In our previous article, “Why ‘I Don’t Have Time’ Is The Reason Your Business Is Not Succeeding”, we discussed why many people struggle in putting in productive hours in a day. 

The problem is not because they “can’t”. The problem is because they “won’t”. 

Everyone can be productive. But productivity won’t happen by itself. You have to make it happen.

This is the reason why time management is one of the most sought-after skills. If you have the ability to find more quality time, you will be productive. 

In time and with consistency, effective time management will help you become successful in your business, career, family life, and other endeavors. 

Here are 7 tips on how to find more quality time and be productive.

1. Plan Ahead

For sure, you have had one of those days where you found yourself staring at blank space for several minutes… perhaps an empty wall or a computer screen. 

It is perfectly okay to gather your thoughts. However, if the seconds add up, you may end up losing valuable minutes that could lead to wasted quality hours. 

Guesswork is one of the biggest time-wasters. The best way to avoid playing the daily guessing game is to plan ahead. 

How early should you start planning? 

Here are a few helpful tips to consider when planning ahead:

  • Monthly – Review your calendar. Do you have any meetings or special occasions lined up for the month? Even if these meetings are still tentative and subject to change, work some of your tasks around these dates. Send a follow-up email to the party you are scheduled to meet with and confirm the time and date. 
  • Weekly – Again, review your calendar. Which dates have been marked for meetings or special occasions? Have these activities been confirmed? It would be a good idea to have them confirmed before the start of the workweek. Once you get a confirmation from the parties involved, close them out by encircling the date. Then, work the rest of your workweek around these times and dates.
  • The Night Before – Before calling it a night, do a quick review of the day’s activities. What key duties and responsibilities were you able to accomplish? What tasks remain unresolved? Do you have upcoming deadlines? Identify the most important tasks and rank them according to priority.
  • The Next Day – Do a quick review of the tasks you have earmarked for the day. Make sure you have everything you need right in front of you. Have a good breakfast and a strong cup of coffee. Take a deep breath… then hit the ground running!

2. Prepare A To-Do List

Preparing a to-do list is a simple but effective way to gain more quality hours. It clears out your head and lays out the important tasks that you have to work on. Where and how you prepare the to-do list is your choice. 

There are many wonderful apps you can use to prepare your to-do list such as Evernote, Wunderlist, and Microsoft To-Do. Likewise, it may be a good idea to go old school with an Executive Planner or a simple whiteboard. 

Studies have shown that writing notes using a pen on paper can retain memory longer than tapping away on a keyboard. The research concluded that writing by pen increased the amount of feedback the brain receives from the writer’s motor actions. 

A whiteboard is an inexpensive but highly-effective tool for posting reminders and tasks. It allows you to write your thoughts out so you can articulate your ideas more clearly. Whenever you see your notes on the whiteboard, you feel more motivated to get tasks done. 

3. Learn How to Prioritize Tasks

How many tasks can you handle per day? The answer would depend on the number of hours you want to spend per day on your business. 

According to the Ultradian Rhythm theory, you can only maintain 100% focus for 90 to 120 minutes before you would have to take a 30-minute break. 

Let’s assume you want to dedicate 8 hours or 480 minutes per day on your business. If you spend 90 minutes per task and follow it up with a 30-minute break, then realistically, you should be able to handle 4 tasks per day.

The next question is: “Which tasks should you prioritize?”

There are 3 ways you can prioritize your tasks:

First, prioritize the tasks based on Return on Time Invested (ROTI). In other words, work on the tasks that result in the highest returns for your business. 

Which projects pay the most? Are there projects that once completed may open new doors of opportunity for your business? 

Second, attend to the most dreaded tasks right away. These are the ones that weigh on you like an 800-pound Silverback Gorilla and give you sleepless nights. 

Work on them right away – first thing in the morning, if possible – so you can breathe much easier and move on to the other tasks. 

Third, once you have firmed up your calendar for the week, you can choose to prioritize the easiest tasks. By attending to the easiest tasks, you might accomplish more than 4 per day. 

Once you’ve cleared out all of the easy tasks from your schedule, you will have more time to work on the key tasks that you have earmarked for the week. 

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4. Organize Everything You Need Before You Start

How much time did you waste looking for the mock-ups on the client’s project? Worse, how many precious minutes did you waste looking for a calculator, pen, paper, and a stapler? 

Lack of organizational skills will keep you from expertly managing your time because you waste valuable seconds searching for files and other things when you should already be working. 

Since you have prepared a to-do list the night before, take the level of preparation another notch higher by organizing everything in your workplace. 

Pull out all the files and tools you need to work on the tasks identified in your to-do list and organize them properly on your table. If the files are on your computer, move them to the desktop folder so you can see them right away when you open your PC. 

The tools you need – pen, paper, calculator, other office equipment, and the hard copy of important files – should be within reach. You can place these items near the edge of your desk or on top of the closest shelf.

5. Take a Step Back… If You Feel Like It

There is a saying, “Take one step back to take two steps forward.” It means that sometimes doing more can lead to accomplishing less. Therefore, call it a day, get some rest, and come back stronger, recharged, and more focused.

We are human beings, not machines. We get tired and fatigued both physically and mentally. 

If we are not fit to continue, then the more we push ourselves, the greater becomes the risk of compromising the outcome of the task we are trying to accomplish. 

The important thing to keep in mind is that we should focus on “quality” time. 

You can work for only 4 to 6 hours in a day, but if the time spent enabled you to accomplish key goals and objectives, then you put in quality hours on your business. 

If you feel tired and worn out, do not hesitate to pack it in, regroup, and resume work when you are ready. Take a short vacation if you have to. 

6. Say “No”… If You Have To

They say whenever opportunity knocks, you should answer it because it may never come back. 

However, if you do not feel confident in your ability to render top-quality work and service for the prospective client, saying “No” may be the best decision to make. 

At Mountaintop, we have a team of highly-experienced professional web designers. The web designers are the company’s assets and we assign specific projects to them. 

We will accommodate requests for website design and development only to a point where we are 100% confident in our ability to build the best website for the prospective client. 

If we end up pulling assets from one project to another because our resources are heavily stretched out, the decision to say “Yes” to a new project may end up compromising our other clients. 

We will do our best to negotiate the development schedule of the website with the client. If the client agrees to the new timetable, then we will accept the project. 

If not, then we will have to say “No”. 

In any business, your work is the best representative of your brand. As long as you consistently produce high-quality work, opportunities will always come around knocking. 

7. Shut Out Distractions

There is nothing wrong with spending time on Facebook or catching up on the latest release on Netflix. However, there is a time and place for everything. When it is time to work, there should be no distractions. 

The reality is, distractions lurk everywhere. Your mobile phone could be buzzing every few minutes with calls, messages or notifications. 

If you work from home, a family member could knock on your door and engage you in conversation. At the office, co-workers could be nudging you to spend a few minutes with them at the watercooler. 

