Get Ahead at Work by Busting These Bad Habits

Work and sleep are two of the most time-consuming things we do.

The average American will spend nearly 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so the way you approach your job can have a huge impact on your quality of being. As Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Do you want your experience at work to be as happy and anxiety free as possible? If so, perhaps it’s time to put the scalpel to some of your less-than-desirable work habits.

Here are just a few ways bad choices might make your life more difficult at work.

Habits that Hurt You Personally

Skipping Breaks

Sometimes we think we’re too busy to take breaks or grab some fresh air.

But this simply isn’t true. Research shows productivity is highest when people work in “sprints” with frequent breaks (around 90 minutes with 15-minute rests).

Winging it on Mondays

Do you struggle to get down to business at the start of each week?

Devote part of Fridays to making a “start here” list for the following week so you can hit the ground running on Mondays.

Negative Attitudes

A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 62% of employers say they are less likely to promote employees with a pessimistic attitude.

Avoid complaining (which comes across as unprofessional) or responding to suggestions with negative comments like “that won’t work,” or “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Even when things go wrong, focus your energy on what you’ve learned rather than despising your situation.

Habits that Annoy Others

Eating Smelly or Loud Foods

While a small snack may be fine, avoid eating foods that are messy, noisy, or smelly to protect your reputation with co-workers. Top stink generators include reheated fish, raw onions, tuna, smelly cheese, and hard-boiled eggs.

Grooming at Your Desk

When you are distracted, do you tend to chew your nails, play with your hair, pick at your face, or pull food out of your teeth? What if the co-worker next to you did this? Yuck. Enough said!

Interrupting or Asking Too Many Questions

While a willingness to contribute can be great, often you may be repeatedly cutting off others without realizing it.

Interrupting is rude and shows a lack of self-control. Similarly, asking an abundance of abrupt questions can be draining or annoying to others. When you need further information, gather a list of questions and pose them in an organized, positive way so you are respectful of others’ time.

Habits that Harm Your Reputation

Using Work Time Improperly

Be honest: while at work, how often are you handling texts, personal e-mails, or private phone calls?

If you think others don’t notice, you’re wrong. While co-workers may tolerate this behavior, it will certainly hinder the respect or opportunities you receive in the future. Keep your personal life out of sight (perhaps tucking the phone away or on silent) and you will be more efficient and more valued.

Distraction or Delays

Why is texting while driving illegal?

Because it’s impossible to concentrate fully on two things at once. If you are jotting personal notes, sending e-mails, or galloping through the fields of your imagination during meetings, it sends an inconsiderate message and communicates a lack of integrity. Come to appointments on time and ready to focus.

Being Nosy or Political

While small talk goes a long way to build rapport with others, avoid uninvited personal inquiries or incessant curiosity that won’t let things go.

And remember, if certain topics are divisive in politics, they’ll be divisive at work. Keep conversations focused on work-related issues to avoid insulting others, hurting your professional image, or causing rifts in your company.

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A Finish that Won’t Fade

Did you use Play-doh as a child?

Ever inadvertently leave your simple shapes to harden in the open air? Though your brittle pieces later crumbled, a simple finishing process would have sustained them for centuries. Ceramic firing transforms malleable clay into a rock-hard, durable substance. The additions of underglaze, luster, and around 930 degrees Fahrenheit can vitrify clay creations from goo to gorgeous, glass-like pieces that are impervious to water and time.

In ceramics and in print, the finishing process is nearly as important as the design itself. Finishing refers to the services applied to your print piece after the ink hits the paper. These can be added before or after the paper comes off the press, and examples of finishing services include aqueous or UV protection coatings, binding or collating, trimming or folding, stamping, laminating, perforating, mounting, or coatings like matte or satin varnishes.

Fabulous Finishing Techniques in Design and Print

In the past, many of the rock-star finishing options were impossible for the budget-conscious customer.

Things like die-cutting, embossing, or foil stamping options were saved for the fanciest invitations or a “lifestyles of the rich and famous” print run. Today, however, technology has transformed ordinary printing, decreasing the time and expense it takes to create textured, fabulous pieces.

Ready to take your work up a notch but not sure what your options include? Here is a basic menu of finishing services accessible to you today:

Trimming or Die-Cutting

Trims can be used to shear or reduce a printed piece along crop lines, page borders, or into a unique or fun shape that expresses your brand (like business cards in the shape of a coffee cup).

Foil Stamps or Blocking

This process is creating by pressing metal dies (or colored foil) onto a surface with a heated die. This process is used mostly to enhance typography and logos.

Embossing or Debossing

This allows you to press an image into a paper or card to create a three-dimensional design.

Embossing results in a raised surface while debossing brings a depressed (indented) surface. This is a great way to give your design impressive dimension and texture.

Perforation or Unique Folds

Perforating creates a series of fine holes to allow a portion of the printed piece to be easily detached (think coupons, ID cards, RSVP slips, or ticketing items).

Non-traditional fold options include everything from accordion and zig-zag styles to overlapping or tapered die-cuts that create wonderful visual texture. Looking for inspiration? A quick conversation with our design team will undoubtedly spark creativity!

Laminating or Binding

Laminating binds clear plastic film onto printed matter to improve durability and protect it against smudges, wrinkles, or tears.

Binding options include anything from a simple staple or comb binding to saddle stitching, screw binding, combs, spirals, and more.

Varnish and Coating Options

Commercial print applications (like brochures, business cards, and packaging options) typically apply a protective coat that seal the ink and enhance visual appeal.

Coatings range from basic machine and aqueous varnishes to UV coatings and high build varnishes that have the appearance of water or wax. Confusing? No problem. Our experts can guide you through the best varnish or coating options for your particular project.

Ready to turn heads with a resounding finish? Go big and bold to make your next printing soar.

How to Grow When Sales are Slow

Nothing was going right at the plate for Dave Concepcion, the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds.

About a month into the 1976 season, he was suffering a hitting slump, a plague of physical and mental anguish that had frittered away his batting average to around .150. The Reds were in Chicago, where the Cubs had a large industrial gas-operated clothes dryer in the stadium. Feeling goofy, Concepcion hopped in the dryer and called to his teammates. “Hey! Maybe this will help me get hot.”

Going along with the gag, Pat Zachry, the pitcher, hit the side of the switch, pretending to turn on the machine. With a puff of smoke, sparks flew, the machine whirred and began to rotate with Concepcion inside.

”I’ll never forget it,” said Zachry. ”Davey started spinning, and I froze with my eyes bugging out. Oh, it was terrible. Then I banged the side of the switch again. And the machine stopped.

”Davey went out that day and got four for five,” said Zachry. “And for weeks it was almost impossible to get him out. I tell him now that I made him the player he is today.”

Fast-Track Productivity in Unconventional Ways

No one in baseball or business is certain how slumps happen, but it’s helpful to know how to react when they do. Especially if you see trends that repeat each year.

Here are four creative options to fast track productivity if your momentum is slow this summer:

1. Engage in pro bono opportunities that enhance your products, services, and relationships.

In slowdown seasons, invest company time in something that will pay off.

Who are your target customers or VIP account holders? Approach these contributors and offer to host a free training event or professional engagement that will put your products and people in the limelight. Another alternative is to select core clients and offer to enhance your services for them for no cost.

2. Do non-profit work for your best customer’s charity of choice.

Slow periods are an ideal time to invest people equity in causes that matter.

During your down times, partner with agencies that your clients value and offer volunteer hours, free professional services, or mentoring that can make these organizations stronger.

3. Stretch your team’s skills.

When activity wanes, morale often follows.

Invigorate employees by offering on-going education opportunities, professional mentoring within your team, or innovation labs that mobilize groups to tackle some of your most ambitious goals.

Take time to refresh decor, business cards, or your website, and involve your team in designing these pieces. Here you’ll strengthen your products, catalyze creative thinking, or upgrade inefficient systems.

4. Network or collaborate with other professionals.

Finally, as your business weathers change, remember that other entrepreneurs may be in the same boat.

Find like-minded friends and cook up a multi-site promotion to bring people back. Network and learn from people in your community or industry while you have extra time. Or trade services and train one another in ways that are mutually beneficial.

Want to make the most of each day? By reaching out, stretching your team, or collaborating with others, you’ll sharpen your skills and fortify your very best relationships.

Avoid These 3 Management Blunders (with Four Teamwork Tweaks)

Want to liven up your next dinner party?

Just ask people for their “worst boss” stories. Here are some painful (anonymous) stories from those who’ve lived to share:

“When I was an intern at a PR firm, my manager would make me run her personal errands (pick up dry cleaning, ship things, drive her and her friends to SXSW events, etc.). She would get my attention by calling me ‘Intern.’ Needless to say, when they asked me to stay on full-time, I politely declined.”

“I once had a boss who multi-tasked in meetings by being on her phone and present in the meeting. In both 1:1’s and in group settings she would shift her attention constantly from the speaker to her phone—back and forth, back and forth . . . At first, I just thought she was extremely busy, and it was the only way for her to get everything done—until one day, I caught her doing crossword puzzles on her phone while doing a check-in with me.”

“I once had a boss who, while I was replying to a question addressed to me by their boss in a meeting, actually put their hand less than an inch in front of my face to silence me so that they could answer instead.”

Whether you’re the CEO, an intern, or a new manager, working with others is a key part of success in every job. But managing well while empowering others requires a delicate balance.

Beyond learning the names of your interns, here are four tweaks you can make in your leadership.

Listen

Good listening is essential to management, and it begins long before you start a meeting.

Keys to listening well include generating questions in advance, keeping an open mind, and not jumping to conclusions before or during conversations. Don’t assume you know what someone is thinking; instead, listen with the intent of understanding before “solving.” And give your team conversational breathing room by personally checking in for “no good reason” on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. You may be surprised by what they share!

Pair Criticism with Compliments

The Harvard Business Review says a good rule of thumb is to give more praise than criticism, but surveys show that 40% of respondents claim they never gave positive reinforcement.

People need a balance of both praise and criticism in order to thrive. Top performing teams typically give five positive comments for every critique.

Distinguish Between Personal and Organizational Issues

Employees will have challenges, and it’s your job to address them.

But workplace problems are typically either personal or organizational and treating them differently can be hugely helpful. Personal problems should be handled with compassion and accountability. But organizational issues may involve hiring, restructuring, or strategic planning. Don’t confuse bad attitudes with bad workflow policies!

Finish Meetings with a Question

Want to boost communication in your team?

Conclude every meeting with this question: is there anything else? Whatever is top of mind (concerns, challenges, excitement) will bubble to the surface quickly. This question signals you care and gives people permission to share things that aren’t explicitly on the agenda. Try it and see what happens!

From mediating personality clashes to enabling great leaders, your management skills are the key to growing great teams. Keep the conversations flowing as you encourage others, and your business will flourish.

Seven Sizzling Summer Promotions

Businesses need promotional items to help reach out to potential customers and clients – it’s just a fact.

Promotional products allow people to see your brand and remember you, drawing a whopping 500% more referrals from customers who are satisfied with the gift. Like a business card with a bang, clever promotional products build goodwill, name recognition, and expanded brand exposure.

But, sometimes the biggest barrier to distributing great products is finding the right idea.

Looking for affordable and effective items to catch the attention of your prospects? Here are seven promo products to bring heat to your marketing mix this summer:

1. Zip-Front Drawstring Bags

Want your brand to travel with people as they go?

High-quality, colorful, customized drawstring bags will get your message circulating! Sturdy but lightweight, these comfortable, machine washable bags are great for goodie bags, thank you gifts, and life on the go.

Zipper pouches make the bags more convenient, accessible, and fun. Add coupons or gift incentives to bring more traffic your way.

2. Clip & Go Hand Sanitizers

Try a squeaky-clean message on promotional hand sanitizer!

Travel-size hand sanitizers can be stashed in totes, diaper bags, backpacks, and purses for a little germ-fighting squirt before meals, after handling animals, or when spending time in public.

Hand sanitizer promotional products are effective message-bearers for restaurants, doctors’ offices and health clinics, independent contractors, and more.

3. Customized Lip Balms

From flavorful scents to serious sun protection, promotional lip balm is affordable, enjoyable, and always in style.

Perfect for health professionals, dental promotions, and all of your trade show needs, customized balms can give their lips some serious love.

4. Water Bottles & Tumblers

Promotional water bottles are a smart giveaway item that boosts your branding efforts at racing events, school activities, corporate outings, trade shows, or anywhere thirsty patrons travel.

Choose shapes, sizes, or lid styles from any variety of materials, including stainless steel tumblers, water bags with attachable carabiners, vacuum insulated copper travelers, and so much more.

5. Absorbent Snap Cooling Tool

Lightweight and refreshing, cooling towels bring a consistent cooling effect that lasts for hours.

Wet it, wring it, and snap to activate. Great for the gym, in the field, or on the go, this high-performance product will stand the test of time.

6. Pocket Notebooks

Want to keep your name at their fingertips?

Handy mini-pocket notebooks are sure to stick around. Try eco-friendly custom recycled notebooks, custom debossed mini journals, or jotter pads with attached pens. Make your product useful and your name will be a companion and stays close at hand.

7. Stadium Cushions

Want to switch it up and get more than just your logo noticed?

Stadium cushions offer a soft place to land for customers who will love you immensely when enjoying this gift. From traditional cushions to amusing shapes, stadium cushions make your logo pop against a minimalist background. From law firms and insurance agencies to VIP customer or employee picnic giveaways, this giveaway will be their grab-and-go for outdoor concerts and sporting events of every kind.

Want to know more? We’re here to simplify your shopping experience and bring your brand to life! Give us a call today to learn more.

Keep Things Real with Four Animated Design Tricks

While you may not be able to launch a 3D billboard and party-train campaign, you can to stop traffic with 3D elements and hot design trends from 2019.

Here are four animated styles with practical examples to try in your next printed piece.

Three-Dimensional Designs

3D works seem to be everywhere right now: entire compositions that have so much depth, you can’t help but reach out and touch them.

Examples include 3D typography (that works with any kind of font rendering), metallic 3D pipes pulsing with neon electricity, or effervescent 3D poster compositions that jump off the page and make it impossible to look elsewhere.

Asymmetrical Layouts

While rigid designs have been standard for several years, layouts that break free from the predictable grid are now soaring in popularity.

Asymmetrical balance results from using unequal visual weight on each side of your page. For example, one side might contain a dominant element, which is balanced by lesser focal points or light elements on the other.

Asymmetrical balance is more dynamic and interesting. It evokes feelings of modernism, movement, vitality, and curiosity as viewers pause to peruse the design. Box elements within a page, stepped or tabbed layering, or the powerful use of negative space are all strategies for creating products that feel more customized and alive.

Open Compositions

Ready to throw off decaying designs of the past?

For years, illustrators have put frames around design elements, encasing them in boxes, frames, and in strict order. Today, viewers crave open, airy designs which seem to offer only part of the whole picture.

Allow your layouts to embrace white space with elements that feel loosely connected or even chaotic. Play with composition to make each part look like it’s continuing off the page to infinity. This allows viewers to engage with your image, using their imagination to wonder what else is out there.

Duotones and Gradients

In the 90s, gradients were a popular way to add color and depth to designs.

They came back in a big way in 2018, enhancing flat designs, adding color overlays to photos, and adding texture to backgrounds of all kinds. Gradients, or “color transitions,” are a gradual blending from one color to two or three others, blending similar colors (like different shades of blue) or completing contrasting colors (like purple and red). Gradients can be bold or subtle, modern or rustic, the focal point or the background. They can be used in logos, packaging, business cards, or photo overlays.

Find your favorite color schemes and go to town, because the energy of these stunning color transitions can elevate the vivacity of any design.

It’s an exciting time for design, especially when technology continues to allow us to push the limits. Have fun experimenting and make 2019 a year to look your best in print!

Savvy Tips for the Best Stock Photo Selection

Image is everything.

Statistically speaking, compelling images average 94 percent more views, are three times more likely to be shared online, and significantly increase your likelihood of capturing new leads. Professional photos are a fantastic way to boost the impact of your brochure, booklet, or mailing. But if you’re planning to use a stock image, here’s some interesting info to consider.

A few years ago, the Marketing Experiments tested the performance of stock versus custom photos. They found that, when swapping a generic stock image of a woman with a photo of the ACTUAL founder (and a caption naming him), they saw a 35% increase in conversions. Later, the Nielsen Norman Group eye-tracking studies found that, when photos of “real” people were compared with stock photos, the stock photos were largely ignored. The conclusion? When it comes to design perception, humans seem to have a sixth sense for authenticity.

Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t have time to arrange for custom photos, and stock photos are the most convenient and cost-effective option.

How can you make stock photos more personal or effective in your publications? With the right eye and a few helpful tips, you can select stock photos that look more natural, professional and unique.

1. Use all your senses to evaluate photos.

What has a more powerful impact on you – a steaming plate of stir fry or a generic picture of a grocery aisle?

Texture and sensory cues in photos can whet appetites, evoke emotions, or awaken desire in your clients. When designing an event flyer or business brochure, look for photos with strong visual cues: a cuddly bathrobe, a sun-drenched field, a sinful piece of chocolate, or a brilliant vase of fresh flowers, for example. Sidestep photos that seem generic, dated, or bland to the senses.  

2. Avoid clichés.

Since the eye tends to ignore stock photos, search for images that are more personal and specific in focus. Some of the most over-used symbolic clichés include piggy banks (savings), plain light bulbs (ideas), crossroads (decisions), high fives (teamwork), or handshakes (business partnerships). Instead choose photos that show real action, stark color contrasts, facial close-ups, stunning landscapes, playful pets, or generational diversity.

3. Add extra search filters.

When searching for images, enter multiple keywords to narrow your focus.

The more personal your photo is, the more effective it will be, so make search tags as specific as possible. This can include anything from image orientation and aspect ratio to the number or people pictured and the activity they’re involved in. When setting search filters, try geographical landscapes, types of food, sports activities, board game names, alphabet letters, times of day, emotions, temperatures, and more. Long-tailed searches with multiple keywords can help you find images that scream authenticity.

4. Finish well.

Always choose the highest resolution available on the stock photos you purchase.

This will give you many options for zooming in or altering an image. Sometimes a single image can be cropped in unique ways to give you multiple photos while maintaining a cohesive theme for your layout. Resolutions higher than 300 PPI are essential for professional printings, though large-scale printings may vary. If you have questions on a specific question, just give us a call!

Images work best when they don’t look like stock photos, so work hard to avoid clichés, to arouse the senses, and to personalize your selections. Keep it creative and keep it real, and your designs are sure to stick!