Category Archives: Misc.

3 Ways Technology Can Help Your Last-minute Christmas Shopping

It seems like all of the holidays are bunched together into one stressful moment once Labor Day ends. Halloween demands candy and costumes, Thanksgiving requires flight plans and family dinners, and Christmas is a battle royal at shopping malls and fashion outlets. With all of the mayhem building up, how could anyone possibly have any time to enjoy themselves, let alone spend time with family on Christmas Eve?

This is where technology can make a huge difference! This year, if you feel like kicking back and eating sugar cookies with Old Saint Nick until the sun comes up, then here are a few easy ways that your tech gadgets can make your last-minute Christmas shopping a lot less hectic.

Buy gifts online

Of course there will be some gifts you’ll have to go into Macy’s to buy, but if there are things on the Christmas list that can be bought from anywhere (tools, electronics, stuffed animals, skin care products, etc.), then do it online. You can use your tablet or smartphone to visit sites like Amazon, Etsy or Jet.com to make your last-minute shopping rounds. Each site is easy to use, and you can find exactly what you’re looking for, all while choosing a shipping option that fits your schedule. Keep in mind, many of your favorite retail stores most likely have apps with coupons to offer, so feel free to shop on the sofa while everyone else runs to Walgreens at 2:00 a.m. If you’re really pressed for time, you can always print out the shipping details and stuff it into a card

Storyboard your ideas

The worst thing about Christmas shopping is that it’s so hard to find the right gifts for your family and friends. When time is of the essence, it’s always a huge plus to create a layout of what kinds of gifts you should buy. Using an app like Pinterest or Instagram is a great way to build a collage of possible gift ideas based upon what you think your Aunt Ginger would like. You can “pin” or “like” awesome photos that give you some inspiration when you’re sprinting from aisle to aisle. Having an idea of what you should buy is always a much better plan than going in blind, and you’ll find that it saves you some extra time to wrap gifts when you get home.

Don’t go overboard

One of the biggest mistakes a last-minute shopper makes is that they tend to overspend on account of their lazy guilt. It’s way too easy to start dropping cash on your relatives when you’re both unsure about what to buy and pressured by the ticking of the clock, so the best way to combat the anxiety is to set a limit for your spending. You can download your bank’s mobile app to manage your balances on checking accounts or credit cards on the go, making sure that you’re still able to afford drinks on New Year’s Eve. If you see your funds dipping drastically low in your checking account, you can easily transfer money from your savings instantly, giving you enough cushion to splurge on both sweaters when you can’t remember the color your dad asked for.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: 4 Ways to Protect Your Data When Shopping Online

Cyber Monday 2015 generated over $3 billion in sales, a 12% increase over previous years. This increase in online shopping isn’t without its pitfalls, however, as one in 86 transactions were targeted with some type of fraud.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, how should you ensure that your personal information is safe and secure when you shop online?

Be careful who you trust

Don’t give out your personal information to outlets you do not trust. Every time you are asked for your personal information while shopping online, ask yourself a few questions:

Do you trust the company or site you’re on? 

Before you trust an online store with your personal information, read up on what other shoppers have said about them. Search for complaints or scams that their website may have been involved in by typing “Company Name” + “Scam” or “Complaint” into your favorite search engine.

Is the store website encrypted? 

Don’t ever give out your personal information on websites that aren’t encrypted. Encrypted sites protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. Look for an https at the beginning of their web address. This shouldn’t just be on the login page, so check every page you visit.

Does the store have a privacy policy? 

Online retailers should have a clear privacy policy that tells you how they protect your personal information, and secure your credit card information.

Did you download the store app you’re shopping on from a legitimate link? 

When using apps, always use the link provided by the brand on their own website to download their app. According to New York Times, more and more “fake” apps are making their way onto app stores, just in time to fool shoppers for the holiday season. Fake apps are not only hoping to sell you lower quality products, they could also use your credit card information in dubious ways.

Remember, not all WiFi is created equal

Every restaurant, mall and office seems to have WiFi, and often these networks are open to all users. We’ve all logged into an unprotected WiFi network once or twice, but few people know how much more vulnerable you are when transmitting data over a wireless connection (and not just an unprotected one). Limit your buying activity to password secured connections you trust, such as your home, and never log in to your banking app or transmit credit card information over an unsecured public network.

