12 Questions That will Increase your Productivity

12 Questions that will improve your productivity

Personality is an important part of your productivity style.  I touched on this last month when discussing the DISC profiling (check that out here if you missed it).  Another key part of your productivity style is the way in which you manage goals and time.  Unsurprisingly, both goal and time management are critical to your productivity.

If you want to be really productive, you need to ask yourself some questions and be honest with yourself when answering them.

Goals and Deadlines

1.  Do you find you are motivated by goals?  Most people are, but as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry famously said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”  so you do need to have a plan in place to achieve the goal and that plan needs to be in a format that motivates and enthuses you.  So now we have to consider deadlines.  And more importantly, do deadlines motivate you or are you more like Douglas Adams who famously stated “I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

2.  If you are more like me (I work at my absolute best to deadlines) then setting yourself deadlines and breaking down plans into smaller chunks, each with its own deadline, will work well.  Non-urgent work tends to get put off if you are a deadline-oriented person, so it can help to set an artificial deadline.  Putting the deadline in the diary can help you to stick to it.

An accountability partner can really help with deadline management as well.  Particularly if you tend toward the Douglas Adam’s view of deadlines since you have to report back on your success (or otherwise) in completing the task.  In general, most people don’t like to report a failure so this tends to get you moving and increase your productivity.   Your VA can also keep you on track too, by reminding you of looming deadlines, or taking some of the routine work off your hands so that you can concentrate on the aspects that you love and are best at.

3.  Does a distant, or large goal motivate you and make you want to be more productive?  Or does it seem far off and something you can tackle later… Do you tackle that task eventually or really struggle to find it relevant when the deadline gets closer because you have now moved on to some new idea?

4.  Do you tend to get caught up in new ideas which take you away from the goal you were working on?  In other words, are you a fourteen ideas before breakfast kind of a person and struggle to complete them all (usually because another fourteen occur to you the next day) or do you tend to doggedly work on a few key ideas that you’ve thought through and feel will move the business forward toward a set goal in the most effective way?

5.  Finally, what motivates you?  Do you work fast to get finished so you can spend time with family?  Do you work methodically because you really want the thing to be completely perfect?  Are you motivated by what others think of you?  Do you need external validation in order to believe you have done a great job?

Time Management

Such a huge subject but you can boil this one down to a few key questions.

  1. Do you deal with things in priority order, or do you tend to deal with things on the basis of who is yelling the loudest about the deadline or task?
  2. Do you plan out your day, or tackle tasks as they come in?
  3. Do you like keeping a diary and marking out times to carry out certain tasks, or does this stifle your creativity and make you anxious?
  4. Do you find it easy to keep track of your activities and appointments and hate being late? Or do you tend to forget appointments unless prompted and need someone to deal with this aspect for you and ensure you are reminded of where you should be?
  5. Do you have good awareness of time? By this I mean, do you tend to get lost in tasks and not notice how long you’ve been engaged in them?  Or do you find it easy to keep track of time, always aware of how much time has elapsed?
  6. Are you more often than not slightly late for things? Or are you a stickler for being on time and tend to arrive a little early, or leave extra time for travel in case a UFO lands on the M1 and causes a tailback?
  7. Finally, do you thrive on being busy, or does it make you feel super stressed and upset if you have a lot of different tasks to do in one day?

Armed with the answers to these questions you have a much better idea about how best to track your day, divide it up (if that’s your preferred approach), motivate yourself to complete tasks and ensure you complete the right tasks at the right time.

Some of these time management challenges can be solved easily alone, others may require a bit more help.

For example, if you prefer to tackle tasks as they come in but are finding key tasks are getting left which is stressing you out, you might try to tackle certain key tasks regularly, perhaps daily.  Perhaps adding these to the diary.  You could then tackle other tasks, as they come in, fitting them around the key tasks.

If you are a person who tends to get caught up in routine tasks such as ensuring your emails and letters are perfect, or taking seven hours to write a blog, but you can whip through more specialist or client-facing tasks very quickly, then outsourcing the routine tasks and content creation might be a good solution for you.

Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself.  An important element of time management is knowing what you should do yourself and what would be more quickly or effectively completed by someone else.

If you’d like to find out more about increasing YOUR productivity, keep checking back to read the rest of the series.  In the meantime, if you are struggling with your workload or productivity, remember:

Doing what you are best at  + Outsourcing tasks that don’t bring in money = Peak Productivity.

That’s the secret formula that allows my clients to sleep at night, spend time with family and earn more money.  If you’d like some of that, give me a call.

