Category: Business

The Paperless Meeting

night-office-shirt-mailWe’ve all read about “The Paperless Office” first coined in 1964 by IBM to sell their video display terminals. Over time this term has become understood as the replacement of paper documents with electronic ones, using scanners and document storage software. We still have a long way to go before we reach this goal, but the tide has definitely turned. There is less paper used in business today than 10 years ago. Why the decline? Perhaps the biggest influence is the increasing ease with which electronic documents can be shared. Just generating a document with a PC doesn’t reduce the amount of paper you use if the only way to share it is to print it!

Sharing Documents

At SmartDraw we began sharing documents many years ago by attaching them to emails. This works but it’s quite difficult to manage the resultant multiple versions of the same document. About 10 years ago we installed a central document storage system (Microsoft’s SharePoint) and we began emailing links to one copy of a document in SharePoint instead of emailing the actual file.

These days we increasingly use cloud-based software to create documents. This makes sharing even easier, since the person with whom we are sharing doesn’t need to own and install the app that created the document.

While this solved our problems sharing documents while working alone at a desk, it didn’t make it easier to present and capture information in our meetings.

The Meeting Problem

In a meeting you typically print copies of minutes, plans, reports and other documents that present the information needed, and distribute a copy to everyone there.  Decisions and new action items are recorded in notes taken at the meeting. Perhaps someone assembles the notes and distributes them to the attendees later.

This is the same process we’ve used for the past 50 years or longer, and it was the process we used until about ten years ago. Now our meetings involve no paper at all: No printed minutes, no reports. No handwritten notes. I began this change by using the paperless method with one regular meeting, and it quickly spread throughout the company, because it worked so well.

Meeting Without Paper

Our product, SmartDraw, is software that people use to create diagrams. In 2007 we added automatic formatting to a number of diagram types, including mind maps. For the first time it became possible to create and edit a mind map as quickly as you can type. So instead of showing up to our weekly management meeting with a printed list of action items from last week, I decided to make a mind map of tasks assigned to each member of the team and display it using the projector we had in the conference room.Operating_Committee_MindMap

In real time, I deleted tasks that were completed and added new ones that we decided on. Everyone could see what they, and the rest of the team, were tasked with and how much progress had been made since last week. Communication was 100%. Capturing information and assigning new tasks happened instantly.

The SmartDraw file we used was stored in SharePoint and everyone had access to it, so they each had a copy of the action plan for the week. Next week we would open this file and update it at meeting.

Today we follow the same process but we use SmartDraw Cloud to create mind maps and share them. It’s just more convenient and we can more easily access the file from anywhere, even our phones.

Why a Mind Map?

So why not just project a Word document showing tasks in outline format? Like this:

Text Outline_Operating_Committee

We could have done this, but text outline is much more difficult to work with and view. Trying to drag items around from one person to another is tricky. A mind map is a more visual representation of an outline that is easier to edit and view than a text-based version.

We also display other document types in meetings: Excel tables and graphs, other SmartDraw diagrams like flowcharts and Gantt charts, but rarely Word documents.

What you need to make the paperless meeting work

  1. A high quality display in every conference room

You need either a large high resolution TV monitor or a good projector in your conference room so everyone can see the detail on the screen. You need a display resolution of at least 1600 x 1200.

  1. A permanent computer in every conference room.

Each conference room should have a good quality PC permanently installed and hooked up to the display. You don’t want to futz with someone’s laptop at the beginning of the meeting. Just log in and get started. It should also have a fast connection to the Internet.

  1. A wireless keyboard and mouse

Attach a wireless keyboard and mouse to the computer in the room. Have a set of each in each room. Change the batteries every month. Don’t wait until they are dead.

  1. Central storage for documents

Any document shown at the meeting should be accessible and shareable from the conference room PC. Store these documents in the cloud or in a behind-the-firewall common location like SharePoint.

  1. Mind Map software than can edit in real time

There are now other programs beside SmartDraw that can do this. Use the one that best fits your needs.

  1. A designated driver

We have found that this format works best when one of the meeting attendees operates the keyboard and edits the mind map. Sometimes this is the same person for the whole meeting and sometimes it works best to pass control among the participants if they will have the floor for a while. If someone else wants to say, add an item, they ask the driver to do it. “Let’s add an item for the PR campaign…” for example.

