Most tech entrepreneurs these days stay away from services because investors are looking for high-margin, repeatable revenue. Service revenues don’t command the same multiples that product revenues do.
When I decided to bootstrap my startup, I never expected to be selling professional services. I quickly learned, however, that offering services tied to your product can be incredibly useful when bootstrapping. When my company started offering design and development services utilizing our low-code development platform, these services led to high-margin recurring revenue and greatly improved unit economics. These services also drove a tremendous amount of customer success.
But, service offerings are not for everyone. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself in order to determine whether services should be part of your bootstrapping efforts.
For bootstrapping to work, you need a healthy margin. At one of the companies I founded, our professional services were a necessary element of customer onboarding since product implementation was incredibly complex and not self-service.
Our professional services margin was -20%, which eroded our cash significantly. In this instance, service was not a revenue center but a loss leader — something we had to offer to secure the more valuable recurring revenue. If you find yourself in the same boat, services will never be a viable bootstrapping strategy. They could, however, be a tool you utilize to drive the rapid growth of recurring revenues.
Does the market/customer want the services?
Many technology products simply can’t be used by most people without a services component. At my company, we found that even though our low-code development platform could be utilized by people with minimal coding expertise, certain segments of our user base simply didn’t have the inclination to build their solution on our platform. We also discovered that even with powerful tools, many people wanted to leverage the expertise of an experienced software design team.
This prompted us to spin up a services team that could charge for design and development as an initial project and even provide ongoing development services on a monthly basis. Going this route is driving a three-to-six month payback on sales and marketing investment for us. Do these types of opportunities exist for you?
Can your service offering eventually be outsourced to an ecosystem of providers?
Services can serve as a bridge to help fund platform losses up to a point where outsiders can take over. Building an ecosystem can create an awesome flywheel effect, whereby participants not only become service providers but a channel for bringing in new product sales — without the expense of having to add to your own sales team.
Salesforce and Workday both did a brilliant job of executing this strategy. Ideally your product will gain enough acceptance that you can sell off your services division for additional profit.
Do services provide you with more customer intimacy and enhance your retention metrics?
A customer’s switching costs go way up when there is both a human and technological connection to your product and services. This sort of intimacy can provide a significant boost to your retention metrics and ensure predictable revenue.
Having great people to support clients can make up for early product deficiencies and create a level of trust that a pure low-touch product cannot. This is especially important in the early days of any startup’s product lifecycle.
Can bootstrapping with services strengthen your product development?
Launching a services division also provides another benefit: the chance for you to “eat your own dogfood.” It’s a fact that when employees use their own product, it gets markedly better. At my company, we rotate core team members in and out of the professional services team to ensure every engineer feels what our customers feel. I believe this leads to product brilliance.
Now I’m not advocating you become a services company, but having a product company with a service business could stave off having to secure venture backing before your product is more mature. This can help you avoid things like dilution, a loss of control and the pressure to grow fast for a speedy exit.
As someone who’s previously founded two venture-backed startups, I like how bootstrapping with services is allowing my company to grow more thoughtfully. We have time to think about product/market fit before scaling up, we’re not pursuing growth rates that our platform can’t support, we’re making smart hires and we’re scrutinizing the ROI of all of our expenses because every dollar counts.
Additionally, we are vetting the utility of our own product with real-life customers and creating a virtuous circle of feedback to drive new features. I feel like it’s the smarter way to evolve a business like ours — building a company for the long haul versus hitting some arbitrary goal to secure additional venture capital.
There is one important consideration before bootstrapping with services: You’ll want to make sure you’re growing (albeit at a deliberate pace) and not just treading water. That’s why the above questions are something you’ll want to consider before following my lead. It’s critical you feel confident that you’ll create enough runway and customer success for your ultimate business model to take shape, while not letting services become a distraction.
In computer technology the term bootstrapping, refers to language compilers that are able to be coded in the same language. (For example, a C compiler is now written in the C language. Once the basic compiler is written, improvements can be iteratively made, thus pulling the language up by its bootstraps) Also, booting usually refers to the process of loading the basic software into the memory of a computer after power-on or general reset, the kernel will load the operating system which will then take care of loading other device drivers and software as needed.
Bootstrapping can also refer to the development of successively more complex, faster programming environments. The simplest environment will be, perhaps, a very basic text editor (e.g., ed) and an assembler program. Using these tools, one can write a more complex text editor, and a simple compiler for a higher-level language and so on, until one can have a graphicalIDE and an extremely high-level programming language.
