April 2010 - Posts

Do Not Be Invisible at Work
Thursday, April 29, 2010 9:55 AM

You cannot make it as a wandering generality. You must be a meaningful specific.

Become Your Own Advocate

This is a well-known quote from author/motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. While open to multiple interpretations, for me, it resonates as a call-to-action - a call to make our unique accomplishments known so we can stand out in the crowd.

This can be a challenging call. As an initial hurdle, many people find it hard to self promote because they are shy or think it is too egotistical. We need to get over this hurdle quickly because, in our tough business climate, knowing and touting the brand called you is more important than ever. This is especially true for those of us who - by choice or otherwise - work away from our managers and co-workers most of the time.

Here are some tips for gaining that much-needed visibility for you and your professional accomplishments:

Check in informally.  Whether by email, IM, phone, video conference or Twitter, reach out to your boss and teammates on a regular basis to update them about projects you are collaborating on. Send links to articles and other online resources that can help them accomplish tasks or solve problems. Of course, you should keep informal check-ins in check so that the team stays on course and people know that you value their time and attention.

Arrange face-to-face meetings. To the extent possible, request to meet with your manager and team members in person at least once a year at the company's headquarters or in another convenient location.

Share your schedule. Using online collaboration platforms like Basecamp, OfficeMedium or CubeTree, you can easily let others know where you are, when you are working and what you are working on. If you want a more pared-down - yet still versatile - collaboration tool, try an online calendar from Google or Yahoo.

Speak up! Do not shy away from sharing your achievements and expertise. Write a blog or guest blog post, contribute articles to trade publications and participate in conversations taking place in your field on Twitter,  Facebook and LinkedIn. If your company hosts forums or discussion groups, become an active participant.

By taking affirmative steps to stay visible, you can nurture and safeguard your career. If you have any tips for keeping yourself and your work accomplishments on the radar screen, please share them with us.

by Candie Harris

 

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How to Write Great Email Subject Lines
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 9:14 AM

Ensure Your Subject Lines Get Attention

One of the hallmarks of our ever-connected, 24-7-365 world is the overloaded email inbox. This ReadWriteWeb post on information overload nicely captures the point by citing these statistics:

  • Average employee receives 350 messages per week
  • Average executive receives over 300 messages per day
  • Employees spend about 20 hours per week managing email

With all the messages competing for the attention and time of our customers, prospects and coworkers, we need to think about ways to make our emails stand out as important, useful and relevant to the recipients.

One key way is to write great email subject lines.

According to the experts at the email marketing service provider Mail Chimp, the best email subject lines are short, descriptive and give the reader a reason to further explore your message. The entire subject line should be 50 words or less and, unless you want to trigger the spam filter or chill open rates, those words should not include:

  • Free
  • Help
  • Percent off
  • Reminder

To give you some context for these rules, you can refer to this study of subject lines with the best and worst open rates.

According to this post from the getting attention! blog, readers also respond well to subject lines that:

  • Ask a question
  • Offer a teaser
  • Convey the facts
  • Include the word "you"

Similarly, a post from copyblogger shares that readers respond to subject lines containing emotional triggers "because they speak to underlying desires and fears that nearly all of us have."

For a quick tutorial on two Google tools that can help you create and pick the best subject lines for your next email campaign, check out this post from the blue sky factory blog.

Do you have any tips on writing great email subject lines? Share them in the comments area here or at our Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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Clean Sweep for Productivity
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:53 AM

Do you hear the birds singing as you walk to your car for your morning commute? Can you look out your office window and catch a glimpse of colorful trees and flowers in full bloom?

Make A Clean Sweep

Yes, spring is here. That time of renewal and reawakening when some inner or - more likely - outer force compels us to take a good look around and clean sweep our lives into order.

I am in the business of helping people work and live more efficiently. So, naturally, I consume lots of information on how we can all be more productive. To honor the new season and create room for new insights, I thought I would clean sweep my virtual library and share some of my favorite productivity articles with you. I hope you enjoy them. And if they inspire you to get into the sweep of things, feel free to share your spring productivity tips with us here or at the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

To start things off, the Productivity 501 blog shares some funny anecdotes about that major productivity buster, the messy desk. Here is my favorite quote: "Your mind doesn't organize everything in neat little boxes. However, this might be even more of a reason to try to keep your work environment in some semblance of order."

