4 Ways to increase your productivity and maximize your business impact.

DeskEvery entrepreneur from the guy fixing cars out of his garage to someone running a consultancy knows that time is the #1 problem. Not enough time to get everything done. We cut corners, sacrifice effectiveness and in the end we hurt our business. We don’t have the impact we need to own the day.

These are some less common and not usually hit upon ways to increase productivity and maximize your time on the important work of executing your business priorities.

Automation and Email
We all get too many emails. They come in all day and night. They ding and blip and distract us.

A few tips to make Email less distracting:

 

Delegate menial or simple tasks to others
There is no reason for anyone to be typing in data entry or creating email campaigns for their business. If you are a solo operator you can utilize tools like Upwork, Fiverr and elance where you can hire someone to tabulate data for just a few dollars and create compelling eblasts and marketing materials for a fraction of the time you would spend doing it. Effective leaders hire people they trust. They don’t always have to micromanage everything. Although micromanaging is effective initially with a new hire to teach them the ropes; however, after they get it let them do the work. If you have to micromanage an employee or consultant constantly then you hired the wrong person. If they are always asking your questions that you think is causing you to micromanage you need to let the person know you trust them.

Yes, we know you have to control every part of your business but the best leaders will surrender lessor tasks to others and once you find the perfect consultant or freelancer just keep them on retainer and you can reclaim many hours in your day.

 

Turn off the podcast, tv or news radio
Yes, we all like background noise and listening to a podcast or having the news on the radio or tv can be create ineffective work flow state. What is “Flow State”. It’s when you are so focused that you no longer have internal measure of the passage of time. You are solely focused on your work and you look up at the clock and 3 hours have gone by without you noticing it.

Tools that can help:

  • Y-Productive. This tool will disable distracting sites…facebo…cough and other sites. You can also track your productivity stats and see the improvement in your work day.
  • Sloth Worth. We love this little applet that runs in your browser. You install it into chrome and tell it your hourly rate. Then if you go to a site like Twitter, craigslist, ebay, amazon, etc… it will tabulate how much money you are losing while browsing around wasting time.
  • Google Wellbeing. This tool by our favorite search engine will help you understand how much time you spend on your device doing different tasks, etc.. this writer was shocked at how much time was spent texting and chatting on messenger. Sometimes one doesn’t know they have a problem so this tool is critical in identifying problems before they become time sinks and ultimately sink your company.
  • See more productivity and blocking tools here.

 

Drink Coffee less and later
“Drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning blunts the energy-boosting effects of caffeine and may lead to increased tolerance of the stimulant.” states Ryoko Iwata, “a Japanese coffee-lover living in Seattle” on her appropriately titled blog, I Love Coffee.  According to Iwata: “By consuming caffeine when it is not needed, your body will build a faster tolerance to it, and the buzz you get will greatly diminish.”

So when do we drink our “energy potions”? 
“The times of peak cortisol levels in most people are between 8-9 am, 12-1 pm and 5:30-6:30 pm. Therefore, timing your “coffee breaks” (an apt term) between 9:30-11:30 and 1:30 and 5:00 takes advantage of the dips in your cortisol levels when you need a boost the most”

This infographic will help. More in this article.
Best Time to drink coffee for maximum impact

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and Lastly: Value your time.
Most of us don’t think of our time as billable hours. You are billable. You are accountable to yourself. By using the  aforementioned tools you can get your head around how much of your time is being wasted. What’s your hourly rate? Well, pull out your Gross income last year and divide it by 2080 (the standard 8 hours a day x 52 weeks) and you will get your hourly. Most of us would be surprised about how much money can be made with just small tweaks in ones schedule. Now get after it!

How to add send a fax via API with callback function

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In this article we will discuss how to send a fax using WestFax API as well as have the WestFax API send a callback when the fax has completed.

What are callbacks? They are asynchronous, out-of-band requests that your service will send to some other service in response to certain events. This helps you improve the workflow your API. A typical use is for events. You set the callback url which is a page on your website that can process data about an event. Your page is configured to receive parameters using POST or GET Method. WestFax supports both. When an event occurs (Successful fax delivery, etc…) it will call that url with the proper parameters so your application can handle the event and process your workflow without having to intermittently ping our service.

 

Here is what we are going to do:

  1. Send a test ping to the API to make sure we can connect.
  2. Send a fax using the API to ourselves or a test fax number.
  3. Get the callback response and call a web service that gives us the status of the fax

Here is what you need:

  1. We will assume you are using a relatively modern development framework. PHP, React, .Net, etc…
  2. We recommend you use a tool like Postman (Free and available on all platforms) to test your API’s and generate the code.
  3. Developer API account. Easy to sign up and get started immediately.

The WestFax API is comprised of a large set of methods that are exposed using a RESTful interface. Data can be interchanged in a number of formats including JSON and XML. Additionally, WestFax offers SOAP and RPC bindings that are described elsewhere. For the purposes of this demo the REST interface with JSON encoding is used.

  1. Get the sample code for Postman. Link here.
  2. Click Download or Fork it to your local repo.
    Postman Illustration
  3. Once you have the local files you should see two Json Files: WestFaxApi_Postman_collection.json and WestFaxApiEnvironment.postman_environment.json
  4. Open Postman and create a new Request. You can call it whatever you want to call it but we will use WestFax.
    Postman Illustration
  5. Now go click the File -> Import command.
    Postman Illustration
  6. Drag or select  the two Json Files from the code you downloaded earlier and click import.
  7. You will see it quickly import and you will have 23 requests in your new WestFax Collection.
    Postman Illustration
  8. Now look at the top right corner of postman. You should see a drop down and an “eye” icon and a gear icon.
    Select the Dropdown to select “WestFaxApiEnvironment” and then click the Eye icon.
  9. You will now see a bunch of pre-defined variables. You will want to change these by clicking Edit.Postman Illustration
  10. Change the default values to the ones you received when you signed up for API access.
  11. Now let’s go test to make sure we are connecting ok and getting a response from the server. On the left menu under “23 requests” select the “Security_Ping”. Go ahead and click the blue “SEND” button.
    Postman Illustration
  12. You should see something like this come back from the API. If not please feel free to contact us for support.
    Postman Illustration
  13. Now let’s try to send a fax. If you have an incoming number attached to your account you can use that or any other fax number. You can also use the well known HP Faxback test number at 1-888-473-2963. They will fax you back that they received your fax usually within 5 minutes.
  14. So click the Fax_SendFax method on the left and you will see this for your Body setup.
    Postman Illustration
  15. The {{Orange}} values are filled in from the config you already set so you can ignore those. The values you need to set are the Numbers1, Files0 fields. The rest are optional and you can unclick them if you want. Although adding a FeedbackEmail value is useful to get confirmation of the fax sending. Once you set all these variables go ahead and click send.
  16. (Optional: Callback). Set your CallbackUrl with templated values for replacement. In this case we are using: [get]http://yourweburl.com/{@jobid}?prod={@prodid}&dir={@dir}. WestFax will replace the @jobid, @prodid and @dir with real values so one can process accordingly. GET is implied so you can exclude [get] from the beginning or use [post] to use that method.
  17. You should see a result code of True and a hash string with the confirmation code. This Result code is the @jobid you will use in the next phase of handling the callback so copy this value somewhere.
    Postman Illustration
  18. Ok, so here is a neat trick that Postman give us. You can get all your code done for you. Just click the button “Code”. It’s kind of buried near the Send button next to cookies.
    Postman Illustration
  19. Now when you click code you will get formatted code for almost any programming language you may need:
    Postman Illustration

 

Phase 2: Let’s check the Status of the Fax now that the pingback call has come back.

So the fax process worked and we are waiting for a callback response. Basically WestFax will ping a url that you provide. So let’s assume it is https://yourwebsite.com/

We will pass in some parameters with it using GET or POST. GET is implied so you must specify POST in the callback request if you want it to post to a form. We pass in three pieces of information:

  1. @jobid = This is the jobid that you got back in the Result from the Fax_SendFax call. It will match the Result code so you can match it to specific fax calls.
  2. @prodid = This is your product id from the Fax_SendFax call. If you have multiple accounts you can use this to filter out other accounts.
  3. @dir = this will be inbound or outbound. Basically telling you which direction the fax sent.

So when the callback fires your webpage should handle those input values.

Once you have the values you can call the next webservice and get the data back. Let’s get started.

  1. Let’s go back to Postman and find the webservice called Fax_GetFaxDescriptionsUsingIds. Go ahead and click it. You’ll see something like this:
    Postman Illustration
  2. Ok, so let’s look at the Body of this request so we know what we need to fill out to get the fax status.
    Postman Illustration
    We see that it has the username, password, cookies (we can ignore that), productID and two new fields FaxIds1 and FaxIds2. You’ll notice that these fields have template string placeholders of {{FaxIds1}} and {{FaxIds2}}. This is because these values are serialized and we’ll look at this next. The FaxIds fields are the Faxes we want to get the status of. We have the result code from the previous call so let’s go explore that.
  3. We are going to click on the Pre-request Script header and we’ll see the format of the template placeholder we talked about previously.
    Postman IllustrationSo we already put this code in there for you. All you need to do is replace the Id field. The Direction, Date and Tag are optional as the ID is the key field here. So we’ll put our Id in here and you can see on Line 8 that we bind the JSON string to the Variable. You could also copy all the JSON from the variable id1 into the FaxIds1 field directly but this template allows you to append more Id’s and get the status of several faxes.
  4. Once you have the ID in there you will hit Send and get the following output.
    Postman Illustration
  5. You can see here that we have a complete record of the fax transmission. You can parse the JSON result in whatever method you choose and you can see that we have the Date, Direction, PageCount, Quality and Status which is Complete. So the fax is completed.

 

Success! As you can see it’s not hard at all to add Faxing to your Enterprise application. If you have questions or need more help please reach out to us at 800-473-6208 or contact us via email.

 

How to add the WestFax API into your enterprise application

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You have your enterprise application coded but you need to be able to send faxes occasionally. Sure, you could just generate a PDF, Print it off and then fax it. But with just a few lines of code you can integrate faxing into your application. Here are some simple instructions to get your application fax enabled. In this article we will show you how to send a fax.

Here is what you need:

  1. We will assume you are using a relatively modern development framework. PHP, React, .Net, etc…
  2. We recommend you use a tool like Postman (Free and available on all platforms) to test your API’s and generate the code.
  3. Developer API account. Easy to sign up and get started immediately.

The WestFax API is comprised of a large set of methods that are exposed using a RESTful interface. Data can be interchanged in a number of formats including JSON and XML. Additionally, WestFax offers SOAP and RPC bindings that are described elsewhere. For the purposes of this demo the REST interface with JSON encoding is used.

  1. Get the sample code for Postman. Link here   or click here and tap and skip to step #7.
  2. Click Download or Fork it to your local repo.
    Postman illustration
  3. Once you have the local files you should see two Json Files: WestFaxApi_Postman_collection.json and WestFaxApiEnvironment.postman_environment.json
  4. Open Postman and create a new Request. You can call it whatever you want to call it but we will use WestFax.
    Postman illustration
  5. Now go click the File -> Import command.
    Postman illustration
  6. Drag or select  the two Json Files from the code you downloaded earlier and click import.
  7. You will see it quickly import and you will have 23 requests in your new WestFax Collection.
    Postman illustration
  8. Now look at the top right corner of postman. You should see a drop down and an “eye” icon and a gear icon.
    Select the Dropdown to select “WestFaxApiEnvironment” and then click the Eye icon.
    Postman illustration
  9. You will now see a bunch of pre-defined variables. You will want to change these by clicking Edit.
    Postman illustration
  10. Change the default values to the ones you received when you signed up for API access.
  11. Now let’s go test to make sure we are connecting ok and getting a response from the server. On the left menu under “23 requests” select the “Security_Ping”. Go ahead and click the blue “SEND” button.
    Postman illustration
  12. You should see something like this come back from the API. If not please feel free to contact us for support.
    Postman illustration
  13. Now let’s try to send a fax. If you have an incoming number attached to your account you can use that or any other fax number. You can also use the well known HP Faxback test number at 1-888-473-2963. They will fax you back that they received your fax usually within 5 minutes.
  14. So click the Fax_SendFax method on the left and you will see this for your Body setup.
    Postman illustration
  15. The {{Orange}} values are filled in from the config you already set so you can ignore those. The values you need to set are the Numbers1, Files0 fields. The rest are optional and you can unclick them if you want. Although adding a FeedbackEmail value is useful to get confirmation of the fax sending. Once you set all these variables go ahead and click send.
  16. You should see a result code of True and a hash string with the confirmation code.
    Postman illustration
  17. Ok, so here is a neat trick that Postman give us. You can get all your code done for you. Just click the button “Code”. It’s kind of buried near the Send button next to cookies.
    Postman illustration
  18. Now when you click code you will get formatted code for almost any programming language you may need:
    Postman illustration

Success! As you can see it’s not hard at all to add Faxing to your Enterprise application. If you have questions or need more help please reach out to us at 800-473-6208 or contact us via email.

 

When you fax machine dies… How to get digital quick!

Dead PrinterWhen you fax machine dies… How to get digital quick!

So the old fax machine bit the dust. What to do now? Do you run to the store to buy a replacement or maybe this is a great time to go digital finally.

First things first. We need to make sure you are still able to receive faxes.

  1. Sign up for a free trial for online faxing. Pick any number because it won’t matter once you port your number.
  2. Contact your phone provider (the company you are paying for your fax land line) and have them forward your number to the new fax number.
  3. Fill out a Port request form and have your online fax provider port your old fax number to the online service.

Porting your number is pretty quick. It shouldn’t take more than a day or two. Now all of your faxing is in the cloud and you can cancel your land-line, get rid of your old fax machine (remember to dispose of it greenly) and enjoy the flexibility, security and reliability of your online fax service.

WestFax offers a 10 day free trial so give it a try. We are positive you will never go back to a fax machine again.

 

4 Reasons to you need an online fax service

4 Reasons to you need an online fax service

If you have worked in an office that utilizes faxes we all have that love / hate with our fax machines. Whether it is a trusty old machine that never fails or some fancy copier integrated fax that, despite it being brand new, still suffers failures and odd error codes and at times you want to bash it to pieces out in the parking lot during a smoke break. We have been there.

It might be time to move on to something better. Online Faxing.

Here are 3 reasons it makes sense to make the switch:

  1. Money. plain and simple. Fax machines need toner, paper, occasional replacement and a dedicated phone line. This adds up depending on your usage. $100’s a month just to keep that machine working.
  2. Security. A physical fax machine can be a security risk as anyone with access to it can see incoming and outgoing faxes. Online faxing is much more secure and faxes can be specifically routed to any individual or group that needs it.
  3. Convenience and availability. Being able to send / receive and manage faxes using any computer or mobile device makes managing your faxing much easier. No longer are you bound to the office. One can receive and send a fax from any device.
  4. Enhanced workflow. With online faxing such as WestFax you can route incoming faxes to certain individuals or group email boxes. With the FaxForward functionality you can allow anyone in your organization to send a fax as easily as sending and email. No more having to fill out cover letters and printing off documents. Just attach the document in the email and send it. Easy and no need to deal with busy signals or hardware issues.

Regardless of the reason your fax machine will eventually break and the time and money spent on paper, ink and the landline cost

5 Time Saving Tools for your phone to maximize productivity.

We are a mobile addicted population and we have no intent on trying to change  that habit but we do have some ideas to optimize your use of the portable computer you carry around with you all day.

Here are 5 time saving tools for your smartphone.

Forest

For those people that pick up their phone every-time it bings, bleeps or squawks comes a tool that rewards you if you stay off it. You set a timer (usually 25 minutes aka Pomodoro technique) and if you leave it alone your virtual tree grows. After a week you can see your “Forest” of trees and see your Forest of productivity visualized by all the trees. This writer personally enjoyed this app and found it a little addicting to leave the phone alone.


WestFax Mobile Fax

Sometimes you just need to receive a fax. Faxing is still alive and well, particularly in the world of medicine. HIPAA laws require your doctor to use a secure document transport method to send your medical records. Fax is the answer. But not the old thermal paper type of fax. WestFax provides a mobile app that allows you to send, receive and store your medical records securely from your smartphone. Just download the app in the Google Play or App store.


