Archive for the ‘Save Time and Money’ Category

How to be ‘Time Smart’

September 3, 2015

I am often asked how I manage my time, with so many clients to deal with, emails, phone calls and social media interactions to manage. The answer is – I plan and here are some of my tips of how to manage your time smartly, if you have lots of things to do and not enough time to do them in.

Make a ‘Weekly To Do List’

At the beginning of each week, create a list of tasks that are outstanding and give them each a priority rating.

  • 1) Urgent – Needs to completed today
  • 2) Important – Needs to be completed this week
  • 3) Not Important – Needs to completed this month
  • 4) Personal Tasks – Only do these things once 1) is done
  • 5) Low – Needs to be completed but no specific timescale

At the end of the week, re-do your list, your priority 1’s should be complete, and the other tasks can be re-prioritised, depending on deadlines. It’s worth adding a ‘deadline’ date as well.

For example:

Weekly Task List

Make a ‘busy day’ schedule

If you have back to back meetings, phone calls, things to do, places to be and still have to fit in walking the dog and meeting your friend for a drink after work, plan your day around your scheduled appointments and fill in the gaps with things you can do on the way or in between.

For example

Busy day schedule

Learn to estimate how long it takes to complete a task

Work out how long a task is going to take so that you can schedule in your time more accurately. Keep a record of how long you estimate a task to take and record how long it actually took, so that you know for future planning. Don’t under-estimate how long something takes and then end up with tasks still not completed at the end of the week.

If necessary build in extra slack into you day or allow 50% more time than you originally estimated to complete a task. Conversely do not get into the habit of using up 2 hours of time if you can finish the task in an hour, don’t ‘waste’ time if you have over-estimated.

Use a stop watch or alarm to remind you every 30 minutes, so that you can check if you are on track with your timings.

For example:

Task Estimation

Plan your day in sections

Your mind cannot concentrate for 8 hours at a time and stay focussed all that time. If you are planning to be in your office all day, break up your day into 90 minute ‘productive time’ periods and work through your tasks during that time.

Then every morning and afternoon plan in 30 minutes of ‘non-productive time’ so that you can move aside from your tasks and schedule. Use this time to either get out of the office, grab a coffee, take a walk or just move away from your computer screen or the phone.

Also plan in one 30 minutes session every day for ‘quick wins’ where you can work really fast through lots of smaller tasks, to enable you to clear your backlog.

For example

Daily Planner

In summary

  • Have a weekly to do list and tick off tasks, re-prioritise throughout the week
  • Only create a day list for really busy days that take you out of the office or you have back to back meetings, phone calls etc.
  • Estimate how long tasks will take, record how long they actually take and plan better for the future
  • Plan in ‘productive’ and ‘non-productive’ times into your day and don’t get distracted by email, social media and the internet

If you need some coaching on how to organise your time, get on top of your tasks and generally make a bit of time for yourself, get in touch. These are only some of the techniques we use, and for once a month over a 6 month period, we work with you to help you learn some of these techniques. Let us organise you.

How to bill out your time

June 4, 2015

One of the first things new clients ask is ‘how do you charge out your time?’ so I thought I would write a blog post on this.

I have also created a video blog here

There are several ways in which we bill out our time here at AM PM PA.

  • Hourly rate
  • Daily fee
  • A set project rate
  • Monthly retainer

The other option would be on a part-time self, employed contract, but we generally don’t do that as most clients don’t want us as an extra member of staff and overhead.

Here’s how they work, with examples of each.

Monthly retainer
This would be an agreed set monthly fee, where we are tasked to carry out specific duties throughout the duration of the month. Usually agreed over a 12 month period and reviewed annually. E.g. Marketing Activities

Set project fee
Useful when there is a specific piece of work that needs to be completed within a set timescale and the fees are estimated by us beforehand and agreed with the client. E.g. Formatting and proofing a 250 page training manual.

Daily fee
When we are required to work off site for a full (or half day) we charge a set fee for this, the actual hours may vary but on average a half day is four hours and a full day eight. E.g. To carry out our on-site ‘Blitz the Backlog’ service.

