Working


Written by Lori Thiessen

It’s important to keep your remote worker mentality and portable office even though you have an office because lots of weird things can happen to keep you from that office.

In this time of H1N1, you may want to stay home away from the sickies. Or maybe you are one of the sickies and need to stay away from people. (BTW, if you are sick, just rest and get well. Don’t work!)

Serious snowfall may prevent you from getting to your office. Not all of us have taken the postal workers’ pledge: “Neither snow nor rain not heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. As a cafe commuter, you can either stay inside your cozy home or wander down to your local coffee shop.

Perhaps your office building is experiencing anything from a brown-out to a terrorist threat, keeping a remote working kit handy will make these situations easier to deal with.

What is in a remote working kit?

Here’s what I call a basic list. Everybody will have their own variation.

  1. Laptop, with battery cable
  2. Laptop bag or wheelie
  3. Extension cord
  4. USB key  with whatever programs you like to use (firefox, openoffice, etc.)
  5. Cell phone
  6. Cell phone charger
  7. Pen and paper for notes

I would recommend keeping this kit accessible to you. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it in your car because of thieves; bring it with you.

Q: When have you been grateful or disappointed that you have, or didn’t have a remote working kit with you?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

So now that we’ve dispensed with the supremo expensive gifts in the last post, let’s look at something a little more reasonable, shall we?

During these depressing economic times, panic is NOT the order of the day. Buy your favourite cafe commuter this set of 2 mugs with the words that strengthened so many during the dark days of WWII in Britain: Keep Calm and Carry On. Priced at $25.95 USD from Acorn Gifts — (*Note: this item is currently back ordered at time of posting.)

While hovering over your toasty-warm computer at your favourite caffeinated stop, your back may get a little chilly. Ask Santa for a lovely vest. Currently on sale at Mark’s Work Wearhouse, T-Max Vests are available in men’s and women’s sizes for $34.99 CND. (Note: Super-cute guy not included. 😦 I checked.  Oh, how I checked.)

From the Canadian company, Hedonics comes a couple of really neat and useful items. Ever lose your grip on your coffee cup when you are whizzing around with your wheelie? That will never happen again, my friend, if you have 

this little gadget. Called the TuGo Cup Holder, it suspends your coffee cup between the extended prongs of your wheelies’ handle. Think of it as a jolly-jumper for your liquid heart-pumper. Priced $10.99 CND

Another handy gadget from Hedonics is the HARSUN purse hanger. Keep your purse off the dirty floor and in plain view with this scientically engineered chain and hook.  It comes with its own protective case. Priced $15.99 CND.

So now you don’t have to look like a Scrooge, get the cafe commuters in your life fun and useful gifts without having to hock your laptop.

Write in with the fun cafe commuter gifts you’ve either received or given.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Do you want to get an MBA-type education without spending the time and money? Here in Vancouver, BC, there is a company helping you to do just that.

Make It Business has spear-headed business reading groups around the Lower Mainland focusing on the leading business books of today.

Partnering with Blenz Coffee to provide the meeting space, Make It Business wants to facilitate not only getting people to read and discuss business books but to foster networking and mentoring opportunities for local business people.

For cafe commuters, this book club fits well with our career and lifestyles whether you are a small entrepreneur or working for a company.

Sometimes it’s difficult to find time to read those business books you’ve been meaning to read. Knowing that you are expected to read and discuss the book with a group of interesting and interested people could be that motivating factor you’ve been missing.

You can choose the group you want to be with based on your business interests or areas in which you want to be better informed (e.g. career development, business management, financial management, etc.). The Make It Business website lists a number of business books to choose from.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem to be confidences or sides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profound thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart. ”

You might also say that a good business person is a good reader.

Q: Name a business book that has influenced you the most and share with us why.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

In 1997, management expert and author Tom Peters wrote an article for Fast Company Magazine introducing the concept of personal branding in the article called ” The Brand Called You”. Twelve years on and we are inundated with information on what it is, why you need do it and how to do it. Here are the bare-bones basics to get you started.

What is Personal Branding?

Simply put, it encapuslates who you are, what you do and what values you bring to the table that separate you from the rest.  The elements of personal branding range from your mission statement, your online presence (or lack of one), how you dress both in and out of the office and what your values are.

Why You Need to Invest in Personal Branding?

While doing research for this post, I came across a number of experts who said that personal branding was important now more than ever during this economic downturn. If the boss can remember you clearly and in a positive way, chances are you will hang onto your job. Or be hired for a job. Or if you are an entrepreneur then a client might be more inclined to hire you over the 3 other people she interviewed to do the work she wants done.

I think personal branding is important to work through because it will help you to know yourself. Knowing yourself is important because then you will be able to be clear about where you stand in the world, what you want out of life and what you are truly willing to do to get it. Or as Georgina Laidlaw, contributor to Webworker Daily,  observed “Personal branding could be another phrase for self-awareness”.  I would add to that personal branding is self-awareness clearly communicated to the public.

Authors over the centuries have been extolling the virtues of  self-awareness. Here are just two for you to mull over:

This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day; Thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare, Hamlet I.iii

Self-reverence, self knowledge, self-control. These three alone lead life to sovereign power. — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

How to Develop Your Personal Brand

Well, this is a big topic these days.  To get you started, take pen and paper, block out at least 1/2 hr to begin with, go to a place that allows you to think well and answer the following question: Who am I?

If the question is too overwhelming and daunting, then break it down. What are the positive things that friends and family say about you? Are you funny, considerate, organized, etc.?

Look at past reference letters. What do they say about you? What do your current co-workers say about you?

What are your values? Are you a ‘family first’ person? Do you value loyalty? If so, how important is it to you?

The next few posts will continue on the quest for personal brand development. But if you are keen to explore this topic on your own, here are a few resources to help you on your quest.

Books

In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success by Dan Schwabel

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey

Blogs

Personal Branding Blog by Dan Schwabel

The Personal Branding Blog by William Arruda and contributors

Webworker Daily “Personal Branding vs. Self-Awareness” by Georgina Laidlaw

Q: What do you think about personal branding?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

I came across this great post about how to be at your office without actually being there. Sounds magical and mysterious but it ain’t. Harry Potter fans can put away their spell books and wands and read on.

Jonathon Wilson wrote into Lifehacker.com that he uses Skype and VNC (virtual network computing) to simulate his presence in the office.

Wilson still has his cubicle at work and in the cubicle is a computer that is programmed to pick up automatically when he dials in on Skype.  The monitor at work connects with his desktop at home through VNC.

The upshot of all of this is that with the Skype connection, people at the office can stop by the cubical and chat with Wilson as if he was really there. The bonus feature is that he can listen to the office chatter going on around him. So that’s the old isolation problem sorted.

With the VNC connection, Wilson’s bosses and co-workers can see what he’s doing because his desktop is visible on the monitor in the office. Cool, eh? That’s the old productivity/supervision problem sorted.

Plus Wilson gets to miss the commute and the lunchtime rush out to the local fast food joints.

Though I wonder why Wilson is working through Skype and not a webcam? Inappropriate attire, one wonders? Hmmm. Perhaps it’s more cost efficient to work with Skype and not a webcam feed.

Nevertheless, I congratulate Jonathon Wilson on his clever and effective plan to make remote working really work for himself.

Q:  Do you know of other cost effective and efficient ways to connect remote to your co-workers?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

written by Lori Thiessen

As cafe commuters, our lives tend to rest solidly on technology and our ability to get information to clients at the agreed upon time.

The Mac or PC debate has been raging since the two systems were invented and developed. Which is the better system?

Just as people will defend (almost) to the death the superiority of say, their dentist over another person’s dentist, so will MAC and PC users vociferously advocate for their system of choice.

I must come clean on where I stand in this debate. I’ve been a PC user since I succumbed to the fact that computers were here to stay and I had to learn how to use ’em. My pathetic reason for being a PC user is that I learned on one and I’m used to it.  Over the years, I’ve not only learned how to use a PC but I’ve even become enamored of and far too reliant on its usefulness in carrying on my business and social life.

While MAC’s have cornered the market on sheer eye-appeal (you have to admit that MAC’s are pretty sexy looking) and their North American ads are clever as can be,  the anti-MAC brigade seems to score a few solid points.

The points being:

*program compatibility. As Adam McNutt pointed out in his critique of QuickBooks (see comments), he can’t send QB info from his MAC to his account who uses a PC.  I’ve run into other similar problems when trying to cross the MAC/PC divide when it comes to programs. Although, I understand it’s getting better now.

*not able to modify MAC OS easily.

*MAC is good at graphic design stuff but not other apps.

*according to a rather rude column by Charlie Brookner of the Guardian newspaper, MAC is ‘a Fisher-Price activity centre for grown-ups’. Which roughly translated, means that MAC is for fun and PC is for serious people who want to do business.

*MAC’s one-button mouse sucks.

*MAC’s are not easy to upgrade.

If you want to know where I, a computer illiterate, got my MAC info, look no further than an editorial by CBC’s own Paul Jay and his article entitled, “Mac vs. PC, the editorial smackdow“, as well as the many, many comments from his readers.

PC’s do have their flaws, I grant you. They are prone to viruses. The security is lax or non-existent sometimes.  And they do crash or hang from time to time — ah save me from the blitzkrieg of the blue screen of death! But in my experience it isn’t that often.

Basically, the debate boils down to people’s preferences. MAC is good for the click-‘n-go crowd and PC is the choice for those who like to tinker and customize.  That’s a very simplistic summary but apt, I believe.

As I commented earlier in this post, I’m no computer guru so if you are please feel free to comment. A couple of guidelines though, please don’t go on at great length and please don’t be rude.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book Outliers: The Story of Success pokes significant holes in the North American myth of the self-made man (or woman).

Gladwell argues that being wildly successful (oodles of money, living large, etc) has less to do with an individual being seemingly blessed by the gods and more to do with background, opportunity and encouragement.

In a time when quick fixes are demanded in all areas of life, Gladwell shows that mastery of a particular skill set takes about 10,000 hours of old-fashioned, unglamorous practice.  From Bill Gates to hockey star, Sydney Crosby, every successful person has put in hours and hours of hard work.

Gladwell also points out that there is such a thing as a gifted person but without role models, encouragement and opportunities that gift is likely to wither, undeveloped and unsung.  A gift doesn’t spring fully formed when the recipient of that gift is born.  Unmiraculous things like training and discipline must accompany a gift if it is to bloom.

Given these parameters, why would anybody want to develop their gift? The short answer is passion. Nothing is more encouraging than being passionate about something. It is passion which will drive you to spend 10,000 hours on your gift.

But there is more to it than just passion. The other part of the success formula for work is that it be meaningful.

Like me, you’ve probably read books on success and work. And also like me, you may have been baffled by the words passion and meaningful when applied to work.  The passion part is starting to make sense to me now because I’m spending more time on something that I do care deeply about namely, writing.

But the word meaningful when applied to work still causes me to scratch my head a bit.

Gladwell comes to the rescue by breaking down the connotative definition of this word. For work to be meaningful, it needs to have complexity, autonomy and a clear relationship between effort and reward.

As people have grown dissatisfied with the standard definition of success (e.g. oodles of money, living large), I think Gladwell indirectly offers us a more comfortable definition of success: meaningful work. While this definition may be more comfortable for many of us, meaningful work is, nevertheless, still about hard work, having people around us to encourage us and mentor us, and having opportunities to develop our particular gift into meaningful work.

I would like to share a story with you I heard some years ago about the French impressionist painter, Claude Monet.

A young painter who was taking lessons from Monet asked the great master’s  advice on a scene which was troubling him. Monet examined the painting then picked up his brush and swept a little colour onto the canvas. The painting was transformed into a wondrous piece of art. “It took you no time at all to do that!” exclaimed the young painter. “Ah, you are wrong. It took me forty years to do that,” replied Monet.

Q: Who do you consider to be a success and why? It doesn’t need to be someone ‘famous’, but someone whom you admire.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

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