Thursday, October 30, 2008

Zooming Thru Life:
Keep Yourself Safe When
Zooming Thru Inclement Weather

by Paul M. Carhart

Sometimes we get into patterns that become etched into our psyche as we go about business. The automatic pilot is on. But when the weather is bad, it's our job to break out of our rut before we snap someone's neck. Maybe even our own.

Slow Down For Crying Out Loud
We all live on-the-go lifestyles, which sometimes means zipping from here to there at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, the reality of today's freeways more resembles a parking lot than a throughway where forward motion is actually expected. And when the traffic finally opens up, we like to take advantage of that. But when it's raining or snowing, the cardinal rule is to slow down. Set a maximum speed for yourself and adhere to it. If your mph starts sliding upward, throw your vehicle into second gear if you must. Of all of these pointers, if you can keep only this one, you'll probably save your life.

Not-For-Bottom Cushions
Remember your Driver Ed class? Put at least four seconds between your car and the one in front of you. It’s called the Safety Cushion. Does anyone do this anymore? Apparently not. But when the road you’re on is slippery, you won't know it until you apply the brakes. That's where the space between you and the next guy could be the difference between a close call and a fender bender.

Keep Your Equipment Current
When your windshield is constantly getting pelted, it's important to have wipers that can do the job. They should be replaced every year or two. Sooner if you live in a particularly dry climate. Tires are commonly overlooked for replacement. You should always have a quarter-inch tread on your tires. If you know you're going to experience snow, there are snow tires that will better help you get around. However, these tires aren’t very good on everyday streets. You can also improve a standard set of tires for bad weather by siping them. This inexpensive process creates small horizontal cuts in the tire that work like squeegees against the road surface.

Get Gas
I’m not talking about stopping off at the local Mexican place either. When the weather sucks, so does the traffic. And if you’ve got a paltry eighth of a tank of gas before hopping onto the freeway, even though it might normally get you home, you could find yourself stuck in a bumper-to-bumper nightmare. The last thing you need is to run out of gas, thus becoming a contributor to the problem even after the original blockage is cleared. A good rule of thumb in inclement weather: keep it at a half tank.

Pay Attention
Watch where you're going when driving. It should be a given. If you're rubber-necking at accidents or checking out the hot young things strutting along the sidewalk, you're just asking to rear-end the guy in front of you. But where you might by pure luck escape unscathed on a bright and sunny day, your attention focused firmly on the road during bad weather might just save your life. This goes for shaving and applying make-up as well. And especially for mobile phones. It doesn't matter if you're on a headset or not, if you're carrying on a conversation over the phone, you're not present on the road.

Strap Everyone In
Even if you do everything you can to keep yourself safe, you can't control everyone on the road. Accidents happen. So strap everyone in! Then you can go about your business assured that you and your loved ones are tucked away as safe as they can be.

Despite all this common sense, we still see folks tearing down the freeway in the rain, sleet and snow. As they zip past me, I wonder how many of them will actually make it to their destination on time and unscathed. Trust me, when the weather is bad, it’s better to be the tortoise than the hare.

Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Zooming Thru Life:
Enjoy Your Cubicle Job While Building A Reputation As The Most Industrious Employee At Your Firm – Part Two

by Paul M. Carhart

Last time we reviewed a few ways to keep stagnation at bay in the office. Here are a few more ways to keep things fresh so you can stay passionate about your work.

Podcasts, Podcasts, Podcasts
There’s a new medium of delivering content to consumers and it’s called a podcast. Basically a podcast is an mp3 audio (or in some cases mp4 video) file that is delivered in a serialized format. There are now podcasts on every subject from political science to basket weaving. Some are very professional and some are homegrown, likely recorded in the garage or spare bedroom. You can subscribe via Apple’s iTunes or other aggregator applications, allowing automatic downloads of the latest edition of each podcast whenever it’s ready. Many people listen to podcasts on their iPod (thus the name, podcast) or portable MP3 player. Most computers these days also play MP3s and iTunes is a free download from Apple’s website. If your company doesn’t mind you highjacking the bandwidth in short bursts, you can download podcasts at work and listen directly from your office computer in headphones while you diligently whittle away at your workload.

Audio books, Audio books, Audio books
Audio books have been around for awhile, first on audio cassette and then on CD. But now even books are being serialized via podcast. And often at no cost. Check out to discover what’s available for free. Even books put out by traditional publishers sometimes make it into audio format, even if it’s not via podcast. You can listen to an audio CD on your computer through headphones or you can copy the contents of the CD into a program like iTunes and listen to it directly off the hard drive.

