Income-Generation vs Busywork

The Pareto principle tells us that 20 percent of our actions are responsible for 80 percent of our results. Likewise in business, you have a few activities that result in income-generation, and the rest is just busywork. The problem is when we get overwhelmed by the busywork; in order to do creative work, you need to provide separate time to focus on demanded work instead of reacting to the latest email.

Thus, creative individuals should be encouraged to “show the money”. This is in essence specific time to be able to focus on income generating activities and ignore everything else that distracts them from that ultimate goal. While each industry would have a specific set of income generating actions, the following are some of the common activities that are present regardless of the kind of business:

  1. Product and/or service development;
  2. Creation of a product from a service based business or vice versa;
  3. Performance of paid consultancy calls or visits;
  4. Sending correspondence to clients for a promotional offer or reminder of service;
  5. Expanding the reach of the business for new prospects and/or customers;
  6. Creation of an affiliate or referral program;
  7. Find activities that generate income and/or sales.

On the other end of the spectrum, busy work is non-income generating work. The prime example of activities that are actually expenses to the company time and resources is any other work not identified in the previous list. Of course, some busy work is required in the normal operation of a business, so not all of it is bad. The point, however, why busy work is an expense, is that it does not generate income or revenue for the company.

Thus, it is important to plan ahead, even on a week by week basis, focusing more on the income generating activities and letting the workday revolve around them. There are but only two ways to create income in a business, namely to bring in new clients or increase sales from existing ones. It is imperative that all company and individual plans and tactics would fit into one of the aforementioned categories.

There are recommended ways in order to achieve either bringing in new clients or generating more sales and these are as follows:

  1. Use social media networks to post special offers;
  2. Sell first offering at a loss and then convert the newer customers with a higher offer;
  3. Offer to help new customers for free and then include a paid offer for any additional services;
  4. Add a special ‘email only’ promo at the bottom of one’s email signature as this is a passive manner to advertise for new sources of income;
  5. Ask for testimonials from current clients since this would help influence others in their purchasing decisions;
  6. Post a free ad on free message boards such as Craigslist;
  7. Add the product or service for auction on eBay. This serves two purposes, purchase of the product and advertisement;
  8. Create a contest with a big prize or offer giveaways to be included in smaller prizes;
  9. Search for sites with local news components and have them pitch your product or service;
  10. Pitch your offer to a blog or agency site on a guest post or special feature;

Once a relationship with happy clients has been established, the second option would be all the more easier. This can help create a better business and these activities are as follows:

  1. Provide incentives for current clients in increasing their purchases or referrals of new customers or both;
  2. Offer a customer discount to frequent purchasers, but be careful of this as it may affect your bottomline;
  3. Understand your customer’s needs through up selling or have special in house product offerings;
  4. Expand the menu of services to include both products and/or services;
  5. Provide options, such as a high end product to serve as anchor to other products and/or services or even do the opposite, moving from low end to high end;
  6. Create urgency around an existing product or offering;
  7. Increase prices but inform clientele so that they can purchase at lower prices;

Thus, busy work and income generating work is important. It is just a matter of creating a healthy business and creative environment to allow the business to grow and flourish in the long run.

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Humor: A Double-Edged Sword

Many say that being funny is a positive trait, especially in first-time encounters. In many surveys, one of the most desired qualities in a partner is sense of humor. Be it while dating or after marriage, the more a person enjoys their partner’s sense of humor, the more they will be satisfied with their relationship.

But a psychologist from the University of Western Ontario raises a red flag on all this. According to Dr. Rod Martin, humor in relationships can cut both ways. Funny people may seem to be more attractive initially, but as time goes by, the thrill of the humor wears off. Furthermore, relying too much on jokes to avoid deep relational issues can lead to more serious problems; in this case, humor may actually cause more harm than good.

