How to keep your business plan fresh

(NC)—If your business plan has been collecting dust since you launched, it’s likely time to refresh. Updating your business plan on a regular basis is critical for any business to stay relevant and be successful in the future.

Elements of a business plan change in as little as a year—for example, sales targets, competitors and cash flow. A plan should be a continually evolving roadmap to where your want your business to be in the coming months and years.

Here are some common business-planning pitfalls.

Doing It Alonedevelop a business plan

It’s hard to be impartial when it comes to your own business. So involve employees, experts and other small business owners who may have an interest in the process. They can help you generate new ideas for the future.

Too Much Information

Keep it short and simple. Present your business ideas clearly and stick to the facts: incorporate market studies, benchmark reports and sales projections. Let these facts persuade your investors or lenders that your business will make a profit.

The Wrong Details for the Wrong Audience

You don’t want too much information, but you need to include the numbers and facts that back up your ideas.

If you want lenders or investors to take your business plan seriously, make sure the format is appropriate for your audience and look into different templates and sample business plans. Canada Business Ontario has free templates and sample business plans for a variety of industries and a business planning video to help get you started. They also offer secondary market research and demographic information to get you started. Call the Business Info Line at 1-888-745-8888 or visit www.canadabusiness.ca.

Filing It Away

A business plan can give you an objective picture of the viability of new projects. But it can only do this if you keep it up to date and refer to it regularly. Create a semi-annual or annual schedule to keep it fresh and current.

Continuous business planning helps identify opportunities, competition and changing industry trends. Your business plan will not only sell your idea to potential investors or lenders, it will also keep your business goals on track.

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Sleep on Your To-Do List to Get Things Done

To-do list getting a little long? Do you have problems remembering all you need to do?

Take the list to bed with you.

New research suggests, when planning for tomorrow’s to-do’s, sleeping on it will make you more likely to get things done.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that people who sleep after storing a memory end up following through on their intentions much more effectively than people who jump right in without sleeping.

While most studies on the link between sleep and memory deal with retrospective memory (things that happened in the past), this one focused on prospective memory (things you intend to do).

Prospective memory involves such everyday tasks as remembering to buy milk or to keep an appointment. It gets an especially good workout when you have many things to get done.

Understanding that sleep strengthens prospective memory is a valuable tool in handling your obligations efficiently.

Take a lesson from this research the next time you have a full agenda at work the following day. Give your memory a boost and ensure you’ll be at the top of your game by getting a good night’s sleep.

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Improve Your Life with Time Management

Time management is fundamentally about focus. The Pareto Principle states, 80% of effort not managed or focused generates 20% of the desired output. On the other hand, 80% of desired output can be generated by 20% of effective effort. You see how much is lost or gained with well-managed time.

Time management involves scheduling appointments, goal settings, planning, to do lists and prioritizing; core skills that need to be understood to develop efficient personal productivity. These basic skills should be personalized to fit your work style. However, there is more to time management than these basics: decision making, emotional intelligence and critical thinking are also important to personal development.

Time management involves everything you do. No matter how big or small, everything counts. It’s not just to get your tasks completed on schedule. Time management should lead to a balanced life.

Time management is about getting results, not about being busy.

Time management should improve six aspects of life: physical, intellectual, social, career, emotional and spiritual.

  1. The physical aspect involves having a healthy body, less stress and fatigue.
  2. The intellectual aspect involves learning and other mental growth activities.
  3. The social aspect involves developing personal or intimate relations and being an active contributor to society.
  4. The career aspect involves school and work.
  5. The emotional aspect involves appropriate feelings and desires and manifesting them.
  6. The spiritual aspect involves a personal quest for meaning.

Having a to do list for each of these key areas is not practical, but knowing which areas of your life  are not getting enough attention is part of time management. Each aspect is part the whole. If you ignore one then you are ignoring an important part of yourself.

Personal time management is not a daunting task. It is a reasonable approach in solving problems. These steps should be a regular part of your life:

  • Set goals and review them regularly. Write them down and keep the list where you can check it easily
  • Determine what tasks are necessary by asking yourself if they are helping you achieve your goals or maintain your balanced lifestyle.
  • Use your peak time to best advantage. Know your natural energy cycle. Complete difficult tasks you have the most energy.
  • Learn to say ‘No’.
  • Reward yourself for completions.
  • Get cooperation from people who benefit from your time management efforts.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Attend to necessary things immediately.
  • Have a positive attitude and set yourself up for success.
  • Set realistic goals and break them down into manageable steps
  • Track your activities. This will help you get things in their proper perspective.

Once you integrate time management practices into your life, you increase options that provide a spectrum of solutions to personal growth. It creates more doors that opportunity can knock on.

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Time-Saving Tools for Busy Lives

Amazing, isn’t it? Every day, you’re given 24 hours. Some days, you feel like you’ve lived every hour. Other days, the time seems to slip through your fingers like grains of sand.

Even though time can’t be pinned down, we live in a society that tries to do just that. Schedules, timetables and deadlines are the framework of modern life. But being organized doesn’t necessarily mean living by a lot of rigid rules. It means making choices—your choices—about what’s important to you and then arranging your time and space to focus on those choices.

Take a moment to reflect on the pace of your life. Does it feel like you are rushing from task to task and worrying about how you will ever get everything done? When you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s time to pick up your organizational tools and create some time and space in your own life. Here are five easy tools to get you started.

Make it easy for employers to see what you can do for them by going a couple of steps further:

The daily planner

Many busy people find that they cannot get along without the help of their daily planner. A useful daily planner:

  • is both a calendar and a notebook
  • should be small enough to carry with you
  • should be big enough to hold your to-do list, appointments and plans
  • has a section for phone numbers and addresses
  • doesn’t have to be expensive—you can find one for around $10.

The daily planner helps prevent the urge to leave notes all over the place and keeps all your vital information together. By glancing at your daily planner each evening, you can plan the following day. You could also write out your goals in your daily planner at the beginning of each month to help you stay in touch with what’s most important to you.

The to-do list

Time management experts say that list-making is one of the most useful kinds of tools because it helps you visualize your plans. Once you have made your list, try to sort the tasks according to how important each one is. You can assign ratings or underline the most important items on your list. If you manage to get only those things done, you have still made the best use of the time available to you.

The done list

Reward yourself for all your hard work. At the end of each day, take a moment to write out or just think about your “done” list. Include all of the items on your to-do list that you’ve completed as well as other important things you did. If you’re a worrier, your done list can show you how much you have actually accomplished.

A place for everything

This well-known saying has been around a long time because it’s true: A place for everything and everything in its place. When you think of all the time spent frantically hunting for your keys or your wallet or the bill that needs to be paid today, it really makes sense to organize your living space. This may take some effort at first, but putting things in their proper place can become a habit before you know it. Try telling yourself: don’t put it down—put it away. This simple rule works wonders.

Escape from the phone and TV

This may be the hardest thing to do, but it can make a big difference in the time you have to spend on more important things. You can start by keeping track of the time you spend in one week in front of the television—the number of hours may surprise you. When you think of how much time in a month or even a year is spent watching TV, you may decide it’s time to make some changes. You might decide to turn off the TV while you’re eating dinner. Or you may choose to make certain days of the week TV-free. The extra time can be spent with friends or on hobbies or maybe taking a course at a local college.

The same strategies can be used for deciding when to use the phone and when not to. You can choose to take calls when you have the time to talk. If you don’t have an answering machine, you can unplug your phone or turn down the ringer when you don’t want to take calls.

Making time, saving energy

Take some time to find out which time-saving tools are right for you. You can sometimes make very simple changes in your life and discover that you had much more time available than you thought. Then, you can effectively use the time you do have to accomplish what’s most important to you.

From ALIS

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11 Golden Rules of Time Management

  1. Understand the value of your time: We may all value our time differently, but we all have the same number of minutes in a day. Once they are lost, they are gone forever.
  2. Plan: You don’t plan failure, but you have to plan for success.
  3. Do tomorrow’s planning today: Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of the day to figure out what you need to accomplish. Determine that before the day starts.
  4. Identify your “prime time:” What part of the day do you have more or less energy? Plan high-energy or low-energy tasks accordingly.
  5. Work from an action list: Create lists from which to work.
  6. Schedule tasks as needed. Check off completed items. Revise the list as needed.
  7. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing what I’m doing right now?” and ask it often: Always evaluate what you are doing to ensure the most productive use of your time.
  8. “Delete” whenever possible: Eliminate clutter, file the completed, delegate wisely, learn to say NO.
  9. Check your calendar: Have a good system to track time-sensitive events.
  10. Be flexible: Have the ability to accommodate the unforeseen. Sometimes the urgent will have to override the planned.
  11. Take a day off now and again: Have days for unplanned relaxation and spontaneous activity.