Being an indie author, whether you accept this fact or not, means you’re running a business. An author business. And, just like every other business out there, you have more demands on your time than you have hours in a day. Which is why these five essential indie author productivity tools just might help you squeeze in another hour or two of writing.
My business and life partner Boni and I have been running small businesses for many years, in industries ranging from music and post production sound services to communications, marketing and PR and even franchise development. And now, Ingenium Books.
We have written and published a business book targeted at the entrepreneur and small business owner, which would include indie authors. We wanted to help them grasp the importance of embracing the big picture business concepts that are so important to the success of starting and growing a small business. Those concepts – if ignored – will cause you to struggle. If embraced, they will pave an easier path to success. The name of the book is Rock Your Business: 26 Essential Lessons to Start, Run and Grow Your Business From the Ground Up. The third edition and the audiobook, with the refreshed cover you see to the right, will be out in the next few weeks. (So stay tuned!)
Because we wrote the book while running one business and starting another, we know a thing or two about the challenges of fitting the writing and editing in while juggling a million other things.
The 12-year-old List Maker
I will always remember a great story about a 12 year old who needed to write to-do lists of the chores his mom and dad insisted be completed before they arrived home after work.
The boy embarked on a project at that young age to write about what he called The Time Displacement Theory. With that he essentially wrote his first thesis. He was obsessed with getting things done as planned. And (this is where the word “displacement” comes in) making provisions to fill the gap left when a task took less time or was eliminated from the plan leaving a time slot to be filled by the next logical thing to do. He even wrote about the possibility to automate this process somehow. So using his mother’s IBM electric typewriter, vintage 1965, he typed up a 20 page document complete with hand drawings to show his mother that he had it all figured out. He was so proud. His mother was too. They both cried as they read the paper.
That boy was me, and from that day I have been a bit obsessed with getting things done right, on time, and to the expectation of the requestor (often myself).
The Evolution of Task Lists
My experience at keeping lists of things to do is engrained in my very soul. So here I am, 61 years young, still trying to get the best out of processes and tools to improve how I organize my writing life and business life through to-do lists.
The tools and concepts used for getting things done efficiently and effectively have come a long way since 1965 but the basic concepts remain the same. I have tried them all, literally getting trials for almost every serious contender. From Franklin Covey’s DayPlanner to some of the most recent electronic tools like Asana. Simple is good, Simple is fast. Simple is easier to engage those who are new or not comfortable with technology. When I worked in music recording we had a saying: “Less is more”. I think that holds true in many industries and with many people.
At Ingenium Books we need indie author productivity tools as well as business productivity tools. For us, and we would argue for you, too, they are often one and the same. We know you don’t want too many tools. And you don’t want too few. We have narrowed our tools down to as few as possible. We are always watching for ways to streamline and simplify even further. Here’s the four we currently use.
Outlook: Productivity Tool Integration
Yes, Outlook and the Office 365 Suite is a little pricey. It may not be suitable for every indie author. However, in these days of cyber security threats and weird email instability, we viewed this as an investment in our peace of mind and our intellectual property. We use Outlook now because it is simple. It intrinsically ties our email to tasks and notes. All are all searchable and transferable. If we want to make a task out of an email, we drag and drop. If we want to create an email from a note, with the click of a button we forward it as email. Simple and fast.
Most of our day is spent in our email system communicating with clients, suppliers, and stakeholders. So not having to leave the pages of Outlook is a time saver. It helps us to stay focused and organized. From within Outlook we click on the tabs at the bottom of the page and all your email, tasks and notes are there, bare and naked, ready to be dressed, acted upon, and closed when done.
Ours is the desktop version of Outlook for Mac which synchronizes across all our IOS devices. (Yup, we are die-hard Apple consumers.) This means we are not waiting for pages to refresh before changes are registered and saved like in a web based system. Quick and simple.
Setting up Outlook can be simple, with no setup at all. Or you can set up categories to help sort and search groups of email, notes and tasks. With Outlook as one of your main indie author productivity tools you’ll have more time for writing.
Evernote: Password Keeper and More
We use Evernote to save important notes, images and webpages. We store our passwords there as well. Evernote is used as a vault to store items for the long haul whereas Outlook gives us immediate access to what we need right away. Evernote is also easy to setup and use and synchronizes across all or our IOS devices. We use both web version and the desktop version of Evernote.
Slack: Team Collaboration
We’ve just started using Slack. It’s a great productivity tool we use mainly to communicate project status updates, share documents (word, pdf, pics) and external links related to the organization of our projects with a larger team. It allows us to set up different work spaces, channels, invite collaborators, and keep direct messages organized and filtered. I know that’s what email was supposed to do for us. But it seems information gets lost so easily in the gargantuan pile of email traffic we all seem to struggle with managing.
Paper Notebook: Great in a Power Outage
A notebook. A blank sheet of paper. A restaurant paper placemat. Using paper and a pen seems to be the most versatile as far as style and method goes. It is not a closed or fixed system in it’s physical boundary. There are no column size restrictions. No bullet or numbering style restrictions. No small computer screen restrictions.
Franklin Covey really did have something going with his FranklinPlanner system. Stronger than ever, it is still available in all it’s different binder styles, attracting the different personalities of each user. However, they tried to create a digitized version years after its release. It failed.
Our notebooks follow us everywhere. Always handy. No need to sync to other devices. And it still works in a power outage, as long as you have candles nearby. It’s so simple.
What are Your Fave Indie Author Productivity Tools?
We’re indie authors. We’re entrepreneurs. We’re small business owners. And we’re independent professionals (aka iPros). We all have our preferences, strengths, and weaknesses as far as technology goes. Understanding why and how we want to use tools and systems will help with choosing the right tools. I am sure baby boomers use tools in different ways than the Millennials. That said, some of us have no trouble changing and adapting to changing technology. So what remains important is knowing yourself and what works best for you, keeping it simple and sticking with what works for you.
We’d love to hear from you – what are your favourite indie author productivity tools?