Five Ideas for an Exciting Valentine’s Day Workplace

While Valentine’s Day is primarily known as a romantic holiday for celebrating sweethearts, it can also be a blast to celebrate at work. This Valentine’s Day, liven up your workplace celebration with some passion (work-appropriate, of course!) by trying the ideas below.

  1. Host a red party.
    Host a red party for lunch. Use only red decorations and encourage attendees to wear only red clothing and accessories, or bring red pot luck dishes. Get creative and award prizes for the most festive red outfit, most unexpected red food, the tastiest dish, etc. You can also host a “red” elephant gift exchange, with only red gifts! Match your tunes by making a playlist of songs that all have “love” or “red” in the title. Include a “Guess the Kisses” jar (with red Hershey’s Kisses, of course!) and award the winner with the kisses jar and a prize like movie tickets for two or an extra afternoon off. Don’t forget to set up a Valentine’s Day photo booth corner with red boas, wax lips, red hats, etc.!
  2. Have a “heart to heart” conversation contest.
    A day or two ahead of time, download and print our easy conversation heart contest Microsoft Word template and customize for your workplace. Print one sheet for every five people and cut out the words. Then, give each participant a stack of words and a box of conversation hearts, and instruct them to write a sentence that uses at least three conversation hearts! Award prizes for longest sentence, most applicable to your workplace, funniest, sweetest, etc.
  3. Play Valentine-themed Pictionary or charades.
    Bring paper and pens and ask participants to submit titles of (again, work-appropriate!) love-related movies, songs, etc. Then play Pictionary or charades, awarding a prize to the winning team.
  4. Focus on the real heart.
    Since February is American Heart Month, Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to focus on heart health. Get active by taking the team roller skating or hiking, or forming a company softball team. Start a healthy recipe exchange Pinterest board or invite a local nutritionist to come in and provide a seminar on cooking healthy foods. Don’t forget to promote any health-related benefits you offer, like gym membership discounts or fitness classes.
  5. Spread the love in your community.
    Valentine’s Day is the perfect time of year to show love to not just your sweetie, but also to people in need. Get involved with a local charity to spread the love! For extra teambuilding, plan an activity where most of the team can participate. Hold a month-long penny drive (try setting up a competition between departments), or put together bikes to donate to a local children’s charity. Try to offer more than one way to get involved so people have the option to donate time or funds.

With these tips, this Valentine’s Day will be one to remember!


10 New Year Resolutions That Will Help You Win at Work

Another year, another chance to fix the mistakes from last, and to improve on oneself. Let’s talk about New Years resolutions!

Write out your New Year’s resolutions, to make them real, and you will restore, revitalize and renew your spirit to take advantage of all the possibilities of the new year.

May your New Year’s resolutions help you make this year your best year ever.

10 New Year’s Resolutions

Do something you love to do, and that you do best every single day. In their landmark book, “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently.” Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup organization discovered this critical factor in interviews with 80,000 managers. For their interviews, they narrowed down the questions asked to the twelve that most clearly appeared to define happy, motivating, productive workplaces.

These were the first three:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

People who could affirmatively answer these questions were more likely to be happy and productive at work. Get passionate about your work. Do something you do best every day.

Do something just for you every single day. As a manager or business professional, you can get caught up in doing for others during every minute of your workday.

If you have family members who occupy the off-work hours, this problem is compounded.

Resolve to set time aside for yourself every day to exercise, relax, reflect, meditate, cook a gourmet dinner, eat ice cream, write in a journal, garden, walk your pet or do any other activity that takes your fancy. Just make sure that the activity is different from what you already do all day long. You will feel as if you have a life—because you will have a life.

Give yourself credit and a pat on the back when you deserve it. In the Gallup study cited earlier, this question defined the most productive workplaces. People who had received praise or recognition for their work in the past seven days were more happy and productive.

In this era of empowered employees and broad spans of managerial control, you are less likely to have frequent interaction with your boss. Thus, it is important that you recognize yourself for excellent efforts. One way to do this is to keep a file of positive notes, thank you letters and reminders of successful ventures.

Online links to recognition deserve a bookmark, too. You can call this file “Recognition” or  “Neat Things” or another name that is near and dear to you. Stop to assess your success after each project you complete.

