Productivity tools are my secret sauce for running a profitable UX consulting business. Besides day-to-day client work, I’m also a busy mom. If you have kids or other responsibilities outside of work, I’m sure this sounds familiar.
While I haven’t worked full-time in years, I’ve managed to earn a full-time income with the help of the following productivity tools. They all work together, helping me reduce distractions to focus on what really matters. I hope they help you do the same.
Sanebox saves me several hours each week by automatically filtering unimportant emails from my inbox. Like many people, I just can’t resist that little red notification on my computer or phone.
Sanebox protects me from most of them by moving random emails to a special folder called “later” before I ever see them. For $60 a year I get lots of time back and a lot less distracting notifications.
I’ve been using Evernote for over 10 years for note taking, brainstorming, list-making and more. It helps me capture and prioritize ideas, projects, and to-do lists so nothing falls through the cracks.
Our brains are terrible at remembering things, so it’s important to get that stuff out of your head and into a trusted place. Evernote does that for me without fail. As Tim Ferriss once said, “Evernote is my external brain”.
Recently I started using Evernote much more intentionally for daily productivity and it’s been a total game changer. By using a system of specific tags and shortcuts, I’ve gained back at least 2-3 hours per week. The premium plan costs $5 per month allowing up to 10GB of monthly storage and the ability to forward important emails to my Evernote account.
WorkFlowy is a simple web-based outlining tool created by Mike Turitzin and Jesse Patel at a Y Combinator startup camp.
What’s unique about WorkFlowy is it’s “zoomable” bullet points that allow you to zoom into each bullet as needed to focus on one thing at a time.
Think of it like a set of Russian nesting dolls, but in a simple text format. Every bullet is a document. Every document can contain infinite documents. It’s great for granular brainstorming on a single topic.
Teamwork Projects is my favorite project management tool. It has all the same features as Basecamp, but in a more streamlined interface. It also has a Trello-like boards feature for task management, which I use when moving tasks from To-Do, Doing and Done.
Zoom is a reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and easy screen sharing across mobile devices, desktops, and telephones. I use it all the time for remote client and team meetings. It’s much more robust than Skype and Google Hangouts, providing a relatively frictionless environment so we can get more done.
Cloze is a web and mobile app I use to track clients, prospects and sales leads without the hassle of separate CRM software. It automatically integrates with everything I already use, keeping track of emails, phone calls, meetings, and documents, all organized by contact, company, meeting, etc. — without any busy work. One of my favorite features is how it integrates seamlessly with Evernote so I can instantly see all past conversations and notes with any client on my phone or laptop.
Loom is screen recorder software that creates instantly shareable videos. Available for Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks, Loom lets you make simple recordings of a specific browser tab, any app you have open, or your entire desktop. It’s awesome for giving detailed instructions to team members, doing website audits, bug reports, or showing anything on your computer. No more capturing screenshots with lengthy email explanations. Just Loom it.
Okay Relax is an affordable monthly virtual assistant service that I’ve used for a couple of years. In fact, my dedicated VA helped me put this article together. He handles all of my travel arrangements, blog research, and helps with personal tasks such as scheduling doctor appointments, vacation planning, and more. Basically anything I don’t enjoy doing but need to get done goes to my VA. The dedicated VA plan is more expensive than the general task pool, but you get an assistant who gets to know you over time.
I use Acuity Scheduling to schedule free and paid consulting calls. It saves so much time by eliminating multiple back and forth emails to schedule appointments. I chose it over free services like Calendly because I can customize it to accept payments and offer coupons. It also integrates with Apple iCal.
This last one might sound a bit woo-woo, but it’s honestly my secret sauce for daily focus and better sleep. The emWave Pro is a scientifically validated heart-rate monitoring system that helps me stay balanced. When I use it consistently it makes a huge difference.
It’s kind of like measured meditation. Using short 10-15 minute sessions of deep breathing, the unit collects pulse rate data with a simple USB pulse sensor. The sensor measures whether my heart rate and breathing are in sync with each other and presents the information graphically on my laptop.
With consistent use my heart, mind and emotions are more in sync and I seem to have much better days and sleep like a baby. When I forget to use it regularly things tend to get out of sync and…well, my family can tell you those aren’t the best days 😉
Over To You
What are your favorite productivity tools? Do you use any of the ones listed above? Let me know in the comments.
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