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Office Exercises Can Ease Your Body & Mind

Working in a cubicle or office all day, looking at the same computer screen and maintaining nearly the same position all day long, can get taxing on the body and make work uncomfortable and distract you from getting important tasks done. So why put up with it?

Here are some easy exercises that can help your body and mind.

The “Executive Stretch” – I bet many people do this exercise occasionally without even realizing the benefits of it.  Sitting in your chair, clasp your hands together behind your head, and press your elbows back so that you squeeze your shoulder blades together.  Repeat this 3 times, and do this several times a day to prevent your back from seizing up and to maintain your oh-so-important comfort level.

As we all know, staring at a computer screen for lengthy amounts of time can be taxing on the eyes and make your tired and unable to acutely focus.  So do the easy Focusing Technique by simply focusing on an object 20 feet away for several seconds, and slowly look around at other surrounding objects.  Doing this will make looking at your computer screen more bearable and will make you more productive.

Again, sitting still and staring at a computer screen may not be anyone’s first choice for what to do on a lazy Saturday, but alas, it’s Tuesday around 3 pm, and your neck is starting to kill you.  Try out the Neck Glide – sitting upright and staring ahead, just rock your neck back as far as you can, then glide it forward.  Repeat this 3 times, and repeat the exercise when your neck needs a breather.

Then there is the Arm Massage – While sitting at your desk, place one arm down flat on the desk, and with your other arm apply pressure with your thumb from your wrist up to your elbow, and back again.  Do this 3 times for each arm, and you’ll get some blood flowing again.

Tired of sitting down?  Well, just stand on up for this next one, known as Reverse the Curve. Place your hands palm down on your lower back, and looking forward, rock your upper body back over where your hands are to stretch your back and hips.  Make sure you hold the position when you are leaned back for 5-10 seconds.  Do this exercise 3 to 5 times in repetition, and throughout the day as needed.

Finally, there is one more simple exercise – the Leg Extension. Sitting down, stretch one leg out in front of you, and point your toes during the ceiling to stretch your leg and lower back.  Hold your foot in this position for about 5 seconds, then relax it.  Do this 3-5 times per leg and sitting down at your desk trying to get that last project out of the door will be a much more enjoyable experience.

These exercises may sound trivial, but they are helpful to your body and certainly your attitude while at work, increasing productivity while not having to suffer through neck cramps and other bodily aches that can impede you.  Besides, taking a few minutes to do some of these give you a good little break from working so hard!

Painful Wrists or Fingers From Your Computer?

Working all day on a computer can get tiring, and not just to your eyes from looking at the screen. I should know, as I go to Georgia Tech, which some might label as one of the geekiest colleges. I will say that being an Institute of Technology, there is a lot of computer and other technology use in everyday school work. Whether in writing papers or lab reports, doing research, conducting Physics II lab experiments taking electronic measurement of data using a computer… you know what, I’ll just stop there to save the rest of you from boredom.

But seriously, I use a computer a lot. A lot, in fact, for non-curricular activities as well. From writing on a political blog, to writing on a personal blog, to writing on this blog (I only write for 3, I swear!), and scouring the Internet daily for news tidbits that interest me, as well as the latest in the perennial college humor that can be found online, I use my laptop more than I’d care to admit sometimes.

The point of all this is, being at a computer doesn’t have to be tiring if you don’t want it to be. As previously written about here, there are exercises you can do to maintain sanity. But beyond getting up and doing some of these, wouldn’t it be great if you could avoid those inevitable aching wrists?

That’s why more and more people, both at college and in the office, are turning to ergonomic keyboards as well as keyboard wrist pads. They may not sound like the most savvy tool to have, but believe me when I buy my first workstation computer (I’m in college, a laptop is essential right now!) I won’t be getting a keyboard without a gel pad. These pads can also help deter Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, which many office workers can get if they don’t work smart. Some people even buy a “natural” keyboard, with the keys curved in a manner that some find to be more natural to their hand motions.

And to be frank, when I do have the luxury of using a keyboard on a gel pad, it just feels good! Instead of my wrists resting on the edge of a plastic keyboard, or a wooden desk, they get to rest comfortably while I type. If you’re the type of person who sits at a computer and types a great deal, this is a solid investment in making your day at the office (or in the library writing a paper) a little more comfortable.

