Today’s guest contributor is Natalie Sisson, a Suitcase Entrepreneur and Adventurer who shares creative ways to run your business from anywhere in the world. She is passionate about using online tools social media and outsourcing to create more freedom in business and adventure in life. She’s also a friend, a long-time member of our tribe and she’s just plain cool.
Right now we’ve never had more opportunities to simultaneously stay connected and transcend international borders and time zones. There’s a dangerous flip side to that. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to say `enough is enough’. I’m going to unplug.
We believe that being constantly busy qualifies as being productive and successful. If we can occupy our fingers by texting or typing voraciously on our smartphones then we must surely be important, efficient, and cutting edge, right? We’re so proud of our latest iPad 2 or Blackberry Playbook and their ability to allow us to work from anywhere and never leave our `busyness’ behind.
Sadly they are in fact part of an epidemic where information overload and hyper connectivity are creating, for want of a Lady Gaga reference, little monsters. People who can no longer sit and do nothing, just let their thoughts drift away. Stressed out, overweight and seriously unhealthy people giving up their life to the internet. Those who can’t hold real life conversations with people right in front of them as their Twitter feed, Facebook Inbox and LinkedIn group discussion is more `important.’
As Jonathan pointed out in Creative Kryptonite and the Death of Productivity
Hyperconnectivity gives us the perception of getting more done, it makes us feel like we’re doing more, because we’re using every free moment of every waking hour.
Jonathan kindly allowed me to write about how being disconnected makes you more connected but we all know how difficult that can actually be. Luckily there is a solution and it’s right under your very nose.
We have the most amazing online tools at our disposal to help us be more streamlined, effective and organized than ever before. Tools that actually allow us to disconnect and free up time to live in the real world. It all comes down to how you view and use them everyday. Here are a few of my favourite that you can use to your advantage:
If you ever wonder exactly where your time goes every day then you should get to know Chrometa. This is a free application that analyses and reveals how you spend your time by automatically tracking your computer usage and then using this data to improve your personal and team productivity. It runs in the background and records everything you do while you work. It helps with project tracking so that you don’t need to start or stop a timer or use a spreadsheet to keep track. All you have to do is categorize them once. For freelancers it’s particularly useful because you can track your billable hours to the exact minute.
Given you already spend way too much time on email then let me introduce you to my best friend. Rapportive is a free application you install as a plugin in Gmail (available on Firefox, Chrome, Mailplane, and Safari) that replaces the ads with detailed, Web-sourced information about each person who emails you. It’s quite literally transformed how I view my inbox. Now when someone I don’t know emails me I get this pretty visual on who they are – their title, location, photo even, and the ability to connect with them from within the email on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. If you’re an MS Outlook user there’s a similar service called Xobni – (inbox spelt backwards).
You’ve likely heard of this free downloadable app that lets you clip to the cloud Web pages, photos, business card signatures and more. Evernote pretty much enables you to remove paper from your working life, and since it’s searchable, you no longer have to rely on folders and data management. I use it to clip a website, link or blog that I want to come back to later and tag it in a way that makes sense to me. I use it for blog post ideas, travel tips and even writing my book. You can use it on your mobile too and sync across multiple computer so no matter where you are you can still access your life.
If you have a bulging wallet full of receipts you’re holding on to, to claim as expenses then it would be much smarter for you to stuff them into an envelope, along with business cards and documents. Then send them via postage-paid envelopes or camera-equipped smartphone for Shoeboxed to take care of for you. They scan and data enter every document, then organize everything in a secure, searchable online account. All of the receipts you send to them are also accepted by the IRS, so if you are ever audited, just show the images of your receipts from your account.
If you’re constantly making to-do lists then you may like the super simple interface of TeuxDeux.com ((a cute play on French words which, when spoken properly, sound like To-Do). It’s amazingly uncomplicated so you don’t need spend your time figuring out how to use the features. You just get stuff done by adding items to your list, and clicking on it to check it off when you’re done. If you don’t, all of your unfinished tasks automatically move over to the next day’s list. The beauty of this is you start to see what you’re consistently putting off, which probably goes to show you it’s not a priority so you should just delete it.
For all of you social media addicts, if you want to stop wasting time and get more strategic then you should check out Hootsuite. It is social media dashboard that you can hook up to all your social media accounts including your Facebook profile, page, multiple Twitter accounts, LinkedIn and RSS feeds. You can choose which updates go to which accounts and when. You can schedule them out during the day individually or in bulk. Hoosuite allows you to set up tabs and columns with lists and people you most want to follow and engage with so that you stay focused. Along with analytics reports, you can add team members to manage your accounts, and track keyword mentions of your name so that you don’t miss out on any RTs, mentions or important conversations.
There really is no need to be a slave to the internet and the ongoing influx of media and information. It’s not going to go away so you need to use these tools to manage your priorities and time to make the most of every single minute. Life should be rich tapestry of experiences – both online and offline. Make sure you don’t miss out on them.
Natalie Sisson is a Suitcase Entrepreneur and Adventurer who shares creative ways to run your business from anywhere in the world. She is passionate about using online tools social media and outsourcing to create more freedom in business and adventure in life.
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