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Are Brain Damage & Multitasking Linked?

Are Brain Damage & Multitasking Linked?

As small business owners we face many demands  on our time every day.  Struggling to increase efficiency, we often resort to a practice called “multitasking”.   This term means doing two things at once.  Today, we often hear about highly successful people who are great multitaskers.  Here is the blunt truth. It is physically impossible for your brain to do two things at once.  In fact, recent research shows the effort to do so may cause brain damage.

Just what is Multitasking?

It turns out the term “multitasking” came from computer engineers.  When the first computer microprocessors came along, they had a single core.  That core could only do one thing at a time.  Just like our brains.  If asked to do more than one thing, the single core had to rotate tasks, which it could do at high speeds.  Then came multi-core processors.  If a microprocessor had two (or more) cores, each could still only process one thing, but they could do it at the same time.  Hence the term “multitasking” was born.

Doesn’t my brain have more than one part?

Yes it does.  And, it turns out there is one exception to my statement above that your brain can’t do two things at once.  That exception is you can do two things at once as long as you engage different parts of the brain at the same time.  The best example of this is reading while you are listening to instrumental music.  The parts of the brain that process speech and instrumental music are different. Listen to music with lyrics, and your reading comprehension takes a nose dive.  Why? Your brain can’t process two sources of speech at the same time.

So I can Multitask!

No.  When you work on something, such as reading email, you are engaging in what psychologists call a cognitive function.  This means the pre-frontal cortex of your brain focuses on doing one thing.  Just like the single core processor, that’s all your pre-frontal cortex can do.  When you try to multitask, what actually happens is your brain is “task switching”.  Turning off one task and turning on another.

But I can switch tasks really fast!

You just think you can.  A 2009 study at Stanford University (http://news.stanford.edu/2009/08/24/multitask-research-study-082409/) showed multitasking decreases attention span, and memory control.  And… the higher the number of tasks those subjects tried to juggle the worse they got.

What happens when you task switch is your productivity decreases.  How much?  The generally accepted number is up to 40%. So it actually takes you longer to complete a single task.

Even worse, a University of Sussex study (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-09/uos-bsr092314.php) showed multitaskers suffered from a loss of grey matter in certain areas of the brain. In short…brain damage.

Other studies have shown multitasking leads to increased stress, loss of sleep, increased impulsivity, and decreased ability to pay attention. In addition, your inability to focus on a single task makes it more likely you’ll make a mistake.

So, how am I supposed to get all this stuff done?

There is a simple answer.  Slow down.

No kidding.  If you just slow down, and work on one thing at a time you’ll get it done better and faster.  Now when I say work on one thing, I mean to the exclusion of every thing else.  Turn off your cell phone, or at least put it on vibrate and hide it in a drawer.  Shut down your email. Close your internet browser. Turn off your iPad. Now finish one single task.

The surprising thing is by doing this, you will actually wind up getting more done in a day and with better results.

Here are some other tips

1.  Do your best to plan your day in batches.  Block out time (s) to answer email, then close it down.  Put your phone on do not disturb, then answer all calls around the same time each day.  Only allow yourself to surf the net at a certain time each day unless it involves research for a project.  You get the idea.  It won’t always work, but a little planning goes a long way.

2.  Get enough sleep.  Go to bed at the same time each night.  Reading for pleasure at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep relaxes your mind. Now you’ll get to sleep easier and quicker.  Get up at the same time each morning.

3.  Meditate.  This does not involve hours spent contemplating your navel.  Even 15 or 20 minutes, done at the same time every day, sharpens your ability to focus.  It also improves learning ability and memory.

In Conclusion

The ability to multitask is in fact a myth.  Further, multitasking is an addictive habit that is bad for your mental and physical health. If you are a multitasker, I encourage you to stop now.  I did. And…I can tell you I think more clearly, feel better,  and get more done in a day than I ever did when I multitasked.

