Working for yourself requires some self-discipline. There’s no boss hovering over you to keep you on track. There’s rarely any strong deadlines and there’s no threat of being fired.
We need a big ol’ dose of self-discipline to keep us on track. And sometimes we look for “hacks” to help us out with that. 🙂
We all have our own favorite tools to help get us through the day. I’m going to share some of my top tools. Some are physical and sitting on my desk right now. Others are online tools.
Let’s do it…
#1 – DynaList
I’ve talked about Dynalist in the past, but this is BY FAR my #1 productivity tool. It is a web app for making lists. Big lists, nested lists, you name it.
I used to be a big fan of Workflowy, but honestly it just seemed like their development stalled. When I found Dynalist, I never looked back.
I plan everything inside of Dynalist. I keep my project plans in Dynalist – and I outline all of my projects in advance. I also keep a document that I call a “battle plan” inside of Dynalist. The analogy is, of course, from war. A battle plan might be a general’s plan for one particular battle, but then you have the overall strategy for the entire war. With that analogy, then, my battle plan is my short-term plan. I keep to-do items for the next week, and I have my daily list there, too.
I don’t keep things in my head. I unload so I don’t have to think about it anymore. Dynalist is my tool of choice.
Dynalist is completely free, but they do have a Pro level plan if you need a few additional features. For most people, though, the freebie is adequate.
#2 – Google Play Music
I love working to music. It helps me concentrate. And Google Play is what I use to do that.
What I like about Google Play is that they have an expansive music library, but also that I can listen to a specific album if I want. Some services like Pandora bounce around within a genre, but I often like to listen to specific artists and specific albums. With Play, it is like I own all these albums.
Plus, with a Google Play account, you get an automatic subscription to Youtube Red, which means no commercials on Youtube! Very much worth it. We even just upgraded to the family plan so my wife has access to all this, too.
Everybody is different, but I prefer to work to music which has no words. But, my tastes are all over the board. Some days I’ll listen to jazz. Some days I like cello music from the likes of Yo Yo Ma. Then, other days, I can go full on heavy metal. I’m weird like that! 🙂 But, it definitely helps me focus.
But, a big part of that is my next recommendation…
#3 – Bose QC35 Noise Cancelling Headphones
The Bose QuiteComfort 35 Series II headphones aren’t exactly cheap, but they’ve become one of my top productivity tools. They’re wireless, so I just connect them to my laptop via Bluetooth. They can pair to two devices at the same time, so it also pairs to my iPhone and I can operate both at the same time.
But, this is how I listen to music. And… the noise cancellation is key! My kids are home all day since we homeschool. I simply have to drown out the noise. 🙂 And, when I put these things on and turn on some music, I am in my own productive world. I just go into the zone!
They’re also great when I’m doing a call with somebody. Often, my consult calls are done via Skype. I use my main mic for them to hear me, but then I can hear them on my Bose headset. Even if the family is noisy, I don’t hear them and my client doesn’t hear them either!
#4 – Dual Monitors
My main work computer is a Macbook Pro. But, I only use it as a laptop when I’m out camping or when I am out of the office for some reason. When I’m in the office, it is connected to 2 big 27″ Apple monitors.
Having 2 monitors is something I HIGHLY recommend if you don’t already do it. I’ve seen numerous studies that show how it enhances productivity and I can attest that it is true.
I’ve seen some people who use those big Ultra-Wide curved monitors. That could work, too. But, the idea is to have a lot of screen space to spread out.
#5 – My… Motorhome?
Hehe…. I bet you didn’t see that one coming, did ya? 😉
No, I’m not trying to convince you to go out and buy an RV. Because the reason why I list it here is more important… and something you could duplicate without owning one.
See, I believe that one of the keys to productivity is planning. To spend some time figuring out what you’re going to be doing and the steps you intend to execute. I do that… and I outline it in Dynalist.
But, I think you should do that planning someplace else from where you usually work! You need to be in a mentally different place. Separate planning from execution!
If you’re sitting there at your desk where you usually do everything, it is too easy to fall prey to the usual distraction or feel compelled to work when you should be planning.
For me, I use my motorhome. Probably at least once per quarter, I’ll head out to a local campground by myself. A totally different environment. And I go into “big picture” mode on my business, plan out a bunch of things, etc. Then, when I’m in my office, I’m more focused on DOING the stuff and not figuring it all out as I go.
It doesn’t have to be a motorhome. It could be a hotel room. It could be a coffee shop. Hell, it could be your own backyard. The point is…. some place different that you don’t usually associate with working.
OK, so those are my top 5.
What about you?