Your Productive Personality

Your Productive Personality; productivity

Productivity:  the art of getting stuff done.  Or rather, the art of getting the right stuff done.

We’ve all had days where we’ve toiled away and achieved nothing that moves the business forward.  However, understanding your productivity style can really help you to focus on reducing those days to a minimum and tap into your productive personality.

Understanding your personality helps you to create a schedule that works well for you, set priorities in a way that plays to your strengths and personal preferences, and helps you to fit the work to who you are, so your work becomes a seamless and almost effortless activity rather than a fight to fit everything into your day.

Introversion and extroversion have a great impact on your work style.  Introverts working in a very noisy or high-energy environment may lose energy partway through the day, drained by the constant effort of tuning out the unwanted stimulation of chat, background noise and constant interruptions.  This can lead to lack of productivity in the latter part of the day.  Extroverts, on the other hand, could well find themselves thriving in that very busy environment and struggling hugely in a quiet office at home.

The recent increase in home working may, therefore, have an interesting impact on productivity, potentially increasing productivity in introverts (who may well emit a sigh of relief at the silence) whilst decreasing productivity in extroverts who may be driven mad by a quiet environment.  This could lead in turn to some interesting appraisal findings too, with highly productive, highly extrovert staff suddenly suffering a dip in productivity.

Personality Tests

Of course, introversion/extroversion is a scale along which we all fall, and as with most scales, forms a normal bell curve with fewer people lying at the extreme ends of the scale.  Thus, when considering the impact on your productivity, you will find that in some circumstances, busy and noisy might be a boost to your productivity whilst in other circumstances, silence is most certainly golden.

You have to take into account as well that all personality tests measure what they set out to measure.  By which I mean, each test examines particular areas which the creator believed were critical differentiators of personality types. So sometimes the questions are more instructive than the overall ranking you achieve.  If you read a set of personality test results and don’t believe that they reflect who you are, then in all probability, you are right and the test results are wrong.  However, you may well find that some of the questions have raised points that you find useful to consider when deciding where, when and how you are most productive.

The main benefit of personality tests is to help you to consciously think about yourself and how you work, what motivates you, what demotivates you, and what your approach to certain key areas of your life tends to be.  The score is not as important as the insight you gain from the process.

There are a range of personality tests available online, some of which are based on well-known typologies including the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) from which the Introversion/Extroversion scale is taken.  Many of us are familiar with the latter, but the MBTI also includes three other scales and our place on these four scales taken together forms a set of 16 personality types and a great insight into our productive personality too:

Introversion/Extroversion

This scale effectively measures whether you prefer to focus on the outside world or on your own inner world.

Information

This measures how much focus you place on the information you are given and how much meaning or interpretation you add to that basic information.  This is the Sensing/Intuition scale.

Decisions

Examines whether you look at the data on which you plan to make the decision and apply logic or do you look first at the people and circumstances involved in the decision.  This is the Thinking/Feeling scale.

Structure

Investigates whether you like things to be decided quickly or tend to be open to new information and options.  This is the Judging/Perceiving scale.

Your personality type is then expressed as a four letter code, each letter showing your preference in each of the four categories.  Understanding these elements allows you to see how you might alter your daily routine to make best use of your personality strengths, whether that is choosing the right location, providing yourself with extra thinking time by scheduling your daily walk prior to a task which you know you need to mull over, or creating a space in the day for research to ensure you feel confident in the decisions you are making and can implement them confidently and well.

DISC Profiling

Another useful testing methodology to identify important elements that make up your productive personality is DISC profiling.  This can be very helpful in providing insight into what motivates you, how you solve problems and what stresses you out.  It is well known as a tool to help you to understand how to communicate with different people and how to work as a team with very different individuals.  However, the insight into your motivation and problem solving is very useful when working out how to improve your productivity.

Consider how the findings from your investigations fit with the current structure of a typical workday and work environment.  If you feel there is a clash, consider how you might alter things to help you harness your productive personality traits so you can work more effectively.  If there is an area where you realise that particular activities or processes enhance your productivity already, how can you make that work even better for you?

If you’d like to find out more about increasing YOUR productivity, keep checking back to read the rest of the series.  In the meantime, if you are struggling with your workload or productivity, remember:

Tailored Approach to workload  + Outsourcing tasks that don’t bring in money = Peak Productivity.

That’s the secret formula that allows my clients to sleep at night, spend time with family and earn more money.  If you’d like some of that, give me a call.

Work From Home: Can we really extrapolate from the current situation?

ACAS has carried out a poll which shows that 50% of people working from home felt isolated and 7 out of ten were missing social interactions with others at work. This started me wondering; we’ve moved to a work from home situation in a hurry and most companies have had to put plans in place fast and without the opportunity to think through choices as thoroughly as they might otherwise.

I work from home as a VA but this took forethought in terms of choosing workspace location, layout, desk size and height, IT equipment placement and spec. It took me a while to get the right set up.

Prior to working as a VA, I worked for a company which was very invested in working from home. I was in a remote team, provided with all the kit, software and training I needed and had to sign to say my workspace met safety standards. The tech included both messaging and conferencing software and a work mobile phone. I was encouraged to keep in touch with people and to build relationships across the company. This company had been able to take the time to set things up so that they worked well for their employees, test the technology to ensure it worked flawlessly and provide training in its use. They used regular virtual meetings to keep everyone up to date on what was happening across the business and in short, were fully set up to ensure isolation was kept to a minimum and productivity could soar.

The figures from ACAS are based on a very unusual situation and made me wonder whether they were representative of what it feels like to work from home in a well planned and fully supported way. That’s not to criticise the efforts made by businesses to make the work from home thing work, nor is it a criticism of the figures from ACAS. I just wonder if the situation, the strangeness, the underlying worry, all impact and make it less like a “normal” work from home situation and thus subconsciously affect the figures. After all, we are isolated from more than just our workmates and many people are worried, for themselves and others. All of this must surely impact on how people answer such a survey.

Finder.com quote a figure of 19% feeling lonely and I believe this figure to be pre-lockdown so it may be that the speed of change, lack of general access to communication methods such as instant messaging and the general concern and worry may be impacting the ACAS figures. I suspect that it would not show such a high level of isolation in organisations where they’ve had the opportunity to ameliorate that with considered tech choices and inclusive ways of working.

It’s going to be a very interesting few months in the workplace as we negotiate our way toward a new normal. It has certainly brought working from home up the agenda, something that many in HR will be pleased about, though not, of course, about the reasons for it being there.

I expect there will be increased interest in finding ways to make this work well for a variety of sectors and HR will be at the forefront of this discussion. and it will be interesting to see whether it stays there now that businesses have seen it in action and staff have experienced it for themselves.

I’m looking forward to supporting my HR Consultant clients with the challenges and opportunities that these changes in normal working will bring and helping to support a move to a new normal where, hopefully, working from home will be an option offered more often to staff in sectors where this is feasible and appropriate.

If you are looking to work with a VA who is an expert in HR Support, you can contact me here.

A Slimmer Inbox Fast

A Slimmer In Box Fast.  Email Management.  InBox management

One of my regularly requested services is In Box taming because they can so easily, and quickly, get out of control.  Even VA’s aren’t immune to multiplying emails when things get busy, so we understand how the inbox can quickly get to a point where it feels difficult to manage.  Being able to find and move multiple emails into a designated folder location within Gmail whilst also removing them from the InBox so that it is slimmer and easier to negotiate is a really great trick to have in your toolbox.  It’s also a trick you can use for deleting multiple emails.

Labels are the equivalent of a folder and are a great way to ensure the emails you do want to keep are safely stored.  By default, emails usually have a label of InBox, (even if you add new labels) and removing that Inbox label so the email goes to its allocated folder and ceases to lurk in the Inbox isn’t super obvious.  You would think you’d remove it under Labels on the ribbon bar, but you don’t.

The first step is to create a Folder/Label for your emails to be stored in.  Name it something easy and clear such as Client X.

GMail, GMail Tips, GMail Labels, Organised Inbox

The option for labels is on the top ribbon bar.  As you can see, you can create a new label.  Click this and an option to name the label will come up together with the option to nest the label under another to create a file hierarchy.  So one option is to create a folder labelled Clients and perhaps nest a folder label for Client X under this.

Now you have your label you can go and find all your emails relating to Client X.  There are several ways to search for emails. The most obvious, though not the quickest, is to search in the search box.  This can bring up emails you don’t want as it draws in emails that mention the person as well as emails to and from them.  Useful in certain circumstances but not necessarily ideal when you are trying to streamline an inbox.

If you have conversation view selected your emails will be organised to an extent though you may still have multiple conversations running with the same person.

To quickly find all emails on the same subject, right-click on an email and then select ‘Find emails with this subject’. Gmail will now show you both the received and sent emails with the same topic.

You use a similar method to find emails from the same sender.   Just right-click on the email and select “Find Emails From…”  Be aware that choosing the sender will only show received emails so your replies won’t get drawn into the search results.  Good for newsletters or informative emails that you want to keep, not so good for conversation threads.

GMail Tips, GMail, GMail Labels, GMail find multiple messages

Once you have your search results, tick the box just above the emails on the left side and this will highlight and tick all the emails you’ve found. You can then go to Labels and add the correct label to the emails or right click to get the menu shown below and choose “Label As”.  If there are some emails you don’t want to move to that label, just untick those before you choose your label and they won’t be labelled.

Now for the magic bit; evicting them from your Inbox.  The label “InBox” doesn’t show on the list of labels so you can’t just remove the label that way.  Instead, keeping the relevant emails ticked, go up to your email menu bar, choose Archive and your inbox label is magically removed, streamlining your inbox in one click.  Or, right-click and choose Archive from the menu as shown above.  Clever or what?

For those of you dealing with a seriously overweight inbox, it can be helpful to temporarily instruct Gmail to show 50 items so that you can examine and move as many messages as possible in one go.  To do this, click the three dots on the section of inbox you are trying to thin out (usually the Everything Else section) and you can choose the number of items it will show.

For very obese inboxes you may well need to do multiple searches for the same information to get all the items into the right folder and delete the antiques leaving only the collectables behind.

You can use a similar approach if you want to put your Gmail on a strict diet.  Find your target emails, highlight all, untick anything you actually want to keep, then instead of labelling the messages, delete them.  Once you’ve deleted a few screens worth, don’t forget to go into the Trash can and empty that out to permanently delete things, otherwise they may well hang about longer than you’d like them to, taking up storage space you could use for other things.  Particularly important if you deal with sensitive information as I sometimes do.  You want that information completely gone, not lurking in the trash can.

In the past, I’ve recommended apps that can unsubscribe you from newsletters and so forth to try to keep the level of incoming mail to a manageable level. However, there have been issues with at least one of these services selling personal data so now I recommend unsubscribing yourself from things manually, as they come up in your inbox.  Yes, it takes longer, but at least you don’t get zillions of offers of stuff you don’t need from companies you’d not want to use, who purchased your data so they can spam your inbox with rubbish.

A further option for newsletters and other interesting information is to have a folder into which you can move emails that might be needed in the future.  However, for some people, including me, this renders the information “out of sight, out of mind” and they rarely, if ever, visit the folder to retrieve the information, so this is one to treat with care and a realistic understanding of your own working practices.

Hopefully, this will help you to slim down your Gmail inbox to manageable proportions and once you have it under control you might find some useful tips here on keeping it slim and efficient.

Alternatively, if you are one of those people whose inbox is so huge that it contains every email you’ve ever received or sent, and you just can’t see where to start, why not call in an expert VA to get that bad boy sorted and under control, and set up some systems that will work for you, so you can keep it to a healthy weight in future.  Click here to contact me to discuss your requirements.

Winterproof Your Business

Winter Planning, Business Planning HR Business, small business

Winter weather can cause some real issues and one of the biggest problems can be staff struggling to make it into work.  No one wants their staff to take risks or become injured, but equally, it is important that business does not grind to a halt either.  Depending on your sector, the impact can range from mild inconvenience for clients through to life-threatening danger if emergency services are insufficiently staffed.

It makes sense to plan for such eventualities, after all, winter arrives every year, though sometimes the media makes it sound like snow, rain and cold weather come as a surprise each time.

Including weather issues in your business continuity plan, alongside things like utility failures, cyber attacks and epidemics of Flu makes a lot of sense .  Planning ahead allows you to consider many of the impacts and decide how you will manage them.  If a particular department or role is business-critical, what steps will you take to ensure this role can be covered if the employee cannot attend work?

Including a weather policy in your staff handbook ensures everyone is clear about what the company’s expectations are, to whom they should report difficulties and, if appropriate, the radius within which it is expected that staff should, mobility issues permitting, attempt to walk to work.

Be clear about the circumstances in which you will pay your staff to remain at home and make sure the rules are fair and transparent.  May staff take holiday entitlement to avoid the bad weather?  Will there be any restrictions on this?

Naturally, the safety of your staff and clients will be a priority and some common considerations include:

Gritting the car park and footpaths.  On a large site this might need a decision on grit stocks, staff out of hours attendance, 24 hour rotating shift patterns or similar.  The safety of not only staff, but also customers and contractors needs to be considered.

Snow, ice and heavy rain can all create slip hazards indoors via water on the floor.  Will you provide buckets near the doorway in which you can stand umbrellas?  Thick, absorbent, non-skid mats in doorways can reduce water transfer and it’s worth considering whether you have sufficient yellow warning signs available to place near doorways where the water will be at its worst?  Cleaning staff might need to be asked to work overtime to keep the floors as dry as possible throughout the day and remove salt and grit that has been tracked across both hard floors and carpets.

