Seven Productivity Tools to Add More Time to Your Week!
By Jena Kroeker
What does it mean to be productive in your freelance or virtual assistant business? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “having the quality or power of producing especially in abundance” and “effective in bringing about.” Producing work in abundance and effectively bringing about our goals – Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to describe ourselves?
In a previous post titled “Ten Tools to Power Your Dream Virtual Office,” we discuss a variety of productivity tools, both physical and digital, that can help you reach your goals and accomplish tasks more efficiently. They’re a wide selection that benefits the overall functioning of your business.
In this post, we’ll share seven productivity tools that can add more time to your week. We’re going to take a microscope and focus in on those vital moments when you’re first sitting down at your desk. Sometimes in the smallest moments, we lose the most time.
In this case, being productive could mean many things:
• Deeper focus on tasks
• Fewer steps to complete tasks
• More efficient use of time
• Ability to view our progress and reach our goals
As Lori Hill says in her article, “Does Your Business Run You? How to Get Productive and In Control of Your Freelance Business,” you’ll miss out on a work lifestyle of true freedom unless you treat your business “with rigorous professionalism and shrewd strategy.”
Starving Distractions and Feeding Focus
You may have seen the quote, “Starve your distractions. Feed your focus.” We discuss it in another post titled “Your Guide to Optimizing Your Daily Productivity.” Here I wrote,
“As much as possible, it’s important to limit your distractions and create an environment where you can focus deeply on one thing at a time. You may want to silence your email notifications and plan regular intervals to check your messages. You may want to close the door to your office so that other activity in the house won’t interrupt you. And you need to find a way to focus your mind on the task at hand.”
Great advice, and I should remember to take it myself! 🙂 Sometimes limiting outer distractions isn’t enough. You may have created the perfect environment, and then your own thoughts slow you down.
As an example, my thoughts headed down a rabbit trail yesterday while discussing podcast theme music with a team member. We joked that a song from my Zumba fitness class might work. I then set off on a YouTube journey, watching a video for my favorite song, which lead me to watch one for another favorite song.
That led me to thinking, “I wonder if anyone’s choreographed steps to this other song? Because if they haven’t, I just might!” And then after watching another video, I began thinking, “Hmm, wasn’t Enrique Iglesias performing over 20 years ago? I wonder how old he is now. I should look it up on Wikipedia.” But then a notification from my project management software mercifully woke me up from this festival of distraction.
The journey may have taken only 15 minutes, but those minutes add up over the space of a week.
Seven Productivity Tools to Add More Time to Your Week
So, let’s imagine you’re sitting down at your desk. How can you make the most of those first moments and transition to productive work as quickly as possible? Here are some productivity tools and apps that can help focus your mind and streamline certain activities:
You sit down at your desk, and your thoughts are fluttering around like butterflies. You have a million things on your mind that prevent you from focusing on the task at hand. Not to mention, you’re battling fatigue from lack of sleep. You feel like heading back to bed even though you just got up.
This app can start helping you by improving your sleep the night before. It also provides instruction and resources to aid meditation and relaxation. Choose from a variety of music, nature scenes, and sounds to listen to while sleeping, working, or relaxing. Video lessons and masterclass audio programs help you improve your mindfulness and learn gentle stretching and mindful movement techniques.You can also download a “Daily Calm Calendar” with challenges to deepen your self-awareness and mindfulness practice.
Access a 30-day free trial, with subscriptions costing $59.99 USD, billed annually, or $399.99 USD for a lifetime subscription. Also available for iOS or Android as a free version or Premium version for $89.99/year, with a one-week free trial.
As a freelancer or virtual assistant, you want to keep up to date on information in your industry. You may have bookmarked your favorite publications and blogs, but have trouble saving them so you can find them again easily. You also lack an efficient way of discovering new articles on relevant topics.
Feedly helps you save articles for later and categorize your reading list with tags so you can filter and search for certain content. It allows you to create feeds and access your favorite articles in one place. You can also remove irrelevant articles from your feeds by hiding mentions of certain topics or keywords. Feedly integrates with other tools like Evernote, Pocket, OneNote, and Dropbox.
