3 Kick-Butt Tools to Unclutter Your Business Life

As your entrepreneurial life takes off, you’ll find your business slowly getting cluttered with repetitive, frustrating (and often time-wasting) tasks. It’s all too easy to lose hours a week — or hours a DAY — focusing on things that aren’t productive, instead of pouring your energy into profit-producing activities.

Which means, it’s critical you recognize the “time vampires”, as Dan Kennedy calls them, and put an end to them once and for all. Kill them as soon as they start cluttering your day.

That’s why I’m a *huge* fan of outsourcing these tasks so you can have more fun (and time) in your life. But outsourcing doesn’t always have to be to another person – it can mean handing something off to software or 3rd-party systems that handle the heavy lifting.

So with “Organize Your Home Office Day” being celebrated this month, I thought it would be the perfect time to share 3 of my favorite kick-butt, time-saving tools with you…

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Clutter Reducer #1: Google Calendar
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This totally free tool rocks! I got tired of having different calendars for different projects – personal one in Outlook, joint venture projects in Microsoft Groove, family events on paper, etc. I’ve been dying for a calendar system that allows the ultimate flexibility when collaborating with others, but that also isolates my personal events. (I doubt my business partners care about when I’m getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist. 🙂 ).

Enter: Google Calendar! This brilliantly designed, completely web-based free tool allows you to do all that and more!

Simply create as many calendars as you need (for example, I have ones for my joint venture projects, my company, my family, my personal events, birthdays and more). Each calendar gets color-coded and then appears (or disappears) from your master calendar view simply by checking the boxes on the left.

Now here’s the cool part: You can set up “sharing” for individual calendars and events. Which means my team members ONLY get access to my JV calendar and company calendar, while my family has access to the “Zavadowski Family Events” calendar. And brilliant Google even lets you control permissions, so your calendar can be “read-only” or others can add/change events as needed.

Here’s a snapshot of my current “master calendar” view…

Chris's Google Calendar

Along with TONS of other features (including text messaging reminders, public shared calendars, multiple views and more, the possibilities are endless.

If you host weekly team trainings for your downline, why not create a team calendar that shows all the upcoming events, along with dial-in information, motivational tips and more.

Or if you’re traveling around hosting live events, you can even publish your calendar on your website for others to see.

Or combine both ideas and put your team calendar on your team training mini-site. The system is virtually limitless!

And one more thing…

If you currently use Outlook (or PDAs requiring Outlook), but fall in love with Google for its massive collaboration potential, I recommend a piece of software called “Oggsync” (much more powerful than Google’s free tool currently is). I use it to sync all of my different events and calendars between Outlook and Google. With the push of a button, everything is always up-to-date, whether on my computer, or on the web.

The importance of Google Calendar is to streamline your business life. Instead of trying to juggle and remember events on different calendars (or scraps of paper and post-it notes), keep everything cleanly organized online with you, your team and your staff — all in ONE central, web-based location. Play around with Google Calendar for 5 minutes and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

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Clutter Reducer #2: Spam Arrest
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In today’s world, the biggest time waster is EASILY email. Much has been written on regaining control of your inbox, controlling our email addictions and more, so I’m not going to spend time covering a topic that’s been thoroughly covered. Instead, I’m going to focus on the biggest email clutter culprit (and how to kill it).

(Side note – If you DO have a big problem with managing your legit email, I highly recommend you read Tim Ferris’ “The 4-Hour Workweek” for excellent strategies on information reduction and email control).

Do the math and you’ll see you’re losing days, if not weeks, each year deleting spam. 10 minutes a day x 5 days a week x 50 work weeks a year = almost 42 hours spent deleting spam each year. That’s at least a FULL work week totally lost to email you never want to see in the first place! And if your business is bigger…you can easily tack on another week or two of wasted time.

So since this article is about reducing clutter – and nothing clutters up your computer time like spam – I highly recommend you check out Spam Arrest. For the last 3+ years, this inexpensive, but powerful, service has been protecting me from hundreds of thousands of spam messages.

In fact, in the last week alone it’s blocked 7,493+ pieces of spam sent to my personal inbox (our company email addresses get 4-5x that amount). Yikes!

