Sunday, March 15, 2015

How to Run Business From Home Without Losing Your Sanity

The main problem of conducting business from home is isolation, broken daily routine and lack of motivation. Here are some tips you can use to conduct your business efficiently.

1. Choose tools for work. It’s the first and foremost thing you have to do. Everything will do – from Excel sheets to complex CRM systems – just make sure you have all the information at hand and don’t forget to update it.

The latest trend is all-in-one collaboration workspaces - Bitrix24 is free and particular popular. Besides Bitrix24, there are, for example, MangoApps, Freedcamp and some other. They substitute multiple tools like Trello or Asana for project management, Slack or Yammer for inner social communication, Dropbox for sharing files, Skype for making calls and provide CRM for maintaining client database.

2. Choose a special workplace at home. You should draw clear line between work and home so that to be able to focus on business. It’ll be good also to change into work clothes.

3. Make more calls. Seriously, you won’t even notice how you become less and less social, especially if you live alone. If you have an alternative: to call or to write a letter, it’s better to make a call (with a written follow-up, of course).

4. Write a plan and always stick to it. Better print it out and have before your eyes. You can use the method of Mark Foster from his book “Do It Tomorrow”: plan all your doings and the approximate required time for them the previous day. If something unplanned turns up, put it off till the next day. Thus, by the end of the day you’ll already have a plan for tomorrow. This will help you to keep yourself together.

5. Track the time you devote to work. You can use Pomodoro timer technique (there are plenty of apps for each smartphone platform) when work process is split into short 25-minute pieces. Or just use your kitchen timer. Always start working the same time and stop working by the end of the day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Pull Your Team Together After a Crisis

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It might be a merger, a buy-out, company-wide restructuring, a round of layoffs, or an industry-wide economic plummet that’s left your team reeling. Or perhaps it’s something on a smaller scale: an unexpected firing or resignation, the loss of a key client, or a project that exploded in everyone’s faces.

Whatever the crisis, you’ve survived it, but now you’ve got a team of war-weary, discouraged team members looking to you.

Here’s how you can help your team pull together again.


Don’t Ignore the Crisis

One of the worst things you could do as team leader is simply act as if nothing has happened.

Unfortunately, team leaders who are uncomfortable with conflict or unsure of how to talk about a crisis may take this route. What happens, however, is that your team members feel betrayed and abandoned. By ignoring the effects of the crisis or acting as if nothing has happened, you’re sending a clear message: Deal with this yourself. You’re on your own.

That’s not the message you want to send, of course.

Instead, talk through what happened. You do need to exercise leadership: don’t allow a negativity fest, a big round of poor-me stories, a finger-pointing session, or any sort of personal attack.

Honestly recap what happened. Acknowledge the crisis and how it has affected the team: “We’ve just endured a round of layoffs that were extremely stressful for everyone, and we’ve lost three team members. We’re feeling skittish and sad, we miss our team members, we don’t know how we’re going to do our job without them, and we’re wary of how things will work going forward.”

Get Input from Your Team

Give your team time to offer their own insights and opinions.

Perhaps you’re most worried about how your smaller team will handle a workload, while your team members are paralyzed with fear over losing their own positions. Talking about the crisis will help you to deal with unnecessary fears or anxieties and note which major issues need fresh solutions.

Ask for insight, if appropriate, into why the crisis occurred in the first place. If your team missed an important deadline that jeopardized the entire company’s operations, now is the time to talk about why it happened and how you, as a team, can prevent it from happening in the future.

As the team leader, don’t shy away from responsibility, even if much of the situation was out of your control. Own the responsibility, and don’t tolerate blaming and attacking from team members.

Develop a Plan of Action

Move your team’s attention to how you will move forward from this point.

Start with encouragement. You don’t have to have the answers, but you can assure your team that you’ll work together to figure things out.

Avoid the temptation to hand the responsibility off to the team and expect them to come up with all the ideas. Have some practical ideas of your own to offer. Share a few legitimate steps forward.

Let them give input as well. From the combined ideas, work with your team to form a plan of action that make the most sense for everyone involved.

Keep Your Team Informed

People feel insecure after a crisis, so keep communication flowing even more than usual. Knowledge will help your team members to feel informed and aware, which contributes to feeling secure.

Send regular team emails apprising team members of changes, updates, and new information. Be available for phone conversations and casual chats in the hallway or on social media. Be present, visible, and available. Offer open times for one-on-one meetings to help individuals tackle new roles and responsibilities.

Revisit the Core of the Team

To reestablish unity and team identity, revisit the heart of your team. What is the team vision? What is the purpose of the team? What are the values that the team shares and uses to help guide decisions and projects?

A crisis, no matter how small, shakes everyone up; your job is to help them find their foundation again. Remind your team of their purpose, their ideals, and the core methodology will help your team to function together even in new or changed situations.

Bitrix24 is a free sales automation and sales team management software. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

Source - How to Pull Your Team Together After a Crisis

See also: 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

5 Essential Changes to Make for a More Productive 2015

The beginning of a new year is a great time for resolutions. Better than resolutions, however, are simple but specific changes you can make right now that will help you make this a more productive year. 


1. Think small, not big. 
We like to talk about big goals and big dreams. That's not a bad thing, but when we only look at the big picture, we can miss out on the small actions that we need to take on a daily basis. 

You can work up your energy and motivation, and make a few great big leaps forward. However, it's far more effective to cultivate the habit of small but consistent progress. 

Think of making regular bits of progress rather than huge surges toward your goal. You can't maintain the focus and energy required for those all-out effort. You can, however, maintain a tiny, daily habit or a weekly step forward. Break big goals into smaller goals, and then into tiny actions that you build into your daily routine. 

2. Limit your to-do list. 
An overgrown to-do list requires you to spend your valuable time sorting, prioritizing, and shuffling tasks instead of getting important work done. 

It's okay to admit your limits. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start completing tasks instead of simply moving and managing tasks. 

Limit your daily list to one to three important tasks that you must complete. You will gain immediate clarity. You know what you're supposed to do, and you can focus on it and let other things fade out. There will always be unplanned tasks and questions that come up in your day. You will have to handle those, but then you can go right back to the important tasks on your list without any hesitation. 

3. Use your calendar, planner, and/or task management system daily. 
Your system can only help you if you use it regularly. All those task lists, scheduled events, meetings, ongoing team projects, work communications and updates should stay in your system, not in your head. 

Multiple daily check-ins allow you to see, review, and upd ate what you need to without giving yourself those mental burdens. Make it a ritual for morning, noon, and night. Let your system do to remembering, organizing and reminding, and free your brain to do the work. 

4. Set up a system for your recurring tasks. 
Whether it's planning out work schedules or assigning project responsibilities or creating content, every time you complete a recurring task you go through the same steps, and usually in the same order. 

A simple system enables you to get through the task faster and ensures that you don't miss any important steps. Your system might be as simple as a checklist, or it might be more complex and involve supplies, a schedule, or written steps that remind you what to do and how to do it. 
Bonus: once you systematize a task or event, you can easily train someone else to take it on. 

5. Choose your interruptions. 
We think of interruptions as things we can't control: invasive people, important phone calls, unavoidable requests. It's the daily deluge of the urgent, and most of us just handle it as best we can and try to get our work done at the same time. 

Change that, this year, by spending 15 minutes thinking about which interruptions are valid and worthwhile. An important phone call from your boss or client might be a priority no matter what else you have going on; but a schedule change, a product review, or a client email might not. You have to decide, and once you do, put those valid interruptions on a list and keep it in plain sight. 

When the interruptions come, and they will, check them with the list. If an interruption is not on the list, remember that you have opted out of it; all that is left is to convey that message, kindly but clearly, to the source of the interruption. That may mean closing your door, turning off notifications, moving to a quiet space away from other people, excusing yourself from a conversation, or asking to schedule a phone call for a later time. 

When you take control of your interruptions, you also take control of your productivity. Make the simple changes now that will allow you to be at your most productive this year. 

Bitrix24 is free collaboration software suite . Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 
Free HR System
Free HR Tools
Employee Directory Software
Talent management software
Free Convo alternative
Free Snapforce CRM alternative

Monday, December 08, 2014

How to Help Your Team Use Social Media Productively

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Social media is all about connection and networking, but it's also distraction and procrastination in their finest, pixelated forms.

Help your team use social media productively with these tips.


Define the End Goals for Social Media Use

Who's doing what, and why?

Social media professionals know that without clear goals, social media use becomes a chaotic mess of button-clicking and key-tapping. You have to know what you're attempting in order to know if you're getting close.

What are the end goals for social media in your business and for your team?

Define these and you are giving your team members a way to quickly determine if their use of social media is helping to reach those goals.

Discuss Limits for Social Media Use

Defining goals and assigning roles will help your team members know how to use social media in a productive way... that is, in a way that is helping them to reach those goals.

For some, social media use is great for a few minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, for a couple of status updates a day, for a distraction on break time or for those five-minute intervals in between meetings.

For others, social media may require more intensive time and input: a few hours crafting updates, researching analytics, finding or creating great content to share.

Discuss how the over-arching goals - and each person's role in helping reach those goals - necessitate different limits on social media for each person. Then ask your team members to set their own limits, as appropriate.

Encourage Real Breaks

Taking regular breaks is actually great for productivity. But a ten-minute break of browsing Facebook doesn't come with the same mental and physical payback of a ten-minute brisk walk outside, or chat and cup of tea with a coworker.

However, our social norms and work environments often surreptitiously encourage the wrong kind of break: the social media, mind-numbing kind. It's easy to pull up a new tab and idle away five minutes, and no one looks unproductive because they're still staring at their computers.

But leaving the office to go for a ten-minute walk?
Asking a coworker to step down to the lobby for a cuppa and quick chat?

That's not easy to "get away with." You can't disguise that sort of behavior as real work, the way you can with social media binging.

The answer is to encourage real breaks instead of making your people feel like they need to pull them off on the sly.

Education over Enforcement

You can make all sorts of rules about social media, and some of them might be really great rules. Really effective.

Knowledge is the real power, though, and educating people works a lot better than enforcing rules.

You don't want to waste time having endless round-table discussions about social media and its effect on our productivity. You do want to help your team understand how social media can be either a powerful tool or a deadly distraction, based on their use.

To help educate your team, you can

share articles, studies, and data
ask for their own insight and experience
talk about apps and extensions that streamline social media
set up reminders of social media goals
continue to encourage real breaks
call in a professional to teach techniques for social media use
find the expert on your team and ask for help.

The Habit of Asking

One small but powerful habit can help your team more than anything else. It's a simple question that each person asks and then answers:

"What am I doing right now?"

It's the question to ask anytime someone wakes up mindlessly surfing the Internet, scrolling through Facebook, lost in Reddit or Twitter. It's the question to ask when one project or task is over and people are hanging out in that dangerous dead space before the next project begins.

"What am I doing right now?" is a simple but powerful question when asked and then answered, immediately and honestly.


"I'm looking at pictures of other people's lives."
"I'm reading stupid articles about celebrities."
"I'm searching for a good joke to share."
"I'm trying out photo filters."
"I'm trying to think of a clever status update."

When your people learn to ask and answer that question, they can't ignore what they're doing. Or not doing.

In some cases, what they are doing is perfectly legitimate, and they can feel good about that:

"I'm posting my daily update to our company Facebook page."
"I'm sharing news from the conference I attended."
"I'm live-tweeting this event."
"I'm editing product photos."
"I'm finding great content to share with our followers."

When you and your whole team know what the social media goals are and get in the habit of thinking about how to use social media well, you get productive social media use.

That's an update worth sharing.

Bitrix24 is a free total team management platform . Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB
See also:

Free collaboration software
Free collaboration tools
Free online collaboration
Team collaboration software and tools
Social collaboration platform

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Save Your People from Drowning in Email

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Email has become one of the biggest detriments to productivity.

Your team members are spending 28% of their workweek dealing with email: reading it, responding to it, processing it. In other words, an entire day of a five-day workweek is spent on email.

Is email really that important?

Of course, email provides convenience. We can communicate across the globe instantly. When email becomes an overload of unnecessary communication, however, the burden outweighs the benefit.

 
 
Check Yourself First

Start by making sure you're part of the solution, not the problem.


If you like to communicate by email about everything...
If you like to use group emails to discuss projects, tasks, clients, and the company holiday party...
If you keep multiple email threads going with multiple employees every day...
If you expect immediate replies to your emails...



...then you might be part of the problem.

If you have trained your employees that they must be immediately responsive to every email you send, guess what? You've trained them that they have to be immediately responsive to every email that everyone sends.

That sort of email obsessiveness will keep your people fr om doing the real work.

Start by changing your own email usage. Lim it the emails you send. Do email in batches instead of in a continual stream all day long. And include a timeline for responses: "Please respond by end of day," or "Please let me know by next week," or "Please respond within the hour."

Your attitude toward email will help your people to feel free to use their own time wisely as well, instead of hopping and twitching every time their email notification dings.

Try Email-Free Times

Let your team members know that they are free to ignore email most of the time.

Our digital inboxes reduce productivity by dinging us with distractions. We get focused, head-down, on a project, and the beep or buzz or ding rips us away from it.

No matter how unimportant the email itself is, the energy and focus lost to dealing with that incoming buzz can totally derail productivity.

Encourage your employees to have email-free times to work: they can turn off notifications, shut down the email tab, and focus without any worries about what is appearing in their inboxes.

Instead of responding to email whenever that ding happens, they can focus fully on the task at hand, knowing that they are free to respond to email in their own time.

Batch Process for Email

Batch processing is the simple practice of doing a batch of similar tasks together, and it allows us to do those tasks in a more streamlined method and with more efficient results.

Email works really well in a batch processing method. Encourage everyone to choose a couple of times each day - perhaps once in the morning and once later in the afternoon - to read, answer, and otherwise process emails. This practice enables them to tackle an inbox with a batch processing approach, and work through a stack of emails in an efficient way.

Back Your Team Up

Let your team know that you will back them up with demanding clients.

If your team is working with clients who expect instant responses to email, let your people know that you stand with them in a saner approach to the inbox.

Remind them that they can stick to their productive email practices, such as email-free times and batch processing. Take a proactive approach: many times demanding clients will be much more understanding if they know what to expect and why.

Email Effectively

Use targeted subject lines, especially for in-house communication, so that no one has to dig through a paragraph of email body to figure out what's going on.

Encourage the people on your team to be brief and clear in their emails. They should ask for specific responses and name timelines when appropriate (*Please respond by tomorrow, I need this information by next Monday)*.

Using email productively is a matter of establishing good team habits. The more you educate and encourage productive email use, the better you and your team will be at it.

Bitrix24 is a world's most popular email free collaboration platform . Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:
Free CRM tools
Best CRM for small business
Free web based CRM software
Free sales management software
Free Real Estate CRM software
Ideal CRM for small companies