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Op/Ed

5 fun and easy ideas for a remote holiday office party

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) As with many things in 2020, the holiday office party is going to look a little different this year. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

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Remote holiday office party at home around laptop with festive decorations.

In many companies, the holiday office party is something to look forward to. But as with most things in 2020, holiday office parties are changing. And if you want to continue the tradition, you may have to pivot and go virtual!

Try these remote holiday party tips:

At first glance, a virtual holiday party sounds pretty suspect. But it’s 2020, so what else do you expect? And the truth is that a virtual holiday party can actually be a lot of fun when everyone has the right mindset. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Plan ahead

We all know how busy the holiday season can get. And even in the midst of a pandemic, it’s amazing how many events and gatherings there are. You’ll also find a lot of families making new traditions. All of that to say: You need to plan ahead.

The sooner you get your holiday office party on the calendar, the more likely it is that people will show up. And the good thing about doing a virtual event is that you can be flexible with your dates. Want to host it on a random Wednesday night? Go for it!

2. Create a detailed agenda

Why do you need an agenda for a Zoom holiday party, you might be wondering? Because things can get pretty awkward if you don’t.

While it’s possible that your team is close enough to spend an hour or two politely chatting while sipping on eggnog, an unstructured free-for-all event can get messy. People will talk over each other, there will be awkward silences, and you’ll start losing people as the event stretches on.

A detailed agenda sets the expectations for the event and creates a sense of “flow.” It helps people know what to expect and gives you clear next steps when things feel like they’re boring or stale.

When creating your agenda, leave room for things like “happy hour” and other casual buffers of time. Too much formal structure will make this feel like a meeting and not a party. But not enough structure leaves people confused. Do your best with this balancing act.

3. Get everyone involved

The best way to get people excited about the holiday party (and to increase attendance) is to involve as many people as possible.

Consider giving different people responsibilities for the event. One person might be in charge of music, another in charge of games, and another in charge of making sure the technology works. When people have a stake in the event, they’re less likely to tune out.

4. Plan games and activities

There are a lot of unique ways to get groups of people involved on a Zoom party. Games and activities are especially fun. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • If you’ve ever played the game “Werewolf,” you know how much fun it can be. It’s a social game that involves everyone and creates a sense of mystery, suspense, and fun. And with a little planning, you can play Werewolf over Zoom! (If your team is open to online gaming, the game Among Us plays very similarly for free on mobile or $5 on Steam!)
  • Sign up for a virtual cookie decorating class and have your team decorate cookies via Zoom. (You might even consider sending each individual a care package with all of the ingredients they need ahead of time.)

You know your team best, so choose something that will fit their interests and personalities!

5. Build anticipation and excitement

You never want your holiday office party to be something your team sees as an event they “have to” attend. You want it to be one of the highlights of the year. But in a year like 2020 where you’re relegated to virtual gatherings, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

One of the keys is to begin building anticipation and excitement early on. Talk about the party frequently and often. Make it a priority rather than something that you’re doing just to go through the motions.

Celebrate the Holidays in (Unique) Style

What better way to cap off what has been a strange and unique year than by having a virtual holiday celebration where you can all relax in the comfort and safety of your own homes? The key to making this work is to plan ahead, have fun, and laugh at the weirdness of it all. This isn’t going to be a black-tie event. Relax and roll with the glitches. If you do it right, this will be something you look back on in the years to come with great fondness.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Op/Ed

To do list methods that maximize productivity, lower stress

(EDITORIAL) Even if you have a to-do list, the weight of your tasks might be overwhelming. Here’s advice on how to fix the overwhelm.

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To-do list in a journal with gold rings.

If you ask me, there’s no better way to unwind and ease everyday stress by making a to-do list. Like they said in the movie, Clueless, “It gives [you] a sense of control in a world full of chaos.”

While that quote was specific to a makeover, it certainly applies here. When you have too many things on your plate, making a to-do list is a quick way to get yourself in order. Typically, this does the trick for organizing your upcoming tasks.

