I recently shared an article on the Five Tools I Use to Maximise My Energy and Time as a Creative Business Owner. There, I mentioned that:
“Having the right tools to help you do the jobs you need to do can make a huge difference to your enjoyment and fulfillment in your creative business.”
Here are three more tools that I rely on heavily in my daily work to bring me enjoyment and fulfilment, plus some helpful tips on choosing the right tools for you and your creative business.
Voice to text apps
One tool I use a lot is the voice to text function, particularly in my email and Google Drive. I’ve even started using it in Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
I’ve started using this because I discovered my work, and my comprehension of the work I’m doing, is often most effective when I explain it out loud. Ideally, I like to explain it to other people, but that’s not always possible – so explaining it to myself is the next best option.
It also saves me having to type out my thoughts; surprisingly this does take quite a long time, even for someone who’s spent five years doing big copywriting projects.
I’m prone to arm and shoulder pain if I use my phone too much (damn you Instagram!) so using voice to text in messaging also saves me that discomfort.
One benefit of the voice to text function is you can often be more natural in your writing and, at the same time, more concise. Both of these are great for clear communication.
This one tool has saved me a huge amount of time; I recommend you try it if you end up having to write lots of emails.
Journal and diary
I use a couple of non-digital tools as well as these online ones. These tools are important to me both professionally and on a more personal level.
On Instagram, I share pictures of my journal; I use this to have an overview of my week in one place. I try to make this overview as appealing to look at as possible, so I actually want to check in on my calendar. It also means I’d encouraged to look back on it, to see what I did, achieved and was grateful for.
As well as this journal I have a small diary which I use almost like a future planner – my journal is for the week ahead while the diary is for the whole year. It helps me to see, very quickly, whether I’m busy or not, what days I’m working and when I have availability to work with clients.
I do include some information about what I’m doing on the day in the diary, but really it’s an overview.
I find it a lot easier to check this overview on paper, and if someone wants to set a meeting or book me in for some work, I find I remember it more when I write it down.
This process of doing something on paper and then translating it into a digital form (like my Google Calendar) might seem like it’s not the best use of my time or energy; for me, it works well.
By writing it down, it means I’ve acknowledged and will remember I’ve committed to something. The digital version is then a helpful reminder for me and other people.
The final tool I use every day – and probably check something like every hour – is Trello. I’d originally tried to use Trello for some of my work with my students and a couple of client projects, but I never really got the hang of it.
However, this year I’ve got much more interested in it because of the way I’m planning my time. I use a particular system which I learnt in a program run by Jo Martin from One of Many. In this system, you allocate tasks and batch them together according to the type of energy they require.
For example, if you are at a time in your creative business where you need to have lots of meetings where you’ll be making decisions, you would match those meetings together; not because they’re meetings but because you are in a specific type of decision-making energy.
I’ve found Trello to be useful in helping me quickly code and allocate activities to different days depending on the energy they require.
If you haven’t used Trello before, it has a very similar feel to Pinterest. There are different boards which have different cards on them; a bit like Pinterest boards with different pins on them. Each card is a task and each board is a project. There’s another layer to Trello called lists, which are what the the cards fit into.
An example would be exhibiting at an upcoming craft fair. You might create a board for this craft fair (called ‘Craft Fair’) where all of the things you need to think about and the tasks you need to undertake would go.
You might have a list titled ‘Display inspiration’, and another called ‘Marketing’ (for thing you would do before and after the event. You may have another list called ‘Stock check’ and another called ‘Promotional materials’.
On each of these lists you would have a number of cards, each of which was a task you needed to do. So on the ‘Stock check’ list you might have cards saying:
- Look through current catalogue
- Count how many different products I have
- Decide which new products I need to make
In your ‘Promotional materials’ list, you might have:
- Take photographs for flyers
- Write copy for flyers
- Design flyers
- Get flyers printed and delivered
Trello was originally developed as a tool to facilitate work between different people, but I’ve found using it independently to be really successful.
You can set deadlines for your tasks and tick them off as complete. You can also colour code them according to different activities; for example, you might have three different craft fairs you’re going to do in the next two months, so you could assign a different colour to each of those and to the different tasks.
The tasks themselves are also very rich in detail; you can add photographs, links, documents and comments – which is great for when you’re keeping an update of what you’re doing (essentially, talking to yourself!).
Most creative business owners have a huge number of things going on at one time. I’ve found Trello to be really useful in helping me plan my day, my week and even my months effectively by having a list of tasks to look at every day, so even when there’s lots going on I feel like I know what’s coming up next.
In particular, Trello’s flexibility is very appealing; if something doesn’t get done, I can quite literally move it to the next day.
I can also keep all of the little bits of information I need for a task in one place; for example, I recently visited a client and on the card for this task I included a link to their office on Google Maps, a screenshot of the walk I would need to do from the train station, and a screenshot of the train times – all in one tiny card! This saved me a lot of time because I wasn’t constantly opening apps or searching for the right information.
Although it can be tricky to get started with Trello, it’s one of my most-used tools, and one I’d highly recommend if you’re a creative business owner who likes things to be visual.
Choosing your tools
Having a good set of tools to help you run your creative business can make things more enjoyable, maximise your energy and maximise your time. Everyone is different, so the tools that’ll work for you and your business may be very different to mine.
However, for a creative business owner, here are some of the things to look out for when you’re choosing the right tool to use.
The ability to set deadlines or time frames
This is helpful to keep you on track and make sure the things you want to get done do get done. Some tools have better deadline-setting options than others.
Colour coding or another type of categorisation
I find colour coding the most effective way to see categories quickly, and all of the tools I’ve mentioned have this functionality. If you’re a ‘visual’ person, this can make a huge difference in your use of a tool and how well it maximises your time.
Look for tools where colour coding is a normal and comprehensive function.
A tool should be flexible – which means you should be able to use it easily, change things easily, and not feel like it’s taking you more time to use than it is to do the things you want to do.
One of the problems I have with Outlook Calendar is it sometimes feels like it’s more time-consuming to use it with my colleagues at the university than simply emailing them to arrange a meeting time.
Flexibility is key, otherwise that tool will not be doing what it needs to do which is maximising your energy and time.
Most online tools now will allow you to add images, links, and more. If the tool has this functionality, use it; it helps you keep all the bits you need in one place, which ultimately saves you the energy of having to look for everything.
One of the most important things to remember when you start to use tools in your business to maximise your energy and time is to spend time setting them up properly.
If you use a tool incorrectly, it’ll end up costing you more in time and energy than it’s saving you.
The old adage is ‘the right tool for the right job’. That applies whether you’re trying to put a table together, or organise the next year of your creative business. Finding the right tool takes time, setting it up can take even more time, but this is time well spent.
Once they’re up and running, the right tools should help you, not hinder you. They should allow you to put your energy and your time in the place which is going to make the most impact for your creative business.
The tools I’ve mentioned all help me do this; what will you use?
The best tool for your creative business
In a few weeks I’m launching a do-it-yourself product on the best tool of all for maximising your time and energy in your creative business.
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Your brand is the best tool for your business, because it helps you make decisions about everything from the products you make to the pictures you share on Pinterest, saving you time and energy.
If you’re interested in updates about the launch, sign up below.
To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.