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3 Morning Habits that Create Productive Days

3 Morning Habits that Create Productive Days

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3 Morning Habits that Create Productive Days

Benjamin Franklin once said, “The early morning has gold in its mouth.” Coming from a Founding Father known for rising early with purpose, the quote speaks to the importance of starting your day the right way. Unfortunately for high-powered business leaders, our days tend to evaporate quickly into puffs of emails, meetings and long to-do lists; the maintenance work of leadership has a pesky habit of devouring days and weeks, leaving little time left for “golden” opportunities.

However, in the information age, innovation happens in split-second intervals and the competition moves even faster. Those hours slipping through your fingers are precious. What’s more, recent research has indicated a connection between flow – a term created by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi for a state of total immersion in a job – and innovation. The catch? Flow’s main requirement is focused time.

In order to remain ahead of the pack, time for innovation and creativity is crucial, and starting your day off right is the first step to freeing up precious space for flow. Below are three proven techniques you can begin to create productive days.

Wake Early … Seriously

If you’ve ever perused (or consumed) productivity articles, you’ve likely been encouraged to start your day earlier. Assuredly, you’ve read story after story where successful people (individuals like Michelle Obama, Richard Branson and Howard Schultz) laud the early morning hours as critical parts of their day. If you’re like many Americans, you’ve probably vowed to start the habit, set your alarm for 5:30 a.m. … and hit “snooze” until 7:08.

Waking up before the sun is difficult, even for those who call themselves “morning people.” It takes discipline and commitment, but there’s a reason that a good chunk of the most successful people in business all possess this habit: Mornings are gifts. They’re normally quiet and often free from responsibilities; in other words, they’re the perfect time for flow.

Moreover, studies have shown a connection between individuals who wake up early and achieving high success. A Harvard Business Review article found that “people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for career success, because they’re more proactive than people who are at their best in the evening.”

Think back to any important event in your life — your wedding, a huge test, the birth of your child – for each of these moments: You prepared, often months in advance, making sure you had everything you needed to succeed. Why would you treat your workday any differently?

Waking up early gives you time to thoroughly plan out your day. It provides an uninterrupted stretch for strategizing, concentrating or meditating — you’re in the zone from the get-go.

Focus on a Daily Gratitude

When you sit at your desk first thing, you’re likely bombarded both with the day’s expectations and yesterday’s tasks. It’s easy to simply dive in without really considering which jobs are the most beneficial. Often we toggle between tasks, feeling productive at the onset, but producing unfocused work.

In order to get the most out of your day, it’s important to begin at the most productive place: a place of gratitude. Several happiness psychologists have shown a clear connection between gratitude, productivity and creative problem-solving.

In fact, a study found that participants who kept a weekly gratitude list were “more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.”

Gratitude doesn’t have to be an ordeal; each morning, take one minute to think about one thing you’re grateful for. Focus intensely on that single blessing and actually allow yourself to feel the natural happiness that comes with the thought. This jolt of pleasure allows your brain to function better than when it’s stressed or even neutral. Then, reap the benefits for the rest of your day.

 Find a Winning Ritual

Have you ever noticed how many famous athletes are superstitious?

Michael Jordan reportedly wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his uniform during every game he played for the Chicago Bulls. Tennis superstar Serena Williams has a specific way she ties her shoelaces, bounces the ball and carries her shower sandals onto the court.

These rituals may seem bizarre and unnecessary, but there is a reason so many high-performing athletes succumb to the power of superstitions: They often work. Or more accurately, athletes think that they work, so they work.

Studies have shown a link between routine superstitions and performance. An article published in the journal Psychological Science noted that superstition typically leads to increased self-efficacy, which in turn can lead to improved performance. There is real value in finding a motivational mantra or activity that you can control and practice every day. As a leader in your industry, it’s easy to feel like you’re constantly spinning different plates — that at any moment, everything can crash at your feet. However, starting your day with a simple, small ritual you can control actually helps you address the things you can change and accept the things you cannot.

Before you grab that lucky rabbit’s foot, consider making the ritual unassuming and something you would be comfortable doing in public. Perhaps take four deep breaths before you open your email or pour in a specific “lucky” creamer for your coffee each morning; whatever the quirk, use it to build valuable confidence that propels you to where you want to be: in the winner’s circle.

Holly Faurot

by Holly Faurot

Author Bio: Faurot, vice president of client relations, has served in a number of roles during her tenure at Paycom, including regional vice president, sales training manager and sales consultant. A born leader and a 2012 honoree in Oklahoma’s 30 Under 30 awards, she has helped a number of individuals and clients achieve success through her energetic spirit. The product of a dairy farm in Kenefic, Okla., Faurot was taught at a young age the importance of working hard, being honest and having a desire to help others.

