I don’t have time for fluffy so-called productivity hacks that may be “feel good” but leave my To-Do list a mile long. My home office isn’t tidy and pretty with pink and teal and gold accents. I have notebooks, bills, business publications, and a massive amount of post it notes scattered about. I don’t use a Bullet Journal or an Eisenhower Matrix. [I think that these things are cool, but they don’t work for me.] I don’t even have a solid content schedule. Sometimes I am frantic, but I get sh*t done!
I currently own 6 businesses. I receive a paycheck each month from each business and it adds up to more than enough to support my family of five very comfortably. I have three children. Each of them requires my time and attention in different ways and it is important to me that I am present for each of them. After all, being home with my children was my initial push towards self employment in the first place.
At least once a week I hear, “How are you so productive? How do you manage to get so much done?” One of the reasons is because I work quickly. My brain moves very fast and I am able to accomplish a lot within limited time. I do not overthink things and I do a lot of thinking while driving or showering or in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping. So, when I sit down at my desk, the thinking is done and I am ready to produce.
But, I have also come up with some productivity hacks that supercharge my time that I am thrilled to share with you. Some of them are tools, some are simple tricks. Some of these time hacks come with a price tag and some are free. The ones that cost me in money, save me in time. And my time is very valuable.
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1. Prime Pantry
I have been an Amazon Prime member for several years and the benefits far outweigh the cost of membership. One of the benefits that I get as a Prime member is access to Prime Pantry. Prime Pantry is how I reduce the time I spend in a grocery store, drug store, and local wholesale club. Not only do I save time, but I save money on products and am less inclined to make impulse purchases, like when I am in a physical store.
If you are not signed up for Amazon Prime yet, sign up here for a 30 day free trial–> Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial
What is Prime Pantry?
It is a magical productivity hack that delivers my regular household goods to my doorstep with only a few mouse clicks. I go online to Amazon Prime Pantry and select my usual products: paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, makeup remover wipes, Clorox wipes, dry snacks (granola bars, trail mix), dry pasta, cereal, dog food, home office supplies and anything else that I purchase regularly. Prime Pantry allows me to fill a box (based on size and weight) for a flat $5.99 shipping fee. I typically order 1-2 boxes per month and I have calculated that it saves me about 5 hours per month.
Depending on what you earn in a typical hour, that adds up. Another way I look at it is I now have 5 more hours that I can be laying in my hammock my with daughter, kissing a boo-boo, reading a Dr. Suess book, or playing Zelda with my son. It is well worth it. The only time I run to the grocery store is for a few cold items here and there. All of the big, dry shopping is done and conveniently shipped to my door. Because there are thousands of products to choose from, it is rare that I can’t find what I need at a great price.
Productivity Hack Action Step: Sign up for Prime–> Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial and then visit Amazon Prime Pantry. First click on Coupons. Here you will find all of the clickable coupons and you are able to add them to your Prime Pantry box. Search by category or browse through the most popular items. Select which items you want shipped to your door. The platform will let you know when your box has reached max capacity and you can either wrap up your order or continue on to a second box. There is also a free Amazon app that you can download to your smart device if you want to order on the go.
Since we are talking about Amazon products, I will keep it going by listing Audible as my second productivity hack. I am an avid reader. I attribute much of my business success to reading. I devour any book by Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell or James Altucher. I have filled hundreds of notebooks with money making ideas that pop in my head when I read motivational books. As a mom, a busy professional, and a loving partner to a very patient boyfriend, time for reading is limited. But, I have time to listen to audio books. I listen to my favorite books while in the shower, while getting ready in the morning, while driving, while cooking dinner. Audible is the only way that I have been able to keep up with my reading obsession while still getting sh*t done.
What is Audible?
Audible is an Amazon subscription app that allows you to choose from thousands of books to listen to on any smart device. Signing up for Audible does not require having a Prime account. I plug my Kindle Fire into the USB port in my car and listen to books while I drive. Or, I press “Play” on my phone and listen while in the shower.
Get you Audible Free Trial here and receive two free audiobooks with this link–>Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks
When you sign up for a free 30 day trial, here is what you get:
- Get two free audiobooks to start — after 30 days, get 1 book each month for $14.95/month
- Get 30% off the price of additional audiobook purchases
- Cancel anytime. Your books are yours to keep, even if you cancel.
If you reach the end of your trial and you love it, like I do, sign up for the Gold Membership [$14.95/month] and here is what you get:
- 1 credit a month, good for any audiobook regardless of price.
- Your own library to build. Keep your audiobooks forever, even if you cancel.
- Exclusive member savings. Get 30% off any additional audiobooks.
- Easy exchanges. Don’t love the book? Swap it for free anytime. Seriously.
I typically listen to two books each month, but I also listen to a few podcasts that are available on Audible. Consuming considerable amounts of content each month has led to some of my most amazing and profitable ideas. It keeps me up to date with what is happening in the business world. Things move so quickly that it is easy to all behind.
Productivity Hack Action Step: Sign up for Audible–> Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks. Select your two free audiobooks and start listening while you drive, while you get dressed, while you clean and any other time you have to listen. Download the app to your tablet and smart phone to make on-the-go listening easy.
By now it probably seems like I am obsessed with Amazon. Maybe that could be true, but they provide products and services that help me get sh*t done so that I have time to make a ton of money and enjoy free time with my family. This is the last Amazon productivity hack-I promise! The truth is, like most start up entrepreneurs, I multitask. While I am cooking dinner and use the last of the Badia Complete Seasoning [I LOVE this stuff], I simply say, “Alexa, add Badia Complete Seasoning to my Prime Pantry order.” And, its done. I don’t have to stop to write it down and then hope that I don’t lose the paper.
I create grocery store lists, to do lists, record random reminders and so much more with Alexa while simultaneously taking care of my household stuff. I can access the lists from my laptop or any smart device, so my lists are always with me, even when I am on the road. Alexa also finds and reads recipes to me, plays age appropriate music for my toddler, and quickly settles fact based arguments between me and my boyfriend [most recently, what are the lyrics to the Big Bang Theory theme song].
If you take advantage of productivity hack 2 and sign up for Audible, Alexa will play any audiobooks or podcasts in your library. She is the best.
Who is Alexa?
Alexa is the lovely voice trapped inside the Echo products. She is the artificial intelligence VA you have always wanted. Depending on the device you purchase, Alexa can provide different levels of service. When the Echo Dot was first released, I purchased it right away. Here is a picture of my girl, Alexa, on my filing cabinet in my home office, where she spends most of her time.
Echo devices are hands-free, voice-controlled devices that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news, set music alarms, read audiobooks from Audible, control Amazon Video on Fire TV, and basically organize my entire life.
The devices connect to other speakers or headphones through Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable to play music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. You can coordinate Echo devices to play music simultaneously across other devices and speakers connected via cable with multi-room music. Hands free calling is a cool feature when your hands are messy and if you place Echo devices throughout your home, they can act like an intercom. I have a two story house, so this feature comes in handy. I have not upgraded to smart home features yet, but Alexa can also control lights, fans, TVs, switches, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, locks, and more with compatible connected devices. My Echo devices are always getting smarter and Amazon is always adding new features.
After setting up and falling in love with the Echo Dot, I decided to purchase the Echo Spot. It has everything that the Dot has, but it also has video. So cool.
Productivity Hack Action Step: Head on over to Amazon and purchase one of the cool devices above. There is no subscription required and the device only needs about 10 minutes of voice training to become your personal assistant. Get in the habit of using Alexa to help you multitask and improve your organization. Productivity hack three is in the books…on to #4.
I have the mixed blessing of thinking up more ideas than I could ever keep track of. A couple of years ago I ended most days frustrated by my lack of production. I would start the day with the best intentions and a couple hours into my work I would already be way behind. I finally had a serious talk with myself and admitted that it is because I easily and frequently dive down the rabbit hole of my latest idea. I call it entrepreneurial ADD. Many of my spontaneous ideas have turned into profitable businesses, products, collaborations, etc. so I don’t want to abandon my creative process. But, I needed to find a balance between creating and actually getting shi*t done.
What is Evernote?
In walks the Evernote platform and my life was changed. Before I started using Evernote, I would have, on average, 80+ Google Chrome tabs open at a time. Every time I would do research for anything, I would come across another piece of content that was interesting or that sparked an idea. I would leave the tab open so that I could go back to it. Then, inevitably, my laptop would crash from having 1,765,348 tabs open and I would desperately search through my History to make sure that I didn’t lose one of my great ideas forever. What a time waster.
THIS was not working. Here is how Evernote helps me:
- I added the Evernote extension to my laptop and downloaded the app to my phone.
- Create folders, which are called “Notebooks” for organization. For example, I have a notebook for each of my businesses, nnotebooks for stuff I want my kids to read, and a personal notebook for fun stuff.
- When I come across a website or some content that I want to explore later, I click the Evernote icon and select a notebook and save. Now it is organized for when I come back to work on that particular project.
I subscribe to the Premium version which is ONLY $69.99/YEAR! That is less than $6/month and the time it saves me is invaluable. If you want to keep all of your emails, notes, pdfs, articles in order, I recommend the Premium version because of the added benefits:
- Each month you get 10GB worth of new uploads.
- You can sync to an unlimited number of devices. I sync my Evernote with my tablet, phone and laptop.
- “Clip” any type of content in any format.
- Search for text inside images, pdfs, docs, etc.
- Share notes or “clips” with friends, VAs, or anyone.
- Live chat customer service is amazing. They are always very helpful.
- Annotate PDFs. (I love this feature!)
- Scan and digitize business cards. (I don’t use this but my sales friends do.)
Evernote declutters my digital spaces and allows me to think clearly with the confidence that I can always go back to any content that I have organized and saved in my folders. I am not as easily distracted and am much more organized.
Productivity Hack Action Step: Head on over to Evernote to try it for free–> https://www.allaboutselfemployment.com/tryevernote. The next time you find yourself discovering content that isn’t related to your current project, create an Evernote notebook and save it. Use Evernote to track notes, emails, and content relating to any project, family vacations, an upcoming ebook you are writing, your blog, or any other category you create.