“Going Green” in the Office

We’ve all heard the “Going Green” initiative, especially when it comes to buying consumer products.  Well at my college of choice (Georgia Tech!) a lot of new construction is going on that also follows these eco-friendly standards.

Our new College of Computing building, the Klaus building, is a giant LEED certified “sustainable” building that has turned heads in the industry.

In an effort to produce more environmentally sound goods, many companies are going “green,” or making new products that use more renewable and recycled resources and less raw materials.

Well, if you run a company and are looking to jump on the “green” bandwagon, there are products out there that you can use to further your office efficiency in a more environmentally palatable manner. Many of these products are more economical as well, resulting in lower costs and more efficient use in your office.

For example, Quality Park Products has introduced their Park Preserve, line of products:
“Providing a sustainable product line featuring shipping containers that become reusable and highly desirable letter size File Boxes for business or home use.”

What company’s office, or someone’s home office, doesn’t need file boxes for one reason or another?  I can’t certainly think of one, and filing my documents in my room amidst all of the college clutter is essential to me being organized and avoiding any party spills damaging important homework assignments, old quizzes, or notes from class.

For easy file storage and organization, and to seek to make the products you use more environment-friendly, try out these “Park Preserve” products. They are all made out of recycled envelopes, reducing the amount of new paper/cardboard goods that need to be produced from raw materials.

Well, I have to move on to more of the usual, but I hope these tips help!

– Langley Perry Jr.
Georgia Tech


MSDS Sheets: A Resource Guide

As an office supply dealer we get a number of request for MSDS sheets and we are always happy to help a customer with this need.  I have added some great resources that we use on a daily basis to help service our customers, and some information regarding what an MSDS sheet is all about.  I really hope that these resources will help our Smart Office readers.
A material safety data sheet (MSDS sheet) is a form containing data regarding the properties of a particular substance. It is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (i.e. melting point), storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill handling procedures. The exact format of an MSDS can vary from source to source.
According to MSDS Writer “The need to communicate hazards of chemicals to users is of the utmost importance. The widespread use of chemicals, the development of new chemicals, and the need to re-evaluate the hazards of pre-existing chemicals contribute to the importance of MSDS Compliance. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to mandate the use of a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and provide information to people who use, handle or store hazardous industrial chemicals. The MSDS is used to convey the details on a material’s identity, manufacturer information, hazard identity, emergency information, instructions on what to do if a hazardous situation has occurred, information on the prevention of hazardous situations, as well as other technical information. Recognizing the importance of this document, many other countries (e.g. the EU, Australia, Canada) have adopted the HCS into their own chemical safety initiatives. Article can be found at the MSDS Writer Resource Guide.
To quickly look up MSDS sheet on Office Supplies, check out http://www.biggestbook.com/msds/home.asp (Just enter product SKU or description)
If none of these resources work out for you, contact the manufacturer directly. Biggest Book has contact information for all the manufacturers in addition to the MSDS sheets. I really hope that this article helps!
Miles D. Young
Smart Office
An Office Resource Guide by:

The Label Maker: An Essential Time Saver

The label maker has been around for a long time, but its use in an office environment is as important today as it ever has been. While label makers do not always make for the most attractive labels, they are efficient and they get the job done. Today’s label makers offer a wide variety of options beyond the ones of yesterday, as well. There are label makers you can purchase to change the fonts, change the colors, and type on like a keyboard, making them even more convenient and helpful. Casio and Brother are just two of the great manufacturers making quality electronic label makers for the home and office.

An office can descend into disarray rather quickly. Files and folders may be neat, but without a practical labeling system, this may not matter. Sure, you could go around and write on all of them with a magic marker, but that’s messy and it leads to an even less professional presentation than using a label maker. With a good labeling system, every place has a name, and everything can be put in its proper place. There are so many ways you can use a label maker, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one.

