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5 Quick Tips to Avoid a Sales Slump During the Holidays
Collaboration 7 min read

5 Quick Tips to Avoid a Sales Slump During the Holidays

Some businesses almost make an audible sound of relief as they ring in the New Year. Truth be told, not all businesses fare well during holiday shopping madness. For retailers, year-end is often the busiest time of year for sales. For service providers, however, a slow season from Thanksgiving to New Years is almost expected… But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five tips you can implement right away to avoid the dreaded holiday sales slump. As luck would have it, these tips can also be implemented any other time you’re experiencing a major sales nosedive. 1. Use Seasonal Content Marketing to Your Benefit People crave content, especially related to things going on in the here and now, like holidays and current events. Christmas and New Years (or any other holiday or major event) can provide major opportunities to cash in on content people are already searching for. A recent study from Outbrain indicates that people not only spend more money during the holidays, but also consume more digital content. So much content, in fact, that the demand is greater than the supply. Think about two basic things: what your customers need and what they’re already searching for online. For example, a couple good content ideas for the new year if you’re a business service provider might be: “5 Business Resolutions for the New Year That Will Transform Your Business” or “5 Quick Ways to Avoid a Sales Slump During the Holidays”. (See what I did there!?) 2. Master Your Upsell Upselling and cross-promoting are good sales practices any time of the year, but they can be especially useful for bringing in cold hard cash when you’re going through a slump. It’s much easier to sell an existing customer an additional product than it is to drum up an entirely new customer. If you’re new at upselling, it’s best to keep your upsale options limited. More is not always better, and can confuse the customer. Offering one or two upgrades or add-ons is more effective than offering a bevy of options. Business experts also suggest bundling your products or services to make the upsell. The likelihood that a customer will purchase multiple services increases if they can do it in one purchase, as opposed to multiple purchases. For example, if you can offer a package that includes social media, email marketing, and SEO, you’re more likely to make the sale than if you try to sell them separately. 3. Ramp Up Your Referral Discounts The holiday season is an opportunity for demonstrating your gratitude to your clients, customers, and business contacts. When you’re experiencing a sales slump, it’s a good time to make a list of your valued clientele and business providers. In addition to sending your valued clients a tasteful holiday greeting, you can also ramp up your referral discounts to drum up a bit of extra business. If your business contacts feel appreciated, they’re a lot more likely to send people your way. Freeman Lewin, CEO of corporate gift company Gimmee Jimmy’s Cookies, talked about the effectiveness of referral discounts by saying, “The one thing that makes successful companies stand out from the rest is how they treat their customers and peers. Never underestimate the power of referral discounts and appreciation.”  4. The Power of PR & Self-Promotion The one good thing about going through a sales slump is that it gives you extra time to focus on your PR and branding. Too often business spend every waking hour pleasing their customers (which is a good business practice, no doubt), but much to the detriment of their own marketing. There’s no time like a sales slump to revamp your marketing and PR campaigns. Never be afraid to toot your own horn. If you have positive customer testimonials, share them. If you’ve recently won an award or been featured in a business magazine, flaunt it. Perception is reality and how customers perceive your brand can make or break a buying decision. Shameless self-promotion doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. 5. Refine Your Sales Process When was the last time you really performed an audit on your sales process? Is the way you’re drumming up business really that effective? Take the time you’re in a sales slump to measure the return on investment for your key sales activities and make changes where necessary. You just might find that you can eliminate those cold calls after all, and get higher conversion rates with warm marketing. Refining your sales process to include only the activities that generate a high return can not only get you out of the holiday slump, but also increase your profit the rest of the year. Bonus Tip: Followup, Followup, Followup Followup should be a standard sales practice all year round, but it’s one that most people miss. There’s no time like the end of the year to reach out to contacts you’ve talked to throughout the year and find out if the timing is right for collaboration. Leading with something of value, such as a related case study or trending news story, is always the best followup option, rather than just calling and asking for business. Think Outside the Box While your business is idling, chances are there are others looking around for opportunities to expand. The holiday season is the best time to reach out to new and existing contacts and see what opportunities you can bring to each other. Be flexible. There’s no time like the present to explore new avenues for sales and examine new ideas. Think outside the box.           About the Author: Blair Nicole is a PR & Media Relations guru by profession and a writer by choice. She’s a contributor at Elite Daily, Social Media Today, Examiner, and Inquisitr, among others. She’s a full time traveling nomad and sits on the Board of Directors for 3 non-profits. Her motto is ‘kick ass, don’t kiss it.’ www.Blair-Nicole.com

