Tag Archives for " Productivity "

My Top 17 Productivity Tools & Apps

do more

I can’t believe it’s that time of year again to do a round-up of my favourite tools and it’s been quite a change for me!

I am a big believer in using software tools and apps to help us become more efficient. Simply, by automating as many of those recurring mundane tasks as possible, to allow us to be more organised and productive.

To that and I tell my clients they need to do one of the four Ds:

and I’ve added a fifth element to this:

So in this blog, I want to share with you some of the tools that I have experimented with and spotlight the ones that have made an impact for me.  This is all about becoming more efficient and automating tasks rather than getting distracted by shiny new objects. Trust me, for everyone one tool I mention here, I tried at least 5 others! That lead me to want to share my experience and advice with you. I wasted loads of time trying tools that promised a lot and delivered little and I don't want you to make the same mistake!

Listed below are the key categories I think every business needs to look at and then the tools I have personally used.

Stuck for time?

Download this blog as a PDF short cheatsheet to read & share it at your leisure

All-in-One Integrated Tools

But before I jump into a review of my favourite tools I want to share the big change that I made this year.

I decided to try and consolidate a plethora of tools I use (many of which are listed below) to run my business, with as few tools as possible. That meant consolidating my email automation, my online content delivery, video hosting and many others, into ideally one platform.  Let me explain the rationale behind this:

Integration

This was my primary driver in that I became frustrated at getting the various tools I used to communicate with each other.  I often ended up using Zapier (and yet another cost) to try ‘tape together’ one tool feeding into another.  This was frustrating and never quite did what I needed it to do. 

Also using a set of disparate tools meant I had less analytical data to act upon. For example, if someone watched 20% video then do ACTION A but if they watched 100% of the video then do ACTION B.  With a set of disparate tools, this kind of analysis and behaviour is not easily possible.

Cost

A secondary driver was cost.  When you add up the cost of all of the annual subscriptions of about 10 different tools I use, it amounted to several thousand pounds a year.  So was there a more cost-effective way of getting the functionality I needed in fewer tools?

Based on these 2 drivers, I started exploring the options and it came down to 3 platforms:

  • Kartra ($1 for a 14-day trial and then from $99/month)
  • Kajabi (free 14-day trial and then from $119/month currently)
  • Builderall ($1 for a 30-day trial and then from $99.90/month)
 

1

Kartra 

Kartra Home Page

$1 for a 14-day trial and then from $99/month

In the end, I chose Kartra, it seemed robust, could do most of what I needed it to do and was cost-effective.

Now, I don’t want to do a full review of Kartra in this blog because there are plenty on the Internet already but let me tell you the tools I was able to consolidate and stop paying an annual fee for once I moved to Kartra:

  • ConvertKit (email marketing)
  • Teachable (online courses)
  • Calendly (scheduling)
  • Thrive Architect (website design)
  • Vimeo (video hosting)

So collectively these add up to more than my monthly fee for Kartra.  But, more importantly, because I am using the same tools on one integrated platform, each tool talks with each other in a seamless way. This makes my customer's experience a smoother one, and provides me with more analytical data.

Now before we move on, I need to give an honourable mention to GroovePages.  This is a product created by one of the founders of Kartra and is something that I have invested in, in the hope that I may be able to move everything from Kartra to GroovePages in the future (because it adds even more functionality such as live broadcasts and webinars). However, it is still in beta development so I don’t feel it is reliable enough yet to move my whole business on to this platform.  If you are interested in exploring it, whilst it’s still in beta, you can get FREE lifetime access to it.

OK so that is my rationale for consolidating a number of tools into one platform. The list below outlines individual tools and they may well be better suited to your specific business needs. I have put them into categories to help with reading.

OK on with the other tools.

Broadcasting tools

As well as recording content for my online courses, I have been running webinars and live broadcasts.  So here are the tools that have helped me get more slick, speedy and professional.

