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What Smart Casual Dress Code Really Means and How to Wear It to Look Cool

What Smart Casual Dress Code Really Means and How to Wear It to Look Cool

Dress codes have their place, especially for business or special occasions. Smart and formal wear is pretty easy to make a decision on, and casual usually indicates jeans are acceptable and everything in between.

But what about smart casual? It can sometimes feel ambiguous and leave us wondering and questioning what exactly is appropriate.

The Smart Casual Dress Code Dilemma

Work is when we have most of these dilemmas. It’s more acceptable to risk getting it wrong at a social gathering, but work and business is where we want to make a good impression.

Suits, ties, smart dresses, and trousers are easy to pick out, but when you get the memo stating smart casual dress code you can start to worry whether you’re going to get it right. It can be hard to identify the subtle differences between smart causal, business casual, and just plain casual.

The Importance of Getting It Right

In work and business, dress code can mean so much more – which is why it’s more important to get it right. Many people dress inappropriately purely because they’ve misunderstood the smart casual concept. While smart may drum up a blazer and casual makes you think of your favorite well-worn jeans, the two together do not make a smart casual outfit. Making a good impression and fitting in with a company’s dress code is paramount, and will save embarrassment on a first day in the office.

What Exactly Is Smart Casual?

While some companies have different variations or leniency on a smart casual dress code, the majority of companies will stick to a certain look that smart casual brings.

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So what exactly is smart casual to most people? And what do we need to know in order to make the most of our wardrobe? What you ultimately want to aim for is a good balance of comfort and effort.

To eliminate any confusion, and not to be left to our own interpretation only to turn up and realize we made a huge judgement error, here is a guide to what smart casual really means.

Smart Casual Dress Code For Men

Shirt

    A good fitted shirt can bring both a smart and casual element to your outfit, depending on what you prefer. A single-colored shirt is obviously the safe option, but it’s okay to pick something more unique and patterned to bring some personality to your look.

    Blazer

      A blazer is a great alternative to a suit jacket because it shouts sophistication as well as casual. Dark colors or light single colors can be versatile and be used in many different combinations of outfits. If you’re bold enough, a patterned or brighter colored blazer or jacket can be the centerpiece and still be acceptable.

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      T-Shirt

        T-shirts can be hard to decipher in terms of whether it’s deemed too casual. However, it’s perfectly acceptable as long as you stick to plain colors; teamed with a good fitting blazer and slacks, it can be both comfortable and professional.

        Ties

          Ties don’t have to be overly formal and a bow tie can add a bit of personality into the mix.

          Trousers

            Jeans can be perfectly acceptable in a smart casual setting, but make sure they’re well fitted or dark in color – no holes or rips. Chinos are a good option, as they’re comfortable and always manage to look pretty smart, especially when teamed with a good blazer and shirt.

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            Shoes

              You can pretty much get away with wearing anything on your feet as long as they’re not trainers. Slip-ons are a good option, or some smart boots are a good way to compliment an outfit.

              Smart Casual Dress Code For Women

              Tops

                Women probably have a better array of options when it comes to different tops. The key is to keep your top-half on the smart side, and you can pretty much get away with what you choose for the bottom. Keep it conservative with floral or an elegant plain blouse, shirt, sleeveless, or flowy option.

                Blazer or Jacket

                  Of course, a light fitted blazer or jacket can instantly make an outfit look a bit more smart, and any color goes.

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                  Skirts and Dresses

                    Again, skirts or dresses are a great option for a smart casual dress code, as you can’t really go too wrong. Make sure the skirt is not too high above the knee and is teamed with a smart top. As for dresses, summer or floral is a good choice, but make sure it’s not too strappy or flimsy like you’re ready for the beach.

                    Trousers

                      Tailored trousers or chinos are acceptable as smart casual wear. A nice pair of fitted jeans with no rips or holes can be a staple part of your wardrobe because once teamed with a blazer or pair of heels it can instantly become chic.

                      Shoes

                        Most shoes are good to go as long as they’re not dirty or tatty. Sports trainers are considered a bit of a no-no unless they’re plain and fashioned, but pumps, slip-ons, and heels can all make an outfit fit the brief.

                        If you’re ever in doubt of what smart casual entails, always lean on the side of smart when picking your outfit to be on the safe side. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed when work and business are concerned. But teaming up a good balance of comfort with that professional vibe will more than likely be a winner.

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                        Jenny Marchal

                        A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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                        Last Updated on February 25, 2020

                        How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

                        How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

                        It’s 6:00 am. You have just woken up and are ready to take a shower. After the showering, it’s time to eat breakfast, catch the news by reading the morning paper, and then start your work.

                        You are feeling wonderful, relaxed, and happy. You have very high expectations for the day and you want to be as productive as possible.

                        Fast forward to 2 pm the same day. You are working in a rush and you barely had a chance to take a lunch break.

                        You start to feel a bit stressed and tired because of the busy schedule. Besides, it seems that you have to go back to certain tasks and fix them, because you didn’t have time to focus on them properly.

                        The day which started so fine has turned into a stressful one. You just jump from one task to another – as quickly as possible – without doing anything properly.

                        You wish you’d find a reset button, so that you could start your day from all over – with a different strategy.

                        What you probably experienced was this: you planned your day the night before and you felt you were on top of your tasks.

                        However, things started to go wrong when you kept adding tasks after each other to your list and finally your task list was many miles long. Your to do list also contained tasks which were pretty much impossible to get done in one day.

                        The other point which contributed to your hectic and stressful day was not understanding how much time completing a particular task would take and when to execute the task. If you had this information, it would have been easier to figure out the right timing for executing the task.

                        Finally, there really wasn’t any flexibility in your plans. You forgot to add a buffer between tasks and understand that certain tasks are much larger than what they seem outside.

                        But you know what – these reasons alone weren’t the main reason for your stress and busyness …

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                        What People Are Wrong About a To-Do List

                        Do you really know what you are supposed to do?

                        How much time did you actually spent on planning your day – was it just 5 minutes while the television set was distracting you?

                        If so, then this was probably the biggest reason why your day became so stressful.

                        When you plan your days, you should truly understand the tasks you are about to do – and what it takes to accomplish them. This is necessary especially with important tasks, because you are able to make progress with the tasks that matter the most.

                        The lack of time spent on planning will also be shown as too many big tasks stuffed to your daily list. If you haven’t broken down the task into smaller pieces, it’s probable that you are not going to get them done during the day. This in turn makes you to beat yourself for not completing your task list.

                        Finally, don’t treat creating a task list just like some secondary thing that you try to do as quickly as possible. In fact, when you pay more attention to your next day’s task list, the more likely is the list going to be realistic and less stressful for you.

                        Components of a Good To-Do List

                        When I talk about a good task list, I consider these characteristics to be part of it:

                        Balanced

                        The task list contains both important and less important tasks. Let’s face it: although we all would like to work on just important tasks ( e.g. goal related ones), we have to take care of the less important tasks as well (like running errands, taking care of your household or other everyday stuff).

                        Enough Flexibility

                        What happens when you have planned a task, but you are unable to take care of it? Do you have a plan B in place? If not, try to figure out the alternative action you can take in these scenarios.

                        Time for Transitions

                        Understand that transition times also eat your time. Make sure that when you plan your task list, this time is also included in your plans. Adding some extra buffer between tasks will make your list more flexible and realistic.

                        Not Too Many Tasks for One Day

                        Giving you an exact figure on how many tasks you should have on your daily list is difficult. It depends on your situation. But I’m willing to say that anything between 5-10 tasks should be enough for a day.

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                        Understand that certain tasks are very quick to take care of, so it’s easier to include more tasks on certain days. Just make sure that there are also important tasks on the list so that you are able to move on with your bigger projects.

                        Shield of Protection

                        Build a shield of protection around your task list, so that as few tasks as possible can land to your list and that the number of items on your list won’t increase during the day.

                        In the first case, try to eliminate the sources for your tasks. This is done by reducing your commitments and limiting the projects you have. The fact is that the more commitments (or projects) you have, the more likely they are going to end up as tasks for your daily list.

                        In the second case, make your list a closed one. I learned this concept by reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. In order to create a closed task list, all you have to do is to draw a line under the last task on the list. When you have done this, you are not allowed to add any new tasks to your list during the day. This ensures that the number of tasks is actually decreasing as the day goes on.

