Archive for category productivity

Mind Mapping: Online Collaboration Tool


Note: This guest post by Richard Egan has a focus on education but the principles covered can easily be translated into other settings.   Collaborative tools like MindMeister are powerful ways to bring people and their ideas together.

Online Collaboration

Online collaboration has become very popular in both education and business. We now have the ability to easily and freely share all file types using different cloud based platforms.  People working collectively on a project or assignment no longer need to be in the same room or even in the same country for that matter.

Collaborative platforms have enabled educators to create online learning environments where students can benefit from sharing ideas and communicating with each other, their mentors and external organizations.

Mind Mapping and Online Collaboration

Mind maps are an excellent method for individuals to graphically represent and structure ideas or thoughts. It is a very valuable tool which can be used for project management, creating to-do lists, idea generation, planning articles or papers.

Mind mapping can be implemented for collaborating and brainstorming, it gives students a platform to work simultaneously and a facility for learning together. Introducing mind mapping to students is a great way to encourage group participation and when managed properly will generate great results.

Benefits of Collaborative Tools:

  • Easier project management
  • More informed decision making
  • Promotes critical thinking
  • Meetings and brainstorming sessions conducted remotely
  • Develop new skills for a business environment
  • Files stored in one place i.e. no waiting for a document to be emailed
  • Improved communication between students, lecturers and research groups

Collaboration: Mind Mapping Uses

Using mind mapping for collaboration presents students with the opportunity to share ideas with peers and to think creatively through social inspiration. I have made a list of some of the situations where mind mapping can be used as a solution for online collaboration.

  • Managing group projects
  • Class assignments
  • Sharing lecture notes
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Study sessions
  • Group presentations

The video below is an example of multiple users collaborating on one map – they are creating an IKEA shopping list for their office. All changes to the mind map can be seen in real-time by all collaborators

Mind Mapping Example: Project Management

The next time you are assigned a group project in school or college I would encourage you to use a mind map from the beginning. To get started you can follow these easy steps:

  • Create a mind map with title of project
  • Invite all teams members to be collaborators
  • Have a brainstorming session with all collaborators

At this point you should have a map with many topics, ideas and tasks to be completed. The next step is to appoint a team leader who can:

  • Sort and structure all the information in the map
  • Delegate tasks, create deadlines and set reminders for each member

Once this has been completed you will have very quickly created a project plan and a great starting point for the project. In addition to this, create another mind map with all details of each team member i.e. contact details, to-do lists and daily schedules; it can then be linked to the main map. The purpose for this is that everyone can see what the other is doing, progress can be monitored and meetings can be easily scheduled to suit everyone.

Some of the mind mapping software providers also support smartphones and tablets meaning that members can literally participate whenever or wherever they may be!

Conclusion

Online collaboration is becoming ever more important and is being used by businesses all over the world to increase productivity and creativity. Following the principle that two brains are better than one many companies are taking advantage of new software being made available to them. Collaborating online has many benefits in education but it is also very important that students are prepared for such working environments after their studies.

New online collaborative tools are emerging every day with numerous platforms for saving and sharing files, conducting meetings and managing projects. Mind mapping is one such tool but with a bit of a difference, it is a visual tool. Not only can files be stored and shared on the cloud but you can also see and watch how the whole thought process evolved and how a conclusion was formed or how a plan was made. And because each collaborator can add to a mind map simultaneously no one person can dominate the direction or outcome!

This is a guest post created by Richard Egan, a mind mapping specialist at MindMeister — a leading provider of mind mapping solutions.

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HootSuite Adds More Awesome to Hootlet with AutoSchedule – HootSuite Social Media Management


HootSuite / Hootlet has become one of my favorite tools to manage twitter accounts and my Facebook account and Facebook pages for myself and my clients.  I’ve tried many but this web based service seems to have the best of both words and I have come to expect it on all the machines I work on.

HootSuite Adds More Awesome to Hootlet with AutoSchedule

Post is in the News & Events Parent Category July 17, 2012 by Andy Au0

HootSuite adds more awesome to Hootlet with new features including AutoSchedule – a powerful new link share tool that determines the optimal time to schedule social media messaging. Now you can automatically queue messages throughout the day to maintain a consistent social media presence.

via HootSuite Adds More Awesome to Hootlet with AutoSchedule – HootSuite Social Media Management.

