The Most Effective Way to Measure Your Team’s Productivity

Have you ever looked around your office and thought: my team is busy, but are they productive?

You can see how much time your team is putting into their work. They come in early, or work late. They fill their calendars with meetings, and respond to every email that comes their way. You know that your team has the best intentions. But what are they actually doing? And is it producing the results you need? You need an effective way to measure your team’s productivity.

A way to know that all that time they spend devoted to their job is moving your company forward, and not simply spinning their wheels.

The most effective way is to answer the questions below:

1. Does Your Team Know Where You’re Going?

One of the best ways your team can improve its productivity is for everyone to understand where you’re going — to have well defined corporate goals, and to focus on only a few at a time. According to John Doerr in his book Measure What Matters:

In a survey of eleven thousand senior executives and managers, a majority couldn’t name their companies top priorities. Only half of the could name even one.

If your team doesn’t know the company’s direction, they will have no idea how to do the things that will add value. Bob the Senior Manager might talk to 10 key contacts per day, but he might not know that none of these contacts have bought something from your company in the past year. He doesn’t know that increased sales from your team is an important, which is a way for you to contribute to the company’s key goals.

So the first way to measure your team’s productivity is to ask if they understand what is important.

2. Are You Committed to Your Specific Goals?

When I was CFO at a small startup, we worked hard to clarify a handful of important goals. The company was early stage, so our three goals were: fundraising, corporate partnerships, and pipeline product development.

But the CEO had Shiny Object Syndrome. Every time someone mentioned an interesting idea in the industry, he wanted to give it a try. We found ourselves assessing several product acquisition opportunities which would require a complicated debt agreement. As the CFO, I was dragged into days of work on these side projects.

As a result, our progress on fundraising and corporate partnerships stalled, which created a fire drill as time went on. We managed to raise funds in the nick of time, but missed our corporate partnership goals.

It was impossible to be productive as a team when we were running in so many different directions. We would pivot every time the CEO found something new and interesting.

The lesson is, while it’s critical to have defined goals, they won’t create a more productive team unless you commit to them.

3. Do You Have a Leading Indicator of Performance?

Once you’ve determined the few key goals for your company, you communicate them to your team, and commit to those goals (without chasing down every shiny object). The next step is to see if you have an indicator that measures your team’s performance.

Many companies use a P&L (profit and loss) statement to measure performance. And that is an important piece of the puzzle. But by the time you look back on the month, quarter, or year, all the activities that went into the P&L already happened, and all you can do is respond to them. But as Geno Wickman writes in Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business:

According to an old business maxim, anything that is measured and watched is improved.

So instead of looking backward, think about what you can measure to look forward in your business.

Let’s revisit Bob the Senior Manager, who talks to 10 key contacts per day. Talking to contacts can be one lead indicator, but that’s not enough. Talking to those 10 contacts is not generating the sales, and everyone on your team now understands is a key goal. But if you track the steps in his process, you can determine what is working and what isn’t. And better optimize your team’s productivity.

So for Bob, he could track the number of inbound versus outbound calls, the number of in-person versus phone conversations, the number of times he needs to talk to a contact before they make a purchase, and then the number of sales per week/month/quarter.

Keeping track of each step will give a much better metric of what is working and where things are breaking down. It will also tell you the most productive step.

For example, after tracking all the steps, Bob could realize that he makes 3 times more sales after in-person meetings than he does after phone conversations. So the way to measure Bob’s productivity is to keep track of his percentage of in-person meetings.

4. Does Everyone Know Who Owns What?

So your corporate goals are set. Everyone understands which direction the company needs to go, but that doesn’t meant that everyone on your team knows exactly what they are supposed to do. How they, individually, contribute.

Accountability is a key component to measure your team’s productivity. It is critical that everyone knows, understands, and owns their independent actions that contribute to the organization as a whole.

When everyone is held accountable for their contribution, your team is more productive. They know what other people seek in them. And when team members show both ownership and accountability, your team develops trust in each other.

Trust means less people checking or duplicating other team members’ work, or wasting time micromanaging; and a much more efficient workplace.

5. Is Your Team Making Decisions?

The ability to make decisions is an effective way to measure your team’s productivity. Decision making is difficult for almost everyone. People don’t want to commit, in case the idea is wrong or something better comes along, especially in a team environment.

But in Napoleon Hill’s classic book Think and Grow Rich, he mentioned a study that analyzed 25,000 people that had experienced failure. In that study, lack of decision-making, or procrastination, was one of the major causes of failure.

If you find that your team is spending a lot of time kicking a can down the road, instead of picking a direction, it’s likely that your team is not as productive as you might hope. Kicking that can take up a lot of time and energy, and can often take more time than simply picking a direction and then pivoting later.

6. Is Your Team Focused on What Is Urgent, or What Is Important?

So you’ve set and communicated a few, clear goals. You have found your leading indicators, and your team has the power and ability to make decisions. But they still aren’t reaching their targets. You still feel like they are working hard, but their results are not reflective of their actions…

Take a deeper dive into what is slowing them down. Some productivity slowdowns come from a team culture that requires immediate responses to email and days filled with meetings. It’s easy to use these actions as a proxy for productivity. But they aren’t actually producing anything.