Paperless Mtg Floor Plan

The physical requirements, 1-3 are key. When we want to use this format for a meeting at a customer’s facility we are often amazed that many conference rooms don’t have an adequate computer setup.

The Benefits of a Paperless Meeting

While paperless meetings save paper and trees, the greatest benefit is in communication. Every participant can see exactly what is expected of the whole team, what has been accomplished and what decisions have been made in real time, and has a permanent record to review later. It’s made a significant contribution to the agility and success of our company and can do the same for yours.

5 Reasons Why You Should Determine Your Business’ Customer Satisfaction Rate

According to Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, “ . . . the customer you’ve got is a lot less expensive to sell to than the one you don’t have yet.”  It’s a no brainer – satisfied customers lead to loyal customers which means more business. Boom. End of article. But businesses and the people that run them are all inherently different. Therefore, customer satisfaction is important to each business differently.


Have you determined the customer satisfaction rate for your business and how it has impacted it? If not, here are reasons why you should.

REASON #1 Customer satisfaction maximizes your marketing budget, by optimizing it

All businesses spend tons of money marketing their products and services to win new customers every day. From small “Mom and Pop” restaurants to large technology corporations. But if your customer satisfaction level is low, those customers may not return. However, as mentioned in the opening of this article the more satisfied your customers are with your products and services the more likely they will return again and refer others as well. When that happens, your marketing dollar is now stretched and optimized producing incremental business. Determining how satisfied your customers are may potentially lead to more business without actually spending more on marketing but rather making a concerted effort to keep the customers you have already originated because of it.

REASON #2 Customer satisfaction is your point of differentiation

Free market enterprise exists to produce competition in a variety of ways. So in essence, there are always options for customers to select which business they purchase from for their needs. Customer satisfaction, like anything else, quite often is the reason people select one business over another.

Take Apple for example. Apple, especially under the direction of Steve Jobs and his successor Tim Cook, has always aimed to create high-quality products and experiences with them. And as such they have a large fan base of product champions that continually grows each year. For years, Apple placed a premium on meeting and exceeding expectations of their customers that has led them to surpass technology giants like Microsoft and become the largest technology company in the world.

REASON #3 Customer satisfaction shores up operational issues and inefficiencies

Let me ask you a question – if you discovered that your customer satisfaction rate with your business was lower than expected, what would you do? Wouldn’t you look at doing business differently?

Change can often be a frightening word to people and especially those in business. But in this case, change can be a tremendous benefit. Your discovery leads to an opportunity to change operationally the things that are inefficient. New processes. New projects. And a tremendous chance to improve the overall quality of your products, services, and the rate of satisfaction your customers have for them.

REASON #4 Customer satisfaction spurs new ideas

Similar to the above bullet, knowing your customer satisfaction rate and its impact can lead to ideas that are with the customer in mind first and foremost. Apple is tremendous at this. They are quite keyed into making their products appealing, hip, fun, user friendly and simple. Customer satisfaction is at the core of what they do, and they’re notorious for not inventing new gadgets but reinventing ones already adopted and making them exponentially better. MP3 players existed before the iPod, but the iPod transformed the digital music industry. The iPhone? Same story. Apple makes the most popular personal technology products because their products are so engaging, and so customer-centric that their fans have no reason to buy such items from the competition.

REASON #5 Customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction are interwoven

When you work for a company that puts people at the center of its purpose, inevitably satisfaction levels remain high. Customers ultimately buy the feelings the products and services provide them. And employees perform with passion when they feel validated, challenged and involved. It’s a natural yin and yang.

Employees treated fairly and with a stakeholder mindset build better products and services. The customers that buy those products ultimately feel happy and satisfied about their decision to buy. And those same customers are more likely to do it again and share their experience with others. The positive mojo transfers from employees to customers and back again.

The Importance of Creating and Maintaining Your Company Culture

Purchased Image

The company culture. What is it? And why should I, as the company leader, care?

There are a number of variations of what a company culture is to an organization. Wikipedia, the foremost internet expert upon, well…. everything, defines the company culture as, “…the values and behaviors that uniquely amalgamate with the social and psychological persona of the company.” Certainly a generic and bland way to think about it. But that leads to some questions like: 1) do only established organizations have a culture? And 2) are the employees then the originators and stakeholders of the company culture?

The quick and dirty answer to both is “no.”

Company culture begins and ends with you

As the leader of your organization, the company culture begins and ends with you. Certainly employees, partners, vendors, and customers may help to refine it but it is the leader that sets the tone. Even a company of one or two employees develops a culture. It starts with the leader and how the leader functions and communicates the long term vision, values, and beliefs. Quite early on your employees’ behaviors are the result of your direct leadership and growth of the company. Assumptions are made. Processes and systems developed. Routines and habits are formed. And the very nature of your organization’s ecosystem is created.

But whether you are leading a small and emerging company, or assuming the reigns of a fully developed and mature organization, the culture blueprint is set forth by you. What you do, say, and believe as the leader about the operational aspects of your company plants the seeds. How you follow through, relate, and communicate, as well as your attitudes on display will begin to nurture what you have planted. Ultimately, what you harvest is in the results.

Needless to say it behooves you, as the company leader, to pay close attention to how and what you are doing in defining the company culture and how it is maintained. Even if you are assuming a new leadership role with an organization with a historically positive company culture, you as the leader can inadvertently change it without realizing it.

SmartDraw Tip: In the Template Screen’s Left Panel, navigate to the Marketing Charts category.  In the Marketing Chart Templates sub-category, select Marketing Mix-1. To insert an image into a shape, select a shape. In the Insert ribbon, select Picture.  Locate the appropriate image. Click Open.  
Click here to learn about more ways to use the Marketing Mix template.

Forging a new or refined company culture

With the many items leaders tackle, one of them should be to make time to think and diligently plan ways to positively impact the company culture from the outset. Take time to listen to employees and their ideas and thoughts. Provide customers and vendors opportunities to add input. Closely examine what outside influencers write about your organization. Regularly review the current company mission and values. Then….

Adjust as necessary. Focus on how to change the attitudes and beliefs strongly held by your team. Those adjustments will permeate across other teams and filter down to customers and vendors. For example, if your team struggles with its behaviors and performance with serving and supporting customers, learn to seek how those systems can be improved. Develop new systems. Charge and challenge your team with new roles and responsibilities. Model the behaviors and actions routinely. Align the attitudes and behaviors with desired results.

And in the end, the attitudes and behaviors of your team will change along with the improvement of a long standing corporate issue. Thus forging a new or refined company culture.

Three Character Traits of Successful Leaders

Pixabay you’re looking for a leader within your team, look no further than these three character traits:

  1. Goes Above and Beyond
  2. Has a Great Attitude
  3. Plays Well with Others

Goes Above and Beyond

A successful leader goes above and beyond the call of duty to benefit his or her company. Why? Because they have an instinctive urge to do more than simply fulfill the basic requirements of a job. Regardless of the industry or organization, their passion is to evolve and improve themselves and their surrounding circumstances (reference:

Going above and beyond doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. It could be as simple as picking up a piece of trash that is on company property, or as significant as proposing an improvement to the sales process that will increase revenue by tenfold. Leaders will do these things without being asked, and without expecting a reward.

As a manager of a team of employees, remember to keep your eye out for the “above and beyond” moments. A few examples of these are:

  • Proposing improvements for the company’s benefit, without being asked.
  • Proposing bonding activities to strengthen their team.
  • Helping others by mentoring or training them to become better at their jobs.

If you’re actively watching out for these things, you’ll find your leaders emerging naturally, and quickly.

Has a Great Attitude

Attitude is a choice. In a workplace, there are those who choose positivity and optimism, and there are those who choose the opposite- negativity and pessimism. Leaders arise out of the first group.  According to PayScale:

When an employee has an overall negative view of work, very often his or her attitude manifests as poor performance, [leading to doing] the bare minimum to fly under the radar of management.”

The same concept is true for an employee with a positive view of work- they manifest higher productivity, which leads to more responsibilities, and eventually results in raises and promotions. Even when a positive person experiences a negative situation, they are more likely to perceive it as a challenge and work harder (Reference: Martin Seligman).

When searching for leaders from your team, look for the optimistic workers who not only perceive work as positive, but also rise to a seemingly negative occasion with the desire to succeed.

Leaders_Attitudes_of_the_WorkplacePlays Well with Others

The point of any team is to work together toward a common goal. Sports teams want to beat their opponent, couples want to have a healthy and thriving relationship, and businesses want to gain valued clients and increase revenue. While some team members have a hard time communicating, collaborating, and ultimately, getting along, leaders do not. Leaders have a natural ability to “play well with others” while remaining focused on the task at hand, whatever it may be.

Observing your team in their natural work environment is a great way to determine who plays well with others. If this isn’t viable for your situation, as your presence might influence their true behavior, consider trying one of the following:

  • Sending around a quiz similar to this one, which measures the ability to get along with others. Although the opportunity for false answers may be present in this case as well, you can get a good idea of where your team stands.
  • Another method is to ask your team to plan something outside of work, say, a happy hour or something that could be perceived as fun, and non-work related. Request that they have a team meeting that you are part of, then watch quietly as they interact. This situation carries the potential for the natural leader to show his or her skills of respect, communication, and collaboration, while still focusing on the goal.
  • Quite possibly the best way to filter out a leader that plays well with others is to create a situation that is seemingly stressful or limiting. In marketing, for example, when forced to think of a call-to-action that is 35 characters long, the writer’s creativity must become heightened, because of this limitation. In the same way, when faced with a stressful situation, your team leaders will be pressured to get along with others in the face of adversity.

Of course, all of this takes time. If you are working with brand new employees, or new team members, keep in mind that they may still be trying to make a good impression, so their actions may not reflect their true characteristics. Over time, you’ll come to find your leaders through the above and beyond moments, the great attitudes, and the ones who play well together. Happy hunting!

Customer Service: Communicate More Effectively With Your International Customers

Purchased ImageAbout the Author  Chris Dowling has worked in a direct, customer facing environment for over 13 years now, with four of those years with SmartDraw Software. A zealous customer service advocate who understands how a happy customer base can grow any business, and have won numerous awards for the level of service I provide to the customer. When not at work, I enjoy my time in San Diego at the beach, the local watering hole as well as on my PlayStation 4.

The Useful Clichés

We have all heard about, and more than likely experienced, the horror that is poor customer service; from inattentive customer service representatives who force you to repeat yourself, to representatives who are just plain rude or obnoxious. I have worked in a customer facing environment for years, and have seen poor service in all forms, and the dwindling customer base that comes as a result.  What follows is knowledge I have acquired over the years on how to offer the service your customers deserve. I’ll try to spare you some of the information that can be had via a quick Google search, as most of us know that being polite, attentive, courteous and respectful are all a must.

The Useful Information

However, knowing who you are talking to is also huge plus. What may be polite and courteous to one customer, may be offensive or off-putting to another customer. Knowing something about your typical customer base can reap huge benefits when it comes to making happy customers.

For example, if you work in a concierge environment for a golf resort, knowing a thing or two about the game of golf and current golf events, can go a long way when building rapport with your customers. Likewise, if you work for an enterprise level software company, knowing the industry jargon and how software interacts with hardware will convey competence to the customers.  It will also make them more comfortable throughout the interaction.

This is especially important if you commonly find yourself engaging with international customers.  What is considered appropriate customer service can differ greatly around the world. Understanding what is considered appropriate for each culture you are communicating with shows that your company cares about its target market and is working to build a superb customer facing organization.

How Can SmartDraw Help?

Using SmartDraw’s maps can be a great way to keep track of your customer locations as well as important info for each customer. For multi-national companies, this can go a long way to help your customer service representatives better understand the people they communicate with every day, and how to best approach each unique customer interaction. SmartDraw’s maps can also be used for customer account management, for accounts both small and large. You open a map of the world in SmartDraw, or particular regions of the world, and add notes such as various locations showing customer contact information and their role in their organization.  In addition, it would be beneficial to document anything that might be useful in building rapport, such as customer’s birthday or employment anniversary.



SmartDraw Tip: In the Left Panel, select Maps.  In the Template Preview, select Europe.  Navigate to the appropriate country then right-click.  In the menu, select Add Note.  A new window will open and you can then begin typing in any needed information for the customer. When done, you will then see a yellow note. Anytime you hover over the yellow note, the relevant customer information will appear in a separate window.

Furthermore, SmartDraw’s Mind Maps are also a great way to track relevant information by customer location. As seen below, the mind map is a great way to categorize information by topic. Here we can connect important pieces of each culture to the location the customer is in, giving your representatives the information to properly conduct business throughout the world.


If Office Space Is Too Expensive, Consider Co-Working Instead referred to co-working spaces, or shared offices are becoming widely popular for small startup business and or independent contractors all over the US. There are a huge number of benefits to moving to a co-working space.

Low Overhead

Co-Working spaces are substantially cheaper than a typical office space without the ball and chain of signing a lease. You could pay hourly for a conference room, or you could decide to get a monthly subscription to a facility. Usually the monthly subscriptions are tiered and all the facilities are different but an example would be:

Sample Pricing for Co-Working

Example_Pricing_TableCollaborative Work Environment

Co-working spaces are just that, they’re co-inhabited by maybe your own colleagues along with strangers with no relation to your current job/project etc. Depending on your work style this could count as a huge Pro or a huge Con. If you are looking to be inspired, or to bounce some of your ideas off a fresh mind, being in a shared environment. If you require complete silence and privacy you will be looking to rent out a more independent office situation.


You had me at snacks…most of these places are going to provide you with not only coffee but snacks! As if that is not enough, depending on the facility you can find one or more of the following amenities:


Most of added benefits are usually bundled into cost for the rental or membership.

If you are trying to decide if moving to a shared office will work for you and or your company, there are a few things to consider.

  • Population size of your business
  • Do you work fixed or flexible hours?
  • Current faculty situation (are you currently in a long/short term lease?)
  • Potential atmosphere of the shared office
  • Location, cost, etc.
  • Long term goals
  • Will your employees be open to the move
  • What comes bundled with the rent? Internet? Printers? Breakroom?

Is Co-Working Right for You and Your Company? 

You can use this flowchart to help guide you through the decision making process:


If you decide that a Co-Working environment is right for you, it’s time to start searching. If you are not familiar with it, the terminology can be a bit confusing at first. Here are some common phrases you may run into while researching:

  • Hot Desk(ing) – a work space sharing model in which the employees outnumber
  • Dedicated Desk-a workstation that is only yours, you can leave your belongings there and usually have the ability store things in a secured environment.
  • Shared (Desk or Workstation) – workspace environment meant more for a single person or a very small group of 2-3 people. This means you will be in close quarters with random people.
  • Hub– workspaces designed for small businesses that are just getting started.

3 Secrets of Successful Content Marketers

Purchased ImageOnce only a tactic for startups with cash to burn and the largest of enterprises, content marketing has percolated down to all sizes and kinds of businesses. With PPC costs rising and Google’s growth slowing, content marketing has become the hottest form of marketing.  But, it’s also arguably the most difficult kind of marketing to get right. It’s all too easy to waste many marketing dollars on campaigns that go nowhere.

The 3 Secrets of Successful Content Marketers

  1. Know your Audience
  2. Absorb the Trends
  3. Think like a Child

1. Know Your Audience

In order to provide relevant content for your marketing strategy you first need to fully understand your current and prospective customers. Through research, surveys, and in-person interviews, you’ll need to formulate a multidimensional view of your customer. This customer representation is your buyer persona.

Buyer Persona

If you dig into the description of the buyer persona, you’ll find multiple definitions.

Ardath Albee, a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of Marketing Interactions describes the buyer persona as:

A composite sketch of a segment of your target market [that is] focused on role, needs, priorities, and objectives [of your buyer].

HubSpot, the inbound marketing software platform, defines the buyer persona as:

. . . fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.

Taking these two ideas into consideration, you’ll see that the buyer persona is not simply a one-dimensional view of your prospective customer, but rather, it is combining all of the things that make your buyer tick.

Now for the hard part- putting it all together. In order to be certain that you aren’t just guessing about who your buyers are, there are three things that you will want to do, as per Ardath Albee.

  1. Internal Interviews: Salespeople, marketers, product development.
  2. External Interviews: Customers and prospects who didn’t purchase from you.
  3. Research: Analyst reports, industry-specific reports, LinkedIn profiles and Groups, social channels, industry portals, job descriptions,, and more.

For a more detailed description of putting your buyer persona together, check out this piece by Hubspot.  The end result will look something like this:

Buyer Persona

Now that your buyer persona is complete, your content creation should be much more focused and relevant to your prospective customer. You’ll find that other things such as product development and writing web copy will also become easier because you know your audience like the back of your hand.

2. Absorb the Trends

Next on the list of things to do to as a successful content creator is to absorb the trends. Read, watch, listen and observe the happenings of your industry and overall trends that your audience would want to know about. One of the greatest things about content marketing is being able to produce pieces that are actually beneficial for your reader, so this is something to have some fun with.

Most likely, you’ll find a few industry-specific sources from which you can curate or create content. For some of the more neutral sources, may we recommend the following: MSNFoxYahoo, and CNN.  Having a good grasp on industry and worldwide trends will undoubtedly help in the creation of your content to be relevant and valuable, leading to a successful content marketing campaign. 

3. Think Like a Child

Reverting back to childish ways when it comes to content marketing is completely acceptable. Thinking like a child means two things: using your imagination and thinking simply.

Using Your Imagination

How do we tap into our imagination on a regular basis? Larry Kim, Founder and CTO at Wordstream tells us to do a few things, including to role play, get moving, and doodle- all things that we can learn from kids.

  • Role Play: put yourself in the place of your audience and pretend to understand their pain points, needs, and attitudes. Refer back to your buyer persona to help you with role play.
  • Get Moving: like kids who go outside and play, get up, out of your seat, and get the blood flowing back to the brain where great ideas are created.
  • Doodle: fire up your neurons with distracted scribbling. Sunni Brown, author of The Doodling Revolution, says that doodling can produce creative insight.

Thinking Simply

Kids don’t have overly-complicated thoughts. Why? Because they don’t know enough about the world yet- they are still learning. Adults pick things up quickly because we already know a lot about the world, and have experienced the things that children still haven’t. If we want to really experience a breakthrough in our content production, we must try to think in simple terms, like a child.

The podcast by Freakonomics, called “Think Like a Child,” sheds light on how kids think, from the views of the authors, a Magician, and a Professor of Psychology and Philosophy. Amongst many other observations about kids, two of them stuck out to me in terms of simple thinking: asking obvious questions and thinking small.  

Asking Obvious Questions

Children ask questions that seem obvious. This is because they are learning and they quite simply do not know the answer. Adults do know the answer, and can provide a response to a child. To have a successful content marketing campaign, we must ask the obvious questions when strategizing. Put yourself in the shoes of a PR firm: what would they ask you about your company and your strategy, if they were to meet you the very first time?

  • What does your company do?
  • Who is your product or service for?
  • Who actually buys your product or service?
  • Do people already know about you?
  • How, and what do they know?

 Go back to the basics and get answers to the seemingly obvious questions. This will refocus your ideas and bring you to the truth of what your strategy should look like moving forward.

Thinking Small

Kids don’t have the capacity to think large, because frankly, they only know what they have already learned which isn’t much in terms of a lifetime. This ability to think small is counterintuitive to what we have been taught, so this is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around. In this podcast, the authors talk about thinking small like this:

There’s a temptation to try to be something special and to take on a big problem. But it’s actually getting into the realm of thinking about a tiny little question that maybe once you learn the answer would actually tell you about a lot of other things you might be interested in.”

Don’t try to take your content marketing strategy on all at once- start small and learn from what you just did. Take the entire experience into consideration when starting to think larger.  When you start thinking imaginatively and simply like a child, not only will you feel more creative and less stressed, but you will reap the benefits of a successful content marketing campaign.

Bringing It All Together    

Stop wasting money on marketing tactics that don’t work or are actively being ignored. Create relevant, valuable content for your company by knowing your audience, absorbing the trends, and thinking like a child.

Using Your PM Skills to Get the Work-Life Balance That You Desire the advance of technology we are all expected to take on a lot more in both our professional life and personal life.  Schedules, deadlines, emails, text messages, social media . . . all of this can become overwhelming.  So how do you find a good balance between work and play?  The key is to manage the time we are given each and every day.  Knowing how to best utilize your time requires an understanding of prioritizing tasks, scheduling, setting deadlines, and maintaining clear lines of communication with all individuals involved.  For an experience project manager or an individual who has led projects, such skills are necessary to complete the job.  So why can’t we apply those same skills that have been developed throughout our entire careers to our personal lives?  According to Benjamin Franklin,

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” 

In this week’s post, we’ll begin by taking a look at the basics steps of managing a project.  Then we’ll explore using those skills to manage time outside of the office from vacations to day-to-day tasks.

Identify Your Resources

In order to organize your time wisely, it’s best to take inventory of your resources.  There are many different ways this can be done, all of which are readily available both at work and home.  Here are a few of my go-to’s:

  • Mind Maps
  • Project Charts
  • Mobile Device
  • Calendars and Alerts
  • Web Conference Tools
  • Desktop and Online Applications

Brainstorm Ideas

When tasked with managing a project, I start with a mind map. This allows me to brainstorm ideas and tasks that need to be done for that specific project, it also allows me to easily re-organize my tasks so that they are put in a logical, sequential order.

Blog Post_Mind_Map

SmartDraw Tip:  We’re often tasked with re-occurring projects throughout the year.  Fortunately, with SmartDraw I’m able to save the project tasks as a template in my personal library.  I can simply select the “main” or 1st shape and drag it into my library. This will save the outline so that the next time this project arises I can simply click and drag it from the library into the work area and make modifications as needed.

Devise a Plan

With SmartDraw, I’m able to convert my mind map into a project chart simply in just one-click.  The items that I’ve brainstormed now appear in the Task column.  This Project Chart view allows me to input further details of the project such as deadlines, responsibility, and dependencies.  In addition, I’m able to do some workload balancing to ensure my project team isn’t overwhelmed but that we meet the goals and objectives in a timely manner.

Blog Post_Project Chart

Collaborate & Delegate 

Maintaining communication among a project team ensure the success of the project.  Now that the details of the projects have been clearly outlines, the information can be reformatted into a list of tasks available in the Assignment view. This view within SmartDraw will allow all of the members of the project team to see all of their assigned tasks along with their respective deadlines.  To send an email from SmartDraw, simply click on the envelope icon in the top left hand corner.  Outlook will automatically generate a new email message with an image of your visual in the body of the email.  To sharpen your communication skills, read 5 Email Tips That Will Transform How You Communicate.

email tasks

Transfer Your Project Management Skills

Planning on purchasing your first home? Trying to find the time to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming of? Going back to school to obtain a higher degree?  The truth is you can have it all.  Simply the apply the skills that you’ve developed as a project manager.  You can easily organize your out of work life in the same manner.  Let’s take a look at planning that dream vacation that you deserve.

4 Easy Steps to Planning Your Dream Vacation

  1. Identify Your Resources (i.e. internet, guide books, travel apps, friends and family)
  2. Brainstorm Ideas (i.e. mind map possible dates, locations, places to go, and things to do)
  3. Devise a Plan (i.e. create a travel itinerary, budget)
  4. Collaborate & Delegate (i.e. travel agent booking, fellow travelers, co-workers to cover your work)

Sample Vacation Mind Map

vacation mind map

SmartDraw Tip: The mind map template doesn’t always have to be converted into a project chart either. It serves as a great organizing tool as a standalone as well.

To learn more on how to vacation plan, read 6 Tips to Planning a Stress-Free Vacation and 10 Time & Money Saving Travel Tips for Your Next Vacation.  You’ll discover how easy it is to use the skills you’ve developed in your career to make your personal life that much easier.

Use Your Mobile Device to PM Your Day

Mobile devices have become a part of daily lives from checking the weather to keeping in touch with colleagues and friends.   Not only does it allow us to stay connected, it allows us to manage our time more effectively and efficiently.

  • Schedule routine “life maintenance” appointments well in advance.   Such appointment include: dental cleanings, doctor’s exams, eye exams, and hair appointments.
  • Create a list of routine “house maintenance” items.  For example: Grocery item for each market, cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene.
  • When setting appointments, ensure that you’ve allotted the necessary travel time.  Travel time should also accommodate for rush hour, parking, and walking time for your car to the appointment.  Note: If you include the address in the appointment, many smartphones will automatically alert you of the traffic at the time of the appointment.
  • Set alerts early and often.  Alarms are no longer exclusively used to wake us up in the morning.  Alerts can help us maintain a healthy life style as displayed in the photo below taken from a previous post, Diabetes Control: Lower Your A1C in 90 Days.  Alerts can be set on our phones to remind us when to wake up, when to leave work in time for pilates, to when to take our daily vitamins and medications.

Phone Alarms2