Small Business Lifehacks: Making Your Software Work for You

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When it comes to small business lifehacks, finding bomb accounting or management software is at the top of the list. But once you’ve weighed the pros and cons of QuickBooks vs. Wave and software vs. the Cloud, where do you go from there?

Purchasing and implementing software and online applications that truly meet your needs is super important. But so is what happens next. Once you’ve decided on a product, here are some simple lifehacks that will show you how to get the most out of it.

1. Play Around

Many small business entrepreneurs are so stoked to begin using their new software, they dive right in without having a clue as to what the program or app can actually do. Before you log any expenses or start linking bank accounts, spend at least an hour just playing around. Think of it as if it’s your first time surfing the web – you don’t know what’s out there, and you’re not sure how to get there, but you’re sure if you keep searching you’re going to find something great.

Playing around allows you to explore your new tool without the pressure of trying to make it perform. By scheduling some get-to-know-you time with your new software, you’re sure to stumble upon some twists and turns within the application that will turn out to be vital to your new organizational paradigm.

2. What’s it For?

Many accounting and management software programs offer multiple functionalities. Is your new software going to serve as your accounting platform and your Customer Relationship Management software? Will it be used to create expense reports, process payments, or both?

By deciding beforehand how you’re going to use the software, you’ll be able to plan how to transition between the old and the new (even if the old was pretty much you writing down what you spent on a coffee-stained napkin).

3. Who’s it For?

Who is going to have access to and be using the software on a regular basis? How many people does the software affect? For example, if you’re using new accounting software, is it compatible with what your accountant uses?

If you’ve chosen new CRM software, how many of your employees need to be trained to use it? Don’t just think in terms of who will be using it on a daily basis; what happens if someone is out sick, or away on business? It’s a great idea to cross train as many of your employees as possible on multiple platforms, so everyone is speaking the same language. Consider bringing a company representative in to do an employee-wide training so everyone has a chance to ask questions and practice. Which leads us to…

4. Read the Manual

Ok, so maybe we don’t mean this literally. But most web-based software comes with tons of online video tutorials, customer support via webchat or phone, testimonials and forums, and troubleshooting tips and lifehacks. Take advantage of it! You may even want to make sure the Help section of your software’s website is navigable and thorough before making a purchase.

Tutorials and FAQs aren’t just for troubleshooting, though. They can be a great way to learn the application, and discover shortcuts you never would have found on your own. If your software program offers any kind of live assistance – whether that’s an in-store class like those available at Apple, or a live webinar with the company’s tech support experts – take advantage! Many common frustrations and baffled expressions can be easily resolved by simply using what’s been put there to help you.

Accounting and managerial software can be an enormous help to any small business, but it’s not a magical elixir that eliminates all effort on your part (If only, right?) Make your software work for you by putting in some extra effort in the beginning to learn the program inside and out. Doing so save you time and money (and headaches!) in the long run.

5 Creative Home Lifehacks for the Holidays

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The holiday season has officially begun, and there’s no better time of year to incorporate some fresh new lifehacks into your organizational life.

“But it’s only the first week of November!”

Yes, that’s true, but on November 1st Starbucks switched to those red holiday cups. There’s no going back now.

Whether you’re self-employed, a small business owner, or an employee at a small business or startup, the level of organization in your home has a direct impact on your work habits and productivity. This is the case regardless of whether or not you actually work from home.

Leaving an organized home, and coming back to one at the end of a long day or night, refreshes both body and mind. It does something to you, psychologically. It provides an overall feeling that you’ve got it together, you’re in control, and you’re brimming with power and creativity. It’s that kind of attitude – in addition to the home lifehacks you can apply at the office – that will grow your business, gain clients’ trust, and make you seriously think about throwing the office holiday party at your place this year.

Here are a few of our favorite organizational lifehacks for home (and office!):

1. DVD/CD cases for creative storage

We’re not talking about old CD cases that used to contain music CDs, oh no. Collect the blank CD and DVD cases that come with 50 to 100 blank, recordable discs. These have cool plastic tops and enough room to serve as mini storage containers. You can wrap coiled ribbon around the center, or use them to store men’s ties.

2. The Old Entertainment Center

With the advent of flatscreen TVs, gigantic television entertainment centers are becoming big heavy eye sores in many people’s homes. But don’t list it on Craig’s List just yet! You old entertainment center could function as a:

  • Craft Cupboard – add some smaller shelving and store art supplies, tools, paints, and ribbon
  • Display case – open up the doors of the center to showcase framed photographs, collectibles,  and unique trinkets
  • Dresser – move the center into the bedroom to create tons of storage space for sweaters and other foldable clothing items

3. Lazy Susan

These aren’t just for the kitchen anymore!  A swirling Susan can be placed inside your closet as a makeshift shoe rack, on a dresser as a movable jewelry box, or in the bathroom to give you easy access to toiletries.

4. Organize your Cords

Smartphone, laptop, tablet, eReader…nowadays, each one of use comes with 4 to 5 devices in tow, and darn it, we need to charge them! Until everything is wireless all the time, finding a way to organize all of those cords is essential to creating an organized home or office. Nothing looks worse than a tangled mess of dusty electronic tails!