Hazardous driving conditions – if you can possibly avoid staff needing to attend work during very bad weather, for example red or amber weather warnings, consider whether you can do so.  Allowing key personnel to work from home if necessary can be a great way to get around this problem, and make your staff feel supported.  Telecoms and IT systems can all be set up to allow this to happen easily.

The option to work from home at least some of the time is a very popular perk and being able to offer this can help to attract the best staff, in addition to providing the company with the flexibility to continue working during poor weather.  It is helpful to add a remote working policy to the staff handbook and make clear that such working is at management discretion.

Guidance surrounding device use and security may also be needed as part of the handbook depending on the level of security and confidentiality involved.  Remember that GDPR will still apply so personal data must be protected off site just as carefully as it is on-site.

If your business involves care for vulnerable people, will you organise transport to pick up those who are unable to get to work easily?

There are a number of areas that need to be considered and these are just some of them.  The needs of the individual business and its staff need to be carefully balanced.  Full and effective documentation which clearly outlines plans and expectations whilst prioritising safety and business continuity will help your business to plan ahead and to keep running throughout any difficult weather.

I support HR consultants with a range of HR Administration, including manuals, handbooks and documentation.  Get in touch with me here to find out how I can help you to get more done, in less time, profitably.

Elves in the Workplace: The Role of Elven Resources

He speeds through the sky in his sleigh, delivering gifts to every good little boy and girl in the world. He’s done it for so many years that he makes it look effortless.  But have you ever stopped to consider how much organisation lies behind the magic of Santa Claus and his amazing Christmas Eve exploits?

Naturally, Santa Claus uses VA’s throughout the year;  it’s the most flexible and cost-effective way to ensure everything is organised properly and happens on schedule.  He has a team of them and you can read about how they support him here and here.  These helpful souls ensure that everything from the sleigh maintenance to the warehouse stock control are kept rigorously under control.

In most cases, Santa needs only two or three of each type of VA.  The exception to this is his Elven Resources Support.  In common with many business owners, Santa Claus uses external Elven Resources Consultants and HR VA’s to help him to ensure he remains on the right side of the law, acts in a fair and reasonable way toward his staff of Elves, recruits effectively and without bias, and of course provides a safe, fair and inclusive environment.  Despite the speed at which he drives that sleigh, Santa is basically a law-abiding gentleman and in addition, he is deeply compassionate and really cares for his team of Elves and reindeer.  Even when those same Elves are testing his patience to its limits.

Elves, Elven Resources, Christmas Elves, Elf-On-The-Shelf

Santa’s Elven Resources Support staff is quite numerous.  The reason for this is simple;  Elves are, how shall we put it politely?  A bit giddy.  All the time.  But especially in the run-up to Christmas.  Elves can test the patience of the most saintly person and even Santa Claus is not immune to frustration when faced with a deputation of Elves complaining about an Elf cooking fish in the warehouse microwave and stinking up the room.

Every year the ER department and an increasingly irascible Santa are forced to add new and sometimes very specific, clauses into the ever-expanding Staff Handbook and the Elf and Safety Handbook.  Clauses which have been added in 2019 include:

“Elves that pin other Elves slippers (or any other part of an Elf or an Elf’s clothing) to any inanimate object will be disciplined”.

“Shaving rude words into the Reindeer’s fur whilst they sleep will not be tolerated”

“Do NOT tie, stick or pin anything to the Reindeer, especially not other Elves”

“Do not place fake dog turds on the conveyor belt”

“Elves may not ride on the conveyor belt”

“Joyriding in the sleigh is a disciplinary offence”

“Do not pin “Kick Me Hard” notices to the back of Santa’s jacket.

Elves, Elven Resources, Elf-On-The-Shelf

And so it goes on.  And every year, partly to assuage their frustration, the Elven Resources Department creates an informal top ten of the most interesting and original disciplinary cases they’ve dealt with.  Because when it comes to Elves, you just never know what they are going to do next.

And here, for your delectation, are the top ten for 2019

10 – the Elf that tied Rudolph’s legs together whilst he slept and then videoed poor Rudolph waking up and falling over.

9 – The Elf that broke wind in the cafeteria and tried to light it, causing damage to himself and the floor when he dropped the match and it set fire to his slippers and the carpet.

8 – The Elves that had a fistfight over whether one of them had let the other Elf’s chair down half a inch whilst the Elf in question was out at lunch.

7- The elves that sneaked into the Jewellery warehouse and were caught on CCTV getting very friendly indeed.

6 – The elf that sneaked into the cafeteria and put vodka into the water carafes so that all the Elves got drunk and had to be sent home.

