Jun 16

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Plan ahead to save money

save moneyIn any organization, the bottom-line numbers tell the overall success story. You’re either making money, or you’re not. And if you aren’t making money, it’s probably because you’re spending too much money — or wasting it. While there are some obvious ways to note when a company is wasting money — such as purchasing a very expensive piece of equipment they neither need nor can afford — there are some money wasters that aren’t as obvious.

Wasted time is a big corporate money waster. And nothing wastes employees’ time like re-doing a project over again — and again. And most of the time, you can avoid the need to re-do work with proper planning.

While every organization will have different planning needs based on their individual assignments, you can follow some of these tips before you get started on most any project:

  • Get all the details. You need to have all the details before you begin the job. Do your best to persuade your own supervisor or anyone who oversees this project that you can’t begin until you have the whole scope of the project. Often it’s one minor missing detail that throws a whole project off course and is the reason for much extra work.
  • Get yourself a contact. You should have one and only one person who you communicate with about the details on this project. Having too many decision makers on the job often creates chaos.
  • Create and follow a time-chart. You should try to figure out how many hours you’ll need to get the job done. This includes the total hours you will need to be on the job, as well as your employees. Then, keep track of the time everyone puts in for this job on a daily basis, and make sure you are staying on target.
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Mar 03

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: 7 tips to battle e-mail overflow

e-mail-overflowEmployees report that roughly 40 percent of their time during work hours is spent reading and writing e-mails, according to a survey from Cohesive Knowledge Solutions. This huge chunk of time can cost your company a huge chunk of change — approximately $300 billion a year in lost time and productivity.

How can you cut down frivolous e-mails and spend more time doing your “real job?” Mike Song, Vicki Halsey and Tim Burres, the authors of The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your Email Before It Manages You, have seven tips to keep in mind when tackling the e-mail epidemic:

  1. Avoid the “boomerang effect.” If you send out five e-mails, you can almost count on getting back at least 3 replies, usually unnecessary and useless. Cut down the number of replies by eliminating at least one of the five recipients, if you can.
  2. Think, then send. Before you send an e-mail, think to yourself: is the information in this e-mail really helpful or useful to my colleague? When you take a minute to think about how important the content is, you might discover that the recipient doesn’t need to read the e-mail as much as you initially thought.
  3. Stop “thank-you” overkill. Don’t reply to an e-mail just to say “thank-you,” especially if the action was just an everyday favor. Make it a general rule around the office to use thank-you e-mails only for times when you go above and beyond for each other. You could also use an acronym like NRN (no reply needed) or NTN (no thanks needed) at the end of your messages.
  4. Keep a professional image. Cut out the emoticons. Use exclamation points, all capitals letters, acronyms and abbreviations sparingly. Mind your grammar and spelling as well. Keeping a professional style in your e-mails can help to prevent the spread of nonsense messages and useless replies, both of which take up a great deal of your time.
  5. Just say it. Sometimes e-mail just isn’t the best channel for a certain topic or subject. Before you send an e-mail, think about how many times you will end up going back and forth to get understanding on both ends. If you don’t think it’s going to be easy to put your thoughts down on a computer screen, it probably won’t be.
  6. Use a cool-down period. Have you ever sent a message in anger and then wished you hadn’t, almost immediately after hitting that “send” button? We’ve all done it. Avoid making a mistake when your anger clouds your judgment by giving yourself a 24-hour waiting period before actually sending that e-mail. This could save you from a long chain of anger-driven e-mails, all of which that will waste your time.
  7. Set up an e-mail schedule. Instead of reading and responding to e-mails as soon as you get them, set aside blocks of time throughout the day during which you will take care of e-mail. Turn off your message alerts, and reset your inbox to accept new messages every half hour instead of every two minutes. This will allow you to get back to the job you’re actually paid for and look at e-mails only when it’s time. Worried you’re missing something important? Don’t worry: If it’s that urgent, the person will give you a call.
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Nov 11

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Take advantage of online classrooms for professional development

online-classroomsThe Internet is more than a research tool — it can also be a virtual classroom that helps you expand your experience and add credentials to your resume.

Best: You can take online classes from any place with Internet access, making them much more convenient than traditional courses.

Reality: But online courses aren’t necessarily easier or less time consuming than traditional ones. Many people don’t realize that online classes still come with lectures, reading materials, and lengthy assignments.

While many people will thrive in an online classroom environment, disorganization and procrastination could destroy your chances for success. Try these tips to help you stay on task:

Dedicate A Workspace

The problem with online courses is that you can attend from your desk or your living room couch.

Good idea: Rather than working from random spots, designate a work area that you will use during every class. Make sure that you choose a quiet, neat space that will help you remain focused.

Know How You’ll Take Notes

Online courses are notoriously tough and the last thing you need is to worry about where you stored last week’s notes.

Try this: You might prefer typing directly into a word processing system, but you’ll waste time toggling back and forth. In this instance, you’re better off using paper and pen to jot down information.

Bonus: This way, you can study your notes even when you’re away from your computer.

Set Up A System

As with any independent work, you need to establish an organizational system quickly that will work for you and keep you focused.

Example: Write all important course dates — such as when you’ll take an online quiz or turn in an assignment — on a calendar that you keep with your notes. You should also print out any key information, such as your professor’s contact information.

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Jun 10

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Manage your time like never before

Wonder how you’re going to get it all done? You can get it all done, if you learn how to manage your time properly. Become a master at this fine art by following these six tips from Six Slam-Dunk Time Management Tips, courtesy of Robert Half International:

  1. “Create a to-do list.” At the end of each workday, write down all of the tasks that you need to complete the following day. Rank them for importance and urgency, from the first and most important item to the tasks that you could do at any point during the day.
  2. “Develop a system.” You can invest in anything from a project-management software program to a $12 planner, depending on how crazy your schedule is and how tech savvy you are. Decide what you will be able to stick with, and go with that system; it can take all of the guesswork out of organization and planning.
  3. “Clean up.” You’d be surprised at how much time you waste just looking for things like files, documents, memos and so on. Take a little time to clean your workspace. Get rid of any old papers and create a file system so that you can access important documents easily.
  4. “Don’t overextend yourself.” Do one thing at a time. Don’t try to multitask crucial assignments. For example, don’t try to write your meeting agenda while you’re on the phone.
  5. “Take a break from technology.” Cell phones, email and instant messaging are all great tools for communication, but they can be distracting and kill your productivity. Turn the cell and the email alerts off long enough to immerse yourself in your project and get the job done.
  6. “Help others.” Help your colleagues and employees when they’re overwhelmed. When you’re swamped, they’ll be happy to return the favor.
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