Decorate for the Holidays
Everybody decorates for Christmas. But if you really want to inject fun into the workplace, consider decorating for obscure holidays like Ground Hog Day, Box Day and Chinese New Year as well as the old stand-bys like Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Eventually your co-workers will try to figure out what on earth you’re decorating for. You can even offer a prize or some candy to the person who first guesses correctly.

Instant Messenger is your Buddy
Some places I’ve worked prohibit the use of Instant Messenger type programs. Others have embraced it. Indeed, I’ve worked at places where it was a primary means of communication between co-workers on different floors and even in offices in different states. Just make sure you won’t get in trouble before embracing the wonders of Instant Messaging technology. The most popular version is probably the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) which also interfaces directly to AOL. Microsoft also has a version. Whichever you prefer, now you can type real time messages to anyone you have a “buddy name” for (AOLese for username). You can chat, send pictures, share files, even bring in multiple “buddies” to chat. And, unlike e-mail, it’s all in real time. The best part though is that the casual observer probably won’t know if you’re chatting with a co-worker or your girlfriend. And, also unlike e-mail, there’s no record of the conversation unless you choose to save one. Did I mention it’s all in real time?

Express Yourself
Part of what can make your work day so stagnating is the fact that, usually, nobody talks about anything other than work. So try this. Put up pictures of your kids or props and posters from your favorite movies around your desk so there will always be other topics of conversation. It’s a great way to derail boring shoptalk to something you actually care about.

So there you have it. You won’t have less work to do and you’ll still have to put in your time, but maybe you won’t get burned out so easily if you can exercise a few of these workplace distractions.

Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Zooming Thru Life:
Enjoy Your Cubicle Job While Building A Reputation As The Most Industrious Employee At Your Firm

by Paul M. Carhart

Sometimes working the same office job day after day is a recipe for stagnation. Here are a few things you can do to spice up your day.

Surf the Internet
This is the obvious means of wasting time in the office. Be careful though. Some companies monitor their web network religiously, logging every single thing you do. Still others take a more cavalier approach. Be mindful of which camp your employer falls into. And never view anything on your work computer that you wouldn’t mind the world knowing about. Because someday they just might.

Look Out for the Catered Lunches
If you’re a mover and shaker in your firm, you’ll probably attend your share of catered lunches. Even if you’re not, you can keep your eyes peeled anyway. Some companies will make leftovers available in the common area. This might sound vulturish, but try to make friends with the person who orders said lunches. You might occasionally get a few items added to what’s delivered or even pull off first dibs on the leftovers before word gets out. Whatever the case, some extra chow can hit the spot during a long day.

Removable Media is Your Friend
A great way to use your office computer for your own nefarious purposes is to bring a small flash drive to work with you. You can easily store small MS Word and Excel documents on these tiny USB devices and access them during slow points of the day. Not only will you be able to type away on a private project or balance your checkbook, but you won’t look like you’re idle either, thus perpetuating the illusion of your steadfast work ethic.

Play Practical Jokes
We, as a society, probably take ourselves a little too seriously. I mean, can anything really be more important than your family and children? No one on their death bed wishes they spent more time at the office. So why not inject a little fun into your co-worker’s day? Remember to be benign. Don’t damage property or harm someone. But you can come up with funny things to do and say that will make every one’s day a little less bleak. Including yours. And remember, sexual harassment is against the law, but just plain old ordinary harassment isn't.

Web Mail is Your Friend Too
It has been said not to put anything in an e-mail that you don’t care if the whole world reads. I heartily agree. Do yourself a favor. Don’t ever use your office e-mail for personal reasons. Everything that goes in and out of your office e-mail account is considered the property of your firm. Copies of your e-mail are likely backed up and precedent has been set to have them brought into light for court cases that involve your company… or virtually any other reason. If anything, the amount of personal e-mail you generate could be put in front of you during a review or used as an excuse to fire you. So, never ever mix personal and business in e-mail. Period. That said, there is a safe way to access your personal e-mail account over the web from your office computer. It’s called Web Mail. There are a few companies who will let you do it and it’s usually free (I use You use the settings from your personal e-mail account to access your personal e-mail via a web browser (many of the larger e-mail hosts such as AOL also provide a means to check your account through their website). Now you can check your e-mail, send new e-mail, forward e-mail, etc., all of a personal nature from your office computer via the Web. When you’re done, make sure you erase the browser’s history and empty the cache to prevent others from accessing your account. What a great way to stay in touch with non-work associates, friends and family!

Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Zooming Thru Life:
Propel Your Personal or Business Image
Into the Stratosphere

by Paul M. Carhart

It’s been said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I agree and would take it further. We all have multiple means of making a first impression and it’s impossible to know where the first point of contact will be. That’s why it’s best to have all avenues covered.

These methods could easily be used to promote a book, a business or yourself for a potential job. It doesn’t matter. The elements of a refined image are the same.

Your Personal Image
When you’re meeting people, you want to be clean. You want to be well dressed. Your hair should be trimmed and combed. You should be clean-shaven, beard trimmed or make-up applied (whichever is applicable). Your fingernails should be trimmed and clean. Deoderant? Yes, please. Studies have also shown that people discriminate against overweight people. So, If you struggle with your weight, start the diet and workout now. And take a mint or chew a piece of gum. Anyone’s lunch can come back to haunt them at an inopportune time.

Your Print Image
You may think you don’t need a print image. But trust me, you do. Everyone needs at least a business card. If you’re not a designer and you don’t want to pay to have a unique one created, you can access the ever-changing library of business cards (some are even free) at They’ll even set you up with additional matching print materials if you like. If you’re promoting yourself for a potential job, you’ll need a resume too. Whatever the case, you should always leave something behind after you’ve met someone, be it resume, company brochure or a business card.

Your Digital Image
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, it is essential that you have a presence on the Web. What form that presence takes depends on what it is you want to accomplish. Companies should have a website with a dedicated domain name. More budget-conscious folk can start a free blog at such places as or set up a MySpace page. Make sure you populate your pages with content that is applicable to what you want to accomplish. Assume the people you most want to impress will read your pages and then tailor your content accordingly. If you’re looking for a job, don’t post on your blog about how you like to drink at work. If you’re presenting your company, don’t put up a page about your weekend tennis matches. Also, set up a suitable signature in your e-mail application complete with tagline relevant to your venture, your Instant Messager address, e-mail address, and mobile phone number. Now every time you send an e-mail, you’re spreading the word.

Your Mobile Image
Make sure to keep your mobile phone nearby. No one likes to get voice mail every single time they call. Still, make sure you only answer when you can actually talk. No one wants to try to carry on a conversation with you while you’re ordering at the drive-thru either. Like it or not, this makes catching your voice mail inevitable. Your answering message should be clear, concise and professional so when your callers can’t get you, they’ll feel reassured that their message will be addressed.

Second Impressions
Follow-up is the key with any contact. If you’re organized, you’ll be easily able to chase down leads without losing them. Make an attempt to memorize names. One trick I use is to immediately associate a new person’s name with someone else I know who shares that name. Give it a shot. It always works for me. Believe me, nothing is more insulting than having someone call you by the wrong name. Just try it with your spouse next time you’re making love.

If you can recognize the importance of these elements and give them the proper attention, everything will come together. And when that happens, there can only be one word for the end result. Impressive.

Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Zooming Thru Life:
Go Green At The Office

by Paul M. Carhart

Rising fuel costs and energy bills are forcing people everywhere to "go green." People today want to do their part to save the planet. There are things we can do as individuals but what if you could organize others? Here are a few ways you can lead the eco-charge in your workplace.

Do You Need To Print That?
There are a lot of documents that float around an office. Microsoft has based its entire line of software on just this kind of information and, more often than not, people feel compelled to print these documents. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely times when it is important to print out information. But what if we asked the question, "Do I really need to print that?" If it's something you can just as easily view on your monitor and you don't need to mark it up, perhaps you don't need to print it. Perhaps you could save paper, toner and the energy the printer would have used to print it if you just made a minor adjustment to your everyday work habits.

Print On Both Sides
As previously stated, there are always times that you must print documents. For those times, most modern business printers of note are set up with the ability to print on both sides of the page. If you're not sure how to do this, have your handy IT guy do it for you. If you're going to expend the toner and the energy, you might as well save some trees.

Recycle The Paper
Even the most vital of documents are not needed forever. When it's time to retire your printed pages, put them in a paper-only bin and recycle them. You'll see that every page adds up.

Recycle Cans And Bottles
I've never worked in an office where caffeinated drinks were not the order of the day. Coffee is common, sure. But aluminum soda cans are nearly just as common. For that matter, standard water bottles are the flotsom and jetsom of the office. Get another bin and start filling it up.

Turn Off Unneeded Lights And Devices
So you think you're doing everything you can, eh? Does the light in the bathroom need to be on when no one’s in it? Probably not. Do printers, fax machines and computer monitors need to be on overnight? Doubtful. Start turning these devices off whenever you can. You'll not only save your company money but you'll outdo your colleagues in your quest to save the planet.

Enlist Others
Speaking of colleagues. Once your strange behavior starts getting noticed, encourage your friends to take part as well. It’s sorta like a high school dance floor. No one may be dancing at first but, as you start doing your part, others will step up and do theirs. Before you know it, you’ll inspire a company recycling program.

You may not single-handedly stop Global Warming, but a minor tweak in your everyday office behavior might be the first step in starting a national "go green" revolution. You've got nothing to lose and we've all got everything to gain.

Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date: