Here’s a “behind the scenes” look at 15 of my favorite productivity tools I use to help me stay organized and productive as a work from home mom. Because I am a busy work from home mom, I need to stay productive. Like everyone, some tools work well for me and others don’t. It has been a bit of trial and error. And a lot depends on your personal style as to what will work for you and your own habits.
What I’ve come to realize over my many years building my business and working with other business owners to run theirs, is this: The BEST productivity systems are hybrids made of things that help you manage your tasks, schedule your time, remind you of important dates, track your data, and access your information in the most flexible ways, when you need it! These systems, by nature, will be left up to the worker bee who has a certain style preference for managing their time and information.
In short, there’s NO right way or wrong way to do this. Each person’s system – whether they’re the most productive people on earth (or the least), will be successful if and only if it works for them, they trust it, and use it consistently.
Just as products won’t solve problems, apps don’t solve productivity problems.
Of course, each person is unique, and some solutions will work better for you than others! Staying productive hinges upon setting up your own hybrid system based on your natural time management and organizing personality style preferences (discover yours here with the TSSI™). So first – as always, you’ll need to start on the inside to recognize what is comfortable and natural to you, then create remedies, apps, tools, and systems that you can rely on!
Below, I share 15 of my favorite time-saving resources. Enjoy!
1. Asana – This app alone has helped me cut down on nearly 70% of my daily emails between me and my team. If you’re a Big Picture planner and thinker, but prefer to have your eyes on the details, (and leave the tasks in others’ capable hands… ) this tool will save your sanity!
Asana lets my team have access to any and all projects, assign tasks and deadlines to one another, comment about each detail, create sub-tasks, upload documents and images in any format for use by all – and provides both a wide-angle and detailed view of everything going on across my business.
Although I HIGHLY recommend Asana for teamwork (especially when your team is geographically dispersed, and made of contractors), it is a handy app for the solo-business owner that allows you to think through it one time, and then holds that project work in place till you’re ready to re-engage. I totally love this tool for small business owners and it’s why it’s at the top of my list for productivity.
2. Dragon Dictate – Dragon Dictation by Nuance is an easy-to-use voice recognition app (or piece of software for your computer) that allows you to easily record a message that is instantly transcribed for text or email. I personally LOVE to use this when inspiration strikes and I’m not able to write down the great blog post idea, headline or course offering I just came up with. With a click of a button, I’m able to capture the thought and send it to myself in an email to be opened and fully edited and placed where it needs to go later.
3. Evernote – Evernote is a software application that allows you to store, organize, and access practically anything and it syncs your content across all of your devices. If you’re an info-junkie like me, you can easily add the menubar add-on to easily capture your ideas into “notes” to store in your digital binders.
Another helpful feature in Evernote is the ability to save audio clips, images, photographs, word documents, spreadsheets, web clippings, and more. Then, you can tag your notes for easy reference later. Since I’m such a huge lover of information, this tool helps me easily find what I need when I need it.
4. Dropbox – Dropbox is a FREE cloud storage service (with a paid upgrade option) that lets you easily sync files between computers and mobile devices, share with them with others, and create backups. I love having access to all of my files when and where I need them, being able to send my clients direct links to the audio and video recordings of their sessions (rather than emailing large files to them), and having the security of knowing my files are backed up daily.
5. Google-land – I’ve finally made the official switch over to Google as my basic operating system for my business: well, in many ways. I use both Drive and Sheets to help me manage my information – and keep it editable and available from anywhere. There are many other cool things about Google, but just suffice it to say – I can’t run my business without it!
6. AnyMeeting – This has been a great tool for private coaching practice. I love using AnyMeeting webinars for my group programs, and am able to host everything from full video and screen-sharing capability to make it easy for people to attend any of my webinars by phone!
One of the greatest features is the fact that they allow you to grow your capacity in case you have more people who want to join your event! You can upgrade your capacity! All webinars can be recorded, and packaged for resale! (There’s a convenient way to package up your mighty content and put it out on your shopping cart for others to download! This is one of the most highly functional programs at the most reasonable investment.
7. Unroll.me – HOLY THANK YOU for this service! Unroll.me is a FREE service that helps users manage their junk mail and subscriptions. It allows you to mass unsubscribe from the lists you no longer want to be on and pulls your selected subscriptions into one convenient daily digest email. So instead of receiving multiple subscription emails in my inbox throughout the day, I receive just one (seriously, just one!).
