Introducing My.Agenda, and What’s Next for LightArrow

Dear Friends and Followers of Team LightArrow:

Today is an exciting day for us. Today we have expanded our app portfolio with My.Agenda — for users who desire an easy-to-use app for managing their busy lives, but want more than just a simple to-do list app. My.Agenda, a complete organizer and planner, lets users start small and add new productivity topics as their personal organization needs evolve.

Since 2010, LightAr­row has been providing users with one of the most comprehensive apps for managing all aspects of their lives and businesses. My.Agenda targets a new segment of users who want to start small without sacrificing power. If you already have LifeTopix, you do not need My.Agenda, since it is like a “starter edition” of LifeTopix.

If you are an avid user of LifeTopix, you have most likely been in active conversations with us regarding improvements that are coming soon and down the road. In our next update of LifeTopix in May, there are several significant improvements, specifically in the areas of Shopping, Notes, People, and also in the My Calendar views. There are many improvements in other areas as well, and we will continue to enhance LifeTopix frequently with updates over the next months and years.

We have been adding exceptional talent to our development team. We are planning to offer several new apps for personal organization and business, and expand our support of platforms to include Windows 8, Android, and also full app support on the Mac. We will also continue to improve our integrations with existing and new online services popular with our users.

Team LightArrow works tirelessly to support our users and improve our apps. We have been fortunate to have users we love – you inspire us every step of the way. We are very grateful. We do recognize that in several areas we have a long way to go. We are in it for the long haul. We love what we do, and we will continue execute fiercely on our great vision. We believe in it passionately.

Team LightArrow thanks you!

Best regards,

Adi

CEO, LightArrow Inc.

Austin, Texas

Even Rock Stars Need to Get Organized

Today, I wanted to share my thoughts about great music, getting organized, and our amazing city of Austin, TX. For our readers who don’t know, LightArrow is based in Austin, TX, which according to ABC News, “has quietly grown into a city that attracts — and produces — some of the most innovative companies in the country,” in its article “Which City Will Be Silicon Valley 2.0.”

Austin is the home of great technology companies, such as Dell, Freescale, and Tivoli (which was bought by IBM in 1996). Austin is also becoming known for innovation in clean energy. Our city is considered the Live Music Capital of the World and the home of the famous Austin City Limits (ACL) music festival, which is in full swing this weekend (October 12 – 14). Many independent artists perform and live in Austin, TX, and Austin attracts world-renowned talent as you can see by the ACL 2012 lineup.

With Austin’s roots very deeply ingrained in global music culture, we welcomed the opportunity to sponsor the talented, independent musical artist, Terra Naomi. Terra is an alternative, rock, and pop artist, who achieved remark­able suc­cess in YouTube’s his­tory, cre­at­ing a global Inter­net hit with “Say It’s Pos­si­ble.” She has toured and per­formed with The Fray, Martha Wain­wright, Tyler Hilton, Sara Bareilles, Corinne Bai­ley Rae, and Natasha Bedingfield. In 2007, she was personally invited by Al Gore to perform her hit at Wembly Stadium in London.

Terra has just started her 2012 Fall Euro­pean Tour, which will hit six dif­fer­ent coun­tries, with more than 30 con­certs in the­aters and clubs all over Europe. With a 30-date, 7-country tour, organization is paramount to the tour success.

 

We’re proud that the LifeTopix app will be helping Terra and her team manage their tour-related activities, such as tour books, documents, mp3s, album art, calendars, accounting, shopping, reminders, appointments, and contacts. We’re also extremely pleased to be supporting the tour goals of eco-sustainability by reducing the use of paper resources. You can follow Terra’s journey by reading her blog.

And for those performing at and attending the ACL festival this weekend, have a successful, fun, and safe weekend! Rock on!

