4 Productivity Tools You Can't Live Without
Why You Should Make Productivity a Priority
We believe in balance. We believe in enjoying life and not working 24/7. Why be your own boss if you just become a slave to your business? You should be able to relax, give yourself days (or weeks - or even months!) off, and enjoy spending time doing the things you love with the people you love.
So why focus on maximizing productivity? Isn’t that what the corporate world does, as it wrings the life out of the cogs in its wheels?
We’re here to tell you that increasing your productivity is the only way you’ll get the life you’re dreaming of!
Increased Productivity = Better Balance
We advocate for increased productivity not so you can do more work, but so you can do the same amount of work in less time. Okay - if you want to do a bit more work, go for it. But your aim should be to achieve better balance.
Rather than working past 9:00pm, wouldn’t it be nice to punch out at 5:00pm or even 4:00pm? What if you could take every Friday off? If you’re able to finish your tasks in a shorter amount of time, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to balance your work life with your life life.
And I’ll fill you in on a little secret...this relationship is transitive. In other words, not only does increased productivity = better balance, but better balance also equals increased productivity!
If all you do is work work work, you’re never going to be fresh, inspired, or excited. In fact, you’ll eventually burn out and probably quit. On the other hand, if you get to spend more time away from your work, you’ll be raring to go when you sit down at your computer, making each minute of work more productive than it currently is.
Increased Productivity = Greater Impact
You’re in this for a reason. You have a difference you want to make. So if you improve your productivity and do that bit more work we talked about before (while still working less!), your impact will only expand.
Think back on the lofty goals you set for yourself. Are you on track to attain them? It’s okay - we heart-led leaders tend to be ambitious! BUT - if you increase your productivity, those goals move within reach.
Increased Productivity = More Money
I know, I know. You’re not in this for the money. But let’s be honest - you need to make a living. And the more money you make, the more you can give, the greater impact you can have, and the more you can enjoy life.
By doing a bit more work in less time than you’re currently devoting to your brand, you’ll undoubtedly increase your revenue.
Now that you’re convinced (you are, right?), let’s take a look at 4 productivity tools you can’t live without!
Productivity Tool #1 - Asana
What It Is
Asana is a web/mobile app designed to organize, track, and manage work. In other words, it is THE productivity tool. In its simplest form, it’s a digital to-do list, but it’s so much more than that.
For organization geeks like me, Asana is the holy grail. It makes work easier by housing projects, tasks, and communication all in one place.
You wear a lot of hats, so chances are you (a) forget to do things sometimes, (b) don’t have time to check in with your team members, (c) waste time trying to remember what to do next, (d)
Asana’s feature set is so expansive that it can be overwhelming - sometimes so much so that it scares people away. But its core functionality is actually very simple. I promise you can put it into practice today! Over time, you can use more features to further increase your productivity.
Here’s the basic structure your Asana account will have. As you can see, it’s designed to mimic your real-life company.
After you create your organization, you’ll invite all the other people you work with to join you. Assign them to the various teams you have in real life. If you’re a solopreneur, you can add any contractors you work with, as well as clients. Note: people can belong to multiple teams.
Next, you and your team will create the various real-life projects you have. For example, your marketing team might create a project called “Develop September Social Media Content”.
After all your projects are created, you and your team will create the various tasks needed to complete each project. For the Develop September Social Media Content project, tasks could include:
Brainstorm content ideas
Write blog posts
Edit blog posts
Schedule blog posts
Write social media captions
Create social media graphics
Schedule social media posts
Tasks are always assigned to one person, and they can include a deadline, collaborators, attached files, notes, conversations, and more.
Instead of wondering how the content is coming along, or having to ask, you can simply check Asana to see the status. And every team member will know exactly what they’re responsible for and when it’s due. Rather than sifting through emails or text chains, you’ll have everything organized in one place.
How many projects do you do over and over again? And always forget to do one step of the process? The beauty of Asana projects is you can replicate them! Consider the September social media example project. When it’s time to start developing content for October, all you have to do is replicate the project - it will not only duplicate the tasks, but it will also adjust the deadlines relative to the new project. How cool is that? Now think about how powerful that is when you do it for all your projects!
How We Use It
Asana basically tells us what to do each day. Okay, sure - we told Asana what to tell us to do at one point, but it’s pretty damn automated now. Everything we do can be found as a task in our organization. Here are some examples:
Batching Content Creation - Similar to the example above, we outline the monthly process to create all our content. Check out our batching post to learn how we do it.
Meetings - We meet on a regular basis to discuss ideas and ask for each other’s input. Any time we think of something to include in our next meeting, we throw it into Asana so (a) we don’t forget and (b) we don’t interrupt the other person.
Education - We’re always working through a course to stay on top of our game. We lay out what needs to be done in Asana to hold ourselves accountable.
Client Work - This one is a given. Anytime we start an assignment for a client, we make sure to outline and assign the various tasks in Asana. For more involved projects, we invite the client to join so he/she can keep track of our work, see our deliverables, and communicate as needed.
What’s the Cost?
Asana’s Basic Plan is FREE! I honestly can’t believe they give away so much for nothing in return. We recommend starting with that, as it alone will seriously level up your productivity.
Once you integrate Asana into your business, if you really want to harness its power, you’ll want to upgrade to the Premium plan. At around the same cost as email ($10.99/user/month), it’s well worth the price. Here’s a list of all the Premium features.
Productivity Tool #2 - G Suite
What It Is
G Suite is a complete set of work tools designed to make what you do easy, collaborative, and accessible from anywhere. Basically, Google has taken all the traditional MS Windows applications (Word, Outlook, Excel, and Powerpoint), as well as the old-school, on-disk storage system, and made them significantly more user-friendly and cloud-based. To top it all off, everything works together seamlessly.
