Productivity For Busy People #5 – Apps

It’s been a while since I added to my posts on productivity tips, but fear not I’m here to get you organised again! As someone who works 80 hours a week in a day job and running a small business, I need more than just my Filofax to be productive. Now, I do love a paper list and notebooks are my jam, but apps help to keep me up to date with my task list and now I can’t live without them.

Here are my top 5 Apps for Busy People! All free and easy to download and perfect for bloggers, small business owners or tech lovers.

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Wunderlist (Apple / Android / Web)

I’ve used Wunderlist for years now, purely as a list app, but it offers a little more than that. It’s handy for keeping lists on the go, but also offers collaborative lists, folders, hashtag searches, print functions, task reminder notifications and sharing. One of the things I like most about this app is the ability to sync lists from a web browser too. Oh and the fact it makes a super satisfying noise when you check something off!

IFTT (Apple / Android / Web)

IFTT stands for If This, Then That. It gives you control over apps and allows you to create ‘recipes’ for automating your processes. For example, I use a recipe which autosaves my Instagram pictures to Dropbox and one which auto tweets my WordPress blog posts. There are even recipes to get notifications if rain is forecast or to save all your email attachments in a specified cloud space. Nifty. A popular recipe is to post a Instagram snaps as a native Twitter photo, rather than a link.

Buffer (Apple / Android / Web)

Buffer is the number one way I schedule most of my social media posts. You can load tweets, Facebook and Google + posts to go live at a specific time. The premium plan includes Pinterest scheduling too, but the free version gives you a good amount. If I was online every time my social media platforms were updated I wouldn’t have a life!

Take Off (Apple / Android)

I use Take Off to schedule Instagram snaps to ensure they are posted at the best times for my followers to interact. Pre-load your snaps with the caption and tags, and your app will remind you when it is time to press post. This app is particularly good if you there a few people contributing to one Instagram account, as it has a collaboration option to help you review or curate content.

Rescue Time (Android / Web)

We all get distracted from time to time and end up in a YouTube cat video loop. Just me? Well I use Rescue Time to analyse my productivity and to see what apps and sites I’m spending most time on. The principle of this app is that understanding where your time goes will help you to take control of it. Weekly summaries can be emailed to you, otherwise a dashboard overview will provide a summary of your time. Set weekly or even daily goals to help improve your productivity and with a premium purchase, you can even block distracting websites.  (If you’re curious, most of my phone time is spent on Google Hangouts and Instagram).

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I could definitely add more to this list, but I thought I’d just stick to 5 apps today. I’d love to hear your recommendations for productivity apps in the comments below.

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Productivity For Busy People #4 – Biz Tools I Love

If you read Wednesday’s post, you will have seen that Claireabellemakes turned 3! Over the years I’ve found some really useful things that have helped me run my business, so I thought I’d share them with you as part of the Productivity For Busy People Series.

I’ll soon share apps and tech that help me to run my business, but for now here are 7 biz tools I can’t live without…..

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Props

One of my goals for 2015 was to up my styling game. In come the props! Fake flowers, wooden boards, confetti and lots more. I keep a number of props to hand when shooting blog posts and product images. They add interest and context to a shot and hopefully make things look pretty too! Make sure any props you use will not distract from the main items you are photographing and that they compliment your brand well. One of my favourite blogs for styling inspiration is Messy La.

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Label Writer Machine

This Dymo Labelwriter 450 machine has been such a timer saver when I am sending out shop orders. It uses thermo printing so there is no ink to replace. The software is super easy to use and my order packages look more professional as a result.

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Tripod

My photography has really improved over the years. Some of that is down to knowledge and some of it is down to kit. I purchased a Manfrotto Compact Light tripod to stabilise my shots when using the Canon EOS 1200D. I also recently purchased the Canon PowerShot S120 Camera to take video on the go.

The Claireabellemakes You Tube channel is slowly getting some content which i’m really excited about!

