Eight Common “Flow Breakers” Leaders Face—and How to Defuse Them 

Constant disruptions at work prevent managers from achieving flow, the state of concentration that allows them to do their best work. The authors of Mind Tools for Managers highlight the most common flow breakers at work and offer tips for eliminating them.

Sometimes it seems like the workplace is designed to keep you doing anything besides, well…working. If you’re a manager, this is a serious problem because everything at work hinges on your ability to effectively lead your team. Still, distractions abound in most offices, from buzzing phones to watercooler chit-chat to the endless lure of surfing the web. With all this chaos, it’s difficult to achieve the intense state of concentration known as flow, where employees of all levels do their best work.

“Flow is a state of mind that occurs when all your conscious thought is focused on what you are doing,” says Julian Birkinshaw, coauthor along with James Manktelow of Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss (Wiley, April 2018, ISBN: 978-1-119-37447-3, $28.00). “Unfortunately, in the modern workplace, flow can be difficult to achieve and maintain. As a result, you are a less productive manager and stay stressed out at work. But by weeding out typical office distractions and interruptions, you can improve your focus, get more done, and become a more effective manager.”

Mind Tools for Managers identifies the 100 skills that a manager can master to become a better leader. They were identified in a survey of 15,242 managers and professionals worldwide. This research was conducted by James Manktelow, founder and CEO of MindTools.com, and Professor Julian Birkinshaw, deputy dean for programs at London Business School. The authors provide practical advice for each of these skills—one of which is the ability to stay focused—and direct the reader to the MindTools website for a deeper dive into specific skill-building articles, worksheets, videos, and more.

Even if you’re one of the many managers struggling to maintain focus at work, you can achieve a state of flow—which was first described in detail by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi—by managing or eliminating the distractions that pull you out of concentration. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common distractions managers and employees typically face at work (and how to deal with them), excerpted from the article “Minimizing Distractions: 10 Ways to Take Control of Your Day.” For more information, please refer to Mind Tool 12-1: http://mnd.tools/12-1.

FLOW BREAKER 1: The relentless presence of personal technology. Smartphones and now smartwatches have blurred the line between personal and professional communication. Now you can receive work emails and calls on the same device as private Facebook comments, Instagram photos, and an array of other personal information. The good news is, this is a challenge that you and your colleagues can effectively manage yourselves. When focusing on a particular piece of work, choose to put away your phones for a certain amount of time. That way you can devote your attention entirely to the project at hand.

FLOW BREAKER 2: Email, email, and more email. Many emails in your inbox are probably not particularly important, and yet you may feel you must look at them when they arrive. Instead, try these tactics:

  • Schedule checking time. Turn off the alert that appears on your computer screen when you receive an email, and check and respond to messages at set times instead. This helps you manage your coworkers’, managers’, and customers’ expectations about how and when you will reply to them.
  • Choose “low-productivity” times. There are likely certain times of the day when you do your best work, like first thing in the morning or maybe late at night. Schedule email check-ins for your less-productive times and save your peak hours for high-value work.
  • Turn emails into actions. If you need more than a few minutes to read an email, add it to your to-do list.

FLOW BREAKER 3: Social media and web browsing. Both are major productivity killers. Trouble is, organizations can no longer block people’s access to websites that aren’t work-related—smartphones can easily get around this. So it’s up to you to use social media and the rest of the web responsibly. If it is acceptable within your organization, use a brief personal browsing session as a reward for an hour or two of high-quality, focused work.

FLOW BREAKER 4: Nerve-jangling phone calls. The ring of a phone often prompts an intense need to answer, even when you’re in deep concentration. To minimize this source of distraction for you and your team, consider arranging a rotation so that team members can take calls for one another. Also be sure to let friends and family know that you will be available for calls only at lunchtime or in the evening.

FLOW BREAKER 5: Distractions in your work environment. Rather than trying to ignore such distractions as strong cooking smells or loud colleagues, get away from the problem. Set yourself up in an empty meeting room to regain your focus. Or wear noise-canceling headphones or play “white noise” to blank out anything that would otherwise grab your attention.

