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December 7th, 2007

Saying “Thank You” in the Workplace

Home Biz Notes recently posted an article about how to master the “Art of Thank You” in a home business. Sadly, the art of thanks is something that seems to be slipping from the culture of most corporate hellmouths environments. Here are some of the things from that post which can be applied to the workplace:

*Remember your employees with thank you’s.

*Carry postcards with you so you can write notes while you wait or find someone needs a bit of cheer. These may be special ones or simply those purchased at the post office with a happy face sticker on them.

*Smile! Even those little smiling faces on your e-mail notes add a bit of cheer with thank you’s. Seeing your smiling face often brings an answering smile and cheers the person you encounter.

Click here to read the rest of that article.

As for the corporate slave employee, here are some additional tips that will help you spread a little bit of thankful cheer around the office:

If a coworker’s efforts have affected you positively, let them know. For example, a coworker created a wonderful presentation last month.  It was the presentation to end all presentations.  If this inspired you to create better presentations and your improvement is noticed, let the inspiring coworker know that you couldn’t have done it without her work as your basis.

Compliment your boss.  If you think you shouldn’t do this because everyone else is doing it, think again.  Odds are, all the thanks your boss is getting are from insincere suck-ups.  Here’s a previous post on some tips on how you can avoid looking like a suck-up yourself.

Leave something in the office fridge.  Does your secretary bring in your coffee just the way you like it? Did your project partner clock in extra hours with you?  If so, leave a small bag of cookies, a small container of assorted fruits, and other yummy treats in the office fridge for them to find.  Label it with their name and insert a small “Thank You” card inside.  Don’t forget to sign the card - they might think that their enemies are trying to poison them.

Give a personalized token.  It makes people feel special if they know you went out of your way to do something for them.  It’s one of the best ways to show you’re grateful.  Instead of a simple store-bought item, make something unique for them.  Specialized printing shops like Cafepress or Zazzle can do this for you (or you can find a cheap offline alternative).  As for what to put on the token, you can use an inside joke, a catchy phrase, or something from the recipient’s long list of hobbies or interests.  For example, if you’re thanking your officemate Jodi and you know she has a baby, you can print a bib that says “Jodi is a kickass mom!” (or something more wholesome).  Or if Bob didn’t sleep one night to help you troubleshoot your computer, you can print a pillow that says “Bob deserves his sleep!”.  Be creative.

How do you show thanks in the workplace?  Do you use any of the ideas mentioned above, or do you have your own unique way?  Share your own “thank you” ideas with the readers via the comments.

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By Celine -- 6 comments

December 5th, 2007

Are you successful? Find out now! (Part 2)

In a previous post, we talked about the different ways for you to measure success. Now, we’ll try to measure success as accurately as we can. Here’s how:

1. Grab any writing tool you like, whether it’s pen and paper, Notepad, or a mind mapping tool. For this example, I’m using Mindomo.

2. Write your name in the center of your writing space.

3. Around your name, write down your main ideas of what success is.
They don’t have to be detailed, we can add detail later. It’ll look something like this:

Read More

By Celine -- 0 comments

November 30th, 2007

Are you successful? Find out now! (Part 1)

*Cartoon by Andy Singer

Success. It means many things to different people.

A man lives in a small farmhouse with his wife and two kids. He spends his days on the field, and his nights reading to his kids. Is he successful?

How about a young stockbroker with a six-figure income who doesn’t have savings or an emergency fund, but can buy anything she wants. This includes the latest designer clothes and the most high-tech gadgets. Is she successful?

The thing is, success means whatever your definition of success is. Here are some common ideas:

Career. Some people measure success via the corporate ladder, or how far they’ve gone in their careers. Your ambition greatly depends on your position in the company, or any specific rewards you’ve gotten for your good work. Sometimes, you don’t have to be at the top to feel successful - I know some people who would prefer to be team captains rather than managers, or creative directors rather than CEOs. It all depends on where you want to be career-wise.

Family life. Some people dream of meeting “the one”, settling down, and raising kids. For them, having a stable family life is ideal, where the relationships are harmonious and everyone is healthy. People who define success via family life might often pass up “important” career opportunities just to be near and accessible to their loved ones. An example would be a mother declining a promotion that would require her to be out of town for 4 days in a week, or a spouse who would work at a job he isn’t passionate about if the job could pay for his wife’s hospitalization. Also, they spend most of their free time with their family.

Money.  This type of definition may depend on a few different things: the assets one has, one’s income, or one’s savings.  For some people, the more income you have, the better.  for others, the more they save, the more financially free they feel.  I know of someone who measures his financial success mostly on how much he earns from the stock market. If money is one of the ways in which you measure success, figure out where you want to be financially, and see if you’re taking steps to get there.

Objects and possessions.  Whether it’s a house in the Hamptons or the entire collection of Star Trek commemorative plates, some people measure their success based on the objects within their possession.  For example, a young teenager may have an iPhone, and think that she’s “made it”.

Free time.  Timothy Ferriss of The 4 Hour Work Week comes to mind with this one.  Some people measure success based on the free time they have to do the things they love.  This means that they are in full control of their time, often without having to sacrifice so much time on something they’re not passionate about just to earn a bit of money. 

Monumental discoveries or achievements.  If you dream of winning the Nobel Prize or writing a bestselling novel, then you probably measure success based on achievement.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the achievement is quantifiable.  For example, an artist may simply want one of her paintings exhibited at the Met.  Or a playwright might want to have his work staged on Broadway.

Physical and mental health.  It’s hard to be completely healthy in this world of processed foods and psychological disorders.  If you’ve never been hospitalized and are considered to be of sound mental faculties, then you might consider yourself a success.  My grandfather is 81 and he can still play tennis in winter.  According to him, he feels very successful, compared to his wife who has to walk with a cane and takes tens of pills everyday.

The common good or society at large.  It’s hard to find people who devote their lives to the greater good, but they do exist.  They go where they’re needed, whether it’s on a medical mission, building homes for impoverished families, or teaching in a third world country.  Of course, “good” is still relative, but as long as they feel they’re making a positive contribution to the planet and society, then they can consider themselves successful.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post, where you’ll learn how to measure success more accurately.

As for you, how do you define success? Share it with us in the comments.

By Celine -- 2 comments

November 20th, 2007

Top 5 Interview Tips: What to Do When You’re the Company Mouthpiece

In the b5 media business channel’s Apprentice challenge, we’re asked to write a post each week answering a specific question or problem. The subject of this task is Kay, who runs a business selling chef’s hats and aprons for children. Here’s this week’s task:

The local newspaper just called: they would like to do a feature on Kay and her business. Kay is excited but nervous. She has heard all kinds of stories about being misquoted and misrepresented. She had been give all kinds of advice from don’t talk too much about your personal life to don’t talk too much about the business. She’s not sure how to keep it focused and she’s worried about the questions: what if they ask her about her brother’s jail time (it was a small time drug charge and wasn’t in the paper but who knows what the media has dug up)? She needs help. She’s asked for your five best interview tips - from preparing for the interview to follow-up. She doesn’t want more than five because she’s already overwhelmed.

What do you say? How should a business owner best present him or her self and the business in the media?

1. Learn more about the reporter and the newspaper. The key is to understand the reporter’s assignment and the context of where the story will appear. Dig through back issues and similar stories, especially ones written by your interviewer. If the reporter covers the “Local Business on the go!” section, don’t worry about personal questions such as a family member serving jail time. If the reporter regularly writes undercover profiles of criminals in the childcare industry, then prepare for something like that.

2. Be prepared. Kay has to present herself as an expert about cooking with children, so she needs to be aware of all relevant information. This includes finding out what other products are out there, even if they don’t compete with hers. Also, she may request the reporter to email her the questions beforehand, or at least to tell her the main objectives of the interview. This gives her a clear idea on what direction the interview will take. If she has an extensive product line, she should review it so as not to leave anything out.

Part of her preparation should also include press kit materials she can submit to the reporter, including the following:

3. Be ready with your own visuals. Before the interview, ask the reporter whether a photographer will be present or if he/she will take any photos. If a photographer will be present, you can offer your office as the venue for the interview. In this case, Kay can bring along her children dressed up in the hats and aprons she sells.

If a photographer isn’t present, bring your own publicity photos. Providing some good photographs will increase your exposure, guaranteed. If you don’t have professional photos, hire a photographer to get two or three shots for your press kit. Photos always capture more attention than just words. Also, reporters like photos because it calls more attention to their byline.

4. Stay focused on your objective. It’s easy to lose your focus when you’re asked some unexpected questions. The way you keep everything together is to know your main objective for the interview. Keep all answers geared towards that objective. For example, if Kay’s main objective is to inform readers about her products, she should answer all questions with respect to the features, benefits, and advantages of her products. If you need some help doing this, a very helpful worksheet is available from Cherry Communications (just send a blank email to prep at cherrycommunications dot com). You can fill it out in preparation for the interview.

5. Take a breath and think before you speak. After hearing a question, pause for a moment and reflect on what you’re going to say before you open your mouth. Don’t assume anything you say is “off the record”, so you should speak as if everything you say will see print. Acknowledge good questions; rephrase bad ones. Make every statement a positive one. If you speak suddenly, you might get flustered or go on the defensive. This sends the wrong signals to your interviewer.

Hopefully, with these five tips, Kay will be on her way to giving sincere, confident answers for her interview.

Thanks to the blogs who contributed: Franchise Pick, Home Biz Notes, Startup Spark, Behind the Buzz, Boss Hatch, Digital Money World, Just Make Money Online, Property Crossroads, Slacker Manager, The 501(c) Files, and Work Boxers.

By Celine -- 10 comments

November 15th, 2007

Productivity Toolkit: Jason of CoolBlogTech

Jason Baird of Cool Blog Tech (there doesn’t seem to be anything on his site right now) shares his own productivity toolkit with us today. Here are the tools that Jason uses to stay productive:

HottNotes This tool lets Jason paste little sticky notes all over his 2 computer monitors. He uses these notes as neat reminders for the things he needs to accomplish.

Launchy This is a nifty little keystroke launcher. With this program, Jason can launch his frequently used applications within a couple of keystrokes.

Google Toolbar Bookmarks This keeps his bookmarked websites portable.

Google Reader to read his RSS feeds. According to Jason, “it just saves me a lot of browsing and I have become comfortable with its interface and integration into my gmail account”.

Google Notebook This helps Jason organize his jumbled notes from dozens of daily phone calls.

Pad of letter size paper (no, it doesn’t link to anything) for jotting things down quickly. Jason uses 1 or 2 pages per day and date them accordingly so as not to forget to document something later.

Want to contribute your own productivity toolkit? Email your entries to celineroque[AT]b5media[DOT]com

By Celine -- 0 comments

November 5th, 2007

Vote for “Pimp Your Work” on “The Apprentice”

Well, on The b5media Business Apprentice contest, that is. If you like this blog, you may show your appreciation by voting for Pimp Your Work on the sidebar to the right on this page.
On the other hand, if you hate this blog, go vote for my colleagues! Yay! (But kindly leave a note on the things that need improvement in the comments section. Thanks! )

By Celine -- 0 comments

November 5th, 2007

How to REALLY stick to deadlines

Dammit. I’m actually behind schedule on two client requests. Yes, yes, I should have known that was going to happen because I was moving around my Google Calendar items and postponing them a day or two late. And I did spend an entire day celebrating my first anniversary with my partner. If I could, I would send this post to Celine Of Two Weeks Ago to avoid the meltdown I’m currently having.

It may be too late for me, but as a result, I’ve come up with these serious rules that will help me stick to my deadlines like an insect on flypaper.

Triple the expected amount of time for each task. If you really want to play it safe and make sure you’ve got enough time in a day for a task, you need to triple your estimated working time. Of course, there’s going to be some left over time, so you should also be ready with the “extra” tasks you’re going to work on once your main tasklist for the day is complete. Don’t just complete your tasklist earlier than expected and reward yourself prematurely with a DVD marathon. You don’t deserve it yet.

Even if you have an expected amount of time for each task, you need to have an ideal time as well. For example, if your expected amount of time to type up that report is 3 hours, you need to set a shorter amount of time as your goal, such as an hour and a half. If you complete your task within the ideal time, you give yourself an extra reward later. If not, well, too bad. This is to ensure that you don’t sit around thinking “Oh I don’t need to speed this up, I have a couple of hours more to do this.”

Avoid distraction at all cost. If you’re like me and you don’t have the concentration to do this, you need some outside help. Use Temptation Blocker or something. Also, don’t log on to your instant messenger. Dont’ leave your email program open. Stop staring at your colleague’s Einstein bobblehead doll. Whatever it is that makes your mind wander off, find a way to get rid of it temporarily.

Find out your number one motivation, and use it to reward yourself.  This is something that really worked for me that I haven’t been practicing lately.  For the last month, I’ve just been working all day with no reward.  Before,  I would promise myself “If I complete everything on my list today, I’ve earned the right to watch 2 episodes of Star Trek.”  Embarrassing but efficient.

Make someone the boss of you.  If you’re working freelance or your boss isn’t around, it helps if someone will give you a “disappointing look” whenever you don’t complete your tasks.  If they’re a softie, remind them that being a bit harder on you will be for your own good.

If you move around stuff in your calendar, or if you don’t get to complete all the necessary tasks in a day, take that as a symptom of something. Not something physiological, of course. This means that you’re doing one or more of the following things: overbooking yourself, having inaccurate time expectations, caving in to distractions, etc. Whatever made you move that task a day late, figure it out and solve it.

IF ALL ELSE FAILS: ask someone to cuff you to your chair until you’re done with all your tasks. Just make sure you don’t lose the keys.

By Celine -- 2 comments

October 31st, 2007

How to have a more productive commute

Over at Property Crossroads, Dan Rafter made an interesting post about how more people want access to public transportation. People want communities that are planned in such a way that they can easily commute. Now, I live in a 3rd world country where commuting is akin to riding a bus to hell because of the traffic and the possibility of being mugged. Plus, once, a rooster flew into my face. But I digress.
So, for the street savvy commuter, instead of just sitting on your behind during the commute isn’t exactly productive is it? Well, here are some ways you can take make better use of your commuting time:

 Use the time to learn something.  Whether you’re listening to a podcast or an audio book, or you’re reading a useful magazine, you can transform your dull commuting time into something educational.  The material doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with work, it can be about financial advice, how to start your own business, or other topics you’re interested in but usually don’t have the time to pursue.  Check out this podcast directory if you need something else besides Britney Spears’ new album on your iPod.

Organize your day.  If you’re starting your day, it helps to start looking at your to-do list, optimizing it, and making sure you have everything right before you get to the office.

Brainstorm.  You can start thinking of new ideas or projects while you’re commuting. Want a new water cooler in your far-flung region of the office?  Write that down.  How about that presentation you’re working on, do you have any ideas to spice it up?  If there’s anything you can brainstorm on while you’re riding that train, bus, or wheelbarrow, brainstorm all the way and make notes.  These ideas might come in handy.

By Celine -- 1 comment

October 30th, 2007

Productivity Toolkit: John Brougher of Freelance Switch

John Brougher is a writer and content manager for Freelance Switch. He’s a productivity nut, and a proud member of the cult of Merlin Mann. Although he uses more productivity techniques rather than tools, here’s his productivity toolkit:

Tadalist - John uses this to keep track of things to do when he collaborates with others.

Google Calendar and Google Notebook - Both these programs help John when it comes to time and project management. He says, “I love their accessibility-I can get to them anywhere that has Internet access”.

Yojimbo - According to John, he’s a huge fan of this program. Yojimbo lets users manage all sorts of information including text, PDF documents, passwords, serial numbers, and even web archives.

John also has a del.icio.us account for managing his online bookmarks.

Thanks for sharing your toolkit with us, John!

By Celine -- 0 comments

October 25th, 2007

Calling all people who want to be interviewed…I need you!

If you’re a productivity guru or have a lot of workplace experience you want to rant or rave about, I need to interview you for Pimp Your Work!  the following new sections need your contribution:

  •  Productivity Toolkit - where you tell me which productivity tools you use and a 2-sentence explanation why.
  • Workplace Drama - Has anything really bad and dramatic happened in your office?  If so - tell me about it!  Tell me how it happened, how it could’ve been avoided, and how to fix it.  Or you know, you can just tell me about it and I’ll figure out the rest.

I’ll link to your site in return.  Plus, I’ll be forever grateful, which is a good thing in itself :)  Just contact me at celineroque AT b5media DOT com if you want to volunteer.

By Celine -- 2 comments