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Organization Tuesday: JIngly Bell, Not Jangly Nerves: Organizing Your Business During the HolidaysViews: 194
Dec 17, 2008 2:16 am Organization Tuesday: JIngly Bell, Not Jangly Nerves: Organizing Your Business During the Holidays

Julie Bestry
As I post this, there are five days left until Hanukkah, eight days until Christmas, and just a bit over two weeks left in the year.  As we discussed last week, whether your personal and business economy reflect the dire nightly newscasts or business has you jumping so high and so fast that you can't believe you're stopping to read this post, some time next week, you WILL stop.  You'll take a break.  You'll have some good food, good days and nights, and hopefully won't be stuck in an airport, a blizzard or on the phone with a client who doesn't care that it's a national holiday or that your hot chocolate is getting cold..

With the federal holidays landing on Thursdays this year, it's likely that you'll be taking two long weekends off (or three, if like me, you'll be celebrating Hanukkah).  All that time out of the office (assuming you're not staying home, and in your home office) can be fun, but at the back of your mind, you may be feeling some separation anxiety.  Before you call on Donner and Blitzen to help you circumnavigate the globe in your sled, here are some tips to keep the anxiety at bay so you can enjoy your holidays.

If you are headed out of town, make sure you have:

1)    A copy of your December and January calendar (Monthly view)

It never fails--the phone may be growing cobwebs from disuse all month long, but the minute you're out the door and on your way, prospective clients (and at-long-last returning ones) who've made New Year's resolutions (to get organized, to get fit, to get coached out of their old ways, to get spiffy new photos taken, to revamp their web sites...to do whatever it is that you can do for them) are ringing yours off the hook.  You want to book them (oy BOY, do you want to book them), but you need to take care not to double-book or end up with a conflict.  (Remember that dentist appointment you scheduled, figuring the first week of January would be slow?  You don't want to forget it until the last minute, risking a cancellation fee just so you can meet with your client!)

2)    The instructions and codes to call your home/office voicemail

Are you laughing?  Don't.

Most of us check our cell phones on our cells and our home/office voicemail from our office phones when we get back to the office, and many of us have all of the codes programmed into our oh-so-smart cell phones such that we haven't had to dial them directly in years, if ever.  If you lost your cell phone while playing in the snow, would you remember how to call your office voicemail?

You'll stress less if you prepare for all eventualities.

3)    Copies of your email contacts and most important documents and templates

You never know when the ideal client will decide to call with a request that you respond by close-of-business on Friday. Sure, you probably want to make the holidays a family-only long weekend, but wouldn't you prefer the option of taking advantage of a really good business opportunity?

If you're traveling without your laptop, be sure to pack your flash drive so you can pop into Kinko's or a public library if Grandma's computer was built in the days when AOL still sent discs in the mail.

If you're traveling with your laptop, safely leave behind a many-GB flash drive or external hard drive.  Have a complete backup (or even two) of your hard drive so that if there's an emergency, you can have a trusted friend (the one feeding your pets and watering your plants) email you the vital file.  Keeping a backup at home is also a life-preserver if something happens to your computer while you're traveling.

Whether you're traveling with or without a laptop, email the most vital documents to a secure, web-accessible email account like Gmail.  If you've got a Gmail account, it won't matter if you don't have access to your own computer and software, as Google Docs lets pull up whatever attached Word document, spreadsheet or presentation you've sent yourself--without you having to spend a penny on software.

4)    A cheat sheet (in code, if necessary) of your non-memorized passwords

If you've gotten in the habit of letting your browser remember your usernames and passwords, you may not have typed anything but a high-security bank or brokerage password in quite a while. Perhaps you don't even bother to log out of some of your often-used low-security sites. (Has it been so long since you logged out of Ryze or Twitter that you don't even remember your password?)

Indeed, it's the low-priority sites for which you're least likely to recall your login data. Sure, it's no big deal to have your password emailed to you, but when you're on the road, wouldn't you like to make things easy on yourself?

Also, have the login and FTP information for your web site's control panel if there's any chance you'll need to make an update or correction while traveling. Even if your web designer is willing to make a quick fix over the holidays, you can't be certain she or he will have your login information handy.

I'm a huge fan of the Internet Password Organizer, which I reviewed on my blog, but I'd advise you to travel with either your laptop or the actual passwords in writing, but not both.  That's a disaster waiting to happen.

5)    A list of your clients' phone numbers

It never fails; whenever I go away, I get a garbled voicemail from a client, begging for a return call, with no return phone number. In the age of Caller ID, many people assume it isn't necessary to leave a phone number, and not everyone realizes that a crystal clear connection on their end of the line doesn't mean their message can be understood.  If you get a call saying "This is MisGr9%^flgr sssssssss.  I really need #%^*FS sssssssssss, so please call me back at 555-SPLUSHssssssssss."


Next, consider taking the following steps to ensure a smooth return, both for you and your clients.
  • Set a vacation voicemail message and/or your email autoresponder--IF you know how to use them.  
Don't be the chump who has set an autoresponder to say "Thanks for writing, but I'm traveling until January 1st" and then forgets to deactivate group email subscriptions.  You do not want to anger your colleagues, clients and friends with dozens of these in every group of which you're a part.  

Similarly, if you work from a home office, you don't need to let strangers and potential burglars know you'll be seven states away for the next two weeks.  Either leave your usual message, if you intend to check messages often, or leave a friendly holiday message that lets clients know you'll be "taking some personal time with your family this holiday week", and you'll be responding to all messages on...and then state the day you absolutely, positively will honor your word and return calls.
  • Set a reminder on in your Outlook or task software or post a note on your calendar for the morning of your return to revise your voicemail and deactivate your autoresponder.  
If you're setting a "Happy Kwanzaa" voicemail message or  that otherwise tells people you'll be away and won't return to the office until January 1st, make sure the first thing you do upon your return is change your message back to your standard. Otherwise, you could get a message in mid-January from a formerly-loyal client saying "Um, I don't know if you're back yet or if you missed some flights, 'cos your message says you'll be back two weeks ago…and I really needed to know if you'd be available this week to do some work for me, but maybe I should just call..." Grrrr.  Perception is reality.  Be perceived as organized.

Similarly, make sure your autoresponder ends when it's supposed to.  Missing one checkbox can mean you're sending out "FaLaLaLaLa" messages well into January. Send yourself a quick test email when you get back, just to make sure everything is working properly.
  • Prepare your desk for your return.
Clear your desk of clutter. File away your reference files and put any papers reflecting tasks to do upon your return in your tickler file, or pile them in order of when they need to be accomplished (with the deadline date in the upper corner or on a sticky note). Make a list of your top three priorities for your returning day and put it square in the middle of your desk. On the day you return, focus on those tasks for a few hours before being tempted by email.

If you aren't traveling, then I hope to see you back here next Tuesday.  


--
Julie Bestry, Certified Professional Organizer®
Best Results Organizing
"Don't apologize. Organize!"
organize@juliebestry.com
Visit http://www.juliebestry.com to save time and money, reduce stress and increase your productivity

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