• 5 ways to use tech to stay sane

    Jo-GiffordHappy Monday everyone. We’re kicking off this week with a guest post about how tech can help you stick to those January resolutions, from Jo Gifford, digital media genius and lovely tweeter.

    Have your New Year’s resolutions already faded into the ether? Is your willpower for that diet, marathon training plan, novel writing goal or general world domination starting to dwindle?

    Go easy on yourself. Let tech do the legwork for you to help your productivity, information overload, focus and, in general, sanity. Reduce the noise, step away from the screen, and re-discover your goals with some free time to actually do them.


    1. Automate daily habits and tasks

    Taking the monotony out of daily repetitive tasks frees up both your time and inclination to do something else.

    • For daily digests of RSS feeds, newsletters or hot topics to keep abreast of, set up filters using IFTTT to aggregate them all somewhere that works for you, be it Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox or wherever else tickles your fancy. You can browse and comment, share or act on anything in your own time in a more organised way.

    • For habits and daily activities, Routines is a lovely little app with friendly, easy to set reminders to tick off and feel a sense of direction and accomplishment. Set the reminders to vary how strict the timeframe of the action is and how aggressively you wish to be reminded, and keep on track with getting things done.

    2. Reduce inbox overwhelm

    Inbox overwhelm is the antithesis of sanity and productivity. By setting up some smart tech systems and habits you can step away from the inbox and break the reliance on instant response requirements and general “noise”.

    • Scoop is an excellent add on for Gmail that literally scoops up promotional emails and smartly presents them to you in one daily digest, not unlike an inbox VA.

    • Sanebox is another excellent option which allows emails to be diverted from your inbox and re-presented to you when you need to see them again, dictated by you with a simple click to file the email. Lovely.

    • Use IFTTT to collate reading material or emails you need to respond to or read later by storing them in relevant files which dump them into corresponding Evernote notebooks or a Google Docs location.

    • Canned responses by Gmail in combination with Sanebox and IFTTT filters allows set responses to be sent out to emails with certain criteria, filed, ordered and re-presented to you when you need.

    • Awayfind lets you step away from the inbox safe in the knowledge that if the urgent information you need to react to comes in, you can set filters for a text message instant alert.

    How does that inbox seem now you are in charge?

    3. Get smart with social

    Setting up smart social media sharing workflows is another sanity saving trick.

    • Buffer is an excellent resource for sharing content in one dedicated social media portion of time, with the updates flowing throughout the day to avoid an obvious dump of information on your feed.

    • Collating tweets or updates from users relevant to your niche that you need to follow can be easily set up in IFTTT straight to a spreadsheet. Simply read, paste and click to schedule relevant content for your audience throughout the day while you are free to pursue those lifelong dreams…or, indeed, get on with some work.

    • Set up workflows to collate and file tweets you favourite and instagram pics you like to store information and resources for an appropriate time so that social interaction time doesn’t lead you on a bottomless pit of web browsing.

    See? Social doesn’t have to be a time vacuum.

    4. Go paperless

    Living without a constant pile of paperwork and general “Stuff” is a breath of fresh air. Use Evernote to photograph sketches, letters, business cards, Post It Notes, kids artwork, invitations, and any other ephemera which clutters up your desk.

    Free yourself from mountains of letters and find your way around information so much easier.


    5. Talk to yourself

    What if you could be productive even in the outside world, away from the screen? Taking time out to enjoy fresh air or a change of scenery doesn’t mean ideas can’t be captured on the go; dictate memos, blog posts and emails into Evernote to transcribe later, or use Dragon Dictation to record your thoughts and ideas to be dealt with when you plug back in – whenever you choose that to be.

    Wishing you a productive, sane and tech powered 2014.

    Jo Gifford

    Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, illustrator & creativity addict; she teaches creative ideas for online content creators, business owners & self employed mums via her Access All Areas programme and one to one sessions.

    Find her blogging over on Dexterous Diva and grab yourself a place on her free webinar The Smart Bloggers Guide to social scheduling


  • 10 freelance resolutions for 2014

    freelanceresolutions.pngAs tradition dictates, the end of December is a time to reflect, appreciate the things you’ve done well or enjoyed, and evaluate what things you need to change.

    2013 has been an odd year for me. Actually, this seems to be the case for a lot of people I’ve spoken to. On a personal level, it’s been a very mixed bag. Planning a wedding was pretty stressful for me (event planning is not my forte), but getting married was wonderful. On a professional level, the first half of the year was tough, but the second half of the year has improved – it certainly feels like we’re bouncing back from the recession finally. I’ve also been excited about finally launching some projects that have been floating around my brain for a while – particularly the 30 Day Freelance Lifestyle E-Course (sign up now for the January one!).

    So, onto 2014’s goals and resolutions. Some are an extension of lessons learnt this year. Some are brand new.

    I will work to my strengths

    In 2013, I learnt a lot about how I work best. In the past, I’ve spent too much time doing things I felt I should, and trying to work in a way that didn’t come naturally. Understanding how I work best, especially as an introvert, is something I’m planning to continue to do in 2014. I now know that more structure, planning less, daily meditation and having a dedicated work space all work well for me.

    What are your strengths?

    I will learn a new skill

    My personal life has dominated 2013, so I want to add some professional development to 2014. Something manageable, that I can do in an afternoon or on a quiet Sunday. At the moment, my biggest goal is to gain a better understanding of Google Analytics.

    I will prioritise

    In 2013, I’ve developed a few strategies for improving how I prioritise. Eat That Frog, taking on the hardest task first, is the strongest influence on this. Identifying three things I HAVE to do on my To Do list has helped let go of the guilt that not everything is going to get done. And identifying a morning and evening routine has been hugely beneficial (more on that soon). I plan to continue putting these into practice in 2014. I’m also in the process of reading The Chimp Paradox, which I suspect will have a big impact on how I work next year.

    I will keep on top of my accounting

    Same resolution every year. This year though, I have Rosie’s excellent Tax Return Toolkit to keep me organised.

    I will reflect

    How much time do you take to take a step back and reflect on your day and your achievements? There are plenty of apps that make this easier to do now – my favourites being Lift and Happier.

    I will take time out

    This year, I took my first proper holiday in five years – and that was my honeymoon. This year, I plan to pack in a few weekend breaks away. I’ve learnt that short and sweet works for me, and controlled access to wi-fi keeps me sane! As much as I love the idea of a technology detox, it really doesn’t work for me.

    I will have more fun

    If I had to sum up 2013 in one word, it would be ‘stressful’. I plan on having a lot more fun in 2014.

    I will plan less

    One of the most successful things I’ve done in 2013, is plan less. One of my worst habits is to procrastinate in the process of planning, and put off the scary concept of actually putting a finished product out there. By limiting pre-planning to the minimum, then planning as I go along, I’ve been far more successful in reaching some of my goals. This is a resolution I’m planning to continue into 2014.

    I will implement some more processes

    I’m not a naturally organised person, so I need processes in place to get stuff done. I’ve had some success with this in 2013, but in 2014 I’m planning to put some processes in place to deal with my emails better, keep this blog on a more regular track and, inevitably, some processes to get my diet back on track (I couldn’t talk about resolutions without mentioning food at some point…)

    I will reduce my information intake

    I’ve got subscriptions coming out of my ears at the moment – email subscriptions, Facebook page likes, magazines subscriptions, blog subscriptions. My target is to unsubscribe from five things every day. I’m using the Lift app to prompt me to do this.

    What freelance resolutions are you adopting in 2014?