To get things done, you have to make arrangements to shut out distractions. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a different PC for work; it should not have access to Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, and other websites that are potential distractions. 
  • Keep your mobile phone locked away in a drawer or better still, in a different room. Make sure to leave a message that you will return the call or respond once you have available time.
  • Talk to your family and friends about your quest for productive time. If they care about you – and we’re sure they do – they will understand and will leave you alone during those hours. 

You can check your social media pages or your phone for text messages and missed calls during your 30-minute break. If you have kids, spend the 30-minute break time with them.

Conclusion

If you want to be an expert in time management, you must apply it to all facets of your life.

For example, if you have a family, take a few hours during the weekend to plan for their needs the following week. 

What meals will you prepare for their dinner? Do you prefer to eat out? If so, where? When will you schedule your visit to the supermarket or the laundromat? Is it time for your kids to visit the dentist?

If your kids have school activities, make it a point to mark the dates on your calendar. You would not want to miss your daughter’s musical number with her classmates or your son’s championship game. 

Of course, you should include another important person in the planning process: You. Set aside time in the week for yourself. 

There is no excuse for not finding time to exercise if you plan your workout days properly. It does not have to be in the gym. You can walk around the neighborhood, run at the park, or play ball with your kids. 

Similarly, you may simply want to find time for some peace and quiet – perhaps catch up on some personal reading.

The bottom line is if you want to find more quality time, make it happen! Don’t say, “I don’t have time.”

We hope you enjoyed this article as much as we did writing it. If you have a friend who needs help in becoming productive, please feel free to share this article with him.

Outsourcing services is another proven way of finding more time for yourself. If you want to learn how outsourcing some tasks can increase quality time, give us a call and let’s discuss what you need. 

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Entrepreneurs and professionals achieve success in their respective careers because they are proficient in time-management. 

In contrast, entrepreneurs and professionals who are languishing in their careers do so because they do not understand or appreciate the intrinsic value of time. 

For sure you have heard people respond with “I don’t have time” whenever they are asked why business is struggling or why their career trajectory has stalled. Some of them could be your friends or family members. 

“I don’t have time to network for clients.”

“I don’t have time to visit ABC Company for the sales pitch.”

“I don’t have time to post and update content on my social media pages.”

Breaking news: You do have time. We all have time. The difference is some people choose to manage their time better than others.

Put it this way, if you sleep for 8 hours every night, you have 16 hours in a day to do everything that needs to get done. 

How much time do you need to network for clients, schedule a sales presentation for ABC Company, and manage your social media pages? 

You will never hear a successful person say “I don’t have time” because they make time. Successful people understand the value of time; that once a second goes by, they will never be able to get it back.

Successful people make every second count.

5 Reasons Why People Say “I Don’t Have Time”

In business, opportunities exist every day. Winning these opportunities may come down to a difference of a few seconds. 

Think about it. 

That phone call you put off because you didn’t have time? Someone else could make that call and land the prospect as a new client.

Putting off time for ABC Company will open the door for your competitor to waltz in and clinch the deal that would set them for the year. 

Your failure to find time to update your social media pages will render you invisible on the Internet. 

Meanwhile, your competitors are expertly using social media as their virtual soapbox. They are driving more traffic to their websites and increasing the opportunities for sales conversions. 

As you see everyone else pass you by, the frustrations will mount. People are climbing up the ladder. You are stuck in the same place where you were last year. Or the year before. Or 5 years earlier. 

Given the long-term repercussions of such indecision, why do some people still insist that they don’t have time?

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1. They Are Afraid Of Failure

Here is an interesting statistic on job hunting:

On average, there are 250 applicants for every job that is posted. Of these 250 applicants, no more than 6 will be invited for the interview and only 1 will get the job.

Win or lose. Yes or no. Deal or no deal. 

Every decision you make will result in one of these 2 possible outcomes. Truthfully, there will always be more losers than winners. 

For some people, the thought of losing or failing is such a scary proposition that they just freeze or fall back. They would rather “not try” than face the prospect of failing. 

So instead of doing the right thing, their mind races to find a reason to validate their decision not to try. 

“I don’t have time.” 

What they don’t realize is that those who win are the ones who are willing to fail as many times as possible because they understand the nature of competition. 

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group of Companies. Howard Schultz of Starbucks. J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” series. These are just 3 examples of people who overcame adversity to become successful in their respective careers. 

You are competing with others in the industry. And only 1 can win the top prize. There is nothing you can do about it because that is the nature of competition. You can’t win them all, but you should at least try and do your best.

2. They Are Fearful Of Stepping Out Of Their Comfort Zone

To do great things, you must be willing to push the boundaries of your capabilities. The saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should be rewritten as “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – improve on it!”

If inventors didn’t test the boundaries of technological innovation, the Internet, the laptop, the smartphone, and all the apps you are enjoying would remain the work of science fiction. 

To succeed, you must develop skills that will give you an advantage over everyone else. 

If you run a business, take up a few courses in accounting and learn how to prepare financial statements that can help you manage your money. 

Do you want to enhance your viability in the job market? Learn a new language, study the requisite computer programs in your industry, or get certified in a usable skill. 

If learning these types of skills makes you feel uncomfortable, that is because of the phenomena known as “The Learning Curve”. In time and with consistency, your learning curve will slope and acquiring knowledge will be easier. 

Unfortunately, some people don’t want to explore their learning curve. Instead of taking up courses, learning new skills, or getting certified, they just stay within their comfort zone.

Why?

“I don’t have time.”

3. They Don’t Have Confidence In Their Abilities

You’ve heard the popular phrase “It will come down to who wants it the most” uttered in tightly-contested sporting events. 

The basketball player who wants the ball in his hands during the final seconds of a tied championship game. 

The battered, bleeding and beaten boxer patiently waiting for his opponent to throw a straight right so he can fire a perfectly timed counter left hook. 

The tennis player who sets up a sizzling forehand to the baseline after extending the rally by 25 shots. 

Whether it is a sales presentation for the most-sought after account in the industry or an interview for a high-paying position in the company, it will come down to your confidence in taking the biggest shot of your career. 

Clients and Human Resource Managers will test your confidence. They will try to tear you down to see how you get back up. Your ability to navigate safely through difficult situations will depend on your confidence level. 

Some people don’t want to be tested. The idea of being put in situations where there appears to be no way out – of now knowing how to respond or giving the wrong answer – frightens them. 

They decide not to take the challenge because their pride is not worth the time. They will rest their outcome on the other guy – the competition – hoping that he will make a mistake. 

Pride is not confidence. It is arrogance. Confidence is the backbone of success. Those who say “I don’t have time” value their egos more than achievement.

4. They Are Averse To Making Sacrifices

Do you know why “to lose weight” is the most broken New Year’s resolution? Because it is hard; you have to make sacrifices such as foregoing junk food for healthier options and setting aside 3 to 4 days a week for exercise. 

To lose weight, you have to embrace changes in lifestyle. For some, they are afraid that these changes could radically affect relationships. Families and friends may not understand and treat them differently.

