Blog

May 6th, 2015

Productivity_May6_AIt’s late afternoon - you’re working on your desktop computer, providing live support to one of your clients. Suddenly your screen goes black and your Internet connection drops. Too bad your IT department announces that it will take several hours to restore power. Sometimes disturbances like sudden power outages can impair your business reputation and productivity. Consider applying the following tips to keep your productivity humming during power blackouts.

Install a UPS for each computer

A UPS (uninterrupted power supply), is an alternative, emergency power source. During a power outage, your computer will turn itself off automatically as there's no power. UPS prevents that by running your computer off its own battery. If you’re working on a file when a power blackout occurs, UPS is especially helpful. It can only buy your computer a few minutes of time at most, but that’s enough time to save vital files and power down. If you still need Internet access, try another method we’ve listed below.

Find a Wi-Fi connection

The advancements in technology made it possible for you to take your work outside the office. You can resume your business activities and Internet connectivity by using the mobile data plan from your smartphone or tablets, and then access your files via cloud storage and file sharing applications. If you don’t have a data plan, then head to the nearest Wi-Fi-friendly place to continue your work, such as a coffee shop. VoIP software installed on your portable devices can help you to connect to your clients efficiently.

Make good use of your batteries

Now is not the time to browse social media or play games. When you take your work offline, it’s best to preserve your devices’ batteries by doing only important tasks and turning off power-sucking applications. Buy an extra charging device to extend your battery life, if necessary.

Finish offline tasks

When no Internet connection is available, you can take the time to clear off any neglected offline duties, whether it’s clearing up desks or arranging files and documents. You can even gather a team to brainstorm new ideas for projects, or discuss any ongoing issues within your organization.

Work from home

If a power outage renders your employees helpless in their duties, then sending them home with a business laptop won’t hurt, if they’re able to continue their work from there. There are many ways to keep them accountable without being intrusive and, as long as they are making progress in their jobs and are able maintain their professional integrity, there’s not much to complain about. Make sure telecommuting is only allowed when necessary though - working alongside colleagues and sharing ideas face-to-face is still one of the best ways to induce productivity.

Achieving power-free productivity is possible when you have a plan prepared for the situation. For more productivity tips to boost your business’s bottom line, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 22nd, 2015

164_Prod_A Do you ever feel like you’re just sludging through the day, moving at a snail’s pace and feeling completely ineffective? Next thing you know, it’s five o’clock and it turns out it wasn’t just a feeling, you barely accomplished anything. So what’s the problem? It might be that you just have some bad habits. Here are a few that may be killing your productivity.

Constantly checking email

This is an obvious one most people already know of, but how many of us actually follow it? The reason it’s a productivity killer is because it destroys your focus. Even worse, constantly checking email has been linked to anxiety, depression, lower performance and even decreased memory function.

To overcome this habit, designate specific times of the day to check your e-mail. For example, first thing in the morning when you wake up, after lunch, and at the end of the work day. This will prevent constant email checking from breaking up your flow while you’re on the clock.

Working long days

It’s 8pm, you’ve already worked 12 hours, but you just want to knock out one more item on your to do list. You’re exhausted, but you tell yourself to push through anyway - even if it takes another hour. How many of us have been here? If it’s more often than not, it may be a good idea to kick this habit as it’s an absolute productivity killer.

Studies have shown that working more than eight hours a day lowers productivity and raises the risk of burnout. The reasoning is simple...mental fatigue. Once you’ve worked a certain number of hours, your focus will be less sharp and your productivity will consequently drop. Which leads us to our next point...

Not getting enough sleep

Rest is essential to maximizing your productivity. And the most essential type of rest you can get is sleep. Research has shown that getting five hours of sleep or less multiple nights in a row has the same effect on you as a 0.10 blood alcohol level. Not only that, but you’ll also suffer from headaches, be mistake-prone and get distracted more easily. Basically you’ll be an unfocused mess.

Working continuously without a break

Studies have shown that you need to take breaks if you want to achieve maximum productivity. This is because a break allows you to rest your brain. Often during a break, you may even come up with new creative solutions to problems. And the best part is that when you return to work, you’ll feel revitalized with a fresh focus and ready to be challenged.

