All posts by admin

Three ways to increase employee engagement

57289202 - motivated workforce and staff employees smiling artEmployee engagement is a major concern for managers today. Research shows that employees who aren’t engaged on-the-job are often less innovative and productive. And they are more likely to switch jobs at the nearest opportunity. Don’t let employees feel disengaged under your watch. Here are three ways to keep your team motivated and engaged.

Emphasize company culture. Whether you work out of a brick-and-mortar office or you manage a virtual team, consistent emphasis on the company’s goals and culture will help you foster an environment of trust, optimism, and determination among your employees. Reiterating the goals you’re collectively striving towards and thanking employees for their contributions to this culture is an important task.

Get better at delivering criticism. Nothing is more disempowering than being yelled at or harshly criticized by your boss. Employee engagement not only involves positive moments of teamwork and appreciation, but also moments of constructive criticism. Deliver bad news in a respectful way that will help your employees improve their performance, rather than leaving them wondering whether to just give up. And make sure employees know when they are doing a great job. Regular feedback is a key to keeping employees engaged.

Offer perks employees want. Not all employees need office ping pong tables, monthly beer tastings, and casual Fridays to be happy. You might be surprised to learn that some employees who are parents may want more flexible schedules and the opportunity to work at home more than they would want a raise! Get to know your employees’ wants and needs. Other employees may be more interested in workshops and training to learn new skills relevant to their jobs. Sometimes, a change as simple as allowing an employee to work 10 to 6 instead of 9 to 5 can make all the difference in the world.

Are you a manager … or a leader?

45902376_SWhat is the difference between a manager and a leader? While managers primarily serve to manage the work that other people do, effective leaders inspire those who report to them. Your job title may be more management-focused than leadership-focused, but studies have shown that managers who emphasize leadership skills over management skills in the workplace tend to have happier and more productive and passionate employees.

Effective leadership can help employees reach their true potential and succeed in their careers. While a manager may simply employ a “take it or leave it” approach to communication, a true leader adapts to their employees’ needs while providing the constructive criticism they need to improve their on-the-job performance. Constructive criticism involves highlighting some things employees are doing well, while also mentioning areas for improvement in a neutral tone (e.g., “I saw you did a great job with this last assignment, but you submitted it two hours late on Tuesday – it’s important to get projects in right on deadline so others in the office can begin their own work on that project immediately.”

Effective leaders set high but not unattainable goals for their teams. It might be tempting to aim high and settle for less if necessary, but sky-high expectations can be seriously demotivating for employees if they feel doomed to fail. And in the fast-paced work environment, finding time to thank your team for their hard work might seem difficult as you jump from one assignment to the next. While a manager may adopt the mentality that finishing projects and getting paid should be their own rewards, a leader would consider calling the team together for a quick round of cheers and congratulations after a particularly difficult project, and surprising employees with occasional perks. A leader would also tie together the success of individual projects to the success of the company as a whole.

Effective leaders also know their team members — and not just how they perform at work. They understand and support their employees’ personal lives, individual challenges and life goals. Emotionally investing in your team will pay off over the course of their careers with your company, so don’t miss this opportunity to create a workplace that encompasses so much more than just work.

Steps to a happier and more productive workplace

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Studies have shown that happy employees are more productive in the workplace, but sometimes there is a misalignment between what managers think will make their employees happy and what actually makes them happy. Some companies assume that awesome perks like ping pong tables, free coffee and flexible work schedules are sufficient for maintaining their employees’ morale.

But some perks might be masking more serious problems when it comes to your employees’ feelings towards your company’s goals, its leadership, workplace culture, and ease of communication with bosses and colleagues. Rather than assuming your employees must be happy, it’s important to regularly check in with them. Unhappy employees are more likely to leave their jobs to find more fulfilling work elsewhere if you don’t strive to meet their needs.

