Productivity Hacks

May 31, 2017

ProductivityI don’t know anyone who feels as though there are enough hours in the day. Whether you want more time to spend with your family, to chase a new business opportunity or to pursue that big dream you’ve always tucked in the back of your head – you could always use an extra hour or few. And to get there, your productivity needs to be at its peak.

We could absolutely do less and for some people, that’s a viable and attractive option.  But for those of us who aren’t ready to slow down but still want to be as efficient as possible – there are some tools that can help.

For me, there are some absolutes that must be present when I consider a new productivity tool.  Missing any one of these is usually a deal breaker for me.

  • Must be accessible on all of my devices (laptop, tablet and mobile phone) if appropriate
  • Must sync all data between my devices so no matter which tool I’m using to get to the tool – the data is current
  • Has to be Apple/Mac friendly
  • Simple, simple, simple – I don’t have the time or the desire to learn something complicated
  • Responsive customer service team – if I run into trouble, I want to know there’s a human being somewhere in the mix who can help me
  • Can’t cost an arm or leg but I am willing to spend some money to get the fully loaded version or some of the features (like sharing capacity) that I need

I thought it might be useful to share a few of the tools that I use on a daily basis to keep my world in order and to be as productive as possible.

Evernote:  Think of Evernote as a virtual super secretary that helps you keep everything you might need at your fingertips.  It’s like a virtual file cabinet that stores notes, visuals, web clippings, digitized business cards, audio files and so much more.

What makes this tool so useful is the ability to tag everything you add.  So searching for something that you stored two years ago becomes a breeze, as long as you’ve created a simple tagging system/hierarchy.

My Evernote is a mishmash of blog post ideas, notes from client meetings, web clippings of things I want to share with someone or refer to later, my digital Rolodex and a list of vacation options for upcoming trips.

Wunderlist:  I searched for a couple years to find a To Do list app that actually helped me get things done.  I can keep multiple lists, share them with other people so there’s built in accountability and it is easy to access on all of my devices.  Most To Do apps are unnecessarily complicated.  Part of what I love about Wunderlist is its simplicity.

My lists include client To Dos, things I need to do around my house, my grocery list, phone calls I need to make, next steps (tied to calendar reminders) for some new business prospecting and best of all – I can share tasks with others on my team and assign responsibility as needed.

Tiny Scan Pro: This phone app produces incredibly legible scans of any document. If you travel or are out of the office on a regular basis, being able to scan a document and then either email it to someone, upload it to Evernote, DropBox, Google Drive or other cloud tools is invaluable. If you have the companion app Tiny FAX, you can even go old school and fax it to someone.

Productivity – It’s all about getting things done smarter, faster and with less hassle. Hopefully, these tools will allow you to spend more of your time doing the things you love the most with the people you love the most.

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Don’t forget to recognize your good fortune

November 23, 2016

good fortune

It’s easy to get caught up in the metrics, goals, sales projections, and all the other things we measure in business. But as Thanksgiving approaches, I want to suggest that the best parts of being in business can’t be measured in dollars, percentages or increases but by your good fortune.

I don’t know about you, but by this time of year, I’m getting a little tired. I’ve been going full throttle ever since the holidays wound down last year and I’ve been chasing some pretty aggressive goals. This coming week is the perfect time to slow down and genuinely be grateful for our good fortune. Why not take advantage of the slower pace of Thanksgiving week and actually say thank you to those who make your work meaningful and successful.

Your employees: Let’s be honest – your employees are awesome, aren’t they? They care about your customers, they care about your business and they care about you. They work hard and your bottom line benefits from their efforts.

If you have a small staff, take the time to handwrite them a thank you note. Point out the things they do that make such a difference and let them know you appreciate all they do.

If your team is too big for that, gather them together and tell them how much you appreciate them. If you have multiple locations – why not shoot a video? It doesn’t have to be fancy — you can do it on your computer or phone. But make it personal.

Your clients: What if you spent a couple of hours this coming week and called all of your customers just to say thank you. Don’t try to sell them anything or talk about 2017. Just say thank you. But be specific – tell them why they’re such a wonderful client and why you appreciate them so much.

Encourage your employees to do the same thing with the customers that they serve.

Your vendors: You know who I’m talking about – the ones who bust a hump when your client shortens their deadline or wants to double their order but not the time it takes to get it done.

Let them know that you value their skills, commitment to your customers and willingness to bend over backward to help you over deliver. If there’s a sales rep or front line person who is always going out of their way for you – why not pick up the phone or write a note to their boss? Express your gratitude for their employee and make sure they know just how lucky they are to have them.

Your past customers: Even if they haven’t done business with you in a while, why not drop them a note to thank them for their past business? Tell them how much you appreciate the faith they had in you and the opportunity they gave you. Again, this isn’t a sales gimmick and you’re not trying to win them back. Just acknowledge that you enjoyed working with them, are grateful for the chance and wish them well.

In keeping with this blog post’s theme, I want to thank all of you for reading my blog content. Your emails, calls, notes and kind words make my day. I love it when you disagree, agree or just ask a question. I’m very grateful for our on-going conversation about marketing and all things business.

The magic of this week of giving thanks is that the more gratitude you express, the better you feel. You’ll be reminded again and again of your good fortune and that’s the perfect way to wind down this year and gear up for even more blessings in the year to come.

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Keep Up

November 2, 2016

Keep UpI was recently asked to give a presentation on what students can do/learn so they can keep up with the ever-changing landscape of business and marketing today. As I was preparing the material to deliver, I quickly realized that my counsel wasn’t just for today’s students. It’s what all of us, whether we are a student or seasoned professional, need to be doing to stay current in this never static environment that we all exist in.

Recognize that your employer is not going to invest in your continuing growth. You need to do it for yourself: I’m not saying you won’t have the opportunity to attend a conference or take a class, but the reality is, no company can afford to provide as much continuing education as we need.

We have to be motivated to keep learning on our own or we will very quickly fall behind and once that happens, it’s tough to catch up. Regular consumption of podcasts, webinars, books, blogs, TED talks or whatever method works for you is critical.

Consume information wisely and quickly: We’ve all done it. You click on one online article and next thing you know, an hour has passed and you are far away from where you started. Today’s information overload can bury us in a blink if we’re not careful. We definitely need to consume information every day but we need to have a plan.

Use tools that help you sort and filter all the information out there to find what you need to keep up. An RSS Feed reader (I like Feedly) is an easy way to sort through huge volumes of data. You can also use customizable news apps like Flipboard to aggregate the latest news in the categories that matter most to your industry and career.

Learn to teach, write to learn: The linear nature of mentorships is evolving into a new model. We old dogs have a lot to learn from our younger, digital-native co-workers and we still have a few things to teach as well. When you know you’re going to be teaching others, you learn at a different level.

One of the best ways to teach is to write. As you do your research and fact checking, you will learn even more. A side benefit is that your writing skills will get stronger as well.

Be productive at the start: Most days, the distractions win. We rarely get as much done as we’d like, simply because of the interruptions and constant distractions that bombard us throughout the day.

But if you start your day in relative quiet and get the most pressing of your work done before you log into email, walk into a meeting or take that first call – you’ll feel less rushed and frenetic. If you include some of your media/information consumption into that morning routine, you’ll also feel more plugged into what’s going on in the world.

Surround yourself with other learners and thinkers: You can’t possibly learn it all. And even tougher – you can’t see it all from every angle. You need to create your own tribe of people who will share freely, encourage you, hold you accountable, challenge you and cheer you on.

Very few professionals make the time to create this sort of mastermind group of their own. But I can tell you from personal experience, it’s a safe place to admit you don’t know something, to ask someone you trust to hold you accountable to a goal or just to compare notes/experiences.

The world is not going to slow down. If anything, the speed of change is just going to accelerate even more. If we don’t master these habits now and develop this ability to keep learning and evolving – to keep up – we may never catch up.

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