November 2010 - Posts

Thriving During the Holidays: Advice from Across the Web
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 2:26 PM

Getting organized for the holidays can be a big nut to crack. Luckily its Nutcracker season! If your holiday to-do list is so long you're worried about finding time to enjoy yourself, we posted some great holiday organizing advice last week and this week have rounded up wonderful holiday tips from a few of our favorite bloggers.

So sit down, grab a cup of hot chocolate and get ready for some rocking holiday advice.

Remember the Reason for the Season: Zen Habits, the blog about mindful living and doing more with less, shares thoughts on making the season meaningful in How to Be Mindful During the Holidays, in 350 words.  

When Family is Frustrating: Not all holidays are Brady Bunch-perfect. Family get-togethers can be stressful. The blog "The Happiness Project" dispenses sound advice on dealing with challenging family members in 7 Tips for Getting Along with Your Difficult Relatives Over Thanksgiving. 

Give the Gift of Organization: What's better than a book? A book that will get you organized and off on the right foot in 2011! Creative Organizing recommends these reads in Holiday Gift Ideas for the Organizer on Your List: Books

Hooray for Useful Gifts!: Organizing maven Erin Rooney of the Unclutterer doesn't want you (or your friends and family) struggling under piles of useless junk. Rooney dishes out useful gift ideas in the Unclutterer's 2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Practical Presents. 

Twelve Days My Foot!: When the holiday decorations begin to go up after Halloween, the season can seem a lot longer than the 12 days of yore. And in truth, the shopping, baking, decorating and wrapping can take weeks. Time for the handy planners on the blog Life, Your Way. They're called Christmas planners but they work for any holiday or major event you're planning.

Do you have any favorite holiday organizing tips? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

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Never Miss a Deadline Again
Monday, November 29, 2010 2:24 PM

Dorothy Parker the famous literary wit once observed, "I never met a deadline I couldn't miss." Most of us can't afford to be so blasé about deadlines. At work (and in life) deadlines exist for a reason and are expected to be met. If you find yourself repeatedly missing deadlines despite your best intentions we have some helpful tips.

Care: To meet a deadline you have to care about the deadline. Really care. Make the deadline a priority and you've taken the most important step in meeting it.

Organize: Once you've committed to a deadline, keep track of it. Have a calendar or a running list of deadlines and dates and check it daily. A daily check-in keeps you on track and ensures you won't inadvertently overlook a due date.

Define: The deadline's when? Make sure you are on the same page as your boss or client. Be as specific as possible (i.e. don't say sometime next week, or early next month.) Ambiguity has the potential to leave one party feeling shortchanged.

Bite Size Pieces: Estimate how long the entire project will take and then break it into smaller pieces. Giving yourself smaller deadlines for each piece will help you stay on track.

Build a Cushion: This is for you procrastinators. Okay, it's actually for everybody. Building in a cushion helps you meet deadlines by allowing leeway to accommodate unforeseen delays.

Step by Step: You know what they say about the journey of a thousand miles. Just take that first step and then keep on going. Focus on that first step and don't worry about the rest until it's time for Step 2 and so on.

Be Realistic: When it's time to tackle a specific step, make sure you're realistic about how much time it will take. And make that time sacrosanct; treat it like a cannot-miss appointment.

Don't Over Commit: Just say no to taking on unrealistic assignments. If you cannot commit to finishing a project on time, don't take it on.

Pull Out the Stops: Maybe you underestimated the time a job needed, or perhaps you procrastinated. Now is the time to do whatever it takes to finish on time. Stay up late, work weekends. Do what it takes.

Never Again: If your best efforts to make a deadline still fail, take time to analyze what went wrong and assess how you can prevent future such mishaps.

How do you stick to deadlines? Do you think missing a deadline reflects poorly on someone? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook page.

by Carly Fadako

 

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Work it Out: Getting Along with Difficult Co-Workers
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 4:22 PM

In a perfect world, everybody would get along swimmingly including office co-workers. Alas, offices are full of people, and people come with a range of personalities, and not all interact harmoniously. Snow White may have watched the seven dwarves whistle their way to work but she still had to deal with Grumpy. Some fairytale!  