Multitasking

In this day and age, multitasking is often touted as a positive skill. And while this may be true in small bursts, spending hours juggling tasks is a surefire way of lowering productivity. The reason behind this is that switching between tasks causes a loss of focus and creativity. Think of your brain as a computer with a limited amount of RAM. Now what happens when your computer’s RAM is pushed to the max? It usually slows down and doesn’t function as well. Your brain acts in a similar way, the only difference being that you can’t buy more RAM to install in your brain - not yet, at least.

On the contrary, studies have shown that focusing on one task for a larger block of time (don’t forget to throw your break in, though) allows you to boost your productivity and get into a flow with your work. Try it out and you may find yourself accomplishing more tasks than you ever imagined possible.

Interested in learning about more ways to increase productivity? Want to find out how your technology can help? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 8th, 2015

164_A_ProdMost of us have this fantasy that technology is going to make everything better automatically. But is that really true? When you stop and take a moment to reflect, does checking your email fifty times a day, keeping your break/fix computer guy on speed dial, or purchasing yet another workflow application really make your business more productive? The easy answer to these questions is almost certainly no. And, while we’re on the subject, here are a few more questions you need to ask yourself to ensure your technology is speeding up your productivity, not slowing it down.

Is this making my job easier or harder?

There’s no questioning that technology can make our lives better and our jobs easier, but it can also make everything more difficult. Here are a few ways it can slow you down:

  • Distraction – From email to Facebook to Skype, technology can be a 24-hour distraction. If you are constantly switching between technology apps and programs – whatever your reason – you’ll certainly end up in a state of distraction, causing your productivity to take a hit.
  • Too complex – Some technology is simply too complex for the average user. To fix this problem, either use technology that is more user-friendly, or leave your IT guy to the job.
  • Too much – There are simply hundreds and thousands of apps and programs that can be used to make your workflow and job easier, but if you use too many you’ll likely be slowed down as you bounce between them all. The trick is to use only what you need, and nothing more.

Does my technology work?

This is almost a no-brainer. Your technology needs to work in order for you and your employees to reach your maximum productivity. If you’re still using a break/fix computer contractor and you’re calling him every few days to fix something, is this increasing or inhibiting your productivity? The answer is pretty obvious – it’s probably slowing you down. So what do you do? You need to get a more effective technology solution that is going to “just work”.

If you’re a small to mid-size business owner or manager, one way to do this is through managed services. This is a hands-off solution where an IT Managed Services provider (MSP) handles all your IT needs, usually for a fixed monthly fee, so you never have to think about it. MSPs are proactive about preventing problems from ever occurring in the first place, meaning you’ll have fewer IT issues creating disruption and downtime in your workday.

Is this tech job my responsibility?

Just because you know how to troubleshoot a broken application, does that mean you should? If you’re a business owner or manager, it will benefit you in the long run to leave the job to the technology team. Why? It’s for the same reason the owner of a restaurant doesn’t mop the floors or clean the toilets. They have better things to do with their time, and so do you. You have a specific role for a reason, and you’re creating the most value for your company when you stick to that role. Do yourself and the IT team a favor and leave the technology alone; you have a business to run.

Want more ideas on how to maximize your productivity and use technology to its greatest good? Give us a call and let’s talk today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Productivity
March 25th, 2015

Productivity_Mar25_AMeetings are meant to be hotbeds of production, where decisions get taken, people get updates and projects get moved forward. Yet all too often, they become a strain on your workforce’s productivity, hours out of the day when staff are taken away from their jobs to sit in inefficient sessions which are too long and lack pace and focus. But meeting productivity platform Do.com is trying to change that. The service just made two important announcements - here’s why you’ll want to add Do.com to your productivity suite.

Do.com aims to end what it terms ‘meeting hell’, and the platform is currently used by more than 5,000 organizations from top businesses like Dominos to sectors of the US government. When you add Do.com to your company’s productivity strategy, you benefit from a host of meeting-oriented features including management of agendas, notes and actions. The tool can also be used to share files for the purpose of discussion during meetings, and to display a timer to keep deliberations on track and avoid that ultimate hell of never-ending meetings.

