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INNOVATE! Technology, Tools, Tips & Techniques
 
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March 2011
 
Welcome to INNOVATE!, an administrative resource for small business owners. INNOVATE! is a product of Cybertary, a professional Virtual Assisting company. In these monthly emails we will be giving you numerous resources and tips you can use in your business, your home, your office and your life.
 
March is known for March Madness and the wearing of the green, as we are all Irish on the 17th. Cybertary offers you tips gleaned from the college basketball hoopla in “Turn March Madness into Your Business’ Championship”. With the heralding of an early Spring, we help you “Organize Your Workspace” for the season. In the spirit of St. Patty’s Day, use green and other colors to help visually identify emails from important senders in Outlook. And lastly, don’t forget to take advantage of the new mileage rates for 2011 as you record your expenses.
 
Luckily yours, Cybertary
Turn March Madness into Your Business' Championship
March Madness
"March Madness" evokes a lot of challenges, not the least of which is the college basketball brackets. For those procrastinators among us, it is reflective of the mad dash to get the first quarter of the calendar year heading in the right direction to allow our businesses to kick into high gear. Here are four different strategies that may help you control your lane and have a slam dunk business year.
 
Strategy 1: The 80/20 Rule
‘Pareto Rule’, as it is alternatively referred to, has been related to all things in life. For your business, restate the strategy for what you need to focus your efforts this business year. For example, if 80% of your clients come from 20% of your activities, why are you doing the other 80%? Keep your eye on the ball of the 20% and pass off the 80% non-client producing activities to someone else. This way, you can hone your revenue producing work, continue to bring in clients and build your business before the buzzer signals the end of the year.
 
Organize your Workspace for Spring
Organized Workspace
As Punxsutawney Phil prognosticated (and who believes a hairy rodent, anyway), Spring is scheduled to arrive early this year. Get you and your office ready with these tips for organization and a little light spring cleaning.
 
Visualize the Space
We do not take the time to understand what we need from our offices. Rather, we plunge in and take cues of how others set up their space. What may work for the office or cubicle mate or even your significant other, may not work for you. Let your job functions dictate your office needs and establish zones to support your tasks, rather than create obstacles for their completion.
 
Standard Mileage Rates for 2011
Driving Mileage
Despite the fact that gas pump prices appear to be approaching the trajectory of a perfect slam dunk by your favorite college B-Ball player, the IRS issued the 2011 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes with only a modest increase from the 2010 rates.
 
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2011, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be:
  • Business Miles Driven: $.51 per mile
  • Medical or Moving Purposes Driven; $.19 per mile
  • Charitable Organization Service Driven: $.14 per mile
 
An annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle are factored into the calculation of the standard mileage rate for business.
 
Some cautions to stay out of trouble with the IRS:
  • If you used any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or claimed a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle, you may not use the standard mileage rate.
  • If the taxpayer used more than four vehicles simultaneously, the standard mileage rate deduction cannot be used. This provision is currently under review; the IRS is inviting commentary from businesses.
Something new in 2011, a taxpayer may use the business standard mileage rate for vehicles used for hire, such as taxicabs or car services.
 
And lastly, falling in the "I did not know this" category, taxpayers have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.
 
If you need more information on the IRS standard mileage deduction, Revenue Procedure 2010-51 and Notice 2010-88 contain additional details.
 
Cyber QuickTip: Color me GREEN!
Green Email
This is the month when we are all Irish, at least in spirit (and hopefully in luck!) Let’s take a tip from the color wheel and see how color can help us stay organized.
 
Did you know that you could assign a color to your frequent email senders in order to identify messages that you may want to respond to more quickly? I used this quite effectively when I had a ‘challenging boss’. In order to try to stay ahead of him, I color-coded all of his messages in red so that I could easily find any that he may have sent and respond to them quickly.
 
Though you may not have a ‘psycho’ boss to deal with, here is how you can see, at a glance, email from people that you want to pay attention to and at least prioritize these over all of the drivel that passes through your inbox.
  • In Outlook, go to "Tools"
  • Click "Organize"
  • The "Ways to Organize" pane should appear
  • Click "Using Color"
  • Here you can either select a message in your inbox and the sender will be highlighted in the display. Select a color and click “Apply Color”. You can also enter the senders address and apply a selected color in that manner.
  • There is also a field where you may choose to turn colors on for emails that are sent only to you, for example. You can undo this if you find it to be too distracting.
  • To view or edit your color selections or for more advanced features, click on "Automatic Formatting" in the upper right hand corner of the “Ways to Organize” Navigation pane.
For those of you who use other email systems, this feature is typically available as well.
 
You will likely not be able to color code every message you receive, nor would you want to, but this tip can help you find the ‘pot of gold’ for those messages that need to be addressed as priority one.
 
*Note: These instructions are for Outlook 2007. Instructions for your version of Outlook or other email program may be slightly different.
 
 

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