Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Personal Development

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to personal development.

How Can Technology Help Us Sleep Better

It’s 2 AM and you’re awake although it’s way past your planned bedtime and you need to be up for work in less than six hours. So, why aren’t you sleeping? The reason is probably that you’re on your smartphone or laptop scrolling down on your social media pages or binge-watching a TV show and you can’t stop. If that, in fact, is the case, you shouldn’t worry. It’s happening to a lot of us really. Just in the last several years, around 60% of young people have admitted to having inadequate sleep.

The first notion that you can get from this is that technology is bad for your sleep, but this is not entirely true. Not all technology affects our sleeping patterns in a negative way. Some studies have actually shown that you can use technology to your own advantage, and that tech can be effectively used to help you sleep better. Here’s how.

Snoring

Around 30% of people in the world frequently experience snoring. While this doesn’t affect them much, it does affect other folks in the household, especially spouses whom they are sharing the bed with.

Since snoring usually occurs when we sleep on our backs, gadgets like Philips SmartSleep Snoring device detect this and encourage the user to change position. Other devices of this kind include the Hüpnos Snoring Mask and the Urgonight EEG Headband.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is also quite common and can be caused by weight, enlarged tonsils, smoking, drinking, and some other factors. Around 20% of people worldwide suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Programs like SlumberBUMP try to accustom people to sleep on their sides, which solves this problem to a degree. BiPAP machine is very effective at treating patients with sleep apnea, and you also might want to try Theravent EPAP technology.

Insomnia

Insomnia, which is a medical term for having trouble falling asleep, can have many causes, the most common being physical or emotional discomfort, stress, extreme temperatures, light, and depression. Almost every third person complains about having insomnia.

Some medication can help you fall asleep faster, but there is also all kinds of technology that can work to your advantage. Sleepio is a system that detects your sleeping issues and optimizes your sleep routines. If the source of your insomnia is light, try the biological Good Night LED Bulbs that were originally developed for NASA astronauts.

Narcolepsy

While some people can’t get enough sleep, others get too much of it. Narcolepsy is a disorder of excessive sleep, and while it’s not common, it still affects one in every 2,000 Americans. There are different light gadgets that you can use to alleviate the symptoms of narcolepsy, like LED Skylights, Verilux HappyLight Deluxe, and Day-Light Sky.

Nightmares

We all have bad dreams from time to time, and occasionally we get those awful nightmares that scare us so much that we are afraid to fall back to sleep again. Nightmares can be caused by stress, anxiety, trauma, or other factors. While we cannot really control what we dream about, we can still use tech to avoid nightmares from happening.

One thing called the ReScript Treatment seems to be the most effective. It helps patients have greater control over their visual imagery by implementing the creative use of virtual reality. It’s sort of a training program that teaches you how to change what you see in your sleep to a more pleasing image.

Check out a visual of some solutions below and visit the original page for the complete infographic.

Solve Your Sleep Problems with Technology

Stop Being So Critical of Others!

Stop Being So Critical of Others!Back in March, self-proclaimed “gameplay engineer & software sorceress” Jessica Baker Tweeted out a comment that went viral: “I wish engineers hyped each other up like artists do, the other day I commented “nice” on someone’s code review and they thought i was sarcastically pointing out a bug.

The UK-based IT professional’s comment resonated with developers around the world, earning hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes. Stack Overflow’s 2018 Developer Survey found that at the beginning of their career, around 40% of developers strongly agree that they think of themselves as competing with peers and that they’re not as good as most peers. While the number drops based on experience, it only goes down to about 20%. It’s safe to say, then, that a good chunk of developers and engineers are in a similar situation to Jessica — working in environments with competition, a need to get ahead, and prone to criticism.

Critical co-workers are not limited to just those who write code, but its prevalent across all roles in all industries, as well as throughout our personal lives. Certainly, feedback is the only way we can improve in our careers and as painful as it can be to accept, criticism is a necessary evil in our development. However, the colleague who is constantly complaining, pointing out errors, and telling you how you can be better gets downright annoying and creates a negative atmosphere for everyone.

Are You a Critical Person?

The first step in the battle against negative, critical people is to double-check you’re not a culprit yourself. Consider your interactions throughout the day and ask yourself some challenging questions about how you communicate. Do you have trouble praising people? Are you regularly irritated and complaining or focusing too much on people’s faults? Do you always want to fix other people’s work? If not out loud, are these conversations happening in your head?

The way others describe you may also be a sign that you’re too critical. For example, although referred to as a “perfectionist” sounds positive at first, it might have a passive connotation.

How to Stop Being So Critical

If after careful self-evaluation, you come to realize that your team tiptoes around you and resist sharing their work with you due to fear of more unreasonable criticism, it’s time to start down the path to improvement.

The first step is to understand why the urge to criticize keeps arising. Often, overly critical people arrive at that state because of their own insecurities. They are overly critical on themselves and project their feelings and behaviours onto others. You may also be a genuinely caring person to wants to help others succeed and experience the same successes you have in your career. Regardless, too much criticism is harming your relationships and it needs to be minimized. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Focus on people’s good behaviour and help others improve by reinforcing positive accomplishments;
  2. Remember that because somebody does something differently it is not inferior. We all have different backgrounds and experiences;
  3. Double check if you really are right, or if that person you’re about to criticize is possibly on a better track; and, most importantly,
  4. Verify that you have all of the information and understand the full context as to why work was completed a certain way or a person reacted in a specific manner.

Working with an Overly Critical Person

As nice as it would be to just avoid the people in our lives who make a habit of tearing apart everything we do, sometimes that’s impossible. You can’t ghost your client or their employees forever when you’re on contract, so you’re going to have to come up with a solution to manage them before you go crazy.

  • Don’t take it personally. As noted earlier, critical people are often projecting their own issues onto you, so have empathy in noticing that they’re working through their own struggles.
  • Take their feedback for what it is. Their communication and delivery strategy may be brutal, but if there is some genuine feedback buried in that insulting comment, use it to improve on yourself.
  • Consider that you may be the problem. Are you struggling on the project and being resistant to feedback from a person who is acting appropriately?
  • Objectively and assertively tell them how it is. With the proper tone and carefully thinking through your words, explain the perception they give you, how it makes you feel and ask them to adjust their approach.

Nobody wants to spend all day listening to everything they’ve done wrong or how it could have been completed better. It’s an ingredient to a toxic work environment and you can fight back by both ensuring you’re not guilty yourself and stopping others before they rip a team to pieces.

What tips do you have to deal with super critical people?

What a Road Trip Can Teach Us About Leadership

When you set off to find an adventure in your car, you develop a plan (your map route), find your team (your co-riders), create an agenda (set mini-goals), and prepare for breakdowns (unexpected outcomes). Road trips can teach us many lessons on how to lead a project and become a better leader, even if we do not recognize this right away. 

Enduring on a road trip takes leadership skills, including adapting to unforeseen circumstances, communication, and collaboration, learning from your mistakes, mapping out a goal to your destination and more. Those who celebrate the successes of a road trip will soon notice they have acquired leadership skills they can use in other aspects of their lives. Whether it is leading a meeting or leading your family, these skills from a road trip will come in handy.

CarRentals has created a guide to 8 leadership lessons that we can take away from road trips to apply to our daily life and work life. Learn each skill in detail and become a better leader by recognizing your successes when you have road tripped.

Leadership Lessons Learned From Road Trips

Break These Bad Habits if You Want to be More Productive

We are often told that we are our own worst enemies. Often we get in the way of our goals without even noticing. We continue to perpetuate these bad habits into our lives until they are harder to spot out.

As independent contractors it is important to address possible bad habits that may be holding back your productivity and frustrating your clients. Check out these 12 bad habits you should break, compiled in this infographic from Business Insider! If you address even some of these habits that you could benefit with more personal time, happy clients (better references), better time management skills and have the potential for a heavier coin purse. If you can’t identify the bad habits in your life, send this to a friend!

Break These Bad Habits if You Want to be More Productive

Invest in Building These Hard-to-Learn Skills

To invest in yourself is just as important as any financial investment for your future. For both personal growth and career success, there is no telling how far you can go if you take the time to invest in yourself. Check out this video by The Art of Improvement where they explain important skills that are hard to learn but will pay off in the long run, including:

  • Mental Toughness
  • Adaptability
  • Silencing your inner critic
  • Learning to say “NO”
  • Critical Thinking
  • Emotional Intelligence

This doesn’t just apply to IT contractors! Send this to anyone you think needs that push to invest in themselves and help them see the potential that you see in them.

