Moving around in my new city of Charlotte, I totally depend on GPS. I have zero sense of direction and without it, I’m clueless. Yesterday, I was cruising along but realized something wasn’t right. I’d been riding too long and wasn’t seeing any exit names that I recognized. I glanced at my iPhone and saw this. I had on my sunglasses and couldn’t read the warning. I knew it wasn’t good though so I pulled into a service station, put on my glasses and read the alert.
BAM! My iPhone (and GPS) had stopped working because the car was too warm (I don’t use a lot of AC and had windows up). As it turns out, I was on my way to South Carolina!
Life Lesson: When you don’t know where you are or where you’re going, you don’t know when you’re lost. This applies to your life and business too.
If you’re expecting your employees to do more with less resources, you can at least do whatever you can to ease the burden. It’s possible for them to get more work done without the burn-out from long hours, but you’ll have to make some changes first.
Think things through instead of just thinking it up. Before you implement another idea you just thought up, think it through first. Poor planning on your part destroys morale and causes productivity to plummet.
Eliminate time wasters. Have employees identify at least three ways management wastes their time and do the necessary work to fix it. Also have employees identify the top three things they do to waste time and hold them accountable for changing.
Clean up the mess. Hold a massive “clean up, throw out” campaign and declutter offices, file cabinets, computer files, and email Inboxes. Then create systems that make it easy and quick for anyone to find anything.
Teach them how to set goals and prioritize. Everyone needs to have a vision of how they see themselves and have a strategic plan for getting there. From the vision, you set goals that are big picture. Each goal needs a set of objectives that are specific and measurable. And few things get done without an action plan for reaching the objectives.
Streamline processes and bureaucracy with insider ideas. Implement a suggestion plan for all employees to improve processes and procedures. Then reward (with a cash percentage of the savings) and publicize the ideas from individuals or teams that work.
Invest in training regardless of the job. Don’t expect people to already have all the necessary skills they need. Offer training, from email software to management styles. With the right training, they’ll finish the work quicker with fewer mistakes.
Reduce time spent in meetings. Have meetings standing up, right before lunch, or near the end of the workday. Publish an agenda that includes an objective, start it on time, close all PDAs, stay on schedule, and end on time. When it’s over, ask if the meeting’s objective was met and hold people accountable.
Change your email culture. Too many people are drowning in email due to bad habits. Change habits such as replying to all unnecessarily, using the Inbox for storage with hundreds or thousands of messages, sending messages that don’t match the subject line, and flooding Inboxes instead of picking up the phone.
Communicate clearly. Before you delegate a task, make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want to happen. You’ll want to give an overview with the purpose, explain the specifics, be clear about the result, and empower the employee to make decisions. Eliminating inefficiencies in your organization gives people more time to think. And when they start thinking, they’ll develop smarter ways to work. And when they start working smarter, you, your organization, and your members will reap the benefits.
I hope you’ll schedule some time on your calendar to think about all this, develop a plan for getting it done, then do it.
I stopped by my local post office the other day to return some boxes I’d ordered and didn’t need. I was talking to a colleague while we waited in line, and he was unaware that you could order products from their Website for free. This prompted me to re-publish a previous post from last year.
The U.S. Postal Service can indeed help you be more productive.
Order free packaging from their Web site. I keep a supply of Priority Flat Rate envelopes and Flat Rate boxes with postage already applied. And their regular envelopes with the postage already on them come in handy too.
Keep various denominations of stamps on hand. I always have Priority Mail and other denominations of stamps with me when I travel. I keep them in a pouch with each type separated. When I’m in my office, I use my LabelWriter(TM) DYMO to print my own stamps in any denomination. I also use it to print shipping labels. It’s much simpler for me to do this than go to the USPS Web site, complete all the information, pay for the postage, print the label, then affix.
You can buy stamps at local businesses such as Office Depot, Staples, Wal-Mart, and more. Just look for the “USPS Buy Stamps Here” logo.
Have your letter carrier pick up your mail. If you’re shipping at least one overnight guaranteed, priority 2-3 day, international, or a return, the letter carrier will pick up your shipment for free. I use Federal Express and UPS drop-off, but I don’t ship enough to justify paying extra for pickup. With the US Postal Service, I schedule the pickup on their Web site, and leave the package on my front porch. That’s it.
Mail it when you can’t fax or email. I have fax capability on my combo printer/fax/scanner/copier, but sometimes faxing is not practical (too many pages). So when I can’t email it or fax it and it doesn’t make sense to use Fedex or UPS, I mail it. It’s funny how people have forgotten about that option. (I receive faxes in my email using a free service from efax (http://home.efax.com/s/r/efaxprint).
Wish List There is one thing I wish the US Postal Service would offer: I’d like to be able to get self-adhesive, coded labels that track and bill my account. Then all I’d have to do is affix my shipping label to my package, and their computers would track the cost of the postage and bill me later.
The next time you’re standing in line at the post office, ask yourself why. I hope these ideas will help you increase your productivity and get the most out of your day.
Every time I hear of company layoffs, I feel badly for the people losing their jobs. But I immediately start to wonder how the people left behind will make it. They were already working inefficiently; now half of their co-workers are gone.
In my work as a consultant helping people improve their personal productivity, I see so much wastage. I often wonder how anything gets done and how people have any time for a life outside of work.
Create More Time
If you’ve wondered “How on earth will I find time to do all this work?”, read on. Now is the perfect time to turn off the TV and start developing ways to work smarter.
Keep a time log. If you don’t believe you waste a lot of time, keep a log. How many times did you surf the Internet reading useless blogs (not mine), etc., that are not work-related? How many personal phone calls? How much time spent on personal errands, events, etc? How much time are you spending looking for a file on your computer? Keep track of every minute for a few days and be honest with yourself about how you’re spending work time.
Organize everything. Save hours a day by creating paper, computer, Inbox, etc., filing systems so you can find anything you need the instant you need it. Start with your clothes closet and purge the things you don’t need and put like items together by type and color. Use this same system for everything else that you organize, not necessarily by color, but by putting broad categories of items together. In a filing system, this could mean putting all of your marketing files together, accounting files together, etc. Get everyone to use the same logical systems so anyone can find anything anywhere in the office.
Set goals and prioritize. You have to determine what your goals are so you’ll know how you should spend your time. The easiest way to figure out what your priorities are is to stay focused on those things that make you the most money. On a job, it’s what’s laid out in your performance plan that’s connected to the size of your raise. In business, it’s whatever is bringing in the most revenue, whether it’s a particular set of clients, products, or services..
Streamline your processes. Get back weeks by not working the same way you always have. Spend time figuring out better ways to get everything done. Look at everything you’re doing, especially the most time-consuming, miserable, mundane work you have to do. Is the work necessary in the first place (not all of it is)? What steps are unnecessary? Is someone else doing it a different way and finishing faster and with fewer errors? Examine everything you’re doing, write it down, move steps around, and eliminate all wastage.
Computerize everything. Get work done in the time it will take you to blink. Technology you already have can perform magic, but few people have stopped long enough to seek training. If you learn how to use the software you touch every day, you’ll finish everything at least six times quicker. Either learn how your software works or hire a geek who already knows.
Delegate or outsource what you can. Once you’ve gotten organized and computerized, you’ll have a clearer picture of the work you do and how it should be done. Now you’ll be able to get someone else to do much of it and offer logical explanations of what you need (because now it makes more sense to you). Spend your time and mind on your core work and delegate or outsource everything else.
You might have to give up a weekend or two to get this done, but you’ll get all that time back and feel better every day going forward. And unlike dieting or exercising, the results from all these things are immediate!
My blog, Suite Minute, started out as a way to share my tips in the Microsoft Office suite. The name came from the notion that each post would take you a minute to read, a minute to try, but save you hours using. Its mission is to help you spend less time working but get more done. You can do that by working smarter and finishing faster.
Suite Minute has grown over the past three years, and last year, it was awarded Top Business Blog by FastPitchNetworking.com. My technology tips focus on improving your personal productivity (I’m a personal productivity expert and international conference speaker). I write about what I know, the way I work, problems I’ve solved, and products I actually use. A lot of my content comes from conversations with real people.
Here are links to some posts you might have missed. Get comfortable and enjoy.
I saw a Feb 2007 article in CareerJournal (Wall Street Journal Website), and my mouth dropped open when I read the advice below. It is so wrong.
“Emails that don’t require an immediate reply can pile up as you respond to more urgent messages. To get them out of the way, send a quick reply to each with a canned message such as: “Thanks for writing. I’ll get back to you on this as soon as possible,” says Ana Weber, a controller at Binder Metal Products Inc., a Gardena, Calif., manufacturer, who is a part-time career and time-management coach. Then store them in a folder labeled “unread” as a reminder to attend to them later, she says.”
An autoresponder that pops back to every message people send you is on my list of 27 email pet peeves that I’ve collected. Coming from someone who teaches people how to manage email overload and addiction, has written a book about it, and travels nationally doing it, let me tell you…don’t do this.
An autoresponder like this does nothing but contribute to more email overload. You have not helped the writer, and you’ve piled up more work for yourself that you’ll probably forget about.
This is better.
Keep the Inbox to one screen by not using it as a database, to do list, calendar, or tickler file.
Get organized (paper, Inbox, and computer files) so you can find answers quickly.
Use the best software (Outlook) and learn all its tips and tricks.
Establish a routine that works for you (and the boss and co-workers).
Get into a meeting with your Inbox and deal with each message as you open it.
I recently recorded a coaching session/Webinar I had with two clients who wanted to get organized at work (that’s the number one way of creating more time). One is a small business owner (events planner) and the other in hotel sales. Clutter was taking over their lives and blocking them from reaching their full potential.
The next day, as I was listening to the recording, the idea hit me to create a video of this call and include the slides.
I considered different ways I could create this video and ended up doing it as follows.
The first thing I did was to edit the audio to a tight conversation that’s the right combination of my tips and how my clients understood them and will use them. Once that was perfected, I made a separate recording of my introduction to the video (the next time I do this, I’ll include this when I record the phone call).
The next step was to save each slide in my PowerPoint presentation as pictures (here is a previous post I wrote on how to Save a PowerPoint Slide as a Picture). So now I have my audio and my PowerPoint slides in a format I can use. Next, I had to sync everything.
I use Camtasia Studio. I created a new project and added both the audio files to the timeline. I also inserted all the slides into the Clip Bin as separate pictures. As I listened to the recording, I stopped every time I referenced a new slide. I’d then add the appropriate slide/picture to the timeline and adjust the recording to fit.
Once I had the project the way I wanted it, I rendered it as a Flash video and uploaded it to Techsmith’s Website, Screencast.com.
Now I have a product: Monday Breakthroughs. You’ll be able to view the full video/presentation/training at your convenience, then join me on the phone any Monday for live group coaching that’s only for Q&A. (In addition to the video and phone coaching, you’ll also receive my ebook, Get Organized At Work, and a set of free Word documents that make it easy to create a filing system and will save you hours of work.)
Here’s the trailer.
Get all the details and sign up right here.
I went from a coaching call to developing a new product using tools I already know. I spent one day developing this instead of outsourcing, waiting months, going back and forth until I could get exactly what I wanted, completely stressing out, and paying a ton of money.
My question to you: how can you take what you know and create products to sell while you sleep? Leave a comment with your ideas.
I think my next project will cover how to improve your email habits and etiquette, and how to manage email overload using Outlook. I’ll keep you posted.
I was recently interviewed by Geetesh Bajaj, a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP and administrator of the popular Website, Indezine. We reconnected at a recent PowerPoint conference and he was there during my keynote, Shameless Self Promotion. This interview is a result of that and I thought you might enjoy it.
In this discussion, Peggy discusses her Shameless Self Promotion concept, and how it has a PowerPoint angle.
Geetesh: Tell us more about what you mean by Shameless Self Promotion, and how it helps?
Peggy: At first glance, you might think I mean boasting to everyone who will listen about how wonderful you think you are. But I’m referring to promoting what you know, and doing it online, to boost your search engine rankings.
You’ve heard all the talk and raves about social media. But you’re not the only one who hasn’t figured out how to make it work in business. This training will help you pull it all together.
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Save $200 off registration by purchasing the SOCIAL MEDIA BOOTCAMP Series that includes four (4), all-day classes. You will have one year to complete the training from the date of purchase. Classes are regularly-scheduled so you can enroll at your convenience.
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Hi, Peggy! I have lots of business cards from others. What is the most productive way to store them. I originally thought I’d use a desk top Rolodex; then I thought I should group them according to services, photocopy the page and then file the pages. What do you suggest?
None of the above. I batch scan all my cards into categories using the CardScan. For example, when I speak at an event, I’ll create a category for it and scan all cards into that category. Later if I want to send an email message (or mail merge email or letter) just to those people, I can.
If you don’t want to invest in a CardScan, decide how cards can become electronic (Excel spreadsheet, Outlook, etc…either way, add categories so you can filter later). If you never intend to contact the people, dump them because they’re junk. Only keep the few you actually need.
I also have a card file and keep cards for vendors such as gardener, barber, etc. I don’t file them by the person’s name but rather by what they do. So the barber’s card would go under B because that’s the first thing I’d think of when I need the number.
Hope this helps.
If you have questions about improving your personal productivity, Ask Peggy by leaving a comment on a related blog post or send to email address on the Contact page above.