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How to Build Cooperation at Home

Friends and family often chuckle when they see me in the kitchen preparing supper and Glenda out mowing the lawn. They have some preconceptions as to what constitutes traditional roles for men and women. We don’t have any such ideas. When we were both employed full-time, it required cooperation to make sure the housework was done, and not by one person alone. Now that I’m mostly retired, some of that balance has changed, but the principles still apply.

We joke about the “IKEA test” being the best measure of a successful relationship. If a couple can work together to assemble IKEA furniture, without resorting to verbal or physical violence, the relationship is strong and lasting. We pass the test with flying colours.

Here are the steps we take to ensure balance and harmony in home management:

  1. We play to our strengths. We pass on traditional roles. I was kicked out of shop class in high school for wrecking everything I touched. However, I have been cooking since I was five or six. Glenda manages the home maintenance and I oversee the meal preparation.
  2. We do what we can. Just because Glenda looks after home maintenance, it doesn’t mean I leave all the work to her. So long as she measures and marks, I can cut, hammer, lift and move. I know what I’m doing with the recipe ingredients, but she helps prep the veggies, etc.
  3. We accept “less than perfect.” We each have different standards for tasks. I would wear wrinkled clothes, Glenda does not. She looks after the ironing, combining it with watching television. We never let our household chores rule our schedules. I know people who get so worked up about the condition of their house when guests visit that they are unable to enjoy the company.
  4. We alternate jobs. One week I clean bathrooms while Glenda vacuums; the following week, we swap.
  5. We share tasks we dislike. Both of us hate grocery shopping, so we go together. That way, one person is not stuck with doing something alone they dislike, week after week.
  6. We have a “nag” limit. This is more for me. I know that I often need reminders to get a job done. Glenda has permission to remind me without me getting annoyed. She is very gentle about it.
  7. We don’t complain. Rather than whining about the empty cereal box returned to the cupboard, we ask to have it put in the recycling bin. There are never any accusations about one person doing more than another.

This is the system which works for us. It’s not going to work for everyone. For example, we have no children at home, so that doesn’t factor into our system. You need to find the best way to build cooperation in your home.

Merry Christmas

Cry of a Tiny Babe ~Bruce Cockburn

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph gets upset because he doesn’t understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says “God did this and you’re part of his scheme”
Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says “forgive me I thought you’d been with some other man”
She says “what if I had been – but I wasn’t anyway and guess what
I felt the baby kick today”

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
‘Cause the governing body of the Holy land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there’s a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you have ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It’s a Christmas gift that you don’t have to buy
There’s a future shining in a baby’s eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

7 deadly sins of speakers and presenters

It takes a lot of preparation to craft the kind of speech or presentation that is going to grab your listener’s attention. Once the speech is crafted, you need to spend a lot of time practicing, so as to make sure you keep their attention.

Listeners don’t give their attention lightly and it doesn’t take much for it to wander. Here are seven bad speaking habits that will guarantee your listeners will be focusing on other things, instead of what you’re presenting.

  1. Rambling – if you don’t know where you’re going, the audience is not going to follow. If you do not have anything to say, sit down! No one has ever complained about a speech that ended early.
  2. Speaking in a monotone – not only are you at risk of losing their attention, but you might also even put them to sleep. Speaking in a monotonous voice is a real communication killer. When you don’t vary the pitch of your voice, it is difficult for the listener to maintain any interest in what you’re saying.
  3. Appearing to have limited topic knowledge – people come to listen because they expect you know what you’re talking about. You need to know your topic backwards and forwards. Research your topic thoroughly while preparing your speech.
  4. Poor eye contact – lack of eye contact creates a barrier between you and the audience. Make a connection to the listener; they want to know you’re speaking to them.
  5. Pacing, wandering, or fidgeting – often a sign of nerves, it can be distracting to the audience. You may not eliminate the nerves, but preparation and practice can reduce the appearance of nerves.
  6. Lack of preparation – if you haven’t made the effort to prepare, why should the audience make the effort to listen?
  7. Poor storytelling skills – nothing communicates concepts better than stories. If you want to hold on to the listener’s attention, learn to tell stories well.

How to write an elevator speech

Our public relations director came by my office recently with a prospective volunteer board member. As part of the introduction, the director asked me to outline my role, in 30 seconds or less. Well… I hemmed, hawed, and took about 90 seconds to stammer out a rambling answer.

Time to write an elevator speech.

What is an elevator speech?

An elevator speech is a brief description of what you do, or a point you want to make, delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (say, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).

Why use an elevator speech?

It is important to be able to quickly introduce an organization, product, service, etc. to potential stakeholders. You only have a few moments to make a first impression. Investing time in developing and rehearsing an elevator speech can make the difference between gaining a new customer/supporter and walking away empty-handed.

What are the key elements of an elevator speech?

Your elevator speech should have three elements:

  1. Who you are?
  2. What you do?
  3. How you do it?

Three steps to take when developing your elevator speech:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare – This is a short speech that needs to sounds like it’s being delivered off-the-cuff. That means you need to put a lot of work into writing and editing. Then, once you’ve completed the process, go back and edit some more.
  2. Practice, practice, practice – Know your speech well enough so you express your key points without sounding as though the speech was memorized. Let it become an organic. Practice in front of mirrors and role-play with friends
  3. Tell a story – Avoid a dry recitation of facts. Listeners will retain more of what you tell them if you share a story.