It’s important to determine what method of listmaking works for you. I personally like to use sticky notes around my computer monitor to keep me in check for what’s needed to be done work-wise or by use of my computer. Other personal task items will either be kept in a list on my phone, or in my paper planner.

For work, I have a roster of clients I work with everyday. They each have their own list containing tasks I have to complete for them. I also use Google Calendar to keep these tasks in order if they have a specific deadline.

For personal use, I create a to-do list at the start of each week to determine what needs to be accomplished over the next seven days. I also have a monthly overview for big-picture items that need to be tackled (like an oil change).

This form of organization can be a lot and it can still be overwhelming, even if I have my ducks in a row. And, every once in a while, those tasks can really pile up on those lists and a whole new kind of overwhelm develops.

Fear not, as there are still ways to break it down from here. Let me explain.

First, what I’d recommend is going through all of your tasks and categorizing them (i.e. a work list, a personal list, a family list, etc.) From there, go through each subsequent list and determine priority.

You can do this by setting a deadline for each task, and then put every task in order based on what deadline is coming up first. From there, pieces start to fall into place and tasks begin to be eliminated. I do recognize that this is what works for my brain, and may not be what works for yours.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has some interesting insight on the topic and examines the importance of how you relate to your tasks. The concept is, instead of letting the tasks be some sort of scary stress, find ways to make them more relatable. Here are some examples that Babauta shares:

  • I’m fully committed to this task because it’s incredibly important to me, so I’m going to create a sacred space of 30 minutes today to be fully present with it.
  • This task is an opportunity for me to serve someone I care deeply about, with love.
  • These tasks are training ground for me to practice presence, devotion, getting comfortable with uncertainty.
  • These tasks are an adventure! An exploration of new ground, a learning space, a way to grow and discover and create and be curious.
  • This task list is a huge playground, full of ways for me to play today!

Finding the best method of creating your to-do list or your task list and the best method for accomplishing those tasks is all about how you relate and work best. It can be trial and error, but there is certainly a method for everyone. What are your methods?

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Op/Ed

Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.

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too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: Being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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Op/Ed

How any real estate pro can become more assertive

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Being assertive is not the same as being bossy and while most people tell women to be more assertive, lack of assertiveness isn’t gender exclusive. Here are a few tips how to make your presence known.

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assertive broker meeting negotiation team

Merriam-Webster defines assertive as “disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” I believe assertive behavior is the balance between being passive or aggressive.

You aren’t demanding, but you’re not dismissing your needs either.

Women are often told that they need to be more assertive, rather than passive, and men need to be less aggressive. I’m more of the opinion that assertiveness isn’t gender-specific. I believe every person needs some assertiveness training.

While I may not be an expert in assertiveness, as a freelancer, I have learned to be more assertive. Here are a few of my observations:

  • To be assertive, I had to stop feeling as if my work was unimportant. Call it confidence or self-esteem, but it was a definite turning point for me. I stopped using the word, “just.” I didn’t apologize for bothering people. I simply began stating what I needed to get the job done.
  • I defined what assertive meant to me. For me, it was the ability to stand up for my opinions and needs. This didn’t happen overnight, but it took practice. One of the key things I did was to try and be more assertive in other places, like when I volunteered. That gave me the confidence to stand up for myself in my work.
  • I use “I” statements. “I need to take next Monday off.” “I need more information about this project.” “I cannot do that this week.”
  • I’ve found that part of being assertive is taking the other person at their word and not holding a grudge. Don’t read more into their emotions than what is being discussed. Just because my co-worker hated the last idea I had shouldn’t stop me from exploring new ideas with the team.
  • It is very difficult to change old behaviors. I have mentors and coaches that I talk to about my successes and failures. This has helped me figure out what I’d do differently if I had the chance. Trust me, it isn’t easy to be introspective about the time you blew it, but it’s been very beneficial in all the areas of my life.
  • I’ve apologized when it was appropriate, but I don’t beat myself up, either. The other day, I missed one part of an assignment. In the past, I would have not taken any more assignments as punishment. Instead, I apologized that I missed it and fixed the assignment. Then, I took another block of work and moved on. It was freeing.

Being assertive isn’t easy. But it is very rewarding.

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