New Year's Resolutions are Worthless Without These 4 Things
Productivity 5 min read

New Year's Resolutions are Worthless Without These 4 Things

Most of us make work-related New Year's resolutions knowing we'll probably fail within the first four weeks. But we do it anyway. Because the beginning of a year is always an optimistic time, and working toward a promotion, or a salary raise, or inbox zero, or improving communication is a noble aim. But the numbers are against you. According to a survey of over 3,000 people conducted by British psychologist Richard Wiseman, 88% of all resolutions end in failure. So those New Year's resolutions you posted on Facebook and bragged about at the office holiday party? They're likely to fail — unless, by sheer force of will, you're able to do the following: 1. Cure yourself from your need for (or addiction to) instant gratification Kelly McGonigal, Stanford University health psychologist and author of The Willpower Instinct, posits that people who are having a tough time sticking to their resolutions aren't experiencing difficulty because their goals are flawed. Merely that it takes a lot of willpower to stick to long-term goals. This is particularly tough when we (and our entire culture) value the gratification of short-term desires. It's always a struggle between giving in to the "future self" versus the "immediate self." TIP: Keep your "future self" in mind. Remember the kids put to the marshmallow test? If you can decide against instant gratification and tolerate temporary discomfort, you will be more fully able to stick to resolutions that have long-term benefits.   2. Remove yourself from situations of temptation And speaking of the marshmallow test...  original researcher Walter Mischel figured out that the children who were successfully able to delay gratification weren't wired any differently from the unsuccessful kids. They simply adopted a better strategy, something Mischel dubbed the “strategic allocation of attention.” The kids stayed under the table, or covered their eyes, or tied and retied shoelaces — any activity to get their minds off the marshmallow or to obscure it from their view. TIP: To resist the temptation of your own personal "marshmallow," you have to remove yourself from its presence, or from situations which trigger you wanting it.  3. Stick with it for at least 66 days Roy Baumeister's book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength suggests concentrating on only one goal at a time. Baumeister explains that willpower is like a muscle that we can exhaust, so you have to concentrate on one goal at a time for success. But alongside this, every resolution boils down to reprogramming your mind to adopt a new habit. And researchers say that new habits require an average of 66 days (or a little over two months) to fully form. In fact if the behavior is particularly complex, it may take up to eight months! TIP: Don't throw in the towel after just a week. Give your new habit an actual chance to make a change in your life. Learn more from our Slideshare about productive habits: 4. Limit the amount of stuff you're memorizing In an experiment led by Baba Shiv at Stanford University, two groups were tasked with memorizing a number. One group was given two digits, and a second group was given seven digits. Then they had to decide between eating a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad. The students who had to memorize the seven-digit number were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. It's a concept called cognitive load —  the idea that the total amount of mental effort (the need to memorize extra numbers, for example) saps our ability to do other things, such as resist high calorie desserts or stick to resolutions. TIP: Instead of keeping stuff in your brain, unload your ideas and to-do items into a trusted organizational system that you can refer to anytime you need. It's a fundamental principle of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity method. What makes your New Year's resolutions worthwhile? What advice do you have for sticking to your resolutions? Hit the comments and help us out by letting us know what keeps you in line after the new year!

