Top ten computer science teaching resources

When the Guardian Teacher Network asked me to exclusively reveal a list of my top 10 resources I found it really hard to narrow my choice down to just 10.

But here it is – and if you think I have left any out then please do comment on the blog and add your suggestions or send me a message through Twitter@teknoteacher.

1. Scratch Community is a fantastic programming resource for learners of all ages. What better place to start than a site dedicated specifically to teachers who want to use Scratch to teach programming? Here you will find videos, lesson plans, worksheets, discussions and even real people to ask for help. Unfortunately the webinars (which are fantastic) are around 1.00 – 2.00 am UK time, but you can watch recordings afterwards.

2. Codecademy is the web resource that does exactly what it says on the tin. This is a good starting point to discover what computer programming (in JavaScript) can be like. Sometimes unforgiving if you get your syntax wrong (that’s spelling, punctuation and grammar in computer speak). You get feedback as you progress and learners can compare their score with each other.

3. Invent With Python is a real book that teaches you step by step how to program using the Python programming language. The book is available as a hard copy to purchase, a free download or just view it online for free. The author has a friendly style of writing and explains all the code used clearly. Don’t worry – no references to large snakes.

4. Computing At School is a free-to-join association for anyone with an interest in computing in education. Sponsors include Microsoft and Google among others. Benefits of joining include free-to-attend annual conference, regional hub meetings, competitions, newsletters and teachshares. Meet up with lots of other like minded people to share and steal good practice.

5. Twitter is another great place to hang out with like minded people who wish to promote computing science in education, try following some of these people and read what they are doing. You will find they rarely tweet about what they have had for breakfast, or what colour socks they are wearing, instead they have good quality education based tweets @largerama, @drtomcrick, @codeboom ,@hubmum@batteredbluebox, @CompAtSch, @GuardianTeach oh and@teknoteacher (that’s me!).

6. Code Hero is a totally new way to learn how to code. It’s a first-person science shooter game where you use the code gun to manipulate code. You learn how to code in order to succeed in the game.

7. Play My Code  is “an online platform for building, playing and distributing browser games. Powered by HTML5, you can build within the browser and embed your games anywhere.” Start by simply playing the games, then make small alterations to make the games easier or more difficult to play, share your altered games with friends. Before you know it you are a games developer.

8. The 2008 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures were given by Professor Chris Bishop on the power of computing. The videos are now available to watch on the big screen in your classroom also available as a free DVD. Suitable viewing from around age eight upwards.

9. The National Museum of Computing and MOSI  are two great museums to explore for teachers planning to teach the development of computers. Book yourself out of school to visit as part of your CPD or take your family. Create your own videos or record interviews while you are there.

10. iTunes contains many podcasts and academic programs (iTunesU) that you can follow. On your ipod, you can catch up with the world of computing science, technology and more while travelling in the car, bus or tube. Try some of these GuardianTechWeeklyBBC, Introduction to C# Programming.

Alan O’Donohoe is Principal Teacher of ICT at Our Lady’s High School, Preston. He has been teaching for just short of 20 years. In the Summer of 2011 he taught himself how to program with Python. He seeks to evangelise teachers to teach computing science through his blogs, tweets and audioboos. He blogs atteachcomputing and can be found on twitter at @teknoteacher.

The next Hack to the Future event is on Saturday, 12th February in Preston – the event is highly anticipated and now has a waiting list of speakers but there are spaces for more children to take part so if you are interested in taking a party of children (or even one child) then see here for more details or look at the flyer designed for children.

10 Things Exceptionally Productive Entrepreneurs Do Every Day

Inception is one of my all-time favorite movies. In it, characters find themselves in dream worlds without knowing where they are or how they got there.

That’s how I used to feel throughout the day… every day.

One minute I was focused on the most important thing on my to do list; the next I was on a news site or on social media with dozens of tabs open in my browser. Once I started noticing myself on Facebook while I was driving, I knew something had to change. Constant distractions hadrewired my brain and were having a direct impact on my company’s success and even my safety.

To start, I deleted all social-media apps from my phone and added parental controls so I could not access any of them from my browser. (Only my wife has the password, and she is unforgiving.) I also downloaded the StayFocused chrome plugin to limit my time on social media to 20 minutes per day and installed the News Feed Eradicator to completely eliminate the Facebook news feed. It worked. My productivity skyrocketed.

Going through this process reminded me how important focus is. Curious how others handled distractions, I reached out to some of the hardworking young entrepreneurs featured in the Empact Showcase to see how they stay focused.

Here are 10 tips you can immediately apply for quick wins:

1. Divide your day into 15-minute blocks

Image credit: Syed Balkhi

With so much going on in your business, it’s very easy to get distracted with multi-tasking. I have found that working in focused batches where I focus on one thing at a time has significantly increased my productivity.Studies show that working while distracted is like working after you’ve pulled an all-nighter and can reduce your productivity by as much as 40 percent.

I start out my week by planning out everything that I’d like to get done this week. I then divide my tasks into 15-minute time blocks which allows me to set realistic deadlines and not waste time. I then useTimeDoctor to hold me accountable. It tracks what applications I use down to the second and gives me insight on how I work.

To learn more about working in focused chunks of time, I recommend checking out the Pomodoro Technique.

— Founder Syed Balkhi of WP Beginner

2. Forget ‘underpromise and overdeliver.’ Be accurate.

Image credit: Erik Skinner

“Underpromise and overdeliver” is age-old business advice, but it may not be worth the effort. According to a recent study, people tend to value promises that are exceeded about as much as they value promises that are simply kept.

In my experience, being honest about the time that I have to do quality work for my stakeholders helps to foster deep relationships built on trust and relieves personal pressure (research shows that feeling control over one’s schedule reduces mental fatigue).

