May 2010 - Posts

Home/Work: Blurring Personal and Professional Identities
Thursday, May 27, 2010 8:21 AM

Clear demarcations between work and personal life have gone the way of the three-martini lunch. Using work computers to shop online or make vacation reservations is as common as BlackBerries buzzing at school recitals or a co-worker friending you on Facebook.

Technology increasingly enables people to live a 24/7 existence, eroding the line between home and office. Today, professionals can even work while on vacation. Rather than bemoan the change (a Luddite-like finger in the dike) today's employee should embrace technology  for the positive attributes it brings to creating healthy work/life synergy.

Managed appropriately, technology enhances flexibility, productivity and business and personal brand value. Social media is a case in point.

Consider that Twitter and Facebook can be set up for personal use, professional use or a hybrid model. Experiment with what works for you and your company.

For many knowledge workers, a hybrid professional/personal online presence is desirable. Social media is not only fun, it is an extremely powerful marketing tool. Used effectively, you can build a meaningful personal brand by engaging the social media channels that are right for you

When you venture into social media be sure to manage potential pitfalls by arming yourself with tools to protect your online reputation.  Equal care should be taken not to run afoul of your company's personal use standards for technology. Avid texters should take note: the Supreme Court will soon decide if a California police department violated an employee's privacy when it inspected personal text messages he sent using a work-issued pager.

Familiarize yourself with what is permissible at your job.

In the end, judgment matters. The best way to avoid violating your company's technology use standards, or with revealing too much personal information to professional contacts is to use good judgment.

The old adage applies: If you wouldn't want to see it on the front page of the New York Times, do not say it, or do it...or Tweet it!

by Candie Harris


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When Your Office is a Starbucks (or a Safari): Tips for the Digital Nomad
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 8:46 AM

Technology is increasingly allowing digital nomads-location independent workers-to leverage the internet and devices like smartphones, making any spot on the globe a workplace. Whether your office is at the local coffeehouse, or in a far-flung locale, digital nomads require certain tools in their backpacks for success.

The Digital Nomad

Here are some tips for the nomadic life:

Make technology your lifeline.  When your laptop is your office, you need more than yellow post-it notes to make it work seamlessly. Leading social media marketer and proponent of the "I-can-work-anywhere-movement" Chris Brogan says every nomad should pack five-must have tools.

They include:

  • A cable power strip
  • Wireless card
  • Pens and a moleskin journal
  • Flip Mino video camera
  • Laptop

According to other essential services include a USPS box for snail mail, Gmail, an online storage service to access documents remotely and and for travel.

Learn from the experts. Journalist and work-lifestyle visionary Daniel Pink first coined the phrase Free Agent Nation in a 1997 Fast Company article. 

Since then, seismic shifts in the global economy and technology have created legions of digital nomads and online resources such as which offers a collection of road-tested resources and articles. For best practices for location independent practitioners, follow the pioneers in Ten Digital Nomads to Learn From

Manage your mindset. Recognize that many of the old rules do not apply. In some offices face time is expected. For location independent workers, time in an office chair does not equal work. Work equals work. You can manage your time efficiently with online tools such as calendars, to-do lists and contact management software

Police productivity and periodically review goals. There is no corporate year-end performance review. You define your success. Just be sure to take time to measure it!

Ready to say good-bye to the corner office or cubicle? While the promise of increased flexibility and greater productivity (good-bye commute time and office politics!) is a tremendous lure, for some, the loss of office camaraderie, lack of benefits and the stress of managing invoices is too great a downside.

Be sure to examine the pros and cons of being location independent before making the leap

Do you have tips or tales of life as digital nomad? If so, we invite you to share them here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Carly Fadako


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Stop the Multitasking Madness
Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:03 AM


Hold a conference call.

Juggle Much?

Stop the Madness!


Respond to an email.


Add a contact in Outlook.


Sign an expense voucher.


Text a co-worker.


..... At the same time.


No. You are not an octopus. You are a typical multitasker at work.

Despite the demands of our 24-7-365 culture, the latest research shows that the typical human brain is not wired for multitasking. That is why multitaskers do not perform as well as others on core abilities like memory, task completion and switching from one task to another. Multitasking also has the negative physical effect of prompting the release of stress hormones and adrenaline. So, when we multitask, we are more prone to stress and anger. We are also more easily distracted.

