Artisan Blog

12 Email Productivity Hacks So You Can Get Back to Work

Thursday, September 03, 2015

12-email-productivity-hacks

Worried about your inbox? It might be stressful to look at all those messages, whether answered or unanswered, sitting there. The good news is it’s an easy fix! Read these 12 email productivity hacks to help you develop good email habits, get your inbox under control, and go on with your day:

1. Use RAFD. Reply (write back), Archive (save it), Forward (send along to whoever needs to see it), or Delete (trash it).

2. Follow the 2 minute rule. Is answering that email going to take longer than two minutes? Then write back immediately. If you need time to think about your answer, hold off until you have time to compose your thoughts.

3. Shorten your sentences. When you reply to an email, keep your responses to three sentences or less. If you need more to write more than that, evaluate: will it be faster to add this to your to-do list, or to pick up the phone and call them?

4. Prioritize your most important mail first. Now, if you decide to write a longer email, write the one that needs the most attention. Then work your way down the list.

5. Set up a specific time to check your email. Don’t feel beholden to answer every email that comes through your inbox. Instead, choose a few select times during the day to check -- for example, look through your emails later in the morning, then after lunch, and before the work day ends.

6. Use filters to manage incoming messages. Inbound emails that are automatically filtered into a folder system lets you scan emails and figure out who needs a response right away. Try setting up a filtered folder for emails from your supervisor, or redirect emails into your inbox for high-priority clients.

7. Separate individuals from groups. If you work in a large organization and lots of mass emails are sent, it’s useful to prioritize personal communication over company memos.

8. Try Spark. It might sound hyperbolic, but this is one of those apps that could seriously change your life. Perfect for on-the-go email checking, use the app to schedule a time to read emails later, whether it’s that night, tomorrow, or next month.

9. Add extra data. Are you afraid to delete emails because you may need to reference them later? Consider purchasing more data for your account. It’s a small price to pay for piece of mind.

10. Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list. This one is very important! Use apps, notebooks, or Post-It notes to write down your daily to-do’s, but when you use your inbox, it keeps it cluttered. It also doesn’t help you remember what you need to do!

11. Unsubscribe! Are you still getting emails from that one website you bought a t-shirt from six years ago? What about that nonprofit you have no passion for, but you’re on the email list because one time you signed a petition online? It’s time to click unsubscribe. Unroll.me is a great way to extract yourself from lists quickly, or set aside a half hour to do it all at once.

12. Deal with personal messages after work. Avoid answering personal emails until you’ve clocked out. It helps create a productive mindset and lets you take time to read that article or watch that video.

What are your favorite email hacks?


How To Say Yes At Work Without Driving Yourself Crazy

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

As a creative, your unique set of skills is in high demand! What’s great about this is that there’s always a business or organization that needs you. On the other hand, when friends or acquaintances need some help designing a website or crafting copy, they may turn to you when your plate is too full. Or perhaps you’ve added several new clients who take up a lot of your time, but you love working for each one. We all want to say “yes” to as much as possible, but how can you say yes without feeling like you’ve taken on too much?

Before you take on the next big thing, consider some of these factors so you can continue to balance work and life while taking on the best and brightest opportunities:

  • Passion: Is this project for a cause you believe in, or area of interest you love? If it’s something you’re passionate about, chances are you’re going to pour more of your heart into it since it’s personally fulfilling. For instance, those who are committed to a healthy lifestyle may likely have a better time creating logo designs for a new health or fitness client rather than a fashion one.
  • Development: Taking on projects that help you grow your skills is a smart move. Whether you’ll be working with someone who can help mentor your career or add new strengths to your resume, a project where you’ll learn is a great way to gain new experiences and fill in any gaps in your work history.
  • Fear: Think long and hard about whether you feel like want to decline a project due to time constraints, or because you’re afraid to take it on. Never fear! The jobs that scare us a little are often the ones where you learn the most!
  • Being a Team Player: Your job might want you to take on a few extra responsibilities, and as long as they’re doable and you can devote attention to them, it makes sense to showcase your ability to work in a team rather than saying no. However, if these responsibilities start to encroach on your existing job duties, you may want to bring up the idea of an intern or assistant with your boss.

