Enhance productivity using your mobile and the right software

DropboxThe one thing that defines my life is the constant and overwhelming assault of demands on my time. So for me, productivity is not a nice thing to have, it’s an essential skill to master.

Add to that the fact that I have a naturally curious personality prone to distractions (INTJ in Myers Briggs) and what you have is a recipe for disaster.

So to stay on top of things and be effective I use a suite of software programs that help me be hyper-productive: very focused on the most important tasks for me, on top of the information that I need to get my work done and with a list of things that my colleagues owe me.

I have honed this system over time so that it stays with me, whether I’m working in the office, working at Starbucks, travelling, or even when I’m hanging out and all I have access to is my iPhone or my Android.

Here’s what my productivity software list is made of:

  • OmniFocus
  • + Basecamp
  • + Dropbox
  • + Evernote
  • + Socialtext
  • + Ringio
  • = stay productive.

My personal organizer application: OmniFocus.


I mentioned this app in my previous blog post. In a nutshell, OmniFocus helps me implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. It is a sophisticated app for managing to-do lists. What’s special about it is that it has many criteria to help you bubble up to the top whatever is important to you.

OmniFocus has desktop software client and a mobile client. I sync between them using a service called Spootnik, which has the added benefit of syncing between my organizer system and the rest of the company’s system, which resides in Basecamp.

Other alternatives to Omnifocus are: Things and TaskPaper (which I really like for its simplicity). Remember the Milk does similar things but is web-based.

My company’s organizer application: Basecamp


It’s not enough for me to keep track of my tasks, I need to be able to keep track of other people’s tasks, and as a group we need to stay organized and seamlessly communicate about each other’s projects. Since Ringio collaborates with a lot of vendors and people outside the organization, we use 37 Signal’s excellent, lightweight project management tool called Basecamp.

If you’re using Basecamp right you will have increased the awareness about the status of projects, and the chances that something will catch you by surprise will be drastically reduced.

If you don’t like Basecamp, or the price, there are many worthy alternatives

My files: always with me with Dropbox


It’s amazing how complicated it was to share files two years ago… if you had a Windows network and had a file server you could set up local file sharing… but it turns out that most of the files you want to share is with people outside of your network :-) The alternative is FTP, but many people don’t know how to use it, and it’s insecure anyways. What you really need is a way to create shared network folders without the network or without the file server… enter Dropbox.

Dropbox is an elegant service that integrates right into your desktop (Finder, Windows Explorer, etc) and mobile, and allows you to share folders with other people. When you update a file on your computer, it updates on theirs, and vice versa. Even when you’re not at your computer, you can log in to the Dropbox website and it gives you access to your files, and shows you recent activity. It even helps you recover accidentally deleted files.

One edgier alternative to Dropbox is Drop.io

My personal note taking system: Evernote


Evernote is a lightweight note taking system that helps you keep all your text, screenshot and video notes organized. I use it to jot down ideas, meeting notes, feedback from customers, transcripts of phone calls, reference how-to-do-this things….. anything that is for my eyes only.

Evernote does a great job of staying out of the way until you need to recall something, then it’s super search and tagging system come to the rescue.

With their iPhone and Android clients, Evernote helps me capture notes (even voice dictation or pics I take with my camera) while I’m on the road.

My company’s document sharing system: Socialtext wikis


A wiki is collaboration software that helps you keep documents organized and hyperlinked, much like a website that anybody in your team can edit. The ultimate example of a wiki is Wikipedia. We use wikis at Ringio to create things such as product specifications, software release plans, to create customer proposals, to keep track of our competitors, and to store instructions for different kinds of activities that our teams do.

A wiki is a system that acts as “company memory”. If you’re using it right you will be avoiding duplication in the long term, because you will be able to more easily recall when somebody had been working on an idea that you’re revisiting.

There are alternatives to Socialtext, such as Clearspace, or Google Sites.

My company’s virtual PBX system: Ringio

Virtual PBX
Virtual PBX

I spend a good chunk of my time on the phone, making calls to prospective customers, bloggers and the press, investors and partners.

It’s essential for me to spend as little time as possible looking up contacts and dialing, and I need the flexibility to call from any old phone and know that the receiving person is seeing always the same caller ID.

The Ringio software does exactly that for me.

There alternatives to Ringio, such as Google Voice, Toktumi or Ringcentral. I’m biased, of course, so I encourage you to try the different solutions.

Other productivity boosters:

  • Searchable email: I heavily rely on Gmail’s search capabilities and labels
  • Delicious bookmarking, Chrome’s bookmark sync
  • 1Password or LastPass for password management and form-filling
  • Tungle for meeting schedule management

What software do you use to increase your productivity?

Have a social media policy in place before your employees start sharing

Right now your small business may be so small that you are the only employee.  You have the good sense to use your company’s name responsibly and protect its image.  You would not disparage your business online or make off-color jokes.  But what about when you start to grow?

The new part-timer you hire to do some bookkeeping, does she know that her Facebook posts might show up in a search of your business name if she mentions it?  Did your teenage intern’s Twitter followers get updated about private customer information?

Idle gossip or phone conversations never were searchable by your potential customers and competitors, but with modern search engines everything posted on the Internet can pop-up in search results.  The consequence could be embarassing at the least or in a worse-case scenario lead to legal liability for defamation.

Take the time to formulate your business’ social media policy.  Let your employees know your expectations and the consequences for violating that policy.  What may have seemed like idle chatter of a harmless nature shouldn’t come as a surprise with real-world negative results.

5 reasons for video conferencing in your small business NOW!

With more businesses looking to cut costs and employ workers from anywhere, video-conferencing is becoming more justifiable then ever before. Just take a look at the recent iPhone4 and you’ll notice that Apple has recognized how important it is to enable callers to be able to see each other. In business, non-verbal communication clues can be the absolute difference between closing or (without the”c”) losing the sale.

So if you are new to video-conferencing, here are 5 reasons why you should take a hard look at video-conferencing NOW:

1. Meet with clients and collaborate with internal staff more frequently! Face-time with customers and staff is critical but not always practical, so use video-conferencing to bridge the gap.

2. Demonstrate your thought-leadership skills and build your presence! Use it as a platform to deliver webinars and other thought-leadership activities, perfect for presentations and demos. Don’t translate that to mean it’s a place to sell, sell, sell!

3. Reduce travel costs! The next time you have a meeting out of the office, calculate all costs involved (gas mileage, parking & most importantly your time). It may shock you to see how much you are paying out in order to have an in-person meeting. Yes, I know it is best to meet in person when possible but do the calculations and see if it helps justify video-conferencing costs.

4. Reclaim your time! This is critical, every successful business owner will tell you that managing your time effectively is one of the most critical challenges to master if you intend to really maximize the impact of your business.

5. Video conferencing crushes a typical phone call! Phone calls are boring! Seriously, phone calls are boring and lack the non-verbal communication that can help tell you if your message is reaching its target appropriately.

Here’s a real-life example for you! Several weeks ago while preparing for a presentation about mobile apps and productivity I was introduced to the AT&T Connect conferencing app as a way of connecting and collaborating with several parties from different locations. I’ve used video-conferencing with other services like GoTo Meeting in the past, so I was certainly familiar with the platform but I don’t think back then that I really appreciated the productivity enhancements and the game-changing capabilities.

I was impressed with AT&T’s Connect service especially the mobile app which allowed me to join the conference, participate live, even view the whiteboard and other images that were being presented. To be on your mobile and interact with the conference as if I was at my desktop was really empowering!

If you aren’t sure if video-conferencing is for you take this trial for a spin and let me know what you think!


Finding your social media ‘voice’

Social media has changed the way that small businesses connect with customers.  Whether on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or any of the other social media platforms businesses can share news about their products and promotions, seek feedback on their service or product, raise their visibility, address complaints and share compliments.    It has allowed small businesses to compete on a level playing field with the largest of organizations–something that would previously be unheard of.  But before you jump in some basics on finding your business’s voice:

1.  Know your voice.  As part of your business’s start-up you probably had a mission statement: a clear statement of your company’s aim and your approach in meeting that goal.  Having a confident grasp of your company’s ‘personality’ will help you form your voice on your communication strategy whether through paid advertising or with social media.  Really take the time to think about how humorous/ serious you want to be; how formal or casual; how chatty/reserved you want to be.  Why did you start this company?  Your communication strategy should get that message across with all of the messages you send out.

2.  Keep your professional / personal on-line lives separate.  While your business should reflect your talents, your values and your  personality–remember to keep some separation between your business and your personal lives.  Both your customers and your friends/ family will appreciate it!

3.  Social media isn’t just marketing.  It is about opening up a new line of communication:  one that is fast, reactive and informative.  Share news and insights but also listen to your customers.

4.  Be persistent.  Don’t jump in and out of the fast lane of social media.  Schedule it into your daily routine.  Don’t get discouraged and keep on connecting.

5.  Let your old school methods of communicating help you connect in the new school world of social media.  Add the magic words “Follow us on Twitter” and “Find us on Facebook” to all of your print advertising, on your website and in your emails.

Be willing to do more of what works and less of what falls flat.  Think of what intrigues you when you follow others and learn as you go.  Your voice will evolve as you get more confident, and your customers will be glad you spoke up!