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FUN WAYS TO EXERCISE: 23 UNCONVENTIONAL WORKOUT IDEAS

By Sarah Kuta
Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy

Exercising can sometimes feel like an exclusive club, accessible only to people who are already super fit. But no matter where you are on your fitness journey, you too can experience joy while moving your body, getting your heart rate up and working toward your health and wellness goals.

If the thought of working out conjures up images of a muscled Arnold Schwarzenegger lifting ultra-heavy weights in a spartan-style gym, think again. Working out can be whatever you want it to be—it doesn’t have to be restricted to the weight room or a boring treadmill. In fact, you can work out anywhere, at any time. (Yes, the park, your office stairwell and your kitchen all count.)

So, what are some fun ways to exercise that don’t involve a gym membership? If you’re in need of a little inspiration for your next calorie-burning routine, we’ve got a challenging (but enjoyable) list of exercise activities that just might tempt you to jump off the couch—before you get to No. 23!

WHY SHOULD YOU EXERCISE?

We all know we should exercise—along with drinking plenty of water, getting a full night’s sleep, eating fresh, whole foods and using a nutritional supplement for extra support. But how exactly does exercise impact us?

Researchers have spent a lot of time studying this question. Exercise has numerous science-backed benefits—and some of them might even surprise you:

  • Working out can extend your lifespan, help stave off cardiovascular diseases and lower your risk of diabetes.[1]
  • Physical activity can help fight the effects of aging, while keeping your immune system vibrant and healthy, too.[2][3]
  • Regular movement can help strengthen your bones and help you feel more energized and less fatigued.[4][5] (And who doesn’t want that?)
  • Exercise can provide positive benefits to your mental health and sharpness, as it can help lower your risk of depression and work to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.[6][7]

There may be tons of different ways to exercise, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that they all add up to the same physical and mental health benefits. As long as you’re moving your body, you’re on the right track.

HOW TO MAKE EXERCISE FUN

Exercise can be intimidating, especially if you’re just starting out or you’re jumping back in after a long break. Your brain can conjure up so many reasons why you shouldn’t exercise—it’s hard, you’re stressed out from work, you’ll get sweaty, you’ll get tired too quickly, people will laugh at you if you do it wrong, you don’t have time, the gym is only for bodybuilders and extreme athletes, it’s boring, the gym is expensive, you don’t have the right shoes or clothing…the list goes on and on.

Sure, some of these reasons are totally valid—exercise is challenging, which is why it helps you get stronger. But, on the flip side, you can learn how to make working out fun, so long as you find the activity that’s right for you.

23 FUN WAYS TO EXERCISE

So, how do you find fun exercises or activities that actually make you excited about working out? You have to be willing to think outside the box a bit.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite fun ways to exercise for inspiration. Be sure to bookmark this list of exercise activities for the next time you’re feeling unmotivated or bored with your current routine!

1. ROLLERBLADING OR ROLLERSKATING

As you cruise along the sidewalk in your rollerblades or roller skates—with the wind in your hair and a smile on your face—you won’t even notice that you’re technically exercising. Stop by a local thrift shop or used sporting goods retailer to find a pair in your size, then… Just. Start. Skating. Grab a helmet and some elbow and knee pads while you’re at it, too. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

2. HIKING

Hiking can be whatever you want—a super steep and rocky climb, or a mellow saunter along a mostly flat trail. The important thing is: You’re outside, enjoying nature and moving your body. Download apps like AllTrails or TrailLink to find scenic hiking trails in your area.

3. GO TO THE BATTING CAGES

Swinging a baseball bat is no easy feat. But, spending a whole 30 minutes or an hour at a batting cage is a seriously good workout—and tons of fun!

4. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

When winter rolls around, it can totally zap your motivation to work out. But instead of grumbling about the cold, snowy weather, why not enjoy it with fun exercises like cross-country skiing? If you’re not quite sold on the investment, rent a pair of skis or find some at your local used sporting goods store, then enjoy the simplicity of gliding across the snow. Many local parks allow residents to cross-country ski after big snowstorms in the winter, or you can research designated local cross-country areas.

Pro tip: This low-impact activity can actually help you boost your endurance and strength—without doing a number on your joints.

5. KAYAKING

Even on a calm lake, paddling a kayak is a great workout. You’ll engage your core, your arms and your legs as you propel yourself through the water and stabilize the vessel while you move. Plus, you’ll get a chance to enjoy nature, which also benefits your physical and mental health.

6. SNOWSHOEING

When the snow is too deep for hiking boots, strap on a pair of snowshoes and hit the trail. This peaceful activity is just like walking through the woods, except you’re able to stay on top of the snow—rather than sinking into it. Go at your own pace, and be sure to stop to enjoy the sparkling winter scenery every now and then.

7. STANDUP PADDLEBOARD YOGA

Standup paddleboarding is at the top of the fun workouts list in its own right. But throw in a few yoga poses, and it becomes a full-blown physical challenge. You can research a few poses online before you hit the water, or consider signing up for a local paddleboard yoga class. You’ll be surprised at how much you use your core and all those little stabilizer muscles throughout your body to stay upright as you move through your flow!

