6 Time-Saving Tools Worth Spending Your Time On

Solopreneurs need all the time they can get. Unfortunately, each day has a limited number of hours. There’s no way to add more, so saving time is ever a priority.

But to save time in the long run, you sometimes need to spend time. And sometimes that prevents solo-biz owners from taking the initiative to do things differently than they are now. It’s tough to carve out time in an already packed schedule, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to work more efficiently and ultimately get more from every hour.

6 things I spent time on to learn that save me time nearly every day

Tools rule for conserving time, but there’s a learning curve that accompanies them. You need to invest some time upfront to learn them before they’ll improve your productivity. Here’s a list of the time-saving tools and software I’m immensely glad I took the time to learn.

EvernoteEvernote website

I’ve used Evernote (PC download and web/mobile) for the past three years to store important notes about client projects, preliminary project quotes, blog topic ideas, and “cut and paste” re-usable business nuggets (such as html code for blog formatting and templates/scripts for LinkedIn responses and proposal inquiries). With Evernote, I find it far easier to find what I’m looking for than to dig through my MS Office folders. Of course, it takes some time to figure out how best to organize it to suit your needs and to get acquainted with its features and capabilities.

Trello

Trello is a free and simple to use cloud-based project management tool. I’ve used it for about a year and Trello webpage screenshotappreciate how easy it has been for not-so-tech-savvy people to grasp the basics of how it works. Its visual interface allows people to easily view the piece parts of projects. Its “board” and “card” structure makes it simple to add projects, assign tasks and make task-specific notes. Plus, its drag and drop nature allows project participants to move tasks to phases of a project (like from “to do” to “done”). There’s a Trello mobile app, too, that adds to its value even though it doesn’t have as much functionality. As with Evernote, you’ll find you’ll need to spend some time experimenting with Trello to set up your boards in a way that make the most sense for your particular projects.

LastPassLastPass website screenshot

This free secure online password manager and form filler lets you bypass searching  for the individual passwords you’ve created for the many apps, networks and tools you use on the web. LastPass encrypts your data to keep it safe, and you decide if you want it to automatically log you in or auto-fill your login info whenever you visit a site you’ve stored there. As you may have guessed, you’ll need to take time to set up your LastPass account. But after you’ve installed the LastPass extension to your browser, the app will give you the option to automatically add new sites to LastPass so you won’t have to manually log into them in the future.

QuickBooks

Invoicing, logging payments, recording deposits…there’s no escaping that  financial administrative stuff whenQuickBooks webpage screenshot you’re a solopreneur. For the first 3 years of my freelance writing business, I used Excel spreadsheets to track my finances. It was becoming unmanageable, so I bought QuickBooks software (there’s also QuickBooks Online if you prefer a cloud-based app). I won’t lead you astray and tell you QuickBooks is intuitive (though you’d think that it should be since it’s made by “Intuit”). It’s not. Now in my second year of using it, I’m still learning the ropes to some degree, but it’s been well worth the time and occasional expense of bringing in a QuickBooks expert to train me and review my transactions to make sure I haven’t completely fubared something.

HootsuiteHootsuite screenshot

Hootsuite has made it possible for me to tweet consistently and keep better tabs on the Twitter activity of clients, solid content providers, and influencers so I can interact more effectively. Plus its “Hootlet” browser extension lets you compose a tweet (or status update if you opt to use Hootsuite for other social networks, too) directly from the article or web page you’re viewing. You’ll find it takes some time to connect your Hootsuite account to your social networks and set up the dashboard with streams (such as your Home feed, Retweets, Mentions, specific Twitter lists etc.). But after you’ve got it set up, you can expect it to either save you hours each week or enable you to engage more in the same amount of time you devoted to social media efforts before.

Quote RollerQuote Roller webpage screenshot

After recently reading Laura Spencer’s blog post about Quote Roller, I knew I had to try it for myself. Wow! Quote Roller is an uber-helpful online tool designed to aid freelancers and solopreneurs craft professional proposals, directly send them to clients, and gain acceptance by securing sign off via electronic signatures. Best of all, you can save chunks of proposal content  to reuse in future proposals. That saves time – big time. I’ve only been using Quote Roller for about 9 days, and I’m already thrilled with the efficiency it’s brought me. I’ve submitted 3 proposals through the tool so far and all three have been accepted by my prospects with no technical issues or other snafus. Yes, I’m still getting acclimated to it, but I’m predicting Quote Roller will save me hours upon hours upon hours every year.

