Business Styles and Personal Productivity

Recently, a newsletter arrived from a self growth website which explained dysfunctional personal productivity personalities.  Because productivity styles can mean the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure, I’ve taken some time to analyze this topic and provided some tips and techniques that have worked for me in overcoming some of these productivity inhibitors.

Scrappers are people whose offices and desktops look like modern art with a collage of post-its and paper scraps. While conventional wisdom accepts that a cluttered desk is an indication of a cluttered mind, disorganization can result in missed deliverables and over-commitment.

If this is your style, whether you are working solo or in a partnership, adopting a method that serves to remind you of what you have to get done can be useful. If you have a partner, ask them to send you email reminders prior to important deadlines. Using a website like Airset allows you to set up a system that will allow you to put your projects online with automated reminders about deliverables sent to your email. Face it, a little up-front planning is needed for any endeavor.

Pilers don’t throw anything away and file nothing. They can sometimes find what they’re looking for quickly but watching them sift through their piles of books and papers can be unnerving. Many years ago, I adopted the tactic of dating a hard copy document if I decided I needed to keep it after reading it. These days, most of my files are kept on my hard drives and I still tend to precede the document name with a date, year first, if I’ve taken notes using notepad.

My work entails writing business proposals, marketing plans, project plans, website code, creating website artwork, and researching business niches for good keywords. For obvious reasons, these sorts of files must be saved for a period of time, even if the project has ended.

At the end of 2008, after a cross country move, I spent several hours moving client folders off of removable storage and onto a secure location within my network. Using a standard folder hierarchy allows me to go directly to a client folder to locate content related to those projects immediately. My clients seem grateful for my organizational skills when they call to ask for a password that they’ve lost!

At the beginning of each month, I set aside a few hours to sift through file folders in my inbox and in the folders related to my clients. It takes time but the time is well spent.

Multi-taskers have millions of things they hope to get done simultaneously and seem to take great pride in talking about their long lists. A downside for some can be that a lot of things get started but none get finished.

If you are an entrepreneur with clients or own multiple websites multi-tasking is essential, but if you’ve begun to notice that you are feeling frazzled or overwhelmed by your work, it is time to take a serious look at your short and long-term goals. Document all the things you have committed to do and organize it into do-able chunks that are prioritized by relevance. Aside from family commitments, your most important things to do ought to be money making activities.

Interrupters are people who do not respect the fact that, just because they have time to talk about something now doesn’t mean that you do. Because I am sensitive to this myself, I’ve always allowed the person whom I think I need to talk with know why I’d like to talk with them right away and never fail to ask if it is a good time for them.  If not, I negotiate a more agreeable time for them.

When someone unexpectedly requests my time, I’ve found that my best defense is to be honest with them and, if I don’t have time for the interruption, I force myself to refuse and also let them know when I’ll be free. If I feel that I can take a few minutes at the time of their request, I inform them up-front about my time constraints and hold to that schedule by curtailing the conversation or text chat when the boundary is reached.

Procrastinators claim to work well under pressure and use this an excuse for putting things off to the last minute.  Their real crime is that they work on things that they would prefer to work on, which pushes the less desirable, and often more complicated tasks, back and puts them at risk.  Sure, we all are guilty of this sometimes but the pursuit of business success doesn’t guarantee that everything you will work on will be easy to do or fun.

Unmanaged, a procrastinator on a project can create havoc for other members of that group. While their creativity and talents might be welcomed, they require firm guidance and follow-up from a more focused team member.

Socializers waste incredible amounts of time communicating in frivolous ways. With the advent of social networking, people I was fascinated by and lost a lot of time on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook profile updates and responses. In an effort to recover my productivity, I established an hour or so at the end of each day to research topics that I wanted to post to Twitter and set up those transmissions using one of the many tools available for timing them. Many of these sites allow you to update multiple social networking profiles at once, and always include the highest quality sites.

I use a very similar tactic with both phones and Skype. Turning off the ringer during times of the day that I need to focus avoids phone interruptions. Similarly, putting Skype on “do not disturb” allows me to see when someone is trying to contact me and choose whether or not an immediate response is required.

Meeting addicts are obsessed with convening to talk about what needs to be done. So much time can be spent talking about such things that forward progress is hindered, however. If you’re invited to attend a meeting, ensure that the organizer has a clear purpose and that an agenda is issued in advance. If the topics on the agenda do not mesh with what is critical to your immediate needs, take care of yourself and decline the meeting.

If you are in a meeting and have something to say, make sure to apply the “So What?” rule before opening your mouth. This may sound like a statement from a belligerent child but it does force you to evaluate, in advance, whether what you have to say is relevant or useful to the group at the meeting.

E-mailers never use the phone to deliver a short update and love to broadcast their news to everyone on their list. It’s easy to ignore superfluous emails but, IM broadcasting software has opened up a new arena for pointless intrusions. Without exception, everyone who uses a Skype broadcast tool to communicate useless BizOp updates has been blocked from my list.

Although it is “polite” to acknowledge communications, not all emails or IMs require a response, especially if it is an uninvited solicitation.

Crisis creators dwell in a state of anxiety and everything is critical to them. The slightest problems can be exaggerated and their alarmist mentality can draw you in, if you are close to them.

Fire-fighting is a part of my business, at times, but keeping a cool head is what my clients seem to appreciate. If I cannot see an immediate way to help them with their problem, I will get offline with them and decide or do what needs to be done.  If I am able to resolve the issue without another conversation, I will provide a real-time or email update apprising them of the cause and the solution.  If not, I get back to them with a strategy, at the very least.

Packrats have never thrown away anything in their lives. This obsession has become a matter of public interest but not all packrats are obsessive. Like clearing your desk on a regular basis, making sure that you are eliminating clutter from your office or household is important. If you are looking over stored items and realize you haven’t opened the box or envelope in years, then you might want to honestly evaluate whether or not you need to hang onto it.  Heirlooms and sentimental keepsakes are excluded from this, of course.

As a funny aside, I once dated a fellow like this. The first time I visited his apartment, the ancient computer equipment and stacks of printouts astounded me. There was but a narrow path between spaces to a chair in the living room, his bedroom, and the kitchen. When he moved to a new place, all of these things wound up in his garage too.:)

Perfectionists are so interested in doing things perfectly that they often neglect to get them done. Impressively long lists and generous offers to contribute are part of their style. I have known people whose lists were so lengthy that their lack of completion caused them distress. I recommended that they write shorter so things could be checked off quicker.

This actually could related to the multi-tasker style and the suggestions that were made there are certainly applicable here. Organizing and prioritizing “to-do” items into chunks that are easily accomplished not only gives a sense of personal satisfaction but also demonstrates to your clients that you are capable of getting things done.

Workaholics can’t seem to think of anything but work and also can’t seem to avoid reminding people about how much they work. As an entrepreneur working from my home, it has sometimes been difficult for me to separate my work and personal life but assuming dual expenses for internet, phones, utilities, and rent is not desirable to me.

I’ve learned to schedule “free time” for family, play, and personal projects figuring that, as human beings, we were given life so we could experience pleasure and fun too. I like to call these things mini-vacations, for all work and no play can make one dull and this is the last thing any of us wants.

This is a fairly complete list of things that could be hindering your entrepreneurial output but I’m sure that those of you reading this post can think of others. Any thoughts that you have and want to leave as comments are welcomed. During holiday seasons, when stress levels are higher, make sure to take care of yourself.  Business success may be critical to your survival but so is your emotional health.

Significance of Personalizing Products Using Web to Print Technology

Online retailers of apparels, handbags, posters, gifts etc have finally understood the importance of letting their customers design their own products. As they have realized that personalization of products can boost customer engagement, they are putting in efforts to facilitate mass customization using web-to-print technology. Retail giants like Amazon have achieved a lot of success due to personalized shopping experience it offers to its customers.

Let us study the importance of personalization using online product design software in detail.

Driving customer engagement

A survey conducted on 1000 shoppers by Bain & Company proved that even if only 10% of customers have chosen to customize their products, nearly 25 to 35% are interested in following the same path. It is difficult to identify the potential of product customization using web-to-print. But if 25% of footwear sales is customized, it would contribute to a market share of $2 billion every year.

Apart from the above figures, it was observed that customers who had customized their products using a print design tool showed more engagement with the company. Their online behavior included visiting the website frequently, staying on the page for a longer time and showing loyalty towards the brand they chose.

Establishing an edge over competitors

In today’s times, as the internet has made it easy for customers to make price and quality comparisons; enabling personalization of products using web-to-print technology helps retailers to establish an edge over their competitors. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if after some years; products with standard features sell less as compared to the customized ones.

Making enhancements

Due to the influence of social media and online presence of brands, the styles and trends of products keep changing. Keeping updated with the trends in personalization helps companies to fine tune their software and make changes with their products whenever there is a scope of doing so. Also, as online retailers get a real-time insight into shopping preferences of the customers, they can come up with a range of their choice in future.

The magic of co-creating

It is always fun to invite friends and family online and co-create products that hold a sentimental value. Superior quality web-to-print software can offer the option of sharing product designs on social media and collaborate with others during the designing process. For eg. A company named North Face displays a gallery of designs which is created by its customers for their product named “Denali Jacket”. This marketing technique, inspired other customers to create and share their own designs.

As several retailers and brands are giving the ‘design-it-yourself’ option by employing product personalization extension, it is helping them to boost their revenues and connect with their customers at a better level. In order to achieve success through web to print technology, retailers need to know their objectives and understand the type/amount of customization they can offer to their customers.

How to Increase Personal Productivity

As a business owner, it’s impossible not to get overwhelmed or stressed out from time-to-time. Business and family obligations can consume a lot of time. Information overload and technology can be equally distracting. The secret to surviving in today’s fast paced world starts with personal organization.

Get and Stay Organized

  • Eliminate clutter. A clean and pleasant workspace can help you think clearer, maintain productivity and reduce stress. Have a place to store information you need to work on later and file cabinets for important documents you need to retain. If you spend a lot of time looking for stuff you need in order to do the task at hand, then it’s time to de-clutter.
  • Treat time like a budget. You only have so much time in any given day. You likely use a calendar to schedule personal and business appointments. But what about the other tasks or projects you need to complete? Allocate or block off time on your calendar to work on these as well. The simple act of prioritizing your day will give you a sense of purpose and direction – a key to getting more done.
  • Keep a master to-do list. Ideas and tasks that need your attention arise throughout the day. If you don’t write them down, they are often forgotten. Capture tasks, big and small, in one place with due dates as appropriate. It’s the best way to insure deadlines are met and important tasks are completed. Use the list to schedule the most important tasks first on your calendar.
  • Plan ahead. Schedule 15 minutes at the end of each day to clean up your desk/office and plan your next day.

While organization is certainly a key to productivity, here are a few additional tips to help you get more done:

  1. Stop multi-tasking. You may think that multi-tasking saves you time, but the opposite is true. It tends to cost you both time and quality. To learn more, check out the article, The Myth of Multi-Tasking by Christine Rosen, TheNewAtlantis.com.
  2. Be realistic. Tasks often take longer than we expect. When blocking off time, be realistic in terms of what you can control and accomplish in a certain amount of time.
  3. Kill perfection. Trying to do every task perfectly wastes precious time. Not all tasks are created equal. Give your A+ level of effort to really important projects. Settle for less than perfect on others.
  4. Add accountability. While most business owners are self-motivated and driven, managing a business and yourself may cause you at times to lose sight of your goals or get off track. An easy way to fix this is having someone to remind you of your plans and tasks.
  5. Enjoy some ME time. No matter how busy you are, take some time each day to do something you enjoy. A small break to read, grab lunch, or take a walk will increase productivity. It allows you to recharge your mind and body – so you can get back to the work you need to do with renewed energy.

Personal organization requires discipline. Changing behaviors to create a habit takes some time. But the sooner you start, the quicker you get there.

Understanding the Rise of Personalized Products in Ecommerce

Only a few years ago we knew about personalized products only in the form of a few prints on coffee mugs or key chains from the local printer or photo studio. The market witnessed the transition in the recent years and it was so swift that one could hardly comprehend the momentum. Now, almost every other traditional printer has shifted to web to ecommerce or is thinking of doing so in the near future. But, why? Why was there such a sudden changeover and how is the demand for personalized products on the constant rise? Let’s try to unravel the reasons behind the shift.

Ease of Access

With printers shifting to the online market and offering personalized products with the help of web to print design software, the products are much easier to access as there is no real effort required to go to the printer, explain them the product, and pick up the product. This reason is common to all industries but somehow print industry is slightly different as the availability had always been limited in offline stores as compared to what they can offer online, due to various factors.

New dimension to online gifting

Product personalization software adds a new dimension to online gifting by adding a personal touch to the product in spite of the buyer ordering it from miles away. Other gifts are detached, and merely some item one picks and orders it to another address. But in personalized gifting, the effort of the giver shows as they design the product themselves often with personal pictures and messages.

Cost Effective

Looking at overall expenses the customer might spend over finding a store, placing an order, and picking it up, online shopping for personalized product is much more cost effective. And then, there are so many options available that they can compare costs and buy something within their budget rather than giving up to the whims of the monopolistic printer of their locality.

Extensive Options

The web to print design software that ecommerce businesses offer provides freedom of designing their own products to the customer. They can take up as much time as they need, without annoying the printer and try editing various pictures and graphics until they get what they desire. The range of products is also extensive as compared to local stores. Moreover, with the help of web to print tool, customers can virtually see how the products will turn out in terms of colors, print area, etc.

Social Media Integration

Another unavoidable factor is the Social Media support these products have got. A good Web to print ecommerce software lets the customers to create their own funky products and like everything else, customers love to share their creations on social media which promotes the products indirectly. Additionally, the most popular social media platforms of the current times like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. provide options to directly sell from their respective pages which drive more customers to the stores.

To conclude, it can be said that the rise of personalized products is not unaccounted for. And as the reasons state, the business doesn’t grow on its own. There are many factors that assist it including your business model, marketing strategy, and most importantly your web to print ecommerce software. In a brief, you need to efficiently provide everything for which the consumer is moving to web to print. Only when you understand this, can you grow with the budding industry!