 

2

Zoom 
https://www.zoom.com/

FREE for a personal plan or from £119.90/year for teams & business plans

This doesn’t need much of an introduction since I’m sure most readers will know about Zoom.  I use it for my private coaching clients and also for my group coaching calls as part of The Self-Running Agency Programme (screen from last week's call below):

The Self-Running Agency
 
 

3

Loom
https://www.loom.com/

FREE up to 100 x 5 min videos

I still love Loom because it saves me so much time.


On a daily basis, I have clients asking me questions or asking me to review documents (I never want my clients to be stuck so encourage this).  Before using Loom I would spend ages crafting an email response.


Now I simply open their email or document, turn on Loom and review their document in real-time on camera and send them the Loom video in response. I estimate this is making me around 50% more efficient when it comes to responding to the client's emails.


Now let me tell you a secret here: often when I get prospects emailing me, rather than sending them an email back I will use Loom to shoot a short video which is personalised to them.  This is a great way of impressing them and building empathy that you can't achieve through a one-dimensional email.

 

4

LiveWebinar 
https://www.livewebinar.com/

FREE for up to 5 attendees or from £9.60/month for larger groups

I talked about LiveWebinar last year and I'm still using this for the time being for marketing webinars that I run.  However, I will be moving to GroovePages when they launch their webinar technology.


I also want to give an honourable mention Be.live - a great tool if you do Facebook lives.

 
 
 

5

Vimeo (and YouTube)
https://vimeo.com/

£192/year

As I've mentioned, I have moved my video hosting to Kartra but I'm still currently using Vimeo until my licence runs out. It is still a great platform!


I use Vimeo for short promotional videos that I may not want in the public domain. The advantage Vimeo has (over YouTube) is how you can control what the user sees and embed calls to actions etc. Vimeo also offers higher quality video.  


It enables you to remove all their branding and offers more features and customisation opportunities (such as password protection and analytics).

Design and layout tools

We all need to make sure our output is professional yet we don't want to be spending tons of money using designers all the time.  

Here are a few of my favourite tools to solve this problem.


 
 
 

6

Canva

https://www.canva.com

FREE for single-use or from £107.88/year for multiple users & additional functionality

This is great for creating social media images, eBook covers and other graphics. It is really simple to use and saves me a ton of time, especially if I start with one of their predesigned templates or image sizes. 


This year I switched to a paid version of Canva. It adds additional functionality such as resizing, removing backgrounds and animation. 

 
 
 

7

Designrr
https://designrr.io/

I use a lifetime Pro version (no reoccurring fees) that costs £90

If you create a lot of PDFs and e-books then this is a really useful tool (although you can also use Canva to perhaps more easily create some of this content).


Another useful function is that you could take a blog post and import the contents and automatically create an e-book from it.


Web development

 
 
 

8

If you have a WordPress website then this is my favourite tool to use to easily create engaging websites using lots of beautifully designed templates (however if you've read this far you will know that I have moved from WordPress from my website to Kartra).


It's a WYSIWYG builder that sits on top of WordPress and makes it super easy to create new landing pages.  It's easy to connect to your email marketing system and do other clever things such as A/B headline testing, creating demand and scarcity by using countdown timers, writing quizzes and so much more.


This is one of the more affordable tools in this category. I am a ThriveThemes member and I pay about £175 a year for all the tools and support and all upgrades. This is a fraction of the cost compared with other website building software.


External communications

 
 

9

I am still a fan of ConvertKit even though I have now moved my email marketing to Kartra.


I have used a range of email marketing automation tools over the years including MailChimp, MadMimi and ActiveCampaign but in the end, settled upon ConvertKit because its functionality met with my needs.  It is also more cost-effective and it’s easy to set up automations, (think sales funnels).  It plays well with other systems such as ThriveArchitect, Teachable and so on.

10

LinkedHelper

https://lh2.linkedhelper.com/

Free to try, then $99 / year

I am all about time-saving. In fact whilst this blog is about my favourite tools, it's all about using timesaving and efficiency tools and none are better than saving you time than LinkedHelper.


LinkedHelper is an app that enables you to automate some aspects of LinkedIn engagement (think of it as a sales funnel for LinkedIn).


So for example, you can send personalised connection requests to a targeted audience or you can send more detailed personalised messages to 1st connections.  I typically use it to find new ideal connections and also to let my audience know when I have some interesting things happening such as this blog being published or a new webinar.

