The new year is the perfect time for fresh starts, and 2016 is no exception! Get your office in order with all the best in organization, and update with the latest new products to make work more efficient.
You know the old adage, "Time is money"? An organized office saves both. When your workspace is filed, labeled and beautifully organized, you know exactly where to look for everything. There's no wasted time digging for those meeting notes from last week or that invoice that was supposed to be paid yesterday. With the proper organizational tools, there's a place for everything. Check out the Twist January Work - Life flyer, you'll find lots of ideas you'll want to put to work! There's new products and technology to help you get more done in less time and make the most of your workday!
It's on the rise... the virtual office that is. Whether through travel, off-site working arrangements, or office-to-office interaction, our professional interactions are often happening from a distance. But all of this would be impossible without quicker network access, online collaboration tools, web conferencing services, and all the products that jump-start our professional mobility. We can literally act as if everything and everyone is an arm's reach away, because with smart phones, and the cloud, etc., it literally is... from any location!
When on the road or working remotely, it's important to have the tools and services you need to be most productive and better connect with your colleagues and customers. This includes usually having extra battery chargers, drives, etc. It's not just about getting your email any longer.
Here's what true mobility can give you:
Stuck at the airport with low battery life? In the past this was a thing of dread and an inevitable part of traveling on business. No longer. Nifty USB mobile chargers are sleek, compact, and give you the power you need when you need it, for phones, tablets, mobile printers, you name it.
Sometimes looking at your screen for hours on end makes you feel cross-eyed and crazy. Mobile printers are revitalizing the mobile landscape with their neat design, rugged construction, and battery-powered capability. No more waiting for the hotel printer. You may even never need to leave your room.
Back-to-School season is a good time of year for all of us to get organized. I took the liberty (and channeled my former office worker self) to interview my friend, Hannah, who also happens to be a professional organizer. Did you know there was such a thing?! For those of us who are not-so-organizationally or spatially inclined, or are just plain messy, Hannah offers some great tips for my "duh" sounding questions:
Me: I can't even see my desk because it's covered in stuff. Where/how do I start?
Hannah: Start by sorting the easiest pile for you to trash or shred. This will make you feel accomplished so you avoid getting overwhelmed and quitting halfway through the organizing project. I suggest finding a clear spot on your desk or the floor to lay your papers into categories as you sort. This will help you visually see what you have before you start creating a filing system. Be sure that your file categories make sense for your specific paper needs, and label your folders clearly.
Me: Soooo much paper--how do I keep it in order?
Hannah: Once you get a filing system set up and all of your papers in order, spend 5 minutes every day sorting and filing your current papers. That way you won't get overwhelmed with growing piles of paperwork on your desk. I suggest keeping a stapler handy to attach groups of papers as soon as you get them so they are sure to stay together. Once or twice a year, reevaluate your filing system. Determine what works, what doesn't work, and throw out files that are obsolete.
Tip: Always open mail as soon as you get it and immediately throw out junk mail and any empty envelopes.
Tip: Reduce the paper flow and opt out of getting junk mail using handy apps like PaperKarma.
Me: I have a million pens-where do I put these?
Hannah: Get rid of some of them! Spend 15 minutes testing them out, and only keep the ones that you like and that actually work. It is surprisingly relaxing! Then find a container to keep on your desk and resolve to never get more pens than can fit in that container.
Me: There is so much RANDOM stuff-staples, pushpins, stickers, tape, cards, etc. around. How do I find a place for these items?
Hannah: If you have drawers, invest in some drawer organizers with multiple sections in a variety of sizes. They are perfect for keeping your office supplies neat and organized. If drawer space is scarce, find some desktop containers to contain your office supplies. Be sure to purchase containers that fit your style- if you love them, you will use them!
Me: How do I know what to throw away and what to keep?
Hannah: Now that most documents can be accessed on a computer or online, it is not necessary to keep as many paper files. As a rule, the IRS says tax-related documents should be kept for 7 years. You can keep the following documents for a year or less: bank records, bills, receipts, and pay check stubs. Be sure to shred anything that has personal information!
Me: I can't see what's in my file folders. Help.
Hannah: If file folders aren't your thing, I suggest using horizontal desktop paper trays or mounted wall files. Both are great options for visual people, as they allow you to easily see your files and access them quickly. I like to use file folders for long-term file storage and these more accessible options for daily paper flow.
Hannah Marsden is a Chicago-based professional organizer for Chicago Anytime Assistants, a company offering personal assistants that specialize in errand services, professional organizing, and moving and relocation.
