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Archive for July, 2012

As the days of summer peel away on the calendar, moving closer and closer to the first day of school, many parents reminisce about their own days of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Many recall the thrill of selecting a new lunch box adorned with a favorite cartoon character or the excitement of purchasing new clothes and supplies during back-to-school shopping excursions with their parents.

Parents today want to create the same fond back-to-school memories for their children. To that end, some families have developed special traditions for when their kids go back to school. Need to establish your own traditions? It’s never too late! Following are some ideas for making memorable traditions when your kids return to school.

Picture Them Coming…and Going
Capturing photographs of all the special moments from the first day of school is a tradition that many parent take time to do every year.

Some parents pose their children in the same spot every year on the first day of school and snap a photo to show the progression of the kids’ changes over time. Some have a traditional picture-taking spot in front of a tree, which also grows along with the child. Many parents make it a big event and have grandparents also come to the morning send-off and snap photos on the front steps or at the bus stop.

“Last Supper of Summer” or “Back-to-School Breakfast”
One simple way to welcome going back to school is to let each child pick the menu for a “last supper of summer” or a “back-to-school breakfast.” Be flexible and remember that anything goes on this menu, from a favorite home-cooked meal to an outing at a favorite pizza place to allowing everyone to have dessert first, if that’s what the kids request. It’s your tradition, so do what will make it memorable for your family!

Add to the celebratory atmosphere by decorating the dinner table with a back-to-school theme—use an array of colorful pencils in place of a floral centerpiece; use construction paper place mats accompanied by pieces of chalk; or even let the kids have their dinner using their new lunch boxes.

If breakfast would work better for your family, then use the same ideas as above but have a morning meal instead. One mom says she has an alphabet-theme back-to-school breakfast where the menu consists of alphabet-shaped cereal and pancakes made in the shape of each of her children’s initials.

Fun “Night Before School” Preparations
Making sure that everything is in place for the big morning is often a part of the back-to-school tradition in households across the country. Organize everything the night before! This yearly routine gives the kids a sense of stability and helps calm any anxieties they may have on the night before the first day. Plus, it means no rushing around the next morning to find things on that important first day back to school.

Read About a “Can-Do Attitude”
One grandmother began a back-to-school tradition of giving a copy of the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You’ll Go to each of her grandchildren when they entered kindergarten. The books were then read and reread at back-to-school time each year. She says her grandchildren were inspired by the book’s message about all the possibilities that any new beginning holds; the book begins this way: “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

To create a lasting memory, the book can then be signed by each teacher the child has, either at the beginning or end of each school year. When back-to-school times rolls around, an annual tradition is born when the book is pulled off the bookshelf and reread before the next school year. The book’s message reinforces to children that they survived the last big school challenge—and that they’ll do just as well in the next new grade.

Reflections From the First Day
Have a ‘first-day surprise’ for them on their bed. Something small but special like a video game, gift card, or stuffed animal.” A special dinner that night at a local restaurant is memorable where they can tell of the day’s events.

Bake Some Memories
Some back-to-school traditions create lasting memories by way of the senses, such as how something tasted, felt, sounded, or smelled. Have warm cookies waiting for them when they get home the first day. This will get them to stay put for a bit and share their day with you. For the kids, the aroma of freshly baked cookies waiting for them as they walk through the front door, the warm hug they get from and the comfort of having your full attention as they describe their first day are certain to create lasting memories and perhaps a tradition to continue someday with their own children.

Be Honest and Do a “Happy Dance”
Although most parents and kids mourn the end of summer and the return to a school schedule, others look forward to the structure and order that going back to school creates. On the first day of school, and after the kids are fed, dressed, packed up, and safely on the school bus, do a “happy dance” celebrating your kids’ return to school!

No matter what tradition you create or continue each year, be sure to make time for one. While even parents of very young children know that time passes quickly, parents whose children are grown really realize how life speeds to fast-forward once kids begin school. Traditions can help hold on to that sense of family and belonging, making even the everyday a little more special. Happily, since successful traditions are often passed down, you can also make plans to continue your back-to-school tradition with future grandchildren once they begin school.

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Does every day feel like Ground Hog Day? Looking for more satisfaction from your work? Would you like to get more accomplished each day…and still have a personal life?

Well, you can with a few simple changes. Make the rest of the year the time you commit to being happier and more productive at work. It’s just a matter of organization, time management, and staying focused on those things that are truly important.

Break the Email Obsession
It’s a fact: Email is addicting and the biggest source of workplace distraction. According to the research firm, The Radicati Group, the average corporate user receives 133 e-mails a day and very few if any, require immediate attention. Still, many of us check our inboxes every five minutes for something more urgent or more interesting than what we’re doing at the moment. But this habit takes a toll on our productivity: 96 interruptions and a loss of 2.1 hours of work time in an 8-hour day.

Break the addiction by setting some rules. If you can, avoid checking email first thing in the morning. Instead check it at regular intervals, say 10AM, Noon, 2 and 5. Save the emails requiring additional thought for later when you can fit them into your schedule. Other ways to better manage email? Turn off the email alarm, use Reply All sparingly, resist the temptation to send an email if a phone call will do, and don’t send email after working hours.

Tackle Tough Jobs at Peak Energy
Do you zip through your to-do list in the morning, but slog through it in the afternoon? Then like most of us, you’re a morning person. Whether you get your burst of energy first thing or later in the day, use your peak energy time to tackle your toughest assignments. Turn off the email, close your door, and let others know you’re unavailable during that time.

Keep a Single To-Do List
Many of us scatter our projects across sticky notes, day planners, notepads and electronic calendars. Valuable time is wasted keeping track of scraps of paper, transferring items and living in fear you forgot something. Avoid the confusion with a single to-do list. Once you get into the habit of writing everything down in one location, you’ll be able to concentrate on getting things done. When creating your list, be sure to prioritize those items that are most important.

Tidy Up Your Desk
You may think a messy desk shows how busy you are, but if you have to spend time searching for things, you simply look unorganized. Every day set aside a few minutes to clear your desk.

Keep pens, pencils and pads neatly stored, line up binders and books and keep extraneous items away from keyboard and mouse. A well-placed in-box gives co-workers a handy landing spot for documents that might otherwise be strewn haphazardly across your desk and chair.

Keep Files Organized
Keeping your electronic and paper files organized is essential. Start by creating a logical filing system using clear, concise names. Place current electronic folders on your desktop, then move them to a hard drive directory when the assignment is complete. For paper folders, color code according to project type or importance, for example use red for urgent matters, green for accounting, etc. When retrieving papers, leave a trail so you can return things to their rightful spot. Simply place a sticky note in the file where you removed the document and place a matching sticky note (either colored or numbered) on the actual document. To return the document, simply match up the sticky notes.

It’s a fact that eighty percent of what is filed is never looked at again. Before saving any document, consider whether this information would still be up to date next time you needed it. If not, it’s time to pitch.

Stock Up On Supplies
It’s always the little things that slow you down, running out of printer ink for a big report, not enough pads of paper for meeting attendees. If you don’t have sufficient supplies on hand, it seriously slows down productivity. Every office or department needs a central supply of frequently used items. Whether that’s a closet or a single drawer, make sure your inventory is stocked with the necessary goods to keep you and your team on task. Your local Office Supply Dealer would be happy to help you place a standing order so you never run out.

Slow Down
Seems counterintuitive, but slowing down actually makes you more productive. Think about the last time you hit Reply All and had some explaining to do to the unintended recipients. Or, too late, double-checked a rushed project and found blatant, embarrassing errors. Rushing is the norm, creating a false sense of urgency, driving up stress, and increasing mistakes. Besides rushing being a risk for a heart attack, it also makes you impatient, frustrated and angry. If you tone down the panic, you’ll get the job done more quickly and accurately.

Conclusion
Make the rest of year when you resolve to be happier and more productive. You will be much happier and will carry it through to the next year. All it takes is a commitment to renew good habits and ditch the bad ones to see an improvement in both your professional and personal life.

What do you do to be more productive and lead a more balanced life? We would love to hear from you below.

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