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Order Book

Every single order for the Claireabellemakes store is added to this book. You might think this is a bit pointless as shops like Etsy track it for you, but I take a lot of offline orders from local customers and fair goers, so I need to keep track of what I’ve sold! This glittery hardback book is from Tiger and always comes out at the end of the month when I’m doing my accounts.

Claireabellemakes-Order-BookPayleven Card Reader

As a craft stall holder I think it is important to offer card payments as not everyone carries cash and it definitely encourages customers to spend a little more! It also helps to avoid the disappearing customer who has gone to get cash issue.

This card reader from Payleven is really easy to use when connected to my smart phone via Bluetooth. The secure payments I take are automatically transferred into my business bank account after a 2.75% fee. If you are interested in getting one you can use this link to get £15 off. I would definitely recommend it.

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Royal Mail Drop and Go

The staff in my local Post Office are probably sick of seeing my face, but they always stop and chat and are so encouraging about my business. Last year I signed up for the Drop and Go service which is effectively a card which you load with money to cover your postage costs. As a Drop and Go customer, you are able to fast track the queue and leave your parcels to be processed after you leave. It is such a time saver and a really easy service to use.

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Filofax Planner

If you are a regular reader here, you will know I’m a planner nerd. As my business includes a shop, this blog, craft parties and freelance writing work, I HAVE to be organised. Everything in my life is planned months or weeks ahead and having an analogue system to keep my personal and business life in check is what works for me. I keep track of my editorial calendar, my business goals, my migraine diaries and even meal plans, so that I know where I am at and what needs to get done. It’s the best way for me to stay productive and indulges in my love of cute stationery.

If you would be interested in a planner set up post or video do let me know in the comments below!

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Phew! That seemed like a long post to put together, but I hope it has helped some of you who run small businesses. I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you have in the comments below. I hate missing out on things!

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 *Some pages on this site may contain links to outside sites, including paid affiliates. Read more about my disclosure policy here.

Productivity For Busy People #3

Today the Productivity For Busy People series continues with a wonderful guest who inspires me a TON! Alexis Giostra is a productivity guru with a passion for planners and female community. Her blog and You Tube channel caught my eye a while ago and I have been inspired ever since. I am really excited to share this interview with you guys today. Make sure to follow Alexis on her links at the end to stay productive and inspired!

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Hi Alexis, thanks for being here today! Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

Thanks so much for having me Claire! I’m very excited to meet your readers and hopefully make some new friends!

As Claire said, I’m Alexis Giostra, an online entrepreneur focused on content creation and strategy. I run the blog Strange & Charmed as well as a YouTube channel under the handle MissTrenchcoat where I talk about lifestyle productivity and help other writers and budding entrepreneurs with their business goals and questions. I am known for my love of planners and I run an online shop through my site where I sell Productivity Printables, ranging from inserts for your planners to inspirational artwork for your office or home. I also do business consulting, and will soon be launching my own coaching practice to help other small business owners develop content to market their businesses through social media platforms.

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I have been a follower of your Youtube channel for quite some time now and it has been amazing to watch it grow! What is the best thing about making video content?

I love Youtube and video content first and foremost as a fan and consumer of videos myself! I started my Youtube channel because I loved watching others and thought I could add to the content online in a positive way. The thing that will always make Youtube and video content special to me is that I believe it gives you a one on one connection with your viewers and community the way no other form of social media can. When you watch a video, you get to see me, and experience me as though I am sitting right there with you and having a discussion or teach you how to make some fun DIY for your planner! No other platform, from blogging to Instagram really embodies that direct connect and to me that is what YouTube is all about!

As you know, we have been discussing productivity tips and would love learn more from a Productivity Guru such as yourself. What is your number one tip for beginning to live more productively?

We have all heard a number of productivity tips throughout our lives, some we follow, some we ignore, but I think the most important thing to understand about productivity is that it’s all about efficiency; working smarter, not harder. I consider myself a very lazy person when it comes to work, and I find hacks and ways to get more work done in less time so that I have more time to do whatever else it is that I really want to do. If you focus on working smarter and more efficiently, instead of just working hard or quickly to get things done, you will embody the spirit of productivity!

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Lots of my readers are interested in your advice for using planners to enhance their productivity. Can you share how you get the best out of your planner? What are your planner faves?

Great question! I really love planners because I think they can really help you enhance your productivity as you said, and for me, getting the most out of my planner comes down to two things. First, setting it up so that everything important in my life and my business is properly housed inside. You can’t expect to be organized if your planner is missing sections of your life or doesn’t have the necessary inserts to keep your information clearly organized. No matter if you use one planner or five, the planner needs to have a complete system housed inside. The second thing that will help you get the most out of your planner is to actively use it! Sometimes it takes effort to get into the habit of using your system, but its important because if you don’t use it, it won’t be able to help you stay organized and productive!

As for my favorites, I love decorating my planner with cute accessories like paper clips and dividers. I have a few DIYs on my channel that can help you create awesome extras for your planners very inexpensively, so I’ll link those below.

DIY Reusable To Do Lists 

DIY Paperclips

DIY Dividers

DIY Folder Divider

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For someone like me who runs a creative business with a number of projects on the go, what is your best advice for juggling everything?

Whether you run a creative business, have a #sidehustle or even just have a family and multiple commitments in your life, I think most people feel like they are juggling priorities on a daily basis! In order to get everything important done in a day, I think it’s very important to keep To Do lists for your projects and other tasks. As a creative business owner myself, it’s important for me to plan out my projects and keep a complete list of “next actions” so whenever I have time to work on a project, I know exactly what I need to do next to maximize my time. Same thing with personal or other general tasks, having a to do list ready and clearly marking which items are priorities can really help you manage your workload. When you’re a busy person, the question isn’t always “how do I get it all done in a day,” as much as the question needs to be “how can I ensure I am getting the most important tasks done in a day.”

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What are your favourite tools for being organised and managing productivity? Any app recommendations or revelations?

Although I do primarily use my planners for organization, I also rely on some iPhone apps to help me capture ideas on the go and get work done while I’m out and about. My favorite list making app is Clear, it has a great UI and its very easy and quick to input information. I also rely on the Reminders and Calendar App on my iPhone for events and reminders throughout the day. Hootesuite takes care of all my scheduled tweets and facebook posts, and Afterlight is my go to photo editing app for anything posted to Instagram when I don’t want to bother with Photoshop!

Finally, how is your new doggie Starbuck getting on?!

Starbuck is really good! He’s full of energy and gets bigger, cuter and more spoiled everyday!

Thanks so much for sharing your advice with us today Alexis! It’s been amazing to have you here on the blog (bit of a fangirl moment for me ha!).

I have been joining in Alexis’ Instagram challenge for March which you can learn more about here. Be sure to follow her on all her links below!

Shop / Blog / YouTube / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook

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 *All images in this post are courtesy of Alexis Giostra. Please do not repost without permission.

Productivity For Busy People #2

It’s time for the second post in my productivity series! (Catch up on #1 here).

Any advice I give here is based on my personal experience and learning. I often receive emails asking for help with organisation, which is mostly what prompted this series. I’d like these posts to be a conversation between us all. I want you to ask questions and to share tips and tricks in the comments to. Up for it? Ok!

Today I will be sharing advice on working environments. It is mainly focused on small business working, but you could certainly apply this to a writing or craft space too.

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The Home Office (not the place for immigration, but that desk space you set up)

I am lucky to have a good space in which to work. Our spare room was previously a dumping ground and rarely got used for visitors. So I transformed it into a productive studio space! Here are my tips for a maintaining a functional workspace:

  • Keep regularly used items such as favourite pens or craft tools close by and easily accessible. My pegboard is brilliant for this.
  • Arrange the room so your desk or working area isn’t in direct sunlight. You don’t want to be answering emails whilst squinting into the sunshine. Also source a good lamp for darker days.
  • Have a comfortable chair. If I am having a blog writing session I want to be able to sit there for a while without discomfort. Cushions and blankets feature!
  • Remove distractions when working. No Netflix and no phone notifications telling you someone has retweeted you. Add a do not disturb sign if necessary.
  • Keep it tidy. I have a box which I use to collect any stray items together which need returning to their storage spots. I’m either hugely tidy or a massive slob. (See the first image of this post for proof).
  • Make it inspiring. Pretty up the space. Add motivational quotes to the walls, get a cute desk phone. Whatever makes you want to spend time in that space.

Even if you only have a small corner of your dining room to use, you can consider some of these points to help your productivity.

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The Cafe Space (may include treats)

On occasion, I schedule a working session away from home, usually in a local cafe. For me these sessions are likely to be joint working with friends such as Lucinda or Kate who are also running small businesses.

We share ideas and plan for the months ahead. Or maybe tackle some admin on the laptop. Solo working can often be difficult, so having someone to discuss things with is always positive for gaining a new perspective.

PLUS, WE HAVE BRUNCH OR CAKE. OR BOTH. Full belly = motivation.

There are downsides to this working environment. For example, you can’t block out the noise of the coffee machine, or you may be interrupted by a friend you haven’t seen for a while (this happens often in Cambridge – it’s so small). Distractions will be out of your control, so you must be aware of this. You may also want to scope out plug sockets/WiFi availability beforehand.

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On the go (ain’t nobody got time for that)

In my commuting days, I used to be super productive on the train. I would do my knitting and study for my Masters. Now, I have a 7 minute cycle to my day job. I use that time to escape all work for a brief moment, to enjoy the outdoors and to wake up my body. I think this is productive for my well being.

So my ‘on the go’ has changed. I now have small tasks which can be done whilst waiting in line at the post office (uploading to social media, sending shipping notifications/quick emails). If I am walking somewhere, I make a phone call to catch up with family. Multi-tasking is my on the go focus.

You might find that you can listen to a Podcast whilst at the gym (here is my favourite) or that you can crochet in the car as a passenger (not for me as I get travel sick). Being on the go is not always a dedicated time for working (sometimes it is nice just to enjoy your journey!), but you may find you can accomplish some micro tasks on the bus or whilst you are waiting for the dinner to heat up. (I use my slow cooker tons to free up my evening time, but more on that in another post).

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Hot Desking / Shared Studios (cos some people like company)

You may find that you have one day a week on which to work, or perhaps an afternoon when the kids are at nursery. Why not try a hot desking / co-working experience? In my city, we are lucky enough to have Cambridge Business Lounge where you can hire a desk space for a reasonable hourly rate. Often such places will have facilities for computing, WiFi and coffee making. Plus you get to see other people and to network.

Cambridge also has some amazing working spaces for creatives, including places where you can utilise shared (expensive) equipment such as laser cutters. Makespace is a great example of a skill sharing/project based work set up and encourages collective working for a membership fee. Maybe there is something like this in your city or town?

Paying for space is bound to increase your productivity!

Where do you usually work? Are you a TV watching crocheter? Maybe you write your blog posts at the dining room table? Or are you one of those weird people that reads a book whilst walking along?!!

Do share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Productivity For Busy People #1

This year, my plan is to be as productive and efficient as possible. As I work full -time and run this blog and my shop, free time is scarce. I hardly ever have weekends off and I have a boyfriend, a cat and a house to look after. A social life is last on the list. Basically I am BUSY, but I love it. I am working on decluttering, planning and organising throughout January.

So, why am I sharing this? I’ve decided to start a series of posts around the topic of productivity. I’ll be learning more about how to GET THINGS DONE, and will keep you guys up to date with tips and advice along the way.

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These posts will be relevant to anyone. Whether you are a small business owner like me, a busy Mum, or an organisational slob, I will share something that you can relate to and try out. There will be a couple of guests sharing their wisdom too!

Today’s post is a round-up of some resources and articles I have found which will help kick start your personal productivity.

Do you have any questions about productivity? Or perhaps there are areas you’d like me to cover in this series? Do leave a comment below and hopefully I can help!

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*Some pages on this site may contain links to outside sites, including paid affiliates. Read more about my disclosure policy here.