If you’re a freelancer, consultant, or a coach, you’ll need to rely on systems to keep track of your clients and projects — and to simply get stuff done. One of the most helpful things you can to to increase your productivity is to use a combination of people and technology, including apps. For example, you might use a productivity app or a suite of apps to help you stay on top of your freelance game.
And, you might also consider hiring an intern, a virtual assistant, or using a service like oDesk, Elance, Zirtual, or FancyHands, especially during your peak seasons, to help keep your freelance gigs running smoothly. It’s probably very likely that your virtual assistant will rely on apps keep herself (and you) on track toward greater productivity.
If you’re not sure which productivity apps you should start with, check out the seven tools below. Each will give you fighting chance of staving off procrastination and distractions and keep you organized so that you can cross those tasks off your to do list.
Seven Essential Productivity Apps for Freelancers, Consultants, and Coaches
Staying focused is one of the more challenging things that, well, just about everyone, faces. If the bells and whistles that the Internet serves up (like Facebook and Twitter) always seem to get you off track, RescueTime will … wait for it … rescue you!
RescueTime will help you track how you spend your time. It runs behind the scenes on your desktop and mobile device and gives you data you can analyze and do something with. What does that mean? You’ll get a realistic snapshot of your day and where your time is spent so you can make adjustments to be more productive.
You can also set alerts for when you’ve hit the limit on a specific activity. You might, for instance, set a 20 minute time limit for connecting with your Twitter peeps. When your time’s up, RescueTime will tap you on the shoulder. If you find that you just can’t drag yourself away from sending 140 character messages, you can use the app to block Twitter or any other site that distracts and takes you away from your priorities.
2. Now Do This
NowDoThis.com is a no frills to do list. There are no fancy colors or pretty pictures to distract you. It’s as minimalist (and simple) as it gets. Create a to list and each time you complete a task, click the “done” button.
NowDoThis also lets you focus on one task at a time instead of multitasking. So, though you record your entire list, you’ll only see each individual task after you click “done.”
Trello is one of my favorite apps, especially because it’s very intuitive and easy to use. Think of a Trello board as a card system with lists that are organized according to the workflow you have in place.
I’ve used Trello to track client projects and have also invited those clients to join the Trello board I’ve set up for their project so that they can see progress in action. So, as you might already realize, it’s a great collaboration tool.
Trello can also well for visual learners who might otherwise plan everything out using sticky notes that can easily get misplaced. You can organize your projects on a specific board and then create a card system that includes tasks for each phase of those projects. Each board is private, though you can, as I mentioned before, invite others to join (you can also revoke access).
Trello will have a familiar feel — you can drag and drop cards and copy/paste content from one card system (even that content is on a separate board) to another. In addition, Trello uses Markdown so you can format your text (e.g., bold, italics).
Are you forgetful? Does out of sight mean out of mind? OhDon’tForget.com can help by sending your reminders, especially ones that are not recurring. You know, the ones that you will likely forget because you don’t do them all the time.
And, you can remind the peeps in your life who need a little nudge, too. Simply enter a mobile number, the date and time you want the reminder sent, and a message. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you have your cell phone with you so you don’t miss the reminder.
Evernote is a well known application and a popular one, too. That’s because it’s a very versatile app that can improve your productivity and help you manage your workflows well.
One of the best features of Evernote (in my opinion) is the Web Clipper. It’s a simple and easy tool to use. As you’re searching the Internet (perhaps doing research for your next blog post or chapter of your book), simply clip the useful information you come across. Save it to a specific notebook and add tags (i.e., keywords) to help you find what you’re looking for. Oh, and you can annotate your clips, too.
And, since Evernote is accessible via your desktop, the web, and mobile apps, you can access your clips no matter where you are.
Are you tired of sifting through your inbox looking people you need to reply to? Sometimes, you get an e-mail from a prospect (or joint venture partner) who asks you to get back to them on a specific day that may be a few days out.
Where do you put that reminder?