Historically, bootstrapping also refers to an early technique for computer program development on new hardware. The technique described in this paragraph has been replaced by the use of a cross compiler executed by a pre-existing computer. Bootstrapping in program development began during the 1950s when each program was constructed on paper in decimal code or in binary code, bit by bit (1s and 0s), because there was no high-level computer language, no compiler, no assembler, and no linker.
A tiny assembler program was hand-coded for a new computer (for example the IBM 650) which converted a few instructions into binary or decimal code: A1. This simple assembler program was then rewritten in its just-defined assembly language but with extensions that would enable the use of some additional mnemonics for more complex operation codes.
The enhanced assembler’s source program was then assembled by its predecessor’s executable (A1) into binary or decimal code to give A2, and the cycle repeated (now with those enhancements available), until the entire instruction set was coded, branch addresses were automatically calculated, and other conveniences (such as conditional assembly, macros, optimisations, etc.) established. This was how the early assembly program SOAP (Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program) was developed. Compilers, linkers, loaders, and utilities were then coded in assembly language, further continuing the bootstrapping process of developing complex software systems by using simpler software.
Causal loop, also known as Bootstrap paradox – Sequence of events which cause each other
Kianna Ameni-Melvin’s parents used to tell her that there wasn’t much money to be made in education. But it was easy enough for her to tune them out as she enrolled in an education studies program, with her mind set on teaching high school special education.
Then the coronavirus shut down her campus at Towson University in Maryland, and she sat home watching her twin brother, who has autism, as he struggled through online classes. She began to question how the profession’s low pay could impact the challenges of pandemic teaching.
She asked her classmates whether they, too, were considering other fields. Some of them were. Then she began researching roles with transferable skills, like human resources. “I didn’t want to start despising a career I had a passion for because of the salary,” Ms. Ameni-Melvin, 21, said.
Few professions have been more upended by the pandemic than teaching, as school districts have vacillated between in-person, remote and hybrid models of learning, leaving teachers concerned for their health and scrambling to do their jobs effectively.
For students considering a profession in turmoil, the disruptions have seeded doubts, which can be seen in declining enrollment numbers.
A survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education found that 19 percent of undergraduate-level and 11 percent of graduate-level teaching programs saw a significant drop in enrollment this year. And Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income schools across the country, said it had received fewer applications for its fall 2021 corps compared with this period last year.
During the pandemic, Kianna Ameni-Melvin started questioning her decision to become a teacher and began researching roles with transferable skills.Credit…Rosem Morton for The New York Times
Many program leaders believe enrollment fell because of the perceived hazards posed by in-person teaching and the difficulties of remote learning, combined with longstanding frustrations over low pay compared with professions that require similar levels of education. (The national average for a public-school teacher’s salary is roughly $61,000.) Some are hopeful that enrollment will return to its prepandemic level as vaccines roll out and schools resume in-person learning.
But the challenges in teacher recruitment and retention run deeper: The number of education degrees conferred by American colleges and universities dropped by 22 percent between 2006 and 2019, despite an overall increase in U.S. university graduates, stoking concerns about a future teacher shortage.
For some young people, doubts about entering the teaching work force amid the pandemic are straightforward: They fear that the job now entails increased risk.
Nicole Blagsvedt, an education major at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, felt a jolt of anxiety when she began her classroom training in a local public school that recently brought its students back for full in-person learning. After months of seeing only her roommates, moving around a classroom brimming with fourth and fifth graders was nerve-racking.
Ms. Blagsvedt’s role also encompassed new responsibilities: sanitizing fidget toys, enforcing mask use, coordinating the cleaning of the water bottles that students brought to school because they couldn’t use the water fountains. In her first week, she received a call from an office assistant informing her that one of her students had been exposed to Covid-19, and that she had to help shepherd the students out of the classroom so it could be disinfected.
“This panic crossed my mind,” she said. “I thought: This was what it’s going to be like now.”
Administrators running teacher preparation programs said the new anxieties were most likely scaring away some potential applicants. “People are weighing whether or not it makes sense to go to a classroom when there are alternatives that may seem safer,” said David J. Chard, dean of the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University.
But for many students, the challenges posed by remote teaching can be just as steep. Those training in districts with virtual classes have had to adjust their expectations; while they might have pictured themselves holding students’ hands and forming deep relationships, they’re now finding themselves staring at faces on a Zoom grid instead.
