There is a reason people call me super-organised and it’s not just because I was born with Dutch efficiency. In fact, I am actually really quite chaotic and all over the place! In order to create a bit of peace in the chaos, I’ve been setting up systems and using productivity tools over the past few years that really helped me stay on track.
Sure, I get overwhelmed every now and then just like anyone else, but I find that if I stick to these basic tools, I can soon get back into flow and move forward. Today, I’m sharing the best productivity tools I am using myself find to help me in my blogging business …and life!
PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS FOR BLOGGERS (AND HUMANS)
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Why Start Using Productivity Tools?
When I started my travel blog back in 2006 during my travels through Australia and Japan, I simply sat down at the end of the day, uploaded some unedited photos to my ‘Blogspot’ account and typed a 600 to 800 word update about my adventures for family and friends.
After that, I stepped out of the internet café (yes, I am thát old) and… I don’t know, just got on with my day I suppose.
There was no business model, no content calendar, no working on campaigns with tourism boards, no money in blogging … no flipping clue this could even come close to something I could do for a living, to be honest. Heck, there weren’t even more than 10 people I knew on Facebook!
Point is, I made the blog for myself and never even considered it to ever be more than just a hobby. So when after my initial travels, I kept writing and it slowly did turn into to the full-time business it is today, I was making things up along the way. I said yes to new projects all the time, I kept getting send out on assignments, I got offers to review products, come to events, work on branded content… and soon enough I realised that I couldn’t keep up with it all.
I never felt there was time to breathe, I was always working and the end was never in sight. Clearly, I needed strategies to streamline my daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tasks if I ever wanted to feel different, if I wanted the business to grow without me going crazy. I needed to bring some focus into everything I did.
I needed a system.
And when I couldn’t really find any that worked for me, I made my own.
Fast forward 13 years after the moment I published my first ever blog post in 2006: While I can’t say that my to-do list is ever done, and I still can get a feeling of overwhelm every now and then, my job as a blogger feels a lot more manageable to me at this point.
Below are some of the key tools that I use to help me manage all the elements of my business.
If you are looking for more tips and advice on blogging as a business and some helpful tools, consider reading these posts as well:
- How I Started Travel Blogging For A Living: The Full Story (+ Tips For You!)
- Blogging As A Business: Mindset & Productivity – The Best Insights From Travel Blogging Conferences In The Last 5 Years! [1/10]
- 10 Travel & Blogging Facebook Groups Run By Kick-ass Women You Shouldn’t Miss
- Your Best Just Got Better Book Review: Be More Productive In Work & Life
I can honestly say that Google Drive contains most of my (digital) life. I use this tool to keep track of my blog’s business plan, blog stats and collaborations, create my media kits and presentations on it, store all the Google maps I make for my blog posts, track my payments and affiliate links, save my SEO keyword lists on it… and the list goes on. You get 15 GB free storage (I paid to get 100 GB) and it can be reached from any device. You can also easily invite others to view, download and collaborate on all the files you want. What anyone does without Google Drive is a mystery to me!
While I personally don’t like DropBox, most of my clients seem to still use it a lot, so I have it to share files with them when needed. But people! Get Google Drive instead, it’s so much more user-friendly.
While on Google Drive, notes can sometimes get a bit lost in all the folders you create, there is another tool that I use almost daily that’s a great help in organising all incoming inspiration. It’s Evernote! I have it installed on my desktop pc, laptop and phone, so notes are always synced and I can even read them offline. I use Evernote as a dump for all my ideas, thoughts, lists and notes that I gather each day. In the tool, you can create notebooks and use tags and the search function to easily find things back. From blog ideas to recipes and from quick photos of things I spot on the go to notes I take from books, courses, presentations and other websites… I gather it all here to be used later.
Another great curation tool is Feedly. I love this RSS reader! You can add any URL and it pulls the RSS data, showing you all the latest blog posts added to the site. It has a clean interface and over time they’ve made some great improvements to make it work for me really well. I can categorize the blogs I follow, tag and favourite them or send them to most of my social media platforms and organising tools. I use this every single day and have the Pro Version, so I can have unlimited feeds and boards, take notes/highlights, connect it with Google keyword alerts and other tools such as Buffer, Evernote and IFTTT.
After gathering notes and inspiration, it’s time to create/assign specific tasks so that ideas actually become reality. There are a few tools that I use next to each other, sometimes using them all, sometimes using them in turn:
Lately, I’ve been using Google Keep for quick lists with tick-boxes of things I have to do soon, anything from groceries to things I need to fix on the blog. I have to be careful not to add to many other things that should really go into Evernote as they are meant to deal with later, but if it’s something in the shape of a checklist that just needs to get done, I usually add it to Google Keep.
I go through waves of using Asana a lot, and then not at all for months, but I still love it. It’s a project management tool where you can keep track of all tasks within projects you’re working on. You can set certain tasks to repeat (every week/month/etc.) and you can also easily collaborate with others. This tool really lets you organise the hell out of your life if you choose to!
