Let me guess, there aren’t enough hours in the day, right? There is SOOO much to get done and it just feels so impossible to achieve everything we want to in between work, looking after the kids, keeping up with all the jobs there are to do at home, all the while trying to squeeze in a bit of self-care too. Well, like many other business owners, I’ll be looking to get a better work/life balance next year and I’m going to be using some great tech out there to help me do that. If you’re trying to achieve a better balance, check out my top five apps for small business owners.
Please note there are referral and affiliate links in this post which mean I may receive a benefit if you choose to make a purchase via this page. I only recommend stuff that I genuinely love, and if you like the idea of the app, I would certainly appreciate your support in using these links.
Let’s start first of all with a super basic, but effective method for managing your time and allowing you to focus effectively. Maybe you sit at your computer for hours on end without moving from your chair, or perhaps you find you just can’t keep focused on the task at hand. Maybe the chores are getting neglected because you’re too busy working on more important stuff all the time. The Pomodoro technique (also known as the tomato timer based on the old tomato-shaped kitchen timers) is a time-management system which uses 25 minute work blocks where you concentrate on a single task without distraction, after which you take a five minute break, for a leg-stretch, loo break, quick chore or to reward yourself with a bit of guilt-free scrolling time. You get a longer break every four cycles and you can continue the process as long as it takes to get the job done. Use Pomodoro to break down your tasks into bite size chunks that you can achieve in each work block and suddenly your big project will feel a little less daunting.
I use Focus Keeper on iOS which is free, but there are plenty of alternatives out there. I’ve also just discovered Forest which is designed to help you ignore the distraction of your phone. Simply leave the app open and your tree will start to grow; if you switch away to another app, it dies! If the visual element of this doesn’t keep you motivated, the fact you’ll be contributing to the planting of real trees on Earth may well do what it takes to keep you focused! Forest is available on iOS, Android and as a Chrome browser extension.
If you’re looking to make big changes to your lifestyle, then you’re far more likely to stick with them if you start small and make gradual changes. Perhaps you want to read more each day or do X amount of squats. The Pomodoro technique is a great way of finding the time to squeeze those new habits in. (Check out the book Atomic Habits for more easy ways to develop healthy habits. But if, like me, you struggle to find the time to read, then you might be interested in the next app!)
There are sooo many personal development, marketing and general non-fiction-y books that I just don’t get the time to read. Although I enjoy winding down with a good book at bedtime, these types of books have the complete opposite effect on me; instead of calming me down for a nice, restful sleep, I end up getting idea after idea and being wide awake. NOT ideal. The problem is, where on earth do I fit in trying to read those books if not during one of my only bits of downtime? This is where Blinkist comes in – it’s been a complete game-changer for me! Blinkist summarises the key points from a huge variety of books in 15 minute chunks known as ‘Blinks’, meaning I can fit them in while I’m driving, doing chores or walking to school. I love the way it recommends books that I’ll enjoy based on my preferences and listening history, and the fact that you can easily switch between reading and listening to the audio depending on what will work best for you at the time. Admittedly, there’s some guilt there that I’ve not read the books to their full extent, but I’d rather get some key take-aways from each than have a whole bunch of unread books on my shelves. In the shorts time I’ve been using Blinkist, I’ve ‘read’ more than thirty books across a variety of genres (with my top three being parenting, productivity and personal development) and I’ve taken pages and pages of notes – in another of my favourite apps, GoodNotes which you’ll find out more about below ;-).
You can try Blinkist before you buy, and get an extra week’s free trial with my referral code. It’s available on iOS, Android and it works with Alexa too.
I don’t know about you, but I get a LOT of emails. Whether it’s client emails, print orders that need accounting for or a whole bunch of newsletters that I want to get around to reading one day, Spark keeps me on-track. I spent hours looking through the different email clients trying to find one that would work well for me and be worth the (often hefty) price tags, so when I discovered Spark which is completely FREE*, I couldn’t believe it! I love that I can manage all of my email accounts in one place using a smart inbox that sorts my emails into different categories depending on whether they’re from actual people, are newsletters or general notifications such as receipt emails etc. With single clicks and gestures, you can sort your emails, pinning them for easy access, snoozing them until a more appropriate time/date or deleting them altogether if they’re going to distract you from what’s important. Plus, if you work with a team, it’s got some great collaborative functions too. Spark is absolutely seamless in my experience of using it and I highly recommend giving it a go.