 

Label Folders

All of your computer folders have a nicely labeled name, so shouldn’t your physical folders have the same? You can use a label maker to give each of your filing folders the correct name. Folders are an excellent way to keep your important documents separate and filed in an easy to access way. If you are in the medical or dental profession, you can use these folders to separate patient information. If not, you can do the same for each individual client on your company. You can also create folders for your billing and receiving information, as well as your training materials. This latter idea is an especially good one, as new employees will have a resource they can use when trying to get into the swing of the job.

 

Label Filing Cabinets

A filing cabinet is a wonderful way to store your papers and keep everything organized. If you have a large Metal File Cabinetoffice, however, there may be multiple filing cabinets, with little to tell the uninitiated viewer what the contents hold. This is where your label maker can come into play. Simply make a discrete label for each cabinet, or perhaps a label for each drawer, best describing the contents within. If there is no ready name for what the cabinet or drawer holds, two options present themselves. One, you may need to rethink your filing system. A filing system should be just that: a system. There should be no cabinets or drawers filled with junk that fits no particular system or scheme. However, it’s your cabinet. If you have no particular name for what a drawer holds, simply label it “MISC”, and move along.

 

Label CDs

CD ROMs have become part of the office environment in a big way, but without the proper labeling system, they can become lost or misplaced. No one wants to go through a stack of unlabeled CDs to determine which one contains what information. The worst part is that these CDs might have started off with some sort of writing on them, that has since been faded to time. This is where a good label maker comes in. No, not the same kind you used on the file cabinet. They have special CD label makers you can purchase that will do the job.

 

Create New Storage Solutions

Of course, with your new label maker, the sky is the limit as far as how you choose to store your documents and papers. This can also be transplanted to your home office, should you need to take some of your files and documents home with you, or if you just need a new filing system there as well. Plastic boxes are cheap and can make a great way to store those documents that won’t be used for some time. Folders, files, binders, and even crates can make a great storage solution as long as there is a filing system in place. With a label maker, this won’t be a problem.

How to Create a New Paper Filing System

There has been much written and said in the media lately about this country becoming a paperless culture. We take this to be the truth, simply because it’s hammered into our heads day after day. But what if we actually slow down and examine this?

Yes, you may pay your bills online, thus cutting way back on the amount of mail you send out. What else? Did you ever really write that many personal letters that have now been replaced by email? Well, maybe you did. Hmm. . .well that seems to be about it. We are still reading books, we are still printing documents, and we are still signing contracts the old fashioned way. Yes, there are online equivalents of all of these things, and yes, there will probably be a time in the future when paper is as rare as gold, but that time is certainly not here now. Paper surrounds us and we use it all the time.

With all of this paper, in fact, it can be easy to lose track of it all. Papers get stuffed in a desk here, shoved in a filing cabinet there, and we can never find anything when we need it. Our office is a mess because we failed to have a system for filing all of our important documents. Well, if it needs fixing, there’s no time like the present. Let’s go through and look at what you can do to create a new paper filing system for your office.

Filing Cabinets

If you think the remark above was meant to disparage the filing cabinet, think again. Filing cabinets are a
wonderful resource, and should be the centerpiece for any large scale filing system. On the other hand, they 2 Drawer File Cabinethave to be used correctly in order to be efficient. And so many of them are not used correctly. Papers are flung into this folder or that folder, until there is no sense of order left. At that point, you may as well be tossing them on the floor. True, they’re out of the way and out of sight, but they won’t be any easier to locate when you need that all-important document.

When starting your new filing system, take a look around the office and see what you have before buying new supplies. You may or may not already have what you need, and a penny saved is a penny earned. However, now is not the time to be stingy, either. If you do not have what you need, don’t just make do. Filing supplies are amazingly inexpensive, so don’t cling to every penny as if it were your last. Besides, what does a penny buy in today’s society, anyway?

File Folders

Start your new filing system by labeling all of your folders with the appropriate headings, and then go from there. Smead makes a good folder for office use, as does Pendaflex. If you don’t have a filing cabinet yet, get out there and purchase one. It doesn’t have to be the best one on the market, but you should choose one that Colored File Folderswill get the job done and fits with your office decor. Once that is squared away, you can begin to put your folders inside in a manner that makes sense and will be easily accessed.

