Ten tips for managing workplace projects

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Image from Flickr creative commons via innovate360

Making the best use of your working day can be a genuinely stressful business at times. It’s important to remember that more and more of us are working increasingly long and hard hours, partly because we have more work on our plates. One of the most intriguing and often overlooked trends of the last couple of decades is the increasing move towards self-management in the workplace. Bureaucratic elements of work, rather than being abolished entirely, have been delegated to ordinary workers as the layers of middle management have eroded. This means that it’s important to know how to make the best use of your time when carrying out project management jobs, as there are likely to be times when you have several tasks to juggle at once. Here are a few tips you might want to bear in mind.

1)      As an article from eHow.com points out, scheduling is crucial when trying to manage a prospect. It helps everyone in the team to know what they have to do and when each task has to be completed by. Without a clear, in-depth schedule the whole job could soon start to fall apart.

2)      How you plan your project will depend on whether or not it has a definite end date. Some clients will have a specific deadline in mind, and you’ll then need to ensure that you and your team meet it. There may be a degree of leeway, but it might be worth setting your own, earlier deadline to ensure that everything is done when it needs to be.

3)      It’s also a good idea to calculate how long the project is likely to take you to complete before you commit yourself to anything. Look back to see whether you’ve completed any comparable project, as this should give you an idea of how long your latest endeavour is likely to take. However, you may be able to identify some areas in which you can make improvements.

4)      Consider whether certain tasks are dependent on one another. If there are any that fall into this category, then perhaps you could consider ways to integrate them more effectively. This should help you to speed up the delivery of the project as a whole.

5)      You should avoid the temptation to micromanage each member of the team and how they spend their time. This is only likely to damage morale and alienate members of your team. Encourage them to use their initiative, where practicable.

6)      According to the Houston Chronicle, it’s a good idea drawing up a to-do list before you start work. Consider shuffling around different tasks according to how long you expect them to take.

7)      Make sure that this to-do list is circulated to all of those who need to see it. Other project and line managers should have a copy so that they know what’s expected of them.

8)      Consider sub-dividing workers into different teams so that they can specialise on individual areas of the project. This sub-division of labour should help to make things that bit more efficient, with everyone’s skills being used to maximum effect.

9)      Think about each individual employee’s capabilities and skills when allocating workloads. It makes sense to allow the most able to do most of the legwork, although you should avoid overburdening them.

10)  Ensure that you liaise with other members of your team regularly. Don’t just set them tasks and leave them to it. You need to make sure that everything is on track, or else you may fail to meet deadlines.

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How To Draw Passers-By Into Your Store

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Image via Flickr creative commons from rocksee

If you’re the proud owner of a small business or plans are underway for your start-up company, one thing for sure is that you’ll want to ensure you are attracting as many customers as possible. If your business is located in your local town centre and you want to drum up more sales, you have to know how to get the customers interested. So I’ve compiled some top tips to help you draw passers-by into your store.

Make an attractive window display

If your shop is located in an area with great foot traffic, create a great window display that tells a story. Remember that your window display has to be an invitation to the passer-by, so make sure it encourages impulse sales and peaks a customer’s curiosity. It could even tug at their heartstrings, depending on what industry you work in. Getting people emotionally involved will go a long way to encouraging the tinkle of your door bell to ring.

Put the best to the front

Have you ever noticed that restaurant owners are crafty in where they choose to place you? If they haven’t had much business they’ll ensure that they seat everyone near the window (so you can get a better view). What this does is make it look popular which will convince a passer-by to stop there to eat. It’s the same with a store; wheel out your most impressive products and display them in front of your shop. Shiny and attractive goods will grab people’s attention and turn them into customers.

Host a grand opening

This is the perfect way for start-up businesses to catch people’s attention right from the beginning. Provide food, offer prizes and serve up a whole host of entertainment to make the big day memorable. You could collect names and addresses of customers or ask for their business cards to build up a base of contacts.

Offer workshops

You can boost foot traffic into your store without even directly selling products to your customers. Host some workshops to get the local community involved with what you do. If you’re the owner of a bakery, you may wish to hold a cake decorating workshop – charge entry or booking fees and encourage people to post photos of their efforts on social media networks to spread publicity for your shop.

Hold a fundraising event

Supporting a local charity by holding a fundraising event will get the whole local community involved as well as drum up potential new customers for your business. You could hold bake sales, bring and share lunches, or even a walkathon. Arrange for a formal presentation of your donation and make sure you inform the local newspaper to drum up PR.

Good advertising

Last but perhaps most importantly of all, make sure your business is advertised in all the right places. You could advertise in newspapers, magazines, with a website, with coupons, or even by displaying signs in front of your shop. UKPoS pavement signs can be used to promote a sale or special offer that you have on in-store, as well as to advertise what products you sell. Once you’ve caught shoppers’ attention, you can wow them with great customer service to ensure that they keep on returning.

Ten Great Subjects For Home Learning

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Image from Flickr creative commons via moriza

Ever thought about learning new skills or changing career? One of the best ways to find out more about a subject is through a home learning course. Here are a few ideas of some of the best subjects you can immerse yourself in.

Aromatherapy

Complementary medicine has become hugely popular in recent years and aromatherapy is one branch that has attracted a large following. Discover everything from the physiological and psychological effects of aromatherapy massage to consultation techniques.

Manual bookkeeping course

If you run your own small business then one of the most important things you’ll need to master is how to keep track of your finances. With a manual book keeping course you could learn a range of skills that will no doubt prove to be invaluable.

Fiction writing

They say everyone has a book in them. Completing a course in fiction writing could help to provide you with the necessary skills to enable you to get that idea for a children’s book onto paper, or let your imagination run riot with a romantic novel.

Freelance journalism

Keen to become a professional hack and get your name on the front page? A home learning course in freelance journalism could be a great way to find out what the job entails and whether you’ve got what it takes to find a scoop when the editor is breathing down your neck!

Sports Massage

If you’ve ever wondered how the body’s muscles work and are keen to learn the various techniques used to treat athletes before and after events, then a home study sports massage course could be perfect. No previous knowledge is required and you can have a whole year to complete the course.

History A level

If you’ve a taste for the past and perhaps looking to take your studies on to a higher level at university, then a standard or fast track A-Level history course could be the perfect solution. You could learn about The Impact of Chairman Mao and the history of Britain between 1918 and 1964.

Forensic Science

Television programmes such as CSI have helped to bring the work of criminal investigators and forensic scientists into the homes of people around the world. A varied and constantly changing branch of science, the study of forensics and its everyday application in the world of criminal investigation is challenging and hugely rewarding.

Child care

There’s probably an awful lot more to childcare than you think and one of the best ways to find out more about how challenging and rewarding a career in childcare can be is to take a home study course. No matter whether you’re interested in becoming a nursery nurse or a child psychologist, there’s a course out there for you.

IT course

There are few roles these days where computers don’t play any kind of role. A distance learning course is perfect for discovering more about how computers work and how they can be used to push your business or your career forward.

Law

If you’ve ever dreamed of standing up in court and addressing a jury then a law diploma is a great way to get a foundation in the subject. Discover the intricacies of the court structure, find out about contract law, consumer law and criminal law, and what goes into preparing a case for court.

How To Ensure That You Aren’t Paying Over The Odds For Your Mobile Phone Contract

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Image from Flickr creative commons via Ollie Craaford

As many as three-quarters of people in the UK are, according to MSN Money, trapped in a mobile phone contract which means they are paying more than they need to be each month, and often getting services which they don’t use.

The biggest problem most of us have is that we just don’t know how our actual usage of free minutes, data download allowances and the number of text messages we send actually compares with what’s allowed under our contracts. And as, in most instances, we don’t get these figures in an itemised bill for us to check over each month, or even each quarter, seemingly cheap mobile phone deals might not be the best ones for us.

Of course, the phone companies have sound reasons for wanting to keep this information to themselves, and one of those grounds is that it helps protect each phone owner’s privacy. The consolation is that, when we come to renew our contracts, this data should be used to ensure that our carrier can offer us a new contract which accurately reflects the history of the type of usage we have had over the course of our previous one.

Where the phone companies make most of their money is in the simple desirability factor of the latest smartphone or tablet computer. This is a case of simple market forces – they can simply get away with charging more for the products which people want the most.

So one of the first ways in which anyone can benefit from a saving is to consider trading down to a less popular phone, or one which doesn’t come from a company whose products automatically attract a premium simply because of their desirability.

The tipping point in a mobile phone contract, after which it can make financial sense to swap to another one, is usually at its halfway point. Once you’ve reached this point, it’s worth contacting your provider – they won’t send you a reminder – to ask whether they will review your usage, and let you trade down. It’s important to note that they won’t let you switch to a more expensive tariff with bigger allowances at this point – it only applies if you think your current allowances are too generous.

Even then, there are limits as to how far your provider will let you trade down, and usually the maximum saving they’ll allow you to make is £5 per month. Also, beware of administrative fees which are written into some contracts for changing your plan early.

One way in which people often get caught out with their monthly call allowances is that these may not include calls to 0500, 0800 or 0808 numbers. These aren’t included in most free call allowances, but a service called 0800Buster lets users dial a standard landline number which then puts them through to the ‘free’ number they require, provided they’re still within their monthly call limits.

Finally, the biggest sting in the tail of most mobile phone contracts is the cost of making international calls. While the European Union has stepped in and imposed maximum charges per minute for making and receiving calls, there is as yet no such agreement in place to cap costs in non-EU countries. One operator, Vodafone, currently offers a Passport tariff, however, which lets you make calls and take the minutes from your inclusive allowance, or receive them free, provided they don’t last longer than an hour. The key here is to contact your provider before you go away, as they might be running cheap mobile phone deals at the time which will give you access to lower tariffs.

What does the future of postage hold?

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Image via Flickr creative commons from hahatango

Predicting the future is a task which is almost certainly doomed to failure. While many people make big, bold, sweeping predictions of what the future has in store for anyone, or any individual sector of society or business, the actual predictions they make are likely to be either too far-fetched, or at the other extreme, far too conservative.

In the field of communications, for example, how many people would have predicted that the written letter – such an integral part of life for many centuries, and the foundation on which civilisations have been built, and destroyed – would have ever been an endangered species?

But as we sit in front of our computer screens today, with all the ability which these devices give us for instant communication – or at least a means far more prompt than is possible by letter – how many of us think just how far-fetched such concepts would have seemed, even just a few decades ago?

Even given all the advances which the computerised world has brought us, it can be argued that the most fundamental of all is the ability to send a message which we have composed in an instant. The actual composition of the message can be as time-consuming as it has ever been – yet the actual process of sending it is something which we can now do in time which can be equated to the blinking of an eye, or the drawing of a breath.

This massive change has, in a matter of a few years, had a ground-breaking effect on the ways in which we communicate. From being something which we had to take time out to do, and to consider how we did it, communication has become something which is all around us.

This massive technological leap has left those involved in operating services which are losing their importance in the digital era with some fundamental issues to address. Prime among them, if they are primarily letter-carriers, is how they can guarantee to still be able to provide such a service when it is needed – and there are circumstances in which this will remain the case – given that their revenue from doing so is likely to shrink, while the cost of providing the service can only head upwards.

This can’t be considered an isolated problem. Even given that technology in some countries is much less sophisticated and wide-spread than in others, the imperative of retaining a service for written mail to be delivered anywhere within a certain amount of time is one which every civilised nation has to face up to.

One development which is being seen in the field of written mail is the ability of senders to put their essential messages into a email format, and then for these to be printed out at a location close to where they are destined, and then placed in an envelope for delivery over the final few miles. For important legal documents and the like, this could be a way forward.

Meanwhile, for the rest of the postal sector, the key to a prosperous future is likely to lie in the delivery of larger items which can’t fit into a mailbox. After all, sending physical goods is one task which any computer can’t actually do. But its ability to help streamline the process of doing so cannot be in doubt, and is why such cutting-edge services as same day delivery by Parcel2Go are so popular.

Meanwhile, for the future of large consignments, there will always be a need for trustworthy couriers, so FedEx couriers from Parcel2Go are sure to continue to find a ready market – even though that market might become ever-more competitive.

SOURCES:

https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/ensuring-the-future-of-the-universal-postal-service-and-post-office-network-services

http://prospect.org/article/postal-service-faces-future