Automatic Follow-ups for Your Email

Email-Reminders

Have you ever sent an email to someone asking them to complete a task or do you a favor?  What usually happens after that email has been sent?  For me it's usually one of the following;

1- I keep the original email in my inbox as a reminder to eventually follow up with them

2- I set a reminder on my Google Calendar to follow up

3- I totally forget about the matter and hope that they follow through with my email request

What if there was a better, easier way to follow up with friends, contacts and teammates?  A nifty new service called Follow Up Then may be just what you are looking for.  

There is no sign up, no software to download and it works with any email program.


To use the service, write your email and use the address To: box as usual. Then all you have to do is use the CC: box and type in: TimeInterval@followupthen.com

An example would be oneweek@followupthen.com

Follow Up Then

What happens next is the email will be sent as usual and in one week's time both you and the original email recipient will get a follow up email reminding everyone of the original email.  The date and subject of the original email is also included.

Here are a few examples of time intervals you can use when using this follow-up service:

 

Time Interval

1minute@followupthen.com
2hours@followupthen.com
3days@followupthen.com
4weeks@followupthen.com
5months@followupthen.com
6years@followupthen.com

Day of Week

tuesday@followupthen.com
tues@followupthen.com

Common Scheduling Terms

tomorrow@followupthen.com
nextweek@followupthen.com
nextmonth@followupthen.com

Specific Date

mar30@followupthen.com
2010-05-30@followupthen.com

Specific Time

11am@followupthen.com — will sent the next occurrence of 11 a.m. your time (yes, we magically know your time zone). Only supports whole hour increments.

Specific Date and Time

tomorrow9am@followupthen.com
aug2512pm@followupthen.com

Recurring Reminders

everyweds@followupthen.com
everymar30@followupthen.com

If you are currently using this service leave a comment below on how you like it.  If not, try it out today.

Why Announcing Your Personal Goals May Be A Bad Idea

 

Almost every business article you read about goal setting suggests that you should tell anyone and everyone what your personal goals are.  The reasoning is that the more people that know your goals, the more people you need to prove to that you can actually carry out that goal.  Having lots of people who are ready to laugh at you when you don't reach your goals sounds like a great motivator for staying on track.

An interesting Ted.com talk by Derek Sivers discusses the idea that announcing your personal goals to othes may actually make you less likely to keep working towards those goals.  It was a very interesting idea and I wanted to share it because it goes against what most motivational speakers are saying today.  The video is below, check it out and let me know what your thoughts are.

How to Stay Organized

organize operations manual with bindersI have been on struggle street for years when it comes to organization for myself and my workspace.

I usually run into the same problem most of us half-assed, partially organized people do. I start neat and orderly and slowly degrade into a rat's nest within a few weeks. I eventually get fed up and organize myself again only to repeat history time and time again. I have tried almost every method to organize myself one can think of, including PDA’s, a pocket full of post it’s and dozens of online to do lists and organizers.  All of these attempts usually last about a month before I slowly stop using it and revert back to scraps of paper in my pocket.

I have been trying a new method for several months now and this one seems to be working. It is using a combination of tried and true paper and an integration of technology. I keep a small notebook with me everywhere I go.  For this I use a nifty little notepad ( 4×3 inch) pad from Moleskin(Moleskine Square Notebook Pocket), it’s great.  Whenever I’m out and about and get hit by my next million dollar idea (to date I have had a total of none), I just pull out my nifty notepad with mini pen attached and quickly write down my ideas before the thought of lunch pushes it from my memory forever.  Every few days I will log into my own personal Wiki website and log everything I want to keep on my long running idea list.  I currently use Google sites for this as I am an avid user of Google Apps.  The great thing with using this method is when I finally transfer my thoughts and ideas from paper to web, I can include additional resources to each idea in the form of links and file attachments.  Neat!

A recent addition to organizing myself is Evernote.  This is an all-encompassing archive for everything you ever want to remember, sort of like having a second storage bin for your brain.  I have the Evernote app for my IPhone and use it everyday.  The app allows you record your thoughts and ideas through pictures, text and audio.  I won’t go into all of the features here as there are many but you can read more about Evernote Here.  The great thing about Evernote is that it compliments my current organization method instead of replacing it.  I use Evernote when I see something I want to reference later and take a picture of it or when I’m driving in the car and want to record an idea I have.  It’s also great for taking a picture of written text, like business cards for archiving.

Currently I have reached a semi level of harmony when it comes to organizing myself, but I have only been using it for a few months now so I will keep you updated as things may change.  I would love to hear how you keep yourself organized so post your comments below.

Making Productive use of Your Time

Mr Productivity

Mr Productivity

I love to read, more specifically I love to read quality business books.  As a small business owner I feel like I am always short on time and can barely skim over a two page article let alone a 300+ page book.  I was speaking about this subject with a friend of mine who owns several small businesses and he suggested audio books to me.  A light went on in my head.  I commute nearly 30 minutes to and from my business each day, what a way to make more productive use of my time.  Instead of earning my graduate degree in 80’s Hair Band lyrics, I was inside my own mobile classroom..  Fast forward 24 months and 48 audio books later.  Today I feel like a knowledge sponge, having listened to books I otherwise never would have had time to read.  I have even expanded into awesome business pod casts and audio lectures.

Who would have known a simple suggestion would have opened up a whole new world of learning for me, I even discovered that i'm an auditory learner, making audio books even more impactful.  I learned two things from this experience. #1, when you meet a successful person, pester them (in a good way) about everything they know. #2, to become a success at anything, you need to have an obsession for it and a hunger to learn more.

Sites like Audible.com make it super easy and inexpensive to download and listen to audio books. Becoming more productive can lead you on a road to small business success. Give it a try, you may give yourself an MBA education during your once boring commute this year.

How do you make productive use of your time as a small business owner?

How to Become Productive Again (or is your smartphone making you stupid)

Don't be this Guy

Don't be this Guy

How many times a day do you check your email? Have you ever stopped mid conversation while speaking with someone to check and see who just sent you a message on your Blackberry? Not only is this rude, but it may be making you stupid. The average person checks their email 5-6 times a day. Opinion polls have indicated that many Blackberry users cannot go more than 5 minutes without checking their email. The 2006 New World College dictionary word of the year, “Crackberry“, rightfully deserves it's name.

Today'sworld is filled with rapid fire stimulation. Anywhere we go we can instantly be reached via text, email or phone. We are always on call and everything is immediate. We now live in an age where having to wait for something is the worst thing imaginable. Our attention spans have grown so short and we have grown so impatient that most of us have lost our ability to focus on a single task and to do it properly. This addiction to immediate access to email and other information is actually causing us to lose our ability to focus. In 2005, a psychiatrist at King's College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana.

Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hand, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points. In order to remain fully focused on a task, most of us need undivided attention in order to get into the rhythm and flow of whatever it is we are doing. Take sleep for an example. If you were to interrupted every 20 minutes during the course of a night's sleep to answer a phone call or to check an email, would you consider that a productive night's sleep? How do you think these constant interruptions are affecting your work life? Worse yet, how is it affecting your family life? Are you the parent at your kid's soccer game with your Blackberry in hand the entire game?

Smart phones and their cry for constant attention may be hurting our ability to communicate. Really communicate. When we write a message using our phones we tend to keep it short and sweet. We write just enough to get our message across, no need for silly things like proper spelling or using complete sentences. We are too busy to spend any more than a few seconds responding to someone's request. The problem with doing this on a consistent basis is twofold. One, we are losing our ability to focus. When using a smartphone to communicate, we tend to put little thought into what we are writing. We tend to say things we otherwise would not say in person. When we write in erratic, fragmented language, we eventually begin to think like that too. Sloppy writing will eventually lead to sloppy thinking. Secondly, we think that being busy equates to being productive. Doing one thing well is better than doing three things poorly. If you try and juggle too many balls, eventually you will start to drop them.

Remember, your smart phone does not have to be constantly buzzing in order to feel important. If you selectively pick times during the day when you will check email it will free you to direct your attention to the matter at hand. Make it known to everyone to only text you if it's important, otherwise email you and you will check it later. When you are having a conversation with someone and your phone starts buzzing, it's OK to check it AFTER the conversation, not in the middle of it (unless your wife is about to give birth). Good manners and courtesy are still sought after traits in people. If you are working on an important project, shut your phone and email off and give it your undivided attention. You will produce better quality work. And lastly, when you are with your family, holster your smartphone and enjoy your time with the people who really matter.

5 Reasons your Small Business should switch to VOIP Technology

VOIP Professional

VOIP Professional

With the economy in the shape it is today, many small businesses are facing some tough realities as how to manage their business. Small business owners are keeping spending to a minimum and controlling costs while they ride out this economic downturn. Many seasoned business owners will tell you the good thing about running a business during a downturn is that it forces you to really look at your business and decide what’s important and what’s not. All operating costs and expenses are looked over with a fine toothed comb and it is in this time that many business owners find money that has been going to waste.

Depending on your business, your telecommunication costs can eat up a sizable chunk of your budget. Over the last few years VOIP technology has really come of age as costs keep getting lower and service keeps getting better. Listed below are the 5 reasons you should consider making the switch to VOIP technology for your business.

1 – It’s Cheaper than old fashioned telephone service. Although you will spend several hundred dollars in equipment to get yourself set up, the savings over the long run can be substantial. One of the biggest savings is long distance charges. Besides having to pay long distance access fees each month, most traditional phone companies charge rates considerably higher than VOIP providers. Most VOIP plans come standard with almost every feature you can think of while traditional phone companies usually charge a monthly fee for even the most basic features. These add on fees can quickly add up on your monthly bill.

2 – Unified Communication. Unified Communications is a fancy word to describe the ability to integrate your VOIP phone service with other communications such as email and computer programs. With unified communications you have the ability to have voicemail messages emailed directly to you wherever you may be. Long gone are the days you have to repeatedly call into the office to see if there are messages waiting. Another great application for VOIP is integrating it into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program for you business. Imagine when the phone rings the computer screen automatically pops up the account history of your customer before you even pick up the phone. Talk about a great customer service tool.

3 – The technology is here. In the early days of VOIP chronically dropped phone calls and sounding like your calling from Mars were the norm. Over the last few years bandwith has increased to a rate where businesses can operate several applications, including VOIP, over their internet connections without losing quality. Quality of Service technology, which gives VOIP and streaming video priority over data transmission has also paved the way to superior Voice over Internet phone calls.

4 – Hosted PBX. Traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems were usually reserved for big business as it is very expensive to set up. You also need someone with IT experience to manage it. With a Hosted PBX, the entire system is hosted on a remote server, where you, or your service provider, can manage it remotely. All of this can be done at a fraction of the cost of a traditional PBX system while giving small and home based businesses the professional image they need to compete with the big boys.

5 – It’s coming anyway, whether your ready for it or not.

Traditional phone services are going the way of the dinosaur. High fees, long term contracts and poor customer service has been the hallmark of traditional phone companies for a very long time. VOIP and Hosted PBX plans offer the small business owner lower telecom costs, more productivity and a chance to take their customer service to the next level. There are dozens of VOIP providers to choose from, the important thing is to educate yourself on this technology and seek out a vendor who can provide the proper support and consultation for a seemless transition.