While many employees spend their free time daydreaming of becoming financially independent, the entrepreneur is working to make the dream a reality. That is why entrepreneurs are risk-takers by nature.

Entrepreneurs are willing to take that all-important first step of breaking free from the chains of the 9-to-5 grind and take command of their of their own destiny. Instead of driving someone else’s business, they go behind the wheel and follow the course they have charted for their own business success.

Yet, sometimes these very same attributes – ambition, drive, and dedication – can become an entrepreneur’s own worst enemies.

They end up taking on too many tasks most of which are administrative in nature. As a result, a big chunk of their waking hours are spent – rather, wasted – attending to functions that have no direct contribution to their bottom line.

The workday becomes unproductive. The essential tasks or the core functions of the business are left unattended. Goals are not met. Business targets become farther away today compared to yesterday.

By taking on non-essential tasks, the entrepreneur ends up working for his/her business instead of on his/her business. Ironically, the entrepreneur has become an employee of his/her own business.

Is there a way or a process the entrepreneur can use so he/she can focus on the main functions of the business without overlooking the administrative tasks?

The Solution: Outsource Tasks And/Or Services!

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you rather spend 2 hours filtering your Inbox or working on a client’s project?
  • Would you like it if your phone keeps ringing every 30 minutes while you are working on your client’s project?
  • Would it be okay with you if the Internet provider cut its service because you unwittingly forgot to pay the latest invoice?

If you answered “No” to these questions, it is time for you to consider outsourcing tasks of your business.

Outsourcing is the process of delegating or transferring predetermined tasks or functions to a third-party service provider.

You can read more about the benefits of outsourcing in our article “How Outsourcing Tasks Can Save You Tons Of Money – And Build Your Business”. In the article, we presented an accounting of how much money you can save through outsourcing.

Essentially, outsourcing is the ideal strategy for entrepreneurs, especially those in the start-up stage, because it is a low-cost, high-value solution. From the article, you will come to understand that with outsourcing, costs are easily managed.

Outsourcing will present you with options that you can use to stretch your finances without compromising the quality of goods and services.

FTE Vs. Outsourced Talent: Which Is The Better Option?

Cost savings are possible because you are taking advantage of comparative advantages that are generated by outsourcing foremost of which is labor.

With outsourcing, you are not hiring full-time employees or FTEs. Instead, you are contracting the services of qualified people or agencies. This distinction between FTE and contracted services is very important!

Let’s compare the FTE and the outsourced talent:

Particulars:FTE:Outsourced Talent:
Rate/Hour (Minimum)$18$8
Work Hours/Day8Flexible
Work Days/Week5 to 6Flexible
Paid Benefits:YesNo
Total Cost:$27/hour$8

As you can see, flexibility is the key differentiator between an outsourced talent and an FTE. When you contract services, you are not obligated by law to pay a minimum wage or designate the mandated work hours per week.

This makes it possible to be more financially flexible with the outsourced talent compared to hiring an FTE.

Here are some real-world examples:

  • Contract the services of a virtual assistant who can manage your administrative tasks 10 hours a week.
  • Outsource content writing services and pay the outsourced talent on a per word or per productive hour basis.
  • Outsource web development/management services to Mountaintop Web Design and pay fixed charges on a monthly basis.

By agreeing on the conditions for payment, you are assured of higher productivity and better quality of work.

According to a study that was presented by productivity coach Steve Pavlina, the average American office worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive work every day.

That is 90 minutes out of 480 total work minutes every day or a productivity rating of only 19%! Yet, America remains the strongest economy in the world.

What happened to the remaining 390 minutes? According to Pavlina, those hours are spent surfing the Internet, taking extended water cooler/coffee breaks,  napping, checking their cell phones, and reading the news.

Guess what? Those hours are paid. This means every time an FTE chit-chats with a another FTE about the latest Netflix movie, you are paying for those minutes.

By outsourcing, you are also increasing your level of productivity because now you can place greater focus on the main enterprise of your business.

A study presented by the Harvard Business Review showed that at most, people can only maintain 100% focus on a given task for 90 minutes. After completing the task, you have to rest the mind for at least 10 minutes.

Assuming an 8-hour work schedule, this means that by outsourcing tasks, you can target 4 to 5 tasks to accomplish every day. That is 360 minutes out of 480 minutes per day or a productivity rating of 75%!

In contrast, a fully-paid FTE who can tender only 90 minutes of productive time per day will possibly only accomplish 1 task per day.

Which Tasks Should You Outsource?

Hopefully, at this point, we have convinced you of how outsourcing can build your business. The question we will answer in this section is which tasks you should outsource.

In the future, we will present a more detailed and comprehensive article on how to take a strategic approach to outsourcing that can scale up your business. For now, we will show you how to identify the tasks that you should outsource in order to streamline costs and increase productivity.

You will need to answer these questions:

  • Which tasks are non-essential or not directly related to my business’ main enterprise?
  • Which tasks will require a higher level of expertise and greater experience?
  • Which tasks are repetitive in nature?
  • Which tasks do I have the tendency to overlook or forget?
  • Which tasks do I greatly dislike doing?

From there, you will probably come up with the same or similar tasks that we have outlined below:

1. Administrative Tasks

For many entrepreneurs, administrative tasks are the necessary evils of running a business. These tasks are categorized as non-essentials, meaning they are not directly related to your business’ main enterprise. However, they play an essential role because administrative tasks keep your business organized and running.

Examples of administrative tasks that you should outsource:

  • E-mail Filtering
  • Calendar Management
  • Appointment Setting
  • Phone Handling
  • Preparing Reports
  • Limited Research
  • Database or CRM Management
  • Bookings and Reservations
  • Preparation of Limited Communication

2. Technical/Specialized Skills

Your business may need to introduce new products and services that require greater skill, a higher level of expertise, and longer tenure. These are skills that you cannot become proficient at simply by watching YouTube videos or reading a “For Dummies” instructional. Otherwise, the quality of work will suffer.

Examples of technical/specialized skills that you should outsource:

  • Website Design/Management
  • Digital Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Content Writing
  • Graphic Design
  • Software App Development
  • Transcription Services
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3. Customer Support Services

Many businesses stunt their growth because they are only focused on new market development. In so doing, they neglect their current market base or end users of their products or services.

Don’t forget your current end users. They are already your customers. The cost of maintaining them is lower than creating new markets for your products and services. And the returns are much higher because your current end users already made the decision to choose you over the competition.

Having great customer service assures your existing end users that their needs and concerns are always met and addressed right away.

Examples of Customer Support Services that you should outsource:

  • Inbound Phone Support
  • Technical Support Services
  • Email Support
  • After-Sales Surveys or Outbound Call Support
  • Chat Support
  • Content Moderation Services

4. Back-Office Functions

It’s called the back-office because the people who work here are not seen but otherwise play a valuable role in running your business. You can outsource these tasks to qualified third-party service providers and still get great results.

Examples of back-office functions that you should outsource:

  • General Accounting
  • Payroll Preparation
  • Employee Benefits Administration
  • Human Resources Management – Recruitment, interviews, testing, evaluation, and selection

Conclusion

To better understand the value of outsourcing, let’s delve into the mind of the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs or to be more specific, small to medium scale business owners, are limited by their resources. Even the most successful ones do not have the benefit of liquidity compared to large scale businesses. This is, of course, part of the growth process.

As a small business owner, the immediate challenge is to maintain liquidity before achieving profitability. Effective cash flow management is very important. Thus, an entrepreneur strives to keep operations as lean as possible.

Instead of hiring employees to help him/her run the show, they take on most, if not all of the tasks of the business.

Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell there is nothing they can’t do. Like a superhero, an entrepreneur will take on any challenge and believe they can win it. The reality is, victories are only short-term.

Over the long-run, the number of unproductive workdays has accumulated to a point that the business starts to suffer.

Your best option is to outsource specific tasks or functions. Not only will outsourcing services greatly reduce the costs of running a business but the strategy will help you increase productivity without compromising the quality of work.

If you enjoyed this article and know people who would greatly benefit from it, please feel free to share!

And if you would like to know how Mountaintop can help you get started on your own outsourcing solution, please do not hesitate to give us a call. You can consult with us for 30 minutes free of charge.

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All businesses go through a boom and bust cycle. It is not realistic to expect that business conditions will always be rosy. There are factors that are beyond your control.

For example, the trade war between China and the United States has affected industries other than steel and aluminum. Macroeconomic factors such as the trade war create a ripple effect that can hit even small businesses.

Outsourcing can act as a hedge versus uncertainty. It can help you stay profitable by streamlining costs without compromising the quality of goods and services.

What Is Outsourcing?

Outsourcing is the process of transferring or delegating functions to a qualified third-party service provider. An outsourcing venture can be as simple as hiring a Virtual Assistant to manage administrative tasks like email filtering, calendar management, appointment setting, and phone handling.

Outsourcing can also be a large scale undertaking. For example, in the late 1990s, U.S. companies from Silicon Valley were outsourcing software development and tech support to companies located in India.

Although outsourcing was not officially recognized as a business strategy until 1989, it is not a new concept. Some historians have traced its origins back to the 18th century when explorers would sail across oceans to discover new territories for trade or colonization.

Along the way, the Captain would find talent from different countries who could handle certain tasks onboard the ship at a lower price.

Thus, the underlying function of outsourcing was to save up on costs. During the time of the Great Depression, companies would resort to cost-cutting measures in order to stay afloat.

Instead of hiring a team of accountants, clerks, and payroll officers, companies would delegate these tasks to a company that specializes in accounting services.

What were the cost advantages of outsourcing accounting tasks to a third-party agency?

  • Save up on payroll costs; there would be no need to maintain salaries. The accounting agency would be paid on a per-project basis. Often, the payment would be a percentage of the total payroll amount.
  • Save up on rental costs; fewer people on payroll means you don’t need a lot of space to run your business.
  • Reduce total compensation. By outsourcing accounting to the agency, you save up on paying employee benefits. The agency is contracted, not hired, to manage your accounting needs.

Over time, outsourcing became a stand-by cost-cutting measure for companies that wanted to maintain profitable during periods of economic struggle.

VUCA Creates Demand for Outsourcing

As it turned out, the Y2K Bug or the Millennium Bug, was the least of our worries when the calendar date changed from 31 December 1999 to 1 January 2000.

The new millennium or the year 2000 ushered in events which changed the course of history and transformed the political landscape, business climate, and truly proved once and for all that we are in a global economy.

An event that occurred in one part of the globe was no longer limited in that area. Instead, it would create a ripple effect that would be felt across the world:

  • 9/11
  • The Invasion of Iraq
  • The Collapse of Global Equities Markets in 2003
  • The Eurozone Crisis of 2009
  • The Greek Bailout Referendum of 2015
  • Global Recessions in 2009 and 2014

Business conditions were tumultuous during the early part of the new millennium particularly from 2003 to 2014. Market analysts referred to the new millennium as the “Age of VUCA”.

VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.

Many business experts believe that VUCA is not a trend or a temporary condition. They believe VUCA is our current reality. This is the way of the world. Business conditions will be volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous for the long haul.

If you cannot adapt to VUCA, your business will not thrive, much less survive in a global economy. If this is a correct assumption, then we can track the growth of outsourcing as running parallel to VUCA conditions.

From a $45.6 Billion market in the year 2000, the global outsourcing industry grew to $104.6 Billion in 2014.

As business conditions worsened, companies started to outsource more services to qualified third-parties.  

Virtual assistants were no longer just personal assistants or secretaries. The role expanded to include more technical and highly-specialized skills such as accounting, customer support, tech support, graphic design, market research, content writing, digital marketing, and transcription services to name a few.

Just like the explorers of the 18th century, companies from North America and Europe crossed oceans to set up large scale arrangements with outsourcing companies located in low-cost countries like the Philippines, China, Malaysia, and India.                 

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Part 1 – How Can Outsourcing Save You Tons Of Money?

If business is bad, the immediate course of action is to cut cost. Labor is usually the first casualty in cost-cutting. The cost of a Full-Time Employee or FTE is calculated at 1.5 times to twice the amount of his/her basic pay.

It is a sad reality that has become a necessary evil during prolonged periods of economic downturn. Massive layoffs were rampant in the aftermath of the 2003 collapse of world equities markets, and the global recessions of 2008 and 2014.

The companies that survived and even thrived during these periods outsourced services to India, the Philippines, and other popular destinations. These companies included Oracle, DELL, Hewlett-Packard, Ford Motors, Cisco, American Express, and Microsoft.

Outsourcing can help you save tons of money by giving you the ability to capitalize on comparative cost advantages and economies of scale that are prevalent in other regions.

The average wage rate in the United States is $18.50/hour. In comparison, the average wage rates in India and the Philippines are $0.48 and $1.01 per hour, respectively.

As you can see, on wages alone, the cost savings are quite significant. And it only gets better!

An outsourcing company in India or the Philippines is usually paid per hour and the fee is inclusive of all standard business costs like rent, benefits, power, utilities, and Internet services.

The charges will vary from $8.00 per hour for basic services and $25 per hour for more technical functions.

Basic services include telemarketing, data entry, and virtual assistance work. Technical functions would cover graphic design, digital marketing, and web development.

Back-Office functions such as accounting and Human Resources would range from $15 to $25 per hour depending on the scope of work. Customer Support and Tech Support will cost $10 to $15 per hour.

In the United States, labor is usually pegged at 20% to 25% of the monthly costs of operation. Thus, assuming an average wage rate of $18.50 per hour, the cost per hour of doing business in the United States is $74 to $92.50 per hour.

The cost per hour covers rent, salaries, benefits, power, utilities, telephone expenses, and Internet service.

In comparison, if you outsourced to the Philippines or India, the cost per hour of doing business will range from $8 to $25 per hour inclusive of rent, salaries, benefits, utilities, telephone expenses, and Internet service.

By outsourcing tasks, you can save anywhere from 196% to 1,056% from your monthly expenses.

Again, the cost savings would depend on the services that you plan to outsource. Technical functions fall under 2 other branches of outsourcing:

  • Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) – Web development and management, software development, graphic design, animation, and architectural drawings.
  • Creative Process Outsourcing (CPO) – Digital Marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, content moderation, and chat moderation services.

In some cases, the price range for these types of services will be from $25 to $35 per hour which is still cheaper compared to the cost of doing business in the United States.

The second-way that outsourcing can help you save money is by capitalizing on economies of scale.

If you are increasing or “ramping up” the amount of manpower you need, most outsourcing companies are more than willing to adjust the hourly rate in exchange for volume.

Thus, outsourcing can help you scale up your business with minimum risk exposure.

For example, if you initially contracted 10 people to run back-office support at a rate of $15 per hour, the outsourcing company may be willing to reduce the rate to $12 per hour if you ramp up to 15 people.

Part 2 – How Can Outsourcing Build Your Business?

In business, the saying is “You get what you pay for.”

Fortunately, this does not apply to outsourcing.

The developed economies do not have a monopoly on talent. India has developed a reputation for producing the best minds in IT. On the other hand, the Philippines is known for customer service, telemarketing, virtual assistance, and back-office operations.

Even with lower costs, you can be assured of high-quality work and world-class services.

Here are 3 other ways in which outsourcing can help you build your business:

  1. Focus on Your Business Core Functions – Instead of spending time managing non-core functions such as Digital Marketing, Website Management, payroll administration, market research, phone handling, and customer support, outsource these tasks to qualified third-party service providers. You will increase your productivity and streamline costs at the same time.
  2. Make Your Business Accessible 24/7 – Whenever opportunity knocks – or emails – you should answer. But what if you are asleep? Outsource inbound customer support services and have your after-office hours covered even while you are in dreamland.
  3. Your clients and customers can send their concerns and questions through phone, chat support, or email. An agent can attend to these issues right away.
  4. Repurpose Your Cost Savings – With the massive cost savings generated from outsourcing, you will have the money you need to fund projects that have been on the pipeline.

Are There Risks To Outsourcing?

If something is too good to be true, chances are it is not. That is why even if outsourcing can potentially improve your cost savings by over 1,000% there are inherent risks you should be aware of.

1. Data Security

This is the number one concern raised by companies that did not push through with an outsourcing venture. By the nature of the relationship, an outsourcing arrangement is essentially a strategic partnership.

You have entrusted a defined set of tasks or functions to a third-party service provider. For the outsourcing partner to do its job effectively, you will have to share data and even networks.

Whether you have contracted a Virtual Assistant from across the Interstate or from India, the risk of having your data stolen or compromised remains.

Of course, you can always set safeguards in place such as passwords and restricting access, but these can be bypassed by someone who is determined to pull off his/her malicious intent.

2. Quality of Work

Close collaboration or shared space collaboration is still the best way to oversee the quality of work. It may take time to find the right mix of talent to run your business and during the interim, quality of work may be inconsistent at best.

Other issues such as the quality of Internet service can have an impact on the quality of work. India is notorious for having one of the slowest Internet services in the world.

Conclusion

Outsourcing is a double-edged sword. It can help you reduce business costs without compromising the quality of work. In fact, by outsourcing services, you will increase your level of productivity. It is the ideal strategy to have in place while business conditions remain uncertain.

Our clients have greatly benefited by outsourcing web development, website management, digital marketing, and content writing to us. They are able to realign their assets – time and money – toward the main enterprise of their business while being assured that we will take care of the non-core functions.

If you want to know more about outsourcing and how it can grow your business, please feel free to give us a call.

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Communication is one of the most important areas of business. Missed correspondences can often lead to missed opportunities. A slow response time may also leave an unfavorable impression on your level of professionalism. This is why reading and responding to emails are part of our daily routine. In the digital age, email has become the primary medium of communication.

However, as important as email is, it can severely impact your productivity. According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), people spend 28% of their time during the workweek managing emails. In a standard 48- hour workweek, that is 13 hours or 2 hours per workday spent on the Inbox.

What can you do in 2 hours?

Let’s reference the study on “The Ultradian Rhythm” which disclosed that our brains can focus on a task for no more than 90 minutes to 120 minutes before requiring a 20 to 30- minute break or rest period. This means, 2 hours can give you enough time to accomplish one, and even possibly, two essential tasks.

7 Ways You Can Make Time Spent With Email More Productive

Despite email’s implications on business, it remains first and foremost, an administrative task. In other words, a non-essential task. If you spend too much time managing non-essential tasks, your day will become non-productive.

Is there a way to manage email effectively that it does not compromise your level of productivity?

Not just a way. How about 7 ways?

1. Create Different Email Accounts

The Inbox of your business email can be flooded with hundreds of messages on a given day. However, which of these messages are relevant to your business? How many messages are in response to a current need or concern?

If you took the time to filter through them, you may find out that a significant majority are not relevant to your business.

Some may be correspondences from family, friends, or are simply marketing content. Worse, you may come across a good number of suspicious email.

Creating different email accounts is an effective strategy for improving productivity.

First, you will have to establish the purpose of each email account. For example, in addition to your business email, create one that will be the destination point of correspondences from friends, family, and associates who are not connected to your business.

You may also consider creating emails for specific areas of your business. For example, [email protected] would be used for recruitment. Another one would be [email protected] for those who want to learn more about your products and services.

Lastly, be more judicious when giving out your business email address. Do not give your primary email out when signing up for newsletters. You can create another one such as [email protected]

2. Customize the Settings of Your Email According to Preferences

How proficient are you with the features of your email client? They have features that allow you to customize its settings according to your personal preferences. You can program your email client to move, organize, sort, and flag the messages in the Inbox.

You can also create specific lists for your email. For example, you can inform the email client of contacts that should be prioritized. Likewise, you can let the email client know of addresses and contacts you want to be blocked. In your “blacklist”, you should include people who are notorious for spamming activities.

There are email clients that enable you to create filters so you can sort out your Inbox automatically. This will save you the time in scrutinizing which emails to attend to first.

Another approach is to create specific folders to categorize and store the email you receive. For example, if you are managing multiple clients, you can create a folder for each of them.

When you receive an email, briefly scan the content then transfer it to the designated folder. It will be easier to find the email and go over it thoroughly when you finally have the time.

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3. Include Email Filtering as a Break Time Activity

In our article, “Top 7 Tips For Productivity”, we included a section on the use of focus blocks. A focus block is a period of time that has been dedicated to the accomplishment of a specific task.

It is based on the Ultradian Rhythm theory, whereby you should set aside 90 to 120 minutes of 100%, uninterrupted focus on the accomplishment of the task. Once the task has been completed, you should “reward” yourself with a 20 to 30 minute rest period or break time.

You can use the break time to eat, take a nap, or attend to any non-essential task. It would be a good idea to use the 20 to 30 minute break time to filter your Inbox. This way, email management will not intrude upon the time that has been set aside for productive activity.

Let’s assume that in an 8- hour workday, you have established a total of four 90- minute focus blocks. By using the 20- minute break time windows to check email, then total time spent managing the inbox would only be 80 minutes or 1 hour and 20 minutes.

If we reference the MGI study which showed people spend 2 hours per day checking email, then by using focus blocks, you can save 40 minutes per day. You can use the time savings to attend to other tasks.

It will not matter if you allocate the 40 minutes to non-essential tasks as the time saved came from your rest periods, not from productive hours.

4. Shut Off All Email Notifications

Notifications are great reminders but they can be a distraction when they pop up frequently. Not only will the email notification briefly take your mind off the task you are working on, but it may compel you to check and issue an immediate response.

Don’t just shut off email notifications on your PC desktop. Include your mobile phone too. While you’re at it, turn off all notifications coming from your other applications that are often. These apps normally include Skype, Slack, and Viber.

Like we discussed in the previous section, it would be more productive to read your emails during your 20-minute break time. You can also use your break time to check on your messages from the other apps.

5. Maximize Mobile

If you are one of the 80% of people who open their mobile phones first thing in the morning even before brushing their teeth, put the habit into good use by checking your email right away.

Mobile phones make it easier and faster to access your Inbox. Why is this so important? A study by Roy Baumeister revealed that your ability to make rational decisions declines throughout the day. Your capacity to process information may be at its strongest early in the morning.

What does this mean if you think you are not a “morning person”?

You don’t have to respond to an email right away. However, reading it first thing in the morning may allow you to process it more effectively because your mental faculties are still opening up.

Perhaps you will be in a better frame of mind to compose the appropriate response after 2 cups of your favorite coffee!

Another way you can use mobile to maximize productivity is to catch up on your emails while you are commuting to work. Spend your time at the train, the bus, or in the taxi going over your email. You can use the commute to categorize messages, send out reminders or quick responses, and to clear out your Inbox.

6. Don’t Read It?… Unsubscribe!

We have all subscribed to newsletters. For some time, we found the content relevant and useful in our business. However, its relevance could diminish over the years. Eventually, these newsletters will just accumulate and continually flood our Inbox with unwanted content.

If you have subscribed to content that you no longer read, then there is no more valid reason to grant the sender access to your Inbox. The best recourse is to unsubscribe to their mailing list.

If you have not been able to track all the newsletters you have subscribed to, use an app called unroll.me. This app will give you a summary of all the services you have subscribed to. You will have the option to unsubscribe from each service or to put all of them under one message.

7. Keep Your Responses Short and Concise

Email remains one of the most popular forms of communication because you can send quick messages in real time. When crafting a response or original content, it is good practice to keep its length short and concise.

Like you, the recipient of your email may also be facing the challenge of filtering out his/her Inbox. The recipient may have his/her own set of practices that allow email checking to become part of a productive day. Chances are, the recipient of your email will not have the time to go through a long email.

Is there an ideal length for an email? Yes, there is actual research which determined the ideal length of an email that gets the highest response rate from its recipient. According to the study, emails that have a word count of 75 words to 100 words received the highest response rate at 51%. The response rate at 50 words and 125 words is identical at 50%. However, there is a noticeable drop in the response rates when the word count was lower than 50 and greater than 125. What does 100 words look like? This paragraph is 100 words long!

Conclusion

Email is an inescapable reality of everyday life. You will rarely find a day where your Inbox has been zeroed out. For some people, clearing out the Inbox is like a game. They have to be able to clean out their messages at the end of the day.

This is why email presents a conundrum. It is a necessity; email is an important component of a business. Yet, it is also one of the leading causes of stress in the workplace!

A study conducted by Professor Tom Jackson from Loughborough University revealed that 92% of people get stressed out after receiving and reading an email in the workplace.

Thus, it would be advisable to spend as little time filtering email as possible. Another option would be to outsource email management to a qualified third-party service provider.

Bestselling author and productivity advocate, Tim Ferris, found his moment of clarity when he hired virtual assistants to manage his email and other non-essential tasks.

How about you? Do have you have any productivity tips on email management that we did not take up? Kindly share in the comments section below.

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Are you working on your business? Or are you working for your business? If you are spending more time pushing pencils than acting on tasks that add to your bottom-line, then you are working more like an employee than an owner of a business. Yes, we have to check our emails, manage our weekly calendar, and take phone calls. However, as important as these functions are, attending to them does not constitute productivity.

Productivity is associated with effective time management. How you allocate time to manage the tasks you need to accomplish every day will lead to greater productivity. While this is correct. it is not entirely the case. Productivity is also about efficient time management.

We have been conditioned to think that we should work eight hours a day. If you can efficiently manage the time you need to become productive, you won’t have to work eight hours a day.

When it comes to productivity, it is never about quantity. Quality should always be your primary focus.

It is not the number of tasks you accomplished but the type of tasks you finished that matter. It’s not the number of hours you spend working per day but how you spent those hours that count.

If you are not sure of how to attain this, take the time to read our top 7 tips to becoming more productive.

1. Outsource Non-Essential Tasks

The first step to productivity starts with identifying the non-essential tasks from the essential tasks. Non-essential tasks are functions that do not directly contribute to business growth. These tasks can be categorized as follows:

  • Administrative – Email filtering, appointment setting, calendar management, and phone handling.
  • Specialized – Social media marketing, content writing, SEO, graphic design, website management, and digital marketing.
  • Back Office – Accounting/ Payroll, Human Resources, and Information Technology.

Can you imagine having to do all of these tasks yourself? You won’t have enough time to manage the essential tasks or the functions that directly contribute to business growth.

Although they are categorized as “non-essential”, they are otherwise important because these tasks keep your business running. Your best option is to outsource the non-essential tasks to a qualified third-party service provider.

Contract the services of a Virtual Assistant. These are highly-qualified and well-experienced professionals who have made the move from the brick-and-mortar world to the Internet. Virtual assistants are no longer just personal assistants or secretaries. You can find one to handle any task you want to be managed.

Even if you have the experience, skill set, and training, you should not keep yourself preoccupied with the non-essential tasks. In addition to website management, we have had clients outsource specialized tasks such as SEO, digital marketing, content writing, and social media marketing to us.

These tasks require specialized skills and training. Likewise, you need to dedicate time to track and monitor performance. We have the skills and the experience onboard our team to oversee these functions for our client.

Outsourcing is a great strategy. It will help you streamline your costs without compromising your revenue-generating efforts. Best of all, it will increase your productivity by ensuring you have more time to manage the tasks that contribute to business growth.

2. Plan Today Yesterday

“Carpe Diem” is a popular saying in Latin. Translated to English, it means to “Seize the day”. You should start your day with purpose; know what you need to do so that you can accomplish more.

In contrast, if you wake up every morning not knowing what to do first, you will end up wasting time.

The most successful people in business and politics plan for tomorrow the night before. This way, there is no time wasted on guesswork. They get the day off on a flying start; their minds focused on the tasks that need to get done.

Before you end the evening, spend a few minutes planning your agenda for the next day. Review your objective for the week. Prioritize your tasks on the basis of this objective. Rank the tasks based on their importance.

Some people write down the tasks in their smartphone’s Memo app. Others will save them in a productivity app like Evernote. One of the most effective ways is to go old school. Write them down on a whiteboard. The tasks will be the first thing you’ll see in the morning. It will certainly wake you up faster than a triple-shot espresso!

3. Get Your Most Dreaded Task Out of the Way

In the previous tip, we recommended arranging the following day’s tasks based on importance. Another approach would be to prioritize the task you dread doing the most. Get it out of the way so you can focus on the other important tasks in your schedule.

For example, salespeople dread cold calling. However, it remains an effective technique for generating leads as well as converting interest into sales. Salespeople dread cold calling because the rate of rejection is quite high.

Plus, they have to deal with gatekeepers; usually, the receptionist or secretary who is dead set on one thing: to make sure the boss has a productive day!

Unfortunately for telemarketers, cold calling is best done during the first business hour of the day. This is the time when the gatekeeper could still be finalizing the boss’ itinerary for the day.

Closing a deal or making a sale is a game of opportunity where winners and losers are determined within seconds. A telemarketer who hesitates in making the cold call could be preempted by another telemarketer. The moment of hesitation could be costly.

If you want to be productive, do the most dreaded task right away. Who knows? It could be your day’s biggest accomplishment!

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4. Utilize Focus Blocks

Focus blocks are clusters of time that are allocated for specific tasks. While in a focus block, you cannot be distracted. You must be 100% focused. You should not leave your work area until the time allocated for the focus block has expired.

This means no breaks for coffee, water, snacks, or even the restroom. Did you watch the Will Smith movie, “The Pursuit of Happiness”? In the movie, Smith’s character, Chris Gardner, calculated the amount of time people waste going to and from the restroom and factored it in his work schedule.

How much time should you allocate for a task? According to sleep researchers, on average, we can maintain 100% focus for 90 to 120 minutes. To be sure, set aside 90 minutes per focus block.

Once a focus block is completed, take a break equivalent to one-third of its length. This will allow your brain to reset and get ready for the next focus block. Thus, a 90- minute focus block should be followed by a 30-minute rest period. During this time, you can have a snack, go to the restroom, check your messages, or better yet, take a short nap.

If you can accomplish just 3 focus blocks, you would have put in 270 minutes of productive time. That is 4.5 hours of productivity! So who says you have to put in eight hours of work per day to be productive?

According to productivity guru Steve Pavlina, the average American worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive time every day! For a 480-minute work day, 90 minutes only represents 17% productivity.