You could put it on your calendar or you could send a reminder to yourself using FollowUp.cc (using a speciall FollowUp.cc address) so that you don’t forget. For example, if you need to follow up with that person on October 30th, simply send an e-mail to October30@followup.cc.
How else could you use this reminder service?
- Check in with a client after you’ve finished working on a project with them
- Ask for a testimonial
- Revise a proposal/contract and re-send to a client
- Doctor’s appointment
- RSVP to an event
- Purchase a gift
You can see that by using FollowUp.cc, you’ll be able to stop endless searches and stop wasting time.
6. My Minutes
This app can help you to budget and track your minutes, and it can also motivate to keep up with new habits (sort of like the Wonderful Day app does). Need to work for a set timeframe on your most important project? My Minutes turns your tasks green once you’ve hit your goal, but turns red if you spend too much time on a task. This feature can work well for non-work related tasks (like surfing the web). Set aside a reasonable block of time for those activities and start the timer so that you know when it’s time to jump back to your work projects.
Another helpful feature — you can set an alert to be notified of tasks you need to get done at the top of your day. That way, you can start your day off on the right foot and focused on your priorities (not, you know, checking your Facebook feed).
So, I know that you’re not using the same password for all the sites you have accounts with, right? And, I’m sure you also have a safe, easy way to store and retrieve those passwords, yes?
Don’t worry if you answered “no” to those questions because that’s where LastPass comes in. With this app, you’ll only need to remember one master password and keep all your passwords in one central location. LastPass also has a strong password generator so you don’t have to be rocket scientist to come up with a hard-to-guess passcode.
So, don’t waste time searching for sticky notes with your passwords on them. Instead, install LastPass and work on getting important things done (like writing client proposals or working with your virtual assistant).
Question: What’s YOUR favorite productivity tool? It’s ok if it’s not an app or tech tool. There’ll be no shaming. ;) Please share in the comments.
Sticky bottles, crushed pills, and gooey globs on shelves…oh my! Sounds as scary as a Halloween haunted house … well, the thought of cleaning it all can be anyway! Since October is National Kitchen and Bath Month and it is cold and flu, as well as allergy season, this is a good time to talk about what’s lurking inside your medicine cabinet!
I learned my lesson when I had a fall cold last year and found that my cold medicines had expired. So, I recently went on a cleaning spree of my medicine cabinet and purged all of my old medications.
I restocked it with the cold medicine that I use and, of course, ended up with a cold a few days later! But, I was prepared!
Here are some simple steps to follow to make sure your medicine cabinet stays current, well stocked, and glob free!
6 Steps to Organize Your Medicine Cabinet
1. Remove and Clean. Remove everything from the cabinet and wipe the shelves down.
2. Review Medications. Go through all of your medicines (tablets, liquids, gels, and salves), including prescription drugs and look for those that have expired.
3. Dispose of Expired Medications Responsibly. You should dispose of your medications responsibly, to protect both your family and the environment. For example, you may find painkillers from that dental surgery you had a couple years ago. You don’t want your kids (or pets) getting into them if they happen to look in the trash bin.
Also, by flushing them or pouring them down the drain, they can end up in the water supply. While the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day has passed, you have other simple options to get them out of the house.
- Place them in a baggie with used coffee grounds or kitty litter (or add this ingredient instead)
- Check with your pharmacy to find out if they can take them back
- Check with your township to find out if they have a disposal bin in the township building. (I just discovered that mine does!)
4. Recycle. Don’t forget to peel the labels off of your prescription bottles as well, and rip them up to prevent anyone from knowing your medical history and attempting to get a refill. Additionally, for bottles that can be recycled, rinse them out and put them in the recycle bin.
5. Buy New Medications. Start a shopping list for replacement medicines for those that have expired and go out to buy them.
6. Put Everything Back. Wipe down any sticky bottles and install shelf liners so that you can remove and clean them from time to time. That’s much easier than reaching in awkward positions to get to the top shelf. Finally, put everything back into your cabinet. Keep medicines that aren’t used often up on the top shelf and use lower shelves for products that you use every day.
