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Category Archives: Tips and Tricks
In looking through my posting history, it does seem that some of my short tip posts are in praise of certain apps. I don’t mind being the person that tries things out so my readers can find out what works.
Longtime readers might have noticed that I tend to have a pretty high rate of use of Google apps (and — HELLO — FREE!!) I use Google calendar and Google Docs and Gmail, and often I’m one of the first people to adopt anything new coming out of Google.
But one frustration I’ve had with Gmail, (not enough of a frustration to CHANGE my email but a frustration nonetheless), is the inability to schedule mail.
Boomerang for Gmail was developed by Baydin and it gives you the ability to:
- Schedule an email
- “Boomerang” a message for later
(for example, “resend” you a message the day before a meeting)
- Track Responses
- Schedule recurring emails.
- Request read receipts and track clicks.
- Manage scheduled messages
This is also available for phones, but after reading the reviews (and that it slowed down mail loading), I’ve decided that I’m going to keep it on my desktop, where I do the majority of my email.
People who know me, especially those who know me well, know that I’m rather a coffeeaholic*. I don’t function in the morning without my java. Usually the coffee is made (in the programmable coffeemaker) the evening before, and I’m greeted in the morning with that lovely smell of the bean. Some days it’s the only thing that gets me moving.
In order to improve both my sleep and energy levels, I need to be caffeine-free in the afternoon. Some afternoons though, I either run into a wall or get frustrated or get overwhelmed and can’t figure out what my next step should be. Often when that happens I find that my best next step is
More specifically, doing nothing while making myself a nice, hot cuppa.
Because sometimes (whether it’s a Thursday or a Monday or a Saturday), you can find yourself about to spin out of control; you need to just stop and get re-centered.
*Really dictionary? Coffeeaholic isn’t a word. I have to talk to the Merriam Webster people about that.
Have you ever tried to arrange a meeting time with several people and had difficulty finding a time when everyone was available? Sometimes it feels like herding cats (which is extremely difficult to do). We’re all busy and our calendars are filled.
Fast forward to 2015, and yes there is, in fact, an app for that, and it’s called Doodle.
Doodle is a free app that you can use to manage a simple schedule for multiple people. There is, of course, a version where you can spend a bit more money and get more features if you find that works best for your business.
Basically speaking though, Doodle is great time saver and you can use that time to work on your business, make follow up calls, get dinner started, or pick up a pen and paper and doodle. Don’t we all love free things that free up our time?
I’ve heard this complaint many times (and I’ve made this complaint a few times). Our
phones* devices are constantly chirping at us. I realize that sometimes things happen and we need immediate notification. The school nurse might be calling you about a problem a child is having, or you could get a call from a parent or an in-law with an urgent situation at hand, or you could be waiting for a call from a health care professional with test results. Sometimes we NEED to get found.
But then, sometimes we don’t need and don’t WANT to be found. What if you could turn OFF the notifications for those silly Facebook games.
I ran across this article by Ryan Neal in International Business Times. ‘Candy Crush Saga’: How to Turn Off Facebook Notifications for the Popular Social Media Game, Forever
(*Yes, I still call the device I carry in my pocket a “phone” even though I use it for so much more. Some habits are hard to break.)
In the U.S., July 4 is the celebration of our nation’s birthday. We often spend the weekend with parties or picnics or family reunions or weddings. The weekend often ends with tired, but happy, people. When you look at a calendar though, July 1 is sort of like “hump day” for the year. The year is now half over (or half begun) and it’s a time to take stock, assess what is or is not working, and plan for the rest of the year.
This might also be a good time to realize that it’s only 6 months until the end of the year and I’m willing to bet that there are a few people that haven’t even begun to think about taxes yet. (WHAT??? You want me to think about taxes in JULY.)
YES, I actually want you to think about taxes in July. Actually, it’s something you should be thinking about every week, or at least every month, and you should be doing some record keeping so that when you do your taxes (or go to see your tax preparer) in 2015, you are somewhat prepared. I realize that sometimes it’s easy to procrastinate, and I want to encourage you to not fall too far behind.
I’m a big fan of various Google Apps (HELLO — FREE!!), so I’m going to point out a few ways that Google Apps can be used in keeping track of your expenses.
Google Calendar https://www.google.com/calendar
Besides allowing you to keep track of your schedule, share your schedule, and syncing with a number of other applications, Google Calendar keeps track of where you’ve been. If you use Google Calendar thoroughly and faithfully, at the end of a week (or month, or 6 months) you can go back through your calendar and check what you’ve done. You can look at each event and see if there’s anything you’ve done that needs to be documented.
Google Maps https://maps.google.com
After you’ve checked your Google Calendar, you’ll realize that you’ve had some travels (meetings or lunches you’ve attended) that you forgot to write down mileage for. This is where Google Maps comes in handy. Just enter your starting location and your destination and you know your mileage (double it for a round trip).
Google Docs https://docs.google.com
Specifically Google spreadsheets. You can use a Google spreadsheet to enter your costs (mileage, advertising, office expenses, deductible meals and entertainment, etc. etc. etc).
Anytime you’re using any type of spreadsheet (Excel, Google Drive, Numbers), I highly recommend beginning with the end in mind. If you’re looking to do your own bookkeeping so that you can either do your taxes or send them to a tax professional, figure out what you’ll need at the end of the year and input the proper categories. (For myself, and many solopreneurs, look at Schedule C).
Next week we’ll look at a few other Google Apps that can make your life easier.
- Five Cloud Apps To Manage Your Business Remotely (woman.com.au)
- 5 Reasons Why You Should be Using Google Apps for Business (mysocialagency.com)
*Disclaimer, I’m not a tax professional.
Good, short comparison of social media sites
If you’re just getting started in social media, this article by Scott Levy in Entrepreneur gives a brief overview of social media platforms. “How to Choose the Best Social Media Platform for Your Business“
Back in the day (okay yesterday), I was having a meeting with a client and we each needed to be able to “see” what the other was doing. We used FuzeBox and we were able to share screens and switch screens. Both of us are visual people so it was great to be able to see what we were each doing. FuzeBox is free for the first 60 days; so if you need to have an on-line meeting, give it a try.
Mother of Invention
It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. I have quite a few clients that wanted business cards entered into spreadsheets. I discovered that spreading the cards out on my desk was not exactly the best thing for my posture. I “invented” a card holder (pictured). Now you know that if you ever need business cards entered into a database, you can contact me, and if you ever need to borrow a copy of Conceptual Physics, you can also call me.
Public Service Announcement
For those of you in Illinois, Tuesday, March 18 is primary election day.
- Why does this matter? In the primary you get to determine who will run for office in November. In Illinois you can declare your party for EACH primary election so you can determine which ballot you want by election (not by party affiliation).
- Why does this matter to Mary? During the election season I am a field representative for the DuPage County Election commission. This means that prior to each election I spend time training technical judges on any changes that have happened since the previous election and reviewing the policies and procedures that are in place (especially in regards to the machines that are used in the polling place on election day.) A large number of people spend a large number of hours working not only on election day but in the months before an election and the weeks after an election. Think of it this way, the more people placing votes for an election, the less the process costs per vote.
- What on earth does being a Field Representative have to do with being a Virtual Assistant? More than you realize. Training election judges to use the various electronic machines is very similar to training clients on the use of social media tools. Making sure policies are followed is very similar to following procedures for client work (or for my own work). And there’s an awful lot of trouble shooting, problem solving, and thinking on my feet.
- But what if I need one really good reason to vote? This is Illinois and this is the year we elect our new governor (or reelect our current governor). The way things have gone lately, it’s really important to decide who to put in office, because there’s a non-zero chance we’ll be paying for the prison sentence at some point in time.
HAPPY ELECTION DAY