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5 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Right Now

5 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Right Now

We’ve all heard that work-life balance is about being balanced across a period of time vs. at a specific moment.  But we also know that those day to day moments can be pretty excruciating. While finding a more flexible position, planning a vacation, moving to shorten the commute, or remembering that this busy period will pass are all on the radar, what can we do today – right now, without drastic changes in our lives or jobs – to make things better? Try these 5 things to help you feel more balanced right now:

Don’t work every evening.

There used to be a time when “quittin’ time” meant just that. Office technology has made huge advances in recent years:  we no longer have to be disconnected or unable to work when traveling, sick, or working from home. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to ever stop working. It may be part of your workplace culture to log back in every evening after dinner, but just don’t do it for a few nights and see what happens. Take time after work to relax and focus on other areas of your life. You’ll know when something is enough of an emergency to keep working after hours. A general rule of thumb I use is if this is something someone would have picked up the phone and called me about ten years ago after house, then it’s worth being responsive.  If not, it can wait until the next business day.

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Don’t look at email / monitor work communications when you’re not at work.

This is a tough one. To simplify our lives, we’ve combined our personal and workplace devices. The endless pings of emails and instant messages could drive one to insanity or exuberance:  studies show that the simple act of checking your email is addictive. Even if you’re not on your computer working, continually monitoring work communications means that you’re not able to disconnect from your job and fully focus on other aspects of your life.  So, cut the cord. Tell your staff, manager, or colleagues that the best way to reach you when you’re not in the office is by phone. And while this may seem scary at first, it’s really not. Think back to times that you’ve tried to reach someone by email or text message. If they didn’t get back to you right away and it was urgent, you called them. If not, you waited until the next business day. To help break the habit, set a fifteen minute block in the evening or early in the morning where you shift your focus to checking emails and other office communications, if you absolutely have to. After a few weeks, you’ll probably discover that it’s not needed.

Treat weekends like vacations.

Weekends are your time to rest, recover, and recuperate. Don’t waste them. Set a drop dead time for yourself (e.g. 5pm on Friday) when you will officially stop working on office related work. Then, go enjoy your weekend. Resist the urge to get back online on Sunday nights – this is a habit made popular by those that want to “get ahead” of the week. It’s not needed, necessary, or even practical most of the time. Enjoy your Sunday evening and return to work on Monday morning refreshed and ready to go. The major plus of not working on Sunday night: on Monday morning, your email will have the full picture from all the responses and information that got disseminated by those who couldn’t stay offline the previous evening, so you’ll be fully caught up.

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Always make yourself whole.

Many people think that giving up personal time in the evenings or weekends is what’s expected from their jobs – and that may be true sometimes. But it’s not expected that you never take that time back and make yourself whole again. If you have a rough couple of weeks while a major project is in full swing, plan a day or two off as comp days after the project launches. Use that time to treat yourself, catch up on personal responsibilities, or just rest and recover. Organizations will take what you give them, so don’t give them everything. And if they take more than their fair share for a little while, take it back for yourself when it makes sense.

Use mobility for productivity and flexibility… not to stay “always connected.”

Technology has changed the way we work and it’s up to use to use it in a way that’s most effective. This means rethinking the purpose of mobility. Being able to work from anywhere makes sense when you are traveling, or need to escape to a quieter, less distracting environment to work on a presentation or whitepaper, or when you need to finish up something you couldn’t complete since you had to leave the office early to pick up your child from school. Using mobile technology in a way that enhances your life is important; don’t use it as a way to extend your work day unnecessarily, or to stay connected when you really should be focusing on something else.

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These five things are easy to implement and don’t require any major job or life changes. And bringing them into your life may have an unexpected effect: you may be more engaged and perform better at work! Staying balanced and making sure you take time for yourself each day will enusre that the time you spend at work is the more productive and fulfilling.

Featured photo credit: Working / Adrian Scottow via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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