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9 Essential tools for busy minds

Reading time: 9:20 min
Ever wonder how busy people could work full time, develop one or two sides projects, have 5 hobbies and still have some time for their relatives?
There are 2 answers to that:
1. They don’t  
2. They are highly organised

Lots of studies show that spending too much time on Social Media can lead to depression and sadness. That’s because we compare what people say online to our own life. We become envious of influential people who share their incredible days full of events, exciting projects, well-being and hobbies. The truth is it’s not necessarily true!If the internet teaches us something it’s not to believe everything we read online and particularly on social media. More and more influencers start sharing what’s really going on behind the scene and those testimonies are shocking (check out here the extreme Instagram 18 yo celebrity journey).

Do we really have to make those sacrifices to succeed in our projects? NO

You don’t have to sacrifice your family time, your sleep or your weekly run to do that. To get serious about your project the key is to be organised.

To help us, there are many tools available but there are so many that it can be hard to know which suits your needs.

Here is a list of the essential categories of tools to keep getting things done.

1.Time tracker

Track the time we spend on each task is important to understand and improve how we work. It makes it easier to plan your time as you can evaluate the time you previously spent on a specific task. If you are highly analytic you can also create stats and see the average time spent on a task then, implement new process and observe the improvement.As I am working for 2 companies plus writing this blog, I use time tracker tools to keep track of my weekly time spent on each of those projects to be sure I maintain a good balance and to be able to report to the different teams.

In terms of tools, I recently switched from a Pomodoro timer to Toggl. Pomodoro is a productivity method that let you organise your work around 25min sessions. Between 2 sessions the app rings you and impose you a 5 min break. I first liked the idea of a tool that tracks my time while force me to have small breaks where I could move my legs and stand up for a few minutes … But this advantage quickly became a constraint. I started feeling oppressed by this obligation to have a break in the middle of a task.

I now use Toggl since a few months and this one works well for me. I can track my time online or offline, assign projects to tasks, adjust a session if I ended up working without recording it and the desktop app is simple to use.

I know there are many tools out there to track your time, here are some criteria to help you choose the right one according to your needs:

  • online and/or offline
  • desktop and/or mobile
  • simple or personalisable
  • live tracking and/or manual input allowed

2.Todo list 

Every time we are thinking about what we have to do during the day we are making a todo list. There are many good articles about how to make effective todo lists that advice to be specific, use action words, time it …

What about the impact of the support itself? I haven’t found the best tool yet, but I keep trying. For ages, I used my physical Moleskine notepad to write down my daily todo list. Then I decided it was easier to have it on my phone and computer so I downloaded Wunderlist and Todoist which were nice for day to day planning but too simple to organise my weeks around projects or to add annotations. (edit: I am coming back to Wunderlist again and will let you know how it goes).

Recently, I decided to give a try to Trello. I enjoy using it but I still haven’t integrated it into my routine. For now, I managed to put my regular tasks and the big projects I am working on, not my day to day tasks yet. The thing is I would like it to keep track when I complete a task to have a weekly or monthly overview of what I’ve done instead of storing the tasks in an archive section I don’t even know how to access.

I know lots of people are also using Asana,, Apple reminder or Google keep.

Let me know which todo list app you’re using and if you’d like to try one for you!

3.Ready to use notepad

We all have ideas in surprising / inappropriate places such as in the shower, when going to bed or during a family lunch. Of course, the old school physical notebook is great, but a good app ready to use is also essential where you can start a new note in max 2 clicks, and something important for me, an automatic synchronisation feature with your desktop app.It’s been now a few years since I use Evernote. From writing down ideas in the tube to take notes during a talk or ask for people to write their email address when they don’t have business cards, I find Evernote the simplest way to keep my short notes.
I also use it to write Dive in the Crowd blog posts. This way I can start an article or write down random ideas on my phone in the transportation or while waiting for a meeting and finish it when I come home and open my computer.Apart from Evernote, the most popular note apps are Microsoft one note, Simple note, Penultimate (for stylus mode), Dropbox paper.

4.File sharing system

Having a good sharing app ready to use is also a must have even if you don’t use it on a daily basis. Depending on your activity and projects, you never know when you’ll have to quickly share a big file with companies or individuals (sending video rushes, raw images, heavy files or an entire collection of content).For that, I use a bunch of tools for different use.
The first one I use is Dropbox to easily transfer pictures or videos from my phone to my computer or to share documents with specific people I work with on a project, creating a shared file.When I don’t personally know the person I want to share files with, I am not really keen to share my Dropbox. I know it should be protected and if I give the right to a file by mistake companies have no interest to dig into my personal content but I still don’t feel comfortable.
So I use sites such as Wetransfer which is as easy as sending an email, to share heavy files with people I don’t know.

5.Calendar synchronised with all your mailboxes

Having a calendar is common, even our grandparent use it to put their relatives anniversary or highlight key dates.
The challenge today is to keep a calendar up to date and synchronise all our agendas in the same place. You certainly have several email address, generally at least two (one professional and one personal). It’s quite easy to manage a calendar when there is a clear separation between the professional calendar (meetings scheduled and event from Mon to Fry) and the personal one (that can include medical appointments, anniversaries, parties and weekend activities).

As soon as we have more project we have to be more organised, for that having several email addresses linked to different agenda doesn’t help. It’s important to be able to have somewhere access to an overview of all our calendars. Even more important when the separation between our day job / projects / personal is blurry. 

I’m pretty sure there is may methods to do so according to your email service. As all my 4 email addresses are on Gmail, I can link events on my calendars or use my phone to have an overview. I’m sure there are many ways to so the same with other providers.

6.Social media automation and tracking

This section could use an entire article for itself so I’ll try to keep it brief for now and will be working on a deeper article on the topic soon 😃 .

Whatever you are starting using social media or you are an expert, you certainly already heard (and read many articles) about the importance of automating social media posts and keeping tracks of your evolution.

That is not a myth!

Why using automating tools? Your audience might not have the same agenda as you do, if you use social media to promote one of your projects when coming back from work, you will never reach your potential audience that are on social media during lunch time. Besides there is so much content publish online every day that you have to use all the tools available to be visible.

Why using tracking tools with your social media? To better understand your audience. Tracking tools are not only for celebrating your 1000 followers but to understand the impact of your actions. Thanks to tracking tools and the right metrics, you can identify what content your audience prefers and plan a series or a similar format soon. You can also experiment new things (such as vlogging or talking about a new topic) and make a decision from data and not because of a feeling or a nice comment.

The 2 main automation tools for social media are Buffer and Hootsuite. I use buffer because it’s minimalist and easy to use. The free plan is good enough for one project and I am a big fan of the community interactions with a Twitter #Bufferchat, an open Slack and regular irl (in real life) meeting with other members.
Regarding tracking, I use data from Twitter analytics and Audiense (ex-social bro) that I include in my own excel document I can complete the way I want and keep track of my posts.

7.Grammar and typo check

Certainly because English is not my first language, I tend to triple check all my content before submitting it. I also have to face my computer’s autocorrect (French keyboard and main language) which doesn’t like English names, companies names or acronyms.So after typing some text into Evernote or TextEdit, I copy and past it into Hemingway app , an online text check that reviews your text and let you know how hard it is to read it. This tool itself doesn’t correct typos and grammar errors but combined with the Grammarly extension (see below)  for your web browser, it became a powerful help. I use now Grammarly on a daily basis to proofread my emails and my blog posts, to better understand an English grammar rule or check a preposition …

8.Fast visual creation tool

Online content is king in our digital world. And what would be the best articles without a great visual?Let’s take a few minutes to have a look at some key visual content figures (from Hubspot blog) :

  • Coloured visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%
  • Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images
  • People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations.
  • Visual content is more than 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content

… check out the link here for more stats about visual content

So we got it, it’s time to get serious about visual. But how?
Part of the Adobe suite, Photoshop is an amazing tool to create visuals, but it’s also a complex tool that can take years to master (there is a legend that says no one ever really mastered it …).

That’s why more and more people use simpler substitute to quickly create visuals.
I’ve been using Photoshop for 4 years and still struggle for hours to some simple tasks, so when I am short on time and want to create a visual for my blog or to share on social media, I use Canva. This way I don’t have to care about file size (as there is a template for the main social media) or format, I just add a background, write a text, and download the visual.

If you’re not into Canva, you can also try out Picktochart,, or Pixlr.

9.Place for articles to read later 

The last item of this list is not an essential for all of us but if you enjoy as I do reading articles from new blogs and Twitter when you don’t have time for that, it definitely deserves to be here.

My browsers used to be a huge mess most of the time because I open many articles that I don’t have time to read. I’m not saying now it’s clean (still have 20+ tabs open but at least it’s better than my previous 70+) but thanks to Pocket I save most of the interesting articles for later. I choose this specific tool because of its multi-platform features (phone + browser extension) as well as the possibility to read an article without loading the entire page.

I know this article was quite long but I hope it was useful. Those key tools are essential for me to keep organised and get my work done. Let me know if you have any other to add! I’ll also be happy to try out a new tool for you and develop further one specific tool so leave a comment now!

… And as usual, if you like what you read, please share it now on Twitter / Buffer / Facebook / LinkedIn / or anywhere else!

This post first appeared on Dive In The Crowd, please read the originial post: here

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9 Essential tools for busy minds


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