Starting a business, side hustle, or passion project as young entrepreneurs is no easy task. Trying to do it all alone is impossible. With the help of the right tools, we can cut down on wasted time and focus on important tasks that will provide real value down the road.
Everyone is different, as is every project. Thus, this list will not perfectly apply to everyone, and that’s O.K. Take what you can from it and try these tools for a brief trial run.
Experimentation is the only methodology that actually leads to getting the project right. The chances that you will guess the right business model, content, design, marketing plan, tools, and technology on the first try are next to none.
These tools are meant to provide the community with ideas on products and services that can make starting a business exponentially easier. Try them out!
Tools for Increased Productivity
1. TAKE NOTES ON THE CLOUD
Seth Godin refers to our natural minds as the lizard brain, and we should never trust our lizard brains. When you have an idea, write it down. Organize your life in writing so that your ideas never get lost in the ethers.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you are great at writing or keeping notes or being organized. Your future self will thank you for writing it all down, because guess what? You will absolutely, positively forget 100% of your ideas you don’t store away.
Favorite apps for taking notes:
2. BRAIN DUMP DAILY
When you are writing all of your notes and ideas down, one technique that is proven to be effective is the brain dump.
Brain dumping means that you set aside a time to actually write down every single thing that is on your mind at that time.
This is most effective when done in categories, for example:
List all tasks that need to be done for a day or week
Write all ideas you can in a 15 minute period
Keep a gratitude journal and write down all those things at once daily
This method is highly valuable and helps you not have to stress or focus on those things when work is over.
Favorite apps for brain dumping:
3. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Perhaps nothing is more useful than improving your daily mindset when trying to start a new project.
Mindfulness is a way to accomplish a shift in paradigm or mentality on a short-term basis. When a habit of practicing mindfulness is developed and performed each day, the effects transform into long-term benefits.
The fact of the matter is that running a business comes with a million different emotions and mindsets, namely:
- And so many more!
Mindfulness can target all of these using different techniques at different times. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of a business.
Favorite apps for mindfulness:
4. CUT DOWN ON YOUR EMAILS
Emails are almost always a waste of time. Period.
What would you say the ratio of spam vs. important emails in your current inbox? 10:1? 100:1?
Try getting to “inbox zero” every single morning. This means that you should archive all messages in your inbox each day and put your emails aside for the remainder.
It may seem like you need those emails, but you really don’t. Archiving emails doesn’t delete them from your account, it simply removes them from your vision and mind so that you can focus on the here and now.
Try your hand at an app for unsubscribing from emails. On your first day of going “inbox zero”, take an hour to unsubscribe from every single useless email you have ever gotten, and then exit your email app for the rest of the day.
Favorite apps for better email and unsubscribing:
5. CREATE A MORNING ROUTINE THAT FITS YOU
Mornings can be the most productive time of the day, so it is essential to get the most out of them.
Studies show that individuals who follow a regimented morning schedule are far more likely to set and keep goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Some tips on what constitutes a great morning ritual are:
– Drink water right when you wake up
– Eat a protein-heavy breakfast every morning
– Stretch and exercise for at least 15 minutes
– Read a book you enjoy or learn something new for 15 minutes
– Get ready for the day the same way, every single day
– Identify your 3 most important tasks for the day
– Get to work
Side note: If you need help holding yourself accountable to your routine (or remembering it), use The Fabulous app mentioned above.
TOOLS FOR COMMUNICATION
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” ~ Rollo May
6. IDENTIFY YOUR TEAM
More likely than not, this will be just you and the wind. But maybe you are working with a fellow student or colleague with similar interests.
Whoever comprises your team, make sure you know them. Do not exclude yourself from this step. Understand your own strengths, weaknesses, ticks, and habits. Understand those of your partner’s, if applicable.
Split up the responsibilities required to complete your project into digestible categories, and then tackle the tasks.
Take a personality test to help you understand your behaviors at work.
7. RESPOND TO WHAT’S IMPORTANT, NOT URGENT
This is a principle taught in “the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Mr. Stephen R. Covey. Simply put, the tasks that appear the most urgent to us are often not the most important.
Here’s an example. When it comes to your priorities, you likely value your physical health over your relationship with your email inbox. However, each morning at work you are tempted to respond to every email and tackle every question you can. Meanwhile, you are not taking care of your health as you should because you are spending that time answering emails instead of doing some exercise or eating a healthy breakfast.
What will have greater short- and long-term impact? The emails or your health? One is urgent, one is important. Not answering emails will likely produce no negative result (at the very worst, you miss out on some information). Not exercising, on the other hand, could lead to huge problems down the road.
Keep your tasks in perspective. Also, I highly recommend the “7 Habits” to anyone looking to be 15–20% more effective immediately.
8. WRITE FOR 10 MINUTES A DAY OR MORE
Writing is a way for you to get feelings, thoughts, and ideas onto paper so that your mind doesn’t have to try juggling them all the time.
But the writing referred to here is not the same as brain dumping or detailing out your tasks.
Actually consider writing about topics that interest you, whether you are a prolific writer or not. This is a gateway to clearer thinking.
Writing teaches us how to be organized, deliberate in our actions, and creative. It encourages us to think differently, all while establishing conventions.
If you are looking for a great app for writing on your phone or computer, take a look at Bear.
TOOLS FOR RESEARCH
“To understand how consumers really think and feel, it is vital to go beyond words.” ~ Katja Bressette
9. BUILD SOMETHING THAT YOU KNOW YOU LOVE
First and foremost, when starting a new side hustle, it is of the utmost importance that this is done out of pure desire. In other words, trying to get rich is not a great reason to start on this path.
Wealth may very well be a welcomed friend along this path, but it cannot be the starting motivation. The products that tend to stick around and have large impacts on people, historically, are products that may have seemed difficult to monetize in their early stages.
Chances are, the thing that you will end up building is something you already care about. Don’t chase money, chase solutions.
– Write a list of the 2 or 3 topics that fill up 80% of your interest
– Take free online courses to learn about varying topics
10. DON’T GUESS WHAT USERS WANT; USE ANALYTICS
When you are planning your project and preparing to ship it, make sure that you absolutely know your target audience.
Don’t just guess who you think would like to buy your product or use your service. Conduct real research over time.
Favorite apps for researching the market and analyzing data:
– Google Analytics
– Google Suggest
– Google AdWords
– Facebook Ads
OTHER TOOLS THAT PROVIDE REAL VALUE
Product Hunt — get inspiration from others that are building and shipping products
BetaList — See projects others are making before they are released
Anchor — Build a podcast for free
Duolingo — Learn a new language, one day at a time
Stripe — Secure online payment integration for your websites
What tools do you find most helpful?
What tips do you have that fall under this umbrella?