July 13, 2024

Write That Weekly Task List!

How do you plan your weekly tasks and to-do’s?  Do you work from a list? I almost always do, but during the past two weeks, I got so busy that I neglected to write my weekly task list.  I accomplished (most) of the biggies on my plate, and nothing catastrophic was overlooked.  Nevertheless, without my list I felt a bit unmoored, a bit less productive.  

As of this morning, I’m back on track.  My weekly task list (via Google calendar) is at my fingertips, and I’ve already checked off a few boxes, which can be ridiculously satisfying.

If you habitually carry your to-do’s in your head, I suggest you write them down, and make a list.  Whether on paper or electronically doesn’t matter much–whatever works for you. Options could range from a small spiral notebook or giant post-it, to an app such as Toodledo (www.toodeldo.com) or  Remember the Milk (www.rememberthemilk.com). 

So try it–make a weekly list, and give your productivity a boost

Ho Ho Ho–Just Say No

Many of us tend to over-commit ourselves, especially during the holidays.  Rather than give you pointers on how to manage your time, I’d like you to consider the Art of Saying No. In Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern says,

“The act of eliminating tasks involves saying no to other people.  If it’s hard for you to say no, you’ll end up doing things you really don’t want to, simply because you feel guilty declining.  We all hate to disappoint, but the larger truth is that those requests are going to keep coming your way.  Do you really want to spend your ever more precious time doing things just to please others?  You need to learn how to balance doing things for those you care about, while still honoring your own goals.” 

And finally, there’s the saying: “Stress is when your gut says no, but  your mouth says yes.”  Isn’t that the truth!

So go ahead, volunteer, help out on that special project, bake those cookies–if you really can, and if you really want to.  Sometimes it’s ok to say no.

Options for Organizing Business Cards

You’ve just returned to the office after another networking event.  You dump those freshly-acquired business cards on your desk.  You set aside a few for follow-up emails, and idly finger the rest, admiring tag lines, graphics and logos (or not.) But what should you do with all those business cards?  You’ll give it some thought later, but for now, into the desk drawer they go.

Organizing business cards can be a challenge; most of the obvious approaches have drawbacks:

  • Dumping cards in a drawer or box = an unorganized, unsearchable mess.
  • Storing cards in a business card binder = no way to organize in a sensible way without rearranging old cards as new ones are added.  Who’s got time for that?! 
  • Alphabetizing cards = How? By last name? Business name? Category?  It’s tough to stay consistent, and again, time consuming.    
  • Entering every card you receive into your database = Labor intensive, and you may be left with an address book of strangers.

There are steps you can take to better manage all the business cards that come your way.  After all, the point of taking someone’s card is to take action—to connect, not start a meaningless collection.

Here are some options for organizing business cards:

If you’re strictly interested in an old-school, non-computerized system, consider using an accordion file or binder with labeled dividers.  Organize cards by category, rather than alphabetically.  That is, arrange cards by networking groups, professional associations, geographical area, vendors—whatever categories make sense to you.  This isn’t a perfect system, but it’s better than a shoebox of cards crammed under your desk.

Enter business cards manually in your computer database, whether it be Outlook, an email address book, or a more business-oriented CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program, such as ACT!, BatchBook, or Zoho.

Even better, scan business cards to your computer.  There are several scanning options:

  • A portable scanner designed for business cards
  • A high powered scanner for all types of documents, such as Fujitsu’s ScanSnap (recommended if you really want to go paperless)
  • Shoeboxed (www.shoeboxed.com) a service in which you mail in your business cards (or receipts, or any kind of document) to be scanned and organized to your cloud-based Shoeboxed account.  You can also import contact info to Outlook, Google Contacts, or your favorite CRM.
  • A smartphone app such as CamCard or CardMinder. Snap a photo of a business card with your phone; the card’s image is saved, and data is added to your contacts and /or synced to another program you may be using, such as Evernote.
  • What are the advantages of scanning business cards? You contacts are searchable and easily accessed on your computer or mobile device, so you can throw away or recycle that box of cards with confidence.

No matter what system you choose, be selective about keeping every business card you receive.   It’s ok to discretely dispose of cards that you’re unlikely to ever need.

Finally, when you meet a promising new contact, immediately schedule a time to follow up.  After all, unless you take action, your networking efforts will go nowhere, no matter how well you organize all those cards.



Back Up Your Calendar with Google

An unfortunate series of events recently befell my friend’s BlackBerry.

My friend is a busy, successful entrepreneur, and mom of two young ones.  Always on the go, always multi-tasking.  It’s what we mompreneurs do best, right?  

Not always.

Five minutes after starting a load in the washing machine, my friend realized that her phone was tucked away in her pocket…in a pair of pants at the bottom of the machine.  She estimated that her BlackBerry was fully submerged for a good three minutes.

