300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Got Something On Your Mind?

This little tip is for those more likely to have a screen than a piece of note-taking paper in front of them. It’s a Chrome extension called Papier.

Once installed, you basically open a new tab and start typing. Whatever you type is backed up directly to Chrome and will appear each time you open a new tab, and it will stay there until you get rid of it. Because it backs up directly to Chrome, there’s no need for an account or for syncing.

Your notes do not have to stay in Chrome. You can print directly from the screen, or you can copy and paste your notes if you need them elsewhere. And you can format your text directly on the screen (bold, italics, underline, strikethrough) using commands or the hand menu in the lower left corner. Shift your eyes to the lower right corner and you’ll see a character count… for those who like to keep track. You can even choose between day and night mode.

I admit that this is more a productivity tip than a 300 Seconds task. But it takes less than 300 seconds to watch the video below, find it in the Chrome web store, and install the extension on your computer. (Or you can do all three here.) And it takes less than 300 seconds to open a tab and start typing.

You can spend the rest of the time contemplating what to do with all of those gathered thoughts.

300 Seconds: Plan Your Day

Do you ever have days where you spend 8+ hours working, yet you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing? The reality is that you probably spent those 8+ hours handselling, putting out fires and serving customers; it’s not likely that those items were on your to-do list, so you accomplished nothing, right?

The first thing I recommend that you do is add handselling, customer service, and even putting out fires to your to-do list as recurring tasks. Then you’ll have the satisfaction of crossing off those items at the end of the day.

And while you’re at the end of the day, take 300 seconds to plan your next day. What do you want to accomplish tomorrow? Don’t just call your goals to mind–write them down. Write them on your to-do list (or teux-deux list), in your notebook, on your calendar, in the corner of the newspaper you read on the bus… wherever. Not only are you starting your morning with a plan of attack, you’re going to bed with these items no longer lingering in your head. They now exist far away from your REM cycle.

Now that you’ve spent 300 seconds unloading your mind, I’m going to change things up. I need another 300 seconds from you in the morning. Here’s what I need you to do: 

300 Seconds: Media List Update

Each quarter I send out a reminder to update media lists–local print, radio and television outlets–for publicists. This is the one-sheet with your most important contacts that you want to reach for bookstore events, and it should take around 300 seconds to give it a once-over.

Give your list a quick glance to see if anyone retired or moved on to a different market. Then take just a few minutes to call those on your list to verify that the contacts you have are still appropriate. If your local newspaper is large enough to have a book page and a children/family writer, be sure to include names for these individual specialties. And news directors at radio and television stations tend to change often, so be sure to call them. For each individual listed, include the name, title, e-mail address, phone and fax numbers, and mailing address.

Once you’re finished, add an “Updated 04/01/16” footnote, then save it as a PDF. Now the list is ready to send to any publicist who might be sending an author your way. When you send it to the publicist, remind them that this is to replace the previous list. Otherwise multiple books might be sent to one media outlet.

If you have a bit more time to devote to marketing today, it’s also a good time to look at your own press release email list, which should include the names you just updated on your media list, but also weekly, daily, and specialty newspapers in your area. Errors can leave a long-lasting digital trail, so look at the reports from the latest releases you’ve sent, especially the bounce report. Some emails bounce because a mailbox might be full, or the recipient’s email service might have some other temporary glitch. But if an email address consistently shows up in the bounced field, the media person has probably moved on or you have a bad address. A quick web search or a phone call will yield the correct address for press releases.

300 Seconds: Have you surged this year?

This past week in Kansas, we’ve experienced high winds, rain, wildfires, lightning, hail, tornadoes, snow and an earthquake.

Somebody cue the locusts.

I’m not typically a doom and gloom kind of gal, but seriously? This is last day of March. What ever happened to out like a lamb?

Since we’re at the beginning of the spring weather season–and since I just lost everything I hadn’t saved in the cloud–it’s time for our annual look at surge protectors.

Power surges occur when the flow of electricity is interrupted and then started again, or when something sends electricity flowing back into the system. Surges can range from five or ten volts when you turn on a small appliance to thousands of volts if lightning strikes a transformer. An external power surge is most commonly caused by a tree limb touching a power line, lightning striking utility equipment or a small animal getting into a transformer. But they can also occur when the power comes back on after an outage, and can even come into your store through telephone and cable lines.

You may recall from last year’s post that the life of a surge protector is measured in joules instead of years, so they’re rated by the amount of energy and extra voltage they can absorb. A basic surge protector uses something called an MOV, which stands for metal oxide varistor. When there’s a spike in voltage, the protector steers it away from your equipment and diverts it to the MOV, which is degraded with each hit. After the MOV has absorbed all of the joules that it can handle, the surge protector simply becomes a power strip.

Some surge protectors have little lights showing if they’re still offering protection, but some experts say these indicators cannot be trusted. They are also hesitant to give a “time” reference for replacing surge protectors, because they do not want to give a false sense of security. I’ve heard that anything older than 2 years should be replaced. And if you don’t remember when you purchased the surge protector, it’s time to replace it.

If you purchased new surge protectors when we talked about the subject a year ago, you probably only need to recall the number of major storms, lightning strikes and power surges experienced at your store. If that number is low, you’re probably good for another year. If you didn’t buy new surge protectors at that time, spend 300 seconds identifying areas where you need them. Then after you install the new protectors, either write directly on them or attach a piece of tape with the date of purchase clearly marked so you’ll have a better idea when it’s time to replace them.

The need to replace surge protectors is generally out of our control. But I had to laugh yesterday when I saw this post from Jennifer Willis Geraedts of Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery of Park Rapids, MN:

Screenshot 2016-03-31 09.58.39

 

 

 

 

Sorry, Jen. I think it’s time for a new one.

300 Seconds: When was your last backup?

If you were to compare my content planning calendar with the posts that actually appear in Books & Whatnot, I’m sure you’d question what’s going on in this brain of mine. I mean, the plan looks good. Really good. But sometimes planned posts are delayed because I feel that some new thing I’m experiencing has meaning to you.

Here’s an example: Today’s planned ‘300 Seconds’ post had to do with our annual pondering of spring storms, surge protectors, lightning strikes, joules, and protection. But I’ve decided to save that until tomorrow, because now I’m more concerned with data backups.

If you were to lose everything on your hard drive today, would you be able to restore what was lost without too much heartbreak?

Take 5 minutes today to determine if all of the data you need is being backed-up appropriately and in a timely manner: financials, inventory and other POS information, customer database, photos, logos and other store collateral material, employee information–and that’s just data. Do you have the software files ready to restore any programs that might have been lost, like the Adobe Suite, Microsoft Office, and POS software? And let’s not forget about print drivers, passwords, fonts, and the like.

These days, so many documents, images, and general files can be stored in programs like Dropbox and Google Drive. Maybe your backup files are not excessive and can fit on thumb drives or portable hard drives. If so, do you have a plan in place to take the most recent backup offsite in case of fire or other disaster?

I know what you’re thinking: Spending 300 seconds thinking about disaster recovery is not fun. But if you’re ever faced with a blank screen, you’ll be glad you did.