5 Tips to Help You Stay Focused At Work

The ability to focus and remain focused is the most valuable skill that an employee can have. Unfortunately, most professionals are battling constant distractions at work. Moreover, these individuals often lack a clear set of measurable objectives that keep them moving forward, rather than feeling as though they are simply plodding through a series of routine and mundane tasks. Following are five tips for staying focused at work that are guaranteed to increase both productivity and overall work quality.

1.  All Employees Should Be Taking Regular Breaks

Plugging away at a single activity for too long is never a good idea. People often start to feel mentally and physically restless after several hours of being captive at their desks. All team members should be encouraged to get up, walk around and stretch every few hours. More importantly, each person in the office should be taking regular lunch breaks for both nourishment and a change of scene. By using simple and straightforward time tracking solutions such as those that are provided by PerfectForms, ensuring that all employees have adequate opportunities throughout the day to refresh their minds and bodies will be easy.

2.  Prioritize Tasks

Many professionals make the mistake of putting off complex tasks until the end of the day or the last possible minute. All workers tend to function more efficiently at the start of the day, long before the typical afternoon crash hits. Thus, team members should be encouraged to tackle their most demanding undertakings during the first portion of the day and to report their progress before lunch. As quitting time grows near, people will still have enough energy and clarity of thought to tackle minor tasks that are less involved.

3.  Encourage To-Do Lists

Having employees create daily to-do lists will make it easier for these individuals to prioritize their tasks and manage their time. Lists can be kept private or made public, but should be reflective of both duties that must be regularly reported on as part of a project and responsibilities that are specific to the individual position. Knowing exactly what must be done helps people to stay on track and pushing ahead, even when they’d rather be somewhere else, doing other things. This also gives employees the sense that they are working toward an assured finish.

4.  Establish The Importance Of Each Role

People tend to be happier in their jobs and more committed to their employers when they know that even the most mundane tasks are making a major difference. Companies can increase team loyalty and individual employee focus through regular reviews and recognition. Each person should recognize why his or her work is valued. It is much easier to stay focused on a specific position when there are clear reasons for and benefits from the related job duties.

5.  Empower Management

Those who are in charge of guiding teams to a desired end must have the ability to ensure that each person is taking care of his or her own duties. Knowledge is empowering, and this means that managers are most effective when all team members are logging their accomplishments as different projects or project phases are completed. The workflow application from PerfectForms provides an optimal amount of visibility for ongoing projects from start to finish. Reports can be customized to the needs of the company and the resulting data can be used by managers to streamline operations so everyone is working efficiently and focused on the same goals.

Make the Most of Your Day With These 8 Project Management Tips

Project management may sound like a daunting task – and it can be if you aren’t adequately prepared to meet the challenges of managing a team. At its core, successful project management involves ensuring that a group of individuals work together to complete a project within a pre-defined set of guidelines. Those guidelines may vary in detail and complexity, from nothing more than the expected end result to assorted time-sensitive milestones and goals to help make sure your day goes off without a hitch. When you’re in the role of project manager, keep these eight tips in mind:

