March 2011 - Posts

Keep Your Motor Running: Tips for Optimizing Energy Levels
Thursday, March 31, 2011 2:18 PM

Want to hit the ground running each morning? How about operating at peak capacity throughout the day? Optimize your energy level with a few simple steps.

 Sleep: Get a full night of shut-eye. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Having trouble catching your ZZZs? Read WebMD's Sleep Tips  for the 411 on sleep including avoiding alcohol and unplugging distracting lights in your room.

Snacking: Much like a car, you can't run on empty. Refuel throughout the day with small, healthy snacks such as nuts and hummus and veggies. Read our past post Healthy Office Eating Made Easy for more ideas. 

Stretching: Studies show that productivity slumps after 90-minutes and too much sitting leads to muscle fatigue and discomfort. Reboot your productivity by getting the blood flowing with gentle desk stretches: feeling good equals performing well.

Taking Breaks: Pace yourself through the day, allowing chunks of downtime to refresh your concentration and energy. Break projects into discrete portions and take breaks throughout. A fresh eye will often catch mistakes or allow for a new perspective.

Taking Time Off: Stave off burnout with time off from work. Add a three day weekend to your schedule when you can and be sure to take longer vacation weeks when work allows. Burning the candle at both ends decreases productivity so make time to recharge and refresh.

How do you stay energized throughout the day? Share your thoughts here and on the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

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Walk the Line: Balancing Part-Time Work as a Full-Time Mother
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 2:14 PM

Just as good fences make for good neighbors, boundaries between work and home life make for greater productivity and less stress. Yet in our 24/7 always-on-call-world, clear boundaries between work and home life can be hard to erect. For moms working part-time, or at home, the challenge is tougher still: how to maintain a productive, professional work environment when the sippy cup set demands attention.

The Ultimate Juggle

In a recent New Yorker article comedienne Tina Fey calls the topic of working motherhood "a tap dance recital in a minefield." Fey takes comedic liberties with her description of working motherhood but she's spot on about the difficult dance.

Set work hours. By establishing set work hours (either the days you head into the office or at home hours of 9 to 3pm or noon to 5pm, whatever works) you can clearly signal to your family when you are not accessible. Setting up a framework of regular work hours also allows you to carve out protected family time, preventing the problem of "work creep," the phenomenon where work starts creeping into all hours of the day.

Establish a dedicated workspace. Try to find a quiet area of the home for your office (preferably with a door) and let kids know that a closed door means do-not-disturb. Establish a hands-off policy for work supplies in this area to prevent computer paper from becoming art projects or the lap top from being commandeered by tweens.

Nanny 911: Have a stable of babysitting options on speed-dial. Working from home doesn't mean you can work while the kids scamper about or while you drive carpool. School-aged children require babysitting after 3pm and the sippy cup set needs constant supervision; be sure to outsource that task to paid help so you can concentrate on work.

Need more ideas for making the juggle work? We've assembled some useful resources for working parents. Think of it as your toolkit for sanity.

 

Finally, here are some real life case stories of moms making part-time jobs work for them. Good Housekeeping has assembled some inspirational stores in Make Full Time Money Working Part-Time.  Tips include, letting personal calls go to voicemail during work hours and not mixing home activities during work hours: i.e. keep play dates and chores for non-office hours.

 

Do you have any great tools that help balance the demands of work and parenting? Share your thoughts here and on the Pendaflex Facebook  page.

by Candie Harris

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Designing the Ideal Workspace: Taking Cues From the Oval Office
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 2:10 PM

Perhaps the most famous office in the U.S., even the world, is the Oval Office.The very words conjure up power, panache and such iconic images as young John Kennedy hiding beneath his father's presidential desk. While only a handful of people will ever enjoy such a storied workspace, all office designers can take a cue from its composition.

 Let there Be Light: Natural light is a mood enhancer. If possible, take pains to incorporate as many windows as possible into your workspace. Not fortunate enough to enjoy the Oval Office's expanse of eleven-foot windows? Bring in task lamps and even floor lamps to flood your workspace with as much light as possible.

