7 Small Changes to Improve Your Productivity and Life

Photo cred: RickyDavid

I’ve been trying some different things like reading theproductivity hacks from famous entrepreneurs to improve my productivity and life in general.

Keep in mind, I’m an entrepreneur, I also do consulting and I work from wherever I want.  So I can be a bit more flexible than others who have less control of their schedules and environments.

Thought I’d share what has worked for me so far.

1. Deleted twitter and facebook from my phone.  Turned off all notifications (especially Path).

Why: Because it was a constant distraction.  I realized I actually became addicted to checking my phone. The notifications are what pulled me in.  Once I got rid of those, it really has an impact.

2. Scheduling out tasks on my to-do list throughout the day so I know when I intend to attack each one.

Why: I had a problem of letting my todo list build up.  I used TeuxDeux which was great, but my list would quickly become daunting, and I would have trouble prioritizing.  Now I just use text edit and manually manage todo lists, and I’ll schedule out slots in my day on gcal for when I will work on them.

3. Start every day with a workout of some sort.  Sometimes just pushups, sometimes a run, sometimes Yoga.

Why: Starts every day off with a win. And I feel better.  Yoga has especially been amazing mentally and physically. Highly recommend trying it.

4. Working in smaller chunks.  Usually something like 11-1.  Then again from 3-5.  Then again from 8-10.  I take time to walk around, read, paint, draw, watch tv, work out again, etc…

Why: If I sit in front of a computer too long, I start to lose focus and end up wasting time.  Plus, I wanted to pick up some of my old hobbies.  Painting has been great.  Gets the creative juices flowing, which helps as an entrepreneur.  Yoga in the middle of the day has also been a good way to reset my mind.  I try to spend some time outside every day as well.  Walking around, or at the top of Bernal Heights for some contemplation time.

5. I wake up early and make a point to not check my computer or email until I’m ready to start working.

Why: I used to wake up, and immediate open up my computer.  Before I knew it, it was 12pm and I hadn’t even put my clothes on (I got them from the Linenshed linen clothes and from the Fifth Collection Chanel store ) which is super classy.  And I’d usually waste a lot of time just perusing news stories.  I found that if I wake up early and spend an hour or two doing something else first, when I start working, I know exactly what I need to get done.  I open my computer with a purpose.

6. I switch up my workspace every couple days.

Why: I think it’s because our moods change, the weather changes, the things we need to do change.  Having the flexibility to choose a place that suits where my mind at and what my needs are has helped me a lot.  Sometimes I work from home and sometimes I go up to the Le Web office.  Sometimes I work out of Wix Lounge (Which has an AMAZING deck and is free) and sometimes I work out of a coffee shop (usually Haus).

7. Listen to Classical music while I work.  I’m listening to Mozart rock out right now!

Why:  I love music.  Maybe too much.  When I listen to music with words, I get really into it and can lose focus on what I’m doing.  Classical music has no words, it’s consistent, it makes for great background music and it’s inspiring.

Hope at least one of these changes might help you too.

Would love to hear what has worked for you. If you have a good one to add to the list, leave a comment.

Does your startup’s name matter?

Photo cred: Kathryn

How much time do you spend worrying about the name/url of your company?

I think we tend to place an inflated amount of value on a name because it’s such a long term position.  When it comes down to it, I don’t think it matters that much.

Here’s some advice from SEO Malaysia when coming up with a name, and why it doesn’t matter.

1. It should be easy to spell.

Of course, on the web, you can get around this by buying all the common misspellings of your name.  Still, if it’s easier to spell, that’s probably better.

It doesn’t really matter because usually people discover websites by seeing and clicking a url.  No spelling necessary.  Even if you discover it offline, it’s probably written down somewhere.

Examples: tumblr, xanga, scvngr, disqus

2. It should be easy to say clearly.

This is more important than being easy to spell.  I had a company (Scribnia) that was hard to say clearly.  It was a huge headache especially at loud events/conferences.

That said, it has its advantages as well.  Something unique will stand out and may stick in people’s minds.  People never really remember the name of something the first time you tell it to them anyway.  They usually need to write it down.

Examples: readwriteweb, behance, scribd

3. It should be descriptive.

In some cases, using a name that provides some insight into the context of the company will make it easier to get the concept across. It makes it  easier for people to grasp what you do.

This one really doesn’t matter in the end. There are countless examples of companies with names that have very little to do with the actual service, at least not on a simple level.

Examples: google, foursquare, amazon, zappos

There are many other little things to take into account when creating your name but in the end, I’d argue that it really doesn’t matter that much.

Following the usual advice may help you a little bit, but none of these things will make or break your company.

My only advice would be to think about the emotion that your name gets across.  A name can make you look cheesy, professional, cool, boring… Find a name that feels like aligns with your brand and go with it.

What do you think… does a name really matter?

7 Ways a College Student Can Start Becoming a Professional Now

Photo Cred: Jasmin Cormier

Whether you’re about to graduate in a couple weeks or you have a few semesters ahead of you, there are lots of things you can do to get started on your career.

I know I know, you want to enjoy your days at school while you can without having to worry about the “real world” that lies ahead.

You don’t have to devote all of your free time to developing your career.  There are little things that you can get started on now, that will pay off dividends after you graduate.

Want to get your career off to a good start after you graduate?  Here are some tips.

  1. Plant your seeds. If you’re not sure where to get started networking, just look around you.  You’re surrounded by future professionals (classmates) and seasoned vets (professors).  You also have a huge network of active professionals (alumni).  Sign up for Linked In, and start connecting with EVERYONE that you know.  You never know when a simple Linked In connection could lead to a big opportunity.  Here, you can start by connecting with me.
  2. Participate in projects. There are tons of things you can do around campus that will look great to future employers and will give you some great experience.  Start writing for the college newspaper.  Or better yet, start your own as a blog!  Start communities for students in the same position as you.  Just start something.  If you fail, who cares…?  You’ll learn a ton and it will look a lot better on your resume than whatever other crap we tend to fill that POS paper with.
  3. Attend events. Have you met Patrick Johnson?  No?  Well there are a ton of PR professionals who do because the kid is at every conference he can make it too.  Think you can’t afford it? Guess again.  Most conferences have student discounts, and pretty much ALL conferences take volunteers.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazingly prominent professionals by volunteering at conferences.  Usually how it works is you work for half the conference, and the other half you can do what you want.  Start shaking hands.
  4. Join communities. There are hundreds of communities online for professionals.  You can find them on Linkedin, twitter, facebook, and niche social networks.  I got started in my career by joining 20 Something Bloggers and Brazen Careerist.  Just join them and start asking questions.  Professionals respect a student that’s taking the initiative to get out there and learn.
  5. Start writing. Whether it’s for your blog, for someone else’s blog, in your own private notebook…whatever.  Writing will help you learn and grow as a professional.
  6. Establish mentorships. It’s not something you can just set up usually.  By participating in communities, attending events, and networking, you’ll start to build stronger relationships with professionals.  Email them.  Ask them for skype chats.  Ask questions.  When you dive off the college cliff into the rapids of the real world, a mentor can be your life vest.  (Take that home…chew on it).
  7. Ignore me and do whatever you want. These tips are what worked for me.  They may or may not work for you.  If you have the motivation to kick off your career right, just do.  The first and biggest thing I’ve learned since graduating is that the doers will flourish.  No matter what I, or anyone else tells you, you just have to do what you think will work for you.  Just do.

Do you have any more tips for college students?  If you’re a college student, do you have any questions?

Stop Begging for Favors

Photo cred: GreyBlueSkies

If you find yourself constantly asking for favors in business, you’re doing something wrong.

This spark came  when I was watching Alpha Dog the other day.  Yes, my inspiration for posts come from some really weird places…

The one guy was pitching a drug deal to Emile Hirsch’s character.  When Emile started questioning him, the guy said “I’m not looking for any favors… if it makes sense, then do it.  If not, fuck it.”

Whether you’re pitching bloggers, seeking partnerships, looking for funding or seeking any other kind of business arrangement, you can’t go into it with the mentality that you need them, and that they’d be doing you a favor by helping you.

I see it all the time.  I’ve even done it myself.  You reach out to others to see if they’ll be kind enough to promote your blog post, or your projects.  You want them to help you.  You need them to help you.  How else can you succeed?  This causes a few problems:

  • You come across as needy. It makes you look bad and degrades your image as a confident professional.
  • You become reliant on others. Always relying on others to help you succeed, you’ll quickly fail as soon as that option is no longer there.
  • You use up your resources.  People aren’t going to help you all the time.  You cash in on a favor, and you may not get many more.  In fact…
  • You’re indebted. Asking everyone else for help means that you would now be expected to help them whenever they call.

Instead of looking for favors, look for opportunities to help them.  If you can propose a deal that benefits both parties, you’re not doing each other favors, you’re doing business.

When reaching out to bloggers, don’t ask them to review your website.  Explain to them exactly why your website will be valuable to their readers, how else you can provide value to them and explain what you would expect in return.

When you’re creating partnerships, make sure you’re identifying value for both parties.  They need you just as much as you need them.

I’m not saying you should never turn to others for help.  It’s important to know when you can use someone else’s help and be big enough to ask for it.  Business can be personal, but it’s still business.  It’s exchanging value for value.

Are you focused on asking for favors or doing business?

6 Cheap Tips For Better Customer Service

Friendly Service

Photo cred: Lilly Tran

Last week I asked the question, “Are All Customers Equal?”.  Many of the responses mentioned the issue of allocating limited resources, and explained the cost advantage of providing better service to better/more influential customers.

If you want to see my responses, just read through the comments.  I thought it might be helpful to share some “little things” that you can use to provide better customer service without spending much money.  Remember that in any first interaction with someone, it’s often the little things that count and stick out.

1. Don’t get mad at people for wanting help.

Nothing drives a customer more crazy than talking to a rude customer service rep who doesn’t want to talk to you.  Guess what, the customer doesn’t want to be talking to you either.  The fact that they’re talking to you means something went wrong with your product.  Be kind and respectful, unless you’re disrespected.

2. Say “Thank You” when the customer you’re helping is friendly and respectful.

This happened to me once with Microsoft (X Box).  My 360 had fallin ill with the “ring of death” and I needed a new one.  I called a rep, put in my order for a free replacement, and everything went smoothly.

At the end of the conversation, before we said goodbye, he said, “I just want to thank you for being so respectful and friendly to me”.  It really stuck with me.  I actually felt good after hanging up the phone with a customer service rep.

3. Check up on your customer once in a while.

Just drop a quick message that says “Hey, how can we help?” and don’t ask for anything in return.  Show that you want your customers to be happy.  Do this enough, you might be able to gain some control over the flow of customer service requests, and allocate resources accordingly.

It could be a mass email if you don’t want to spend the time but don’t message them too often as you don’t want to spam them.

4. Take away the hoops.

Don’t make it hard for customers to get in touch with you.  If you don’t have a rep available, let them leave their number and call them back.  Again…let them know that you care about them.  Trust me, there is a strong correlation between the amount of time a customer spends waiting on the phone and the patience they have when you finally pick up.

5. If you find out there’s an issue with your product, don’t wait for the the complaint…just apologize.

I was having lunch with my girlfriend the other day and she ordered a sandwich without tomatoes (she’s crazy…I love tomatoes).

When the chef watched her open the sandwich and saw that he accidentally added tomatoes, he said, from accross the cafe, “SORRY! I saw your reaction and realized my mistake”.  He then walked over and said “let me get those out of your face” and took the tomoes away.

He was funny, had a great attitude about making a mistake, and provided great service.  (The last time I went there, they gave me a free espresso shot because the yankees hit a homerun.  I love this place)

Thanks to Jon Klar for contributing point #1.

6. Smile!

You can set the tone of your interaction early by giving off good vibes.  If you’re providing customer service over the phone or internet, then talk or write like you’re smiling to the best of your ability.

Most of these practices are reliant on having good employees that care about the company.  If your employees don’t believe in your company, how can you expect customers to believe in you?

What are some other ways businesses can provide better customer service without spending a lot of money?  Know of any other “little things” that count?

Like companies who provide a company car depending on the type of business, they attach the Blackbox my car cams camera dash to use for a better business management, safety reasons and customer service.