The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact

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Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact, the brand-new 99U book, is now on sale.

Whether you’re about to launch a new company or are considering how to retool an existing business, it will offer you fresh thinking, practical advice and the moxie to get out there and make an impact.

Inside you’ll find best practices for launching a purpose-driven business, refining your product, delighting you customers, inspiring your team and —ultimately— making something that matters.

order now Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact

11 ways to avoid burnout

work smarter

“At 99U we’ve long explored the best strategies for coping with, treating, and preventing burnout. Here are 11 of our favorites to help you create your own escape plan:

1_Figure out which kind of burnout you have. The Association for Psychological Science found that burnout comes in three different types, and each one needs a different solution:

A. Overload: The frenetic employee who works toward success until exhaustion, is most closely related to emotional venting. These individuals might try to cope with their stress by complaining about the organizational hierarchy at work, feeling as though it imposes limits on their goals and ambitions. That coping strategy, unsurprisingly, seems to lead to a stress overload and a tendency to throw in the towel.

B. Lack of Development: Most closely associated with an avoidance coping strategy. These under-challenged workers tend to manage stress by distancing themselves from work, a strategy that leads to depersonalization and cynicism — a harbinger for burning out and packing up shop.

C. Neglect: Seems to stem from a coping strategy based on giving up in the face of stress. Even though these individuals want to achieve a certain goal, they lack the motivation to plow through barriers to get to it.

2_Cut down and start saying “no”. Every “yes” you say adds another thing on your plate and takes more energy away from you, and your creativity.

3_Give up on getting motivated. With real burnout mode, you’re too exhausted to stay positive. So don’t.

4_Treat the disease, not the symptoms. For real recovery and prevention to happen, you need to find the real, deeper issue behind why you’re burnt out.

5_Make downtime a daily ritual. To help relieve pressure, schedule daily blocks of downtime to refuel your brain and well-being. It can be anything from meditation to a nap, a walk, or simply turning off the wifi for a while.

6_Stop being a perfectionist; start satisficing. Trying to maximize every task and squeeze every drop of productivity out of your creative work is a recipe for exhaustion and procrastination. Set yourself boundaries for acceptable work and stick to them.

7_Track your progress every day. Keeping track allows you to see exactly how much is on your plate, not only day-to-day, but consistently over time.

8_Change location often. Entrepreneurs or freelancers can be especially prone to burnout. Joel Runyon plays “workstation popcorn”, in which he groups tasks by location and then switches, in order to keep work manageable, provide himself frequent breaks, and spend his time efficiently.

9_Don’t overload what downtime you do get. Vacations themselves can cause, or worsen burnout, with high-stress situations, expectations, and sleep interruption. Use it to help in recovery from burnout instead.

10_Write yourself fan mail. Seth Godin uses self-fan mail as a way to keep motivated instead of burning out on a project that seems far from completion.

11_Break projects into bite-sized pieces. Taking a task on in one entire lump can be exhausting and provide little room for rest in between. Breaking up your projects into set chunks with their own deadlines provides a much healthier, and easier, way of completing a large project.”

Sasha Vanhoven assistant editor and community manager of 99U

10 tips for an awesome coffee meeting

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“The coffee meeting is the Swiss Army knife of networking. It’s a low-risk way to meet new people, swap advice, and lay the foundation for a more substantial relationship. You only have to remember one guiding principle: never, ever waste the other person’s time. Here’s how to be the best coffee meeting participant around.

1_Be clear when asking for the meeting
When you email your potential coffee meeting participant, don’t simply ask to “pick their brain” or “see if there’s any potential” in you getting to know each other. Those phrases usually show that you only have a vague idea of what you’d like to talk about. Instead, introduce yourself, show that you have specific knowledge of the person’s work, offer why you’d like to talk, and (most importantly) propose potential times.

2_Do your homework
When you meet someone, it’s normal to ask a series of biographical questions such as ‘What do you do? Where are you from?’ That’s fine for your friend’s birthday party. It has no place at the coffee meeting.
It’s likely the busy person you ask for coffee has some degree of notoriety and has articles, talks, and LinkedIn profile pages online that can offer more information about them. Coffee meetings are usually 30 minutes or less, so don’t waste your time talking about subjects you could easily Google. Additionally, a busy person has given their ‘elevator pitch’ many times to press, colleagues, and others. Stand out from the crowd by moving past this base level of interaction.

3_Never, ever, ever be late
Any meeting is about respecting the time of the other person. Leave early. Make time for traffic. Know where you are going. Being late for a meeting you asked for is the ultimate selfish act in business.

4_Offer to pay
Ask the other person what they’d like before placing your order. Then, pay for both. It was your idea to meet and grab coffee, it’s only fair that you cover the (admittedly minor) costs. If you’re a student, chances are they wont let you actually pay, but offer any way. If the person objects and wants to pay for their coffee, let them. Don’t spend more than five seconds on this interaction.

5_You don’t have to drink coffee
Meetings over beer are for open-ended discussion. Meetings over coffee are for getting things done.
But even if you meet at a coffee shop, you don’t have to get coffee. More important is that whatever drink should take the same amount of time to consume as a cup of coffee. As for snacks, it’s hard to have a short conversation with your mouth full of croissants.

6_Have one clear, specific ask
Let’s say you and I are deciding on where to go out to dinner. I say, ‘I don’t know, I’m up for anything, I guess’. Frustrating, right? But if I say ‘I’m really in the mood for the Mexican place down the street. If you don’t like that, let’s get Thai from downtown’. Now that you can work with.
The same goes for asking. There was a reason you wanted to get coffee with the busy person, so don’t be shy in telling them point-blank how they can help. They should have a general idea as to why you’d like to meet from your email, so don’t be afraid of being direct. By accepting the meeting, they have already agreed to provide assistance, so make it as easy as possible for them.

7_Take notes and follow up
When you sit down at the table, take out a pen and a notebook. If, at any point in the conversation you say something like ‘I’ll send you that video’.Or they mention the person they’d like to introduce you to, write it down. I like to create two columns on the paper with the headings ‘My Homework’ and ‘Their Homework’. On the top of the page I write the person’s name, company, and the date.
The moment you arrive back at your computer, make a note to follow up in a day or two. Doing it immediately can be a tad aggressive, but don’t let yourself forget. In the follow up, make good on anything you promised to send, as well as providing a gentle nudge on anything they offered.

8_Offer to add value
Throughout the conversation, keep your ears open for anything you can help out with. Many simply ask at the end of the conversation if there’s anything they can do. But the best way is to have this mindset ready during the actual conversation with anyone you speak with, coffee meeting or no. In Maximize Your Potential, master connector Sunny Bates shares the right way to approach:
“You want to do it in an authentic way. I always appreciate when people ask in a way that’s somehow embedded in the conversation rather than as an add-on at the very end. Like, ‘Oh you gave me this, and so I have to ask you.’ It’s always good to try and steer the exchange away from debt and obligation and more into the spirit of generosity.”

9_Offer to end on time
It’s likely you agreed to meet for 15 or 30 minutes. As those times approach, even if you are in the middle of a fruitful conversation, stop and ask the person if they have to go. If they agree to keep chatting, great. If your reminder kept them on schedule, even better. Be someone who respects the time of others.

10_Communicate any outcomes
After you send the follow up email (see #7) set a calendar alert 2-3 weeks in the future to follow up one final time. In this second follow up you should tell the person the results of anything the suggested.”

Sean Blanda managing editor and producer of 99U

should we all have a 4-day work week?

random thoughts

“Does an extra day at the computer really produce that much more work? Treehouse CEO Ryan Carson thinks the answer is “no” and has structured his company to prove it. This excerpt is from a 2012 post on his blog:

There are so many benefits to working less. It’s hard to list them all, but here are the major ones:

  1. Recruiting is easy (we still pay full salaries and offer a very generous benefits package).
  2. Retention is easier; one of the team told me he regularly gets emails from Facebook trying to win him over, and his answer is always the same: “do you work a 4-day week yet?”
  3. Morale is boosted; on Mondays everyone is fresh and excited – not jaded from working over the weekend.
  4. I get to spend 50% more time with my kids then almost all other dads (three days versus two). Fifty percent. It’s insane! For those on the team without kids, they get to spend this extra 50% on their hobbies or loved ones.

At the time of writing (12-2013), the company was profitable and the company has since removed all managers. Read his entire post here.”

Sean Blanda for 99u.com

rituals not only reinforce behavior, they make us enjoy it more

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“In a new post by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, she illustrates how rituals go even deeper than previously thought. We all know they can help to make changes stick (think of “hazing” rituals, like Google’s silly hats on new members that makes previously-outsiders feel like part of the team), but they also make us enjoy the ritual, and subsequent subject of, even more.

In one study, participants tasted chocolate, either ritualistically (i.e., with the instruction to break the bar in half without unwrapping it, unwrap half the bar and eat it, and then unwrap the other half and eat it), or as they normally would.  Those who performed the ritual reported finding the chocolate more flavorful and enjoying it more.  They also took more time to savor it, and were willing to pay nearly twice as much for more of it.

This may be old news to marketing companies though. Think about how you might drink one specific brand of beer very differently than others:

Then there’s Guinness – the best-selling drink in Ireland and a global powerhouse available in 100 countries, with nearly two billion Guinness pints consumed annually.  And it all starts with the proper Guinness pour – at an angle, allowing it to settle for two minutes when only three-quarters of the way full, then gently topping off. Guinness fans will fervently swear that a proper pour elevates the stout to heavenly heights and will riot when the pour is botched.

But now that you know as well, adapting this to your own workplace’s culture, product, or even if you’re trying to make a new habit for yourself stick.”

Sasha VanHoven for 99u.com

Maximize Your Potential

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With wisdom from 21 leading creative minds, 99U’s Maximize Your Potential will show you how to generate new opportunities, cultivate your creative expertise, build valuable relationships, and take bold, new risks so that you can utilize your talents to the fullest.

Order “Maximize Your Potential” by 99U Books