The best new productivity apps of 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Heisenberg Media

It was once said of truly important inventions and ideas that “if you build it, they will come”. But the fact is that, in this era of constant innovation, which itself produces difficulties for people and organisations which are constantly looking to stay ahead of the game, it takes far more than simply having a good idea, concept or product to win over converts.

The fact is that people learn about new innovations at different stages in their development, and that can greatly affect the rate of their adoption. Even in a modestly-sized company, adoption of a new app can be affected by a variety of factors – not least the wide age spread of the people for whom it is intended.

Apps, therefore, have to be designed to be useable by all those who are likely to benefit from them – even older people who may therefore be less tech-savvy.

And with millions of app developers keen to make money by developing methods of helping people get more use from their mobile devices, there is plenty of potential for developing apps which can do things which have the capacity to make our lives so much easier.

But how do you find the best ones? Here, courtesy of Laptopmag.com, is a small selection of apps which are considered the best at helping people be more productive and do more business wherever they are:

– Quickoffice Pro: This is a way in which Microsoft Office word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents can be edited, using even the most compact of devices running on the Android or iOS platforms. So in effect, it means users can take their work with them while they’re on the move, and even make presentations from a smartphone.

– Evernote: This is similar to having a personal assistant with you at all times, allowing you to take notes, take photos, produce to-do lists, and record voice reminders. It’s especially recommended for taking notes or pictures during a long meeting, but the most highly-lauded feature is the ability to make notes readable across a range of devices, so they can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

– CamCard Lite: No one carries a huge wedge of business cards around with them these days, especially when this app brings together the ability to take a picture of a business card, and then save the details it contains to the address book on the user’s tablet or smartphone.

All of these apps are available on a range of operating systems, but their adoption has particularly taken off among users of Apple devices – who are widely considered to be the most eager adopters of most forms of the latest technology.

– Lose It!: Finally, this is an app for those who are feeling guilty at having to sit at their desks all day, and want to keep a food diary of everything they eat. Then, they can add the details of what exercise they have taken, and the app will tot up how much of their calorie intake they have been able to work off. It might make grim reading for some – but to others it’s a compulsive aid to helping them stay healthy and, therefore, productive.

Anyone who uses apps to help them stay productive while on the go will also see the benefit of such products as Snugg iPad Mini cases, which will not only help them protect their treasured tablet or mini computers, but will also help them stand out from the crowd, and reduce the possibility of them being lost – along with all the valuable data and work aids which they contain.

How to Ensure Members of the Public Can Clearly Recognise your Staff Uniform

HA0476 Traffic Officers New Uniform. August 2009. This set of images describes several subjects including Traffic Officers on the network, in their TO vehicles, helping to the public and working at Regional Control Centre.

Image via Flickr creative commons from the Highways Agency

Uniforms have been around for millennia. They help distinguish employees and associate themselves with a particular role or firm. If a customer is in need of assistance, a uniform makes help easy to find.

Similarly, the uniforms worn by service men and women are practical, safe and, in the case of the police force, represent a presentable public-facing image. Ensuring the public can clearly recognise your staff is easy with trusted suppliers such as Premier Workwear Uniforms.

Image is everything and the right uniform can say a lot about your business – often, it is the first impression a potential customer will get. In Australia, Flight Centre employees all wear the same uniform, regardless of their position in the company.

“No-one is any different, we’re all equal, and that goes for the office fit-outs too – we all occupy 10 square metres – even our founder and Managing Director Skroo Turner. But the uniforms are the most tangible aspect of the egalitarian culture. It helps convey professionalism,” says general manager of property and procurement, Rhonda McSweeney

As an employee, wearing a uniform is a reminder of your personal responsibility. Consumers and clients will also appreciate the way a customer-facing organisation makes efforts to be presentable at all times.

Although there is little to no research regarding what kind of effect a uniform has on profitability or turnover, they represent a culture and an image for a business. They are crucial to brand identity.

Each time a client interacts with a member of staff, it should be treated as an advertisement for a company – because of this the uniform should be individual and memorable. Colour is particularly important. According to a report by the University of Loyola in Maryland, colour can increase brand recognition by around 80 per cent.