“Losing weight is not worth losing friendships.”

So they don’t find the time to exercise, eat healthy food, and get in more hours of quality sleep. 

They stick to their old ways: playing video games at home or staying out late with friends drinking at pubs and eating fast-food.

What they fail to realize is that by not making the necessary sacrifices to lose weight, their health will be at risk. 

The same can be said of growing a business. You will have to make sacrifices for the greater good of your enterprise. 

Yet, some people would rather spend time on Netflix than prepare for the meeting. They would rather grab a few pints with the guys than complete the tests on the new software app for the client. 

They don’t have time for the things that will make their lives better in the long-term because they are focused on things that will give them pleasure in the short-term. 

What they don’t know is that these series of short-term decisions for pleasure may compromise their welfare in the foreseeable future. 

Time is a commodity whereby if you invest early and wisely, will yield attractive dividends in the future. 

5. They Are Lazy

Perhaps we should call them for what they are.

Lazy.

“I don’t have time” because:

  • “I would rather sleep.”
  • “I want to see how many ‘likes’ my most recent post on Facebook got.”
  • “The Broncos are playing on TV.”
  • “I already set my plans for the rest of the day.”
  • “The task is too hard – I’m not ready for it yet. Let me think it over.”

You probably have met people who talk big but don’t get anything done. For them, image is more important than substance. They like to present themselves as game-changers but in reality, they perform more like benchwarmers. 

If you want to accomplish something, you will find time for it. Talking about it will not get things done. You have to back up your words with action. Better still, talk less and do more. 

Conclusion

Can a person overcome the unproductive habit of saying or thinking “I don’t have time”? Yes, but it will depend on the person’s willingness to make changes in his mindset. 

  • Overcome your fears and just do what needs to get done. You can only worry about the things you can control such as your level of preparation for a high-level business presentation. Ultimately, the final decision will not rest on your hands but someone else’s. Therefore, you can only focus on doing your best. 
  • Forget about what other people think. It doesn’t matter what you do, people will have opinions because their perspectives are different. Prioritize the decisions that may have a positive impact on your business, career, and the people who matter to you the most. 
  • Change the way you frame your thoughts. Instead of “I don’t have time” think “When can I start?” Replace “I have to” with “I want to”. Don’t think about how hard it is to start. Think about how good it feels to finish.

As the saying goes, “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.”

Time waits for no one. It will keep ticking forward. If you cannot keep pace, you will be left behind. 

Unless you change your mindset and learn to appreciate the value of the commodity known as time, you will only have yourself to blame if your business does not succeed. 

If you don’t have time, make time.

Do you know anyone who likes to put things off? If so, please share this article to your community and tag your friends who tend to procrastinate. 

If you enjoyed our blog and would love to have amazing content for your website, let’s meet and talk strategy over coffee!

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Wake up and smell the coffee. 

One of the perks of working from home is that you don’t have to rush through your morning coffee. You can take the time to savor it and relax while you let the caffeine do its job and wake you up.

When you’re working from home, dealing with the early morning traffic is a thing of the past. 

You no longer have to fight for a parking space or patiently line up at the building elevator. 

Say goodbye to office politics and the 9- to- 5 grind. For many home-based workers, they are their own boss and they own their time. 

It’s easy to get lost with all of the comforts and convenience of working at home. In fact, if you do not get moving soon, you might find yourself crawling back to bed! 

10 Tips On How To Be More Productive When Working From Home

There are a few drawbacks when working from home. All of the comforts – the bed, the sofa, the T.V, the kitchen, and even your cat – can be serious distractions from work. 

Then, there is “The Great Unknown” – the unforeseen or unexpected occurrences that take place without warning such as:

  • Your next-door-neighbor mowing his lawn.
  • The incessant ringing of the telephone or the doorbell. 
  • Your neighbor’s dog barking at your cat.

The truth is, there is no perfect place to work. Your office is what you make of it. Just like your brick-and-mortar office, you have to make sure the conditions are set to guarantee a productive workday.

Here are 10 tips on how to be more productive when working at home:

1. Get the Workday Started the Night Before

Effective time management is a crucial component to achieving productivity on a daily basis. By planning your workday the night before, you eliminate the “guesswork” which wastes precious time. 

Plan out the following day’s tasks and activities before ending the night. It only takes a few minutes and this simple tip gives you the following benefits:

  • Reduces stress because you already know what you are going to do the next day.
  • Improves your focus; knowing the tasks that have to be addressed gives you the opportunity to manage your energy levels and prepare yourself mentally for what needs to get done.    

You can write down the tasks on a whiteboard on your home office wall. When you wake up in the morning, you will feel more inspired to hit the ground running because there is no more guesswork. 

You will know exactly what you need to do!

2. Set Realistic Targets

Goal-setting is a proven technique to improve productivity. It improves motivation; gives direction and clarity which help you drive your energies toward accomplishing specific tasks. 

However, it is important to remain realistic when setting goals. It is easy to get carried away by the idea of accomplishing many tasks. When you have too much on your plate, you will end up not finishing most of the items. 

Worse, what if most of the unfinished tasks were the essential ones – the tasks that contribute directly to your business’ bottom-line? 

Productivity expert Chris Bailey suggests picking out only 3 goals to accomplish per day. According to Bailey, the “Rule of 3” allows you to focus more energy on accomplishing these goals even when things are not doing so well. 

3. Use Focus Blocks

Another proven productivity technique is the use of focus blocks. This is a process where you group your work hours into clusters or “blocks”. Each block consists of 90 minutes of uninterrupted work followed by 30 minutes of rest. 

The science exists to back up the effectiveness of the focus block. 

A study by sleep research expert, Nathan Kleitman showed that we can maintain maximum mental alertness for only 90 minutes. Some people can extend their mental focus for up to 120 minutes. 

There are also studies that show getting in some sleep after work can improve memory, cognition, and overall performance.

The use of the focus block can also support the “Rule of 3”.

  • Identify the 3 goals that you want to accomplish.
  • Allocate 90 minutes per goal.
  • Set aside 30 minutes of rest after each goal. 

By integrating focus blocks with the Rule of 3, you may end up accomplishing 3 tasks in only 320 minutes or fewer than 6 hours of work per day.  

4. Start the Day with Your Most Dreaded Task

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Which task should I work on first?”

We will give you 2 ways to approach task-making. The first one is to start with your most dreaded task. 

This is the task that lets out all the air when you wake up in the morning. It makes you want to nurse that mug of coffee even longer. However, just like an infected tooth, if you do not see the dentist, it will only get worse. 

Get it done right away. The sooner you can accomplish this dreaded task, the better. You will be less stressed. Consequently, you will have a clearer frame of mind and have a more positive disposition to work on the other remaining tasks. 

5. Prioritize Tasks Based on ROI

The second approach is to prioritize tasks based on ROI or Return on Investment. Which tasks offer the highest return for your effort? 