Wrike's Favorite Christmas Songs (A YouTube Playlist)
Productivity 5 min read

Wrike's Favorite Christmas Songs (A YouTube Playlist)

We thought it would be great fun to assemble a Christmas video playlist of a few of our favorite songs for the Holiday Season. So here are our top 14 Christmas tracks.

4 Tips to Improve Your Time Management this Holiday Season
Productivity 5 min read

4 Tips to Improve Your Time Management this Holiday Season

The holidays are stressful. Here are four ways you can step up your productivity and organization in time for the season... and the year to come.

Santa's Secrets to Christmas Productivity
Productivity 3 min read

Santa's Secrets to Christmas Productivity

It's been a question for centuries: How does Santa Claus get all the gifts ready and fly around the world to deliver every present on Christmas Eve? While you're sitting around roasting chestnuts on an open fire, Santa and his friendly helpers are busy counting down the days left until Christmas. We have the inside scoop on how he gets it all done in time — straight from ol' Saint Nick himself! A few decades ago, Santa was struggling with accountability and lost information. He had no way to assign work to his elves, and The List was missing some important notes. He almost ALWAYS had to check it twice. Ever since Santa switched to Wrike to manage Christmas, his crew has been able to dole out assignments, manage work leading up to their biggest milestone (Christmas Eve), and accurately track the lists of naughty and nice children. Here are his top 3 Wrike secrets to getting everything done before Christmas: 1. Build a Timeline to Help With Pre-Christmas Planning At the beginning of each year, Santa and his helpers map out their plans for the next 12 months on a Gantt chart. They schedule when The List needs to be finalized, as well as when gifts need to be completed leading up to their big delivery date on Christmas Eve. Santa turns to this feature when he needs a high-level view of the toy-making tasks to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks. Since Christmas Eve is set as a milestone, Santa can move around the order in which work is being done without accidentally pushing production past the Big Day. 2. Create a Folder and Identify Who's Been Naughty or Nice Santa creates The List right in Wrike. He creates a Wrike folder titled "The List" and each individual on The List is has their own task. The Christmas wishes of individuals are included in their task description. Santa also leaves comments on each task to record good behavior he's noticed throughout the year. When people on The List volunteer, help someone need, or maybe make peace with the in-laws, he'll write down their good deeds for future reference. His uses his Custom Statuses "Naughty" and "Nice" to mark The List accordingly — so be good for goodness sake! 3. Assign Workers to Build the Gifts Once The List is finished and Christmas is nigh, Santa begins assigning his helpers to their tasks. He creates a folder called "The Gifts" and makes tasks for presents requested on The List by people marked as "Nice". Each task is tagged with the name of the individual requesting it, and assigned to the elf that will build it for them. So there you have it! Santa's secrets are out and that time of the year is upon us. We hope these tips made you chuckle and delight, and help make your holidays a little more merry and bright. We only gave away a few of Santa's tricks in this post. What other Wrike features do you think he uses to manage Christmas? Share your creative ideas in the comments!