May the cold and flu (and those gooey globs, too) stay away from you!
Recently, I wrote a guest post for Eych2.com and shared five creative strategies you can use to unclutter your desk. And, today I’m sharing a sixth thing you can do keep desk clutter to a minimum.
Did you know that a simple list can also help you bring a little order to your workspace?
Two Ways a List Can Help You Declutter Your Desk
1. To Do List. Make a list of all the things you need to do to clear your desk at the end of each day.
Include things like:
- Wipe desk and clean up spills
- Remove trash and recyclables
- Organize cables and wires
- Put pens, markers, and other writing tools in pencil cup (or desk drawer)
- Put priority files in view (e.g., in a desktop organizer or file holder)
- Put non-priority files away
Take out your checklist 15-30 minutes before you leave your office (or will stop working in your home office). Then, check off each action on your list so that your desk is work ready and decluttered for the next day.
2. Stop Doing List. You can also make a “stop list” for things you should stop doing so that your desk can stay (mostly) clear. That way, you’ll have less cleaning up and organizing to do.
Here are some things you should stop doing:
- Mixing personal and business files together
- Leaving out confidential files
- Leaving receipts strewn about
- Keeping printer paper and other non-essential items on your desk
- Letting trash pile up
- Eating at your desk
Have a look at your stop doing list periodically throughout the day to help keep your desk clear so that you don’t have a big pile up at the end of the day. Use the list as a reminder, especially on days when things are a bit hectic. Remember, if your desk is mostly organized during the day, you’ll have a better chance of getting stuff done!
What do you do to keep your desk clutter-free? Please share in the comments.
Are you ready for this month’s 5-Minute Organizing Challenge? I hope you are because Halloween is only weeks away, and this time we’ll focus on getting prepared for the spooky holiday. These mini-challenges will help you get organized for Halloween, and they only take about five minutes each.
- Create a list. Write a checklist of all the items (off the top of your head) that you need for Halloween. Each day, spend a few minutes adding new items you think of and begin planning when to purchase things you need. Your list can include:
- Components for costumes
- Pumpkins & a carving kit
- Halloween themed books & DVDs
- Holloween-themed foods (and more!)
- Work on your costume. If your costume (or your child’s costume) requires work to put it together, spend a few minutes at a time working on small parts of it. This might be planning, sewing, gluing, or some other creative tasks. By doing a little bit at a time, the costume will be completed before you know it!
- Add seasonal decorations. Start out by taking a quick inventory of decorations you have. Select one area of your home a day, and spend five minutes or so decorating that nook. It will come together over time just like your costume. If your Halloween stuff isn’t all stored in one area of your home, be sure to pack it away together so you’re organized for next year.
- Make treat bags. One way to get ready for Halloween is to prepare the treats before the holiday. Pack a variety of treats in individual baggies whenever you have a few spare minutes. This will save you time on the big day and it’ll also ensure trick-or-treaters will get equal portions.
- Enjoy the Halloween spirit. Some days, take a short walk in your neighborhood and enjoy the Halloween (and Fall) decorations in your area. Other days, spend a few minutes planning which TV or cable programs you will watch to celebrate the holiday, and set recordings. This will allow you to relax and enjoy this fun time of year.
What other challenges can you complete in five minutes or less to get organized for Halloween?
Today’s post by Lizzie Weakly explains the many benefits of using a maid service.
If you’re a homeowner who spends any amount of time cleaning your home, you may have considered contracting a maid service. For those who are still on the fence, the following six points will help to convince you that using a service is a wonderful idea.
6 Reasons to Get Maid Service
1. More Time to Focus on Family
Hiring a professional maid service is the perfect way to shift the focus from routine cleaning to valuable family time. Hours spent maintaining a clean home will easily eat away at weekend trips, leisurely dinners, and children’s afterschool activities. This is precious time that most families will never get back.
