The gift and the curse of owning your own business is being able to decide when and how you work. While it can be freeing, it also completely falls on you how much gets done and when. Have you ever felt like you could be more productive but don't know how?
Today I'm excited to share with you #ahasmember Katie Nolan's (of Katie Nolan Creative and Tick Tock Press) favorite productivity tools and systems to help you use your time more effectively and getting more done each day. These are resources she uses in her own successful maker business!
p.s. If you are an #ahasmember, you can check out our list of time management resources from other members here. Sign into the forums and enjoy!
Running a small handmade business requires a lot of juggling. To name just a few reoccurring tasks: you need to create and post social media content to various platforms, write blog posts to bring potential customers to your website, plan and design your upcoming product releases, and create whatever you sell to fulfill the orders you receive on a daily basis. Basically, you’re crazy busy.
Knowing how to use the time you have effectively (and if you’ve figured out how to have more than 24 hours in a day, please let me know) is a big part of having a productive day. It took me forever to realize I could fold and package cards about a billion times faster when I’m listening to an audio book or podcast instead of binge-watching TV shows.
Small changes like that can impact your day in surprisingly big ways.
If you’re struggling to stay focused throughout your day and have a hard time planning out your future the apps I've chosen below will be beneficial. I chose to share these because they're easy to implement and easy to remember to use!
What: Freedom is an app for your computer and/or phone that blocks certain websites in order to keep you on task.
Why it’s awesome: Freedom has “blocklists.” If you’re updating Etsy listings, you can block everything but Etsy. If you’re planning your Instagram posts for the month, you can let yourself access Later and Instagram, but not Facebook.
Who Needs It: People who get distracted by all of the entertaining things the internet has to offer.
What: Inbox is a Google app for your email.
Why it’s awesome: Inbox lets you snooze your email. Does this sound super exciting and helpful? No, but it is! You can snooze the important emails you’ve received that you need to respond to until you’re ready (you can set morning, afternoon, and evening times to snooze to). This means that you can respond to all of your important emails at once.
Who Needs It: People who stop whatever they’re doing (and break their productivity flow) to respond to emails.
What: Evernote is magic.
Why it’s awesome: I’m pretty sure that everyone has heard of Evernote at this point. I know I had an account through them for years before I really started taking advantage of their platform. You can have a note filled with new product ideas and set an alarm to remind you about it a month before your planned product release. You can save interesting articles to share on Facebook and Twitter. You can break down big projects for the month/quarter/year and set an alarm for when the individual tasks need to be accomplished.
Who Needs It: Everyone could find Evernote useful, but it would really benefit people who have a million things swirling in their head. You can make a brain dump notebook with notes for to-do lists, product ideas, project ideas, possible blog topics, etc. Your thoughts are then searchable, organized, hopefully not stressing you out any longer, and you'll have the brain space to work on what's important to you.
What: Trello is a project-management platform.
Why it’s awesome: Like Evernote, you can pretty much use Trello however you'd like. Because you're able to add alarms, checklists, third-party extensions, etc., the possibilities with Trello seem pretty much endless. You can make a CRM board to manage your wholesale outreach. You can break down your year and plan out all of your product releases and when you should be designing your new items. You can make a board plotting your world domination (but who really has time for that).
Who Needs It: Since you can add images or color code your boards and easily move around cards on the boards, Trello is great for visual planners.
PRODUCTIVITY CHALLENGE TIMER
What: An app that turns the Pomodoro Technique into a game. A game that bullies you into working more.
Why it’s awesome: I see two reasons why this app is so helpful: 1) Who wants to be told that they're being lazy? I know that I personally am not a fan of that. 2) Because it treats the work you're tracking a game (the more you work, the higher level you reach), you actually start the timer when working and will be able to see how much time you're actually spending on business-related tasks . I noticed that once I started using the app, I cut down on Internet meandering and actually started to get all of the stuff on my to do list finished. Basically, this app is working miracles.
Who Needs It: People who struggle with productivity. Since it essentially "game-ifies" working, it helps you focused and keep track of how much you’re actually working and on what.
What: Later is a platform to schedule Instagram posts (and now tweets on Twitter).
Why it’s awesome: I love Later because you just drag and drop your pictures to schedule them. You're also able to preview your feed before you publish your posts, which is great if you're trying to create a cohesive feed. Although it doesn't publish your pictures for you, it does remind you to post them.
Who Needs It: People who want to step up their Instagram game. Before using Later, I would just randomly post on Instagram whenever I realized I hadn’t posted in weeks.
What: Boomerang lets you schedule your emails.
Why it’s awesome: If you're reaching out to possible wholesale stockists, you can write a follow-up email, and if they haven't responded in two weeks, Boomerang will send your follow-up email. No more missed opportunities!
Who Needs It: People who are not very good at following up after sending emails.
What: Noisli is a white noise customizer.
Why it’s awesome: Do you want your workspace to sound like it's raining in a coffeeshop? Because you can make that happen. It is also helpful when you keep accidentally inserting the lyrics of whatever Lady Gaga song your listing to into your writing.
Who Needs It: People who get distracted by music or podcasts while working, but still need background noise.
Productivity methods are more of a work style change than the quick fix of an app. Although they take a little more time and effort to implement, they can drastically change how you work and what you're able to accomplish.
What: This comes from the women at Being Boss. You break down your big monthly or quarterly goals on a chalkboard or whiteboard, and then have a visual reminder of what you’re working towards.
Why it’s awesome: Although it’s not a daily to do list method, it really helps you to stay focused by looking at you overall picture and what you want to accomplish. If you decided that you want to make $1,000 in new wholesale accounts this month, and your minimum opening order is $100, you need to open 10 accounts. You then put ten slots on your chalkboard (or whiteboard), and you make it happen. If you’re halfway through the month and notice that you only have 3 new wholesale accounts, you know that you need to work on catching up. The Chalkboard Method keeps you accountable to your goals, and it’s a physical reminder of both what you need to accomplish and what you’ve accomplished.
Who Needs It: People who need help seeing the big picture. This method works well for so many people because it's easy to burn out when you're unable to see progress. With this method, you see what you've already accomplished and how far you need to go to achieve your goals.
What: You work on a task for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. After 5 small breaks, you take one longer break (usually about a half hour).
Why it’s awesome: It breaks down your workday into manageable chunks and gives you guilt free breaks away from your computer / work station.
Who Needs It: People who struggle with sitting down and working for 8 hours straight. It's easier to stay focused when you know your next coffee break is only 25 minutes away.
What: You schedule your week so that certain days are devoted to certain tasks. For example, on Mondays you plan your social media and write blog posts. On Tuesdays you package all your orders and email potential stockists. On Wednesdays you wear pink.
Why it’s awesome: You wake up in the morning knowing exactly what you need to be working on that day (as long as you know what day it is).
Who Needs It: People who get overwhelmed by the long of tasks they need to accomplish. Segmenting your reoccuring to-do list into different days means that you're able to spread out everything you need to do over the course of a week.
Katie Nolan is the owner of Tick Tock Press - a stationery design studio that creates colorful, funny, and occasionally irreverent greeting cards, and Katie Nolan Creative - a virtual assistant business for creative entrepreneurs. You can find her at katienolancreative.com