Category: Musings

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8 Tools To Manage Your Time More Effectively

We’re always talking about tools to make you more productive, but the key element of productivity is managing your time as effectively as possible. Overdoing it on productivity apps and services can be daunting but there are a number of applications that you should be using to a) visualize your workload, b) handle it more effectively, and c) see and analyze your results. Here are some great tools to manage your time as efficiently as you can to avoid falling into the trap of not having enough hours in the day.


Customer relationship management isn’t just important in ensuring the best possible customer experience, it’s a great way to visualize what needs to be done, monitor what your team is doing, collaborate with your team, and analyze results. Solutions range from free basic CRMs like Zoho to large feature-rich CRMs like or Sugar CRM. This is not just a way to stay on top of everything without spending a lot of time, it’s also a great way to make sure your team is on the same page.


All brands need a social media presence, but it can be incredibly tedious to manage all those accounts. With HootSuite, you don’t have to. All of your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and FourSquare accounts are all in one place. You can schedule posts, see analytics on how well your posts are doing, allow your team to post to the accounts while monitoring activity, and it helps you save a ton of time on your social media efforts.

Remember The Milk

Remember The Milk is probably the most popular task management platform out there. Aside from just creating a list of tasks, the app lets you break projects down easily, sort your tasks, schedule reminders, sync with Google, Twitter, or Outlook, and create collaborative lists for tasks for your entire team. Doris is another good application that does the same things as well.


We’ve mentioned Toggl before but it’s definitely worth mentioning again. It’s a very simple time tracking tool and you can quickly put in tasks and time how long they take. This helps with billing and invoicing (the app will even do the math for you and integrate with BaseCamp, Freshbooks, or Quickbooks) as well as visualizing where you’re spending your time. If your team is under 5 people, the account is free, larger accounts are $5 per month per user.

Rescue Time

While Toggl helps you keep track of your work hours, RescueTime is a personal analytics service that monitors everything you do on your computer and mobile device and reports back with very simple-to-use analytics and graphs. By seeing exactly how much time you spend doing things online, you can spot inefficiencies in your day and make real analytics-based changes to improve the effectiveness of the time you spend using your computer and mobile device. Plus, it’s free.

StayFocusd/LeechBlock/Self Control

All three of these are the nuclear option for people who can’t stop going on time wasting websites. StayFocusd for Chrome, LeechBlock for Firefox, and Self Control for Mac block access to specific sites for a specific period of time. This keeps you from drifting over to check your Twitter feed by sending you to a friendly reminder to get back to work.


Thymer bills itself as the project management app for people who hate project management. It’s a lightweight and simple platform that really does make it easier to manage large projects and break them down into tasks. It’s very intuitive and well laid out. It allows you to collaborate and share docs with your team and keeps track of their hours and costs. You can try it for free but plans cost anywhere from $25 to $75 per month.


This is a nice and simple invoicing app that helps you save time on…well, tedious invoicing. You can simply customize your invoice as much as you want, set up recurring invoices, integrate with online payment platforms like PayPal, send pre-invoice estimates, track expenses and costs, and track hours for yourself as well as your team. Ronin offers a limited free account but real accounts range from $15 to $50 per month.

10 Best Crowdsourcing Tools For Small Business

I first learned about Crowdsourcing in The 4-Hour-Workweek, but since the book’s release the idea has taken off in a big way. Crowdsourcing simply means outsourcing tasks to a group of people rather than a contractor. This allows businesses to save money while getting valuable tasks completed, and can be used for many different projects. As productivity geeks, we’re always trying to delegate as much of our work as possible, so let’s take a look at some of the things we can crowdsource and make our lives just that much simpler.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

One of the oldest and most used crowdsourcing platforms is Amazon’s Mturk, which is primarily for small, basic tasks that require a person rather than software. There is no limit on what tasks you can post: it can be anything from filling out a survey, keyword research, writing an outline, researching information or leads, etc. You can price your task however you want, and most tasks on the site are listed under $1.


CrowdFlower is all about data. If you need a large data set analyzed, edited, or generated, you submit the project to CrowdFlower and they break the project down into small tasks that will be completed by people all over the world. Once the small tasks are done, the CrowdFlower team will ensure quality and send you the results.

Genius Rocket

This site is like a creative video agency without the fancy Madison Ave. skyscraper. Genius Rocket creates commercials, education videos, viral videos, sales videos, and animations for your business. By crowdsourcing writers, directors, and producers you save a ton of money on multimedia that would costs tens of thousands of dollars at a real creative agency.


PopTent is very similar to Genius Rocket and connects videographers and commercial directors with brands. They can produce everything from a viral video to a legit national TV spot.


Need your software tested? Look no further than uTest. By using the many uTest users to test your application, you can immediately find crashes and bugs, and receive feedback and quickly find solutions. They offer functionality tests, security testing, load testing, localization testing, and basic usability testing.


Similar to uTest, Mob4Hire tests only mobile applications and delivers in-depth results on user experience and usability.


Need documents translated but don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a translation service? Submit it to the translators at GenGo and your document will be translated, checked, and edited by their extensive team of translators.

99 Designs/Crowdspring

Both of these are hugely popular ways for brands to get logo or graphic design on the cheap. 99 Designs offers logo, business card, apparel, postcard, flyer, brochure, product packaging, web site, mobile app, icon, banner, or book cover design. Crowdspring does that as well but helps with brand and product naming as well.


SmartSheet is a unique project management platform that allows you to assign tasks to your own team and then fill any holes or gaps with their virtual workforce. The SmartSheet crowd is integrated with Mturk and other platforms so you get access to a massive amount of people around the world.

Staying in Touch With Clients For Repeat Sales

We all know it’s easier and cheaper to keep an old client than to find a new client, so why aren’t you doing everything you can to make sure your clients are satisfied and to keep your business name on their minds?

Every customer wants to be treated like they’re cared about, and not like just another email address on a list. You want to make sure that every customer is satisfied with your service and knows about any new products, services, or deals that your business may be rolling out. At the very least, you want them to remember you next time they need your service.


Sometimes, it’s enough to just check in on a customer or client’s satisfaction. “Are you happy with our service? Do you need anything else? Okay, I’m available whenever you need.” Don’t just let a person do business with you, make sure they are satisfied enough to come back or recommend you to their friends. You shouldn’t be satisfied with a one-time buy. You want to get the most out of every sale.

I bought a small piece of music equipment a few months ago from a company called Sweetwater that I found on Google. It was a small purchase and I had never intended to use them again, but just to buy and get on my way. Then, AJ called about my $8 order. He wasn’t trying to upsell me or get me on a list, he just wanted to make sure I got what I needed and that I know that if I ever need anything else, he knows a lot about that stuff and can help. He then sent an additional email when the order was shipped and another when the product arrived (with a thank-you note from AJ). I was never going to use them again but because of the way they treated my tiny $8 order, you better believe I’ll use Sweetwater again if the opportunity ever comes up. I feel very comfortable reaching out to them.


Just in case I forget about Sweetwater, they remind me of their existence, their products, and current deals with a monthly email newsletter. Though you have probably heard of the importance of email newsletters already, their relevance can’t be overestimated.

If you are a business, you need to collect the names and information of your customers. Use that info to tell them what you need to tell them. You have a direct line to every customer who gave you their email address, phone number, or even mailing address.

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of a regular newsletter, remember that they’re not blog posts: they don’t need to be sent out at specific times every couple of weeks. A few months ago, I purchased “Louis CK: Live at the Beacon”, a stand-up comedy special that he released himself online. He has sent me only one email since, and when he did I knew it was something important about him and his business that he wanted me to know. Because he sent just one email in months, it was way more effective than frequent, regularly scheduled newsletters that I usually just end up unsubscribing from anyway.

The goal of the newsletter is to tell your past clients what they need to know, not bother them with filler.

Social Media

More and more focus on social media means you have an additional outlet available to reach your customers. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ (or all 4), ask your customers or clients to follow you. Don’t just use it to promote, be useful and helpful. The beauty of social media isn’t that it offers a chance to market directly to the consumer but the ability of the consumer to interact directly with you and your business.

Using The Right Tools

MailChimp is arguably the best email list tool out there and its users are very satisfied. It’s very easy to use and requires very little time to figure it all out. Simply create your list, customize your template, and start a campaign. The best part of the service is the result tracking features that tell you who is opening, clicking, Tweeting, and coming back for more. Accounts with under 2,000 and 12,000 monthly emails are free but larger accounts start at $10.

Another good option and old standard is Constant Contact, which does both email and social media campaigns.

For better control over your social media outreach, consider a tool like HootSuite, which allows you to see your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, FourSquare, and other accounts all in one application. They provide great analytics and offer a free account for up to 5 social profiles. The Pro account for unlimited profiles, message scheduling, and better integration costs $10 per month.

Windows 8: Dead on Arrival

Microsoft’s attempts to finally create a touch-friendly interface is laughable considering they’re about 5 iPads late to the party. Even Amazon beat them to it. Upon trying out the preview version and seeing what other reviewers had to say, it turns out that Windows 8 is an even more awful foray into the touch-friendly world than I had imagined.

Windows 8. Is it a mobile interface? A desktop interface? Both! Sort of like combining peanut butter and jelly in the same jar and hoping it doesn’t end up an inedible goo. A bit of desktop manageability, a bit of mobile gesturing, and what do you get? A ton of confusion over basic functions and a bunch of extra things you have to do for simple tasks like getting the thing to power off.

It seems like Microsoft copy-and-pasted a tablet version onto the desktop version, or maybe it was the other way around. The OS is like a Frankenstein monster of operating systems, takings parts of Windows 7, iOS, and the acid trip the “Metro Design” developers were on and creating one amazingly annoying and burdensome look and feel that makes me yearn for the days of Vista.

It’s not all bad. The interface is a great start for a possibly useful tablet down the road, albeit three years after the release of the iPad.

The Pros

Finally some touch screen abilities! Better late than never, Microsoft is definitely diving into the tablet and mobile market headfirst with Windows 8, even if it means sacrificing the desktop version. It’s a good start, but only a start.

Faster boot time! Thankfully, Microsoft has taken steps to drastically cut their embarrassingly long boot times that Windows users often use to catch up on their reading or take weekend getaways to Vermont. The one good thing, literally one good thing, about combining the tablet interface with the desktop version is the faster start up and restart.

Integrated Anti-virus! Like Windows 7, Microsoft continues to try to catch up to Mac’s virus force field with an integrated anti-virus program, which is nice to throw in when you are trying to come up with a whole three Pros for the new interface.

Now, onto the real meat – the many things wrong with Windows 8 and the many reasons you’d be better off with Windows 7, XP, or a desk calculator.

Is it for desktop or tablet?

There is no start menu, which means you have to switch over to the separate start screen to open any desktop app and then back to the desktop to run it. It is similar to opening apps from the Android app menu except more unnecessary on a PC than a floppy disk drive.

Since people seldom turn off or restart their tablets, Microsoft has happily stashed away the “Power Off” and “Restart” buttons, formerly featured prominently on the handy, no-longer existent Start Menu, about four clicks away for your convenience. Good thing there are a billion updates coming so your PC will automatically restart for you, just about every other day.

Similar to a tablet, you’ll now have to exit an extra lock screen on your desktop before logging in. Yet another unnecessary extra step that Microsoft makes you take because they were too lazy to separate desktop and tablet versions. Perhaps your PC can show you how many bars you have in the top right corner too. Can you hear me now?

Remember how easy it was to switch from app to app in Windows 7? Well forget it. Windows 8 is so focused on pushing their non-existent store apps that you can conveniently find ALL of your open desktop apps in ONE thumbnail on the bottom task switcher like Word documents.

The App Store

The App Store is a key feature of all modern operating systems and obviously Microsoft is no different. Right? In total, the App Store contains a whopping 4,000 apps. 4,000? I’m pretty sure iOS has 4,000 fart sound apps alone. Microsoft claims that by January there will be over 100,000 apps. Your biggest new feature is “probably” going to have 2500% more apps in a few months? Besides, no one is going to make apps for this thing if no one uses it, kind of like the Windows 7 desktop widget store.

Even if they do, iOS and Google Play both have about 700,000 apps each. Not only are you playing some serious catch-up with the big boys, you aren’t even legitimately challenging RIM/Blackberry in the mobile market with those kinds of numbers.

Metro Mail

Outlook has moved onto the web to replace Hotmail, which leaves the new Metro Mail client as your built in email manager. Let’s just go ahead and set up our POP account… Oh wait, you can’t! It works fine with IMAP, but for some reason a brand new operating system released in 2012 doesn’t know what to do with a POP3 account. Not only that, it doesn’t even import anything from other Windows programs like Outlook or Windows Live Mail. It can’t even consolidate inboxes for multiple email accounts. Frankly, it’s amazing the thing has a Reply function. I checked just in case… it’s there.


This isn’t a massive feature but it really goes to show where Microsoft went wrong in creating this Frankenstein monster. Bing is obviously built very nicely right into the operating system. The Bing app has large images, great preview tiles, etc. Now click on a result and…oh, Internet Explorer pops up. Not only does it pop up to take you to the result, it covers up the entire Bing app. Now you have to go back to continue searching, only to keep going back to IE to see your results. If you have to do all that, what’s the point of a stand alone Bing app anyway? It seems like one of the many features created for the sole purpose of over-complicating the PC experience even more.

Windows 8: Not For Business

Perhaps Windows 8 will appeal to some, though probably not the Windows hardcore fans who won’t get much of what they are used to in this massive overhaul. It certainly isn’t built for business. With an interface stolen right from that failed line of HTC “social phones”, the OS is focused too much on social integration, catching up to the touch-screen capabilities of the big boys, and pushing their tens of thousands of store apps – that have yet to be built. It’s primarily designed for fun, not business and certainly not productivity when you consider all of the extra clicks and gestures that go into something as simple as restarting your computer.

Also, the operating system is still very buggy but Microsoft is rushing it like a beta version, ready to aggressively send users frequent updates to make their computer or device, you know… work. As someone with a business, I wouldn’t rush to a new operating system with this many bugs, anti-malware built in or not, knowing Microsoft’s long standing problem with security. And as far as the tablet version goes, with so many versions of iPad and Android gone by, why would anyone take a risk on a first-generation work-in-progress Windows tablet?

Overall, Windows 8 touch screen features ruin the desktop version and Windows 8 desktop dependency ruins some of the touch screen features. It’s something that Microsoft should have released as a test version years ago before they fell so unenviably far behind Apple and Google. It’s something that’s going to be updated – A LOT. Hopefully it will set up a fairly good operating system in the future but right now Windows 8 is just the really, really early version of Windows 9.