Available for desktop, mobile devices, and as a mini browser extension to follow RSS feeds and save web pages. Choose the free version or upgrade to paid Pro versions starting at $6/month billed annually.
Your email inbox is out of control. In an effort to once again keep up with your industry, you’ve subscribed to several online newsletters, blogs, product updates, and more. As time goes by, some of these have become irrelevant to you. And the ones that are important are hard to find. You have to scroll through your inbox or search for them manually.
Unroll.me allows you to instantly unsubscribe from undesired emails by showing you a list of all the ones you’ve subscribed to. You can then combine your favorite email subscriptions into one daily email digest called “The Rollup,” delivered in the morning, afternoon, or evening.
Available for free on desktop and mobile devices
The Problem: You have a lot of meetings and events with clients and prospective clients. You know you should follow up with them afterwards, but it’s tricky to remember who and what to write. You’re trying to keep a list, but it’s easy to put this task on the back burner or forget about it altogether.
CircleUp is an app that connects to your calendar and sends you a reminder after events with more than one participant. Simply click on the link to access a prepared thank-you note that you can edit and personalize before sending. You can customize notes with a template editor. Instead of receiving reminders for every event, you can also choose to receive daily summaries.
Early Bird Offer is $5/month, and a 30-day trial is available.
You type the same words, phrases, and paragraphs several times a day in documents, emails, messages, and more. Not only is it repetitive, but it uses up valuable time. You try to copy and paste text, but it’s clunky and easy to make errors. You need a quick, efficient, and accurate way to speed up this process.
TextExpander allows you to assign a shortcut or “snippet” to content like email addresses, form letters, descriptions, images, signatures, etc. Then all you have to do is insert the snippet, and it’ll expand to include the full text. Access snippets on all your devices, and TextExpander will remind you of them as you type. You can even use fill-in-the-blank snippets to create custom forms.
A free 30-day trial is available. Paid plans start at $4.16/month (discounts with annual billing)
6. Tomato Timer
You have trouble developing a good work rhythm. It’s hard to dig in and focus on one task at a time without getting distracted. You sit down and right away start thinking of when you can take your next break. It’s especially difficult with repetitive tasks that aren’t as interesting. You feel bored and unmotivated to complete them.
If you’re looking for a plain and simple way to use the Pomodoro Technique, (where you work for 25 minutes, take a short 5-minute break, and then a long 10-minute break after every four work periods) Tomato Timer can do the trick! It’s a simple web-based tool where you can start, stop, and reset the timer. You can enable desktop alerts and select the sound and volume. It includes options like “80s Alarm,” “Wristwatch Alarm,” “Elevator Ding,” and more. You can also set custom times for work and breaks.
Free to use on the website, with desktop notifications available on Safari, Firefox, and Chrome.
You’d like to track your progress and productivity, but you can’t see where you’re using your time. The Pomodoro Technique is helpful, but you’d like to customize and combine it with other reporting and billing features.
Focus Booster is similar to Tomato Timer but includes additional features like the ability to generate timesheets and use sessions to create invoices. You can view graphs and charts on your dashboard showing where you used your time and generated revenue. Reports are filtered by label, date, or client. Design your own workflow by customizing notification preferences and session length.
Starter plan is free, with paid plans beginning at $2.99/month (discounts with annual pricing). A free 30-day trial of the Professional plan is available. Access Focus Booster on Windows, Mac, and mobile devices.
So, there you have it – seven productivity tools to add more time to your week! They can help you make the most of those first few moments at your desk where time can slip through your fingers! Those moments are like pocket change. You don’t know how much you have until you count it. And then you realize what you could have spent it on.
As FreeU co-founder and instructor Craig Cannings says in our Productivity Power workshop, “There is no one-size-fits-all productivity system.” Instead, he advises us to create one that matches our preferences, personality, strengths, and weaknesses.
And he also suggests we determine our own “productivity pitfalls.” We all have things in our lives that distract us and prevent us from getting as much work done as we’d like to. Where do you see time slipping through your fingers during the week? And which productivity tools would you add to the list above? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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