As we ease into the new year, I’ve been taking this time to not only reflect on the year that was but review and reset for the year ahead. 2016 was the year of all the things and as I look back on all that I offered and achieved, I’m hit with a desire to strip it back and hone in on my unique message and signature offerings. This means that I am getting really clear on the services that I provide, stepping into my unique message and setting up solid, signature processes.
Just as I tried all the things with my offerings, I also tried all the things with productivity tools. You name it and I’ve tried it. While I believe it was important that I tested them all out, I’m hoping to bring more intention to my business systems this year. This means that I’m getting clear on which tools I will use for my business and what their purpose is - in order to bring just a little more ease and flow to 2017.
I’ve been using Asana in one way or another for the past two years but in 2016, we made this relationship official!
How I use it:
Keeping track of client tasks: I’ve set Asana up so that each of my clients are a PROJECT and all of the tasks that I need to complete go straight into Asana. Some of these are recurring, like their weekly social media posts, and some of them are one-off. But with DUE DATES and RECURRING TASKS, this is made super simple. I also love how you can attach files and write as many comments as needed. This means that when I go to complete a task, all of the information is already in Asana and I can work straight from the dashboard instead of my inbox.
Managing a team: I hired my very first wing woman, Jenna Black, a few months ago and Asana has been an absolute god-send. Adding Jenna to my WORKSPACE means that she has instant access to all of the information required to manage client tasks. Not only can I ASSIGN her to tasks that I’d like her to work on but she can also get a clear image of the tasks that I’m working on too. This means that we’re always on the same page. Asana also reduces the amount of emails that have to go through our inboxes as we comment and engage with each other in Asana under the appropriate projects.
Mapping out the tasks for the day: I have previously tried to use my kikki.K planner to map out all of the tasks that I need to complete in the day. Not only does this look messy but it also means that I lose track of important appointments and meetings, After reading Getting Things Done by David Allen, I realised that I needed to keep daily 'to do’ lists out of my planner and on a separate device. The Asana calendar is perfect for seeing when tasks need to completed and moving them around according to gaps in my schedule. As much as I love a good list, I also like to visually see tasks in a calendar schedule and this is perfect!
Big vision planning: Okay so I saved the best part for last… Asana boards! The BOARDS function only launched a few months ago but this really was the move that hooked me in for a long-term relationship. While client projects and tasks are perfect in the LIST mode, I love to see my big visions and plans in the BOARD mode. I have set this up to display one month at a time and have included the following list: focus, priorities, actions/admin, wish list and complete.
I’ve been attempting to use Evernote for a couple of years but other than syncing random screenshots to a folder that was irrelevant a few weeks later, I’d had little success. This was until I started following my friend Jess from Beautiful Business Systems who gave me lots of ideas about how to use it. Now that I have it set up in a way that works for me, Evernote and I are going to be best friends!
How I use it:
Editorial calendar: I never used to understand why people used Evernote to write their blog posts until I watched Jess’ webinar on using Evernote for your editorial calendar. I realised that instead of clogging my desktop with half-written blog posts and ideas, I could work straight from Evernote and save the mess! I’ve set up my ‘Editorial Calendar’ as a NOTEBOOK and using this template, map out when I want to publish my posts and what the topic will be. I write my blog posts as a NOTES and then use TAGS to describe the stage of progress i.e. draft blog post, ready to publish blog post and published blog post. Once the blog post is ready to publish, I link it into the Editorial Calendar and upload on the specific date. I also have a ‘Ideas Lab’ note where I pop all my blog post ideas into one document.
Swipe file: I learnt this one from my gal pal Elle from JuJu Creative Hub who uses her swipe file to collect inspiration that she may want to reference later. Every time I find a website, newsletter or blog post that inspires me or would like to share with my clients as a resource, I use the WEB CLIPPER to save it into my Swipe File. I can then use tags to help distinguish the different topics and focus of the note. For example: my swipe file has marketing, websites, mailing list and social media as TAGS.
Style guide and messaging: This is a new one that I’ve set up and am incredibly excited about because it means I get to keep all my important brand elements in one place. With this NOTEBOOK, I have NOTES for: brand elements (including fonts, colour codes and logos), core messaging, social media strategy and client language. This means that all the bits and pieces that make up my brand are all in one place and easy to handover to someone that I might hire or collaborate with.
Business processes: As I mentioned previously, I’m doing a lot of work around my signature processes and Evernote is the place that I keep track of them. With a NOTEBOOK dedicated specifically to Business Processes, I use notes to create CHECKLISTS that outline all the steps required in on-boarding and working with my clients. Then I create further NOTES with template emails and documents that I link to the original NOTE so that I can literally access everything that I need in one place. Yay for productivity!
I’ve been using Toggl for the best part of a year and it’s completely transformed the way that I work from home. Disguised as a simple time tracking tool, Toggl is powerful for so many more reasons.
How I use it:
Tracking client hours: Toggl is essentially a timer that can be used to track projects and tasks. I’ve set it up so that each of my clients are a PROJECT so that when I hop in, I can click on their project and start their timer. I also use the DESCRIPTION section to outline the work that I’m doing within that time period. For example: content creation, social media scheduling or writing back to emails. Toggl is an essential tool for anyone working with clients on an hourly basis. Simply set the timer when you start client work, press stop when you’re done and at the end of each week or month, generate a report that will tell you the hours that you completed for the client.
Minimise distractions: If you’re anything like me then I’m sure that there are times when you experience shiny object syndrome and get distracted with other tasks and projects when you’re meant to be working on something else. I use Toggl to hold me accountable to working on one thing at a time and minimise distractions. Once the timer is on for one client, I know that I can’t do anything else within that time. Any ideas or tasks that come up during that time are written down on a notepad that I come back to when I’m not on the clock.
Seeing where you time goes: Hands up if you’ve ever said any of these sentences to yourself? There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t know where the times go. Oh goodness, I really underestimated how long that would take me. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. I hear this one from my clients all the time. And my response is always: start using Toggl! Toggl is a valuable tool for measuring your own projects, seeing where you time actually goes and getting clear on how long tasks actually take you! Even if time tracking really isn’t your thing (don’t worry, it isn’t mine either), simply try using it for a week or two and see it quickly transform the way you organise your time!
So that’s it lady loves: three simple, free tools that can be used for a myriad of different tasks in your business. Take the tools and functions that resonate and then play with ways that work with you.
If I’ve learnt anything about productivity it is this: You need to find a system that works for you. This is always going to be unique and it might take some time to get right. But when you do find it, don’t be afraid to share it with others as we could all use a little more ease and flow in our business!