2. Helps to Reduce Stress
As if life wasn’t stressful enough, the burden of house cleaning only serves to make matters worse. Hiring a maid service gives homeowners peace of mind knowing that after a long day at work, they’ll be returning to a clean home. Maid service eliminates the feeling that you’re leaving work only to return home to complete a second job.
3. Get Help When Schedules Are Busy
Let’s face it. The majority of busy homeowners simply don’t have enough time in the day. When faced with cleaning, the job is either done quickly or other commitments have to take a back seat. A professional maid service makes a busy schedule much more manageable.
4. Get Professional Results
Homeowners who decide to use a professional maid service are always amazed at the results. Not only do the cleaning service staff offer their experience and training, they’re provided with tools and equipment that most homeowners don’t have access to. A reputable maid service will do a thorough, professional job each and every time they clean a customer’s home.
5. Get Innovative Cleaning Products
If you are concerned with the environment or have specific health concerns, a maid service will tailor their cleaning methods to accommodate your individual needs. This means access to green cleaning products and equipment that will make the process healthier for your entire family.
6. Maid Service is Cost Effective
Many homeowners will make the argument that hiring a maid service costs too much money. On the contrary, a maid service can be very affordable and tailored to fit each client’s individual budget.
When considering cost, homeowners need to place a value on their own time. How much time and money is it costing to clean your own home?
If you’re still not sure if you will hire a maid service, consider the above points carefully. Once you make the choice to have your home professionally cleaned, you’ll wonder why you ever waited so long.
About The Author
Lizzie Weakley and is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. Lizzie enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.
Fiverr. Fiverr. Fiverr. I like saying Fiverr; it has a nice ring to it and it just sounds cool. Have you heard of it? If you haven’t and you’re looking for an inexpensive way to hire someone to get something done, then have I got just the thing for you. Yep, Fiverr!
Cool Fiverr Features
1. Everything starts at $5. Of course, there are add-ons to get extra products or services with your order, but you can get a whole lot for five bucks. It’s pretty irresistible and signing up for an account is free.
2. Access your account anywhere. Like almost everything else these days, Fiverr has an app so you can access your account from anywhere. This is convenient for getting stuff done on the go and getting notifications when you are away from your computer.
3. The options are endless. You can have someone design an infographic or an ebook cover. You can also find someone to do a voice over or to get traffic to your website or even proofread something you wrote. The sky is the limit!
4. Make some extra money. What’s your special talent or skill? Whatever it is, sell it! Signing up to be a seller on Fiverr is easy and fast. Once that’s done, start promoting your Fiverr profile to get customers and make some extra moola.
Want some ideas for what talent to sell? Check out my Fiverr gig and poke around the site.
Benefits of Using Fiverr
So, how does this benefit you? Great question! I’ll tell you.
- Save time. Save serious time. By delegating mundane tasks that you need done for your business, you can focus on the part you’re passionate about. Stop trying to figure out how to create an infographic and pay $5 for one.
- Save money. I’m pretty sure you can’t hire anyone for less than $5, so this awesomeness that is Fiverr.com will definitely save you some loot.
- Get ideas. Fiverr is a great website full of things that can spark some good brainstorming. It’s a database of ideas – ideas for making more money, ideas for making your services better — lots and lots of ideas.
I highly recommend checking out Fiverr. At the very least, bookmark it and take a peek at it later.
What do you think? Have you heard of it? Used it? Share your experiences in the comments.
“Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.“
Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest | Forbes.com | 10.8.2014
*All book links are affiliate links.
If you’re still waging war on your cluttered office, don’t stop! I’m picking up where I left off from my previous post — Wage War on Your Cluttered Office (Part 1) — to share more things you can do.
Today’s post shares some additional steps that you can take to get your office organized and functioning well. If you have already started to do what I outlined in Part 1, you’re half way there and you can surely see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Most important is to remember that staying clutter-free is an ongoing endeavor. If you fall back into old habits (e.g., piles of folders accumulating on the floor, papers on every surface and not in their rightful folders, things hanging from the backs of chairs, etc.), the clutter will start to build up and once again take over your space.
