productivity tools

Get Rid of All Those Productivity Apps Once and for All (Stick with These 3)

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I wonder if our ancestors ever thought that productivity would be the big business it is today. There are entire websites, applications, and businesses build solely on helping people to be more productive.

And here comes the kicker…

The amount of time we spent researching, testing and switching between productivity apps actually makes us less productive. So, in reality, the 50 gajillion ‘Getting Things Done‘, ‘Pomodoro‘ and ‘Kanban‘ apps you have on our phones aren’t fooling anyone…but you.

And me. I have a serious app problem. I spend hours a week just browsing through websites and app stores hoping to get a fix.

Productivity Ninja

Productivity Ninja (Source: Productive Muslim)

Suddenly, a wild app appears. It’s sooo pretty! And it has that one feature no other one has that I never really thought about before but could really use. So I pay my $2.49 and I download it. I’m reminded of my grandiose dreams projects I’ve been putting off since forever and I pour them all into this new app. My saviour! My life will be back on track and I’ll become the productivity ninja I know I was meant to be.

For two days, I’m the most powerful woman in the world. Then pffft.

This is too much work. And that one feature is really annoying the hell out of me. Adios, stupid app.

 

Time for a Purge of Productivity Apps

So three months ago, I decided to punish my stupid Shiny Object brain. I went through my all my devices deleting every niche, gotta-have-it app that I had accumulated over the years. I did some really in-depth analysis of myself and my work patterns and determined that I needed to limit my productivity tools to no more than three apps. These couldn’t be just any apps, they had to meet a minimum set of criteria:

1. They had to be multi-purpose tools, not limited to any particular niche.
2. They had to be cross-platform. I own an iPhone, a Samsung tablet, a PC and I use Chrome so I needed to switch seemlessly and be continuously synced.
3. They need to facilitate brain dumping, but also allow me to schedule and set alerts when necessary.
4. They should ideally be free, or at least have a free plan – I’m not interested in spending money if it’s not necessary, especially on a subscription.

Very quickly, I settled on the following:

1. Evernote
2. Trello
3. Sunrise

 

Evernote

Evernote on a Mac (Source: Interactive Middle East)

Evernote on a Mac (Source: Interactive Middle East)

Evernote is one of those apps people absolutely love or love to hate. Those who hate it don’t hate it because it’s a horrible application, though. They simply can’t figure out how to use it effectively. I used to be one of those people.

Then I read this article on Lifehacker (told you, I’m addicted). It kinda sorta blew my mind. It turns out, the only way Evernote will ever work is if you commit to it fully. Just throw your whole life into it.

So that’s what I did. The moment I thought up some new list or blog post idea, I added it to Evernote. It was refreshing not to have to think about where the best place was to put it.

I struggled a bit initially trying to figure out to organize my notes. I’d write a note that could go into two folders and be stuck deciding where to put them. I’ve now figured out the perfect system, which I’ve been working with for three months with minimal adjustments.

I classify my entire life into projects – personal, business, Social Media Chica, and one for each client. Projects never overlap, hence I decided to use a folder for each one. There will probably be a Past Projects stack in the future for when a work project is closed. I also have a Miscellaneous folder that really should be named ‘I don’t know where the hell to put this’, a Reference folder for templates and outlines that I use regularly, and my Inbox folder. Anything I discover or need to note quickly goes into the Inbox. I have an organization and purge session once a week where I clear the Inbox, putting everything away into folders and deleting all the quick notes.

This system works for me and it could work for you, but there are several alternatives. You can check out Micheal Hyatt’s system – he uses a comprehensive tag system instead of folders – or just Google ‘how I use Evernote’ and check out other ways. Once you stop resisting and start using Evernote as your main app for notetaking and storage, it will become an extension of your brain. (That sounded really rapey for a second there, didn’t it?)

Evernote is free, but you can upgrade to premium to get access to more space and additional features.

 

Trello

Trello board sample

An example of a Trello Board (Source: Zapier)

Just like Evernote, Trello is one of those flexible tools that can be used by almost anyone for a variety of things. This makes it unappealing to some who don’t want to spend a lot of time developing a system. Also like Evernote, once you have developed a system, you wonder how you ever lived without it.

For those who have never used Trello, it calls itself a visual organizer for project management. It’s basically a digital version of sticky notes, except these sticky notes don’t get lost, or run out of space and you can organize them a lot better. If you’re a fan of the Kanban system, Trello is perfect for you.

At the top of the Trello hierarchy are boards. On each board, you have lists – which are a series of columns. In each list, you have cards. Cards and lists can be rearranged and moved between boards, so nothing is ever set in stone. When you sign up, they give you a sample board with To-Do, Doing, and Done lists – I’m not a fan of using the tool this way, but it works for some.

I use Trello mostly for running my freelance business and organize social media content for my clients.

(A quick note on my freelance business set up: I’m a ‘solopreneur‘ so I do most of the work myself. To manage all the areas better I divide all the work into roles; so I have a Business Manager, Accountant, Community Manager, Writer, etc. but they are all me.)

I have a Weekly Business and a Monthly Business board – in each I have lists for each business role. In each list, there’s a card for each task that role has to do each week/month. So when I sit down to do ‘business stuff’ I just bring up Trello and work through these lists.

My social media application is a little more complex and deserves a post on its own. Basically, I create boards for each channel used by each client, so each board has the format [Client Name]-[Social Network]. On each board, there are 11 lists – an Inbox for dumping content, three lists for sorting according to type, then a list for every day of the week for weekly content planning.

I also write a content marketing client and we recently started using a Trello board to track assigned articles and completion.

Cards can be as simple or as complex as you need them to be. You can attach images and files, add due dates, write comments, share with others and other things. I like the simplicity of being able to see everything at a glance so I tend not to use most of these features.

Trello promises to be free forever, with a Trello Gold paid option that gives additional features.

 

Sunrise Calendar

Sunrise Calendar Chrome App month view

Sunrise Calendar Chrome App month view (Source: LatinPost)

There’s nothing else like Sunrise out there.

I love Google Calendar for it’s ability to schedule weird stuff like meetings on the first and third Wednesdays, but the interface is ugly and crowded. Sunrise integrates with Google Calendar (several, if you use more than one) and a host of other apps so you can literally see everything at a glance.

What makes Sunrise super perfect in this context? It integrates with Evernote and Trello! So if I should ever schedule an alert in Evernote or add a due date to task in Trello, it appears in my calendar. Perfection.

It also tracks Facebook Birthdays and Events. I can go straight to the timelines of people with birthdays in one click and I can get notifications for and accept/decline event invitations in the app.

I had literally no setup to do when transitioning to this app. I logged in through Google, linked Facebook, Trello and Evernote, and it instantly imported everything. Now I have the same app as a shortcut on my taskbar, a bookmarked tab in Chrome, an app and homescreen widget on my tab and an app on my phone. I’m never going back to anything else.

Sunrise is free and and available online and for iPhone/iPad, Android and Mac.

 

So there you have it – my trinity. As I mentioned, I’ve been using this system for three months now and it has worked perfectly. I no longer feel overwhelmed about using productivity apps and I know exactly where everything is.

I’m currently working on eliminating apps I use in the other areas of my life – will share when I’ve found workable solutions.

 

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How do you do productivity? What apps are you using? Are you completely comfortable or still hunting? Do you have Shiny Object syndrome – if so, how do you curb it?

transfer money from us worldwide

Payoneer Review: Best Way to Transfer PayPal Money to Jamaica

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Jamaicans who use PayPal as an income stream have only one option to transfer this money to Jamaica – by requesting a cheque from PayPal and depositing it at a local bank. This process is long and tedious and, quite frankly, ridiculous in this modern age. I was recently introduced to Payoneer by Yaneek Page and it’s a great way to get my money in a much shorter time, so I decided to share it with everyone. It’s super easy to get and comes at a very low cost, compared to the benefits.

The 81 Day Wait (The Old Way)

Yes, 81 days. That’s how long it usually takes to get access to your money earned on PayPal when using commercial banks in Jamaica. After requesting a cheque at a cost of US$5.00 , which is usually approved within 4-6 business days, it takes a maximum of 45 days for the cheque to be mailed to you. It then takes the bank 31 days to cash an international cheque, which must be deposited into an account. If you don’t have a bank account, no luck. Along with the long wait comes the unreliability of our postal system and the fact that PayPal charges an additional US$15 and 7 business days to cancel a cheque and put the money back into your account if it doesn’t arrive. NICE!

