Category Archive: Productivity

No Ideas? 11 Steps to Organizing a Successful Brainstorming Session

No Ideas? 11 Steps to Organizing a Successful Brainstorming Session
We’ve all been there – in need of that one great idea and the brain failing to play ball. Some days, no matter how long I sit and think about a problem, that elusive solution won’t come into view. On those days, usually after I’ve spent a fair few hours berating myself for my lack of progress, I regroup and decide to do a brainstorming session. It’s a great way to ease a mental block and get some ideas flowing. 

Whether you’re going to be brainstorming as a team or doing it solo, here are my eleven steps to organizing a successful brainstorming session:

1. Pick the Right Venue

Alone or in a group, conducting a brainstorming session at your usual desk(s) isn’t the best idea. You sit at your desk each and every day and it’s generally a place of mundanity rather than of inspiration. Have your brainstorming session take place in a different room where new patterns of thought are more likely to emerge.

2. Create the Right Environment

Make sure you (and your team) are relaxed and de-stressed during your brainstorming sessions. Stress can really hamper creative thinking. If you work in an office, try to create an informal environment for your team; consider bringing in snacks and turning on some music. Make sure that the room is well-lit. Include all the resources or tools you need at hand. Remember about refreshments to avoid people getting distracted by running to the kitchen. If you work alone, a walk around the block before sitting down to your brainstorming session can work wonders.

3. Think About Brainstorming Strategies

You can create the perfect environment, but sometimes you need a bit of structure to prompt some new thoughts. Try and think about the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. Or imagine there are no constraints in terms of budget or resources. Or come up with as many questions about your topic as you can and then set about answering them. There are more ideas here if you need a starting point in order to get going.

4. Prepare Your group

Prepare the information for your team. Include just enough information to inspire them, but not too much – it can easily limit the creative potential of your team during a brainstorming session. Also, consider who you’re going to invite to the meeting. If you pick team members who are like-minded, you’re not going to get many creative ideas. That’s why you should aim at building a diverse group of people from different departments or disciplines – they’re bound to have different thinking styles.

5. Establish ground rules

For the discussion to proceed smoothly, you should establish some ground rules at the beginning and stick to them throughout your brainstorming session. Remind your team that the session isn’t about competing for ideas, but coming up with a solution to a problem. Let them know whether they should raise their hand before they speak or interrupt someone – that’s how you ensure smooth communication.

6. Guide the discussion

When you’ve had all the team members share their ideas, it’s time to start a group discussion. That’s how you allow your team to develop the ideas of other people and come up with new solutions. Encourage everyone to contribute to the discussion. Make sure to discourage any forms of criticism – the idea behind brainstorming is to boost creativity, and criticism doesn’t help to do that. Remember that your role is to support the team, so don’t share your ideas all the time. Guide the discussion by sticking to one idea at a time and refocusing your team when they become sidetracked. Arrange many breaks to help your team concentrate as well.

7. Motivate your team

To spark the interest of your team in the problem, use this smart brainstorming trick. Ask your team what is the opposite of what you want to achieve. For example, what is the worst web design? That kind of question will instantly engage your team because it will force them to consider the problem from an unusual angle.

8. Nothing is too Stupid/Insignificant/Irrelevant to Be Written Down

Often, one of the reasons behind a mental block is over-thinking. We doubt our ideas and this stymies the flow of one (maybe not so great) idea leading onto another (maybe much better) idea. Starting from a point where nothing is to be discounted is a great way to get the brain into gear again. Write down each and every new idea and you could be surprised at the different perspectives and trains of thought that follow.

9. Give Yourself Time

Whilst having an open-ended brainstorming session can be counter-productive, you don’t want to put yourself under too much time pressure when it comes to creative thinking. Not only do you want to remove the stress a time constraint can create, you also want to allow time for the to brain wander. Being bored can actually help you come up with some great ideas!

10. Collect Your Ideas

Before your session, plan how you intend to collect the ideas you come up with. An old school whiteboard is tried and tested, but you should also consider the incredible selection of programs and apps designed to make the brainstorming process that bit easier. You can make your brainstorming ideas visual and engaging, create a mind map to share with colleagues or even conduct a brainstorming session remotely.

11. Plan Your Follow Up

No brainstorming session is any real use unless you have a way of putting your ideas into action. Decide on your objectives before you start, and then make sure you’ve completed them before you draw the session to a close. Make sure you end your session knowing how you’re going to proceed. This could be further research into a selection of your ideas, implementation of one of them or plans for further brainstorming.