8. ROCK CLIMBING

Even if you live in a region with a super-flat landscape, you can still get vertical—and work up a serious sweat—by visiting a local climbing gym. Choose between top-rope climbing, which allows you to climb higher on the wall since you’re secured with ropes and a harness, and bouldering, which is done closer to the padded flooring and doesn’t involve ropes. If you’re up for the challenge, consider booking a rock climbing lesson or tour outdoors, too.

9. TAKE A DANCE CLASS (OR JUST DANCE!)

Even if you’re not the most coordinated person on the planet, signing up for a dance class or a dance lesson will help you move your body without realizing that you’re exercising. Whether you’re into hip-hop, tango, two-step, shuffling or some other style of dance altogether, you’re sure to find tons of studios, clubs and ballrooms offering lessons and classes near you.

Pro tip: Too nervous to dance in public? Crank up your favorite playlist at home and dance your heart out in the kitchen!

10. JUMP ROPE

Remember those days in gym class when everyone tried to master double-unders? You can bring back some of that childhood nostalgia and get your heart pumping by jumping rope. Head to your backyard or set up in a room in your house with a tall ceiling, then crank some upbeat music and jump away. It’s harder than it looks, but it’s seriously fun.

11. TEAM SPORTS

Check out the website of your city or county recreation department to find team sports leagues near you. Whether you’ve always wanted to try playing kickball or you hope to dust off your old volleyball from high school, there are tons of options when it comes to rec league sports. With games regularly held on weeknights, you’ll be able to exercise and meet new people from your community—while still keeping your Saturdays and Sundays free.

Here’s a list of sports to consider if you want to make exercise fun:

  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Soccer
  • Rugby
  • Volleyball
  • Pickleball
  • Softball
  • Kickball

12. RIDE A BIKE

You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to have fun—and get in a good workout—while riding your bike. And don’t worry about buying a special cycling kit or shoes. Simply lace up your sneakers, put on your helmet (safety first!), grab a water bottle and start riding. Pedal at a leisurely pace for as long as you feel like riding, or challenge yourself with a few mini-sprints or uphill climbs. If riding outside doesn’t work for you, consider trying out an indoor cycling class.

13. TRAMPOLINING

Trampoline fitness, also known as rebounding, is a fun and unique workout trend that involves hopping on your own mini trampoline while following the movements shown by an instructor. Don’t be fooled: These classes are tough! They’re high-energy, paired with fun music and lots of other people around having a good time. You can find these classes at gyms and workout studios near you. In fact, trampolining has been shown to ensure positive effects on overall health.[8]

Pro tip: Have a bit of extra space at home? Purchase your own personal rebounder, learn a few basic moves and let your body take the lead—no gym necessary. Plus, there are tons of virtual trampoline fitness classes you can stream from home or your backyard.

14. PLAY ON THE PLAYGROUND

When was the last time you played like a kid? Head to your local park, then go wild on the playground—swing from the monkey bars, go down the slide, play tag with a friend, run up and down the stairs. You won’t even notice that you’re working out while smiling from ear to ear.

15. BIRDING

Does hiking or walking feel unengaging to you? As far as different workout ideas go, birding is definitely one to consider. This low-impact activity will help you get moving on a mission while searching for birds. Simply keep your eyes and ears open as you walk, looking up at the sky and down into bushes and shrubs. If you see or hear a bird, stop for a few moments to observe and listen to it. Enhance your engagement by downloading apps like Merlin Bird ID on your phone, or bring along a notebook for writing down or drawing pictures of the birds you see.

16. POWER WALKING

If jogging isn’t your thing, consider power walking, instead. This fun exercise strikes the perfect balance between taking a leisurely stroll and going for a run. Simply walk quickly, pumping your arms naturally as you go. Power walking can be a great activity to do with a friend or while listening to an audiobook!

17. GROUP FITNESS IN THE PARK

Working out alone can be boring and unmotivating. However, joining a group of people can make exercising feel more like a party than an actual workout. The outdoor setting also feels more fun and lively—and presents some unique challenges—compared to working out in a gym. Search for free or low-cost group fitness classes held at your local park.

Pro tip: Staying hydrated is critical! Be sure to bring plenty of water, as well as bug spray and sunscreen so you can set yourself up for outdoor fitness success!

18. DOWNHILL SKIING

Though downhill skiing may seem like something you can only do while visiting the mountains, there are actually ski areas all over the country in some pretty surprising places. Some are outdoor, but others are actually indoor ski and snowboard facilities that use manmade snow. (What a time to be alive!) Skiing and snowboarding are great physical activities that test your endurance while helping you build strength in your legs, core and even your arms. If you’ve never gone skiing before, consider taking a lesson to help you feel more confident on the slopes—wherever you are!

Pro tip: Vibration training is a progressive recovery tool that can support your whole body following rigorous exercise like downhill skiing. No matter if you’re a first-time skier or a seasoned pro, it’s never a bad idea to think about recovery.

19. MARTIAL ARTS

There’s a reason why experienced martial artists are in incredibly good shape. Martial arts like karate or jiu-jitsu are full-body workouts that engage both your body and your mind. Sign up for a fitness-focused martial arts class at your local rec center or join a special martial arts gym to get started with this discipline-dependent physical activity.

20. POLE FITNESS

Try something totally different and sign up for a pole fitness class, which is a unique workout that combines pole dancing with exercise. You’ll strengthen your core, arms and legs as you try to balance on a metal pole connected to the ground and the ceiling. These fun exercise classes are great for inviting friends along, too.

21. TRAPEZE, CIRCUS OR AERIAL SILKS

Looking for a fresh and fun way to stay fit? Learn how to fly through the air or stabilize yourself in the folds of silk fabric by signing up for a trapeze, circus or aerial silks class. Ever tried tightrope-style slacklining? Not only is it a blast, but it can strengthen your core and lower body. These low-impact skills are challenging, yet engaging, and you’ll be sweating in no time—without really feeling like you’re exercising.

22. SWIMMING

Whether you’re treading water in the deep end of your apartment pool while your kids play or you’re crushing a round of freestyle laps at your local recreation center, swimming is an awesome full-body workout that’s easy on your joints. Plus, it’s enjoyable exercise you can do year-round, thanks to indoor and outdoor pools. So, no using the weather as an excuse to get out of this one!

23. PLAY GOLF (OR VISIT THE DRIVING RANGE)

Book a tee time, grab a buddy and hit the green. Commit to getting those steps in by skipping out on the cart and walking the course. Don’t have time to play 18 holes? Buy a bucket of balls and spend an hour at the driving range. Lucky for you, these days, you can also incorporate fun physical activities like golf into your social life by visiting popular facilities like TopGolf.

HOW TO CHOOSE A FUN WORKOUT

As you can see, there are tons of unique fun exercise ideas to choose from. But, where to begin? Start with either fun physical activities you feel passionate about or unique workouts that immediately intrigue you. Consider renting equipment and taking a lesson before investing in your own gear and trying to learn on your own. An experienced instructor can help you understand how to use the equipment, as well as how to participate in the activity. You’ll likely have more fun if you take the time to learn about what you’re doing first!

DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR DIET

Even if you’re doing fun workouts at home and trying new forms of exercise, it’ll be difficult to unlock your limitless potential if you don’t take care of your nutrition. Combining a well-rounded workout routine with a well-formulated diet will help you stay disciplined and push you closer toward achieving your fitness goals. Whether you follow the ketogenic diet or another popular eating approach, you want to feel energized when it’s time to break a sweat.

And remember: If one unique workout doesn’t inspire you, you can always move on to the next. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how to make exercise fun, so if at first you don’t succeed, try again… and again… and again!

Your mind and body will thank you later.

Want to challenge yourself to spend more time in nature, instead of staring at a screen? Try these fun outdoor activities that anyone can do!

10 Exercises to Tone Every Inch of Your Body

Medically reviewed by Micky Lal, MA, CSCS,RYT — Written by Nicole Davis 

Benefits of working out

We know daily exercise is good for optimizing health. But with so many options and limitless information available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with what works. But not to worry. We’ve got your back (and body)!

Check out the 10 exercises you can do for ultimate fitness. Combine them into a routine for a workout that’s simple but powerful and sure to keep you in shape for the rest of your life.

After 30 days — although you can also do them just twice a week — you should see improvements in your muscular strength, endurance, and balance.

Plus, notice a difference in how your clothes fit — winning!

Why these 10 exercises will rock your body

One surefire way to attack your fitness regimen effectively? Keep the fuss to a minimum and stick with the basics.

1. Lunges

Challenging your balance is an essential part of a well-rounded exercise routine. Lunges do just that, promoting functional movement while also increasing strength in your legs and glutes.

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms down at your sides.
  2. Take a step forward with your right leg and bend your right knee as you do so, stopping when your thigh is parallel to the ground. Ensure that your right knee doesn’t extend past your right foot.
  3. Push up off your right foot and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg. This is one rep.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.

2. Pushups

Drop and give me 20! Pushups are one of the most basic yet effective bodyweight moves you can perform because of the number of muscles that are recruited to perform them.

  1. Start in a plank position. Your core should be tight, shoulders pulled down and back, and your neck neutral.
  2. Bend your elbows and begin to lower your body down to the floor. When your chest grazes it, extend your elbows and return to the start. Focus on keeping your elbows close to your body during the movement.
  3. Complete 3 sets of as many reps as possible.

If you can’t quite perform a standard pushup with good form, drop down to a modified stance on your knees — you’ll still reap many of the benefits from this exercise while building strength.

3. Squats

Squats increase lower body and core strength, as well as flexibility in your lower back and hips. Because they engage some of the largest muscles in the body, they also pack a major punch in terms of calories burned.

  1. Start by standing straight, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your arms at your sides.
  2. Brace your core and, keeping your chest and chin up, push your hips back and bend your knees as if you’re going to sit in a chair.
  3. Ensuring your knees don’t bow inward or outward, drop down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, bringing your arms out in front of you in a comfortable position. Pause for 1 second, then extend your legs and return to the starting position.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 20 reps.