While we are on the subject of quotes, here is a great compilation of personal productivity quotes you can mine for self-motivation or to inspire others at your next team meeting. You might also want to share Peter Bregman's pair of Harvard Business Review posts on optimizing productivity by curbing time wasters at work:

 

If you like handy tips and tools for greater productivity, take a look at:

 

Last, but not least, if you would like to create your own productivity resource library, you can start with this list of The 20 Best Productivity and Personal Development Blogs.

by Carly Fadako

 

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Let Us Know Your Favorite Mobile Organization Product and You Could Win an On The Go™ Desk-top Organizer!
Monday, April 26, 2010 10:14 AM
Congratulations to Annette! In a drawing conducted by random.org, your name was chosen to receive the On The Go Desk-top file from Pendaflex. Thanks for all your great comments and feedback on your favorite mobile organizational tool. If you've read...
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Communicating Across Workplace Generation Gaps
Thursday, April 22, 2010 9:09 AM

As we discussed in a prior post, four very different generations of workers occupy the typical workplace. According to studies, it is not a particularly easy co-existence.

Last year, Pew Research Center reported that almost eight in 10 people polled perceived a major divide between the point of view of younger people and older people today. The Pew Center's study echoes Randstad USA's 2008 World of Work survey finding that the four generations at work rarely interact with one another. Given these hurdles, facilitating productive workplace communication can be a big challenge for managers and team leaders.

But, the challenge can be met.

As a recent Psychology Today article on the generational divide suggests, it is important to recognize that, unlike their more traditional older coworkers, young workers of Generation Y shun authoritarian communication. Raised on a steady diet of positive feedback and recognition, they also need regular input from their bosses. Expanding on this point, a New York Times piece on inter-generational communication sets out that, to better connect with Gen Y workers, managers and leaders should consider:

  • Adopting a communication style that is less curt, callous and confrontational and more respectful, conciliatory and indirect
  • Making requests that identify tangible business goals instead of issuing blanket orders
  • Supplementing annual performance reviews with more frequent progress reports and informal updates

Another key step is to encourage and empower all employees to use a full range of communication tools. Through workplace learning opportunities, even workers with technophobia can engage with others through e-mail, blogging, text messaging, instant messaging and social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Similarly, simulated interactions and role-playing can help workers who find it hard to converse face-to-face or in a written communication of more than 140 characters.

Productive cross-generational communication also flows when managers and team leaders take steps to bring the generations onto common ground. If blended into functional work teams, for example, older and younger workers can share knowledge and collaborate on devising business strategies, developing new products and handling service issues. This kind of close collaboration cultivates understanding, trust and respect.

Have you experienced cross-generational communication failures and successes at work? If so, please share your experiences with us here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Candie Harris

 

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Tips for Setting Up Your Mobile Office
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 9:01 AM

If you have any lingering doubts that today's workforce is on the go, take a look at recent statistics presented in this report on strategies for managing mobile workers (pdf):

Where Do You Work?

  • By 2011, mobile workers will make up 73% of the total U.S. workforce
  • 30.4% of workers worldwide will be mobile in 2011
  • The number of virtual workers has increased by 800% within the last 5 years
  • 60%-70% of all employees work in different locations than their supervisors

As the report also points out, we have become mobile in a number of ways:

 

  • We work for different companies at the same time
  • We frequently change jobs and shift careers
  • We work on multiple teams and projects within a company
  • We change company job sites and locations often
  • We telecommute from home offices and other remote locations

 

Whatever gets - and keeps - you moving during your workday, you can benefit from practicable tips on setting up a mobile office.

 

According to this post from A Nomad's Lot, an important first step is to make a list of attributes you desire in a workspace. Be very specific and consider aspects like:

 

  • Lighting
  • Air quality
  • Noise level
  • Seating
  • Accessibility
  • WiFi

 

Doing some advance detective work via the Web and local contacts also helps if you are setting up shop in an unfamiliar community. Upon your arrival, walk around the neighborhood and note the locations and business hours of cafes, libraries and bookshops. Be sure to head inside and get the staff's perspective on using the space for remote work.

 

With this groundwork, you are ready to focus on setting up your workspace. If you need a basic walk through, sitepoint offers these 7 Essential Steps to Creating an Efficient Mobile Office:

 

  1. Get a laptop
  2. Use an online data backup service
  3. Make sure you have secure wireless access
  4. Create electronic copies of paper files
  5. Set up a virtual phone line and digital fax service
  6. Update your computer's operating system and software
  7. Set up peripherals (trackball, surge protector, extension cord, wireless mouse, portable scanner and extra batteries/chargers)

 

To take these steps with confidence, check out 20 Crucial Tools for Working On-the-Go and (especially for mobile Mac users) The Ultimate Mobile Office Set Up For The Location Independent Professional.

 

We would love to hear from you and invite you to share your mobile office setup tips and photos with the Beyond Folder Community here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Carly Fadako

 

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Backing Up Your Digital Life
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 8:34 AM

"You don't understand. My life is on this computer!"

What's Your Back-up Plan?

This despair-driven exclamation is one that data recovery experts hear all the time. It is also one that most of us can relate to (with a wince) because we store a tremendous amount of data on our computers - from contacts, calendars and documents to photos, videos and music. When that data is lost or corrupted due to defective components, theft, virus intrusion, exposure to the elements or the shock of a drop, we feel lost, too.

As in many arenas, the best defense against data loss is a good offense. We need to get into the good habit of backing up our digital life. Here is a collection of data backup resources to ease your way:

A fine place to start is this post from PCWorld answering the question What's the Best Way to Back Up What I Need to Back Up?  It cites these candidates for daily Windows XP backup:

  • My Documents
  • Desktop
  • Application Data
  • Favorites
  • Local Settings\Application Data

And these for Vista:

  • Documents
  • Pictures
  • Desktop
  • Music
  • Contacts
  • Videos
  • AppData
  • Favorites

It also goes on to state the general rule that your backup should be physically separate from your computer, since any backup that can be stolen or "destroyed along with the rest of the computer is not a secure backup."

To heed this rule, you can choose from these popular options:

  • External hard drives
  • Online backup services
  • USB flash drives
  • Some combination of the above

For guidance on choosing an external hard drive, you can tap these resources:

You can gain insight into your online data storage options via:

The latest on USB flash drives appears in:

A good computer backup plan is no longer optional. We would like to hear from you. Leave a comment here or on our Facebook or Twitter pages sharing how you back up your digital life.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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Remote Workers Do Not Have to Be Invisible
Sunday, April 18, 2010 12:40 PM
Nomadic. Remote. Distant. These are just a few of the words used to describe today's on-the-go workforce that calls places like airports, coffee shops and public libraries the office . The number of virtual workers has increased by 800% within the...
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An Introduction to Building Your Personal Brand
Sunday, April 18, 2010 12:36 PM
We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You . This is the "simple" and "inescapable" truth that business management expert Tom Peters illuminated...
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Lose Your Paper Planner without Getting Lost
Thursday, April 15, 2010 10:15 AM
Still Tied To Your Paper Planner?

There was a time, not too long ago, when the loss of a paper planner spelled a personal organization and time management disaster of epic proportions.  In fact, one Saturday a few months ago, I was panicked by the thought that I lost my paper planner. After driving into the office, I was relieved to see it, in plain view right on my desk.

Although the evolution of web-based applications has liberated many of us from total paper dependency by providing a range of online options for planning and tracking our daily tasks and activities, I had resisted letting go of my planner. During my trip back to the office on that Saturday, I decided the time had come to take advantage of the benefits of going digital.

It actually was easier than I anticipated. I entered all my contact information into my blackberry, and began to use Lotus Calendar (which is synced from our email system) for all my appointments. I used my paper planner as well, keeping both for about two months. After realizing that I hadn't needed to look at the paper planner during the entire two month period, I gave it up and went totally digital.

To help you make sense of the online personal productivity tools available today, here is a round up of recent articles and reviews. As always, we consider this a two-way conversation and invite you to share your favorite online personal organization and time management solutions with us here.

