At the beginning of 2015, one of my biggest struggles was productivity. I would spend hours in front of the computer without really getting a lot done. Also at the time, I had a full time job alongside my Etsy shop and blog. In order to keep everything running smoothly I had to manage my time efficiently and get more work done in less time. While there is still a long way to go, over the past few months I’ve found myself to be more focussed and getting things done quickly. These 9 tools have helped me increase my productivity many fold and I am sure they will help you too – try them!
As a Solopreneur, most often its just me and my computer and honestly, it does feel lonely at times. Not just that, when you are working by yourself, its also easy to lose focus on the task at hand. I recently came across Noisli and it has changed the way I work by transforming my work environment. Noisli is an extremely simple yet genius app that spruces up your workspace with a sound booth. You can adjust the settings to play any background sound that you want. For eg. , the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop or rainy day weather or the chirping of birds – you can mix and match the sounds to create the perfect work environment that inspires you.
Now you may be wondering how would this help with productivity? Research says that a moderate level of noise helps in improving focus and creative cognition. This article from the Wall Street Journal states that – “A moderate level of noise the equivalent of the background buzz of conversation prompts more-creative thought”. I have tried it and it works. It cuts out any distracting external noise and creates an environment that not only makes me feel less isolated but also lifts my mood and inspires me.
As your business grows, so does your to-do list. A couple of months ago, when I launched my new website, I also launched my design services and Creative Convex. Suddenly I had so many more things to manage than before – client projects, creating photo packs, keeping up with the blog, writing guest posts, Etsy shop etc. I had all my projects and tasks scattered in different apps, notepads etc. and I badly needed to bring everything under one roof. Enter Asana. To be honest, it was the beautiful branding and UI of the tool that attracted me first but what kept me was the functionality.
Blogging can get a bit stressful if it is not organized properly. Having an editorial calendar helps you stay on top of the game by planning everything in advance and being more consistent. If you use WordPress, the CoSchedule plug-in provides an easy to use, drag and drop editorial calendar. You can also schedule your social media posts and spruce up your social media marketing strategy.
4. Self control
My unproductive mornings go like this : Check email, open twitter, check Pinterest, work for 10 minutes, refresh Pinterest, close twitter, open Facebook, check email again, work for 15 minutes, open twitter again. Sigh! You can imagine the amount of work I would have got done by the end of day – Nada! Plus such unproductive days make me feel miserable and sluggish. Developing good work habits is of ultimate importance when you run your own business, else you can lose track quickly. I use the Self control app to block all the distracting websites and applications on my computer while I am working. You can list the websites that you want to block in the app, the time you want to block it for and no matter what you do, the app will not let you access the distracting apps for that amount of time. No, even rebooting your computer doesn’t work. Now for a hard nut like me, this is exactly what I need. I block out 3 hours at a time and it helps me get stuff done. I am at least a million times more productive than before! * Grin *
Practicing silence and mindfulness is something my grandmother taught me when I was a child. I absolutely believe in the power of meditation and have done it on and off through the years. So a few months ago when I wanted to improve my focus, I turned to meditation. First, I tried the free 10 – day foundation program by Headspace and fell in love with it. Its hard to believe how 10 minutes of meditation can do wonders to your life. It reduces stress, improves health and increases happiness. I took the focus meditation pack and it has really helped me improve my concentration and thereby increase productivity.
Did you know you can schedule to read and send your G-mails at a certain time too? Often I have emails that need to go out on a certain day / time (Eg. Client invoices, project milestones, birthday emails etc.) and scheduling these emails when I have them on mind helps me stay on top of sending emails. Also I reply to emails usually in batches and schedule them to go out at the appropriate times throughout the week.
7. Inbox Pause
Email is definitely one of my biggest distractions. Keeping my Gmail inbox open while working is really detrimental (not exaggerating at all 😉 ) to my productivity. I use Inbox Pause to keep my email habits in check. I have configured Inbox Pause to deliver my email in 2 batches per day. Inbox Pause does exactly what its name says – pauses your inbox. It saves incoming mail to be delivered at the set times, and keeps your workflow uninterrupted by email.
My Pinterest account has grown exponentially in the past 3 months and I can attribute a significant part of it to Board Booster. I use Board Booster to schedule my pins to go out throughout the week. It makes the whole scheduling task super easy and you can just schedule it and forget it – Board Booster will take care of everything for you! I’ve loved using the tool and if you are looking to grow your Pinterest audience, I highly recommend getting on their free trial. Also its highly affordable too starting at $5/ month.
I came across Miracle morning while listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Miracle morning is a best selling book by Hal Elrod that talks about structuring your morning in a way that sets you up for a more happy, healthy, fulfilling and successful life. I started the Miracle morning challenge a few weeks ago and I can’t talk enough of the benefits – you need to experience it for yourself. Miracle Morning is not just a book, it is truly a life- changing tool!