Simple tips to streamline business communications

Communications are vital to the effective running of any business, but it is very easy for an organization to lose its grip on how its communications are organized, with the result that staff become frustrated and clients/customers become dissatisfied with the level of service provided. Indeed, what could be more frustrating for a customer than not being able to get in touch with the very people they are doing business with?

In recent years, innovations in digital technology have made it so much easier for people to communicate with each other, but in the absence of a plan on how to integrate such technologies properly into a business and leverage their effectiveness, there is little point in a business making the investment in new systems. Of course, not keeping up with technological innovations at all is another issue that businesses may encounter, with the result that outdated systems are obstructing the effective flow of communications to begin with.

Some businesses will find that one of the solutions to improving their communications is to install a digital business phone system. Smaller, transaction-focused businesses, such as stores or restaurants, will have relatively straightforward telecommunications requirements, but for an organization reliant on the successful cultivation of relationships, anything that makes client communications more difficult could put off certain customers, resulting in a loss of business. A business that does rely on developing and maintaining client relationships may require a digital rather than an analog phone system in order to support such technologies as voice over IP (VoIP) or the effective running of a call center, even if that center is staffed by a relatively small team. VoIP is a technology enabling phone calls to be made over the internet rather than through a traditional phone company. A VoIP system offers the potential for significant cost savings, especially in respect of long-distance calls.

A digital telephone system will feature a proprietary bus structure to support additional features, such as VoIP integration and music on hold. Boards are added to the system to support analog, digital, or IP phones. A majority of digital systems, even if they are proprietary, have evolved to include the addition of an IP interface on the controller. This interface might facilitate the rollout of such unified messaging services as voicemail or fax delivery to email and click to dial, offering significant streamlining of in-house communications and delivering messages to those who need them when they need them.

In terms of the actual rollout of improved business communications and the systems involved, there are a few useful steps that organizations can take to improve communications effectiveness:

• Consider technologies away from the most obvious ones that have the effect of improving communications. For example, equipping staff with telephone headsets would leave their hands free to do other tasks while they were taking a call.

• Consider whether the office space promotes streamlined communications. Open-plan offices or low cubicle walls mean that staff will not necessarily have to get up from their work desk or telephone colleagues to speak with them.

• Improved communications is about more than introducing phone- or internet-based technologies. Declutter filing systems and introduce a proper labeling system so staff members do not have to waste unnecessary amounts of time searching for files.

• Put proper email procedures in place to streamline the process of reading and sending email communications. Put out a request that email subject lines and messages be kept short and to the point.

• If the business works out of more than one location, introduce systems to streamline communications between different offices/branches. These systems can include teleconferencing technology, such as video cameras; internet-based document sharing and storage technologies – Google Docs being one such example – as well as remote network accessing services for staff that are away from any of the organization’s locations.

A common mistake with some businesses is to roll out communications changes and new systems across the entire organization, with the result that any “bugs” that need to be ironed out have done their damage across as broad a spectrum as possible before they can be rectified. A more gradual approach – testing the changes out among a small number of staff, for example – can reap significant benefits in that problems can be solved before a more comprehensive rollout, with the potential for disruption, is undertaken.

In conclusion, the importance of streamlining business communications cannot be overestimated. Businesses are subject to so many demands, so anything that helps streamline the working day and make it more efficient is to be embraced.

Leave a Comment July 16, 2014

How to avoid becoming a hoarder!

Hoarding has been receiving a high profile of late, with several television programs exposing just how badly some people’s lives are because of their hoarding habit. Yet any one of us, given a particular set of circumstances, could quite easily become a hoarder, because it is a thing that happens gradually, almost furtively.

What makes someone a hoarder?

A hoarder is not just someone who cannot bear to throw anything away or is messy and dirty. Hoarding is a symptom of mental illness, most commonly anxiety, and can come about because of trauma, bereavement or stress. Hoarders feel mentally and physically vulnerable, so they barricade themselves against the world by building up a pile of stuff that to others is worthless, ugly and unhygienic, but to the hoarder holds personal memories and attachments and provides protection.

