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Op/Ed

Using filters to ignore contrary opinions creates dangerous echo chambers

(EDITORIAL) We limit our growth when we accidentally create echo chambers – and most of us are guilty as sin…

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facebook social media filter echo chamber

I don’t know if you remember the big to-do a couple of years ago when Lifeway Books removed Jen Hatmaker’s books from their inventory. Apparently, Lifeway Books decided that Hatmaker’s affirmation of same-sex relationships went against their doctrine.

I’m not here to argue the merits of Hatmaker or Lifeway’s decisions. At the time, I remember wondering why Lifeway was so scared of an alternative point-of-view. Lifeway is not the first company to ban a book because the ideas go against their own beliefs, it’s just the first company I could come up with as a starting point.

That brings us to today. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the newest social media filters. You are now allowed to filter out unpopular topics or opinions on your social media feeds. Personally, I love this feature. I purposely turn off pages that say, “I bet I won’t get even 1 share.” I turn off other pages that always share very questionable news. I’ve even turned off some friends who have very different political philosophies than I do.

But in some ways, I worry that I might be living in an echo chamber. An echo chamber is defined as “a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system.”

Am I creating a system where I only hear people who don’t challenge my beliefs?

I especially worry about some of my friends who can’t see any way but their own. They won’t admit that they might be wrong or that someone else might have a solution. In our current political environment, there seems to be an attitude of not willing to give up an inch, just in case we lose our rights. With an attitude like that, neither side will be able to get anything done.

When did it become okay to stop listening to the other side?

Why are Americans (society?) so willing to only listen to ideas that are comfortable to them? We have become so polarized that no one wants to hear contrary opinions. Sometimes, it takes contrary opinions to find the media via, or middle road.

I encourage you to open your social media feed to people who think differently.

No, not your racist uncle or cousin who only posts fake news. But people who do talk about ideas and politics who may not be in your corner. I want to know what my representatives in Congress are thinking, even though I disagree with much of what they do. Let’s talk about our differences and try to find middle ground.

Dawn Brotherton is a staff writer at The Real Daily, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Op/Ed

1 in 5 agents on your team are at risk of burnout – how to retain them

(EDITORIAL) When your productive team members are at risk of burnout, you may lose them to another brokerage or another industry altogether.

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burnout

A recent Gallup poll shows that seven out of 10 employees feel unengaged with their work. And while researchers and HR departments have put a lot of energy into figuring out how to increase employee engagement, less attention has been focused on how to best support those employees who are already engaged. You may think being a broker or team leader is different than a Fortune 500 CEO, but in the sense of employee engagement, it’s the same.

Workers who are less engaged are actually less likely to quit (or switch brokers) than those who are engaged, but are stressed out about it. These losses are also harder for companies to bear, as highly engaged workers are generally the most productive and valuable to the team.

A study by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence surveyed over 1,000 U.S. employees to learn about engagement as it relates to burnout – burnout being, of course, the point of no return when an employee or team member is so stressed and exhausted that they can’t take it anymore.

Burnout has both physical and emotional symptoms and can lead to sleep problems and depression. Once an employee is burned out, they may need a lot of time to recover to previous levels of productivity, or worse, may give up and quit altogether. They may float to a different broker, franchise, or even another industry.

The study found that two out of five employees are highly engaged, but with low levels of burnout stress. These employees, categorized by the researchers as “optimally engaged,” had positive emotional health and contributed positively to the company. Unfortunately, one in five workers had high levels of engagement, but were at high risk for burnout. These workers represent the “engaged-exhausted” group,” and while they were very interested in their work, they were also very frustrated and stressed. This group had much higher turnover than even unengaged employees.

This means that all brands are at risk of losing some of their very best employees because they are overworked (and unsupported).

While some companies have helped their employees to reduce stress through wellness programs that encourage exercise, good nutrition, and mindfulness practices, the Yale researchers say that these programs may not do enough for highly-engaged workers.

Highly-engaged workers (or agents), across the board, reported having access to crucial resources such as supervisor support, rewards such as good pay, and recognition for their work. The biggest difference between optimally engaged workers and exhausted-engaged workers was the demands of the work itself.

In a nutshell – workers at risk for burnout simply had too much on their plates.

So while a company can expect to increase engagement, or reduce stress for engaged workers, by being supportive and offering resources and fair pay (or a better percentage), the make-or-break-it factor when it comes to burnout is the sheer volume of work.

Keep demands realistic and goals moderate. “Stretch goals” tend to stress people out more than motivate them.

If you give someone extra assignments or put more on their plate, re-delegate some of their other work to someone else or provide more assistant support. Encourage breaks and lunch breaks if someone is spending too much time at their desk.

In corporate life, the takeaway is to not overwork your best employees. But in real estate, it takes an experienced team leader or broker to spot impending burnout and address it by offering better support so another brokerage with better support doesn’t swoop in and snatch your most productive team members.

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Op/Ed

How calendars can stop your procrastination, boost productivity

(PRODUCTIVITY) As the old method of pen-to-paper planning comes back in style, see how its use can help with time management.

