The 30 Tools I Use For Productivity, Blogging, Social Media, & Travel (18 are free!)

I don’t know how many times I’ve said – “I wish I had more hours in the day!”

I’m sure you’ve had that sentiment as well.  Alas, 24 hours a day is all we get.  That isn’t going to change.  What can change is how much you can squeeze out of each hour.

30tools 3d cover

Before I go on, I want to make this point.  I’m not advocating becoming a workaholic – or even feeding that addiction.  I’m talking about getting more work done faster.  I’m talking about being able to have more time for what really matter.  Time for your family.  Time to take care of your health.  Time for self-development.  Time for care for your spiritual health.

Some of the most valuable posts I’ve ever read have been on the subject of productivity.  I consume that kind of information.  Everything I’ve learned about productivity apps has come from others or just tinkering with them.  All I’ve learned about traveling efficiently comes from experience and what others have shared with me.

So here is my resource list of the 30 tools I use on a regular basis to squeeze more out of every day.  I’m going to give you the highlights here, and you will be able to download it at the end of the post.

Productivity

When I did my reader survey last month, the subject of productivity was the number one topic of choice.  In this section, I give you my favorite free and paid tools for increasing your productivity.  And here’s a little hint – 1password and Tripit are completely awesome.  Awesome!

Blogging

Blogging has revolutionized my online presence.  It is not easy to do.  But it is so worth it.  The key to blogging well over time is to systematize it.  I have a few templates that I use for most posts.  It saves me a ton of time.  These are the tools I use to build my email list, optimize for SEO, etc.  These tools will save you a ton of time and allow you to maximize your ROI.

Social Media

I’m almost sick of social media.  I believe most people have accepted that social media provides value – sometimes a ton of it.  Though I’m sick of talking about, I use it everyday.  And if you’ve never heard or used BufferApp, you need to check this section out.

Travel

I traveled a ton for work last year.  I think I was on 65 airplanes.  If there is one thing I’m good at, it is navigating airports.  Traveling is a drain on your energy no matter who you are.  Being able to minimize the frustrations of travel while remaining productive saved me a tremendous amount of stress.  These are the tools I used to do it.

Bonus Section:  Recommended Books

As a bonus, I’ve included some of my favorite books in the following categories:

  • Platform building
  • Productivity
  • Business
  • Leadership
  • Stewardship
  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • And others…

These are books that I’ve read and personally recommend.  I’m no expert in any of these subjects.  However, these are books that have helped me grow in these areas.

To download your copy of this free resource list, simply click the button below!

Download Your Free Resource List

CRE Tech & App Review – ClientLook and Today’s Big Announcement

In January of this year, I wrote a post on why you should use a Simple and Cloud-Based CRM System.  In that post, I profiled ClientLook.  I’m not going to rehash what I wrote before.  I do want to give you an update and discuss their excited announcement today.

clientlook logo

Update on My Previous Beefs

Speed – I mentioned in my previous post that my main beef with ClientLook was the speed.  That is no longer an issue.  ClientLook has made numerous upgrades in this department and it cooks.  Very fast.  Thank you!

Property Database – ClientLook is now in development of a property database.  Today, I got to see a screenshot of it.  This will make ClientLook a complete solution for me.

Upgrades

Email – One thing that is difficult to track, quantify, and report on is email.  ClientLook makes it very easy to automatically attach emails to specific projects and contacts.  Each project or contact in your database has a specific email addresses generated for it.  All you have to do is include that email address in an email, and that email will be recorded in the correct project and/or contact in ClientLook.

The big win with this is with reporting.  You should be reporting to your clients on a monthly basis.  Most of us track who we spoke with, how many property tours, how many offers, etc.  What gets lost is all the time and work that happens via email.  ClientLook solves this for you.

A best practice for this functionality is creating a contact in your email program with the project email address.  For example, create a contact for your listing 123 Main St.  Now you don’t have to remember the email address.  You just put 123 Main St in the bcc line.  Piece of cake.

