Getting the Most Out of Your Workday: Part 1 of 3: Stay Focused and On Task

Have you ever left work feeling like nothing was accomplished that day? Is the stack of papers in your inbox constantly growing taller? By maintaining high levels of productivity, you can cut back on stressful times when workloads pile up, as well as boost your value to your employer.

Utilize the tips below to stay on task and get the most out of your workday.

Create a routine for the start of your day.
The way you start your workday can influence your productivity dramatically. To avoid unproductive days, start off by allotting yourself just 15 minutes to settle in for work. Don’t spend more than 15 minutes reading the morning paper, chatting with co-workers, getting coffee, or checking voicemail. Replying to nonessential e-mails can wait until you’ve completed some work. Most of you are freshest and more productive when you first come into work. Getting distracted or starting off slow can hinder a positive morning of work, leaving you with a heavy workload in the afternoon.

Find the best time for tedious tasks.
As much as you want to put them off, sooner or later you’re going to have to work on projects that are monotonous or boring. It’s best to find out when’s the best time for you to work on these tasks according to your nature. Some of you might be most productive at the start of the day and like to work on projects requiring more brain power during this time. Or, you might find that repetitive jobs need less creativity and can be saved for the end of the day, when you’re tired from the workday.

Check out parts 2 and 3 of this series in our next blog posts. Next time we’ll discuss preventing disruptions and planning your workday.

Fix Your Quasimodo Slouch: Tips for Correcting Poor Posture at Work

We’ve been taught the importance of good posture since we were little, but how many people actually took that information to heart? According to a study released by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, back pain is the most common cause of work-related disabilities in the United States. The study also shows that back pain is the leading reason for job absenteeism. More workers than ever before are spending long hours behind a desk and on a computer. Strains from poor posture while working will cause little aches and pains here and there, and over time, they add up to serious problems.

To help you correct your posture and dramatically improve the way your back feels at the end of a day in the office, try these tips below.

Adjust your monitor
Almost all problems with posture begin with tension around your neck and head. Begin by correcting your posture at the top, or all other methods will be ineffective. Try sitting down comfortably at your desk in a relaxed position with your eyes closed. Turn toward your computer screen, and then open your eyes. Where your eyes land is the ideal position for the center of your computer screen, because this position is the most natural, so adjust your screen accordingly.

Kick back at work
“Sit up straight.” Many have heard this admonition growing up, but as it turns out, your parents may have been giving out bad advice. A recent study by the Radiological Society of North America shows that the best position for your back is actually a reclined 135 degree position, not an upright 90 degree position. The reclined position calls for both feet to be planted on the floor with a relaxed 135 degree recline to remove pressure from the spinal disks in the lower back.

Don’t get stuck
To avoid being in one position all day and cause your muscles to stagnate, take quick breaks to adjust yourself and stretch. Try changing how you sit for certain tasks. For example, sit back in a relaxed position when you’re reading, but sit up toward the front of your seat when you’re writing. Lean back from your computer to adjust your neck around regularly to help prevent tension build up. Also, it’s good to stand up periodically while you work.

Keep your feet planted
When sitting behind your desk, keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees slightly apart. By sitting with one leg under you or crossing your legs, you are twisting your spine, and putting pressure on your knees and hips. Doing so will give you bad posture, compress your lower back and cause aches and pain in your body.

You can prevent back pain and injury and good posture is one of your best defenses.

Are you conscious of your posture at work? Are aches and pains causing you more trouble than before? Try these simple adjustments today, and see if you notice the difference.

Emotions in the Workplace: How to Control Your Emotions at the Office

Many people face challenges of dealing with their emotions in the workplace. Even though stress caused by a frustrating boss or technical difficulties can disrupt your ability to do your job, it’s important to keep your reactions professional. Though it can be tricky, here are a few ideas to help you control your emotions at work.

Identify what upsets you.
Hot buttons are issues or experiences that elicit a strong emotional reaction. Taking time to recognize your hot buttons will help prepare you to handle these situations when they arise. Though you may not be able to change how you feel, you can control how you’ll react by knowing what it is that sets you off.

Create a course of action.
After identifying your hot buttons so you can control your reactions, it’s important to create a strategy to deal with your feelings. This may include talking to your supervisor or writing down your thoughts to help smooth interpersonal frustrations.

Listen to music.
Simply listening to music can be a soothing way to calm your overwhelming emotions. Slip on some headphones and listen to music, and ask others around you to not disturb you when you have them on. Also, be sure to have the audio turned down low, and limit the time you have your headphones on in case a co-worker or supervisor needs to talk to you.

Reflect on yourself.
By taking personal responsibility to change yourself when you feel a surge of emotions at work, you’re displaying maturity and professionalism. As you reflect on your continual efforts to improve how you handle your emotions, try embracing a new perspective and changing your attitude overall.

Everyone experiences emotions including frustration, anger, and worry at the workplace, but it’s important to manage your emotions and keep your reactions professional. Have you ever let your emotions get the better of you? Have you found any other helpful tricks to control your emotions?

Saving Money on Lunch: How to Eat Cheap During the Workweek

You may find your discretionary income quickly disappearing each month as the high price of fuel has caused food prices to increase, among other things. While you might not be able to get rid of necessary expenses, you can at least cut down on your lunch budget. Here are three areas that can help you keep more cash in your pocket.

Packing Your Lunch
The biggest money saving tip is bringing your lunch to the office. If you usually spend about $10 eating out each day, you can save around $1,000 a year just by packing your lunch just two days a week. And, packing your lunch can be easy. Try buying frozen meals or making sandwiches that you can easily pack or prepare the night before. You don’t need anything else to worry about when you’re trying to make it to work on time.

Smart Eating Out
When you eat at a restaurant, consider carpooling with co-workers to save on fuel. At the restaurant, share a meal or appetizer with a friend or co-worker. Usually, restaurant portions are excessive, and splitting the meal can keep costs down for both of you. Many places also have affordable lunch specials that fit into a tight budget. Or, get a doggie bag and save half of your lunch to pack as leftovers later on in the week.

Bringing Snacks
By keeping healthy foods at work, you can snack whenever you get a little hungry. Munching on a container of cereal or fruit at your desk can help control your appetite and save you the cost of a quick snack at a vending machine. Snacking throughout the morning will keep you from ordering too much if you eat out. Also, consider bringing your own drinks to the office. If you were to buy a drink for $1 from the vending machine every day, that would amount to over $260 a year.

Your lunch budget is an easy place to cut down on your expenses. Plan ahead and think about these three factors and watch your expenses decrease quickly.

What do you usually do for lunch? Did you change your eating habits to help make up for high gas prices?

Get New Habits, Not a New Job: How to Cut Costs by Increasing Gas Mileage

If you feel that your paycheck is shrinking, you may not need a new job, just new driving habits. Record gas prices are being broken week after week. As of mid-May, New York and Chicago are averaging over $4 a gallon, and gas stations across the country are quickly approaching that mark. With what seems to be ever-increasing fuel costs, individuals are feeling the pinch at the pump. To help you get more mileage for your money, try the following these seven tips.

1. Clean out your car. Before you hit the road, take out all the unnecessary junk inside your car. According to the Department of Energy, removing excess weight from your vehicle can save you up to 7 cents a gallon, for fuel priced at $3.72 per gallon. Removing an extra 100 pounds of unnecessary weight from your car can improve your gas mileage by 2%. Keep the spare tire and car lift, but the golf clubs can go.

2. Drive sensibly. “Speed Racer, slow down!” exclaimed Speed’s teacher in the big-budget summer flick of the same name. Driving like Speed will drain your gas because high speeds guzzle fuel. By avoiding rapid accelerations and constant braking, you can avoid wasting gas and also be a safer driver. But, don’t drive too slowly because slow acceleration can bog down your engine and decrease fuel efficiency as well.

3. Properly inflate your tires. Under-inflated tires can also reduce your gas mileage and poses a safety hazard as well, so make sure you pump up your tires to the recommended level. Over-inflating your tires can decrease friction and increase gas mileage, but it’s unsafe because it also reduces grip for braking and turning.

4. Turn off the car. If you know you won’t be moving for more than 30 seconds, turn your car off to save fuel. Turning your car on and off uses less fuel than leaving it idle for minutes at a time. This tip is useful at railroad crossings, ATMs, drive-thrus and long traffic lights.

5. Keep the wheels practical. Shiny new rims on your car might be trendy, but bigger wheels actually increase you car’s rolling resistance. This increase will cause your car’s fuel economy to lower. If you do drive with larger tires, keep your stock wheels and switch out the larger rims on long distance drives.

6. Use cruise control. When you can, use your car’s cruise control. Using cruise control at highway speeds can save up to 7% of your car’s fuel economy. With little need for acceleration and braking on the highway, the constant speed helps save gas.

7. Just park it. Circling the mall, grocery store or workplace parking lot in search of a close spot is a fuel burner. Even by waiting for a car to pull out of a spot, your idle car wastes gas – and your time. So try parking a little further away and burn less fuel while burning more calories.

By following these simple tips, you might just be able to afford driving somewhere other than just to the office and back.

How are record-breaking gas prices affecting you, and what are you doing to cope? How is the fuel economy on your ride?

To Rock or Not to Rock: Music and iPods at Work

As of January 2008, over 140 million iPods have been sold. With the portability of mp3 players, employees are more frequently bringing them into the workplace. Workers with internet access can even stream music files at their computer. Research shows that 80% of technical and creative workers listen to music at least 20% of their work time. While some employers find iPods a distraction, many are discovering they can be a valuable workplace tool. Here are a few tips employees should keep in mind when listening to music while on the job.

Choose the right genre.
For increased productivity, think about song selection. Poor song choices can cause you to lose focus or impact your mood. Choose music with easy beats and light melodies, such as classical music or modern music that’s light on lyrics, to increase concentration. The steady beat will help you focus and keep pace with work. According to a study published in the Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology journal, rock music can have a similar effect as classical music and improve a person’s ability to recognize visual images, such as letters and numbers.

Be courteous to others.
Blaring music can annoy co-workers and can lead to tension if they become disgruntled and complain to management. To avoid disturbing others, turn the volume of your stereo down or use headphones. Even when using headphones, it’s important to have the volume low enough to allow co-workers to get your attention. Keep in mind that drumming, dancing, or singing along to songs can be a distraction as well.

Do not download music.
Downloading music on the internet from work can be a very sticky situation. While some services provide totally legal methods of download, many people attempt to download free music through other websites from work. This can unintentionally infect your computer’s network with a virus. It can also make your employer face copyright issues if you illegally download songs. It would be best not to download music online at all. There are various alternatives to downloading music. Streaming radio or streaming audio web sites, such as, allow you to listen to music through your computer without the security risks connected to downloads. Check your workplace policy on streaming music though, because many places forbid it since it takes up bandwidth. You can always bring a CD or mp3 player if that is OK with company policy.

Whether you want to increase productivity or block out distractions by listening to music at work, it’s important to be courteous to others. So, remember these tips the next time you turn on your radio or plug in your iPod.

Do you think iPods are a distraction or helpful at your workplace? Do you or your co-workers listen to music at the office?

March Madness and the Workplace

The 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship begins Tuesday, March 18. The tournament brings Cinderella teams, buzzer beaters, rabid fans and, of course, tournament brackets. And workplaces around the country are caught up in March Madness. The ease of organization is what makes the tournament attractive for office pools. Brackets are readily available for download from web sites like and A recent survey by Vault Inc. reports that 57% of employees participate in NCAA basketball pools.

While some argue that filling out brackets can hinder productivity, many employers are viewing office pools as a team building activity for their workers. If it’s well organized, a pool like this can benefit the workplace by providing a regular fun activity and develop camaraderie among team workers. To ensure a pool is well organized, experts suggest the winnings must be divided among players, allowing all workers who wish to play and conduct the pool in person instead of over the phone or through e-mails.

Although the Vault Inc. survey reports that 86% of offices don’t have policies against pool betting, it is wise to check your company’s policy before joining or starting a pool. In some states, unlicensed gambling, like office pools, may be considered criminal activity. If that’s the case where you are, there are many alternatives. Participants can play for gift certificates, sports or movie tickets, or for proceeds to go to charity. By taking out the monetary aspect, non-gambling pools are perfectly legal.