Here’s how I do it:

  • I add 25 percent to the total time I estimate tasks will take.
  • I factor in delays due to collaboration.
  • I engage all involved parties on a collaborative task, as soon as I know something needs to get done.
  • I trust my gut when it tells me that I’m pushing my capacity, and I throttle back.
  • I track and replicate my successes. If I was able to meet a deadline (without procrastination or personal stress), then I do a quick reflection on how I set myself up for success.
  • I use iDoneThis to track tasks on a day-to-day basis. It helps me to gauge whether I have too much on my plate.

— Co-Founder Nick Monzi of Learn Fresh Education

3. To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.

Image credit: Cal Newport

I do what I call ‘fixed-schedule productivity’. I start with the deadline that my day ends at 5:30 p.m. and create an ideal schedule based on my priorities. Then, I work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way. My experience in trying to make that fixed schedule a reality forces any number of really smart and useful in-the-moment productivity decisions.

Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Assigning work to times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding whether or not to work during a given period; the decision is already made.

— Author Cal Newport of So Good They Can’t Ignore You

4. Set clear goals and remind your staff of them often

Image credit: Nathalie Lussier

One of my favorite exercises is to whittle down my “big goals” into five achievable quarterly goals, and then to write these down on an index card. I keep this index card with me at all times, and especially in front of my computer while I’m working. If I find myself getting distracted, I look over to my quarterly goals card and ask myself if what I’m doing is directly contributing to any of these goals. If not, then I move on. I also like to reiterate these goals at each weekly meeting with my team, to let everyone know if we’re on track of what needs to change to make it happen.

Studies show that even subtle goal reminders like hearing words related to your goals can prime you to make decisions that lead to their attainment. Departments of top companies and organizations from the Ritz Carlton to the Oval Office at the White House use daily huddles to talk about goals with their team.

— Founder Nathalie Lussier of Nathalie Lussier Media

Related: Follow These 6 Rules to Accomplish More Each Day

5. Let a sticky note be your guide

Image credit: Influence & Co

Every night, I plan five critical priorities for the following day using the two following principles:

  • Urgency. I ask myself, “what can be pushed off till tomorrow?”
  • ROI. I ask myself, “Which items will deliver the most value for the lowest time investment?”

I put these priorities on a sticky note at the top left of my computer screen. Basically, I just don’t go to sleep until I accomplish them. It’s as simple as that. It might sound crazy, but if I get them done early it allows me to relax and not put as much pressure on myself to work. If I procrastinate and don’t get it done I pay the price and end up staying up late working on it.

In the mornings when I’m focusing on the priorities, I either work from home so I’m not distracted, or I put headphones on (sometimes, without music) so that people are less likely to interrupt me.  Studies show that our environment can have a huge impact on the decisions we make without us even realizing it. My sticky note creates an environment that helps me stay focused.

— Co-Founder John Hall of Influence & Co

6. Pay somebody to hold you accountable

Image credit: Stephanie Michelle Blair

When I have a task that I know really needs to get done, but I’m not motivated to do it, I get accountable. I ask my assistant to hold me accountable to what I say that I want to do as part of her job responsibilities. When we have our weekly phone calls, we go through the list of things that I had asked her to hold me accountable to. If something needs to be done by a specific day, I’ll tell her my date-specific goal and then get back to her when it’s done. This puts me in a position where I need to tell her whether or not I’ve gotten something done. I find the positive peer pressure invaluable in making items a priority instead of putting them off.

Based on the “loss aversion” principle from behavioural economics, it’s human nature to be more motivated to avoid loss than to pursue gain. By paying someone, I put skin in the game and get a reliable accountability partner.

— Founder Elizabeth Grace Saunders of Real Life E® Time Coaching & Training

7. Don’t respond to emails during the day

Image credit: VIP Waste Services

I’ve found that 90 percent of emails I get are either junk mail, are cc’d to me but being handled by someone else on my team, or non-urgent and can be responded to within 24 hours. So, I do email response batching. Instead of checking my email 20 times a day,or between phone calls and meetings, I check it three times (morning, afternoon, and evening). However, I only respond to emails during a two-hour window at night. In the morning and afternoon, I just delete spam and make sure I’m not missing something urgent. The key to not responding during the day is having people on your team that can handle most things without you. It needs to be a huge deal for an owner to get involved.

With this system, I find that I’m able to focus on higher-value things during the day like sales and strategy. This keeps my focus on the task at hand razor-sharp.

Unsurprisingly, a University of California study found that people who do not check emails regularly at work are less stressed and more productive.

— Co-Founder Travis Smith of VIP Waste Services

Related: How Technology Demands a Different Approach to Your Job

8. Track time spent ‘on’ the business vs. ‘in’ the business

I track my time in a simple Google Doc and use a color-coding system to keep me aware of where my time is going. Red highlighted tasks are those that involve working IN the business (managing the day-to-day operations), and green highlighted tasks are those that involve working ON the business (coming up with strategies for growth, improvement). My goal each week is to see more green on my sheet than red. I aim to spend 50 percent or more of my time working ON the business.

I learned the importance of working on your business instead of in it in Michael Gerber’s classic book, E-Myth.

— Co-Founder Kelsey Meyer Of Influence & Co

9. Tackle easy/important tasks before hard/important ones

Image credit: Robert Gregson

I start my workday with quick and easy tasks that are important, saving the longer tasks for later after I get on a roll. I find the hardest/biggest stuff that requires more thinking, strategizing, and problem-solving takes longer and can’t be solved in an hour (or even a day). By doing the small things that make a big impact and don’t require too much thought (e.g., shooting out emails for partnership opportunities), it allows me to build momentum and for the bigger things to sit in the back of the mind until a sudden solution pops in my head.

Essentially, I prioritize easy and high impact tasks first; then the hard and high impact. The research of Stanford social scientist BJ Foggshows that by making tasks smaller, we dramatically increase the chance that we’ll follow through. Other research shows that small wins ignite joy, engagement, and creativity.

— Co-Founder Grace Ng of Javelin

10. Start your day by journaling

Image credit: Bethany Nauert

I start off every morning by reaching for my journal. I write one page every day about my bigger goals, my intentions for the day, and feelings about my goals I want to work though.

