Seems to me that everything is getting more and more complicated.  I thought computers were supposed to SAVE time and money! Sigh.

I LOVE anything that simplifies my life and our clients' lives. Here are some of my favs, both for business and personal stuff because we don't seem to be able separate them. So we don't. Clients and friends ask often, "How do you manage it all?"  Well, sometimes we don't! That's the truth. It can all be overwhelming at times. But most of the time, we have things organized with plenty of systems in place that we've developed over the years.

If you're curious about any of these or have questions, feel free to email us. Of course there are many more, let me know if you think of any you want to share. Links at the bottom.


Staying Organized

I HAVE to have a master "to-do" list plus lists for each client/project. I collaborate a lot, share files and info, and need to be reminded to do things. Evernote is the love of my life (after Harry). I started with the free version, now pay a small fee monthly for awesome collaboration/sharing/reminder features. I use it every day both for work and personal organization. 

Websites

For starters, a "brochure" website is a must if you are an artist or creative and make your living (or want to make your living) outside of the "I work for someone else" world. You can build from there as you grow and need more features (like e-commerce). Squarespace is the platform we use the most for websites. We have built over five dozen websites on the Squarespace platform, they're an awesome company we've worked with for many years. We put together custom websites based on their template system for about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of what a "built from the ground up" website can cost. You can DIY, but probably not the best use of your time. We also use GoDaddy and other systems. We want the best solutions for our clients, at the best price.

Social Media

Morning coffee or tea and social media. It's the only way I'll do it, I'm just sooooo busy, and it IS time-intensive. 20 minutes max. I sip and scan and stay current on friends, family, and business. Then post anew and share what I love. Done. Maybe I'll check it later in the day if I'm relaxing for a few minutes. For clients, scheduling posts ahead of time is a boon. Setting up blogs to automatically feed social media is a real time-saver too.

Email Management

ALL my email accounts feed into my inbox. All my email accounts are IMAP (not the older POP3 type of email), so they automatically sync with my phone and tablet. I keep the spam settings on "medium" (not "high") otherwise I don't get things I'm supposed to. I check the spam folder daily for the occasional legit mail that gets waylaid. I set the email software to show me the first three lines of the email so I don't have to open every one of them just to find out what's inside. I have email folders in my email software, one for each client and us, to hold mail I want to save. Signature blocks are already set up and appear at the bottom of new emails giving full contact info.

Paper Management

I handle paper stuff as little as possible. Open it, throw the envelopes and recyclables into the basket near my desk, bills and important stuff to my left in a stack which is quickly dealt with twice weekly. Filing goes into the cabinet in my desk, and because it's only the important stuff, it takes a couple of years to fill the basket then it goes into storage.

Bookkeeping

Not my fav thing to do, but it's gotta get done. I use xero.com and absolutely love it. I can keep track of checking and savings accounts, invoice clients, code items for taxes, and much more. Online banking allows me to pay bills and deposit checks by taking a picture of them, and I haven't set foot in our bank in years. Tax time prep takes 20 minutes to generate income/expense reports for the accountant.

Feeding Ourselves and Family

We work from home and eat at home a lot. We eat clean and healthy. That's a lot of shopping and cooking, and it can get expensive. I save time and money by buying in bulk by sourcing pantry items online (Amazon and Vitacost which is sometimes cheaper, sign up for email coupons). Each bulk purchase ultimately saves me $30 - $100 over one-at-a-time at the grocery store. Fresh, in-season organic produce comes from local markets. Grass-fed and organic protein comes from online sources (US Wellness Meats) and local markets. We cook in quantity, enjoy, and freeze in meal-sized portions. The freezer we bought last year paid for itself in six months with shopping/freezing savings.

Computer Backups

Totally automated, redundant backup systems. We've had one backup system fail and lost a lot. A three terabyte drive on my desk plus online encrypted cloud storage that continually backs up have seriously saved my you-know-what more than once.

Computers and Software

We use Apple products and we love them. We spend MUCH less time dealing with issues than with PC’s. Whatever you choose to use, realize that you will have to upgrade them every few years. Limping along on outdated equipment has a huge opportunity cost. Also, our software updates automatically AFTER a prompt to me asking if it's OK. Click. Done.

Keeping Skills Sharp

Critical. Again, it will ultimately save you a lot of time and stress. Realty check: most people vastly overestimate their computer/software skills. We upgrade our skills constantly with online learning at Lynda.com.

It takes time to do all this, don't beat yourself up or think you can get it all done in a few days (or weeks)! One thing at a time, then move on to the next one. You'll be surprised and how much it helps!


Again, ASK if you have questions. The first 15 minutes are on us.

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AuthorRobin Sagara

“I love researching software and online platform solutions for my business” said no one, ever.

That said, I do spend a fair amount of time researching software and online systems for us and clients and realized that YOU might be interested in our solutions for your own business. Ya know, so you don’t have to spend all YOUR time researching. So, here it is, I hope it's helpful.

Bookkeeping:

Bookkeeping is the task I love the least. Seriously. But I LOVE Xero.com. It's saving me several hours per month in time over the old systems we’ve used. It is SO worth the monthly fee.

Xero can do everything we need, and it's easy to understand and set up. I can keep track of multiple bank accounts; generate estimates and then convert them to invoices; track inventory and client/business expenses; automatically reconcile the bank accounts; generate cash flow and other reports; enter bills to be paid; track time and attendance for employees and pay them; prepare W2s and 1099s, and export them all to tax software. They even have mobile apps for when I'm on the run and need to enter something.

Organization and To-Do Lists:

I use Evernote to keep track of clients and their to-do lists, and share notes/images/files. Evernote is a gem, it's secure, free or very low cost and it does everything I need.

Each client (and our company) has a Notebook, and each notebook contains notes and info for projects and to-do lists. Evernote syncs across computers which is very handy. I can update and edit the info from any device we use for business (and we use seven) and immediately see it on the other devices.

Email:

These days many of our clients just have a Gmail account. You know, like, MarysArt@gmail.com. It’s free and easy to use and you can set up your gmail account on your computer or check in online. However, if you want to present a more professional face to the world, I do recommend that you have a yourname@yourdomainame.com email account. For example Mary@MarysArt.com.

Yes, it costs something to have email via your domain name, but IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) it’s totally worth it. Get an IMAP (not a POP3) account through your domain name provider (we use Godaddy mostly) and you can sync email across all your devices.

Websites:

Our website has been a Squarespace website for years and years and we’ve set up dozens for clients. Yeah, we’ve tried other platforms but Squarespace is the best we’ve found. They are an awesome and ethical company. You can start with a simple inexpensive brochure website and grow into a complex e-commerce website later. Their support is stellar, and the websites are responsive and mobile-friendly with extensive customization capabilities, integrated and supported modules, and much more.

Many of our clients want to learn to maintain (or at least edit) their websites so we give lessons also.

Documents:

Microsoft Office is what we use the most, along with Apple's iWork suite

To create, edit and share PDF files, we use Adobe Acrobat Pro via an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Image Wrangling and Graphic Design:

Again, for us it's cost-effective to have a subscription to Adobe software: Choose from one or all of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Lightroom, Dreamweaver, Muse, Acrobat, Bridge, and many more.

For quick image resizing to use on websites and for tutoring clients I use free Skitch. It's really easy and fast for grabbing and annotating screen shots from the web, sharing them, and lots more.

For powerful image wrangling without a monthly fee you can purchase Photoshop Elements and it has many of the same features as Photoshop at a fraction of the cost.

But before you buy, check the software on your computer. You may have something you can use, like iPhoto. I don't think you should spend money when you already have software that will do the job. When you grow out of it later, great, move on up to something else.

Backups - Two is Better Than One:

We learned the hard way to have more than one backup system. A few years ago the backup drive crashed, taking with it a lot of files that were not on any computer (any more). Lesson learned.

Now we have two backup systems:  External hard drives with Time Machine on the Macs is backup number one. Check your PC as Windows may ask you if you want to use your new external drive for backup. Backup system number two is online secure, encrypted cloud storage via Backblaze which backs up all our computers to one safe place that can be accessed from just about anywhere. It's come in very handy when we're traveling and a client has an emergency and we need to access their files. 

Contact us if you have questions or need some help with any of this.

As always, all our best to you and yours,

-Robin

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These days our lives are busy. Do you ever feel like you’re slogging through water when you really want to run? Overwhelmed? Distracted? Stressed? Yeah, me too.

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When you can’t seem to get everything done, and the days go by in a blur, you might be in danger of having a "near-life experience." Chris Kresser wrote about it in his article "How to Avoid a Near-Life Experience." Here are his six very useful steps:

  1. Be mindful:
    It’s an ancient Buddhist philosophy now being taught in hospitals and Fortune 500 companies, "...mindfulness simply means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment on a moment-to-moment basis." There is a large body of evidence to support mindfulness, showing that it can reduce stress and negative emotions and increase our ability to focus.

  2. Stop multitasking (it doesn't work anyway):
    It's a myth that you can get more done by multitasking. Checking email and social media while working on something actually slows you down and makes you less efficient. Besides, you're not really multitasking, you're just switching from one task to another. So, just focus on one thing at a time.

  3. Batch your email and social media:
    Limit time for phone calls and email to 2-4 times a day. This should increase your productivity (and reduce your stress) dramatically. Do you know how many times an hour the average employee checks their email? 36 times an hour. That's 288 times per eight hour work day!

  4. Turn off notifications on your phone, computer, and other devices:
    I ran into this issue recently after updating the operating systems on my computer and phone. I was getting notifications for just about everything! Ping. You have a text. Ping. You have an email. Ping, you have a voicemail. Ping, you have a calendar event. Ping. Ping. Ping. It made me crazy. I adjusted settings and shut it all off and it was total relief.

  5. Go off the grid:
    When you are constantly connected to your electronic devices, it's harder to be mindful and present. It's distracting and you can't fully relax when you need to. To go "off the grid" don't check email, take calls, use your computer, watch TV or use electronic devices at all. A whole day per week is great if you can manage it. Even half day away is very helpful.

  6. Do less (but accomplish more):
    I sooooo agree with Chris on this one: "One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in living a happier and more productive life is focusing on what is most important and letting the rest go. This has meant learning to say no to projects and tasks that are not important."

    Try it, you'll like it! :-D

Source: http://chriskresser.com/how-to-avoid-a-nea...
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AuthorRobin Sagara
CategoriesInspiring