One of my heroes of the seminal business workflow books is Tim Ferris, author of the infamous Four Hour working week.
When I first read his book 3 years ago the world was not as social media saturated as it is now – no Google+, Twitter was a mere babe in arms, and the blogosphere was a teenager as opposed to fully blown mid-life crisis material.
I loved the ‘design your life and outsource it’ concept on which Ferris has based his business model. Although the extent of the myriad outsourcing methods and the labyrinthine maze of methods are too far-fetched for my particular wants and needs, there is some food for thought there. I am similarly inspired by REWORK, the book by the guys behind 37 Signals, whose insights to running a global company with remote workers in the über connected age are just a pleasure to read, absorb and ignite a creative personal reaction.
We all want to work less and live more, of course. We can’t all (yet) “do a Ferris” and outsource the minutiae, and some of us may not want to, but we can minimise the slurry of media onslaughts and make life a lot clearer, more efficient, and a lot more fun.
Here are my top tips to work sanity and workflow:
1) Embrace Skype and Face Time as alternatives to meetings.
Meetings are great, and I am a social butterfly who thrives on Actual Human Interaction, but meetings are often a big black hole. Unless you really need to meet, it’s a million times easier to Skype and enjoy a chat face to face than sort childcare for the whole day, trek into London, pay parking, tube fares and food whilst out, and lose 8 hours in the process.
Most people now have a webcam on their computer, and Skyping or an Apple endorsed Face Time is just SO easy. There are still those who are wary of it, but I am a true advocate; I can hold many more Skype meetings in one day than I can face to face time with associates across the country/globe, and it speeds things up immeasurably. I still book days out to meet people, as personalities can be gauged so much better in the flesh, but as a working, self employed twin mum with endometriosis Skype is truly my friend. It also makes that studio in Barcelona dream a possibility:)
2) Away find, Other In box, Boomerang and email freedom
As someone who runs 3 blogs, has my own business and a lot of friends and family, emails can get just plain ridiculous. I have been playing recently with some email workflow add-ons to help streamline that mess of an in-box.
I use WiseStamp signatures as RSS footers which link to my online Gcal (also synced to my iCal, of course!) with available slots to meet in Cambridge or London available to book. This saves the back and forth “when are you free” email clutters, a lot of time saved.
Boomerang is a Gmail plugin that allows emails to be sent at a later, specified time. Really useful if you have finished a job but want to send a little later to allow some breathing space before the feedback comes in. Other in Box is a really clever add on that files your emails intuitively and sends you a daily report. It actually learns where you file certain correspondance by keyword and sender, so the all important inbox looks clearer. I keep my PR emails for reviews and events in one place, client emails all filed under their respective names, and folders for social media updates to read, family, shopping, accounts and so on.
Away Find is an app which you can set to alert you by text on your mobile if an important email has come in, to prevent constantly checking your inbox and being drawn in by other requests. Just finding some space and time away from email can be really liberating, and helps to stay on top of urgent communications. I have been using Away find for a few weeks and am finding my way with it, but it’s definitely handy.
3) Co-tweet and scheduled tweets
Scheduling tweets when I am away from the office/technology and want to still make a blog post known or have real time presence commenting on an event is so handy. I don’t so this often to avoid sounding like a robot, but on occasion it is a really useful addition to the workflow toolbox. I use Cotweet but Hootsuite and others also allow for future scheduling. Hoot hoot!
I am a mindmap addict, I admit it. My brain works in a non-linear way and I need to be able to link ideas, colour things up and just go wild in a spider diagram – I love it! I use Mindmeister, which is a brillaint piece of kit for both solo and group brainstorming. It has given me a lot of geek pleasure recently to be online with people I work with mindmapping in real time from different locations on a variety of group projects. Apparently I display typical Virgo tendencies…who am I to argue.
5) Going techno-free
I have been reconnecting recently with the old school methods of pen an ink and having a lap with no laptop. It’s quite nice, try it. I have been purposefully switching off from social media for chunks of time to read,listen to music, maybe speak to Papa Diva from time to time, and enjoy a less cluttered mind. I have re-discovered the joys of a brain book, a lovely notebook into which I scrawl thoughts and ideas, lists etc before going back to the technology. I found that by being bound to my iPhone or Mac to make my lists meant I was always getting drawn back in to Twitter and the constant flow of STUFF.
Time out, nice pens, it’s all good. You won’t miss much, remember emails are being filed for you now and tweets sent already. Relaaaaax.
I have a raft of other methods and technologies I tinker with but my top 5 is a nice little starter in designing a way of working to reclaim some life (that 3-D thing away from the screens).
Automate, go old school, unplug and enjoy.
How do you use apps and technology yo help your e inbox and social media? Do you find switching off is hard to do?