29 October 2010

Envelope please...

One of my assistant's responsibilities is logging correspondence, preparing address labels for envelopes and completing the mail out.  The one complaint she has is that since she doesn't have a printer at her desk, if she only has a few labels to print (not enough for a full page of labels), then she has to get up and go to the photocopier to print each envelope.  It is inconvenient to say the least.  You can imagine how happy she was when I received the DYMO Label Writer 450 Twin Turbo label maker and brought it to her desk and said she could have it, but the one string attached was that she had to do a product review so I could share it with my readers on my blog (that was the requirement I had in order to keep it at no charge).  She eagerly took it and here is what she had to say about it:

What she thinks:
The DYMO Label Writer 450 Twin Turbo is user friendly, very easy to use, straightforward and there is no assembly required.  The program installation took only five minutes.  Since this label maker actually hooks up to the computer, once installed I recommend placing the program on your desktop for easy access.

When you open the program, the “Home Screen" comes up and you have three tabs to choose from

  1. Labels - this is where you choose your label type
  2. Label Design - you have options on how you want your label to look
  3. Address - this gives you the capability to store your contacts
The Home Screen provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to print the labels and once you press print, it takes only two seconds for it to print.  Another bonus is you don't have to deal with ink cartridges or toner as it is a direct thermal printer.

Bottom line:
I highly recommend the LabelWriter because it is easy to use, small enough to be placed on your desk, doesn't take much room and saves me the extra steps of walking to the printer.

So now my assistant has a very nice label maker conveniently located at her desk, it's hooked up to her computer so she can just cut and paste the addresses or take them right out of contacts and I don't have to feel guilty when I send those emails that say "Envelope please..." because now I know she is not having to get up and go to the printer each time.  I would say that is a win-win for both of us.


27 October 2010

Turning Soft Skills Into Tangible and Recognizable Skills That You Can and Should Bring to the Office

Recently I was at a professional dinner and mentioned I had spoken about soft skills on a webinar I participated in.  I was met with blank stares.  I said, "You don't know what I'm talking about do you?"  They were relieved I had asked, because they had never heard of soft skills and up until a year ago, neither had I.  We don't know about them, so we don't realize how valuable and important they are to our employer.  The secret is awareness.  I am pleased that the organizers have made the audio of the webinar available and I wanted to share it with you. 

Click webinar and press Playback to start. 

There are some other speakers as well presenting on our overall business persona, including tips from a fashion consultant on the importance of what we wear to the office and getting the most for your dollar when you go shopping. The webinar is offered free as it is a promotion piece they did before the main conference, which is in beautiful Australia in December that I unfortunately will not be attending. 

If the above link doesn't work, please go to the event website: http://www.eapa.com.au/Event.aspx?id=381214 and you will be able to get it from there and also find out more about the conference.  They are trying to track who is visiting their site so if you go through the website, they will ask you to fill in a brief description of who you are and where you are visiting from and then it will bring you to the webinar.


24 October 2010

Full moon rising...

Sometimes I go to the office and it seems like everyone is cranky and I wish I had just stayed home that day?  Has that ever happened to you?  I am not sure what it is, but it just feels like everything is off and if something is going to happen, it will certainly happen that day.  Do you ever wonder why?  Well, here is one theory.  The full moon...

Full Moon – October 23
Full Moon – November 21
Full Moon – December 21

But just a minute, the only full moon that recently occurred was yesterday and that was a Saturday and I had a wonderful day with my grandson.  I note that November's full moon is on a Sunday.  It seems the only full moon that will fall on a work day is Tuesday, December 21 and by that time I will have forgotten all about the moon phases. So much for that theory because I've certainly had a few cranky days recently that I would have loved to blame on the moon.   I mean it can't be me can it?