Strive to learn something new every single day. It is easy to get bogged down in the same old, same old. Read an article; discuss a new approach with a colleague; research what other organizations are doing on the web. The opportunities for learning are multiplying every day in this information age.

Read voraciously to continue to learn and grow. Aim to read a couple of business books a month plus periodicals, online journals and the “Wall Street Journal” daily. You may not always reach that goal, but it’s always there to challenge you to learn and continue to grow.

Try to read widely and broadly. Get out of the business books once in awhile to see how other subjects enhance your point of view. The “Black Swan” is an example, “Freakonomics” is another. “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” is a third such choice.

You can even schedule a book club around a book that you and your department want to read. Sharing the concepts learned with colleagues and applying them to your department or organization cements the learning. Oldies but goodies include Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, “First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently”, or you can choose newer books such as “Victory Through Organization: Why the War for Talent is Failing Your Company and What You Can Do About It” by Dr. Dave Ulrich.

Make professional contacts and network. Look up colleagues with whom you have lost touch. Make sure that you attend at least one professional meeting each month. You will benefit from the friendships and relationships you develop from active participation in networking. It is not enough to join—you need to show up and join in.

You need to participate in reaping the rewards from professional collaboration. Read “Dig the Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need” by Harvey McKay, the king of networking. When you dig past the surface glitz, there are terrific ideas about constantly and rewardingly networking in this book.

Practice professional courage by stepping out of your comfort zone. You know when you are in your comfort zone. An issue occurs. You hear yourself making up excuses in your mind about why you don’t need to speak, or why taking a stand on an issue will get you in trouble.

Just once, when you find yourself in this situation, state what you are actually thinking. After the shock wears off, coworkers will admire you. It is so important that organization members provide honest feedback and participate in needed conflict to improve your products or services for customers.

Once you have begun breaking through your self-imposed barriers, you will find that stating your mind gets easier and easier. Why? Because you will find, you survived the experience. In fact, your career may thrive as a result of you leaving your comfortable home.

Most people who practice professional courage expected the worst but found they were rewarded for their new stance. If you find yourself getting beaten up instead, perhaps it’s time to look for different employment. After all, wouldn’t you rather work where you can safely speak your mind?

Listen more than you talk. The adage about one mouth and two ears is true. As a manager, you spend much of your time in problem-solving activities and efforts. Plan this year, to listen to all that your coworkers are saying; they may want a sounding board, not advice or problem solving.

You may find you don’t have to take the monkeys on your back. Your listening may empower them to solve their problems. When they feel completely heard out and listened to, they are more likely to move from stuck to action. In Stephen Covey’s words, seek first to understand, and then to be understood.

Develop a method to track your life goals, your daily engagements, and your to-do list. Using a planner, whether in Microsoft Office Outlook, Google Calendar or on your smartphone, allows you to empty much of the daily detail from your mind.

The Fitbit or another personal exercise tracker can help you keep track of steps, calories consumed, weight, sleep, and exercise. This is handy for tracking your more personal goals.

Dumping the information into a tracker gives your mind room for more critical thinking. Whether you choose a paper method or an electronic method, tracking your daily activities against your most important goals is critical. You do want to ensure you accomplish your most important priorities. Right?

Take up a new hobby or activity this year. Maybe this is the year you begin your collection. A coworker recently renewed his interest in amateur radio. (Unfortunately, he told his wife, “We don’t have enough antennas—big antennas!) Several other colleagues write cooking websites.

If something has always intrigued you and piqued your interest, resolve to take the first steps in participating this year. You’ll add a new dimension to your world. It will positively interact with your business success.

If you wait until next year to pursue your interest, next year will come on schedule and you’ll find that you’re not a single step closer. Do it now.

Take yourself a little less seriously. As you strive for business success, you can get bogged down in serious deliberation, advising and problem solving. Take time to laugh. Take time to smell cookies and bread baking. Make sure that you laugh about something every single day.

Smile when you hear stories about what all of your crazy employees are doing; you don’t need to be the mom or dad all of the time. Enjoy them for all their little quirks and differences. Appreciate the different strengths, skills, and experiences they bring to work. You can warmly appreciate their contributions at any time of the year.

You are warmly wished a happy, healthy, prosperous, outstanding new year as you adopt these New Year’s resolutions and add a few more of your own.


