Blog Archives

How Not to Multi Task

In this age of instant technology, we are bombarded with an overload of information and demands of our time.  Most of us are usually working on two projects at once when new ones are placed on our desks and to add to this we’re on the phone to someone who has a million questions about something and three new emails have just come in.

Before you know it you are juggling tasks with a speed worthy of Super Mario!  Congratulations, multi-tasker.

 

 

This week’s post is not about being more efficient in your multi-tasking, instead, I’m going to do the opposite – I’m going to show you how not to multi task!

Recent research shows that multitasking can make us less efficient instead of more so and it can be hard to identify when you’re multitasking. But there are a few key indicators you can look for:

If you have several pages or tabs open on your computer, then you’re probably multitasking. The same goes for your desk – if you have several file folders or papers out that you’re working on, you might well be multitasking.

Multitasking is more likely when you’re working on a project or task you’re not excited about. For instance, creating a spread sheet analysis might be an unwelcome task, so you might frequently check your email or do some research on a new assignment in order to lessen the pain of the current task.

Frequent interruptions can also cause you to multitask. For instance, you might be writing your Business’ budget when a colleague comes into your office with a question for you. You then carry on trying to tinker with the budget as you answer their question.

 

How to Stop Multitasking

If we want to improve the quality of our work, lower our stress levels, and become more efficient, then we need get out of the multitasking habit. Below are some suggestions to help you cut back on multitasking:

Plan your day in blocks. Set specific times for returning calls, answering emails, and doing research.

Manage your interruptions. Keep a log showing who interrupts you the most, and how urgent the requests are. Once you’ve compiled a week’s worth of interruptions, politely but assertively approach your colleagues with a view to managing and reducing their interruptions.

Learn how to improve your concentration so you can focus properly on one task at a time. Doing this may feel awkward at first if you frequently multitask. But you’ll be surprised at how much you get done just by concentrating on one thing at a time.

Every time you go to check your email or take a call when you’re actually supposed to be doing something else, take a deep breath and resist the urge. Focus your attention back to what you’re supposed to be doing.

If you get an audible or visual alert when emails come in, turn it off. This can help you avoid the temptation to check your inbox whenever you get new mail.

Whenever you find yourself multitasking, stop. Take five minutes to sit quietly at your desk with your eyes closed. Even short breaks like this can refocus your mind, lower your stress levels, and improve your concentration. Plus it can give your brain a welcome break during a hectic day.

There will be times when something urgent comes up and you can’t avoid interruptions. But instead of trying to multitask through these, stop and make a note of where you left your current task. Record any thoughts you had about how to move forward. Then deal with the immediate problem, before going back to what you were doing. This way you’ll be able to handle both tasks well, and you’ll leave yourself with some clues to help you restart the original task more quickly.

If you find your mind wandering when you should be focusing on something else, you need to guide your thoughts back to what you are doing by putting yourself in the moment. For example, you might be sitting in an important team meeting, but thinking about a speech you’ll be giving soon. Tell yourself, “I am in this meeting, and need to focus on what I’m learning here.” Often, acknowledging the moment can help keep you focused.

Remember it’s important, for your mental health, your sanity, and your productivity. You simply cannot be at your most effective if you are running around, putting out fires, and getting over stressed because of it. Taking the time to gain that control will make all the difference in the world.  If you find it very difficult to do this, consider outsourcing some tasks, it’s less for you to deal with.  Contact us if you think we can help: info@virtualoffices.ie. 

Chasing Overdue Invoices

Did you know that small firms spend up to 130 hours each year chasing overdue invoices? That’s two working weeks.

Over and over again in the last few years, I’ve been hearing how frustrated my clients are with customers who are very slow to pay or who don’t pay at all.

Overdue invoices have a huge impact on the wellbeing of a small business and it can really sour our relationships with our clients. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m going to give you some top tips to help you persuade your clients to pay – the stress free way.

1.        Don’t be Afraid to Ask

It’s your money. If you’ve done the job right, you’re entitled to be paid!  There’s no stigma attached to chasing small monies, and getting tough is no longer seen as petty or weak. If anything, it shows your clients that you’re efficient and worth paying for.

2.       Put a Process in Place

Even if you’re a one-person company, you must create clearly defined processes for dealing with late payments. Chasing money is time-consuming, but these processes will keep you sane – and profitable.

3.       Contact the Client Immediately

Contact the client directly on the day payment becomes overdue. Try not to use email — a telephone call or face-to-face meeting is far more effective. During your conversation, check that they’re satisfied with your work. Establish whether they have a problem paying and agree a payment schedule. Often, the client may simply have been away or has forgotten and will pay you immediately.

4.       Nudge the Client Harder

If you’re still not being paid, contact the person directly responsible for paying invoices. If payment is considerably delayed, write a formal letter stating a date when late fees and interest will start to accrue. Most countries have statutory interest rates for overdue payments. In Ireland it’s 7% per annum, 8% in the UK and US states vary between 6% and 10% per annum.

