Do you wonder where the day goes? Are you being efficient or are you easily distracted? Productivity tools could be the answer and that’s the topic that guest writer Elaine Rogers tackles in this post.
Being more productive in your business requires skill, practice, and knowledge. The knowledge part is gold. Without it, you have no place to begin. To be more productive involves learning tools, tricks and hacks, and then implementing them in your business in a productive way.
Are productivity tools really more productive?
Signing up to a technical tool doesn’t immediately ensure you are saving time or being more productive.
Firstly, there is a learning curve – that takes time. Time you wouldn’t have normally spent (time is money after all!)
Once the learning is done, things should improve at a faster pace.
Some “cool tools” are what they are – cool to have. They don’t guarantee improvement. For example, if I download and use an app to allow me to take a snap of my receipts for my work expenses, I still need to assign it to a category, possibly manually add the date and amount, and allocate it to the relevant expense column. What did I save there?
Tools and Apps to make your day more productive
Yes, they exist, and we love them! All of the tools I mention below are either free, or have a starter free level that is perfectly adequate to try out the tool before you commit to their premium level.
#1 To Do Lists & Planning
Still LOVE lists? Cannot be without them? There are many very basic mobile apps that help you while shopping and running errands, but there are also more complex apps that go beyond striking something off your list.
Todoist is a “to-do” list maker, but ventures into task management to allow you to set progress, assign tasks, manage bigger projects, and collaborate. It’s a great starter app. It’s also free! And so are the more sophisticated apps like Trello and Asana. They allow you to project manage your workflows and provide the classic list view, but also more visual displays like boards (Kanban effect), tables, and streams. Zenkit is a new kid on the block that includes mind map type display of projects and tasks – it’s mind-blowing stuff!
#2 Scheduling Calls & Meetings
When I discovered Calendly, I cried with joy. When you set it up (remember the learning curve I mentioned earlier?) simply add your availability and send your link that allows someone to choose a meeting time that also suits them. It even takes care of the correct time zone for each attendee. No more confusion about UTC, GMT, DST and outer space!
Calendly integrates with Google Calendar and checks for conflicts. I have my iCal and Google Calendar synced, so my Calendly meetings also appear on my desktop calendar. Alternatives to Calendly are Acuityscheduling and Assistant.
Ah, so there are more than just two of you? You need to arrange a meeting with 5 people? No problem, check out Doodle. Doodle simplifies scheduling so much that it’s a doddle!
#3 Productive Procrastination
Firstly, there are the actual workflow apps to help us collate and curate content into manageable blocks. One cannot talk productivity and not mention Evernote. It’s good for practically everything! It might even launch your next online product if you’re not careful. Then there are the zillion browser extensions that allow us to quickly save time on tasks.
But if you struggle to step away from the keyboard, add a little bookmark called donothingfor2minutes – it encourages you to sit and do nothing with your keyboard or mouse for a full 2 minutes. It’s quite addictive!
#4 Productive Workflow
Let’s talk about the areas where you are being unproductive without even noticing:
Sign up and Install Rescuetime.
Rescuetime will track your every move on every webpage, app, platform that you visit on your computer. Even the free version is enough to review after a week or two, and see exactly where you are spending your time. You do need a little set up in advance to instruct Rescuetime that certain sites are actually productive time for you and not wasted time. For example, if you use FB mostly for work, working on campaigns etc. then this would be productive time for you, right?
Once Rescuetime highlights the areas where you are spending too much time, you can make changes to improve your productivity on your PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone.
Also, if you were ever curious to know exactly how long it takes you to do a certain task (like scheduling your week of SM posts), you can install Toggl or another tracking app to literally time yourself. It can be quite revealing! I use Toggl to time tasks so I can accurately project up (and price) groups of tasks.
If you need a timer that you can set as a stop watch, you can book mark a great little app called timer-tab – it provides a countdown, alarm clock, and stop-watch all in one.
#5 Use Zen to help you be more creative
Writeroom provides a calm and clean writing environment to write in – great for throwing blog drafts together, or fleshing out some good creative copy. It’s very retro so it’s fun to use as well as productive!
Written Kitten (I cannot NOT mention this as I know Amanda loves it) rewards you with a kitten (or puppy or bunny) image every 100 words. Would it encourage you to write more? Too cute!
