Monday, February 27, 2017

Being a friend

A friend is someone that is there for you no matter what. You will have a bond with that person and sometimes you will find how much of a friend that person was after it’s too late.

Recently I found out that a person that I went to an event with each month passed away suddenly and that is when it really hit me how much of a friend I considered her. She was someone that I could talk to and laugh with and it didn’t matter how I was feeling she was always there to help me feel better about things. She always had a smile on her face even when things weren’t going perfect for her.

Over the last few days I am have thinking about her and remembering all the little silly things that have happened when the two of us were together. No we wouldn’t spend lots of time together but most months there were the three or four hours where we could talk and laugh. Actually the laughing was something that really did happen a lot and sometimes over the silliest things which was great. When she wasn’t at the event the laughs just didn’t seem to happen as freely and I know a lot of others noticed it as well.

I saw her on the 8th of February and of course we had the normal laughs and said we would see each other next month which was March 8th. I later found out that I wouldn’t be going to the event because of another commitment but I knew that in April we would sit, talk and laugh like normal. Now I am sitting and thinking about going in April and realizing that it isn’t going to be the same but I will work on making sure that I remember her in my own way because that is how I am going to deal with the lose of her.

Since hearing of her passing I have done quite a bit of thinking and remembering about all of our silly conversations. Even when I am not really focused on the overall thinking little things pop into my head and I smile and laugh about them. The last time we saw each other we were discussing a colour of fabric that I should use for a project that I was going to start. I didn’t want to go too dark because I don’t know the final design yet as it is a mystery but of course she was telling me that I needed to go darker than I went. I have been working on this project since hearing of her passing and while sitting and stitching one evening I heard a voice say “You should have done it on black and then it would have looked like a chalkboard.” This made me smile because I could hear her saying that exact thing to me so now I think I will do the project again on black so it will look like a chalkboard.

Friends are there for her no matter what and I know I am not the only one feeling the lose as she had a couple of very close friends that I know are dealing with it in their way. For me the time I spend stitching right now is how I am dealing with her passing because stitching was one of her passions and I know she would want me to keep stitching.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


It is amazing how many webinars are held each week and being in IT there are a lot of different ones that we get notified about.

Yes webinars are a great way to communicate with a large number of people at once but there starts to be a time that there just seems to be too many webinars. We have one organization that has basically one webinar a month and that is great. These are the ones that we both try and attend because it provides us with the information that we need. This organization also understands that you can’t always attend due to work and they record the webinar and the link is quickly sent out to everyone that registered to attend.

Some organizations think that having a webinar every week or two is good but that gets to be a little much. Also webinars need to be short so that people can get back to work quickly because it does impact the work day when they are scheduled in the middle of the day. Another thing about webinars is that they need to start on time and keep to the amount of time that was scheduled. If you schedule an hour webinar make sure that you respect the attendees time and keep the webinar to within that time.

Webinars can be great to communicate the different pieces of information but they can also be overwhelming sometimes. If questions are taken during the webinar it can interfere with the material that is being covered and result in the presenter going off topic. Questions are great to be answered at the end of the presentation because if for some reason the presentation is going over time due to the number of questions as an attendee you can decide if you are going to stay connected or not. We have been in webinars that the questions are being answered during the presentation and the entire presentation ends up just being a Q & A instead of the presentation that was scheduled. If a webinar is going to be a Q & A that is how it should be described when it is announced.

When you register for a webinar you will need to ensure that you have a location where you can do the webinar and also if this location is out in public ensure you have headphones that you can use. Just making sure you are ready for the presentation will also make the experience a little better.

Webinars are a great tool for the communication of the various skills but if they are not used wisely it can impact the experience of both the attendee and presenter. As a presenter make sure you are totally prepared and have tested everything before you start and answer the questions at the end of the presentation so you don’t get sidetracked. As an attendee make sure you have the time to attend without all the other distractions that can occur but know that in a lot of cases if you are interrupted you can watch the recorded version of the presentation if they do one.

Well it is now time for me to prepare for a webinar so I need to ensure I had my headphones ready so that I can listen to the presentation without all the distractions that are currently around me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Looking out our window

There are days that even with sitting and looking out a window most of the day because of how my desk is situated I really don’t see much. The window to me is just a better feeling from sitting and looking at a wall so that is why I have my desk facing out the window.

Of course, there are days that I look out the window and I really enjoy what I see. There are a lot of different things that I can sit as we live on the 10th floor of a building. This view means that there is a lot of things that I can see that people that live in a house wouldn’t see normally.