For example, you can prioritize the tasks that generate the most income for your business. How much do you want to earn per month? Determine your preferred income level then list your tasks based on which ones can help you achieve your targeted financial goal.

Another way is to prioritize the tasks that can contribute the most to advancing your career. 

For example, you may have a client who does not pay you the most but has been with you the longest. Therefore, you should prioritize this client because the work is more consistent and sustainable compared to the others. 

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6. Organize Your Work Area

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

  • Naval Admiral William McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations

That was a quote from the unforgettable commencement speech given by Admiral McRaven at the University of Texas. 

A clean and organized bedroom gives you a more relaxed environment to rest and therefore, better quality sleep.

The same can be said about your workplace. 

A cluttered workplace is a stressful workplace. You will waste precious minutes looking for things that you need right away. Having stuff cluttered all over your workstation creates distractions. 

Take some time to clean up your workplace before retiring for the evening. Organize your workstation. Put key documents in their proper filing category. Throw trash in the appropriate receptacle. 

By organizing your workplace the night before, you set the conditions for productivity the following day. 

7. Dress Up for Work

Sure it is a nice feeling to work in your pajamas and bunny slippers. However, working in your sleepwear may also entice you to go back to bed. 

If you put on sleepwear for bedtime, why not put on office wear for work time?

It may sound strange to wear a tie and slacks at home, but doing so triggers emotional cues that remind you, “Hey! It’s time to work!” 

Likewise, wearing office clothes while working at home professionalizes your approach toward a home-based career. You might be surprised that wearing office clothes will help you stay more focused and motivated at work. 

8. Go Someplace Else to Work

There are days that you won’t have the energy to be more productive when working from home. For some, the distinction between home and the office has become vague. 

The home has become associated with work and they find it increasingly difficult to relax and unwind under their own roof. 

If this happens to you, simply go someplace else to work. 

“Home-based” means you are not conducting work in a traditional work environment such as a commercial office space. Home-based workers are also called telecommuters and remote employees. 

You don’t have to work at home. As a telecommuter or remote employee, you can work wherever you want – the coffee shop, the public park, a hotel lobby, or at the beach fronting the ocean waters. 

Some home-based entrepreneurs pack up their bags and travel to another country to resume their work! This is one of the biggest attractions of the home-based lifestyle. 

Find a place that gives you motivation and inspiration as sources of energy. Sometimes all it takes is a change in environment to get your engines revving again.  

9. Detach Yourself From All Forms of Distraction

When you are working from home, distractions lurk in every corner. You can easily be tempted by the T.V or by the couch. While working, you might think you are hearing the Pastrami sandwich in the refrigerator calling out your name.

In your own computer, you have many downloaded distractions from social media to your favorite entertainment websites. Unmitigated, submitting to these forms of distractions can cost you precious productive hours. 

Before commencing on your work for the day, detach yourself from all forms of distraction:

  • Use a different computer for work. Make sure the settings will not grant you access to social media platforms and irrelevant websites. 
  • Keep your mobile phone locked away in another room. You can check your messages during your 30-minute break.
  • Put your landline on silent mode and leave a message on the recording machine. 
  • If you are living with other people, give them strict instructions not to disturb you during work hours. Ask them to attend to anyone who rings the doorbell. 
  • If you drink coffee while working, have your mug of java hot, ready, and on the table before starting a task. 

As for bathroom breaks, if you can hold it, have them during your 30-minute rest period. 

If you think this is unreasonable, WaterSaver, a company from Chicago restricted bathroom breaks to only 6 minutes per day. According to WaterSaver’s CEO, the company lost 120 productive hours due to extended bathroom breaks!

 10. Outsource Non-Essential Tasks

Does your to-do list include the following tasks?

  • Filter email
  • Set appointments
  • Set calendar
  • Finish payroll
  • Pay bills
  • Do follow-up calls

If so, you are working for your business, not on your business. 

These types of tasks are called non-essential tasks because they are administrative in nature and do not directly contribute to your business’ bottom-line. Non-essential tasks are best outsourced to third-party service providers that can handle the job.

For example, if you own a website, outsource web development and management to Mountaintop Web Design. 

We can monitor your website to make sure all the plug-ins and security features are updated and running well. 

At the same time, if you want to implement a digital marketing campaign for your business, we can do that for you as well. 

We have a team of experienced SEO professionals, content writers, and social media managers that can develop a campaign to give your online presence a massive boost on the Internet. 

If you want to learn more about outsourcing, read our article “How Outsourcing Tasks Can Save You Tons Of Money – And Build Your Business”.

Conclusion

Working from home is a wonderful, life-changing decision. You have taken more control over your career and have a great opportunity to attain financial independence. 

However, working from home only means a change in the environment. You still have to put in the time and the effort to achieve your goals in order to become successful. 

Just like your days living the 9-to-5 grind in the concrete jungle, you should find ways to stay productive even when working from home. 

The 10 tips we discussed will certainly help you achieve productivity. If you have other tips that you want to share with our readers, please feel free to discuss them in the comments section. 

And if you enjoyed this article, go ahead and share them with your friends and family!

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Spreadsheet programs come and go. One that has stood the test of time and remains an invaluable tool for any business owner is Microsoft Excel.

Introduced in 1987, MS Excel has grown in popularity over the years especially with the release of Version5 in 1993. Version5 was compatible with Windows which made the software easier to use.

Likewise, Version5 provided the user with faster calculations, more advanced features for creating graphs, pivot tables, and the use of a programming language called Visual Basic for Applications.

Today, many regard MS Excel as the gold standard among spreadsheet programs. The fact that MS Excel accounts for 85% of the office market further strengthens this argument.

For many business owners, the use of a spreadsheet program offers many benefits:

  • Organize and store data
  • Tools to analyze data
  • Prepare charts and graphs for presentation
  • Preset formulas for quick and easy calculations
  • Ability to synchronize with other software programs

And MS Excel makes all of these – and more – easier to do! In business, getting organized, tracking your expenses, and analyzing performance are keys to staying profitable.

MS Excel is an indispensable tool that can be literally accessed at the palm of your hand.

Top 10 Microsoft Excel Tricks That Will Help Any Business Owner

Learning its basic functions will go a long way in helping you manage your business. However, here are 10 Microsoft Excel tricks that you should learn so you can take your business to the next level.

1. Conditional Formatting

Storing data in MS Excel is an easy way to organize information that is key to the success of your business. However, as data begins to accumulate, it may be difficult to make sense of all of those numbers.

Conditional Formatting is a feature in Excel that helps you set the parameters of your data. This Excel trick will make it easier for you to find what you are looking for.

Let us assume you are a foreign currency trader who wants to keep track of currencies that are depreciating by 5% every week.

Simply click on “Conditional Formatting” highlight the column where the relevant data has been entered and set the parameter at “less than 5%”. Once you scroll down the data, all the currencies that conform to your search parameter of “less than 5%” will be highlighted in color.