Secure your devices and accounts

Where once you only had to ensure your computer had the latest available anti-virus software, now you have to also worry about securing phones and tablets. Most security software is set to update automatically, so opt-in for that option on the software you choose. But also set your operating system and browser to update automatically, as these updates can often include important updates required to keep your device secure from the latest threats.

Not only should your devices be updated, remember to choose smart passwords for all accounts. Using a password management service such as LastPass can allow you to create hard-to-crack passwords without having to worry about remembering them. Choose passwords with a mix of letters, numbers and special characters, and keep the length between 10 to 14 characters.

Consider a Virtual Credit Card Number

Some card issuers provider users with an alternate number that they can use when they shop online. The disposable number is still linked to your account, and your purchases do appear on your card statement, but since it can only be used for a limited time, or with a limited number of merchants, a scammer who comes across it at a later date cannot use it. You will need to check if your credit card issuing bank provides a disposable number, but it’s worth checking it out before the holiday shopping starts.

Your safety is in your own hands, so remember to stay safe while shopping online by following these suggestions. Happy holidays!

Technology Can Help You Eat Less During the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. The period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is a festive time that we all enjoy. But nobody likes the pounds we pile on during the holidays. It’s pretty hard to resist turkey, pumpkin pie and other calorific treats that come out to tempt you at this time, so it’s no surprise that at the end of the season some of us need to loosen our belts.

Just how much weight do people gain? It depends. One report suggests that Americans weigh on average 1.3 pounds more at the end of the holidays than they did at the start. That doesn’t sound too bad, but if you have a high BMI (or did in the past), you could gain between 2 and 5 pounds, and it’s not always that easy to get rid of.

The way to avoid six months of intense workouts to recover your beach body is to eat less, and luckily, there are plenty of technological solutions to help us do better.

Track food with apps

One way to eat less is to know what foods and how many calories you’re eating. It might surprise you, because all of those tiny, seemingly harmless snacks can add up to a whole lot of calories. Luckily, you don’t have to track these in a little book any more. There are plenty of apps to help you keep eating habits under control, including:

   •     LoseIt
   •     My Diet Diary
   •     MyFitnessPal
   •     NoomCoach
   •     Fooducate
   •     Simple Calorie Count

Most food diary apps require some initial setup (entering weight and height, for example) to help guide you on the amount you should be eating each day. Once you see how many calories that beer or slice of cake adds up to, you’ll definitely want to reduce your consumption.

Work with a nutritionist

Working with a nutritionist to improve eating habits isn’t exactly new, but what is new is that you can now do it without leaving your home. The HAPICoach app lets you work 1:1 with your personal nutritionist to set up and work on an eating plan and reach your nutrition goals via an app and related fitness devices. If you’re international, it will set you back about $25 per month, but isn’t it worth it if it keeps you looking trim?

Change your habits

One way to make eating less stick is to change your routine and form new habits that aren’t focused on food. You’ll have to stick with it, though. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take 21 days to form a new habit, but more like 66, says James Clear. Try an app to help you maintain your motivation and focus until your new behavior is etched on your brain. One approach that works is habit stacking—chaining a series of actions together until they all become automatic. A simple way to eat less would be to integrate drinking water as part of a habit stack at intervals during your day. Check out this list of apps to help you with building healthy habits.

Use YouTube

When it comes to eating less, YouTube university doesn’t disappoint. There are hundreds of thousands of videos featuring meditations and hypnosis to help you eat less or to lose weight. Just fire up the mobile app, plug in your headphones and transport yourself to a different plane where eating until you’re stuffed seems a lot less attractive.

Grab a fitness tracker

Finally, fitness trackers can help you make a preemptive strike against those holiday pounds, by helping you get a handle on how much exercise you’re actually doing. These wearable devices are small and sleek and often integrate with mobile and web apps to give you more data on your exercise habits (if you can stand to look!). When you know better, you do better, so grab yourself a FitBit, Gear Fit or other tracker to help you. Alternatively, put it on your wish list and hope that Santa is kind to you this year!

Halloween and Technology: A Spooky Treat

When you think about Halloween you tend to think about candy, costumes, ghosts, and vampires. What you usually don’t think about is technology, but you should. Technology really can level up Halloween for you and your kids.

