins and gives you a feeling of satisfaction. And as Phoebe from Friends would say, there is no selfless good deed, because you always feel better afterwards!

Read something

If you’ve gotten this far in my blog, you must enjoy reading. Reading is an effective way to calm your mind and forget about the stresses of life in the morning or at any time. Choose whatever genre and medium works for you. Maybe it’s a chapter of a mystery novel. Or perhaps it’s an article from your favorite blog (wink, wink). Read what you love, and make a habit of it.

Think of what you’re grateful for

This one is an easy one that is often forgotten. Taking a moment in the morning to think about what you are thankful for in life will improve your self esteem and mental strength for the rest of the day. If that wasn’t enough to get you thinking, a 2011 Applied Psychology study showed that being grateful also helps you sleep better at night, helping with the cycle of well rested morning zen!

4 Unconventional Networking Strategies You Should Try

By Alyssa Lahham

Networking is invaluable to business and career growth. It opens up opportunities, fosters learning and growth, and can lead to great friendships. Even the most skilled networkers can benefit from mixing up their strategies. Here are four unconventional networking tips that are both fun to do and likely to help you build lasting connections.

  1. Volunteer for a cause you care about. This is a great way to connect with people who share your values and passions. My favorite way to volunteer is through skilled giving, which allows you to make a huge impact on non-profits and helps you sharpen your skills at the same time. Taproot is a great resource to help you connect with causes you care about that are looking for your professional capabilities.
  2. Speak at an event or on a webinar. Thought leadership is a powerful networking strategy. Sharing your knowledge helps to establish yourself as an industry expert, which helps grow your personal brand and makes more people want to connect with you. Plus, speaking allows you to get your message across to everyone in the room, rather than just a handful of people at a time. Make sure to connect with attendees after you speak, so you can build relationships and learn about them too. Can’t get over your fear of public speaking? Try writing blogs instead.
  3. Create your own group. The options here are endless – start a book club, develop a professional association, work on a project, found a non-profit, etc. This strategy allows you to network on multiple levels. You can reach out to people who have been successful in that space for guidance, you can recruit peers with similar goals to join you, and you can give guidance to mentees who have similar ideas in the future.
  4. Reconnect with past friends and coworkers. It’s easy to lose touch. Make an effort to reconnect with high school and college friends. Catch up and talk about where you’re at in your careers. There are bound to be ways you can help each other, either directly or through connections. While you’re at it, reconnect with the people you met using strategies 1-3! Reconnecting with contacts will help keep your network strong. Easy ways to touch base are to send relevant articles or send LinkedIn messages to congratulate job updates.

Have any more out-of-the-box networking strategies that have worked for you? Please comment!

Also published on IMA WLG 

10 Ways to Get Organized in 2016

(and create more free time in the process!)

By Alyssa Lahham

Whether your new year’s resolution is to be more punctual, to advance your career, or to just do you, being organized will help you accomplish your goals. Being well organized decreases stress, increases productivity, and preps you for any curve balls that may fly at you. Here are a few tips that have worked for us:

  1. Start with scheduling – We think Sunrise is the best app to combine all of your calendars. The user interface is intuitive, and we love being able to send a single link to show our availability when scheduling client meetings.
  2. Make lists and deadlines – We use Asana for all of our Sparkhouse To-Do’s. You can organize action items by project, by task, by due date, and by person. If you’re working with a team, you can add comments and follow projects to collaborate. Just make sure your to-do lists are doable!
  3. Delegate with technology – There are a ton of free or cheap apps and software that can help you organize. We use Doodle for scheduling meetings, Typeform for surveys, Grammarly to check grammar, and Zirtual for basic tasks.
  4. Plan your day the night before – Make a list of five things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Envision how your day will go, and prioritize your action items.
  5. Block time – Do one thing at a time. Switching from task to task (project to email to text to whatever) is inefficient. Block off time to work on similar tasks, and don’t worry about checking texts and emails immediately. Only multitask if one task is completely mindless, like folding towels.
  6. Make email work for you – Not the other way around. Using an app like Boomerang for Gmail and Google apps allows you to schedule emails and set follow up notifications if you don’t hear back. It’ll even clear out travel emails from your inbox until the day of your trip!
  7. Organize your space – Being organized means more than just being tidy. Organize your closet, desk, or whatever by a hierarchy. Put items you use the most in the easiest places to get to, and tuck away things you use just once in awhile. Make sure to leave some open space too!
  8. Use a physical calendar or planner – Scheduling and organizing with pen and paper allows you to create a system that works for you, without any alerts or distractions in the process. Blue Sky has everything you might need, from a simple day planner to a designer desk calendar. Putting a calendar in a place where you’ll see it every day is definitely not a bad idea.
  9. Figure out where you’re wasting time – And where you should be spending more time. If you want to take this tip to the next level, consider using a time management software like Toggl to track the hours you spend on each project. It’s helping us at Sparkhouse!
  10. Keep learning – Being organized is an ongoing and ever-changing process. Learn what works for you, and what doesn’t, and adapt your strategy as you go. You don’t need to try every new app  or tip that’s out there, but don’t be afraid to try something new.

We hope these work for you as well as they have worked for us! If you have more tips to share, please comment!

Also published on IMA WLG and TheSparkhouse.com