One-Day Holiday and Christmas Shopping Plan

We are aware that this is a bit of a deviation from the usual articles. But, since it is our goal in life to make yours easier, we thought we might help you bang out your holiday shopping! Instead of aimlessly buying gifts throughout the season (a major wallet drain), use this shopping guide, chock-full of surprising strategies, to cross everything off your list in a single day.

8 a.m.

Fuel up. It’s hard to shop sensibly when your blood sugar is crashing, so skip the bagels, the donuts, and the sugary breakfast cereals, says Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian in New York City and the author of The Snack Factor Diet ($12, Choose a meal loaded with fiber, protein, and healthy fats—like oatmeal made with skim milk and almonds. Find healthy breakfast recipes here.

Don’t dress just for comfort. When people are feeling insecure, they tend to buy more, according to Darren Dahl, a professor of applied marketing research at the Sauder School of Business, in Vancouver. So nix the sweats and the sneakers if they make you feel frowzy and opt for something stylish, like cute flats or an on-trend top, that boosts your self-confidence.

Download an upbeat playlist. “Holiday music makes us nostalgic. We linger in the store and buy more to capture that warm, fuzzy feeling,” says Martin Lindstrom, the author of Brandwashed ($19, Outsmart the shops blasting “Jingle Bell Rock” by donning your earbuds and listening to songs with a beat faster than your resting heart rate, which is, on average, about 70 beats a minute. Those tunes will keep you moving quickly and efficiently through the stores. One good track: Katy Perry’s “Firework” (124 beats per minute). Find additional song suggestions at

Get dibs on discounts. Before you leave the house, download the free apps offered by your favorite retailers or check out their websites for announcements, coupons, and the latest information on sales. Smartphone users can use the no-cost app ScanLife to scan a product’s barcode and find out which local or online establishment has the best price.

Head out solo. Unconsciously, people tend to mimic one another. That means if your girlfriend stocks up at the kitchen-supply store, you’re more likely to do so, too, says Lindstrom. So just say no to a shopping companion today. You can share deals with friends by using the free My Shopping Circle app, which notifies them about sales you see (and vice versa).

9:30 a.m.

Stop at the bank… Curb impulse buys by leaving your credit cards at home. Shopping with cash cuts your overall outlay by 23 percent, according to Lindstrom. Avoid the ATM and go to a teller so you can request larger bills, such as 50s or 100s. You will be less likely to break them on unnecessary purchases.

…Then hit the mall. Since the main entrance may have a lavish display enticing you to spend, come in through a side door or the food-court entrance. Avoid unplanned detours by using the free FastMall app, which contains full maps of more than 1,250 malls nationwide.

Buy less expensive stuff first. And here’s why: Once you shell out for something costly, your brain loses perspective on what’s a good price, says Scott Huettel, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. So once you’ve paid $250 for a PlayStation 3, doling out $40 instead of $30 for a Lego set may no longer faze you.

1 p.m.

Eat lunch. Recharge by choosing a protein-rich salad with chicken or a turkey-avocado wrap. (Carbohydrate-laden picks, like pizza and fries, will make you want to nap.)

2 p.m.

Perk yourself up. A few hours trolling the mall can get anyone down. But you’re more likely to make good buying choices if you stay in a pleasant mood, because you’ll more carefully consider the pros and cons before making a decision, says Paul M. Herr, a professor of marketing at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia. So treat yourself to an inexpensive manicure at a salon or a free chair massage at Brookstone.

Skip lines. When possible, pay for your purchases in less crowded areas of the store, like the men’s-underwear or home-furnishings department. Otherwise, while you’re waiting, you just might pick up something on a whim.

Steer clear of attractive salespeople. You’re more likely to buy something from a sales associate who is easy on the eyes. Research shows that people tend to trust folks whom they find physically appealing, says Dahl. So ask yourself, do you like the looks of the sweater or the handsome clerk holding it?

Get in, get out. The longer you listen to a sales pitch, the more likely you are to hand over the cash, according to Dahl.

6 p.m.

Multitask at dinner. Meet your spouse or friends for dinner at a restaurant that offers gift-card freebies, like T.G.I. Friday’s. At that chain, you can buy your college-age son or a friend a $50 gift card for the holidays and get a $10 credit to apply toward your dinner then and there.

8 p.m.

Back at home, search for discount codes. Look for your favorite e-tailers at, and to see if free shipping or other discounts are available. Or simply shop the clothing-and-accessories sites, and—they never charge for domestic shipping.