FLOW BREAKER 6: Confusion due to overwhelming workload. Always try to have a manageable to-do list, because having one that’s too long can lead to procrastination, as you wonder which task to tackle next. Each day, commit to accomplishing the two most important tasks on your list, and put the rest on hold until tomorrow.

“In our study we found that 79.5 percent of managers view prioritizing tasks effectively as one of the most important planning and time management skills,” says Manktelow. “It is so important!”

FLOW BREAKER 7: Other people. Colleagues visiting your desk can be a big source of distraction, but you’re also a manager who wants to be available for your team members. So, if you don’t want to be disturbed at times when you need to focus on a task, consider either working at home or in a conference room. If you have your own office, close the door and tell your team that you need to be left alone to concentrate for a while.

FLOW BREAKER 8: Shortfalls in your own well-being. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to juggle your priorities, manage visitors, and have the discipline to control your use of technology. So, it’s vital that you take care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep and make sure you drink enough water, as dehydration can make you feel tired and impact your thinking. It’s also important to get some fresh air and take a brisk walk during the day—this will energize you. And try to avoid heavy lunches and sugar-laden snacks, as they can lead to a slump in concentration later in the day.

“It’s easier than ever to lose track of what you should be doing at work, but you can still take steps to avoid distractions and improve flow,” concludes Birkinshaw. “Learning to better manage these ‘flow breakers’ is a valuable skill that can be practiced and sharpened over time. And when you can achieve flow more easily, you will not only become a better manager, but you’ll set a great example for your team as well.”

About the Authors:

James Manktelow

James Manktelow

James Manktelow and Julian Birkinshaw are coauthors of Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss (Wiley, April 2018, ISBN: 978-1-119-37447-3, $28.00).

James Manktelow is founder and CEO of MindTools.com. He has written, edited, and contributed to more than 1,000 articles, more than sixty workbooks, and seven books and e-books on management and leadership, including Manage Your Time and Manage Stress.

Julian Birkinshaw

Julian Birkinshaw

Julian Birkinshaw is professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, deputy dean for programs, and academic director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School. He is the author of fourteen books, including Fast/ForwardBecoming a Better Boss, and Reinventing Management.

About the Book:

Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss (Wiley, April 2018, ISBN: 978-1-119-37447-3, $28.00) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. For more information, please visit the book’s page on www.wiley.com.

Facebook Will Allow Users to Opt Out of Collecting Browsing History

Facebook announced earlier this week that users will soon be able to opt out of one of Facebook’s key data gathering practices: the collection and use of people’s web browsing history, which the company uses to sell targeted ads.

Dan Goldstein

Dan Goldstein

Dan Goldstein is the president and owner of Page 1 Solutions, a full-service digital marketing agency. He is the also the author of “Win with Multi-Channel Digital Marketing”.

Of the announcement today he says, “Facebook is getting the message that privacy and transparency are important to Facebook users and Internet users in general. Giving users the ability to identify and manage which sites are tracking information about them shows that Facebook is actively taking positive steps to protect user privacy. Time will tell, but this may help Facebook overcome the shadow of the Cambridge Analytica scandal”.

5 Psychological Hacks To Boost App Downloads

Written and Contributed By Codal

Remember Google Wave?

It’s okay if you don’t—in fact, we’re pretty sure Google would like to forget as well. Google Wave was a mobile app designed to make the often-complex communication process between group contacts as easy as pie. At least, that’s what it was supposed to do.

Instead, the UX design agency that crafted the Wave’s interface seemed to make sure nothing was easy about this overhyped mobile app. Why did it fail, even after having Google’s name attached to it?

Because it had Google’s name attached to it.

The mobile app was marketed on such a grand scale that everyone’s expectations were astronomically high. Besides having a poor UX, Google failed at managing expectations. Users were so unforgiving with the app’s shortcomings that it led to a shutdown of the platform.