4. Standing overhead dumbbell presses

Compound exercises, which utilize multiple joints and muscles, are perfect for busy bees as they work several parts of your body at once. A standing overhead press isn’t only one of the best exercises you can do for your shoulders, but it also engages your upper back and core.

Equipment: 10-pound dumbbells

  1. Pick a light set of dumbbells — we recommend 10 pounds to start — and start by standing, either with your feet shoulder-width apart or staggered. Move the weights overhead so your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  2. Bracing your core, begin to push up until your arms are fully extended above your head. Keep your head and neck stationary.
  3. After a brief pause, bend your elbows and lower the weight back down until your triceps muscle is parallel to the floor again.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

5. Dumbbell rows

Not only will these make your back look killer in that dress, but dumbbell rows are also another compound exercise that strengthens multiple muscles in your upper body. Choose a moderate-weight dumbbell and ensure that you’re squeezing at the top of the movement.

Equipment: 10-pound dumbbells

  1. Start with a dumbbell in each hand. We recommend no more than 10 pounds for beginners.
  2. Bend forward at the waist, so your back is at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Be certain not to arch your back. Let your arms hang straight down. Ensure your neck is in line with your back and your core is engaged.
  3. Starting with your right arm, bend your elbow and pull the weight straight up toward your chest, making sure to engage your lat and stopping just below your chest.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat with the left arm. This is one rep. Repeat 10 times for 3 sets.

6. Single-leg deadlifts

This is another exercise that challenges your balance. Single-leg deadlifts require stability and leg strength. Grab a light to moderate dumbbell to complete this move.

Equipment: dumbbell

  1. Begin standing with a dumbbell in your right hand, and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Hinging at the hips, begin to kick your left leg straight back behind you, lowering the dumbbell down toward the ground.
  3. When you reach a comfortable height with your left leg, slowly return to the starting position in a controlled motion, squeezing your right glute. Ensure that your pelvis stays square to the ground during the movement.
  4. Repeat 10 to 12 reps before moving the weight to your left hand and repeating the same steps on the left leg. It’s suggested to do 3 sets of 10-12 reps per side.

7. Burpees

An exercise we love to hate, burpees are a super-effective, whole-body move that provides great bang for your buck for cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength.

  1. Start by standing upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your sides.
  2. With your hands out in front of you, start to squat down. When your hands reach the ground, pop your legs straight back into a pushup position.
  3. Jump your feet up to your palms by hinging at the waist. Get your feet as close to your hands as you can get, landing them outside your hands if necessary.
  4. Stand up straight, bringing your arms above your head, and jump.
  5. This is one rep. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps as a beginner.

8. Side planks

A healthy body requires a strong core at its foundation, so don’t neglect core-specific moves like the side plank.

Focus on the mind-muscle connection and controlled movements to ensure you’re completing this move effectively.

  1. Lie on your right side with your left leg and foot stacked on top of your right leg and foot. Prop your upper body up by placing your right forearm on the ground and elbow directly under your shoulder.
  2. Contract your core to stiffen your spine and lift your hips and knees off the ground, forming a straight line with your body.
  3. Return to start in a controlled manner. Repeat 3 sets of 10–15 reps on one side, then switch.

9. Planks

Planks are an effective way to target both your abdominal muscles and your whole body. Planking stabilizes your core without straining your back the way situps or crunches might.

  1. Begin in a pushup position with your hand and toes firmly planted on the ground, your back straight, and your core tight.
  2. Keep your chin slightly tucked and your gaze just in front of your hands.
  3. Take deep, controlled breaths while maintaining tension throughout your entire body, so your abs, shoulders, triceps, glutes, and quads are all engaged.
  4. Complete 2-3 sets of 30-second holds to start.

10. Glute bridge

The glute bridge effectively works your entire posterior chain, which isn’t only good for you, but it’ll make your booty look perkier, too.

  1. Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground, and arms straight at your sides with your palms facing down.
  2. Pushing through your heels, raise your hips off the ground by squeezing your core, glutes, and hamstrings. Your upper back and shoulders should still be in contact with the ground, and your core down to your knees should form a straight line.
  3. Pause 1–2 seconds at the top and return to the starting position.
  4. Complete 10–12 reps for 3 sets.

How to improve workouts

These fundamental exercises will do your body good, but there’s always room to keep pushing it.

If you notice yourself breezing through and barely breaking a sweat, focus on progressive overload by making each move more challenging by:

  • adding 5 more reps
  • adding more weight
  • tacking on a jump to moves like squats and lunges

Another way to switch it up? Turn the routine into a time-under-tension workout, completing each move for a set amount of time instead of for a set number of reps.

Desk Organizing Ideas

icons

Picture thanks to Nick Slater for dribbble.com

Bookcase Desk

Our inventive ideas can help you create the perfect office, no matter how much extra space you have. Easy organizers and decorative touches will ensure your office is as stylish as it is functional.

Doors make great desktops: They’re inexpensive, roomy, and readily available in a variety of sizes. For the legs, you could use sawhorses, but low-rise bookcases offer the added benefit of extra storage. Thirty-inch square bookcases are the ideal height for a desk and are the same width as a standard-size door.

Prime and paint the bookcases and door in the same color. To give the desk a finished, cohesive look, line the back of the shelves with marbled paper (secure it with double-sided tape).

 

Wood-Grain Desk Accessories

Bring a natural note to your home office with coordinated wood-grain accessories. All it takes to make a matched set of mouse pads, file boxes, and straight-sided jars is faux-bois self-adhesive shelf liner.

 

Create a Hallway Office

With the right furniture, an organizing strategy, and a few pretty touches, a dead-end hallway, an under-the-eaves nook, or another such charming corner can have surprising office potential.

 

Office Wire Organizer

Eliminate tangles under your work area by feeding all cords through a hole drilled in the desktop. Then plug the wires into a power-surge protector strip mounted on the underside of the desk. Keep cords in a coated wire basket (available at housewares stores) suspended under the desk with wire hooks. Tags identify where each machine wire comes from.

 

Shared-Space Office

It can be a challenge to create a desk that’s roomy enough for one person, let alone two. This symmetrical setup is the perfect solution, unifying a pair of workstations in an open configuration that fits snugly against almost any stretch of wall without overwhelming the rest of the room.

 

Source: Marthastewart

Five Tips to Get Organized at Work

No one wants to be considered the office airhead. But losing just one important phone number (“I can’t believe I spilled coffee on that sticky note!”) or forgetting one vital meeting (“Where is my darn calendar, anyway?”) because you’re disorganized may make you look like one. These five organizing tips can help you become known for your brilliant ideas rather than your scattered brain.

 

organized workplace

Picture thanks to Britrix24.com

1. Chuck Your Junk

Just like when you declutter at home, think about whether you’ve needed something within the last year. Make a “toss” pile, a “store” pile and a currently active “to-do” pile. That take-out menu from the bankrupt sandwich shop down the street? Toss it. The budget report from 2009? Store it, but only one copy. A printout of the presentation you’re giving on Friday? Keep it on hand.

2. Store, Store and Store Some More

Resist the urge to be a perfectionist in dealing with the old paperwork in your “store” pile, or you’ll be lost amid stacks of miscellany for days. Just create a way to organize your materials in a way that makes sense to you. Everything related to the annual meeting could go in one labeled plastic bin or box, for example. Then work with your boss to find a place outside your office or cubicle to store this stuff.

3. Tackle Your To-Do Pile

This is where you should invest your efforts for the biggest payoff in long-term, sustainable organization. Create file folders for each project you are currently working on (or a different folder for each client or for each upcoming due date — whatever makes sense for you). When you complete a project, go through the file and discard the unimportant documents within. Then store the folder — which has been winnowed down to include only the project essentials — into an appropriate bin.

4. Keep Your Desk Clear

The surface of your desk should now be visible. Hooray! Keep it that way. One surefire way to prevent clutter from accumulating on your desk is to adopt the one-touch rule. Deal with every piece of paper that crosses your desk immediately. Trash it, act on it, file it or — if you really must — place it in your inbox until you have time to deal with it. (The one-touch rule is also applicable to email. Either respond right away, or direct your incoming messages to appropriate email folders.)

5. Use Technology Wisely

Strive to keep phone numbers and other often-used data on your computer and/or mobile phone. Online organizers — which you can access via your computer or your phone — can combine your calendar, address book, to-do lists and more. They can also send you pop-up reminders about meetings and deadlines. It may take a little time to master using these tools, but they’ll save you time (and lots of sticky notes) in the long run.

 

Source: written by Megan Malugani for Monster

How to Organize an Office Filing System

Learning how to organize office filing systems is crucial for any business that handles a lot of invoices, receipts, and other documents. Paperless offices sound great, but the reality is that many small businesses still need to store easily retrievable paper documents.

It’s important to know what files are most important, who needs to access them, and how they can be retrieved easily and efficiently.

home-filing-system-1068x713

Picture thanks to MoneyCrashers.com

Receipts and Invoices

Filing receipts and invoices properly is one of the most important things a small business needs to do. A nonexistent or messy filing system can add days of extra effort at income tax time as you don’t want to miss out on tax deductions because of missing receipts. If your business is ever subject to an audit and you are unable to produce the required documents in support of your expenses your claims will most likely be rejected and your tax return re-assessed.

As a small business owner, you need to be able to operate at your desk swiftly and easily. Though setting up a paper filing system sounds difficult, it is a relatively easy task that can be made easier through a few filing tips and tricks.

5 Steps to Organize a Filing System

To get yourself and your business on the right track, follow five steps to make sure papers are easily accessible and easily identifiable.

 

1. Assess personal and office habits: Think about which employees need access to files, where they work, and what will make the most sense based on their work stations. If you are the person who is most in need of access to papers, think about how you use your workstation. If that filing cabinet to your right instinctively makes sense, that’s probably a good starting point. If it is someone else, get their input—what works for one person won’t always work for another.

2. Decide on a filing system: What you do as a business will determine, to a certain extent, whether you choose to file numerically, alphabetically, or some other way. For example, do you search for customer information by name or account number? Do you file paperwork by category, such as expenses, financial, marketing, etc.? This is a critical step, as it will determine how you will lay out your filing system. Do this before you buy anything for your filing system.

3. Calculate storage needs: If you have a large number of files that you access daily, they should be at your fingertips. If you access them less frequently, you might not need them at your work space, but you still might need them close by. There may be a combination. Some files might be needed daily while others can be filed in long-term storage further away. Allow for growth when looking at filing cabinets—buy something to accommodate twice the files you think you will have now. This will limit the number of times you will have to reorganize your filing system.

4. Invest in a good labeling system: Being able to read file labels sounds obvious, but clarity in labeling will save you more filing time than you can imagine. Most companies who make labels provide templates that integrate with the most popular word processing software. You may want to consider one of the small label-making systems that also can print out individual mailing labels. Items that perform double duty are usually a wise investment.

5. Purchase file folders: The best investment is to purchase colored hanging folders with plastic label tabs and plain manila file folders. Colored hanging folders are easily available and easily recognizable. For example, if you put all of your client files in yellow hanging folders, financial information in blue folders, and anything related to marketing in red folders, you easily can see roughly where you should be searching for a particular file.

Simple Is Best

The KISS principle—Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!—applies to setting up a filing system that is easy to use and easy to grow with. Broad subject categories will allow you to easily add new files as you grow and will eliminate the need to upgrade or reorganize your filing system regularly.

Keeping it simple also will make it easier to integrate your paper and digital files as part of your overall document management system.

Going Paperless

If you are trying to green your business and make the shift to a “paperless office” you can scan expense receipts and store them with your other digital accounting information. Some cloud-based accounting software applications facilitate this by having mobile apps that allow you to take a mobile phone snap of an expense receipt and record it on the fly.

Reviewing Tax Laws

The IRS and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) both accept digital images or paper copies of scanned items including:

  • Cash receipts
  • Bank statements
  • Canceled checks
  • Pay stubs
  • Credit card statements

The copies must be clear and legible. If not, the IRS or CRA may demand to see the original paper documents during an audit or routine request for documentation, so keep originals for the prescribed period of time.

 

Source: written by JILL CHONGVA / SUSAN WARD for The balance smb

Reasons to use social media in your job search

Using social media is a great way to boost your job search. Taking advantage of social media sites can help you find companies hiring. Here’s how to do it!
Job search on the internet.Picture thanks to jobjourney.com
You Can Become an Expert
Demonstrating a deeper knowledge about the industry you’re in — or would like to be in — through blogging builds your credibility, says Lisa Parkin, CEO of social media consultancy Social Climber. “Whether it’s on a personal website or on a dedicated blog about the industry they’re seeking employment in, job hunters can show potential employers their knowledge and skill sets by writing about a news event or relevant topic once or twice a week.”
You Can Blog Your Way to a Job
Commenting on the issues in your industry or field of work can itself be a path to a new job. Michelle Bramer, marketing and PR manager for online advertising firm eZanga.com, says blogs are an excellent resource for job candidates looking for new opportunities. And linking back to your blog while posting on other sites can lead recruiters right to your virtual door.
“Some of my favorite bloggers are small companies, and surprisingly, many of them are always looking for marketing and sales support,” Bramer says. If you’ve blogged about a company before, it can help strengthen your pitch when you apply there. As someone who routinely manages content writers and PR specialists, she says, “some of our best writers have been found by forging a relationship on a social network.”
You Can Learn About a Company’s Culture
Social media can go both ways — you can tell hiring managers about yourself, but you can also use it to learn about companies you’re interested in. Following a company on social media can give you an inside look into a its culture, clients and work, says Lauren Maiman, owner of the Midnight Oil Group.
“Use that info to your advantage when it comes to a cover letter or interview,” she says. “Use this insight to make sure you mesh with and want to be a part of their team. If you’re connecting in a meaningful way with them on social media, by the time you get to the interview, they should feel like they already know you (so careful what info you put out there, too).”
Source: written by Catherine Conlan for Monster

Social Media Success: A Guide for Job Seekers

Most people know that posting questionable content online could be detrimental in your job search. However, if you use social media professionally to showcase your skills and expertise, it could propel your application to the top of the stack and land you a job.

socialsuccess

Picture thanks to http://www.salesforce.com/

Recruiters are looking for candidates online, and what they find will help determine who they hire.

“When a recruiter searches an applicant’s name to learn more about them, it’s actually a red flag nowadays if someone isn’t found to be active online,” said Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs. “LinkedIn is the bare minimum a job seeker should be using to help show employers that they are technologically savvy and understand the basics [of] digital communication.”

Social media can also be used to learn about companies you’re interested in and to find potential jobs.

“Companies post relevant articles and other information related to any changes happening within the company,” said Brooke Cordova, healthcare branch manager at Addison Group. “This knowledge can help a job seeker not only understand if this is a company they want to be a part of, but also give them an advantage in an interview setting.”

Each social network has its own unique characteristics and best practices. Business News Daily talked to hiring managers, recruiters and social media experts about how to optimize your social media accounts for your job search.

As the go-to network for both job seekers and hiring managers, your top priority should be perfecting your LinkedIn profile.