Getting along well with others is not just a skill for the nursery-school set. The ability to work well with co-workers, clients and bosses is a must for professional growth, no matter the differences in temperament and work styles. So if your days are spent dealing with the office grump, know-it-all, or another personality type that drives you bonkers, read on for some tips for dealing with difficult personalities.

Take a Deep Breath: If a colleague is driving you crazy, take a step back and try to understand if this is simply a "different strokes for different folks" situation. If you see that the person in question simply has a different perspective or style and is not deliberately trying to annoy or harass you, you may find some of your animosity dissipate.

Clear the Air: No one is a mind reader. If you've failed to communicate that someone's behavior is adversely impacting you, how are they to know? Take time to calmly and coolly explain how you feel. They may be unaware that their behavior has upset or bothered you and may be receptive to your concerns.

Agree to Disagree: Sometimes people are truly out of sync. You can agree to disagree with a person's work style or opinion. Just be sure to treat your co-worker professionally and politely and make clear that you expect the same courtesy.

Take it Up with Higher Ups: If a co-worker is deliberately sabotaging you,  shirking work or committing a host of other office sins, schedule time to discuss the situation with your boss. Again, be sure to remain professional and objective. Your boss will be more receptive to your concerns if you don't come off as a complainer or an emotional wreck.

When the Boss is the Bad Egg: Bosses are people too and sometimes you wind up with working for a difficult personality. Again, communication is key; try to dispassionately and professionally communicate your concerns and work towards getting your relationship on a better footing. If the boss just can't be tolerated, consider consulting with your HR department for guidance or in a worst case scenario, explore other job options within the organization or elsewhere.

Have you had trouble dealing with difficult personalities at work? Does your office have any policies that keep office relationships harmonious? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

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Keep Your Chin Up!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 2:14 PM

We know, we know. It's been a tough few years. High unemployment and unfavorable business conditions linger, the country just went through a bruising election cycle and now the holiday crunch time is in the offing.

When life feels overwhelming, enthusiasm for digging in at work can be underwhelming. If low morale is an issue for you (or your staff) it's time to bust out of that slump.

Get Your Motor Running

Tackle a new challenge: Freshen up your daily routine by taking on a different project or adding a new skill set. A break from the "same old, same old" can be revitalizing.

Take a break: When the days seem long, break work into 90-minute chunks and then take a breather with a trip to the office kitchen for a healthy snack or a brisk walk around the block. Make a habit or recharging your batteries every few hours.

Take a longer break: Consider using a vacation day for a three-day weekend or an even longer time off. Vacations can be a perfect way to reset and regroup.

Recruit a support team: Enlist a trusted co-worker, friend or spouse to help you keep your chin up. Schedule time for blowing off steam and generating positive energy. This group can be a sounding board for work challenges and can also provide much needed non-work related diversions.

Reward Yourself: Have you put in a good day's work? Reward yourself. Treat yourself to delivery for dinner. Or plan a fun Friday night out after a long week. Promise yourself a pedicure or a movie when you finish an outstanding project. Incentivize yourself to get working!

Rev Up Your Team

Give Thanks: When bonus money is tight, don't underestimate the power of a heartfelt thank you. Everyone likes to be recognized for their contributions so be sure to thank employees for a job well done. Get specific, praise them for revenue raised or an event organized with polish and panache.

Little Things Can Go a Long Way: Show your staff you appreciate their efforts with gift cards to local lunch places or pizza party Fridays. Can't dish out big raises? Offer an extra paid vacation day on their birthdays. Small gestures can go a long way.

Confer Public Recognition: Has a staff member been burning the midnight oil? Did someone recently land a big client? Give a public shout-out at an all-hands meeting or staff retreat. Publically recognizing someone for their efforts is a fantastic morale booster.

Encourage Training and Skill-Building Classes: Encouraging (and paying for) your employees to undertake professional training or classes lets them know you believe in their future and care about their career growth. That's motivating!

Gym Memberships: Fit employees are happy employees. Encouraging your employees to embrace healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise and smart nutrition pays dividends for companies. Employees are healthy, more motivated and happier.

Input: So what do you think? Does asking for input make you feel like your opinion matters? Of course it does! Solicit feedback and suggestions from your staff about work projects and company policies. Everyone wants to be heard.

How do you keep your morale up during challenging times? Does your office have any policies for boosting morale? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook  page.

by Carly Fadako

 

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Stretching the Truth: How Far Is Too Far?
Thursday, November 18, 2010 2:40 PM

We all know honesty is the best policy so how come white lies and fibs keep popping up on resumes? Lately, the papers are full of stories about individuals ranging from Congressional candidates to medical researchers to the Notre Dame football coach who have lied about (or distorted) their credentials. What gives?

In a tough job market, people may be tempted to embellish their resumes to improve their chances of getting hired. But HR departments are on to this phenomenon. A CareerBuilder.com http://bit.ly/ajuCTH survey found that nearly half of hiring managers surveyed reported catching candidates lying on their resumes. That's a lot of resumes hitting the trash can.

Ever been tempted to embellish your resume? You are clearly not alone.

Check out the top most common fibs popping up on resumes. They include:

  • Lying about a degree, education
  • Playing with dates to hide gaps in work or to appear younger/older
  • Exaggerating numbers (i.e. inflating sales figures, etc.)
  • Lying about salary
  • Inflating titles
  • Lying about technical ability (claiming versatility in certain software, etc.)
  • Lying about language fluency
  • Fake addresses
  • Padding GPAs

Catching a job candidate in a resume lie or exaggeration is a red-flag for hiring managers. Outright lies and even distortions can sabotage not only your chances of getting the job to which you are currently applying but other jobs down the road. If headhunters find out you're untrustworthy, they won't come knocking on your door again. Professional circles can be small; don't tarnish your reputation.

Honesty is always the best policy.

Have you ever seen a white lie or a whopper on a resume you've been given? How does your company conduct background checks on prospective employees? Post your thoughts here or at the Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

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The Office Party: Don’t Check Your Professionalism with Your Coat
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 2:37 PM

Think the office holiday party is a time to let your hair down and blow off some steam? Think again. It's called an "office" party for a reason: the end-of-the year holiday party is an extension of work and attendees should conduct themselves accordingly.

The first rule of thumb: watch your alcohol consumption. The odds of winding up with a lampshade on your head, or committing other embarrassing lapses in judgment, are greatly decreased if you practice moderation or skip the bar altogether.

Parties generally call for festive attire but leave revealing looks for off-hours. Punch up your regular office apparel with bright colors or party fabrics such as sequins and velvet, but keep covered up.

Likewise, keep party chit chat professional. You don't need to break out power point presentations but you do want to avoid revealing too much personal information or appear to be engaging in flirty banter with your colleagues. Save your witty one-liners for close friends and keep your office colleagues at a warm distance.

Finally, understand that the office party is a chance for you to shine (and we don't mean on the dance floor). Senior level staff are often required to interact with clients or represent the company. Navigating social situations with polish and professionalism will get you noticed for the right reasons.

For more dos and don'ts, Forbes.com has an instructive gallery of pictures: How Not To Behave At The Office Party. 

Do you have any office party tips to share? Post your thoughts here or at the Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Carly Fadako

 

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Best or Worst Office Gifts- Share Your Story!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 5:13 PM
What has been your favorite or no-so-favorite office gift? Last month we posted about Office Gift Giving Strategies . We offered some great tips and ideas for gifting in these tight recessionary times and discussed 10 useful Do's and Dont's to...
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The Leader Within
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 2:32 PM

Think you have it in you to become the boss? Consider these five leadership traits from Entrepeneur.com and see how you stack up.

Vision: Effective leaders not only have a vision of where they're heading, they can communicate that goal and bring others along.

Passion: Effective leaders do what they love and love what they do. A leader's true commitment to their message, cause or company makes others willing to trust in that individual to chart an effective course.

Decision Making: The buck stops here. An effective leader can make the tough calls. A leader works to achieve group consensus when appropriate but can take sole responsibility when necessary.

Team Builder: If you're going to be a great leader, you need followers (aka there is no "I" in team.) Leaders designate effectively, encourage and promote their subordinates strengths and inspire teams to do great work. And when need be, leaders step in and guide by example.

Character: To thine own self be true. A great leader has strength of character: they know their strong suits (and weaknesses) and are not tempted by fads or expediency. A leader remains true to their essential character and can be trusted to remain constant.

Finally, remember that other qualities can be important leadership traits. Harvard Business Review blogger John Baldoni makes the case for humility as a leadership trait.  Baldoni says
"A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person's humanity." Baldoni suggests that leaders, "Take pride in what you have done, but use it as a platform to bring people together to do greater things, e.g. increase sales, improve quality, or save the planet. Use your leadership for something other than self-aggrandizement."

What other traits might be useful leadership qualities? How do you define leadership? Can leadership traits be learned or are they innate? Share your thoughts here and at the Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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New Year, New Opportunities
Monday, November 15, 2010 2:22 PM
2011 is right around the corner. This year spend your holiday vacation downtime doing more than sweeping up pine needles and New Year's confetti. Take time to take stock of your career by assessing how the year went and where you want to go in the...
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Putting the Jolly Back into Your Holidays
Monday, November 15, 2010 2:20 PM
Cooking. Shopping. Decorating. Hosting. The holiday to-do list can easily be overwhelming. Don't burn your holiday candles at both ends; prevent burnout with careful preparation. Doing so will save you time and money and put the merry back into the...
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Harness the Power of Positive Thinking at Work
Friday, November 12, 2010 4:15 PM
Want to succeed at work? Start by seeing the glass as half full, not half empty. That's right, a positive outlook fuels success and enhances performance in all areas of life including work. Studies show that when we feel positive, we act productively...
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Communicating Better With Your Boss
Thursday, November 11, 2010 2:33 PM

If men are from Mars and women from Venus, what planets do bosses and direct reports occupy? Smart workers strive to be on the same planet, er, page as their boss. Direct, unambiguous and mutually respectful communications are key.

Too often communication breaks down between bosses and direct reports because neither is speaking the same language: expectations are out of sync. For example, the boss may want an overview but the employee provides minute detail. Or vice versa.

Here are five strategies to ensure that you are communicating effectively with your boss.

Be prepared.

Unless you're making casual water cooler chitchat, be sure to be organized before all verbal and e-mail interactions.

Be direct.

Don't beat around the bush. Direct, unambiguous communication is more professional than soft-pedaling information. Be polite, but be direct. Likewise, if your boss gives you negative feedback, keep your cool and respond neutrally.

Be a good listener.

Communication is a two-way street. You need to listen and truly understand what you're being told. If you're at all confused, ask for clarification. And maintain good eye contact so your boss knows you're listening. Everyone wants to be heard.

Be there.

Face-to-face conversations are a must for good relationships. Don't allow the ease of e-mail to entirely supplant personal contact.

Be clear.

Before ending your chat with your boss, make certain that each of you understands the next steps, strategies, etc. that you have agreed upon. This puts you on the same page going forward.

Do you communicate effectively with your boss? What tips do you have for keeping open channels of communication? Share your thoughts here and at the Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Carly Fadako

 

 

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Coaching Your Culture Change: Tricks to Make it Happen
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 2:28 PM

The recent election shook up the political landscape but many of the newly minted elected, who ran on campaign promises of bringing change to Washington, have their work cut out for them. Changing culture is no easy task, as many business leaders could tell their counterparts in government.

An organization's culture is formed over many years for a variety of reasons. Sometimes company culture is rooted in the style of the company founder. Other times culture is established by the prevailing management team. Since managers tend to hire people like themselves, organizational culture is reinforced by new hires.

Changing office culture is difficult to be sure, but not impossible. In How to Change Your Organization's Culture the "Wall Street Journal Guide to Management" states "changing an entrenched culture is the toughest task you will face. To do so, you must win the hearts and minds of the people you work with, and that takes both cunning and persuasion."

So how to begin? In their book "Blue Ocean Strategy,"  authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne suggest three initial strategies.

  • Start the change process with people who have disproportionate influence in the organization. If they can be brought along, others will follow.
  • Look for ways to get people to understand the glaring realities that make change necessary. For example have senior management field customer services calls or pull an "Undercover Boss" and have leadership spend some time in the trenches.
  • Look for ways to redistribute resources toward "hot spots" areas that require few resources but result in dramatic change rather than devoting resources trying to effect changes that aren't high visibility, high-impact.

Finally, consider evaluating your company's personnel structure. Too often only a small portion of workers' creative capabilities are tapped. Spend time identifying employees' strengths and create task forces with a tailored mix of talents and experience levels. And start to watch the needle the move.

Does your organization have a particular office culture? Share your thoughts here and at the Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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Meet with Success
Tuesday, November 09, 2010 2:15 PM

Time in meetings isn't always time well spent. Studies show that up to 50 percent of meeting time is wasted: listening to ineffective presentations, daydreaming and even dozing. Yes, people do sleep during meetings. Want to make sure no one gets caught napping in your meetings? We've assembled some useful tips for running productive, engaging meetings.

Meeting Guidelines

To begin, let's deal the myth that office workers universally abhor meetings. In Why We Secretly Love Meetings Harvard Business Review blogger and management consultant Ron Ashkenas asserts that most managers actually like meetings. Ashkenas says meetings happen again and again for three reasons:

  • Meetings encourage social interaction. Most people don't enjoy working alone; they want contact and relationships with other people and meetings make them feel part of a community.
  • Meetings keep everyone in the loop. As companies become more matrixed and interdependent, meetings serve as a hub that connects an organization's various spokes, enabling people to know what's going on in other parts of the organization.
  • Meetings represent status. Meetings offer people a seat at the decision-making table and membership on different committees signals that one is part of the leadership team. Being asked to present or answer questions at a meeting can provide visibility and is status-enhancing.

Okay, so people may like meetings more often they admit but most folks would also agree they do not like having their time wasted. So take time to create and run productive meetings.

Effective meetings boil down to three criteria:

  • Effective meetings achieve a defined objective. Productivity expert David Allen recommends starting every meeting with a "statement of wild success." This clear definition of the best possible outcome for the meeting puts everyone on the same page, working towards the same desired outcome.
  • Effective meetings take up a minimum amount of time. Set an agenda and stick to it. Set a start and end time and allocate a specific time for each agenda item. Don't allow any one person to dominate the group.
  • Effective meetings leave participants feeling that a sensible process has been followed. Before the meeting ends, summarize what was achieved and assign participants action items. At the meetings close, debrief participants separately for feedback. What went well? What didn't work? What could be improved upon? This will help you run meetings more effectively in the future.

 

Finally, for more ideas, read Inc.com's comprehensive How to Run an Effective Meeting. 

Do you think meetings are an effective use of your time? What tips do you have for running productive, results-oriented meetings? Share your thoughts here and at the Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

 

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Making a Picture Worth a 1,000 Words
Thursday, November 04, 2010 1:26 PM

We all know the expression: a picture is worth a 1,000 words. At Esselte, where innovation and enhanced efficiency are both company goals and the guiding principles behind the office products we create, we value products and processes that can do more with less. 

 Whittling down a thousand words to a single crystal image is exactly the type of efficiency we admire. That's why we put great stock in visual management, or the use of  visual controls, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our work.

 Visual controls circumvent "out of sight, out of mind" and keeps what's important highly visible and top of mind. They also act as a "standard" giving all viewers the same visual cues and vantage point. Visual controls get everyone reading off the same page.

 Examples of visual controls include color-coding folders or reminders posted on office cubicles. The cues don't need to be fancy; they just need to clearly communicate information needed to make effective decisions. In short, visual controls are useful for:

  • Making problems, abnormalities, or deviation from standards visible to everyone so corrective action can be taken
  • Displaying the operating or progress status in a easy to see format
  • Providing instruction
  • Conveying information
  • Providing immediate feedback to people

Does your office make use of visual controls? Share your thoughts here or at the Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

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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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