For some time now there’s been one aspect of my work that has really frustrated me and I thought, why keep moaning about it? Much Better to write a blog post on the subject!
So here goes…
In my capacity as a VA, I have to carry out tasks for a range of clients situated all over the globe. That means working with individuals who are often in a different time zone to me, which can sometimes make communication that bit trickier.
Of course, modern technology has enabled me to work remotely on a full-time basis and I have plenty of tools to help me communicate effectively and efficiently. However, despite all this connectivity and all these communication channels, I hate it when I have to bother my clients unnecessarily – especially if it’s to ask them to complete a minor security check so I can carry on with my work.
You see, I often have to login to online systems and applications using the accounts of my clients and while this approach means I can happily and efficiently carry out my duties, it can also throw a spanner in the works when a security check pops up.
I have a list of applications and online services that do this, but the ones that immediately come to mind are Mailchimp, Hootsuite and LinkedIn.
For example, I was using Mailchimp the other day to create and schedule a newsletter for one of my clients. This is something I do on a regular basis and usually have zero trouble with. However, on that particular day Mailchimp decided that it would prompt me to setup some security questions – literally out of the blue and wouldn’t grant me access until I had.
I had to contact my client and get them to login to their Mailchimp account, setup the security questions and then give me the relevant information for future use. While this wasn’t really an issue, it still wasted some time (which I hate being a VA) and could have led to further delays had I not been able to contact my client immediately.
Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely all for security and when you think how many cyber-attacks and hacking incidents were witnessed last year alone – a record number by the way – you realise just how careful we have to be online nowadays.
What I’m proposing is a way for the primary account holder to appoint another individual to utilise their account on their behalf. The account would still obviously be owned by my client and I would effectively be using it in a kind of ghost capacity. Every account management decision, every payment requirement and every personal information update would still be up to my client, but the day-to-day stuff I could just happily get on with.
Location-based security checks are fantastic and undoubtedly add another vital layer of security to the whole process. But when you’ve got a few minutes to input a code that has been sent via a text message to your client and the two of you aren’t in direct communication at that moment, frustration isn’t the word.
Then begins the logistical nightmare of trying to get another code sent; your client to read the message; and pass the contents on to you before the short time window expires. Furthermore, the fact that these kinds of security check seemingly appear at random makes the chances of me catching my client at the right time even slimmer.
By providing a way to fully secure accounts and add users ad-hoc, companies will certainly make my life easier and reduce the need for me to bother my clients whenever a security check decides to appear.
My fear is that the situation at present doesn’t lend itself particularly well to outsourcing and as a result companies may be less reluctant to do it going forward. We now live in a world built on global outsourcing, remote working and effective collaboration, but if the systems and applications we utilise don’t enable us to operate unhindered, what could the future potentially hold?
In my role as a virtual assistant, I’m constantly looking for ways to boost productivity – both for myself and for my clients. And while productivity is hugely influenced by psychological factors, such as mindset, mood and motivation to name but a few, there is also a plethora of tools available to help us be the most productive versions of ourselves.
But using tools to boost productivity isn’t new and it’s certainly not revolutionary. After all, we’ve been using tools to make our lives easier and increase our efficiency since the Stone Age. Therefore, it stands to reason that the ubiquity of the internet would lead to the development of countless productivity tools.
On a day-to-day basis I use loads of different tools and applications to help me with my work. Everything from Skype for communicating with clients to Evernote for capturing all of my thoughts and sharing ideas. However, whilst these two applications are extremely useful, they didn’t make my top 5 productivity-boosting tools list.
Let’s see what did…
Without Asana, my days would be an absolute nightmare. Sure there are numerous other applications out there that help manage workloads, but I’ve found Asana to be the best. Their slogan says it all, “Teamwork without email” and that’s exactly my experience with it.
I use Asana for keeping track of every piece of work that I do for my clients. Every outstanding task is created and a due date entered. The way everything is managed is just perfect as the tasks are all grouped by client and you can see a general overview of your schedule with the calendar feature.
I’m able to create separate workspaces for everyone I collaborate with, like my writers, virtual assistants, eBook formatters and graphic designers. Asana even gives me the ability to chat with them and see real-time task updates.
Get Started in Asana from Asana on Vimeo.
I honestly can’t imagine what my working life would be like nowadays without Dropbox. I use it for absolutely everything in terms of file management and sharing. And the fact that it synchronises silently in the background means I am never stuck without my files wherever I am.
The beauty of Dropbox is that it not only provides a cloud storage solution for everyday people like you and I but it also allows files to be shared effortlessly. For example, if I have a new brief for one of my writers I simply drop it into the relevant Dropbox folder on my computer and it takes care of the rest. The files are sync’d in the background and ultimately end up on my writer’s computer.
Hootsuite is my one stop shop for everything social media related and my life would be a whole lot more complicated without it.
Basically, Hootsuite allows you to manage all your Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn (and many more) activity in one centralised interface. Perhaps its most useful feature is the ability to schedule messages and updates. You can rack up a significant amount of updates and let Hootsuite do the rest.
Moreover, there are analytical tools to let you see which of your campaigns are working and there’s even a clock that tells you how much time you’re saving by using Hootsuite – priceless!
Find yourself regularly checking the major social networks for updates that are relevant to you and your clients? Most of us do but a lot of time can be wasted trawling through page after page of irrelevant content.
Feedly, however, allows me to check all of my regular sources of news in one centralised application. I can configure all of the sources I want to glean information from in one place and peruse a simplified version of all of them.
If any of you are still waking up each morning and checking a variety of online sources for updates then you are wasting both time and energy. Simply add your favourite news sources to Feedly and let it do the rest – you’ll be glad you did!
Okay, so the name sounds bizarre and the URL even stranger but If This Then That is one of my biggest time savers.
It’s difficult to explain but anyone who’s familiar using it will understand the benefits and the name really does say it all: If This Then That.
The basic premise is that you can configure IFTTT to handle numerous scenarios for you automatically and trigger certain actions. For example, your social media channels, like Facebook and LinkedIn, can have triggers associated to them. When something happens on one of these channels that satisfies your configured trigger criteria something else happens.
It all sounds very confusing, but once you get used to it you will realise its true value. For example, you can configure IFTTT to automatically create a status message on Facebook every time you are tagged in someone else’s status.
That’s a very simple example but the possibilities are almost endless. Check it out for yourself to see its full potential.
So that’s my top 5 tools for boosting productivity. I’d love to hear if you’ve got any others that you use and the reasons why you use them.
I have tried them all, or it feels as though I have tried them all. I have been looking for such a long time for a monitoring tool, desktop or web-based which I can use to monitor all my social media accounts, in particular Twitter.
I don’t have a lot of followers/friends but I do like to keep up with mentions and retweets and I need something which will show me ALL of these, not just a selection. I have had various problems with all of the applications I have tried, they each have their own different issues.
Before I mention all the ones I have tried, I want to let you know the things I need this tool to do:
- The ability to post a tweet
- The ability to see ALL mentions and reply to them
- The ability to see ALL retweets and reply to them
- A keyword search where I can easily respond to tweets and follow new people
It’s not a long list is it? So why can’t I find a tool which does all this? Even Twitter itself sometimes doesn’t show me all retweets and mentions.
In no particular order, here are the tools I have tried and failed to get what I want from them.
I liked Tweetdeck but it didn’t show me all my mentions and retweets. I’d get a notification on my iPhone Twitter app but nothing would show up in Tweetdeck. I would have probably stuck with that if I hadn’t been recommended something else, and it hadn’t crashed so much, locking me out of my account and generally failing me on a daily basis. I’ve not attempted to use Tweetdeck on my Mac, I might give it a try as I liked the set-up.
I was recommended Pluggio via Twitter when I was tweeting about how useless Tweetdeck had become. I like Pluggio, I like the interface and the ability to reply to retweets all at once. Say 10 people retweet the same tweet over the course of it’s life, I can hit reply and thank those 10 people all at the same time (as long as it fits into 140 characters). I still use Pluggio mainly for this feature. But again, some of the mentions and retweets are missing – although out of all of the tools, this has to be the least frustrating. I also like their Dripfeed function, in fact while writing this piece I realise that so far this is the best of a bad bunch.
I did an interview with Pluggio about my business, it was called Need Help Running Your Business? Jo Talks About Being a Virtual Assistant, and What She Can Do For You, in case you’d like to read it.
Again I like Bottlenose, there are lots of features on their but like the others, mentions and retweets get lost. I also find the interface slightly too busy and often even when marking everything as read it reverts back to unread so it’s difficult to keep track of the tweets you’ve seen/not seen. The main issue for me with this is it’s not easy to see retweets, you have to look in Notifications which is full up of people following you and favouriting tweets. I would recommend using this for the other features, but not for 100% monitoring of your Twitter account.
This is the most recent tool I have tried, and I had high hopes for it. I noticed quite a few Twitter users were using it while analysing my followers in SocialBro. I signed up for free and started to use it as I would any other monitoring tool. I soon realised I couldn’t respond to retweets to say thank you. I could see the retweets but there was no way of replying to the users that so kindly retweeted my post. This is a major downside of using GrabInbox. The notifications for new mentions and messages is good, but without the ability to reply to retweets is a definite reason for me to stop using it immediately!
Nimble is slightly different because it’s technically a Social Relationship Manager (Social cRM) and I signed up to this because I was looking for a way of keeping all my contacts in one place. The added bonus was I could track them on social networks and keep up to date with mentions and retweets. It was great, but again some of the mentions and retweets wouldn’t show up. I always had to have Twitter open to double check I was catching all the mentions. In fact with most of these tools I always have Twitter open to double check. If you’re looking for a Social cRM this is great and I wish I had the time to put into it as I am sure it would have proved more valuable for my business. It’s something I might go back to using eventually.
Even the app on my iMac doesn’t show me retweets, for mentions it’s great but for anything else it’s rather lacking.
I use SocialOomph for automation and scheduling, I find the monitoring side of things ok but certainly not on a par with live updates from the other tools I have used.
It’s a mobile app, so although I like using this on my iPhone, when I’m at my desk I don’t want to be sat on my iPhone monitoring my account, I want a nice desktop or web app to fill the screen of my lovely shiny iMac! But I would definitely recommend this for mobile users.
I signed up to Hootsuite for automation purposes and didn’t find it as user friendly as others I had used, so I didn’t really test this out for purposes of monitoring my Twitter account. If anyone has any good experiences with Hootsuite then please let me know in the comments.
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I think I have managed to mention all the tools I have tried, although I have feeling I have missed a few… it feels as though I have tested hundreds, not just a handful. I will keep searching for that elusive tool that does the four things I need 100% of the time, but until then please tell me in the comments what you use and what problems you’ve encountered? And if you have found a tool that shows ALL mentions and retweets, please let me know!
If you’re looking for a tool to analyse your Twitter account, check out another of my post’s 5 Ways to Analyse Twitter with SocialBro.