Category Archives: Productivity

clipboard private alternative to pinterest

Learn how to use Clipboard from the CEO, plus instant access to the service.

Last week I spent some time talking to Gary Flake, the CEO and founder of Clipboard.

Clipboard is a free service that lets you clip and organize anything you find on the web. I have used it for a couple months, and it is pretty useful.

If you use Pinterest, but would like an option for private boards, it is worth checking out.

Click here to access the interview, plus there is a link to get instant access to the Clipboard service.

Trello Free Organization Tool - Easy to Use

My favorite free software this year. Trello lets you organize anything.

I really enjoy sharing useful services with people I know. If you are follow me on Twitter or know me in person, I have likely shared a few of them with you. But rarely do I find an service/application/product that I really think could be useful to every single person I know. Trello fits that.

There are hundreds of to-do list applications available. They run all the way from one basic list with checkmarks to the enterprise project management software. I have tried many of them. Trello is so simple, easy and initiative, that it is worth it to try for 15 minutes or so, to see if it is right for you.

What is Trello?

It is all about the cards.

A card is any text you want to add. I like to think of it as whatever you would write on a notecard. If you have never used notecards, then think of it as a note. It could be one word, a sentence or a paragraph. You can make as many cards as you want.

Then you organize them in lists.

Lists are just columns were you can sorts your cards. You can label lists anything you want and then drag and drop cards and reorder them in lists. The default Trello lists are To Do, Doing and Done, but you can change the names and quantity on any…


Boards are much like Pinterest boards. They are where your lists and notes live. You can have a broad board labeled “Ideas”. Or a very specific one like “What I want to accomplish on Saturday”. Your lists and the included cards can be reorder on your board however you like.

That is the basic of Trello and on its own has many uses. But. . .

Trello lets you go beyond that by “writing” on the back of the cards.

Like a traditional note card there is a back to Trello cards. Just click any card to access it. It includes a comment section and description that you can use like a traditional notecard. So if you are studying for a test, you can put the answer or definition on the back of the card and access it just by clicking on the card.

On a traditional note card that is pretty much the limits on what you can do, but with Trello you can:

  • Add attachments (videos, Word docs, PDFs and more)
  • Add color labels
  • And collaborate by giving others access to boards, thus…
    • Have conversations
    • Assign tasks
    • Vote for favorite cards

Examples of my own Trello use.

Organize and track the progression of blog post for this site.

I have many blog post ideas in Evernote. Some of those ideas turn into basic notes, and some of them turned into rough drafts. I created a card in Trello for each potential blog post, and then added the cards to respective lists in order to understand what I have to work with. I currently have six lists. They are titled:

Ideas – Notes – Drafts – Blog Drafts – Published – Promoted

With this board I can see all of my blog posts, whether finished or in-process, on one screen. When I take something from an idea to actually writing up notes in Evernote, I drag the related card from the Ideas list to the Notes list. Eventually as I work on each post, I keep moving the card along to different stages in the process and thus lists. In the end, what started all the way on the left as an idea goes all the way to the right as a published and promoted post. For many people, writing a blog post might be a one step process or at least the early stages are done in one’s head. For me, I like to break the process into small steps. If you don’t need that level of detail for smaller tasks like blog posts, try creating a board for something more ambitions.


Trello’s key feature is the ability to quickly sort information.  Complex projects can be broken down to smaller steps and then sorted and grouped.

Preparing for a trip

I recently took two trip. In each case I made a card for every single thing I need to accomplish before I left. I didn’t worry about the order; I just typed each task and hit enter. When I got done, I then created specific lists. In this case, three tasks required I leave the house to accomplish them (get cash, purchase sunscreen & get more dog food). With a normal paper list, I would need to make a new list, but with Trello, I just added a list called Errands and dragged those three cards to that list. Several of the task were ones my wife had expertise, so I made a list for her, dragged those tasks to the list and assigned them to her.

Website planning

I have used Trello to create “page lists” for new websites. Type every page you are considering. Sort them by how they would work in the site structure. Then you can even open up voting on cards to other members of your team.


I have yet to use Trello for any substantial group projects, but my wife and I have started to use Trello to organize some household projects we are working on. It has been usefully to quickly get ideas down and then sort them into more managable lists.

Trello is the kind of software I would gladly pay for, but thankfully it is entirely free. It takes seconds to signup and minutes to try it out. It is so flexiable, that if you give it a try, I am fairly confident you will find a use for it.


Small business owners where many hats.

Wearing many hats; a small business owner’s roll.

I am not sure many will find this post particularly interesting. It is a little on the narcissistic side of things. I tried to highlight some universal advice when possible, but fair warning, it really is just an examination of some of my strengths and weaknesses, and how they apply to business, and I guess a little bit to life in general.

I have increasingly been spending much of my time working on @free. As I continue to shape it into what I hope is a successful business, I find myself having to address a common small business owner’s problem . . . doing everything.

When you have to do everything, you quickly start to pick up on what you excell at, what you can do, and what will be a struggle. As with anything, it is never absolute with only strengths and weakness, but I have broken it down largely in that way as I could write forever about every nuiance if left unchecked.

It is hard to talk about one’s greatest strengths without feeling self conscious or boastful, but if you read to the end, you will see my weaknesses are many.



I have been involved in curation one way or the other since I first got on the Internet in 1998. While I don’t agree with most of his political views, Matt Drudge was one of my early inspirations on the Internet. The idea that he would spend his whole day finding the most interesting articles on the Internet and then sharing them in one place was fasinating to me.

I have been inspried by and have practiced curation since I first got on the Internet. My first effort was the web site Documentary Films .Net. I sold the site late last year (2011). But from 1998 to 2005, I routinely used this site to curate information I could find on documentary films. I also was paid to do curation as a community manager from 2003-2009. I enjoyed it, and I did it over and over. This has all led to an understanding of curation at a high level.

Twitter lends itself to curation, and I think that is why I enjoy it so much in addition to…


I like people. I find them interesting. Even if someone is talking about something I am not particuarlly interested in, I know that they have a story or life experience that I would enjoy hearing about. I say this not to make anyone who has a conversation with me self conscious. I do this all intuitively, but I do enjoy conversations, and so people who are also good at it, I naturely gravitate toward.


This comes with multiple exposures. The more people you interact with both in person and online the more you begin to pick up on patterns and cues. Thankfully, we all are unique in our own ways, but I do feel I am a decent judge of character. This has allowed me to work in industries were trust and hand shake deals are frequently the only commitment. Being able to work with someone you never met and actually do business, is an increasing advantage in the online world.

In the middle:

Hobbiest Mentality

I don’t consider doing something fun, work. This is likely true for you as well. Most of the best job advice tends to focus on doing something you like as one of three pillars of having a rewarding job (the other two are working with people you like & getting fair compensation for it). What is less discussed is that almost anything worth doing requires at least moments of working on things that you don’t like. Even if you have a team to outsource a task to, you still have to manage them, and very few people feel like management is fun.


I like to learn. I find most topics interesting. For a long time I took most of this information as an input, and did little to output it aside from conversations with friends and the curation I mentioned previously. Learning for learning sake certainly has value, but greater understanding generally comes from doing. I straddle this line frequently.


Not proud of it, but in full disclosure, here is a picture of me at my desk last Fall.


My office is chaotic: notes everywhere. As I duscussed in my blog post on Evernote, I have been trying to give up on physical notes. I have a pile of notes a foot high that are so overwhelming and unorganized, that it is highly unlikely I will ever look through them. I now type all notes I take, however small, in Evernote. At a base level I can always search to find what I need. And every couple months I will take a whole day to organize all my notes including consolidation multiple pages into one. A lack of organization can make achieving complex goals difficult. In the past two years, I have started to use a variety of techniques to learn better organization. Trello is a helpful organization tool, and Google calender has helped me better organize my time.


I am all about the soft sale. I certainly will go for what I want, but I have a high threshold when it comes to imposing something I am working on, on someone else. I will say that over time, I have gotten better at this, but I don’t forsee myself every surviving in a sales job.

Web Development

While I love the Internet and have for years, that love has not transfered into deep understanding of what powers it. I can create a basic Word Press site or signup for a DIY style blog, but I don’t write code, I just fiddle with it.


I live in my mind at times. I believe that many people do this, but I have to check against neglecting all aspects of my life to focus on the one thing that I find interesting in the moment. Even this blog suffered last year as I spent more of my time on @free. As I have gotten older, I have learned that with a little discipline and some outsourcing, I can now manage more than one part of my life at once. Want to know how you can successfully achieve a huge goal that seems unattainable? Neglect all other parts of your life. It isn’t healthy, but I have certainly done it at times. This double edge sword is something I work with on a daily basis.

So ends this highly personal blog post. If you made it to the end, perhaps you consider some of your own strenghts and weaknesses, and how you can continue to build and improve on them respectively.


Two tips for working on difficult projects.

A couple weeks ago I had one of those Saturdays were I really felt like working on some projects, but I kept running up against road blocks.

I wanted to create an email list for this website, but I was finding Mail Chimp difficult to use. I was attempting to create a template for future emails, but despite my efforts I kept running into barriers. I need a header image, but I didn’t even have a header image for this website. And there were a dozen fields I need to customize for Mail Chimp before I even had a usable template.

Two years ago, I would have just given up. An email newsletter is not essential to this site. I could keep blogging without ever having one. I have an RSS feed and most of my traffic comes from social media anyway.

But that Saturday, I used two tricks to keep me going.

Breaking up work

I didn’t sit in front of the computer for more than an hour at a time. I would take at least a 15 minute break to do something else. The activities weren’t particularly exciting, but at different times I took the dogs for a walk, helped my wife with laundry and called my Dad to visit.

You likely already know this, but I have found that after 60-90 minutes of intense work, a person’s level of focus and productivity goes way down. So instead of just pushing through I took breaks.

Each time I came back to the computer I felt more energy and at times I had a different perspective on how to best accomplish a task.

It not just about today.

Another obvious statement, but I have come to realize that if I put all the benefit of work on just getting the project completed, it can be overwhelming. Instead I kept reminding myself, “the work you are putting in now on Mail Chimp will likely help you get a newsletter setup for this site, BUT you are also learning so much from the process.”

The process placed road blocks like needing a theme or logo for this site, so in the process I created one. The process of learning how Mail Chimp worked proved to be more difficult then I expected, but I realized what I was leanring could be valuable in the future. I could use this knowledge for other projects, helping with a Social Media Club of Lawrence list, helping a client, or even just helping a friend. I wasn’t working just for the end goal of getting the newsletter setup, but rather I was appreciating that I was learning along the way.

The next time you feel the desire to just give up on a difficult task, consider these two ideas. No guarantees of project completion, but I hope you end up getting something out of the process.

By the way, the email newsletter did get completed. If you want to get updated about new blog posts or when I share exclusive newslettter content, you can sign-up here.