project management app

With a full-time job in IT, a small business, opening a gallery and looking after a five-year-old as a single mum, I have struggled over the past year trying to keep organised and on top of everything. I tried so many different apps trying to get organised so that I could manage all my client’s information, freelancers, social media management and the general day to day project management of a small web design/social media management business. I also needed a space to share all this information with my business partner who is my twin sister, and a flight attendant so that she could keep on top of her work and have all the information at hand about our clients, logins etc.. on the road.

I was feeling really frustrated with the latest app I was trying, as again I found that after setting it all up, it was missing a feature I needed. Then, an app called Monday crept into my Facebook feed. After reviewing it and liking the user interface, as it looked a lot like some of the project management programs I have used throughout my career, I decided to give it a go.

I set the app up and started loading the information about one of my projects. I was able to add in everything that I needed including attaching all password information, making notes against each task, copying in emails and correspondence and uploading documents, screenshots and any information that I had in a variety of formats related to that project.

I felt that I finally had an app that I could work with. I quickly sent my sister an invitation telling her that this was the app that we should use.

After sending her so many logins to different apps over the last few months, I could feel the proverbial eye rolls from a thousand miles away. However, she loved it!

We now use Monday for everything. We have set up a system that works for us where we have each of our active client’s boards grouped in one folder and what are called “pulses” added and tailored specifically to the work we are undertaking. We then assign the work to each other and make all updates to tasks and add all materials and correspondence as we go.

This has become our complete project management system for all of our work. We also create shared boards for our freelancers so that we can keep on top of all of the tasks they are working on and have a complete record of everything.

At this stage, due to costs, we are only using the Basic Plan which gives us everything we need at AUD $34 per month, a small investment to have my business life organised. However, I could definitely see the benefit of the larger plan as it gives you the ability to plan everything in one visual timeline and integrates with other apps. As our business grows, we will most likely upgrade to this plan.

With an app like this, I finally feel like we are organised and have our workflows under control. This will help us keep on top of things during 2018 as our small business grows.

Liza is the content manager and founder of The Content Hub. As a technology specialist she loves passing on her knowledge about the latest technology and best practices to her readers.

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Setting up systems

One of the most important things when setting up an online business is making sure that you have the right systems in place from the beginning. With an abundance of conflicting information out there it is hard to know where to start.

Below are some steps that you can go through to help you make the right decisions:

1. List important projects you do on a regular basis.

Write down all the things that you do from creating blog posts, training materials, writing proposals, preparing contracts etc. These are the things that you do most often when running your business.

2. List out all the tasks associated with each of the projects.

For example, one of my regular projects is any new website projects that I might be working on, so my steps would be:

  • Prepare and sign contract
  • Send out an invoice for deposit
  • Develop wire-frame of site
  • Seek approval of structure
  • Build out site etc..

3. Think about if any of these tasks can be outsourced.

If your business is ready for you to outsource tasks, look at websites such as Upwork and take out an advertisement. I have just employed several new staff members this way. The great thing is that you can give them a small project, to start with and if they deliver, keep working with them.

4. Can any of these tasks be automated?

For example, you might be pinning blog articles to Pinterest over and over again. Why not invest in a tool such as Boardbooster or Tailwind to do this for you.

5. What software do you need to automate your systems?

Have a look at some tasks that you perform regularly and whether or not they can be automated. For example with sites such as Zapier, you can create zaps that perform these tasks for you. I recently set up a zap so that whenever a particular client emails me, the email goes to the appropriate Evernote notebook where I store all client correspondence.

6. Can I perform any of these tasks together?

For example, you might post out a new blog post to your Facebook page after you publish your post on your WordPress site. You can set up WordPress so that any new posts get sent to your Facebook and Twitter page automatically so you don’t need to do this manually.

7. Are there any tasks that can be given to somebody else on an ongoing basis?

As business owners, we tend to do everything ourselves and then realise at some point that we can’t scale up because we are too busy. Are there any tasks such as accounting or responding to emails that you could give to a virtual assistant? I recently hired someone to keep track of all my invoicing and accounting. This has saved me several hours per week.

8. Create a process document for each project.

Now that you have answered all the questions, create a process document for each project. Include in this document every step within your workflow as well as each point where you can outsource and details such as what software you will use.

