Your mind is like a very fine computer. To run efficiently, it must be taken care of and not be overburdened with things not contributing to the overall focus of your business. Some time ago, my personal computer told me it couldn't save a particular graphic because it didn't have enough memory, or RAM in computer lingo. I have 48 megs of RAM which is a lot if you know computers. It's more than many other computers have, but still I had a problem. More than likely I had too much nonessential stuff taking up my computer memory. Your mind may react much the same way. The more you fill it up and demand of it, the less efficient your mind and you will be.
There are several things you can do to reduce the burdens on your mind and, ultimately, reduce some of the stress in your day-to-day activities and increase productivity.
• Reduce interruptions: Every time you are interrupted, you lose precious time and thought power. Think back to the last time you were in the middle of creating a new treatment and the telephone rang. When you went back to work after the phone call, what did you do?
You had to refocus on what you were doing. You went back over your notes to determine where you were so you could pick up where you left off. Beside spending extra time to do this, your mind was now clouded with residual thoughts of the phone conversation so its creativity and performance is slowed down. The same thing happens with computers when they have too many programs going at one time.
Try to eliminate as many interruptions as possible. Start with the telephone. If there are some calls you must take, get an answering machine that enables you to screen calls. Otherwise, get the phone company's voice mail service or an answering service so you don't have to listen to the message while you are working.
Establish set hours during which your customers or clients can call and expect to reach you. Let all your friends and family know at what time of day they can call or visit that does not interfere with your work. And if you have a television in your workroom . . . I know a designer who was very concerned about the quality she would get from a workroom that had a TV. I also know a person who decided to eliminate the TV and was quite amazed at how much additional production she was able to do. Good-by soaps. Hello money!
• Schedule around your schedule: Many mothers who run home-based businesses because of children agonize over the interruptions their children and their schedules cause. The easiest thing you can do is to accept it. Do the best you can consolidating the children's schedules with your errands and activities and working with neighborhood car pools to give yourself larger blocks of work time.
If you are the type of person who must have larger blocks of time than normal daytime schedules allow, then try a short nap during the day and work a few hours in the early morning before the children are up and about or after they are in bed. Even one or two days a week of this schedule can make you feel far more productive-and you probably are. Just remind yourself that your children are your No. 1 priority. Too soon they will be gone, off raising their own families.
• Standardize: Create routine paperwork procedures. Take the time to analyze your paper flow and determine how you can make it more efficient. Examine your paperwork to see if all you are doing is necessary.
Take the time to create or purchase forms that will fill your needs. Once you become familiar with the forms, you will save much time. It will be so much faster and easier on your mind to know exactly where to look for information. If you are a wholesale workroom to the trade, having your own printed work orders not only will save time but will mean fewer mistakes for you and your clients because your mind will become conditioned to the format.
Also, analyze your workroom procedures. Do as many similar products the same way. For instance, make all drapery panels the same way regarding side and bottom hems with only the headings being different. If there is a good reason to change the standard procedures, then do so. The more procedures you can do alike the less time you will spend trying to remember how you did it the last time. Also, if you hire employees, the more procedures that are alike, the less confusing it will be for them and the faster they will learn.
• Write down procedures: Even if you are the only employee in your workroom it is important to write down how you fabricate every product. In the custom business there often are long periods between the times a similar product is fabricated. Reinventing the wheel for every job is time consuming and taxing on the mind. Besides, here again, if you hire employees they will have written instructions from which to work, and they will not have to interrupt you or wait for you-both of which are costly time-wise and mind-wise.
It even is quite beneficial to write down office procedures for employees. This can dramatically reduce the amount of your time required in training. It also might be a benefit to your patience level. Again a benefit to the mind!
• Use patterns: I think many workrooms don't appreciate the wealth of knowledge and efficiency available in using patterns. Why spend the time and brain power to create a treatment that somebody else already has made and made easy for you to duplicate?
Many times, I hear the argument that if you have to alter a pattern, you might as well create it from scratch. I totally disagree. I've altered patterns and it didn't take long at all compared to having had to create a pattern and get the proportions and shaping just right. Altering also does not take as much mind power as creating. Your mind has enough treatments to create and other problems to solve without adding more burden to it.
• Organize your office: Take the time to organize your files and to invest in office products that offer efficiency. Simple things like hanging files with colored tabs and colored folders can make file retrieval so much faster and require less thought power. You may want to have a different color tab to represent general files (accounts receivable, receipts, sales tax, etc. ), businesses you deal with (suppliers, etc.), trade shows, customers (one color for retail and one for wholesale) and so on.
If you have certain files that stay on your desk, use colored files so you don't have to look at the tabs to find what you are looking for. You even can get pockets and dividers for folders to make them more organized.
If you have ever forgotten where you have filed something or overlooked something in a packed folder or file drawer, you know what an enormous amount of brain power you must expend on a search, not to mention the personal frustration you feel. A good office filing system can do much toward reducing this overwhelming problem.
• Education: The way to avoid the mental frustration and aggravation of the trial-and-error method of learning is through education: seminars, books, videotapes and membership in window coverings organizations. Learn from others' experiences and mistakes. Not any one of us will ever know it all, but by pooling our resources to educate each other, we will know far more than we would if we operated as an island.
The mind is like a sponge and it will absorb the information you learn from others, some of which you may not realize you've learned. Then, when you least expect it, the mind will pull out those resources to solve a problem beyond your current level of education. If the mind is overworked and taxed, it may not just be difficult but impossible for it to pull up the information you need when you need it.
• R And R: Yes, rest and relaxation are necessary for the mind to function properly and efficiently. The mind must be allowed to get away from the clutter and burden of work chores to recharge. Some companies in Japan and France actually have nap rooms for their employees to refresh their minds during the day. Research has shown a nap will increase production!
Even if you don't buy into that idea (You should try it, you might like it!), everyone needs at least one day off a week to tend to the other facets of his or her life and, we hope, to do some fun things. If God needed a day of rest, we certainly do!
The time is now to make some business lifestyle changes. Be kind to your mind. Your rewards will be increased productivity in less time. A positive investment in conserving your mental powers will be an investment in success!
Kitty Stein, WCAA, is a 20-year veteran of the drapery workroom field, having owned and operated her own business for 18 years and having taught classes on window treatment construction. Until 1990, Stein and a partner owned a workroom with nine employees. She since has opened her own smaller workroom, Workroom Concepts, that has just one employee. She also does workroom consulting, seminar speaking and is the author of Order in the Workroom available through Draperies & Window Coverings.