“Being online is draining,” said Oscar Nollette-Patulski, who had started an education degree at the University of Michigan but is now considering swapping majors. “You have to like what you’re doing a lot more for it to translate on a computer. I’m wondering, if I don’t like doing this online that much, should I be getting a degree in it?”
In some instances, remote teaching has deprived education students of training opportunities altogether. At Portland State University in Oregon, some students were not able to get classroom placements while schools were operating remotely. Others were given only restricted access to student documents and academic histories because of privacy concerns.
Education programs were already struggling to recruit new students to the profession, long before the pandemic forced teachers to hold classes remotely.Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times
At the university’s College of Education there was a decline in applications this year, which the dean, Marvin Lynn, attributed to students in the community hearing about the difficulties in training during the pandemic.
Applications may tick back up as schools return to in-person learning, Dr. Lynn said, but the challenges are likely to outlast this year. Educators have struggled with recruitment to the profession since long before the pandemic. In recent years, about 8 percent of public schoolteachers were leaving the work force annually, through retirement or attrition. National surveys of teachers have pointed to low compensation and poor working conditions as the causes of turnover.
The pandemic is likely to exacerbate attrition and burnout. In a recent national study of teachers by the RAND Corporation, one quarter of respondents said that they were likely to leave the profession before the end of the school year. Nearly half of public schoolteachers who stopped teaching after March 2020 but before their scheduled retirements did so because of Covid-19.
This attrition comes even as many schools are trying to add staff to handle reduced class sizes and to ensure compliance with Covid-19 safety protocols. Miguel A. Cardona, the secretary of education, recently called for financial help to reopen schools safely, which will allow them to bring on more employees so they can make their classes smaller. The Covid-19 relief package approved by President Biden includes $129 billion in funding for K-12 schools, which can be used to increase staff.
Not all teacher preparation programs are experiencing a decrease in interest. California State University in Long Beach saw enrollment climb 15 percent this year, according to the system’s preliminary data. Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, the assistant vice chancellor for the university system, attributes this partly to an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, which temporarily allowed candidates to enter preparation programs without meeting basic skill requirements because of the state’s teacher shortage.
Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City also saw an increase in applications this year, according to a spokesman, who noted that teaching has historically been a “recession-proof profession” that sometimes attracts more young people in times of crisis.
Even some of those with doubts have chosen to stick with their plans. Ms. Ameni-Melvin, the Towson student, said she would continue her education program for now because she felt invested after three years there.
Maria Ízunza Barba also decided to put aside her doubts and started an education studies program at the Wheelock College of Education at Boston University last fall. Earlier in the pandemic, as she watched her parents, both teachers, stumble through the difficulties of preparing for remote class, she wondered: Was it too late to choose law school instead?
Ms. Ízunza Barba, 19, had promised to help her mother with any technical difficulties that arose during her first class, so she crawled under the desk, out of the students’ sight, and showed her mother which buttons to press in order to share her screen.
Then she watched her mother, anxious about holding the students’ attention, perform a Spanish song about economics.
Ms. Ízunza Barba said she realized then that there was no other career path that could prove as meaningful. “Seeing her make her students laugh made me realize how much a teacher can impact someone’s day,” she said. “I was like, whoa, that’s something I want to do.”
A bad tech stack can make it difficult for companies to succeed against competitors in everything from customer engagement and sales to production and innovation. But, outdated, annoying or confusing technology can also harm your organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent, which will be increasingly difficult and important as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and the labor market tightens.
To be sure, it will be several years before the U.S. and global economies return to pre-COVID levels. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the U.S. won’t hit pre-pandemic employment levels until 2024. But given that major enterprise IT shifts can also take years, now is the time to evaluate your tech stack and ensure your organization has the right tools for a digital workforce that’s geographically dispersed, discerning when it comes to technology and willing to walk if an employer’s technology hinders their success.
52% of workers said they have “become dissatisfied at work due to missing or mismatched software”
24% of respondents said they have “considered looking for a new job” because they “didn’t have the right software”
13% of employees said they have actually left a job because of the software their employer required them to use
95% of workers said they would be “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with better software tools
86% of respondents said they would be “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with more software tools
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to close offices and most office workers to become telecommuters, technology became and even more important factor in employee job satisfaction. According to Adobe Workfront’s State of Work 2021 report, released last week:
32% of workers said they had left a job because the employer’s technology “was a barrier to their ability to do good work.” This was up from 22% pre-COVID.
49% of U.S. workers said they are “likely to leave their current job if they’re unhappy or frustrated with the technology they use at work.”
