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On the ball: 3 office hacks to stay focused

Working hard or hardly working? 3 handy office hacks to get the most out of your day

Psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists use the term “vigilance” to describe the ability to concentrate on a task for an extended period of time –  although we all know this isn’t always easy! In this article we’ll be sharing 3 handy office hacks to help maximise your concentration and make sure you’re performing your best.

“The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

 

Goal habitation: regular breaks 1, attention span 0

Goal habituation theory is the idea that people cannot actively continue working towards the same objective for a prolonged period of time. We “habituate” to a goal, meaning it’s vital to refresh our interest with short breaks that stop us acclimatising and prevent a decline in performance. Research shows that subject’s concentration was improved when a vigilance task (pressing a computer key when a certain sized line appeared) was occasionally interrupted with a memory task (having to recall a sequence of digits.) These results suggest that taking regular scheduled breaks from a monotonous task refreshes us, meaning overall we perform better.

Desktime, a “real-time time tracking service that analyses productivity” evaluated their data and found those emplofficeoyees that perform best are those who work for around 52 minutes followed by 17 minute breaks. Other studies recommend using these break periods to get active and socialize, so make sure you get up and about, rather than just substituting one screen for another.

 

Close the laptop: open the mind

Massachusetts-based psychiatrist Dr Edward Hallowell once referred to multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously”. Students who use laptops in lectures consistently perform worse when quizzed on lecture content afterwards. Not only that: those students sitting next to and behind the laptop users also demonstrated significantly lower test scores than their undistracted peers. Moral of the story? Making sure that laptops are closed in meetings might just save you from having to explain the same thing twice.

 

Not your cup of tea?

Good news for coffee lovers: caffeine really does seem to help performance at certain tasks. A study by Smith et al found that caffeine consumption is associated with faster reaction times, greater detection of targets in the cognitive vigilance task, and faster encoding of new information. Additionally, the study found those individuals from whom caffeine was withdrawn performed no worse in tasks than their peers who never consumed it. However, withdrawal from high doses of caffeine is associated with

office hacks: coffee helps work headaches as well as sleepiness, irritability and even muscle aches. So while caffeine has been proved a valuable tool in your office armoury; like all the best things in life, it’s not something in which you should overindulge.

 

Found this article useful? Make sure to share it and read more of Iszy’s work published on Netgems for guidance on how to get the most out of your time and help your small business thrive.

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The futures bright: how to make a more productive office space

Could windows, the color green and a bit of light make your business more productive?

In the article we’ll be discussing tried and tested ways to create an office space which not only increases efficiency but also creates a calm and productive environment where employees can give their work their best.

Young entrepreneur, Benjamin Clark, shares what it’s like to be a small business owner in 21st century Britain: providing handy tips on how to maximise profits, modernise online presence and entice potential customers.

So, Ben, why is your office important to you? 

“I spend a lot of time in my office – sometimes 11 or 12 hours a day – and this means it’s really important it’s an environment I feel comfortable and don’t get distracted.”

Can you describe your office environment too us? 

“Personally, I’m really lucky to have a great view of Falmouth’s harbour from my office window, and I find a combination of lots of natural light and keeping the office tidy means I get the most out of my day.”

But, anecdotal evidence aside, what does research say about creating a productive office space, and how can this be adapted to small businesses?

More Windows, less Tabs 

Ben’s affinity for natural light seems to be in no way unique. A study by researchers at the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at North-western University in Chicago found that people with windows in the workplace, sleep, on average, an extra 46 minutes per night, as natural light exposure is vital to regulate circadian rhythmsi. People exposed to more light also tend to be more physically active and perceive themselves as happier; both desirable traits in an office partner.

office-spaceGreen fingers type faster 

It seems that Mother Nature has more to offer than just sunlight: bringing plant life into the workplace also has proven benefits. A collaboration between 4 universities, including University of Exeter, examined the effect on memory retention when plants where introduced into the office. They found that placing houseplants at a density of approximately 1 per meter improves memory and increases productivity by up to 15%.  Additionally, the tones of blue and green, which we see so abundantly in nature, have been shown to boost focus and efficiency, blue and green interiors leading to fewer mistakes when typing and proof reading in a recent Texas study.