Here are a few places to start:

  • Provide enough feedback. Use empowering phrases in electronic and face-to-face interactions to let them know you’re noticing the good work they’re performing. When it comes to criticism, make sure it’s constructive rather than harsh with no proactive feedback from which they can learn from their mistakes.
  • Encourage your team members to share their ideas: Be willing to listen and genuinely consider their opinions and ideas. Don’t make them feel that you’re the only one who matters in the decision-making process because then they won’t bother sharing what might otherwise be valuable insight.
  • Be more patient and flexible: If an employee is struggling with an assignment or perhaps dealing with a personal crisis at home, be willing to accommodate them, within reason.

Top 4 ways to Sell Yourself in the Interview

Selling Yourself Part III: Top 4 Ways to Sell Yourself in the Interview

 

If you’ve been in a job search, you’ve likely put a lot of time and energy into the process by the time you get to the interview table. All your research, networking, and preparation are like the rehearsal to a show. You know you’ve got the “stuff” to be the best. How do you impress this on your audience in the span of an hour or less?

Many people shutter at the word, “Sell”.  The reason is because they are usually thinking of pushy, one-and-done sale of something they didn’t even need or want. No one wants to be that person. What if, however, you had the solution to world hunger, or violence, or finally a cure for cancer that was 100% effective? Would you be afraid or shy to talk about those things? No! The reason is because you know that people need what you have and they will be better for it.

Let’s bring that line of thinking to your interview. The definition of the word “sell” is “to persuade someone of the merits of”. This doesn’t mean you’re not bragging, boasting or BS’ing!  You are presenting what you have to offer that will ultimately make lives better in some way. Hold your head high, get excited and be ready to “wow” your audience. The following are the most effective ways to sell yourself in an interview.

  1. You are there to SELL, not to be SOLD.

This is a key distinction that you must understand when you are going into a first interview. It’s important to have questions but the type of questions you have are very telling to the interviewers. JFK so famously and wisely said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” That they key point here. You need to have done enough research and self-reflection in advance of your interview to know that the opportunity would be a good one for you. There’s no way at this stage that you can know that it’s the best one and that’s not the purpose of a first interview. Time to evaluate that will come later, once you have learned everything you can. Taking up the time of an interviewer to figure out whether you want them before they know if they want you can be a turn off not to mention that it takes the opportunity away from the interviewer to decide if they want you.

  1. Seek to understand BEFORE being understood

Keep the conversation focused on them; What they are looking to achieve?  What challenges do they have? How they measure success? How can you best contribute to their success? How things will be better when they fill the position? These are the types of questions that are important to give to understand before you talk about yourself. Time is limited so you want to make sure you share details about your abilities that are most relevant and concise. Too much information that doesn’t directly align with the needs of the job can cause the interviewer to think that even if you are capable, the job is not a fit for your overall skill set and you might be a flight-risk.

  1. Connect the dots: Pain and Remedy

Now that you understand why the position is necessary and what impact the company is looking for, you can address your abilities, desire and motivation to do those things exactly. For example, let’s say their web-site is 10 years old. It’s not optimized for mobile and it looks antiquated and stale. Knowing that, you can share more about your experience creating or enhancing web-sites. If this was not a pain point for them, it would not be the best use of time to talk about these skills no matter how well it illustrates your intelligence and creativity. Remember, the conversation needs to center around them and their needs.

Notice that I said a moment ago, that you can address the abilities, desire and motivation for the job. This is important because it will help you to most effectively connect the dots between their pain and your remedy. What if you don’t have the ability to address a particular aspect of their need but you would be interested in learning? You would never want a string of answers to be “I can learn”, “I can learn” and “I can learn”. However, simply restating a need they have expressed and then following with “That sounds like a fascinating project, I would love to help you with that” can be very powerful.  Asking for or suggesting a way you might begin learning about the area right away is also a great way to show that you’re ready to dive in and that you will walk the walk. I suggest before your interview, get a notepad and draw a box in the corner of it. As you review the job description, pick out the needs that are emphasized. Then when you are sitting down with the interviewer, check your understanding but saying something like, “I noted from the job description that you need….”, “are those the most important aspects of this role?” What are the most critical contributions you’re looking for?” Then, bullet point the answers in the box so you have quick reference to draw from when it’s your turn to talk about your abilities, desire and motivation.

  1. Don’t tell, SHOW.

There is no better way to deliver your message than by showing what you are trying to convey. First, consider how you show up. Are you dressed at a professional level that is appropriate for the position? Do your clothes, accessories and scents allow YOU to be center stage when they look at you? What about your appearance could upstage you? Bright colors, overly trendy clothing, strong cologne or perfume, and showing too much skin can be very distracting. You want to keep the focus on your conversation and engagement with your interviewer so eliminate these possible distractions.

The next way that you are going to show and not tell is through story telling. Story telling is by far the most powerful way to make a point. The reason is partially because listening to a story activates both sides of the listeners’ brain as opposed to listening to statements which more often only calls on the left side of the brain. When a person is listening to you with both sides of their brain, your words translate into facts and logic as well as images and emotion. The effect is that you send a stronger and more memorable message.

Beginning your story with a statement like, “I can tell you a quick story” has another interesting and positive effect on your listener. For most people, storytelling holds its origin in childhood. Stories would likely have been told by care takers who sat with them or held them while they told the story. Children listening to a story in this way are comfortable, entertained and engaged. When you say, “I’m going to tell you a story”, it biologically signals to the person that it’s time to get comfortable and engage with you. That is a powerful way to set the stage.

 

To your success! Now go win your audience.

 

 

Selling Yourself as a Job Seeker: How to Sell Yourself in an Interview

Welcome to Part II of Selling Yourself As A Job Seeker: How To Sell Yourself In An Interview.

Last week we discussed how to get an interview through networking and personal branding techniques. After putting those tips to use, have the interview lined up! Congrats! Now you may be asking yourself, “how can I actively prepare for this?” Check out these three key factors that will help you nail an interview.

Attire

Obviously we want to look our best for an interview, but how?

Make sure that you are dressed professionally.

Plan your outfit two days or so ahead of the interview. Make sure you are comfortable in it not only looks wise, but with moving! You don’t want to be stuck in pants that are too tight or a shirt so big it looks like a sheet. What kind of shirt and pants you ask? Stick with something along the lines of slack, khaki’s, and button ups. Adding a well fitted blazer doesn’t hurt either. As for colors, a good rule of thumb is to stick with the basics, such as black, grey, white, or blue. Try to avoid patterns that are “in your face.”

Remember; the interviewer wants to get to know your professional skills, not your shopping skills.

Avoid wearing too much cologne or perfume. If you insist, stick to one squirt. On the topic of smells, avoid chewing gum. Fresh breath is always nice, but the chomping that comes with gum is not. If you want fresh breath, have a mint a few minutes before the interview. When it comes to shoes, make sure they are not an eye sore. Polish them, make sure they do not reek, and avoid open toed shoes. Style your hair with how you feel comfortable. Avoid playing with it and adjusting it during the interview as this could get distracting. Robustly dyed hair may be inappropriate for the job, so stick to natural. In a nut shell, you do not want to have anything on you that is going to distract the interviewer from what you are saying.

Overdressed is better than underdressed!

Speech

When we are nervous, we tend to talk at one hundred words per minute.

Talking too fast during an interview may cause the interviewer’s head to spin and cause him or her miss key points you make.

If you know you are a speed speaker when you are nervous, try talking slower than you normally do for a few days before the interview. Taking a pause between sentences could help reduce your speaking speed.

Also, making a pause when you feel buzzwords such as “like,” “uhm,” or “uh” bubbling up will help you speak more effectively.

Just like, imagine you are like, uhm, talking with some uh, like person, and uhm, they are like talking like this. So distracting, right? Try this technique on for size; take a day and tally how many times you use these buzzwords while trying the best you can to replace them with pauses. Other words you want to avoid are controversial, swear, and offensive words.

Words you do not want to avoid during an interview are industry specific terms.

