As children, creativity was not only encouraged—it was embedded in our day. Between recess, art projects, band practice and after-school activities, our creative minds had plenty of opportunities to run wild.

As adults, however, we’re often responsible for making our own time to flex our creative muscles, despite its importance to our productivity. A study on the Global Creativity Gap conducted by Adobe found 80% of employees believe creativity is critical to economic growth, yet nearly the same percentage said they feel pressured to be more productive than creative at work. Research has shown not having the time to spend on creative projects slows down problem-solving skills, innovative thinking, and results in an overall feeling of disengagement.

Creativity is a muscle with a fickle memory. Without being exercised often, it can forget how to complete a task that requires that kind of cognitive process. Whether you’re the owner of a business or an employee, it’s critical you take a proactive approach in order to maintain your creative edge.

Consider how you spend your time.

Status updates, tweets, and Internet rabbit holes will take hours out of your week. If you’re confident incoming text messages or phone calls can wait, turn off your phone. While it’s satisfying to see those real-time notifications, they’re working against you. Multitasking not only takes a toll on your energy, it increased the likelihood you’ll make a mistake. Not convinced? Try this simple exercise from Psychology Today to see the impact multitasking has on your time.

Instead of spending any downtime checking your notifications, dedicate that time to activities that will get the gears turning. Indulge in an art blog or personal essay, listen to music that inspires you, or simply allow yourself to brainstorm and daydream. If you’re the boss, consider building this time into your employee’s work day. For example, Google attributes many of their innovative projects to their 20 percent time policy, which encourages employees to spend a certain amount of their time at week working on outside projects.

Be adventurous.

A fear of failure keeps you from trying something new, like attacking a task from a different angle. The trick is to acknowledge failure is a possibility—and accept that’s okay. Then, use your resources to set yourself up for the best results. Collaborate with colleagues whose feedback you trust, and share your progress with them. Challenge your ideas by seeking out varying perspectives. You’ll either feel more confident about your path, or spot red flags while there’s still time to change direction.

Don’t dismiss your curiosity.

Instead of shrugging off something you that sparks your interest because you’re worried about time or relevance, give yourself time to investigate. A little obsession here and there can be an excellent source of inspiration—so get as much out of it as you can! Seeking out creative stimuli, even if it’s not relevant to your current projects, will change the way your brain processes information.

If the muses call, answer!

You may not have time to drop everything and create a modern masterpiece, but jotting down a few notes to refer back to will help you preserve the spark. Prepare yourself for any possible light bulb moments—save notes and voice recordings on your phone and always have a backup notebook handy. Whenever you have some time to delve further into your idea, follow through. It may take some patience and discipline to work your way back into that head space, but the longer you wait, the less likely it will be that you revisit the idea.

Breaking down deadlines into smaller goals.

Working on a project that relies heavily on your inspiration and creativity can really put on the pressure. Setting an expectation each day that is reasonable will diffuse any creativity-killing stress. Start by making a list of all of the individual tasks that are required to finish a project, then put those in the order you would normally complete them. Think about how much time each of those things take using past projects for reference, but also be generous with your estimation. Finally, map out your timeline in a way that will keep you on track. Outlook reminders, checklists, or actual timeline diagrams are all great tools to use for this purpose.

Remind yourself of your successes.

Keep a log of all of the creative projects you’ve completed, no matter how small. Add notes you think will be helpful in the future, such as sharing any struggles, your process, the timeline you used, etc. This can be especially helpful when you hit a slump. Use it to squelch your inner naysayer!

A structured work environment combined with a repetitive work load can do a number on your creative spirit, so it’s up to you to keep it alive. Manipulating your time and your environment is key to making it happen. Now close your browser and let your imagination run wild!

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Being a solopreneur can sometimes be a lonely business. A prime example? National Hug Your Boss Day. After all, who will give you your hard-earned pat on the back on September 4, 2015? Ruby, of course! We love to celebrate small business owners, so we’ve come up with a few ways you can celebrate your very own version of Hug Your Boss Day.

Hug Yourself…Literally!

Research has shown putting your arms around yourself and giving a squeeze reduces physical pain in your body. If you’re feeling a little tense—or maybe you just feel like a hug— gosh darn it, go ahead and hug yourself when no one’s looking.

Hug Someone Else

Maybe a self-hug isn’t quite up your alley. That’s okay—there are a number of benefits to hugging others, too! Studies show skin-to-skin contact decreases blood pressure and cortisol levels in the body. Sounds like reason enough to go get a hug from a friend or loved one. And in even more adorable news, cuddling up to Fido can have the same effect. After all, who doesn’t feel energized after a good puppy snuggle?

