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July 24th, 2014

Productivity_July21_AERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is often seen to be the domain of large businesses. However, with numerous new software solutions being released on a regular basis, small to medium businesses are quickly realizing the power of these back office automation and management tools. While it is true not all businesses will need it, there are several indicators as to when you should implement ERP.

There are several common business situations that indicate your business may be ready to implement an ERP solution. Here are 5:

1. Your business is entering the growth stage

If your business is experiencing a period of growth of profits, sales, and employees, chances are high that the number of systems and processes you use and require are also growing. If not managed properly, you could see a significant slowdown in growth due to inefficient processes.

By integrating an ERP solution, you can avoid this largely because these systems allow you to manage processes from a central location and provide you with the right resources when you need them. Essentially, they provide the platform that can support the systems and processes that enable healthy growth.

2. You have a tough time accessing business information

Companies without ERP often see employees wasting time tracking down important information. Think about the time you need to spend looking for accounting data. Is it available at the click of a button, or do you need to search for it across different locations?

If you are spending more time tracking important information than actually using it, you would do well to look into an ERP solution. It can centralize information and make it much easier to access when you need it, thereby increasing your overall productivity.

3. Finance and HR processes are becoming harder to manage

Companies with a small number of employees or customers can likely get by without specific software to help track relevant information and can use spreadsheets instead. But as soon as you see growth, you will quickly find out that spreadsheets simply won't cut it and managing Finance and HR related activities and information will become an uphill struggle.

If your teams rely on paper or other base information to develop reports and fill orders, you could see labor costs shoot up, possibly becoming your biggest expense. By integrating an automated solution like an ERP, you can cut back on these costs and make your employees' jobs more manageable.

4. Databases contain double entries and errors

When each department uses their own software to keep information, it can become impossible to manage it all and ensure that all systems contain not only the same information but are up-to-date. When different departments have different information for the same client, person or function you are going to see inefficiencies and errors made.

These mistakes and the time spent correcting them can result in increased wages, decreased productivity, and even potential loss of sales. By implementing an ERP, you can ensure that everyone is accessing the same information which is not only correct but also up-to-date.

5. There are numerous processes carried out on different software and systems

It is common to see many businesses invest in different software and systems for different functions and departments. In many cases, this can lead to high overhead and management costs which in turn can eat away at profits.

Many ERP solutions are developed to support a variety of business processes and departments. What this equates to is one solution that covers all aspects of your business. This is almost always more affordable than multiple systems. The same can be said if you need to add new employees. With traditional systems this means investing in new software licenses. However, with ERP you can usually add a user for a low monthly cost, or even no cost at all - depending on the solution you integrate.

If you are looking to learn more about ERP and how it can be implemented in your organization, contact us today and discover what might turn out to be a successful solution for increased profits and productivity.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
June 25th, 2014

Productivity_June23_AOne of the most frustrating tech issues a business faces is slow Internet connectivity. Despite today’s technological advancement, many businesses suffer from lowered productivity as a direct result of a slow Internet connection. If this is a daily annoyance for your business too then it’s time to learn some ways to help fix your slow Internet connection and speed up business performance.

Here are 4 ways to combat a slow Internet connection:

1. Control devices that interfere with the connection:

Wireless devices can be one of the reasons for a slow Internet connection. It’s wise to talk to us about a wireless network analyzer so that you know the sources of interference. Believe it or not, most of these sources might be coming from the company kitchen!

Good examples include the microwave, cordless telephones, security systems, and other wireless devices which use the 2.4GHz band. These can interfere with 802.11g or single-band 802.11n routers. The best solution is to reposition these other electronics to either help solve the problem completely or at least minimize the chances of interference. Or, invest in a access point that can operate at a different wireless frequency.

2. Control applications that hog bandwidth:

Without your knowledge it’s most likely that employees are using applications that are hogging the bandwidth. It’s vital that you are aware of these applications, especially ones that have video conferencing and streaming abilities which tend to be responsible for weak bandwidth in corporate environments. Other applications such as torrent and gaming apps can also be responsible. It is best to make sure that these apps are not installed on your company computers, of if they are, make sure their use is regulated.