This was seconded by Robert Weiss, a psychologist from the University of Oregon who studied the effect of humor in relationships. He said, “Humor is a tool like any other. People use humor in lots of different ways, including some negative ones. It’s not just one monolithic thing.” He added that almost every sweet, supportive way of using humor has an evil counterpart, the aggressive, selfish, or manipulative version. Teasing comments can either be interpreted as flattery or attack. Since these two are intertwined, it may come across as not being funny.

The most common way that humor ends up being hurtful are jokes about one’s qualities, such as clumsiness, shyness or body parts. Humor also weakens the foundation of a relationship in unseen ways, such as making a joke to change the subject when one brings up finances without even trying to be funny. In the end, one may fail to notice what important things that have been disagreed upon when humor enters the picture.

Throughout history, the basic structure of a joke, where one says one thing and mean another is a useful tool in human interaction. According to Martin, this ambiguity allows individuals to interpret matters differently and alter their stance when it is not properly received. This makes it into a flexible communication strategy as a means to explore different meanings. This includes dropping hints about marriage or dating and depending on the response, have a means to escape in the form of a joke.

Another benefit is that humor can bring lovers together as one. This was observed especially in lover’s retreats where one way to break the ice is through a joke or a funny video. This is one of the most positive ways that humor is present and because of this, many do not understand its downside. A well-timed joke can actually help cool down a tense situation. Many resort to out of this world antics to help break the tension, change the mood or introduce another point of view into the conversation. Humor through exaggeration, an unrealistic point of view is turned, allowing the recipient to regain a foothold on reality.

This may become a problem, especially when after calming a partner down and picking them up again, a pattern of demand and withdrawal ensues making it better to avoid problems through a joke instead of addressing them altogether.

This double entendre effect of jokes allows individuals to be hostile in a subtle manner, usually with a just kidding rejoinder. In many instances, the very same comments can either be uplifting or demeaning, cooptive or segregating and this depends on the situation and the context it was made. The difference is not in the way the line is delivered but how the recipient interprets it. Even good intentions can be washed away when an errant comment is doled out, as how the butt of the joke understands it is what matters most.

Between the various studies on humor, many patterns have emerged. Women use humor as a tool to enhance a relationship while men use it to increase their persona. Men often linked jokes and slapstick greater than women, while women make humor in collaborative storytelling scenarios. The difference is not about hormones but more about context. There have also been studies that show that individuals use humor differently compared to those of their inferiors. This can be seen when the boss cracks a joke, everybody laughs and when assistant offers a suggestion, she includes self-deprecating humor into it.

Humor is often at the behest of the beholder. Most psychologists agree that humor is more likely to be symptomatic of issues rather than the cause for the issues. The most important aspect of this is timing, especially in romantic relationships. If the partner cannot take a joke, then look at the motives behind saying it, as timing is crucial to making it a positive factor instead of a negative one. Even with this possible effect, humor is what makes individuals human. Humor, after all, helps put people in the right perspective, looking far beyond fears and sorrows to be able to reach out with a loving touch instead of a heavy hand.

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A Pill to Help Make People Work Harder?

In the rush to help create safe weight loss drugs, a new study conducted research from a wholly different perspective. Instead of a drug focused on increasing metabolism, can there be a pill designed to make individuals want to exercise harder and more intensely?

This may sound like fiction, but the new study published in the online edition of The FASEB journal recommends that this may actually be an achievable reality. A team of researchers from Switzerland have found that a specific hormone in the brain named erythropoietin (Epo) was elevated in mice who were motivated to exercise.

Moreoever, the strain of erythropoietin used in the experiments did not cause an increase in red blood cell counts, which avoids potentially unwanted side-effects. Thus, the treatment could help with any health condition which benefits from physical activity, from obesity to Alzheimer’s and many other mental health conditions that can be alleviated through physical activity.

According to Max Gassmann, DVM, researcher from the Institute of Veterinary Physiology of the Vetsuisse-Faculty and Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology at the University of Zurich said, “Here we show that Epo increases the motivation to exercise. Most probably, Epo has a general effect on a person’s mood and might be used in patients suffering from depression and related diseases.”

