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10 Psychology Books You Should Read

Recent Blog Posts - 04-08-2015 15:27

There are classic or influential books in every field that should be read to gain a fuller breadth of understanding. With an eye to this, we have asked the leaders of Northcentral University School of Psychology to share the indispensible psychology books from their reading lists.

Compiling their responses, we present 10 Psychology Books You Should Read, which have all made a considerable impact on the field of psychology.

Their recommendations follow in no particular order:

1. The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind, Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff & Patricia K. Kuhl; William Morrow Paperbacks, 2000.

As recognized authorities on children development, Gopnik, et al, conclude that infants solve problems the same way that scientists do research: They repeatedly test how things will work against real outcomes, and then modify their initial “theories” to match that observed reality. The authors use this core thesis to organize their research into a compelling and interesting read.

2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain; Broadway Paperbacks, 2012.

Filled with years of research from many sources, Cain, renowned for her TED Talk on the subject, offers a fascinating exploration of what constitutes the life challenges of the world’s introverts. Including a clear comparison and contrast of introverts and extroverts, the author explores how these highly sensitive people might better tackle public speaking, managing businesses, as well as navigating marriages and other relationships. It also explores introverts in light of the human population being predominately extroverted, and as a result introverts are often encouraged to adapt their style of relating. With a wide variety of interesting case studies, Cain chronicles the lives of introverts and what they quietly bring to the world.

3. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, by Michael White and David Epston; W.W. Norton & Company, 1990.

With its often light approach to serious subjects, White and Epston present their experience with a groundbreaking theory, that people encounter problems when “the stories of their lives” do not accurately represent their actual life experiences. White and Epston suggest that an effective approach to therapy is the process of shaping and reshaping the lives and experiences of their patients through “narrative storytelling” – by “storying” and “restorying” experiences – thereby helping their patients process life experiences. With interesting case studies, the authors show how this approach to therapy helps and empowers their patients.

4. The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients, by Irvin Yalom, M.D.; Harper Perennial, 2002.

A surprisingly easy read, Yalom, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University, uses his 40 years of clinical experience to give advice on best practices to the next generation of therapists. The result is as much a personal and profound memoir of his work as it is useful guidebook. Including his 85 insightful "tips for beginner therapists," Yalom’s book aims to enrich the therapy process for a new generation of patients and counselors.

5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5, American Psychological Association; American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.

The 5th Edition of this exhaustive manual is the most comprehensive, current, and critical resource for clinical practice available to today's mental health clinicians and researchers of all orientations, representing more than 10 years of effort by international experts across all aspects of mental health. The manual creates a common language for clinicians as they diagnosis mental disorders, and includes to-the-point information and specific criteria for facilitating objective assessment of symptoms wherever psychological care is offered.

6. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy, by Carl R. Rogers; Constable, 1974 (revised 2004).

One of America's most distinguished psychologists shares his experiences in helping people through what he called “becoming,” what we have come to know as “personal growth.” While contemporary psychology focuses on minute aspects of psychological behavior, or with diagnosing mental illness, Rogers espouses the view that psychology and psychiatry should aim higher, toward maximizing human potential. Using non-technical jargon, Rogers has written a book that is both groundbreaking and accessible.

7. The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.; Harper Perennial, 1960 (revised 2010).

While some see Szasz’s work as an attack and others consider it a work of genius, it is viewed by many as “the most influential critique of psychiatry ever written,” as Amazon.com puts it. To sum it up, as Szasz wrote so succinctly, “Psychiatry is…in the company of alchemy and astrology and commits it to the category of pseudoscience. The reason for this is that there is no such thing as ‘mental illness.’” By so doing, he called the views of every major American psychiatrist into question. While he acknowledges in the book that people have emotional problems, he insists that these are not mental diseases that can be treated by medicine like pneumonia or heart failure.

8. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales, Oliver Sacks, M.D.; Touchstone, 1998.

Hailed by The New York Times as “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century,” Sacks recounts the case studies of individuals afflicted with bizarre delusions and intellectual aberrations, but he treats each with great humanity, not as spectacle. Each is an exploration of people bravely attempting to deal with unbelievable mental obstacles. Whether schizophrenia or memory loss, Sacks moves his reader to empathize with their plight as well as their triumphs.

9. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman; Bantam Books, 1995 (revised 2005).

As Amazon.com put it, “Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why.” Thanks to this Pulitzer-nominate science writer there is clearer understanding, identifying five core areas of emotional intelligence, all based on psychology and advances in neuroscience. Goleman argues that our emotions are often more important than intelligence in determining individual success by examining factors like impulse control, self-motivation, empathy for others, and sensitivity in interpersonal relationships.

10. Games People Play, Eric Berne; Ballantine Books, 1964 (revised 1996).

Considered explosive upon its release 50 years ago, Games People Play altered our understanding of what is really going on in basic social interactions, and coined the phrase “transactional analysis.” Among the first in a wave of “pop psychology” books, Berne identifies and explores the often unconscious “mind games” we all play as we maneuver through life and relationships. Still revolutionary, Berne’s seminal bestseller is often referred to as among “the most original and influential popular psychology books” ever published.

Which psychology books have impacted your understanding of yourself or others? Which books would you place on your
must-read list?

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

How to Create a Winning Business Plan

Recent Blog Posts - 03-30-2015 09:26

Perhaps it’s hard to imagine Shakespeare weighing in on important business decisions, but to paraphrase his famed words from Hamlet: To write a business plan or not to write a business plan? That is the question.

It seems that entrepreneurs and business plans go together like Shakespeare and great writing. To be sure, there certainly is great interest in their use within business circles. Just Google the phrase “business plan,” for instance. The search will yield more than half a billion results!

With so much interest in the topic, it's important to know what an effective business plan includes, and why. And that's why we've put together this article for you.  And at the end of the article, you will even find a link to a downloadable business plan checklist, to help you make sure you include all the necessary elements as you go.

Organizing the Business Plan

It’s clear there are benefits from organizing your ideas on paper. There are a variety of how-to’s on the Web, including guidance provided by the SBA, which outline nine distinct sections for a proper business plan. However, the majority of business plan guides follow a simpler, but complete, seven-section approach. After examining several approaches, we have landed on an even simpler six-section model, with an optional seventh section, depending upon the plan’s purpose. According to Business Plan Mentor, the final length of the formal business plan should be about 15 to 20 pages, while the SBA suggests it could require a document between 30 and 50 pages.