Believe it or not, one of the biggest bandwidth hogs is YouTube. Some companies, when they audit their network usage, have noticed that streaming services like YouTube can take up more than half of their total bandwidth. While in some positions, video streaming may be necessary, it’s likely not for the majority of roles. Therefore, it would be a good idea to implement a rule about the use of YouTube during business hours e.g., it should only be used for necessary tasks.

Some would recommend blocking services like this, but if your business uses Google’s other services, blocking YouTube could actually end up blocking access to other Google services. It would be a good idea to consult with us as to the best way to limit use.

3. Reposition your wireless access point(s):

As simple as this might sound, your access point(s) might have to be repositioned to help increase your wireless Internet speed. You might want to try raising the height of your access point so that broadcast range can be more effective. If this doesn’t work, which sometimes it doesn’t, try placing your access point in the center of your office for a more equal signal distribution or adding an additional access point for more coverage. The best solution is to place your access point(s) as near to the computers and as possible.

4. Consider an upgrade:

If your wireless networking equipment is old then it probably needs an upgrade. Keep in mind that technology moves at an extremely fast pace and your wireless network might be outdated in just a few years. We strongly recommend talking to us, as we can help recommend the best upgrade solution.

Dealing with a slow Internet connection can be a huge pain. If not taken care of right away, it can have immense impact on your overall work output. Looking to learn more about ways to improve your Internet connection for maximized productivity? Connect with us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Productivity
May 29th, 2014

Productivity_May26_AThe office is meant to be a place of productivity, but it can easily become a place of constant struggle against distractions. This makes efficiency an elusive goal and it's not just those working in the office space who can't get on with the task at hand and suffer, but potentially the bottom line of the business too. If this sounds like your office at times then you need a strategy to help negate a drop in productivity.

When it comes to problems with productivity, it can sometimes be difficult to spot what the main issues are. Productivity can suffer over time as challenges and work habits have an effect on what is achieved and how. Even if you're not aware of any productivity concerns, it is worthwhile checking from time to time where you can boost efficiency.

Prepare for the day ahead

Nothing is as important as knowing which of your tasks matter the most. Collect your thoughts the night before and create a to-do list for the next day. Determine which demand needs immediate attention and which can be done later that day.

A priority list will enable you to focus on those business needs that require immediate attention, allowing you to complete more tasks. By allocating a specific order and time to each individual job you will be able to more clearly achieve and evaluate your progress at the end of the day.

Shut personal connections out

The worst distraction in the office is employee connectivity to the outside world. Social networking sites, emails, and personal calls divert the focus from significant and pressing work concerns to personal matters.

The key here is to look at how you can contain the social aspects which make work enjoyable and employees happy, and balance this personal freedom with the demands of your business. You may find that restrictions are needed, such as limiting personal phone calls. Some companies impose a ban on social media sites and keep a tighter reign on personal communications. Other companies keep a more open policy but instead instill in employees a personal responsibility to impose limits on their own behavior.

Get in the working zone By showing your colleagues that you are busy and concentrating on your work you put up a barrier to them distracting you. By being polite and friendly but putting your work game face on you can show your determination and produce results to show at the end of the day. It's easy for time to drift by with idle chat and unnecessary interruptions which could wait until break time.

Set personal deadlines

You may have a deadline set by the demands of a job you are focusing on, or set by someone working with you, but personal deadlines are also necessary. By giving yourself a set time to furnish reports and deliver outcomes, for example, you keep yourself focused and produce results. Keep your desk free from piled-up paperwork and tasks so you do not have to cram to meet deadlines.

Determine your distractions

Know which, from among the office clamor, distracts you the most and create a way to eliminate, minimize or extract yourself from this problem. Is it noise from other people that is bothering you or perhaps as simple as the pop-up notifications on your computer screen? Do yourself a favor and deal with it.

Focus is at the core of these guidelines. Start asking yourself what is preventing you from concentrating. Look at how you work and what the situation is when you're in the flow and getting what you need to achieve done.