12 point increase in the number of people “who report turning down a job because the tech was out of date or hard to use” between February and March 2020 to November and December 2020
7 point increase in the number of people “who reported applying for a job because they heard a company’s employees use great technology” between February and March 2020 to November and December 2020
5 ways companies can improve employee IT satisfaction
So, as companies race to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to meet the needs of their customers in the new normal, they should also re-examine the hardware and software their employees are using. Here are few tips for building a tech stack that can help promote employee success, boost productivity, and build good will for IT.
Make sure existing tools meet user needs and work as expected: Before you roll out new hardware and software, start with what you already have. Conduct a user satisfaction survey to find out if your current tech stack is meeting employee needs. A TechRepublic 2014 enterprise application software report found that only 26% of respondents were “very satisfied” with their software. IT can also use service desk call logs or reporting tools within their IT service management solution to detect applications and hardware that create regular pain points for end users.
Give employees access to “new” technology: According to the Workfront report, employees are more interested in having access to “new” technology now compared to before the pandemic. The report showed a 5 point increase in the number of respondents who said that “old technology is making it harder to take on more work.” I know budget is always a consideration with any IT purchase, but if your staff is still using 7-year-old computers, it’s time to rethink your IT budget.
Offer employees choice as a rule not an exception: Another data point from the Workfront report was that employees “expect their employers to trust and empower them to know how to achieve the right outcomes.” When I first started my IT career, there were Windows shops and then there was everything else. But today, and honestly for the last decade, modern device management tools and cloud services make it easier than ever to manage multiple operating systems, applications, and hardware platforms. With few exceptions, IT shouldn’t lock employees into (or more importantly out of) tools they believe will help them achieve company goals. I’m not suggesting you should run 5 different finance or CRM systems, but, there’s no reason not to support multiple productivity suites. If accounting needs Excel, sales wants PowerPoint, and everyone else wants Google Docs…fine. Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace can coexist. And if you’re thinking, “But Bill, we’ll get a price break if we use a single software platform.” Those initial low-price deals often expire in a few years (like an introductory interest rate on a credit card) and then you’re back to paying market rates. The same goes for hardware. If Legal wants Windows laptops, the Sales staff wants MacBooks, and your devs want Windows workstations make it happen. Sure, you can have a “standard” machine and drive image that you give to 80% of staff, but don’t just be the department of “no” when someone makes a legitimate business request.
Support flexible/remote working environments: Even as COVID vaccines reach more workers, employees return to offices and public venues reopen, the nature of work has been forever changed by the pandemic. More people will work remotely than before COVID, and IT will need to switch from reactively supporting telecommuters to proactively empowering them. This means giving people have access to the hardware (monitors, keyboards, mice, trackpads, cables, external storage devices, etc.), software, and cloud services they need to work effectively from their home.
Balance security with ease of use: If you make a security measure too onerous for people, they’ll find a way around it. This fact holds true for physical and cybersecurity. There’s no doubt in today’s world of constant cyberattacks everyone organization and individual needs to use strong security tools and follow best practices, there’s a fine line between doing security and overdoing security. For example, IBM released research in 2020 that shows simply deploying lots and lots os security tools doesn’t lead to stronger security. “The enterprise is slowly improving its response to cybersecurity incidents, but in the same breath, it is still investing in too many tools that can actually reduce the effectiveness of defense,” wrote Charlie Osborne for ZDNet’s Zero Day in her article on the report. For practical tips on balancing security and user accessibility, check out Scott Matteson’s list of cybersecurity do’s and don’ts.
When done together, these steps can go a long way to build a tech stack that fosters employee satisfaction with IT and the company as a whole, which as research shows is important for hiring and keeping top talent.
We’ve all sat through weary-eyed, leg-cramping power sessions at our desk, chasing a deadline, or busy dealing with endless tasks, emails, and meetings (now zoom meetings) back to back.
If you are one of the millions moving to working remotely in 2021, you are probably working longer hours, putting in more continual desk time, and without the daily commute, more sedentary than ever.
In a recent report released from the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers discovered that workers are working close to an hour more per day during lockdowns than they were before the pandemic.
So, how do we navigate the new normal and restore our productivity, focus, and well-being?
The secret is to take regular breaks at work.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.” ― Anne Lamott
If you listen to the experts, breaks are essentially little “interventions” that help us gracefully and productively manage the daily grind with rationale and perspective intact.
This complete guide covers all the nitty-gritty about taking breaks at work.
You will learn the importance of taking breaks, how to take effective breaks, what to do on your daily breaks to truly relax and boost your productivity, and a step-by-step guide on how to design a system so that you can easily make breaks a regular part of your routine and stick to it.
