Finding Your Pace

We all work at different paces. Some like to try and do everything really quickly so they can relax later. Others wait until the last moment and race to get things done (they find energy and excitement in the challenge to finish). Still others prefer to keep a grueling pace throughout the entire project in order to get everything plus more done.

Although I have done all of the above – if nothing else – Oregon Trail taught me one thing: pace is everything. While some of these routes to the end result will work some of the times, the best way to do it is to go at a realistic – not too fast, not too slow pace. While there may be benefits to either extreme – the costs for both of them are often higher than expected for both you and your client.

If nothing else learned this year – I learned that you should set your pace – not the client. No one knows how much x,y,z tasks take better than you if you do them over and over. The client might be working on this project now, but you are being hired for your professional experience – experience that you have gained by doing similar tasks – and thus you should have the best idea how long/how much something will take.

Any client that needs something in an unreasonable time frame or that constantly has emergencies in off hour time periods is perhaps not the client you want/or even constant “immediate” changes (regardless of the pay). I know it sounds hard to stand up to them or even risk losing some clients, but trust me it is well worth it. Your quality of work will improve as will your mental sanity.

Early in the project – make sure to set the pace. Your client will respect you more and your family/friends will appreciate it too. Just remember – your sanity is worth a lot more then spending weekends/holidays on the phone for something that will not be as important as the time you lost with your friends/family.

Jappler Recommends: Work/Life Balance

Over the last few years I have, like most other business owners, struggled with a good work/life balance. While I do not feel like I am at an optimal balance yet – I know and I a lot closer than I once was. This can be tricky – but here are some tips that will help you achieve it.

  1. When working with clients – clearly state your business hours. I generally do this on the initial call or email as well as on my voicemail so when a client calls after midnight or tells me they are available until 11:30pm for a call (it happens) – they know I will only be available during my company’s business hours. Sure you might lose a client here or there because you are not available at 7pm on Saturday, but do you really want that type of client anyway?
  2. Actually follow your business hours. Sure there are days I work earlier/later or an occasional few hours on a Saturday, but if you want your clients to respect your availability – you cannot email/call them before/after it. Once you email them at 8pm – you open up the door for “she must be available all the time – so I will call her now (10pm)”.
  3. Keep non-work activities (online shopping, errands, etc) for after work hours. If you can put in x solid hours of work a day – you can confidently end the day at your end time without feeling guilty (for not doing enough work).
  4. Keep all work activities (email/voicemail, etc) for work hours.
  5. Realize not everything will get done in one day – no matter how long you work.
  6. Don’t feel guilty for taking a day/week off. Everyone needs some time away.
  7. Hire someone/multiple people to help out. (This was hard to do but I am glad that I have people to depend on and who can get things done when I am not around)

The tips seem like no-brainers – but they are a lot harder than you think 😉

Old Hard Drives Laying Around? Try This…

A few weeks ago I decided I needed to upgrade my Mac Mini’s internal hard drive from 200 Gig to a 500 Gig so I could finally take a stab at getting my media in one place. For under $100 – I bought a 7200rpm 2.5″ Seagate drive and had it installed in no time. After running a simple Time Machine restore from backup – my Mac Mini was set. I now could consolidate my media – but I was left with a 200 Gig drive that was going to realistically find a home in one of my card catalog drawers in my office.

Instead of just cataloging the drive – I paid around $50 and bought an enclosure and within minutes had a sweet portable FW/USB 2.0 drive that I will use to archive backups or to easily backup some of my other computers on the network (no Time Capsule here).

If you have extra drives laying around – these enclosures are super simple to assemble. You literally place your old drive on a tray, screw it into place, slide the tray into the enclosure, and viola – a portable drive.

Just a gentle reminder – if you have not backed up your data in the last month – do something right now. Backups can run in the background, are quick, and will save a lot of time/stress in the future. Drive failures will happen and with the cost of a hardrive or a simple enclosure – there are no excuses!

Jappler Recommends: Best Tools of the Trade

In the last year or so I have really found a great set of tools that I use for almost any/all projects if needed. If you are considering building a web site or a web application – consider taking a look at the following (and consider using this as your “WWJU (what would Jen use) list:

If you ever need any recommendations – please ask. 😉

Jappler Recommends: Hey Okay

About mid-day I need a pick me up as I have been working, on conference calls, and in need of something that will make me smile. Enter: http://www.heyokay.com/. If you are not familiar with this site – take one minute to look at this picture and tell me it is not at least a little funny – especially with that title:http://www.heyokay.com/2010/happiest-place-on-earth/.

