The One Thing You Should Never Procrastinate On

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I must admit, I can sometimes fall into procrastination’s tempting vortex.   Your afternoon suddenly clears up and the project that’s due first thing in the morning doesn’t get your attention until the last half hour of the day.  I picture Indiana Jones sliding under the trap door and reaching back to grab his signature hat seconds before he could lose his hand.  Somehow, he always makes the decision to run for the exit at the last second, despite some opportunistically slow-moving trap doors.

However, there is one thing you should never procrastinate on: helping people. 

When someone asks for your help, either at work or in your network, it is in both of your best interests that you provide whatever advice you can to them sooner rather than later.  Why? Help is something people have difficulty asking for.  In fact, according to an October 2009 Harvard Business Review article, people may be afraid to look dumb when they reach out for help.  Stalling on your answer will only decrease their confidence.

Help is a two-way street

When you offer your assistance to someone in need, be it career advice, a chance to connect two people from distant networks, or even providing day-to-day assistance at work, you build trust.  You build yours and their confidence.  It will also never be forgotten.  Helping people is a two-way street; you do something for someone, they will repay you down the road.

Assess the level of help you can give

Obviously we cannot say yes to everyone.  Help doesn’t have to mean saying ‘yes’, it can mean saying no, but providing a better option.  If you can’t donate $100 to your best friend’s daughter’s third grade school supply rally, suggest other ways or things that could help.

Get scrappy

You know the solution.  A person reaches out because they don’t just need a straight answer, they need guidance.  If your friend is looking for a place to stay in Australia and knew you stayed there with someone you know, the answer might not be to send them to your contact, who they don’t know, it might be to point them to that great hostel you also stayed in.  Carefully consider their question and determine how you can provide help.  You are a wealth of knowledge.

Melanie is a specialist in Communications and Marketing, with her own personal site on advertising and lifestyle, Ademoiselle.com.  Leave a comment or like this post! Or make a new Twitter friend @MelanieReiff.

Photo: Free WHD

The Way We Pay Rent Is All Wrong

Holley Hates Valentine's Day

Every 17th of the month I look at my bank account and think the same thing. It’s still in there. My rent from the first of the month just squats there like a dollop of raw cookie dough, looking mighty tempting but not moving… in my sight but so far from reach.

In the early days when this happened I’d email my landlord around the 15th and remind him to cash the b^*@d% cheque. He’d make up some excuse about not being able to get to the bank at all (in truth, this man is a very busy chain-smoker who spends a lot of time on the sidewalk outside my building conversing with anyone who feels like talking about the nuisance of installing fire-safe windows). I digress.

According to The Canadian Payroll Association, many Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque. I hate to admit it, but I am one of them. It boggles my mind, to be honest. When rent comes out at the beginning of the month, the other half of the month’s money should be all mine (insert evil laugh), but it never seems to be the case. That money goes to playing catch up to the last month’s expenses and so on. It’s a vicious cycle. So perhaps it’s not us that’s the problem, it’s the system in place.

So, what if the way we pay rent is all wrong? What if we paid two months’ rent at once? This would have to mean that we were paid our salary once a month as well. Other countries can handle it, why can’t we?

Let’s see what happens:

Say Johnny makes $4,500 a month and his rent is $1,500 a month. If we tried this new formula, he’d pay $3,000 a month for two months’ rent on January 1st and have another $1,500 to get through to the next payday. Then, the following payday he’d earn his $4,500 and it would be all his (aside from other expenses, obviously). So, I ask, what if?

We’re questioning other been-there-since-forever societal staples like the 5-day workweek and using pavement for roads, so why not this? Perhaps it will see to a reduction in debt and better planning of funds for the immediate future.

Let’s start a discussion, what do you think? Add your comments below and like this if you liked it!

You can also follow @MelanieReiff on Twitter.

Photo credit: Nina Goldman’s cat

The Three Things Vogue’s 15 Coolest Neighbourhoods Can Teach Us About Creativity

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Vogue released its list of the world’s 15 coolest hoods – proudly, Toronto’s West Queen West is on there – and each area seems to have many things in common with the next: cafés, trendy bars, galleries, and a general artsy nature. Bustling districts like financial hubs or laid back suburban blocks do not make the cut. Why? Because it’s all about creativity. Freedom of expression, individuality, uniqueness and a rebellion against the mundane are all commonalities. By allowing creativity to dominate, once-misfit or forgotten pockets are earning their stripes. And it’s a lesson we all should learn.

Creativity isn’t always original. Fifteen global neighbourhoods that do not share a common postal code, let alone 1,000km radius, overlap with so many traits. Why? Expression is about originality, but the art of that expression is not rare at all. The risk-takers share a common drive with other risk-takers – to be a risk-taker. Creativity is more about taking risks. Don’t worry much about what others are doing, too.

Creativity challenges the norm for good. Whether you are the creator or the benefactor, a distinctive vibe manifests in each of these 15 neighbourhoods. It’s a pleasant out-of-the-comfort-zone feeling where acceptance is the one true tolerance. The freedom to graffiti walls in Toronto’s Graffiti Alley and the pixação in Brazil doesn’t just attract (what some might consider pesky) street art anymore. The unwanted has become the wanted and therefore attracts the original adapters and new talent.

