Productivity and Organization

Does Your Business Have A Problem with Disorganization?

July 1, 2013

Experts say that a lack of organization in any business from home-based consulting firms to major corporations can exact tolls in lost productivity. But on a deeper level, disorganization can be a source of incredible stress that smothers creativity and brings feelings of anxiety and loss of control. In subtle ways, more energy can be spent dealing with the piles of letters, memos, and other papers than on nurturing the business.

So how do you know if your business has a problem with disorganization? There no single definition given. But if you have trouble finding a needed invoice, letter or computer file within a modest span of time, say three to five minutes, something’s not right. Another question to ask is: Could somebody else find this paper if I were gone?

Despite hopes for the paperless office, we’re actually being inundated with more paper than ever before. Several methods are used by professional organizers, such as the “TRASH” system for processing paper:

T hrow it away or recycle it

R efer it to someone else

A ct on it

S ave it in the place where it belongs

H alt it, in the case of junk mail or subscriptions you don’t read

Or use the 4-part test: (from Lisa Kanarek – Organizing Your Home Office for Success)

  • Will I ever look at this again?
  • Will I be able to replace this later if I toss it now?
  • Will my business suffer without this?
  • Can I file it so that I can quickly find it later?

If you answer YES to questions #1,3-4 and NO to question #2, then KEEP, otherwise, TOSS it.

The main idea, experts say, is to avoid just throwing incoming papers in a pile to be dealt with later. You should either act on the paper right away, file it, or recycle it.

Likewise, adopt procedures to manage the new generation of email and voicemail. Some experts advise letting the answering machine or voicemail pick up all incoming calls, then setting aside 10 minutes at the end of each hour to answer those calls. E-mail is a tougher issue to handle. Thanks to modem technology, people can receive hundreds of electronic messages each day which can require hours to read. Treat e-mail in the same manner as paper: act on it in a timely manner, putting each message in a proper folder – electronically. CompuServe and American On-line provide some type of electronic file cabinets and software programs such as PaperMaster and HotPage allow creation of electronic file cabinets for scanned, faxed, imported and downloaded documents.

If you’re having trouble getting or staying organized, a professional can be very valuable. He or he can suggest ideas that have proven effective in other businesses and can help resolve logjams more quickly than you can on your own. Solutions to disorganized offices are effective only if they are personalized. What makes sense for one business may not necessarily work for another.

If you are a person who has the mess of the world on your hands, but you’re functioning beautifully, have wonderful human relationships, and you are productive and creative, then disorganization works for you. However, if it impedes some of those real quality-of-life issues, then disorganization is exacting a heavy toll.


Filed under: Productivity & Organization, Uncategorized

Getting Organized Is A Top Priority

June 28, 2013

Is GETTING ORGANIZED on your list of things to do someday? Do colleagues joke about your messy desk or piles of junk? Do you waste time looking for important files or documents? Is “I know it’s here somewhere!” your rallying cry?

Futurists of the 1970s and 80s promised a “paperless office.” Yet annual sales of file cabinets leaped 29% between 1991 and 1994. What happened?

Computers happened. Printers, faxes, copiers, and e-mail happened. Decreased costs and increased ability to customize through desktop publishing software has resulted in a deluge of paper-based documents.

Unfortunately, the amount of paper and information generated will not vanish, but continue to increase. According to Forbes ASAP, “paper, which flows like white water from office printer, copier and fax machines, will surge 6% annually through the rest of this decade.” One printer manufacturer in the South Bay currently ships one million laser and ink-jet printers per month.

“Paper is a security blanket” according to one Fortune 500 executive. Surveys indicate that information is not personal until it is put on paper.

Some 1990s futurists are convinced that the shift from paper will eventually happen. Until then, what can rescue offices knee-deep in paper? How can you clear away the clutter to make your business more efficient, more effective and more profitable?

Invest in getting organized. Put your priorities in order so that you can accomplish the most important tasks.

Get organized by setting up systems and procedures. Take a bit time to get your desk and priorities in order. With an orderly desk and an uncluttered mind, you will enter 1996 with refreshed energy and purpose. Try the following tips during this month.

Desk Clean Up Tips:

1. Get Ready

  • Hold all interruptions
  • Put a large Trash Can beside your desk
  • Time yourself. Spend only 1 hour per day decluttering your desk

2. The Rules

  • Identify and sort each item into a category or project, whichever is applicable
  • Don’t handle each task now; simply identify and prioritize.