*I’ll pop a little caveat here that the Windows and web versions of Spark are still under development and therefore aren’t available yet, however both iOS and Android users can take advantage of the app.
I was always a die hard Microsoft Office fan until my software version expired and I was no longer able to use it without a monthly subscription. Now I’m all up for subscription packages where they fit, but for me this was one area I wasn’t willing to spend on. Soon after, I discovered the Google suite of office software, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides, all of which are absolutely free and perfectly suited to my needs. They’re web apps with more than enough functionality for the average user – and thanks to Google Drive, your documents are saved and synced across all of your devices so you can access them wherever you are. I love how easy it is for me to pop a document together when I’m out and about or to check something on one of my business’ spreadsheets super quickly and easily. While you can sort your documents via your file structure in Google Drive, I rarely bother – my documents are listed by most recently accessed which works well for me and I can always use the search function if I’m really struggling. This also seems to encourage me to go through and delete old documents that I don’t need any more which otherwise would have been stored on my computer for years to come.
Oh, I can’t leave this section without mentioning Google Calendar too. It’s my favourite calendar app by far as it lets you keep track of your business, family and social commitments all in one glance – as well as random other calendars such as this one I use to keep on top of awareness days for those all-important social media posts. Pretty crucial, I’m sure you’ll agree! ?
Self-care is often one of the first things to ditch when we’re feeling busy. Before this year, I’d never really spent any time considering how important self-care was, but I’ve realised that attitude can only last so long before everything comes crashing down on you. FiiT is a fantastic app to help you keep fit even when squeezing in a trip to the gym feels like an impossible task. Whether you prefer a slow-paced Pilates class, an intense strength workout or a hardcore cardio session, FiiT has got you covered with its on-demand classes ranging from beginner to advanced. At the time of writing, there are more than 700 classes at 60, 40 and 25 minutes long – as well as ten minute stretches, energisers and chaser sessions too, meaning you really don’t have any excuses not to keep moving. With FiiT’s fitness tracker compatibility, you’ll push yourself harder to improve on your personal bests – or perhaps more importantly – beat your friends and other users on the live sessions throughout the day. A little healthy competition is great for discovering that last bit of energy that you likely wouldn’t have done working alone. With FiiT, a home workout is definitely not the easy route, but it certainly is the most convenient for busy business owners trying to achieve it all.
FiiT is available on iOS, Android as well as Sky, Fire TV and other smart TV platforms. Use my referral link to start your free trial and save 25% off your first payment. You’re only looking at £90 for the whole year and you’ll be saving money off your next year’s subscription in no time as you start raving about FiiT and sharing your own referral link with your friends!
Bonus app – GoodNotes
I couldn’t whittle my favourite apps down to just five, but settled on including GoodNotes as a bonus listing as sadly it won’t be suitable for everyone because it’s iOS only. After being tempted by the ReMarkable, I discovered GoodNotes, a note-taking app designed to replace all your notebooks and scrap paper by turning your tablet into digital paper. I have notepads, scrap paper, post-it notes – you name it- everywhere and it drives me insane! I’ve got notes that I’ve written from workshops I’ve been on, coaching sessions I’ve learned from or ideas that I’ve chucked down while I had the chance – all useful stuff but I just don’t have the time to go through it… yet. This is where GoodNotes has changed my life. I’ve nearly ditched paper altogether and now use GoodNotes all. The. Time. If I’m out and about without my iPad, I can still use the iPhone app to add a text box note; it’s not quite as fluid but means you can keep everything in the same place. I love how I can handwritten words are searchable (even with my scrawl!) and how you can make your notes look pretty – and stand out when they need to. For me, this is great because I can write stuff down quickly when I’m busy and then I go back and tidy it up later. The app works great for all you BuJo (bullet journal) lovers; you can create designs easily and set up favourite pages that you go back to time and time again. You can also import digital planners like the one below from Dash Planner that mean you still get access to all the great spreads you’ll find in physical planners.
I really hope you’ve found this useful. If you have, why not sign up to my newsletter below and follow me on Facebook for more great content!