Relationship hack: An easier way to keep in touch

Can you think of a relationship you struggle to maintain? I mean just staying in regular contact with the people you love? I know I do.

Stack of old letters: how we used to maintain a relationship from afar

Whether it’s living too far away from extended family and old friends, being too busy with work and other obligations, or simply not having the energy by the end of the day, we have plenty of compelling excuses for letting our most important relationships fade away.

Sure, most of us loosely follow each other on social media these days but, let’s be honest, looking at and liking someone’s vacation pictures is NOT the same as actually having a conversation with them.

Most people I know would love to have better contact with certain people in their lives. And yet how many of us actually make an effort to change it? This has been on my mind recently because, personally, I’m pretty terrible at keeping in touch with people. The most poignant example of this is my contact with my dad.

He lives in Sweden and while we have a great relationship and I try to go visit when I can, neither one of us is very good at initiating contact or doing so regularly. I hated that sometimes months would go by without us talking.

So I decided to finally do something about it! 

I used one of my favorite time management hacks, which is putting things on a calendar instead of (or in addition to) a to do list, as a way of truly committing to and prioritizing them.

This is something I recommend to clients all the time. And I realized it’s also a powerful strategy when it comes to deepening relationships. Here’s what you do:

Simply add a regular recurring event to your calendar as a standing date with the person you’d like to reestablish or deepen your relationship with. That’s it! 

A couple of months ago I suggested to my dad that we schedule a weekly phone call. We found a time that would work most weeks, despite the 9 hour time difference, and now every Monday I get to start not just my day but my week with a 30 minute phone call with my dad to go with my morning coffee. I get off the phone feeling so happy (and tender) after our conversations and it’s very comforting to know it’s a weekly thing.

Jars of coffee beans, because sharing coffee together is one of the sacred ways we bond and deepen a relationship

Whether we are simply catching up and sharing our plans for the coming week or laughing together and telling stories, or going deep and philosophizing about the world and life, it’s been incredibly meaningful for us to have that regular check in, since we historically haven’t. It’s been working so well that I even set up a similar but in person version of the same thing with my sister!

Now, it’s your turn. Is there someone in your life you’ve been wishing you could have more frequent contact with? Get them on your calendar!

Make it a monthly or weekly thing. Whether it’s a get together, a Skype date, a phone call, or even just a text check-in, committing to the regular practice, just like you would with any other practice (e.g. a morning ritual), removes so many of the challenges – the mental challenge of remembering to reach out, the scheduling challenge of finding a time that works, and the emotional challenge of feeling guilty that you’re not maintaining that relationship. Try it and let me know how it goes 🙂

Tools I use to run my business

People often ask me which tools I use to run my location independent business. This is something I TOTALLY geek out on, so I love sharing useful resources. In this post, I’m going to give you a breakdown of the tools I’m currently using.

Please note: I periodically update this post to reflect changes in the tools I use or in the tools themselves.

17Hats
17Hats is an elegant and easy to use “all in one business system for entrepreneurs”. Supposedly there is an app coming soon, which I’m excited for. My favorite features are the notes, questionnaires, contracts, email templates, workflows, lead capture, and invoicing. It replaced three other services (CRM, e- signatures, and invoicing) that I was using and paying for separately. They also have bookkeeping, task management, and calendar features.

Acuity
Acuity allows my clients and potential clients to schedule sessions with me online, which saves me a ton of time. It syncs automagically with my google calendars and has lots of handy features. There are bunch of competitors in the space, but Acuity won my nerdy heart over with its charms.

Audible
As much as I love reading actual book books (and sometimes Kindle books), I’ve gotten really into audiobooks. I love that I can listen at 3x the normal speed and get through books while walking, driving, and folding laundry. Plus, it’s very much aligned with my increasingly mobile and minimalist lifestyle preferences.

Boomerang
This gmail plugin is a seriously so useful. It lets you boomerang (snooze) emails until you want them back in your inbox, schedule recurring emails, or send emails at a later time. This helps me keep my inbox neat and tidy and stay on top of followups. Competitors include Followup.cc and Google Inbox, both of which I flirted with heavily. None of them were able to woo me away from my precious Boomerang, however.

Breather
As a mostly virtual business, I have no need for a permanent office space. When I do want to meet someone in person I meet them either in a coffeeshop or in a Breather office. These spaces are gorgeous, have wifi, and are super easy to book through the app. When you get there, you simply unlock the door with a code from the app. Very slick.

Goodreads
I read A LOT. A little bit for pleasure, but mostly for business. Super obsessed with anything related to personal growth, entrepreneurship, lifestyle design, leadership, positive psychology, neuroscience, etc. Goodreads helps me capture and organize my reading list online so I can relax knowing it’s all there and which book comes next. I also use their ‘Add to Goodreads’ Chrome extension, which allows me to add any book from Amazon to my Goodreads list with just a few clicks.

Google Drive
Lots of people rave about Evernote, and I really want to like it because I can undersatnd its appeal. Every time I try to use it, however, I think “…meh” and go back to Google Drive. Maybe it’s just habit, but the simplicity and familiarity of Drive makes me happy. I keep all my notes and files organized into folders here. So many spreadsheets. All nicely organized. Mmmmm.

