My Top 5 Productivity Tools Revealed

In my role as a virtual assistant, I’m constantly looking for ways to boost productivity – both for myself and for my clients. And while productivity is hugely influenced by psychological factors, such as mindset, mood and motivation to name but a few, there is also a plethora of tools available to help us be the most productive versions of ourselves.

But using tools to boost productivity isn’t new and it’s certainly not revolutionary. After all, we’ve been using tools to make our lives easier and increase our efficiency since the Stone Age. Therefore, it stands to reason that the ubiquity of the internet would lead to the development of countless productivity tools.

On a day-to-day basis I use loads of different tools and applications to help me with my work. Everything from Skype for communicating with clients to Evernote for capturing all of my thoughts and sharing ideas. However, whilst these two applications are extremely useful, they didn’t make my top 5 productivity-boosting tools list.

Let’s see what did…

Asana

Without Asana, my days would be an absolute nightmare. Sure there are numerous other applications out there that help manage workloads, but I’ve found Asana to be the best. Their slogan says it all, “Teamwork without email” and that’s exactly my experience with it.

I use Asana for keeping track of every piece of work that I do for my clients. Every outstanding task is created and a due date entered. The way everything is managed is just perfect as the tasks are all grouped by client and you can see a general overview of your schedule with the calendar feature.

I’m able to create separate workspaces for everyone I collaborate with, like my writers, virtual assistants, eBook formatters and graphic designers. Asana even gives me the ability to chat with them and see real-time task updates.

Get Started in Asana from Asana on Vimeo.

Dropbox

I honestly can’t imagine what my working life would be like nowadays without Dropbox. I use it for absolutely everything in terms of file management and sharing. And the fact that it synchronises silently in the background means I am never stuck without my files wherever I am.

The beauty of Dropbox is that it not only provides a cloud storage solution for everyday people like you and I but it also allows files to be shared effortlessly. For example, if I have a new brief for one of my writers I simply drop it into the relevant Dropbox folder on my computer and it takes care of the rest. The files are sync’d in the background and ultimately end up on my writer’s computer.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is my one stop shop for everything social media related and my life would be a whole lot more complicated without it.

Basically, Hootsuite allows you to manage all your Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn (and many more) activity in one centralised interface. Perhaps its most useful feature is the ability to schedule messages and updates. You can rack up a significant amount of updates and let Hootsuite do the rest.

Moreover, there are analytical tools to let you see which of your campaigns are working and there’s even a clock that tells you how much time you’re saving by using Hootsuite – priceless!

Feedly

Find yourself regularly checking the major social networks for updates that are relevant to you and your clients? Most of us do but a lot of time can be wasted trawling through page after page of irrelevant content.

Feedly, however, allows me to check all of my regular sources of news in one centralised application. I can configure all of the sources I want to glean information from in one place and peruse a simplified version of all of them.

If any of you are still waking up each morning and checking a variety of online sources for updates then you are wasting both time and energy. Simply add your favourite news sources to Feedly and let it do the rest – you’ll be glad you did!

If This Then That

Okay, so the name sounds bizarre and the URL even stranger but If This Then That is one of my biggest time savers.

It’s difficult to explain but anyone who’s familiar using it will understand the benefits and the name really does say it all: If This Then That.

The basic premise is that you can configure IFTTT to handle numerous scenarios for you automatically and trigger certain actions. For example, your social media channels, like Facebook and LinkedIn, can have triggers associated to them. When something happens on one of these channels that satisfies your configured trigger criteria something else happens.

It all sounds very confusing, but once you get used to it you will realise its true value. For example, you can configure IFTTT to automatically create a status message on Facebook every time you are tagged in someone else’s status.

That’s a very simple example but the possibilities are almost endless. Check it out for yourself to see its full potential.

So that’s my top 5 tools for boosting productivity. I’d love to hear if you’ve got any others that you use and the reasons why you use them.

The 5 Applications of Christmas (I can’t live without…)

It’s that time of year again, yes, Christmas is coming and being self-employed you have to try and juggle work around family life and celebrations and try to get things finished before taking time off work.

