Mobile AppsProductivityTechnology

Mobile apps can make your life easier in a lot of ways.  Here are ten great apps I personally use to simplify and improve my life.

1. Feedly

feedly logo

Feedly is a news aggregator.  That means it allows you to see all the articles related to different topics or from different sources all in one place.  We’ve got ours set up to show us all the things related to Blogging, SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc.  Ultimately, which news aggregator you use is up to personal preference, but I find that Feedly is sleek and easy to use.  The fact that it’s also available on the web helps since I can always switch over to the desktop too.  The only downside is that since their logo is a rounded square with one corner missing, it drives me crazy.

2. Teams

Teams logo

Microsoft Teams is an alternative to texting, like Telegram, What’s App, and all of those, but in addition to chatting with contacts or groups of contacts, you can also set up teams where people can post and reply to updates and attach files.

3. Everhour

Everhour logo

Time tracking is obviously important.  Everhour makes the process simple and straightforward.  They have a free plan that allows up to 5 users though if you need more users or integrations you’ll have to go with one of their premium plans.  It works in your browser, as a browser extension, and as a mobile app, which means that you can track your time while you’re in or out of the office with a few clicks or taps.

4. 1Password

1Password logo

Did you forget your password again.  Well, it’s not too hard to remember it.  It’s one of the 1,000,000 passwords you use so that should be easy to remember.  Or you could just use 1Password.  If your phone has fingerprint detection capabilities you can fill in all your passwords just with your fingerprint.  And since you don’t have to worry about remembering your passwords (except for your 1password password.  Don’t lose that one.) you can go with those passwords that were written by 10000 monkeys on typewriters.

5. Kitchen Stories

Kitchen Stories logo

Kitchen stories is a cooking app with a major advantage.  In addition to the free recipes  in the app and added to it by users, it also includes free instructional videos on various cooking techniques making it easy to follow along while you cook.  I used it to learn how to make the perfect poached egg and now my eggs benedict is to die for.

6. Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive

Google Drive logoDropbox logoOneDrive logo

It’s hard to pick a favourite between the big three in cloud storage and file sharing.  Dropbox has the least free storage but it still has its benefits.  It would be a lot longer of a blog post if I went into which one you should go with and why.  I just think you should go with at least one of them.  That way you can easily access important files on any of your devices.

7. Overcast

Overcast logo

Apple’s built in podcast app is alright, I guess.  But Overcast is where it’s at.  It’s ridiculously easy to sort podcasts from newest to oldest, oldest to newest, or even sort the unplayed episodes one way and the other episodes another.  More importantly, since Apple removed their playlist feature, it’s easy to create playlists and smart playlists for yourself.  It’s only for IOS, but there are free apps out there that do similar things for Android if you can’t stand android’s built in podcast player.

8. Duolingo

Duolingo logo

I’m probably not telling you anything new for this one, but Duolingo is definitely one of the most fun ways to learn a language.  I’ve been doing their Russian course and I’ll probably try out their new Latin course too.  If you haven’t heard about Duolingo before, they are

9. Scannable

Scannable logo

A few years ago, the scanner attached to my printer stopped working.  While trying to repair it I discovered Scannable.  To this day, my printer’s scanner still doesn’t work.  Scannable is an app that allows you to scan documents using your phone’s camera.  You’d expect a low-quality scan, but I’ve been able to get better quality scans using Scannable than I get from the office printer.

10. Every Dollar

Every Dollar logo

My wife got me hooked on budgeting.  Our life is so much easier to manage now that we’ve budgeted it.  The app we used to help us manage that budget is Every Dollar.  If you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey, you’ve probably heard of Every Dollar since it’s his app.  It’s great.  It’s easier to use and gives a clearer picture of your budget in my opinion than Intuit’s Mint which is the most popular budgeting app.

 

By the way, the answer to the riddle in my last post Game-ing the System is: The man had the hiccups.  So the bartender pulled out the gun to scare his hiccups away.

EducationProductivityUncategorized

Rubik's Cube

Wolf pack
The big city was of course, the upstairs of grandma’s house

As children, we loved to play games.  Childhood is the age of games.  “Let’s play house,” “Let’s play a board game,” or “Let’s play family of wolves who are having trouble finding food because of the encroaching big city.”  Okay, maybe that last one was just me and my siblings…  The point is that children primarily learn through games.  The most effective way to get a child to learn something is to turn it into a game for them to play.

 

Eventually, we grow up.  Games are something that must be put away in favour of more somber pursuits.  They’re too unstructured for regular life, which requires rules and regulations to keep things running smoothly.

 

Monopoly money
What? No, that’s not monopoly money in my glass. Why do you ask?

But what if I told you that’s not quite true?  Games don’t have less rules than real life.  They just have different ones.  In real life, the rule is that in polite society we walk upright.  But in “family of wolves who are having trouble finding food etc….” the rule is that you walk on your hands and knees.  It’s a different rule but it’s still a rule.  Taking all my monopoly money and stuffing it into my coat is fine, if a bit strange, in regular day-to-day life, but when playing Monopoly it’s called cheating.

