4 Tips to Make the Most of Your Home Office

4 Tips to Make the Most of Your Home Office

In these uncertain times, many of you are now finding yourself working from home. Our friends at Smead Manufacturing have shared these helpful tips on how you can create an enjoyable workspace at home.

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A home office is meant to be a place to work, whether you’re managing the business of life for you and your family or are lucky enough to have an employer who allows you the privilege to work from home. Creating the proper environment and spending your time wisely in your home office will save you time and stress.

1. Make It a Space You Enjoy – You probably spend a lot of time in your home office and you’ll want to create an environment that attracts you, versus repels you. Your space should be inviting as well as functional. Things for you to consider:

o Proper Lighting – Take advantage of natural lighting if you can. However, if you’re someone who prefers to work late in the evening, you’ll need good task lighting in order to lessen eye strain.

o Comfortable Chair – When you work from home, much of your time is spent sitting. Invest in a comfortable, ergonomic chair. You’ll feel better and your back will thank you in the long run.

o A Desk Tailored for You – What do you plan to do at your desk? If your work is primarily done on a computer and entails very little paper, a small desk will do you well. However, if you like to spread out with paper reports and reference material close by, you might choose a larger desk or an L-shaped one. If it’s more comfortable for you to stand and work, consider an adjustable desk.

2. Keep Clutter to a Minimum – It can be a challenge not to have piles on your desk. There’s always more work than you can keep up with, and mail and paperwork are part of that. To lessen the impact:

o Inbox – Ensure you have one place for paperwork and other items to land until you can deal with them, i.e. an inbox. Incoming items like meeting notes, business cards, and items to read should be placed in your inbox, rather than dumping them in a pile on your desk. Set a weekly appointment on your calendar to go through your inbox and process the items inside — add items to your to-do list or calendar, enter into your contacts, create a project file, put in a portable “to-read” folder, etc. Keep in mind your inbox is a holding spot that’s meant to be emptied. It’s not a file cabinet!

o The 2-Minute Pick Up – Before leaving your office, spend two minutes throwing away obvious trash (coffee cups, food containers, random sticky notes, etc.), putting supplies like pens and paper clips back in their drawer or container, and jot down notes about what you need to do the next day. Clearing your head is just as important as clearing your physical space.

o Schedule File Time – No one likes to file paper, but it won’t magically file itself either. Create a file system that is easy to use and easy to access so that you can find what you need when you need it. Then schedule regular intervals to file the paperwork you need to keep.

3. Have the Right Tools – Sometimes having the right tool is half the job. If your home office includes outdated technology that you constantly have to troubleshoot, you could be wasting a lot of time. Yes there is a monetary cost to keeping up with current devices, but you won’t have to deal with the time cost (in addition to the frustration from a slow computer or internet connection) when everything is working properly. Besides your basic computer and printer, other good tools to consider:

o Office Supplies – These should be within easy reach and you should have a supply on hand so you don’t have to head to the store or await a delivery when you run out of something. A well-supplied office contains: pens, pencils, sticky notes, paper clips, binder clips, a stapler, a tape dispenser, file folders, mailing supplies, etc.

o Label Maker – Keep it close by and as common place as your stapler. You can label files folders, containers, shelves, drawers and other areas for easy identification of where everything goes. Your 2-minute pick up will be a breeze!

o Scanner – If you’re aiming to have less paper in your office, a good quality scanner will help get you there.

4. Create Structure and Routine – There are so many distractions when working in a home office, it’s easy to lose focus. Set-up routines that work for you and your particular situation.

o Determine your office hours and stick to them.
o Process emails at scheduled times rather than letting them overtake your day.
o Allow for breaks in your day so you can refresh and recharge.
o Have a system for tracking tasks and projects. (Random notepads and sticky notes are not a system.)
o Know your priorities so you’re less overwhelmed and can put time and energy into what is important.