Had Google been able to live up to even bare expectations, it could have returned to the drawing board and rework the UX. But Google failed to account for the psychological influences of their users, namely their perception of the Google brand.

Designing for small, often subtle psychological phenomena may seem pointless, but with more than 4 million apps available on both the App Store and Google Play, you have to take into consideration the psychology of it while designing the platform.

To make sure your mobile app cuts through the clutter, here are five psychological hacks to get people to download your app.

1) Tell Them What They Want To Hear

If you want people to download your mobile app, you have to indulge their biases. The psychology of selective perception states people consciously or subconsciously engage with messages that align with their beliefs.

If you want your mobile app to receive the downloads it deserves, listen to what users want from you. A staggering 14% of users will not use a mobile app that is difficult to use, hence they are biased towards comfortable navigation.

To align yourself with this belief, provide an intuitive navigation, designed in such a way that traffic flows from one page to another. If people see your app as easy to use, they will be more inclined to download your app.

Instagram, the popular social media platform, hit it off with users by coming up with an intuitive navigation. Throughout browsing, the navigation options remain in the same place. The buttons are positioned in such way that they can be used with just one hand.

Users always know how to proceed when they want to access a particular screen. This is one of the reasons why Instagram has roughly 700 million active users worldwide.

2) Embracing The Counterintuitive

Reverse psychology is a great hack for generating a specific reaction by calling for something contradictory. In simpler terms, you do the opposite of what users might expect from you. The unpredictability of it is what captures the attention.

It’s a great ‘pull’ tactic that curbs content flooding. When you stop screaming at users, you are allowing them to relax and put a lot more thought into your mobile app.

Take a cue from Little Caesars, the popular pizza chain, that used reverse psychology to build up its email list. It might not be for a mobile app, but it is an effective tactic nonetheless. This campaign worked because it was witty and made people curious.

3) Align With The Customer’s Self-Concept

What are the chances that you will earn a download if people say ‘this mobile app isn’t for me’?

You need to make consumers feel worthy of your app before downloading—they need to see themselves using your mobile app. That requires generating with content that is aligned with a customer’s self-perceived value or self-concept.

Before asking consumers to download your app, try to understand what their self-concept is. Then, find a way to fit your mobile app within their self-perceived value. This will help in shaping UX experience for your potential customers.

Next time, when your UX design agency is brainstorming concepts for your mobile app’s UI, consider taking these three aspects into account:

Self-image – How users see themselves in society.

Ideal self – The type of user one wants to be.

Self-esteem – How much users love themselves.

This allows your mobile app’s design to align with a customer’s self-perceived value. Thereby, enabling a positive user experience, and potentially reducing customer churn rates.

The Persuasive Power Of Color

The color is the second most important aspect of getting people to download your mobile app, after functionality. When 90% of subscription and purchase decisions are based on color alone, your mobile app cannot afford to go wrong with its color scheme.

Color doesn’t just help boost your download count, it also promotes interactions and helps recall value. Here are a few color schemes that might work for your mobile app:

Monochromatic - he simplest color scheme, a monochromatic palette involves taking each color from the same base . This color scheme is very easy on the eyes, and can produce a soothing effect. Blue and green are the more popular hues used for this scheme.

Complementary - This scheme uses colors which are opposite to each other. Due to their high contrast, they easily grab attention.

Less Is More

A successful acquisition strategy is one which takes less time to get more customers. Many UX designers tend to fall prey to the idea of providing too many choices to customers. This eventually leads to choice paralysis.

Analogous - This scheme is made from related colors that don’t stand out from each other. One of the colors is the dominant one while the others are used to enrich the scheme. The only hiccup in this scheme is deciding which vibrancy of color to use.

Calm, a meditation app, uses an analogue color scheme, with blue as the dominant color and green to enrich it. This color scheme helps making users feel relaxed and peaceful.

When provided with too many alternatives to get to the same destination (downloading your app), you end up confusing the customers.

These confusions make customers unhappy and exhausted, leading to abandonment. To avoid this mishap, limit yourself from providing too many choices. Design your app with limited alternatives so your users can arrive at clear decisions.

Human is an all-day activity tracker app. It has a clutter free interface with minimum menu options. With less number of choices to make, users find the UI extremely easy.

Wrapping Up

It’s not just the data that’s going to get you downloads—it’s about humanizing your mobile app. These psychological hacks give life to your application, resulting in a platform that’s inherently more likable and human-centric. Influencing user psyche can help you develop strong personal relationships with your users and encourage constant engagement, lasting long after the download.

 

Codal is a UX design and development agency with a focus on blending an agile process with the latest technologies. Based in the heart of Chicago, Codal has a knack for bringing out the best in every organization that they work with. With vast industry expertise, Codal has a strong team of skilled and experienced business and technical experts. Learn more at https://www.codal.com.

Protect Yourself From Scams This Tax Season

Fake Tax Preparers Are On The Hunt For Your Private Information

Written By Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified

Once again, the tax season is upon us. Many taxpayers are scrambling to get the correct paperwork together, figure out which boxes to check off on various forms, and wait with anticipation for the letter stating that their tax returns have been approved or declined. Tax preparers offer services to relieve some of the stress by calculating, filling out, and signing tax incomes on the behalf of taxpayers. Most are helpful and well-worth the investment, but some are on the hunt for uninformed taxpayers who are quick to trust. Not only are “Ghost” or fake tax preparers out for your private information, but they also wish to make as much money off of your tax returns with little care about submitting false information, leaving you to deal with the IRS and a world of headaches.

There are a number of red flags to look out for when hunting for a tax preparer. 

Red Flag 1: Avoids showing you credentials

Many phony tax preparers will have little to no professional credentials. Some will even go out of their way to create fake documents from just as fake institutes to persuade tax consumers into believing their credibility. Do not fall into this trap, and do a bit of researching before giving a stranger your private information. 

Red Flag 2: Does not have a PTIN.

A preparer without a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN, is not legally allowed to do your taxes. If you come across a tax preparer who refuses to give you his or her PTIN or claims that he or she does not need one, chances are the person is a fake.

Red Flag 3: Fee is based on a percentage of your return. 

Another warning sign is a tax preparer’s fees fluctuating based on the size of your return. This gives phony tax preparers the incentive to mark down false information, thus wrongly increasing your return for a larger paycheck. Always ask a tax preparer’s about payment options before you agree to let him or her do your taxes.

Red Flag 4: Boasts a larger size refund

If your tax preparer tells you that they can get you a much larger refund that anyone else, this can be a red flag that your tax preparer is not on the up and up.  Typically, every preparer is dealing with the same information in terms of income and expenses and there should not be much fluctuation with regard to the size of your potential refund.

One of the best ways to prevent becoming a victim to this type of scam is by searching the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on irs.gov. If a tax preparer’s name appears, they are legitimate. However, if his or her name is not listed, it may be safer to find someone else. Furthermore, never sign a blank return and double check that your preparer has signed all necessary documents as you are ultimately held accountable.

Justin Lavelle is the Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified, a leading source of online background checks and contact information. It allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses, property records, and criminal records in a way that’s fast, easy, and affordable. The company helps people discover, understand, and use public data in their everyday lives. https://www.beenverified.com.

Insights Network Launches Blockchain-Based Secure Data Exchange Mobile App

New INSTAR Wallet Allows Users to Securely Control and Receive Compensation For Their Personal Data and Insights

Insights Network, an EOS blockchain-based data exchange, recently launched its INSTAR Wallet mobile application. Insights Network is creating an infrastructure enabling individuals to securely own, manage and monetize their data through a unique combination of blockchain technology, smart contracts and secure multiparty computation. The launch of the INSTAR Wallet will allow users to subscribe to Insights’ partners’ bl ockchain projects and be rewarded with INSTAR tokens for their data. Over 100,000 potential users have signed up to use the app and 40,000 users have already passed their Know Your Customer (KYC) check, which means they’ll be ready to use the app as soon as it’s available.