6 Tips for Boosting Your Productivity With Your Smartphone

Happy Woman with SmartphoneIf you’re anything like me, it’s hard to remember a time that I checked my email on my personal computer at designated times at my home or at the office. The smartphone has made me much more productive, allowing me to answer email while waiting at the coffee shop, salon, doctor, child’s lessons, or restaurant — giving me more time to schedule things I need and want to do like workouts, chores, and family time. Often times, by the time I’m at the office, my inbox is at zero, which allows me to focus on getting things done. More and more, I’ve embraced this freedom to get things done on my own schedule — my way.

What? You Don’t Have a Smartphone?

It’s amazing how everyone is embracing smartphones and tablets. According to Pew Research, 46% of all American adults use smartphones. Also, after the September 12 announcement of the iPhone 5, Apple announced that they sold two million iPhone 5 models in the first 24 hours of pre-orders. This is more than twice the previous record from 2011. Furthermore, according to research by Frank N. Magid and Associates, nearly 50 percent of the U.S. online population has downloaded an app.

If you’re one of the 44% of adults who hasn’t purchased a smartphone yet, this post might prompt you to make a change. Clearly, more and more people are adopting smartphones and tablets to help them get things done on the go. And if you’re someone who doesn’t work at the traditional office, the ability to get things done while mobile — such as bringing your own device to your kids’ school, a friends’ playdate, or to a co-working space is invaluable.

There’s some controversy about whether or not your smartphone use makes you more or less productive. Many believe that downtime is good for your creative self, and that the smartphone blurs the lines between your work and personal life. But using your device in a “smart” way can help you be more productive. The following ideas and tips are meant to help you use your device in a smart way — maintaining a healthy balance between personal time and the workplace.

1. Be smart about email

Checking email while you’re waiting for an oil change, while you’re at your child’s gymnastics class, or while in line at the coffee shop is a great way to optimize your time. However, keep it balanced. Don’t check email 24 hours a day, but respond within an acceptable length of time.

If email is your primary way of communicating at your company, it’s not necessary to be notified each time a new email is delivered — silence your email notifications and disable push notifications. Be consistent with the people you communicate with — for example, if you’re consistent in answering email within eight hours, your employees, managers, and peers will expect a response within this length of time. Setting a precedent of an immediate response can suck your productivity. Unless you’re required to answer each email immediately due to your job function, email can be answered when it works for you and your business.

2. Manage your projects, tasks, and to-do lists

The Apple App Store includes an entire category of productivity apps. It’s a broad category, but generally apps in this category help users be more productive or work in-sync with productivity services and software. Within this category, you can find mobile apps and software to help you manage your time. For example, an App such as Life­Topix™ manages your cal­en­dars, to-dos, projects, notes, files, shop­ping, peo­ple, assets, finances, events, travel, health, activ­i­ties and more. Apps to manage your life help you to get organized, which allows you spend your time doing the things you really want to do.

3. Boost your creativity and productivity with voice notes

When a great idea, quote, joke, or to-do pops into your head, you can immediately record it via your voice notes. Or, perhaps you’re in a meeting with a customer and you want to remember an important item. It’s not always convenient to type it out or pull out a notebook, but it’s incredibly easy to record a voice note. It also makes you look cool and tech savvy.

4. Record and store important documents

When you need to have access to an important document, it’s much easier to take a photo with your smartphone than it is to scan it on your PC. You can also easily and seamlessly store the photo by using a service such as Dropbox. With Dropbox, you can sim­ply place a folder on your com­puter, copy any file into that folder — and it becomes avail­able on other com­put­ers and Android, Black­Berry, and iOS apps. The iPhone and iPod touch version of the Dropbox app allows you to upload any videos or photos taken from your device or synced to your gallery. Dropbox is a great way to share and save photos and other docs.

5. Take advantage of free HD mobile video conferencing

FaceTime, courtesy of Apple, Inc.

FaceTime, courtesy of Apple, Inc.

From experience we know that face-to-face communication is the most valuable method of communication, but it’s not always possible due to location or economic constraints. When not communicating face to face, you can miss non-verbal cues and ultimately end up wasting valuable time because of miscommunication. Luckily, mobile video conferencing is easier than ever before, which allows you to communicate face to face via your smartphone or tablet. Unlike traditional, expensive, video conferencing and telepresence options — FaceTime, Skype, and Google Plus (Hangouts) provide free and low cost options for video conferencing via mobile-to-mobile and PC-to-mobile. And now with the advancements in technology, video conferencing on your mobile device is a quality experience. According to a recent article from Telepresence Options, iPhone 5 with 720p FaceTime Camera May Bump Mobile Video Growth, “for the first time, iPhone users can use their mobile VC apps to attend meetings on an even level with the other 720p meeting participants. Hook the iPhone to a medium sized display and you have an instant 720p VC endpoint.”

6. Save time and money with barcode and QR code scanners

According to the Rochester Institute of Technology, “Sixty-two percent of moms surveyed have a barcode scanner app on their mobile device to help them find deals (29 percent more than the general population).” Barcode and QR code readers can save time and money. You can scan the barcode of most products with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and then apps such as RedLaser search the Internet for the best price — no more driving from store to store to find the best price.

What are your thoughts? Does your smartphone make you more or less productive? What are the apps and tips that you use to boost your productivity? We welcome your thoughts and tips.

Are You Guilty of Cyberslacking? Learn the Facts [Infographic]

Cyberslacking, which is typically defined as using the Internet or your mobile devices during work for personal use, can be a serious drain on your productivity. It’s also a big concern for employers due to the potential damage to profits. In fact, according to theofficesoftware.com, a company with 1,000 Internet users could lose upwards of $35 million in productivity annually from just an hour of daily Web surfing by employees. Another study by the IT services group, Morse, indicates that using social networking sites, such as Twitter, is costing companies approximately $2.25 billion a year.

With that being said, according to “Social Networks and Happiness” by Nicholas A Christakis & James H. Fowler, happy people tend to be located in the center of their social networks — and that adding happy friends increases a person’s probability of being happy by about 9 percent. It should be noted that happy people are more productive so isolating people from their virtual friends at work might actually be counterproductive.

But how much is too much? That’s for you and your employer to decide. Finding a good balance between productivity and “slacking off” will ultimately help you to be happy and achieve your goals and objectives. The Infographic below includes facts & solutions to help you be more productive, and still spend some time socializing with your network of friends. How do you find your balance? Please comment and share your thoughts.

Free Cyberslacking Infographic

Cyberslacking Infographic – LightArrow, Inc.

Why Most To-do List Apps Are Doomed to Fail

As the iOS, Android, and Windows mobile platforms mature, the devices themselves are becoming more and more useful directly out of the box. The makers are building more features into the OS so users aren’t required to download several apps before finding their devices useful. Of course, the success of 3rd party apps is a key part of the strategy of success for the platforms, but over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the devices include more and more features and apps of their own to raise the Day-One-Experience bar. The continuing commoditization of basic functionality will only increase, sometimes blurring the line between the platform and 3rd party apps. As a consequence, the overly simplistic, one-trick pony apps will continue to lose the most — especially in the categories of productivity and social networking, unless your software is a platform like Evernote, Toodledo, Dropbox, Google, Facebook, or Twitter — and not just an app.

Various interconnected factors lead to commoditization risk for these one-trick ponies.

The Novelty Factor

The latest to-do list and simple notes apps are cool — and clever. Hats off to Clear as being one of the latest examples of “coolness.” The novelty of an app that is different and fun brings in many users in the app world, and sustained success – for a few weeks. Then another even cooler list app comes out and the current cool king is dethroned. The cycle continues. They inspire new usage paradigms, and copycats emerge — a little too late to the game with no new innovation, and get lost in the crowd. With new innovation, the cool kings also raise the bar on simplicity of use, the fun factor, and user delight. Once the bar is raised, the user wins. However, novelty is a just feature and it cannot sustain an app forever because it eventually wears off.

The Task Factor

Tasks are mostly transient, meaningless after they are done and checked off. Sure, in business, metrics enthusiasts want to historically analyze completed tasks to understand a team’s performance across types of tasks, across skills, across teams, and across long lasting projects. The typical person, using to-dos to track things they don’t want to forget to do, could not care less. The simpler the task or to-do app, the less interesting the completed tasks become. Some cleverly designed to-do list apps simply get rid of the completed tasks for that reason, leaving the user with less clutter and a happy sense of a clean plate. But ultimately, tasks are a feature, not an app.

The Note Factor

Notes are a different beast. Notes are forever. Evernote gets that (the elephant never forgets). So they chose to be a service/platform for notes, allowing browsers and other apps to easily get information into Evernote, making the information available from anywhere. The act of note-taking is also made fun in apps like Paper and Penultimate. For people who make a lot of free-flowing notes (classrooms, meeting rooms, and boardrooms), those are the killer apps since they make free-style note-scribbling and picture-doodling fun — and useful. For capturing simple text notes, there are 1000s of overly simplistic apps. Message to them — text notes and checklists are a feature, not an app.

The Completeness Factor — Features versus Apps

Users tell us that they want more from their apps — one or two features doesn’t satisfy their needs. They also tell us that they want “simple” apps. Keep in mind that “simple” should not be confused with “simplistic.” Simplicity should not be accomplished by sacrificing power. Simplicity is the user experience. With a clutter of apps on their device that just do one or two things, users constantly switch between them — which is counter-productive. In fact, users tell us that they can’t even remember what information is in which app. The users are demanding more simplicity and completeness in their apps, and these two concepts should not negate one another. In addition, due to the nature of simplistic apps, they don’t have stickiness with users and are constantly replaced.

As devices such as Smartphones and Tablets become more popular, users will expect more from their apps — apps that do one thing will no longer cut it. According to ZDNet in an article about mobile madness, the amount of time people spend on their mobile devices has significantly gone up. In fact, half of workers take their phones to bed with them. The desire for more powerful apps has only gotten stronger. Tablets will become the “preferred, primary device for millions of people around the world” by 2016, as not only consumers, but businesses gravitate towards convenience over computing power, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

Unlike desktops, people use mobile devices throughout the day in short bursts, making the loss of context even more of an issue when there is significant app clutter on their device. Nothing is in context when each app does just one thing, and the user is constantly replacing each one with the next cool thing.

The Apple Factor

Apple introduced the very simple, but very precise Reminders app in iOS 5.0. If I was a simple to-do list app user, my search for an app would be done upon finding an app that includes built-in reminders, iCloud sync across devices, and location aware assistance. I’m not, but if I were, this app would be it. For others who seek simplistic list apps and to-do list apps, when they find Apple’s Reminders app, where does that leave Clear, Any.DO, or the 1000s of other to-do list apps?

For simple note-taking, assisted by dictation and Siri, the built-in Notes app is good enough for folks with simple needs. Heck, many people I know manage their to-dos and checklists in it as well. So unless it is an actual notes service (platform) like Evernote, or an amazing new way to capture notes like Penultimate or Paper, what differentiates it from the 1000s of simple note-taking apps?

Game On

The app explosion has barely begun. Apps have not yet matured, but I expect to see users demand more usefulness and completeness over time. Consider the desktop software of the 80s and 90s. It was simplistic and incomplete — as adoption increased so did the usefulness of the software. The super app era should be fun for the next few years — the platforms surely have been doing their part. We’re looking forward to see how app developers balance usefulness, completeness, usability, and simplicity as the bar is raised. This is the time for app developers to raise their game.

-Adi Mishra, CEO, LightArrow, Inc.

Good companies versus great companies

What is a “good company”?

Naturally, the answer depends on who is asking the question. A stockholder will say it’s a company whose share price appreciates. A partner will say it’s a company that is easy to work with and considers its partner’s interests as much as its own. A vendor will say it’s a company who places regular orders and pays its bills on time. But since everyone is a customer of at least one company, it’s the customer’s perspective that we’ll discuss here.

If you’re a customer, a good company is one that stands behind its products and delivers fair value for the money you pay.

Lots of companies are able to do this, and they get rewarded with repeat business from their customers. Given a fair and level playing field, good companies shine in comparison to their competition and the result is a virtuous cycle in which they end up growing faster. If they are able to manage this growth and keep it from getting in the way of their being “good”, then they start making it on the various lists of the fastest growing companies. All is well.

Some companies achieve greatness.

A great company is one characterized by passion — a passion that its employees have for always thinking about their customers first, committing every day to providing them with the best product possible and never willing to settle for anything less than the best.

When a company possesses this kind of passion, it will often transfer over to its customers.  The best indication of this transference is when customers enthusiastically tell their family and friends about the company’s product. The reward for this is obvious, as the customers now serve as an extension of the company’s sales and marketing teams.

How can a good company become great?

The roadmap to becoming a great company is pretty clear: it all boils down to the employees. Without a team of people who have great skill and believe totally in the mission of the company, greatness is almost impossible to achieve.

Coming up with a unique idea, identifying an underserved market, or figuring out how to build “a better mousetrap” is only the first step to building a great company. The most important step (and some would say the hardest one) is finding the right people to make it happen… every day.

Wide Open Communication with Customers

 “Listening” versus “communicating”

How often have you heard that it is important for a company to “listen to its customers”? That would be hard to dispute, but listening is only part of it. In order for a company to be really successful, it must engage in regular, two-way communication with its customers.

A company must listen to customers so that it understands things like:

  • what pain they are experiencing
  • what they have tried in order to solve their pain
  • what they consider good value for a solution they purchase
  • what feedback they have on the company’s product after they have bought it

A company must speak to customers to tell them things like:

  • what the company heard from them
  • how the company’s products address their problems
  • why the company’s approach is the best
  • what they can expect from the company in the future

Some companies don’t believe in telling customers anything about their future product plans. That’s an opportunity lost because the more a company treats its customers like a true partner, the more loyal those customers will become.

The conventional argument against sharing too much about future plans is that doing so makes life too easy for the company’s competitors. Such thinking betrays an insecurity — if the company were really confident in its unmatched understanding of the customer, its superior ability to develop innovative ideas, and its unparalleled ability to execute, it wouldn’t be so reluctant to share openly with its customers.

How companies communicate today

The internet has been as transformational for a company’s ability to interact with its customers as it has been for so many other things. Now there is a wealth of options for realtime, two-way communication.

Of course, a web site is essential. A professional and attractive web presence is the minimum ante required of any organization that expects to be viewed as a “real company” by its customers. Web content tools and technologies have come so far that maintaining a web presence and keeping the content on it “fresh” has never been easier.

Typically, the web site serves as the primary vehicle for distributing the most up-to-date information about the company. But now the web site is as useful for inbound communication as it is for outbound communication. By incorporating an interactive blog, the company can enable a straightforward and easy-to-use mechanism for customers to provide direct feedback.

More and more companies are including Facebook in their marketing campaigns, with some running expensive promotions to accumulate “Likes” by users. The popularity of Facebook among younger users makes it essential as a way to reach a more youthful demographic.

Once the company achieves real sales traction, finding a scalable way to disseminate information to a large number of customers becomes very important. Twitter fits this role very nicely.

Despite the fact that, as a technology, email has been around for almost two decades, it still remains a very powerful arrow in the company’s quiver. Not only does it serve as a scalable mechanism for outbound communication to customers, but it also provides an efficient, documentable way for customers to submit support requests and information.

At LightArrow, we have found that doing all of these things helps to make us the best company we can be. But, we go even further. For instance, we allow our users to comment on any of the product pages of our web site. We feel this level of openness with our customers is essential if they are going to feel like we value their feedback and trust them to provide it. And not only do we share our future plans, we share our product roadmap, complete with target dates. This gives our customers confidence that we will continue to innovate, and that their faith in us and their investment in our product are well-placed.

Of course, if our customers ever come up with an idea for a way to communicate with us that we’re not already using, we’re all ears!   🙂