Of course, we’re working to make money, but there are so many other factors beyond a paycheck that make an impact.. The best case scenario is a project you’re excited about that also pays well! But don’t turn down a project with less pay if it’s something that energizes your spirit.

If you do have to say “no” to a project, it’s better to politely decline than risk burnout. It’s better to evaluate your commitments and choose the ones you love best rather than take on new projects that might lead to a drop in productivity. Allow yourself to continue working on projects you care deeply about, and keep an eye open for the opportunities you to take on!


Is Working Remotely Right for You?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

If you crave a more flexible work schedule or a nonexistent commute, working full-time or freelancing off-site is a great option. Although working remotely can be rewarding and exciting, it does present its own challenges. Here are a few things to consider about freelancing or full-time work off-site:

Is flexibility important? When you work off-site, it’s more likely you’ll be able to set your own schedule. If you need to watch the kids, you can take time off and finish your work later. If you prefer early morning or late evenings, you can get your work done then to run errands in the afternoon. Generally, it can offer a better work and life balance since you’re able to better determine how and when your work time is spent.

Can you manage your time well? Self-managing takes a lot of focus and discipline. It’s easy to get distracted at home. When you work from home, you’re expected to be responsible for finishing deadlines, even intense ones, without being managed by someone else. Consider whether you’re the kind of person who needs a supervisor or co-worker to help keep you on task, or if you feel your time management skills could use some improvement.

Do you want to save money? The cost of working adds up! Think of how much you spend per year on gas for your commute, lunches with co-workers, and appropriate business attire add up. When you work remotely, you can save money by not driving or eating at home. Even if you occasionally work from a coffee shop, you still will probably not end up spending as much as you might when you stop in for a latte every day on your morning commute. Also you may be able to claim some tax deductions on office supplies and tools you use like your Internet bill (see a tax specialist who can tell you more about this).

Is your workspace full of distractions? If you have small children at home, a needy pet, or other disturbances, your home workspace may make it hard for you to concentrate on your job. Then there’s your Netflix queue calling at 2pm when you want to procrastinate. Think about how you can separate yourself from your home and your home office, or if you’re able to set up shop in another workplace to create a distinction between work and home.

Do you prefer to work alone? Some people thrive in a group setting, while others prefer closed doors so they can focus on work. Some feel they get too distracted by others and others get too siloed on your own.  Find out which one is best for your working style before you commit to working offsite.

Are you able to adapt quickly? Working from home, whether freelance or full-time, means you could be “on call” in the early morning or late evening. It depends on the job, but an expectation may be set that you’ll be able to answer emails any time you’re at home. Additionally, if you’re a freelancer, the needs of your clients can change drastically, so you have to be ready to support them. And for those working for a company full-time from home, their needs can change suddenly as well. Being able to adapt fast to new situation is key.  

For those who enjoy working independently and have great time management skills, working remotely might be your next big move!


Achieving Goals: Why a Theme is More Effective Than a New Year’s Resolution

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Achieving Goals: Why a Theme is More Effective Than a New Year’s Resolution


How many times have you set a specific goal for yourself at the start of a year and achieved it? In a recent survey of over 1000 Americans, just 45% said they set resolutions for themselves. If you’re the type of person to say “I want to lose x amount of lbs” or “I’m going to read x amount of books each month” but have never quite attained your goals, consider setting yourself a theme instead.

 

What do we mean by theme?

A theme is an overarching mindset that you carry with you throughout the year – it can just be a single word. If your goal is to become healthier, ignore the introductory gym memberships and instead of setting rigid rules, try implementing healthier habits into your routine. With every decision you make, think of your theme or word.

This can be applied to just about any subject. If your goal is to find a new job this year, rather than set yourself the task of finding a new job, try thinking of a theme like “building relationships” or “making new connections”.  If you spend a whole year putting effort into business and personal relationships, at the end of the year you should have a much easier time with your expansive network.