How Color Can Affect Productivity in the Workplace:
By Susan Ringer VP My Pretty Office a Division of TwistOP
We all know there have been many studies done on workplace productivity. Sure, there are the usual factors such as efficient workflow, office morale and of course the 3 P’s (People, Process and Product) that will ensure business success, but what about your physical environment? How it is decorated and your color choices both have a major impact in how you feel about being there. In fact, it has been said through various workplace studies on productivity that one of the most important factors in an employee’s ability to focus is their physical space. The right workspace and décor has been shown to increase productivity by about 20%. And it’s not just about the space efficiency. It is about the colors, scents and accessories used to personalize that space!
I had noticed this personally during my career in real estate. As a business coach during that time, I found I could help a client achieve increased sales results by simply getting organized and making their workspace “pretty” (yes, this can also apply to the men!). Making client lead calls in any industry is always more pleasant and effective when the environment supports the task. I even noticed certain colors seemed to create different effects. For instance, the high energy, do-a-million-things-at-once personalities who needed some focus were better served to tone down the colors in their work space and eliminate the warm red, yellow and orange tones. When these color schemes were traded for soft, elegant shades of blue and green, there was a calming effect and a feeling of more focus. On the contrary, the folks who needed that extra push, who were a bit on the relaxed side by nature were better served with a bit of color jolt with those warm reds and yellows to excite their mood and get the productivity going.
Today, there are so many design trends that can serve these needs, that one doesn’t have to compromise style in favor of productivity. This would be especially important in a home office environment. Popular design colors that serve the cool, soft tones needed to reign in some focus are teal, grey, mint green and powder blue (the latter two will be huge, I predict, as it is seen everywhere in fashion right now).
To decorate your office in this scheme, use accessories that compliment this look, yet add to the functionality of your space. If you can’t paint your walls, use some of these soft colors in your artwork, your frames, file folders, organizers and stationery (of course, if you CAN paint your walls, by all means, do!). You will be amazed at how that will pull down those anxious feelings and get you to a “zen” place where you can focus. Remember to add a plant and a wonderful scent, even some soft music. Lavender or eucalyptus mint are excellent choices – calming without putting you to sleep! My Pretty Office has some great products to help with this too. Our Design Ideas line in Mint, White and Grey coupled with some Kate spade acrylic will be great for these calming effects.
For those who need a warm jolt of red, orange or yellow tones to “get in gear”, try these colors: brick red (a little less jarring), wine, pink, melon and warm buttery yellow tones. These tones are really on trend and will work with much of the décor that is popular now. They also mix well with neutrals such as grey and certain shades of beige/taupe. The vibrancy of these colors creates a stimulating effect on the brain and might just make that super heavy phone feel a little lighter to make your next prospecting call (we all have stared at the 100 pound phone, let’s be honest!). A great scent to continue this theme would be anything citrus. We love the Tommy Bahama blends that incorporate a little bit of island scent. In the winter months, switch to something with a pine scent. Remember to add a touch of jazzy (but soft in volume) music. Some products in the My Pretty Office line that would work very well with this idea are the Design Idea products in Mango. If you want the warm tones without all that zing, the Punch Studio French Style accessories accomplish just that. For some feminine energy in these color schemes, try the Anna Griffin florals or a Susan Ringer Fine Art print (yes, that is me. As you can see, I am also an artist and study/use color theory every day). This stuff is real, folks! See some of our examples in the gallery below.
If you want to learn more, here is a great article on the psychological effects of color based on research performed in the UK. There are also some fun color personality quizzes and other tools on this site you might enjoy as well:
By Susan Ringer
VP My Pretty Office Division of TwistOP
What is more inspiring? A gold and white polka dot file folder or a vanilla manila one? Roses on your notepads, or the plain white perforated kind? Putty colored letter trays or seafoam green modern ones? While we seek inspiration throughout our day – from what we wear to what we read and everything in between, we sometimes overlook the most important avenue for it. The workplace! At work, inspiration is not only important – it is one of the keys to success. It is the place from where all great ideas flow. When we think about what inspires us, it all starts with our surroundings. It is widely known that our environment has a profound impact on our psychology, our feelings and our results.
So what can we do to create the best environment for our work life? We can start by making the space visually pleasing and reflective of our unique, personal style. If revamping your cubicle with wallpaper and fancy furnishings is not in the cards for you (and unless you work in a creative field, it generally isn’t going to be), start with your desk accessories, office supplies or a pretty art print. Have some fun with it! Bring in color, pattern and visual appeal to brighten up your space and give you a lift. Keep it within the bounds of what is allowed, but express yourself visually in your workspace to showcase a bit of who you are.
