Apr 05

Filing Tips for Efficient Paper Management

stack of filesI have to admit, filing is not one of my strongest suits. However, after attending several workshops I was able to set up a filing system that helps me to find what I need, when I need it, fast!

Before I could start the system I had to figure out what I wanted to keep and here are some questions that helped me decide:

  • Is it something I need to take action on?
  • If I ever need this info again, is it easy to find? (Online or library)
  • Is the info still relevant or will it be in in the near future?
  • Depending on the answer, the papers will be trashed!

The papers that I want to keep, will be divided into:

  • Things to act on
    • Now (f.e. reply to customer)
    • Later (f.e. quarterly bill)
  • Things to file for
    • Quick access (daily or weekly use, f.e. client files)
    • Reference (papers I’m done using but can’t throw away yet, f.e. tax or legal documents)

 You can subdivide the stacks further into:

  • Act on
    • Now
      • Calls
      • Emails, etc.
    • Later
      • Bills
      • Data entry, etc.
  • File for
    • Quick access
      • ABC client file
      • 123 project, etc.
    • Reference
      • 2009 Tax files
      • Insurance policies, etc.

General filing tips:

  1. Determine where you want your daily, weekly/monthly or reference files. Your daily files should be within easy reach, hopefully in or on your desk. The weekly/monthly files could be in a credenza or filing cabinet and your reference files could even be in another room or the basement.
  2. Figure out if an alphabetical, numerical or subject filing system will work best for you.
  3. Label your files in the most obvious way that makes sense to you and would answer the question: how would I search if I needed this file? Automobile or Car? Tip: Best tool to print individual lables is a small label printer.
  4. Purchase file folders to set up your system. Some people prefer a color coded system but for others (like me) the color doesn’t make a difference. Keep it simple for yourself!
  5. Insert no more than 10 sheets of paper in a manilla folder, otherwise it will get too bulky soon, making it more difficult to search through your files. To prevent bulky files, you will have to review them regularly (quarterly, annually, etc.) and weed out old stuff.

alphabetic filesNow you have your filing system, but wait, you are not done yet!
How will you find your papers quickly when you need them? Ah!

Guess what? There is a system for that too: Index your files! You can buy special indexing software, but you can also create your own index on the computer, using a spreadsheet, database or even wordprocessing software. It is a little bit tedious work when you first set it up, but after the initial work you will only have to update the index when adding and removing papers to your files. You can always hire a VA if you don’t want to deal with this.

The reason why it should be on the computer is for quick retrieval of the files. You can do a search for your files faster in f.e. Excel than going through a rolodex system.

So how do you set up your index?
This is where your labeling system comes in!

  1. Create a list of your storage locations, categories, file names, keywords (for searches), and year.
  2. Add these to a spreadsheet or table.
  3. Save your index file.
  4. Update whenever you add or remove papers to your files.

Next time you need to retrieve that 2007 tax file, you will know exactly where to find it!

Feb 03

The price of success, pay up!

“The price of success is much lower than the price of failure.” Zig Ziglar

Okay, the first month of the new year has come and gone, but are you ready for success this year? It’s not too late to start!

Here are seven, (or nine?) no, ten things I found at dumblittleman.com to help you achieve success. Now why would you want to listens to a Dumb Little Man? Well, he is not so dumb at all because some of these are really great tips I will be following myself to achieve more success in 2010. Care to join me?

  1. Passion = power. It is the fuel that will get you through the dip in the road. So your first key is passion, go follow it!
  2. Experience, you need it. There are no successful people without experience, no matter what it is. Be the expert!
  3. Ideas, let them flow. All you need is ONE good idea. There’s a sea of ideas out there, and in your head. You just have to listen.
  4. Work, hard or smart. No one will do the work for you. Unless of course you pay them, but you would still have to work to get that money…
  5. Faith + Courage. Can’t do one or the other. Believe in yourself and go do it!
  6. Focus … ahh! I am currently working on that one and this says it all: The best way to stop a man with a good idea is to give him two… yes, focus is good. Mediocrity? Never!
  7. Determination & Discipline. I can see why those two go together. Wanting to reach the finish line is not enough for a marathon runner; he has to train to get there.

Here is a funny, short video that gives you Thing number 8, in addition to the 7 (or 9?) above: Serve!

                       

Is that a price you can pay for success? Not too bad! Looking back at the list I realize that I already have more than half of the ingredients for success. But, having a recipe and all the ingredients don’t make a cake. There’s work to do, but at least I know what I need to work on. There’s nothing worse than having to solve a problem and not knowing where to start.  Now let’s get to work!

Dumb Little Man provides tips on life, money, productivity, from contributors of various backgrounds. Be sure to check out their site too.

Jan 20

Project management with Basecamp

Happy New Year!  

I wish every entrepreneur all the best in 2010. They said it will be a great year and I really want to believe that! Things at ADF International will change a little bit this year, but change is good, so stay tuned!

If you are like me, you may have 5 pots and pans going at the same time  on the stove. Not only would you need a big stove, but you would also have to know exactly what to do and when, or risk forgetting to add salt here or there. You may do a great job, but juggling multiple tasks requires that you are very organized, whether it’s in the kitchen or in your office.

To stay organized I use my favorite online project management tool created by 37 signals called Basecamp. It’s so easy to use that it feels like playing while working on my projects. I’ve tried other desktop programs, but those required far more training to use than Basecamp. With Basecamp there is nothing to install; all you need to do is register online and be instantly up and running. The available add-ons also help customize this tool, making life easier for users. Add-ons include apps for iPhones, invoicing, time-tracking, reporting, charts, etc.

