We've had a
month of wet and wild weather where I live, after losing the lights one too
many times, the only type of storm I like these days is a good brainstorm. Done
correctly, brainstorming can produce a deluge of ideas and tremendous
thunderclaps of creativity. Talk about electricity!
Research shows that brainstorming is more than just
corporate hokum, and that if done correctly, produces measurable, usable
ideas. The very useful Business Brainstorming: Part Art, Part Science outlines 21 best practices that contribute to
successful brainstorming efforts. Number one? Leave preconceived notions
behind; they undermine brainstorming efforts.
Another useful article Brainstorming suggests sessions include a diverse group of people,
from different disciplines, in order to generate the widest possible array of
ideas. Other tips include:
While brainstorming often
connotes a group session, where people bounce ideas off one another, solo
brainstorming is possible. If you are an independent contractor or a
self-employed digital nomad read 5 Steps to Solo
Brainstorming Success for ideas on how to set up your solo session to get
the creative juices flowing.
Do you find brainstorming
sessions to be useful? How do you make the most of brainstorming? Share your
thoughts here and at the Beyond Folders Facebook page.
by Candie Harris
casual swept the work world during the heady Internet boom days. But the
Recession's back-to-basics emphasis has some offices putting the "business" back into business casual.
When a suit is
overkill and jeans are taboo, how does one walk the line? A good rule of thumb:
if you wish to be taken seriously, you have to dress seriously.
Aren't Just for Ball Players
business dressing today might mean a "uniform" of khakis and a blue or black sport coat.
In warm weather, pair the sport coat with collared polo shirts, in colder
weather and for more formal occasions, pair with oxford button downs. If your
work trends more casual, mix in bright colors or funky patterns; if the office look
is more polished, stick to subtle stripes and mix in the occasional tie. Tired
of khakis? Pick a few grey or black pants in lightweight wools or an
fashion provides more options and thus greater room for fun (and error). For
women envying the ease of a man's uniform of sport coat and trousers, opt for
creating your own standard look. Consider investing in a few pairs of black or
grey trousers in a flattering cut and then mixing in a rotation of blouses
topped with dressy cardigans or blazers. Take inspiration from high-end fashion designer Carolina
Herrera who only ever wears a
signature white blouse paired with neutral bottoms in black or taupe. Herrera
makes the look her own with fabulous accessories, think chunky necklaces, or
heels and belts in unusual materials such as alligator or leopard print.
the ease of dresses. It's far simpler to shrug on a dress than to coordinate
separates. Find a great wrap
dress that fits and flatters and
buy it in as many colors or prints as you can afford. Again, team the dresses
with simple accessories and a pair of knee high boots or flats and you've created
another version of a uniform.
Keep in mind
that grooming matters so take care to be in wrinkle-free, polished and
put-together. Business casual never means shortchanging grooming so just say no
to chipped nail polish or razor stubble.
Remember, at work,
the key is to look polished and professional but to be comfortable enough to
roll up your sleeves and get to work. At the end of the day, your work needs to
speak louder than your look.
For more tips on
navigating the new business casual, we've collected some resources for your
by Carly Fadako
measure of excellence that defines all that is desirable in a product, a
process, or a service, is the Holy Grail of companies. At Esselte, delivering
quality office products that enhance productivity is our raison d'être.It is our belief that delivering quality products requires strict attention to
quality processes: it's the chicken and the egg if you will.
Esselte, we make use of kaizen or lean tools
first popularized in Japan to continually improve all business functions, for all
employees, from the CEO to assembly line workers and administrative personnel.
As part of our
continuous quest to enhance efficiency and improve value, we are constantly on
the hunt for new and better tools and resources. Often, we are introduced to
resources online, by experts or through research, but another fantastic avenue
for ideas is homegrown. Often a company's own employees are the best source of
inspiration. Witness the examples in Harness the Power of an Employee Suggestion Program: Beyond the
The article posits that an employee
suggestion program can enhance existing idea-generating mechanisms such as
brainstorming sessions and staff meetings. To set your suggestion program up
for success, be sure to designate an administrator of the program and establish
guidelines for suggestions. Also, define rewards or recognition for ideas that
are selected and successfully implemented. Making employees stakeholders in
success encourages participation.
company have an employee suggestion program? How are valuable ideas generated
and shared in your office? Share your
thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Facebook page.
by Bradley Eggers
Documents don't come with
the handy expiration date found on cartons of milk. So it's not always easy to
tell if your paperwork has reached its "past sell" date. Interested in purging
your filing cabinet and hard drive of documents you no longer need? We've
assembled a list courtesy of ConsumerReports.org
with advice on what to save for now, what to keep forever and what can
(happily) be tossed.
Short timers: Keep for a year or less
Depends on You: Time frame varies
Seven Years: The magic
number for tax documents
The Long Haul: Essential records to be kept permanently
For those of you who have
gone largely paperless, storing photos, bank statements and even scanned copies
of vital records on your computer, keeping even years worth of material takes
very little space. For you paperless people, purging the physical clutter is
less important than ensuring that your files are adequately backed up. A recent
USA Today article MiMedia Backs Up Digital Files While
Saving You Serious Time showcases a new technology that makes backing files up easier than ever. The
article also discusses the pros and cons of using storage methods such as
external hard drives.
How do you back up
important digital records? What type of fling system do you use to keep vital
records at your fingertips? Share your thoughts here and at the Beyond Folders
When it comes to
must-have office tools its hard to beat the computer and the phone. Is there a
single industry or job today that doesn't rely on one of these two devices to
make it through a workday? We think the answer is no. But what about other tech
tools, the iPad, or social media resources such as Facebook or Twitter? Are
these must-have, must-use productivity tools?
The Beyond Folders
bloggers are always on the lookout for new and useful resources. In our past
post In Search of the Best Office Productivity Tools we asked for your top productivity tools. We're still
collecting input so send your thoughts our way! In the meantime, we want to
share two "must-have" lists: one catalogs the top four tools chosen by more
than 330 IT workers at large companies and the second are the resources of
choice of a freelancing digital nomad.
The Four Office
Tools That Tech Workers Can't Live Without:
The least useful tool
according to these IT pros? The desk phone was number one with video
conferencing a close second. Food for thought.
Tools I Couldn't Live Without | FreelanceFolder:
We want to hear from you.
Please share your top productivity tools and resources here or at the Beyond
Folders Facebook page.
Offices are a snacking
minefield-pastries at breakfast meetings, baked goods in the break room,
candies at reception-if you don't watch your step, you'll watch your waistline
Back Away from the Pastry
Can't seem to make it
through the day without popping an office pastry in your mouth? Time for some
tips to keep a healthy diet on track.
personality and New York Times bestselling author of Naturally Thin and The
Skinnygirl Dish, Bethenny Frankel, dishes up advice for combating
the office snack trap in 5 Tips to Keep Office Snacking From Derailing Your Diet. Tips include filling up with warm drinks: delicious teas or diet coffee drinks
score high on taste but low on calories. Or pack your own healthy snacks such
as nuts or fruit to stave off the midday slump that too often leads to vending
machines full of junk.
Refueling with small,
healthy snacks throughout the day keeps the body humming and prevents fatigue.
So stock up on healthy, portable snacks for office munching: hummus and mini
pitas, whole-wheat crackers and nut butters or yogurt topped with granola or
fresh berries are all smart choices. Read 8 Healthy
Office Snacks from
CookingLight.com for other ideas. And 11
Energy-Boosting Snacks suggests thinking
outside the snack-box for quick energy hits: high-fiber cereals and half a
turkey sandwich make terrific snacks at any time of the day.
Make time in your
schedule for healthy eating habits. Try not to wolf down lunch on the run;
harried schedules often result in poor food choices. Make time for healthy lunches
such as salads, red pepper slices and hummus or sandwiches stuffed with veggies
rather than fatty, high-sodium meats. Need inspiration? The New York Times has a wonderful blog of sandwiches ideas as well as packing tips
to ensure maximum freshness at your desk.
How do you combat the
office snack-trap? Do you have healthy office lunch ideas to share? Post them here or on our Facebook page!
I spend more hours in a day sitting at my desk than I do anywhere else including bed. And I have the sore back and stiff neck to prove it. To combat the desk-bound blues, I'm committing to a series of easy, desk stretches throughout the day. Join me! Your back will thank you.
To start, here are three of my favorites, courtesy of WebMD.
Shrug your shoulders: Great for releasing the neck and shoulders. Inhale deeply and shrug your shoulders, lifting them high up to your ears. Hold. Release and drop. Repeat three times. Shake your head slowly, yes and no.
Point your fingers: A wonderful stretch for hands, wrist, and forearms. Stretch your left hand out in front of you, pointing fingers toward the floor. Use your right hand to gently increase the stretch, pushing your fingers down and toward the body. Repeat with other hand. Next stretch your left hand out straight in front, wrist bent, with fingers pointing skyward. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pulling the fingers back toward your body.
Torso Twist: Release tension in the upper body. Inhale and as you exhale, turn to the right and grab the back of your chair with your right hand, and grab the arm of the chair with your left. With eyes level, use your grasp on the chair to help twist your torso around as far to the back of the room as possible. Hold the twist and let your eyes continue the stretch -- see how far around the room you can peer. Repeat on the other side.
For more stretches, read WebMD's Stretching Exercises at Your Desk: 12 Simple Tips.
In addition to stretching, desk workers should get up and move around at least every hour to promote circulation and get the blood flowing. Other simple desk relaxation techniques include breathing deeply; many people unconsciously hold their breath, which causes tension in our muscles. Take time to focus on breathing throughout the day.
Finally, before hitting the "send" button on an e-mail, consider getting up and walking to talk with your colleague face-to-face. Or hit the stairs at lunch rather than the elevator. Small steps can add up to relaxed results.
Do you have desk stretches or other office relaxation tips? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.
October is National Ergonomics Month (who knew?) but smart workers pay attention to ergonomics every day. People were made to move and bend, not sit tapping away at computer keyboards day in and day out. Carpal tunnel, back aches, neck pains, these are just a few of the modern maladies that might be prevented or mitigated with proper attention to ergonomics.
Given that so many American workers spend their days at desks, careful attention to sitting alignment and computer use is essential. The helpful article 7 Ergonomic Tips for Desk Workers provides useful advice to keep you sitting pretty. Tips include:
A Good Chair is Key: An ergonomic chair supports your back, legs, buttocks, and arms; typically an adjustable chair is the best option for maximum comfort.
Lumbar Support: Use a chair that supports your lower back or a rolled up towel or small pillow between your back and the backrest of the chair.
Posture Please: When sitting, your posture should be in neutral body positioning: hands, wrists, forearms, thighs and hips are parallel to the floor; head is level, shoulders are relaxed with elbows close to the body. Be sure feet are supported by the floor or a footrest and back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support.
Monitor Matters: Place the monitor directly in front of you and at least 20 inches away from your face. The top of the monitor should be eye-level or below.
Improve Lighting and Avoid Glare: Arrange your desk to minimize glare from lights and windows and use well-distributed diffused light.
Keyboard and Mouse: Keep your mouse next to your keyboard and be sure your keyboard rests securely on a flat surface. You also want to use a wrist or palm rest to avoid contact with the sharp edges of your desk.
Comfort is King: Make sure your legs have enough room, you can reach everything you need access to, and you can read without strain. Aaah, now that feels good!
Wrist rests, glare shields and other work station accessories can easily be purchased to help create a safe, comfortable working environment. Two sites that we like include ErgoPro.com and AskErgoWorks.com. Finally, keep in mind that ergonomics isn't just about the office. Daily activities in the home can also benefit from ergonomically designed products. Check out the OXO Good Grips line for everything from spoons to can openers, ergonomically designed to be both comfortable and attractive. Now that's good design!
Do you use ergonomic products at the office or at home? Do you have a favorite ergonomic aid? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.
Productivity and organization are the twin engines that drive companies. The Beyond Folders Bloggers are always on the hunt for products and tools that enhance efficiency. Regular readers know that we believe not all tools need to be fancy: the lowly wastebasket is unrivaled for it cost-effective role in ridding offices of unnecessary clutter. And not all products need to be new: the post-it note has been a foot soldier in the war on disorganization since it took the market by storm in 1980.
Still, innovation can address modern dilemmas. We are intrigued by the buzz about Google's new Priority Inbox. Can it really help tame e-mail overload? And is the iPad, which marries the portability of a wireless phone with the power and flexibility of a laptop, a productivity game-changer?
We want to hear from you. Tell us about your favorite productivity tools. What makes them so useful? And what tools or products do you think are overrated? Give us your list and we'll in turn share the top tools with readers in a future blog post.
We look forward to hearing from you. Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.
In real estate, the mantra may be "location, location, location" but at work the motto that makes life run smoothly is "communication, communication, communication."
We blog about effective communication frequently (see past posts Something to Say? Choosing the Right Form of Communication and How to Write Persuasively and Why) and we think about the topic even more often. Recently, I came across some terrific articles that crystallize the mistakes that people all too often make when communicating. Read on to avoid pitfalls.
What Not to Do
Harvard Business Review contributor Stever Robbins succinctly summarizes what not to do in Seven Communication Mistakes Managers Make. This article is spot-on in indentifying crucial missteps that sabotage effective communications. They include:
1. Making controversial announcements without doing groundwork first
3. Ignoring the realities of power
4. Underestimating your audience's intelligence
5. Confusing process with outcome
6. Using inappropriate forms of communication
7. Ignoring acts of omission
In our increasingly global world, communication must surmount not only time zones but cultural obstacles. If your work environment includes cross-cultural communications, take the time to educate yourself about the nuances of the world with which you interact. Good advice can be found in How to Steer Clear of Pitfalls in Cross-Cultural Negotiation - Tips for Avoiding Misunderstandings When Negotiating Cross-Border Deals and Avoiding the Pitfalls of Coaching Across Cultures.
Finally, I leave you with an amusing video produced by the Peace Corps illustrating cultural blunders in action.
Don't let this be you, educate yourself to avoid cultural communications gaffes and take steps to ensure that your domestic interactions are equally inoffensive (and most importantly, effective!)
Have you had issues with communication missteps? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.
Working parents pull double-duty, managing both paying work and labors of love. Pulling it all off requires patience, planning and frankly, luck. If you've ever had a child fall sick on the day of a major presentation, you know what I'm talking about. In the ounce-of-preparation-is-worth-a-pound-of-cure mode we've assembled some useful resources for working parents. Think of it as your toolkit for sanity.
Finding Child Care for Sick Kids: A Working Mom's Guide to Sick Kids: Daycare for sick kids? Yup, it exists; here's how to sleuth it out before Johnny has a fever.
Stress Management Tools for Parents: Take a deep breath and read on for stress-busting tips, everything from parental date-night to effective time management tools that help keep stress at bay.
Working Parents: A clearinghouse of information from leading web resource BabyCenter providing tips for working parents on topics ranging from childcare to managing mom-guilt.
25 Parent Productivity Tools for Busy Moms, Dads and Kids: Great productivity resources ranging from pet care to allowance trackers. Offers a productivity overhaul for virtually every aspect of family life.
Mom Puts Family on Her Meal Plan: Healthy, home-cooked dinners every weeknight? You heard me right. This helpful article takes you through the planning process for dishing up dinner after work.
Do you have any great tools that help balance the demands of work and parenting? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.
The numbers aren't pretty. More than half of working Americans have experienced a job loss, pay cut, or a reduction in hours since the 2007 recession began. As a result, the spending boom days of the early 2000's have subsided, with 62 percent of adults saying they've reduced spending.
The upside of the downside
The good news? Total debt balances have contracted by $690 billion, or 6 percent since 2008. Americans are now being more cautious with their money. Will savings trump spending in the future?
No one has a crystal ball but if you're interested in taking stock and scaling back today to save for tomorrow, we've assembled some resources that may be useful:
5 ways to get your retirement back on track - CNN Money.com: Yes, you can retire but that nest egg needs some tending after a few tough years. Consider downsizing your home now, rather than later and think about opting for a phased retirement, working part-time, before leaving work altogether.
How to Save Money on Groceries - Oprah.com: Food is the biggest expense for most people after housing. Cut costs at the grocery store with tips ranging from commonsense advice such as sticking to a list to avoid costly impulse buys to cutting costs with coupons from sites such as cuponmom.com.
Money101 Lesson 11: Saving for College: The early bird is better off; get started as soon as possible with 529s and investing in the markets and study up on tax-credits for tuition and breaks for grads repaying loans. Finally, read a first-hand account of how to get a debt-free education from a college student: Yes, College Without Loans Is Possible: The Math of Debt-Free U.
25 Ways to Save Money on Healthcare: Provides advice on comparison shopping for health plans as well as money-saving tips such as using generic medicines versus costly name-brands and taking advantage of sample medicines.
Save Money on Practically Everything: Tips on how to stretch your hard-earned dollars in practically every aspect of life from baby-sitting swaps to using a gas rebate credit card.
Does the recession have you cutting corners? How do you save? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.
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.