Are you tired of trying to find houses to trick-or-treat?
For the last few years Nextdoor has allowed its members to install an app on their phone that lets them track the houses that are celebrating Halloween in their neighborhood. Gone are the days of wandering aimlessly looking for houses that have their lights on. Instead you can download the app, open the Treat Map, and find all the houses in your neighborhood that are handing out candy.

Halloween is always more fun when you are saving money
If staying home and handing out treats is more your speed just turn to your phone or the Internet for help. Slickdeals has you covered. It can help you find the best deals on costumes, candy and Halloween decorations. You can browse the site for deals or set deal alerts that will let you know as soon as something goes on sale. There’s even iOS and Android apps to help you get to those deals as quickly as possible.

You can also save money by using Honey. No, I’m not talking about Winnie the Pooh’s favorite treat but about a slick little extension that you can install in your browser. Once Honey is installed in your Google Chrome Browser it will help you automatically find and use coupon codes, get the best prices on Amazon, earn cash back on your purchases, and find real-time deals. Nothing makes Halloween fun like saving money.

You can find more than cute cat pics on the web
The Internet is also a great place to find resources for a fun and exciting Halloween. A quick search on Pinterest will return literally thousands of results for decoration ideas, home-made costumes, fun Halloween themed desserts, and more. Pumpkin Masters is another great site to visit at Halloween. They have lots of freebies like pumpkin carving templates, desktop wallpapers, and Halloween trivia.

Lights aren’t just for Christmas anymore
This last tip for using technology to spook up your Halloween isn’t for the faint of heart but it can make for a truly memorable Halloween. The last couple of years ABC has aired a reality show called The Great Christmas Light Fight. This show pits families against one another to determine who has the best Christmas lights. But displays like this aren’t just for Christmas anymore. Companies like Light-O-Rama can help you set up a fully interactive Halloween display with lights, sound effects, music, and more. With some hard work and imagination you can turn your home into a haunted mansion that will be the most popular trick-or-treat stop for miles.

So there you have it. While you might not think it at first blush, technology can help Halloween be more fun. It can help you build the ultimate haunted mansion of your dreams or it can just help you find one to trick-or-treat.

4 Apps to Get to Any Business Meeting On Time (or Early)

It happens to the best of us. It’s not that you don’t care about the appointments, or the people you’re meeting with. It’s not that you forgot about the meeting, either. But despite the best intentions, you just can’t get to where you need to be on time. You’ve tried building time into your calendar. You’ve tried moving your clocks a few minutes fast to create a buffer time. But none of it works.

When you’ve tried everything else, modern technology can help you. Check out these four apps to help you stick to your schedule better.

1. Leave Now

If you’ve ever gone “into the zone” working on something, only to realize you’re now running late for a meeting across town, you need this app.

Leave Now for iOS does just what it sounds like: tells you when it’s time to leave.

It syncs with your calendars and looks at real-time traffic info to send automated alerts when it’s time to head to your appointment. It works for any type of traveling professional, whether you’re a driver or pedestrian.

Plus, as a cool bonus feature, it helps you schedule your day by building travel buffers into your schedule.

2. Waze

If you’re always on the road, you may not even need a separate app to help you get to places on time. Chances are, you already use Waze for navigation, since it’s a great app all-around.

But did you know it also tells you when to get on the road? With the new Planned Trips feature that was released earlier this year, you can set a reminder for yourself. You can set it manually for important trips only, or sync it with your calendar for everything.

3. Moovit

Moovit is like Waze but for public transportation. It crowdsources data to get insights into things only locals know about in hundreds of cities around the world. Things like the easiest transit route, station cleanliness, and arrival times and delay incidents.In a city where people largely rely on public transit—like New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—it’s a lifesaver, especially if you feel like you’ll never get used to the unpredictability of public transit.

And in addition to all these features to plan your route, you can also plan your trip with real-time arrival and departure times.

4. Uber

Sometimes your plans just won’t work out, and despite your best efforts, you’re running late. You left on time, but the subway is running late or you’re wearing bad shoes and can’t walk as fast as usual.

You need to know when to just give up and hail an Uber to get there on time.

I’ve tried most of the “ehail” apps available, and always go back to Uber for its convenience. It definitely has some of the best coverage in terms of locations and areas served. And while they take a lot of criticism for surge pricing, it does mean Uber is probably your best chance of getting a ride during rush hour or inclement weather.