There are several warning signs that a person is becoming a hoarder: these include refusing to throw away everyday items; living in unsanitary conditions; the home’s entrances becoming blocked; owning of more pets than they are able to adequately care for; the inability to use rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom for their defined purpose because they are too cluttered; and clearing attempts which just result in items being moved from one pile to another.

Prevention measures

The first step to prevent becoming a hoarder is to have a good clear out. Go through drawers and closets, throwing out anything that has no apparent use or that has not been worn for years. Try to do this on a regular basis to make the task more manageable.

Invest in furniture that provides storage, such as an ottoman bed. With such pieces, essential items, such as bed linen, clothes and toweling, can be stored neatly and out of sight, but easily accessible. In regards to furniture, declutter. Keep only furniture that is in constant use and not those items that are just placed for ornamentation or effect, as these inevitably only become places to put more junk.


Newspapers, magazines and circulars are all fit for recycling purposes, so throw them into the recycling bin as soon as they have been read, or even better, use a digital device to read them. Change to online bank statements and put a sign up outside the door stating that junk mail is not wanted by the resident and should not be put through the letterbox.

If the home is littered with read or unwanted books, donate these to a local charity shop, library or school.

Let go of memories

It can be very hard for parents to get rid of items belonging to their children, but there is only so much a house can hold. Keep the special items, but toys and clothes from the children’s younger days should be sorted through and either recycled or passed on to thrift stores.

Keep tidy

Try to tidy the home up at the end of every day, and this does not just mean moving one pile of books from the coffee table to the dining table. Put things away where they belong and the hoarding monster will not be able to get a foot in the door.

1 Comment July 16, 2014

Ease the Stress of Wedding Planning in 7 Steps

You’ve recently become engaged, congratulations! 

Between calling relatives and giving a play by play of how he proposed, it has been a whirlwind of an experience. Now that the frenzy has subsided, you realize that you need to get the ball rolling on planning this amazing event. 

Planning a wedding can be an elaborate ordeal and if you’re overwhelmed, that anxiety can overshadow the big day. Have no fear, you can pull off the wedding of a lifetime and still keep your head on. Here are 10 great steps that will ease your stress and make your wedding an experience you will talk about for years to come.

1.  Create a Wedding Planning Binder

The best way to get started with planning a wedding is having a semblance of an idea of what you want. Find a cute binder that is large in size. This binder will encompass every detail of your wedding, from the seating chart to the guest list. A good tip is to have dividers so that you can organize each section based on a category. 

This binder will help you tie in all of your ideas together to keep you cool, calm, and collected while planning your wedding.

2.  Set a Budget

When you give yourself a set budget, it helps you gauge how you are going to allocate funds to every aspect of the wedding. Wedding expenditures can add up quickly if you are not careful. By creating a budget and sticking to it, you will set yourself up for pure marital bliss while not having to worry about additional expenses of the wedding.

3.  Make a Guest List

Now that you have a budget in mind, it’s time to decide how many guests will be in attendance. Do not advertise your wedding until you are sure of whom you want to come. Make sure you and the groom have an equal amount of guests you can invite. Keep in mind that this is your big day; don’t be bullied by family into inviting guests you do not want to attend.

4.  Select Your Wedding Party

You know who you are going to marry, but do you know who is going to be in your wedding party? First figure out how many bridesmaids you want. Consider all options, including family members you may be close with. Once you have selected your bridesmaids, it’s till wedding do you part, so choose the people you are 100% on board with!

5.  Bring on a Wedding Planner

You are already working full time and wedding planning in itself is a full time job. Hiring a professional to oversee your big day will help take a load off your shoulders. Your wedding planner can help you take care of the tedious stuff like securing the venue, ordering the flowers, and other administrative tasks. 

Sites like Wedding Wire offer great tips on what to look for when hiring a wedding planner. Once you have picked someone, you can essentially kick back and show up to your wedding relaxed and glowing on the big day.

6.  Find Your Wedding Dress

No wedding is complete without the bride walking down the aisle with her stunning wedding dress on. Of course, the wedding dress is not going to buy itself. First, research different styles of wedding dresses so you can get a feel for your taste. Then scout some wedding dress shops that carry the style of dress you like that also matches your budget. Next take some of your closest friends or family to help you try on dresses. This will be a great memory for all to share.

7.  Pick a Venue

Whether you are choosing to create a destination wedding or you are going to hold it in a park, it’s definitely a good idea to pick a venue with ample time to spare. You want to be sure that the venue you choose can hold the number of guests comfortably. Also make sure that you do not need any additional permits to use the grounds. Giving yourself time to find the right wedding venue will help you plan things accordingly and not stress at the last minute.

You wedding day will be an occasion that you will never forget. The moment you said yes to your fiancé, you were filled with joy and anticipation. 

Planning a wedding is a beautiful endeavor, though it’s not without its challenges. Create a wedding binder to give yourself a plan to build upon. Work with your fiancé on setting a comfortable budget. Have an idea of who you want to attend the big event and select your wedding party. Hire a professional wedding planner to help oversea the big picture. Find the wedding dress of your dreams and the venue that goes right along with it. Wedding planning can be a wonderful experience when you plan ahead, so plan away and enjoy the experience.


Leave a Comment June 13, 2014

Thinking ahead: organizing your retirement plan

Thanks to better diets, more exercise and overall healthier lifestyles, people today are living longer than ever before. Each year, an ever increasing number of individuals around the country stop working and go on to enjoy many years of retirement.

Living a secure and comfortable life after retirement is everyone’s dream. Although the idea of retiring might be uncomfortable to some, it is an issue that needs to be addressed early in life. Unfortunately, some put off making plans until retirement appears on the horizon, which is when panic sets in as they try to gather as much income as they can within a short period of time.

The sooner one starts planning for retirement, the more prepared they will be when the moment finally arrives. A good solid retirement plan will go a long way towards estimating what it will take to ensure the individual is able to afford the type of lifestyle they would like to have, how much they need to save and how to manage their finances after retirement. It is important to have a sound plan in place early enough in order to build up a sufficient nest egg to support life after retirement.

Making the transition from working life to retirement requires careful and prudent financial planning, combined with savvy decision-making. A retirement plan needs to be carefully thought out and set in motion early enough to allow the individual to make any necessary adjustments for the future.

Retirement planning

The secret to making their savings last for the remainder of their life lies in having a viable road map. There are several things to take account of when coming up with a retirement plan; the prime considerations are discussed below:

Future living costs

The first thing to do when drafting a retirement plan is to make a realistic budget of any future needs and wants. This budget should be based on the individual’s current monthly expenditure, with allowances added for items such as frequent vacations or traveling. This budget will help determine the level of income required to comfortably sustain them in their retirement years.

Having these costs in mind will also provide an estimate of the amount of money they need to save over their remaining working life in order to meet their retirement targets. The costs act as a compass for retirement planning.

Sources of retirement income

There are three main sources of retirement income; namely, social security funds, pensions and annuities and personal savings. When making a retirement plan, the amount of money available from each of these income streams should be considered.

Individuals should order a social security statement in order to get an estimate of the amount they are set to receive once they retire. They should also find out how much they can expect from their pension and how the payouts will be made.

 In addition, it is advisable to contribute money to an individual retirement account (IRA) or to a 401(k) plan to help fund life after retirement.

Ways to get more mileage out of retirement assets

Anyone planning their retirement should focus on finding creative ways to stretch out their retirement assets. One of the best ways to do this is to move to an area with lower living expenses or relocating to a lovely senior living community. These communities have transformed over the years to become service-enriched residential areas, offering a rich menu of social events and entertainment activities. Residents in modern retirement homes can enjoy the freedom of independent living without the worries of household maintenance chores. They have the option of purchasing housing units within the retirement communities or renting apartments on a monthly basis. Most of these facilities offer a selection of healthcare plans as part of the package to ensure residents make the most of this golden period in their lives.

Personal insurance needs

Individuals who are considering retirement are advised to pay attention to their insurance needs. As people get older, they need better insurance plans to cover any health problems that might crop up. This might call for higher insurance payments to cater for long-term health issues as well as other emergency problems that may occur. A comprehensive retirement plan should take such costs into consideration.

Making a will

Another key component of a good retirement plan is preparing a will. When making plans to retire, people should ensure they have effective wills in place stipulating how their estates should be distributed upon their demise. This helps to protect families from unexpected legal and administrative burdens later on.

Leave a Comment May 23, 2014

Tips on Organizing Your Finances

Now, more than ever, gaining financial freedom needs to be a priority. Debt is a reality and is never enjoyable to think about… but it cannot be ignored. Getting yourself organized financially will not only offer you peace of mind, it will help you in your journey of getting out of debt. To be able to start financially organizing yourself, you need to have a system that puts you on that path. Here are 5 solutions to help you begin your process of tackling your debt and organizing yourself financially.

Know Your Debt

So you know you have debt, but do you know the actually amount? The reality is that student loan, car payments, and mortgages are just things we pay down. Seldom are you actually tracking the lump some. To get organized, first calculate your debt. It can seem overwhelming but it is necessary so you know exactly where you are at to build your system. Once you have found your total amount of what you owe, we can go onto the next process

Create a Budget

Spending money is easy, but allocating money can be a little tough. Start by portioning your earnings in different categories like: bills, groceries, entertainment, loans, and savings. Once you’ve figured out the bills and loans categories, make a smart but realistic goal for your entertainment, groceries, and savings funds. For groceries, always make a list and stick to it. Get in the habit of keeping up with your target spending. When you are going out, stick with cash, that way you have a finite amount to spend. Using cash will take away the temptation of blowing your budget that can arise when using a credit card.

Set a Bill Day

Set aside a day where paying your bills is a priority. When you get in the habit, it is easier to establish a rhythm. Be sure to keep your due dates in mind when you set up a day to pay your bills. It also helps to have a designated filing system to keep your bills organized, that way when the day comes to pay the bills, you are able to get through it quickly and efficiently.

Zero Balance Transfer Cards

The easiest way to organize debt is to have it all in one place. Applying for a card of this nature can help you zone in on your debt and pay it off a lot faster. It gives you the power and control to get on top of your debt while organizing your finances simultaneously. There are many options when it comes to finding a zero balance transfer card, check out these choices and see what works best for you.

Use technology

In today’s day and age, it is very easy to find a program to help streamline organizing your budget. Utilizing an app such as Mint is a key organizational tool that is available to you for free. Mint lets you log into all of your accounts and tells you your spending patterns, gives you alerts when you are reaching your budget, and gives your personalized advice based on your purchases.  Using technology is a smart and hassle free way to really get your financial organization under control

Being organized financially does not come naturally to everyone; but it is not impossible. Utilizing the above-mentioned tips can put you on the path of financial security.  Start by knowing where you are at debt-wise. Find a card that offers zero balance to help with interest. Next, create your budget that fits your lifestyle. Set aside a specific time to pay your bills. Lastly, take advantage of the numerous sites available that help you manage your finances. By getting ahead of your finances, you can ease your stress and put debt behind you. 

Leave a Comment May 9, 2014

Great organizing product!

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the Neat Roll and Neat Cordz products…and I’m delighted to say that I love them both! These fun, snap-close, bracelet-like tools are made from springy fabric-covered steel strips and can easily keep wrapping paper, electrical cords, posters, fabric, and more neat and organized—without the use of tape, rubber bands, or clips!

Just a few of the many benefits…

  • they’re sturdy
  • durable
  • reusable
  • colorful
  • super easy to fasten (you just tap them down and they curl right around the rolled up item!)
  • AND they prevent damage from tape, rubber bands, and clips

I’m now using Neatcordz in my home to bundle extension cords for easily, no-tangle storage. You’ll also find NeatCordz keeping our electronic and computer cords neatly pulled together to prevent that messy cord look.

Plus, I don’t need to use tape to secure my gift wrap or packaging paper anymore; I just use a Neat Roll. I’ve also found these to be perfect organizers for fabric and posters.

I’ve found the Neat Roll products works best for bundling items with one to three inch diameters. Down the road, I’d like to see this company develop a smaller version for teeny-tiny cords like iPod headphones and other small wire electronics.

In the meantime, don’t be overcome with damaged paper rolls and cord clutter. I highly recommend both these products for home and office use…get a bunch today!

For more information, visit:

Maria Gracia

Leave a Comment December 17, 2013

National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day!

Can you believe that it’s just around the corner!? It seems like just yesterday this special day came and went.

We’re of course talking about November 15th, or National Clean Out Your Refrigerator day — the holiday that reminds everyone before Thanksgiving to throw away the rotting food that’s been stuck behind the pickles for a few months now.

While we at understand that most of you probably do a pretty good job of keep your refrigerator clean, this holiday also serves as a friendly reminder to tune-up your fridge. Checking the efficiency of both your freezer and refrigerator can save you boatloads of money over the course of a year and gives you the confidence that it’ll survive past the crazy Thanksgiving holiday.

Cleaning the Refrigerator

Many of you probably already have a system in place to tackle a fridge clean-out. But for those of you that don’t, it’s really not too complicated. Simply go through each item in your fridge, checking the expiration dates and tossing what’s no longer good. This is also the perfect time to throw away stuff that never gets used and is just taking up valuable space.

You should now have plenty of room to get in there and start scrubbing away any leftover stains and spills. Make sure to get into every nook and cranny of your fridge to help rid it of any bacteria or mold. If you’re finding yourself without much room to clean, transfer over the contents of your refrigerator to an ice-filled cooler. This will help keep your food and condiments cold while you finish cleaning the inside of your refrigerator.

Odor Solutions

With your fridge clean, you can start tackling any smells or odors that seem to still be stuck inside. We recommend using one of these effective methods:

Baking Soda

Pour an entire box of baking soda onto a baking sheet and place it into your refrigerator. Leave this sheet in the fridge (usually no more than a week) until the smell disappears.

To prevent future odors, keep an open box of baking soda in your fridge at all times. If you ever notice smells coming back, it’s probably time to replace this box with a new one.


One of the more unknown odor solution methods is bunched up newspaper. It works much the same way as baking soda; the carbon from the ink in the newspaper sucks moisture out of the air and into the paper.

Simply crumple-up some newspaper, spray them with a little bit of water, then set into the refrigerator for a few days.

Charcoal Briquettes

Since it’s nearing the end of the summer, many of you probably have some leftover charcoal briquettes laying around your home. These are also great for eliminating tough odors. Simply place 4-5 briquettes in a bowl and onto a shelf inside of your fridge. Any remaining smells should be gone in less than a week.

Efficiency Tune-Up

Now that you’ve got your fridge sparkling clean, it’s a smart idea to make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible. Use our suggestions below to get started:

Clean the Condenser Coils & Fan

Over time, you refrigerator’s condenser can become dirty, which directly effects how efficiently your unit runs. To clean this, you’ll first need to gain access to the condenser fan and coils. The condenser assembly is typically located behind a grille on the backside or front of your fridge. Once you’ve removed this grille, use a soft brush, vacuum, or air compressor to blow away the dust and dirt from both the coils and fan.

Check the Door Seals

If it’s been a while since you checked your refrigerator seals, it’s a smart idea to do this now. Use a dollar bill to test this by attempting to slide it between every inch of your door seals and the fridge. If the bill can slide between the seal, then the seal is not tight enough and should be replaced.

Clear the Freezer Vents

Believe it or not, the little vents in your freezer do serve a purpose! They help circulate cold air in the freezer, which you know, is necessary to help keep everything cold.

This means that any food items, crumbs and ice will need to be removed from these vents on a regular basis. If you have a large ice buildup, either defrost your freezer or use a small ice pick to gently remove the excess ice.

Set the Proper Temperature

One of the main reasons your refrigerator is killing your electric bill is because it’s just simply not set to the correct temperature. Each time the compressor kicks on to make it cooler, you’re wasting more energy.

Combat this by setting your refrigerator to between 36° F and 42° F and your freezer to between -5° F and +6° F.

We can’t speak for everyone, but we love these type of holidays. We plan on spending ours by making sure each of our important appliances are ready to handle the upcoming Thanksgiving feast.

Maria Gracia

Leave a Comment November 15, 2013

Six Things You Should Consider Before Renting Out A Storage Space

Winter is coming, and people all over Southern California–myself included–are organizing their homes for the holidays. This includes storing their outdoor valuables in order to protect them from the cold, wet winter climate. Ideally, you’ll want to store these valuables in your home to keep a close eye on them, but living in SoCal, there may be a big chance that your home doesn’t have an attic or basement. Storage facilities are usually the answer.

There are definitely many factors to consider when it comes finding the right space for your valuables. Of course, getting a storage space can lift the burden of clutter in your home, but at the same time you might feel worried about them sustaining some kind of damage while in storage.

If you’re looking to store your valuables this winter, here are six factors to consider when looking for a quality self-storage space.

1. Security

When looking for a quality storage facility, make sure to consider the amount of security on the premises. If you have valuables like antiques, machinery, power tools or even motor vehicles, you’ll want to find a storage facility with excellent security, ideally with cameras and a large security personnel. Some storage facilities understand that security is at the top of a customer’s priority list, which is why they go above and beyond by having state of the art features like biometric fingerprint scanners to ensure that only authorized users may enter storage units.

2. Accessibility

A storage unit needs to be accessible. Most likely, you’ll be coming back constantly to swap out some of your stored valuables or to add to your collection. Either way, you need to make sure both your unit and the storage grounds are easily accessed. Open storage hours are something that you may want to consider. The later the storage facility closes, the more accessible.

Here in my home city of San Diego, there are a few storage facilities that are open 24-hours, so if you really need to take your your Harley out at 10 PM for a joyride to the marina, a 24-hour storage facility may just be what you need. In the end, you’ll want to put your stuff somewhere you can easily get to whenever you need to.

3. Climate Control

Most things are sensitive to temperatures, whether it’s a power tool or painting. If temperatures are off by a couple dozen degrees, it may cause terrible damage to your valuables. You’ll want to consider a storage space with heating and air conditioning in your unit.

San Diego is known to be in one of the best climate zones in the country, with a yearly average of 72 degrees. However, we often have spikes in high-temperatures, which may not bode well for valuables (especially antiques) kept in storage facilities.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a storage facility that keeps valuables in a certain temperature range, preferably between 50 and 80 degrees (F).Though many facilities charge extra for a climate controlled unit, it’s definitely worth the price (if you want your possessions to retain their value).

4. Weather Wear and Tear

Storage units need to have a some kind of protection against the elements. If they don’t, time to move on to the next storage facility. Make sure you verify if it has protection against the local climate.

If you live in a temperate climate, you may still want to find a facility that has protection against wet winters and cold temperatures. The kind of storage San Diego families need is tricky. The reason is because many of these storage units are outside of temp controlled buildings due to the year round 70 degree weather. Open units like these tend to experience the most wear and tear. Google your city and find the right facility to store your toys indoors (whether it’s a lawnmower, speedboat or pool table).

5. Insurance

If something should happen to your stored valuables, you’ll want it to be in a storage facility that’s equipped with good insurance. At times, your home insurance won’t cover items outside of your home, which is why you’ll need to rely on the insurance of the storage facility where you hold your items. This way, you’ll know that you have a good safety net, lessening the worries of leaving your valuables in a storage facility.

6. Price

When it comes to finding a storage unit, you basically get what you pay for. However, at times, quality storage facilities will offer seasonal discounts to increase business. Also, you’ll want to find a storage unit that has a low, basic price with optional features like extra security and climate control–just make sure the price is within reason.

Winter is the best time to store your valuables, not only to make room in your home, but to protect them from the elements. So, why not consider renting out a quality storage space?

Leave a Comment November 13, 2013

Take a 5-Minute Vacation

One of the best ways to get and stay motivated throughout your day is to take short ‘reward’ breaks in between your many TO DOs.

Today, right after I folded a large load of laundry, I took a 5-minute vacation…I rewarded myself with an old ‘I Love Lucy’ video clip on You Tube.

Not only was this a nice and quick break, but it also made me smile! (I’ve seen the clip so many times, but it never fails me!)

Do something productive today. Then, take a short break to view this ‘Famous Chocolate Scene.’

Maria Gracia

1 Comment November 5, 2013

How Clean Is Your House?

We recently ran a poll on my web site that resulted in some very interesting numbers.

The question posed was…How clean is your house?

Here are the final results:

9% My house is so clean, you could eat off the floors!

24% My house is pretty clean, but you may see some crumbs here and there.

39% My house is clean in some rooms, and not-so-clean in others.

28% The word clean and my house do not go hand in hand!

Total Votes: 1229

Where do you rank? Comment and let us know!

Maria Gracia

Leave a Comment October 28, 2013

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