Follow these 4 simple steps and you will find your home office can be a productive and stress-free environment!
Lori Krolik


Lori Krolik is a professional organizer and productivity specialist and founder of More Time For You. For over 18 years she’s helped residential and small business clients create systems out of their most serious clutter challenges. Whether its piles that prevent a home from functioning the way it should or paper piles that impede office productivity, Lori brings the expertise and insight needed to create an organized system that is personalized to a client’s space and lifestyle. Lori became a Certified Productive Environment Specialist in 2010 and is a long time member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers).

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HP Business PC & Print Devices Cleaning Guidance

HP Business PC & Print Devices Cleaning Guidance
HP-Business-PC-Print-Devices-Cleaning-Guidance

We wanted to share this relevant information with our customers at this time of an unprecedented health crisis. We hope you find this information valuable, and we wish you good health.

HP is dedicated to providing customers with market-leading business solutions that help them be innovative, productive and support their well-being. With public health concerns over the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease, also known as Coronavirus, spreading worldwide, HP wants customers to have the information they need to effectively clean HP devices and to assist customers in maintaining a healthy work environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning surfaces, followed by disinfection, as a best practice for the prevention of Coronavirus and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.

Cleaning Guidance:

HP Business Personal Systems & Office Imaging & Printing Systems

A CDC-recommended disinfectant that is also within HP’s cleaning guidelines is an alcohol solution consisting of 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water. Please follow the steps below to use the CDC recommended alcohol solution to clean high-touch, external surfaces on HP products:

1. Wear disposable gloves made of latex (or nitrile gloves if you are latex-sensitive) when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

2. Turn off the device and disconnect AC power (for printers, devices should be unplugged from the outlet). Remove batteries from items like wireless keyboards. Never clean a product while it is powered on or plugged in.

3. Disconnect any external devices.

4. Moisten a microfiber cloth with a mixture of 70% isopropyl alcohol / 30% water. Do not use fibrous materials, such as paper towels or toilet paper. The cloth should be moist, but not dripping wet. Isopropyl Alcohol is sold in most stores, usually in a 70% Isopropyl Alcohol / 30% Water solution. It may also be marketed as rubbing alcohol.

5. Do not spray any liquids directly onto the product.

6. Gently wipe the moistened cloth on the surfaces to be cleaned. Do not allow any moisture to drip into areas like keyboards, display panels or USB ports located on the printer control panels, as moisture entering the inside of an electronic product can cause extensive damage to the product.

7. Start with the display or printer control panel (if applicable) and end with any flexible cables, like power, keyboard and USB cables.

8. When cleaning a display screen or printer control panel, carefully wipe in one direction, moving from the top of the display to the bottom.

9. Ensure surfaces have completely air-dried before turning the device on after cleaning. No moisture should be visible on the surfaces of the product before it is powered on.

10. After disinfecting, copier/scanner glass should be cleaned again using an office glass cleaner
sprayed onto a clean rag to remove streaking. Streaking on the copier/scanner glass from the CDC recommended cleaning solution could cause copy quality defects.

11. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.

Cleaning-Guidance

Many common household cleaners and disinfectants can damage electronic products. Do not use any of the following chemicals or any solutions that contain them, including spray-based surface cleaners: bleach, peroxides (including hydrogen peroxide), acetone, ammonia, ethyl alcohol, methylene chloride or any petroleum-based materials, such as gasoline, paint thinner, benzene or toluene. Some disinfecting wipes containing bleach and hydrogen peroxide can be used on select Healthcare Edition products only. Wipes containing bleach and hydrogen peroxide should not be used on any other products.

FAQ for Cleaning Your HP Product

Q: How can I disinfect my HP devices to help prevent Coronavirus?

A: You can clean your HP devices by using a CDC-recommended disinfectant that is comprised of 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water. To use the recommended alcohol solution to clean and disinfect high-touch, external surfaces on HP products, please follow the guidelines found in this document.

Q: Can I use bleach or peroxides to disinfect my PC or Printer?

A. Some disinfecting wipes containing bleach and hydrogen peroxide can be used on select Healthcare Edition products only. Wipes containing bleach and hydrogen peroxide should not be used on any other products.

Q: Will the letters and symbols on my keyboard disappear from cleaning?

A: Some chemicals are very harsh and can damage non-HP Healthcare Edition keyboards and other surfaces. By following the steps outlined in this document to clean your device, you can reduce the risk of damaging your keyboard or other surfaces.

Q: What portions of my devices are safe to clean?

A: All external components of your PC or printer can be cleaned using the recommended solution, including ports, cables, keyboard keys, rubber, plastic, metal surfaces, displays and printer control panels. Please reference the cleaning guidelines for more information.

Q: How often can I clean my PC, keyboard, mouse, display or printer?

A: HP recommends cleaning your non-Healthcare Edition devices a maximum of 3-5 times per day. Excessive cleaning of your non-Healthcare Edition device with any cleaning solution can lead to potential wear on component.

Jacobs Gardner will continue to provide tips for keeping your surrounding clean and sanitized, and we wish our customers good health in the weeks ahead.

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Setting “Green Goals” for a Better Environment

Setting “Green Goals” for a Better Environment
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This month’s blog post comes to us from Double A Paper, the best choice for our environment. Their commitment to the environment is impressive and humbling, and their mission is to create “a better paper for a better world”.

With trees budding, and flowers blooming, spring is a great time to make a commitment to be more sustainable. There are little swaps that you can do in your everyday life to be more eco-friendly. While it’s hard to change your lifestyle overnight, setting sustainable goals for yourself and your family is a great place to start. Teaching children to be more sustainable by setting green goals helps them to develop a more eco-friendly lifestyle that they can carry into adulthood.

Kids Are the Future

As parents, it’s crucial that you teach your children to make the right choices and be sustainable. Teach them to think about the impact of their everyday choices, and show them that even small choices affect the environment. One day, your children will be adults, become consumers, and have a real impact on the world with their values and decisions. Setting “green goals” is a great way to get your children, and the entire household, thinking about sustainability and each person’s individual impact. It can be as simple as making one sustainable choice each day, like saying no to a plastic straw with your drink. If someone in your family enjoys using a straw, buy them a reusable one!

Simple, Sustainable Goals for Families

•Donate Old Clothes: Instead of throwing away your old clothes, donate them to a local thrift store or donation center.

• Replace with a Sustainable Swap: Every time someone in your family runs out of a household (laundry detergent or dish soap) or personal care item (toothpaste or deodorant), swap it out with a more natural and eco-friendly choice as part of your sustainable goals for the year.
• Try Meatless Mondays: Have your family commit to eating vegetarian or vegan one day a week to reduce meat consumption. Meatless Mondays can help your children expand their palate, try new foods, and eat more vegetables.

• Reduce Single-Use Plastics: Almost everyone uses too much plastic unnecessarily. Teach your kids to use reusable items instead of plastic by making it one of their green goals. When packing lunches, use plastic containers and reusable silicone bags instead of traditional plastic bags. Get a cute lunch box instead of a brown bag. Have your children use a reusable water bottle whenever possible. Another easy swap is reusable to-go mugs for coffee. Some coffee shops, such as Starbucks, give discounts to customers who bring their own mugs.

• Check Out Your Local Farmer’s Market: Do you have a farmer’s market in your area? See what local produce and vendors you can shop from instead of shopping at the supermarket. You can support small, independent businesses and eat seasonally, which is more sustainable because the foods do not have to travel as far. You may be surprised at what your local vendors offer.

Tree Buds

With small changes, your household becomes a little more sustainable and conscious about the environment. Teaching children at a young age, through “green goals”, helps them to be more aware of how their actions affect the environment. If everyone made an effort, each day, to be more sustainable, the impact on the world would be astounding. You can start by making green goals in your household and encouraging everyone to participate – even if it’s something small.

Check out our selection of Double A Paper and recycled products at www.jacobsgardner.com

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Double A Paper Grows over 500,000 trees with help of farmers in Thailand.