Basecamp is highly recommended to associates, friends and family by almost 100% of its users (including moi). And if you find out who all is using this tool, you will be amazed and want to jump on it yourself! 

So who is benefitting from Basecamp? Users range from small business owners, to non-profits, from agencies to entrepreneurs. It looks like everyone is using this tool, are you?  Some of  the world famous brands utilizing Basecamp are: Adidas, Last FM, WWF, USA Today, Best Buy, DHL Express, Kellogs, National Geographic and many more.

There are various plans to choose from, including a free plan for doing a test-ride. If you have been looking for an easy way to manage your projects,  there is really no excuse for not trying out Basecamp.

Are you convinced yet? 🙂  Check out my affiliate link below to get more information about this awesome tool. I promise, you won’t regret it!

Basecamp

Dec 09

What do we know about the average entrepreneur?

On Startups posted an article on surprising facts about entrepreneurs that I found very interesting. Some of those I had heard before and some were new to me.

Here are five facts I found most interesting:

  1. Entrepreneurs start their companies at the average age of 40. I’ve been reading so much about young and successful entrepreneurs that my image of the average entrepreneur got skewed. It may be that more young entrepreneurs are found online, but there are still other types of businesses that should be considered.
  2. entrepreneurIn spite of what some people may think, a formal education is still useful in the entrepreneurial/business world. More than 90% of those surveyed has a bachelor’s degree and almost half went to graduate school. The more you know, the better you can run your business without being too dependent on others. This doesn’t mean that you should DO everything yourself, but that’s another story.
  3. Being super rich or poor is not necessarily driving people to become an entrepreneur. Looks like the majority is in between and better motivated to run their own business.
  4. For less than 5% the decision to become an entrepreneur was influenced by the fact that they could not find employment. I have certainly seen this with people I know, who prefer to be an employee. It made me realize that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.
  5. In general entrepreneurs are better educated than their parents. This makes a lot of sense because people are constantly trying to make things better by being innovative or using more technology.

Surprised? If you want to read the entire article, follow the link to 12 Facts About Entrepreneurs.

Photo source:  River City CDC

Nov 12

Top Five Do's and Don'ts for your online business

site

 

You want to have a website for your business, but with all that’s offered you are not sure what is important for your site. This mainly depends on your type of business and the purpose of your site, but here are some Do’s and Don’ts to get you started.

Remember that it is your business and your website, so as an entrepreneur you need to have an idea of what you want to accomplish with your site. A webdesigner will not do that for you. Instead, you will need an internet business consultant, but that’s a whole other story.

This article is for the micro or small business owner who does not have thousands of dollars in his budget for a website. Your webdesigner or creator will need the rough material from you to create a great site that matches your business. Let’s look at the following points.

TOP FIVE DO’S

  1.  Set up a website to enhance your business. See your website as an online brochure or customer service department for your business. You can also complement your business by offering an online shop, or to promote your products and services.
  2.  Have a professional create your website.Why? Because they know what they’re doing and although it seems easy, it may not be so, unless you already have the skills. It can be very time-consuming, taking your attention away from the business and you may end up spending a lot more than anticipated.
  3. Choose and register a .com domain name that is descriptive wwwboxbut easy to remember. A .com domain name is simply more professional for a business than for example  a .net or .info domain. Short and descriptive would be easier for people to remember such as  thepetdoctor.com v.s. mountainviewveterinaryclinic.com. It may take some creativity, but besides using your friends or family as a soundboard, there are tools you can use to find that perfect domain name. 
  4. Frequently update your content to give visitors a reason to return. When you provide fresh and valuable content, people will want to come back for more to check out what’s new and as a result your business will remain visible to them.
  5. Build a relationship with your customers and visitors by encouraging feedback. There is no better way than direct communication to find out from your customers and visitors what they like or need. But you have to follow up (build a relationship) with replies and/or to provide the solution they’re looking for, otherwise that fountain of information will dry up soon.

TOP FIVE DON’TS

  1. Don’t scare visitors and customers off with an unprofessional website. Why would they want to do business with you if it looks like your site was created by your 12-year old nephew or has a 90s look? You have less than 20 seconds in the online world to generate enough interest for people to want to browse your site! So you better make that big impression.
  2. Don’t make your visitors struggle through you site’s navigation. If you have too many menu buttons in illogical places, your visitor will feel totally lost and leave in frustration. Use the traditional navigation rules that most people are familiar with and give them one less thing to think about.
  3. Do not leave outdated content on your site. Who wants to come back to a site that has not been updated for three years? With the current economic times, a stale site may sent the wrong message and make your visitors wonder if your business is still active. Let them know that your business is very well alive!
  4. Do not make people hunt for your contact information. Surprisingly, there are many websites that don’t have their contact information or button in an easy to find location. Next to your company image, the Contact button should be one of the first things to be spotted right away. Better yet, have an online contact form for your visitors so they don’t have to open an email application first to send you a message.
  5. Do not slow down your site with large or too many graphics. jpgimgUnless you have a photography or fashion business, get rid of those gigantic graphics files that only hog up memory on the visitor’s computer and your server. The images can be reduced and formatted for the web, or simply make do with less. Ever heard of “Less is More?” Flash applications can also delay your site’s download, so be careful with what you put on your site. Always keep in mind that you have less than 20 seconds to impress your audience or they’ll be gone, surfing other web-waters.

 Now that you know all this and are ready for your website, head on over to our web services page to choose from the several options we offer to help you set up your own website.

You can also send a request by completing our online contact form here.

Resources:

  1. A domain name generator, find your name and come back to
  2. Get your domain and hosting right here 
  3. Free online tool to reduce your image size
  4. Contact form for WordPress and
    Contact form code for any website 

Any comments or resources you would like to share? Use the comment section below.