admin on January 18th, 2006

by Keith

Hey y’all. This is the first in a series of quick business tips based on my lessons learned starting a small business.

To kick things off I thought I’d go with something I’m seeing as being more and more important — being easy to work with. It’s not a big surprise actually, in the past when I was asked to interview people I almost always went for personality before skill and experience. Someone who meshes well with others is hugely important. After all, you’ll probably be spending lots of time with that person.

I’m seeing this being a huge factor in the success of my own small business and I’m trying really hard to mold myself into someone that people really enjoy working with. In order to do that I’m:

* Making sure I’m flexible as possible. One of the reasons why I went into business for myself was to have more flexibility with my time, the least I can do is pass that flexibility along.
* A good communicator. In many ways this means over-communicating. I find that it really helps to make sure my clients know what’s going on at all times.
* Available. With some exceptions (I like to keep work and life separate as possible) I want to be able to be reached easily.
* Positive. A positive attitude is key.
* Not defensive or pushy. I really try to communicate in a positive way at all times, with everyone I work with. This can be a real challenge and I find that the closer I am with someone (my coworkers) for example the harder I am with them. But, hey, I’m a work in progress.
* Honest. I feel it’s important to be transparent and as up-front as possible.
* Fun. Humor goes a long way, and even if people don’t share my funny-bone, a lighthearted attitude can be felt by everyone around me.

As you can see, I feel that communication is a big part of being easy to work with. I want people who work with me to feel like they can talk to me about whatever they need to. Being open and responsive, available and flexible is very important. It’s an ongoing process but one that I feel just about anyone could benefit from.

Josh on January 16th, 2006

by Josh

Running a large number of sites I frequently get quite a bit of email that all have similar answers. Things like “Do you offer international shipping?” or “How can I submit an article?”…those sorts of things. All of these sorts of questions I have to spend time answering…time that could be spent much better doing other things.

Enter MailTemplate. Mactank’s MailTemplate lets you create predefined replies and new email messages that help you streamline common messages.

It’s only available for Mail and Entourage on Mac OS X and is worth every penny of the $14.95. Give it a try.

Josh on January 10th, 2006

by Josh

For practically all my life I’ve had trouble going to sleep. I’m not an insomniac…I just think a lot. I’ll lie in bed thinking about what I want to do tomorrow or what I should have done today or how much I love eating cold pizza or how absurdly messy my desk is….you get the idea. And when I say I have trouble going to sleep…I’m not talking 20 or 30 minutes…I’m talking 2 or 3 hours. Because what will happen is after about 45 minutes to an hour of trying to go to sleep, I start thinking about how I’m not asleep but I should be…and thus the cycle begins.

Now, I may be a bit of an extreme case here, but I know for a fact that there are others out there who have trouble going to sleep. So, I’ve pieced together various bits of advice I’ve received over the past few months that have not only helps me get to sleep faster, but helps me get a better nights sleep.

  1. Don’t watch TV or even so much as look at a computer screen atleast 30 minutes before you lie down. The light from both a television as well as a computer monitor mimic the same intensity of light as sunlight. This fools your body and brain into thinking it’s nowhere near time for sleep.
  2. Drink milk. Milk has an amino acid in it called Tryptophan that increase the levels of serotonin and/or melatonin in the brain which slow down brain activity. It’s science folks.
  3. Go to bed when you are tired. Different strokes for different folks here. Just because your wife goes to bed at 9PM doesn’t mean you are ready. You might only require seven and half hours of sleep while she might require ten. If you aren’t tired, do something low-key until you are, like read a book, play solitaire (NOT on your computer), or play with some legos.
  4. Reserve the bed for bed things (ie sleep and sex). I for one don’t strictly follow this rule as I’ll read some before I go to sleep, but for some people this is a must.
  5. Meditate. No, don’t cross your legs and hum, but focus on relaxing…if that makes sense. Take deep, long breaths. Tense each muscle one at a time from head to toe. Focusing on doing this takes your mind off of other things and you’ll be in lala land in no time.
  6. Excercise during the day. I emphasize during the day. Excercising at night just gets everything going instead of shutting down for sleep. But excercising during the day tires the muscles out and makes for a solid nights sleep.

These are the majority of the things I have either tried or actually do routinely. What are some things that have worked for you?

Josh on January 4th, 2006

by Josh

I think it’s probably safe to say that a very large percentage of computer users have, at some point, either purchased or sold something on eBay. And the same percentage of users who have bought or sold have seen the either extremely brief product descriptions or the descriptions that are so long that you could never possibly weed out the “real” info.

Enter audio. With the debut of services like Odeo, it’s easier than ever to publish audio content on the web. So what is being suggested here? Podcast your eBay auction! Simply record your product description and then link to the audio on your eBay auction. You’d still want to include a written description for obvious reasons, but using an audio description sure would set your auction apart.

Tip: Auction Bytes

admin on January 4th, 2006

Hey y’all. Welcome to 2006. Last year was a crazy year and a great one for To-Done. I wanted to thank all the readers for, well, reading and participating and helping to make To-Done a big hit. It’s been really fun.

This year I’m going to mix things up a bit and I’ve brought on someone to help. His name is Josh. Josh Pigford.

Josh Pigford owns an interactive development firm in the Denver, CO area called Sabotage Media (http://sabotagemedia.com). He’s got a lovely wife and a 6 month old pug named Baxter. He’s also got what he calls, “the unfortunate disease of being obsessed with productivity and hacking life.”

I’m really looking forward to Josh’s help and hopefully that’ll mean more productivity goodness here at To-Done as well as some quality (and stress-free) content from yours truly. So, join me in welcoming Josh and have a happy, healthy, productive and stress-free new year everyone!

admin on December 18th, 2005

It’s been a really crazy holiday season for me and despite lots of advance planning I’m still finding myself behind the ball when it comes to gifts and such. One of the things I wanted to have done by now was having sent out a holiday card. No such luck.

I thought that maybe a few of you might be in the same boat, so I wanted to share an idea with you. In years past I’d always take some time and create an online “gift” of some kind. It was always well received and was something that I could take my time with because delivery was almost instantaneous. This year, while I don’t have the time I used to, I can use this idea to make sure I’ve got something going out to friends in family that’ll get there before the season is too far gone.

Creating a holiday Web “gift” is easier than ever and I’ve got a few ideas for you:

* Create a special holiday Flickr photostream. This is something you can make private if you wish. You can include messages and captions with your photos and allow people to reply with holiday greetings of their own.
* Do a holiday blog post (or two, or three). Getting a blog is a piece of cake. You can use a hosted service like Blogger or WordPress.com or you can get your own domain and host it yourself. Dreamhost has good, cheap domain and hosting services with one-click installs of WordPress.
* Create a slideshow. I did this a few years ago and it was a big hit. It was a lot of work, but now with products like Slideshow Pro this kind of thing is pretty easy.

I’m still not 100% sure what I’ll do this year for friends and family, but I’m really glad I’ve got the WWW to help me out of a time crunch. Nothing like next-to-instant communication. Speaking of which – HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

Feel free to share your own “Webby” holiday ideas in the comments, you may provide me with some creative energy to do something completely different this year.

admin on November 29th, 2005

by Keith

I’ve been doing a bit of research into health type stuff recently. My wife and I are in pretty good shape but we’ve been letting things slip a bit of late. Probably all the stress from the wedding, new business, buying a house, etc. It’s not that big a surprise that we’ve turned to food and booze to take the edge off! Oh, and the holidays don’t help. Seems like everyone is ready with a beer or some delicious eats that goes straight to your waistline.

But it goes beyond keeping the weight down. The holidays and cold weather can do a real number on you in lots of ways.

One of the things I’m going to try really hard to do this winter is not get sick again. I’ve been under the weather on and off for the past week and I’m bound and determined to put a stop to that. Luckily there are all sorts of resources that offer advice on keeping fit through the winter months. I’ve compiled a list of tips for those of you who, like me, want to get a head start on your healthy New Year’s resolution.

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