Here is a list of my favorite business tools that I use and I couldn’t do business without. I wanted to share them with you because I love them and they may be beneficial for you in your business, as well! If you have any favorite business tools that you love that I didn’t mention, be sure to leave me a comment and tell me about it!
My Favorite Business Tools
Planoly– I absolutely LOVE using Planoly for Instagram! I batch my graphics every week, then upload them all to Planoly to schedule throughout the week. You can set it up to post automatically for you or you can go in and do it yourself. One of the things I love most about Planoly is the ability to rearrange my scheduled posts on my feed and make it look “pretty” before actually posting. This is a great way to do it if you have a grid and want to keep it looking a certain way! Try it and let me know what you think!
Tailwind– Tailwind is a site/app that I use for Pinterest. I know that I am not using it to it’s full potential, as I am still getting it all figured out, but I love the ability to schedule posts on Pinterest! I don’t always remember to get on and pin consistently, so Tailwind helps do that for me, once I load up the queue. You can also join Tailwind tribes in your niche and share your content there to be shared by others! It is definitely worth the investment!
Gsuite – Gsuite is great for email, docs, google drive, calendar, and more. I even have my gmail set up with my domain, so my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And I love Google drive for creating, storing, and sharing documents. It’s a great way to save things that I want to be able to access from any computer or device. It’s also great for being able to share things between my clients/team members and myself when I am working with them on a project.
Acuity Scheduling – This is an awesome tool for allowing clients and team members to schedule appointments with me. I can create my calendar based on my daily life schedule and they can choose a time that works for them. I can also ask them to answer some questions when they book to help me know what they are wanting out of the call, and they pay right when they schedule the appointment, if applicable. And I love that it emails both them and me a reminder the day before!
Zoom – Zoom is a fantastic tool for video conferencing. I often use it when I want to “meet” with a someone online and want to be able to see each other and record the video content. You can use it with groups of people as well, and can see each person who is part of the meeting. Being on video is not a requirement, though, for someone who would rather not. You can also mute people other than the speaker so you cut down on background noise and other distractions. It is also free for up to 40 minutes of screen time.
Canva – This is a website that I use pretty much every day! I most definitely could not do business without it, because it is how I create all of my graphics! A lot of people use PicMonkey as well, but I prefer Canva for most things. And I love paying for Canva for Business so that I can save my brand colors and fonts. It makes it super easy and quick to create branded graphics for my business!
Trello – Trello is an awesome tool for all kinds of things, to do lists, content management, project management, and more! I use it for all of the above. You can create boards privately and use them yourself, or you can add others and have team boards. In each board you can add lists and cards and move the cards around. In the cards you can add comments, checklists, upload files, colored labels, due dates, etc. It’s pretty fantastic!
Stock Photos – There are several free stock photo sites I like to use, such as Pixabay and Unsplash and even Canva, but one of my favorites is my stock photo membership from Ivory Mix. There are tons of high quality gorgeous photos that I love to use for creating graphics and website images. You can browse the different collections she has and purchase them individually, but I highly recommend doing the membership option because it is definitely worth having access to all of the photos! She also has a lot of affordable courses that you can take as well. I’ve bought a couple of them so far and plan to go through more of them as I have time.
Siteground Hosting and the Divi Theme– As I have created several website for myself and others, I have found that these are two of my favorites! Siteground is my favorite site for hosting your website and Divi is my all-time favorite theme! I love how customizable Divi is. I can create all kinds of very different websites!
What are your favorite business tools to use? Leave a comment and let me know!
Many people make resolutions to get and stay organized at the start of the year. (Anyone raising their hand?) Almost as many find that they start strong, then burn out after a week or two. (How many hands are still up?!) That may be because they haven’t found a good system that is compatible with their habits and life/work style.