Check out NCU’s step-by-step guide to creating your own business plan.

1. Executive Summary After the title page, which should comprise the name of the company and contact information, comes the Executive Summary. The Executive Summary is a condensed overview of the entire business plan and is typically between one and two pages. Though it’s the first section in the business plan, the executive summary should be written last since it summarizes the entire plan.

The SBA suggests that due to the nature of this section many consider it the most important section. Many readers will not continue reading past this point unless the business proposition is compelling.

The executive summary should evidence that you have thoroughly considered and analyzed the business and product or service offering. Be balanced by providing information about downsides in the market, but also how your offering can exploit it. In the end, this section should be concise, but should also seek to persuade the reader that this business can succeed.

The executive summary should contain:

  • • Mission statement – the objective and values of the company.
  • • Company history – the development of the company and/or how long it has existed. Other items can include the location, the number of partners, whether the company is incorporated, its form of incorporation, and, if there are employees, how many. If a startup company, then this section should focus on the professional achievements of its leadership.
  • • Growth highlights – if not a startup, how has the company grown since its founding.
  • • Nature of the product or service – discuss the market for the product or service and what need, want or problem it solves for the consumer or another business.
  • • Financial information – include information about current banking institutions, existing investors, and financial statements such as assets, liabilities and cash flow.
  • • Future plans – include the long-term vision of the company such as how the product or service line might expand or deepen.

2. Company Description This section is like an extended “elevator pitch.” It should quickly communicate the benefits of the company and the essence of its product or service. It is intended to provide readers and potential investors with a concise, clear understanding what you aim to do and why.

The company description should contain:

  • • The nature of the industry – include who the primary competitors are.
  • • The nature of the proposed business – include the product benefits.
  • • The identified need of consumers – to show that there will be demand for the business or products.
  • • The identified consumer – include any known demographics.
  • • The competitive advantages of the company and its product – include such things as location, expertise, operations efficiencies, or other ways the offering is superior to that of competitors.

3. Market Analysis The purpose of this section is to analyze and explore the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within this particular market and the strategies planned to capitalize on them.

The market analysis section should contain:

  • • Projections for the industry – include who the primary customer is or will be.
  • • The nature of the target market – be mindful not to narrow your description to the actual likely customer, though many entrepreneurs make the mistake of too large a target.
  • • The size of the likely target market – include the rationale for this conclusion.
  • • Likely share to be gained in the market – by the product or service.
  • • Pricing and gross margin expectations – include rationale for the strategy on this point.
  • • Analysis of the competition – include any that might already be in the market. This should include any research and development news for the industry.
  • • Any regulatory restrictions – include any that the product or service might face, now or in the future.

4. Organization & Management “Experts agree that one of the strongest factors for success in any growth company is the ability and track record of its owner/management team, ” according to the SBA.

This section should contain:

  • • Company’s organizational structure – if the company consists of more than a couple of owners an organizational chart is recommended.
  • • Particulars for the company’s key personnel – include full names, management profiles with education, percentage of ownership, pertinent experience, compensation basis and levels, etc.
  • • Highlight how the skill sets of personnel/owners complement one another – preferably without too much overlap or redundancy in areas of expertise.
  • • Provide details on the makeup of the Board of Directors – include any significant particulars as to their areas of expertise and their areas of input toward the company’s success. 

5. Product or Service Details This section’s purpose is to give investors a clear sense of the product's design and function or, if a service, the nature of that offering.

This section of the business plan should describe:

  • • The nature of your product or service – include photographs of prototypes or product design schematics.
  • • The benefits of your product or service – include a brief but complete exploration.
  • • The lifecycle of your product offering – i.e. how long it might last under normal usage.
  • • Any exclusivity associated with the offering – e.g. copyrights, patents, patents pending, or whether the product might be classified as a trade secret.
  • • Any legal agreements associated with the offering – if existing, especially if there are any potential competitors who have previously signed non-compete agreements.
  • • Any research and development plans – include any that are in the works for improving this product or for additional products on the drawing board.

6. Financial Projections This section needs to provide realistic and achievable financial projections and potential ROI for investors. 

According to Inc. Magazine, the following elements make up a solid core for the financial section of a great business plan:

  • • Provide a sales forecast for your product or service – include three years’ worth of projections, monthly for the first year but quarterly for the balance.
  • • Create an expenses budget – like the sales forecast, this is not an exercise in accounting, but an educated estimate based on simple assumptions.
  • • Project a cash flow statement – include projected cash on hand you will need out to 12 months.
  • • Standard profit and loss statement – include a forecast of the expected performance of over the company’s first three years.
  • • Break-even analysis – include a call out to the reader of the estimated point in the first three years of the business when expenses will match sales or service volume.

Also, due to its importance, the SBA recommends that this section be reviewed and confirmed as reasonable and accurate by an accounting professional.

What follows is an optional seventh section, which is dependent upon whether the end goal of the business plan is to gain funding.

7. Funding request (optional) If a central goal of the business plan is to use it as a tool to gain investment or business loans, then the amount needed and rationale for it should be included.

This section of your business plan would contain:

  • • Request the amount of funding sought – include the amount desired now and over the next five years, and place it up front.
  • • Be sure to spell out the nature of the funds request – that is, whether as equity (participation in profit or owner’s stake) or as debt (a loan).
  • • Reveal how much of the company’s leadership/owners own money will be invested – do so to show the level of confidence the leadership has in the idea.
  • • Explain how the money will be used – do so in general; no itemization necessary.
  • • Explain how the money will benefit the business – include how it will help to launch and/or grow the business.
  • • Identify when and how the money will be reimbursed to the investor/lender – do so with approximates and without promising anything.

To aid in writing your business plan, download our Business Plan Checklist by clicking HERE.

References

https://www.sba.gov/writing-business-plan
http://www.entrepreneur.com/landing/224842
http://www.inc.com/guides/write-a-great-business-plan.html
http://businessplanmentor.com/how-to-write-a-business-plan/
http://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Business-Plan-Step-Step/dp/0944205372
http://www.amazon.com/Automate-Your-Business-Plan-Windows/dp/0944205607
http://www.amazon.com/Page-Business-Plan-Creative-Entrepreneur/dp/1891315099
http://www.amazon.com/The-Page-Business-Plan-Women/dp/1891315013
http://www.bplans.com/sample_business_plans.php

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

NCU’s TOP 10 MUST-READ BOOKS ON BUSINESS

Recent Blog Posts - 03-27-2015 14:10

In every field of study and discipline there are classic books that every person should read. With that in mind, we have reached out to faculty members in Northcentral University’s School of Business and Technology Management, asking them to share the must-reads on their list.

After distilling their responses, we have put together NCU’s Top 10 Must-Read Business Books, all of which are considered landmark in the field of business.

The recommendations that follow come in no particular order:

1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't, by Jim Collins; HarperBusiness, 2001.

Collins put together a 21-person team to enact broad research of the world’s most successful companies and deduces what made each of them great. At the core of his ruminations on the results is a notion that Collins calls “the Hedgehog Concept” – doing one thing and doing it well – which he deduced is foundational to the success of most successful companies.

2. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas L. Friedman; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.

What Friedman means by "flat" is that our world, its people, its nations, and its economies, are intricately interconnected. In this book he explores and illuminates through diverse examples why the lowering of barriers and the advancement of the Digital Revolution have made it possible to interact instantaneously with billions of other people no matter where one lives.

3. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras; HarperBusiness, 2004.

Setting out to assess what keeps "visionary" companies like Walt Disney and Wal-Mart “at the very top of their game,” Collins and Porras compare and contrast these with businesses that they classify as "successful-but-second-rank.” Significantly, they assert that great companies do not necessarily begin with a great product, but rather remain flexible and innovative due to a corporate culture where people are not afraid to make mistakes.

4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Steven Covey; Free Press, 1990.

Covey famously introduced the concept of “paradigm shift” into the cultural lexicon, that is, two people can observe the same thing and yet differ with each other on an event’s meaning and implications. With that as his foundational premise, Covey introduces the seven effective habits. Also groundbreaking was Covey’s concept of the “abundance mindset,” the belief that they do not exist in a closed system of finite resources and therefore finite successes, which Covey calls a “scarcity mindset,” i.e., if one wins another must lose.

5. OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time & Money (and what to do instead), by Aubrey Daniels; Performance Management Publications, 2009.

Built on the premise exemplified by the idea that “no man is an island,” Daniels asserts that managing individual behavior is the key to making an entire organization successful. And with an eye to what not to do, she explores basic behavior-based principles that drive good performance and how to implement them.

6. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink; Riverhead Books, 2011.

After analyzing some 40 years of scientific research on what motivates people, Pink explores what business doesn’t seem to appreciate: There are three primary motivators, even in the workplace, and surprisingly more money isn’t one of them. Instead, he identifies autonomy, mastery, and purpose as our primary motivators, and how to implement them in the workplace. A controversial but well-researched work, it emphasizes the motivational power of the deeply held human need to better ourselves and the world in which we live.

7. Leading Change, by John P. Kotter; Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

Few on this list have had the impact of Kotter's book on change management and leadership. A global bestseller, this book offers up Kotter’s now widely accepted eight-step process for managing change. It provides practical advice for leaders and managers to enact initiatives that make positive change within their business organizations.

8. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, by Peter M. Senge; Doubleday Business, 1994.

MIT's Senge proposes that "systems thinking" is the fifth requisite discipline for business, part and parcel to what he calls a true "learning organization," which is hallmark of companies that continuously improve. With millions of adherents around the globe, Senge’s analysis utilizes ideas that come from fields as diverse as science and religion to lay out his principles of management, while offering basic tools for putting systems thinking into practice.

9. The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything, by Guy Kawasaki; Portfolio, 2004.

Drawing on his success in directing the marketing of Apple in its early days by converting average consumers into “evangelists” for the brand, Kawasaki has shown his ideas to be reliable, thanks to the dozens of successful startups he has birthed via his own investment capital firm. Kawasaki opens his book by listing the five most important things an entrepreneur must accomplish, thereby defining the “art of the start.”

10. Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management, by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel; Free Press, 2005.

Considered a classic, a book used by many MBA programs around the world, few business books harmonize the history and evolution of strategic management in such an accessible way. Mintzberg, et al, isolate 10 unique schools of business strategy and explore how they have positively impacted businesses.

Which books on business have impacted your understanding? Which must-read books would you have on your list?

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

5 Tips on Coping with Addiction in Your Family

Recent Blog Posts - 03-23-2015 11:43

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the drug overdose death rate has more than doubled from 1999 through 2013. However, what may be even more alarming is that this statistic probably won’t surprise the millions of family members and friends of addicts throughout the United States.

“Living with someone who is struggling with an addiction can be a very difficult and traumatic experience,” expresses Dr. Patricia Postanowicz, a Core Faculty member for NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences and an expert in the areas of substance abuse, chronic mental illness and sexual trauma. “It can cause stress, anxiety, depression and put [the family] at risk for substance abuse issues to cope with their feelings.”

For many, the natural reaction is to attempt to “cure” at all costs. While helping your addicted friend or family member get help may be an initial concern, you should also remember to take care of yourself. It is okay – and recommended – to help yourself and the rest of your family cope, even if the addict is not willing to take steps toward recovery.

Wondering where to start? We asked Dr. Postanowicz for a few tips to help guide you in the right direction.

Start Attending Meetings

Whether you choose a nationwide group such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or another addictions group specific to your community, you should start attending now. The idea is to learn more through listening to others and talking about your own concerns. And hopefully you’ll learn how to emotionally separate from the addiction to take care of yourself and your family even if the person is still using.

Set Boundaries

Be sure to set boundaries that prevent your addicted friend or family member from negatively affecting your life as much as possible. For example, a mother may set a boundary for a father who is actively using by not allowing him to drive with their children in the car. She may even need to take the car seats out of his car if necessary. This boundary takes away stress and allows her to continue with everyday activities without worrying about the safety of her children.

Stop Making Excuses

Remember to clearly state that you will not make excuses for the addict, no matter who it may be. This includes instances such as missing work or family events, bailing them out financially for issues related to their addiction, and enabling the addict by allowing your plans to be altered because of their addiction. While it will take resolve and steadfast support from the rest of your friends and family, be sure to stand firm.

Give Family Therapy a Try

Addiction is a family disease. Often, families with addicts begin to operate in a manner that protects the addiction, even allowing it to define the family. Don’t be afraid to seek therapy as a family, even if the addict chooses to work toward becoming sober. Family therapy can offer you the opportunity to work through underlying issues regarding addiction, feelings and how to move forward as a family unit.

