This weekend is the Independence Day 4th of July holiday here in the U.S., which for many people means a three-day weekend. I’ll even be taking tomorrow off, and I almost never get days off, since my boss is a complete workaholic who thinks days off are for the weak. Oh wait, that workaholic tyrant is me, since I get to set my own freelance schedule. Some of us aren’t good at taking days off, so I have a few tips for making it through the holiday. Read more »
As a freelancer, I spend most of my time trying to manage information overload. However, despite this obsession with efficiently gathering information, there are also times when I actively seek out that overload. While a fire hose of notifications and feeds can be too distracting when I am working on client work, if I am looking for inspiration, I want to see as much information as possible in the hope that something will catch my eye and provide the inspiration that I need to kick start a new blog post or some other effort.
Here are a few of my favorite tools for embracing information overload. Read more »
I use a lot of Google’s applications to stay organized and productive, but I’m especially fond of Gmail. In its standard form, it’s a fine email client that makes it easy to stay on top of that mountain of email, but with a little customization you can use it to become even more efficient. Here are six super ways to send Gmail into productivity overdrive.
#1: Use super stars.
You know how Gmail has the standard Gmail star? Now you can make it a super star! Enable Superstars within Labs under Settings. Once enabled, you can select the super stars you’d like to use by dragging and dropping them within the General tab under Settings.
Here are a few examples of how I use super stars.
I use the red and yellow exclamation points to mark items that (a) are work-related and (b) require some action on my part (red indicates something more pressing than yellow). I use the purple question mark for pending payments, deposits, and other things I’m waiting for.
#2: Use search.
I don’t really use folders (or labels) in Gmail, only because the search functionality is so easy to use. If I need to find something related to a particular client, I just type the client’s name and find it that way.
The advanced search functionality allows you to search within a date range (say within a month of a particular date), so finding a particular email is generally pretty easy and requires a lot less upkeep than folders (unless you set up filters to maintain this for you).
The best tip for searching is to use very specific search terms. If you can remember a particular phrase, name, or keyword that was used and the approximate date it was emailed (say the month of June), you’ll reduce your search results tremendously, making it even faster to locate information. Read more »
Slowly but surely, push notification apps are trickling into the App Store, as you can see from this handy little list by AppAdvice.com. Some of them are less than impressive, since they offer strange niche functions that I could never picture myself actually using. Beejive IM […] Read more »
I’ll admit, I haven’t always tracked my time when it comes to my clients and their projects. Although I always knew roughly how long things took me to complete, until recently, I never kept up with a more detailed view of my time.
The longer I continue this practice, the more I’m coming to appreciate it.
Here’s why it pays to track.
#1 It helps with finding the “time sucks.”
You might realize after tracking your time for a while that certain types of projects are less profitable than others. For instance, if you’re a ghostwriter, you might make considerably more writing blog entries than in-depth white papers. If so, you can adjust your pricing or service offerings to compensate for the difference.
You might also find that a particular client is more demanding on your time than other clients, and as a result, you might decide to drop him, charge him more going forward, or change your methods for working with him in order to be more efficient.
#2 It helps with staying on track.
I currently have a very specific goal to keep me on track – work four paid hours per day. I can quickly glance at my time sheet for a given day and see if I’m anywhere near that goal. If I’m not, I know I need to concentrate on acquiring new projects.
The more consistent you can be about hitting your own daily goal, the more consistent your income and work load will be. Read more »
From time to time, a lone teleworker finds herself working with a team. This could be at the request of the client, or simply because a certain project demands it. In these cases, a strong team dynamic is needed to make the project a success. The […] Read more »
I’m a compulsive digital fiddler. Not often, but it happens. Sometimes I get so intimidated by work that I end up procrastinating online. I started my workday at 6 a.m. last Monday hoping to get the week off to a good start, but I found myself […] Read more »
I can always tell when I’m just putting out fires (moving from one “urgent urgency” to the next).
“What? A client needs help with an über pressing concern, and it has to be handled right now or his website will explode? I’ll get on that right away!”
“What, Ms. Prospective Client, you have the ultimate web project, but you need a quote within the hour? No problem.”
It starts with checking email first thing in the morning. Open, read, react, and an hour later, reply. Open, read, react, and an hour later, reply.
On and on it goes, until it’s two o’clock and not one smidgen of paid work has been done, or if it has, it’s been done in a haphazard way, usually at the client’s demand instead of using my own tried-and-true schedule and system.
By the end of the day, I’m zapped and feel like a heel for allowing my work to control me instead of the other way around.
There has to be a better way, and you know there is. Read more »
Last Wednesday I woke up to find that my Internet connection wasn’t working. While I have an alternative 3G connection, I get charged by the half-hour so being perpetually connected though it wasn’t an option. Working this way was extremely frustrating at first, and it made me realize how dependent I am on the Internet.
But after the initial adjustment, I found that I was actually more productive when I wasn’t connected to the Internet. This happens every time my connection goes out, which is more often than I’d like. If this is the case, maybe I should consciously disconnect myself from time to time? Especially since many other bloggers have recommended it. Read more »
We freelance web workers multitask like it was going out of style. Question is, is it actually going out of style? Some people think so, and they look to singletasking as the next trend in how we work.
Singletasking is just what it sounds like: Approaching and tackling one task at a time sequentially instead of trying to do a whole bunch of things at once, as has become de rigeur in our modern multitasking age. If you’re like me, the thought is probably at least a little refreshing, and maybe more than a little appealing right off the bat. Read more »
The week may be drawing to a close, but here at TheAppleBlog we’ve got an array of apps to get your through the weekend. As ever, I’ve got four notable new iPhone releases from the App Store to tell you about. Before we jump into the […] Read more »
It’s a familiar scenario for web workers — you’re desperately trying to get through your work before the end of the day but by mid-afternoon you’re feeling lethargic, low on energy and craving a snack to help you get through the afternoon. Sugary snacks and junk […] Read more »
[appreview] title=Quick Voice Pro image=http://gigapple.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/appicon_quick_voice_pro2.png price=$0.99 url=http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=285877935&mt=8 rating=bronze [/appreview] By converting your voice messages into text e-mails, Quick Voice Pro could be a time-saving boon for busy iPhone owners. Empowered by our emails, tweets, IM conversations, and blogs, we’ve become modern-day information conduits. We collect knowledge, […] Read more »
Sitting here scanning my email, I shake my head at the worthless information I see in many “From” and “Subject” lines. Not only do the poor choices I see make it harder to figure out what’s in the emails without opening them, but also the senders are risking the recipients skipping their messages altogether.
The following are examples of what not to do. Read more »
Recently, I attended a Barcamp for web workers, where I popped in and out of two groups discussing Getting Things Done (GTD). There was a beginners’ group, and one they called “Kung Fu GTD,” for the hardcore efficiency crowd. Despite not being a GTD user myself, […] Read more »
What do changing your socks, wearing bright colors, flirting and sniffing citrus have in common? Answer: they’re all simple steps you can take to boost your daily energy. Productivity and organization blog Zen Habits has posted a great list of 55 ways to boost your energy […] Read more »
In an effort to drive sales and fight piracy, Fox will release the full seventh season of 24 on DVD and Blu-ray as soon as the season finale airs tonight, reports the New York Times. The unprecedented timeline is a bit of an experiment. Given the […] Read more »
In the web world, we tend to associate the word “agile” with software development, but in this ever-changing world, it’s not a bad idea to apply the basic principles of agility to our busy professional lives. Does this mean you have to be some kind of […] Read more »
It’s Friday! It’s 4:50 p.m.! You’re about to kick back and breathe a sigh of relief, happy to forget about work for the next 48 hours…
Wait a second. Before you escape into the blissful freedom of the weekend, take a few minutes to prep things for next week. I know it may sound crazy right now, when you’re about to shut down the lappy and start up those Friday night plans. But you’ve still got 10 minutes before you wind up for the day — why not spend them productively? Spend a little time getting organised now, and you’ll be thanking me come Monday morning… Read more »
We love the idea of streaming video over the Internet directly on our television sets. The issue is, when you stream video to your house, you open yourself up to problems you don’t get when you pop a DVD into your player. It doesn’t take Sherlock […] Read more »
Around 94 percent of all email is classified as spam. In 2005, Americans threw away around 5.8 million tons of junk mail. Fortunately, we can take steps to avoid both junk mail and spam email.
But what about the gray area? I’m referring to low-quality messages: those emails, tweets and messages that aren’t exactly spam, but aren’t ham either. If you spend too long dealing with unsolicited press releases, “Please Digg this!” emails, forwarded jokes and the like, you will know what I mean.
There may not be an automatic filter you can apply to these types of low-quality messages, but there are ways you can reduce the time and effort you spend on them. Read more »
iPhone OS, from its very first version to the current 2.2.1, lacks certain features that many users typically expect in a smartphone. Jailbreaking arose largely to address those shortcomings. With iPhone OS 3.0, Apple has made the first of what will surely be many waves to […] Read more »
You can work from anywhere, but sometimes you need to access apps or files living on your desktop machine. And not all web workers (my brother, for one) likes the idea of their information floating around in the cloud. I’m InTouch offers an easy-to-use solution that […] Read more »
I’ve done many posts on this blog about tools and techniques to proactively have information pushed to you via monitoring techniques, dashboards, RSS filtering, smart Twitter clients and more. However, I haven’t really spent much time on research methods for those times when you are seeking information rather than waiting for it to come to you. Most web workers spend at least some of their day doing research for blog posts, client work, or to learn something new, so I wanted to share a couple of my research techniques. Read more »
Working from home and feeling distracted? It’s no wonder. When you’re “at work,” you’re surrounded by work: your cubicle, your colleagues, the photocopier. But when you’re working from home, surrounded by life and all the things that are important to you, you need to remind yourself […] Read more »
The folks behind Quickoffice have announced a version for the iPhone will be available in a few weeks for $19.99. Quickoffice for iPhone will allow editing of MS Word documents and Excel spreadsheets on the phone. Users of Quickoffice will be able to perform advanced formatting […] Read more »
It seems like it was only yesterday that Apple hosted their first-quarter 2009 financials conference call, but it was actually almost three months ago (hence why they’re called “quarterly”). Apple revealed the date for their upcoming second-quarter call today, which is set to take place April […] Read more »
LAPTOP Magazine knows netbooks. They see every single netbook that comes down the pike and quite a few that don’t even make it to the U.S. An article they’ve published looks at the possibility that we may see netbooks running Palm’s WebOS and I have to […] Read more »
I am in a constant state of “meeting avoidance mode,” especially for those meeting requests that don’t directly relate to revenue generation. However, I just finished an interesting IM conversation with a friend of mine. It went something like this: Him: “What are you doing on […] Read more »
Last week, I wrote about dealing with the typical home office distractions like loud neighbors, household chores, family members and more by using a few techniques: music, embracing the chaos, and relocation. This week, I’m dealing with a different type of distraction. While I work out […] Read more »
Gmail Labs has been busy lately, it would seem, and has introduced a number of new features for the web-based email service that have me, once again, considering going back to it (I generally use my MobileMe account, because it allows me to sync across my […] Read more »
[appreview] title=Streaks image=http://gigapple.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/picture-111.png price=$2.99 url=http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=298996512&mt=8 rating=silver [/appreview] A calendar specifically designed for tracking your goals, Streaks aims to join the pantheon of excellent iPhone productivity apps. Both the touch and the iPhone, the latter in particular, are ideal platforms for productivity tools. The connected nature of […] Read more »
As I sit here working on blog posts, I can hear my next door neighbor carry on loudly through the wall of my office. He seems to be alternating between mowing the lawn, making very loud whooping noises, and fixing his car. Needless to say, it can be pretty distracting.
Kids are a distraction for many of my friends, and while I’ve avoided that particular distraction, I have plenty of my own. Loud neighbors, a significant other who is also a web worker, household chores, Twitter and many other things pull me out of the zone and into a distracted state.
I have a few ways of dealing with distractions and the reduced productivity that come with them. Read more »
Butch Trucks, one of the original members of the Allman Brothers Band, may seem like an unlikely candidate to reinvent the world of online music. But that’s what he hopes to do with Moogis.com, an online music community he founded that offers high-def streaming of live […] Read more »
Tuesday marked the official day of reveal for the upcoming iPhone 3.0 firmware and SDK update. Those of you without iPhones probably aren’t quite as interested as those of us who do have them, but there are enough changes to make at least a few converts, I’m guessing. And while the changes are just generally cool, they provide some really solid web working benefits as well. As an Apple Developer Program member, I recently got my hands on the OS 3.0 beta (it won’t be released to the public until the summer); I can already tell it’ll significantly affect how I go about doing my work. Read more »
If you are a designer, then you know the joy of having thousands and thousands of fonts available to use in your projects. You probably are also familiar with the despair of waiting for apps to launch, font menus to draw, and the horror of kernel […] Read more »
Atom.com is moving from its headquarters in San Francisco to relocate to Los Angeles, employees were told via an internal memo today. Of roughly 22 employees, all but two have been invited to move down with the company. It will be a phased move that will […] Read more »
“What’s your workday like?” Whenever a cubicle-dwelling friend asks me this question, they seem to think that my answer will be representative of what a freelancer’s typical day is like. I often start my answer with “It depends.” Lately, I realized that I didn’t even know how my colleagues would answer this question since we never see each other. I had no idea if we were working on the same project in the same way, or if there were differences in our schedules, apart from the time zones.
This made me wonder: how do most freelancers schedule their day? Do they have a fixed routine? Is there a common element in the way we structure our work days? I decided to ask around and see what other freelancers have to say. Read more »
YouTube is the reigning king of the online video world, especially in the U.S., and it’s branched out into the search domain to knock off Yahoo as the second-most popular U.S. search engine. Recently, I’ve become convinced that the site could make itself even more useful […] Read more »
We’d like to say thanks to this month’s jkOnTheRun sponsors. WunderRadio: WunderRadio plays thousands of streaming Internet radio stations and other audio streams Mozy: Backup your photos, music, and files with Mozy for as low as $4.34 per month. Read more »