I am always looking for new tools that can help me in my job and day to day life. If a tool can make me more efficient or create better work then I’m up checking it out.
BUT, I don’t want to spend a lot of time learning how to use it. If the tool is too complicated to learn then I will pass, moving on to the next item on my list.
So along those lines, I have provided six tools that I use every day. I have also included a rating on a scale of 1 to 10 on how hard they are to learn and get started. (1 means my 3 year old can do it, 10 means they are going to need some extra time and learning to use).
Canva has been a huge asset. I use every day in my blog, social media campaigns and newsletters. If you don’t have software like Photoshop but need some good looking stuff, Canva is a good option.
The free version comes with templates and sized dimensions based on popular types (Facebook and Instagram posts, basic blog formats, etc.). You can also save a basic color palette if you have branded items you want to keep consistent. There are several basic elements available such as shapes, photos, elements and grids. The paid version unlocks even more or you can buy special elements on a one time basis.
Rating: 5 – it takes a little time to become familiar but then it is easy to use.
I have two separate Buffer accounts, one for personal and one for work. The personal one is the free version while we purchased a basic subscription for work. The paid version runs about $10 per month.
Buffer is a tool that lets you schedule and post to several different social media channels. Instead of logging in to separates social channels, you create a post once from your Buffer account. You can create a post inside Buffer or you can use the Chrome extension button. It works from either a computer or your smart phone.
From there, you can share immediately, at a specific time or add the post to your pre-determined Buffer schedule. This predetermined schedule is cool because it can be different for each channel. For example, if you have active morning Twitter followers and active evening Facebook friends, you can pre-set accordingly. You can also go in and edit each post for each channel. I do this if I want to tag someone because their username could be different from one channel to the next.
Rating: 8 – the set up requires that you connect all the social channels you want to use. You will need to understand how the scheduling works. You will also need to become familiar with how a post is going to look live. To take full advantage you should also install the Chrome extension, which is pretty easy to do. If you manage 3 or more channels it is definitely worth using.
The Trello tool started off as a job processing app for us about 8 years ago. We use it in our screen printing process to move a job from one phase to the next. The job is a “card” and as it progresses we can add notes, images, documents, etc. to the card. It is web based so everyone on my team can see exactly where a job is at and read updated notes. For example, if a customer has a question about a job, our sales team can give them an update without interrupting the production team.
Trello has been so good that I now use it to schedule all my content production as well. From idea to publication, each piece of content gets a card.
We are still using the free version and it meets all our needs.
Rating: 6 – The setup and familiarity of Trello does not take long to figure out. The hardest part is figuring out the best way to use it for you and your team’s specific needs.
It doesn’t get more basic than this one. The reminders app on my iPhone is free, simple and quick. When I know that I’m going to need to do something in the future I type it in to the app and set a time to remind me.
It also allows you to create multiple lists. (I have separate lists for items to pack on a business trip and for regular grocery items). The reminders can be repeated for weekly tasks (such as transferring car seats on Sunday nights), monthly tasks (paying bills), etc.
iPhone Reminders has kept me out of the fire more times than I can remember!
Rating: 3 – comes pre-installed on iPhones (at least it did on my iPhoen 6 Plus). It is incredibly simple to type and add alerts, repeats, etc.
Dropbox started out as a place to store artwork for our screen printing company. It has evolved in to our company’s back up system.
Today, we not only store a large amount of artwork but also documents, books, order forms, product images and more. For product images, it makes the transfer of files from my iPhone (where I take the pictures) to our shared account very easy. We pay about $10 per month.
Rating: 5 – there are a few ways to set up Dropbox. There is a web based interface, downloadable app or tie it to your computer’s file management system. That is the hardest part. From there it is drag and drop and pretty much works like your usual file management system.
It seems like in every recommendation I make, this app continues to come up. The Hemingway App is an easy to use tool that does a quick analysis of your writing. The app’s goal is to try and make your writing simpler. It gives you a reading grade level (1st grade is easy to read). Then it highlights words and sentences that appear to be too long or too complicated. There is also a word count and an estimated read time.
The web based version is free.
Rating: 4 – there is no set up. You can either type directly in to the tool or cut and paste. The hardest part is understanding what the results are telling you. This requires some understanding of the American English language. You may need to refresh what passive voice means and how to use adverbs.
Added bonus: after using the tool for a year I have managed to learn more about language. And I have honed my writing technique. Editing does not take as long as it used to.
What are you using?
Got any cool tools that you use? Please share! We are all looking for new stuff or tried and true tools.