If you work in an environment that has customer traffic, by all means you want that space to be reflective of your brand, to speak of success and be visually appealing.
If you are among the fortunate ones who work from home, try to make that workspace coordinate with the rest of your home for visual continuity. You can really have fun with this and in future blog posts we will go more in depth on the subject of decorating a home office.
Of course, a simple everyday black stapler has its place and certainly does the job (we’re Twist Office Products, after all – we love that stuff too!), but there are those of us who want more and so we should have it. We want fashion, color and a sense of style in our regular life, so why not have it in our work lives too? Just as some people can’t wait to buy a cool new kitchen gadget, there are those of us who salivate over the thrill of a cute office supply, a decorative desk accessory or a great new office organization system. It is for all these reasons (and more) that we are so excited to launch the My Pretty Office™ Division of Twist Office Products! This is where beauty means business, when it comes to your surroundings, that is!
So, while your office mate might be chewing on his plastic blue pen cap (and that’s ok, really it is!), feel free to jot down your brightest ideas with your Kate Spade Gold Pen. We understand. Our full range (and still growing) of artwork by Susan Ringer, pretty office products and decorative desk accessories by top designers can be purchased through our page at www.myprettyoffice.com. Feel free to browse our collections through the site or ask our reps about these great new products today! Through our unique product mix, our mission is to bring joy to your day, inspiring you to say “work never looked so good!™
By Melissa Brister
I have been a telecommuter for 3 years and what a great 3 years it’s been! When I first was offered this job, I was hesitant. But now, I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I am home to get my kids on and off the bus, I don’t have to mess with traffic and I save money on gas. I go to work even when I’m not feeling the greatest because I am in the comfort of my own home. I don’t have to worry about giving my co-workers flu bug or sharing mine. I can have my music blaring (until the phone rings) and not disrupt anyone. I don’t spend money on going out to lunch and am making healthier choices.
While it is great, working from home has not come without challenges. Here are 4 tips I wanted to share with you to becoming a successful telecommuter.
1. Get up, get dressed.
Every. Single. Day. When I tell people that I work from home, a lot of them will say, “Oh, that’s so great! You get to wear pajamas all day!” But the truth is, I don’t. I get up, shower, put makeup and real clothes on every day. It makes me feel like I have a real job and gives me a lot more energy than staying in pajamas all day.
2. Have a designated work space that is welcoming and functional.
I recently got a new desk from Bush Business Furniture. I am amazed how a new workspace that accommodates all of my needs has changed the way I work. I sit at my desk and do not find myself frustrated with the papers piling or lack of space. I put a fresh coat of paint on the walls and bought a fun accent chair and some bright artwork to make the space feel welcoming. It is a space I WANT to be in and love to look at.
3. Keep on task!
I make a to-do list every day around 4:30 for the next day. It keeps me on track and I know what I have to do tomorrow. It’s easy to get side-tracked.
4. Stay Connected!
Attend company meetings, luncheons, after-work parties. Participate in social media and contests. Develop relationships with co-workers. Working from home can be very isolating, so it is important to stay involved. I try to attend every meeting, luncheon, and after work event that I can. I ask co-workers how their weekends were and about their families. I am a social person, so sitting at home by myself every day can be tough. Stay involved!
Good luck, and just remember, you might be working from home, but you still need to be working!
By Avery Products Corporation
Haven’t filed your taxes yet? Neither have about 25% of other taxpayers. So, chin up. Take a deep breath. Then power through the process with these last-minute tax tips—and a little help from Avery.
Focus. Feel sharpest at a certain time of the day? Tax preparation requires concentration. And that’s especially true when you’re under pressure. So, work on your return when you’re peaking mentally. Snack on foods that fuel mental agility (such as almonds or walnuts), or boost your energy with a cup of green tea or coffee.
Gather that paperwork. Yes, it’s a pain. But, working on your return without first having all the necessary paperwork only makes the process longer. So, find whatever you need—which could include Forms W2, 1099-INT and 1098, as well as receipts for business, medical, real estate tax and charitable contribution payments. Use last year’s tax return to guide you. Make sure to only submit the forms and schedules the IRS requires.
Make organizing easier. Simplify the process of sorting paperwork by using different file folders for categories such as income statements, deductible expenses and investment information using Avery File Folder Labels.
Double-check your Social Security number. Believe it or not, many people incorrectly enter their Social Security number. This confuses the IRS—never a good thing. Besides, you’ll need an accurate Social Security number to qualify for credits, exemptions and deductions.
