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Mike Brubaker’s Blog

Mike Brubaker’s Blog 2017-06-19T15:03:45+00:00
912, 2016

The 5L/5M Strategy: Becoming Less and More at Work

Many people create and use to do lists to stay on top of their professional responsibilities or daily chores. Research shows these lists to be a highly effective organizational tool that helps people stay on task and accomplish more. This is in part because to do lists help focus our brains on our top priorities, helping us bypass the confusion our minds can sometimes fall into when we are tasked with processing too much information all at once.

But as helpful as a to do list is in getting us through day-to-day challenges and tasks, it has even greater power to help reshape our lives over the long term. By writing a list of just five things you would like to be less of and five things you would like to be more of in your professional life can have a powerful and lasting impact on your business acumen and overall success.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. As dedicated professionals and, in a more general sense, self-aware human beings, we are cognizant of our goals and the ways to achieve them even if we do not note them down in explicit fashion. But the process of writing down five things to do less of or tone down and five things to strengthen or pursue more of can reorient our thinking by helping us zero in on some of the most critical aspects of our goals. Furthermore, it can help us step back to see the big picture instead of focusing only on individual details, which have the potential to bog us down without an overarching view of why they matter. Alternatively, if your list focuses very specifically on individual details, it can help you write the narrative of the big picture as you begin to see a step-by-step process.

Writing such a list will also help you more clearly remember your goals and how to achieve them. A written list is a quick reference point to trigger the right memory recall mechanism in our brains. This, in turn, can also serve as a quick way to track your progress on a specific goal and compare it to how well you are doing on moving closer to the overarching objective. Writing a list of goals can also help you compare them in a visual fashion. You may discover that one or more of them are so closely related that they can be merged, leaving you with room to add something else to your list that is more substantially different. The act of writing your goals will also help fight off a conscious or unconscious avoidance of taking steps to further your goals.

Remember, your list is meant to serve as a guide to help you advance in your career. Therefore, it does not need to be set in stone. Over time, you may find yourself accomplishing some or all of your goals, or you may discover that your goals have evolved. Flexibility is part of the system, so feel free to change things on your list if your goals or circumstances have changed. However, flexibility is not a get out of jail free card. Making incremental changes to your list as necessary can be helpful, but discarding most of your written goals or the entire list altogether will be counterproductive.

2911, 2016

Prepare for Tomorrow the Day Before — Always!

Whether you’re running your own business or leading a team of professionals at the corporate office, you need to have an action plan to get through those busy and stressful workdays without a hitch. A little bit of planning and preparation is all it takes to set yourself up for success on matter what the day ends up calling for. If you’re expecting a high-level performance, you need to take steps to help yourself become more productive and manage your time efficiently. Here are some of the most effective ways to prepare for a better tomorrow:

Work with Lists

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You don’t have to be extremely detail-oriented to make to-do lists work for you but when you have several different tasks to manage in any given day, it does help to work with a list. Making a list of tasks can help you visualize what needs to be done so you can prioritize in order of importance. Whether you make this list using pen and paper or type up a list on your computer, the goal is to have everything outlined in front of you so you can tackle the tasks head on. And, this will give you a chance to break up some of those larger tasks into smaller projects so you can work on them on your own schedule or delegate them to other team members easily.

Clean Up the Workspace

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Even if you work in a paperless office, you need to keep your desk and workspace organized — including your desktop. Clean up your workspace and file things away at the end of the day so you can mentally remove yourself from the work day. This is a healthy work habit that can reduce some of the stress that stems from mental clutter and disorganization. Even organizing folders and files to close everything out can be enough to help you ‘close out’ the day in preparation for the next.

Be Mindful About Food and Drink Choices

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If you’re eating poorly or drinking excessively just to get through the work day, you may find it that much harder to stay focused and productive. Be mindful about the types of foods you eat and refrain from indulging in too much alcohol during the work week. Unhealthy food and alcohol can take their toll on your brain power and ability to perform at your best. Pack your lunches, say ‘no’ to happy hour after work, and eat healthy and nutritious foods that feed your mind and body right to power through your days.

Set Email Boundaries

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How many times do you check email in a given day? If you find yourself compulsively checking email throughout the day, you’re distracting yourself from other activities. If you tend to check emails when you are away from the office in hopes of reaching the elusive ‘inbox zero’, you may be compromising your family time and personal time in your attempts to keep up with work. Set boundaries for yourself so you are only checking email during certain times of the day and inform contacts that you can be reached via phone in an event of an emergency or crisis. This way, you won’t always be trying to manage disruptions throughout the day and can focus on one task at a time.

Stick to an Exercise Schedule

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Keep your body and mind in great shape to tackle the day’s challenges ahead. Sticking to an exercise schedule will help you focus and is also good for maintaining a high energy level. Commit to a daily routine or weekly schedule so you can stay active — especially important if you are chained to your desk all day. Also keep in mind that vigorous exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone, so you will be in a more positive mood more often than not.

Don’t Compromise on Sleep

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Sleep is critical to your health and a lack of sleep will affect your performance. Whether you’re a busy entrepreneur or established corporate executive, you need to get at least 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep every night to perform at your best. Even though it’s tempting to pull late night hours and force yourself to work on less sleep during busier weeks, that lack of sleep will catch up on you. Get on a sleep schedule so your body and mind can get enough rest and you are refreshed and energetic every single day.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or just can’t focus these days, a little bit of planning and preparation can help you get back on a productive track. Use these tips to get your work life in order so you can maximize your work days and perform at your best.

411, 2016

To Succeed in Business, Be More Likable

The desire to be well-liked by our peers is human nature, and it’s even more important in business. Oftentimes, business is done between people that like, know and trust each other. If people don’t like you, they won’t buy from you and that will translate to a loss in sales.

It can take some time and effort to build up credible and likable relationships with clients, customers and partners. But when you have a strong foundation among people, you will set yourself up for success. Try these tips to increase your likability in the business world.

Handwritten Letters

In this digital age, most of us get thank you emails from various companies we do business with. However, it’s easy to tell if it’s a mass email if it’s addressed as “Dear customer” or has an unsubscribe link at the bottom. Sometimes you may not get the email if it gets filtered into the wrong inbox.  

Don’t be like one of those companies. When was the last time you received a nice letter or card in the mail? Be a standout by taking the time to handwrite a short message on a card, address the envelope, stamp it and send it out via snail mail. It can be a letter that simply says “thank you for doing business with us” or something to celebrate the holidays. A small gesture like that can do wonders, so purchase some blank cards in bulk and practice your handwriting!

Giving Discounts for Customer Loyalty

Some businesses, like Starbucks and Sheetz, have rewards cards for its customers who either spend a certain amount to get a discount or make a number of purchases to get an item for free. Some businesses, like CVS/Pharmacy, have rewards programs and give their customers access to all sorts of discounts for future purchases. Adopt this methodology by giving your loyal and frequent customers access to rewards and discounts.

However, if you’re an owner of a small business, you might not be able to implement a rewards program like the bigger chains. Is there someone you’ve been consistently doing business with for years? The next time they buy from you, give them a discount just because. Not only will it brighten their day, but they will be raving about you to their customers and friends. Positive word-of-mouth marketing is powerful – and will make your business more likable and trustworthy among the public.

Send Follow Up Emails

To show your clients that you care, send them an email to see how things are going. A quick email that says “just touching base about how you like our products/services” is enough to say that you value what your client has to say about you – regardless if it’s good or bad. You can also use this as a time to get constructive criticism from your client so you can give them the best services possible.

Listen to Others

Be engaged in conversations with everyone you meet. Ask your customers what their plans are for the weekend or ask your acquaintance about her recent vacation. If you and a client have a similar interest in an activity such as golf, ask them their opinion about the latest tournament.  Not only will they think you are more likable, but it will make them feel like they have a connection with you and will want to continue doing business with you in the future.

The goal is to become more personable among your clients, customers and partners. If they feel like you’re an old friend to them, that’s a great sign because they will feel like they know you well and can trust you – which will be great for your business.  

1110, 2016

How to Find Your Grind Time

It’s a Monday afternoon at the office. The most you can do is send a few emails and browse LinkedIn while you try to stay awake. Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon and your mind is boggled with the amount of work you have because it wasn’t done yesterday. Full of energy and regret, you actually have a productive afternoon and manage to have spare time to get started on work that isn’t due for a few days. What gives?

It turns out there are peak times to be productive during the workday. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you when your most productive work hours are because they are different for everyone. However, I CAN tell you that it is possible to figure out what your productive hours are by tracking your day and paying attention to your mind and your body. Follow these tips below to become a more productive worker.  

Find Your Rhythm

If you remember your days in biology and psychology class then you might recognize a term called REM sleep, which are sleep cycles that run 90-minute periods throughout the night. Throughout each cycle of REM, your body goes through periods of light and deep sleep, hence why sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night more easily than others. Opposite to the REM cycle, the Ultradian Rhythm is a 90 to 120-minute period that affects how alert and productive we are. Each period starts with arousal then wanes to fatigue. To find your rhythm, set aside a period of 120 minutes to try the following method below.

Find Your Method

There are a few methods that might work for you, but one method in particular might be the easiest. Take that 120-minute period I talked about earlier and break it down into smaller segments of time. Called the Pomodoro Technique, this method breaks your day into half hour segments of 25 minutes of focus and five minutes of rest. After completing four half-hour segments (that total 120 minutes), take a 15 to 20-minute break. Splitting your day into smaller bits of time will make your tasks more manageable and will provide you with a better work flow. The day will fly by before you know it.

Find Your Flow

Logging your productivity in time tracking apps or in a spreadsheet will help you to systematically understand your workflow. This chart can easily rate your energy, focus and motivation levels on a scale of 1-10 while you’re working. You may also want to consider adding a column for distractions such as social media or time spent standing at the water cooler. The spreadsheet can also be turned into a journal by documenting how you’re feeling throughout the day and how often you’re reaching for the coffee.

Collect data for a few weeks – the more data you have, the more accurate the representation will be. Be honest with yourself and your hours – this will give you a more accurate representation of your work habits and will help you in the long run!

Find Your Hours

The nice thing about a spreadsheet is that it can easily be turned into a chart or graph that visualizes your workflow so you can see where your productivity peaks and crashes. After a few weeks of collecting data, you should see a pattern and you can adjust your work accordingly.

To optimize your productivity, do high maintenance tasks when you’re the most alert. If you notice your productivity is low on Wednesdays from 2 to 3 p.m., reserve that time for doing low-maintenance tasks like organizing paperwork or catching up on industry news.

3009, 2016

The Ryan Brubaker Foundation, Supporting Youth in Need

As some of you may know, my son Ryan tragically passed away on September 11, 2012. There is nothing as heartbreaking for a parent to experience than the loss of a child. Ryan was a caring, gentle individual whose deep love for family and friends brought joy to his loved ones. His smile could light up a room; his affable nature was contagious. After four years, our hearts are still heavy. We miss his every day.

The Ryan Brubaker Foundation’s goal to “help local youth in need” may be a broad mission, but it is designed to allow flexibility for assisting and benefiting adolescents with a variety of issues. We want to be a light in the lives of kids living in the darkness of affliction, addiction, or mental/physical instability. Through counseling services, mission retreats, humanitarian experiences, educational programs and more, we hope to reach and change the direction of struggling youth to save them and their families from the tragedy we’ve endured.

Ryan wasn’t the type to enjoy the spotlight, but we believe he would be honored to know that we’re continuing his legacy by helping others in partnership with the organizations that shaped him: Warwick High School and Lancaster Career and Technology Center and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, where he graduated from in 2009 and 2012 respectively.

In addition to Ryan’s schools, we’ve partnered with the Jeff Musser Foundation, which benefits the families of children with cancer in Lancaster County; Philhaven, a behavioral healthcare service for adults, children and families in Central Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Dutch Council Boy Scouts of America; and the Emerald Foundation.

All of these partners have in common the utmost concern and support for young people and their families, through thick and thin. They, like us, want to give troubled souls hope and opportunity in a world that can sometimes seem unforgiving. If collectively we can reach even one struggling young person, all our efforts will have been worthwhile.

We look forward to seeing all of our guests this year at Ryan’s annual dinner and auction on Tuesday, October 2. Your attendance means the world to not only the Brubaker family, but the lives of the young people who live and work in our community. Your desire to make meaningful contributions and build strong relationships toward the betterment of the Lancaster/Central PA community means the world to us.

In the wise words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, for indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Thank you for being part of this group and changing the world with us!

1909, 2016

How Unexpected Cities Become Hubs for Innovation

When you hear the name Lancaster, Pennsylvania, you probably imagine members of the Amish community driving their horse and buggies, miles upon miles of farmland and Turkey Hill Dairy. That may accurately describe Lancaster county, but Lancaster city is another story. You would never guess that this city is actually a growing hub for innovation in the technology industry.

In a “glocal” world in which much of business is done virtually, it’s no longer necessary that office headquarters be located in big cities like in New York or San Francisco. With Lancaster’s cost of living below current tech hubs like Seattle and Boston, startups can save money by choosing small, up-and-coming cities like this one.

Why Lancaster? For starters, the city has shown rebirth with revitalization programs, free Wi-Fi and cultural events like First Friday – things that attract young people and new talent which in turn, will encourage new ideas and innovation in the city. These aspects are helping the city to become a tech hub, which is something that seems highly unlikely in a rural area.

