Mix Up the Workweek by Setting Your Own “20-Percent Time”

Google has what it calls “20-Percent Time”, where its employees spend one day each workweek on projects they’re passionate about, while 3M calls its version “15% culture,” which “encourages technical employees to spend 15 percent of their time on projects of their own choosing and initiative.”

Doodle Premium Launches: 50 Free Accounts for WWD Readers

doodleRPopular online scheduling tool Doodle (as used by WWD writer Aliza Sherman) today launched a Premium Edition. This new version of the app, which costs $28 per year, lets people present a more professional image by removing advertising and allowing customization of their Doodle pages. It also allows users to request personal information from their event participants, such as postal and email addresses and phone numbers.
We have 50 free Premium Edition accounts to give away. Sign onto Doodle (or log into your existing account) and enter coupon code: 4as9zxcc. The first 50 readers to use it will get one year of access to the Premium Edition.
Let us know what you think of Doodle Premium Edition in the comments.

How Long Do You Expect Your Macs to Last?

old_mac

How long should a Mac last? Mac360’s Alexis Kayhill posed the question recently, and it got me thinking on the topic, especially since Alexis framed her column around the experience of a co-worker who had purchased a new unibody MacBook (on her recommendation) only to have Apple (s aapl) upgrade the 13″ unibody to Pro status with feature enhancement and a lower price a few months later.

I’m in the same boat, having also bought a unibody MacBook last February. Alexis says her friend “got burned,” though I think that’s a bit harsh. I don’t feel “burned” at all — more like a bit disappointed that I didn’t wait four more months, but you can drive yourself nuts second-guessing such things. I love the MacBook, and am already becoming convinced that it’s going to be one of my all-time favorite Macs. I just wish it had a FireWire port, which the new 13″ MacBook Pro does have.
My target for intervals between upgrading my main workhorse systems has been three years ever since I bought my first Mac back in 1992, and I’ve done pretty well at adhering to it. That would put replacement time for my MacBook in early 2012, which seems a long way off. Read More about How Long Do You Expect Your Macs to Last?

Scheduling My Time

One of the best things about being a freelancer is that I can schedule my time in a way that works best for me; however, this flexibility can be a double-edged sword. While I have quite a bit of freedom to work on projects whenever it is most convenient, I find that in order to maintain my sanity, I need to carefully schedule my time to maximize productivity and make sure that I complete tasks on time.

ClockWe all have different ways of working based on our body clocks and personal preferences. I get my best work done between 7am and 2pm. I usually try to get up between 6am and 7am, and head right to the computer to catch up on East Coast client email and take care of any urgent items before hitting the shower and starting my day. Read More about Scheduling My Time

ScheduleOnce: Scheduling Software With Full Google Calendar Integration

schedonceWe’ve covered a lot of scheduling software here on WWD. For example, I wrote about When Is Good, a lightweight solution that offered very basic, easy-to-access scheduling for busy folks, and there are many other services available, too, as apparent from the “Calendars and Schedules” section of this post. A new service, ScheduleOnce, advertises itself with the tagline “Find a time in no time” and claims to deliver “more scheduling power for your Google Calendar.”

If I believed the hype from all of these scheduling services, I’d have to assume that we were all just careening around haphazardly, making and breaking so many appointments and meetings that we lose all sense of time and date. In practice, I think that most of the time the most scheduling software I need is my iPhone (s aapl) and its built-in Calendar application. That said, there are definitely times when scheduling using Google Calendar (s goog), which I already use for group-related activities, would make more sense. Read More about ScheduleOnce: Scheduling Software With Full Google Calendar Integration

BookFresh: A Virtual Receptionist

bookfresh-logoWhen you’re working on your own, setting up appointments can take you away from more important tasks. Even if the appointment itself is something crucial — a meeting with a client to go over a new project’s specs, say — the back and forth of trying to find a time that works for both of you can delay your ability to get down to business. BookFresh provides an alternative that can let your clients choose a time to talk to you that works for both of you. Read More about BookFresh: A Virtual Receptionist

Singletasking Tip: Work Like You’re on Vacation

vacationI have a singletasking tip for you, and it’s an important one: Work like you’re on vacation. Before you type up the smart-aleck response, “You mean don’t work at all?” let me explain. I mean work like you’re taking a working vacation. If you’re a full-time remote worker, you probably know the kind of focused working vacation I mean. Sometimes, you can pull one off without your employer even being aware that you’ve taken a vacation at all, if you’re experienced in the art.

The key to a successful working holiday? Good time management and prioritization skills. Having fun and distracting things, settings and activities all around you has a way of throwing what needs doing and what can be put off into sharp relief. The result, for me at least, is a kind of highly motivated tunnel vision that has me blowing through high-priority tasks in half the time I would normally take.

Since you’re not actually always on vacation, how do you replicate the effect in order to trigger task triage? The solution is to bring back the motivation, if not the exotic locales. Read More about Singletasking Tip: Work Like You’re on Vacation

Kukoo: Web-Based Email Tool for Singletaskers

kukoo_logoRecently, I posted about singletasking, a new trend that many are turning to after having burned out on multitasking. One key component of singletasking is setting aside blocks of time during which you check and deal with email, instead of having it interrupt your work flow continually throughout the day. Ignoring email is probably the most challenging aspect of singletasking for me, and I suspect the same is true for many web workers. Read More about Kukoo: Web-Based Email Tool for Singletaskers

Stop Just Putting Out Fires, Start Really Working

I can always tell when I’m just putting out fires (moving from one “urgent urgency” to the next).

“What? A client needs help with an ├╝ber pressing concern, and it has to be handled right now or his website will explode? I’ll get on that right away!”

“What, Ms. Prospective Client, you have the ultimate web project, but you need a quote within the hour? No problem.”

It starts with checking email first thing in the morning. Open, read, react, and an hour later, reply. Open, read, react, and an hour later, reply.

On and on it goes, until it’s two o’clock and not one smidgen of paid work has been done, or if it has, it’s been done in a haphazard way, usually at the client’s demand instead of using my own tried-and-true schedule and system.

By the end of the day, I’m zapped and feel like a heel for allowing my work to control me instead of the other way around.

There has to be a better way, and you know there is.

How to Alter Your Work Schedule to Accommodate Personal Projects

544232_calendar_series_4One of the advantages of working from home is the flexible schedule. No matter how many things you need to accomplish, or how many simultaneous projects you have, you can still control when you can perform certain tasks, as well as how long they take. While this is more true of freelancing than it is for employees, it’s this schedule flexibility that makes the prospect of teleworking more attractive.

Whether it’s a do-it-yourself renovation of your home office, a one-month trip, or participating in NaNoWriMo, there’s always the big, personal project that you’re trying to fit in your schedule. How do you make sure that it won’t have much of a negative impact on your work? Read More about How to Alter Your Work Schedule to Accommodate Personal Projects