Hourly rate
When clients ask us to bill them for the actual time spent, either on a project or an ongoing basis. We use a kitchen type timer for this, but you can also use a stopwatch or your computer clock, and we then record the actual hours on a spreadsheet timesheet – which we use to create our client bills at the end of each month. You could also use a time logging app such as Toggl

One last thing to explain is the difference between billable and non-billable time.

If you are an employee, you get paid for when you are at work, and this includes the time when you are making a cup of tea or chatting to a colleague about what they are doing at the weekend.

When you are self employed and are working for clients who pay you for the work you do, you only charge them for your billable time (when you are carrying out work for them). When you go to make a cup of tea, have a comfort break or pop into the bank to pay in some money, these are all non-billable times.

We have a non-billable category on our timesheet, so that we can keep an eye on how much time we are spending not working.

I hope you found this interesting and hopefully you will be able to use some of these yourselves to become more efficient in your workplace.

To Do List Tips

August 15, 2014

Here are my top tips to help you create and use a TO DO LIST

  1. Create a TO DO LIST at the end of every day, so that when you start the following morning, you have something to focus on straight way before getting distracted.
  2. Prioritise your TO DO LIST tasks into things that need to be done today, or those that can wait – have a weekly and daily TO DO LIST if that helps.
  3. Split larger tasks into smaller more manageable ones, and tick off your TO DO LIST when complete – you gain a small sense of achievement when you see what you have done.
  4. Plan in time in your TO DO LIST for emergencies or things that crop up unexpectedly.
  5. Add a diary note for tasks that don’t need to be completed until a specific date, so that you don’t have to keep looking at them on your TO DO LIST every day.
  6. Make a note on your TO DO LIST of how long a task took you to complete, from start to finish, this should help you get less distracted.
  7. Don’t get bogged down by reading and responding to all your emails that come into your inbox, not all emails need to be reacted to straight away, so add to your weekly TO DO LIST if not urgent.
  8. See if some of your TO DO LIST tasks can be completed together, for example if you have to go to the bank, post office, get petrol and drop off dry-cleaning, save all of the tasks up and do together, rather than as they crop up.
  9. Give yourself 30 minutes a day (15 in the morning, 15 at lunchtime) to spend on web-based activities (social media, entertainment, news, weather, shopping, holidays etc) and be strict; this is probably one of the biggest time wasters of the 21st Century
  10. Add your allotted time to your TO DO LIST if necessary.
  11. Keep your desk and work area as clear as possible, if your TO DO LIST extends over many pages, keep the information in a file, so that things are easier to find when you need them.

Good luck in getting yourself organised. If the thought of a TO DO LIST fills you with dread, get in touch with us – we can at least get you started !

Proof reading tips

February 13, 2013

Don’t rely just on your spell checker, typo’s, grammatical errors and plain spelling mistakes shout out that you do not pay attention to detail. Whether it is writing for the web, on a leaflet or via social media, it is not acceptable to send out messages that contain errors. Here are a few tips and tricks that I have picked up along the way.

Edit first
Make any changes to your text first, then go through and proof read for errors, not the other way around. Use a spelling and grammar checker – always, but don’t depend on this as the only tool.

You go first
Before you ask some-one else to give your text the once over, make sure you have done so first, pick up the obvious errors and allow some-one else to pick up the harder to spot ones. Check your work at least 3 times before you let some-one else see it.

You need to concentrate to proof read well. Walk away from your text, have a break, do something else, then go back to it. Always give yourself plenty of time, proof-reading cannot be rushed, and try to avoid distractions. Preferably proof read when you have a fresh pair of eyes and are not falling asleep in a low-light lull.

Hard copy
Print out the text and read it through, have a red pen to hand and make the changes on the paper. You see and read things differently on paper and on-screen. Use your finger to point to each word as you read. Try printing in different fonts if you have to re-read lots of times through, you see different word shapes with different fonts.

Out loud
Read your work out loud, slowly and clearly. Some people say to read your work backwards, this stops your brain filling in the gaps for often read words.

Titles, footers, headlines – not just the main text. Also double-check if some-thing doesn’t look quite right, never assume your command of the language is infallible. Also keep your formatting consistent. Also pay attention to how numbers are written and make sure you have the correct formatting.