This year, in my wisdom (not!) I decided to take a trip to the UK the week before Christmas to see family and friends. When I decided on this break I didn’t really think about the consequences for my work. I am technically taking a week off and then Christmas, so I’ve been working really hard this week to get all client work finished and to ensure that I have lots of things in place for when I’m away.

I decided that you may need some help too on how you can organise yourself before you take any time off, so I have put together a quick blog post about my top tools for keeping your stress at bay over the festive season.

Dropbox

As I work with many clients, Dropbox is really important, especially when I am not going to be in front of my computer for the next week or so. I’ve recently formatted some eBooks for clients, and they may want corrections made while I’m away. I am going to take my netbook to the UK with me, Dropbox is already installed. I have copied the necessary files to Dropbox which I may need while I’m away, so I can easily open them up and make any changes needed.  I keep some important documents in Dropbox at all times so I can easily access them. I have Dropbox installed on all my devices, even my iPhone! My websites are also backed up to Dropbox via a plugin, so wherever I am in the world I’ll have access to my website back-ups, you never know when you might need those!

Out of all the tools I recommend here, I think Dropbox has to be the most important of all. I have never had any problems with it, I now have over 7Gb of space available in my account for free which is great. I tried Google Drive with one client, and it just didn’t come close to Dropbox in terms of reliability!

Buffer

I am always recommending Buffer, it saves me so much time and when I’m away it’s a life saver. I have written a few blog posts about Buffer, so it’s probably easier if you take a look at these instead of me explaining it all over again, here are all the posts tagged as Buffer.

Just yesterday Buffer updated their web app and their iPhone app, they look great and I am off over there shortly to make sure I have enough updates in my accounts to last until I return. Check out the Buffer blog for more information about this.

SocialOomph

SocialOomph again is something I rely on heavily for my Twitter updates. I have queue reservoirs set-up which tweet out updates at set times throughout the day. I pay for this service, but again like Buffer it saves me so much time. Automation isn’t ideal for social media, but as I have stressed in many posts before this one it’s necessary to automate some of your social media updates. The kind of updates I add to my queues are blog posts, links to books I have formatted for clients and interesting tips. You have to remember that Twitter is so fast paced, that you want to spread your advice as far as possible and having it on repeat is a great way to get your voice out there. When I say repeat, I have over 200 updates in my reservoirs and only post every 1.5 hours, so it’s not going to cause repetitive updates each day.

Flipboard

Another tool that I recommend all the time. I will be using Flipboard while away from home to catch up on all the blogs I follow and then send them to my Buffer to keep it topped up. If I don’t have the time to read them then I will save them to Pocket for reading when I return home.

My Smartphone

You all know by now I have an iPhone and it goes everywhere with me. If you remember my post Smartphone Addiction: Are You? you’ll remember that I was unsure what to do when the new iPhone 5 came out. Well for those who are wondering what happened, it caused me such a headache it deserves a whole blog post of it’s own (maybe soon). I have an iPhone 5 now, it’s a French one, so have lost the ability to text my UK friends for free, but it does mean I can use 3G when I am out and about which was the most important feature. I have some 3G problems with the iPhone 5, but I am hoping these will be resolved.

Anyway, heading back to the UK means I will have to pay for roaming or not use it at all unless connected to wi-fi. This will hopefully be ok, I plan to check emails in the morning and evening when I am connected to wi-fi and then turn roaming off while I’m out. It will be interesting to see how this is going to work, but I can’t afford the roaming charges.

My iPhone has lots of apps on it which I use for business, Dropbox, Buffer, Email, PayPal, Flipboard, Skype, Evernote, Bank Account, Reminders… as well as all my social media networks.

If only I could format eBooks on my iPhone! 

If I don’t manage to post again over the Christmas period, I hope everyone has a fab time with family and friends and please come back to visit in 2013 as I have some exciting projects to launch in the New Year!

NB. Some of the links contained in this blog post are affiliate links which means if you sign-up using these link it means I may get a commission if you choose to purchase something I’ve shared with you.