All-Day Alertness

Dear, Anita,

I seem to notice a productivity slump every morning around 10:30. Another co-worker gets sleepy right after lunch, and my officemate hits a wall around 3:30 p.m.  Do you have any ideas on how to combat our various crash times?

Tired_Worker_14716631_SmallDear, Sid the Sloth and Friends,

Everyone’s internal clock is different. So you’ll each want to take advantage of your own circadian rhythm to plan to work on your most difficult tasks at your individual peak times. A morning java jolt may get you started, but for sustained energy throughout the day, look at the following four factors.

1)      To Sleep Perchance to Dream

Getting enough shut-eye at night is critical to maintaining productivity throughout your workday. WebMD claims that reducing nighttime sleep by 1-1/2 hours results in a 32% reduction in daytime alertness. Can you imagine getting only 2/3 of your work done tomorrow? Hit the pillow on time tonight.

Borrow an idea from the Spanish and take a siesta – or as we call it here in the states, a power nap! Granted, most offices don’t have spaces conducive to sleeping. According to, our bodies get tired after about eight hours of being awake, so the best time of day for napping is somewhere between 2-4 p.m. Be sure not to go over 10-20 minutes or you’ll end up feeling even groggier.

2)      Eat and Run
When you have a lot on your plate workwise, maintaining a proper diet around the clock will benefit your efficiency at the office. Harvard Medical School is a proponent of smaller regular meals supplemented with a healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon to boost energy (this plan may have the added bonus of weight loss).

Have breakfast – but opt for whole grains, not refined carbs like sugary cereals. A couple of hours after breakfast, your body has absorbed its breakfast and blood sugar levels dip, causing the mid-morning slump. But don’t let a diagnosis of low blood sugar send you to the coffee shop for one of those frou-frou drinks full of refined sugar. Have a quick snack of carbohydrates, protein, and fat (think veggies with hummus and pita bread or a few handfuls of trail mix).

For lunch, avoid sugar and flour and opt for a non-supersized low-carb, high-protein meal to avoid the Thanksgiving-esque desire for a post-meal sofa. Omega-3s found in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon are great brain food to combat fuzzy thinking. Foods high in iron enable the body to produce hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body for energy. For that mid-afternoon snack, avoid the candy (although dark chocolate may improve brain function) and choose a piece of fruit or whole-grain crackers.

3)      Work Up a Thirst

Tired_Water_Cooler11855441_SmallYou may not be out running 26 miles, but marathon desk sessions require liquid fortification too. Sleepiness and headaches can indicate dehydration, so be sure to quench your body’s H20 requirement. Many people believe that caffeinated beverages are diuretic, negating the fluid intake. Coffee aficionados, rejoice! The National Institutes of Health could find no published support for fluid loss after consumption of caffeine-containing beverages. Caffeine after 2 p.m., however, can affect your night’s sleep, according to The Sleep Doctor, Michael J. Breus, PhD.

4)      Step it Up

People who exercised during their workday were 23 percent more productive than when they didn’t exercise, according to the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. You may not be able to squeeze in a full workout on your lunch break, but even a quick stretch can boost your spirits after hours hunched over your desk. See My Job is a Pain in the Neck – Literally for some quick desk stretches. Consider a stand-up desk. claims that standing increases energy in addition to the side benefits of toning muscles, improving posture, and increasing blood flow.  Regardless of your desk situation, if your job keeps you at your desk for a solid eight hours, get up and take occasional breaks. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that brief diversions vastly improve focus.

So, tomorrow at 10:15 a.m., I expect you to get up, make a water or coffee run, walk around the block, and curl up under your desk for an eight-minute power nap. Just don’t do it on the down-low like George Costanza on Seinfeld:

Readers: How do you combat dips in your energy during the workday?

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The Importance of Vacations
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Run Better Meetings

Dear, Anita,

Five months ago, I was promoted to a mid-level manager position. I’m now in charge of meetings for 8 employees on my team. I’m noticing a lot of yawning, texting, and doodling. How can I run better meetings?

Dear, Ben Stein’s Protégé,

Your question brings to mind the monotone professor from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Meetings are a fact of life in business. So I’m glad you have a desire to improve on this necessary evil for your team. yaM Labs claims that executives average 23 hours per week in meetings where 7.8 hours of the 23 are unnecessary and poorly run, which is 2.3 months per year wasted. Another stat on their site will make you feel a little better: 9 out of 10 people daydream in meetings. So it’s not just you.

Here are a few short and sweet tips to keep your meetings productive.

  1. Meet regularly. Outlook allows you to create a “recurring” meeting for good reason. If everyone knows there will be a meeting each Wednesday morning, they can schedule around it. Having a regular meeting to address team issues will prevent once-in-a-while meetings from dragging on and on. Which brings us to my next point.
  2. Have a time limit. And stick to it. Employees mentally check out when meetings digress. They’ll also be frustrated that it is eating into their time to finish the projects waiting for them back at their desks.
  3. Send a pre-meeting heads-up. Always have an agenda. This will help the meeting flow smoothly and not run off the rails. Sending the agenda ahead of time allows people to be prepared.
  4. Establish a no-phone policy. Unless someone’s wife is expecting a baby that day, most people can afford to leave their mobile device at their desk to minimize distractions.
  5. Encourage feedback. “Anyone? Anyone?” Alas, Ben Stein did not have much luck but if you create an atmosphere of lively discussion without going down rabbit holes (schedule brainstorming sessions separately), your team will be more engaged.
  6. Follow up. Make sure that any issues brought up at the meeting are assigned for action.
  7. Loosen up. I know you want to solidify your new position as a manager, but that doesn’t mean you need to be stiff. According to executive coach Susan Bates, “Humor actually increases your stature as a leader.”

You may want to incorporate a few other “feel good” ideas into your meetings. It’s a great time to acknowledge individual and/or team successes, project completions, etc., perhaps even award a dollar store trophy. Occasionally bring muffins or Starbucks; yummy treats are always a crowd-pleaser. Take a tip from kindergarten teachers and have show and tell once a month to facilitate getting to know individuals beyond the scope of work. Meetings don’t have to be boring to be beneficial.

Readers: Be honest, do you text during meetings?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Becoming the Boss: Advice for New Managers
Rewards from Retreats
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Back to Class

A job seeker inquires:
Do you know any companies that are willing to train for the job? – Drooling for Schooling

A gainfully employed person asks:
I want to move up to the next level at my current job. Now that the kids are back in school, I have more time for taking classes. Should I research possible training courses to help position me for a promotion, or ask my boss for suggestions? Will my company pay for it? – Chalk It Up

Dear, “Drooling for Schooling,”

Training magazine creates an annual list of the Top 125 organizations that excel in employee training programs. If you are lucky, one of these employers may be right in your back yard.

For most other companies, providing training is a bit less of a certainty. Employers often receive hundreds of responses for every job they post. While you’ll get the basic training required for any new position, fewer companies have the resources to train unskilled employees from scratch these days. When hired, you’ll likely be expected to hit the ground running. While you are searching for a job, lace up your proverbial sneakers and be proactive about learning new skills. Take certification courses or classes at your local community college or online – or try temporary jobs to develop on-the-job skills (see The Bridge from Temping to a Full-Time Position). When you complete a course or certification, be sure to add these to your résumé too.

Dear, “Chalk It Up,”

It’s always a great idea to continue your education to enhance your skills, to keep up with technology, to merit more money, and yes, to earn a promotion. Astute managers recognize that encouraging training opportunities benefits the company as well as the employee; the company gets a better-qualified staffer, and the employee is more fulfilled. In fact, cutting-edge companies offer subsidized training or tuition reimbursement as a perk. However, for a business offering education assistance, this can be a double-edged sword. Employers want to be sure that when investing in employee education, they will realize a return on investment (ROI) before the enriched team member moves on to greener pastures.

Given that school of thought, it may be wise to enlist your manager’s help with your career development – which is not to say you can’t put on your own thinking cap and provide some well-researched suggestions. Schedule a time to talk about possible areas your supervisor would like you to improve or develop new expertise, or be cross-trained with someone else in your department. For tips on setting up cross-training, refer to Documenting Worker Responsibilities in Select Family’s TradePost. Supplementary training must be well-chosen to benefit you in your current or next position at your company and dovetail with your own career goals.

Podium22445521_SmallThere’s a big difference asking your organization to fund an advanced degree versus a less costly seminar. For big-ticket degrees and certifications, your employer may be hesitant. You may be able to negotiate an agreement – in writing – committing to continue to work a set time period after receiving the degree, paying the tuition up front and then being reimbursed, or other arrangements to make both parties feel comfortable.

When considering seminars and training courses, don’t forget to factor in other costs, like airfare and hotel for out-of-town opportunities, and even time away from your duties for local or online training. Both you and your boss should look at not only the dollar investment, but the time expenditure required.

Lynda_SmallTo upgrade your skills in a less costly manner (which may be more palatable for your employers), online education abounds.  is a great resource for thousands of courses and tens of thousands of video tutorials, all available for a very reasonable monthly rate. One of my readers recommended Ed2go for inexpensive (less than $100) online classes from many continuing education partners countrywide.

After attending an approved seminar or convention, it’s a great idea to send your boss a thank you e-mail with a brief synopsis of what you learned and possible applications to improve your company’s business. Seeing measurable results will boost your chances for approval of future education requests — and also go a long way toward increasing your value as an employee in your manager’s eyes.

