So often we focus on our website design, endlessly fiddling with plugins, wishing for a better theme or we’re focused on content creation without ever really looking at how we plan to get this stuff done.
As I mentioned in how to consistently write better blog posts, I’m a bit of a systems gal and am always on the lookout for better tools and practices to streamline what I do.
Through all of my nerdery, I do come across a lot of apps and tools that have made my blogging life easier and have cleared hours from my week that can be filled with playing with my daughter and laughs on the decks with friends. You know, life, the stuff that happens between social media updates 🙂
Tools for Content & Graphic Creation
Content creation for most bloggers involves both the actual writing of the post and the creation of blog graphics. Talk about time consuming! Here’s my favs for writing and creating beautiful photos without cracking open Photoshop.
Scrivener is hands down my favorite writing tool. I use it for writing blog posts, creating content for a certain blog summits and even writing ebooks. If I need to sting together 2 sentences, then chances are it starts in Scrivener.
At certain times I’ve used both Windows Live Writer and MarsEdit for blog posts but as the WordPress interface has improved it’s not the tools I want to access in my blog writing software, it’s actually the lack of tools (and no open browser) that I need.
Scrivener has a beautiful compose mode that is a piece of paper on a black background. It’s just the words and the page and I find it’s the fastest way for me to get something written.
Cost: $45 (I nabbed this for $20 with a deal from StackSocial)
Canva has quickly become the go to app for designing blog graphics with it’s templates and easy to use interface but it does so much more. You can rock out a clickable pdf’s for an email opt-in incentive or even a podcast cover.
Cost: Free with $1.00 stock photos and templates
Spoken.ly & Recite
Spoken.ly and Recite are both similar tools that turn quotes into blog or social media graphics. An extra plus, both of these free tools let you search quotes made by others and use them as shareable social media graphics!
Infographics are beautiful to behold but a pain in the butt to make.
The absolute easiest software I’ve found to make an infographic quickly and have it look awesome is Piktochart. With templates for inforgraphics, reports, banners and presentations, there’s a lot of similarities between Canva and Pictochart but both really excel at different things.
Picktochart has a number of free options and templates but they do save their best stuff for the paid plan.
Cost: Free with pro plans starting at $29/month
Skitch is a screen capture app by Evernote that let’s you grab a screenshot and add annotations to it on the fly. And since it’s an Evernote product, it syncs all your captures to the cloud for easy retrieval.
Use this tool to create graphics for a how to post, give clear directions to your next BBQ or annotate a PDF.
Tools to Be More Efficient on Social Media
In a perfect world, won’t it be nice to spend your time on social media, you know, being social? These great tools and apps help you automate the part of social you can automate so that you can focus on people in your free time and not tedious tasks.
CoSchedule is a plugin and web app for WordPress that is first and foremost an editorial calendar but the longer I use the more I adore the social media features built into this tool.
If you’re anything like me, by the time you’re done writing a post, you want to run away from your computer and do a happy dance, not open up another app and pre-schedule your social media shares to move the post out into the world.
For me, this often meant that I didn’t actually get around to sharing my posts because something always came up.
CoSchedule lets you schedule your social media right from inside your WordPress post edit screen so it actually gets done! Plus you can see your social media posts on the editorial calendar so you can spread out your twittering and facebooking to it’s best advantage.
Cost: $10/month with a 14 days free trial
A perennial favorite, Buffer is brilliant at what it does – letting you auto-schedule social media updates over time without having to worry about flooding your social media streams with a million updates all at once.
There is also a great analytics to track your most click-worthy content and a suggestions tab that supplies quotes, links and images to share if you’re short on inspiration.
Buffer also integrates with nearly every service on the web (or so it seems.) You can easily fill your buffer account with posts without ever leaving your favorite apps.
Cost: Free with premium plan for $10/month
I’d been using Buffer for ages until Hootsuite came out with their AutoSchedule feature which essentially does the same thing as Buffer. After selecting a post or link to share you get the option to send the post out now or to autoschedule it in the future.
Since Hootsuite is what I already used for regular Twitter management, it was a natural fit to have everything together in one tool.
Cost: Free with premium plans for $9.99/month but the free plan is fine for most bloggers
Tools to Help Curate Content
One of the toughest parts about growing a social media following is finding great stuff to share that isn’t from your own blog.