Sometimes I write about how it will feel to achieve it. Other times, I write about my confidence level I feel around my goals. Basically I give myself a little pep talk! Or sometimes I explore any blocks or resistance that come up when I think about achieving it – what fears do I have around making this goal come true? I don’t work on logistics in my journal, purely mindset. If I have a more tactical idea pop up I’ll actually jot it down in a different work notebook.

Top performers like Michael Phelps do this everyday as well. This process is a great way to both clear out mental clutter and keep myself focused on having a “perfect day” every day.

An academic review of studies on goal setting shows that most people don’t achieve the goals they set because they can’t control their emotions. Studies show that thinking through what we’d do in different scenarios dramatically increases achievement of goals.

— Founder Laura Roeder of Edgar and LKR Social Media

11. Bonus: Eat a live frog first thing every morning…

Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” He may not be a young entrepreneur, but his advice still stands over a century later: if there’s something you’ve been dreading doing, don’t let it drag on — just do it and move forward. Research by Roy Baumeister shows that our willpower starts off high and then depletes throughout the day.Other research shows that starting a goal but not completing it (a.k.a., procrastinating) makes us less effective at the next tasks we perform.

— Mark Twain

Related: 3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Virtual Assistant

7 min read 6 Must-Have Tools to Boost Your Social-Media Productivity

Let’s face it. The daily demands of running a business and managing multiple social media accounts can eat up a big chunk of your time.

Nearly all marketers use social media in their marketing mix, which means more and more businesses are getting actively involved. Business is always affected by the consumer environment, and social media makes a great environment for leads and prospects.

As an entrepreneur, your goal is to find where these future customers hang out, and put your ideas in front of them. Since most of your customers like to use at least a few social platforms, this applies even if your target demographis is 55-64 year olds, which is the fastest growing age bracket on Twitter.

Thankfully, there are tools to help you boost your social media productivity and marketing:

1. Rignite

Rignite is a neat little tool that I recently discovered. It’s actually a full-blown social media dashboard that lets you control and monitor your social media activities all under one roof.

With Rignite, you can monitor multiple social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc. You can chat and collaborate with your social media team inside Rignite, so it’s perfect for larger teams. But even if you have a small team, Rignite will pleasantly surprise you.

One cool feature is “Schedule Profile Groups” where you can schedule multiple social media posts for different platforms. Rignite Groups are a set of social profiles.

You can also connect your Rignite profile with Feedly to find interesting content, curate and post it.

The cherry on the top is Rignite’s Campaigns feature. Set up a New Campaign to schedule a series of posts, grow your email list, host contests for your fans, or promote a discount.

Campaigns run on auto-pilot once set. For example, you can create a series of posts to promote your content or a new blog post (super-helpful if you’re a blogger!) across multiple platforms on a chosen day and time.

With their campaign-level analysis, you can also know what’s working and what’s not.

To monitor certain keyword trends on social media, you can Add New Stream under Monitor tab from the left-hand menu. Below, I have added two new streams to my Rignite (Blogging and Digital Marketing) to monitor what’s happening in those areas on Twitter.

All in all, I think Rignite offers a ton of features to enhance your social media marketing experience.

Price: Free trial for 14 days. Paid plans start from $28/mo per user.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Measuring Your Social Media ROI

2. Topsy

It can be too hard to make sense of the billion tweets on Twitter. EnterTopsy, a free Twitter analytics tool to search, monitor and analyze tweets.

You can find tweets, links, photos, videos or shares by a person or on a specific topic. This is a wealth of data if you want to find out what’s trending and being shared. But most importantly, Topsy can also help you with your blogger outreach campaign.

Price: Free.

3. Mention

Mention is a real-time media monitoring app that lets you listen, react quickly, collaborate and analyze your online presence.

Mention is a great alternative to Google Alerts. According toWordStream, Google Alerts apparently works if the following conditions are met:

Google Alerts only sends you email if new articles, webpages or blog posts make it into the top ten Google News results, the top twenty Google Web Search results or top ten Google Blog Search results for your query. If the top results remain the same for a while, you won’t receive email on your topic.

That means that with Google Alerts, you will not receive an alert for every mention out there. With Mention, things are brighter. The number of results are way more than that reported by Google Alerts. Mention also takes into account any social mentions you may have had.

You can monitor Facebook, Twitter, News, Blogs, Videos, Forums, Images and Web, but their best feature is reporting. If you’re a big brand or company this means gold for you. For example, let’s say you’ve recently launched a new product and you notice some cool new spikes in your report. You can now attribute where those spikes came from (the launch) and whether it worked well for you.

When receiving Mentions from Twitter, you can turn on a feature to track your Twitter name but exclude your own tweets from alerts. Pretty cool, right?

Price: Free 14-day trial. Basic plan free for one user, one alert and 250 mentions/mo. Paid plans available too.

4. Twtrland

Twtrland is a simple tool to discover new people on Twitter. Sign up via your Twitter account for free.

You’ll be taken to your dashboard that shows your activity, popularity, and communicative scores.You’ll also see your top content that did well on Twitter (based on all time or recent posts).

The Network tab shows a break down of your followers by celebrities, power users, casual and novices; location; age; skill and gender.

Price: Free 14-day trial. Paid plans start at $49/mo.

Related: 18 Effective Social-Media Tools That Will Save You Time

5. LikeAlyzer

There are many tools to analyze Twitter posts, but what about Facebook, the largest social media network on earth?

Enter LikeAlyzer, a tool to analyze and monitor your Facebook page. If you’re big on Facebook and use it to drive traffic to your website or blog, give this one a try.

You can analyze your competitor’s Facebook page and compare that to yours. LikeAlyzer assigns a unique score to pages. In the above example, PickYourGoals Facebook page has a “LikeRank” of 63 out of 100.

Here are the things LikeAlyzer reviews on your page:

1. Page Information: Checks whether you have filled your profile including any milestones.

2. Page Performance: Your overall performance, the number of likes you need to engage better, and whether you have a big enough audience to find success on Facebook.

