February 2011 - Posts

Want to Feel Your Heart-Throb?
Friday, February 25, 2011 4:59 PM

February brings more than cupids and Valentines; the month also ushers in heart-health awareness with the American Heart Month.

Do yourself a favor and spend as much time this month learning about a heart-healthy lifestyle as you do shopping for Valentine's treats for your loved ones. Taking care of your heart is the best gift you could give the people you love.

Did you know?

  • Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S.
  • Women are particularly vulnerable because too many assume that heart attacks and disease are a male affliction.
  • One in three women will suffer a heart attack.
  • More than 42 million women are at risk of debilitating heart disease.

What Can You Do?

  • Reduce stress
  • Exercise
  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
  • Eliminate cigarettes and alcohol
  • Watch your cholesterol
  • Watch your weight

Heart-Healthy Resources

Go Red For Women, an education campaign sponsored by the American Heart Association. Provides heart-healthy information by age category, a heart healthy tool box and PSAs from a host of celebrities including beloved (and spirited!) octogenarian Betty White.

WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease A clearinghouse of information on living with heart disease. Provides advice on recognizing symptoms of heart attacks, how to monitor cholesterol, advice on finding support groups and more.

How do you take care of your heart? What motivates you to stay heart-healthy? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

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The Moveable Office
Thursday, February 24, 2011 4:56 PM

Is the corner office passé? For many, the hottest trend in office space is the moveable office.

On-the-Go Offices

Are you a digital nomad?Can you frequently be found working at the best coffeehouse in town? Are you often on the road, working in airports or hotel lobbies?

If you're part of the growing tribe of digital nomads, turn your flash drive into a secret weapon with portable software and a host of efficiency apps.

For a crash-course in on-the-go-offices read Create Your Portable Office with a Flash Drive and 100 Portable Apps for Your USB Stick. 

Both articles provide insight into browsers, email programs, and even operating systems that can store your data and settings on a thumbnail drive, allowing you to work from anywhere.

Another upside: once unplugged, your personal data leaves with you, rather than being left behind.

Room-to-Room Offices

If you work from home, your office may be the kitchen or dining room. Home office workers can benefit from a portable office that allows room-to-room moves to take advantage of optimal working conditions.

Home design site Remodelista.com culls through design sources to offer an edited selection of portable office solutions. Check out Office Furniture Carts on Wheels for the "have-files-will-travel" workers amongst us.

Do you have a portable office? What tools or resources allow you to work as a digital nomad? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

 

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Tick Tock: Understanding Your Time Clock
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 4:52 PM

 

The lengthening days are adding extra hours of sunshine, but are the longer days adding up to productive time? If you regularly underestimate how long it takes to get tasks done, and find yourself in stressful time crunches, it may be time to re-set your internal clock.

Assigning accurate time-estimates to tasks is the building block of time-management. And effective time-management produces greater efficiencies and relieves stress. So what are you waiting for? Time to get going!

Re-setting Your Internal Clock

Productivity web site Lifehacker offers useful suggestions for fine-tuning time management skills in How to Hone the Accuracy of Your Internal Clock and Better Understand Your Time 

Highlights include:

Practice time keeping. If you estimate your morning commute to be 20-minutes but it really clocks in at 35, you need to set off 15 minutes earlier each day to avoid running late. Keep time logs of tasks for a week or so for a more accurate gauge of how much time is truly needed to get things done.

Learn to use small chunks of time. A project may require ten hours of work, but that doesn't mean you need to sit down for a 10-hour time-block. Break the project into discrete tasks and assign time estimates. Have 30 minutes but no more? Knock of a 30-minute component such as phone calls or e-mails. Bit by bit, you'll move the yardstick on the project.

Anticipate interruptions. The phone rings, urgent emails arrive; the boss may call you in. Interruptions are an unavoidable part of work. Schedule disruptions into your time-estimations so you aren't caught short on time.

Maximize your prime time. We all have times of the day when our motor hums a little faster. Try to create an interruption-free zone during this time and drill down, perhaps on the toughest, most complex challenge.

