Tame the Technology Beast in Your Business

TameTechnologyWhen it comes to technology, I know just enough to be dangerous. I get ridiculously excited about a new tool I can use to gather data or share information or create something clever. And I embrace every opportunity to “fix” a problem with an app or device. But I’m not technologically savvy and I get easily frustrated with the implementation. As a result, I tend to adopt new technology faster than I can figure it out. And I’ve been known to buy shiny new tools without researching them or considering whether or not they’re truly necessary. It’s no wonder I sometimes feel like technology has taken over.

If you’re equally enamored by and afraid of technology, you might find yourself a bit overwhelmed as well. Take a look at these simple suggestions for taming the technology beast in your business.

Five Ways to Tame the Technology Beast

1. Stop confusing your customers with too many options. If you’re a DIY website owner then you’ve probably fallen into this trap before. You read about an ad network that promises to generate income and is super simple to use, so you start advertising on your site. Then someone tells you to install a new social media sharing widget because it will increase traffic to your site, so now there are ten options for readers to share your latest blog post. And you hear that videos improve your engagement so you throw one together and slap it on your homepage. All of a sudden, your website is so cluttered with the latest technological capabilities that your visitor has no idea what you offer or how to hire you.

If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to simplify. Take a critical look at your site and see if there is anything you can remove. Remember what your goal is and ask yourself if each tool helps contribute to that goal.

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939 Click to Tweet!

2. Don’t spend all day creating graphics on Canva. I’m a huge fan of platforms like Canva and PicMonkey because they allow me to do simple photo editing that used to cost me a fortune. I love finding just the right photo and then editing it with a border or text overlay, playing with fonts and colors as I work. But when I find myself spending hours, instead of minutes, editing a single photo, I know it’s time to stop. Because every hour I spend tinkering with technology is an hour I lose for my business or my family.

So now I use a timer when I’m working with photos – just to make sure I’m not getting distracted. Your downfall may not be photo editing, but I’m willing to bet there is something you like to dabble in. Something you indulge in to the point of distraction. Try using a timer to keep tabs on yourself. [Read more…]

Seven Tools to Make Tax Time Less Taxing

tax toolsEvery year I promise to be more organized. I tell myself that I’ll start on my taxes sooner and I’ll have everything I need at my fingertips before April 15 rolls around.

While I can’t say I look forward to doing my taxes, I have to admit they are so much easier than they used to be. Gone are the days when I immersed myself in shoeboxes full of receipts and scoured IRS publications trying to figure out what I was doing. I remember hiring a babysitter on a Saturday afternoon in February each year so my husband and I could work on our taxes for a few hours. (To tell the truth, we spent most of the time arguing because neither one of us had done our part to prepare for our little tax retreat.) That was our routine every year…procrastinate…argue…scramble…and then try to forget.

But with each return we’ve filed, I’ve learned something new. And with each passing year, I’ve accumulated tools to help make tax time less stressful. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Evernote. If you’ve been around here a while, you’ve probably heard me sing the praises of Evernote. I’m fairly certain you can do everything you need with Evernote – possibly even file your return directly from the app somehow! But here’s how I use Evernote for taxes: I have a notebook containing tax information and documents. I share it with my husband as we prepare for taxes so we don’t duplicate efforts and we both know where we are in the process. We attach pertinent files to the notebook and save websites or screenshots directly in the file. We use the tagging feature to search easily for relevant notes we may have created throughout the year. It’s our “home base” for tax prep.

2. Mint. We use this app to manage our budget and monitor our accounts on a regular basis. What we just realized recently is that Mint allows you to download your data to a CSV file you can manipulate and use to collect tax information. It’s perfect for those of us who pay for certain tax-related expenses from multiple accounts. For example, if you pay some of your utilities via credit and other utilities via automated debit from your checking account, Mint enables you to easily calculate a total. [Read more…]

Have an Imperfect Lent

How to have an imperfect lentI made my family chicken soup on Ash Wednesday. I don’t know what I was thinking – except that it was freezing cold outside and homemade soup sounded like a good idea. But it was Ash Wednesday. The very first day of Lent and I had already screwed up. I’m not sure how you observe Lent, but our fasting requires us to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. Well, I typically don’t pay much attention to this requirement because I don’t eat meat anyway. But I do cook it for my family. #LentenFail

So what’s a mother to do when she’s gotten off to such an imperfect start? As W.C. Fields says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

I admit, I don’t think I’ve ever had a “perfect Lent” – one in which I stuck to my promise of sacrifice or prayer without faltering. In fact, I shared my story with Inc. magazine this week when they profiled three entrepreneurs who use Lent to form highly effective habits. (And yes, I’m still pinching myself to see my name associated with a Christian message in a popular mainstream business publication!) But if you read closely, you’ll see me confess that I didn’t quite make it through 40 days of my Lenten practice last year. So I’m convicted to making it go better this year! Although, I’ve come to realize it will never be a perfect process.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we make mistakes. That’s why he sent his beloved son to save us from our sins. The only thing God expects is that when we fail, we try again. So here I am…trying again. [Read more…]