The Role of Lighting

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Lighting plays a much greater part in our productivity than most people realize.  There is quite a bit of research that supports the idea that productivity increases along with the amount of light in your workspace (at least up to a certain point). However, if the increase produces glare, it is counter-productive.  This is especially true for people working in front of a computer. The best lighting solution is one where the lighting is indirectly bounced off the ceiling.  This helps diffuse the light and cuts down on the amount of glare. Some of the best lamps I've used are the halogen floor lamps that shine their light all on the ceiling. Another thing to consider in lighting your … [Read more...]

Five Time-savers

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Logging into and navigating voice mail. Of course, you have to check your voice mail; but there are some things you can do to keep it from interrupting your day. Personally, I find that navigating voicemail menus is a huge waste of time. I have set my voice mail system to send me an email with the message attached as a .wav file whenever someone leaves me a message. This centralizes all my messages to the same place (my email box) and doesn't require that I navigate using the phone keypad. Reading emails. Here are several tips for streamlining your email reading: Make all your emails come to one place. If you have to log into several different accounts to read email you … [Read more...]

Paperless Office Stories

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We recently interviewed a group of businesspeople about their experiences with going "paperless." For some people, things went very well. For others...interesting mishaps ensued. However, each response would be helpful information to anyone that is looking into setting up a paperless office. We have been working toward a paperless office for some time, we try to do all contract exchanges and paperwork electronically, and generally this works very well. However, one requirement in our business space is that we have to have a copy of an ID document for each guests who rents accommodation from us (Europe wide law, applies too to hotels). We used to take a copy of an ID document at time … [Read more...]

Übernote Review

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Within the past few years, developers have flooded the web with task management/note taking applications. Most of them are free (for entry-level versions) and most have the same basic idea behind them. However, each one is tailored to a certain niche. Evernote, for example, is a great catch-all device. Its full featured interface is great for large tasks and project management. Ubernote is in a different category in that it is more similar to Springpad, but Springpad is newer, and the interface is much more polished. Potential users should note that Ubernote is an older product, and the user interface reflects that fact. It is free, though. From what I understand, at the time when … [Read more...]

Borrow from your IRA

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Usually I write about stuff that I recommend doing. In this post, I want to look at something that is possible, but not recommended under most circumstances. With hard economic times, there are a lot of people trying to find ways to borrow from their retirement funds. Many 401k accounts allow this, but what if your money is in an IRA? You'll probably want to ask: "Can I borrow from my IRA?"  Well, can you borrow from your IRA? Or perhaps, can you borrow against your IRA's value? Technically, no. But there is a short-term loophole that you can use if you have no other option. In this post, we are going to explore the loophole. Individual Retirement Accounts An individual retirement … [Read more...]

Continual Self-Development

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One of the biggest reasons people don't reach their full potential is because they don't really understand continual improvement. Skills and capabilities aren't things that you achieve and then coast on for the rest of your life. You can't exercise for three months and then decide you are set for the rest of the year. Pretty much everything you want to improve will require at least a small amount of effort on a regular, ongoing basis. Exercise and health If you want to stay healthy, you must continually eat, sleep and exercise. Bursts of healthy eating for a week followed by a month of eating junk isn't going to really help you. You must build healthy habits into your lifestyle where … [Read more...]

Springpad Review

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Bookmarks, sticky notes, grocery lists, tasks . . . I feel like I just cluttered up that sentence. (Or sentence fragment, if you want to be technical). The web has become such a powerful tool that often its abilities outrun our ability to organize the massive amounts of information that we collect from it. If you're like me, you use your browser's system to create folders under "Bookmarks." However, this really isn't the most efficient way to categorize information that you want to reference with any kind of dexterity. Recently, there have been several companies that have produced organizational tools for the web. Evernote, Yojimbo and Chandler all have some of the same purposes … [Read more...]

Circles, Amex, Passwords and Public Relations

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I got an interesting call last week. The vice president in charge of public relations from Circles gave me a call. Circles is the company that provides concierge services for American Express. A number of their current and former employees have commented here at Productivity501 and one revealed what Circles considered to be proprietary confidential password from their client, American Express. The VP of PR asked that I remove the password. Me: I vaguely remember a comment that had some type of access code in it, but it just looked like a telephone number. Is that what we are talking about? Circles Public Relations: It has the same number of digits as a telephone number, but it is … [Read more...]

Are You Becoming An Idiot?

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Pop quiz! Are you becoming an idiot? Wouldn't you hate to wake up one day and suddenly realize,"Oh my! Over the past 10 years, I've become an idiot!" It would be better to know now and take corrective action before you reach the point of no return. This is a ten question quiz to determine whether or not you are becoming an idiot. Have you read at least two non-fiction books during the last 12 months? Do you spend more than 2 hours a week channel surfing? Have you taken any formal college training in the last five years? Has it been more than 5 years since you did a long division problem by hand? Have you been to at least one cultural event in the last year? (Museum, opera, … [Read more...]

If I Get Fired…

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On a recent Sunday afternoon I was sitting on a bench at the local park watching my daughter on the playground equipment. I overheard an interesting conversation among another family. The adults were commenting on what their 8-year-old boy wanted to be when he grew up. Mother: "Of course he wants to be a fireman when he grows up." Boy: "Or a policeman!" Father: "Well, which one do you want to be?" Boy: "Well, I'll be a policeman if I get fired from being a fireman." Mother: "Well that is sure aiming high!" What I found fascinating about this was that the 8-year-old boy understands something about the modern job market that many adults have a hard time grasping. Your job isn't … [Read more...]

Productive Airplane Rides

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Today I heard an interesting statistic: One hour of work on an airplane is equal to three hours of work in the office. Wow! Sounds incredible, doesn't it? If that is true, then basically, you'd get just as much done if you spent three hours every day on a plane and take the rest of the time off. Offices of highly paid workers would be better off if they would stop leasing expensive floorspace and just get everyone airline tickets every day. Okay, so maybe it doesn't scale to something you can do every day of the week, but if you've ever worked on a long plane ride, this statistic doesn't sound completely unreasonable. Planes offer the following: A bunch of people you probably … [Read more...]

10 Paperless Office Myths

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The paperless office is no longer being held back by technical challenges. Everything you need to "go paperless" exists. The current barriers are cultural and process issues more than anything technical. In this article, we are going to look at ten of the common myths about going paperless. 1. Technology isn't ready for a paperless office The components of a paperless office are readily available and fairly inexpensive. The technology is readily available not only to scan in your existing paper, but to eliminate the creation of new paper through better workflow tools. While the technology for going paperless is readily available, the rate of adoption for these tools and this system is … [Read more...]

Severance and FICA Taxes

Current tax law says you and your employer must pay a tax of 15.3% of your total wages (subject to certain limits) because of the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA).  This is what pays for social security and medicare. This tax is only due on earned income and it is split between you and your employer. A recent tax court ruled that severance payments are not earned income and are thus not subject to FICA tax. If this applies to you, your former employer will need to file to get the taxes back, but it might be worth checking with anyone who paid you severance since 2006. … [Read more...]

5 Tips for Networking Geniuses

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Your network is the people you know and stay in contact with. The size and quality of your network has a huge impact on your opportunities in life. Obviously, keeping your network "healthy" is instrumental in growing it. What is a healthy network? A healthy network is one where the people who know you, think of your name when there is an opportunity that you might be interested in, a job you might like, or question you can answer, or a favor you can provide. Notice, it isn't just about taking--it is about people thinking of you both when they need something and when they can help you. In this post, we are going to look at five tips that will help make you a networking genius--someone … [Read more...]