Who needs a schedule?

I read many articles which suggest you become more disciplined, create a schedule and stick to it, or plan every hour of the day so you know exactly what you’re doing and when.  But having tried and tested these suggestions over the last year or so I have come to the conclusion that having a set schedule does not agree with me.

Stress

One of the main reasons it doesn’t agree with me is because when I write down an hour by hour schedule, if something ‘off the schedule’ happens it cascades down the rest of the days activities causing me to stress about what I should be doing, rather than actually getting on with the work in question.

© Jean Valley – Fotolia.com

For example… a few months ago I set out a day by day schedule to include the following:

  • Walking the dog
  • Checking and responding to emails
  • Client work
  • Social media
  • Power Hour

It was a pretty vague schedule, but I had put these activities within a time bracket.  So dog walking between 9.30 and 10.30 (and again between 3.30 and 4.30), and client work between 10.30 and 12.00 (and again between 2.00 and 3.30).  What happened when I got up late one morning?  I was behind before I’d even got started for the day which created stress for the rest of the day, constantly trying to catch up with my schedule.

I read this great article yesterday which gave me inspiration to write this post – 7 Ways to Be a Stress-Free Workaholic

Change of plan…

I ripped that schedule off the wall and decided to work on things when I was in the right frame of mind to work on them.  I still have to walk the dog in the morning, but if I haven’t left the house at 9.30 I’m not getting stressed about it.

For now I’ve decided to follow the workbooks by Leonie Dawson which I mentioned in my previous post Incredible Goal Setting for 2013!.  Her suggestion is to write down your 3 MIT’s (Most Important Tasks) for the day. That way, I have written down everything I need to get done each day (or month) and I can break bigger tasks down into smaller ones.  The same can be applied to client work, for example, I am currently formatting a book which requires me to insert 111 images.  It’s going to take some time, so I have broken it down into smaller chunks, rather than sitting for hours trying to get it all done in one sitting and going cross-eyed.

What I find easier than creating a schedule is working out how I can spend less time doing something.  This morning I decided to create some rules in Outlook to redirect all the newsletters I get into a folder other than the inbox.  I also decided that I would start implementing the 4 D’s for my email – Do it, Delegate it, Delete it or Defer it.  I hope this will improve my overflowing inbox!  As I just had to look up the 4 D’s to remind myself, I thought I would link to the article I found, lots of tips for email – Empty your Inbox: 4 ways to take control of your email

Here is another article from the same site as the previous one about stress – 10 Easy Ways to Get More Done

So from now on, I won’t be scheduling, I will be flying through the day as it happens but trying to make my tasks more fun and take less time.  Any tips on how I can improve on this please leave me a comment.

The 5 Applications of Christmas (I can’t live without…)

It’s that time of year again, yes, Christmas is coming and being self-employed you have to try and juggle work around family life and celebrations and try to get things finished before taking time off work.

This year, in my wisdom (not!) I decided to take a trip to the UK the week before Christmas to see family and friends. When I decided on this break I didn’t really think about the consequences for my work. I am technically taking a week off and then Christmas, so I’ve been working really hard this week to get all client work finished and to ensure that I have lots of things in place for when I’m away.

I decided that you may need some help too on how you can organise yourself before you take any time off, so I have put together a quick blog post about my top tools for keeping your stress at bay over the festive season.

Dropbox

As I work with many clients, Dropbox is really important, especially when I am not going to be in front of my computer for the next week or so. I’ve recently formatted some eBooks for clients, and they may want corrections made while I’m away. I am going to take my netbook to the UK with me, Dropbox is already installed. I have copied the necessary files to Dropbox which I may need while I’m away, so I can easily open them up and make any changes needed.  I keep some important documents in Dropbox at all times so I can easily access them. I have Dropbox installed on all my devices, even my iPhone! My websites are also backed up to Dropbox via a plugin, so wherever I am in the world I’ll have access to my website back-ups, you never know when you might need those!

Out of all the tools I recommend here, I think Dropbox has to be the most important of all. I have never had any problems with it, I now have over 7Gb of space available in my account for free which is great. I tried Google Drive with one client, and it just didn’t come close to Dropbox in terms of reliability!

Buffer

I am always recommending Buffer, it saves me so much time and when I’m away it’s a life saver. I have written a few blog posts about Buffer, so it’s probably easier if you take a look at these instead of me explaining it all over again, here are all the posts tagged as Buffer.

Just yesterday Buffer updated their web app and their iPhone app, they look great and I am off over there shortly to make sure I have enough updates in my accounts to last until I return. Check out the Buffer blog for more information about this.

SocialOomph

SocialOomph again is something I rely on heavily for my Twitter updates. I have queue reservoirs set-up which tweet out updates at set times throughout the day. I pay for this service, but again like Buffer it saves me so much time. Automation isn’t ideal for social media, but as I have stressed in many posts before this one it’s necessary to automate some of your social media updates. The kind of updates I add to my queues are blog posts, links to books I have formatted for clients and interesting tips. You have to remember that Twitter is so fast paced, that you want to spread your advice as far as possible and having it on repeat is a great way to get your voice out there. When I say repeat, I have over 200 updates in my reservoirs and only post every 1.5 hours, so it’s not going to cause repetitive updates each day.

Flipboard

Another tool that I recommend all the time. I will be using Flipboard while away from home to catch up on all the blogs I follow and then send them to my Buffer to keep it topped up. If I don’t have the time to read them then I will save them to Pocket for reading when I return home.

My Smartphone

You all know by now I have an iPhone and it goes everywhere with me. If you remember my post Smartphone Addiction: Are You? you’ll remember that I was unsure what to do when the new iPhone 5 came out. Well for those who are wondering what happened, it caused me such a headache it deserves a whole blog post of it’s own (maybe soon). I have an iPhone 5 now, it’s a French one, so have lost the ability to text my UK friends for free, but it does mean I can use 3G when I am out and about which was the most important feature. I have some 3G problems with the iPhone 5, but I am hoping these will be resolved.

Anyway, heading back to the UK means I will have to pay for roaming or not use it at all unless connected to wi-fi. This will hopefully be ok, I plan to check emails in the morning and evening when I am connected to wi-fi and then turn roaming off while I’m out. It will be interesting to see how this is going to work, but I can’t afford the roaming charges.

My iPhone has lots of apps on it which I use for business, Dropbox, Buffer, Email, PayPal, Flipboard, Skype, Evernote, Bank Account, Reminders… as well as all my social media networks.

If only I could format eBooks on my iPhone! 

If I don’t manage to post again over the Christmas period, I hope everyone has a fab time with family and friends and please come back to visit in 2013 as I have some exciting projects to launch in the New Year!

NB. Some of the links contained in this blog post are affiliate links which means if you sign-up using these link it means I may get a commission if you choose to purchase something I’ve shared with you.

Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone ~ G.B. Stern

Twitter Thanks

I have just been through my Buffer account and removed all ‘via @’s’ from the articles I am sharing with my followers.

I subscribe to many great blogs and use an automatic system which adds new blog posts directly to my Buffer. Each day I go through all the content to ensure what I am sharing is relevant to what my followers want to read.

I have been using IFTTT.com which is great, saves me so much time! In the recipe I always acknowledge where the content has come from, so the title, the link and then via @JoeBloggs

I’ve been doing this for ages, in fact right from when I started using IFTTT, but only one person has EVER said thanks for sharing their content. I try to respond to every single retweet on Twitter and I even thank the same person many times during the day if they retweet more than one of my tweets… it’s polite.

Many of these blogs that I follow often write about social media, and how you should interact with your followers/fans in their articles.  It then becomes pretty hypocritical if you don’t follow your own advice. If I ever write about something in my blog, I would always try and follow my own advice, even if I’m not 100% perfect at it, I give it a good go!

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
JFK

Do these bloggers feel that because they have a lot of followers they are exempt from having to acknowledge those people who share their content?  On average I share 2 or 3 articles per blog each week, I’d even accept a thank you once per week rather than nothing at all.

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” 
Oscar Wilde

Anyway, I will continue to share their content because it’s good but I won’t be acknowledging their Twitter handle in the tweet, in fact I have removed it from the recipes over at IFTTT.com.

I don’t normally complain on my blog, but this has been going through my mind for a few weeks and I just had to get it out there…  Is there anyone else who has experienced the same thing on Twitter? 

SEO, Social Media & Twitter all in One Post!

À bientôt tout le monde!!

I am off to the UK next week for the first time since moving to France last year, it’s not really a holiday it’s for my best friend’s hen weekend.

Being away from work for 6 days is going to be interesting, I will still have Internet access but no real time to ‘work’ or check up on my social media networks much.

I have managed to arrange my work around my trip, so all my clients are aware of me not being here but I am still quite anxious about leaving the comfort of my daily work routine.

If you saw my recent blog post Social Media Robot – Do you Automate? you’ll know that I use various third party applications to help me automate a certain amount of my updates each day on my social media networks.  I will keep these running while I’m not working (although I do need to top-up Buffer), and of course I’ll have my iPhone with me which means I can keep up with Twitter, Facebook and my Buffer account.

I’ll also be responding to emails (again on my iPhone) so really when I think about it I’ll still be here, but maybe not so much.  I don’t think my best friend will appreciate me being on my phone all weekend catching up with my followers on Twitter.

I have made the decision not to schedule any blog posts while I am in the UK, and my reason behind that is I like to share them on my various social networks manually, and I won’t be able to do that if I’m not here.

So… what I have decided to do is give you a list of some of my guest blog posts I have done over the last few months which should last you until I return.  I hope they prove useful and if you’d like to leave me some comments I’ll respond to them when I am back at my desk.


Business tips: Twitter tips for small businesses

Paris Feature – Social Media for Expat’s Living in France

Super Simple SEO For Small Business

Social Media Tools that will Save you Time!

Social Media Robot – Do you Automate?

Social Media Robot – Do you Automate?

What’s your opinion on automated updates?

Before I became busy with client work I didn’t particularly like them, mainly the automated DM’s (direct messages on Twitter). Many of them were impersonal and just filling up my Twitter inbox, but among them I would often find a nugget of information I found interesting.

I never thought I would use automation with my social media accounts and even started posting tweets saying as much.  But now I do… I use SocialOomph to control my Twitter accounts (I manage 6 accounts at present), it would be impossible for me to work full-time and manage all these accounts each day.  I would spend my days on social media and achieve nothing.

One gripe I see coming up again and again is about automated DM’s.  I admit it drives me crazy some days to receive so many messages when I follow someone new.  Which is why it took me some time to decide to go down this route myself.

Incentives

When I wrote my eBook, 3 Key Benefits of Using a Virtual Assistant, I decided to give it away to my Twitter followers as an incentive to follow me.  I was hoping that it would increase my following on Twitter but also get my company brand out there among my followers.

It’s been about 6 months now since I added “Follow me and you’ll receive the link to download my new eBook!” to my Twitter profile, and although my Twitter following is growing quite well it double over night and it’s certainly not increasing at break neck speed.  I would say only 10% of new followers actually thank me for sending them my eBook, and I would say even less actually take the time to read it.

So my thoughts on automation are gradually changing and I am wondering whether I stop automating my direct messages.   They don’t seem to be benefiting anyone (well 90% of the followers anyway) and every time I read another blog post slagging off automated DM’s I won’t feel bad for keeping mine going.

Third Party Applications

I also automate some of my tweets throughout the day, again I use SocialOomph which have queue reservoirs, I think they are great.  You need a lot of updates in a queue for it to work effectively because you don’t want the same tweets posting day after day.   You also need to update these frequently so you don’t end up with irrelevant updates posting on your behalf, that just looks unprofessional.

Buffer is my main automation on Twitter and Facebook – it spreads my updates out over the day and will post at the time when most people are likely to see the updates.  I love it and I recently upgraded my account with them which means I can have up to 50 updates in my Buffer!  The difference with Buffer though is that all the content it sends out for me each day is still chosen by me.  I will sit some evenings flicking through Flipboard (yes I still love this too!) and email my Buffer with all the great content I come across.  It saves me so much time, great content is being shared on my Twitter and Facebook profiles (all chosen by me) and I don’t have to lift my finger more than once to add it to Buffer.

Downsides

What I don’t like about automation is when people post the same messages over and over again.  I follow some of these on Twitter, bearing in mind the Twitter stream moves so fast it’s amazing that I see the same updates from the same people each time I login – it appears they have nothing else to say?!!

Interaction is Important

With all social media you need to interact, you need to be yourself.  Whether you use automation or not, you still need to be available to respond to tweets and questions or thank people for re-tweeting your updates.  I always have Tweetdeck open so I am notified when someone mentions or interacts with me, it means I can instantly respond to them if I have the time.  There is no point having an online presence on social media (through automation) but never being there to respond in a timely manner.

Overall automation is something you need to test, see what works and what doesn’t work.

So what do you think about automation?  I would love to know your experiences and what you think works best.

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links for products or services I recommend. This means I’ll get a commission if you choose to purchase something I’ve shared with you.