The 5 best productivity tools that helped me grow a thriving online business

My office is small but efficient and cosy, I love it! Plus I have a hard working assistant LOL.

My office is small but efficient and cosy, I love it! Plus I have a hard working assistant LOL.

I often get asked “How do you stay so organized and successful as a solo entrepreneur?” It’s a good and important question! Growing an online business - or any business really - is not for the faint-hearted and involves a lot of detail and admin work. Add to that being an HSP and prefering to work solo and you have the perfect storm of potential overwhelm and burn-out.

I’ve been doing this for nearly five years and have gone through a lot of trial and error with my systems in that time. Here are my top five productivity tools that have had the biggest positive impact on my efficiency and sanity:

1. 17hats

I started using 17hats (affiliate link & you get 10% off) about six months into my business and I am so glad I did! I use it for all my client related tasks, such as quotes, contracts, invoicing and time tracking. I also used it for bookkeeping for four years but when I hired a bookkeeper in 2019 we moved to Quickbooks as that’s what they were using. (However, the bookkeeper did not work out and I’ll be moving back to 17hats in 2020, I really miss the ease of use and wonderful reports in their bookkeeping module.) I make extensive use of 17hats workflows and templates to automate everything I can and let me tell you: automation is key for solo business owners! It does take some time and effort to set up but automating my workflows has been a tremendous time and energy saver when it comes to onboarding and project management. I highly recommend making the investment in a system like 17hats, it will pay you back manifold in time and sanity and also make you look very professional.

2. Analog Planner

This analog tool is what keeps me sane in my digital business! And after years of using bullet journals I finally I created my own analog planner specifically designed for online entrepreneurs! It’s called the Eule Planner (read the story behind the name at the bottom of this page) and I consolidated everything I used to do in my bullet journals into one planner:

  • Tracking charts for blogging, income/expenses, social media stats, newsletters etc.

  • Annual, monthly and weekly calendars

  • Monthly and weekly goals and to-do’s

  • Inspirational quotes

  • Goalsetting

  • Scheduling

I also added two extra blank pages after every week so to have a place for client notes, doodles, brainstorming, planning and strategizing, which has been a game changer. I love technology but having this tactile analog planner (that is small enough to carry in my purse) is what keeps me organized and effective in my business! Click here to check it out.

3. Email Management

Emails are the bane as well as bread & butter of our digital existence! I’ve tried many methods but in the end I developed my own very simple one by creating these two folders:

1) To Do This Week
2) To Do Next Week

I keep my to-do’s for today in my inbox and move everything else into one of these two folders. When I reach inbox zero (yes, this does happen with this system!) I go to the first folder and move more tasks over. Every Monday I move emails from the second folder into the first (unless I decide to keep them for ‘next week’ for longer) and start again. Easy and very effective.

4. Managing Inquiries & Expectations

This is all about productivity and efficient management of email inquiries. I have an FAQ page on my website that I link to from my contact page and ask people to read before emailing me. I also have an email autoresponder that contains links to this FAQ page and other services like my Ask-Me-Anything sessions, plus I set expectation in that responder regarding my response time. Since implementing the FAQ I have noticed a reduction in emails! And if someone hasn’t read the FAQ before emailing me I no longer feel bad for hitting delete!

Example of my email auto responder:

Email autoresponders help you save time and be more productive!・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

5. Set a Timer for Breaks

More time management stuff! Because time is really at the core of everything when you run your own business. I am very focussed when I work and can easily get lost in a task for hours without taking a break. So I’ve started using the timer on my watch for hourly breaks, just to get up, get a glass of water and do some deep breathing exercises. It’s not quite the pomodoro method but very close. This small technique is really helping me clear my head and be more productive.

6. Bonus Tip

Hire an experienced furry office assistant and don’t worry if he sleeps all day! He’ll do wonders for your heart and soul 😻

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