So take a look at the daily actions of your team. Find out what they are doing that isn’t directly related to the communicated goals.

Help them prioritize the important tasks versus the ones that feel urgent because they showed up out of the blue. Remind them that it’s okay to address unexpected tasks but, as David Allen recommends:

Do unexpected work as it shows up, not because it is the path of least resistance, but because it is the thing you need to do vis-a-vis all the rest.

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of ways to measure and enhance your team’s productivity. But even if you find that your team is struggling with several of these issues at the same time, don’t change everything at once. Pick a few things that stand out the most. See what works in your unique workplace and what doesn’t.

Take a few mindful steps toward a more efficient environment and be consistent. Productivity is always intentional.

Remember, it doesn’t mean that everyone on your team has to perfectly managed every moment of every day. The goal is to focus on actions that create the results you want and minimize the ones that don’t.

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How to Start a Small Business That Thrives (From the Ground Up)

For most of us, it starts with an idea.

The idea can either be to break free from the corporate world. Be our own boss. Stop feeling like a cog in a machine and actually make a difference.

Or it can be more specific. Build the first or the best widget in the world. Because I’ve used every other widget out there and they are all lacking in a specific way.

The idea is to start a small business. To build something brand new. Brick by brick.

I have worked with dozens and dozens of small businesses and startups over the years. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve seen companies go public at valuations of more than $200M, and others crumble under the weight of their own mistakes.

So if you have an idea, the spark is there but then your heart skips a beat, and you think to yourself: How exactly do I start?

To avoid some of the missteps that others have made, to build a business that thrives; here’s how to start a small business that thrives from the ground up:

1. Know Your Why

Simon Sinek has one of the most popular Ted Talks of all time, and a best selling book as well, called Start With Why. In it, he talks about how important it is to know why you are motivated to do what you do; and that why shouldn’t include “to make a million dollars” or “make my mother proud.”

It is about understanding the way you want to make an impact on the world. And it’s different, and personal, to each person.

I have found that having a solid foundation on why you want to start a small business makes all the difference. When things get rough (and they will get rough), you can return to this fundamental understanding and as a reminder of why you want to keep moving forward. As Sinek says:

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.

So ask yourself, how do I start a small business that aligns with my Why?

2. Be A Consumate Learner

The most successful Founders and CEO that I’ve met are constantly asking questions. They are confident in what they know but are aware that they can always learn more. This can come up in a few key ways:

Before you even start your business, research your market.

Then research some more. Never think that you already know everything about people who buy widgets or all the other widgets on the market.

Ask questions. Then ask some more. Find people smarter than you or have way more experience, and listen to what they tell you.

Acknowledge that you don’t know everything. This is another critical piece to running a successful business.

I have seen it so many times. A Founder asks to “pick the brain” of someone else who has gone before. They hire a brilliant person to be part of the team — an expert in marketing or finance, and then disregard what they say or tell them what to do instead of asking them the best way to do it.

The CEO is missing a critical opportunity by not leveraging the team members/ expertise and not acknowledging that this team member has a lot to teach the CEO. It’s disempowering to the team member too.

3. Roll up Your Sleeves

You might have the fancy title – CEO, Founder or Head Honcho, but when you start a small business, you are also the receptionist and in charge of data entry.

At the beginning, you need to be willing to do all the nitty gritty work that goes into your business. You can’t be too good to do anything. The tasks might not be in your zone of genius. And sooner or later, you will be able to hire and/or delegate a lot of the smaller stuff.

But if you don’t understand all the little pieces that go into making your business great, you won’t understand how to scale your business and grow when the time is right.

4. Get in the Weeds

I have worked with many, many CEO’s, Founders, and Entrepreneurs, and most of them have one thing in common:

They are Big Picture Thinkers.

They are the ones with the dreams and the big ideas. Execution? Not so much.

So, if you are going to start a small business that thrives, you need to get in the weeds. Take a look at the details:

Why would blue be the best color for your widget? Who will take the orders that come in from outside the US? How, exactly, will you ship your products to the people that buy them?

Don’t avoid the details of your business because the big picture ideas are more fun.

Dreams and big ideas are critical when you start a business. But if you don’t have a handle on any of the details, you won’t be able to make those dreams a reality. And eventually, your business will crumble like a house of cards.

5. Build a Plan That Includes Budget, Expenses, and Profit

When you’re in those weeds, you must put together some numbers — real, researched, well-informed numbers.

Don’t assume you’ll take 50% of the current market because your idea is great. You need to create a plan that outlines every single expense that you’ll expect in the next 6 months to a year. You need to create a realistic timeline to product launch and create estimates for how much revenue you will get from your product, and when.

Without a plan that includes numbers, you will spend most of your time reacting to what happens around you instead of moving forward with intention.

Dave Ramsey is one of the big gurus of small business and personal finance. In his best selling book, EntreLeaders, he keeps it simple. He says:

Business is not really that hard. You are, however, required to do the basics or you will not win. Budget and do the accounting, stay out of debt, don’t buy what is not needed what is not needed to make a profit, save cash, and always be generous.