Again, think about the quality of work. Focus on what the tasks mean for your business. Will they bring me closer to achieving my goals?

If you accomplish 3 tasks that will significantly bring you closer to achieving your business objective, then you have a productive day. On the contrary, if you crossed out 20 tasks in your “to-do” list that are more administrative in function then what you had was a busy day. It was not necessarily productive.

5. Remove All Distractions

Let’s go back to Steve Pavlina’s study which revealed Americans only put in 90 minutes of productive time every day. Pavlina says the rest of the day is spent doing the following activities:

  • Surfing the Internet
  • Checking their social media status
  • Water cooler chatter
  • Coffee breaks
  • Taking snacks
  • Reading the newspaper
  • Taking naps

These activities are definitely not examples of productive behavior. Instead, these activities are prime examples of distractions. Yet, the United States remains the most powerful economy in the world!

Before commencing on work, remove all forms of distractions. Put away your smartphone. Close all of your social media pages. If you work with certain work-related apps open such as Skype, Slack, or Viber, leave a message about your current status.

If you have a secretary or a Virtual Assistant, ask them to just take messages. Make sure your assistant gets complete details on every important call.

6. Get Good Quality of Sleep Every Night

Sleep is an overlooked factor of productivity. Without enough sleep, you will not be able to function properly. Doctors consistently recommend getting 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every night. If you are getting less than 7 to 8 hours, you could be exposing yourself to the following health risks:

  • High-blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Decreased memory function
  • Affected level of cognition
  • Depression
  • Mood swings

Sleep is your body’s time to recharge. If your body is not properly rested, its various systems may not function properly. People who lack sleep are more susceptible to acquiring diseases, illnesses, and infections because their immune system is compromised.

If you plan your day properly, you will have more time to relax and prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep.

7. Organize Your Meetings

If you manage a team, scheduling meetings is a great way to make sure everyone is on-board and on the same page. However, if meetings are not organized properly, they can be productivity killers.

Before you finalize the meeting, draw up its agenda. Identify the amount of time allocated per item. Prepare an outline of the salient discussion points for each item on the agenda. If you must, assign a discussion point to a team member.

Inform your team of the meeting by routing an email to each and everyone at least one week before its scheduled date. One week will be enough time for them to get ready.

Make sure your email has complete details: time, place, and items to bring if any. Remind everyone to be on time. If necessary, penalize those who are late.

Conclusion

Life is not just about work. If most of your waking hours are spent in the office and on your business, you are not being productive. It does not matter if your bank account is growing. If you are neglecting other aspects of your life such as family, friends, and health, you are not optimizing time that is available to you.

You are merely existing, not living.

Productivity means achieving a balance between life and work. If you follow our top 7 tips for productivity, you won’t have to work 8 hours every day to accomplish your business goals and objectives. Integrate focus blocks into your day, and you may only have to work 4 to 6 hours per day.

Assuming you get 8 hours of good quality of sleep every night, that means you will have 16 hours of daylight to get things done. By being productive and working only 6 hours per day, you will have 10 hours to do other things such as:

  • Have nightly dinners with the family
  • Attend your son’s baseball games
  • Watch your daughter’s piano recital
  • Take your spouse out for dinner
  • Exercise in the gym
  • Catch up on some leisurely reading
  • Take a vacation with the family
  • Learn a new hobby

Most of all… breathe! Relax and realize that you work to live and not live to work.

Do you have any great productivity tips that you would like to share? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

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Let’s start out with a news flash: Stress is good for you!

Stress is your body’s natural reaction when you are faced with a pressure situation. Your body releases stress hormones called cortisol which functions to improve performance. When the adrenal glands release cortisol, your senses become heightened. You are more focused and your reaction time is faster.

A good example would be when you have a tight deadline to meet at work. You might need to burn the midnight lamp to get the job done right and on time.

Working under these conditions will create a stressful environment. Your body will respond by releasing cortisol to help you cope with the various stressors. You may notice that your level of concentration is higher. Cortisol has helped you accomplish the project on time without compromising the quality of work.

There are people who are able to thrive under pressure because they can manage the conditions that make the situation stressful. Thus, if you can manage your levels of stress at work, you should be fine.

However, prolonged levels of cortisol in your body are not good. In fact, it is not healthy as evidenced by the following negative effects:

  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Impaired cognition
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Decreased bone density
  • Increased/ irregular blood pressure
  • Higher concentrations of abdominal fat
  • Imbalances in blood sugar levels

These negative effects may lead to illnesses and diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It will also result in premature aging.

This is why one of the most stressful jobs on earth belongs to the President of the United States. It astonishing to see how fast American Presidents have aged while on the job.

Thus, while pushing yourself to overcome challenges and accomplish more tasks is admirable, in the long run it can have damaging consequences on your health. Instead of pushing harder, pull back, step on the brakes and think about getting more rest and relaxation.

7 Health Benefits Of Rest And Relaxation

Proponents of Behavioral Leadership, a discipline that advocates new results require new behavior, like to advise their clients to  “Slow down in order to speed up”.

They believe that for top-level executives and entrepreneurs to succeed, it is important to be in the best state of mind, body, and spirit so they can perform to the best of their abilities.

If these top-level executives and entrepreneurs are chronically fatigued from stress, their sense of judgment will be impaired. Likewise, they will be more prone to illness and disease due to having a weakened immune system. Some may even acquire unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking and eating to cope up with stress.

As we mentioned, stress has been linked to several deadly diseases. Your achievements will not be worth it if you end up paying for it with your health.

If your mind and body are showing the effects of stress, slow down and consider taking some time off from work. One of the best remedies for stress is to simply get more rest and relaxation time in.

Here are a few of the health benefits of getting more rest and relaxation:

1. Keeps Your Heart Healthy –

Stress can lead to irregular heartbeat and this is not good for your heart. Activities that promote rest and relaxation such as taking naps or getting more sleep can help your heartbeat return to normal and keep your heart healthy.

2. Strengthens Your Immune System –

Studies conducted at the Carnegie Mellon University showed that stress doubles the risk of catching a cold.

The reason is that stress increases inflammation in the body which weakens the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. By getting more rest, you can help your immune system recover and become stronger.

3. Improves Cognition and Memory –

Studies on mice showed that stress can affect the function of the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for cognitive reasoning and memory.

If you’re suffering from a mental block, a simple 15 to 30- minute rest will suffice to get you up to speed. You will be able to articulate ideas much more clearly.

4. Lowers Risk of Stroke –

A study published in the 2011 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that work-related stress was responsible for 10% of strokes.

Instead of spending more time at work, why not head off to the gym and get some exercise? If you have children, you can use the time away from work to do healthy, family-bonding activities such as hiking or mountain climbing.

5. Prevents Onset of Depression –

Prolonged stress has been proven to kill brain cells and prevent the creation of new ones. This can lead to behaviors such as loss of appetite, and feelings of hopelessness and sadness. Cumulatively these conditions can develop into depression.

If your situation at work is making you depressed, get away from it all by taking a vacation. A short holiday will clear your mind and keep your body rested.

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6. Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight –

Stressors at work can develop triggers that lead to unhealthy habits. This is why many overworked people cannot wait to hit the bars for a few drinks or reach out for comfort food.

Cortisol can lower your metabolism which leads to higher accumulation of abdominal fat. Thus, when you are relaxed, your metabolism works more efficiently. You will also have less motivation to consume alcohol and unhealthy food.

7. Lowers Risk of Developing Cancer –

Although more studies need to be done, some research has shown a possible link between stress and certain cancers particularly breast cancer in women.

The bottom line is why take chances? It would be better to take a few days, even weeks away from work to get more rested and relaxed than potentially create conditions in the body that are ideal for developing cancer.

What Are The Best Ways To Rest And Relax?

The question may seem counter-intuitive considering that rest and relaxation are natural, learned examples of human behavior. However, many of us have forgotten how to rest and relax. We have been so caught up with our obligations to work that we have compromised our own abilities to get proper rest and proclivity to enjoy relaxing activities.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • On average, how many hours of sleep do you get every night?
  • Do you often wake up listless and lacking in energy?
  • When was the last time you exercised?
  • When was the last time you and the spouse had a relaxing dinner?
  • How long ago was your last vacation?
  • What was the last book you read?
  • When was the last movie you watched?
  • Are you attuned to the activities of your children?

These are normal activities that help us relax and get well-rested. However, many of us have taken these activities for granted perhaps thinking we can do these things on another day.

In the meantime, the cumulative effect of stress has taken its toll on our health and inevitably in our relationship with family and friends.

Of course, we are not entirely to blame. Technology has made it easier and more convenient for us to get things done in life and work. Unfortunately, instead of allowing us more time away from work, it has created a situation where we can do more things in the same amount of time.

In an increasingly competitive environment, it becomes harder to allocate time for rest and relaxation. We must simply do more to stay ahead of the competition.

In the end, we may pay the ultimate price with our health and overall well-being.

Now that we have read about the destructive effects of prolonged stress on the body, it is important that we commit time for rest and relaxation.

The question is, what are the best ways to rest and relax? It is a matter of individual choice. The most important thing is to find time for it. You should not just allocate, but dedicate time in your schedule for activities that promote rest and relaxation.