Whether you are a location independent professional or office worker, you can benefit from this post on 8 Simple online Time Management Tools for Freelancers. Included in the review are the following flexible solutions:

 

Popular Web-based task manager Remember the Milk is the subject of this in-depth review. Among the notable features are:

  • Multiple avenues of access (via Gmail, Firefox, mobile phone, iPhone and Blackberry)
  • Organization of tasks by category, priority, date or tag
  • Single keystroke shortcuts
  • Free and paid professional versions (the pro version is required for the iPhone, Windows Mobile and Blackberry integration)

 

For a deeper look into popular online calendars, you can watch this helpful video tutorial produced by butterscotch.com.

 

Letting go of my paper planner has made it so much easier to organize my life (both business and personal), and with the added security of back up, it's negated the need for a Saturday trip to the office!  Let us know how you have transitioned from paper to digital!

by Candie Harris

 

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Debunking the Myth of Carrots and Sticks: What Really Motivates Us?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 10:06 AM

Fame?

Fortune?

Power?

Most business owners and leaders would give anything to know what motivates employees to do their best work.

As this article on the science and psychology of motivation sets out, there are numerous theories of motivation. Most focus on two principal categories of motivators. Extrinsic motivators come from outside forces like people, situations, events and environments. They include:

  • Pay raises
  • Accolades
  • Promotions
  • Bonuses
  • Vacation time
  • The corner office

Then there are intrinsic motivators deriving from internal forces like:

  • Personal pride
  • A Strong work ethic
  • Love of the work itself
  • A particular value system

Scientists studying motivation have long questioned the value of external motivators in the workplace - the carrots and sticks offered workers in the form of rewards and punishments.

This is the science and questioning behind bestselling author Dan Pink's latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Pink has previously written about the rise of right-brain thinking and the growing importance of traits like empathy and creativity. As he explains in this interview, his latest research on motivation confirms that "[c]arrots and sticks work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. For enduring motivation and high performance," workplace leaders should offer incentives that foster workers' drive for:

  • Autonomy - Our urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery - Our desire to get better and better at something that matters
  • Purpose - Our yearning to connect to something larger than ourselves

Pink gave a very motivating talk on the science of motivation at TEDGlobal 2009. You can watch it in its entirety here.

We would like to know what motivates you to do your best work. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments area here or at our Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers

 

 

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The Demise of the Cubicle: Designing Office Space for the New Culture of Collaboration
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 9:54 AM

1968. 

It was a year marked by political and social unrest here and abroad.

It was also the birth year of that symbol of modern workplace dysfunction chronicled in Scott Adams' wildly popular Dilbert comic strip- the office cubicle.

As highlighted in this Fortune retrospective entitled Cubicles: The Great Mistake, even the cubicle's inventor - the late Robert Propst - came to rue the economical office system he thought would increase the productivity of "a growing breed of white-collar workers, whose job titles fell between secretary and boss." With a nod to the Dilbertvilles he inspired, he openly admitted his "contribution to 'monolithic insanity.'"

In making this admission, Propst might have foreseen the current shift in workplace culture away from worker isolation and towards flexible teamwork, open communication and ongoing collaboration. Perhaps he also knew what recent studies have confirmed: A well-designed office boosts employee morale, engagement and productivity.

Let's face it, we all secretly, or not so secretly cheered during the movie Office Space when the lead character "takes it to the man" by knocking down his cubicle wall with the help of a power drill.  The look of accomplishment on his face spoke volumes, to office workers and managers alike.

Companies looking into the benefits of redesigning their physical space can start with a practical tutorial on How to Build a Better Office that walks you through these key steps:

 

  1. Sizing up your current space
  2. Involving your employees in the process
  3. Deciding what your goals are
  4. Asking yourself if it's time to move
  5. Continuing to tweak

 

For more inspiration, you can virtually tour office spaces designed to optimize collaboration, including Microsoft's cool research facility, Building 99. Among the featured redesign elements are:

 

  • More shared and social spaces for spontaneous collaboration
  • Smaller cubicles with lower walls
  • Fewer private offices
  • Plush kitchen areas
  • Offices with sliding textured glass doors
  • Write-on/wipe-off walls

 

You might also gain some insight from this Fast Company slideshow of 10 Workspaces That Inspire Creativity and this image gallery of the Best and Worst Workplace Design.

by Carly Fadako

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Why Ergonomics Matters
Thursday, April 08, 2010 9:06 AM
Are you sitting?

Does your chair support your lower back?