Over the past several years, there have been a variety of notable data breaches, compromising the personal information of millions of individuals. Recently, Cambridge Analytica, a London-based data analytics firm, came under fire after allegedly exploiting the personal information of over 50 million Facebook users.

“The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a perfect demonstration of the ability of powerful entities, such as Facebook, to pawn off their users’ data at their own discretion without consent on a case by case basis,” said Brian Gallagher, CEO of Insights Network. “Under current practices, our data is being collected behind our backs for nefarious purposes and we need to move to conventions for data use that are based on transparency and consent. This is why we’re building Insights Network and offering a solution that provides users with secure storage and ownership of their personal data through a blockchain-based model for data exchange.”

On May 25, 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect across the European Union, requiring companies to comply with consumer data protection rules or risk strict penalties. The GDPR aims primarily to give consumers control over their personal data by requiring corporations to be able to provide proof of consent from each individual whose data they process. Under the GDPR, companies can face a fine of up to 10 million Euros on their first violation, and 20 million Euros on their second violation if they cannot prove consumer consent of how they are processing their data. Companies can ensure they abide by new regulations by connecting directly with consumers using the Insights Network solution.

The Insights Network solution uses secure multiparty computation to facilitate the exchange of data with Blockchain smart contracts. These contracts ensure the transfer of funds and record a proof of consent on the blockchain ledger. Insights Network user data is stored locally on the user’s device or in a distributed web format which is the new gold standard for consumer data storage and could prevent future data theft incidents.

Insights serves two types of users: those who request data, called requesters, and those who provide it, called providers. Requesters are typically organizations, but anyone can buy INSTAR tokens and use them to submit a request for data to the Insights Network. Providers are users who comply with a data request by providing data; the ones who fit a data requesters’ target demographic are compensated for their data in INSTAR tokens. This system allows for consensual data sharing and rewards those who share it.

About Insights Network

Insights Network’s EOS blockchain-based data exchange is reinventing how brands interact with consumers. Individuals will now have control over their personal information and can choose to interact with brands securely, while being financially compensated. Founded in 2017, Insights Network is automating the data brokerage industry using blockchain technology, secure multiparty computation and smart contracts. For more information, please visit www.insights.network and follow Insights on Twitter, Telegram and Medium.

First Public Demo of Etherparty’s Token and Crowdsale Contract Creator Slated For Unveiling at Token Fest 2018

Patrick Guay

Patrick Guay

Blockchain platform Etherparty will be conducting the first public demonstration of its token sale and crowdfund creation software product at this year’s Token Fest event in San Francisco, which runs March 15-16.

“Etherparty has undergone a significant re-design to make it a secure and accessible product that only requires minimal blockchain knowledge to use it,” said Etherparty Lead Developer Patrick Guay. “Our mission is to enable a connected and inclusive world through blockchain’s disruptive potential, and we’re confident our products will contribute to that goal.”

Guay will be presenting the token and crowdfund creator on the first day of the conference, on March 15, at the technology stage at 9:35 a.m. (PDT).

Token Fest is a two-day networking event focused on the business and technology of tokenization. Attendees will be exposed to a wealth of insights and information about the state of the token-based economy.

“Beyond cryptocurrency, the key to mass adoption of blockchain, and to unlocking its potential for disruptive innovation, lies in the integration of smart contracts into existing data infrastructures,” said Etherparty Vice President of Product Development Erynn Tomlinson.

“At Etherparty we are building intuitive smart contracts to bring the world onto the blockchain, catalyzing ideas that will reshape how we transact, interact, and connect for years to come.”

The full release of the token and crowdfund creation platform is slated for spring 2018. Visit etherparty.com for more information and sign-up for the Etherparty newsletter to remain up to date with news and information from the team.