Productivity is essential in the corporate world as it is about fulfilling goals, ambitions and commitments, which can have a spillover effect on your life outside of work too. Determine which from among your tasks need to be fulfilled first, focus and boost your productivity.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 30th, 2014

Productivity_Apr28_AThere are often tedious tasks that can threaten to take the joy out of your working day, but often it is these very same jobs which are essential too. When it comes to sustaining successful productivity at work you cannot simply refuse to do whatever you don't enjoy. However, there are ways to bring a little enjoyment into even the most mundane and boring tasks.

Alternate what you love and hate doing

Finding motivation when placed in a difficult or dull situation can be tough. But, it’s going to feel even more arduous if lack of motivation leads to a poor result and you're forced to do the job again.

So what do you do when you’re in this situation? Simple. You incorporate the tasks that you do enjoy doing into the cycle.

This balances good and bad experiences so you are not constantly employed for long periods doing hateful tasks. Compared to a situation where you are repeatedly being pounded with tasks that you don’t like, this is way better.

Create a schedule for unwanted tasks

Goal setting and scheduling will allow you to mentally prepare for unpleasant tasks and see beyond them. If you've got a plan to get through your tasks and have something to look forward to, they won't seem so onerous.

Create a timeline of milestones to be accomplished. Evaluate your performance and accomplishments on a daily basis. Try your best not to procrastinate and always adhere to what you have initially planned. Delay merely means more annoying moments for you in the future. Be half-hearted about it or veer off-plan and you might have to redo a project because the quality of your work failed to meet expected standards.

Look at the bigger picture

Your perception has a great influence on your mindset. Instead of focusing on how tiresome and uninteresting an assignment is, you could try getting inspiration from focusing on the possible positive outcome. This might be recognition at work, monetary gains or increased productivity and business success.

Take baby steps

If you feel you have tried everything and yet stress and boredom keep growing with certain aspects of your time at work then it’s time to take a step back and reinvent. Forcing yourself to do something you dislike will merely increase the pressure that’s already keeping you from obtaining good results.

Break the job into smaller tasks. Set realistic goals every hour. You’ll be surprised at how taking baby steps can help you get things done - even monumental tasks that started out seeming impossible.

Take a break

Working on a job that you don’t enjoy is exhausting. It can be mentally draining and you might feel as if to achieve certain tasks you really are pushing until the last drop of your energy has run out. You might benefit from recharging from time to time. Take a break and listen to your favorite music. Relax and revitalize your nerves and muscles.

Reward yourself

Celebrate little victories. Whenever you accomplish a goal or target, no matter how big or small, reward yourself. Think of ways you could treat yourself, whether it be a grand gesture such as a weekend away or a meal out, or even a night at the movies. Find a reward that's worth looking forward to.

It’s also worthwhile asking for help from your colleagues and team at work. If you feel that tasks are insurmountable or you know you will struggle to complete them by yourself then reach out to attract the skillsets and interests of those around you. And after you've achieved what you set out to do you can reap the benefits of greater productivity.

Another option is to contact us to see how our services can help allow you to focus on running your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 2nd, 2014

Productivity_Mar31_APresentations are an integral part of any business, regardless of size. There is a good chance that you will have to give at least one presentation in your career, with many people giving so many they lose count. Many small businesses are starting to hire remote workers or carry out business over large distances, which forces them to create presentations online. However, with this type of presentation it can be especially hard to attract and keep an audience's attention.

If you are creating an online presentation to a remote audience there are a number of factors you should keep in mind if you want to grab your audience's attention and keep them following and paying attention. Here are five of the most important tips:

1. Make it visual

For the most part, visual presentations have a higher chance of success - that is, the message being grasped by the audience. This is especially true for online and remote presentations, largely because when more people are on a computer, partaking in a presentation, they will often be multi-tasking.

If you have a ton of text there is a good chance you will lose your audience within the first couple of slides. Instead aim for a presentation that is heavy on graphics and visually appealing. Using bright or contrasting colors will draw the eye and will increase the time you have your audience's attention.

