Design Your Way To Better Productivity: Seven Tools And Resources To Help Boost Your Efficiency At Work
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
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Freeing up our time to do more of what we want is the ultimate goal of many, but for entrepreneurs and small business owners alike, time is an extremely precious commodity. Whether you’ve been at it more years than you can count, or have recently taken the plunge into the deep end of business ownership, you’ve likely felt the pressure of too much with too little, at one point or another. There are many differences between entrepreneurship and employee-based careers, but by far the biggest one I can attest to is the element of support, in some cases, teams, to inject their expertise and skills, or fill a gap in knowledge, which ultimately allows you to tackle that never-ending list of to-dos. Regardless of how organized or ambitious you are, being productive is a constant battle. That, believe it or not, can feel a little more attainable with these seven affordable, reliable, and effective tools and resources. Here they are:
1. Trello | THE ONLY PROJECT MANAGER YOU NEED
I’m talking multiple clients, multiple steps, multiple people- you get the point. How do you keep it all straight? As much as I love a great graphic layout to keep my brain sane, that just doesn’t fly in today’s world of work. I came across Trello by accident, and what a happy one that was! The visual list tool makes collaborating across teams, projects, and borders incredibly easy. A Trello board feels like you’re looking at a website containing lists laid out horizontally on the page, so you can get a bird’s-eye view of your project. Items within the lists, called cards, can be dragged and dropped onto other lists, or reordered within lists based on whatever methodology you have in place. It’s intuitive, easy, and manageable based on the way your mind works towards progression and completion.
2. Slack | THE COMMUNICATOR OUT OF THE INBOX
Getting bogged down on email communication isn’t always something we can avoid when working with clients, but it definitely doesn’t have to be the same case when communicating among your colleagues. Yes, there’s WhatsApp, but leave that for your personal chats, and give yourself the separation you deserve when the work day is done. Slack is the perfect office solution, offering a messaging platform for teams (even clients in some cases), bringing all communication together.
Not only does it help avoid that embarrassing reply all and ensure transparency, but it also decreases the number of meetings and allows a space for input on documents and designs throughout. If Slack isn’t slick, then I don’t know what is.
3. Later | THE MARKETING TOOL FOR TOMORROW
Social media has become synonymous with marketing, and with Instagram’s popularity rising, it's more common than ever to manage most of it on your own. That’s where Later comes in, like its name explains, allowing you to push your marketing for tomorrow. It’s the perfect visual scheduling tool, helping you to streamline a social strategy and simplify the process, providing engaging posts that in turn will grow a following, save you time, and ensure consistency in your marketing activity with no excuse of being too busy.
4. EdX | EDUCATION ON YOUR TERMS
A lot of times the key to productivity is proactivity, taking on something unfamiliar that answers a business need, which leads to timesaving results. We have the privilege of being a part of a sharing economy which also includes knowledge, from various touch points, be it online or in person. Self-educating is one area I never tire of as an entrepreneur. I have come across several resources along the way that keeps that passion alive. EdX is perfect for all industries and interests. It’s an open-source platform with courses freely available with the option of certification upon completion for some.
And let’s not overlook the power of books. OverDrive (overdrive.com) is another platform worth exploring for those knowledge seekers, making it easier than ever to “check out” a book without having to buy it. OverDrive provides access to about 16,000 libraries and 10,000 school libraries in the US In addition to ebooks, the service also lets you borrow audiobooks and streaming video. The great news is it’s free- all you need is a library card.
5. Upwork | OUTSOURCING THE EXPERTS
From one entrepreneur to another, yes, you can do anything you set your mind to, but I’ve learned the hard way that there are just some things you should leave to the professionals. It’s nothing we’re not willing to try to do ourselves first, especially if that means a saving, but when the outcome doesn’t outweigh the hardship, reaching out to someone who knows best can make all the difference. Take design, for example; building a creds deck, creating a social ad here or there, it can make all the difference in landing the right client, and communicating properly to the right audiences. I’ve got the design covered with infographic.ly (naturally), but when it comes to other tasks, such as accounting and IT, I’m a bit clueless beyond the basics.
6. Grammarly | THE GRAMMAR POLICE YOU WANT ON YOUR SIDE
You are a representative of your business, and so are your ‘words’. If you’re communicating with customers or colleagues you want to be understood, which means you have to write well. There are plenty of tools out there to give you the support you need to be professional in your comms. Grammarly is just that with the essence of a teacher, pushing you to improve with every piece you churn out. The service is a facilitator to fixing spelling mistakes, comma splices, and subject-verb agreements, ultimately freeing up more time for you to do everything else.
7. Google Drive | THE ONLINE FILE-SYSTEM TO ORGANIZING YOUR LIFE
The online file-system to organizing your life Organization, you either love it or you hate it, but as a business owner you have no choice but to accept it as part of your many tasks and to-dos. With a majority of work happening on the go and often from a remote location, keeping files organized and accessible for everyone at every moment is incredibly important. Sifting through emails for the attachment sent weeks ago, just doesn’t make sense and is not necessary. There are plenty of sophisticated platforms out there, but for businesses just starting out or smaller than a team of 100, Google Drive is the one you need. A user-friendly option that enables you to store files in the cloud, sync content across different devices, and facilitate collaborative editing of documents, spreadsheets, presentation, and storage.