Use the technical terms you are familiar with. For example, the payroll program you used previously was not a “who’s-a-what’s-it” or a “thingy.” Go over your past job descriptions and brush up on the programs you have used in the past. Admit to the terms brought up in the interview that you do not know. Terms can be taught, so don’t sweat it! If the interviewer brings up a topic you are particularly excited about, do not cut them off to put your two cents in. Take the topic and run with it after the interviewer is done expressing it. Not sure how you sound? Record yourself while role playing the interview with someone and listen back to it.

Show more than tell

Organizations bring on new people to fit certain roles or fix specific problems. Before the interview, research what parts of the business the position you are interviewing for would directly affect.

Role play yourself in the potential position and solve the problems you find.

For example, if you are being interviewed for a sales manager role, look up the company’s sales history related to the budget expenses and show where you would channel the budget to increase sales. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act makes income statements and various accounting documents available to the public for publicly traded companies. By this law, accounting materials must be published so that potential investors (and the public) know what’s happening behind the scenes. If you are interviewing for a publicly traded company, finding accounting documents will take a little Google search. Gathering this data will allow you to also see where the company prioritizes its spending, thusly giving you a rough idea on which departments are the most influential to the overall business.

This exercise will allow you to feel out the role before you fill it and bring valuable talking points to the interview. Plus, it will show how serious you are to the interviewers.

If you are to take away one tip from this entire series, it is this one; be honest. If you do not know what the interviewer is referring to, do not be afraid to ask clarifying questions. It’s tempting to say we are guru’s at certain responsibilities in our dream job descriptions, but if we are not to that point, let’s not put on a charade as if we are. “Fake it till you make it” is not the wisest term for anyone going into an interview. Take a deep breath, envision success, and go for it!

Stay tuned for Part III of Selling Yourself As A Job Seeker: Are You The One For Me?

We will explore how to decipher if the job you are offered is the best for you at this time in your life and for where you want to go in your career.

Selling yourself as a job seeker: Networking and your Personal Brand

Have you ever found the perfect job for yourself and then found it impossible to get the interview?

Job seekers today are facing a growing challenge to getting noticed. Partially, that’s because 76% of resumes submitted to job postings are not even seen by a human being.  The chance of getting an interview is understandably low unless you know how to navigate the job seeker playing field. So then how do you overcome the odds and make yourself stand out amongst the crowd?  In this day and age, you have to know how to sell yourself. The first rule of sales is getting the attention of the right people. While that rule is hard and fast, venues and protocols are changing at a faster pace than they have before. To help you stay current on the fundamentals you need to sell yourself as a job seeker, we’ve put our heads together to share what the most successful job seekers have done to get noticed and get hired.

Networking

  • Grow your visibility by growing your network.
  • This can be done face to face at networking events or online. Either way, approach it strategically. Face to face networking remains the most salient way of making an impression. It gives you the chance to showcase your uniqueness and your desire to provide value. After a good face to face connection, invite the person to also connect with you via business oriented social media such as LinkedIn. When you send the invite, include a reminder of when and where you met. If possible, include something unique from the conversation such as a joke you shared to trigger her memory!

 

  • It’s important online or offline to show what value you can give the person you are forming the connection with.
  • Demonstrate your value by showing the benefit you can bring to the person. Listen to every person with the intent to leave him or her with at least one thing of value. It could be a client lead, a resource, the latest and greatest book you read, or an introduction to someone who might be helpful to them. In some cases, you may have no other choice other than making a cold contact. Be sure you have considered all possible connections and affiliations to warm things up and always send a personalized message. If the person is in your geography, you may open with something like “I hope you are staying warm on this wintery day”. It’s tempting to click “Connect” on every LinkedIn profile who seems like a good connection for you, but this could contribute to the information overload we are trying to avoid.

 

  • You want to stand out in an engaging, professional manner, so do it concisely.
  • Imagine the inbox as a networking event. If you have ten people talking to you at once, you’ll selectively listen to the ones that stand out in a relevant way to you. The same behavior applies for email and social networking messages. The ones with concise and relevant information and a personal touch have a better chance of landing a response than landing in the recycle bin.

Personal Branding

  • What makes you you and not just another “insert title?”
  • How can you describe what contribution you make to people with context beyond the title of your position. You are not just a Line Cook at Lock50, but the “detail orientated chef that assures the highest quality is put on each plate.” This is where you show verses telling your value. Highlight results you have produced and actions that you’ve taken to build your success. Show where you have been on your individual career path and where you want to go in the future. Actions speak louder than words. When it comes to the business world, this remains painfully true. You can say that you tackled mountains of work, but if you do not have the data to show, there’s no worth in telling. Talking the talk is one thing. If you want to change the game, show what you can do!

 

Now that you know how to cut through the noise and get noticed, you’ll need to be ready to walk the walk – in an interview of course.

Stay tuned next week for Part II: Selling yourself in an interview. Happy Networking!

Before the Career, There was the Internship

Are you or someone you know suffering through the stress of finding the perfect internship? As if applying to college wasn’t difficult enough, finding an internship to put the bow on the college experience can be a nightmare. College students (and high school students in some cases) can feel the weight of the world on their shoulders during this time. As they look for the ideal position that will help pave the yellow brick road to an emerald future, they start to question, “is this the future I want?”

Let’s establish that the first internship doesn’t lock someone to a career path with a ball and chain. The idea of an internship is to get all that book-smart and show how it can be converted into street-smart. Ace every test about how an engine works, get a job with a mechanic, then realize the smell of a car shop gives you migraines. How could this be avoided? By gaining the proper experience before diving in.

Much like finding a job, there are a lot of resources online, in your community, and on campus to point you in the right direction.

Online

Platforms

There’s a slew of job posting websites out there, but what about ones geared directly towards internships? Internships.com is exclusively for intern seekers and intern hosts. This simple to use site has connections to internships across the U.S. Put in your internship credentials and reel in the results. You can modify your search deeper by including the company name, identifying a search radius, and filtering by opportunity type. This is a great tool to get an overview of what is out there. Some more internship searching platforms are Looksharp.com, Wayup.com, and InternQueen.com.

Company Website

Do you have a dream company you are striving to be a part of? Check out their website for available opportunities. Companies will usually post job openings in the “Career” section of their website. Sift through the listings and see if any of them are realistic for an internship position. Don’t be afraid to apply. The worst thing that’s going to happen is you get a polite email from their loving, caring human resource department saying “sorry… but good luck!”

Email

A wise teacher once told me “you SEND emails, you GET emails back.” Take your hunt deeper in the company website. Find an email address. It can be any, but try to find someone with a position closest as possible to the department in which you’d like to intern. Attach your perfectly edited cover letter and your most up to date resume to an email addressed to the chosen receiver. In the body of the email, explain how you have been tirelessly trying to get an internship with the company, but “cannot find the proper person to contact… would you be able to help me out in any way? It would be greatly appreciated!”. The receiver will most likely send you an email back saying “hey, I’ll help you out by forwarding this off to Person X who is in charge of hiring, sourcing, recruiting, etc.” Then, like every eager person would, sit by your computer and refresh your inbox every two minutes for the next two weeks with your fingers crossed.

LinkedIn

If you are search savvy enough to find the human resource director of your dream intern company, connect with him or her on LinkedIn. LinkedIn makes it incredibly simple to connect with professionals, but sometimes too easy. The prewritten “I’d like to connect with you…” message is convenient, but imagine getting tons of those a day as a busy human resource director probably would. Stand out. Compose an elevator pitch as to why you’d like to connect with him or her. Make it clear you strive for an internship with his or her company. This will show that you are actively searching for a position in their company. If he or she responds, great! Get a dialog going and see what doors that opens. Do not, I repeat, do not get disheartened if “there are no available opportunities for you now.” This is a person who has connections to other people just like them. Ask if any businesses in similar fields, in the area, or in general may have opening. Ideally, he or she will send you some information on a company or a member of the staff that can help you elsewhere.

In Person

Walk-Ins

Salons typically welcome walk-ins, but what about businesses? Dress in your ready-to-interview attire, take a drive to your ideal internship location and walk right in. Explain your situation to the greeter or receptionist. Hopefully he or she will understand! Ask if there is a right direction he or she can point you in to talk with the right person. If not, ask for some contact information for someone who could help you. If the receptionist or greeter can’t give this to you, leave a copy of your resume, cover letter, and ask for him or her to relay a message to a higher-up.

Career Services on Campus

The career services center on your university’s campus is filled with tips and resources on the job world. Everything from resume tweaking, to tips on an interview outfit, to what internship would be best for your major, the career services center can be a goldmine. Universities have connection with businesses domestically and abroad. Businesses understand how important fresh talent is, so they will sometimes pair with local universities to provide them with minds to mold. See what your university has to offer you beyond the books. If you are a graduate job seeker, see what the career services center where you graduated from can do for you in your job search. Career services embody all sorts of services for any stage of your career.

Networking

Remember your father telling you one of his good friends owns an IT company? What was the name of it again? Find out! You’d be surprised at how opportunistic your own network can be. Spread the word that you are looking for an internship in a specific field. Because you’re “in the loop,” your message may be forwarded to opportunities that are not available to just anyone. Jealous of the internship your friend just scored over at the Fortune 500 company? See if there are any more spots! Ask your friend if you can use him or her as a reference. Having someone “out a good word in for you” can work wonders. People tend to trust their colleagues, especially when it comes to bringing new people in. Send a message to your network and see what arises!

 

Again, do not, I repeat, do not get disheartened if “there are no available opportunities for you now.” Timing is everything when it comes to things like this, so be patient. Relax. As long as you you’re your wheels turning, you will see results. Remember, you are not tied down to this company or the internship against your career’s will. You are there to learn!

How to Thrive Through School Vacation

How to Survive Thrive Through School Vacation

February School Vacation Week; Ah, those were the days! A full week dedicated to lounging around in sweats or escaping the drab of winter to enjoy a tropical oasis. Those days ended for most of us when we entered the workforce. For many working parents, school vacations are not only less than enjoyable, they can be down right dreaded. If you are lucky enough to be able to work from home, the situation may actually present an even greater challenge. It’s easy to be pulled in opposite directions which results in feeling less effective on both ends.

Our best advice when juggling multiple priorities is planning. In this case, the important thing is to have a plan that allows time to get out of your routine and be fully present with your kids. If your work demands are high, you may benefit by partnering up with another parent to cover for each other so one of you has a free day while the other enjoys a day of fun with the kids. Just because you’re a working professional now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join in on the fun, or relaxation! You’ll be glad you did and so will the kids.

Here are 7 of our favorite “get-a-ways” for school vacation week that are fun and educational for all.

Inside

Have a theme day

Be pirates for the day and greet each other with “ahoy, matey!” or just “arrrg!” Transport yourself back to medieval times and don’t just “go to the living room,” but “journey beyond to the living roometh.” Have all the meals coordinate with the theme, too! If you’re having an island day, start the day with a tropical fruit salad packed with pineapple, mango, bananas, and oranges. Take it a step closer to the sandy beaches by sipping coconut water straight for the coconuts with fun, curly straws!

Create a family piece of artwork

Have each member choose his or her medium. One can choose paint, one can have glue and construction paper, another glue and gems, and so on. Grab a big piece of paper and get to creating! If you can’t find paper larger than printer paper at home, a perfect alternative would be to flatten out that big cardboard box that has been sitting in the garage for months. The cardboard is a bit sturdier than paper so more paint, glitter, and glue can be smeared on it. As for the creative process, you can make it an avant-garde free-for-all, or have each person portray themselves with their medium. The result will have your individual elements combined in a artistic family portrait.

Make a movie or TV show

We capture candid moments all the time with our cell phone cameras, but what about a family feature film? Gather everyone together and pick your favorite movie or TV show to recreate. Get the creative juices flowing and make your own movie! Trap a princess in a tower of cushions and film her prince charming coming to save her, fighting off dragons along the way. Get the ingredients together for the family signature dish, throw on an apron, chef’s hat, and create a cooking show. If your family is the competitive type, go head to head in a game show! From creating the set to crafting costumes, everyone can chip in.

Tour a factory

There are factories all over New England that offer tours and give out goodies at the end. Ever wonder how chips are made? Well, go find out! The Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory tour in Hyannis, Massachusetts shows you how a common potato is transformed into a tasty, crunchy, Cape Cod chip. See how chocolates are decorated at the Hebert’s Candy Mansion in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Get a glimpse behind the scenes of Ben and Jerry’s in Burlington, Vermont. Factory tours usually have the products available for sale at the end, including exclusive ones you can find anywhere else. This can be a tasty and educational experience for everyone!  Utz Potato Chip Factory in Fitchburg is closed until April but put them on your calendar now for the April vacation.

Outside

Geocache

Geocaching is world wide treasure hunting. Locate Geocaches, or treasure, using GPS coordinates, or the Geocaching app available for iPhone and Android. The treasures can be located somewhere hidden, or in a popular tourist destination. Once you and the family find the Geocache, you take an item out and replace it with one that represents your family. Take a look through the log book within the Geocache to see how many other people have exchanged its treasures. Make sure you leave it exactly where you found it!

Volunteer

Our schedules can get so clouded that we can forget about taking care of our community. Take a moment with the family to help your local organization. This can be lending a hand at your local church’s food drive, reading to residents at the senior center, or spending time with cats and dogs at the animal shelter.

Build a snow giant

This puts a fun spin on your typical snowman building! Pile some snow together and see how tall you can make your snowman. Mix it up and model the snowman after a cartoon character, athlete, or celebrity. Adding food coloring to the snow can make the snowman more realistic and give it distinctive features. Put a bunch of snow sculptures together to make a winter wonderland.

 

Whatever you choose to put on your family fun calendar next week, we hope you find the same joy and excitement of school vacation as you did when you were a kid.

Top 5 Ways To Celebrate Valentine’s Day At Work For Little Or No Money

Every holiday has its icons. For Valentine’s Day, it’s the Cadbury heart shaped assorted chocolate box by a landslide. You know Valentine’s Day is coming when the isles at your local drug store are packed with them. We’ve come a long way from the original Valentine’s Day, ironically established to celebrate the lives of two Roman men, both named Valentine, who were executed on February 14. The significance of this day made the journey from executions to the celebration of love. Along the way, there came a trend known as “Vinegar Valentines” in 19th century America. They were anonymous cards sent to people with the intention of pointing out their negative qualities, not the loving ones. Thankfully that trend has passed us by! Valentine’s Day is often a day of joy, sometimes sorrow, and still always fundamental importance.

As we give remembrance and acknowledgement to those in the most special places in our hearts, let’s not forget those in our work place. How do you show your appreciation to the people you work with on Valentine’s Day? Here are five ideas that top the list without breaking your budget.

  1. Acknowledge a job well done or a particular talent that you admire. Depending on your work environment or your own personal style, this might be stopping by someone’s desk to pay him or her a sincere compliment, writing a note, or picking up the candy he or she is always craving. Words of encouragement can go a long way.
  1. Say thank you. A simple “thank you” can show more gratitude than you think. Workers who feel appreciated are more prone to step up and do more than what is expected. Chocolates are a “gimme” when it comes to V-Day giving, but nothing is likely to be as powerful as the words, “I am grateful for you.”
  1. Make them laugh. This one may sound cheesy, but there are a host of benefits you bestow on a person when you bring out a genuine laugh. It’s a universal response that is delightfully contagious. Give one person the gift of giggles and watch the whole office join. Laughter is truly the best medicine as it heals the body, mind and soul.
  1. Break bread, or better yet, cake! If your team is quirky enough to appreciate cake-decorating together, that’s one way to take the Valentine’s Day workplace bonding to the next level. Spruce it up by cutting it into a heart-shape. Add some festive candies to the top. I am a believer that teams who eat together are happier and more effective together. Snap a picture of the final product and put it on your company’s social media accounts. Even better yet, make it a competition!
  1. Cut out early as a team (with the boss’s permission!) This suggestion is actually geared towards you, Boss. Surprising your team by allowing them to leave an hour or two early can show your care for them and make that day a little more memorable. Who wouldn’t mind beating out the rush hour traffic, right?

Like any holiday, remembrance is what Valentine’s Day is all about. Whether it’s remembering to give thanks, remembering those who have served our country, or remembering spiritual significance in our lives, there is one common thread that runs through all of our holidays; love. One might say that Valentine’s Day is the holiday of all holidays because it embodies the unifying theme of what and why we celebrate.  Whatever you choose this Valentine’s Day, remember love is given in all types of forms from a hug, to a kind word, or to a Cadbury heart-shaped chocolate box. What matters most is that it comes from the heart.

Focus

A sense of urgency is healthy when a pressing task is at hand. If the reports are due tomorrow, you bet your bottom dollar they’ll be done and polished by the end of the day today. Opening my notebook to my checklist, prioritized tasks jump out at me like a pop-up book. When the caffeine kicks in, or when anxiety’s arms embrace me, everything is to be done by lunch; no breaks and no exceptions.

A cluttered checklist sets me over the edge from positive productivity to pessimistic procrastination. My eyes twitch from monitor to monitor, trying to make sense of the internet windows open and open ended randomized tasks…

Update my LinkedIn.

Find prices for Hamilton tickets.

What is a bounce rate?

Tune into On-Point with Tom Ashbrook.

How do I make this text two columned?

Change my profile picture… wait, why?

 

With enough practice, I have overcome this chaotic loop with some simple steps.

  1. Lower the coffee intake

I know, I know; how dare I suggest you put down your cup of “can-do” potion. I’m not saying get rid of it entirely, but take it one day at a time. Choose one day of the week where you won’t drink coffee. The next week, two days, and so on. Dependency is only good for tax forms, babies, and healthy relationships. Don’t want to give up coffee? Drink more water. It’ll keep you better hydrated which is overall better for your mind and body.

  1. Wake up earlier

There is something majestic, whimsical almost, about the early morning hours. The stillness creates a calming air that eliminates the sense of urgency. The earlier you wake, the more time you have to get ready. Waking up just to rush to work can put strain on your psyche, so why not treat yourself to time?

  1. Find the time for gym time

Apparently, sitting is the new smoking. The average 9 to 5 job requires you to sit hours on end in front of a computer screen. Where does the energy go that our body naturally produces? Does it go to breathing and typing? Simply put, yes. If you are not exerting your spare energy by doing, say, twenty minutes of cardio or weightlifting, where is your energy going?

  1. Cut the crap (crappy food, that is)

Now I’m not saying jump on a multifaceted, complex diet. Start small. A good rule of thumb is to cut out the C’s: carbs, candy, and cola. Carbohydrates take longer for your body to digest, henceforth carbo-loading the night before a long morning run. Too many can also make you very sleepy after you eat, causing you to loose valuable focus. Candy and cola are packed with sugars that can make you jittery and anxious.

  1. Turn off notifications

To achieve pro-level productivity, all distractions must be eliminated, especially the sporadic “buzz buzz” we’ve all come to know and love (and dread). The silence is unusual at first. With notifications off, you will be drawn to unlock, select, and open your desired social media apps substantially less. Two apps that I have muted; SnapChat and Messages. Since no urgent news arrives in those communication boats, why let them sail away with your attention? Besides, Mom’s most likely not going to Snapchat you that she has fallen and can’t get up.

Everybody is different, there’s no doubt about that. If these tips to keep on task don’t work for you, don’t sweat it. Do a little bit of research, explore the possibilities, and don’t get discouraged.