Keep in mind that one's internal clock can run off the rails for a variety of reasons. Jet lag, insomnia and even daylight savings time can disrupt your routine. We've collected a few resources that address these specific challenges:

Do you have any tips on keeping your inner time-clock in tip top shape? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

 

 

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Organizing Team Building Events
Thursday, February 17, 2011 6:02 PM

Teamwork makes companies hum. Enhancing productivity and collaboration through team building events can be as elaborate as an offsite retreat, with presentations, challenges, and social events, or as simple as an after-hours bowling and dinner outing.

Team building events can be more than just opportunities for promoting collaboration, team events can help manage change in your company, reduce stress, introduce new initiatives to your sales force, or say thank-you to your team for a job well done.

Any successful event requires organization. Consider these points when planning:

Theme: Telegraph your message with a specific theme for your event. "Collaboration & Culture" or "Innovation & Enterprise" speak louder than "Annual Team Building Workshop #3."

Communicate: Consider surveying your staff prior to the event for input. Be sure to communicate the goals and event details well in advance. Transparency and communication will help ensure that all participants hit the ground running.

Take it Off-Site: Conducting the event or workshops off-site minimizes disruptions and allows for greater focus.

Mix it Up: Pace the day with a mix of work and entertainment. Workshops and presentations should be interspersed with "play" and physical activities to keep interest and involvement at peak form. Consider capping the day with a social event and meal.

Downtime: Build in downtime for reflection. Allow enough time between each activity for discussion, learning and application. A day with two team building games and discussion/reflection time beats a jam-packed day with little time for reflection.

Personalize: Help link group team building with individual growth. Have employees complete a commitment card, action planning list, personal promise statement or some other vehicle to help integrate new behaviors and collaborative tools into their workday.

Rewards: Thank participants with gift cards or company tee-shirts for their participation. And be sure to give recognition to the event organizers with a public shout-out and special gift.

Do you have any team building games or challenges to share? What is best team building event you've attended? The worst? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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Want a Promotion? What Not to Do.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 6:00 PM

Had an outstanding year at work?  If you've met or beat sales expectations, landed a major client, or shepherded a complicated project to successful conclusion, it may be time to ask for a promotion. Before approaching your boss, do yourself a favor and read our list of what-not-to-do when gunning for a bump up in dollars or a new title.

Promotion Don'ts

Don't approach your boss at the wrong time. Work events, the hallway, and the water cooler are not the places to broach the subject of promotions. Schedule one-on-one time with your boss to make your case. Pick a time when your boss is most likely to be attentive and receptive.

Don't talk about why you need money. Your boss isn't beholden to help you pay for a mortgage, a third child or any other financial commitments. Bosses give raises for stellar work products. Make your case contingent on past results and future capacity. Define your value to the company.

Don't be annoying. There is a fine line between persistently making your case and hounding your boss. State your case and be sure to give your boss ample time to consider it. While it is fine to follow up and pursue your goal, don't bug your boss daily or each time you interact.

Don't threaten your boss. Making your case should not be confused with making threats. Threatening to quit if you don't get a raise or promotion is one of the quickest ways to get shown the door.

Don't get discouraged. Bosses can't always say yes to a promotion for a variety of reasons. There may not be room in the budget for extra money and some organizations have rigid protocols for advancement. If your boss can't say yes at first, ask for a time-frame that spells out when your request might be granted. Schedule a time to revisit the issue with your boss at a future date.

Finally, remember the truism, "if you don't ask, you don't get" and be sure to go for a promotion or raise that you believe you deserve. For tips on securing a promotion, check out How to Ask for a Promotion in a Recession. 

Do you have any promotion "don'ts" to share? What is the worse pitch for a raise or promotion that you've encountered? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

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Married To Your Job?
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 5:58 PM

Do you spend the weekends pining for Monday? For most people the answer is a resounding no, but for many, the answer may be a surprising yes.

Work is inextricably linked to identify and self-esteem. We feel good when we're productive and on top-of-our game. But the 24/7 connectivity that technology offers, provides the opportunity to "produce" or work virtually non-stop. Technology alone isn't to blame. Workers have been burning the midnight oil, since, well, since oil, not fluorescent bulbs, illuminated workspaces.

When a person has so much of their identity tied up in work, putting down the Blackberry can feel like withdrawal. We like three pieces that examine the "married to your job" phenomenon.

For a Q & A format that examines topics such as the differences between hard work and workaholism and the different personality types that are prone to workaholism, check out The New York Times "Job Market" When Hard Work Becomes Overwork. 

Many die-hard-workers clock long hours not because they don't have another life, but because work is their passion. But what happens when a job becomes the third partner in a marriage? The effects of work on marriages receives thoughtful examination in Are You Married to Your Work or to Your Spouse? 

NPR assembles a wonderful panel including a clinical psychologist and the author of the wryly named book, "The Man Who Mistook his Job for a Life: A Chronic Overachiever Finds the Way Home." Listen in for a spirited discussion. 

Are you or your spouse married to your job? How do you prioritize work and your personal life? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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Managing Part-Time Employees
Friday, February 11, 2011 5:56 PM

Seasonal employees, sub-contractors, freelancers, job-share workers: a growing sector of employment in the U.S. is part-time. Adding part-time workers allows companies to meet demand without sending payroll costs ballooning, but also creates management challenges. We like Inc.com's take on how to do it right: 7 Tips for Managing Part-Time Workers. 

Tips include:

Write a proper job description. When an employee is part-time, it's even more critical to have clear expectations. Spell out responsibilities clearly.

Task part-timers with projects rather than open-ended assignments. Not all work is suited to part-time attention. Discrete, straightforward tasks are best suited to part-timers; save ongoing or service assignments for staff that is on the clock for the entire workweek.

Don't treat part-time employees as second-class citizens. Include all employees in important announcements and office functions and take pains to demonstrate that all employees are valued contributors, no matter their schedule.

Communication is key. Be clear that if emergencies pop-up, part-timers may need to be contacted during off hours. Be sure to have contact numbers and e-mails for such an occasion. Also, schedule regular office meetings during employees "on" days so lines of communication can remain open.

Finally, be open-minded about what part-time employees can offer. Managerial, as well as more junior roles, can often be handled part-time if a company and employee are willing to think creatively about how to structure a position.

How do you fold part-time workers into your staff? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

 

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Does Your Boss Make Unreasonable Demands?
Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:53 PM

Virtually anyone who has ever collected a paycheck has struggled at one time or another with demands that seem unreasonable. There's the boss who habitually calls you in at 5:30pm for tasks knowing your must-depart-at-6pm-to-relieve-the-babysitter-deadline. Or a higher up who thinks nothing of calling and emailing requests 24/7.

It's unlikely that many people are asked to field calls from scorned wives while their bosses dally with subordinates as in this U.S. Today article. But plenty of employees have had their back-up-against-the-wall moments of feeling pushed to the limit.

Tired of trying to tackle the excessive, the extreme, and the awkward? The comprehensive article Coping with Unreasonable Demands lays out (in a flowchart!) great advice for addressing demands that seem unreasonable.

In a nut shell, the article describes working through the following steps when faced with a demand that seems unreasonable:

  • Check your information and assumptions: Do you clearly understand the scope of the demand? At first blush, a request may seem onerous but if you ask questions, you may learn the scope is smaller than you imagined or you have a longer deadline. You know what they say about jumping to conclusions didn't you? Make sure you have all your facts straight.
  • Consider the other person's perspective: If you're working at maximum capacity and are asked to add a project, this can seem unreasonable. But consider that your boss might not know what's on your plate. Sometimes being asked to work long hours can seem unreasonable but perhaps your new job has a different work culture than your old. Is everyone on the team burning the midnight oil? Perhaps late hours are reasonable in your new role.
  • Explain your perceptions assertively: When a demand is truly unreasonable, speak up and clearly and neutrally explain your viewpoint. Suggest solutions that may be amenable to both parties; you may find a receptive audience.
  • Agree or disagree, and managing the consequences: Not all unreasonable demands need to be met but you need to be aware of the consequences of not going along with a demand. Sometimes the consequence is so negative that it outweighs the unpleasantness of meeting the demand. And other times you will find that the consequence is not serious enough to warrant compliance. So professionally let your boss know why you won't be able to help at this time and be sure to let them know that you if your circumstance, or the request changes, that you'll be all ears.