This cuts to the heart of why games are important.  They give us the ability to try out several approaches to a problem, also known as lateral thinking.  Lateral thinking is one of the most important tools for problem solving and sadly it’s one of the most overlooked, in part because our brains just aren’t naturally good at it.  Our brains love routine and lateral thinking forces them to step back from the rules we’re accustomed to so that we can see if there is another way to solve the problem.  Because we always do things a certain way, it’s easy to continue doing things that way, but when you play a game you have to step outside of that routine to embrace a new set of rules.

Of course, I’m not saying that you should get your boss to pay you to play Monopoly. Even if you don’t like board games, or card games, or word games, or any sort of game at all, you can still turn things into games.  Even work can be turned into a game.  If you take a goal or task you have to complete and make a game out of completing it in the most efficient way possible, in addition to the obvious benefit of work being a lot more fun, you can step outside of your work routine and look for what exactly you can do differently to boost your efficiency, since ultimately that’s what a game is.  “What’s the best way to do this thing as soon as possible.”  Whether the goal is bankrupting your opponents in Monopoly, getting more goals than your opponent in a game of hockey, or even figuring out the best way for your pretend wolves to get food from the fridge upstairs without getting caught, gaming teaches you how to achieve your goal with an (often) arbitrary set of rules and conventions.  It’s a quick jump to being able to use the same tools you build in the game world to achieve your goal with the rules and conventions of the real world.

I’ll leave you with this lateral thinking puzzle.  The answer will be in next week’s post, so try not to Google it until then.  A man walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water.  The barman pulls out a gun and points it at the man.  The man says ‘Thank you’ and walks out.  Why?

BloggingMarketingProductivitySocial MediaUncategorized

So you’ve hired someone to manage your social media accounts. It takes time to manage so many accounts and see growth and that’s time you just don’t have as a business owner. While social media is widely used for sharing funny memes, and picture perfect content, your social media manager should be doing much more than that when it comes to their clients.

Marketing Objectives

marketing

You social media manager should know and ask about your marketing objectives and follow them. There could be many marketing objectives for your business and it’s important your social media manager is knowledgeable in all of them. This is after all what is going to make it worth it in the long run.

Tracking progress

Statistics

Keeping up with how many followers you gain each week or month is great but not all of these followers will be potential clients or customers. Tracking how many organic engagements you are getting, will give you a greater understanding on how your day to day strategy is working rather than being swayed by the big numbers your ad gets. While ads are great for exposure, the insights may not be as relevant. Ads show the number of impression your content is receiving, but did you know some ads count impressions where if one account has been shown the same ad 100 times this counts as 100 impressions. So while the big numbers may look great, the organic ones are where you want your social media manager to focus their energy on. Being smart on how you track your progress and statistics is just as important as the insights themselves.

Engagement

engagement

If your social media accounts aren’t active this may be a big concern. One of the biggest parts of hiring a social media manager is to get the activity on your account that you don’t have time for. This is a time consuming part of the job and extremely important. Just as importantly the content being published needs to be engaging to your audience. You social media manager should be researching and learning your audience and what interests them, as well as their needs and how your business can help them. Along with being active on your accounts, your social media manager should be keeping track of inquiries and directing them to the right people or resources within the company. If someone is inquiring about a service you offer they should make the initial contact with the customer, then direct them to the professionals in your business if they can’t answer the questions, or feel it’s better left to the experts in that area.

Scheduling & Calendars

calendar

Scheduling content is not just a trick of the trade, it’s necessary. This is how content can be posted at any and all times, based on your insights of optimal times to post. Keeping a calendar of content planning is a habit your social media manager should be doing. This is key to not only organization, but to have a plan for future content. Your social media should have a goal, and planning in advance helps you stay on track. A content calendar improves the efficiency of your social media specialist, so your content isn’t being left to the last minute, rushed to get out and susceptible to simple mistakes.

Content Curation

content

Content is another one of the biggest jobs for a social media manager. This is probably one of the main reasons you hired them in the first place. You didn’t have time to find or create content, and still don’t. Finding info to share that meets your audiences needs and interests is a very important part of a social media managers job. While your social media specialist doesn’t have to be a professional photographer, they should be creative in the kind of content and images to capture. They should also be somewhat photo savvy or have connections to a photographer they can work with, as making an attractive Instagram account etc. is part of their job. If your social media manager works remotely, they should at least be sending you content ideas that are easy enough for you to take yourself, or for a hired professional to take, and they should not be using only stock photos on your account.