Double A Paper Grows over 500,000 trees with help of farmers in Thailand.
Boonrung Jumpang



Jacobs Gardner is proud to announce that our partner, Double A Paper, has successfully planted 500,000 trees, meeting the goal of their fantastic One Dream, One Tree Campaign! Throughout the campaign, Jacobs Gardner has helped to provide sustainably produced Double A Paper to our customers while also helping Double A to save the planet.

What is Double A Paper?

Double A Paper is a paper production company based in Thailand. With the sustainable movement gaining traction across the globe, Double A has been dedicated to producing quality paper in a completely eco-friendly way, involving a production process that leaves no negative impact on the environment. The process begins with Thai farmers planting Paper-Tree saplings on their KHAN-NA, the unused land between rice paddies. This allows Double A to source from high-quality trees without contributing to deforestation or taking up large amounts of land. Not to mention, all the waste from the pulping process is made into a renewable biomass fuel that provides electricity to fuel their paper mill!

The planting process of the Paper-Tree also allows the partnering farmers in Thailand to earn extra income as Double A compensates them for the use of their land. This money allows the farmers to meet many goals of their own, such as providing for their families, paying for their children’s education, and putting more money into their local economies. Double A Paper believes in promoting economic and environmental sustainability, and their One Dream, One Tree campaign has allowed them to make a major difference.

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What is One Dream, One Tree?

To promote environmental sustainability and help make Earth a greener place, Double A Paper kicked off their One Dream, One Tree campaign in November 2019. During One Dream, One Tree, for every ream of Double A paper purchased, one tree is planted by a Thai farmer. These trees will fully mature in only three to five years, and in the meantime, they will provide much-needed shade to the Thai farmers and much-needed oxygen to the world. Double A set a goal when they launched One Dream, One Tree: they wanted to plant 500,000 trees by the end of February, and thanks to partners like us and customers like you, they finally met that goal!

What is the Value of Each Tree?

Every tree contributes to the environment by helping to combat global warming and climate change, absorbing carbon from the air and producing oxygen. Planting trees could remove as much as two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that humans have put into the air from daily life, helping us all to breathe a little easier. With these trees growing on the KHAN-NA, Double A also helps reforestation efforts by not requiring trees from forests, allowing that land to be restored over time. Reforestation will help to restore damaged lands, bringing life back to the environment and promoting biodiversity.

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If you want to help Double A’s cause, you can buy their high-quality paper and support a company that is making a difference. Contact Jacobs Gardner (www.jacobsgardner.com) to place an order for Double A Paper today, and help improve the world, one ream at a time.

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The three best colors for a successful, productive office

The three best colors for a successful, productive office
Three Best Colors for a Successful

Is the overall energy and output of your office dragging, leading to a loss of output and – of course – profits? If so, you could benefit from changing up your office’s color scheme.

The paint color you choose for your office can make a big difference in your employees’ work performance and, more so, your business’ success. Want to stimulate creativity, productivity, or a sense of balance in the workplace? Then consider painting your office in one of these shades of color:

Yellow to Stimulate Creativity

More and more businesses rely on an “out of the box” way of tackling situations, making creativity a necessary quality for any workforce to possess. Unfortunately, unlike pure manpower, creativity is something of an elusive creature – one which may not always be at your employees’ disposal.

While you can’t simply pull creativity out of thin air, you can make steps to coax it out of the recesses of your staff’s minds. To do that, have your office painted in shades of yellow. Shown to stimulate creativity, this shade of paint will do wonders to keep your employees thinking and performing in innovative ways.

Blue to Stimulate Productivity

What’s the good of a workforce that’s inventive if they can’t produce the output you need? The most creative ideas in the world won’t stuff your business’ coffers if they aren’t getting put out there to make you money. That’s why you also need to maintain a productive workforce.

If you find that your staff’s productivity is lagging, then you could definitely benefit from painting your office in shades of blue. Blue is shown to stimulate employees’ productivity. While it’s not as effective for creativity-driven businesses, blue is great for offices that focus on number-crunching.

Green to Stimulate Mental Balance

You need to be careful about how much of the above-mentioned colors you use for your office. After all, too much of a good thing is just too much, as they say, and the saying certainly applies to colors that stimulate your employees’ productivity and output. Too much of them could quickly lead to mental exhaustion.

If you find that your employees are feeling a bit mentally fatigued, try breaking up these stimulating colors with a much more calming one such as green. Green inspires a sense of mental balance that will give your staff the mental calmness it needs to maintain a consistent output that can be far more effective in the long run than bursts of extreme creativity and productivity.

Color matters. Jacobs Gardner carries a huge selection of colorful office products to help keep your business running smoothly. Visit us today!

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Five Strategies to Cope with Stress and Avoid Burnout

Five Strategies to Cope with Stress and Avoid Burnout
Five Coping Strategies to Avoid Burnout

Which list would you like to describe you?

– Option 1: Energized, invigorated, focused, passionate, balanced, strong

– Option 2: Run-down, sluggish, brain-fogged, stressed, depressed, anxious

I’d choose Option One and I’ll bet you would, too. As we start the new year, and a brand new decade, I thought I would shake things up a bit and write about a different topic that is of interest to us all – reducing stress and avoiding burnout.

Before writing Competitive Selling: The Guidebook to Being Proactive in a Reactive World in 2019, I got about 70% finished with a book focused on nutrition and good health for the super busy professional. Notice I said only “70%” finished. I never completed the book for a number of reasons, but it is still a topic I feel passionate about.

Besides being a writer, I’m also a passionate reader. I’ve read countless books on business and the profession of selling. In my pursuit of living a balanced life, I’ve read an equal number of books on improving nutrition, relieving stress, and strengthening relationships.

On the active side of things, I’m an avid runner and mountain biker. Work-wise, I travel most weeks and put in long hours on the job, as you probably do, too.

Life can be very busy. A busy life can easily lead to burnout, but with focused daily habits, it can largely be avoided. Here is my advice on how to do just that in 2020:

1. Get the list out of your head before you hit the bed.

We’ve all been there. Your mind is racing and you can’t sleep. One strategy that works is to make sure you compile your master list of things to do before you hit the sack. This can be done before you leave the office or even later in the evening. It frees up your mind to truly rest and helps you prioritize tasks much faster in the morning.

One of my all-time favorite books on time management is Brian Tracy’s book, Time Power. The author boldly promises you’ll learn how to get more done than you ever thought possible. It’s a great resource. I think we can all improve in this area!

2. What you track improves.

Just like I would advise a salesperson to track their sales activities, I would also suggest tracking your physical activity and your food intake.

The more conscience you are of your daily habits the better you will do. Life is stressful. Eating the right foods can help. They can truly be medicine to the body and build up your immunity and stress-tolerance. One way to tap into more tracking this year is to try out an app like MyFitnessPal. Other good ones are available, too.

Most nutrition gurus say for an active person, your diet should be made up 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fats. These percentages can shift depending on your fitness goals, health needs and doctor instructions.

Whatever the numbers are, how do you know if you are hitting them if you don’t track them?

Along with tracking nutrition, track your exercise. Let’s get physical…every single day. We have all seen the rise of the sale of standing desks and for good reason. Stand up. Get your body moving!

3. Take your vacation time this year and lose the guilt.

Without regular rest periods, your mind quickly fills up and the hard drive of sound thinking can be disrupted. When I started my business 16 years ago, my father-in-law, a successful business person, told my husband and me to get away every ninety days, whether we had the resources or not. That’s something we’ve stuck to and it has paid huge dividends in avoiding burnout and feeding our marriage.

For me personally, taking a vacation is an act of faith. There is always a long list of tasks to tackle and it never stops. But give yourself permission to rest guilt-free. Come back re-engaged and even more focused. Go ahead. Look at the 2020 calendar and plan your time off. If you don’t, it will be 2021 before you know it!

