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The Why and How Of Developing a Reading Culture

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Like most people, our reading habits center around tweets, Facebook updates, or the directions on our instant oatmeal packet. If you’re one of countless people who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out.

Entrepreneurs and other successful people usually start out small, but if they get the right kind of traction, then their success can even skyrocket overnight. These folks live on the edge of immense profit and total loss and need to change constantly and adapt to the ever changing market trends to survive and make profits as well. Although, it is a known fact that entrepreneurs are natural leaders and possess many unique skills that make them capable of great success.

But just like every other skill you too need to be honed and polished to maximize the efficiency and the benefits derived from you.

If you are also starting out on this path or are already established and successful entrepreneur, then reading up on market trends and basics is absolutely essential for you. After all, what better way is there for entrepreneurs to be good at what they do than by reading entrepreneurial and business management related books?

E-book or Hard Copy?

Although more and more people own e-books, it seems safe to say that real books aren’t going anywhere yet. Eighty-eight percent of the adults who read e-books continue to read printed ones as well. And while we’re all for the convenience of digital downloads and a lighter load, we can’t bring ourselves to part with the joy of a good, old-fashioned read.

There’s nothing like the smell of old books or the crack of a new one’s spine. (Plus, you’ll never run low on battery.) And it turns out that diving into a page-turner can also offer benefits toward your health and happiness.

However, I encourage you to have a bunch of both e-books and hard copy ones. Although the benefits of e-books cannot be looked down upon in terms of convenience and flexibility, having a real book brings more personal engagement.

Apart from newspapers and magazines which in some cases are only available in digital forms, I recommend you buy, own and read hard copy books. Establish a library for yourself.

Why should you then read books? Well, the answer is simple, if you dream and aspire to build a tremendously successful life/business, where you call the shots, then reading up on market trends along with basic and advanced business management books is a great investment of your time. This will enable you to make better life and business decisions and stay up-to-date with the latest trends.

Reading business management, self-help books and other related books will help you to better understand the numerous intricacies of life, business and strengthen basic and advanced elements of your life and business. It will help you to gain tremendous insight on how to optimize your business processes for maximum productivity and efficiency without diminishing or dominating the other factors and elements at work.

Benefits of Reading Books

  1. Books Increase Your Knowledge and Imagination

You are only limited by what you can imagine, and the worlds described in books, as well as other people’s views and opinions, will help you expand your understanding of what is possible. By reading a written description of an event or a place, your mind is responsible for creating that image in your head, instead of having the image placed in front of you when you watch television.

Books offer an outstanding wealth of learning and at a much cheaper price than taking a course. Reading gives you a chance to consume huge amount of research in a relatively short amount of time. Anne E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich’s What Reading Does for the Mind?” also noted that heavy readers tend to display greater knowledge of how things work and who or what people were. Having books at home have been strongly linked to academic achievement.

Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.

Additionally, here’s a bit of food for thought: should you ever find yourself in dire circumstances, remember that although you might lose everything else – your job, your possessions, your money, even your health – knowledge can never be taken from you.

  1. Slows Mental Stimulation

Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia, since keeping your brain active and engaged prevents it from losing power. Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy, so the phrase “use it or lose it” is particularly apt when it comes to your mind. Doing puzzles and playing games such as chess have also been found to be helpful with cognitive stimulation.

In their book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Maryanne Wolf explains that “Typically, when you read, you have more time to think. Reading gives you a unique pause button for comprehension and insight. By and large, with oral language “when you watch a film or listen to a tape, you don’t press pause.” The benefits of this increased activity keeps your memory sharp and your learning capacity nimble.

  1. Reading Helps You To Discover Yourself.

In his book How to Read and Why, Harold Bloom says that we should read slowly, with love, openness, and with our inner ear cocked. He explains we should read to increase our wit and imagination, our sense of intimacy–in short, our entire consciousness–and also to heal our pain. “Until you become yourself, what benefit can you be to others?” With the endless amount of perspectives and lives we can read about, books can give us an opportunity to have experiences that we haven’t had the opportunity to, and still allow us to learn the life skills they entail. Books are a fast track to creating yourself.

4. Improved Focus and Concentration

In our internet-crazed world, attention is drawn in a million different directions at once as we multi-task through every day. In a single 5-minute span, the average person will divide their time between working on a task, checking email, chatting with a couple of people (via gchat, skype, etc.), keeping an eye on twitter, monitoring their smartphone, and interacting with co-workers. This type of ADD-like behaviour causes stress levels to rise, and lowers our productivity.