  1. While you may have the end goal in mind, it is important that you also define project milestones. These waypoints let you know if your project is progressing as it should be in terms of a variety of benchmarks relating to deadlines, budget, completion expectations, and more. Milestones are also beneficial because they grant you small measures of success as you move along the path toward completion.
  2. In any industry, it is never a good thing if your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is doing, so it’s essential to keep communication lines open. You should establish a plan for communication among all members of your team and, as the project manager, monitor those communication lines regularly to ensure that they remain clear, open, honest, and consistent.
  3. When you are laying the groundwork for goals you wish to achieve for the project, it’s vital that you set priorities and separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. You don’t want critical team members working on minor tasks with loose deadlines when a major undertaking remains untouched on a shelf as its deadline approaches.
  4. Facilitate project tracking with workflow forms software like PerfectForms, which can make the process easier and more automated. By automating a portion of your project tracking and analytics, you can take some of the workload off your own shoulders and free yourself up for other project management duties.
  5. Give team members clearly defined roles and make sure they are fully cognizant of what your expectations are for their performance. The last thing you want is for your project to meet with failure or delays because someone didn’t completely understand his or her role.
  6. Regardless of whether you’re defining milestones, setting priorities, preparing a budget, or performing other project-related planning and management functions, you always want to be realistic in terms of what you expect to accomplish and how you plan to achieve your goals. It’s perfectly fine to reach for the stars, but make sure you’ve got your feet firmly on the ground, too.
  7. While you’d prefer to avoid it, the unexpected can and does occur, so make sure you have a contingency plan (a “Plan B”) to fall back on if your primary objectives fall through. You can always hope for the best, but by preparing for the worst you know you’ll be ready to quickly and easily overcome challenges that appear on the horizon.
  8. Throughout the “life” of your project, you should hold regular meetings with your project team to discuss progress, issues and solutions, and to analyze where you are with regard to completing priority lists and reaching project milestones. These meetings also provide an excellent way to keep the lines of communication open.

Don’t be intimidated by the responsibilities of project management! Use these tips and other available resources to support your role as project manager and you’ll be ready to meet and conquer any obstacles that come your way.

10 Tips to Make You More Organized Today!

Staying organized can sometimes be a challenge, and if you aren’t on top of your to-do list, this can often leave you feeling like you’ve accomplished little at the end of the day. Here are ten tips to make you more organized:

  1. While some people can function at a highly efficient level with a desk space that looks like a paper truck exploded on it, you may need a more tidy area in which to work. Keep your desk surface clean and organized, with a place for everything (and everything in its place!). This will give you a feeling of organization throughout the day, and it will also make finding things much easier when you need something quickly.
  2. Your workspace needs a thorough “spring cleaning” on a periodic basis, so you can get rid of paperwork, files, and office supplies that have been gathering dust. Anything that is outdated, no longer needed, or has been unused for a period of time should be stored elsewhere or discarded.
  3. Keep a calendar handy that has all your important dates noted. Whether you have a big meeting later in the week or the end of the month marks the deadline for a critical project, knowing (and seeing) what’s on your plate will allow you to complete related tasks in a timely manner and keep you on the ball when it comes to being prepared and punctual.
  4. Instead of trying to multitask and get a dozen things done at once, become better at managing your time effectively. When you dedicate small blocks of time to completing different tasks throughout the day, you’ll have more finished at quitting time and less to worry about completing later.
  5. Update your contacts at least once every six months, whether you store them in a Rolodex or you’ve got piles of business cards stashed away in a desk drawer.
  6. As you get things completed at work, or on a periodic basis throughout the week, review what you have accomplished so you can decide if you’re on track and whether you need to juggle some tasks around.  If necessary, delegate items to others who can get them done for you.
  7. Use workflow software to help you automate tasks, projects, and other duties. PerfectForms offers a great workflow system that can help you stay organized.
  8. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by the mundane surroundings in which you find yourself.  Whether you’re in a cubicle farm or you have a corner office with a fabulous view, you’ll want to add some personal touches to make your environment more comfortable. Add family photos, scenic vacation shots, or appealing abstract art to the walls. Just make your space your own!
  9. Keep a list on hand that has your daily and weekly “to-do” items on it. We often get tied up with handling little details and sometimes let bigger things slip our minds until the last minute, so keeping lists of what you need to get done is a great way to stay organized.
  10. When you write down your daily and weekly goals, you also need to prioritize those items. Figure out what’s most important or what needs to be done first so you can complete your required tasks on time and in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling like you didn’t contribute your best effort.

If you put these organizational tips to use, you’ll soon be sailing along with few pending worries on your plate as you tackle each challenge as it arises and keep your work life neat and orderly.

 

Should a stated company culture be the norm or the exception?

One of the hardest tasks for any manager is creating an office culture that brings out the best in employees. But is developing a strong corporate culture always necessary?

