10 Steps to Getting Into the Christmas Spirit

Christmas should be a time of peace, love, and goodwill. However, the stress and commotion of the season leaves many of us feeling more like the Grinch than Santa Claus. If you find it difficult to get into the holiday spirit, here are some ideas that can help:

  1. Shop early: Fighting for parking and struggling through crowds really saps your Christmas spirit.
  2. Share the spirit: Wish people a happy holiday. Say it with a smile.
  3. Give: Place money in a Salvation Army kettle or donate to some other Christmas service.
  4. Do something nice: Offer to baby-sit so a friend can Christmas shop; bake cookies for neighbours or co-workers; shovel an elderly neighbour’s walk.
  5. Volunteer: Even if you are busy, you can spare an hour or two to help people less fortunate than yourself.
  6. Organize a food or gift drive: Collect food and personal items and donate them to a local shelter for the homeless or for battered women.
  7. Play Christmas music: Break out the Boney M.
  8. Watch Christmas movies: The oldies, “A Christmas Carol”, “White Christmas”, etc. and newer efforts, “Elf”, “The Santa Clause”, “Love Actually”, etc.
  9. Read: “A Christmas Carol”
  10. Decorate: Your home, your office, even your car.

Holiday Time Tips

  • Get together and write a list of what everyone wants to do – decide what is really important, and if possible prioritise
  • Make a list of who needs to see who – particularly important with extended stepfamilies.
  • Use a calendar – make a note of which family members are doing what and when.
  • Schedule in some time to recharge your own batteries – if you’re well rested you’ll be able to enjoy your family more.
  • Don’t try and do everything yourself – make a list of jobs which need to be done and allocate them between the whole family.
  • Don’t try and keep everyone happy all the time – you’ll collapse under the pressure.
  • If this is your first Christmas as a stepfamily your child may feel confused and maybe even angry – try to allocate some time that you can spend alone together to reassure them that your love for them has not changed.
  • Adults don’t have to enjoy being with children all the time – allow some time for you to be alone with your partner, other family members or friends.
  • Don’t assume that everyone else is having a wonderful time – everyone else is muddling through just like you, so try not to put pressure on yourself.

Civility At Work: 20 Ways to Build a Kinder Workplace

by Tom Terez

It’s not always easy being nice. There are deadlines to meet, conflicts to settle, resources to share, promotions to go for — all of which can pit people against each other. What to do? Here are 20 practical ideas. If you believe that workplaces work better when people get along, scan this list and start living it.

1. Say what you mean and mean what you say. There’s no substitute for authentic communication.

2. Be less inclined to give advice — and more inclined to seek it.

3. Resist the urge to jump to conclusions about people and their motives. Go to the source, get the facts, and then decide.

4. Identify the biggest redeeming quality of that person who’s always driving you crazy. Keep it in mind the next time the two of you interact.

5. When greeting a colleague, skip the mindless “How are you?” Ask a question that shows genuine interest.

6. Go out of your way to say thank you. Sincere appreciation is powerful stuff — it’s feedback, recognition, and respect all wrapped in one.

7. If you’re overdue in showing gratitude, make up for lost time. Contact everyone who’s owed thanks from you and let them know how much you appreciate their help.

8. When credit and compliments come your way, spread them around to all who helped. And if you think you’re solely responsible for that honoured achievement, think again.

9. Promise only what you can deliver. If what you deliver falls short, explain why.

10. When things go wrong, resist the urge to assign blame. It’s the system that usually fails, so fix the system, not the people.

11. Widen your social circle. If you always go to lunch with the same group, invite someone new.

12. Give a gift for no reason. If you work with nature lovers, order some plants or flowers. If the group has a chronic sweet tooth, get some sweet dishes and keep them full.

13. When a rumour reaches your ear, let it go out the other.

14. Step down from the treadmill of daily tasks and have an inefficient chat with a colleague. If it’s someone you rarely engage in conversation, all the better.

15. Show interest in someone else’s interests. You may not be dying to hear about Pat’s passion for stamp collecting, but Pat will be thrilled you asked.

16. When you take a stand and later realize it’s the wrong stand, be honest enough to say so.

17. Involve more people in weighing options and making decisions. There’s incredible brainpower all around you, so why not put it to work?

18. If you tend to send e-mails to colleagues who are an easy walk away, give the computer a rest. Get up, walk over, and talk to them.

19. Try going an entire day without making judgments about people. Good luck — it’s tough!

20. Don’t wait for kindness to come your way. Gandhi had it right: We must be the change we wish to see in the world.


Tom Terez is a speaker, workshop leader, and author of 22 Keys to Creating a Meaningful Workplace. His Web site, http://BetterWorkplaceNow.com, is filled with tools for building a great work environment. Write to Tom@BetterWorkplaceNow.com or call 614-571-9529.

Copyright 2002 by Tom Terez Workplace Solutions Inc.

How to Plan Ahead for Christmas

It’s early October. You barely have the children back at school; Halloween stuff is all over the place and I’m already writing about Christmas.

If you want to reduce the stress associated with the holiday season, get an early start on holiday planning. Christmas is associated with love, joy and goodwill toward men. Then December comes along, and your stress level is higher than a mountain climber hanging off a cliff by his fingertips. To reduce holiday stress this year, create a holiday checklist to make the season go smoothly.

Shop for Christmas Year Round

Anytime you are out shopping keep an eye open for Christmas gifts. You may be able to take advantage of sales or clearance items at off-peak times. At the least, you spread the cost of buying gifts over twelve months rather than breaking the bank at the end of the year.

Other shopping ideas:

  1. Store all the items in a specific place so that you don’t forget you have them.
  2. Keep a written inventory of what you buy throughout the year, so you know what you have and what you might still need to buy.
  3. Order Christmas gifts online to save time and avoid the local shopping crowds.
  4. If ordering online, order in advance to ensure delivery before Christmas.

Organize Your Gift List

Sit down and review your gift list at the beginning of November. Figure out which gifts you will send through the mail and put those at the top of the list. Once your list is complete, match the gifts you bought throughout the year to the appropriate people on your list.

If you bought some of your gifts “on spec”, don’t worry. Put them aside for last minute gift needs: office party, school event, etc. Worse case, you can carry them over until next year.

Organize Your Christmas Card List

The Christmas gift list will be like the Christmas card list. In late November, you should take the first list and add the names that need Christmas cards. Take your list and divide it by five 5. Spend five days preparing the assigned number of Christmas cards until the list is complete.

Get Them Wrapped

Buy your Christmas wrap early and keep it accessible. Every time you return from Christmas shopping, wrap the gifts immediately. Tag them, so you know who gets what and put them away. It will save time in the long run and you won’t have to devote a day to completing this task.

Organize Your Food

If you plan on entertaining during the holiday season, plan your meals and every time you go shopping, stock up on any non-perishable items or frozen items you will need. Take stock of your pantry and fill it up with necessary items.

Before shopping, plan the quantities of food you will need based on the number of people you are expecting to come over. Even if you over-buy, you can add the extras to your leftovers inventory.

Prepare Your Home

Take a tour of your home and note things to be fixed or added. Figure out how you want to decorate for the season. Check the condition or number of your decorations: replace or add as needed. Check electrical decorations: lights, ornaments, etc. Make sure they are working and repair or replace, if desired.

Now is the time to check any household equipment that will get used and overused during the holidays. Make sure that nothing will break down at a critical moment in your celebration.

These ideas are simple, but they can free up extra time and help you to enjoy a smooth holiday season. With fewer tasks to be accomplished in such a short amount of time, you can focus on the important aspects of your holiday celebration.


3 Steps to Help Adjust to Lifestyle Change

You come into the office after a great weekend and the boss tells you that your job is redundant due to down-sizing. Perhaps things are going well at work and the company wants you to move across the country to take over the east-coast office. Few things test a positive attitude more than making a lifestyle change.

While making such adjustments, the following suggestions can help:

  1. View change as an opportunity. The more you expect out of a new situation the more you will find. If you can move into a lifestyle transition with a positive attitude, the battle is half-won. The more you sustain your positive focus, the sooner you will move from transition to permanence.
  2. Stop and refocus. Not everything falls exactly in the right place when making major changes: “course corrections” are a necessary part of the process. You need to be able to periodically stop, assess the progress of the change and adjust.
  3. Accept setbacks as temporary. Often, after progress has been made, and you feel things are coming together, you encounter a roadblock. Such a set-back can be discouraging. It’s at times like that you need to keep your attitude at a positive level.

Each of us is free to select our most important personal possession. Some select money or material success; others place highest value on human relationships. Few consider personal attitude to be important.

This is unfortunate as you can accomplish much by starting with a positive attitude. A positive attitude can enhance your career and bring material success; build better human relationships; and bring you closer to reaching your life goals.

A good attitude is a win-win situation.

22 Energy Saving Tips for Your Home

I’m always amused by people who brush off energy-saving efforts as being part of some “global-warming” conspiracy. Then I show them how much we’ve saved on energy bills, by making simple changes; they change their tune quickly. Even if you believe the scientific community has it wrong on the environmental crisis we face, think of the money you can save by being more energy efficient at home.

There are many things we can do to use energy wisely. One of the easiest things to do is turning lights and other appliances off when we’re not using them. I’ve gathered a few tips to help you use energy wisely.

  1. Install motion sensors to turn lights on and off automatically.
  2. Use a programmable furnace thermostat to reduce energy use when you’re not at home.
  3. Install blinds or curtains on windows to keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
  4. On sunny winter days, keep curtains open to allow the sunshine to help warm your home.
  5. On sunny summer days, keep the curtains closed to keep the house cool.
  6. Use timers on Christmas lights and car block heaters instead of using power all night.
  7. Replace worn weatherstripping on doors and windows to reduce winter drafts.
  8. Use a ceiling fan: blowing down in the winter and up in the summer.
  9. Use energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs which are four times more efficient and last about eight times as long as incandescent bulbs.
  10. If you use incandescent bulbs, install a dimmer switch; a bulb dimmed by 25 per cent uses 10 per cent less energy.
  11. Save energy by using small appliances such as a microwave, a slow cooker, an electric kettle, or a toaster oven instead of the stove or oven.
  12. Run a dishwasher late at night and let your dishes air dry.
  13. Switch to cold when doing your laundry. 85 – 90% of the energy used to wash your clothes is used to heat the water. By turning the dial to cold on your washing machine, you help the environment, save energy, and save money.
  14. Use a clothes dryer late at night or hang clothes outside to dry on a sunny day.
  15. Clean or replace the furnace filter every 1-2 months – a dirty filter reduces the airflow and forces the furnace to run longer to heat your home.
  16. Use plastic window covers to help prevent heat loss in the winter.
  17. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets.
  18. Dripping taps can waste 9,000 litres of hot water each year. Replace leaky washers and save the hot water.
  19. Take short showers instead of baths. A five-minute shower uses about half as much water as a bath.
  20. Replace large-volume toilets with 6-litre-per-flush models, saving at least 70 percent of the water used.
  21. Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth and save 7-12 litres of water per minute.
  22. Close the damper in a wood fireplace to prevent warm air from escaping through the chimney and ensure the damper fits properly.

What other suggestions would you make?