7 Work Habits That My Co-Workers Might Consider Peculiar

I really like where I work, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been working here for over nine years now. I’ve definitely settled in.  There are a number of work habits that I’ve developed that work for me.  However, I wonder how many of these my co-workers might consider peculiar.

It also crossed my mind that if they do, I really don’t care 🙂

I make my own coffee in my own coffee maker.

There are several commercial grade machines around the office, as well as some Keurig brewers, but I don’t use any of these.  I actually brought my own coffee machine, one that I had sitting in the basement at home, and brew my own coffee every day.  Why all the trouble if there are machines everywhere?  Well, it’s because the machines that they have here don’t work too mb-2015-11-coffeewell for the routine I’ve established.  See, I don’t use Keurig cups as I find them wasteful and too expensive for everyday use, but the ‘free’ coffee that they provide is coffee in only the most technical sense.  Long story short, it’s awful.  I bring in my own coffee, keep it in the freezer, and brew my own pot every day.

So, why not use one of their machines?  Well, that’s because the commercial machines brew a full pot at a time, and I make a half pot per day, so a regular old brewer lets me make exactly what I want. The kitchenette area has a huge counter area, so I know there’s room for my machine, and I’ve made it clear that people are welcome to use it so long as they keep it clean and bring their own coffee to use.

I keep an early schedule.

My job is pretty flexible in that I don’t have to be here for a certain time.  We have to be around during core hours (I think between 9am-3pm) but we’re allowed to be flexible outside of that, so long as we’re getting our work done and working around the needs of our projects.  I always get in slightly before 7am and leave slightly before 4pm, so I’m one of the first to arrive.  I’m sure people think I ‘leave early’ but hopefully they soon realize that they never actually see me walk in…because I’m there before them!

I sort of have my own parking spot.  Plus I change it based on the season.

The people that get here early joke that we have assigned ourselves our own spots, as we get the pick of the parking lot, and generally park in the same spot.  I actually change my spot based on the seasons.  After Memorial Day, I park under a tree that provides afternoon shade so that when I come out to leave work, my car isn’t roasting inside.  Once October hits, I move to the other side of the aisle, where my car doesn’t get small leaves dropped on it, and I actually welcome the sunny days that we occasionally get during the winter months.

I take laps.

Our building was gutted and renovated in 2012.  They designed it so that the perimeter of the building is mostly free of any offices or rooms.  This allows light throughout the building, and also creates a ‘racetrack’ that makes taking a lap or two easy.  I have a FitBit and always try to hit my 10,000 steps, and taking ‘the long way’ to the bathroom or printer, or just taking a lap or two so that I can clear my head, all helps me reach that goal.

I bring my lunch.

Maybe this isn’t so strange, but based on the number of people that I see leaving every day for lunch, I’m sure that some consider it strange.  I may go out once in a while, but it’s a rare event.  If I do leave during lunch time, it’s more likely that I’m out running errands than it is that I’m actually getting food.

I refill my water.

I love to drink water, but for me it has to be cold.  I have a water cup at my desk, and I also have a container that I keep in the fridge.  I pour the cold water from the fridge container to my cup, then refill the fridge container with water. That goes in the fridge to get cold and the cycle starts over again.

I print out my to-do list.

I wrote earlier about how I keep my to-do list going every day.  The system works for me, but I’m sure anybody that glances at it probably thinks it’s a little strange.  After all, it isn’t your traditional to-do list.  I tend to break my tasks down into smaller sub-tasks.  Crossing things off on a regular basis keeps me more motivated to continue.  As such, I tend to abbreviate some of the items so that they make sense to me.  The net result is that someone else would see my list as gibberish.  It’s sort of my own personal shorthand, if you will.

All of these things are habits that work for me.  Still, I can see when added together, some might see me as a little bit odd.  As I mentioned above, I really don’t care because they work for me.  Plus, they keep me more productive.  Isn’t that the point?     I know I’m one of the go-to people that my manager can always count on and I get good reviews.  For these reasons,  I’m going to keep doing what I do!

