Displaying All Posts by Susan Johnston

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

For many over-worked cubicle dwellers, meals consist of Luna bars, Lean Cuisine lunches, and soups out of a can. Yup, that used to me, too. (And I admit that I sometimes still reach for a protein bar when I’m in a rush.)

But it’s better for you, your body, and your budget not to subsist on these so-called convenience foods. Anyone who’s seen the 2004 documentary Super Size Me knows about the horrific impact the McDonald’s drive-through can have on your health. Click Here to Read Article …

6 Ways to Get More From Your Commute Time

According to the United States Census Bureau survey, Americans spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work. Australians don’t fare much better, as the average daily commute time ranges from 22 minutes up to 35 minutes. And if the infamous opening scene from Office Space is any indication, most workers don’t enjoy weaving in and out of traffic (or being crammed into a public transportation, as the case may be). Click Here to Read Article …

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How Do You Ease into the Work Week?

A freelance friend of mine recently commented that she has a hard time transitioning from weekend to weekday. “How do you ease into your work week?” she asked. “Monday mornings are always killer!”

I’m afraid I have the opposite problem: work days and weekends blend together thanks to my BlackBerry and MacBook addictions. This means I rarely have a huge email overload on Monday morning, but I also miss out on the chance to feel completely relaxed and rested because I’m never fully unplugged. However, I do make sure I have something fun to do Sunday night (often watching Mad Men with the aforementioned friend), so I’ll start the week on a positive note. It helps that I also try to stick to roughly the same sleep schedule so I’m not throwing my circadian rhythms out of whack.

Your turn! How do you transition into the work week? Do you keep worktime and playtime clearly delineated? Or, like me, do you sometimes find they blend together? Click Here to Read Article …

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What’s Your Avatar?

Nowadays, with photos on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, even individual blog comments, you’re often judged based on your avatar. That postcard-sized picture says a lot about you. Depending on the image you choose, you might come off as professional or playful, creative or cookie-cutter, silly or somber.

Due to privacy concerns, some people opt for a symbol (a typewriter for a writer, a gavel for a lawyer) instead of a photograph. Others choose a cartoon alter ego or some sort of artistic representation (for instance, a close-up of the just the eyes or a silhouette). Still others use an actual photo, whether it’s a professional headshot, a candid photo snapped by a friend, or a self-portrait courtesy of an iPhone.

I use a photo taken by a photographer friend. We staged a photo shoot at a local writer’s space to create a literary vibe, also incorporating props like my laptop and books plucked from the shelves to reflect my love of words.

How did you choose your online image? What sort of impression did you want to create? Click Here to Read Article …

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What Are Your Office Etiquette Pet Peeves?

Office etiquette issues are mostly behind me, but before I fled cubicle hell for coffee shops and other freelance hangouts, I shared workspace just like (almost) everyone else, so I’ve dealt with the quirks of toxic coworkers — and they’ve had to cope with mine. One cubemate was deeply disturbed by the sound a plastic water bottle makes when you try to squeeze out the last bit of water. Another couldn’t stand the sound of an office chair swiveling back and forth as one coworker twirled absentmindedly.

My biggest workplace etiquette peeve? I’m annoyed by loud phone talkers. You know the type: people who make personal phones during work hours and then act as if their acid reflux or marital problems are the most fascinating and important topic on the planet. That’s why I always made a point of slipping away from my desk when I needed to make a non-work call (let’s face it: we all occasionally need to make calls between 9 and 5) and scheduling time in the conference room when I had a lengthy work call scheduled.

What about you? Are there habits you’d prefer to do without? Click Here to Read Article …

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Awesome Links #8: Personal Productivity Tools, iPad Apps and More

Are Multiple Twitter Accounts Good or Bad?
This post draws on a variety of sources and weighs the pros and cons of having multiple Twitter accounts, particularly for business purposes.

100 Ways to Increase Your Website Traffic
Quite possibly the most comprehensive list of website-boosting strategies we’ve ever seen, ranging from the obvious (“network, network, network”) to the off-beat (“fake a hacker attack”).

The best goal is no goal
The author discusses how not having goals can actually be liberating.

7 iPad Apps That Help You Budget and Improve Your Lifestyle
Sure, you want to kick butt at work, but these apps will help improve your lifestyle and stick to a budget so your hard-earned dollars will go further.

The 10 People You Need in Your Professional Network
Mentors are great, but you’ll need more than that achieve professional success. This Forbes article explores other people (including the mentor) you should have in your network.

