March 2010 - Posts

Why Learning to Prioritize Should be At the Top of Everyone’s To-Do List
Wednesday, March 31, 2010 9:09 AM

It is a familiar scenario. On any given work day, multiple projects and tasks come across our desks labeled "Top priority." We then go home to the embrace of family members who need X or Y right away and the cold stare of a pile of bills that are (almost) past due. With so many contenders competing for top spot on our daily to-do list, it is no wonder that we end up feeling stressed and burned out.

To de-stress and rekindle the flame of enthusiasm for our professional and home lives, we need to learn to prioritize. While making the best use of our time and resources might seem like a tall order, prioritization is a skill we all can master a step at a time.

As this MindTools article points out, you can start prioritizing based on one of three factors:

  • Value or profitability - Whether it involves a sophisticated valuation or a subjective guess, this is one of the more common, and rational, approaches to prioritizing projects and tasks
  • Time constraints - This approach is useful when others are depending on you to complete a task, especially one that is key to an important project
  • Pressure to complete - Before prioritizing a task or project on this basis, you should consider just how realistic and legitimate the pressure is, regardless of its source

The P.O.S.E.C. method is another practical approach to prioritizing work-life tasks. At its core is the premise that we can better handle whatever comes our way if we first pay attention to our everyday, personal responsibilities. This informative post from project management expert Mark Phillips depicts the method's hierarchical guideline as follows:

  1. Prioritize -Your time and define your tasks by goals.
  2. Organize -Things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful (everyday administrative tasks, attendance/punctuality, workspaces)
  3. Streamline -Things you may not like to do, but have to do (specific project-related tasks you are not keen on)
  4. Economize -Things you should do, or may even like to do, but that are not pressingly urgent (working on projects you enjoy, longer term projects, personal development and learning new skills)
  5. Contributing - By paying attention to the things that make a difference, but do not necessarily have an immediate measurable benefit (added detail, consideration or kindness)

One technique that works for me is at the end of each work day, I make a list of things that I want to accomplish on the next day. This simple activity makes me think about my 'priorities', and in the morning I am ready to attack my list.

We want to hear from you. If you have a practical and proven way of prioritizing, please comment on it here or at our Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

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Imagining Life Unplugged
Tuesday, March 30, 2010 6:41 AM

Since its premiere way back in 1989, MTV Unplugged  has featured popular musicians performing acoustic versions of their electric repertoire (like this moving classic from Eric Clapton). I find the idea of unplugging to reconnect with the heart and soul of what we do and who we are very appealing.

But, it is also hard to imagine how this appealing idea can become a reality. Whether or not we are digital natives, many of us spend a huge amount of time tethered to our computers, smartphones and e-readers.

To give you a sense of things, according to a recent report, the average U.S. internet user spends about 68 hours online and visits nearly 2700 websites each month. We are also prolific smartphone users. So prolific that professors at M.I.T.'s Sloan School of Management  have studied the affects of Blackberry overuse. Even the mainstream media alerts us to signs of smartphone addiction.

So, assuming we want to (and that is a big assumption), how do we make the break and unplug from technology - even for a little while? A post from the productivity blog Zen Habits offers a roadmap of sorts by detailing these 3 Ways To Claim Your Life Back:

  • Time yourself
  • Plan specific non-computer activities
  • Uninstall and remove unnecessary programs

You can also find some practical tips in this article on taking a vacation from speed and noise. Among the suggested escapes are:

  • Using foot power to get around
  • Setting no appointments, schedules or deadlines
  • Playing games
  • Reading books

We would love to field some real world tips and tools to share with everyone here. So, please let us know how you unplug from the technology in your life.

by Carly Fadako

 

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Win a Pendaflex I.Organize™ Information Management System!
Thursday, March 25, 2010 12:04 PM
Congratulations to the following entrants: Katmagik, Susan Flavin, and Shannon . You've each won an I.Organize Information Management System Kit! Please send us an email with your mailing address to: contact@beyondfolders.com Be sure to include your...
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The Power of No: Setting Boundaries for Your Professional Sanity
Thursday, March 25, 2010 8:30 AM

In the movie, Yes Man, a personal development guru tells down-and-out Carl Allen (played by Jim Carrey): "You say no to life and, therefore, you are not living." Taking this statement to heart, Allen agrees to say Yes to all the people and opportunities that come his way .... and soon learns how precarious and depleting Yes can be.

This fictional account reflects what a lot of us experience in real life and what an article from MayoClinic.com confirms: It's easier to say yes, but saying no may be a healthier option. You add a lot of unnecessary and unhealthy stress to your life when you honor too many requests for your time and talents.

For the sake of your professional sanity, and overall wellbeing, you need to learn how to say No to your boss, to your co-workers and to your clients or customers - at least some of the time. (As a father of 7, I practice the art of No frequently). 

To get the learning process going, this article outlines 6 Ways to Say 'No' and Mean It. There is, among others:

  • The direct No (No, no thank you)
  • The reasoned No (I can't meet with you now because I have a report that needs to be finished by tomorrow)
  • The rain check No (I can't have lunch with you today, but I could make it sometime next week)

As explained in this post on 10 Ways to Say No to Your Boss, an honest and straightforward explanation is best.

If you still need more insight into the power of No, you can find it, along with some practical guidance, in this Psychology Today look at setting boundaries at work .

by Bradley Eggers

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Understanding Workplace Conflict
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 7:54 AM

What do we learn every day wading through media streams, talking to disgruntled co-workers or engaging with our teenage children?

Conflict is part of life.

Workplace conflict can be particularly toxic because it disrupts worker productivity, hampers professional collaboration and jeopardizes the business bottom line.

Here are a few common causes of on-the-job conflict (as cited by CareerBuilder.com):

  • Differences in communication styles
  • A lack of a clear vision or mission
  • Unclear job expectations

According to this Entrepreneur article, conflict is really about tension that most of us respond to in one of three ways:

  • We shy away and are "reluctant to get involved in conversations that may be challenging, heated or potentially negative"
  • We overcompensate by reacting in a way that is "too loud, offensive or demeaning"
  • We take a proactive approach and embrace the situation with an open mind and willingness to interact

Whatever response we are naturally inclined to have, we can become better conflict managers if we heed expert advice that conflict can be a positive and constructive force in the workplace. It helps to look at the situation with an empathic eye by putting yourself in the other person's shoes. The odds of a good and healthy resolution also increase when we are able to see how we contributed to the conflict (since it is never a one-way street). I have shared that advice many times with my own children, in an effort to help them successfully resolve conflicts they have faced in their lives.

When conflict erupts - as it inevitably will - you and your co-workers might benefit from some or all of these strategies for dealing with difficult people at work. If you have any other conflict resolution strategies, please feel free to share them with us.

by Candie Harris

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Workspace Design Inspiration
Tuesday, March 23, 2010 7:36 AM

"The evolution of office spaces toward greater comfort and visual appeal has been taking place for about 15 years. Then why do so many workspaces remain devastatingly ugly?"

Christina Nunez poses this compelling question in her NPR article, When Bad Office Design Happens to Good People. Writing with empathy for cubicle dwellers everywhere, Nunez culls a list of suggestions for beautifying these workspaces - or, at least, for making them a bit less dreadful. Here is a sampling:

  • Add a task lamp to "counter a washed-out lighting scheme"
  • Bring in a plant or two
  • Change things around with some books from home, an inspiring quote display and/or some photos
  • Place cushions on low filing cabinets to brighten the area and provide seating for visitors

If you work at home as I do,  or have a good amount of freedom when it comes to designing your workspace, you can take some creative direction from Smashing Magazine's gallery of inspirational workplaces. There's more inspiration on tap in this post offering 90+ Home Office Hacks and this one showcasing 10 Cool Items for Your Design Workspace.

But, you might want to temper your design impulses with these practical tips on setting up a healthy, usable workspace (courtesy of Lifehacker):

  • Keep things ergonomically-friendly (pay attention to your posture and the position of your computer's keyboard, mouse and monitor)
  • Take regular breaks
  • Keep your desk clutter-free and organized

 

Need some help with this last tip? Try taking the 3 Steps to a Permanently Clear Desk detailed in a post from zenhabits.

by Carly Fadako

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Productivity Is Always Personal
Thursday, March 18, 2010 11:15 AM
At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want . - Lao Tzu No matter where you work - in the biggest corporation or at the kitchen table you call your home office - productivity is vital to your business...
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How to Run a Successful Business Meeting
Thursday, March 18, 2010 8:36 AM

Conducted face-to-face or in a virtual space, as a two-person exchange or at an annual gathering of two thousand, meetings are essential to business life.

Running a successful business meeting is part art and part science. Even if you are a natural leader, you might find this a tough mix to master. Here are some resources to help you.

At Forbes.com, Dr. Nadine Katz shares the results of a study she conducted on making meetings more efficient. Her top finding? There is no substitute for preparation, which includes:

  • Sending participants a detailed meeting agenda in advance
  • Touching base with participants to highlight important talk points
  • Surveying the meeting space to assess factors like lighting and temperature
  • Establishing clear rules for dealing with lateness, rudeness or similar disruptions

A BusinessWeek article on How to Run a Meeting Like Google echoes Dr. Katz's insights and adds that assigning an official note taker and sticking to the clock helps curb meeting, and post-meeting, chaos. Rounding out the advice, a piece from WomenEntrepreneur encourages meeting leaders to:

  • Have an emotional goal going in
  • Live the tone you want to set
  • Facilitate, don't dominate
  • Read the room

If you are running your meeting via the Web, Mashable has 5 important tips for your success. Last, but not least, proving that even the biggest business meetings benefit from a healthy dose of lightness and humor, here is a Wall Street Journal post featuring a video clip from Southwest Airlines' 2009 annual meeting.

by Bradley Eggers

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What Not to Say at Work
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 7:40 AM

We all have foot-in-mouth moments when we say something inappropriate to a co-worker, supervisor or boss. These slips are normal and inevitable. When they happen, it helps to acknowledge them and apologize right away.

Occasional slips aside, with multiple lines of business communication at our disposal, it is important to know what we can and cannot say at work. Over at Trump University, The Donald himself (via CareerBuilder.com) advises that we should never say:

  • That's not my job
  • Don't tell anyone I said this, but ....
  • I haven't had a raise in years
  • It's not my fault
  • I just didn't have enough time for that

Citing a list compiled by Men's Health, a New York Times article titled What Not to Say at the Office adds these forbidden phrases:

  • My boss is in over his/her head
  • Co-worker X is an idiot
  • If I can just push out X ...

As important as it is, being aware of what not to say at work is just one side of the coin. The other side is being able to communicate effectively with people we encounter on-the-job. You will find some solid guidance is this Tech Republic post on communicating with customers and co-workers.  Among the tips offered is:

·         Beware of interrupting

·         Listen actively

·         Avoid negative questions

Fast Company also provides constructive pointers in a post on Making Communication Work, including the stand out: Respect others' opinions.

I always try to think before I speak, how will what I say be perceived? Do you have some workplace communication tips? Feel free to share them with us by posting a comment or via email.

by Candie Harris

 

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Cutting Paper Clutter in Five Easy Steps
Monday, March 15, 2010 7:20 AM

Mountains. Stacks. Cascades.

Whatever word you use to describe it, paper clutter can be overwhelming. Here are some practical paper management steps you can take to embrace the old adage everything in its proper place and regain control of your workspace.

  1. Clear all the paper from your desk and the surrounding workspace. (Yes, all those piles on the floor and on top of cabinets and counters do count.) Organize the papers into piles on a conference table or other clean, flat surface.
  1. Create three boxes. Standard, stackable trays will do. Or, get a little creative and repurpose a sturdy folder or other container. You can label the boxes:
  • Now - the place for any papers you need immediate access to
  • File - the place for any papers you must keep, but can file away.
  • Later - the place for papers you want to keep in reach, but don't need to access right away.
  1. Sort and toss. Going through the piles one at a time, sort the papers into the appropriate boxes. Shred or recycle any remaining papers.
  1. File away. Using sturdy file folders, clearly label them by function or purpose (for example: Clients, Marketing, Vendors). After placing papers into labeled files, put the files into the folders in a logical order (for example: alphabetically, chronologically or by order of importance).
  1. Close the file drawer. Step back and take a deep, satisfying breath.

For more practical tips on organizing and managing paper flow, check out these helpful how-tos from around the Web:

by Carly Fadako

 

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Watch the Body Language
Thursday, March 11, 2010 2:59 PM

By Candie Harris

Lie to Me is a fascinating TV series inspired by the real-life work of Dr. Paul Eckman, a psychologist who uses clues embedded in the human face, body and voice to assist in criminal investigations. As a psychology major, I have always been fascinated with using body language to try and read people.

Most of us likely accept that we can learn a lot about others and ourselves by attuning to body language. Yet, few of us are naturally fluent in this kind of non-verbal communication. It is a skill we must acquire and nurture.

Fortunately, the Web is here to support us. With a quick trip to the search box, you can find practical tips and insights on:

·         Body language basics 

·         Communicating without words 

·         Translating common gestures into business vernacular 

·         Generation-Y's inability to read non-verbal cues 

But, before declaring ourselves (self-taught) body language experts, we should heed what communication theorist and coach Nick Morgan writes in an article titled The Truth Behind the Smile and Other Myths - When Body Language Lies. While Morgan recognizes the business value of decoding non-verbal cues, he argues that, "in the end, body language conveys important but unreliable clues about the intent of the communicator." 

Maybe the best course of action in our business, and personal, interactions is to couple our powers of observation with some genuine dialogue that sheds light what the other person is feeling and experiencing.

 

 

 

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The Moveable Workspace
Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:08 AM

By Carly Fadako

Where do you work?

This seems like a simple question. But, you might not have a simple answer if you are part of the growing population of workers who like me, call places such as airports, coffee shops and public parks the office.

With improved technologies and increased demand for workplace flexibility, it is projected that mobile workers could make up almost 75% of the US workforce by 2011.

If you are in this tribe of nomadic workers - by choice or otherwise - About.com's Catherine Roseberry  offers these Top 10 Remote Work Myths & Realities for your consideration. You can also refer to this list of 20 Crucial Tools for Working On-the-Go put together by SitePoint's Alyssa Gregory .

Whether you occupy your moveable workspace as a freelancer or as part of a virtual office community, you will benefit from mastering what Harvard Business Review blogger Gina Trapani calls the Art of Working Remotely. Among Trapani's tips are:

  • Sharpen your email skills
  • Use web-based collaboration tools
  • Set up regular voice or video chat check-ins

As law blogger Carolyn Elefant points out, mobile workers who conduct business in public spaces should also observe some basic rules of etiquette, such as:

  • Do not be a table hog
  • Bring an extension cord
  • Talk softly on your cell phone (or take the call outside)

 

Do you manage a team of mobile workers? You might find some helpful guidance in these Top 10 Strategies flagged by the folks at workshifting.com.

 


 

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Do You Know What Makes You Tick?
Thursday, March 11, 2010 7:58 AM

By Candie Harris

In our 24-7-365 culture, we are free to indulge a range of whims at all-night supermarkets, entertainment venues, restaurants and gyms. While running on the treadmill at 2:00 a.m., we can watch the latest news on the health hazards of working the graveyard shift and the fallout from sleep deprivation.  

The fact is, despite the lure of all-night activity, we are born to move to a particular circadian rhythm- an internal body clock that regulates the approximately 24-hour cycle of biological processes in all living beings. (The term circadian comes from Latin words that mean "around the day.") We can optimize our personal productivity and wellbeing by acquainting ourselves with our unique mode of internal operation.

Some of us are morning people. We rise early with a clear head and get a lot of good work done before most people are awake. I quickly learned that mornings were the most productive time for me, and schedule myself accordingly. Others get up every day with a dense brain fog that descended during the night. If you are foggy first thing in the morning, you are better off delaying any important tasks and decision making for at least an hour or so. Exercise is a great fog lifter. As the day progresses toward bedtime (and a regular bedtime is best ), we all move through peaks and valleys of alertness and productivity.

Whether you are an early riser or a night owl who is most productive after dark, it is important to understand what makes you tick. If you find yourself out of sync with your body clock, here are some helpful tips for trouble shooting the problem and resetting your daily routine.


 

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Welcome to the Beyond Folders™ Blog
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 9:05 AM

Beyond Folders™ is a new Community steeped in history.  Twenty five years ago, Pendaflex launched the I Hate Filing Club™, delivering information and techniques for organization in the workspace and home.  While still providing great ideas and inspiration, Beyond Folders™ goes a step further.

In late 2009 we surveyed our Community members and other professional organizations to ask where they spent time gathering information and inspiration to help make their work and personal organization tasks more productive.  We then observed and questioned our members, small business owners and knowledge workers and found several common areas of interest, needs and concerns.

Our communications will be built around these subjects, offering sound advice, ideas and methods to achieve success in these areas. Beyond Folders™ blog contributors are subject matter experts in workplace organization, productivity, communications, time management and more. 

Carly Fadako is one of our workplace organizational experts, working daily with our customers to find value added solutions to their organization challenges.

Bradley Eggers is trained and certified to deliver "Lean" processes, studying under Shingijitsu of Japan, Moffit Associates and TBM.  He is an expert at implementing Lean and Kaizen as tools that create "TIME" and competitive advantage for companies. 

Candie Harris is our marketing and communications guru. She has given over 1000 presentations to audiences of varying size and composition and as VP of Marketing, has been responsible for all aspects of our company communication. 

We hope you find our posts interesting, useful and inspirational!
Check them out, and let us know what you think.

Beyond Folders™ will also be on FaceBook and can be followed on Twitter@beyondfolders

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About Beyond Folders™

Beyond FoldersTM is written by a team of Pendaflex associates passionate about time management, communications, productivity and workplace organization.  Believing in  "continuous improvement" on both a personal and professional level, they share their unique perspectives on subjects of common interest to our readers.

Join the Beyond Folders™ Community of readers passionate about time management, productivity, communication and workspace organization.

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