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Just The Facts

A Eulogy for the Long, Intimate Email

When I started college in 1997, I got my first email account, as did most of my peers. Over the next four years, I sent and received countless rambling letters to friends, both off and on campus, a habit that persisted for a decade or so after graduation.

Now I can’t remember the last time I wrote or read an email of more than four or five meaty, intimate paragraphs. I can chalk up some of my letter-writing decline to my age and profession: I have a (somewhat) smaller appetite these days for Knausgaardian navel-gazing, and expend more energy writing for work. Full Story »

The Financial Resolution that 62% of Americans Really Ought to be Making

A new Bankrate study finds that most of us are missing a key piece of our financial well-being: emergency savings.

It’s not just your body you should be resolving to get fit this year.

Look beyond the mirror and into your savings account. If it’s as lean as you wish your figure was, know that you’re in a troubling majority.

Only 38% of Americans have enough money in their savings accounts to pay for unexpected expenses such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair, according to a report by Bankrate.com released Wednesday. Full Story »

Stuart Elliott Takes Buyout as NYT Continues to Lose Top Media and Advertising Reporters

The giant sucking sound you might be hearing from Manhattan this week is probably the vacuum of media and marketing insight being created by New York Times buyouts.

Stuart Elliott, the newspaper’s longest-serving advertising columnist, has announced he will be “taking part in the (generous) buyout offer the Times has made to longtime employees.” After more than 23 years in the role, his last day will be Dec. 19.

“For many, many years covering advertising, marketing and media, I’ve written about people [who] are ‘leaving to pursue other interests’ or leaving ‘to explore career opportunities’ or even to ‘spend more time with (his/her) family,’” Elliott said in a Facebook announcement about his retirement. “Now I am going to be one of those people. ... It is scary, and exciting, and I want to thank everyone who has helped me all these years in tackling this demanding job.” Full Story »

Fare Thee Well, My Pen

The pen is dead. It was murdered by the finger.

I first realized this last week when my girlfriend asked to borrow a pen to sign the back of one of those paper check things.

“Sure,” I replied, picking up my laptop bag to rummage inside. I pulled out a succession of rectangular-shaped gadgets, but there was no pen to be found.

“Hmm, maybe we have one upstairs,” I said as we both began a detective-like search for anything that resembled a vessel for ink. We scoured the home office, kitchen drawers, bedrooms, even looking through our cars. But again, no pen. Full Story »

A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love’

Student advisees often come to my office, rubbing their hands together, furrowing their brows and asking me to walk along with them as they ponder life after graduation. Just the other day, a sophomore made an appointment because he was worrying about whether he should become a doctor or a philosophy professor. A few minutes later, he nervously confessed that he had also thought of giving stand-up comedy a whirl.

As an occupational counselor, my kneejerk reaction has always been, “What are you most passionate about?” Sometimes I‘d even go into a sermonette about how it is important to distinguish between what we think we are supposed to love and what we really love.

But is “do what you love” wisdom or malarkey? Full Story »

Where Are the Gay Chief Executives?

When the National Football League last week drafted its first openly gay player, Michael Sam, he joined a roster of recent firsts — from the first out nightly news and morning-television anchors, United States senator and pro-basketball player.

But one major realm of society lags behind: corporate America. There are very few openly gay chief executives at the nation’s 1,000 biggest companies.

While some might be out in their personal lives or be widely assumed to be gay, none has spoken publicly about it the way Mr. Sam and other public figures have, which signals how far behind corporate America still is. Full Story »

The Financial Moves You Should Make in April

Happy Financial Literacy Month! We go through the financial moves you should make every month, but April—being tax month and Financial Literacy Month—is a great time to start as any. Here’s what you should be doing in the next few weeks.

You can simply set calendar reminders for yourself, and start thinking about your “financial calendar” the way you do your social calendar. You’d never neglect to send your mom a birthday card after jotting it down on your calendar—so treat important tasks like saving for retirement, preparing for taxes, and donating to charity in the same way. Get ready for a much more organized month (and year)! Full Story »

9 Truths Bosses Hide From Employees

Being an effective boss means keeping your some of your thoughts and feelings to yourself rather than sharing them with employees. Here are nine common thoughts that even great bosses sometimes have, but that are best kept private:

1. “I get tired of solving your problems.”

The details: “A big part of my job is listening to your problems and helping you come up with a solution. Sometimes, though, I really do wish you’d come up the solutions yourself rather than depend upon me to solve them for you. Full Story »

10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon

You know how you can hear something a hundred times in a hundred different ways before it finally gets through to you?  The ten truths listed below fall firmly into that category – life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago, and have been reminded of ever since, but for whatever reason, haven’t fully grasped.

This, my friends, is my attempt at helping all of us, myself included, “get it” and “remember it” once and for all…

1.  The average human life is relatively short.

We know deep down that life is short, and that death will happen to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it happens to someone we know.  It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step.  You expected there to be one more stair than there is, and so you find yourself off balance for a moment, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is. Full Story »

What 80% Of Employers Do Before Inviting You For An Interview

Many job seekers have described to me that submitting a resume in today’s job market is mostly a banging-their-head-against-a-wall, extremely frustrating waste of time.

You want that resume to get you into an interview, but it doesn’t. I think this could be why: 

80% of employers Google job seekers before inviting them into an interview!

If employers don’t find something good and solid, that agrees with the resume—a LinkedIn Profile is perfect for this—you aren’t invited in for an interview.

Interviewing job candidates is very expensive for an employer to do (second only to the cost of hiring the wrong candidate)! Consequently, employers use Google searches to try to avoid those expensive mistakes. Full Story »

Your Secret Weapon for Job Interviews: The C.A.R. Technique

We covered why good story telling is essential to boosting your candidacy when it comes to interviewing. This, my friends, is easier said than done. That’s why it’s time to introduce the C.A.R. technique: a fantastic way to supercharge your interviewing chops and leave the competition in the dust.

So what does the acronym C.A.R. stand for? C = Challenge, A = Action, and R = Result. Together, they form a framework for your work experience that is logical and useful to the recipient. It’s easy to master, and it can be your best tool for making an impact during an interview. Full Story »

The Play Deficit

Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play they will never grow up

When I was a child in the 1950s, my friends and I had two educations. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today), and we also had what I call a hunter-gather education. We played in mixed-age neighbourhood groups almost every day after school, often until dark. We played all weekend and all summer long. We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us. What I learnt in my hunter-gatherer education has been far more valuable to my adult life than what I learnt in school, and I think others in my age group would say the same if they took time to think about it. Full Story »

How to Create Personal Mini-Stories and Leave a Lasting Impression

Whether representing your advertising agency in a sales meeting or sitting down for a job interview, you’ve probably stumbled like a drunk with rock-filled shoes through the easiest request on the planet: “Tell me about yourself.” Why is this so hard to answer well? After all, nobody knows you better than you do. Right?

Are you boring? I’d guess you’re a lot more interesting than you think. The real reason you have a hard time talking about yourself is because you haven’t audited your life lately. You’re not prepared. When you’re not prepared, you say vague things. And when you say vague things, you’re forgettable. And when you’re forgettable, you don’t get the business (or job). Full Story »

Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell

CellTrackingLike dozens of other brick-and-mortar retailers, Nordstrom wanted to learn more about its customers — how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors — the kind of information that e-commerce sites like Amazon have in spades. So last fall the company started testing new technology that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones.

But when Nordstrom posted a sign telling customers it was tracking them, shoppers were unnerved.

“We did hear some complaints,” said Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman for the store. Nordstrom ended the experiment in May, she said, in part because of the comments.

Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it. Full Article »

Outsmarting Smartphone Thieves

SmartPhoneTheftIn the month since two men violently shoved him to the ground and stole his iPhone 5, Dalton Huckaby has almost completely stopped calling his mother. It usually takes him a full day to text his friends back. Nothing personal, but Mr. Huckaby is just too frightened to take his replacement iPhone out in public.

“I never thought this would happen to me,” said Mr. Huckaby, 39, a personal trainer, who since the robbery, which he called an iCrime, has become the kind of person who patrols his neighborhood streets in San Francisco warning strangers about the dangers of using their smartphones out in the open.

Phone theft, especially of Apple’s coveted iPhones, has increased sharply in recent years. Last year, nearly half of all robberies in San Francisco involved a smartphone.

