I have three kids. I commute an hour and a half to the office. And I'm at my sixth startup. It's no surprise then that I'm constantly asked, "How do you do it?"
My answer does not include a) having super powers, b) only needing two hours of sleep a night (I need at least six and prefer eight), or c) the ability to stop time. My answer is that I'm always on the lookout for ideas, people, and products that help me get a lot more done, so I can do less. When I find good ones, I put them to work immediately. I'm particularly fond of things that are free or a wildly good deal.
To kick off my column for What is Working: Small Businesses, I'm going to share three of my favorite tools that have helped me do more, for less. Yes, it's possible. Here's how:
1. Auto-magically organize your inbox. Email is at the top of everyone's must-do-but-an-unbelievable-time-sink list. It's always crying out for your attention and never goes away. Like a 3-year-old, it needs structure and boundaries. That's where OtherInbox comes in. It organizes and groups your inbox quietly and effortlessly while you go about your real work. It can also helpfully unsubscribe you from outdated newsletters, spammy advertisers, and flash sales sites that you really don't need anymore. What you end up with is an organized inbox, filled with emails helpfully grouped by category, letting you quickly skim and take care of the most important messages. Cost: Free.
2. Mobilize your customers to prioritize what to do. Scratching your head to figure out where to take your business next (and out of ideas on exactly how to do it)? Why not delegate both idea generation and feedback to your customers? Trust me, your customers are smart and opinionated. So put them to work. All Our Ideas lets you quickly create wiki surveys to send to your customers. What are wiki surveys? Think "hot or not" meets advanced research methodology. The best brains from Google, the National Science Foundation, the World Bank, and the Center for Information Technology at Princeton have created a fast and easy way for you to bubble up the best ideas -- for the next product you should launch, for improving your service, for creating content, for doing more with less. Cost: Free.
3. Employ experts to sweat the small stuff. Did you just miss a chance to retweet a great idea, "like" a new post on Facebook, share a great article on Google+, or respond to feedback on Yelp? It's impossible to keep up. So don't try. Instead, let the folks at Main Street Hub do it for you. For one of my last startups, in no time at all, the Main Street Hub team (composed of extremely articulate, social media-savvy, community-oriented experts, who happened to be English majors in college) responded to every single tweet, post, like, and review, grew our following by 100-fold, and created daily original content our customers loved. My time? Thirty minutes a week.Cost: Starts at $249/month. Maximum of $399/month. You'll spend far less than hiring someone full-time. And, you get the benefit of a whole company of experts.
What are your favorite ways to get more done while working less? I'd love to hear them. I'd also love to know what kinds of tools, tips, or techniques you're most interested in learning about, so share your ideas with me here.