Learn from your mistakes, you will find that you tend to make the same ones, know your faults and spot them next time, don’t train your brain to overlook them. Also train yourself to look for one type of error at a time, spelling, grammar, formatting etc, this will stop you skipping over subtle errors in favour of the big ones.

Look out for words that share spellings or pronunciations but have different meanings complement / compliment ; stationery / stationary ; their / there ; bear / bare etc. Also make sure you use apostrophes correctly its / it’s ; your / you’re ; their / they’re. Also pay attention to punctuation, words with capital letters and the correct use of quotation marks etc.

Final check
Even if you have carried out all the advice above, always check again one last time, especially if some-one else has edited the original copy.

If you would like a review of any of your printed collateral, just let us know, or if you would like some-one else to proof-read text you have created – get in touch 01225 443483 or visit our website for more details of some of the ways we can help you

Email Marketing

January 14, 2013

Email Marketing can help you engage with your current and prospective clients and partners and help you spread the word about your products and services, but before creating your first campaign, take a look at my top tips.

Why are you sending an email campaign?

  • Is it designed to get new customers, extra business or to build existing relationships?
  • If the purpose is to drive traffic to your website, include lots of obvious links to your website and calls to action like ‘click here’.

Who are you sending to?

  • What is your audience interests?
  • Only send your campaign to people you know, the stronger the relationship you have with people, the more likely they are to engage with your campaign content.
  • Quality in your contact list is more important than quantity, why send out to 5000 contacts if only 5 open it.
  • Ensure recipients have opted in to receive and always include an opt-out or un-subscribe option.
  • Un-personalised or badly personalised emails may attract spam complaints.
  • Always send from a real person, and real email address ‘’ says ‘I don’t want you to contact me’.

What will be in the content?

  • Be brief, but to the point, with the sentiment ‘hey remember me, here’s something for you’.
  • Less is more, say what you have to say in bullet points or short paragraphs.
  • Make sure you have good content, something worth reading.
  • Include the ‘best bits’ at the top of your campaign, so this appears when people are using a preview pane.
  • Don’t ‘sell’ to people via your email campaign, build relationships.
  • Offer information that is of value to your customers, e.g. a florist might give some tips on arranging your flower display at home.
  • Use customer questions from the past to give advice to others.
  • Double check typos and grammar before sending and always spellcheck.
  • Don’t use italics, very large fonts, spaced text or all words in uppercase, these all increase spam scores.
  • Avoid obvious spam words, but also things like ‘free, hard, replica, quality, diploma, ££, $$, save, discount’ etc.
  • Include a signature at the bottom, to include your personal details, company details, and an unsubscribe link.
  • Always have a copy of the email on a web server and add a message at the top of your emails that says something like ‘Click here if you are unable to read the email’

Think about your subject line

  • Make sure your email doesn’t look like spam, avoid using capital letters.
  • Rather than something dull (and easy to forget like ‘newsletter’) get your audience intrigued by the content, e.g. How to arrange flowers at home, top florist tips’.
  • The subject line is the only part of your email that people are guaranteed to read, even if it’s just to delete it.
  • Be clear about the key offer, benefit or proposition and communicate only that in your subject line.
  • Write your email subject line after you have written the content, not the other way around.

How will your email look?

  • Avoid flashy graphics, layouts, colours etc, most email programs will not display all of this content.
  • Keep it looking professional, and simple, yet easy to read on many devices.
  • Avoid the text being too small, not everyone has 20:20 eyesight.
  • Make the content of your email easy to navigate, use paragraphs and spaces.
  • Compress all images, even better have no images.
  • Keep the look and feel the same each time, it promotes your brand consistency.
  • Most users will be viewing your email in a preview pane with the images turned off.
  • Make sure that your message is less than 600 pixels wide and at least one link into the first 100 pixels.
  • Always have the option of sending a plain text version of your email too.
  • If you include links, make sure they are easy to spot and appear in blue bold and underlined fonts.

When should you send it?