Take time to save time

When you’re doing it all in your business, shaving time off of administrative tasks isn’t an option; it’s a necessity for survival. Don’t be afraid to put in a few extra hours to learn the features and functions of tools that can make you more productive and efficient.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur Post™

5 Time-Saving Chrome Extensions that Rock for Solopreneurs

Like so many other time-strapped solopreneurs, I’m constantly on the lookout for tools that can save me time. Saved time means increased productivity – because there’s more of it up for grabs to get things done!

Often, it’s not just one big whopping tool that will make all the difference…it’s a combination of several that will help you work smarter. And if you’re a Chrome user, choosing – and consistently using – some well-performing extensions will give you the ability to conserve minutes (or even hours) every day and let you accomplish more.

My Personal “Couldn’t Live Without” Favorite Chrome Extensions:

G+ Button
Google Plus +1 Extension

This extension makes it super easy to +1 and share a web page to your circles on Google+ without going directy to your G+ profile or page. When you’ve read a blog post or happen upon a web page that’s worth sharing, you simply need to click on the little G+1 icon on your browser bar. A window then pops up which automatically attaches the link to the page you’re on and +1s the page.  It also allows you to write a status update and choose which circles or individuals you want to share it with on G+. Because I don’t use any scheduling utility for Google+, this extension is essential in my book. You can find it and download it for free at the Google Chrome Web Store

Hootsuite Hootlet Link Share
Hootlet Extension for Chrome

If you use Hootsuite, you’ll want to install this extension ASAP. Like the G+1 extension, it lets you to post to your Hootsuite account (and the networks you access through it) without directly going to your Hootsuite dashboard.  When you’re on a web page/blog post that’s perfect for your audience, just click on the Hootsuite Hootlet icon on your browser and the Hootsuite “Create a New Message” box will open so you can craft your tweet or status update (the link to the page you were visiting will automatically be shortened), select the networks you want to share it on, and either send right away or schedule it. You can download the Hootlet Link Share extension from the Extensions page of Hootsuite.com

LastPass
LastPass for Chrome
Passwords, passwords everywhere. LastPass has been a lifesaver! It’s a free secure online password manager and form filler that lets you bypass digging out your individual passwords for the multitude of apps, networks and tools you use on the web.  I love, love, love it because I don’t have to worry about remembering individual passwords every time I want to log in to a site.  After setting up a single password for your “LastPass Vault” and  loading the individual password info for the sites that you regularly (or not so regularly) log into (think social media networks, Google, wireless phone account, productivity tools, online banking, etc.), life gets instantaneously easier and more secure.  LastPass encrypts your data to keep it safe and then fills in your login info whenever you visit a site that you stored in your vault.  No guessing, “what was that password again?” or digging through sticky notes or index cards to find your passwords.

Evernote Web Clipper
Evernote Web Clipper Extension for Chrome
If you’re an avid Evernote user, the Web Clipper Extension is a must. It’s perfect for when you’re on a web page that you want to save for future reference because it’s got info you can use for a blog post or because you quite simply don’t have enough time to read it on the spot, It streamlines the process of saving important web pages to Evernote. No need to go through the steps of copying the link, logging into Evernote and pasting the URL into your Evernote notebook of choice. Instead, you just need to click on the Evernote Web Clipper extension. You’ll then see a window that gives you a variety of options for how you want to save the info on the page. You can save the article, a specific selection from the page, the full page, or the URL.  You can also save it as a PDF or email it to someone. You also choose the Evernote notebook you want to save it in, and you can add tags to categorize it and comments to remind yourself of why you saved it in the first place.  To download it for free, go to the Web Clipper page on Evernote’s website.

