Let’s face it: You don’t have three hours to spend learning how to save time! You need some quick strategies that you can start using TODAY to feel more in control of your schedule.
I’ve got eight favorite, FREE tools that you can start using in under 5 minutes to make your life easier and boost your productivity. I’ve even got a few tutorials on how you can get up and running immediately.
1. Trello https://trello.com/
Trello is my external hard-drive for my brain. I store absolutely everything there, from grocery lists, to blog post ideas, to organizing my work day and setting priorities. I manage projects of all sizes using Trello. My husband and I share several boards related to our family. I really can’t do this tool justice by just writing about it—that’s why I’m going to show you how I use it to get things done. Here I show you how to use it to plan meals and make your grocery list fast, and soon I’ll explain how I organize my days and weeks to stay productive and focused on the right tasks.
2. TextExpander https://textexpander.com/
Can I tell you how in love with TextExpander I am? It basically allows you to create your own “shorthand” which will then auto-type out the long version. So for anything you type over and over, or copy and paste over and over, just put it in TextExpander. You type “ty” and text expander makes it say “Thank You!”. Store your personal bio under “xbio” and text expander will insert that polished text so you don’t have to copy and paste it. You can even use it to save clicks–one of my most-used snippets is the pathway to a folder on my hard drive. My advice is to slowly build your library over time, when you notice you’re typing out similar text more than once (or clicking and clicking), that’s a sign that you should make it an automated snippet.
3. Rituals App https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rituals/id937178513?mt=8
If the thought of starting a meditation practice makes you laugh out loud as you imagine trying to calm your mind with your kids running circles around you in the living room, Rituals might be for you. Rituals is technically a cosmetics company, but the app comes with several mindfulness meditations for 5, 10, 15 and 20 minutes. I listen to the 10 minute meditation while I’m in bed, going to sleep, but you can listen any time you get 5 minutes alone. It’s an easy way to make meditation a part of your day, and learning to watch your own mind relieves stress and will help you increase your focus and self-control, so you can be more productive.
4. Pocket https://getpocket.com/
One key to staying productive is to try to complete the task you’re working on before you start another. I think about Pocket as my “parking lot” for articles I want to read. If in the course of my work, I come across something interesting, I can save it to Pocket with one click and move on instead of getting sucked down the internet rabbit hole. I can stay on-task, knowing that every article I save will be waiting for me when I’m ready for it.
5. If This, Then That http://ifttt.com
“If This, Then That” or IFTTT allows you to create “recipes” for automation in your life. They’re based on simple if->then statements. For example, you can create a recipe that says “if I post a picture to Instagram, then also tweet it,” and IFTTT will write a program for you that will cause this rule to automatically run in the background.
If you use it right, this can be a great time saver and can also help you be smarter in other parts of your life. I use it to notify me if it snows overnight (so I know if the drive to work is going to be bad). I also have IFTTT send me daily recurring emails so I can track my habits, then send me a weekly summary of how I did so I can see how I’m progressing towards those goals.
IFTTT might take a little longer to figure out for the less technically inclined amongst us, but be patient and just trust that you can learn anything!
When I first installed Moment, I guessed that I probably logged around 90 minutes of total time on my iPhone each day. The first day I logged 2 hours and 33 minutes and picked up the phone a total of fifty-eight times. FIFTY EIGHT!
Now, it’s hard to know exactly how much time is and isn’t appropriate to spend on your phone, but as the saying goes, what gets measured gets managed. Phone time is definitely not quality time, and Moment helps me see how I’m doing with my phone use. After about a week I saw my average range, and I’m now shooting for approximately 90 minutes/day. If I feel I could do even less, I’ll easily be able to see how I’m doing.
Speaking of knowing where your time goes…do you really know where yours goes? I occasionally perform a “time audit” on myself in which I track all the time spent on various activities daily for a week. Eternity makes this pretty simple–you can create as many categories as you like, and you just start and stop timers when you start particular activities. I recommend keeping your categories to a minimum at first–Sleep, work, commuting, exercise, TV time, family time and “transition time” (aka the time you spend between activities, if this is long enough to be worth tracking) are a good place to start.
Once you have a sense of how you’re spending your time, you can then think about what you need more of in your life, and what you’ll want to minimize. And you’ll be able to give yourself feedback on how you’re doing.
8. Buffer http://buffer.com
Buffer will automatically post to social media for you. Now, if social media is one of the key drivers of business in your job or side biz, there are paid tools that can get more sophisticated. But for free, Buffer is my go-to. Buffer will pick the optimal times to post on your social media accounts and you can easily add things to your queue on your iPhone. Even better, you can use IFTTT to set up automations to keep your queue full. You can link pocket to buffer via tags or favorites…once you get exploring, you can really come up with some clever solutions to save you time.
Bonus: Zoho Mail http://mail.zoho.com
If you need a ‘vanity email’ ie, email@example.com you can set this up for free with zoho mail. Yes, free, for up to five users, plus group emails such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org.’ The instructions for setting this up are fairly straightforward, you’ll need to add a few items to your DNS. Whoever you bought your domain from? That’s your DNS–you just define who your email should go to there and boom…you’ve got mail!
Be sure to let me know what you think, and if you’re using any of these tools in your life!
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