Productivity Pointers from Productive People – Tamara Brooks edition

25, Sep 2017

tamara brooks

In this month’s Q&A segment we talk to Tamara Brooks, co-owner of October 17 Media to learn what makes her so organized and successful.

1. What are the biggest time wasters in your life?  What do you do to manage them?

Hello, Facebook. You ever notice how you’re killing time and that app just pops open and you find yourself in some endless video feed watching BuzzFeed videos? Now, I’ve trained myself not to check notifications on my phone and instead just go to the pages I manage to check for activity. I only check Facebook when I’m on a computer, and usually, I’m eager to get work done if I’m on a computer so this has significantly decreased my time-wasting. If I could, I’d delete the app from my phone entirely if I didn’t need to be connected for work.

2. Tell us about your everyday “essentials” for business? (e.g. Mobile phone, apps, virtual assistant? etc.)

I have a list of apps that I use to streamline my business life!

1. Shoeboxed – Turn receipts into data. It’s a subscription service that scans and organizes my receipts and business cards for me. It connects directly to my accounting software for reconciling. I shove my receipts in a big yellow envelope and mail them off. Or, I forward any receipt emails I get to my ‘account’ with them, and it automatically organizes and compiles them.

2. aText – I write a lot of the same things in emails over and over again. It was driving me bonkers. At first, I just had a draft note that I copied and pasted from but sifting through for what I needed became annoying. I found this APP that allows me to use abbreviations for frequently used phrases that I define. For example, if I type “HostingLinks” (no spaces) it will automatically populate the area I’m writing with my recommendations for web hosts and all the details the text I want to share that’s related to that.Additionally, it was only $4.99 for the app!

3. How do you manage and organize yourself electronically (online, mobile phone, computer)

I’m 100% apple so things just sort of sync with iCloud. Yes, I pay a lot for the subscriptions, but it’s worth it.

For documents, I’m a fan of Dropbox. They have an app for iPhone, and all my files are synced automatically with their app. I have a copy wherever I go, and it’s just good practice to backup your files digitally as well as on a local hard drive.

4. How do you organize and file your paper information?

Other than the ways I’ve noted above for business, I have one tip that’s good for personal! I found it onerous tracking warranty receipts. So, I created a special Dropbox folder dedicated to this. I take a photo of the warranty and use their ‘scan’ function when I take a photo. I archive them like this on Dropbox:

Warranties & Receipts


  • Outdoor Tools
  • Kitchen
  • Toys
  • Home Appliances
  • Other

When I need to find a receipt because my dishwasher is down I dig into a digital and ‘search friendly’ solution rather than a filing cabinet.

5. What’s your top tip for staying organized & productive?

Many times we don’t complete tasks because we think of something else. I’ve started to put little notepads in various places where I need to stay focused. If I’m able to record that “thing I have to do” when I’m working on a clients proposal it means that I can complete my task without fear of forgetting that “thing I have to do”.

With a busy life full of kids, home ownership and running a business sometimes my to-do list gets a bit crazy and it’s easy to run around like a chicken with your head cut off. The best thing you can do is finish your task and finish it right so that you don’t have to come back and do it again.

6. What do you do to achieve work-life balance?

I usually take Friday’s off to be with my little guy. I still “work” but it’s more of a responsive day and not an active one. Additionally, I try to schedule activity with work wherever possible. I often take calls with staff and familiar clients while doing a walk. I listen to business Podcasts on my runs, and when my kids are in sports, I often pull out my phone and answer emails.

That doesn’t sound like balance, does it? Where it helps is that when I’m DONE, I can fully concentrate on being in my life. If nagging emails are all responded to, I can concentrate on the present rather than the email that I need to send.

Tamara Brooks is the co-owner of October 17 Media, a digital marketing agency, in Vancouver BC.  Her firm has created digital marketing solutions for amazing clients like: Nurse Next Door, Kintec Orthotics, Future Shop, North Vancouver Recreation, Park Royal, the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, the City of Richmond, Lougheed Town Centre, Fitness Town, Canadian Gene Cure Foundation, The Berezan Group, the District of West Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health, Pennzoil-Quaker State US, NAPA Canada, DDB Canada and many more.  Specialties: Social Media, Web Site Development, Graphic Design and Online Ad Buying.  Specialties: Social Media, Web Site Development, Graphic Design and Online Ad Buying.