Much like good design, you want to keep your themes simple. They need to be easy to navigate and clear. Without having to focus on specific measurables, you may find you’ve adopted new habits without even realizing it. Remember to stay open to new possibilities and changes in direction; the significant thing about having a theme instead of a resolution is that you never quite know where it will lead you.

Did you achieve last year’s resolutions? What theme will you set for yourself in 2015?

 Laura Pell - Artisan Creative



Vacation Planning Best Practices

Tuesday, September 09, 2014



We asked our team to share their pre- and post-trip planning process.  Even though the summer holiday season is over, we hope the following tips help you plan for any time away from the office.

 Vacation Planning Best Practices

  1. Be Proactive. Contact clients and key stakeholders a few weeks ahead of time to let them know of your upcoming vacation schedule.  This will give everyone an opportunity to address any project needs and plan accordingly.

  2.  Status updates. If you are mid-project, or have direct reports, make it a point to meet with your team before leaving and within a day upon your return for status updates.

  3. Prioritize & Delegate. Create a step-by-step process of all pending projects.  Prioritize for your team and clearly assign tasks that require a follow-up.  Tools like Basecamp make it easy to keeps track of the communication and makes it easy to get caught up when you get back.

  4. OOO. Set your out of office response with the names and contact info of colleagues who will be supporting you while you are away.  This alleviates frustration and any lag time for urgent needs.

  5.  Inbox planning. Use Rules and Filters to manage your inbox while you are away. Unsubscribe from non-essentials newsletters and notifications or direct them to a specific folder.

  6. Minimize travel day stress. Pack your bags, print out travel itineraries and make sure you're ready a few days prior to travel so your last working day isn't affected by any pre travel stress.

  7. Plan your first day back to work before you leave so your expectations are set beforehand.  Have your to-do list ready to go!

  8. Tidy your desk & desktop.  Coming back to paper or digital clutter is no fun.

  9. Your body and mind need time to recharge. Trust your team to handle urgent issues while you are away.

  10.  Have Fun!

Artisan Creative Team


Virtual Office Best Practices: 5 Tips For Working With Your Pets

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Virtual Office Best Practices: 5 Tips For Working With Your Pets

 

Trust me, nobody loves your 'work from home' job more than your pet. Despite being surrounded by all your loveable pooches, work is work no matter where your office is.  You know that, your boss knows that, but guess what? Your dogs have a different scenario in mind and the majority of their plan involves play time. I mean, why else would you be at home?

Before you break the gangs' hearts and send them to the dog hotel for the day or call up the pet sitter, read these tips on how to work with your dogs and make them your best co-workers.   

1.  Differentiate Between 'Crunch Time' and 'Break Time'

Make a habit of taking your dogs on a long morning walk before you begin your work day.  This will provide the exercise, stimulation, and bonding experience they need to take them right into a happy nap or quiet time while you attack the pile of emails waiting for you come 9am.  For the same reasons, opt for a game of fetch during lunch time to help cruise into the latter part of your day.  Your pups will soon learn play time is only when it is most convenient for you.  Make sure to have dog toys or other stimulating activities available during "quiet time" so they can entertain themselves while you work.

2.  Schedule Your Day Wisely
You certainly should not plan your day around your dogs but if they get excited every time the mailman comes, do not schedule any calls during that part of the day.  Be respectful of other's valuable time and eliminate as many nuances as possible. You may not mind the sound of dogs barking in the background but many people may find it distracting and unprofessional.

3. Have A Dog Free Zone

One of the biggest benefits of working from home is the ability to work in any Wi-Fi accessible space in your house.  As comfortable as these areas may be, they are an open invitation to your dogs to hang out with you.  While this is great, make sure there is an accessible space with a door you can go to for important calls, video meetings, or just an area for when you need to dedicate 120% of your attention on a task at hand.

4. Take Tiny Breaks
Instead of two 15 minutes breaks throughout the day, take several smaller ones.  These will allow you to let your dogs out and an even better opportunity for you to get some fresh air, clear your mind, and come back refreshed. The best ideas and creativity flows when you relax and allow your brain time to let information settle in and "click" while you roll out one of your infamous belly rubs.  Your dogs will thank you and your brain will reward you.

5. Enjoy Them!

Working from home can get lonely, but it doesn't have to be.  Your dogs will soon become your favorite office mates as you spend your days celebrating the highs and venting about the lows.  During slow or routine parts of your day, let them hang out with you.  Give them treats every now and then and scratches never go unnoticed.  

Before you know it, your dogs will crave this structure and look forward to play time while simmering down during quiet time.  They will play a vital role in boosting creativity and lowering stress levels so take advantage of your ability to work from home alongside your best furry friends.

Jen Huynh, Artisan Creative Recruiter and Dog Lover


Time: Your Greatest Asset

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

What is the one thing we all want more of, but cannot buy it, earn it, or save it? The one thing that when it passes us by, it can never ever be regained? Time!

No matter who we are, or what we do, we only have 1440 minutes in a day. We all start our days with those same elusive 86,400 seconds and spend vastly different ways of enjoying or squandering it.

Time is a mystery, and if I don’t figure out a way to manage it, time will manage me.

How do I manage my time?

The only way I know how is to diligently work from a plan. Without a plan I become disorganized and distracted. To keep me on track and on time, I adhere to some of the pointers below, and am adding in new ones to take my plan to the next level.

This is the plan that works best for me and I am most productive when I follow it:

1) Start my day by 6 AM so I can take advantage of the early morning hours, my favorite time of the day.

2) Schedule workouts, meditation, journaling and learning a new tool into my calendar every day and do these in the early AM hours.

3) NEW: Schedule my lunch and a 15-minute afternoon break for a walk outside or a nice cup of tea. I find mini-breaks serve as fuel for the soul and get me more energized and productive than if I powered through lunch.

4) NEW: Schedule my calendar and To Do list the day before. Schedule the time to work on your schedule.

5) NEW: Plan a regimented but fluid schedule down to every ½ hour task. Schedule all calls and meetings and don’t be late…or this will have a snowball effect.

5) NEW: Avoid distractions -- Don't turn on Facebook/Twitter on mobile devices unless on a break or it’s scheduled time. I LOVE social media, but it can be a time thief if I allow it. I can easily spend countless hours on social media. I schedule time for social media. Same with emails… It’s OK to have emails turned off while focusing on other tasks. I absolutely turn off the notification beeps.

6) Adhere to my version of Zero Inbox rules. My version is not an inbox that has zero emails, rather it’s one that adheres to a zero unread inbox. This adapted system works well for me and is a daily goal. I read each email, file, flag, delete or add a task to those that can’t be answered immediately or require research.

7) NEW: Set reminders and alarms for all tasks. My brain cannot remember everything—nor should it be wasted trying to remember mundane to-dos—that’s what reminders and alarms are for.

8) Use time management tools like Chime, Slimtimer, Evernote, or Doodle to schedule meetings and keep track of tasks. There is a tool out there that is right for everyone—find yours.

9) Communicate my calendar. Artisan Creative proudly promotes a virtual work environment—for this to work well, we communicate regularly via AIM, Zoom or Skype. Therefore we set our status on our AIM to communicate our availability or lack of ….In a meeting, OTP, DND

10) I am not perfect and occasionally fall off the plan. I’ve learned to forgive myself, and quickly course correct so I am back on track.

Katty Douraghy, President, Artisan Creative


Every Day Can Be Independence Day

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Every Day Can Be Independence Day

Most freelancers are freelancing by choice and happy about it. There is more flexibility than in a permanent job. They can choose their own schedule. It does take a lot of self-discipline, though, to be a successful freelancer and wearing your PJ’s all day isn’t part of it. If you want the independence, here are some tips to help you make it work:

Create a routine

Having flexible work hours is a great benefit of freelancing, but spreading your work out over a long day can just mean working longer than your office counterparts. Plan your work time and your breaks to maximize productivity and minimize overtime.

Be prepared

Every performer knows that a significant amount of a character can come from wearing their costume, especially the shoes. It doesn’t take a suit or tie to have a successful day or a successful business, but getting ready for work in the morning can make a significant difference in mindset, especially if you have meetings over the telephone or computer with clients. You never know when a client will call to discuss a project!

Say No

Some of your friends may assume you are free to do whatever you want when you are a freelancer and they might wonder why you can’t go out on a moment’s notice. TThe rules of your school years apply just as well here: homework before playtime. If you want to keep your clients happy and get referrals to others, keep your deadlines in mind. No one knows if you are working through lunch or going to a picnic except you. Choose wisely. Your friend will call again.

Say Yes

On the other hand, of course, the freelance lifestyle means you can take time for yourself and your family when your workload permits. Don’t spend all your time staring at the screen. Your creativity will suffer! Especially when you have a little lull in your schedule, take advantage of it and enjoy!

Independence is a wonderful feeling but it does come with responsibilities--to yourself, to your clients, and to your family. When independence and responsibility are in balance, the freelance life is a very happy one.

Artisan wishes you and yours a very happy--and safe--Independence Day!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Boost Your Summer Creativity

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Boost Your Summer Creativity

Do you feel more or less creative in the summer months? High temperatures and humidity can seem to leach energy and productivity right out of our day. There are, however, some special things about the summer season that we can use to boost creativity if we let them:

Time with family

From K through college, kids are home for the summer and underfoot. But don’t let work stop you from spending some quality time with them--it could actually make you more creative. Let their enthusiasm boost your own and make sure to remember any crazy ideas that come to you during special playtimes.

Travel

A small change of scene can make a big difference, but a big change of scene can do even more. Even the light is different in another country. Be especially present when you are somewhere new and different, take lots of pictures to help you recapture how you felt there, and carry a notepad with you just in case of a brilliant insight.

Relax

We can’t play and travel all summer--sometimes we have to get some work done. “All work and no play…” isn’t a well-known saying for nothing, though. It’s okay to slow down, take breaks and remember why you love to do what you do. We are hardwired to think of summer as a slower season so go ahead and do so. You will probably improve your productivity during working hours.

Try something new

What have you always wanted to learn? Whether work-related or a new hobby, learning something new changes your perspective on the familiar and may spark new solutions to old problems. 

My family decided to take a break and vacation right at the beginning of the summer, and now I get to use all that inspiration from traveling with them overseas to rejuvenate my creativity. What are you doing to boost yours?

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


A Summer Job Search

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Summer Job Search

A persistent job search myth: No one hires in the summer.

The truth is most companies hire at about the same rate in summer as they do the rest of the year and summer can be the best time to look for a new role. If you spend your time wisely, you still might be able to fit a couple of beach days in.

Why is summer a good time to look for a new job?

Time for onboarding and training--While many companies may have fewer projects to work on in the summer, they can take the time to interview, hire and train new employees without a lot of the stress of deadlines that come around during the rest of the year.

Temporary work--While some permanent employees are on vacation, companies can bring in new people on a temporary basis to try them out before hiring. As a potential candidate, you can show them how you work and how you would fit into their culture on the spot.

Less competition--Because other job seekers will believe the no-one-hires-in-summer myth, there are fewer candidates with whom to compete.

More relaxed--We are well trained to change our mindset in the summer to a calmer, less worried one than in the fall. Being more relaxed--as long as you are still prepared--can only help you in your interview process.

Fall is coming--The busier season will soon be upon those potential employers and if they want to have new, trained, skilled workers at their desks in September, they have to start the process in July or August.

Summer is when quality time management comes into play in your job search. Don’t spend all day, every day sending out online applications--get some recreation time in, too. But equally don’t give up your job search for the warmer months. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for talent--help them find you.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative



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