3. Take Decisive Action

  • Toss It
  • Call/Follow Up on It
  • Delegate It
  • Store It elsewhere
  • Archive It
  • File It – Your goal is to retrieve this information easily

4. Set The Priority

  • Is it a #1, #2, or #3?
  • Tackle a #1 first!

5. Know Your Limits

  • Hire a Professional Organizer to help you streamline paper and information, and set up systems and procedures to create and maintain order.
  • Your tasks identified and prioritized allows you to be productive the minute you hit the office door. Don’t Agonize… Organize, today!

Filed under: Productivity & Organization, Uncategorized

How much of your time is taken up by junk mail? Get rid of it! Here’s how:

June 27, 2013

Junk mail is advertising that arrives in your postal mailbox along with the mail you really want or need. It’s impossible to eliminate all of it, but you can substantially reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. You can of course, toss, tear, or shred it once it arrives. But let’s stop it from reaching our mailbox in the first place.

How did I get on these lists in the first place?junkmail

Junk mail is actually the result of direct marketing campaigns designed to get you to buy a product or service. When you purchase a product or service and give the company your name and address, the chances are you are being added to one or more mailing lists used for direct marketing. This is true when you buy a car or a house, use a shopping card, sign up for a credit card, subscribe to a magazine, buy something from a catalog, give money to a charity, or fill out a product registration form.

Your name, address, and other contact information, as well as the type of product or service, is entered into a computer data base. The business that collected the information will use it to solicit more business from you. They might also rent their list to other businesses so they can send you advertisements. Lists are valuable, and renting lists is big business.How can I get off these lists? Here are just three of them.

1. Mailing lists of the major national marketers

If you want off as many national mailing lists as possible, your first step is to contact the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS). You must re-register after five years. While you can register by mail, the fastest way is online at www.dmaconsumers.org.

When you register, your name and address are placed in a “do not mail” file which is updated monthly and distributed to DMA members quarterly. DMA members are required to update their lists at least quarterly, and some do it monthly. Businesses who are not members of the DMA also take advantage of this “do not mail” list, so registering with the DMA will reduce much of your junk mail.

You can also register the names of deceased loved ones with their Deceased Do Not Contact list (DDNC).

2. Catalogs, mail order lists and magazines

When you buy something from a mail order catalog, your transaction is likely to be reported to Abacus, owned by DoubleClick Digital Advertising. Members of the Abacus Alliance, mostly catalog companies and publishing companies, contribute and exchange information about their customers. Your name may also be sold to other catalog and publishing companies. The quickest way to opt out of the Abacus database is at abacusoptout@epsilon.com

Companies that do not participate in the DMA and Abacus opt-out programs must be contacted directly. This includes magazines, charities and many professional associations. It may take some hunting, but you can usually find a toll-free customer service number and/or address on the advertising piece. Let them know you not only want to be off their list, but you don’t want them providing your contact information to other companies.

3. Pre-approved offers of credit

Many of the companies you do business with provide data to credit bureaus about how much you owe and how promptly you pay your bills. The four credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis. In turn, the credit bureaus rent lists of people that fit a particular profile, i.e., make over $40,000 annually, use credit cards, and pay their bills on time. No financial information is released.(888) 5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) is a single number you can call to opt-out of Innovis and the three major credit bureaus. It is available in English and Spanish.

Your information is also picked up from the supermarket loyalty cards, product registration cards, consumer survey, sweepstakes, etc. Always look for privacy options or opt-out options when giving your personal information. Most companies realize that privacy is good business.

For lots more information on getting off lists, see Privacy Rights Clearinghouse website www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs4-junk.htm#4, The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is filled with Fact Sheets on all areas regarding privacy issues.


Filed under: Productivity & Organization, Uncategorized

Hard-Drive Headaches

June 27, 2013

Calling Nurse Stelter!

Attorney, librarian, neat freak. That’s Sandy Stelter of Benicia, California. Stelter helps high-tech pack rats tidy up their computers – right down to the last kilobyte of storage space. She charges between $50 and $75 an hour for an office visit. For us, however, she’s giving away three of her most valuable secrets.

Call for Backup

Don’t even think about giving your computer a spring cleaning without first copying all the data on it. Backing up saves you from losing a file – and it forces you to swamp out your hard drive. The effort of deciding which files to back up, says Stelter, will yield dozens of items that belong in the trash.

Learn to Say Goodbye

Discard old files and programs that you no longer use. Don’t delete only the obvious files. If you use fax-modem software, your hard drive is probably cluttered with old faxes, which suck up vast amounts of disk space. Also, cull through email – and don’t limit yourself to the inbox. Stelter regularly trashes copies of old outgoing mail.