Three things to avoid with your elevator speech:

  1. A speech that sounds canned – If you recite something you’ve memorized, you run the risk of sounding stilted and unnatural.
  2. Avoid jargon –Keep it simple. Avoid using terminology that is meaningless outside of your industry or organization.
  3. Rambling – Being familiar with your speech will help keep on track.

Next time I’m asked, I’ll be ready.

Put Things in Their Place to Get Organized

One of the oldest organizing adages is often attributed to Ben Franklin, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Whether Ben was the first to say it is debatable, the truth of the saying is not. The single-most important step you can take when organizing is ensuring you have a place to put everything.

Containers organize things by type: pens and pencils, cosmetics, groceries, tools, etc. They keep food fresh. They are effective for document storage and retrieval. They make clean-up easier. From the office to the home, from the boardroom to the bathroom, containers make organizing easy.

Before you run out and stock up on containers, you need a plan. You need to know the types of things you’re going to store, along with size and shape. You can then determine the type of storage option to use:

  • Cabinets
  • Shelves
  • Drawers and dividers
  • Bookcases
  • Magazine racks
  • File cabinets or drawers
  • Baskets
  • Boxes

It’s also helpful to consider the material the container(s) is made of in relation to its use. Wooden file boxes might be impractical for lifting in and out of archive space, while cardboard file boxes might not be sturdy enough for daily use.

Start with a plan

Analysis how you spend your time in the office. List of the tasks you perform there and the functional zones in your office. For example: paperwork, computer work, telephone use and reading. Ideally, these zones should not overlap.

Determine the equipment and material you need for each zone. For example computer work requires a computer and monitor; perhaps a printer or scanner. For paperwork, you will need pen, notebook, etc.

Now, work out how best to assign your office layout to each of the zones. The computer work and paper work could quite easily be side by side or even overlap. Figure out the best arrangement of your office to suit your needs.

You can start organizing your office by keeping the essential items on your desk: your computer, scanner, telephone and in box. First, you need to clean the desk. Clean out each drawer of your desk to increase space for other office supplies. Organize supplies like pens and paper clips in different containers to make them accessible for you whenever you need them.Use trays for organizing papers and storage boxes for your dated files. You may also use a separate drawer for your personal items. For the magazines and catalogs, keep them in magazine boxes.

Sort the Clutter

Go through all the material in your office; or at least, sort through the piles of unorganized material. Ideally, you go through everything. Practically, you may need to get organized in stages. Place boxes on the floor and start sticking items into the boxes. Sort items in a way that makes sense. For example, put filing together, shredding in another box and so on.

Get rid of the old items you no longer need or use: old bills, receipts or other paperwork, outdated software manuals, equipment you’re no longer using or books that you will never read. Recycle those items that can and dispose of those you can’t recycle. Shred confidential papers that don’t need archiving.

Give Every Object a Home

Set up appropriate containers for items. Look at the list above, determine what you need and go to your local office-supply store to stock up.If your space is limited, look up. Many storage options can be mounted on walls or stacked vertically. Also look at space below. Containers can be put available space under furniture or equipment.

Put It Away

Once you’ve gone through you clutter and sorted things into the right containers, assign convenient locations for everything and put everything away. This should be easy if you’ve made the right decisions in advance. Don’t cut corners, you’ll pay a price for that later.

Disorganized people make life difficult by having to always make a decision on where each item should go. Organized people have systems so the correct place for each item is obvious, requiring little thought in processing.

Firefighters talk about “containing” a fire. In the same way, containers can help you control your organization fires.

Learn to Say “No”

There was a time when I would say yes to everything. Not because I thought I had the ability to do it all, but because I felt I looked lazy if I wasn’t doing something all the time. I had to learn to say no.

There was also an issue of how to handle things I didn’t want to do; a sense of obligation to every social invitation or event taking place. Perhaps it was a sense of wanting to please people. I didn’t have a “reason” for not wanting to go, so felt obligated. I had to learn to say no.

I’d be lying if I said I never struggle with it today. However, I’ve learned how important it is to preserve time, my most valuable resource. I had to learn to say no.

Top tips for saying “no”

Keep it simple: don’t try and complicate things. Don’t concocted elaborate reasons or excuses. A simple, “thanks for asking, but I’m not able to…” is enough. You don’t need the asker’s permission to say no.

Focus on your goals and priorities: If you have a plan for managing your work and time, it is easier to say no to new activities that don’t fit into your agenda. There’s a saying that goes, “A person who does not have goals is used by someone who does.”

Be assertive and courteous: Try saying something like, “I’m sorry I’m not able to right now, but will let you know when and if I can.” This approach is polite, and puts you in a position of power by taking charge of the exchange, telling people you’ll let them know.

Look for compromises: Perhaps you feel the request is good, but you can’t meet the requirement right now. Look for ways to move the request forward that works for both parties. Be careful that compromising is not just another way to avoid saying “no”.

Leave it open-ended: Sometimes you’re in a position where you can’t say no for sure. A year ago, I was asked to consider becoming president of our Rotary Club for this year. At the time I was asked, I couldn’t say yes due to some unknowns coming in the new year. I said “no” at that moment but told them to ask again early in year. They came back in February and I was able to say yes, as the unknowns had been defined.


Sometimes you need to say “yes” to further your personal goals and priorities. Perhaps you have a goal of becoming a subject-matter expert in a particular topic or area. Getting your name out there might involve extra speaking engagements, or some side-hustle work beyond your regular responsibilities. Then, as you become more aware of what is and isn’t right for you, you can say “no” to those invitations that don’t move your goals forward.

The hidden lesson to all this? As you effectively learn to say “no”, your “yes” becomes far more powerful.