Business Ninja Tech Toolkit

Have you ever landed on a website or looked at someone’s business and wondered what nuts and bolts actually keep the big machine running? Look no further — technology has always been a love of my life, and this is a curated list of the tools I use to keep me efficient, effective and sane. All links are set to open in a new window so that you can easily return to this page.

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Idea Capture

  • Beyond Google Everything (Docs, Calendar, Gmail, etc.) I rely daily on a 1-2-3 punch of the following tools: Workflowy for my master list, TeuxDeux for a daily and weekly play-by-play, and Evernote for capturing all longer-term ideas and brainstorming.
  • Captio is great for emailing notes to yourself on-the-go in just two clicks (far fewer than sending yourself an email).
  • For mind-mapping, check out Bubble.us, a free web application for brainstorming online and MindMeister. For Mac/iPad/iOS, I use Simple Mind.

Reading

  • I use Instapaper for reading later across all devices (to reduce the problem of having a million tabs open), which is like the Evernote of a “read later” app — it is available for download (and saving articles) across every device.
  • I use Feedly for staying up-to-date with blogs. Instapaper also integrates with apps like Feedly and Zite, so you can send articles to it from multiple places.
  • I keep track of what I’m reading and write mini book reviews on GoodReads. This is great for sharing reviews with friends; I often find new books to check out from reading others’ reviews in the weekly digest email.

Writing

  • Omniwriter  is a distraction-free “writing environment” that serves as “your own private writing room where you can close the door behind you to focus on your writing in peace.”
  • Scrivener is a “powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.” Features include formatting multiple documents, outlining and mind-mapping, sticky notes, full-screen editing and more.
  • Hemingway App is a fantastic automatic editor. Here’s how it works: after you enter a block of text, it will tell you how many sentences or phrases are: hard to read, very hard to read, contain adverbs (in place of more powerful verbs), contain words or phrases that can be simpler, or use passive voice.
  • My [email protected] Talk: 10 Lessons I Learned During the Publishing Process

Template Gallery

templateFor Authors: 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet – 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet (as recommended by Seth Godin!) – to help creatives get organized (and stay sane) around a big launch. Tabs include: online promo, offline promo, advance copy distribution, book tour
templateUltimate Website Checklist Template: Everything you need to know to launch, re-launch or re-brand a website — strategy, design, development, copywriting, launch-planning and last minute details.
templateFor Bloggers: Editorial Calendar Template for 2016: This is the format I use to plan posts and newsletters; particularly helpful if you have multiple contributors, sites or guest posts.

Journaling

  • OhLife is online journaling software that sends you an email prompt each week (or at a frequency of your choosing) asking, “How did your week go?” with a summary of what you wrote the previous week, or even at a random interval ago. Backs up to Dropbox.
  • FutureMe.org allows you to write a letter to your future self; will send back to you at the future date that you designate.
  • 750words.com is an online answer to Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages (from the book The Artists Way). Encourages you to free-write for at least 750 words (the equivalent of three long-form pages).

Email Management

  • I’ve compiled the best of the best in my Email Exhale: Inbox Zero Toolkit—your one-stop-shop of 50+ of the best tools, techniques and systems I’ve collected to take email from all-consuming to a sense of freedom and ease. The toolkit includes a 10-day email series and lifetime access to an ever-growing set of tools and shortcuts. You are destined for greater things—Email Exhale will help you spend fewer hours in front of your inbox and more time on the stuff that really matters!
  • Mailstrom and Unroll.me help de-clutter your inbox. Mailstrom provides tools for bulk processing in minutes; Unroll.me works with gmail by showing you a list of ALL lists you are subscribed to and allows you to mass unsubscribe (yay!)
  • SaneBox is a great tool that summarizes and filters non-important email, such as newsletters for reading quickly at a glance. Also check out NutshellMail, a service that sends a daily (or at a frequency you suggest) digest of all social media activity.
  • The Email Game is a fun way to make processing email fun and efficient.
  • Gmail’s Priority Inbox feature – use this in conjunction with Gmail’s superstars feature, with different stars denoting different types of email and priority. For example: I use a yellow star for important emails that I want to get to that day or week, exclamation emails to mark highly important, time sensitive or overdue for a reply, then I use the blue stars for emails that involve scheduling.
  • Boomerang for Gmail – a must-have tool that can delay send on outgoing emails or set emails to leave your inbox and come back at a future date. This feature is great for following-up with people, or getting a long-term email to do out of your way.
  • Rapportive for Gmail – social spying at it’s finest! Rapportive shows someone’s latest updates on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to the righthand side of a message they’ve sent. It also helps you make sure you’re connected with the people you want to be, and shows a photo of the person you are corresponding with.
  • WiseStamp is a fun tool for creating fancy signatures.