Sounds good?Let’s dive in.
Yes, it’s tempting to just want to “power through” one more hour of work. You don’t want to take breaks because you think you can get more done. But did you?
One day you started realizing that your neck, wrist, and back are hurting, despite being an otherwise health-conscious, active lifestyle advocate.
Whether you’re an employee or project stakeholder, hours spent sitting at a desk and staring at a screen puts a strain on your productivity and health.
Take a look.
Our Bodies Suffer
There is a lot of pressure to sit in the office – it’s how you get your work done.
Now that you are probably spending more days working at home, where you don’t need to get up and walk around to talk to people. You are not walking to meetings, you don’t even need to commute.
You are more exposed to the danger of sitting too much.
Researchers have linked sitting for prolonged periods of time to a significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and depression, as well as muscle and joint problems.
Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, describes the process: “Sitting shuts down electrical activity in the legs. It makes the body less sensitive to insulin, causes calorie-burning to plummet, and slows the breakdown of dangerous blood fats, lowering ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.”
What’s noteworthy is that:
A recent science advisory from the American Heart Association has shown that going to the gym, running, or your favorite fitness class, doesn’t cancel out the negative impact of time spent being sedentary.
Radical as it might sound, you can’t undo sitting.
While working out and fitness are important if your goal is to maintain or get in the best shape of your life, it cannot reverse the harmful effects of sitting for the rest of the day and moving very little within your office or home.
Despite all the physical damage, what happens to your brain when you don’t take breaks: Your productivity goes downhill…before you notice.
Brain scientists are very aware of the fact that prolonged work is depleting. The “fading” that we experience creates declines in mood and performance.
“We don’t know exactly what in the brain gets depleted, but when you do a cognitively demanding task, it operates as though there’s a ‘mental fuel’ that gets burned up.” – William Helton, PhD, a professor of human factors and applied cognition at George Mason University
Recent studies show that those who give in to some kind of break once an hour perform better than those who just keep at it without a break.
The Power of Taking Breaks
Many people experience “productivity breakthroughs” after going against their instincts to meet a deadline by taking a pause. We emerge refreshed and more resilient after getting up for both brain and movement breaks.
So, how do breaks help us?
Here’s a quick look at the magic taking breaks does to our brain:
Boosted creativity and problem-solving abilities
Better information retention
Prevents decision fatigue
Reevaluate goals and seeing the bigger picture
Better stress management
Besides the juicy benefits that breaks have on our brains, now what if you can double the benefits?
It’s simple – add movement to your breaks.
For those who get the least amount of physical activity, replacing a half hour of sitting time with physical activity was associated with up to a nearly 50% reduction in mortality, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society.
Breaks are a great opportunity to incorporate movement into our workdays to combat the setbacks of a sedentary lifestyle.
Take a look at the most important benefits of movement breaks:
Improve energy levels
Boost mood and relieve stress
Strengthen weakened muscles and bones
Reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
Reduces the risk of injury
Boost memory and focus
It’s pretty clear that taking breaks is a powerful tool that can make us better at what we do, feel physically better, and happier.
High-performing people understand the power of taking breaks and know how to take advantage of effective breaks to become more productive while keeping their health in check.
So, how do you harness the power of taking breaks, so that you come back fully recharged both physically and mentally?
Continue reading to find out the strategy that actually works.
The Secret to Taking Effective Breaks at Work
Although taking breaks at work might seem even harder when we are working from home and being “accessible” every waking minute, understanding how the brain works and taking the initiative to establish boundaries for effective breaks has quickly become the secret weapon to avoid burnout, improved productivity and personal well-being.
“Breaks are crucial,” says Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. “If you’re working day after day and not letting up, you will burn out.”
Understanding the Productivity Cycle
Our focus, energy, and motivation moves in “waves”.
According to Pozen’s findings, taking a 15-minute break following a productivity chunk allows our brains to better consolidate and retain information. Pozen’s findings echo the findings of research done by Tony Schwartz, the author of The Power of Full Engagement, showing that humans naturally move from full focus to fatigue every 90 minutes.
How often should I take a break? And for how long?
There are many studies that have looked at optimal break schedules. Here are some of the most popular, science-supported methods which you could integrate into a workday:
Once Every Hour
Taking a 5 to 15 minutes break at the top of every hour like clockwork can get you ahead of the 75-minute fatigue curve. Plus, a top-of-the-hour break is easy to remember and execute.
Every 75 to 90 minutes
Following the brain’s “full-focus-to-fatigue” cycle, you can ride productivity waves all the way to the end before refreshing with a break for 5 to 15 minutes.
One of the most common ways to implement a schedule with breaks. Start with a to-do list and timer. After setting your timer for 25 minutes, focus on one task at a time until the timer buzzes. You will mark what you’ve completed before taking a non-negotiable 5-minute break. Enjoy a 30-minute break for every four pomodoros.
The 52:17 Method
Work in increments of 52 minutes before 17-minute breaks.
As you can see, all of these techniques essentially follow the same pattern of riding productivity peaks, followed by small breaks – typically 5 to 15 minutes.
In doing this, we can build up new productivity cycles every 60 to 90 minutes without succumbing to the fatigue that naturally comes without breaks.
However, how often you should take a break depends on the nature of your work and how your brain functions. Everyone is different. The key is to experiment and find your own rhythm.
Take breaks The Right Way
Research shows that taking the wrong type of breaks could actually increase fatigue and steal your productivity, such as mindless snacking, online shopping, and mindlessly scrolling on social media.
It’s also tempting to do some work during your breaks, such as checking your email or the message from your manager. It’s a no-no.
If these are the only breaks you are taking, keep reading to find out how to take breaks the right way.
To reap the maximum benefits of a break, you need to give your brain a chance to relax and your body a chance to recharge.
The best practice is to incorporate activities into your breaks that bring you joy and positive vibes.
For example, a short breathing exercise during your break can help lower blood pressure and relieve stress.
9 break ideas that boost your health and productivity
Simple stretches and mobilization exercises to relax and keep your body functioning, ease stiffness from sitting too long, and prevent injuries.
(Home) office-friendly exercises to wake your sleeping muscles up, boost your energy level, and help you gain focus. Studies have shown that a moderate level of cardio activity can boost creativity and productivity for up to two hours.
A short walk outside. Despite the physical benefits, being physically detached from work, and getting some fresh air in your lungs improves your mood and lowers stress.Breathing/meditative exercise helps your body relax and is one of the most powerful ways to relax your brain and regulating your stress response.
Nap. If you are working from home, or work at a progressive company that affords you the luxury of taking a nap in the office. Take advantage of that. In several studies, a nap of as short as 10 minutes can improve your cognitive function and decrease sleepiness and fatigue. Having that afternoon slump? Nap it off. Be aware that naps that exceed 20 minutes might leave you feeling groggy and disoriented. It is best to limit your naps to 10 to 20 minutes.
Talk to someone. Chat with a colleague or a friend (who is also on a break), grab a coffee down the street, take your dog on a walk, call your mom, or play with your kids if you are a parent working from home.
Laugh. Yes, go ahead and watch some funny videos of cats. According to a recent study, laugh breaks can improve your performance.
While it can be fun to work some creative activities into breaks, the goal remains the same if you want to maximize cognitive and physical boosts:
1. Take your mind off work to give your brain a chance to truly relax;
2. Get up from your chair and move around to combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
The step-by-step guide to make breaks a regular part of your workday
If you’ve read this far, you probably have a pretty good idea of why you need to take breaks, what to do on your breaks and have a strong intention to do so.
Now you’re thinking, “but how do I implement it to my workday and make it a habit?”
It is surprisingly hard for most people to make the change to integrate breaks into the day, even when it’s something that they intend to achieve.
The problem is that most people fail to follow the instructions that they give themselves.
Let’s be honest, it’s way easier to sit on your chair and mindlessly scroll through your phone, OR, you could be so deep in your work that you don’t have extra mental energy to come up with stuff to do or even think about taking a break.
This is when you need a system to, sort of, automate that part of your day. It’s like having your coach showing up at your door every day at the same time to keep you accountable.
So, how do you design a system that helps you achieve this goal?
The perfect behavior-modification technique for this case is what psychologists call implementation intentions. It is a self-regulatory strategy that has been found to be particularly effective when it comes to situations where there may be immediate costs but significant long-term benefits, such as taking breaks at work.
An implementation intention supports our goal intention by setting out in advance when/where and how I will achieve this goal.
Here’s how :
Step 1: Specify your goal. For example, “I will take a break every hour at work”.
Step 2: Schedule them in your calendar (the When). Alternatively, if you prefer to work in “sprints”, set a timer on your phone or computer. You can set a timer for 30-minutes, go with the 52:17 method, or whichever time is optimal for you.