Though a bigger name than Lancaster, Tel Aviv, Israel is another unexpected city that is making waves in the technology industry. According to Venture Beat, the leading source for news, events, groundbreaking research and perspective on technology innovation, Tel Aviv was listed as the fifth best startup ecosystem globally and the top tech site outside of the United States in 2015.

The startup culture in this city thrives because Tel Aviv offers tax reductions to entrepreneurs and startups looking to set up their business. In addition, free Wi-Fi, cultural events and co-working spaces where entrepreneurs can brainstorm and work together on ideas are common.

“The value of fostering cooperation rather than competition lies not only in conversation and idea sharing, but in the creation of stronger networks of entrepreneurs who want to help each other,” said Hila Oren, founder and former CEO of Tel Aviv Global, an initiative dedicated to elevate the city’s global positioning. “Ultimately, individual entrepreneurs looking to help each other out will lead to faster growth and more success for the overall ecosystem.”

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, people who work in co-working spaces thrive more than people who work in regular offices. If you’re curious about co-working spaces closer to home, Lancaster’s Warehouse 210 is a co-working environment with private offices and conference rooms to collaborate with other professionals. Free coffee and a video/photo studio are added perks along with plenty of opportunities to network.

Although these two cities are in different countries, Lancaster and Tel Aviv have more in common than you think. Both cities are becoming hubs for innovation in the technology industry because of a few key reasons: free Wi-Fi, low cost of living and camaraderie. Hopefully more companies will decide to make a great career move to an unexpected city like Lancaster, a city teeming with opportunities and innovation.

209, 2016

How to Channel the Olympic Spirit as an Entrepreneur

With a handful of records broken at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, I am still in awe of these amazing athletes. It’s fascinating how much passion, dedication, commitment and focus these athletes have to compete at such a herculean level.

Being an entrepreneur also takes passion, dedication, commitment and focus. However, “what separates sports from entrepreneurism, is that in business we constantly have to overcome undefined and unpredictable challenges,” said Naveen Jain, a contributor for Forbes. Athletes train for specific events and conditions and perform in predictable and defined settings. Entrepreneurs can’t train the same way as Olympians do because they don’t know what challenges they will encounter in their careers.

Although the end goal of an entrepreneur is different than an Olympian, the mindset of an Olympian can be applied to the business world to achieve career goals. With the right attitude and behavior, you can channel the spirit of an Olympian to prepare for the unexpected twists and turns in your career.

Passion and Dedication

You have to have passion if you want to succeed. Many Olympians, like gymnast Simone Biles, have trained since a young age and choose to be homeschooled so they can dedicate their time to training. They make sacrifices such as giving up a normal life and missing big milestones to have the chance to compete in the Olympics.

Entrepreneurs aren’t on the same level as Olympic athletes, but they make sacrifices too. Some entrepreneurs may not have a personal life; others may lose sleep or financial stability. It’s a sacrifice entrepreneurs must make to propel themselves forward. With the passion and dedication like an Olympian, the sacrifices you make will help you reach your goal.

Stay Committed to Your Team

“I would rather lose with you guys than win with any other group of players,” said Emanuel Ginobilitold, an Argentinian basketball player, to his teammates after losing to the U.S in basketball. Ginobilitold is an NBA player for the San Antonio Spurs and it was a hit to his self-esteem that he lost to the U.S. when he played for his home country of Argentina. However, he stood by his Argentinian team after the loss.

An entrepreneur needs people who complement their skills by excelling where they struggle. It’s virtually impossible to do everything on your own. For example, although you may be a CEO of your company, you need to rely on your CFO for company finances and CMO for your business marketing strategy. Win or lose, your team is important and committed to supporting you to help make your business successful.

Focus on Your Dreams

“This is how I wanted to finish my career,” said swimmer Michael Phelps after winning his record-smashing 23rd gold medal and officially announcing his retirement. “I’ve lived a dream come true.” In an interview with Bob Costas, Phelps says he lost focus for the London 2012 Olympics. He retired after the London games, then came out of retirement for the Rio 2016 Olympics “to do it the right way, and that was the only way

[he] was going to come back.” Phelps is now the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals.

Phelps wasn’t happy about his performance in the London games. He stepped away from the sport then came back to do better in Rio. If you lose your focus and get off track from your business plan, it might be a good idea to remove yourself from the situation to take a moment to think, pause and reflect. You will be happier when you come back and will have a clearer picture of where you want your business to go next.

Passion. Dedication. Commitment. Focus. These four similarities between entrepreneurs and Olympians highlight how the same attitudes and behaviors can be used in two vastly different settings. With the mindset and spirit of an Olympian, any entrepreneur can navigate unexpected challenges to achieve their business dreams.

Mike Brubaker