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15 Ways to Enjoy the Summer When You’re Trapped in an Office

As you’ve probably noticed, the good weather has arrived! And we’re sure you’ve also noticed that your office is still operating as if it’s not beautiful outside. You’re stuck inside, staring at a stock image of a beach as your desktop background while your social media feeds get filled with photos of tropical getaways, Summer Friday activities, and tan lines.

While you can definitely continue daydreaming of your next escape, you can also take matters into your own hands and learn to enjoy the season from indoors. While my tips and tricks won’t land you that summer glow, they’ll definitely help you scroll through Instagram without feeling (quite so) jealous.

1. Make Fruit-Infused Water
One of the best parts of it being sunny out is having the excuse to down fun drinks without feeling silly. And we’re not just talking poolside cocktails!

To make a summery (SFW drink), all you need to do is check out these DIY recipes that you can make at home and leave in the office fridge.

2. Switch Up Your Playlist
’Tis the season to make a new playlist with all your favorite summer hits. Maybe it’s a classic like “Summer” by Calvin Harris, or perhaps it’s a song that no one else relates to summer but reminds you of your family’s annual beach trip. Or, maybe it’s just a compilation of every “song of the summer” from the past 20 years from Spotify.

Get everyone (else stuck) in the office involved by asking for suggestions. If you’re still feeling stumped, start with these recommendations.

3. Brighten Your Desk
It’s no secret that colors affect our mood, environment, and work ethic. So, why not incorporate the colors of the beach into your workspace?

4. Plan a Frozen Treat Happy Hour
If your office doesn’t participate in Summer Fridays, suggest starting an (alcohol-free) happy hour on Fridays to enjoy some ice cream sundaes (or slightly less-messy ice cream sandwiches).

The only thing that doesn’t work for this? Bringing your guilt! Taking an hour away from work will actually make you more productive. So, put down your computer, and pick up a scoop.

5. Lighten Up
Whether you bring a new lamp to your desk or purchase a “happy light,” brightening up your workspace is a simple trick to feeling more like you’re outdoors. Especially when you’re trapped in a cubicle craving some sunshine.

6. Play With Your Wardrobe
Nothing notes a season change more than switching out your closet. If your most beloved part of summer is a sundress or bright shorts, find ways to incorporate your summer pieces into your wardrobe.

Obviously, keep your company’s dress code in mind, and be sure that all attire is work-appropriate. But, there’s no reason you should still be wearing what you wore when it was snowing out.

7. Switch Up Your Lunch
BBQs are great for the summer, so leave the boring old sandwiches at home and grab a hot dog or burger for lunch. If that sounds ridiculous to you, take it down a notch and just bring in a few sides—like cole slaw, beans, or potato saad.

8. Get Outside Every Day
A little fresh air can do your mind and body wonders, so step outside for some breaks during the day. It’s a simple trick that’ll score you some Vitamin D and improve your efficiency. Can you say win-win?

9. Bring Popsicles for Your Office
Stock your office freezer full of popsicles and snack on one when you’re craving a treat—or, better yet, make some friends by offering them up to your co-workers.

Have a few extra minutes? Grab one and go sit outside while you eat it.

10. Buy a Plant
Bring the outdoors (and some fresh O2) to your cubicle with some small plants. Even if you can’t physically be outside, you’ll feel a little better if you can actually see some green. Personally, I love this one—and not just because it’s called a Donkey’s Tail.

11. Make Your Schedule More Summer-Friendly
If possible, start coming in an hour earlier so you can actually head out at a reasonable hour and enjoy the late night sunshine. (Because it wasn’t so long ago that it was dark at 4 PM.)

Or, put the bulk of your work or meetings on your schedule earlier in the week to allow you to duck out on Friday afternoons without missing anything important.

12. Use Your Lunch Breaks Differently
Eat outside instead of at your desk, bring your lunch so that you can use your break to get a quick mani-pedi, or spend those 30 minutes reading a book (outside if you can).

Feeling more ambitious? Go for a walk—even a short one—science says it’ll only make you better at your job.

13. Make Summer Friday Friends
Also known as all of those other people who have to work on Fridays, too. Try to make a routine to grab lunch together at your favorite outdoor restaurant. Or, at the very least, know who will be around to chat when the rest of the world goes quiet at 2 PM.

14. Change Up Your Commute
If you usually drive to work or take the train, give yourself extra time in the mornings to walk or bike to work. If that’s not an option, try to take a different route. Switching up your daily routine (especially if it’s been daily for years) will feel more exciting than you even realize.

15. Get Sporty
Bring summer sports to your office! While I don’t recommend throwing a frisbee around computers, there’s no reason you can’t take 10 minutes to toss one around with your co-worker outside in the parking lot.

Or, if your office has the spare room (and your co-workers understand the difference between tossing a beanbag and torpedo-ing it), you can easily play a quick game of cornhole.


10 Ways to Celebrate Father’s Day in the Workplace

Last month we talked about how to celebrate Moms in the workplace. This month, let’s take care of the dads!

When your employee shows up to work, you expect them to leave everything at the door, focus on work, and make the most of their time on-the-clock. What you probably don’t often see or discuss is the sacrifices they make by being a working father. Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to recognize and thank the hard-working dads for putting in an honest day’s effort regardless of circumstances, sleep-deprived and all.

Here are ten great ways to celebrate the fathers in your workplace: 

1. Pass out nice gift frames to the fathers in your office so they can display photos of their children. It’s a great personal gesture that allows them to celebrate fatherhood 365 days a year. Try googling Father’s Day Photo Frame or Photo Gift for some classic and elegant ideas.

2. Treat the office to lunch. Whether you choose to get catering or opt for delivery, serving food is a great way to break bread with your employees and allow them to relax over good food. If you’re feeling particularly enthused, taking the whole office out is another idea.

3. Announce a communal potluck and give your employees ample time to prepare their favorite dish for the big day. Honor the fathers by asking them to bring in a photo of their children and ask them to say one interesting thing about them. Set aside time during the work day for your employees to hunker down, bond with their colleagues, and dine together.

4. If you’ve got the room in your budget, give each dad a small monetary gift, like movie tickets or tickets to the zoo. Providing an experience on the company allows your employee to create family memories that will last long after Father’s Day is over.

5. Nobody says no to ice cream. Surprise your employees by hosting an ice cream social in the afternoon! If your sights are set on delivering the wow factor, surprise your employees by having an ice cream truck pull up to your workplace and serve unlimited ice cream.

6. Have a picnic for your employees’ families and ask the managers to grill hot dogs and burgers. No better way to demonstrate your appreciation than reversing the pecking order and having management serve the staff.

7. Plan a company excursion, such as to a local sporting event or a fun group activity like bowling. Not only will this boost morale, it allows employees to socialize and build relationships.

8. If you’d like to go all out, host a full-fledged family day of fun with carnival activities, contests and games, such as relay races, a treasure hunt, a bouncy house, and more. Consider preparing snacks like mini bags of popcorn, cotton candy, chicken shish kebabs, etc. Take lots of photos and post them on the office bulletin board to commemorate the occasion.

9. Have a cupcake decorating party and invite your employees to create some beautiful Father’s Day-themed treats they can proudly take home to share with their family. If you’re unsure of where to start, Pinterest has some great ideas.

10. Create gift bags for the children of the dads in your workplace. Some great ideas include coloring books, crayons, markers, activity books, bubbles, stickers, and tattoos. Write a handwritten note about how much you appreciate each dad’s hard work, and pass along the gift bag for their children. (Bonus: consider including a fun Father’s Day-themed worksheet the kids can fill out and give their dad to tell him the little ways he matters.)

Taking the effort to recognize and celebrate Father’s Day is just one way to develop a positive staff culture that will ensure your employees feel happy, respected, and acknowledged.


Recognize Workplace Moms This Time of the Year

We know that being a parent is tough stuff. Being a working parent … now that’s a different story. But fact of the matter is, parents are amazing. Since it’s Mother’s Day, we’re giving a shout-out to the working woman who graciously juggles both her career and family.

So for the mom who squeezes in our soccer games despite being crazy busy, the mom who works magic with meals regardless of how tired she is, or the mom who offers encouraging words even when she’s down — here are three employee recognition ideas you can use for the hard-working moms:

Pack a Picnic

Nothing beats a home-cooked meal by Mom. So give them a break by ordering a catered lunch or packing a picnic for the moms at your workplace.

This allows them to take a mental break from the work they do. And of course, gives them a chance to socialize and mingle with other moms. We bet there will be no shortage of sharing kids’ photos too.

Take a Half Day

Between completing work tasks, running personal errands, and trucking kids from appointment to appointment, moms are insanely busy.

Let them take the afternoon off to pamper themselves. Or they can use it to spend some leisurely time with their families. Moms will truly appreciate that you don’t only value their time as work, but also their time outside of the office.

Flexible Hours

This is more long-term, but offering flexible hours will do wonders for a working mom’s productivity. She can slip out to drive Jimmy to soccer practice and take care of her workload afterwards.

This way, she doesn’t have to sacrifice her career or her family. After all, technology now allows people to work from anywhere at any time.

Bring Your Mom to Work Day

We’ve all heard of “bring your kid to work today.” How about letting people bring their moms? People want to make their moms proud, so this is an ideal opportunity for your employees to show off how they’re contributing to your organization’s success.

Mothers put in a ton of effort at the workplace and at home — they’re basically working 24/7. Use this day to really show them how much they’re valued and appreciated.


5 Ways To Build Healthier Habits at Work

A huge portion of our lives revolves around our professions. Therefore when it comes to being the healthiest version of ourselves, creating healthy habits around the office is an integral piece of the puzzle.

Unfortunately, with many places, the workplace is often a place filled with temptations that make it hard to stick to the best of routines.

When it comes to improving your office, drastic steps aren’t needed. Instead, small changes in behaviors and the environment are more than enough to start reaping the benefits. No need to wait until 5 p.m. to think about making healthier decisions. Start with these five healthy habits.

1. Start a committed relationship with water
Seems absurdly simple and like a no brainer. But yet, there’s a huge percentage of men and women walking around on a daily basis that aren’t properly hydrated. Water is one of the big pillars to  track because it affects every aspect of our lives.

Afternoon hunger cravings, random headaches, and general feelings of fogginess can be attributed to dehydration. However, staying hydrated improves your rate of weight loss, your mood, your brain functioning, and your energy levels.

2. Replace the candy bowl for a fruit and nuts bowl
You can have the best intentions to avoid those 2 p.m. round of cookies and snacks. But, after a stressful few hours of calls and emails, resisting those foods aren’t as likely due to your willpower being drained from decision fatigue.

Instead of fighting with your natural behaviors of impulsivity (we’re humans after all), it’s better to design an environment that is set up to help you succeed despite those impulsive behaviors.

You’re going to snack regardless. Therefore, you can prep for this by having your own stash of healthy snacks around. Instead of impulsively reaching for the nearest foods (often the snack bowl full of junk food), you’ll instead reach for your fruit and nuts bowl.

Snacking on fruits and nuts will provide your body with quality nutrients and an assortment of vitamins and minerals along with providing energy to help you get through the day.

3. Implement standing and small activity breaks
Productivity is a big topic at any company and sometimes it’s tough to step away from the monitor and decompress, but your body needs breaks to recharge. Sitting for excessive periods leads you to be more sedentary which can increase your risk for diabetes and heart diseases while potentially causing back pain.

A simple strategy is to stand every 30 minutes, even if you’re in the same area. This break (5 minutes is plenty), helps your back, shoulders, hips, and neck, but also decreases your sitting time. During this break, take a stretch, or use a lacrosse ball to loosen the tension in your feet (especially important to women who wear heels consistently).

A few more ideas to get more standing & activity in is to take the stairs when possible, park further away, have walking meetings, and walk to lunch if possible.

4. Pay attention to your posture
“Sit up straight” were words many of us heard from our parents growing up. And like most things, our parents were right. Your posture makes a difference on the quality of your day.

Having less-than-ideal posture affects your mood, reduces your lung functioning leading to less oxygenated blood to the brain (this equals not being as mentally sharp), GI issues, and neck pains (hello heavy smartphone users).

When you do have ideal posture, you’re helping your confidence, energy levels, and reducing stress while becoming more productive at work.

5. Add positive elements to your office
Whether it’s an annoying co-worker or just a busy and stressful day, using positive imagery and elements can help turn this potential stressful environment into a peaceful one.

To improve your environment, decorate your area with positive affirmations, have some sticky notes or messages with reminders about why you’re pursuing your various goals. These positive reminders keep you on the right track as you’re growing in your life.

Another unique option is to add an indoor plant, which has been shown to help productivity by 12 percent.

Bonus tip: Unplug from work when you get home
Taking work to your home is becoming more and more common, but it’s important to set boundaries to prevent burnout from occurring.

Habitually checking email or mindlessly scrolling through reports or the next day’s tasks before bed not only takes you away from being present with your family, friends, and others, but it also mentally exhausts you before the next day even arrives.


Moving: 4 Tips on Adjusting to a New Climate

All the mental and financial stress associated with moving can make the process painful. But despite the anxiety, you find yourself excited. Whether you’re getting a new job, starting married life, or retiring after years of hard work, moving opens new and intriguing doors.

In the midst of the excitement and packing your belongings – have you stopped to consider how to adjust to a change in weather? Of course, if you plan to move only a couple hours away, you have no need to fear. But what about moving across the country or even across the world?

You want to acclimate as easily as you can to new, unfamiliar, or extreme climates. If a mild or static climate is familiar to you, prepare to experience all four seasons in full force. Read the following list of tips and tricks on how to adjust to moving from a hotter climate to a colder climate and vice versa.

From Hot to Cold

1. Gear Up

Do you plan to move from the absurdly perfect temperatures of Southern California to the frigid Midwest? You might find a shocking change emotionally and physically.

When you make a move like this, avoid the temptation of buying all your coats, gloves, shoes, and scarves at a beach shop or an outdoor mall. Sure, you might find some stylish jackets, but you probably won’t find what you really need. Instead, wait until after you move to buy warm and cozy clothing.

2. Prep Your Car and Your Driving Skills

One of the most drastic changes to take into account is winter weather’s effect on your car. You may drive in icy rain or whitewashed snowfall, so remember to drive extra carefully. Consider investing in snow tires or even snow chains in case snow and ice cover the roads.

When you move from a warmer area, you might not realize that mornings sometimes require you to scrape ice off your windshield and windows. Plan ahead so you avoid late days at work. In the worst case scenario, your vehicle might get stuck in bad conditions. Remember that you may need to walk or use public transportation during severe winter storms.

From Cold to Hot

3. It’s All About Air Conditioning

If you live in a seasonally mild or consistently cold area, you’ve probably never relied on air conditioning. But if your big move takes you to somewhere like Arizona, get ready to value an AC unit more than ever before. A cool home really acts as an oasis amid scorching heat.

All kinds of AC systems exist-central, split system, window, wall, portable, and more. Find out what approach works best for your new home, and don’t wait to get it installed, especially if your move occurs during the summer. And in order to cut down on potentially costly energy bills, use your home’s natural ventilation to your advantage by opening windows during the nighttime.

4. Eat and Drink Well

You might not think food and water have anything to do with hot temperatures. However, you can adjust more quickly to heat depending on what you do or do not consume. Most importantly, you want to drink plenty of water at consistent intervals. Dehydration presents a threat if you have an active or busy day with temperatures in the 90s or 100s.

Stay away from hot drinks like coffee, hot chocolate, and tea. Consuming hot beverages will amplify your body’s internal temperature. Avoid eating anything too spicy as well. You may need to wait on that mouthwatering chili burrito until a cooler evening.

With these simple tips, you can prepare to brave mild or even extreme weather changes in the next chapter of your life. Remember to apply this advice to make your adjustment less jarring and more comfortable.


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, amazon.com). 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, amazon.com). 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 jog.fm.

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 FreeShipping.orgRetailMeNot.com, and CouponCabin.com to see if free shipping or other discounts are available. Or simply shop the clothing-and-accessories sites Zappos.comEndless.com, and Piperlime.com—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 RicherLife.com, 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.