How to Keep Track of All Those Contacts

How to Keep Track of All Those Contacts

You’ve gone into business for yourself.  You are beginning to build a client base.  Suddenly you think, “Holy Cow, how am I going to keep track of all these people?”  The answer is a good customer relationship manager (CRM) program.  There are lots of them out there, so how do you choose.   Attached is an excellent article that should help you decide.  
(As a side note, I use Nimble and have found it easy to use and very reasonably priced)

Image via sugarcrm.com

Image via sugarcrm.com

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is a must for every B2B business and most consumer businesses. CRM software enables a business to record contact information, track interactions, and plan follow-up tasks with clients. Businesses that don’t have CRM software do the same task much less efficiently, through a combination of email inboxes, spreadsheets, and calendars. Implementing a CRM system tends to lead to greater revenue, without a company having to spend more on advertising or hire more salespeople.

There is no wrong time to start using a CRM software; however, the sooner the better. The most difficult part of implementing a CRM system is getting all the data into the system. The less data that exists outside the system, the easier it is to get started.

Choosing the right CRM for your business can be a difficult task, especially given the hundreds of options, the differences in features between providers, and the wide range of price points. To help lift the burden, we’ve pinpointed five questions you should ask to narrow down the CRM search.

1. How many employees do you have?

The more users on a system, the more you have to worry about staying organized and keeping information secure. If you have more than 10 users or so, you’ll probably want the ability to change access privileges so you can control what each user can view and edit. If you have multiple sales teams, you may also want territory management, which lets you divide sales people into teams so they aren’t all sharing leads or clients. You can find both these features in Zoho CRM.

If you have under 10 users, then these issues probably aren’t as big of a concern. Rather than deal with the additional cost and effort of setting it up, you could use a simpler system like Insightly or Nimble.

2. Do you need it for sales, marketing, customer service—or all three?

While CRMs are most commonly used by salespeople to manage their deals, systems like Zoho, SugarCRM, and Salesforce can also be used to handle customer service cases and online marketing campaigns.

For example, you can have customer service tickets automatically imported from a form on your website. A customer service agent can then log in to view these tickets, send a response to resolve the issue, or pass it along to another agent. Likewise, you can import leads from web forms and have these prospective customers added to email campaigns.

If you’re looking for just online marketing and sales tools, Hatchbuck offers robust online marketing tools that are also a bit more user friendly. By tracking user behavior such as what links they clicked, or (if you’re an online store) what purchases they made, you can build a detailed profile of customer preferences. You can use this data to send more personalized marketing materials, such as a coupon for a product they’ve shown interest in.

If you only need basic contact and sales management, then you can keep things simple by using Insightly or Nimble.

3. Do you want it to work with other systems?

Do you want to be able to quickly send sales information to your accounting software? Or perhaps you want to sync your contact book with your email marketing service?

These are just two of many ways you can integrate your CRM with other systems. Realtors, online stores, contractors, developers, human resources departments, and project managers all have special software they use day to day. Integrating with a CRM can mean less tedious work and reduce the chance of errors when you transfer data between systems.

Salesforce boasts the largest number of integrations and add ons of any CRM, with over 2,600 available in their app store. Zoho and SugarCRM also support many third party integrations. However, even if the software you want isn’t supported, you can potentially build it yourself if you or someone you know is handy with code. Zoho and Salesforce have an API and SugarCRM gives you access to the source code.

Insightly and Nimble have fewer integrations, but they can still be linked with popular software like Quickbooks, Mailchimp, or Evernote.

4. What additional features do you need?

There’s loads of additional features you may want and only be able to find in certain CRMs. For example, many businesses today want to be able to monitor social media channels to find mentions of their businesses, or see what their clients are up to. You’ll find this in Zoho and Nimble, although Nimble takes it much further by combining all your social media and email connections into a single contact book. Nimble then scans these channels for opportunities to engage.

Insightly includes project management tools, which can be great for businesses who want to track the progress of an order after the deal has been finalized. Zoho also includes project management, but you have to install it as an add on. Zoho actually offers many other business programs, such as accounting, website visitor tracking, help desk and more, which can all be linked with the CRM.