Search – I griped a little before about the search capability of ClientLook.  They have taken large strides in this area.  It is now much easier to navigate through 1000′s of contacts quickly.  You can also search and quickly find notes in a contact or project file.

Today’s Announcement (Sept. 26th, 2013)

On a webinar today, Michael Griffin announced that ClientLook has formed a strategic alliance with xceligent.com.  I have known about this for some months, so it is good to be able to talk about it.  I think this is a big with for the Commercial Real Estate industry.

logo_xceligent_hires

xcelligent.com’s answer to Loopnet is the newly launched – and very free – CommercialSearch.com.  Most of the national CRE firms have their listings populated on CommercialSearch.  I am working right now with Michael Griffin to get all of Sperry Van Ness’s listings on there as well.  It may have already reached critical mass.  Your listings should be on there.

Michael’s announcement today centered around 4 things.

  1. Automated Lead Generation – A prospect is on CommercialSearch and is looking at your listing.  When they click to get more information, CommercialSearch captures their information.  It then checks to see if the prospect is already in your ClientLook database.  If not, it creates the new contact, including all contact information, and notifies you of a new lead.  Pretty sweet.  They are also developing a plugin to do the same on your website.
  2. Automatic Activity Reporting – Some of you will run a report on a monthly basis from Loopnet and give it to your listing client showing online activity.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Loopnet automatically put that in your CRM for you – and in the right place?  CommercialSearch does that for ClientLook.  All that data in one place makes me “happy, happy, happy!”
  3. Property Marketing – The information will also flow the other way.  A new listing in ClientLook will automatically be placed on CommercialSearch for you.  Efficiency is a beautiful thing.
  4. Real-Time Embedded Research – This is cool.  If xcelligent.com covers your market and you subscribe, you can run reports.  Say you want a list of all the attorneys in town using over 15,000 sf of office space.  You can import that list automatically into ClientLook.  The exciting part is any time xcelligent.com updates the contact information for one of those attorneys, it will update in your ClientLook account.

I’m excited to see how this shakes out and if CommercialSearch.com can reach critical mass so that these integrations can be of great value.  I am confident that it will.

Question: What do you think about the partnership between ClientLook and xcelligent.com? What new functions and products would you like to see come out of the partnership? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

The 18th Rule of Email Etiqeutte

See below…

Last week I was in Chicago visiting our main technology provider.  I had a great day with these guys.  At lunch one of them made a comment that made me rethink something I do all the time.  So thanks Vishu.  You have given me the 18th rule of email etiquette.

iStockPhoto by SquaredPixels

iStockPhoto by SquaredPixels

Last year I wrote a post called the 17 Rules of Email Etiquette.  Before I give you the 18th rule, here is a recap of the other 17.  These definitely bear repeating.

  1. DON’T USE ALL CAPS – just hard on the eyes, is it not?
  2. Sarcasm doesn’t translate
  3. Email is a poor medium for bad news
  4. Don’t reply all! – my company does this too much, and I’m falling into the habit.  That ends now.
  5. Use property grammar (revision – I used property there instead of proper – kinda Freudian, no?)
  6. Use the spell check
  7. Re-read before you send
  8. Understand the permanence of email
  9. Don’t be a jerk
  10. Proofread your emails
  11. Keep your emails brief
  12. Don’t email angry – I did this last week and definitely regret it.
  13. Please don’t forward chain emails
  14. Refrain from using ‘high priority’ – if it is high priority, call.
  15. Craft an appropriate and descriptive subject
  16. Complete your signature
  17. Be pithy

18 – It is lazy to forward an email to someone else without your comments.  How often do you forward an email with just a comment that says ‘See below…’  I do this all the time.  When we do this we miss the opportunity frame the information and share our thoughts.  If it is important enough to forward to someone else’s inbox, take the time to tell them why in your own words.  Otherwise, they just have to guess.

So I ask you – how often do you forward an email without stating why or giving context?  What would your 19th Rule be?  Leave us your input in the comments below.