Not only will this help you manage your business but as your business grows you can add additional staff members and the processes and procedures will already be in place and readily available.

Liza is the content manager and founder of The Content Hub. As a technology specialist she loves passing on her knowledge about the latest technology and best practices to her readers.

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How to make your email work for you

I went to a conference recently, and the speaker asked the question “how many emails are currently in your inbox?” There were many people in the room that had thousands of emails; some had hundreds, and there were only two of us who answered none. So how can you make your email work for you?

Your email inbox should be like the priority tray on your desk: empty at the end of each day, and I’m not joking!

Following is a simple 6 step plan to making your email work for you:

Commit to your email program

Take a long look at your relationship with your email program. Are you happy with it? Does it meet your needs? Is it up to date?

You might not have a choice, but if you are planning an upgrade or thinking of setting up a home business, you need to spend the time thinking about this.

Most organisations use Microsoft Outlook; however, many are moving towards using cloud services such as Gmail so make sure you shop around and find the best service for you.

Take some training

Next, take the time to learn about using your email program correctly. Most people just get by with the essential features, but there are so many others that will benefit how you work once you know how to use them.

For example, you can set categories and colour code your emails. I use this system to colour code each email related to a particular project. I also use tags for due dates to respond to emails as well as use rules to automatically move emails into certain folders.

Set up folders

Now set up folders to organise your emails. I would suggest setting up your email folders similarly to those on your hard drive. Start with a folder called clients, then have a folder for each client. Then a folder for projects that contains a folder for each project you are working on.

Schedule backup and archives

This is the time to schedule a backup of your e-mail. This can be done through the e-mail program, in the operating system, or with a separate application.

Make sure that backups are stored in a separate location, like on a DVD or a USB drive. Store them outside of your office.

Most e-mail programs also support archiving: moving all of your e-mail out of the program into a separate folder. Typically, this is done once a year. Set this up now! If your e-mail program doesn’t support this, put a reminder on your calendar to do it at the end of every year.

Automate what you can

Next, set up automation wherever possible. Some ideas:

  • Set up rules to move messages from particular people or organisations.
  • Microsoft Outlook features Quick Steps, which allows you to combine multiple actions into one clickable button and shortcut key. Take the time to learn about these, review the Quick Steps already configured, and configure your own if necessary.
  • Configure your junk e-mail/spam and phishing filters to move suspicious messages out of your inbox. Be sure to review your junk mail folder periodically.
  • Empty the recycle bin once a week.

Use time-saving tools

Other e-mail time-saving tools that you can use are:

  • Dynamic search folders
  • Assigning reminders and flags to e-mail messages
  • Customisable alarms and reminders
  • Creating calendar appointments and tasks from e-mail messages (simply drag it from your inbox onto the calendar or into the tasks folder)
  • Color-coded categories
  • Message grouping (by conversation, sender, or date, for example)
  • Marking a message as complete to indicate that you have completed required actions
  • Quick access to folders via a Favourites pane
  • Customizable navigation tools
  • Address lists and contact groups

If you’re not sure what your e-mail can do for you, pressing F1 typically opens the help file. Take the time to look for easier and faster ways to perform common tasks.

Have any other time-saving tips for using email? Share in the comments below.

Liza is the content manager and founder of The Content Hub. As a technology specialist she loves passing on her knowledge about the latest technology and best practices to her readers.

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SEO explained for beginners

Have you conducted a Google search recently? I bet it was somewhat recent as Google has become an essential part of our life. New to SEO? Read this post for SEO explained for beginners.

SEO Explained for Beginners

Since there are an estimated 6 BILLION searches in Google each day, you have the potential to get your website in front of thousands of people that are searching for websites or businesses such as yours every day. However, without SEO work, your site won’t be found on Google.

To help you gain an understanding of the basics of SEO, I have put together the following guide to get you started.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Here is a definition from Wikipedia:

“Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results – often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results.”

With SEO practices put in place, you increase your chances of being found on Google. There is, however, no guarantee that you will appear first in a Google search, or that you will appear on the first page of Google.

Why is SEO important?

SEO is essential for the long-term success of your website. By paying attention to your SEO, you can organically increase traffic to your website without having to spend a lot of time on social media promoting it every day. You want your website to generate traffic on its own without having to continually promote your site.

Skills required to build SEO into your website

SEO can be complicated. SEO is continually changing. 1,653 changes were made last year to the Google algorithm. It is also getting more complicated.

Some people specialise specifically in SEO so you could hire someone to do this part of the work for you; however, you can set up the basics of your websites SEO on your own.

Start by getting your site indexed on Google by setting up the Google Search Console.

You can also start to SEO the pages and blog posts on your website so that they contain the right information that Google is looking for. The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress is a great place to start.

What affects your search ranking?

Many things affect your search ranking. Below is a list of things that you need to consider to improve your ranking:

Keywords

Use your keyword in title tags, description tags, and H1, H2, H3 etc. Pay attention to the amount of times you use your keyword on a post or page. Too little or too much can affect SEO.

Metadata

Make sure that you use categories and tags that are relevant to your content.

Content-Length

Make sure your blog posts are at least 350 words. Between 600 to 800 words are best.

Website speed

If your site takes a long time to load, not only will you lose visitors but you will also rank lowly in SEO.

Image optimization

Make sure all your images have the keyword in the title and that the alt text field is complete.

Content updates and relevance

Regularly update your content. Sites that have not been updated for a while, rank low in Google. That is why setting up a blog relevant to your business helps with ranking.

Internal links

Ensure that you have many internal links throughout your website. For example, if you write a blog post that can be linked to another, make sure you do so.

Broken links

Broken links on your page affect your SEO.

As you can see, there are many aspects of your site that affect your SEO ranking.

How to improve your SEO

So, after reading this how you can improve website’s SEO? Following is a simple strategy you can start using right away to make improvements.

Step 1: Set up Google Search Console

Google Search Console is the foundation of your SEO. With Search Console, you get the chance to tell Google that your website exists by uploading your sitemaps and your robots.txt file.

Step 2: Install the Yoast SEO plugin

If you have a WordPress website, then you need to install the Yoast SEO plugin. With this plugin, you gain access to your sitemaps, robots.txt file, metadata and more. Once installed, you can start to SEO your website’s pages and posts quickly.

Step 3: Keyword planning

Strategically choose the keywords that you want to have on your website. Research these by using SEMrush or Keyword Finder. These are great tools to see what keywords people are searching on.

Once you know the keywords you need to include on your website, plan your pages and blog posts around these. However, make sure that you are providing well thought out and relevant content. Google can tell if you are just stuffing your content with keywords and not providing any value.

Step 4: SEO your website’s pages

With Yoast installed and understanding of what relevant keywords to use, start adding these to your pages. Start with your ABOUT or CONTACT page and make sure they contain the necessary keywords that they need. Then complete the Yoast details at the bottom of the page to set the SEO title, slug, meta description and the focus keyword. As you go, you can review the Yoast Analysis to determine what areas need improvement. Always aim for a green light on your page for SEO.

Step 5: SEO all blog posts

Next, you need to do the same thing for your blog posts. For each blog post enter a keyword. Make sure the keyword appears in the heading, the first paragraph and a few times throughout the article. Always try to get a green light from the Yoast SEO plugin for each post you make.

Step 6: Optimize all images

To optimise your images, you need to make sure that each image title has a relevant keyword contained in it as well as in the alt text space attached to it.

Compress your images to a small size using Smushit. And change the file of the name to something that is descriptive and informative before you upload it to your website.

Step 7: Create an internal link structure

Lastly, you need to focus on the internal link structure of your website. This is not only important to help your audience to navigate and flow through your website, but it also helps the Google bot.

Each page created on your website needs to link to other pages on your site. Try to find ways to internally link to other areas on your website that are relevant to the content.

And that’s it! By following these seven steps, you are well on your way to improving your website’s SEO.

Liza is the content manager and founder of The Content Hub. As a technology specialist she loves passing on her knowledge about the latest technology and best practices to her readers.

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How I organise my digital life

Since computers, phones and tablets have become such a big part of our digital lives, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the different apps and tools and things can become easily cluttered.

By having everything organised on your laptop and other digital devices, you can work faster and more efficiently.

Below are five tips and ways that you can have a cleaner digital life.

1. Your laptop/desktop home screen

Since your home screen is the screen that you see most of the time, it is best to keep your folders and apps visible that you use most often.

It is easy for you to just dump things on your home screen but this can become extremely cluttered and messy over time.

