Tag Archives: productivity

He Said, She Said, Who Said?

Evernote as a Contact Manager
Jotting down even the simplest of interactions keeps everything on track.

Written communication with clients, like email, or messages via Basecamp, these are some ways to track expectations, changes, and requests. It doesn’t hurt to have a paper trail to keep everyone accountable. But is it expedient to dig through every email exchange between you and a client or vendor? What of phone conversations, or meetings, or off the cuff remarks that come back to haunt you six months later, how do you track those? What if you have one of those clients who insist on giving you edits verbally over the phone—which really has to be the worst thing ever, don’t you think? Some people, no matter how much you push back, insist on giving edits over the phone? Why? You know they are the same people who will come back at you a week later and tell you that’s not what they asked for—but I digress. The point is; how do you track all of this communication and keep yourself accountable?

I use Evernote. There are so many uses for Evernote, in fact, it’s such a flexible tool, I wasn’t sure how to incorporate it into my workflow at first. Did I use it as a virtual moodboard, to collect things that inspired me? Could I build a notebook of all my favorite ukulele songs and carry them with me on my iPhone or iPad? I could, and I did. But it didn’t click for me in those capacities. I really wanted to use it, Andrew Sinkov, the marketing guy at Evernote, is a former client of mine from his previous gig, and I wanted to support him in his new venture. And you know I like my applications to be affordable and universal, and Evernote is both. Then I found this blog entry about using Evernote as a Relationship Manager and it all clicked.

Now, whenever I interact with a contact, client, vendor, potential client, I make a note. Sometimes I schedule a follow-up action, sometimes I just jot down the content of the interaction and leave it be. It’s rarely more than a line or two. However, when a vendor tries to tell me that I didn’t mention that we’re brewing beer the first week of July, in a click I can tell him exactly when we had that conversation, what his response was, and if it was via email, I have a time/date stamp to help me find the actual correspondence to forward back to him.

Should I meet with a potential client, I can make quick notes about his schedule and intentions. Then I time my follow-up for when he expected he might need my services. It helps to note things that come up in conversation, like, maybe he enjoys water skiing. So I when I reach out to him about that direct mail project he was considering me for, I can ask if he has enjoyed any good water skiing outings this summer. It’s not that I don’t pay attention and listen, it’s just that Evernote helps me remember what I heard.

With a client who has a lot of balls in the air, I can use Evernote to help him keep track of projects he’s mentioned, but then stuck on the back burner because he’s got a lot on his plate. That’s a potential paying project that could slip through my fingers because a goal has lost priority, but if I can bring him back to the reason why he wanted to publish that brochure, or build that web site, that’s me looking out for both my client and my bottom-line.

Evernote is one of the most popular applications out there. I don’t have to sell anyone on that. But as a tool for keeping your footing in the vicious undertow of communication, it is invaluable.


Wunderlist for iPad
Wunderlist for iPad

I like my apps inexpensive, simple, and universal. Wunderlist from Wunderkinder is all of these things and my tool for managing lists.

First, it’s free. Free is the magic number, yes it is, it’s the magic number. You thought it was Three but that guy had a speech impediment, it was Free all along.

Second, it’s easy to understand, intuitive to use. You make a new list, name it whatever you like, Shopping, To-Do, “Client’s Name Here,” however you like to organize your lists. Then you add things to check off. You can give it a due date. You can set-up notifications. You can flag the item as a priority. When the item is complete, you check it off. Just how you hope a checklist will work.

Wunderlist for iPhone
Wunderlist for iPhone

Third, it’s universal, and then some. The wholly trinity, Mac, iPad, iPhone and they sync together. If you’re out and about and don’t have access to your own devices, you can access your lists through their web app. But seriously, you left BOTH your iPad AND your iPhone at home? Were you abducted? I don’t understand this scenario. You can add new items to the application via email and sort them out later, if that makes your life easier. Wunderlist is a very accessible application.

You can use Wunderlist as a task manager, especially for smaller projects, but it’s at it’s best when it is used as a list manager of any and all sorts. Personally, I keep the Mac app open on my machine at home and I’ve trained my son to add things to the “Shopping” list whenever we run out. And since Wunderlist syncs with my phone, when I go to the grocery store I have the most up-to-date list of what we need in the house.

It’s well designed, you can customize the appearance, and it just works. Tool for this Tuesday’s recommendation? Most definitely Wunderlist.


To Be in Two Places at the Same Time

Pretty Weed in my Backyard
Take time to snap reference photos of the flowers

How busy are we all these days? It’s only 9 a.m. and I’ve already billed three hours, taken my kid to (sigh) summer school, scheduled a tire repair for the Camry, fed the cats, and followed up with two vendors. Not to mention checking in on Facebook, uploading videos from the Fourth of July, posting an event, inviting the family, and taking some reference photos of this pretty weed growing in my backyard.

I was stomping up the stairs with bags of groceries Sunday and I noticed these lovely strands of budding flowers. They’re tiny, really, and there are three or four of them at the top of this plant that started growing next to my porch. I thought, they would be sweet to illustrate, I could make them into a decorative element, part of a frame, something to letterpress, who knows? But I had arms full of melty stuff in the hot sun, so I didn’t get back to shoot some photos until this morning and half of the buds had already opened. If I waited until tomorrow, what would have been left?!

You can’t photograph flowers while you’re carrying milk and eggs and you can’t be in two places at the same time. So, what do you do? As a freelancer I face this problem all the time. I have a press check for one client, but I need to research vendors for another. I have to get my invoicing and administrative work done to build my business, but I’m facing a desk full of actual billable work with deadlines and clients who want to know that they are my first priority.

Hiring someone doesn’t really solve the problem for me, this is intermittent overload, not enough for full-time help. Plus, I’m not equipped to add another person to my operation. My solution? I use a virtual assistant.

Black Ink Virtual Assistance is better than any app I could recommend for productivity. Chief Efficiency Officer, Melissa Black, is available to be the extra me I wish I could be. If I need to walk away from my computer to get some sketching done, she’s available to respond to my email and make sure my vendors and clients are being heard and their needs met. If I am falling behind on promoting my business because I’m focused on clients, she can ghostwrite my blog—not yet, but she could—build my business Facebook page, or maintain my Twitter account. She’s even helped me with concierge services. My son wanted tickets to a show for his birthday and the day and the hour they went on sale I was scheduled to be at a press check. Melissa made sure we got the tickets while I took care of business.

It’s easy to be efficient when you can delegate your responsibilities. It’s hard to delegate your responsibilities when you work for yourself. Having a virtual assistant allows me to work like I have a back office, with the flexibility of freelancing. What an invaluable tool for any productivity arsenal!