Category Archives: Tap Inspect

News You Can Use: April 2013

Here’s what’s going on in the near future: 

* Head south to the TAREI 2013 spring conference April 12 through 13 in San Antonio, Texas. Featuring workshops on septic inspections, commercial building inspections, solar panels, tile roofing, drywall and everything in between, this conference is a must for anyone in the real estate fields.

* Vegas baby! Or the next best thing.  The 2013 Atlantic City “Get Certified” Inspection conference hits shores April 22 through 24 (Certification classes run through the 26th). Classes range from infrared training to plumbing safety to water intrusion forensic investigations. A full list is available here.

* If you’re aim is for Vegas, we can give you the next closest thing. The American Institute of Inspectors kicks off their spring conference in Reno April 19 through 21. A full schedule is available online right over here.

* Looking even further ahead, the ACI Home Energy Leadership Summit is scheduled for April 29 through 30 in Denver, Colorado.

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Extra Credit

There’s just not enough space in our newsletter to include everything you should know about connecting with media professionals, but thankfully there’s a wealth of resources on the web that can help you do just that. Here are a few must-reads for helping you land print, television and radio interviews. 

 

* Stop what you’re doing right now and head over to Copyblogger’s list of 109 ways to build relationships with media professionals. This article will walk you through exactly how to research a journalist ahead of time, successfully create an eye-catching pitch and keep that relationship going for year after year.

 

* If you’re looking more for radio and television coverage, head here. Michael Hyatt’s article offers spot on info on preparing for a media interview and how to delicately refer an audience back to your company without coming across like a salesman.

 

* It’s easy to get lost in a sea of Twitter feeds if you’re trying to connect with journalists in 140 characters or less. PressPass has a fantastic collection of journalists on twitter organized by beat. Most of these media pros work on a national scale. If you’re seeking out local coverage, it’s best to reach out to area publications directly.

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Productivity Tips From the Pros

If streamlining your breakfast and wardrobe sound weird, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Here are some extreme ways that the rich and famous got things done.

Eliminate Temptations
To prevent himself from wiling away the days in an unproductive fashion, Lifehack.org reports that the Greek orator Demosthenes would shave half of his head so he wouldn’t be tempted to leave the house. Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame would have his hired help hide his clothes.

Take a Nap
Instead of sleeping through the night, Leonardo Da Vinci got by on several naps throughout the day according to Health.com. Sleeping a grand total of one and a half hours per day, Da Vinci divided his sleep into 15-minute naps every four hours.

While clients aren’t going to be happy if you ask to curl up on their sofa after an inspection, taking a snoozer here or there can boost productivity.

Remember Who’s Behind You
The playwright Henrik Ibsen, most famous for his works, A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler, went so far as to keep a portrait of his nemesis on his writing desk according to Lifehack.org.

Want more productivity tips? Check out our article on New Year’s Resolutions You Can Ditch Today

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Three New Year’s Resolutions You Can Ditch Today

If you’re still plugging away at your new year’s resolutions, good for you. In a survey of more than 3,000 British adults, nearly 75 percent said that they had given up on their resolutions by January 10. If you’re hanging in there, just make sure you’re aiming for a target that’s worth hitting. Here are three new year’s resolutions it’s ok to kick to the curb.

 

Resolution #1: To Do More With Less

Efficiency is awesome, but only if you can do it with some sense of sanity. If you’re trying to up your clientele by multitasking, you’re barking up the wrong tree. According to new research by the University of Utah, people who believe that they are effective multitaskers are the same people who are least able to do it.

The new findings piggyback on a study we explored in the last Tap Inspect newsletter which shows that the human brain can actually only devote space to five to nine things at a given time, which means that if you’re typing an invoice while chatting with a client by phone while thinking about upcoming dinner plans, at least one isn’t going to get the attention it needs.

What To Do Instead 

Instead of tackling everything at once, create a daily schedule that groups like activities together. That will save your brain from switching from one activity to something totally different several times a day.

Resolution #2: To Keep Control

Your business is your baby which is of course why you want a hand in every single decision, but actually, choices could be bringing you down. Research shows that humans have a limited capacity for making decisions. If we’re presented with too many choices throughout the day, we suffer “decision fatigue” and tend to make reckless choices just to get the job done. That could explain why people tend to overspend on major, decision-heavy events like weddings and moving.

What To Do Instead  

For home inspectors, property managers and anyone else who runs a small business, every day is chock full of stressful decisions. Instead of stressing about every little thing, make some choices ahead of time and have a snack. To reduce decision fatigue, leaders like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama wear basically the same outfit and eat the same basic things everyday to eliminate those daily decisions and leave time to ponder more pressing matters. Something sweet can also help. Studies show that giving your body a small dose of sugar can boost willpower and reduce decision fatigue.

Resolution #3: Keep To Do Lists

There’s a reason that your To Do list is never quite finished. According to the Harvard Business Review, to do lists are doomed to fail because they encourage you to do the shortest tasks first (to feel that awesome sense of achievement) and keep you from tackling the harder, more time-consuming tasks you really need to get done.

What To Do Instead

Some business experts advocate the “Eat That Frog!” philosophy. If you start off each day by doing the hardest thing first, productivity will ultimately increase. A simpler way is to create a To Don’t list instead that highlights things you’ll purposefully avoid doing during the day like answering personal e-mail, surfing the web or taking a leisurely lunch. By thinking about the time-wasting traps you’re going to actively avoid, you’ll have more time to think about the things that really need to get done.

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Three Tools to Improve Time Management

Need a little help staying on task? Don’t we all. These tools can dramatically increase your productivity without breaking the bank.

 
1. Toggl

This time management software not only tracks where your time is going, but helps you increase efficiency too. Available for desktops and mobile devices, Toggl is cheap ($5 a month) and is a great way to see where you’re going and where you should be going. For a cheaper (i.e. free) alternative, check out RescueTime Lite.

2. Sleep Cycle
This app is $0.99 but boy howdy is it worth it. Sleep Cycle acts as an “intelligent alarm clock” that reads your sleep patterns and wakes you up when you are in your lightest sleep cycle. Once you get past the weirdness of sleeping with a phone in your bed, the payoff is waking up more refreshed everyday.

3. Remember the Milk
So much to do, so little time. This handy free app does the organizational leg work for you. Importing your tasks from Outlook, Google Calendar and anywhere else you’ve got them stashed, Remember the Milk allows you to prioritize your tasks and get reminders about what needs to be done.

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News You Can Use: December 2012 edition

Here’s what’s going on in the near future:

* To those in our Tap Inspect family who were affected by Superstorm Sandy, we hope that you’re safe and steadily getting back on your feet. If you need some extra assistance, we’ve compiled this list of resources for inspectors who were victims of natural disaster.

* December’s also packed with inspector events. December 4 through 6, the Triple Play REALTOR Convention and Trade Expo lands in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Registration information is available right over here. Those in the home energy fields can also get their kicks by heading south. The POWER-GEN International conference will be in Orlando, Florida from December 11 through 13. Careful kids, this one is pricey.

* Tired of hearing about Inspection World in our newsletter yet? Well, you’ve only got a month or two left. The grandaddy of home inspection conferences kicks off in Las Vegas January 13 through 16, 2013 and will feature 45 continuing education courses and more than 70 vendors. ASHI has also scored a sweet hotel deal with Bally’s to lighten the costs a bit.

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Time Flies…

Especially at work. To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your work day, we dug through study after study to figure out how home inspectors and other small business owners can increase their productivity without putting in more hours. Here’s what we found.

 

Quit Multitasking

Running your own business means being the lead home inspector, chief marketing agent, secretary, accountant and janitor, but doing those things at once could cost you productivity. Research from the University of Utah shows that the 97.5% of people are less productive and more prone to make mistakes when multitasking. A separate study on media multitasking from Stanford researchers proved the same theory.

 

“Heavy multitaskers are lousy at multitasking… The more you do it, the worse you get,” Stanford communications professor Clifford Nass told Reuters.

 

One theory as to why multitasking doesn’t work is that it’s not actually possible says MIT neuroscience professor Earl Miller. In an interview with NPR, Miller stated, “You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.”

 

Instead of doing multiple things at once, workers can increase their productivity by simply focusing on one duty at a time.

 

Track Your Time

Even when we think we’re working, oftentimes we’re not science shows. A survey from Microsoft shows that American workers only spend 60% of their work time actually doing their jobs. That means that in a five day work week, only three days are devoted to work. The rest gets eaten up by endless meetings, personal tasks, e-mail, office chit chat and other unnecessary distractions. The situation is so bad that researchers in London conclude that distractions such as phone calls, e-mails and text messages can slow workers down even more than marijuana.

 

One of the simplest ways to up your productivity is to track your time and budget it out the way you would money. Working in smaller, focused bursts can result in more output than spending eight hours enveloped in non-essential tasks.

 

Get Happy

Increasing your productivity has just as much to do with how you operate outside the office as it does with what you do in it. A joint survey from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, and Nic Marks of the New Economics Foundation showed that employees who are happy are 31% more productive and generated 37% higher sales than those who weren’t.

 

Unsurprisingly, productivity is also linked to sleep, stress levels, overall health and how much vacation workers took. Study after study after study shows that those who treated their bodies and brains like machines that don’t need rest fared much poorer in the long run than those who took breaks. Research by Fairleigh Dickson University shows that more than half of all lost work days can be directly attributed to job stress and 75% to 90% of all doctor visits are due to stress-related conditions. The problem has gotten so dire that companies such as Hubspot and The Motley Fool offer unlimited vacation days to ensure that their employees stay rested and productive.

 

Unlimited vacation days may not be possible for inspectors and property managers running their own show, but taking time to unplug is. Instead of grinding your body to the ground, think of that break as the smartest business move you can make.

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Field Notes

Every month, Field Notes highlights some of the best, worst and just plain weird home inspection and real estate videos we’ve ever ween. This month, our hats are off to The Ellen Show for this round-up of delightfully undelightful real estate listings.

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The Good Life According to Richard Branson

Is it possible to run a business and have a healthy personal life away from work? Absolutely says Richard Branson. The founder of Virgin Group, Branson is known for his antics outside the boardroom just as much as his action in. Here are three ways Branson builds business and budgets in play. 

Schedule Your Fun

One way Branson keeps his cool is by using technology to keep track of play in the same way that he does work.

“…I use phone calendars, email reminders and mobile reminders to maneuver my way to each meeting, event and party,” Branson wrote in an Entrepreneur.com article. “You can also use these things to make sure you have time to eat regularly and that you can get a good sleep.”

While simple calendar and alarm functions already built into your phone can help, apps like CrunchTime can track where your time is going.

Keep Control

Using technology is one thing. Letting it rule your life is another Branson warns.

“You must manage your Blackberry; do not let it manage you,” he says. Many executives check their smartphones throughout meetings and during off-hours. This is not good for concentration, and has a negative impact on decision making. Use it only in bursts: check emails for an hour or so and then put it away so you can focus on the task at hand.”

Focusing on one thing at a time means more accomplishments which means more time for play.

Look Ahead

Branson also recommends taking time each day to dream big.

“Finding time for aspirational thought is vital. When I am on Necker Island, I spend time every day in a hammock with my notebooks and iPad, thinking over new dreams and ideas,” he writes. “At the beginning of your career, you may only be able to schedule 10 minutes during business travel, or between meetings, but even if that is all you can do, you should make the most of it.

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4 Resources For Inspectors Affected By Superstorm Sandy

With damage estimates hovering between $30 and $50 billion, Sandy has certainly taken its toll on inspectors along the east coast. There is help on the way. These organizations can help inspectors and their families get back on their feet fast.

* The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
If you have damage to your own home, trouble getting supplies or other disaster-related issues, FEMA is a good ally to have on your side. Recently the organization injected $210 million into Sandy relief efforts, meaning that help is on the way. In addition to providing their own help, FEMA also helps connect those in need with local groups and charity organizations for aid. Information on programs in your area is available at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling (800) 621-FEMA.

The Small Business Association
The SBA is a godsend for business owners in need. Their disaster loan program offering low-interest financing for large and small business owners, home owners, renters and nonprofit organizations to cover business assets and property that were destroyed by the storm. Qualified businesses and nonprofit groups can borrow up to $2 million to cover real estate, machinery and inventory taken by Sandy. The SBA also coordinates with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security to provide information on contracting opportunities.

* Your state’s unemployment office
Most self-employed workers aren’t eligible for typical unemployment insurance, but you may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Designed for any worker who can’t perform their job due to disaster-related conditions, DUA benefits are available to areas that the President has declared an official disaster zone. For now, these include specific counties in Virginia, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts. DUA Benefits are usually available for up to 26 weeks after a natural disaster but certain states extend benefits longer. How much aid is available and how those funds get distributed is decided on a state by state basis. Contract your state’s employment office—a full list is available right over here—to find out what you’re eligible for.

* National Disaster Legal Aid
If you run into problems with insurance claims, mortgage lenders, landlords or anyone else, this organization is here to help. The NDLA maintains an awesome list of legal resources for affected states and a separate list for New Yorkers.

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