Customized graphics

graphics

Part of branding is being recognizable. Your business colors are a big part of who you are, as is your brands voice, and logo. All these things should be used as much as possible. Don’t be stuck promoting others graphics, or words. Your social media manager should get creative and create a template that you can post quotes on, or promote sales. This helps increase brand awareness and makes your content original and shareable, let others promote your business and graphics not the other way around.

Trends

Trend

Your social media marketer should be keeping up with the latest trends for your industry and on social media. This also means keeping up with algorithms on social platforms. If video content is doing the best, your social media manager should be encouraging videos. If other businesses in your industry are active on Youtube, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc. then you should be too. Your social media manager should be keeping your business in the loop so you don’t miss out on opportunities to be seen and heard.

Research

Research

This may be overlooked by some social media mangers, and definitely shouldn’t be. Research should be done on your business, on the things you offer, and the people you are selling to or targeting. This is actually an important part of their job as well, if they don’t know what you offer and the people you are targeting, how will they be able to cater your content or ads to the exact people that want and need to see your business.

Social media managers are extremely important and helpful for your business. As social media is growing… and definitely not going away anytime soon, you will want your businesses social media presence to be made known. Your social media manager should be posting content that is relevant to your industry, they should be doing their homework on your business so they are sending out content that is appropriate to your industry. When done correctly, social media managers can help increase brand awareness, sales, grow digital presence, generate new leads, retain existing customers, along with so much more.

ProductivitySelf-ImprovementUncategorized

Habits to keep you organized at work

A tidy work place not only looks good but actually helps you stay focused and productive. We’ve all spent time looking for things that get lost in the mess, so keeping a tidy desk will help reduce clutter which in turn reduces stress. Did you know that a clean desk actually saves you time, spurs on creativity and communicates professionalism. That’s right, it might actually have more of a benefit than just looking neat. These are some ways I like to stay tidy in the workplace.

What I organize constantly:

My deskDesk

I have a specific place for my bags when I come into the office at the beginning of the day. I keep one water bottle or glass of water on my desk, during the day, there’s no need for more than that really (unless I’m drinking coffee, then you can find my coffee cup as well.) I keep only one pen, and one highlighter along with my daily planner on my desk. Anything that comes out of my desk goes back right after I’m finished with it. My biggest tip is to clean off your desk at the end of the day so you have a fresh start the next morning. Keeping only the things you need on your desk eliminates unnecessary clutter.

 

 

My daily planner

I like my day to be planned out in front of me on paper. Once a task is completed I check it off or highlight it. This helps me balance my work load throughout the day. At the end of the week I make a plan for the next week (so I don’t forget tasks over the weekend) and when I come in on Monday I eliminate the ‘Monday fog’ and have my day already planned for myself. I update my planner frequently during the week and balance out my work load if any new tasks arise.

My Computercomputer

Instead of keeping all tabs and programs open, I like to filter through the things I am absolutely finished with, save and close them. If I have a few things on the go I simply minimize the programs until I am actually working on them. This way I don’t tempt myself to jump back and forth between projects. But can focus on one thing at a time and close projects when they are completed. I go through my emails/voicemails (like most people) at the beginning of the day and throughout the day I reply to the ones that require my attention as well as delete any junk mail that may come through.

 

What I organize occasionally:

Files

My whiteboard

I have a whiteboard on the wall by my desk and this is where I jot down things that I need to look at daily. I don’t update this as often as some things are analytics, strategies and reminders. I do however make sure that when I jot down things on my whiteboard, since they will be there for a while, that I keep it looking neat and legible.

Computer Files

This is something I will admit that I need to be more organized with. I have a tendency to save documents or pictures in the ‘all files’ or ‘all pictures’ category. I do however still go through and move files and pictures into their correct places. Just like your paper documents this keeps the clutter out of your computer files.

Desk Drawers

Desk drawers are sometimes a dangerous place! If you want something off your desk it gets thrown into a drawer as fast as possible, out of sight out of mind right! Cleaning out your drawers may be more rewarding than you think! You may find your favorite pen that you were sure was lost to the darkness behind your desk. I’m curious what the craziest thing was that you found in your desk drawer you didn’t even know was there!

Organization bonus:

Since I am the social media specialist at the office, I definitely organize my social media accounts. Going through your social media and cleaning up old tweets, Facebook posts or Instagram photos is a great habit to get into. Keeps your accounts looking fresh and professional. Once a year I go through the accounts that I follow, and I unfollow accounts that no longer serve purpose to me, are spam, or accounts that hinder my mental well being.

 

Share some things you like to do to keep organized or if you have some tips for me leave a comment below!

ProductivitySelf-ImprovementTechnology

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty’—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” – Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats

There is a lack of beauty in modern life.  “Form ever follows function,”  We’re told that Beauty is merely an unnecessary ornament.  Even though that ignores the full meaning of the quote.  In reality, according to the originator of the phrase, Louis Sullivan, “Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law.”  So, while the appearance of a thing should never be disconnected from its purpose, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be beautiful.  That would imply that beauty itself was without purpose and, as we shall see, it is not.