By learning how to use Conditional Formatting, it will be easier for you to evaluate all of the data that you have been collecting.

2. Removing Duplicate Data

When you are constantly uploading massive amounts of data, duplication is always a very real possibility. We will share with you our experience during the content creation process.

Optimization is an important part of content writing. If the blogs are not optimized, it will not be found on the Internet. One of the most important processes in content optimization is keyword research.

A particular topic can yield thousands of keywords. Most of these are duplicates and if the content writer does not clean out the keyword spreadsheet, he may be misled by the discrepancies in search volume between the same keywords.

In order to remove the duplicates, all you have to do is go to “Data”, highlight the columns where there are duplicate data, then click “Remove Duplicates”.

Once the spreadsheet has been cleaned of duplicates, it will be easier to work through the data.

3. Recover Lost Files

For sure this has happened to you before.

You have been uploading and analyzing data for the past hour. Then, without warning, the power goes out. Fortunately, MS Excel has an Auto-Save feature.

Unfortunately, your current MS Excel Auto-Save feature is set at every 20 minutes. You have lost data that you have been uploading the last 20 minutes! Once power is restored, you will have to re-upload all of the data that has been lost.

We will teach you an important MS Excel trick that will help you relax and breath a sigh of relief whenever there is a power outage.

First, go to the “File” menu. Go to “Info”, then click on “Manage Versions”. You will see 2 options. Click on “Recover Unsaved Workbooks”.

This simple tip will help you save productive minutes. When you have power back on, all you have to do is to start where you left off.

4. Paste Special

One of the most common activities you do in MS Excel is to copy and paste. However, you may want to view the data in a different way. For example, you may want to have the data presented in a percentage format.

Paste Special will enable you to change the look of your data with a few easy clicks.

Going back to our example, let us assume you want a column of data converted into percentage format. Highlight the data that you want to convert, click copy, then paste it on another file.

Here is the step-by-step process on how to convert the numbers into percentages:

  • On a separate column, write down “100” since, in order to convert numbers into percentages, these numbers have to be divided by 100.
  • Copy the value of “100”.
  • Highlight the entire column that you want to be converted into percentages.
  • Right click, then choose “Paste Special”.
  • Under “Operation”, choose “Divide”.
  • All of the numbers in the highlighted column will be automatically divided by 100.
  • Click the “%” icon to insert the percentage symbol in all the numbers in the column.
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5. Freeze Panes

After years spent building a solid reputation in the real estate industry, you are finally invited to present your services to one of the state’s biggest and most successful property development companies.

This is an opportunity you cannot pass up! The Vice-President of Business Development wants to know how you target potential buyers for the properties in your list.

You present to the VP your Buyer’s Profile spreadsheet which is a result of years of hard work and consistent data collection.

However, by the time you get to column AA and below row 50, the VP cannot see the header cells. It is hard to appreciate the effectiveness of your system if the main decision maker will not be able to follow its movement.        

The solution is to freeze panes to keep the headers in place while you continue to scroll through the data.

All you have to do is to click to the cell below the header you want to freeze. You can also click to the left of the column you want to be frozen. Go to the “View” tab and choose “Freeze Panes”.

6. Extend Formula Across/Down

Before MS Excel, you had to be familiar with the M+ key on your calculator. This is the key which allows you to store a number that you can use to multiply or divide another value.

With MS Excel, all you need to do is to write down the formula on a cell and copy it across or down in order to repeat the same calculation.

Clicking “Copy” then dragging the formula down or across highlighted cells would be one way of extending the calculation. However, if you have a large amount of data to calculate, simply double click the formula on the cell where you want it to run.

7. Filters

Filters allow you to explore data faster by hiding information that is not relevant to your search.

For example, the value “Fruits and Vegetables” are no longer relevant to your data analysis. MS Excel can filter this value out whenever the program comes across it.

The newer versions of Excel allow you to run filters on numerical values such as percentages or parameters as “is greater than”. Likewise, the current versions of Excel can also filter out cell colors.

8. Print Optimization

Perhaps one of the knocks on MS Excel is that having documents printed out is not always easy. For sure, you know what we mean!  Sometimes you do not get exactly what you wanted to print out. It may take a few tries before you finally get the copy that you want.

The key to optimizing MS Excel’s printing capabilities is to follow a set of steps:

  • Print Preview
  • Fit to One Page
  • Adjust Margins
  • Print Selection
  • Printing Headers
  • Choose Portrait vs. Landscape
  • Spreadsheet Design

It will take some practice to get the hang of printing. However, this will be a task that you should expect to perform several times during the course of your business.

9. Flash Fill

Flash Fill is a feature that was added to the 2013 version of MS Excel. It is a wonderful tool to use for cleaning up and organizing data.

Some users have remarked that the Flash Fill feature is MS Excel thinking on its own. It anticipates your intended action and by simply clicking on the “Flash Fill” button, MS Excel will execute the task.

For example, you have a column of customers’ names that are presented as follows:

Last Name, First Name

Let us say you want to extract only the first names of the customers and copy them on the column beside it.

All you have to do is to write the first name of the first entry on the cell where you want to print the data. Next, go to “Fill” and click on “Flash Fill”.

Just like magic, MS Excel will copy all of the first names on the list to the column and run the data in order of their appearance.

10. Index-Match

Users of MS Excel who have used its VLOOKUP function to sort out data will share a common opinion – INDEX-MATCH is a better feature!

With VLOOKUP, the data will get affected whenever changes in column positions are made. This will not happen with INDEX-MATCH.

INDEX-MATCH is a great feature to use if you want to sort out specific data from your spreadsheet. Simply choose the location where you want the sorted information to appear. Then, set the parameters or conditions of your search in the INDEX-MATCH formula.

Within seconds, MS Excel will retrieve the data you want and present them in the location you chose.

Conclusion

There are other spreadsheet programs that you can consider for your business. For example, Google Sheets is also becoming popular with entrepreneurs. Other noteworthy spreadsheet programs include Numbers by Apple, Open Office Calc by Apache, and Zoho Sheet by Zoho.

However, MS Excel remains the gold standard to which these software programs are measured against and with many good reasons. MS Excel is easy to use, highly-navigable and includes key features that are very important to running a business.

Like all skills, becoming proficient in MS Excel will take time and practice. Working with MS Excel will be time well spent. Do not be intimidated by the commands and features. Keep practicing until MS Excel becomes second nature.

Did you find this article helpful? If so, please feel free to share it with people who may want to learn more about MS Excel.

And if you have other MS Excel tips and tricks that you wish to share with our readers, please feel free to write them down in our comments section.

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Do you want to see the world? If yes, then you should work from home.

How is that even possible? When you say, “Work from home” what it really means is that you are working outside the confines of a formal office.

You don’t have to beat rush hour traffic in the morning and in the afternoon.

You don’t have to clock in and clock out.

You don’t have to wear formal office clothes.