Make sure you follow a filing system that is simple and, more importantly, uniform throughout the cabinet. This is where many filing systems go astray. People tend to start off well, alphabetizing everything, and getting their filing cabinet in a proper order. Then the train starts to fall off the tracks. They start putting things in the cabinet by order of importance, or by date, and at the end of the day, there’s no telling where anything is. Choose one method of filing and follow it throughout the cabinet. That way everyone will be able to easily follow the system and won’t mess up a good thing.

A Separate Guide

This is something that can be invaluable, but it is rarely used by anyone. You could make your filing system this much better, if you create a separate guide to your filing system and place it on top of the filing cabinet. That way, no one will have any doubt as to where things can be found. It may sound like a lot of extra work, but it will save an incalculable amount of time in the long run.

Appointment Juggling: Planners & Calendars are Critical

Appointment Juggling: Planners & Calendars are Critical

It’s Tuesday night. The clock says it’s four-thirty, but it feels as though it has been saying that for the last half hour. You were supposed to be finishing up some payroll busywork, but have instead found yourself fiddling with the contrast on your monitor. Perhaps making it brighter would make it more pleasant to look at. Darker? Mainly, you’re just trying to kill the last half hour before its time to go home. True, you could just leave now and no one would think the worse of you, but you like to set a good example for your employees. Besides, you like to leave your early escapes for Friday.

Then the phone rings. It’s your boss, and he wants to know why you aren’t at the meeting downtown! Oh no! You completely forgot about it. You scramble to make up an excuse, but he doesn’t sound happy. He advises you to meet him first thing in the morning so he can catch you up on what you missed. You hang up and lose interest in the contrast of your monitor and decide you have to do something about your appointments. But what is the answer? Is there one, or are you simply doomed to a poor memory and an inability to juggle time?

The Planning Calendar

There is an answer, and it is found in the planning calendar. At-a-Glance is but one company that makes a fine planning calendar. These calendars make it easy for you to keep track of all of your appointments, meetings, and special events that you have a tendency to forget. And you’re not alone. If everyone could simply remember everywhere they were supposed to be, planning calendars wouldn’t be one of the biggest selling office supply items on the market. You just need to take the time to get one, and get organized.

Of course, having a planning calendar will not do you much good if you do not use it the right way. You have to make sure you right everything in that calendar, no matter how small and insignificant. You then need to make it a point to look at the calendar every morning and plan your day accordingly. Take the time to thumb through the next few days as well, just to make sure there isn’t something on the horizon you need to be planning for today.

Overall Time Management

While a planning calendar is important, it’s not the only aspect of your overall strategy. You can do many other things to help you start controlling your time, rather than have it be the other way around. One of these ways is to start each day by creating a to do list. Granted, this isn’t a revolutionary idea, but are you doing it? Or do you easily get sidetracked even when you know there are things to get done. Having a to do list, and writing it up in the order in which the tasks need to be completed is an excellent way to start managing your time better. Encourage your employees to do the same. Just the act of creating the list can make you feel better and more in control.

Get Help with Time

Don’t hesitate to bring others in to your time management strategies. This particularly includes your employees. Make sure you use these people in such a way that they can contribute to getting tasks done and appointments kept. After all, that’s part of why you’re paying them. If need be, incorporate your family into the mix as well. If you have important tasks that can be delegated to anyone else, make sure you do so if you won’t have time to manage the project by yourself. Of course, when it comes to friends and family, this only works if you’re willing to do the same for them should the opportunity come up.

Time management doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence. If you take some simple steps to get it under control, you’ll find that you had much more time in your day than you originally thought, and you won’t feel that constant weight of stress crushing down on you throughout your days. Isn’t that reason enough to get things in hand?

Four Tenets of Office Management

When it comes to office management, there are some standards and practices you should always adhere to, regardless of your company’s specific product chain or your service industry. These tenets will help you to have a more successful office atmosphere, and keep your company on track for success in both the financial and human areas. One may be just as important as the other, because one naturally feeds into the other. You’ve of course heard the old saying about sharing the wealth.