The public has become attuned to the perils of this distractibility courtesy of Oprah Winfrey's No Phone Zone project  In an April 24, 2010  New York Times Op-Ed piece, Ms. Winfrey cites the chilling statistic that at least 6,000 people were killed by drivers distracted by cellphones in 2008. She goes on to state: "So many issues that we have to deal with seem beyond our control: natural disasters, child predators, traffic jams. Over the years, I've done shows on just about all of them. But this is a real problem we can do something about and get immediate results. All we have to do is hang up or switch off."

While we are switching off in the car, we should also consider the benefits of curbing our multitasking habit at work. Think about the last time you focused on a single task or project for an extended time. Or, try to remember your last uninterrupted conversation with a co-worker. If you are like many of us, you might not have any recent memories to cull.

That is why we are challenging members of our Beyond Folders Community to stop the multitasking madness. For at least one week, commit to focusing on a single work task, project or conversation for at least one hour each day. Close the door, hang a do not disturb sign or cordon off the cubicle - anything that clearly communicates to your co-workers that you are not to be bothered. We encourage you to keep a log or journal of your activities and note how you feel as you go.

After you complete your one-week challenge, we invite you to share your experience with us here, on our blog or at the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers


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Tips for Setting Up Your Home Office
Thursday, May 20, 2010 8:58 AM
The Home Office Conference Call

How do you set your boundaries?

I previously posted about the rise of a home office workforce that favors an easy (or, really, non-existent) commute, more flexible hours and a casual dress code. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, almost 52% of all small businesses are home-based. If you are thinking of working from home, here are some ideas for setting up your office space.

The first step is to choose the right area of your home. This post from iVillage poses some key questions to consider, including:

  • How much time will you spend in the office?
  • What type of work are you doing?
  • How much privacy do you need?
  • Is a computer the office's focal point?
  • Will customers or vendors visit you?

As this USA Today article and a post from set out, once you choose the physical space for your office, you need to consider what you need in it, such as:

  • Electricity
  • Internet, phone and fax connections
  • An ergonomic desk and chair
  • Good lighting
  • Heaters or air conditioner
  • Storage

If being green is a priority, check out the tips in this post on How to Set up a Green Office for $1000 or Less. Planet Green also offers this Comprehensive Guide.

One of the great benefits of a home office is proximity to your family. But, if you have kids, you will probably want to set some boundaries (physical and otherwise) around your workspace. This Fast Company article on The Home Office, Kids Edition provides some good insights.

Have you set up a home office? If so, please let us know how you did it. Photos welcome!

by Carly Fadako


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Feeling Low? Give Your Office Morale a Boost
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 11:08 AM

For the better part of the last two years, we have been inundated with the harsh realities of the economic downturn. So, it likely comes as no surprise that a recent survey showed that almost a quarter of all businesses are experiencing low employee morale.

As this Reuters report on the poll sets out, survey respondents attribute the problem to:

  • High stress levels
  • Increased workloads
  • Favoritism

According to this post on the causes and cures of low morale in the workplace, another driving force is poor leadership.

If you are an employer or office leader, it is important to be proactive in recognizing and remedying low morale in the workplace. You can start with some guidance from this post on 5 No-Brainer Morale Boosters. Topping the list is "do as you say." Hypocracy is a very destructive force and "you should hold yourself accountable just as you do your employees." More tips can be found in this HR World post on boosting morale, including:

  • Celebrate personal milestones
  • Establish employee-recognition programs
  • Treat employees to lunch
  • Check in regularly through individual and group meetings
  • Bring employees together to perform community service
  • Offer financial incentives
  • Conduct employee-satisfaction surveys

As this TechRepublic post on team morale points out, no one should ignore the uplifting power of being a good listener and saying "thank you." If you are looking for a group exercise to raise office spirits, you should take note of this post discussing the office morale-boosting effects of NCAA office pools.

Do you have any suggestions about boosting office morale? Please share them with us here or on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

By Bradley Eggers


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Taming Office Interruptions
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 9:26 AM

"Got a minute?"

How many times during your typical workday do you hear this question or its equivalent in the form of an urgent email or a phone call requiring your immediate attention?

Can That Call Wait? Turn on Your Voicemail!