                        How to Create a To-Do List That Boosts Your Productivity

                        To make a list that you can actually accomplish the next day, do the following:

                        1. Eliminate the Tasks

                        Go through your commitments and decide if you really need each one.

                        For instance, I was an active member of our local computer club in my hometown, but then I realized that I don’t have enough time for that activity anymore. Although I’m still a member of the club, I don’t participate in its activities anymore. This has eliminated the tasks related to that commitment.

                        2. Take Your Time to Plan the List

                        Don’t rush creating your task list – spend some time on the planning phase. If required, “isolate yourself” for the planning part by going to a separate room in your home (or even going outside your home). This way, you can actually think the tasks thorough before you enter them onto your list.

                        Try to spend at least 15 minutes with your list when you plan it.

                        3. Move Important Tasks to the Beginning

                        When planning your day, make sure that the important tasks are at the beginning of your list. This ensures that you get those tasks done as quickly as possible.

                        For instance, as a blogger, I make sure I have the content creation tasks at the beginning of my list. As soon as I wake up, I attack those tasks immediately and they get done before I go to work.

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                        4. Track the Recurring Tasks

                        You might have recurring tasks on your list, but do you know how much time they take to accomplish?

                        If you don’t, make sure you do some time tracking to figure it out. This helps you to plan your day better, as you know how much time a task takes and if there is a certain time slot in your daily schedule, when the task could be executed.

                        5. Batch Similar Tasks

                        Look at your list and find out if there are similar tasks that you can batch-process. This way, you can get certain tasks off your list faster and easier.

                        6. Define the Tasks in More Detail

                        Don’t just include a task like “build a website” on your list; make sure you have broken the task to smaller pieces. The smaller the tasks are, the easier it is to take accomplish them.

                        7. Do Some Prep Work in Advance

                        Make sure that you prepare for certain tasks in advance.

                        For instance, I write the outlines for my guests post on Sundays, so that it’s easier (and faster) for me to start writing the actual posts when I wake up. With a little bit of prep work, I speed things up and make sure tasks get done when the right day comes.

                        8. Automate the Maintenance

                        Naturally, you could use a pen and paper approach to your task list, but try to take advantage of technology too. In fact, try to find a tool that takes care of the maintenance of your task list for you. My preferred tool is Nozbe, but there are other task management applications that you can try too.

                        9. Know Your Task Types and Your Schedule

                        Finally, when you plan your day, ask yourself these questions:

                        What else do I have on the schedule?

                        This question refers to your personal schedule. For instance, if you are traveling, make sure that your list reflects to this fact. Don’t try to “overstuff” your list with too many tasks, since it’s more likely you get only a fraction of them done.

                        Is the task a gatekeeper?

                        This question asks if the task is blocking other tasks to be executed.

                        Every once in a while, we might have a task, which has to be taken care of first. After you have done that, only then you can take care of the sequential tasks.

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                        When you focus on creating your task list in a focused manner, you’ll be able to spot the gatekeepers easily.

                        Do I have icebergs on my list?

                        This question asks if your task is actually much bigger than what it seems. Sometimes when you start working on a task, you’ll soon realize that it’s much bigger than what you initially thought (compare them to icebergs, where only the tip of the iceberg is above the sea level, but the majority of the ice is below the water).

                        Once again, when you focus enough on your task list during the creation phase, it’s easier to spot these “icebergs” and split the tasks into smaller, much more manageable chunks.

                        Is the task distraction-proof?

                        This final question asks if the task is distraction-proof. Not all the tasks are created equal: some tolerate more distraction, while others require your full attention.

                        For instance, I can check my Twitter stream or do simple blog maintenance even when I’m around my family. These tasks are distraction-proof and I can take care of them – even if I don’t have my full attention on them.

                        The Bottom Line

                        If you still have a hard time of achieving your daily tasks, make sure that you analyze the reasons why this happened. If anything, do not beat yourself up for not finishing your task list.

                        No one is perfect and we can learn from our mistakes.

                        It takes a bit practice to create a “smiling” task list. However, once you learn to put all the pieces together, things are going to look much better!

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                        Featured photo credit: Jacqueline Kelly via unsplash.com

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