Readers, what habits do you have at work that might be outside of the norm?  Are they habits that you know make you happier or more effective?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Tweaking My To Do List To Improve Productivity

One of the first things that I do at work each morning is type up a to do list.  I used to write it out by hand, but now I have an Excel file that I modify each day.  It’s actually pretty nifty.

Organizing By Recurrence

I have two columns of tasks.

The left column consists of tasks that I do every day.  Things like cleaning my inbox at the beginning and end of every day, organizing my desk, and other such tasks are in this column.  You might wonder why I list tasks that I do every day, and the answer is simple: To make sure that I do them…..every day!

The column on the right is for things that I have to do that aren’t necessarily daily tasks.  These are more related to the projects that I’m working on.  I have to update project schedules, send out status reports, input service request tickets, schedule meetings, etc.  I also put an item for each meeting that I have that day.

After I’m done, I print it off and that becomes my list for the day.  As I often have things come up, just like in any job, I leave some blank areas where I can write items in.

Not Everything Gets Done Every Day

One thing about my task list is that not every item gets done right away.  This might seem counterproductive and might go against the way some think a task list should be done, but this way works for me.

So, then, you might be wondering what kind of items don’t get done and why they’re listed?  I’ll explain.

When I know that I have a task that needs to be done, I will add it to my task list, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be done that day.  There are, of course, those types of items, and those get done as needed, but there might be some that don’t necessarily need to get done.

For example, if I have to plan out a project, I might have two weeks to do all of the preliminary work, consisting of things like building the schedule, getting estimates on labor, listing out any items that need to be ordered, submitting the plan for management review, and so on.  These all need to get done, but generally the tasks get spaced out over a period of a couple of weeks, yet I will put them all on my to-do list, so that I’ve got the whole list of action items that I need to complete.

Noticing A Productivity Gap

This system generally works pretty good for me, but I was starting to notice a troubling trend.  Certain items tended to stay on the list longer than I would like.

I started noticing that some tasks stayed on the list for days, or even weeks.  Especially administrative type tasks, where nobody was really checking on whether or not I did them by a certain date.

Yet, it started to bug me to see them appear day after day, and to see the list pile up.

Introducing Bold Font To My To-Do List

I decided to try something that I’d once tried but had failed: Applying bold font to certain tasks.

  • The failed attempt – Several months prior, I had thought that it might be a good idea to identify the tasks that I really did want to get done that day by highlighting them in bold.  This seemed like a great idea, but it really didn’t work out so well.  See, I basically highlighted the entire left hand column, plus whatever tasks I wanted mb-2015-10-notebookto get done that day in the right hand column.  By the time it was all said and done, I probably had 75% of the tasks listed in bold.  That instantly made it where the bold didn’t stand out, and I started ignoring it completely in a matter of days.
  • Revising my approach – I knew that the idea of highlighting tasks would work, so I tried it again.  This time, I made it so that the items in bold were limited in number, and that they were applied only to items that I could potentially put off but that would be a good idea to get done.  That meant that I would not bold items that I did every day, nor would I bold items that had a deadline of that day.  I limited myself to highlighting just a few items per day, so that the bold actually stood out on my list.

The Early Results Are Promising

Right away, I started seeing a difference in my productivity!  I noticed that by limiting the number of bold items, they really did take center stage on my list.  This would force me to concentrate on them throughout my day.  Some early observations:

  • I’m not getting 100% of the bold items complete every day, but I’m around 80-90%.  If I look at how many I would have done had they not been given extra attention, I’d realistically say it’d be around 40%.  So, I’m drastically increasing the productivity on items that I could potentially put off, but have no reason to.
  • I keep a tally of how many task items I complete every day.  I’m finding that the number of items I complete on an average day has gone up by a few.  This means that I’m increasing my overall productivity for my entire job.

