by Jason Smith CEO, CineCover
Posted May 2020
I’m a sucker for a new tool! As a coder by training, the mechanics of the new apps and tech that promise to help our productivity fascinate me.
As I am sure you can appreciate, having always operated in a small team, it has been crucial for me to make sure that I am and can be as productive and effective as possible with my time. This has led to countless experiments whenever the new productivity apps come into the app store.
Half a decade of running two businesses later, I have taken this opportunity to share my research and more importantly, the top 10 tools I use and why they’re great.
Disclaimer: this is entirely my own personal/professional opinion. This is not a paid advertisement. All tools are free/have a free option available and I do not profit financially by you using any of these following my recommendations.
I still remember the Fiance throwing this one at me. She suddenly told me that I needed to get this app because everything from the weekly shopping list through to what she wanted for her birthday was on this thing.
Trello is by far my favourite cross-platform tool to use across all my devices. As someone who regularly flicks between a phone, iPad and laptop, I automatically crave any tech that links between the three (not something that is a given when you don’t run all apple products!).
With Trello, you make boards, and on those boards you can put cards. You can move cards across boards and basically, it’s an awesomely cool way of making every to-do list, idea’s dump and checklist you could hope for.
With endless options to create deadlines, colour code, make multiple boards… this is THE tool to help you and/or your team to manage the crazy ways of the world in one place. No more forgetting, no more losing your notes or needing to grab the laptop - get this and you’ll feel free to brain dump and keep track whenever and wherever you want.
This little beauty saves me the cost and stress of clearing up the diary! It’s my most hated task and often the one that causes the most crap if you don’t do it.
Clockwise is a nifty little calendar add-on that is basically an AI Personal Assistant! It can block time in your diary, marry up personal and professional diaries to avoid clashes, move meetings around to stop those dreaded back to backs or even worse, missed meetings!
Seemed super gimmicky t begin with but it’s weird how quickly our paternal, human instincts kick in when you suddenly have to ‘care’ for something.
Flora is one of the new kids on the block in the productivity space.
So what is this all about?
Flora let’s you set timers for tasks. Whilst you stay working on the task at hand, if you can avoid getting distracted or procrastinating, it grows a tree.
Yes, a virtual tree! Turns out that if you need to focus, having something else that relies on your focus holds you to account enough that you end up doing a better job!
Even better still, you can link up with other people and grow trees together through collective focus - you can make forests! Who said the property industry can’t be eco-friendly.
This is great when you’re trying to whip through some focused work - perhaps like that business plan?!
You would have spotted this one on my website - it is how I schedule everything I do with clients and saves both them and me so much time.
Having the ability to just book a slot in the diary that you know works for both of you stops that annoying and time-wasting toing-and-froing with long email chains of “I can’t do then, can you make this time”.
We have a paid subscription for CineCover because we use it so much and wanted all the add-ons but the free version does the job very nicely too.
If you have read our eBook you will know that keeping your online presence active is super important. The only challenge is that it takes very valuable time out of your day.
We know, from years of production and manufacturing knowledge in our country, that batching is a much more effective way to get repetitive tasks done. Doing it all in one go, like social media posts, helps reduce the work you have to do each time.
This is where HootSuite comes in. You can batch-schedule social media posts for your channels to a) keep that online presence pumping and b) save huge amounts of time!
Hootsuite’s free scheduler let’s you do the basics, which is all you really need when keeping those posts scheduled up.
We use it across all of our channels, including for our sister business CineCloud. This is one of our longest standing tools!
Late night emails, tired mornings, typing frantically on your phone… all end in an array of bad typos and some mild embarrassment when you get called out for a silly spelling mistake or a bad auto-correct!
Grammarly, unlike basic spellcheck, is a great app that calls out all of your bullsh*t when it comes to communicating. Taking onboard a more complex view on grammar, spelling and tone, this add-on is a tool that not only saves you the embarrassment of those typos but makes sure your communication is as effective as possible for your audience. You can get it on the phone, laptop, tablet…
No more telling the client you want that sex times instead of six!
Found this especially useful during our spell of no-office space - DocuSign is the best way to legally sign documents electronically.
You can have it as an add on, app, or access via browser to set up contracts and have clients and colleagues sign without needing access to a printer.
We used to use PDFs prior to finding DocuSign but the professional look and feel, as well as the legality protections this has, made us switch.
Plus for Trello
Once you’ve set up on Trello, you will want to get this add on. I love a good graph and a good bit of data to tell me what is going on behind a task and this does that very well.
Plus tracks the time data spent on items from your to-do lists (at least those done electronically) to give you a great indication of how long you needed to get through things. Especially good to manage team capacities and also to get a good flavour of how much procrastination we are all prone to...
As I mentioned earlier, we aren’t a team who uses all-apple devices, so making sure we backup and sync up across devices is important and a little more complex than just using iCloud.
OneDrive is the first tool on this list that we enlisted at CineCover. The fundamentals of what we do mean we have a lot of imagery, information and critical materials we need to back up and also have access to when out of the office. OneDrive is a super way to do all of this.
A cloud based system, you can have automatic sync set up across devices which means that you won’t have to panic about losing documents, or not being able to get what you need. Also useful if you have a business account as it means the whole team can access and share documents, wherever they are in the world.
Perhaps not one you’d anticipate on this list, but my favourite of all the tools.
You can’t be your best for others and deliver your best service if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Headspace, whether you access the free basics or pay for an annual subscription, has opened our modern world back up to the idea of meditation and mindfulness.
Crucial for our mental wellbeing and general health, these activities are guided in an easy to consume way that makes even the most cynical of us accept it’s actually not that bad to take ten minutes out of the day to recoup.
As the saying goes, if you can’t find ten minutes a day for mindfulness, then you need to find an hour.
I have no doubt that these tools will revolutionise the way you work and save you valuable time and money!
P.s if you find any other good ones, please do share with me!