Cash in your rewards. Assess which credit-card partnerships and rewards programs you are eligible for. Consider using points to buy gift cards or make online purchases through the card’s rewards site. Doing so could land you a discount or earn you more points.

Buy toys online. Instead of scouring the often ransacked shelves of big-box retailers, such as Target and Toys“R”Us, head to their websites. Bonus: At this time of year, you can often land free shipping with a purchase over a certain amount.

Be a little sneaky. “Just as you’re about to finalize an online purchase, cancel the order,” says Lindstrom. “If you’ve previously shopped the site, the merchant should have your e-mail address, and you may get a message within minutes touting a discount code.” Or contact a site’s live-chat associate and ask for a discount. This simple action could save you about 15 percent off the price tag, says Robert Pagliarini, the founder of, a financial website.

All done! Now kick back with a glass of your favorite something.

Source: realsimple

Fall for your office: Tips for making your workplace more efficient and productive this fall

With the changing of the leaves comes natural changes in the workplace; some positive, like an increase in productivity; and some less than positive, like an increase in sick days. But there are things managers can do to ensure that positive changes are amplified and the rest are minimized. Read on to learn how you and your employees can fall for your office this fall.

Get ready for a productivity party

Though you might think the opposite, bad weather is actually good for productivity (Harvard Business School). That means that in addition to now being the right time for major projects, product launches or corporate initiatives, it’s also a good time to initiate employee recognition and/or reward programs you may have been considering. At a loss for creative perks? Check out this list of “101 Super Effective Ways to Reward Your Employees” from Inc.

Amp up for sick days

While January tends to be the peak month for missed work due to illness, injury or medical appointments (Bureau of Labor Statistics), September and October see their share of sick days. That’s why right now is a good time to remind employees about guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help reduce the spread of seasonal illness—and consider piggybacking on those recommendations with employer-sponsored programs to underscore your commitment to keeping employees healthy.

Some ideas to consider:

And remember, sick days don’t just apply to employees. Parents often need to stay home with their sick children, with that burden falling more on the moms than the dads (Pew Research). Creative scheduling like flexible hours for parents of germy kiddos could go a long way in making employees happier this fall.

Acknowledge more hectic schedules

In nearly half of two-parent households, both parents work full time (Pew Research), which means back-to-school and early fall schedules are probably a lot more hectic for at least half of your workforce. With a new school year comes things like teacher conferences, curriculum nights, committee meetings and more. Consider programs like:

  • Fall Hall Pass, paid time off to volunteer for half-day in a child’s class or attend a school-related activity
  • Employer-sponsored childcare on non-holidays when the kids are off school for teacher work days or conferences, which usually happen once or twice in the fall
  • Companywide policy to try to limit meetings to the hours of 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., to allow for participation from parents who drive their children to school or sports
  • Offer flexible schedules, incentives and/or assistance programs for employees going back to school themselves

Remind employees about giving back

With the weather growing colder and the holidays approaching, fall is a great time to give back to health and human services and other philanthropic organizations. Remind employees of your company’s existing philanthropic program—or consider launching one now if you haven’t yet. Giving employees a few hours of paid time off to donate time to their favorite charity may be a cost-effective way to allow employees to stay involved in their community. Or, host a company-sponsored event where you all give back together.

Fall for a shorter workday or workweek

Though it may not work for all companies, the shorter workday/workweek is being adopted across industries as a way to get more focused effort out of employees and thus, in many cases, actually gainproductivity—while allowing employees a better work-life balance. In this Fast Company article by Stephan Aarstol, author of “The Five-Hour Workday: Life Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness” and CEO and founder of beach-lifestyle company Tower, Aarstol says, “The five-hour workday exposed weaknesses that had been hidden by hourly work.” The CEO reports that after a three-month test of the five-hour workday, annual revenues were up 40 percent. Thinking of trying it at your business? Fall’s shorter daylight hours could be just right for a test.


10 Ways to Prepare Your Office for Flu Season

Take a stand and take back your office productivity this fall by being proactive about flu protection.


It’s been said that knowledge is power, and I couldn’t agree more. Knowing the dangers of the flu and the details about fighting it can help your employees stay one step ahead.