Commit to Making the Change

Sometimes, when the addiction disappears it can cause the family to sabotage the recovery of the addict in an effort to return to “normal.” Learning new ways to communicate and interact with one another (often through family therapy sessions) once the addiction is no longer present can help you and your family avoid falling back into old, “normal” patterns of behavior. 

Ultimately, the best way to treat addiction is through prevention, and nobody understands that better than families like yours. That’s why the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) promotes the Family Checkup program developed by the Child and Family Center at the University of Oregon. The Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse program serves to help you become more proactive by providing the information and support you need to stop addiction before it starts.

Are you passionate about helping addicts and looking for ways to make an impact? With the rise in drug use and drug-related deaths, formal education in these areas is becoming even more important. If you’re looking for educational opportunities, programs such as NCU’s certificates in Addictions and Addictions and Rehabilitation could be a great first step.

If you know someone struggling with addition, take the time to learn more about the resources available via the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Please remember to share with those close to you.

Visit:      www.SAMHSA.gov/find-help

Call:        800.622.HELP (4357)

Blog Categories: family-relationshipsmarriage-and-family-therapypsychologytips-to-improve-your-lifeyour-life-your-healthBlog Tags: Addictions; Family; Recovery; Coping with Addiction
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

MENTORING MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE

Recent Blog Posts - 03-18-2015 15:13

Who among us hasn’t heard the buzz about mentoring? It has even coined a new word, the “mentee,” or the recipient of mentoring, formerly known as a protégé or mentoree. The good news is that whatever it’s called, being mentored has significant benefits. Perhaps more surprisingly, being a mentor also provides amazing benefits, for the mentor and for their organization. Read on and you’ll discover the potential benefits afforded to everyone involved.

But what is mentoring precisely? For that answer, we turn to the experts.

Per Michael Page, an international staffing firm, “The role of a mentor is to encourage the personal and professional development of a mentoree through the sharing of knowledge, expertise and experience.” In other words, it is when an experienced person in an organization directly imparts knowledge and secondhand experience through relationship to someone with lesser experience or education. It also might be viewed as personal education gained in a one-to-one environment, not unlike the online education provided by Northcentral University (NCU).

We invited NCU’s Dr. Georgia Grantham, Associate Director, Faculty Support and Development, School of Business and Technology Management, to weigh in. She offered, “We know that success rarely occurs without the knowledge and support of others. And mentoring definitely makes a positive difference.”

Grantham went on to say, “One-to-one mentoring at Northcentral University is about building relationships of trust, providing academic support and exposing students to real-world experiences. Because every student is unique at NCU, our mentors provide quality feedback that inspires, teaches, and challenges students to achieve their personal and professional goals.”

Mentoring Means… Upward Mobility

What’s more, a research study by Sun Microsystems tracked the careers of 1,000 Sun employees, and concluded that both mentors and mentees get “promoted faster, and enjoy more salary increases.” More specifically, mentees were promoted five times more often than those without mentors! And those who mentored others did even better, being promoted six times as often as those who did not mentor others.

The Benefits of Mentoring for the Mentor

• Provides an opportunity to hone interpersonal skills.
• Increases one’s own personal satisfaction.
• Passes one’s own experience to another.
• Requires consideration of one’s own business practices, as well as those of the organization.
• Improves one’s own job satisfaction; there is an inherent personal satisfaction that comes from helping the mentee and seeing how it impacts everyone else.

The Benefits of Mentoring for the Mentee

• Develops a supportive relationship.
Offers professional development; as mentors communicate their experience on many levels to their mentees it serves as cost-free professional seminars.
• Increases scope of understanding regarding the organization.
• Improves self-confidence.
• Facilitates critical feedback in key areas, such as communications, technical abilities, and leadership skills.
• Provides relevant skills and knowledge.

The Benefits of Mentoring for the Organization

Fosters retention; mentees have someone they can turn to whom when they hit inevitable rough patches during their employment.
• Improves team efficiency; the personal element of mentoring can improve process implementation.
• Empowers personal development.
• Improves communication; this, again, is a function of the depth of personal relationship formed by mentoring.
Safe haven for freer exchange of new ideas; mentors and mentees can bounce ideas off one another without fear of embarrassment or loss of the ideas.

Mentoring Means “Trust”

In the end, as NCU’s own Dr. Grantham shared, together mentors and mentees build “relationships of trust.” And we believe that is a big part of why students at NCU gain so much from our one-to-one, mentoring approach to education.

Have you been mentored? Have you ever been a mentor? How have those experiences shaped your career path?

Blog Categories: career-advice
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

Five Things Everyone Should Know About Negotiating

Recent Blog Posts - 03-17-2015 15:08

President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” And like it or not, the evidence is clear: Although negotiating may make us feel uncomfortable, those who are willing to negotiate have higher incomes and better positions.

As reported in the Harvard Business Review, for fear of being labeled as difficult or demanding, the majority of people do not negotiate in the workplace. According to Linda Babcock, Professor of Economics at the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management of Carnegie Mellon University, while 32 percent of us negotiate for matters such as higher pay, 68 percent of us do not. Babcock recounts the study more fully in her book and recounts that those who negotiate for larger salaries tend to receive them. Her conclusion: Those who are unwilling to negotiate actually pay a heavy price.

So, what does it take to negotiate successfully?

Overcome Your Own Expectations

According to negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon, what drives most people’s fears and what frustrates them is actually fairly common, which she characterizes as “self-fulfilling prophecies.” In effect, people get what they expect.

Susan Adams of Forbes Magazine says the first step in changing is to decide to defy your own expectations. In other words, women and men should choose to negotiate for what they want and choose to break free from their own self-fulfilling prophecies — whatever they may identify them to be.

Defy Expectations: 5 Keys to Negotiating

1. DO NOT FEAR. According to Babcock, men and women who do not negotiate typically do so for fear of recriminations and fear of gaining a negative reputation on the job. But, as Pynchon asserts, for those who are able to overcome these fears and choose to negotiate, it can pay big dividends, including in quality of life benefits.

2. KNOW YOUR WORTH. Again according to Babcock, preparation must be done before entering into negotiations. She asserts that women who do choose to negotiate typically enter into negotiations less prepared than do men, according to her research. If preparation is key, one essential component of preparation is to know what others at your level, with your education, and with your resume, make in the market. If you do not know what the range of salary and typical benefits is for your position, it will be hard to argue factually for what you want. There are many resources available online to aid researching wages in a particular market, such as Salary.com and GlassDoor.com.

3. TAKE THE “LET ME HELP YOU” APPROACH. This tip is particularly important for women in negotiations. While Babcock asserts that men are generally able to boast of their competencies without creating a negative perception, for women, that approach can unfortunately yield an unwanted perception. Babcock suggests to frame your request communally from the perspective of how your competencies will benefit the organization. Heed the words of JFK and ask not what the company should do for you, but explain to the one you’re negotiating with what you can do for the company.

4. BE REASONABLE. This tip is actually tied to tip#2 above. If the best people in your position earn $75,000 a year, but you are unaware and ask for $100,000, you could come off as ill-prepared. So, know your facts and figures about every aspect of the job title and make sure to account for salary variances based on location. Even with the same position responsibilities, a marketing manager working in Savannah, Georgia, will likely have a much different salary than someone with the same job in New York City.

5. DON’T FORGET THE PERKS. Should you come to an impasse regarding the level of income you’ve requested, don’t overlook the value of other benefits as points of negotiation. A good benefit package can actually exceed the value, in dollars and cents, of a higher salary. A better insurance package, more vacation time, virtual commutes, flex-time, company car, frequency of job review, should be considered as part of the negotiation process.

In the end, remember that negotiations are usually not personal. The most successful negotiators are able to overcome the feelings of fear and being labeled as demanding. Successful negotiators are able to articulate their requests respectfully and professionally.

While negotiating shouldn’t be approached as a fight, it is a battle, first, to overcome your own fears of making your requests known. So, as you choose to enter into negotiations to get what you want, remember this: You won’t always get what you want. But, then again, as Lauren Bacall once said, “You don’t always win your battles, but it’s good to know you fought.”

What have you negotiated in your career? What was the outcome? Were the benefits worth the risks? How did you feel explaining what you wanted?

Blog Categories: career-adviceBlog Tags: NegiotiationsNegotiatingHow to Negotiate
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IS NOW YOURS – ONLINE!

Recent Blog Posts - 03-13-2015 12:07

In response to requests from students and faculty, and in conjunction with our ongoing efforts to make the best resources available at Northcentral University, we are pleased to announce that The Chronicle of Higher Education is now available to our student and faculty family at the NCU online Library.

As NCU Director of Library Services Ed Salazar describes this fantastic resource, “The Chronicle of Higher Education is the number one source of news, information, and jobs for people in academe. Published every weekday, The Chronicle's website features the complete contents of the latest issue, now available to NCU students and faculty.”

While The Chronicle has its own online version of the newspaper, it is only available in its full form to paid subscribers. Published every weekday, The Chronicle online features the complete contents of the latest issue; daily news and advice columns; hundreds of current job listings; vibrant discussion forums; and career-building tools such as online curriculum vitae management, salary databases, and more.

When you log on with your NCU ID, you will even find an archive of previously published content!

A Taste of Chronicle Fare…

Recent examples of articles and features that can be found in this well-respected daily publication include:

• “Fulbright Pitches International Exchanges to 2-Year Colleges,” an article that examines how the Fulbright Program aims to help faculty members of community colleges benefit and bring more international perspectives to these institutions.

• “Colleges Ponder Their Options When Racism Is Set in Stone,” which explores the conundrum that colleges and universities find themselves in when the involvement of their founders or early patrons who are associated with racism and/or bigotry are enshrined in artwork and masonry on campus.

• “It’s Time to Review Your Adjunct Employment Policies,” is an article that takes a look at the challenges colleges face when adjunct faculty involve Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in their contract negotiations.

• “The Plague of tl;dr,” is found in The Chronicle’s regular insert, The Chronicle Review, a free-standing B-section, and discusses the trend of less and less reading being done by both faculty and students, with a title that refers to the online shorthand for “too long; didn’t read.”

• “Only Writers Left Alive,” comes from the “Careers” section, a regular feature of The Chronicle, and advises on the importance of students identifying for themselves whether they prefer being educators or being researchers as soon as they can “before you waste your time and money, and some of your best professional years.”

• “Isolated Scholars: Making Bricks, Not Shaping Policy,” is an opinion piece by the University of Michigan’s Andrew J. Hoffman, a professor and director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise from The Chronicle’s daily “Point of View” column.

And, each issue of The Chronicle carries an extensive "Careers" section posting position openings from universities and institutions that are hiring faculty and other personnel, with posters as diverse as Harvard University and Fingerlakes Community College.

Were you aware of The Chronicle of Higher Education? Is this a feature of enrollment in NCU something that you will utilize?

Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

How to Give Yourself the Best Chance at being a Satisfied Shopper

Recent Blog Posts - 03-09-2015 09:55

Buying a home is a huge decision, but did you know that being satisfied with your purchase is about more than just location, location, location?

Dr. Susan Petroshius, in conjunction with three other researchers, investigated the role of buyer sophistication as it relates to buyer satisfaction and the overall shopping experience when buying a new home. The results of the investigation were published in their study titled, "The Role of Shopping Sophistication in Creating Satisfying Purchase Outcomes."

About Dr. Petroshius

As an adjunct faculty member in the School of Business and Technology Management at Northcentral University, Dr. Petroshius shares her expertise in marketing, business and consumer behavior. She earned her Master of Science in Behavioral Sciences at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her PhD in Marketing from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Purpose of the Study

If you've ever made a large purchase, you know it pays to do your homework before you buy. The more knowledge you have, the more comfortable you likely are when making your purchasing decisions. But to what extent do these factors influence overall customer satisfaction?

Dr. Petroshius and her colleagues made the following hypotheses concerning shopping sophistication as it relates to customer/purchase satisfaction:

  • Customer perceptions of shopping sophistication will be positively related to overall feelings of purchase satisfaction.
  • Customer perceptions of shopping sophistication will be positively related to their feelings of control.
  • Customer perceptions of control will be positively related to their feelings of purchase satisfaction.
  • Customer perceptions of shopping sophistication will be positively related to their perceptions of fairness.
  • Consumer perceptions of fairness will be positively related to their overall feelings of purchase satisfaction.
  • Consumer perceptions of shopping sophistication will be negatively related to feelings of cognitive dissonance (second-guessing their decision).
  • Consumer feelings of dissonance will be negatively related to their overall feelings of purchase satisfaction.

They conducted a study to test their hypotheses. The methodology they used for the study is outlined below.