Talking of LinkedIn, I also upgraded to Sales Navigator because I can drill down my search in more detail and create lists and 'tag' contacts.


Now a word of caution here: LinkedIn doesn't like these automation tools so use it carefully and don't use it to spam your contacts!

When you find a contact in LinkedIn but there is no email or phone number in that contact's profile then RocketReach is the tool to use.  

It is free and will find someone's email address if that is at all possible.

Select from dozens of search criteria to narrow your search, and then lookup personal emails, professional emails and direct-dial phone numbers for your matches.


 

12

Dictation

FREE

Here is a tip if you're a Mac user: if you press the function key twice it brings up the microphone and you can dictate voice to text (this is how I'm writing this blog).  


This massively speeds up my content creation.  But don't worry, if you're not a Mac user you can also click on the dictation microphone in Word or Google Docs etc.


This has two big advantages:

  1. Firstly, it speeds up the creation of content because it's much faster to dictate than it is to type.
  2. Secondly, it also ensures that I capture my tone of voice in my written content. This is important because I want my users to have a consistent experience whether they are reading something, listening to my podcast or meeting me in person.  Voice to text ensures that I maintain that consistency.

Finance

 

13

Xero

https://www.xero.com/uk/

FREE for 1 month, then from £10 / month

I started using Xero, which is an online finance app, some years ago to streamline my bookkeeping.

 

The thing I like about Xero is it speaks to you in plain non-accounting terms and it connects to your bank account making reconciliation very simple.


It also connects directly with my accountants, which means they can rescue me when I make a mistake and submitting my end of year accounts is much simpler than it used to be.

 

14

ReceiptBank

https://www.receipt-bank.com/uk/

FREE 14-day trial then £120 / year

Receipt bank is a sister tool that works well with Xero.


I don't know about you, but in the past I have been terrible at submitting all my receipts. ReceiptBank removes this issue by making it very easy to simply take a photograph of a receipt, which it then digitises.  


You can then submit these receipts directly to Xero -  making the process very straightforward.  This one saves me a ton of time and a ton of money!

Planning and organisation tools

15

Google Drive
https://www.google.com/drive/

FREE for 15GB storage, from £1.59/month for more

I love Google Drive and have slowly moved all my client work from my drive to Google.


This has the huge advantage of easily being able to share docs.  You can quickly invite others to view, download, and collaborate on all the files you want–no email attachment needed. It ensures that both you and your clients are collaborating on the same version of the document. 


You can keep photos, stories, designs, drawings, recordings, videos, and more. You can access these docs anywhere, so wherever you go, your files follow.


It also protects you against a hard disk drive dying (which happened to me this year) and losing all your data.


16

I am a big proponent of getting super organised and if you have read any of my previous content, you’ll know that I am a fan of "morning and evening rituals" (thanks to Michael Hyatt’s Free to Focus book).


In the process of trying to be super organised, I've tried several tools to help me manage my to-do lists.  Last year I  started using another tool (with a stupid name but a good product) called Amazing Marvin. 


I had a free trial and now have upgraded to an annual license. Amazing Marvin is a task and to-do list manager.  It integrates with my calendar and enables me to create daily and weekly to-do list.  I can cross tasks off as I get them completed (and you know the importance of seeing items ticked off and crossed out as you complete them).  


I appreciate everyone has their way of managing their time but give this tool a go!

 

17

Toby

Free to use Chrome extension

This one was a game-changer for me.


I don't know if you're like me but during the day I open way too many web browser windows and tabs.  I then struggle to find what I'm looking for so I end up opening yet another tab!


Well thankfully I have found a solution to this and now I am much more in control and have way fewer tabs opened.


And that's all thanks to this chrome browser extension called Toby (another rather stupid name!).  


This enables me to create a frequently used library of tabs and put them into various categories.  Now when I open my chrome browser the first thing I see is the library of tabs.


As I said this is a game-changer for me.

In Summary

My Top 5 Favourite Apps


  • Kartra
  • Loom
  • Voice to Text Dictation
  • Canva
  • Linked Helper
 

In Conclusion

I spent (wasted!) a lot of time researching and playing with tools and apps and I have shared with you my top 17 best productivity and time-saving tools - so you don't have to waste time searching the web and trialling 100s of tools to find the ones that work for you.  


If you have any of your favourites that I did not mention, I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and please share this article with your colleagues.

Productivity

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A quick cheat sheet of my top 17 productivity tools. 


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How to be productive with your limited time

Time is our most precious commodity. Once it passes we cannot get it back so we need to make sure that we are using it effectively.

During the pandemic, we have all been working from home and our boundaries can easily get blurred. For many of us, the consequence of this is that we are working longer hours.

But the question is…. are we being productive with our time, or are we being busy fools?

A while back, I wrote a block post called Being a Busy Fool and it is by far my most popular post. Lots of people are searching on Google for this because they suspect they are being a busy fool and are looking for solutions to being more productive with their time.

So, in this blog, I want to share with you 6 strategies that I use myself, and share with my clients, that are super pragmatic concepts that you can start implementing in your working day to make sure that you are as productive as possible.

Get Clear Boundaries

The first tip I want to share with you is to get really clear boundaries in your working day. Currently, many of us fall out of bed and move straight into our office and start working. We then spend a bit of time reviewing emails or messing around on social media. And then our day starts on. Then maybe we don't have a lunch break and we continue working. Our energy fizzles out towards the end of the day when you're exhausted. To compound this, many others have blurred our boundaries even further by working at weekends in brackets because let’s face it there hasn’t been much to do whilst we’ve been stuck inside).

To counter this poor practice, you need to make sure that you have a sense of arriving and leaving work. If you're fortunate enough to have an office at home, then you can close the door and turn off your computer- clearly demarking the end of the day. To further earmark the start of the day, it’s also a good idea to still be dressing for work (i.e. don’t spend all day in your PJs

This tip is sort of obvious thing, right? But sometimes we just need to hear these things being said again to remind ourselves.

It is also a good idea to have a clear desk policy (that helps create a clear mind policy).

Have a clear desk and clear mind policy

If part of your evening ‘close down’ ritual is clearing your desk then it helps signify the end of your working day and it means when we start our day the next day, we begin with a clear desk (like starting the day with a blank sheet of paper) and consequently, a clear mind. The alternative is to end you day with a messy desk - with papers lying around everywhere, your computer still running with loads of windows open. You start the next day trying to pick up where you left off and quickly feel overwhelmed and stressed!

I know personally that I feel so much better when I arrive at my desk and it's nice & clean and I restart my computer. So, I try to make sure that I have a clear desk policy. Tidying up, clearing my desk and filing paper is part of my end of day ritual which brings me to tip 3 and that is having a morning and evening ritual.

Morning and Evening Rituals

Now, this is something I've borrowed from Michael Hyatt and his book Free to Focus.

The concept of a morning and evening ritual ties into the boundaries tip. Having a morning and evening ritual means that you are going to start and finish your day in the same way, every day.

A simple idea that will have a significant impact.

Let’s look at my morning and evening rituals as an example.

The first thing I do without fail every morning is to make a cup of coffee. I can't start my day without it! The action of making a coffee is like a trigger point to say my working day is starting. The second thing in my morning ritual is to go through my emails (I only check my email at 4 points during the day, so this is point 1). I try and delete as many emails as I can. I flag those that need answering, and if create any significant tasks, I make sure I schedule them in my day.

After cleaning my emails, I review and amend my schedule for the day (I use a tool called Marvin for scheduling but a sheet of paper or whatever your preferred app is will do). The key here is to make sure you allocate some time to plan your day before ploughing into your tasks.  And remember that when you read new emails, they may have some impact on your scheduling.

A good practice for scheduling is to overestimate how long task will take so that you allow some flex for interruptions that no doubt will happen during the day without throwing your schedule out the window.

Your goal is to tick everything off your to-do list for the day rather than creating a long list that never gets any shorter (we’ve all been there!). So, if you have new tasks coming in during the day, don’t just add them to your list but rather think when you need to schedule them. And if it has to be done today, what task in today's schedule are you going to defer to tomorrow or the next day or delete altogether?