Dispensing happiness

While interviewing Ben, he frequently reaches for the pint glass of water on his desk. Is keeping hydrated important to you? “Very” he replies, and research shows he’s not the only one who performs his best when hydrated. Experiments on young men by the university of Connecticut show that staying moist improves not only cognitive performance but also mood, with fatigue and anxiety scores worsening in subjects denied water after exercising. With dehydration also increasing the amount of errors made in visual vigilance and memory tests it’s clear that when trying to increase office productivity a water dispenser provides an aqueous solution.

While most of these studies were performed on large cohorts the ideas are easily scaled down to get the most out of your small- to-medium business and office space.

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Defining Your Brand as a Small Business

Clearly defining your brand as a small business is a very important aspect of any company’s success, for B2b & B2C. A strong brand will show who you are and what you do.

“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be… The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.” Entrepreneur.com

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.

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38 Ways Small Businesses can Find New Customers

Looking for new ways to expand your business? Here’s a list of 50 tips you can use to find new customers and build your brand. We’ve left off anything that is unlikely to be affordable for a small business.

Video Marketing

Get a New Logo

Start a Newsletter

Sign up for an email service, and send an email newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects for your business. Be sure you ask for permission to send email before putting any person’s email name on your list. One good way to build a permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give something away. It could be a free ebook, or even a free tip-sheet on how to do something related to your business.   If you’re a health coach, for instance, you might offer people who sign up for your free newsletter a tip sheet with “10 Easy Ways To Lose Weight Without Going on a Diet.”  An email service like Constant Contact* makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.

Get a Website

Start a Blog

Offer Discounts

Update/Re-do your website

Encourage Testimonials

Support a Local Charity

Print some Memorable Business Cards

Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your website address on your business card and, letterhead and any handouts you create.

Branded Merchandise

Attend Networking events

Find out what is special about your business (why your customer choose you) and publicise it

Pay-per-click Advertising

Leaflet Distribution

Turn a 404 error into a Positive

Sponsor a local sports team

Engage in conversation on social media and forums

Start a Facebook Group

Press Releases

Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV stations, magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Be sure to post the press releases on one or more online press release services, too, being sure to include links to your website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of “art” (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.

Sign up to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat – Start Posting

Be sure your on all the big social media platforms and that your business profile includes a good description, keywords and a link to your website.

Email Marketing

Start a competition

Make the prize something desirable and related to your business – it could be a free gift basket of your products, for instance, or free services.

Turn customers into ambassadors with a referral scheme

Offer Loyalty Cards

Enter a for an award

Post Youtube Videos

Hire a Copywriter to update and improve your website text

Submit your business to online directories

There are lots of directories out there, they not only display your business to potential customers, but are good for SEO. Don’t only go to the larger international directories such as bing or Google, also make sure you are listed in local and niche directories.

Give business cards to friends and family to hand out

Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.

Attend conferences

Speak at events

Industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings. You’ll benefit from the name recognition, contacts and publicity.

Start ‘Cold Calling’

These are calls to people who you would like to do business with. Briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.

Google Adwords, Facebook & Twitter Ads

Guerrilla Marketing

Get in the News

Try to get coverage in your local paper or trade press. You will need a newsworthy story, or you could put yourself forward as an expert to comment on your industry.

Write an Article

Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free, too.

Affiliate Selling

 Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for affiliates, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales. Be sure your pricing structure allows for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are made.

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6 Things You Need to Do When Starting a Business

So you’ve decided to make your business idea a reality, but you have no idea how to turn that dream into a tangible reality. Starting a business is like climbing a mountain; it may look daunting from the bottom, but focus on taking it one step at a time and you will soon reach your goal.

Here are 6 KEY steps to follow:

1. Market research

Make sure your business idea is actually viable, and refine it if necessary. Ask yourself the tough questions before you begin to avoid pitfalls later on.

2. Decide which business structure is best suited to your business

Find out about the different legal business structures you can adopt and decide on the best option for your start-up. Not many new businesses will start life as a limited company; you will most likely need to register as a sole trader or find yourself a business partner.

3. Create a business plan

A well-thought out business plan will not only provide your start-up with a clear direction and contingencies in the case of unexpected events, but it can also be vital in securing investment.

4. Choose a name for your business

Everyone knows the importance of choosing the right business name. An effective, memorable business name can be the difference between failure and success and should reflect the type of business you wish to be.

One of the mistakes to avoid at all costs is creating confusion with competitors, which can lead to lost sales and legal action.

5. Design a logo

A logo is often the first thing prospective customers see, and is therefore crucial in making the right impression. Make sure you get it right the first time, by consulting design professionals or seeking feedback on your own design from friends or potential customers. Bad design can be damaging to your brand and changing it at a later date may confuse customers and be a costly task to fix.

6. Get your website set up

After you start out in business, customers will want to investigate more about you on the web, so make sure you get in early and buy a quality website. You will need to buy a domain, host it and decide how you plan on maintaining and updating the website.

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SEO Explained Simply

Most if not all internet users are probably familiar with this word. It means Search Engine Optimization, which is simply defined as the technique that is used to ensure that a particular word or phrase achieves a high ranking placement in search results, on the various search engines available. These search engines include Yahoo, Google, Bing, among others.

An SEO word or phrase will attract more visitors to a particular site since it ranks highly on the search results that appear on the search engine used. This is one of the concepts used to ensure that there is increased traffic to a particular site especially in the case of those who are in business and want to curve a niche for themselves in a territory that is already occupied. More traffic will imply more business and hence increased profits.

The way a word or phrase ranks in search results is particularly important for all internet users, because the internet is full of all kinds of information and you may end up going through so many results without finding what you need. SEO serves to make things easier by making it possible to find whatever you may be searching for on the internet in an easier way.

Another advantage that SEO affords those who are looking to increase traffic to their sites, is that it increases the chances of specific sites to be visited by internet users because it makes specific sites to rank higher in organic results naturally. This is one of the most effective ways of building and establishing your presence on the internet.

Ranking on search engines is different from ranking on paid search ads, which ensure that those who pay for the service are ranked higher as opposed to those who do not pay. Contrary to this, ranking on search engines is based on what is most relevant to internet users with reference to what they may be searching for.

The narrowing down of information to only what is required or relevant with a particular search is what SEO does best, which means that you will be able to access correct or well researched details in this case. SEO acts to sieve through all the information available on the internet and once it picks out what relates to what you need as per the search, appropriate result are displayed. More than just saving you time spent researching, it ensures that the probability of finding well refined and correct information is increased also.

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Responsive Design Explained

With a multitude of mobile devices coming out almost every week, how can marketers ensure that their content is optimized for different device types, screen sizes, and capabilities? This videographic illustrates how responsive design allows marketers, designers, and developers to create a single website for their content that adapts to any device on the market. The video also highlights some key benefits of this design concept.

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10 Tips for Content Marketing Success

“Content Marketing is a commitment, not a campaign”; these are motivational words from a king pin of Marketing Industry, Jon Buscall. Keeping active and potential customers engaged with business/services is of prime and worthwhile importance, and making it possible is not a tall order. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can build continuous and steadfast relation with their customers by keep sharing customers oriented information about their business, in the form of written material, at online portals. Content Marketing is one the best ways to drive customers’ attention and interest towards our product, services, offers or other campaigns.

Plough the Ground Before you Sow

Very first step to roll out content marketing drive is developing online channels where we can place our business relevant content; significant part of SMEs’ turnover has been acknowledged too that proved the interest developing factor in itself.

Best Content Marketing Tips for Optimum Results

Let’s have a view at recommended ways to bring dreamt traffic of visitors.

  1. Plan the objective of campaign first and then develop specific content; giving measurable stats, attainable tasks, relevance of written material and time based publishing are the pillars to achieve the objective of campaign.
  2. Content must cover all the segments of product/service that may help potential customers finding all information.
  3. Making content marketing through blog of official website gets more traffic of visitors in case blog is highly optimized for search engine.
  4. SEO based material is key component of successful traffic to blog and engagement of buyers/customers at social media channels also drive them to knowledge hub of official website of business.
  5. Always place new and unique content in order to drive new visitors with return plan in their mind.
  6. Sharing newsletters and email marketing, directing towards relevant content, always bear the palm.
  7. Small and medium businesses have been found honour-bound to content marketing through which promoting of free services/product is linked with maximized accessibility to features of paid services.
  8. Make content of at least 1500 words that always drive high traffic volume.
  9. Guest posts at high ranking websites are also best ways to generate traffic.
  10. Sharing of regular posts at social media platforms linking with official blog direct the visitors to more content which on a whim develops buyers’ interest.

Content marketing has been playing pivotal role in growth of small and medium enterprises after adopting continuous content marketing strategy.

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