Posts Tagged ‘Office Tips’


Keeping Your Business Organized Whether You’re a “Piler” or a “Filer”

Stocksy_txp4883eb03663000_Small_53161Take a tour of any office and you are likely to see some immaculate desks and others covered with stacks of papers.  But don’t assume that the neat desks belong to more organized people than the messy ones.  The appearance of a desk often has little to do with how well-organized a person may be (which is good news for me, given that my desk looks like a war zone…).

Your personal sense of organization may depend on something called brain hemispheric dominance.  People controlled more by the left sides of their brains tend to rely heavily on logic.  As long as you can find things when you need them, a clean desk surface typically means that you are left-brained.  If you keep piles of paper on your desktop, your right brain is probably in control.

Regardless of whether you are a “filer” or a “piler”, running a business requires you to find information quickly, successfully manage deadlines and meet all accounting and legal requirements. But fighting your natural tendencies leads to disorganization.  You need to embrace your personality type and use the following tips to develop a system that works for you.

The Pilers’ Motto– Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you are right-brain dominant, filing important information in a drawer often amounts to losing it forever. This doesn’t mean that you are more forgetful than anyone else, but keeping items in view provides the visual cues that you need to stay organized.  Take comfort in the famous quote from Albert Einstein who said, “If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”  Then, use the following concepts to keep your stacks under control while easing the minds of co-workers who cannot tolerate the seeming disarray:

  • Using file folders is still important:  When a stack of labeled folders replaces a stack of loose papers on your desk, the papers look neater and corresponding information stays together.  Plus, the labels provide a better visual cue, enhancing your productivity.
  • Add visibility to the clutter: Multi-tiered vertical desktop organizers are a great way to keep folders in front of you.  They are neat, they let you see exactly what’s in them with a quick glance and they free up surface area so that you can do your work more easily.
  • Keep appearances in mind:  Face it —customers visiting your office can lose confidence in your abilities if they see you surrounded by clutter.  Not to mention that new accountant you want to hire is likely to quote you a higher rate if he or she expects to deal with excess confusion.  Use attractive systems and color coding to illustrate organizational skills.

For Filers, a Cluttered Desk Equals a Cluttered Mind

For left-brain dominant people, any excess clutter can draw focus away from the task at hand.  Your natural instinct is to create elaborate file systems organized by categories and subcategories.  You keep files on the desk only when you need them and get them out of sight as soon as you’re done.  But too much organization can affect efficiency, so keep these points in mind:

  • Avoid over-categorization: Keep information that you use at one time together.  If you need to extract 20 related file folders just to get through the day’s invoicing, you’ll lose efficiency shuffling through the paperwork — and lose key information in the process.
  • Keep related items together with color: If you can’t resist splitting items into multiple chunks, use a color coding system.  You are less likely to overlook important paperwork if you pull out all green-labeled folders when you do the daily invoicing.
  • Stay organized while away from the office: As you go on sales calls or visit vendors, important notes are likely to get lost without some organizational system.  Shop around until you find a daily planner book, an electronic organizing system or a smart phone app that lets you  organize every random thought in a way that permits you to recall it instantly when you need it.

So, pile or file away using a method that will keep you organized in a way that is consistent with your strengths and preferences.


4 Ways To Be Happier (and More Successful) Every Day

Are you happy every day? Most days? Not very often? Happiness is a tricky topic, especially for small business owners. Many entrepreneurs feel that happiness comes only after a business has reached a benchmark, but as Elaine Suess, leadership and talent management coach for Beyondbeing Coaching & Consulting in Cincinnati, explains, success before happiness is a misconception.

“Science has proven that it is the other way around,” she says. “Happiness comes first and it helps our brains work more productively to then be successful.”

Need help boosting your feelings of happiness? Take note of the following recommendations.

Meditate at your desk

Meditation has been proven to increase feelings of happiness. Try doing it for two to 10 minutes at your desk by taking deep breaths and focusing on clearing your mind. “Anything that creates more of an open space in your mind makes room for innovation, kindness and curiosity,” says Suess, adding that it is best to sit up straight with your feet on the ground and just letting go of whatever enters your mind, “without judgment.”

