The Science of Why It’s OK to Fail at Your New Year’s Resolution

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New Year’s resolutions may be losing popularity. Only about a third of Americans made New Year’s resolutions for 2014, down 10% from just two years ago, according to a CBS News poll.

Maybe people have wised up to the fact that most resolutions don’t succeed or think there’s a better way to embark on habit changes and goals than this annual tradition.

That doesn’t mean New Year’s resolutions are completely useless. Let’s take a step back and look at the science of why New Year’s resolutions still make sense, how to make them stick, and why it’s okay if you fail.

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7 Essential Online Business Tools that Power You Forward

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As a distributed team, we find online business tools indispensable because we rely on them so heavily to collaborate and create our collective office space in the cloud. We know the beating heart of running a successful business is successful communication internally as a team and externally with our customers — and without helpful tools, we can’t connect.

We’ve rounded up our seven favorite business tools that keep us moving forward. What these seven business tools have in common is that they’re easy to use and responsive to our needs. And when business tools can evolve as we evolve while retaining their simplicity and effectiveness, they have great staying power.

Here’s the quick list:

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The Work Will Always Be There

When we think about our work and what we have to do, it’s almost always about pushing. Push yourself, push harder, push through the pain. But pushing won’t get you through every door.

When you take a look at the routines and rituals of super-productive people, they often turn out not to be about pushing at all, but pulling and drawing energy back into yourself. These recharging routines are about creating “me-time” — not in some selfish, diva way, but in an effort to care for and re-center yourself, to protect at least some of your time from being dictated by others.

Me-time routines are renewable fuel, a sustainable antidote to burnout and life as a work vampire.

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3 Hidden Keys to Successful Communication as a Remote Team

This story is inspired by this week’s Startup Edition question:
How do you effectively work with remote teams?

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The biggest challenge of working in remote teams isn’t dealing with the physical distribution of your teammates but reducing the psychological distance between everyone. Bridging that distance is probably a test for all types of teams but requires more work as a remote team.

“One thing that excites me about building a company is the human experience of making something out of nothing together,” our co-founder and CEO Walter recently wrote in a company email. As a distributed company, we have to sweat to achieve that communal sense of creation, but in doing so, we’ve had to consider and resolve aspects of our work culture with deliberation.

Culture takes shape from a sense of coherence, built through shared experiences, expectations, and values — and one key to cohering is learning how to communicate effectively with each other. I wanted to dig deeper into what we’ve learned about remote team communication that deals with building those shared relationships, expectations, and values and that help shape the cultural foundation of how we get stuff done.

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Rethinking Productivity as Choreography

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Despite the profusion — or distraction — of helpful productivity advice, sometimes I feel like I’m trying to squeeze my working style into systems that just won’t fit. That’s why I appreciate ways of thinking about productivity that encourage you to align how you work with your natural inclinations and work rhythms.

When you’re stressing about how you’re not getting enough done, it’s easy to stop listening to yourself and to ignore those rhythms. Psychiatrist Dr. T. Byram Karasu points out the cost of such heedlessness:

Like all of nature, human beings are biologically programmed. Our psyche’s interference with the physical rhythms and cycles is detrimental to our bodies, only to be negatively resonated, in return. This vicious circle is a distinctly human phenomenon. No other living creature steps out of pace with nature and survives. Chronobiology (the biology of time) asserts that our bodies have an internal rhythm or music, which we not only can but should tune in to.

Being productive isn’t about a continuous, speedy march from waking to sleeping, though it can certainly feel that way. What if instead, the ideal was not just about crushing your to-do lists but attunement, aiming not for time and task management but for tempo management?

Can you choreograph your day and set your movements to your internal rhythm and music?

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How Buffer Came Out on Top After Getting Hacked

“Aw crap,” I muttered as I looked at my inbox a few weekends ago and saw an email from Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne with the subject line “Buffer has been hacked — here is what’s going on”.

We rely on Buffer to handle all the iDoneThis social media accounts, so I braced myself for all sorts of toil and trouble as I clicked on the email. It began:

I wanted to get in touch to apologize for the awful experience we’ve caused many of you on your weekend. Buffer was hacked around 1 hour ago, and many of you may have experienced spam posts sent from you via Buffer. I can only understand how angry and disappointed you must be right now….

Fortunately we hadn’t been affected, but I continued to follow updates as they unfolded. Throughout, Buffer was transparent, responsive, and reassuring. They disclosed, accepted responsibility and apologized for the security breach. They communicated not just what they knew but gave us a heads up about their next steps and guidance on what we could do to protect our accounts in the meantime. They also continued posting updates and answering everyone’s questions while resolving the problem.

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The Risky Mentality that Made Jeff Bezos So Successful

Success often feels like a chase, especially in the startup world. You scrabble to gain ground, obsessing over features and metrics and competitors, and though you think you’re moving fast and hard, sometimes it feels like you’re running up a down escalator.

For Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, success isn’t a pursuit or a race to the top. It’s an adventure. You don’t just buy The Washington Post when you think you’re in a race. Rather, his key to success is maintaining a mindset of exploration rather than conquest. Bezos told Charlie Rose in 2012:

Jeff Bezos explorer mentality

Some companies have more of a conqueror mentality. If you look at their annual strategic plan, it starts with their three top enemies, who they’re going to crush this year…. We have an explorer mentality, so we like to go pioneering. We like to find dark alleyways and wander down them and see if they open up into broad avenues, and sometimes they do. That pioneering, explorer mentality is really what drives us. That’s the core of the culture.

For all the lip service paid to innovation and disruption, the conventional quest for business success can translate into fighting shy of risk and looking to just do better than your neighbor more often. The explorer mentality changes your lodestar. You’re not looking to catch up to others, but looking to forge new paths, and that frame of mind makes a huge difference.

Wandering in and out of unfamiliar areas can be perilous but two complementary aspects of Amazon’s culture make the explorer mentality click — and that’s a long-range orientation and an obsession with customers.

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3 Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned on the Path from Intern to CEO

Khalil Fuller is the CEO of Learn Fresh, which makes NBA Math Hoops, a basketball board game and mobile app that uses math problems and real-world NBA and WNBA statistics to improve students’ math literacy and engagement. He’s also a college senior, studying education and social entrepreneurship at Brown University.

Khalil Fuller of NBA Math Hoops Growing up L.A., Khalil saw his friends become increasingly disengaged from school, especially math class. “I started tutoring kids and realized there was nothing fun to make math really relevant to them, so they didn’t make the connection between math class and the rest of the world. And they didn’t want to do their homework — they wanted to go outside and play basketball.”

At Brown, Khalil met Bill Daugherty, an entrepreneur and former NBA executive who’d teamed up with Tim Scheidt, veteran math educator and inventor of a prototype math board game. “For the earliest versions, it wasn’t Kobe and LeBron,” Khalil recounts, “it was Johnny SlamDunk and Andrew ThreePointer. Bill and I said, ‘if this is somewhat fun and the kids like it, it could be much more powerful if it had real NBA players.’”

When it was clear that the kids did like it through some early testing and incubation with Big Picture Learning, they brought the game to the NBA to see about those real-life players. “The NBA really liked the fact that we had a purely social mission,” Khalil reports. “They actually gave us a royalty-free license for the first time in their history.”

NBA Math Hoops board game

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5 Reasons You Don’t Do What Really Makes You Happy

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When we interviewed Dr. Stephen Schueller to learn about the basics of positive psychology, he also offered insights into how we sometimes stand in the way of our happiness due to misconceptions, biases, and a lack of mindfulness.

Dr. Schueller is a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and member of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies. (This is the second part of our interview, presented in edited highlights. Read the first part here).

1.  We’re too dismissive of relationships and positive emotions.

Dr. Schueller:

Positive psychology has a lot within it which is the advice our grandmother would give us:  How do we live a good life? You express gratitude, you maintain optimism, you practice kindness, you focus on relationships.

We often don’t think grandmother knows best and do our own thing, and that gets us into trouble. We often pursue things like money, bigger houses, cars — material possessions — when experiences are actually much more stronger determinants of our happiness.

 

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4 Nourishing Routines for Your Success and Happiness

Whether it’s a nice cup of tea or coffee or reviewing your diary, regular routines and rituals help forge the discipline, energy, and mental space to consistently make progress.

We reached out to some productivity superstars to ask:

What is one routine or ritual that contributes to your happiness and success?

Everyone’s response focused on nourishment, nurturing health, relationships, and mind.

Routines and rituals are inherently very personal — what works for you won’t necessarily work for somebody else — but the main takeaway here is that they’re also about prioritizing aspects of your life to create balance.

Here are four of those balancing routines:

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