Make last-minute contributions. Many contributions must be made by December 31st of the previous year. But, you can often sneak in some tax-deductible contributions—such as IRA or Health Savings Account payments—before the April 15th deadline, and lower your tax burden. Check with your tax professional for more information.
Itemize. It’s tempting to just take your standard deduction when playing beat-the-clock with the IRS. But, itemizing could result in huge savings, especially if you’ve made large charitable, medical or real estate tax payments.
Sign the return. Sounds simple, right? Believe it or not, many taxpayers forget to sign and date their return. And that’s a problem. The IRS views an unsigned return as being invalid.
File electronically. Tax software speeds the preparation process, provides reminders about eligible deductions and catches most math mistakes. Many tax preparation companies offer free e-filings for basic returns, and the IRS provides free tax software to individuals who earn less than $60,000.
Ask for more time. Sometimes the smartest move is to request an extension. It’s better than rushing through your return, forgetting valuable deductions, overlooking required paperwork or making silly math errors. Filing Form 4868 usually gives you another six months to get your act together. You can also avoid late-payment penalties and possible interest charges by paying at least 90% of the estimated amount you owe. Can’t afford to do that? File for the extension, pay as much as you can and then set up a payment plan with the IRS.
Store in a safe place. Once your taxes have been filed, hold onto that paperwork. Keep your tax files in a protective storage container for future reference. Indicate what’s inside the container with Avery Full-Sheet Labels so they’re easy to identify at a glance. Use the free pre-designed templates on Avery Design & Print to create custom labels right from your printer in no time.
While Avery can’t figure your taxes for you, we can make the filing process simpler this year—and beyond. But don’t be too hard on yourself for being a tax procrastinator. It’s a busy world, and preparing your taxes may not be a priority for you. And, take solace knowing you have plenty of company. Just apply these tips to make the job a little easier…and then reward yourself when you’re finished!
Employee self-management is crucial to the success of any remote work program.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2020, approximately 40% of the workforce will perform at least some of their work from home. As more companies opt for policies that allow telecommuting, the need for employee self-management has become crucial to the success of remote workers. Below are eleven habits teleworkers need to break if they want to succeed.
1) Working in pajamas
Sleep experts say that if you have trouble sleeping it helps to establish a bedtime routine, such as getting into your pajamas. It stands to reason, then, that part of getting ready for a productive day is getting OUT of your pajamas. “Getting dressed symbolizes the beginning of the day and helps get you into work mode,” says WorkteQ owner David Heilbronner.
2) Rejecting structure
Working from home can make a person feel like they’re the boss. No one to immediately answer to, no rigid schedules. But we need structure, and creating daily rituals is a good way build that.
Writing about morning rituals Seth Simonds explains, “Starting your day with a few simple tasks is an easy way to begin a cycle of results that’ll power you through your day.” What’s great is, unlike structure imposed upon you, rituals are centered around your personality and your life choices. (After this article was written, I came across a superb blog post by Sara Rosso, where she documented what made remote work at Automattic a success. You should read it too!)
3) Watching television
Our culture raves about multi-tasking. In actuality, multi-tasking causes attention split. While a little distraction might make projects we’re working on seem a little easier, it diminishes the quality of the work we’re doing.
Here’s an excellent read on what multi-tasking really does to our productivity. In a nutshell, multi-tasking makes us feel more productive because our busy-ness let’s us we think we’re doing more. The reality is that our attention is minimized in several activities, adding up to not much of anything.
4) Working around clutter
While there’s some debate over how neat a person’s desk should be, there’s little doubt that being in a room cluttered with kids’ toys or piles of paper on the floor can kill creativity and productivity. To refer to one UCLA study: “Similar to what multi-tasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.”
Paraphrasing a study by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, in an article on Unclutterer.com , Erin Dodland wrote, “When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.”
A cluttered house is not conducive to productivity, but cleaning when you’re supposed to be working isn’t any better. If necessary, set a time to clean before you start working, or set a cut off time for work to clean. Don’t mix the two.
6) Ranking tasks in order of difficulty
Many productivity experts have said that the best way to get things done is to tackle difficult tasks first. This makes sense, especially for people who procrastinate. And it sure feels good when the tougher items get crossed off our lists.
However, this isn’t always the best approach, particularly for people who work from home. Karen Southall Watts, speaking to the New York Times, says it’s best to “schedule your most demanding tasks during your natural periods of high energy, and do your planning and reflection when you are feeling less perky. When your energy is low, that’s not the moment to make 10 sales calls.” Since you have control over your schedule, this approach might be best since you are able to work on any activity you want at your own pace.
