Good For You

Five Tips For Organizing Your Contacts

When’s your grandmother’s birthday? What’s your neighbor’s cell phone number? What’s your college roommate’s mailing address?

I only know one of these pieces of information by heart and, like most people, I have to rely on my contacts list for the other two.

Unless you’re my mom (who is the most organized person I can think of), you probably don’t have this information as ‘at hand’ as you want to have it. If so, this post is for you.

Tip 1: Determine every place you keep contact information, then pick ‘the one’.

Let me use my case as the example:

  1. I rip corners off envelopes when people send me stuff so I have their mailing address. These are in a pile on my desk (if I got them at work) or my dresser (if I got them at home). They are in the same piles as business cards people give me.
  2. I have all email going into one Gmail interface.
  3. I text people/meet people in real life and put them into my phone contacts.
  4. I use a CRM for work and have people in there who I’ve classified by relationship (business contact, family, etc.) that syncs with my phone and email to track what information/contact has been made and when. (Note: not as creepy as it sounds.)
  5. I have a Rolodex on my desk which, besides being something everyone can laugh at and revealer of my middle aged-ness, has business cards in it and is full.
  6. I rely very heavily on Facebook for birthday reminders and those people not on Facebook, my mom is kind enough to text me about.

Clearly I have some decisions to make but one thing is true: I will never feel organized until everything is in one place, whether it’s a paper system or digital one. I’d love to know, say, my client’s birthdays, but before getting ambitious I have to pull everything into one system. You do, too.

If you decide on paper, it’s time to find a nice address book or Rolodex and start going through your lists in all your digital places.

If you decide on digital, you need to pick one system that is the main system (ex: Gmail) and then merge/import your data from the other systems in. Most programs will let you export to a .csv file (comma separated value, like a text file with commas where lines of a table would be) that can be imported in. Googling something like ‘merge Hotmail contacts into contacts on iPhone’ should give you some options, or hire a nerd to do this once you understand what all the moving pieces are.

Tip 2: Clean duplicates or people who shouldn’t be there.

Once everything is in one system, it’ll be very easy to clean duplicates (since the system will either automatically do it or make it easier to spot because alphabetically, they’ll be right next to each other).

The one thing technology can’t do is delete those people who shouldn’t be there, like ex-boyfriends or deceased relatives (I have other places for both but I don’t need ‘David OKCupid’ to appear every time I look for my colleague Dave’s number). Lost time, people.

Tip 3: Make it work everywhere.

Let’s say you picked Gmail contacts and have cleaned them out. It won’t do much good until you put them on your iPhone too. Or the Mail application on your phone. And anywhere else you need to regularly access them.

Tip 4: Create process when you add a new contact.

Yay, you met a new friend when you went out for drinks. Now what?

Well, ideally you have a system for adding her into your contacts. Yes, maybe it takes an extra two minutes to look up her birthday on Facebook and type in her mailing address as you put her into your Gmail contacts but the first time you need to look up her email address and it’s actually there, you’ll be grateful.

If this sounds tedious to you, you can use a website like Upwork and hire someone who does this periodic data entry/finding for you, then you can email them and say ‘Add so and so to my contacts.’

Tip 5: Periodically clean out.

Just because you met that cool Australian guy at the youth hostel and traveled Rome when you were 20 does not mean he needs to be in your contacts. (Bye, Chris.) By periodically cleaning out people you aren’t planning to stay in touch with you will make your list a lot more manageable. Fun fact: Australian Chris I’m sure continues to exist despite the fact I deleted him the other day.

If you want to remember these people, maybe write a short story about them or make a fun ‘Random People I Once Knew’ Google Doc and stick them there. Your contacts list is a living document and your past, while an important part of you life, shouldn’t exist there.

Having an organized contacts list will make you feel in control of your entire life and who knows, maybe I’ll be texting people to let them know about birthdays one day soon, impressing my friends and family with my organization.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Four Steps for Organizing Passwords

How long does it take for you to find a password for something? Do you have passwords written down on sticky notes or on a random piece of paper in a desk? The problem with this system is that it isn’t very secure, and it probably takes awhile for you to find the password you need. Or, you just get so frustrated with looking for it that you’re constantly requesting new passwords. Either way, you could probably benefit from some password organization. (Also, if you have one password for everything…that’s not a great idea either, for security reasons).

Here are 4 steps for getting your passwords organized:

Step 1: How are you organizing?

The first step with organizing is figuring out how you’re going to organize things. Are you a more of a digital person or do you want to keep things on paper? The number of passwords you manage (i.e. just your own personal passwords or, like us, hundreds and hundreds) may also be a deciding factor. It doesn’t make sense for us to write down all the passwords we manage on index cards when you consider the time it takes to 1) haul out the index cards, 2) find the client password for the thing we’re getting into (website, Twitter, etc), and 3) enter in the password- add that time up even just over the period of a single day, and that’s a lot of inefficiently used time. Not to mention if you lose the stack and have no copies of it, you are totally up the creek.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that any new system takes a little practice getting used to. Choose either digital or written as your general method and move onto step 2.

Step 2: Choose a Secure System

Choose a secure system. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Google Docs and spreadsheets are not a secure password management system. Neither are sticky notes stuck to your computer screen. Sure, these things are probably easier than typing in a master password to something like KeePass or Lastpass, but setting up something that is more secure is more

Paper system: If you don’t trust your passwords in an electronic system, you can always use a paper system (sorry, but still no sticky notes). Lifehack recommends using index cards in a small box, or something like an address book to keep your passwords organized (ex: A is for Amazon). Unfortunately, unless you have this paper system locked away somewhere, it is still vulnerable to anyone who might stumble upon it. Consider how it will be stored when you aren’t using it.

Electronic Systems: Many of these systems offer a free option (great for personal password organization) and paid versions (if you manage a lot of passwords). A few things that these programs have in common: a master password for accessing your collection of passwords, browser extensions, extra security in the form of two-factor authentication, and accessibility across devices (most will not automatically sync for security reasons).

A few popular options for electronic systems include: LastPass, KeePass, 1Password (offers a 30 day trial period but costs money for individuals, families, and teams), and Sticky Password (which also has biometrics so you can login using a fingerprint). My advice is to figure out what things are important to you (cloud backup? accessibility on all devices?) and do a little research for the best possible match. Note: nothing will be perfect unless you build it yourself so just pick something and learn what you can about it.

Step 3: Data Entry

For us, entering client passwords into KeePass initially took awhile. As with any new system, setup tends to be the most tedious/boring part, but it’s an important part of the process that you will thank yourself for later. Whether you’re entering 5 passwords or 500, this is one of those tasks that you can set yourself up watching a favorite t.v. show or movie and crank out some work. In other words, find your own way to embrace the initial data entry involved. It can be fun if you let it.

Step 4: Save/Back Up

If you use an electronic system like one mentioned above, make sure you are saving and backing up databases as you go if you’re entering new passwords on a regular basis. Having a password protected backup file of the database somewhere is also a good idea in case you accidentally delete something you actually need.

If you are using paper, you’ll want/need some way to duplicate your file on occasion. Paper backups are needed just like digital ones so a photocopier or a scanning app on your phone could be your best friend for this task.

Keeping your passwords organized is important- even Martha Stewart has written about the matter. It will save you so much time to have it all in one place, plus you can use the data entry time to get caught up on your favorite television shows.

You can also read more about our journey in getting our passwords organized in a secure fashion using KeePass here: BEC Story #2: The Password Problem

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

5 Tips for Organizing Files (on Your Computer)

This may come as a surprise, but in my college years, my laptop was drastically more organized than it is now. Perhaps because I had more incentive to be organized back then- assignments for classes, thesis, job and other post-college material, plus any random photos I wanted to save (the ‘cloud’ didn’t exist back then, after all) took up space on my desktop, so if I didn’t have some sort of organization, I’d drive myself crazy. These days, that same laptop is primarily used for random personal stuff and I’m not nearly as diligent about keeping it organized (especially since I’m not spending as much time on it as I was in college).

The good news is, at work I’m much more organized. It helps that a lot of what I work on has to get accessed by other people- I’d rather have people coming over to my house when it’s clean rather than a sloppy mess, after all. Wherever you lie on the spectrum of organization on your computer, here are 5 tips for getting rid of a cluttered desktop and files with long, weird names.

Choose a Destination. Where do you primarily want to save your stuff? Some options include directly on your desktop, in a place like Dropbox or Google Drive, a USB, etc. Choosing one location and sticking to it also helps with being able to relocate something later on. Of course, some combination of these things works as well, i.e. all photos are saved in Dropbox while your collection of satirical essays lives in a folder on your desktop. Consistency is key.

The exception to saving to multiple places is creating backups- always a good idea. Remember not to save your backup in the same place you saved the original (because that kind of defeats the purpose).

Folders and Sub-Folders. Making a folder is easy, and so is dumping documents and other materials into that folder. But if you have a really vague folder, like “Photos,” it can still be maddening to try to find anything in there. That’s where sub-folders come in handy. On my personal computer, for instance, I have a vague folder called “Bates.” Can you imagine what a mess it would be if I just put everything from my years at Bates into that folder and called it a day? Instead, when you open that folder, you see 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and Thesis (anyone who went to Bates knows that Thesis deserves its own folder).

Your folders and sub-folders are up to you: how your brain works and what type of material you are working with.You can even have a folder named “Voltron 5000” that has your child’s school pictures, as long as you’re easily able to find what you need.

File Names. Another tip for file organization is appropriately naming your documents and files. When it comes to finding a file, it doesn’t help if you have several “untitled” documents or downloads that are a 15-character series of random letters and numbers. It’s just as important to be thoughtful about how you’re naming files as how you’re storing them, from an organizational standpoint.  https://www.howtogeek.com/howto/15677/zen-and-the-art-of-file-and-folder-organization/

Clean Out Downloads Folder. If you’re cranking out work and are in the zone, chances are you’re probably saving things where it’s easiest (Desktop and/or Downloads). My recommendation, before your desktop is suddenly drowning in files, is to schedule a time at least once a week to organize these files. Move them out of Downloads to a permanent location (and no, your desktop doesn’t count). This could be a matter of putting it in the appropriate folder or moving it to the trash.

Share the System. If you’re working in a system like Dropbox and have multiple people with their hands in the pot, adding and updating files, it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page with the system, otherwise things will get messy. Have one or two people decide on “The System” (if you try to get everyone involved there can be a lot of back and forth) with other people giving feedback will ensure you’re thinking of organization in a complete way.

Once the system is decided, post places where it is easy to see: the company’s Google Drive, a private employee-only part of the website, etc. so people can easily refer to it.

Additional Resources:

Dropbox Tips for Organizing Files 

Google Drive Tips on Organizing Files

4 Things You Can Do to Create a Perfectly Organized Google Drive

Zen and the Art of File and Folder Organization

If you’re anything like us, your computer is like your toolbox for getting things done. Cleaning it out will reward you in increased productivity, decreased headaches, and (ideally) a faster running computer.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part Three)

This is the third and final installment in our series “It’s Not About the Leggings: Strong Online Stances and You.” If you missed the first two posts, make sure you check out Aggressive Marketing Tactics and Click Bait

Manners On The Move

Besides aggressive marketing tactics by businesses and more subtle ‘click bait’ approaches to get people to websites, the fast evolution of online manners is something that effects us all.

Social norms move quickly in this online world. Many people, including myself, are still figuring it out. Do I tag my boyfriend in a Facebook post without asking him? Do I post a picture of my friend? Do I invite that new woman in my running group to my online pajama sale this coming Saturday?

Gary Vaynerchuck says ‘content is king but context is God’ and he’s right. Context can briefly be broken down in three different questions, 1) Does it make sense in the context of the social media platform you’re using (i.e. is this an Instagram post or a Twitter post?), 2) Does it interrupt people in a bad way (think pop-up ads that are hard to click out of), and 3) Does this align with how I want to be seen as a person/brand/business? These are the big takeaways, but the article itself is worth a read: https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/content-is-king-but-context-is-god/

However, if you aren’t a brand or a business, those questions may not translate to your personal social media usage. Instead, these questions can help you find your context. Some questions before taking an action:

  1. What things about social media am I comfortable with doing (posting photos, ‘liking’ political figures, etc.)?
  2. How often will I post? What is ‘too much’?
  3. If my information involves other people, do I get their consent? Do I get consent always or just for certain kinds of information? If so, how?
  4. What subjects am I comfortable talking about online? My religion? My struggle with depression? My children? Where I am drinking my beer right now?
  5. If I have a business, what tactics am I comfortable using to promote my business? Do these make other people comfortable?
  6. If someone isn’t comfortable, how will I address it? If people opt out, how will I deal with that?

An example in my own life, I don’t ‘check in’ to a location with someone without their consent. But if I have a really flattering picture of a good friend, I post it but don’t tag it (I let people tag themselves). These are some of my lines but yours will likely be different.

More resources:

https://www.facebook.com/digitalmanners

Manners in a Digital World

After this series, you can probably go back to the beginning offenses and realize that being outraged about someone who is overenthusiastic at Lularoe isn’t really isn’t about the leggings. A lot of the things we’ve brought up fall on individual people and companies to decide whether or not what they’re posting is “appropriate.” While you can’t control what other people choose to share online, perhaps you’ve thought of a few ways to be a bit more mindful of your own posting habits and what your online rules look like.

What we can control is how we react to this behavior. Kindness and a desire to understand go a long way, online and off. So when you feel yourself get irate at a friend’s Instagram post or deciding whether you should tackle a controversial topic in a blog post, keep these things in mind and proceed as best you can. Because that’s all any of us can do.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part Two)

Did you miss part one of this fascinating series? Click here to read ‘It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part One)’

Last week I discussed aggressive marketing tactics as part one of strong online stances. In part two, I want to discuss another polarizing issue online: extreme headlines.

The term in the industry is “click bait.”

What’s Clickbait?

There is some argument about what constitutes clickbait, but Merriam-Webster defines it as the following:

As a reader, clickbait is offensive for a few reasons, and I don’t mean in the sense of the actual headlines or subject matter.

In essence, clickbait assumes that readers are suckers. They basically promise something shiny and exciting, or at least controversial, assuming we’ll fall for it. When clickbait was relatively new, people did tend to fall for it. Now we’ve all wizened up a bit and can recognize clickbait for what it is.

Why Does it Exist?

By getting all of those clicks, even if people ultimately stay for two seconds after realizing “UGH this is not what I wanted,” it still counts as traffic to the website. The old view is that a website that gets a lot of traffic automatically ranks higher in search engines.

While this is true to some extent, clickbait-y articles are starting to get penalized for using such headlines on Facebook by making them less likely to appear in people’s newsfeeds. Techcrunch explains: “The algorithm primarily looks for phrases often used in clickbait headlines but not in legitimate headlines, similar to email spam filter.” When one page/person is consistently publishing stories that offend the algorithm, their posts will get buried more and more (but there is a chance to turn things around-just stop posting clickbait).

You may ask yourself why websites even bother with clickbait. Well there are two things websites can get from it:

  1. Your social media login (to potentially collect your demographic info for future marketing efforts)
  2. Visibility on display ads.

I noticed one of my high school friends posted the result of a ‘What should be your hairstyle?’ quiz and so I clicked through:

Sorry for the assault on your eyeballs there but notice:

1) The giant web hosting banner ad and internet provider video ad (I’m guessing it is just displaying this to be because I am a giant nerd and for someone else, it may display a different ad). This website will no doubt earn money, even if it’s a fraction of a cent, for me seeing that.
2) The giant ‘Login with Facebook’ request. Now that I’ve logged in, they can target me for cheaper advertising, upsell me on a product I might be more likely to buy, or even sell my data to another company.
3) The ads all over to click on additional items (ie go deeper) on the website. By seeing what I click on, they’ll be able to do market research on me (“It turns out women 26-35 are 34% more likely to click on the tattoo quiz than the weakness quiz”) and sell that to companies, sell me on products, or both.

What’s the Big Deal?

But why exactly is clickbait so bad? Clicking on a weird/extreme headline doesn’t trigger a catastrophic chain of events, nothing terrible is going to happen. I used to have a fairly blase attitude towards clickbait, thinking “What’s the big deal? Just don’t click on it.”

Now, as someone who both reads a lot online and writes a lot online, I get it. The downside of clickbait boils down to ethics (a harsher take on clickbait describes it as “misdirection and lying” from this article in The Atlantic). In marketing anything, one of your goals should be to deliver what you promise. In addition to negatively impacting your social media presence, clickbait ruins your credibility and trustworthiness as a marketer, which is something you should value above ranking in Google.

That being said, clickbait does not mean the same thing as a clever, enticing headline. Think about it, are you more likely to click on ‘A Balanced View of Coffee Mugs’ or ‘Why I Think Coffee Mugs Are the Dumbest Invention In The World’? As this article from Seriously Simple Marketing says, “As an Internet Marketer, you have an opportunity to be creative and come up with headlines that compel your visitors to click. Just be sure you’re being honest and providing content that delivers on the promise the headline teases.” In other words, deliver on your headline’s promise, and always provide your readers with quality content.

What Can I Do?

Taking a strong stance in a headline/title gets clicks, for the most part, the people that write them enjoy/profit from web traffic and others just enjoy controversy.

You can do your part by:

  • Not clicking on extreme stuff (you’ll know it when you see it)
  • Hiding people/pages in your newsfeed who are constantly throwing this chum in the water
  • Posting good websites/articles yourself (ie leading by example)

Aggressive marketing tactics and extreme headlines are two of the three examples of polarizing online stances we’ve seen lately. Stay tuned for our third and final post in this series, about general social media etiquette.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part One)

About a year and a half ago, I recommended to my sister, at that point a stay-at-home mom, to look into Lularoe. “I think it’s going to be a thing.” I said.

Trust me when I say I’m happy to say I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, but about this I was right. It has exploded in popularity.

Since then I’ve noticed a leggings debate online: people who love them, people who hate them. And one of my Facebook friends (to paraphrase her) asked ‘What’s so polarizing about leggings?’

Guys, it’s not about the leggings. (I mean, is it ever?). It’s about the way the leggings, certain topics in current events, lifestyle choices, other products, etc, are being handled online. This polarity stems from three things: aggressive marketing tactics, extreme blog post titles, and differing views regarding online etiquette.

Aggressive Marketing Tactics

I’ve noticed a rise recently in more aggressive marketing tactics. These include three specific things I can think of offhand:

1) Automatically adding people to Facebook groups.
2) Pulling people you barely know into messaging threads involving hundreds of other people (ok maybe tens).
3) Repeated, unsolicited online messages from strangers.

Usually when these things happen, someone wants you to buy their stuff. No, not do they want to buy their old cribbage board but do you want to buy something they have a lot of inventory of: leggings, supplements, essential oils, ‘adult’ toys, cookware, etc.

The perps of this aggression are often MLM people (If you don’t know what an MLM is, here’s a previous blog post about them.) but can also be people who are very involved in a cause (political, religious, etc).

Now I will say I know PLENTY of people not doing douchey things (my sister among them). And I also know many politically active or religious people who are also not becoming aggressive on social media. But plenty are and it’s giving those who sell similar products a bad name.

What makes this aggression feel so personal online is that most people have their smartphone within 3 feet of their bodies. If you can picture walking up to someone’s door at 10 pm and asking them for money or following them around their house to show them your latest product, that’s what it can feel like, especially when these request come from multiple sources.  It can feel like you literally can’t get away from them.

(Note: I was added to a group nonconsentually a few weeks ago and couldn’t easily ‘leave’ the group from my phone. I had to wait 12 hours before I was back at the office to leave it and in those twelve hours I got over 100 notifications. And I’m good at this. So I can only imagine the less tech savvy can feel even more powerless in a situation like this.)

Now you may ask yourself, ‘How do I know if what I am doing is aggressive?’ Here are two tests:

A) If you did this to someone in real life, would it be aggressive? Like if I made you stay in a room you didn’t want to be in, does that seem aggressive? Of course! But if I invite you to come in the door and offer you candy to do so, does that seem aggressive? No. Turn your online action into a real life one and you’ll get your answer pretty easily.
B) Think of someone doing the same thing to you about something you don’t care about. Considering both the person and the action, does this seem aggressive? While you feel passionate about essential oils, your friend Mary might be passionate about rabbit rescue. If Mary did the same stuff you’re thinking of doing to you related to rabbit rescue, how would you feel? If you’d feel crummy to receive it, don’t give it!

My list:

Adding people to a Facebook group: Too much
Inviting people to join a Facebook group: Fine
Mass messaging more than ten people at a time to sell them something: Too much
Sending an email to a list of my customers: Fine
Posting a status update showing your product in case people want to buy it: Fine
Posting a status update showing your product and tagging fifty friends on Facebook you want to buy it: Too much
Automatically adding the email address from a business card to your marketing email list: Too much
Emailing someone whose business card you have linking to where they can sign up to your marketing list: Fine

Draw the lines for yourself but even if you think someone is receptive to what you are doing, it is more powerful to let them opt in.

To summarize, we live in a climate of activism and side hustles. Balancing important opinions we want to share and the comfort and feelings of others is something we’ll all struggle with. Just remember, it’s not about the leggings… but now that you know what it is about, maybe you can do something about your part in it. Because honestly, the only people we can change is ourselves.

This is post one in our series focusing on strong online stances. Stay tuned for post #2 on extreme blog post titles!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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