Want to be a better employee? Check out this month's business management files.

How Safe Is Your City?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released statistics identifying the cities (100,000 or more population) that had the most crime and the least crime. After studying figures on robbery, murder, rape, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, aggrava ted assault and burglary, the bureau issued the following rankings:

Least Crime

1. Amherst Town, N.Y.
2. Mission Viejo, Calif.
3. Naperville, Ill.
4. Simi Valley, Calif.
5. Thousand Oaks, Calif.
6. Arvada, Colo.
7. St erling Heights, Mich.
8. Sandy, Utah
9. Carrollton, Texas
10. Bellevue, Wash.

Most Crime
1. New York
2. Chicago
3. Los Angeles
4. Houston
5. Philadelphia
6. Dallas
7. Phoenix
8. San Antonio
9. Colu mbus, Ohio
10. Memphis

Financial Planning

Management consultant John Graham advocates to base planning on facts, not economic projections. Economic upturns and downturns as reported in government statistics usually are short-lived, and sometimes turn out never to have happened at all after figures are revised. Projections of future economic activity are even less reliable, so don't indulge in fantasies about how everything will be all right when business gets better. Graham says to make hard decisions now on the basis of facts that exist today.

Alternative Time Management

Eleanor Bailey has a remedy for those of us who are at the end of our ropes when it comes to managing our time better. If you've tried everything else imaginable with no progress, here's her you've-got-nothing-to-lose, last-ditch effort plan:

1. Don't get up in the morning.
2. If you have to get up, make no decisions.
3. Wear pajamas, and, if cold, fluffy slippers.
4. Make a bowl of cereal.
5. Spend some time thinking about how great cereal is.
6. Gaze out a window.
7. Catch your reflection in the glass.
8. Go back to bed.

Skills Needed for the Future

Do you sometimes feel dumbfounded by the information overload of today? Jim Cathcart has some reassuring advice for those of us whom occasionally feel overwhelmed and obsolete. "You don't have to become a 'techno-wiz' or voracious reader in order to keep up," he says. "In fact, 'keeping up' is a thing of the past. Information grows too fast for anyone to be on top of everything. Staying connected will be the key. We must be in contact with people and with the flow of information. That is the only way we c an hope to be exposed to enough information to determine which among it we should pay attention to."

Cathcart predicts that the following list of skills will be the core of what it takes to succeed in these fast-paced, high-tech times:

A toleranc e for ambiguity. Not everything makes sense. Sometimes the answer to "which?" is "both."

The habit of staying in touch. If you are not in the games, you can't be one of the winners. Woody Allen said, "Ninety percent of success is just showing up."

A keen curiosity. It is more important to know what to wonder than it is just to know.

A clear sense of what you care about. Choosing well depends on knowing a good choice when you see one.

An unending exploration of your own nature. Your greatest growth will come from your natural abilities. Know your strengths.

A desire to make life better for others. Generosity works, not greed. Only the givers die with a peaceful smile on their faces, because they lived t hat way, too.

The willingness to do more than what's merely expected. Nothing advances until somebody does more than he has to.

An optimistic outlook. Have faith that more good will come than bad, and that whatever happens, you can handle it. Cultivate the qualities and the future is yours.

For Better Invoicing

Write "No Charge" on invoices as often as possible, advises sales consultant Eric Mitchell. Many projects involve services that could conceivably be charged but aren't. Remind customers of what your company is doing for them by listing these no-charge services on the invoice. The explicit listing of no-charge services will increase the project's perceived value in the minds of customers. It also makes it easier to deal with customers who seek price breaks.

"Skull with Burning Cigarette" by Van Gogh (1886).

More Smokers But Fewer Cigarettes

There are more people smoking these days, but people are smoking less.

According to an analysis of federal health, census, and tobacco tax and production statistics performed by Media General News Service, an overall decline in cigarette sales recently didn't stop more people from starting to smoke.

Other research conclusions:

  • The number of adult smokers rose 2 percent in the last 10 years, reaching 50 million.
  • The number of cigarettes the average smoker puffs on each day is a little more than a pack.
  • The number of teenage smokers, who smoke approximately 20 cigarettes a month, rose nearly 50 percent in recent years, totaling 5.9 million.

Less Expensive Hospital Stays

More than 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors, according to Charles Inlander of the People's Medical Society. While you might find this hard to believe, most of these errors are in the hospital's favor. Inlander has some advice to help curb the problem.

"During you stay, keep a log of doctor visits and medications, treatments, equipment and tests you receive," he says. "When checking out, request a detailed bill listing all those services and products. At home, compare the bill with your notes. Hospitals usually are quick to adjust or remove disputed charges."

Watch Your #!&{@*% Mouth

Language evolves just as social norms change, but a communications professional believes the wide-spread use of expletives and profanity is hindering our ability to communicate clearly, damaging the perceptions others have of us.

"Swearing is so commonplace, even in public, that many people think it is acceptable, but really it is only tolerated," says James O'Connor, founder of the Cuss Control Academy. "No one is likely to complain about your use of offensive language, but they will pass judgment on you." He believes that most people who cuss a lot know it is often inappropriate but do it out of force of habit.

O'Connor says there are two major categories of swearing: casual swearing and causal swearing. Casual swearing is lazy language that often displays a negative attitude. Causal swearing is caused or provoked by an emotion, such as pain, frustration, impatience or annoyance.

"It's not just the words but the attitude behind them that reflects on your personality," O'Connor claims. "People t oday expect and demand that everything works and goes smoothly. But accidents happen, people make mistakes, things break. The solution is not only to choose alternative words, but to practice tolerance and learn to cope, not cuss. In the process of changing your attitude and your language, you will develop greater peace of mind and improve your relationships."

O'Connor acknowledges that swearing is one of the ways we communicate and express ourselves. His objective is not to eliminate swearing, but to help people control when and where they swear. "It helps to develop a healthy and positive outlook, to stop criticizing and complaining about things you can't change," he says. "The goal should not be to become a person who doesn't swear, but a person who doesn't need to swear."