Zenwriter is great if you struggle to avoid your SN tabs when trying to write. Zenwriter basically takes over your screen and discourages distraction, and encourages creative writing. How Zen! (it also allows limited formatting, so it’s not completely distraction-free!)
forestapp.cc is a winner for its cuteness score. It promises you will stay focused and be present. It will “save you from Internet addiction.” You and I need this!
#6 Use Zen to make you more productive
Maybe it’s not the workspace, perhaps you need your wrist slapped to prevent you from sneaking onto FB while you pretend you are looking up Thesaurus. You can add a browser extension called Strict Workflow. It works on the Pomodoro technique and blocks out SN and other sites as you work for 25 mins, and then allows you to check FB etc. for 5 mins. It still requires you to click the tomato though.
When your 5 mins distraction time comes, you could stand up or move away from the pc (or both) and do something completely different. Alternatively, you could bookmark donothingfor2minutes and just sit back, relax, and listen to the waves.
#7 Sleep on it
If sleeping at night is your problem, or feeling more tired when you wake than when you went to bed, then check out sleepyti.me. It demonstrates when you should either be going to bed, or waking up. It focuses on sleep cycles, not how many hours of sleep you should be having.
#8 Store your passwords
This is a little tricky, as recently, Lastpass has just had an attack on their systems. However, it doesn’t prevent me from using their amazing service. You can store passwords, form entries, and other sensitive information (software licence info, etc.) in one place that you can access via one master password. No more stickies on your monitor!
Lastpass will also generate strong passwords for you, which means you are technically safer. And your info is stored in the cloud instead of on your hard-drive, which is theoretically safer.
For many it’s a personal choice. There are alternatives like 1Password.
#9 CRM and processes
A great way to improve your productivity in your business in general is to automate certain processes. Client on-boarding is currently a popular area to address and there are new tools and platforms coming out daily.
For example, it begins at your website:
- When a contact enquiry comes through – you could automatically add them to a CRM platform and an Email marketing platform (many of these integrate seamlessly – you just need to find the right ones!)
- You can then send an automated email with a link to set up a scheduled meeting – this gets added to your calendar.
- Within the confirmation of the appointment, you can add a link to your intake questionnaire (if you use one.)
- Then the human takes over – you have your meeting/call
- Resume the automation with contract, invoice, and welcome pack.
- Then you do some work!
When choosing any of these tools, it’s important to think about your overall strategy, and not just look at the features of the individual tool.
Never discount LinkedIn as a power tool to increase your productivity. Once you have a strong profile, LinkedIn can work as an amazing inbound marketing tool. The platform has become more social (to the annoyance of some) and allows for more interaction. If you use LinkedIn as a marketing tool rather than a storage space for your CV or portfolio, you will reap the benefits.
It begins with a strong profile, relevant keywords, and building on the KNOW-LIKE-TRUST factor by providing good articles in Pulse, interacting on others’ posts, adding value to groups where your clients hang out, and being helpful.
#11 Bonus Automation Hack
If you write a timeless blog post (that will be relevant for at least 12 months) you can set up a campaign over a year to share that blog post on your social networks.
Missinglettr is a cool little app that monitors your blog and creates an automatic campaign after you publish a blog post, complete with hashtags, images, and quotes, all taken from the blog post itself! The campaign arrives in your inbox for review, and you have a campaign promoting your blog post for a year.
Hidden uses for productive tools
Get out of your box for this one. Just because an app claims it does one specific thing doesn’t mean it’s exclusive.
- I use Google Calendar and Zapier to create auto-scheduled tweets of my blog posts for twitter.
- I use Asana Boards to create my social networking #hashtag strategy for FB Groups – it’s amazing!
- I use Zenkit for my rebranding and website redesign.
- One of my clients uses Evernote to write her blog posts.
It can be the little changes that make a big difference. I hope this post has provoked some thinking around how you can improve on the processes and systems you have in place. There are literally 1000s of apps available to do so many things. How I discover my treasures is to simply ask in my communities! Then research, and double check for integration possibilities.
Are you tired now? There’s a nap for that too!
Share your favourite productivity app with us so we can try it out. Tell us how it improved your business workflows, and helped you become more productive…
Elaine is a pain reliever (so her clients tell her!) She provides virtual support and online business management services to entrepreneurs around the world. She loves tech and making things connect online. You’ll find her hanging out at TheSmartVA.