5 – the Admin Elf who didn’t know how to process orders.  Rather than ask, he hid the orders in the cupboard.  Something that was only discovered when Stock Control VA realised that the 14 million LOL dolls she’d ordered had not arrived, and had subsequently sold out across the world, causing a large number of children to be disappointed on Christmas Day.

4- The elf that claimed his mother had died four times this year in order to gain extra time off.

3- The elf with a bad back who posted a video of herself on Facebook, waterskiing in the Bahamas during her sick leave.

2- The Elf that shaved the word Poop into Blitzens’ fur whilst she slept.

1 – The Elf that got drunk at the office party, stripped naked and streaked around the room. When Santa Claus intervened, the Elf threw up on Santa Claus’ boots.

As you can imagine, with all these Elf-y amusements going on, there is a great need for HR VA’s who can keep a straight face and take rapid notes in grievance hearings and disciplinaries.  Elves talk as fast as they move, so speed is of the essence in capturing the key points of the discussion and writing them up clearly and rapidly after the meeting.  To read more about the importance of note-taking in such meetings, go here.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, do check out some of my other Christmas posts, including this one, which is also HR Related.  Of course, you may prefer to check out my more serious, and probably more useful, posts also.  And if you are looking for a VA with HR experience, or just a VA with a sense of humour and a love of organisation, get in touch.  You can contact me here.

A Dozen Ways to get Organised

Organised, Filing, Admin, Organisation, Office Organisation

This post is in praise of something quite small, quite humble, but incredibly useful:  the Sticky note:  I love them and as an organisational tool they have much to recommend them.  Here are a dozen uses for these little notes, some of which you might not have thought of.

1.    Blinding flashes of memory.

You are in the middle of task A & realise you need to do Task B on Thursday.  Scribble on a sticky note & stick it to Thursday’s diary page.

2.    Planning a large project?

Create your project plan on a whiteboard or giant roll of paper.  Allocate a different colour sticky note for each project phase, type of task or person involved and you can move them around until your project is streamlined and effective.  If you are looking for ways to bring your project in on time and under budget, check out some of my tips for project planning here and here.

Sticky Note Sticky notes uses for sticky notes sticky notes for planning

3.    Retrieve the label or spine card from the ring binder.

You know the ones… little plastic window with a bit of card in it… you can spend days trying to tease that bit of card out of the window so you can turn it over and write on it, by which time it tends to look as though it has been chewed by locusts.   OR, you can poke the corner of a sticky note down the window, press hard to make the sticky note adhere to the card insert, and carefully pull the card out.

4.    Use the sticky side to clean out your keyboard.

Push the sticky part in between the keys and drag it back and forth to clean the sides of the keys.

Sticky note; uses for sticky note; note; notes

5.  Motivation or Reminder

Stick them to household items like mirrors or doors to remind you to do, or not do something.  Whether that is aimed at changing a habit or just a reminder to pick up the dog food.  They are great for reminding you to put petrol in the car.  Stick it to the steering wheel.

6.  All Together Now

Fold a note over two pieces of paper to keep them together when you can’t find a paper clip.

7.  Where was I again?

Book marks… they don’t mark the book, but equally, they don’t fall out either so your place is safe.

book mark;  books

8.  Don’t be a Vandal

Make notes in books that you cannot, or do not want to, write in.

9.  Avoid Conflict

Planning seating charts. Move everyone about until you are quite certain that you’ve seated everyone in a way that minimises the risk of World War Three breaking out over the starters.

9.    Flag it up

Use as flags in books and long documents to index them.  You can also use a colour code to denote particular concepts if your document is long and complicated.  For more ideas for using colour coding to increase your organisation, check out this blog post.

Flag; index flags; sticky flags; Sticky Note; sticky notes

11.  File it and Find it

Cut the sticky edge off and use it as a temporary file label. You can also use them, with the addition of Sellotape around the edges, as a more permanent file label solution and even colour code files with them.

12.  Reduce Stress

Label items that are going into different boxes or rooms when you are planning your house move.  This will make it quicker to box up the items at the last minute or will help the movers to box things up logically if you are having them pack for you.   Sticky labels or permanent marker pen are recommended for the main box labelling.

house move; moving boxes

There are, of course, a range of other uses for these versatile little notes, including sticking them to your head as part of a game of “Guess who I am?”, sticking them over the standby light on the TV in a hotel room to stop the light keeping you awake, cutting them up to make miniature paper chains, and a whole host of other inventive ideas which are outside the scope of this article.  However, a quick Google search will bring up a great array of ideas for you to choose from.

