I’m often asked how I’m able to do all the things that I do, to which I usually reply: “?”
Having given it more thought, I’ve come up with a list of the apps and hacks that work for me (after much research and frustration).
The old-fashioned way
Believe it or not, I’m a bit of a technophobe. All the online tools and gadgets I use are a means to carry out my job(s). But, I never leave home without a notebook and pens. Quickly jotting down ideas onto a bit of paper is still more effective for me than taking out the phone, swiping, entering the passcode, clicking onto an app, typing and then re-typing the typos so it makes sense (because it can’t keep up). With notebook and pen, I just have to decipher my handwriting. Typing it out later gives me the chance to review, edit and add to my initial thoughts. You’ll know if I’ve forgotten them – I’ll be a bit tetchy and start collecting napkins.
The best gadget ever invented (for me)
iPhone – where would I be? After suffering a pathetic HTC as my first smartphone, which needed a dose of steroids to wake up, I switched to an iPhone 4. Although much, much better, 3G became a problem when I tried to tweet pictures or use Vine. Now though, I’m up to the 5C (I don’t believe in gadgets for the sake of them – I’ll keep the cost as low as possible as long at it lets me do what I want). So now, I have 4G and my Vines and images are loading smoothly away from wifi.
Not being one for gadgets, as I mentioned, digital cameras do my head in (and both those I own seem to have developed faults, annoyingly). I found that the iPhone photos always came out better anyway – and now I’ve explored the editing tool a bit more, I can make adjustments to improve the picture quality. I’m trying to make more use of the video: I even managed to splice a couple together. Check out the free app called ..Splice!
With personal blogging last on my list of priorities, microblogging via Twitter and Vine (maybe Storify-ing them later) on the iPhone is now my personal creative outlet when I’m at an event. It’s taken a lot of willpower as I used to blog everything …
And oh, the joy of emails on the go. I’ve actually 8 email addresses I have access to – being able to check and delete whenever I’m hanging around waiting for something (usually the kettle to boil) saves me a huge amount of time. I just sign in on the desktop or laptop to deal specifically with the ones requiring action.
All my social media platforms are there for easy checking and surfing when I’m hanging around waiting again (school run, shop queue – I make use of every opportunity when I can’t do anything else). While I do schedule some stuff, I actually prefer dipping in and out to engage.
Making use of what’s there already
I’m a great fan of keeping everything in one place if possible, so I use Twitter’s own scheduling tool (Tweetdeck) and analytics. Twitter doesn’t appear to penalise the reach of its own scheduler and I personally trust the platform’s own analytics more than the gazillions of other tools out there (which want access to everything and require yet another password *yawn*). To unfollow the people who’ve unfollowed me, I sign in to http://who.unfollowed.me/ with my Twitter account and can switch back and forth between my account and the tool if I want to check them out more thoroughly.
Likewise, Facebook and its ‘save’ function and insights: I’m loving the ‘save’ feature they’ve introduced. Sometimes, I’m checking first thing in the morning but it’s a stupid time to post, so I save it for later – more easy content curation. The insights are easily checked on your page – why go to the palaver of signing into yet another platform, when FB’s own insights are likely to be more precise?
My go-to tools
Pocket I’ve mentioned in this blog post before. I’ve now stopped throwing everything in there and have taken time to categorise more intelligently so I can deal with one topic at a time. Fantastic receptacle for project research, interesting content to share on social media or curating my Sunday Slackers.
Canva is rapidly becoming the choice of experts for creating visual content and infographics. For a non-designer like me, being able to easily drag and drop a dialogue box or other images onto an image is just what I needed. I remember being shown how to do it on Photoshop and had to take notes – and I still didn’t understand it! And Canva is FREE! And I can upload direct from Google drive! (see below!)
Pixabay is my default to source a price and copyright free image to use either standalone or to drop into Canva and add to. You literally just search the free photos and pick one (check the Creative Commons License on the right). No need to sign in, no attribution needed, (although I generally do add a link to the original) you can right click and save image or download, and there are no multiple search functions to narrow down like on Google or Flickr: you search once and you find. For a decent stock image it’s all you need (that, or Morguefile, my next option.)
Google Drive: that one email address gives you access to Google Plus (which I’ve yet to fully take advantage of for the LitFest but working on it), Blogger, Google docs, Youtube, a highly useful storage facility and more. I upload my images and save documents without using space on my laptop, download a word doc as pdf, send to others for editing or viewing, create folders to easily keep track of everything. My life belongs to Google.
One offs and productivity tips
natwest.com – free business plan template. I wanted one for the Litfest, just in case a funder needed it. Nice bite sized chunks that can be saved and returned to, then downloaded as a pdf.
Digital Business Academy – Free Online Marketing Course (no.4). I’m halfway through and it tells you what you need for a marketing plan – and it’s not as much as you might think. No fancy template required.
Don’t lie in. It’s taken me a while – because who wants to get up at the weekend? But it’s 7am weekdays and 8am at weekends regularly now – I purposely get shopping delivered from 9am on Saturday so I have to be up and about.
The Pomodoro technique (or variations thereof). I can‘t just sit at the computer and type all day. So I set the alarm (on the iPhone, naturally) allowing myself how much time each task should take, including domestic chores. I aim to take five minutes away from the computer every hour like you’re supposed to, so a walk around the garden, fetching in the washing, a quick go on the rowing machine, drying up – all these little things that have to be done at some point help to break up my day and ensure my To Do list is checked off at the end of it.
After flirting with lots of productivity planners and templates, it turns out the most effective is my A4 Day-a-Page diary. I write down a simple list of all my tasks and away I go, crossing them off one by one. Less thinking, more doing!
The 2 minute rule – if something crops up and it’ll take less than two minutes, I’ll do it straightaway rather than add it to my To Do list.
My Golden Rule? Just because it’s there doesn’t mean I have to use it! I live by the KISS principle!
Got a tip to share? Let me know in the comments. (I just found this post on Hootsuite – seems I’m a structured procrastinator!)