Unlike blog posts and news articles, sitting down with a book takes long periods of focus and concentration, which at first is hard to do. Being fully engaged in a book involves closing off the outside world and immersing yourself into the text, which over time will strengthen your attention span.

When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story—the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing. Try reading for 15-20 minutes before work (i.e. on your morning commute, if you take public transit), and you’ll be surprised at how much more focused you are once you get to the office.

5. Improvement of Vocabulary

Although it doesn’t always make you a better communicator, those who read tend to have a more varied range of words to express how they feel and to get their point across. This increases exponentially with the more volumes you consume, giving you a higher level of vocabulary to use in everyday life.

Exposure to published, well-written work has a noted effect on one’s own writing, as observing the cadence, fluidity, and writing styles of other authors will invariably influence your own work. In the same way that musicians influence one another, and painters use techniques established by previous masters, so do writers learn how to craft prose by reading the works of others.

6. Reading can make you more empathetic.

Getting lost in a good read can make it easier for you to relate to others. Literary fiction, specifically, has the power to help its readers understand what others are thinking by reading other people’s emotions, according to research published in Science. The impact is much more significant on those who read literary fiction as opposed to those who read nonfiction. “Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano wrote of their findings.

According to studies made by researchers from University of Toronto, reading can change some personality traits. Romance novels, for example, are likely to promote empathy. Not only romance novels though. Reading any artistic literature can make people more empathetic and understanding, because the process itself is like a conversation, getting to know a person. It also encourages readers to examine their own emotions and behaviors and makes them more open to new experiences.

7. Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills

Have you ever read an amazing mystery novel, and solved the mystery yourself before finishing the book? If so, you were able to put critical and analytical thinking to work by taking note of all the details provided and sorting them out to determine “whodunnit”.

That same ability to analyze details also comes in handy when it comes to critiquing the plot; determining whether it was a well-written piece, if the characters were properly developed, if the storyline ran smoothly, etc. Should you ever have an opportunity to discuss the book with others, you’ll be able to state your opinions clearly, as you’ve taken the time to really consider all the aspects involved.

  1. Reading Will Help You To save The World

Sounds too much? It isn’t. What this world needs the most are educated, open-minded, self-aware people, inspired and full of ideas. Reading surely creates such people, especially when it’s done in a varied way, with openness for different topics and concepts.

Additional research done at: www.aberuk.com, www.realsimple.com, www.theunboundedspirit.com, www.lifehack.org, www.whytoread.com

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Why Design Is Fundamental To Success Fort Startups

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Companies like Apple are making design impossible for startups to ignore. Startups like GitHub, Airbnb, Square, and Fitbit have design at the core of their business, and they’re doing phenomenal work. But what is ‘design’ actually? Is it a logo? A word press theme?

It’s so much more than that. It’s a state of mind. It’s an approach to a problem. It’s how you’re going to be ahead of your competitor and win customers.

Take one step back and review your work as if it wasn’t your own, let others go over it, experience your product as if you were the one buying it, not the one who made it.

Detaching yourself from something that you have put so much sweat and hard work in is not easy, but product design is an essential tool on your way to perfecting your product and with it ultimately your brand and business success. After all, if your product doesn’t deliver on the promises you make, customers will not return.

There is a gap in the business industry, that often don’t take into account the user experience and due to the lack of options, the market has been flooded with products that at best are not user-friendly. As an entrepreneur always keep in mind that your product is only as good as it makes the customer feel.

The challenge is to be open and actively court feedback. If you continue making tweaks to your product as you go along, every negative comment your product receives could be what will set you apart from your competitors in the future.

Simply put, product design involves coming up with a product the market needs and wants, and the more the product is tailored to a smooth user experience, the more successful the product will be. All entrepreneurs want to create products which will have traction in the market. Taking user experience into account will more likely attract consumers.

It should be considered early on because it will ensure that the product has the characteristics and performance the customer’s desire, thus reducing the risk of creating a product that does not reflect the customers’ demands, while cutting the costs and helping establish a reliable and respectable brand.

How will users understand your product? How does it feel in their hands and how do they feel about using it? These are just a few questions that product design evaluations will aim to answer.

Tips on product design.

Having all this in mind, now let’s go through several steps offered by Growth Africa, on how to now practically go about it, especially, if you don’t have a design yet.