Gmail
I’m an inbox zero person. Yup. I get down to zero emails in my inbox (almost) every day. Some people think that’s insane. I think those people are insane! Having thousands of emails in my inbox would make my brain shut down and walk out the door in protest because I consider anything in my inbox to be a to do item. Thanks to tools like Boomerang + Gmail’s labeling and archiving system I stay organized. Certain emails never hit my inbox but are labeled and archived in case I want to read them later. If I don’t need to do something with it, why the hell would I want it in my inbox?! I feel strongly about this, can you tell?

Google Calendar
This is probably my most important tool. Everything goes on my calendars. Oh yes, there are several. Appointments with clients and other commitments go in one calendar. Shared activities with my fiance go in another. And I use a third one for tasks I’m intending to do that are flexible and not time bound, like writing or working out. Putting everything important in my calendar helps me take my priorities seriously and is way more effective that just putting them on a to do list, which is a concept I learned recently from this Forbes article. It actually kind of blew my mind. 

Hootesuite
While I do most of my posting on my personal facebook page live (checking in places, posting photos, oversharing about my life in general), I don’t have the bandwidth (or desire) to do that for my business. Hootesuite lets you schedule posts on multiple platforms in advance. I schedule my business stuff (quotes, links to my blog posts and newsletters). I also use Hootlet, which is a free add-on for Chrome, that let’s you share/schedule content directly from wherever you are online. Competitors include Buffer, Edgar, and many many more.

[Update 3/17/16: I’ve now switched over to Meet Edgar, and it’s awesome!]

Macbook Air
I can work from anywhere as long as I have wifi and this puppy is a dream to travel with, whether I’m walking downtown in San Francisco or flying overseas. Feather light, sleek and easily packed, it has everything I need. I keep things really simple, store everything in the cloud, and only have programs on it that I actually use to keep it running fast.

Mailchimp
I love how cheeky they are. Their branding makes me smile. Mailchimp is cool and easy to use. While there are a ton of competitors out there like Aweber, Vertical Response, and Constant Contact for the little guys or Ontraport and Infusionsoft for bigger budgets and more robust needs, these guys and their monkey business give me everything I want for now.

Mint
I fell in love with Mint.com many years ago. Once I opened a business bank account, I feel for them even harder. Instead of constantly logging into my online banking, I can just open the Mint app for a quick glance at my finances. Among other things, you can set goals, categorize transactions, track trends, set budgets, and get notifications when you inevitably overspend on said budgets.

Moonclerk
I used to accept payment via cash, check, PayPal, Venmo, Square, and Square Cash. Once I realized that I wanted to set up recurring monthly charges, I did some research and came across this gorgeous solution. It’s been an absolute dream. You can easily create beautiful, customizable forms and set up basically any configuration of payment you want. As you may have guessed, I’m a total snob when it comes to user experience (both for me and for my clients) as well as super picky when it comes to look and feel. It has to be intuitive AND pretty! Moonclerk delivers. And leaves an expensive chocolate on your pillow, to boot.

Things
It’s not the fanciest of systems out there, but I’ve been using Things for years. It’s where I capture, prioritize, and organize all my to do’s into projects and areas of focus. It’s where I hurriedly type up all my batshit crazy ideas, before my inner critic has the chance to judge and dismiss them. It’s part of the holy trinity that rules my day to day life: gmail + google calendar +Things.

Skype
While I still see a few clients in person, most of my business is now virtual. Sessions are usually by phone, but Skype is great for international clients or anyone who prefers the whole video conferencing thing. I’ve used Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts, which are all fine and good, but Skype somehow always comes out on top, both in terms of fewer technical issues and just people being familiar with it.

Webinar Ninja
I did a ton of research on webinar platforms and wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the options out there. Until I found Webinar Ninja. It’s new, cutting edge, and had all the features I was looking for. Given it’s newness, there are glitches as with any new technology, but I am an early adopter so I don’t mind.

WordPress
I use wordpress.org (not to be confused with wordpress.com) for my website, but to be honest I don’t love it. I use it because it’s the industry standard. And I use Blue Host to host it, also because it’s recommended by people I trust. I made my travel website on Squarespace, which is way slicker and easier, but for business I wanted to stick with what syncs and integrates best with everything else.

Yelp
As a consumer, I rely on Yelp not just for reading reviews before visiting a business, but also as a way to discover new stuff. It’s just a regular part of my life. As a business, though, Yelp has been an even more helpful tool. Much of my business has come from people finding me there. Obviously it depends on the business, but for a lot of service providers, people expect you to have a Yelp page, and I love that they can find me there.

So that’s my current set up! I thought I would also include these two tools that I’m considering using in the future. They’re on my wish list for now, but I’m tempted.

Bench
Having a high tech, easily accessible bookkeeping team feels very attractive to me! I love the idea of having everything streamlined and digital on their end and being able to send everything to an accountant in an organized way. Currently I am my own bookkeeper (did I mention the spreadsheets?) and my own accounting department (me and my buddy TurboTax, that is) and let’s just say it’s not my favorite way to spend my time. Can’t wait to outsource that shit!

[Update 3/17/16: I signed up with Bench at the end of 2015 and LOVE them!]

Legal Shield
Luckily, as a small business, I haven’t needed a lawyer for anything yet, but as my business grows, I want to make sure I’ve got a solid legal team. Since I plan to be on the road a lot, I don’t need to find one based anywhere in particular, so the virtual access to a team of lawyers who can answer my questions is appealing. Maybe next year!

This combination of tools is working for me right now, but I’m always on the lookout for new technologies and systems that might help me simplify, automate, or optimize my business operations. I hope you found this list helpful and if YOU have any favorites that you want to share with my readers, feel free to list them in the comments below.