Moving your office 5 tips for staying productive After all, moving your business or home is widely considered one of the single-most stressful life events for an individual. Add to that the prospect of losing valuable work time, and you can understand why small-business owners try to get out of town when the business remodels, relocates or redecorates. "I have always been scheduled to be out of town for the day before, day of, and day after moving day. Leaving the office entirely is, of course, the best way of handling any relocation. Step aside and let the movers do their thing. But how do you keep your business productive even when your office is in pieces? At this point in many articles, I'd turn to experts on the subject. But I am the expert on moving. I've moved an average of once every two years -- about 18 times altogether, So here are the key things I have learned about how to make a move with a minimum of down time: 1. It's impossible to plan too far ahead. If it's a minor move, then you should know in advance where the cubicles will get set up and where the Ethernet connections will get wired through. Leave nothing to chance. Relocating an entire business -- and don't think it can't happen to you, because small businesses do grow -- can also mean moving a local-area network or a wireless network, numerous PCs and printers. It can mean shipping equipment and inventory. Line up your proverbial ducks well in advance of the big day. Tip: With careful planning, and depending on the size of your business, you can ensure that the actual move happens over a weekend. That gives you enough time to install and troubleshoot any technology that has migrated. If there's any down-time, it will be on Sunday and Monday, minimizing the impact to your clients and customers. 2. Be prepared for the unexpected. A move of any kind forces you to think on your feet, to be ready for anything. If you travel frequently, you probably already know how to do that. For example: Where do you go to buy a box of RJ-11 wire at 1 a.m. What if you need to make copies, but don't have any of your machines set up? It forces you to take nothing for granted, even little things like power and phone service. Tip: You don't have to be a frequent business traveler to know how to think like a nomad. The Small Business Administration's handbook, "Take the misery out of moving" (www.sba.gov/gopher/Business-Development/Success-Series/Vol7/moving.txt), can help. It's available online at no charge. 3. Use the move as an excuse to upgrade. For example, if your office is using bulky CRT monitors, here's the perfect reason to donate those clunkers to your favorite charity and buy flat-panel monitors. It's also a good opportunity to take a hard look at the software you're using to see if it needs updating (I just upgraded from Office XP to Office 2003 on one of my computers). Basically, you want to arrive at your new office location in even better shape to do business than you were when you left. Tip: Use your laptop computers as "interim" office machines while you're in transit. In other words, make sure they're all synched up and have the latest software before you begin your move. Then, use them as your primary PCs while your new office gets situated. 4. Anticipate down time, even if you expect none. Moving can be unpredictable. Trust me. For instance, I thought I would close on a property this morning, but because of some unexpected financing issues, the paperwork won't go through until the end of this week. Delays happen. "I notify clients, editors, associates and friends in advance, via e-mail or phone, that my availability will be somewhat limited for a day or two," Tip: If it's a long-distance move, and you have to stay in a hotel for a prolonged period of time, make sure it can double as an office. It features free meeting areas and high-speed and wireless Internet access. So even though I'm out of the office, I can still get work done. 5. Let your applications help you "move". If your relocation also involves an upgrade or migrating to new hardware (and as I just mentioned, this is an excellent opportunity to upgrade), make sure your programs do the heavy lifting. Save all of your old user options and migrate them to the new hardware or software, so that once you arrive in your new digs, you'll be able to get to work right away. Tip: The trickiest of the migrations tends to be moving e-mail from one PC to the next. Outlook 2003 automatically imports your preferences and e-mail when you upgrade from a previous version on the same computer. When you're switching PCs, go to File, Import and Export, and pick the option for the application you're using. With a little planning and shrewd use of your existing technology, you can make sure that your next move will be as painless -- and productive -- as possible. But I can't lie to you: Moving is still stressful. Yet hopefully, with these tips, it'll be a little less so.