Wednesday

Feeling Overwhelmed by Work? You Can Fix That!

Do you feel overwhelmed by too much to do in work (and life)? Many of us do-but you don't have to! There are simple ways to get overwhelm under control and to even feel good about all you have to do. Let's take a look at one way that I believe will help you greatly.

Urgency Leads to Stress

These days, it is very easy to reach an overwhelmed state. With the amount of e-mail we get, and with all the responsibilities in our dynamic lives, we are working on overload. As a result, there is no way we can do it all. In fact, I suspect that for many of us, 50 percent or more of the things that land on our plates never get done!

The good news is that most of the many things that cross our desk each day we can ignore without issue-there is no impact if we never take them on. Things like low priority e-mail requests, invites to unimportant meetings, and even seemingly brilliant ideas we may have can all wait without causing alarm.

But if items on our list become obligations, then real problems can arise when too many of those obligations pile up on us all at once. At that point we go into urgency mode-we can start missing deadlines and everything looks like a fire needing to be put out. In that frothy state, even things we would normally dismiss can look critical, and that leads to an explosion of stress and overwhelm. Not only does it feel lousy, but we become hugely nonproductive-this is definitely something to avoid!

Controlling Urgency is the Solution

When overwhelm happens, the solution is to control urgency. That might mean cutting out some unnecessary sources of urgency and reducing your load-for example, saying "no" to additional must-do-now assignments from your boss, or taking on fewer new projects in your own business.

But an even more important way to control the impact of urgency is to learn how to approach your workload in a way that does not cause so much stress. To do that, you need a way to change your mental approach to work. A smart approach can lead to a major reduction in your feeling of overwhelm, and, ultimately, make you much happier.

Mental Models

One such solution lies in understanding our mental model of work. Mental models are subconscious beliefs we hold about things in the world that do not always hold up to scrutiny when examined. We all have many such mental models, and some of them are widely shared, even if they're wrong. For example, in the Middle Ages people thought the sun rotated about the earth-that was a mental model that was just not accurate and was later dispelled. We also have mental models about work, and being aware of those can help us work better.

In fact, there is a significant mental model nearly all of us have about our work, which once understood, can help us get a handle on our urgency. Very simply it is this: most of us believe that in one to two weeks from today, our workload will decrease. We consistently think "this week is the worst; in a week or two it will get better." And yet, it almost never comes true-we are just as busy when that week arrives as we are now. While the misunderstandings in many mental models can be harmful, this one is good, because we can use it to help solve our feeling of overwhelm. Here's how.

Three Steps to Solving Overwhelm

The point in time one to two weeks out, when most of us stop feeling worried about our workload, is what I call our Workday Now Horizon. Like a physical horizon, it is the distance (in time) beyond which we do not see work clearly, and so we do not worry about it. Remember that term as you do the next steps.

For Step 1, you need a list of all the work items that you are currently worried about. If you do not have an exhaustive to-do list like that, then create one now. I suggest you do this on a computer in a new blank word processing page or in a new spreadsheet page. On that blank page, list everything you need to do now or soon that is currently on your mind-everything that is contributing to your feeling of being overwhelmed. Include items from paper to-do lists, from sticky notes, and especially items in your head. Get them all recorded. Also, go through your e-mail in-box to find things that you have left there that you need to work on and that are contributing to your concern about work.

Once done, at the top of that list, write the label "Worry List." This is everything that you need to worry about, all in one place.

For Step 2, create another page in a new document, and label it at the top "Over the Horizon." This page represents time beyond the Workday Now Horizon that I described earlier; that is, it represents a time period about two weeks out and beyond.

Step 3 is the key one. By cutting and pasting items, start moving tasks off your Worry List and onto your Over-the-Horizon list. As you move them, tell yourself these items do not need to be started until sometime beyond two weeks or more. Make that agreement with yourself. You cannot do it all, so something has to give, and these are the items that will wait. As you move them, you are removing them from your Worry List.

Keep moving tasks until your Worry List is no longer "worrisome." Do it until that list feels fairly reasonable in size-until the items on the list appear they can be completed in the next week or two. When you reach the number of tasks that feel reasonable for that period, stop.

Now, here's the hard part of Step 3. If any of the items you just moved over the horizon represent promises to other people, and you feel it may be irresponsible to delay them without notice, make a plan to contact those people to tell them the items will be postponed about three weeks. Plan to take some heat, but do it-your mental health is at stake. This is worth it. You cannot do it all so, it is better to let people know now rather than at the last minute. As you consider this, feel free to juggle items between the lists to balance the impact if necessary, but keep the Worry List small enough to be reasonably completed within two weeks.

Now, Your Worries Are Over the Horizon!

That's it! Put the Over-the-Horizon list away, out of sight. Keep it handy in case you need to move more items there, but don't study it again for one week. You have negotiated with yourself and others not to worry about it, so don't!

You can now focus 100 percent on the relatively small list that remains on your Worry List. It is by definition a reasonable list, so it is much less stressful. I call this short list your Now Tasks list. These are the tasks you feel good about focusing on right now. In fact, go and change the name of your "Worry List" to "Now Tasks"-it's a much better name. Know that it represents the best that you can do right now, given the time you have.

While working off the Now Tasks list, most new requests may need to go on the Over-the-Horizon page to keep your work balanced, and that's okay. Plan on visiting the Over-the-Horizon list once a week; when you do, consider if anything on that list has become more urgent. If so, move it back to the Now Tasks list. However, you will be surprised how few things on that list are still important over time; very few things need urgent attention once given the test of time, and many simply fade from importance.

Overwhelm Under Control

Guess what? You have gotten control of your overwhelm! You have created a system that allows the urgency of tasks to be tested by time. And you now have a plan for the next week or so that allows you to focus and to complete quality work without killing yourself. Feel good about it! Celebrate your new freedom-and, of course...now get to work!

The above article is based on Michael Linenberger's newly released book, Master Your Workday Now! -a book that presents powerful new approaches to managing tasks, e-mails, your goals, and your career. Michael is also the author of the #1 best-selling Microsoft Outlook book called Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook; in that book Michael shows how to use Outlook to get tasks and e-mail under control. Formerly a VP at the management consultancy firm Accenture, Michael now travels the US and the world giving lectures and teaching seminars showing others how to get back control of their out-of-control workdays. http://www.michaellinenberger.com.

Tuesday

Half of U.S. Workers are Disgruntled: How to Increase Morale?

Every company has employees who can’t stand their jobs. Unfortunately, for many companies this trend is increasing which leaves employers at a loss as to how to handle low morale. Dissatisfaction creates all types of problems in the work place ranging from poor productivity to plenty of drama.

Employees are not that happy with their jobs today. According to a survey of 5,000 households conducted by the Conference Board more than 50% of employees disliked their jobs. When the study was conduced in 1986 only 40% of workers hated their jobs. Thus, the amount of people disgruntled with their work life is rising.

Not all is lost simply because some employees are not happy. There is a good chance these employees won’t be happy anywhere else either. Companies do have some control over their employee “happiness level” if they make some simple adjustment. Move from the most cost effective and economical to those that require much more investment. Judge how the changes have affected your work climate before moving on.

Simple Happiness Adjustment:

1.) Cross-functional Training: Some employees get bored with their work due to the repetitive nature of their job. Allowing for cross-training not only helps employees to have more variety but also is beneficial to the company. When businesses can use their employees in a variety of places they have more options in terms of staffing needs and in-house opportunities.

2.) Flexible Schedules: Dissatisfaction may come from other family
obligations that may conflict with normal work schedules. As single mothers and father become the norm these conflicts are likely to continue. Adjusting work schedules to fit the needs of employees may be beneficial in increasing contentment and lowering turnover.

3.) Employee Appreciation: Just like you employees like it when their boss pats them on the back and says “way to go”. Appreciating your employees and their contribution to the organization can go a long way. It has been said that employees are more concerned about work environment than about pay.

4.) Clean Up The Work Area: No one wants to work in a nasty and dirty work area. By putting plants in the hallways, repainting rooms and remodeling areas a positive impact on the workplace will happen. It shows team members that the company isn’t all about squeezing productivity out of them but also about providing them with an excellent environment.

5.) Provide Growth Opportunity: No one wants to work for a dead end job. If you are an employee who is working hard but don’t see your job ever going everywhere the chances are you will punch in and out like a zombie. By allowing for internal promotional opportunities it gives workers a chance to go up the corporate ladder and helps them set goals.

Murad Ali, a two-time published author, writes articles and offers advertisement space for businesses. Visit http://www.thenewbusinessworld.blogspot.com

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Just in Case Your Co-Worker Calls Off in the Coming Months Here's Why

The following are real upcoming spring holidays whether your company chooses to acknowledge them or not; some of your co-workers just might, leaving you in the dark asking yourself, "Why did he (she) call off?"

  • April 16th - National Librarian Day
  • April 17th - National Cheeseball Day
  • April 20th - Volunteer Recognition Day
  • April 24th - Pig in a Blanket Day
  • April 26th - Hug an Australian Day
  • April 28th - Kiss Your Mate Day
  • April 29th - National Shrimp Scampi Day
  • May 1st - May Day
  • May 3rd - Lumpy Rug Day
  • May 4th - National Teacher's Day
  • May 5th - Cinco De Mayo
  • May 8th - World Red Cross Day
  • May 9th - Mother's Day
  • May 11th - Eat What You Want Day
  • May 12th - National Receptionist Day
  • May 14th - Dance Like a Chicken Day

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Monday

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How to Avoid Internet Job Fraud

With unemployment at the highest rate since the early 1980's record numbers of people are desperately searching for work. The Internet is the medium most job seekers turn to today as do con artists who use the Internet for fraud by preying on the unsuspecting. In today's economy, employment scam has become one of the fastest growing categories of fraud.

Fraud practitioners use Internet marketing and email scams to lure unsuspecting individuals who are looking for work. Employment is advertised on legitimate job placement sites and message boards or the "supposed" job offers arrive to the individuals by email. The typical guise is an international company needs to hire U.S. citizens as "agents" to perform certain services. The Internet scam is simple: The lure of a home-based job that requires very little work and pays big dividends, drawing "applicants" who then become victims of the scam. Not only do they become the unwitting victim of fraud, they end up losing money they could ill afford and in many cases they themselves become victims of identity theft and sometimes even unwilling accomplices to crime.

The too-good-to-be-true positions include payroll clerks, customer service representatives, shipping managers, mystery shoppers, craft assemblers and many more variants-all promising hefty salaries, benefits and huge commissions. For many victims, the hook is the promise of immediate, advance payments to the applicant. The company obtains personal and banking information from the new hire and checks are sent with instructions to wire a portion of the funds to a third party to cover expenses. In some cases, packages immediately arrive with instructions on re-shipping merchandise to international destinations. Once the checks are deposited and packages shipped, the dream job quickly becomes a nightmare. The checks the victims deposited into their personal accounts are fake. The duped "employee" is out their own money which was subsequently wired and they are now liable for the balance of the funds which can run into thousands of dollars. Usually the scam victim has lost all of their personal, scant funds previously deposited in their own bank account as well. In many cases they have also unknowingly re-packaged and shipped stolen merchandise, often purchased with stolen credit card information, and the "new hire" has unknowingly participated in money laundering crimes and other fraud.

Spam has become the advertising tool of choice for many of the con artists. AIS Media, an Atlanta-based Internet Interactive company that monitors Internet fraud, reports a dramatic increase in these scam emails. Unsolicited emails are received by individuals featuring subject lines such as "Immediate Placement", "We Received Your Resume", "Business Request", "Our Job ID 95313", "We're Pleased to Offer Your Job" "HR Department Announcement", etc. Thomas Harpointner, CEO of AIS Media, says "many of these scams are just newer twists on an old fraud. Today's scam artists have learned to streamline the fraud using the Internet. It has become the newest arena for scam artist to easily reach desperate people. The scammers appeal to the desperation of the unemployed, who in many cases have been out of work for more than six months."

The Internet scams have caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which launched a crackdown on job con artists who prey on unemployed Americans. Labeled "Operation Bottom Dollar", the FTC-in cooperation with other federal agencies such as the FBI, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service-has begun targeting individuals and groups marketing deceptive and illegal jobs as well as work at home and other phony Internet scams.

Along with email scam, the con artists place bogus employment ads on legitimate Internet job placement sites. The recruitment industry has stepped up its fight against the scam as well. Job portals such as Monster.com, Craigslist, CareerBuilder and others, as well as search engines like Bing have become proactive in attempting to reduce these scams by entering into partnerships to display FTC consumer information to educate job seekers in recognizing job scams. Recruiting sites, portals, message boards and other Internet services are quick to remove the scams as they are discovered, but with the fast pace of the Internet, the ads are posted as quickly as they are taken down. Caution and prudence by job seekers is the primary defense to avoid being a victim of a job scam.

AIS Media's Harpointner warns that if the posting appears too good to be true-it probably is. "Desperation should not cloud common sense" says the AIS Media CEO. "As job seekers scour the Internet and their email inbox anxiously looking for ways to generate much-needed income, they should always maintain a wary eye for scam. Avoid responding to emails from unknown sources and take the time to go online to research the company to see if credible information is available from legitimate news agencies. It should be obvious that companies are not paying big money for someone to do basically nothing from home. Red flags for job seekers include requests for personal information like social security numbers, mother's maiden names and cash payments from the applicant during an application process."

It is a well known fact among con artists that people are more susceptible to greed during difficult financial times. Job seeks should protect themselves by recognizing the fraud by avoiding con artists who have learned to streamline their scam using the Internet to line their pockets with money from people who are already suffering.

D Rick Ellis has an MBA in eCommerce and is director of Channel Partner Development with AIS Media; an Atlanta based Internet Interactive Company. AIS Media is dedicated to stamping out Internet scam and fraud.


A Matter of Fax, Inc.

Thursday

Bad Furniture Will Put You in a Bad Mood

How many times will you hit your knee on that old steel cabinet, tear your pantyhose on the corner of that wooden desk, hit your head on that outdated overhead, and have so many other injuries due to bad furniture at the workplace?

Sometimes I dreaded having to sit at an old, worn desk, work in a cold office, and recline in a broken chair. "We will have to replace that, " the boss' assistant would say after I complained for the umpteenth time. "How long do you think that will be," obviously irritated I would ask. "When we have money in the budget," the assistant would respond nonchalantly. Funny, some companies seem to never have money in the budget unless of course the boss needs a new pen.

Managers and supervisors should never take their employees' repeated requests for things like a new chair lightly. There are people who have back and leg problems. Some are too short or too tall for certain types of office furniture. There are those who need special accomodations due to being left-handed and others who are disabled. It can be frustrating for someone to have to ask over and over again for something as simple as a mouse pad, a nice pen, or a new filing cabinet. Then when the work is not done right or not at all, someone wants to have a fit!

I personally have found a site worth noting that has stylish, affordable office furniture, check it out:


Officefurniture.com

Lastly, I sincerely hope you get what you ask for soon. Don't tire of asking!

Nicholl McGuire is the creator of this blog and regularly tweets @nichollmcguire

Friday

Keep You Job Search Under Wraps

It's not uncommon for employees to want to jump ship and look for a new job and a new employer, even in this tight economy. If you've made the decision to find a new job or a new career and are currently employed, keeping your hunt a secret can be hard - but it's essential to keeping your current job intact until you are ready to officially make your move. Keep your job search under wraps and keep your personal business personal by following these tips for privacy.

Use your own time and property.

Resist the temptation to use your current company's resources to look for a job. This includes your work computer, your work email address, fax machines, telephones and even stationery, envelopes and the postage meter (yes, some people do help themselves to this company owned property). Even spending time for which you are being paid to research, write or even think about your job search takes you away from the obligation you have made to your current employer -- to some it is considered a form of stealing. If you absolutely must attend to phone calls or emails regarding your job search, follow up using your own cell phone or laptop when on your lunch break away from the office.

Network with discretion.

If you are planning to keep your job search undercover, you need to use discretion when speaking to others about your plans. Only share details with personal contacts whom you know will maintain your privacy and network with those outside your company who may help you gain entry into their business. Distributing your resume should also follow this guideline of discretion. You may not want to do a mass mailing of your resume, especially if you are in an industry where everyone knows everyone - the word could get back to your current boss. On job boards, you also often have the option to create confidential resumes that keep your name and contact information under wraps. You will want to swap out your name with the phrase "confidential candidate" and secure a non-identifying email address through a free service such as Yahoo!mail or Gmail. Taking additional precautions may also be necessary to keep your resume confidential such as describing your employer in general terms such as "leading apparel retailer" "or large advertising agency".

Choose references carefully.

Obviously, if you are flying under the radar on your job search, you cannot list your current supervisor as a reference. If you have close contacts in the company with whom you have confided, they may be used as references. Other people outside your organization who are willing to vouch for your credentials, character and skill set include professors, clients, contacts from volunteer activities you are involved with and past employers.

by Todd Denning

Resusme Locker is your career home page. Create, improve, and store your reusme online. Free recruiter blast to thousands of recruiters and free resume upload to over 10 leading job boards at Resume Lockerhttp://www.resumelocker.com

Wednesday

Career Advice: How To Make Gossip Work For You

That headline deserves an explanation, or else you'll think I've taken leave of my senses...or least that I am an off-the-wall contrarian.

Okay, in a perfect world gossipers wouldn't exist, but we all know the world has its imperfections a plenty. Gossip and gossipers are here to stay. Deal with it.

A survey by a research firm known as ISR showed that 63% of U. S. employees get all or most of their information about their companies from "water-cooler talk".

The fact is that every place of employment functions with two channels of communications. One is the official channel. The second is known by various names: gossip, rumors and grapevine.

The official channel is where your employer's version of the goals and procedures of the organization, the rules of the road, if you will, are laid out. The gossip mill is where you hear what your peers think of these plans, along with their assessment of them and those who sent them forth. The rumor mill provides more, ranging from malicious and personal attacks, to harmless chatter about who is flirting with whom, and what's on sale at the local mall.

Separate The Wheat From The Chaff

I don't mean to be cynical, but the conclusion is obvious. Gossip will exist whether you participate or not, and it will include some nourishing wheat along with a lot of worthless chaff. If you are not plugged into the back channel, as well as the official channel, you will be isolated. Therefore, you will not know what's going on in the environment in which you work. If you don't know the score, you cannot succeed.

Here are six steps you can take to separate the outrageous chatter from the meaningful information so the gossip mill works in your favor:

1. Don't waste your time jousting with windmills. Recognize you can't eliminate gossip, even if it is trash; but also know that if you try to shut down the gossip mill you will be cut out of the information loop.

2. Tune out the chatter that deals in personalities, especially the malicious stories that do damage to people and the organization that employs you.

3. Feed positive news into the grapevine at every opportunity.

4. Be alert to gossip about the workplace. Verify it or rule it out.

5. Identify the most active purveyors of gossip. Rank them according to their reliability and interpret their messages for what they are.

6. Confront the originator and set the record straight if the gossip is about you and it is untrue.

Ramon Greenwood, Senior Career Counselor for Common Sense At Work, is a former Senior Vice President of American Express. To subscribe to his f*ee semi-monthly newsletter and blog please go to http://www.commonsenseatwork.com/getitnow

Friday

Ten Ways To Build Your Credibility In The Workplace

Old article but definitely worth posting! Hopes this helps you if you are in need of improving your performance at work.

One of the most important qualities to achieving success in your career is credibility. This is a quality that can take years worth of thoughtful actions to establish and yet can be seriously undermined by a single bad move.

To gain a reputation for personal creditability, integrity is unquestionably a key requirement. To achieve credibility in the business world, you must also deliver. What you deliver and the quality of what you deliver is very important to building your personal credibility.

It is your ability to perform that establishes professional credibility. Being responsible, being a person who can be counted on to get the job done, doing the job well, doing quality work, and doing it on a timely basis will build your credibility.

Keeping your promises is critical to building your credibility. One of the quickest ways to destroy your credibility is to say one thing and do another. Making commitments and not following through them or making promises and not delivering on them are the quickest ways to lose credibility and this can have devastating effects on a business.

For example, an owner or a manager who has lost his or her reputation for credibility among his or her staff will devastate the morale and productivity of the office. An owner or a manager is only as good as his or her credibility or the perception people have of him or her. If you don't have any credibility in your organization, you won't get a whole lot done.

Building your credibility is an evolving process. It's not something you can do overnight. Credibility is something you build gradually over time by having integrity, high ethical standards and doing the right things for your organization and it's customers.

Here are ten ways you can build your credibility:

1. Be yourself. To be credible, you don't have to appear perfect. You should concentrate on and play to your strengths. You want to show what you have to offer, how or why you can be valuable to the organization. It's true that you want to put your best foot forward and present things in a positive light, but you need to be honest, human and not present a plastic image.

2. Act the part. You have to look the part and act the part of a person who has the organization's interests uppermost in his or her mind and is competent in the way you handle yourself and represent the organization. When you do this it automatically builds your credibility.

3. Listen carefully and follow instructions. One of the surest ways to lose credibility is to botch a job due to carelessness. When you are given an assignment, make sure you understand exactly what is expected of you and when it is due. Paraphrase what you are being told, to verify accuracy, and write down the information you are being given, to avoid confusion.

4. Be knowledgeable. At the heart of credibility is being a professional and knowing what you're doing. You must be able to do the job. You can't fake it. When you don't know something, you have to figure out a tactful way of saying, "I don't know that particular computer program. Someone will have to show me the software."

5. Network. There is an old saying along the lines that it doesn't matter if you don't have all the answers, as long as you know the person who does. Having an extensive network of contacts, both in your field and in unrelated fields, is important no matter what profession you're in.

6. Be a problem solver. You will gain credibility by having the reputation of someone who doesn't throw up his or her hands at the sight of difficulty. If you cultivate the attitude that you can conquer any problem, you will cultivate the image of a doer, of a credible and reliable individual.

7. Keep an open mind. Narrow-mindedness will quickly cause you to lose the respect of other people. You need to keep an open mind toward all people. You must also keep an open mind to new opportunities, skills and ways of doing things. That will make you a more flexible and adaptable employee and, in turn, more respected and valued. The more things you are able to do well and the more people you are on friendly terms with, the more esteemed you will be among your colleagues and superiors.

8. Cultivate self-awareness and set goals. Having goals gives your every action a sense of purpose. It conveys to people a feeling that you are someone who is going somewhere, someone not to be ignored, someone with credibility. However, to set clear and specific goals, you must first have self-awareness. You must first determine what is important to you.

9. Speak like a professional. Nothing will cause you to lose credibility faster than speech patterns that are unprofessional, or even worse, unintelligible. Ask your coworkers and colleagues if you use slang? Do you enunciate clearly? Do you speak organized thoughts and full sentences or do your thoughts jump around and your sentences trail off?

10. Look life a professional. Personal grooming plays an important role in shaping your office image. If your appearance is not professional, others will believe that you are sloppy and inept in your work as well. You will be perceived as being credible if you dress in a manner that is standard in your profession and that commands respect.

Every action or inaction contributes to your professional image, whether it's returning telephone calls promptly or implementing a program that will save your company thousands of dollars. Because of this, no detail is too small. The little things are important because they build your credibility. If you don't pay attention to the little things, your credibility is lost.

Copyright©2007 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and success coaching programs [http://www.jlmandassociates.com/coaching.html]. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in career coach training [http://www.jlmandassociates.com/coaching.html]. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many businesses around the world, on the subjects of leadership, achievement, goals, strategic business planning, and marketing. Joe is the author of three books, Starting Your Own Business, Finding Your Purpose In Life, and The Guerrilla Marketing Workbook.

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