3. Posts by Page: Talks about posts per day; timing; likes, comments and shares per post; length; curiosity etc.

4. Posts by Others: How you’re dealing with fan responses.

The report tells you how well you’re doing, and also suggests areas to focus on to make improvements. You can repeat the process for a competitor page and see if they have a higher score and how they are doing better than you. Pretty cool!

Price: Free.

6. Swayy

Swayy finds you the best content on the web so you can share it with your fans and followers on social media, thus saving you time on curation.

Add topics of your interest (niches), hit submit and sit back and relax to receive a daily dose of best content to share with your audience.

With a paid plan, you can add multiple dashboards inside Swayy (a community manager’s heaven!) if you manage more than on social accounts.

Once done, you’ll receive a daily email with the best content to go around in your chosen topics.

Swayy dashboard also shows how your shares are doing.

Price: Free for one dashboard. Paid plans start from $9/mo with two dashboards.

There you go – 6 tools that will boost your social media marketing and productivity, so you can relax and focus on other important activities in business.

How to Stop Wasting Time at Work

It is so easy to waste time at work through checking social media, chatting with coworkers or doing unnecessary things. As a result, at the end of the day you accomplish nothing and feel unproductive. Therefore, in order to spend your day more meaningfully and achieve your goals, implement the below steps to your daily routine.

1. Make a to-do list.

When you come to the office every day, make yourself a to-do list and try to finish that entire list at the end of the day. Keep it small and realistic at the start. Make sure you prioritize your tasks according to their importance. When you have difficulty concentrating, work on the low intensity tasks such as printing something or archiving your files. Therefore, you can stay productive even if your concentration is low. Do not forget to revise your list during the day as new tasks show up.

Related: 5 Tips for Making Meetings Less Unproductive

2. Stop Checking Your Emails Randomly.

The email message that is popping up on your computer screen can create urgency for many to check their inboxes constantly. Checking your emails frequently can make you waste your time, since you need to refocus on the task that you have been working on. Unless you are truly waiting for an important email, you should schedule specific times to check your emails such as at the morning, after lunch and in the afternoon. The same holds for your smart phone messages and voicemails as well.

3. Do not multi-task.

If you are working on your emails at the same time you are working on your task, then it will take you more time to complete both of them compared to working on them one-by-one.  As a result, you will waste your time. The reason of this is that multi-tasking divides your attention between tasks and since each task gets less attention, you need more time to finish them. Work on one task at a time and move on to the next one when you are done.

4. Divide Your Time into Chunks.

Group similar activities together and don’t bounce from one activity to the other without finishing the one you are working on. For example, you can use your mornings to reply all of the emails from the previous day and after finishing your emails, you can do your meetings or phone calls, then, you can work on your project and finally, you can check your emails again. Do not forget that when you group together similar activities, your brain works faster.

Related: How You Can Avoid Becoming a Workaholic

This Secret to Success Might Just Make You Smile

Leading and growing a business isn’t easy. Know what helps? Emotional intelligence.

The most effective entrepreneurs are able to stay positive and productive in the face of the ups and downs of the business world. They can dismiss any clouds of negativity that threaten to derail their success and hard work.

Here are five tips to help you become a more positive and confident leader:

1. Take pride in your accomplishments.

Don’t let negative comments get you down. Also, avoid the inclination to compare yourself to others. Competition is healthy and helpful, but not if you feel bad about yourself in relation to someone else’s achievements.

Related: 5 Unconventional Techniques for Improving Your Company’s Culture

2. Protect yourself.

Make sure the decisions you make come from a place of strength. If someone has wronged you in the past, remember it but don’t expend energy by holding a grudge.

3. Choose your battles.

Be cognizant of which fights are worth putting your time into and what will ultimately drain you and your resources.

Related: What Needs to Go on Your ‘Stop Doing’ List?

4. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Successful business leaders don’t let a fear of failure paralyze them and prevent them from innovating.

5. Look to the future.

Dwelling on problems that plagued you in the past will only keep you from coming up with the solutions that will help you now. Having your eye on what’s next will make you feel more positive about your current state.

For four more tips about how to stay positive, check out the video above.

Entrepreneur’s 10 Most Popular Stories of 2014

As 2014 winds to a close, it seems the perfect time to stop and reflect on the stories that truly resonated with our audience this year. While individual topics ranged from tips on boosting daily productivity, to methods for delivering world-class service on a startup budget, to a step-by-step guide for becoming a millionaire before the age of 30, a connecting theme clearly emerges: Each and every one of our top 10 stories for 2014 — whether in the form of a how-to column, a profile, a video or an infographic – deals with the pursuit of self-improvement and success, in matters both professional and personal.

The fact that these stories, out of all the many, many articles we published this year, are our most viewed speaks volumes about you, our readers.

So without further ado, here are Entrepreneur‘s most popular stories for 2014.

10. 10 Movies Every Entrepreneur Needs to Watch
There are times when this whole entrepreneur thing can become overwhelming; when that happens, it’s a good idea to take an inspiration break. And what better way to find inspiration than watching movies?

Whether it’s a heartwarming adventure, irreverent comedy or thought-provoking documentary, a film can inspire and motivate a weary business owner. With that in mind, here are 10 movies that every entrepreneur needs to watch.

9. The SEAL Teams Don’t Accept These 10 Phrases, and Neither Should You
Many phrases that are unacceptable in the world of special operations – including “I can’t do that,” “sorry I’m late,” and “hold my calls” – are commonplace in the world of business. Former SEAL member Jeff Boss explores why this may not be such a good thing for your company.

8. Let Go, Keep It Simple, Move Quickly: Secrets to Being a Productive Entrepreneur (Infographic)
Time is money, particularly if you are in the midst of launching a new business. Luckily, there are plenty of small changes you can make – from adjusting your sleep temperature, to turning off your phone at night, to dumping out the clutter in your desk – that add up to save you buckets, and buckets of the stuff. This infographic from Funders and Founders outlines how to streamline dozens of everyday tasks in order to lead a more productive life.