You don’t strictly follow a 9-to-5 schedule with a one-hour lunch break.

Unless you are a telecommuter, you don’t have a boss to directly report to.

Your “home” could be anywhere.

Of course, you could work from your own house. You could also work from your favorite coffee shop, the gym, the supermarket, or at the public park.

You could also travel; see the world while working at the same time. There are no boundaries to where you want to go.

Who Works From Home?

Working from home is a matter of choice: Yours or your company’s.

According to data from the US Small Business Administration (USSBA), 99% of all businesses registered in the US are categorized as “small” and more than 50% of these small businesses work from home.

It makes sense for small businesses to start out from home. As we will discuss shortly, working from home has several advantages for the start-up. However, these advantages will also carry over to more established businesses.

Another study, this time the GEM Entrepreneurship Report, revealed the following statistics:

  • 69% of start-ups work from home
  • 59% of established businesses are home-based

It is not just the start-ups and established entrepreneurs who are taking the home-based route. Freelancers are another component of the home-based economy.

Freelancers are professionals; remote workers who offer their services to companies on a contractual basis.

Here is a typical profile of a freelancer:

  • Well-experienced; put in years working the  9-to-5 shift
  • Knowledgeable and highly-competent in a specific skill or discipline; many are certified or licensed in the field of expertise
  • Good with computers; ability to perform tasks using a variety of software programs

A 2017 report by the New York Times showed that roughly 43% of the US workforce has done freelance work.

The growth of the freelance market has given rise to another segment of the home-based economy: the Telecommuter.

Telecommuters are often confused with freelancers. Although both types of home-based professionals work from a remote location, telecommuters are hired by a company.

Telecommuters start out as FTEs or Full-Time Employees of the company. Eventually, they are transitioned to Telecommuter status by the company for the purposes of cutting cost and increasing productivity.

Yahoo! under Marissa Mayer was one of the first US companies to experiment with telecommuters. Mayer wanted to see if productivity would increase if workers were allowed to work from home.

While Mayer’s telecommuting program produced the desired results during its early years, eventually it fell short of the company’s long-term goals and had to be discontinued.

Yahoo’s failure in telecommuting did not stop other companies from integrating telecommuters in the workforce.

Here is a partial list of US companies that continue to hire telecommuters:

  • VIPKID
  • Appen
  • Conduent
  • Rev
  • LiveOps
  • TTEC
  • Amazon
  • Sykes
  • Dell
  • Working Solutions

It has been projected by market analysts that by 2020, more than 50% of the US workforce will be composed of telecommuters.

7 Benefits Of Working From Home

So what are the benefits of working from home?

1. Higher Level of Productivity

We have often quoted a report by productivity coach, Steve Pavlina, which revealed that out of 480 office minutes, workers are only productive for 90 minutes. That is only 19% productivity.

This finding is substantiated by another report which showed that American companies lose an estimated $1.8 Trillion a year due to low productivity.

What factors affect productivity?

  • Distractions at work – Internet surfing, social media
  • Water cooler chatter
  • The long commute, traffic
  • Sickness

Companies found out that by integrating telecommuters into the workforce, these factors would be mitigated and productivity would improve. A 2-year study conducted by Stanford University confirmed the positive impact of telecommuting on productivity.

Are distractions present when you work from home?

Yes. You will have distractions when you work from home but these factors are easier to manage compared to time spent at the office:

  • Put away the mobile phone; leave a voice message
  • Use a separate PC for work; it should have no access to social media and other non-work related sites
  • Utilize focus blocks; 90 minutes of 100% focus for work followed by a rest period of 30 minutes

2. Lower Attrition Rate

Attrition is a reduction in the workforce whether through resignation or retirement. In the context of Human Resources (HR), attrition is synonymous with the weakening of the workforce.

A company that has a high rate of employee turnover – employees leaving the workforce – has a negative connotation. When a company has a reputation for having high attrition rates, the common assumptions relate to an unhappy workforce.

In its 2018 report, the Work Institute estimates that 1 in 4 Americans will leave the workforce to look for better opportunities. The alarming statistic should be a wakeup call for most employers to meet the demands and expectations of their employees.

A proven way to lower the levels of attrition is to hire remote or home-based workers. Studies have shown that employees who have accepted telecommuting assignments are much happier and productive.

For companies, lower attrition rates mean more savings. They are able to save almost $11,000 per employee in terms of absenteeism, turnover, and overhead costs.

How about work from home entrepreneurs?

Ask home-based entrepreneurs how different it is working from home and an office. Many, if not all will tell you they are happier with the new career direction for the following reasons:

  • They no longer have to worry about rush hour traffic.
  • They don’t have to deal with office politics.
  • As business owners, what they earn equates to their level of productivity. When you are an FTE or Full Time Employee, your salary essentially encapsulates your worth to the company.
  • They set their own work schedule.

Instead of having to worry about traffic, a home-based entrepreneur can get started on work right after having his first mug of coffee!

3. Better Life/Work Balance

As an FTE, your schedule is at the mercy of the Workforce Manager or the Supervisor. If you are asked to put in overtime work to finish a deadline, you can’t say “No” even if it means missing your daughter’s ballet performance or your son’s football game.

In some cases, you may even have to bring work to your home.  Instead of having a nice glass of red wine and a plate of cheese with crackers with the wife on a Friday night, you find yourself crunching numbers or finishing up a report.

Working from home assures you of a better life/work balance because now you have complete control of your schedule. If you are a freelancer, your client may give you deadlines.

However, all the client cares about is that you complete the project on or before the due date. It will not matter how you set your schedule.

When you have a better life/work balance you are happier because you are able to fulfill your obligations to both your clients and family. It makes you feel more fulfilled. You no longer live for work but instead, work to live.

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4. Streamlined Costs of Business

Some entrepreneurs believe that your business should have a brick-and-mortar office. So they look for affordable office space, pay the required security and rental deposits, buy furniture, and make the daily commute to work every day.

Over time they realize that they could have saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars every month if they managed their business from home.

In the first place, by working from home, you can save up on the following expenses:

  • Rent
  • Tenant dues
  • Internet service
  • Power
  • Water
  • Telephone

Of course, you can factor in the estimated rental cost on your home office to get a more accurate measure of business performance. However, you don’t really pay actual rent.

Likewise, businesses that outsource work also reap the cost-saving benefits of contracting the services of freelancers, telecommuters, and other third-party service providers.

In our experience, clients save money by contracting Mountaintop to handle website management, digital marketing, and content marketing instead of hiring FTEs. They save up on salaries, employee benefits, rental space, the additional cost of Internet bandwidth, power, water, and office supplies.

5. Stay Fit and Healthy

Stress is one of the leading contributors to heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other dangerous illnesses and conditions. Your career can be a major source of stress.

In addition to overtime work and meeting deadlines, you also have to deal with traffic, office politics, lack of job fulfillment, financial problems, the threat of being laid-off, the absence of a clear career/succession path, and company culture to name a few.