One of the things that I can see if one of the hospitals where Ornge lands. Ornge is the medical helicopters that fly in Ontario and take patients between hospitals and do the quick run to the different trauma hospitals. There are days when I can sit here at my desk and I won’t see a helicopter at all and then there are days when there seems to be one taking off or landing quite often. The hospital that I can see is a straight line from my window so I do see that quite often.

Other things that I can see while sitting here at my desk are things that people will see if they live close to something. There is a rail line that I see also from the window and it is amazing how many times I look up and there is a train using that line. It is one of the main feeder lines in Toronto so that means that it does have a lot of train traffic on it. Sometimes you can see a lot of the train cars and other times you can only see quick glimpses of the train. Also the time of the year also makes a big different as to the view of the train track that I get. The window months means that the track is a lot easier for me to see so of course I notice more of the train traffic.

The different roads around us are also part of my view from the window. I can’t see an entire street but I get parts of the different streets so I get to see parts of the traffic flow around me. It can be interesting to watch one section of a street just to see how busy it can get at different times of the day. One street is extremely busy at rush hour in the afternoon and other times times of the day I really don’t see a lot of traffic on it. Again this is something that is a lot easier to see in the window without the leaves on the tresses that block parts of the street from view.

The school and park that are also close by do get a bit of my attention sometimes when I am sitting at my desk. I don’t get to see a lot of activity in the park because I only see a small area and of course that isn’t where the swings are located. Even with the school I can see one of the entrances into the play ground so that means I normally only see the traffic around that gate with school is letting out or students are arriving.

These are some of the things that I see from the window where my desk is. Sure there is lot of things that in the distance that get a bit of my attention sometimes and sometimes even the close things that I see every day get ignored while I sit and work. The view out our window is something that I do enjoy because it gives me that little view out into the world on a daily basis while I sit and work. A window can sometimes mean it’s a distraction but most often it is just things in the distance but something that can help me regain a focus when I need to look away from the computer for even a minute or two.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Day light running lights

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act dictates all vehicles sold or imported into Canada after Dec. 1, 1989, must have automatic daytime running lights (DRLs). However, Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act doesn’t require the use of DRLs. Full lights must be on in darkness or poor visibility under S. 62 HTA.

Day light running lights are something that have been installed in vehicles since 1989 and yes I think they are great during the day because it does make a vehicle a little more visible. One thing I don’t like about the day light running lights is that some people figure that they can drive at any time with just those lights on.

When you are using your day light running lights you do not have any tail lights lite so that means that you aren’t as visible as you think. One thing that has been written about and the issue with people forgetting to turn their full headlights on at dusk or in poor weather is that with the modern cars the dashboard is fully illuminated all the time so that the driver isn’t aware they don’t have their full headlights on. I hope that this is something that is going to be looked into because there seems to be a lot of cars driving with only day light running lights on.

When I took my driving lessons it was pointed out that it is best to just turn on your full head lights at all times because then you are visible and you don’t have to worry about making sure that you turn your full head lights on at dusk. Also this means that if the weather changes or you don’t know what time dusk is you don’t have to worry about it. I know that in Ontario you are suppose to have your full head lights on 30 minutes before sunset and 30 minutes after sunrise but that means that you need to keep track of when sunset and sunrise. I like the idea of just turning on the full head lights and then you don’t have to worry about any of these issues.

The other issue with day light running lights is people figure that when the weather is bad they can just leave these lights on and been seen. In bad weather such as snow, rain or fog you aren’t as visible from behind without your full head lights on. In bad weather it is extremely important to ensure that you have your full head lights on so that people behind you can see you and people ahead of you can also see you a little easier. The full head lights also assist pedestrians in seeing cars approaching an intersection in the bad weather.

Sure day light running lights are a good idea in some ways but with the modern cars it means that more often than not people are forgetting to turn on their full head lights when they are needed. Next time you get into your vehicle even if you have day light running lights, turn on your full head lights even in the day time and know that you have just made yourself a little more visible.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Work Schedule

For someone that runs a business a work schedule isn’t something that is always the same. If you have a shop and work retail of course that means that you do have set hours and when you lock the door at the end of the day most of your job is finished until the door is unlocked the next time you open for business.

When you have a business that is either consulting or freelancing or even your own business of another type your work schedule isn’t always set and will mean that things can impact it and it can impact your personal time. Of course, being a consultant in the IT area can mean that weekends can mean those are your work days and you then have a couple of days off during the week, maybe if your other clients don’t need you.