Fill the Manila

Most operating systems make it easy to sort data into file folders – though few people do it the right way. Stelter’s advice: Create new folders for each major project – and folders within the folders for each task within a project. Then use a directory such as Windows Explorer to display a visual “tree” showing each stage of the work. “Put these folders on your desktop,” she advises, “and you’ll find them at a glance.”

Article from Fast Company: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/13/harddrive.html


Filed under: Productivity & Organization, Uncategorized

7 Steps To Getting An Hour A Day Back

June 27, 2013
Are you losing an HOUR or MORE a day during this recession? 7 Steps To Get It Back!
I’ve noticed during this economic challenge that many people feel out of control, myself included. So this week I’m taking 7 steps to get back into control.
In the process, I stumbled across a thought-provoking quote from Dorothy Galyean …. “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”
 Office Worker
Email, phone, interruptions, paper, piles, business cards, to do list, appointments … come at us daily!  And where does it all end up? On the desk! On the credenza! Staring at us! The BIG Question —
Where should I start? I can’t find anything on this desk.
I’m supposed to be on top of this!”
Familiar? We all can feel absolutely overwhelmed by tasks that “I should-have-done-but-I-haven’t-yet.”  There are countless systems available to help you and me – physical (alphabetical, numerical, or categorical) and electronic (scanning, indexing, email, computer files), each with pros and cons.

But we’re all looking for the magic system that gets us back on track, calm, and in control.

SYSTEM = Saves You Space, Time, Energy, and Money

“Yesterday’s mail is today’s pile” is an organizing principle offered by Barbara Hemphill, a pioneer in the organizing industry. We consider our desk the command station in our office, so control and productivity, or lack thereof, starts there. Paper clutter in an office can be a serious hindrance to being productive. (If you are an effective “piler”, there are tools for you to use, also. See more in our next issue on Pilers.)

The average U.S. executive wastes six weeks per year searching for information missing in messy desks and files. That translates into one hour per day!

INVEST in getting yourself organized. Yes, it is an investment in yourself, your business, and your time. Now is the best time to clear off your desk, get organized, declutter, and put your priorities in order, so you can accomplish your most important tasks most efficiently. Are YOU ready to step into control?

Set up organized SYSTEMS and procedures. Take a bit of time to get your desk and priorities in order. With orderly desk and uncluttered mind, you will start each day with refreshed energy and purpose.

organizer

1. Set a calendar appointment with yourself, this week or next. Treat it like a client’s appointment and keep it. Set it for 1 or 2 hours – you can get a lot accomplished in a couple of  hours. Set an alarm to time yourself.

2. Allow No Interruptions – no email checking, no answering the phone, no visitors. Close the door or hang a Do Not Disturb sign at your entrance. You  don’t appreciate those counter-productive interruptions with a client or colleague. Treat yourself likewise.

3. Get a very large recycle bin or trash can. Approximately 60% – 80% of the paper on your desk can be shredded and/or recycled. The larger the container, the more likely you will fill it!
recycling bin
Step 4 is the “sorting” process. Do not do the task yet!  Simply identify it and prioritize it.
4. Pick up each piece of paper and ask yourself:
    • Did I ask for this information and does it require action?
    •  Is it available anywhere else and is it recent enough?
    •  Can I identify the specific circumstances when I would want this?
    •  Are there any Tax or Legal implications?

If the answer is NO, then Toss/Recycle/Shred it in the next step.

5. Take Decisive Action – FAT (File, Act, or Toss)
    • File – Put papers you need to keep into your filing/retrieval system. Make the file folder, write the number or subject on the document, put it into a container for scanning, or put it in your iPEP (Interactive Productive Environment Platform.)
    • Act – Set up the project file, delegate the item to another person, put it into your To Call, To Input, or To Read files, put it on your contact manager (ACT) or calendar (Outlook), or put it into your tickler file or your To Do List.
    • Toss -Recycle or Shred it, etc.

6. Prioritize all projects and tasks based on importance and deadline. At the end of the day, do your best to put projects back into their filing locations and update your priorities for tomorrow. Having your tasks already identified and prioritized allows you to be productive the minute you hit your office door.

7. Remember that getting organized is a process, not an event. Once you have cleared your desk by taking action (FAT), keep working your system – Steps 4-6 every 2-3 days. You’ll be in control with a working system as well as getting that hour a day back!

Filed under: Productivity & Organization
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