Whether you need organisational support, or someone to research an area of interest and present a short report on your options, your VA can help you with these and lots more tasks besides.  To find out more about how a VA could help you to get organised and save time, click here.

Planning Increases Productivity

Planning, Planner, Productivity

When you approach your desk on a Monday, are you faced with a tangled clutter of papers, cryptic notes about things to do and a mass of post it notes all stuck together?  Do you spend half an hour sorting everything out before you can even begin? Trying to remember where you were at with tasks you didn’t have time to finish?

There is another way.  All you need is a notebook and pen.  Old School but it works for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that you recall more if you physically write it down.

Note Taking; minutes; hearings;  to do list

So, are you ready to begin getting a handle on your workload and smash your To Do List every week?  Get hold of a cheap notebook, Filofax, diary or fancy-pants planner, what you use is up to you.  The important thing is how you use it.  Personally, I like the book to either fit on a stand out of my way, or sit flat on the desk, out of my way.  I don’t want to waste time messing with the book to make it stand up, stay open or get out of the way of my mouse.

Divide the page into two down the centre.  One side for appointments.  The other side is for your To Do list.   If you are using a Filofax with day to a page inserts the page is divided into time slots already making your planning even easier to do.

If you are just using a notebook, scribble the appointments in time order on one side.  Make a page for every day of the week.

Now you know the shape of your week and the shape of each day and can see which days you have time to do time consuming tasks and which days you need to schedule quicker wins and you can take that into account on your To Do list.  Add tasks to the days, taking account of deadlines and priority.

Planner  Planning Organise Filofax to do list

Large tasks are best broken down into smaller elements because otherwise you will never feel you will have time to tackle them.

Small tasks can be grouped together, particularly if they are similar, and tackled all in the same time slot.

I like lined paper in my books and a good trick is to write your To Do list on every other line initially.  This gives you space to add incoming tasks between the planned ones in order of priority if your day gets really busy.

For every task, estimate a realistic timescale.  Will it take an hour?  A day?  A week?  Allocate a timescale to each task and then quickly tally up to check you don’t have more tasks than you have hours in the day.  If you do, move some of the tasks that aren’t time critical to another date.

Don’t forget to allocate time for personal stuff.  The dog still needs to be walked and both it, and you, need to eat.  Maybe you go to yoga on Thursday, or really want to watch your TV serial at 9pm.  Put these down too. A To Do list is not confined to work.  We are all well rounded people who have interests we want to pursue and these can, and should, have time allocated to them.

Relaxation, Yoga, Time for You, Planning Downtime

It’s a live document and it’s there to keep you on track.  So check back each time you finish a task and cross it off the list (so satisfying).  Pick the tasks from your list in order of importance.  It can also be helpful to highlight the key tasks that you absolutely must do that day. This can help you stay focused on the important items.

Setting the timings and prioritising tasks is the key to getting the most critical tasks done.  Every list has something on it that is a nice to have but not critical.  Try asking yourself whether the task will bring you money, spark joy or cause an issue if it isn’t done.  If it doesn’t do any of these things should it be done at all?

It can take a little while for you to find your rhythm.  At first you will probably underestimate how long some tasks will take.   Once you get better at setting the timings for tasks your plan will become more accurate and effective.

And guess what?  No one completes all of their To Do List.  If you achieve 80 – 90% of it, and that percentage includes the critical tasks, then you are winning.

If you are still feeling overwhelmed by tasks then you may be reaching the point where it is time to outsource some of the routine, time-consuming tasks. By reviewing your past To Do Lists you can often see a pattern; certain tasks will be moving from list to list, week to week without getting done.  These are the areas that people benefit from outsourcing.  And of course, if the tasks that are not getting done are admin-related, you can always get in touch with me to discuss ways you can streamline or outsource tasks so you can concentrate on generating income rather than paperwork.

Is Your Workplace affecting your Productivity?

Productive Productivity Workplace Productivity

Does your workspace make you feel stressed or distracted?  Do you suspect that you could be more productive than you actually are?

If the answer to these two questions is a resounding “Yes”, then let me ask just one more question:    Is your workspace cluttered?

This may seem irrelevant, after all, plenty of people work in chaos.  However, researchers have found that physical clutter can negatively affect your mood, resilience and ability to work productively and efficiently.  It can become difficult to focus on just one thing when there are many things lying around competing for your attention.  You may even start to feel that things are spiralling out of your control.  There is always something else needing your attention in any business but if most of the attention-seeking things are spread around your office in plain sight, you will possibly begin to feel overwhelmed.  You might be tempted to multi-task although doing so will negatively impact on your productivity.

I guess I paint a bleak picture but never fear, it is relatively straightforward to break the cycle.

Control

First of all, dedicate a small amount of time each day to getting your work area under control.  Put away things you don’t need to work on today, or this week.  Go through everything and ruthlessly chuck out things you don’t need, file things you need to keep but don’t need on your desk.  Organise the things you do need in a way that makes sense for you and your business.   Once you have got things under control, keep them that way by having a daily or weekly tidy up to ensure things don’t get out of hand again.

De-Clutter

Don’t forget your electronic clutter. Set up files that make sense for your business and use them.  Keep your inbox under control.  Unsubscribe if you don’t read that email newsletter.  Delete things that don’t need retention (newsletters, Amazon offer emails, items you’ve answered but don’t need to keep).  File the things you do need to keep.  I have more advice about Inboxes in this blog if this is the area you are struggling with the most.

Lists and Notes

Use a To-Do List and don’t overload it.  I’ve written on this subject here and here and I do tend to bang on about this.  However, a long To-Do list is almost as distracting as a cluttered workspace.  A To-Do List,  marked up with the priorities for each task on the list,  can keep you organised, your work on track and help you to feel in control of your workload. You will be more productive as a result.

If you are a person who tends to write things on bits of paper as you go about your day, try using one notebook for this purpose and always have it with you.  This ensures that you don’t add to the clutter in your workspace by having Post-it notes, and scrappy bits of paper all over the place, competing for your attention.

Capturing routine information throughout the day without reacting to it straight away can also help you to feel more in control of your work.  If you allocate time at the end of the day to go through the things you have captured and put them into your diary or To-Do list as appropriate, you will feel much more in control of your workload.

Once your workspace is more organised your productivity should begin to increase and you should start to feel more in control of your workload too.

If you would like more help to organise your workspace to help you become more productive, get in touch for a chat.

Success in 60 Seconds

Success Copy-Writing Content-Writing Elevator-Pitch Content

As a society, our attention span is shortening considerably.  Whilst not yet a society with the attention span of a gnat, we do expect pages to load quickly, posts and articles to be short and people to get to the point in a conversation or email without a lot of padding.  The success of our business can depend on it.

Whether you are looking at creating a blog, social media posts, or the notorious “elevator” pitch for business networking, you need to make it memorable, attractive, concise and most importantly, clear, if you want it to be a success.  If you don’t people will move on to consider the next person, business or piece of content.

So how do you achieve that?  Particularly with the elevator pitch which is very short and needs to fit into 40 or 60 seconds.  How do you encapsulate your whole business, who you are and what you stand for, into such a short time frame?  The answer for some people is to create a story.

Storytelling

Because there is a storytelling tradition in all societies, we grow up understanding how they are structured.  Stories can be used to form shortcuts that allow others to fill in gaps and understand more in less time.

Use the right words and you can conjure up pictures in people’s minds which contain feelings, assumptions and social norms that ensure the words have a greater impact.

Trick the Brain

Using a word that has strong associations with something different can work well.  I have a popular pitch that starts “I cure piles”.  Everyone who hears it for the first time sits up and pays attention.  It always raises a laugh, but most importantly, it also ensures that I am remembered.

The reference to piles works because our brain uses shortcuts and makes connections based on what we already know, our lived experience, and the things we have been socially conditioned to expect.  Using a phrase that is more commonly associated with a different sphere makes people sit up and take notice because their brain has already made the most obvious connection.  If someone stood up and said “I shoot people for a living” what would you think?  Hitman?  Armed Forces?  Photographer?  When you do find out, you are going to remember what that person did for a living.

Become a Character

Our story-telling tradition includes characters and these are another convenient way to get your point across.  Create a character and explain how you solved their problem.  If you can also keep to a theme this will make the posts or pitches even more memorable.  It gives your posts a coherence that helps people connect with your content, search for the link, and look forward to reading, or hearing, more from you.

Long-form content can also benefit from this type of approach.  People are undoubtedly reading your content to gain insight into the subject matter.  They are also considering whether you have in-depth knowledge of your subject and may be considering whether you would be a good choice to work with them on a project related to the content.  There are a lot of long-form posts available, often on the same subject.  Injecting some personality into your posts, or taking a different approach to that of other writers can help your work, and you, to stand out.  As with the shorter form posts, clear and concise is the road to success.

Alongside my work supporting clients with administrative and organisational tasks,  I also help them to present their business effectively via the written word, whether this is routine emails and letters, documenting processes, or creating social media posts and blogs that effectively tell their business story.

If you are struggling to tell your business story, get in touch with me for a chat here.