Anyone that’s spend a bit more time with me has probably also met my crazy Bullet Journal. I usually take it with me and this notebook based on the ‘Bullet Journal System’ by Ryder Caroll is full of handwritten notes ranging from to-do lists to calendars, ideas and collections of thoughts, as well as little moodboards/bucket list spreads and health trackers. I just love to write things down, but of course it’s not great to find things back in quickly as the search function doesn’t yet work on inanimate objects I’m afraid. Perhaps in the future, haha! There is no real system as to what I add to the Bullet Journal and what I add digitally, so usually halfway through these notebooks I find them such a mess and start all over again in a new book and digitize the pages that I don’t want to throw away. But using a productivity tool that doesn’t involve a screen is great sometimes!
Trello is an easy way to organise your different projects. In the tool, you can see the entire project on one page, divided into boards where you can add tasks to. You can drag-and-drop all tasks and boards, so it’s easy to see the progress in your project as you move items up from for example ‘blog ideas’ to ‘blogs in draft’ to ‘finished blogs’. I use this tool a lot to plan ebooks, so I can create a board for each chapter.
If you’re working with a team, then Slack is a great tool to communicate and keep things organised. You can create different channels for each client or project you’re working on and give everyone access to just those channels that are relevant for them. For example, I run a Slack account myself to help manage my Pinterest clients with my assistant (we have channels for each client, as well as a general channel to catch up), but I’m also in a Slack account from another blogger that runs a team and has channels for each part of his business, such as: affiliates, blog posts, upcoming events, editing, guide books, one of each social media channel, marketing, promotion, sales, trips, video, conferences, etc. As you can see, you can make Slack as extensive as you want and keep all your communication separate.
The following tools help me focus and publish/share content more time-efficiently:
I kid you not, this tool has changed my life and I talk about it all the time! In short, on this site you can set up ‘recipes’ that automate processes. For example, I have it set so when I use a certain hashtag on Instagram, it also shares it on Facebook and Twitter. Or when I’m on a campaign, I have it add all my social media updates from a certain hashtag to a spreadsheet, so when I’m compiling a report, it’s all there. I also let certain blog articles go to a row in a spreadsheet from my RSS readers, and there are a million other things you can do with it. Go try it!
While I haven’t been using this tool recently, in one of the company’s I’ve done freelance work for, we used this tool to save a lot of time when it came to social media. In short, CoSchedule adds your blog content and social media messages on the same drag-and-drop calendar. You can use it with a team, use it as an editorial calendar, requeue social messages, all in one place. A trial gives you 2 weeks for free.
This is a simple countdown timer to keep you on track of projects you’re working on. Set it for half and hour or 15 minutes (or whatever time you want) and see how productive you get by just working on one task at a time! When you see how much time you have left, it pushes you to finish a task those last 4-5 minutes as well. Another option is using the Pomodoro technique, but I never really did proper research on that, but link for your reference is below.
Boomerang for Gmail
If you’re like me and HATE all email, then Boomerang is for you. No, it won’t answer them for you, but with this tool you can write an email on the best time for you and just schedule them to be sent automatically at the perfect time for the person receiving them. So even if you prefer writing mails at 2 AM on a Saturday night (because work is your life), you can just send them out at a bit more respectable time, so the receiver thinks you’re in the office at 8 AM on a Monday, or something like that. Also great if you want to reply to emails, but hate replies to come back to you directly (and never get inbox zero that way). You can also select to only be reminded if nobody replies, or regardless. This way you won’t let messages slip through the crack and will never forget to follow up with people.
Canned Responses for Email
Not really a tool, but talking about email: nothing will make your life more easier then adding a few canned responses to your (G)mail account. I have one set up for pretty much any type of email request I get often (requests for media kits, sponsored posts, product reviews, meetings/calls, for when I’m busy, etc.) and this saves me hours of work!
There have been many Pinterest scheduling tools over the past few years, but really only Tailwind stood the test of time and kept innovating, so I would only recommend this tool right now! Not only can you schedule pins into different boards, you can now also schedule Instagram (including tagging brands, adding locations and creating hashtag lists) and you can cross-promote as well. Another great feature are their ‘Tribes’. These are basically groups with a specific topic, where you can share (and reciprocate) your pins. This will amplify your reach and it’s a great resource to curate high quality pins. Even though I run a pin-sharing group myself, I prefer tribes, because you can select the pins you love and only share those. Through the link below, you receive $15 credit when you sign up!
Where I use Tailwind to schedule Pinterest and Instagram, I still use Buffer to schedule Facebook (groups), Twitter and Linkedin. I love how Buffer is super easy to use! You just add your preferred time slots, then craft a message, add a link and/or photo/video and schedule it to go out on certain times.
…and that’s it!
Here is an example of how I use the tools mentioned above:
PROBLEM: I get stuck on what to work on for the blog
- Check/adjust business plan on Google Drive for focus
- Browse Evernote/Feedly for ideas and inspiration
- Assign small tasks to Asana/Bullet Journal/Google Keep
- Map out bigger projects in Trello
- Outsource tasks in Slack
- Work on creating content using E.ggtimer
- Schedule social shares via IFTTT/CoSchedule/Tailwind/Buffer
- Handle email with Boomerang/Canned responses
- Take stock of time spend on project, what worked and what didn’t
- EAT.SLEEP.REPEAT. (pretty much)
I hope you find these useful! Let me know what productivity tools you use yourself!