Today I’m sharing some of my secret weapons for productivity.

Feedly

This cloud-based news aggregator is the biggest, most important tool in my arsenal. Basically, it compiles news feeds from a variety of websites that I can easily put into topic silos, or “feeds”. It recommends major websites to pull from or you can paste in the URL from the ones you want (most websites have RSS feeds you can grab, but some do not) Feedly to pull from. I discovered Feedly in 2013 after Google ended its Reader application for some dumb reason.

How do I use it? Well, in my job, I’m tasked with knowing as much as possible about Search Engine Optimization, i.e., how to set up websites so Google easily finds everything it needs for it to rank more highly in search results. SEO changes constantly as search engines refine their algorithms to make search results more relevant to queries, so this is a huge task. With Feedly, I can add websites specifically focused on blogging about SEO changes so that I see the latest being shared when those sites post (rather than having to manually visit all of those sites directly, with no idea if they’ve been updated lately). I can’t tell you how much time this saves me!

I can also add other topic categories. Some of mine include photography industry news, photography tutorials, political sites, competitor sites, creative inspiration sites, funny memes, life hacks, college football, etc. I’ve essentially made a curated version of the Internet that takes me directly to only the stuff I want to see. It’s important to not live in a bubble, so I’ve included a few feeds from sources such as political thinktanks that don’t necessarily tell me only the things I want to hear (cleverly mixed in the same category so I don’t have any bias while reading).

Feedly integrates with IFTTT, which I mention below. More on that in a bit. I share some of my feeds.

Google Sheets

As someone who sucks at math, I use spreadsheets way more than I thought I would.

Applications include My Life Goals & Planning Worksheet… In column A, I list the years. Column B is my age. Column C is my daughter’s age. In columns D-G, I have Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. The purpose is to set something I want to learn or accomplish in a given quarter. For Spring 2018, it was learning as much as possible about SEO. I’m essentially able to plan and map out everything I want to learn or cross off my bucket list by the time I reach age 100 in the year 2068. I wish I had started doing this much younger! The changing of the seasons reminds me that I have X amount of weeks to get something mastered or done by the start of the next one. It’s a purely intellectual exercise, but it serves to focus and form a strategy because the placement is determined by what’s plausible and what’s a bigger priority to get done sooner rather than later.

Try it. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see what age your children will be in the year 2042. It also reminds me that time is a limited resource that needs to be appreciated. As time runs out, I want to fill up. I have separate tabs at the bottom duplicating for Travel Goals, skills I want to acquire, etc.

Another way I use Google Sheets is by integrating it into this next one…

IFTTT

Remember Feedly above? Well, I get a daily email with the top stories from a given feed/topic, giving me the new curated articles in digest form. Quite handy so that Feedly isn’t just compiling stuff that never gets looked at if I don’t visit the site/app.

I get daily digests from my Blogging, Content Strategy, and Local Search categories. I simply create a formula for Feedly via IFTTT. I can keep Google Sheets documenting every time I arrive at or leave home or work, new contacts added, even links to every Tweet I share.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite integrates nicely with Feedly so I can share to social channels from inside Feedly. I have multiple personalities, so it’s good to give them all an easy means to express themselves.

Wunderlist

I’ve tried lots of different To-Do list apps, but this one works great for me and checks off a lot of the necessities on my must-have features list, including… I can create different sub-checklists for different aspects of my life rather than having one all-encompassing list that’s just too depressing to face. I can create master lists of process steps that I can replicate for new projects as I need to keep an account of what steps still need to be finished for particular clients. I can access it across devices. It sends me notification reminders. Lots of good features I use daily to structure my day and establish priorities. I keep ongoing lists of projects to do for work, as well as bucket lists of things to read, learn, watch, buy, and do.

Countable.us

Who has time to follow the issues closely? To hold their representative to account when he or she acts on something that may be a meaningless resolution or an earth-shattering development. Countable presents the issues of the day in an easy-to-digest form that explains both the pro and con sides of each deal. You can leave a comment or just read what other people say to become informed on which position sounds most reasonable to you. It doesn’t seem slanted one way or the other, which is refreshing.

Countable sends me a notification each time my Rep votes. Believe me, I am watching him like a hawk after he sold out my community in a trade deal while Bush Jr. was the prez.
Instapaper

Quite often, I come upon articles that I want to read, but I have to prioritize doing other stuff before stopping to read them. I don’t want to have to rely on my memory or bookmark every webpage that happens for, so Instapaper allows me to grab articles and save them for reading later.

AudioNote 2 Notepad and Voice Recorder

Mac: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id413612650?mt=12&uo=4&at=11l7qF&ct=WEB-AML&pt=16472
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/audionote-2/id1118127184?mt=8
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.luminant.audionote.lite
Windows: http://luminantsoftware.com/download/audionote/

Oh, how I would have loved to have this app when I was a newspaper reporter! Picture this: I’m sitting through long, boring city council meetings, then referring to my notes the next morning to write stories based on those notes. I’d scribble down notes on my pad about what I heard said. Usually that was good enough to get things accurate, but there were instances where I really really needed to get someone’s exact wording down because they said something very provocative or stupid or whatever – something they might come back and accuse me of making up later once they see it in print. Yes, accusations of “fake news” were used by politicians long before Trump – and I wasn’t about to let confusion or embarrassing mistakes harm my credibility.

To make sure I got the quotes down precisely, I would have to listen very closely to my recording of the meeting or interview. That was challenging and time-consuming because I had only a basic idea of how far back to rewind my analog tape recorder to find that part of my recording. With AudioNote, I can refer to the precise part of the recording when I typed in a notation in the document. The two elements are synced. How convenient and time-saving is that?!

The latest version lets users tap and hold to seek the portion of the recording slightly beforehand, which is very useful since you may not know that a point will be very important to recall and refer to until after someone has already started talking. Your notes follow along with the playback, highlighting and auto-scrolling. This app is great if you use a tablet allowing for handwritten notes and drawings. It automatically syncs between devices using iCloud or Dropbox and has cross-platform support.

I highly recommend it for recording meetings, interviews, conference speakers, professors in the classroom, etc.

DISH Anywhere

Ok, not really a productivity tool per se, but one I’ve really used a lot. My situation may be a little unique in that I have joint custody of my daughter and spend the nights when I have her in Alabama. On the nights I don’t, I occasioally stay in a friend’s guest room in Tennessee, where I work. I subscribe to DISH at home, but my friend doesn’t have cable or satellite. He does have Wi-Fi, though. So, I’m able to enter my DISH password into a browser and view everything I could be watching at home from my laptop or mobile device. It buffers quite a bit, but I’m glad I’m able to do this rather than do without my favorite shows or pay for a separate subscription. Now, if DISH will just get an Apple TV app, that would be amazing.

These are just a few of my “secrets” for doing more in less time. I hope you find these useful and will let me know any that I’ve missed that would be great to incorporate into my routines.