Practice being a “hero”

Suess says it is important to prepare yourself for positive thoughts. One way to do this is by assuming a “hero pose” before going into a big meeting or a stressful work situation. “The hero pose is the same gesture people make when they cross a finish line and lift up their arms,” she says. “Strategically making use of that one pose helps increase testosterone and decrease cortisol, the chemical related to stress.”

In addition, try taking an exercise break in the middle of your day. If you don’t have a gym at your office, consider walking around your building or parking lot. The movement will help you produce feelings of happiness.

Be grateful

Spend time every day thinking about what you are grateful for. Consider writing down three specific things that you are grateful for and continuing that practice. Your focus on being grateful will train your brain to look at the positive aspects of your life, says Suess.

Positively review your day

On your way home from work, instead of rehashing mess-ups or aggravating situations, try to focus on the positive things that happened in your day. “Think about what went well,” she suggests. “We all have a tendency to focus on our problems and wanting to fix those problems, but if we train ourselves to amplify what is going right in our lives, it will make us more effective, more positive and increase happiness.” 

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Delegation Tips for Delegation Haters

Generally speaking, small business owners aren’t the biggest fans of delegating. And it is easy to understand why. Most of them built their companies from the ground up and worry that the addition of a new person may disrupt their business environment and possibly scare away clients. But as Roberta Matuson, HR consultant and author of the new book Talent Magnetism: How to Build a Workplace That Attracts and Keeps the Best, explains, delegation is essential to building a business.

“You will never succeed as a business owner unless you let go,” she says. Here are a few of her top delegation tips for business owners who hate to delegate.

Tap into your network

Talk to fellow businesspeople in your area to get the names of possible candidates. If you are new to your city, Matuson recommends joining the local Chamber of Commerce or contacting a nearby college and posting ads on an alumni job board.

Start with small tasks

Now that you’ve hired your first employee (or contract assistant), it is time to give him or her a few job assignments. “Start by giving them tasks that you are confident they can accomplish,” she recommends. “And allow them to do those tasks the way they want. Accept the fact that your way may not be the best way in all situations.”

?????????????????????????????????????????????Focus on training

Don’t expect your new hire to know how to do everything, even if he or she has a lot of experience. You may do things differently in your business, so it is important to provide specific training.  “Give them what they need,” recommends Matuson. “You can’t throw something into someone’s lap and expect them to learn how to do it by osmosis. Give them the tools and then get out of their way.”

Be careful what you delegate

You may want to hold on to major tasks like entertaining a new client at a dinner or attending a conference call that helps close a sale. “Delegate the things that are weighing you down so you can be free to do what you need to grow you business,” she says. “An important meeting may better be suited for you, not your assistant.”

Don’t micromanage

Many of us have had experiences working for micromanagers—experiences that most likely didn’t last long (because you quit). Stop yourself from being too overbearing with your new employee by checking in semi-frequently. “There isn’t a rule of thumb for how often you should check in, but I’d say it is best to see how they are doing once per week,” says Matuson. “Every day can be a bit much.” 


Mondays with Mike: The Secret to Doing More, Faster

fast_expressions_idiomsWe’re all concerned about productivity – measuring it, boosting it, evaluating it.  Don’t believe me?  If you enter “productivity” as a search term on Amazon, you’ll have access to over 172,000 products.  We have apps that are supposed to make us more productive, and we tend to evaluate new technology based on its potential to help us do more in less time. 

I’m not immune to the siren song of products that consolidate tasks and let me work smarter and achieve better results for my clients, but I have found that sometimes the very best solution can be a low-tech approach.  My primary productivity booster is a two-fold approach.