Panic time? Well, sure.  But she remembered hearing about the bag of rice trick: if a cell phone gets soaked, quickly seal it in a bag of uncooked rice.  Supposedly, the rice will draw out the moisture.  Am I suggesting that you try this? I am not.  Though it just may work, as it did for my relieved friend.  All was good again.

Until two days later, when she absolutely, positively, lost her phone.  It was replaceable, of course, and she had her contacts backed up.  What put her into a tailspin, was that she didn’t have her calendar backed up.  A calendar that was booked solid for the next six months.  Uh oh.

 Is your electronic calendar backed up?  If not, I suggest you start using Google calendar asap.  It’s free and user friendly.  If you don’t already have a Google account, set one up here.  You don’t have to use gmail; you can sign in with any email account.  (This is also the source  for Google Analytics and Google Reader.)

You can set up your Google calendar so that someone else (an assistant, say) can set appointments for you from the office, which then magically sync to your phone.  You can also share your calendar with friends, family, or post it on your website. 

Best of all, Google calendar syncs with a number of  mobile devices, like the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and a few more.    So, you can continue to use, say, the BlackBerry calendar that you’re so fond of–the interface is the same–but it’s synced, and therefore backed up on the Google cloud.  (You can find Google sync instructions here .) 

Volia, calendar back-up problem solved.

I haven’t spoken with my friend in several days (you know, no phone.)  But if she knows what’s good for her, one of the first calls she’ll make on her new phone will be to me, so I can remind her to set up her Google calendar.  I suggest you do the same.

P.S.  If you have any first-hand experience with the soaking-phone-in-a-bag-of-rice trick, I’d love to hear about it.

Do One Big Thing This Month

Excuse me, do you happen to know what happened to January?

I don’t know about you, but for me, last month passed at a frighteningly brisk clip.  Here we are, four days into February.

Have you written down your goals for 2011?  If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start.  Decide what you want to accomplish in terms of your business, social life, family life, fitness, education, plus any category I’ve missed–and work backwards.  That is, write your yearly goals (by category, if you have a bunch of them,) and then break them down into:

  • quarterly goals
  • monthly goals
  • weekly goals
  • daily goals  

That’s a whole lot of goal-writing, and a lot of to-do’s.  But if you really want to make things happen this year, this is the process.

I’m all about goal setting, obviously, but I’m also about setting reasonable deadlines.  With this in mind, I’d like to encourage you to choose One Big Thing to accomplish this month.  It doesn’t need to be huge, but it should be something that you’ve been putting off for awhile, or even better, a goal that will move your business or personal life forward in a significant way.

So what’s it going to be?  I’m going to put some new content on this site, something I meant to do before New Year’s.  Does that sound like a good goal? It’s ok, but this is even better: 

  • I’m going to detail my Productivity Coaching services on this site, and
  • I’m going to (finally) add my free, download-able offering for those who sign up for my newsletter / list.

Do you get the idea? The more specific the goal, the better your chances of actually doing it.  And finally, declare what you’re going to do, as I just did.  This will keep you accountable.

You better believe I’m going to get my One Big Thing done, since I just said I would.  And if I don’t, please call me out.

So, who’s in? Declare your One Big Thing for February, and make it happen!

5 Tips to Reduce Those Paper Piles

A solid desktop filing system will reduce paper clutter

January (aka G.O. Month) is almost over.  How have you been doing on those organizing resolutions you set? 

I’ve done a lot of paper-related work with clients this month.  Are papers  a sore spot for you, too?  Do you engage in “filing by piling,” or dumping everything on your desk?  Help is on the way!  With these five steps, you’ll soon have your paper piles whipped into shape.

1.  Sort papers and mail over the trash / recycling bin.  Feed generously.

 When deciding whether to toss something, ask yourself:

  • Do I really need this information?
  • What’s the worst that would happen if I didn’t have this information?
  • Can I find this information elsewhere? 

 2.  Sort papers and mail with your planner / calendar in hand.

  • Write to-dos in your calendar with a deadline.
  • For events that require a decision or RSVP, pencil the date in your calendar.  Next, select a “decide-by” date and write it down.  When you reach that date in your calendar, it’s time to make a decision.  File or toss any related paperwork. 
  • With this method, you can confidently file pending projects in a “Pending” or “Action Required” file on your desk top.       
  • This technique works with both paper and electronic calendars.

3.  Remove your name and address from mailing lists.

  • This requires a time investment, but will eventually reduce junk mail.
  • Visit the Direct Marketing Association’s website, www.DMAChoice.org, and register for Mail Preference Services.

4.  Set up an effective filing system 

  • Schedule time for weekly filing

5.  Invest in a paper shredder

  • If you have a lot of paper to shred, consider using a shredding service, such as Shred Ex www.goshredex.com.

Remember—you’ll never get organized if you continually add, but never subtract.

…consider this your math problem of the day.

It’s January…Time to G.O.!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and that you’re rested (yeah right) and ready for all that 2011 has to offer.

