Monday, January 12, 2009

"Run Your Business From Home?

Here's 10 Ways to Be More Productive"

by Ali Brown

Ah, working at home sweet home... Visions of leisurely days, conference calls in comfy sweatpants, increased productivity with fewer interruptions. But the distinctions between work life and home life soon blur. You really should throw some laundry in the wash before you write that proposal. You have an hour before a meeting: Should you balance your books or clean the kitchen? And remember to call that client back right after you empty the cat box.

Welcome to the real world of the home office: unforeseen distractions, a lack of structured time, and sometimes a perceived loss of identity. But don't give up the dream just yet! By putting into place a few simple ideas, you can reap more of the rewards of staying home-bound. Based on my experiences and those of my clients, here are 10 simple ways to help you stay on track.

1. Separate Your Space.

Keep a separate, distinct work area in your home. Very important. (This is especially difficult if you're living and working in a shoebox apartment, like I was when I started my business in New York City!) If you don't have a separate room, at least define an area, and know that when you're in it, you're in "work mode."

2. Structure Your Time.

As your business and personal time mesh, it's more important than ever to structure your day. For example, if you regularly take a walk or go to the gym, try to do it every day at the same time. Value that personal appointment with yourself -- even when you're very busy. It will actually help you keep your business on track! I like to get up early and work until 1 pm, then I take a few hours off to enjoy lunch and go to the gym or jog on the beach. Then I'm back at my desk at 5:00 until who knows when!

3. Outsource All You Can.

When I began my business, I made the mistake of doing all my own administrative work. Whenever you start thinking, "Well I can just do that myself," STOP. Streamline your business, making everything as automatic as possible. Use outside services to stay focused on your *real work*. Get accounts with an overnight delivery service, virtual assistant, messenger service, errand service, bookkeeper, etc. Save your time and energy for your brilliant ideas!

4. Use Technology to Your Advantage.

In-person meetings are very valuable when appropriate, but schedule them sparingly. Try to do most of your business via phone, fax, and e-mail using the best equipment you can afford. For most of us, when we're out of the office, we're not bringing in the bacon! So it's important that you can communicate flawlessly from where you are. PLEASE do us all a favor and get separate lines/services for your phone, fax, and Internet! No one likes getting a busy signal or having to call first before faxing.

Get separate lines for home and business, or ask your phone company about getting "distinctive ring". Also, voicemail is better than an answering machine, because if you're on an important call and don't want to be disturbed, other callers can still leave you a message.

5. Group Your Errands.

Try to group your meetings and errands together to minimize your out-of-office time. Make a list in the morning of all the outside tasks you need done for the day, and attempt to complete them in one fell swoop. Even better, do what I used to do and designate just one day a week as your "blitz" day for errands and meetings. Plus, then you only need to get dressed up one day a week! : ) (Nowadays I use an errand service to run around for me.)

6. Stay Focused.

Make your workspace off-limits to other roommates or family members when you're working. For you animal lovers, this may go for pets as well. (My dear old cat Francine would get extremely jealous when I wasn't giving her complete attention!) Keep all personal paperwork such as bills, magazines, and to-do lists out of sight, so they won't distract you from your work projects.

7. Beware of Yappers.

Many of your friends and family will be immediately delighted when they learn that you're now home-officing. They picture you lounging on the couch, eating potato chips, and waiting for their calls. When they call you simply to chat, politely remind them that you're working, and ask them if you can call them back after your day is over. It may take them a while, but they'll eventually get the idea.

8. Work With Your Moods.

Keep track of your moods and productivity compared with the time of day. For example, if you find you're more alert in the morning, use this time to make important calls and do your creative work. Take advantage of your natural cycles. If you feel better after an afternoon nap, go for it! (I'm a BIG proponent of the catnap. In fact, I may start a support group.)

9. Suit Yourself.

To bring out your best work, make your environment perfect for YOU. How do you work best? With plenty of breaks, or with no interruptions? In silence, or with some light music in the background? On a cushy couch and coffee table, or at a business desk in an ergonomic chair? (My friends thought I was nuts when I spent $750 on my Herman Miller Aeron chair, but they quickly understood why I did once they sat in it! It will last forever and my spine thanks me every day.)

Also, find some places you can do work when you need a change of scenery. How about the library, the park, or your neighborhood coffee shop? When I need to do serious reading, thinking, or editing, I take my work outside to the beach. The sea air, sunshine, and soothing waves help me think much more clearly.

10. Break for People.

Feeling sluggish, lonely, or moody? Arrange for at least one social break during the week. Schedule breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even just coffee with a client, vendor, or friend. Join a business networking group, or sign-up for social activities such as dance class or recreational sports league. Don't go into hermit mode -- it can be self-destructive!

© 1999-2009 Alexandria Brown International Inc.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Online entrepreneur Alexandria K. Brown publishes the award-winning 'Highlights on Marketing & Success' weekly ezine with 36,000+ subscribers. If you're ready to jump-start your marketing, make more money, and have more fun in your small business, get your FREE tips now at

This was posted on a Social Network I belong to, The Diva Within. I thought it was worth sharing.

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To Thriving in 2009!

Annette S. Walden
Marketing Solutions Consultant

"Helping you and your business look good!"

Gifts, Greeting Cards, Promotional Products, & Business Resources

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Keeping in Touch

Do You Need a Reason?

There is an old saying that in order to have friends, we need to be one. In order to build a relationship it’s important to stay in touch. This applies in our personal lives as well as business.

Just like you nurture a relationship with a new friend you want to nurture your relationship with prospects so they can become your new friend. And I believe we need to nurture our relationships with our clients, but that’s a topic for another blog.

Frequent contact is necessary. It just doesn't have to be a direct in-your-face phone call. What's important is the contact and the value that contact brings the prospect.

Expand the ways you make contact. You might include: post cards, letters, greeting cards, emails, audios, videos, etc. Then mix up the forms of contact creating interest and anticipation.

Although you may have a lot of information of interest about your business, it is important in building a relationship that we take into consideration the interest of our prospect. By notating their interests and following up with them with information shows that you do truly care about building the relationship.

Sending a heartfelt card for a particular holiday or occasion of interest to your prospects is a way to show your attention to the mutual relationship. Obvious occasions are their birthday, anniversary, etc. Other times could be for congratulations on a promotion or other note worthy event, for an obscure holiday, like Groundhog Day, etc. Or perhaps if they have a favorite cause, send a card when there is a national observation. For instance World Kiwanis Week is the third week of January. Who do you know in Kiwanis? Valentine's Day is a great occasion to let our clients know how much we appreciate them for continued and loyal support.

Thought I would start something new this year and post the upcoming holidays for the month. Perhaps this will spark a reason to stay in touch with someone.

For those who know me well, know that I grew up in the Elvis era and I still like his music. His birthday is coming up, but it holds more of a significance to me than just the ‘King’s’ birthday. It is the day I met my late husband on a blind date 31 years ago on a cold rainy January day. If you look down my blog list, you can read the story in ‘Today should be declared a National Holiday!’ Just a little trivia about me.

A good resource for Holidays, National Observations, as well as Holidays Around the World is The Earth Calendar

January-1 New Year's Day
January-4 Trivia Day
January-5 Twelfth Night
January-6 Epiphany
January-8 Jackson Day
January-8 The King's Birthday (ELVIS)
January-9 Balloon Ascension Day
January-12 National Pharmacist Day
January-12 Stephen Foster Memorial Day
January-14 Ratification Day
January-16 Prohibition Remembrance Day
January-16 Religious Freedom Day
January-18 Maintenance Day
January-19 Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)
January-20 Inauguration Day
January-27 National Activity Professionals Day

January Events
Unless otherwise stated, these are generally observed in the US only.

Month Observances

March of Dimes Birth Defects Prevention Month
National Glaucoma Awareness Month
Prevent Blindness America
Eye Care Month Optic Foundation of America
Hot Tea Month Tea Council of the USA
Human Resource Month Personnel Journal of America
Oatmeal Month Quaker Oats Company of America
Prune Breakfast Month California Dried Plum Board
Retail Bakers Month Retail Bakers of America
Soup Month Campbell Soup Company of America
Thyroid Disease Awareness Month American Assoc. of Clinical Endocrinologists
Volunteer Blood Donor Month American Assoc. of Blood Banks
Tuberous Sclerosis Awareness Month Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance
National Radon Action Month Environmental Protection Agency
Adopt a Rescued Bird Month American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Cervical Health Month National Cervical Cancer Coalition
National Physiotherapy Month Canadian Physiotherapy Association
National Birth Defects Prevention Month March of Dimes

Third Week
International Printing Week International Association of Printing House Craftsmen
World Kiwanis Week Kiwanis International

Fourth Week
National Handwriting Analysis Week American Handwriting Analysis Foundation

More Trivia:

- Only 3% of mail is personal
- 83% of people would rather receive a paper greeting card than an electronic greeting card
- People are 11 times more likely to open a greeting card that any other piece of mail

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Keep in Touch!

In gratitude,

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"Helping You and Your Business Look Good"


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