  • When to send depends on your audience.
  • Studies show Tuesday and Wednesdays are the best days of the week.
  • Between 2 and 3pm (GMT) seems to be an optimum time to send out your email campaign.
  • If you are sending a weekly email, always send at the same time on the same day each week.
  • Once a month is a good frequency – more often, you may annoy people – less often, and they may have forgotten who you are in between.
  • Avoid holiday times and weekends.
  • Business to business emails should be sent during work hours, business to consumer, early evening works best.

Make sure you measure the effectiveness

  • Check who opens your emails, which subject lines work best, which articles they read etc.
  • Over time test what does and does not work. Every audience is different.
  • Make sure you keep your database up to date, there is no point sending to people who have left their company.
  • Check every campaign for un-subscribes, bounces etc and update.

It’s not a complete list, and these are only my views, but they are worth giving a try, please feed back to me if you try these and they work. Equally if you would like some help putting together an email campaign, let me know I am here to help


Communication channels

September 26, 2011

In the days of CRM and social media, where its not acceptable to forget or lose contact details, has anyone else (apart from me) started to add ‘preferred method of contact’ to their regular contacts.  This can have a huge impact on how you engage with people, and actually in some cases shows how much you value and care their relationship with you.

Here are a range of different contacts I have with people to illustrate:-

Mr Pink – He is old school, and only communicates via telephone or letter.
So emails, twitter, Facebook, even text messages are not on his radar. Is usually out of the office all day too.

Mr Blue – Customer facing, so communicates via SMS or Twitter during the day, email  in the evening.
Phone contact and messages are no good either. SMS contact if needed urgently.

Mrs Green – During the day, in meetings or car (no hands free), during the evenings staying in hotels.
Reads and sends emails with rapid succession during the hours of 9pm and midnight.

Miss Red – Has bypassed emails and communicates through Facebook/Twitter and other social media.
Rarely a day goes by without a status update, always replies to messages very quickly.

So my point is? If you know the best way to contact people, you will almost certainly be able to engage with them in a way that suits them, and respect their ways of working. This is all about managing not only your time and working environment, but knowing that there is no blanket way of communication any more.

We care what our clients and suppliers, friends and colleagues feel – John Maxwell said “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Is email getting on top of us??

August 2, 2011

After returning from a very blissful 2 week holiday, I knew that I would be faced with several hundred emails on my return, and I was not wrong!

Even though I had un-subscribed from countless ‘e-newsletters’, turned off all Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter notifications, informed everyone I knew I was out of the office and set my ‘Out of Office’ message, I was still faced with nearly 500 emails on my return.

This unfortunately is not uncommon. Like a pile of junk mail, bills, newspapers, leaflets, letters, magazines on my door mat when we return from holiday, we all now have to contend with lots of (mostly) un-necessary email ‘conversations’. Perish the thought we may have missed out on something while we were away – that’s the reason we went on holiday in the first place!!

Add to this the un-necessary emails across the office when a phone-call would do, and you end up with email armageddon!

Most people find this unbearable and are unable to cope with the added stress of returning to work after a holiday.  Spare a thought though for some people who receive that number of emails every day!.

Will this ever stop?, What are the solutions? and how can we help people who feel totally consumed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails every single day?

My top tips for managing email are:-

  • Sort by sender and subject, so you can see email threads, read only the latest thread.

    Too much information

  • Delete anything that is not relevant.
  • Keep your inbox empty.
  • Read emails where you are the ‘To’ recipient rather than the ‘Cc’
  • File emails in folders.
  • Action immediately emails that will take only a few minutes.
  • Unsubscribe from all e-newsletters.
  • Turn off all notifications in LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc.
  • Save any vital emails to a separate file on your computer & purge everything over 12 months old.
  • Set your send/receive options to manual and choose when you want to receive emails, rather than them trickling in all day.

I hope that helps a few people, I would be more than happy to spend a few hours with anyone who needs some email management help.

If I can go on holiday for 2 weeks, return to nearly 500 emails, and have cleared all of them out of my inbox – including actioning those necessary – within a matter of hours – I am sure anyone can.

Don’t forget email does not manage you – you manage your email.

Call me if you want some help – or email me – I don’t mind

What is it with Groupon?

May 11, 2011

I like to keep up to date with technology and social media – its part of what I do. But I also am very careful to only recommend something if I am personally 100% happy and if I genuinely think I can help you save Time and Money.

