Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

How to keep up with digital content.

September 1st, 2010

I promised in an earlier post that I would share my system and my favorite tools for keeping up with my reading of digital goods such as blogs, articles, e-news, etc.

For blogs.
I love Google Reader. It works really well on all of my devices (laptop, iPhone, iPad) and stays in sync regardless of where I access it. Within Google Reader, I use folders to keep things organized. I have a folder for “must read” stuff like things related to clients. Then I have folders such as Marketing, News, Business, Friends and Design Inspiration. Finally, I have a cluster called Waste Time. This serves as a home for those wacky sites that I simply enjoy looking at when I want to zone out, sort of like that time spent watching TV.

A couple of things about reading blogs. First, accept that you can’t keep up and don’t feel like you have to read every post as it’s written. I block out a certain amount of time each day and read whatever I can during that time. This is where a good headline helps since I skim those first and decide what I might like to read. I will also star items when looking on my phone and come back to read those later. Second, if you find that you’re never reading posts from a certain blog or feed, just unsubscribe. Too often, I’ve hit the “mark all as read” button over and over again only to finally realize that I just don’t read that particular blog anymore. It’s fine. You can always unsubscribe and reconnect later. But don’t you dare unsubscribe from my blog.

For e-news.
I created a separate “read” email address where I direct all e-newsletters and other things I want to read later. During my morning reading time, I simply pull one or two things out that I want to read. Blog rules apply here too. If you’re always deleting e-news stuff without reading it, go unsubscribe. You can always sign up again later.

For others.
I send links, articles and other things I want to read or look at to that same “read” email address. Once I’ve read it, I will either bookmark it, save it to a job folder or simply hit delete.

Having a stack of stuff to read is nice, but only when you realize you don’t have to keep up. Most of things I read don’t expire right away. That marketing article is just as good a week from now as it is now. At the end of day, you have to find what works for you.

P.S. Another reason I love my iPad is that I can read all of the above items along with my books, Facebook and Twitter all in one place. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the iPad is the perfect device for consuming content…not that I’m trying to sell you one or anything.

Capturing inspiration when it hits.

August 6th, 2010

When I was in Denver last month, I took in a session at the HOW Design Conference. The speaker, Cameron Moll, talked about good vs. great design and shared some of his techniques for achieving greatness. For me, one the best parts of the talk was when he talked about the difference between “inspiration” and “influence.”

Influence is something you can find. For example, if you were creating a logo, you might look at another designer’s work or visit a site like LogoPond.com. By looking at other examples, you may get ideas for the logo you’re going to create. This is influence.

Inspiration, on the other hand, seems to come and go when it pleases. Inspiration is earned. For me, it’s earned by not working too hard and finding outlets that give me time to process and think. Cycling is one of the ways I earn inspiration. I know for sure that my mind works non-stop when I’m riding and that some of my best ideas come to me when I’m on the bike.

The tricky part about inspiration is capturing it when it happens. More than once, I’ve had ideas flash across my brain only to lose them. I have two methods now that I use to capture inspiration before it vanishes.

First, is a trusty Moleskine sketchbook. I carry mine just about everywhere and I always sketch or jot ideas as they come.

My second and favorite new method for recording inspiration is a brilliant application called EverNote. I have the app installed on my computer, iPhone and iPad. It also works online. The best feature of EverNote is that it syncs whenever any of my devices connect to the Internet. I love love love EverNote. I’m using it now for all sorts of things.

Ultimately, you have to find the system that works for you. But I believe that the more time we spend doing things we love and taking time to rest and exercise, the more inspired we will be. Just don’t forget to jot it down before it’s gone.

I want you to meet blank

June 29th, 2010

One of our “intangibles” (as Tim Sanders calls it in “Love Is The Killer App”) is our network. He talks about sharing our network openly, about how we sometimes grow our network for the sake of others. It’s similar to my belief that we read books for the sake of others, I prescribe them like a doctor would medication; a “read this and call me in the morning” sort of thing.

When it comes to connecting people in your network, the old school of thought is that you maintain the middle man position and see what you can get out of it. I think brokering a product can be a good business model, but brokering relationships can get sticky and make you come across as selfish. I believe that if we support the success of others, it will come back around. Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” So true.

So, what is the best way to connect people? Well, face-to-face is the most personal approach, but also the most time-consuming. That’s why I love email for this purpose. It’s the quick and perfect way to connect people. Here’s how to share the love amongst members of your network:

1. Send one email to both versus sending separate emails. It takes less time and gets you out of the way sooner.

2. Include a little blurb about each person, perhaps how you met or brag about a project you did together or a service they provided. It’s your stamp of approval.

3. Include both parties contact info so they can connect. I like name, email and a phone number. If they have a website, that’s a good tidbit of info to provide too.

4. Finally, preface that you just wanted them to meet and encourage them to connect. This shows that you are thinking about both parties and shows your value as a “connector.”

I find this to be a very efficient way to connect others and grow the overall value of our networks. Remember, all ships rise with the tide.

Piles and piles of mail

June 15th, 2010

It’s kind of sad how much mail that belongs in the trash we get every day. It seems like a complete waste of paper and energy. I, like most marketers, have thoughts about how one could increase their return with fewer pieces, but that’s a post for another day.

Today, I want to share a little organizational tip for the less-than-organized set. One that will ensure that a pile of mail is not wasting space on our desks. Here’s how I approach my mail:

1. Take advantage of digital options such as bill pay, online payments and automatic withdrawal.

2. Have a system for what to do with things like bills and notices that come to the office. I have a green “accounting box” where I stash such mail. Once a week, I pull out that box and deal with its contents.

3. Finally, clean the mail. Don’t let the whole pile of mail as you pulled it out of the box make it to your desk. I open my mail downstairs at the office and only let the couple of important pieces make it upstairs. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with piles and piles of those supermarket newspapers.

photo credit TheeErin

Stop writing on envelopes

May 20th, 2010

My desk used to be filled with places to take notes. I would write things on the corners of envelopes, on Post-its and any other scrap of paper I could get my hands on. Well, as you can imagine, things would go missing and suddenly I would be freaking out about losing that important email address or phone number.

My solution, and one that I’ve been practicing for a few years now: Don’t give yourself the option. I now only keep a single Moleskine book on my desk. This serves as a single location for notes, ideas, sketches, etc. This book travels with me to meetings and important events. I basically just keep this and the digital notes on my iPhone. That is all.

Now some will say, “What if you lose that book?”. Point taken, and it would be a bummer for sure. But first of all, I was losing notes all the time before I had the book. So what would be the difference? Second, is perceived value. My one Moleskine is very valuable to me. I am very aware of its value and, as a result, take great care in where I leave it.

I won’t get into the system of how I keep notes since that might reveal how truly OCD organized I am. Nor will I talk about buying these books by the case so that I can ensure my books remain the same over the years. OCD, I know.

Find a single place to keep notes and rid your desk of other clutter. Find the system that works for you. And no, I don’t think random scraps of paper is a system.

(photo of my desk above)

The email peek-a-boo

May 17th, 2010

I was away camping in Joshua Tree recently and it took everything I had not to check email while I was away. We’ve all done it; we set the vacation message saying that we’ll be back Tuesday and then we get into our trip. But not too long after, we start looking at email on our phones just to see what’s transpiring while we are away. The unspoken truth: It’s not like we are going to be able to do anything about those emails anyway. SHUT OFF THE PHONE.

What I realized on my recent trip is that I probably check email for my own benefit as much as for the sender’s. Sure, we want to respond and help those that have sent over requests while we’re away, but I also think we get some sort of hit off it all. Some sort of sick endorphin rush from the fact that someone actually needs something from us – a response, an idea – and they need it right now on the day we told everyone we would be away. The truth that I learned on this trip: “IT CAN WAIT!” The world does not come to an end while you’re away for a couple days; people figure things out or they just wait.

On the road back to OC, I told myself that I’m not going to check email on my phone; I’m not going to check it when I get home. Instead, I’m going to unplug, play with my kids, go for a bike ride with the family and check it tomorrow morning when I’m back in the office and can actually do something about it. The result? Absolute clarity and I’m recharged from a couple days away.

So, quit playing peek-a-boo with your email. Don’t read the first few lines on vacation only to then wait until you get back and draft a response. Take a couple days without looking at it. Trust me; the world won’t end.