Until a few months ago, I was doing it all wrong! I didn't have proper systems in place for my business, my messy work flow resulted in a hodgepodge of a million unexecuted tasks and obviously, I was overwhelmed. While running a business all by yourself, you will need to wear several hats - of a designer, blogger, accountant and so on. And if you don't have an organized workflow, things can get messy and stressful.
Thankfully when I decided to put an end to the disorganized way of running my business, I found a few amazing tools that came to my rescue. These tools have helped me create a smooth workflow for my business and have made life a lot more easier. Here are my top apps for staying organized in my business:
There used to be a time when I would start my work days randomly without an actual list of tasks to complete by the end of the day. I would work on tasks that seemed interesting at the moment and not on tasks that were a priority. This is the best way to go if you want to be unproductive and not get anything done. However a few months ago, when I became a full-time business owner, prioritizing tasks became imperative.
I use Todoist each night to plan out my to do list for the next day. I order the tasks based on priority so there is no ambiguity about which task I need to work on first when I start each morning. Using Todoist, you can schedule your tasks for each day and in the future, organize them into different projects (if you need to) and assign priorities for each task as well. Todoist allows you to check off completed tasks as you complete them and keep a track of your remaining tasks throughout the day.
When I was working for a software company, we used calendars to set the agenda for the day. Meetings, conference calls, breaks and everything in between was already planned out and scheduled, so there was no chance of missing or forgetting something. This helped us to stay on top of everything at work. When I started working for myself, from home, I became a bit relaxed and neglected using a calendar. Without a calendar, we tend to take breaks at random times, procrastinate tasks and also (sometimes!) work late. To keep a good work-life balance, using a calendar is super important.
The Sunrise Calendar gives me a bird's eye view of my days, weeks and months. Since everything is available together in one place, its easier for me to schedule meetings, plan long term projects and also plan my days around deadlines. Of course each day is different, but doing a few things like my morning meditation, exercise, writing and sleeping at the same time everyday helps me be more efficient and develop better habits.
I don't know about you, but I come across a ton of amazing articles, podcasts and videos I want to read, listen to and watch each day. But often I come across these when I am in the midst of another task like lets say writing a blog post or working on a design. Now its very tempting to abandon the task on hand and immerse myself in the new interesting article that has come my way. But is that right? Is it good for my productivity? Hmm, probably not! The best thing to do is probably save it and get back to it when I have the time for it. Right? And that's where my friend, the awesome app - Pocket comes to the scene. I use this app all the time, on the phone and on the desktop to save articles and pages to visit at a later time. It comes as Google chrome extension and all you have to do is press the pocket button on your browser toolbar to save the page.
Pocket creates a queue all the pages you have saved in a list for you to go back to later. Once you are done reading it, you can archive it for later use. You can also categorize and organize all your data by using tags for them like Articles, Videos, Images etc.
Is there anyone who doesn't use Evernote? It is in one way the hub of my entire business workflow. I use it for literally everything from jotting down ideas on the go to planning big projects and collaborations for my business.
In Evernote, you can create notebooks inside of which you can create several notes to organize all the information related to the topic of the notebook. For example, I have a notebook - Blog Post Ideas in which I save the ideas for my future blog posts. Each idea turns into a note inside the notebook. Inside each note, I briefly outline the post and references to look up while writing the post. Similarly I organize ideas for my business, collaborations and passion projects. Basically, Evernote helps me to go from a simple idea to a detailed, strategic plan in the most efficient and easiest way possible. Plus keeping everything in one place under Evernote makes it easier to move back and forth between planning projects, setting and tracking goals and not miss out on anything.
Have you had your desktop so full with files and folders that you couldn't see the wallpaper anymore? For a very long time, I did. And honestly, I didn't care much 'cuz it was working for me. But when I opened my Etsy shop and starting working with clients on custom projects, having a cluttered file system didn't just work anymore. I had a ton of files to work with each day and having them in a disorganized way was just making things messy and throwing my work off the track. Plus there is only so much space on my computer to store everything in it.
When my computer was crying out of disk space shortage, Dropbox came to rescue. Now, I organize all my files neatly in folders on Dropbox. I keep only the files that I need and use all the time on my computer, the rest is stored away safely in Dropbox. It is also super easy to share files with clients and collaborators using Dropbox. What more can I ask for?
When it comes to project management, you can't beat Trello. Whether it is my individual projects or collaborations with others, I love using Trello to keep a track of my projects. Trello allows you to create boards for each of your projects. For eg. on my account, I have boards for my blog (it is a project on its own!), Creative Convex, client work and a few collaborative boards with others as well. You can create lists to represent the state of progress in each of your boards. Each list has cards which contain a task or an idea which is waiting to be worked on. You can add a due date on each card to remind you of deadlines and stay on track with a timeline. You can also categorize your cards using color-coded labels. For each card you can add comments to keep a track of your progress in that particular task. The cards can be easily moved between lists.In each of my own project boards, I have 3 lists - To do, Doing and Done. Each time my To do list is empty, I take out ideas from Evernote and convert them into tasks in the To do list of Trello. Every night when I create my to do list for the next day in Todoist, I pull out tasks from the lists in Trello. Again at the end of each work day I make sure to update my progress by commenting on the Trello task cards. My cards usually follow a move from To Do -> Doing -> Done. Sometimes if I remember I need to add a few things to a task, I move it back from the Done list to the To Do list. Oh my god, that was such a long sentence, but you get the gist!Trello helps me to store, organize and track all my projects. I don't have to keep anything in my brain - like - oh I need to finish this guest post by 20th Oct or I need to finish this design proposal by 15th Nov. Since everything is stored in Trello, I can keep my brain free to concentrate on processing the task on hand which is what the brain for - processingnot storing.
Lastly, I use FreshBooks to manage the estimates, invoices and payments for my client projects. If you are working with multiple clients at a time, it can get difficult to keep a track of estimates, invoices, received payments etc. For a long time I used Etsy invoicing for my custom projects, but I've recently started working with FreshBooks and I love their services. FreshBooks creates a quick and a fuss-free system for managing the finance part of your client projects.I use FreshBooks to send out project estimates, invoice my clients, track my expenses and payments. FreshBooks also integrates with other business apps like Paypal and MailChimp which makes it super easy to use.