Food, water, warmth, and sleep are just some of the basic necessities of life.  It’s pretty obvious that we can’t survive without them.  I’d argue the same can be said for beauty.  In some ways it’s even more necessary.  As Dostoevsky said, “Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here.”

Sadly, for many of us a lot of that beauty has perished from the world.  We wake up.  We drive out into the gridlock.  We sit in our cubicle next to our coworkers in their cubicles, above and below other workers in their cubicles on other floors.  All of us typing away on identical screens until we eventually go back through the gridlock and get home.  Maybe then we’ll finally have time to go to a park or play a game, or maybe we’ll just sit on the couch and watch the same show that are neighbours and their neighbours and their neighbours’ neighbours are watching.  Just another cog in an ever-expanding machine.  Where is the beautiful in our lives?  It’s been replaced by a drab monotony.

City skyline
A forest of man-made trees is a sight to behold

Now, what modern architecture does right, it does really right.  There is truly something awe-inspiring in a row of towering skyscrapers in the skyline.  The view from an airplane window as it comes in to land is breath-taking.  Cities from far away look amazing.  However, up close and personal, the drab monotony comes back.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Here‘s an article from the NYT written in 1964.  We’ve been living and working next to these ugly buildings as they slowly but surely tear down the beautiful architecture of the past replacing it with more of the same.

Suburban Housing
I live in the house with two top floor windows in the front. …No, the blue one. No, the other blue one.

Suburbia doesn’t fare much better.  Let’s be honest.  Is there anything awe-inspiring of a row of houses of near-identical design?  Not really.  The only thing that makes you and your neighbour different is that you couldn’t pick his shade of green for your house so you had to pick that yellow that you don’t really like.  The endless variations on the same theme are enough to drive me insane.  (a short trip, according to my wife.)  and good luck navigating without an address.  In some parts of Canada addresses are meaningless.  The terrain and even the houses themselves are so unique that you can navigate by landmarks.  But try doing that in the city and you’ll find the opposite is true.  Addresses are the only way to navigate in a world where every street looks just like the last.

 

High Rise
I don’t think the elevator is working. It says we’re on the 23rd floor but it looks just like the 2nd floor!

It’s even more true of a high rise with identical apartments piled one on top of each other to fit as many people as possible inside.  The only difference between the 23rd floor and the 22nd floor is that the people down below are slightly smaller on the 23rd. Don’t get me wrong, with the high populations in urban centers high rises and apartment complexes are definitely necessary.  Without cheap mass housing, there would be a lot of people without places to live.  I just think we need to remember the costs as well as the gains.  We need to remember to provide beauty for their residents.  It’s easy for the well to do to live in an ugly city.  when they need to see something beautiful they can buy a painting.  Or go hiking in the mountains.

 

At one point, this lack of beauty wasn’t an issue.  The average member of society always did one thing every week regardless of their economic status.  They always went to church on Sunday.  Regardless of who they were or how much they owned, they could see beautiful statues and domed ceilings every week.  But gradually as society has become less religious and as religious buildings have begun to match their urban surroundings more and more, this source of beauty has faded as well.

Notre Dame, Montreal interior
They don’t build ’em like they used to, do they?

This has caused detrimental effects on our mental health as studies have shown.  This is one of the reasons why urban environments are a greater mental health risk than rural ones.  Without the beauty of nature we’re left with whatever the cities can or can’t provide.  Of course, the drab monotony of the city has an effect on our workplace productivity too.

Fortunately, life finds a way.  Though many of the traditional ways we’ve expressed beauty throughout society have faded, several of them are making a resurgence and new methods are appearing too.  With smartphones we have access to all of the classic books of literature in our pockets.  With gigapixel cameras and websites like 360 cities we can tour architectural and natural marvels without the costs of travel.  As museums digitize their contents, we can see the relics of our past from across the world.  As VR technology develops and becomes more mainstream this will only expand.  As we realize the importance of our surroundings on our productivity and well-being, traditional office layouts are being redesigned into more open concepts with a focus on aesthetics again.  That’s why so many modern office buildings are doing away with the drab row of cubicles lit by fluorescent lights and replacing them with natural lighting and greenery alongside more character and personalization for employee workstations.  Beautiful web design is replacing the clunky boxes of the past as we realize that beauty helps our companies stand out of the crowd.  We’re realizing that not only does beauty have a purpose in the professional world, but that it helps make every aspect of both our professional lives and our life at home that little bit better.

So all in all, I’m pretty hopeful for beauty.  We’ve realized that it’s necessary in the modern world, we’ve seen that without it mental health issues rise, and in response we’ve begun rebuilding society to include the beautiful once more, whether that’s through new techniques and technologies or by reinviting nature back into our cities.  We’ve realized the age-old truth that beauty should not be a privilege of the rich but a gift for the world.  For as Dostoevsky says, “Beauty will save the world.”

CommunicationEducationProductivitySelf-ImprovementUncategorized

Last week I was helping out at a local father-son summer camp outside of Calgary called Arcatheos.  A lot of theatrics and explosions and all those great things.  We like to joke that it’s a camp for teaching boys to become men and men to become boys again.

One of the characters with his fire sword
I mean a LOT of theatrics

Leadership Requires Service

This year the theme of the camp was “To Serve is to Reign”.  We really focused in on this theme of service with the teenagers who would become our version of camp counselors, called “knights.”  To be able to effectively lead the boys in their charge, they couldn’t simply order them around all day without a care for their well-being.  They had to be emotionally invested in both the boys they were in charge of and in the other members of their teams.  with that emotional investment, every order or directive is followed because the boys know its for the good of the camp and themselves.

I was struck by how well this carries into the workplace.  If an employee feels that his boss is invested in him and his life, that he’s not just another cog in the machine, the extra overtime needed to finish an important project becomes a lot easier to deal with.  It no longer feels like a forced task from a faceless overlord but like an urgent request from a friend.

Respect

Aretha Franklin
“Find out what it means to me”

We taught the “knights” that the easiest way to serve their boys is to respect them.  If you respect those around you, they’re more inclined to respect you.  If they respect you, they’re more likely to incorporate your feedback into their behaviour and truly listen to what you’re asking them to do.  They won’t merely sit around after completely a task waiting for you to hand them the next one, and instead they’ll proactively seek out ways to be helpful.

Don’t be a Drill Instructor (unless you are one)

Drill sergeant
Johnson! Did you finish that spreadsheet yesterday!

Meanwhile, if those under you feel they have to walk on eggshells around you with even the slightest mistake causing them to get raked over the metaphorical coals, they might try to work their hardest to not make a mistake, but a lot of their attention that could go towards doing their job right is now going towards watching over their shoulder to make sure they haven’t awoken the dragon.  In addition, if given a choice, people prefer leaders who are caring and compassionate instead of leaders who are taskmasters and drill instructors.  So if your employees have a choice, they will eventually leave for greener pastures.

Don’t be a Door Mat

Welcome
Please ignore all my directives on your way in.

At the same time, you won’t have respect if your employees feel they can walk all over you.  If missed deadlines are never a problem, unexpected absences are rampant, and no one listens to your instructions, sure, you won’t have employees flocking to leave your company in droves for better conditions, but you’ll also obviously end up with inefficient employees wasting the company’s time and money.  Resulting in them, and probably you, being let go.

Be a Compassionate AND Effective Leader

Cool dudes in cloaks

Instead of either of those two extremes, a synthesis of the two is required.  There are times when you need to lay down the law and reprimand the people working for you.  There are also times when those people need an ear to understand the problems and difficulties they’re facing and a helpful hand to guide them.  Using only one method or the other cripples your leadership abilities and it is only when you are both firm and compassionate as a leader that you will earn the respect and trust of those underneath you and unleash your full potential.

Ultimately, these leadership lessons we taught to the boys are vital for everyone, whether or not they’re currently in a position that requires leadership.  Everyone at some point in their lives will be in charge of something.  Whether that’s a multi-million dollar project or 10 children at a summer camp, no matter how large or small the opportunity effective compassionate leadership inevitably leads to further leadership opportunities down the road.

CommunicationProductivitySelf-Improvement

Allegorical painting from the 17th century with text Nosce te ipsum

Do you ever find communicating with other people difficult? Are you ever baffled by other people’s idea of a good time? Have you ever gone a whole year thinking one thing about someone only to discover a new piece of information about their personality and have to reframe your entire past relationship with them (for better or for worse)?

deborah or robot
Which one is Deborah? Which one is the robot? We’ll never know.

I don’t know about any of you out there, but I’ve got one of the more rare personality types. I’m socially introverted and extraverted thinking, or in the language of Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTJ, the Mastermind. Or as some people like to call me: I’m a robot. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that these personality measurements are the be-all-end-all of defining oneself, but they can be helpful for understanding yourself and others.

For example: I was acquainted with a girl for an entire year before she discovered that I was being friendly with her and didn’t hate her. She didn’t understand my extremely dry sense of humour (we INTJs tend to have a dry dark sense of humour). Once she got that, she looked back and realised I was making jokes the entire year and it was because I liked her rather than disliked her, and wanted to be friends. (And then we became friends.)

When it comes to the workplace, knowing about my own personality is helpful. I know that I work best when I have write out a schedule for myself — it helps keep me from getting bogged down in perfectionism. I can get a little obsessive sometimes. I’m good at knowing how to solve problems, and when to stop and return to the problem at a later time. I know that I work best alone, and that when I have to be around a lot of people, I should schedule in quiet time so that I don’t get burnt out.

