yoman

How I work: All my tools

I never thought I’d be this person, but I use so many tools for my work – mainly online – that it’s a little ridiculous when viewed in a list.

Here, let me show you:

  1. Google Keep – for notes
  2. Trello – for notes
  3. Google Calendar – for planning our days
  4. Google Drive – for collaborating on documents and spreadsheets
  5. Dropbox – for backing up and sharing my hard drive
  6. Toggl – for timing myself
  7. Asana – for working on tasks
  8. Insightly – for organizing contacts
  9. Paper – for taking notes

There are a few others but I’m not going to mention them since they’re really marginal (and it’s getting embarrassing).

Here is an overview of how I/we use each tool and a bit about what I like and don’t like about them:

Google Keep

google-keepThis is where I keep notes on the go. Like, really on the go. I can make notes in Trello, in a notebook, in Asana and in other places, but Keep is the simplest tool I know for this. You can quickly open up an existing note or a new one and throw pixels on the screen.

It has the option for a regular note or a check list. The check list works so easily and smoothly – it’s amazing.

The main drawback: The only reason we started using Trello was because Google Keep kept not syncing and we’d literally lose stuff we’d written because of this. It was very upsetting.

Trello

trelloWe started using Trello very recently because of the syncing problem in Google Keep. So, while Keep is where I keep my own personal notes, or notes relating to work that Nati, my business partner, doesn’t need to see, Trello is now the place where we write notes to each other and other things that we don’t have any other place to put.

This is some of the boards we created:

Notes to each other – For example, I write a note to Nati and after he reads it, he either archives it because there’s nothing to add or he moves it to the next column “To discuss” so we’ll remember to talk about it the next time we have a meeting on that topic. This is in place of WhatsApp – that way the message doesn’t get lost and we aren’t disrupting each other. And that way, WhatsApp remains the place to discuss time-sensitive things.

To discuss – This column is where we put things we want to talk about. For example, I need Nati’s help with my time management and so I put that in this column.

To do – All our tasks are supposed to be in Asana but since Asana is a very heavy website and a cumbersome app (read more below), sometimes new tasks go in here before they’re moved into Asana.

Other things – This is stuff to keep in mind.

There are a few more boards and we’re still figuring out how best to work with Trello but in general we try to keep it as empty as possible. Because it’s ideally only a short stop in our work flow and if things are there forever, it’s probably a problem.

One of the things I love about Trello is that it works incredibly smoothly. The syncing is basically instantaneous, the app and web version load extremely quickly and dragging-dropping is smooth as anything. After the syncing problems with Keep and the loading issues with Asana, these benefits truly please me.

Google Calendar

google-calendarOne of the things we try hard to do is plan our work days in advance. We give ourselves a half hour at the end of the day to plan the following day. No, we don’t always go 100% according to our plan, but it’s an opportunity to think about everything we have on our plate and to prioritize well. It also means that even if things don’t go according to plan, we still have in mind what our priorities are. And in the cases that we do go according to plan, it’s very satisfying!

And in case you’re wondering, we give ourselves a half hour opening session at the beginning of every day to discuss anything of importance, an hour lunch break and a half hour closing session at the end of the day (to organize the following day).

Google Drive

google-driveGoogle Drive is in some ways the god of online tools. Often when working on huge amounts of content with a team, this will happen in a shared Google spreadsheet. I use Dropbox for most of my files (will discuss Dropbox below) but Google Drive is the magical place of collaboration. We have worked on projects using Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets and Google Slides.

The main drawback of Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets is that they are truly lacking compared to Microsoft Word and Excel. Word’s documents are way more attractive and both Word and Excel carry way more functionality than Google Drive. I see Google copying Microsoft over time but that is happening really slowly.

Dropbox

dropboxDropbox is the way I keep my entire computer backed up. I pay an annual fee for 1TB of storage space and I have all my photos from my phone automatically upload to my account.

The thing I love the most about Dropbox is the sharing of content (as opposed to collaboration). When I need to send someone a bunch of photos, instead of attaching them to an email, I create a share link to the folder in Dropbox and send that to them.

I am aware of the fact that Google Drive works in a similar fashion (and costs the same, last I checked) but I have been using Dropbox for a while and love it so am not changing right now.

Toggl

togglThis is an amazing tool for timing yourself.

I try to time myself throughout my work day. Because of the nature of my work, I only need one task per client/project, which keeps things simple. I also have a task called “Admin” where I time anything that is not billable but is work. That includes: working on leads, business development, accounting, marketing and the opening and closing meetings of the day.

And why Toggl? It’s simple as anything and just does what we need it to do. Recently we created a shared workspace where we can time ourselves on shared projects and we’re pretty happy with that so far. I also love the email I get at midnight every Saturday night which shows me what I worked on the past week.

And why time yourself? Because then you know what you’re doing with your life :) and you can price things more accurately as time goes on.

Yes, it’s often really hard timing yourself, both emotionally and technically. Sometimes it stresses me out and doesn’t let me get into a work groove. Sometimes I feel self conscious about how long something is taking and I just want to do it without thinking about that. Sometimes I make a mistake and time myself on the wrong “task” and then need to try to figure out how long to remove from that task and add to the right one.

But I still believe it’s important, especially if you have your own business, and I guess the way to get past the emotional obstacles is to try to take the data with a grain of salt.

Asana

asanaOh, Asana… It’s the talk of the world.

I was so resistant to use it. I really hated it at first because it wasn’t useful to me and so I found myself still keeping notes in a notebook on the side. It was so frustrating.

But we knew we needed a project management system and Nati thought Asana was a good one, and so we persisted through my resistance. In concrete terms that meant that we spent many hours and tons of thought on figuring out how to make Asana work for us.

And we succeeded!

I don’t even know where to start talking about Asana. I guess, the best place to start is by saying that we pronounce it differently than everyone else. I pronounce it the way I learned to pronounce it in yoga class, putting the emphasis on the first syllable. But, it seems that since it’s an American product, the accent is actually put on the second syllable. We refuse to cave in on this. Sorry.

It’s during the opening session of our day (which periodically is longer than the normal half an hour) that we move tasks from Trello to Asana and organize Asana. We have understood over time that a project management system only works if you go over everything written there on a regular basis, around once a month. We have a “Project” per project and we love using the assignments, deadline and tags. I love the calendar view. In the list view we love the ability to create sections by putting a colon after the title of a task.

We’re trying out the new boards option (copied from Trello) and so far we don’t love it as much as Trello, mainly because you can’t see a long task name (which is really important to us) and it’s very spacious with big font which means you can’t see a lot of info in your screen at once.

The main drawbacks of Asana have nothing to do with the functionality and everything to do with the user-experience. Namely, the web version loads so slowly that it’s almost funny (we take turns laughing/crying about how long my PC takes to load and how long Asana takes to load). And the app is so annoying to work that I often opt to use Keep or Trello and then move things to Asana later.

I’ve now decided to give the app more of a chance and am playing around with it more but from what I know, here are the issues I have with it (the app):

  1. You can’t choose the default workspace or project that the app opens up to. The default for me is the workspace I need the least and the tasks is “My Tasks” which is also something I need less. I don’t see a way to change these settings.
  2. You can’t share from the browser to Asana – This is a huge drawback for us. We often need to share first to Trello and then later move things to Asana.
  3. It’s too hard to add a new task to the right place – with the correct project, assignee, etc.
  4. You can’t start editing a task simply by tapping on the text; you need to tap the tiny little edit button first.
  5. You need to tap “Save” to save your edits but since the “Save” button is passe, I am concerned I’m going to lose my changes.
  6. Switching between projects is a basic need for us but in the app you need to tap twice just to get to a complete list of projects.

K, I’m trying to say that we love Asana, not hate it. I guess the point is that it’s so amazing that the drawbacks still aren’t enough to keep us away.

Insightly

insightlyThis is our shiny new CRM (contact relationship management). I’ve been searching for a CRM that does what I need for so long. And managing contacts is one of the biggest challenges in a business. There are so many categories of people – service providers, potential clients, colleagues and many more – and it is so hard to keep on top of people according to your needs. And so we were pretty (hesitantly) excited when Nati happened upon Insightly. First, it has a nice user interface. Phew. Also, the free version offers a lot of functionality.

The entry types that we use are Contacts, Organizations, Leads and Opportunities. We don’t use Tasks and Projects because we need all action items to be in Asana.

The things we love so far are:

  1. Email tracking – While emailing a contact, we often BCC an Insightly email address which sends the email to our account and connects it with the relevant contacts there. <3
  2. The Gmail addon – With this addon you can hover over a name in your Gmail inbox and see if that person is in Insightly yet. If they aren’t, you can add them from the addon. There are some drawbacks but mostly it’s amazing.
  3. Tags – We use it to track different types of contacts. We’re just sorry that tags aren’t cross-sectional between, for example, Contacts and Organizations.
  4. Links – This is really beautiful. You can link between anything and anything and write something about the connection in a small field.

The main drawback we’ve found so far is that the tags aren’t cross-sectional and the search doesn’t read tags or the entry descriptions. I think it only reads the entry names.