5 Podcasts that Will Make You Smarter

Recently, I was able to connect with one of my closest friends while driving home from a trip to Chicago.  This guy is the kind of friend that everyone needs.  He was in my wedding.  I was in his.  We were fraternity brothers at Murray State University.  He was the quarterback.  I was the receiver.  We even dated the same beautiful Southern girl (not at the same time) who I now get to call my wife.

iStockPhoto via jodijacobson

iStockPhoto via jodijacobson

He is the kind of friend when you haven’t spoken for a year, it is like it was yesterday.  Everyone needs at least one friend like this.  I am blessed to have a couple.

My friend was sharing with me an opportunity he has to leave the corporate world and start a business.  He has created something special that could be incredibly valuable to his customers and himself.  However, he told me that he doesn’t think he’ll do anything because he doesn’t have a clue about starting or running a business.

Fifteen minutes later I had brain-dumped all this information on him.  Now, I have started a business (that failed), and I have owned a business that I sold.  But the stuff that I was telling him surprised me.  How did I know this stuff?

Then it occurred to me that I was repeating a lot of great information that I had learned through listening to some incredible podcasts from businesses leaders across the United States (actually, most of them are in Nashville).

If you are not familiar with a Podcast, it is literally someone recording themselves speaking about some subject.  It is much like a radio show.  However, you can download these podcasts on your iPod, iPhone, or other smart-phone or mp3 player.  You simply subscribe through iTunes – for free – and they automatically download whenever a new episode is published.

Before I share with you which ones I love and recommend, let me share with you how I consume this information:

  • While working out - I can kill two birds with one stone when I engage my mind and my body at the same time.
  • While driving – great content is so much more effective than coffee at keeping me alert.  Not only that, but I can transform my car into a classroom and make the most of every moment.
  • On a plane – I’m actually on a plane as I write this somewhere between Nashville and Atlanta.  Were I not writing, I guarantee that I would be listening to one of the following podcasts.

My Top 5 Recommended Podcasts

  1. This is Your Life, A Podcast by Michael Hyatt – If you aren’t familiar with Michael Hyatt, you should be.  He has a top 100 (in the world!) blog on intentional leadership.  He has recently written a New York Times Bestseller called Platform:  Get Noticed in a Noisy World.  His is by far my favorite blog and his content is amazing.  His podcast is awesome too.  He is authentic.  You end up just liking him.  I get to meet him next month at our company’s National Conference where he is giving the keynote address.  I am also going to his Platform Conference the following week in Nashville.  Can’t wait!
  2. 48Days Online Radio Show by Dan MillerDan Miller rocks.  A mentor of mine suggested that I connect with him last year.  I ended up hiring him as a career coach.  He is also a bestselling author of 48 Days to the Work You Love and other books.  His podcast centers around careers, business plans, business models, and other career related info.  You can’t listen to him and not get fired up about what is possible.
  3. Ray Edwards Podcast - Ray probably has my favorite podcast.  He is very transparent and genuine, and he basically let’s you in on his life.  He is a productivity freak (I mean that in a good way).  His podcast is broken up into segments which I love.  He has a main message of each podcast, but also has a tech tip of the week, a spiritual foundations segment, and a segment with Stu McLaren who is great.  Ray is also a marketing genius.
  4. Entreleadership Podcast – I can’t believe that this is 4th on my list, but the others are just that good.  This is the podcast from Dave Ramsey and his main man Chris LoCurto.  Every show has a short message from Dave that sets the theme, but then they move to a guest interview.  The guests are amazing and are a who’s who when it comes to business.  You can’t get this kind of access to this kind of wisdom and experience anywhere else I’m aware.
  5. Podcast Answer Man with Cliff Ravenscraft - This podcast is obviously a little more technical.  I include it because at least the first three podcasts listed above are a result of Cliff’s expertise.  He is the expert when it comes to podcasting.  I hope to introduce my own podcast this year so I have been studying up.  Cliff is also a Kentucky boy like myself!

In one sentence, these podcasts are like being able to sit at the feet of these guys and learn from their wisdom.  And it’s free!

So who do you listen to that I don’t?  Who would crack your top 5?  Let us know in the comment section below!

Top 5 Productivity Posts of 2012

This is the second of the three Top 5 posts you will read this month on theBarronBlog - (click here for the first.)  Today’s Top 5 is around the theme of productivity.  Growth in this area simply means that you are more efficient.  You can get more done in less time.  With more time saved, you can improve your work/life balance – be a better spouse, parent, or friend.  Invest in your relationships.  Live a healthier life.  You can do it, and the posts below can help!

top5

But First…

Before you get to the posts below, I want to remind you of my favorite discovery of 2012 – The Dollar Shave Club.  This ingenious company produces a great product at an awesome price, and ships razors to your door every month.  No more over-paying for razors.  No more spending time at the store buying them.  I endorse this product 100%.  Guys, do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself here.  Ladies, my mom as well as some of my friends’ wives have signed up their husbands – great gift idea!  Click here for more info (this is an affiliate link, but I do not recommend anything that I do not use myself.)

Top 5 Productivity Posts of 2012

The 5 Steps to a Paperless Office - The key to pulling that off was having a paperless office.  All my data is in the cloud.  All my data is accessible to me anywhere my iPhone has a signal.  I can access it on the fly.  It means I can jump on opportunities with lightning speed.  And speed kills.  Read more…

How to Shave 30 Minutes a Day Managing Email - Email has now become a drug, and we are addicted.  As a major form of communication in the Commercial Real Estate industry, many CRE practitioners feel like they must check their smart phone every five minutes.  Show of hands:  who checks their phone before they even get out of bed?  Guilty here.  Read more…

The 17 Rules of Email Etiquette - My biggest beef with email is its ability to interrupt me.  The nature of my business requires me to be doing multiple things.  I am not a natural multi-tasker.  I much prefer to hone in on a task and focus all my energy on it.  I rarely get to do this.  I am also easily distracted.  The ding and notification that announces every email can cost me 5 – 60 minutes if I let it.  I routinely get 200+ emails a day.  That equates to 200+ opportunities to be distracted from what is important to what is less important but potentially urgent. Read more…

My Tools to Manage Twitter in 15 Minutes a Day - Let me clarify.  In one of my previous posts – The Rule of Thirds – I shared the 3 types of tweets that you should be using:  curating original or other great content, engaging with others, and getting a little personal.  The key to the first category of curating original or other great content is getting the tweets done and scheduled at one time.  Read more…

The 7 Rules of Conference Call Etiquette - Alas, the conference call is still sometimes a necessity.  On a recent call, there were 2 different people trying to lead the call (one of them was me).  There were over a dozen people on the call from 4 different time zones.  I couldn’t tell who was speaking.  People were talking over each other.  It was a free-for-all.  Read more…

So as we wrap of the year, what are the areas in your life where you have seen the most growth in productivity?

The 8 Steps to a Killer Prospecting System

In last week’s post, the Difference Between Top Producers and the Others, I made the case that top producers prospect.  That is the difference.  They schedule time to do it.  They have a system that they execute.  It works.  It sets them apart.  I have also written a post on the benefits of systematizing your business.  Both of these posts deal with the “why.”   Before you go any further, I encourage you to take a few moments and take a look at those posts.  Knowing “how” without believing in the “why” will lead to burnout and letdown.

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

I highly recommend coaching.  Regardless of your level of success, a coach and mentor can provide you with great benefit.  At the beginning of 2010, I hired the Massimo-Group to coach me in my commercial real estate business.  Up until that time, I had never systematized my prospecting efforts.  There was no rhyme or reason.  Often, there was no prospecting at all.  My coach helped me change that and revolutionized my business in the process.

I want to clarify what I mean by prospecting.  Prospecting is a form of business development.  Networking and building a presence – or a platform – is another form of business development.  Their activities are similar.  Their purpose is completely different.  (To read about the difference between prospecting and networking, click here.)  Prospecting involves asking for the business.  That is its only purpose.

Since my last post on prospecting, I’ve received a number of questions about how to do it.  My way is not the only way, but any effective prospecting system will have elements of these 8 steps.  This is exactly how I built my core business.  You can do it too!

How to Build a Prospecting System

  1. Define your geography – This is as simple as it sounds.  You have to know what geography you are working in.  I come from a small tertiary market.  To have enough Single Tenant Net Lease (STNL) properties to go after, I built a state-wide database.  I’ve heard different numbers, but you need at least 350 properties in your farm area.  If you are in Los Angeles like one of my clients, you may just have a section of such a large city.  Regardless, you need to be able to articulate it with clarity.
  2. Choose your specialty – If there is one thing true of top produces, other than they prospect, it is that they are specialists.  Use this test.  What are you good at?  What do you like?  And where is the deal velocity?  Your specialty should be where these three answers intersect.  A quick note:  it is OK to be a geographical specialist.  The number one broker from the number one CRE firm in New York City is a geographical specialist.  And he kills it!
  3. Build your database – Once you know your geography and your specialty, it is time to build your database.  It should include all the properties in your farm area.  You need to know who owns what, how long they’ve owned it, what they paid, and their contact information.  I’ve heard brokers talk about how they used to have all that information on notecards.  My assistant built mine using Excel.  We then imported it into my cloud-based CRM solution.  All of that info is now in my iPhone.
  4. Send them something in the mail – This could be a book, a letter, anything of value.  The whole idea here is you want to raise your chances that they will take your call and talk to you.  Letters are cheap.  There is no reason not to send them.  Get creative.  You want them to want to take your call.
  5. Make the dang call – This is the scary part for most brokers and salespeople.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of sounding and feeling stupid.  You must overcome those fears.  You must prepare – but not so much that you never make the call.  The entire goal of the cold call is to get a meeting.  That is it.  If you spend 30 minutes talking, you have missed the point.  Get the face to face meeting.
  6. Have the meeting – Face to face is where the top producers excel.  These meetings can take two forms.  I prefer the first meeting to be a needs-analysis meeting.  I am asking questions of the prospect and it is all about them.  Then the second meeting is where I make my proposal.  That isn’t always possible, but it is certainly ideal.
  7. Make the proposal – Sometimes, step 6 and 7 happen at the same time.  Ideally, you have had the needs-analysis interview and then gone and crafted a custom proposal that addresses the specific needs of that specific prospect.  This beats a canned-presentation every time.
  8. Win the listing/Make the sale – this is what success looks like.  After a while of doing this, you will know that if I make X amount of calls, I will get this many meetings.  If I get X amount of meetings, I will make this many proposals.  If I make X amount of proposals, I will win this many listings.

How do you prospect?  Do you have a system?  What can you add that I have overlooked?  Please don’t hesitate to comment.  We want to hear from you, and it will benefit the entire community.

The 17 Rules of Email Etiquette

I recently wrote a post on how to manage your email inbox – you can read it here.  I’d like to approach it from the other side.  What kind of effect to do you have on everyone else’s inbox?  Are you a spammer?  Do you reply-all constantly?

Many of us work with or for large companies.  We have access to large email lists.  Understanding email etiquette is so important to protecting the culture of an organization as well as guarding productivity.

My biggest beef with email is its ability to interrupt me.  The nature of my business requires me to be doing multiple things.  I am not a natural multi-tasker.  I much prefer to hone in on a task and focus all my energy on it.  I rarely get to do this.  I am also easily distracted.  The ding and notification that announces every email can cost me 5 – 60 minutes if I let it.  I routinely get 200+ emails a day.  That equates to 200+ opportunities to be distracted from what is important to what is less important but potentially urgent.

Before I get into the rules of etiquette, here are a couple of suggestions to prevent email from derailing your day.