I can also be pretty cold, direct, and bossy so I need to remember to be more gentle with people who might take that personally (it’s not unusual to hear me to tell someone, “no, you’re doing it completely wrong. No, that’s wrong too. No! Stop now! Before you make it worse! I will show you!” Yeah, tact: not a strong point for me, room for self-improvement). I’m also good at taking criticism about my work (the previous sentence directed at me won’t bother me). If a client isn’t satisfied with something, I want to know so that I can make them happy, so I make sure to let my clients know that they can be upfront with me.

panda wearing a panda
According to Youtopia, pandas are an INFJ

On the flip side of the coin, it can be helpful to know more about the personalities of the people you work with, including clients, co-workers, and managers. Are they introverted or extroverted? What are the best ways to communicate with them? What are habits that tend to annoy (or please) their personality type? Taking the time to understand the people around you can make a big difference in getting along in the workplace (as well as home and other interpersonal relationships). Sometimes looking outward can make a big difference, especially in a small workplace.

Have you ever known someone for a long time then had to reframe everything you knew about them after learning something about their personality? Has someone ever had to do that with you? What is your Myers-Briggs personality type? What are some other types of personality assessments that you find helpful?

*Note: I’m pretty sure that the maxim “know thyself” wasn’t originally about personality, but it seems to have evolved that way. Perhaps another subject for another day!

BloggingEducationProductivitySelf-ImprovementSEOSocial MediaTechnology

job application tips

So you’re looking for a new job.  Maybe you’re just entering the work force and ready to put your fresh knowledge into action. Or maybe you just need a new start or a change in careers. It can be difficult for anyone to stand out from the crowd when you send in your application. But with these 4 tips you’ll be able to spark interest with your potential employer and possibly score an interview.

Cover letters aren’t optional

cover letter

Please don’t skim over the area to add a cover letter. Although some job posting say ‘cover letter optional’ this shouldn’t be the case in applicants minds. The chances you will be rejected almost immediately are quite high if you avoid adding a cover letter. Especially if the job posting specifically asks for one. A cover letter should show your personality. It’s your opportunity to talk yourself up without shame. Employers love to see personalized applications, it keeps you fresh in their mind and most importantly stand out from other applicants. Add why you are a good fit for the position, address the employer specifically rather than “to whom it may concern.” Let your personality shine. Tell your strengths, if you are outgoing, love learning new things, have talents that have served you well or could serve you well for the job, this is your chance to include them all.

Grammar

Grammar

If you wouldn’t want grammar mistakes in your reports to clients, college assignments, or Facebook posts then don’t allow them in your cover letter or resume. Attention to detail is included in most job descriptions. Employers want to know you are taking your time and doing your best.. Your resume is a short preview of the kind of worker you are, the effort you put into your work and the value you have for making a good impression when it matters most. Always double check your resume and fix mistakes even if it’s in the final draft stages. It’s noticeable when time and effort are put into an application.

Follow Instructions

Following instructions

Nothing is more frustrating for hiring managers when instructions are added to a job posting and they simply aren’t followed. If it asks for a short description of why you think you are a good fit for the job, add it. Say a cover letter is requested, please include a cover letter. Or maybe instead of clicking ‘apply now’ you need to send it straight to an email. If you really want the job it will make a world of difference to your employer if you can follow their instructions.

Be a Human

Be human

Well of course you’re human. Sometimes we get so caught up in making lists of things we are good at or the experience we have, we forget to be personal. If your resume is boring you, it’s probably 10 times more boring for your employer. Okay maybe not 10 times, but it will be a lot less interesting for the person reading it than it is for you. A well formatted resume is a way of adding personality rather than a blank page with a bunch of lists. It’s okay to use a template, but be sure to customize it to be your own. Don’t worry about making a lengthy resume with every single skill you obtain, but customize for the position you want. A quick tip, add where you can find examples of your work . If you’re a photographer, include your social media accounts, so they can get to know your style and you better.

It can be tough to stand out during the application process but these few things will go a long way with employers. Don’t let to the process discourage you, and definitely don’t take job rejection personally. Apply to each job seeing it as a fresh start and a new opportunity for your career.

BloggingProductivitySelf-Improvement

being productive while working from home

It’s becoming more popular for people to work from home instead, or in addition to the office. But with this freedom, comes some hurdles you may have crossed a few times or will come across as you work from the comfort of your home. It can be easy to over work, or under work when the you bring the office into your home. You don’t have distractions from coworkers stopping by your desk or clients dropping in unexpectedly, but you do have other things that can easily pull you away from your tasks. Here we’ll give you some tips that have worked for highly productive people who work from their kitchen, living room or home office.

Start Early

Alarm clock

The early bird gets the worm, and this also applies in your own home. Wake up, make a coffee and get right down to business. I find the sooner I get started in my work the less distracting other things are throughout the day. The longer you make the transition from your bed to your computer the longer it will take for your morning sluggishness to fade. Waking up early is key to being successful throughout the day and staying on track with your list of things to do.

