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4 Tech Tips to Keep Ahead of the Game for New Entrepreneurs

4 Tech Tips to Keep Ahead of the Game for New Entrepreneurs

    Thinking about starting a business or trying to make some cash out of the web? Technology can enable people and it can just as easily distract. We’ve got a few tips for you to consider to cut down on those distractions and costs and get more done, more efficiently and more effectively.

    These tips all center on one thing: technology, whether it involves a specific device or just the way you use tech, computers and the internet in general. Enjoy.

    Save time with Skype

    It’s becoming increasingly common advice: swap an expensive phone plan for a cheap – or free, if you do things right – Skype solution. And it’s true. You can save a whole heck of a lot of money thanks to Skype and solutions like it.

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    But while most people are talking about the money you can save, I think there’s something better for entrepreneurs to get out of Skype. The combination of instant messaging and VoIP allows you to control your communication methods better than any old phone line. Can’t or don’t want to take a call? It’s certainly not worth breaking your concentration if you’re on a roll.

    With Skype you can divert incoming calls to instant messaging and deal with requests and questions at a time of your own choosing. Corresponding via text allows you to focus on a main task while you take their message. But for those who prefer to talk by voice, deferring the call is still a good idea.

    Most calls take a while to get to the point; time that, even if minute from a perspective of quantification, is taking your mind further from the tasks and issues that you need to deal with. Shifting the mental gears is a time-expensive task. Filtering calls through instant messaging means the pretext for the call has been set and you can get right to the point and back to work.

    I personally prefer to communicate via text because it’s swift and doesn’t use as much attention quota.

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    Install a GPS Unit

    Install a GPS unit in your car or grab a PDA phone that has this handy technology built in. If you go the PDA route, make sure you get a mount for it installed in the car you’re most likely to use for business purposes. When you’re starting a business, you want – need – to deliver the best impression for potential, more established business partners. While being punctual is just something that all people need to do no matter what their level of experience or degree of establishment is, you don’t have a reputation to precede you and need to go the extra mile to develop one.

    By using GPS you guarantee that you won’t get lost, late and end up irking the other party, or even having the meeting canceled. Any technology that enables you to respect the time of others as fiercely as you defend your own is a good one.

    Get a Virtual Assistant

    So hiring a VA isn’t really tech, but it has the word “virtual” in it, right? The topic of virtual assistants has crawled its way into this article because you can free up hours of your time that would’ve been spent at the computer beforehand.

    Depending on who you talk to, virtual assistants can be hired from as little as $5 an hour and you can have them take care of a whole range of things:

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    • Monitor your emails and only send you those that need personal attention. You should set up another email account such as assistant@yourname.com and direct correspondence there, rather than giving anyone access to your own account.
    • Send standard form emails for you – fielding the same questions from customers, despite having a FAQ that covers them? You don’t need to cut and paste your standard “Have you checked our FAQ?” letter to them all when there’s a virtual assistant assigned to the task.
    • Research topics you need to be informed on, write or speak about.
    • Manage your calendar appointments and contacts, so that you don’t lose upwards of an hour each day just planning it.

    And there are about half a million other things you can delegate if you sit down and brainstorm the topic. This is the best investment you can make in technology – freeing up the time you have to spend with it (even if that just gives you more time to spend with it in less menial ways).

    Create a News Filter

    Keeping informed takes up huge chunks of time for some people. The most popular methods of dealing with information are the least efficient.

    The first thing you can do is see how much of the information you consume truly is important. For instance, let’s say that you’re the typical web-worker or online entrepreneur and you’ve subscribed to a whole bunch of feeds relevant to your field. You keep up with these feeds because if you don’t, you’ll miss something really important, but in between those occasional high-priority stories, how many are you consuming that aren’t important ‘just in case’ or ‘just because’ they’re there?

    Usually, the feeds you find necessary to subscribe to are simply those that are most popular and, via social proof, considered most important in your field. They may not be news-based at all. Or, they’re entirely news-based and thus conform to the 24-hour news cycle and deliver too much “news” that isn’t important and you don’t need to read about.

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    After you come to this realization it’s easier to cut down on subscriptions to only those that are strongly relevant, don’t publish with great frequency and don’t miss important news. This may mean gathering a few that sometimes overlap, but that’s better than a total overdose.

    The more technically involved way of creating a news filter via feeds is to use Yahoo! Pipes or a similar service to craft conditional feeds that only deliver entries based on a certain set of conditions. The most basic use would be to take a popular news site that covers only the most important news in a variety of fields and filter by certain keywords to extract just one field, or even better, by author where you know that he or she specifically covers one topic’s big news.

    The way you filter news is up to, and limited by your imagination (okay, and the technology), but as long as you’ve got a system in place to weed out most of the filler, you’ve used technology to reclaim a whole bunch of time.

    And a bonus tip: make liberal use of off switches. When it’s not essential that you keep your phone or computer on, do it – keep the work-life boundaries clear. This is where so many entrepreneurs go wrong; they can’t see the forest for the trees and decimate their home and personal life in pursuit of riches.

    Good luck!

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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