Webpage and Webcam Screenshot
Webpage and Webcam Screenshot Extension for Chrome

This free extension lets you capture just a screenshot or 100% of the content appearing on any webpage.  I use it primarily to capture all content on webpages for which I wrote the content so I can save it for sharing in my professional portfolio.  The extension saves the content in a PNG file and then I convert it to a PDF so the text is a readable size. Also sweet about this extension is that you can easily share any webpage to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Evernote, WordPress, Blogger, Google Drive or by email. You can download the Webpage and Webcam Screenshot extension from the Chrome Web Store.

Your turn! Which extensions save you time, boost productivity, and give you capabilities to help you work smarter?

 

Cool Tool Alert: Put Your Important Appointments in Evernote with KanMeet

As solopreneurs, we’re always looking for ways to be more productive and organized. Among the tools galore to helpProductivity with that: Evernote – my personal favorite for a variety of reasons.

Evernote on its own has given me more control over my to do lists and has enabled me to manage projects better, but the cool apps and extensions developed by third parties who strive to enhance the Evernote user experience add even more value to its software and services. I’ve been using InQloud to painlessly forward select emails directly into Evernote notebooks for months, and now I’ve discovered KanMeet.

KanMeet (which is free by the way) lets you “quickly and easily save and synchronize your Google calendar with your Evernote account.” In short, Google Chrome users can post their events to their Evernote notebooks. So, if you use Evernote as a central point for keeping tabs on client projects and tasks lists, you’ll probably find it ultra-convenient to save important appointments there, too.

It’s easy to establish your default settings via the KanMeet extension on your browser. You choose if you want all new appointments to automatically be saved as notes in Evernote or if you want to manually post them.

KanMeet website

You can set your default settings for KanMeet directly in the browser bar.

Also, you can select (via a dropdown box that contains all of your Evernote notebooks) which notebook you want Google Calendar appointments to go to. KanMeet automatically sets up a “Google Calendar” notebook for you, but you can change that to any one of your other notebooks. In reality, your default notebook doesn’t really have to be a “default” at all. Each time you set up an event in your Google Calendar, you can go to the KanMeet extension, pick the appropriate notebook you want it to go to, and save the appointment. It will then post precisely where you directed it.

KanMeet: New Google Calendar Event

When you create a new Google Calendar Event, you’ll see a “Post to Evernote” check box.

Besides sending new Google Calendar Events to Evernote, you can save existing appointments there, too. Also very simple to do by opening the event, making sure the “Post to Evernote” box is checked, and then resaving the appointment.

KanMeet - Post Existing Google Calendar Event to Evernote

Even existing Google Calendar Events can be posted to Evernote.

The only potential “gotchas” to share about KanMeet:

  • It’s only available to Google Chrome users – but there are lots of us out there!
  • You’ll need to mentally adjust to paying attention to it:
    • If you default your settings to post all events to Evernote, you’ll probably send far more appointments there than you really want to.
    • If you default your settings to selectively choose which events go to Evernote, you’ll likely find yourself needing to go back into Google Calendar to check off the “Post to Evernote” box later because you forgot to when you set up the event.
  • Occasionally, KanMeet gets a little fussy about posting events that have ampersands or other non-alpha characters in their titles. Luckily, however, a window pops up to tell you what you’ve done wrong, so you can correct it.
  • You’ll need to figure out how you can make the most of it. I’m still trying to decide to which notebooks it makes most sense to post events. Currently, I’m sending them to the default “Google Calendar” notebook and reviewing all posted appointments there to stay on top of what’s coming down the pike. However, I might try creating brand new individual “client calendar” notebooks named after my clients where I would save conference calls, meetings, and deadlines specific to them.

Although I’m still in the getting-to-know-you stage with KanMeet, my impression is that it’s “a keeper.” If, like me, you’re using Evernote as a sort of project dashboard/repository, KanMeet can help keep upcoming project-related appointments in better view than trying to pick them out of the many other events on your Google Calendar. That certainly makes life easier, and anything that makes a solopreneur’s life easier scores big points in my book!

Your turn!  What Evernote extensions and apps have you been using? If you’re not an Evernote user, what productivity tools have helped you most?

Cool Tool Alert: Emailing to Evernote Made Easier

Besides the opportunity to work with a variety of interesting and talented people, there’s another thing that really rocks InQloud web pageabout freelancing. From time to time, I get to try out new stuff so I better understand the products and services I’m writing about in press releases, articles and web content.