If your presentation is about a product create picture slides with a minimal amount of text; let the product speak for itself. For presentations involving graphs and charts, include these graphics and a couple of key points. The rest you can fill in with spoken narrative.

2. Focus on the audience

Online presentations and those using meeting software should be audience-friendly. This means making it easy for them to join and partake in the presentation by sharing slides, and also asking if anyone has any points to add or even expand upon with an interactive presentation element.

While presenting, there will be slides and points that are more important than others. To highlight this you can 'sign-post' the salient points. Make these visually larger if they are text, and pause to point this out with the script by telling your audience: "This is the most important point"; essentially demanding they pay attention.

Finally, try to limit technical glitches. This can be the quickest way to lose engagement if your Internet cuts out or the computer crashes. Try to present at a time when you know connection will be strong and stable and have a backup in place in case something goes wrong.

3. Adapt to different audiences

Every person in the audience will have different expectations of your presentation. Some will want just the facts, while others might be looking to be convinced by an opinion or argument expressed in the presentation. You should take the time to get to know your audience and what they expect and then develop the presentation around this idea.

If you do your homework and know a bit about your audience, you can take steps to connect with them early in the presentation, if not before, and drive engagement.

4. Create, edit, practice, edit, practice, edit, practice, present

It may sound a bit redundant to edit and practice multiple times, but it really will help when leading an online presentation. First you should create your presentation, then edit it. You are looking to keep your slides as short as possible - no more than four points and two minutes spent talking for each slide.

Really the first edit should be about content, grammar and spelling. Once this is done, practice presenting as you would on the actual presentation day. Start with a blank desktop screen, log into the software/site you will be using, load the presentation, share it, and then actually present. Time yourself and note any issues.

Next, go back and edit the presentation some more, making sure you aren't spending too much time on one slide or that each of the slides does not have too many confusing points, etc. Keep practicing and editing until you are not only comfortable, but know the content inside and out.

You could also try recording your voice. This will allow you to hear where you need to work on inflection and overall style. If you find that you are tuning yourself out when you listen to the presentation, you may want to practice some more and try to inject some extra interest, whether through humor or engaging facts and ideas. This is really vital is you won't have that face-to-face contact with a physical presentation where you are present. If you sound engaging, the audience are more likely to connect with you.

5. Develop your own style

No one likes a dull presentation where you just talk about what's on the slides. Try to give your presentation a narrative arc and structure. Where possible include personal experiences or even tell a relevant joke from time to time. If you are passionate and show that you are trying to connect your audience will likely not click away from the presentation or drift off to other work or simply to surf the Internet and Facebook.

If you are looking to learn more about presentations and how to use software for expert presentations, or even how to conduct your next remote presentation, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 7th, 2014

Productivity_Mar03_AAre you looking for a tried and tested way of increasing your productivity? If so, then there are a number of solutions. One of the most effective is writing a to-do list to help you really get on top of your day-to-day tasks.This guide will help you craft an effective one so you can skyrocket your productivity each day.

Here are 5 tips which will help you devise an effective to-do list:

Add a notes section

A notes section is a general area for all the tasks in your to-do list. Its main purpose is to provide you with space to add notes about your tasks. Or, instead you can use this area to type in challenges that you encountered when handling specific tasks.

On the flip side, it could also contain the best practices that you employed which enabled you to finish the task effectively and efficiently. These notes are important because by revisiting these jottings you can learn from them and be better able to optimize your way of doing things and your approach.

Prioritize

Ignoring client meetings because you're supposed to be fixing your cabinet, for example, based on what’s written in your to-do list, is a sure fire way of negatively impacting your business.

Your to-do list needs to be devised in such a way that there is a clear sense of priority. The most important tasks should be added to the top most part of your list just to make sure that you don’t miss these and they are tackled and completed first.

Break down your tasks to bite-size activities

Can you imagine writing down 'work' in your to-do list? Having a to-do list with broad topics like this won’t help you in the slightest bit.

You need to break down your lists into more specific tasks so that they provide the clarity that you need to achieve. Here’s a good example of a well-constructed list:

  1. Send 20 outreach emails to prospects.
  2. Discuss with the team the concept of having a systems' mindset.
  3. Review the offer of client X and decide whether to accept it or not.
Notice how the examples above are more tangible compared to simply writing down 'work'? With a list like the one above, you should be able to comfortably tick each task with a clear idea of when it has been completed.

Add a deadline whenever possible

Adding a deadline helps you gauge your output. By being able to see whether you’re lagging behind you can make any necessary changes.

A deadline also prevents you from procrastinating since you’ll be more conscious of time and a definitive end point.

Be realistic

Adding a week's worth of tasks to your daily to-do list will just discourage and frustrate you. Be as realistic as you can when writing up your list. If you honestly think that you can’t finish all of the tasks within one day, then add some of them to the next. That way you won’t be frustrated with a long list of tasks that you haven’t completed at the end of each day.

If you are faced with productivity issues and are struggling to get the kind of output you're hoping for in your business, then put giving us a call at the top of your to-do list.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
February 5th, 2014

Productivity_Feb03_AIf you’re running a business, regardless of whether you have physical premises or operate in a virtual world, you probably receive a continuous stream of emails every minute of every day and beyond. Because of this, many business owners have a hard time simply handling the sheer volume of emails. If you’re dealing with the same issue, then you'll probably welcome our top five tips to solving your email deluge problem.

1. Turn off email notifications

Notification sounds are helpful in letting you know you have received a new email - important or not. However, they can also be distracting if you're trying to concentrate. To avoid this, turn off new message notifications on both your Smartphone and computer, and schedule a convenient time to check and respond to your emails instead. This will not only improve your organizational skills, but will also give you peace of mind that you are focusing on tasks without neglecting your inbox.

2. Schedule when to check your emails

Unless your work demands replying to emails instantly, checking emails can be scheduled to a specific time of the day. You don’t want to live in your inbox the entire day, just checking the emails you receive as this can seriously harm your overall productivity. According to studies, a person takes about 64 seconds to recover from email interruption, a minute you could have spent on a more productive task.

According to research, the best time to check your email is the moment you log in to your computer at work, and before leaving at the end of the day. If you do this, create a to-do list for the rest of the day. Upon going through your messages, delete spam immediately and any emails that aren’t of value, so you’ll have a clear idea of what needs to be prioritized.

3. Organize your inbox

The key to optimizing your email inbox is to choose one main purpose for it, and stick with it. For example, use your inbox only for high-priority messages and filter other emails into another folder. This can be done in the settings of almost every email service.

Another way to organize your inbox is to get rid of unnecessary messages such as newsletters, promo emails, advisories and spam messages - what tech experts like to call Bacn. These kinds of email can mess up your inbox, so clean them up by using the tools in the settings, leaving only emails that are important and relevant to you and your business.

4. Connect with your smartphone

With the advent of smartphones, email handling has become rather convenient. You just need to install the email app on your mobile devices, register, and connect. Many business owners use smartphones to get in touch even when they’re not in the office.

Checking your email on your smartphone can save a lot of time, largely because you can check and respond to emails even when you're out of the office. Furthermore, you can benefit from using your mobile to sort out high-priority emails before getting to work. As a result, you will be able to work more smoothly in the office.

5. Unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read

Newsletters and other email marketing messages can be useful. They might notify you of the latest information about your clients, colleagues, shops, etc. and may even provide you with your next sales lead. However, these kinds of emails can pile up so fast in a day or two, and you don’t even have the time anymore to check this info out anyway.

If you have not read several newsletter issues for a while then it might be better to unsubscribe. This will reduce the number of emails in your inbox, giving you a better chance of managing it.

When you know how to manage emails effectively, you will surely be able to increase your productivity. Just take control of your inbox and create a systematic process comfortable to you.

If you want to know more about how to manage emails effectively, call us today and we’ll offer you solutions to add to our tips.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
January 9th, 2014

Productivity_Jan07_AIt's a new year and with it many people, business owners included, are undoubtedly setting goals and resolutions for the year ahead. When it comes to businesses, many owners and managers set a resolution to become more productive, something which isn't always easy. Luckily, there are numerous apps out there that can help, and with the rise of the smartphone and tablet, many of these apps have mobile versions as well.