Be Kind

I’ll admit, this one’s my favorite—be kind! Performing acts of kindness has proved to make us feel healthier and happier. These personal connections act like mini health tune-ups, lowering blood pressure and even reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, and that’s great news for Ruby, as we take personal connections and Fostering Happiness pretty seriously around here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, too! How will you pamper yourself on Hug Your Boss Day? Share your ideas in the comments.

“Random Acts of Kindness” photo by kweez mcG via Flickr 

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Hooray! You’re headed out on vacation for a well-deserved break. But there’s at least one step to take before you can do this:

Top Vacation Tip
via

Update your Status in Member Services:

Ruby Receptionists Status Feature

Let us know you’re on vacation, and we’ll gladly keep your callers in the loop.

Without Whereabouts, your customers may react like this after leaving their fifth message:

Vacation Preparation
via

With Whereabouts, we’ll be able to set good expectations for a return call—or direct your customers to someone else who can help. For example, we’d be happy to tell callers, “John is on vacation until the 25th, but Susan would be happy to take your order. Let me try Susan’s line for you.” Your clients will say,

Ruby Receptionist Vacation Prep
via

and you can have peace of mind while on vacation. But if you ever forget,

Home Alone
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simply update your Whereabouts from wherever you are using the free Ruby mobile app.

Ruby mobile app

Have a relaxing time away!

Enjoy Your Vacation
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Vacation season is here—time to kick back, relax, and reply to client emails from a new and exotic location. Wait—what? No! Cut the proverbial cord with your work email account during your next getaway. A thoughtful autoresponder can give you peace of mind while you’re miles from your desk! Follow these guidelines to keep your clients happy and informed when you can’t reply right away:

Make it warm. You may not be able to email your clients while you’re snorkeling or or trekking a mountain trail, but you still care about them. Show it with your tone! Use a friendly greeting and closing to ensure the tone of your auto-reply is top-notch. A general greeting like “Hello!” does the trick for starters, and a closing like “I look forward to getting in touch with you soon!“ is a nice way to wrap things up.

Let ’em know when you’ll be back. Don’t leave your clients hanging—let them know when you’ll be getting in touch with them.  If you suspect you’ll be swamped when you return to your inbox, factor in a bit of a buffer time. If you’re back Tuesday, for example, you might say you’ll be happy to get in touch Thursday. Replying a little earlier than expected is always better than keeping correspondents waiting.

Point ’em in the right direction. Is there someone who can help while you’re out? Including that person’s contact information will put your autoreply recipients at ease, even if they don’t use it. Everyone likes to know they’re taken care of! If you don’t have a back-up buddy, consider including emergency contact information, or giving those who have it the okay to use it (“If you need anything urgently, please don’t hesitate to call my cell phone.”)

Altogether, your autoresponder might look a little something like this:

Hello!

Thank you for your email. I am out of the office on vacation, and I’ll be back Wednesday, August 12. I look forward to catching up with you then! If you need anything while I’m out, feel free to email Kendra at hello@callruby.com

Best regards,

Ruby

And remember: When you’re back to business as usual, be sure your auto reply is no longer active. You may be able to create a schedule for your autoresponder ahead of time, but if not, set a reminder to turn off your autoresponder.

Now for the best part—enjoying your vacation!

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Your tone of voice quite literally sets the tone for each call you answer. By speaking in a warm, friendly tone, you encourage callers to be friendly in return. This episode of Paging Dr. Ruby focuses on three basic components of tone: pitch, rhythm, and emphasis.

When you speak with someone face to face, you’re able to read their facial expressions and body language, adjusting your own body language to communicate the appropriate emotions or intent.

But over the phone, all you’ve got is your voice! Instead of body language, you must rely on the way you speak to convey the intention behind your words.

Depending on your tone, the same words can take on very different meanings. Think of the last phone call you made. From the way the person said “Hello” you could tell immediately whether they were in a good mood, distracted, or overwhelmed.

Your pitch plays an important role in your tone of voice. When your pitch falls flat, you come across as bored or uninterested. On the other hand, if your pitch goes up at the end of a sentence (sometimes referred to as “upspeak”), you may come across as uncertain or unsure. A surefire to keep your pitch level and warm? Smile!