5.       Accept the Inevitable

If negotiations break down, write a letter stating that the client is in breach of contract (verbal agreements are still legally-binding in most countries) and you have no choice but to withdraw your services. Don’t make empty threats; be prepared to start legal proceedings.

6.        Never complain

Don’t discuss a non-paying client to others — especially on social networks. It’s not professional and is unlikely to result in a positive outcome. Never use aggressive language or start making threats. You may laugh, but last year, I spoke to someone who threatened to break a client’s legs!

If you can’t chase clients yourself, there’s always an alternative – outsourcing.

Please feel free to contact me at: info@virtualoffices.ie, to see how we can help you with your credit management. We’ll let your clients know that you mean business.

Why choose a Virtual Office?

Today business people need a smart efficient solution that will not only give their business a professional image and the tools to focus on increasing their bottom line rather than having to worry about the day to day running of an office. So the concept of virtual offices is fast becoming a worldwide phenomenon and that Holy Grail solution that businesspeople have been searching for.

For businesses and entrepreneurs setting up an office can take months, plus there’s the costs of hiring staff, finding furniture and that complicated task of trying to work out the hassle of setting up the internet, telephone and other technology.  Not to mention the task and cost of training the new staff. By signing up for a Virtual Office clients can skip all this and are literally ready within minutes to focus on making their business a success.

The opportunities with the Virtual Office are what can set your business apart from the rest. Whether it’s a local business you’re running or are looking to expand your business nationally or even gain access to an international market, business people can have a local address, local phone number, local support team and a professional presence in any market!

For help to focus on making your business a success why not contact us at the Virtual Office to see how we can give you your very own professional presence that will set you apart from your competition, e-mail Samantha: info@virtualoffices.ie or contact us on 051 351286

Unlocking the Secret to Great Customer Service

Do we really guarantee Customer Satisfaction?

Two years ago, I went to a trade show at the NEC in Birmingham. A friend kindly gave me her apartment to stay in, along with the use of her car.  She was gone on holidays so it suited her to do so.   Whilst at the trade show we were given some very good presentations on various aspects of business and proper customer service etiquette which was all very compelling and  inspiring stuff.

But as good as these presentations were, they didn’t show me anything different about  customer services, that I really didn’t know already.

I learned about excellent customer service from a set of car keys. And a lady called Sarah.

Minutes before I was due to fly home, I realised that I had my friend’s car keys in my handbag. I had to get on the plane – it was the last one flying to Ireland that day, I panicked I couldn’t leave my friend without the use of her car!  I raced frantically through my options and spotted an airport information booth. I ran up to it and through gasps of breath  explained to the woman behind the glass that I needed to find somewhere safe to leave my friend’s keys and still make my plane.

“Here,” she said, immediately extending her hand. “Give them to me. Here’s my name, and mobile phone number.  Call your friend and explain where the keys are.”

I was floored.

It’s the easiest and the quickest way” she replied, “all it needs is someone to take responsibility for the problem.”

That was it! All it needed was someone to take responsibility for the problem!  That’s all you need for great customer service. Not a huge presentation or a huge viral video. Just the willingness of a lady, who was Employee of the Century as far as I was concerned.  It’s a lesson that all business owners and their staff can benefit from.  When my plane arrived in Dublin, I immediately rang Inter Flora to arrange for a bouquet of flowers to be sent to my lifeline.

Believe it or not, 80% of companies think they have good service, but only 8% of their customers agree (this is according to a survey prepared by Business Management Ltd.).

When a customer comes to you, they have a problem they need you to solve. You can decide to take ownership of the next problem that lands in your lap, whether it’s from a client, a colleague, or just a frazzled,  crazy lady.

It may not revolutionize your business. But at the very least, it might inspire a grateful stranger to send you flowers.

To see if we can help you to increase your customer service level to your clients why not contact The Virtual Office on 051 351286 or email us at info@virtualoffices.ie

Why You Need to go on Holidays!

We All Need A Holiday!!

When you’re running a business, holidays are often the last thing on your mind. ‘Who’ll run my business while I’m gone?’ you ask yourself. ‘What if I miss a big work opportunity while I’m gone? And with all the work I’ll have to do before and after, is it really worth it?’

The answer is, yes, it is worth it. When you’re working hard on your business, we often don’t realise how stressed and tired we are. Our bodies need a break and so do our minds. Going away gives you a chance to relax and because you’re somewhere new, your mind is stimulated. That’s why you come back to the office recharged.

Business owners often worry that their customers won’t get the same level of service while they’re gone, or that the staff won’t run the business to the same standard. You need to let those concerns go. If your staff have been working with you for a long time and you trust them, you can trust them. And as long as they’re looking after your customers, your customers will be happy.

Preparation is the key to a stress-free holiday.

Choose your dates carefully. Pick a time when your business is naturally quiet. Let your clients know when you’re going before hand, rather than relying on an Out of Office Reply. Don’t create a mound of work for yourself before you go. Spread out tasks so you’re not too burnt out to enjoy your holiday. And if the work is too much for you, consider outsourcing it to a service provider with the right mix of skills for you.

Most important of all, pick a trusted person to help you prepare for your holiday and look after the business while you’re gone. This could be a staff member, a family member or an outsourced partner. Brief them on what you need them to do and above all, trust that they will do it for you.

With these steps in place, you can go on holidays knowing that your business will run smoothly. And you’ll come back ready to pounce on any opportunities that arise. Enjoy your holidays! Talk to us today about booking your business holiday cover with us, email: samantha@virtualoffices.ie

Effective Time Management Strategies

Do you wish that you had more hours in your day? Does your to-do list keep getting bigger instead of smaller? Is your desk covered in clutter? Are you working longer hours, yet still not getting enough done?

It’s easy to feel that time is running away on us. When that happens, we can feel stressed. We talk about our heads being fried, or about to explode. And in the end, our work and family life suffers.

Why do we find it so difficult to manage our time? A lot of the time, we take too much on. We find it hard to say no when people ask us to do something and we don’t delegate jobs to our staff and colleagues. We allow ourselves to be distracted by things happening around us. And when we have a difficult job to do, it’s easy to put it off, which makes it even harder to start.

When it comes to managing your time, attitude is everything. Better time management starts with a decision to make a change. It’s a kind of mind makeover. And it starts with a bit of tough talking, admitting to yourself that your habits are causing you to waste time and need to be changed. And that it’s time for the excuses to stop.

Next, you need to think about what changes you can make to take your business to the next level. It’ll mean leaving your comfort zone, but if you can embrace those changes, you’ll really feel the benefits. Here are some examples of a few simple changes that have worked for us.

Write it down. Write a list of all the jobs you will need to do, in the short, medium and long term. Once you have a handle on what’s ahead of you, your mind will feel clearer.

Prioritise. Go through your list and decide which tasks are most urgent and important. Set yourself a date for when it will be achieved, whether it’s today, this week, this month or even this year. And keep your eye on those goals. If anyone distracts you from them, learn to say a polite no.

Be realistic. Arrange your schedule in a way that fits your business and lifestyle. Recognise that it won’t be possible to get everything done and resist the temptation to cram your timetable. That way, if unexpected challenges crop up, you’ll have the flexibility to deal with them.

Limit Distractions. Keep concentrating on what you need to do and learn to shut out excess noise. Resist the urge to keep checking emails and Facebook and answer the phone. Handle email, social media and phone calls in batches.

Delegate. It’s tempting to think you can do things faster yourself. But a few extra minutes spent explaining a job to a member of staff will save you hours in the long run. You can give them the routine jobs, while you get on with the major tasks.

The Virtual Office can save you time. Find out how by calling 051 351286.

8 Tips for Remaining Motivated in your Business

Even the most motivated of business people find it difficult to stay motivated all the time. We can sometimes get so low that even the thought of trying to be positive makes us even more unmotivated, which can lead us into a spiral of negativity. When you feel like this, there are small changes you can make to get you back on that road of success.

1. Focus on one thing at a time Doing too much can eat up your energy and consequently your motivation. It is difficult to concentrate only on one thing at a time, we often take on too much or there are constant distractions. Remember energy and focus are the two essential ingredients for achieving any goal.

2. Create excitement about your goals Think about what you would feel like when you have accomplished a goal (a reasonably big goal) this will create more momentum into your actions and of course increase your motivation. Visualization of your achievement can also help to increase feelings of motivation and excitement.

3. Write down your goal. Don’t only write it down, put the written goal in a place that you will see many times a day – it is a bit like an affirmation. A good place would be up on your wall in the office. You should try to create constant reminders about your goal, in order to stay focused and to sustain that excitement.

4. Make a public statement. We tend to want avoid looking bad in front of other people. We are more likely to keep to what we say when we have told several people. A good place to announce your goals is on Facebook – Your associates are sure to ask you about it and take interest in your progress. It is difficult to back down when everyone is talking about it. This way you can keep everyone up to date with updates about how you are doing.

5. Do Something Everyday Even if you don’t feel motivated, sometimes doing something actually puts you in the mood, even by outsourcing some of the work it can feel like you’ve made a step in the right direction. I am sure you have had times when you have not been hungry, but started to eat anyway only to find you got the appetite through eating. It is often the way with work, get into the routine of doing something for your goal everyday and you will get the motivation by seeing the goal gradually develop.

6. Get support. Find others who have the same goal as you, join an online forum.

7. Accept the ups and the downs. Motivation is the same as every other feeling, it comes and it goes. You can do a lot to keep the motivation up, and accepting the times when you are unmotivated will prevent the pressure and the unrealistic expectations. Accepting that you will have times when you feel unmotivated, will help to keep up the motivation. Just do some of the techniques mentioned and the motivation will come back.

8. Persistence is the key Keep on working on your goal and stay with it. I am not saying that you should stay with the goal if you find that it is better to take a different road but don’t give up. Be flexible but continue, challenges are there to test you. Even if you are feeling unmotivated, focus on the next step and don’t give up.

If necessary don’t be afraid to ask for help, that’s where our services come in, you can contact The Virtual Office and see how we can help you to reach your business goals.