The Online Entrepreneur’s Productivity Toolbox

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Today’s guest contributor is Natalie Sisson, a Suitcase Entrepreneur and Adventurer who shares creative ways to run your business from anywhere in the world. She is passionate about using online tools social media and outsourcing to create more freedom in business and adventure in life. She’s also a friend, a long-time member of our tribe and she’s just plain cool.

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Right now we’ve never had more opportunities to simultaneously stay connected and transcend international borders and time zones. There’s a dangerous flip side to that. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to say `enough is enough’. I’m going to unplug.

We believe that being constantly busy qualifies as being productive and successful. If we can occupy our fingers by texting or typing voraciously on our smartphones then we must surely be important, efficient, and cutting edge, right? We’re so proud of our latest iPad 2 or Blackberry Playbook and their ability to allow us to work from anywhere and never leave our `busyness’ behind.

Sadly they are in fact part of an epidemic where information overload and hyper connectivity are creating, for want of a Lady Gaga reference, little monsters. People who can no longer sit and do nothing, just let their thoughts drift away. Stressed out, overweight and seriously unhealthy people giving up their life to the internet. Those who can’t hold real life conversations with people right in front of them as their Twitter feed, Facebook Inbox and LinkedIn group discussion is more `important.’

As Jonathan pointed out in Creative Kryptonite and the Death of Productivity

Hyperconnectivity gives us the perception of getting more done, it makes us feel like we’re doing more, because we’re using every free moment of every waking hour.

Jonathan kindly allowed me to write about how being disconnected makes you more connected but we all know how difficult that can actually be. Luckily there is a solution and it’s right under your very nose.

We have the most amazing online tools at our disposal to help us be more streamlined, effective and organized than ever before. Tools that actually allow us to disconnect and free up time to live in the real world. It all comes down to how you view and use them everyday. Here are a few of my favourite that you can use to your advantage:

Chrometa

If you ever wonder exactly where your time goes every day then you should get to know Chrometa. This is a free application that analyses and reveals how you spend your time by automatically tracking your computer usage and then using this data to improve your personal and team productivity. It runs in the background and records everything you do while you work. It helps with project tracking so that you don’t need to start or stop a timer or use a spreadsheet to keep track. All you have to do is categorize them once. For freelancers it’s particularly useful because you can track your billable hours to the exact minute.

Rapportive

Given you already spend way too much time on email then let me introduce you to my best friend. Rapportive is a free application you install as a plugin in Gmail (available on Firefox, Chrome, Mailplane, and Safari) that replaces the ads with detailed, Web-sourced information about each person who emails you. It’s quite literally transformed how I view my inbox. Now when someone I don’t know emails me I get this pretty visual on who they are – their title, location, photo even, and the ability to connect with them from within the email on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. If you’re an MS Outlook user there’s a similar service called Xobni – (inbox spelt backwards).

Evernote

You’ve likely heard of this free downloadable app that lets you clip to the cloud Web pages, photos, business card signatures and more. Evernote pretty much enables you to remove paper from your working life, and since it’s searchable, you no longer have to rely on folders and data management. I use it to clip a website, link or blog that I want to come back to later and tag it in a way that makes sense to me. I use it for blog post ideas, travel tips and even writing my book. You can use it on your mobile too and sync across multiple computer so no matter where you are you can still access your life.

Shoeboxed

If you have a bulging wallet full of receipts you’re holding on to, to claim as expenses then it would be much smarter for you to stuff them into an envelope, along with business cards and documents. Then send them via postage-paid envelopes or camera-equipped smartphone for Shoeboxed to take care of for you. They scan and data enter every document, then organize everything in a secure, searchable online account. All of the receipts you send to them are also accepted by the IRS, so if you are ever audited, just show the images of your receipts from your account.

TeuxDeux

If you’re constantly making to-do lists then you may like the super simple interface of TeuxDeux.com ((a cute play on French words which, when spoken properly, sound like To-Do). It’s amazingly uncomplicated so you don’t need spend your time figuring out how to use the features. You just get stuff done by adding items to your list, and clicking on it to check it off when you’re done. If you don’t, all of your unfinished tasks automatically move over to the next day’s list. The beauty of this is you start to see what you’re consistently putting off, which probably goes to show you it’s not a priority so you should just delete it.