And you need to have a good answer to the most important question of all – when will you make a profit?

6. Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome

You’ve put your plan together. You’ve researched your market. You know that you want to create 2 inch widgets in a gorgeous shade of blue. You will sell them for $1/widget. Bob the designer is signed up to build them. You’ll launch in June!

And then…

My neighbor Betsy told me she’d love a widget in green. Should we change the color to green? And Johnny’s teacher mentioned that she could use a widget that is 3 inches. Let’s change the size of the widget!

It’s so common. We have an idea but what if there is a better idea?

Do your research. Make informed decisions. And then stay the course. You can always pivot later.

But if you keep turning your head toward every shiny object, you won’t reach the goal right in front of you. You’ll never launch that product by June.

7. Trust Your Team

A small business might have one founder, but people rarely start a small business all alone. There is often a consultant, a partner, a sounding board. And then, consultants, accountants, and marketing experts.

No one’s “zone of genius” covers every area. So one of the best ideas on how to start a small business is to find a great team to help get your idea off the ground. Spend critical time on the front end vetting and hiring great people. And then let them do their job.

In my years on Wall Street, I saw first-hand the impact on a business when the Founder didn’t trust their team. I had hundreds of small private companies pitch their businesses to me, with the hope that my investment bank would take their company public.

The companies that gave me the most pause, the ones that rarely succeeded were the ones where the CEO did all the talking, or when he or she cut off his team members when they tried to answer questions.

Because in my mind, if that happened, it meant one of these two things: 1) the CEO is not listening to all the other smart people in the room; or 2) the CEO does not trust his team.

Both options were a recipe for failure.

Believe In Yourself

Trying to start a small business can be incredibly difficult. We dream of the possibilities but get overwhelmed by the realities.

Know your why and believe in your abilities. Don’t try to be the best in the world or execute flawlessly. Learn and grow and keep trying.

If you do all the above things, you will be a success in whatever way you choose to define that word.

Resources About Entrepreneurship

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10 Steps for How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut

We’ve all been there.

We wake up one morning and realize that we’ve repeated the same day, over and over. Wake up, go to work, eat dinner, go to bed. Maybe we sprinkled some family time in there. An occasional trip to the gym. But we long for so much more. More time. Time for self-care. Time to work on that dream project that we’ve thought about for so long. But we feel stuck. We are on a hamster wheel and we don’t know how to get off.

What we don’t realize is that repeating the same day, day in and day out, is simply a habit.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, habits are a three step loop. First, you are given a cue (for example, a time of day like 3pm), you perform a routine (walk to the vending machine), and you receive a reward (candy bar).

Understanding how habits work is a key to understanding how to change habits. Once you change your habits, you can take control of your life and your time. And finally reach those goals that you’ve dreamed about for so long.

Here are 10 tips for how to change habits when you feel stuck.

1. Start with awareness

You march through your day without a thought, because it has become a habit. But take some time over the next few days to write down everything you do during the day, and when. Include the time you spend on your phone (many phones now have a Time Tracker on them). You might be surprised at what you see.

Are you spending more time on activities than you realized? Are you mindlessly performing tasks that you don’t need to perform? Once you see a few days in black and white, you can better understand what you are doing. And how each habit does or does not align with the larger goals of your life.

2. Stop saying YES to everything

Another parent at your child’s school asks you to make brownies for the bake sale, and you say yes. Even though it means that you will have to stay up late, and be too tired to go to the gym the next morning. Or the marketing team asks you to sit in on the 2pm call even though you’re not on that project, and you say yes; even though it means you won’t finish a big report today. And will have to use some family time over the weekend to get it done.

Saying yes is a habit. The cue is someone makes a request. So, of course you say yes. And the reward is that you get to avoid a feeling of guilt. Or you get to enjoy feeling needed. But the habit is not serving you. Because you are pinging around like you’re in a pinball machine. And you’re not getting to all the things that are important to you.

The next time someone asks you to do something. Take a minute. Break the habit loop. And actually think about the request. Before you respond.

3. Figure out what is important to you – and what isn’t

Let’s say you find yourself spending a lot of extra time volunteering at your kid’s school. Time that is spent away from your children and your job, and doesn’t improve your health.

But when you sit down and think about what is important to you. You realize that you need to prioritize work, family life, and a health goal. So how does that volunteer time fit in? Is it important to you, or not? You realize that much of what you do is not related to your own personal priorities.

We are all busy. But we need to learn how to change habits that involve doing things that don’t align with our larger goals. So it is important to take the time to figure out what your larger goals are:  family, work, health. Or, work, health, and writing that book you’ve dreamed about.

Be mindful of what is important to you. So that you can prioritize your days accordingly.

If you aren’t sure how to prioritize your life, this guide can help you:

The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

4. If you don’t have a productivity system, create one

A productivity system doesn’t have to be complicated. It does have to be something that works for you. Basically, a productivity system is a way to make sure that:

  • You are doing tasks that align with your goals
  • You know what those tasks are
  • You know when you are going to do them

Everyone has a different system. Some love to use beautiful paper planners, others prefer an app on their phone. It doesn’t matter how you want to do it. But you need to take control of your own schedule.