Avoid having a cluttered office by taking the six additional action steps listed below.
6 More Steps to Organize Your Office
1. Arrange your desk. Be sure that the things that you use frequently (i.e. pen, pad, stapler, cell phone holder, etc.) are easy to access. And remember to keep your desk as clutter-free as possible. The items that you don’t use frequently should be put away in a drawer or in a supply closet.
2. Clear your floor. Remember, your floor is meant to be walked on and not intended to store books, papers, files, and whatever else you don’t have room for on your desk (or other furniture). If the floor is cluttered, this can present tripping hazards, too.
3. Organize your files. Keep your files in order and be scrupulous about maintaining them.
- Don’t put paperwork back on your desk when you have finished organizing it. Instead, put the papers into their “assigned folder” and then put away the folder in its proper place.
- Take up to 15 minutes each day to re-file, reorganize, and get rid of anything that you no longer need. This will ensure that the paper clutter never has an opportunity to get out of hand.
4. Clean up regularly. Like Mom always said, cleanliness counts. You can use a cleaning service or you can do-it-yourself. Take a moment or two at the end of each day to wipe down the surfaces in your office so that you don’t come in each morning to dust bunnies (or spills from yesterday’s lunch).
5. Take care of keepsakes. If you absolutely cannot bear to get rid of some of your memorabilia, buy a container or an attractive box, place these items in it, and then store it on a shelf or in your closet. Label it Cherished Mementos. Periodically rotate one or two pictures or souvenirs from this collection that you keep on display. Each time you start a new rotation, see if there are any items that you can let go off.
6. Find a place for your accessories. Resist the temptation to hang your coat, scarves, or umbrella on the doorknobs or off of the backs of chairs. This contributes to a general impression of disarray and clutter. Mount hooks in a designated place (on walls, behind doors) for things you use often.
Just Remember …
As with many projects, it’s best to set a deadline lest the actual work of clearing the clutter stretch on indefinitely. But, don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself enough of a window to get your office organizing project accomplished without too much stress — but make sure that you adhere to your schedule.
Once everything has been sorted, stored, and organized, you will feel a wonderful sense of peace, calm, and accomplishment.
Finally, the battle of the cluttered office will be over!
Home renovation is sweeping the nation. According to a recent survey, more than half of us will be renovating in the next two years. With home prices rising, it’s a great way to invest in your home.
It’s also a great way to make the most of your existing space. Home owners make a choice to be DIYers or employ a professional to do the work. It’s a big investment and you want to do it right. Most especially, in either case, you want renovation organization throughout the project.
How to Prepare for Your Home Renovation
1. Prepare: Before Renovations Start
Getting ready to renovate requires lots of different tasks, and there are several things you should do to prepare.
- Consolidate all information. Getting a clear idea of what you want to do is an important step. You can clip ideas from magazines and websites (like Houzz.com), keeping them together with these tools or pinning them in Pinterest. Gather all this information in a paper notebook or Evernote.Keep organized by creating categories such as ideas, budget and receipts, and contractors.
- Prioritize tasks. Make a list of your renovation priorities in order to keep within your budget. You will want to get three contractor or interior design bids. Remember to ask for references, thoroughly review the plans, and discuss your budget. Spend time on this design phase and you will be happier with your outcome. Gather additional help such as movers for help throughout the project.
- Unclutter. At the same time, start preparing your home for the renovation by decluttering. Take an hour in each space and eliminate as much as you can to have less to move around during the renovation. Move valuables to a safe place, and, most importantly, keep a list of next actions for each of these steps.
2. Plan: After Renovations Begin
During renovation, organization is especially important. With your home topsy-turvy, you may feel like you are in survival mode. As work begins, you will have to shift items from space to space. To keep some sense of control and order, put a plan in place and stick to it.
- Communicate. Be available each day to discuss progress and review your contractor’s work. Communication is critical to the success of your project.
- Stick With Daily Habits. Keep up with every day routines as best as possible, such as bill paying, laundry, and regular meal times. Set up extra reminders for the most important tasks, such as an alarm on your smart phone or put up extra sticky notes around your home.