At Mountaintop, we have come up with a list of things that you can do to help you get better rest or find relaxing activity:

  1. Get 8 Hours of Sleep Every Night – Times may have changed but the science behind the ideal hours of sleep has remained the same. You should make an effort to get 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every night. Sleep is your body’s natural way of recharging itself. Poor quality sleep will make you feel restless, inattentive, and irritable the following day.
  2. Schedule Time in the Day for Exercise – Regular exercise strengthens your muscles, bones, and the immune system. It will also improve blood circulation and help your organs function better. Exercise also releases mood- enhancing endorphins that make you feel good and fight off depression.
  3. Spend More Time with the Family – Time lost is time you will never regain. This is especially true when it comes to family. As your children grow up, they will go through milestones in their lives. You should be part of it. Regular communication is also important to maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse.
  4. Read a Good Book – Sure you can read a book from a tablet. However, nothing feels better than having a trade paperback in your hands. The smell of paper goes well with your favorite cup of coffee. Regular reading not only improves comprehension but it is very relaxing. That is why the richest people in the world like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg make an effort to read to read at least 50 books every year.
  5. Cut Down on Social Media – Social media is a great source of information, a terrific platform for communication, and is an effective channel to market and promote your business. However, it can also be toxic. If you often find your newsfeed inundated with negative content, you should either clean it up or cut down the time spent on social media.
  6. Schedule a Vacation During the Year – Taking a one or two-week vacation will not negatively impact your business. Vacations are a great way to recharge and revitalize your mind, spirit, and body. It can also be educational especially if you visit new places and learn about their cultures and traditions.
  7. Outsource Work – If you want to find more time to rest and relax, outsource some of your work. Among the types of work you should outsource are administrative functions and those that do not fall under your core competence. For example, if you plan to run a digital marketing campaign, outsource it to an agency so you can allocate more time to tasks that will contribute directly to your business’ bottom-line.

Conclusion – Get Some Rest!

At Mountaintop, we get a lot of projects that have tight deadlines. Digital marketing campaigns have to be tightly monitored. Analytics on performance are routinely made and discussed with clients. We manage a high volume of client websites and regularly run updates and improvements to ensure high-level performance.

Still, despite the hectic schedule, the people that make up the Mountaintop team make it a point to find time for rest and relaxation.

Founder Josiah Bussing and his wife, Jeanna, are avid mountain climbers which explain the name of their company. For them, climbing mountains is not only a great form of exercise but also presents new challenges to overcome. It gives them the time to clear their minds so they can perform to the best of their abilities. Mountain climbing is also an activity they share with their future children.

What about you? What activities help you relax? Please feel free and share in the comments section below.

If you want to learn more about outsourcing; how it can improve productivity and allocate more time for rest and relaxation, please feel free to give us a call or an email. We will get back to you as soon as we can!

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Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, every day you put your best foot forward so you can come closer to realizing your career goals. You’ve identified the tasks you need to accomplish, scheduled meetings, and set time in the day to prepare all the needed reports. You may have forgotten an important item on the agenda.

Have you penciled in time for reading?

Decline In Reading Scores Traced To Less Time Spent On Reading

A study by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed that global literacy rates rose from 84% in 2014 to 86% in 2016.

However, a study conducted by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) showed that reading in America has been on a steady decline the past 40 years. In 1982, the NEA survey estimated that 56.9% of Americans read at least one work of literature within the year. Fast-forward to 2015, and the number has dropped to 43%.

The lack of literary appreciation may have significantly contributed to the decline in reading scores of Americans. A global test performed by the Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRL) in 2016 showed that the United States trailed countries such as Singapore, Russia, and Ireland in reading proficiency.

A big part of the reason why Americans are reading less is multimedia. People spend more time on the Internet than with a good book.

A report by Zenith Optimedia revealed that from 2010 to 2015, consumption of online content increased by 105% while printed publications like magazines and newspapers declined by -23% and -31% respectively.

Why Today’s Most Influential Leaders Take The Time To Read A Good Book

If consumption of online content increased by 105%, shouldn’t that translate to higher comprehension levels since it is still a form of reading?

The answer is “Yes”.

And “No”.

Yes, consuming online content improves our knowledge, stimulates cognition, and makes us more learned individuals. However, having information accessible with a tap of a key or a click of a mouse removes a number of powerful attributes that help develop strength of character:

Discipline. Dedication. Self-Motivation.

Reading printed content takes more effort. If the font style is too small, you do not have tools that can increase its size unless you have a magnifying glass. It takes you out of your comfort zone; the computer screen where you can read hands-free and control the viewing experience.

With a hardbound book, you need to hold it between your hands, physically turn the page, and understand its words, paragraphs, and overall content without the convenience of launching a search query.

It takes discipline to remove yourself from the ease and comfort of an online environment. You need to stay dedicated to a reading schedule. Finally, you should be self-motivated to learn and become a better, more knowledgeable person by maintaining a reading schedule.

This is why many of today’s most influential leaders take the time to read a good book.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates makes it a point to read at least 50 books every year. Gates proudly shares his story of bringing a “sack of 50 books” whenever he travels. He successfully got Facebook founder and fellow billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, to jump on the reading bandwagon. After a slow start, Zuckerberg has resolved to read a new book every two weeks which comes out to 23 to 25 per year.

Dallas Mavericks owner and investor Mark Cuban dedicates at least three hours every day to reading. Phil Knight, the owner of global superbrand Nike, claims to own a massive library whereby visitors are required to remove their shoes before they enter.

Billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett allocates 80% of his time reading paperbacks and other publications. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is a strong advocate of reading. She makes monthly recommendations of her favorite books at her popular “Book of the Month” club.

Former NBA coach Phil Jackson, who won multiple championships with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, was an avid reader. Jackson noticed that players often lost motivation during the second half of the basketball season. He would handpick books and give them to players whom he felt would identify and find inspiration in its content.

Former United President Barack Obama was known as a voracious reader of books. Obama claimed that during his eight years at the White House, he always found time to read books. For Obama, books were a rich source of ideas and inspiration.

If today’s leaders in business and politics can find time in their busy schedules to read books, why shouldn’t you?

5 Benefits Of Reading

Digital technology has given us e-books that we can read from any mobile device. You can find just about any trade paperback in e-book format right now such as Kindle. Reading remains a pleasurable experience in any format. However, reading a regular book is a different experience altogether.

There are certain smells that trigger emotions and memories. The smell of a newly opened book; of a large bookstore upon entry and of freshly- brewed coffee permeating the air. Those who experienced a day at Barnes and Noble before it was rendered extinct by Amazon, know the feeling of offline reading.

It is this type of experience that drew industry leaders such as Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett into starting a reading habit.

There are also other benefits that you can gain from reading. Benefits that will help you find success in your career and as a leader in your industry:

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1. Develops You Into A Better Thinker

A leader stays ahead of the pack. Therefore, you must always be updated with the latest information. Knowing trends and developments in your industry or area of interest will help you make educated decisions before anyone does.

Anne Cunningham who is an Associate Professor in Cognition and Development from the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a study which showed readers were excellent in analyzing information. This allowed frequent book readers to become better decision-makers than non-book readers.

What separates leaders from followers is that they are able to see opportunity while others see only failure.

The fear of risk is comfortably managed because they are able to use their knowledge to weigh costs versus benefits. Before they initiate plans into action, risk management procedures would already be in place.

2. Builds Your People-Skills

Book readers are often unfairly labeled as anti-social or introverts. People think all they do is read books and nothing else. As most leaders will attest, book reading will improve your people or social skills.

A story is a text representation of a world from the eyes and mind of its author. When you read books, you live vicariously through the author’s filter. You see his/her perspective and compare them to yours. It helps you understand and appreciate the opinions of others.

Thus, when you are dealing with your people, you communicate with them with an open mind. Instead of criticizing, you develop empathy. You allow them the opportunity to contribute and generate feedback. Meetings become more productive instead of a venue for argumentation and debate.

3. Stimulates Creativity

Reading stimulates creativity because it encourages your imagination to keep flowing. Words are processed and depicted in imagery in our minds. In some cases, we become challenged by the opinions expressed by the author. How many times have we questioned and criticized the works of an author, yet recommended the book for others to read?

Creativity is an integral component of leadership because it allows you to “think outside the box”. Creativity starts off with a series of questions; of how we can make things better. Sometimes the best solutions are not found in black and white. You might find them in the grayest of areas. Only those with a creative mind can filter out the smoke and find what others cannot see.

4. Strengthens Analytical Skills

Haven’t you experienced reading a sentence or a paragraph, then find yourself going back to try and articulate what you just read. Reading is a constant process of analysis. You are trying to decipher and understand the information provided by the author.

Studies have shown that reading regularly not only makes you smarter but also improves your abstract reasoning skills. It is a cycle that involves receiving and assimilating information.

In business, you frequently encounter situations that require precise decision-making. If you can break down information and process potential scenarios from various courses of action, you will be able to come up with the decision with the most favorable outcome.

5. Reduces Stress Levels And Improves Mental Health

Running a business or putting in the hours at work can be very stressful. The decision-making process itself takes you through several stages of stress; from problem identification to proposing courses of action to risk assessment then finally implementation. Stress can break your mind and body down. It will hamper your ability to lead if both your physical and mental health are compromised.

Reading is an escape. It takes you away from the world you are in and into one that is created by the author. It is a great way to relax and de-stress. Enhance the experience by finding your favorite nook and consume your book with a nice, warm mug of brewed coffee.

Conclusion: How To Build A Reading Habit

Did our article get you interested in starting a book-reading habit? It is not hard to get going once you commit to the idea of reading as a form of self-improvement. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Overcome Biases – Some people are hesitant to read because they believe it takes away productive time from work. As we have shown you, reading has many benefits. It can make you smarter, more knowledgeable, more creative, and a better analyst. Thus, wouldn’t that make reading a productive activity?
  2. Read A Variety Of Content – It is perfectly fine to start reading topics you are already familiar with. However, once in a while, pick out a topic that is completely new to you. This will make require greater focus and dedication. For Mark Zuckerberg, it was social studies. What topic would take you out of your comfort zone?  
  3. Read To Have Fun – Reading doesn’t have to be an intellectual exercise all the time. Read to relax and have fun. Pick up a book that makes you feel good.

What about you? How many books do you read per month and what are some of your favorite titles? Please feel free to share your reading experiences in the comments section below.

If you want to know how storytelling can be a powerful driver of your marketing content, give us a call or drop us an email. We would be happy to assist you in getting your content seen and read by a wider audience.

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Technology is a double-edged sword; it can be your friend or foe, depending on who wields it.

Exhibit A is mobile technology. It has made communication more convenient and gives you easy access to the Internet. However it has also made you more accessible to telemarketers.

Exhibit B is email. Compared to the days of regular mail and fax machines, email has significantly improved productivity. You can bridge contacts located thousands of miles away simply by clicking “Send”.

But it has also flooded your Inbox with junk mail from people who may be clicking “Send” from a computer located thousands of miles away.

While advances in digital technology have made life and work more efficient, it has also given us additional digitized nuisance to deal with. The good news is there are tools and processes you can use to manage the number of unwanted calls and junk mail you get.

How to Avoid Unwanted Calls

Telemarketers are just regular people. Like you and I, they have a job to do. Unfortunately, dealing with them can be like dealing with a bad stomach. They can strike anywhere.

You could be in the middle of an important meeting; about to deliver the deal making pitch, when your phone starts to ring or vibrate.

You could have just arrived home after navigating through heavy traffic for 2 hours. All you want to do is to pour a tall cool one, plop your feet up the ottoman and rest your weary head. Then the phone rings.

You could be at home on a Sunday. Everyone is gathered around the television for Sunday Night Football when your phone rings. You decide to answer it and the person on the other line says:

“Good morning sir! How are you doing today? I hope I did not catch you at a bad time. If you can give me just a few minutes, I would like to discuss with you a wonderful opportunity/ investment/ product that would make your life better. This conversation is being recorded to ensure accuracy of all information provided. Interested? Good! But first please take a few minutes to answer a few questions: What is your full name?”

If the spiel just raised your blood pressure a few digits, then you know exactly what we mean when we say telemarketing can be a digital nuisance.

Of course, you have the power to simply say “Sorry, I’m not interested”. But some can be very persistent:

“May I know why you are not interested?”

“You can try our services for free. You have absolutely nothing to lose. If you don’t like it, we’ll simply discontinue the service.”

“Can you refer me to friends or associates who may be interested? I can give you a referral bonus for every successful transaction.”

From that point, exchanges can become testy as the recipient’s stress levels start to approach the danger zone.

The rising volume of complaints from consumers on unsolicited calls from telemarketers led to the establishment of the national Do Not Call or DNC registry.

Everything You Need to Know About the National DNC Registry

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opened the national DNC registry on 27 June 2003. The bill covering the registry was called the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003 and was signed into law by then President George W. Bush on 11 March 2003.

Although the registry was opened on June 27, enforcement of its rules only took place on October 1. Initially, numbers registered on the DNC registry had a validity period of 5 years. But an amendment to the original bill, the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2007 made registration permanent.

To be part of the DNC, all you need to do is to register your landline or mobile number.  

However, if you think registering your number will end all unsolicited calls, be advised that the DNC also has restrictions in place:

  1. The registry only applies to personal calls; not to business lines or business to business calls.
  2. You can still receive calls from political organizations.
  3. You can still receive calls from non-profit organizations.
  4. You can still receive calls from groups that are conducting surveys.
  5. You can still receive calls from a company up to a period of 31 days from the date you submitted an inquiry into that company unless it was specifically asked not to call.
  6. You can still receive calls from bill collectors.

You can file a complaint regarding telemarketing practices that are in violation of the DNC registry with the FCC. When filing a complaint, make sure the following details are included:

  • Date of call
  • Number called
  • Name of organization calling
  • Products and/ or services offered
  • If caller has exemption status

Did the national DNC registry have a significant impact on the volume of telemarketing calls made?

According to the 2009 Economic Report of the President, 77% of Americans who registered their numbers with the DNC reported a marked decline in the number of telemarketing calls received. One year after the implementation of the act, the number of calls consumers received per month dropped from 30 to 6.

How to Reduce the Number of Junk or Spam Email

If marketers and other soliciting parties cannot get to you via phone, they will try through e-mail.

E-mail remains the most popular form of communication even among text-savvy millennials. According to a study by The Radicati Group, more than 225 Billion emails are sent every day and this number is expected to hit 246.5 Billion by 2019.

In addition, people check their e-mails multiple times a day which makes it an ideal platform to send junk content. Landing on the Inbox is tantamount to having your foot inside the door. All the recipient has to do now is to click on it.

The popularity of e-mail has made it an attractive target for spamming activities. Spamming is defined as the practice of flooding the inbox with unsolicited emails in an attempt to force the message on someone who otherwise would choose not to receive it.

In the study by The Radicati Group, the number of spam e-mails received has been rising on a yearly basis. Of the 122 Billion e-mails received/ sent in 2015, 12 Billion or 9% were categorized as spam.

But in 2017, out of 126 Billion e-mails received/ sent, 16 Billion or 13% were identified as spam.

If checking e-mail is number one on your daily to-do list, spamming can seriously impact your productivity. Imagine filtering through multiple unopened e-mails per day and most of them feature spam content.

How do spammers get your e-mail address?

Spammers can create lists by searching online for e-mail addresses. Online directories are good sources. They could put up bogus websites for the purpose of luring visitors then securing their e-mail addresses with enticing calls-to-action. They could also buy the mailing list directly from online retailers.

Generally the more often you engage or participate in online activity, the greater the risk of your e-mail address getting acquired by unauthorized parties.

Here are our 3 tips on what to do when you receive e-mail that appears to be spam:

  1. Do not respond to the email because those in the thread will also receive your message and trigger another round of Inbox flooding.
  2. Do not follow stated instructions to “Unfollow me in your mailing list” because this may result in a bounced e-mail message to you and will make it seem your account is active.
  3. Open up your Junk E-mail Filtering feature or if you have a Virtual Assistant, ask him or her to regularly filter your e-mail for you.

Is it possible to totally stop spammers from infiltrating your e-mail? Unfortunately the answer is “no”. Anyone who has an e-mail is a target.

However you can drastically reduce the incidence of receiving spam by following our 6 simple guidelines:

1. Work with your filter 

Most e-mail clients have default filter programs that automatically transfer suspect communication from your Inbox to a “Spam” folder.

However it doesn’t always get it right. If you find a message that reads like spam to you but was not detected by the filter, report it to the client.

In the same manner if the filter transferred communication to the Spam folder that is not spam, notify the client by clicking the “Not Spam” button.

2. Do not click on it

As the kitchen saying goes, “When in doubt, throw it out.” The same policy should apply when dealing with spam e-mail.

Only the sender knows for sure the motive for transmitting it. If the suspicious e-mail uses the address of your contact, verify the transmission from him or her.

Spam emails can be used to deliver a virus or malicious software that could steal information or corrupt your system.

3. Be judicious with your e-mail

The less you expose your e-mail address the better. Unless it is absolutely essential to your business, do not include it in your social media profile. Or you could open another e-mail address specifically for that website.

4. Be selective when participating in online activities

There are sites that attempt to acquire your e-mail address through games and other online activities.

These games prey on the inner narcissist with titles like “Which Hollywood Hottie Do You Look Like?” or “Which Marvel Superhero Best Suits Your Personality?”

While it may seem fun to share with your friends that technology found compelling evidence that you look like Scarlett Johansson or Chris Hemsworth, stroking your ego could end up compromising your privacy.

5. Add another e-mail filter

There are third party service providers who have e-mail filtering software that can augment the capabilities of your client’s default program. One of the best is BoxBe which comes with a guest list feature.

If you receive e-mail from anyone who is not in the guest list, they will be asked to undergo a verification procedure. Those who pass will have their e-mail sent to your Inbox.

Those that did not pass the verification process will be stored in a folder marked “Waiting List” which are all subject to your approval.

6. Change your e-mail address

If all fails, bite the bullet and change your e-mail address. Once you do, adopt the rest of the measures we provided to make sure you don’t get flooded with as much spam messages as before.

Conclusion

The fight to keep telemarketers off your mobile phone and spammers from your e-mail should be thought of as winning the battle but never the war. Big data means big bucks for these unwelcomed guests. They will use technology in the same way you do: To increase productivity.

Your best approach would be to remain cautious on your online interactions and to maintain vigilance when it comes to protecting your privacy.

If you want to know how we can help you minimize intrusions from telemarketers and spammers, please give us a call or an e-mail.

And if you have other tips on data security that we did not cover in this article, kindly share them in the comments section below.

We would love to hear from you!

Technology works to make life easier and work more productive. But sometimes it feels that it has also created a life and work conundrum because technology makes it possible for you to do more things in the same amount of time.

There are days where we just find ourselves dragged down with so many things to do, it becomes difficult to know where work stops and life begins.

The best way to make technology work for you is to embrace all of its possibilities. Software companies understand this because their job is to develop programs that will contribute to greater productivity and better convenience.

According to a 2015 study made by Pocketgamer.biz, software developers create 1,000 new apps everyday. In 2008, the Apple App store had a total of 10,000 apps available for download. By the time of Pocketgamer’s study, the number of apps at the Apple App store had grown to 3.3 Million!

Google Play Store had a total of 3.3 Million apps by September 2017.

Apps have become indispensable because they make it possible for anyone to achieve life and work balance.

Need a ride to work but are worried taxis may not be available? Don’t worry, download Uber on your smartphone and the app will locate the Uber driver nearest your location and send him or her to your place in no time at all.

You can find an app for nearly anything you need to do at work or at home.

Here are eight of the best apps you should have on your mobile device to guarantee a stress- free life:

Top 8 Apps to Make Work More Efficient and Have a Happier Life

1. LastPass

In a technologically-driven world where everything you hold near and dear is stored in a digital platform, the first app you should have is one that protects all of your information.

We wrote about the importance of using a Password Manager in our article, “Why You Need a Password Manager Now”. LastPass is one of the best password management programs you will find in the market.

LastPass was introduced in 2008. It will store and automatically login your username and password credentials for social media, email and other websites that you frequently use.

What makes LastPass better than other password managers? When you are entrusting your information to one digital service provider, security and protection should always be your primary consideration.

LastPass stores your information in a format that makes it difficult even for the National Security Agency (NSA) and the company itself to read.

In 2015, there was a reported breach in security but LastPass’ Two-Factor Authentication (TFA) kicked in which prevented hackers from gaining access to the treasure trove of passwords.

As we discussed in our article , “How to Protect Your Website from Hackers and Spam Attacks”, hackers are relentless. They will stop at nothing to get your information to meet their selfish interests.

Having a password manager like LastPass is a step in the right direction to ensure the protection of your online data.

2. Hootlet

Social media is no longer just a tool for connecting with long lost loved ones, posting images of your vacation or a digital soapbox to share your latest politically- charged rant.