When it comes to choosing which colour is correct for a certain business, colour psychologists can help out. According to colour specialists, Colours of the Soul: “If you think about it quickly but without analysing it, you naturally react more formally to someone in a navy suit than to someone in a yellow one. Colour can and does affect our reactions to people whether we want it to or not, the effect is subtle but very real nevertheless.

“You can send a positive or negative message by the shade of colour you wear or use in business.”

A lot of the world’s biggest brand names use uniforms to their advantage and a distinctive colour is a huge part of that. Think of how instantly you identify EasyJet through their bright orange theme. Similarly, all British Airways staff have a smart and distinctive dress code which converys their image of style and class.

There are some cons in the world of work uniforms, they rarely allow an employee to express their individuality and can be an added cost to the already pricey business of running a company. But at the same time, a managed uniform service can be offset slightly with tax deductions.

Keeping Your Whites White – Stain Removal Tips

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Image via Flickr creative commons from brittreints

As well as leaving you exhausted, work in a kitchen can take its toll on your clothing. Especially if you are required to wear chef whites clothing, they are a magnet for grease, muck and oil – keeping them clean and pristine white can be a struggle.

If you think it would be easier just to wear something other than white, you may be surprised that the colour is much more than a tradition. Their heavy cotton protects a chef from the heat of the stove but also stays breathable, keeping them cool. White is also the most reflective colour, repelling heat rather than soaking it all up.

An interesting footnote to this is the double breasted nature of the chef jacket. The idea being that if the front were to become unspeakable dirty, the chef can simply switch the coat around.

But, diversions aside, here are some tips to make sure you stay looking as good as the food – at least at the beginning of your shift.

Don’t use hot water

Especially when it comes to blood, hot water can seal in stains, ruining clothing forever. Use warm or cold water to soak the garment before gently rubbing the stain out. Try not to rub too vigorously here as doing so can just drive the stain into the fabric. Once you have done this, you can put them into a proper wash. Make sure you wash all your whites together.

If once you have finished washing the stain has not yet fully disappeared, don’t put the jacket in the drier. This will make the satin harder to remove next time around. Let it dry naturally before giving cleaning another go.

Product

Try to avoid using bleach unless absolutely necessary. Although you don’t have to worry about it staining clothes – them being white already – it will weaken fibres and, over time, will lead to yellowing of the fabric.

When soaking, use an oxygen-based detergent for about an hour. If your jacket happens to be covered in grease stains try using a dishwasher detergent. For stubborn stains like tomato or red wine, try going at them with a bit of vinegar before soaking. Leave them for about ten minutes and this should help get rid of the stain.

After you have gone through the soaking process, then was the jacket in a non-bleach detergent.

Handy tips

There are a few things you can do that may seem strange at first to get your whites whiter than ever. Adding a half cup of lemon juice to a medium load in the washing machine can work wonders. When soaking hard water’s minerals can lead to the greying of your chef whites – if you live in a hard water area half a cup of vinegar can soften it up.

Dealing with yellowing fabric

If, despite your best efforts, your whites are starting to turn a murky shade of yellow, there are a few things you can try to get them back to normal. After you have washed the garment as normal, rinse the fabric in a little bit of vinegar mixed with water. Once you have done this, hang it out in the sunlight to dry.

Wear an apron

It goes without saying. But an apron can be your very first line of defence.

Ten tips for integrating parenthood with your career

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Cosmic Kitty

Striking the right balance between career and family life is a struggle for millions of people – and at a time when there’s such widespread financial uncertainty, it’s a problem more and more of us are currently having to face. Co-operative employee benefits, such as Midcounties Co-operative childcare vouchers, can help to ease some of the strain. Nevertheless, the demands of work frequently intrude on our family life, which makes it even hard to get that balance right. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that you don’t just have enough time to face the duties of your work, but also that you don’t simply neglect your family. Here are ten suggestions you might wish to bear in mind if you’re having trouble maintaining that equilibrium between work and family life.

1)      As Todd Smith writes, the most important thing you need to do in advance is set out clear career goals and ensure you have the support of your family in advance. Your family needs to be aware of what sacrifices all of you will have to make so that they know what to expect. It would be unfair for you to keep them in the dark about this. It’s best to be honest and up front from the start.

2)      Careful scheduling can help you maintain a healthier balance between work and family life. Obviously, there will be times when you find yourself so overloaded with work that it becomes tempting to let it encroach on your family time. However, this would be a mistake – and once you’ve done it once, it becomes tempting to do it repeatedly. Maintain that separation between work and leisure time.

3)      When spending time with your family, don’t answer work e-mails or phone calls. Cut yourself off from work entirely and make sure you give your family the attention they need and deserve.

4)      By the same token, you should avoid allowing your family to interrupt your time at work except in emergencies. Make sure you lay down the law and let them know what when you’re busy working, you’re not to be disturbed.

5)      According to WikiHow, it’s important to establish your priorities in order to strike the appropriate balance between parenthood and pursuing a career. You should be prepared for conflicting demands on your time – for instance, your children may be ill at a time when you’re expected to work – so it’s important to consider this possibility in advance and work out what you would do in such situations.

6)      If spare time appears in your schedule unexpectedly, take full advantage of it and spend time with your family. This doesn’t mean you should wilfully neglect your work duties, but don’t feel obliged to work when you don’t actually need to.

7)      Being able to manage your time effectively is crucial to balancing work and family life. The better organised you are, the chances are you’ll have more time to spend with those closest to you. This should leave you feeling generally less stressed.

8)      If you do have concerns about the imbalance between work and family life, discuss them openly with your partner and the rest of your family. Simply bottling things up is only likely to cause more hassle in the long run.

9)      According to Careerealism.com, you should be clear on what your employer expects of you – but don’t be afraid to stand up to your boss if you feel they’re taking advantage. You should be able to discuss the balance between work and family openly with your employer. A good employer will show some understanding in this regard.

10)  Socialising with workmates is also a good way to unwind at the end of a busy working week. Make sure, however, that your family knows when you’re planning to spend time with colleagues. Don’t just leave them in the lurch.

How to Make Your Small Business Correspondence Look As Professional As Possible

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Foxtongue

There are a number of commonly-applied rules which form the correct etiquette for the format of business and other types of formal communication.

Yet with the spread of email and text communication, the lines between these types of communication, and the more formal written types are often blurred.

As a business owner or manager, you need to give careful consideration to the purpose of your written correspondence, as this will often dictate the format and types of salutations which are used.

In the commercial field, it is often wise to make it plain in any written communication whether there is any timescale during which you expect to receive a reply. Yet this should be done with a balance of politeness and forcefulness, as if expressed in the wrong way it might appear too ‘pushy’.

Phrases such as ‘An early reply would be appreciated’ or ‘I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience’ are accepted forms of framing such a request.

There is an accepted format for the salutation and sign-off of any letter which also applies to business communications, which is as follows: if you don’t know the name of the person for whom the letter is intended, you should use ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ as your introduction, and a letter of this type should always be signed off with the phrase ‘Yours faithfully’. If, however, you are writing your letter to someone known to you, you should use ‘Dear Mr’ (or Mrs, Ms or whichever is the preferred form of address of the individual person), and sign off with a ‘Yours sincerely’.

And while written business communications should follow all the strict rules and conventions of English grammar, this is a convention which it can be difficult to remember, especially given that so much modern communication takes the form of an e-mail.

One short cut to remembering how different kinds of business letters should be framed and worded is to use the services of a professional printing company. Such an operation will have experience of framing appropriate communications for a range of clients and other contacts, so should be able to advise on a preferred way of wording such communications.

Of course, another important consideration when drafting business communications is the kind of mage which a company wishes to portray to its customers. In much the same way as wearing a jacket, shirt and tie to work is steadily becoming less essential than in times past, so the type of business which the sender represents – and the customers with which it communicates – can dictate how a latter is both worded and presented.

Business letters fall into a number of categories, such as introductory letters, new contact letters sent to someone whom the sender may not have met, or employee introduction letters, with the purpose of informing a client or contact that they will be dealing with a new contact henceforth.

One absolute no-no when it comes to business communication is getting your recipient’s address wrong. In order to minimise the risk of this happening, it can be a good idea to have pre-printed address labels produced. These can then be carefully checked before any items are sent, and offer the benefit of eliminating the risk of a person inadvertently making a mistake when writing an address by hand, as well as minimising the risk of an address being misread.

What to look for in a barebones work desktop

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Mat Honan

When you’re looking to buy a desktop PC for work, there are obviously a few things you’ll need to consider. Obviously, at a time when so many of us – businesses and households alike – are feeling the financial pinch, it’s absolutely essential that you find a device which is comfortably within your budget. You might be tempted to splash out, but unless you can genuinely afford to do so then it’s best to keep a tight grip on the purse strings. You also need to ensure that you buy a PC which is genuinely up to the job required of it, so don’t scrimp and save too much because it could turn out to be a false economy in the long run.

In recent years, it seems as if more and more people have turned to Dabs.com barebone PCs to provide the desired combination of power and value for money. Barebones PCs can provide genuine value as well as considerable technical capabilities. However, there are a few things you’ll need to bear in mind before you make the decision as to whether or not a barebones PC is really the right option for you. As an article from Wisegeek.com points out, a barebones PC is a pre-assembled kit of computer components, which more often than not serves as the base for a computer builder to work on. It stands to reason, then, that if you opt for a barebones PC you should have some degree of technical knowledge yourself or know someone who does.

A barebones PC will most likely, as the name suggests, contain only the basic elements of a computer system – so you can expect to find components such as the motherboard, power supply and a case, although other components such as sound and video cards may also be included. The rest you’ll have to add yourself – or get someone who knows how to do it for you. Perhaps the most obvious advantage of buying a barebones work desktop is that it’s likely to cost you far less than buying a fully-assembled desktop. However, opting for a barebones PC is likely to take you more time and effort to set up.

Another advantage of opting for a barebones work desktop is that it allows you to craft a PC according to your needs at work. If you work in a specialist field, then there’s a chance that a standard, pre-assembled desktop PC is unlikely to be of much use to you. There are also other barebones systems that you can buy for use around the workplace, such as servers and laptops.

As an article from eHow.com observes, you should think carefully before buying a barebones PC, and approach the issue with a degree of caution. While it might be tempting to rush in and take advantage of the lower cost offered by barebones PCs, you should remember that certain components may be difficult to set up. If you don’t have experience of assembling PCs in the past, then you may simply be better off opting for a ready-assembled desktop instead. It’s worth finding out more by searching online for information on what barebones desktop PCs have to offer.

Why You Should Start Planning A Catering Career As Early As Possible

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Adam Freidin

Once you have decided you want to embark on a career in catering, you should know that experience is key. Qualifications of many sorts are important, but they will mean little to a prospective employer if not accompanied with some kind of workplace history.

Before you start scouring the internet for catering jobs from Blue Arrow, make sure you have thought about exposure to the heat and pressure of a working restaurant or café and getting a first-hand look at the responsibilities required.

A strong idea of the culture of kitchen work is essential; a budding chef should be prepared for long hours and numerous busy services.

Starting your career path early is also important as – although you may not need any academic qualifications to start work as a trainee chef – some employers will prefer you to have a good general standard of education including GCSEs in subjects like English and maths. Enrolling yourself in culinary education isn’t a prerequisite, though it can act as a good boost when attempting to get into a kitchen.

Some courses have links with local businesses who can offer internship positions. If this option is not available to you pursue it yourself. You can talk to the head chef at your local restaurant and ask if they would be willing for you to help out.

But you don’t need to worry about having it all meticulously planned out at once. Robert Pozen, of Harvard Business School, says you need not worry about some grand master plan and that you have no control over the particular trajectory of your career. So be patient.

Although he adds: “On the other hand, you can increase your probability of success by approaching your career with the right mind-set—one that recognizes that career planning is a continuous process that has to be actively managed. At each step in your career, you need to ask yourself: What can I do next that will maximize my options in the future?”

Mario Batali started his journey to the top as a dishwasher at a New Jersey pizza parlour. To become a chef you need a keen interest in food, even if that includes just being around it in the same kitchen while you wash the utensils. To get a taste, your first foray into restaurant work does not have to be prestigious.

Beyond experience you have to work your way up and prepare yourself for long hours. Establish at the very beginning whether or not you can commit to regular 16 hour days and swelteringly hot working arrangements. Once you start applying for jobs it is important to understand that you will start at the bottom. Even those with a culinary arts degree usually start with physically taxing work like peeling potatoes or processing meat.

A chef’s job is very demanding,” explains Masterchef judge and Michel Roux Jr’s soux chef, Monica Galetti. “It’s physically tough – there’s lots of carrying and lifting – it’s hot and the hours are long and unsocial. You have to have courage and broad shoulders, and when it’s time to work you have to step up to the mark.”