Whether you're new to freelancing or a seasoned veteran, new tools to help you optimize your operations crop up every day. We've covered quite a few of these in the past, from Buffer and Hootsuite to Extensions for Google Chrome. For the full run down, you are more than welcome to peruse our "Preach what we practice" series on the blog.

Yeah, there's quite a bit of territory to cover in that blog category. Feel overwhelmed? DON'T PANIC.

Our perennial favorite accounting tool, Freshbooks, has provided a great starter guide that is already outselling the Encyclopedia Galactica everywhere fictional space encyclopedias are sold. With their Freelancer's guide to the galaxy, you'll be feeling like the hoopy frood you are in no time. Share and enjoy!

FreshBooks_GuideToTheGalaxy

This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. - Douglas Adams

stroheim-typewriterED. NOTE: This week's blog post illuminates just how and where your employees are likely to waste their time. To John's comments I'd like to add that flat rates and hard deadlines keep me productive. As Anthony Iannario says, "Time is finite and you can't make more of it, so don't manage your time- manage yourself."

-Seth-

The modern workplace is doomed to fail.

High speed internet access that allows non work related internet surfing during company time, social media apps that constantly barrages with updates jeopardizing work pace, and of course, posh offices that caters more to employees’ whims and desires than actually being conducive to productivity.

It’s no wonder why wasted time in the workplace is at an all-time high.

So what can we do to address these surmounting issues?

Obviously, there should be an effective computer and network usage policy in place. Social media guidelines that, while should not outright ban sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, monitor frequency of visits, and for how long, when done during work hours.

Online project management tools like Basecamp, Jira, and Trello that make collaboration easier and faster, eliminating reasons like, “I opened Facebook while waiting for him to send me this file."

Lastly, productivity monitoring tools should be used. Software like Time Doctor are designed to track the time spent on tasks or projects and most of the time this is already a good way to measure productivity. There are optional features that can be used — such as the taking periodic screenshots or monitoring the apps being used — which might not sit well with some individuals but might be useful for remote workers working with minimum supervision.

With the right tools, businesses can help address a number of real problems that are costing thousands of dollars in lost productivity every day. 

Wasted Time in the Workplace - Infographic
Time Doctor – Track your time. Track your team’s time. Know EXACTLY what is REALLY going on.

This week's guest post comes with a slick infographic. While the infographic is a fun way to self-assess your own motivation as a business owner, I know serious business owners aren't going to let an infographic push them around. So enjoy the exercise (there's always room for improvement), but don't let it go to your head. -Seth-

ownerSo you want to ditch the nine-to-five life and be your own boss, but how do you know if you have what it takes to be a success on your own? You might be surprised to learn that the deck is mostly stacked against you, but if you have the right motivation you can deal yourself a winning hand.

Since the recession in 2005, self-employment rates have dropped but they are expected to be on the rise again. Small businesses are still the backbone of our great country and most of those were started by the self-employed.

But the numbers are pretty dismal since eight out of every ten new businesses fail in the first two years. Most often they simply run out of money, but often they crash and burn right from the top, self-sabotage through founder dysfunction. That’s right, the boss!

Forbes gives these five reasons why new businesses often end up in the tank:

  1. Not in touch with their customers
  2. Lack of any unique value
  3. Failure to communicate
  4. Leadership breakdown
  5. Lack of a profitable business model

Maybe your boss makes it look easy, but it is actually a lot tougher than it looks especially when you are in charge of yourself. In order to be successful, you must be:

Even if you don’t have all these skills, it doesn’t mean that you are a “bad worker”, some people function better as part of a team. Others are more productive if they are in a structured environment. Some people are leaders and some are followers, not everyone can be the boss.

Much in the same way that some learn better by listening, others would rather read instructions and there are those that like to take a more hands on approach.

So do you have what it takes to be your own boss?

Using the infographic below, you can do a quick tally to see if you are best suited to stay in your current position or if you would be more successful as your own boss. Answer all the questions honestly, keep your score and compare your results with the recommendations at the end.

Be truthful, no one knows you better than yourself. By looking deeper into each of these categories you can better see where your strengths are weaknesses lie. Where do you excel and what areas are in need of improvement?

Thanks to this infographic, designed in part by Gryffin.com, you can take this test to see if you should be writing a new business plan or if you are better off punching a time clock:

 

200px-Aiga_mail.svgToday's question is a two-parter.

1. How do I generate shortened URLs for Twitter?

2. How to I move from tab to tab on Google Chrome without using my mouse? All that work just kills me.

Well, gentle reader, if you're the type of obsessive efficiency nerd that hates to reach for a mouse, I won't waste your time any further:

Ctrl+PageUp/Ctrl+PageDown

Try it! Unless you're an ie user, in which case, download Google Chrome immediately.

Moving up the list to question one, there are a variety of ways to do this.

Here's the gist. The length of any URL is altered to twenty characters when you post a link. Further proof that size doesn't matter, rather what you do with it. Even if your URL is only six characters, it comes out twenty.

What if you want to shorten a link for something other than Twitter then? I won't question your motives. There are many. There are also many ways to accomplish this task.

Check out TinyURL.com, there's one.

Here's another: https://bitly.com/ Just paste the link in the field on the upper right, and hit shorten.

(Note: These links will open a new window, so you don't have to worry about right-clicking and selecting open in new tab, you efficiency crazed workaholic you.)

Heads up, if you're asking this question at all, then you are probably unaware of a pair of most excellent tools for Twitter and Facebook that will make your social media life much easier to deal with. Most folks call them Buffer App and Hootsuite, but I call them Bread and Butter.

bufferWhen you download the Buffer App for Chrome, you can post any link to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn just by right clicking and selecting "Buffer this page." Like this--->

I know that's a lot of work, but come on, it's a three-fer. It even shortens the link for you.

Hootsuite shortens links much in the same way as bitly.com, with the added benefit of a host of efficiency optimization that you shouldn't miss out on. The link shortener looks like this:

hootsuite 

Chances are you're about to have a satchel of questions regarding Hootsuite as you explore the possibilities. If you have a question, ask! Send the SBT team your question on twitter @smallbiztriage.

Okay, enough lollygagging.  Get back to work!

photo credit: juhansonin via photopin cc

Update: Google reader's death clock has started.  As of July 1st, Google will no longer offer their reader service.  Don't cry, all is not lost.


 

Reader is an often ignored tool in Google's overwhelming volume if tools and apps.  Geeks like me have used it for years to read the latest tech and productivity blogs, and I enjoy killing time with the Android App while waiting for Anna's school bus.

Over the years, I've found some unconventional, but highly useful, time-saving, money-making uses for it. If you have a Google account, you have a Google reader.

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