Are you a planner or a procrastinator? Is your productivity as good as it could be or do you spend too much time searching for information that should have been filed months ago?

Whatever business you are in, there is always a certain amount of “behind the scenes” admin-type work you need to carry out to ensure everything runs smoothly.

So, how do you organise yourself? Are you a pen and paper type or is it digital all the way?

I’m a year and a bit into running my own business and in the next couple of months will be launching two more projects, so it has become doubly important that I’m organised.

Which is fine by me, as I love a bit of planning and being organised. So, I thought I’d share some of my favourite tools and tips in the hope they can inspire someone else to get sorted or just offer an alternative to what you already do.

Pen and paper planning and productivity

For me you still can’t beat pen and paper for planning and I always have several bullet journal-style notebooks with dotted paper on the go at a time.

One is my goal planner and contains everything from my 12-week to my ten-year vision for my life and business.

Bullet Journal Planner

A second is a business “bible” containing everything from brand colours to logins that essentially allow me to run my business.

My third notebook is my day-to-day planner, which I lay out myself at the end of each week so I can have it exactly how I like it.

It includes my to-do list, separated into urgent, important and other, as well as an hourly schedule – the basics of planning my day. I also use it for daily gratitude and to note wins, lessons and progress towards my goals.

It takes a bit of time to set up but that in itself forces me to think about planning and focuses my thinking on my business.

My recommendation: Leuchturm1917 bullet journals. They come in a range of colours and cost between £12 and £20 for an A5 sized book.

 

For total transparency, these are Amazon affiliate links – if you buy one of these products from here, I get paid. But don’t let that stop you!

Social Media Productivity

A new paper planner for this year is one I have spent a bit of money on and that’s Janet Murray’s Social Media Diary and Planner.

I’m just getting started with it, but as I had created a month’s worth of blogs and social media content within 48 hours of opening it, I’d say it’s doing its job so far. Basically, it includes lots of useful “awareness” and fun dates, such as Backward Day or National Croissant Day, which you can use to inspire your social media content, as well as the tools you need to plan well ahead and get your social media organised.

As social media is such a massive tool in marketing your business its’ definitely worth being intentional in your planning. If you need help getting started or running your social media, Red Shoes Marketing offers Social Media Starter and Helping Hand packages from just £120 a month.

Planning and Productivity – let’s get digital

There are a number of platforms I use every day to keep organised and run my business.

Here’s a quick run down of my favourites.

Contact Management

AGILE CRM – I have tried numerous CRMs (client management systems) to keep track of my clients contact details and my sales pipeline etc, but I keep coming back to AgileCRM. It includes some excellent sales and marketing tools, such as contact management, deals, appointment scheduling, email, mobile and social marketing, landing pages, helpdesk and ticketing as well as integrations with many of your other programmes and platforms.

Even better, for small businesses there is a free option, but for more flexibility the Starter Package is around £14.99 a month.

AgileCRM
For total transparency, this is an affiliate link – if you sign up to AgileCRM here I get paid.

Email productivity, calendar and cloud storage

GSUITE FOR BUSINESS – I almost forgot this one as I take it for granted, but it’s a massive part of my business, enabling me to use my own domain names for my email and giving me access to Google Drive, which is where I store absolutely every document, image and everything for my business and all my clients. This means I have access to those things wherever I am.

One of the great things about using GSuite is that most other platforms, programmes etc that I use provide GSuite integrations, so I can integrate Agile with my Google calendar for example.

All this for less than £5 a month.

Financial

QUICKBOOKS: Not my strong suite but obviously as a small business it’s imperative you keep on top of the financials. I have someone help me with the tricky stuff, but I use Intuit Quickbooks to send invoices and track expenses. It links with my bank account and is relatively simple to use. Prices start at around £12, but discounts are often available – at the time of writing the Simple Start package is available for just £5 a month.

Project Planning and Productivity

TRELLO: Trello is a new addition to my productivity and planning suite. I’ve previously tried Asana, Zoho and Flow for project management, but am currently loving the flexibility of Trello. I like the visual element of Kanban boards which allow you to create lists and move cards between them.

