You’re an entrepreneur, and you’re busy – I get it! Not only are you working at your craft, you’re also doing a lot of other tasks required to make your business succeed. Personally, I wish I could just design logos and websites all day, but as business owners, we have to wear a ton of hats! From networking, to make sales calls, to sending invoices, to managing social media, and much more, it sucks up a lot of time. So who wouldn’t want to save time on certain tasks where we can? Well, I have been using some pretty awesome productivity tools that have helped me tremendously, and I’m sure they will help you too. Best of all, these are all free!
7 Free Productivity Tools For Busy Entrepreneurs
Of all these tools I’m about to share, I’m starting with my favorite! I’ve searched for months for a project management tool just to manage my business tasks, and I recently discovered Asana.
I used to get overwhelmed with everything on my plate. My wife would always tell me to make a list, and she was right! Making lists gets tasks off your mind, you can visually see what you have completed and have yet to complete, and it helps you remember tasks that are for later. The only problem is, I hate paper! I’m a minimalist by nature, and I’d much rather have a digital list on my phone rather than having to write and keep a physical notebook…
A side note: If you do prefer paper, I strongly recommend the StoryBrand Productivity Schedule, which is a free PDF with a unique philosophy behind it. I used this for a while. I actually adapting it to a mobile-sized PDF that I could edit on my phone, but it wasn’t quite was I was looking for.
If you’re like me, and you want to stay digital, Asana is incredibly powerful. It can function as your own To-Do list, and as you grow, it is an incredible tool for managing your team’s tasks. You can schedule task due dates, categorize tasks by project, assign team members to tasks, and much more. I use this every day now from my desktop. It also has a mobile app that is pretty good too when I need to manage tasks on the go.
Similar tools include Trello and Basecamp, but I personally prefer the simplicity and beautiful user interface that Asana has to offer. There is so much you can do with this tool that I’d have to write a separate post sharing the ways I use it. Be looking out for that post!
2. Gmail Canned Responses
First of all, I strongly recommend Google’s business products. I use Gmail for my email, Google Drive for file storage, Google Calendar, and more. It’s important to me that all of these things sync well with each other, and the Google suite does that for me.
So, assuming you use Gmail, there is an awesome feature that comes built-in…
I’ve found that nothing can suck up more time in my business than answering emails. Here is one way you can cut down on that time. If you begin to notice you are writing virtually the same emails over-and-over again, you should create “canned responses”. This is email copy that you save as a template and use when you need it. The harder way to do this would be to copy-and-paste text from a Word doc, or you can use Google’s Canned Responses tool.
Most people don’t know about this tool because you have to activate it. Here’s how:
Go to the Gear icon in the upper right of the screen > Under the drop-down menu, click Settings > Click the Labs tab > Scroll down or search for the Canned Responses section > Click Enable
Now, when you go to compose an email, in the bottom right you can click on the small down arrow, which will open a menu. You will now see a Canned Responses option. Here you can save a “New Canned Response” from the email copy that you have written in the “New Message” window. Go back to this menu to insert this saved canned response in a new compose window. You can also delete or overwrite canned responses.
Another great tool to help you manage your Gmail is Boomerang. This allows you to schedule emails to send out at a later date. I find this useful when I’m writing an email late at night, and I want to make sure the recipient receives it during their normal business hours.
Boomerang has a few other great features, but one in particular to note is the ability to make an email disappear temporarily. This is like hitting the “Snooze” button on your email. You select an email message and hit the Boomerang button at the top and then schedule a day for the email to reappear. This is useful when you can’t respond to an email right away and want to be reminded of it at a later time. When the email reappears, it shows up as a new message at the top of your email list.
Click here to download the Boomerang browser extension to activate this feature. There is also a paid version of Boomerang if you need extra features, but I’ve been satisfied with the free version so far.
If schedule any meetings as a part of your business, I strongly recommend Calendly. You no longer have to worry about the back-and-forth emailing, trying to find a time and place that works best for both parties. I used to exchange about 5 emails before solidifying a meeting with someone. Sometimes meetings would never get set because of how tedious this process can be.
Today, I send folks my Calendly link. They get choose a time that works for both of us by booking me on my calendar. Beforehand, I set the days I’ve available for meetings, and Calendly does the rest. It also syncs up with my Google Calendar so if I have any other appointments, those times are blocked off.
I use this for scheduling my Free Website Review, where I offer a free report on a business owner’s current website. I set-up my Calendly so that I collect their email and phone number. They also can choose from one of three different locations to meet me for coffee.
Check out my link here, to see the way I’ve set mine up: calendly.com/oneninepro/meet/
Managing social media can also take up a lot of time. If you can’t pay someone to manage your social media, the next best thing is to use a tool to batch your posts. “Batching” is when you carve out an hour or so each week to schedule all your social posts for the following week.
There are a few tools out there that allow you to do this. Hootsuite is one that I’ve used in the past, but I prefer Buffer now that they have a free version. Buffer allows you to connect one of each social profile to post to. The reason I prefer it is because you can set-up default times you want your posts to go out. Instead of scheduling each post individually, you simply throw it into a queue where it will post automatically at the next available time. And if you want to schedule posts at a custom time, you can do that too!
6. Adobe Spark
Even though I’m a graphic designer, I’ve found that it’s not always the best use of time to design all of my social media graphics. Especially for the once-and-done type of posts, I prefer to design graphics through the Adobe Spark app. I can do this on my phone, and it literally takes a minute. I also like the animation effects that come with it for creating posts with motion graphics.
You should always make sure your post graphics to stay “on brand”. What I recommend is coming up with a basic template in Adobe Spark. This should follow your brand’s colors and typography and also includes your logo in the bottom right corner. For each post, you can just duplicate that template, and swap out the text and images you need to change. If you would like help designing your initial branded template, that is a service I offer, and I’d be happy to help!
I know a lot of people who prefer to use Canva for this, so you may want to check that one out too.
To reduce the need for paper, I use Evernote for writing down just about everything. When I find new WordPress plugins I like, I create a list in Evernote. When I’m in a meeting, I take notes in Evernote. Writing website copy: Evernote. I even use it for writing my blog posts. In many cases, before my To-Do’s gets organized into Asana, they start out as a note that I jotted down in Evernote.
Evernote is super useful because it saves my notes “in the cloud.” If my laptop fries or I lose my phone, my notes are still safe and accessible online. I can start a note on my phone, and finish it on my computer seamlessly.
I used to use Apple Notes, which did a lot of the same things, but I like the extra formatting options I have with Evernote as well as the ability to attach files via Google Drive. And if I ever make the switch from Apple to Android (though highly unlikely), I won’t have to migrate anything.
These productivity tools have saved me a ton of time in my business and made things easier. I hope they are able to help you too! Are there any productivity tools that you use? I’d love to hear them – please share in the comments below!