The cloud-focused application has signaled it is on an upward trajectory, recently adding $2 million in funding. The additional capital will be used to further expand Do.com and its features, as well as the team behind it. Consequently, it appears that now is a great time to be getting onboard, with lots more to come from it. The most recent technical development to be announced is its new integration with Office 365. This will give Do.com further relevance and usability value to business owners around the world who are already taking advantage of the numerous benefits of the Microsoft cloud-based suite of productivity applications.

Do.com can already be used in conjunction with Evernote and Google Apps like Drive and Docs, but the move to integrate with Office 365 puts it in reach of an ever larger audience. Those not yet accustomed to high-tech meeting solutions may still be using pen and paper to manage their company get-togethers. But Do.com identifies its technology-based competitors as core cloud applications such as Dropbox, Trello, Evernote, Google Apps - everything from Docs to Calendar to Drive - and even good old email. Yet Do.com does something these individual apps don’t - while they all tackle one particular element of the organization and follow-up to a meeting, Do.com handles the whole lot with a single holistic, meeting-centered approach. With its latest moves, that’s what the platform hopes will be attractive to productivity-deprived business owners.

Want to find out more about Do.com and other productivity and cloud-based technologies? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 3rd, 2015

Productivity_Mar3_AHow much time in your organization is spent reading, sending and replying to emails? Chances are, the answer is “too much”. It’s a modern day epidemic - we all spend far too much time in our inboxes, and we rely on email too much to keep us in check and on task. But even before you get to the body of the email itself, by focusing on writing concise and consistently structured email subject lines, you can make life easier and more productive for both you and your recipient. Foster a culture of email subject discipline in your company and you’ll see the results in improved productivity and efficiency - here are three tips to get you started.

Specific subjects spell success

If someone sends you an email that’s headed simply with the word “report”, how are you meant to know what they want from you? Do they need you to write a new report, proofread one they’ve already written, or print a report for them? You inevitably start reading the email without the first idea of what it is you’re being asked to do.

In an ideal situation, when you receive a new email you want to know in an instant - just from the subject line - what the message is about. And that is something you should make possible for recipients of your own emails too. So structure your subject line using keywords - for instance, change that “Report” to “Sales Report for February 2015”. Better still, give your colleague all they need to know at a glance - “Draft Sales Report for February 2015 by Monday, 1pm” - so that the body of the message is preserved for you to get down to details as succinctly as possible.

Use prefixes and suffixes

Another simple way to help your recipient understand at a glance what you need from them - and to make it easier for them to categorize their incoming emails, too - is to specify right in the subject line what type of message it is that you are sending them. Emails come in all shapes and sizes, and by placing a prefix before or a suffix after your main subject line, you’ll get quicker results.

For instance, if your email needs a definitive response from the recipient, start it with “ACTION:” followed by the subject. An example would be “ACTION: Draft Sales Report for February 2015 by Monday, 1pm”. If, on the other hand, you are simply dropping your colleagues a quick notification that the printer is out of order, you can use one or both of “FYI” (for your information) and “NRN” (no reply needed). For example: “FYI: Printer out of order until further notice” or “NRN: Printer out of order until further notice.”

You can take this one stop further. If you can get your entire message across in the subject line alone, then that’s exactly what you should aim to do. That way, your colleague can read the subject line, add the task to their to-do list and delete it straight out of their inbox. To quickly signal that there’s nothing in the email body, you can suffix your subject line with “EOM” (end of message) - for example, “FYI: Printer out of order until further notice. EOM”.

Keep it consistent

These tricks will only help you beat a never-ending inbox if they’re adopted and applied consistently across your organization. Make them a part of your company’s basic IT training, and encourage your staff to use them in their own work and to pull up others who fall back into bad habits. They may be skeptical at first, but they’ll soon jump on the bandwagon once they start to realize how much less time they spend managing their email account!