4. Get off the Complain Train.

There is a great book by Jon Gordon called The Energy Bus. In the book, he describes a great “No Complaining Rule.” Aspire to hold yourself to this rule and encourage others to do the same. Be conscious of this energy and time sucking activity and stop it in its tracks!

As the old hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” Work on driving up your awareness of how much there truly is to be grateful for!

5. Find passion in your work.

You have been gifted with certain skills, talents and abilities that are uniquely yours. Do you know what they are? Here’s a quick question to figure out one of your gifts: “What is something you can do almost effortlessly, without much planning, and still perform it with excellence?” The “without much planning” is not advised but it’s still a way to think of your most natural gifts! (The Gallup Poll Strengths Finder is a great tool to use to create a more comprehensive list.)

Recognize those parts of the role you play at work that give you the most joy versus those that drain you. For a salesperson, it is helpful to look at things you do that are proactive vs. reactive (often draining activities). Analyze how much time you are spending in each area. Then make it a point to be more proactive in the areas you are gifted in the most…the areas where you find your passion.

So, reflect on these coping strategies and see which ones make sense for you. Remember, people love to do business with someone who loves what they do.

Are you that person?

Reignite that passion, take good care of yourself, and make it a fantastic 2020!

Marisa Pensa is founder of Methods in Motion, a sales training company that helps businesses execute training concepts and create accountability to see both inside and outside sales initiatives through to success. For more information, visit www.methodsnmotion.com

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Put Your Health and Fitness First in the New Year

Put Your Health and Fitness First in the New Year
Health and Fitness First in the New Year

Now is the perfect time to take a few steps to prepare yourself for a strong start to the New Year (and new decade). You have a much better chance of making positive long-lasting changes when you’ve laid the groundwork ahead of time, rather than waiting until January 1.

Here are a few things you can do today to get ready for a great new year….

Reflect and assess on 2019.

What worked this year in your life? What didn’t work? What could you have done better? And what did you do really well? Sit down this week and actually put pen to paper to take a look back at the entire year to see where you need to make changes and where you need to give yourself a pat on the back. Once you’ve fully reflected and given yourself a real reality check, then you’re ready to keep an open mind and move forward armed with all the knowledge about how to tackle 2020.

Join a gym or hire a personal trainer and book your training sessions through the first two months of the year.

A great way to work on your health and fitness is by joining a gym, hiring a personal trainer or having an accountability buddy to work out with. The beautiful thing about signing on to work with a trainer is that you can actually book, block out and schedule your workouts with your trainer weeks in advance. If those workouts are already in your calendar and your trainer’s calendar before the New Year even starts, you’re much more likely to keep them and commit to them, especially with someone else keeping you in check.

Buy new workout clothes and sneakers, a new gym bag and water bottle.

Just like you want to dress for success at work, you also want to dress for success at the gym. If you’re still hiding in oversized cotton t-shirts and sweatpants that cling to your body and don’t let your sweat breathe, now’s a perfect chance for a wardrobe upgrade. Find some sweat-wicking leggings or shorts, supportive sneakers and even a gym bag that fits all the essentials, along with a big new reusable water bottle to keep with you at all times. You could even add your fitness gear to the Christmas list that you give to others, then fill in the holes based on whatever you don’t receive. Once you’ve invested in the proper attire for your workouts, you’ll be extra excited to make them happen regularly.

Remove obligations that could get in the way of your goals.

In today’s go-go-go society, we’re trained to think that the busier you are, the better off you are. But truly, that’s not the case. Before the New Year hits, we think you should take some time to review all of your current obligations, commitments and even relationships. Do they bring you joy? Do you look forward to them or dread them? Do you leave them feeling uplifted or drained? Do they support your healthy goals or hinder them? Whatever people or responsibilities are weighing on your time and emotions, consider eliminating them, if at all possible. Not only will you have more time to focus on your workouts, sleep, self-care and healthy eating, but you’ll also feel a weight lifted off your shoulders — and you can’t put a price-tag on that.

