Taking a Break Without Breaking Business Momentum – Tips for Making the Best Use of Time on a Road Trip

Thrilled about taking a holiday break, but stressed at the thought of projects falling behind and work piling up? If you’ll On the roadbe one of the many small biz pros on the road (literally) to an extended weekend over Easter, relax! There are ways to get away from it all and manage to stay on top of things.

Consider these ideas for taking care of business without officially punching the clock while you’re road-tripping it…

  • Take note – Traveling gives you uninterrupted time to think about things and brainstorm – take full advantage of it! Bring a notebook to capture ideas. If you’ll be behind the wheel; ask someone else to take notes for you.
  • Load up on apps – Before you leave for your journey, make sure your smart phone has got essential apps loaded and ready for action. A few I wouldn’t leave home without: WordPress, LinkedIn, Evernote, Facebook Pages Manager, Google+, Twitter, Hootsuite. If you haven’t use any of them recently, do a quick check to confirm that they’re not asking for updated usernames or passwords…things that you probably won’t have on hand after you leave your local environs.
  • Read up! – I’m guessing you’ve got a list of “do business better” books that have caught your attention, but that you haven’t found time to consume. During a road trip, take advantage of your status of captive audience and read (or listen to in e-book form) one from your hit list.

Remember, the point isn’t to work a lot while you’re taking time away – but keeping up with a few little tasks and taking care of some to dos can help make your return to business as usual a much more smooth  and less-harrowing transition.

Enjoy your weekend! And I welcome your thoughts on ways to make productive use of road trips!

Image courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Clear the Clutter – How to Straighten Up Your Solopreneur Act this Spring

As solopreneurs, there’s A LOT we need to keep tabs on. Marketing best practices, prospects and leads, our client

Clutter

Ready to clear the clutter, solopreneurs?

records, accounting details, and on and on and on it goes. We save this. We save that. Some things we save because we absolutely know we’ll need them. Others we save simply because we think there may come a time when we’ll need them. It doesn’t take very long for all the stuff (paper and electronic) to pile up.

With the spring season just around the corner, why not put a little spring cleaning on your agenda to help weed through the mountains of “save for a rainy day” odds and ends that you’ve accumulated? Sure, it takes a little time and effort upfront, but shedding that extra “winter weight” will help you operate a more agile solo-business.

Here are a few ideas about where to begin…


Business Cards Be Gone

If you’ve got a pile anywhere in close proximity to your desk (I know you do!), grab it now and look at each card one-by-one. As you do, ask yourself these questions and consider taking the actions suggested…

  • Do I already have this person’s info in my email contact list or am I connected with them on Linkedin? If yes, toss the card. If no, ask yourself the next question…
  • Do I want – or would it be professionally advantageous for me – to add this person to my email contacts and to Linkedin? If yes, add them – then toss the card. If no, just toss the card.

Farewell Flyers and Brochures

Got a collection of other businesses’ flyers and brochures taking up valuable real estate on your shelves or file cabinet? Like business cards, you’ve probably acquired an impressive supply of these types of marketing materials from other local companies. Time to grab that stack of collateral and, for each piece, ask…

  • Does this company have a website that provides the same info? If yes, toss the brochure. (And if it’s a company you definitely want to keep on your radar, either bookmark their website or connect with them on their social media channels). If no, ask yourself the next question…
  • Is this company one that I could see myself doing business with either as a customer, partner or vendor within the next 6 months? If yes, save the brochure somewhere where you can easily retrieve it. If no, toss it.

Ax Antiquated Emails

Not only is it easy to let print materials take over much-needed space in your office, electronic files can just as easily bog you down by making you sift through stuff that you no longer need. Sure, it’s helpful to keep email strings on hand for reference purposes, but at some point certain pieces of correspondence become no longer relevant or necessary. Though it’s your call to make regarding when it’s appropriate to delete particular communications with clients, you could safely start to get rid of unneeded baggage by going through your email folders and deleting past messages in email strings that have more current messages intact (which include the message you’re deleting). Just be careful that you first save any needed files or documents that were attached to the soon-to-be disposed of messages.

Ditch Duplicate Documents

Sorting through documents and files to distinguish keepers from those that you can comfortably kick to the curb can be daunting. A simple and less time-consuming way to get started is to actively look for drafts that were saved, but that have a more current version also preserved. I’ll often save drafts of the content that I’m working on for clients by saving the document with the date I’m submitting it to them for review. Then, when I make and send requested changes, I save the document as a new file with the same name, but with a more recent date or a remark to indicate that it’s a “final” version. Provided the project is here and gone, that makes it easy for me to quickly identify which files are “old” and no longer needed. You’d be amazed how much memory you can free up on your hard drive by visiting just a few folders and cleaning house by applying that approach!

Of course, there are many other ways to clear clutter and eliminate the mess of too much stuff in your physical and electronic business space. I welcome you to share your own “spring cleaning” tips and ideas – because there’s no such thing as a too-organized solopreneur!

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Cool Tool Alert: Put Your Important Appointments in Evernote with KanMeet

As solopreneurs, we’re always looking for ways to be more productive and organized. Among the tools galore to helpProductivity with that: Evernote – my personal favorite for a variety of reasons.

Evernote on its own has given me more control over my to do lists and has enabled me to manage projects better, but the cool apps and extensions developed by third parties who strive to enhance the Evernote user experience add even more value to its software and services. I’ve been using InQloud to painlessly forward select emails directly into Evernote notebooks for months, and now I’ve discovered KanMeet.

KanMeet (which is free by the way) lets you “quickly and easily save and synchronize your Google calendar with your Evernote account.” In short, Google Chrome users can post their events to their Evernote notebooks. So, if you use Evernote as a central point for keeping tabs on client projects and tasks lists, you’ll probably find it ultra-convenient to save important appointments there, too.

It’s easy to establish your default settings via the KanMeet extension on your browser. You choose if you want all new appointments to automatically be saved as notes in Evernote or if you want to manually post them.

KanMeet website

You can set your default settings for KanMeet directly in the browser bar.

Also, you can select (via a dropdown box that contains all of your Evernote notebooks) which notebook you want Google Calendar appointments to go to. KanMeet automatically sets up a “Google Calendar” notebook for you, but you can change that to any one of your other notebooks. In reality, your default notebook doesn’t really have to be a “default” at all. Each time you set up an event in your Google Calendar, you can go to the KanMeet extension, pick the appropriate notebook you want it to go to, and save the appointment. It will then post precisely where you directed it.

KanMeet: New Google Calendar Event

When you create a new Google Calendar Event, you’ll see a “Post to Evernote” check box.

Besides sending new Google Calendar Events to Evernote, you can save existing appointments there, too. Also very simple to do by opening the event, making sure the “Post to Evernote” box is checked, and then resaving the appointment.

KanMeet - Post Existing Google Calendar Event to Evernote

Even existing Google Calendar Events can be posted to Evernote.

The only potential “gotchas” to share about KanMeet:

  • It’s only available to Google Chrome users – but there are lots of us out there!
  • You’ll need to mentally adjust to paying attention to it:
    • If you default your settings to post all events to Evernote, you’ll probably send far more appointments there than you really want to.
    • If you default your settings to selectively choose which events go to Evernote, you’ll likely find yourself needing to go back into Google Calendar to check off the “Post to Evernote” box later because you forgot to when you set up the event.
  • Occasionally, KanMeet gets a little fussy about posting events that have ampersands or other non-alpha characters in their titles. Luckily, however, a window pops up to tell you what you’ve done wrong, so you can correct it.
  • You’ll need to figure out how you can make the most of it. I’m still trying to decide to which notebooks it makes most sense to post events. Currently, I’m sending them to the default “Google Calendar” notebook and reviewing all posted appointments there to stay on top of what’s coming down the pike. However, I might try creating brand new individual “client calendar” notebooks named after my clients where I would save conference calls, meetings, and deadlines specific to them.

Although I’m still in the getting-to-know-you stage with KanMeet, my impression is that it’s “a keeper.” If, like me, you’re using Evernote as a sort of project dashboard/repository, KanMeet can help keep upcoming project-related appointments in better view than trying to pick them out of the many other events on your Google Calendar. That certainly makes life easier, and anything that makes a solopreneur’s life easier scores big points in my book!

Your turn!  What Evernote extensions and apps have you been using? If you’re not an Evernote user, what productivity tools have helped you most?

Cool Tool Alert: Emailing to Evernote Made Easier

Besides the opportunity to work with a variety of interesting and talented people, there’s another thing that really rocks InQloud web pageabout freelancing. From time to time, I get to try out new stuff so I better understand the products and services I’m writing about in press releases, articles and web content.

For about a month, I’ve been participating as a beta user for a client’s new service, InQloud. With it coming out of beta status, I thought it appropriate to make a “Cool Tool Alert,” so you can check it out, too. If you’re an Evernote user, you’ll want to make a note of this one!

What InQloud does…
As simply stated on its website, “InQloud does one thing – and does it perfectly. It lets you send your emails directly to Evernote notebooks in one simple step.”

Although you can send emails to Evernote without the help of InQloud, it’s not exactly a quick or easy process; you have to remember your Evernote email address and specific notebook names, and then add them manually into your contacts to do it.

The beauty of InQloud is that it automatically creates email addresses for each of your Evernote notebooks and adds them to your Google Contacts. Then whenever you want to forward an email to one of your Evernote notebooks, just select the contact for the appropriate notebook, and send the message on its way.

Why use it?
I primarily use it to keep important emails from slipping through the cracks. When I have emails that require action, I forward them to the specific “To Do” lists that I have set up as Evernote notebooks where they become “notes”.

Others have found a lot of value in streamlining their email review process by setting up Gmail filters that automatically send emails from specific sources directly to their Evernote notebooks. I haven’t done that yet, but I can see how that would considerably lighten the load when sifting through my inbox.

InQloud is coming out of beta now, and is available on a 30-day free trial basis. After that, you have the option of either subscribing for $1.99 monthly or for a full year at $19.99. It’s quite cost effective. Note that the number of emails you can forward daily from your email to Evernote follows the limits set by your Evernote account. Users on the Free version of Evernote can send up to 50 emails per day, and those on the Premium version can send up to 250 per day.

If you’re an avid Evernote user, I recommend that you give InQloud a whirl. And if you decide to give it a try, please keep me posted on your experience with it!

Fundamental Rule for Having a Productive Day as a Solopreneur

That Cinderella song, Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone is playing through my mind as I craft this post. Why? Well, I haven’t had the most productive day today. Why? Because I’m working on a good bit less than my typical 7 – 8 hours of nightly sleep.

You might be thinking, “So, what the heck does that have to do with being a solopreneur?”

And I’ll be answering, “EVERYTHING!

As a solopreneur, your ability to attain and maintain an ideal level of productivity is very much dependent on how well you take care of yourself. You most likely don’t think much about that until you happen across a day like the one I’ve had today – when it takes you more energy and time than usual to complete tasks.

The Fundamentals of Taking Care of Yourself:

Get enough sleep

Your well-rested self (body and mind) will always outperform your fatigued and weary self. Make sleep a priority. Besides feeling zombie-ish, you put yourself at risk for some major health problems by not catching adequate zzz regularly.

Eat the right stuff

There really is no excuse for not doing this. You know which foods are good for you and which are not. Yes, it can be challenging to eat well when you’re crazy busy, but with some pre-planning and stocking up on whole and healthy options you can avoid processed foods that are void of nutrients. It’s amazing how big a difference eating clean can have on your stamina and thinking chops.

Work it out

Hello, endorphins! Those of the exercise-induced variety work wonders to boost energy, minimize anxiety & stress levels, and increase the ability to think clearly and more creatively. Get active – often! No time? Find some because you’ve got everything to gain.

Your turn! How well do you take care of yourself? What differences in performance and productivity have you noticed when you don’t sleep, eat right and exercise?