So, after making a coffee, cleaning my emails and scheduling my day, I then just focus on the first task in my day. And that is my morning ritual!

My evening ritual looks very similar to that. I'll check my emails again (for the 4th time). My goal with emails is to try and get the mailbox down to zero. I will flag any emails up that I need to address, and I start to roughly outline tomorrow’s schedule. Then, most importantly, I close all my apps and shut my computer down, clear my desk, file any paperwork and I am done.

The key point about morning and evening rituals is that I know exactly how my day is going to start. And I feel like I have some control over my day because I've just invested time in strategically planning my day (which of course is the same way we need to approach our business) as opposed to just sitting down and asking “Okay, What's the priority? What's the big thing? Who is shouting the loudest?”.

The is a psychological benefit to this too - I can have two days that are the same, where I complete the same tasks.  The first day I've sat down and scheduled my day and at the end of the day, I feel accomplished. I feel like I've moved forward. I feel like I've done everything I needed to do.

The second version of that day - I don't schedule anything. Rather, I just sit down and get on with things. And at the end of the day, I don't feel a sense of accomplishment. I have this nagging doubt that there's something I missed. I'm not sure whether I'm moving forward, so it feels like I am just firefighting.

So, it's really important from a psychological perspective that you plan your day as well.

Use your time wisely

Staying with a focus on using your time in the most effective way, the 4th tip is something I have written about many times before and that is allocating your time across 3 ‘pots’ of time: strategy, revenue and admin.  It doesn't matter what you do or whether you're a one-man-band or 30-man agency, all of this applies.

Let’s do a quick refresh on what these three pots mean.

Time management

Revenue – how I am earning money this month

Your revenue time covers all tasks that involve your earning money this month i.e. client work that is already on the books. Simply put money today.

Strategy – how we will earn money in the future

This is all about money tomorrow. Everything you're going to do that's going to help your agency earn money in the future. This includes business development, marketing, proposals, pitches, networking - everything that will create opportunities for you in the future.

Admin – tasks that are costs and keep your agency running

The admin pots include tasks such as HR, managing your team, recruitment, finance, invoicing, credit control etc. All those really important tasks that keep your agency running but are a cost.

So that's a quick definition of these three pots. Now, when you’re scheduling your time, you need to get an appropriate balance across all three.

Imagine the agency owner that's just focused on delivering great client work and has no time to work on strategy. What does the future of their agency look like? They will be busy in the short term and then everything is going to fall off a cliff.  They don't have many opportunities in their pipeline because they haven't focused enough attention on strategy.

Similarly, imagine an agency that is focused on strategy. They may well have a full pipeline for the future but they're going to have major cash flow issues in the short term because they don't have a lot of client work on their books.

And lastly, if you get busy with revenue and strategy but at the expense of focusing some time on admin then you're going to quickly have cash flow issues because you have no time for invoicing or credit control!

So, the key here is to get the balance of your time across Revenue, Strategy and Admin right.

If you are not sure what that balance should be, I have an exercise that you can do to track your time over a couple of weeks to work out what your balance should be. You can access the tool here.

Otherwise, a good approximation is to spend around 60% of your time in revenue, 30% of your time in strategy and 10% of admin. So that means 60% delivering client work, 30% working on the future of your agency and then 10% working on the admin, (which is 1/2 day a week).

What does your split look like and how do you make sure that you get that balance, right?


The Notional Hourly Rate

The 5th area I want to talk about is the concept of a notional hourly rate.

Now, if you know me, you know I never want you to be selling hours to clients, so this might sound a little strange! But that's not what I'm talking about here. You should be value pricing and value selling to clients (which is a whole other topic!).

The concept of the notional hourly rate is really simple and is a good way for you to consider whether you should be doing a task, delegating or ditching it. Let’s say that notionally, an hour of your time is worth £150. Then the question you want to be asking yourself with all the tasks that you do is “Is this task worth £150 or more, or is it less than £150?” And if the answer is it's less than £150, you should be asking yourself, “why am I doing it?” (and you should probably be delegating this to somebody else).