How do you manage unreasonable demands from a boss? What is the most unreasonable demand you've encountered at work? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

 

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Beat the Blahs with Office Decluttering
Thursday, February 10, 2011 3:43 PM
Marooned in the February doldrums? Beat the winter blahs with an early office spring-cleaning. Refreshing your workspace can do wonders to re-boot your productivity. Office space varies greatly-cubes, the corner office, sometimes even a kitchen corner...
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The Tax Man Cometh
Wednesday, February 09, 2011 5:50 PM

We know, we know, death and taxes. Sure as day follows night, April 15th rolls around every year so what are you waiting for? Time to get your tax paperwork in order.

Corralling Paperwork

The tax code may be complicated but getting ready to file your taxes needn't be. We like the simple, three folder solution outlined by leading investment site the Motley Fool. Grab three folders, label them "income", "expenses and deductions" and "investments" and dive into the user-friendly advice in Get Organized for the IRS. 

Deduct and Save

Once you have your paperwork in order, be sure to pay attention to your deductions. Read 10 Often Overlooked Tax Deductions to identify savings that too many people neglect such as "green" renovations to your home and the cost of professional tax preparation.

Want a Refund?

Are you in line for a tax refund? Read 10 Tips for Getting the Biggest Tax Refund  for helpful hints including deducting child-care costs and professional development. Also, the IRS is now app-friendly: check the status of your return on your phone or iPad. 

What Not to Do

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but an IRS return is not the place to do so. Common mistakes include math errors and missing or incorrect information. Read MSN.com's 10 Tax Goofs Many of Us Keep Making  for tips on error-free filing.

How do you get organized for tax season? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

 

 

 

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Simple Tricks for the Filing Newbie
Thursday, February 03, 2011 4:45 PM

Some people are organized by nature. You know them by their alphabetized spice racks, perfectly antiseptic medicine cabinets and tabula rasa workspaces. Others are not. But we believe that a little nurture can overcome nature so if organization isn't in your DNA, we're here to help.

Last week we covered Filing 101, offering a primer on the anatomy of a filing cabinet and a handy cheat sheet on what paperwork to save or toss. If you spent time with those posts, and implemented any of our recommendations, you're off to a great start for an organized 2011.

Now it's time for some tricks of the trade, those little "I-never-would-have-thought-of-that" tips that will help move you along the path from filing newbie to seasoned pro.

Making the Most of Manila Folders: What home isn't inundated with bills, receipts, kids' art work, and disparate to-lists? Consider using a few clearly labeled manila folders on a bulletin board or the inside of a kitchen cabinet to triage and sort paperwork before it disappears into the dreaded stack (aka unwieldy pile). Über-organizing blog the Unclutterer  has a helpful post on putting manila folders to work: Creating a Home Paper Management System. 

Portable File Totes: Digital nomads, freelancers visiting clients, or on-the-go parents may want to avail themselves of a portable filing tote. Portable totes double as a "briefcase" and make organizing while on the move a breeze. Organizing blog Ready, Aim, Organize  has a helpful post on the pros of portable totes (note: while they recommend a specific brand there are numerous totes on the market which can easily be found with a Google search).

Crack the Color Code: LA lifestyle blog Cupcakes & Cashmere trains its aesthetic sensibility on home office files. Read the post Office Etiquette  for details on synching an attractive streamlined desktop holder with a more comprehensive system in your filing cabinet. As a bonus:  the system is color-coordinated, providing a vibrant example of form meeting function.

Get to Know Your Label Maker: Filing newbies may believe that label makers are the province of the professional organizer. Not so! Anyone can, and should, add a label maker to their organizational arsenal. For inspiration, read 10 Great Uses for Label Makers for more on making this handy tool.

Be Boy Scout Ready: Steal a playbook from the Boy Scouts and "be prepared." When a health or weather disaster strikes, it's no time to be scrambling for insurance documents, etc. Prepare a file of emergency documents before adversity strikes. For more on getting ready for an emergency, read Preparing for the Unexpected. 

Do you have any filing tips or tricks? What little step or tool makes your filing easier? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Carly Fadako

 

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Family, Filing and Fun
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 4:43 PM

Filing doesn't usually rank high on the list of fun family activities but if you want to get your family on-board with family filing, we have a few strategies.

The Family That Files Together

To begin, educate your family members. Explain that the volume of paperwork coming into the house (bills, receipts, permission slips, class trip notifications, sports schedules, art work, etc.) is too much for one person to handle. If everyone pitches in, the job will go faster leaving free time for enjoyable family activities such as movies or game night.

Next, set up a basic system to triage paperwork that is easy enough for the whole family to follow. Consider using manila envelopes in the kitchen labeled with each family member's name for offloading documents. Or label the envelopes with categories such as to-do, to-sign, to-file, etc. and have everyone stash their paper in the corresponding file. For more on making the most of manila envelopes for organizing, read Creating a Home Paper Management System. 

Keep family members involved by rotating tasks. Consider having an older child pitch in on the weekly or monthly filing. Having an older teen file bills and medical paperwork is a great way of teaching budgeting fundamentals. If one spouse typically handles the bill paying or filing, consider switching off every other month so the division of labor is fairer. This also allows both partners to be fully up to speed in the family's financials.

Incentivize you family for pitching in. The child who unloads all their school and sports papers into their correct manila folder for a week gets a special treat. Did a teen tackle a particularly onerous stack of filing or bring order to an unruly pile? Let them pick the next movie for a family outing.

Miscellaneous

Other family filing ideas include creating a customizable family notebook where paperwork is divided into categories (i.e. sports/religion/menus) when family members can always find schedules and important contact numbers. Store this in the kitchen. Families should also have a go-to file for emergencies in the event of a weather of health disaster. For tips, read Life Hacker's Organizing Family Papers for Emergencies. 

How do you tackle family filing? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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Beating the Winter Blahs
Tuesday, February 01, 2011 4:40 PM

What a winter! All across the country it's been snow cold! with 49 of the 50 states receiving blankets of the white stuff. Only the sunshine state, Florida, has been spared. When the work day begins with a snow shovel in hand, it can be hard to feel motivated.

While we can't do much about the white stuff, we can offer the right stuff for beating the winter blahs. Use these tips, at work and home, and see if you can rekindle your can-do mojo.

Exercise: Reboot your energy and productivity with winter workouts. Getting the blood pumping is vital for energy as are adequate doses of vitamin D from the sun. Fitness.com offers cold-weather workout tips in Warm Up to Winter Workouts including the importance of careful stretching, sun screen and appropriate layering.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: Winter will fade into spring eventually so grab those, skates, sleds and skis and hit the slopes and ice for some invigorating fun! Hot chocolate and marshmallows to follow will have you feeling like a kid again.

Take a Trip: Plan a trip to a sunny locale. A Caribbean vacation would surely do the trick but if a tropical get-away isn't in the financial cards, consider a day-trip to a spa, indoor water park or even a botanic garden. A few hours of warm fun can recharge the batteries and remind you that winter will eventually end.

Think Spring: Take a tip from a gardener and begin thinking about spring now. Start cultivating your garden indoors with seeds; watching slender seedlings sprout is a cheerful reminder that spring is around the corner.

Finally read Real Simple's How Do You Beat the Winter Blahs?  with pick-me up suggestions ranging from visiting your local duck pond to pedicures.

How do you beat the winter blahs? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

 

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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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