7. Forget Time Management. Do This Instead.
Most people want to boost their productivity, and many feel that to do so, they just need to figure out how to improve their time management skills. Not so fast, says science expert James Clear. In this video, he explains why this trait, not better time management, is really the key to supercharged productivity.

6. The 7 Most Powerful Women to Watch in 2014

These seven innovators’ actions and ideas aren’t just improving the ways we do business; they also speak to broader issues, including national security, gender bias, world poverty and the state of the startup community at large. We’ve certainly got our eye on these powerful women. You should, too.

5. Chart Goals to Create a Road Map to Success
Going after a big dream is often a scary prospect; not only can it feel impossibly out of reach at the start, but there are so many opportunities to fail along the way. That’s why, instead of solely focusing on the end result, it’s important to set different types of goals – including smaller, more immediate ones, intermediate targets, and stretch goals — that all build on your efforts to reach that final destination.

4. Delivering World-Class Service on a Startup Budget

The late Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is as true in business as it is in life: Outstanding service can help a company stand out and be remembered in a crowded marketplace. Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily require a lot of money. Here are three ways your company can provide world-class service on a startup budget.

3. The 3 Decisions That Will Change Your Financial Life
Without gratitude and appreciation for what you already have, you’ll never know true fulfillment. But how do you cultivate balance in life? Tony Robbins identifies three key decisions that have the power to dictate the quality of your life.

2. 5 Morning Rituals to Keep You Productive All Day Long
You may clock in long hours at work, but chances are, a significant percentage of that time is eaten away by distractions. It’s time to change that: From incorporating seven minutes of exercise into your daily routine, to getting away from the computer for 15 minutes, here are five strategies that will help you cut down on wasted time and boost focus all day long.

1. How to Become a Millionaire by Age 30
The desire to get rich and become a millionaire has become something of a taboo topic, and saying it can be done by the age of 30 is often dismissed as an outlandish fantasy. But it can be done, argues international sales expert Grant Cardone. He should know – at the age of 21, Cardone graduated from college broke and in debt; by the age of 30, he was a millionaire. In this post, he shares the 10 steps that took him from rags to riches, and explains how they can work for you, too.

The New Era of Time Management

One thing I have always been incredibly fascinated with is how the most successful people in the world manage their time. Recently, I sat down with one of the world’s leading thinkers on productivity and New York Times bestselling author, Rory Vaden.

We discussed that there are really three generations of time-management thinking.

Era 1 time-management thinking was all about efficiency.

It was predicated on the idea of doing things faster. All things being equal, efficiency is good, but there is a limitation to efficiency that gives it a point of diminishing returns as a time-management strategy.

Related: Ditch These 3 Popular Productivity Myths

No matter how efficient we are, in today’s day and age, there is always going to be more to do than we can ever get to. At one point in history the idea was to create tips and tricks and tools and technology to help us get our to-do list done faster so we’d have margin or space left over.

But that’s an incomplete strategy today. Because we all carry computers in our pocket, we are all working as efficiently as ever before and we are still never caught up. That’s because at the end of today’s modern to-do list isn’t more margin — it’s another to-do list!

Era 2 time-management thinking was about prioritizing.

Prioritizing time was about developing calendars and checklists to help us focus first on what matters most.

Prioritizing has been the pervasive paradigm of thinking in the world of productivity since 1989. We still refer to “prioritizing” as the cure-all for most of our time-management problems. While prioritizing is still a highly valuable skill and as relevant as ever before, it too has a very substantial limitation that nobody ever talks about.

According to Vaden, there is nothing about prioritizing that creates more time. All prioritizing does is put one thing in front of the other. It takes item seven on your to-do list and bumps it up to one. But it does nothing to help you get the other items on your to-do list completed and it does not create more time. Prioritizing is simply borrowing time from one activity to spend on another.

The modern era is all about multiplying time.

In the world today, a new type of thinker has emerged. They don’t manage their time and they don’t prioritize their time — they multiply their time.

Related: How Busy Entrepreneurs Deal With Mundane Tasks

Multipliers have figured out ways to actually create more time while everyone else is still living with the fallacy that time is finite. Welcome to Era 3 time-management thinking.

How in the world do you multiply time? Simple.

In fact, this next sentence is the entire core premise of Vaden’s new book that comes out in January (Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time).

You multiply your time by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today that create more time tomorrow.

You don’t just think, “what are the most important things I have to get done today or this week?”

Instead, you ask the question, “what are the things that I could do today that would free up more time tomorrow?”

Vaden says, “When you ask yourself that question, you will find that you immediately feel less pressure to only focus on the urgent things that are pressing today or this week and you instead gain a perspective to start thinking about what you can be doing now to make a positive impact on the future. You give yourself permission to do the significant things that matter for the long term.”

That is what multipliers do.

He goes on to say, “They get outside of their to-do list of short-term priorities and they realize that the real key to creating more margin in their life isn’t about working faster, or somehow ‘prioritizing’ better, it’s about learning to think differently.”

To be a multiplier you must stop living urgently, and start living significantly.

4 Steps to the Most Productive 15 Minutes of Your Day

Ever have one of those days where you feel like you are trying to run on ice? You scramble and rush while feeling pressed for time and yet, you get nowhere fast.

I always feel shocked when I look at the clock after sitting at my desk for four hours and realize that I have not accomplished anything that really matters. It is amazing how busy one can feel without being actually productive.

Related: How Knowing Yourself Leads to More Productivity and Efficiency

What if I told you that you could accomplish more in 15 minutes than you often accomplish in an entire afternoon? It is the truth and it is possible. Productivity depends on one word: intentionality.

You can create productive time for yourself today. You can create a plan for it right this moment. Here’s how create the most productive 15 minutes in your day:

1. Block out a 15-minute chunk of time.

It doesn’t matter when or where — you just need 15 minutes of completely uninterrupted time.

