How to kick ass in 2017 – my top 15 productivity tools

As a freelance marketing manager, I juggle multiple projects alongside my blog Diary of a Muzungu. I spend far too much time at the laptop so I take shortcuts where I can. I love these IT solutions. Try a few of my favourite tools and apps. Most of them are free!

1. Toggl.com is an easy way to record the time I spend on different projects. Use it online or on your phone. I can record, to the second, how much time I spend on each of my projects. This makes billing clients a transparent process. I use the free version of the software.

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2. Dropbox is an online backup of all my documents. If my hard drive gets fried, I don’t lose any data. Install the software on your laptop and everything syncs automatically. When I start a new project, I create a new folder and share an online copy of that folder with my team members. It’s secure and more efficient than emailing everything too. I use the free version. 

3. I highly recommend the WordPress.org content management system to anyone setting up a blog or simple website. I LOVE IT. Did you know 20% of the world’s websites run on WordPress? The software is free to use. (If you’re a first-time blogger, WordPress.com combines all you need for free, on one site).

4. iPage: What is hosting? This is the server space you need to store the actual content of your site (pages of content, photos, video, emails). You pay for this annually and it may include rental of your domain name. Your web host also stores the emails that tie in with your web site address. I’ve been using iPage for several years and highly recommend it. Customer service is quick and excellent.  My blog Diary of a Muzungu is a WordPress.org blog, hosted by Ipage.com

5. Smile 4G LTE is the fastest Internet in Kampala and 15 towns across Uganda. Tests prove that it is the fastest Internet in the country. The tiny pocket-sized MiFi device is smaller than my phone. It can wirelessly connect 8 devices to the Internet at the same time – guess who’s popular at meetings?

6. Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation software is my most important piece of office equipment. I can control my computer using my voice, for dictation, editing, online research. Using the Smartphone app I can record notes on the move. If you suffer from wrist pain, RSI or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, you will thank me for this one! You need to purchase this software.

7.  Hootsuite is my favourite tool for managing multiple social media accounts. The dashboard allows you to post updates to different social media channels, schedule updates, monitor interesting Tweeps and trending hashtags. If you work with multiple clients, you may need to upgrade to the paid version. (I’ve also trialled Tweetdeck but I prefer Hootsuite).

8. In 2017 I’ll be using CoSchedule. This clever web site brings together blogging, and the social media promotion that goes with it, in one intuitive dashboard to maximise the reach of your content, new and old.  

9. MailChimp newsletter management software is simply awesome! MailChimp has ready-made templates, a series of signup forms that you can customise to your audience and good video tutorials. The online contact database is useful for organisations who have not created a company database yet. I’ve set up this system for several companies. The free version is good enough for most bloggers and small businesses.

10. The Smile Voice app gives the highest quality calls (between Smartphones) and costs less than standard mobile to mobile calls. Yes, you read that right! Smile customers can use their data but you don’t have to be a Smile customer to use Smile Voice as it also works on Wi-Fi.

11. xe.com is a free app that combines a calculator and multi-currency converter. 

12. Dashlane password manager rocks! Download and try the free version. The paid version costs $35 per year and allows you to synch passwords across all your devices. You will wonder how you ever managed without it!

13. Too many email subscriptions? Unroll.me unclutters your inbox by sending you just one daily / weekly email that gathers together all your subscriptions. It’s free.

14. A lawyer friend introduced me to CS Scanner. Excellent for scanning on the go. It differs from a photo app in that you can name images, scan and link several images together and categorise them. The paid-for version allows you to convert the image to editable text.

15. Swype lets you swipe/write messages quickly on your phone. It’s quicker than predictive text and instantly remembers your personal vocabulary. It’s fun too! It costs less than one dollar from the App Store. Again, if you suffer from wrist pain, RSI or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, you will thank me for this one!

Together, these tools save me a lot of time and a lot of mistakes. They also give me security that if hardware fails, I still have my data. Do you have any productivity tools or apps that I’d find useful? I’d love to hear about them!

About the author: Charlotte Beauvoisin is an online marketing manager who specialises in promoting tourism and conservation in Uganda and East Africa. You can follow her on Twitter @CharlieBeau or check out her blog Diary of a Muzungu.

image: blacktipit.com