This is pretty cool stuff.  I know that everybody has different tools and methods that they use to increase productivity.  I know that using an Excel spreadsheet and using bold fonts may not be the trick for everyone.  But if you want to try, here are my tips.

  • Have a system to track your to-do items
  • Review your system periodically
  • Change and tweak as necessary

That’s it!

Readers, how do you stay productive and how have you evolved your systems to match your work style?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Working From Home

With more and more people quitting their jobs to pursue their passions as freelancers and home based entrepreneurs, the landscape of work is changing. Back in the day, you had to to have a 9-5 job – any job, especially if you were the man of the house – just to conform to society’s standards.

This often meant doing a job you hated, in an office you despised, much like what many people are still going through now. But what the heck. As long as it pays the bills and provides health benefits, all’s well that ends well. Right? Well, that pretty much sums up why 70% of Americans hate their jobs!

Shifting Gears

This has brought on a shift in the way people think. Many of them are realizing the benefits of working from home and are turning to freelancing or accepting positions as virtual employees for some of their income, while working on another side hustle to generate more money.

Telecommuting is fast on the rise, with an estimated 3.2 million Americans enjoying the comforts of working from home and many more international employees getting hired by companies who realize they could get cheaper talent abroad at a fraction of the cost. Freelancing has also become a pretty lucrative business if you’re skilled at what you do.

The benefits are awesome, to say the least:

  • Everyday is dress down day.
  • No traffic!
  • No jostling for position in a crowded subway.
  • Eat healthy, home cooked meals all the time.
  • Everyday is bring your pet to work day!
  • Everyday is bring your child to work day!
  • Perfect work-life balance.
  • Extreme flexibility.
  • Never be late!
  • Lower your carbon footprint.

These are just a few of the benefits of working from home. Of course, your pet or child can’t be with you for the duration of your work, but at least you can spend time with them during lunch or when you’re having a short break. Your office should also look and feel like an office, or your productivity will suffer.

What job can I get working from home?

There are many things you could get into while working from home. Here are some of the more lucrative jobs and projects you can take on:

Writer

If you’re a talented wordsmith, put your pen and wits to good use by offering your services as a writer. There are many options to choose from, depending on what you love doing. You can be a ghost writer, web content writer, copy writer or technical writer. Writers get paid either hourly or per project, so choose which one is most applicable for you, and don’t forget that you should charge for research!

English Tutor

There are many websites that can pair a native English speaker to a person from across the globe looking to learn, all from the comfort of home through VoIP. If you’re an English major or if you know how to teach basic English, tutoring is a great way to earn money from home. Conversational English may be part of the deal, but translation isn’t. If your client is looking to you to help translate a document, ask them to try a professional linguistic service.

mb-2015-10-laptopGraphic Designer

If you got an eye for design and color, a career as a freelance Graphic Designer may be in the cards for you. The good thing about this is that everything can done virtually, from talking to clients by VoIP to getting an idea what they want. Files can be shared instantly, and cloud computing makes collaboration much more easier to do.

Web Designer

Another creative telecommuting idea is to offer services for web design. These days, web design is all about templates, and sites like WordPress, Weebly and SquareSpace offer templates by the dozen. But if a client wants something unique and different, you can use your CSS and HTML5 skills to make them beautiful web pages.

Other good, work from home careers are in accounting, customer service, tech support, sales and programming.

See you at Home!

The list above is hardly complete and there are a myriad of other lucrative work from home jobs available if you know where to look and if you put in enough time and research into honing the skills you’re offering. Don’t forget to check out sites like Fiverr, Elance and Freelancer if you want to view what jobs are in demand and what other people are charging.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Mystery Solved: Dilbert Works At Volkswagen!

If you work in an office, chances are you’ve run into one comparison between your office and the Dilbert comic strip.  I love Dilbert, and ever since the stopped making new Far Side strips, it’s my desk calendar of choice.  One of the things I’ve often wondered is what company Dilbert would work for in real life.  Well, after reading the news this week, I think the answer is pretty clear.  Dilbert must work at Volkswagen!

Liars, Cheats, Polluters

One of the top stories, and I think it will only keep gaining momentum, is how Volkswagen got caught and fully admitted to lying about their diesel cars.  They made hundreds of thousands of diesel cars, and it turns out, had a computer software program that blatantly worked so that they were lying about emissions and polluting the enviornment.  And, this was all intentional!

They had software that controlled emissions, and it could be set to have certain systems bypassed in normal use, and only be activated during testing.  What this meant is that a car being tested for emissions would report everything just fine, but during everyday driving, would be putting out lots more (up to 40 times more, to be exact) harmful emissions.

Unbelievable!

I never really read too much about why they would do this, but I’m assuming that if the emissions were ‘as they should be’ all the time, that the mileage would be significantly worse or the car would not function as well or that repair costs would be higher.

But, honestly, does it really matter?

No.

So Why Does Dilbert Work At Volkswagen

Dilbert, in his comic strip, has a whole slew of scenarios in which he or his co-workers are featured.  They all focus on the absurdities of daily interactions, often around dating or relationships with family members, but most of the time, it’s focused on where he works.

His boss ‘The Pointy-Haired Boss’ and his bosses boss ‘The C.E.O.’ are two of the most wicked characters, but now that you read about the VW scandal, you realize that they’d fit right in there!  Let’s look at some of their common behaviors:

They Lie All The Time

Both of the bosses lie all the time, right to the faces of their employees, vendors, and yes, their customers, and then even laugh about it behind their backs.   Sound like something that might have happened at VW?

They Act Above The Law

Little things like laws and regulations matter not to Dilbert’s bosses, and it’s evident that such trivial things like rules don’t matter at all to those at VW.  Something like this had to go all the way or pretty near the top.

They Mock The Intelligence of Others

In Dilbert, the bosses will purposefully send a product to market that could harm consumers or simply wouldn’t work, but they don’t mind because they assume that nobody will ever figure it out.  With hundreds of thousands of diesel VW cars on the road, you’d think that it would occur to someone that it’d all get figured out someday, but apparently they really didn’t care or think that anybody would ever uncover what they were doing.

They’re Driven By Money At All Other Costs

Dilbert’s bosses will cut corners, fire employees, and do a whole mess of other actions.  All they care about are their bonuses.  Something so ridiculous as this VW scandal can only be driven by one thing: Greed.

The Big Difference

The one big difference between Dilbert and VW is that Dilbert is funny. You’re supposed to laugh at the sheer absurdity of what they present.  But, what’s happening at VW is not funny at all.  A company that’s spent decades building a reputation is now going to see it tarnished.  Stockholders have already lost over 20% of their holdings since the scandal was uncovered.

mb-2015-09-pumpYou have to wonder how this started, but I have an idea.  Just imagine, somehwere in the VW headquarters: Someone or a bunch of someones were one day reading Dilbert, and instead of laughing and putting the comic aside, they said “Hey, that’s not a half bad idea….”

And, voila, a $7 billion scandal was born!

Side note: I really think that Dilbert is in good fun.   I know that the author writes it with that intent.  This post is in jest, but the similarities are pretty hard to ignore, no?

What’s Next At Volkswagen?  Can They Recover?

But at VW, it’ll probably get worse.  Many times when something like this happens, then other things magically start bubbling to the surface.  Does anybody really believe that this is the only shady thing that VW has been up to?  On top of that, a diminished reputation leads to lower sales. This  could send things spiraling down and down.  Eventually the $7 billion that they’ve estimated will be just the tip of the iceberg.

Smart, eh?

Readers, anybody out there drive a VW or have any feelings about the scandal?  What do you think inspires something like this?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.