Essentially it works on a challenge/response system. Someone emails you, and the service emails them back asking for verification they are a real person. It happens ONE time and BAM…the person now makes it to your inbox…while all the other spam emails never see the light of day.

Of course you have full control over everything, so you can block emails, import your contacts ahead of time and do much more. Plus if you take an extra hour or two to set it up, your contacts don’t even need to know you’re using it.

Just like Google Calendar, Spam Arrest can pull everything into one centralized location. It checks multiple email accounts for me…dropping them all into my master inbox. That way I’m not wasting more time trying to manage multiple inboxes. The month or so it takes to get all the legit emails on your “whitelist” is WELL worth the weeks of your life that will be saved. Highly recommended!

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Clutter Reducer #3: j2 and PhoneTag 1-2 Punch
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Have you ever found yourself getting totally derailed every time the phone rings? Or have you ever found yourself listening to voicemail messages that last for 5 minutes, only to realize they should have taken 30 seconds?

One of the biggest time wasters entrepreneurs face (along with email) is the PHONE! Just one ring can completely get you off track when you’re focused on a project and totally clutter your day with distractions. Not to mention a quick phone call here, and another quick phone call there really adds up over a month…

That’s why I recommend you let these tools do the heavy lifting.

Simply put, j2 is a dedicated business line that’s essentially “answer-only”. For about $15/month, you can have a phone number in virtually any area code you want. Then you set up the voicemail and presto – it will take all your calls! Not only will you avoid getting derailed by unexpected calls, but this service will also convert the voicemails to .wav files and email them wherever you want. If you have an assistant, let him handle these calls for you.

Plus, j2 also accepts faxes on your number – forget adding extra papers to your office clutter!

Your faxes instantly get converted over to .pdf and emailed wherever you want. I’ve been using this service for the last five years and love it!

But…it works best when you pair it up with PhoneTag, formerly SimulScribe, (my good buddy Yanik Silver turned me on to this one). Have your j2 voicemails forwarded right to PhoneTag and you’ll never have to listen to messages again! This $10/month service will instantly transcribe your voicemails — with amazing accuracy! — and email them to you (or your staff). In my case, they go right over to Lara where she handles them for me in a jiffy.

Not only will a streamlined system like this help to unclutter your life and office with distractions and paper, but it also helps you to service your customers and clients better!

You can be fully prepared to help someone out, instead of being caught off guard, putting them on hold, and wasting everyone’s time. Check these services out – you’ll love ’em!

And here’s a bonus clutter reducer: Go paperless! This one is short and sweet. Anywhere you have a chance to “go paperless” with a service, do it!

Not only does this reduce clutter in your life and office, but it reduces paper waste and protects your privacy from something getting stolen in the mail. All of our bank statements, bills, tax reports and more are switched over to the paperless option.

Instead of having to file away a stack of papers every month (and archive them for the IRS each year), you simply save the .pdf file on your computer and you’re done. I can find any statement in 60 seconds, and have a lot more free closet space. 😉 Talk about eliminating clutter – I love it (and you will too!)

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So there you have it – three (well, four) ways to unclutter your business life. Give them a try so you can spend less time bogged down in clutter and time-wasters, and more time making the $$$ and having fun in your business!

Please leave your thoughts below and also share some of YOUR favorite tools and tricks to cut back on the clutter and organize your life better. Help make this article even more useful!

Talk to you soon!

Chris 🙂

P.S. – In a few weeks, I’ll be speaking at Yanik Silver’s famous Underground Online Marketing Seminar. I’ll be giving two separate presentations – one on outsourcing tricks and strategies for your small business, and another on webinars as the hottest cutting-edge marketing tool around (Yanik calls it “enlightened”). If you’re attending the event, be sure to come up and say “hi”!

P.P.S. – Shameless Plug: Keep your eyes peeled for “Outsourcing Secrets Exposed” coming your way later this year. Based on the totally sold-out workshop I taught with Jim Edwards, this will be a revamped and updated live training program you won’t want to miss.

Comments

  1. Chris,

    Great post, I have all 3 tools, especially PhoneTag (Full disclosure I am the founder of PhoneTag). If you ever need anything feel free to contact me and keep on enjoying the service. Also here is a free 30 day link for any of your readers to use, https://apps.simulscribe.com/signup/r/194274

    Thanks again!

    Jamie

    James Siminoff, Founder
    PhoneTag

  2. Don Hill says:

    Great post, Chris!

    Time management is one of the biggest challenges most serious internet marketers face. Anything that can automate the repetetive everyday tasks without removing the “personal” element of your business activities is a “must-have” item, even if it requires a small investment. The “cost” will be quickly offset by the amount of time saved.

    One such tool I’ve discovered is RoboForm. At first glance, it appears to be just a simple password manager, but one of my associates taught me some of the more advanced capabilities of RoboForm, and it has recaptured literally hours of my day in not only automating logins to particular sites, but in posting content in various locations as well.

    While Roboform is sold as an affiliate product, I haven’t included any affiliate link here – even though I am an affiliate for it. I get plenty of responses to my marketing campaigns for it, and don’t feel the need to indulge myself in “comment spam” on its behalf.

    My associate conducts regular training on how to maximize your efficiency using RoboForm, and if anyone wants more information, you can get in touch with me by clicking on my name at the top of this comment. The page you’re taken to will have a contact form you can reach me with.

    I always look forward to your tips, Chris. Most of the “gurus” peddle – sometimes in some pretty ingenious ways – but you continue to GIVE value to your subscribers! That’s why you’re where you are now, and why you’ll continue to grow your success in the future.

    Keep ’em coming!

    Don Hill
    Anderson, CA USA

    Have you Googled ME today?

  3. Becki Maxson says:

    Love Google calendar too! I also used to have paper for family, Outlook for business, having to cross check the two, etc.

    One of my other favorites is SendOutCards because I can send all the greeting cards I need for personal, business follow-up, thank you cards, etc right from the internet — no trip to the card store, and they’re a lot less than Hallmark, but they’re real cards – a lot better than e-cards or emails. Even gift cards can be inserted. It saves me several errands a month.

    Full disclosure, I’m a happy customer and affiliate and recommend it to all my friends, clients and colleagues.

    Becki Maxson

  4. Jamie – thanks for your kind offer and your comments. I admire what you’ve done with your company and projects as an entrepreneur – keep up the great work (and the great service)!

    Don – thanks for your kind words. Yes, Roboform is a great “must-have” tool. I’ve used it for the last few years and have my family and team using it too. There are way more than 3 killer time-saving apps that I use, so I’ll probably include that in a follow-up post down the road. :)h

    Becki – glad you are a GC convert like me. I can’t really comment much on SendOutCards here since it’s a network marketing program/product and we stay 100% in our training and information. (But I have heard about it many times. 🙂 ) I do want to let people know that it is another network marketing-type company (although like most MLM companies with legit products, people can just get the product only if they want). Thanks for being upfront about your involvement too – and I’m glad to hear you’ve found a company/product you’re happy with. That’s very important for MLM success.

    A great alternative for those who want to do direct mail, but who don’t want to get locked into a service with any monthly/annual fees is actually the USPS.gov Click2Mail service which they recently totally overhauled. You can accomplish many of the same basic things with postcards, greeting cards, personalization, sequencing and more – but with no fees for the service other than printing and postage. (Of course they also don’t have a referral program either – so you can’t earn money by referring.)

    I use several different “DM” vendors depending on the project, but if you’re a customer of mine, it’s a safe bet you’ve had me send you something via that service (and others) at some point in time.

    Thanks for the comments guys – I appreciate having you as MLMBlog-gers 😉

    Chris

  5. Dana Goetz says:

    Thankyou so much Chris. This is exactly what I need. I am not yet ready for a virtual assistant so making my time as productive as possible is a must. You know you can find all kinds of marketing tips out there, but when it comes to what are the big guys doing to unclutter their lives no one has shared that valuable info. Once again thankyou. Dana

  6. Jack says:

    What doesn’t Google have, lol? Thanks for sharing these tools Chris. I plan on using Google’s Calendar soon.

    Another way to reduce clutter is by cutting down on the amount of paper we use. I’ve been using a program called Fineprint for years, to save paper and ink when printing…. and I love it! That’s a direct link, by the way.

    Keep up the great posts!

  7. Hi Chris,

    Many people don’t even realize how much time they are wasting in their lives to begin with. One technique that I use is once a quarter, I write down exactly what I did every day for one week. By using this technique, I am able to identify areas where I am wasting time and not being as efficient as I would like to be. Then, over the next quarter, I work to reduce the time wasting activities in any way that I can.

    Another tool that is a great time saver is Google Analytics, also a free tool by Google. What this does is allows you to track visitors to your web sites, lets you know where they came from and you can set it up so that it even lets you know where your opt ins are coming from and where your sales are coming from.

    Many times we waste time with marketing activities that aren’t producing any results, yet we don’t have the tracking mechanisms in place to identify that these activities aren’t producing results to begin with. Google Analytics is a great tool to help you do just that. I’ve had it for a little under 2 months now and it has completely change the way I do business.

    Roosevelt Cooper
    http://www.web204mlm.com

  8. Corrisa Malone says:

    I’ve always heard about Roboform and finally got around to downloading the software…and boy…have I been wasting a lot of time without it!

    I’m take your advice and start using the Google Calendar. I have never heard of it before.

    Thanks Chris

    Corrisa

  9. Bill & Jessica says:

    Dear Chris
    Thank you for all your fantastic articles. You made us laugh
    and let us learn. Your lifestyle must be very interesting. How do you take care
    of your well being? Do you take nutritional supplements? We have what
    you need to know because you deserve the best.

  10. Ben Cheek says:

    Chris,
    You have told me about these for some time now. I have been too busy doing the things that these tools will alleviate. I will be in contact with you about setting them up in a way that is best suited for me. Your input is in-mesureable!

    Ben

  11. Chris says:

    Sorry, but I’ve always found using services like SpamArrest to be rather rude, especially when people use those addresses for business or signing up for a list. I don’t jump thru the hoops to confirm myself, and neither do lots of other people… so realize you are cutting off a lot of legit contact.

  12. Lynn says:

    I had been trying unsuccessfully to get help from a companies support desk. Later I found out that they had generated Spam Arrest messages that ended up in my spam filer.

    I think this is an inappropriate tool for support issues.

    Lynn

  13. Corrisa — you’re quite welcome. And yes, Roboform is an amazing piece of software (WELL worth the $$$). I get all my family and friends using it when possible (and also my team, too).

    Bill & Jessica — yup, I can’t complain. It’s a good life. 🙂 As for taking care of myself, I work out regularly with a trainer, and do my best to watch what I eat. And yep, I do use some supplements each day to keep my wheels turning.

    Chris 🙂

  14. Chris — sounds like you missed the part where I mentioned the service allows you to import all of your contacts ahead of time (which is what I *highly* recommend). 😉

    That way the service is totally seamless for your contacts. And when you sign up for a new list, or start corresponding with a new contact, simply add them to your ‘verified’ list and you’ve got no problems.

    I lose ZERO legit business contact. In fact, 99% of my business associates have NO CLUE that I use the service…and 100% of their email gets to me (versus using a service like gmail or a ‘learning’ spam filter which sometimes flags legit email).

    You don’t have to use SpamArrest — but not having some type of effective spam filtering system in place is a massive waste of time and costs your business money because of wasted effort and and reduced energy.

    —–

    Lynn – I agree with you. SpamArrest is for one-on-one email (personal/business private email). You should never use it for a ‘public’ support email address, especially if it involves providing help for your customers.

    That’s plain stupid because it not only aggravates your PAYING customers, but it will increase refunds because some customers will be confused by the SpamArrest link, and will never end up getting help for their purchase. Yikes!

    For a support solution, I recommend companies use a help desk like Kayako (what we use) which is a ‘ticket’ based system that allows you to truly serve customers/prospects.

    And you can always filter your email through a spam filter (like gmail) before it hits the help desk, to ward off junk mail — BUT if you do that, you *must* check the “spam” folder at your service. You don’t want to run the risk of a legit customer email getting lost!

    Thanks for your feedback guys – keep it coming on our posts!

    Have a great weekend…I’m off to NYC for a little bit of Broadway this weekend!

    Chris 🙂

  15. Deborah says:

    I’m curious to have more info about this..

    thanks,
    Deborah

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