7) Responding to every call or email that comes in
I know, I know: you work alone and crave contact with the outside world. However, nothing eats up precious time more than email or unscheduled phone calls. Set up a voice message that not only informs callers you are not available, but tells gives them an idea of when you will return their calls. This is akin to an autoresponder for e-mail. It might seem a little annoying to the recipient, but it sets clear boundaries and saves you from answering each call and then repeatedly needing to cut each call short.
According to Juliette Garside, writing for The Guardian, “The average person is interrupted every three minutes during their working day...and our plethora of gadgets have made for more disruptions.” Furthermore, says Garside, “Interrupted tasks have been found to take twice as long to finish and contain twice as many errors as uninterrupted efforts: it can take between 12 and 20 minutes to resume a complex task after being interrupted.” Enough cannot be said about doing whatever it takes to eliminate unnecessary distractions.
8) Eating at your desk
Aside from dripping juice and dropping crumbs all over your keyboard being unsanitary, dining at your desk creates mindless eating which is bad for digestion. Mindless eating means food is gulped down in an effort to ward off anxiety, or to satisfy hunger as quickly as possible. Instead, take dedicated meal breaks. Pack your lunch the night before, if possible, to put some extra thought into what you plan to eat.
Perhaps more important than sanitary and digestive issues is that eating at your desk robs you of a much-needed mental break. According to Jon Yaneff, “When you don’t get proper nutrition – from missing meals or digesting them on the run – your work will suffer. When you always eat at your desk, you can feel tense and tired without an uninterrupted break.” Laura Vanderkam, writing in Fast Company, warns that “failing to take a real break is a recipe for needing a lot of unofficial and inefficient breaks--like random web surfing--later.”
9) Keeping Twitter and Facebook open
The mother of all distractions these days: Social media. If you’re like me, I act like a fiend when I have Twitter loaded: refreshing every other second, checking to see who wrote what, who’s following me, who just dumped me, etc. I use Facebook for more familiar socializing, and end up getting nothing done--except writing posts about how much I have to do.
Here’s a frightening claim: “Every time someone at work gets an IM, a Facebook message or a tweet, it takes them a whopping 23 minutes to get back on task. Taken all together, that costs the American economy $650 billion per year in lost productivity.” (LearnStuff.com)
10) Feeling parenting guilt
There’s no question that working from home has challenges. But nothing compares to working from home with children. However, as demanding as children are you have to let them know that when you’re working they wait for you, not the other way around. There’s no perfect solution for keeping kids at bay and avoiding the “bad mommy/daddy” feeling, but creating rituals with kids is helpful. The trick is consistency. Once you’ve established your own schedule and created your kids’ activities around them, allow for no interruptions unless there’s blood.
Geoff Williams, writing for USNews, suggests taking scheduled “kid breaks”. If you were working onsite you would take periodic breaks to chat with co-workers, so use those breaks for time with your kids. This helps alleviate feelings of guilt that you’re neglecting the kids, and gives your kids a chance to have you focused on them for short periods, preventing unexpected interruptions later on.
11) Staying on the clock
The truth is, telecommuters work longer hours than onsite employees. That five-second-commute that seems so attractive in the mornings also keeps work constantly nearby in the evenings, and sometimes late into the night. This causes life to become unbalanced. It is important to set limits on yourself and to stick with them when it comes to stopping work at a certain time each day. According to a study done by Captivate, leaving work at a reasonable hour was one of the top three ways people were able to find work-life balance.
Flexibility and balance are the primary reasons people opt to work from home. If, however, you never detach from your work you and your family will inevitably suffer. Says Adrienne Breaux, “[T]rying to fit checking in at work plus getting things accomplished around the house is a recipe for burnout.”
It’s time to adopt new habits
Burnout, strained relationships, physical ailments, and a plethora of other maladies can be the results of working from home if you are not mindful and prepared. Along with ensuring your technological needs are met, you also need to become a good manager of yourself. This means you have to take care of your needs, be willing to be the “bad guy” if necessary, and do what it takes to provide yourself a working environment that allows you to be productive and thrive.
About the Author:
Pamela La Gioia is Founder/CEO of Telework Recruiting, Inc., a leading career service helping professionals find telecommuting employment. Since 1999, La Gioia has been researching and writing about teleworking issues; and recently Telework Recruiting, Inc. has begun helping companies to train their staff to effectively telecommute. La Gioia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, connect with her on Twitter @TeleworkRec.
Republished form BBF_Fits, TheOfficeEvolution.com
In order to get the most out of a home office, here are our 10 suggestions for set up.
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