Scanbot

This tool can be used with the WestFax Mobile app to capture documents, clean them up, crop them and make them into documents that can be faxed. Just point and click and the app will import the document and give you something you send via email or fax.


Google Keep

This little app just sneaks it’s way onto your phone the last few years. It’s surprising minimalist for a Google app and it looks like something they just bought, branded and released to the world. If you need to take a quick note, make a list or jot down an idea this app is perfect. You just open it and start typing. It organizes it like post it notes all laid out and easy to access. It’s simplicity is it’s best feature.


Buffer

Social media used to be a small passive activity usually performed by the intern or whoever had time. In recent years Social media can and will make or break a company. Organizations now hire an Social media staff to handle these functions but not all businesses can afford a full time social media manager. Buffer is a tool that enables a small business to create a large number of social media posts and schedule them over the week on a schedule. This allows a small business to spend an hour or two and get all the social media done and forget about it until next week.

5 Benefits of Cloud Fax for medical offices

How can you be sure that patient records are secure? Is someone monitoring the fax machine 24/7? HIPAA requirements are clear and fines for non-compliance are steep. Fax is still the best way to securely transfer patient records, but not with a traditional fax machine. Smart medical offices managers are making the switch to cloud based fax solutions and it’s easier than you may think.

The IRS uses fax because it’s secure.

The IRS gets flack for a lot of reasons but one recent article regarding the IRS use of fax machines is misleading. Yes, everyone knows that old physical fax machines are dated and the migration of many legacy machines to newer Fax to Email services are commonplace but the IRS still utilizes fax technology because it just works and is more secure. Whereas emails can get stuck in spam filters or never make it there because of a mistyped email address, fax provides a confirmation and security that email cannot easily mimic.

Fax is more secure by design.

Email’s can be intercepted, injected and loaded with malware in transit whereas the technology level needed to intercept a fax communication and alter or change it would be tremendously difficult and thus is not an active target by criminals and hackers.

Faxing and the IRS

Should you be audited or the IRS requires more information from you to process your return you are far safer faxing that information to the IRS vs emailing it or using postal mail. If you value your privacy then utilizing Fax services will prevent snooping by hackers of sensitive financial and legal information. Email’s, unless manually encrypted, can be intercepted. If someone were to try to intercept a fax transmission they would mostly see just static noise.

This is why HIPAA (Medical document handling regulations) favor fax over email. Until email and online solutions up their game and provide better security; fax is here to stay.

Need to send a fax now? Take advantage of two free months of Fax to Email service and your own private toll free number!

How green is your Fax?

Fax Broadcast vs. E-mail Broadcast

Smart companies have been using fax broadcast marketing for decades. A fax broadcast is one of the only business communication formats that enables B2B marketers to immediately communicate a marketing message and confirm immediate delivery. Since most businesses use e-mail broadcast marketing it’s important to compare the two in one very important category, open rates.

Fax Broadcast open rates = 90%
This is a fairly simple concept when it comes to fax broadcast marketing. In many cases a device in the office actually audibly rings then prints out an opened marketing message. For fax users with a fax to e-mail service the user gets a notification and then opens the attachment, but since they receive important fax messages from multiple senders the e-mail is passed through spam filters and delivered to the fax recipient unfiltered. This fax broadcast process enables companies to communicate to customers with open rates well above 90%.

E-mail Broadcast open rates = 22%
MailChimp is one of the most widely used e-mail broadcast service providers. MailChimp sends billions of e-mails per month for about 15 million customers worldwide, so needless to say they have a lot of data. According to that data they published a report on open rates. Here are the findings (src).

You will see an average open rate of only 21.59%. That means 78% of the potential customers you are trying to send a marketing message to don’t even open the e-mail! Imagine all that hard work and time spent crafting the e-mail, making sure the links work, making sure the message is mobile platform compatible only to find that 78% of recipients won’t even open your e-mail. That’s frustrating!

Here’s an idea. Try a Fax Broadcast in addition to your e-mail broadcast. You can even use the fax message to tease your e-mail to try to get that open rate up a few percentage points.

See you at the fax machine.

Barry Clark

Barry Clark