If you’re reading this you’re probably a business owner or someone with aspirations to be one. So I don’t need to tell you just how hectic things can get. You don’t need reminding how challenging it can be to juggle everything within your business at once while still delivering your service. So I won’t. Instead, I wanted to share with you some of the apps we use to keep on top of things. But there are a lot of those, so we’ve picked our favourite 4, 2 of which are tools for any business owner, while the other 2 are more writer specific tools.
At Eleven Eight we spend around 85% of our time writing. So naturally, a writing improvement app is high up on our list. Grammarly is the newest addition to our productive app collection, but it is one of our favourites. Once you install this little package it simply sits in the background of your computer, checking through everything that you write for errors. It’s unobtrusive and simply underlines mistakes in red or green, a lot like Microsoft Word. Red indicates a spelling problem, while green indicates a grammar issue. If you hover over the underlined word, the software will then suggest corrections, which you can accept or reject in a simple drop down menu. This part is particularly important, because the software is natively American, so it can get a bit funny around some finer points of British grammar. However, this can actually be a good thing – the suggestions keep you on your toes and make you really think about what you are writing and if there is a better way to say it. It also catches things Word would often miss – mainly because it takes content into account and can tell if you have said ad instead of and. Because ad is, in fact, a real word (I checked), Word won’t flag it up as a mistake, but a quick run through Grammarly (it isn’t supported in Word natively yet) will sort it out. We use the free version, but there is also a premium option available.
In the early days of Eleven Eight, when budgets were tight and we were still finding our feet, we kept track of our customers using a spreadsheet. That worked fine, but nearly 3 years on things have changed a bit. If you’d told me 12 months ago that I would be advocating CRM for small businesses and start-ups I’d think you were mad, but it’s an essential tool to help your business grow. We love Insightly, which combines a CRM (customer relationship management) system with project management and business reporting in one free platform. Each of our customers has a profile containing all information about them and their chosen service, with a to-do list attached to each member of our team. It even integrates with our accounting software and Evernote, so we can upload notes from customer meetings right away and get notified if someone has missed their payment. It’s so simple and easy to use, I don’t know why we didn’t use it sooner.
If you find it hard to keep track of how much time you spend on a project, Rescue Time is perfect for you. Like Grammarly, once you install Rescue Time it will sit in the background on your machine and not really require any interaction. It simply monitors the time you spend using applications or on web pages, and collects the data into an easy to understand dashboard. Here’s one of my days from last week:
Apart from a gap in the middle when I had lunch and met with a client, it was a pretty productive day. You can see how much of my time was spent ‘productively’ (in blue), how much was ‘fairly productive’ (the greyish red) and how much was ‘distracting’ (the red). You can assign a category to every activity in the setting bar, and this will help Rescue Time understand your usage patterns. You can also see the times when I was doing certain activities, and in the breakdown you can see what each application or website visited was. You can program it to stop tracking your use at certain times or for whole days – so if you use your computer for personal things it won’t track that. I have mine set to track between 9 and 5.30, and not to track at all over the weekends. I’ve been using this tool for around 5 months now and it has not only helped me understand exactly what I do with my time, but helped me measure time spent on client projects, improve my productivity and understand when I am most likely to become distracted.
Write Or Die
I wanted to sum up with another writing application, but this one is far more fun than the first. Write or Die is an application for Windows and Mac that aims to eliminate writer’s block by providing penalties for procrastinating and rewards for accomplishment. Granted, I haven’t used this application religiously since my university days trying to meet high word counts, but it’s still useful if I’m flagging and need to force myself to write. The concept is simple – if you don’t write, there are consequences. This can be anything from an avalanche of very realistic spiders on your screen to a loud claxon that can only be turned off by typing (a personal favourite). Rewards mode is fairly new, and this provides positive reinforcement when you achieve your goals – from your favourite pictures to a popular song. They have also added stimulus mode, which is great for creative writers. It provides visual and aural stimulus for you as your write, perfect for getting in the right mood. If you do try Write or Die, take it with a pinch of salt – it’s as much of a funny app as a productive one.
And that’s that! I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into the workings of Eleven Eight. Many of these applications are crucial for us, as even the most committed writers can struggle every now and then. For more information about how we work and what we do, or if you just fancy picking our brains about these apps, please do get in touch and we’ll be happy to chat. We do love it when people call!