I recently shared my 5 favourite copywriting tools. So today I wanted to share my 5 favourite productivity tools.
In this first year of working for myself, I’ve learned that I need to be organised. There is no one else to make sure I meet client deadlines. And I definitely don’t want my clients to have to follow up with me.
I usually have several clients and potential leads on the go. And as a working parent, the hours I can work each day are limited.
I love paper diaries and to-do lists, but I’ve embraced technology to get more out of my days.
All the apps I’m sharing have a free version. After buying apps I don’t need, I only upgrade when I need more than the free version can do.
Read on to learn more about my 5 favourite productivity tools.
I work for myself so I can take my kids to sport and be involved in my community.
So I need to track the time I am spending on tasks, especially those that are billable. On the days I don’t, I know I’ll scroll through Facebook an extra two or three times. On the days I track my time, Toggl’s little red button acts as a stop sign for faffing about.
Time tracking is also valuable for accurately pricing proposals. I rarely charge by the hour, I need to know how long something takes to quote accurately.
For sub-contracting jobs where I am paid by the hour, it’s better to have a nice report from Toggl.
I’ve added a list of every project I’m working on to Toggl. I even have a faffing/having lunch option to track that time.
I’ve also used Harvest which was set up by the team I was working with. It was good to use and better for those managing the large team. But Toggl’s free option provides more than the Harvest paid option for me.
I love to do lists. I like writing lists and crossing things off.
But usually overestimate how much I can get done.
So I would spend too much time transferring everything to a new list at the end of each day.
I finally watched a demo on Asana, and then I was hooked. I now have multiple projects set up.
Like Toggl, I’m using the free option, so I can’t save templates but I can duplicate projects. I can set up every task for a project from start to finish.
I also have projects set up for personal admin, training and my volunteer roles.
I have recurring tasks (like this blog post) and social media updates.
The last thing I do each day is review my tasks for the next day. I’ve also found it useful for tracking the progress on bigger projects. It’s also helping me communicate with my clients on the deadlines I need them to meet.
While some may put Trello in the same category as Asana, I’m using it quite differently. The global project team I am part of uses Trello to organise information and communicate with the client.
The different consultant teams have a board and we can ask the client questions and share updates.
It can get messy and be hard to follow where you have been tagged. Getting it set up properly, and having rules about moving finished tasks is important.
I like being able to see a virtual ‘pin board’ of all the tasks in a particular project. You can also attach relevant documents. I’ve also used it to look at previous projects, which is handy, as links to relevant documents are attached.
But I prefer Asana where I can organise my list by due date. And tick things off as I do them.
One of my biggest clients is overseas. I’ve worked on two projects with different clients and different teams. The other consultants I work with live in four countries across six time zones.
Whereas our Trello board includes the client, Slack has been valuable for team communication.
We have channels for each project, as well as general channels like news, resources and consultants.
We can also message one or more people directly. You can call one or more people, which is good if you don’t want to swap between apps.
We can share documents via direct message or straight to the channel.
Rather than emails which can get lost or deleted, all the communication is in one place.
We can also link to the Trello board for the project. This is good if we want to alert someone on the team to an update on the project.
And if you’re working on several projects, you can have multiple workspaces.
Like Trello, the basic level is free. Even with over 20 consultants, the free workspace is fine. The only issue we’ve had is there is a limit on how far back you can search.
Spacetime and Calendly
Setting up meetings is one of the biggest challenges of working with teams in different time zones. I’ve cheated a little and you get a bonus for the last of my 5 favourite productivity tools.
Spacetime.am integrates with Slack or you can set up your team directly from the website. It’s free for up to 5 people and you don’t need to know which time zone they’re in. Slack shows the ‘local time’ for each person but not the time zone.
If you’re working with over 5 people, World Clock Meeting Planner lets you add up to 12 locations. But you’ll need to know which time zone people are in.
The other app I find useful for scheduling meetings is Calendly. I link mine to my Google calendar and I can set the times I’m available to meet. I have the free version which allows one meeting type. I have a 30 minute meeting set up. I can share this link via email or embed it on my website.
The real advantage is that the person making the meeting can see when I’m available in their time zone. They don’t need to worry about converting or checking whether I’m in a time zone that has daylight saving.
Calendly is also useful with local clients because it saves back-and-forth emails to find a meeting time. I almost sent the link to a friend the other day when we were trying to set up lunch.
So there you have it, my 5 favourite productivity tools.
If you try any of these, I’d love to know what you think.
But I know there are more out there, so I would love to hear what you use.
What’s your favourite productivity app and what makes it so great?