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.
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.
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:
- Monitor your emails and only send you those that need personal attention. You should set up another email account such as firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.