Here are five great mobile productivity apps that are free, or cheap enough where they won't break the bank.

Asana

Most small to medium businesses have team members working in different areas that often come together to work on projects. Managing who does what in these projects, and collaborating on tasks can be a chore. What Asana does is allow users to schedule and assign tasks within projects.

Each user's tasks are presented in a to-do list with due dates clearly divided, so each person knows what they need to focus on, and when the work is due. Other users can also see each of the tasks so they too know what each member is doing. If you are a project or task oriented business, this could be a great tool to help you and your teams stay on track.

While many businesses use the Web based version, there are mobile apps for both Android and iOS devices that could help if you or team members are often out of the office. It is free for teams of up to 15 members. Check out Asana's website for more information on pricing for teams with more than 15 users.

Evernote

Many working in smaller businesses often find themselves filling more than one role. This means they are likely constantly thinking about another task, often coming up with ideas, questions and even answers. The problem with this is many of us forget that one all important idea by the time we actually get around to switching our hats and our focus. Evernote is an app that allows users to jot down notes and ideas more readily.

Because this is a mobile app, you can share notes with your colleagues - kind of like a brainstorm - or even record images and sounds to keep something like a dictionary or wiki. What really sets this app apart from other note apps is that all of your notes are synced with an account, which makes them available on nearly every platform you use.

The basic version of Evernote is available for free on nearly all mobile platforms, and a full-featured business edition is available for USD$10.00 per user, per month. Visit the Evernote website to learn more about the program, and to download it for your device.

Any.do Cal

Part of the Any.do family of apps which focus on tasks, Cal is an extension that makes your device's calendar easier to focus on. At a quick glance, you can see your whole day's activities and events. This is really designed to be a calendar app that is used for both work and personal life, giving you a better idea of what your full day looks like - not just a part of it. In an effort to highlight or promote better work/life balance, it will also show you your free time.

The app is available for free on both Android and iOS, and if you are looking to further enhance it's capabilities, give Any.do - to do list - a try.

Pocket

The Internet is one of the best productivity boosters, yet it is also one of the best ways to waste time too. Because so many news outlets and stories are now online, you can spend literally hours of your day reading various articles and blogs. While these articles may be useful, reading them when you should be working instead is not the best for your productivity.

That's where Pocket comes in. This app allows you to save articles and blogs you come across in your browser or email for later reading on a mobile device. So, if you are at work and come across a really interesting article, don't stop to read it, save it to Pocket and read it on the way home or while on a break.

Pocket is free and works as an extension to your Web browser. First you need to go to the Pocket website and sign up for an account, then install the browser extension (click on Your Web Browser under Ways to Pocket). After that, install the app on your Android or iOS device.

Doodle

While the name suggests a drawing, Doodle is actually a scheduling app. It allows you to set a number of potential times and dates for a meeting and then ask all participants to select what works best for them. This makes it easier for you to schedule meetings with different people, while also reducing the number of back-and-forth emails that inevitably come about from setting up meetings.

When you pick the times, the participants tick what times or dates work best for them, which you can then view and pick the time that works best. What sets this app apart is that it syncs with almost all other major calendar apps like Google Calendar and Outlook. It's available on both the Apple App and Google Play stores for USD$2.99.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
December 12th, 2013

Productivity_Dec09_AFrom email to document storage, and even voice communication, almost every business system is connected in some way to do the Internet. Connecting to the Web is without a doubt an important tool that many businesses have come to steadfastly rely on. A common problem workers run across however is being distracted by sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, etc. when they need to crack on and get their work done.

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.

Anti-Social

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.

Focus Me

If you are looking for an app that can block not only websites, but also programs on your computer, Focus Me could be what you're are looking for. One of the interesting features of this app is that it reminds you to take breaks away from your screen, which is great for you health.

Focus Me has three modes: Block Mode which blocks, closes or minimizes specified programs, websites, and browser tabs. Focus Mode blocks all windows, programs, and apps, except for any you have selected. Take a Break allows you to set up specific times where the app will block all programs, including the Internet, forcing you to take a break.

