December 2010 - Posts

Pile in Style
Thursday, December 23, 2010 5:27 PM

New Year's resolutions are right around the corner. Hoping for a clean slate in 2011? After the confetti's cleaned up, it's time to tackle those piles.

Fear not, we have no intention of trying to convert you into a label-conscious filer. We know that for every individual who happily labels and files paperwork,  there is a counterpart who just as happily piles that paperwork onto a desk. Instead, we want to suggest tips and techniques to bring a little style to your pile.

Every Pile Sometimes Needs a Circular-File: Give every pile in your office an end-of-the-year review. Toss or shred what is no longer needed. If the pile represents a completed project, move the pile to an archival box for storage. 

Upgrade Those Piles: Sort piles into organizer trays, bins or stylish boxes. Use thick binder clips or reusable, write-on clips to group like documents.

Prioritize a Pile: Make a "do-today" pile and keep only documents in it that you need for the day. Find a colorful letter holder or attractive, eye-catching tray and check this pile every morning, weeding out documents not needed for the day. The tray should serve as the day's visual to-do list; don't let it fill with clutter.

Corralling Mountains: Sometimes a pile just becomes too big. When a pile threatens to slide over and engulf all that's in its way, it's time for 1) an assessment to make sure all the papers are still needed and 2) a large bin or box. 

Pilers, we want to hear from you. How to you keep your stacks manageable? What tricks do you use to keep order among your piles? Share your thoughts here by leaving us a comment!

by Carly Fadako

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Recovering from Mistakes
Wednesday, December 22, 2010 5:24 PM

Mistakes are an unavoidable part of work and life. It's been said that the greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually fear you will make one. This celebrated quote states the obvious: mistakes are going to be made, no if, ands or buts. So don't hamstring creativity or the occasional need for risk-taking by desperately trying to avoid errors.  Rather, learn the fine art of recovering from mistakes and free yourself from the fear of taking a misstep.

Moving On

Get some perspective (aka don't panic.) Everyone makes mistakes and even if its doozy, you can still recover and move on (look at Bill Clinton or Martha Stewart for very public examples). Do not hit the panic button; instead collect yourself, take a deep breath and get ready for damage control.

Assess and forgive yourself. Successfully fixing, or moving on from a mistake, requires a little self-care. If you're so busy beating yourself up, odds are you are not going to have the energy to actually fix the problem. Recognize that you made a mistake, as everyone does from time to time, forgive yourself, and get on with the hard work of fixing your mistake.

 Offer sincere apologies. If you've erred, it's time to make amends. Take responsibility for the error, apologize sincerely to the offended parties, and get busy trying to rectify the situation any way you can.  Actions always speak louder than words so put in some solid work before you expect absolution for your error.

Try, try again. Don't let mistakes derail you from staying in the game. Hiding out may be tempting but doing so can make it harder to reenter the fray down the road. Stay visible, let your colleagues see your contrition and your continuing efforts to be a team player.

Do right by people. If you've made a habit of doing right by your co-workers, this will pay dividends when you make a mistake. People are more likely to have your back if you've treated them well. Similarly, don't abandon your friends in their time of need, be consistently supportive of those around you and support will be returned in kind.

You may also find useful advice in the helpful How to Recover from Four Major Mistakes at Work: Bouncing Back After a Big Screwup. 

How do you navigate mistakes? How important is a sincere apology in smoothing ruffled feathers? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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Nail that Interview
Tuesday, December 21, 2010 5:22 PM

Acing a job interview is a matter of style meeting substance: sound smart, look polished and you'll enjoy better odds of landing the position. Even if a job hunt isn't currently on your to-do list, you never know when opportunity will come knocking so read on for tips for conducting winning interviews.

Style Matters

First impressions are the only impressions that matter on a job interview. Rare is the candidate who gets a second chance to correct a bad impression. With that in mind, here are a few style pointers:

  • Be on time
  • Turn off your cell phone
  • Dress for success in a professional outfit and have pristine grooming
  • Body language talks. Be sure to exude confidence and poise.
  • Make eye-contact and demonstrate good listening skills by leaning in and nodding affirmatively

Substance Seals the Deal

Employers want to make good hires: convey the impression that you are trustworthy and have something to contribute to the company bottom-line and you will be that much closer to joining the team.

  • Look for opportunities to create affinity with your interviewer. Mirror their body language and try to build common ground in conversation.
  • Commonality should be more than "we-like-the-same-sports-team" chit chat. Look for similarities in work styles: are you leaders, list makers, consensus builders, detail oriented or big picture visionaries?
  • Come equipped with ideas of how you can move the company forward, not merely with descriptions of what you've done at your old job. Paint a picture as to why you can be relevant on their team.
  • Be prepared with a story about a failure or challenge you've overcome. These are typical interview questions and you want to be prepared, just be sure to make the lesson you learned the star of the story.

 

Finally, recognize that acing the first interview means you'll be facing a second or possibly third round of interviews. Don't make the mistake of phoning it in, prepare for each subsequent interview diligently. The more interview rounds, the greater the odds of a job offer, so carefully prepare, giving each interview your full energy and attention. The useful What to Expect on Second and Third Interview  offers additional insight.

How do you prepare for an interview? Share your thoughts here by leaving us a comment!

by Candie Harris

 

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Too Many Irons in the Fire? Tips for Coping with Project Overload
Thursday, December 16, 2010 5:20 PM

It happens to all of us. We all have days (sometimes weeks) when there is just more work to be done than hours to do it. If you're in the midst of project overload, we've assembled some tips for tackling that mound of work head on rather than getting buried by it.

Time to Get Going

Triage (aka Prioritize): What projects must get done? Which can be put off for a later date?

Organize: Break projects down into discrete elements and asses how long each component will realistically take.

Work Backwards:  Identify the due date, get it on your calendar and begin charting out a workflow, working backwards from when the project must be complete. Calculate how long each discrete task will take and subtract that time from the due date. Add in wiggle room for the inevitable delays.

Identify Resources: Do you need IT help with a power point? Does your project need major copying and collating? You don't want to wait until the last minute to figure out that your IT team is booked elsewhere or that the company's photo-copying department has several other projects ahead of you in the queue.

Many Hands Make Light Work: If you are swamped, see if colleagues can help pitch in or perhaps work can be outsourced to freelancers. If you are a solo practitioner juggling multiple projects, determine if your clients have flexibility with their deadlines.

Learn to Say No: In a tough economy, it's hard to say no to work. But too much of a good thing is still too much, so learn how to say no to stave off burnout. If you're worried about losing clients or upsetting your boss, be clear that you want to give 100 percent to a project or a job and are unwilling to commit unless you can deliver. Let them know that when your workload frees up, you'll be happy to take on the additional assignments. Odds are your honesty will be appreciated.

How do you prevent project overload? Have any tips for digging out when projects overwhelm? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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Here Comes 2011: Tips for Readying Your Office for the New Year
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 5:19 PM

It's right around the corner: A New Year, a clean slate. Take a few simple steps now to get your office in order for a productive start to the New Year.

 Make a List: Don't start tossing stuff willy nilly. Approach the year-end clean up in an orderly fashion by inventorying your files, deciding what to keep, what to store and what to toss. Next, make a master list. For example, if you know you want to keep 2010 customer files for posterity, put them on the archive list. Same goes for invoices, or purchase orders or anything else that has to be transferred to storage. Color code the list so files to keep are one color, files to archive another and so on.

Toss: We've said it before and we'll say it again. Organizing begins with eliminating the unnecessary. So get out that shredder and wastepaper basket and get ready to purge.

Buy boxes, and files and labels: Invest in solid, corrugated file boxes for archiving records to keep. Ready yourself for an organized 2010 by stocking up on files and labels.

Day Planner: Don't spend the first week of January playing catch up with your calendar. Get your day planner now and start filling in January appointments.

Sort Your Desk Drawers: Take 20 minutes to organize your desk drawers, tossing unnecessary items and grouping like supplies (i.e. post-it-notes, pens, staples) together.

Eliminate e-clutter: Does your email box overfloweth? Schedule blocks of time to get through the email once and for all and head into the New Year resolved keep your inbox from filling up again.

Do you have plans to clean up your office as you head into the New Year? What end-of-the-year organizing strategies do you use? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Candie Harris

 

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Refresh Your Office, Reboot Your Productivity
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 5:07 PM

Office blahs got you down? Feeling ho hum at work? For a quick pick-me-up, try transforming your office space.

Whether you call home, a cubicle or the corner suite the office, we all clock many hours a day at work. Experts say your day-to-day environment can have a profound effect on your attitude. And if "familiarity breeds contempt" - or at least the blahs - then a change, even a subtle one, can create a sense of vitality and energy. A new look for your office can give you a new outlook at work!

Ready to reboot?

Create breathing room: A simple clean up may be enough to do the trick. Toss old newspapers, magazines, coffee cups, unused office accessories and clutter in the trash. Look around, the view is better already!

Let there be light: Fluorescent lights provides visibility, not atmosphere. If your office policy permits, add a task lamp to your desk. Look for one in a fun color - bright yellow, hot pink - or add a decorative lamp with a shade casting a warm, soft light.

Seek inspiration: You work for a reason: to provide for your family, for money for hobbies or travel, to further your career. Use pictures to remind you of what matters most or what inspires you. Perhaps it's a travel poster of a longed for destination or photos of your children or pet. Screensavers of nature shots or family vacation photos can also perk up your mood. Rotate these images periodically for a fresh source of smiles.

Nature's Bounty: Fresh flowers are a mood enhancer but there's no need to spring for costly bouquets. Think holly branches in the winter and daffodils in the spring. Even clear bowls of pine cones or seashells are beautifully decorative and wonderfully free. Take pains to brighten your space, you spend enough time there to make it worthwhile.

Move it!: If possible, rearrange the furniture. In a cubicle this can be difficult to do, but even within a cube, you can often shift your monitor or move your filing cabinet. In a larger office or at home, try repositioning your desk to afford a different perspective. Again, depending on where you work and what's permissible, a fresh coat of paint, new wall art or rug can also do wonders in giving an old office a new look.

Does your work space affect your productivity? How do you create a nurturing work environment? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Carly Fadako

 

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How to Leave the Office by 5pm
Wednesday, December 01, 2010 2:32 PM

When the clock hits 5pm are you packing up to head home or are you still immersed in work? If you're having trouble leaving work on time we're here to help. 

Prioritize an Exit Strategy: For starters, make heading home at 5pm, or an appropriate quitting time, a priority. It's hard to meet a goal that you haven't set, so pick a time and stick to it.

Focus, Focus Focus: If you're tired of late hours, be sure to manage your time well during the day. Even the most motivated amongst us will admit to time spent slacking. Read our tips for time-blocking to use your time more efficiently.

Say No to Guilt: Don't feel guilty about leaving work on time. If your co-workers are still at their desks, it's easy to feel embarrassed about heading out. Don't. You may be a more efficient or focused worker than your peers. As long as your work isn't being shortchanged, leaving on time is okay.

Say Farewell to Face Time: Some office cultures unwittingly encourage or reward "face time" making it harder to head home at a reasonable hour. If this is a problem, take time to talk with your boss or co-workers to explain (and demonstrate) that your time in the office is highly-focused and productive. Justifying how efficiently you use your time makes it easier to head for the door.

Spread the Load: If you are burning the midnight oil because you genuinely have an overwhelming amount of work to do, it's time to talk to your boss about redistributing the load. Before you do so, take a few weeks to keep track of how you are spending your hours so your boss can understand the scope of the work and the time its taking. This will help both of you assess how to redistribute load.

Start Small: If heading out the door at a set time every day is a big mountain to climb, start small. Shoot to leave work by 5 or 6pm one night a week and then add a day at a time.

Have a Plan B: When all else fails, plan to finish work from home. While bringing work home isn't ideal, sometimes you just want to put the kids to bed or meet a friend for dinner. So head out the door to attend to your personal needs and commit to wrapping up the remaining work at home.

Do you have trouble leaving work on time? What are your tips for heading out the door at a reasonable hour? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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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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