  1. Empathize- Use empathy to understand your client’s rational and emotional needs. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and objectively evaluate the service or product your offering.
  2. Be user oriented– Don’t make your products appearance your main concern, it’s the product usability that will create traction in the market, so ensure a user oriented design
  3. Test and Try- Don’t rush to the market without proper prototypes as these demonstrates the functionality of the product and ensure your product is ready for manufacture
  4. Observe- Pay close attention to how people interact with the product in its natural context (home, workplace) to understand and improve their experience with it.
  5. Humanize- Always keep in mind that customers are not just data; they are real people with real needs and desires, it’s important to take them into account.

 

Let’s look at some handy guide will help you understand design and provide resources to help you find awesome design talent.

Design is a method of problem solving.

Design is so many things, executed in many different ways, but the function is always the same. Whether its blueprints, a clever UI, a brochure, or a chair, design can help solve a visual or physical problem.

So what is “good design”?

This definition is not so simple. The best designs are notorious for seeming not designed at all – or ‘un designed’. It’s easier if we break things down a bit. If you know what to look for, it’s easier to identify good design when you see it; or perhaps when you can’t see it at all.

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and functionalist industrial design. Aware that his design was a significant contributor to the world, he asked himself an important question:

“Is my design good design?” Since good design can’t be measured in a finite way, he set about expressing the ten most important principles for what he considered was good design. (Sometimes they are referred as the ‘Ten commandments’.)

Good design is; Innovative makes a product useful, aesthetic, makes a product understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long lasting, thorough, environmental friendly and as little design as possible.

Good design can’t be achieved with glossy buttons or masterful wireframes alone. It’s a merger of all these principles into something that is meaningful and deliberate.

Just like a great business plan is nothing without expert execution, a great Photoshop mockup is nothing, for example, without careful consideration to UI or the user’s needs.

Objectified

Take a look at your current product – is design contributing in an innovative way? Does it make the product useful, understandable, and aesthetic? Is it long-lasting, or will it look outdated or break in a few years?

These are really hard questions to answer. Having a designer will enable you to work within these constraints and enable you in creating a product customers will fall in love with. Love is a really strong emotion.

Design has always been a strongly valued aspect of business, even 60 years ago. It’s totally a proven method even in business today.

How important is product design?

Product design includes both digital and physical products. It represents not only the aesthetic qualities, but what it does, how well a user thinks it’s going to do it, and how easily & quickly they can complete a task.

Think for a moment. How important is product design to you? How important do you think aesthetics and ease-of-use are to your customers?

How deep does design go?

Now we’re getting somewhere. Great design is taking root in startup culture, and it seems like many people are open to change. Not only do many entrepreneurs and engineers see substantial room to improve their own products, they overwhelmingly believe that designers belong on a founding team.

Startups + designers =?

For a long time, a pair of co-founders consisted of an executive and an engineer. It worked for Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, just to name a few.

These companies have excellent designers today, because it’s a necessity they can’t afford to ignore. It seems like design is becoming more and more prevalent in new startups as well and more are pushing the envelope.

Design has become a key differentiator for startup companies to acquire funding, press coverage, and loyal users. So think through your product design carefully.

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The Importance of Mental Health in The Workplace

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Mental health is something that everyone has. It is the way we think, feel and also our ability to deal with ups and downs in our lives. It is just the same as physical health in that we need to keep ourselves fit and seek appropriate help as early as possible in case of any problem. Your mental health can fluctuate with changes in circumstances and as you move through different phases in your life.

Therefore, it is important that we all take the necessary steps to improve it and build resilience through self-care.

Mental health at work

For many people, work forms a large part of their lives. That adults spend roughly one-third of their lives at work is a fact. During this time, it is very likely that they experience a spectrum of mental and physical health.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people globally suffer from depression and many of these are also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. While work is considered good for mental health, a negative working environment may lead to mental and physical health problems.

WHO notes that harassment and bullying at the workplace are commonly reported causes of work-related stress that can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.

Statistics

Although it can often be a taboo topic, especially at work, employees seem to want their employer to champion mental health and well-being. In a survey carried out on office workers in July 2018 by Peldon Rose:

  • 72% of employees want employers to champion mental health and well-being.
  • Nearly three-quarters of workers say they want their employers to champion mental health and well-being in the workplace. This is rated as more important than equality (48%), sustainability (38%) and diversity (31%).
  • This is the case for all generations, who prioritize mental health and well-being above all other causes – Gen Z (76%), Millennials (73%), Gen X (75%), Baby Boomer (56%).

