Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My 15 secret weapons for staying productive...personally.

I've written a lot about the tools I use to stay productive professionally, but let's face it: Productivity in the office also depends on your ability to be productive in your personal life. Here are the apps, tools and services I use to keep the personal side organized and moving smoothly. Each of these 15 options, in its own way, saves me time, my most precious commodity--and that has a good effect on my work productivity, in turn. Where I'm able to do so, I've included links that give you a bonus for signing up:
  1. Uber: I use Uber, "everyone's private driver," for airport runs, errands, and more--it's part of my current ability to live car-free. I love that it works all over the world with the same app and account information, so I can catch a ride in London or DC without thinking about it. Washington, DC, rates for Uber just dropped 15 percent. If you're new to Uber and take your first ride by February 16 using my linkyou'll get a free ride up to $30.
  2. Amazon Prime: Delivery is a core component of my personal productivity. I run a business, not errands. Amazon Prime has brought me everything from patio umbrellas and fire pits to clothing, shoes, and supplies--for free, in no more than two days. Membership includes many more benefits: free music, free cloud storage for photos, and thousands of free movies and TV programs. Well worth the annual fee. Amazon's Subscribe & Save program is another stalwart: Once a month, I get a curated-by-me delivery of staples I need on a regular basis, saving 15 percent and many trips to the store. 
  3. FancyHands: This virtual assistant does it all for me, both work and personal. Appointments, waiting on hold, figuring out refunds, finding gift suggestions, sending flowers, cancelling and rescheduling, updating my calendar, researching options or products, finding me discounts, you name it (within reason, and if it can done by phone or online). Their best coup: Getting a program printed and delivered on a rush basis, with a 50 percent discount, for a wedding in which my houseguest was the best man. Made me look like a rock star. The bride still calls me her wedding program fairy. My link gets you half off your first month.
  4. Priority Pass: I get Priority Pass--access to many kinds of airport lounges--through my American Express card. I love that it's one app I can use to find and get into lounges in airports all over the world. Time-saver, and travel-easer.
  5. OneMedical: My primary care provider makes it easy for me to set up appointments and request prescription refills online, confer with my medical team via email at all hours, and get face-to-face care here in Washington and many other U.S. cities, a real bonus when I'm on the road. You pay a flat annual membership fee and they work with your insurance. Use code OMLOVE15 by February 15 to get 3 months free, or check your Klout Perks in case you qualify for a discount there.
  6. Peapod: This grocery delivery service works with different supermarkets in different cities all over the U.S. I like its online ordering interface, which will store your lists, show you deals, and lets you reschedule and add things to your order until 6pm the night before delivery. Delivery is a reasonable fee, you can add a tip for the driver, and they'll bring the groceries in for you, or deliver them in insulated coolers left outside if you won't be home. Use my code to get $20 off your first order. Protip: Sign up for Peapod's Facebook page to get discount codes that change frequently.
  7. Instacart: For same-day delivery--something Peapod doesn't do--I use Instacart. You can schedule delivery in as little as an hour or two. Instacart works with a variety of markets in my city. Get $10 off your first order with my link.
  8. Ultra: Ultra will ship or deliver wine, beer, and liquor via an easy-to-use ordering interface that connects you to a local store. I'm planning lots of parties this year, and Ultra will put years back on my life at party time.
  9. Evernote: If you read this blog, you know I use Evernote for everything from book writing to business travel. But my biggest notebook holds recipes clipped from the web, making Evernote my kitchen assistant. I plan gifts, manage my medical care, collect information for my hobbies, keep track of home repairs and maintenance, and much more. Use my link and once you've signed up and signed into your free Evernote account, you'll get a month of its Premium service, with expanded search capability, storage, and other features.
  10. Pocket Casts: I left iTunes behind, using Amazon Music for tunes and Pocket Casts for my podcast listening. It's effortless, and lets me listen to cooking shows, interviews, and much more when I'm cooking, exercising, or doing chores.
  11. MOO powers my business paper and printing, from letterhead and business cards to flyers. But I also use it for holiday cards, personal note cards, and more. Moo operates in many countries, offers pre-made designs, or lets you upload your own. Use my link and get 10 percent off your first order.
  12. Zipcar lets me rent cars of all sizes for short-term needs that might be as little as an hour. There are daily mileage limits, but if you plan well, you'll be fine. The app is fabulous, letting you quickly text if you need to extend the reservation, when the car is available. I've made Ikea runs, moved small items of furniture and large shopping hauls, and taken joyrides for daytrips out of town. Zipcar works all over, even in other countries, and insurance and gas are baked into the rate. Use my link...the first 2 people to do so get a $25 driving credit.
  13. Parkmobile lets you pay for metered street parking with your mobile device. In Washington, when I drive a Zipcar, my street parking is free--but I use Parkmobile for everything else. No more collecting coins! They also offer access to gated parking and other options, depending on the locations, which are all over the U.S.
  14. Airbnb has been my preferred hotel alternative when I'm in a city for more than a few days. I love renting an entire flat and having access to cooking equipment, laundry, and space I can't get in a hotel--not to mention a better price. (FancyHands pointed me to a flat in London I've rented many times now.) Use my link and get $25 in Airbnb when you rent, or when you host.
  15. OpenTable isn't new, but it's a stalwart, whether I'm at home or traveling. Entertaining guests in Washington to see the monuments, I've pulled out the app and made a reservation just before arriving at a restaurant, or taken advantage of Restaurant Week in a faraway city.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by William Warby)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

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