I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Making your business independant

Following on from my posts about identifying and protecting the essential elements of your business, another way to prepare for the unexpected is to reduce how much your business relies on you.

Here are some ways to reduce that reliance:

  • train someone else to do some of the tasks, even if they don’t do it every time some knowledge will help if the key person can’t do it
  • have some written procedures so someone else can ge the job done – it may be slower but it would be done. This also helps if you want to sell the business or hire a new person for the task.
  • have critical knowledge stored somewhere other than in your head – have a document with passwords & contact details where it can be accessed by limited people. For some of my clients, I prepare a document register so they can track versions – I usually add comments about who designed thdocument so the client can quickly arrange a change if I wasn’t available. It also saves me remembering the information myself so it’s a good plan anyway
  • identify back up people for critical tasks/roles
  • ensure any staff understand the entire business and functions of other staff, and preferably be able to do a couple of other people’s tasks if necessary
  • have a shared calendar for your team – if someone is then sick for example, any appointments and deadlines can be managed
  • be flexible as much as possible – a team member who can’t come to the office for a few weeks may still be able to do some tasks at home or online, or work part time or unusual hours
  • build relationships with professionals who can replace key skills – for example, I have relationships with other writters so in an emeregency my clients’ work could still be written even if I was unable to write myself

As part of your contingency preparations, there are a few related tings yo can do:

  • test how reliant your business is on specific people – find out how long the businesscan manage without someone, how skilled others are at filling in for the key person, how many people can be missing from your team before it is critical, and so on
  • plan some altered work practicesfor certain levels of staffing – for example, if a key person is sick for one or two days, everything continues but if they’re away for a week reduce client hours or produced items by 10% and if they’re away for a month, reduce by 50%. This would be particularly relevant during a prolonged event such as a pandemic or natural disaster if you have a team
  • establish policies about how much leave staff are entitled to and how they are paid for such leave, including any leave without pay or make up hour arrangements
  • have as much information and work available on a computer as possible so that remote access is an option and back ups are also easier

Clutter free and productive

One of the conference workshops I attended last week was called “Working in a clutter-free, productive place”, run by Natasha Crestani of Inspired Honey. It was fantastic!

I must say I agree with the premise that less clutter makes it easier to concentrate and to find things, both of which make you more productive when you try to work and function. But when you get busy, it can be hard to manage the clutter.

If you tend to hoard things and surround yourself with clutter, I believe you have to be ready to let go of things or it won’t happen. But even organising your clutter will make a difference if you can’t actually lose much of it yet.

Some tips I got from Natasha – either directly or by thinking about what she said – are listed below and hopefully one or two will help you be more productive in your business/office!

  • develop a system for incoming paper – use that system on new things even if you still have piles of old papers lying around
  • reduce unnecessary papers entering your office. For example, add a ‘no junk mail’ sign to your letterbox, open all your mail next to the recycling bin so unwanted papers never reach the house/office and don’t print off emails/web pages/etc unless you really need to
  • make regular time to declutter or sort – it’s much less intimidating to tidy for 5 minutes than to sort a desk hidden under stacks of paper
  • get some sorters, document trays or upright file holders and aim for nothing lying loose on your desk when you aren’t using it. Even two or three semi-sorted piles of paper makes things easier to find than one huge pile or paper strewn everywhere
  • have a notebook to write notes in – notes from meetings, ideas that come to you, phone numbers, references to check, and so on – rather than using lots of scraps of paper that you can never find when you need them
  • have a recycling bin in your office so paper can go straight into it when you are finished with it
  • if something comes to you that can be sorted very quickly (like in less than 5 minutes) deal with it NOW as that is quicker than having to reassess it and do it later
  • use lists – getting clutter out of your mind is just as important as getting it off your desk!

What systems will work in your oficce and situation depends on you, your business and what resources you have so the bad news is that there is no magic bullet to fix clutter and disorganisation. The good news is that you can change things and become more productive 🙂

As a busy writer, I admit that sometimes my desk and office got out of control and were hidden under piles of paper. Since Natasha’s workshop, I have reduced clutter and it feels great! I am implementing new systems, too, so I will never lose my desk again!

Still, I would love to hear your business/office organisation tips so please add them as comments…

Exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last year, my daughter was taught about reading exclamation marks – that is, if she was reading something out loud and saw an exclamation mark, she knew to raise her voice at the end of that sentence.

Today, I was asked how to stop using too many exclamation marks in writing – and I found it an interesting question!

I can’t say how many exclamation marks is too many – it depends on the length of the document and the context, of course. But over use of exclamation marks can cheapen the impact of your message, making it look like hype and unprofessional. An exclamation mark shows a statement as something a bit out of the ordinary – a lot of them and all those statements become ordinary.

If you use exclamation marks because they are fun and help you express yourself, I suggest you still use them as you write – and then go back and remove many of them as you edit. This way, you still have the fun of adding them but can moderate it before anyone else reads your writing.

However, if you use exclamation marks to emphasise your points, perhaps you need more faith in the message and how you present it. A strong statement is strong whether or not you add an exclamation mark.

Here are some ideas for changing your writing to reduce the need for exclamation marks:

  • use very short sentences to express important points
  • make the sentence very clear – exclamation marks should enhance the emotion of the sentence rather than provide it
  • put a single sentence as a paragraph for emphasis
  • use bullet points to make a series of points
  • headings and sub-headings are already visually different so they rarely need an exclamation mark
  • use positive words and expression, including adjectives, to show your enthusiasm

Use your words wisely, and you will find less need for exclamation marks!