Celebrating National Volunteer Month

VolunteerDid you know that April is National Volunteer Month?

Volunteering is the art of giving your labor or expertise for free and many charities and local programs could not exist without the help of volunteers.

This month is the time to think about how you can give some of your time and efforts away to help your community.

Reasons to Volunteer

Here are a few reasons why volunteering is a great thing to do no matter what month it is:

  • You get a warm feeling inside from giving your time and skills to help people.
  • It’s a great way to meet people and make friends.
  • It is also a great way to feel like you are part of your local community.
  • You can learn something new and gain valuable work experience.
  • You can make someone’s life easier or more enjoyable.
  • Volunteering looks great on university applications or resumes.

How Can I Volunteer?

There are many ways that you can volunteer your time and efforts during National Volunteer Month and throughout the year.

The first step is to think about what you enjoy doing and what you are good at and how those skills can help your community. For example, if you are really good with children you could volunteer to be a mentor with a Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization.

If you are a carpenter you could lend your building skills to construct houses for low income families. Even technological skills such as web design can come in handy, as you might offer to design the website for a local charity organization.

If you do a quick search for volunteering opportunities in your local area you will be sure to find many positions available. You can also look on a website such as http://www.volunteermatch.org which allows you to search for your local area and identify which type of volunteering you would like to do.

Many people think that they don’t have the time to volunteer, but you don’t have to make volunteering your full time job.

Many organizations will be happy to have your help for a few hours per week or even one day a month. It is up to you how much time you are able to commit to helping out.

Have fun volunteering and helping out your local community!

How to Avoid the Awkward Moment When You Forget Someone’s Name

Dale Carnegie Win Friends Influence PeopleDale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” said that a person’s name is the “sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Whether in a business networking situation or a friendly party, being able to remember people’s names is an important skill for your career and your social life.

Here are a few tips for cementing those names in your memory so that you never have to be embarrassed again:

Use Their Name Right Away

As soon as someone introduces themselves to you, try to use their name naturally in the conversation as soon as possible. For example, if they say, “Hello, I’m Peter,” you can say “Nice to meet you Peter, I’m John.”

This solidifies the name in your mind and associates it with them, before it slips away out of your memory. If you can, try to call them by their name a few times in the conversation to reinforce the name in your mind.

Only do this if it comes naturally however, because they might think you are strange if you say their name too many times.

Make an Association

Another way to hold the name in your mind is to associate it with a physical characteristic of the person. For example, if you meet a guy with red hair named Ted or a really tall woman named Samantha you can repeat “Red Head Ted” or “Six Foot Sam” in your mind when you want to remember their name.

Make sure that you choose a characteristic such as eye color, size, hair color, or a facial feature rather than clothing or accessories because “Purple Sweater Pat” might not be wearing the same sweater next time you meet her.

Be careful not to say these physical attribute nicknames out loud, because others might find them offensive.

Write it Down

If you are at a conference or a networking event where you are meeting lots of different people, you can make notes on a small notepad or on the “Notes” function of your phone to help you remember names.

Write the person’s name down and a few details about them such as what they do for a living, what they look like, and how you met them.

Remembering names can seem difficult, but if you try these easy tricks you will avoid the awkwardness and be able to greet people by the right name every time!


How to Study Smarter, Not Harder

Study Smarter Not HarderThroughout your life you will always have time where you need to study to pass a course to progress forward to your goals.

Whether it is high school, university, an apprenticeship, or a training course required for your career, you will need to show that you can learn the material and demonstrate your knowledge.

Studying can be hard work, and you might be saying to yourself “I’m terrible at taking tests; I’m not going to do well in this course.”

However, don’t give up just yet.

No matter how academic you might be; here are some clever studying hacks which will help you make the most of your study time and nail that exam:

Find Your Ideal Learning Style

The most important tip is to find out how you learn the best so that you can make the most of your studying time.

Some people find that locking themselves in a room with the textbook and poring over the material helps them to memorize for an exam.

Other people find that they remember and understand the material better when they are actively discussing it within a group or using flashcards to quiz themselves.

Find your learning style and stick with it, and don’t waste your time studying in ways that don’t work for you.

Figure Out the Criteria You Are Being Graded On

Remember that your grade in the course will not reflect how well you know the material, but how well you perform on the test and complete the course requirements.

