How you ever thought to yourself: “Whoa! I wish I knew about that sooner!”?
Me too. Like when I recently discovered the power of an early morning routine, stand-up desks, and when I had chicken and waffles for the first time.
The same goes for certain tools, apps and resources I use to help improve my business. Oh, how much more productive I could have been if I had discovered these things sooner! It’s all good though, because you can only work with what you know, and I’m fortunate enough to have a ton of connections to people who use, explore and recommend new tools all of the time.
Out of the hundreds of tools that seem to wiz through my social streams and inbox, these are the tools I know I’m going to use the most this year. Perhaps this list below can help stop you from saying “I wish I knew about that” later in the year.
Like many of you, one of my goals this year is to write a book. To help, I’m using Scrivener, an awesome platform for authors to help organize the structure and complete the entire manuscript of a book, although a lot of bloggers use it for producing blog posts too. I’ve opened up this bad boy every day of the year so far.
Sure, it’s only the 6th day of the year, but that’s how you start a habit, right?
I used this tool to complete Let Go a few years ago and I’m excited to put something new together for you this year.
Here are some helpful resources if you’re looking to get started using this tool:
- SPI Podcast Session #142 with Joseph Michael—The Scriviner Coach
- 5 Reasons Why I Switched to Scrivener for All of My Writing—Michael Hyatt
- Learn Scrivener Fast
I’ve been on a productivity fix lately, looking for the most efficient ways to use my time, but also the most efficient tools for organizing my time. A brand new tool I just started using and love is called Calendly, which makes it super easy for me to schedule meetings and podcast interviews with people.
Instead of going back and forth with someone to find a perfect time to meet, I can simply send them a link to my Calendly profile, and they’ll have access to my scheduled availability and can pick a time that works for them from my list of open times from there.
I love this because not only does it get rid of all the back and forth (and headaches) that comes along with scheduling, but from a mindset point of view, this is a tool that allows you to approach your time as your time. In other words, it’s a way for you to claim control over your own time, instead of giving yourself up for someone else’s.
For me personally, I have specific days and times during the week where I (and my family) know I’ll be conducting podcast interviews. Calendly takes the decision making process out of the equation so I can focus on other more important things.
Decision fatigue is real people!
There are other tools and apps just like Calendly, such as ScheduleOnce which I come across all the time, but this is the one I started using because of multiple recommendations, and so far, so good.
Noah Kagan (Session #71) has created the Swiss Army Knife of all apps to help grow your traffic. It can be installed on any website—Wordpress or not) and it’s called SumoMe. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] It is simply amazing, and the best part—it’s free.
After you install it, you get access to the plugin’s “store”, where you can hand select from any number of useful features to install on your site in literally just a couple of clicks. I’ve been test driving this over the past week and I’m already seeing results from it.
A lot of you have been asking for a set of sharing buttons similar to mine at the side and bottom of my posts. Well—SumoMe’s Share feature can do that for you, but not only that, it looks super sweet on mobile too. Check it out:
There’s also an image sharer function, list building tools, a heat map tool, contact forms, a “smart bar” tool, analytics, and a highlighter tool which allows people to highlight portions of your blog posts, and easily share that.
Obviously a great price, but also super easy to install, and useful too! Be sure to check out SumoMe. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] I’ll be poking around the insides of this plugin quite often this year.
As many of you know, I’m an advisor for LeadPages [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and affiliate for LeadPages.], but not only that, I’m a very active user who will be using this tool even more in 2015, especially because they seem to keep rolling out new features—like their new one called LeadDigits.
LeadDigits isn’t available yet, but it was recently announced here. With it, “…you will be able to ask people to join your email lists, register for your webinars, and even opt-in to receive specific lead magnets — all through SMS text messaging.” This is super exciting, because anywhere you can tell people to text (including a video and even during a live presentation), you can grow your audience.
There are SMS text messaging tools out there already, of course, but to have it built into the LeadPages platform where I can send people to a specific thank you page or automatically send them a digital giveaway makes it even more useful. I can’t wait to test it out soon, and this is something I can envision a lot of podcasters using too, since people typically listen on the go with their mobile phones.
I’ve started using traditional LeadPages features more this year too, utilizing it for things like this landing page here for me and Chris Ducker’s upcoming project which goes live next week.
Thinking ahead, a lot more landing pages will be introduced on SPI based on where people are coming in from, and LeadPages will play a direct role in getting those things quickly setup.
In case you missed it, you can review my most recent LeadPages webinar reply which features new audience building tactics that are working for a lot of people this year.
What can I say? Slack changed the way my team and I communicate, and will likely be THE most used app of the year for me. I use both the desktop and mobile version. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
Slack is a communication platform that sort of resembles a chatroom. You can have various channels for different projects, but in a Twitter-like fashion you can @reply team members, have private discussions and hand-selected groups within the app as well. If you’d like to get a glimpse of what it’s like inside, check out this group of messages within the #SPI channel in Slack:
All of these things avoided each of our email inboxes, and important stuff can easily be found later. Need I say more?
