Check out this month's business management files.

Get More Out of Your Day

We've all said it: "There just aren't enough hours in the day," or "I can't believe it's 4 o'clock already." It's that frustrating feeling that we never have enough time to accomplish everything we need to do, let alone the things we really wanted to do. So, how can we squeeze more time into our day?

Target time-wasters - There may be things you do every day simply out of habit that don't need to be done. Evaluate your daily activities and ask yourself what would happen if you didn't perform each task. You may find that some things can be discarded without any problems.

Set realistic deadlines - Don't kill yourself with self-imposed due dates. If possible, rearrange projects to set more reasonable time limits. Re-examine the factors that are determining your project deadlines.

Re-evaluate your routine - Does the same problem occur month after month, or project after project? Are you always scrambling at the same stages of operation? Take a hard look at your work patterns and determine the best and most logical way to meet your objectives. Figure out the most efficient and practical way to organize your time. Identify the root causes of time loss and deal with them tactfully.

Take charge - Don't let other people control your time. When you are truly busy, let them know (politely). Wherever possible, ask to re-schedule discussions, meetings and other activities until you can devote adequate time to them.

Search out all those nooks and crannies where hidden time can be found; it adds up quickly.

Effective Coaching Today

Simply supervising by command doesn't work too well anymore. Organizational and personal development consultant Harry Gaines tells us that it's best to be coaching, empowering and supporting team members. Some of Gaines' recommendations:

  • Choose the right time for coaching. Coach when you can give your undivided attention. Give the employee time to prepare for the session.

  • Communicate openly and honestly. Avoid vagueness, ambiguity, mixed messages and confusion.

  • Listen objectively when employees discuss ideas, problems and goals. Let people say what they have to say.

  • Learn to deal with employees' feelings - frustration and defensiveness, as well as exuberance and enthusiasm. Let employees know you value their skills whatever their emotions.

  • Let employees contribute to the decision-making process whenever reasonably possible.

  • Encourage continuous personal improvement and reward innovation.

  • Criticize in a way that communicates an intention to help. Concentrate on giving positive feedback so you're not seen as always negative, thereby diluting the effectiveness of your critiques.

  • Discuss employees' career goals, interests and concerns. Encourage employees to develop their careers. Tune in to what really challenges talented people on your staff.

  • Provide honest, realistic answers to employees' questions and don't make promises that may not be kept.

Get Out Those Calendars

While St. Patrick's Day certainly is among the calendar's most elite dates (March 17), it does not qualify as a legal holiday. Perhaps someday March 18 will legally be declared National Recovery Day, but for now, the sad fact is that March is the first month of the year without a legal holiday. The situation is so dire that March 26 actually is designated Make Up Your Own Holiday Day. Good Friday has the courtesy of showing up on the 29th and a good many businesses shut down early that day, but other than that, we're into the year's first long stretch without a legal holiday. No doubt it's just coincidence that so many companies see a spike in sick days in March.

So with no legal holidays to plan for in March, we must make due with such B-list organized celebrations as the following:

Mar 1 - National Pig Day
Mar 5 - Multiple Personalities Day
Mar 6 - National Frozen Food Day
Mar 9 - Panic Day
Mar 11 - Worship of Tools Day
Mar 12 - Alfred Hitchcock Day
Mar 14 - National Potato Chip Day
Mar 20 - Extraterrestrial Abduction Day
Mar 22 - National Goof-off Day
Mar 25 - Waffle Day
Mar 27 - National "Joe" Day
Mar 31 - National Clams on the Half Shell Day

A word to the wise for managers: If an employee shows up the morning after Extraterrestrial Abduction Day walking funny and looking a little worse for wear, try your best to be understanding.

No-cost Marketing

Marketing communications expert Pete Silver offer some no-cost marketing ideas that you might be able to put to use at your firm.

  • When preparing brochures and Web site content, highlight problems and present solutions. You'll be seen as a problem-solver, not a salesperson.

  • When distributing business cards, give everyone two and encourage pass-alongs.

  • Learn to ask questions instead of telling people about yourself. You'll be perceived as someone who cares. You'll also learn about potential areas of need for your services.

  • Learn how to say who you are, what you do and how it benefits your customers - in 25 seconds.

  • Identify your areas of expertise and bring them to the attention editors and reporters covering the industry. Appearing in the media can boost a reputation.

  • Start a "tip club" - a group of professionals who serve the same marketplace without competing with anyone in the group. Share leads and marketing information as you meet occasionally for breakfast.

It's OK to Get Mad

People who think anger in the office is unprofessional can seriously sabotage themselves and their company. That's the word from Dr. Gilds Carle. Since anger is a natural response to certain situations, burying it inside can lead to even bigger problems down the line. Dr. Carle suggests a three-stage process for dealing with anger in a healthy way. First, try to distance yourself from the incident that caused you to become upset. Next, claim your anger by resisting the temptation to place blame. Finally, tame your feelings by resolving the issue with class and dignity.

Workout for the Brain

If you want to keep your brain fit, it isn't enough just to do the Jumble puzzle in the newspaper. Researchers believe that the most effective way to keep the old noodle in top shape is to do activities that pull you out of routines and expose your senses to new things. Here are three simple brain exercises:

1. Brush your teeth with the other hand. If you're right-handed, brush your teeth with your left hand. It may take a little more time, but it pulls your brain out of its normal routine and forces it to use the other side of its circuits.

2. Place clocks and pictures upside down for a day. This forces you to reorient and reinterpret familiar objects, which makes the brain use spatial networks it hasn't used in a long time.

3. Close your eyes. As you make your way around your house, close your eyes and force your brain to exercise the connections between your sense of touch and spatial memory.