For about a month, I’ve been participating as a beta user for a client’s new service, InQloud. With it coming out of beta status, I thought it appropriate to make a “Cool Tool Alert,” so you can check it out, too. If you’re an Evernote user, you’ll want to make a note of this one!

What InQloud does…
As simply stated on its website, “InQloud does one thing – and does it perfectly. It lets you send your emails directly to Evernote notebooks in one simple step.”

Although you can send emails to Evernote without the help of InQloud, it’s not exactly a quick or easy process; you have to remember your Evernote email address and specific notebook names, and then add them manually into your contacts to do it.

The beauty of InQloud is that it automatically creates email addresses for each of your Evernote notebooks and adds them to your Google Contacts. Then whenever you want to forward an email to one of your Evernote notebooks, just select the contact for the appropriate notebook, and send the message on its way.

Why use it?
I primarily use it to keep important emails from slipping through the cracks. When I have emails that require action, I forward them to the specific “To Do” lists that I have set up as Evernote notebooks where they become “notes”.

Others have found a lot of value in streamlining their email review process by setting up Gmail filters that automatically send emails from specific sources directly to their Evernote notebooks. I haven’t done that yet, but I can see how that would considerably lighten the load when sifting through my inbox.

InQloud is coming out of beta now, and is available on a 30-day free trial basis. After that, you have the option of either subscribing for $1.99 monthly or for a full year at $19.99. It’s quite cost effective. Note that the number of emails you can forward daily from your email to Evernote follows the limits set by your Evernote account. Users on the Free version of Evernote can send up to 50 emails per day, and those on the Premium version can send up to 250 per day.

If you’re an avid Evernote user, I recommend that you give InQloud a whirl. And if you decide to give it a try, please keep me posted on your experience with it!

Evernote Epiphanies: To Do List Efficiency

Professionals of all sorts have been raving about the web-based productivity tool Evernote. I, too, have been using it,Sticky note image but pretty much only as a repository for the online articles that I’ve found helpful or that have generated ideas for my own blog posts. And it’s been great for that, but I know it can do one heck of a lot more!

Just recently, I started experimenting, as time allows, with some of the features that Evernote offers to see how I – and perhaps you, too – can make better use of the powerful FREE tool (a Premium version is also available for just $45 per year that provides enhanced features and more capacity). Again, the rate of my discovery process is dependent on when I can make time to try, test and evaluate, so my plan is to share one or more Evernote epiphanies whenever I’ve made some notable progress.

But first, here are a few bits of advice to those who have just started using Evernote:

  • Create notebooks with meaningful titles rather than using just your default notebook for storing everything. Like you would on your computer and in email, organize content so you can retrieve it much more easily. And add tags to further distinguish and find relevant information. Do all this from the beginning, because catching up is a tedious task.
  • Add the Evernote web clipper extension to your browser so you can clip info from page or post and add it directly to your Evernote notebook of choice without ever leaving the page. So easy and convenient!
  • Download the Evernote app on your smartphone. You can access your notes from anywhere, anytime AND you can create and organize new notes on the fly.

Now on to an epiphany as promised…

Task Lists in Evernote

I’m finding Evernote to be a marvelous place to keep all my “to do” lists in one central place. My recommendation: create a “To Do” notebook in which you can stack other notebooks that are named according to the type of to do list within them (i.e. Home, Business, Volunteer, or something even more specific). When you add your tasks, Evernote gives you the option to add a check box next to them. When you’ve completed a task, simply check it off your list.

Example of To Do list in Evernote

In Evernote, you can create various To Do lists and easily manage them all in one central place – even from your mobile devices.

Best of all, if you’ve got the Evernote mobile app on your smartphone, you can check off your tasks while you’re on the go. Buy cartridge for the printer…check! Mail tax return…check! Pick up milk at the grocery store…check! Simplify your life…check!

More Evernote epiphanies to come! If you’re using Evernote, please share how it’s making a difference for you! I know there are many savvy users out there, and I can’t wait to dig in and try your best practices. 


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