How to Become Productive Again (or is your smartphone making you stupid)

Don't be this Guy

Don't be this Guy

How many times a day do you check your email? Have you ever stopped mid conversation while speaking with someone to check and see who just sent you a message on your Blackberry? Not only is this rude, but it may be making you stupid. The average person checks their email 5-6 times a day. Opinion polls have indicated that many Blackberry users cannot go more than 5 minutes without checking their email. The 2006 New World College dictionary word of the year, “Crackberry“, rightfully deserves it's name.

Today'sworld is filled with rapid fire stimulation. Anywhere we go we can instantly be reached via text, email or phone. We are always on call and everything is immediate. We now live in an age where having to wait for something is the worst thing imaginable. Our attention spans have grown so short and we have grown so impatient that most of us have lost our ability to focus on a single task and to do it properly. This addiction to immediate access to email and other information is actually causing us to lose our ability to focus. In 2005, a psychiatrist at King's College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana.

Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hand, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points. In order to remain fully focused on a task, most of us need undivided attention in order to get into the rhythm and flow of whatever it is we are doing. Take sleep for an example. If you were to interrupted every 20 minutes during the course of a night's sleep to answer a phone call or to check an email, would you consider that a productive night's sleep? How do you think these constant interruptions are affecting your work life? Worse yet, how is it affecting your family life? Are you the parent at your kid's soccer game with your Blackberry in hand the entire game?

Smart phones and their cry for constant attention may be hurting our ability to communicate. Really communicate. When we write a message using our phones we tend to keep it short and sweet. We write just enough to get our message across, no need for silly things like proper spelling or using complete sentences. We are too busy to spend any more than a few seconds responding to someone's request. The problem with doing this on a consistent basis is twofold. One, we are losing our ability to focus. When using a smartphone to communicate, we tend to put little thought into what we are writing. We tend to say things we otherwise would not say in person. When we write in erratic, fragmented language, we eventually begin to think like that too. Sloppy writing will eventually lead to sloppy thinking. Secondly, we think that being busy equates to being productive. Doing one thing well is better than doing three things poorly. If you try and juggle too many balls, eventually you will start to drop them.

Remember, your smart phone does not have to be constantly buzzing in order to feel important. If you selectively pick times during the day when you will check email it will free you to direct your attention to the matter at hand. Make it known to everyone to only text you if it's important, otherwise email you and you will check it later. When you are having a conversation with someone and your phone starts buzzing, it's OK to check it AFTER the conversation, not in the middle of it (unless your wife is about to give birth). Good manners and courtesy are still sought after traits in people. If you are working on an important project, shut your phone and email off and give it your undivided attention. You will produce better quality work. And lastly, when you are with your family, holster your smartphone and enjoy your time with the people who really matter.

Starting a Business During a Recession

Open for Business

What do you need to consider before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship?

1- Do I have what it takes to run my own business? Most people dream of being the boss but it's not always a party. Have you ever heard the term “The buck stops here”?, ” The fish stinks from the head up”? Being on top of the totem pole means having NO ONE to pass the blame to when times get rough, and they will get rough. Do you have the stomach for that kind of responsibility? Many don't, that's why they don't make it.

2- Be comfortable with risk. There will be lot's of risk, your money, your time and your reputation are all on the table for everyone to see and criticize. You will never be able to remove risk, all you can do is try and minimize it with lots of planning, preparation and education on your planned venture. Dolly Parton said “To get the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain”. Sometimes it rains a lot.

3- You always need more money than you think. Make sure you have enough money on hand to see you through the start up phase as well as potential setbacks. This applies even more if you have a family to support. Most start up business don't just fail, they either give up too soon or run out of money or had no business being in business to begin with. Whatever you business plan says, if it's not viable with only 50% of your projected revenues, then I wouldn't trust it in real life.

4- Be in it together. If you have a family, make sure everyone is on board with the decision. Many family situations have gone to ruin because one spouse went into a venture with the family finances without support of the other. If one of you is dead set against it, think long and hard before jumping in. “We blew it” is much better than “I told you so” if things don't work out.

5- Is it what I really want? If you enjoy stress and worry free weekends playing golf and hanging out with friends then maybe starting a business is not a good solution for you. Having your own business will keep you physically and mentally occupied most of your waking hours for a long time. Starting a business is like growing a flower, it needs lots of care before you enjoy the bloom.

If your still not sure the best thing you can do is start reading. Michael Gerber's “The E-Myth Revisited” and Norm Brodsky's “The Knack” are two good glimpses at life as a struggling entrepreneur. Good luck!

5 Reasons your Small Business should switch to VOIP Technology

VOIP Professional

VOIP Professional

With the economy in the shape it is today, many small businesses are facing some tough realities as how to manage their business. Small business owners are keeping spending to a minimum and controlling costs while they ride out this economic downturn. Many seasoned business owners will tell you the good thing about running a business during a downturn is that it forces you to really look at your business and decide what’s important and what’s not. All operating costs and expenses are looked over with a fine toothed comb and it is in this time that many business owners find money that has been going to waste.

Depending on your business, your telecommunication costs can eat up a sizable chunk of your budget. Over the last few years VOIP technology has really come of age as costs keep getting lower and service keeps getting better. Listed below are the 5 reasons you should consider making the switch to VOIP technology for your business.

1 – It’s Cheaper than old fashioned telephone service. Although you will spend several hundred dollars in equipment to get yourself set up, the savings over the long run can be substantial. One of the biggest savings is long distance charges. Besides having to pay long distance access fees each month, most traditional phone companies charge rates considerably higher than VOIP providers. Most VOIP plans come standard with almost every feature you can think of while traditional phone companies usually charge a monthly fee for even the most basic features. These add on fees can quickly add up on your monthly bill.

2 – Unified Communication. Unified Communications is a fancy word to describe the ability to integrate your VOIP phone service with other communications such as email and computer programs. With unified communications you have the ability to have voicemail messages emailed directly to you wherever you may be. Long gone are the days you have to repeatedly call into the office to see if there are messages waiting. Another great application for VOIP is integrating it into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program for you business. Imagine when the phone rings the computer screen automatically pops up the account history of your customer before you even pick up the phone. Talk about a great customer service tool.

3 – The technology is here. In the early days of VOIP chronically dropped phone calls and sounding like your calling from Mars were the norm. Over the last few years bandwith has increased to a rate where businesses can operate several applications, including VOIP, over their internet connections without losing quality. Quality of Service technology, which gives VOIP and streaming video priority over data transmission has also paved the way to superior Voice over Internet phone calls.

4 – Hosted PBX. Traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems were usually reserved for big business as it is very expensive to set up. You also need someone with IT experience to manage it. With a Hosted PBX, the entire system is hosted on a remote server, where you, or your service provider, can manage it remotely. All of this can be done at a fraction of the cost of a traditional PBX system while giving small and home based businesses the professional image they need to compete with the big boys.

5 – It’s coming anyway, whether your ready for it or not.

Traditional phone services are going the way of the dinosaur. High fees, long term contracts and poor customer service has been the hallmark of traditional phone companies for a very long time. VOIP and Hosted PBX plans offer the small business owner lower telecom costs, more productivity and a chance to take their customer service to the next level. There are dozens of VOIP providers to choose from, the important thing is to educate yourself on this technology and seek out a vendor who can provide the proper support and consultation for a seemless transition.