If you're doing work that's worth £50 an hour instead of £150 then that probably means it's stopping you doing some work that's worth £150 on more (and that often looks like strategy work).

I use this is a quick yardstick for myself when I'm planning my day. Should I be doing this, or should somebody else be doing it?, or should I not be doing it all?

So, if you can delegate then delegate as much as possible, It might be that you have a team of freelance staff or a VA.

The 4Ds

This is another quick way to assess if you should be doing a task or not (and works in conjunction with tip 5).

The 4 Ds are: Ditch it, Delegate it, Defer it or Do it.

For every task, (especially one that’s less than your notional hourly rate) you should be asking yourself, can I ditch this task? Is it something that I need to do? If the answer is yes then ditch it and move on to the next task.

If the answer's no, then ask yourself can I delegate this to somebody else and don’t kid yourself - don't tell yourself Well, I could, but I haven't got the time or what they won't do as well as me. Those are not good reasons not to delegate. If the answer is yes, then spend the time delegating effectively.

If the answer is no, then ask yourself, can I defer it? In other words, can I do this at a later date, or does it have to be now? And if the answer is yes, then defer it and. schedule it for a later date.

If the answer is no, I can't defer it then you need to do it so schedule it for today.

Now I've added in 5th element to the 4Ds, which is 'Automate It' because there are so many great apps and useful productivity tools. That means sometimes we can get more efficient by using automation (e.g. email marketing systems, which can automate so many aspects of email marketing etc.).

The importance of having a plan

My last tip in this blog which will help keep you focused on the tasks that matter and keep your agency moving forward, is to make sure have a plan (which you will have developed during your strategy time).

I recommend that you have a one-year plan, which is broken down into quarterly plans, then monthly and weekly plans.  And if you have a management meeting, (which I highly recommend you do), then you use your monthly plan as the basis for the conversations in the management meeting to ensure that you are all thinking strategically and not diving into an operational discussion.

So, these are my 7 tips that to help you keep focused and productive:

  1. Make sure that you get really clear boundaries about when you're at work and when you're not working.
  2. Have that clear desk policy so that you start each day with a blank slate.
  3. Create a morning and evening ritual so that you start and finish the day in the same way.
  4. Break your time down into strategy, revenue and admin - making sure that you get the balance of your time across those three areas right for you.
  5. Understand your notional hourly rate and evaluate tasks against this rate
  6. Use the 4 Ds (Ditch it, Delegate it, Defer it, Do it) and I added in Automate it
  7. Have a plan for your agency for the year, quarter and month

Apply these techniques and you will find your productivity and focus increasing, and motivation improve.

Time management

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My top 16 tools and apps to make you more productive in 2020

Productivity

We are all striving to get more efficient and maximise our most valuable asset: our time. To achieve this we need to be as productive as possible whilst focusing on the things that will move our business forward and automating or delegating the other tasks

To that and I tell my clients they need to do one of the four Ds:

and I’ve added a fifth element to this:

So in this blog, I want to share with you some of the tools that I have experimented with and spotlight the ones that have made an impact for me.  This is all about becoming more efficient and automating tasks rather than getting distracted by shiny new objects. Trust me, for everyone one tool I mention here, I tried at least 5 others (!!) and that lead me to want to share this with you. I wasted loads of time trying tools that promised a lot and delivered little - don't make the same mistake!

 

Stuck for time?

Download this blog as an short cheat sheet to read & share it at your leisure


Broadcasting tools

As well as recording content for my online courses, I have been running more and more webinars and live broadcasts, so here are the tools that have helped me get more slick, speedy and professional.

 

1

Livewebinar 
https://www.livewebinar.com/

I have spent ages trying different live broadcast/webinar tools and settled upon using live webinar partly because of its cost but also because of its ever-growing functionality. Today it is my toll of choice for both doing one-to-one coaching sessions over the web as well as group coaching and webinars. You can do both live webinars as well as pre-recorded evergreen webinars.  I also want to give an honourable mention Be.live - a great tool if you do Facebook lives.

 
 

2

I love Loom because it saves me so much time. On a daily basis I have clients asking me questions or ask me to review documents (I never want my clients to be stuck so encourage this) and prior to using Loom I would spend ages crafting an email response. Now I simply open their email or document, turn on Loom and review their document in real time on camera and send them the Loom video in response. I estimate this is making me around 50% more efficient when it comes to responding to client's emails.

 
 
 

3

Vimeo (and YouTube)
https://vimeo.com/

£192/year

I use Vimeo for all my private videos for my courses and YouTube for my public videos. The advantage Vimeo has for me is how you can control what the user sees and embed calls to actions etc. Vimeo also offers higher quality video.  It enables you to remove all their branding and offers more features and customisation opportunities (such as password protection and analytics).

 
 
 
 

4

Autocue 
and other video equipment

Investment of £200

I've tried various methods for recording videos including me just rambling and then spending a great deal of time editing the videos.  I have tried using prompts to keep me on track and most recently I invested in buying an autocue from Amazon for about £160 in conjunction with a free app on my iPad (telepromter). Let me tell you that this has revolutionised the way I shoot videos because now I can record them much more rapidly and spend way less time in the editing process.


If you are going to shoot videos (which I think is a great way of engaging with your audience), you need to remove as many barriers as possible that stop you getting started, so I want to tell you that you don't need an expensive camera nor an expensive microphone. I simply use a tripod with my iPhone, attached to a RODE microphone (about £45).  To ensure decent video quality I use a backdrop and two lights  (purchased from Amazon for about £100 in total).

Design and layout tools

We all need to make sure our output is professional yet we don't want to be spending tons or money using designers all the time.  

Here are a few of my favourite tools to solve this problem.

 
 
 

5

This is great for creating social media images, eBook covers and other graphics. It is really simple to use and saves me a ton of time when I start with one of their predesigned templates and image sizes. It is easy to change images and save docs as templates to reuse in the future.

 
 
 

6

​Designrr
https://designrr.io/

I use a lifetime Pro version (no reoccurring fees) that cost about £90

This is a really neat tool that expedites the creation of eBooks. Let me explain by sharing with you what I do each month. Each month I write 2 long blog posts on one topic. I then use Designrr to create an e-book from the two blog posts so that readers can download and read the blog as an e-book, at their leisure. Designrr makes it really easy to do this - you simply type in the URL of the blogs, pick a template and import the blogs into that template which creates a rough design that you then can edit to finesse.

This makes the process of creating an e-book really rapid and very simple, and you don't need any design skills to create a professional-looking e-book in probably half an hour.

Web development

 
 
 

7

This is my favourite tool and I really should get commission for this since I recommend it all the time. If your website is built on WordPress and you want to be able to easily make changes to your site as well as creating a site that is focused on lead generation (as all websites should be) then ThriveArchitect is the tool for you!

It's a WYSIWYG builder that sits on top of WordPress and makes it super easy to create new landing pages, easy to connect to your email marketing system and do other clever things such as A/B testing headlines, creating demand and scarcity by using countdown timers, creating quizzes and so much more. This is definitely one of the more affordable tools in this category. I am a Thrive Themes member and I pay about £175 a year for all the tools and support and all upgrades. This is a fraction of the cost compared with other website building software.

External Communications

 
 

8

I have used a range of email marketing automation tools over the years including MailChimp, MadMimi and ActiveCampaign but in the end settled upon ConvertKit because its functionality meets with my needs, it is more cost effective and it’s easy to set up automations (think sales funnels) and it integrates well with other systems I use such as ThriveArchitect, Teachable and so on.

9

So I am all about time-saving. In fact whilst this blog is about my favourite tools, it's really all about using timesaving and efficiency tools and none are better than saving you time than DuxSoup (stupid name, good tool).


DuxSoup is a chrome extension that enables you to automate some aspects of LinkedIn engagement. So for example, you can send personalised connection requests to a targeted audience or you can send more detailed personalised messages to 1st connections. So I typically use it to find new ideal connections and also to let my audience know when I have some interesting things happening such as this blog being published or a new webinar. I think that DuxSoup saves me probably 4 hours of admin work per week.

Talking of LinkedIn, I also use the upgrade to Sales navigator because I can drill down my search in more detail and create lists and 'tag' contacts.

When you find a contact in LinkedIn but there is no email or phone number in that contact's profile then RocketReach is the tool to use.  It is free and will find someone's email address if that is at all possible. Searching for the right lead doesn't have to feel like rocket science. RocketReach Advanced Search makes it easy to find the right people.  Select from dozens of search criteria to narrow your search, and then lookup personal emails, professional emails and direct dial phone numbers for your matches.

 

11

Continuing the theme of trying to find a contact's email address, my next 'Go To' tool is Hunter.io.  You can waste a ton of time trying to find contact details but instead Hunter.io should be your first port of call.


Hunter lets you find email addresses in seconds and connect with the people that matter for your business.  You simply enter a domain name (e.g. www.dacostacoaching.co.uk) and it will identify all the contacts who work for that organisation.  Hunter claims to have 200+ million email addresses indexed, so there is a good chance you will find what you are looking for.


With the free version of Hunter you get 50 searches per month.

 

12

AeroLeads 

https://aeroleads.com/

$49 / month (after a free trial)

I have been using AeroLeads for the last two years and it's a great tools for researching contact info & lead generation.  Just with one click, you can get an email address from any website! It comes with a Google Chrome and Firefox extension as well, which makes it easier to do the tasks. I could easily prepare the reports having the detailed analytics and statistics. It can also integrate with CRM software like Salesforce, Zoho etc. You can verify the emails and clean up the list within few minutes. Thus, it’s an important tool for digital marketing. 

Planning and organisation tools


13

I love Google Drive and have slowly moved all my client work from my own drive to Google. This has the huge advantage of easily being able to share docs (you can quickly invite others to view, download, and collaborate on all the files you want–no email attachment needed.) and ensure that both you and your clients are collaborating on the same version of the document. You can keep photos, stories, designs, drawings, recordings, videos, and more. A and of course you can access these docs anywhere, so wherever you go, your files follow.


You get 15gb of storage for free.

14

I am a big proponent of getting super organised and if you have read any of my previous content, you’ll know that I am a fan of morning and evening rituals (thanks to Michael Hyatt’s Free to Focus book). In the process of trying to be super organised, I've tried a number of tools to help me manage my to-do lists and most recently I have started using another tool with a stupid name but a good product called Amazing Marvin.  I've got a year’s free trial via the AppSumo website (more on that later). Amazing Marvin is a task and to-do list manager.  It integrates with my calendar and enables me to create daily and weekly to-do list and cross tasks off as I get them completed (and you know the importance of seeing items ticked off and crossed out as you complete them).  I appreciate everyone has their own way of managing their time but give this tool a go!

 

15

This one is a game-changer for me. I don't know if you're like me but during the day I open more and more windows and tabs in my browser and then I really struggle to find what I'm looking for so I end up opening yet another tab!! Well thankfully I have found a solution to this and now I am much more in control and have way fewer tabs opened. And that's all thanks to this new chrome browser extension called Toby (another rather stupid name!).  This enables me to create a library of all of the tabs that I use frequently and put them into various categories so when I open my chrome browser the first thing I see is the library of tabs frequently visited pages. As I said this is a game-changer for me.

 

16

Be careful with this one because there is a danger of shiny new object syndrome coming into play as you browse through all the enticing apps for sale at a significant discount in this online store. Having said that AppSumo is a great site to find really good deals on software tools and apps (I bought LiveWebinar and Be.Live from there).  Be careful because not all of the tools are as cheap as they seem because they give you a starting price but you need to buy several 'stacks' of it to get the full functionality that you want - so research carefully and read the reviews.

In Summary

My Top 5 Favourite Apps


  • Thrive Architect
  • LiveWebinar
  • ConvertKit
  • Toby
  • DuxSoup
 

In Conclusion

I spent (wasted!) a lot of time researching and playing with tools and apps and I have shared with you my top 15 best productivity and time saving tools - so you don't have to waste time searching the web and trialling 100s of tools to find the ones that really work for you you.  If you have any of your favourites that I did not mention, I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and please share this article with your colleagues.

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