August 2008  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 5 Issue 8   www.offassist.com
Summer's Last Hurrah

Can you hear the cheers? It's August and work-at-home parents all over are telling themselves, "Just a couple more weeks..."

Why? Because by the end of the month the worst of the summer heat, and the never-ending, "I'm bored!" chant, will be gone. Autumn and school and Labor Day - summer's last hurrah - are just around the corner!

My baby girl is starting Kindergarten this fall, so both of my kids will be in school for the first time. I have all these grand plans for being more efficient. I'm imagining how much I'll be able to accomplish without a child begging for fish crackers every few hours. I'll be childless for an entire SEVEN hours! Wow.

It's bittersweet, though. I'm on the cusp of waving goodbye to an era; no more sweet little girl giggles at lunch, no more pony toys at 11:00am.

I can say the same for my other baby, OffAssist. I am proud of it as it grows up, but moving on from certain aspects of my business has been bittersweet as well. From my first little client to the big ones, OffAssist has changed - I've even gotten a little teary watching it grow from just myself to the team effort it has become.

You know what, though? I love all of my babies and I love watching them grow, and I'm getting a lot better about letting go when I need to. I will admit, letting my little girl walk into that classroom is probably going to be harder than passing work on to one of my team members.

That teacher better be nice or she'll have to face my wrath! *laugh*

In this issue...
  • Article: Making the Most of Valuable Desk Real Estate
  • August & September tax deadlines and Updated Mileage Rates!
  • Hitting the Trails with Mountain Biking Marin in the Spotlight.
  • Keep Up with Prepaid Clients with the Quickbooks Tip.
  • Tech Talk: More Power for Your Peripherals!

How to Organize Your Desk to Finish Work 3 Times Faster
by Denise Landers

If you recently completed a clutter clearing around your desk area to remove the decorative items, you're now left with some open space for working. The next question is, how can you set up your desk to be the most productive? Your desk is an important tool.

How can you get the most benefit from this valuable piece of real estate?

Clear space. Plan to maintain a clear area right in front of you, at least the size of a desk blotter. This is the space where you will work on your current project. It should not have stacks of papers and miscellaneous objects occupying the area. When you have finished working on the project for the moment, put all the papers into a folder and back into your project drawer.

Telephone. The optimal placement for a phone is on your left side if you are right handed. That leaves your right hand free for taking notes without having a phone cord cutting in front of you and across your neck. Even better is to have a head set. Then you can type directly into your computer when you're scheduling appointments or jotting down follow-up tasks.

Computer. Place the monitor directly in front of you but set back further. Since you want to keep the blotter space open for projects, you don't want your keyboard placed right there. Using a keyboard tray to store under your desk when not in use allows you to keep the blotter space open. You can then still type without twisting and placing stress on your muscles.

Frequently Used Items. What you use on a daily basis should be placed within arm's reach on the desktop so that you do not have to bend, stand, or swivel in your chair to reach these. A stapler and a small container for pens and pencils would be examples.

Desk Drawers. Those items less frequently used, such as a pencil sharpener, scissors or a tape dispenser be placed in a desk drawer. Clear out the old food condiment packages and the accumulated file folders that you do not refer to any more. If you are fortunate to have desk drawer that will support hanging files, these should house your current project files and your tickler files (the ToDo items that you will be following up on). If you do not have any space for files in your desk, consider a two-drawer rolling file cabinet that can be placed next to your desk. Place action files in the top compartment and project files in the lower one.

Lighting. Is there sufficient light so that you are not straining your eyes? If you leave your office each day with a headache or tired eyes, make sure that lighting is not a cause. Test different arrangements to see which one you are most comfortable with. Be sure that your computer monitor is not reflecting the glare of the sun or of a direct light fixture. Change the angle of the monitor slightly to see if that might be more restful on your eyes.

Desk Position. Are you distracted when you are seated at your desk? It could be because the physical setup is not efficient. Angle your desk for a different perspective. Feng shui principles frown on having your back to a door, leaving you vulnerable, but you also do not want to have your desk placed so that you make eye contact with every person that walks by.

Sometimes a simple change can make a drastic difference in how you feel about coming in to your work zone and how productive you are with the time that you spend in that space. Be willing to experiment with different arrangements. After all, it is your area. It needs to be adjusted for your needs. The payout is increased efficiency - good for everyone's bottom line.

Denise Landers is the author of Destination: Organization and the owner of Key Organization Systems, Inc. As a productivity trainer and organizing specialist she works with companies, government agencies, and educational institutions, as well as individual business owners and managers, to develop efficient systems for handling daily work flow.

Article courtesy of EzineArticles.com


QuickBooks Tip
Too Much Money?

Q: I have a client that wants to pay a year's worth of monthly billing up front. I need to bill him monthly in order to make my monthly financial reports accurate (show correct expense and income ratios). How can I record his payment and properly show his billing each month?

A: Easy! You accept his payment, but do not immediately apply it. The payment will become a credit in the customer's account.

Each month when you bill the client the normal monthly charge, apply a portion of the credit to the invoice. As you bill and apply the credit, the payment is recorded as income.

The income for the month is correctly recorded, your client's A/R balance is correct and your expense to income ratio is shown correctly each month. At the end of the year his account balance is zero and all is right with the world.
 
 
Tax Deadlines
August 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits for July issued payroll

August 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return for monthly filers

September 15 - Individuals, Pay Third Installment of2008 Estimated Taxes

September 15 - 1120 & 1120S Returns due for those filers with timely extensions

September 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits for august issued payroll

September 22 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return for monthly filers

September 30 - End of 3rd Quarter

Good News! New Mileage Rates!
The IRS announced that effective July 1, 2008, business, medical, and moving mileage rates will go up eight cents per mile. Find more detail on the IRS website. In the meantime, here's the important stuff:

Mileage Rate Changes
Purpose Rates
1/1 - 6/30/08
Rates
7/1 - 12/31/08
Business 50.5 58.5
Medical/Moving 19 27
Charitable 14 14

Tech Talk With Tom...
More Powah!
(for your USB peripherals)

The other day I got an email from a friend who was fed up with his computer mouse. It worked some of the time, but sometimes it failed and he couldn't figure out why. I did a little research on the type of mouse and the brand and couldn't find any reported problems similar to what he described.

After talking to him more I was able to see a trend in when the mouse would work and when it wouldn't. The mouse had problems when it was connected to his laptop or when he connected it to his computer through a USB hub. Whenever it was connected directly to the PC the mouse worked perfectly.

A lot of people don't realize that today's USB peripherals require a lot of power to operate. A standard PC provides a small amount of power, 500mA at 5V, to most USB ports. In order to get longer battery life, most laptops don't offer even that small amount of power through the USB port. Further, many standard USB hubs do not provide enough power for multiple devices - no matter how many ports the hub has!

The best way to solve this problem is to purchase powered USB hubs, both for home and portable systems. A powered USB hub will come with its own AC adapter. While a basic hub that draws its power from the computer may pass through enough juice to operate a single low-power device, a powered hub will keep multiple, power-hungry devices going without putting any extra load on the computer's power supply or the laptop battery.

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at tom@offassist.com.
Spotlight On...
Mountain Biking Marin

In 2000 Celia Graterol took up road biking as a way to improve her health and lose a little weight. Shortly after her introduction to the challenges of mountain biking in 2002, she started leading groups of bikers on discovery rides around her home in the San Francisco Bay area. By 2006 Celia was a mountain biking Downhill U.S. Champion.

She was having so much fun, and in such high demand, that she put her passion to work and opened Mountain Biking Marin. MBM is a company dedicated to teaching others the skills needed to enjoy off-road biking and leading groups around the many bike-friendly trails in Marin County.

We asked Celia if she had a funny story from the early days of her involvement in mountain biking that she wanted to share, and got this answer:

"I finally decided to get a really good mountain bike with all the bells and whistles. I was showing off my bike and thought I was going to be the fastest so I told everyone to let me go first. After the first few yards, I ran into a rock! I flew over my handle bars and landed all tangled up with my bike in some poison oak."

This just goes to show that anyone can participate in this sport, no matter what their skill level is in the beginning!

Mountain Biking Marin is hosting a special event, just for women, on August 17, 2008 - the Hot Mamas Mountain Bike Skill Clinic. The goal of the Hot Mama Clinic is to help women of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced riders, learn something new and then put the knowledge to use in a fun, safety-conscious environment.

Find out more about MBM and their tours and corporate events programs on their website at www.mountainbikingmarin.com
 
Have you nursed a secret longing to be in the spotlight, center-stage, all eyes on you?

If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact Candy@OffAssist.com and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight.

Humor
Barney

1) Start with the given: CUTE PURPLE DINOSAUR

2) Change all U's to V's (which is proper Latin anyway): CVTE PVRPLE DINOSAVR

3) Extract all Roman Numerals: C V V L D I V

4) Convert into Arabic values: 100 5 5 50 500 1 5

5) Add all the numbers: 666

Thus, Barney is Satan. Ask the mother of any preschooler!
 
In honor of my baby heading off to Kindergarten later this month:

First Day At School

The child comes home from her first day of school.

Her mom asks, "What did you learn today?"

The girl replies, "Not enough. I have to go back tomorrow."

Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip?

Email candy@offassist.com.

The OffAssist newsletter is made possible by the copywriting/editing skills of Ink Think VA, and the coding talents of VA Lab Designs.