Here’s a quick look back at a few of my favorite things from 2011, the top things that made my life easier. What made your life easier this year?
I’m a big believer in results-based management but if you don’t watch progress to the result, you can miss critical opportunities to clarify an expectation or remove an obstacle for your people. This year, TeamworkPM gave us online project management that was flexible enough to build projects the way we worked, and comprehensive enough to keep track of comments, timelines, and obstacles. More than once, it showed me something was off-track early enough to pick up the phone and fix a problem that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. They also have a great mobile app that let me easily watch what was happening on the road.
My MacBook Air
You travel a lot as a remote manager (at least you should). It’s often easier and more productive for you to travel to them than it is for them to travel to you. A few months ago, I attended a meeting in a distant city. While I was there, I met with 10 of my remote workers who lived in the area. We enjoyed a quick lunch and a long talk. Not only was it great to see them, but seeing them out of the office and on their own turf made things seem a bit more fair and the conversation was a bit more open as a result. My 11″ MacBook Air is so easy to throw in my purse, it fits on any airline tray, holds a charge well and connects to most networks seamlessly. It’s made my travel life much easier. The switch from 20 years of PCs was so easy I kick myself regularly for not switching sooner.
My Sony EReader
I read a lot when I’m on the road, both for pleasure and for business. My EReader is the first thing I pack. The charge lasts for weeks, it reads like a real book, and it weighs less than my smartphone. I hate the Sony software but the 10 minutes a month of messing with the software to load books is worth the better aesthetic value to me. I actually like that it’s a truly dedicated reading device that doesn’t connect to the Internet. No temptation to surf that way. A side shout-out for Goodreads.com. I can easily list and rate everything I’ve read and the site gives me recommendations, author interviews, and dedicated discussions. I’ve found several great authors I never would have tried using their recommendations and groups.
I wrote a book for the 3daynovel contest and won NanoWrimo this year, feats I partially credit to Scrivener. Nick Spence over at MacWorld called it a digital shoebox which is a great description. For $45 or less, it allows you to keep your research and writing all together, gives you tools to organize it all in infinite ways, and then helps you format and compile a final version in whatever way you want. I’m currently using it as a job search tool too. I have folders for cover letters and customized resumes, as well as job descriptions and company research, all in a searchable shoebox.
A nonprofit professional group that I work with has over 800 people on their email list. They’d outgrown Outlook and didn’t know what else to do. Mailchimp is a great solution, a reasonably priced email marketing tool with a limited functionality free version. It allows us to send and track emails and open rates, allows our membership to choose whether or not to receive emails, integrates with Facebook, basically gives us professional level marketing power. It’s been relatively easy to set up and has really helped us clean up our mailing list and increase participation.