Thursday, September 27, 2012

Technology Is Not a Substitute for Organization

Technology is changing business for everyone -- from small home- based businesses to mega multi-national corporations. Whether you are inspired or threatened by those changes, they are here to stay, or more accurately, to continue changing. You cannot only survive these changes, but turn them into exciting opportunities by applying some basic organizing principles.
Not many years ago, getting organized was an option. Today technology has made it a necessity for three reasons: Today we have more to organize than ever before. Not only did the computer not give us the paperless age, it created more. In addition, we now have to organize the technology itself. Computers, fax machines, cellular phones, and on-line services enable us to do more -- and require us to do more. The speed of the microchip doubles every 18 months -- with no end in sight.
Secondly, as a result of the economy, and fueled by the capabilities of technology, companies are downsizing. All managers used to have an assistant, and it was the job of that assistant to keep them organized. We fired the assistants, and are now faced with organizing ourselves.
And finally, there is a greater sense of urgency than ever before. If I can fax you a question in 20 seconds, why can't you fax me the answer? There is a constant demand for decreasing costs while continuing to improve quality of products and services with fewer people. The price of failure is staggering.
You may be reluctant to get organized, as many people are. But often it is because they have been misled about what it means to be organized. My definition of organization is very simple: Does it work? and Do you like it?" And if what you are organizing -- or not organizing! -- affects others, there is a third question: "Does it work for others?"
Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys once said, "My job is to make the guys do what they don't want to do, so they can be who they've always wanted to be." Often that's my job as an organizing consultant! Successful people make a habit of doing what failures don't like to do -- and that frequently includes getting organized!
If your answer to any of the questions above is "No," try these suggestions to help you get started on the road to organization and make the most of your technology:
1. Continually practice the Art of Wastebasketry?. Research shows we use only 20% of what we keep. For each piece of information you receive, whether in hard copy or on the computer screen, ask these questions: Does this require action? Can I identify a specific use? Would it be difficult to get again? Is it recent enough to be useful? If the answer to all those questions is "No," ask one final question: "What's the worst thing that could happen if I don't have this piece of paper?" If you can live with your answer -- toss or recycle it! Take a look around your office. Do you see unused equipment, books you'll never use again, drawers full of unidentified paper, or outdated inventory? If so, you'll experience a new sense of energy if you get rid of it.
2. Learn to choose technology effectively. Most of us are trying to do more with less, and working harder is not always the answer. The real question is "Does anyone really need to do this?" Just because technology allows you to accomplish a specific task doesn't mean it's the best way for you to use your resources. Just because an upgrade is available doesn't mean you need to use it. Make sure that the results will be worth your investment of financial and human resources.
3. Implement a system for keeping track of names and telephone numbers. Most of my clients agree that their best source of business is networking, but piles of unidentified business cards will not do the trick. Deciding which system to use is far less important that using it consistently. For some people, technology is the perfect answer, while others accomplish their needs with a Rolodex.
My own system combines four methods:
(1) Contact management software program for all past, present, and potential clients.
(2) Rolodex to enter business cards for all services such as computer repair, graphics, etc., most frequent clients (for easy access), and my colleagues.
(3) Address book for family and friends.
(4) Pocket address book to carry in my briefcase with most frequently used numbers -- business and personal.
4. Create a paper filing system that works -- easily and consistently! In spite of the computer-age promises of a paperless office, most of us are faced with more paper than ever before. If you find that your filing system is not working and most of it you never use, clean out your most accessible file drawer and start over! Begin filing new information by asking "If I need this information again, what word will I think of first?" The answer is your new file title. Alphabetize the file titles, and keep a list of them -- a file index. Before you make a new file, check the existing list to avoid creating a file for "Car" when you already have "Auto." Keep a copy near the filing cabinets and at the desk of everyone who uses the files.
5. Create a computer filing system that works -- easily and consistently! Remember that a computer's value is that it allows you to use a file again. If you do not intend to use the document again, there is no value in storing it in a computer.
The key to effectively organizing your computer is your directory, and the first step is to point all files into one directory, regardless of what program created those files. This will make it easier to retrieve what you need, regardless of what program created it, and make it easier to back it up for archives or for transfer to other locations.
In paper systems, people frequently get into trouble because they have too many categories, while in computer systems, they get into trouble because they have too few categories (i.e., directories and subdirectories). It is easier to flip through one paper file that has 20 pieces of paper in it than it is to go through 10 files with two pieces of paper in each. On the other hand, it is easier to scroll up and down a computer screen looking for directories and subdirectories than it is to open documents. In addition, your computer gives you a "Find" feature that will help you locate any file you want by searching for key words without your having to actually open each file.
Two of my favorite directories are:
1. Pending. This is for files on which I am currently working. I can quickly see which documents are in process, or if necessary it will be easy for someone else to retrieve my work.
2. Outbox. Here I file work which I have completed, but need to print, fax, give to someone else, or send to another location.
Remember that in any organizing process, you may feel worse before you feel better. To change is difficult -- even when you want to. It takes time to learn new behavior patterns. Organization is like any other skill. If you want to play tennis, you can read books, look at videos, get the best coach, and go to the best court, but after a week you still won't be a great tennis player. It takes practice. So does organizing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Make Big Money In Real Estate

Real Estate is one of the oldest forms of investing known to man.
Real Estate investing is easy and fortunes are made in a simple manner. For example, and investor decides that a desert area will eventually become an industrial development. He purchases a number of acres at a very low price. If his guess turns out to be correct, ten years later he sells the land hundred times more than what he paid for it.This can happen in any part of the country and is not an exceptional case.
As the population keeps growing in the U.S., land prices continue to raise and it means that Real Estate will continue to offer one of the best investment opportunities in the country.
Compared to most forms of investment, Real Estate offers greater profit potential. Of course, not every piece of land will turn out to be a winner, and despite the great potential rewards in some cases risks are involved, so the necessity of careful study before invest.
One of the problem of Real Estate is his lack of liquidity. Liquid assists are those easily converted into cash like stocks or bons. Most Real Estate investments take years before you can make some money, so it is not wise to tie up all your assets in this type of investment. Your financial situation will determine how much you can wisely invest in properties.
There is a difference between a land speculator and an investor. A speculator buys land with the intention to make a quick sale and fast profits and will not hold land for a long period of time. An investor, on the other hand, looks for a long time gain, and usually buys only what he can afford to keep for an indefinite period of time.
If you are new at this field, it is wise to refrain from any a speculation until you become more informed, and you will have to devote considerable time to study and research. It is wise also to consult specialists before you act.
Without realizing it, you already made a very successful investment in Real Estate if you bought your own home.
Before you look for areas to invest, consider the condition of your own house. If you have any plan for selling it, good landscaping has been known to considerably increase the value of a home.
Large profits can be attained by purchasing run-down homes and restoring them for eventual selling, but some factors have to be considered:
* You must know something about architecture and remodeling and get and idea of how much it will cost to get the house back into shape. Consider what you will be able to do yourself and what it will cost you if you have to have it done.
* The location of the house is the most important factor to consider. Study the neighborhood, shopping, and transportation facilities.
It can also be profitable to lease land for commercial use. Land which borders highway is extremely valuable for purpose such as warehouse, gas station, etc.
Land development companies frequently run advertisements offering country retreats. Be wary of these offers as they themselves make a large profit at the time they sell you the land, so it is much more profitable for you to buy your own.
When you buy property, buy at a price that involves a minimum financial risk. Invest only a modest amount of your own capital, when you sell, determine if a cash or installment sale is the best, based on your over-all income tax status. Learn by looking back on the mistakes made in the past and by reviewing the opportunities you have missed.
Prepare a list of all properties available in your area and think up the best future use of the properties. Learn to purchase land before there is a demand. To buy land well in advance is the only economical way at today's prices. Then hold the property until you can resale for large profits. Don't sell all your desirable properties and keep just lemons.
If you are willing to leave the cities, you should not have any trouble finding inexpensive land for sale. If you discover a tract of land appealing to you but not listed for sale, contact the Country Register's Office and he will tell you who is the owner. Get in touch with him and he could be willing to sell.
As a rule purchasing tracts of land within thirty miles from a growing city is often a sound investment. Deal only with qualified realtors. Be careful of individuals who offer quick profits.
Before taking any action, study what has been written about the subject. Know why you should and should not buy. Stay conventional and don't buy white elephants. Look for hidden defects and make the property attractive before offering it for resale. Study local conditions and be sure it is practical. Constantly look for bargains and quality properties with exceptional features that will make the sale easier. Follow up on For Sale signs, make inquiries.
When discouraging elements occur, minimize your losses by whatever means available. Don't throw away money on repairs for poorly located property or in an area of surplus rental units.
Before you attempt to sell, find out how the prospect can use the property profitably. Ask yourself if you would purchase it if you were in the prospect's shoes. Ask yourself if the future use will fit any of the many types of specific businesses. Can a hospital, a bank, an apartment complex, condominium or professional building be located on the property.
Learn to analyze the pros and cons of a real estate problem. Break it down into its various elements. Know if the answers you come up with are satisfactory and practical. Try different approaches to the problem.
You are necessary looking for the "top" or "bottom" of the market, or the current economic situation. You are looking for a variety of properties which have a higher value dependent on the use that can be established for them.
There are always opportunities in Real Estate during good times and bad, but it is up to you to pick and choose only those very best deals, especially during times when it appears that Real Estate values and demand have reached their peak or in times when it is practically impossible for most anyone to get bank loans due to the tight money market or impossible interest rates.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

6 Powerful Practices for Coping with Information Overload

Today's high-tech world is deluged with more information than ever imaginable. In spite of all the promises of the paperless office, statistics show that exactly the opposite is happening. It is projected that by 2005 there will be 50% more paper than there was in 1995! Those who have tried the paperless solution find it has its own challenges. How many lunches have you missed because you were searching through files - never finding what you needed?
Asking four basic questions will help you make decisions about how to manage the information in your office - whether it's for paper or electronic files.
1. What information do you really need to keep?
2. In what form do you need to keep it?
3. For how long? 4. How can you find it when we need it? (That's the really big one!)
To improve your chances of retrieving information, consider these six possibilities:
1. Create a File Index (a roadmap for available information!) for your company. One of most valuable lessons I learned from my father was "Half of any job is having the right tool." The network version of The Paper Tiger software  allows colleagues to share information in a way never before possible and to avoid wasting time recreating information that already exists because no one knew it existed. While many people are looking at scanning as a way of coping with information overload, make sure that you are really solving a problem, and not just creating another. Using a computer software program can make handling paper so easy that the investment of time and equipment to go "paperless" may not be necessary, or when you do convert to electronic storage you will avoid just creating a faster mess!
2. Develop Retention Guidelines. Clutter is Postponed Decisions®. Paper will continue to pile up because someone needs to make a decision about retention. Clients often ask me how long they should keep documents. Determine the answer by looking at your own past experience. Often, that means asking the people with whom you work who really use the papers! If you're not sure, consult the guidelines in Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work. That's one of the major reasons I wrote the book! (If you need retention information for files at home, consult Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Home.)
3. Hold a File Clean-Out Day. Make the day fun! Wear comfortable clothes, order in lunch, and give prizes - such as the "Most Progress" or "The Funniest Discovery". Provide staff with storage boxes for files that can be kept in less accessible spaces. Create a "white elephant room" for employees to put items they aren't using, but other people might want. Consider hiring an organizing consultant ( to give a short presentation on The Art of Wastebasketry® at the beginning of the day and to facilitate the process during the day. (See Tip #5.)
4. Use, and train others around you, to automatically use The FAT System(TM). There are only three decisions you can make about any piece of paper: File, Act, or Toss. Make decisions on paper as it comes in. Put papers that require action into "Action Files." Papers you may never need, but are afraid to throw away go into Reference Files. As Reference Files become old, they become Archive Files, or can be tossed.
5. Continually practice "The Art of Wastebasketry®. Research shows that 80% of what we keep, we never use. Don't make today's mail turn into tomorrow's pile! Ask yourself: 1. Does this require action? 2. Can I identify a specific use? 3. Is it difficult to get again? 4. Is it recent enough to be useful? 5. Are there legal considerations?
If the answer to all these questions is "No," ask one final question: "What is the worst possible thing that would happen if I didn't have this piece of paper?" If you can live with your answer, toss - or recycle it! Since security if a big issue today, I've discovered that a shredder is one of the best tools to encourage people to throw things!
6. Take Advantage of Report Features of The Paper Tiger If you're afraid to toss something, don't worry about it - just keep it! Your File Index will help you find it in case you do need it, or help you clean it out when your files get full. Recently, my assistant informed me there was no more space for new projects. Instead of just adding more file cabinets, I took the File Clean-Out Report automatically created by The Paper Tiger software on my next trip, and made notes on what could be cleaned, tossed, or archived. When I returned to my office, I gave the report to a high school student, working in our office for the summer. She did the cleaning out and transferring of files for us!
Your office is a reflection of you and your organization. An organized, uncluttered workspace will make you more productive and less stressed. You can stop losing time searching for files. In fact, you may even find time for lunch!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Giving is Good for You -- and Good for Business

As a child I remember hearing, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." I was so disappointed, because I really loved getting gifts! But during the past 25 years I have had the privilege of spending time with thousands of successful people, and I've discovered they have one thing in common: They are constantly giving.
A major stumbling block to peace of mind and maximum productivity is simply having too much! People we love or respect give us gifts we don't need or want. Many of the items we use are made so well that they won't wear out, even when we wish they would. Technology dictates that perfectly good products are soon worthless in the context in which we want to use them. Think about it. Homeless shelters would be thrilled with those linens you've stuffed in the closet. Many non-profit organizations would be delighted to have that dot matrix printer buried in the supply room. And that flower vase, which you never use, would be great for the local rummage fundraiser. Have you ever sat impatiently in a hospital waiting room and the only thing you could find to read was a two-year-old issue of Field and Stream - yet your office is scattered with unread magazines?
You can also give of yourself. Donating your talents to help people in trouble is a great way to put your own troubles in perspective. What is so amazing is that you can do something you enjoy. Consider these possibilities:
o Stop by your local school and offer to tutor a student 2 hours a week.
o Create some posters for an organization that's planning a public event.
o Write an article for the newsletter of your favorite charity.
o Provide your product or service to someone deserving who can't pay for it.
o Build a handicapped ramp for an accident victim.
o Get the oil changed in a car for a single parent.
o Take a cancer patient to chemotherapy.
o Make a donation to the local blood bank.
Be a catalyst for teaching "the art of giving" to others. Whether you give your time to orchestrate an office clean-out day or serve as a volunteer in a tutoring program, everyone will win and you'll feel better too.