Creativity is the underdog we’re all rooting for. Given some extra city funds, I believe most of us would support neighbourhood gentrification that includes a more designed, original approach (after all, up in Canada we have to look at our streets in their finest grey backdrops for half a year). But, we end up with glass towers and manicured grass strips where our dogs can relieve themselves. Queen West breaks this mold and gives us what we really want – a different and rarely implemented way of life.

Vogue concluded that ‘reality trumps fantasy’. Creativity combines them.

Photo credit: vogue.com.

The One Crucial Practice To Thought Leadership Your Organization Can No Longer Ignore

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Successful organizations are teeming with talent; those whose perspectives and individualities are the reasons why there were hired in the first place. However, organizations are not devoting enough effort or attention to giving their employees the platform to express their thought leadership to the public and, in turn, the chance to even more positively reflect your business’s brand.

The Follow Through is a crucial piece to sustaining thought leadership in your organization. Allowing and encouraging your talented staff to reflect on their opinions or discuss recent experiences (at conferences, in boardrooms, at the water cooler) that have happened to them in business increases your platform of expertise. Not to mention highlighting the brilliant minds themselves and their introspection on news and trends.

Did you send Alice to a summit on technology and innovation? Habit-forming follow through behaviours such as producing an article or video blog post-experience are important to foster in your employees whose experiences yield thought provoking responses. And you’ll have proprietary useful content to share with your stakeholders.

Follow through by setting up a 360 degree practice that allows your talented staff to create their own retrospective pieces following any type of experience related to your business and sustain a successful thought leadership practice in your organization.

Who else has given up on comedy?

The more I think about it, the less comedy I watch. The shows categorized as comedy on my Netflix suggestions do little if nothing to entice me. Just a little troupe of 22-minute cable shows with laugh tracks that rely on somewhat witty one-liners and circumstantial humour to be funny. All are recipes for good comedy, but the recipes are old and dusty.

Modern Family swept the Emmy’s this year.  It is a funny show but not THE funniest.  I was rooting for Silicon Valley, a new HBO show whose humour is certainly not for everyone but has managed to attain itself a loyal audience of ‘tip-to-tippers’.  The show has a story – a startup, founded by a nerdy computer programmer, is destined for greatness if only it can get over its bad management, extreme competition, and hilariously arrogant and obnoxious supporting characters who seem to do nothing but impede on success.

But it has a story.  It wasn’t just comedy.  I was glued to the sixth and final episode of season 1 to see the outcome, not just to laugh.

Are dramas the best kind of television?

I just assume most people are like me.  They glue themselves to a show, binge-watch every waking minute on their weekends, and become completely immersed in the story, told so elegantly on the small screen.  Hannibal, The Killing, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, these shows have done something to me, or to my expectations of great TV.

Where does awesome Community Management come from?

ademoiselle:

I wrote this over a year ago but still find it relevant to Community Managers everywhere!

Originally posted on ademoiselle:

rollercoster-coverI overheard my sister talking to our friend Jules about a Facebook post she’d just read.  She began reading it aloud, pausing at certain points and then completing the post, then following it with a ‘wow, isn’t that cool?’

I called from the kitchen of my apartment over to them in the next room.

‘Kate,’ I said, ‘do you know who wrote that?’

She didn’t answer.  I continued.

‘I mean, who wrote that, seriously.  Do you think I wrote it?’

She replied, slightly confused and taken aback.

‘I wrote that.  I manage that community on Facebook.’ Is all I said.

A Community Manager hopes for many things (likes, shares, comments, followers, retweets etc.) but none of that is as coveted after as creating a real story offline.  None of those other things are REAL.

Someone actually talking about something they read online, sharing the story verbally with a friend or…

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Canadian Boomers feeling pressure as they consider their money’s future

My article originally appeared on JWT’s Anxiety Index but I wanted to share it on my blog as well:

As Canadian Boomers age, concern is building over the approximately $1 trillion that will be left behind in the country’s largest wealth transference in history. We’re seeing anxieties rise over this wealth transference, as well as conflicting opinions on what Boomers should be doing with their money leading up to and into their retirement. The Bank of Montreal, one of Canada’s top financial institutions, recently released a wealth transference report, predicting that on average each Boomer will bequeath around $100,000. What happens to this money? According to BMO’s study, 79 percent of beneficiaries will use it to reduce debt. Undoubtedly, student debt could be part of that bucket.

Stacked next to Boomers’ wealth transference anxieties, many are wondering: Do I support my kids now and risk my financial future or wait till after I die? A June study by Scotiabank highlights this financial dilemma. “Not surprisingly, Baby Boomer remorse over retirement planning arises as obstacles begin to appear in the path toward the comfortable lifestyles that we all dream of,” says Lisa Ritchie, Scotiabank’s SVP of Customer Knowledge and Insights, in a press release.

With these Boomer concerns making headlines, banks like BMO and Scotiabank are getting ahead of the issue and pointing consumers to the financial counseling and planning they provide—something we’ll see more brands do as this subject gains traction among Boomers.

 

Cosmos: Not the SATC kind… a general appreciation post

neildegrassetysonI’ve been tearing through Cosmos on Netflix.  Cosmos are not pink, fruity cocktails served in a martini glass that Sarah Jessica Parker holds so stylishly on her girls night out.

Quite the opposite.

Cosmos is a TV show starring Neil deGrasse Tyson about the universe and our place in it, focusing on the expanse of time and the beginning of life.  #Awesome

I’m a little more than obsessed with this show.  I’ve said it many times – if I had a Mathematics degree like my Uncle John, I’d be a scientist, specifically an astrophysicist.  But, those stars just didn’t align and, instead, I have a whimsical blog called Ademoiselle where I can exercise my penmanship to a small audience of friends.

The show goes back 4 billion years to the start of the universe and helps explain our place in it.  The concept is dizzying, the idea that we are just a microscopic element in a ginormous universe, with no real purpose as to why or how we got here.  There’s something comforting about that to me.  And it’s also terrifying.  The show plays on this, using real-life examples of famous astronomers and scientists who were often the first in their fields to make groundbreaking discoveries about the universe and the earth twirling around in it.  This is the comforting part.

Neil deGrassi Junior High Tyson is one helluva host. He explains the concepts so clearly so that normal folk like me can understand.  He’s constantly using vivid and determined facial expressions to accompany the mind-blowing concepts he discusses and this makes him all the more likable.  He’s not just a host.  He’s the expert.  One cannot discuss the Cosmos without the visual of Tyson in his space-age space ship gliding down to the surfaces of other planets and, his face stoic but his body bracing for impact – makes us feel like we’re on the journey as well.

What’s even better is that he challenges the skeptics.  He asks their questions.  When it comes to the episode on climate change and what we’re doing to the planet, he’s not afraid to see both sides and generate a debate, but with one key outcome: silence to the skeptics.  There’s no denying what we’re seeing, and it’s eye-opening.

Not to mention the great art direction and music by… Alan Silvestri!

If you haven’t started watching this show, go home and do it now.  No excuses.  We all need to better understand our tiny place in the world and listen from the best to hear why it’s so unfathomable that we’re even here.

Voyager 1, over and out.

Advice for Hitting the Dirty Thirties

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Photo: Lena C. Emery

There’s oodles of great writing on the interwebs about turning 30.  Lots of it is true and also humbling. Most of it is humorous.  But the bottom line is, people are thinking it’s a big deal – which it is – but it’s not a bad thing.  Sometimes we all need a confidence boost/reality check to reflect on what you’ve done and realize that this might just be your best decade yet.  I’ve noticed real, tangible changes to myself – some good, some bad.  With three decades of wisdom under my belt, I don’t care if I am well-equipped or not to draft some advice. Here it is.

There’s a lot I don’t know
Everyday I learn something new but, the bottom line is, there is a lot of stuff to learn.  Trying to think cleverly isn’t always the answer.  In work meetings, where I’m worried that I need to speak up or else people won’t feel I’m contributing, I can’t miss the fact that by simply listening I’m picking up what I need.

There’s a lot I know that I can start taking credit for
You are under-qualified for a lot, but also overqualified for lots, too. This means updating your CV to reflect that change.  You don’t really need your high school job on there anymore.  Nor do you need basic skills listed beneath a role.  Talk about accomplishments, because you got ‘em.

Be good to yourself – specifically your lower back when you’re scrubbing the tub
Minor pains have been creeping up on me in places that used to (and 95% still do) function well. But, the idea that I can bend over for 10 consecutive minutes while trying to eliminate stubborn shower scum from the far reaches of my bathtub is becoming one of wishful thinking.  I was cleaning my bathroom yesterday and my lower back seized. My posture shot upwards.  I felt uncomfortable standing still.  I had to take a break.  I couldn’t fathom not getting the job done, the comet still foaming on the porcelain, the mirror still spackled like a windshield during a tooth-brushing storm.  It subsided, but it will be back and I’ll be ready.

Don’t see this as the decline before the end
I’m reading Gone Girl.  In it, the wife, who is nearly 40, is talking about still being ‘pretty for her age’.  The dreaded 40s are looming before her and she’s thinking she’s past her prime.  So, when is ‘Prime’?  If ‘prime’ is just before ‘past-the-prime’ then we oughta think that the 30s are bitter-sweet, right?  No. One doesn’t go from amazing to awful in a few years.  Enjoy the transition and do it gracefully.  Thinking that 36 is the end of beauty is a bad way to tackle this decade.

Then there are the obligatories like get sleep, exercise, eat well, save money, don’t give up everything for a man… blah blah. One thing I do want to reiterate is that now is not too late to do something you really want to do.  When I was 25 I backpacked in Australia and felt more senior than my other travel companions.  That made me depressed, feeling like my window of opportunity was narrowing faster than I could escape from it.  Not true.  Go backpacking, start your novel, take that night course on home design.  Don’t say you can’t.