Memory like a sieve?

Here's a short 'How to' video for you.

Having a memory like a sieve, I find that once an email has slipped off the bottom of the screen, I am likely to forget about it and any action I needed to take on it will also be forgotten. That's why I like to turn my emails into tasks and add a reminder date to them. This is dead easy to do in Outlook and can also be done in Gmail - take a look at this short video and find out how.



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Don't forget to plan your business holiday as well

With the holiday season approaching I thought it might be useful today to go through 3 things you should do prior to your holiday to ensure you have a peaceful break:

1. Speak to a phone answering company about holiday cover for your phones 

You could just divert your office phone to your mobile but that means that you have to make sure you have your phone with you at all times and keep checking to see if you've missed any calls.  That's doesn't make for a relaxing break that gives you an opportunity to switch off. 

It's much better for you and for your customers if your calls are answered professionally and a pre-planned response is given.  That might mean that you agree to check your emails once a day to respond to any urgent telephone message or it might mean that customers are asked to email a support email address with their query, for response within 24 hours.  Whatever you decide, you are able to enjoy your break without the constant worry of dealing with phone calls.

There are many call answering services available but if you want help to find one then get in touch and I can point you in the right direction.

2.  Create a schedule now for everything that needs to be completed before your holiday

It's one thing to have a long To Do list of things that need completing before you break-up but it's another to know how you're actually going to fit them in! 

Whether you use the task list in your email client, a project management tool such as Trello or Teamwork, or you simply want to print off a blank calendar for July/August (or the appropriate month leading up to your holiday), it's a good idea to schedule when you are going to do the things on your To Do list so you don't end up in a mass panic on the last afternoon. 

Bear in mind that things often take longer than you imagine so when you're planning the time slots for each task, realistically think about what you have to do and how long you need, planning the tasks round your other commitments.  If you're struggling to fit everything in you may need to prioritise and you might find Steven Covey's Urgent/Important matrix useful for this.

3.  Automate and pre-schedule what you can

I love automation - the magic that makes things happen without anyone having to do anything - and this is a great time to get some of that set-up and working so you have less to worry about during your holiday. 

Here's some ideas about what you might sensibly be able to automate in the next couple of weeks (although there'll probably be more that could be done in the longer term):

- Set-up 'Repeat Invoices' on Xero to ensure your invoices get sent out on time even though you're not working.
- Set-up an Out of Office / Automatic Reply on your email to inform people that you're on holiday and when they can expect a response from you.
- Pre-schedule your social media posts using a tool such as HootSuite.
- If people often request a piece of information such as a brochure, add a form to your website so they can do this and automatically receive a PDF download.

I'm sure you've heard the old adage, "fail to plan, plan to fail" so make sure that you don't fail to plan for a relaxing holiday!


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Do you talk to yourself?

If I asked you to picture a traditional secretary/PA you will quite likely think of a young woman sat in front of the boss’s desk taking down his dictation in short-hand.

Would you believe that there are different ‘languages’ of shorthand and because I learnt TeeLine at school, that makes me ‘a young thing’.  Many slightly more mature secretaries (is that politically correct?) will claim that Pitman is the “proper” shorthand.

Anyway, by the time I went into the workplace in the late 80’s it was irrelevant as shorthand was on its way out and audio-typing was the transcription method of choice.  Bosses now sat in their offices talking to themselves and recording it on their Dictaphone machines.  They would then pass the tape to the secretary who would plug in her headphones and “drive” the tape with her foot-pedal.  Suddenly the boss and the secretary didn’t need to be in the office at the same time in order to get typing completed.

You might imagine that things have moved on in the last 25+ years but actually the fundamentals haven’t changed all that much.  Bosses/business owners still dictate into their little machines but instead of having a physical tape to pass over to the typist, it’s recorded digitally and the MP3/WAV file can be emailed or uploaded onto the appropriate system.  The typist now has software on their computer to play the digital file (rather than a tape machine on their desk) but they still drive it with a pedal (now plugged into the computer through a USB plug).

So why am giving you a potted history of the secretary?

The Office Fixer is focussed on making sure that small business owners are making their offices and businesses as efficient as possible so that they can spend less time working on the drudgery and audio typing is a little used secret weapon in saving time.

The biggest change in audio typing over the years has been in the Dictaphones themselves.  You can still buy hand-held Dictaphones (some quite tiny ones too) and if you’re doing a lot of dictating and/or want maximum flexibility to go back and rerecord, etc, I would recommend buying one.  However, to get you started or for basic dictating, your smart phone will probably do the job just fine.  Pretty much all smart phones have a voice-recorder app already loaded on them but there are many other free and paid-for dictating apps.

For most people, talking is a much quicker and easier process than writing or typing, so whether you write a lot of reports, reviews or correspondence, or you just want to do a brain-dump and get what’s in your head onto paper, recording it on your phone and sending it through to a typist of much greater speed than you, is a much more time efficient way to get things done.

Take a look at some dictating options:

·         A Dictaphone

·         Express Dictate App for iPhone;  Express Dictate App for Android*

·         DropVox App for iPhone;  DropVox App for Android*

*I have only used the iPhone apps myself so can’t vouch for the Android versions.

If you want help with your typing, take a look at or give me a call on 01484 885485.


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