Here’s what you get with G Suite:
Gmail - Own your domain? Get a custom business email address and use the best email client out there, hands down.
Google Meet - Free, robust video (and voice) conferencing! Cancel that Zoom membership - this one is included and interfaces perfectly with the next feature.
Google Calendar - Keep track of all your important events and meetings, and make sure your clients and team members know about them too.
Google Drive - Store every important document, image, audio file, and video in the (secure) cloud. Plus, easily share them with the people who need access (and limit their access if needed).
Google Docs - Like MS Word, but streamlined and without the bugs. Oh yeah, and you can collaborate with multiple people on the same file in real time.
Google Sheets - Like Docs, but spreadsheets. Awesome for nerds like me.
Google Forms - Need to collect information from your clients or team members? Easily create a form that will tabulate the results in a graphical format as well as a spreadsheet.
Google Slides - Never email a MS Powerpoint project again. Just log in to your Google account and there’s your presentation.
Two important notes:
Since G Suite is cloud-based, you can access all of these features from anywhere in the world. So if you drop your computer in the pool while working remotely in Thailand, no worries! Everything is safe in the cloud, and you can get right back to work on any other computer.
The mobile apps for each of these features are excellent. Living in NYC, I’m always working on something while riding the train, and I’m just about as productive on my phone as I am on my computer.
How We Use It
If Asana tells us what to do, G Suite is often where we do it. We obviously use Gmail for all our email communications, and we utilize Calendar and Meet for meetings with clients (and each other if we’re apart).
We use the Drive to store everything BE.FLOW-related. Besides Docs and Sheets, we have imagery, PDFs, videos, and audio for a podcast we might start one day. Laura and I can each access it all, anytime, from anywhere, on any device.
Right now, I’m writing the draft of this very blog post on a Google Doc. Once I’m done, or even as I’m writing, Laura can review it, leave comments, and make any changes (I’m sure I’ll need some!).
In case you didn’t already know, I’m a bit of a spreadsheet addict. We use Google Sheets to stay on top of our finances, plan our content, and keep track of important information like affiliate links and various passwords.
If you choose to work with us, we’ll likely ask you to fill out a Google Form to get started. Rather than going into an introductory meeting completely cold, we’re able to prepare and make the meeting more productive.
What’s the Cost?
G Suite costs a whopping $6/user/month. It is literally a no-brainer. For every business I’ve started and helped start, after purchasing a domain, the next expense has always been G Suite.
The $6 is for Google’s Basic plan, which includes 30GB of cloud storage per user. For twice the price, the Business plan offers at least 1TB of storage (unlimited for businesses with five or more users). Most people can more than get by with 30GB, but the extra $6/month is well worth it if you need it.
Productivity Tool #3 - Canva (Templates)
What It Is
Canva is a graphic design platform that makes creating professional, branded images a breeze, even for amateurs. If your social media presence needs a makeover, Canva is the tool to use. When it comes to productivity, I’m going to talk specifically about Canva’s templates.
Canva templates give you a great starting point, regardless of what kind of graphic you’re creating. They have templates for Instagram posts and stories, Facebook covers, Pinterest pins, and just about anything else you would ever need. The free plan boasts 8,000+ templates, while the paid plan offers over 450,000.
When you use a template, you can edit everything about it. Common things you might change, to keep it on-brand for you, include colors, fonts, and images. Rather than going through the frustrating process of starting from scratch, the templates provide the inspiration you need.
How We Use It
We use Canva to create nearly all of our graphics. While we love creating from scratch, it’s difficult to produce the volume we need without some inspo. Sometimes we’ll scroll through templates to get ideas, then make our own. Other times, we’ll start with a template as a framework, then mold it to fit the BE.FLOW brand.
What’s the Cost?
While Canva’s Free plan is impressive for the price, we highly recommend Canva Pro, which will only cost you $9.95/month.
Besides the additional 400K+ templates you get with the Pro plan, you also get these amazing features:
One-Click Resize - Take a graphic you made for your IG feed and easily resize it for your IG story, Pinterest, and any other use you have.
Stock Gallery - Choose from 60+ million premium stock images, photos, videos, and graphics. The Free plan only offers a fraction of that.
Branding - Upload your own fonts and logos to keep your branding on point.
Animation - Step up your game with videos and GIFs.
Try Canva Pro free for a month - I promise you won’t know how you ever lived without it.
And if you don't yet have a branding kit to harness the power of Canva, check out our post on how to create one.
Productivity Tool #4 - Later
What It Is
Later is a social media scheduling web/mobile application. It allows you to schedule posts in advance so you can set it and forget it. If you read our post on batching, then you know the advantages of scheduling your content ahead of time, rather than stressing about what to post everyday.
Later allows you to schedule posts on four platforms:
Beyond just the basics of scheduling posts, Later also allows you to…
Visualize your IG feed
Integrate your IG feed with Linkin.bio
Use saved captions
Get hashtag suggestions
How We Use It
As we outline in our post on batching content, we create four weeks of content at a time. After we write our captions and design our graphics, we load everything into Later. After that, we’re able to make sure our feed looks exactly like we want it to and review all of our captions, hashtags, links, etc.
What’s the Cost?
Later’s free plan is enough for many small businesses. The biggest limitation is you only get 30 posts/month (across all channels). However, if you sign up by following this link, you’ll get an additional 10 free posts every month.
If you still need more posts or want to take advantage of more advanced features, the Plus plan will run you $7.50/month. If you want to use Later to manage multiple brands, then you’ll need to upgrade to one of their higher cost options, which start at $16/month.
If you aren’t making productivity a priority, now’s the time to start! Create better balance, amplify your impact, and make more money by using these four productivity tools you can’t live without: