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Archive for October, 2012
7 Common Mistakes in Managing Your Time

Do you feel overwhelmed with your workload?  Maybe your employer expects you to do more than is humanly possible.  But just maybe you’re not utilizing your time effectively.  If so, you may be prone to making these common mistakes.

  1. Lack of objectives, priorities and planning. Plan your week and your day rather than just react to what comes at you throughout the day.  Know your priorities and focus on the most important first.
  2. Attempting too much! When planning your day, come up with a realistic “to-do” list.    Otherwise, you’ll feel overwhelmed and can become paralyzed into taking no action.
  3. Not managing interruptions well. The average employee is interrupted every eight minutes – by the phone ringing, co-workers or others stopping by their desk.  Limit these interruptions by screening your visitors, closing the door to your office, conferring while standing up, or setting a time limit for a meeting.
  4. Being disorganized. Establish a clear and understandable filing system so you can find information quickly and easily.  Keep up with your filing to clear the clutter from your desk.
  5. Participating in ineffective meetings. All meetings should have a clear objective.  Always ask for an agenda before the meeting.  The most important agenda item should be covered first.  Help control the discussion to keep it on topic.
  6. Procrastinating. Sometimes we procrastinate because we’re overwhelmed with a large project.  If so, then break up the project into several smaller steps.  If you procrastinate because a task is unpleasant, then tackle that task first, and then reward yourself with something you enjoy like a café latte.
  7. Always saying yes. If you cannot say no, then you’ll end up overloaded, overwhelmed and unable to complete your work on time.  Determine what’s important and necessary and then say no to the rest.  Learn to say no tactfully by ending on a positive note.  For example, when asked to work on a task force, you might say, “That sounds interesting and I’d like to help, but my ‘plate is full’.  Let me know when another opportunity comes up.”

For more tips on managing your time, listen to “Take Control of your Time” audio CD.

 
The Perks of Working from Home

Would you like a more flexible work schedule which would save commute time and allow you to work around your kids’ schedules?  Telecommuting may be just the option for you.

Telecommuting has grown significantly in recent years.  Although the U.S. workforce grew just 3% in the last seven years, the number of regular telecommuters grew 66%.  Now some 64 million employees (half the U.S. workforce) are able to telecommute at least part-time.

What are the benefits of telecommuting?  Employees who telecommute are happier, healthier, and more efficient (not to mention richer).

  • Savings on gasoline and car insurance. Since the average commuter spends $1500 a year on gasoline, a half-time telecommuter could save $750 a year.
  • Healthier employees. Three in four employees say they eat healthier when working from home.  Also, people who telecommute have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI), lower blood pressure, and lower levels of stress.
  • Better work-life balance. Eight in 10 employees who telecommute part-time feel they have a good work-life balance.  Also, the average employee says their stress decreased by 25% when they switched from working in the office to working at home.
  • Higher productivity. We all know that a happy employee is a productive employee.  Studies show that working from home increases productivity anywhere from 10 to 50% (according to The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation).
 
7 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

Here’s a great article from onlinepsychologydegree.net.

From traffic jams in the morning to looming deadlines at work, stress is something we all have to deal with on a daily basis. While we may never be able to rid ourselves of stress and the negative symptoms that come along with it, there are many things we can do to keep stress levels under control and lessen its impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health. If you or someone you know struggles with stress management, take a look at these seven simple ways to reduce stress and get back to being a happier, healthier you.

1.  Exercise:

We can’t say enough good things about the stress-reducing benefits of exercise. It doesn’t matter what exercise you do or how many calories you burn, just do something you truly enjoy. Exercise relieves stress by boosting endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters that improve your mood and regulate your emotions.

2.  Do something you enjoy:

Whether it’s watching TV, jogging, cooking, or shopping, we all have activities that make us happy. You owe it to yourself to do one of these enjoyable activities, especially after a stressful day. The key here is to actually make time for leisurely activities and allow yourself the break even when it feels like there is no time to break.

3.  Laugh:

Sometimes, all you need is a good laugh to brighten your day and relieve stress. The physical act of laughing stimulates the organs, increases your intake of oxygen, and releases endorphins in the brain. A good chuckle can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a relaxed, soothing feeling. If you’re in need of a good laugh, throw on a comedy, call up an old friend, or check out the funnies section of your newspaper.

4.  Sleep:

If you’ve ever gone a night without sleep, then you know how much sleep deprivation can affect your mood and stress level. Sleep is vital to proper brain function and mental performance, and when these functions become impaired, your stress levels rise. One of the best ways to reduce stress and keep it from ruining your day is to get adequate sleep. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep per night, and be sure to practice relaxing bedtime routines, like reading or listening to soothing music.

5.  Meditate:

Whenever you feel stress creeping up, stop what you’re doing and meditate. There are many different types of meditation and relaxation techniques you can do virtually anywhere. Whether you close your eyes and imagine yourself laying on a beach underneath the stars, or pause to take deep breaths while repeating a mantra in your head, spending even just a few minutes in meditation can do wonders for reducing your stress and achieving inner peace.

6.  Reduce caffeine and sugar intake:

As hard as it is to give up your morning cup of Joe or sugary snack after dinner, it may be the best thing you can do to reduce your stress. Although caffeine may give you a productive jolt, too much of the stuff can cause a rapid heartbeat and increase in blood pressure. The energizing effects of caffeine can also keep you up at night and interfere with sleep. Sugary foods can also produce a temporary “high,” but as soon as you crash, irritability, poor concentration, and tiredness tend to follow.

7.  Keep a stress journal:

In order to eliminate certain stressors in your life, you have to identify the sources first. If you’re unsure of what exactly is causing you to stress, keep a stress journal and document your emotions every day. By doing so, you’ll be able to see stress patterns and become more aware of the causes of your stress. Once you know this information, you can better address the problem and develop healthy coping methods.

To learn more about stress management, listen to the audio “Managing Workplace Stress”.

 
10 Best Companies for Working Moms

Working Mother Magazine recently released its list of 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.  These companies are miles ahead of most employers nationwide.

Once again, the Best Companies are taking the lead on essential benefits, like flexible work options, telecommuting and on-site lactation rooms.  But they really show their commitment with additional perks such as elder care referral, legal assistance and even dry-cleaning services that help busy parents manage their personal lives as well as their career responsibilities.

The 2012 winners also stress the importance of keeping healthy – both mentally and physically.  Via offerings from weight-loss programs and fitness center subsidies to health coaching programs and company sports teams, these leading employers aim to make sure everyone is fit for duty.  They’re leading the way for the rest.

Here are the companies that made the Top 10 Best Companies list.  All of them offer these services — paid maternity leave, flextime, telecommuting, employee assistance program, on-site lactation room, and elder care referral service – along with other innovative services.

  • Bank of America
  • Deloitte
  • Ernst & Young
  • General Mills
  • Grant Thornton
  • IBM
  • KPMG
  • Procter & Gamble
  • PwC
  • WellStar

For the full list of 100 Best Companies, please visit http://www.workingmother.com/best-companies/2012-working-mother-100-best-companies.

Excerpted from Working Mother Magazine, October/November 2012 issue

 
How to Seek out Mentors

Mentoring can help you get ahead in your career!  Take the example of Heather Shea.  Heather started as an entry-level sales representative at Tom Peters Group.  Two years later she became President with the help of her mentor, Tom Peters.  Having good mentors can help you gain confidence, gain new knowledge and skills, obtain new opportunities, and ultimately achieve your career goals!  According to the late Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones, principal consultant of The Mentoring Group, “finding and making use of the right mentors is the most critical step you’ll ever take in your career”.  This is true whether you’re just starting out in your career or a 30-year veteran.

All it takes to find and benefit from a mentor is initiative and a willingness to learn.  But before you look for a mentor, you need to take a hard look at yourself.  It really starts with an assessment of yourself.  What are your career goals?  What areas do you need to develop?  What knowledge, skills and opportunities do you need to achieve your goal?

Once you have defined your development needs, look for mentors who have skills in those areas.  Gordon Shea, author of Making the Most of Being Mentored, says that you need to “know explicitly what you need or want from the (mentoring) relationship and have well-defined objectives”.

What should you look for in a mentor?  Besides having the skills and experience that you need, this person should have good listening and coaching skills and be a good encourager.  Think about people whom you admire, trust and respect.  Could any of them be a good mentor for you?  A common mistake that people make is trying to find one ideal mentor.  It’s not likely that one mentor can meet all of your needs.  Instead think in terms of multiple mentors.  You may have different mentors for different areas of expertise that you want to develop.  You may find mentors in your company or outside of your workplace, such as professional or volunteer organizations.

In approaching mentors, you don’t want to come right out and ask, “Will you be my mentor?”  It’s a loaded word.  People may not think of themselves as mentors or they may be scared off by the commitment it implies.  Instead, make a specific request.  It helps however if you get to know the person first.  Ask a mutual acquaintance to introduce you, or volunteer to work on a committee with a potential mentor.  Observe him in action.  Tell him you’d like to learn more about what he does well (project planning, leading teams, etc.), and ask if he’s willing to meet for an hour to share his expertise.  “I’ve always been very proactive about making contact with people I could learn from,” says Linda Hoffman, Managing Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers.  “When I meet someone I can learn from, then I build a relationship.  We go have lunch and talk.”

Finally, after a mentor has helped you, don’t forget to say thank you.  It’s very important to show appreciation.  Follow up, thank him, and let him know how his advice has helped you.  This opens the door to ask for help on an ongoing basis.

Approaching potential mentors may feel awkward at first, but you’ll find that the benefits are well worth it!  Be proactive and initiate mentoring relationships.  Working with mentors will help you learn, grow, develop and ultimately achieve your career goals!

For more information on working with mentors, read Connecting with Success: How to Build a Mentoring Network to Fast-Forward Your Career.