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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Decluttering your blog

Last week I found a blog post I just have to share – Skelliewag gives 50 tips for decluttering your blog (yes he posted this list a while ago, but it still applies as far as I’m concerned!)

He raises some great points, such as not including stats (as you rather than your readers care about them) and irrelevant social media conversations in your side bar. And I love his suggestion of having a traditional links page if you really want to list a lot of blogs somewhere.

Comparing The Age newspaper in 1854 and 2011 - more white space and colour makes it easier on the eyes

Why declutter a blog?

Having less stuff around your writing gives more white space and less visual distraction – maybe I’m biassed, but I think that is better for highlighting your content. I do think about where to put things on my blog and avoid having too many plugins, but I hadn’t thought of decluttering like this before reading Skelliewag’s post.

One interesting point was to have a categories/tags cloud OR a categories/tags list – not both. I think that both is excess information, especially if you want to declutter and have more clear space around your blog. Personally, I would choose the list because it takes less space and is visually less cluttered than the cloud. On top of that, the cloud is based on bigger text on most popular words/phrases meaning that those words will give you a long list of posts to search through if trying to find something specific. Have you ever clicked on one of those clouds to find anything anyway? I know I haven’t (in fact I actively ignore them, but that’s just me!)

And I like the logic of getting rid of any advertising that doesn’t really pay well – it is nicer for readers to see fewer ads and does make the remaining ones more effective. I find a lot of ads in a blog distracting and prefer to see a clean page focussed on the content, so it makes sense to me to use fewer ads.

Most of his points already apply to my blog, phew! I will review the rest of his list and make decisions on whether to keep or lose some details. So if you think my blog is too cluttered or want something removed, now is the time to tell me!


* Images courtesy of Dysprosia and WikimediaCommons

Our new office

Over the weekend, we moved into our new office. It has been a long time coming, but it is wonderful to be here.

We’re still in the same building but the office itself has moved so we’re now on the north side of the house which means lots of natural light and winter sunshine. It is about double the size of our old office so we won’t be cramped any more, can fit in a third desk and even have floor space for the baby to play and crawl.

I am also looking forward to the luxury of adding a futon shortly so that I have somewhere to sit for proof reading and reading rather than staying at my desk (changing location does help when proof reading!)

You can see from the photo that we have a blue office (of course – it is the Word Constructions colour as well as being a peaceful colour to look at all day) and that not everything is unpacked yet. And look at all that spare shelving, too!

It was an interesting exercise preparing for this move. When planning rooms in our home, we take time to choose colours and surfaces, adding furniture and decorations to make it a nice environment. Yet so many home offices are based on putting a desk into any spare space.

Planning our new office gave me the chance to really think about what I wanted – I realised  that I spend more waking time in the office than any other room so surely it should be the room I put the most thought and effort into setting up. So we modelled different layouts, spent time agonising over paint colours, contemplated various floor coverings and I am getting new desk organisers.

Now we’re here, I will also choose some nice art to go on the wall instead of just business registrations and useful information – of course we don’t have a lot of wall with so much shelving and window, but there’s enough to add touches that make it a nice place to be.

As a writer, I am excited about a large window and nice art to stare at when thinking or looking for inspiration!

I’m also going to get myself a white board so I can write reminders and ideas on it. I prefer that to bits of paper because it is environmentally friendlier, will be highly visible and can’t get lost under other papers/books/baby toys/etc.

If you have a home office, when is the last time you put effort into how it looks and functions? Have you considered the importance of making your work area pleasant and welcoming for you? You’ll probably find that many expenses associated with improving your work area are tax deductible, too – I know my new desk area will improve my productivity (in fact it already has!)

Data Compression

Data compression is the act and process of encoding information using fewer bytes. This can be important if you run a website or send a lot of documents via email (or other electronic means.)

Compression relies on the notion that the data is superfluous or redundant. A compressor reduces the size of a file by deciding which data is more frequently used and assigns it less bytes than to lesser used data. An example of a data compressor is a Zip file format which on top of compressing acts as an archive and stores many course files in a single destination.

Compression is used to help reduce the consumption of resources such as transmission bandwidth – and that can affect the size of hosting you need for your website.

Boundaries between home & work

In a traditional job setting, the difference between work and home is fairly clear and easy to see – until you start bringing work home anyway! But when you run a business or have a remote job, it can be harder to spot the difference – and harder to manage things.

Of course, the big question is HOW to manage time! I think the simplistic answer is to set boundaries to maintain control.

From talking to various people, I see two main groups of at home workers – those who get distracted from work by the need to tidy the kitchen, hang out the washing, vacuum the floors and so on, and those who work a lot and find it hard to manage much of the house stuff at all. Which group do you fit into? I have no trouble (well, generally speaking!) getting on with work but end up working too hard and letting the housework slide…

Here are some of my ideas on creating boundaries between business and home, but I’d love to hear your suggestions, too…

  • physically separate your working space from your living space as much as possible – if you are sitting in your work space, don’t do home things and vice versa. My article, separating your home office, may give you some new ideas
  • separate phone lines if you can – then only answer the business phone during business hours, and the home phone during personal hours. Before you assume this is too expensive, consider a VOIP phone as this is much cheaper than renting a second landline
  •  tell clients your expectations/limitations – for example, “We work 10 to 4” or “we don’t answer phone calls in busy periods”. Kylie of Tilda Virtual went further and actually sacked a client to gain back control of her business and family boundaries!
  • set clear business hours and stick to them most of the time – if clients see you work outside those hours, they will start expecting you to do so. If you do work out of your usual hours, make it clear it is unusual or mask the fact – sometimes I work late at night but program the email to go to my client the next morning so I am not advertising the fact of when I did the work.
  • if possible, use a different email address for friends and family than for business. Set up filters for incoming emails and just concentrate on business emails during business hours.
  • learn to say no to clients or extra work – or at least say it won’t be done straight away. Know how much work you can deal with in a day/week and refuse to overload yourself
  • if you have people visiting you during the day, try putting a sign on the door that says “Business in operation – please call back later for a personal visit” so people can see you are serious about your business hours. If you want, you could leave a pencil and notepad by the door so they can leave you a message

Sometimes it seems impossible to make those boundaries, but the reduced stress and lost time is well worth the effort. Good luck with it!

Use your words and time wisely!

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…