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3 Ways to Reach Inbox Zero

email globeI envy people that talk about “Inbox Zero“. The event that happens when you have read or disposed of all of your email. My problem is trying to keep my email manageable enough to reach “Inbox 250″.

Reading, writing and disposing of email takes up about 28% of the average office worker’s day. For people in service industries and sales, the number is probably much higher, and the need to handle email efficiently and in a manner that allows us to find and review important correspondence is crucial. All of us seem to have signed up for email lists that send us things we just don’t need to clutter our days with, so we need to find some way to organize our inbox in a rational and efficient manner. Thankfully with the deluge of email comes an avalanche of apps to help you handle the email more efficiently (ok, so maybe its not enough to be called an avalanche, but it sounded better in my head :)

None of us read terms when we install new platforms or sign up for information we want online and we end up with an awful lot of email subscriptions that we didn’t know we were participants in. Here are some great tools to handle your subscription woes and organize your inbox;

Unroll.me - End Email OverloadUnroll.me provides a simple platform to allow you to unsubscribe from lists you are no longer interested in, and then sends the remaining subscriptions to you in one simple “rollup” . An email digest that allows you to pick and choose what you want to read and ignore. The platform supports Gmail and Yahoo mail. You can review and redirect emails that you want directed to your inbox, and simply review and delete those you don’t. In addition you can organize your rollup by category to see specific items of interest.

TheSwizzle.com - Clean up your inbox!theswizzle.com is a similar site, but it supports not only GMail and Yahoo, but Gmail, Google Apps, Mac.com , and – Me.com This site is a lot more graphic than unroll.me. The process is the same, and the difference for users will be in their email provider or their preference for the user interface of each site.  As you sign up for theswizzle, you have the option of unsubscribing from the service, or unsubscribing and deleting the emails (an option I preferred). Swizzle also allows you to subscribe to brands through their interface so you can add brands to your digest, giving you the option to browse coupons and offers to your heart’s content while keeping your email load down.

 

 

Mailstrom- The smarter, faster way to clean out your inbox.Mailstrom.com, a site that is still in Beta, may just be a case of saving the best for last.

If you’re like me, you keep emails because you a) want to deal with them later, b) because you want to keep the email for some business purpose or c) because you read it and neither archived nor deleted it. After a while, you have lots of emails cluttering up your inbox when they should be stored in some organized manner. Having multiple email addresses just complicates the issues. Mailstrom  helps organize the thousands of old emails you have in a number of different accounts by creating archives using a number of categories. You can sort and review emails by sender, subject, date, time, lists you appear on,  and even the emails you receive from social networks. In just a short time you can archive and organize thousands of emails , keeping everything in easy to find folders.

You may not get to Inbox Zero today, but with these tools, you’ll get a lot closer! Have tips of your own? Please leave them in the comment section so others can benefit from your advice.

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6 Apps to Make Your Smartphone Smarter

With just about every businessperson and teenager sporting a shiny new smartphone, the big question seems to be how useful your apps make your phone. Here are 6 all star apps for the Android and the iPhone to make your smartphone more than just another pretty face.

1. Android users can get over their “Bump” envy at last, Bump, originally an ios app was made to simplify the transfer of addres information between smart phones, With so many ways for us all to connect, just getting a phone number hasn’t been enough for a while. No android users can join their iPhone friends in transferring photos, contacts and apps by simply bumping phones together. Sporting a new design, bump now has the ability to share as many photos as desired, sync devices and find out what mutual friends you have. Working across operating systems, it just makes the distinction between android and iphone users a little less confusing

2. Note taking apps are very useful, and Catch Notes is an android and ios app that lets you capture and share photos, voice memos, maps and reminders, using a cloud based auto-sync approach similar to evernote. You can also creat collections that can be stored or shared for collaboration. You can also email notes and scan product barcodes to capture gift ideas. Provided as a freemium model, like so many other apps, there are aditional features available in the paid version

3. Having mentioned Evernote, I would be remiss if I didn’t add it to the list of must haves. Available for both the Android and ios operating systems, Evernote allows you to keep your phone, your tablet, and your computer synchronized with photos, web clippings, audio notes, and text, allowing you to Geo-Tag as you add data, and organize them into useful notebooks to use and share. I have evernote on every device I own, and I keep finding more and more ways to use it in my business and personal life. A real must have, and I even use the paid version for myself :)

4.Lemon is an ios app that makes it easy to track expanses by using your phones camera to scan an unlimited number of receipts. It provides the ability to assign labels and categories for different types of spending, allows you to create spending summary reports, export receipt scans, store receipts with encryption, and provide you with merchant data as well.

5.Wikitude allows users to find points of interest around them by using Augmented Reality technology. It allows you to simply hold your phone up and use the camera as a viewing device to see restaurants, ATMs, events, and user reviews. With more than 150 million pointd of interest and content prvided by over 2,500 providers, the tool is useful for travelers, or even consumers entering new neighborhoods in their own cities. Search abilities ad coupons just make the app even better

6. Teambox HD is a free ios based collaboration app that allows you to avoid emailing back and forth when you’re working on a project with others. Install the app on all of your team’s ios based smartphones, and you can establish sharing and cloud sync settings using Google docs and calendar as well as other services. Using Google Docs and Calendar will allow your Android toting friends easy access to your data until the Android version comes out

According to eMarketer 44% of all cell phone users carry smartphones today, and by 2014 that number will increase to almost 53%. every phone, no matter what the OS, relies upon the user to determine what apps will increase its functionality. I hope that you have found at least one or two new ones here. What apps work best for you?

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Are You Addicted to Social Media?

