It’s Spring. Time to Clean Your Office!

The weather took a turn towards balmy here in Chicago yesterday. Then it rained all this morning. It’s not official until March 20th, but I think it’s safe to say that spring is here. This past winter was the first I spent working from home, and while I was thrilled about not having to commute to work through the ice, I don’t relish the prospect of spending the warmer months cooped up in my home office. Especially since my office got a little…let’s say cluttered over the long winter months. I know I’m not the only one. There’s a reason Spring Cleaning is a widely observed yearly ritual. Spring is the time to throw open the windows, snap on the rubber gloves, grab a bucket a wash rag and get cleaning. Even if your office isn’t in your home, it could probably use a little sprucing up, particularly if you don’t engage a janitorial service.

Every task is easier to accomplish if you approach it methodically. So attack your messy office with a plan! Realsimple.com put together a great checklist for people who work from home. It starts with the bookshelves and ends with your window blinds. By the time you’re done, your home office will look and smell great. You’re at your productive best working in a clean and organized office.

It’s even more important to keep public offices looking great. Your clients and customers will judge your business by the cobwebs in the corner, the state of your restrooms and your office’s general appearance. You may want to hire a cleaning crew and leave it to the professionals, but even if that is not an option for your business, you can still have a great looking office. Just take your cue from the work-from-home folks and start with a plan. MrsCleanUSA.com recommends making a list of priorities — foyer, restrooms, reception area, etc. — and offers some great tips for tackling each one.

Once you’ve done the big Spring Clean, maintaining your office’s neat and tidy appearance is a breeze. Just hit the windows, mirrors and restroom fixtures once a day, run the vacuum before you leave on Fridays and dust your desk, shelves and electronics from time to time and you’re good until next spring. You’ll also make a good impression on your clients and you’ll work more comfortably and efficiently.

Claim ALL the Deductions You Can This Year!

With the April 15 IRS tax deadline looming, its time to start thinking about deductions.  Tax deductions are expenses you incur that lower your income in the eyes of the IRS. The lower your income, the less the government expects you to pay in taxes. Most of you know you can deduct mortgage and student loan interest, but there are a ton of other totally legit ways to lower your tax bill.

In “The Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions” Kiplinger lists 19 tax breaks you may have forgotten about or didn’t know existed in the first place, including state sales tax, moving expenses for your first job, refinancing points, charitable donations and more. In addition, property taxes, vehicle registration fees, the annual cost of your safe deposit box and child care are all tax deductible expenses. You can even deduct tax preparation fees. If you work from, you can deduct a percentage of you housing costs. For example, if your home is 2,000 square feet, and you use 200 sq.ft. for business purposes, you can deduct 10% as business operating expenses. For more deductions, check out this informative article from Helium, an awesome personal finance site.

A word of caution: be sensible when combing over your expenses while looking for deductions. You do not want to get on the wrong side of the IRS! Entrepreneur offers some expert advice on how to properly claim your deductions.  Approach the whole enterprise with the right attitude–you just don’t want to pay more taxes than you owe, not put one over on the government!

So, What Exactly Does “Ergonomic” Mean Anyway?

so-what-exactly-does-ergonomic-mean-anyway

Ergonomic is a huge buzzword in office supplies, and with the word being used to sell every thing from office chairs to correction tapes, it can be a little hard to take the concept seriously.

Ergonomics is not [just] a marketing ploy, it’s a science — one that’s been around since the 1800s and concerned with designing work spaces and tools to be safe, comfortable and easy to use. Ergonomic designs prevent repetitive use injuries, that buggaboo to office workers every where.

While  ergonomically designed office supplies such as corrections tapes are great, but unless you wield them all day, you should focus on ergonomically designed office furniture and workstations to improve your comfort and safety in the office.

As one who once ended many a work days with lower back pain, I recommend that you first invest in a good office or task chair. You need a chair that provides lumbar support, and holds you back and knees at a 90° angle to the seat.  Your feet should sit flat on the floor. If you’re on the short side, use a footrest.

Desk stands can help your complete the ergonomic design of your workstation. For example, our arms should be at a 90° angle and your wrists straight when you use your keyboard. You can use a keyboard stand and wrist wrests if your keyboard sits too low. Moniter stands, telephone stands and laptop stands can all make your work area more comfortable.

Once you’ve made these changes to your office, you’ll really notice a difference! You should experience fewer headaches and less muscle and joint pain.

2/9 Daily Deals at OnTimeSupplies.com

There are just under six hours left to take advantage of the today’s office supplies and office furniture bargains at OnTimeSupplies.com! You’ve got until midnight to take 66% off view binders and 54% off task chairs and file cabinets. Check out OnTimeSupplies.com and  Smart Office everyday for the Daily Deals — great bargains on office supplies, school supplies and office furniture!

How to Clear Clutter from Your PC and Improve Its Performance

I’m one of those people who thinks my PC runs on magic and wishful thinking, but even I know that too many files and unused applications suck up loads of RAM and slow down my machine. I try to delete old and temporary files from time to time, but sometimes, you’ve just got to snap on the rubber gloves and do some serious deep cleaning. Knowing what is safe to delete can be hard, but that’s what patient and generous computer nerds are for — explaining PC maintenance to the rest of us.

Stephanie Vaughn Hapke is practically the queen of the computer nerds. She’s the President and CEO of GeekGirl Consulting LLC, a computer consulting company. In an article in the Huffington Post, Hapke shares some startling statistics on just how much time workers waste wading through the digital files clogging up their computers. Thankfully she also shares some tips on how to better manage your files.

PC World is another great resource for us overwhelmed Luddites. They feature a series of articles with step by step instructions on clearing unwanted files from your machine. In “Reduce Windows Clutter, Improve Performance,” Steve Bass explains how to cleanup your desktop. Matt Lake’s “PC Workout” offers a few easy steps that will have your computer running as smooth and as fast as it did when you bought it.  Lincoln Spector uses his Answer Line column to identify the mysterious running applications listed when you hit Ctrl+Alt+Del, and tells you which you can close and which should always be running.

I get nervous futzing around with anything on my PC. That’s why I’m glad people like Hapke and publications like PC World exist. Nothing soothes an anxious technophobe like easy to understand advice from a certified computer nerd.

2/8 Daily Deals at OnTimeSupplies.com

I hope you’ve been following the Daily Deals at OnTimeSupplies.com. If not, you’ve already missed some great bargains on office furniture and office supplies! It’s not too late to get in on the money saving action though — On Time Supplies offers bargains every day. Today’s Deals are all about comfort in the workplace — they’re featuring steep discounts on workstations, task chairs and monitor filters. Check them out now because the Deal disappear at midnight!

Save Money By Making Your Own Great Looking Business Cards

If It Prints, I’ll Let You Know, an awesome blog about printers and accessories we love here at Smart Office, has a great post up on how to make your own professional-quality business cards at home. As If It Prints notes, all you really need to make your own business cards is card/cover stock paper and basic design software such as Microsoft Publisher. You can get the card stock fast and cheap at OnTimeSupplies.com, and there are a number of sites offering free business card templates you can try as an alternative to the Microsoft software. Give it a try–every business and professional needs a good supply of great-looking business cards, and this way you can eliminate professional printing expenses from your budget!

This Year’s Super Bowl More Green Than Ever

No office hosts any events as grand as the NFL’s Super Bowl. That’s why it’s so exciting that the organization is boarding the green business express! The NFL has its own Environmental program headed by Jack Groh, who says the organization is adopting a set of policies that will make this year’s big game the greenest in history! A couple of the new NFL green initiatives can be adapted to any workplace.  All the leftover food prepared for the event will be donated to community agencies. The NFL will also donate leftover office supplies, decorations, and building material after the Super Bowl. Consider adopting these policies for your next company banquet, meeting or training event.

Check out the other ways the Super Bowl is going green this year here. Oh, and GO COLTS!

I Love Office Supplies Too!

This blog is powered by research. We here at Smart Office are constantly on the lookout for career and office product information you can actually use. In the process of scouring the Internet for that info, I’ve come to a startling realization: there are a lot of people way into office supplies. I have seen countless odes to paper clips, mechanical pencils, sticky notes and markers in blogs from around the world! A Google search of the exclamation “I love office supplies” yields more than 26,000 hits. I work for a great office products supplier and all that office supply love seemed a little over the to to me, but it did get me thinking. There are definitely some office supplies that I find especially useful and some I just get a little kick out using. That realization presented me with an opportunity to indulge in the blogger’s favorite activity: list making! My favorite office products in no particular order:

Wrist rest: I’ve had my wrist rest for years, but I never even bothered to take it out of the package until I got this gig. After working from home for a few days, the numbness in my hands and shooting pains in my arms alerted me to the fact that my tiny desk was laid out fine for casual web surfing, but was murder as a workstation. That’s when I pulled out the keyboard wrist rest my least favorite aunt gave me a few Christmases ago. What a difference it makes! I thought I was going to have to buy a new desk, but now I work comfortably at all day. So, thanks Auntie! Maybe one day I’ll learn to love the ice scraper you got me this past Christmas as much as I love my wrist rest!
Multi-colored Post-it Notes: My Post-its are my everything — my message board, my note pad, my address book, my daily planner. I am so glad they are available in so many colors since my wall is covered in them. That way I can call it art instead of a mess!
Roller Ball Pen: For the most part, I only have to actually hand write notes and memos to myself, which is great because I have terrible hand writing. Plus, I get to use pink ink and not worry about looking unprofessional!
microSDHC Card: Ok, I’ll admit it. This isn’t so much an office supply, as a boost-the-song-storage-capacity- of-my-not-an-iPod-mp3-play supply. Still, I seriously couldn’t live without it!
Cable ties: I didn’t even know about this useful little product until I started at On Time Supplies. Again, now that I sit at my computer desk all day, I have a new appreciation of products designed to increase comfort and organization. These cheap ties work great to keep all my cords organized and neatly tucked a way.
Space Heater: You can’t just crank up the thermostat when you feel like it in most offices. I can here at home, but I also pay the heating bill. So yes, you still need a “work sweater” and a space heater when you work from home!
And there you have it — the office supplies I  pretty much can’t live without and the Smart Office Blog contribution to the “I love office supplies” meme!