Why Writing is Good for Your Health

When it comes to writing, you either have it or you don’t. Sometimes words and ideas flow better for some more than others. Whatever the level of your ability, you should never give up on the craft. Why? Put simply, writing is good for your health.

1. It’s a form of self-expression: You may try venting to friends and loved ones all you want, but with the short attention spans people seem to have these days, is your “audience” really listening? Perhaps there’s no better platform then a blank page – your very own space to express your innermost thoughts; to vent; to release the fears and toxins that eat away at you when others are too busy to notice. Whatever you write, you own it. With your thoughts now visible in black and white, people will listen (if you want them to). And if you don’t, your words can be a personal, therapeutic outlet for only you to see. keyboard

2. Writing leads to clarity: Whenever I’m completing multiple writing assignments, I tend to be sharper. I’m much more detail-oriented. Putting sentences and paragraphs together inspires organization and flow, allowing for greater focus. The more writing you do, the more your mind will always be working to come up with your next great accomplishment. Let writing be the fuel that your life runs on.

3. Writing keeps you connected: In the dead of winter (like now!), I often like to write to friends – whether it’s an email, tweet, or a Facebook message. And of course, with less people speaking on the phone these days, text messaging has more meaning than ever. We’re all guilty of longing to hear that wonderful ping alerting us to our replies. Thanks to smartphones, we have engagement at our fingertips, participating in conversations without physically uttering a word.

4. Finally, writing leads to action: By communicating your wants, your needs, your ideas, you’re giving yourself a voice; you’re making yourself heard, sharing information that leads to results. Writing is empowering and shouldn’t be dreaded. After all, that’s why spell-check was invented.

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Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Yes, I do love Christmas and all the sparkly lights and Hallmark movies that come with it. But Thanksgiving is different. It’s an opportunity to turn yourself off and solely focus on what matters: friends and loved ones and great food! No rushing out to buy last minute Christmas presents; no balancing your gift budgets. It’s about rediscovering the art of conversation, catching up with siblings, watching football teams that play better than the embarrassing Jets and Giants! And a chance to use my oven and fill my fridge with food! (We single busy freelancers don’t get to do that too often!).

Thanksgiving is also a chance to reflect. As I writer, I know I’m thankful for a few things, including excellent spelling skills and a working Internet connection. But I’m also thankful for the lives I touch. When I write an employee recognition piece, there isn’t anything more satisfying than receiving a follow-up call or email from someone thanking me for acknowledging him/her. “I took the article home to show my family,” wrote one employee. “We read it at the dinner table.” That’s when you know your work really hits home – literally!

Recognizing that people like a pat on the back, let’s hope workers everywhere get thanks – and give thanks – this season. Here’s to slowing down and appreciating the little things in life during Thanksgiving, Christmas and beyond!cornucopia

When smartphones aren’t so smart

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about digital distractions in social settings. While texting dinner partners is still a common sight, I can’t help but notice the same behaviors taking place in business settings.

Enter a clothing store, the sales help are on Facebook. I’m at the gym, and the trainer is perusing Twitter while not one, but three clients are running on treadmills. Suppose one of the women had fallen or had become short of breath while the trainer’s head was down? Not only is that bad business etiquette, it’s just not safe.

I was dining in a restaurant recently and my friend failed to get the waiter’s attention because he was staring at his phone, no doubt on Facebook, or checking his texts. The restaurant wasn’t even busy – all he had to do was remain attentive to our table. But he was more interested in the contents on his screen – a smart phone, but a dumb move on his part. He is working for tips after all. And we haven’t been back since.

This brings me to my point – if you’re running a business establishment – a clothing store, a gym, a restaurant – you’d better make darn sure your employees are doing their jobs. If patrons feels ignored, it will impact your business. They will not be rushing back to give you any business.

If you’re a business owner or manager, it is important to establish digital guidelines for your staff from the get-go. You don’t necessarily have to ban electronic devices during work hours, but it is good practice to limit smartphone use. If you work in retail, check your phone during your break. If you’re a personal trainer, wait till after your sessions to check your messages.

While staff may be annoyed by the restrictions initially, they have to understand the bigger picture. If customers see they’re engaged, then they will be engaged. It’s as simple as that. Satisfied customers come back; unhappy ones take their business elsewhere.

Save the date!

Want to learn what drives employees to their company intranets? How to create compelling content to keep them engaged and informed? Then you’ll want to check out the webinar I’ll be presenting with Interact on November 13th at 2pm ET:

http://www.interact-intranet.com/events/

The intranet has grown into a highly effective tool for internal communications and after this webinar, you’ll see why.

See you online!

Long live the business card

Remember when business professionals always carried a card on them? “Here’s my card,” was an undeniable part of business speak, especially when wheeling and dealing.

Now, you don’t see that as much anymore. You’re referred to people’s LinkedIn profiles or Facebook pages or Twitter handles. One quick search on all these sites and you’re able to connect with a person in minutes.

While a lack of paper business cards might be good news for tree-lovers, I think it’s getting in the way of our identities. A business card is an extension of our brand; it’s a way to present your contact information in a compact, portable channel – something that people can keep handy when they want to give you a ring or drop you an email. If people want to find you on social media, your handle names are right there on the card – all in one place.bizcard

Sure, not having business cards means less to carry and yes, it is a cost-saver if you don’t create them, but if you want to build a business rapport with someone, you must carry some with you. It’s simply more personal. And most importantly, they make you stand out. They have your unique design on them. You’re not just another LinkedIn profile blended together with all the other Richard Joneses or Jennifer Smiths.

Heck, even in the social scene, people don’t write down their phone numbers any more. If I meet a guy at a party, he’ll tell me to find him on Facebook. Um, bad idea. Do I really need to see photos of his ex? Nope. A simple pen and paper to write down a phone number is fine; but nobody carries around writing instruments any more (except us writers).

Socially, people also type their numbers into people’s phones. “Put in your number and I’ll text you so you have mine.” What if I don’t want your number in my phone? What if we go out once and the date is horrible? Yes, you can delete the number easily, but there’s something about physically holding a piece of paper (or a business card) that’s more relaxed. I feel comfortable knowing that the number or email address is there should I decide to reach out. Once a number is programmed into a person’s phone, it immediately leads to a deluge of texts. It’s added traffic I don’t necessarily want. You don’t make the address book cut unless I know there’s going to be a repeat connection.

On a sentimental note, I’ve cherished cocktail napkins or post-its containing names and numbers of guys I’ve liked. They become warm and fuzzy mementos of the time we met. You can’t say that about an electronic contact; they’re just digits in a phone sandwiched between your accountant’s and your hairdresser’s.

How to Cure Vacation Envy

If you’re a busy freelancer like I am, odds are you don’t have much time for a vacation this summer. 

As you look at people’s Facebook photos or admire the tans on friends just returning from week-long breaks, it’s hard not to feel a little envious. Of course, it’s great to have work but sunny skies can make us long for a bit of down time.

What to do if you don’t have time to book that Expedia package? Create your own little vacationland. 

1. Download a pretty screen saver – Just because you’re not in Bermuda, doesn’t mean you can’t gaze at its turquoise waters.IMG_2191

2. Pick a scenic spot to grab lunch – If there’s a park or river views nearby, sit on a bench and take in the scenery as you unwrap your sandwich. sceniclunchspot

3. Plan a day trip or a quick weekend getaway – Okay, it’s not a 1-2 week vacation, but sometimes a short jaunt is all you need to recharge your batteries. I just returned from a weekend trip to Mystic, Connecticut so I speak from experience!Mystic

4. Get your drink on – On the weekends or after work, order a daiquiri or a margarita and you’ll suddenly be transported to a tropical island. frozendrinks

5. Look toward the future – You may not have time to travel now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t book a trip for the fall, winter, or spring. It’ll give you something to look forward to and soon, your screen shot will come to life!

Vary your channels for optimal communication in the workplace

An email. A phone call. A meeting. If you’re communicating to employees, all of the above work well but you have to know when to use them. employeescommunicating

I like email for prodding. If you’re inquiring about the status of a project or to set up a meeting, email is ideal. No need to bother someone with a phone call; they might be busy. Instead, a quick one or two lines is the way to go. Make sure the phrasing is polite and that the person knows you’re grateful for their time. Heck, add a smiley face if you have to, depending on the level of the person you’re emailing (e.g. if it’s an executive, avoid the smiley faces!).

With phone calls, let’s state the obvious: if you need a rush response to something, you must pick up the phone. Phoning someone is also a nice way to follow up from an email, or vice versa.

Sometimes, a project may be too intricate to discuss over email; too much back and forth in email chains can be confusing to follow. Picking up the phone for a proper discussion will work best. Always opt for the office phone before trying someone’s mobile. Save the cell phone calls for urgent matters.

Face-to-face interaction, of course, is the most personal way to communicate to someone – whether you’re in the workplace or catching up with an old friend. To my fellow freelancers, I highly recommend face-to-face communication whenever possible. If you need to touch base with a co-worker, take a stroll to his/her cubicle. You’ll find many people will welcome a five-minute break to chat or look away from the computer screen.

If the person is busy or on the phone however, just wave and come back later. Try to stay visible  as much as possible to keep your face out there and build rapport with colleagues and clients.