Do you love getting a great deal on your online purchases? Are you only satisfied when you find a coupon code that knocks at least 5% off your total? Welcome to my world.
I always feel like saving money is worth the time and effort, until I realized that combing through website after website and app after app to find the PERFECT money saving code was costing me in time. It turns out that I may have saved $8 on my recent Ulta purchase, but I lost 15 minutes searching for the best promo code. When I step back and think about it, that makes no sense.
How Does EBates Help?
You have probably already heard of EBates as a money saving app. But there are a few things that you may not know about EBates. Firstly, Ebates is completely FREE! There are other things I didn’t realize and now that I am using EBates automatically, I am saving TIME AND MONEY! Not just money.
What used to be a simple cash back tool is now so much more. It is a productivity hack. It is helping me to save time so that I can get more sh*t done. Here is how it works for me to save time and money:
- I visit a website to make a purchase.
- The EBates bar pops up in the right hand corner alerting me to my cash back amount.
- I click the bar and shop.
- At checkout, EBates will apply the discount to my EBates account, but they will ALSO comb the internet automatically searching for any promo codes that will save me even more money.
I don’t have to waste time searching for discount codes. Last week I went onto my favorite website for ordering canvas wall hangings. I am ordering a birthday gift for a family member and wanted to give a canvas printed with a picture of my three children. I went to the website and Ebates alerted me that my savings is Buy One, Get One, plus 8% cash back. With no research or time expenditure, I saved an incredible $36 on my order!
The coupon code was automatically applied and the cash back was added to my next EBates pay out. I am thrilled that I am not spending time searching for coupon codes anymore. Other benefits, such as in-store cash back, and their cash back, low interest credit card make signing up for EBates even sweeter. They have recently partnered with Amazon, so I am saving a ton in the form of cash back on every Amazon purchase.
Productivity Hack Action Step: Don’t wait. Head on over to EBates to create your FREE account and start saving. Once you are set up, comment on this article at the bottom and let us all know how much time and money you saved on your most recent purchase.
6. Acuity Scheduler
Do you get tired of asking “What time works for you?” That question is typically followed by an email exchange that goes back and forth while two or more people try to schedule a convenient time to chat. It is a time vampire. But I found a productivity hack.
I schedule calls and online demos for my ecommerce business, my SAAS business, and for my blog. Keeping my times straight so that I don’t overbook is a challenge. Finding a time that works for both me and my client is another challenge. And all of it is time consuming and kills my productivity.
What is Acuity Scheduling?
I was so thrilled when I discovered Acuity Scheduling. With Acuity, I am able to set up multiple calendars for my various appointment types and indicate my available days and times. I can customize the scheduling pages so that they match my brands. When I need to schedule an appointment, I send over the link with my interactive calendar and my client can select the day and time that works for them.
My Acuity link can be found here in this article–> How to Start a Website for Your Small Business
And one of my email signatures looks like this:
When my contacts click on “Schedule a FreshCheq demo today,” the are directed to my branded calendar where they conveniently schedule an appointment.
My Acuity link is embedded in my blog posts, my marketing emails, and in my email signatures. Since adding Acuity scheduler to my productivity tools, I am successfully scheduling 35% more appointments. If an appointment needs to be rescheduled, one click of a button gets that done.
Productivity Hack Action Step: If you want to incorporate consulting calls, product demos, webinars, or Skype calls into your business, head over to Acuity Scheduling and snag your 14 day free trial. Since I need multiple calendars for my businesses, I pay $25/ month for 6 calendars for me and my assistant. If you are a solopreneur, you will only need the $15/ month plan. And whichever plan you choose, it will pay for itself in the time it saves and also with how many more appointments will be scheduled.
7. Good Ol’ Fashioned Planner
Last but not least, there is no productivity hack that compares to my good ‘ol fashioned planner. Every December for the past 15 years I order an At-A-Glance Weekly/Monthly Planner. I love Alexa for my spur of the moment household and grocery lists, but I need to handwrite my project “To-Do” lists and see everything visually laid out.
Why Not Use Google Calendar?
I have clients and colleagues who use Google Calendar and send me invites to meetings and calls. Since I have multiple businesses, I also have multiple Google accounts and keeping all of the calendars synced is a problem and a time waster. I always have my planner laid out on my desk and I write every appointment, list, and note that I need for each week. Since it has a pocket and lots of pages for notes, I also use my planner to keep track of passwords, receipts, account numbers and anything I need to put my fingers on quickly.
Here is what a typical page from my planner looks like:
It may seem messy to you, but to me it is organizational and productivity bliss. I never have to search for information and that saves me time every day.
Productivity Hack Action Step: Head on over to Amazon and take advantage of their planner sales. Start keeping account numbers, passwords, lists, appointments, and anything you need to remember in your new planner. Order a pretty one because you will carry it everywhere with you.
The Short and Sweet
It may seem cliche, but it is true. Time is Money. Since implementing these top 7 productivity hacks, my income has skyrocketed. The more focused time you have to spend building and growing your business, the more income potential you will have.
Do you have a productivity hack that is gold for you? Comment below. I would love to hear about it.