Risk factors

Many workplaces present a number of risk factors for mental health. Most of these relate to the support available for employees to work, the skills and competencies of employees, and the interactions between type of work, the organization, and the managerial environment. These risks as listed by WHO include:

  • Low levels of support for employees
  • Poor communication and management practices
  • Inflexible working hours
  • Inadequate health and safety policies
  • Unclear tasks or organizational objectives
  • Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work

Warning signs

The Shaw Mind Foundation, which is a supporter of mental health in the workplace, lists some behavioral changes that may be warning signs for employers to look out for in their employees:

  • Unexpected and sudden changes in mood
  • A decrease in work rate, missing deadlines, and deliverables
  • Inability to focus
  • Anxious and fidgety behavior
  • A sudden reduction in the quality of work produced
  • Repetitive questions

While the above behaviors may point to someone struggling with their mental health, they can also be signs that they are dealing with other issues. Therefore, it is important to have an honest conversation with an employee with respect to their privacy boundaries to avoid wrong assumptions.

Supporting mental health at work

In lieu of this information, there are changes that organizations and businesses can implement to support mental health and well-being at work. Here are some suggestions from the foundation for employers:

  • Provide support services and staff members that are trained to deal with in mental health and workplace stress. Make sure employees are aware of the availability of this support
  • Enforce working hours. This can be done by limiting out-of-hours work and out-of-hours email access
  • Set attainable deadlines and spread workloads equally and fairly across teams
  • Promote healthy eating and regular exercise
  • Where possible, avoid isolated work. If they are working from home, make sure to check in regularly

Conclusion

It is very important for organizations to ensure their employees are educated about mental health to avoid cases of mental breakdowns, reduce suicide risk and prevent burnout. Companies need to effort to invest in their employees’ mental health to establish a positive work environment where people will want to work.

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Reasons Why You Should Be Reading More Books

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Can you recall the last time you read a book or a meaningful magazine? What do your daily reading habits center around? While reading is an activity that is very often taken for granted, it has many benefits to those who indulge in it. Books have retained their importance through the years regardless of how long they have been in existence.

Below are some excellent reasons for you to pick up a good book and lose yourself in it.

  1. Cognitive mental stimulation and mental health

Research has shown that reading books is an activity that engages all the major parts of the brain. Staying mentally stimulated can slow the progression of (or possibly even prevent) Dementia and Alzheimer’s. it is important to keep your brain engaged as just like any other muscle in the body, it requires exercise to keep it healthy and strong.

  1. Stress reduction and tension relief

Losing yourself in a great story transports you into other worlds away from stressful issues in your personal and professional lives. A well-written, substantial article, on the other hand, distracts you and keeps you in the present, allowing you to relax.

  1. Knowledge

Reading transforms you into a well-rounded individual capable of being an interesting conversation on a variety of topics. Since every piece of literature you read fills your head with new information, the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to face many of life’s challenges.

  1. Vocabulary expansion

Reading more improves your vocabulary and this, in turn, helps you to better express your thoughts and feelings. It is possible that you may not immediately realize the increase in your vocabulary, but the new words will begin integrating themselves into your everyday speech.

  1. Better memory and focus

Reading a little bit each day stimulates the part of the brain that helps with memory and function and it pushes them to the limits like with physical exercise. Focus improves because you need it to read and understand a book or an article. Read for at least 15-20 minutes at the start of your day to increase your focusing ability and therefore improve productivity.

  1. Benefits your business

Reading often can actively benefit your professional life.

This is because it encourages curiosity, with curious people more often than not being high achievers. With this understanding, you can challenge yourself to become more curious and acquire more knowledge. This new awareness can also be utilized to hone your hiring practices. Reading habits are an apt barometer in measuring a person’s level of discipline, curiosity, and zeal for learning.

Conclusion

Books are an amazing source of not only entertainment but also personal, professional and health benefits. Whatever your reading preference; be it fiction, non-fiction, magazine articles or even textbooks, you can always count on the multiple benefits to both your mind and your body.

Books can be found anywhere, from bookshops to libraries and even supermarkets. This makes them easily accessible and should you wonder which to read, a simple google search will help. With the advent of technology, getting books to read and reading them has become more convenient. This is because books are now digitally available as e-books that come in different formats such as PDF, EPUB, and MOBI. They can also be read on digital devices such as smartphones, laptops and Kindle devices.

While reading may seem boring to most, cultivating a reading habit will make you an avid reader with time. So if you have not started, give it a shot.

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