6 Personal Productivity Tools Guaranteed to Up Your Game
From our sister site, FreelanceSwitch, comes this collection of web tools designed to help you be more productive. Freelancer or office worker, we think you’ll find this useful. Click Here to Read Article …
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Relocating Your Home Office

Moving into a new house or apartment is stressful enough. But when you work from home, and you’re moving both your household and your home office, things get a whole lot hairier, as I discovered during my own move earlier this summer. It’s been a few weeks, and things are finally (!) starting to settle down and I’m getting settled in my new home.

Here are some of the strategies I picked up during my recent move:

Work (and Plan) Ahead

As much as possible, I tried to anticipate the projects I had coming up around the time of my move and complete them early. Depending on the relationship with the client, I might send it in early to wow them or hold off to give myself more time to proofread and polish the assignment. And for the sake of my sanity, I tried not to schedule any important deadlines close to my moving date. Packing and repainting is stressful enough without worrying about missed deadlines! I also made sure to schedule my wifi installation at the earliest opportunity so I wouldn’t be stuck without internet for long.

Keep Your Clients or Customers Informed

Obviously, if you have people snail mailing checks or other important documents to your home, you’ll want to alert them well in advance of your move and file a change of address form with the post office. This also gives you an excuse to reconnect with clients and see if they might have any projects coming up before or after your move. If you anticipate being unavailable for more than a day or two, then let your clients know and try to find a trusted colleague who can cover for you if necessary. Some people also include effective dates and new addresses in their email signature (for safety reasons, I only give out my address by request). If you’re worried about things getting lost between the old and new address, you can also set up a PO box to ease the transition. Since I had some overlap between my old and new place, I was able to go back to my previous apartment and check the mailbox one last time for peace of mind.

Clean Out

Most of us have extra home office equipment or supplies lying around that we don’t really need. Ditto on miscellaneous paperwork, magazines, and so on. Moving is a great opportunity to purge the excess stuff and set up your new space so it’s organized and tidy (not to mention that if you’re moving yourself, you’ll appreciate fewer boxes to carry). I sold a bunch of items on Craigslist so I could buy newer, nicer versions of the things I really need and say sayonara to the rest. Freecycle is also an option for people who have random home office supplies or old computer equipment they don’t need.

Label Office Essentials Carefully

When it comes to packing, the usual wisdom is to pack each room separately and label each box carefully. But the reality is that most of us pack in stages (or we find ourselves frantically throwing stuff into boxes at 2am the night before the movers arrive). I wanted to cram as much as could safely fit into each box, so if there was a hairdryer-sized space left in a box of books, I’d pack that baby with the books (after all, it’s all going the same place). The one exception was my office. The contents of my desk were packed last and lovingly labeled “Susan’s Office” so I could quickly find them later.

Prioritize Your Unpacking

Sure, it’d be nice to immediately find places for my colander or my cream-colored shift dress. But each time I’ve moved, my goal has been to minimize downtime, so I set up my bed (after all, a girl’s gotta her beauty sleep or she’ll be too groggy to please her clients) and office areas early on. First order of business? My laptop and printer/scanner. I also make sure I know where to find extra printer paper, business cards, pens, and paper clips so I don’t waste money buying extras. Even if your laptop is propped up on big brown boxes and your office supplies are stashed in a Tupperware container because you’re waiting for your brand new desk to be delivered, clients will never know the difference. If you’re one of those people who truly can’t work amidst chaos, then you might want to work in a coffee shop or a coworking space in your new neighborhood. That’ll come in handy as you get settled, too.

What about you? Have you moved recently or are you gearing up to relocate? How did you handle this situation?

Is Office Dating Appropriate?

According to a recent article on CBS MoneyWatch, office romances are becoming increasingly common. In a way, it makes sense, because if you’re working crazy hours trying to keep your boss happy, it’s tough to find time to meet people outside the office.

Of course, dating a coworker can seriously backfire because if you break up, you’ll still have to see them every single day. And if you’re dating a superior (or your company has a strict anti-fraternization policy), that introduces a whole other can of worms!

I’ve never dated someone in my office, and it’s unlikely that I will in the future; I now work from home at an office of one (even when I reported to an office, I didn’t have much exposure to potential boyfriends, my coworkers were predominantly female). But I’d be interested in your take on this topic.

Have you had an office romance? Or are you strictly against it? Click Here to Read Article …

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