- Expect the Unexpected. Be prepared for a longer timeline than originally communicated. It’s not unusual for things to not go as planned. Start your project during particular months that can more easily that allows for changes. Also, keep on top of your budget as purchases and changes can occur. Be sure to record and update your budget weekly and talk through this with your partner.
- Get Extra Help. You may need to take laundry to the laundromat or dry cleaners, eat on paper plates or eat out more, or hire outside help to move large pieces of furniture. Extra hands will save you time and money, as well as sanity.
3. Enjoy: Home Sweet Renovated Home
It’s time to enjoy your home once the renovations have been completed. Setting aside ample time is the key to getting back up to speed quickly so you can begin enjoying your “new” home.
- Put Things Back. Order will return to your home as you replace furniture, appliances, clothes, and other needed items. Set aside a weekend to get items back to where they belong.
- Let Go of Unwanted Items. It will be especially helpful to eliminate and donate extra decor, framed pictures, lamps, and pillows. Working appliances that were removed or replace can be donated to Habitat ReStore.
- Clean Up. Find a cleaning service that can help you dust, mop, and deep clean your home. This extra expense will make you feel nurtured in your newly renovated space. You can work alongside the crew with extra tasks you want to accomplish.
- Keep Track. Add your new paint color numbers, grout colors, appliance model numbers, and other information to a file or an Evernote notebook. Write the room name (e.g., “Master Bedroom) on paint cans you’ll use for touch ups later. Use labels, like the ones from WhatsThatPaint.com, to help you record all the information you need (see the video below for more details). Knowing which paint color goes on particular walls can be useful in later years and a real time saver.
- Make a Punch List. Tally your receipts from the project and make your final payment once work is entirely complete. Get your final punch list to your contractor to finish up even the smallest bit of work.
The final thing you have to do is to enjoy your new home! You have worked hard, stayed organized, and made big improvements! If you’ve remodeled your home, please share your own tips in the comments.
The message was simple, powerful, and absolutely beautiful.
I stumbled across the meme on social media, and I audibly gasped. The background was a picture of cotton candy, and the words across the photo were “Not my circus. Not my monkey.”
When our beleaguered associate director walked into my office, I waved the print out around, declaring that he needed to read it right now! I’m certain at some point he said he couldn’t read it if I was waving it around. Once he had a look at it, he had the same reaction as I did.
Why, you may ask, were we so excited to discover this piece of sage advice?
Nothing drains your productivity more than getting sucked into other people’s stuff, especially in the work environment. It happens quite easily, and you can find yourself up to your armpits in someone else’s circus and monkeys, wondering how it all happened.
When you get distracted inside someone else’s circus, you may end up neglecting your own priorities. In an office setting, doing this can be deadly for your productivity and make your boss unhappy.
So, do the following four things instead. With these suggestions, you can leave other people’s circus tents and their drama behind you.
- Use the Mantra. If you spend all your time worrying about other people you don’t have control over, you can make yourself crazy. When other people try to lure you into their circus, repeat, “Not my circus, not my monkey.” Keep repeating it until the other people run away in terror, confusion, or both.
- Focus. Look at your own goals, priorities, and to do list. What projects do you need to focus on? What actions do you need to take to get started or finish your projects? Whenever possible, spend 30-60 minutes — before you open your email in the morning — to work on your important projects.
- Stretch Yourself. Sometimes we can get easily distracted if we’re bored with our work or if it’s become a mundane chore. Find yourself a new goal or project that will stretch you and help you grow. If it scares you a little, then you know it’s a good choice. Need a bit of motivation? These quotes will fire you up and get you moving forward.
- Find a Tigger. Ditch negative, toxic people whenever possible, and surround yourself with positive people who encourage and support you. Life’s too short to always hang out with Eyeore. That dude is depressing. Find some Tiggers and add some joy to your life.
Do you have a favorite mantra or quote that motivates or keeps your productivity high? Please share in the comments.