I recommend subscribing the RSS feed. The site will not disappoint.

Jappler Recommends: 2009 Finds

I have found a lot of really cool things over the last year and wanted to share my 2009 favorites before the year was over.

General

  • Cleaning Service The money spent on hiring someone to clean is worth every penny.
  • Dog Trainer With two more kids on the way – it was time we taught our dog some commands and respect. We have a trainer come to our house weekly and it is making a difference.
  • Find a Trustworthy Non-Dealer Car Repairman for the Non-Dealer Essentials Generally I am a car snob, but when a brake job is double at a dealer vs. at a friend’s trusted brake repair shop, it just makes sense to save the money. I finally ventured out of the dealer for brakes and tires.

Podcasts

Web Sites

  • Astronomy Picture of the Day I love astronomy and look forward to seeing the new picture each day. This really puts things in perspective for me on tough days.
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission You can easily keep track of all recalls (use the RSS feed).
  • Twitter If you still do not get it – it is too bad. This has by far changed how I keep in touch with people much more than Facebook. I actually get updates on people and not if they are playing Facebook game.

Stores

  • Three Potato Four (store) This is where you go to find the perfect gift for the person who has everything.
  • Playgrounder (store) If you have kids or shop for kids – this is where you can get some awesome ideas for kids of all ages
  • LEGO Apparel, Home & Outdoors (store) If you were a LEGO fan when you were little or still are today – check out the cool LEGO stuff (LEGO ice cube trays, watches, stationary, etc).

Shows

  • Venice the Series With Guiding Light no longer in existence, some of the actors from GL and other soap operas can be found on this web based soap opera put together by one of my all time GL favorites – Crystal Chappell.
  • Wedlocked Another web based series with some other GL stars.
  • The Universe The most amazing TV show I have seen in a long time, if not ever. I gasp at least once every episode after learning some new amazing fact about our Universe.

Jappler Recommends: iTeddy

Believe it or not, there are some days when I do not feel like watching Wall-E. My son Evan does not seem to agree with me, but that is ok because he has an iTeddy The iTeddy is like a iPod within a stuffed animal. It hold music, videos, and pictures and allows Evan to quietly enjoy what he wants to watch on trips or whenever he wants to watch movies, listen to music (before bed), or to look at family pictures. iTeddy charges by USB, comes with a 1 gig memory stick to start with, and has a wonderful lock button so Evan’s manic button pressing does not stop the media and produce a meltdown. This is definitely cool!

Jappler Recommends: Skitch

My new consultant Ben yesterday was troubleshooting an issue with me and he sent me several links using a service called “Skitch“. I finally checked it out because I am constantly taking screenshots and low and behold – Skitch kicks ass.

Check out this image I created in a matter of seconds for an example: http://skitch.com/sdacinc/bm5yq/jappler.com-add-new-post-wordpress. I took a picture. Made some notes with text and also was able to circle content and with a touch of a button – it was uploaded to my skitch site. Very slick!

You can take a picture with your web cam, upload the images to your .Mac account, FTP server, etc.

Jappler Recommends: jQuery

If you ever wanted to do something cool (slideshow, lightbox, accordion, pagination, table sorting, drop down menus etc) – please do yourself a favor and look at jQuery and all the great jQuery plugins that are available. About a year or two ago I really liked some of the different javascript libraries (YUI, prototype, etc) but over the last several months 99% of all my projects have required some sort of functionality that made me look at and then use jQuery.

Why jQuery? Unlike some of the other libraries, jQuery is very lightweight and does not suffer from a lot of bloat. You can also find a number of well documented plugins to do just about anything. You also have a great deal of UI controls and widgets that are available by using jQuery UI. Did I mention the documentation – it is really great. The learning curve is not steep – and once you do a few smaller projects – your comfort level with jQuery will skyrocket.

So next time you decide to do something to add some extra pizazz into your web site – remember, take a look at jQuery first!

Jappler Recommends: Less Plastic and More Green

After watching Sometimesdaily With Amanda Congdon – she playfully suggested using jars for drinking glasses to save money. As a big fan of drinking out of mason jars already – this episode got me thinking… Amy is always complaining about BPA leaking into our food when we use and reuse our plastic/tupperwear containers which I hate. This on top of the fact that we end up throwing away a lot of cool glass containers (we recycle them) – I decided to start throwing away (recycling) the plastic containers and to start using the jars for food storage.

Sure – some jars are better for storage than others, but I think this could not only be a way to save money/stop from using as much plastic – but it could also be pretty darn cool and creative. What do you think?