I remember sharing this app a while back, and a number of people picked it up and can’t stop raving about it. I’m not 100% sure, but I think I’m the one who convinced Michael Hyatt to use it, and he’s told me personally how much it has helped his team internally.
Who do I have to thank for it? The crew over at Fizzle.co of course! [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] Thanks guys! Just paying it forward.
This tool is amazing for team communication—but what about for actual project management and progress tracking?
There are a lot of project management tools available to use, and I feel like I’ve tried them all. Asana is a popular one that I liked, however for whatever reason my team ended up gravitating toward Trello, and I’ve been liking it a lot too. Lately, it’s been open almost every day because it’s helping me keep track of what tasks I need to complete, and for what projects.
Trello’s big differentiator is that it uses “board and cards” which represent certain projects, lists or tasks within those projects. You can add entries for sub-tasks and communicate with your team members within each of those as well. Being able to map out a flow of what needs to be done, narrow focus, check things off and drag and drop to move things around is extremely handy.
I used to use a physical folder system that is very similar to this organization pattern—having various folder for each project and a checklist of items to do to get from start to finish within that project—however Trello allows me to put that system online while letting my team in on it too, which helps for obvious reasons.
Our project boards typically have the following cards, and I’ll use a basic software project specifically as an example here. The language may change from project type to project type, however you’ll get the idea when you read this:
- Backlog: this is where new ideas for the project get placed. Within this backlog card/list, these ideas get ranked by priority, so that the one at the top is the one that would be the next one for the development team to focus on.
- Development: this card pulls an entry (literally drags and drops it) from the top of the backlog. This shows a list of what is currently being developed or worked on right now.
- Review: This shows what has been completed, but needs review.
- Ready: This shows what has been reviewed and is ready to deploy.
- Done: This is where we place what’s finished, and each review period we “claim victory” on these together as a team. It’s a great way to review what we’ve accomplished!
Once you get the idea down, it becomes incredibly easy to manage whole processes and workflows. Imagine writing a blog post in a similar fashion (especially if other team members are involved, as you can assign roles to each of the items):
Blog posts, podcast episodes—you name it, this will organize it. No matter what project management tool you end up using though, you need to use something. Try Trello out if you need to start somewhere. It may not fit what you need, and like I said there are several other options out there for you—but
This may be the weirdest app of the bunch, because this is how I use it:
That’s me, in my “meditation chair” in my office (which is just a regular chair, but that’s where I meditate), wearing an electronic brain sensing headband called a Muse. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
(And yes, I took a selfie with my eyes closed, lol.)
I’ve been struggling with getting into a good meditation routine in the past. A lot of you know this because I’ve mentioned it several times on the podcast and blog. My biggest struggle was just knowing if what I was doing was working.
Headspace is an amazing guided meditation app that I’ve used before, but even that wasn’t completely satisfying. I needed something to tell me if I’m doing things right—feedback—and this weird piece of headgear is doing the trick.
Here’s how it works…
You put this thing on your head that has 5 sensors that can read your brain activity. With headphones on, you open up their app called Calm, and then you can start a 3, 7, 12 or 20 minute session. During a session, you simply close your eyes and breath, and what you hear tells you if your brain is calm or active.
When your brain is active, you hear wind and crashing waves. When your brain is calm, you hear calm waters and no wind. If you can stay calm consistently for a certain length of time, you might even hear a bird or two chirping in the distance.
It’s quite an amazing experience, and it’s great to get immediate feedback on whether you’re brain is calm or not, and it’s interesting to see what I can actually do to calm myself down. Different breathing patterns and focusing on the count of my breaths seem to work best.
Also, after starting with Muse it’s pretty crazy just how active my brain is most of the time. While in a session, I usually catch myself thinking about a totally random thought and no longer focused on my breath, and that’s when the rushing waves come in.
It also spits out some pretty interesting data for you as well, which I love. Quantifying and gamifying the meditation process helps me stay on track, and motivates me to keep doing it every day to see if I can improve.
Here’s what kinds of stuff it shows me after a session:
As you can see, I have a lot of work to do. My goal is to get to 85% calmness in a 12 minute session by the end of the year, and that will only happen through training. My buddy who introduced this device to me has learned to achieve 95% calmness no matter how long the session, which is amazing.
I’ve been using this every day for the last 30 days, and have now included it in my morning routine.
The big question is, is this actually having any impact on my life? Or is this just a weird way to spend time?
Yes! I am seeing positive results from it. When I’m working I can actually catch myself getting off-thought and get back on track faster, and I feel a lot more focused during my work too, especially while writing.
You can learn more about this device at ChooseMuse.com. It currently runs for $299.00, which is quite steep. Headspace is a much more economical approach and great place to start with meditation if you’d like to explore it.
Here’s another health related app I’ve been using daily as well—every night in fact. It’s called Sleep Cycle.
I learned about this app reading Dave Aspray’s new book, The Bulletproof Diet, in a chapter dedicated to sleep hacks. It’s nothing crazy like napping 20 minutes every couple of hours (which some people do)—but instead in this particular chapter he talks about strategies you can use to wake up with more energy, from different foods to eat (like honey) before you go bed, and utilizing this app.
Sleep Cycle stays on while you sleep (in airplane mode) under your bed sheet and analyzes your sleeping patterns based on your movements. After you wake up in the morning, it gives you a graph and some information that looks sort of like this:
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Over the last 16 days, my average sleeping time is 5:39…and I feel fantastic!
How does this really help? Well, I can begin to quantify what kind of sleep I get, and what I did during the day (or perhaps ate) to help me get better or worse sleep. I can begin to test various scenarios to see what might effect my sleeping patterns, and I’ll be able to learn to stack things in my favor to get the best kind of sleep possible.
The best thing about this—and the immediate reward for using it—is that while analyzing your sleeping pattern, you set it to wake you up with an alarm that goes off before you get into your next sleeping cycle.
Have you ever woken up—even after a good 7-8 hours of sleep, feeling groggy and unenergized? Well, likely it’s because you were woken up while in the middle of one of your sleeping patterns, like during deep sleep. It’s a lot harder for your body to adjust to being awake when you’re woken up at that time during your cycle, and this app knows exactly when to wake you up so you feel your best.
If you set your alarm for 5:30am, for example, it will wake you up anywhere between 5:00am and 5:30am. Yes, you may wake up earlier than planned, but with more energy. As you can see, it’s not about how much sleep you get, but the quality of sleep and how you wake up.
This is an app that is working out great for me but might not work for you (I know some who have tried it and don’t like it), but this is definitely one I will continue to use to wake me up in the morning.
This morning, I woke up at 4:45am (I set the alarm for 5:00am) so I could catch a spin class at the gym. Did 25 miles today, and I feel awesome!
Again, stacking everything I can in my favor to crush it this year. That’s what this is all about.
Rev is a mobile app that allows you to record your voice on the go. Nothing revolutionary there, but the sweet thing is that with of a click of a button, you can send the audio to their team to transcribe it for you—and it typically get’s done in only a few hours.
The rate isn’t bad either. At $1.00/minute, that’s pretty standard, and I’m extremely happy with the quality of the resulting transcript as well.
So, what am I using this for exactly?
Well, I just started writing my new book.
I’ve struggled writing books in the past. I remember staring at the screen for hours only to have written down a couple of paragraphs. There’s a different mindset that comes with writing a book that I was not prepared for. Even though I can crank out a 3000+ word blog post like this one in a day, a book for some reason plays mind games with me, and it’s hard to get through.
Later, after reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and talking to a number of my friends who have written books, I learned that I struggled because I tried to edit while I was writing. Doing both at the same time was holding me back from the free-flow creative thinking that can pull the great stories and passages out of my brain that can truly make a book amazing. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
During a first pass at a book, you really need to just put everything that comes to your brain in writing. No editing, just let it flow. You’ll likely not use most of it, but what you do get out of it will be great. I know some people who even take their delete key off of their keyboards while they write so they can’t possibly get into edit-mode while writing.
Well, I decided to take this a step further. Instead of writing free-flow, I decided to speak free-flow and just record everything I say into Rev and then send it off to be transcribed.
I’ve been writing and keeping track of how many words I’m getting in each day. Check out the spreadsheet below:
Some of these days I typed, and others were dictated and transcribed. Check out the WPM (words per minute) different between the two.
- 18.4 WPM typing
- 147.4 WPM dictating
My editing head totally comes into play when typing which slows me down, because I know I can type much faster than 18.4 WPM.
Plus, I can’t type in the car or on a walk, but I can totally record my voice.
I’ve been making huge progress, and feel real good with my upcoming book, which I’ll shed more light on later as far as what it’s about and timeline.
Like I said, I probably won’t use most of what is being dictated, but it will provide a great structure and a lot of guidance when I take a second pass and do begin to edit.
I’ll talk more about my book writing process in an upcoming video—but in the meantime, here’s what my office looks like:
What About You?
What apps, tools or resources are you looking forward to using a lot this year? Share it with the community below, let’s help each other out and make progress towards our goals this year!
And finally, remember this: apps, tools and resources are great, but remember what you’re using them for and don’t get too crazy downloading and using as many as you can. Too many, and you’ll lose time and stress out over how to use them all and not get any work done, which defeats the whole purpose. Pick one or two that you know will be helpful, run with it, and add more as you go if needed.
Cheers, and I look forward to reading your responses below!