Juggling all of your domestic tasks and chores, let alone things you need to do for your business is difficult. There are tons of theories, books and even a Getting Things Done (GTD) mindset coaching program. It is no wonder that with all this to get your head around it can sometimes blow your mind a little.
In terms of my own GTD mindset my favourite theory is by Rory Vaden and in this TED Talk video he explains it perfectly.
I have to admit I am a big GTD person. A sure fire way to make me grumpy is if I am not organised or don’t feel in control of my diary or workload. I am sure there are some deep seated issues around this and my need to control but anyways, now is neither the time or the place.
I recently did a presentation to one of my networking groups, BizMums, who meet in South Liverpool every month. At every meeting they have a theme or topic and last months was organisation. I was a guest speaker and decided to talk about the time saving processes and apps that I make the most use of.
I like business bootstrapping so free tools are always my first stop. Below is my list of the tools I use in my business everyday, that help me to get things done.
Email programs and add ins
Gmail – Hubspot, Send Later, Streak.
Gmail will always be my favourite email program as it is just so flexible. But what I really like about it is the free plug ins you can get, which expand upon its usual functions. If you use Gmail and would like to know when someone has opened an email you have sent, you can track them using the tools above. Search for any of the above plug ins – Hubspot, Send Later and Streak – and you will no doubt find downloads and great tutorials for them. My personal favourite is Hubspot, but others may be more suitable as that is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software which may be more than your business needs. CRM is a whole new article altogether.
I live by my electronic calendar and what I love about Google Calendar is that it goes everywhere with me as it is on my phone, tablet and desktop computer. I have actually managed to convince my technophobe husband of its value as we now have shared our calendars and we each know exactly where each other needs to be and when.
This is another Google tool so do you see a theme developing? Keep is my way of remain organised at an instant. I use it to make quick random notes of things I do not want to forget, but also to share a shopping list and our meal plan for the week with my husband. This means that if one of us is in a shop we simply check the list and pick up what the other one of us has noted down there and then. You can also use it to add reminders to your Google Calendar, so if I make a quick note to call someone at 2pm tomorrow it will go into my calendar and if I set it to remind me nearer the time it will.
For me this is a great work tool as I can track how much time I spend on various tasks and client work. This is essential for me when it comes to invoicing as I know exactly how many hours I have spent on projects and how much to charge.
This is a Microsoft tool but there is also a free web based version.
Why is this my favourite note taking app? Well for a start, for free I can have as many notebooks as I want and share them with whoever I want. I have a design notebook for all of my client work and a section within that for each client, meaning it is a digital notebook as I then have a page for each item I need to record. This all means I do not have to go searching in client files for information and as it is web based I can access it anywhere and it will never get lost.
This project planning application is free for small businesses. I have a project for each client and I literally have a checklist of things to be done that which get ticked off when complete.
This is a free accounting tool, yes I did say free. I send invoices from it and use it to keep track of all spending, both business and personal. It integrates with Stripe so clients can pay me immediately by credit card if they wish abd you can set it up to import from your bank and Paypal.
This allows to see all of my contacts whether I am at my desk or out and about with my phone or tablet. I can even sort my contacts into groups and email everybody at once so there are no complicated mail merges. You can add your own notes to each contact and you can adapt it yourself to have some CRM like features.
Apart from being free and a great alternative to Microsoft Excel, this allows me to share my work with my husband and we also keep our joint finances in a sheet so we can both view the household outgoings at the same time. You can also use Google Sheets to update with various details from your social media account, but more on that later.
Card Reader, Cam Card, My Contacts
These are all free apps to keep track of your business cards. Gone are the days where I would come away from a network event with 20 cards and then leave them in a draw never to be seen again. I take a photograph of the card, check the details are correct and they get stored in my phone. I have also found a work around to make them appear in my CRM, but again more on that later in the Zapier section.
Time tracking and goal management.
You may be at the point now where your eyes are glazing over and I don’t blame you, as this is where I get really deep into the Getting Things Done Mentality.
Are you sure you are ready for this? If you are not into personal and business goal tracking feel free to skip to Social.
My first tool is an app on my smartphone which helps me track the hours I am spending working. Usually when you run your own business you do not clock in or out but this means you might be working 80 hours per week. It is great to work hard and be busy, but do you know how much an hour your are earning? Everything has a cost and you need to track your time so you can see what your return on your investment is. I simply push a button when I start work and stop to have a break or do household chores. This keeps a track of my hours for me without the need for adding and subtracting.
Pomodoro Timer (Tomato Timer)
Some times I find it really hard to focus on one task as my brain is buzzing with all the other the things I have to do and will not allow me to concentrate on one thing. I found the Pomodoro technique, which you can head about here and that has all changed. There are lots of free apps for phones and desktops that will help you track your time, simply google ‘free pomodoro timers’. My favourite is the free tomato timer.
Habits (Loop Habit tracker)
This free app which is available on Android helps you track your useful habits. I have a list of things I want to do each day that will help me with my goals; For example I want to go to the gym three times a week, run three times a week and read a personal development article each day.
I hope that these daily habits will help me improve and get fitter and stronger, so by ticking them off each day I am held accountable. If I do not do them I lose out and it gives me great satisfaction each day when I have ticked them off as, it means I am reaching my goal.
Another free app on Android which is slightly more involved than Loop Habit Tracker. This app follows Steven Coveys 7 habits of highly effective people and is a learning curve, but it is well worth the time investment.
Social Short Cuts
I like this dashboard as it gives you free social profiles for four accounts and it is so easy to share to all platforms at once. I have used this tool successfully to increase my followers by 200 people by dedicating just ten minutes per week for the last six weeks.
This is an RSS reader and again it is free. An RSS reader basically directs all of my favourite blogs into one place and ensures I do not miss anything.It is also super easy to share to Buffer from it so if I read something I like I can share it with my followers in 3 clicks.
IFTTT and Zapier
Ifttt is a free platform that can help you save hours on your social media and other mundane tasks. An abbreviation for IF This Then That, you create or find ‘recipes’ to use and IFTTT delivers them.
Recipes is essentially the term IFTTT gives to simple statements. For example, if I get a new follower on Twitter I add them to a Google spreadsheet I have called New Followers. This helps me track local followers in one place, essential for small businesses whose customers are more likely to be local. There are hundreds of recipes and really you should just go explore.
Zapier is definitely more complex than IFTTT but it has more substance. It is only free for a limited number of zaps per month so should be used wisely. One of my favourite zaps is making Google contacts appear in specific mailing lists and it can be a great way of growing your business.
Being a complete technology geek is my favourite pass time, why not get in touch and see how I can help your business save time and be profitable by making the best of what the web has to offer.