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Outsourcing Tasks — Do It Myself Or Give It Away?

Have you ever wondered why, in spite of all the “time-saving” devices we have today — apps, technology tools, and “instant” everything — we are inundated with too much to do coupled with too little time to do it in?

A solution? Outsource jobs, tasks, or responsibilities that need to be done, but not necessarily by you.  Hire extra hands to help with the lifting, freeing you up to attend to other things.

Sometimes outsourcing makes sense while other times it doesn’t. You might be surprised to find that you can outsource more than you realize.

Professional outsourcing options can include: Accounting, IT, PR and advertising, recruiting, web design or even a productivity specialist (ahem, ahem). How many of these areas do you currently outsource professionally?

What about personal outsourcing options? Baby sitter, dry cleaners pickup and delivery, house cleaning, meal preparation, personal trainer, yard work or seasonal plantings? These outsourcers can be a huge help with work/life balance!

Our guess is that you outsource at least one, if not a lot more of the areas mentioned. We’re sure you would agree that we often count on the skills from others to get our job done.

When should you outsource? Here are some considerations:

1) Missing Expertise – You could possibly learn the skill (and maybe you will at some point) but, at the moment, it is not one of your strong suits. For instance, we depend on a website guru.

2) Time – You may be better off focusing on areas that bring in revenue and leave value-added tasks to people who do it for their day job. For example, many people count on a virtual assistant to handle administrative work remotely.

3) Resources – You may be missing the hardware, software or equipment needed to perform the task. Have you seen the size of facilities for off-site physical document storage?

4) Financial Impact – Weigh the outsourcing cost against your hourly rate. If you don’t know your hourly rate, take your salary and divide by 1080 (52 weeks x 40 hours/week) to find out your hourly rate. This is a good thing to know anyway.

5) Prefer Doing It Yourself – Use your time wisely. As long as the task does not take a lot of time and you enjoy it, then it may be a task to handle on your own.

6) Internal Resources – Take advantage of in-house staff, if available. As an example, if you have in-house counsel, outside attorneys are less likely to be needed.

What else can you outsource? What would be the impact of more outsourcing on your ability to achieve goals, manage time, and potentially reduce your work hours? What’s holding you back?

If you have trouble finding good outsourcing options, ask your social media networks for recommendations. If you are a member of professional associations, you’d be surprised what outsourcing resources those can provide. If you or someone you know is a member of Business Networking International (BNI), then you have a huge source of vetted professionals to whom you can outsource.

To do it yourself or to get help is not always an obvious decision. At some point soon, we all face this. Please let us know what you outsource and how it has benefited you.

Managing Your Time Effectively: A Perspective from Franklin Covey

Book Cover

One of the books we refer to often when we speak to businesses is  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We particularly like the Time Management Matrix in the third chapter, Put First Things First, because it is all about the importance of results. Stephen Covey divides all matters into four quadrants. It looks like this:

I. Important  and Urgent: These are the crises and  pressing problems that we encounter every day. Many people “live” in this box because urgent matters always take precedence. They need to be done NOW. While we are all in this box some of the time, we do not want to spend all of our time here.  It can cause stress and burnout. The next time you are asked to do something that is urgent but does not support your goals, think twice before saying yes. Some of your projects need to bring you closer to your goals. That’s the II quadrant.

II. Important and Not Urgent:  This is the most important box to be in because it is planning, recognizing, building relationships — all of the things that will help you accomplish your goals. The trick is that it requires being proactive. You need to take the initiative. If you do, however, the rewards are great: this is where you get results, have a good perspective, control your day and encounter few crises.

III. Not Important and Urgent: The less time in this quadrant, the better. Here is where we find interruptions, phone calls, email, snail mail, meetings, and pressing matters that have little weight. It is crisis management at its best and the day is spent reacting to things that are probably important to someone else.

IV. Not Important and Not Urgent:  It is best to stay out of this quadrant altogether because mostly trivial activities happen here. This is where busy work belongs along with time wasters, a few phone calls and emails and pleasant activities that do not move you along toward your goals. It is not where effective people choose to be.

Want to learn more? Forbes Magazine  talks about the Four Quadrants in its January 30, 2013, issue . The article is called “How Does One Manage Time More Effectively?” Or, it is always worth investing in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Which quadrant(s) do you spend your day in?

 

Use The 10-10-10 Rule To Make Decisions

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Decision-making is one of the hardest things we do both professionally and in our personal life. It’s happened to all of us. We make snap business decisions that we come to regret because we haven’t given ourselves enough time to weigh the odds and think it through. Or, we may vacillate and go back and forth not knowing which option to choose. A good night’s sleep can often work wonders or just discussing the situation with colleagues often clarifies the situation. But not always. Authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath explore taking another perspective in the August __ , 2013, issue of Fast Company. In their article, The 10/10/10 Rule For Tough Decisions, they recall a strategy invented by Suzy Welch, a business writer. She called it the 10/10/10 Rule. Basically, her premise is that we think about a difficult decision from three perspectives:

  • How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now?
  • How about 10 months from now?
  • How about 10 years from now?

This type of decision making removes some of the short-term emotions and helps us focus on what may be important in the future. With less emphasis on the current situation, a decision may become more obvious. Thinking about a decision from a long-term view may change the way you view the current circumstances.  Ask yourself if the outcome will be important 10 minutes from now, 10 months from and 10 years from now. An example of when this rule may be helpful is if there is a disagreement with a colleague. Will confrontation serve a purpose 10 months from now? Or even 10 years from now if you are both at the same firm? If you want to read the entire article, go to the Fast Company link: http://www.fastcompany.com/3007613/10-10-10-rule-tough-decisions. Or check out How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

When are you going to try out the 10/10/10 Rule?

Improve Time-Wasting Habits Now

To DO

How do you spend your time? We all have the same number of hours in the day and yet some of us achieve quite a lot while others less so. Author Harvey Mackay suggests that improving our time-wasting habits is the answer. As productivity specialists, we agree with the article he wrote in the Atlanta Business Chronicle August 30-September 5, 2013. It contained seven smart suggestions:

1) Begin With A Plan Every Day so that you can focus on the right tasks; otherwise you will lose sight of what is important. Remember to make a to-do list for the following day so you can be productive as soon as you enter your work space.

2) Prioritize based on what is most important. Complete important items first.

3) Be Realistic and don’t take on too much at one time. There are times when saying no is necessary so you can complete your work on time. Otherwise, you’ll be adding stress when it can be avoided.

4) Keep Your Workspace Neat. Spend 5-10 minutes daily to put away files and get rid of the clutter. It will make a big difference and will prevent you from searching through documents to find the one you need. Statistics show that workers spend 50 minutes a day searching for documents they know they own.

5) Focus. Interruptions and distractions pull you away from what is important. While 20% of the interruptions are good, try and avoid others such as answering the phone and checking email often.

6) Get Enough Sleep. Everyone functions better when they feel rested. It puts you in control, reduces your stress level and helps you tackle problems better. According to the experts, most people need between 7 and 8 hours.

7) Take A Break. While it is tempting to continue persevering on a project until it is done, short diversions are recommended. Stopping and doing something else for a short time will take your mind off of it. When you return to the project, you will feel renewed. That is why activities such as exercise and taking time to eat lunch are a good idea and help refresh you.

Many of us are aware of these steps but putting them in practice is not always easy. Choose one of them that you currently do not do and give it a try for a week or two. Our guess is that you will like the results.

 

 

 

 

Computer Screens: The Bigger The Better?

Computer Screen

With less paper in the office, many of us find that we do a lot of reading and work on our computers. Do larger screens or several monitors make it any easier? The consensus seems to be “yes”.  Once you try two monitors, there’s no going back, according to Dave Kinsey, president of Total Networks.  Several studies show that, with two monitors, tasks are completed more quickly with fewer errors compared to using one monitor. How nice to have several screens open at one time without having to switch back and forth!

If two monitors are great, why not five or six? Kinsey cites a paperless law office that does just this. The six monitors are open to calendars, email, the company’s practice management program, documents, a screen for another application and the two end screens in landscape which are perfect for spreadsheets. The monitors cover a lot of screen real estate. When you can read  two documents side by side, the need to print out or keep paper is almost completely eliminated.

While I was mulling over the idea of how many monitors would fit on my desk, I came upon an article posted in The Lawyerist suggesting one BIG screen. Todd Hendrickson posits in his article “In a Paperless Office, A Bigger Monitor is Better” that a jumbo monitor (27” or larger) is better than multi-monitors if you spend most of your time reading and writing. The key advantage? You can see several full-page desktop views with minimal scrolling.  All it takes is a few keyboard shortcuts. In essence, it can do the same thing as multi-monitors and still leave room on your desk. For more details, check out http://lawyerist.com/in-a-paperless-office-a-bigger-monitor-is-better/.

How many monitors do you use?

Email = Interruptions

email ampersandWho could have predicted the incredible effect of email on our daily work and personal lives 20+ years ago when it  was introduced? Dictating to secretaries in the ’60’s and ’70’s (Madmen anyone?) and using dictaphones to compose a document someone else then types have virtually disappeared except in medical offices. Probably anyone in their 20’s and 30’s reading this may not have heard of a dictaphone.

Email is the accepted way of life these days and has dramatically changed the way we work. It has invaded our personal and work lives and is with us 24/7. Many of our clients are unhappy with the number of emails that pile up in their inbox daily and a few describe it as the bane of their existence. There are less face-to-face conversations which is too bad because they often spark ideas and promote communication with fellow-workers and clients. Colleagues and clients expect answers from their email immediately. There isn’t any time left over to think.

Author Phyllis Korkki who wrote the June 16,2013, New York Times article Messages Galore, But No Time To think blames our lack of thinking time on email interruptions. She suggests that companies set expectations around email for their employees. People can be more productive if they know if it is acceptable to turn off email to work on a project,  the acceptable period of time before replying to an email, and where email should be saved.

All of these questions are perfectly acceptable to ask a manager. Do you know what your company policy is?