An office that is making money hand over fist is a happy office, most of the time, or at least it should be. Of course, this won’t necessarily be true if the employer is underpaying the workers, but as long as that is in check, everything else should flow smoothly. The following are the four basic tenets of office management that can keep an office running smoothly.


Employment


Unless you are a company of one, employment will be a factor in your yearly decision making. Therefore, it is wise to have policies and rules in place for when the situation arises. It does not make sense to sort of throw your hands in the air and hire someone in a different fashion. That creates inequality in the workplace and confusion among the employees. Not to mention, things usually work a lot better when they are standardized. Does that mean taking the human element entirely out of the equation? Absolutely not.


No company should base their hiring practices on a set of rules so stringent that an answer to interview question (A) means an outcome of (B), or a resume that state (1) should always means (2) occurs afterwards. There should absolutely be room for judgment calls and the like. However, there should be policies in place as to how that employee is trained and brought into the working environment.


Project Management


One area where quite a few office environments fall behind is that of project management. Without strict guidelines and strong project leadership, employees are like a ship at sea without a compass or any sense of purpose or direction. A project that should have taken a week is turned in three months later. And whose fault is that? Is it the employees? Not really. Not if there aren’t guidelines in place about how these things should be handled. Without those guidelines, people in general are not going to work to the best of their abilities. Sure, there will be those who will rise to the occasion even without those policies, but they are relatively few and far between. It is much better to have the guidelines in place so that employees know their deadlines and have the tools necessary to meet them.


Office Furnishings


You could run a company budget dry trying to keep up with every piece of technology and office equipment on the market. On the other hand, an office could well be behind the times if the manager doesn’t spend at least some time considering what tools the office could use to maximize efficiency. It’s important to strike the right balance here. There are some great internet office supply stores that would be at home in the bookmark folder of any top executive. Take the time to peruse these stores and even sign up for email alerts about new products. That way you can take each product on a case by case basis and evaluate how it would help your company versus the money it would cost to purchase it. They will also let you do direct side by side comparisons of different brands. You may need a new multifunction copier. Do you go with Brother or Canon? These decisions can be made by carefully looking at price and feature comparisons.


Communication


This goes hand in hand with the last tenet. It is up to the office manager to decide how his employees will communicate with each other and with the outside world. With today’s technology, communication has changed in many ways. What was yesterday’s memo board is today’s email alert, what was yesterday’s meeting with a client might be today’s teleconference. Make sure you avail yourself of all the new communication options and implement the ones that make the most sense.

How-To: Keep Your Inbox from Taking Over Your Life

The computer age is great. Tasks that used to take days now take seconds, information is always there at the touch of a button, and businesses can extend their realm of marketability beyond their local walls and into the annals of cyberspace. With all of these positives, though, it must be said that there are some negatives that come with it.


If you are an office manager, you may consider email to be one of those negatives. Perhaps you treat going to your inbox as if it were a life sentence. How many spam messages will I get today, you think with a sigh. Then there is the matter of simply sorting through the good ones. Which ones demand your immediate attention and which ones can be ignored until later? Which ones are just the latest forward from one of your coworkers? If you are finding that you are spending too much of every day sifting through your email, this article is for you. We’ve devised a simple set of ways for you to get your inbox organized and turn your email back into a positive.


Folder Creation


The first step toward making your inbox a place of calm and peace is to create some folders. If you have ever done this with your internet bookmarks, you may already know how much easier they can make finding something (especially if you’re a bookmark packrat). Why not try the same thing with your email? A lot of people are not even aware of the many things their Outlook can do. This is a shame, because while Microsoft may not be the perfect company, they really have loaded their email program with a lot of features that probably go unused by ninety percent of their users. If you’re one of them–do one thing before go any further. Take an hour or so and just explore your email. Just play around with it. See what it can do. Chances are, you’ll be surprised by what you find.


Ok, time to get back on track with folder creation. Let’s say you want all of your client’s emails in one folder, all of your employee’s emails to go to another folder, and then your boss’s emails to go in a third folder. You can of course go on and on, but we will stop there for the sake of brevity, and since we have little way of knowing how you specifically want to separate your email categories. To do this, just go under File and click the New Folder icon. Label it something easy like “Clients” or “Boss”. No sense getting creative here and then creating an extra level of confusion for yourself when you go to retrieve your mail. Do this again and again for each of the various categories you want to make.


Directing Email Traffic


Once you have your folders in place, you may be wondering if you are going to have to copy and paste each email into the correct folder when they are received. Of course not, that would just be adding several extra steps and creating even more inbox confusion. What we want is to make your email life a little easier. So here’s the next step. You are going to create rules for each of your folders. This is done through the Outlook program and it can easily be set up to distribute your emails to the appropriate folders. You can set it up to go by subject line, or by the sender. This way, if your boss sends you an urgent message, it will go straight to the Boss folder you created, and you’ll know you need to take a look at that email and address it before getting to your other folders and any new messages you have in there. You’ll still have an alert in the main system itself that will tell you when you’ve received new emails and to what folder you should look to find them.


The Real Inbox


Now that you have sorted out your email inbox, what to do about the one on your desk, piling up with papers from every which way? Well, there are some simple steps you can take to clear that out and make it less of a burden as well. 3M and Rolodex offer a variety of products you may never have heard of that can help you get organized in a hurry. Take the time to find a good online office supply shop and browse their selection of merchandise to find excellent tools you can use to clean up the clutter.

Making Your Database Work for You

For reasons unkown, decades after this information has been possible to collate by computer, many offices refuse to make use of a simple databases to effectively manage their business. Perhaps you are one of these people. Maybe you see other companies figure out complicated results from surveys they take, from sales promotions they did, and you’re not quite sure how they did it. Maybe you think it was through some superior technology that you do not have access to. But nothing could be further from the truth.


The fact is, they are just taking advantage of this decades old technology called the computer database and then crunching the numbers they find inside. Running a successful office means keeping track of information. If you are not doing so, you are not living up to your full potential. A database can keep all of your business contacts together, so that you can access them at the click of a button. A database can hold all of the information about your last advertising campaign and reveal to you how effective it was in obtaining new business. A database can tell you which of the items you sell is the most profitable for your company.


Advertising Campaigns


One of the best uses of a database is for your multiple advertising campaigns. With an efficient and well put together database, you can access, collate, and compare information in ways you might never have thought of. Only then will you truly be able to get a sense of what has been working for your company and what hasn’t.


You don’t want to spend your time and money running an unsuccessful ad campaign over again, that part is self evident. However, what may be just as important: you don’t want to cut off an ad campaign that might have worked if it were not for other factors. That is why it is so important to keep and store information about every aspect of your campaigns. It is amazing sometimes how one little change or variance in wording can completely turn your ad campaign around. If your ad campaigns are more in the direction of marketing and referrals, you can do the same sort of thing with a database. You will be able to research what works and what has not. What sort of variables might you be able to implement that would increase your referral rate, and so on.


Contacts and Customers


There are too many great ways to keep all of your contact information in today’s digital world to still be trudging along the old way. Is there anything inherently wrong with the old way. No, but when there’s a quantifiably better way, why not put it to use? A lot of people are hesitant to bring new technologies (no matter how basic) into their lives or their workplace. And it’s true, there usually will be a learning curve.

Often there will be a period of a week or a month where you wonder why you switched. After that, it will be smooth sailing. You just have to force yourself to accept the changes and get over that little hump. Soon enough, you will be wondering how you ever got along without it. By stuffing all of your contacts and customers into a clean database, you’ll be able to organize them in any fashion you want, create hyperlinks between related contacts, easily duplicate contact information that falls under more than one category, and much more.


Accounting


Though the uses for a good database are practically endless, we will just take a quick look at accounting management and leave it at that. A database can do wonders in the area of your office finances. Keep track of all of your billing and receiving information, organize your debts and credits, keep your payroll together, and plenty of other things. The limitations are strictly with your own imagination.


Like we said, there are a hundred more ways to use a database, if not more. If you take a look around your office, you can probably come up with more ways without even blinking an eye. Keep in mind that not all of these databases need be electronically based. A good notebook by Universal or Ampad can give you same results in a more portable fashion. Give a try in one area of your office management, and it’s very possible you’ll find it wise to implement it in many others.