Curating and sharing great content from your niche is a sure fire way to be helpful and get clicks but where do you find stuff to share without spending hours online? Content curate tools to the rescue.
Swayy is relatively new to my daily tools but wow, this app is gold!
Swayy helps you discover the most engaging content to share with your audience on social media based on their interests and engagement.
It creates a customized dashboard filled with posts that are tailored to your audiences interests. You’ll discover a bunch of sites that you didn’t even know existed. And yup, it’s exactly as awesome as it sounds!
Cost: Free with premium plans for $9/month but the free plan is fine for most bloggers
Using an RSS reader is one of the best ways to keep up with your favorite blogs plus it’s also a great way to keep your inbox clean. When Google Reader died, I switched all my feeds over to Feedly and haven’t looked back.
You can easily pursue your favorite blogs, all in one place, and then share them with your favorite social media tool, like Buffer or Hootsuite. See how it’s all starting to come together? Apps working together is a beautiful thing!
Cost: Free with a pro plan for $45/year. This is one of my only premium subscriptions because of the integrations you get with the paid updgrade.
Likely the most beautiful tool on here, Flipboard is a personal magazine you fill with blogs, social streams and interests that matter to you.
In moments, you can find great content to share across all your networks and use one of those handy social automation apps mentioned in the last section to space out your updates throughout the day.
Tools to Get Organized
Asana is a free project management tool and before you scroll by thinking…”I don’t have any project management needs”, just think of all the blogging to-do’s you have that never seem to get done?
Or maybe those blogging projects that have a million little parts that are hard to keep track of like a blog redesign or setting up an email list? Honestly, using Asana for bloggers might just need it’s own post, it’s really that great!
Asana lets me plan my entire work schedule, plan out large tasks in little steps (which is the key to seeing progress anyway!), collaborate on projects with other bloggers and even create to do’s right out of my email inbox.
Cost: Free (and priceless!)
Ah, if there was a category for “brain dump software,” Evernote would definitely be it. There are so many ways to use this software that it really is the one on this list that I absolutely couldn’t live without. (If Evernote goes down, please come find me, I’ll be buried under a pile of blue and pink post-it notes.)
You can track everything from to-do lists, blog post ideas, screen shots from the web, to managing your email and networking.
The funny thing with Evernote, and I’ve heard this from number of people over the years, is that the awesomeness of this software isn’t readily apparent until you really learn how to use it. I learned to use Evernote from Brett Kelly’s ebook Evernote Essentials and that was really when I saw the light.
Another Evernote resource that is fairly new to me but I’m loving so far is from Natasha Vorompiova from Systems Rock. It’s called Evernote for Small Business but is very applicable for bloggers since we have to manage email, contact, projects and financials too! Brett Kelly’s guide is a great foundation and then Natasha’s book takes things to a whole ‘nother level.
Cost: Free or $45/year for premium
Canned Responses in Gmail
Do you ever find that you spend a ton of time sending out the same emails every week? For blogger’s it’s often fielding PR pitches and other requests over and over again.
So often we end up just ignoring the emails because they’re too much to handle or we take so long to get through our inbox that the pitch has gone stale.
Enter canned responses for gmail, this handy tool is already hiding in your gmail and will let you set up templates for your most commonly written emails. And worry not, you don’t have to sound like a robot, using a canned response still lets you personalize and edit the messages before going out, they just take out the bulk of the work!
One of the biggest challenges I had to face when I started working online full time was that of focus. About 100 times an hour something shiny would show up and off I went down an internet rabbit hole.
Staying focused was and still is something I struggle with but it feels little by little I’m making progress by using 1 simple tool. Focus Booster is an app that is based on the Pomodoro Technique where you choose one task to work on for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break and then repeat 3 more times after which you take a longer break.
This whole process of working for 25 minutes then taking a break might sound a bit out there at first but I really encourage you to give it a try. With so many of us trying to fit blogging in naps times, after the kids hit the sack or in other moments throughout the day, 25 minutes might be all you have!
Cost: Free for timer, $2.99/month for reporting and time tracking features
Do you use a different password for every service you sign up for?
Most people don’t because of the hassle it is to manage and remember all those digits.
Using a password management tool makes it easy to create hard to crack passwords AND use different passwords for all your online services without losing your mind. Doesn’t that sound delightful?
My favorite tool for this is LastPass.
Cost: Free or $10/year for additional features and mobile app access
Question: So, what’s your favorite productivity tool?