2. Determine the most powerful possible use of those 15 minutes.

No shuffling papers or pounding out emails. Go for quality. Follow the Stephen Covey model and choose “Quadrant II” activities (important but not urgent). Find something that will make a real impact but where no has a gun to your head to get it done.

Related: 10 Things Exceptionally Productive Entrepreneurs Do Every Day

I had my mastermind group complete this exercise recently and they came up with a variety of effective activities:

  • One manager used the time to compose hand-written notes of appreciation.
  • Another used the time to research a prospective client he would be meeting with later in the day.
  • A third used those 15 minutes to plan out a killer date night for her and her husband.

3. Make that productive time holy.

This means no phone, no email, no Facebook, no distractions of any kind. You might want to leave your office (without your phone!) for this exercise. Otherwise, let others know that you are in a “do not disturb” zone: post a sign on your door that reads: “I cannot be disturbed. If you knock on this door, your hair better be on fire.”

4. Put your head down and power through.

No daydreams and no rabbit trails. This is all about being productive. Work as furiously as you can on the task at hand. Focus with everything you’ve got.

You will find that these 15-minute blocks of time are incredibly powerful and exceedingly productive. In fact, you will feel amazed at how much you get accomplished.

Set aside 15 minutes to achieve massively productivity every day. The habit of intentionality can change your world.

5 Simple and Effortless Morning Routines You Can Start Tomorrow

I love the holidays. For our business, Wild Creations, it is our busiest and most exciting season of the year. It is also the time of year when many of us coast to the year’s end and allow a number of good habits to erode. Our justification, of course, for allowing ourselves these diversions is that we will simply set New Year resolutions in January to correct them.

Unfortunately, we rarely do.

Related: 5 Ways to Stop Sleepwalking Through Your Mornings

Instead of waiting for the new year, here are five simple, effortless and quick morning routine suggestions you can start today, all of which will give you the boost in energy, creativity and mental toughness to get you through the rest of this year.

1. Stretch

The other morning, I watched my 3-year-old daughter wake up. She yawned and stretched, but by “stretch,” I mean that she entered a remarkable state of contortion for almost a full minute before she exhaled and opened her eyes.

It got me thinking about how most busy adults wake up. We wake to our alarm (or after a few snoozes), roll out of bed, grab our phone or head straight for a cup of coffee or the shower (or all concurrently). Instead, take just one minute and allow yourself (or force yourself) to indulge in the pleasure of a long, drawn out and refreshing stretch like a young child.

If you are more adventurous, 10 to 15 minutes of yoga just three times a week will help you build physical and mental endurance.

2. Resist the phone

I am guilty of turning off the alarm on my phone and getting drawn into the notifications on my lock screen. All this does is immediately raise my stress level. Instead of grabbing your phone to check your email, calendar or updates first thing in the morning, opt to spend the first five minutes to wake up with your own thoughts.

Nothing that happened in the past few hours while you slept cannot wait just a few more minutes until you are mentally awake and prepared to deal with it. Now, I understand that most of us use our phones for our alarms. If you are unable to resist the urge to check your phone after you have turned off the alarm, do the smart thing and invest in a cheap alarm clock and move your phone to another room.

3. Drink water

I love coffee in the morning, but the first thing our bodies need after being deprived of hydration all night while sleeping (unless you sleepwalk) is water. Drink an eight- to 12-ounce glass of cool water (not ice cold) before your coffee, and you will see an amazing effect mentally and physically. Avoid the orange juice or other sugary alternatives that will do nothing but give you a sugar crash an hour later. A simple glass of water will do.

Related: 2 Secrets to Having Super-Productive Mornings

4. Have a high protein snack

Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day, because like water, your body has been deprived of food all night. By eating something small in the morning, you will boost your metabolism and set its pace for the rest of the day. Avoid high carb or sugary foods, such as muffins and bagels, since they burn fast and will leave you hungry sooner.

If you are like me and do not have the time (or willingness) to cook a good breakfast in the morning, find a favorite protein shake mix and a buy a handy blender bottle. A couple of scoops with milk (or soy milk for the lactose intolerant) gives the perfect boost in the morning and will keep you satisfied until lunch.

5. Take a 15-minute walk

I love to hit the “snooze” in the morning. A number of years ago, however, I realized that snoozing did very little for actually increasing the amount of sleep I get, since the initial alarm draws you out of your REM stage anyway. Instead of snoozing for 15 minutes, try getting up and taking a brisk walk. It requires very little effort (except for getting dressed) and will wake you up quickly and fully by getting your blood pumping. More important, a brisk walk also gets your metabolism revving.

One thing you can do to make these morning routines successful is to prepare for your day the night before. Before you go to bed, review your calendar and prep your wardrobe for the next day. Check for priority emails or to-do-list items from the day and either complete them or move them to your to-do list for the next day. Preparing the night before only takes a few minutes, but it will eliminate the stress and anxiety of doing so the next morning in a groggy state of mind.

The great thing about all of these morning routines is that they require very little time and effort each morning, and for the most part, they just substitute something for something unproductive you are doing anyway.

Do you have other morning routine tips? Please share with others in the comments section below.

Related: Conquer the Morning: Before Changing How You Wake Up,

A Structured Day Can Keep Wasted Time at Bay

Americans may as well start giving flowers to their computers, buying their business phones diamond encrusted cases and taking their briefcases on expensive vacations — our nation is having a love affair with work.

For most entrepreneurs, this is not news. In fact, ABC News reports that Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world. We work longer days, take less time off and retire later in life. But, is love really the basis of this affair? The answer is usually no.

It’s not love, but a drive for success that leaves us frequenting the office like drunk college kids frequent a Taco Bell. However, beyond the insatiable desire to win, it’s also structure — or more accurately, lack of structure — that causes many to spend 20 hours on things they could actually get done in five.