Step 3: Plan out your break activities ahead to avoid needing to “decide” what to do when it’s break time, such as “Go for a 5-minute walk at 3 pm” (the How)
Step 4: Follow the cues you have outlined in your plan
As a result, your goal will be performed automatically and efficiently, without conscious effort.
What we love the most about this technique is that it frees our cognitive resources for other brain-heavy tasks like study & work, since we don’t need to think about when to take a break and what to do for that break. It’s already planned!
Once you take the first step of planning it out, the automated system that you designed helps to remove the hesitation and deliberation when you want to take a break. It’s like putting your breaks on auto-pilot.
And…if you don’t want to go through the hassle of manually scheduling breaks into your workday, or waste your mental energy on coming up with what to do for your breaks, there are tools that are designed to make your life easier.
“Are there any tools that can help me take breaks?”
We are glad that you asked. Yes, there are.
At StretchMinder, we are obsessed with great tools that make life easier. After all, that’s what we believe what technology should be – making people’s lives easier.
Here are 7 hand-picked tools that help you take breaks:
StretchMinder – A unique blend of break reminder and 7-minute workout. From putting your breaks on auto-pilot with pre-scheduled breaks to providing guided activity routines including Movement, Breathing & Walking exercises, the app takes care of it all with just a few clicks. It is perfect for those who want the easiest way to build a habit of taking breaks and moving more throughout the day.
Focus To-Do– A app that brings Pomodoro Technique and To-Do List into one place, you can capture and organize tasks into your to-do lists, start focus timer and focus on work & study, set reminders for important tasks and errands, check the time spent at work.
Focus Booster – A simple and lightweight timer that automatically records each session. The app features a Pomodoro timer, a mini timer, customizable session lengths, report exports, and manual time entry.
Flow Time – A Chrome Extension to boost your productivity. It works as a Pomodoro-like timer & website blocker that boosts your productivity by making your mind go into the state of flow faster.
Google – If you want to keep things simple, just type “set a timer for X minutes” into Google and set your timer.
Your calendar – Schedule your break slots and set reminders on your calendar to repeat every day.
Your phone – Set a timer with the native timer tool and repeat every day diligently.
One of my favorite aspects of my job is helping founders bring their vision to life and launch their brands. Yes, it’s absolutely exciting to work with a brand when they’re already established, but being in those first meetings developing a go-to-market strategy for a brand that’s so new you can still smell the adhesive on their package just hits different. You can hear the heart of the brand beat with every new headline, and watch the founding team grin from ear to ear with each product shot you present.
But all that excitement tends to get matched with the anxiety of a successful launch. There have been months if not years of research and development, trial and error, and highs and lows that lead up to the moment that everything goes live. Everyone’s standing by waiting to see just how well the brand is received — and if people will actually buy it.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned a thing or two about launching brands and products, helping startups get their legs and well-established brands get to acquisition. And although there are many different strategies to get a brand off the ground, there are some things that I believe are essential to a successful launch.
The most successful brands know exactly who they are, what makes them appealing, and most importantly who will care. If you’re thinking your brand is for everyone — and it might be true — your messaging can’t be for everyone. Of course, understanding your target demographic is a foundational strategy, but let’s take that a few steps further. Name your ideal customer, understand their pain point, define which other brands they might be loyal to, and create your messaging specific that person in all of your marketing initiatives. It seems pretty basic, but too often do we see brands that fail to connect with an audience because of copy that doesn’t connect to an individual.
Activate social and collect data
One of our most successful launches was Winged Wellness, a female-focused lifestyle brand. We strategically activated our social campaign 3 months before the projected launch date to begin growing an audience on social channels with our female-empowerment quote cards and lifestyle images (we didn’t actually have the final product yet) and drive traffic to the brand’s landing page. Why were we driving traffic to the site with nothing to sell? So we could start creating custom audience data for social ads later down the road.
Create a pre-launch interest list
Speaking of driving traffic to your website pre-launch, it’s a good idea to start building your email-interest list for a successful launch date. I’d much rather be reminding consumers about a brand the day that I’m ready to sell my products than be introducing the brand. Keep your interest list engaged before your launch by planning a newsletter sequence highlighting your progress, and “alternative” solutions to the problem that your brand will be solving. For example, if you’re launching a skin-care brand, consider sharing content on food that might help someone’s complexion.
Pro-Tip: Consider a pre-order campaign so you can gauge how much inventory you’ll need to have on hand the day of launch.