With social media becoming mainstream, and people embracing every new network for personal or business reasons, there’s a lot of clutter in our lives. Facebook users check their status first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Email takes up 28% of the average office worker’s day, but social media use is become even more pervasive.  And it’s now being seen as a problem for many users.

At a conference I emceed recently, two of the major presentations revolved around  our need to be unplugged and the physical and emotional perils of social media addiction.

The first speaker spoke about unplugging from the social web, and when we are plugged in, to have a purpose. The second day keynote was a discussion of social media addiction, Korean Social Media Rehabs, and the possible damage that being over connected can have on our minds and our bodies.

This need to be thoughtful about how we spend our time is not new, its just something we need to remember. Ecclesiastes (repeated by the 60′s rock Group The Byrds and the 1984 movie “Footlose”) ) tells us, “to every thing there is a season”. Technology of any sort is the proof of that.  The seasons are obvious when we look. We investigate first. Then we adopt, at first timidly, then with gusto. And then we integrate our lives, until, in many cases, we become so engaged that we recognize that we may need to back off.

It happened with television, cell phones, computer games, and now, social engagement on the web. Each appeared as a novelty, had wide spread adoption, then became ubiquitous , then a matter of concern for users.  Like a child with a new favorite game, we play it again and again until we tire of it, and then, if it is truly something that we enjoy, we learn to use it in moderation.

Obviously being thoughtful about social media is the key to any level of engagement. The web is immense and we desire to fill it with our contributions to the ongoing conversation. So let’s look at what we can do to make the time we spend enjoyable and productive.

  • Start With a Purpose - If your online engagement has a business purpose, first determine what it is, and which channels are most effective for achieving your goals. If you are only online for social purposes, figure out what makes you happy and determine how much of your leisure you want to spend doing that. Like any other social activity, you need to allocate the time you can spend, considering the needs fo your business and family- what’s left is yours.
  • Prioritize your online time . E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all of our other online engagements have different purposes – now that you have determine what you want to accomplish, it becomes easier to choose your battles. You don’t have to be everywhere because your customers or clients aren’t .
  • Set aside time for offline engagement. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but someone needs to tell you that most texts or phone calls can wait until after you son’s game, your date night, or the movie. You have voice mail for a reason, and you need to remember that in most cases, the people you are with are more important than that message from a distance. Whatever is going on at Facebook will still be there when you arrive its the internet people, you aren’t going to miss anything you can’t read about later.
  • Be Here Now. This simple statement was the  title of a 1971 book written by Baba Ram Dass and contains a message of importance that transcends the decades since its publication.The really significant moments of our lives happen off-line. It would be tragic to miss them because you were hiding out on Facebook. Spend some time with your friends and family doing things in the physical world. You can let your online community know when you need to unplug. You’ll be better for it, and they will understand your absence and not confuse it with a complete withdrawal.

Addicted or not, these simple suggestions can help you organize your online presence effectively , and without detracting from the value of your online engagement. In fact, they might even help increase it. What do you think?

 

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Politics and Social Media

In an election year its hard not to think about the mechanics of the election process, campaign contributions, and the marketing that is aimed at the American public from January to November. The 2008 Presidential election, and President Obama’s skillful use of social media was a turning point both for politicians and the public.

Not since John Kennedy utilized his understanding of the power of television in the first televised presidential debate has a candidate so clearly outmaneuvered the opposition and used technology to gain prominence in the electoral process.

Our good friends at MDG Advertising have turned their hand to a graphic analysis of the 2008 game changer. From showing the impact Obama made raising grass roots funds through smaller donations, to analyzing the impact he will make this time around – and discussing the impact of mobile on this election, the infographic below should give you plenty to talk about the next time you’re asked to attend a political fundraiser.

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Is Something Phishy Going On Here?

Con-Men and Women have been around for a long time, but the online world has created new avenues for these pitchmen and women to practice their wares. Anyone with an email account has received solicitations that are so obviously phony , they make you wonder who exactly would fall for them. The most famous, yet most often perpetrated may be the poorly worded announcement of the millions of dollars available to you if you just supply the sender with your social security or a ban account number to transfer money to.

As our awareness of these scams increases, so does the sophistication of the senders. The Better Business Bureau recently published a list of the 10 top scams of 2011. Let’s take a look at five of them and see how many have been sent to you;

  1. The Job Scam – This scam targets anyone looking for work or additional income – which in this economy is a very large group. They send an email pitch offering you a professional website and a phone interview. All you need to do is to fill out an online credit form – allowing them to collect all the information they ned for identity theft.
  2. The Lottery Scam – Anyone who uses social networks can be the target of an online pitch, informing them that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wants to send you $1 million dollars – all you need to do is click on the enclosed link – which allows the scammer access to your personal profile information and all of your friends , photos, etc
  3. The Top Social Media Scam- “”Did you see the video of Osama Bin Laden’s Death? Upgrade your Flash player to view – grabbing the curious, and downloading a virus that steals your passwords
  4. Top Phishing Scam - Email from ACH (Automated Clearing House) about a problem with an electronic transaction. Though it is sent to huge numbers of people, the real target is people who use electronic banking. A link takes you to an official looking site that collects your information.
  5. THE BBB Scam – Sadly, their number one scam of the year is a phishing scam purportedly sent out sent out by the Better Business Bureau with the subject line “Complaint Against Your Business”. This particularly nasty bit of business has a link or attachment that downloads malware that finds your bank info and transfers money.

Its fascinating that not only did the BBB provide a great service by printing their list, they also alerted the public regarding the consequences of the scam, helped protect against the abuse of their name, and make the public aware that they were not involved in these emails. A pretty effective response to say the least.

For more information on these scams, the rest of BBB’s top 10, and other scams, just go to www.bbb.org/scam

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