After lots of (positive) feedback on this topic last time, I thought I would share some of my other “secrets and software” for ensuring time effectiveness when working with PC’s. Over the years I have built up quite a systematic way of working – I’ve tried lots of tools, discarded most and kept a few gems that help get me through the working day. Here are a few more of those gems:
I use quite a few PC’s. I have my main (powerful) desktop, a decent laptop machine for when I am working away on a customer site and a small netbook for surfing and email when I am out and about. Now here’s the problem – where do I store my “stuff”? Stuff might be documents, media, files, etc. Memory sticks are handy, but you are forever swapping “stuff” between machines and there is always the danger of working on the same document in two places and getting into revision errors. Guess what… you need a Dropbox. Dropbox is a on-line facility for storing “stuff”. Once you have installed Dropbox onto all the computers you have, any file dropped into the box is transferred to all the other Dropboxes. I keep my Dropbox within “My Documents” and have a short-cut on my desktop to Dropbox. Whichever machine I am on, I can forget about copying files around using a memory stick, forget about worrying if I am working on the latest version… Dropbox keeps all my “stuff” up to date. And, if I lose all my computers in a big fire, I can get access to Dropbox over the Internet and get all my precious “stuff” back again. Dropbox is free for up to 2GB storage.
ACT! / Blackberry / TomTom
OK, this stuff you’ll have to pay for. But if you want to keep track of customers, prospects, accounts - across a team – then this is a great way to do it. I’ve been using ACT to run myself, my sales team and my businesses since 1991. Think of ACT! as Outlook on steroids and designed for people who need to manage their accounts, contacts and sales opportunities. With your data in ACT! you can access it on your desktop, over the web and also take information with you on a phone or laptop so you have easy access to all your customer info wherever you are. My ACT server synchronises to my laptop for when I am travelling. ACT! also synchronises to my Blackberry so I always have upto date client informaiton in my pocket at all times. My Blackberry then synchronises via bluetooth to my TomTom in the car. In-coming calls display the person’s name nice and large on my SatNav screen. I can then be driving to any of my contacts with a couple of taps on the screen. So, I enter information once into ACT! and it is then available to me on my laptop, in my pocket and in my car.
This one is for all those Social Media folk out there. Anyone not into Social Media will say “how do you find the time, to manage all these accounts / sites?” For many who are into Social Media, the answer is Tweetdeck as it is a real time saver. Tweetdeck can help you manage multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and your LinkedIn profile. You can create custom searches for key words that potential customers / suppliers might use to find new business. And when updating your status, you can select which accounts it goes to. A great time saver.. and yes it’s free.
It would be great to hear from you all regarding your own (PC) time effectiveness software and tips.
I spend quite a bit of my time in front of a PC screen as part of running my business. I think that is probably true for most of us these days?
Whenever I give ACT! or Time Management training people often comment upon the way I have my PC set-up. I’ve developed this system over many years and it works perfectly for me. Others I have shown it to have also adopted my approach. There are some utilities that I use on a daily basis as well that save me time, stress and lost business. This blog is quick overview of my top (PC) effectiveness tips. Perhaps some may be of value to you…
A Clear Desktop
I only have shortcuts on my PC desktop. These are changed at the beginning of the working week depending upon the clients, projects and documents that I need quick access to for that week. So, if I plan to do some work on Project X this week, I drag a shortcut to my desktop for Project X at the very start of the week. The shortcut gets deleted when the work I need to do is completed. So, most weeks I have only a handful of shortcuts on my desktop.
Common Structure to Email, Documents and Filing Cabinets.
I was once told that the brain can only hold between 7 and 10 items at the same time. Not sure where I heard this, but it feels right to me. This means that, when given a choice of where to file something, keep the number of options below 10, or if possible to below 7. So, within My Documents on my laptop, I only have 10 sub-folders. This means that when it comes to finding (or saving) something it’s pretty obvious where it goes (or went). The 10 folder headings I currently have are:
- Sage & ACT
- Training Material
- Family & Friends
Each folder is then sub-divided. So, for example, 4. Marketing is sub-divided into: 4.1 Networking, 4.2 WebSite, 4.3 Newsletters, 4.4 Synergy Partners, 4.5 Case Studies 4.6 Social Media and 4.7 Mailing Lists.
The idea for this approach is part of the Time Manager International system and for years I used their paper system, before transferring it to my PC. The folders / sub-folder hierarchy is also mirrored exactly within Outlook. So when I want to file an email, again it’s pretty obvious where it should go. Finally, the same hierarchy is present within the physical filling cabinet that I have as well. This makes it far easier to file & retrieve an item, whether it is electronic or physical.
So, the above are my 10 sections. Why not try and work out yours?
Firefox and X-Marks
Firefox is a great web browser. I love the flexibility offered and the host of add-in’s that enhance its power. One of these, X-Marks, lets me store my favourites and web passwords and have them sync’d to multiple PC’s. I have three PC’s that I work with at various times and it’s great to be able to have the same menu structure, favourites etc on each of them. It also means that if I have registered on one web site that needs a user name and password, that this info is sync’d to all the other machines as well.
This is the only thing mentioned in this blog that will cost you money. And it’s worth every penny. Splash ID is a simple little password protected program that that stores all the other important bits of information that you don’t want to forget. This can be other passwords, pin numbers, account numbers, credit card info, insurance policies etc etc. Pretty much anything that is important and you don’t want to forget. This information is then sync’d to Splash ID on my phone. So I have all that information with me, all the time. And if I lose one device the other serves as a backup.
An excellent add-in to Outlook that helps you track and store email conversations and documents sent and received with your contacts. XOBNI also integrates into Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so you can see the activity of your contacts on these social media sites. A built in search means that it is really fast at finding contacts, conversations, documents – pretty much anything really.
These tools improve the efficiency of the way I work. In fact, I reckon that I save about and hour or two a week by having and using these tools. OK, it’s taken a little bit of time to configure and make a habit of using them. But I have got that time back many times over as a result.
I’d be interested to hear of any other time saving PC programs or habits you have.
I like to think that I am a fairly effective person. I run my own business – and do so on my own. This is by choice. I wanted to set-up a business where I didn’t need staff. I’ve done that before and much as I love working with and developing people, I’ve learned that I am much better at managing myself than I am at managing others. So, I outsource as much as I can: Book keeping, Accounts, a virtual PA for the phone etc. This leaves me free to focus on what I do best: which is to generate the income from my sales training and mentoring.
One thing that I often find I am helping my clients with is time management. An aspect of my training covers “What are you going to stop?” in order to find the time to put into practice some of the lessons covered when we work together. This question often gets the response “Oh, I will find the time because this is important”. However, unless we work at “What are you going to stop doing?” experience tells me that you will not find the time. Even if the client feels that it is important. All that does happen is that the stress levels increase.
You see we all have 168 hours a week to use (excluding leap years and when the clocks change) no more and no less. I like to think in terms of “weeks” as a unit of time effectiveness. I plan my week – and this leads simply to a daily plan. So, if I already have my 168 hours planned out (and that includes sleep, travel, R&R, family etc.) how much time is left for the other stuff? Well for me, typically, 32 – 38 hours a week.
So, when you are planning a new task, activity, initiative or area of focus. The first thing to ask yourself if “What am I going to stop doing in order to find the time to do this?” And if you can’t find anything to drop, don’t take on the new task. Otherwise you will find the time needed will be found by chipping away at other important items like sleep, family, hobbies etc. Which are all so very important.
How do you use your 168 hours at the moment? And is that the best use of your time?