According to a New York Times article on the chaos of modern office life, you probably hear it more times than you can count. Profiling a scientific study of workplace interruptions, the article cites this finding:

"Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else. What's more, each 11-minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter three-minute tasks, like answering e-mail messages, reading a Web page or working on a spreadsheet. And each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task"

Given this steady stream of interruptions, it is no wonder that many of us feel unproductive and depleted at work. But, we are not powerless. Although we cannot eliminate them, we can take steps to minimize office interruptions so we can accomplish more and stress less.

One way to diminish these distractions is to block off an hour or so each day when you:

  • Close your door (literally or by telling coworkers that you are unavailable)
  • Activate voicemail
  • Silence your smartphone
  • Ignore your email inbox

You can fortify this no-interruption zone by responding to emails only at designated times. A little communication also goes a long way. If someone comes to your office or calls when you are busy, you can politely, but firmly, say: "I only have five minutes right now. Can we set up another time to talk at greater length?" Another trick of mine is to use more 'quiet' times in the office to work on projects where I need uninterrupted concentration. For example, first thing in the morning or lunchtime both work well for me to focus with minimum interruptions.

For more practical tips on taming office interruptions, take a look at these posts:

As always, feel free to share your tips and tools for minimizing office interruptions with us.

by Candie Harris



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Are you a Piler, or a Filer? Tell us and You Could Win a PileSmart Organizer Tray!
Monday, May 17, 2010 1:58 PM
Congratulations to Amy B., Betsy K. and Phyllis C. Your names were randomly chosen and you've each won a PileSmart ® Desktop Organizer Tray! Thanks to all who participated in the Piler vs. Filer Contest. Your comments were all very interesting...
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Beyond Folders Sweepstakes Rules and Regulations
Monday, May 17, 2010 6:49 PM
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Problem Solving at Work (Part II)
Thursday, May 13, 2010 9:37 AM

My last post discussed why problems arise in the workplace and how we typically deal with them when they do. In this post, we will take a closer look at the problem solving process.

"Nothing gives one so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances."

A article on resolving conflict at work cites this Thomas Jefferson quote to point up the importance of keeping calm, cool and collected in the face of a problem. As the article notes, we need to step back and try to see the bigger picture. This perspective-taking includes a candid appraisal of what we might have done/be doing to fuel the issue.

Once you - and everyone else involved - have settled down, you can address the problem step-by-step. As an initial step, it is important to pinpoint the issues by fielding and clarifying different perspectives. A next step is to brainstorm solutions that satisfy everyone's interests. To find the point (or points) of mutual interest, you need some patience and creativity. You also need good active listening skills. When you engage in active listening, you offer physical and/or verbal signs that you understand and appreciate what people are saying to you. Make direct eye contact, nod your head and say "OK, go on" or "I understand."  Clarity of understanding is critical here, you may even need to repeat back, "This is what I understand and heard you say, " ---- " is that correct?"  

Once you have some possible solutions on the table, you must collaborate to evaluate and select the best option or options. To facilitate this part of the process, you can answer several key questions set out in this article on How to Become an Effective Problem Solver:

  • How many options do you have?
  • Which options seem reasonable?
  • Have you weighed the pros and cons of your options?
  • Are there any limitations to your options?
  • Are some options better than others? If so, why?
  • Are there advantages and disadvantages you need to take into consideration?

One added technique working well for us at our Esselte manufacturing facilities around the globe is "Try-Storming" our options.  By using mock-ups and simulations built of various raw materials, we give the team a better, more realistic view of the success of their idea.  This process takes mistakes and time out of the problem solving life cycle and shortens the lead time to successful outcomes.

After weighing the options and deciding on a solution, you should memorialize the solution in a written agreement. According to this article on problem solving in the workplace, any agreement should include provisions for revisiting your solution on an ongoing basis to ensure that it still meets your needs.

If you use a problem-solving process at work, we want to know about it. Please share it with us here or on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers

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Working at 30,000 Feet
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 9:41 AM

In the film Up in the Air, George Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham, is obsessed with the elite status that comes with earning 10 million frequent flyer miles. While we might not aspire to be a Bingham, many of us can relate to his life as an airborne business traveler.

Up In The Air

In 2009, 48% of adults in the U.S. traveled by air for business purposes. If you were among them, you know that air travel can be challenging. As this New York Times article details: "Flights on domestic jetliners are fuller than ever, as the industry's fleet, shrunken from bankruptcies and other post-Sept. 11 travails, struggles to accommodate demand that grows with the economy." With all these challenges, it can be hard to get work done in flight. But, without much choice, we soldier on.

When I travel for business, I make sure to bring reading materials like business articles for power-down times like takeoff and landing. To take full advantage of the uninterrupted hours, I also take carry-on projects like document reviews that require my undivided attention. It helps to have a notepad, pen, calculator and paperclips handy. Here are some other tips for working aloft:

  • Prepare a task list before getting on the plane
  • Create a to-do folder on your laptop so you can easily get to the material you want to work on
  • Use headphones to block out interruptions if noise and constant movement in the aisles tend to distract you
  • Remember to pace yourself and take frequent get-up-and-stretch breaks

When it comes to using laptops in-flight, things are looking up now that some 500 domestic airliners offer wireless Internet access (usually for a fee). As a practical matter, if I am traveling coach and need to use my laptop, I try to get a seat in an exit row to avoid the perils of my front neighbor's reclining seatback. If you are traveling with your MacBook (and iPad) in tow, take a look at Guy Kawasaki's Ultimate Mac Road Warrior Setup. Additional tips can be found in the Road Warrior Toolbox supplied by small business marketing expert John Jantsch

How do you work at 30,000 feet? Let us know in the comments area here or via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Candie Harris


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Stop the Multitasking Madness
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 11:03 AM
Hold a conference call. Respond to an email. Add a contact in Outlook. Sign an expense voucher. Text a co-worker. ..... At the same time. No. You are not an octopus. You are a typical multitasker at work. Despite the demands of our 24-7-365 culture, the...
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Dealing with Distractions at Work
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 10:49 AM
We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves. - Alice Bloch n April, the international community marked the 40 th anniversary of Earth Day with events like climate rallies and forums on building a green economy. Despite our rising...
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Pile It On!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 8:50 AM

You know who you are.

Piler v. Filer

Just look around your office. On your desk. On the floor. On top of the filing cabinet.

What do you see?

Piles, piles and more piles.

Yes, it is as clear as can be. You, my friend, are a piler.

And you are not alone.

Nearly half of all American employees claim that they organize paper by piling it on their desk. As this Fast Company article on Piles Versus Files highlights, "[s]ome of the world's most productive people are pilers. Al Gore, for example, is a busy guy, with mounds of paper to prove it. [And] many creative workers stay productive by keeping their virtual piles spread out and easy to glance at on multiple screens." One executive is so committed to "managing through piles" that she had an industrial designer build a desk "that acknowledges her stacking habit, yet gives it shape and structure."

There is good evidence that nature, as opposed to nurture, drives people to pile. Typically, pilers are right-brain dominant, creative types who are visually oriented. They crave stimulation and thrive in environments where there is a lot going on. To them, forming and sorting through piles is soothing and constructive. By sharp contrast, filers crave order, ease and calm. To maintain their equilibrium at work, they methodically categorize, label, purge and store papers. They need to organize and clear their workspace before they can begin to focus.

Although they might appear to be swimming in a sea of chaos, pilers usually know exactly where to find what they need at any given moment. But, if your piles seem to be getting the better of you, this WomensMedia post offers some helpful tips:

  • When you have stacks of paper and files for various projects and purposes, create a spine by wrapping a large piece of paper around each group and labeling it.
  • Use a clipboard to control loose papers for each project you are working on. Label the clips and hang the clipboards on your office wall or partition.
  • Set boundaries on your piles by restricting them to a single table or desk top. When a pile starts to spill over, it is time to go through it to streamline and straighten up the papers.
  • Put your papers in open boxes and mark the outside with a numbering system so you can easily identify the contents.

If you are still on the fence about your identity, you can take a filer vs. piler quiz. If you are a proud piler and you know it, we would love to hear from you. You can share your piling tips and tools here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Carly Fadako


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The New Culture of Collaboration at Work
Thursday, May 06, 2010 12:09 PM
by Candie Harris 1968 It was a year marked by social and political unrest. It was also the birth year of the office cubicle , that symbol of the modern workplace chronicled -and lamented- in Scott Adams' wildly popular Dilbert comic strip. The designer...
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Strategies For Communicating Across Workplace Generation Gaps
Thursday, May 06, 2010 9:53 AM
By Candie Harris Where do you hear the sounds of fountain pens scratching on paper while smartphones buzz with incoming text messages? In the typical workplace. There are four generations at work today: Traditionalists (born before 1946) value loyalty...
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