Look, I get it. You might be burned out on the idea of working with influencers but at the end of the day, you’re getting reach, targeted engagement, testimonials and really great lifestyle content with each one of your partnerships. The trick is to be strategic about who you’re partnering with. Take a look at who’s following them, the sincerity in their engagement, how often they’ve partnered with other brands and what their audience interested in by using a 3rd party data aggregator. Please do not just spray and pray based on follower counts — by planning your influencer partnerships as you would any other aspect of your go-to-market strategy, you’ll give yourself the best shot of making them a profitable arm of your marketing campaign.
Since you were already going to be launching social ads, here are a few pointers: start your prospecting with broader targeting optimized for traffic to gather your interest data before remarketing with your offers, ideally before the launch of your product. Think of it like how movies gain interest for their launches. Trailers are launched months, if not a year, ahead of time stating “Coming Next Summer,” getting audiences hyped and thus helping the movie have a big opening weekend. One of the big mistakes I constantly see is brands launching ads optimized for conversion to cold audiences. That’s a sure way to get your metaphorical movie to flop on its opening day.
Do consider the press
You might be thinking that PR is a thing of the past, but a few of our managed brands depend on press releases for a quick hit of massive reach and establishing themselves as a leader in the industry. And each time a brand gets a good press-hit, there’s almost an immediate spike in sales. Nothing screams “must-have” like “As Featured On…”. But don’t worry, you don’t have to get on Allure’s Reader’s Choice list to make a meaningful impact on your launch. Even a mention in a trust-worthy digital publication can give your brand the reach and credibility to convert readers into loyal customers.
Get your feedback as soon as possible
Once your product finally gets in the hands of your customers, be sure to ask them for a review on your website as soon as possible. In fact, it might be a good idea to leverage package inserts to help remind your customers to give you some love on your site, if not through an automated, product-specific email upon delivery. During your launch phases, reviews on product pages can be especially useful in increasing visitors’ intent to buy and decreasing your initial cost-per-acquisition through paid traffic. A study by Spiegel Research Center shows that the purchase likelihood of products with five reviews is 270% greater than the purchase likelihood of a product with no reviews.
Getting your first customers is just the beginning of their story with you. After working with numerous founders who know something about DTC launches, the focus of conversations as of late have been about customer acquisition cost (CAC) and return on ad spend (ROAS), which in my opinion have effectively become the buzzwords of 2020 digital marketing. And while these metrics are essential to consider, I’d venture to say that improving your customer’s lifetime value (LTV) is even more crucial. Think about it, the cost of acquiring a customer bites deep into your profit margins, so repeat purchases and cross-selling are critical to your business’s overall profitability.
So how do you do that? You can begin with email campaigns that reinforce the use of your product like Truff does by regularly sharing recipes that go well with their truffle-infused hot sauce. Creating exclusive Facebook groups and cultivating an engaged community that experiences your brand through webinars, Q&As or panels is another way to keep your customers in your eco-system. And of course, don’t forget that a great brand starts with a great product.
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U.K digital bank Monzo has confirmed plans to cut up to 120 jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
As first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, Monzo staff were informed via an internal memo that the company will be laying off up to 8% of its workforce due to the coronavirus crisis and resulting economic downturn.
“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to achieve the goal of preventing the risk of redundancy at this time. It’s genuinely heartbreaking to share the news,” the memo, written by newly-appointed CEO TS Anil, said.
A source close to the company said management had “exhausted every option” to avoid making staff redundant.
Around 300 staff have already been furloughed under the U.K. government’s job retention scheme and executives have waived some or all of their pay in response to the pandemic. Monzo co-founder Tom Blomfield deciding to not to take a salary for the next 12 months.
The company was also in April forced to shutter its Las Vegas-based customer support office.
According to Reuters, the redundancies will fall in Monzo’s Head Office and operations teams. The cuts are not linked to staff that volunteered to be furloughed in March, though a source said there could be some overlap.
Monzo, founded in 2015, has been having a rough time recently. Though it told Reuters back in February that it planned to hire around 500 people this year, the company has since been scrambling for funding, seeking to raise between £70 million and £80 million to see it through the disruption – at a 40% discount on its previous valuation of £2 billion.
In March, CEO Tom Blomfield – who has since moved on to take up the role of president – hit out at rumours about an imminent collapse, insisting “Monzo is not going bust”.
I am an experienced journalist with more than a decade of experience covering the technology industry. I was previously editor of UK tech tabloid The INQUIRER, and since going freelance in 2020, I have written for a number of publications including Computer Shopper, IT Pro, TechRadar and Tes