Methodolgy

Buying a home is the largest purchase that most people make in their lifetime. Dr. Petroshius and her colleagues focused on this purchase for that reason when testing their hypotheses. The team mailed out surveys to 900 households that had been purchased in the last 12 months. The team received back 670 usable surveys completed by participants living in more than 400 zip codes.

The surveys consisted of questions from previously validated surveys. These quantitative surveys were based on an itemized scale, and focused on five different areas related to satisfaction in purchase outcomes:

  • Perceived control
  • Perceived fairness
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Purchase satisfaction
  • Shopping sophistication

Findings

After analyzing the surveys, Dr. Petroshius and her colleagues found that a well-informed shopper is a sophisticated shopper, and a sophisticated shopper is more likely to be a satisfied shopper.

In addition, shopper sophistication is so instrumental in positive purchase outcomes that it can also affect perceptions of control, fairness and cognitive dissonance during the shopping experience. If you are prepared going into your purchase decision making, especially a big purchase like a house or maybe a car, you are more likely to feel confident and have a good shopping experience. You don't have many (if any) misconceptions about the process or what you're going to get for your money, and at the end of the day, you are more likely to feel satisfied with your purchase decision.

Join the Discussion

 Based on these results, how do you think that organizations, especially their marketing departments, can more effectively promote customer satisfaction at the basic consumer level (such as buying a new appliance, electronics or even apparel)?  

Blog Categories: lifestyleBlog Tags: Satisfied ShopperHome buyingwell-informed shopping
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

10 Tips for Effective Communication in Relationships

Recent Blog Posts - 02-13-2015 11:51

Are you having trouble finding ways to effectively communicate in your relationships? Don't worry, you're not alone. Many couples, families, coworkers, and even friends struggle with finding the right way to express their feelings in a positive, productive manner.

Perfecting communication in relationships is tough, but if you're anything like us, you're not ready to give up just yet! So for a little help in the right direction, we sought advice from Dr. Darren Adamson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Assistant Dean of Northcentral University's School of Marriage and Family Sciences.

Dr. Adamson explains that "communication is like any skill, it takes practice." In order to start perfecting your communication skills, he suggests that "as objectively as possible, you analyze the causes of the poor communication – are they individual in the partners or interactional in the couple?" And he is sure to point out that "the need and the ability to create improvement usually lies in each individual AND in the relationship interaction."

Once you've successfully determined the underlying cause of your poor communication, Dr. Adamson suggests you keep these 10 tips in mind when taking the time to talk it out.

1. Make sure the conversation is appropriately arranged.

This means picking a proper setting, having a clear intent behind the conversation, and spelling out the desired outcome before you sit down to talk.

2. Prepare yourself with the right attitude.

Remember to point the finger in the right direction – at yourself, because you have the power to communicate well! In addition, make sure to come in to the conversation calm and open rather than upset and closed off.

3. Avoid unloading your list of stored up issues.

You already have a clear intent and desired outcome, so don't get steered off course by bringing up issues from the past that were already resolved.

4. Take your emotions out of it (at first).

This is a hard one to achieve. If you're having trouble, it may help you to keep your comments short and simple in the beginning of the conversation.

5. Mind your manners.

Remember that this is supposed to be a positive, respectful conversation. Try to use the tips your elders gave you years ago and mind those manners!

6. Stick to the facts.

Make sure your issues or complaints are described using data and not just emotions.

7. Remember the good stuff.

It's not all bad! Tell your partner something you appreciate about her or him – this keeps the conversation balanced. This also communicates that “it’s not just about an issue, it’s about our relationship”.

8. Own your emotions.

When talking about your emotions, try using "I" statements such as "I feel hurt, when ____ happens," and avoid the use of “you."

9. Ask questions instead of making statements.

Remember, your goal is to understand your partner, not to make sure that she or he understands you.

10. Celebrate communication success.

When it works, it works! Take the time to acknowledge and celebrate it – together!

In the end, remember that striving to perfect the art of effective communication in relationships is a process. You won't get it perfect the first time, and you may not even get close – just keep trying until you get there!

Have you ever used any of these tips before? What works for you and your partner?

Blog Categories: couples-therapyBlog Tags: communicationRelationshipsCommunication in Relationships
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Fair Use or Misuse? Social Media and Copyright Law

Recent Blog Posts - 02-11-2015 11:03

By Rick Rapier

She claims she had their permission and thought they would be grateful for the exposure, but, according to Ultra Records, fashion video blogger Michelle Phan was sadly mistaken.

In fact for using copyrighted music in her informational YouTube fashion videos, Phan is facing $150,000 in fines for each incident of misuse, with penalties adding into the millions. Such incidents of copyright violation are increasing, both by casual users and intentional abusers of copyrighted material – and by litigation instituted by wronged copyright holders.

Most of Phan’s legal trouble hinges on something you may have heard of before: fair use. And evidently cries of “Fair use!” – commonly invoked by users of social media sites, independent blogs and websites – offer little to no legal protection.

Does Fair Use Make It Fair Game?

Unlike cases early in the development of social media, like Napster, which is now infamous for allowing subscribers to download copyrighted music for free in the Net’s early days, and was deemed to be involved in a clear case of theft and copyright infringement, “fair use” is a little more in the gray area of the law.

The Fair Use Doctrine, frequently and often incorrectly invoked throughout the web, is borne of Section 107 of Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. While Section 106 affords all rights of use to the copyright holder, Section 107 offers some leeway to others, including allowing for use of copyrighted material for educational purposes. And as the Copyright Office itself says, “The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined.”

Still, the Copyright Office goes on to suggest that the answer to the question is: No, fair use does not make copyrighted content fair game. The Copyright Office explains, “Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.”

Unintentional Violations

Much of the confusion can be attributed to the proliferation of social media. Whether YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, Spotify, Pinterest, or personal blogs of various types, billions of online users are sharing, linking, embedding, and cutting and pasting as common practice. But that’s where copyright holders tend to be the most litigious. That is, lawsuits tend to arise when there is business being transacted and therefore money being made or – for the original creators – lost through “borrowing” or “sharing” media without permission, whether music, video, photographs, or infographics.

Thanks to the vague laws governing copyright and the use of copyrighted media, Phan is far from alone. According to one Internet and fair use expert, Sarah Bird, there have been hundreds of lawsuits filed and myriad rulings in the last several years on the matter of fair use versus copyright infringement, leading to legal precedents that often stand at odds with one another.