Unconscious Bias

3 Steps to Prevent Unconscious Bias in the Interview Process

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You do it. I do it. We all do it.

No, I’m not talking about converting oxygen into carbon dioxide – although you may need to take a deep breath before reading further. I’m talking about that unquestionably human habit of prejudging someone or something, whether in a positive or negative light.

That little prejudge is known as unconscious bias. Most people harbor some bias, although they may not realize it. For employers, unconscious bias can cause big trouble if interviewers unfairly favor or dismiss a candidate during the hiring process.

According to Harvard Business Review, when interviewers without standardized questions are left to decide which candidate to hire, their decisions tend to be subjective and unconsciously influenced by fixed thoughts on race, gender and ethnicity. Considering the strict regulations set forth by the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), interviewers can get into hot water quickly, without even realizing they’re doing something wrong.

To help avoid risk, empower your hiring managers to follow these three steps.

Introduce performance-based questions

As the great equalizers, performance-based questions center on what employees must do to be successful in their roles. This includes questions to assess how they have addressed challenges in other roles, and hypothetical questions to judge how candidates would approach the challenges your company faces. The trick is to ask each candidate the same questions so you have a fair assessment.

If you’re wondering what a performance-based question sounds like, here’s an example: “Thinking about a time in which a project didn’t go as planned, what actions did you take to correct it as quickly as possible?”

Measure applicants’ answers

Performance-based questions are worth nothing unless you have a system to compare applicants’ answers. Next, you’ll want to compare their responses with something called a standardized rubric. Using a rubric means everyone involved in the hiring process agrees on what the important questions are and what an excellent answer would be. Without it, comparisons simply are not apples-to-apples. You easily can create a rubric by asking those who already perform the role what success looks like.

Train your staff

Finally, train your staff to recognize and counter biases during the hiring process. This is especially important when multiple interviewers screen for an open position. Make sure everyone knows to take good notes so they can compare candidates’ answers with the rubric. It’s important that everyone involved is on the same page, especially with which elements indicate future success.

Eliminating unconscious bias in the interview process is hard, especially when multiple parties are involved. That’s why it’s critical to factor performance-based questions into the equation, making it much easier to focus on candidates who possess the right skill set for the position at hand.

Learn more by downloading our free e-book, Discover What Your Front-Line Managers Need to Know About Hiring, Diversity Inclusion and EEOC Compliance.

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Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Employment Law, Featured

Monica Johnson

by Monica Johnson

Author Bio: As Paycom’s client marketing specialist, Monica Johnson utilizes a mixture of marketing and human capital management knowledge gained from years of industry experience. A graduate from the University of Central Oklahoma, Johnson has been with Paycom since 2013 and has served in numerous roles during her career with the company. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, exploring Oklahoma City and sipping coffee, while reading a good book, at one of her favorite local shops.

June 1: National Doughnut Day

5 Offbeat Holidays to Celebrate at Work … and Boost Employee Engagement

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Halloween, Thanksgiving and the “holiday season” all fall in the fourth quarter, meaning the last three months of the year are jam-packed with celebrations and events, not only in your employees’ personal lives, but likely in your workplace as well.

But that festive atmosphere doesn’t have to fall only when the leaves do. Thanks to little-known holidays or theme days, you can easily discover things to celebrate throughout the year with your team. In fact, businesses may see benefits by doing so.

Impact on morale

Gallup found that 51% of employees who have a close work friendship consider themselves engaged, while 75% who have a best friend at work said they plan to be employed at their current company one year from now. Furthermore, those reporting having best friends at work were found to have higher levels of health stress management, even though they experienced the same stress as those who did not have good friends at work.

Building time for your team members to get to know each other and strengthen relationships is clearly good for morale, which is good for business. So how can your employees really get to know each other? With your help. Celebrating holidays or theme days year-round gives your employees opportunities to build connections with each other without the extra stress the traditional holiday season often brings.

Bonus tip: Get leadership involved! If employees see their managers skipping the events to stay at their desks, they’ll feel like they shouldn’t participate, either. Make sure to get buy-in from everyone and clearly state the beneficial impact of engagement.

Start with these

You can give your employees something to look forward to every year if they know your business makes a regular workday a day to celebrate something small. Start a tradition that’s unique to your company. Here are a few holidays that might be right for your organization to celebrate.

Jan. 26: Fun at Work Day

Make this day one your employees won’t want to miss! Maybe you bring in food trucks for lunch or schedule a team-building activity at a local place that holds corporate events and specializes in team-building (like cooking or painting classes). For extra fun, keep the day’s activities a surprise and try to do something different every year.

March 14: National Pi Day

What better way to commemorate 3/14 by holding a bake-off with a trophy for the office’s best pie? The winner can keep the prize on his or her desk and have bragging rights for the year.

April 26: Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day

Every organization may not be able to have an event like this during the workday. If not, you could organize an event after work as an open house to encourage employees to share with their children what they do. It also will give your employees an opportunity to introduce their families to each other without having to wait for your holiday part. Plus, it’s never too early to start recruiting.

May 4: May the Fourth Be With You

Named for sounding similar to a catchphrase from a super-popular movie franchise, May 4 is a fun “holiday” to recognize at the office, particularly if you know you have fans of the galactic saga. You might organize a costume contest or perhaps play one of the films in the company cafeteria or a conference room.

June 1: National Doughnut Day

This one’s pretty easy: Buy doughnuts for your staff. Take a midmorning break and enjoy them together. Maybe spring for some coffee or bagels, too.

You can keep track of holidays like these, as well as critical HR and compliance deadlines, by downloading our free digital 2018 HR & Payroll Calendar.

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Posted in Blog, Employee Experience, HR Management

Callie Johnson

by Callie Johnson

Author Bio: As a writer for Paycom, Callie Johnson creates content for the company’s various marketing and communications initiatives. Having earned her bachelor’s degrees in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and web design/development from Full Sail University, she has written for companies of all sizes. Outside of the office, she enjoys hand-lettering, going to the movies and spending time with her family and dogs.

2018 Form W-4 Changes Employees Should Consider

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Ever since President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) into law last December, payroll professionals have been anticipating an updated IRS Form W-4. After issuing new federal income tax withholding guidance in January as a result of the TCJA, the IRS released the 2018 version of Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, on Feb. 28.

The 2018 Form W-4 has been implemented in the Paycom system.

Interim guidance

The IRS previously released Notice 2018-14, which provided guidance on the usage of the existing 2017 version of Form W-4. Among other things, this notice:

  • extended the effective period of the 2017 version for purposes of claiming exemption from withholding temporarily until Feb. 28, 2018
  • described the procedures employees may claim exemption from withholding for 2018 using the 2017 Form W-4
  • temporarily suspended the requirement that employees must furnish a new Form W-4 within 10 days of changes in status that reduce withholding allowances they are entitled to claim
  • allowed employees (including newly hired employees) to use the 2017 Form W-4 to update their withholding allowances until 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4’s release (March 30)
  • stated that employees who furnish new Form W-4s using the 2017 version do not need to furnish a 2018 Form W-4 after it is released


Changes to consider

Solely due to the changes passed in the TCJA, the IRS is not requiring employees to submit a 2018 Form W-4 to their employer, although they may if they choose. However, substantial changes have been made to the worksheets associated with the 2018 Form W-4, so employees should consider how the new rules will affect their specific tax and withholding situation when making the decision.

Despite the TCJA’s removal of personal exemptions from year-end income tax calculations, Form W-4 still includes a Personal Allowances Worksheet. Its credits section has been revised to allow for:

  • the increased child tax credits as adjusted for income
  • adjustments for credits claimed for other dependents
  • a new line for “Other credits” that will be calculated by the employee using a worksheet found in the 2018 version of Publication 505 (yet to be released)

Additionally, the form’s Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet has been revised to adjust for the new values for standard deductions, as defined by the TCJA, while the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet contains updated wage brackets in the tables used to calculate allowances depending on multiple job households.

‘Paycheck checkup’

To help employees see the differences that completing a 2018 Form W-4 will affect their take-home pay, the IRS released an updated Withholding Calculator online.

The IRS encourages all employees use it to conduct “a quick ‘paycheck checkup’” and use the information it returns to determine if they would like to adjust their withholding. These values can be entered by the employee directly into Paycom’s Employee Self-Service tool to complete a new Form W-4.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance

Author Bio: Robert Barclay has been the Tax Research Team Lead at Paycom since 2012, and has been instrumental in such company projects as the development of its Affordable Care Act compliance product, implementation of geolocation services and redesign of Form W-2. He joined Paycom in 2011, bringing more than 20 years of experience with the capital markets consulting practices of Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.; and Causey Demgen & Moore in Denver, Colo. A native Oklahoman, Barclay is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football as linebacker.


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