So, how do people like Mr. Huckaby deal with the stress after a phone theft? How do you dodge robbers in the first place? And what should you do if your phone is stolen? Full Article »

The Attachment That Still Makes Noise

RedSwinglineDO you have a stapler?

If you do, maybe it’s a little dusty in this age of PDFs. Or maybe it’s been missing for a while, after someone borrowed it and never brought it back. Or maybe you’ve affixed your name to your stapler with a piece of clear tape, so your co-workers know: you take this stapler, you die.

Even as data moves to computers and the cloud, staplers continue to help people keep it together. On the computer, we can file copies in folders and send messages to mailboxes. We can cut, copy and paste text and files. But which computer activity is similar to stapling? Sure, there’s the paper-clip icon that attaches documents to e-mail. But nothing, really, comes close to the satisfying ka-chunk of a stapler: it’s a sound that means work is getting done. Full Story »

Should You Email Like a Man? (There’s a Difference)

emailEarlier this week, CNBC news anchor Maria Bartiromo announced during a segment on Closing Bell that one of her New Year’s resolutions was to start “emailing like a guy.”

What does that mean, exactly? Websites like Business Insider were quick to question.

It might be more straightforward than you think, says Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University and author of You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.

Consider the colleague who signs business correspondence “xo” or softens an authoritative statement with a smiley face. There’s one in your office, right? Full Story »

Working From Home, Without the Sideshows

WorkingFromHomeQ. You have been working from home and find that it’s hard to stay focused and productive. Could it be that you simply don’t work well outside a corporate office?

A. Not necessarily. We often assume that people are more productive when they work in an office rather than at home, but that’s not always the case. We are less productive when we’re distracted, and that can happen anywhere, says Jason Henham, managing director of Slate Consulting, a management consulting firm in Melbourne, Australia.

“In the office, lack of productivity is masked by things like meetings, interruptions and socializing,” Mr. Henham says. The key to productivity — whether it’s in a corporate office or at the kitchen table — is a clear understanding of the results you’re trying to achieve each day, he says. Full Story »

11 Productivity Hacks From Super-Productive People

ChecklistIn 2012, I got addicted to swiping to-dos off the super-minimalist Clear app, and when I got lazy about doing the stuff on it, imposed a 50/10 rule on myself. Tell us about the productivity hacks that you’ll be trying out in the New Year, and check out these (totally manageable!) tips from other successful, super-productive members of the Fast Company community here:

Keep Email From Crushing You With “OHIO”  That stands for “only handle it once”--a technique that’s espoused by productivity expert Bob Pozen and practiced by Huge CEO and Fast Company contributor Aaron Shapiro.

“No ‘I’ll respond later’ is allowed,” Shapiro says. “Responding later means you take three times longer to get through your email than taking care of it the first time, because responding later means you have to waste time finding and rereading that email... or even worse, the time wasted reminding yourself over and over to get to that message.” Full Story »

For Successful People, Planning The Weekend Is Just As Important As Planning The Week

FlipFlopsWhile playing the piano, meeting friends for a soccer game, and chopping wood could be spontaneous activities, for the busiest people, you have to make an appointment to go off the grid as surely as to go on it. If you have a three-year-old, for instance, and you wish to chop wood, you need to make sure someone else is dealing with the child so he doesn’t decide to “help” you. That requires thinking through your plan for the day and communicating it with your partner or someone else who might watch the child, or even just sticking him in front of the TV so he doesn’t stick himself anywhere near the axe. Playing the piano for hours means making a commitment not to call an equally busy client or look over endless project plans at that time. Eating dinner somewhere lovely often requires a reservation. Any parent knows it’s near impossible to get a Saturday night sitter on Saturday. Going to worship services often requires getting up and getting dressed at a certain time. Failing to think through what you wish to do on the weekend may make you succumb to the “I’m tired” excuse that keeps you locked in the house and not doing anything meaningful within it--even though we draw energy from meaningful things.

And so we come to the insight on weekends that I find people resist: a good weekend needs a plan. Not a minute-by-minute plan, not a spreadsheet full of details, but just a few fun anchor events sketched in ahead of time. Indeed, some research is finding that skipping the planning stage means cutting yourself off from the major mechanism via which weekends can deliver joy. Full Story »

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