Money Management

  • Outright for expense tracking; it’s like Mint for small business with quarterly reporting and tax-time reminders. For a more in-depth online system check out Xero)
  • Shoeboxed is an essential tool for saving receipts online so you don’t have to keep shoeboxes stacked up at home. Snap a quick photo with your phone or mail them in each month.
  • TaxReceipts provides awesome reminders and need-to-know tips each tax period.
  • OurDeal is great for executing online contracts. Print? Scan? Fax? What the?! No longer necessary.
  • Freshbooks helps small business-owners invoice, track time and manage expenses.
  • Ignorance is not bliss: the top 5 things every entrepreneur needs to know when starting out — key tips and tools from Kyle Durand, an entrepreneur with a law and accounting background, including the spreadsheet I used to track VA-related tasks.

Template Gallery

template4-Step Budget Template — Most budgets are too cumbersome to be useful. After filling in income, must-have expenses & nice-to-have expenses, you’ll get a “monthly allowance” figure. You can also copy the first tab to make a second sheet for your business.

Hiring

My Detailed Guides:

Hiring Contractors:

  • 99 Designs is great for logos — designers compete to “win” your work.

  • Upwork is the go-to resource for hiring contractors for small or big jobs (photo retouching, designing ads, and even bigger projects like web development) — in the U.S. and overseas.

For Virtual Assistant Services, check out:

Project Management

  • Trello is super simple, intuitive, easy-to-use project management software.
  • For a more sophisticated solution, check out Basecamp, Asana or Flow.
  • Checkvist is an up-and-comer tool that allows people to “manage complex tasks together”
  • Your team may also benefit from iDoneThis: it will send a daily email that invites team members to reply with tasks they have completed. The next day it will send the entire team a digest of completed work.

Template Gallery

templateProject Plan Template – this is a simple project plan template (though fancier than the thumbnail preview indicates). “Done?” column cells change color automatically if you type “Yes”, “No,” or “In Progress.”

Travel

  • TripIt is an essential travel app for managing upcoming trips all in one place. If you use gmail, it will automatically pull hotel and flight itineraries from your inbox. It also tracks your travel stats and shows you upcoming trips of people in your network.
  • Earth Class Mail is a virtual mailroom you can use while traveling; it scans images of your mail and lets you decide how to process it from afar
  • HotelTonight is an awesome up-and-comer app that  allows you to check unused hotel inventory from 12pm on the day you want to stay. It’s a fun way for fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants travelers to get hotel reservations at bargain prices in just a few easy clicks, from the convenience of your phone.

Health

  • Insight Timer is an app for meditation that allows you to set a time, starts and ends with a tibetan bowl chime, and prompts you to journal at the end (if you want to). Records your meditation statistics which can be motivating if you are on a roll.
  • AskMeEvery will send you an email at the end of every day with a question you create. Reply with your report, and track adherence over time.
  • MyFitness Pal – Although there are dozens of apps just like this one, it’s one of my favorites for tracking food and exercise for a few days, just to see how you’re doing. I don’t track religiously, but it’s nice for checking in from time-to-time.

Template Gallery

templateMy super simple tracking template for a 5 minute a day challenge (for five days) or check out the Activity Tracker.

Mini Tools

Scheduling

  • World Time Buddy works well for proposing meeting times (particularly useful while traveling); shows exactly what time it is across up to five time zones.
  • Doodle.com is a long-time favorite of mine (and free!) that is best at coordinating an event with a large number of people: people vote on when they are free and the tool shows you which day/time the most people are available.
  • ScheduleOnce – Online appointment scheduling made easy, with lots of additional features as you move up in pricing plan (though you can get a solid set of features just starting at $5/mo)
  • Satori– More sophisticated streamlined system build specifically for coaches to help with all aspects of business, particularly new client intake, scheduling, and invoicing. Plans start at $25/mo.

All Business Templates

templateIdeal Business + Action Plan Template – this template will help you outline your high-level business goals (schedule, finances, “red carpet” offering) and guide you to create an action-plan to make it happen.
templateGeneral Project Plan Template – this is a simple project plan template (though fancier than the thumbnail preview indicates). “Done?” column cells change color automatically if you type “Yes”, “No,” or “In Progress.”
templateFor Authors: 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet – 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet (as recommended by Seth Godin!) – to help creatives get organized (and stay sane) around a big launch. Tabs include: online promo, offline promo, advance copy distribution, book tour
templateUltimate Website Checklist Template: Everything you need to know to launch, re-launch or re-brand a website — strategy, design, development, copywriting, launch-planning and last minute details.
templateFor Bloggers: Editorial Calendar Template for 2016: This is the format I use to plan posts and newsletters; particularly helpful if you have multiple contributors, sites or guest posts.
templateSystems & Strategy for Working with a VA: A detailed look at what to delegate, how to efficiently set-up your systems, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Coaching Templates

templateWheel of Life – The Wheel of Life is a commonly used coaching exercise. It can help you examine each of the areas of your life and determine where you want to focus your attention. Bonus: the cells automatically change color based on the values you enter.
templateWheel of Aliveness – The Wheel of Aliveness is a take on the Wheel of Life, and helps you rate your current state across 12 dimensions including nature, play, rest, movement, community, etc.
templateDecision-Making Tool – Weighing a big decision? Pro/con list not doing the trick? This template will help you break down fears/concerns and brainstorm next steps to move you forward.
template16 Thought-Starters – It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on a routine set of goals — and then it’s no surprise that we end up letting them fall by the wayside. Here’s a twist on your next list — 16 thought-starters to help brainstorm meaningful and interesting ideas.
templateTen Questions to Help you Stop Thinking and Start DOING – Ten self-coaching questions to help you move forward on a major idea, life goal or decision. You might also reflect on the questions one week at a time, jotting down notes as new ideas come up
templateSee all 25+ LAC Templates for every area of your life.

Idea Capture

  • Beyond Google Everything (Docs, Calendar, Gmail, etc.) I rely daily on a 1-2-3 punch of the following tools: Workflowy for my master list, TeuxDeux for a daily and weekly play-by-play, and Evernote for capturing all longer-term ideas and brainstorming.
  • Captio is great for emailing notes to yourself on-the-go in just two clicks (far fewer than sending yourself an email).
  • For mind-mapping, check out Bubble.us, a free web application for brainstorming online and MindMeister. For Mac/iPad/iOS, I use Simple Mind.

Reading

  • I use Instapaper for reading later across all devices (to reduce the problem of having a million tabs open), which is like the Evernote of a “read later” app — it is available for download (and saving articles) across every device.
  • I use Feedly for staying up-to-date with blogs. Instapaper also integrates with apps like Feedly and Zite, so you can send articles to it from multiple places.
  • I keep track of what I’m reading and write mini book reviews on GoodReads. This is great for sharing reviews with friends; I often find new books to check out from reading others’ reviews in the weekly digest email.

Writing

  • Omniwriter  is a distraction-free “writing environment” that serves as “your own private writing room where you can close the door behind you to focus on your writing in peace.”
  • Scrivener is a “powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.” Features include formatting multiple documents, outlining and mind-mapping, sticky notes, full-screen editing and more.
  • My [email protected] Talk: 10 Lessons I Learned During the Publishing Process

Template Gallery

templateFor Authors: 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet – 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet (as recommended by Seth Godin!) – to help creatives get organized (and stay sane) around a big launch. Tabs include: online promo, offline promo, advance copy distribution, book tour
templateUltimate Website Checklist Template: Everything you need to know to launch, re-launch or re-brand a website — strategy, design, development, copywriting, launch-planning and last minute details.
templateFor Bloggers: Editorial Calendar Template for 2016 This is the format I use to plan posts and newsletters; particularly helpful if you have multiple contributors, sites or guest posts.

Journaling

  • OhLife is online journaling software that sends you an email prompt each week (or at a frequency of your choosing) asking, “How did your week go?” with a summary of what you wrote the previous week, or even at a random interval ago. Backs up to Dropbox.
  • FutureMe.org allows you to write a letter to your future self; will send back to you at the future date that you designate.
  • 750words.com is an online answer to Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages (from the book The Artists Way). Encourages you to free-write for at least 750 words (the equivalent of three long-form pages).

Email Management

  • Unroll.me works with gmail by showing you a list of ALL lists you are subscribed to and allows you to mass unsubscribe (yay!)
  • SaneBox is a great tool that summarizes and filters non-important email, such as newsletters for reading quickly at a glance. Also check out NutshellMail, a service that sends a daily (or at a frequency you suggest) digest of all social media activity.
  • The Email Game is a fun way to make processing email fun and efficient.
  • Gmail’s Priority Inbox feature – use this in conjunction with Gmail’s superstars feature, with different stars denoting different types of email and priority. For example: I use a yellow star for important emails that I want to get to that day or week, exclamation emails to mark highly important, time sensitive or overdue for a reply, then I use the blue stars for emails that involve scheduling.
  • Boomerang for Gmail – a must-have tool that can delay send on outgoing emails or set emails to leave your inbox and come back at a future date. This feature is great for following-up with people, or getting a long-term email to do out of your way.
  • Rapportive for Gmail – social spying at it’s finest! Rapportive shows someone’s latest updates on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to the righthand side of a message they’ve sent. It also helps you make sure you’re connected with the people you want to be, and shows a photo of the person you are corresponding with.
  • WiseStamp is a fun tool for creating fancy signatures.

Money Management

  • Outright for expense tracking; it’s like Mint for small business with quarterly reporting and tax-time reminders. For a more in-depth online system check out Xero)
  • Shoeboxed is an essential tool for saving receipts online so you don’t have to keep shoeboxes stacked up at home. Snap a quick photo with your phone or mail them in each month.
  • TaxReceipts provides awesome reminders and need-to-know tips each tax period.
  • OurDeal is great for executing online contracts. Print? Scan? Fax? What the?! No longer necessary.
  • Freshbooks helps small business-owners invoice, track time and manage expenses.
  • Ignorance is not bliss: the top 5 things every entrepreneur needs to know when starting out — key tips and tools from Kyle Durand, an entrepreneur with a law and accounting background, including the spreadsheet I used to track VA-related tasks.

Template Gallery

template4-Step Budget Template — Most budgets are too cumbersome to be useful. After filling in income, must-have expenses & nice-to-have expenses, you’ll get a “monthly allowance” figure. You can also copy the first tab to make a second sheet for your business.

Hiring

  • 99 Designs is great for logos — designers compete to “win” your work.

  • eLance and oDesk work really well for hiring contractors for small or big jobs (photo retouching, designing ads, and even bigger projects like web development) — both in the U.S. and overseas.

For Virtual Assistant Services, check out:

Project Management

  • Trello is super simple, intuitive, easy-to-use project management software.
  • For a more sophisticated solution, check out Basecamp, Asana, or Flow.
  • Checkvist is an up-and-comer tool that allows people to “manage complex tasks together”
  • Your team might also benefit from iDoneThis—a daily email that prompts team members to reply with completed tasks for the day. It will send the entire team a digest the next morning.

Template Gallery

templateProject Plan Template – this is a simple project plan template (though fancier than the thumbnail preview indicates). “Done?” column cells change color automatically if you type “Yes”, “No,” or “In Progress.”

Travel

  • TripIt is an essential travel app for managing upcoming trips all in one place. If you use gmail, it will automatically pull hotel and flight itineraries from your inbox. It also tracks your travel stats and shows you upcoming trips of people in your network.
  • Earth Class Mail is a virtual mailroom you can use while traveling; it scans images of your mail and lets you decide how to process it from afar
  • HotelTonight is an awesome up-and-comer app that  allows you to check unused hotel inventory from 12pm on the day you want to stay. It’s a fun way for fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants travelers to get hotel reservations at bargain prices in just a few easy clicks, from the convenience of your phone.

Health

  • Insight Timer is an app for meditation that allows you to set a time, starts and ends with a tibetan bowl chime, and prompts you to journal at the end (if you want to). Records your meditation statistics which can be motivating if you are on a roll.
  • AskMeEvery will send you an email at the end of every day with a question you create. Reply with your report, and track adherence over time.
  • MyFitness Pal – Although there are dozens of apps just like this one, it’s one of my favorites for tracking food and exercise for a few days, just to see how you’re doing. I don’t track religiously, but it’s nice for checking in from time-to-time.

Template Gallery

templateMy super simple tracking template for a 5 minute a day challenge (for five days) or check out the Activity Tracker.

Mini Tools

Scheduling

  • World Time Buddy works well for proposing meeting times (particularly useful while traveling); shows exactly what time it is across up to five time zones.
  • Doodle.com is a long-time favorite of mine (and free!) that syncs with Google Calendar. It does not allow you to set specific appointment blocks, but my workaround is to sync it with a particular calendar that shows all busy unless it’s an open slot. Doodle is best at coordinating an event with a large number of people: people vote on when they are free and the tool shows you which day/time the most people are available.
  • Satori—More sophisticated streamlined system build specifically for coaches to help with all aspects of business, particularly new client intake, scheduling, and invoicing. Plans start at $25/mo.
  • Uber Conference is a great tool for scheduling conference calls—you’ll get a unique dial-in number, participants can access via phone or web, and you can easily record the call and share documents while conferencing.

All Business Templates

templateIdeal Business + Action Plan Template – this template will help you outline your high-level business goals (schedule, finances, “red carpet” offering) and guide you to create an action-plan to make it happen.
templateGeneral Project Plan Template – this is a simple project plan template (though fancier than the thumbnail preview indicates). “Done?” column cells change color automatically if you type “Yes”, “No,” or “In Progress.”
templateFor Authors: 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet – 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet (as recommended by Seth Godin!) – to help creatives get organized (and stay sane) around a big launch. Tabs include: online promo, offline promo, advance copy distribution, book tour
templateUltimate Website Checklist Template: Everything you need to know to launch, re-launch or re-brand a website — strategy, design, development, copywriting, launch-planning and last minute details.
templateFor Bloggers: Editorial Calendar Template for 2016 This is the format I use to plan posts and newsletters; particularly helpful if you have multiple contributors, sites or guest posts.

Coaching Templates

templateWheel of Life – The Wheel of Life is a commonly used coaching exercise. It can help you examine each of the areas of your life and determine where you want to focus your attention. Bonus: the cells automatically change color based on the values you enter.
templateWheel of Aliveness – The Wheel of Aliveness is a take on the Wheel of Life, and helps you rate your current state across 12 dimensions including nature, play, rest, movement, community, etc.
templateDecision-Making Tool – Weighing a big decision? Pro/con list not doing the trick? This template will help you break down fears/concerns and brainstorm next steps to move you forward.
template16 Thought-Starters for 2016 – It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on a routine set of goals — and then it’s no surprise that we end up letting them fall by the wayside. Here’s a twist on your next list — 16 thought-starters to help brainstorm meaningful and interesting ideas.
templateTen Questions to Help you Stop Thinking and Start DOING – Ten self-coaching questions to help you move forward on a major idea, life goal or decision. You might also reflect on the questions one week at a time, jotting down notes as new ideas come up
templateSee all 20+ LAC Templates for every area of your life.