A few other honorable mentions …

Clean out your pantry and fridge of all the unhealthy and expired food you don’t want to eat.

Start stocking up on fresh produce and frozen produce to have on hand so you can have veggies at every meal.

Sign up for a healthy meal delivery service for busy weekdays, so you can be sure you’ll have a nutritious and filling meal that supports your health goals.

Write your goals down on multiple pieces of paper and paste them everywhere, including your mirror, fridge, car and desk.

Good luck!

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How to Actually Unplug Over Your Holiday Break

How to Actually Unplug Over Your Holiday Break

Aiming for a work-free holiday break this year? Here’s how to realistically make it happen.

You’re working like crazy to tie up all of those necessary loose ends before you officially say goodbye to your desk for the holiday break.

Ideally, you’d spend your time off relaxing and recharging. But, if the past few years are any indication, you’ll more than likely spend a good chunk of your time glued to your computer or phone instead.

Well, no more. You deserve to actually kick back over the holidays. So, here are six tips to help you seriously disconnect and enjoy this merry time of year without work commitments hanging over your head.

1. Be Realistic

While you should definitely make a strong effort to check out of work-mode over the holidays, it’s important that you’re also realistic with your expectations.

Now that we’ve all become so accustomed to being constantly connected, it’s that much tougher to unplug entirely.

So, don’t enter into your break with the assumption that you won’t even glance at your inbox until your time off comes to a close. You’ll likely only wind up disappointed and frustrated. Focus on being better than normal, rather than perfect.

2. Lay Some Ground Rules

When you’re planning to disconnect for some time, it’s important that you set some clear expectations — both for yourself and the people that you work with.

In regards to yourself, will you allow any time to check in on work-related matters? If so, outline those rules now, such as only letting yourself pop into your inbox once per day for no more than fifteen minutes.

Also, make it known to your colleagues that you plan to be out of touch and for how long, so that they know better than to wait on you for any urgent requests.

3. Prioritize and Work Ahead

A key part of truly being able to unplug during your time off is adequate prep work — after all, it’s tough to relax if you feel like there’s a ton of unfinished business looming.

When you’re a few weeks out from your break, make a long list of all of the things that need to get accomplished before you officially check out. Then take a look to see what can be delegated and what can wait until after you return.

Sort the tasks that are left in order of deadline, and then start chipping away at those to-dos far ahead of time. That way, everything should be pretty close to handled by the time you stroll out of the office for your break.

4. Refrain From Setting Goals

This one can seem somewhat counterintuitive, particularly with the popularity of resolutions during this time of year.

However, if you know you’re going to be tempted to work when you really should be enjoying quality time with your loved ones, refrain from setting any professional goals for yourself until you’re back at work.

Why? Well, outlining those career and business ambitions during your time off will likely inspire you to get moving on those goals immediately — which will ultimately put you right back in front of your computer.

5. Set an Out-of-Office Message

This step seems obvious, but it’s one that far too many people neglect.

Setting an out-of-office responder when you’re on your break will remove much of the pressure from your shoulders, as well as keep your colleagues in the loop.

So, make sure to draft one of these messages before you take your time off. Include your return date as well as the contact information for someone else who can help with urgent matters, and you’ll be able to cut that tether that’s constantly connecting you to your inbox.

6. Abandon Your Electronics

Perhaps you’ve implemented all of these tips and you still don’t feel confident that you’ll be able to enjoy the festivities without a screen in front of your face.

If that’s the case, go ahead and lock away your electronics. Power down your phone and keep it in a drawer for the majority of a day. Put your laptop and your work bag in the back of the closet — where you’ll have to consciously reach for them.

These small changes can make a huge difference in how often you find yourself relying on those devices. When you need to be intentional about their use, you’re much less likely to be attached to them.

