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12 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees

12 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees

If you manage a team, you know hard it can be to keep everyone engaged, happy, and productive.

Some days, simply getting your employees to show up and get the job done feels challenging enough. But as a manager, you have a unique opportunity to help your team members learn and practice life skills that will help them become happier, healthier, and more productive, both at work and at home. They’ll love you for pushing them in new directions, and you’ll love seeing the increased collaboration and energy in the workplace.

One way to engage your team is to issue a new challenge each week that’s fun and simple to do — and if adopted as a habit, can become a powerful new life skill.

Here are 3 months’ worth of weekly challenge ideas. Announce a new challenge every Monday and check in with everyone during the week. A weekly team meeting is a great time to ask each team member to report on their progress, experience, and learnings.

These challenges were borrowed from the free e-book: 26 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees.

Week 1: Tiny Steps

Procrastination is a huge time waster, but overcoming the inertia can be as easy as taking one tiny step. After that the Zeigarnik effect kicks in — the voice in your head that prompts you to finish what you start. For this challenge, organize your team into pairs. Ask each person to choose one task they’ve been avoiding at home or work and break that task into 5 tiny steps. Starting Monday, each person’s goal is to complete one of the 5 steps each day and report back to their accountability partner by an agreed-upon time. For some people, finishing one step may generate the momentum to complete all 5 steps on the first day, and that’s great!

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    Week 2: Mindful Meetings

    When everyone is present and tuned into the discussion, meetings are more fun, productive, and efficient. For this week, challenge your team to commit to being mindful during meetings. This means taking a couple of deep breaths before the meeting, setting an intention for what they will each contribute and take away from the meeting, and staying engaged for the duration of the meeting by taking notes, listening actively, and speaking up thoughtfully.

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      Week 3: Authentic Smiling

      A genuine smile conveys warmth, trustworthiness, and interest. It’s the number-one way to boost likeability. To smile authentically, you have to engage the muscles around your eyes, not just those around your mouth. Practicing this in the mirror first may seem silly, but it does help! Challenge your team this week to smile at everyone they pass in the building or, for extra credit, everyone they come in contact with inside and outside of work.

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        Week 4: Hunger Awareness

        Overeating during the workday can leave you feeling sluggish and unproductive. Tuning into your hunger will help you slow down, enjoy your food, and feel satisfied with less, so you finish your meal feeling light and energetic. This week, challenge your team to stop and note their physical hunger level on a scale of 1 (famished) to 10 (stuffed) before, during, and after eating each meal. By the end of the week, their goal should be to start eating when their hunger level is at a 3 and stop when it’s at a 7.

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          Week 5: Walking Breaks

          Walking breaks ease mental tension, free your mind for creative thinking, and help to counteract the physical stress caused by long bouts of sitting. The challenge this week is to integrate 10-minute walking breaks into the work day. Have your team schedule their walking breaks into the calendar the day before to ensure they don’t forget them. You can set a good example by converting any 1:1 meetings you have this week to walking meetings, whether you walk outside or just around the building.

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            Week 6: Tech-Free Hour

            Disconnecting from technology, even just for an hour a day, can help you reconnect with the people in your life and experience the world more fully. Challenge your team this week to pick one hour every day when they would normally be connected and completely unplug — no phone, tablet, or Internet access of any kind! It could be during the work day, first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Encourage them to use the tech-free time to do something no-tech like writing with pen and paper, reading a book, sketching, or having a face-to-face conversation.

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              Week 7: Must-Do List

              Taking a few minutes at the end of each day to set your top priorities for the next day is a powerful time management and productivity technique. This week, challenge your team to set aside time at the end of every day to write down the 3 most important tasks they will tackle the next day. For extra credit, ask each person to post their 3 tasks in a shared document. This will add both transparency and accountability, and you might be surprised by the discussion and collaboration it creates.

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                Week 8: Small Talk

                Small talk at the office may seem like a waste of time, but it’s actually one of the most effective ways to build rapport with other people, and that leads to open communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving. This week, challenge your team to practice making authentic small talk with someone they barely know, whether it’s a customer, client, coworker, or even their barista. To establish genuine rapport, you need to go beyond “Crazy weather we’re having!” and generate conversation by offering up an opinion or story: “What did you do over the weekend? Even though it was crazy cold, my kids wanted to go out for ice cream, so we did!

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                  Week 9: Posture Check

                  Chronic sitting triggers back pain and neck tension, contributes to stress, and saps energy and productivity. While a daily stretching regimen can help counteract all that, what affects your posture most is how you hold your body throughout the day. This week, challenge your team to set a reminder on their phones or computers for an hourly posture check. At each reminder, they should adjust their seated position, stand up straight and stretch for 5 minutes, or scooch forward to sit upright on the edge of their chair.

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                    Week 10: Mindfulness Meditation

                    The idea of stopping to meditate for even 2 minutes during a hectic workday may be hard to contemplate, but the benefits make the sacrifice worthwhile. You’ll notice reduced stress, improved creativity, and enhanced focus. This week challenge every person on your team to stop and take 2 minutes during the workday to meditate (this guided track will help). For extra credit and to help reinforce the benefits, encourage them to take note of how they’re feeling before and after each session.

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                      Week 11: Eye Contact

                      Eye contact is one of the best ways to establish trust and rapport with other people, but many of us struggle to make and sustain eye contact, especially with people we don’t know well. The challenge this week is for your team to practice making eye contact with everyone they pass in the building or with friendly strangers. They should try to hold the contact for a few seconds before looking away, and for extra credit, add an authentic smile.

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                        Week 12: Pomodoro Technique

                        Do you often look back after a day at work and struggle to identify what you actually accomplished? We have so many temptations and distractions vying for our attention that it’s hard to get anything done. The Pomodoro Technique helps solve that problem: You carve up the work day into 25 minute chunks separated by 5 minutes of indulgence in social media, online shopping, or socializing. Challenge your team this week to work in “pomodoros,” using a phone, an app like Freedom, or a kitchen timer to signal the start and end of each break.

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                          These challenges were borrowed from the free e-book: 26 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees.

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                          Sharen Ross

                          Marketing Strategy Consultant

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                          Last Updated on September 28, 2020

                          How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

                          How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

                          There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

                          With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

                          With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

                          1. Determine Your “Why”

                          Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

                          The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

                          Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

                          “Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

                          That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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                          I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

                          Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

                          Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

                          2. Write Down Your Goal

                          If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

                          This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

                          When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

                          3. Set a SMART Goal

                          A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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                          Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

                             

                            By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

                            • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
                            • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
                            • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
                            • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
                            • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

                            Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

                            4. Take One Step at a Time

                            Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

                            Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

                            For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

                            This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

                            5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

                            With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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                            For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

                            The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

                            Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

                            6. Schedule Your Tasks

                            Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

                            What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

                            For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

                            Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

                            While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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                            7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

                            Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

                            Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

                            You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

                            8. Check off Items as You Go

                            You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

                            There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

                            If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

                            9. Review and Reset as Necessary

                            Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

                            If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

                            The Bottom Line

                            When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

                            More on Goal Action Plans

                            Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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