I met with my favorite group of local gals at our monthly chapter meeting for Business Among Moms this week. I recently took over as the Hampton Roads leader as part of my promise to myself to invite more friends into my home and into my life this year (and forevermore!).
Our topic was must-try apps for busy working moms. I had my little go to list of powerhouse players on hand. You’ve heard me rave about them before! My usual suspects:
My very favorite, interactive to do list, Trello allows me to organize my life, my business, my clients and everything in between. Without this tool keeping tracking of open projects, conversations with clients and timeline progress on our planning for Modern Femme™, I’d be lost and A LOT of critical work would be falling between the cracks. I go into a bit more detail in How to Use Trello to Organize Your Life and you can find it on the Google Play Store or on iTunes, or access it online.
Somer and I go on and on and on about the awesomeness of Slack in How to Use Slack and Why Your Business Needs It, and I hold true to every, single word. It’s a powerful tool for teams on the go, or for teams like ours…with several people working at random hours of the day and night all over the country. If you’re tired of using Facebook Messenger to communicate with your crew, it’s time to give this FREE tool a shot. Available online, on the Google Play Store and on iTunes.
If there’s one tool you’re probably already using or at least are very familiar with, it’s Google Calendar. The better question is…are you maximizing how you use it? Check out 10 Ways to Use Google Calendar and for bonus points, grab my free downloadable with another 25 recommendations for ways to braindump into this mastermind tool. Grab it on Google Play here!
What I did not expect to encounter at the meeting was a feeling of panic when I realized I didn’t have a piece of paper to take notes on all of the other amazing must-try apps for busy working moms that my other gal pals used to stay sane. I raced to the kitchen, grabbed a scrap of paper and a pen and quickly jotted down a list of tools that I plan to put into use IMMEDIATELY.
Ever had someone ask you for a business card and you go “Crap. I don’t have any with me.” Check out this website!! Trymms allows you to create a custom electronic business card that you can text, email, QR scan and more to make sure you never miss a networking opportunity again! You can also have multiple business cards for your different projects, so you’ve got all bases covered, all the time!
How many of you are like me? When it comes to travel, you have your little manila envelope or folder in hand, with all of your directions, itineraries, confirmations and other important details safely printed and in hand when you hit the road. Anyone? Anyone?
How about this. Do you ever find yourself frustrated with travel because you need ten different apps to log in for the flight, hotel, rental car and all other confirmations? Tripcase solves that problem in a very big way. Email all of your itineraries to your Tripcase email, and the app recognizes similar information and organizes it by destination! When it comes time to head out for a vacation or business conference, you have everything you need from your flight details, to your hotel confirmation and more, all in one, safe spot. Available on both Google Play and iTunes.
SOCIAL MEDIA GRAPHIC DESIGN
I’m pretty sure Somer cried when she heard about this app. And then she cried again when she heard it didn’t have an Android version (yet!). It allows you to create amazing graphics with custom typography for Instagram and other social media profiles. Not sure exactly what you want to say? No problem! It will make some suggestions for you! Photo editing and social media graphic design just got insanely easy. Available on iTunes.
Admittedly, I am super lazy about this. Why? Because I’ve never encountered a way to track mileage that didn’t annoy me. Enter MileIQ and all of my problems are solved. It automatically detects movement and tracks your mileage, which you can later classify as Personal or Business with a simple swipe! For those busy working moms with MLM businesses or in-home care, this is a definite must have. You can download it on Google Play or iTunes.
PARTY PLANNERS/MLM DISTRIBUTORS
This is the one app that I don’t really need, but so many friends in my busy mom network have MLM distribution side projects (or full time gigs) of some kind. This can handle your invites, event management and all of those other pesky details that go along with wrangling guests in for a hosted party. Available on the Google Play Store here.
TO DO LISTS
I’m really excited about this one (and it needs to come out on Android SOON)! Ever get this text or call? “Honey, I’m headed to the store. Do we need anything?” Or from your business partner…”I’m headed to Sam’s Club. Is The Studio all stocked up?” Cue the frenzy of wracking your brain for that one item you know you really need but can’t think of right this second. AnyList solves that problem! Share grocery, to do lists and more with those special people in your life so that everyone is on the same page. You can both edit and access shared list, so the grocery list is built together, one item at a time. That way if you happen to be at the store, you’re in the know too!
(SNEAKY TIP: The mom that shared this with me Velcroed her old iPad to their fridge so that they can update the app right there on the spot when they run out of something!) Available on iTunes (please Android soon, please!)
One of the big challenges of working remotely with a team is the absence of eye contact, body language and those important cues that let us know the intent behind the messages we receive. I’m sure we’d all agree to having had those moments when we were offended by a text or email simply because it read differently than the writer intended. Voxer has solved that problem by allowing you to send voice messages back and forth, walkie talkie style, so that you can have quick on-the-go conversations and communication, without the guesswork of impersonal texts (not to mention no texting while driving!). I’m very excited to use this when Somer moves to Tennessee at the end of the summer! Grab it here on Google Play and here on iTunes.
Do you have any must-try apps for busy working moms that aren’t mentioned here? Please share in the comments below!! If I learned anything from this week’s Business Among Moms meeting, it’s that there is a laundry list of amazing tips and tricks out there that I haven’t even heard of yet!
How You Can Use Scrum to Get Organized
I know what you’re thinking. What the heck is Scrum? Stick with me here – I promise it will be worth it. Scrum is a management and control process that software developers use to break complex projects into incremental pieces, driving focus and productivity with more effective, higher quality results. I came across it in the corporate world and quite frankly, didn’t give it much thought. Since Scrum was designed for software developers, which I most certainly am not, I figured it didn’t apply to me.
Then Somer and I ran into a problem with our brand management. As you know, we have The Studio Hampton Roads, Modern Femme Movement and the Hampton Roads Creative (plus this blog!). Sometimes our to do list is so long, it can feel incredibly overwhelming and even harder to prioritize. We do our best to Think Big, Focus Small, but sometimes the sheer volume of work has us wide-eyed and frozen.
It occurred to me that we needed some process management. Something definitive that detailed our workflow and developed our priorities and set our intentions. Something like…Scrum. Scrum works with these ideas, called sprints, where you focus the team’s energy on selected projects and selected projects ONLY. That’s the key. Software developers have to get to the end goal, but all of the code necessary to reach the end goal can leave developers overwhelmed, and hopping from one project to the next and back again, producing stress and lower quality work.
Once a sprint has been defined, the team must stay on the specified work for the duration of the sprint. They cannot be pulled to other projects, redirected or given more work. They are “in sprint” and any additional projects or adjustments are to be assigned to future sprints.
BINGO. Well, I guess SCRUM is better here.
We reviewed our projects lists for each brand and broke them up into sprints. Once we assigned the sprints, we were off and running. While we were in one sprint, we were 100% focused on the work assigned to that particular sprint. We couldn’t veer off course, swap to another brand, or take on new work. Before we knew it, more was being accomplished with less stress and less mistakes.
For the software development world, sprints are usually two weeks in length due to the complexity of their work. For us, a week long sprint worked best. In a pinch, we’d break into three day sprints. You can choose what length of time works best for you. The important piece is to stay focused on what is in the sprint and embrace the peace of mind that comes with knowing other work that must (and will) be accomplished is assigned to future sprint.
This can apply to small business, blogging, school work, just about anything! Focus your energy, organize your workload, and accomplish a larger volume of higher quality work. Don’t get lost in the busy of bouncing back and forth between everything you have to get done, accomplishing nothing well or maybe not even at all. Scrum can be your key to focused professional energy and long-term small business (or life!) success.
Social Media Scheduling 101: The Basics
Why is social media scheduling important?
Today’s culture, both personally and professionally, is driven by real time transparency. There are any of a million ways that we can interact with the world and share our life journeys, which has been the doorway to maintaining friendships, keeping family from afar close and celebrating life with like-minded individuals. But on the other hand, every time that phone blips that a new message has popped up, we’re driven by madness to look. It’s exhausting!!!! And ultimately incredibly time consuming. As a small business owner, the drive to build a following can be intoxicating and the pressure to be available to your clients 24/7 is crippling. How do you actually “do” your business if you’re always distracted by social media? Social media scheduling is the very best way to continue to curate and share content with your audience, while allowing yourself to focus on higher priorities in your personal and professional life.
If I schedule social media am I lying to my followers by “pretending” to be online when I’m not?
Any way that you can automate your workflow to save time and develop a routine, you are being true to yourself, your clients and most importantly, your family. The key is to appear to be accessible during high traffic times, but not actually be sitting there glued to your phone or computer hanging on every word uttered to the social media gods. Social media scheduling allows us to cater to multiple audiences at their individual peek times, gives us the opportunity to stay active and engaged while on the go and makes sure we have time to focus on what really counts.
Where do I start?
I have two go-to programs that can work for even the most basic new learners (and have lots of advanced features for those in the know). And bonus…they’re FREE! What we’re moving towards is organized strategy. Social media scheduling allows you to develop a marketing strategy for your business and then execute it. You simple couldn’t do that properly on the fly and would get lost in the weeds. These next two tools can help put you on the path to a social media presence that translates to growth and long-term sustainability.
If you’re just digging into the social media behemoth, let’s put a simple tool to work for you while you get your bearings. Similar to how Instagram can cross post to Twitter and Facebook, Friends + Me can take your Google Plus posts and push them to several other platforms. I personally post to Google + and it carries over to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One action = 4 social media networks.
I’ll admit, this tool can be visually tricky and take a little getting used to if you’re heavy handed with links and tags. Once you get comfortable with how your posts will appear in the different feeds, you’ll tailor your original content to work across the board. It’s a fantastic way to save time by not having to manually cross-pollinate your content to each and every platform individually. It’s a great way for new learners to “phone it in” while you up your social media knowledge and a stellar way for a seasoned social media vet to knock out a task list for simple content shares.
Hootsuite is the other tool I rely heavily on. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for me to manage all of my profiles on the various platforms that I use. In its most basic form, I schedule all Twitter activity (content sharing) in here or via their Hootlet (content curating). I can tell you it’s really the Hootlet that is life changing. This little plugin is ridiculously awesome. It allows me to wrap up items of interest in a nice little box with a beautiful little bow instantly and schedule directly from my point of interest. I can open it up from any source and schedule a tweet/share from any of my accounts instantaneously without having to copy/paste links or images into Hootsuite itself. That save of a few clicks is amazing!!!
– Google Plus (2 business profiles)
So. How does this ultimately save time? Have I just traded time spent manually posting for time spent scheduling automation? The key here is to carve out time and stick to it. Don’t be scheduling all day! It defeats the purpose. Here are some quick rules to keep in mind:
- Set a specific day each week (or even an hour each morning/night if that’s better for you) that is devoted to scheduling the next weeks’/days’ tweets/posts/etc. Make that a calendar time in your routine. Stick to it! I do all of my scheduling first thing in the morning. That way my social media profiles are working in the background while I am completing my normal business day and any activity can just be responsive.
- Commit to a time each evening that the phone/computer gets put away. For example, clients at The Studio now know that our business booking hours are Monday – Friday from 8AM – 5PM. If they email us during that time, they expect a response. But if they email outside of that time, they know they’ll hear from us during the next business day. We’ve educated them and we’re training ourselves. Now, when that email dings with a new inquiry, I don’t look at it if it’s after hours. They know, and I know it will be there tomorrow.
- Give yourself a break! Cut yourself some slack! It’s ok to take a break from time to time on social media. It’s ok to not post every meal, every night out, every stylish outfit. Let go of the pressure to perform. Focus on enjoying the interactions with people and sharing your heart. You’ll find it not only comes more naturally, but more purposefully. Be IN your life.
Pin this to your Small Business Tips & Tricks Board or your Blogging Resources Board! Don’t have one? Follow me!
Did you like this post? Check out How to Create Hyper-Linked Email Signatures in Gmail!
How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale
Using Your Resources: How to Resell Your Used Items and Buy Second Hand was the first post in this “series,” and hopefully, by now you’ve had an opportunity to read through that and determine where you want to attempt to sell your used items.
The next logical step is how in the world to keep yourself organized so that you have a steady flow of items ready for sale and can keep product “moving through the pipeline” without sucking hours from your already jam-packed schedule. The key here is ambitious preparation and forethought. A little “do it now!” vs. a “I’ll do it later!” can make staying organized a breeze.
Here are some things that I do to stay organized with my sale items. Note: These particular steps make the most sense for consignment sales, yard sales and/or mommy swaps. Consignment stores are a bit different, but you can glean some useful tips for how to store for those too!
1. NEARBY STORAGE: I have available storage bins at the ready for new additions that no longer fit the boys in their bedroom. The most recent size(s) or season are stored under their train table so that if they try something on and it doesn’t fit, it immediately goes into the boxes. This keeps our drawers full of clothes that fit and prevents me from having to do massive sorts constantly. I try not to mix sizes and keep like items together, especially pajama sets or coordinating sets, so no hunting for missing pieces later and I know with a glance what size/season is in each box.
2. BE THE OVERACHIEVER: Yup, I am that person that starts prepping for the next consignment sale the day after the most recent consignment sale is over. As soon as the hosting group’s ticketing system is cleared out and released for the next event, I start entering my items for the next sale. I print and apply tags and even hang items on hangers if required. If things need to be zip-tied or put in plastic bags and taped closed, I do it right when I am moving items from the nearby storage in #1 to the long-term storage I’m going to describe here shortly. By the time those items hit the long-term storage bin, they are prepped and ready for sale and I don’t need to see them again until I drop them off to be sold. Similar can be done for yard sales too. As you are going through items to sell, stick a price tag on them and box them up. When your next yard sale comes around, you get out the box and you’re good to go! This prevents the brutal all-nighters trying to price items or get them entered into a consignment system before the deadline. (BONUS TIP: If you are selling items online, a great time saver is to list all of your available items on a spreadsheet with their price tag and where you posted them so that you can track what is sold and what is still available. This also helps you compare which online sources are producing the best results for you!)
3. LONG-TERM STORAGE: I have a gigantic bin in my garage that stores all of my “ready to sell” items. It’s easily moved from the garage to the car (by the husband) and easily stored out of the way until the next event. Anything that is in that bin has been itemized, tagged, priced, etc. etc. and is literally ready to come out of the box and onto the sales floor, wherever and whatever that may be. In that box I keep everything I need to get items sale ready. I have safety pins, ticket paper, plastic bags, zip ties and hangers (which you can get free usually at your local dry cleaners or keep an eye out for the super cheap ones when they go on sale!), pens and markers. And tape! I don’t have to hunt for anything. Super efficient and super fast. A great tip for those items getting shipped would be to have packing envelopes in there too! If I have items in there that cross seasons (this can be tricky with consignments sales), I keep the furthest away season on the bottom and layer a trash bag on top to separate from the next upcoming sale items. That way I know when I deliver my items, I empty the bin until I hit the trash bag and the know those items underneath are for the next, next sale. (See!! Crazy overachiever!)
4. CAR QUICK STORAGE: If I’ve posted an item online that I am sure is going to sell quickly locally, I pop it in my car so I have it with me in case someone contacts me to buy while I’m at work. That gives me the instant opportunity to meet at a public place during my lunch hour or right after I finish up for the day, rather than having to schedule a time/location later in the week. Get it gone!