Ho-Ho-How Santa's Workshop Manages Christmas
Project Management 5 min read

Ho-Ho-How Santa's Workshop Manages Christmas

Santa Claus: one of the most well-known, eagerly anticipated, and incredibly successful entrepreneurs in history. Each year he oversees the production and distribution of toys to every single child on his Nice List — and with over 1.9 billion children on Earth, that's a lot of toys! He hasn't missed a year yet, but that's not to say it's all sunshine and snow angels. I met Mr. Claus for a cup of hot cocoa and he shared a few tips about how he runs the most successful toy workshop out of the North Pole. Not surprisingly, the big man has taken some project management training courses.  From the jolly good fellow himself, here's how Santa's workshop manages to pull off Christmas: Plan and evaluate every day leading up to the Big Give. We always start our new year of toy production by outlining the requirements and scope for pulling off a successful Christmas. That means outlining all 365 days leading up to the finale, not just the 12 days that everyone sings about. It's a long process, but it sets the workshop up for another successful year. Our planning meetings are supplemented by many glasses of milk and platters of cookies to get all the elves excited. We review "The List" from years past to see how many gifts we gave, and predict how many children will make the Nice list this year.  We do some market research to guess what toys will be high in demand this year. Yes, even Santa goes online! We set up benchmarks to hit throughout the year. How many dolls will we make by February, March, April, etc.? We also calculate the projected workload compared to how many elves we have employed this year, and then see if we need to hire additional help to meet our goals. Santa's Crumb of Wisdom: Take time to plan out every step of your project, and make sure you have the resources necessary to fulfill your goals. Consider every voice, big or small. I get letters from children all over the world 365 days a year. Billy wants a puppy; Jane wants a Princess Elsa doll. Since they take the time to send me their wishes, I read what they have to say and take their letters into consideration. If we're already making Princess Elsa dolls, I will certainly give one to Jane — why not please her when it's easily within my power? Billy is difficult though, since we typically let parents give out the new pets. Sometimes I have to upset a few children by deciding to say no, but I always make sure to listen first before rejecting their ideas.  Santa's Crumb of Wisdom: Hear and actually consider what everyone — especially every customer — has to say, and THEN make your decision. Prepare for changes to The List. The real challenge at my workshop is managing fluctuations of "The List." Wishy-washy children have a tendency to change what they want ("I don't like Princess Elsa anymore, I want Olaf!"), or jump back and forth between Naughty and Nice, and the number of toys we need to produce changes accordingly. Every year we further refine our Nice-to-Naughty List algorithm, but it is still impossible to control these outside influencers! Our solution has been to insert some padding into our toy production timeline so that we don't miss our benchmarks even when the children are unpredictable. Santa's Crumb of Wisdom: Analyze your project risks and plan how you will deal with them ahead of time. Clearly communicate processes — from who's in charge to how to wrap a gift. My Head Elf manages the whole project, from start until Christmas Day. She's responsible for closely tracking our project progress. Accordingly, she dictates what's on the production lines each day. If we need more bricks or dolls, the elves in those departments hear it from her, no one else.  Personally, I check in with her weekly to get a progress update, and I let her know if there are any changes to The List via our project management tool so she can properly adjust the toy production plan. Santa's Crumb of Wisdom: Set up communication guidelines in advance so everyone knows whom to go to with questions or problems. Schedule snow days. I think it's important to reward my elves with well-deserved breaks. It builds loyalty to the workshop so that they'll come back again next year. Cookie breaks: We frequently take cookie breaks together for a mid-day sugar rush of productive energy and some bonding time — which is important when you spend so much time together. Celebrating achievements: When we hit our half-way benchmark last year, the elves celebrated with a huge snowball fight that lasted over 4 hours! I did not win — those elves are nimble! Holiday breaks: After we've finished our delivery, December 26th until January 1st is always a company-wide holiday as a thanks for 360 days of hard work. Every elf is encouraged to relax, spend time with their families, and go reindeer-back riding. Santa's Crumb of Wisdom: If you want to keep your team happy, make sure they know you appreciate them! Actions speak louder than words; group outings make for fun bonding time. Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! Don't want to rely on Santa to bring everyone gifts this year? Read this next: 34 Holiday Buys for Productivity Junkies (Gift Guide)

7 Ways to Bring the Holiday Spirit to Your Office
Productivity 3 min read

7 Ways to Bring the Holiday Spirit to Your Office

With the holidays quickly approaching, it's becoming more and more difficult to stay focused in the office. Instead of avoiding the holiday distraction and enforcing maximum productivity across your team, it's important to come to terms with the fact that the holidays are a busy time, and the month of December will probably not be the most productive month. *gasp*

How to Plan a Virtual Christmas Party for Remote Employees
Remote Working 10 min read

