6 Apps That Will Change the Way You Work

Even though we love to hate technology sometimes, we can’t deny that it is a wonderful thing. We’re all guilty of spending a little too much time on Facebook or Twitter and our productivity can really suffer because of that. But when used correctly, technology can be a great thing for productivity. There are so many tools and apps right at our fingertips that can really change the way we work for the better. Here are 6 of them:

Google Drive

Everyone knows about Google Drive. It’s nothing new but it’s still one of the best tools you can use for work. Save all your documents and spreadsheets in your drive so that you can open it whenever and wherever you are. You can even download the app on your phone or tablet. Whenever you make any changes, it saves them automatically so no more lost work. You can also invite other members to collaborate, which makes working and communicating with others really easy.

Skype

Instead of wasting money on a landline, take your voice or video conferencing needs to Skype. It has everything you need to communicate with others, including video capability and instant messaging. The best thing about it is that it’s free.

Evernote

Ever had a random thought or idea that you wanted to jot down? There’s an app for that! Evernote is essentially a big notebook where you can organize your ideas, attach an image, create a voice memo, or even doodle. Your desktop and mobile applications will sync so that you can access it on any device. I like to use Evernote as the repository for just about everything — a massive online filing cabinet. Fortunately, the search function is so well designed that I don’t even have to worry too much about labeling my folders to find exactly what I need every time.

Trello

If you’re a fan of a to-do list, you’ll probably like Trello. It’s kind of like a big bulletin board. You can set up different lists or notes. You can also attach images to keep things visual. One of the neat things about Trello is that you can add collaborators, write comments to each other, and assign tasks.

Basecamp

Basecamp is the ultimate collaboration and organizational tool. For a company like mine, which has team members around the country, it helps us all stay on the same page, share and collaborate on documents, set and monitor to-dos and manage projects. Best of all – it’s simple. Even on projects for which I have no team members collaborating, I use it to set my priority lists and even store documents.

SelfControl

Our phones can be really distracting. After all, phones are just phones anymore. You can do almost anything on them and the urge to check your emails or Facebook feed can be really overwhelming. If you find it hard to stop yourself from checking your phone constantly, you might need to use SelfControl. Just like it sounds, this app allows you to block certain sites for a period of time, up to 24 hours, so that the temptation to look at them isn’t there.

What is your favorite app to help you work?

4 Reasons Why We Should Embrace Telecommuting

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Whether you like it or not, telecommuting is becoming more and more popular, no matter what industry you work in. In almost any company you come across, there are employees who telecommute full time or a couple days a week. Having a virtual workforce has it’s obvious pros and cons. On one hand, you don’t get that daily face-to-face interaction that can be crucial in team building. However, on the other hand, telecommuting can save you and your employees a lot of time and lower costs as well. As we become more and more reliant on technology, we will see more employers embrace it. Here’s why you should too:

Time saver

For an average employee, commuting can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half each way. That’s up to three hours of your time wasted. Imagine what you could do if you had three extra hours every single day? Telecommuting might not be for everyone but there’s no denying that it definitely saves time. Instead of being stuck in a car or on a train (which can be miserable during rush hour), you can send those extra hours working or with your family.

Cost efficiency

Telecommuting is also cost efficient, for both employers and employees. If you are an employee, you are a saving a significant amount on travel costs, such as gas or transportation passes. You might also be able to save on other miscellaneous costs, such as child care or car maintenance. If you’re an employer, there is one big potential cost efficiency: space. You either won’t need a physical space altogether or you only require a smaller one. With all the technology that’s available today, the costs to teleconference or work remotely are minimal.

Increased productivity (if you have the right people)

One of the biggest misconceptions about telecommuting is that it reduces productivity. Many people think that employees end up sitting at home, doing anything but working. That can be true but not if you build the right team. Some people thrive working alone and are more productive that way. If you hire the right people, you can build a very effective remote team.

Increased flexibility

Companies don’t often recognize this but one of the most significant benefits to telecommuting is flexibility. The traditional 9-to-5 job is becoming less and less common. Since people are now able to virtually work from anywhere, they also want to have the flexibility to do so when they want to. Telecommuting can be beneficial to work/life balance and overall employee satisfaction.

Are you for or against telecommuting? What have been your experiences with working virtually?

Can You Differentiate Between Your Rubber Balls and Glass Balls?

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Yesterday, I attended the first session in a series of Emerging Leaders seminars hosted by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. The session was hosted by Charleston Chamber President Bryan Derreberry, and focused on overall leadership principles: What separates good leaders from great leaders? How can busy entrepreneurs improve our “margin” to be leaders at home, at work and in our communities? How can we be better leaders whether we’re high or low on the seniority totem pole at our respective companies?

One of the great stories I took away from session was told by Bryan regarding a former colleague who found herself having to choose between spending time with her ill father and having lunch with then-President Clinton. A mentor told her this: “In life we have rubber balls and we have glass balls. We can drop rubber balls. We can’t drop the glass ones. Figure out what your glass balls are and make sure you don’t drop them.”

As such, she spent a wonderful two weeks with her father and bypassed the lunch with President Clinton.

It’s a great story and goes to the heart of the importance of having core values that guide our personal and professional lives. As Bryan put it, we should come up with an “core ingredients dashboard” for our personal and professional lives. What are those core values, the core goals that are essential? The rubber balls likely won’t make it into that dashboard — but the glass balls should absolutely be included.

The session with Bryan came at a time when I’m also working with great strategic consultant Tom Leonard on putting together a strategic plan for my companies. It’s led us to refocus our vision — and we are working now to determine those core values that will guide the future of my company. These core values will help me determine the rubber from the glass balls. They will help me determine the clients I want to work with versus those that don’t fit our value system.  (We’re still in the process of finalizing these values — so I will expand on them in a future post.)

What are your core ingredients for your personal and professional lives? Can you determine the difference between the rubber balls and the glass balls?

4 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Calvin Coolidge

calvincoolidgeI’m in the middle of reading Amity Schlaes’ great biography of President Calvin Coolidge, and can’t help but thinking there are some great lessons that entrepreneurs and business owners can learn from the 30th President of the United States (who was also a vice president, Governor of Massachusetts and former state legislator and municipal official).

1. Run Lean.

“As for me, I am for economy,” Coolidge said shortly after taking the presidency and announcing a series of budget cuts. The government budget, however, was not the only place Coolidge kept a tight belt. Even as he rose to political prominence and became financially successful as a result of his law practice, the Coolidge family lived in a rental home at 19-21 Massasoit Street in Northampton, Massachusetts. As president, he closely watched and trimmed the “domestic” budget for things like housekeeping and food. As president, he was a budget hawk who worked to keep government as lean as possible (or, as lean as he could given the political situation). He focused on spending priorities in both his personal, professional and political life — and it was the key to his success.

2. Keep It Simple.

“And be brief; above all things, be brief,” then-Senate President Coolidge said in his opening address for the 1915 Massachusetts Senate. That address was remarkable for its brevity. As Schlaes writes, the very length of the speech “made his point.” The remarks “he delivered that day contained only forty-four words, powerful in their combination of form and message.” Coolidge was brief in more than just that speech. Brevity, efficiency and communicating clearly was the foundation of Coolidge’s management style. Unlike the flowery language and long speeches utilized by politicians before him, Coolidge spoke “artillery style.” He communicated his positions clearly on topics, such as one of his telegrams, which read, “League of Nations — topic closed. World Court: yes. Bonus: no. Help for disabled veterans: yes.”

He kept it simple. It enabled him to sell his policies, such as his state-of-the-art “scientific taxation” program. It also allowed him to flourish as resident (which he assumed from the vice presidency when President Warren G. Harding died) when most of the D.C. crowd expected him to fail.

3. Live Your Values.

Like his values or hate his values — Coolidge stuck closely to them. Whether it was sticking to the rule of law while the Boston unions committed violence, or remaining committed to his unprecedented program of tax cuts despite political pressure — Coolidge made clear his values and lived them.  As I mentioned above, he not only preached “economy” and budgeting, he lived it. He briefly and clearly communicated these values so that everyone knew them — and then worked to ensure those values guided his administration.

4. Let Everyone Underestimate You — Then Win.

Coolidge was somewhat of an awkward-looking kid with a quiet voice. He was not accepted to the fraternities at Amherst College, and started out with poor grades. As a politician, people consistently expected him to fail, due to his quiet nature and his looks. He didn’t like playing the social circuit or living beyond his means simply for “show”. When President Harding died and Coolidge assumed the presidency, many expected him to fail. All along the way, however, Coolidge defied expectations and won. Whether becoming an accomplished orator at Amherst and one of its most famous alumni, to succeeding as an attorney, to staring down union strikers in Boston, to becoming a successful president — Coolidge didn’t let the doubters and haters get him down. He focused on his vision, lived his values, kept it simple, ran lean — and WON.