So you’ve got a ton of productivity tools and apps loaded on your devices. You’re feeling pretty great about all the tech you’ve got going on… but, if you’re really honest, you actually don’t know how to make them all work together — and it’s driving you INSANE not knowing.

Ah yeah, this is one of the many downfalls of having access to so many productivity tools. Particularly when they are often free. It can be super tempting to grab everything that you see come your way, but what happens when you actually need them?

They don’t work how you want them too!

When I first started my side hustle, I was hungry for information and ways to make the most of my time—mainly because I was trying to balance my side business with my day job and I wasn’t doing that so successfully.

I spent a lot of time searching through the app store on my iPhone and iPad looking for any tool that could help me better manage my business and my time so that I wasn’t running around in circles or dropping the ball.

I ended up with over 50 apps and tools across my devices… it became overwhelming.

Which tool should I use and when?

If you’re sitting there, nodding your head in agreement, then you’re gonna love the rest of this post!

I want to share with you the strategies I used to figure out how to make the most of your productivity tools and how to determine which ones will work best for your needs.

Grab the free app tracking spreadsheet!

Before we jump into that, here’s a video that I did recently that shows you how I use Freedcamp + Todoist together to manage my client work and my own to-do’s.

If this is something you’re struggling with, this will give you a bit of insight into how I do it and how you could implement it too.

How to Use Freedcamp and Todoist to Manage Freelance Clients

I hope you found that video helpful. Now let’s talk about how to make the most of your own productivity tools and how to weed out the ones that just won’t work for you.

Productivity tools and how to use them in your side business #sidehustle #freelancing #bloggingtips

#1: Try Each Tool for 7 Days

The first thing that you’re going to do is go through each tool you have and create a short-list… trying over 50 tools for 7 days will only drive you nutty.

Narrow down your list to your top 10 and trial each one for 7 days and see how you like it. In terms of narrowing down, I like to see what the reviews are for each app or tool and also how ‘pretty’ the app or tool looks aka what’s the user interface look like?

Trust your gut and don’t spend a ton of time trying to narrow it down. Pick one or two metrics to make your decision and then be ruthless and delete the others… you can always install them again if you don’t like any of the 10 you’ve chosen 🙂

Ask yourself these questions at the end of the 7 day trial:

  • Does the app or tool fit into my daily life easily?
  • Was it easy to navigate?
  • Did I get reminders when needed?
  • Did I actually increase my productivity aka did I get stuff done that I wanted done?

If you find any of the tools or apps you use just don’t meet your needs, get rid of them and try another one if you need to.

This process might seem a little OTT, but trust me, it will help you narrow those apps and tools down and find the ones that will work for you and your side business.

#2: Make a List

Make a list of all your productivity toolsIf you’ve already got your chosen apps and tools sorted, then it’s time to make a list of all these and then identify what category they belong to.

This will help you to figure out when you should be using each app.

Now, you might be thinking that this is a silly exercise to do, but trust me on this one. The minute that you write down all the apps and tools you have and then identify what category they belong too, you’ll start to see a pattern.

Once you’ve given each app and tool a category, then you’re also going to note how you use each app and tool.

This is a powerful exercise because it forces you to figure out how you’re using the app or tool and if you’re using it as it was intended, or if you’re using it in a unique way.

If you’re using it in a unique way, then other people will wanna hear about it, so consider writing a blog post or creating a mini-course or tutorial around it.

Once you’ve got that list and noted all of this information, take a step back and question whether you have too many apps in one category… in reality, for an app or tool to work effectively, you should only have a couple in each category.

I discovered, once I did this exercise, that I had waaaay too many note taking apps on my Mac. I mean really, how many apps do you need to take notes with? One, right?

So I culled the rest of the apps and tools that spread my note taking thin… no wonder I was always unsure of where to find notes, I was writing notes in five different places!

It’s about picking one or two apps per category and using them effectively.

#3: Track Your Results

If you truly want to make the most out of your productivity tools and apps, you should be tracking your results.

If you weren’t able to cull above in the previous point, this exercise will likely hit home the point I was trying to make:

Using too many apps for the same task just spreads yourself thin. It actually makes you less productive because you have to try and remember which app or tool you used to capture that piece of information or that task…

Back to tracking your results… What results am I talking about?

How productive you are when you’re using the app or tool vs. when you’re not using them.

This is how I was able to choose the apps that I use. Remember, I started out with 50+ apps, now I only use four in my day-to-day processes.

Here’s how you should track your results:

  • Start with a blank Google sheet doc (spreadsheet)
  • At the end of each day, write down the apps you used in one column
  • In the next column, write down which tasks you used the apps for/with
  • In the next column, estimate how often you used the app (for example, did you use it all day, a few hours etc)
  • In the next column, give the app a rating out of 10, with 10 being the highest, of how productive you felt while using the app

At the end of each week, review the spreadsheet to see how you’re going with each app. I review my results every month to make sure I’m staying productive and that the apps I’m using are providing me with the right help, and not adding to all the noise.

Grab the free app tracking spreadsheet!

If you truly want to get the most out of your productivity apps and tools, make sure you take the time to do these exercises and then also understand how each app works.

My Top Side Business Apps & Tools

Wondering what I’m using every day? Here’s the apps and tools that help me run my business (and my life) day-to-day, broken down by device:

Macbook Air (laptop)

  • Sunrise Calendar app
  • Chrome browser
  • Airmail2
  • Todoist
  • Slack
  • Evernote
  • Scrivener
  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive + Google Apps
  • Freedcamp
  • Freshbooks
  • Pocket

iPhone

  • [email protected] app
  • Todoist
  • Slack
  • Evernote
  • Sunrise Calendar app
  • Dropbox
  • Snapchat
  • Pocket
  • Notes (Apple product)
  • XE currency app
  • Mail (Apple product)

iPad

  • Todoist
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Pocket
  • Google Sheets
  • Skype
  • Feedly
  • Mail (Apple product)
  • Safari browser

On any given day, I’ll be accessing the majority of these apps and tools across these devices. For me, one of the important things about whether an app will work for me or not is it’s ability to be cross-device accessible.

You’ll see from my lists that a number of the same apps and tools appear on all three devices. This is because they all sync together, so if I’m not in front of my computer, I can access the same information on my iPhone or iPad.

Honestly, without any of these apps and tools, I wouldn’t be able to run my business!

Have I left a tool or app of this list that you think I should try out? Leave a comment below to let me know, or shoot me an email, [email protected].

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Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

    6 replies to "How to Make the Most of Your Productivity Tools"

    • Robert Winter

      Sadly, Sunrise is closing down at the end of August: http://blog.sunrise.am/post/144196642739/its-almost-time-to-say-goodbye

    • Sara

      I like the idea of trying an app for 7-days. I’m not sure I do this, but I do know I give an app a good try and eventually delete it if I don’t find it useful. What’s the point of hoarding apps?

      I have Gcal, Hootsuite, CoPromote, Zoom. You might wonder why I gcalendar along with the iphone calendar sync to Google? With the Gcalendar app you can use the new Goals feature. This helps me in my personal development.

      • Lise Cartwright

        Agree, hoarding apps just clogs up space, both physically and mentally! I love Gcalendar, but didn’t have it on my iPhone, going to check it out now, love goals!! Thanks for the suggestion!

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