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Productivity is a bit of a buzzword at the moment isn’t it?
To be honest, I’m kind of sick of it. Can we not just be honest and say that what we’re really waiting for is for robots to be invented so we can all lounge around all day and eat peeled grapes?
This is not going to be a cut-and-paste productivity article about getting up at 5am and not looking at your phone and eating spirulina. This is a few tools you might not have used but have actually helped me and didn’t cost me anything.
What I look for in a productivity tool
It has to be free
I remember what it was like when I was starting my own website – the list of things I had to pay was ridiculous.
To add insult to injury, I used to click on Pinterest pins that promised I could start a blog ‘FOR FREE!!!!’ only to find that actually, it was all free trial of things that definitively were NOT free. Hosting, a domain name, a theme, Tailwind, Buffer, ads, an email marketing provider, Zapier, Canva Pro…the list is endless.
All of these products are free, apart from one – a planner. And you can always just use the calendar app on your phone.
Seriously, why does no one seem to use Google Keep? It’s really just a pimped up Notes app.
I love it and use it every day. It’s surprisingly powerful for an app that’s not only free but doesn’t have a paid version, as far as I’m aware.
It has options for colour coding, setting reminders, adding checkboxes, adding tags, taking pictures and I’m sure other stuff I don’t use.
The only thing I think that’s missing is folders, but only because I like keeping things in folders. You can always just add tags or colour code notes you want to keep together.
I use Google Keep for:
- Shopping lists
- Saving Youtube playlists, like 30 days of Yoga
- Keeping all my Instagram hashtags
- Saving links to articles I might need
- Ideas for new websites
- Blog post ideas
- Novel idea
- Brain dumps (multiple, but I colour coded everything so if I want to see all the note I have related to a certain website, I can search by colour)
- Random snippets of code I might need, like my Google analytics tracking code
- Email templates
- Recipes (both food and potting mix)
- Canva filter codes
- Random facts and quotes I like
- Passwords I think I might forget. Obviously nothing particularly important.
I use Google docs for writing my novel, and for writing articles that I’m selling. It’s easy to drop a sharing link into an email, it’s free, and you can export files as Word documents and in various other formats.
I use Google Drive to back up my sites to. Always back up your sites, because you’ll regret it if you don’t. Most hosts will have a back up of your site, but you may have to pay for it/ it may take a while to track down.
I prefer Google Drive to Dropbox, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a personal preference. Updraft (the back up plugin I use) syncs to it really well.
Whether you use a paper or digital planner is really a matter of preference. I like to use both, because er, I just do. Ideally, I’d love to use a digital planner in an app like Good Notes, but I know that in reality, I’m unlikely to whip out my iPad to write down a quick note in my planner.
If anyone’s looking for ‘fancy’ planner, but can’t quite find one that fits their needs, try Personal Planner. There are so many options for customisation, and they’re cheaper than Erin Condren or Passion planners. I’ve been super happy with mine.
The bookmarks bar of your browser
Ok, feel free to laugh at me here, but it took me way to long to utilise the bookmarks bar and it’s been incredible for productivity.
It’s sounds obvious, but remove social media bookmarks if you end up wasting time on them. If you have to type it into the search bar you might be less likely to bother.
I have all my websites up there, Unsplash, Canva, and my affiliate networks. It’s really sped up my writing process. I’m actually kind of embarrassed.
You probably already have Grammarly, so I don’t need to spend long on this one. It’s available on Google Docs now (in Beta) which is another reason that Google Docs is a great place to write your freelance articles.
I personally don’t use the paid programme, because I don’t think it’s necessary. if you haven’t already noticed, I’m not that bothered about my grammar.
As long as people understand what I’m trying to say, the odd misspelt or missed entirely word doesn’t matter. To me at least, I know a lot of people care a lot.
It goes without saying that the work you’re being paid for needs to be error free, otherwise they’ll pick someone else. However, I think that reading through our work properly is sufficient, you don’t need a pro spellchecker.
I only use Flora in certain circumstances, and it was actually like eye opening.
Flora is a free app that plants a little virtual seed. If you scroll through your phone, the seed dies. If you don’t, you grow a tree or a flower.
Since I quite often use my phone for research, I don’t use Flora all the time. But for articles like this, when it’s just my thoughts, it’s indispensable.
The first few times I used it I was actually shocked by the number of times I picked up my phone to scroll through Reddit without even thinking about it.
I believe there’s a paid upgrade that allows you to have actual trees planted, which is cute as hell.
Final thoughts on productivity tools for writers
I don’t really have any, other than try Google Keep if you haven’t already. I find it much more user friendly than Evernote, and it lets you sync across more devices without having to pay.
Last year I went on the hunt for a whole organisational system that would allow me to both plan my writing around my day job and plan my blog posts. I tried EVERYTHING.
Nothing *quite* met all of my needs, but Google Keep fitted the best. All it was missing was a built-in calendar, and to be fair it syncs with Google Calendar but apparently that’s not good enough for me.
I do want to give Trello a proper go, but it’s a bit too organised me. Google Keep allows me to organise one big mess into a few smaller messes, and that’s exactly what I need.