Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about time and about how to manage it and keep it from slipping away too quickly each day. As I juggle my business, my family, my recreational activities and some other ministry responsibilities that I have I’ve been thinking and sorting through the ways that I keep track of that ever elusive foe. I know many small business owners (of which I am one) are always walking a tight rope managing all the activities that they do on a daily basis. It used to be that just getting through your administrative tasks and the main profit reaping goals of your business was enough, but now throw in the myriad of social media avenues and forget it, you can easily get bogged down and never see the light of day.
Here are just a few of the tools that I find keep my life a little more in check these days:
1. Staples ARC customizable notebooks– I’m not sure who invented these but they are a genius! I used to work in about 5 notebooks at any one time. I’d have one for work, one for to-do’s, one for personal memos to myself, one for a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group that I’m involved with and the list goes on. The flaw with that system is that I would invariably be out somewhere without the appropriate notebook when I needed it! These customizable notebooks (they’re actually more of a binder style) allow you to add paper and tabs to create separate sections, so all of my notes are in 1 place! They come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and they offer several different fill paper options (my favorite are the “action” pages where you can take notes on the right and on the left there is space for “action items”).
2. Google Calendar– I pretty much use Google for most things these days (Gmail & docs) but I’ve been a faithful Google calendar user for years. My favorite thing is that you can share the calendar with other people. So in my case, my husband and I share a calendar for our family life that we can both access and see from anywhere. I’ll also throw in a quick plug for Google docs in here as well. I still am a hard-core Excel lover (I Love Spreadsheets!) but the ease of being able to share documents with clients through this platform is wonderful and does make collaboration a million times easier. It lacks a bunch of things that Excel has but for quick and simple documents it’s a time saver in my book.
3. Freshbooks– For a while when I first started working as a VA I did all of my billing and tracking of my time in Excel (see, I told you I love it) but as time went on, I just found that it lacked what I really needed which was more of a timekeeping program. So much of the project work I do is billed by the hour so the fact that Freshbooks offers a time tracking component with an actual timer makes it super handy. You can just name your project, assign it to a client and then just start the timer when you are working on that particular project. At the end of your billing cycle you can then easily turn that into an invoice. So much time saved!
4. Dropbox– Before Dropbox my inbox would be full of separate emails of pictures or large documents that couldn’t be sent in one shot. Now I happily get 1 lovely email from Dropbox saying that someone has shared something with me and then I can just go ahead and save all the contents onto my computer. It’s super easy to use and makes thing very convenient, especially if you’re working with people who may not be in the office right next door.
5. PicMonkey– Editing photos can really be time consuming. I can easily spend several hours trying to get a picture cropped and looking just right. Pic Monkey makes that process fun and simple to use. They offer lots of free editing tools in addition to several upgraded options that you pay a small monthly fee for. I’m sure there are lots of super fancy editing tools out in the world but to be honest, they would probably take more time for me to learn than what I currently need. For the quick edits that I do on a regular basis PicMonkey has become my best friend.
These are just 5 of my favorite tools that I’m using on a regular basis these days and that have streamlined areas of my work life. What tools do others use?