Another component of tone: rhythm. Long pauses give off the impression you are distracted, and make it difficult for the caller to understand you: “How…may…Ihelpyou?” To project confidence, keep your rhythm consistent. Put distractions aside when the phone rings, and focus on your call.

Emphasis, the words you stress when speaking, is also important to express your intentions. For example, the meaning gets a little muddied when you say “How may I help YOU?” or “HOW may I help you.” But when you say, “How may I HELP you?” it’s clear you’re here to help!

Monitor your pitch, keep your rhythm steady, and emphasize the right words, and you’ll soon be a pro at communicating a warm and helpful tone to your callers!

“Paging Dr. Ruby” is a monthly videocast dedicated to sharing tips on improving communication and making personal connections. You can view other episodes in the series on our blog, or subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive updates whenever a new video is uploaded.

How would you like your question to be featured on a future episode of Paging Dr. Ruby? To submit your question, share it in the comments below, tweet us @callruby, or send us an email.

If you found this video helpful, could you hit the Share/Save button below so others can benefit from it too? Thanks for sharing!

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At Ruby Receptionists, we believe in and honor five core values: Foster Happiness, Create Community, Innovate, Practice WOW-ism, and Grow (my personal favorite). As someone who thirsts to learn and stretch her comfort zone, I’ve been lucky to work for a company that feels the same way about growth as I do. Ruby’s most palpable embodiment of this value is in its creation of our Leadership Development Program. Comprised of four phases, this program teaches Rubys a treasured skill set, allowing graduates to leave the classroom prepared to take on leadership roles here at Ruby and in the outside world.

The first phase of the program focuses on developing the leader within—delving into self-discovery and self-exploration. As a graduate of this phase, I’ve learned so much! Here are my biggest takeaways.

Core Values. While I knew of Ruby’s core values, I’d never taken time to think about what my own core values might be. With much time and focus, I thought about what makes me tick. I thought of the stories behind my biggest successes, failures, and the people I most admire. I considered the common themes and qualities in those stories and people, narrowing those to the one’s with which I most closely identified. After this self-reflection, I found my values to be Grow, Love, Family, Integrity, and Adventure.

Now that I’ve determined my core values, they have brought me a step closer to understanding who I am as a leader. My beliefs positively impact my decision making as I incorporate them into everything I do. If I am faced with a decision I am unsure of, I ask myself whether I am honoring these values. Will my actions result in personal growth or encourage the growth of others? Am I acting in a way that shows love and kindness? How does my decision affect my family? Am I being honest and moral? Am I acting with bravery in the face of the unknown?

Mission Statement. Similar to defining my individual values, I then took that one step further by creating a personal mission statement. Exploring the common themes that matter most to me helped me to create a mission to live by—a roadmap to refer to throughout my life journey.

When creating a mission statement, it should answer why you do what you do. This is why knowing your core values first are so helpful, as you’ve already become aware of what matters most to you. Looking through the lens of my mission statement, I’ve found I’ve become much more confident in the choices I make as leader in both my personal and professional lives.

One example of a powerful mission statement is that of Mahatma Gandhi’s. His statement is a short list of actions.

  • I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
  • I shall fear only God.
  • I shall not bear ill toward anyone.
  • I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
  • I shall conquer untruth by truth.
  • And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.

Self-Talk. It may seem like an obvious observation, yet I was profoundly moved by the idea we are all telling ourselves something at any given time. For instance, we continually evaluate our behavior and the behaviors of others. We think of the laundry list of tasks we’d like to accomplish in any day. I became much more aware of whether my voice was being kind and positive toward myself. Proactively switching the phrases I used in my head brought about a noticeable change in my effectiveness as a person. Switching my thoughts from “I should do” and “I have to” to “I want to” and “I am” meant a shift toward accomplishing goals, rather than ruminating about them.

As I began to incorporate these three notions into my daily life, there were challenges—my biggest being awareness of my self-talk. As I embraced the idea of changing the tone of my mind’s voice, I realized I faced breaking a habit I had practiced my entire life. With vigilance and dedication to change, it became easier to monitor my thoughts.

I became a better leader and others noticed. I began to demonstrate a higher level of accountability and confidence. I felt much surer of myself as I took on newer and bigger challenges. I began to help foster growth in my teammates by sharing my new found knowledge. Less than a year after the program ended, I was promoted to a leadership position within the Client Happiness department. Now that I know how to lead myself, I am ready to embrace the next step—leading one-on-one. I’m now embarking on the second phase of the program and am excited to see what this new journey brings!

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*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the cancelled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner.