“Wasting time, all along you’ve just been wasting mine”. These where the lyrics to a song I was obsessed with as a teenager, unfortunately, they started to gather new meaning as I started gaining responsibility or just wanting to get sh*t done, every little thing that pops up seems to be a distraction that drains our energy, time and resources, making it that much more difficult to get anything done, or at least done well. You might not even notice things sucking up your time, I’ve met people who still refuse to learn keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V even though their job requires copy and pasting a few hundred times a day, I mean, have they added up how much time they spend doing that one thing a week, or a month?
Anyway, so that I don’t start rambling about the silly things that people do, here are 5 tools I’ve found to be incredibly useful when it comes to increasing my productivity and saving time. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t only apply to people who run their own business, I’ve used these same tips in order to organise tours for my band, plan moving house from the UK to Spain and even in order to help my own mental health.
This absolute gem could be considered the saint of time-saving and productivity, it allows you to sync everything you might need to all your devices so that it can be accessed regardless of where you are.
Just read something on your desktop you want to share with friends later? Just save it to Evernote and show them on your mobile whilst at the pub, no annoying detective work making you trace back every website you visited throughout the day. Another great thing about the app is that you can clip images, PDF files and even entire webpages to Evernote so that they can also be accessed offline later, this is incredibly useful if you travel to other countries a lot and need access to travel documents, hotel reservations or car hire details without access to the internet, you might THINK your phone contract includes internet everywhere, but trust me, it will fail when you most need it.
Other incredibly useful features include being able to share notes with friends and colleagues, forward emails onto the application and search for text inside images, however, not all these features come as part of the free; basic; package. The free package includes syncing to two devices, 60MB of new uploads per month, searching for text inside images and sharing notes with colleagues, it’s still a very useful tool but if, like us, you find the 60MB limit a tad low and would also like to access your documents offline, then their PLUS package is completely worth the money. It features all the most useful features, includes 1GB of new uploads per month and only costs £29.99 for the whole year. Their packages continue to increase after this, the most expensive costing £12 per month and including 20GB of uploads and the ability to scan and digitise business cards, but we personally found the PLUS package more than adequate for our needs at this time.
All in all, Evernote saves times when searching through your notes, means you have one access point for all your information and will save you from getting distracted searching multiple places for information you need to complete your work. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to try it out yet, it might just be a game changer and we would absolutely recommend testing out the free basic package.
One of the most time consuming aspects of running a business or promoting what you do can be how essential social media has become for it’s success. Every day there seems to be a new way of reaching your audience and in order to keep up you need good quality content for each, plus a hell of a lot of time on your hands to schedule it all. In flies Buffer, wearing a red cape and the tiniest pair of red pants you have ever seen.
Buffer is an internet based app that lets you easily manage your social media content and will save you a bunch of time (not to be confused with a bunch of thyme). It allows you to connect all your social media accounts to one place, then create and share content from there. No more logging into each individual social media network and getting distracted for half an hour whilst doing so.
The app offers an automated feature that can time when your posts go out, meaning you can just schedule a weeks or months worth of content and let Buffer worry about the best times to post, obviously you can customise this to suit your audience’s needs, it would be pretty crap if it was posting everything at the worst possible time wouldn’t it?
Want to post one message across all your different networks? No problem, Buffer can do that for you to. Basically, we told you these tools would save you time and this one will absolutely do that.
So how much will it set you back? Well depending on how many social media accounts you have, it might not cost you a penny. Buffer’s free package allows you to connect one social media profile per platform, allows you to schedule 10 posts per profile at a time and can connect to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+. It’s worth noting that Instagram does not allow apps to automatically post on its behalf, however, Buffer will notify you and allow you to post within a few simple clicks, it’s not perfect but it’s useful!
If the above is not enough for you, their next package up only costs £10 a month and allows you to connect up to 10 different profiles per platform and schedule up to 100 posts per profile at a time. The packages keep on going up from there all the way to just under $400 and 150 profiles, but in all honesty, having that many profiles to look after sounds like our idea of a complete nightmare.
Ever wondered how much time you spend on different apps and websites?
RescueTime allows you to do exactly that and as I’m sure we’ve all been told, knowledge is power, even if that power means blindly ignoring the fact that you spend way too much time play Candy Crush.
The free version of RescueTime tracks how much time you use on websites and apps, allows you to set yourself goals and sends you a weekly report of how you’ve got on. That in itself is not saving you time, I’m completely aware of that, the next step is completely dependant on your motivation. Some people will be able to look at the stats and change their ways pretty quickly, in the same way that some people can stop eating chocolate and some can stop smoking whenever they want. Not one of those types of people?
Well, fortunately for us RescueTime offers a paid service that costs $9 per month or $72 per years (do the maths quickly and that’s a whopping four months free). This upgrade into the world of premium shiny things sees RescueTime sending you alerts when you reach goals, blocking distracting websites (with your permission, don’t worry it’s not some kind of evil AI) and giving you more detailed reports. It also allows you to track time away from your computers, e.g. meeting and phone calls. If this sounds like it could be useful I would definitely recommend trying out the 14 day free trial, if not, I would still recommend using the free service so you can see where your times going and adapt things if you so choose to.
Keep getting interrupted from important work by annoying and pointless calls that either didn’t need your attention, cause you stress or could have been dealt with later?
If that’s the case then YouMail might just become your new best friend, not to mention your very own automated virtual receptionist, how fancy is that?!
There are a variety of calls that can interrupt your day, the most frequent and most annoying could be telemarketers, debt collectors and scammers, well, your new receptionist will make sure they hear a message that says your phone number is out of service, goodbye annoying pests, hello being able to save time and concentrate on your desired task. Then there’s your friends and colleagues, you don’t want to miss their call or upset them, but do you really need to talk to them right this instant? No, you don’t, let them hear personalised message, respond to them with an “away” text straight away, give them an option to route important calls and even have them greeted by name using their YouMail Smart Greeting System. Basically, let your receptionist deal with it until you are ready and when you are ready, no need to spend ages listening back to messages, instead, have them converted to text or email so you can read them on the way home, or on the loo, if that’s more your style.
If you like the sound of all this, then you can try YouMail for free for 30 days, after that its between $5 – $10 per month depending on the features you need.
This is a really simple tool and it can be replaced by your mobile quite easily, however, that means reaching for your mobile which in itself can cause a distraction and end in you wasting time.
So, say you are researching the topic of Chemtrails in order to write an article for work, it’s a subject that could easily lead you down a three hour long rabbit hole, instead of embarking on that journey and kicking yourself later, set the E.ggtimer for 25 minutes (or however long you want) and let it remind you that it’s probably best to move on or start wrapping up your research.
This tool is completely free to use and the absolutely great thing about it is that, you literally type the amount of time you want into the browser search bar (e.g: http://e.ggtimer.com/25minutes) and voila it starts counting down, no distractions on the way there.
Have you found any other useful tools to help increase your productivity? We would love to hear about your favourite tools or what you thought of ours and if you enjoy this subject, we would definitely recommend reading The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.