How to Plan a Virtual Christmas Party for Remote Employees

As 2021 draws to a close, many employees are still working remotely across the world. With this in mind, businesses are looking at how they can involve everyone within their organizations in a fun and memorable virtual Christmas party. In this guide, we’ll provide practical insight into the planning and hosting of virtual Christmas parties. Keep reading to discover the tips, tricks, and tools you need to create a successful digital event your team will actually enjoy.  How to get everyone involved in a virtual Christmas party Engaging an audience of remote workers seems challenging at first. They’re already used to virtual events but not necessarily the fun kind. In order to make your virtual Christmas party exciting, you’ll need to follow some best practices for planning virtual events. The three hallmarks of improving engagement at any virtual event are the inclusion of a physical component, an interactive process, and being able to see other attendees.  A physical component of a virtual event can include something sent to an attendee’s address ahead of time that they can use on the day. For a virtual Christmas party, this may be a funny themed hat or a present.  Most companies choose to do virtual gift cards as their Christmas party presents for employees. Instead, make the day more exciting by sending a physical gift to every attendee. Creating a gift box or basket that people can actually open will make your virtual Christmas party that much more memorable.  An interactive process requires audience participation before, during, and after the event. For example, you can spark engagement from the moment you first invite guests by using a virtual registration process that gets them excited about the event.  For large groups or events, registration should be done at least two weeks in advance. And just like at an in-person event, your virtual Christmas party team leads should interact with the confirmed attendees ahead of time through fun event reminders and announcements.  Pro tip: Having a virtual event registration process helps differentiate your virtual Christmas party from other digital office gatherings. It shows that this is more than just a calendar invite for a training session or regular meeting. E-cards such as the festive holiday cocktail party ones from Paperless Post are great for this.  Finally, host your virtual Christmas party on a video call platform and not just on a one-way livestream or audio-only app. Require cameras to be on throughout the event. Create opportunities for guests to use every feature of the event platform.  For example, you can play part games and designate teams by having Team A use the raised hand emoji and Team B use the heart emoji on Zoom. You can also use breakout rooms to create smaller groups for team building activities and Christmas-themed challenges.  Top tips for planning a virtual Christmas party Planning a virtual Christmas party can feel and look a lot like planning a virtual work meeting. Here are some ways to make these two events different yet well organized:  Designate a charismatic host who can keep track of the event timeline and keep everyone engaged.  Use a team collaboration software like Wrike to project manage your virtual Christmas party.  Ask your team what they’d like to see happen at the virtual Christmas party so they can feel involved in the planning process too.  Include team building activities and icebreaker games to kick off the social part of the evening.  Double-check that your host WiFi is strong and guests can hear and see you clearly.  Your party should be scheduled for a Friday night instead of a Saturday afternoon if you want to maximize attendance. If you decide to go all out, make sure to provide alcohol-free transportation or driver services. If you organize a virtual Christmas party during work hours, make certain that your team is prepared to handle the additional workload. Go all out with your background decorations to make the event feel truly special. This can be a physical background filled with a Christmas tree and gifts or a customized virtual background everyone can use that has a festive design.  Virtual Christmas party ideas and games your team won't hate Host a sommelier-led wine or hot cocoa tasting complete with nuts, candies, and cheese.  Participate in a remote escape room experience. The winning team gets a Secret Santa gift.  Have a Christmas cookie decorating competition with management as the judges. This requires some prep ahead of time but will be a visual feast for all attendees.  Dress to a theme and host a contest for the best ugly sweaters, Santas, and other Christmas character outfits.  Bring in classic board games such as bingo, charades, and virtual Apples to Apples. Look for versions with a holiday or Christmas twist.  Invite guest performers to do stand-up comedy, play live music, or even do magic while dressed as Santa.  If children are in attendance, screen a Christmas movie like “A Muppet Christmas Carol”. If it’s adults only, watch something like “Die Hard”.  Host a creative workshop such as cocktail making, scarf knitting, or ornament crafting.  Invite a local school, church, or community group to sing Christmas carols during the event.  Start a Christmas-themed trivia game for prizes.  How do you make a virtual Christmas party inclusive? Although there are various holiday celebrations and festivities that happen throughout the year, they seldom get the same attention that they deserve. An inclusive approach encourages employees to recognize that they come from a variety of faiths, traditions, and cultures. To make your virtual Christmas party more inclusive, leaders should make their employees feel valued by turning it into a virtual office holiday party instead.  Or, if hosting a true Christmas celebration is important to the majority of your team, make sure you’re upfront about it.  Sometimes an employer will announce a regular holiday event that ends up feeling, looking, and sounding a lot like a Christmas party. But according to the experts at the Society for Human Resource Management, it’s much better to be upfront about which holiday or holidays will be represented at your party than mislabeling it for the sake of inclusion.  If you do host a virtual Christmas party, make sure to also acknowledge and give the appropriate time off for other winter holiday celebrations for employees who celebrate those instead.  How to plan a virtual Christmas party with Wrike Wrike is an online task management system that manages to-do lists and multi-department projects, including events like virtual Christmas parties. Its advanced features allow it to efficiently organize groups of people.  To start, it's important that the virtual Christmas party planning team has a centralized folder for each major portion of the event running at the same time. This way, they can easily identify which parts of the plan are complete and which ones are still in progress. Next, each team has its own subfolders, which can be organized into areas of responsibility and major initiatives. This system also keeps all of the important details organized, allowing each team to set its own deadlines and work seamlessly with the other event crew. For virtual Christmas parties, this means keeping track of everything from mailing invitations and gifts to arranging live performers.  After, Wrike users can add a registration folder to their virtual Christmas party project. The registration folder contains all the necessary information related to attendee registration. From there, tasks can be broken down into specific sub-tasks with more detail. For example, if your task is to host a cookie baking contest, your sub-task list may include the item “draft contest rules by December 15”.  In addition to adding dates to tasks and sub-tasks, members of the event management team can add custom tags to each item. This will make tasks easier to find, sort, and assign to the appropriate team members.  Each team can customize their tag options in Wrike to fit their own guidelines for breaking down tasks into action items. For example, teams can designate certain tasks as “Administrative” to automatically sort logistics-based tasks into one skimmable list.  Once you've created a list of tasks, you can start scheduling them in Wrike. Doing so in the timeline view will help organize them nicely and ensure that your announcements, invitations, RSVPs, and party shopping all get done on time.  There are lots of ways to view tasks once you have them created and assigned. Drag-and-drop tasks can be organized in a timeline view. You can also group them into predefined hierarchies.  And if one task is dependent on another (such as waiting for RSVPs to come in before putting together the gift baskets), Wrike allows users to connect tasks and send automated notifications and reminders to the appropriate people when it’s time to move on to the next steps.  Having task dependencies makes it easier to identify which tasks are dependent on which part of your virtual Christmas party plan. Also, it saves you time when you need to update the status of a specific task since Wrike will trigger these reminders for you.  And after your virtual Christmas party is over, you can simply just drag and drop the entire folder into a "Past Events" folder for next year.  Create a templated version of your planning process to streamline future event planning and organizing. Or simply keep a record of the fun everyone had and how you brought it to life.  No matter how you use the information, it’s handy to have on file within your project management system for future reference.  Ready to get your virtual Christmas party organized and on track to be a big hit? Get started today with Wrike’s two-week free trial to take advantage of our detailed task management capabilities. 

6 Reasons Home Alone's Kevin McAllister is a Project Management Genius
Project Management 5 min read

6 Reasons Home Alone's Kevin McAllister is a Project Management Genius

It’s the time of the year: everyone’s humming carols, organizing cookie swaps, and re-watching their favorite classic Christmas movies. During a screening of Home Alone here at Wrike HQ, we couldn’t help but notice the young protagonist's stellar project management skills, and started taking notes.

15 Under $15: Business Books to Gift to Your Colleagues This Holiday Season
Leadership 7 min read

15 Under $15: Business Books to Gift to Your Colleagues This Holiday Season

It's that time of year again. When you're so busy scrambling around at  the last minute trying to buy gifts for your family that you completely forget about your colleagues! The biggest challenge in colleague gifting is finding something that is both useful and inexpensive.  Our solution? A business book! A book that inspires leadership, entrepreneurship, passion, and creativity can help propel their career, and possibly benefit your team as a whole. Here's a curated list of 15 great business books under $15 to give as 2015 holiday gifts: 1. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal What turns products into habits? And how do you make those habits long-lasting? Author and entrepreneur Nir Eyal unlocks the secret to building habit-forming products with his four-step process called the Hook Model. We were even lucky enough to interview Eyal about his book and how the Hook Model helps you better understand your customers.   2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini  An oldie but goodie: Dr. Robert B. Cialdini reveals the psychology behind why people say "yes" and how to put the art of persuasion into practice. This book explores the six universal principles of persuasion, and teaches you how to use them as well as how to combat them.  3. Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential by John Neffinger & Matthew Kohut As required reading at both Harvard and Columbia Business School, this book has a lot to offer. Everyone wishes they could be as influential as Oprah Winfrey or Taylor Swift. However, since most of us do not fall under the international celebrity category, what qualities make us influential? Neffinger and Kohut discuss how the balance of strength (root of respect) and warmth (root of affection) is the key to becoming charismatic and influential, and they reveal ways to apply that balance in your daily life. 4. So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport Have you ever heard the phrase "follow your passion?" Well, Newport says stop. He claims that pre-existing passions usually have nothing to do with why people end up loving their jobs and can be a source of anxiety and stress. In this book, Newport explores the welcoming world of people who love their jobs. He shares their strategies and experiences, as well as the obstacles they've faced and lessons they've learned along the way. 5. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant Praised by Amazon, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post as one of the best books of 2013, this book really brings home the spirit of the holidays. Grant shows how the secret to success is not necessarily talent or passion, but how we interact with others. He reveals how giving without receiving anything in return can positively impact success and transform organizations.  6. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's account of psychological contentment, he describes "flow" as being a state of consciousness that makes our experiences easier to manage and more enjoyable. During flow, a person may experience joy, creativity, and feel completely engaged with whatever they're doing. In this book, he explains in-depth about how to reach this state, and even control it, on a regular basis.  7. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries Today, innovation is more important than ever. With more and more technologies readily available at our fingertips, the battle between the young startups and the tech giants continues to grow. Ries uncovers why some startups fail and others don't, and why it's important to have an even balance of efficiency and uncertainty in your startup mix. His scientific approach helps growing teams maximize their strengths, recognize their weaknesses, and embrace agility.  8. Purple Cow by Seth Godin Cow are pretty much everywhere. And once you've seen one cow, you've seen them all. Unless you see a Purple Cow; you'd probably remember where and when you saw it. In this book, Godin talks about the qualities that make companies like Starbucks, Netflix, and Apple into Purple Cows. He urges you to put the Purple Cow into everything you create, dream, and think. 9. Drive by Daniel H. Pink This book argues against the idea that people are motivated by material items such as money. Instead, Pink suggests that people are motivated by improving themselves, expanding their own knowledge and experiences, and directing their own lives. Pink's techniques for changing perspective help people transform how they think, work, behave, and live.  10. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman  Written by world-renowned author and Nobel Prize Winner, Daniel Kahneman, this book takes you on an astounding journey through the way we think and looks at the psychology of what motivates us. One side of the brain is known as fast, impulsive, and intuitive, while the other side is slower, cautious, and logical. He provides insight into our decision-making process and how we can avoid the mistakes that often lead to trouble.  11. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull What's the recipe to magic?  Written by co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Catmull dives into what it's like to work at and be a leader in one of the most successful film and animation studios in the world. Also featured on our top books every manager should read list, this book really takes you behind the scenes and explores how to be a great leader at an exceptional company.  12. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho One of my personal favorites, this one is hard to put down. In this book, you join a young boy named Santiago on his quest to Egypt after having a recurring dream of finding treasure there. The story's theme revolves around finding one's destiny, and Coelho recognizes it as more of a self-help book rather than literature. On Santiago's journey, the author hopes readers find the truth in following their dreams and encouraging others to do the same.  13. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters They say imitation is the finest form of flattery. But if you're the imitator, what does that make you? This book teaches you how to build on a whole new idea of your own making, and transform it from "zero to one."  14. The 4-hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss We all know the newest from of currency is time, not money. This ultimate life productivity guide provides worksheets, templates, and shortcuts for getting more done during the week without sacrificing quality or income. It shares real-life examples of how people have doubled their income while shortening their workweek.  15. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek Another feature on our top books for managers list, this one exposes the sacrifice involved in  being a good leader. Through actual examples and experiences, Sinek proves that individuals only perform well when they feel safe within their group — confirming that the most successful teams value trust and cooperation above all else.  Any favorites that aren't on this list? Add them in the comments!

How to Throw a Killer Office Holiday Party Your Team Will Love
Collaboration 5 min read

How to Throw a Killer Office Holiday Party Your Team Will Love

Holding an office holiday party? You don’t need a huge budget or lavish event to make your team feel special! All you need are a few creative ideas. Here are our tips for throwing a holiday bash your team will rave about all year long.

Can't We All Just Get Along? How to Collaborate with Relatives on Thanksgiving
Collaboration 3 min read

Can't We All Just Get Along? How to Collaborate with Relatives on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is that time when families come together to give thanks for all the good things that happened throughout the year. There's turkey, conversations, overflowing food, and, boy, can there be drama. For many of us, it seems like the minute you need to collaborate with your relatives on a project as major as Thanksgiving dinner, friction appears. So how do you deal with this? How do we all just GET ALONG?     We previously posted about how to project manage Thanksgiving dinner, so check that out first for some solid tips on making sure the dinner is successful and pleases all stakeholders.  What we want to underscore however, is that there are concrete ways to ensure smooth collaboration, even among the prickliest of in-laws. Our tried-and-tested tips:   1. Over Communicate Details and Expectations. Communicate the important dates and times: which days and what times people are arriving, what time you're serving the food on the day itself, etc. Include your expectations for the type of menu you want to serve. But remember, make sure you communicate that this is a suggestion only. Because if you want to avoid friction you need to pay attention to tip #2.  2. Don't Micromanage!  Collaboration is about each person bringing in their ideas and contributing to a whole. This means: allow your collaborators to chime in with their ideas for food, decor, music, whatever else you need. Don't dictate what they bring. Allow it to come from them. Even if it doesn't fit with your idyllic vision (e.g. someone just volunteered to bring chicken curry for a themed Italian dinner), don't shut them down. If they're dead set on bringing it, you'll only create ill will by blocking them. Simply remind them about the suggested theme, but in the end, let them bring what they want. Hold on. Are you frothing at the mouth already because your vision for a perfectly themed dinner won't be fully realized?  Then you need #3. 3. Accept the Chaos Gracefully.  Thanksgiving dinners will always generate a small percentage of havoc. It's part and parcel of the family experience, of people living far apart coming together. People might bring weird desserts. In-laws may make comments about your shabby decor. Or about one another's inferior cooking techniques. Or about Aunt Emma's affair. Smile! Be gracious! And if needed, there's a bottle of Chardonnay in the back of the cabinet that you can use to soothe your nerves.    4.  Look at the Silver Lining. In the end, it all boils down to how you choose to perceive the final product. You have a home full of loving (though maybe sometimes exasperating) people gathered about you, and a feast that would feed several starving nations twice over. Even if it doesn't go according to the plans in your head, you've come up with a product (the dinner, the experience) that still somehow pleases its intended audience (your family, loved ones, in-laws, out-laws). And THAT, my dear friends and blog readers, is what it's all about.  Cheers, and happy Thanksgiving!  IMAGE CREDITS: Kenny Louie on Flickr. Some rights reserved. 

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