The past three months, I’ve been testing the amazing waters of the pay as you go cell phone. That means I’ve chucked the smartphone and gone back to the two device life (remember that? Back in 2004 some people carried a palm pilot AND a cell phone!)
After 2 months I saved enough to pay my Early Termination Fee and really start saving money. As a side effect, I have learned to break free from my cell phone and I want to offer a few tips to you that will help you out, even if you don’t want to part from your smartphone.
Turn off push notifications
This one helped me out a ton. With my job, there are certain things that happen at the same time every day. When my email would BING every day at 10:20 p.m., I knew what that meant and I would immediately take a little brainpower away from whatever I was doing and give some to work. You don’t know how much you are devoted to the BING of new mail until you break up with it. And then…
Don’t read your email when you aren’t ready to focus on it
The best example of this used to happen in every line I had to wait in. I’m going to be here for at least 45 seconds, I might as well check my email. That might be fine if your email isn’t any more important than a tabloid headline, but what happens if you see something important. What happens if it’s bad news from your boss about something you messed up royally and he wants to talk about at 8:00 a.m. and not a second later? You just ruined a perfectly calm trip to the grocery store. You just interrupted dinner or playtime with your kids by inviting your co-workers into your living room.
Find a way to deal with your email, and only deal with it then. If they needed you immediately, they would have called or txted you. If it’s an email, it can wait.
Turn the ringer off, as in really off
It used to be that only doctors carried pagers, so they would be the only people interrupted in the middle of their activities. Now, it’s too common to sit with a friend during lunch and have them constantly interrupted by all of the other people that didn’t go to the trouble of taking them out to lunch! I’m not talking about switching to vibrate here, I’m talking about shutting the thing up altogether. The vibration might not interrupt everyone else in a meeting, but it will interrupt the one getting vibrated. Unless your wife is 8.9 months pregnant, (it used to be cool to be an expecting dad with a pager, right?) you owe it to the people around you to have at least 20 minutes of undivided focus. It will change the way you work, think, and love. It really will.
Book me for $1,000 a month for any sort of consulting/project/etc.
As you may or may not know, for a year now I’ve been the Spiritual Life and Program Director at the Evansville Rescue Mission. That position has nothing to do with developing websites, but everything to do with watching God develop men into new creations–men that are restored and get back on their feet.
At the same time, I’m doing websites and marketing consulting on the side. It has been a lot of fun because I’ve scaled back my clients and just picked them as they come along.
Now I’m going to try something new. Beginning in January, I’m going to book one client a month at flat-rate pricing. For $1,000 you will be my client for the month and we’ll make whatever you want.
Yep, All You Can Eat for $1,000.
Need to train 50 people on WordPress? Sounds fun.
Need 5 WebSites launched? Bring it on.
Need a flyer, a pamphlet, a billboard, a website, Bic pen and a T-Shirt? I’ve done it before in less time on a smaller budget.
Follow up work will be $100 an hour after your month, but let’s talk so we can be sure that doesn’t happen.
I’m available almost daily before 10:00 a.m. and I’m flexible otherwise.
It might be crazy, I might lose my shirt, but either way let’s make it awesome.
$500 reserves your month, the other $500 will be due on the 20th of the month. $1,000 doesn’t include printing/production costs, but it does cover several domain names and hosting for a year. Book me for the whole year and I’ll give you 2012 for free.
I read a lot of stuff on the web. And by a lot I mean about 2 hours a day of reading.
Of course, the web is always changing and moving, but there are articles that I want to keep track of, or refer back to, or share with others, or read later.
That’s why I use Evernote Clearly . Here is a 45 second video that I recorded when I was grabbing something earlier today. I hope you can see from it how Evernote Clearly can help you too.
The other day my wife said she wished she had a searchable list of ingredients, recipes, and where to buy the ingredients at the right prices & quality. For instance, she made some soup and had a ton of celery left over. What other recipes do we regularly eat, or are close to what we eat, so that she could use the rest of the celery? With 7 picky eaters, you can’t deviate much from our normal litany of foods.
It had to be simple, quick, handy, and flexible.
So I wrote an app for her to use on her iPhone so that she can just type in “Celery” and get a listing of all of her recipes that use celery. When she clicks on Celery, she gets a listing of the area stores that sell acceptable celery and the latest prices.
OK, That’s not true.
That would be silly and stupid and a terrible waste of time and resources! It’s celery for goodness sake!
But that is what dozens and dozens of businesses do every day. Somebody rattles off what they want their system to do, and then a group of workers under them or hired consultants sets out to create an elaborate, custom made solution tailored to their every preference.
Do We Even Know We Are In A Box?
The management team might think they were really thinking outside the box by developing a new custom solution. I might think I was really creative by writing a Celery tracking app for my wife. The true part of that story is that my wife really did say that she wanted all of that stuff. She had the app in front of her the whole time: the address book.
She doesn’t use the address book on her iPod touch anyway, so she just started putting in contacts:
• Fresh Mushrooms
• Whole Wheat spaghetti noodles
and now whenever she wants to look something up, she does a search and there it is.
I think a lot of businesses would benefit from stepping back from custom solutions and bells and whistles and push notifications and responsive design and just ask the simple questions.
What do we need?
Why do we need that?
After asking that enough, your team will sift away all of the bulky custom junk that complicates your work and you’ll be able to spend more time on doing your work, rather than trying to develop a complicated solution to make your work easier.
Some people have asked me about Google + and how it fits into the scheme of things. While it isn’t quite mainstream yet, as far as third party apps and convenient posting, it is getting very popular. (by mainstream I mean I can’t automagically post to it from Hootsuite)
The key to the differences is the direction of the relationship and how you interact with folks.
Facebook: You and I are going to see each other’s posts.
Twitter: I want to see your posts. Look at mine if you want.
Google: I’m going to share my posts with you. Share yours if you want.
Of course they all have various privacy settings that vary in different ways. That’s too much to go into here, I just wanted to put up these three paradigms as food for thought.
My employee of the month for May is Adobe Acrobat Connect. (Ok so the fact of the matter is that AAC really only did one thing this past month, but it did that one thing so smooth, and was such a timesaver, that it gets the cred for this month.)
What is it?
Adobe Acrobat Connect is a screen sharing, online meeting app. You load up some stuff on your machine (minimal, and I’m on a Mac) and then you have a meeting. You then share a web address and somebody can go to that web address, put in their name, and enter the meeting. The free version only allows you to share it with one other person, but for my purposes that is enough.
I’ve used AAC years before to help show people how to do things in Photoshop or Illustrator. I would get one of those “How do I???” phone calls and instead of stumbling around describing screens I would just fire up AAC, send the caller the website via chat or email, and then show them on MY SCREEN. It was the best way I ever found to show somebody how to work the Pathfinder in Illustrator or what the heck a Gaussian Blur is in Photoshop.
How do you use it?
But last week I used it in a way that I never thought of before. I had a client in Arizona. He needed business cards to promote his new site practice (Sam Lample professional counseling at samunderstands.com ). We had gone back and forth about 3 times with revisions, and versions to find the right business card. After version three I remembered my long-lost friend AAC. I opened it up, shared Illustrator with Sam and made changes to his business cards while he watched and commented. What would have taken several emails back and forth took several minutes over Skype.
Sam didn’t need to be a part of the service, set up an account, or even register. He just visited a web page, requested permission to enter the room, and it was done.
AAC has other features like a chat, running notes, file sharing, etc. But for simple and fast screen sharing, it does just what I need well.
As a freelancer, I’m on my own to manage projects, invoice my customers, repair the equipment, etc. I couldn’t do the stuff I do without a small army of apps to help me out, so I’m going to start posting about the Employee of the Month around here.
This month it’s Tadalist.
Tadalist is a free product from 37signals, the makers of Basecamp, Backpack, Highrise, etc. I think I might just let it speak for itself here.
Many times I do web work that might not be noticeable to my clients at first glance. I might spend a day setting up Google Analytics, installing WordPress plug-ins, optimizing the graphics they gave me so they load faster on the web, fiddling with DNS, proofreading their past blog posts for typos or editing them to enhance their SEO. At the end of the day, my client might ask “What did you do on my site today?!” and all I have to tell them is blah blah HTML blah blah CSS plugin conflict blah blah blah.
I can make a checklist in English and share it with my client via email. They can get in to see it, edit it, and watch progress via RSS or by returning to the list. They can add to the list without setting up a user account & password! Now if my client wonders what is going on today, or how much is left until launch, all they have to do is check the tadalist. It also has a sweet looking iPhone interface, so its worth adding to your homescreen.
Be sure to email it to yourself before you share it as a backup, and good luck keeping a clear and open communication with your clients. They’ll thank you for it!
Do we need to be on facebook?
Do we need a blog?
What would we put on it if we did?
How can our church get news out to our congregation?
In an effort to help everyone in the area come together and help each other with these questions, we’re putting on the Non-Profit Communications Summit.
The Non-Profit Communications Summit will be held Wednesday, February 16th from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at Gattitown in Evansville, Indiana. The cost is $10 per person, which goes to pay for your breakfast and lunch at Gattitown (required).
We will begin the breakfast buffet and registration at 8:00 a.m.
After a brief welcome and introduction, we will split up into table groups of various topics such as websites, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, email newsletters, print media and more. We will have three table group sessions from 8:30-11:30 so you can come and learn about three different topics in the morning.
Lunch will be served at 11:45.
After lunch we will still have the facility until 3:00, so ad hoc gatherings can still take place. I’m thinking of doing an Evernote training session or some other meetups if people are interested. (GTD, free resources for non-profits, etc.)
Many non-profits think they can’t afford a consultant to help them with their communications needs. NPComm gives them a chance to spend a day with experts and other non-profits to share and collect tips and best practices for fund-raising, volunteer recruitment, and communications.
You can RSVP on the Facebook event page, or email me – Dan [at] creativeiscreative.com – if you’d like to RSVP, volunteer to be a table moderator, or whatever else.
I haven’t written about it here, but I am a serious advocate for having good backups in redundant places. I use Dropbox [affiliate link] for my most important stuff because it runs automagically in the background and doesn’t count on me to run it every day. You basically pick a folder on your hard drive to be your Dropbox, and then that folder lives in an almost constant sync with the Dropbox cloud.
Dropbox is also a good solution for sharing files. I share a “Homeschool” folder with my wife. Any time she needs something scanned or some worksheets printed, I make sure they are scanned into the shared folder. When she goes to teach History, all she has to do is open up her Dropbox/Homeschool/History folder and the files that I scanned and saved in my Homeschool folder are mirrored on her machine. She opens them and prints them without needing to download them from email or find them on my computer (that may be with me at a coffee shop or in a meeting with a client.)
I spent the last three years working on a huge collaborative writing/study project with a guy in rural Kentucky, about 3 hours from me. Every week we’d post our writing to each other and often his email would bounce or just plain fail. When we started using Dropbox, I’d get a Growl notification whenever I got his doc and he’d get one on his desktop when my work was available. It was extremely easy and didn’t involve confirmation of a semi-dependable email.
More and more third-party apps are mixing with Dropbox which is making it even more useful. Plaintext by HogBaySoftware is a great text editor for iOS which lets me write notes of huge proportions on my iPhone (with my bluetooth keyboard, not on that little touch screen!) and JotNot also allows you to send your images to your Dropbox for easy archival or sharing.
Their cost tiers are pretty useful for me at this point, because you get a couple GB free and you can get 250mb free for every person that joins with your affiliate link.
But there is a way that Dropbox falls short, and there is a supporting app in my workflow that fills in the gap. I’ll post how Evernote blesses my workflow next.
With the recent Gawker hack and then the LinkedIn warnings to change my password after that, I thought I’d share my foolproof password system. I don’t trust programs to save my passwords for me and I don’t use the same password on every website.
For my password I use a single keyword.
Here is how it works: I picked a single compound word, like coffee-cup. Now on every website, whenever it needs a password, I use my keyword with the first four letters of the domain in the middle as my password. Add some caps and numbers to spice it up.
Here are some samples using the above keyword but spelled with a zero instead of an “o” and 33 instead of the “ee” in coffee:
Google Account: C0ff33googcup
You get the idea. Pick a way of spelling your keyword so that you have a capital letter and a number and you’re all set. For best results, change up your keyword at the start of every quarter and you’ll have great success.