Bright Equals Might: Bright walls in whites and creams create a sense of spaciousness and energy. The Oval Office currently features a palate of yellows and creams. Chose light, soothing paint colors and leave moody hues for other areas of your office or home. Stuck with dingy or dark walls and carpets? Consider adding a light, bright throw rug, mirrored wall coverings or oversize watercolors to enlarge and brighten your space.

Spaciousness: Who doesn't crave elbow room? While the Oval Office's 800 plus square feet  make its dimensions generous for a workspace, even cube dwellers can create a sense of spaciousness by minimizing clutter and streamlining files and desk accessories. Less is always more so take time to assign must-haves a space and declutter weekly

Quiet & Privacy: Clearly the Commander-in-Chief can order up solitude and the quiet time necessary for concentration. For others sharing office space, carving out privacy and quiet can be a tougher challenge. Too noisy to concentrate? Consider using ear buds or noise-canceling headphones. Or relocate to an unused conference room for a block of time or to make calls requiring discretion. Perhaps you share a desk like many financial traders or maybe your cube mate is never more than an arm's length away. Create the illusion of privacy by placing stadium style files at the edge of your space or use a plant for a little screening.

Work Surface: President Obama joins the long line of presidents-Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush-who use President John Kennedy's stately wooden desk. In addition to a long pedigree, the desk has the oversize dimensions that allow for ease of use. Modern office dwellers might opt for a corner desk, which maximizes space and allows for better ergonomics. Experts advise positioning the computer monitor at least 20 inches away.

Inspiration: Workers today clock long hours at work. Be sure to create a welcoming and inspiring atmosphere. Did you know that President Obama added inspirational quotes from presidential predecessors as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. to the border of the rug he commissioned for the Oval Office? The quotes include FDR's famous words, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and MLK's moving, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Consider adding an inspiring plaque or pictures of your family to personalize your space. Environment plays an important role in boosting morale and productivity.

What is your idea of an ideal workspace? What design elements can't you do without? Share your thoughts here and on the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Carly Fadako

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Have Office, Will Travel: Setting Up Your Mobile Office
Thursday, March 24, 2011 2:05 PM

Have you ever done work 1) on an airplane, 2) in a Starbucks or 3) a hotel lobby? If you've answered yes to one, or all of these questions, than you are part of a growing tribe of digital nomads who clock work hours anytime, anywhere.

 Whether your mobile office is your regular 9-to-5 work spot, or just a temporary way-station while on the road, take time to set yourself up for success. Read our past post When Your Office is a Starbucks for must-haves including power cords, laptops and a wireless card. These items are the bare-bones of a mobile office, but new apps and software continue to make being mobile easy-breezy.

 For some of the latest tools, we also like the advice in Top 50 Mobile Tools to Set Up Your Portable Office  and How to Set Up an Effective Mobile Office.  Finally, for those minimalists wanting a streamlined list, check out Top Ten Tools for a Mobile Office.

At Pendaflex, we're always in search of the latest and greatest tips on productivity tools so we'd love to hear your mobile office-must haves. Share your thoughts here or at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

 

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Green Your Commute
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 1:57 PM

Tired of being stuck in morning traffic? With an estimated 123 million plus commuters in the U.S., getting to and from work can be more than just a travel headache: commuting adds up to major environmental and economic costs.  Interested in decreasing your commuting carbon footprint  or in saving on personal commuting costs?  You're not alone: across the U.S. there is a growing emphasis on greener commuting. We've assembled a primer on some wallet friendly and environmentally sound commuting options.

Carpooling:

A whopping 33 million gallons of gas could be saved each day in the U.S. if single drivers doubled or tripled up with colleagues. The American Automobile Association estimates the costs of driving a mile with a car to be 54 cents or $27.50 per day for a 50-mile round trip ride. Ka-ching! That's $6,924 a year before tolls and parking. Ready to ride share? Here are five online resources to get you started and an article on carpool etiquette to make it seamless.

Car-sharing:

Car-sharing, a twist on the more traditional carpooling, is growing in popularity. Car-sharing allows people who have only periodic need of a vehicle to take a stake in communally used cars. For commuters who regularly cycle or use mass transit to get to work, or for two-car famiies looking to downsize, a stake in a car-share co-op allows a car to be used from time to time. For more on this option, read Sustainable Commuting: Car-Share Co-op a Possibility and to locate car-shares in your area visit www.carshare.net.

 

Cycling:

In many parts of the world, bikes are common sources of transportation. From Beijing to Paris, bikes are a healthy, inexpensive and readily accessible source of transportation. For more information on commuting by cycling and bike sharing, visit www.theurbancountry.com, www.bikecommuters.com and www.bicylcinglife.com.

 

Mass Transit:

 If  you are lucky enough to live in a city or suburb with mass transit, you can put the car keys down with confidence, knowing that reliable transportation is at hand. Not sure if mass transit is for you? Visit this web site  to calculate the savings cost of leaving the car in the park and to identify transit options in your neighborhood. The site also has terrific tips on maximizing mass transit to reap big cost savings.

Do you have a "green" commute? How do you work cycling or carpooling into your day-to-day commute?  Share your thoughts here and on the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Carly Fadako

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The New Office Space: Co-Working for Collaboration
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 1:53 PM

Once upon a time, workers began and ended their career at the same company, either punching a time clock or reporting to the office for a 9-to-5 work stint. Seismic shifts in technology and the global economy have introduced a wave of new ways and places to work (hello Starbucks!).

With an ever increasing number of people working freelance or remote work gigs, what passes for an office these days is often a kitchen, library, airport or coffee house. But what of the worker who needs a more traditional workspace, but doesn't want the expense of office overhead or the confines of a big company? What happens when a coffee shop just doesn't cut it?

When Starbucks Just Won't Do

For a growing number of nontraditional workers, start-ups and digital nomads, co-working,  or a shared work environment, is a cost-effective alternative to a coffee house or kitchen.

Co-working allows independent contractors and digital nomads, to share a workspace, without necessarily sharing work or a company. Co-working can also provide a sense of community that is often missing for independent contractors working in isolation. Co-working spaces can also introduce work synergies, heighten productivity by removing the distractions of working from home and provide a professional environment for client meetings.

Co-working sites typically offer monthly membership fees or weekly and day rates for occasional users. Some sites are organized around industry, others are grouped by space, or time requirements. 

Interested in finding a co-working space in your area? Visit Co-worker Wiki  for a nationwide list.  The wiki also has useful information on optimizing a co-work space as well as links to global co-work spaces and special events.

For more, read Co-working: The Middle Ground Workspace  and Co-working: How to Find Better Office Space. Do you ever make use of co-work spaces? Does a co-working space sound like a productivity enhancer? Share your thoughts here and on the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

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Taxes: To Outsource or Not?
Thursday, March 17, 2011 7:00 PM

The U.S. tax code isn't easy to navigate. Just ask current U.S. treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, who oversees the IRS. Geithner's nomination was almost derailed by his failure to pay four years of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, a failure that Geithner chalked up to error,  errors which tax experts agree are all too easy to make when filing.

Geithner had been filing his own taxes. Would hiring a pro have made a difference? 

The Pros & Cons of Professional Tax Preparation

The Upside

  • Hiring a pro can save you time. The IRS estimates that individuals spend nearly 25 hours preparing their taxes. Time is money!
  • Tax preparation costs can be tax deductible.
  • Pros can find deductions or credits that you might otherwise miss.
  • Pros make fewer mistakes than the average tax filer.
  • In need of audit assistance? A pro can help you navigate the paperwork and can event represent you to the IRS.

The Downside

  • Ka-ching. Professional tax preps costs money. Depending on the complexity of your taxes, a filer can expect to pay a flat fee of $130 for simple forms with no deductions and up to $120 per hour for complex taxes.
  • You don't always get what you pay for. Not all tax pros are equal (or competent). In 2008, the Better Business Bureau reported that complaints on tax preparers were up a whopping 80 percent. Vet your pro before entrusting your highly personal information.
  • You need to plan ahead. Pros are not for procrastinators; they book up early in the spring and generally require paperwork weeks in advance of April 15th.

 

If you wish to find a CPA to help with your taxes be sure to check their reputations before entrusting your documents. If you chose to use one of the big nationwide tax prep firms such as H&R BlockJackson Hewitt or Liberty Tax Service, consider requesting a senior-level tax preparer.

Need a laugh this tax season? Check out ten humorous  (and true!) tax tales including one intrepid filer's attempts to declare pet food tax deductible and attempts by the IRS to collect four cents.

Do you prepare you own taxes? What tips do you have for foolproof tax filing? If you use a professional, how do you get your paperwork ready? Share your thoughts here and on the Pendaflex Facebook page.

 

 

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First Things First: Prioritization
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:57 PM

In real estate the mantra is "location, location, location" but in our busy work world the words to live by are "prioritize, prioritize, prioritize." Too many tasks and not enough time to do them is a common complaint in the 24/7 world of work. The ability to prioritize - that is to assess your to-do list and triage the most pressing, vital tasks - is a must-have survival skill.

Worried your prioritizing skills aren't up to snuff? Read on for the basics on putting first things first.

At the most basic level, prioritizing can be based on time constraints, potential profitability/benefit, or on the consequences of not completing a task.

Time-constraints:

Determine if a project can be put off or if there's a deadline that can't be missed. Assess how long will it take to do each project and determine if it makes sense to tackle the shortest projects first.

Potential upside:

Consider if certain projects likely to be more beneficial or profitable. Tackling a project that generates the most revenue may make sense or tackling a smaller project for a bigger client may pay long-term dividends. Assess the upside of completing each item on your to-do list.

Consequences:

Examine your to-do list and determine the consequences of not getting to a certain action item. If the fall-out would be major if a project is unfinished, that item moves up the priority list. No one will notice a task is incomplete? That item has low-priority.

For more thoughts on prioritizing, read Harvard Business Review blogger Peter Bregman's A Better Way to Manage Your To-Do List and Work Smart: Do Your Worst Task First (Or, Eat a Live Frog Every Morning)

How do you prioritize your work? Does taking the time to prioritize make you more or less efficient? Share your thoughts here or at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

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Living Without Your Computer
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 6:54 PM

In our 24/7 global world, where even our phones our smart, going without the connectivity and computing power of our laptops, PCs and tablets seems unthinkable.

Technology journalist David Lake went computer-free for 20 days and lived to tell the tale. Lake's computer-free diet taught him that the pangs of computer withdrawal are real, the absence of the Internet creates oodles of free time, and it's hard to find a typewriter repairperson.

Could You Live Without a Computer?

For many of us, work and computers are inextricably linked and going without is impractical. But could you put down your Blackberry and back away from your Facebook page for 24 or 48-weekend hours? And does taking a break from technology enhance, or compromise, one's productivity and efficiency?

Deprived of email, texting and Facebook, would you write a letter to a friend or pick up the phone to call? When You-Tube goes dim, would you head to the movies or visit the library rather than your Kindle iPad app? How about abandoning Wii Fit for a brisk walk outside?

Experts agree that downtime at work is necessary to reboot productivity. So would technology-breaks further recharge the batteries? Every individual is different but New York Times journalist Mark Bittman found that his self-imposed weekend technology-breaks over a six-month period restored a "thoughtfulness, a kind of calm" to a life that otherwise runs at breakneck speed.

Do you ever "unplug" from technology for set periods of time? How does technology-free time change you day-to-day? Share your thoughts here and on the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers

 

 

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How’s Your Body Language?
Thursday, March 03, 2011 5:11 PM

The Oscar winning movie The King's Speech gives the spoken word center stage but effective communicators know that body language plays a crucial supporting role.

Want to make a positive impression? Be sure your body language conveys confidence and poise. On your to-do list:

  • Smile
  • Make eye contact
  • Firm handshake
  • Erect posture, but not too stiff
  • Lean forward in your chair if seated

Negative non-verbal cues to avoid include:

  • Fidgeting
  • Clenched hands
  • Playing with your hair
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Crossing your arms

 

Let Your Intention be Your Guide

Worried that remembering body language tips will hamper, rather than enhance, your communication style? Or perhaps you're skeptical about the importance of this "unspoken" language? Top communications coach and academic theorist Dr. Nick Moran advocates letting your subconscious be your guide. Dr. Moran argues that consciously trying to direct your body language can actual come across as phony.

Rather, Dr. Moran recommends forgetting about your body language and instead focusing on your intent. What emotion, or information, do you wish to convey? If you want to convey excitement, anger, poise or determination, your focus as a communicator should be on telegraphing that emotion. If you do so, Moran argues, your body language will unconsciously line up with that emotion. Bingo! Your body language is reinforcing your spoken word.

For more tips on persuasive public speaking, read Dr. Moran's series of posts on Forbes.com. 

 

Are you influenced by a person's body language? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

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Managing Workplace Conflict
Wednesday, March 02, 2011 5:09 PM

Think managing workplace conflict is an abstract HR issue? Think again. Conflict at work can led to a host of negative outcomes including lost productivity, stress, chronic health issues and the inability to concentrate.

Work It Out

Getting along with co-workers and clients is a crucial business skill so if conflict is brewing, make time to address the issue head on. Tips for managing conflict include:

Take a Deep Breath: If a colleague is driving you crazy, take a step back and neutrally evaluate the situation. You may discover that the person in question simply has a different perspective or style and is not deliberately trying to annoy or harass you.

Be Candid: Take time to communicate clearly. If you've failed to tell your colleague that their behavior is adversely impacting you, how are they to know? Take time to calmly and coolly explain your perspective. Your co-worker 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.

Bad Bosses:  If your boss is the source of conflict, the same rules apply. Communication is key; try to dispassionately and professionally communicate your concerns and work towards getting your relationship on a better footing. If your interaction with your boss does not improve, consider consulting with your HR department for guidance or in a worst case scenario, explore other job options within the organization or elsewhere.

For more tips on managing workplace conflict, read Tips for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, The Real Cost of Workplace Conflict, and the useful 7 Steps to Defuse Workplace Tension. 

How do you manage work place conflict? Has your HR department been helpful in resolving worker disputes? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

 

 

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Making a Job Share Work
Tuesday, March 01, 2011 5:01 PM

For many workers, job shares are the Holy Grail of employment. Part-time days, full-time confidence that the bête noire of part-time employees-work encroaching at home-will be kept at bay by job share partners. For working parents, job shares are particularly desirable, providing the chance to maintain a paycheck and career while enjoying more time at home than a typical job allows.

Job shares may hold great appeal, but in our they are hard to come by and in Recession-crunched economy getting harder still. According to the Wall Street Journal,only 13 percent of employers offer job shares, down from 20 percent in 2007.

If you're lucky enough to have a job share, or are hoping to persuade a boss that one makes sense, read on for tips for making a job share work.

Pick the right partner. Before committing to a job share be sure that your work styles and work ethic are in sync. Neither partner wants to get stuck with a partner unwilling to pull their weight. Take time to assess your compatibility.

Communication is key. Job share partners must be excellent communicators. Consider a nightly check-in to debrief each other so that partners can hit the ground running in the a.m.

Create overlap. Design your work week to ensure that you and your partner share one day of office overlap. Schedule important meetings on your shared day and use the day to fine-tune synergies.

Make your case. Show your manager (and your other colleagues) that your collaboration allows the company to retain two excellent employees, who can in fact, perform the job better than one individual.

For more information on job sharing, as well as profiles of job share partners and how they make it work, read The Sustainable Side of Job Sharing. 

Do you have share a job? How do you and your partner make job sharing work? What are some pitfalls to avoid? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex 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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