You deserve some time to unplug and relax over your holiday break. But, sometimes that’s easier said than done. Put these six tips to use, and you’ll be able to enjoy some (mostly) work-free and guilt-free time off.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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The Importance of Kindness in a Fast Paced World

The Importance of Kindness in a Fast Paced World

As we enter into the holiday season (yes, brace yourself, it’s that time of year again) we thought this would be a great time to reflect on the importance of kindness.

Kindness in the office, at school, in traffic, or at home, can change a bad situation into a tolerable one.

In a world that moves so fast, and is digitally driven, ironically, we are less connected with one another on a deeper level than ever before. Since we only see the surface (or the highlight reel) we have no idea what another person is going through in their lives. They may have just lost a loved one, or a job, or may be dealing with pain or an illness. Those who treat others poorly or fly off the handle, are more likely to need our kindness than we can possibly imagine.

Being a little kinder than necessary is always a great way to go through life. Even ONE person can make a difference. Will that person be you? Or maybe you will be the recipient of another’s kindness?

We’ve included a few ideas for random acts of kindness here. We’d love to hear some of your ideas.

All of us at Jacobs Gardner wish you a peaceful season filled with goodwill and kindness.

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Three Things to Do Every Morning to Create a Better Day

Three Things to Do Every Morning to Create a Better Day
Create a Better Day

The way your day starts sets the tone for everything that follows. That’s why it’s very important to be intentional about your morning routine. While we know that you don’t have much time to spend on intricate and unrealistic wellness practices, there are a few short and simple things you can do each morning to ensure you find a better footing to take on the rest of the day with ease.

1. Get some natural sunlight first thing in the morning.

Would you believe that there’s something totally free you can do each day to boost your happiness hormones and energy levels? Get sunlight! Natural sunlight, that is. Our bodies and hormones get a lot of information from the light that we’re surrounded with, and that’s why it’s important to spend a little bit of time, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, in natural sunlight, without sunglasses, within about 30 minutes to an hour of waking up.

This time in the sunlight will signal to your brain to release serotonin, which is a feel-good hormone that also makes you calm and focused. In addition to that, starting your day with some natural sunlight and vitamin D can actually help you sleep better at night, because it resets your circadian rhythm to follow the natural pattern of light and dark, so your body will be ready to power down in the evening time.

2. Drink 16 to 32 ounces of water as soon as you wake up.

During the night-time while you are sleeping, your body is going through a ton of processes, and it also isn’t taking in any liquid. That means that when you wake up, you are technically dehydrated and in need of fluid intake. In addition to that, when you drink water first thing in the morning, it actually helps to flush all of the toxins through your system that were accumulating over night.

Try keeping a bottle of water next to the bed each night, then you can down those 16 to 32 ounces as soon as you wake up. (Quick tip: Room temperature water is actually a lot easier to drink than cold water, so it’s better if it sits out all night.) From that initial drink, you’ll get a boost of energy from the hydration, your brain will feel more focused — as it’s mostly made up of water and always needs fluids to function — and you’ll also feel full, so you don’t have to run to the kitchen for breakfast right away. Hydrating throughout the day is important for everyone, but that first glass of water is perhaps your most beneficial one of the day, so don’t skip it.

3. Spend a few minutes of quiet time meditating or being mindful.

It’s very common to wake up and immediately check our phones for emails, messages and other incoming requests from other people, thus setting us off in a reactive mode. Yet, focusing on other people’s issues can fill us with stress and worry, and this isn’t the best way to begin a day. That’s why, it’s beneficial to take anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes in the morning to sit quietly and be alone with your thoughts before consuming any technology or social media. If you’re not comfortable sitting alone in silence, you can also try out a guided meditation app, like Calm or Headspace, and let the narrator tell you what to do.

Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, enhance self-awareness, improve attention span, as well as a host of other perks. And one thing it definitely does is make sure that you go into the day with a more mindful approach. While it may seem like meditation is a fluffy practice just for those who teach yoga, it’s growing in popularity in the mainstream as more and more people understand its powerful benefits for daily life.

The right morning routine can do wonders for your day, so choose at least one of the above and give it a try tomorrow morning. Good luck!

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