Bird is an SEO and social analytics expert and CEO of Moz, a provider of search engine optimization (SEO) optimization software. She asserts that due to fast-changing technologies and delivery platforms, copyright laws are intentionally vague. On her website, she is often asked about the topic of copyright, and an entire website, PlagiarismToday.com, has been dedicated to addressing and tracking the growing problem of Internet plagiarism.

“’Fair use is an important, controversial, and evolving concept”
—Sarah Bird, SEO and social analytics expert and CEO of Moz

Even the experts, including the U.S. Copyright office, say the subject is confusing. But in addition to being a gray area of the law, it can sometimes do harm to both copyright holders who lose income and to those who unknowingly violate copyright law and face penalties under the law.

In Phan’s case, while her YouTube videos are educational for those interested in fashion, Phan also makes a considerable profit – $5 million last year alone – generated by her channel’s online advertisers. And that is business generated, in part, by using copyrighted works.

Another infamous case of using social media as both educational tool and cottage industry is that of self-proclaimed “Food Babe” Vani Hari. While Hari has been heralded as noble by such renowned news organizations as CNN and New York Times for her efforts to make the ingredients in Subway’s bread and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese more healthy, she has many detractors as reported ScienceBasedMedicine.org and NPR.org. And one has apparently come at her for purported plagiarism for lifting the online content of others from various blogs and websites, no small charge to make against a woman whose whole career is based on her credibility.

The Virtual Damage Is Done

Hari has decried the charges as unfounded “ad hominem attacks,” however, in a certain sense, the suspicion of plagiarism will follow her for years – and many Google search results – to come. Still, the pair of Internet vlog entrepreneurs can serve as lessons for the rest of us. The risks of utilizing content produced by others, especially if for personal gain, can be costly. Not only can the penalties result in financial loss, but it can also damage credibility. This affirms that social media is not the free-for-all many believe it to be. Social media users must be mindful of these laws when it comes to sharing content.

To mitigate the risks of recrimination, Bird suggests that offering attribution and providing links back to the original source can often help reduce the risk of inciting the content’s originator, especially if a blog or social site is not intended for profit. But where the devil is in the details truly comes when there is money being made by the “fair user.”

In a case of making lemons out of lemonade, Phan has learned from her experience with Ultra Records and copyright law, founding a new venture: She’s launching her own music label.

Have you used content produced by others on your blog, YouTube, or other social media channels? What are your thoughts on the “Fair Use” doctrine?

*/ Blog Categories: social-mediaBlog Tags: social media
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

Employee Engagement for Fun and Profit

Recent Blog Posts - 01-29-2015 17:22

Scavenger hunts, cooking classes and inflatable sumo wrestling. What do they all have in common? They could be the key to greater productivity and profit for you or your business.

National Fun at Work Day (January 30) is today. And with this unofficial holiday comes an opportunity for your company to have fun while improving employee engagement.

Here’s how it works. Fun is a great way to build staff relationships. Staff relationships have been identified as the most critical component of employee engagement. And companies with engaged employees show dramatically higher levels of performance and revenue. In fact, according to the management consulting firm Hay Group, “organizations in the top quartile on engagement demonstrate revenue growth 2.5 times that of those in the bottom quartile.”

So how can your company improve employee engagement? In their 2013 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) identified the top five conditions for engaging employees:

Top 5 Conditions for Engaging Employees 1. Relationship with co-workers (73%) 2. Opportunities to use skills and abilities (70%) 3. Relationship with immediate supervisor (70%) 4. The work itself (68%) 5. Contribution of work to organization’s business goals (66%)

As you can see, the first and third conditions regard relationships among co-workers and supervisors. In all, the SHRM study identified 18 factors that foster engagement in a variety of areas, but clearly one of the most important is relationships.

The study surveyed 600 U.S. employees of all ages. Interestingly, when the findings were analyzed by gender and age, they did not change. This suggests that when it comes to engagement, employees of all ages are more alike than different.

Even though Baby Boomers, Gen X and the Millennials have quite different motivations and opinions about the workplace, they tend to agree about what engages them—and relationships are top of the list.

This means anything you can do to encourage staff interaction, collaboration, teamwork, and friendship can contribute to better engagement. Long term, this might include:

  • Mentorship programs
  • Employee self-recognition programs
  • Group classes
  • Regular team meetings
  • Volunteer projects
  • Ongoing competitions
  • Job switching

Of course, in the short-term, a great start could be a simple team-building exercise to celebrate National Fun at Work Day. The Internet is overflowing with good team-building ideas and most of them have the added benefit of being fun!

From Pictionary, paintball and potluck lunches to karaoke, card games and double-kayaking, there are numerous activities that can bring your company closer. But be careful, one company’s outstanding outing could be another company’s dysfunctional function. The Internet is also rife with team-building horror stories, like “Group Insult Sessions,” “Bathing with Your Managers,” and “Fake Terrorist Kidnappers.”

Don’t choose activities that might compromise someone’s dignity, privacy or personal space. Realize that what’s motivation for some people is misery for others, especially activities like athletic competitions, risky adventures or public performances.

A good first step might be to conduct your own survey and ask your employees what they would like to do. You should be able to find consensus on what’s fun for everyone in some capacity. The very act of surveying everyone or taking a vote can get people talking and having fun. And as long as they’re having fun, the rest will take care of itself.

Blog Categories: career-adviceBlog Tags: businessemployee engagement
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

How Text-based Chat Can Aid Second Language Learning

Recent Blog Posts - 01-26-2015 17:02
What methods do you know people use when trying to learn a new language?

Watching movies? Using special software? Hanging out with fluent speaker? What about text chat?

In her study titled, "Prior knowledge and second language task production in text chat," published in Technology-mediated TBLT: Researching Technology and Tasks, Dr. Rebecca Adams took a closer look at how text-based chat can help people who are interested in learning a second language and which variables can help make it more successful.

About Dr. Adams

Dr. Adams is the associate director of the Faculty Resource Center at Northcentral University. She has a passion for language and earned her PhD in Linguistics from Georgetown University. She earned her Master of Arts degree in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Brigham Young University, where she also completed her undergraduate education with a double major in Linguistics and German. Her areas of expertise include educational research, online teaching and learning, and English as a second language.

Purpose of the Study

Computer-mediated communication, or any communication done with the help of a computer, such as text-based chat in becoming increasingly important in today's diverse global environment. Skype, Facebook chat, Lync and Google Hangouts are just a few examples of popular text-based chat applications that allow people to communicate over a network or the Internet. In addition to allowing individuals to communicate, text-based chat can also aid in the actual learning and refining of second language skills.

With her background in TESOL, Dr. Adams desired to take a closer look at the efficiency of text-based chat is aiding second language learning. She believed that using text chat in task-based language learning, especially when it comes to tasks where students have prior knowledge, would be beneficial to students and could influence the accuracy, complexity and quantity of language production.

Specifically, she desired to answer the following questions:
  • • Does prior knowledge increase the accuracy of learner text chat task-based production?
  • • Does prior knowledge increase the complexity of learner text chat task-based production?
  • • Does prior knowledge increase the quantity of learner text chat task-based production?
Methodology

Dr. Adams used a mixed methods approach to answering the proposed research questions. Her study sample included 48 random, second-year engineering students (some electrical engineering students and some chemical engineering students) with intermediate-level English proficiency. The study was conducted at a technical university in Malaysia in a course on English for Professional Communication these students were all experienced users of text-based chat in their native language and familiar with Skype.

Inspired by Dr. Peter Robinson, who determined that completing a task can influence second language learning through increased language production and task engagement, Dr. Adams devised a task using the Cognition Hypothesis for students to complete using text-based chat. Cognitive Hypothesis predicts how the different features of a task design can influence second language learning.

In order to isolate the prior knowledge variable in her study, Dr. Adams chose a task that would be familiar to the electrical engineering students, but not to the chemical engineering students. The task required students to role play the part of an engineer in a multinational company meeting online who must decide what type of electrical engineering software (familiar to electrical engineering students) the company should adopt.

For the quantitative portion of her study, Dr. Adams analyzed the students' chat transcripts following the task to calculate scores for accuracy, complexity and quantity of language production. She completed MANOVA tests to determine the significance of the data. Following the task, Adams also held a voluntary face-to-face group discussion using open ended questions (qualitative research) to learn more about the students' perception of the activity and using text-based chat to accomplish the task.

Findings

Dr. Adams predicted that that the complexity of the assigned task (based on whether or not the student had prior knowledge of the subject) would influence the complexity, accuracy and fluency of speech production. Interestingly, her prediction was partly right and partly wrong.

The study indicated that increasing task complexity (no prior knowledge) was related to increased complexity and accuracy of students' language production. On the other hand, decreasing task complexity seemed to positively affect the students' fluency by increasing the quantity of language used during the task.

Join the Discussion

Text-based chat gives second language learners the unique ability to draft and edit their speech before posting, which is different than speaking face-to-face. How do you think this influenced the results of the study?

Blog Categories: researchBlog Tags: faculty publications
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts

Digital Detox: This is Your Intervention

Recent Blog Posts - 01-20-2015 10:15

By Mark Lange

This is your digital intervention. No, your family isn’t gathered in the living room. You won’t be whisked off to a dude ranch. And no one is going to “love” you through this. We just need you to turn off your digital devices for a while—after you read this article, of course.

The fact is, if you use a smartphone, tablet, computer or video game on a regular basis, you’re probably hooked to some extent. But, like most of us, you may be in denial. Because, ironically, this addiction started off by making you more productive, socially connected and mentally engaged.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to give up all of your technology; just enough to see the control it has over you and how moderation can improve your quality of life.

What are the signs of digital addiction?

How do you know if you’re addicted to technology? Review the signs and symptoms below:

Using technology like a drug:

Do you turn to your smartphone or computer when you’re bored, lonely or depressed? You may be using it like a drug to control your mood or emotions. Ironically, studies show that a lack of close relationships, social activities and physical exercise—the type you can’t get online—can cause depression.

Using technology more often:

A recent study reported that most people check their cellphone 150 times a day. Is checking your phone the last thing you do at night and the first thing you do in the morning? Do you monitor your texts, email, tweets, and social media so often that nothing has changed since the last time you looked? These are signs that your habit is escalating despite diminishing returns.

Withdrawing from friends and family:

Do you find yourself sneaking a peek at your phone in the middle of a conversation? During meals, parties or meetings? How about at movies, your kid’s recital, or in bed? Aside from being rude, it robs you of real-life interaction and the ability to focus on the real-world experience.

Mental health issues:

If you’re experiencing stress, depression or sleep disorders, it may be digitally induced. A recent study linked those mental health problems to heavy use of technology. Another study found that watching a computer monitor for just two hours can substantially lower levels of the sleep hormone serotonin, which can cause sleep disorders. Yet another study showed that one out of three Facebook visitors felt loneliness, envy, anger and frustration when comparing themselves socially to their digital peers.

Stress

A growing body of data suggests that constant smartphone use will stress you out. One university study linked the stress to our “relentless need to immediately review and respond to every incoming message, alert or bing.” It further found that the most stressed users experienced ‘phantom’ vibrations when there were no alerts.

Driving under the influence of technology

If you use a cellphone while driving, you’re driving impaired. Cellphone talkers are 5.36 times more likely to get in an accident than undistracted drivers. And hands-free devices are not any safer. Studies show the risk is the same as driving with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level. If you’re texting while driving, you are 23 times more likely to crash.

If any of the above behavior sounds like you, you are digitally addicted to some degree. And while this isn’t a real intervention, there is a simple five-step treatment program you should check into:

How to detox from digital addiction 1. No phone while driving.

Obviously, you should not be texting while driving. But also try not making or answering any phone calls. They can wait. Pay attention to the road.

2. No phones with other people.

Don’t look at your phone when talking with other people. This includes friends, family, co-workers, cashiers, waiters, you name it. Make live people a priority and give them your undivided attention.

3. No phones at functions.

While participating in a social event or business function, turn your phone off. Not even vibrate mode, just off. Again, fully focus and experience the activity at hand.

4. No digital devices in bed or before bedtime

No more staying up past bedtime to surf the Web, and no more falling asleep staring at your phone. Shut your phone off at night. Get a good night’s sleep.

5. Reserve more time for real life.

Here’s the big challenge. Get out and do more in the real world. Visit with friends and family, exercise, play with your kids, take in a ball game, have date night with your spouse, walk the dog at the park—all without using your phone. Integrate new hobbies, people and patterns into your day. If it causes you a great deal of discomfort or anxiety, you weren’t in control.

If you’re bored or depressed, you may need to develop more life offline. Of course, if you find this detox to be a pleasant, relaxing and enjoyable experience, you’ll know how much better your life could be if you set limits on your digital devices.

Blog Categories: lifestyle
Categories: NCU Recent blog posts