The pros of having a stated company culture

Good managers are capable of seeing the bigger picture when it comes to their company, their co-workers, and themselves. They can use this viewpoint to create an organic company culture that not only inspires employees, but also lends a story to the company at large. This takes a flexible manager who is able to keep a stated culture in mind while working with team members. The trick lies in the osmotic way that companies work – when an employee leaves or a team member switches roles, the manager needs to keep hold of the umbrella of company culture while fitting different personalities under it. A talented manager with lots of personnel experience and flexibility can be a huge boost when it comes to creating a robust company culture.

The cons of having a stated company culture

People are not always flexible, teams and divisions of a company do not always function as they should, and trying to make everything fit under a stated company culture can be like herding cats. If the statement is not adaptable or flexible, then it will be harder to find people to work under it. Employees are not always keen to change the way they have been working in order to fit under what they may see as little more than an attempt to get them to work harder for no pay increase.

The organic company statement

More and more businesses are becoming employee-centric, and that can play a huge role in developing a stated company culture. Employee-centrism in and of itself is a kind of stated culture. The difference between having a stated culture and allowing a culture to develop organically is that everyone in the company already feels part of the culture before there is an actual statement made about it. In fact, in some situations, this statement never needs to be made at all. In many ways, letting a culture grow and form on its own is the best approach, but the right mix of personnel must be present in order to get it right.

What to do?

In the end, it all depends on the employees and the manager. Some managers are capable of creating a stated culture and then getting everyone excited about it and functioning under the culture’s umbrella. Others prefer to sit back and simply allow the culture to develop on its own while playing more of a crowd-control role.

PerfectForms can help managers create stated company cultures with software that makes anything from workflow forms to surveys. Using the tools provided by PerfectForms, managers can find out what their employees and co-workers desire in a company culture by asking them directly. Essentially, PerfectForms presents a hybrid solution by allowing employees to offer input and managers to use this as a foundation.

Why having a mission statement is important to company culture

Not all companies have mission statements, but those that do have discovered these short, concise sentences can have a distinctly positive impact on their employees, shareholders, and customers or clients. Good mission statements are brief and to-the-point; they succinctly express a firm’s philosophy, goals, and reason for being, as well as what impels it to become the best it can be for everyone involved. In terms of workers, mission statements remind new and old employees alike why they do what they do, and should be kept front and center in staff members’ minds during their tenure with the company.

What a Mission Statement Is and Isn’t

Mission statements aren’t logos, jingles or catchy slogans used in advertising or to “brand” products or services. For example, Harley Davidson’s “American by birth. Rebel by choice.” is a tag line that somewhat describes the company’s philosophy, while Ford’s “Go further” is more of a brand message than anything else. To get a better idea of what a mission statement is, take a look at the wording of these two particular companies’ mission statements:

  • Harley Davidson“We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.”
  • Ford Motor Company – “We are a global family with a proud heritage passionately committed to providing personal mobility for people around the world.”

These two mission statements have a clear employee focus and are most likely part of employee-related recruitment material, included in guidelines or handbooks for newly onboarded workers, and displayed on plaques or in frames at dealerships, offices and headquarters, as well as being listed on the firms’ websites. A good mission statement pulls employees together and gives them an ever-present goal-oriented focus, a sense of purpose and a feeling of being an integral part of the company’s future.

As an enterprise evolves, expands or changes direction over the years, it needs to review and quite possibly rewrite its mission statement in order to accurately represent corporate goals, philosophies and strategies for achieving its aims.

What a Good Mission Statement Should Include

When the time comes to write a mission statement, executives don’t need to flounder and over-complicate the issue. Include the ideas of management, key employees or any other team members who can best help answer these questions:

  • What is the company’s purpose?
  • Why does the company exist?
  • How does the company do what it does?
  • For whom does the company provide products or services?
  • What are the company’s substantive goals?

After brainstorming sessions, sum up the answers to the questions above in a concise sentence or two, bearing in mind that the mission statement will be read by anyone involved in the company and, ultimately, by the customers or clients who keep the organization in business. Test out the mission statement on select employees and ask for feedback in order to tweak and adjust it until it becomes worthy of inclusion in employee manuals, compendiums, and the “About Us” section of the firm’s website, or proudly displayed behind glass in a hallway at the business’ headquarters.

Office suffering from the summer slumber?

Use this time to get set for frantic fall

Even though your office may still be slumbering its way though the final days of the summer, frantic fall is all but upon us. If your team appears to be moving through molasses and you want to get them ready for the maelstrom to come, here are five ideas you can utilize right now to wake them up.

Idea Swap: Start sending out “Yes, and…” idea swaps around the office. Begin your thought and then have one other person add to or change it before sending it along to someone else. Urgency is key, so each recipient should only have five or 10 minutes to think. When you get back the idea, see what your seedling has blossomed into with a little watering from your colleagues.

Espresso Brainstorming: Another good place to get discussions going is at the coffee pot… or in the Starbucks line. Wherever you go to caffeinate, see how far you can take an idea from the time you walk into the room to the moment you take your last sip.

Elevation: Another great place to bounce around ideas is in the elevator. Does your office even have an elevator? Are you on the second floor? It doesn’t matter. Anywhere will do, as long as it allows work to take a back seat and lets automation takes over. The idea is to approach your team when they are not expecting it and see what they can come up with when their minds are elsewhere.

EOD Assignments: If you’re looking for meatier ideas, start giving out end-of-day assignments. Say you want three to five paragraphs on a marketing pitch, sales agenda, or new way of doing something old by morning. This gives your team the opportunity to tell you about an idea or thought that might otherwise have been passed over. As the summer dwindles, some of the ripest fruit is just about to fall off the vine – make sure you catch these low-hanging nuggets while you can!

Streamline Flow: Workflow software like PerfectForms allows users to do so much at one time, kick starting your team into completing tasks such as:

  • Creating reports
  • Integrating with other systems
  • Automating workflows
  • Designing HTML forms

Moreover, the PerfectForms system is a great way to get your team out of their summer haze and focused on the business of doing business.

Create, deploy, report. That is what you need to do to get your team thinking about the onslaught of work coming their way this fall, and PerfectForms can help.

How to Set Realistic Goals and Actually Achieve Them

Goal-setting should not be an overwhelming initiative. This is especially true now that businesses have access to a number of innovative technical tools and resources to help track their efforts, predict problems and gauge the potential success of each endeavor. Companies and the professionals who manage their operations simply need to determine where they want to go and how to get there. For guaranteed success, goals will need to be feasible and aligned with core organizational values.

Identify Talent and Resources 

Understanding what the company’s current team is capable of based upon its existing resources and skills is essential when gauging the viability of goals. Many organizations find that thinking backwards is the best way to illuminate the total spectrum of possibilities. By listing the tools and talents available, firms can arrive at achievable goals without having to make major investments in new equipment or bring new salaried professionals on board.  This is often best accomplished through a 360-degree appraisal and the use of human resource management software.

Prioritize Goals According to Their Potential Returns

Once companies have identified the goals they are capable of achieving without radically altering the workforce or investing in new equipment, they should prioritize these aims according to the benefits they are expected to provide.

For instance, while achieving one goal may burnish the company’s reputation, the completion of another could result in significant improvements to the organization’s bottom line. The latter should be prioritized because successful efforts to bolster revenue will expand the firm’s resources, making it easier to pursue other goals.

But how do businesses know what to prioritize? The process of ranking goals in order of importance must be data-oriented so firms have an accurate understanding of the impact of different undertakings. Even when enterprises are using existing talent and resources, most of these endeavors will require at least a nominal investment at their inception, with the possibility of additional spending at a later date.

Account for Customer Preferences and Expectations

When formulating goals, companies can benefit from taking the ideas and opinions of their loyal customers into consideration. These individuals are, after all, the most valuable assets that businesses have. PerfectForms offers cutting-edge applications for posting surveys online that facilitate the creation of professional-quality HTML-based polls for company websites. The data collected can then be used to compose customer-driven plans.

Establishing Objectives

Measurable objectives consist of clear, well-organized steps that bring an effort to its desired conclusion. Workflow software, such as the solution provided by PerfectForms, can assist companies with the distribution of manpower and resources, ensuring all objectives are achievable within the previously established amount of time. These programs can also be used to track progress, improve communication, monitor compliance and maintain transparency.

Companies can diminish the upfront costs of pursuing new goals by using the right technical resources.  Workflow software provides end-to-end assistance, making it far easier and much less time-consuming for businesses to develop and deploy plans to better themselves while generating the highest overall returns.

 

3 Myths About Workflow Applications… Debunked

Workflow applications are a point of interest for many businesses, but most companies neither diligently research nor fully understand them. With such an impressive number of benefits to be gained from these tools, organizations can obtain a significant competitive edge by simply learning more about how they work. Here are three common myths about workflow applications debunked:

1.  “Workflow applications lead to automation, which in turn leaves workers out of a job.”

Many workflow products are designed to automate certain aspects of a company’s operations. While the deployment of these solutions might reduce the demands on the workforce, this will not lead to employees being laid off – rather, it will promote increased efficiency. For instance, by automating certain aspects of the sales process, companies give skilled sales professionals more time to draft proposals and perform other tasks that will have an immediate positive impact. The overall goal of the tools is to streamline and improve – not simply automate – operations. Workflow applications from PerfectForms are designed to minimize dependence on technical resources where necessary, while still allowing the solutions to make corporate processes more efficient.

2.  “Workflow applications are only good for large companies.”

All companies can benefit from the streamlined flow of information, the ability to make timely and well-informed decisions, improved document flow and significant increases in overall efficiency. Whether they are looking to establish leaner operations to generate increased profits or improve customer service and satisfaction, businesses of all sizes can improve results and eliminate a range of problems by using workflow applications.

3.  “Workflow applications are not suitable for some businesses.”

One primary aim of workflow applications is to improve the processes that lead to the accomplishment of an established objective. Ultimately, this means that any organization or individual with pre-existing goals and a series of measurable benchmarks can benefit from these tools. In theory, it is possible to optimize or automate any process in order to simplify each step, eliminate mistakes, facilitate the rapid transfer of knowledge and reduce inherent challenges.

Newly established businesses may still be figuring out their operations, so the solutions that PerfectForms provides can be especially beneficial for companies that have only a modest level of process maturity. The most essential component of the improvement process is awareness. Any company that is aware of the structure of its operations and acknowledges the need for improvement and the potential advantages of adopting workflow solutions can certainly gain from investing in these tools.

Ultimately, workflow applications can be invaluable resources for companies of all sizes that are eager to realize increased efficiency and enhance their operations. These tools do not take the human element out of business, but are instead used to streamline only those portions of corporate operations that will be most effective when automated. Whether they are large or small, brand new or well-established, companies can improve their bottom lines, enhance their offerings and deliver better customer care by utilizing workflow applications.

5 Reasons to Boost Employee Morale and Production Through Gamification

Members of Generations X and Y, who were brought up in the digital age, will soon make up the majority of the United States workforce. For many of these people, playing games is a central part of life, which is one of the reasons gamification is becoming a standard corporate tool. The strategy has been proven to boost morale and increase production in a number of ways.

1. Games Simulate Real Life Situations

Games appeal to several basic human instincts, including the needs to interact with others, overcome challenges, and receive rewards for progress. The brain looks to solve problems in a logical manner, and gamification facilitates this natural process while providing employees with a fun and rewarding experience. There are few better ways to engage workers than through competition.

2. Games Improve Knowledge

In every job, employees need to retain knowledge. Gamification promotes learning while increasing retention rates up to 10 times as much as other methods, reports CLOmedia. The strategy also emphasizes the importance of continual learning, which is why many companies use games to bolster innovation. When a work environment is fun but also includes challenges, this leads to higher productivity and paves the way for career advancement.

3. Games Are Motivating

Lack of staff motivation can be a problem for managers in any industry. This serious issue may result in decreased production and a lower quality of work. One solution is gamification, which can improve motivation by adding a creative aspect. The strategy may be particularly effective among employees charged with repetitive, routine tasks.

4. Games Help Employees Measure Their Accomplishments

Employees perform better if they can correct their mistakes immediately rather than waiting for the results of periodic evaluations. Equally, quality of work can improve if employees know what they are doing well. Gaming in real time gives workers instant access to their performance statistics, which helps them to set realistic goals.

In addition, unlike other reward programs, gamification makes it easy for staff members to share their accomplishments and status levels with their colleagues via badges, certificates and other acknowledgments.

5. Games Lead to a More Positive Work Environment

Gamification is fast becoming a new source of social interactions in the workplace. The technique makes each individual feel like a valued team member rather than just another cog in the machine. This can have a significant impact on morale, which in turn boosts engagement and productivity.

One of the best features of gamification is its flexibility. Games may cover almost any topic and function in any industry. However, to be effective, managers need to implement programs creatively to ensure they fit seamlessly into the organization.

Are office-sanctioned breaks counter-productive? Here are 3 reasons that prove otherwise

The cognitive and overall health benefits of taking scheduled office breaks are virtually unlimited. People work better when they aren’t mentally fried, too hungry to focus or sore from sitting still too long. Some argue that periodic bouts of detachment from work-related duties enhance mental acuity, focus and overall productivity. Others assert that time away from the job does little more than lower employee output. Here are three reasons why all employees should be getting up from their desks and engaging in other activities at various intervals throughout the day.

Mental Focus Is Like A Muscle

The brain really is a lot like a muscle. The more people use their brains, the more mentally adept they become. However, just like a hamstring or bicep, the brain can become overworked by sustained use. Rest gives the mind a chance to recover, and this means people will be better able to concentrate on complex tasks and use their problem-solving skills when they take moderate breaks during the day. Much like a bodybuilder, a person who flexes his or her brain and then allows it to relax and refresh before re-engaging will become increasingly skilled at focusing on major or complex tasks for extended periods of time. In this way, regular breaks can be a great way to build up the productivity and overall efficacy of an in-house team.

When Mental Focus Slips, So Do Employees

One of the most important reasons to establish office-sanctioned breaks is that employees are going to tune out regardless of whether they’ve been granted permission to do so. The lure and accessibility of personal technology is simply too high and many people know that taking a quick break to update social networking profiles, check their personal email and perform other activities will give them a well-needed mental break. This is true even among professionals with a strong work ethic. Once mental focus starts to wane, the ability to resist the temptation to surf the web for pleasure wanes as well.  Giving people a scheduled opportunity to handle personal duties and focus on other things will limit the amount of downtime that your workforce actually experiences.

Breaks Mitigate Repetitive Strain Injuries

Preserving employees’ physical health is a critical part of talent asset management. Routine breaks are essential for lowering instances of repetitive strain injuries and the workers’ compensation claims that often follow. Allowing employees to get up, stretch, move around, and engage in other activities can prevent loss of manpower as a result of repetitive strain injuries. This in turn helps firms avoid the costs of having to find and train temporary replacements or implement expensive Return to Work programs. Ultimately, scheduled breaks from redundant actions are just as important as installing ergonomically designed furnishings at work stations.

Office-sanctioned breaks are vital for improving productivity and maintaining a healthy and robust workforce, and their duration and efficacy have become a lot easier to track. PerfectForms offers workflow apps that turn real-time data into major insights, allowing companies to see exactly how breaks are impacting productivity and employee focus. From time tracking forms to employee surveys and 360-degree appraisals, there are numerous tools that will eliminate the guesswork. By utilizing these resources, companies can know exactly how workers’ time away from focused duties is impacting their bottom lines.