8. PaperKarma – Another free service that is key to my success (and sanity) is downloading this baby to my iPad. Each week when new magazines show up, I pull up the app, snap a picture of the magazine and the mailing address attached and voila- within a few days (sometimes weeks) I’m notified that I’ve been removed from their land-fill marketing machine!
9. E.ggtimer – As you may know, I’m a big fan of using timers as a productivity tool–to help me stay focused and to break larger, overwhelming tasks into more manageable, bite-sized portions. E.ggtimer is a simple, easy-to-use online countdown timer. You just set a time and then you’re alerted with popup and beeping sound when your time is up.
9B. 30/30 – If you like the idea of time mapping, time chunking, the Pomodoro Technique, and FREE, then I also have come to love the app 30/30 – which allows you to plan out your day in chunks ahead of time, and counts down those time blocks for you.
There are several articles about this app if you do a simple search, but I recommend you download it for your Apple device and give it a try. High school students love it! This app makes time feel more concrete and keep the adrenaline pumping to stay on track!
10. TimeTrade – Most business owners are painfully aware of the time-suck that scheduling can sometimes be. Most of my coaching clients have regular, recurring session times, but I also need to schedule one-off coaching sessions and meetings. TimeTrade is an online appointment scheduling tool that automates scheduling my enrollment conversations.
TimeTrade is my answer to a lot of wasted emails and time back and forth. I just select which times I’m open for those sessions (because I “batch” my schedule, I reserve Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for clients & prospects) and the tool automatically syncs with my Google calendar. Then, I send a TimeTrade-generated link to clients and prospects and they’re able to see my availability and select the time that works best with their schedules. It eliminates all those typical “back-and-forth” scheduling emails.
11. ToDoist – My son turned me onto this app after he was able to upload his entire 18 credit curriculum Freshman year to this productivity app: assignments were tasked, categorized and dated, and he was reminded when things were due, on target or past a deadline. It’s a keeper!
This “to-do” app allows me to capture absolutely everything I need to do (yes, every single task!), separate those tasks into context-based lists, assign them to certain days of the week and designate recurring tasks (e.g., write my blog post every Tuesday, take my vitamins every day, etc.). And there’s an iPhone app as well, so I can easily add tasks as I think of them and delete them as they’re completed.
12. Outright – I’m new to this one, but I’m giving it my vote so far… Outright is the non-bookkeeper’s answer to business finances! It was recently acquired by the web giant GoDaddy, and it’s really great so far! It’s a FREE online bookkeeping tool. It automates your accounting tasks by pulling all of your accounts (bank accounts, credit cards, PayPal, Amazon, etc.) into one place and organizes your data into IRS-approved tax categories.
Interestingly, Outright also has an iPhone productivity app so you can enter your mileage/cash transactions on the spot and a paid version of the software with enhanced capabilities. This tool saves me HOURS each and every month that I used to spend recording my income and expenses. (I also love the app Expensify, but if I add it, I have to change the blog title…! Just check it out and you’ll see how easy it is to track your expenses while you’re on the road!)
13. Send Out Cards – I still love this service that provides the ability for me to easily set up and send lovely paper cards through snail mail to my clients! I can send annual cards for birthdays or set up card campaigns for clients who work with me in longer-term packages.
With Send Out Cards, once you determine your sending strategy it’s easy to create a high-touch approach to nurture your clients. Also, you can set it and forget it. Once you have set up a campaign, you can use it again and again. It will keep delivering as many cards as you’ve created… sending that little ripple of nurture and good karma out to your favorite people!
14. Hootsuite – Hootsuite allows me to manage all my social media networks in one place. I use it to schedule Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts, track my mentions and monitor conversations on certain topics. They offer both a FREE version of the web-based tool and paid versions with enhanced analytics and scheduling options.
15. Haiku Deck – This is a new social media tool that allows you to create really cool online slide shows that can do anything from educating your clients to brand your business, to help you launch your newest program! You can add the content you’d like to share into the tool and pick from their GIANT repository of images to create cool bill-board like displays.
In conclusion, these are my 15 favorite productivity apps and time-boosting tools. Try some and see how they work for you. But, it’s important to have the right tool for the job. Productivity is a personal pursuit. Not every app or tool works well for every style out there. It’s important for you to understand your own time and organizing a personality style to create the right flow formula. The TSSI can help diagnose your preferences and give you a leg up.