Doctors prescribe regular exercise as the best way to manage stress. Those who work in an office environment say they have “no time to work out” because they are “too busy”.

Working from home will afford you the time to exercise. You don’t even have to go to a gym to get exercise. You can get a few exercise equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, a Yoga Mat, and a jump rope to get started.

Or why not take a quick run or a 30-minute stroll at the park?

You can also eat healthier food when working from home. You have complete control over what you eat. Sure it takes time to prepare your meals. But with advanced planning, you can pre-pack your meals and just reheat your food for a few minutes when you want to eat.

Office people tend to patronize bars, restaurants, and the food court for lunch. While some restaurants offer healthier fare, it will be hard to choose a fresh garden salad with olive oil vinaigrette dressing when everyone else is ordering hamburgers with French fries!

Taking frequent naps is another good way to combat the effects of stress. You might be allowed by your employer to take a 10-minute nap during your break. However, taking a 30-minute nap in your own bed or favorite couch is even better.

6. Generate Higher Savings

Working in an office entails daily expenses. Your list of expenses includes gasoline, food, water, and an allowance for contingencies. You will also be tempted to spend more.

Thinking of going to the mall for a quick bite? You might end up buying something else other than just food and drink. Of course, there are the get-togethers with the office mates. It is not uncommon for office mates to have a few drinks at the bar after work hours.

The expenses all seem insignificant until you check the daily balance of your bank account.

You will spend less when you are working from home. First, you don’t have to commute. Second, everything you need – food and water – are already in place. Lastly, unless you watch the shopping network during your break time, there is nothing at home that will tempt you to spend.

Thus, spending less means you can save more of your hard-earned income. The money that you used to spend on gasoline, food, drink, and contingencies will now go to your savings account.

How much money are we talking about?

According to a survey by CareerBuilder, the average American office worker spends $3,500 per year on transportation, food, coffee, water, and contingencies! You can do a lot with $3,500 in your bank account every year.

7. Provides an Environmentally-Friendly Solution

A study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that we could prevent 1.5 billion pounds of gas emissions if all office equipment was Energy Star certified.

The problem is when you set up an office, your priority is to buy equipment that will fit your budget. Oftentimes, these types of office equipment may not be environmentally friendly.

With fewer expenses, you can purchase more environmentally friendly equipment for your home office. For many people, especially the Millennials, creating a sustainable workspace is a big incentive for working at home.

You do not need as much paper and can do away with equipment such as fax machines, printers, and copiers when setting up your home-based office.

Conclusion

Did we convince you about the benefits of working from home? Before you make a decision to move your business from a brick-and-mortar office to your home, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Make sure your home office is conducive for productive work. There should be no distractions within the area. No TV. No refrigerator. The PC should be dedicated for work purposes only.
  • Prepare for contingencies. Be ready to move to another location in case of power failure. If you are not confident of your Internet Service Provider (ISP), consider getting a backup ISP.
  • If you live with other people, ask them to respect your business hours. That includes your kids.
  • Make sure your PC is reliable. That is your bread and butter equipment. Invest in a good, powerful PC that can get the job done.

Do not scrimp on the hardware. If you regularly meet with your clients online, buy the best headset and make sure there is enough capacity to handle audio-visual calls.

Working from home will be a definite change of pace. It may take some time to get used to. However, you will soon realize that transitioning to a home-based office was the right move for your business.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it. And if you have other tips for those who want to work from home, kindly share them in the comments section.

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The best outsourcing arrangements are those that grow from a client-service provider agreement and into a strategic partnership. After all, there should be mutual interest in order for the outsourcing venture to succeed.

As the client, you want to be assured of high-quality work on a consistent basis. As far as the outsourcing partner is concerned, the objective is to secure a long-term engagement of services.

5-Step Process On How To Choose Your Outsourcing Service Provider

The concept of outsourcing is effective in theory. In every agreement, there are always 2 parties involved. Agreements establish the obligations between the parties.

If companies are defined by their individual values, purpose, and vision then conflicts are very much possible between the parties involved in the agreement.  As in real-life, these conflicts must be mitigated, managed, and resolved for the relationship to succeed.

Thus, you must always qualify your prospective outsourcing service provider before signing on the dotted line.

We have provided you with a time-tested, proven effective 5-step approach to qualifying your potential strategic partner in business development:

1. Define Your Purpose

Why do you want to outsource?

That is the underlying question that you must answer before you pursue the outsourcing option. There are several reasons why companies want to outsource:

  • Reduce Cost – This remains the number one reason why companies outsource. In times of great economic uncertainty and volatility, it is understandable why businesses would prioritize cost-cutting measures.

However, if you put too much emphasis on cost, you might end up commoditizing the process of outsourcing.

One of the biggest mistakes by first-time outsources is to focus on pricing. The process of finding the right outsourcing partner becomes a bidding war. They end up choosing the outsourcing partner based on the lowest price not on capability.

Eventually, the outsourcing arrangement becomes a representative of the saying, “Penny-wise, pound-foolish”. The company could have selected an outsourcing partner that could render better quality work but instead chose one that offered lower rates.

It is perfectly fine to factor in costs in the selection process. However, set parameters and be disciplined about it. In the end, the quality of work must always take precedence over pricing.

In addition, here are some important outsourcing statistics to help you understand how much you can potentially save your organization by hiring remote workers.

  • Increase Business Productivity – To understand how outsourcing increases business productivity, ask yourself, “how much time do you spend filtering email?”

Now, imagine if you outsourced email filtering to a Virtual Assistant? The time that you previously spent filtering email can now be repurposed to managing tasks that are directly related to your business.

Let’s expand the coverage of outsourcing.

In addition to email filtering, outsource calendar management, phone handling, appointment setting, market research, content writing, digital marketing, web management, customer support, graphic design, accounting, payroll preparation, human resources, and SEO.

You get the picture.

You will have more time to manage the tasks that will contribute directly to your business’ bottom-line while ensuring all the other functions are properly attended to.

  • Improve the Quality of Work – Again, let us emphasize the need to contract the services of a qualified third-party service provider.

Finding the right outsourcing partner is similar to finding the right employee for the company. You want to make sure you hire the best person for the job.

When you outsource tasks or services, you have to be 100% sure the prospective outsourcing company has the requisite skills, experience, and expertise to guarantee you top quality work every time.

Thus, outsourcing not only saves you money but it also offers you the opportunity to improve the quality of work because you are hiring experts at a lower cost.

In our case, we have clients who initially hired us to design and develop their websites.

Eventually, we were contracted to manage their websites and protect the assets from hackers, phishing expeditions, and other malicious attacks.

Over time, these clients asked us to run their digital marketing campaigns because they do not have the time or expertise to learn digital marketing.

By outsourcing digital marketing to Mountaintop Web Design, our clients were able to save money, improve the quality of work, and lower the risk of incurring costly mistakes.

  • Integrate New Technologies, Systems, and Techniques – There are businesses that outsource because they want to scale up or improve their business model while limiting capital risk exposure.

The outsourcing partner becomes a “testing laboratory” where systems are designed, developed, and tested. A system is composed of different processes and frameworks.

A company can run any combination of processes and frameworks and assess which ones deliver the best results.

For the reason that outsourcing carries the benefits of comparative cost advantages and economies of scale, capital risk exposure is kept to a minimum.

You can read more about the benefits of outsourcing in our article “How Outsourcing Tasks Can Save You Money – And Build Your Business”.

Is it possible to have more than one reason to outsource? Yes. However, it would be advisable to prioritize the reasons why you plan to outsource. From there, you can prepare a mission statement or an Executive Summary that best encapsulates your purpose.

2. Conduct Comprehensive Research on the Outsourcing Venture

Whether you are thinking of outsourcing to a local or international service provider, you must always do comprehensive research on the potential partners as well as the process itself.

These are excellent sources of information. Our articles are well-researched. Other than the traditional research methodology, we interviewed businesses that have outsourced to verify or closely validate online data. You can be assured that the information you find in these articles closely approximate real-world experiences in outsourcing.

Likewise, you should do your own research and learn as much as you can about outsourcing.

What kind of studies should you come up with?

  1. Market/Industry Study – Find out the trends in the industry; which regions are growing and the functions that are commonly outsourced.
  2. Feasibility Study – Determine the numbers for the project. What are the initial costs? How much cost savings should you expect? What are your revenue targets? What are the risk factors?
  • Talk To Individuals/Companies That Have Outsourced –  One of the best ways to develop a deeper understanding of a concept is to talk to those who have done it.

Review your list of contacts in your email or social media and find out who among them have experience in outsourcing. Reach out and invite them for a 1-hour meeting to discuss the pros and cons of outsourcing.

You can also join business groups in social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Initiate a discussion on outsourcing. For sure, you will get valuable inputs from group members.

  • Contact Agencies – There are agencies that can connect you with potential outsourcing service providers. The advantage of using the services of an agency is that the service providers in their list have already been vetted. You can even request for recommendations from previous clients.

For example, if you plan to outsource services to the Philippines, you can reach out to the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) and the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) which are the regulating agencies of the outsourcing industry.

CCAP and BPAP can recommend a list of member-outsourcing service providers that are in good standing.

  • Do Due Diligence Work – Outsourcing is a growth industry. Thus, you should expect a few unscrupulous groups to abuse the opportunity and scam unsuspecting companies.

Due diligence should always be part of the research process. Once you have drawn up a shortlist of prospective outsourcing partners, run a quick check to find out if they have an “unsavory” past.

Sometimes a simple Google check will yield “interesting” results. Of course, these pieces of information still have to be verified. At the very least, you can raise a few red flags on a few potential outsourcing partners.

Some companies put up special groups or teams that are tasked to conduct comprehensive research on outsourcing. The research is compiled and organized into report form and distributed to the company’s main decision makers.

In some cases, the company sends a team to visit the region of interest. For example, company “A” may send a small delegation to India to meet with prospective outsourcing partners.

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3. Send Out an RFI or Request For Information Sheet

When you are confident on your list of prospective outsourcing partners, ask them to fill out an RFI or Request For Information sheet.

The RFI will give all the information you need on the experience and capability of the service provider. It should include entries for the following pieces of information:

  • Year Company was Established
  • Number of Clients
  • List of Directors and Officers
  • Website
  • Social Media Pages
  • Core Competencies
  • Current Technology Profile
  • Major Accomplishments
  • Associations
  • Number of Managers
  • Number of Personnel
  • Current Organizational Structure
  • Current Operational Workflow

You should also ask the prospective outsourcing partner to attach a copy of its business papers – SEC Articles of Incorporation – as proof that the company is legitimate.

Are there potential red flags you should look out for?

  • No website
  • Refusal to answer RFI
  • Inactive or dormant social media pages
  • Invalid business papers – not updated
  • Refusal to provide business papers

The RFI is a standard document in outsourcing. Any party that refuses to comply should be scratched out from your list of potential partners.

4. Design and Develop a Partner Qualifying Process

If you were hiring a full-time employee, would you hire the first person who applied for the job? Our advice to you is “No”. It’s not because the first person is the least qualified of all the applicants. However, by hiring right away you forego the opportunity of comparing the candidates.

The same approach should be applied when choosing your outsourcing service provider. You must design and develop a partner qualifying process in order to select the best candidate from the list.

Technically, the RFI is part of the qualifying process. Set aside the candidates that have the most enticing RFI profiles. The next step is to invite the prospective outsourcing partner to an online interview.  You can use Skype, Viber, or any other audio-visual platform that you are comfortable with.

Prepare a list of questions or topics that you want to discuss during the online meeting. These questions should touch on the following:

  • What is the timeline for the commencement of operations?
  • What is their hiring process? How do they source talent?
  • How will the prospect guarantee the protection, security, and integrity of all shared data?
  • What are their disaster recovery plans?
  • Do they have a built-in career and succession planning program in place for their people?
  • Do they have a Process Improvement System in place?
  • How often are personnel re-oriented or re-trained?
  • Do they regularize employees?
  • Do they have a grading and employee evaluation process in place?

If you are considering an outsourcing partner from a remote location such as the Philippines and India, you will have to discuss the issue of language, cultural, and traditional barriers.

5. Cover the Engagement with Contracts

Last but certainly not the least, make sure the engagement is covered by contracts. What contracts are we referring to?

  • Service Level Agreement – Defines the level of service and the guidelines/ standards for maintaining the quality of work.
  • Confidentiality Agreement – This document is intended to protect the interest and all information that is shared between both parties.
  • Memorandum of Agreement – Summarizes the conditions of the agreement between the Client and the Outsourcing Partner. Includes a detailed summary of the obligations of each party.

Make sure the agreements are notarized. A copy must be sent to the Outsourcing partner.

Conclusion: Outsourcing – Your Hedge Versus Uncertainty

While the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line, the same can’t be said about the road to success. There will be steep climbs to make, sharp drops to avoid, and dangerous curves to navigate.

The uncertain nature of business makes success fleeting for many entrepreneurs. If revenue targets are not met and you don’t have deep pockets, it will be difficult to navigate your business through the rough patches.  

The usual course of action is to cut costs. However, once you reach the equilibrium point where every unit of cost that is cut results in diminished quality of output, the cost-cutting measure becomes counter-productive to business.

Instead of cutting costs, streamline them through outsourcing.

Delegate or transfer tasks, responsibilities, even entire departments to qualified third-party service providers who can maintain or improve the quality of output at lower costs.

The keyword is qualified.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it especially with someone who is thinking about outsourcing.

And if you want to know how outsourcing can help your business grow despite tough times, please feel free to give us a call or an email. We will be more than happy to discuss the benefits of outsourcing with you via a free 30-minute consultation.

the journey to success is similar to climbing a mountain

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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