New Lessons to Learn

As a digital lifestyle expert on the Today show, CNN, and on my daily talk show on SiriusXM, I try to do one thing: inspire and educate you on how to use technology to change your life and your business. One thing technology can do is help you be much more productive.

Here are two easy steps to get you started:

1. Start Outsourcing Your Life.
When I say outsourcing, I don’t mean moving your business to India—I’m talking about ways to slow down the clock and regain precious time. First, identify the three most time-consuming tasks in your life or business. Then, make a profile on sites such as Gigwalk.com or Elance.com, where you can pay freelancers to take care of some of these tasks, whether it’s creating a sales proposal or running an errand around town. Yes, I know, this is going to cost some money, but you need to place a value on your time. What’s your time worth per hour? If outsourcing frees you up for a higher-paying gig, then it’s worth it. Or maybe you can buy yourself a couple of extra vacation days.

2. Throw Away Your Pen and Paper.
I used to take notes by hand, just like I used to keep my contacts in a Rolodex. But the world of scribbling ideas on the backs of cocktail napkins is over—I do everything digitally now and it seriously enhances my productivity. One of my favorite apps is Evernote, which you can pick up on every type of computer or mobile device out there. More than just note-taking, Evernote is like a digital organizer for your brain—it lets you quickly jot down text, record audio, even take pictures or video. It’s a one-stop shop for all of your ideas, and it automatically syncs across your devices so you can start a note on your computer at home, finish it from your phone on the train, and have it ready to show a client from your tablet when you arrive. It’s also searchable.

I hope this is a jumping-off point for you to start using digital tools to maximize your life, your business, or your organization. I’m hoping to make you smarter and more successful with each article. As comedian Kevin Hart would say “Alright, alright, alright, you gon’ learn today!”

—Mario Armstrong

Mario Armstrong is an Emmy Award-winning media personality who translates technology for non-tech audiences through his work as a digital lifestyle contributor for HLN, CNN, and NBC’s Today show. Armstrong also hosts the only daily technology talk show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and is a technology contributor for NPR’s Morning Edition and Tell Me More programs.

Out of the Doghouse

Failure to upgrade hardware can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance of antiquated equipment, loss of data, and slowed productivity. Yet many small business owners fail to make the investment in a timely fashion. This month, to show entrepreneurs how much more they could accomplish if they had the right hardware, Black Enterprise enlisted the help of Dell Inc. to give one lucky small business a complete hardware makeover.

Maria Hannah, a former prosecutor for the County of San Diego’s district attorney’s office, is no stranger to makeovers. She began remodeling her life when she learned that her dog, Gracie, had a degenerative joint disease and needed a holistic diet and exercise to help maintain her health. Gracie wasn’t the only one who needed a change of pace. “While I enjoyed litigating, the lifestyle part was a little draining. I think my overall view of the world was getting a little pessimistic,” says Hannah, who also worked as a merchandise buyer before she attended law school.

So, in 2005, she made the switch to dog groomer. Her Atlanta-based professional and self-serve pet grooming salon is focused on providing high-end merchandise you can’t find in the big-box stores. BE chose The Clean Dog Inc. because, technically speaking, it represents some of the same problems that many small businesses face. Hannah had a hodgepodge of older inefficient hardware that didn’t keep up with the growing demands of her business. Even the new hardware Hannah purchased in 2010 wasn’t meeting her needs.

We asked an unsuspecting Hannah how she would upgrade her store if money wasn’t an issue. She envisioned a shop with a self-service kiosk and free Wi-Fi for waiting customers, digital signage to advertise to the busy foot traffic on her street, a new touch-screen point-of-sale system with updated software, and a faster laptop from which she could control the whole kit and caboodle.

(Continued on next page)