With a little preparation and the right follow up, brainstorming can give a huge boost to your creativity. I hope your next brainstorming session sees you on your way to that next big idea!

Meet the Author: Anne Grobler

Anne Grobler is a business blogger who enjoys sharing her tips and suggestions for building a healthy work environment. With a background in marketing and communications and a huge love for writing, Anne is currently supporting OpenAgent, experts in the field of real estate.

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Business Management: How to Get Your Work Teams to Be More Productive

~by Hannah Whittenly~


be more productiveIf you’re leading a team, you may have found that getting them to do their best work from day to day is one of your biggest challenges. Trying to force them to work harder and faster may be counterproductive as it fosters resistance and bad feelings. You certainly don’t want to face a contest of wills every day. Instead, you have to find ways to organize and support them.

Here are some ideas for getting your teams to be more productive.

Stop Repetitive Meetings

A significant chunk of your team’s day may be spent in progress or production meetings. Even 15 or 20 minutes a day can amount to lost production of well over an hour for each team member every week. Don’t make these meetings mandatory for employees with important work to do. You could even scale back to having a rotating or designated spokesperson for each team. Put out feelers beforehand, and if there are no important developments to discuss, skip the meeting.

Eliminate Barriers

As the team leader, it’s your job to anticipate issues that may become roadblocks. You have to organize your operations around key employees who are sick or on vacation, unavailable resources or equipment, potential bottlenecks, and technical questions. Use ERP, project management, or other tools, but if you come to a juncture where work stops, then it’s poor planning on your part.

Step Back and Observe

be more productiveIf you’ve done a good job of training, equipping and motivating your teams, you shouldn’t be in a position of having to micromanage any processes in place. It’s your place to get teams functioning well as modular units, and then stay out of the way until intervention is called for. In the meantime, you can monitor and evaluate performance. Your time is better spent inspiring and strategizing, as it should be.

Design Better Work Environments

The right workspace is just as important as the right tools and the right people. Creating a sea of cubicles or a room packed with workstations and equipment may not be the best way to promote workflow. Workspaces should be comfortable as well as functional, with space and comfortable seating for impromptu visitors and meetings. However, what is comfortable is always subjective. So you might have each employee pick out their own chair from a vendor that supplies a variety of different types.

Constantly challenging teams to do more will only create the feeling that what they accomplish is never good enough. Team members must want to do more. You should find ways to engage and inspire them, and freely express your gratitude and appreciation when they exceed expectations.

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Hannah WhittenlyMeet the Author: Hannah Whittenly

Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She graduated from the University of California-Sacramento with a degree in Journalism.

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What to Do With Kids While Working from Home

~by Dayton Uttinger~


Modern technology has enabled businesses to offer working from home more and more, so you’ve likely had the opportunity to decide if working from home is an option for you. On the other hand, you might have realized that a graduate degree is necessary in order to progress in your field, and that remains true for both social science and STEM fields. And whether you’re studying online or simply completing your thesis, your home is often the best place to get work done, provided you have a good Wi-Fi connection. There’s simply fewer distractions and more comfort wearing your pajamas in your favorite arm chair.

what to do with kidsHowever, this entire situation can be ruined when your kids are unexpectedly home for the day. Maybe they’re not even your kids. Whether because of a snow day, sudden teacher in-service or a sick babysitter, you somehow end up with the kids when you’re supposed to be working from home. This is the opposite of an office environment because kids are distracting in multiple ways. They constantly demand your mental and physical energy, especially when they are younger. You might think it’s impossible to multitask to this degree. After all, completing professional tasks can be difficult when you’ve got a toddler tugging on your leg or a third grader complaining that there’s nothing to eat.

So, how are you going to manage this day? Easy: take the day off. Not an option? Less easy, but certainly doable…


What absolutely must get done that day? Make a list of things that are non-negotiable. Then, list out those tasks that you can do mostly on autopilot. These will enable you to multitask to the best of your ability. Is this an ideal situation? Of course not, but listing it out will help you be more conscious of what exactly needs to get done. And you’ll be able to best utilize every moment, whether they’re napping or asking that you “listen” to their squabbles.

Teach Them Independence

If at all possible, engage them in some sort of solitary activity. Or, if they have siblings they can play with, encourage that as well. However, if they have a history of fighting or one of them always ends up in tears, it might be better to keep them separate. There are some ways that you can stop their bickering, but that’s more of a long-term goal. You just need to survive this day.

Alright, but next issue: what can they do that will keep them sufficiently busy without causing a path of destruction?

Any pets? This is a perfect place to start. If there are, then you have an automatic source of entertainment/occupation. Dogs need to be walked, fish need to fed, even cats get social after some catnip. But, of course, be cautious. Canine communication isn’t always obvious to kids, fish feeding can be more complicated than even you realize, and cats’ claws can be more dangerous than perceived. Either the child or the pet might be too fragile for sustained interaction. Use your best judgement to determine what pet activities can go unsupervised.

If there are no pets, some limited TV or computer time is okay, but we know that extended screen time isn’t good for them either. You should go through the obvious options: books, puzzles, board games, tag with their friends or siblings, arts and crafts, etc. However, you should try to tailor the activities to children specifically based on their own interests. If they are particularly active, don’t attempt to sit them down with a long chapter book. It’ll only agitate them, increasing the time you spend watching them and away from work. Similarly, if the child is creative and loves a certain TV character, give them some art supplies to draw their own version of an episode, or ask them to depict what their favorite moment was. There are lots of things that kids can do to keep busy; you just have to be as creative as they are.

If all else fails, and the kids are young enough, encourage some nap time. Use their silence to your advantage, and make sure to be extra productive during this time.

Let People Know

what to do with kidsBy no means should you use this as an excuse, but it is still a good idea to let your coworkers or group partners know that you might not be available to respond at a moment’s notice. If you have a larger business that you’re working with, you don’t want to send out a company-wide email alerting everyone of your situation. Instead, include a notice on your Google Calendar that you’re out of the office and working from home. Especially if your calendar has been integrated into a company database, interested coworkers can check your schedule if they’re curious, and it won’t flood everybody’s inbox.

On the other hand, if you’re working on a considerably smaller scale, it’s probably easier to directly communicate with pertinent parties specifically. Also, you’re freer to be a little more frank with those individuals, since you probably have a more “family feel.”  You can say things like, “Hey, Frank, I’ve got my sister’s kids for the day. I’ll still be working, and you can count on getting X, Y and Z done, but just a heads up.”

Kids are way more distracting than any of your coworkers or fellow students (I hope). But, fortunately, you have a level of control over them. Whether they’re your own children or somebody else’s, getting work done while they’re around is difficult, but can be done as long as you prepare a game plan and tailor activities to those children. Keep them busy, sit down in your home office or armchair, and get to work.

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Meet the Author: Dayton Uttinger

Dayton did not agree to the clock that everyone else seems to operate around; she writes by night and barely functions in sunlight. She dreams of changing the world from the comfort of her couch.

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5 Tips for Maintaining a Safe Workplace, Free from Hazards and Injuries

~by Dixie Somers~


As a business owner it’s your responsibility to keep employees safe. The cost of neglecting safety can be serious. You could face law suits, fines, lost productivity, and a reputation as a dangerous and uncaring company. All employers need to take steps to ensure they are providing a safe workplace. Here are five tips you should follow.

1. Maintain Cleanliness

safe workplaceWork areas are more productive when they’re neat and organized. They are also safer. Removing clutter and debris will help to minimize risks of falls, knocking items off shelves or tables. Insist that spills or garbage that could cause slipping or unsanitary conditions are cleaned up immediately. Ensure that work areas are kept clean and that everything is kept in its proper place when not in use.

2. Keep Machinery in Safe Working Order

Ordinary wear and tear can lead to breakdowns that make equipment unsafe, leading to injury and workers compensation lawsuits. Make a safety check of everything from hand tools to forklifts a part of the routine. Bad brakes, loose safety rails or handles, slipping belts, and exposed wires could lead to serious accidents. As the business owner, you owe it to yourself and your employees to maintain equipment in good working order.

3. Educate Employees on Safety

Make a review of safety procedures mandatory for new hires, and a part of regular training for all employees. Employees need to know about the potential dangers they may encounter in their roles. Be sure they can locate and use fire extinguishers, first aid stations, emergency alarms and exits, and that they know how to properly handle and store chemicals. You might also consider appointing a safety officer, such as someone qualified through a bachelors in occupational safety.

safe workplace4. Observe Employees in Action

Make sure that supervisors understand the importance of safety. Have them keep watch during normal operations to ensure safety guidelines are being followed. This can include properly stacking boxes or pallets, turning off machinery when not in use, and wearing gloves, eye protection, aprons, or respirators as needed.

5. Encourage Staff to Report Unsafe Conditions

You should provide a documentable means that allows all employees to report potential safety risks to supervisors, maintenance personnel, or both. Slippery walkways, loose racks, dim or erratic lighting, or anything that appears to be a potential hazard, should be identified, investigated and corrected immediately.

Maintaining a safe workplace requires organization and constant vigilance. Be sure to schedule safety training sessions, especially on those issues you consider critical. Creating a company culture where health and safety are valued reduces the risk of costly accidents.

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Dixie SomersMeet the Author: Dixie Somers

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer who loves writing for business, finance, and those with an entrepreneurial spirit. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters.

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Focusing on Your Employees’ Mental Health Can Increase Productivity

~by Rachelle Wilber~


If an employee broke his or her hand or suffered a serious open wound, you would want to make sure that he or she was treated right away. This is because an injured worker is one who won’t be as much value to the company. The same is true of a worker who may be battling a mental health issue. Addressing and resolving the issue as soon as possible can help that person get back to peak productivity.

employees' mental health

Mental Health Affects Focus

An individual who is dealing with a mental health issue might be more focused on outside distractions instead of the work that he or she is paid to do. In addition to getting less done each shift, he/she may pose a danger to others. This is because a distracted person may be more likely to forget to turn a machine off or forget to clean a work area that has been contaminated with chemicals. In such a scenario, you may have to spend more time tending to the injured worker or making a work area safe for use again.

Those With Mental Health Issues May Feel Unvalued

If a worker is depressed or is suffering from symptoms of depression, he or she may not feel valued at work. This may occur even if that person has been recently recognized for his or her contributions or is otherwise liked and respected at work. When an individual doesn’t feel cared for or respected, he/she may stop working as hard or may not show up for work at all. The result could be a larger workload for everyone who does show up to work each day. Over time, they may suffer from burnout and experience symptoms of depression themselves. Therefore, it is in the best interests of an employer to deal with a worker’s mental health issues before they have a negative effect on morale within the entire company.

employees' mental healthTaking Care of Employees Can Increase Loyalty

Let’s say that one of your workers was charged with DWI because he or she tried to drive home after spending all night at the bar. By showing your support for that worker, he/she may come to see you as an ally in the legal and personal battles that he/she may have to face in the future. Recommend that they talk with a DWI attorney to help them through the situation. Voicing and showing support for a worker going through a hard time may provide enough hope for that person to turn his or her life around. If successful, that person may then tell others about the employer that doesn’t give up on people when they have challenges in their lives. That message could boost morale within the workplace and make your people work harder for you.

Some Employees Are Unaware of Their Mental Health

In some schools of thought, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental health issue that may cause problems for both children and adults. However, that doesn’t mean that a person with this condition is a bad person or a bad worker. It just means that he or she was either never diagnosed with the condition or didn’t know that an adult could suffer from it. In some cases, a single pill a day or other modifications can turn an employee who was once thought to be unreliable into an asset for the business.

Today, a progressive employer is one that addresses both the mental and physical health issues that its people may deal with. Spending time and money on mental health issues may increase productivity as well as reduce violent outbursts or other dangerous situations that your workers may be exposed to.

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Rachelle WilberMeet the Author: Rachelle Wilber

Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym.

Follow Rachelle here:

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3 Strategies to Help Reduce Stress So You Can Work Efficiently

~by Emma Sturgis~


reduce stressThe phone call with the cranky client. The lunch meeting that goes until four. The last-minute project that gets dumped on your desk before the weekend. All these situations and more represent just some of the stresses you’re likely to feel at work. Unfortunately, it’s usually not possible to work without at least some stress getting you down. However, it doesn’t have to knock you out.

Here are 3 tips that will help you reduce stress, relax and work more efficiently.

1. Be Sure to Unplug

While it’s tempting to just eat lunch at your desk or to skip that workout after work, you shouldn’t. Finding ways to exercise and move around may help break up your day, give you time to take a break from stressful tasks, and lower your stress levels. If you have time, take a run at lunch or catch that spin class at your local gym after work.

Or if you want a more low-key way to spend your down time, take up yoga, meditation or even adult coloring books. These activities get your mind off of your work stresses and on to more pleasant things. Many of them you can even do while you’re at work. Don’t discount how much a 5-minute walk or a few minutes spent coloring can brighten your day and relieve your stress.

2. Eat Right

You probably got tired of your mom telling you to eat your vegetables when you were a kid, but mom was right. Sound nutrition does more than just build the body. It helps us combat stress and helps to rebuild your cells. Cellular health determines how we handle stress, how fast our body repairs itself after illness, and how well we perform when we’re working at peak level.

Your cells rely on redox signaling to work correctly. If you’re feeling run-down, chances are very good that you’ve been heading toward a crash for a while. Supplements that rejuvenate redox signaling get your cells back up to par. In the process, you’ll be better able to manage your stress levels at work and at home.

3. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

reduce stressCaffeine can jazz you up when you need it. It can also make it nearly impossible for you to keep your stress levels down when you’re already stressed. Consuming caffeine may help you stay awake, but it also leads to crashes later that may mess with your body’s natural relaxation schedule. If you notice that your stress levels at work go up instead of down after that cup of coffee, it might be best to reduce your caffeine intake or eliminate it all together.

That said, you’ll want to reduce your caffeine intake gradually, or you may end up with side effects like headaches. You could try switching to beverage options that are lower in caffeine and gradually wean yourself off of them. You’ll also want to read the labels on your meds, as some automatically include a small dose of caffeine. Finally, make a note of any symptoms like headaches or nausea. You may be trying to reduce your caffeine intake too quickly. Slow and steady wins the race in this case.

Last Thoughts On Reducing Stress At Work

Stress can be a real brain zapper. It also breaks down your body, making you susceptible to illness. Learning to manage stress is the key. That said, many jobs are inherently stressful, which means that your stress levels will remain high. Taking steps like practicing meditation, eating right, and reducing your caffeine intake will help you manage your stress levels. The best chance you have to combat stress is to be aware of its triggers and come up with a plan ahead of time to alleviate it before your body breaks down.

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Emma SturgisMeet the Author: Emma Sturgis

Emma is a freelance writer based in Boston, MA. When not writing, she enjoys reading and rock climbing. Say “hi” on Twitter @EmmaSturgis2.

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4 Great Team Building Activities to Help Your Business Operations

~by Brooke Chaplan~


If not approached with caution and with a sober mindset, the benefits of team building activities become non-existent. Being one of the most important investments an organization can make for its workers, team building must be fun and adventurous. It should be something that your employees look forward to.

team building activities

If you are planning a team building retreat for your employees, you may want to borrow these four fantastic and engaging group team building ideas.

Scavenger Hunt

Divide the team into two or more groups. Using a pen and paper, develop a list of amusing tasks for each group to perform, such as shopping for particular items in a specified store, locating and taking a picture of a given building, and so on. Attach a deadline to the list of tasks that must be completed, and reward the fastest group. The scavenger hunt is a team bonding exercise good for breaking up office cliques. It encourages employees to work with people from other departments and teams.

The Barter Puzzle

This fun and exciting group game demands the availability of four small groups or more with an equal number of members. There should be enough jigsaw puzzles for all the groups. All the jigsaw puzzles must have the same level of difficulty. The first group to finish the puzzle wins, but the real challenge is in finding missing jigsaw pieces that are mixed in the jigsaw puzzles of other groups. Group members must devise a way of getting those missing parts whether by barter or espionage. It’s important that teams work together and make decisions together throughout. The Barter Puzzle instills problem-solving and leadership skills in your workers.

Human Knot

team building activitiesHuman Knot accommodates groups of 8-20 people, and no tools are required. Ask the members of the team to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Instruct them to stretch their right arms and grab a random hand of someone from across. Instruct them to do the same using their left hands. Without releasing their hands, ask them to untangle the knot of arms – within a stipulated timeline. If you have a large team, separate them into small groups of no less than eight people each, and make them compete. Good communication and teamwork are critical success elements in an organization. This group activity comes in handy for developing these traits and showing employees how much they can achieve within a short amount of time if they successfully handle a task or project together.

Escape Room

A growing trend in group and team building activities is the Escape Room. These rooms are complex puzzles that require everyone to contribute and look at things from different perspectives to reach a common goal. Ranging from small to large groups, there are sizes and difficulty levels for any size team. Facilities like Houdini’s Room Escape even have different themes and special accommodations specifically for team building. As Escape Rooms become more popular you’re bound to find one in your area to try out.

Effective team building can be extremely beneficial to both the employees and the company. It offers a great channel for mitigating conflicts, building trust, encouraging smooth communication, and increasing collaboration. It helps employees become more actively engaged, which enhances not only organizational performance but also the company culture.

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Brooke ChaplanMeet the Author: Brooke Chaplan

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. Contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

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10 Powerful Tools for Managing Your Online Business

~by Haley Lynn Gray~


There are a ton of great tools out there to manage your online business. Finding the right ones can be a great exercise in fun — and frustration. There are so many new products and tools coming out every week; the hardest thing is not jumping from one tool to the next as shiny object syndrome hits.

There will always be great new tools coming out, but these are some we use in our business that we find very helpful.

1. Ontraport.  We use Ontraport for a lot of functions in our business. We use it to manage our email list, opt-ins, email autoresponders, affiliate programs, online course delivery, auto-billing, and more. It’s not the least expensive tool out there for managing your emails, but it is quite possibly the best kept secret. It is insanely powerful, and it offers a ton of value for the price. If you are looking at creating landing pages, opt-ins, emails, affiliate programs, and any of those types of programs, Ontraport is rock-solid.

Ontraport can even be integrated with your website to manage your pop-ups on your website. That means all of your opt-ins and pop-ups on the website can be managed from Ontraport, and your management of your business becomes much simpler.

2. Social Quant.  I use Social Quant heavily to help manage my Twitter accounts. It is one of the reasons that I’ve been able to add 16,000 new followers to my Twitter account in one year. The tool searches for people who match keywords you specify. It then follows them. If they follow you back, then they are active users and Social Quant keeps them. If they don’t follow you back in a few days, it releases them and moves onto another round. The cool thing is that Social Quant is helping me connect with legitimate businesses and helping me get in front of people without me having to do all of the legwork myself.

managing your online business3. Crowdfire.  Crowdfire allows you to message people who have followed you on Twitter and ask them to read a post on your blog or get your free download. Yes, it’s corny. Some people hate these types of auto-message tools, but the reality is that they do work, and they work really well. Most people only have about 200 followers on Twitter, so those of us in the business get a lot more messages than your average bear.  

4. MeetEdgar.  What I love about MeetEdgar is that it is super, super simple to use, and it allows me to reuse content on social media. That is especially powerful on Twitter, as the half-life of a tweet is just a few minutes. By being able to reuse the content we have created and sourced, we are able to make our work go much farther. It means I’m able to post around 60X/day on Twitter and increase my reach while growing my following. I can also pull in content from other blogs and sources so that I have more depth with the content I’m posting. That means better results too. The only downsides are the cost, at over $60 a month, and the fact that MeetEdgar doesn’t support every platform.

5. Buffer.  I love Buffer because it’s super inexpensive and allows me to manage a ton of accounts for my clients. I can even re-buffer the posts and add those to the queue. It doesn’t allow for automatic reuse of posts, like MeetEdgar, but it does allow me to manually re-add items back into the queue. It supports nearly every platform out there, including Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus, Facebook, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, LinkedIn Business Pages, and Twitter. They keep adding new features, and it is a tremendous tool for helping manage your business.

6. Google Docs.  I love Google Docs for managing non-confidential documents. That means that my assistant and I can pass information back and forth and keep it in a central repository. Since it allows multiple people to edit a document at the same time, and you don’t end up with versioning issues, it can be a fantastic tool for collaborations. 

7. Microsoft Office 365.  The cool thing about this is that you can buy one license, and install Microsoft Office on up to 6 machines. If you have kids and other family members, you can get your docs on pretty much everyone’s machines. If you have a very small company, this works too. Since Office is one of the de-facto standards for managing a business, this is a great way to get valuable software for everyone.

8. Acuity.  Acuity allows me to manage my calendar — and it integrates with Google calendars. I can take payments for individual sessions or for classes, and they recently added the ability to accept recurring payments. You can block off your available times, with or without buffers. Then you can give people a link to your calendar so they can schedule a time that works for both of you. This avoids the back and forth that frequently occurs.

9. Canva.  If you want to create fun graphics for your social media, website, etc, one of the easiest ways to do it is through Canva. They offer a TON of free options for graphics, fonts, illustrations, and more to help you get your point across for your business. I use them to create hundreds of memes. I also use them to create custom graphics for my clients.

10. Dropbox.  I love using Dropbox for storing pictures that I can then share with clients and access from multiple computers. I like how it shows up as a folder on my computer and is super easy to use. You get one free Gigabyte of storage for each new person you bring in. It’s fairly inexpensive to use and works well for your business.

There are hundreds of great tools and apps out there that can help you with your business. Choosing the tools that make the most sense for you can be the hardest part. That, and not jumping from one platform to the next all the time.

Have you been using Google as your business consultant?

Are you ready to start working with an expert in business instead?

Schedule a consult with me today.

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Meet the Author: Haley Lynn Gray

Haley Lynn GrayHaley helps female entrepreneurs create a strategy plan for their businesses – so they can make enough money to spend quality time with their family, pay for their children’s dance lessons, pay bills – and not worry about where the next client is coming from.

Haley is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Leadership Girl. She helps other entrepreneurs build their businesses by sharing the benefits of her business education and experience through Business Coaching.

Whether you want to get a new business off the ground or expand an existing business, Haley can assist you.

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The Right Office Decor Can Inspire Productivity

~by Alex Williams~


We are not fully aware of just how much our working environment can affect our productivity. We usually notice things that annoy us and believe that they are the reason. But even some seemingly meaningless things can lower our productivity. Whether you work from home or in an office, you need to have an environment that will keep you focused and relaxed. In order to create such perfect surroundings, you should consider adjusting a few things.

The Right Office Decor Can Inspire Productivity

Proper Lighting

Proper lighting can help you focus better. However, when there’s even the smallest thing wrong with it, you may get distracted more easily. If the lighting is bad, it can cause eyestrain, headaches, fatigue and make you feel annoyed or depressed. To improve the lighting in your office, bring your own lamp that fits your needs and creates a better working environment. For a home office, you should let in as much natural light as possible, and use various lamps in different places to make sure that every corner is well lit.

Comfortable Chair

The most common reason for low productivity is the very thing you sit on. If the chair doesn’t support your back properly, you’re bound to have issues with it. Such pain and discomfort can significantly affect your productivity. That is why you need to find an ergonomic chair to provide you with the proper support for your entire body. Additionally, you should be able to adjust the height of it so that your feet can rest comfortably on the floor. If your chair provides enough support and lets you find a comfortable position, it will only motivate you to work harder and better.

Adjustable Desk

Is it even possible to have an office without a desk? No, of course not. Your desk should be functional and provide you with enough space. However, your ordinary desk might not be as comfortable as you would like it to be, so consider updating your office a bit. Opt for desks that are adjustable to various heights. There are various standing desks you can choose from, and you can easily match their design and material with any office. Plus, since they are completely adjustable, they allow you to stretch your legs and straighten your back without having to stop working.

Motivating Colors

The colors in your office affect your mood and brain functions. They can evoke both emotional and physical responses, so choose colors that have positive effects on your productivity. For example, blue and green are said to create a soothing atmosphere and encourage productivity. However, you have to keep in mind that too much of such colors can also disturb you on many levels. Therefore, paint your office in such hues, but try to create some sort of a contrast with neutral shades, such as white or beige. Also, you can introduce another colour through some details and ornaments, or you can create an accent wall behind you which will emphasize your design.


The scents in your office matter just as much as its visual atmosphere. Our sense of smell can drastically affect our mood and productivity, which is why you should aim at introducing calming scents wherever you can. You can easily create a pleasant atmosphere by adding a few scented candles or oils and arranging them into glass jars around the office. The most powerful and encouraging scents are pine, cinnamon, peppermint, lavender, and citrus. Each of these scents can lift your spirits, improve your mood and increase productivity. Not only that, but they will transform the office into a better place and elevate its design.

Personal Touch

Keep the things you like on your desk and shelves no matter what they are. If you need more office supplies, don’t hesitate to get them because they will contribute to your organization and productivity. Get items you like such as colorful sticky notes, fancy pens, funky pencil holders, or any other item you wish to have. Also, photos of your family, friends, pets, or anything else that reminds you of happy moments, will help you focus better and lower your stress levels.

We all need something to push us forward from time to time. However, that nudge shouldn’t be something that irritates us, but rather something that will motivate and calm us.

Meet the Author: Alex Williams

Alex was born and raised in beautiful Sydney. She is a journalism graduate and a rookie blogger. A regular contributor at BizzMark Blog, Alex showcases her expertise and gains recognition and a wider audience by blogging on numerous other blog sites.

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