At Work

Strengthen Your Memory with These Five Tips

Have you ever walked into a room and stopped in your tracks, wondering what brought you there? Or, perhaps at work you’ve opened a search engine only to blank out on what term you needed to find. Memory lapses like these are common, and they grow more and more frequent as we age. They can slow us down, whether at home or on the job.

But believe it or not, there are many ways you can build your brain function. Check out these five ideas to strengthen your brain.

1. Try Normal a New Way. A concept called neurobics, developed by Lawrence C. Ktaz, Ph.D. and Manning Rubin, advocates using your brain’s power to form new associations to strengthen brain functions. Their book, Keep Your Brain Alive, offers 83 ways you can integrate neurobics into your existing schedule – while you drive to work, on the job, and at home. Some of their ideas include

  • Drive to work a different route.
  • Brush your teeth with the other hand.
  • Unlock the door with your eyes closed.

2.  Exercise Your Brain. Prominent Japanese neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima, M.D., advocates daily, short training of the brain to keep it in tip-top shape. Your brain, just like your body, works better when it’s exercised regularly. His book Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain offers a daily program of simple math equations to strengthen brain functioning. For those who prefer a more active program, Kawashima is also the mind behind the popular Nintendo DS game Brain Age, which uses a variety of short games and tests to help you keep your brain up to speed.

3. Learn Something New. For most of us, after we graduate from high school or college, our pursuit of new knowledge bottoms out over time. This can slow down brain functions, because the process of learning actually helps create new pathways in your brain, keeping it spry. Simply learning basic vocabulary in a new language, taking up ballroom dancing, or learning to cook new things can keep your mind sharp.

4. Stay Active. That’s right, heading to the gym or walking with a buddy on a regular basis isn’t simply a good way to stay in your current jean size. A new study from Columbia University shows it’s a great way to fight memory loss related to aging as well.

5. Learn to Breathe. Most people practice this in the form of meditation. Taking a few minutes each day to find a quiet spot to breathe and reflect can help reduce stress, but it can also increase attention span and focus, both of which are critical to a good memory. In fact, researchers believe that focusing on a single image, sound or idea actually exercises the area of your brain that helps you pay attention.

Using these ideas can help you strengthen your brain and expand your memory capacity. How do you keep your brain sharp?

How to Give Bad News to Your Boss

It’s tough to be the bearer of bad news, especially when the person you have to deliver the message to is your boss. If you have to share negative information with your supervisor such as problems with a project, mistakes on an important task or that you’re leaving the company, don’t freak out. Instead, prepare yourself by calmly going over the facts in your mind. If necessary, rehearse what you plan to say in advance. You can even write out your main points and bring the notes with you into the meeting, that way you’ll be sure to get it all out in a clear and concise manner.

The following tips can help you deliver sour news to your supervisor in a way that demonstrates your thoughtfulness and professionalism.

Don’t Expect the Worst. You might be tempted to blow a situation way out of proportion in your mind and imagine a terrible reaction from your boss. But, try to avoid getting too worked up. Worrying about how your boss will take the news won’t help the situation and will only rattle your nerves. Instead, stay calm and focus on communicating the facts effectively with your supervisor.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush. Waiting to give bad news won’t make it easier. In fact, this usually only exaggerates a problem. For one, waiting may result in your boss hearing the information through the rumor mill first. Additionally, putting off delivering bad news causes more stress for you. Take a day or two to prepare yourself, and then set up a time for a private meeting with your supervisor at their earliest convenience.

Offer Solutions. When it’s time to give your boss the bad news, make sure you are prepared to offer some solutions. Thinking ahead about ways to resolve the issue demonstrates to your supervisor that you’re a proactive thinker. When you concentrate on trying to resolve the issue instead of dwelling on what’s wrong, you’re making progress toward a positive solution.

When have you had to share bad news with your boss? What did you say, and what response did you receive?

Bouncing Back from a Bad Review

Have you ever had a bad performance review? Or, gone in for your yearly evaluation only to find that you haven’t been doing as well as you thought? If you have experienced a situation like this, you might have found it difficult to jump back into your job without having negativity or resentment toward your boss. To help you get through times like this, here are some tips to get you back in good graces with your boss.

Stay Open. No matter what, don’t close the lines of communication with your boss. Try talking to them so you can better understand your role in the company and what your primary goals are. Ask questions even if you understand the less-than-flattering review so you can see their side. Have your boss explain or give examples of what went wrong. Ask them to tell you how they would handle a similar situation in the future. By asking for examples for bad marks on your review, you’re not only allowing yourself the opportunity to explain the situation, but you’re also allowing your boss to see that you genuinely care to correct the problem.

Make Improvements. You may have not been proactive in your career before, but now is the perfect time to start. Schedule a monthly meeting with your boss to go over your objectives and your progress over the previous month. Show your boss that you’re taking an active role in improving your work quality. They will not only respect you for handling the situation well, they will value you for your hard work and determination to correct the issue.

Stay Positive. Negative comments can make anyone feel insecure, but remember, everyone has felt this way at one point. Like the old saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Take this opportunity to learn from your mistakes, address them and improve. By allowing yourself the chance to improve your performance, you’re learning both what to do and what not to do to. This will help you grow within your position and develop professionally.

Have you ever had a bad review? If so, how did you handle the situation?

5 Tips for Finishing the Work Week Strong

productive weekHave you ever had one of those weeks with a constant stream of interruptions, back-to-back meetings, and an increasing workload? Or, have you felt so hectic that when Friday rolls around, you feel so bogged down in work that the joy of the weekend is shadowed by the sheer amount of work you must do?

Regardless of the work environment you’re in, you’ve probably experienced times of overwhelming workload. So how can you cope when priorities are weighing you down? Here are some tips for using Fridays to finish the week strong and cope with work overload.

1. Kill e-mail. A recent report in USA Today highlighted a phenomenon called “Zero E-mail Fridays.” At Intel over 150 engineers at the company recently committed to forego e-mail on Fridays and to opt for a phone call or face-to-face meeting if communication is needed. Other professionals are going a step further and deleting their entire inbox each Friday in order to have a clean slate when Monday rolls around.

2. Get an e-secretary. You may not be able to take things this far, depending on the type of work you do and whether or not you’ve followed up on important e-mails, but many prominent time-management gurus advise that at the least, workers should avoid staying logged in to e-mail throughout the day. If you can’t commit to this every day, start doing it on Friday. One way to do this is to treat the out of office e-mail function as a personal e-secretary. Simply type a message saying something along the lines of: “I’m in the office right now but not checking e-mail until 4 p.m. today. If you need to get in touch with me immediately, please call…” That way, you can commit to checking your e-mail only two or three times each day and have more time to focus on the tasks at hand as the week ends.

3. Purge the paper. If you are like most workers, you have a constant inflow of information, and not all of it is digital. In fact, research shows that the Internet has increased the amount of paper we use – 1 billion trees total or 735 pounds of paper per worker are consumed each year in the U.S. alone. But, studies show that when you’ve touched paper once, you will only look at 10% of it again. So, start throwing it away (or stop printing it out!). Don’t even waste your time filing, unless it’s something that’s necessary to have a hard copy back up of. Do you really need that memo about the new software training you’re signed up for? Probably not. Into the recycle bin with it. Making a goal of tossing 90% of the paper on your desk at the end of each week will help you cut down on the clutter and keep only the most important documents within reach.

4. Make time to plan. Try to carve out a chunk of time on Friday to plan for next week’s work. An hour is a good goal. This gives you time to review and update your to-do list, to rearrange priorities, to look at your calendar and to think strategically about how to approach your work. You’ll thank yourself when Monday rolls around and you can hit the ground running without a second thought.

5. Give yourself a break. Now that you’ve done the hard work, the planning, the organizing, and are set up for a great upcoming work week, it’s time to give yourself a break. That’s what days off are for, after all. So, after you leave the office for the week, turn off the Blackberry, forget about your to-do list, and find some time to unwind. Making time to enjoy life will help you feel balanced, increasing your focus and job satisfaction once you return to work for a productive week.

Instead of finishing the week on a tired, frazzled note, try using these tips to make Fridays your week’s best asset. What are your Friday tips? Let us know in the comments below.

Personal Discovery: Find a Job You’ll Love

Love Your JobWhat gets you excited? What are you best at? When do you really feel “in your element?” The answers to these questions can help you discover a lot about your strengths and what makes you happiest. Knowing what you enjoy and what you’re good at are two of the most important factors in finding a job you love.

