I’ve always had a jam-packed schedule, but since starting my business, “busy” has taken on a whole new meaning. My mind is swarming with ideas, to-dos, and questions, and it’s a constant struggle to find enough time to get everything done. Let’s put it this way: If I had a dollar for every time I heard myself say there aren’t enough hours in the day, I’d have enough money to fully fund this venture of mine.
So, in the past few months, I’ve had to ditch my trusty notebook and find some new tools to help me stay focused and make the best use of my time. Here are three free sites that are now part of my daily regimen and that do a great job of keeping my overloaded mind on track. (How entrepreneurs ever did it before the internet, I have no idea.)
If there’s one tool I truly couldn’t live without, it’s the task management system Producteev. This service is like Disneyland for people obsessed with to-do lists, color-coded agendas, and container stores. Once, it was down for a day, and I thought I was going to have a panic attack—that’s how good this thing is.
In addition to keeping track of your to-dos, the system helps you prioritize your priorities. You can assign yourself tasks by certain times and dates, set reminders, set tasks to repeat monthly, weekly, or daily—you can even assign tasks to team members, discuss projects, and attach relevant documents within the system.
But what I love most about this tool is that it gives me a good sense of how much I accomplished in a day or week. Since it notifies me (and everyone else on the team) every time a to-do is marked off, I have an easy, on-site record of the progress I’m making. It’s definitely motivational.
Social media is a great way to grow your business, but it can be a full-time job. And if you’re like me, you probably don’t have the time it takes to stop throughout the day and compress witty thoughts into 140-character nuggets of gold or interact with your online community.
That’s where Buffer comes in.
Buffer is kind of like your virtual social media manager, allowing you to take care of your social posting in two convenient ways. First, you can spend a couple hours at the beginning of the week batch-writing engaging social media posts, and then schedule them to go out at a later time or “Buffer” them—which means they’ll be added to a queue that the app will automatically publish at spaced-out intervals.
It also lets you schedule posts easily when you come across a great piece of content you want to share—the tool has plug-ins for everything from web browsers to RSS readers. You can even add re-tweets you’d like to post to your queue, so that you can show the Twitter love without posting a handful of messages all at once.
In short, Buffer has been a fantastic way for me to share ProfessionGal announcements, giveaways, favorite reads, tips, photos, and thoughts in a way that doesn’t cause social media to take over my life.
Ever wish you could Ctrl + F your sticky notes? There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you wrote something down somewhere, but not being able to remember where. Luckily, Evernote comes to the rescue by making saving and searching all your notes, ideas, and clippings as easy as searching the web.
Since starting my business, I’ve used Evernote in a couple of ways. Lately, I’ve been using it for collecting sites I like as a reference for my own site’s redesign. It saves me time by allowing me to share this list with my designers without the hassle of long email chains. I also use the app on my iPhone to jot down story ideas when they come to me when I’m out and about.
In addition, I find it wildly helpful for tracking my business expenses—I snap pictures of everything from cab receipts to business lunches and save them to Evernote. When tax time comes, they’ll all be in one place.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to get organized and a plethora of tools to help you do just that. But these three platforms are a great start, and they’ve certainly helped me stay on track with my goals and deadlines.
If you’ve had experience with similar services—even competitors of the tools listed above—please share your recommendations below! There’s no right or wrong way to stay focused. Try a few, and pick the one that works best for your work style.