About Etherparty
Etherparty is a blockchain platform working to enable a connected and inclusive world by building easy-to-use, versatile, and intuitive smart contract solutions. The first Etherparty product is a digital token and cryptocurrency crowdfund creation tool launching in spring 2018.

Here’s an Exciting Luxury Gift Idea

Here’s an exciting luxury gift for him and her from Air Partner, the global leader in private aviation.

Air Partner offers a one-of-a-kind JetCard which gives its guests one of the most unique and luxurious experiences world-wide. Air Partner’s JetCard members enjoy flexible departure times, faster trips and comfortable accommodations with every trip they take. Services include, but are not limited to, premium lounge access, arranging chauffer driven cars and confirming luxurious accommodations on their clients’ behalf – making it the perfect luxury getaway gift.

Rated the industry’s #1 most flexible program for four consecutive years, Air Partner’s JetCard offers simple pre-paid flight hours, minimum of 10, with fully refundable account balances and flight credit that never expires. There are two types – JetCard and JetCard Sterling – both of which allow clients to tailor a program that fits with their needs and countless member benefits.

S

Some benefits include:

  • Guaranteed availability in as few as 12 hours’ notice with no blackout dates
  • Flight credit that never expires and fully-refundable account balances
  • Only pay for the time you fly, with no hidden fees
  • 20% discount on qualifying round-trip travel
  • Freedom to apply JetCard funds to on-demand jet charter
  • 24/7 global coverage year-round

For more information on the JetCard, please visit https://jetcard.airpartner.com/?utm_source=article&utm_medium=press&utm_campaign=5_ways_jet_travel_reduces_stress&utm_content=jc_link.

Don’t Overpay Your Taxes

Commonly overlooked credits and deductions

With tax season in full swing, take time to consider how to get the most out of your tax return, which includes finding all the credits and deductions available to you. While many taxpayers claim common deductions, such as home mortgage interest and self-employment expenses, there are additional tax deductions that can lessen your final tax bill or increase your refund. These often-overlooked tax breaks could potentially save you hundreds – maybe even thousands – of dollars if you itemize deductions.

To start, get to know the difference between tax credits and tax deductions. Tax credits reduce the amount you owe in taxes. In some circumstances, tax credits allow a refundable credit, meaning you may not only reduce the amount you owe to $0, but you can also get money back. Deductions, on the other hand, simply reduce your taxable income. Both can have a potentially significant impact on your taxes and are often worth the extra effort to include on your return.

Some commonly overlooked credits include:

1. Child and Dependent Care Credit

You can claim a credit of up to $2,100 for day care for your dependents so you and your spouse can work. Qualifying dependents include children under 13 and parents who are no longer able to care for themselves.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit based on your income and the number of qualifying children living with you. Nearly 1 in 5 people who qualify fail to claim the credit, worth up to $6,318. Just because you didn’t qualify last year doesn’t mean you won’t this year; one-third of the EITC-eligible population changes each year based on marital, parental and financial status.

3. Saver’s Credit or the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit

Make sure you “pay yourself first.” Even if it is only $20 each pay cycle, make sure you are putting some money into a retirement fund. If your company offers a retirement savings plan, like a 401(k), it is usually in your best interest to participate. If your income is lower than $60,000, you can receive a credit of up to $1,000 for a contribution of up to $2,000 into an IRA or an employer-provided retirement account, such as a 401(k). The credit is in addition to any deduction or exclusion from income for the contribution.

Some tax deductions that allow you to reduce your taxable income include:

1. Moving Expenses

If you moved for a job that is at least 50 miles away from your home and held this job for at least 39 weeks, you can claim your moving expenses even if you don’t itemize deductions.