Contractor Quick Poll: Which soft skills will you improve?

At the start of the year, LinkedIn released a list of the most high-demand skills for 2019, based on data they collected on their social platform. The list includes both soft and technical skills. Given the range of IT contractors who follow the Talent Development Centre, the technical skills they list may or may not be relevant to you. The soft skills, however, are relevant to anybody who works with people (that’s you).

Nobody is great at everything and we can always improve ourselves. LinkedIn lists five soft skills that companies look for most: Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to know where you fall short and intend to build. As we start the second half of 2019, which skill do you plan on improving?

The Dangers of Sitting Disease

Paper pushing, desk jockey office workers who sit all day are in danger! That’s according to this infographic by Alere Wellbeing (now Optum).

As the infographic states, “Sitting disease is a concept created by the scientific community to address the problems associated with sitting all day and living a sedentary lifestyle.” Although not recognized by all medical organizations, it explains how workers who sit for most of their job have higher risks of certain diseases and shorter lifespans. Fortunately, the infographic also offers ideas for employers and IT contractors to beat Sitting Disease and live a better life, all while continuing to do a supreme job at work.

The Dangers of Sitting Disease #infographic

Valuable Lessons from Children’s Authors and Illustrators

There are life lessons all around us and from all sorts of people. That was evident during the MASC Young Authors & Illustrators Festival that Eagle sponsored in Ottawa this past April. The event brings in hundreds of students from grades 4 to 7 who get to attend workshops with Canadian authors and illustrators.

Before the learning begins, the authors and illustrators take some time to address the attendees. Each professional had a unique message that, and although crafted for kids, they can easily apply to anyone, including an IT contractor.

Britt Wilson, Cartoonist and Graphic Novelist

Britt Wilson is from Toronto and her graphic novels include Ghost Queen, Cat Dad King of the Goblins, and Britt Wilson’s Greatest Book on Earth. In this short clip, she explains how although it’s great to have a life plan (she knew what she wanted to be since she was a young kid), it’s important to be open to change and follow new opportunities. Wilson comments that she keeps her eye on her main goals and is “still not done yet” as she may still accomplish her original dream. As a bonus, this speech also reveals how valuable social media and networking can be, as well as how simple skills matter in a job search, given her quote “Good handwriting can get you jobs.”

Cary Fagan, Author of Novels and Picture Books for Children

Cary Fagan is also from Toronto and wrote books including Mr. Zinger’s Hat, Danny, Who Fell into a Hole, the Wolfie and Fly series, plus his latest book for middle-grade readers, Mort Ziff is not Dead. Cory explains to the students that there is no such thing as 1st place, 4th place or any real “best” position when it comes to being an author. No, he’s not supporting the controversial “everybody gets a trophy” trend, but he is explaining that people have so many different tastes and preferences and each author has their own style. As a result, authors don’t bother competing but instead build a community, share stories, embrace differences and learn from each other. This is no different for IT contractors. Top technology professionals flourish depending on many variables including the industry, the project, and the people they work with. Rather than considering other contractors as your competition, take Fagan’s advice and work together to bring each other up.

Catherine Austen, Author for All Ages

Catherine Austen comes from Gatineau. Her teen thriller, All Good Children and her middle-grade novel, 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6, each received industry awards. In this final video, Austen reads a chapter from the latter book’s sequel, 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6. The title of the chapter “If you want to keep a secret, don’t post it on social media” speaks for itself and contains a valuable lesson about lies. Whether it’s through social media or any other route, you’re bound to get busted eventually. That is not limited to school because unfortunately, it is not uncommon for Eagle recruiters to catch skilled IT contractors fibbing about their experience, and when the lie is inevitably discovered, it has serious consequences to their reputation and career.

How to Deal with Difficult People on Software Projects

It takes all kinds of people to make the world work. Teams filled with different personalities, approaches and ways of thinking are the reasons for the incredible innovations that humans have created over time. If you’ve ever been on one of these teams, you know that there is also a downside — difficult people. For all the strengths and benefits that diversity brings to a team, it’s impossible to avoid clashing personalities.

