Back to work tips for August

It’s August, and for many of us with children we know it’s time to get in one last bit of relaxation this summer. If you live in Florida for many of you like myself there’s only one or two weeks left of summer vacation. So enjoy the beach, have a couple of late mornings and get ready for the back to school schedules.

On the work side for many self-employed professionals summer is normally the time when things slow down for us. It’s also a good time to get your office back in order and ready for business for the next push of the year. My work tips for August:

  • Get your finances in order – August is a great time while it’s slow going to update all your bookkeeping/accountig. Round-up any stray unpaid invoices from customers if you have any. Do your bank recons so you have a idea where you stand financially and what you need to do to meet your end of year financial goal. Hire a bookkeeper if you don’t have the time, patience or software to do your finances by yourself, or they are too out of control for you to deal with. However you decide to deal with your finances set a deadline for August 31 to get it all done and ready for the last months of the year.
  • Schedules – If you have kids then your work from home schedule is going to be really important. Be realistic about what you can do and when you can do it. For many of us our best work time is when the kids have gone to school. That will give you a good 6 to 8 hours of focused work time, so use it wisely.
  • Be flexible – Although you’ve got a schedule it’s always good to be flexible because life happens.
  • Home Office or work space – Over time our work areas get cluttered, it’s natural. While its slow take a couple of hours to tidy up, put files in their place and shred all that unwanted paper that is cluttering up your space and make it workable again 🙂 Don’t forget your computers too, we tend to drop a lot of stuff on our destops, so file those away too.
  • Finally have fun – Enjoy the last few days of family relaxing time before everything goes haywire again. Have fun and head outdoors, go to the beach or bike riding, but have some more fun before school and work get back in full swing.

Happy summer and have a great August.

Brain on vacation – Back to normal

Finally tax day has come and gone, and now my brain can vacate for a few days. It’s been a busy few weeks but was well worth it. Now to relax into a more steady work schedule.

mental-vacation

I can never say this enough having your accounts in order whether they’re done by you or a bookkeeper/accountant, it’s so much easier when it comes to taxes and annual accounts. Doing your accounts ever month, every quarter or even six months will be beneficial to you the business owner/independent contractor in that it helps you keep track of what your income and expenses are.   It also lessens the stress when it comes to doing your annual accounts and your profit and loss statements and other reports that you need at the end of your financial year.

So if you haven’t done your first quarter accounting, now would be a good time to get it done or hire a bookkeeper to do it for you.

Enjoy the week.

Althea – VYPA

How to write formally without sending readers to sleep.

I came across this article on the website How to Write Better. There are some good insights on making your writing more precise and to the point when writing formal documents for your business. But these tips can also apply to any kind of writing that we do now a days may it be formal or informal. So enjoy what the author of this article by Penny Dent has to say on the matter. I found it very interesting.

7 key tips to writing good formal documents, reports, letters and more

When we are writing something formal and structured, such as a document, report, or a letter, it is even more vital to be clear and get it right. This is no casual conversation, this is something that will make a difference. I spent twenty years producing formal documents that made a difference to children’s lives, so I know how important it is to follow a few simple rules in order to say what is needed.

Structure – keep it simple. What is the main objective of what you want to say? Don’t be tempted to muddy the waters by expanding on your message in too much detail or digressing into other areas. The more you keep it short and focused, the more likely you are to have your message heard and understood. If you are writing at length, consider including an introduction and conclusion; “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”

Layout – tempt the reader onwards. I am a great believer in using the layout of what you say to ensure that the message is read. So no long paragraphs, with multiple clauses, but not too many short, snappy sentences either. Avoid repetition, contractions and jargon. Keep sentences all the same length, wherever possible. Do the same with paragraphs; I really dislike long paragraphs and I would never put a single sentence as a paragraph in a formal piece of writing, unless I wanted to create real emphasis.

Break it up – I use punctuation and paragraphs to provide the basic structure, but if I am writing any length, I use other formatting to help invite the reader onwards. Bullet points are usually preferable to numbering in my view, as they highlight individual points without putting these in any particular order. Sub-headings are useful, even when contained within the text, as I have done here.

Language – of course the words we use are vital in communicating our message. Using complex or unusual vocabulary is counter-productive unless we are aiming to deliberately confuse or mislead our reader. Or if you want to impress them with what a bombast you are! Jargon is a definite no-no, as this may not be understood by those outside the sphere of its use. Writing formal documents on children with special educational needs for many years, I used to take on writers with no real knowledge of the field, so that they would not be tempted to use the jargon; I would tell them “if in doubt, leave it out.”

Grammar – when we are writing something more formal, we do not generally use the same grammatical structures we use when talking. This has become harder to define and maintain now that so much of what we write is casual and written in a conversational tone, such as in emails, texts and blogs. However, I think it is still useful to be correct when writing, as much to avoid silly mistakes as anything else. Mistakes or chatty grammar distract from the message we are trying to convey, which will make it lose its impact.

Tense – I try to write in the present tense as much as possible. Even when you are writing formally, this has more impact than writing in the past. Narration has traditionally been written in the past tense, or if you are writing a report and explaining what has happened, this will also be described as having happened. If you are explaining how to do something (as I am here) then I would keep it in the now as much as possible. These days books are often written in the present tense, making them more exciting and relevant.

Active or passive voice – using the passive voice used to be standard for any formal writing; “the words used are vital in communicating the message.” Nowadays we are much more personal and direct in what we say, so that even formal writing is related to our own experiences and views. This makes it easier to understand and follow. However, there is a difference between writing in the active voice “I really dislike long paragraphs and I would never put a single sentence as a paragraph in a formal piece of writing” and being too chatty “I hate long, boring bits of writing and wouldn’t put a sentence on its own”.

Overall, whatever the purpose of the writing, my number one tip is to keep it as short and simple as possible. People are lazy! So no matter how interesting your writing, they will not read it all carefully or thoroughly, unless it is riveting. As with any writing, set it down, walk away and then come back to check it, reducing the number of words and simplifying the message. Less is more.