Misuse of time is prolific and can envelope both personal and work-related activities. Too frequent checking of email, an inability to delegate tasks, excessive meetings and the failure to make a plan all add up to “work” being more aptly titled “waste.” It doesn’t have to be this way.

Related: Get it Done: 35 Habits of the Most Productive People (Infographic)

Most of you are probably familiar with Tim Ferriss (of Four Hour Work Week fame) and his approach to success. Tired of working 14-hour days, Ferriss came up with a system to work less and live more.

The goal of Ferriss’ book may be to communicate how people can work less, but let’s face it — many people don’t want to work less. I don’t want to work less. I like my work. However, I do want to be as effective as possible with my time. Doing so will help me capitalize on opportunities and find greater fulfillment in those opportunities.

Scott Dinsmore, founder of Live Your Legend, follows a similar train of thought. His core message isn’t about working less; it’s about doing what you love. Sounds great, right? And it is, but as Dinsmore clearly points out, it isn’t easy. In order to do what you love, you have to use your time to maximum effect, and that starts with a process. It starts with structure and planning.

Dinsmore’s approach involves eight steps (normally concentrated to five) that are executed weekly:

  • Carve out some time to plan your week before it begins
  • Mentally focus on your long-term goals
  • Celebrate your successes from the week before
  • Identify lessons learned in the previous week
  • Take note of things that were planned that didn’t occur and determine why
  • Call out the most important goals for the current week
  • Schedule everything — yes, everything — formally on a calendar
  • Schedule everything else, including the planning itself

While Ferriss may reject the use of some technological tools, and Dinsmore may evangelize the use of similar tools, the common denominator is that they both promote a structured methodology to achieving goals.

Related: 3 Secrets to Develop Habits That Matter

No single approach is going to work for everyone, but the correlation between the adoption of a structured approach to your workday and success can’t be ignored. The key is to take the ideas that resonate best with you and adopt them. If you can’t swallow an entire method immediately, then begin one step at a time. Start with a weekly planning session, then layer in maximizing the use of virtual assistants. In a month’s time, commit to spending 10 minutes a week reflecting on the successes (and missed opportunities) of the past week. Before you know it, you’ll have an approach to addressing the work week.

Underpinning any methodology for addressing the opportunities in front of you are consistency and flexibility. Helmuth von Moltke, the chief of staff for the Prussian army in the latter half of the 19th century, noted that “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Events will inevitably conspire to foil the best of plans. This doesn’t obviate the need for structure, rather, it reinforces it. As Dwight D. Eisenhower sagely noted, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

4 Technologies That Have Changed Business Forever

With the advent of new technologies, the business landscape sure looks a lot different than it did just a short time ago.  Despite the coming changes, there are tools that have had a great impact on business and hold great promise for the future.

If I had to pick the tools that would be most indispensable for businesses and entrepreneurs now and in the future, my list would include:

Cloud

Cloud technology is truly changing everything. The most important thing the cloud brings to entrepreneurs and to businesses is enhanced accessibility. People can, will, (and in many instances, already do) access everything they need from anywhere they are through the cloud.

Related: Don’t Get Stuck in the Software Jam

This technology allows for sharing secure and private information, and it will continue to create new capabilities for more efficient work. While adoption of cloud tech is improving business communication, its proper implementation will increase workplace collaboration in unimaginable ways.  For businesses that thrive on their remote workers, cloud-enabled collaboration will become crucial.

Recommendations:

Google Drive (Productivity): Allows for all of your tools — from documents to spreadsheets to calendar – to be at your fingertips for free or a very low cost.

StarLeaf (Collaboration): Simple, secure and highly reliable ad-hoc video solution for point-to-point and multi-user video conferencing.

Quickbooks Online (Accounting): Powerful tool for small businesses looking for a single application to handle contacts, billing, banking and so much more.

Pipeliner (CRM): Many great cloud customer-relationship management apps are out there but this one has a wonderful visual interface that gives newfound clarity to deal management.

Mobile

With rapid Internet proliferation and smarter devices becoming not only more affordable but also more widely available, the mobile employee will be as productive as ever, regardless of whether they are in the office or at a coffee shop. Mobile will ensure the ultimate success of flexible work, pushing it to mainstream.

Recommendations:

GChat (Mobile Real-Time Chat): This platform is an awesome and free way to connect and chat with almost anyone on the web. Not a private platform, but super convenient.

Asana and Trello (Productivity and Project Collaboration): Small businesses rarely allows for project teams to be available in one place. Mobile project collaboration is hot and these tools are awesome.

Data

Small businesses will be empowered to make data driven decisions from a plethora of data brokers who are selling the power of information, much like brokers used to sell oil or commodities. Want to understand how to grow your business? Just look at the data, and you will be able to make informed decisions that are both simple and affordable. The present strategies of business owners will align and prepare them for the future, but these tools will also take the burden of data mining and management off their shoulders.

Related: Learn to Refine Crude Data, a Precious Resource for a Startup

Recommendations:

Google Analytics (Web Traffic): This free tool is a tremendous way to see where your traffic is coming from and where they go once they get to your site.

Moz (SEO): Want to understand the keywords, traffic and competition better? This tool will help you optimize and get more from your digital assets.

Traackr (Social Influence): Interested in who the individuals and companies are that have the most influence in your industry or area of interest? This tool can help you do that.

Twitter Analytics (Native Twitter Data): For companies using Twitter for social marketing, Twitter’s native analytics are a great way to see how your content is performing.

Social

We no longer need to knock on doors or make cold calls to find our prospective customers. We can locate them instantly, see what they are talking about (and what matters to them) and connect and engage with them in real time. Effective messaging and tactics backed by strategy will certainly be necessary. But social will reinvent our go-to-market strategies like nothing ever has before. In fact, social will be the place where your customers will willingly seek you out. There is the potential to create relationships that will yield brand advocates who will help build your brand community, and ultimately, bolster your credibility. From this standpoint, social media tools will no longer be optional. Instead, they’ll be must-haves.