Create a cord “docking station” with binder clips. Secure each binder clip to the edge of a table or desk. The metal portion of the clip holds the plug-in part of the cord, and the rest of the cord will remain untangled. You can also label each cord with bread bag clips. Write on each clip with permanent marker and slip into onto the appropriate cord – they fit perfectly!

5. Egg Cartons

Save old egg cartons to you as mini-storage spaces. Think about it – each carton has 12 built-in compartments that can separate jewelry, flash drives, beads, paper clips, or whatever is most difficult for you to keep track of. You can have fun painting and labeling the cartons too. Try these categories on for size:

  • Earrings
  • Rings
  • Office supplies
  • Spices
  • Ornaments
  • Paints (use each carton as a painter’s palette!)
  • Seeds – plant a flower or herb in each individual compartment

You can also use ice cube trays for the same things.

This is the perfect time of year to get organized for the holidays – it’s not too late to incorporate some fun organizational tricks into the home, and we still have two more months of Candy Cane Lattes.

Four Daily Productivity Tips from a 24-Year-Old Workaholic

2:30 feeling? Time for some Taylor Swift!Are you someone that chuckles at the thought of only working a 9-5? I can relate. Despite the negative connotation that the term workaholic seems to have in our society these days, I don’t think there is a better feeling than going to sleep after a day in which you’ve accomplished twice as much as you set out to, even if that does mean coming home at 10pm. However, even for those of us working long hours day in and day out, its important to develop habits that help keep you focused, happy and productive. Here are four productivity tips that I practice daily:

1. Make your password work for you

Passwords need to keep your important online accounts safe and secure, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be long, intelligible strings of 48 random numbers and characters. Something that I began doing several years ago is creating passwords that served as reminders of goals I had set for myself. While this may sound a bit childish, I’ve found it’s the ideal way to remind yourself why you’re working long hours in the first place. As you log into and out of various accounts twenty times a day, on each and every occasion you receive a subconscious memo of what the fruits of your labor will all mean when it’s said and done. And just like goals, passwords should be changed from time to time. Every few months, as you reevaluate your business (or personal) goals, change your passwords accordingly. Passwords are such a mundane reality that most of us don’t even think about them, but I challenge you to do just the opposite. As you’re logging in to your email tonight at 1am, your productivity might thank you for it.

2. Keep your iTunes minimized and waiting

The great singer/songwriter Taylor Swift once said: “People haven’t always been there for me, but music always has.” I couldn’t agree more, and there is no better time to have great music at your fingertips than when you need a pick-me-up at work. Whether you’ve had the day from hell, are stressed to the max, or simply get struck by that 2:30 feeling, in my experience a healthy dose of headphones always does the trick (sorry 5-hour Energy). Find a music genre that you enjoy, as well as one that gets your head bumping back and forth a bit, and then turn it up as needed. Music has the amazing (and unique) ability to help you re-energize and refocus in a way that nothing else can. And in the world of Pandora, Spotify and Turntable there is no excuse for not keeping a pair of headphones around the office at all times. No matter the circumstances, the perfect playlist at the right time has the ability to send your productivity through the roof. If you need specific pick-me-up musical recommendations, please leave a note in the comments box below and we’ll be in touch.

3. Don’t forget that the world keeps turning

Most of us spend our days laser focused on multi-tasking the seven tasks that need to be completed before our next meeting, which conveniently starts in 15 minutes. But while you’re responding to seven emails, analyzing last week’s revenue numbers and tracking the open rates of an A/B test you ran on your most recent newsletter, don’t forget that the rest of the world is continuing to turn. Spend at least fifteen minutes every day reading about the industry you’re in, what your competitors are working on, and business trends that could potentially effect your business in a big way (either directly or indirectly). Having the ability to step back and see the bigger picture, and where you fit into it, gives you an incredibly valuable perspective that all the multi-tasking in the world won’t replace. Hustle, hustle, hustle, and then take a step back and see where everyone else is hustling off to. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. And in my experience, the most knowledgeable are, among many other things, those most aware. I personally use Flipboard and find it to be the perfect, customizable productivity tool for keeping up to date on industry news. If you don’t have Flipboard, definitely give it a try.

4. Variety is the spice of life

If you truly are a workaholic and get substational satisfaction out of working 10+ hours every day, make sure those long hours aren’t all sitting in the exact same place. Whether it’s a small move to another corner of the office, or a 5-minute trek to your favorite coffee shop across town, a change in scenery is not only great for your productivity, but it also allows you to keep your sanity in check over the course of a never-ending workday. It’s undeniable that your surroundings have a tremendous impact on how productive you are, so don’t be afraid to change things up once, or even several, times a day. Sometimes it’s great to be in a busy, loud environment, other times you can focus best with some peace and quiet. Embrace this. Find several places to go when you’re sick of sitting at the same desk and don’t think twice about getting up and moving to one of these places as often as necessary. If nothing else, your legs will thank you for a quick chance to stretch.

While none of these tips are particularly groundbreaking, all of them are small tricks that I’ve found will make a significant difference in your productivity each and every day. Furthermore, I’ve discovered that these tips are great tools to prevent burnout, which is a common symptom of 10+ workdays for months at a time, if you’re not careful.

Fellow workaholics, what things do you do each and every day to be more productive during your 10+ work days?