Too Many Choices? It’s Hard To Decide!

Have you ever found yourself “stuck”  because there are so many good options from which to

choose? In today’s world, the possibilities are endless. Interestingly, that’s not always a plus and can often interfere

with decision-making. What to do?

Often, the best way to get things done is by process of elimination so that you are left with limited, desirable

choices. Here are two real-life examples we all face at one time or another …

… you decide to join an association to network, be part of the community and potentially meet prospective clients.

Which group should it be? Perhaps it would make sense to become part of the local Chamber of Commerce. Many of

your colleagues attend their meetings and have found it helpful to be part of the Chamber. Or, maybe

consider a business association a good friend is urging you to join. There are several excellent choices and it is hard to

decide which one would be best.

We recommend using the process of elimination to decide which association to choose. Once you have

narrowed it down to one or two associations, the decision will be easier. Plus, that overwhelmed feeling will go away.

Here is another example of too many choices. You have decided to scan all documents as soon as they arrive in the

office but have no idea which product best meet your needs and gets the job done most efficiently. The market is flooded

with scanner manufacturers with each one vying for your attention. To eliminate a number of scanners, we suggest that

beginning by listing your criteria — how you want the scanner to function and what you want to accomplish. Then you

are ready to review the scanners sold and to compare each one with the criteria you established. This process will

narrow the selection process and move it along by reducing the number of scanners in the running. Isn’t that an easy

way to limit the options? We hope you will give it a try.

 

Want to read more about how this concept works? Check out the 6/21/13 article: Choose What To

Leave Out at www.delanceyplace.com.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals: Have You Tried Them?

imagesCAS89A8ILast week we discussed the importance of goals but did not talk about how to accomplish them.

Often clients ask us how many goals do they need? The answer is as many as you can think of. And write them down.

Prioritize them. Decide which ones to tackle first. After all, not all of them can be worked on at the same time and some

may be more important or more timely than others.

Use the S.M.A.R.T. system to evaluate each goal and to decide if the goal is achievable.

S.M. A.R.T. is an acronym for:

S:   Specific — be as concise as possible. “W” questions as a guide: Who is involved? What do I want to achieve? Where is the location? When does it happen? Which requirements and constraints do I need to follow? Why is this goal important?

M:   Measurable — How much? How many? How will I know when I have reached my goal?

A:    Achievable — Make it attainable. What are some of the ways I can reach my goal?

R.    Realistic — How hard are you willing to work?

T.     Timely — It needs to be time-bound for a goal to be achieved.

Often people set themselves up for failure by setting goals without the specifications in the S.M.A.R.T. system.

Now that you know the steps, consult your planner and choose a date and time to work on your goals.

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. — Eleanor Roosevelt

Why Bother With Goals?

 

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This past week our firm spoke at a program sponsored by the Buckhead Coalition to train Buckhead’s future

leaders. It was an exciting week for this select group of young professionals as they

learned about volunteerism, ethics, leadership and civic engagement over the five days.

Our topic:  why and how to create meaningful and actionable goals. While not everyone has goals, we

suggested to these young professionals that they are worth the bother because they help ensure that you’ll get

where you want to go. Without a roadmap, you can end up anywhere. ( We all know how that feels.) Most

people agree that with goals you are able to achieve so much more.

If you are still wondering why you need goals, here are seven more good reasons:

  • Helps us focus on what is important
  • Keeps us motivated
  • Keeps us on task
  • Provides a time frame for starting and ending projects
  • Forces us to be specific. Forget about day dreams and someday maybe. They won’t take you
  • Helps prioritize tasks in any given day
  • Starts with the end in mind

Most business executives, professionals and community leaders have written goals that they look at and

review on a regular basis. They consider it their ticket to productivity. Many of them have innovative

techniques to keep track of their goals.

  • Posting their goals in their office or in the conference room, if it is department goals
  • Writing them by hand vs. computer
  • Listing them on their screen saver
  • Storing them in their wallet so they show up every time they pull out a bill

When will you write your goals and where do you plan on posting them?

What’s On The Top Of Your Desk?

images[10]We all know that feeling — the times when nothing can stop you from reaching your maximum efficiency. Ideas come to you quickly and projects get done. By organizing your desk, you will know where everything is. It will save you time and energy. In the March 27, 2012 article from Forbes Magazine, author Jenna Goudreau talks about “The Dangers Of A Messy Desk.”

Keep only the essentials on the top of your desk within arm’s reach to help you stay organized and efficiently manage your work day. Other items scattered on your work space can get in the way, literally and figuratively. Papers, business cards, coffee cups and dozens of pens scattered about can easily distract you from the task at hand. And when it is hard to focus, it’s much more difficult to achieve your personal best.

In any discussion of desk surfaces, clients typically inquire about their personal items such as framed photos and other decorative objects. Our recommendation: limit personal items to two or three things that remind you why you come to work in the morning and why you leave in the evening. Rotate these items regularly to keep things fresh and interesting.

Schedule time in your planner to organize your desk. You’ll be glad that you did.