How Portrait Photographer, Angela Ferguson, Uses Astrid for Her Business

Hope everyone is recovering from Hurricane Sandy. I am deeply saddened by the lives that were lost and homes that were destroyed. Just a week before Sandy reached NYC, I was in the big apple for the annual PDN Photo Expo. The pictures and footage I've seen of the devistation feels surreal. It's bone-chilling to think such a fate was also forecast to be headed toward Maryland and I'm so thankful that almost everyone in Maryland got to see the storm move away. I've heard stories of NYC hospitals losing power and heroic attempts to get power to NICU infants. New York gave me hope when people started lining up for buses to get back to work and daily routines in the midst of the devistation Sandy left them. Routines can be life-saving when there's been so much lost. 

On a happier note, I was recently asked to make a guest blog post for Astrid, a very helpful to do app for the iPhone and android smartphones. Below is a draft I wrote for their blog.

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Astrid is my favorite to do app and helps keep my business running smoothly. When I got my iPhone 4s, I thought Siri would be the end of my search for an assistant app that keeps me on track with my business, but I found that the Reminders app got quickly cluttered with a long list of “stuff.”  Things were in no particular order, even when I put in due dates, so I keep that app around just for location-based reminders when I need to pick up something at the grocery store.

It got me thinking, “I bet there are other to do/reminder apps that also use voice recognition that would save me time,” but it was the Astrid app that sold me with its ease of use, reusable checklists and reassurance that when I give a due date, I don’t have to think twice about whether Astrid heard me correctly.

Reusable Checklists

I love having reusable checklists for various aspects of handling my business. Consistency helps build brand and Astrid helps me to not miss a step along the way. I’m human and therefore fallible, but Astrid isn’t so I set these reusable checklists up and now I don’t have to rely on myself alone to make sure that everything I need to do in a day gets done.

One tip is that I use numbers for processes that have to be done in order. Then, when I need to use that reusable checklist, I assign them each to the same due date starting with #1 and they will appear in order. Here’s some examples of my reusable lists:

Post-processing procedures  --i.e. get pictures from camera to computer, add copyright, back up method one (cloud), back up method 2 (external hard drive), cull any rejects…

Shot lists -- i.e. newborn, baby, child, teen…

Setting up web hosting on my website for proofs

Gear checklist – based on type of photo session

Saving Time with Voice Recognition

Using my voice makes things so much quicker than tapping everything out with the keyboard. With Astrid, I can use my voice to say that I want something done on a certain date and time in the future and Astrid will not only make the new reminder, but also pick up on the due date and specific time. Then, it not only schedules the correct due date and time for the reminder, but also checks with me using a pop up to make sure that’s what I’m wanting.

On a rare occasion if I mention a date that isn’t when I want the due date set for, I can go in and edit that reminder quickly using the button Astrid provides in the pop up notification that will take me directly to the settings for that specific task.

Seriously, that quick notification pop up is like peace of mind for me. It reassures me that everything’s scheduled correctly so that nothing falls between the cracks. And Astrid is not a diva; she doesn’t force me to have a specific time, and if I don’t want a due date, she’s fine with that too. I can say things like, “in the morning”, “afternoon”, or “evening” and I can also use the voice button on my phone’s keyboard (iPhone 4s and up and maybe on some android phones?) to add a due date/time to previously entered reminders and Astrid will also pick up on this with a notification pop up.

Astrid even integrates with my calendar with just three quick taps. When the notification pops up, even if it’s correct, I can tap on the edit button (#1), followed by a tap on when it’s due (#2), and tap “Add to Calendar” (#3).

I prefer to use the microphone found on the keyboard of my iPhone 4s that uses Siri’s voice recognition when I create reminders in Astrid because it allows me to compose the reminder text in parts (appending as I go) unlike Astrid’s microphone which replaces what was previously written.

Quiet Hours

However, I appreciate that Astrid won’t bother me during my “Quiet hours” unlike the reminders that pop up in my calendar – if you’ve ever set a notification in your calendar for an event that is set for the whole day, you’ve probably gotten the unpleasant notification that woke you up at 12AM at some point if you have an iPhone. With Astrid, “Quiet time” can be personalized by tapping on the three horizontal bars in the upper left, then click on “Profile” followed by “Quiet hours”

Astrid also has the better name in my opinion; it reminds me of a character on the tv show, Fringe. It makes me smile inside to think that I could be a crazy scientist working for Fringe…

Taking Things Further

I use one additional app for projects where I am relying on other people for collaboration. That app is Google’s GoTasks and it fills a very small but important need for my business. In Astrid, I can set a date to contact a person, but if I don’t reach him or her and have to leave a voicemail or email, I can quickly have Astrid set up a time for a followup attempt, but that doesn’t help me see how many clients and organizations I currently work with and where I am in the process for each of them. 

As my business has grown, I’ve found it a little confusing to see what progress I’ve made with each current client and organization I work with using Astrid alone.

To fix this, I use GoTasks for its hierarchical capabilities so that I have a map of what needs to be done next with due dates for each project and subtasks for each organization and current client. Again, GoTasks plays a very small but very important task of showing me how many plates are currently in the air at any given moment, where all the plates are in a single glance, and when each plate needs to be spun. 

For instance, I photograph rehearsals for the Baltimore Concert Opera and so in GoTasks, I can see what dress rehearsal is next, which ones I’ve received payment for, and what they need from me, along with where I am in the process with each of my current clients. Now, based on the next steps and potential follow ups that are in GoTasks, I know what tasks/reminders to tell Astrid using just my voice.

I should also mention that I just found out Astrid now gives its users the ability to visualize their progress using Astrid's premium service for people like me who have more complex workflows, which I am excited to try out but will hold onto GoTasks as a back up in case Astrid isn't able to automatically create a hierarchy chart of my projects, organizations, and current clients, including next steps and follow ups like I'm hoping it can. Otherwise, I'm sticking with using both apps because they each serve an important purpose in my success. 

Astrid in my personal life

Astrid is now also starting to take on my personal tasks and I love that I can collaborate with my husband since he also has the Astrid app and we’ve done the “agreed to share lists with me” thing. This came in handy just this past week. My husband needed to schedule a yearly physical, except this time, I added the task to his Astrid to do list and set it to repeat every year. That’s one less thing clouding my focus or getting forgotten.  Thank you, Astrid!