In order to unblock programs, you enter a password. The app works on Windows and costs USD$18. Visit the Focus Me site to learn more.

SelfControl

If you use a Mac in the office, and would like to turn off email alerts or social media sites, try using SelfControl. This open-source app allows you to set and block websites and email servers for a set period of time. Unlike other blocker apps, access to sites and programs is blocked until the timer is up, even if you restart your computer.

This app is available for free from the developer's website and should be compatible with most versions of OS X.

RescueTime

While app and program blockers cut temptation off at the source, it is also useful to know where exactly you are wasting time, or how you are using your time on your computer. By knowing where you waste the majority of your time, and when you are more prone to veer off track, you can use the app blockers with better effectiveness.

RescueTime is an app that will track how you use your time and present you with easy to read and understand reports. You can even set alerts so you'll know when you've used a program for a set amount of time and even block them.

This app works on most platforms, including Mac, Windows, Android and Linux. The Lite version is free and tracks the time you spend using websites and applications. The Premium version costs USD$9 a month and comes with more features, including alerts, blocking of programs and sites, and more. Visit the app's website to learn more about the app and to sign up.

Freedom

Freedom is from the same developers as Anti-Social but is meant to be more of a full-blocker. The main purpose of this app is that it blocks all access to the Internet from your computer. This app is best for when you really need to concentrate with no Internet access.

The app is USD$10 and works on Android, Windows and Mac. Visit the website to learn more about Freedom and download it.

If you are looking for more ways to increase your productivity, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
November 14th, 2013

2013Nov14_Productivity_ACommunication is one of the most essential components of business, and one of the main ways many companies and customers communicate is through email. One of the most important elements of the email is the part that many people either struggle with or ignore - the subject line. If you don't write strong or appropriate subject lines you will may risk the fact that the email will go unopened.

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 the message about what the email is about is more easily communicated..

2. It's ok to use some abbreviations

Despite whatever your teachers might have stressed about grammar through school, abbreviations and acronyms are actually fine to use in email subject lines. The key here is to only use those that are commonly known. For example, FYI (for your information) and RE (regarding) are perfectly acceptable to use.

If you are going to use specific acronyms or abbreviations that people may not know, you need to reference the meaning in some way. An easy way to do this is to use them in the body of the email first, and explain what they mean the first time you use them. For example, WRT (with regard to) which is increasingly used but not necessarily universally known.

3. KISS your subject lines

We don't mean actually bend forward and smooch your monitor - that would be a little weird. What we mean is 'Keep It Stupid Simple'. When writing subject lines try to keep these as simple as possible. Don't use confusing words and don't write long sentences. That being said, don't go too far the other way either. Sometimes one to two word subject lines may not be enough to get across the point of the email and may actually provoke questions or confusion. Take a look at the subject you write and ask yourself if it is as simple as possible, yet clear enough to avoid any misunderstanding.

4. Be as specific as possible

While keeping it simple is important, you also need to keep subject lines specific. A great subject line will tell the user exactly what the email is about. For example, if you are inviting customers to a webinar on your newest service, a subject line that says something along the lines of: 'Webinar in November' is ambiguous and likely to get ignored.

Writing something like 'New Service Webinar Invitation Dec 16' is much more specific and likely to create that necessary spark the interest for users to click open the email and read on.

5. Write actionable subject lines

The reason many of us send emails to colleagues is because we want them to do something. We want them to act. Because most people are busy, and don't want to spend time trying to decipher what a sender wants then simply adding the intention and desired action in the subject line can be worthwhile.

For example, if you need a colleague to edit the monthly sales report putting a line like 'Monthly sales report' may cause the employee to either ignore it, or put it to the side for later, largely because they may think it's a report, or not something that they need to act on. A subject line like 'Edit Monthly Sales Report' immediately informs the recipient that you are requesting an action. It also saves you time having to go into lots of information in the body of the email too.

Looking to learn more about how you can save time and improve productivity in your organization? Get in contact with us today to see how we can help.


Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity