Thursday, December 4, 2008

Four Ways Your Job Can Save You Time and Money



After opening my recent investment report, I decided that the thing should come equipped with a defibrillator and a tank of oxygen. That way I'd at least not hit the ground unprepared when I read how the *&%$ stock market has hit my portfolio.

I know I'm not alone. I know that everyone is looking for ways to tighten a belt, to trim costs. That's why I think we've got to be a bit creative to make our jobs pay off even more. I mean, the paycheck is nice, but for most of us it isn't going to grow a whole lot this year. It's time we all looked at ways that our workplace can add even more value.

First, think about your company's diversity. Everyone in your workplace is unique, with different talents and abilities. They each have something of value to offer, and so do you. The key is finding how you can help one another to not only save money, but time.

Second, be creative. Now is not the time to maintain the status quo, such as not communicating with other departments or making assumptions about other people. We're all in this together and the more ideas, the better.

Think about how to take care of a need in your life without spending more money, and how someone in your workplace can help you. Here are some ideas:

1. Sharing skills. There are a lot of younger workers who would love a good home-cooked meal, while a lot of older workers would love some computer instructions or a babysitter. So, an older worker provides a meal or two for the younger worker, in exchange for some teaching or babysitting time.

2. Sharing needs. Many workers are doing more home maintenance jobs themselves to save money. These tasks (painting, landscaping, putting up a fence) go much faster with more hands. Workers can band together and get these jobs done for one another. In the end, everyone gets work done with no labor costs. During the warmer months, you can offer to help tend a garden in return for some of the produce, or offer to plant a garden on a worker's available property and give them some of the produce.

3. Shopping savings. I often shop at Sam's Club because I have a family, but I know my single friends or empty nesters don't get as much value because truthfully, they can't begin to eat 12 avocados. But I can offer to sell them a portion of what I buy, or give it to them in exchange for something they have to offer -- like changing the oil in my car or housesitting for a weekend.

4. Saving time. Probably one of the greatest gifts to offer one another these days is time. Form a "lunch bunch" and take turns bringing in lunch, or even supper to take home. Form a group to take turns picking up dry cleaning from a nearby service and delivering it to individual cubicles. Offer to bake the cupcakes for a co-worker's upcoming event in exchange for her giving you a ride to work for a week.

There are endless possibilities for workers banding together to fill needs and help one another during these difficult times. Just remember to make it an equitable exchange -- participants should agree to the terms before committing and no one should be compelled to participate.

What are some other ways that workers could help one another?

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Are You Capable of Asking for the One Thing You Need the Most to be Successful?

I'm going to ask you a very tough question: When was the last time you asked for help?

I'm not talking about a desperate cry for aid when you're, say, about to drop a cardboard tray of Starbucks, or when you ask your friend to hold the door while you bring in the groceries.

No, I'm talking about asking for help at work. When was the last time you said: "I can't get all this done by myself -- can you help?"

This is often a very difficult request for many people. Part of the reason is because we often think it's just easier if we do it ourselves, and part is because we fear we'll be seen as incompetent if we can't handle everything that comes our way. At the same time, we have that niggling feeling that letting anyone else into our "territory" will allow them to get a leg up on us, diminishing our capabilities or hurting our success in some way.

I'll admit it: I'm one of those people. I think it will just be faster and easier to do it myself and I can be very protective of my turf. But I learned a valuable lesson recently when I had surgery on my arm and faced months of rehabilitation. I had to ask for help -- and there were so many people willing to give it. Not because I was asking -- but because they were giving back. Of course they were willing to lend a hand (literally and figuratively), they said, because I had done it many times for them.

Huh. I didn't exaclty remember all those times, but they sure did. And while it was difficult at first to ask for that help, the interactions were so positive that I think I've permanently changed my viewpoint. I've become closer to friends and family, I've formed new bonds with colleagues who were willing to step in and help, and developed new friendships from those who were sympathetic to my plight and offered encouragement and ideas for getting work done.

While I dreaded the months of trying to figure out how to get work done one-armed, instead I found it was a really enriching experience. People were funny and kind and never once tried to take my job. My bosses and clients were understanding and supportive and as the days and weeks went by, I realized that the fear I had of asking for help had slipped away.

In it's place was a real sense of gratitude for the relationships that had grown and for the new ones that had developed. I realized that I was as worthy as anyone else of receiving help, and a simple "thank you" was all that was needed from me.

Since I'm getting back up to speed, I don't need as much help (hardly any, in fact), but I try to remind myself every day of the positive experience that can arise by simply asking for help.

So, what's holding you back?
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