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// by Peggy Duncan / Jul. 17, 2008 4 comments
productivity-us-postal-service-can-help-you-save-time

I haven't seen a commercial from the US Postal Service in awhile, and I'm finding that a lot of entrepreneurs have forgotten how they can help you be more productive.

  • Order free packaging from their Web site. I keep a supply of Priority Flat Rate envelopes and Flat Rate boxes with postage already applied. And, their regular envelopes with the postage already on them come in handy too.
  • Keep various denominations of stamps on hand. I always have Priority Mail and other denominations of stamps with me when I travel. I keep them in a pouch with each type separated. When I'm in my office, I use my LabelWriter(TM) Twin Turbo by DYMO. I can print my own stamps in any denomination, and also use it to print shipping labels. It's much simpler for me to do this than go to the USPS Web site, complete all the information, pay for the postage, print the label, then affix. When I need to send email shipment notifications to my customers so they can track a shipment, I use the USPS printed stamps. (Update: You can also buy stamps at local businesses such as Office Depot, Staples, Wal-Mart, and more. Just look for the USPS Buy Stamps Here logo.)
  • Have your postal carrier pick up your mail. If you're shipping at least one Priority Mail package, the postal carrier will pick up your shipment for free. I love Federal Express and UPS, but I don't ship enough to justify paying extra for pickup. With the US Postal Service, I schedule the pickup on their Web site, (https://carrierpickup.usps.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/CarrierPickup.woa) and leave the package on my front porch. That's it.
  • Mail it when you can't fax or email. I don't have a fax machine and my combo printer/fax/scanner/copier is broken. So, when I can't email it, I mail it. It's funny how people have forgotten about that option. I also receive faxes in my email using a free service from efax (http://home.efax.com/s/r/efaxprint). I've also gotten very creative about running my business without a printer and will blog about that later.

Wish List There is one thing I wish the US Postal Service would offer. I'd like to be able to get self-adhesive, coded labels that track and bill my account. Then all I'd have to do is affix my shipping label and their computers would track the cost of the postage and bill me later. I have this with Federal Express and love it. The next time you're standing in line at the post office, ask yourself why. Instead, use these steps to help you be more productive and get the most out of your day. Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta View more posts by Peggy

Peggy Duncan
// by Peggy Duncan / Jul. 10, 2008 13 comments
productivity-google-news-alerts-can-help-you-manage-information-overload

Anytime an article hits the Web on email overload, an alert shows up in my Inbox. I signed up for Google Alerts, which are email updates of the latest, relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. As stated on their site, some handy uses of Google Alerts include:

  • Monitoring a developing news story.
  • Keeping current on a competitor or industry.
  • Getting the latest on a celebrity or event. To sign up:
  1. Go to www.google.com/alerts.
  2. In the box to the right, create the type of alert you want.

I wanted to make sure I only received alerts for articles that have the words, email overload, written together. So I put the term in quotation marks, as in "email overload". And since some people write email with a hyphen, I added another alert for "e-mail overload". I also wanted to make sure I receive alerts any time something hits the Web with my name, so I created another alert, and wrote it as "Peggy Duncan". I didn't want articles about another Peggy Duncan, but I don't think my name is that common (if you have a common name, you may want to add a term(s) to your alert that usually accompanies your name, such as "attorney". (You would write your alert as "Your Name" attorney.) Now you'll choose the type of alert you want (I chose "News & Web"), and how often you want to be notified (I chose "as it happens").

I've already been quoted in a follow up article on MiamiHerald.com because I sent comments and tips for an article they had published online that day. My tips showed up the next day! I knew I was on the site because of the alert I'd created for articles with my name. I rarely read the Miami Herald, and never would have known that an article about my topic was on their site. Google News Alerts will streamline how you manage information overload or help you get media mentions that build your credibility. It only takes a minute or two to sign up, and just imagine all the time you'll save looking for specific data going forward. Or your next big break could come from being so media savvy. Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta View more posts by Peggy

Peggy Duncan
// by Peg Corwin / Jul. 3, 2008 5 comments
business-vs-personal-juggling-technique

It's hard to build a business and have a life. You juggle the demands of your company and the needs your family. Your must-do and to-do and to-try lists get longer and longer. How do you make progress on all fronts?

Here's my latest strategy: time boxing. I have been doing this for a while, but I just learned it had a name. Now I "box" time in more areas of my life.

Time boxing is simple. I take a task, for example, writing posts for this women's blog, and say, OK, I will work on this from 9 to 10 today. Then I set a timer, yes, a kitchen timer, for 10 AM. It dings and I stop working. I tell myself I've made enough progress towards that task for today.

People are harder to "box" than projects. They aren't there when you call or they need you longer than planned. But you can create a "time box" to start a business call or take your son to the zoo.

Women are socialized to be "givers" and we have trouble feeling we have done enough. "Time boxing" gives you permission to stop and to feel good about what you have accomplished.

Why not try to "time box" and report back with a post? Peg Corwin, SCORE Chicago More posts by Peg

Peg Corwin
// by Peggy Duncan / Jul. 1, 2008 0 comments
create-an-organized-workspace

If I walked into your workspace right now and see a mess (papers piled high on the desk and stuffed in every corner and drawer you could find), it means two things: you are not purging often enough and getting rid of useless work, and you don't have a good filing system (a home for your paperwork). It is just that simple. Getting organized can seem overwhelming, but if you schedule time to do it, get the right supplies, and take one spot at a time, it could be over quickly.

  • Find out how long you need to keep files (your records retention schedule). Your tax attorney, the IRS, or your secretary of state's office can help.
  • Get plenty of extra large garbage bags, a shredder, and recycle bins.
  • Go through each pile and ask yourself the following questions to determine if you should keep something or not.

When was the last time I referred to this? If you haven't needed it in the past six months, you probably won't.

  • Do I have to keep this for legal reasons or do I love it or value it? The information in your records retention schedule will help you determine the legalities involved. If you can't use it, it has no value.
  • Can I get this information somewhere else? Can you Google it? Does someone else or an institution such as a bank have the information?
  • What would happen if I need it later and don't have it? If you get rid of something and by some miracle need it later, if you can live with the consequences of having thrown it out, let it go.

Keep going with this as long as you can stand it. Reward yourself as you go through each phase but only after you can see some results...don't give up too soon. Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta View more posts by Peggy

Peggy Duncan