Difficult people are especially easy to find throughout a software project. Product Managers, Designers, Project Managers, Development Managers, Developers and QAs come in all sorts of forms. Regardless of your role in the team, you need to know how to work with each one in order to achieve that common goal you all share.

Earlier this year, a team member received a newsletter from Recruiting Brainfood that contained a link to this fun, interactive page by Neil on Software. It’s embedded below so you can play around, or visit the page directly to get the complete experience. If you’ve been walking on egg shells because of an angry co-worker or pulling your hair out trying to get a teammate to do their part, this tool is your answer.

Tips for Beating Stress and Burnout

Tips for Beating Stress and BurnoutIt’s not unusual for IT contractors to burn the candle at both ends while juggling multiple clients and balancing their personal life. Everybody is human, though, and living such a lifestyle will only last so long. Eventually, stress catches up and burnout is inevitable, leading to a crash and all productivity being lost. While there is nothing wrong with taking on a lot to get the most out of your day, it’s important for your personal health to both recognize the signs that stress is building up, and then act on those symptoms before burnout sets in.

Fast Company recently published a series of articles on the topic of stress and burnout. In this post, the author researched medical professionals’ tips on recognizing four physical signs of stress:

  1. You’re tired in the morning but unable to fall asleep at night – chronic stress causes cortisol levels to become imbalanced so they’re low in the morning and then rise at night.
  2. You have a nervous stomach – stress makes it easier for bad bacteria to fester than good bacteria, plus it threatens your gut’s permeability. Those who are more stressed end up getting digestion difficulties, inflamed pores and acne breakouts, IBS symptoms and more.
  3. Your heart is in panic mode – Also known as “fight or flight mode” this increases blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and respiration which are supposed to be for short-term emergencies.
  4. Your mind is scattered – Stress causes people to have trouble accessing memories or information and minds have difficulty focusing.

Another Fast Company article continues to highlight the importance of recognizing these signs. In fact, its top tip for avoiding burnout is just that. It states that if you’re feeling like you’re coming down with a cold, it’s a challenge to get out of bed, you’re less interested in hanging out with friends, it’s hard to pay attention and/or if you’re grumpy and irritable, you may be on the verge of burn-out. Acting on these signs early is crucial to avoid it from getting out of control. In addition, the article suggests you can prevent burnout from taking over your life by:

  • Regularly assessing your vitals such as heart rate and cortisol levels
  • Getting out of the house and connecting with friends to build social support
  • Volunteering for an organization that you connect with
  • Adjusting your outlook on life, focusing on projects and items you can control, rather than factors beyond your control
  • Getting quality sleep by cutting out TV and other screens before bed and setting the room temperature to be a bit cooler

Finally, one other Fast Company article referenced a University of Michigan study to beat stress. It says that just 20-30 minutes in nature can cause cortisol levels to drop and will continue to drop for up to 60 minutes. The good news is that “nature” does not have to be the middle of the woods, but simply in your own mind. For example, relaxing by a tree on the street can have those effects.

Of course, many other websites and blogs discuss stress and burnout reduction techniques on a regular basis. Inc recently dug up a video of 28-year-old Bill Gates, claiming the secret to avoiding burnout is to add variety into your day and keep doing different things. And Glassdoor has this list of 9 tips to beat anxiety and stress in the workplace:

  1. Be Prepared – know what you get anxious for and prepare yourself before those situations
  2. Exercise – you feel less stress and anxious when you’re healthy, plus it helps clear your head
  3. Be with Friends – have a support network of people you can call to calm you down or tell you jokes
  4. Eat healthy – It keeps you healthy (see #2) plus junk food makes you feel tired and weak
  5. Relax – take a few minutes for yourself to listen to music or play a quick game and re-focus
  6. Hydrate – Drink plenty of water, not coffee as it will make you jittery
  7. Pace yourself – Set reasonable deadlines for projects and leave wiggle room so there is time to relax
  8. Meditate – Guided meditation, sitting in meditative poses and yoga help all ease anxiety and stress
  9. Professional support – Therapists and councillors will help guide you through tough times

Failure to manage your stress, anxiety and burnout symptoms means you are a train wreck waiting to happen. In addition to the tips above, it is recommended to plan for vacation and/or time between contracts where you can re-energize. Otherwise, it will not be long before your productivity and service begins to drop and you put your reputations as a quality IT contractor into jeopardy.