How to stay organized when working from home

How to stay organized when working from home

Working from home is appealing to many entrepreneurs for its flexibility and potential cost savings. However, staying on top of your work can be difficult when you’re away from a traditional workplace. Here are some tips for keeping yourself organized when you work from home.

Have a dedicated home office space

Many home-based entrepreneurs love being able to work in a non-traditional environment. You can host an onboarding call from your couch or create your handmade jewelry at your kitchen table. However, having a dedicated office space can go miles in helping your small business succeed. Find an area in your home – it doesn’t have to be large – and keep all your files and supplies there. This will ensure you’re not scrambling for a contract in three months’ time. If you hold meetings with clients in your home office, this space will hold a larger importance and should look professional.

This area can also play a part in tax deductions for home-base businesses.

Stay on a schedule

Working from home often gives you a flexible schedule. However, there should be a schedule of some kind. Review your non-work plans and write them out, allowing for things like transportation time and traffic. Consider how these plans will fit in with your upcoming projects and deadlines, and reference this schedule often. Making sure you actually have enough time in your week will mean you’re not pulling all-nighters two days before your next deadline or deliverable. And most importantly – leave your work behind at the end of the day wherever possible! It can be tempting to keep working when you don’t actually need to, but try and stay mindful of it.

Keep on top of your filing

It’s a good idea to have a dedicated home office space, but you should definitely invest in keeping your space clutter-free and organized. Set aside regular chunks of time to review your files. Recycle, scan, or shred the items you don’t need anymore. And don’t forget about your digital clutter, too! There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your computer files arranged neatly in proper, easy-to-find folders.

Make sure you hang on to these important accounting records.

Minimize distractions

Being able to stay focused and will keep you on top of things and prevent your task list from going off the rails. Try to avoid having any kids in your home treat your home office like their play room, for example, and set limits with friends or neighbours who want to call or drop by “just for a minute” if you’re in the middle of a project.

Find organizational aids in software

Whatever your small business, there’s sure to be a program that can help you stay organized. For example, at GoForth we use Slack for messaging and calls, and Dropbox for file sharing. Ask your friends or colleagues what they like, and do your research before downloading anything (especially if it sounds too good to be true)!

If you’re running a virtual business with remote workers, check out our tips on how to manage a virtual office.

Also, read some working from home tips from real entrepreneurs!

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Tools to help entrepreneurs stay productive

small business productivityThe ability to handle multiple demands for many hours a day, most days of the week, requires a commitment by a small business owner to invest in products and systems that will enhance their own productivity.

There are many products and services available that claim to make our lives easier and more efficient. Here are some of them. Do some research to decide what’s right for you and your business:

  • ActiveWords – Saves time in daily Windows tasks.
  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking – Speech recognition software.
  • GTD (Getting Things Done) Methodology – A work-life management system by David Allen.
  • OneNote – Digital note-taking app.
  • TheBrain – Mind mapping software that helps you map key thoughts, ideas and concept relationship to one another.
  • Snagit – Capture, edit and share exactly what you see on a website.
  • ThumbsPlus – Find and maintain graphics, clip art, fonts and animation files.
  • inFlow Inventory – A free inventory management system that allows 100 customers and products, unlimited numbers of sales orders and purchase orders, printable/exportable documents, customer information tracking, sales quotation issues, customer returns, stock levels, eight different business reports as well as online forum support.

Do you have any productivity resources to share? Let us know!

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How to organize your small business for the end of the year

small business organizationAnother year is drawing to a close, and whether this means a busy or slow time for your small business, it’s important to get properly organized for the end of the year. It won’t be long until we’re ringing in the new year – what kind of shape will your business be in?

The holiday season is actually a great time to get organized. We’re all in a New Year’s Resolution mindset, so it’s an ideal time to close out this year and to plan, strategically and financially, for what’s coming next.

Check out our list of simple things you can do to wind down your year properly, and get set for 2017.

Get your financial records in order for 2016

Your accountant or bookkeeper will love you forever if you present well-organized and documented files and records soon after your fiscal year end. Sounds like a headache, but the “shoebox” method of filing receipts just doesn’t cut it.

Here are five things you can take care of between holiday festivities:

1. Update your payroll records, report all 2016 paycheques on T4 slips, and make sure all your other deductions are in order.

2. Organize your accounting files, records and receipts to get ready for income tax season. This includes completing inventory records and putting expense receipts into categories sorted by month.

3. Streamline your contacts list – remove old contacts and duplicate records, and update current contacts in your professional networks.

4. Update your personal productivity and technology tools – download updates and templates and make sure your current apps are still working for you.

5. Create a to-do list for the first week of January and make appointments now with key advisors, especially your bookkeeper and accountant – before they get booked up.

Hit the ground running in 2017

Winter can be a slow time for many businesses. However, using this downtime to prepare your business for what lies ahead will help you start start 2017 refreshed, prepared and ready for anything.

Here are five more things you can do:

1. Review your 2016 business goals. What worked well and what didn’t? In 2017, do more of what worked in 2016, and refine the things that didn’t.

2. Develop a strategic plan – a roadmap for getting from point A to point B. If you don’t have a strategic plan, create one – and follow it. We’ve got a free one-page business plan template you can download at our website.

3. Take a close look at your marketing, human resources management, financing and operations. Is there anything you could do better?Get working on some ideas to become more effective.

4. Read up on new ways social media can help promote your business. Read some business blogs or tweets as a first step, and find which tools will work best for your business.

5. Clean up your files! Delete old files. Get rid of spam emails. Back up your business records onto a disc, memory stick, cloud server or hire a company to do it for you on a regular basis. Set up a good online file folder system so you don’t have to scroll through three months of emails to find something your accountant wants.

Have questions about year-end preparation? Ask a GoForth Expert online any time. Not only will your question be answered by one of our experts, but we’ll post it on our website too. You’ll be helping other entrepreneurs who may be wondering the same thing. How charitable of you – perfect for the holiday season!

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Personal productivity tips for the entrepreneur

If your small business is like many others, you’re the sole employee. You’re the one responsible for every aspect of operations management – from answering phones, taking and returning messages, giving estimates, following-up with customers, selling the product or service, and managing customer satisfaction. And that’s only the operations of your small business. Don’t forget managing accounting, marketing, innovation, and competition!

Over half of Canada’s small businesses have fewer than five employees. Resources are tight, and time is precious. As the owner or manager of a small business, your own personal productivity is very important to the success and longevity of the business. Out of the small businesses that close every year, one-third of them do so because of the owner’s personal reasons for the closure. Being able to juggle several tasks for many hours a day requires a commitment by youto invest in products and systems that will enhance their own productivity.

Some tools to enhance your small business’ productivity

  • If you don’t have one already, consider an office-on-the-go phone such as a Blackberry™ so you can send and receive email, view websites, calendar schedule activities and keep track of customer information wherever you are.
  • Investigate collaborative technology that lets you work seamlessly with clients or other service providers in a virtual environment, sharing content and ideas in real-time, like Google Docs or Microsoft SharePoint.
  • For personal productivity, there are many products and services available that claim to make our lives easier and more efficient, such as Skype, FreshBooks and Microsoft OneNote. Do some research to decide what’s right for you and your business.

Also consider investing in the following:

  • Proper office furniture with file drawers to accommodate well-organized and labelled information
  • A separate business telephone line for your office if you work from home
  • A good everyday document scanner
  • A printer and fax machine (yes, people still use fax machines!)
  • A label maker printer and document shredder

If you’re the chief cook and bottle washer of your business (so to speak) make sure your work environment is set up in a way that maximizes your personal productivity. Your goal is to never, ever lose a customer’s name or contact information and to never miss an appointment. Never, ever. Promise? Good.

For more reading on managing productivity in a small business, check out these past blog posts:

 

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The characteristics of effective small business managers

Your small business is booming, and before you know it, you’re at the head of a small team of eager employees. How do you manage your employees effectively? Here are some top tips for effective small business management.

Planning and organization

Planning and organization are two very important traits that small business managers possess. Set both short term and long term goals for the company and plan how your company will achieve them. As well, punctuality and time management skills are a must.

If you were told to set an example for siblings as a child, business is no different! Model to your employees the characteristics that you’d like them to have. For instance, showing up late for a board meeting and not remembering the topics to be discussed can set an unwanted tone, and can cause your employees to lose respect for you. Demonstrate superior planning skills not only to your staff and team, but also to clients and suppliers by always being properly prepared and up to date.

Controlling and monitoring

Controlling and monitoring the processes within your organization are very important. If you’re not overseeing company activities and making sure that they’re done properly and effectively, who is? Be sure to monitor results and compare alternatives constantly. You should always be looking for areas of improvement and finding ways to make that improvement happen. Compare performance with your previous predictions and with competitors and industry standards. Revise goals and objectives and measure how well they’re being accomplished.

Controlling is an ongoing process that’s closely linked with the planning process. You should not only control and monitor your business’ processes, but also the people that it involves – staff, suppliers and customers. Collect feedback on your company’s performance from these people so you can identify areas where control should be improved.  If you’re unable to monitor daily activities yourself, consider hiring an additional supervisor whenever possible to assist with the controlling responsibilities.

Leadership

Successful leaders are teachers, learners and visionaries. Your employees will look up to you for motivation, guidance and also as a model for their own performance.

Effective leaders have strong ethical standards and emotional stability. Stress and frustration are just part of the entrepreneurial life, so it’s important to be able to deal with issues effectively – without flying off the handle or taking things personally. Leaders are practical and logical even in stressful situations, so decisions are made rationally. These decisions must also be made in confidence, with little need for approval from others.

As a leader in your company, you must have high standards for yourself and for others and recognize the potential of your team. You should always strive to do your best, and should encourage your team members to do the same. You want your employees to be satisfied with the jobs and their workplace – try to make them feel good about themselves and their work. Enthusiasm is contagious – be energetic and passionate about your work  and you’ll encourage staff to be the same way.

Being thick-skinned and confident are other important characteristics. Learn to take criticism well, and show assertiveness in your attitudes on the job to help you gain respect and motivate others. However, don’t hog all of the leadership – delegate tasks and responsibilities when required. This proves you recognize the value of your team and the superior results that teamwork can often produce. Show maturity in your daily activities by putting your own recognition secondary to that of your employees and company. We know this business is your baby, but without happy and productive employees, you might find you won’t have any business at all.

Think strategically and always consider what’s best for your company as a whole, instead of your own personal preferences. Your colleagues should be able to rely on your planning skills and trust that arrangements and preparations will be performed effectively. You should be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and view situations from multiple viewpoints to gain a clear understanding. Sound like a superhero yet? You can definitely get close to being one. In order to be the best leader you can be, work hard to improve and strengthen these skills so that you can effectively motivate and lead your team.

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