Hootlet – Time Saver

This Chrome extension is one of the first I add to any machine I work on.  It has saved me countless hours.  One of the new time savers is Auto-schedule feature.    When I’m pushing content to my to biggest twitter accounts try and space it out.  So you can imaging when you are pushing 20 updates the time management can get a bit tricky.  Now this is taken care of.   I have used it today and like it thus far.

Schedule Still Works

Now, if I’m managing a campaign for a client, I still manage the schedule manually.  I can release the updates to Twitter and Facebook based on the campaign we have designed.  This still remains so you don’t lose anything there.

Possible Improvements

Here are some ideas I would love to see in this new capability:

  • Load Balancing – As you put more updates in, they auto-adjust to spread out over time, maybe a range you give them.  9 to 5 or 7 to 7, don’t know.
  • More Automation – Since HootSuite is already watching, they should build in auto-responder capability.  That would be awesome.
  • 7 Drip Logic – Have a singe post/update  set for distribution X number of times.  The logic here is that a message doesn’t really sink in until it’s heard 7 times by the consumer.

So what do you think of the tool?  What other suggestions would you recommend to HootSuite.

Good Hunting!

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Reclaim Your Time with the 1% : 99% Rule (Part 1 of 3)


Push Back: No Time

English: A Soccer ball. Svenska: En fotboll i ...

English: A Soccer ball. Svenska: En fotboll i vektorgrafik med genomskinlig bakgrund. futebol grego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I was coaching a new client on how to create new habbits associated with updating their web sites and other digital properties. To my surprise, this brought out a little push back about not having enough time to do some of the things this small business owner was being requested to do.    All I was asking from the client was to put some 30 minute a day items on his Google calendar to remind him to do certain things each day.

So this got me to thinking about how to create more time in our day.  As I was studying this problem, one of my old coaching sayings popped in my head.  I would explain to the  soccer players I coached, the game is “1% Ball – 99% Everything Else”.  When we first start out learning we tend to focus on the ball, not the “99% everything else” we should be.   The 1% is important, but if that’s all we focus on, then we miss all the rest.

Give me a few moments to explain how this works in business as I use this sports analogy.

Sports Analogy: Youth Soccer

I suggest if you want more time, you need to work on your fundamentals until they take up less time thus freeing up new time to do the more valuable things.  Let me explain how.

When we are training youth to play soccer we focus on the basics: trapping, passing, and dribbling.  These skills are not the most productive, but rather, because we need these to feel natural, almost second nature.  What we want to focus on are the advanced topics: Space, Positioning, Movement, Awareness, Placement, Possession, Finishing, and Defending.  In any given practice session, the more time we must spend on the basics, the less time we have to spend on the advanced, dare I say, more productive skills.

We can easily spot players who have mastered their fundamentals.  “Head-on-a Swivel” is a term coaches use when selecting new youth teams each season.  If we see a person who has their head up and focusing on the 99% of the game, we know they’ve mastered the 1% (at their level of play).

So we train on the fundamentals until they become so natural that we spend less and less time on them and more on the advanced topics I listed above.  Each season we expect growth in the advanced areas, and it is very noticeable when a player still challenged with the fundamentals is placed in a game with those that have mastered it.

Master your fundamentals.  This is what I am recommending you do in your business and private life!

Business Example: Calendar Management

Again, I suggest if you want more time, you need to work on your fundamentals until they take up less time thus freeing up new time to do the more valuable things.  Since I’m talking about time, let me explain buy using a time management tool you should be using, your calendar.

Let’s just imaging a person who spends 75% of their work hours making sure that the remaining 25% of their work hours are fine tuned to perfection.  I know this is hyperbole.  No sane person would do this.   But it brings up a valuable point.  The more time we spend on administrative tasks the less time we spend on value added tasks.

In this example,  if we can improve the administrative process and thus cut the 75% time spent in half, we gain 100% of productive time back.   Let’s say this person takes 30 minutes to figure out the best way to deal with a 30 minute meeting request, we would then focus on setting up a system that allows new meeting requests to flow more naturally and not take up as much administrative time to set and approve.

In the up-coming posts, we will break this down further for you.

More to Come

Part 2 – Technology Tools

In part two we talk  about technology and how it can be used to create new time in your schedule.  To drop a few names: IFTTT, DropBox, EverNote, G+ Hang-outs.

Part 3 – Action Items

In part three we talk about action items for you.  These will be broken down into two parts:

  1. Short Term Assignments
  2. Routines and Goals

Leave some comments and tell me what you think.

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Continuous Learning: New Podcast List


The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting

Image via Wikipedia

So if you are anything like me, you are in submission to the fact that there is more to learn in this world then you currently know.  The truly wise among us acknowledge that our current knowledge placed on the scale of all the knowledge will always find us wanting for the remainder of our days.

The trick is to stay on the cutting edge of information that helps us achieve our goals.  One of the ways I have tried to stay sharp on specific topics is by using podcasts.  I currently use iTunes (most convenient at this time)  and my Android phone, with the help of iSync.    There are a host of podcasts, mostly free but some cost nominal amounts, on iTunes that cover a wide range of topics.

New Updates on my Listening List

So here are latest additions to my listening list:

  • BeanCast – deep dive into marketing topics
  • EntreLeadership – Dave Ramsey‘s leadership and business podcast
  • Let’s Make Mistakes – design but irreverent with some foul language.
  • Marketing Over Coffee – quick ‘on they way to work drive’ worth of internet marketing news
  • Social Triggers Insiders – on of the authors I follow on Google+
  • This Is Your Life – leadership podcast

Dropped from my Listening List

  • No More Weak Days – Daily prayer and Bible reading.  Great concept but had a hard time struggling with the KJ and Message format in their reading plan. “1 Year Daily Audio Bible” is still my preferred choice for daily scripture reading (listening).

Lesson’s Learned

The important thing is to keep learning!  Don’t stop.  If you are starting a new project, search out a podcast and listen to it while driving or exercising.

I would love to hear about podcasts you have found helpful in your daily routine.  Share them in the comments.

Good Hunting.

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Unclear? Use a Twitter Summary!


English: A Twitter tweet

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever just stopped and thought, “OK, exactly, what am I doing here?”  Have you ever been asked to explain something and found yourself ramblings and your thoughts came out incoherent and and your thoughts are without any cohesion and almost on the verge of being labeled ‘verbal diarrhea’? (run on sentence intended for effect folks!!)

Force Some Discipline

There is a way you can attack this problem.  This idea comes from a book I’ve recently read call “Drive” by Daniel Pink.  (Good Read! Recommend it!) It’s one of the suggestions in the back of the book which you could easily overlook and just skiip by if you are not careful.

The concept is simple.  Use a tool, like Twitter, to force you to craft a message in 140 characters.  Twitter will only publish 140 characters of a person’s tweet.  It provides a nice clean interface with a gentile reminder of how many characters you have remaining.  It also provides you a negative number if you go over 140 characters, thus showing you how much you have to trim to have your entire message included in the twitter stream.  Twitter simply provides us a clean and straightforward page with the needed feedback to accomplish this task.

Twitter is not the focus

You could use any tool that gives you the feedback to understand how close you are to 140 characters.  Even the 140 characters are arbitrary and simply based on the fact that Twitter has this limitation.  I could also use any word processor that provide the basic functionality of ‘word count‘ .  You could write a simple Visual Basic program in minutes to perform the same task.  The tool is not the important factor here.  It is your ability to boil down your message to 140 charaters.

In the past we’ve talked about using elevator speeches, but this is more intense and to the point.  Only using 140 characters to create focus.

Twitter Summary Application

  • Front Office Staff – image the value you would bring if your responses were pithy and to the point.  How many of us have wished we met some of these staff in our travels.  Only to find out 2 minutes into a question answer session you picked the wrong person to ask ‘where the bathroom was?’ (exaggeration intended)
  • Meeting Prep – Wouldn’t we all like to come into a meeting and with a short burst from the moderator / facilitator know how much I need to pay attention?  In fact, I could then text my assistent to pull me out of the meeting in let’s say 10 minutes.  (Note to self: I bet I could write a quick program so that when I text mesage a certain code to it, it would then rendomly generate a ‘emergency text message‘ to my department member’s phones  so I can get them all the hell out of there before they waste another minute not doing their jobs!) (exaggeration intended)
  • Event Planning – When I plan out an event, each hour has something it needs to accomplish.  I would suggest having a twitter summary for each hour so that each hour can be easily reviewed by the facilitation staff and the owner / sponsor of the event.
  • Calendar Management – wouldn’t we all like to look at a calendar event and not ask the question – what in the world is this here for and who authorized it to be on my calendar?  Well a twitter summary would help there also.
  • Instructions to Staff – I’ve also heard this one called ‘commander’s intent‘ as well.  It would be a short burst stating what is the ultimate outcome or goal is for an activity.  Sometimes these are needed so that if something goes wrong, the team, using autonomy, can make adjustments to still hit the mark by the end of the assignment.
  • Classroom Setting – excellent use of a few seconds to start out the class.  Let everyone know what’s going to happen in the class for the next hour to three hours.  (Also see Meeting Prep above – for you resourceful students – but don’t try it in my class – I have you turn off your phones)

Taken to an Extreme

Anything could be taken to an extreme.  For instance, imaging you walk into your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  You ask, what you believe to be, a genuinely sincere, simple, innocent, open ended question and the response you get from behind the counter is “No”.  Not withstanding it was an open ended question, this all to common event, could simply be all the DMV’s in the world preemptively taking my advice to this pithy extreme before I even make this post available to the public (although I have my suspicions that this is not the case and something else might be going on)   So be mindful that this advice could also be taken to an extreme and you would want to avoid that s well.

Would love to hear how you could apply Twitter Summaries.  Leave a post and let me know.

Good Hunting!

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Make it Easy for Customers


The other day I was helping a new client plan out marketing materials for an upcoming event and asked if he was using QR Codes on all of his materials.  I explained that many people are now scanning them and then using them to do research or deal with retention issues associated with information overload.

The items in your QR Code should be:

  1. Direct link to the landing page for the event or product promoted at that event so the visitor doesn’t have to hunt down what they were interested in.
  2. Your phone number
  3. Your Email Address
  4. other pertinent information that you wanted stored in their contact list
    1. hours of operation
    2. Your name
    3. Your Address
    4. Other web sites you want them to know about (blogs, product micro sites, etc.)

Oh, and if the back of your business card isn’t already in use, put a QR Code there.  It shows you respect their time by having them avoid manually typing the data into their contact database.

Is It Important?

Well if  you don’t think this is important enough to add to your marketing material, maybe this article might change your mind:

Half of U.S. shoppers rely on phones for in-store research

Good Hunting!

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Facebook’s Unfriendly Competition Subscriptions


We all, deep down in our souls,  know that Facebook has destroyed the concept of friendship.   Facebook has cheapened the meaning of the word friend, and yet, unwittingly …  somehow, elevated the concept of  “BFF” (best friend foreveeeeer!!!!)

Just the other day, a long time friend came to me apologizing that she had just recently accepted a long forgotten sent Facebook friend request.  She took five minutes explaining how and why she accepts friends in Facebook and said that my friends invitation was simply an oversight and begged for my forgiveness.  My response: “Oh OK, so how you been this week?”

New Competition: Google+ Circles

Not even out of BETA, Google+ has caused some irritation to Facebook.  You can’t help but seeing reviews on the concept of “Google+ Circles” and your ability to project your information to specific circle of people rather then having it pasted to your entire ‘friend list’ in Facebook.  After all, we segment our lives differently then all or nothing.

Google+ calls them “People”, Facebook calls them “Friends”   I can subscribe to people’s feeds in Google+, and yes even narrow that down by creating a sub-set call Circles.  Now in Facebook I can subscribe to ‘someone’ without being a being a friend.

Facebook has introduced a new look to ‘Lists’.  You could always create friend lists, but most people never used them because they were not the easiest to create or maintain.  Now they are more predominant on the screen and they include showing the number of new updates since last time on.  I will post more on this later.

Facebook’s Unfriendly Subscribe Option

Finally, I can follow a person without giving them the false hope that we have somehow become anything other then an non-friend acquaintance, if that.  My casual hook-up with them is simply a matter of convenience to satisfy my natural curiosity of what they have to offer.    Our relationship simply lasts as long as they provide me what I need, and I can drop them as quickly as I met them.  No emotional strings attached!  How nice of Facebook for finally allow such unfriendly relationships.

Subscription Button Info

Here are some things to remember about this new Facebook capability:

  • a person must turn this feather on to allow someone to subscribe to them.
  • you get to decide how much you want to see from your subscriptions, photo’s only, or how about ‘no more game messages!’ – that’s actually a good thing.
  • If you can’t subscribe to someone, just remember “It’s not you, it’s them” and you don’t have to feel left out, no one can then subscribe to that person.
  • Facebook Pages have gone through a lot of changes expect more changes to come that way as well.
Good Hunting

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Social Media Busyness Doesn’t Equal Business Value


Infographic on how Social Media are being used...

Image via Wikipedia

Lately, I  have been pounded with a theme of challenges around the question “Why take part in Social Media if it takes up so much time and has such poor tangible results?”  And my general response is, it should take as much time as needed to accomplish your business objectives which have been created to help you reach your goals.

I also have to explain that social media, executed poorly, is far more expensive then doing nothing at all.  The below article caught my:

Top Five Social Media Marketing Mistakes?

You know about all the wonderful things the blogosphere can do for your business. But how can you prevent the not-so-wonderful stuff?

Social media initiatives have become standard components of companiesmarketing and communications strategies. Large or small—from the local bakery to General Motors (GM)—businesses see the value of engaging in online conversations already taking place about their brands. While social media best practices have emerged, brands still struggle with how best to engage with their consumers. Here are five common mistakes:

1. Not (or Barely) Monitoring:

2. “Down-sourcing” to Interns or Junior Staff:

3. Fast Beats Perfect:

4. Faking It:

5. Having an “Off” Switch:

At the end of the day, brands must earn their “social currency.” There are no shortcuts or substitutes to authentic engagement in the realm of social media.

via Top Five Social Media Marketing Mistakes – BusinessWeek.

Busy-ness vs Business

Unfortunately, I see many small or medium sized companies try their luck with social media and treat it like some shiny new toy that consumes all their attention, as they forget about all the other things they could be doing.  I find they over tweet, over post, and over blog themselves to the point that they justify leaving the scene altogether because it’s not worth the effort for the little results they see.

This is where I come in.  I sit down with them and ask some simple questions.  What activities, events, promotions, or other marketing objectives are coming up in the near future?  After I have that list, I can then sit down with them and explain the role of each of the social media tools and how they can fit into the marketing plan for the upcoming several months.  We also start by setting up measurements so that they understand where their leads are coming from.  As a simple example, this may include a unique 800 number for each channel (print, tv, radio, and each site they are using – it’s not that expensive really)   I explain how their phone bill or on-line phone records can then be used to measure campaign success, if inbound calls are one of the means by which we will measure the campaign success.

Social media can be a valuable tool for small and medium sized companies.  It can level the playing field quickly for a company that is dealing with a regional or national player, especially if these companies have their marketing and advertising plans controlled by corporate.  Often these larger companies are incapable of adjusting to local pressure applied by small companies and their ideas.

I’d love to hear of examples in which small companies attack the larger companies by using social media.  Please share them in the comments.

Good Hunting.

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Flickr improves sharing options


In my weekly review of feeds concerning Web 2.0 and Web 3.0  I ran across the news that Flickr has improved their ability to share content with other sites.  As I continue to collect material for my “WEB 2.0 for Students” class that I’ll be teaching at our local college, this one hit home.  I use Flickr for my photo repository.  So it is nice to see new feature showing up in this service since I haven’t seen to many in the last year.

Flickr adds to sharing options, now easier to share photos across the Web

by Erez Zukerman on March 31, 2011 at 03:30 AM

It sure is nice to see some new developer action over at Flickr. The relatively slow-moving photo-sharing service has just announced a new sharing update, which consists of several new and easy ways to embed or link to your photos:

via Flickr adds to sharing options, now easier to share photos across the Web.

So the thought came to me that this is nice but what could be implemented to improve the experience:

  1. Photo comments made on Flickr would also be shown on the shared item in Facebook.
  2. Post comments made on the shared item would also be available on Flickr.
  3. Multiple authors – One pool.  One of the biggest problems I have with my clients.  Many photographers, one common pool to associate them with.

Either way, Flickr is a great tool to use to keep all your photos.  It’s worth a good look at if your in the market to implement such a capability.

Good Hunting.

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LinkedIn Today gives you social news from your peers


LinkedIn Today

LinkedIn has introduced a news aggregation service called LinkedIn Today. This delivers a personalized news experience, letting you quickly discover the top headlines of the day based around what your connections and industry peers are reading and sharing.

via LinkedIn Today gives you social news from your peers.

Well this really isn’t much of a surprise, but it is a feature I think is long overdue.  Anyone that has a large network will tell you that it’s difficult to keep up with what everyone thinks is important.  We started receiving emails with the ‘top stories’ from our networks some time ago.  I really thought that new email was helpful.  Now if they can merge in my delicious and stumbledupon and (name your tagging tool here) to this mix and make it contextual based on something you also have deemed important then we are well on our way to heading to web 3.0, in my opinion.

Either way, this is a welcome add on to LinkedIn and I look  forward to the tool’s growth in capability and features.

Good Hunting.

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