Cool life hacks to increase productivity for writers, freelancers (and you)

Okay, so “cool life hacks” sounds kinda, well, cool, but I’m betting you’re more interested in the skinny on how you can become more productive. Don’t blame you for that, so read on my friend I have an uncomplicated, free solution that works for me and could be just what you’re looking for…

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of productivity apps and software solutions available in the marketplace, and deciding what’s right to keep you organized in your business and personal life can be a total nightmare.

To avoid creating more chaos than you’re trying to control, the question to ask yourself is “what’s the minimum, viable setup I need to get the job done”.

Don’t overcomplicate it. This article is about cool life hacks, and, in any case, who said you have to run your life and business like your personal version of mission control a.k.a. believing everything you read? Get carried away and all you’ll achieve is a massive time suck with pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that won’t fit nicely together – even with gentle persuasion from a 4lb hammer.

I’m not saying that if you have a business to run, with team members spread far and wide, you don’t need a decent app or two to keep it all organized. But, for most of us, the vast majority of heavily promoted options out there are simply overkill. Worse than that, they’re a massive distraction that can have the opposite of their intended effect and slow you down dramatically.

In the true spirit of not giving you a problem without a solution, I’ll show you the easiest system I’ve worked out to run my business and personal life, and the conclusions I came to after much trial and error. First, here’s an example of just one of the many blind alleys I went down before fully embracing KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.

I was looking for a CRM program to organize my customers, such things as contact information, details of conversations held, work done, etc. I’m a freelance copy and content writer so it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, in my quest for the ideal solution, I stumbled across HubSpot CRM. It all sounded peachy and there was a free version available, so I got stuck in.

First of all, there was the not inconsiderable learning curve and working out how the marketing module interacted with the sales section, why certain info I diligently put in came up in one place and not another, how the email interface worked, how to generate reports, which graphs, pie charts, diagrams were useful and which were not, and a whole bunch more.

Now, while I’m sure the software suite does a very thorough job of doing what it does, I decided after many hours (days) of wasted input and effort it was total overkill and way too much for my very basic needs.

And there’s another good point right there. With all the sophisticated software about, don’t be fooled into believing your needs are any more complicated than they actually are.

A good litmus test is to constantly be asking yourself “Do I REALLY need that?” Be honest with yourself, do you…really?

So, in its simplest form, and as promised, here’s my current KISS solution boiled down to just 3 components, all readily available and for free.


Some of you are going to hate this, some of you are going to shrug and say, “why not?” but I use Gmail. If you’re a crusader for a free, open, and decentralized web, look away now, my strategies are based solely on Google products, with one caveat.

I use a separate, secure, and highly encrypted wallet app for all my passwords, and I have done so for years. I almost NEVER type a password online but prefer to copy and paste, hopefully avoiding keyboard loggers, I digress…

I run all my personal and business emails through Gmail and, other than a sometimes-overactive spam filter dumping emails in the wrong place, I’ve never had any major problems.

Which leads me to…

Tasks and scheduling

Google provides a basic task manager that, with a little bit of creative thinking, can serve you very well indeed.

Personally, I break it up into headings like TODAY (my tasks for today), DAILY SCHEDULE (tasks I have to do or monitor every day), OTHER TASKS (various miscellaneous tasks I want to keep a handle on), IDEAS/REFERENCE (what it says), RESOURCES (important resources I use for my business).

I can also set reminders that pop up at a timed interval before the task is due. Consequently, I very seldom use a calendar these days except to record Zoom meetings I’m invited to more easily, but even that’s not strictly necessary.

Feel free to put your personal stamp on Tasks to suit your own purposes.

Making quick notes and other stuff

Quick Notes is another productivity tool from the Big G and it’s handy as hell. You can (as the name suggests) make notes using your keyboard or voice, drop in pictures, capture links from the web, and more… I find instantly capturing web pages really useful and  I use it all the time. It’s way simpler than other apps I’ve used to try and achieve the exact same thing.

The other thing I use Quick Notes for is when I have a germ of an idea drop into my head and I want to “hold that thought” – such as the idea for this article. I bang it in there quickly and save it for future reference. This way, I never forget that sudden flash of inspiration that hits me from time to time, often, and quite annoyingly, while I’m showering. Does that happen to you too?

So, there you have it – these 3 uncomplicated apps can serve you very nicely. Everything is accessible quickly and easily and you’ve uncomplicated productivity to the point where you have just what you need, no more and no less. And, that’s all most of us really want, right?

Oh, and a final benefit of going the route I’ve described here is that all the pieces of your jigsaw fit neatly together with no gentle persuasion from the aforementioned hammer needed. You open your Gmail and Tasks and Quick notes sit neatly there to the right of your email messages – nice!

There are lots of other things you can do with these tools, but I’ll let that be your own personal voyage of discovery…

What do you think? Would a simple system like this work for you or do you have another way to organize and uncomplicate your busy life?

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Godfrey

    Very useful input right there.

    It’s as though you knew what I badly want at the moment and you handed it over to me before I could ask.

    Reading my mind from afar, lol!

    I once came across Evernote but it didn’t just work for me.

    After that, I went manual but the challenge is it’s not always easy going back to handwritten diaries to update and reference.

    Thanks a mil for coming through with this. Definitely going to implement this.

    Best Regards.

    1. Les Blythe

      Hi Godfrey, I’m glad you found the post interesting and I hope it helps you think of ways of becoming more productive.

      There’s nothing to say the same system will work for all of us, but KISS is the big takeaway!

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