Bitrix24 takes a unique approach by adding collaboration tools to their CRM. You can IM or video chat with other users, collaborate on documents, and post statuses with comments, much like Facebook. The best part, however, is that there’s a free edition for up to 12 users.

5. How much can you afford to pay?

A simple rule to remember—the more advanced features you want, the more you will have to pay. Here’s the pricing information for the CRMs we mentioned in this article:

  • Insightly is $7 / User / Month
  • Nimble is $15 / User / Month
  • Zoho CRM is $35 / User / Month for the Enterprise Edition
  • SugarCRM is $65 / User / Month for the Enterprise Edition
  • Salesforce is $125 / User / Month for the Enterprise Edition
  • Hatchbuck is $300 / Month for an unlimited number of users
  • Bitrix24 is free for up to 12 users

Conclusion

Answering these five questions will get you started on the search for a CRM. Remember that each additional feature tends to raise the cost and complicate setup. Rather than fumble with advanced features that won’t even be used, stick with what you need and you’ll likely see a lower price tag.

Which CRM does your business use, and have you found it suits your needs? Share your experiences in the comments. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Marc Prosser is the publisher and co-founder of Fit Small Business, a “how to” publication for small business owners. Prior to starting Fit Small Business, Marc Prosser served as the Chief Marketing Officer of FXCM (NYSE:FXCM). During his eleven year tenure as CMO, the company grew from under 10 people to over 500 employees located throughout the globe.

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How Small Business Owners Can be More Efficient

How Small Business Owners Can be More Efficient

As small business owners we are all pushed for time.  There just never seems to be enough to get it all done.  George wondered if I could find some apps that could help make us more efficient.  

Here is the first in this series.  I will also be on the lookout for things we can add to our websites to make them more efficient. 

Thanks George for the idea, and the support.

We’re always on the lookout for small business tools and apps that will increase productivity while preserving our sanity. So we decided to reach out to fellow small business owners to hear what they recommend.

The number of replies wowed us, as did people’s passion as they wrote to us about their favorites. While we encountered many interesting apps and tools, a few names rose to the top because they were the ones that multiple people from myriad industries brought up repeatedly.

You’ll find the results below along with comments from some of the business owners who recommended these business tools.

Slack

Slack’s tagline is “be less busy,” an apt description for this team communication platform. According to its website, Slack gives you “everything in one place, instantly searchable, available wherever you go.” Use the free version (which includes an unlimited number of people) or try one of the reasonably priced upgrades to access other features.

slack-screen-shot

What small business owners are saying about Slack…

Bill Fish is the founder and president of ReputationManagement.com. He says, “We absolutely love to use Slack. It is such a great tool to keep in close contact with the entire staff as well as any outside consultants. It’s super easy to set up groups to keep the conversation only to the relevant parties. In 2015, with so many people working remote, Slack has been a lifesaver for us.”

Yale Zhang is the CEO of Safe Heart, which boasts the first smartphone pulse oximeter powered by the headphone jack. A new user to Slack, Zhang says, “It has made communication easy, clean, and integrated between our office in Atlanta and our other office in China…the ease-of-use and integration this application provides to our other productivity software has made this an indispensable tool in our day-to-day operations.”

Myles Anderson, founder and CEO of BrightLocal.com (trusted tools for local SEO), also loves Slack’s ability to seamlessly integrate with other software. He explains, “We use it to pull in information and alerts from various applications like Zendesk, JIRA, Airbrake (there are tons more) so that it acts like an information hub for our business. Rather than checking each of these applications independently, we just keep an eye on Slack and have all the alerts in one place.”

Shane Park works for Coinplay.io, a PC digital games store that partners with game developers and publishers. He calls Slack his company’s “life blood.” Park says, “We’re a small team of three—all remote—and staying in contact is crucial to meeting goals and adapting to events. Our developer has created webhooks from our own website to Slack so that we can stay on top of important events, such as possible fraud and when users make requests to our server. We also have webhooks for social, customer service, and tasks so that we always have a pulse of what’s going on.”

Trello

Trello describes itself as “the free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone.” The free version is quite popular, but if you need more support and added features, you can check out Trello Business Class and Trello Gold.

trello-screen-shot

What small business owners are saying about Trello…

David Henry, founder of lifestyle apparel company Riverpoint Threads, can’t say enough good things about Trello. “I use it to schedule out my days, weeks, and months as well as set my monthly and yearly goals. It allows you to set due dates for any projects or deadlines you have, you can collaborate with several team members on it, and much more. It is a very versatile app that you can use on your smartphone or computer to keep your productivity at a maximum. It is the only app I have found that is exceptionally easy to use and has no limits.”

Justin Kerby, who works for marketing agency CAVE Social, says his company uses a variety of productivity tools, but his favorite is Trello. “Trello allows us to visualize our daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and prioritize as needed. Trello allows us to create a digital Kanban board so that we can see what is done, what needs to be done, and what we are currently working on.”

As a project coordinator with Yoko Co., a website design firm, Staci Jansma knows how important it is to effectively manage teams. Jansma also appreciates Trello’s visual boards for tracking and managing projects. “We can see at a glance where they are at.”

Trevor Ewen, a partner for a small software firm called Neosavvy, says that when developing and releasing products on a client deadline, productivity is key, and Trello gets the job done. “Trello is immensely intuitive, great for collaboration, and easy to customize for the needs of a project. I enjoy the tool so much I even use it for spring cleaning in my home. It keeps me on task and provides measurable goals to hit.”

Wunderlist

Wunderlist describes itself as “the easiest way to get stuff done.” It’s the ultimate to-do list app and has legions of fans since it works on all major devices. You can create a free account or upgrade to Wunderlist Pro or Wunderlist Business.

wunderlist-screen-shot1

What small business owners are saying about Wunderlist…

Srajan Mishra, who works for manufacturing and exporting company TSI International, calls Wunderlist a “must have” for all small and medium business owners. Mishra explains, “In today’s multi-channel and multi-device world, it is so important to have a to-do app that can be synced across all kinds of devices. Wunderlist is available for android, iOS, Windows mobile, Mac OS X, Windows desktop, on the browser as well as a Chrome extension. ”

Lisa Chu, owner of a children’s formal wear brand called Black N Bianco, is also a fan of Wunderlist. She says, “I love this app because it’s a lot more efficient than a notepad, and I can add my employees onto Wunderlist and assign them a task directly from this app. Without this app, my life would be very unorganized and my productivity would suffer because of it. I cannot see my business continue to grow let alone survive without Wunderlist.”

TeamworkPM

Teamwork is all about “project management made easy.” It offers a variety of pricing plans, including ones geared towards small businesses.

teamwork-screen-shot-home

What small business owners are saying about TeamworkPM…

Dawn Martinello runs Monday Morning VA, where she teaches and helps entrepreneurs how to run successful, profitable, and meaningful businesses. Martinello says her workday starts and ends with TeamworkPM because it helps her stay focused (she loves the app’s built-in timer). She adds, “The calendar system allows for different events to be color coded, which means I can pop everything from staff vacations to launch details into the calendar and have it all show up color coded in their dashboard. For extra bonus points, it allows me to add privacy options to the events, too!”

Shareef Defrawi owns Bonafide, a digital marketing agency in Houston. He’s a fan of TeamworkPM and has an interesting way of describing it. He says, “If you’ve heard of Basecamp, it’s like that tool on steroids. It helps us manage all the projects we’re working on and basically serves as the brain for our business. Everything from project and task management to client communications happens inside Teamwork. We get virtual paper trails for conversations, file storage with version history, even virtual whiteboards for brainstorming ideas.”

Defrawi also talks up the app’s integration capabilities. “The best part is it integrates with lots of other tools right out of the box, most notably our time tracking tool, Harvest. So not only can we document all of our business functions in one place, we can periodically review them to look for ways to make them more efficient.”

Do you have a favorite small business tool or app that helps boost productivity? Share yours in the comment section below!

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