Creative minds are rarely tidy?

It's Friday - in fact the last Friday of the month. As I look around my desk, it hits me hard that my desk is definitely the messiest in the entire office. So big deal, right? What's that have to do with anything? Well, here's the story. To the untrained eye, my desk may look messy and disorganized. To me, it's organized chaos - the operative word being organized. It's how I best function; all my stuff around me in piles, easily accessible when that germ of an idea hits. I know where everything is, what pile it's in, what scrap of paper that note or phone number is written on and pretty much what's on deadline and what's not. And, I save things. For me, it's a healthy and creative work environment. Others may view it as a safety hazard.

One of my colleagues is totally opposite. Rarely are there papers on her desk, a pen out of place or a file not filed. She saves only what is absolutely necessary. It's her style. My style makes her cringe. Her style is beyond me.

It's said that each of us fits into a work style category. There's the Information Junkie, the Home from Homer, the Machine and the Chaos Theory. My co-worker is the Machine; clarity of focus, only necessary items on her desk, regularly cleans up her area getting rid of anything old or irrelevant. If you borrow her desk space for any reason, you better make sure that everything is back in place when you are done. Sometimes, I move things on her desk just to see how long it will take her to move them back. 

Me? I'm a proud student of the Chaos Theory. Notes and scraps of paper everywhere; evidence of being struck by the idea that I need to write down before I forget. There are random notes pinned to the wall, jumping from one idea to the next; stacks of magazines to read, a cup of coffee and numerous pens strewn about. 

My co-worker and I make a great team because our styles complement each other. She doesn't try to convert me to her style and I don't try to convert her to mine. It just works. Working from my desk would drive her crazy and vice versa.

The point being, just as each of us learns differently, each of us has our own working style. It's how we work best. There's no right way to keep your desk and there's no right way to work. Our workstations are comfort zones. They are an extension of our personality. So, if you want to get the best out of your employees, don't mess with their system.

Just saying.

Tomorrow, October 24 is Make a Difference Day – one of the largest national days of community service. For more than twenty years on this day, volunteers and communities have united in a common mission to improve the lives of others.

It’s a day where individuals, corporations, community organizations and others participate in projects and events across the country; events that make an impact for the good. Whether it’s a community clean-up, building and repairing housing facilities, donating goods and services to the less fortunate, staging marathons or other fundraisers for a worthy cause or just buying lunch or a cup of coffee for someone just trying to get through another day, we can all find a way to make a difference. Make a Difference Day draws attention to that and puts it “up close and personal” on our radar. And that’s a great thing.

I would challenge that for each of us Make a Difference Day should be every day. A kind word, a helping hand, a note of encouragement, a moment to listen, a nod of understanding or even just a smile can make all the difference in the world for someone in need. That means it’s not all about “us”, it’s about “them”. It means we need to look outside ourselves, past our own circumstances, our own world and reach out. Pay it forward and make it happen.

There's a quote that says, "Never doubt that one person can make a difference.” Be that person.

Safety training need a tune-up?

Okay, I admit it. When it comes to "wear and tear" my car experience its share. I try to be diligent with maintenance, but there are times when a scheduled tune-up takes a back burner to other things. Actually, it's pretty easy to put off. As long as the car is running okay and getting me where I need to go, who needs maintenance? Wrong. If I want my car to continue performing at a top rate, it needs a regular tune-up.

Same thing holds true for workplace safety training. It's not a "one and done" program; but a process that needs to evolve and change with the environment. That requires frequent and regular tune-ups. 

What does that mean? For example, how many times a year do you conduct safety training? Is that enough to cover all employees? What about the new hires, part-timers and outside contractors? How are they trained? Regardless of time spent in your facility, proper training is critical. Without it you could be placing employees and your facility at great risk.

When there are changes in procedures, new rules or regulations how do you communicate them? Is it a memo, a notice on the bulletin board, an email, a meeting? Are you sure that the communication method you use is the best for everyone? Are people missing the message? How do you know?

How do they learn about new technologies, new equipment, and new products? Have there been any changes in accident rates? If so, can you pinpoint why? What’s working and what could be better?

Lots to consider but the answers to these questions will give you a good diagnostic of your program and tell you which areas need a tune-up. That way you can keep your safety training program running on all cylinders at the highest performance level.

Posted by MJ Thomas

How many hats do you wear?

It’s Mad Hatter Day – a day based on the Mad Hatter found in Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s a day to generally be silly, put seriousness aside for a day and maybe even wear a hat. So why is this important?

Well, it made me think about just how many hats most of us wear. Not in the true sense of the word, but in the number of roles and responsibilities we take on each day. For most of us, wearing many hats is pretty much the norm.

Employer, employee, supervisor, problem solver, parent, teacher, friend, care giver, and the list goes on. Trying to balance all those “hats” can be overwhelming. What happens when that pile of hats gets too tall? It falls leaving hats everywhere.

So, now what? Take control. Establish priorities and determine which of your tasks are the most important. What needs to get done first, what can wait, what’s negotiable? Put things in perspective and remember – priorities do not run horizontal and nobody said it would be easy.

Break things down to parts that are manageable; one step at a time and be realistic about expectations of time. Then do it! Take action. Why? When we let ourselves get overwhelmed, we get stuck. We spend so much time stressing about all we have to do that we can’t do anything and that makes us more stressed and farther behind.

Laughter is a great stress reliever and it’s healthy. Sure, what you are doing is serious business, but allow yourself to take a breather, clear your head, walk away from it for a little while, listen to music, sing, whatever. When you come back to it, you’ll be surprised at how much more productive you are.

Ask for help. Really? How many times did you need help but didn’t ask for it because you didn’t want people to think you couldn’t handle things; didn’t want them to think less of you? We all need help from time to time. That’s just the way it is.

So next time you feel the tower of hats on your head starting to tilt, take control. In the words of the Mad Hatter, you don’t want to lose your “muchness.”

As a side note, ever wonder how the term “Mad as a hatter” came about? In 18th and 19th century England mercury was used in the production of felt used to make hats. People working in this industry were exposed to the mercury and often exhibited symptoms associated with mercury poisoning, including behavior that led to others viewing them as “mad”.

And there you have it.