Usually, on the first day of the class the teacher will give you a syllabus which will tell you exactly what you will be graded on.

Knowing what type of exam you will be facing is important.

If you will be writing an essay, you should be studying by memorizing the big ideas of the course and how they link together.

If the test will be multiple choice style, you will probably need to remember more small details.

There’s nothing wrong with chatting to the professor about the exam, and they might even give you hints about what topics it will cover.

Get to Know Your Teacher

When you are taking a university course or any other program where the course materials and tests are designed by the instructor, it pays to get to know who they are as a person.

Why? Because most professors will design their courses based on what they are interested in.

Of course, they will need to stick to a particular curriculum, but usually they will give more weight to topics and ideas that they think are the most important, so pay attention!

If you know what those topics are, you can almost predict what your professor will include on the exam and you will know what to study.

These are just a few ways that you can make the most of your studying, and excel on the next course you need to pass in your life!

Finding Time to Accomplish Your Goals

Time to Accomplish Your GoalsHave you ever thought that you would love to write a novel, learn to speak French, or perfect your drawing technique? Do you have other unfinished goals that you are thinking of right now?  

It is interesting how we all have passions and desires that we would like to accomplish in our lives; a legacy that we would like to leave that impacts others in a positive way.

If you are like a lot of people, every time you think about these goals you tell yourself that you just don’t have the time to accomplish them at this stage in your life.

Guess what? If you don’t make time to focus on these dreams, they will never happen.

There will never come a time when all of your other responsibilities disappear and you have endless free time to pursue your hobbies.

Work, family, friends, and other responsibilities will always get in the way, so instead you need to make the decision to make time for these goals.

Here are a few ways that you can carve out the time from your busy schedule to accomplish these goals:

  • Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. Rather than pushing the snooze button, you could start your day by practicing the guitar or writing a page of your novel every morning. The bonus is that doing something you love first thing in the morning will energize you for the rest of the day.
  • Along the same vein, go to bed 15-20 minutes later than you usually would and spend the last bit of your day working towards your goal.
  • Stop watching television. Did you know that the average American watches four hours of television per day? Usually we use the TV as a way to tune out after a busy day at work, but imagine how much more revitalized and inspired you would feel after spending a few hours working on your passion rather than watching countless reruns of ‘Friends’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother’.
  • If your passion is portable, take it with you wherever you go and work on it when you are stuck in traffic, on a long bus ride, in a waiting room, or other times in the day when you are bored. For example, if you are working on a novel you can take a notebook with you and jot down ideas throughout the day.

These are just a few easy ways that you can find time in your busy schedule to focus on your own goals and work towards achieving your dreams. 

Workaholic Much? How to Leave Your Work at the Office

Work FrustrationDo you find yourself sitting at the dinner table, lying in bed, or trying to relax on vacation while stressing out about your responsibilities at work?

Is it hard to chill out and enjoy your hobbies without the stress of the workplace and your responsibilities in the back of your mind?

In our culture the workplace is becoming even more important and with how email, cell phones, and other devices have made us more connected it is even harder to leave it behind at the end of the day.

If you want to learn how to leave your work at the office and enjoy your free time more, here are a few tips.

  • Shut off your devices. As soon as you arrive at home, turn off your Blackberry and don’t check your emails until the next morning. The emails will still be there tomorrow and this is not the time to respond to them.
  • Make a happy playlist and listen to it in your car on the way home. Music is a great emotional trigger and when you hear your favourite songs you will feel much better.
  • If you have had a stressful day, ask your partner to allow you 15 minutes to vent. You can set the timer to stay on track and once your time is up, you are not allowed to say anything else about work for the rest of the night.
  • Spend time with your family. Go outside and play a game of soccer with the kids, watch a movie with your partner, or take the family and the dog out for a walk in the park. You will quickly forget about your work worries and focus on the people you love instead.
  • Sometimes we get worn out and stressed because we don’t take enough time for ourselves. Schedule in a hot bath, a favourite TV show, or a quiet moment to sip a cup of tea and read a good book.

The most important thing to remember is that if your workplace continues to be stressful and consumes your thoughts for too long, it might be healthier to seek work somewhere else.

Life is too short to spend feeling stressed out about your job!

How to Deal With an Angry Person

Angry BoyIn a perfect world we would all deal with our issues by calmly discussing them with each other and using logic and understanding to come to a fair conclusion.

However, unfortunately this is not a perfect world and throughout your life you will encounter many people who will take out their anger and frustration on you.

Perhaps it’s your landlord insisting that he has the right to change your rental agreement even when he doesn’t, maybe it’s your boss getting frustrated when something goes wrong at work, or it might even be a total stranger who you accidentally bump into while driving your car.

Perhaps they have a point and often they don’t, but the problem is that they deal with the issue in a way that involves shouting, confrontation, threats, and tantrums of all-out rage.

How can you deal with these intimidating behaviors and make sure that the situation is resolved in a fair way?

Keep Your Cool

Remember that it is likely that most of this person’s shouting and bravado is just a show to try to intimidate you. They will hurl threats and insults in your direction because they are trying to make you scared of them so that they will get their way.

If you stay calm and don’t let what they are saying affect you, this will take away a lot of their power.

Discuss the Plain Facts

When someone is angry they will want to make the issue into something emotional and will be trying to blame you, upset you, or make you angry as well. Try to cut emotion out of the issue altogether and think about the basic facts of what happened.

Either they have a point about what you have done wrong, which is when you can admit to your faults and apologize, or they are wrong and you have not done anything inappropriate. In this case, stand your ground and don’t let yourself get bullied or harassed into admitting fault when you did nothing wrong.

Speak calmly and clearly and defend your position. Hopefully they will soon see the logic in your argument and they will back down.

Protect Yourself

If you are ever in a situation where you feel like the angry person is a threat to you, make sure that you seek safety. Angry people can be dangerous and unpredictable and might become violent, especially if they are frustrated that they cannot use their anger to control you.

Know where you can get help if they start to attack you and remember that if they physically hurt you this is assault and you can call the police.

Good luck dealing with the angry people in your life and resolving your conflicts in a confident and positive way.


Who Needs a Little Dose of Humility?

You know you are intelligent, gorgeous, talented, hilarious and generally amazing. However, if you go around reminding everyone who you interact with how fantastic you are, you run the risk of sounding conceited and vain.

Being a bit too proud can really be irritating, and it can cause people to respond in a negative way to you. In the contrary, if you can conduct your behavior with a little bit of humility you will become a lot more likeable and find getting along with others much easier.

Pride is boasting about your skills and achievements, and humility is the art of gracefully letting your amazing qualities speak for themselves. Here are some tips for being more humble in your day to day life which still having good self esteem:

  • Admit when you are wrong. Accept that you are not perfect at everything and know where you are weak. Apologize when you have made a mistake.
  • When in conversation with another person, be aware when you have been talking about yourself for too long and switch the attention to them by asking them a question.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone doing worse than you, but also there will always be someone doing better.
  • Appreciate the talents and qualities of others, and tell them honestly and sincerely how great they are.
  • Take compliments with a simple thank you and a smile. Give a compliment back to the receiver.
  • Don’t put yourself down in order to fish for compliments.
  • Put yourself in a situation where you are the student and someone else is the teacher, and be ready to learn something new.
  • When you are in an argument, refrain from calling others “stupid” or “uneducated” because they don’t agree with your political views, philosophy, or ideals. Bite your tongue and instead listen to them explain why they feel that way. You can still question their logic, but try not to attack them personally.

You might be the most amazing person in the world, but no one will want to interact with you until you have learned the very important lesson of being humble.

Want to know more?  Here are 14 Steps to Humility and Grace


What to Do on a Long Bus Ride?

Perhaps you have a long commute on the bus, train or subway to where you work, or maybe you are planning a long journey to visit friends or family. Whatever the reason, there are times in your life where you will be stuck in transit and bored for a while.

Rather than sitting there staring out the window or trying to avoid eye contact with strangers, there are many things that you can do with your time.

Some people love taking the bus to work and to the university, because it is a time for to be relaxed and contemplative.

The journey forces one to take time for themselves to read, write, and ponder.

Here are a few ideas of what to do on your long commute to make the most of the trip:

  • Enjoy a good book. You keep saying that you never get any time to read anymore, so hit the library and consume an exciting novel a little bit every day while on your way to and from work. Just don’t get so involved in the story that you miss your stop!
  • Learn something new. Listen to a language learning program, study a textbook, or read an educational book. Why not use your commute to expand your mind?
  • Organize your day. Keep a small day planner or notebook with you and use that half hour in transit every morning to plan out what you will do that day. This helps you to mentally picture how your day will roll out and how you can complete your tasks more efficiently.
  • Brainstorm. Your notebook can also be a place where you come up with ideas and solutions to problems in your life. Trying to decide what to do about a new project or goal? Use your down time on the bus to come up with as many ideas and possibilities as you can.
  • Bliss out. Another great thing to do while you are in transit is to create an ideal environment for yourself and take a few moments to completely relax. Put your favorite song on your headphones, savor a snack or a cup of coffee, and simply enjoy watching the world go by.

When you are stuck in transit for a long time, it doesn’t have to be a terrible ordeal. With these tips, you can use your bus, train or subway time wisely and maybe even make it one of the highlights of your day!

Desk Makeover: Create the Optimum Working Environment

messy deskHas your desk become a cluttered ruin filled with half-empty coffee mugs, teetering stacks of books, dusty piles of paper, and crumbs from your breakfast bagel?

Does your working environment make you feel refreshed, energized, and inspired or do you feel cramped, tired and overwhelmed?

Did you know that by changing the features of your working environment you can actually help yourself focus better, work more efficiently, and be more creative?

Whether you work at home or at an office, there are many ways that you can improve your desk space so that you can work to your maximum potential.

Reduce Clutter

Having a lot of junk on your desk is not only distracting when you are trying to work, but it can also make you feel overwhelmed and stressed out.

Just like staring out at the open ocean or the horizon can be calming for your mind, working at a clutter-free space will help you relax.

You will also find important documents and files quicker and easier rather than having to sift through piles of debris for them.

Here is a quick list to get started:

  1. Clear off everything from your desk and sort it into piles of things to thrown away and things to file.
  2. Create a filing system to organize your documents, which can be anything from folders in a drawer to a special cabinet.
  3. Make sure that everything is off the desk and put in its rightful place, and get in the habit of taking 10 minutes at the end of your day to organize your desk so that the clutter never builds up.

Light Up Your Life

Inadequate lighting in your work space could be sapping your energy, straining your eyes, and making it more difficult to get your work done.

Invest in a desk lamp which sheds light directly onto whatever you are working on so that you can see everything clearly.

Avoid florescent bulbs, because when they flicker they can cause eye strain after a while.

Inspire Yourself

Now that your desk is organized and bright, you can add a few items which will inspire you while you are working.

You can put quotes from your heroes and photos and artwork that represent your dreams and goals on the walls near your desk.

If you ever are stuck for ideas, you will have your own little gallery of inspiration to gaze upon.

Enjoy working in your new and beautiful workspace!

How to Deal With Coworkers Who Drive You Crazy

Every office has at least one; the person who makes you want to curl up under your desk and cry, or beat them senseless with a stapler.annoying coworker

You can’t choose your co-workers, and sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating to work in an environment with someone like this.

When they don’t deliver work when promised, refuse to collaborate, and fail to listen to feedback they make your job difficult and increase the stress level for everyone else.

So what can you do with that co-worker who drives you crazy? Here are a few strategies who dealing with these difficult workmates:

  • Keep your cool. Although you might want to send them an email jam-packed with obscenities on a particularly stressful morning, use self restraint. Losing your temper and lashing out at the person will not help the situation at all. You will have more power in this situation if you deal with it in a calm and controlled manner.
  • Consider their intentions. Perhaps this person is not being rude or difficult or purpose, they might just not realize the impact their actions are having on others. Or they might be acting up for a completely different reason. Try to get to know them and find out the motivations behind the way that they are acting.
  • Consult others about the problem. Have a confidential conversation with another co-worker that you trust. Ask them for support and advice on how you should deal with the situation. They might also have their own experiences with the person that they could share with you.
  • Approach the person first. No one likes being “tattled on” to a higher authority, so running to the boss when someone does something that upsets you should not be your first solution. Speak with your colleague in a calm and respectful manner, and tell them exactly what they have done and why you don’t appreciate it. If they are reasonable, or if they didn’t mean any harm, they will apologize and try to resolve the situation.
  • However, if you have approached them in this way and they have responded rudely, ignored you, or refused to stop, it’s time to get the boss involved. Provide documented evidence and clear examples to your boss of your co-worker’s inappropriate behavior, and ask them for help.

Although you and your co-worker might not become best friends, hopefully you can find a way to work together in harmony.