Here is a fact you might not know: On average, adults spends over 90% of our waking hours sitting down. It is a natural progression from breakfast table to car/train/bus to workstation to lunch table to workstation to car/train/bus to dinner table to couch. You get the picture. Most of us lead a very sedentary existence.

That is why ergonomics matters so much.

Ergonomics is the science (and art) of designing the workplace to suit the worker, rather than the other way around. Proper ergonomic design helps prevent repetitive stress injury (RSI), like carpal tunnel syndrome, and back problems that can develop over time and lead to long-term disability.

 

If you are brand new to this concept, or want to learn more about ergonomics, here are some resources: 

 

In a recent post, HR World presents The Ultimate Guide to Workstation Ergonomics that includes tips, websites, consulting firms and manufacturers in the field. Among the tips offered are:

 

  • Work area - Make sure your workspace is large enough for you to spread out comfortably and have a full range of motion
  • Chair - Support your lower back and adjust your chair so that your feet are firmly on the floor (use a footrest if necessary) and you can easily reach your keyboard and mouse
  • Computer monitor - To avoid eyestrain and related problems, center your monitor in front of you at a comfortable distance, adjust the brightness settings and take breaks from staring at your screen (for additional tips, see this post on How to Take Care of Your Eyes)
  • Computer keyboard - Situate your computer keyboard on your desk so your arms are parallel to your thighs or use a keyboard tray to facilitate proper positioning

 

You can learn more about ergonomics from the product design mistakes showcased in this Popular Mechanics piece on 5 Design Flaws that Ruined Otherwise Smart Gadgets. For inspiration on the flipside, this blog post profiles an award-winning ergonomic violin design.

by Carly Fadako

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Wasting Away at Work
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 8:27 AM

We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves.

 - Alice Bloch

We have all heard that time is a precious resource that we should not squander. But, in Salary.com's latest Wasting Time at Work Survey, 64% of the full-time workers responding reported wasting one hour or less each day; 22% said they wasted approximately  two hours daily; and 14% admitted to wasting three hours or more each workday. The main time-wasters reported were:

  • Internet use (48%)
  • Socializing with co-workers (33%)
  • Conducting personal business (30%)
  • Personal phone calls (19%)
  • Long lunches and breaks (15%)

And the primary reasons cited for all this wastefulness were:

  • Being dissatisfied with a job (48%)
  • Feeling underpaid (34%)
  • Waiting for a co-worker to finish something (42%)
  • Attending work-related meetings or activities (42%)
  • Doing administrative work (32%)

Acknowledging these stark statistics, the Cyclope-Series Team Blog suggests that employers can curb waste by providing "opportunities for employees to grow personally and professionally." Likewise, employers would do well to recognize the motivating force of "regular praise, respect in the office place, a sense of having a real voice in the business and some level of job security."

For additional guidance, this Wall Street Journal post on Ways to Stop Wasting Time Online compares four online services designed to help distracted computer users stay focused. You can find similar tips in this review of 15 Free Online Time Management Tools. Offering less concrete, but equally valuable, insight is a recent New York Times article - titled Talk Deeply, Be Happy? - that explores the importance of engaging in meaningful conversations.

by Bradley Eggers

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A Primer on Working Across Generation Gaps
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 9:04 AM

Where do you hear the sounds of fountain pens scratching on paper while smartphones buzz with incoming text messages?

In the average workplace.

There are currently four generations at work today:

  • Traditional workers (born before 1946) value loyalty and discipline and respect hierarchy and authority
  • Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), being goal-driven, competitive and work-centric, now occupy positions of power in the corporate world
  • Generation X (born 1965-1980) is 55 million strong in North America and is a skeptical, pragmatic and self-reliant cohort that values independence, respects diversity and desires work-life balance
  • Generation Y (born 1981-1999) numbers 80 million in North America and is filled with digitally-fluent optimists who embrace social responsibility, celebrate individuality and difference, rework the rules and thrive on collaboration and kinship

I have found that engaging workers and facilitating productivity with this vibrant generational mix can be a challenge.  Here is a primer of links to articles and posts on working across the generation gaps that I have found helpful.

We will revisit this important topic in future posts. In the meantime, as always, feel free to point us to any resources that you find relevant and helpful.

by Candie Harris

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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.

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