“Hiring managers may look to your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you,” said Reynolds. “If it doesn’t match your resume with your most up-to-date jobs, projects and skills, they may be confused. It may send the message that you’re not taking enough care with your job search or professional image.”

Reynolds also said you should keep your profile up-to-date because many hiring managers use LinkedIn to find applicants – sometimes before they even post a job opening.

“If you’re interested in new opportunities, even in the least, keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date so you’ll be findable when a recruiter starts searching,” she said.

Cordova also reminds job seekers to turn on the “open to new opportunities” feature, which will expose your profile to more hiring managers.

Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com, also recommends keeping your profile up-to-date. “

“Focus on updating your profile to be as current as possible,” she said. “Ask trusted individuals you’ve previously worked with for recommendations and write blog posts to establish your credibility within your given industry.”

The brands and people you engage with on Twitter directly impact your followers’ perception of you and may affect whether hiring managers believe you’re worthy of working for the company.

When you’re looking for a job, a good percentage of your tweets, retweets and replies should focus on topics that are relevant to the companies you want to work for. You can achieve this by using keywords and hashtags that professionals in your field talk about and follow.

“Twitter can be used to identify leaders in an organization that you are interested in joining,” said Heather Monahan, life coach and business expert. “By following them and retweeting their tweets you can get their attention. Responding to their tweets and showing your value can give you an advantage over the other candidates who aren’t trying to communicate.”

Case also recommends taking advantage of Twitter chats.

“Engage in Twitter chats that are relevant to the industry you want to work in,” she said. “This is a great way to network with existing professionals already in these fields, follow them to begin building a rapport together, and cement yourself as an expert.”

Before you start using Facebook to your advantage, you need to make sure it’s not hurting your image. Be sure to delete or untag yourself from any questionable posts or pictures. Once your page is scrubbed clean, you should only post appropriate content.

“It’s important to be careful with the type of content you post,” said Karla Ruiz, social media director at Casanova//McCann. “Make sure you are posting content you’ll be proud of in the next few years. Keep control of your privacy settings and if you are out partying, enjoy the moment and leave your phone by your side. Once it goes live, it lives online forever.”

While it’s important to use privacy settings for personal information, you should keep some information public such as your employment information, location and professional skills. You should be searchable to hiring managers.

It’s always a good idea to engage with industry leaders and portray yourself as a thought leader on all social media platforms. A great way to achieve this on Facebook is by commenting and contributing to industry-specific Facebook groups.

“Being engaged and part of these [Facebook] groups can be a huge asset,” said Andrea Hurtado, director of marketing and brand health at Protis Global. “These groups can do quite a bit for you – assist and propel you in developing yourself professionally, connect you with other individuals in your field and/or get you closer contact with an organization that is looking for talent like you.”

While each platform serves a different purpose, it’s also important to have a consistent voice and style throughout all your social media profiles. You should be using social media to build yourself as a brand.

“Be sure to have a clean and consistent social media presence,” said Ruiz. “Don’t just share stuff just of the sake of sharing. Before posting, ask yourself – does this add value to my personal brand?”

Source: written by Saige Driver for Business News Daily

 

Creating a Strong Online Presence for Marketing Success

Social network web site surfing concept illustration

 

According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses – and if the vast majority of your potential customers are online, you should be, too. Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter what size your business is or what industry it belongs to.

An online presence is important for outbound marketing because it reinforces your brand and what you offer to your target market. Once you’ve communicated with your audience, you’ll need to have a web presence that helps portray why your product or service is so great – because that’s the next stop for the majority of your potential customers.

It’s also vital for inbound marketing, because quality online content will help attract customers even if they haven’t heard of your brand.

So here are three of the first things you need to look at when building your online marketing efforts.

  1. Your website

All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers – both existing and potential – need. For example, one frustration I encounter far too often is restaurants that don’t have a website with a current menu, opening hours, location and contact information. I know I’m not alone in that if I can’t find these details, I’m less likely to visit the restaurant – but there’s no reason a business should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to remedy and costs very little.

A basic website is pretty easy to set up using an application like WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging tool and content management system that gives users the option to pay a little more for the premium version. If it’s relevant to your business, you can even add an online shop – after all, in 2013, 70 percent of consumers preferred to do their retail shopping online.

If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a great guide to WordPress for small businesses on Social Media today. It’s easy to understand and runs through the factors you need to consider and steps you need to take when setting up your small business website.

If you’re starting from scratch and not sure what your website should include, survey your existing customers. Whether you send out an email asking for their input, or mention it casually while making their coffee, it’s the best way to get the insight you need – people love to be involved and share their opinions.

  1. Search engine optimization

Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. After all, 89 percent of consumers use search engines to research a product, service or business before making a decision. To take advantage of this, you need to make sure to look at search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

In case you’re not completely sure what SEO means, how it works, or why it’s important, here’s a quick rundown:

What: The purpose of SEO is to make it easy for search engines to find your website and list it in their ‘organic’ (as opposed to ‘paid’) results.

Why: People tend to trust search engines, so websites that appear high in results pages are more likely to receive traffic.

How: Using search-engine friendly methods to improve your website.

Who: Everyone – anyone who has information that people want to find on the internet should be using SEO techniques.

When: All the time – SEO is an ongoing process. It’s important to monitor the information on your website and make sure it’s current and correct. Search engines also love new content, which is why starting a blog can do wonders for your SEO.

Where: Major search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing. They connect people all over the world to the content they desire, from products to services to information.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide both give a fantastic overview of the basics and will help you optimize your website.

  1. Social media

Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers, potential customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives.

Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it’s definitely worth looking into your options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business – it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and ask and answer questions.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, FourSquare helpful. Make sure to research available channels and find out if they will work for you. Instagram, for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic – Instagram has around 130–150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience.

Once you’ve decided which social media channels to use, get a clear idea of the kind of content you can share. The more compelling and engaging your material is, the more likely your followers will like, comment and share your posts. Engagement is key to promoting your brand – not only will it make you more appealing to existing customers, the more positive social activity that goes on, the higher the chance is that their friends will be exposed to your brand and intrigued by what you have to offer.

When they do this, they’re engaging with your brand and their networks (friends, family, colleagues) are seeing that engagement and may be prompted to check you out for their own needs.

 

Source: written by Lucy Godwin for Duct Tape Marketing

The Basics of Branding

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

branding

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.

By John Williams for Entrepreneur.com

Don’t Make These 3 Social Media Mistakes

by Simon Reynolds

The buzz about the importance of social media is at crazy levels.

It seems everyone is obsessed with the desire to build out a powerful social media platform and campaign.

Certainly social media marketing is important. But it sure ain’t new. For centuries word of mouth has been both the most effective and the cheapest way to get customers, and social media is just a digital version of word of mouth marketing.

Now of course, it’s incredibly easy to put up a Facebook page, write a few posts and actually get some followers. This ease of creation and swift results has led to a passion for social media that is at massive levels and is increasing at an exponential pace.

But be careful. As the map makers of 500 hundred years ago used to say, ‘There be dragons here’.

There are three big mistakes that the majority of entrepreneurs are making with their social media that can endanger not just your company’s marketing, but the future profits of your organization.

Mistake 1: Spending Too Much Time Posting and Monitoring

Social media can be a huge time suck for entrepreneurs. Firstly, it’s always moving- every few hours someone has commented, complained or replied to what you’ve posted. This ever changing nature of social media is very,very seductive. It makes you feel like you have to always respond, always react. Pretty soon you’ve lost 90 minutes of your day handling it.

That’s a huge error. Social media is in the end just another marketing medium. It’s not the holy grail. It’s not a magic solution to your revenue woes. It’s merely another channel by which you can make contact with customers, deepen your relationship with them and hopefully inspire them to buy from you.

It’s important you don’t spend too much time on it. I suggest no more than 20 minutes each work day. Putting a time limit on your posting and monitoring will force you to be efficient and also leave enough time for you to work on the other vital marketing areas. Like email, print, your brochures, finessing your sales presentation,testing online ads, training sales staff, making your website more responsive, etc.

Spending any more time than that is in my view giving social media too much importance, for the reason that i’ll address next.

Mistake 2: Expecting Social Media to Generate Revenue

The world is littered with companies that went under while they were working on getting their sales from social media marketing.

Now don’t get me wrong: social media can be a highly potent marketing weapon. But here’s the cold, hard reality: I mentor many, many entrepreneurs and virtually none of them have been able to get people on their social media lists to actually write them checks.

Sure they’ll follow you, like you, even comment enthusiastically about how wonderful your products are, but getting them to buy from you as a direct result of what you post on social media is damn hard.

Now I’m generalising of course. I also work with entrepreneurs that are making a fortune from social media. But take it from me, they are a very small minority. Almost all entrepreneurs will find it way easier getting people to pay them money using other media, like email, telephone marketing,online ads, direct mail and website design.

So I advocate doing social media, for sure, just don’t expect your revenue to rise greatly because you are.

Mistake 3: Not Moving Your Followers To Your Email List

Here’s what most entrepreneurs don’t realize: If you have say 5000 people following you on your social media, you don’t own that list. Facebook, Pinterest or Linked In do. That can be dangerous.Your list may get deleted because of their error or as a result of cyber crime (it’s increasing at a worrying rate). Or the owners of those social media sites may change their policies, and start limiting your ability to post. (This has already happened. Did you know that when you do a business post on Facebook now, often only around 16% of your followers see it?). So leaving those precious names on social media sites is very risky indeed.

But there’s another reason you need to move them onto your own email list. Research shows that when you try to sell something to people who are on your email list, you usually get a better response than when you make the same offer on social media. There are all sorts of possible reasons why, but the fact is that email marketing is usually much more effective. How do you move them onto your email list? Just post a free report or offer some benefit to your followers – if they click on a link and leave their email address. If your offer is strong, you’ll get loads of people doing so, and voila, your email list will grow. Do this several times a quarter, and you’ll have the email addresses of many of your social media followers.

So in conclusion, yes social media is a fabulous marketing medium – it’s cheap, it’s fast and it’s highly engaging. But unless you avoid making the three mistakes mentioned above, it could also end up being a huge waste of time.