Secure Online Document Sharing 
Friday, March 21, 2008, 06:54 PM - Computers, E-mail, Links, Small Business, Technology, Work Habits
One of the nice things about the Internet is being able to share information quickly - but it's not always secure, especially when a document is sent by e-mail.

In response to the needs of some of our clients, my company, Midwest New Media, has created a secure alternative to e-mailing sensitive information. This new service, SendItWisely (senditwisely.com), facilitates secure online document sharing in a simple, easy-to-use manner.

So now, instead of e-mailing that sensitive document, you can share it quickly and securely via an SSL connection. Best of all, it's free to try.

SendItWisely is currently in beta testing, so please feel free to send us comments about your experience.
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David Allen presentation to Google 
Monday, February 18, 2008, 08:20 PM - Life/Work Balance, Links, Work Habits
David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, recently gave a presentation to Google, who posted a video of it on YouTube.
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Get a Headset for Your Cordless Phone 
Friday, September 29, 2006, 08:28 PM - Phone, Reviews, Technology, Work Habits
I recently bought a headset for my cordless phone, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Because I work at a computer, and often have to type while on the phone, I got really tired of constantly wedging the phone between my left ear and my shoulder. Even worse, I think it might have caused a bit of damage to my left ear, having used it exclusively and probably at too high a volume.

Before I was self-employed, I worked in an office where a sales associate wore a headset all day, and I thought it looked ridiculous. (It is important to point out that I have an aversion to gadgets and habits that people use to feel more important than they really are, or to feel more "high-tech" than their coworkers. Hands-free phone devices have always been high on my list.)

However, I decided that something like this might actually be useful, if not a necessity, so I went ahead and picked up a basic GE headset that retails for about $20. It has a padded ear piece on one side (which I generally use on my right ear), a microphone that extends out near my chin, and a volume control and mute button on the cord that connects to the phone's handset.

So far it's been fantastic. I can put the phone in my pocket and walk around, type as much as I want, and relax my head and shoulders when I'm talking to someone. The telephone has become my friend instead of an irritation.

If you sit at a desk and use a phone for more than a half hour a day, stop by your nearest office supply or electronics store and check out the options that are available, including wireless headsets and hands-free phones. Just remember - whatever you end up using, make sure you don't appear to be talking to yourself (i.e., no earpieces), and don't wear it when you're not on the phone. Otherwise you'll look like a jerk.
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Managing Time Thieves, Part 1 - The Phone 
Tuesday, May 23, 2006, 03:57 PM - Phone, Work Habits
We all know people who have nothing better to do but take up our time. One of the favorite devices of these time thieves is the telephone.

In many cases, if I'm stuck on the phone with a client, I can bill the client for my time, when appropriate. But it doesn't always work that way, especially with small businesses and non-profits who have limited resources and are simply calling for advice or to chat. So how do I protect my time without ignoring or disrespecting the person who keeps calling?

Fortunately, most people are intelligent, and are capable of changing how they interact with you, if you set the right example. Here are a few techniques that have worked for me:

1. As a general rule, if you are providing anything of value during a phone conversation with a client, make sure to bill the client fairly for your time. Of course, it's important to not nickel-and-dime the people you serve, but if someone is calling you repeatedly for 15-30 minutes at a time, it is usually not unreasonable to charge them for the service you are providing them. Some clients understand this inherently, and so it's up to you to simply log your time, but others need to have this concept explained in a kind way. For example, "I want to let you know that I am happy to help you with anything you need, but I also need to be a good steward of my own time, so I'm going to have to start charging for phone consultations that take more than 10 minutes." Of course, make sure you actually follow through on this; otherwise, their behavior will change.

2. Most people have a reason for calling you, so you shouldn't just ignore someone if they're calling too much or keeping you on the phone for too long. However, it's important to keep them in check, because it's unfair to you and to your other clients/friends/employees if someone is hogging your time. One way I try to get around this is to limit certain people to only one or two phone calls per day. (Of course, you will need Caller ID to do this.) After that limit is reached, let them leave a voice message and call them back the next morning. This way, it's clear that you're not hiding from the person, but it also sends the message that you are not at their beck and call.

3. Another way to control your time on the phone is to make and accept calls only during certain hours. I would suggest early morning (8:30-9:30 a.m.) and/or late afternoon (4-5 p.m.) - times when you're unlikely to be bothered, but are still within normal business hours. And never take calls at an inappropriate hour (such as 9 p.m.) unless it's someone who clearly respects your time and would have a good reason for calling.

4. If someone keeps calling you without leaving a message, you are under no obligation to return their call. However, if it becomes a nuisance, just answer the phone, tell them that you're in the middle of something (or some other truthful statement), and ask them to send you a quick e-mail or to call back at a specific time - preferably the next day, if it's not urgent.

5. On your outgoing voice message, provide a less intrusive way to reach you, such as your e-mail address. Better yet, if there are certain issues that one of your colleagues or employees (e.g. an executive assistant or business partner) frequently handles on your behalf, provide that person's information as well.

Whatever you do, the most important thing is to be respectful, and make it clear that you aren't dodging the other person (unless your goal is to completely get rid of them). A true professional should be able to treat others with class and kindness, even in difficult situations.

I invite your feedback. Have you tried any of these techniques, or had success with other methods?
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