2. Tax-Preparation Fees

Plan for tax time. Tax laws change and so do life circumstances. Using a professional to help you file your return may be a wise investment. For example, the tax pros at Jackson Hewitt can help you get every deduction and credit you deserve and the biggest refund possible. Plus, the cost of preparing your taxes can be claimed if you itemize your deductions. In fact, one missed credit or deduction could more than cover the cost of having your taxes prepared by a tax professional.

3. New Moms

Breast pumps and lactation supplies are considered medical equipment, which means they qualify for a possible deduction.

4. Career Corner

Job hunting often means investing both time and money. However, you may be able to deduct some of the job-search expenses you incur. Costs such as preparing resumes, creating and maintaining websites, business cards, agency fees and travel expenses may be eligible.

5. Wedding Bells

If you were married in a church or at a historical site during the past year, you may be able to deduct fees paid to the venue as a charitable donation.

6. Medical Fitness

While general toning and fitness workouts to improve general health are considered personal expenses, you may be able to deduct your gym membership as a medical expense. If a doctor diagnoses you with a specific medical condition, such as obesity or hypertension, or a specific physical or mental illness, and prescribes workouts or participation in a weight-loss program to treat your illness, the membership dues may be tax-deductible.

7. Road Warriors

If you travel for business and aren’t reimbursed by your employer, those costs can qualify as a deduction.

Every possible tax credit and deduction can help when money is tight. You might qualify for at least one overlooked credit or deduction – and maybe more than one. Consult a tax professional to discuss how you can maximize your refund and learn more at JacksonHewitt.com.

Refund Advance

If you’re getting a refund, you typically want it as soon as possible, but that isn’t always an option, especially if you are one of the millions of Americans who claim either the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit. You could access up to $3,200 with a no-fee Refund Advance loan at zero percent annual percentage rate (APR), offered by MetaBank, at participating Jackson Hewitt locations. Terms apply, visit JacksonHewitt.com for details.

Did You Know?

1. The IRS, as well as many states, allows taxpayers to catch up on missed credits or deductions, offering a three-year window for filing an amended tax return. You can secure unclaimed credits and deductions by filing amended tax returns to avoid losing any unclaimed funds from as far back as 2014.

2. With locations across the United States, including kiosks in 3,000 Walmart stores, the tax professionals at Jackson Hewitt make it easy to stop in when it’s most convenient for you.

3. If you are a single parent, you can file as Head of Household instead of Single. This filing status can provide better deduction options and a lower tax rate schedule. (Family Features)

SOURCE:

Jackson Hewitt

Make Working from Home Productive and Liberating

Working from home is a reality for a fast-growing portion of American workers. It can add flexibility, drive higher productivity and reduce company costs related to maintaining physical facilities.

However, it also comes with challenges. If you have worked from home, you have most likely encountered issues collaborating and communicating with colleagues in multiple locations. While there are multiple technologies aimed at helping remote workers and increasing their productivity, they can at times thwart it.

All too familiar with productivity, remote working woes and how to address it, CyberLink created U, a collaboration tool that integrates online presentations, video meetings and instant messaging whether working remote or down the hall from one another.

“It’s a place to hold online meetings, have presentations and chat with your colleagues that doesn’t come with the messy installation fuss and technical errors associated with other options out there,” said Richard Carriere, CyberLink’s general manager and senior vice president of global marketing. “It brings the best of social media, such as emojis, ease of use and the flexibility to have impromptu interactions, to a business environment, in a unique way that heightens communication and collaboration across users.”

According to commissioned research by polling firm YouGov, nearly half (43 percent) of U.S. office workers think it’s harder for remote workers to be seen in the workplace than non-remote workers.Office workers think it’s twice as difficult, when working remotely, to make strong relationships with bosses and coworkers while collaborating effectively. In fact, 1 in 6 think remote workers are less valued by the company, more than 1 in 3 think remote workers miss out on office culture and 1 in 5 think they get promoted less often.

There are also technical difficulties workers can encounter when using the technology solutions of the past. Of office workers who said disruptions and working with a solution that’s incompatible with the demands of a remote workforce today had impacted their work, the most prominent included:

  • Nearly half (42 percent) have misinterpreted the tone of written communication (email, instant messaging, etc.)
  • Nearly half (40 percent) said an important call had been dropped
  • 1 in 3 (31 percent) have been late to or missed a meeting because of a tech failure and a nearly one-quarter (22 percent) because it was too complicated to join
  • More than one-quarter (28 percent) have used the wrong version of a document
  • About 1 in 4 (23 percent) said an important video meeting had dropped
  • 1 in 5 (21 percent) mistakenly “replied all” to an email

To help address these issues and others, all of U’s offerings create virtual counterparts to in-person scenarios, in turn allowing workplace culture, creativity and dialogue to resonate beyond the physical workplace and to all workers, despite location. Learn more at u.cyberlink.com . (Family Features)

SOURCE:

CyberLink

5 Tips for Entrepreneurs to Keep Customers Engaged

Entrepreneurs, it’s time to stop and give yourself a pat on the back. Small business owners know it’s a life that can be high stress and sometimes even uncertain. But here’s one encouraging fact: Small businesses are doing a lot to keep Americans employed and the economy humming.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, firms with fewer than 500 employees account for 99.7 percent of all businesses in the U.S. And the SBA finds that 60 percent of new job creation comes from small businesses.

Still, one of the top challenges that small businesses face today is attracting new customers and keeping existing customers engaged. That’s what pays the bills, of course. Part of that solution is always looking ahead so you can capture their minds and hearts, so you can then capture the sales — with these five simple tips for small business success.

Be a joiner: If you haven’t already, become a member of your local chamber of commerce as well as neighborhood business groups. These often host special “Shop Local” events and promotions, which give you a way to participate and gain extra exposure from their marketing efforts. These groups also offer events and opportunities to network, help you to stay apprised of local trends and allow you to discover new opportunities to collaborate.

Cross-promote: Pair up with a second business in your neighborhood and find creative ways to work together. Collaborate on sales and special offers. Make your customers’ lives easier and put together gift baskets and share the proceeds. Or invite someone from a different business to teach an in-store class or workshop. Take the guerrilla marketing approach and host a joint scavenger hunt, with clues left around the community for a big prize. When you pool your ideas and resources, the possibilities are endless.

Market in-house: Getting the word out doesn’t stop at your doorstep. When customers enter your space, it’s a great time to tell them more about your services and products. “Digital signage” isn’t just for big companies. Deliver your message in vivid color and create an interactive experience with LG’s touch displays, perfect for menu selection and point-of-purchase. Commercial displays are better for businesses than a plain old consumer TV; they offer simple ways to post a warm welcome message with your business name and logo to create an inviting, personalized experience. Consider affordable options like “commercial lite” TVs from LG that have a USB Auto Playback feature, so you can build custom playlists to entertain and inform your customers. Things like an inspirational idea reel or quick tips and facts can position you as the trusted local expert.

Get social: Raise your presence on your social media accounts. Use this platform to inform and even entertain current and prospective customers, and they’ll turn to you as the expert. Turn on your smartphone’s video camera and give a rare peek behind the curtain. Increase traffic by announcing a flash sale or giveaway. And during big social media events, expand your reach and potentially your community by using hashtags.

Upgrade your tech: Sometimes, the busyness of life and running your own shop can mean we neglect the things that make a great impression. Take time for an objective critique of the appearance and functionality of your space. Get sleek and streamlined with a much-needed tech upgrade, with a new LCD desktop monitor like LG’s 32-inch 32MU99. Its show-stopping, vivid display offers true-to-life image rendering, thanks to the shadow detailing and richer colors. It also busts the clutter with its space-saving features, such as an ultra-thin panel and a single-cable delivery system that transfers audio, data and power. Upgraded tech with dazzling display is a sure way to make a favorable impression.

Small businesses have lots of technology options to enhance their business today. To learn more, visit http://www.lg.com/us/business. (BPT)