1. Educate employees about influenza. Focus on busting those all-to-common flu myths. Your workforce should know the characteristics of the flu, the safety of the vaccine and how they can actively stay healthy.
2. Educate employees about insurance. Your insurance policies become extra important when people are more likely to get sick. Be sure employees know that the flu shot is covered by insurance, and where they can go for more coverage information.
3. Educate everyone about policies and practices. This includes everyone from the CEO to the part-time interns. Be sure everyone is familiar with your sick leave, PTO and telecommuting policies. If you have to, revamp these policies to make them work with your company culture.


The flu needs to be talked about. It’s important to be just as strategic and prepared to communicate about your employees’ health as you would be about any other business task. Take the time to prepare your thoughts and spread the word about influenza.

4. Develop a communication plan. You need an effective way to discuss the flu with your employees. Have a plan to talk about hygiene and flu myths, as well as to spread your educational materials.
5. Identify tasks and strategies. People will get sick during flu season. If they do, make sure you have a strategy to avoid work pileup. Sometimes it’s best to identify a flu coordinator to deal with delegating tasks and finding coverage for sick employees.
6. Maintain flexibility. Your employees might be sick, their children might be sick, and people from other companies you work with might be sick. Where flexibility is possible during flu season, use it. Odds are, you’ll need it.


Education and communication are weak without the ability to move your workforce into action. Take steps to ensure your employees are healthy during flu season and all year round.

7. Improve hygiene practices. Don’t be afraid to set rules for common areas, provide extra hand sanitizer, avoid shaking hands and encourage employees to stay home if they feel ill.
8. Deep clean the office. Your desk phone, the water fountain, your keyboard, the coffee pot and pretty much everything in the break room can get really germy. Clean your office well, and clean your office often.
9. Aid healthy habits. Fighting the flu is much easier when you’re healthy overall. Healthy habits are easier to come by when you feel enabled. Take the time to enable your employees to build an overall healthy lifestyle by integrating health into your office design.
10. Host a worksite flu shot clinic. The CDC stands behind the fact that the flu shot is the best way to combat the flu. Providing the vaccine at work is incredibly convenient and can help you ensure your employees actually get the shot. It’s also a great way to show your employees you care about their health.

Flu season is just around the corner. Don’t wait until the first case appears to take action. Be proactive and get your office prepared for flu season.


Keep Bugs Out Of Your Office – 5 Easy Steps

Do you ever wonder what crawls over your desk when you aren’t there? Have you seen a cockroach at work? Do you avoid the work kitchen because you saw a mouse there once?

Working in an office has great perks but also comes with the responsibility to maintain a neat, pest-free workplace. Commercial pest control service companies may regularly come to your office and spray but employees need to do their part to avoid attracting bugs and rodents.

Here is a quick and easy list you can tackle to keep your office rodent-free.

  1. Avoid eating at your desk

Most of us are guilty of at least occasionally eating at our desk, and while it’s sometimes efficient when we are in a time crunch, this new year is a great time to create better habits. There are many reasons to avoid eating at your desk, including attracting mice and bugs. The crumbs you leave may be so small you can’t see them, but to mice and rats they are a full meal.

  1. Don’t leave standing liquids

Late at night when you are home nestled in your bed, cockroaches are in search of water. They can live without food, but not without water. Make sure you don’t leave cups of water on your desk or pools of water in the bathroom sink or kitchen sink. Flies and other pests are attracted to sweet so be sure the cap is on the soda or sweet tea or you could be drinking more than you bargained for. These will help cut down the attraction to your desk and office space.

  1. Remove dirty dishes from the sink

Leaving piles of dirty dishes overnight for the cleaning people to manage in the morning attracts bugs. Keep your sink area clean.

  1. Throw your food out in a covered garbage can

Do you have a garbage can at your desk? If so, it’s likely it doesn’t have a lid. If you’ve bypassed the first best practice on this list and eat at your desk, be sure to take a little walk after lunch (its good for digestion) and head to a trash receptacle that has a lid to throw away your food. Bugs and rodents have excellent senses of smell and can track down your garbage from far away.

  1. Don’t leave shoes or clothes in the office

In addition to food and water, pests are also looking for nesting opportunities and materials to build a nest. That includes shoes you leave at your desk and coats! Just…don’t.

The next time you see a pest in your office, check your own habits and practices. Are there ways you can help reduce the likeliness of seeing another?


Working in the Heat. How to Stay Productive in Hot Weather

Heat + no school + vacations = a loss of our regular routines. The rhythm of life changes to a slower, irregular pace during the summer. When those things happen, we lose the time boundaries that help us keep up our routines during the rest of the year. But at the same time, we have expectations that summer will give us the “free time” to do those household projects we never have time to do during the other 3 seasons. Suddenly it’s Labor Day, and we realize that another summer has come and gone – and we have little to show for it.

Here are 3 things you can do during the summer of 2012 that will help you maintain your routines – and get a project or two finished:

1. Define and schedule the critical tasks

Some tasks simply won’t wait for a drop in the outside temperature. The garbage and recycling surely will pile up if you don’t take them out to the curb on the appropriate day. You’ll run out of clothes if you don’t wash them regularly. And if you think it’s hot now, just wait until you have no air conditioning because you let your mail pile up and didn’t pay the electric bill.

Make a list of the “must do” tasks that have to continue regardless of the season. Look at your list again. Is every task truly critical? If not, take it off the list. Next, assign the truly critical tasks to specific days on your calendar. Write them down. Then do each task on its assigned day and get it over with!

2. List and prioritize projects

A project is a group of tasks that, when completed, will result in a finished product. For example, organizing your garage is a project. There are a number of tasks that must be completed before you will have an organized garage: sorting, eliminating unwanted items, cleaning, putting things away, etc.

Divide a sheet of paper into columns, or use an electronic spreadsheet. Label each column with the name of a project (such as Organize Garage). Under each project name, list the tasks you will need to do to complete that project. Next, evaluate the importance of each project. What will be the benefits of completing it? What will be the consequences of not completing it? Assign each project a number, with number 1 being the project of highest priority. Finally, schedule “project time” in your calendar, and work on the tasks for your #1 project first. To make the most of your time spent on organizing projects, consider hiring a professional to help you complete the project more quickly.

3. Make time for fun!

Don’t let summer pass you by for lack of planning to have fun! Check the internet or your local library for ideas for day trips. Which friends or family members do you want to visit? Make a list and keep the list with your calendar. Schedule time (yes, schedule it in your calendar!) for the activities you enjoy and the people who are most important to you.


How to properly clean and sanitize your smartphone

Your phone goes everywhere with you. Do you have any idea how many germs are crawling all over that thing?

Years ago, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 92 percent of phones tested had bacteria on them. It sounds frightening, but that’s par for the course for being a bunch of evolved animals with gadgets in hand. That’s also why I sought to find out how the heck to properly clean a smartphone. Here’s a couple of tips I learned along the way.

Make a habit of wiping it down

cleanyourscreen 2910

A sampling of what you’ll use to clean your phone.

This is an obvious thing to do but it bears repeating: you should wipe down your phone as often as you can. I love pre-moistened anti-bacterial wipes like Wireless Wipes or these stylish screen cleansing towelettes from Sephora, but you can also buy full size screen cleaning and microfiber phone cleaning kits to keep at home.

Alternatively, you can make your own screen cleaning solution from scratch. All you need is a small spray bottle, 8 ounces of 70 percent rubbing alcohol, and 8 ounces of distilled water. (Make sure that it’s distilled water. Tap water can leave behind a residue.) A 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and distilled water also works, if you want to keep things organic and don’t mind the odor.

Bust out the Q-tips and toothpicks

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When it comes to cleaning crevices and cracks, these tools are your best friends.

Those tiny crevices in between the glass covering the display and the rest of the chassis store lots of gunk. My Dad’s favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon is go through and pick at them with a plain wooden toothpick. It’s pretty disgusting to see what he excavates from the cracks in his smartphone, but he’s a contractor and that’s the only way to ensure his device stays relatively clean.

cleanyourscreen 2907

Get in there and get that grime out!

Try this yourself and, when you’ve finished, run through the cracks again with a dry cotton swab to clean out any residual dust. For tougher jobs, you can take a fresh cotton swab, dip it in cleaning solution and swirl it around on the camera lens and other parts of the smartphone chassis. Be thorough, but also be gentle; you don’t want to accidentally scratch anything.

Consider investing in a UV sanitizer

You can nab a UV sanitizer to sanitize your devices with light!

If you’re really a germaphobe, you can invest in a device that kills off germs with a UV light. Try out CellBlaster’s Universal UV Cell Phone Sanitizer, or the Easycare Portable Multiuse UV Sterilizer. But honestly, killing germs with UV light is sort of hit-and-miss and you still don’t get the crud off.

Don’t forget to wipe down your headphones, too


If you opted for the UV blaster mentioned above, you can simply drop your earbuds in and take care of business that way every few days. If not, you can wipe each bud down with a soft cloth dampened with a bit of mild dish soap and water.

Headphones are a bit trickier: you’ll want to use same dish soap solution to wipe them down in their entirety. If the headphones include silicon covers, you can remove those and clean them separately with a toothbrush. Anything more serious, and you’ll want to dip a cotton swap in rubbing alcohol and give it a thorough once-over. Then allow the headphones to dry completely before using them again.

Source: Greenbot

How to Create a Summer Work Schedule

Summer flex work schedules are being adopted by more employers than ever! Whether it’s compressing a 40 hour week into four days instead of five, starting and ending the workday at times other than the traditional 9 – 5, or allowing employees to work from home to reduce long commutes and childcare costs, it seems that flexible work schedules are a real possibility!

As long as the work gets done and schedules are coordinated among staffers, summer work hours can be a popular way to boost moral and allow for a better work/life balance.

What do “summer hours” really mean?

Summer hours, typically in a corporate or non-profit setting, mean that as long as an employee covers his schedule, he can take time off each week and not be charged against his wages, or paid time off.

In general, flexible summer hours occur during the months of May to August each year. Employees can either make an individual request for temporary summer flex hours or management may have a company-wide or department policy for employees regarding summer flex hours.

What Do They Look Like?

Summer schedules vary by company and employers need to decide what will work best within their company culture – but here are examples of the most popular arrangements (according to a recent poll by HRinfodesk):

  • From Memorial Day to Labor Day, employees can leave at 1 pm on Fridays. The expectation is employees need to get their work done throughout the week, but it’s the employees’ responsibility to determine what that looks like. There may be times it isn’t possible/appropriate to leave early.
  • Employees are allowed one ½ day off on any workday in the week providing they work 40 hours during the summer months. They can also flex on the week of any federal holiday. In most cases, employees flex on a Friday and they love this option as it gives them control over planning their long weekends.
  • Employees are able to take every other Friday afternoon off. In order to do so, they must have made up the hours in the two weeks preceding the Friday. They can shorten their lunch, come in earlier, or leave later.
  • From May until Labor Day, we start a half hour early every day and get every Friday afternoon off.
  • Our staff hours are such: The staff (who want to participate) work (8) 9-hour days (Monday-Friday) for two weeks and take alternating Fridays off – enabling all to have several long weekends.
  • Our organization lets employees off at 3 pm on Fridays during the summer. This is mainly regarded as a reward for all the overtime managers have worked during the year, but all employees are entitled to it. Summer hours begin the long weekend at the beginning of July and end the Labor Day weekend.

How to Implement a Summer Schedule – Follow the 5 C’s

Create a detailed and comprehensive agreement that ensures employees will continue to get their work done despite flexible or reduced hours. The specifics of this schedule are between the employer and the employee, but should be clearly set and agreed upon in every case. Establishing clear policies protect against any negative effects on productivity.

Be Consistent. If a flexible work schedule is available to one group of employees, it should be an option for all. One of the key goals of this system is to give employees a sense of control over their time in the summer months. However, limiting summer hour opportunities to a specific group may leave other workers feeling under appreciated – possibly undermining the overall positive effects of summer scheduling. In addition, once an alternative summer scheduling policy has been agreed upon, be sure to consistently follow it.

Coordinate who takes advantage of their summer schedule and when they plan to be out of the office. Adequate staff needs to be available regardless of the season, and alternative hours cannot take a toll on overall productivity and customer satisfaction. Supervisors need to coordinate employee schedules to ensure work is still getting done.

Communicate with employees to make sure everyone is on the same page with what is expected and what alternative schedule arrangements are allowed. Listening to what employees need is the key to creating an alternative summer schedule that employees will appreciate and in turn, adhere to.

Check in with employees taking advantage of the alternative summer schedule to make sure their work is getting done and their progress is on track. Performance should be monitored and reviewed closely when the alternative schedule is being used. Also, gather feedback as to how the alternative schedule is working and where there is room for improvement.


12 Easy Ways to Be More Productive at Work

There are thousands of productivity apps and tools on the market promising to help you increase your performance, but sometimes all it takes to improve your focus is a few quick changes to your work habits and your environment. Want to get more accomplished at the office? Here are 12 simple, low-tech tips for boosting your productivity at work.

Before you do anything else, take a few moments at the start of each day to organize and de-clutter your workspace. Having a clutter-free environment helps you think more clearly and produce better results, said Kristoph Matthews, founder of on-demand storage company Boxbee. By cleaning up and organizing your space, you will greatly increase your productivity and limit the time you spend searching for items.

Color can have a major effect on your mood and productivity throughout the day, said Jenny Gauld, an interior designer for office furniture and accessory retailer turnstone. Blue creates the feeling of calmness and helps you focus, while red is great for work that requires accuracy and attention to detail. Plants can also help people focus: A study from Washington State University found that workers who were exposed to plants in a windowless workspace were less stressed, more productive, and felt more attentive.

In addition to color and plant life, a few personal knickknacks in your workspace can make you feel more comfortable and relaxed, which can ultimately boost your productivity. Gauld suggested adding meaningful career memorabilia, such as diplomas and awards, and other decorative items that make you feel successful, appreciated and driven.

Everyone has at least one task on the to-do list that keeps getting pushed back, simply because the thought of actually doing it seems so awful. That task is actually the one you should try to complete first, Matthews told Business News Daily. Instead of waiting until the last minute to finish a task, get it off your plate as soon as possible. Your other tasks will seem less daunting by comparison, and you’ll stop stressing about that one task all day, making you more productive overall. [See Related Story: Good Morning! 7 Ways to Jump-Start Your Productivity]

Your focus should go to the most important tasks first, so think about everything that you do and just how pivotal or trivial each thing really is. If you can, set aside the low-priority items and come up with a plan to delegate or outsource them so that you can spend more time on the things that add more value to your position and the company, Kathleen Kobel, a productivity business coach and founder of Smart Business Mom, said.

Instead of reading every email as it lands in your inbox, try turning off your notifications and checking messages only at set intervals. Why? Constant email alerts popping up on your phone or desktop can really break your focus. It takes 64 seconds for a person to recover from being interrupted by an email notification, according to Alex Moore, CEO of email productivity solution Boomerang. You can send and receive the same amount of emails in 20 percent less time by checking your email less frequently, Moore said.

Whether it’s a walk around the block, a run to the nearby coffee shop, reading a magazine or visiting with a colleague, taking short breaks that are unrelated to your work can make a huge difference in your performance. Your productivity diminishes the longer you go without a break, Kobel told Business News Daily. Kobel explained that this is why it’s recommended that people don’t work more than 8 to 10 hours per day — at a certain point, your body and mind simply cannot produce anymore, she said.

Exercise isn’t just good for your body — it can help have a positive impact on your work performance, too. Physical exercise has been shown to affect mental health and focus, McIntire said. A great way to feel sharper and more productive? Try going for a run in the morning or starting your day with a workout, McIntire said. It can’t hurt to try to sneak in some exercise on your breaks, either.

Wearing headphones doesn’t always mean you’re antisocial. When working, listening to your favorite tunes can help you get into the zone and knock out your to-do list, Gauld said. It also sends a subtle signal to your co-workers that you’d prefer not to be disturbed.

If your employer allows it, take some time during the week to work in a different environment. Meghan Khaitan, founder of seat belt device MyBuckleMate said that a change of scenery can be a big help in boosting productivity. Head to the library or a local park (weather permitting), or find a place that’s quiet and full of natural light. This can help spur new ideas or shed new light on an old problem, Khaitan said.

It’s not always easy to keep track of everything you need to do, so start each morning by writing down your goals for the day. When your focus is broken or you find yourself procrastinating, you can use this list to keep you on track, Sam McIntire, founder of Deskbright, an online learn platform dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and employees, told Business News Daily. Write your list down on a Post-it or something that’s clearly visible from your desk, then return to it when you need a reminder of what you should be working on, McIntire said.

Doing more than one thing at a time may seem like the best way to get all of your tasks done, but it can hurt your productivity more than it helps. Multitasking simply doesn’t work, and when you do, you end up wasting time, Kobel said.