Introducing Payoneer

How would you like to bring that 81 day wait down to 3 days? This is where Payoneer comes in.

Payoneer is an Internet-based financial services business that allows users to transfer money and receive payments through re-loadable prepaid MasterCard debit cards. (Source: Wikipedia)

Payoneer caters specifically to non-US residents to enable them to receive money from US companies. Their cards enable you to receive direct payments from clients, receive money earn through affiliate companies and transfer money between cards, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing on their US Payment Service and how it fits in with PayPal.

The US Payment Service provides you with a US account and routing number, which can be used to receive payments from US companies that you are working with. Payments received to your US Payment Service account will be loaded to your Payoneer card.

How To Set It Up – 5 Easy Steps

Step 1 – Sign up for your Payoneer account at the link below. (That’s an affiliate link that gives us both $25 when you load your first $100 to your card). They will then review the information provided. Once your application is approved, Payoneer will mail you a MasterCard prepaid debit card. They will also provide and estimated date of arrival (about a month’s time) and this is usually accurate.

Step 2 – You will get an email requesting confirmation of your identity using a scan/photograph of your passport, driver’s license or national ID. Go ahead and fill those in. Without it, you will not be able to use the US Payment Service.

Step 3 – Once you get the card, activate it by logging into your account and inputting the card information and PIN.

Step 4 – Log into PayPal (I’m assuming you already have an account, if not, set one up), click on ‘Profile’, select ‘Add/Edit Bank Account’. Input the information from the US Payment Profile page of your Payoneer account (bank name, account number, routing number and account type). PayPal has indicated that they sometimes have some issues here, so if it doesn’t go through, don’t panic, just call PayPal and a customer service agent will help you.

 Important note: PayPal doesn’t play nicely with Payoneer, so when you call, just tell them you’re adding a Bank of America account, not a Payoneer one. (It won’t work otherwise!) 

Step 5 – Initiate a transfer from PayPal to Payoneer. You will get a notification from PayPal once the transfer has been made, typically after 2-3 days. That’s it! Your money is now on your card, which can be used at any ATM or point-of-sale location which accepts MasterCard worldwide.

Payoneer Fees

Setup is free. There are no costs to apply or receive your card.

There is an annual fee of US$29.95 deducted from the available balance each year. You should expect the first deduction to be made from your first transfer.

A fee of 1% of the payment amount is charged for each transfer from PayPal. You will not have to pay the above-mentioned US$5.00 to PayPal since bank account transfers are free, unlike cheque requests.

ATM withdrawals cost US$3.15 per transaction, along with the relevant local ATM fees and currency conversion fees. You will have to check with each bank individually for these. I’ve consistently used NCB ATMs without any trouble or additional fees, so that’s the one I recommend.

Point-of-sale transactions (swiping your card) are free, however currency conversion charges up to 3% may apply. (This is determined by MasterCard but I’m not sure how, if anyone can help, please leave a comment with details.)

Fee chart available here.

Other Things You Need to Know

You don’t need a local or international bank account to use Payoneer.

You can use your Jamaican address for registration and billing and for your PayPal account. No masking necessary.

The card is not a credit card! If you try to use it at an ATM without money on it, the machine may eat your card. There are also charges for checking balances and declined transactions at ATMs.

You can use your Payoneer card to buy things online just like you would use a credit card. Payoneer advises against using it for free trials, however, because if the trial period lapses and your card is charged, you are liable for that payment.

There are no extra fees or charges for your card being inactive so I suggest you get it before you need it!

Get more Payoneer FAQs here.

Tips for Minimizing Costs

Use the card directly (point-of-sale) as much as possible, rather than withdrawing cash. Although currency conversion charges are deducted in both instances, you will be eliminating withdrawal fees.

Select your ATM carefully since charges vary by bank. Use dual currency ATMs and then convert US cash to Jamaican at a cambio.

Withdraw the maximum amount you can whenever you use an ATM since it the charge is a flat fee. This amount will be determined by the amount of money on your card, the ATM limit, or your card limit, whichever is lower.

If you have any experiences with using Payoneer, please share in the comments! Let’s work together to break the mould of extravagant charges and long wait times to get OUR money!

 

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tiguan summer

What Marketers Can Learn From ATL’s #TiguanSummer Social Media Campaign

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Have you noticed the #tiguansummer hashtag on your timeline lately? It keeps popping up on mine, so I couldn’t help but delving a bit deeper to find out what it’s all about.

Many will remember a couple years ago when they did the ATL Group Unbeatable Flash Mobs in Half Way Tree, New Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.

This year, ATL Automotive has undertaken the Endless Summer of Tiguan campaign (hashtag: #TiguanSummer) to promote their 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan midsize SUV to Jamaican young professionals.

Along with the standard traditional push through newspapers, radio and television advertising, ATL is using the social media sphere to get the word out. They chose to rely less on their own social channels and spread the message through key influencers among their target audience – very smart!

Here are some of the key elements that contributed to this campaign’s success and how you can use them in your own marketing campaign:

Make your campaign innovative, yet practical

At the risk of sounding cliché, there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to promoting your brand. What ATL does, which works tremendously for them, is to use strategies that have worked outside of Jamaica and include their own unique spin. For this campaign, they took the approach of engaging bloggers and popular persons on social media and paired in with an islandwide tour, something they are known for when launching a new car or campaign.

Bring your product to your audience

If Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed. (Yet another cliché, LOL.) ATL’s target group for the Volkswagen Tiguan is millennial Jamaicans. This generation may not be reading newspapers and watching local television everyday – but they are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram chatting up a storm, which brings me to my next point…

Use influencers to spread your message

Buyers trust people, not brands. (I’m on a roll with these clichés.) Brands have an agenda – no matter how friendly and funny they appear, their mission at the end of the day is to sell. On the other hand, bloggers and social media influencers (persons with an engaged following) have built a reputation on being a trustworthy source of information among their peers. A brand recommendation from persons with a large social media following, such as Chunchi (5800+ followers on Twitter), IrieDiva (2400+ on Twitter), Natalie Oh (8800+ followers on Instagram) and Natasha Chang (2300+ on Instagram) are likely to bring much more goodwill than a post from the ATL Automotive page itself.

Waiting on the #bae, we bout to ride out in our Tiguan 😁#tiguansummer #atljamaica @atlautomotive

A photo posted by Monique "IrieDiva" Solomon (@iriediva) on

Allow influencers to customize the message (loosen the reigns)

ATL’s first move was to invite the above-mentioned persons to the launch of the Endless Summer of Tiguan Campaign at their Kingston showroom. From there, they invited them to post a message to their social media audience and offered an incentive to do so. Besides the hashtag, they gave no indication of what to share – this allowed persons to customize their message according their own voice and audience. Since the #tiguansummer campaign would head to Mandeville, they invited blogger @NatalieOh to join them on their Friday Night Crawl. Since Natalie is a fashion blogger, she chose to share the outfits she wore to the launch and the Friday Night Crawl to her followers on Instagram – check out the engagement she got on those posts…

People can spot the difference between genuine posts and corporate speak or ’crafted messages’. Allow influencers, who know their audience well, to use their voice in spreading your message.

Set up a home page with all posts and a call-to-action

This is something I haven’t seen but would love to see from this campaign. While they have gotten a significant amount of exposure, it’s essential to provide their new audience with a next step for persons who want to take it further – get more information about the campaign and the vehicle they are promoting. (Car sales have a long buying process so persons are usually taken through several steps before the actual car purchase.)

One of the best ways to keep persons engaged and take them to the next phase is to offer a web page link which provides more information about the campaign and other influencer-generated content that might be able to influence a purchase decision even further. If you don’t have the budget to code a whole page, consider using a free tool like Rebel Mouse which pulls in all the content from around the web using a specific hashtag – and you can add your own message to the mix (see this one from CaribWatch as an example).

With that said, there is still time for ATL into introduce a final phase of this campaign. Rumour has it they are headed to my home city, Montego Bay, later this week to showcase the VW Tiguan and do their own Friday Night Crawl throughout the city’s hot spots. I’d love to go check it out and see what it’s about. (If I do, I’ll let you know how it goes!)

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