Recommendations:

Hootsuite and Sprout Social (Feed Management and Scheduling): Looking for a central command center for social-media planning and distribution? Look no further than to these tools to empower your business to be social.

Buffer (Scheduling): For companies looking for an easy way to keep their content sharing valuable and regular Buffer allows you to quickly find content and share it at a later time rather than immediately.

BundlePost (RSS Automation and Optimization): This lesser known tool is a wonderful way to aggregate RSS data to see the most relevant content and then using simple export tools upload the content to your social management platform.

Making these tech tools a part of your core business operations now will unlock potential benefits for the future.  How many have you already employed?

Entrepreneur’s Most Popular Infographics of 2014

Humans are visual by nature, so sometimes the best way to make a point is to show it in pictures rather than words. From habits of smart people to the meanings behind logo colors, these posts illustrate the tips and takeaways that can make you a better entrepreneur. Check out this list of the most viewed infographics for the year below!

10. Women Dominate Every Social Media Network — Except One (Infographic)
Women use social media more often and in more ways than men do. Whether it’s interacting with brands or keeping up with the news, women are dominating on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. There is one network, however, that attracts more men than women. Take a spin through this infographic to find out.

9. Habits of the World’s Wealthiest People (Infographic)
Amassing billions of dollars in wealth is a goal that few of us will ever achieve. So, what are billionaires like Warren Buffett and Oprah Winfrey doing differently than the rest of us? Take a look at some of their habits here.

8. 13 Signs of a Disengaged Employee (Infographic)
Even the best workers have days when they feel unmotivated, but there’s a big difference between them and those who are truly disengaged. Employees who have mentally “checked out” drag down morale and slow down productivity. Here are 13 signs — including traits like a lack of enthusiasm and actions like a list of excuses — that you should look out for in your employees.

7. 44 Apps That Turn Your Smartphone Into a Productivity Powerhouse (Infographic)
While the app store is full of fun time-wasters (Candy Crush, anyone?), there is also a plethora of productivity apps that can make you feel accomplished each workday. This infographic gives you the pros and cons of some of the most popular ones.

6. How Do I Build a Business Plan? (Infographic)
Now that you have an idea for your business, it’s time to put together a business plan that will serve as a roadmap for your company. To do so, you need to answer questions about your target market, your costs and the ways in which your product is unique — and this is only the start! Luckily, this infographic will help breakdown the must-haves for your business plan and compelling stats about that plan’s importance. Step one: Check out this article.

5. What Does the Color of Your Logo Say About Your Business (Infographic)
Color is a key part of branding a business. While they may appear arbitrary, the hues a company uses in its logo can convey all kinds of emotion. While red signifies intensity, trust, and active-ness — making it the perfect choice for companies like CNN and RedBull — the color orange is associated with happiness and tropical locations, which is a great fit for a company like Fanta. Why would UPS want to be associated with the color brown? Read on and find out.

4. The Formula Startups Use to Make Billions (Infographic)
Starting a business can be an intimidating process; starting one that will eventually go public can seem impossible. Fear not, readers. There’s no magic fairy dust involved. Have a look at this brief view of how startups make money.

3. Take Back Your Mornings (Infographic)
These tips can turn “rise and shine” into a reality. Small steps like unplugging 90 minutes before sleep and listening to the radio in the morning can make a big difference. Learn more tricks to help even the biggest night owl get a better start in the early hours.

2. How Old Is Too Old to Start a Business? The Answer May Surprise You. (Infographic)
The media loves the story of the young college kid who starts a billion-dollar business out of his dorm room — but that’s hardly the norm. John Campbell of Campbell Soup and fashion designer Vera Wang both began their ventures when they were well out of school. See who else helps prove that a later start can still lead to success.

1. Let Go, Keep it Simple, Move Quickly: Secrets to Being a Productive Entrepreneur (Infographic)
What do “eating the frog,” listening to music and obeying the first rule of improv comedy have in common? They’re all tactics that can make you more productive by helping you think faster, work quicker and start the day right. Learn the other secrets could help make your day purposeful.

The Benefits of Having Friends in the Office (Infographic)

When we spend the majority of our lives at work (47 hours a week, on average), it stands to reason that we should enjoy ourselves while we’re there.

Managers would do well to encourage their employees to bond, but a recent LinkedIn study found that each generation places a different amount of importance on workplace relationships. Fifty-three percent of millennial workers are more likely to share information about their personal lives in the office, while only 23 percent of baby boomers do the same.

Related: 3 Quirky De-stress Hacks to Keep Your Team Motivated and Happy

This infographic by employee-survey platform Officevibe, embedded below, includes more interesting factoids about the importance of office friendships. For instance, 70 percent of employees think that having office friends is the “most crucial” aspect of having a fulfilling work life, and half of employees with a best work friend said they felt a “strong connection” with their company.  Moreover, 74 percent of women and 58 percent of men said that camaraderie was so important that they would pass up a higher salary “if it meant not getting along” with their colleagues.

For more on how friendship in the workplace increases efficiency, quality and overall morale, check out the infographic below.

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The Benefits of Having Friends in the Office (Infographic)

44 Apps That Turn Your Smartphone Into a Productivity Powerhouse (Infographic)

In today’s mobile landscape, where unfocused pedestrians regularlywalk into walls and a majority of Americans prize their beloved gadgetsabove sex, smartphones have come to serve for many as dangerous agents of distraction. But when optimally harnessed, they can serve as powerful productivity tools.

From to-do lists to time management to goal-tracking to file storage, here’s a look at 44 of the best apps to help entrepreneurs systematize the unwieldy process of building a business, as compiled by British IT company Conosco.

Among our favorites? HabitRPG, a task manger that gamifies your habits and accomplishments, and Focus@will, which combines background music and neuroscience to purportedly boost productivity by up to 400 percent.

Related: Does This Desk Increase Productivity or Simply Make You Look Ridiculous?

Check out the full list below.

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44 Apps That Turn Your Smartphone Into a Productivity Powerhouse (Infographic)