I have never really been the most organized, productive, or clutter-free person. There’s a reason my “word” for this year is discipline. I need more of it in ALL areas of my life! #reallife So I am right there with y’all, raising my own hand. I am working hard this year on getting systems put in place in my business and life so that I can get and stay organized in my business.
Like business and time management, organization is a very personal thing. There are a million strategies out there, but they don’t always work for everyone. So, it’s important to understand how you can approach organization and what you can do that will help you achieve your goals, instead of sticking to a system that others tell you to use, even if it doesn’t work for you.
Here are six tips that can help you get and stay organized, hopefully in a way that works for you and helps you achieve all of your goals. If you have other tips and tricks for staying organized, make sure to leave a comment on this post!
Six steps to getting and staying organized in your business
Create a filing system that works for you. Organization is a highly personal thing for each individual. What works for one person may not work for another and that includes filing systems. Some people do okay with piles – they know what’s in each pile and where specific pieces of paper are that they need. (Yep, I’m a recovering piler, in transition to using a filing cabinet!) Others need a more robust system, because they don’t like piles at all.
There are many furniture items and tools out there that you can use, like filing cabinets, desktop files, etc. There are also electronic systems. I recently heard about Neat, which allows you to scan your invoices and receipts, to organize the data and can even automate data entry into other business software systems. If baskets work for you, then use baskets. It’s all about finding a filing system that works for you, that you’ll keep using.
Create a system for communicating with clients/customers/team members. Business communication can be all over the place. (Yep, raising my hand here, too!) Some people prefer phone calls, while others use video chat software, Facebook messages, or email for minor conversations and updates. The actual communication isn’t what needs organized, most of the time. But getting those appointments into a calendar is an opportunity to create a new system.
There are a variety of scheduling platforms you can try, like Acuity, Calendly, or others. (I personally use Acuity to do coaching calls with team members.) Those platforms can input the appointment in your own calendar and in the other person’s calendar as well, and can send reminders.
Pick two or three items from your workspace to get rid of each week. Clutter can be a big reason for disorganization, stress, and a hindrance to productivity. Getting rid of a few things on a regular basis can help you to feel less stressed by the stuff. Eliminating the excess stuff means you have less to move around and less to gather dust. It can even help you to get more done, because it’s easier to find what you need – whether those items are paper-based, or tools and equipment.
Even if you’re not getting rid of things completely, make sure to take time each day to put things away where they belong. Leaving things out to put away another day ends up creating clutter and an unorganized office. This is one of my biggest issues that I am working on!
Save email and social media for dedicated times. Make sure clients and/or team members know that you’ll respond during those specific times. Organization is about more than just physical items and calendars full of appointments. It’s also about managing your distractions. It may be tempting to respond to email and peruse social media during your work time, but that can create issues of disorganization, in addition to productivity problems.
Use checklists for rush projects. If you take on rush projects with tight deadlines, it can be easy to get a little stressed, and sometimes disorganized. It’s easy to miss a step and screw up when the pressure of a deadline is on. Checklists can help you to ensure that you complete each step of the project so that you deliver everything that is necessary to have a complete project.
How To Stay Motivated and Focused When Working From Home
People have this romantic view of working from home: working from wherever is comfortable, in fuzzy pajamas and slippers, with the freedom to do whatever you want. The reality is – it’s rarely that easy. Sure, there’s comfort, but there are tons of distractions too – distractions that usually don’t exist if you work outside your home.
The distractions just might be endless: TV, social media, a pet. Even the dishes or the laundry make good distractions if you’re not totally energized (procrastination, anyone?). The worst distraction though, is probably the complete loss of motivation and concentration.
Fear not. There are ways to avoid the distractions and loss of motivation that can be troublesome when working from home.
Make some effort in starting your day. Start your day not with a bowl of cereal in front of your computer with the first cup of coffee, but by getting dressed, as if you are going to work. It is harder to be focused and motivated when you are still in your pajamas. Make yourself breakfast and sit down to eat it before you move on to work. Then, move into your work space for the day and get started.
Set up a specific place to work and set up your computer for fewer motivation-killing distractions. Curling up on the couch (or in bed!) with your computer and phone may be comfy, but chances are, that’s also setting yourself up for distractions. I tend to scroll Facebook more when I am working somewhere other than at my desk.Put your computer in a spot where you’ll be comfortable, but able to focus and work. For me, it’s at my desk. Add things to your work space that will help you concentrate – like headphones, if needed, and a white board. Make sure you have the right tools for the job too, whether that’s your computer and planner, or tools you need to create physical items.
Track how you spend your time. There are a variety of task tracking tools meant to help you manage your time. RescueTime is one you can look into. Let it run in the background of your computer and then analyze where it says you’re spending your time. What comes out of that analysis can help you to arrange your tasks so you get more done when your energy is high and you’re motivated. It can also show you where your distractions are causing issues that lead to frustration.Don’t let yourself just scroll Facebook during your work time. It’s not actually work. Really. If you use Google Chrome for your browser, you can download an extension called Kill News Feed that will literally kill your Facebook newsfeed so you can’t scroll when it is turned on. You can still access your page, groups, etc, but you won’t be able to waste time scrolling your newsfeed until you turn it back on. Pretty handy, huh!
Structure your task list to work with your energy. This is a big one. The transition from office work with other people and outside motivation to working from home can be a strange one. For some, it’s harder to focus and there are massive energy spikes and lulls. That’s why it’s very important to work as your concentration allows it. Don’t force it, because that will kill your motivation and your work won’t be fun or enjoyable. Forcing yourself to work only leads to frustration and more trouble concentrating. It’s an annoying loop that’s tough to get out of sometimes.
Be flexible with that task list. If you find that a task is taking longer than it should, or you’re finishing projects more quickly than expected, it’s important to acknowledge that and be okay with changing up your project list. It is great when you can clear it more quickly than expected, and it’s a drag when you realize you can’t get everything done that you want to, but don’t put more pressure on yourself when things are difficult. Accept it and just keep moving.
Schedule breaks and take them. Plan something fun and energizing for a specific break time. Schedule it, and guard that scheduled time. When you know that you have a break coming up, it’s often easier to concentrate and get more done. Anticipation is a fabulous motivator. You might be shocked to find out just how much you can achieve when you know you have fun time coming up.
Also, it’s easy to forget to eat when you’re working from home, so make sure that you occasionally take a break to eat and get something to drink so you stay hydrated.
Do you ever see someone else running their business successfully and think, “Why can’t I do that?” I think we all have this “comparison syndrome” at times. It may seem like running a successful business comes so easy for those people, but it so hard for us. Why is that? Let me tell you a little secret. You can do it, too! Really. You are just seeing the tip of the iceberg when you are looking at someone else’s business. If you were to talk to them and have them answer you honestly, they would probably tell you that it took a ton of time, energy, and effort to get where they are at. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that you are not seeing. Comparing yourself to someone else is NOT helping your business. It is hurting it.
When you compare yourself or your business to someone else, chances are you aren’t working your business to the best of your ability because you are too concerned with what someone else is doing. You’re only holding yourself back and not living up to your full potential. As my friend Kelly Paull from Directly Successful would say, “Stay in your own lane!” Don’t worry about what someone else is doing. If you are going to get to where they are at, you are going to have to do the work to get there. So pay attention to your own business and get moving!
Your mindset and beliefs are one of the biggest contributing factors to your business! What you believe about yourself makes a big impact on your business. You may not say anything negative to your customers/clients/followers, but if you are comparing yourself to others and doubting yourself, that is going to come across to them negatively. It will impact how you portray yourself to others and how others perceive you. Come up with a couple positive affirmations and mantras for yourself that you can repeat any time you feel yourself starting to doubt yourself or compare yourself to someone else. Write them down, post them where you can see them every day, and say them often. Remember to think positive!
When you are constantly focused on what someone is doing and where you are falling short (whether it is the truth or not), you are not going to truly be happy in your business or life. You are focusing on the negative and missing out on all kinds of positive things happening around you. Chances are, there are lots of amazing things that you are doing or could be doing in your business, but if you are too focused on someone else’s business, you are not seeing those things. Girl, get back in your own lane and start enjoying what is happening in your business!
Focus on improving yourself
Instead of focusing on what someone else is doing in their business, focus on what you are doing and what you can do to improve. Instead of comparing yourself to someone else, compare yourself to where you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year. What have you done to grow your business? Look at how far you have come since you first started! What amazing things are you doing in your business? Write them down! Look at them often and remind yourself how amazing you are. What can you do to make your business better? Make a plan and get moving!
Be you. Do you. People want to do business with you because you are you! Stand out from the crowd, brand yourself, and own who you are. As Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.” People will see your authenticity and confidence when you stay true to who you are. You will shine in your business when you stop comparing yourself to others and stay focused on who you are and what you do. You will grow and reach your full potential when you are working your business and not looking around. Are there social media accounts you need to unfollow? Emails you need to unsubscribe from? Mantras you need to write and post? Whatever you need to do in order to keep the comparison syndrome at bay, do it!
We all could some tips to be more productive, amiright? You know, you get on your computer planning being super productive and get lots of work done…but then Facebook. An hour later, after you’ve caught up on all 101 groups you are in, you decide you really need to get down to business, but then you realize you left some laundry in the washer you need to take care of. Or your kids are still up and it’s past their bedtime. Or *insert a thousand different reasons here.* Sometimes you get to the end of the day and realize you really haven’t done any work at at all.
If you’re having trouble getting started and getting down to business, set a timer for 25 minutes (or however long you choose). Work for those 25 minutes, then let yourself take a 5 minute break before setting the timer again and working for another 25 minutes. This technique actually has a name… the Pomodoro Technique. Traditionally, the timer is set for 25 minutes, but you can set it for longer if you think that works better for you. After a few work sessions you can give yourself a longer break.
Another tip is to make sure you stay organized! This way, when you sit down to work, you know what needs to be done. Having a system for things like graphics, content creation, etc, will help tremendously as well! One of my favorite sites to use is Trello. I love how it helps me stay organized. I can keep track of to do lists, keep track of my blog post ideas or social media posts, communicate with clients, and more! It is easy to move cards around to different lists and I can easily access it from either my computer or my phone. It’s a great way to keep myself organized!
I have also found that having a list of content ideas and content calendar has helped a whole lot! I come up with lots of content ideas and put them into lists and a calendar for future posts in Trello. So whenever I need to write a blog post or social media post, I can go to that file and find an idea to write about.
Batching and Automation
Batching and automating my posts and graphics is another thing that helps me to be more productive. I often sit down and create content and graphics for my Facebook page and Instagram all at the same time. My goal is to get at least a week’s worth created, then schedule them out. I create and schedule at least one post a day for the next week on each platform, then go back and a second post for each day if I have time. When I schedule posts, I use Facebook’s business page scheduler for my page and Planoly for Instagram.
I also use Tailwind for Pinterest (you can use it for Instagram, too). Once I get this done for the week, I know I don’t have to worry about creating and posting content on my social media pages for the week and can focus on other things I need to do.
What tips do you have for being more productive? Share them in the comments below!
I’m Melissa Mackey, a leader with Color Street and a new lifestyle/mom blogger. A former special ed teacher turned work from home mama who loves coffee, wine, Mexican food, donuts, horses, and Jesus. Passionate about helping women like you feel just a bit more put together without taking much time out of your day – dry nail polish for the win! Sharing my about my pregnancy and journey to becoming a new mom while working my business. Come alongside me in my journey through womanhood and life. Even though it’s messy at times. Let’s be our beautiful selves together.