This is one of the busiest times of the year for me and my fellow organizers. The phone has been buzzing with lots of people looking to make good on a resolution or two. January is the perfect time to get organized–a fresh start et al. It makes perfect sense, then, that January is officially Get Organized Month. Have you be been bitten by the organizing bug yet? Have you felt the urge to weed through your filing cabinet, or at the very least, your sock drawer? (On New Year’s Day, my husband organized his closet with absolutely no prodding or input from me.  Fabulous!)

What area would you like to improve?  Offices, closets, dresser drawers, toy chests, and garages are the usual suspects.  If you’re a business owner, you may be looking to tighten up your financial record keeping, or finally write that operations manual.  No matter what you’re looking to organize, you’re more likely to succeed if you make a plan.  Rather than vaguely declaring, “I’m going to get organized this year…” put your goal on paper.  Be specific.  Then, write down all the steps you’ll need to accomplish the task.

In the spirit of G.O. Month, here are ten tips to get you started: 

  1. Write down your organizing goals.
  2. If you have a lot to tackle, for example “My Entire House,” break it down room by room.
  3. Identify any technical or fix-it issues: broken closet light, sticky file drawer etc.  If you can’t fix it, find someone who can.
  4.  Schedule organizing sessions in your calendar.
  5. Find an accountability buddy:  “I’m going to clean out my office on Sunday; please call me to make sure that I’ve started!”
  6. Gather the supplies you”ll need for your session, and get going.
  7. Remember that things will look chaotic for awhile.  Keep at it.
  8. Schedule time for clean up.
  9. Finish the job, no matter how many sessions it takes.
  10. To accomplish multiple organizing goals on a busy schedule, aim to finish one project per month.

Get ready…get set…G.O!

Get Your Act Together with Quickbooks in 2011

It’s the end of the year, bring on the holiday bustle and cheer!  December will blow by, so now is the time to reflect on how your business has done in 2010, and how you can make it better in 2011.

How about  bookkeeping, the vexation of many small business owners…will 2011 be the year that you finally get your act together?  How is your current system working for you? Does it consist of dumping every receipt into a box for “later,” causing untold misery and woe come tax time?  There is, as you know, a better way–and you owe it to yourself and your business to organize your financial record keeping.

As a solopreneur, you have two choices: hire a bookkeeper, or do it yourself.  If you elect to DIY, use QuickBooks.  QuickBooks provides accounting software for small businesses.  It’s been the industry standard for over fifteen years, and it’s what I recommend to my clients.  (And if you outsource, chances are your bookkeeper will use QuickBooks.)  Familiar with Quicken? You shouldn’t use it for business purposes; it’s designed for tracking personal finances, though it’s made by Intuit, the same folks behind QuickBooks.

Here’s a snapshot of what QuickBooks will do for you:

  • Manage customer, vendor, and employee data
  • Track expenses–pay bills, credit cards, print checks
  • Create invoices, statements, and purchase orders
  • Download banking transactions via online banking
  • Create all sorts of nifty reports
  • A whole lot more…

There are many features you can add-on, including payroll and merchant services.  In fact, few users need (or even understand) everything that QuickBooks has to offer.  This is what makes it great for home-based solopreneurs: you can keep things simple (tracking money in–money out,) and increase your knowledge as your business grows.

So, how do you decide which version of QuickBooks is right for you? Take a look here .  Most newbies begin with QuickBooks Pro.  There are also specialized Premier versions for Contractors, Retail, Nonprofits, Manufacturing & Wholesale, and Professional Services.

Finally, you’ll need to decide if you want to use the traditional desktop software, or QuickBooks Online–a newer service that Intuit is plugging pretty hard.  It’s ideal if you need to access your entire data from anywhere–office, home, or on the road.  Imagine creating and printing an invoice from your hotel room!  You can do that with QuickBooks Online.  It costs more (billed monthly,) but you get superior customer support, and you never have to upgrade to the next year’s version–you stay current. (No QuickBooks Online  for the specialized Premier versions, alas.)  If you don’t need all that accessibility (translation: you don’t get out much,) you can add-on Remote Access, starting at $3.95 per month, where you can access and work on your desktop files online.

So, the big question: is QuickBooks easy to use? Well, yes and no.  Once your account is set up, it’s a matter of data entry, which is simple(ish) enough.  It’s the setting up that can be tricky, especially if you don’t have a background in accounting. (Chart of Accounts? Items? Lists? Statements? Oy.)  QuickBooks comes with tutorials, customer service (2011 Pro version comes with a free one-hour phone session with a QuickBooks expert–a very welcome, new feature,) so you’re not completely on your own.  However, I suggest that you save yourself the inevitable headaches and get some help. 

Remember, 2011 is a fresh start.  Make the commitment now to get your books in order.  I can help.  And soon, I’ll be able to help from almost anywhere: in 2011, I’ll be offering virtual QuickBooks training.  If you’re interested in setting up a free practice session, let me know.  Also, if you have any QuickBooks questions, experience, yays-and-nays, post a comment.  On to 2011!