These boards have so many practical uses, and there is a library of templates to get you started. I have a board to manage my client projects and tasks, one to manage my business, one for goal setting and habit tracking, another to keep track of things to do ahead of the launch of my new project in Spring.

What’s great is that there is a free version for small businesses, which is great if you work alone, although you may need the paid version, which starts at just £9.99 a month.

I also love that Trello integrates with a lot of my other apps and you can use IFTTT or Zapier to create all kind of automations for it.

Communication

SLACK: Another relatively new addition, but I have started using Slack to communicate with my new business partner and we are finding it really useful to keep all of our messages in one place, as well as being able to share documents and so much more.

Again, it integrates with lots of apps, including my Google Calendar and the free version is ample for what we need right now, but if we do need to upgrade it’s just £6.30 per person per month.

Social Media

CONTENTCAL: This is another one where I’ve been around the houses and come back to. I’ve previously tried the likes of MeetEdgar and SocialPilot and all of them have their pros and cons. Most are on the pricey side, but I guess that’s because if you’re serious about social you kind of need one of these social media scheduling tools to do some of the heavy lifting.

Basically, with ContentCal you create and plan your social media calendar and set a schedule for it to be published and ContentCal does the rest. It enables you to draft posts, see previews of exactly how your posts will look on all the different platforms (you can use it for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin) integrate it with other tools, work with a team, save commonly used phrases as snippets or hashtags and more. To be honest, it’s still not a perfect solution, mainly due to the limit to two calendars for £29 a month. For more calendars you need to upgrade to £59 a month. I’ll make do!

Email Marketing

MAILERLITE: Even though AgileCRM does have built email marketing capability, I still choose to operate my monthly newsletter using Mailerlite.

I moved over from Mailchimp several months ago – although I still use it for a number of my clients – as I felt the free version had been seriously downgraded. I am pleased with how Mailerlite is working. Its free version allows you to manage several separate groups of subscribers, the templates are good and you can send up to 12,000 emails a month to up to 1,000 subscribers. More than that on your list or what to send more emails? The first level of paid subscription is $15 a month, which gives you up to 2,500 subscribers and unlimited emails.

Design

CANVA: Graphic Design is one of the services I offer Red Shoes Media and Marketing clients and much of that work is still done in Adobe Illustrator (see below), but nowadays much of my own work for social media or blog graphics, I turn to Canva. I have the paid version, for £10.99 a month, which enables you to create a Brand Kit of colours etc for your business, as well as gives you access to a large library of templates. The brand kit means it’s easy to make sure that every graphic you create is “on brand” and gives everything a cohesive look. The templates mean its easy to use for beginners and non-designers while being flexible enough to satisfy more creative types.

ADOBE: In a sense I have left the biggest til last and it’s maybe one that most people won’t need unless you are in the business of design or publishing. My Adobe Creative Cloud subscription is my biggest “app” expense at over £40 a month, but that gives me access to all of the giants in the Adobe stable, including Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator – all of which I use on an almost daily basis. InDesign makes it a doddle to create newspaper or magazine pages, or in some cases brochure and leaflets. Many leaflets and other print materials I create in Illustrator, while Photoshop is the very best for image manipulation and correction.

Planning and Productivity tie-up

And that’s it. I hope you have found my round-up of some of my favourite apps useful. It’s likely you won’t need all of these to improve your productivity, but if just one shaves a few hours off the boring admin tasks you face as a business owner it ha to be worth the investment.

Part of what we do at Red Shoes Media & Marketing is help you find the processes, platforms and strategies to be more productive and profitable, so if you are wasting lots of time on admin-style tasks, get in touch and we’ll help you work it out.

Learn new productivity skills

Red Shoes has launched the new Red Shoes Training Academy – a platform for learning new skills which help you run your business, reach more clients and be more profitable. New online and real-life workshops are being added all the time, so visit the website or sign up to the Red Shoes newsletter for all the latest.