Simplify With Shoeboxed

You all know how much I preach about simplifying. I also know a good value when I see one. Some folks will look at Shoeboxed and say, “$30 a month? Ouch!”. I used to look at services that way also, but a good friend of mine, Jane Bozarth, likes to remind me about value over price, and breaking down services and products by how much you use them. In addition, I look at how much time, effort and/or stress a service saves me.

Shoeboxed is one of these services.

Shoeboxed Magic Envelope
Shoeboxed Magic Envelope

Here’s my process:

  1. Shoeboxed sends me Magic Envelopes.
  2. I stuff Magic Envelopes with papers and receipts and even kids’ artwork.
  3. I drop Magic Envelope into mail (they include prepaid shipping).
  4. Shoeboxed scans all my docs with OCR.
  5. Shoeboxed sends the docs back (alternatively, you can have them securely shred and recycle your papers).
  6. I access my files online, export expenses to Freshbooks or export everything to Evernote.

Not much to it. I have a ScanSnap document scanner. It works very well. But you know what I found? I never took the time to process all that paperwork. It takes a long time to scan files and organize them, even when scanning directly into Evernote. My time is very valuable to me. So $1 per day to have someone else send me Magic Envelopes and do all that work for me? Sounds like I’m ripping THEM off.

Here’s another use case: last year I was way behind on getting my taxes organized (shocking, I know). I had a bunch of receipt to scan, process, organize and import into my accounting tool, Freshbooks. I simply sent all my 2012 stuff to Shoeboxed, then exported to a CSV file and imported all of that into Freshbooks. That was easy.

We’re all “busy”. But I think we’d be less so if we let experts do things for us for reasonable prices. Delegate, people. It’s ok. You can thank me later. Try them out and let them help you catch up. You don’t have to pay for a full year, just sign up for a free month and send them as much as you can stuff in.

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Setting Aside Critical Time for Processing

These days, we’re all scattered in at least a few different directions. It seems we have more distractions, more responsibilities and more, in general, to just do. The challenge is focus. We can’t operate at a high level if we can’t focus. This has been a major issue for me in recent years, and especially since I quit the day job in 2012. I’m constantly doing work for clients or handling family responsibilities. Rarely do I find, or take, the time to focus on my own stuff.

I look around my office and see a giant, distracting mess. The mess itself doesn’t bother me from a visual perspective. It’s the fact that it’s unfinished business. Papers that need scanning and filing, computer equipment that needs to be repaired or recycled. Hard drives that need to be tagged and archived. Stuff everywhere, and each with an unfinished task item (or four) associated with it.

This happens in business and in life. I need to manage this better. I’ve gotten help from services like Shoeboxed, but I don’t even use them as often as I should. Part of my “Better Brian” experiment is to recognize these issues and take action to make them better, if not rid myself of them altogether.

How? Process. Strict times to process information. Not do any work, just processing. Friday afternoons are typically filled with last second work to meet a deadline, or just abandoned altogether because a cold beer is sitting right outside my office. Being more disciplined to stick to my scheduled planning/processing time on those days will certainly help. And, I can still enjoy that beer.

In addition to a shorter daily reflection and processing time, I need to stop working at noon on Fridays, and use those 3-4 hours to clean up, plan for the next week and process any outstanding documents, invoices, etc. that will bug me all weekend. This is clearing the mental clutter and giving me a sense of accomplishment at the same time. Plus beer!

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A Year With WPEngine

I host a lot of websites at Duce Enterprises. Most of them are WordPress. About a year ago, I made a very wise business decision. I made the jump to managed WordPress hosting through WPEngine (WPE). It was a significant expense for me at the time. As I’ve learned this year, though, that expense was minimal in comparison to the overall value, and the time and cost savings I received.

Three simple reasons why I <3 WPEngine:

  1. Speed. Good grief they are fast. And that affects the user experience and search engine rankings. One client site jumped into the top five after I made the switch, something I hadn’t been able to achieve through other campaigns and techniques. I give credit to the speed improvement I got when jumping to WPE.
  2. Support. This is critical. I must have good customer service or I will walk. I don’t care how awesome your product is. These folks are great. Early on, they had some issues with response time, but they quickly resolved that, and even in those few cases they were very friendly and helpful. Now I know I can jump into their awesome live chat to get a quick answer, or submit a ticket and they’ll take care of everything for me. Need SSL added to a site? Simple. Ticket. Bam. Done.
  3. Peace of mind. This is the big one. I just don’t have to worry about anything. My sites, and my clients’ sites, are just up. And secure. And backed up. And fast.

I’ve never had this level of quality and service with any other host. So, if you’re running WordPress, go get you some WPEngine. It’s worth it.

Bonus: Coupon HappyNewHost14 gets you 30% off through the end of the year.

Review: MakeSomeTime Invoicing App

In my never-ending quest for the perfect project management (PM) system, I recently came across MakeSomeTime (MST). “That’s an interesting name,” was the first thing I thought.

MakeSomeTime Dashboard
MakeSomeTime Dashboard

The interface is shiny and the dashboard is decent, but it is slow, and it doesn’t have the basic feature I require now from a PM tool when adding projects and tasks. In MST, like many other PM tools, you have to enter the task, then click a button, add another task, click a button. Asana and Basecamp understand how painful that can be when setting up a project or just doing a brain dump of tasks and ideas. They allow you to just type and hit enter over and over as you build out your list.

Besides the dashboard, the interface is clunky. There’s a lot of wasted space. Here’s the “add new task” screen.

Adding a Task in MST
Adding a Task in MST

Notice in the background for this project, the actual project details and lists are way down on the screen rather than front and center. Every panel of this interface has a huge header area with counts and data that isn’t really critical. I’d like to see this information on the dashboard, but not taking up this much space on every screen.

The big draw for some people will be the pricing. It’s cheap. Dirt cheap. $3 per month for a freelancer gets you unlimited everything except for additional staff. $25 per year ($2.09 per month) gets you two staff members and unlimited everything and more storage. That’s very cheap.

I tend to spend a lot of time signing up for apps to test and never end up writing my review, so I wanted to throw this one out there while I had a few minutes. My recommendation: stay away from MST unless you are so strapped for cash that you can’t afford a few more dollars per month for a better system like Freshbooks or Harvest. And, if you’re that strapped for cash, you probably shouldn’t be worrying about an invoicing system.

I’ve been testing Teamwork PM’s new version for the last few months. I’ll try to post a review for that one soon as well.


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