Make a new habit of planning out your day or your week on a regular basis. Figure out a cue for it. Every day at 5pm I will take 15 minutes to plan out the next day. The cue will be the time of day. The routine is to plan. The reward is to create a day full of intention.

5. Start slow – 1% change a day can add up to powerful results

When something is a habit, it is well ingrained into our routine. We perform a habit almost mindlessly. So, when we think about how to change habits, we need to start slow.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, talks about the 1% rule. He says:

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. They don’t seem like much on any given day. But over months and years their effects can accumulate to an incredible degree.

Basically, you only need to figure out how to change habits by 1% per day to see a significant benefit over the course of a year.

So start with one, small habit. When it’s 3pm and you find yourself walking to the vending machine, make your way over to the water fountain instead. Or, go outside and walk around the block. Pick one thing and make a change. And then go from there.

6. Stop listening to all your negative thoughts

“I don’t know how to do this.” “I don’t have enough time.” “I’ll fail and then people will judge me.” Do any of those thoughts sound familiar?

For many people, those thoughts play on a constant loop. Telling you what you can’t do. It’s too hard. Don’t even try.

Change is scary. The idea of doing something new, or something that people could judge, can make your heart pound and make your mouth dry. To your body, it feels exactly the same as if you are a caveman being chased by a tiger. So your brain wants to respond the same way. It wants to run away and hide.

But guess what? Those thoughts are a habit, too. The trigger is that you want to try something new. The routine is to tell yourself you can’t do it. And the reward is to stay in the same routine. One that is safe. Where you might not make any progress toward your goals. But you won’t be eaten by a tiger, either.

So the next time you hear that voice in your head telling you that you can’t do it. To run away from the fear. Remind yourself, it’s a new habit, not a tiger.

7. Make a plan for when things do go wrong

The psychologist Peter Gollwitzer came up with the powerful concept of “if-then planning.”((Develop Good Habits: How If-Then Plans Helps You Stick with a New Habit)) The basic idea is this: make a plan that says, if X happens, I am going to do Y.

Gollwitzer showed that this behavior has can have a huge impact on the success of changing habits.

Let’s say you usually sleep until the last minute before you have to get up for work. But you are looking to start a habit of running in the mornings. And your plan is to run 2 miles tomorrow morning. But when you wake up, it’s raining or snowing. Enough that you don’t want to be outside. What do you do?

Without an if-then plan, you will probably roll over and go back to sleep. But if you made a plan the night before. If the weather is bad, I will go to the gym down the street. And run on the treadmill. The reward will be that I get to watch 30 minutes of a”guilty pleasure” TV. Then, when you look out the window and see the rain, you know exactly what to do. And you won’t fall back into your old routine.

8. Focus on your effort

Here’s a secret about everyone you know. Everyone has failed. Everyone from Steve Jobs to the co-worker in the cubicle next to you.

But what makes the difference is how you manage that failure. Do you take failure as a reason to give up? Or do you reframe it as a learning experience? Accepting failure is a way to stay in that rut. To keep doing what is safe. Even though it doesn’t make you happy. Accepting failure is a habit.

But if you can focus on your effort. Your attempts to change. Then you can continually learn from any missteps. And keep moving forward.

Carol Dweck found, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, that the most successful people in the world focus on their effort, not on the outcome. That they frame failures as learning experiences. And, as she says in the book:

John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, says you aren’t a failure until you start to blame. What he means is that you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.

9. Celebrate small wins

One of the most powerful ways to reinforce how to change habits and make new ones is to give yourself a reward. As Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power of Habit:

Studies of people who have successfully created new exercise routines, for instance, show they are more likely to stick with a workout plan if they choose…a clear reward, such as a beer or an evening of guilt free television.

So don’t downplay any positive changes that you make. Reward yourself and celebrate:

How To Celebrate Small Wins To Achieve Big Goals

10. Keep trying

Let go of the idea that you need to be perfect at this, or that you need to do it all at once. Learning how to change habits takes a long time and will need to be refined continually.

But when you are feeling down or frustrated, remember this is not about getting on or off a wagon. If you slip up, that doesn’t mean you need to give up and fall back into your old habits.

There is no wagon. There are just good days and bad days. If you keep your bigger goals in mind and remember how you long to find more time, work on that side project, or focus on your health, you can do it.

Keep going and find what works for you!

More Articles to Help You Build Habits That Stick

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Understanding Your Partner’s Desire Can Lead To A Healthier Sex Experience

He wants sex all the time. She is never in the mood. He wants to have sex to feel close. She needs to feel emotionally close to want to have sex. He wants physical gratification. She wants to cuddle and feel loved.

These are just a few stereotypes that can be used to describe heterosexual relationships. And while these statements may ring true for some couples, far too often we fall back on cliches which highlight the pervasive belief that men are sex-crazed while women could take or leave sex.

But are we really so different?

