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2×4: An Interview With Stephen Hackett

2×4: An Interview With Stephen Hackett


    2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.

    Many of us appreciate the devices in our hand, on our laps and upon our desks. Few understand their heritage. Now heritage may seem like a strange choice of word for describing technology, but as the industry of personal computing matures, its history becomes more and more important, as do the people who truly know and understand their evolution. One such writer, a man so dedicated that he has Clarus the Dogcow tattooed on his ankle, is Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels fame. The site that is named after the number of pixels across on the original Macintosh (which boasted a 9-inch, 512×342 monochrome display for those of you who aren’t running to Wikipedia).

    Now with heritage and history often comes with an air of pomposity. Hackett has none of this. In fact, in both his writing and his various podcasts, the guy is relatable, inventing and often outright hilarious. He has the knowledge, but not the airs. His passion for technology encourages you (or at least me) to learn more about the devices I take for granted on a daily basis. If you’re at all interested in technology, journalism or design, you won’t do better than his 512 Pixels blog. Or the newly created 512 Podcast along with fellow 2×4 alum, Myke Hurley of the 70 Decibels network for that matter. His passion for knowledge also goes beyond technology and into a variety of (often unusual) topics on his podcast, Ungeniused.

    Without further ado, here’s a look at informative look at the world of Stephen Hackett.

    Creativity

    Have you always considered yourself a creative person?

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    I have. As a kid, I always was writing or sketching.

    What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate toward to realize your creative goals?

    Sometime between 7th grade Art Club and giving up on my art degree two years in to it, I thought I could become some sort of artist as a living. You know, a hip graphic designer who could draw and paint, too.

    It turns out while I am pretty handy with a Wacom tablet and Adobe software, I can’t draw or paint. Not even a little. I can, however, write. So I suppose my mediums of choice are the pixel and the written word.

    If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creations are you most proud of and why?

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    2011 marked the first time I ever really wrote a lot of personal posts on 512 Pixels. That said, I am super proud of Two Years and The Fifth Floor, which are both posts about my wrestling with the fact that my three year old has brain cancer.

    Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative enough to unlock their inner artist?

    While I’m sure most people would say “Don’t give a shit about what others think,” for me, not caring what I think is more important in many ways. I often find myself dismissing one of my own ideas before I act upon it, censoring myself. Sometimes, that can be good, but for me, it often means that I don’t do things that I probably should.

    Productivity

    Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?

    Sure. First and foremost, I’m a husband and the dad of two small kids. With our son still in and out of the hospital for various tests and things like physical therapy, we’re busier than the average 4-person family, I believe.

    From 9-5, I work for The Salvation Army as the IT/Multimedia Director for The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. The building is currently under construction, and is slated to open late this year. I oversee all of the IT, audio video and multimedia stuff. If it involves data, pixels or electricity, my department is there, ready to work.

    How do you go about balancing the personal, professional and digital?

    I get it wrong all the time. I am late to work because I can’t tear myself away from breakfast, but I check work email before bedtime. The system I outline below helps, and I’m trying to be more intentional about separating work from home.

    What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?

    I say this often: my life is in OmniFocus. I have folders for home, work and the website. Inside those folders, I have dozens of projects, with lots and lots of tasks.

    For capture, I use Field Notes notebooks. There’s always one in my back pocket. A couple times a day, I take any tasks and move them in to OmniFocus. When in the car, I use that Siri-on-the-keyboard feature to get things in to my OmniFocus Inbox without crashing my truck.

    Notes and reference information live as plain text files in Dropbox. I get to them via nvALT on my Mac and Notesy on my iPad and iPhone.

    What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?

    Something like OmniFocus isn’t going to help you get off the ground. Get some colored index cards, assign a color for work, home and other and go to town writing stuff down.

    More by this author

    2×4: An Interview with David Sparks 2×4: An Interview with Myke Hurley 2×4: An Interview With CJ Chilvers 2X4 Interviews 2×4: An Interview With Gabe Weatherhead 2×4: An Interview With Brett Kelly

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

    Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

    Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

    In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

    1. ScheduleOnce

      ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

      ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

      ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

      Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

      Available on Web

      2. Calendly

        Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

        You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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        Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

        3. Assistant.to

          For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

          From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

          While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

          Available on Web

          4. Acuityscheduling

            Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

            It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

            Available on Web | iOS | Android

            5. Pick

              Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

              At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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              Available on Web

              6. X.ai

                For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

                This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

                Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

                Available on Web

                7. YouCanBook.me

                  is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                  They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                  Available on Web

                  8. Doodle

                    Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                    It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                    You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                    While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                    Available on Web | iOS | Android

                    9. WhenAvailable

                      WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                      Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                      Available on Web

                      10. Rally

                        Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                        Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                        Available on Web

                        11. NeedtoMeet

                          Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                          NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                          While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                          Available on Web

                          Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                          In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                          To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                          Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                          A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                          Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                          If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                          Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                          With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                          The Bottom Line

                          Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                          Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                          Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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