A work schedule even now for a lot of employees isn’t just the standard 9 to 5 like it was years ago. With the mobile devices everyone is now more connected to the office and able to work remotely in a lot of cases. Sure there are jobs that need you to be in the office to perform some tasks but being able to reply of emails once you have left the office has become almost part of normal life. There are times that being able to reply to emails in the evenings or even on transit on your way to or from the office can mean that you will be able to focus on the other tasks once you are back in the office.

Working in IT and especially in the consulting business has taken me some time to get use to having the schedule that changes quite quickly. My schedule can start off as a normal day with me knowing what I am going to be doing or at least what has been planned for the day. A simple email or phone call can change that very quickly. Being able to bounce between a number of jobs is something that you learn fairly quickly when you are running your own business. It is something that you get pretty good at even when you are working for someone else. An emergency can happen at any time so that means that you have to be able to change your priority quickly but remember where things stood when you stopped the task so you can pick up where you stopped.

A work schedule can be an interesting challenge especially when you have the emergencies that can happen. Being able to be flexible and juggle a number of things can be very important and understanding that your schedule may be impacted and your weekend can before a weekend and a week day may become a weekend.

When someone makes plans and then they have to change them understand that it might not be them that is actually changing the plans it could be work. Understanding that a lot of people have a work schedule that can change extremely quickly can really make it a challenge for planning things. We have friends that have schedules like we have so we normally get plans that sometimes happen and sometimes done. A lot of our plans end up being the last minute type because at least then we normally know what is happening and there is less of a chance that the work schedule will change it but that can still happen.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Social Media

How may times do you check your social media account during a given day? Yes, just check to see how things are going in your own world. Well, it really isn’t your world but it the world that the internet has created that helped define what you see and when you see it. I am only going to be talking about the social media that I know about and I know that there is a lot more out there that can grab your attention.

I do know that there are businesses that have actually implemented a policy so that you are unable to check any social media during the day. In a lot of ways I think that is a wonderful idea because if it isn’t part of your core job then why should you be checking it when you should be working. I can say this honestly because part of one of my jobs is to monitor a social media account to make sure no one is posting bad messages on a client page.

Social media be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or anything else they can all take away from the productivity of an individual. Just logging into one of these accounts for a minute can result in an hour or so just lost because of the number of things that you can find that will catch your attention. Oh, what about that wonderful cat video, baby video or article that gets mentions. I am just going to go and check that one thing and then I will get back to work. How many times have you said that and then realized you have lost an hour without realizing it. Yes, so that is why some businesses block social media from being available during the day.

To be productive even when you are monitoring social media as part of your job you need to learn that you can check it but then you need to do something so that you don’t get distracted easily by all the other things that are going on around you. I have actually heard people get upset when a company decides it is time to block social media on the company devices during the normal business day. Some people have complained saying they have the right to check their social media during the day because they need to know what is going on in the world. Sure, you may feel like you need to know what is going on in the world during the day but what did we do before social media was part of our lives.

For me, I grew up and didn’t have social media as part of my everyday life so I can actually not check things sometimes. Sure, I get some of the media emails but even those can go ignored for hours at a time so why can’t people live without all the social media during the business day. If you need to check social media during the day that is what lunch time is for. Yes, lose your lunch hour checking everything but realize that once your lunch time is up it is time to disconnect again and get back to work.

I do monitor a Facebook page and a twitter account for a client so that means that I am on both of them during the day. What I have had to do is once I have done the checking I will either log out of the social media page so that it isn’t a distraction or I will minimize the program and then get back to work. Sure, there will be the days that I get a bit distracted on something but I have had to learn that if I want to get all the other things done that require my time I need to limit the amount of time I have the social media feed “yelling” at me throughout the day.

Social media is great for some quick communication and connecting with people but knowing that it can be a distraction when you are trying to get work done is important. Just by making sure you can control the time you spend on it is important. When you are at work your social media accounts shouldn’t be something you access when you should be working. Your social media accounts are for your evenings and weekends. If you miss something well maybe it wasn’t that important because it just flew by on your newsfeed. If someone really wanted to ensure you knew about something there is email and phone and both of those work great for the important stuff.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Home Office

For people that work from home there are both advantages and disadvantages of that. Recently I have been finding some of both and figured it was time to try and document some of them.