Maybe not. Increasingly, sex researchers are concluding that men and women’s sexual desires may be more alike than we previously thought. In fact, it seems that not only are many of the stereotypes I described above just plain wrong, but holding onto them actually can get in the way of good sex and true authentic connection with our romantic partners.

While there are plenty of ways that men and women’s desires are more similar than different, there are three myths that have a particularly negative impact on our intimate relationships:

Myth 1: Men Have Higher Sex Drives Than Women

Many people, if asked who they believe has more sexual desire – men or women – would likely respond men. And that’s because the notion that men are more interested in sex than women is something we learn in our teenage years throughout our adult lives. Plus, we don’t only learn that men have more desire than women, we learn that men should have more desire than women. In fact, many of us assume that if the man in a heterosexual relationship has lower interest in sex than his female partner (or the woman has more interest in sex than her male partner) something is wrong. With him. With her. With their sex life – and maybe even their relationship.

But study after study is finding that women want to have sex as much as men do – and that many women want to have more sex than their male partner. Studies on desire discrepancy in couples (a clinical term for when one partner wants more sex than their partner) have consistently found about a 50/50 split in terms of men and women reporting higher levels of sexual desire. In other words, women are equally likely to have the higher sexual drive in a heterosexual relationship. And most recently a UK study found that as many as 59% of heterosexual women reported having higher desire than their male partner. So the thought that men want more sex than women is simply not supported by sex research.

Myth 2: Feeling Desired is Only Important to Women

Wanting to feel wanted is a huge component of women’s sexual desire. Most women tend to like when their partner tells them they look good, or flirts with them, or makes the first move. It makes us feel wanted and, as long as the desiring is coming from someone we are interested in (or love) it tends to feel great. But a lot of women don’t necessarily pause to think about whether that’s something their male partner would like in return.

However, in my own research I interviewed men about what turns them on, and one of the most common things that men described as a facilitator of their interest in having sex was feeling desired by their female partner. How do men feel desired, exactly? Men described the positive impact of receiving compliments (about their appearance or personality), having his female partner initiate sex and her showing excitement and presence during sex, all of which made him feel sexually wanted. Yet despite wanting to feel desired, most men I interviewed said that their female partner either did not know this was important to them, or simply did not do those things to make him feel wanted.

Myth 3: Women are Touchy-Feely – Men Just Want Sex

The third big thing that many of us assume differentiates the genders is the notion that women like to cuddle and embrace nonsexual intimacy while men just want the physical gratification from sex. But the thing is, both men and women want intimacy that goes far beyond “getting off” during sex.

In my research, I interviewed men about their sexual desire and men often referred to the importance of feeling connected to their partner through many avenues that had nothing to do with sex. Specifically, men described the importance of intimate communication, spending quality time with their partner, watching movies and going on walks, just to name a few. And it wasn’t uncommon for men to say that they wanted these experiences over and above having sex. Yet despite this many men still feel that the assumption that they want sex first and foremost continues to dominate.

So these stereotypes are wrong. Why are they so bad? And what can I do about them?

The reason these gender stereotypes get in the way of good sex is because it pigeon holes both men and women into certain roles that may not be accurate of their true sexual experiences. For example, women who have more desire than their partners may feel they need to “tone it down” or may get upset with their male partner for not wanting to have sex when they do. The other side of the coin is that men are short changed as being sex-crazed and may feel the need to feign desire to meet those expectations. And not being true to ourselves is a sure sign of decreased authenticity and connection to our sexual partner, in and out of the bedroom.

The good news is that increased awareness of the changing norms about men and women’s sexual desire is the first step to changing your sexual interactions with your partner. If you notice that you or your partner may be holding onto any of the gendered stereotypes I described above – ask yourself whether you can make space in your relationship to question and gently challenge those norms.

For example, if you’re a man with a lower desire than your female partner consider whether your lack of interest is just normal human variation instead of spending endless hours trying to determine a root cause of the “problem.” If you’re a woman with a male partner who always initiates sex or compliments you, consider whether you could try initiating flirting here and there to make him feel good too. And regardless of your gender, enjoy and embrace cuddling knowing your partner most likely enjoys it too (and sometimes prefers it to sex!)

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How You Can Maintain A Healthier And Better Sex Experience By Understanding Women’s Sexuality

You’re at home, relaxing, watching TV when you notice your female partner walk by. You think: “she looks good.” And you find yourself suddenly thinking about sex. You walk over to playfully put your arms around her and suggest going to the bedroom. Except that instead of turning around and kissing you passionately, like you had hoped, she rolls her eyes, removes your hands from her waist and says: “are you kidding me!?”

There is a pervasive belief that men are always in the mood to have sex while women are the gatekeepers who say yes or no to men’s sexual advances. And while that dynamic is certainly true for some men and women, we know from the research that women are actually just as likely to be the partner in a heterosexual relationship who has a higher interest in sex.

Put another way, that means that if you feel you often want sex but your female partner doesn’t , there is a pretty good chance that she actually has more sexual desire than you may realize. So what’s getting in the way of that scenario I just described going more favourably for you both? There are three key things about women’s sexuality to consider.

