Before It’s Too Late: 6 Kickin’ Time Management Tools

time

Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links in this post.

It could be argued that the most valuable asset we have is time. You can always make more money. You can always develop more relationships. You can also always discover and invest in more resources. One thing you can’t get more of is time.

It’s a depressing thing to realize, I know. If you are like most people, every year when the holiday season rolls around you are probably wondering “What? It seems like Christmas was just a couple of months ago!”

While we may not be able to construct more time, one thing we can do is manage our fleeting minutes more efficiently. In the technology-laden megabyte-filled world we live in distractions are abundant, making time management even more difficult. The good news is that we can harness that same technology to maximize what little time we do have.

Here are a few tools that might help you grab a few extra minutes each day.

1. Roboform

How many different times do you enter usernames and passwords into programs each day? There’s your email, your windows or mac login, your Spotify password so you can get some cool work grooves going and on and on. Roboform is a password management tool that is available for both Android and iphone/ipad/ios and all of the major pc and mac browsers.

Roboform gives you single button access to your passwords, bookmarks, safenotes and more. What’s also nice about this tool is that your passwords are stored locally, not in the cloud.

(Here’s a free alternative)

2. Sunrise Calendar App

This is a nifty tool that allows you to integrate all of your other apps with schedules and appointments into one calendar. You can import Evernote reminders, Facebook birthdays, MS Exchange and iCloud appointments, Foursquare check-ins and more. The Sunrise/Evernote connection is especially nice because you can view and edit Evernote notes within the Sunrise calendar and it will sync back with your Evernote account.

Have an appointment with someone important? From the Sunrise calendar you can tap into their LinkedIn profile to get their info on the way to your meeting. It’s almost like having a virtual assistant at your fingertips. It’s also available across all platforms. Well, almost all. If you are still rocking that Palm Treo it might not work.

Good news for you Trello-heads out there: Sunrise and the big T work together seamlessly.

Which brings me to…

3. Trello

You probably either already love Trello and use it or you are not sure what it is. Assuming for a moment you are in the latter bunch, Trello is “a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.”

Trello is great for projects that involve collaboration with others, however it is also quite efficacious for solo usage.

It’s difficult to describe Trello in just a few sentences but here’s the high concept: Trello uses a Kanban-style interface for multi-project and multi-list tasks. The Kanban model is based on a Japanese manufacturing system in which the supply of components is regulated through the use of a card displaying a sequence of specifications and instructions, sent along the production line.

Trello embodies and simplifies that model, moving your tasks and it’s components through a to-do/doing/done landscape. It’s also very customizable, so you could probably make it fit for almost any project.

Trello has a lot of moving pieces. While this is its strength, it might also be its weakness, as those unfamiliar with the Kanban style may get overwhelmed or confused before figuring out its intricacies. I won’t go into the details of the system, as that could be a blog post in itself, but I will say this: if you spend about 30 minutes learning how Trello works, it will probably save you hours upon hours of time that you would normally spend organizing lists and delegating tasks.

Here is a good tutorial if you are new to the Trello model. They also have an extensive help section on their website.

4. Dragon Naturally Speaking

These guys have been around for a while so you are probably familiar with the name. Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice recognition software. So that long article or email or grocery list that has you on the procrastination train? Imagine you could just speak it and it magically shows up in written form.

What’s great about voice recognition software is that it can help you get some serious multi-tasking going. You can write your memoirs while shedding pounds on the treadmill, or dictate your last will and testament while fly fishing or snowboarding.

There are plenty of voice recognition programs out there, some of them free, but remember you get what you pay for. Dragon Naturally Speaking seems to still have cornered the market when it comes to quality and dependability in this space.

5. Buffer

Oh, Buffer, how did we ever make it before you came along? (Sit down, Hootsuite.) Buffer is a wonderfully simple program that allows you to automate your social media messaging.

There are no hard and fast rules about your frequency when it comes to social media, but the gang over at Constant Contact put together a pretty good best practices chart for each platform:

Frequency-Social2

Who has time to keep up with all of that? Well Buffer does. You can set up a schedule to post to your social media platforms, and then just fill your queue with the posts you want to share.

As you can see from the above chart, Twitter seems to require the most activity. Here’s how I use Buffer specifically for my Twitterage. I have a few Google alerts set up for the keywords I like to tweet about. Each night (or every few nights) I check the articles and links that Google feeds to those alerts and I drop them into my Buffer queue. I throw in some original content and go to bed. Buffer does all the rest of the work for me.

I also have the app on my phone and the extension built into my Chrome browser so that whenever I come across something I want to share I just push the buffer button.

When doing this, it gives you the option to drop it into your queue, schedule it for a specific time or share it right then and there.

There are some pieces of content that work better for specific social media platforms, and with the Buffer app/extension you can specify which one you want to use for each message.

And finally…

I mentioned Evernote earlier in conjunction with the Sunrise Calendar App. I didn’t list Evernote as a stand alone tool because I just assume we all know it and use it. (If not, check it out it might just change your life.)

I was an early Evernote adopter. I started using the beta version back in 2008 before everyone had a smartphone. Now you can carry Evernote around with you anywhere you go. But what if you are like me and no matter how much technology advances you still love using a pencil or pen and a Moleskine notebook to jot down your latest idea?

Even after the phone apps for Evernote got going I would still find myself jotting notes and ideas down in my Moleskine and then taking a few minutes at the end of the day to transcribe those notes from the notebook to Evernote.

And that brings us to our final tool for time management:

6. Moleskine for Evernote

That’s right. The good folks at Moleskine actually make notebooks that integrate with Evernote.

moleskine-notebooks-family-hero

Here’s how it works. Jenna Schnuer, writing for Entrepreneur reports:

The notebook pages feature special dotted lines (choice of ruled or grid) that, when photographed using the camera in the Evernote smartphone app, optimize the image and increase the quality of search on your handwritten notes. “Cleaner page captures mean it can be easier for us to do the handwriting recognition on the backend,” says a spokeswoman. Also, the notebooks come with “smart stickers” that, during the photo-to-Evernote process, automatically tell Evernote where it should file the notes. You can assign each of the six category stickers to a specific notebook. Each notebook comes with two or three months of premium Evernote membership, a $5 per month value.

That’s a nice combination that should make everyone happy.

So there you have it. I could list dozens more apps and software tools to help you manage your time, but I feel like I’ve taken enough of it already. So get back to work!

-Nelson

A Simple Trick to Get More Twitter Followers

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We all know that Twitter can be a powerful tool for networking and driving sales. In fact, B2B marketers with Twitter accounts generate twice as many leads than those marketers who don’t have an account. The platform can also be very useful in engaging with your clients or customers and keeping them in the loop about new products or services that you offer.

It’s a noisy space though. There are over 316 million current Twitter users and that number is growing each and every minute as you read this.

No matter how crafty you are in tweeting good content, it won’t matter unless you have people following you. This post isn’t about creating the right content for Twitter, that’s a whole different topic, but if you are new to Twitter or your account has just kind of been lying dormant, I’m going to share with you a simple method for getting more followers.

The amount of followers you have amounts to a certain level of prestige. When a prospective client sees that you are active with posts and that you have a good number of followers, it builds trust in your brand.

Now there are some quick and easy (and somewhat nefarious) ways to get more followers. You could just go buy them. There are companies out there that promise you 1,000 new followers in 48 hours for as little as $10.

But you don’t want to do that. Why not? Because they are junk followers. They aren’t interested in your message, they are just accounts trading follows to get their numbers up. Yes, using one of these services would increase your follower count which, on the surface might make you look like an authority in your space. However, once your prospective client clicks on your followers to see all of the dead and phony accounts following you then you have done more to hurt your credibility than to help it.

The best way to get more followers is to engage. If you search keywords relevant to your industry or service then you will find other people tweeting about the same topics that line up with your message.

You can follow those people and when they get the notification they will likely click on your profile. If they see that you are tweeting valuable content on a regular basis then they may choose to follow you back.

While this is a great way to create meaningful connections, it takes time and you want to be careful. Back to the credibility-in-numbers issue, if a Twitter user sees that you are following 12,000 people and you have 21 followers, then it makes you look desperate. Like the kid in high school who wants everybody to be his friend, even if it means being transparently sycophantic.

I’m going to share a much better (and quicker) way for you to amp up your follower numbers while also building a strong network with your Twitter account. You can spend just 15-20 minutes a day using this technique and you will see your numbers start to grow quickly.

I started a brand new Twitter account less than a week ago to promote my freelance writing services and in less than 7 days I have over 300 followers. The Twitter notification jingle has rang 4 times since I started writing this post. And I didn’t bring any followers over from my personal account, these are all new contacts.

Ready to get started? First grab a pen and some paper (remember those?). Next, you need to come up with some keywords. Think about who you want to follow you. Obviously you want people who may be interested in your services. Now think about what types of things they would be searching for. For instance, let’s say you run a website design company. The people that need your service are probably on Twitter looking for “website services” or “web designer” or other similar keywords. The more you know your prospective client then the more targeted you can be with your keywords.

Once you have a list of relevant keywords, hop on over to Twitter. Choose one of your keywords (or keyword phrases) and type it into the search box in the top right corner and hit search.

Using our above example I searched for “hire a website designer” and up came a barrage of tweets. Some of these were from website designers (competition, in this example) but there were plenty of tweets where people were engaging in conversations about how to go about hiring a service. Those are the ones you want to pay attention to. (Don’t disregard the competition though, they can be good for networking and keeping up with trends in the industry.)

Now as you scroll down through all of the tweets, keeping an eye on the relevant ones, you are going to “like” the tweets that align with your process. You are not following them; remember we want to maintain a healthy follows/followers ratio for credibility purposes.

What happens when you like someone’s tweet is that they get a notification, just like if you were following them. Often times, they will click on your profile and if you are keeping your Twitter game up with timely and informative tweets, they will follow you. If they don’t, no big deal. You are going to play the numbers game and like a lot of tweets with out clogging up your feed with new accounts.

Move down to the next keyword and do the same thing. You can like as many tweets as you wish. It doesn’t effect your credibility factor at all. Nobody pays attention to how many times you liked a tweet. In fact, a recent study showed that 63% of Twitter users almost exclusively use their phones with Twitter, and on mobile, your number of likes doesn’t even show on your profile.

Rinse, wash and repeat with all of your keywords. You can “like” a lot of tweets in the course of 15-20 minutes. Each time you hit that little heart button, you are initiating possible engagement.

You can keep doing this with new keywords. For instance, pretending you are still a web designer, let’s say that you want to start offering logo design as one of your services. I think you can fill in the blanks where to take it from there.

For the sake of karma, when using this technique I like to go back and look at the profiles of those that followed me. If their account is relevant, I follow back. This is for two reasons. First of all, if you are following them then they will be much less likely to unfollow you in the future. Also, you are building a network and it goes both ways.

Try this method out if you would like to build a genuine and valuable network with Twitter. And keep an eye out here on the blog (you can subscribe over there on the right) for more social media marketing tips.

-Nelson

Supercharge Your Business Blog

If you are reading this then I am going to assume you have a business blog or you are at least planning on starting one. If you are on the fence, did you know that companies with blogs generate 55 percent more site visits, 97 percent more links to their websites, and their pages get indexed a whopping 434 percent more often?

Regular blogging has a huge impact on incoming traffic and Google loves sites that generate new content on a regular basis.

But you can’t just start a blog and throw up posts and expect to see your content converting. It takes a special something, a secret weapon of sorts. And I’m about to tell you what it is and show you how to use it to supercharge your blog content and attract new and qualified traffic to your business.

First though, I want to tell you a quick story. It’s a story about a really big boat and a man named David Blair. You may not have heard of David Blair before but I bet you have heard of the really big boat. It was called the RMS Titanic. As I’m sure you are aware, the Titanic infamously sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg.

David Blair was employed by the White Star Line, which owned the Titanic. He was scheduled to sail on her maiden voyage as the Second Officer. He was very excited about his assignment.  He was on the ship for her trial voyages and was settling in to his role. However, soon before the Titanic was to set sail Mr. Blair was reassigned  and replaced by an officer that was thought by White Star to have more experience on ships of a similar class.

Blair was heartbroken by his demotion. He sent a postcard to his sister and on it he wrote “This is a magnificent ship. I feel very disappointed I am not to make her first voyage.”

The adjustment was a last minute one, and in the haste of the reassignment he forgot to turnover the key to the crow’s nest locker, where the lookouts’ binoculars were stored. So on that cold night in April, the lookouts were up in the crow’s nest with nothing but their naked eyes in the dark of night.

After the sinking of the Titanic a commission composed of members of the U.S. Senate conducted an inquiry and among those interviewed was head lookout Frederick Fleet. During the inquiry it was discovered that they did not have access to the binocular cabinet.

The commission asked Fleet if he would have been able to see the iceberg sooner if he had binoculars. Fleet replied that he would have seen it “a bit sooner.” The commission then asked “How much sooner?”. Fleet’s reply? “Enough to get out of the way.”

I promise to tell you how all this relates to supercharging your blog content in just a minute but before I do…that cabinet key, the key that could have saved the Titanic? It was found a few years ago and in 2010 it sold at auction for $137,000.

In the great ocean that is the blogosphere, there are two million posts made per day. (See what I did there)?

The good news is that these days people take in content like oxygen. The key is to put the right content in front of the right people.

If you just crank out blog posts talking about how great your product or service is then you are going to get lost in all of the noise.  Your content has to be sharply targeted and it needs to resonate with the audience that you want to be in front of.

If you just throw content out there and hope it attracts and converts then you are a lot like Frederick Fleet, sailing along in a crow’s nest without binoculars. And with all of the content out there, your blog will surely sink into the vast blue sea of lonely blogs that cost a lot of time and effort without producing quantifiable results.

So what is the proverbial key to the crow’s nest cabinet for your business? In short, it’s intel. You need to identify who you want to get your content to. You need to know the demographics of your prospective client or customer. You need to know who they are and what their challenges and problems are. You can then create content that speaks to them directly and because you are blogging regularly about the issues they care about, they will find you.

When a search leads them to your blog and they find content that educates them and helps them to solve their problems then you have built trust. When they notice that you offer a service or a product that addresses their concerns then that trust converts to sales.

How do you get that information? You build what is called a buyer persona. A buyer persona is defined as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on collected data from your current customers and market research. In other words, you need to conduct a few thorough surveys of your current and prospective clients or customers.

A well structured buyer persona is priceless so it’s worth it to offer an incentive. I’ll give you an example. When I set up hosting for my website I got a message from the hosting company offering me a free month of service in exchange for a 30 minute telephone survey. So for around $15 dollars they got a detailed set of data from a customer that bought their service. If they were to do that with 10 customers then they would have a treasure trove of intel that they could use to structure their content and find new customers. That would cost them about $150. That’s less than most consultants charge per hour and no consultant is going to be able to give you information even near as valuable as live customer data that you can turn into supercharged blog posts.

So to get the intel to build your buyer persona, don’t be afraid to offer a gift card or a free month of service or something else of tangible value. When used properly, the information you get will be priceless. Also, the more value you give them for their time, the more thorough their answers to your questions will be.

Here is a basic template for a buyer persona:

BACKGROUND:
•Basic details about persona’s role, key information about the persona’s company
•Relevant background info
DEMOGRAPHICS:
•Gender, age range, household income (consider a spouse’s income, if relevant)
IDENTIFIERS:
•Buzzwords & mannerisms
GOALS:
•Persona’s primary & secondary goal
CHALLENGES:
•Primary and secondary challenge to persona’s success
HOW WE HELP:
•How you solve your persona’s challenges & help achieve their goals
COMMON OBJECTIONS:
•Identify the most common objections your persona will raise during the sales process
REAL QUOTES:
•Include a few real quotes (taken during interviews) that well represent your persona to make it easier for employees to relate to/understand to them

Give your persona a name, like HR Sally or Owner Dave or whatever might be appropriate.

If you want to see a really good buyer persona interview, take a look at Joel Klettke’s approach.

Once you have built up a few buyer personas, think of them as real people and write your blog posts as though you were tailor-making information just for them. They will find you, and when they read the content you made just for them they will trust you. And when it’s time for them to make a buying decision, we all know they are going to go with someone they trust.

After you have built your buyer personas, if you need help creating your blog content I am only a few buttons away.

-Nelson

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