  • Turn the notifications off – I really appreciate you taking the time to read this.  But stop reading right now and turn the notifications off.  You really don’t need to see an email the instant it arrives.  If something is a true emergency, you won’t be contacted by email in the first place.  Turn off the pop-up notification and the audible ping.  Watch your productivity go up.
  • Schedule specific times to check your inbox – The nature of your business will dictate this, but I suggest checking your email once or twice in the morning and then again in the afternoon.
  • Set your phone, iPad, etc. to silent or vibrate – I can get email on my iPhone, iPad, and computer.  Turning of the notification on your computer does you no good if you still get “beeped” by your other devises.  Be consistent.

Before I starting listing “rules,” understand that I’m simply codifying manners and common sense.  If we all were to implement these into our use of email, our collective email experience would vastly improve.

  1. DON’T USE ALL CAPS - It reads like you are shouting.  I don’t like it when people shout at me.
  2. Sarcasm doesn’t translate – I am fairly sarcastic.  However, it is nearly impossible to pick it up from an email.  You need context and the ability to hear voice inflection.  Just the facts, ma’am.
  3. Email is a poor medium for bad news – I’ve heard this many times.  If you are just delivering sterile facts, a document, or good news, email away.  To simply inform quickly at no-cost, email works perfectly.  For bad news, however, make a phone call.
  4. Don’t reply all! – Remember how I was talking about being distracted?  Ask yourself before you send, do I really need to potentially interrupt all of these people?  99% of the time, the answer should be no.  Let me repeat – NO!
  5. Use proper grammar – UR not txting.  Use proper punctuation and grammar.  You represent yourself and your brand.  This is a no-brainer.
  6. Use the spell check – This is a no-brainer.  It is just too easy to do.
  7. Re-read before you send – I should probably put this last as it is the last thing that you should do before you press send.  Spell check won’t catch words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly.  I often drop out words and you probably do as well.  Make sure what you send out reflects well on you and your company.
  8. Understand the permanence of email – Never send an email that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the paper.  Emails are so easy to forward.  They are easy to save and search.  I can go find an email I received years ago.  Think about how potentially damning an email could be.  Be especially careful when reply to a group email chain.  You can really get in trouble if you have negative content and ‘Reply All’ on accident.  Ask yourself, “If this ever gets out, can I live with the implications?”  If not, revise your email or just don’t send.
  9. Don’t be a jerk – If you are a jerk in an email, you are memorializing this fact.  You greatly compound this fact if you act like a knucklehead by replying all to 850 people.
  10. Proofread your emails – I don’t do this enough. This is right up there with leaving your zipper down in a client meeting – just not a good idea.
  11. Keep your emails brief.
  12. Don’t email angry – A number of times, I have written brilliant emails in response to circumstances that have made me angry.  Most of the time, I have hit delete.  I strongly suggest that you give yourself time to cool down before you respond.  You will always be glad that you did.  And there won’t be a record of your momentary rage-induced dumb-attack.
  13. Please don’t forward chain emails – At least don’t send them to me, please.  They add more clutter to my inbox, and they aren’t true anyway.  Microsoft is not sending you a check.
  14. Refrain from using “high priority” – There used to be a local broker that always marked his emails high priority.  They never were.  In fact, it was like he was saying that he demanded my attention because he was so important.  That probably was not his attitude, but it came off that way.  He used CAPS a lot, too.  Not a good combination.
  15. Craft an appropriate and descriptive subject – I must confess – I don’t read every email I get.  There are just too many.  I triage on the fly based on two factors:  who is the sender and what is the subject.  Be specific in the subject and your messages will be read more.
  16. Complete your signature – This is a common sense courtesy.  If you are connected via email, chances are that you will need to speak at some point.  Make it easy for people to contact you.
  17. Be pithy - Pithy means brief and to the point.  Don’t waste your recipient’s time.  If you are including a bunch of information, give them the headline first.  Don’t make them read 500 words just to get to the point.  People are busy and time is our most valuable resource.

What email etiquette rules did I forget?  Which one’s do you violate the most?  I invite you to share you comments below!