You have a lot on your plate. How can you get the most results with the least amount of time and effort?
I run 3 successful businesses, host two podcasts, run a men’s ministry, homeschool my children, and still devote time to my wife and children as well as travel significantly each year. How do I get it all done?
I use a series of tools. Without these tools, there would be no way! I consider each of these tools priceless. I can’t imagine operating without them. I’m letting you behind the curtain and revealing some of my secret sauce.
I could do a 10-part series highlighting all the ways you can use Evernote to change your life, but for now, I’ll just give a high-level overview and beg you to trust me.
I talk about Evernote all the time. I’m like the Evernote evangelist. People frequently say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just an electronic notepad right? I have ‘Notes’ on my phone so why should I use Evernote?”
Repeat after me: Evernote is NOT just an electronic notepad!
There are entire conferences devoted to all the ways you can use Evernote. If I give you some common examples I risk underselling it because these barely scratch the surface. Here’s a few ways I use it.
- You can clip anything from any website as a note, and you can clip the site in a variety of ways: simplified article with all the ads and distractions removed, just the url, the whole page as is on the web, etc. There is an Evernote extension for every browser. Stop the insanity of simply bookmarking sites you want to return to. “Clip” it, tag what you clipped (tags discussed below) and have it at your fingertips later.
- You can take photos of any whiteboard and slide presentation in a meeting by just holding your phone up so it positions the slide or whiteboard in the camera. ALL text on the screen or whiteboard becomes searchable.
- One of the biggest things about Evernote is all the ways it can organize things. You can “tag” notes in any way you can think of. Create specific project tags to tag any note related to the project. Create tags with names of people to remember who participated in a meeting. Evernote can tag based on location, so if you’re trying to find that brilliant idea that you had but can’t remember anything other than the fact that it came to you in the Chick-Fil-A drive through, you’ll be able to find it based on a location search. You can create different notebooks for different subjects, projects, whatever.
- Save any PDF to Evernote and tag it. The entire document is now searchable.
- Save receipts. (Searchable)
- Save handwritten notes. (Searchable)
- Make audio notes as you drive.
- Forward things via email to your Evernote to store them as notes that are now searchable.
There is a free version and a paid version. Get the paid version. Offline notes alone make it worthwhile. Trust me. Once you start using Evernote you’ll never know how you lived without it.
I’ve been an Audible subscriber since I was fortunate enough to participate in the beta program before the company’s official launch in 1995. Audible is the #1 platform for audio books, and they are now owned by Amazon.
I read more than 50 books a year and at least half of them are through Audible. Whenever I’m on the move, driving, on the treadmill, walking the dog, I’m listening to a book.
The cool thing about Audible is that it works seamlessly with your Kindle, so if you want to combine visual reading with listening, it’s a piece of cake. When you turn on your Kindle, the book will be where you stopped listening. When you put down the Kindle, the audio book will be where you left your reading.
If you click here you will get ANY BOOK FREE along with a 30 Day free trial.
A fact of modern life is the need to manage user names and passwords. This also is one of our greatest areas of vulnerability. The average person can be hacked very easily because they use an easily remembered password for every single site. Experts suggest using a password of at least 25 characters that are totally random. But the average person feels like that is an impossible task. How can you remember it all?
LastPass to the rescue.
LastPass is a password management solution that will generate a password for you for every site, store that password in an encrypted “vault” and then log you in to that site whenever you go there. It syncs across all devices so if you create an account on your phone its instantly available on your laptop.
Another huge time drain is trying to remember passwords and having to get passwords reset frequently. LastPass eliminates that problem. I am never at a loss for what my password is for a site that I may not have visited for a while. I am never at a loss for coming up with a new password for places like my bank that make me change my password every 6 months.
Arguably the Number 1 productivity drain for high performers is dealing with email. As a leader you have lots of people vying for your attention and input. All the people working on all the projects you’re involved in, vendors, suppliers, and partners are sending you email. Now add family and friends. Add non-profits you’re a part of. Add all your newsletter subscriptions. Then dump a heaping dose of spam. That’s what you have to weed through every day.
If you’ve listened to my podcast you know how big a fan I am of SaneBox. I can’t figure out how I managed life without it. Sanebox eliminates the insanity of email and makes sure that you never miss something important. Like Evernote, there are so many cool features it would take a post by itself just to list them all. Here’s just a few:
- SaneBox learns what’s important to you and will prioritize all your messages.
- You can Unsubscribe from unwanted emails in one click.
- SaneBox can notify you when someone hasn’t responded to an important message in a specified period of time, so you’re not wondering if you missed the reply.
- You can tell Sanebox to send you an important message later when you’re ready for it so it’s at the top of your inbox.
These are just a few of the features. Suffice it to say that you easily “train” Sanebox and very quickly the madness is over. You’ll get out of your inbox and on with your life.
Sanebox works with all email services (gmail, iCloud, Outlook, Yahoo, and many more.)
A major challenge in our modern age is data storage. The hard drives in our laptops and mobile devices are just not big enough to handle the massive amount of data we generate. Videos, photos, music, presentations (filled with photos, videos, and music), project plans, spreadsheets and more choke our hard drives. If you’ve ever run into a lack of storage you know that it can literally cripple you and paralyze your ability to get anything done.
Moreover, as leaders we need to collaborate on documents and presentations with teammates and partners. Doing that when everyone might be on different platforms (Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android, etc) is quite a challenge.
There are many cloud based solutions on the market that attempt to address both the storage and collaboration challenges. DropBox is probably the most well-known option. The problem with DropBox, Box.com, and others is that they don’t actually solve the problem. DropBox is on your hard drive. Anything you are storing in DropBox takes up the same space as if you’d just stored it in a local folder. What good does that do you? Yes, you can share files easier, but the storage problem remains. iCloud, which I love, is awesome, but it is only available to Mac users and has some limitations on sharing with non-mac users.
I’ve scoured the earth looking for an answer, testing at least 10 major cloud based storage options, and I found exactly what I was looking for with pCloud. pCloud is a TRUE cloud-based storage solution. When you drop a file into your pCloud folder it is OFF your desktop, laptop, or phone. The beauty is you’ll never know the difference because you have a pCloud folder on your computer that looks like any other folder and everything in it is accessible instantly. Stuff gets pulled down long enough to work on it and then goes right back to the cloud.
Many of you will work exclusively from your smart phone and storage is always an issue. pCloud solves the problem on the phone, just like it does everywhere else. Photos are the most obvious culprit but data is data. Both Android and iPhone have cloud storage options for those platforms, but cross platform support is limited.
pCloud has an app on every platform that syncs everything across every device so any documents on your laptop are available on your phone, iPad, etc. pCloud also lets you share any document with others and collaborate on them. What’s better, pCloud gives you stats for how many times a document has been opened or downloaded by the people you are collaborating with. Moreover, pCloud is arguably the most secure cloud based storage option. They built the solution from the ground up to be the most secure option and security is definitely what they tout as their number 1 feature. The whole solution is encrypted. Also, documents are stored across a minimum of 3 servers in different locations making them very difficult to hack. Last, you can upgrade your service and have the option to encrypt every individual file within your already encrypted folder.
Last but not least, pCloud is the most cost-effective cloud storage option. When you compare prices for storage, you’ll see it’s a no-brainer. I have the 2 TB option which will serve me for a long time to come.
Zoom is an online meeting and webinar platform. It does what other meeting platforms do, only better. I’ve used GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar, Webex, MeetingBurner, JoinMe, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Fuze just to name a few. Zoom wins hands down. Here’s why:
First, it looks and sounds great every time. The images are sharp. The audio is clear. I have used Zoom to have clearer calls directly with another person than through my mobile phone provider. This is one of the ways I use Zoom most. You may be thinking, “I don’t need to do web meetings.” First, you’d be surprised. Second, I use Zoom all the time just for the audio conferencing ability. I’m getting 5-10 people to jump on my Zoom audio line all the time.
Second, it works on any device without any hassle. Other services are challenging to set up and there is always that one person that can’t get into the meeting because of a software issue. Not so with Zoom.
Zoom allows you to share full motion video (something other services still struggle with) along with anything else on your computer.
Zoom also provides high quality video and audio recording capabilities for every meeting or webinar along with playback links that can be shared almost instantly.
If all that wasn’t enough, Zoom is one of the least expensive meeting platforms available in spite of the fact that it is superior to its competitors. If you don’t have a Zoom account, set one up today!
Next is my go-to social media management solution. We live in a world dominated by social media, and you have to take your social media game seriously. Unfortunately, like email, social media is a giant time sucker that will rob you of your productivity.
There are many social media management solutions and I’ve used most of the best known. They are actually all quite good. I’ve been a Hootsuite, Buffer, Tweetdeck, and Sprout customer before, and I still use Buffer to some degree.
All of these solutions essentially do the same thing. They allow you to load up and schedule a bunch of social media content to be posted across all your different profiles (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) over time so you can get back to building your business and your life. You can load 30 tweets to be delivered over the next month and then essentially forget it until next month.
MeetEdgar does something that none of these other solutions do: It keeps your content evergreen. What does that mean? It means that your social media profiles will never run out of content. MeetEdgar will repost your old blogs, quotes, pictures, podcasts, whatever you want, whenever it runs out of stuff in your queue. This is priceless. Of course, anything you post can be designated to post only a single time, so items that are only relevant now will not get reposted. But most content isn’t that way. Your favorite inspirational quote can be posted again in six months and be just as relevant. That blog post on how to transition to a Paleo diet will be useful again and again.
MeetEdgar saves me so much time and hassle and keeps my older content fresh. No other platform can do that.
As you can see from this list, productivity drains are something I try to manage very closely. Your life is nothing more than a series of minutes strung together, so there is no more valuable resource.
We’ve talked about Email, Social Media, and password management as three of the biggest time drains. But as a leader, the biggest of all productivity challenges is the scheduling of my time with other people. If I had a full-time executive assistant perhaps this wouldn’t be an issue. But how many of us have one of those?
Prior to using Acuity Scheduling, here was what the average day looked like: Get 30+ messages a day saying, “Need to chat. When are you free?” This requires me to look at my calendar for a free slot. But of course, my free slot wasn’t always their free slot, so the back and forth begins. When all was said and done I could have spent 30 minutes trying to schedule a 15 minute conversation. Do the math. 30 minutes times 30 requests is 15 hours…EVERY DAY! It’s just not possible to be productive working with those parameters.
Fortunately, I found a solution. Acuity Scheduling is a service that syncs with the calendars on your phone/laptop and then provides an online mechanism to book you in the slots that you have available. What this means is that there is no back and forth between you and the person wanting to have a meeting. When someone requests my time I just text back my link to schedule me. (I store the response with the link in an Evernote BTW. Let’s me just cut and paste. Brilliant!)
I’ve used a few other schedulers and Acuity is best, in my opinion. It works with more calendars (other schedulers have had issues with iCloud). It also allows more customization.
You can set it to require your approval before something is booked. You can set the earliest and latest times an appointment can be schedule and on which days an appointment can be set. You can require time in between appointments so people can’t load you up without the ability to take a break. You can also control how much notice you have to be given and even restrict same-day bookings. These are just a few of the ways you can control the scheduling of your time.
This tool gives me so much peace of mind and takes so much stress off of me. One of the other challenges I used to face was trying to remember to get back to all the people who were requesting my time. I’d get a request and I’d make a mental note to check my schedule and get back to them. With the abundance of requests that you get as a leader, inevitably, some of these requests would fall through the cracks. Today, using Acuity Scheduling, I immediately send any request my scheduling link and now the issue is off my plate. Total peace of mind. That aspect alone is priceless.
The bottom line is that without Acuity Scheduling I would be paralyzed with just trying to schedule appointments or I’d be spending $50,000 a year on an executive assistant. This is much cheaper and in many ways, even better.
Like it or not, we are judged by our words. Mastery of the language is equated with intelligence and leadership.
As achievers we want to create the best impression and not allow grammar, spelling, or poor writing to cause others to think less of us. Grammarly is invaluable in this regard. Grammarly is a tool that you install on your desktop, phone, and browser (there’s a plugin for every major browser) and it makes suggestions for everything you write.
Grammarly goes way beyond spell checking. It catches all grammatical errors, alerts you when a word is over-used or there is a better choice, and makes suggestions to improve your writing by pointing out things like passive voice or wordiness. Virtually nothing I write doesn’t pass through Grammarly before the world sees it. I don’t know where I’d be without it.
There you have it. The 9 tools that every achiever MUST have. I have more tools in my bag, but these are the absolute, most essential, go to every day productivity enhancers. Let me know your thoughts. And let me know if you have a tool you find essential.