Six Quick Productivity Tricks So You Can Go Home Early

If you have an endless to-do list, you’re not alone these days.  Most of us are constantly looking for ways to work smarter and get more done.  Here are six quick tips to help your productivity so you can go home early.

1. Group tasks.

If you have lots of errands to run during the week, why not set aside one day or a part of a day to get them knocked out all at once?  It saves start/stop time and may also save gas and time getting dressed up (if you work at home).

You can also try grouping tasks such as personal care appointments, doctor’s appointments, sales calls, and client visits.  Your schedule will be freed up in big blocks of time so you can focus on creative projects without having to constantly watch the clock.

2. Use checklists.

Checklists are best when you have a task you need to repeat.  They’re great when you’re stressed and don’t want to forget a step (such as in packing your suitcase for a trip).  They’re also great for tasks that repeat infrequently (Now how did I do that last time?)

Stop and take a minute to create your checklist the next time you perform a routine task that you will repeat in the future.  You’ll thank yourself the next time.

3. Organize your email.

If you are using Microsoft Outlook for email, consider getting it to work as hard as you do.  As your email comes in, you can have Outlook sort the low-priority emails that come from lists, Google alerts, social media notifications, and subscriptions into folders.  Create a subfolder in your inbox called “lists.”  Then set a Rule to have that type of email go into the “lists” folder.  This one step will substantially de-clutter your inbox.

4. Delegate more.

If you’re a little wary about delegating, try this exercise:  Look at your to-do list and put an hourly rate next to each task that you are doing.  If someone paid you to do that job, what would you get on the market?  Then look at the tasks with the lowest dollar value next to them.

If you feel your time is worth more than the lowest rated tasks on your lists, it’s time to help someone else out who is unemployed so you can be freed up to use your more valuable skills.

5. Order online.

When is the last time you’ve been to the office supply or pharmacy when you know they deliver?  (Yeah, me, too. Enough said.)

6. Avoid long learning curves.

Whenever you realize a task will have a really long learning curve, then it’s a red flag that it’s time to find someone to hire to do it for you.  Here are several examples:

  • Doing your taxes and researching all the tax law changes
  • Installing a new accounting system and customizing it
  • Learning about every new social media platform out there
  • Writing a legal contract
  • Creating a report
  • Troubleshooting a computer problem

The cost of going through the learning curve can be dozens of hours of your precious time lost compared to bringing an expert on board who can perform that task in a matter of hours or minutes.

How did these six ideas compare to your favorites?  I hope you picked up an idea or two so you can get home earlier.

Five Favorite Freebies You Can Steal

If you’re looking for ways to boost your productivity, technology is a great place to start.  The good news is there are many free options available.  Here are five favorites you might not know about.

1. Bridge lines.

If you need teleconference lines, you’re in luck:  there are many high-quality options that are completely free.  You can have several people, even hundreds, dial into a line and conduct a meeting or training session via the phone.  You can record the session and download the recording as an MP3 file that can be played on an iPod.

Some of the more creative ways to use these free teleconferencing services include:

  •  Staff meetings when someone is absent so they can listen later.
  • Free teleconference, providing tips to all your clients.
  • Free teleconference, allowing prospects to call in and sample what you offer or find out what you’re like to work with.
  • When you need to record anything. (You often need 2 people on the line to be able to record, but not always.)
  • To record a quick training session or how-to that can be distributed later.
  • To have a client record a testimonial you could put on your web site.
  • To record a meditation or therapeutic session you can listen to over and over again.
  • If you’re a coach or trainer, you can record the client training session and give the download as a service perk.

Our favorite:  http://www.freeconferencecallhd.com.

2. FileZilla.

The FileZilla client version allows you to transfer large files between computers that are connected to the Internet using FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  It’s handy for many reasons:

  •  When you need to load large files such as videos or audios to your website
  • When you need to upload something to an artist, a transcriptionist, a warehouse, or other supplier
  • When you have documents such as white papers that you want people to have access to but don’t want to have to keep contacting your webmaster

Download the FileZilla client and find out more here:  http://filezilla-project.org/

3. Gmail.

It’s just a great idea to have a backup email address in addition to the primary email address you use.  Gmail is perfect for this.

Go one productivity-boosting step further, and make your gmail account the one you use for all that email you don’t need to read as frequently.  This could include notifications from social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, blog notifications, list posts, Google alerts, and any other nonproductive email, you don’t need to respond to.

Open your Gmail account less often than your primary email (even once a week if you dare) and gain that productivity boost.  You’ll have freed your inbox from a bunch of clutter and can focus on your clients’ and employees’ emails instead.

Visit this site to find out more:  https://mail.google.com

4. WordPress.

WordPress is free blog software that you can install on your web site or blog site.  Once installed, it’s super-easy to use for both blogging and a website.  You can add photos, graphics, white papers, videos, and audios to the library to put on your blog or your site.

It’s also great for search engine optimization; the search engines love it and will rank you higher when you blog and post fresh content.

Visit http://wordpress.org/ to find out more.

5. Ning.

Ning is a community platform where people can come together and post a profile, participate in discussions, join a group, and interact.  Not all business models will benefit from Ning, but many of you are involved in a club, church group, nonprofit organization, or community where Ning could be very helpful.

Ning is almost free, at $19.95 per year or $2.95 per month, but it’s such an amazing platform, I include it here.  Whenever you’d like to have a private (or public) community of people who are joined by a common interest, Ning can provide that extra online community connection that can help you group interact and bond even more.

Find out more about Ning at http://www.ning.com.

What are your favorite freebies?

QuickBooks Payroll Runs: Easy, Fast, Accurate

If you’ve already set up your QuickBooks employee and company payroll files, the hard part’s over.

It’s not just a catchy ad slogan: It’s true. Unless you have dozens of employees or numerous exceptions each payday, you can literally process a payroll run in just a few minutes using the employee compensation tools in QuickBooks.

No matter which version of desktop QuickBooks you’re using, payday chores are similar. Even if you’ve subscribed to Full Service Payroll and are having most of the work done by Intuit, you still have to enter the number and type of hours worked for each pay period.

If you’re doing payroll manually or through a payroll service, you might be surprised at how quickly and easily your payroll tasks can be completed once you’ve finished entering information about your company and its employees, taxes and deductions.

A Simple Process

When you get a reminder that it’s time to run payroll, go to Employees | Pay Employees and choose Scheduled Payroll to get this window:

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Figure 1: No matter how many payrolls you’ve run, it’s important to verify that these dates are correct.

When you click Start Scheduled Payroll, a new screen displays your employee list in a spreadsheet grid. By default, QuickBooks displays several columns, including Employee, Regular Pay and Sick Hourly; you can opt to include others, like Employee Number. If you hide columns that contain information, that data will still be used in paycheck calculation. Then:

  • Verify that the information at the top of the screen is correct (Payroll Schedule, Bank Account, etc).
  • Make sure that all employees to be paid have check marks next to their names.
  • Enter the number of hours worked for each hourly employee, placing them in the correct pay type column.

 Select one and click Open Paycheck Detail to see a complete breakdown of compensation and withholding — all calculated automatically by QuickBooks based on your setup data — within the Preview Paycheck screen. Close the window when finished.

 

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Figure 2: The Preview Paycheck screen shows the numbers behind the check account.

Checking Your Work

If you’re satisfied that everything is correct, clickContinue.  In the next screen, you’ll verify Payroll Information again and check a box to indicate whether checks will be printed or handwritten (you can assign a starting check number to the latter). QuickBooks displays a grid containing each emplyee’s total gross pay, total taxes, contribution and total hours. TheDirect Deposit field will be checked if the individual is signed up.

If you’re at all unser that your payroll information is correct, you can click Finish Later. Otherwise, select Create Paychecks.

The Final Step

QuickBooks will then display your results:  
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Figure 3: Once you’ve previewed and approved a payroll, you can simply click to print any paper checks and pay stubs.

Check the box at the bottom of this window next to Don not advance the dates of this payroll schedule in the Payroll Center if you still have employees to process for this run. If the box isn’t checked, QuickBooks will change the dates in the Pay Employees window to reflect your next pay period.

When you select Print Paychecks or Print Pay Stubs, the selection window opens. You can toggle among views of Paychecks, Direct Deposit or Both. Select the ones you want to dispatch and click Print or E-Mail. You’ll have the option to reprint any checks if you need to; otherwise, click OK.
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Figure 4: Click Preferences in the print selection window to customize paycheck vouchers and pay stubs.

No Room for Errors

Sounds simple, and it is — as long as your setup was error-free. As you well know, you can’t make mistakes running payroll or you’ll initiate a whole series of incorrect numbers, making employees, benefits providers and government agencies unhappy. 

So do not proceed if something doesn’t look right; QuickBooks always gives you an out. And let us know how we can help with setup, taxes or payroll runs — or anything in between

 

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