Recreate Your Office Routine

Work from home

Without a commute to work, you have more time to get a few quick jobs done before you start work. The best thing to do to keep you on track is to create as much of an office space as possible. Work at a desk or your kitchen table instead of the couch. There you won’t have the temptation to turn on the TV. Listen to music while you work, if that’s what you do at the office. If it’s more distracting to work in complete silence turn on a TV in another room or the radio. If you like to sip on coffee or tea at work, do the same at home. I drink a lot of water at work so when I work from home I do the same, but I stay to drinking from a water bottle instead of a glass. This prevents you from leaving your computer so often and getting distracted by something else around your house.

Stay Connected

Stay connected

Keep close contact with your office, so if your coworkers need something from you they can easily reach you. The best way is to use a messaging program like Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp for the office. At Panda Rose the office is connected to Microsoft Teams so when one person works remotely you can easily contact them. It’s a great way to keep updated on whats going on in the office and still feel like a part of the team.

Keep a Schedule

Schedule

Either electronically or on paper. Keep track of your to-do list for the day. This will help you keep track of how productive you are. Actually, the busier you are the more productive you are. Once you are going it’s easy to keep going. And when you rest it’s easy to keep resting. Try to keep the downtime to a minimum and take on more tasks during the day even if they are small. It also helps make the day go by faster!

Set a Quitting Time

Quitting time

Working from home also means you can easily over work. It’s just as important to set a time that you log off as it is to take breaks from work during the day. To be the most productive during the day, take a break from screens and papers. Go for a walk, interact with other people instead of simply watching a few minutes of your favorite show. Setting a time to quit for the day ensures you are rested up for the next day. Try shutting off your computer, and closing your daily planner. Otherwise you will end up starting a task when you should be resting. Rest is just as important as work.

Enjoy Working From Home

Enjoy working from home

At the end of the day, enjoy having the freedom to work from your home. You get to drink your own coffee from your favorite mug, and wear slippers all day. You can come across just as many distractions in an office as you can at home. Learning to manage the distractions at home can be more difficult but once you get into a routine it will be just like working at the office, but better!

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Learning

Leah Learns has been in the works for a while now. What started as an office joke has grown into a fun opportunity. We finally released a new video on YouTube last week you don’t want to miss it. It’s comical, entertaining and educational all in one!

Leah is our SM (Social Media) specialist at Panda Rose, we have started a YouTube channel challenging her each week to learn something new. We have plenty of talent within our team, and community. She will be learning skills we never knew she needed to learn.

Origami

Our First Video

Last week a video was made teaching her how to open bottles without a bottle opener. It is both practical and fun! One method was placing the bottle in the heel of a shoe and forcefully banging it against a hard surface. The momentum pushes the cork out of the bottle and the shoe prevents the glass from breaking. After many swings it was surprisingly successful! The other, more risky, method was sabering. This includes a bottle of champagne (or sparkling wine) and a knife, or in our case a bayonet.  This idea here is to follow the seam of the bottle (which is the weak point of the bottle) and carry the knife in one quick swift movement up the seam and against the top of the bottle. This force will literally slice off the top of the bottle and cork. The other way to open a bottle which unexpectedly had it own difficulties was to simply twist off the cap. The trick here is to twist left, not right.

What’s Next?

In the future we will be teaching Leah a variety of skills. It’s exciting to get to know the small businesses around the community through learning small aspects of their work. You can look forward to a new video every week. Simply Subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss out and comment on the videos ideas you have for our next Leah Learns!

youtube image

We want to hear from you! Leave a comment with an idea for a new video!

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DSLR camera

Your product is ready to sell, and one of the most important aspects of selling a product is how you display it to your customers. Today I’ll give you some simple tips on how you can take amazing product photos on your own.

Eliminate Distractions

Remove any background distractions and place your object on a clean surface or in front of a clean bright wall. This gives your product all the attention it deserves. A clean background or surface keeps your products and photos looking crisp and professional.

Busy and distracting:

Crisp and clean:

Choose Your Lighting

Choose your lighting carefully, take a few seconds to find space near a window with indirect sunlight (natural light). Taking photos indoors can sometimes be tricky. If you’re under florescent lights your pictures may turn out more blue. If you are under incandescent lights, your picture will have more of an orange tint to them. Natural light gives a good balance and shows the products truest color. Steer clear of dark hallways or rooms as this will also distort your image and make it difficult to see the details and quality of your product.

Natural light:

Dark Hallway:

Incandescent:

Florescent:

Focus

Lets take your photography skills one step further now. A really simple trick that will set your pictures apart from the rest is to give your pictures a blurry background, called “bokeh.”  Bokeh  (BOH-kay) is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. If you are shooting from a DSLR camera, like I am in these images, you can change whats called the aperture. On your camera it will look like this:  f/5

Changing the number higher like f/10 will give less blur but changing the number lower to f/4 will give more blur.

This image is at f/25

while this image is at f/4.5

See how the glass is blurred drawing the eye towards the mug. This feature is great to use if you are taking pictures of multiple products but want the closest one to stand out or if you want all products in focus. This simple trick takes your photography skills to a whole new level.

Choose your camera

If you take your pictures with a phone, the new iPhone’s have a feature called “portrait mode” in your camera settings that allow you to artificially create the bokeh look. Select Android phones offer this feature as well called “live focus.” Keep in mind with a smartphone camera your outcome may not always give the same effect. The trick is to keep a steady hand when using portrait mode. Shaky hands can confuse the camera and your outcome won’t be as impressive.

iPhone portrait mode (fail): Right corner of the mug has been incorrectly blurred. Shaky hands or improper focusing may have caused this. Sometimes, certain objects confuse the camera. In this case the clear glass and liquid was difficult for the camera to properly blur out.

iPhone portrait mode (success): Steady hands, focus is directly on the mug and a different background object is in place = success!

With these simple yet effective techniques you will notice a huge improvement on your images. It’s always worth the little bit of extra time to play around with your products and camera. Taking great pictures can seem intimidating. These tips will help your pictures look clean and professional, all from the comfort of your office, home, kitchen, shop, etc.

BloggingEducationMarketingMobile AppsProductivitySecurity & PrivacyShoppingSocial MediaTechnologyUncategorized

In our office we share memes, eat cake and brainstorm… a lot. But there’s one thing we do even more of.

We use our phones, like a lot, a lot! We use them for testing apps, testing websites, social media management, communication, the list goes on. So with that said, we want to give you the inside scoop of what apps we love to use day in day out, and why they are vital to our entertainment, productivity, communication and lifestyle.

We wrote an article a few weeks back about some of our favorite phone gadgets. Some were for pleasure, others for productivity. If you missed it, you can check it out here as today’s article goes hand in hand. So between, web designers, developers, digital marketers and our CEO, these apps are the ones you need to download, like yesterday!

Let’s begin with entertainment.

Head phones

Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music, we need music like we need our coffee!

Podcast can be under entertainment and productivity as there are so many different types of podcasts out there. Our top favorite podcast apps are Podcasts (Apple) and Castbox. Castbox has over  95 million volumes of content and is available for almost all devices.

A few musicians came forward in the office and shared their favorite apps. Guitar Tuna was recommended by a few as an app to tune your guitar on the go or as a back up. It is available for both Apple and Android. Tabs is an app that has thousands of guitar, bass and ukulele tabs and chords for all your favorite songs. If you are looking to take up an instrument here’s two apps that are a go-to’s for the musicians in the office.

Audible is another app that fits into productivity and entertainment. Audible is a mobile library, with loads of books you can listen to or read.

Quora is an app to share opinions, knowledge and feedback. Ask a question and get a helpful answer.

Productivity

editing

Lynda.com is a popular app for taking online courses. You can choose a topic you would like to learn, for example: photography, web design, film, finance, interior design. The list is endless. You can also choose software you would like to learn. So if you are a photographer, maybe a course that is beneficial to your business is learning how to use Photoshop. If you are looking to get into finance industry, a valuable course might be learning QuickBooks, you can learn QuickBooks for payroll, online, for a Mac, etc.

We also have a lot of photographers in the office, so photo-shop apps or editing apps came up right away. Our favorites are Lightroom and Photoshop Fix, both are easy to use and high quality.

Our office uses Microsoft Teams to communicate and share info with each other (as well as a truck load of memes) it’s a secure way to create group messages. There are so many features within the program to expand functionality: like creating different groups, include files, planners and meetings.

If you want to create logos or invitations an extremely useful app is Canva. You can create logos, Pinterest graphics, resize images to fit other social media platforms, create business cards and so much more! We use this everyday to create our graphics, and images.

Lifestyle

Family Organization

Everyone has those apps they use regularly or occasionally that just make your life so much easier. When it comes to lifestyle, the office has a variety of favorites.

Some of us are obsessed with the weather, so we’ve got you covered with choosing the best weather apps. WeatherCan and The Weather Network are our most reliable apps we would recommend to anyone and everyone.

Cozi is a popular app for family organization. You can add shopping lists, cleaning schedules and upcoming events that your family has planned. It’s the perfect app for a busy family and even busier parents.

If you are prone to migraines which some are in the office the Migraine Buddy app is the best app according to both patients and doctors. This app helps you record and identify all aspects of your migraine. For example; what triggers them, your symptoms, medications and so on.

Headspace is a meditation app that helps you let go of stress, learn to relax and get a better nights sleep. If you don’t already have this app it’s definitely a must! Everyone can use a few techniques to reduce stress and anxiety during our busy lives.

 

What are some apps that are essential for you or just plain fun? Let us know in the ‘leave a comment’ section at the bottom! We’d love to hear from you.