First of all you must unplug.  Don’t panic – I don’t mean completely.  I’m talking about unplugging from the biggest timewasters while you’re working.  If you take the simple steps of closing Facebook, Twitter, and the dozens of other popular apps, your productivity will increase more than you can imagine.  Don’t believe me?  YouTube reports that more than two billion videos are watched on their site each day.  Two billion.  Let that sink in.  You don’t actually need to see Miley Cyrus’ new video during business hours, and the single best way to eliminate the temptation to meander through social media and similar distractions is to close those apps.  Period. 

Even your email account can be a distraction that inhibits, rather than fosters productivity.  If you can resolve to check email periodically, rather than constantly, you will discover that you can work more quickly and effectively as a result of the focus you can achieve when you eliminate distractions.

We’re going to go really old school for the second part of my approach.   Dig out those archaic tools – pen, paper, and a highlighter – and try my method for organizing and prioritizing your workflow.

Step One:  Divide the piece of paper into two columns:  A narrow column labeled TYPE and a wide column labeled TASK.  In the wide column, list all of the things you need to accomplish.  As new tasks occur to you throughout the day, add them right away, rather than wasting energy on trying to remember them.

Step Two:  Go down your list of tasks and in the TYPE column, put a $ next to each task that will bring in revenue in the next thirty days.  Put a smiley face next to each task that’s for an established client.  You’re going to use these symbols to help you prioritize your workload.

Step Three:  You’ll notice that most of your tasks neither generate revenue nor serve an existing client – these duties are going to be sorted to the bottom of your to-do list.  Work your way through the list, beginning with the tasks that have both the $ and the smiley face:  jobs for established customers that produce revenue are your priority.  Next, work on the tasks for existing customers – the smileys.  Third priority is the revenue producing tasks for new clients, and fourth – only when you’ve taken care of your existing clients and generated some revenue, do you attack the chores that are left on the list.

Step Four:  One of the key elements of this strategy is the way you manage your list throughout the work day.  When you start on a task, highlight that line.  That way, when you’re interrupted by a phone call or an urgent matter, you don’t have to waste time recalling where you were when you get back to your list.  When the task is complete, cross it off your list (so satisfying!) and highlight the next task.  You’ll have a concrete plan to help you work through your day and get the most out of your time.

Real productivity isn’t about the latest app or management buzzwords.  It’s about disconnecting from distractions and focusing your energy on the tasks that best reward your time and energy.   


4 Tips to Running a Business Out of Your Home

You have an incredible idea for a business, an idea that will disrupt an entire industry. You want to get started right away, but there is one problem: you don’t have the capital to rent an office space. Instead, you quickly decide to convert the kid’s playroom into your new company headquarters and get going. While this sounds like an easy solution, there are several things to keep in mind when running a business out of your home. Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a professional job service for flexible workers, offers her top tips for success.

Establish a business address

Asking your clients to send their RFPs to your home address can come off as unprofessional, especially if you live at 1234 Prairie View Circle (it sounds a little residential, don’t you think?).  “I recommend utilizing a P.O. Box or maybe the UPS store near your house as your business’s primary residence,” says Sutton Fell. “You can always change your address later on if you move into a more commercial location.”

Structure your time wisely

????????????????????Working from home comes with a fair amount of inherent distractions: your children may need to go to the doctor in the middle of the day, your dog could get sick and need attention (or a walk or two or three), the pile of laundry in your bedroom may start sending you subliminal messages to be washed. Whatever the distraction, give yourself some breathing room to work during the hours that are best for you.

“I usually plan to work around 50 hours per week, but I have young kids and things come up, so, really, that 50 hours has a buffer built in. If I work around 45 I’ll be fine,” says Sutton Fell. “Sometimes I work in the evening and sometimes in the early morning. It really depends on the needs of my family and what is going on during any particular day.”

Set up a business phone number

Sutton Fell doesn’t believe in using her home phone or cell phone as her main business line. Instead, she uses a third-party phone service provider that routes her calls via a voice message system. “It sounds like you are calling one general number and that number is then linked to different extensions, but, in reality, the call is being routed to my cell phone,” she says.

Need a phone system for your small business? Consider signing up for Nextiva with monthly phone service that starts at only $19.95 per line.

Beware of the ambient noise

Make sure to clear your office of barking dogs and crying children before your next conference call; background sound can hurt your credibility, especially if your client doesn’t know that you work from home. “Noise is a really big issue and the exact moment when your baby starts to cry could be the moment when you start to lose trust and professionalism,” says Sutton Fell. “I really suggest dedicating a separate workspace so you can have the utmost quiet throughout your day.”


5 New Years Resolutions Small Business Owners Should Keep

By now you’ve probably made a list of New Year's resolutions and already crossed a few off your list. And it’s still January. Don’t worry; you aren’t alone. Only about 8 percent of us keep our resolutions every year, according to the University of Scranton.

Defy that depressing statistic this year by sticking to these five resolutions from small business expert Lauri Flaquer.

#1. Embrace change

Don’t be afraid to change things up this year. “Look at your opportunities to grow and look at what needs to stay the same,” recommends Flaquer, owner of Saltar Solutions, a business consultancy in St. Paul, Minn. “Invite change and growth will follow.”

#2. Evaluate your performance

How good of a job are you doing? Not sure? “Many managers live in their own little worlds and are not always able to see things the same way outsiders see them,” she says. Put together a group of people whom can interdepedently tell you the truth about how things are going and considering asking your employees for 360-degree reviews.

#3. Make work fun

“Strive to be a company that your employees rave to their friends about,” says Flaquer. Focus on upcoming holidays—like Mardi Gras—and spring for a cake, beads and masks for the whole office, she recommends. Or host a monthly birthday party.

“It really doesn’t have to cost a lot of money,” she says. “I know a company that has a barbecue every Tuesday where one person brings in all the food for the department. Each person has to bring in food about four times a year, but they get to eat for free during every other Tuesday.”

#4. Clear clutter

You know that piece of inventory that has been sitting in the corner of the break room for the last two years? Get rid of it and don’t look back. If you haven’t used it, you don’t need it. The same goes for the mountains of vendor magazines piled up in your file cabinet, collecting dust.

Parting ways with your office clutter will make you feel better. “Clutter holds you back from having new ideas, fresh thinking and getting around your workspace,” she says. “Task your employees with clearing how their workspaces, too. Everyone will breathe a huge sigh of relief.”

#5. Join a mastermind group

A mastermind group is a collection of people that get together to discuss a business topic and look for solutions to problems. Flaquer recommends small business owners either create their own group with other local business owners or join one online.

“Look for a group of people who are more successful than you,” she says. “Those are the people who will push your forward and help you achieve your goals.”

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The ID10T Myth

All IT have come across them: the basic computer user who doesn’t have a clue about how a computer works, which leads to the “ID10T error”, which is code for “idiot” user. While declaring this error and dismissing the user to Microsoft support may be easiest, it certainly isn’t the most productive way of dealing with illiterate computer users.

Patience

While you may get the same question asked over and over, it’s all part of the job. Plus, if an issue continues to arise, it can be an indication of a larger problem. Practice patience and careful explanation without patronizing.

Treat others as you would like to be treated

This basic lesson learned in Kindergarten is especially important in tech support. Treat people with kindness and you’ll be rewarded with kindness – well, most of the time.

Don’t Be a Pushover

Some people may want you to go over every detail of their computer, or others are lonely and want to talk to somebody. Promptly and politely cut these people off, says tech expert Jeff Vogel. “It’s only worth the time to do tech support if you have the chance to, in a reasonable amount of time, fix a problem and make a loyal customer,” he says. Yet if you realize you will not have a happy person and a working product, end the conversation as quickly and pleasantly as possible.

The Users Will Lie To You

Much of tech support involves giving bad or time-consuming advice in the hope that the user will just go away, Vogel says. Users may say their computers are flawlessly-maintained, their drivers are up-to-date, and every program works, but they are often wrong. Knowing this brings you one step closer to the truth.

Bite Your Tongue

People may vent and throw a tantrum, but it’s almost always in your best interest to be non-reactive and calmly explain your position. If the person’s bad behavior continues, you can always leave politely.




 
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