Readers: How do you continue your education to benefit both you and your employer?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Advanced Degrees While Employed
I Resolve to Get a Raise
How Education Impacts Your Job

The Bridge from Temping to a Full-Time Position

Dear, Anita,

As a recent graduate, I opted to take temporary jobs rather than settle for a steady, permanent full-time job I didn’t like and in order to build a more diverse résumé. I have three questions. If I want to stay on at a company I am currently temping for, how many hours do I have to work before I can get hired on full time? Second, when interviewing with other companies, some employers like to pop the question, “Why temping when you can have a regular job?” I’d like a good answer for that. Finally, how do I include temp jobs on my résumé without looking like a job-hopper?

Dear, Pursuing Permanency,

Temporary jobs can be a great stepping stone to full-time employment. A recent American Staffing Association (ASA) Employee Survey found that of temporary workers who cited obtaining a permanent job as their top priority, a whopping 99% achieved their objective! That’s a great reason to try temping – for those fresh out of school or for more seasoned workers still looking for a full-time employment.

The top reasons for choosing temporary work are:

If a potential employer asks questions that may indicate a bias against your temporary employment, counter with how your short-term stints made you more employable. Highlight the specific skills that you learned, and outline clearly how valuable the on-the-job experience was for you.  You can even throw out some ASA statistics from the survey to answer his objections.


How to list these diverse assignments on your résumé? Group them all under the staffing company, using an umbrella date range. Then, indented below, list the different positions to which you were assigned and proceed to elaborate on these as you would any other job listing (duties, skills acquired, and achievements or accomplishments while there). If you had one particular assignment for an extended period that relates to your future career goals, you may wish to break out that position and list it separately to give it more prominence.

To answer your first question last, each company may have different criteria for its temp-to-hire process. Check with your personnel supervisor for the specifics in your situation.

Readers: Have you turned a temping gig into full-time employment?

I’m delighted to be back as a Human Resources Consultant at The Select Family of Staffing Companies. Select can help you realize your dream of a full-time job. Stop by the branch nearest you to discuss your long-term career goals and how temping can be the bridge to a full-time, permanent position.

Graduates: Attempt Temping
How to Get Hired if You Don’t Have Experience
How to Brag – Nicely
Employers Think I’m a Job Hopper!

Help People Help You Find a Job

Dear, Anita,

I know networking is supposed to be important in finding a job. But I have not had any luck with it. People say they’ll keep their eyes open for me, but I never hear back from anyone. What am I doing wrong?

Dear, Unfavorable,

It’s often said that it’s not what you know, but who you know. Obviously, you need to know something to land that skilled job! However, statistics seem to indicate that 70%-80% of jobs are found through networking.  But these things can take time.

Develop relationships.
Just because you met someone at a chamber mixer last week doesn’t mean they’re going to vouch for you with their best friend who happens to be the HR director at a company you’d like to work for. Think of networking Chess_People_14866386_Smallas an old-fashioned Victorian introduction. While in olden times young men and women were not at liberty to speak to one another until properly introduced, you’ll fare better with a potential employer if a known third party gives you an introduction. If you’re feeling a little rusty at introduction etiquette at meet and greets, let Etiquette International help you out. (I’m sure Emily Post would abhor “poking” on Facebook.) Follow up with people with whom you’ve made a connection, whether you chatted about a mutual love of hiking or debated the merits of Siri vs. Cortana. You may not become BFFs, but who knows? Once you become better acquainted, you may even ask this person to be your mentor. .

Mine your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts for “virtual” introductions. See my post Lessons on LinkedIn for more details on how to maximize your online connections.

Define your target.
Businessman kneeling down looking up, portrait
Avoid telling people you meet that you are looking for “anything” in your job search. It may seem counter-intuitive, but casting your net that wide won’t make for a successful fishing expedition. Focus on your specific areas of interest, so that key words will trigger your networkee’s memory of you when they hear of a job opening in your field. You may even wish to develop a target list of a dozen companies that you would like to work for as examples.

Be specific.
Even if you don’t have a honed-in target list, you still want be explicit (not in the rated R kind of way, but in an unambiguous manner) when you ask for a helping hand. Ask, “Who do you know who… ” …may have an opening in their accounting department …has a need for marketing assistance …is expanding their sales force, etc.

When asking past and current colleagues and clients for permission to be listed as a reference for you, go one step further and request a recommendation or endorsement on LinkedIn. See tips in my post Atta Girl for facilitating a LinkedIn recommendation.

Return favors.
Don’t be a taker only; give back. It may not be like for like (after all, they may not be in the job market looking for a foot in the door). But be sure to reciprocate somehow – and send a thank you note at the very least. And while paying it forward always brings good karma, do your best to somehow repay that significant favor from a pivotal person.

Readers: How can you ask those in your network for specific help in your job search?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Networking Know-How
Lessons on LinkedIn
How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards, Part 2


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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