Blog

April 2nd, 2014

Productivity_Mar31_BThere is a common trend with businesses, especially small to medium businesses, of hiring remote workers and also of working with clients at greater distances than ever before. As a result, an increasing number of businesses are creating remote presentations, or using software to present to an audience over the Internet. However, this style of presentation can be a challenge, especially when it comes to engaging your audience.

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_BWhen it comes to productivity, many business owners rely on to-do lists. However, writing an effective to-do list can be quite a challenging task. Though a lot of people jot down their tasks for the day or week ahead they don't always fully realize the benefits of their list because it is either poorly crafted or even missing items. The result is decreased effectiveness. Hopefully our tips will help you create an effective way forward to boost productivity.

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_BBusiness emails are piling up in your inbox like it will never stop. This is where email handling tips come in handy if you want to get on top of the constant flood of messages. Managing your business email account be challenging, especially when you need to accomplish many tasks such as reading and responding to emails in a limited time. Email management is quite a tough job, but it doesn't have to be impossible, especially if you follow our top five tips.

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_BJanuary is a common time for many people, business owners included, to set goals and resolutions for the year to come. This year, as with years in the past, many business owners and managers will likely have a resolution centered around productivity. Being more productive has obvious benefits, but to become more productive, we often need help. One option is mobile apps which can play a key role in boosting your productivity.

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_BThe Internet is really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gives us access to a variety of productivity oriented programs that really help increase what we can get done in a day. On the other hand however, there are also a variety of sites that capture our attention time and again, causing us to procrastinate or become distracted, resulting in a drop in productivity.

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_BIn order for a business to be successful, you need to have solid communication. One of the main mediums people use is email, which has enabled us to communicate like never before. While sending an email is fairly straightforward, many people struggle or ignore what to write in the subject line. The issue then arises that it can take longer to organize and spot important emails, or that an email will go unopened by the recipient.

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
October 17th, 2013

Productivity_Oct16_BMany small business owners and managers wear multiple hats. One minute they are HR, the next, finance, and this switching of roles and juggling multiple tasks can be constant. While multitasking is an essential business skill, it's not the answer to total business success. In fact, constantly multitasking could actually lead to decreased productivity. When this happens, there is one way to fix it: Reduce or stop multitasking.

Here are five tips on how you can cut back on multitasking.

1. Watch out for interruptions When you run a business, you will be constantly interrupted. From phone calls to text messages and important emails, you will be always stopping what you are doing to essentially do something else. This can cause you to lose concentration and possibly forget about the initial task at hand and ultimately harm your productivity.

To prevent this you should try to minimize your interruptions. This could involve something as simple as forwarding calls to your voicemail or turning your phone and non-essential notifications to silent. Don't forget about the physical interruptions like people walking into your office. Try putting a sign on your door or letting them know that you will be busy for a certain amount of time and don't want to be interrupted.

If this is impossible, try identifying the source of the majority of your interruptions and taking actions to minimize this. You'll be surprised by how much more you get done when you decrease or eliminate interruptions.

2. Step away from the tech Tech devices, especially mobile ones like your tablet and smartphone, are great at keeping us connected and allowing for increased productivity when used correctly. Unfortunately, many users don't use their tablets or phones strictly for productivity and they can become more of a distraction at times.

If you need to concentrate on something, try putting the non-essential tech away, or out of your reach. This will usually minimize the potential of you reaching for it automatically when you need time to think, or pause. You could even go so far as to turn off tech-based communication like email, social media and calls, or at the very least silence the notifications.

3. Complete your tasks A sign of someone who is an excellent multitasker is the fact that they have many tasks or projects they are working on, yet none are ever really finished. A surefire way to minimize multitasking is to actually set out to finish what you start. Don't let yourself get interrupted or switch to another task midway through, because there is a high chance that you will be interrupted with yet another task, and end up with three unfinished ones.

When possible, finish your tasks or at least stop at a point where you can pick it up easily at a later date or time. If this is not possible then try making notes as to what needs to be done regarding each task. This will at least minimize the time required to restart a task or figure out what still needs to be done.

4. Show up We don't necessarily mean physically show up to complete your tasks, what we mean is to actually focus fully on the task at hand. If you have a meeting with a colleague or client you shouldn't be checking your email, phone, or attempting to tackle other pressing tasks during the meeting. Doing this will cause your attention to wander and you could become confused or even miss what is being said.

So, avoid potentially embarrassing situations by simply focusing on the person or people in front of you. The other tasks or what interrupted you will still be there after you have finished and by focusing on the immediate task, you will likely be able to get to the others quicker because of the lack of distractions.

5. Do one thing only In order to maximize your productivity and completely shrug off multitasking, try doing only one thing at a time. A good place to start is to try setting a time each day reserved only for email. Take the time to read your emails and answer them without interruptions. From there move your focus onto only one task and see how this works. With a bit of practice, you should be able to reduce how much multitasking you do and may even see a boost in overall productivity.

If you are looking to increase your productivity at the office please contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
September 19th, 2013

Productivity_Sep16_BIf you use your PC or Mac laptop for presentations, screen sharing or during meetings, the last thing you want is for a personal message or notification to pop up. This type of interruption is annoying for the audience and could be potentially embarrassing for you. Unfortunately, without taking any steps to prevent it this problem will at some stage inevitably happen to you. Luckily, there is a way to avoid this.

Using a PC or Mac laptop for presentations has become the norm for most companies. Many managers simply log into their personal profiles and deliver their presentation or share their screens from here. This can create a problem though, largely because our personal profiles tend to have near constant notifications, something you would likely want to avoid. The easiest way to do this is to simply create another profile which is used only for presentations, when others will be looking at your screen.

Here is how you can create a new profile for both Windows and Mac systems.

Windows 7

  1. Click on the Windows Orb/Start button at the bottom-left of your screen.
  2. Select the Control Panel.
  3. Click on Add or remove user accounts which should be located under User Accounts and Family Safety.
  4. Select Create a new account and enter a name for the account in the window that opens. It would be a good idea to name it something like Presentation.
  5. Click Create Account.
After the account has been created, you will be able to select it from the main Windows screen when you start up your computer.

Windows 8

  1. Navigate to your desktop and press Windows key + C to bring up the Settings charm.
  2. Click Change PC Settings followed by Users.
  3. Select Add a user which can be found under the Other Users section.
  4. Tick the button beside Don't Want This Person to Sign In With a Microsoft Account? This will create a local account that will not be linked to any Microsoft account, therefore no potentially annoying notifications from various Microsoft accounts.
  5. Click Sign In without a Microsoft Account.
  6. Select the Local account button. This will confirm that you don't want to set up an account. Note: You can always add one later.
  7. Enter a username and password, and click Next. It is a good idea to pick a username like Presentation so it is easier to identify.
  8. Click Finish.
The next time you turn your computer on, you will be able to select this account from the main Windows login screen.

OS X

  1. Click on the Apple icon located in the top-left of your screen and select System Preferences.
  2. Select Users & Groups located in the Systems group.
  3. Click the lock in the bottom-left of the window that opens and enter your Admin password. If the account you log in with on a daily basis is listed as Admin (it should say it under your user name in the left bar.) enter the password you log in with.
  4. Press the + on the bottom-left side of the window. It is located below Login Options.
  5. Enter an Account name and Password. It is a good idea to name the account something like Presentations.
  6. Click Create User.
You will be able to select this user the next time you log into your computer.

Tips on setting up this new account It is worthwhile taking a few minutes to tinker with the new account. You don't need to set a fancy background, just pick something simple and easy on the eyes. Turn off all desktop and browser notifications. In OS X this can be done from the Notifications section in System Preferences. In Windows 7 and 8, you should be able to access system notifications from the Control Panel.

The key here is to keep the account as barebones as possible. After all, the only real reason you are going to use this account is for presentations or screen sharing. This should make it easier to give uninterrupted presentations, which will take off some of the pressure of public speaking. If you would like more productivity tips, please contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
August 30th, 2013

Productivity_Aug26_BProjects - work processes with a start and end date that are usually different from normal day-to-day tasks - are a part of every business. They can range from simple one day tasks to incredibly complex year long commitments. Regardless of the type of project, the key to success is being able to stay on top of what needs to be done by a fixed deadline. Many companies adopt the classic Gantt chart to schedule projects, but are these bar charts really the best method?

The Gantt chart was developed by Henry Gantt as a way to visually see a project's schedule. Since 1910, these bar charts have been an integral part of managing projects. Gantt charts allow us to visualize a project's start and end date along with each element or task that needs to be completed. Because many project tasks are dependent on previous tasks, these charts also allow us to see these dependencies and schedule around them.

In order to construct a chart, you first need to list all of the required tasks in a project, along with the projected time each task should take. While you can create the chart by hand, it's usually better to use project management software, largely because many projects can get complicated and there will inevitably be changes.

Because of the relative complexity of this method, some managers question whether Gantt charts are really the best solution for small businesses. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to using this type of chart for scheduling.

Gantt chart advantages

  1. Allows for efficient organization - In order for a Gantt chart to be successful, you first need to identify project elements or tasks. If you are using this type of chart you are essentially forced to focus on what truly needs to be done, thus making you somewhat more organized and encouraging a potentially higher chance of success.
  2. Helps establish timeframes - Because many project elements often depend on other tasks, it can be tough to deduce how long one task should take and when to start and finish it by. Gantt charts use bars to indicate how long a task should take and what this does is give you a better perspective of the total project, and timeframe as a whole. Just be sure to consider time factors outside of the project such as holidays.
  3. Highly visual - Gantt charts are visual, and give you an excellent way to instantly see and comprehend all of the different elements in once place, thus bringing thoughts and ideas together. Beyond that the visuals provide users with an easy to see chart of what needs to be done next.
Gantt chart disadvantages
  1. Potentially overly complex - If you've ever worked on a complex project, and looked at the Gantt chart, you know that these charts can be large and hard to read. For big projects businesses may need to hire specific managers to look after the details of the project, something which could be costly for small businesses that don't have an in house project manager.
  2. Need to be updated - Gantt charts are developed early in the planning stages of a project, there is a good chance that the project will change, thus the chart will need to be updated. Also, as tasks are completed or reviewed the chart will need to be updated to reflect these changes too. Any amendments take time, especially if there are dependent tasks that need to also be revised. It is a pretty sure thing that most people involved in the project probably don't have the time to do this
  3. Don't show the whole picture - Gantt charts show what tasks need to be done and the time they should take. They don't show how much work each task will involve or how many people/resources each task will require. This can give some people an incomplete picture or the wrong idea about an individual task, which can cause issues as the project gets underway.
Should I use Gantt charts? If you are about to start a project in your organization, it is be a good idea to consider whether or not a Gantt chart is suitable. If the project is short, with few elements, then a Gantt chart might be ideal. If you have a longer project with a high number of elements and tasks, it might be a good idea to look into project management software that can help you develop and schedule a plan more efficiently.

Most of these software options will utilize a Gantt chart, but they are easier to update, edit and share with project members. Regardless of what you choose, properly planning your project is key to its success, and Gantt charts can be a great tool in promoting efficiency, especially if you use project management software.

If you are looking for a way to run more efficient projects we may have the perfect tool for you, so give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 24th, 2013

Productivity_July22_BEmail, while a versatile and incredibly useful tool, can be challenging. One problem many people face is actually writing the email itself. Because it doesn't involve face-to-face communication, the wording we use is important, as is the tone and ideas you convey. If you use the wrong word, you could wind up offending someone or worse. One particular tough area is the sign-off with many people puzzling about what words to use.

When it comes to signing off in an email, you could use the same words over and over again but, it may not be correct for certain situations. A client who has made a complaint in an email, for example, may not appreciate an informal 'Cheers'. This will likely come across as highly unprofessional.

So, what makes a good sign-off? If you pause to think about it for a minute, you probably use only a few sign-offs again and again. While there is no major problem with this, you might be sending out the wrong message. The key to a good sign-off actually depends on a number of things:

  1. The reason for emailing - why are you replying, or emailing the recipient? For example, if you are sending a rejection letter, the sign off might be different than that of an acceptance letter.
  2. The tone - The sign-off denotes the tone of an email and can make the recipient view the whole content in a certain way. For example, 'Cheers' is perfectly ok in a personal email with good news but not when emailing a stranger on a business level.
  3. The salutation/greeting - In business writing, there is a generally accepted rule that the greeting used dictates the sign-off you would use. So a formal start demands a formal finish.
To make things a little easier, here are six of the most popular sign-offs and when they should be used, and where possible the greeting they should be used with.
  • Cheers - This is usually used to end friendly emails, usually among friends or colleagues. Most people will use this when they start an email with a friendly greeting like 'Hey'. You can generally use this with people you know, but it be used with people/customers you don't know well or where the email content is serious, or requires some gravitas.
  • Best - This is short for 'Best Regards', and can be used in a wide variety of situations. For the most part, it conveys a sense of friendliness and professionalism and is best used when you are replying/emailing people you know, but not necessarily that well. This is best used when you have started an email with 'Hello', or a neutral greeting.
  • Regards - This is probably the most divisive sign-off used. Some argue that it conveys a strictly professional manner and is ideal for professional sounding emails, while others argue that this has a slightly cold edge. You are probably better off avoiding using just 'Regards', and opting for the slightly more formal, yet friendlier, 'Best Regards'. You can also use this friendly sign-off if you are emailing someone who you don't know.
  • Sincerely - This is among the most commonly used sign-off by professionals. It is deliberate, concise and best for people who know what they are doing. If you are writing a formal email, or to a recipient you have not met yet, it is probably best to use this sign-off. Originally, in the days of actual letter writing, business English denotes that 'Sincerely/Yours Sincerely'' should be used when starting a letter with 'Mr/Mrs', whilst 'Faithfully/Yours Faithfully'' is used when correspondence starts with 'Dear Sir'.
  • No sign-off - A growing number of professionals include no sign off at all. They just simply end an email, although some may include their name. This is perfectly acceptable, as long as you know the person you are sending the email to and if this is a non-sales/marketing related email. Often if you are sending a volley of emails back and forth, there is no need for a beginning or ending but simply write the body of the email. A good rule of thumb is to follow someone's lead.
  • Thanks - This sign-off is probably one of the most popular and used by nearly everyone. It conveys a friendly and polite tone without being too formal. This can be used with nearly every greeting and is especially great for emails where you are asking the recipient to do something.
What message does the way you use technology convey to other people? Do you need to make the most of email communication? Get in touch and we're sure to get back to you with just the right message.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity