How to Say “No”

Image Credit: Padurariu Alexandru
Image Credit: Padurariu Alexandru

By Rachel Owen, communications manager

Let’s face it. The truth of the matter is that we all need to say “no” sometimes. What we may not think about is the very real idea that how you say “no” matters.

It might seem a little counter intuitive, but your “no” doesn’t have to be negative.

Think about how you normally say “no.” Do you focus on what you can’t do? Or do you lead with what you can do?

For example, what do you say when an attendee requests a refund past the deadline? According to your office’s policy, you can’t refund their registration fee but you can offer a credit towards the next conference. When you respond to the attendee, make sure to lead with the good news that their next conference is free!

Focus on the positive and it will help take the sting out of the “no.”

For some quick tips on how to make your “no” more positive, check out our handy infographic below.

2015-5-12 say no

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

5 Ways to Save a Bad Day

Image Credit: Ewa Stepkowska
Image Credit: Ewa Stepkowska

Rachel Owen, communications manager

It happens to all of us. Traffic from a terrible accident on the highway makes you late for an important meeting. You receive a harsh email out of the blue. A conference speaker cancels at the last minute and you’re left scrambling for a replacement. Or, if you’re like me, you release a project you spent weeks working on and then discover there’s a typo on the front page. Sometimes, if you’re really unlucky, it all happens on the same day.

What can you do to get back on track when your day is off the rails?

Take 5.

Take a break. Get a change of space for a change of perspective. Go breathe some fresh air. Grab a cup of coffee. Do what works best for you to untangle your brain from the issues in front of you for 5-10 minutes.

Get it off your chest.

If you enjoy journaling, write down your concerns on paper. If you’re a talker, find a private place, like your car, to call up a friend and spill some feelings. Text a friend. Whatever you do, be discreet. You don’t want a misunderstanding in the office to make a bad day even worse.

Work on the things you can control. Let the rest go.

Mistakes are frustrating but they can be really great opportunities to find the weaknesses in your system. Don’t be afraid to examine where the problems originated from and work out a way to avoid them in the future. It’s only a true “failure” if you don’t learn anything from it. But, don’t kick yourself over something that’s out of your control.

Remember the wins.

Be careful not to let frustrations overshadow the things that are going right today. Take a couple minutes to recognize your accomplishments and wins for the day. I have a “Thanks and Kudos” file where I save kind notes from clients and coworkers. When I’m feeling discouraged, I look back at those notes and see that there have been many, many high points in my journey. It’s a good feeling.

Make a recovery plan.

Missed a meeting or a deadline? Call the person to apologize and reschedule. Too many projects vying for your attention? Make a list of your tasks, prioritize them, and handle the most important tasks first. You may not be able to accomplish everything you hoped to do, but with a little strategizing you can make the best of the rest of your day.

How do you get back on track? Please share your tips in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Top 10 Excel Tips and Shortcuts

Image Credit: Alejandro Escamilla
Image Credit: Alejandro Escamilla

By Adrian Emerson, Association Accounting Specialist

Microsoft Excel is a very versatile program that is not just for crunching numbers. You can use it for multiple tasks, like making lists, drafting a report, and drawing charts and graphs. Excel can be the association staff member’s best friend; however, there are some time saving features of Excel that almost everyone forgets.

Here are my top 10 tips and shortcuts to help make using Excel 2007 and newer more efficient and easier to use.

  1. Personalize your Quick Access Toolbar! (you know that little bar at the very top right corner of your screen)

You can add preloaded and custom buttons to this string, like Quick Print or a custom sort feature.

  1. Time and Date Stamps.
    1. To populate a static time or date stamp of the current date or time:
      1. For the date use – “Ctrl” + semi-colon
      2. For the time use – “Ctrl” + “Shift” + colon
    2. To populate an automatically updating time or date stamp:
      1. For the date use the formula: “=today()”
      2. For the time use the formula: “=now()”
  1. Basic Rules of Lists and Reports.
    1. Some of the features in Excel will not work if the any of the following is in your data group; here are some basic rules to follow:
      1. Put the sheet title in as a header, and not in the spreadsheet
      2. Always include appropriate row and column headings
      3. Do not leave entire rows blank
      4. Do not leave entire columns blank
      5. Make sure to use the same data type in an entire column
  1. Navigating Cells In a Data Range.
    1. Pressing “Enter” moves up and down the cells in a column
    2. Pressing “Tab” moves left and right in a row
    3. If you select a range of cells, pressing “Enter” and “Tab” will only move between the selected cells
    4. To quickly select a data range, click the first cell hold “Shift” and click the end of the range. This will select all cells in between.
  1. Paste Link.

This feature copies and links the data from another sheet, and will update the next time you open the file.

ss 5

  1. Custom Sorting.
    1. The Multiple Sorting feature can sort data by multiple specified criteria at the same time. So, if you need a report to be sorted by letter in one column and by zip code in another this feature makes it really easy. ss 6
    2. Custom sorting listings can be set up for easier sorting, like by month, day of the week, or site 6b
      1. To create a new custom list click the “Add” Button.
      2. Then in the “List Entries” box type your new list.
      3. Then Click “OK”ss 6c
  1. Advanced Filter.

Allows you to set up more complicated queries and place a copy in a new area or sheet.

ss 7

  1. Conditional Formatting.

This feature allows you to add selected formatting to specific data, like automatically changing the font color to red for any cell in the range that is below 100 or highlighting a cell if it is within a certain given 8

9. Subtotals.

This feature will automatically place subtotals and grand totals in a range of data per your specified groupings. NOTE: Make sure to sort your data before using this feature.

ss 9

10. Formulas.

NOTE: If you add new data at the beginning or at the end of a data range it will not automatically recalculate the formula.

A. VLOOKUP – “=VLookup(LookupValue,LookupTable,ColumnToReturn)”

This formula is probably one of the most widely used of the formulas second to AUTOSUM. The VLookup formula allows you to look up data from a range of data. You can use this formula to create a whole new table of data using data from other sheets and workbooks.

B. SUMIF – “=SUMIF(range, criterion, sumrange)

This formula will sum the data in a range that fit the selected criteria, like if you want to know the sum of only the sales for one location or one employee. However, this formula will only allow you to pick one criteria

C. SUMIFS – “=SUMIFS(sumrange, criteriarange1, criteria1, criteriarange2, criteria2, etc.)

This formula provides the same function as its sibling above, but will allow you to pick multiple criteria, like if you want to know the sum of sales for one employee at only one location or if you want to know the sum of only two employee’s sales at all locations.

What are your favorite Excel tips? Share in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Tips for Working from Home

2015-2-3 Tips for Working from Home
Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura

Whitney Bertram, Operations Manager

More and more companies are offering employees the ability to work remotely, whether it is full-time, a few days a week, or just as needed. The technology available, such as call forwarding and remote access software, allows this process to be fairly seamless.

Anyone who works from home will probably agree that it has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. As a full-time remote employee, I have found the following tips to be helpful:

  • Set regular office hours. Maintain defined work hours and don’t accept phone calls or respond to emails outside of those hours. Set boundaries between work and personal life. Don’t allow work to consume your life.
  • Designate a workspace. Dedicate an area for working so that you feel as if you are “at work” when you enter that space.
  • Utilize a project management system to track status of tasks. I use Basecamp which allows each person on my client team to update the progress they’ve made on various tasks. This ensures nothing falls between the cracks.
  • Get up and move. Take breaks. Go for a walk. Play fetch with the dog. Schedule breaks to maintain your sanity and improve focus when you are working.
  • Schedule routine meetings with your team. I meet with my team every Monday morning. Working from home doesn’t allow me the convenience of stopping by someone’s office to touch base. Establishing set check-in times helps to keep the lines of communication open.
  • Talk to people. Pick up the phone to touch base with a co-worker. Meet a friend for lunch. Work for an afternoon at a coffee shop.
  • Stock your home office. Keep tools that will help you get your job done. Make sure you have pens, paper, ink and anything else needed. I have an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier that allows me to be more efficient. I don’t have to head to FedEx every time I need to return a signed contract.

Lastly, the common work from home tip I’ve ignored:

  • Get dressed. I have found I can work just as effectively and efficiently in yoga pants as I can in a skirt and heels. Find what works for you and supports your needs.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

What’s Your Word for 2015?

2015-1-6 Whats Your Word
Image Credit: Bec Brown

Allison Winter, Administrative Manager

Each year, when new calendars are being unwrapped, we all tend to take the opportunity that a fresh start provides to create new goals for ourselves. However, no matter how hard we try to cut down on our carbs, we usually end up eating a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts in one sitting by mid-February.

In early January, we pick a handful of resolutions that will help us to a healthier lifestyle or to progress in our careers or to become better at organizing, etc. And though we all have good intentions behind our goal setting, they never seem to stick. Isn’t it frustrating? Why is that?

According to business owner and author Lara Casey, we generally end up ditching our goals because they are only surface level goals. Why would anyone resist drinking a delicious Diet Coke instead of their “New Year’s resolution” glass of water just because they have to? I don’t know about you, but my will-power isn’t strong enough to make me do something just because I have to do it.

So, how do we make a resolution “stick”? Casey believes we all need a deeper reason for setting the goals we wish to achieve. She suggests finding a single word that defines your vision for the year. While picking just one word for 365 days’ worth of goals sounds difficult, Casey provides several questions to help us get started. By answering the questions below, we are able to see a trend in our answers and pick a word that describes the general theme.

  • What kind of life do you want to live this year?
  • Where do you want to be when you’re 80?
  • WHY do you do what you do?
  • What is your mission?
  • What is your CORE?
  • If you could envision your best year yet, what does that look like?
  • 2015 is the year I (fill in your blank): _______

Last year was the first time I had heard of this trick. While I was a little skeptical at first, I found that returning to my word of the year was incredibly helpful. I was no longer setting goals I felt like I ought to set, but I created resolutions for myself that truly meant something to me. Each time I felt like I was veering off-track, my word of the year would remind me of the bigger picture.

This method works well for finding focused goals for associations, too. Try answering these questions based on your vision for your association, or pass them out to your association board! Taking a few moments out of your busy schedule to find a vision for the upcoming year will help keep your association on track for the months to come.

If you’d like to read a little more about casting a vision for the new year, I’d suggest reading Lara Casey’s post on the topic. Also, she just started her 2015 Goal Setting series. If you’d like a little inspiration, or would like a deeper look into the goal setting process, then this series is a great place to start.

Happy New Year!


Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.


Finding Our Strengths

Image Credit: Joshua Earle
Image Credit: Joshua Earle

Beth Wallace, administrative manager

What are your strengths? How can you use them in your daily job tasks or to help you find a good job fit? How can your strengths be best utilized to benefit the company and you? Many people don’t know their strong points or how to put into words what those strengths are, which can leave people feeling unfulfilled and unhappy in their jobs. StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a book by Tom Rath, with a corresponding quiz that includes personality and situational questions. The results of the quiz generate one’s top five strengths out of the 34 defined options. Rath’s method is based on the idea that focusing on and building your strengths benefits you more than trying to become better at your weaknesses. As he says in his book, “You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

Each of us in IMI Association Executives participated in StrengthsFinder to determine and define our team members’ strengths. As in many industries, there are periods of high and low volume workload – and we like to help each other out around the office. Who do I go to when I have a big project that requires thinking through the possible issues and problems that may arise? Knowing our team members’ strengths helps us identify our best resource for specific tasks. After learning my co-workers’ strengths, I know I could go to someone with Deliberative (a cautious, considerate decision making quality) as a strength to talk through the decisions that are being considered. Also, understanding how to work with and communicate with co-workers based on their strengths creates a more effective and efficient environment.

To make sure we fully utilized this resource, we all completed the quiz and met in groups to discuss the results. We dug deeper into our strengths and how they apply to our current position or in other areas the association needs help. The results were actually quite interesting to analyze and interpret. IMI’s mission is “Building Relationships. Delivering Solutions.” The two common categories that most individuals reported strengths in were Relationship Building and Executing. These categories align with our mission, showing that we have the right people to advance IMI’s mission. Others’ strengths fell into Influencing and Strategic Planning, both of which are very important to the success of IMI and our clients. The Influencers are wonderful people to interact with our members and Board of Directors; and we know we would struggle without our Planners that keep us moving and in the right direction.

Overall we were happy with the results and excited at the potential to utilize our strengths to help our associations grow and succeed. StrengthsFinder is also a great exercise for association boards or other volunteers to complete as a group. Recognizing and utilizing the natural strengths each of us has is a great way to maximize the impact of your team.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Productivity: Your Best Friend and Biggest Hurdle (Part 2)

Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura
Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura

By Linda Owens, President

This is the second in a 2-part series about productivity based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat). Click here to read part 1.

Read below for more helpful thoughts about productivity from the IMI staff.

Q5: Do you keep your inbox at 0 emails, like some productivity experts suggest? If so, how? If not, why not?

  • Almost – I try to keep sent and inbox at under 20 emails each. I answer quick emails immediately and save emails to the server that have important info but require no action. I use flags as reminders.
  • I do not keep my box at 0 but I like to keep it as clean as possible. I keep items in my in-box that I need to do or follow-up on later. I also use categories and flags to make it easy to find anything in my inbox.
  • I really, really try to keep my inbox at 0. I delete what has been handled and change action items into tasks.
  • I “try” to limit my inbox only to those emails that require an answer or follow-up by me
  • I try to keep 0 emails in my inbox by moving items to the task area, the calendar, and or saving the message in a folder. If I am unable to keep my inbox clear every other Friday I go through and move items out of my inbox.
  • I like to keep my inbox clean, and only keep emails in my “inbox” that I have not completed or I still need. Once I have completed a task I file the email away. I do not delete any emails. I also move emails older than a year in the archives.
  • For the most part I have my inbox to 0 before I close for the day.
  • Sometimes it gets to 0 but my goal is to at least tackle all the new ones each day.
  • I keep my inbox at 0 unread emails. Everything is read and triaged (I color code with urgency, emails that are awaiting responses, etc.).

Q6: Where do you turn for advice about productivity? What are some of your go-to resources?

  • Some great articles pop up on my LinkedIn
  • I ask fellow co-workers to help me not reinvent the wheel on developing plans or documents that have already been used and approved to work.
  • I don’t have a go-to for productivity resources. I try to read articles and anytime I see information in online, in print, or word of mouth I determine if I can incorporate the suggestion into my system to further enhance productivity.
  • I like to learn new features of the software I use, like Outlook and Excel, for new ways to better organize and manage my day.
  • Coworkers have helped me greatly and so have webinars on Outlook productivity.

Q7: Complete this sentence. “For me, the most important thing to remember about productivity is _______________________.”

  • Because, productivity is not just about getting things done. It is about getting things done more efficiently and remembering that there will always be more things to do then there is time in the day.
  • If you are productive, it leaves more time for enjoyable things.
  • That you eat an elephant one bite at a time. This helps me not to get overwhelmed with big projects and keeps me moving forward.
  • I can only do one thing well at a time. Multi-tasking or hurrying can often lead to mistakes. I have to s.l.o.w. down and just do one thing at a time.
  • To stay focused on the current task.
  • It is not about an empty “in box.” It is about using the time you have available to accomplish the tasks which are most closely aligned with your success as you define it.
  • Focus and the ability to stay on task without distraction, especially social distractions.
  • Knowing what you need to do and when it needs to be done.
  • Quality accomplishment of tasks on or before deadlines.
  • Prioritizing projects and staying on top of deadlines.
  • Quality over quickness.
  • Being “busy” is not the same as being productive.
  • Keeping the quality along with the speed.

Q8: Do you do things for your health in order to improve your productivity? (Ex., take supplements, exercise, eat right, etc.)

  • Exercise and yoga help me let go of work. Reading, both for pleasure and for knowledge. Eating healthy. When I start to feel overwhelmed or can’t sit any longer in front of my computer screen I get up and take a quick walk to clear my mind and re-gain my focus.
  • Nothing gets the day ramped up like my 6 a.m. spin class!
  • Get 8 hours of sleep! If I find I’m losing focus while working on a project I push away and go work on something else or walk around for a few minutes.
  • I take a break sometimes just for sanity, walk around, get some sunshine.
  • Exercise, absolutely. Clears the cobwebs, stretches the limbs and makes sitting back down at your desk more comfortable both physically and mentally
  • Yes, yes, yes and yes. Get up and walk away from your desk at least every 30 minutes.
  • A daily walk of 30 minutes is key. I decided not to allow other’s personalities to affect me personally so I wouldn’t take their attitude to heart.
  • I am one to just power through until it all gets done or I have just worked until I can’t work anymore. (Not the greatest for one’s health, I know)
  • Sleeping more hours each night, eating healthier, nutritional supplements.
  • I exercise, eat right, drink water, supplements.
  • I do things for my health, not for productivity. My body serves me first.
  • Yes, I exercise, take supplements, eat right, and take breaks.

We hope you enjoyed IMI’s in-house #assnchat. If you haven’t tried #assnchat on Twitter, give it a try! You may find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Productivity: Your Best Friend and Biggest Hurdle (Part 1)

Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura
Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura

By Linda Owens, President

This is part one of a 2-part series on productivity based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat).

Have you tried the Association Chat recently? Every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET follow #assnchat on Twitter for a moderated series of questions designed for association professionals to interact and share their experiences. The chat is hosted by KiKi L’Italien (@kikilitalien) and anyone following the hashtag can respond with their answers and participate.

We decided to hold our own in-house #assnchat on productivity, based on the October 7, 2014, #assnchat questions. Read below for productivity troubles and tips from the IMI staff.

Q1: What are some of your productivity killers? What gets in the way of your productivity?

IMI team members shared that their top productivity killer is interruptions. Emails, phone calls, and office visitors were named as the most common interruptions.

Other productivity killers:

  • When others don’t plan their schedules accordingly and it causes an emergency through poor planning.
  • Waiting on others to answer questions or provide information to complete the job from my standpoint.
  • Too many tasks to accomplish in a short amount of time.

Q2: What is the best productivity tool you use regularly?

Across the board, team members cited lists, lists, and more lists as productivity aids!

  • I categorize and assign tasks, due dates and deadlines to items that come in through email. I also use the Franklin Covey system of prioritizing items.
  • It’s a tie between Basecamp and Outlook (color coding emails).
  • I delegate, break big projects into little tasks that I try to work on a little each day, and work at home one day a week, which has fewer interruptions. I also unsubscribe from irrelevant emails and set goals for myself (e.g. I will complete this project in 1 hour).
  • I establish a timeframe during which I will focus on one task that needs attention. No Email interruptions and all phone calls go to voicemail.
  • Not waiting until the last minute to complete the task or responsibility.
  • Outlook! I set reminders/due dates on emails and setup tasks on my calendar.
  • I use a spreadsheet with reminders and deadlines. I also use the Outlook Tasks feature. I just have to remember to stay on top of it!
  • Reducing distractions! I turn off email notifications, set my phone to do not disturb, etc., for a brief time while I focus on critical tasks.
  • I will switch to non-computer tasks for short occasional breaks to rest my eyes and mind from the computer.

Q3: Do you have rules for the way you prioritize tasks each day? What are they? (Such as: List your top 3 priorities but no more, etc.)

  • The week prior, I map out overall items that need to be accomplished during the upcoming week. I then break these down into specific items for specific days of the week. Each day I look through the list for the next day and assign priority to items. A1, A2, A3 are most important and need to get done. B1, B2, B3 are second level of importance, C1, C2, C3 are items that I will do if I have time, but can be pushed to the next day if needed. During the day if an item comes up that needs to trump one of my planned priorities I assign U1, U2, U3 (U = urgent) and determine which item will be bumped to the next day.
  • I get the urgent items done, but each week I also make sure to save some time to work on tasks that have been on the back burner.
  • Each day I prioritize my top nine tasks into three categories: A-one big thing, B-three medium things, and C-five small things.
  • I prioritize tasks by categories: Today, This Week, This Month, This Year.
  • Review deadlines for the week and prioritize tasks based on those deadlines.
  • Prioritize tasks to match or exceed the time available.
  • I usually prioritize by first come first served, starting with tasks that are older than a day that haven’t been completed. Then, I prioritize by request type. For example, requests that take longer to complete I will carve out a time slot in the day, like the whole afternoon or first thing in the morning, and work on other smaller tasks around it. I make sure to complete everything I promised before leaving at the end of the day. If I cannot complete something in a reasonable amount of time or if it has been sitting for a while I will send updates letting the appropriate people know when I will complete the task.
  • Review daily tasks each day and prioritize.
  • I respond to the most important emails first and then go back to the others as time allows. I block time periods to not handle email when working on project.
  • I list my tasks by priority and work on them based on deadline.
  • I first list the tasks that MUST be finished and label them in order that they should be completed. I make a second list below it of tasks I will conquer next if I have time after the critical tasks are complete.
  • I prioritize based on: 1. What needs to be done today? 2. How long has it been waiting? 3. Does it affect our members?

Q4: Do you use an organization or scheduling system, like GTD or the Pomodoro Technique?

Overall, Outlook features, such as tasks and reminders, were the most popular scheduling system.

Other helpful systems:

  • I use Franklin Covey’s system and I do recommend it for people that like to make lists. The system is a great way to bring your love of list making to the next level.
  • Basecamp.
  • Evernote – It’s easy to make lists and check off tasks.
  • I’m a list-keeper, using highlighters to prioritize tasks.
  • I use an Excel spreadsheet with my tasks and their expiration dates.

We hope you enjoyed IMI’s in-house #assnchat. If you haven’t tried #assnchat on Twitter, give it a try! You may find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

Check back next week for part 2 of this discussion on productivity.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.