Advent your business – Part 3

Business Advent Challenge part three

The countdown is on.

The next 7 days the Business Advent Challenge will take a little more focus. A little review, a little planning. A lot of growth.

Let’s continue to advent your business.

If you missed part 1 click here to start from the beginning, and here is part two.

Got here late? You can still do the challenge! Go for it!

Take Durham AV Group’s Business Advent Challenge!

Business Advent Challenge part three

Part 2: Review, Plan, Act!

Day 15:  Website Review!

Well it’s almost 2015. Here’s hoping you have a website. If you don’t – give us a shout! If you do, lets take a look and see if it’s up to standard. Sometimes our businesses change and evolve and our website stays the same. So there are a few things to review, take note of, and update. If you’re one of the one of the 74.6 million WordPress users, we trust you’ll find this last part of the challenge useful. Let’s take a quick peek at some very important pages on your website, treat this like a checklist and make some notes alongside.


The Landing Page (the “front page”)

Is it pleasing to the eye? Full of clutter? If your site is circa 1999 – you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Can someone unfamiliar with your business get a clear sense of what you’re offering?

Do you have a call to action?

It should be easy to navigate your site. You should at least have a menu at the top of your page (on ALL pages) and at the footer of every page.

What about social icons? Can visitors follow and share easily?


The About Page

All of the above applies.

Take another look and see if you can update your story. When is the last time you’ve even read it? Is it about your company or the people who make it work?

Hint – look around. You’ll see lately that many beautiful websites talk about not only their company, but their founders and top talent. (and add in why they love what they do)

How is your business unique and how did you get to where you are? Why and what do you love about your customers / readers / audience?

Pictures of your brick and mortar (if you have one) and people are very powerful. Pets seem to be a trend as well. Spot can help you with Facebook likes!


The Contact Page

Be sure all of your contact info is up to date.

Your hours (include the timezone)

Turnaround time for callbacks


Include a map if you have a store front / brick and mortar.

If you have different emails for different departments – be sure to be clear on whom and how to contact.

For inquiries take a look at the questions you get regularly. If many are the same consider adding a Q&A page, or a community.

A way to give feedback is also very important. Ask for it!

Newsletter sign up


Your Blog

Well, there is no point in having a blog if you don’t use it. If you have a blog, there is no hard and fast rule on how often you need to post.

Some say once a week is good. Some put out posts every day. Posting and sharing relevant material that relates to your business in some way can help you grow your business.

So if you are planning to – or fell off the blogging hemisphere then make a promise to yourself to do it, and brainstorm some topics and things you would want to read about if you were visiting a site like yours.


Before you go revamping your whole website on your own – or with someone’s help – there’s more to this in the next few days. For now, keep your “website review” handy.

If you think of other things you like or dislike, write them down.

Lastly, have you had comments from customers about the usability of your website? Take note, especially if you’ve heard it more than once.


Day 16 : Social Media Audit

Sure you’ve got a Facebook page, a Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram and so on. Are you sure you need all of them and whether you are using them to your greatest advantage?

Time for a Social Media Audit. Here is the one I use: Hootsuite’s Social Media Audit Template

This may take you a few good hours to complete – it’s well worth it to do this at least once a year!

I can’t say enough good things about Hootsuite. If you aren’t using it to help you manage your social presence – give it a go! There are free and paid plans available.

The best 2 pieces of advice I can give here:

#1 post consistently – don’t fall by the wayside and be forgotten.

#2 be SOCIAL – ask for opinions, have a conversation, be genuinely interested. Like you would be in person


Day 17 : Secure Your Website

Considering there are a fair amount of attacks on websites nowadays it’s safe to assume it can happen to you.

If you are handling ANY type of sensitive information including names, addresses, credit cards, and so on – you need to secure your site.

Not to mention it is a real pain to try to restore your site and whitelist it again if it’s been blacklisted. It can hurt your sales, your company, your customers and you.

The first thing you should do is backup your website. If you using WordPress – well there are a ton of ways to do this. If you don’t know how, you can hire a company or learn.

One service we highly recommend is Manage WP . They have a myriad of services that will give you the best piece of mind. Scheduled backups (including to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive),  Google Analytics integration, and extra protection through one of our favourite WordPress security companies – Sucuri

2 highly recommended security Plugins for WordPress Users:

Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner and Security Hardening 

Now, if you don’t use WordPress and really don’t want to change that – Sucuri can still protect your site! They offer website AntiVirus and Firewall, malware detection, cleanup and prevention, and so much more.


iThemes Security (formerly better WP security)

Both of these plugins compliment each other and I recommend you install and configure both.

If for some reason you download and have a hard time installing these amazing plugins, we do provide a service to install and configure plugins.

Both iThemes and Sucuri do provide plenty of well drafted documentation for you to do it on your own, but for the less technical person, or for the sake of time, we would be happy to assist.

You’ll also want to look into (and purchase) an SSL certificate. Many customers will refuse to do business online with a site that has no SSL Certificate.

One of the best places we know to get an SSL is NameCheap. Google has even announced that they will start ranking sites higher just by having one.

whoo feels great taking the business Advent Challenge


Day 18 : Sumo your site

Even if you have nifty social buttons enabling your viewers to like / share / follow you, sometimes they also need an upgrade.

Perhaps the design isn’t up to date or you need to give your  viewers a bit of a push to subscribe to your newsletter.

The easiest thing you can do to increase all of the above is install the SumoMe plugin.

Who doesn’t like free tools to grow your website traffic? (they have some great paid ones as well) Haven’t heard of it?

Last time we checked there was 1,115,342,342 visitors enjoying SumoMe.

It is super easy to install and configure, and has a ton of awesome features to help you grow your business. Yes, we aren’t the biggest fan of pop-ups either – but they happen to increase sales and conversions. Still not convinced?

Try it for free yourself and see.  or just use the social sharing buttons. It’s up to you. 

Day 19 : SEO made easy

So, you need SEO (yes you do) but you don’t understand the first thing about it, or maybe you know a little. Let’s make life easy and get you to install Yoast WordPress SEO.

Here is a fantastic and informative article about Search Engine Optimization by Yoast.

If you took our advice and have started / updated or are maintaining a blog you’ll want to go back to each blog post and enter in some extra information that the Yoast Plugin asks for.

As one of the most popular and trusted WordPress plugins out there, you’d be doing yourself a huge favour to install this immediately. You’ll get a little tour on the plugin settings page to make you more comfortable using the plugin, and once you’ve tried it once or twice it’s pretty easy to keep up with.

You’ll also be able to verify your website in the Webmaster tools section. This is the first thing we do when we set up Yoast’s plugin.

Be sure to go through the whole tour and take time to understand all the options. If you use twitter, be sure to set up Twitter Cards through the settings.

More on Twitter Cards here.


Day 20: YearCompass

We came across this booklet and just had to share. Not hard to see why they had over 50K downloads last year.

YearCompass is a global movement that mobilises people to sort out their last year and plan their next year to have a greater awareness of their lives. DOWNLOAD HERE

It’s a beautiful way to close the past year, and plan the next one. This workbook isn’t just for business.

You take a look at yourself as well. A lot of us lose ourselves in our jobs or just along life’s path. this really grounds you and helps you find your way back to where you want to be. Set aside a few hours for this one.

Before you begin watching this short video, make sure that you have the subtitles / closed captioning enabled.


Day 21: Make a NEW Schedule

Somewhere along the way I bet you’ve said to yourself “there’s not enough hours in the day for this” Well, that’s just not true. Sometimes, things happen and other things get put on the back burner, postponed, rescheduled for whatever reason. Sometimes they are beyond your control.

That is ok.

But that’s not what we are talking about here. Let’s focus on what you can control. After finishing up all of the challenges you’ll find that you’ll need to keep up with some of it.

The best thing you can do is to schedule the time in to be sure you won’t fall behind.

This is where practising the Pomodoro  Technique can really pay off. By now I’m sure you’re an expert at it!

Stuck on how to do it still? Try reading some articles on Lifehacker.

If you’re a procrastinator (even a little) Read this article about the 2 minute rule.

Just be sure to keep a couple things in mind:





End of Part three!

Seriously! You ROCK!!!


If you’ve finished the Business Advent Challenge let me be the first to say CONGRATULATIONS! Really you are just getting started in a whole new direction and there are amazing things in store for you and your business!

Keep it up, and please let us know if this challenge helped you, and the bumps you may have come across along the way. We want to hear your stories!

Thanks for reading. We hope you feel excited about the year ahead!


Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays

Advent your Business – Part 2

Business Advent Challenge part 2

The countdown is on.

Only 15 days until the big Xmas at the time of this post being published. Now you have only 3 short weeks to end the year on an amazing note, and to plan for next years success.

So…..let’s continue our advent for business.

The next 7 days the Business Advent Challenge will take a little more focus. A little review, a little planning. A lot of growth.

If you missed part 1 click here to start from the beginning. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss part 3. Plus we’ll send you our Wise Up Wednesday Newsletter.

Cool tips and tools to save you time and money.

Got here late? You can still do the challenge! Go for it!

Take Durham AV Group’s Business Advent Challenge!

Business Advent Challenge part 2

Part 2: Review, Plan, Act!

Day 8:  Review your contact list

Take a good look at your clients. Past, present, future, potential clients, & those people whose business cards you’ve stashed away. Sort every contact out. Get into your LinkedIn account, & any other accounts you have that you have potential clients / contacts that relate to your business (or ones that SHOULD)

Now, sort them out! A,B,C,D or 1,2,3,4 – whatever works for you.

A: Contacts that purchased from you and/or sent you referral business in the last year.

B: Contacts that referred your business in general and people that have purchased from you over a year ago.

C: Contacts that you have been meaning to reach out to (why haven’t you?) Or contacts that have large networks of people that you could sell your product or service to. —- P.S. everyone is a potential client!

D: Contacts who you really don’t need, or haven’t spoken to and have no really reason to (these will be really very clear and there are probably only a few)

You can just delete them from your data base  (it’s ok, really!)


Day 9 : Plan of Action!

Start contacting your clients. Send them Holiday cards, give them a call or email them if that isn’t possible. Tell them you are updating your records and actually update them in your database.

Add things like their birthday (you will send them a card if you do this, be prepared – plus you’ll have another reason to contact them again)  

Add them on LinkedIn. (and actually communicate with them ON LinkedIn)

Ask about how their business is going. Be interested in what they have to say – take notes so the next time you speak with them you can refer back.

Tell them you appreciate the referrals they gave in the past and if they never have it’s ok to ask if they know someone that could use your services.

They may even ask for your business again themselves, or if you see an opportunity, tell them you have just what they need.

If they are “C” clients DO reach out! These are people that you thought gee there is potential here. Whether it’s through LinkedIn, email or another way, just do it.

Review where they are at (Google them! Use  Rapportive or Discoverly to see where they are at) and really just say something like: 

Hey Mike, it’s Darlene from Durham AV Group – we connected via (LinkedIn) and had meant to get in touch with you to learn more about your biz. I’ve been updating my contact list and I can’t believe I hadn’t reached out to you yet. How is (their business) going for you?”

Build that rapport and relationship. Keep on it.

So easy.

Lastly, tell them you enjoyed talking with them again and to keep in touch!


Day 10 : Review your last 15-20 sales and your system

Do you have a consistent method you use for each and everything that you do that makes your business run smoothly? (Is your business running smoothly? Going back to Day 2) Write down some things you feel you should start doing.

Write out the process you use for each service you provide and the tasks you have to do to to complete this process. (like a checklist)

Compare it with how your last 15-20 sales have progressed. Do you see consistency, or did you miss some steps?

Now you’ll refine your checklist to make sure that every customer you deliver to gets the exact same amount of care and attention as the next one.

Make sure you start at the beginning – from point of contact, during the sales process, delivery, follow up, asking for referrals, keeping in touch, and contacting them for the next one.

Imagine if you are a repeat customer and you get completely different service than you had the first time around – for example, you get amazing service at a restaurant and an awesome steak dinner.

The next time you go you’d be pretty dissapointed if you didn’t get the same experience. And you’d tell your friends. Now imagine if you did get the same experience. You’d tell your friends.

Which scenario would you prefer?

Now when you get in touch with clients you have a list to check off!


whoo feels great taking the business Advent Challenge


Day 11 : Review your Workflow

Now that you know what you need to do and added some to-do’s to your system, you’ll want to take a look at your workflow.

These are the steps and tasks you take to get things done. These are the things that in turn make you money.

Review the tools, programs and procedures you do to complete your tasks. Is there something better out there that will save you energy, time, money?

Is there something that is just easier, smarter or better for you or your company? Your team? Your customers?

Take a look at my other posts for some really great tools that can save you time, money and energy, for the sake of time, here are a few things that I use and recommend:

The Pomodoro Technique (DAY 1)

Wave Accounting 

Trello Task Management


LastPass Password Management


Day 12 : Review Your Expenses

Hopefully you’ve got a handle on where you are at for the year in sales. And your P&L report. Now lets look at this carefully. And hey, if you STILL haven’t worked on this (mentioned in Part 1) Try using Wave Accounting.

What are you paying for to keep your business going? What are things you should invest in? Do you have things that you don’t need – subscriptions to cancel?

Can you negotiate better deals on things like your phone and internet service?

Even online services have deals right now.

December is a great time to invest in your business and yourself.

Maybe you want to learn how to market your business better or figure out how to maintain your WordPress website. (Or you can hire us to do that if you want!)

You get the picture. Make a list. Go for cancelling what you don’t need first. Then negotiate better deals (or see what else is out there)

Be sure to check that list you made on day 2 to see if there is something you’ve written down to take care of here.

By doing this now you’ll make time to sell in January instead of focusing on your expenses.


Day 13: Check out the competition

Take some time to update yourself on your competition. Who is your competition and why?

You’ll want to look at their websites, social media pages, flyers, online reviews, their blog and comments from customers.

Pick 2 or 3 of your largest competitors and ask yourself:

What do I admire about them?

What do they do better than you?

Why would someone choose their business over mine?

Why would someone choose my business over theirs?

This will give you an idea as to what you need to do to improve your business, the ammo you need for when someone says “I’m thinking about going with XYZ co.” 


Day 14 : Review your Services & Products

Look at what you offer and compare it with your sales for the last few months.

What are your customers buying?

What do they see the value in?

What makes you the most money for the least amount of time and effort?

What can you do to improve and be your competition’s competition?

Are there things you should stop offering that have become too much hassle or your business has evolved past a product or service.

See if you should be focusing more on one product or service than another, and also look to see have you been overlooking some of your own services that might be a hidden goldmine?

Consolidate, figure out what you should be focusing on – looking at your competition should help.

Offer something they don’t that makes you irresistible, or just do it BETTER.


Part two of the Business Advent Challenge is finished!

Like my Mom would say “HOLY MACKEREL” !!!! That was a ton of really amazing work you just accomplished!  If you’re still working on these tasks, that’s great! You’re doing awesome!

We’ve made way for new projects, new goals, more sales, bigger returns! You should feel excited!

Next Wednesday we will post the next set of Advent days to get your business into gear. You’ll have to come back and see what we have planned! Hint: It’s all to do with your online presence.

Thanks for reading. I hope you feel excited about the next week and congratulations on completing your second set of Advents!

Oh, and treat yourself to an advent calendar chocolate or two… You deserve it!

Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays

Advent your Business – Part 1

Durham AV Group Business Advent Challenge Part 1

The countdown is on.

Ok so it’s December 3rd at the time this post is published. The Holiday push is on. Chocolate advents everywhere!

You have less than one month to end the year on an amazing note, and to plan for next years success.

So…… let’s do an advent for business.

Do something each day to improve your business until Christmas! Maybe it’s a skill, a new tool you’ll start using or even revamping your whole website.

Now is the time to get excited and do something amazing! We will be doing a three part series so be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss parts 2 & 3.

Got here late? You can still do the challenge! Go for it!

Take Durham AV Group’s Business Advent Challenge!

Durham AV Group Business Advent Challenge Part 1

First things First:

Day 1:  Learn the Pomodoro Technique

In another Wise Up Wednesday post we told you about the Pomodoro Technique. Have you tried it yet? You will get stuff done. You will put the PRO in productivity. Pomodoro Technique this whole thing!

All you are going to do on Day one is learn this technique. Don’t get ahead of yourself. It’s easy once you get the hang of it, and once you do you’ll want to use it for almost everything.


Day 2 : Assess your situation

Where are you at with your business today? Are you happy? On target? Behind? What are the things you’ve been putting off? What do you really need to learn how to do? Do you have files and paperwork askew? Are you a bookmark hoarder? Write It all down. – you will Pomodoro almost all of it!!!) Prioritize your list and figure out what really needs the most attention (what has been nagging you the most) What is the one thing you need to know or do or take action on to make more money? Write it all down.

TIP: after reading the rest of this post, if your most prioritized “to do” is listed as an advent task here, do that first, before everything else, (so long as it makes sense) 


Day 3 : Clean Sweep

Clean up your files, folders, notes, images and other electronic information. Clean off that desktop. Delete all the things you don’t need. Check your  downloads folder.

Make yourself a real filing system so you are organized.

My method of organization / hierarchy is to have a master folder for my business, followed by sub folders for each part of my business, and more sub folders to organize the files within.

For example:

Master Folder: Durham AV Group

    Sub Folder: Branding

       Sub Folders Within Branding:

  • Branding Assets (master logos, letterheads etc)
  • Social Media Assets (overlays, headers, profile pictures, avatars etc)
  • Ideas

    Sub Folder: Website

       Sub Folders Within Website:

  • Backups
  • Style Guide
  • Website Assets (code and plugins and things like that)
  • Page and Post Ideas
  • In Production (what I am working on right now)

whoo feels great taking the business Advent Challenge

Get the idea? Once you have organized your folders you will know where EVERYTHING lives. Please, please make sure you have backed everything up! (Or have it live in the cloud, or both!)

Day 4 : Now Back it all up

Back it all up! (I mentioned this yesterday…but I bet it took you a while to sort it all out)

#1: Back up your computer:

Don’t be afraid of backing up your computer. Be afraid if you haven’t. Do it now. Do it often.

#2: Back up your files to the cloud:

Amazon S3  will give you 5GB of storage for free. It’s ridiculously inexpensive to use if you go beyond that.


Day 5 : Inbox Zero

Clean up your email, and add a couple amazing tools to your Gmail is a fantastic service even if you just want to use it to unsubscribe to the millions of newsletters you signed up for over the years. You’ll see a huge improvement. Go ahead and do this!

If you sell anything via email, or just need to make sure your emails are seen, check out these two tools:

boomerang – well we talked about this one before. It works really well. Take the guesswork out. See if your emails are being opened, clicked on and more!

Rebump – Just last week we started using Rebump. If your emails are not being opened Rebump will send a custom follow up email with the original attached. What a time saver!


Day 6 : Merry Maid it up

Clean where you work. I mean really clean it. Loose papers and books and coffee cups and things that don’t belong in the office, or wherever you are working, move it.

Zen that space.

It is the space of success now. (go ahead and take a pic and share with us on our Facebook Page – we want to see your Success Space!)

Clean, dust, polish everything. Take out the garbage. Shred unwanted papers. Move the cat off the keyboard.

And lastly, clean off your computer screen, keyboard, mouse and everything else you touch. Isn’t that better?


Day 7 : Paper Party

We didn’t forget about those papers you cleaned up yesterday. Sort those out. Any bookkeeping or accounting paperwork needs to be taken care of accordingly. If you have an ungodly amount of accounting to do we will look at that on another day. Set it aside for now. File everything else away. Go through your notebooks and see if there are things you need or missed. Buy a new notebook if that one is full. Find a favourite pen for your notes. Keep those things together.


Part one of the Business Advent Challenge is finished!

To be realistic, some of these things may take longer than one day, or even a few days. You have other commitments and things to take care of.

This is why the Pomodoro Technique was the very first thing we put on the list. We are doing this Advent along with you, because well, it’s like a reboot for us too!

It’s really refreshing and motivating to do something like this. As each task is checked off there is a sense of accomplishment and achievement. While some of these things may not be fun, once they are done there isn’t a lingering voice in the back of the mind.

The clutter is gone.

We’ve made way for new projects, new goals, can accomplish other tasks quicker and things are more streamlined. It feels good. It feels GREAT. There is a sense of Calm.

Next Wednesday we will post the next set of Advent days to get your business into gear. You’ll have to come back and see what we have planned!

Thanks for reading. I hope you feel excited about the next week and congratulations on completing your first 7 Advents!

Oh, and treat yourself to an advent calendar chocolate. You deserve it!

Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals for Web Designers


It’s Wise Up Wednesday! Today we are going to do something just a little different.

Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up, I thought we should do some smart shopping!

You’ll either improve your skills as a web designer, web developer or entrepreneur, save money on some amazing services and products, or maybe there will be a fun toy or two. We might even start a new segment with great deals, products and services around the web. What do you guys think?

Let us know in the comments if you see one worth adding!

Happy shopping!

1WD 3 Day Bootcamp is a steal at only $7

1wd cyber monday deal

Over 3 hours of content in 28 lectures & videos. Earn an extra $300 & 3 new WordPress Clients in 3 days! If you’re going to get started as a web designer, this course is for you!

 ithemes WordPress Webdesigners toolkit is 40% off – $590 until November 30th

ithemes black friday deal

WordPress Web Designer’s Toolkit (unlimited sites)
4 Packages in 1 Bundle


 Studiopress Pro Plus Package $399.95

Studiopress pro plus black friday pack

Includes all 43 child themes
Includes the Genesis Framework


Ok list is modest! I’ll be adding more I promise. We’ll keep adding deals as we see them, so keep coming back for more!

Keep in mind that some of these deals will end on Friday, and some will continue on through Cyber Monday.

Get the deals while they are hot! See you again next week!


Posted in Blog, Deals, Wise Up Wednesdays

Increase your tweet visibility with Spruce

Wise Up Wednesday!

Happy Wise Up Wednesday!

Do you know how long the average tweet lasts on Twitter? Some experts say 5 minutes, some say 15 or more. In any case your followers have to actually see it for your tweet to even have a life. One of the best ways to increase visibility is to add an image to your tweet.

This also increases the chances of your tweet being retweeted. Yeah I know you don’t have all day to sit around making images for your tweets – so that’s why there’s Spruce!

It only takes seconds to Spruce up your tweets

(pun on purpose. No apologies here)

Spruce Screenshot

Spruce is free! (thanks Spruce) It is incredibly easy. It connects to your Twitter account so there’s less leg work. You can choose your background image from the millions of  public domain & Creative Commons Attribution/ShareAlike licensed photos or upload your own. So no worries about copyrights since the images can be used for any purpose, even commercial purposes. If you choose to use your own picture, you still retain the rights to your own images. All images are optimized for twitter, so no more scratching your head at what size image looks best.

Generally your image will hold up to 140 characters. If you have more you’d like to share or want to add hashtags, Spruce images are separate from your tweet itself so you can share what you want where you want it.

So try out Spruce. It’s fast, free, and easy. Tell us what you think! (through a tweet maybe?)

spruce owl

Thanks for reading our Wise Up Wednesday post! We do our best to find resources and tools to save you time, money and energy. So you can run your biz before it runs you!

Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays

Pomodoro – focus and finish tasks

Wise Up Wednesday!

Oh hi! Thanks for joining me for Wise Up Wednesday! Just a couple of questions for you while you’re here…

Have you ever looked at your to-do list and felt overwhelmed?
How many tabs do you have open on your browser right now?
What should you be doing, right now?
How many unfinished tasks do you have going on at once?
Are you anxious about not making it to an important deadline?

Did all these questions suddenly make you uneasy and a little overwhelmed?

That’s what it can feel like sometimes, and for some people that’s what it feels like most the time. If you’re ‘some people’… what are you doing about it?

When I first started learning web design,WordPress, accounting, business, and a multitude of other things I felt pretty overwhelmed. Nothing was getting done. At least it didn’t feel that way. I just didn’t know what to focus on, what to prioritize. Then I came across the Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo.

Simply put, the Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity by improving your work & study habits.

Allow yourself to only focus on ONE task at a time – without interruption (no checking your email, text, no phone calls, twitter, coffee breaks or snacks and so on)

By focusing on just the task at hand, it is a proven fact that you will get more done. Breaking larger tasks down into smaller, timed intervals called Pomodoros – working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5 minute break, and working another 25 minutes will let you stay in the right frame of mind, accomplish your tasks and goals quicker. You’ll become better at prioritizing. Which means you’ll have more time for fun stuff later on since your tasks will be accomplished quicker and more efficiently.

pomodoro owl

It takes a bit of getting used to, and a little willpower. If you’re used to multitasking or putting things off get ready for a real eye opener.
The official website of the Pomodoro Technique has awesome resources and a getting started guide complete with downloads. You can also purchase the book (e-book, audio or physical copy) and the pomodoro timer.

If apps are more your style to keep track rather than pencil and paper there are plenty to go around.

Focus Booster is very popular, there is both a free and paid option, and an ios app as well.

Tomighty is a desktop app for Windows and Mac

Those are just a couple to check out. The official app is in the works as well.

The time will pass whether you decide to Pomodoro it or not. Why not be more productive & see what you can accomplish in the next 25 minutes?

Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique? The apps? Share your experiences below!

 Thanks for reading another Wise Up Wednesday post! It means a lot to us. If you like what you’ve read please subscribe to our super fantastic helpful newsletter. We’ll keep you up to date on our latest findings, tips and tricks to help you run your business, spend your time more efficiently, and help with a life hack here and there.


Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays

Ninite installs all your programs in one shot

Wise Up Wednesday!

Ahhh, yes a brand new laptop…. I’ll just switch it on and get to work.


You have approximately 10,876 updates, installations, upgrades and lots of software to install and configure. Well maybe not that much, but it sure feels that way. It can be hours of sitting on front of the computer before you get to get all the functionality you need. I can think of things I’d rather spend my time doing.

That’s why we love Ninite!

Ninite will install & update your programs in one shot! POW!

Ninite screenshot

Just how easy is it?

I recently had to restore someone’s computer to the factory settings. Sadly, this was the only choice we had. Unfortunately none of the backup disks worked and well you get the picture. I spent the better half of my day taking care of this, and when it was finally ready for me to start installing the everyday programs and applications that were needed – I just wanted to go to bed. After all, I’m a designer not tech support – although I do know a thing or two.

(P.S. … I love you tech support people)

I knew there would be at least another half day of installs and configuring and removing software. Do you think I just sat there and spent forever doing this?


Ninite to the rescue!

ninite owl

While Ninite doesn’t have ALL the programs and applications I needed to install, it sure saved me a few hours of time. Really there are other things I have to do, such as launching video membership websites for amazing businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers.

The folks at Ninite are pretty smart and made it easy to share and modify personalized installers. In just a couple clicks, you have a lot of the programs you need, safely downloaded and installed on your computer.

Need to help out a family member, client, friend, or maybe you have a few new computers at work that need a few programs installed? Think of the hassle you avoided.

You can save and share a link to the installers you’ve chosen. It’s as simple as copy and pasting the URL on the page you are downloading the installer from. Tweet it. Email it. Facebook it. Do it.

Curious as to what I might install? Here’s a great selection for your Windows based system

Ok I know. I’m a designer with a Windows system. Don’t judge me.

Ninite is available for Linux and Windows. (sorry ios users…feel free to comment below and let us all know if there’s a similar ios tool) As for things I would uninstall…. that’s a whole other story and lets keep things positive shall we?

One of my favourite features of the installer is that it says no to extra toolbars and applications that you are always asked to install. Ninite uses bots to be sure the applications you’re downloading are always up to date. Over 500,000 programs are installed / upgraded daily. So have no fear.

Ninite Pro and Ninite Updater are both worth looking into as well. Tons of extra useful features and apps to keep things running smoothly, and you’ll save even more time.

Have you used Ninite? What do you think? Share you experience and thoughts with us. Thanks for reading another Wise Up Wednesday Post! Please feel free to share if you like us. Subscribe to our newsletter for more tips and guides on how to save time and be more productive.

Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays

Clean up your Email with

Wise Up Wednesday!

Hey welcome to Wise Up Wednesday! Quick question: Do you have an Email account? How many?

Admittedly, I have several. One for all the junk and subscriptions that have nothing to do with business that was set up in the 90’s (yep you read that right)

A few others for business – they all get funnelled to two accounts, and another for extremely important things. Ok – maybe I have a few others too. There might even be an abandoned account out there somewhere. So much junk.

You know what, it turns out that a lot of people open new email accounts because their subscriptions and newsletters (and spam) get way out of hand.

Suddenly there’s a need for helps you clean up your inbox and manage your subscriptions for a better email experience screenshot


Now ask me how many subscriptions I have – I’m actually afraid to check to see how many are in my good old 90’s account. The honest truth is I know I have close to or at least 20,000 unread emails. Yeah I know. It’s pretty brutal. I’ll use to clean it up later, I promise.

It’s the business account that really matters. I subscribe to quite a few different newsletters, and through signing up for services to help run Durham AV Group I end up getting some other newsletters by default, and obviously not all of those turn out to be what I really need.

Until I unsubscribe I continue recieving these newsletters. It’s just not on my priotiry list to take those extra steps to unsubscribe. I’d rather be helping clients and building relationships, and launching websites. I do have to keep up with the emails though, and the newsletters I do take an interest in. But those come in all day long and my lovely Samsung Note is constantly interrupting my work with it’s chirping notifications. I just want to focus on my work.

Business emails are directed to my Gmail account – for obvious reasons I love Gmail. I signed up for and it stopped the madness!

The newsletters I had subscribed to no longer get buried in thousands  /  hundreds a few others. All I needed to do was add the newsletters and subscriptions that can ‘wait’ to a daily ‘Rollup’. Then I chose when I wanted to receive an email from that included all of the emails I asked to include in the Rollup. No more notifications to worry about!

If you’re really bored or have some spare time you can log in to your account and view it earlier. You can also view previous Rollups.

When I cleaned up my inbox and added my subscriptions to my Rollup – I had added 59 to my rollup. Unsubscribed from way too many subscriptions and will continue to receive 38 going directly to my inbox – so I will see these as soon as I receive them.

You can add subscriptions to your rollup or unsubscribe from them with one click

Other cool features are available too.

  • You can block contacts (they won’t even receive a bounced email)
  • Change the view from list to grid
  • Change when you receive your rollup
  • Temporarily disable it
  • Responsive so you can view it on any device
  • Categorizes your subscriptions automaticall & you can change the categories easily
  • Supports (including Hotmail, MSN, & Windows Live), Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail, and iCloud, and any emails that are connected to that account.

Oh, did I mention it’s free?

Go check it out! It might be nice to have your day interruption free. You’ll be able to focus on the task at hand rather than jump to check those notifications all day long.

Thanks for joining us for another Wise Up Wednesday! Please let us know your thoughts, ideas and opinions. Don’t forget to subscribe and if you liked what you’ve read, please share. A little tweet goes a long way!

Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays

FloatNote is not just another note taking app

Wise Up Wednesday!

Ah yes yet another APP for your phone. I know what you’re thinking.

“Why do I need another note taking app. What’s so special about this one?”

FloatNote for Android keeps it simple. FloatNote pops up when you make a call, just like a lot of the other note taking apps out there – but here’s what makes it different, and essential:

FloatNote is a “note that floats” when you receive a call. Take THAT!

To me, that is much more convenient. I don’t have to remember to open my notes or take the extra step of doing it. FloatNote does it for me.

I sport the Samsung Note 2 – and like to use my stylus. But it looks funny holding this mammoth device up to my ear and it’s sort of uncomfortable at times too, so I do use speaker phone quite a bit.

FloatNote works well for me because I can jot down a quick note or see a previous note I’ve written immediately. It does a fancy little pulse animation when you hang up the call so you have a few seconds to update your FloatNote before it closes.

FloatNote owl

I tested this bad boy for a few days and was really happy that it didn’t break the other apps on my phone, or make my phone unresponsive. If you have downloaded a lot of apps you know what I’m talking about.

It doesn’t take up the whole screen or get in the way of your call. It’s just there if you need it.

Add and remove notes easily. No extra steps to save your note, just go back to what you were doing. FloatNote will do it for you.

I use it for reminders on what I need to talk about during the call.

“The point is to allow you to add/remove notes easily and frequently. It doesn’t even have to be attached to a contact. Say you are getting nagged by a sales person, you can add a note, and then you can screen his call when he calls you without having to save a contact.”
~ Dor Sakal – FloatNote developer

Since it’s launch to the Google Play store early October 2014, FloatNote has had a great response (just over 4 stars with over 300 ratings) and some fantastic feedback. Currently you can download the app for free and use FloatNote for up to 5 notes and 30 characters and can upgrade to more notes and more  characters for a few dollars depending on how much you’re going to use it. Dors is considering making part of the code open source for other developers to use freely. What a nice guy!

Go ahead and download FloatNote for your Android phone. Let us know if it helped you out! As always we are on the lookout for convenient time saving apps for our Wise Up Wednesday posts. Don’t be afraid to share, subscribe, and comment below with your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays

Wave goodbye to complex accounting software

Wise Up Wednesday!

So you want to run a business. Of course you’ll need to make sure you are on top of the books. Invoicing. Receipts. Payroll. Taxes (I can hear the groans from here)

                Guess what….

It doesn’t have to be a hassle. Especially when you’ve got Wave

Wave has real, double entry accounting.

It’s not “lite” or “free for 30 days”

It’s FREE.

Wave Screenshot

Wave’s free accounting software and apps make running your small business a breeze. By “small business” we’re talking under ten employees.

(Let’s not leave anyone out here …. you can use Wave for larger businesses too)

There are thousands of freelancers out there in hundreds of different fields struggling with software that isn’t meant for their business model. I mean, why use complicated software and tools meant for businesses with one hundred employees, when there might be just ONE person running your business? YOU!

Wave payments

What does Wave offer exactly?


By securely connecting to your bank account, PayPal and other sources your transactions are already available to reconcile (what a time saver). It’s still possible to manually enter in cash transactions or those other transactions where you may have had to use a *gasp* non-business account – this is SUPER handy. Just the other day I used  one of the mobile apps to take a photo of a receipt – and Wave was intuitive enough to figure out which expense it was. No double entry. That’s right. The mobile apps do what they say they can do! Track those expenses with ease.


View or download balance sheets, sales tax reports, Income statements, Accounts receivable, Accounts Payable and more. The first thing to see on the dashboard after signing in is your financial snapshot. Share info with guest collaborators. a business partner, or your accountant.

Invoicing / Quotes / Estimates

Unlimited Invoices! Branded too! Accept credit card payments – turn your estimate or quote directly into an invoice. You can even show discounts. Add vendors. Different templates to choose from too. Did I mention it’s free?


No surprises – accept payments and pay a flat fee. 30 cents plus 2.9%. Just that simple. You can get paid via your smartphone!

Personal Finance Software 

Without even signing out, switch to your personal account. Sync your accounts. Track your home expenses, create budgets and keep an eye on your net worth.

You know what… there’s even MORE….

  • Customer Statements
  • Payroll (nicely priced paid feature)
  • Mobile Apps (these are especially awesome and you should go check them out immediately)
  • Integration with Shoeboxed, PayPal and Etsy

wave owl

Other Perks! 

They have a great blog for small businesses and super support. You can even create your own perks and post them on the website.

Wave can also help you find an accountant, or if you are an accountant they have services for you as well. Maybe you’ll want to

There is one extra perk about using Wave. They make it easy to understand. It’s likey you’re not an accountant. Perhaps you have no idea on how any of this stuff works or what you are supposed to record and so on. So that’s why they have Wave University. A getting started guide to show you exactly what you need to do loaded with quick tips and guidance. You’ll be a pro in no time. There is also access to forums, free email support – and if you really really want the help there are paid support features too. At an extremely fair price.

All of your accounting information is stored safe and secure and backed up in multiple locations. If your Mac or PC goes bust, your accounting still has a home.

You’ll never have to install software on your computer or worry about updates. They are always innovating. Introducing new features and fun contests.

I could go on and on. I think I kind of have already though. I mean I can’t really tell you everything. What I can tell you is that I really don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to give them a shot.

Why not ditch spending all kinds of hard earned cash on other confusing accounting software & give user friendly Wave a try? I’ll bet you’ll love it.

What do you think of Wave accounting? Any tips, tricks or advice? Comment below and let us know.

Thanks for reading another edition of Wise Up Wednesday here at Durham AV Group. We are always on the lookout to help you and your business save time, energy and money. Come and see us again next week! Remember to be kind to your neighbours and share if you found this article useful, and subscribe to our newsletter!  (we won’t spam you I promise) 

Posted in Blog, Wise Up Wednesdays