Writer and marketing professional Maia Olson of Smile Software shares time-saving tips and the productivity tools that help her balance personal and professional commitments.
Time-saving tips and tools to help manage a busy life
When you’re trying to balance a new marriage, a busy job that has you wearing many hats, and personal interests, you need to use the best time-saving tips and tools you can find. Just like the rest of us, Maia’s trying to make the best use of her time and energy so she can make a life that matters. Unlike some of us, productivity tools are part of Maia’s job!
Her husband is a school teacher and Maia is fortunate to work from home. She gets up and goes to her home office, and checks in at work (software company Smile Software, maker of some of my very favorite productivity tools). She’ll work on social media time while getting some exercise on her stationary bike.
She says she finds her most productive time is in the evening, which, coincidentally, is when her husband usually comes home and wants to spend some time with her. When he goes to bed, though, is when she’ll go back to work. She finds the night hours more conducive to working without interruptions. (Our friend Mike Vardy of The Productivityist would agree. Check out his blog post about being a proud night owl, and his Night Owl Action Plan.)
Maia wears a lot of different hats at Smile. She’s gone from working in customer support to marketing to public relations, and she also gathers information from customer support to help create documentation for the department.
Maia says her biggest challenge is organizing her time. With many different tasks, all with different deadlines, it’s tricky to figure out what to do next. She has looked at different time-saving productivity apps to help keep her tasks organized.
Productivity tools Maia uses and loves
- For managing her projects and tasks, Maia loves Trello, a visual scheduling tool that’s more like a whiteboard with sticky notes. The tasks are organized by columns, and tasks can be dragged and dropped between columns. Maia equates its approach to making lists within columns. Trello is very visually-oriented, and it’s available online and can be synced to mobile devices. Trello is based on the kanban philosophy — more information can be found at PersonalKanban.com.
You get sort of a mental relief from being able to get everything out of your head and somewhere where you can see it.”
- For her collaborative work at Smile, Maia uses Google Docs, since they can be changed collaboratively in real-time.
Smile software (of course!)
- TextExpander – (Mac/iOS and Windows in Beta) Type a few characters and it’ll expand it into a longer piece of text–anything from an email address to a few words to fully-formatted letters. Anything you find yourself typing regularly can be saved as a snippet, the biggest time save I can think of for those of us who spend a lot of time at our computers.
- PDFpen – (Mac/iOS only) PDF editing and annotation tool. (It’s the one I use to manage PDFs.) Review a document, write notes, highlight. It can also be used for forms to input information and add a signature. The Pro version has even more features, like letting you create PDFs or export a PDF as a Word document.
- Drafts (iOS) — Since Maia writes so much, she uses Drafts to write in plain text, as opposed to copying and pasting from a website and getting the styles from the website. Drafts is an awesome iOS app that lets you capture text and do all sorts of things with it.
- Byword – (Mac/iOS) — Another plain-text writing app, letting you quickly capture your ideas in plain text, which can then be converted into HTML or rich text format.
- Markdown — A system for writing in plain text that quickly adds formatting for websites/emails/etc. Resources to help learn Markdown include:
- Google Docs
- Slack – an app available on all platforms that allows quick and effective communication with others on your team or in your group.
- Wunderlist – For sharing a shopping list with her husband
- Post-It notes
- TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad (Windows) for note-taking or as a scratchpad
What happens on a day you feel gets away from you?
- Resort to actual paper and pen. When stressed, Maia says she’ll get out a pen and paper and make a list, then mini-lists. She’ll tackle one task, then make another list of three more things she can do after that.
- She’ll also go for a quick run and get some exercise to get some of the tension out.
Maia Olson works with the software company, Smile, to spread the joys of quality productivity software. Over the last 7 years she has worn many hats, including those of customer support, technical writing, marketing, and PR.
She spends her summers volunteering at App Camp For Girls, a summer camp geared to inspire girls to join the tech industry by having female role models teach them to make iPhone apps.
She is also a recently married aspiring un-perfectionist who gathers artistic hobbies for a creative outlet, and prefers to spend winters playing in the snow.
Final thoughts from Maia
It’s a continuing struggle to figure things out, but don’t be afraid to keep searching and trying new iterations. Don’t be afraid to fail.
You can’t be perfect at everything. Allow yourself to be imperfect, accept it, and move on.”
Reminders and Notices
Can you help me out with something for an upcoming episode of the podcast? In response to a listener question I’m gathering info, ideas, and tools for streamlining menu planning, shopping, and meal prep. If you have any great suggestions–systems or tools that you use to get food on the table–I would LOVE it if you’d share those with me. Either leave a comment here, click the Send Voicemail button in the right-hand sidebar, or send me an email.
- I’m available to speak at your events — women’s retreats and conferences, productivity workshops, business teams, etc. Send me an email or call me at 972.638.0308 to chat about how I can add value.
- Visit the new Resources tab at the website. Here you’ll find links to resources we produce, like the project planning template, the digital toolbox, Emily Prokop’s weekly docket, and the decluttering questions tool from episode 83. I’ll also include info about books I recommend and links to other podcasts and events where I’ve spoken. Check back from time to time to find new resources as we add them.
- I’m planning on starting a mastermind group, which will be a small group of women committed to becoming more productive and making lives that matter. We’ll meet every other week via Skype to share ideas, information, and encouragement. If this is something you’re interested in, please email me with your interest, and put “Mastermind” in the subject line. For general information on what a mastermind group is, check out “What Is a Mastermind Group?”
I would love to have your help!
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