Listen!

An old-fashioned rotary phone with the message to listen to your customers and yourself during the Holiday Season

Even though we are incredibly busy during the Holiday Season, we can take a simple action to make out lives — and our business — better in the future by listening and taking note.

Since I’m sure you are as busy as I’m at this time of year — if not more so — I’ll keep this brief. The number one comment I hear this time of year is “I really feel I should be doing something to prepare for next year, I want next year to be better. But I don’t have time!” I understand completely. But your busiest time is some of the best time to listen to your customers or clients — as well as yourself — and take notes.

Simply pay attention to what people say, ask or complain about, praise and make simple note of it someplace. Doesn’t need to be complex, lengthy, or complete. Simply note that a number of people mentioned they now prefer Instagram to Facebook (data nerds (naming no names, Carolyn), or a number of clients asked about website security, or all of your red earth-tone products sold, but the lime green is languishing. Simply make note of anything that strikes you, anything you question, anything that seems a pattern out of the ordinary. Even something as mundane and how often you run out change and have to make an “emergency” dash for more (and what kind). At this point, simply take note.  Analysis can wait until you have more time.

Also, take note of the times you feel joy, anger, frustration, accomplishment, happiness and so forth in what you are doing. What are you feeling & when. Again, simply take note. Analysis can come later when the pressure is off. Later you can look at what makes you feel a greater joy in life and sense of achievement versus what makes you feel negative stress and drains your pleasure in life.

At my yarn shop, because all of my staff were part-time, we kept a mandatory log book of anything we observed or happened that we wanted to pass on to the other staff members. Re-reading the notes later, it was easy to see patterns — both good and bad — and make better decisions for better results. Sometimes these observations seemed counterintuitive, but when I ignored them it always led to problems later. And I can’t tell you how many former yarn or craft shop owners I’ve spoken with who all said the same thing, “If only I’d paid attention, if only I had listened.”

And now for something completely different, to borrow from Monty Python.

Something Free (or Inexpensive) That May Prove Life-Changing

Some of you may know that I took a life-changing course on behavioral economics through Coursera a couple of years ago. The Coursera.org courses are largely free, though you can now get a certificate of completion (and in some cases college credit) for a nominal fee (US$49). Some you can take entirely on your own time, others you can participate in real-time with others throughout the world. No matter what your interest or need, there is sure to be something to tempt you.

Two classes currently offered that may be of interest for anyone wanting to improve their personal life during 2016 are:

Positive Psychology

This course discusses research findings in the field of positive psychology, conducted by Barbara Fredrickson and her colleagues. It also features practical applications of this science that you can put to use immediately to help you live a full and meaningful life. (Self-Paced, est. 2-4 hours/week)

A Lifetime of Happiness and Fulfillment

What are the determinants of a happy and fulfilling life? This course, based on the award-winning class offered both at the Indian School of Business and at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, draws content from a variety of fields, including psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral decision theory to offer a tested and practical recipe for leading a life of happiness and fulfillment. The course will feature guest appearances by several well-known thought leaders. By the end of the course, students who have been diligent with the lectures and exercises may expect to not just gain a deeper understanding of the science of happiness, but to also be significantly happier. (Dec. 21-Feb. 8; 2-3/hours per week)

And for those looking to add some new twists to their business and marketing in 2016, check out:

Gamification

Gamification is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. This course will teach you the mechanisms of gamification, why it has such tremendous potential, and how to use it effectively. For additional information on the concepts described in the course, you can purchase Professor Werbach’s book For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business in print or ebook format in several languages. (Starting Dec. 7 – Jan. 25, & again starting Jan. 4; 4-8/hours per week)

And yes, I’m enrolled in them all…

Hope your Holiday Season is going well.

Carolyn E. Cooper