Projects are usually defined as a process that can be either individual or collaborative and are planned to achieve a desired result. They are usually different from your day-to-day work tasks and have a set start and end date. Some projects can be incredibly complex, so to stay on top of every aspect you need an easy way to see what needs to be done and when. Many people use the classic project schedule Gantt chart, but is there anything better out there?
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
Gantt chart disadvantages
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.
While email is without a doubt one of the most useful communication tools out there, it can be challenging to master. Sure, you probably write many a day, but because emails lack face-to-face communication, it’s easy for these messages to be read the wrong way, literally. One of the most troublesome areas people have is with the sign-off. Have you ever struggled with choosing the right words and deciding which is the most appropriate way to end your message?
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:
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.
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.
Have you ever been to a presentation, lecture or gathering where a person is showing a PowerPoint or slide show from their computer only to have an annoying alert pop up? This can be a big problem, especially if the alert is a private message, and it may distract the audience and cause their attention to wander. However, while this might be a universal issue, there is a way to prevent it.
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.
After the account has been created, you will be able to select it from the main Windows screen when you start up your computer.
The next time you turn your computer on, you will be able to select this account from the main Windows login screen.
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.
As a business owner or manager you are likely doing more than one thing at once. You are maybe even balancing three to four tasks at the same time. Have you noticed that when you do this, you often make more mistakes or actually end up working longer and harder? While multitasking is an important skill, it can kill your productivity if you are always balancing multiple tasks. The solution? Don’t multitask as much!
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.
There are often tedious tasks that can threaten to take the joy out of your working day, but often it is these very same jobs which are essential too. When it comes to sustaining successful productivity at work you cannot simply refuse to do whatever you don’t enjoy. However, there are ways to bring a little enjoyment into even the most mundane and boring tasks.
Finding motivation when placed in a difficult or dull situation can be tough. But, it’s going to feel even more arduous if lack of motivation leads to a poor result and you’re forced to do the job again.
So what do you do when you’re in this situation? Simple. You incorporate the tasks that you do enjoy doing into the cycle.
This balances good and bad experiences so you are not constantly employed for long periods doing hateful tasks. Compared to a situation where you are repeatedly being pounded with tasks that you don’t like, this is way better.
Goal setting and scheduling will allow you to mentally prepare for unpleasant tasks and see beyond them. If you’ve got a plan to get through your tasks and have something to look forward to, they won’t seem so onerous.
Create a timeline of milestones to be accomplished. Evaluate your performance and accomplishments on a daily basis. Try your best not to procrastinate and always adhere to what you have initially planned. Delay merely means more annoying moments for you in the future. Be half-hearted about it or veer off-plan and you might have to redo a project because the quality of your work failed to meet expected standards.
Your perception has a great influence on your mindset. Instead of focusing on how tiresome and uninteresting an assignment is, you could try getting inspiration from focusing on the possible positive outcome. This might be recognition at work, monetary gains or increased productivity and business success.
If you feel you have tried everything and yet stress and boredom keep growing with certain aspects of your time at work then it’s time to take a step back and reinvent. Forcing yourself to do something you dislike will merely increase the pressure that’s already keeping you from obtaining good results.
Break the job into smaller tasks. Set realistic goals every hour. You’ll be surprised at how taking baby steps can help you get things done – even monumental tasks that started out seeming impossible.
Working on a job that you don’t enjoy is exhausting. It can be mentally draining and you might feel as if to achieve certain tasks you really are pushing until the last drop of your energy has run out. You might benefit from recharging from time to time. Take a break and listen to your favorite music. Relax and revitalize your nerves and muscles.
Celebrate little victories. Whenever you accomplish a goal or target, no matter how big or small, reward yourself. Think of ways you could treat yourself, whether it be a grand gesture such as a weekend away or a meal out, or even a night at the movies. Find a reward that’s worth looking forward to.
It’s also worthwhile asking for help from your colleagues and team at work. If you feel that tasks are insurmountable or you know you will struggle to complete them by yourself then reach out to attract the skillsets and interests of those around you. And after you’ve achieved what you set out to do you can reap the benefits of greater productivity.
Another option is to contact us to see how our services can help allow you to focus on running your business.
Presentations are an integral part of any business, regardless of size. There is a good chance that you will have to give at least one presentation in your career, with many people giving so many they lose count. Many small businesses are starting to hire remote workers or carry out business over large distances, which forces them to create presentations online. However, with this type of presentation it can be especially hard to attract and keep an audience’s attention.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are you looking for a tried and tested way of increasing your productivity? If so, then there are a number of solutions. One of the most effective is writing a to-do list to help you really get on top of your day-to-day tasks.This guide will help you craft an effective one so you can skyrocket your productivity each day.
Here are 5 tips which will help you devise an effective to-do list:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
If you’re running a business, regardless of whether you have physical premises or operate in a virtual world, you probably receive a continuous stream of emails every minute of every day and beyond. Because of this, many business owners have a hard time simply handling the sheer volume of emails. If you’re dealing with the same issue, then you’ll probably welcome our top five tips to solving your email deluge problem.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a new year and with it many people, business owners included, are undoubtedly setting goals and resolutions for the year ahead. When it comes to businesses, many owners and managers set a resolution to become more productive, something which isn’t always easy. Luckily, there are numerous apps out there that can help, and with the rise of the smartphone and tablet, many of these apps have mobile versions as well.
Here are five great mobile productivity apps that are free, or cheap enough where they won’t break the bank.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
From email to document storage, and even voice communication, almost every business system is connected in some way to do the Internet. Connecting to the Web is without a doubt an important tool that many businesses have come to steadfastly rely on. A common problem workers run across however is being distracted by sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, etc. when they need to crack on and get their work done.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.