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Still Time to Enter to Win $200 Shopping Spree!

You can still review office supplies at On Time Supplies for your chance to win a $200 shopping spree! The Product Review Contest runs for a couple days yet, so head on over to www.OnTimeSupplies.com and tell them what you think of a few office supplies. You just might find yourself two hundred dollars richer for your trouble. Before you start, check out the rules and get a few tips to writing great reviews at Product Review Contest page.

Here at Smart Office, I’m more interested in the $200 prize here! I’m not allowed to enter the contest – darn those conflict of interest rules! – but that hasn’t stopped me from dreaming! I’ve  been thinking about what I would buy for my office if I had an extra $200 to spend. The way I see it, the winner of the Product Review Contest has two options:

  1. Stock up on basic supplies – untold reams printer paper, staples enough to last until judgment day, 1,000 pens
  2. Finally get or upgrade office equipment or office furniture.

I’m the kind of girl who would rather go with option two and use the Product Review Contest as an opportunity to splurge. No chance of that, so I’ll indulge myself the only way as can – list making! Who doesn’t love a nice list? So, without further ado:

Top 3 Pieces of Office Furniture and Equipment I’d Buy if I won the Product Review Contest at On Time Supplies Continue reading

Article: Organize More Efficiently By Staying Put

My favorite go-to blog for organizing and streamlining my life, Lifehacker, has a great article up right now about organizing your space.

While the article is geared toward general organizing, I find the tips within to be pretty much in line with my own philosophy about cleaning up my home office.

Basically, the article (which quotes from another favorite organization blog, Apartment Therapy), says the main trick to making sure you do the job you set out to do is to stay in the room you’re doing it in:

When you’re in the sorting process (the crucial first step) of organizing a specific room, STAY in the room for the organizing session. (Prepare for the session by having trash bags on hand for trash, recycling, donations.) Invariably you’ll find objects that actually do have a home in another room or on another floor. Most of our clients, if left to their own devices, are inclined to leave the room immediately every time they come across an object like this to return it to its home. And in the process, it’s REALLY easy to get distracted and to not return to organizing.

I find this to be immensely true. I’ve never had a huge house to fan out and get lost in, but even during apartment living I’ve found that the second I leave the room I’m tidying, I lost the motivation to re-enter it. Seems like the farther you get from the job at hand, the easier it is to not go back. Solve the problem by staying put.

The best office redesign I’ve ever had came when I purchased some plastic organizers of the bucket and bin variety, set up some new shelves, and sat down in the office and went to town. Remember, you have to make a mess to clean one, sometimes, so don’t be afraid to tear your office down before re-building it. Just don’t walk away after step 1 and never come back for step 2.

Choosing a replacement office chair caster

Let me get this out of the way: I hate my chair. It’s a bargain-bin piece of junk that I got from one of the big chain department stores, and I’m pretty much marking time until I can afford the upgrade to something a little nicer. In the meantime, I make do. My chair does everything I need from a chair: it lets me sit on it, and it rolls along the floor. Until today.

I’ve been having a rough roll lately when I get up from my desk, and today one of the casters hard-locked on me and the chair almost flipped over. After prying it out, I realize it’s got a huge knot of carpet fuzz, cat hair, and who knows what else in there from years of use. It’s new caster time.

Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near the place I bought the chair originally, and the manufacturer’s site was no help. I know I can get replacements online, but I wasn’t sure what kind I needed. After some quick googling, I found a blurry chart. Yikes. I understand that all the information I might need is in there somewhere, but I wasn’t about to put myself through eyestrain just to figure out how to order a plastic wheel, and neither should you. So I’ve put together a handy guide to ordering a replacement caster. For the most part, the search boils down to answering two simple questions:

How big is the original caster?

For a replacement caster, the most important things to know are the length and diameter of the “stem” (the part that sticks into the chair). Grab a ruler, yank out the offending caster, and measure like so:

How to Measure Office Chair Casters Infograph

In my case, the stem was 1 inch long by 3/8ths of an inch in diameter, making it a “K” class stem (some manufacturers use these letter codes, but knowing the length and diameter is really the important part.) Also, whether your stem has a flat or a round head doesn’t really matter; as long as the measurements are right the caster will fit. The next question determines the material the wheel should be made of:

What kind of floor will the caster be used on?

In my case, I’m currently on hardwood floors. For hard surfaces like wood, chairs mats, tile or linoleum, a soft wheel is recommended. Hard wheels should be used on soft surfaces, like carpet. Just like any other wheel, really. Think about it: soft rubber car tires for the hard concrete road, but hard plastic tires on your lawnmower for moving over soft dirt and grass. But I digress. By plugging the length, diameter, and floor type into the “Narrow your Results” column on the casters page at OnTimeSupplies.com, I found the best match for me would be these Doublewheel Nylon Casters from Master Casters. They come in a set of five so I can either replace the whole chair’s worth (and have one left over!) or replace the bad one and keep the rest in reserve for the day the other wheels inevitably lock up on me. Not too shabby, and it beats replacing the whole chair.

So there you have it. Proof once again that shopping for office supplies and equipment doesn’t need to be a hassle. Something as simple as finding a new caster was turning into a pretty hair-pulling exercise, and hopefully the above guide will spare a few shoppers that grief.

How to Create a New Paper Filing System

There has been much written and said in the media lately about this country becoming a paperless culture. We take this to be the truth, simply because it’s hammered into our heads day after day. But what if we actually slow down and examine this?

Yes, you may pay your bills online, thus cutting way back on the amount of mail you send out. What else? Did you ever really write that many personal letters that have now been replaced by email? Well, maybe you did. Hmm. . .well that seems to be about it. We are still reading books, we are still printing documents, and we are still signing contracts the old fashioned way. Yes, there are online equivalents of all of these things, and yes, there will probably be a time in the future when paper is as rare as gold, but that time is certainly not here now. Paper surrounds us and we use it all the time.

With all of this paper, in fact, it can be easy to lose track of it all. Papers get stuffed in a desk here, shoved in a filing cabinet there, and we can never find anything when we need it. Our office is a mess because we failed to have a system for filing all of our important documents. Well, if it needs fixing, there’s no time like the present. Let’s go through and look at what you can do to create a new paper filing system for your office.

Filing Cabinets

If you think the remark above was meant to disparage the filing cabinet, think again. Filing cabinets are a
wonderful resource, and should be the centerpiece for any large scale filing system. On the other hand, they 2 Drawer File Cabinethave to be used correctly in order to be efficient. And so many of them are not used correctly. Papers are flung into this folder or that folder, until there is no sense of order left. At that point, you may as well be tossing them on the floor. True, they’re out of the way and out of sight, but they won’t be any easier to locate when you need that all-important document.

When starting your new filing system, take a look around the office and see what you have before buying new supplies. You may or may not already have what you need, and a penny saved is a penny earned. However, now is not the time to be stingy, either. If you do not have what you need, don’t just make do. Filing supplies are amazingly inexpensive, so don’t cling to every penny as if it were your last. Besides, what does a penny buy in today’s society, anyway?

File Folders

Start your new filing system by labeling all of your folders with the appropriate headings, and then go from there. Smead makes a good folder for office use, as does Pendaflex. If you don’t have a filing cabinet yet, get out there and purchase one. It doesn’t have to be the best one on the market, but you should choose one that Colored File Folderswill get the job done and fits with your office decor. Once that is squared away, you can begin to put your folders inside in a manner that makes sense and will be easily accessed.

Make sure you follow a filing system that is simple and, more importantly, uniform throughout the cabinet. This is where many filing systems go astray. People tend to start off well, alphabetizing everything, and getting their filing cabinet in a proper order. Then the train starts to fall off the tracks. They start putting things in the cabinet by order of importance, or by date, and at the end of the day, there’s no telling where anything is. Choose one method of filing and follow it throughout the cabinet. That way everyone will be able to easily follow the system and won’t mess up a good thing.

A Separate Guide

This is something that can be invaluable, but it is rarely used by anyone. You could make your filing system this much better, if you create a separate guide to your filing system and place it on top of the filing cabinet. That way, no one will have any doubt as to where things can be found. It may sound like a lot of extra work, but it will save an incalculable amount of time in the long run.

How-To: Keep Your Inbox from Taking Over Your Life

The computer age is great. Tasks that used to take days now take seconds, information is always there at the touch of a button, and businesses can extend their realm of marketability beyond their local walls and into the annals of cyberspace. With all of these positives, though, it must be said that there are some negatives that come with it.


If you are an office manager, you may consider email to be one of those negatives. Perhaps you treat going to your inbox as if it were a life sentence. How many spam messages will I get today, you think with a sigh. Then there is the matter of simply sorting through the good ones. Which ones demand your immediate attention and which ones can be ignored until later? Which ones are just the latest forward from one of your coworkers? If you are finding that you are spending too much of every day sifting through your email, this article is for you. We’ve devised a simple set of ways for you to get your inbox organized and turn your email back into a positive.


Folder Creation


The first step toward making your inbox a place of calm and peace is to create some folders. If you have ever done this with your internet bookmarks, you may already know how much easier they can make finding something (especially if you’re a bookmark packrat). Why not try the same thing with your email? A lot of people are not even aware of the many things their Outlook can do. This is a shame, because while Microsoft may not be the perfect company, they really have loaded their email program with a lot of features that probably go unused by ninety percent of their users. If you’re one of them–do one thing before go any further. Take an hour or so and just explore your email. Just play around with it. See what it can do. Chances are, you’ll be surprised by what you find.


Ok, time to get back on track with folder creation. Let’s say you want all of your client’s emails in one folder, all of your employee’s emails to go to another folder, and then your boss’s emails to go in a third folder. You can of course go on and on, but we will stop there for the sake of brevity, and since we have little way of knowing how you specifically want to separate your email categories. To do this, just go under File and click the New Folder icon. Label it something easy like “Clients” or “Boss”. No sense getting creative here and then creating an extra level of confusion for yourself when you go to retrieve your mail. Do this again and again for each of the various categories you want to make.


Directing Email Traffic


Once you have your folders in place, you may be wondering if you are going to have to copy and paste each email into the correct folder when they are received. Of course not, that would just be adding several extra steps and creating even more inbox confusion. What we want is to make your email life a little easier. So here’s the next step. You are going to create rules for each of your folders. This is done through the Outlook program and it can easily be set up to distribute your emails to the appropriate folders. You can set it up to go by subject line, or by the sender. This way, if your boss sends you an urgent message, it will go straight to the Boss folder you created, and you’ll know you need to take a look at that email and address it before getting to your other folders and any new messages you have in there. You’ll still have an alert in the main system itself that will tell you when you’ve received new emails and to what folder you should look to find them.


The Real Inbox


Now that you have sorted out your email inbox, what to do about the one on your desk, piling up with papers from every which way? Well, there are some simple steps you can take to clear that out and make it less of a burden as well. 3M and Rolodex offer a variety of products you may never have heard of that can help you get organized in a hurry. Take the time to find a good online office supply shop and browse their selection of merchandise to find excellent tools you can use to clean up the clutter.

How-To: Use Spreadsheets to Organize Your Office

Let’s make this as simple as possible: if you are not using a spreadsheet to help manage your office or business, you are making a huge mistake. We understand that the thought of a spreadsheet–the thought of even turning on Microsoft Excel–makes you want to curl up in a ball in the corner and start gently sucking on your thumb. Well, enough of that crying! Spreadsheets are nothing to be afraid of! In fact, after you are initiated into all the power they possess, you will wonder why you didn’t make friends with the green monster long ago! Without further ado, let’s talk a bit about all the things a spreadsheet system can do to make your office more organized and your life happier.

Organizing Your Tasks


And here you thought spreadsheets were only good for crunching numbers! Absolutely not. Spreadsheets can be used for a variety of functions that have nothing to do with accounting or budgets. Making a “to-do” list is just one of the great things a spreadsheet can help you with. You might still be stuck in the old ways of making a “things to do” list. Sticking little post-it notes all over the place, or filling a notebook up with items to be done.

There is a better way. All you have to do is use the first row to make headings that spell out all the tasks you need to get done. You can then use the columns to organize and separate these tasks into categories, orders of importance, and so on. In this way, the list becomes interactive and gives you a lot more freedom to manage things in an efficient way. Of course, if you still want some handy ways to keep little notes for yourself, Fellowes makes some very interesting monitor organizers that can help keep you from swamping your computer area with notes.

Keep Track of Your Passwords

Are you one of those people who has a hundred different passwords for different sites on the internet, and various programs you use on your desktop? If so, a spreadsheet can be an easy way to keep track of all those passwords. Even if you are a person that tries to basically use the same username and password for everything, you will likely run into problems with trying to implement this.

Certain sites require certain combinations of numbers and letters, some have length requirements, and with all of these variations, you are likely to have at least a few different passwords and usernames out there. Create a spreadsheet and use the headings to write Website (or software program title), Username, and Password and then your information will be there for you when you need it.

You can even password protect your spreadsheet, so that prying eyes won’t have access to all of your sensitive information. Of course, then the catch-22 arrives. Where will you store the password for your spreadsheet? But that opens up a field of paradox we are not quite ready to delve into, so let’s just move on, shall we?

Marketing

A spreadsheet can also be a great way for you to keep track of customer data. Perhaps you have been thinking about sending out a mailing list, either through snail mail or through email. These lists can be a superb way to drive traffic to your website, and increase business for your office. Using a spreadsheet, you can keep easy track of all of your customers’ information, such as their mailing address, the type of product they’ve bought from you in the past, and their email info. With modern spreadsheets, you can even create hyperlinks, so that it will be possible for you to open up and send email directly from a click of your spreadsheet!

If you have been afraid to open up your spreadsheet program because of the mathematical connotations, be afraid no more. What we have talked about is only a small sample of the things you can do with these powerful processors. Take the time to play with your spreadsheet program today, and you’ll find that they aren’t as complicated as you might have thought. If you have trouble, there are plenty of tutorials on the web that will help you get the basics down pat. Once you’ve achieved this, you’ll be able to use your spreadsheet program to do just about anything you can think of. Don’t let it sit there and collect virtual dust any longer!


3 Foolproof Ways to Clean Up Your Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping, properly done, is one of the most often overlooked aspects of a new business or office manager. It always seems like a task that can be put off, or perhaps never completed at all. After all, what’s really wrong with the way you are doing things now, right? Sure, it may be a little messy, and yes, you can’t always find what you need when you need it, but that’s still preferable to spending all day and night trying to organize all the clutter.

 

You may want to re-think this perspective on organization. You could be spending a large amount of manpower and time on chasing down receipts and paperwork, and you may not even realize it. Think about how much time has been wasted in the last month, for instance, looking for paperwork that should have been easy to find in seconds. Now multiply that by the amount of time you have been in business and see how this kind of wasted time can add up. And the worst part is that with a situation that you have now, paperwork and receipts can become easily lost. This paper trail is essential for a business. Imagine if you get audited by the IRS. It only makes sense to organize your bookkeeping, which is why we have devised a simple plan for you to do so.

 

Time is a Critical First Step

 

The first thing you need to do is set aside a chunk of time in order to accomplish this task. How long it will take will depend on how disorganized your bookkeeping is. No matter how messy your system has become, however, there is no reason it should take more than a day or two to set things right. If you need to, have one of your assistants come in on a Saturday and see if you can work as a team to get things in order in one day without interruptions. Grab a large three ring binder, such as those made by Cardinal, and get a hold of some divider cards to help make the transition smooth. Get some letter sized paper, a stapler, and some plastic folders. The only other thing you’ll need is your business receipts and paperwork. All of your invoices, scrap pieces of paper that important things are written on, and anything else you think needs to be better organized than it is. Head out to the coffee shop, grab a big cup, and set to the task of making your office run more smoothly, and making your life a lot easier.

 

Getting Organized

 

Okay, you’ve got your coffee, you’ve got your assistant, and you’re bravely taking time on a weekend to make things right. Trust us, it will be worth it in the long run (although your assistant may never see it that way, so hopefully you’ve bought him/her a coffee, too.) The first thing you need to do is organize your binder into separate sections. The first section will be for invoices that have not yet been paid. This will most likely be invoices from your suppliers or vendors. Write at the top of the invoices the date on which they are due and then organize them in such a way that the one that needs to be paid first is on top. The second section will be for your paid invoices. Receipts, in other words. Since many receipts and invoices don’t come in a handy letter size format, staple those that don’t to a sheet of paper for easier storage. Write at the top of each of the invoices the method you used to pay them. The next section is for unpaid invoices that you have sent out–money that is owed to you. Then a section for invoices you’ve sent out that have been paid. Finally, make a section for bank statements.

 

Keep It Organized

 

After you have accomplished this wonderful task, you do not want things getting back into disarray. This can happen more quickly than you might expect. You’ll want to set aside a day each month (or even more frequently if you feel it needs it) that you revisit your bookkeeping binder and make sure that things are still working in the way you set up. In fact, you may find it easier to simply gather your invoices and receipts in a folder and then add them to the binder on that scheduled day each month. Either way is acceptable, and the latter way may save you some time on a day to day basis.

 

Bookkeeping Basics

 

Now that you have everything nice and tidy and neat, you have two options at the end of the year. You can either take out that binder and use your own savvy and some accounting software to see where you are at, or you can just hand the whole folder off to your accountant. Either way, your new bookkeeping system should make things a lot easier to deal with come the end of the year, and come tax time.