Thursday, December 12th, 2013
The Internet is really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gives us access to a variety of productivity oriented programs that really help increase what we can get done in a day. On the other hand however, there are also a variety of sites that capture our attention time and again, causing us to procrastinate or become distracted, resulting in a drop in productivity.
If you find yourself being distracted by all the wonder the Internet has to offer when you are trying to work, there are a number of apps you can use that can really help you focus. Here are five.
For many, one of the biggest distractions is social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube, can turn out to be incredibly distracting when you really need to focus. As you can probably tell by its name, Anti-Social is an app that turns off, or blocks access to social sites.
With this app, you can configure the social sites you would like to block, and even pick other sites that are not social media related, to be off-limits for a set period of time. If you finish your work before the set time, you can restart your computer to remove the block.
The app can work on Windows, OS X and even Ubuntu, and costs USD$15. You can download a free trial, and if you like, pay to upgrade from the app. Visit the Anti-Social website
to download the app, or learn more.
If you … Continue reading the story "Block The Net For Better Productivity"
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
In order for a business to be successful, you need to have solid communication. One of the main mediums people use is email, which has enabled us to communicate like never before. While sending an email is fairly straightforward, many people struggle or ignore what to write in the subject line. The issue then arises that it can take longer to organize and spot important emails, or that an email will go unopened by the recipient.
Here are five tips on how you can write better subject lines for your emails.
1. Standardize where possible
There is a good chance that as a business owner or manager you often have emails asking the same question or that you send out similar emails on a daily, or regular basis. In order to be more effective and save yourself a little time, why not standardize the subject line for similar emails. For example, if you send out a weekly update with important information to suppliers, use the same subject line such as - 'Weekly Supplier Update DD/MM to DD/MM'.
If you and your employees use a standard format like this you could see a decrease in requests and confusion over content and what exactly the email is about. This in turn means fewer reply emails and questions and therefore more time to focus on other tasks. If recipients get used to seeing this standardized subject line then they know what to expect from an email and … Continue reading the story "5 tips for better subject lines"
Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Many small business owners and managers wear multiple hats. One minute they are HR, the next, finance, and this switching of roles and juggling multiple tasks can be constant. While multitasking is an essential business skill, it's not the answer to total business success. In fact, constantly multitasking could actually lead to decreased productivity. When this happens, there is one way to fix it: Reduce or stop multitasking.
Here are five tips on how you can cut back on multitasking.
1. Watch out for interruptions
When you run a business, you will be constantly interrupted. From phone calls to text messages and important emails, you will be always stopping what you are doing to essentially do something else. This can cause you to lose concentration and possibly forget about the initial task at hand and ultimately harm your productivity.
To prevent this you should try to minimize your interruptions. This could involve something as simple as forwarding calls to your voicemail or turning your phone and non-essential notifications to silent. Don't forget about the physical interruptions like people walking into your office. Try putting a sign on your door or letting them know that you will be busy for a certain amount of time and don't want to be interrupted.
If this is impossible, try identifying the source of the majority of your interruptions and taking actions to minimize this. You'll be surprised by how much more you get done when you decrease or eliminate interruptions.
2. Step away from the tech
Tech devices, especially mobile … Continue reading the story "5 tips to reduce multitasking"
Thursday, September 19th, 2013
If you use your PC or Mac laptop for presentations, screen sharing or during meetings, the last thing you want is for a personal message or notification to pop up. This type of interruption is annoying for the audience and could be potentially embarrassing for you. Unfortunately, without taking any steps to prevent it this problem will at some stage inevitably happen to you. Luckily, there is a way to avoid this.
Using a PC or Mac laptop for presentations has become the norm for most companies. Many managers simply log into their personal profiles and deliver their presentation or share their screens from here. This can create a problem though, largely because our personal profiles tend to have near constant notifications, something you would likely want to avoid. The easiest way to do this is to simply create another profile which is used only for presentations, when others will be looking at your screen.
Here is how you can create a new profile for both Windows and Mac systems.
- Click on the Windows Orb/Start button at the bottom-left of your screen.
- Select the Control Panel.
- Click on Add or remove user accounts which should be located under User Accounts and Family Safety.
- Select Create a new account and enter a name for the account in the window that opens. It would be a good idea to name it something like Presentation.
- Click Create Account.
After the account has been created, you will be able to select it from the main Windows screen when … Continue reading the story "Give uninterrupted presentations"
Friday, August 30th, 2013
Projects - work processes with a start and end date that are usually different from normal day-to-day tasks - are a part of every business. They can range from simple one day tasks to incredibly complex year long commitments. Regardless of the type of project, the key to success is being able to stay on top of what needs to be done by a fixed deadline. Many companies adopt the classic Gantt chart to schedule projects, but are these bar charts really the best method?
The Gantt chart was developed by Henry Gantt as a way to visually see a project's schedule. Since 1910, these bar charts have been an integral part of managing projects. Gantt charts allow us to visualize a project's start and end date along with each element or task that needs to be completed. Because many project tasks are dependent on previous tasks, these charts also allow us to see these dependencies and schedule around them.
In order to construct a chart, you first need to list all of the required tasks in a project, along with the projected time each task should take. While you can create the chart by hand, it's usually better to use project management software, largely because many projects can get complicated and there will inevitably be changes.
Because of the relative complexity of this method, some managers question whether Gantt charts are really the best solution for small businesses. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to using … Continue reading the story "Are Gantt charts useful?"
Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
Email, while a versatile and incredibly useful tool, can be challenging. One problem many people face is actually writing the email itself. Because it doesn't involve face-to-face communication, the wording we use is important, as is the tone and ideas you convey. If you use the wrong word, you could wind up offending someone or worse. One particular tough area is the sign-off with many people puzzling about what words to use.
When it comes to signing off in an email, you could use the same words over and over again but, it may not be correct for certain situations. A client who has made a complaint in an email, for example, may not appreciate an informal 'Cheers'. This will likely come across as highly unprofessional.
So, what makes a good sign-off?
If you pause to think about it for a minute, you probably use only a few sign-offs again and again. While there is no major problem with this, you might be sending out the wrong message. The key to a good sign-off actually depends on a number of things:
- The reason for emailing - why are you replying, or emailing the recipient? For example, if you are sending a rejection letter, the sign off might be different than that of an acceptance letter.
- The tone - The sign-off denotes the tone of an email and can make the recipient view the whole content in a certain way. For example, 'Cheers' is perfectly ok in a personal email with good news but … Continue reading the story "All about email sign-offs"
Thursday, June 27th, 2013
There are many measures you can take to become more productive, from using the latest technology to minor changes that make tasks easier and therefore quicker. One area many managers and business owners don't look into is making their office or workspace more comfortable. An ergonomic desk can go a long way in reducing work related injuries, while making you more at ease and thus able to work more efficiently too. Is your desk set up to be ergonomically efficient?
Here are five ways you can make your desk more ergonomic:
1. Don't use the keyboard feet
Many keyboards have feet at the top which can be used to move the top of the keyboard up. The reason for this isn't actually for improved ergonomics, but to make the keys easier to see. If you type with two-fingers, this is effective, but if you are a touch typist, keeping the feet deployed could actually cause strain on your wrists. It's best to keep the feet folded, and your keyboard as flat as possible.
2. Focus on the location of the B key
In order to reduce muscle, wrist and elbow strain, it's important that you position your keyboard and mouse correctly. While you are sitting at your desk, you should make an effort to line up the B key with the center of the desk, or directly in front of you if you don't sit at the center of your desk.
What this does is ensure that your wrists … Continue reading the story "5 tips to make your desk comfortable"
Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
A common goal of many business owners and managers is to find ways for staff to be more productive, or how improve efficiency. If you search on the Internet for tips on improving productivity you will likely be overwhelmed with the sheer number of results and suggestions. One common productivity trend is using technology, or more specifically apps, to make improvements.
Here are four productivity apps that could help make you more efficient.
A common hindrance to productivity are meetings. Everyone has to take time out of their day to attend, and it can be even harder to schedule a time to actually meet, especially when your colleagues are so busy. Doodle is an app that helps users find a time and date to meet.
It works by the meeting leader setting a number of dates and times for a potential meeting. Doodle then creates a calendar with these times and dates, allowing users to click on. The app aggregates the feedback and then suggests a time and date that works for all invitees.
The Doodle app also integrates with Outlook, Google Calendar, Yahoo and iCal, which means you can schedule meetings and send invites directly from the calendar. The basic app is free, but you can also sign up for the Premium version which gives you more functionality, such as being able to send reminders and mobile support. Click here
to learn more.
As a business owner or manager, you are likely busy and have a … Continue reading the story "Improve productivity with 4 apps"
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
The Internet has forever changed our lives, and now we expect things to be instant, including our communication. Email has played a large part in developing these expectations, and has for the most part proven to be an immensely useful tool. Sometimes, a little too useful. It's not uncommon to hear business owners gripe about email overload. If this sounds like you, don't worry as there are things you can do.
Here are five tips on how you can better manage your inbox.
1. Address last
Most people start an email by typing in the address of the recipient(s). While there is nothing wrong with this practice, it can lead to emails being sent before they are finished, which could mean more emails in your inbox asking for clarifications or you having to send a correction email.
To stop this, try writing the body of the email first and when you have finished, put the addresses of the recipients.
2. Merge social with email
Sometimes it can be hard to know who you are writing or replying to in your email. Using an app like Rapportive
, which brings social information into Gmail can help. This app puts a bar to the right-side of an email with information about the sender, including their social profiles, recent tweets and even links to their LinkedIn profile. You can look up your recipients and connect with them directly from the email.
3. Use links, not attachments
With the increasing number of cloud storage and productivity apps like … Continue reading the story "5 better inbox management tips"