Even though it might be nice to be able to blame it on something other than ourselves, it is more likely a miscommunication, someone may be stressed and is having a hard day or they didn't sleep well. I heard something interesting the other day that made sense and explains some of the dynamics that can happen when different personality types work together.  Is your personality a type A, B or C?  I found it interesting reading about the different personalities because knowing how a person thinks or views things can help you understand their reactions.  Sometimes I find a situation easy to handle, but someone else might find it stressful or emotional.  It doesn't mean I am right and they are wrong, but understanding each other certainly will help us in our working relationships.
The different generations also come into play in an office and it is good to know how the younger (or older) generation views things so we can better understand the way our co-workers think or why they make the decisions they do. 
Of course there are other things that also come into play such as sex, ethnic background, religion, how we were raised, our current mental state and many other things.  Our co-workers are usually not out to get us or make our day miserable, although it may seem so at times.

Understanding each other is key to good working relationships.  Work retreats can be a great way to learn about each other.  It may seem awkward at first, but if you have the right facilitator it can be a wonderful tool for managers and staff.
Yep, I think it is about time for a good staff retreat...

16 October 2010

Is Proofreading a Lost Art?

People don't seem to be as concerned with proofreading as we used to be.  I think with texting it has brought a low expectation for accuracy as lots of mistakes are made in emails and texts and are accepted overall.

When I was in school the teachers drilled proofing skills into us as they taught us the goal was to create the best product we could and proofing was part of the process to do that.

Does it matter? 

I think businesses are very aware of their corporate image and messy reporting reflects badly on the company so an employee who doesn't take the time may be noticed in a negative way.

If an admin assistant is preparing a document for their boss, they should ensure it is as complete and accurate as possible before even passing it by their desk.  Some things we won't know, but what we do know we should ensure is correct.

Some tips for proofreading that I find work best are:

1. Spell check -  This is the easiest part of proofing a document. As you are going through the Spell check pay attention to the suggestions and either Add to Dictionary, if it is an odd name or word that is coming up as a spelling error, press Change if it is an error, or Ignore or Ignore all if it is something you want the speller to skip over.

2. Eyeball the document - This is very important and will help you identify errors that Spell check wouldn't pick up just by doing a quick review of it.  For instance if you are adding names and addresses and notice the name is spelled one way and the name in the email address is spelled another, it will be a flag for you that you have to go back and verify the information because something is wrong.  When you read the document you will also get the sense of the sentence so will know if there is an extra 'the' or 'a' that shouldn't be there.

3. Final check the document - If you have an opportunity to check your work with someone else, that is ideal.  You may not have that resource however, but if you do take advantage of it.  When checking lists I like to use tick marks.  If I am reviewing the list with someone I then cross the tick mark through once verified to show it is doubly checked.  If I am manually reviewing a document, I underline or cross out the change and then put an X in the right margin so I can see where my change is.  If you use track changes in an electronic document, this does the same thing, although at times I find small errors are not identified as clearly as I would like and can be missed.

Proofing also helps you to know your document. Going over it a few times makes you very familiar with the content. I find this especially helpful with minutes. I not only proof, but I really get to know the content so if I am asked at a meeting something about an action, I know exactly where to look or may have the answer from memory, rather than looking at them with a blank stare or fumble to find my place. I find the same with lists, by reviewing the list I will know just about everyone that is on that list so can easily answer any questions about it.

I think the goal should really be the same as my teachers taught me -- to have the most professional and accurate looking document that we can.  After the document is proofed, then we can bring it to our boss.  They may make more changes, but at least you know you have done everything you can to make it as accurate as possible.  This will also give your boss confidence when you bring a clean document to them that they can depend on you to do the best job possible.

Proofing is as important now as it has ever been.  Take the time to do it as it will not only reflect well on you, but on our profession as well.

9 October 2010

Everyday Office Heroes Contest

Hi everyone,

Contests are always fun and this one sounds like it could be interesting.  I'm sure we all have some office stories to tell and if you can win some money too, well that makes it even more interesting.  So put your thinking caps on and check it out at this website: http://www.accoheroes.com/

If you are like me, you need to read some of the other stories just to get your creative juices flowing and there are some posted on the site just for that purpose.


2 October 2010

Calendar Clarity

Sometimes I find meeting requests are not as clear as they could be.  I like to see at a glance who will be at the meeting, what the purpose is and where the meeting will be held without having to open it.  For instance:

Subject: Patricia, Adele and Rita meeting to discuss Christmas Party
Location: Large Boardroom, 5th Floor

If it is a lunch meeting I enter the restaurant name, street address and whether a reservation was made.

Subject: Linda lunch meeting with Bob
Location: Red Lobster, 99 Bank Street RESERVATION IN NAME OF LINDA

When it is a regular meeting or large gathering, it will make more sense to put in the name of the meeting such as Health & Safety Committee rather than listing all the names of the attendees. 

You can add the agenda to the meeting request by attaching it.  To add an attachment, click on the Insert tab and choose Attach File or Attach Item.  When you send it to the attendees they will have all the information they need for the meeting.   

My current boss travels a lot so I put his travel schedule in the calendar as well.  I categorize it in a different colour so it stands out from the rest of his meetings.  For example if he is travelling to Vienna I will start a meeting request for each part of the journey and categorize it as Red. 


In the meeting request, I choose the time the flight departs and the time it lands and cut and paste the referred to portion of the electronic ticket into the body of the calendar appointment.  For example:

AC Flt. 211 Oct. 12, 2010 Depart Ottawa at 11 a.m., arrive Toronto at 11:45 a.m.
Seat 2C, aisle

For the next part of the trip I do the same thing and cut and paste that part of the itinerary into the body of the calendar appointment.  If he is staying overnight, on the last leg of the trip I enter the name and address of the hotel he is staying at and the confirmation number. 


AC Flt. 1234 Oct. 24, 2010 Depart Toronto at 6 p.m., arrive Vienna Oct. 25 at 11 a.m.
Seat 2A, Window

Hotel Name, 112 Any Street, Vienna, Austria -  Confirmation #12345

You can put a lot of things in a meeting request.  You can drag and drop an email, add a contact card, include links to company websites, add directions, include a photo and brief bio of the person your boss will be meeting (which is useful if they have never met), you can attach documents they need for the meeting or you can draft a quick agenda to remind your boss what they wanted to talk to the person about.  Again, if there is anything in the body of the meeting request, always put OPEN FOR DETAILS or he or she will never know there is anything there for them to see.

I find the all-day meeting requests a little bit useless for meetings.  Undoubtedly if the meeting is put as an all-day meeting and someone is looking in your calendar to see if you are busy, they will probably not notice the all-day meeting that is at the top of the calendar.  If a meeting is from 9 to 5 for instance, I block that whole time in their calendar.  Then it is obvious they are out for the day.  If you have a meeting that is recurring for two or three days and you want to show they are gone the whole day, you can still use the recurring option.  To do this, block your time, then choose Recurrence and under Recurrence Pattern, choose Daily, click on Every 1 day and then choose the end date.  It will now block the calendar from 9 to 5 (or whatever time you chose) for the 3 days.

I like to use the all-day meeting option for reminders and I categorize them in different colours so they stand out.  For instance I will put a reminder to call a client and put the name and phone number in the Subject line.  The only problem with using the all-day meeting option for reminders is that now if someone looks at the scheduling option in Outlook, it will seem as if the calendar is busy.  I don't find many people use that option so it is not an issue, but if your office does, you will need to find some other way to remind your boss such as using Tasks.

I also like to turn on the stat holiday alerts in Outlook so you will see all the stat holidays in a calendar year.  To add holidays, go under Tools, Options, choose Calendar Options and in the middle you will see Add Holidays.  Choose the country you want and click OK.  Stat holidays will now be added as all-day items.