Fine tuning your productivity tool kit is kinda like taking vitamins, you know you should do it but somehow you sorta…forget.
Your pile of sticky notes just called and said that it’s time to time to level up your productivity game. (It was the pile of bright orange Post-It notes that called, he’s kind of a tattletale.) But, don’t worry, maximizing your productivity won’t be a scary process, pinky swear!
Which is why, even during our most productive times (mine is in the morning while I sip on a giant mug of black tea) we could all use a little help. Consequently, my quest to find the best productivity tools for side gig entrepreneurs is always a work in progress.
Through lots of trial and error over the years, I’ve learned that the art of managing a successful side gig is all about small steps forward and maximizing what ya got. If I can save a little time (and sanity) here and there, I’m all in, even if I have to spend a few bucks.
And just so we’re clear, prior to about a week ago, if you looked at my office desk, you’d see a jumbled up mess of scratch paper notes and an insanely long to-do list scribbled in a journal. (And that’s not even including the disorganized tidbits living in my iPhone.)
“Enough is enough!” I thought. “I’ve got to get this $&% together! I’m a one-woman show and I gotta get organized!”
Lucky for you, I documented every software platform and app that ultimately made it to my phone’s homescreen and to my browser’s favorites. So, go ahead, be my guest. Swipe my list of the 5 best productivity apps that you can use to organize your side gig.
Now, fair warning: most of the tools listed below are free, but there are a few listed, that do have a cost associated with them. I will leave the decision up to you, wise friend.
Time Management for Productivity
When you assign an actual time to work on your side gig, you’ll be more likely to get it done.
Google calendar is great for blocking out time to work on your side gig. Above all else, this is an actual productivity hack that will help you make some progress! The reason why blocking out time on your calendar works is because you and I both know that your to-do list will only get you so far. Am I right? When you assign an actual time to work on your side gig, you’ll be more likely to fit it into your schedule.
Also, the reason why I like Google calendar so much is that you can schedule tasks for your full time job (in a different Google account of course!) and view everything all in one place, both your side gig tasks and your full time job tasks. WARNING: Just make sure you’re logged into the right calendar when scheduling tasks or meetings!
Why I like it
The almighty power of the Google calendar, has it all. Ease of use, a simple and intuitive layout and, oh yea, it looks pretty. Seriously, if you’re not using Google Calendar (either the app or the desktop version) you need to start pronto.
For example, I love using the desktop version when I’m chained to my laptop writing new articles or editing a video. Also, the app version is helpful when trying to schedule tasks on the fly or seeing your agenda for the day. Best of all, it’s free!
Have you ever gone back and forth with someone over email or text trying to figure out a time for a meeting? It’s super annoying isn’t it? Thankfully, Calendly, a clever little platform (for desktop only) elegantly solves your scheduling problems. Just send a link like this one to the person you’d like to schedule a meeting, your invitee will pick a time on your calendar and you both will get an email confirmation of the appointment time. Simple and time-saving!
Why I like it
Calendly is a scheduling software that eliminates the need for extra communication to schedule meetings. It has a clean, simple and intuitive interface, so when you send a schedule link to someone they’re not dumbfounded by the number of options available. It also syncs nicely with your Google or Outlook calendar, so you don’t need to schedule appointments twice.
Calendly has a free version with an option to upgrade. Honestly, the free version works totally fine for me (I use it to schedule podcast guests) and I don’t really see a need to upgrade to the Premium ($8 per month) or Pro ($12 per month) version. Unless you’re doing some serious integrations with PayPal, Zapier, GotoMeeting or Stripe on your Shopify store, I’d stick with the free version for your side gig.
Task Management for Productivity
Asana is great for task management and timeline management. Along with blocking out time on my Google calendar to complete tasks, I’ve also found that enforcing a due date for a specific task works well for me. As side gig entrepreneurs, we’re pretty much accountable only to OURSELVES, so Asana helps me stay on track and avoid procrastination.
For example, Asana reminds me that every Monday I record podcasts, every Tuesday I upload videos to YouTube and so on. It also helps me plan for upcoming tasks that will be due in the weeks and months ahead. For me, it definitely beats the heck out of scribbling arbitrary tasks and due dates in a journal that tend to get lost or forgotten.
Why I like it
Asana helps me keep track of all of my projects and allows me to throw them in different “buckets,” or categories, even if it’s a half-baked idea. For example, I have buckets for “vlog content,” “podcast content,” and “email updates content.” For each bucket, I can assign tasks and creative that needs to get done. Or, I can even throw an idea for a piece of content into a bucket that I can categorize later.
It’s not only great for creative side gig entrepreneurs but also fantastic for asset based side gigs like Airbnb and Turo. (Imagine all the tasks you need to complete before renting out your house, your room or your car to the next person. There’s a lot to do, right? Asana can help you stay organized and get those 5 star ratings every time.)
Asana has an app and a desktop version available, which I find both equally helpful. Also, if you’re like me and prefer MINIMAL notifications on your phone’s home screen, just be sure you go to your phone settings and turn off notifications for “My Tasks.”
Asana has a free version with all the task management bells and whistles that you could ever want as a solo side gig entrepreneur. For me, the free version hits the spot and I’m totally happy with it. However, if you have a team, you may want to consider upgrading to the paid version “Premium” for $9.99 per month. Premium give you access the task dependencies and reporting features. In my opinion, the business version which is $19.99 per month, is total overkill for side gig entrepreneurs. (Unless of course you are SLAYING it and successfully transitioned your side gig to your full time gig. In that case, mazel tov!)
If you use more than one mobile device or computer throughout the day, I promise you, Evernote will be your new BFF. Accessing your files via Evernote from each device is way easier than emailing a note to yourself (or even uploading it to Google Drive) and then trying to search for that bit of information later on. If your current project requires team collaboration, Evernote can handle this too by allowing file share and commenting.
Why I like it
Evernote is a cloud based software service that allows you to create lists, organize data and even capture webpages or audio files. My favorite feature is that I can take notes on the fly with the Evernote app and it will automatically sync to my laptop (using the desktop application) ‘cause you never know when inspiration will strike!
Everything is stored in the cloud, just like Google Drive, Dropbox or Apple’s iCloud, so it doesn’t take up space locally on your mobile device or hard drive. The reason why I use it for collecting notes instead of Google Drive or Dropbox is because it creates “notebooks” or “notes.” From here, you can categorize your fleeting thoughts or random stuff on the internet more efficiently.
The free version, Evernote Basic, works well for me because it syncs across two devices (my phone and my laptop) and I don’t have a need for a 3rd device. Whereas, Evernote Premium ($7.99 per month) allows unlimited syncs across devices and you can also forward emails into Evernote.
Wellness and Sleep for Productivity
The Calm app is fantastic for helping you get some much needed rest and relaxation so that you can be a productivity monster in the morning. Because, deadlines. And, yeah. Life is busy and you’ve got a side gig on top of everything else. You WILL need a way to unwind. The Calm app helps you do just that.
For example, I can’t say enough good things about the “sleep stories” that literally help you fall asleep by listening to a story with a great sounds narrator. (It sounds nuts but it actually works.) Additionally, the guided meditation series helps calm your frenetic nerve endings and quiets the mind after a jam packed day. It sounds like a whole lotta millennial hooey to use an app to relax, but having a side gig can be stressful, so I’ll take all the extra help I can get.
Why I like it
In the sleep story “Blue Gold” (this one is free) Stephen Fry’s voice is like that of a heavenly ASMR angel that can instantly quiet my racing thoughts. I also really like the “7 Days of Calming Anxiety” and “7 Days of Sleep” meditation series. These come in clutch for when I need an extra dose of chill pill. Which is, often.
I’ve only been using the free content on this app because I wasn’t ready to drop $69.99 for the year on “Calm Premium.” Honestly, the free content on Calm is exactly what I need to fall asleep fast and suits me just fine. (A whopping total of 70 minutes of free content to be exact.) Even though their extensive library looks good, I still can’t bring myself to spend the extra $70 bucks on a sleep app. So, if you’re using Calm Premium, I’d love to know what you think! Is it worth it? Or am I just being a cheap?