How do you do it?

Have you figured out how to battle chronic lateness as well? Share your favorite apps and tools in the comments below.

How can technology encourage you to eat better?

It happens. You’ve gained extra weight, your cholesterol is too high, and your doctor is telling you to make healthy changes to your lifestyle.

What’s the “what for”?

In making big changes from what you’ve automatically done and from the habits you’ve formed over years, the first thing you want to decide is the “what for.” Taking advice from friends, colleagues, and even your doctor is good, but without you deciding the “what for” for yourself, even the best technology won’t make a difference in long-term sustainable change.

Ask yourself why, and when you come up with an answer, ask why again. You’ll know you have it when it brings up emotion.

Once you’ve decided your “what for,” technology is a great asset to achieve your goals. With an overwhelming amount of information online about what to eat, what not to eat, and how to be healthy, these resources will help you define what you want to do, keep track of your progress, and give you resources to succeed.

Coach.me

The first step in making a change is to define where you want to get to. Coach.me let’s you define goals in healthy eating and many other healthy aspects of life such as fitness, personal growth, happiness and relationships, productivity, meditation, and quitting bad habits. You can link up friends for accountability and increased success.

Fooducate App

Once you’ve found the recipes you want to try, get help at the grocery store with Fooducate. Scan the bar code of common items to learn their health content when you’re grocery shopping to help with your decision making. Using this app not only tracks what you eat, it also tracks your activities so you can see your progress and achieve your goals.

Online Ordering

Many grocery stores have online ordering. Save time and avoid unnecessary purchases you get tempted to make in store by ordering exactly what you need for the recipes that you’re making, and have it delivered. Look up your local grocery stores to see what services are available.

Good Habits App

To support you in creating sustainable change, the Good Habits app is great for implementing new habits. Enter the habits, reminders, and for what days you want to do it, and it will help keep you accountable. For example, you can enter “drink 8 cups of water per day” and remind yourself periodically throughout the day to drink them.

Whenever your motivation slips or you fall off the wagon, come back to your reason for getting on in the first place and keep going. You’re human; don’t expect yourself to be perfect—just keep going!

 

How can technology encourage you to exercise?

It’s that dreaded time—your yearly checkup with your doctor. Your pants have grown a little snug, so you know your doctor will probably comment on your weight. But, between sitting at your work desk day in and day out, and then going straight to bed out of sheer exhaustion, it’s no wonder you’ve been skipping your workouts. There are only so many hours in the day.

Well, don’t give up on getting fit just yet! If your doctor scolds you for the holiday weight gain (or if your best friend makes a passing comment about your “form fitting outfit”), technology can help you get back in shape and feeling good without sacrificing too much of your time.

Sound too good to be true? Here are some ways fitness technologies can help encourage you to get started, and stick with a plan for real results.

Gamification makes exercise fun
Do you remember the days of the arcade game, Dance Dance Revolution, or the Wii console? Since the evolution of these fitness-oriented technologies, there’s been a growing trend in fitness called “gamification.” Fitness games (sometimes called “excergames”) typically set micro goals for you to meet, like earning points for a certain number of mile run, getting bonuses for iproving your time, or unlocking new levels for increasing the intensity of your workout. Meeting these micro goals encourages users to keep going, even if they feel discouraged by a lack of desired results like weight loss or muscle mass,which may cause them to give up in normal circumstances. In addition to the advantages of micro goals, the gamification of fitness means it’s no longer a chore to work out—it’s just plain fun.

Even better, instead of the bulky, clunky systems of yesteryear, technology now seamlessly allows users to feel like they’re actually part of the game world. For instance, Pokémon Go encourages users to get up and moving in their very own environment in order to catch coveted Pokémon characters.

Similarly, Xbox Kinect motion sensing games allow users to make physical movements in place of controller commands in order to direct their in-game characters’ movements. Imagine how much more empowering it would feel to defeat a horde of zombies with your fitness moves as opposed to boxing a stationary punching bag at the gym.

If you’re a sucker for a good cliffhanger, smartphone apps like Move and The Walk are the perfect ways to meet your daily number of steps or miles. Each chapter unfolds as you meet your goals, so if you don’t get moving, you’ll never see how the story ends. But a cautionary note: Don’t binge the whole story like you would a season of Netflix, or you’ll be sore and discouraged in the morning. Pace yourself, and let the story unfold over a few workout sessions.

See real-time results with data tracking
If that sounds great, but the thought of manually tracking your activity makes you cringe, don’t worry. These technologies can help. Instead of manually adding up calorie counts, guessing how many steps you’ve taken in a day, religiously tracking heart rate and weight, and periodically going back into old logs to see how far you’ve come, wearable fitness trackers do this automatically.

The Fitbit, Apple Watch (and the upcoming Apple Watch Nike+), and countless others have sensors that constantly track these statistics. If you can’t afford these devices, but would like a way to make tracking progress easier, a more cost effective option is to download an app like MyFitnessPal or Couch to 5K, which make it easy to import and track the data yourself.

Most of these devices and apps even output handy charts to help users easily visualize their progress. Some go so far as to provide workout suggestions based on your individual level of fitness and the progress you’ve made, taking virtually all guesswork out of exercise. And, it does all this while allowing users to listen to their favorite music or podcasts while they work out.

Fitness has never been easier
It’s incredible how a tiny device like your smartphone or digital watch can make a thing like fitness so easy. Now, you can see how many calories you burn by taking the steps up to your office, or by walking to the coffee shop on your break. These built-in mini exercises mean you may not have to sacrifice too much of your free time to get fit.

It’s no longer a chore to stay fit because wearable technology makes it fun and effortless. There’s no need to wait for your doctor or friend to say something about your weight – just grab your smartphone, download an app, and get moving, proactively. With the help of technology, you can get in shape, even if you have a busy schedule or haven’t ever stepped foot in a gym.

Have you used any of these technologies to get in shape? Share you story with others in the comments.

So You Want to Bring Your Pet to Work

You can see it in his big, wet eyes: He wants to go on the hunt with you. Every day you leave for work, he follows you to the door as if to say “You are TERRIBLE at hunting! You never come home with game. Take me, I can help!” If only you could show him that the hunt got pretty boring over the last 10,000 years, he wouldn’t make you feel so bad about leaving him alone at home. But then again, bringing your number one fan to work might make the time pass a bit quicker…

Having your pet at the office can be a lot of fun for everyone, but it can also be rife with anxieties. It’s best to take a few steps before bringing your quadruped pal into the rat race. When it comes to bringing your pet to work, this breaks down into two categories: Dogs and non-dogs, such as cats, small rodents, birds, snakes, and so on.

The rules for everything that isn’t a dog are quite simple: Unless you are planning on keeping your pet in a cage or your pet is a professionally trained animal that responds to your every beck and call, don’t bring your pet to work.

That may sound unfair, but it’s important to remember that cats and specialty pets are semi-feral, terror-prone animals. Hamsters in a ball are awesome and lap cats can stop wars, but one misstep and you’ll be at your office past 9 p.m. trying to lure your pet out of a ceiling vent with your lunch leftovers. It’s not that you can’t bring your non-dog to work; it’s just that it’s pretty much a terrible idea. If you Google “bring your pet to work,” the first 20 returns replace “pet” for “dog.” Save yourself the stress; leave Mittens at home.

Even if your pet is a highly intelligent loyalist that literally evolved to be a friend and ally to humans, there are still quite a few precautions to take before bringing him to your place of business.

1. Get unanimous approval
This will come as a surprise to most pet owners, but not everyone loves animals. Some people have terrible allergies to dander, others have deep-seeded fears and bad memories, and some just genuinely think of pets as stinky filth bombs. Unless management has set aside a day for everyone to bring pets, email your boss to get the OK. Then get in touch with your co-workers to make sure it won’t inconvenience them. If your pet has any quirks or special needs, inform everyone so they’re all prepared to interact with your little buddy.

2. Be a good owner
This is just a formality bullet point because you’re already a good owner who keeps your pets up to date on shots. Have him wear a collar with a license tag and have a leash or harness ready. Play with your pet for a half hour before you head into the office so he’s feeling loved and a little lazy, and make sure to take him outside every few hours for relief and stimulation.

3. Train your pet
This doesn’t mean your dog has to be ready for a video shoot or obstacle course, or even that it has to be particularly smart. Your pet doesn’t have to be Westminster ready, but it has to know not to poop in the office. It also can’t be barking/hissing/squawking/whipping all about the office while people are trying to work. You want everyone to enjoy meeting your pet and for your pet to enjoy being involved in a part of your life it is normally cut out of, and part of that means having pet that can reasonably control itself.

4. Create a safe place
The key here is to make your pet feel at home instead of territorial. Bring in a favorite blanket or pillow and a baby gate the day before and set up a private spot for your pet to retreat to if the experience becomes too much. Have some treats at the ready for rewarding and leading. If you know there will be other animals there (preferably of the same species), introduce everyone in a neutral space where they can all get to know each other. You can also bring toys for them to smell and get accustomed to one another as well as trade.

5. Total responsibility
As the person who spends the most time with your pet, you know that he has a unique personality on par with any human you know. But that can often blind many pet owners to the fact that a pet is still an animal that operates on instinct and that can’t be reasoned with. Accidents happen, so you have to be on your pet immediately to step in and prevent or fix any problems. Wherever Fido goes, you go. Whenever Fluffy has an accident, you switch jobs to custodian. And if, God forbid, something terrible happens with a co-worker, you should be prepared to replace damaged property and foot medical bills.

Once you take these precautions, you’ll be ready to introduce your pet to your colleagues. And with any luck, you’ll have a new office mascot.

Cubicle Courtesies

Look, it’s no secret that an office job can be a pain. You aren’t paid for commuting, there’s never enough real sugar for coffee, and the thermostat is never set to the right temperature. To top it all off, our co-workers were not selected for their social compatibility. Not since high school have we been forced to interact with such a motley crew.  It’s astounding that work doesn’t more often devolve into an unintelligible screamfest of petty grievances.

But the fact of the matter is that we will end up spending a third of our adult lives together, so it behooves us to try and treat each other with respect. If we can all do each other the following kindnesses, it’ll be the weekend before you know it.

1. Decorate tastefully

The easiest way to make work bearable is to make your cube into a sanctuary. Family photos, band lithographs, and graphic art are all great, so long as they are tasteful. Exercise common sense, though; no nudity, for example. Boticceli’s Birth of Venus is a welcome exception, but keep your framed Leonard Nemoy at home. You should also feel free to bring small religious items, but, to quote “The Man,” “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” That is, you’re here to work, so keep it low-key and, most importantly, the private matter that it is. The main point here is to decorate in moderation. Minimizing how much beige is in your field of vision is one thing, but too many pictures and knick-knacks can be distracting and send the message to your bosses that you’d rather be anywhere but here.

2. Keep the humor light

Humor is great for making and deepening personal connections, and pinning up cartoons is a great way to let your co-workers know that you’re more than just another person in a cube. But humor gets a lot of people in trouble. Far Side cartoons are ubiquitous on cubicle walls because they are unexpectedly funny yet unoffensive. But do yourself a favor and keep anything political like Tom Tomorrow to your Facebook timeline. Memes are also dangerous territory, as many are politically or sociologically oriented and are the textual equivalent of being screamed at. Unless, of course, it’s an Office Space meme; so long as it isn’t clearly directed at any of your co-workers.

3. Neutralize your smells

First off, if the office smells like anything other than paper, plastic, and carpet, it smells bad. You can do your part by showing up bathed and in clean clothes. Don’t bring scented candles to work, don’t keep an open car freshener in your drawer, and absolutely do not wear perfume or cologne. This isn’t singles paper pushing, it’s your job, and so long as you don’t smell like you just went swimming in the East River, no one cares if you wear designer fragrance. Not to mention, there are some people who are genuinely allergic to their components, so just don’t do it.

Then there are your food smells. The break room invariably becomes a hodgepodge of rather strange smells, but that is where they should stay. For those of you who like to work through your lunch breaks, stick to cold lunches like sandwiches or salads. Heating your meal just makes it smellier, so if you’re having fish or something particularly spicy or fragrant, suck it up and endure the small talk with your co-workers in the break room. You never know, you might find you actually like them.

4. If I can hear you, you are too loud

Speaking of table manners, if you’re going to eat at your desk, chew with your mouth closed. This goes double for gum. Actually, no matter where you are, don’t smack your food.

For many, phone calls are unavoidable, so make sure your ringer is turned down. If you need to take or make a personal call, do it on your cell phone outside of the office. When it comes to intraoffice communication, there’s little reason to call or pop in. It’s 2016; if it can’t be asked or expressed in an email or instant message, it’s because your computer has exploded.