  • The commute time to the office is basically zero unless you end up in a conversation on the way to your desk.
  • The interruptions from other individuals is limited especially when your office is at home and there is only one other person that can interrupt you.
  • Cost of eating lunches out is limited because you are close to the normal things that you like eating so don’t have to go and grab something at a fast food restaurant.
  • Work is close for the times that you figure out the issue and it will only take a minute or two to solve it. Yes, both an advantage and disadvantage.
  • The ability to focus on a task is normally good as there aren’t all the distractions from other individuals wanting a bit of your time. You can limit the distractions by muting your phone and also not checking email sometimes.

  • If you live in an apartment, when do they do the maintenance on the meters, heaters, etc. That is during the day so you are impacted when there isn’t any power, heat or water.
  • Lunch ideas start to get boring because there are the same choices quite often especially when you are busy and don’t want to stop working to make something.
  • Your interaction with people is limited because you are either at home alone doing your work or you are talking to the same person to talk to in the evenings.
  • Work is too close when there is an issue and it can impact your free time because it will only take a minute or two to solve that people that has been bothering you. Also an advantage.
  • Your personal hobbies are too close to where your office is so that can sometimes be a distraction but you have to learn to manage it.
  • People don’t think you really work when you say your office is at home and are always available to assist them or others.

Having a home office can be very enjoyable because it gives you the freedom of being able to work when you want to work. It also makes it a little challenging sometimes when people figure that you can just drop what you are doing to help them on an issue that isn’t work related. Family members sometimes can be the worst people because they figure just because they go to an office and you don’t, you can assist with everything.

It is interesting when you talk to people about working from a home office because some people think it is wonderful and others don’t know how we do it. Of course, there are the times when personal life gets in the way of work but I think that can happen even when you go into an office. Personal issues can be a distraction either way so it is just managing them when people know you are just a phone call away. Managing the expectations of others especially when it comes to personal time is very important.

Work does come first quite often during the day but then when there is that emergency you can handle it knowing that the office isn’t going to complain that you were late arriving or you left early. The office will be there and in a lot of cases the work will still get done and no one outside our own office space will know that the work didn’t get done until the evening. If you work with clients, you may have to let them know that an emergency came up and you may not be quite as responsive for a bit of time but in a lot of cases they just want the work completed and the deadlines met.

A home office can be really nice when it is set up correctly. Know what you need to do your job and make sure that the other distractions aren’t too close by. If a personal hobby is within reach of your desk maybe it is time to move that hobby away so that you can’t just pick it up and do it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Working with your spouse

So many people say to me that they don’t know how I can work with my spouse. We always joke around that we haven’t killed each other yet but there hasn’t been a time where I have been really upset with him since we started our business almost 8 years ago.

Maybe some of the key things that makes working with my spouse as easy as it is are we have different jobs that we are both strong at doing. I am not a very technical person when it comes to servers and such so that is one of the things that I let my husband do for the business. Yes, he is the server/email/network guy that solves all of those problems. Sure, I understand some of the stuff and can do some of the other level technical stuff. I have found that over the last few years that I do enjoy some of the technical stuff so have been learning it and am now able to assist in some of the more junior level stuff. Now when I am dealing with some of the stuff that I deal with for clients at my level I always know that he is there is I run into trouble.

Now my role in the business is the technical writer/accountant/sales and a bunch of the other jobs that come our way. There are times that I joke around that he is the tech and I am everything else when it comes to the business but I’m not really. I have my key areas of focus and I enjoy them and I also know that he is there to help me out when I need someone to discuss something with.

One of the biggest things we found is that for both of us to be productive is we need our own space to work. Yes, we like being together at times during the day but we need the space where we do our work without the other one being in the way. We did share an executive office for a while and found those days were the days that we planned on doing the things that either needed both of us all the time or at least both of us most of the day. We now figure out when we need to work together and plan that time and it is amazing how well it works.

Sure there are times when we both get frustrated with the other like any couple does but when we are out at business events a lot of people don’t realize that we are husband and wife until they see our names. So yes, we are business partners and there are times when we get upset with the other but normally we can figure out our roles and we try and stick to them. I won’t tell him how to fix a technical problem and he won’t tell me how to fix up the accounting. Yes, we are the shoulder that is there to talk something through and of course we don’t always understand everything that is being said by the other but we help solve the problems just by listening and asking questions.

We know a lot of couples that couldn’t work together and that we understand. We are lucky that we have found a business that works for the two of us and we can use our strengths in the business but also be there to assist the other when needed. Working with your spouse can mean that work is around most of the time but I see that with couples that don’t work together, they talk shop over dinner and in the evenings so I guess really we aren’t that much different.

Working with your spouse for work can be a challenge but as long as you are willing to give and take it can work out.