Get Focused

Plan to make productivity a priority

(Family Features) Although there are many reasons to feel stressed in the workplace, productivity is often at the root. After all, productive employees are often perceived as the most valuable employees and when productivity fails, it tends to put everyone on edge.

Concerns about productivity are broadly founded. They may be related to your self-assessment of your own performance, or it could be that a manager is demanding more. Or maybe you’re collaborating with a team of peers and are struggling to find your footing, and collectively productivity is down.

Productivity is not only good for business; it’s good for worker morale, too. A productive work day can produce a sense of accomplishment and pride, and may result in a less stressful work environment. You can take a proactive role in improving your own productivity with these ideas.


1. Face a challenge head on. Procrastination can be the ultimate roadblock to productivity. For many, that means saving the least desired task on your to-do lists for the end of the day. However, by the end of the day, it’s too easy to delay the task until tomorrow. Instead, start the day with your least desired task. This is when you’ll have the most energy and you’ll kick off your day feeling accomplished, ready to tackle whatever comes next.

2. Be intentional with your time. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can help you have a more productive day. When you feel your energy start to wane, give yourself a timeout. Take a 15-minute walk, run the stairs or spend some time drawing in your notebook. Over the course of a week, pay attention to your schedule and start to plan your meetings and tasks around breaks so you’re working during periods of the day when you’re the most energized.

3. Capture ideas when they come. Let’s face it: not every great idea arrives at the ideal moment. While it’s possible to key your ideas immediately into your smartphone, that can come with multiple obnoxious distractions. However, trying to recreate that flash of inspiration at a more opportune time more often than not falls short with missing details.

An option like the Bamboo Slate smartpad allows you to write naturally with pen on any paper without the social media notifications and email alerts. With the push of a button, you can then convert your handwritten notes into “living” digital files. With Wacom Inkspace, you can organize, edit and share your notes and sketches on your enabled smartphone, tablet or other devices. In case you’re not near your mobile device when inspiration strikes, you can store up to 100 pages on your smartpad and sync later. Learn more at

4. Identify areas for collaboration. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The key is knowing yourself well enough to know when you need to ask for help to be more productive. Wasting time on tasks you don’t excel in can slow everyone down. Rather, find others whom you can collaborate with and learn from to help you improve your productivity over time.

5. Stay organized. When you’re working under continuous deadlines, things can really start to pile up – literally. Digging through a mess to find the report containing the data you need or the invoice to cross reference is a waste of precious time. Allow the clutter to build during the work day if you must, but make it a goal to never leave the office without bringing some order to the day’s chaos. Coming in each morning to a desk that is de-cluttered and ready for the day ahead can be a big productivity booster.

Learn to Make Lists with Purpose

List-making has long been revered as the classic time management tool, and technology makes it easier than ever to blend this analog task with your digital world by using smart notebooks like the Bamboo Slate to create an online to-do list.

Consider these three list styles to determine the approach that best fits your work style to put you on your way to more productive days:

Categorized lists. Most people start with a daily to-do list, focusing just on the most urgent tasks for the day. Once you’ve mastered that approach, try looking ahead to the future to help you meet your goals. For this technique, you might consider an annual list or even a life list to help put the big picture in perspective and make it more manageable to accomplish your desires. Others go so far as to categorize their time to focus their attention on different types of tasks on different days.

To-do vs. done lists. Another option is to use lists to catalog both the items you need to do and those you’ve already completed. A “done list” can be a motivating factor in pushing forward with your to-do list by letting you see your accomplishments in writing.

Bullet journaling. The bullet journal approach is a four-step process designed to make the to-do list less of a chore and more efficient. A step-by-step guide shows you how to create more productive lists you can easily reference in the future.


10 ways to simply back-to-school shopping

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

While kids and parents alike eagerly await the fresh start of a new school year, the back-to-school season is not without its share of stressors for busy families. The start of school means new schedules, teachers, shoes, backpacks and friends; as well as new academic challenges.

Adding some fun and excitement to the newness can help smooth the way. For example, allowing kids to help choose their outfits for the first day of school can help diffuse that nervous anticipation. Similarly, the chance to put a fresh set of pens to use or show off a cool new notebook can provide a distraction from those first-day jitters.

If the shopping itself is adding stress to your household, ease the back-to-school burden on your family with these helpful tips to simplify shopping for the school year ahead.

Make note of your inventory. School lists often carry over each school year, so make sure you aren’t buying multiples of things you already own. Some supplies are more exciting when refreshed every year, but buying the same old boring ruler year after year is simply a waste of money.

12705_bPOMake a list with your children. Put everything you need on that list, and be clear that once the list is done, it’s done. Having everyone on the same page with a complete list helps ensure nothing vital is forgotten, and the list can serve as a handy tool to keep your budget in check. Get uber organized using vibrant Sarasa gel pens by Zebra to create lists color-coded by kid or category to make your shopping more manageable.

Begin shopping as early as possible. Hunt bargains before the traditional back-to-school season to get the best deals. Not only will you save some cash, shopping before the rush will give you a wider selection to choose from, so you’re sure to find the items you need in the styles you (and your kids) want. Spreading the shopping over several weeks or months also allows you to distribute the expense across several pay periods, helping lessen the chance that you blow your monthly budget with one mega shopping excursion.

Be a savvy online shopper. Check out your favorite brands and retailers online, and sign up for their email alerts, so you’ll be in the know when the best deals hit. Many retailers now offer online-only specials, so watch ads closely to know when you’re better served making purchases in-store or online. Also keep an eye out for free or reduced shipping for extra savings that make it even cheaper than buying in person when you factor in the cost of gas. Remember that you can also rely on social media to follow back-to-school offers and hashtags.

Create a back-up bin at home. You may find that your kids consistently run out of certain items midyear. Devote a special area of your home to keep extras in stock, and take advantage of sales during back-to-school season or buy in bulk to get a better price.

Put quality ahead of price. While it’s tempting to go for cheap when your list is long, remember that sometimes quality buys actually save more in the long run. You can buy a ton of cheap pens that skip, or simply stop working. Or you can look at alternatives, such as Zebra’s Z-Grip brand, which are affordable, quality pens that allow children to focus on writing, not on the pen. Known for delivering a smooth-flowing writing experience at a great value, a Z-Grip pen truly delivers for young learners.

Make your children shopping buddies. Involve your kids in the back-to-school shopping process by giving them a budget. Help them allocate money for all the expenses, including clothing, school supplies, shoes and more. Use the opportunity to talk about how shopping smart for the necessities can leave room for some fun buys, too.

Reduce and reuse. Save plastic and money by encouraging kids to embrace reusable items, such as lunch bags in place of paper sacks and plastic containers instead of sandwich bags. If water bottles are allowed at school, look for a durable refillable option that can be used again and again.

Make the old new again. Turn barely used items into something new by decorating or adding stickers. Not only is this a fun activity that can help get the kids excited about and engaged in planning for the year ahead, it’s easy on the budget and eco-friendly. Keep leftover supplies on hand to revive the enthusiasm with fresh designs at the end of the quarter or semester.

Swap with other moms. Make back-to-school time more fun by hosting a swap event with other moms for clothing, backpacks, shoes, etc. It seems that kids are forever trading with their friends, so embrace that mindset and see what exciting new treasures you can find for your kids to call their own.

Find your zen during back-to-school shopping at

Make it a peaceful shopping experience

Though back-to-school shopping can be fun, it can also be overwhelming. These tricks may help you add some Zen to the experience, or at least cut some of the chaos.

Know yourself: Are you better at doing all of your shopping all at once, or would you rather make separate trips throughout a couple of weeks to ease the stress? There is no one “right” way to tackle back-to-school shopping; just go with what works best for you.

Create a democratic shopping experience: Instead of taking it upon yourself to get the supplies you think your kids need, turn it into a fun experience for every-one to enjoy. Ask what your kids want and what colors they like. Encourage them to stimulate creativity with whimsical supplies, such as the fun and funky patterns of Cadoozles mechanical pencils.

Want your high school or college bound academians to have a little extra swag for school? Look for a few simple purchases that reflect their confidence, such as Zebra Steel pens, with a sleek design perfect for the advancing student.

— Family Features