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December 12th, 2014

productivity_Dec12_CEmail is now the most essential form of communication in business. Over the years, email has become much more informal than when it was first introduced. Sure, this makes it feel more natural, but there can be times when this casual style leads to misunderstanding, and in turn this can lead to lost productivity. There is, however, one effective way you can structure important emails to avoid this, and that's by using PAR.

Better email structure for small businesses

In order for your emails to be clearer and to get the overall message across easily, you might want to implement a PAR structure. This three part framework has been used by many business owners and managers to improve overall communications, and consists of:

Problem

At the very top of the email, below the salutation, provide a brief yet clear overview of the problem which is the subject of the email or the reason you are making contact. When writing this overview don't assume anything, including shared knowledge or agreements, unless you have discussed these with all recipients beforehand. The key here is that you are looking to be able to summarize the main issue.
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Topic Productivity
November 12th, 2014

Productivity_Nov10_CAs a business owner or manager, you likely send out a large number of emails each day. A certain percentage of your emails are probably sent to other colleagues, with the idea that they then create a message to send to a third party on your behalf. One way to ensure that the message gets through, while avoiding too much back and forth communication between you and your colleague, is to pre-draft the email.

What exactly is a pre-draft?

The idea behind pre-drafting an email message is that it helps to reduce the amount of back and forth between two parties when one of the parties is contacting a third party. If you have ever had an employee draft a message that came from you then you are likely well aware of the number of emails that can go back and forth before the email actually goes out.
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Topic Productivity
October 16th, 2014

Productivity_Oct16_CEmail is an essential tool for a business's productivity. While there are a wide variety of email programs out there, almost all of them rely on one of two major protocols: POP or IMAP. As a business owner, it would be a good idea to know what these protocols are and which of the two is better for your business.

Difference between POP and IMAP

POP, or Post Office Protocol, was first developed in early 1984 and is currently in its third version (POP3). POP works by allowing users to retrieve email and download it onto their computer. Because this protocol was developed before constant Internet connections, it is meant to allow users to interact with their email on their computer and then connect to the server to send it.
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Topic Productivity
September 18th, 2014

Productivity_Sep15_CRegardless of the role you fulfill in your company, you likely use technology for nearly everything you do. From mobile devices to computers and servers, technology has become incredibly important. We rely on technology so much so should our systems go awry many of us would be at a loss as to what to do.

What to do when your systems stop working

Often, our first reaction when our technology or systems stop working is to either panic, or get angry. Once we are over this, we often feel desperate to get the problem fixed but may be at a loss as to what to do.

When technology does breakdown, here are some recommended steps you should take:

  • In the words of Douglas Adams, "Don't Panic!" - One of the more popular quotes from the immensely successful Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is "don't panic". This rings true for the vast majority of tech problems. While you may feel like you are facing a big issue at the time, most systems can be fully recovered. This is especially true if you have backup solutions in place.
  • Note what you were doing before the problem occurred - This is an important step, as when something does go wrong, one of the first things tech support will ask you is what you were doing before the problem occurred. The more information that you can give them, the more likely they will be able to solve the problem faster.
  • Ask your colleagues if they are having the same problems - Because so many business systems are networked together, many techs will want to see if problems are localized to your computer or are network wide. Armed with this information, it is far easier to work out the most effective solution.
  • Try turning it off and on again - When faced with many tech problems, you will be asked to turn the system - be it your computer, an app, server, etc. - off and on again. Sometimes the fault lies in the software or short-term memory (RAM) of systems, and turning the system off and on again is enough to fix this.
  • Google it - If an issue persists and it is related to the software on your computer, or a website, try searching the Internet for an answer. If the page doesn't load, you then know the problem is related to the Internet connection. Should the problem be with a cloud service, checking the provider's website or social media feeds is useful to check for post status updates of their systems.
  • Don't rush into a supposed fix - It can be tempting to try out the first supposed fix you come across or someone suggests. The problem is, some 'fixes' can actually end up harming a system even more. For example, you may find suggested fix for a phone that has been dropped into water that says to take the device apart and dry it with a blow dryer. This will damage components, and also void your warranty, which could make the issue even more expensive to deal with. Instead, you should seek the advice of an expert like us.
  • Don't overreact - Have you ever felt so frustrated you have wanted to reach out and smack your computer? While this may make you feel better on one level the reality is that you could make a bad situation worse. When faced with any tech troubles it is best to walk away for a short time so that you can deal with the situation in a calm and collected way.
  • Call your IT partner or IT helpdesk - If the system doesn't work after restarting we strongly recommend stopping there and reaching out to your IT helpdesk or an IT partner like us. We have the experience to investigate the problem, and we can usually come up with an answer and hopefully a fix in a short amount of time.

Preventative steps you should take

While it is inevitable that systems will eventually breakdown, it doesn't mean we are powerless to prevent this from happening, or at least minimizing the potential fallout. One of the easiest preventative measures you can take is to try and take care of your devices and systems. This includes being careful to not physically damage them, while also being sure to watch what you install on your systems, and implementing security standards.
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Topic Productivity
August 22nd, 2014

Productivity_Aug18_CThe world is becoming increasingly connected, especially when you look at all the different apps on your device and computer. The problem for some though is that all these apps simply aren't connected enough, and it takes time to share information across devices or services. One tool that may help, while also helping increase productivity is If This Then That (IFTTT).

What is If This Then That?

IFTTT is a Web and mobile app that was developed to connect different Web apps like Google Apps, DropBox, Facebook, Instagram, etc, together into one general system. In general, the service runs on conditional statements - or recipes - that fit the IFTTT statement.
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Topic Productivity
July 24th, 2014

Productivity_July21_CEnterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is software that allows businesses to manage business processes and information. Long thought to be a tool exclusively for large businesses, there are an increasing number of solutions being made available to small and medium businesses. Despite this, many business owners are unsure as to whether ERP should be integrated into their business or not.
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Topic Productivity
June 25th, 2014

Productivity_June23_CFor most businesses, Internet connections have gotten a whole lot faster over the past decade. Still, some businesses today are faced with the continuous problem of a slow Internet connection, which often leads to a decrease in productivity and efficiency. If this tech problem resonates with you then don’t give up just yet as there are several things you can do to boost your Internet connection speed and as a result your business performance too.
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Topic Productivity
May 29th, 2014

Productivity_May26_CThe corporate workspace is an area where focus is as critical as productivity. However, because of office distractions, many employees often struggle to focus on what needs to be achieved, resulting in increased company expenses and less effective output. While a drop in productivity sometimes cannot be avoided from time-to-time, there are ways to ensure that it doesn't decline too much.
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Topic Productivity
April 30th, 2014

Productivity_Apr28_CIt’s easy to get things done if you love what you’re doing. Sadly, life and business just isn’t always full of tasks you love doing. In any company there are times when, like it or not, you will have to work on jobs that you flat out hate. And few of us are in a position where we can constantly delegate task that are not to our tastes. The best way conquer this situation is to change your mindset to take the tedium out of boring activities.

Alternate what you love and hate doing

Finding motivation when placed in a difficult or dull situation can be tough. But, it’s going to feel even more arduous if lack of motivation leads to a poor result and you're forced to do the job again.
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Topic Productivity
April 2nd, 2014

Productivity_Mar31_CMany business owners and managers find that creating engaging presentations can be a real challenge. It can be incredibly difficult to not only develop a presentation that hits on all the important points, but also attracts and retains your audience's attention. Throw in the fact that many presentations are now being made over the Internet to remote audiences or employees and inspiring that necessary engagement becomes even tougher.
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Topic Productivity