And for the sake of your ears if not your cube mates, turn your music down. Ask any 13 to 25 year old—your music taste stinks. It doesn’t matter what it is, no matter if it’s reigned atop the Billboard for 20 weeks; or if it’s Pitchfork’s current favorite coveted album; or if it’s your buddy’s avant-garde, lo-fi foray into salsa-soweto-polka-fusion; nobody wants to hear it. It goes without saying that, unless you have been dubbed the office DJ, you should only listen to music on headphones, and at a volume that isn’t spilling out in sharp, tinny screeches. You were probably not hired to be a musician, either. Incessant whistling, finger tapping, or bouncing your leg is annoying—yes, to everyone. And if you love to sing, Stewie Griffin has a message for you:

6. Find your own dang supplies

You’re more likely to be told to “keep your hands to yourself” in sexual harassment training, but you should extrapolate that to mean “keep your hands within your cube.” Just because someone is out of their cube doesn’t mean their stuff is up for grabs. The only supplies you get for free are the ones out of the supply closet. If you didn’t get it out of the closet or with your own money, it’s not yours. Quickly borrowing a nearby pen is one thing—so long as you immediately return it. But if you’re constantly snagging highlighters or someone’s staple remover until they ask for it back, then you are why work doesn’t buy better pens. Your office manager would be happy to order you a new stapler, so leave Milton’s alone.

We’re all just marching towards 5:00, so in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, be excellent to each other.

Is it OK to date someone from work?

Lost somewhere in our most cherished childhood classics, behind the castles, knights and ball gowns, are the insidious plot lines that are the “cubicle courtships.” But I guess putting the glass slipper on Barb in Accounting doesn’t exactly have that fragrant, fairy-tale feel. That, or the timeworn maxim, “Don’t poop where you eat,” removed the shimmer from the show completely. The truth is that work romances can work, and many a wedding toast will attest to this. But the question therein: Should those work romances be worked for? Should you rebel against company policy, explicit or otherwise, in pursuit of your own “happily ever after”?

The short answer: Yes, so long as you write your own script like an adult, and not a senseless fable chaser. The long answer: If you find yourself in a position where a mental assessment between career and courtship is spearheading your journey forward, congratulations: you’re an adult, with adult ideas and adult capabilities. You’ve likely worked long enough in your career to have both tested and challenged your competence. And if you’re asking yourself the question of whether Prince (or Princess) Charming is worth the pursuit, it means you have something more to lose than a glass slipper. But love is the most potent of potions, and neither a call from Human Resources, nor a disapproving side-eye from a colleague, can ever really tarnish the pungent elixir of passion.

You may not be a Capulet, but there is a cap you let vulnerable to flux in your professional head space should you opt for dating within your company. Engaging in an office romance takes up much of the mental energy conventionally reserved to declining old Facebook event invites and making strides in Candy Crush. The most inconsequential events, from stolen glances in the hallways to response times in email threads, will be weighted by a stockpile of emotions, none of which have any influence in facilitating said professional events. And that’s just the prepossessing burden that comes from attraction. Action is a whole new ball game (how quickly we moved from royal balls to ball games; the limit for metaphors in love does not exist).

When it comes to dating in the workplace, action consists of two big milestones: (1) when to make the first move, and (2) when to go public. If your primary concern replaces the “when” with “if,” don’t do it, abort mission, send the carriage back home, sit back down on the bench. Dating, whether in the workplace, a distant castle, or somewhere on the Facebook feed you abandoned to read this post, only ever works out well when both parties are sure of what they want. Not sure? Don’t experiment with your job on the line! And if you’re sure? If you know that you have found the person worth the inactive Twitter timelines, if you’re comfortable with never getting past Level 87 in Candy Crush, if you know that this relationship could potentially ruin your 9-5 three months from now, but not giving it a shot would be a greater pain…then go for it.

The bottom line is this: Love is not the illustrious pursuit at the wrong end of some universally implied corporate code. Love and romance are human things that humans do, and if you’ve been promoted in life to a paying job equipped with bosses, colleagues and fax machines, then you’re probably responsible enough to navigate love without destructing the life you’ve built. Whether that love exists in the workplace, or anywhere else, is just a locational tidbit.