Editor’s note: This article by Greg Anderson originally appeared on ArcticStartup, an independent tech blog that reports on digital startups and growth entrepreneurship from the Nordic and Baltic countries.
Do you find your day filled with scheduling meetings, meeting people, and then trying to manage the to-do process afterward?
If you haven’t done so before, it might be time to check out Helsinki-based Meetin.gs, which has relaunched its service with a nice facelift and a renewed focus on mobile. Their product manages to wrangle together all the loose strings associated with professional meetings by plugging into popular business tools.
To schedule a meeting, Meetin.gs now offers a fully brandable “meet me” page, which enables uses to create and publish a calendar page that makes it easier to schedule a meeting time, which solves the problem of that awful email chain where suggested times are pinged back and forth.
This service plugs into the user’s calendar, so occupied time slots are automatically blocked out. Meeting locations are also included, so transit times and meeting durations can be accounted for.
Meetin.gs now also offers a Chrome extension that plugs into LinkedIn, Google Calendar, Gmail, and Highrise, to allow you to immediately schedule meetings with your contact as soon as the opportunity comes up.
Once you’ve got these meetings booked, they can now be found on a nice timeline so you can browse through meeting times, tasks, and documents.
Their newly relaunched product also includes an iPhone application that provides access to meeting information on the go, and even plugs into Skype to join online meetings. It can be found in the App Store.
“Meetings in the business world notoriously tend to be time-sinks”, comments Teemu Arina, Meetin.gs founder and CEO. “We want to help professionals to cut down on administrative tasks around meetings while keeping everything necessary easily available from any device”.
The product boasts a user base of 22,000 currently and is relaunching today at the TNW Europe Conference in Amsterdam. The basic features are free to use, but paid services offer more integrations, storage space, and branding opportunities.
Image credit: Digital Vision / Thinkstock
Alfred, a search and productivity app for Mac OS X which is far more powerful and intuitive than Spotlight, has been updated today with a new feature called Workflows, which can help automate tasks involving multiple steps both on the Web and desktop.
Under the Preferences menu, users can click on the Workflows tab to create a new shortcut, or review which of their existing Workflows they have toggled on.
It can be a little daunting at first, but the tool is a fantastic way of executing multiple tasks through a single hotkey. For example, one pre-installed Workflow created by Alfred developer Andrew Pepperrell allows for automated movie searches.
The first step requires the keyword “movie”, followed by the name of the release. Alfred then automatically opens your default Web browser and launches three new tabs; a search on YouTube, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a simple premise, but for users who like to research movies on a regular basis, such a workaround should save considerable time and effort.
Setting up a workflow can be tricky due to the vast number of options and commands on offer. As with many productivity apps though, the preparation is worth it in the long run, as it can quickly convert tedious and arduos tasks into a simple shortcut.
One that I configured, for example, allowed me to instantly load up the TNW website using a hotkey, as well as a specific folder of photos that I regularly need to draw from.
Elsewehere, Alfred is still much the same as version one – released back in November 2011 – offering a variety of ways to access content instantaneously. A custom hotkey brings up the Alfred search box; begin typing and you’ll find relevant search results for applications, contact cards and preferences.
Start wth the word “find”, however, and Alfred will look for folders, documents, images and other files stored on your hard drive, before displaying them in the Finder. The keyword “open” will launch the file straight away, while “in” is handy for locating a keyword nestled in a particular document.
All of that, you could argue, is covered by Spotlight though. Alfred improves on Apple’s basic tool by offering web searches, either via Google, Wikipedia or Amazon, as well as quick access to a calculator and dictionary.
Email addresses and phone numbers stored in the default Mac OS X Contacts App can also be located easily – something that I found particularly powerful when used in conjunction with Cobook – as well as items stored in the clipboard and music controls for iTunes.
For the more tech-orientated users out there, typing the “>” key will force Alfred to recognise shell commands, and there’s also a whole ream of keywords for basic OS X controls such as force quitting apps, restarting your Mac and ejecting removable media.
Spotlight is an iconic feature of Mac OS X, but for anyone looking to increase their productivity, or reduce the time spent on their mouse or trackpad, Alfred is the way to go.
Whether it’s basic shortcuts or more elaborate Workflow commands, this app can benefit all users regardless of their technical expertise or knowledge of Mac OS X.
Alfred is free, although for some of the more advanced features such as iTunes control, you’ll need to purchase the optional Powerpack.
Image Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Zirtual, a marketplace that matches professionals with virtual executive assistants, has raised $2 million in Series A funding from Tony Hsieh, VegasTechFund, and Mayfield Fund. Zirtual, which currently has an office in San Francisco, is opening a new headquarters in downtown Las Vegas as part of Hsieh’s Downtown Project to help revitalize the area.
Founded by Maren Kate, Zirtual matches this online workers with entrepreneurs who are willing to outsource key tasks around scheduling, research and reservations. Members can sign up for one of three levels of service (ranging from $197-$997 per month) and are matched with a customized Zirtual Assistant.
Zirtual Assistants are U.S. based and available from 9am-6pm. Each assistant is college educated and trained by the startup to provide quality customer service.
In addition, Zirtual has a network of partners, such as Ruby for receptionists, Uber for travel, and Munchery for food delivery who can provide additional services. Since its founding a year ago, Zirtual says it has assisted hundreds of professionals and currently employs a workforce of over 100 U.S. based Zirtual Assistants. Current Users include realtors, CEOs, and others.
Harnessing the online workforce space, in general, represents a huge opportunity. Similar to the way companies like TaskRabbit and Lyft are leveraging the workforce and labor to provide value-added services to consumers ( i.e. ridesharing and on-demand tasks at a reasonable pricepoint), Zirtual is trying to take advantage of the online workforce in the executive assistant space.
January is normally the time where we look back on the last twelve months and decide what we want to improve. Cue promises that we’ll go to the gym more often, quit smoking, learn a new skill or language and so on. However, not only is it difficult to keep up any new changes, but the chances of you reverting back to your old habits increases with every new promise you take on.
Therefore, whether it’s for yourself or for your business, a clear plan of action is required if you want to make these changes a reality. It doesn’t matter how ambitious or modest your ambitions are, so long as they’re important to you, that’s what matters. While it can be difficult to get started, all big aims start with small steps so keep these in mind when you’re putting your plan together.
The best and most straightforward way of solving this is to get all of your thoughts down on paper. Yes, it’s a low-tech solution but there’s something about having your ambitions and aims in physical form that makes it more real.
Once you have your general aims written down, it’s time to break it down into more manageable chunks. It’s well and good that you want to increase page views or improve interaction, but how are you going to achieve this? The trick is to break it down into more manageable goals that you can achieve in the short-term, while keeping your long-term goals. This gives your goals a clear path for you to follow, and the sense of achievement you’ll feel from completing these mini-objectives will ensure that you complete them.
By extension, putting together a social media strategy can help you out in the long-run too. Knowing what questions to ask yourself can sometime be just as important as the answers you provide so think about what you want to offer and what you want to achieve.
So you’re looking at your different profiles and you feel that things are getting a little stale. Maybe it’s the content you publish, or how the page is presented, or maybe it’s just a number of little things. Whatever the reason is, there are a number of different things you can do to brighten up your profiles.
Update & Modify Your Profiles
Maybe your Twitter bio has gotten a little stale, or your LinkedIn profile might need to be updated to match your experience and skill set. Either way, why not take a moment or two to go through your main profiles and see what you can change or update.
The easiest way to do this is to change what images you use. The majority of sites make use of cover photos so it’s a good time to update it. Never underestimate the power of imagery, it’s a brilliant way of communicating the direction you or your company is going and will freshen things up a little.
After that, it’s worth looking through the ‘about’ section of your pages and general information to see what is worth updating. Companies change and develop as time passes so showing all the services you offer in a concise manner is important. If the last update took place longer than six months ago, it’s worth reviewing it and deciding if there are any areas that need updating.
Spring clean your profiles
Chances are you have subscribed to a number of pages and apps that you quickly used and forgot about, which is clogging up your news feed. In other cases, you could be following people that you aren’t as interested in. For Facebook alone, there are a number of ways you can tidy up your profile so that you only see the content you want, while for Twitter, there are a number of apps that can help you reduce the number of people you follow so that your feed isn’t as congested. A good one to start with is ManageFlitter which lets you manage your followers and identify inactive accounts.
Manage multiple accounts together
If you’re managing multiple accounts and finding it difficult to keep on top of them, you’re better off bringing all of them together on the one dashboard to keep things simple. If you crosspost content regularly, then there are a number of different dashboards that will help you out. However, the functionality tends to be somewhat limited so if you regularly use more advanced features like promoted posts or targeting, it’s better to post directly from the site.
If all else fails, prioritise
Sometimes our ambitions can get the better of us. We make promises and start new things without really considering how much time or effort you have to invest into it. If it’s a case that you’ve too much to update, you’re better off temporarily dropping excess accounts and focusing on two or three main accounts instead. The more time you’re able to spend on a platform, the better quality you will be able to provide, especially if you use these channels exclusively for customer service.
While it’s easy to put all these changes into action, you need to make sure you can dedicate a regular amount of time to these tasks. If you’re struggling to find time to keep this up, it could be your organisation and timekeeping that’s holding you back.
Create a timetable
No matter what day it is, there are certain tasks that you need to complete on a daily basis. Things like replying to emails, meetings and brainstorming sessions are accounted for in your day. So why don’t you schedule a time to complete social media tasks?
While it’s tempting to just schedule an hour a day to check your accounts, resist the urge to do this. The major flaw to this is that if a person replies or mentions you after this, they will have to wait 23 hours before a response. A good response is a quick one so instead you should set times throughout the day for checking your account.
A better strategy is to break this hour down into smaller sections throughout the day. As social media updates in real-time, it’s better to dedicate three 20 minute slots to replying, monitoring and posting content. That way, you will be aware of any changes and will be able to react accordingly.
Also, for your Twitter account, putting office hours in your bio shows your followers the best times to get in touch with you. If you have an international audience, put down the time zone you’re in to avoid confusion.
Social media is a real-time resource, we’ve been pretty much conditioned to post updates as they happen. That’s the way it should be, but if we’re going to be realistic, you’re not going to be beside your computer 24/7 and there will be times where you will be away from the office. If this is the case, then get into the habit of scheduling tweets and updates.
Doing so is relatively easy and the only thing you need to make sure of is that the content you’re posting isn’t time sensitive. A news article will only have a lifespan of a few hours at best, while a feature or opinion article will be relevant for longer. This is handy if you have followers from different parts of the world, especially for Twitter where tweets can be easily missed. Alternatively, you can use apps like Buffer which will post content at times your audience will see them.
Become more organised
If you’re not organised or prepared then the chances of you accomplishing anything gets lower. If the simple pen and paper isn’t doing the trick, there are a number of apps that you can download for free. If you’re focused on completing goals, then an app like Astrid will help you out, while Remember The Milk is useful for when you’re breaking down tasks into more manageable chunks.
If you’re looking for something more suited to team organisation, there are similar mobile and cloud apps out there to help you out. Services like Basecamp will help you out with general projects, while creative and design related projects would benefit more from a service such as Cage.
This article is published in association with SimplyZesty, a digital marketing agency.
Read more here: How to start your social media year off with a bang