Think too about introducing standardized formats for subjects of emails you and your teams send on a recurring basis. For example, if you regularly send reports around for review, prefix your subject line with “Report for Review:”, followed by the topic of the report. Or if your employees send you a weekly update on their workstreams, have them title it “Weekly Update:” followed by the date. That way, you can set up filters in your inbox and have those emails smartly stored in one place, ready for you to look through when the time is right, rather than clogging up your inbox and making it look like you have more urgent tasks to complete than you actually do.

Want to learn how to use email systems efficiently to boost your firm’s productivity? Chat to us today about the innovative email solutions we can provide.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
February 17th, 2015

Productivity_Feb12_AAs a business owner, you've probably looked into ways of maximizing efficiency in your office. And when it comes to increasing productivity, tablets are highly customizable tools that can be tailored to suit the needs of your business. The problem is that many people still regard tablets as content consumption devices, not content creation devices. Some might go so far as to say that tablets are useless for “real work”, but with this attitude they're missing out on a revolutionary tool.

You already know that tablets are flexible in use, portable, and make great devices for entertainment. But you can make your tablet contribute much more to your business practices too; it’s just a matter of selecting the right applications and accessories to get the job done. Here are some strategies to turn your tablet into a powerful productivity tool.

Out with the games

Yes, we use tablets to play games; from typical Angry Birds to the RAM-consuming Assassin’s Creed. But for the sake of your business you need to get rid of all such distractions. Burying the games in folders won’t help when you know they’re there. So if you don’t want to waste your time and are keen to be be more productive, delete the games!

In with the work-friendly apps

The pre-installed apps such as calendar, calculator, email, clock/timer are all useful tools you'll want to have at hand. These are great for quick information checking. But your tablet has the potential to do more than telling you the time or helping with numbers. Just head over to the app store, browse through over a million available apps and take your pick. Here are a few popular ones to get you started:
  • Dropbox - This app lets you store, synchronize, and share files online. You can gain access to your files or share them with your colleagues anywhere, anytime. And what’s more, it’s safe! With Dropbox installed, your tablet becomes a powerful device that enables you to bring up anything you might need for references while working. Alternatives include Google Drive and OneDrive.
  • Skype - Most businesses are starting to take advantage of the features Skype offers. Need to discuss something with your teammates? You can get in touch with them by using the instant messaging or group call features. Skype also allows you to share files with your colleagues with a simple drag-and-drop function.
  • iWork - If you're an iPad aficionado you'll find that iWork boosts your productivity, with three combined apps - Keynote, Numbers and Pages - that can act as your entire office suite whether you're in the office, at home or on the road.

Organize your home screen

You can focus more on work with a well-organized page dedicated solely to productive apps. Make sure all of your work-related apps are on the home screen. The key is to keep the home screen simple and clean. While you can organize it in any way you wish, it’s best to try out a few different schemes before settling on the one you’re most comfortable with.

Get a Bluetooth keyboard

One of the major disadvantages of a tablet is the lack of a physical keyboard. When you need to handle several documents or do a lot of writing, using the tablet’s on-screen keyboard probably isn’t a good idea. Luckily this drawback can be overcome with a portable Bluetooth keyboard. This way you can easily respond to emails or edit documents. So invest in a Bluetooth keyboard to improve your overall tablet experience and productivity. You'll probably find it soon replaces your laptop.

The tablet trend is in town, and many businesses are already benefiting from these devices. But are you ready to take the plunge? Get in touch with us to see how tablets can help your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
January 30th, 2015

Productivity_Jan29_ASmall to medium size businesses and startups have always had to squeeze the most they can out of a small team. But with every business trying to gain a foothold in the market and costs on the rise, productivity is more important than ever. Doing more with less is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity. It’s no wonder businesses are looking towards the latest technology to help carry the load. Below are four ways technology can help you make better use of your most valuable resource of all: your employees.

Work together from anywhere

With the onset of Cloud technology, it’s now possible for your employees to work easily from anywhere - be it Bangkok, Belize or Boston. With Cloud-based suite products, employees can log on from remote locations and access company files. All they need is a web-enabled device.

Cloud-based technology also makes it easier than ever for your staff to collaborate. While one employee is in a coffee shop in Vancouver and another is at a desktop in your office, they can both be editing the same document at the same time. This makes it easy for your staff to remain on the same page, both literally and metaphorically, which in turn boosts both productivity and profits.

While many SMBs use public Cloud applications like Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote, private pro-level options are available, which come with more security and more features.

Keep all your data in the Cloud

The fact is that searching through spreadsheets for information stored in bloated data sets can be a huge waste of time. By having all your data in the Cloud, all your information will be in one place. So when you’re looking for that critical client receipt for your taxes, you’ll know where it is immediately.

Thanks to its remote access and collaboration possibilities, the Cloud also gives you and your staff easy access to all of your data wherever in the world you are.

Identify bottlenecks and upgrade your technology

Facing the facts about your current technology is key to increasing productivity. Yes we know you love your tablet from way back in 2008. You even named her Susie, after your niece, because they’re both so darn creative. But let’s face it, Susie is old now and is slowing down your business. She’s served you well, but it’s time to upgrade.

And desktops aren’t the only technology that can slow you down. There are also unreliable internet connections, obsolete software and outdated email providers. The list goes on…

The solution is to take a careful inventory of your current IT technology and see what’s keeping your business from reaching its true productivity potential. After you have your list, update your technology accordingly. Then create a plan to regularly upgrade your IT resources, so your employees are never being slowed down.

Outsource your IT

As the old saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Whether you have a part-time contractor or a fully-staffed IT department, the mere presence of tech staff onsite in your workplace can be a distraction. When you’re focusing on sales or setting up meetings with potential clients, a knock at your door from your IT colleague - because he or she has just discovered a glitch in your system - can take you out of the flow of the task at hand.

On the other hand, outsourced IT departments are proactive in preventing technical issues from popping up in the first place. They’ll fix problems without you even knowing they existed, and without distracting you from your core work. All of which means a great boost to your day-to-day productivity - and therefore profitability.

Want to know more ways IT can enhance your company’s productivity? Contact us today to learn how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
December 12th, 2014

productivity_Dec12_AEmail has become the main form of communication for many businesses. When first launched, many people treated email as simply an electronic version of company memos and letters and therefore created and styled them as such. Over time, email has become much more informal, and while this is great it can lead to problems in overall clarity of communication. However, there is one effective way you can ensure all of your messages are clear and understandable, by adopting PAR.

Better email structure for small businesses

In order for your emails to be clearer and to get the overall message across easily, you might want to implement a PAR structure. This three part framework has been used by many business owners and managers to improve overall communications, and consists of:

Problem

At the very top of the email, below the salutation, provide a brief yet clear overview of the problem which is the subject of the email or the reason you are making contact. When writing this overview don't assume anything, including shared knowledge or agreements, unless you have discussed these with all recipients beforehand. The key here is that you are looking to be able to summarize the main issue.

If you need more than two paragraphs, then you should probably create a longer form report that is attached in the email. The reason for this is because the vast majority of people will simply scan an email, and if it's too long, they will usually skip it, or possibly miss key points. If it is easy to scan and read, then there is a greater chance all parties will be on the same page.

Beyond this, if you are struggling to come up with a short explanation or can't clearly summarize the problem in writing, then email may not be the best medium to be using. Opt instead for a meeting or phone call to discuss the issue more fully.

Action

After stating what the problem is, clearly mark any proposed actions or recommendations using a relevant heading, then specifically lay them out in an easy to read format. You want to be as specific as possible here, ensuring that all parties understand what you want to happen and the actions they will need to take as a result.

For example, if you use vague language, such as: "I need this by the end of the month", people may only carry out what you are asking for on the very last day of the month. Instead, you might be better to give a specific delivery date, and possibly a set time, so that any deadlines are clearly defined. Bulleted and numbered lists can really help here, as long as they are clear and understandable and don't muddle the issue.

Results

Finally, identify the expected results based on the actions you want the recipients to take. This helps ensure that every recipient knows what they should be striving for, as well as serving as an indicator of whether the problem has been specifically solved or not.

If the results aren't met, you have a good opportunity to look back at the process and see if there is any room for improvement, or try to pinpoint exactly why something went wrong or didn't happen as you planned. This in turn, if leveraged correctly, can help improve overall productivity.

Looking to learn more about increasing productivity in your office? Contact us today to see how our systems can benefit your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
November 12th, 2014

Productivity_Nov10_AAs a business owner or manager there is a good chance that a fair number of the emails you send out to your employees are with the purpose that they then send a message to a third party on your behalf. When drafting this message however, there may be some back and forth before it is actually sent out. This can drain productivity, but can easily be avoided by including a pre-draft in the original email.

What exactly is a pre-draft?

The idea behind pre-drafting an email message is that it helps to reduce the amount of back and forth between two parties when one of the parties is contacting a third party. If you have ever had an employee draft a message that came from you then you are likely well aware of the number of emails that can go back and forth before the email actually goes out.

Essentially a pre-draft is a message included in the original message that is to be sent along to a third party. When you include a draft message, the person who will be sending the message can then just cut and paste the content, personalize it, maybe tweak a sentence here or there, and then send it along.

How do I create one?

If you are currently working on an email message that will be sent by another employee on your behalf, try to come up with the outline and basic message yourself. It's best to clearly mark this message in the original email by using a flag like: "Message to send", and changing the actual message to another font or color.

Because most of these messages will be personalized, include placeholder text where your staff member can personalize the message. For example, To . This not only makes it easier to spot areas that need to be personalized, it also means messages can be sent out quickly and easily.

When is this useful?

To be honest, pre-drafting won't work for every type of email you send. But, there are some situations when this comes in handy, including:
  • When you are asked to provide a testimonial on a service. You can write a basic testimonial with areas for customization.
  • When you need to send follow up emails connected to a recently sent email campaign or message. You can draft a basic follow up message that can then be customized as your employees see fit.
  • When you want to post something on numerous social media sites. You can simply write the post once, then provide spots to customize based on the network.
  • Introductions and references. If you have been asked to provide a reference or an introduction, then draft a standard message which can then be changed as needed.
If you mark these emails as a pre-draft, or place them in a pre-draft folder, they can then be quickly found and modified in the future.

Looking to learn more about increasing productivity in your business? Contact us today to see how our systems can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
October 16th, 2014

Productivity_Oct16_AIn order for email to work, systems rely on what are called protocols. These are essentially a set of rules that dictate how data moves from system to system. When it comes to email, there are currently two major protocols: POP and IMAP. While most email systems will support both, it is a good idea to know the difference between the two and which is generally better for you.

Difference between POP and IMAP

POP, or Post Office Protocol, was first developed in early 1984 and is currently in its third version (POP3). POP works by allowing users to retrieve email and download it onto their computer. Because this protocol was developed before constant Internet connections, it is meant to allow users to interact with their email on their computer and then connect to the server to send it.

What this means is that usually, you connect to the server and download all of your messages onto your computer and then disconnect from the server with all messages being deleted from the server. When you connect to the server again, the messages are uploaded from your computer to the server which then sends the messages to the recipients.

IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, is a newer protocol that was designed for faster and constant Internet connections. Essentially, the email messages live on the server and the user downloads copies to their computer. When the copy is sent, it is uploaded to the server which then overwrites the message and sends it to the recipient.

Which protocol should my company be using?

While most email servers will support POP, many experts agree that it is best if companies use newer email protocols. The reasons for this are:
  • POP is largely outdated. As stated above, this protocol was first introduced in the '80s. The current, and most popular, version was introduced in 1989.
  • POP can be less secure. By default, older protocols can transmit password and login data unencrypted, which means anyone with access to your network and tools could gain access to the data.
  • POP can't support multiple devices. Due to the way POP works, only the currently connected client can see email messages. If you are on your mobile device, but logged into your email client at work, you won't get messages on your device.
  • POP lacks important business features. Most of us rely on calendars, address books, and task lists that are integrated into most email clients. With POP, these are most likely third-party solutions that live on local machines. This makes it difficult to access this information from other locations.
There are some really great newer email systems out there, including servers that run IMAP protocols, and even Web-based email solutions that pretty much negate the need for email servers in the office. If you are currently using POP, it may be worthwhile to contact us to see how we can help upgrade your email solution.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity