Equipping your office with the right technology naturally helps you increase your productivity, but don't count on it to do the same for your organizational skills. PCs, printers, fax machines and other electronic equipment can create quite a few organizational challenges. But we do have some solutions for you:
Challenge: Lightening the load on your computer.
The advantage of a computer over traditional file cabinets is the amount of information it can store; the disadvantage is . . . the amount of information it can store.
Solution: Get in the habit of purging your hard drive of unwanted documents the same way you would your file cabinets. If you know you'll never refer to a document again, dump it. Otherwise, when you need to find an important document, you'll waste too much time searching through unnecessary files until you finally find what you're looking for.
Challenge: Avoiding data loss.
Solution: Don't wait until your hard drive crashes to think about backing up your data. One of the best investments you can make is in a reliable backup system. Equipment is easy and relatively inexpensive to replace compared to information and time.
Challenge: Managing numerous e-mails.
Solution: Read and respond to your e-mail in groups. Rather than checking your e-mail many times a day-and putting off responding each time-take action immediately and move on to the next message. Postponing e-mail responses is no different from shuffling the papers on your desk-they're both a waste of time.
Challenge: Juggling multiple voice-mail messages.
Solution: Make sure you have a high-quality voice-mail system that's able to handle the volume of calls you receive daily. Also, your system should be equipped with enough options to meet your needs. When recording your outgoing message, make sure your message is audible, identify yourself or your company, and ask the caller to leave the best time to return his or her call. Making the latter effort reduces the amount of time you spend playing phone tag.
Challenge: Resisting the urge to slug along with slow, outdated equipment.
Solution: Buy the fastest computer system you can afford. Think it's a waste of money to buy an updated system? Calculate the amount of time you waste waiting to log on to the Net, print documents or process data-then ask yourself what your time is worth. Also, don't skimp on your printer. Keep in mind that while most of your clients don't see what's in your office, they do see what comes out of your office.
Brother home office expert Lisa Kanarek advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home and writes the blog Working Naked. She is the author of several books, including Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life.