Beat the clock! Quick tricks to get time on your side
Write it down. Schedule your work and keep the appointment. “If it’s in your Day Planner, you have actually set time aside to accomplish the work instead of just listing it as a to-do item, which you may not get done,” says time management consultant Harold Taylor.
Take advantage of peak hours. Your energy levels are typically higher at the beginning of the week, says Dan Sullivan, president of The Strategic Coach, a Toronto-based consultancy. Reserve Mondays and Tuesdays to tackle priority tasks.
Use one day planner. Many people use one calendar for social events and another to schedule work tasks, which easily leads to double-booking, Taylor explains. To avoid mix-ups and spending time rescheduling appointments, use one planner — and always carry it with you.
Allow time for interruptions and emergencies. Because managers spend so much time dealing with interruptions and emergencies, never schedule more than 25% to 30% of your day for important tasks, advises Taylor. This will help you meet expectations of yourself and others.
Learn to say “no”. If you’re already working at capacity, then face the facts: there’s a limit to how much you can do. Ruthlessly evaluate whether the meeting or event you’ve been invited to will add value; if it won’t, then decline.
Home-office helpers: top tools for working remotely
A recent survey by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Internet security firm SonicWALL Inc. revealed that 76% of employees believe working from a home office aids productivity. It can work for bosses, too: with the right tools, you save on commuting time, eliminate needless interruptions from staff and really get time to focus. Bruce Wilbee of H&P Computer Solutions in Duncan, B.C., shares three top technologies you need to keep your home office humming:
Get a multi-function machine. An all-in-one printer, scanner, copier and fax machine saves travel time between separate machines — and is three fewer machines you need to learn how to use.
Get synchronizing software. Don’t waste time copying files back and forth from your desktop to your laptop. Consider purchasing the Windows XP Professional operating system, which will automatically synchronize any new or updated files between PCs. Similarly, synchronizing software such as SynchPST will harmonize your Outlook folders and files.
Install remote-access software. You’ll never be without a file or application if you invest in remote-access software, such as Microsoft’s Remote Desktop or Web-based GoToMyPC (www.gotomypc.com). It allows you to log in remotely to your PC and use it as if you were sitting right at your desk.
Build a better office: essentials of efficient workspaces
A company employing 1,000 knowledge workers wastes about US$2.5 million a year due to an inability to locate and retrieve information, according to a 2001 report by Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. Brenda Borenstein, president of Organized Zone Inc., a Toronto-based organizing service, shows you how to clear the clutter and make your workspace more efficient.
Use your real estate wisely. If the tools and files you use frequently are not within arm’s length, reorganize your workspace. You should be able to reach everyday items without getting up out of your chair.
Clean your desk! If your desk is cluttered, your mind will be, too. Gather up all those loose papers and folders, then file them.
Adopt “transparent filing”. Keep active files in a see-through filing pocket you can hang on your wall, allowing you to see and access folders at a glance instead of rooting around
Get a comfortable chair. Invest in a high-quality ergonomic chair. With your back and arms properly supported, you’ll be physically able to spend a full day at your desk.
Organize your “junk drawer”. Everyone has a junk drawer, even at the office. Remove the items you’re not using (e.g., old keys, decommissioned office passes, out-of-date business cards), then insert dividers to organize the remaining items. You’ll find what you need faster.
Downtime for uptime: ways to add fuel to your fire
Bend it like Beckham. Attention desk jockeys: get up and move. It may seem trite, but stretching and bending to relieve your knots and stiffness will increase your physical comfort and your ability to work more productively, says Patricia Katz, a life-balance strategist and president of Optimus Consulting in Saskatoon. Invest in software such as Stretchware (www.stretchware.com), which will remind you to take a break and provide stretching exercises.
Get out! If you don’t need to take notes, take brief meetings outside. For example, have a 10-minute walking meeting with a colleague. The fresh air and exercise will increase your energy.
Take a catnap. Many companies have quiet rooms complete with beds, dim lighting and soft music. But according to the University of Texas Southwestern University Medical Center, reclining in your chair with your door closed for 15 minutes can give you the same jump for the rest of the day.
Try something new. Take a new route to work or eat lunch at a different restaurant. New experiences prompt your brain to release dopamine, a motivating chemical.
Close that sale… fast: secrets of supersellers
Entrepreneurs often waste time on tepid prospects. Colleen Francis, president of Ottawa-based Engage Selling Solutions, explains how to identify the best potential buyers and “get to yes” faster:
Talk money early. Many people go through the whole sales cycle and present pricing at the end, only to discover that the customer doesn’t have the budget or the desire to buy at your price. Talk about price early in the process and you’ll weed out prospects that aren’t a fit.
Establish a time frame Ask your customers when they need to get the project started. Then create a workback schedule to show them the date by which a purchasing decision must be made to meet that time frame.
Use the word “never”. If you have a prospect who is constantly raising objections, try saying, “I just get the sense that we’re never going to do business.” People hate the word “never,” and it will increase the urgency to tell you what it’s going to take to make the sale.
Push for an answer. Get to the close by asking, “Where do we go next?” or “Where do we go from here?” This will signal to the customer that it’s decision time and he or she needs to tell you the next step to make the sale happen.
Generate better ideas: four ways to brainstorm effectively
Creative thinking is the lifeblood of any organization. But it can be difficult to come up with inspired ideas on demand, says Lola Rasminsky, president of Toronto-based Beyond the Box, which trains executives to think like artists. These are her best brainstorming tips:
Appreciate every idea. Collect all ideas and solutions, even outrageous ones, says Rasminsky. The longer the list, the more likely you are to find a winner. “Plus,” she says, “it’s much easier to tame a wild idea than energize a limp one.”
Encourage diversity. Welcome different perspectives by including employees from every department. Encourage challenging questions and diversity. If five people in a room agree on everything, four of them shouldn’t be there.
Try right-brain exercises. To jump-start your creativity, try some right-brain exercises, such as improvisation and storytelling. Or set up some hands-on activities such as painting or building blocks to loosen up participants and stir imaginations.
Keep the focus. Avoid brainstorming and evaluating at the same time, which deters participants from adding to the mix. Keep the session focused on getting all the ideas on the table. Once you’ve accumulated a list, you can follow-up on the most promising ones.
Business lunch basics: how to eat, drink and do the deal
Too many business lunches eat up the afternoon and leave you with nothing but the bill. Margaret Miller, president of TERAGRAM Coaching & Consulting Group in Hamilton, Ont., offers these lunch lessons:
Watch the clock. Set aside 90 minutes for lunch. To keep to your schedule, don’t wait an hour before getting down to business.
Have an agenda. Take a list of the few key points you want to discuss to the meeting, which will help you avoid chasing down information you forgot to get over lunch.
Take notes. Let your client know that you’d like to make some notes during the meeting rather than trying to recall discussions from memory. Your notes will be more accurate and you won’t waste time recovering any information you forget.