Over the last few years of sitting my butt in an office chair day in and day out, I am often asking myself how I can do more while sitting here less. This post is a collection of little tools I’ve found over the years. The beauty is:
- You don’t need a fancy computer/smartphone to have any of them; they are mainly web based.
- They are mainly free. The most expensive in my list is $10/month.
Google Chrome (but basically any browser that involves not using Internet Explorer)
My friend Phil visited me a couple years ago and was browsing on my computer. “You use Internet Explorer?” he asked, in a tone that might have suggested he found something illegal or immoral on my computer. Google Chrome is faster and has just recently surpassed IE as the most used internet browser.
Besides its speed and lack of lameness, Google Chrome (much like Firefox) has extensions/apps that you can add to your browser bar. Three of my favorites:
- StayFocused (where you can block yourself from websites outright or after a certain period of time per day). After an hour on Facebook, I am officially cut off so it makes me get in and get out so to speak.
- EyeDropper (where you can get the six digit color sampled from a website without having to fire up Photoshop).
- Time Tracker (for keeping track of how long I spend doing things).
I use Google Apps to run my business life on my domain. In addition to being able to easily create email addresses and email lists (like I could make email@example.com email all my Facebook clients- and no worries that address doesn’t actually exist so good luck spammers!), I can also create and manage calendars, manage document editing and sharing, and otherwise feel like I am in control of my life.Here’s a video all about it. Since Google is really good at this kind of thing:
This is a Gmail App that works with Google Chrome. When I am writing someone an email, it pulls up their photo, our history of correspondence, and their latest social media updates.
These Computer Shortcuts
Control + A (Command + A on a Mac)- Select all
Control + Z (Command+ Z on a Mac)- Undo (go back one step)- This one has saved me a lot of heartache in particular
Control + C (Command + C on a Mac)- Copy
Control + V (Command + V on a Mac)- Paste (Control + P is print so that’s why it’s not that)
Alt + Shift + 5 (Command + Shift +5 on a Mac)-
Strikethrough (because crossing stuff off on a computer list feels good too)
Control + F (Command + F on a Mac)
Ok this is still included in the above list but should be separate and noticed. This can help you find a word on a long web page, a snippet of code in CSS, a file on your computer. Use your search functions my friends and stop the skimming/scrolling. It’s hard on your wrists… and your brain.
Automatic File Backup
So most everything I use is in ‘the cloud’ (which is just fancy for saying on the interwebs). I do this so I can access email, client files, Quickbooks, passwords, etc. from anywhere and also so it’s backed up.
I also have my main computer (with my fancy expensive software on it) backup up three times a day. Seems redundant? It is. But that’s the point. Think of what it would feel like to lose the album of pictures from your last vacation. Your taxes from the last five years. Anything that makes you freak out slightly while you are reading this. What’s it worth to you? $100? $500? Priceless?
This is the system I use for file backup (which is probably not perfect but works great for me):
Main computer– Backed up with Mozy
Other computers– External hard drive periodically (Files at the end of each day are added to Dropbox or Google Docs)
Client files (images, videos, any archives)– Backed up to Dropbox, stored on main computer which is backed up by Mozy
Client files (active documents)– Google Docs backed up by InSync (more on Google Apps later)
Email– Imported into Gmail, backed up by Backupify and kept on my web server
Passwords– 1Password system (more on that later) installed on two computers in the office, including the main computer which is backed up by Mozy
Social Media updates– Backupify and Hootsuite
I pay about $500/year for the combination of these tools but I think of how much money as a business I would lose if I didn’t have redundant backups in particular of client stuff.
As an individual, you’ll pay under $100/year for Mozy and have 2G free with Dropbox. Very affordable and may one day save you hundreds of dollars and/or a lot of agony. So even if you back up with an external hard drive, have a backup in case you forget. You’ll thank me later.
A client asked me yesterday ‘How do you remember all these passwords?’ Everyone has several social media passwords, a website admin login, a web host login, and any number of other online services. Multiply that by 70ish clients, add our own individual stuff and you can imagine the hundreds of passwords I’d have to remember. And while my brain is great, I’d just as soon have a backup (see above)
1Password is $20 (or $50ish for three licences) and it will pay for itself when you are able to store your passwords, search them in the database, and create and store highly secure and encrypted passwords.
If you spend any amount of time managing social media profiles, this will save you so much time logging in and out of websites that it’s totally worth taking an afternoon to set up tabs and lists and otherwise make it work for you. Oh and it’s free for five accounts or less but we gladly pay $10/month to use it with all clients.
Collectively, I’d say these tricks save me five hours a week but it could be more. It’s hard to put a price on piece of mind and finding things quickly but in this crazy world of ours, we should spend less time chained to the desk and more time doing lots of other stuff…. even if we do run a web company.
Do you have anything that saves you time/money that I may have forgotten in my list above?