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writing pen paper productivity

My favorite part of writing for this publication, by far, is the fact that it always has me keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration. The simplest comment from a friend can snowball into an idea that becomes beneficial to others.

Such was the case this past weekend when my best friend, Haley, stopped by to help me unpack my new house. Haley is a graduate student, pursuing a master’s in interpersonal communication, and is a much smarter version of myself.

We got to talking about what was on tap for Haley’s final semester and she told me about a workshop she’s creating for the graduate school on the topic of how using planners/calendars helps with time management. The girl has an affinity for pen-to-paper planners, and has created an organizational structure for her daily life through their use.

Naturally, I thought, “hey, sometimes I attempt to give people advice on time management and planning, let’s bounce some ideas off of each other.” Haley then gave me a rundown of the bullet points she’s planning on covering for her interactive workshop.

1) Take everything as it comes. As a new task pops up, put it down on your calendar (whether paper or electronic) so that you don’t forget to do it later.

2) With these tasks, schedule deadlines for yourself. It can be tough to be self-motivate and have tasks completed by your own assignment. However, putting them down in writing will help you stick to them.

Only work on something if you’re being productive. If you stop being productive, you should take a step back and work on something else for a while,” says Haley. “This is why my personal deadlines help because it makes me work harder but I still have my own time.”

3) Schedule out your week starting with events that you cannot change. Start by writing down your work schedule, then appointments, meetings, etc. Then schedule in tasks that have more flexibility in time.

4) After doing this, take all of these tasks and prioritize what must be completed first and assess how much time each task will take. Be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time for each task.

5) For bigger projects, considering breaking them down a bit. “For bigger projects I break it down into steps, normally using a concept map to understand the core aspects of my task and what needs to be accomplished within each of those to make it more digestible,” says Haley. “Once I have the pieces, I place the pieces into my weekly schedule of events I cannot change.”

All of the pieces of this puzzle come together to create a calendar that will help you juggle every aspect of your life and boost your productivity. By implementing these ideas in my own planning, it has definitely helped me to become more of a self-starter.

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Op/Ed

A hugely dangerous challenge of the Internet of Things

(EDITORIAL) The Internet of Things is here, with all manner of soft AI voices and shiny Bluetooth bits. But how long can we count on it staying?

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LG Alexa internet of things

So, robot apocalypse. The Internet of Things machines have their cold metal fingers all up in our data, our houses, our sand dunes and/or porn.

And for what? What do they offer in exchange for this unprecedented invasion of our day to day lives?

Seamless, user-friendly automation to help with a thousand daily tasks, demonstrably improving our quality of life.

That’s… that’s actually a pretty good offer! Nice work, robots.

It comes with catches, and we’ve covered those, but Day One bumps and blunders are part of owning tech. They generally get engineered out.

What I want to talk about is Day 100, or 1000. Because the important word in “Internet of Things” isn’t “Internet.” We have the Internet. We can confidently expect the Internet to continue being a big deal.

But “things” is an important word. Things are distinct from tech. With tech, buying the thing and futzing with the thing are part of the fun, especially for practicing nerds like your narrator. Tech is new, and the excitement of a new game or a new phone can take the edge off, say, a server crash or a quick trip to tech support and back.

What about things? No early adopter aura in history will get a customer to ignore a fridge full of rotten food. Fridges need to work, period. So does your thermostat and your car. All those things are charter candidates for the full IoT overhaul, and they’re all capital T Things, not tech. They aren’t shiny toys people can live without for a week or four. They’re expected parts of daily life, things that need to work on Day 1, 100, and 1000.

Are companies preparing for that? Are the startups rising out of the blue-light-white-plastic Stuff Renaissance prepared to rebrand as global service providers, doing the hard, unglamorous, absolutely necessary work of digital maintenance?

Bigger question: are they prepared to guarantee security while they do so? Because anything with digitized bits needs patches and updates to function, and if it can download patches and updates, it can download things that are not patches and updates. No one wants to chase a botnet out of their microwave. Are the companies invested in always-on Things standing up and saying they’ll take responsibility for indefinitely securing and maintaining the infrastructure they intend to profit from?

Short answer, no. They’re not. Operations departments tend to be vanishingly small, painfully understaffed, spectacularly underpaid. Let’s be real,: we don’t prioritize stuff like that. We’re talking the digital equivalent of the guy who chases the raccoons out of your HVAC, and that sounds entirely too much like work.

Maintenance is not sexy.

But it’s absolutely necessary. It’s generally just the beginning of a thing. It gets the wheel rolling, and that’s not to be undersold.

But the IoT wheel is most definitely rolling. The issue is keeping it in motion, making it a wifi-level universal usage standard, not a 3DTV fad.

That won’t get done in a meeting. That gets done through long term adoption, and long term adoption will be about attracting, training, and retaining people willing to do the hard work of maintenance and customer support.

The Internet of Things wants to be a major step forward in the infrastructure of daily life. I am incredibly in favor of that. But daily life works because it’s the full time job of a whole lot of people to make sure it does so. So to Internet of Things companies, I say – pay them, treat them well, make your organization the best place in the industry for them, or be left behind by the people who do.

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