Paper

yomanThe other thing I use is paper. I use a paper daily planner – a yoman – and a notebook. The yoman I use for the overall plan of my days and stuff I need to remember to take care of that isn’t necessarily work-related. And my notebook I use for taking notes during meetings and for brainstorming.

Why don’t I just use Google Calendar for meetings? I find it too difficult to have a feel for my day – including outside work – with a digital calendar. And as for the notebook, the notes from there get transferred into one of the online apps the first chance I get.

Drawbacks? None. Physical notebooks are wonderful!

One more thing…

Nothing works unless you work on making it work. All these tools are only working for us because we have spent (and in some cases continue to spend) hours and a lot of thought on how we need to use them in order for them to work best for us.

Also, all of these tools only work if you go into them and reorganize them periodically.

Both of these tasks might sound like a waste of time – and yes, they’re timed under “Admin” (see Toggl) which is not billable – but having a working system is golden. It means you can arrive at your workday, have a real handle on what’s going on and focus on the tasks that are the top priority. Of course, as mentioned above, the plan doesn’t always work out as well as you’d hope – there are many dynamic factors including emotions involved – but I believe that our days are more productive and way more organized because of how we manage ourselves.

road-highway-from-pixabay

The BS of “Follow Your Passion”

“Follow your passion.”

Huh?

This idea of following one’s passion has never sat right with me. Today it’s particularly stressing me out and so I’ve given it some thought and upon a certain amount of introspection, I’ve decided that there are two parts of this idea that are faulty.

1. The singularity of it

This idea that is supposedly so freeing is, in fact, extremely restraining, namely because it makes the terrible and silly assumption that we only have one passion. It’s very nice and good to focus on one of your passions for a short or extended period of time, maybe even for your whole life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you’re passionate about. It’s just that we need to make a decision about what to focus on or else we’ll never get anything done. That’s all.

2. The damn word

Also, the word “passion” irks me. Maybe that’s because it gives the impression that the subject of your passion should cause you great feelings of meaning and enthusiasm on a constant basis when, in fact, that thing, when broken down, is as mundane as anything else in life. Not to mention the important fact that the reasons we are driven to focus on certain things is not only “passion.” For me, for example, it’s also out of trying to find something that works with my personality as a highly sensitive, highly questioning person.

Yes, there might very well be moments of passion but it is far from the only factor in our decisions to do what we do.

The new way to say it?

Point being, I think instead people should say:

“Follow one of the things you feel drawn to if you feel and believe that’s the right thing for you right now.”

:)

Photo source

2016-02-17 11.55.31

9 Philosophies from an Entrepreneur in the Wind

Entrepreneurship is very important to me. It is this lifestyle that opens up the opportunity for me to develop the ideas I have, work with the people I want to and influence the things that really matter to me.

But it’s also a very difficult lifestyle. I am often trying to figure out not only how to put one foot in front of the other, but which direction to put that foot in. I am forever competing with self doubt in a lifestyle that demands constant decision-making, a balance between ideas and practicality and, of course, all this with the infamous uncertain and unknown future staring right back at me.

I’d like to share some of the philosophies that, when actually practiced, give me the strength to get through the day-to-day life as the woman roaming the streets of Jerusalem, consciously (and self-consciously) offering narrowly-defined services, dreaming of an innovative business with a colleague and almost always juggling too many things at once.

I hope you find this list useful.

Sometimes we're playing and only five people are listening and that's OK. (The Marakia on Koresh St. Tuesday jazz nights)
Hamarakia

1. The impostor syndrome isn’t only bad (most things aren’t only bad)

Many of us are walking around life sure we’re about to be found out as the frauds that we are. We feel like we don’t know enough and we aren’t professional enough and we marvel at the fact that people take us seriously at all.

But recently I saw a new way to look at the impostor syndrome which made me realize the upside of this painful phenomenon. Namely, that if we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing, it is a sign that we’re pushing our limits and trying new things. So, maybe we’re feeling like a newbie because we really are always learning and trying new things, which is a good thing!

Here is the animated gif which I love that inspired this thought:

I have no idea what I'm doing (Source)
I have no idea what I’m doing (Source)

2. Be really forgiving of people

While working on building up my own thing, there is little space for pettiness. It’s a world of imperfect people and being suspicious or feeling resentment towards them for making mistakes or being inconsiderate, dooms me to a life of tab-keeping. It takes too much energy and people really aren’t usually that bad.

Of course that doesn’t mean we’re never going to get upset and that there aren’t times when it’s important to get upset. But I often experience first hand the benefits of letting things slide and moving on.

Dance like everyone/nobody is looking (the Boogie)
The Boogie

3. Keeping self-absorption to a minimum

Working for myself, being my own manager and having to make decisions constantly, are all things which bring up a lot of feelings about myself. I am so aware of the responsibility I hold all on my own that my successes and my mistakes hit home very hard.

And I find it best not to dwell.

I love how my latest blog post came out? Yay! Next. I made a big mistake with my taxes last year? Oy veis mir! Learnt my lesson big-time. Moving on. I think I came off sounding a little stupid in that meeting? Ugh. Anyway… That excellent piece my colleague wrote was based on my idea? Clearly I do know what I’m doing! Woo hoo! MOVING THE FUCK ON.

Because, like in #2, we could spend our entire lives keeping tabs, trying unsuccessfully to figure out if we’re the bee’s knees or impostors indeed, and that’s a waste of a lot of perfectly good energy.

The First Station, Jerusalem
The First Station

4. Be happy for (and learn from) others

I grew up being taught to “fargin”  people their achievements and successes. Only in my adulthood did I find out that fargin is a Yiddish word, not an English one (and it is also a popular Hebrew word – לפרגן). It means to be generous of spirit and to feel truly joyful for people and their accomplishments and good fortune.

For some reason it scares me when others do good work, as though it is a sign that I missed my own boat of success. But I’m aware of the fact that this is a narrow-minded view of the world and so I think it’s good practice to show support to people in their work and celebrate their successes with them. And, of course, we can always use their successes as learning opportunities for ourselves.

2015-02-16 20.45.20 good
Hamazkeka

5. Always on the lookout for excellent people

Work relationships are intense and important and one of the benefits of independence is having more control over who we work with. Namely, I want to be with professional, kind and idealistic people who I truly respect, trust, enjoy, admire and can relate to.

This might sound like a lot to ask for and sometimes I feel like my pickiness might hold me back, but I also realize that this is of utmost importance to me. And when I do meet people who fit my criteria, it is often exhilarating and with (relative) confidence we can move forward together.

2015-02-04 14.35.42

6. Doing things I enjoy

Sometimes I could spend an entire week trudging through annoying work. But this isn’t the reason I’m where I’m at and at those times, I like to ask myself, “What could I choose to do with my time right now that I’d enjoy?” and I try to do that work instead.

When we stop for a moment and make sure to spend time on things we enjoy, that means we can still be productive but also create something which wants to be created and and it will inspire us to continue on.

Hummus Abu-Yoyo
Hummus Abu-Yoyo

7. My support network only goes so far

I have a wonderful support network of colleagues, friends and family. I rely on these people often and often heavily, but I have understood over time that the buck stops somewhere. In every situation, at some point we must stop talking, take control, believe in our abilities to make good decisions and move on.

Mount Scopus
Mount Scopus

8. Finding inspiration

As many people close to me know, I am in a near-constant state of asking “Why?” Why am I doing what I’m doing? Does it even matter? What does anything matter? Is this where I want to be putting my time? How do I make that decision?

To say the least, this is a strenuous place to be and I’m always looking for ways to either answer the questions, quiet the questions or give a constructive place for them. This is very personal and each person needs to find their own sources of strength and inspiration but here are a few ways in which I inspire myself:

a. I remind myself why I do what I do by going to the events I help advertise and by meeting the people behind them. Because when I sit at a dance festival in the outdoor market of Jerusalem and am moved to tears by the performances, or when I talk to the couple behind the new pop-up exhibitions in Jerusalem, I get a peek into the reasons behind my work.

b. I listen to talks and read pieces which touch upon the philosophical and psychological issues I deal with. For example, Krista Tippett’s interviews on “On Being” with deep thinkers from around the world (like this one with David Steindl-Rast where they talk about what gratitude really is) give me the opportunity to find insight into the issues that often sit in my subconscious and not feel alone with my questions.

c. I talk to people who either can relate to my internal process helping me understand and appreciate them more or can offer me different perspectives on them, helping me evolve over time. For example, it is one particular friend who has helped me respect my questioning and understand how it contributes to the work I do, taking mine and my colleague’s ideas to deeper, more innovative places.

d. I remind myself that this is not the last dance but instead just one movement in the composition of my life. Everything has worked up to this point and is continuing to work up to some future unknown point.

Independence Park, downtown Jerusalem
Independence Park

9. My personality isn’t a hindrance

Sometimes I get upset at myself, for certain personality traits I possess, and I think that they hold me back. For example, my constant questioning of “Why?” mentioned in #8 has often infuriated me since it makes me lack the carefree spirit which I have idealized in other entrepreneurs as their way to move forwards without always looking back or thinking too much.

But I am reminded, also via the tools I mentioned in #8, that who I am is the reason I do what I do, not the thing that gets in the way. For example, my sensitivity and awareness towards others, though tiring and intense, often allow me to connect with people in wonderful and inspiring ways.

I think that when we’re upset about certain things about ourselves, it’s a good idea to stop for a moment to ask ourselves how these traits might also contribute towards our goals, hopes and dreams, not only holding us back. Because the more we respect who we are, the more we can tap into our unique selves and create our own unique work.

2015-05-10 11.21.33
The Israel Museum

How about you?

If I had written this list a few months ago, it would probably look different. It’ll probably look different in a few months from now too since the things I’m dealing with change and I’m always looking for new ways to deal with the challenges and continue to grow. What helps you stay strong, persevere and carry on?

Curious what I do? Join Things to do in Jerusalem to get a taste.

The use of dramatic words in a not-dramatic industry

I don’t know why but I repeatedly see website development clients pushing their service providers to rush. Is it just in web development or are clients of all kinds pushing their service providers to do everything faster? And better too, I’m sure.

computer
Look at your new website! Isn’t it beautiful? photo source

To the chagrin of web dev clients the world over, I believe there are certain words that should never be used when discussing building a website. These include:

  1. Urgent, and
  2. Critical

Work for a client should ideally be done in a normal amount of time, but is it really necessary to make it urgent?

And here’s the irony. Almost every single time, at one point in the project (if not more), the work comes to an absolute and complete halt. I mean 100%. And not because of the web developer or project manager or graphic designer.

Wait... How did we get here? image source
Wait… How did we get here? image source

Nope. At some point, the project stops because something happens to the client. They realize their attention needs to be put elsewhere for a few days/weeks/months. They run out of cash. They find they have difficult decisions to make regarding the site. So many possible reasons, with the exact same outcome: a project that’s on hold.

I find rushed projects to be problematic but it isn’t only because of the stress of having someone push and push, feeling like you’re never working fast enough. It’s also because I know – I just know – that there is a 99% chance that this mad rush to the finish line will stop so fast that the worker will be left trying to figure out what just happened.

Being part of a regular flow of a project is fine. Sometimes it moves faster, sometimes slower, sometimes it needs to be put on hold for a bit. But after being pressured by a client to rush, when the client becomes the one to hold up the project, it’s tempting to start giving them talks about the importance of keeping a project going, even if under normal circumstances the delay wouldn’t have bothered you too much.

The talk won’t work, though. Because the same way that the project should have moved at a natural pace to begin with, including fast movement, slow movement and pauses, it will need to stop when the client needs to take that breath, whatever the reason may be.

And that’s OK. And you know exactly why. The reason it’s OK for the project deadline to be pushed off is because it wasn’t really urgent. Nope, it was just a really nice website that hopefully one day soon will be a really nice live website that will be enjoyed by all who visit it.

And when that happens, it’ll be really lovely.
Not at all critical.

Is the website still breathing? image source
Is the website still breathing? image source

No stress is too much

You look so stressed. Good good.

What is it about our culture that has created this attitude that the crazier you are, the cooler and more successful you’re considered.

If you run around like a madwoman, work way too many hours, check your email outside of work, preferably have a few kids which you somehow take care of too, hang out with friends, yadda yadda yadda, you are an inspiration to us all.

And those of us who do less than that, are frankly, less successful.

When I am feeling overwhelmed with my life, part of me wonders if it is during those overwhelming periods that I feel most alive, most accomplished. I wonder if, despite the pain of feeling like I’m about to have an ulcer, or maybe because of that oncoming ulcer, I know that I am finally living how I “should.”

Yikes.

How many of us are capable, within this culture, of working normal hours, doing normal things during our down time – like reading by a flickering flame in the evenings and going to sleep before midnight (of course) – without feeling like we’re wasting our lives away?

Basically, I think that if we aren’t stressing ourselves out, we sort of feel like failures.

Which is why it’s terrible you just spent time reading this blog post. :)

Image by Kai Hendry on flickr.

Etiquette when working in a coffee shop

Although I love the idea of working in a cafe, I often feel uncomfortable, worrying that I’m over-staying my welcome. So, here is an article that goes over some of the basic questions like: How much should you order? How long can you stay? Is it OK to use sound on your computer?

The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Coffee Shop Etiquette.

My opinions:

  • If the place is filling to capacity and you’ve been there a while, it’s time to leave.
  • A larger than normal tip is a good idea.
  • If you’re there for more than 3 hours and all you’ve had is a drink so far, get another one (or something else).