Office Order Crticial to Success

I’ve spent the past few weeks organizing my new office. Doing so is critical to my success.

A study from the American Society of Interior Designers found that employees who are happy with their physical workspaces are 31 percent more likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

My cairn is a calming focal point in my office. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

My cairn is a calming focal point in my office. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I started by removing everything I didn’t need, including excess furniture and files. I also added some personal art to the walls and a few Zen items to help me stay centered. Other key areas to make your work space suit you include:

Lighting: I have a lovely table lamp that I always put on my desk. It’s mainly mood lighting that I find calming. I also have a task lamp near my computer to help shine light on the subject.

Organization bins: I don’t like a lot of items on the desk, just the files on which I’m working. Plain file folders are boring so I order brightly colored ones. I’m using yellow and green. One of my colleagues is using a sea blue, which makes me think of the beach. Paper clips and binder clips are kept in neat bins inside a drawer along with the stapler and tape dispenser.

Desk chair: Is your chair comfortable? Mine isn’t so I checked with my boss, and I’m ordering a new one. That will make a big difference. Good lumbar support and arm rest height make the work day much more comfortable. Several of my colleagues have the work stations that can be adjusted to standing height. Fortunately, the window sill in my office is that height so I’ve decided on the days when I need to stand more, I’ll simply walk to the window and work there. I’m hoping the view will inspire me, too.

Creative space: One area where I still have some work to do is finding the right bulletin board. I’m looking for a fabric covered one. I need a spot where I can post reminders and items that might inspire me.

I’m ready for success.

Thank You Notes Matter

I was taught to write a thank you note when I received a gift. I still write them.

20140621_144742A thank you note is equally valuable in the workplace. In the past year, I’ve met with a few individuals who have sought career advice. I was pleasantly surprised when each one followed up with a thank you note. One or two were by email, and the rest were by snail mail. It didn’t matter to me how they sent them.

The act of sending the notes all but ensures we’ll continue to have a professional connection. It’s a thoughtful acknowledgement of the time I willingly gave to them. It reinforces for me, the importance of continuing to do so.

Thank you notes also remain important after interviewing for a job. While a lack of a thank you won’t eliminate a candidate, receiving a thank you, definitely elevates a candidate in my mind because it indicates that the person has social graces.

After two weeks at a new job, I gave my boss a thank you card. I wanted to acknowledge the time she had spent with me helping to orient me to the environment, and also to thank her for the extras she had done to make my first two weeks welcoming.

I also send thank you cards throughout the year to colleagues. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate a note thanking him for his hard work and dedication. The note doesn’t need to be long, but it should be sincere and specific. When I left my last job, I wrote a note to each of my teammates. I thanked each one for his or her contributions and for making it fun to be on the team.

A thank you note doesn’t take long, but it lasts a long time.

Today is National Recess at Work Day

We’ve all heard that “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten,” and yet we often don’t apply what we learned.

What will you do on Recess at Work Day? (Photo by Cynthia Price)

What will you do on Recess at Work Day? (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I’m specifically referring to recess, which was always one of the best parts of the day. It was a time to play, to be silly and to laugh. I suspect it helped us blow of excess energy so we could better focus, too. And it gave the teachers a bit of a respite.

Turns out there is a Recess at Work Day, and it’s today!

It’s only in its second year, but I think we should all embrace the day because it encourages businesses to organize a 30-minute break for their workers. Turn off computers, put down the cell phones and go have some fun.

The day was founded by Rich DiGirolamo, a Wolcott-based business consultant who focuses on reducing employee turnover. He thought of a national day to restore some fun on the job, even for just a half hour.

Recess at Work Day is a chance “to relive your youth, create team spirit, increase employee morale and just have some fun,” he states on his site. “All employees should go outside and play. Fly a kite. Play tag. Juggle. Bring a jump rope with you. Play catch. Toss a football. The possibilities are endless.”

My contribution to the day – I am bringing in novelty ice cream for everyone in my division. The caveat is that we all need to go outside and eat the bars. Someone else is bringing soap bubbles because who doesn’t like blowing bubbles.

How will you spend recess?

Make Your Case to Attend a Conference

Do you want to discover the spirit of innovation and inspiration at the 2014 NFPW Communications Conference?

The conference promises professional development and plenty of networking opportunities, both of which are important for your career.

When deciding whether to attend a conference, which often involves making the case to attend to your boss (or helping yourself decide to make the investment in yourself), consider these areas: program, networking, fees and recharging.

Is the conference program jam-packed with workshops that will have some benefit for you, your team and your organization?

The 2014 NFPW conference will focus on three areas:

  • Develop Your Digital Impact
  • Create Innovative Communications
  • Modernize Your Professional Profile

Within those areas are topics such as Leveraging the Right Digital Tools to Tell Your Story; Are You A Social Media Wallflower?; Why Local Is Still Important; and How To Stand Out In Your Genre. I already know I’m going to have a difficult time choosing which workshops to attend.

Next consider the networking opportunities, which enable you to establish connections with outstanding communicators. At least year’s conference, I learned about a member who was in the book publishing business. I contacted her because my company needed a book publisher, and hers was able to meet our needs. My colleagues were impressed that I could find someone so quickly.

When I applied for a recent job, I reached out to members I had met who worked in higher education. I received lots of great tips to help me as I prepared for my interviews.

We all like to save money. If you register for the conference by Aug. 8 you will save $50 off the conference registration. If it’s your first time attending a conference, you can apply for a first-timer grant, which will cover the cost of registration. Most conferences have an early-bird rate.

CaptureThose reasons should satisfy your employer as you state your case to attend.

Another great reason to attend is that you can recharge and recalibrate. Taking a break from the office is important to health and productivity. I always return re-energized because I meet others who face similar challenges and frustrations. Even if we don’t solve the problem, we feel better discussing it, but most often I come back with ideas to implement.

NFPW conferences also give you a break. If you have a few vacation days, it’s worth it to sign up for a pre-tour of post tour. The conference organizers know their state and provide you with wonderful glimpses into their world.

Of course, you can turn that into a working vacation. This year’s conference organizers are introducing “Media Marketplace,” a unique news-gathering exchange that brings the stories to freelancers and travel writers.

With all these reasons to attend conference, what are you waiting for? Register now!


Morning’s Gift

For years, I prided myself that I could wake up, shower, eat breakfast and be out the door in less than one hour. Then one day, I slowed down. What a difference that makes in my outlook for the day.

I give myself the gift of about two hours before I need to be at work. I use that time to set my intentions for the day and to do something for myself, whether it’s slowly enjoying a cup of tea or coffee while reading the newspaper (online or hard copy), going for a walk or watching the birds at the bird feeders.

How do you create the space for this time?

Do things at night. I pack my lunch and my gym clothes the night before. I also get the coffee pot ready. I even decide on my outfit because I know if I wait until morning I will spend too much time trying on outfits.

Wake earlier or go to work slightly later. Even 15 minutes extra can give you the grace you need to have a more relaxed morning.

Don’t do it all. I pick one or two things I might want to do that morning. Sometimes it’s spending a half hour journaling. When I journal, I don’t walk. When I walk, I don’t try to read. The idea is not to cram everything into that extra time, but to find the activity that will nourish you for the day.

Do nothing. Some mornings I do absolutely nothing with the extra time except sit quietly and watch the sun rise or the birds at the feeders. It’s enough to be still.

How can you turn your morning into a gift?

Setting Boundaries Is Key to Balance

While on vacation, I responded to a few work emails while I was waiting for transportation. Everyone I emailed, immediately responded with “Stop emailing! You’re on vacation.”

Taking a vacation is one way to recharge. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Taking a vacation is one way to recharge. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

They were right to tell me to stop. Fortunately, one of them also was my boss.

It’s important to take a break from work, or anything else that consumes a lot of your time. By taking the break, you can reenergize and “sharpen your saw,” as author Stephen Covey says.

For the rest of my vacation, I only checked emails twice and that was to delete the ones that I wouldn’t need when I returned. It felt good to know that I wouldn’t face a few hundred emails upon my return. I saw no critical or time-sensitive email subject lines and, therefore, didn’t open any emails.

I thoroughly relaxed on my vacation as a result, and came back fully charged.

Giving yourself a vacation is one way to ensure you have good work life balance and the opportunity to recharge. It’s also a way of setting boundaries.

Another way is to set a start time and end time to your day. As someone working in PR, there will always be another deadline and another project. It’s important for me to set boundaries to arrive and leave at reasonable hours. I allow myself one day a week for a slightly longer day. This allows me to dig deep into a project or move many items forward a bit. The other days, I leave on time. In the past, I’ve asked others to stop by my office on their way out to remind me that it was time to go home. I no longer need that reminder so I know I’m making progress.

I also have established expectations with my supervisor and colleagues. An email after hours usually doesn’t require a response, but a text message or a phone call does. I’ve set different alert tones so I can be more attuned to texts and phone calls.

It’s important to establish boundaries. “If you cannot establish boundaries for yourself, you cannot expect others to do it for you,” says Michael D. Watkins, author of The First 90 Days.

One area I still need to work on is scheduling time for exercise, which is a great way to clear the mind and, often problem solve. I’ve managed to get out of the habit, but with an amazing gym facility where I now work, I simply need to establish my schedule. I’m starting this week by marking in my calendar which two days I will go to the gym. I’m starting with an achievable goal and will add days to it.

Finding balance and ways to recharge are your responsibility. What are you doing to achieve that balance? I’d love to hear your ideas and see if there are any I can try.

Travel Lessons Bridge to Daily Life

When you travel, you can try new foods such as blood sausage with quail eggs or toast with baby eel -- or not! (Photo by Cynthia Price)

When you travel, you can try new foods such as blood sausage with quail eggs or toast with baby eel — or not! (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I love to travel, but sometimes it’s difficult, even challenging.

I don’t always speak the language of the countries that I visit. The food is different. A location isn’t on a map or GPS. But I’ve never regretted a trip.

The challenges of travel also can help you navigate in the world. How?

Through travel you can learn to live with discomfort and uncertainty. You’ll find that when you get good at this, you can do anything.

Through travel, you keep learning. You learn about people, places, history.

Often you’ll find ways that it intersects with other aspects of your life. On a trip to Italy, I learned how art was the equivalent of today’s Facebook — a way to capture life and communicate with others, for example.

Travel helps get you off the beaten path and allows you to explore new ways and new things.

If you’re feeling stagnant in your job, perhaps it’s time to take a trip.