In making this discovery, Gassmann and his colleagues had used three types of mice, those that had no treatment, those injected with the human hormone Epo and those that were genetically modified to produce human Epo in the brain. Compared to the control group, those mice with human Epo in the brain had significantly higher running imperative without increasing red blood cell count.

Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor in Chief of the FASEB Journal captured the significance of the study by saying, “If you can’t put exercise in a pill, then maybe you can put the motivation to exercise in a pill instead. As more and more people become overweight and obese, we must attack the problem from all angles. Maybe the day will come when gyms are as easily found as fast food restaurants.”

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Good Habits Knock Out Bad Habits

Each individual has their own bad habits, whether it be eating too much, sleeping too little, surfing the web at work time, or something more disastrous. Many have no control over these habits, and the inability to create and maintain good ones in their place affects the overall well-being of one’s life.

There is a book that specifically discusses this. Penned by Charles Duhigg, a business reporter with the New York Times, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and in Business, discusses how one can control bad habits such as complaining too much to coworkers, dragging our feet with difficult tasks, and even going against established office routines.

The premise of the book is quite simple. He breaks down habits into a simple system where there is a routine, a cue and reward. He then discusses cases of psychological research and reaches a conclusion that while habits may be strong, they also have their weak points. Thus when attacked, these habits crumble and fall. The book advises that instead of actively stopping the habit, analyze what cues the habit that leads you to the routine and what reward is obtained after performing that. Changing either the cue or reward makes the routine easily replaceable with a better one. While psychologists debate about the willpower of the individual, this premise removes willpower and merely focuses on the structure of the habits. In tweaking the structure, the brain will soon adapt the behavior automatically, regardless of will or intent.

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Alcohol May Actually Help Problem Solving Skills

In a recent study, scientists observed that men who ingested two pints of beer or two glasses of wine before tackling brain teasers showed quicker times in providing correct answers. This may lead to a better understanding if alcohol actually is able to enhance an individual’s problem solving skills.

The study found that aside from being quicker in solving brain teasers, they got more questions right compared to others who answered the same test while sober. This goes against the grain of traditional wisdom regarding the effect of alcohol on analytical thinking and rational thought.

The lead author of the study, Professor Jennifer Wiley of the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that alcohol may actually enhance creative problem solving skills through a reduction of the mind’s working memory capacity, allowing for greater concentration on one specific topic at a time.

According to Professor Wiley, “Working memory capacity is considered the ability to control one’s attention. It’s the ability to remember one thing while you’re thinking about something else.”

While this study demonstrating alcohol’s ability to enhance creative problem solving, other research counteracted this as increased working memory capacity leads to better analytic and problem solving abilities. Other research includes a current study recently published at the journal Consciousness and Cognition, where it found individuals drinking alcohol and registering 0.07 blood alcohol level or higher were worse at completing problems requiring attention control, but registered better with creative problem solving tests.

With this discovery, participants registering BAC levels of 0.07 or higher were able to solve 40 percent more problems than their sober counterparts, taking just 12 seconds to complete the tasks compared to 15.5 seconds for teetotalers.

Wiley noted caution on the results as it was too focused and may limit the possibilities to a broader more flexible state of attention that may prove helpful to creative solutions to eventually emerge. She added, “We have this assumption, that being able to focus on one part of  a problem or having lot of expertise is better for problem solving. But that’s not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted.”

Another limitation is the study’s application to individuals having a few drinks and not those that drink to get drunk. She added, “The bottom line is what we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities and a broader, more flexible state of attention is needed for creative solutions to emerge.”

Other experts view that the findings make sense, they also noted that sleep would also be beneficial for creativity enhancement. Past research would show that individuals that were allowed to sleep after being given a problem were more likely to wake up with a creative solution compared to others who kept awake.

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