Hootsuite

For all of you social media addicts, if you want to stop wasting time and get more strategic then you should check out Hootsuite. It is social media dashboard that you can hook up to all your social media accounts including your Facebook profile, page, multiple Twitter accounts, LinkedIn and RSS feeds. You can choose which updates go to which accounts and when. You can schedule them out during the day individually or in bulk. Hoosuite allows you to set up tabs and columns with lists and people you most want to follow and engage with so that you stay focused. Along with analytics reports, you can add team members to manage your accounts, and track keyword mentions of your name so that you don’t miss out on any RTs, mentions or important conversations.

There really is no need to be a slave to the internet and the ongoing influx of media and information. It’s not going to go away so you need to use these tools to manage your priorities and time to make the most of every single minute. Life should be rich tapestry of experiences – both online and offline. Make sure you don’t miss out on them.

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Natalie Sisson is a Suitcase Entrepreneur and Adventurer who shares creative ways to run your business from anywhere in the world. She is passionate about using online tools social media and outsourcing to create more freedom in business and adventure in life.

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29 responses

29 responses to “The Online Entrepreneur’s Productivity Toolbox”

  1. Hey Natalie, great to see your smiling face! 🙂 This is a helpful rundown of useful tools. I already use some of these (love Rapportive, Hootsuite, and TeuxDeux!). Chrometa I tried, based on your recommendation, and didn’t stick with it – I seem to recall getting annoyed with its popups – it does sound really useful, though, so maybe I should give it another shot. I know a lot of people love Evernote, and I’ve tried it, but I just can’t get excited about their interface.

    • Wow everytime I come back to refresh this page and finally comment the number of shares blows my mind. Thanks all.

      Amy, Chrometa will stop doing that after about a week of learning how you work. Similar to what Rescue Time does – it’s a great tool as Braden knows. Then you just get one weekly report. Stick with it. Seriously it’s good.

      Interesting comments. Pen and paper are still things I love to use but then you just end up with loads of notes all over the place and those can go missing – trust me I know.

      The beauty of the tools described above is that you pick your top 3 and master them and make you work for them. In my Ultimate Toolkit for Entrepreneurs I seek to review one free and one paid tool for each category of business. http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/toolkit/

      The point is not to overwhelm but only show you the best. A lot of these tools you will see start to work in with each other which is where I think the time saving comes in – integration, seamless, simple.

      Keep the comments coming and hit me up on Twitter @nataliesisson if you have more questions!

  2. Good post! Thanks for sharing. Already using some of these tools, but will look into Chrometa. I am a little afraid to see, however, the lost time in my day spent on hyperactivity – but ready to do better.

  3. Deb says:

    As usual, very timely Post from Natalie and I love the Name Suitcase Entrepreneur. Provides a Mind Vacation just thinking of it. Familiar with most with exception of TeusDeux. Going to check that out as I love LISTS. Great Weekend here we come………….deb

  4. moonfire says:

    thanks Jonathan – I’ve never heard about any of this stuff. It does sound like you need to be tech savvy. On my paper/pencil list, I’m writing down to chk it out in the future – which date? hmmmm it’s now in my fave’s list that has all too many resources/leads/options etc. Are there any apps that manage a favorite’s list to divide them into appropriate categories; for eg: scientific research, marketing, etc?

    Very interesting ideas with apps to help organize, as long as it doesn’t become one more distraction taking me further from my goal. there is so much to learn and keep up with. I’ve recently placed a “put corale around social media and new learning” sticker post in my view so I am actually using my time more productively. Balance is the key for me.

  5. dave r. says:

    very useful info…thanks…much appreciated.

  6. Brandy says:

    What a fantastic resource list! Thank you so much!

  7. Owen Marcus says:

    Natalie,

    Thank you. I particularly like Rapportive, which I never heard of before your post.

    A while ago I created a free guide – PDF for people wanting to start or run a business using the free tools of the Internet: http://owenmarcus.com/SecretsofSuccess. You are welcome to use and share.

    Thanks,

    Owen

  8. Thanks Natalie,

    I heard you speak yesterday about some of these tools on JennieHk’s Lifestyle Business Model’s tele-series. I’m definitely getting your e-book. All of your tips in this article alone will be invaluable to me.

    All the best, until we connect again

    Rodney

  9. Stirling says:

    Great – but unless I’m missing something here this is more not less. Its really simple to unplug – just do it. Set rules – turn off your bb or Ipad or laptop after 9.00p.m, put them into quite mode in meetings even if others dont. There is nothing more disrespectful when someone interrupts a meeting to look at emails or to take calls. And even if they wont stop – you start. You never know your standards may spread! Finally everything here can be actioned with two of the greatest and simplest inventions ever – paper and pen.I take a dairy/note pad/journal with me everywhere (the Moleskine monthly notebook) and its brilliant. Never need wifi connection either!

    • Gina says:

      Totally agree with Sterling!! Don’t get caught up in fiddling with apps to….get away from fiddling with apps.

      If you feel the need to unplug — all you really need to do is simply unplug. Just try it. Do something really renegade like turn off your cell phone in the evening. Trust me, all the messages you need to see will be waiting for you when you power back up.

      Do something radical and set “office hours” for yourself when you are reachable, and other hours when you are not. Do something radical and give yourself the gift of some unstructured, unscheduled time daily.

      Too much going on to do that? Inventory what you’re doing — how much is necessary? What activities can you let go to give yourself 30 minutes in a day with nothing to do.

      I think the real question is — why do we buy into the thinking that we are supposed to be productive all the time?

  10. Santosh says:

    Thanx Natalie!! The tools are really cool!!!

  11. Good tips, but I’ll take SproutSocial.com any day over HootSuite. Absolutely no comparison – it has revolutionized the time I spend on social media.
    Kristin Zhivago

  12. Good to see you submitting a fine guest post here, Natalie!

    And thank you for the thoughtful list.

    Peter

  13. Braden says:

    Loving the Hootsuite. Add Rescuetime, F.lux for the late workers, and a good cup of Yerba Mate to that list.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      I’ll second the f.lux addition big time, makes it so much easier on the eyes

  14. I use a lot of these myself and agree they belong on this list. If you use Gmail, consider TaskForce, it’s brilliant. If you really want to just write and write well, do yourself a favor and check something called Omm Writer. You will love it.

    • Natalie says:

      Ooh thanks for the extra tips there Michael and Manisha – you just made my day doll. Kristin I’ll check it out as I’m a big Hootsuite fan but you know what – whatever works for you and makes you more happy and productive right?!

  15. If you liked this post, you will LOVE Natalie’s “Entrepreneur’s Toolkit” (http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/toolkit/). I refer to this straight-forward, concise guide frequently when trying to figure out how to manage that incredibly difficult balance that both Jonathan and Natalie so eloquently talk about – connectivity vs productivity :). [this is not an affiliate link… just a from the heart shoutout of love for Natalie’s work]. And Jonathan’s too!

  16. Bill Simmel says:

    Natalie,

    Excellent article and a great checklist of aids for any individual or business trying to promote or navigate online media. Glad you did more than just provide a list you amplified each toolbox, nice job!

    • Bill and Mary thanks! I aim to provide a down to earth user friendly review rather than lists. Jennifer I’m pretty sure you’ll adore Shoeboxed or at least wonder why you didn’t start using it earlier. They have a free trial, well worth sending off all those receipts and see if you like what you get back

  17. Very helpful, Natalie and Jonathan. After reading your post, I set up Evernote and TeuxDeux, and they are both great. Thanks for the suggestions!

  18. Jennifer K says:

    Shoeboxed looks like I could use it. I really have to struggle with my receipts, business cards and what not. Other resources sound useful as well. Great list of useful resources!

  19. Heather says:

    Just started using Rapportive and Evernote recently and LOVE them! Thanks for sharing Chrometa – I’ve been wanting to try something like this and am certainly going to check it out! Great suggestions!

  20. Deborah says:

    :))) thank you Jonathan and Natalie!! first thing I’m gonna try is that sweet little French To Do list – this will clear off huge messy pile! Once that little tiger gets tamed, can’t wait to check the rest of your suggestions! Life is too short to spend any time spinning wheels unless they’re touching the ground 😉 big hug to both of you, warm regards -Deborah

  21. sak says:

    the f.lux is brilliant. Thank you guyz helping me find one. I am kinda heavy on reading & that effects my eyes. Thank you for that. I have been using microsoft one note for many of those todo & info management work. Thank you Natalie for Chrometa. Sadly, I found it bit heavy on my pocket. Can we have some alternative to it? a bit affordable one?

    regards
    Sak

  22. @cdstern says:

    I particularly like the lady gaga sentence and teudeux.com

  23. […] I recently read two good posts on productivity tools. On Problogger you can find 9 New Productivity Tools to Simplify Your Online Life, and on JonathanFields.com there is a guest post by online entrepreneur Natalie Sisson, called The Online Entrepreneur’s Productivity Toolbox. […]

  24. Tim Hill says:

    Natalie

    Your productivity tips and tools will make a great addition to anyones productivity quotent . Event management is so important and I get so distracted by busy work so much and it must stop now.

    If you have any other tips or advice on simple daily tasks to get out of the way first each day that will produce the best results over time. ” THE SLIGHT EDGE” style.. please let me/us know.

    Tim