Let Her Relax So She Can Focus And Enjoy The Moment 

There is a saying that the sexiest thing a husband can do is pull out the vacuum. And there just may be some truth to it.

That’s because one of the biggest things that contributes to higher sexual interest and enjoyment for women is feeling relaxed so they want to engage in, and can enjoy, sexual activities. But this is really hard to do when she is feeling overwhelmed and stressed with a million other things that are vying for her attention. Many women admit to making “to-do” lists during sex or even saying no to sex because they can’t relax until the dishes are put away (the bed is made, the kids are sleeping, their work deadline is met, the list goes on and on).

An unhelpful response to this sounds something like: “Come on, sex will help you relax!” And although there is scientific proof to this sometimes being true (i.e., sex can lead to orgasm which releases Oxycontin which can, in turn, help us feel more calm and at ease) saying these words will almost never work for a woman who is running around madly trying to keep her life (and the rest of the family’s lives) in order because it doesn’t actually address the root of the problem.

What can you do instead? Focus your attention on non sexual areas. Instead of trying to get her in the mood by honing your oral sex skills, focus more on the circumstances surrounding sex. If she is running around picking up dirty clothes, getting groceries and meeting work deadlines, ask how you can reduce her stress. Offer to vacuum or to take care of the kids so she can focus on work for a couple of extra hours. If you can help her with the things that are stressing her out, not only will she likely feel more cared for and loved, but it also has a better chance of reducing her mental load and helps to make space to think about the possibility of sex.

Don’t Rush. The Slower The Better

While there is certainly no “one-size-fits-all” for men’s sexuality, more often than not men report that their sexual desire is somewhat spontaneous in nature. It comes on fairly suddenly and once men are in the mood they can move forward with sexual activity relatively seamlessly. In contrast, women’s sexual desire is more often responsive in nature. Meaning that most women take time to “warm up” to the idea of engaging in sexual activity. They may initially feel sexually neutral (or even uninterested) but in the right circumstances they could experience building desire.

But just because you might like when she initiates sex out of the blue, chances are that reciprocating that sudden initiation will not work for her. Going straight for her erogenous zones (like her breasts or butt) while she is writing at her computer or making dinner may not do the trick as she may not be in a mentally sexual space, nor able to transition to one immediately. Instead these spontaneous moves could be perceived as invasive and unwanted.

What to try instead? Engage in pre-sex foreplay. And I’m not talking about kissing and heavy petting that we traditionally think about when we hear the word “foreplay.” I’m talking about setting the stage long before that. That’s because a lot of women indicate that they need to feel close and connected to their partner in order to want to have sex. Sometimes that means having a good conversation to feel more on the same page.

For some that means flirting and being romantic throughout the day (or even days). For others it could mean engaging in an activity together like cooking a meal or a dance class. (Or maybe all three!). But what you definitely don’t want to do is initiate sex in a way that doesn’t give her time reflect on whether or not she’s in the mood. Her first, in-the-moment evaluation of whether or not she is interested when she is caught off guard is more likely going to be no than yes. And then you’re left feeling sexually frustrated – and chances are so is she.

Share Your Thoughts Openly And Make Things Pleasant And Healthy

We are all responsible for our own sexual pleasure. But some women have difficult times asking for what they want in bed. And this is because most women have learned through years of socialization that they shouldn’t enjoy being sexual. In fact, I have yet to meet a woman who hasn’t received the message while she was a teenager that “good girls don’t (or shouldn’t) like sex” or who hasn’t been warned about their reputation if they “give it up too fast”. Then women enter into a romantic, sexual relationship and they are expected to be open and comfortable with sex and know what they like. Not an easy thing to do.

So don’t assume you know what she likes. In fact, you shouldn’t even focus your energies on guessing. There is a stereotype that men should be responsible for women’s pleasure. They face pressure that men should just know how to touch. When. Where. How much. But no one is a mind reader – not even Don Juan.

What you should do instead? Ask your partner what she likes. Ask her when she likes having sex (Late at night? First thing in the morning? Right after coming home from work?). What kind of sex she likes having (What position? Gentle or on the rougher side? Creative and different or predictable and routine?). What her favourite sexual experience with you was and why. And be aware that even if you’ve asked what she likes, really listen. Pay attention, and maybe even ask again. Because it could take her a while to feel comfortable and safe enough to share. Or it may take time for her to consider what it is that she does like. But sharing our sexual wants and needs helps our partner better meet our sexual needs and initiate accordingly.

There are plenty of things that impact women’s sexual desire. But by focusing on stress reduction, creating a slow build up to sex, and exploring sexual preferences you could discover that what you thought was absent sexual desire was perhaps only temporarily dormant instead.

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How Long Term Relationship Couples Keep Their Passion For Sex

Long passionate kisses. Ripping off each other’s clothes. Frequent sex. Trying multiple new sex positions. Not able to keep your hands off each other. If this wouldn’t exactly describe your current sex life with your partner. You’re certainly not alone.

Most couples experience stronger and more intense sexual urges at the beginning of their relationship (often referred to as the “honeymoon” phase); but as relationships progress, so too does our interest in sex.

It is rare for sexual desire to remain at that super passionate state past the first few months of a relationship. Somewhere between 6 months and 2.5 years, our sexual desire wanes as our relationship becomes more familiar. We become friends and companions, in addition to lovers.

As a relationship progresses we also turn our attention to other life demands like work, and taking care of our homes, social lives, pets and children. Evolutionary psychologists have even suggested our desire has to decrease because we literally could not sustain those early levels of passion and be productive members of our community. We would be late for work, miss out on seeing friends and forget to buy groceries. In essence, life continues and sex is forced to take a backseat.

But that doesn’t mean your sex life is doomed or has be in a permanent rut. In fact, there are plenty of scientifically proven things you can do to reintroduce passion into your relationship.

One of the biggest things found to predict higher levels of sexual satisfaction? Believing your sex life is something that can, and will, fluctuate – and that you can do something to help it get back on track. Specifically, researchers have found that individuals and couples who believe that their sexual desire is destined or that it is “fate” (i.e that lower desire and passion represents a problem in the relationship) are less sexually satisfied, while those who hold a growth perspective (i.e., we haven’t been putting effort into our sex lives – but we could and it might help!) were more sexually satisfied. So holding on to the very notion that your sexual desire and passion will ebb and flow actually leads you to be more satisfied.

In other words, if you’re open to working on your sex life you’re already half way to increased desire and passion. So what are the specific things you can try to increase your sexual passion? There are five big things that passionate people are doing:

1. Take Time To Focus Only On Your Partner

Communication is important on so many levels. And it has been repeatedly and consistently found to be a facilitator of sexual desire. When we talk openly with our partner we feel closer and connected and, for many people, feeling connected to their partner is a crucial step to feeling the urge to engage in sexual activity. We all know how different it feels to sit on the couch and have a meaningful conversation with our partner versus sitting on the couch zoning out on our smart phones. And while the latter is okay sometimes, most often we don’t feel connected in that scenario and sex is less likely to follow. So try taking time away from the other demands that naturally steal our attention (work, social engagements, kids, phones) to open up often and regularly with your partner.

2. Be Open To Talk About Sex

Okay so talking is important. We know this. But talking about sex – what we like and don’t like, what we want to try, and fantasies that turn us on but we may never actually want to try – are all important to help our partner better know what we like so they have a better chance of giving us sexually pleasurable experiences (and vice versa).

It is logical, but something that eludes many couples: if we aren’t having very good sex then we aren’t going to be excited about having it. So focus less on wanting to want sex and instead shift to what would make sex better and more enjoyable. It’s the difference between trying to get yourself psyched up to have cold leftover cheap pizza and the legitimate drooling that happens when you’re anticipating that piping hot gourmet pizza from your favourite spot.

So talk about sex. Even better? Talk about sex while having sex. And make sure that as much as possible you’re using positive reinforcement. Encourage what you like in the moment. It helps your partner learn what to do to please you so you enjoy what is happening. Not to mention that it helps you stay in the moment because you’re paying attention and giving feedback. Which just so happens to be another important contributing factor to sexual passion.

3. Putting In Effort and Make Sex a Priority

One of the wildest myths we hold about sex is that it should be spontaneous and effortless. After all, that’s kind of how it felt when we first started dating.

Except that it wasn’t. Despite how it felt, sex is not (and never was) spontaneous. It just felt that way. When we went on dates we planned them well in advance, put in plenty of effort during dinner to talk and connect. We would wear something nice. And so, if sex followed, it wasn’t really so random.

In longer-term relationships it’s important to remember this and not get discouraged that sex has been less frequent or less fun because you haven’t found yourself suddenly in bed with your clothes off. Find time to be together. Schedule it. If one of you works late and the other gets up early, find a day that you’re both home at the same time and make that your sex day. If you haven’t had sex in a while. Talk about it. Say – “lets try to make that happen tonight”. Knowing that sex is on the horizon can even help the anticipation build and feed into those passionate feelings.

4. Doing Something New and Exciting

It’s easy to fall into a familiar sexual routine with a partner. We find out what we like and we often keep doing it. Again, and again. And again.

And while that’s all good and well, every now and then it’s important to invite some freshness into your relationship. And that’s because this mimics some of the excitement that occurred during that honeymoon phase we talked about earlier. When we start being sexually active with our partner everything is new and different. Everything we try is fresh and exciting. So inviting some of that newness feels fun and exciting and also reminds us of passionate times of the past.

Maybe it means trying a new position. Maybe it means having a quicky in the morning before work instead of waiting until Sunday afternoon. Or maybe buy a new sexy pair of underwear.

5. Stay Mentally Present During Sex

It’s easy to let our mind wander during sex. We may make a to-do list for what we need to get done tomorrow or can replay an awkward or unpleasant conversation at work over and over again. But when we do this we don’t tune into the sexual sensations and we miss out on potentially pleasurable feelings.

But staying mentally present isn’t always easy. Some therapists recommend that if you practice mindfulness (observing your thoughts versus judging them) and slowly and surely take in each touch and caress (and not rush through sex) that desire and passion increase. You can try this even during sexual foreplay or holding hands. If you catch your mind wandering just invite it back to the moment and focus on your senses and those sexual sensations.

Ultimately there is no magic potion to keep passion alive. Sex, like all parts of our lives (romantic, professional, social) takes effort. And putting in that effort, through communication, mental presence, positive sexual feedback and trying something new could just give your sex life that boost you’re looking for.

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Does a Romantic Candle Lit Dinner Help To Drive Better Sex?

Sunset picnics on the beach. Romantic candle lit dinners. Lovers feeding each other chocolate fondue. It seems like there is no shortage of associations between food, romance and sex. But are these familiar scenes just go-to content for lazy rom-com writers and first dates? Or do these meals actually lead to more exciting and enjoyable sex when the lights are turned down low?

In other words, are couples really more likely to have sex after consuming certain foods?

There is some evidence of a surface level connection between food and sex

Specifically, certain foods are more associated with sex than others. And this is largely thought to be the case because the shape of some foods resembles male and female genitalia. Think about the phallic shape of a banana (not to mention the widely used eggplant emoji as sexual innuendo!). And then there are foods that are thought to resemble the shape of a vulva, such as figs and oysters. Because these foods are thought to make us think about our (and/or our partner’s) genitals, it has been suggested that eating them may put sex on our brains and make us more likely to act on those impulses.

There is also some evidence that certain foods can stimulate our bodies in ways that mimic our natural preparation for sex. Blood flow is an essential component of sexual arousal for men and women. The increased blood flow to the genitals produces an erection for men and blood flow to the vagina intensifies sexual sensations for women.

It has been suggested that spicy foods (like ginger, curry, and cinnamon) are found to increase blood flow which has the potential to feel a bit like sexual arousal and could potentially have a positive impact on our sexual enjoyment. Therefore, consuming spicy foods could lead to better sex on account of the increased genital sensations.

However, the association between food and sex is more about the psychological interpretations and meanings we assign to those foods

For starters, we can never discount the power of the placebo effect. That is, if we believe something is going to have a positive impact, chances are it will. So, if you believe that eating chocolate will make you more interested in having sex, there is a higher chance that upon eating a piece of dark chocolate you will think about sex or want to engage in sexual activity. On the other hand, if you think that chocolate just tastes good and has no relationship to your sexual interest or enjoyment, likely you won’t feel any sexual urges post chocolate binge.

Another psychological element at play when associating a particular food with sex is what psychologists have termed classical conditioning. That is, if we repeatedly see chocolate fondue enjoyed during a romantic evening and that is followed by a sexual encounter, we begin to associate chocolate fondue with sex. The more often we see this connection being made in movies, TV shows, and in our real life, the more we are primed to think about sex when we see or eat fondue.

This association can even happen with less expected food items. In my Psychology 101 class our professor shared a story about a woman being turned on by the smell of onion on account of her sexual partner being a frequent eater of french onion dip! So if you want to create a romantic or sexual setting with food, consider picking your staple, pre-romance appetizer. Over time it just may become a cue that this is the night for romance.

What About Alcohol? Is It A Sex-Driver or Killer?

And then there is the spurious variable that often accompanies all of the romantic scenes I described earlier: wine (or some other alcohol variation). In other words, it may be less about the chocolate fondue, oysters, banana or cinnamon, and more about the alcohol that accompanies those meals. That’s because alcohol has been found to positively impact our interest in sex as alcohol make us feel more relaxed and laid back which can reduce our inhibitions and lead to a greater chance for sexual activity.

It’s important to be aware that there is a balancing act when it comes to how much alcohol to consume. Too much alcohol can get in the way of good sex by making us sloppy or tired. However, a glass of wine (even if it’s paired with chips and dip) may put you in the mood for sex.

The Setting Of Your Meal Is More Important Than The Food Choices

Finally there is the contextual setting of a romantic or sensual meal that goes far beyond whatever food is being consumed. Eating oysters with your grandmother at 3pm on a Sunday probably isn’t going to get you all hot and bothered. Whereas eating oysters with our romantic partner, at sunset with a glass of wine and candles just might do the trick.

Research has found that both men and women indicate that romantic settings play an important and positive role in their sexual desire. And that’s because a lot more is happening during a romantic meal than just the food on the table. A candle lit dinner takes time, effort and energy. It requires two people stepping away from their busy lives, making time for one another, and talking (hopefully without their smart phones on the table!). It could also include that glass of wine we discussed earlier. So even though a meal is part of this scenario, it’s really not the star of the show.

Consuming foods as aphrodisiacs definitely won’t hurt your sex life. In fact, depending on how they are used they just may bring some spark and enjoyment to your sexual experiences. And if you and your partner associate foods with positive romantic and sexual scenarios, chances are that eating those foods together will put sex on the brain.

But it’s also important to focus on the context of a romantic date over a shared meal. So don’t minimize the attention needed on the other components. Good conversation, undivided attention, and the effort of cooking a meal together could mean that spaghetti and meat balls or even ramen noodles could be your personal aphrodisiac.

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