So when I started seeing Groupon popping up everywhere – I thought I would dig deeper and find out what the fuss was all about.

‘With Groupon you discover great new locations in your city for unbeatable prices’

You can either sign up to the newsletter, check out the website or  download an App for your smartphone and find out what deals are on offer in your city (or another city if you like). Offers include money off restaurants, spas, gyms, hotels etc, and the deals are genuine!

The only downside (if there is one) is that the offer will only take place if a minimum number of people buy the deal, and all deals have a limited number of spaces available.  So if you see something you want – buy it – if you wait too long the deal may have already ended or filled up.

Once you have bought the deal (by this stage you need a Groupon account) you get an email confirmation, and the next day your voucher is available to download, print and use.

So how does it work at the other end? – click here for a short video – it explains it all quite simply – basically Groupon advertises the deal, the supplier gets paid, Groupon takes a % cut and the supplier of the deal gets new customers.

And one last thing, if you recommend Groupon deals to others – and they buy the deal – then you get £6 credited to your Groupon account to spend on another deal.

I hope this post gives you the confidence to go ahead and try something – I did and later I will be visiting the gym with my friends to use my voucher.

Let me know if you tried Groupon and what your experience was like.

Putting my money where why mouth is…

March 11, 2011

Money doesn't grow on trees, so how about a money treeThe phrase ‘put your money where your mouth is’ is often used to describe the action of doing something rather than to just talking about it.  I have been set a challenge by one of my clients to prove in terms of actual new business won, that social media does work.

So the gauntlet has been thrown down, I have to bring in new business for him, only by using social media – focussing on Twitter, LinkedIn and his company Blog. Quite rightly he is not interested in how many followers/connections he has, how many re-tweets or mentions or likes he has, just in the cold hard facts of the matter – how much in real terms of hard cash has social media brought in new business.

I like a challenge, so watch this space.!

Get organised

February 11, 2011

A few Friday afternoon thoughts on getting organised.

Daily / Weekly To Do Lists

  • Create a To Do List at the start of every day (or at the end of everyday to get focused early!) 
  • Prioritise each task and tick or cross off when complete.
  • If you know you cannot complete a task (or it can wait) add it to your weekly list.
  • Split larger tasks into smaller tasks.

Goals / Targets

  • Set daily targets, but keep realistic and plan enough time for emergencies.
  • If you know you cannot hit a target, have a rethink and re-set.
  • Give yourself mini-rewards when you hit a target, a biscuit with your coffee if you finish typing up the meeting notes by 11am.

Diary / Calendar

  • Whether paper or on your computer/phone etc, just keep one diary.
  • Put all events, personal, business etc in one place, and set reminders if you need to prepare, otherwise log and forget until required.
  • Check your diary each day and add tasks to your To Do List accordingly.


  • Keep a time sheet every day, keeping a note of everything you do in increments of 15 minutes
  • This will help you see where you wasting time, being un-productive or just plain distracted.
  • Then put your hourly rate in and see how much it costs you to go to the post office!
  • AMPMPA Timesheet

Email management

  • Plan for set times during the day to read and answer emails and do not respond to ones that come in through the day.
  • Set filters/rules and use folders to organise and manage your inbox.
  • Unsubscribe from all newsletters/junk emails etc and never open an email that looks suspicious.

Plan ahead

  • Do not make special journey’s to the bank/post office/meetings etc, plan your trips out to incorporate several things at once.
  • Save up some tasks that can wait until later in the day/week and do these while on route to other meetings etc.


  • Do not get distracted from what you are working on currently.
  • If you respond to every text/email/tweet/pop up/phone call etc, you will spend all day getting know-where.


  • Keep your desk and office tidy, keeping things near that you need on a regular basis, and filing away other things.
  • If you are able to have an in-tray on one side of the desk and an out-tray on the other this will help you not have too much on the go at the same time.

This of course is not an exhaustive list – just a few ideas to get you started.  If just the though of opening your email inbox every morning fills you with dread, you need us! Looking forward to hearing from you as to how we may help you.

See our website for an idea of some of the things we can help with or email

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