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How to Be More Productive Using the 80/20 Rule

 

What if I told you you could take your daily To Do list, and eliminate over half the items on there, with no negative impact on your bottom line? You'd probably think I'm nuts, but the truth is, most of us spend most of our time on irrelevant tasks that have little or nothing to do with the attainment of our most important goals.

The information that I'm about to share with you was life-altering to me, so I hope that you don't skim this section thinking it's not appropriate to your business (it is) or that it's too complex (it isn't).

There is an economic principle called the 80/20 Rule, or Pareto Principle, that means that 80 percent of the value of any group comes from only 20 percent of the members of this group.

Let me explain a bit better. The 80/20 Rule basically means that 80% of the effects of anything in your life will come from 20% of the causes.

The 80/20 Rule has been applied to sales forces, wealth distribution, test scores, etc. Heck, it can be applied to parenting, marriage, health and exercise. It's true in… well 80% of your life, I'd imagine.

When applied to your To Do list, it means that 80 percent of the value of your daily list comes from only 20 percent of the items on it. In other words, if you have 10 items on your list, you could focus on only two tasks and get the vast majority of success just from those two activities – while ignoring the other 8 items entirely.

So, by now you're probably ready to go after your To-Do list, cutting out those low-payoff items. Before you get out the hatchet, read this short list of suggestions so that you cut the right ones out, and focus on the high-reward tasks:

1. Know what your goals are.
You can't choose your biggest payoff tasks if you don't know what your goals are. Thoughtful planning is critical so you know what you're trying to accomplish and how to rank your items accordingly.

2. Write it all down.
Write every task down, from the largest to the seemingly least important. If you're finding yourself getting sidetracked during the day, it may be because you've failed to write critical activities on your list. Before you can rank your items, you need a complete view of your work world.

3. Evaluate.
With your goals in mind, ask yourself, “What are the top three activities I can complete today that will move me closer to those goals?” Put an asterisk next to those tasks, and start the day there. If you complete any of the other items, it'll be a bonus.

4. Track your success.
At the end of the week, review your daily lists. Have you made significant progress towards your goals? Which tasks turned out to be the most important? Which did you think were important but proved to be less critical?

5. Keep refining.
Use your weekly reviews to inform your decisions going forward. If you notice that you often rank your social media efforts as critical, but they don't seem to be impacting your progress towards your goals, resist putting those as starred items on your daily list. Conversely, if you notice a pattern in your highest impact activities, keep those high on your list.

Not all to-do items are created equal. If you consistently evaluate your activities according to your most important goals, you'll soon know which tasks to keep high on the To-Do list – and which can be eliminated completely. 

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How To Choose the Right Shopping Cart

If you're not into it yet, shopping carts are online applications that are quite a necessity nowadays and have become a crucial component to the success of your business. For small and just starting out businesses, a well thought of shopping cart can even bring about a break or make situation for them. This is why decisions on a shopping a cart should not be rushed. You should spend time thinking about what you want rather than thinking about how to resolve as situation later on.

When you are in the process of selecting a shopping cart application, it would be best to list down your specific needs from a shopping cart. You might not actually need all those additional features in the first place and purchasing them could be just a waste of your money.

However, do not limit yourself to the point that you will not avail of additional features ever. There will come a time that you will need some features to keep your shopping cart updated and at the level of your competitors. With this in mind, it would be best to keep options open and look for a shopping cart that offers future upgrades.

Because of the development of the shopping cart technology, you can choose from the simplest form to the more complex ones that have integrated webpages instead of just being an element of your online store. Again, it is a matter of knowing what you want. You can narrow down everything once you've organized your needs and expectations from the cart.

There are some very useful features nowadays that you should seriously consider. There's the option of the cart coming up with suggestions of other products that complements the current selection your client has at the moment. This idea appeals to the impulse buying behavior of individuals. The feature can be quite effective in generating sales and should not be totally ignored.

Another consideration, of course, is your budget. It is a very easy decision to select between a simple cart and one that is jam-packed with features if you know your budget. Things will be dictated by your budget, that maybe harsh but that's a reality that you will have to face.

It is okay to spend some money on a shopping cart but do not forget the other elements that will help make your online store successful. There's the payment gateway, additional manpower to maintain the shopping cart, hosting issues, and other stuff.

The point is to see this ecommerce shopping cart as a whole and not just in segments. You can invest properly by thinking that way. It will also help you to keep to your budget by factoring early on the costs of each component of your online store.

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How to Define and Delegate Relevant Job Duties

Phil from accounting is in your office once again, whining because he is fielding calls for Janice from HR. It seems that she routed calls to Phil because she is busy compiling the data for a marketing report because Doug and Dave are off handling the Jones’ meeting. Wait, weren’t you the one scheduled to go to that meeting? Why didn’t your secretary tell you that? Apparently your company is in chaos and you need to take a giant step backwards and figure out what is going on: you need to sit down with your business plan and figure out who should be doing what and when. Otherwise, there is no sense in having divisions and departments at all.

 
Define the Departments and their Duties
 
It sounds so simple that it should not even need to be said, but it is still a forgotten concept: define what the departments are and what their main objectives are: HR handles personnel, including hiring, firing and finding insurance plans. They should be in charge of enrichment and training as well as making sure that everyone’s licenses or certifications are up to date. Sales handle sales, Phil and the rest of the accounting department make sure that all of the numbers for the company and its accounts are all in order and so on. The smaller your company is however, the smaller the number of departments that you will need.

Establish a Chain of Command in the Department
 
After the departments are defined and the tasks all meted out, it is time for the real division of labor to get started. Companies that utilize an organizational chart that shows everyone and their place in the hierarchy get more things accomplished with less of the problems than companies that do not. Each department should have a department head and if it is larger than five or six people, an assistant department had. Those within the department should come to the department head with problems- eliminating the problem of problems being brought to the CEO or company leader especially if it is a problem that is easily solved by someone in the department. Set clear and enforceable rules about using the chain of command- those who do not follow the procedure should be reprimanded, in writing so that the system can work.

Set Clear Cut Goals for the Departments
 
Each department has their division of power in place. They know what their job duties all are. Now they need to get to those tasks and accomplish the goals that are set forth for them. The goals should be tangible, clearly stated and should involve a reward of some kind (within budget of course). There is no one division that is better or more necessary than another – the company is not a collection of divided sectors and departments and that should be reflected in the organizational chart as well. Each department handles their own tasks but they must work together so that the company can succeed. 
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When is it Time to Outsource: Key Factors to Determine When You are Ready

All companies are looking for ways to lower their overhead costs. Not some companies. Not most companies. All of them! For many of these companies it is not just a matter of trying to save a buck or two however; it often a question of sheer survival that has them scurrying around shutting off lights, computers or printers that are sitting around idle. If you are a business owner or are just in charge of making the financial decisions, exploring the option of outsourcing might be the answer that you are looking for. How do you know when it is time to consider this choice?


Using Overhead Costs as a Factor
 
Electricity so that they can see and to power the computers, printers and other machines for their jobs.
Heat regardless of the source
Water, not only drinking water but water for toilets and other uses as well
Telecommunications, internet and other assorted costs. 

For the electricity and heating costs you can take your yearly average costs and then divide it by the square footage of your building for a per foot cost. For the other expenses, add and average the amounts and divide by the number of employees. It is financially time to consider outsourcing when:

  • Your overhead costs exceed your budget or projected expense report on a consistent basis and by substantial amounts.
  • Your profit margin has become so razor thin that you can see the bankruptcy lawyer grinning on the other side.

Outsourcing from a Human Resources Standpoint 

Finding good employees can be very difficult at best, but that is not always the major problem for HR. What can be even harder is keeping the existing, exceptional employees once they are found. Constantly hiring and retraining employees slows down production and can cost companies more in lost man hours than working to keep the good employees would. Some of the reasons that employees give for leaving their jobs:

  • The daily commute
  • The hours
  • The expense of child care

Outsourcing gives human resources a wider range of applicants, allowing them to find the best candidate for the job regardless of location. In addition, it can allow the employee that is already working for the company to maintain their position, doing their job tasks from home. 

Finally, the outsourcing option should be considered if the company would like to reduce its carbon footprint. For every job that is done from home by a telecommuting employee, that is equal to savings both for the company and then employee themselves. 

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Reviewing Your Marketing Strategies From the Prior Year

During the holiday season it is important to take some time out for personal and business reflection. One of the most important things to review is your business performance. Reviewing your marketing strategies from the ending year can help you keep your business on track in the coming year. Knowing what worked and what did not can keep you from repeating errors and can help you to revise plans as you go. Marketing strategies change from product to product as well as change from the time of the year. What works to sell items in the spring may seem strange in the winter months.  Read more

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Goals and Plans for Next Year: Using the Holiday Slow Times to Your Advantage

Even in the busiest times of the year, even for the busiest business, there are some quiet moments that can allow you to sit and reflect. During these quiet moments, you should take stock of the previous year and consider what you are planning for the coming year. Whether you consider the twelve months that have just gone by as the best your business has seen in a long time or as a rebuilding year, you should think of things to do, to either continue your growth or to kick it back into high gear.  Read more