The Awesome Office Blog

To-Do Lists Don’t Have to be Ineffective and Depressing

To keep track of daily tasks, most people write down everything on it that occurs to them that they should do, or want to do, or that somebody wants them to do. Then they try to do as many of those things as they can, as soon as they can. When they get one done, they cross it out. But they almost never get everything on it done, and frankly, if the truth be known, it depresses them.


Data Backups

Digital data backups are a huge subject; I’m only going over the bare basics here. The crucial takeaway is that we all should be making backups regularly and storing them safely. If you’re already doing that, congratulations! If you’re not sure, my advice is that you face the music and get it done.   (more…)

Organizing Digital Photos

I’ve known for awhile that the day of reckoning would come for my digital photos, and it finally happened. Flickr, the longtime photo storage service, announced this week that they were snatching back the “1 terabyte of space free forever” they gave us years ago. I have about 3,000 photos on Flickr, and a lot of them are important to me. Flickr was the first place I started storing photos online.

I think they’re mean for doing that, and it’s clearly time to bail. I have to move those 3,000 photos somewhere. (more…)

File Storage and Organization

File CabinetI use and store a lot of digital files, and some paper files as well, and keeping them well-organized is crucial.

When I was traveling and living the virtualista life, I had one small file case for paper, the plastic kind with tabs and folders for A-Z. I made great efforts to keep everything possible in digital form, but there were always a few pieces of paper I needed to keep nearby.

Since I’ve transitioned to living in one place most of the time, I’ve limited my paper file storage to one two-drawer file cabinet. Ok, fine, I also have a separate file box which amounts to a third drawer, in which I keep a specific set of files. (more…)

Estimated Quarterly Tax Payments

Like most very small businesses, I have had to pay Estimated Quarterly Taxes for about twenty years now. I was first introduced to this ritual by tax preparers. After we finished filing my taxes for the previous year, they gave me four little slips of paper, one for each quarter. Each slip of paper had a dollar amount written on it, the amount I was supposed to pay in estimated taxes for that quarter, based on my income and tax rate from last year.

But in the wild world of self-employment, last year’s income doesn’t necessarily have much similarity to this year’s income. Plus, the “quarters” vary greatly a lot in actual length, from two to four months. I wanted to pay amounts which were more based on my real taxable income for that quarter. For example, between April 15 and June 15 is a two-month “quarter”; I wanted to pay estimated tax on my actual income for those two months, instead of an amount based on three months of my last year’s income. (more…)

Keeping Books

It turns out that if you run a business, you have to keep track of where the money comes from, and where it goes. In any business larger than a kids’ lemonade stand, this is strictly necessary in order to know what is happening with the business. And in the U.S. and most countries, you have to pay taxes to the government based on those numbers. This is bookkeeping, and if you do it right, it serves as management accounting. (more…)

Contacts: Access to People!

I had a series of physical, paper address books in pre-computer days. And then everything got pulled into the digital world, including my personal and work contacts. After a few decades and a few years traveling and working in a foreign country, my Contacts system has three parts:

  1. A free account with HighRise by the company 37 Signals. All of my most important personal contact information is in there, and has been for about 10 years. This has worked great for me, and continues to — but unfortunately, the company has stopped offering new accounts. See below for an alternative to HighRise.
  2. GMail retains every email address I’ve ever interacted with; this serves as my repository of email contacts.
  3. I save all current and new phone contacts on my iPhone, and they’re backed up to iCloud.


Google Calendar

I’m aware that some people don’t keep any type of a calendar. I’m not sure how they’re able to do that without constantly missing appointments or other time-sensitive stuff, but I definitely can’t. I keep a Google Calendar which I’ve maintained for over ten years. In that time, I’ve learned to use it in a couple of simple ways which are genuinely helpful to me.

  • Naturally, I enter important appointments and reminders on it.
  • Each of these entries can have an email notification set up for a specific time beforehand, or several notifications over a period of days or hours, and I do that often, but judiciously.
  • Entries can be set to repeat on a certain day of the week, day of the month, day of the year, and other options. I find this handy for various things; a good example is birthdays. I enter someone’s birthday on the correct day, and then set Google Calendar to show me that entry every year on that date, forever. This literally makes it possible to remember everybody’s birthday! For special people, I set a reminder a week or two ahead of time so that I can send a card or a gift on-time.
  • Google Calendar can be set to send me an email first thing in the morning showing anything I have written down for that day. I’ve been getting those forever, and they’re really useful. Presumably those entries are things I truly want to know about today; if they aren’t, it’s a good time to edit them.


Online Banking: Just Do It

I’ve used online banking for about ten years now, while I managed finances for a household and two businesses. In that time it has been necessary for me to visit a physical bank only a handful of times, while the other thousands of transactions were done from home, or wherever I was.

Unless you’re living without electricity or Internet, it’s a sensible way to do it. My accounts are all reconciled and balanced several times a week; when Bank Statements become available, they’re just old news to me, since I’ve been paying attention all month long.

And for travel, there’s no comparison. I spent a year and a half working in Mexico for clients in the United States. My clients would receive my emailed invoice, and with a few clicks, pay me. When the funds cleared, I withdrew pesos from an ATM. (more…)

U.S. Postal Mail Offers a Nifty New Service

The U.S. Postal Service is changing quickly in the Internet Age. For one thing, they’re delivering a whole lot more packages these days than ever before. For me, a trip to the Post Office to check my box about twice a week would be fine — but noooooo, that’s not good enough. Because if they have a package for me which they’re holding behind the counter (as they do) they want me to pick it up right away, chop-chop! If the package has been there more than about two days, I get a notice in my box which I find to be obnoxious, saying that they’re going to send the package back if I don’t hurry up.

So (more…)