A Know-It-All Doesn’t Know Everything

Know-it-all

Last weekend at a BBQ (and by BBQ I mean an outdoor party where everyone was sweating) there was a woman I hoped I would never see again. I tried to avoid eye contact with her and pretend I didn’t see her (don’t judge), but near the end of the party I looked to my left and there she was.

Crap! I had to talk to her.

I never rarely avoid people, but this woman is like a walking “Cool Facts” app that you wish you hadn’t downloaded. No matter what the topic, from marriage, to kids, to why the Botox she uses is better than what others use (seriously?), she has to share her opinion.

You probably know someone like that. We all do. Those are the friends you take a little longer to answer when they call or text. They’re the ones who are so exhausting you have to refer to your list of excuses to avoid getting together with them. (Am I the only one with a list like that?)

As I drove home from the party I thought about everything this know-it-all woman is missing by having to be right all of the time. These are the top three that came to mind:

1. Good resources.

Web sites, news outlets and blogs are filled with valuable resources to help grow a business, improve relationships and prove that we’re better parents than we think we are. A know-it-all doesn’t want to read or hear about anything that can teach her more than she already knows (or thinks she knows).

2. New opportunities.

Whether it’s meeting a new circle of friends, attending a business seminar or partnering with another business owner, a know-it-all is stubborn and won’t do anything differently. They don’t realize that by closing themselves off to new opportunities, they’re getting in their own way of success.

3. Relationships and business contacts.

A know-it-all is more comfortable staying in touch with a small group of business owners whose businesses haven’t grown in years. These are the business owners who think social media is a fad that will go away sometime soon. Instead of aligning herself with other business owners who could help her expand her business and explore new markets, she stays stuck in the past. She’s the flip phone user in a sea of smartphones.

When you focus on learning new things, listen to others, and expose yourself to new ways of doing business, it’s amazing how much you can grow, both personally and professionally.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows that.

All Dressed Up: The Write Office

I met Michelle Newman at a writers’ conference and when she mentioned something about her home office, I asked if I could feature it on Working Naked. She gave me a strange look that was somewhere between What the Hell? and She doesn’t look like she runs a porn site. After I described the site to her, she quickly agreed. It helped that we were at a cocktail reception and the wine was flowing freely.

Writing can be boring, lonely, and challenging, so the right home office can make a difference between a space that sparks your creativity and one that makes you bang your head against the wall. Michelle Newman, a humor writer and columnist, has created a space that is not only inspiring, it’s comfortable and inviting. Michelle writes the phenomenally funny and insightful blog, You’re my favorite today, is a community contributor at Entertainment Weekly, and is a contributor to two books: I Just Want to Pee Alone and I Just Want to Be Alone. All of this writing, inspiration, and creativity comes from her beautiful home office in Minnesota.

Home office built-inschair

Michelle makes every square inch of her home office count. The oak built-ins along one wall make full use of floor to ceiling space, and include plenty of room to display photos and store books. The cabinets below are ideal for stashing supplies or anything else that doesn’t need to be displayed openly.

writer's home office design Newman

Instead of using a traditional (boring) file cabinet to hold her printer and supplies that typically would be thrown into a desk drawer, Michelle uses a 3-tier basket shelf. Her drawer less desk is sleek and modern, and has enough space to hold her monitor and stacking trays. Hidden on each side of the desk is a small pullout tray. In between the built-ins and her desk is a club chair in a colorful floral pattern that picks up the soothing wall color. A comfortable chair next to the window is the perfect place to curl up with a book (electronic or the real deal) or relax while thinking of the next big idea.

Michelle spends her days making others laugh, but seriously, her office hits the trifecta of home offices: it’s full of style, it’s fabulous, and, best of all, it’s functional.

Click here to learn more about “Where the Magic Happens.”

You CAN Share a Home Office Without Plotting a Murder

I admire couples that can work from home together and not strangle each other by the end of the day. It’s not that I’m unreasonable, bitchy or territorial (at least not all of the time), but there’s no way I could stand to share a home office with my spouse.

Period.

Part of the reason I have issues with needing my own space is that I have four siblings. As the middle child, I never had my own room. Either my older sister or my younger, annoying sister (who is now my best friend), was my roommate. We had to share everything.

I envied my friend down the street who was an only child. Her main complaint was that she was bored most of the time. She didn’t get any sympathy from me.

So it’s no wonder that I demand my own workspace, insist that no one touch my supplies (I’ve been told I have office supply issues), and crave as much privacy as possible. I like to work alone.

The other reason I couldn’t work with my significant other is that too much of a good thing can be bad. Think about it: you may adore your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, but if you spend every day and night with him or her, you may drain the fun out of your business and your relationship. Trust me, those cute little habits that first attracted you to him or her will be the same habits that make you want to plot a file cabinet “accident.”

If you’re still willing to work with your spouse (don’t say I didn’t give you plenty of warning), there are a few ways to keep the peace so no one considers hiring a hit man by the end of the day.

Buy duplicate supplies.

No one likes to reach for a stapler and realize it’s on someone else’s desk or in another room. Get creative and buy two sets of office supplies in different colors: one for each of you. While you’re buying extra supplies for your spouse, pick up more sets for the rest of your family.

Don’t share a computer. Ever.

There’s nothing wrong with cutting costs, but sharing a computer will cost you more than money. It will affect your working relationship, put your patience to the test, and, more importantly, destroy your productivity. Whether you use a desktop and your spouse uses a laptop, each of you should have your own device. Sharing a printer shouldn’t be an issue, but if you print more than anyone else in the family, pick up extra cartridges so there’s always a replacement cartridge when someone other than you has a last minute deadline.

Leave the room when you need to take a call.

Unless you can talk quietly and not bother your spouse while he or she is in the office (which I don’t think is humanly possible for anyone), leave the room during a call. Another option is to use a headset. It’s a good idea to leave your desk throughout the day anyway, so why not leave during a call?

Use separate workspaces.

Whether you use two desks, or install a long counter with enough room for two chairs, keep your workspaces separate. This is especially true if you have two different working styles. Someone who is a packrat will drive a perfectionist crazy with piles of paper, cups of coffee and the leftovers from his or her last snack. The perfectionist will do the same thing by complaining about the mess and throwing things away without asking.

Compromise on the temperature.

You may like the office to be as cold as a meat locker, but not everyone likes to wear three sweaters, a hat, and gloves to work. Consider using a fan for your side of the room and keep the thermostat above the freeze-your-ass-off temperature.

Working with a spouse can be the perfect arrangement for some couples and a recipe for disaster for others. I’m a firm believer in everyone working together, but not always in the same space.

How to Treat Yourself As Well As You Treat Your Clients

take care of yourself

Most of us do what we can to keep our clients happy, yet we forget about our own needs. Today as you get ready to tackle your to-do list, consider these four ways to make sure you’re taking care of yourself.

1. Pace yourself.

Realize your limitations and stop working when you’ve accomplished the goals you’ve set for the day. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your business (that’s one of the goals of working for yourself, isn’t it?), but too much of a good thing can be harmful and ultimately lead to burnout.

2. Schedule time with your family.

Whether you plan a four-day getaway, or agree to a two-day staycation, turn off your business and tune into your family. Sure, you may need to answer a few e-mails (emphasis on the word “few”), but the goal is to focus your time and energy on your family. After your getaway, don’t be surprised if you feel recharged and your family feels that they’ve reconnected with you.

3. Take time to learn more.

Whether you virtually attend online webinars, travel to live seminars, or take evening classes, make an effort to keep up with the changes in your industry. Set up a Google Alert to make sure you don’t miss the latest article or blog post about your field.

4. Create a balance between your business needs and your personal needs.

If you travel often for business, but enjoy working out, schedule a time on your calendar to exercise. Treat the appointment the same way you would an appointment with a client and keep it. Schedule time to get together with the group of friends you used to meet for lunch or dinner, but had to put off for business. When you wait for the opportune time to do something for yourself, it rarely happens. You have to schedule it.

The next time you do something for a client, take a few minutes to do something for yourself. Go ahead…you deserve it.

10 Things You Need to Know About Working Naked

Working Naked Day home office

Today is the 5th annual Working Naked Day, the perfect day for those of us who work from home to celebrate the freedom we have to work anywhere, to make our own rules, and to wear (or not wear) whatever we want. Even if you’re not working today, take a few minutes to enjoy the fact that you don’t have a commute, there’s no boss looming over your shoulder, and you can set your own hours.

We realize that not everyone understands what we do when we work from home. Who hasn’t had to deal with friends, family, and even clients who work in corporate offices and think we sit on the sofa and watch TV all day?

So, as you celebrate Working Naked Day, share this post with those who just don’t get it. It’s time to expose what really goes on while we’re Working Naked.

1. We take showers.

Really. Maybe it’s not the first thing we do in the morning, and maybe we don’t take showers every day, but every other day still counts.

2. We can and do compete with large corporations.

Many times our pricing is better because our overhead is lower, among other advantages. Also, we get to pick our clients instead of being forced to work with clients from Hell.

3. We use the same technology as our corporate counterparts.

We may not have a full IT staff, but if something doesn’t work, tech support is a phone call or an email away. Some of us also have children of all ages who can fix any computer, anytime.

4. We don’t watch TV or play YouTube videos all day.

Some people may keep the TV on in the background, but it’s noise, similar to the chatty co-workers our counterparts have to put up with every day. The difference is that we can push the mute button. They can’t.

5. We wear clothes, not robes and slippers each day.

Actually, some people take the Working Naked theme all the way and skip the robe and keep the slippers. It’s important to stay warm. Our home office dress code may not include a business suit, but if someone comes to the door, most of us can answer it without blushing.

6. We do leave the house.

Sometimes we like to shake it up a bit and work somewhere other than in our home office. Why do you think Starbucks was created?

7. We’re busy most of the time.

We’re not available 24/7 to run errands for others, to wait for the washer repair tech, or to give free business advice to friends and family who don’t value our time or our skills. Clients pay us for our services. If we spend all of our time providing our services to friends and family for free, don’t be surprised when we’re a bit cranky at the next party or family function.

8. We work as many (or probably more) hours as our corporate counterparts.

Our office may not be in a high rise and is only seconds away (which is both good and bad), but we’re still working. While phones automatically go to voice mail in a corporate office, we feel the need to answer our phone and meet each client’s needs.

9. We’re not anti-social.

Here’s the problem: friends and family don’t realize that dropping by, especially during an important client conference call, is no different from ignoring the receptionist who is trying to stop visitors from barging into a corporate office. Instead of relying on a receptionist, we have Caller ID and a door we don’t answer while we pretend we’re not home.

10. Our home office is just as important as a corporate office across town.

We may not work in a plush office and half of our office may be an exercise room or guest room, but it’s still an office. No one in a corporate office has to deal with family members mistaking their office as a 24-hour office supply store that’s always open for the family to “borrow” supplies; or the “business center” with a computer to download games, viruses, and videos; or the warehouse to store furniture and anything else that doesn’t fit in the family room anymore.

While others may not take us seriously, we know better. We don’t have to deal with corporate crap, every day is Casual Friday, and while our corporate counterparts are suffering through a morning commute, we’re probably on our second cup of coffee and already on the way to a productive day.

Happy Working Naked Day!

UPDATE: Beginning Friday, February 6, 2015 Working Naked Day will be held the first Friday in February.

Getting Ready For Working Naked Day

Kate-Spade-ipad-case-home-office-hookeyWhile you’re getting ready to celebrate the 5th annual Working Naked Day tomorrow, why not take a few minutes to read a few of the most popular Working Naked posts from the past year.

Are You Working From Home or Playing Hooky

Last week while I was at Nordstrom I saw your new iPad sleeve. It’s the one that reads, “Working From Home #playhooky.” My working from home radar is always on so I wasn’t surprised I saw it, even though it was on a high shelf.

Is Your Home Office Still Working For You?

Some days you may look forward to working in your home office, while other days you may go straight to a nearby coffee shop to work.

Are You Working From Home or Just Pretending?

Last week I figured out I’ve been pretending to work from home. I found out that my 20 years of working from home has been a sham.

Cool Home Offices to Inspire You

The right home office can inspire you to work harder, or keep you from working at all. It all depends on where you set up your home office, how you furnish it, and whether the space fits your needs.

You Can Still Be Chic, Yet Cheap

When I started working from home two decades ago, I did my best to hide the fact that I had a home office instead of a corporate office. It wasn’t cool to work from home and run a company.

Brainstorming on the Beach: How Vacationing Leads to Breakthroughs

Guest Post by Allison RiceBrainstorming ideas

Did you know that you’re more likely to come up with breakthrough ideas if you’re on vacation than if you’re in your home office doing business as usual? Taking off time from your business and getting outside your daily routine is not only important for work/life balance, but it’s proven to be beneficial to innovation in your business.

Here are some tips on how to generate your best brainstorming, and what to do with those ideas once you’re back in your home office.

Choose a Setting That Inspires You.

Are you a mountain or a beach person? Choose a vacation spot that sparks your inner muse. You don’t have to take a whole week off or plan an expensive, exotic trip to get out of your comfort zone; consider a weekend getaway.

Keep a Notebook.

Studies have shown that writing down our ideas reduces stress and promotes well-being, in addition to being a fantastic way to come up with breakthrough ideas. Pick out a notebook that speaks to your personal style, and choose a high-quality pen. Even if you’re more comfortable with a tablet than an old-fashioned notebook, writing by hand might lead you to discover new ideas (plus, without the temptation to check email). If you get in the habit of spending ten or fifteen minutes writing down your uncensored thoughts every day (try right after you wake up, over coffee), chances are you’ll unleash some innovative ideas.

Pick up a Book.

Is there a leader in your field that you admire? Bring a biography to the mountains or the beach to learn what makes your personal hero tick. While you’re at it, consider picking up a book on the creative process; choreographer Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life contains over thirty practical exercises to help get your creative juices flowing, whatever your professional background may be. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s bestselling Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is a fascinating glimpse into what makes highly productive individuals able to get into the “zone” of creativity.

Take a Hike.

Some of our best ideas happen while we’re in motion: walking, hiking, swimming, skiing. Exploring a new setting might even spark new ideas. And if you’re ever feeling stuck, the best thing to do is to take a walk.

Create a Mood Board.

When you get back to your home office, transform your bulletin board into a “mood board” with inspiring quotes and images that speak to your imagination. You can make the mood board specific to a particular project you’re working on, or it can just be a place to store ideas that resonate with your business philosophy.

Find a Brainstorming Buddy.

To ensure that your ideas become reality once you’re back in your office, entrust a fellow business owner with your new ideas. You could even form an informal group, or a personal learning network, to have regular lunch dates where you share ideas in an anything-goes, no holds barred fashion. If you create a safe environment where even the most outrageous ideas can be shared, you could be on the road to serious breakthroughs. Plus, studies show that collaborating makes good ideas even better.

Where’s your dream vacation spot? Is there an inspiring place nearby that you could visit to get your creativity flowing?

Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing, one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Allison regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog.

35 Habits to Help Entrepreneurs Stay Productive

Being productive is tough, especially around the holidays. There are some people, though, who manage to power through their to-do list no matter what. This infographic from Entrepreneur.com shares 35 habits of productive people. Think about how much more you could accomplish each day if you adopted only a few of these habits.

35 habits to stay productive

Source: Entrepreneur.com

Getting Work Done At Home, Even During the Holidays

Guest Post by Angelo DiGangiWorking from home during holidays

The holidays offer a special challenge to those who work from home. Family members don’t always understand that freelancers or small business owners can’t necessarily take the holidays off the way those who work nine-to-five in an office are generally able do. Here are some tips to help you organize your home life in a way that will enable you to get things accomplished, even during the holiday season.

1. Make sure to have a distinct work space.

One key step towards maintaining a strong focus is having a clear delineation between your professional and home life. That means setting a space aside for work and nothing else. Even if you don’t have the funds or square footage for your own home office, you can still create a dedicated area that you use just for professional activities. Of course this should be a part of the house that other people use as little as possible.

2. Make sure your work space looks professional.

When working from home, it is easy to get in the habit of working on your laptop on the couch in front of the television. Having a professional-looking work space instead will help set the right mood and encourage you to get things done. Make sure you have an actual computer desk and an organized-looking workspace, with a filing system for your papers and records. Using appropriate furniture, especially a good office chair, will also help ensure that you don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive motion related injuries.

3. Make sure to have a distinct work time.

Setting a specific time of day to get work done can help you hold yourself accountable. In addition, it can make it easier for you to schedule other times to do activities with your family and any guests you have in town, so that they don’t feel neglected. You can all plan on enjoying dinner together, for example, then while everyone else goes to a movie, you can go home and take care of whatever business is at hand.

4. Take steps to eliminate distractions.

One of the biggest barriers to getting work done at home is the constant availability of distractions. Once you’ve figured out where and when you’re going to work, try to free the surrounding space of distractions. Keep your desk free of personal papers. Put holiday catalogs and gift to-do lists out of your line of vision. In particular, unless you need the Internet for a project, consider using programs that allow you to turn off the Internet for a few hours to ensure that you use this work time as efficiently as possible.

Angelo DiGangi has been helping customers as a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area since 1994. Angelo provides advice on home offices for Home Depot’s Home Decorators website. He provides DIY tips on using room dividers, bookcases and other furniture to accent home offices, and separate these areas from the rest of the home.

Home Office (and more) Shortcuts to Make Your Life Easier

When you work from home, tips and tricks that can help you save time and money are invaluable. The Twisted Sifter blog post “50 Life Hacks to Simplify Your World” is filled with home office and home tips that are both cheap, and easy to follow.

Here are a few of the top tips:

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For more tips from Twisted Sifter, click here.