To really feel fulfilled by what you do everyday, you must first examine your values, interests and talents. Once you’ve evaluated these areas of your life, compare them to what you’re doing now. If you discover that most of your working hours are spent on activities that conflict with who you are at your core, it’s time to find a new job. Life’s too short to spend hours working at a job that makes you feel bad about yourself.

To find a job you’ll love, think about what’s important to you. Are there particular causes that inspire and motivate you? If so, you might enjoy working at a non-profit or government agency that focuses on issues you feel strongly about.

Your hobbies are another place to look for clues about what jobs might suit you best. For example, if you enjoy scrapbooking, you might like working at a craft store or teaching scrapbooking classes.

Let’s say your passion is spending time with animals. While you probably can’t make a living by hanging out at home with your cat, more than likely you could find a job as a dog walker, pet sitter, animal shelter worker, veterinary technician, pet store clerk or groomer that would allow you to spend time working with animals.

Finally, think about what you naturally excel at, not necessarily what you’ve been trained to do well. These in-born strengths are your talents. If you’re not sure what your talents are, look back to a time when a task was particularly easy for you or you exceeded expectations on a project. Often times, your strengths and interests are connected. That’s because people usually enjoy things they’re good at – which is all the more reason you should try to find a job that utilizes your natural talents.

Do you work in a job you love? What do you love about it? Or, are you still looking for your dream job? What do you think it would take to make you love a job?

Developing Leadership Skills

What does it take to be someone who influences others and spurs them on to success? Strong leadership skills aren’t just natural traits that simply appear without any practice. If you aspire to lead those around you, focus on developing your leadership skills now.

Build Team Unity. You can’t create a team from people who hate each other. That’s why in order to lead those around you, you must first establish team unity. Some ways to build unity are discouraging gossip, helping co-workers see the good in others and keeping a positive attitude. It’s far easier to tear a team apart than to build it up, so make sure your focus remains on the needs and success of the team as a whole, not just individuals among the team.

Encourage Others to Succeed. No one can succeed without some level of support from others. By helping your teammates get ahead, you’ll be laying the groundwork for your own future victories. Those you’ve helped in the past will feel loyal to you for what you’ve done for them. Not only that, but your reputation as a leader will grow as you help others to reach their potential.

Be an Example. Good leaders lead by example. You can’t expect those around you to admire you or aim to imitate you unless you provide an example of exemplary conduct with your own work. This means always acting with integrity and consistently producing high-caliber work.

By working on your leadership skills now, you can prepare yourself for future opportunities to inspire and motivate those around you. Remember, it takes more than just natural ability to be a great leader – practice is what turns potential into reality.

3 Career Tips for New Professionals

startEntering the workplace for the first time is both exciting and a little scary. These mixed emotions are also often felt by experienced workers changing jobs. Whether it’s your first day of work or your first day in a new position, you’ll want to make a good impression and do your best work. Here a few tips to help make the first weeks and months at a new job go smoother.

Be humble. Even if you’re a quick study and your new job seems like a breeze, your new co-workers will like you much more if you come in with a humble attitude. Nothing bothers long-time employees more than being told how to do things by newbies. Wait until you’ve been at your new job a while before handing out advice. Not only will your suggestions be taken more seriously, your insights will most likely be improved by a little on-the-job experience.

Ask questions. As the new person, no one expects you to know everything – so ask as many questions as possible when you’re new. But, make sure you’re not asking the same questions over and over. This indicates you aren’t paying attention to the answers and is a bad move. Also, if you’ve been given training materials, review these first for answers to common questions. Then you may be able to formulate even more complex questions, which is a great way to demonstrate your desire to thoroughly understand your new responsibilities.

Learn from others. Your new co-workers are the best resource for learning the ropes at your new job – even better than supervisors. The reason is that your peers will tell you the unwritten expectations of the job. They also typically have more time and a better understanding of the specifics of your job duties. You can observe those around you to learn about the organization’s culture and values. Additionally, building relationships with your new co-workers will also serve as a foundation for continued success and teamwork.

At some point in your new career you’ll make a few mistakes, but as long as you keep a positive attitude, you’ll learn to fit in at your new job and impress those around you as you grow professionally.