Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Conquering Burnout, and Achieving a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Do you have to drag your body out of bed on weekday mornings? Does the idea of spending another day at the office fill you with dread? Are you finding it harder and harder to get excited about your job and the work that you do?

If so, chances are good that you are suffering from job burnout. This has been a big topic at tech conferences in the past year (I'm in the tech industry) but I think it applies far beyond tech.

According to the Mayo Clinic, work-related burnout is a form of stress that can cause us to feel mentally, emotionally or physically tired. It can give us unusual doubts about our abilities to perform as well as we usually do. Job burnout can also lead to unpleasant symptoms like headaches, a change in appetite, and poor sleep.

Why Do We Get Burned Out?

Although the reasons we feel burned out at work vary from person to person and job to job, some common culprits include feeling out of control at work. For example, having little or no say over your schedule or assignments, or having a micromanager as a boss can be triggers. When you're spending so much of your day at work, that it feels like there's never enough time or energy to be with your family and friends doing activities that you enjoy, that's when burnout sets in.

Fortunately, these negative and unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms do not have to last forever. There are steps that you can take to reduce job burnout.

Identify What is Causing the Stress

One of the best ways to reduce job burnout is to have an honest conversation with yourself about what is causing you to feel so miserable in the first place. If you feel you spend too many hours in the office, consider approaching your supervisor about the possibility of telecommuting. Or, ask if you can have more of a say in the projects or assignments you're part of in the future.

Take Responsibility For Your Own Well-Being

This is a saying I use a lot, and it relates to the previous point.  When they feel stuck, sometimes people need to be reminded that they can take action to shape their lives - maybe that's you, sometimes.  

For example, take the initiative to share your goals and aspirations with your boss; that can help them see you in a different light and reduce the risk that you'll be "type cast" in a specific, confining role.  Or, you may have skills and talents that they don't know about, so you can make them aware the things you're good at doing.  Or, perhaps a particular aspect of the job is energizing to you and you can ask them to let you do more of that type of work.

Realize That Your Job is Not Set in Stone

As the Huffington Post notes, if your best efforts to change the negative work environment do not pay off, you might want to consider changing your job. Sometimes giving yourself permission to start looking for a new career can be incredibly freeing. Take some time to research different jobs that might appeal to you, and if you can, talk to folks who are already working in those fields. For example, if you have always dreamed about owning your own restaurant, maybe you could speak with some local café owners to get an idea of how much work might be involved. Or, if you have always wanted to work with children, you might consider volunteering at a school to see if being around kids is truly for you. There are websites and services can also help you determine which new career path might be best, and they can even offer educational opportunities to turn your dreams into reality. For instance, if a career in the pharmaceutical field sounds appealing, organizations like the Penn Foster school offer convenient online education opportunities, including a pharmacy technician career diploma.

Nurture Your Non-Work Interests

As Lisa Gerry's article in Forbes explains, it is important to have interests and hobbies that have absolutely nothing to do with work. For example, consider volunteering your time with a local charity. You can involves with a pet rescue group, sign up for a fun fitness class at the gym, or pick up that old box of stamps you collected as a kid and see if you can renew your love of all things philatelic. When you are passionate about something other than work, it can help to keep your life in a better balance.

This can also be a good reminder to create better boundaries between work and home or hobbies.  If you check email all the time when you aren't at work, your whole life can feel like work.  Try to consciously "switch" from work to home when you leave, to give yourself that physical and psychological break that you need to recharge.

Make Sure You are Getting Enough Z’s

Speaking of recharging, if you are routinely burning the midnight oil, do what you can to get more rest. Being sleep deprived can not only impact your mood and job performance, but it can also make you less motivated, making it more difficult to focus and get work done in a timely manner. Getting more sleep will probably help you get your work done sooner, which will allow you to spend less time in the office and more time doing things you enjoy.

Take Care Of Your Physical Health

A lot of what I've presented here is psychological, but don't overlook the value of your physical health.  As I mentioned recently, I've been focusing more of my attention on diet and exercise, and it has helped me a lot - not just from a 'vital signs' perspective, but by increasing my energy level, improving my sleep, and helping me feel better about what I'm doing both at work and away from the job.

The bottom line? If you are feeling burned out, don't just settle for a life of drudgery.  There is plenty you can do to improve things.

Maximize Your Business Revenue with Mobile Payment Options


This is a little different from my usual topics, but a lot of people I know are beginning to start their own small businesses, or grow their existing businesses.  Recent conversations have caused my subconscious to tune into the nuances of this.  

For example, I was traveling this week and I noticed a couple of the cab drivers swiped my credit card on their mobile devices using Square readers and I was able to receive my receipt via email or text message.  That would have been unusual even a year ago, but it's very common now.

If you're a business owner that isn't accepting credit cards yet, here is some food for thought. 

In, small business owner Josh Lattimer details how being able to accept credit card payments saved his business and boosted his bottom line. In the past, Lattimer required his customers to pay with cash or write checks for his car care services, but since he started accepting credit card payments on his wife's iPad, his sales have steeply increased. In fact, Lattimer estimates that customers use credit cards for 90 percent of his outside sales—that money would have been lost without the right technology in place.

Jumping on Sales

Small business owners have to optimize their revenue by jumping on sales anytime, anywhere. For the hot dog stand owner or the ice cream truck driver, this means realizing that not everyone carries cash, and that it is important to have the technology in place to take alternative forms of payment. For someone who runs an online business or even a storefront, this may mean offering more payment options at checkout. By increasing the number of ways that your business accepts payments, you can pick up more sales and boost your bank balance in the process.

Listening to the Growing Market

The demand is not only there, it is growing.  According to the Motley Fool, mobile payments in the U.S. are estimated to hit $90 billion by 2017. Last year alone there were $12.8 billion in mobile payments, representing huge growth. Business owners who are poised to take advantage of this sweeping growth will stand to make more money than their counterparts who let the shift pass them by.

However, the vast number of mobile payment products on the market means that consumers need to spend some time investigating so that they can find the right products for their needs. The main factor to consider is the cost of credit card processing services. This can cost users either a flat fee, or a percentage per transaction. Even large corporations like Starbucks have forgone their traditional credit card processing equipment in favor of more affordable and versatile mobile payments processing.

Companies like Intuit have stepped in to offer a range of credit card processing services for small business owners. Their mobile apps make it possible to process credit card payments using a phone or a tablet, while their online services are perfect for ecommerce sites. All of their services can be synced to your data files so that copies of all your receipts are readily available come tax time.

Expanding Technology

Business owners who accept mobile payments also need to keep up with the technology surrounding these types of payments. The umbrella phrase mobile payments can refer to devices which allow you to accept credit cards with your smart phone, but the phrase can also refer to accepting credit cards that have been stored in an app or accepting payments via a smartphone with a special chip, reports USA Today. The challenge for small business owners may be staying on top of these trends and anticipating how their clients want to pay both today and tomorrow, but information is available to the smart business owner seeking to stay ahead of the curve.

Mobile payments are going to grow, particularly as: more phones have NFC (Near Field Communications) capabilities;, more people move to digital wallets; and more consumers become comfortable with the convenience of mobile payments.  If you're not already doing so, it's time to get familiar with the mobile payment landscape, understand your options, and figure out how this shift will impact your business.

Now available: "Toolbox for Success" eBook

I've been working with the fine folks at Hyperink Press to produce my first ebook, "Toolbox for Success:  What You Need to Know to Succeed as a Professional."  I'm pleased to announce that it is available through the Kindle store.

This is my first solo book (I've contributed to others), but hopefully not my last.  I'd love to hear your feedback and see your reviews on Amazon (especially if you find value in the book).  

Also, if you have topics you'd like to see me address or incorporate into subsequent books please let me know.

Working out while traveling just got a bit easier

After quite a while of being a slacker, I have decided to pay a lot more attention to my diet and exercise regimen.  A big part of that is designed to help me follow much better habits while on the road.

One part of this change is to do some sort of workout or physical exercise every day.  It's been going well, but workouts on the road can be a challenge when it's hard to create a convenient time window to get to the hotel fitness center.

Bring the gym to you

Last week, I was in Dallas and decided to try out one of the Westin Hotel chain's "WestinWorkout" rooms in which you can reserve a room with fitness equipment in it.  I really like this concept - it allows me to get a workout in when I want to, under much more relaxed circumstances.  Here is a quick tour of the room I stayed in:


In the video, I mention I was expecting a treadmill (the bike worked fine, but I still like treadmills better).  Good news:  you can now specify whether you want a cycle or a treadmill, at least in some hotels - I had that choice when I booked at the Westin in Seattle a few days ago.

I hope this trend takes off and spreads to other hotels.  I'm a "Starwood guy" so the fact that Westin is a Starwood property makes me hopeful that other Starwood brands will follow suit. 

Job Seekers: How to stay organized while on the hunt


Job hunting these days is less like dating and more like having your face stomped on repeatedly by a rubber boot. Forbes reports that a single job listing will get an average of 118 applicants, yet only 27 percent of those applicants will actually receive an interview. If you're serious about your job search, you're very likely applying to dozens of positions every day. This can lead to a lot of complications, such as forgetting which jobs you've already applied to. Finding a new job should be treated like work: you need to be structured, organized and consistent if you are to be successful.

Managing separate résumés for better fits

If you're looking at multiple types of industries and positions, you need to have multiple résumés that resonate with the hiring manager you're targeting. If your last two positions were tech support in a healthcare company and administrative support for a real estate company, you might even have up to four resumes: healthcare-focused, real estate-focused, tech support-focused and administration-focused. There are applications such as Résumé Tracker, which will allow you to track the different versions of your résumé easily, but you can also simply name them in a consistent fashion, and keep them all in the same folder on your hard drive.

Mind the image you present

Take a look at the image you present to the people you're approaching - does your résumé look professional?  Are you using a professional email address?  If you're sending a physical résumé printing it on high quality paper can help - just avoid cheesy patterns or overly busy stationery.

If you plan on presenting references, be sure those references know about it, are willing to help, and are warned that you've just sent out a bunch of résumés.  It can also be helpful if you confirm that they believe you'll be a good fit for the jobs you're applying for and are willing & able to give you a positive reference. 

Organizing your job applications with ease

Applying to a specific job multiple times can be a disaster. Not only does it make you look unorganized, but you could also accidentally represent yourself in multiple ways, and thus make it appear as though you're being shady about your credentials. It's somewhat easy to tell whether you've applied to a position when using job applications online, as you can simply check to see whether you've signed up or not under your email address. Responding to classified ads, on the other hand, can be a little more difficult. You could keep everything in an Excel spreadsheet, or you could also start using an application such as Jibber Jobber.

Time management isn't only for after you get hired

It's important for you to be consistent when it comes to your job hunt. As Huffington Post notes, you should schedule specific times for your job hunt, and you should approach it like a job. You can create a routine that involves set hours of your day, and during this time, you should focus only on procuring your next position. You should also set small goals for yourself each day, much like projects. These tasks must be actionable steps you can control, such as filling out 10 applications in a day, rather than steps you can't control, such as acquiring an interview within a week.  This can also help you feel the momentum of the process.

Don't stumble at the finish line

Organization doesn't stop once you get an interview. You also need to manage your appointments effectively, and ensure you never miss an interview and you're never late. If you're going to an interview in an unfamiliar area, you may want to head out early, or scope out the location beforehand. Smartphones are absolutely superb for creating appointment notification, as well as getting directions. You should also remember that it's impolite to be late, but it's also impolite to be more than 15 minutes early.  It's OK to show up early to keep unforeseen delays from making you miss the appointment, but when you do, simply hang out at a nearby coffee shop and wait until 10 minutes prior to the interview before going into the building.

If you have any other tips to share, please let me know. 

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