It has become a valuable tool for businesses to generate revenues by marketing and promoting products and services. Businesses also utilize social media to enhance their online presence by posting relevant content, sharing advocacies and engaging their followers regularly.

But it can be time consuming checking 3 to 5 social media platforms for the latest updates everyday. This is where Hootlet becomes an important app for you.

Hootlet is an app from HootSuite, one of the most respected and reputable social media management companies in the world. It was founded in 2008 by Ryan Holmes and is the preferred platform of choice by the Obama administration, Martha Stewart Media, Virgin Group and HBO, among others.

Here is a rundown of what Hootlet can do for you:

  • Share any webpage to all of your social networks with a single click;
  • Schedule the publication of all of your updates;
  • Google search all the relevant tweets;
  • Access Yelp to find the best restaurants in town;
  • Do a Tweet search in any area simply by putting the location on Google Maps.

With Hootlet, you don’t have to visit each and every social media network. Hootlet brings them to you!

3. Evernote

We wrote extensively about Evernote in our article, “How to Organize Life and Work with Evernote”. If you want a refresher course on Evernote, simply click on the article title.

But we can’t stop raving about this amazing app because it is a proven time saver and will greatly increase your level of productivity.

Evernote is generally an online note- taking application but is packed with so many features that you can use it for basically anything you need to do at work or in your daily life.

One of its most valuable features is the Evernote Web Clipper.

People use the Internet to search for information all the time. Sometimes you might stumble upon information that has relevant and usable content but don’t have enough time to properly digest it.

Enter Evernote Web Clipper; a browser extension that allow you to snip off information, have them catalogued neatly and accessible by any device. If there is a section in the article which you find particularly useful, you can highlight it or mark it with arrows and text.

Do you want to share this bit of information? Evernote has features that will let you share any article, text or image via email or social media.

4. MooVit

Public commuters have to go through the daily grind of getting to a transport station, lining up and while queuing hope that a seat will be available by the time he or she gets inside the bus.

But it can’t always be Christmas and you may find yourself standing up for the duration of the long ride to the office.

MooVit is an app that makes the commute a much easier experience. It will give you real time public transport information plus GPS navigation. This way you will know where the nearest bus stops are and more importantly, the least crowded routes!

How does Moovit do it? It coordinates and collaborates with transportation operators to get public transit data and also utilizes crowd sourced user data.

 5. Waze

Looking for your destination no longer has to seem like a challenge from “The Amazing Race”.

Waze claims to be the world’s largest community- based traffic and navigation app. Basically it crowdsources real- time information and road conditions to help you find the best routes to get to your destination faster.

A team of map editors are constantly working to update changes in Waze’s maps so you can have the most effective route available all the time. Those who have used Waze have raved on how much the app has helped them save time and gas money.

You can also use Waze to synch travel times if you and your friends are traveling to a specific destination.

6. Trip Advisor

Are you going on a business trip or on vacation? For sure you would always like to know the best places to stay, dine or be entertained.

TripAdvisor is an app that makes it easy to find what you are looking for and secure the best deals so you can stay on your budget.

Trip Advisor compiles reviews, opinions and photos from its community of over 500 million users. You will know which airlines have the lowest rates, the best hotels with vacancies and fun activities you and your family can do while in town.

You can also share your own reviews and upload photos of your trip to help other community members.

7. Life360

Life360 is a valuable app for those who seek to find a balance between family and work. It can be quite challenging especially for parents who both work, have a tight calendar and whose children follow different schedules.

With Life360 you can keep track of everyone in the family without having to send out the message “Where are you?” every few minutes. For busy parents, Life360 is an app that will give them peace of mind.

For children who are always on the go, sending Mom or Dad a quick “check in” and a note that they are “doing fine” is enough to allay the usual fears and concerns every parent goes through.

8. Udemy

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the guitar but were discouraged by its 20 frets, cost and total time it may take to strum and pick like John Mayer?

Udemy makes it possible for you to learn guitar, computer programming, photography and other interesting courses at an affordable prices and at your own pace.

Udemy is all about learning. The company’s mission is to help anyone and everyone learn anything.

You don’t have to rack up college debt to be adept at your passion. Many of the courses offered do not cost more than $50. The company also offers some courses free of charge.

Conclusion

These are just eight of the best apps you can use to simplify life and make you more productive. For sure while you were reading this article, software developers are busy at work designing the next big app to hit the market. By tomorrow, another 1,000 apps will make their way to Apple’s App Store or Google Play Store.

It does not mean that you should download every app that makes it to market. Chances are some apps will not be used as often as the others. Having too many apps on your mobile device will slow down its performance and leave you open to being hacked.

In the same manner that apps are designed to simplify your life, simplify your choice of apps. Make an accounting of your daily activities and download the apps with features that meet your needs.

Another helpful tip is to avoid getting apps that have similar functions. For example, if you already have Evernote, you might no longer need to download GetPocket.com which has the similar functions as Evernote’s Web Clipper. However, that being said, we still highly recommend GetPocket.com! Our founder uses both of these daily.

1Password is another good password manager. We use this one as we like the functionality a bit better when we implemented the application. But if you already have LastPass, you should be fine. 

What about you? Which apps do you regularly use to simplify life and generate more productivity at work? Kindly share your experiences with our readers in the comments section below.

If you want to know more about the best apps in the market and which ones you should use to suit your own purpose, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an email.

What is a typical day for you like?

Like most people, you probably spend eight hours working behind a computer. When you are on your break, chances are you are constantly checking your email or updates in social media via your smartphone.

Exercise is a great way to de-stress and what could be better than a run with your favorite tunes blaring in your ears? It was a good thing “Eye of the Tiger” was available for download at the iTunes Store.

It’s nighttime and you want to take your significant other out to dinner. Where to eat? No problem! All you need to do is access Yelp.

If you belong to the 33% of the population, you probably check your smartphone while tucked away in bed. A study by Deloitte showed that 1 in 3 check people their phones in the middle of the night.

You may not be aware of it but your online behavior is causing a build up of digital clutter; the habit of acquiring more and more information that will ultimately serve its purpose, becomes irrelevant and useless. If you don’t get rid of digital clutter, technology will become a hindrance, not an assistance, to life and work.

How Digital Clutter Impacts Productivity

Technology is a wonderful thing. It makes everything easier and more convenient to do. People who were born in the 1960’s still remember the days using the typewriter, calculator and the fax machine. Today you can do everything on a device that will fit the palm of your hand.

But digital clutter can make it seem like the 1960’s all over again. Your productivity can be weighed down by time wasters such as looking for files, clearing out irrelevant email and working with a slowed down computer.

And let’s not forget the distractions caused by social media. People who spend too much time on social media often feel like being in a digital prison: They just have to post.

Digital clutter can lead to a cluttered life. Instead of making everything easier, technology becomes the root cause of non-productivity and stress. The good news is digital clutter is a relatively simple matter to fix.

5 Ways to Simplify Digital Clutter

Take note that we used the word “relative” in our previous statement. If you want to get rid of digital clutter, you must want to make it happen. All you need is to take that all-important first step: Clear out all the clutter.

1. Clear Out Stuff You Don’t Need

If you’ve ever caught an episode of the riveting reality show “Hoarders”, the first step toward addressing hoarding behavior is for the patient to clear out stuff he or she no longer needs.

Are you a digital hoarder?

Your desktop, laptop or tablet could be packed with files, apps and programs that you no longer use. It will be harder to find the documents you need especially if you can’t remember the filename.

Digital clutter will also eat up precious memory and present a security risk. Unused or under-utilized apps especially those that have not been updated can leave your computer vulnerable to hacking.

Where should you start?

  • Email – According to Statista, 39% of Americans check their emails 1 to 3 times a day. This high engagement rate with email is one reason we are constantly bombarded with marketing content, junk correspondence, “phishing” expeditions and malware disguised as innocent communication. If you don’t clear out your inbox of useless email, it will use up your memory, complicate organization efforts and expose you to threats of hacking. Delete or file emails that you have already read, those from people you don’t know and suspicious messages in your Spam folder.
  • Music – The Internet has made it easy to put together an album of songs you grew up with and those that motivate you to work out. But while the classics will survive the test of time, your tastes probably won’t. “Eye of the Tiger” may have gotten you riled up for a 5k run but when was the last time you listened to it? The same goes for your compilation of “Hall and Oates” 1980’s hits. Clear out your hard drive with songs you hardly listen to so you can make space for new sources of inspiration.
  • Pictures and Videos – The saying goes that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. It’s great to share experiences with others and re-live the good times. But you should learn to let go of the past so you can move forward and create new experiences. And what about images that were poorly shot or out of focus? You will not be able to appreciate the images so there is no reason to feel attached to them. The same can be said about videos. Yes, “Ninja Cat” was funny and cute but the cat has grown up and so should your taste. After all with the Internet, it is easy to find old videos and images whenever you get that nostalgic feeling. Delete pictures and videos that no longer have value and store the rest in a file or a separate drive.
  • Apps and Programs – It’s easy to get caught up with the latest apps because we want to make life and work more convenient. If you believe the statistics, the Apple App Store grows by 1,000 new apps every day. This means your latest discovery today can be rendered obsolete by tomorrow. Apps need to be updated regularly and this will be hard to do if you have too many to keep track of. Remove apps that you no longer use to save memory and to protect your computer from hackers. Remember, hackers can use your stored apps as a conduit for their malicious attacks and target your mobile device or PC.
  • Social Media – When you are working, shut off all your social media accounts. The last thing you want while finalizing a report would be to receive notifications from Messenger. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to open an account in every social media platform. If you are using social media to market your business, choose only two networks that are relevant to your trade. It is easier to manage and you don’t have to deal with additional sources of distraction.

 2. Organize Your Files

Once you’ve cleared out the clutter, organize the rest of the files that you have decided to save. Organizing even on the digital level can be challenging especially if you haven’t done this before.

But with a few simple steps, any beginner should have an easy time arranging his or her files in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Here are 3 simple tips you can use to straighten out your PC or mobile device:

  • Create folders for your personal files and then break them down into sub-directories.

For example, you can create a file name “Family” and then have “Birthdays”, “Christmas”, “Vacation” and “Special Events” as sub-directories. You can further distinguish each sub-directory by another sub-directory such as by year. So for “Family” it could be Vacation/2015/Puerto Rico.

  • You can store your files in your hard drive or “C” drive but if for some reason you computer gets infected, everything could be damaged beyond recovery.

Consider storing your files in a removable drive or on a Cloud-Based platform such as DropBox which has high levels of encryption for data security.

  • If you decide on storing your files in your PC desktop, arrange the folders from left to right because this is the normal orientation for reading. Start out with the most important or frequently viewed folders or documents.

It is a good idea to scan and save important files and documents onto these cloud based platforms. Your business registration papers, marriage and birth certificates should be at the top of your list.

3. Use Online Tools

The Internet is ripe with tools you can use to minimize digital clutter and improve productivity. We already presented DropBox as one of these online tools that can be effective for organizing your files and keeping them safe. Here are a few others you can consider:

  • Evernote – This is primarily a note- taking application. But it is packed with features that will make organization a breeze. If you want to learn more about Evernote, you can click to our article “How to Organize Life and Work with Evernote”.
  • Password Manager Programs – If you are like most people who have so many online accounts to manage, you might occasionally encounter some difficulty remembering the username and password to access websites you hardly use. Enter the password manager program which will keep track of all the passwords and usernames you use. You can learn more about password manager programs in our article “Why You Need a Password Manager Now”.
  • Google Drive – This is an effective way of organizing the work you do for different clients. Simply create a folder per client and store all the work you’ve done for each. Then send individual links to each client.
  • Asana – Asana is one of the best project management tools you can use. It is a great way to keep track of current projects and to ensure everybody on your team is on the same page. Other good project management tools you can consider are SalesForce and WebEx.
  • Skype, Slack or Viber –  Communication is an important component of every business. In order to reduce the risk of mistakes or misunderstandings, it is a good idea to frequently stay in touch with your people.

But using traditional phone services will be expensive. It would be more cost effective to use one an online communication tool that has chat and calling features. Skype, Slack and Viber are very popular, easy to install and best of all, free!

4. Patronize Online Services

Today you can transact with almost any service provider online. You can do online banking, pay your utility bills or update public records. As much as possible, use these online services so you can reduce your usage of paper.

Phone companies send your monthly statement online via email. You can pay your bill through their website or PayPal. It is simpler, easier and without the inconvenience of having to drive to the bank.

There is no need to keep paper records. In case you have to, you can simply print out the scanned copy that is usually attached on the email or request for one from the service provider.

5. Clean Your Web Browser

Since you are migrating most of your work or activity online, you will be using your web browser extensively. Bookmarking is an efficient way of accessing websites that you frequently visit.

Make it a point to clean your web browser of links that are no longer relevant. It will be easier to find the websites that you need to use when there is less to scroll through.

Conclusion

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on mobile technology, more people are spending more time online than ever before. We are searching, processing and consuming information at a rate that will only rise exponentially over the next five years.

Collecting data becomes second nature. We don’t give much thought on creating systems that will organize files, documents and apps because as far as we know, “it’s just there somewhere.”

Yup, just like the other argyle sock you found under the pile of unused workout wear. The argyle sock you were looking for a week ago.

If unmitigated, our practice of constantly acquiring data will lead to digital clutter which could be just as bad; or maybe worse, than physical clutter.

We hope we gave you valuable insights on managing digital clutter in your life. Do you have other tips you want to share to our readers? Please feel free to post your comments in the section below.

If you want to learn how to use technology to organize everything you need to do at home and at the office, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an email.

 

Security exists to make sure everything that we hold valuable in life is safe, secure and protected from those with malicious intent. Life has become a long list of passwords and combinations. From locker combinations to PIN codes for ATM, cellphone access to passwords for websites, social media accounts and email. It pays to err on the side of caution but having too many passwords eventually ends up compromising convenience for security.

The solution? Use a Password Manager program.

The Realities of Living in a Password-Heavy World

Here are a few interesting statistics from the June 2015 TeleSign Consumer Account Security Report on digital security concerns and practices which surveyed more than 2,000 people from the United States and the United Kingdom:

  • 75% of respondents use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • 40% of those surveyed reported that they had been hacked or notified their personal information had been compromised.
  • 21% have not changed their password for the past 10 years.
  • 47% use passwords that are at least 5 years old.

Of those who participated in the TeleSign study, 80% shared their concern about being hacked. Yet many of them still continue with their irresponsible practices regarding online security.

Like most consumers, we don’t believe we are vulnerable to crime until we finally become victims. By then, it could be too late. We end up losing more than we gained by following lackadaisical practices.

This kind of disengaged mentality is the reason why the 5 most popular passwords in 2014 were:

  1. 123456
  2. Password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. Qwerty

You could be shaking or scratching your head; or maybe even both, but the truth is people did not take password security seriously. When making a choice between security and convenience, they chose the latter.

The fact that 40% claimed they were hacked was proof they should have taken the effort to come up with more challenging and complex passwords.

Imagine the consequences if your email password was stolen. The cyber criminal could easily reset several of your online accounts including PayPal.

But coming up with strong passwords for different purposes is easier said than done. Every program has its own parameters for strength. Some require a minimum of 10 characters. Others demand that the password contain a number, a capitalized letter and a sign.

Gone are the days when post-its on a computer screen would be enough to keep track of your passwords. With the Internet, you need to be more creative with your password and strategic when it comes to securing your codes from the bad guys.

The good news is that with a Password Manager, you no longer have to compromise convenience for additional security.

What is a Password Manager?

Password managers work by storing all of your log-in information for the websites and accounts you use. It makes logging in easier because the Password Manager does it for you automatically.

The Password Manager will encrypt your database file for all your passwords with a Master Key. In effect, the Master Key is the Master Password which you will have to come up with and is the only one you have to remember.

How Does a Password Manager Work?

Let’s say you want to log in to your Facebook account. When you use a Password Manager, you don’t have to type in your details onto the Facebook web page. Instead you type in the Master Password onto the Password Manager which fills in the correct details so you can access Facebook.

You no longer have to spend time thinking of your user name or combination of letters, numbers and signs for your password. Can you imagine not being able to log in to your Skype account because you forgot the password and the client is already online?

There are many great useful online services that we sign up with so we can make life and work easier. But the truth is, how many of these services do we actually use on a daily basis?

It is easy to forget passwords for websites that we hardly use. The same goes for emails. It is not uncommon for people to have multiple email accounts.

Another benefit of having a Password Manager is that it can create passwords for you.

Whether it is for one of your current online accounts or a new one, the Password Manager can generate a strong one for you and there is no need to extinguish brain cells trying to remember the combination. The Password Manager will do it for you.

 Which Type of Password Manager Should You Use?

Password managers are nothing new. The rise in demand for these programs was commensurate with the growth in popularity of the Internet. As more computers were integrated into systems that used Internet- based processes, it became more important to find ways to manage passwords and secure networks.  

There are different types of password managers that you can consider. The one you choose should have the features that would greatly benefit your business. Here are some of the password managers you can find in the market today:

1. Bonus-Feature Password Manager: 

Some operating systems, browsers and antivirus software offer password managers as a bonus feature or added value for choosing their program.

Examples would include those included in Chrome, Firefox and the Norton 360 comprehensive security suite.

If you feel your type of business does not need additional security and you are confident of what these password managers can do, go ahead and utilize the service.

2. Standalone Password Manager: 

These are password manager programs that are not associated with other software. KeePass and Aurora are good examples.

They provide strong encryption and Aurora has other features such as password generation, automatic form-filling and the ability to import passwords to a readable file.

This type of password manager is ideal if you use only one device for all of your computing work.

3. Password Managers with Embedded Security Hardware:

You will need hardware in order to get this password manager to save and encrypt data.

A good example would be Lenovo’s T-Series ThinkPad laptops that have an Embedded Security System mounted as a chipset on its motherboard. Only someone with the Master Password, fingerprint reader or both can access your data.

You should have this type of password manager if you work in a shared space environment where the risk of hacking is very high.

4. Web-Based Password Manager:

This is one of the latest types of password managers. It is a web-based application so you can use it from any Internet-connected device.

Examples would be RoboForm and PasswordSafe which have the same features as Aurora.

If your network consists of PC’s, laptops and tablets, this is the Password Manager for you because it can help you retrieve your passwords from all connected devices.

Risks of Using Password Managers and How to Avoid Them

Using a Password Manager will certainly make work more efficient. Instead of spending time and energy trying to remember passwords and usernames, the Password Manager will do the work for you.

But there are very real risks when entrusting your passwords to a singular system. If you had all of your valuables stored inside your home, what do you think would happen if a thief found your master key?

Here are a few tips on how to keep your Master Password secure regardless of the type of Password Manager program you are using:

  • Take steps to ensure the physical security of your computers at the home or at the office. For example, use computer locks or keep the rooms tightly secured before you leave your home or office.
  • Make sure you have a password to access the user account on your computer or mobile device.
  • Change your Master Password frequently.
  • Set a screen lock on your PC or mobile device.
  • Do not entrust your Master Password to anyone.
  • Regularly update your antivirus, malware programs and firewalls.
  • Enhance your security with a biometric program such as fingerprint reading in case you forget your Master Password.

You may also want to consider the old school approach in securing the protection of your Master Password. After all, given its importance, you should take precautionary measures in the event you somehow forget the combination.

Write down your Master Password on a piece of paper, place it in a sealed envelope and just like the recipe for Krispy Kreme’s donuts, Col. Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Coca Cola formula, keep it under lock and key at a personal or bank vault.

How to Get Started With Your Password Manager

Once you have made your choice of Password Manager program the only thing you need to do is create your Master Password. It must be as strong as possible and offer virtually no chance of being uncovered by any hacker. Therefore, take your time coming up with one.

The most important takeaway in this article is to understand the value of managing and keeping track of your passwords given the sheer number of activities you may have on the Internet.

We hope you enjoyed reading our article on the importance of having a Password Manager. It has been a proven way of protecting websites since the 1990’s and will continue to evolve into better and more efficient programs throughout the next few years.

If you want to have one installed or have more questions on this valuable software program, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an email.