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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.

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.

What does it take to be one of the best places to work for top talent? This is a common question that many employers ask as they seek to develop workplaces that attract, retain, motivate and engage top performers. To follow are some common practices spanning the full cycle of employment from recruiting for a position to planning for the future talent needs in your company.

Staffing & Workforce Planning

  • Align your workplace with the needs, interests, and preferences of top performers
  • Brand the workplace by promoting aspects of your organization and highlighting aspects of your local area by using attractive messages, images, and materials
  • Recruit talent by selecting effective sourcing, advertising, and marketing strategies aligned with definitive policies for hiring only top performers and a definition of what characteristics, competencies, and behaviors those top performers exhibit
  • Select top performers using a variety of effective selection processes and tactics including trained hiring personnel and a combination of valid selection tools, measuring the success of selection decisions, and amending processes as needed
  • Develop an effective on-boarding program and engage new-hires
  • Plan for the future workforce by engaging in succession and workforce planning practices

Compensation & Rewards

  • Compensate top performers competitively according to market rates and review compensation structures in order to maintain competitive compensation
  • Pay for performance by linking, differentiating pay according to performance,  offering opportunities to earn more pay based on performance
  • Recognize and reward employees in meaningful way and show appreciation using formal and informal programs to recognize top performance
  • Provide a competitive array of health, welfare, work-life, and retirement benefits that support employee well being, work/life balance, and wellness

Development & Training

  • Provide training opportunities and ensure that these training solutions meet the needs of employees and contribute to improved job performance
  • Develop and advance careers by providing developmental services and programs that help employees attain their career objectives
  • Build challenging, meaningful, autonomous, and empowering job experiences for employees’ by using their skills and abilities to their fullest potential

Organizational Culture

  • Be socially responsible by providing ways for employees to engage in community efforts and initiating environmentally-friendly workplace practices
  • Effectively supervise and manage performance by providing supervisors with a variety of tools to manage their employees and their performance, and having general philosophies/policies surrounding managing others in the organization
  • Foster coworker relations and teamwork by building a positive and collaborative work atmosphere, providing opportunities for teambuilding and peer recognition, and embracing a diverse workforce
  • Lead with talent integrity by engaging employees through communication, support for programs, positive interaction, and accountability
  • Celebrate success as an organization and recognize employees’ personal events

Organizational Innovation, Success, & Performance

  • Facilitate creativity and innovation by providing opportunities for ideas, suggestions, and feedback; developing both informal and formal ways to promote creativity and innovation; and initiating processes/initiatives for employees to enhance products or customer experiences
  • Measure and communicating organizational performance as well as customer, client, or product achievements

What are some successful best practices that you have used to build the best team? We would love to hear your comments below.

We don’t like to think about it, but let’s face it when it comes to security issues, we’re better off taking proactive steps to ensure we’re safe than face the consequences. While we often take a stand when we’re securing our home, we tend to be more lax when it comes to securing our workplace.

Maybe that is because we assume it is someone else’s responsibly. The fact is, security is everyone’s responsibility and the steps you take now can keep you and everyone you work with safer.

Here are some basis tips to get you started. They will not only make your workplace more secure, but help prevent theft as well.

  • Challenge visitors or individuals walking through your office. Try to determine who they are visiting by asking if they need assistance.
  • Do not let anyone into the building with your access keys or card as you enter after regular business hours.
  • If you find a building entry door propped open after normal hours, close it immediately and do a walk around the building.
  • During the winter months when it gets darker earlier in the day, consider using a “buddy” system when you leave the building at night.
  • Take your keys out of your pocket or purse before leaving the building. Ladies, don?t try to find your keys in your purse once you reach your car.
  • Keep valuables in your car hidden and doors locked.
  • Never leave your reception area unattended or entrance doors propped open.
  • Always keep valuables out of sight, including purses, cash and stamps. Lock them in a desk drawer or file cabinet if possible.
  • Place small pocket calculators or recorders in desk drawers when not in use.
  • Do not allow unknown or unexpected service or repair personnel free access to your office space.

Beware! The following are some common pretenses used by thieves to gain entrance into offices or to distract you:

A thief may engage you in conversation while mentally making a survey of your office and return later. – A thief may call and fabricate a reason for you to leave the office so that an accomplice may enter. – Be aware of solicitors. Even though some of these people are legitimate, others are only “casing” the area for a potential future burglary.

It bears repeating: Security is everyone’s responsibility. Take these proactive, preventive security measures to ensure the safety of your office and property.

As always, if you notice any suspicious activity, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Self-improvement can be costly and time consuming. As an office manager, however, becoming more effective can make your job easier and make you more valuable in the eyes of management.

Office managers are expert multitaskers. If you’re doing more than four things at once, that’s probably still not enough. Your knowledge of the office is incomparable — you know exactly whom to call and when. Plus, you have a sixth sense about office crises. In other words, you’re practically indispensable.

What’s your secret? You’re organized; understanding (to a point), a good communicator, and can always see the big picture. Still, like any key employee, office managers are often looking for ways to become even more effective. Here are a few key tips:

Hone Your Oral Communication Skills
Knowing how to talk to people is paramount for office managers. In many cases, you’re the go-to person, so your ability to listen well is critical. You’re also the one responsible for making sure things get done. Knowing how to ask questions and obtain clarification will also help you to become more effective. For example, if you don’t understand how an assignment is to be completed, seek clarification. You don’t necessarily have to admit that you don’t understand something; simply ask for clarification. Likewise, if you’re discovering that people don’t understand your instructions, ask yourself if you need to be clearer in your communication.

Don’t Neglect Your Email Skills
Just because e-mails often suffer from poor grammar and punctuation doesn’t mean that your written communication should be anything less than professional. But knowing what to write and how to do it is just part of your mission; you also need to know about your reading audience. Do people tend to read your entire e-mail or will they stop reading after the first two lines? For the latter, you’ll want to incorporate the most important information up front. Also, always remember that once you put anything in writing, it’s there for the world to see. Be particularly sensitive in your e-mails and memos when informing staff about new equipment, a change of policy, or any report.

You never want to patronize or insult anyone. Make sure your subject line has enough information to encourage reading further. Most important: Re-read your email before you hit the send button.

And don’t ever underestimate the power of misinterpretation. Consider the confusion — and bad feelings — that could arise if you were to write “I resent that” meaning you sent a report again versus you were offended by something that might have been said earlier. Clearly, you want to know where to insert hyphens (re-sent) and when you should simply pick up the phone or stop by someone’s desk for a face-to-face conversation.

Consult Your Internal Customers
Remember always that your primary role is to ensure the efficient operation of the office. Engaging in regular communication with your coworkers can help you avoid troublesome issues and attack the ones that do arise more creatively.

Treat Your Vendors Like Best Friends
As the purveyor of office supplies, it’s in your best interest to cultivate and sustain solid, mutually beneficial relationships with your suppliers. It makes good sense to build a pleasant rapport with the companies that help keep your organization running smoothly. Just as you expect loyalty from them, you also need to demonstrate a commitment to the relationship. On the other hand, it’s also important to maintain high (but fair) expectations. Try to do both and you’re likely to experience above-average to excellent service. But don’t forget to compare the supplier landscape. As the person overseeing costs, it’s your responsibility to ask suppliers what they can do for you and your organization. Their job is to keep you a happy customer.

Maintain a Positive Attitude
This one’s pretty obvious. Still, we sometimes forget how a smile or a clever remark can diffuse a troubling situation. Using humor in the workplace, smiling, and exuding a positive attitude whenever possible are all good strategies for overcoming a variety of office situations.

As the office manager, you have a tremendous opportunity to set the tone, and if people can rely on your professionalism, they’ll be less worried and more committed to contributing to a positive work environment.

Buying office supplies online saves you the trouble of time spent on trips to the store and carrying heavy boxes. Shopping online for office supplies makes the process easier, whether you are looking for home office supplies or keeping a large company stocked with paper, ink and equipment. As a bonus, online office supply sites offer free or cheap shipping and discounts on the products you use most.

Make a List
It is a good idea to make a shopping list (as you would when making an actual trip to the store) to make your shopping process simpler and to be sure you don’t forget any essential items. On your list, note specific details like paper size/weight or printer model (for ink purchases). This way, you’ll be able to fill your shopping cart in a few minutes when you sit down to place your order.

Buy Larger Quantities
You’ll get a better deal on shipping by ordering in larger quantities with many online office supply sites, so it is a good idea to order as much as you can each time. Some sites also offer quantity discounts, so if there are supplies you know you’ll need again in a month, it may save you money to order more now and get a cheaper unit price.

Consider Recycled/Eco-Friendly Products
Many of the sites surveyed in this review offer a range of recycled or eco-friendly office supply products. Eco-friendly products are equal in quality to their standard counterparts, but their production has a lower environmental impact. Eco-friendly products may be made of post-consumer or pre-consumer recycled materials, or they may be produced using earth-friendly methods, chemicals or facilities.

This is a great area to explore eco-friendly alternatives because most office supplies are disposable and it is such a high-volume industry. Although the prices are sometimes higher, you and your business can take pride in having done your part to help the environment.

Setting up a New Office
If you’re setting up a new office, you’ll need a lot of equipment in addition to renewable supplies. Most of the sites surveyed in this review carry a range of electronics and office machines. When you select a new electronics product, be sure you pick out all the peripherals/accessories/supplies you’ll need to keep it up and running. For example, when you buy a new printer, it’s a good idea to buy a few ink cartridges and a lot of paper.

Many of the surveyed sites also carry lines of office furniture. Before you pick out a desk or workstation, be sure you measure your available space and find matching chairs that are the appropriate height. Some sites do not accept furniture returns, especially after the furniture has been assembled, so it is important to select the right products the first time.

Keep Track of Orders and Make a Schedule
One of the downfalls of buying supplies online is the shipping delay. Start keeping track of your supply usage to avoid being caught without paper or ink while waiting for your order to arrive. Over time you’ll be able to establish an average supply usage rate and plan ahead for when to place your next order. Many office supply sites allow shoppers to create an account to keep track of order history. This can be a great tool for keeping track of how often you need to re-order.

Business Accounts
Many small and mid-sized businesses buy office supplies online. Many office supply websites offer business accounts to support these higher-volume customers. Once you’ve set up a commercial account, you may have access to wholesale pricing/quantity discounts, tax exemption and/or credit terms.

If your supplier offers credit for business accounts, you may be able to order as often as needed and receive a monthly bill. This is a great option for companies that prefer not to shop online using a credit card. Once you’ve found a supplier you like, call or email them to find out about business account offerings. You can still shop online for your office supplies even after you’ve set up your special account.

Do you wish your team had more oomph in their step at work? You want to do something to keep them happy but need some help? Some ideas to keep in the back of your mind to keep them happy are:

  • Recognize success
  • Set goals
  • Provide career growth opportunities
  • Offer flexible work hours
  • Provide quality office supplies
  • Go on team field trips

Because we want to do our part to make sure everyone on your business team is happy, productive and successful, here are a few more ways to keep your employees happy to get out of bed each morning and come to “work”.

Offer Collaboration Spaces
When members of your team want to work together on a project, give them a place to come together and get creative. Huddling in one person’s cubicle isn’t the best option. A collaboration space anywhere in your office, such as a meeting room, a round table or even an office corner filled with beanbag chairs, can help encourage communication and collaboration to keep your team excited and moving forward.

Create a Regular Ritual
Whether it is a Friday afternoon BBQ or a monthly happy hour, creating a ritual for your team gives them something to look forward to. This excitement and creating relationships with team members outside of the office walls can have a stronger impact on team building than trust falls.

Have a Virtual Work Day
Some people can work better and be more productive from home. If you offer work flexibility and allow team members the option of working from home one day a week, they’ll find they are happier and more productive at home. It doesn’t work for everyone, however, so make sure your company’s Virtual Work Day isn’t mandatory.

Give Them Ownership of a Project
Most employees want to know their ideas and their skills are recognized. By giving them ownership of a project and having them work on it and push it through to completion, you are giving them that recognition they want, and allowing them to showcase their talents even more. This extra boost in respect and encouragement can keep them happier and working hard to make you proud.

Give Them More Vacation Time
I know it may seem counterproductive to offer more time off to increase productivity, but that is exactly what more vacation time can bring. When employees are getting ready for a vacation, they work extra hard to get all their work done before they leave, and this can drive greater results from your team.

It’s no secret that happy employees are productive employees. The trick to to keeping your team members as happy as possible the majority of the time, and encouraging their productivity to benefit your business.

How do you keep your team happy? Please share your ideas below!