Also, in the case of the organisation I work for, anything not in the cloud or on a shared drive will be lost if your computer is compromised in any way.

Spend some time at the end of each week looking at your home screen and either delete things or move them into other areas on your computer.

2. Note organisation

I use several different programs to organise my notes. I used to have notes all over the place but now have a system for filing a note depending on the content and what it is for.

I use Evernote to take capture all my ideas and to draft blog posts. Evernote works seamlessly across all my devices so therefore it is easy to capture things quickly.

OneNote is used for capturing information around the web and for managing client projects.

I use Scrivener to capture all content that is part of a larger document. If you have to produce technical documents, create training materials or write research papers, Scrivener is the application of choice for these documents.

3. My calendar

I use the default calendar on my iPad for personal appointments; my work outlook calendar is also synchronised as well as my business appointments calendar.

Each of these calendars has a different colour code so that I can easily see where each appointment is kept. They are then all viewed together so that I don’t put an appointment on one calendar without seeing appointments across all calendars.

4. Email organisation

I always aim for inbox zero. If an email is related to a task, I flag it and store it in an appropriate folder. If it is one that I have responded to, I either delete or save it.

Then my inbox only contains emails that I have to take action on that day.

I then check my task list every morning for those emails I have flagged and work through them when I can.

5. Social media management

I spend about half an hour in the morning responding and checking social media and then half an hour in the afternoon.

I keep these apps closed during the day so that I am not distracted.

I also only follow people that I am genuinely interested in. This removes a lot of noise.

A lot of the material out there says that you need to work on increasing your follower count. However, I disagree. You want quality followers that are engaged and interested in what you have to say. Otherwise, what is the point?

There you go. Five ways how I organise my digital life. I’d love to hear how you keep organised in the comments below. I am always on the lookout for new ways to streamline things and work in a more minimalistic way.

Liza is the content manager and founder of The Content Hub. As a technology specialist she loves passing on her knowledge about the latest technology and best practices to her readers.

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How I use OneNote to stay organised

One tool that I have been using for some time to stay organised is Microsoft’s OneNote. So what exactly is OneNote? OneNote is a tool to organise all your professional and personal information. You could describe it as a digital version of a binder that contains tabs like a multi-subject notebook. It allows you to capture information from the web, make handwritten or typed notes and you can collaborate with others just like using a whiteboard.

OneNote hasn’t caught on in the business world but is heavily targeted towards students because of its notebook interface. The general public is really not aware of how powerful this tool can be to organise all your information.

Ways you can use OneNote in the Workplace

  1. OneNote is a great tool just to get things done. Use sections, pages and subpages like you would use a physical notebook. Instead of printing that email or web page, simply send it to OneNote and file it within the section that you need to.
  2. Create a shared notebook so that you can collaborate with your team. Place the notebook on a shared folder on your server or your SharePoint site. You then have an online version of your notebook that you can begin collaborating with. You might use this to manage a project or simply to collect agenda items. You can also create passwords on individual pages so that only certain people can see them.
  3. Take better notes in meetings. For your regular meetings create a section for that meeting. Then create a new page for each meeting and link this to your Outlook invitation. During the meeting, take notes on that page and then email the meeting notes directly to all participants at the end.
  4. Use your notebook as a wiki. OneNote updates in real time so you have the ability to use it as a wiki for your team. You can link pages and notebooks so this allows for a wiki feel to your documentation.
  5. Take fast and simple screen shots. By using the Send to OneNote Tool, you can easily clip any screenshot and send it directly to OneNote. You can then save the screen grab as a PNG.

How I use OneNote

  1. I use OneNote to manage all project information. For each project that I manage, I create a new section. I then collect all emails, documentation and notes and add them to I also sync all meetings and take notes from those meetings all within OneNote and then disseminate them to all participants through a shared notebook. What is great about this is that I can go back and find all information related to any project that I have managed at a later date.
  2. I store all my travel information within a section of my notebook. Then for each trip I create a new page. I then attach all correspondence and information about the trip. This can include any reports that I need, itineraries, hotel details, restaurants and contacts. For travel where I a meeting new colleagues, I have been known to take a screen shot of their photo and put them all on a page so I can easily remember what they look like, their names and job titles before meeting them. This has been handy when attending large committee meetings as everyone names were easier to remember.
  3. I store all my passwords on a password protected page. What is great about OneNote is that it is free and you can have it on any of your devices, or use it on the web. That means your notes travel with you and you can access them anytime. I have a page within OneNote that is password protected and contains all my passwords. I can then access them from anywhere, anytime. Just make sure the password you have on the OneNote page is one you don’t use elsewhere and is very easy to remember, but hard to guess.
  4. I use it to store all research material for my writing. If I come across some information on the web that I would like to refer to later, I will send it to OneNote and create a new page within my resources section. This way I can come back to it at later and review the information when I need to.

These are just some great reasons to use OneNote. Are there any other ways that you use OneNote in the workplace to be more productive? Please share your experiences here.

Liza is the content manager and founder of The Content Hub. As a technology specialist she loves passing on her knowledge about the latest technology and best practices to her readers.

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WordPress or Squarespace- what is best-

 

When setting up your online business, should you use WordPress or Squarespace? This is a question I get asked regularly from my students and clients.

I believe that both systems have their merits and that you need to pick the right content management system for your business. To help you make the decision I have created an online quiz which you will find the right answer below:

Liza is the content manager and founder of The Content Hub. As a technology specialist she loves passing on her knowledge about the latest technology and best practices to her readers.

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How I use Evernote and OneNote to be more productive

There are so many posts out there comparing Evernote to OneNote. But, do you have to make a choice? Not necessarily. Why? Well, both Evernote and OneNote have their strengths and weaknesses, and I find that to be more productive I need to use both.

For a while, I hopped between the two trying to decide on which one to use, so I had content all over the place which is not conducive to being productive. There is nothing worse than having content in several different places, and you can’t remember what content you put where. You need to set up a system that works for you and stick to it.

So how do I use each application? Below is a rundown of my workflow and how each application fits into the process

How I use Evernote

Brainstorming

For brainstorming ideas for my blogs, I use Evernote. Any idea that I think of goes into Evernote on my ideas page. I use Evernote for this as I never have problems with opening Evernote or syncing. It is always available, and I don’t have to fumble around with passwords which can be annoying with OneNote. Everything always syncs perfectly across my devices immediately. It is the best app for jotting down ideas on the go.

Content Planning

Evernote is great for content planning. For each blog idea I have written down and decided to write about, I create a separate note in my blogging notebook with the title and idea. I can then see all the posts listed that I have committed to writing for the year.

Drafting Content

Once I am ready to write a post I write in Evernote. I have written about Evernote and blogging previously so you can read about this on my blog post “Why I Use Evernote for Blogging”. Once my posts are drafted, I then copy them over to Grammarly for a quick check and then into my WordPress site.

How I Use OneNote

Task management

To manage tasks and projects, I use OneNote. I find that the task management tools in OneNote are superior to Evernote. This is because you have so many choices already built in and everything syncs to Outlook. Also, all my work colleagues use Outlook, so I can track tasks and assign them to others easily.

This is particularly helpful when you are in meetings as you are able to take minutes directly in OneNote, assign action items and then send out the meeting minutes immediately. This is such an efficient way of working.

Meeting minutes

As mentioned above I take all meeting minutes in OneNote. During a meeting, I will open up a meeting template directly from the meeting in Outlook and begin taking notes.

As action items are assigned, I will assign them immediately in OneNote, and they will go to the task list of the person who has been assigned the task.

I can then track these all in OneNote. Once the meeting is complete, I immediately send all the notes to the participants. Therefore you don’t have to worry about sending out the minutes later and are so much more efficient.

Both Evernote and OneNote

Managing Resources

Now, this is one area where I use both applications. Any resources I find on the web that are related to my blogs I send to a notebook in Evernote called “Resources”.

If the information is related to my full-time job as a knowledge and collaboration tools manager, I send it to OneNote.

Why do I use both applications for this? Well, I like to separate my work streams into different applications so that I am more organised.

I also do this with other project management applications I use such as Asana and Trello.

As you can see, there are uses for both Evernote and OneNote, so you don’t have to choose between the two. You need to come up with a workflow that works for you and stick to it.

Have any other ways of using OneNote and Evernote? Share your experience in the comment section below.

Liza is the content manager and founder of The Content Hub. As a technology specialist she loves passing on her knowledge about the latest technology and best practices to her readers.

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