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Being a solopreneur is rewarding, but it's not all fun. What tools help you?

There are lots of things that you have to do that aren't your main interest/passion. Accounting, marketing, client management, home and family commitments: depending on what your main reason is for staying on your own, there are lots of ways to distract you that must be done nevertheless.

My passion is coding for others. I enjoy the challenge of working through multiple constraints and still achieve multiple objectives (on a good day). I enjoy analyzing another's system and find the underpinnings and then work up a tech solution that keeps all the good things, adds a few more and removes the things that aren't working. Well, that would be my perfect day at least.

So in light of what we like to do and only so many hours in a day, how do you keep track of what you have to do, ideas you have, works-in-progress of existing multiple open projects, web bookmarks, etc so that you can maximize your time doing what you love?

For example, I use Walling, Dynalist, Google Calendar, Obsidian and a handful of others to keep me organized. I'm happy to elaborate if there is any interest.

What tools do you find useful?

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    Here is something I think every single person, team and business should do: reducing friction. Friction happens just as you imagine - obstacles slowing you down, and of course that means also energy wasted. In physics the energy converts to heat, in business it converts to expenses, in a person's mind it converts to headaches.

    It applies even more to solo entrepreneurs because you're actually the person who has to do it - reducing friction. Often it would be mental friction, as I hinted earlier.

    Then my advice to anyone reading is - it's not about having the newest productivity apps, and not to use the most popular notes app. it's about having total mental control. as much as possible.

    Be aware of what you do and how long you do and how well you do. You have to judge yourself, and you have to know when to ask others to judge yourself. Know what you can and cannot do, and know what you cannot do and can learn how to do. Know what is important and what is not. this post starts to sound like art of war I guess it's kinda the same, the war of your unconscious mind with your conscious mind. you get my point.

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      Nicely said, high_byte! Tools can sometimes extend and offload your brain in a way that can either be helpful or wasteful and often both. Like you said, it's all how you use them and how well you know yourself. Good comment. You need to put that one one your twitter feed, my friend.

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        thanks, I'm not heavy on twitter. I just started writing on Substack, it could make a great post. :)

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    Solo dev here with a few projects on the go at once, here's my lineup:

    Todoist
    For collecting my personal , hobby and art tasks. I think of things I need or want to do all the time, so this is a very easy way to collect them and keep it organized.

    Clubhouse.io
    Recently migrated away from Todoist and Github issues to using this for capturing my properly shaped Epics and Stories. While I'm a solo dev, it's still helpful to have a formal PM tool to keep yourself organized, plus I like having a separate tool to keep a mental divide between personal and professional projects.

    Bear.app
    Similar in concept to Obsidian (if you use the tagging the same way), but a lot more user friendly and easy to access on any of my Apple devices. I use this primarily for capturing atomic notes and giving them some basic structure so I can find the information later when I need it. Honestly, the vast majority of my notes are created when I'm out for a walk, so having it on mobile is extremely important to me.

    LastPass
    There's no way I'd remember passwords and have no time to fuss with recovering them. Password managers are essential to being productive.

    Google Domains, Workspace, Analytics, Calendar, etc.
    My personal GMail is the foundation of my digital life, I try to leverage any Google product that saves me the effort of finding an alternative to manage multiple projects.

    Hootsuite
    Slowly building an audience around an indie game (hobby / side project) and it was taking too much time to post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Now? I've got the next week of social media pre-scheduled and can focus.

    Takeaway
    I prioritize my tool selection around the following simple concepts:

    • Easy Onboarding I don't have time or patience to learn new productivity tools
    • Optimize Time it must enable me to be more productive while also minimizing the overhead necessary to ideate and execute on work tasks across projects
    • Ubiquitous Availability I need to have access to most tools on all devices at a moment's notice due to the unexpected nature of ideas or realizations
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      That is just excellent, Grant!

      I admire your discipline and mindset. You are about getting things done, but letting in inspiration in a way to record it for later. And 2 products as well. And art activities. Maybe you should be giving a course!

      This group has members who really have their act together.

      I am not an Apple guy, and so I cannot (as yet) follow many of your choices, but I would love to see how the synergy you have found works day-to-day.

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        Thanks for the kind words!

        If I manage to find some level of success with my SaaS and Indie Game (the two main projects on the go) I'll absolutely consider sharing my processes in some way. I've always had the thought of being an author in the back of my mind, so I'll start collecting notes on my process and see if there's enough content to be worth of an eBook later on.

        Apple
        I totally get that, I actually only recently found myself using the devices and it was actually quite difficult for me to commit to them (I always felt vendor lock-in was something to avoid), but circumstantial benefits of doing so outweighed my philosophical beliefs. But, even if the exact tools don't work, hopefully the process people are sharing in this thread yield a tangible approach.

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          Keep up the kind of focus you seem to have and I will not be surprised if you meet all of these goals rather soon.

  3. 2

    Hello everyone! I am a software developer at some company and i use just few tools to control my job process . I think if you use a lot of tools it takes a more time and the minimalism are important to not waste time. To planning i use "Gitkraken glo" and it is comfortable than the trello. And To control a time I use "gnome pomodoro" but it just timer. i think i need to find useful time tracker with a pomodoro function.

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      I found myself not well-served by just a few tools and that by trying to do everything in just one or two of them quickly resulted in me abandoning the tool entirely. Strangely, and in contrast to what others seem to be doing, I use many tools, but just the parts of those tools that work really well for me. I may need to explain this more fully and with examples.

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    Trello & Google Calendar

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      That does it all for you, Segmond, including work and personal? Do you keep your tasks fairly broad? Do you keep track of ideas and notes inside Trello?

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        Every project has it's own Trello board, everything about a project is within the specific project board. The things I need to work on move into the doing swim lane. I have one super project that captures all the DOING swim lane using trello's buttler so I can just see everything active in one board. Then I pick things from there and schedule in the calendar.

        For personal stuff, I have a board for "Personal", "Home", "House Projects", "Current Month"

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          Ah! I used KanbanFlow for several years and I loved the swimlanes. They brought it all together for me.

          What tripped me up eventually, was the different levels of granularity I needed in different projects/boards, and the need for subtasks and tasks common to more than one board/swimlane. I just couldn't shake the feeling that I was lost in the details. Perhaps that was my clue to stop doing those things, but alas, I didn't listen.

          However, that was one of the most productive times for me, and I do miss the flexibility kanban offers as a view to where I am overall. Perhaps I will revist that - uh oh - rabbit hole approaching ... 😉

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    Trello and Todoist essentially run my life.

    If it's not in a list, I don't know about it, and it doesn't get done. Sometimes I cannot have my phone on me so I carry a notebook around.

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      That's a great combo! Visual for planning and process. Tasks for the granularity. Are your tasks isolated from Trello, or shared in some way (IFTTT, Zapier, internal tool integrations). How do you manage the tagging across the two apps? Is there a need or is your setup not needing tagging for both apps? How do you deal with bookmarks and notes, ideas? Really interested in how you approach your work with these 2 tools!

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        They're isolated. Todoist is specifically for JustFitness.io, and Trello is for everything else. For bookmarks, I use a separate browser for each domain. For example, entrepreneurial stuff is always done in Chome, and everything else is with firefox. Notes are made with Trello. I have a column called the IceBox, where I drop unsorted items. If I'm really in a rush, I tell google to make a note.

        Once I get home, I organize everything to where they need to be. My whole process is a mess, now that I'm typing it up.

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          I can see that working. Concerns are separated by tool. I've not thought of doing that! Very interesting.

          Everybody's process is a mess, in some way: we just find the right balance of messiness -to- time cleaning it up.

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    Firstly, you should find ways to offload the tasks you don't like to an external party. Having a good solid VA to handle lots of that stuff is pretty cheap, but more importantly it frees your mind up to think creatively and pursue cool stuff. Mental fatigue is real and admin kills all creativity. If you love coding then work out how to spend 90% of your working hours doing exactly that. If it takes you a few weeks to work through that problem set, then it is time well spent even over the short/medium term. Longer term it could be one of the highest ROI activities.

    In terms of tools, I don't really have much to add other that use whatever lets you reduce stress levels while at the same time spurring you on to get things done. Finding that balance of organization, motivation, habit forming and time for creative thinking is a very personal cocktail.

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      VAs are an excellent idea. Could you elaborate? For example, do they monitor your social media? Email? Do they interact with your clients on your behalf with little supervision? How often do you interact with them and at what granularity (general instruction with goals only, or triage, etc)? I am really interested in how you made it work!

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        The lazy answer is that any task you need done can be outsourced in this manner. I have been using VA's for the better part of 2 decades so over time I have found that they are not suited for everything.

        For our eCommerce businesses we use VA's for the following:

        • Customer service via phone, email & chat
        • Order processing - involved extracting data from certain platforms and transferring to suppliers
        • Liaising with suppliers on out of stock issues, orders errors refunds ect
        • Market research on competing products in the market, including price discovery
        • Compiling data that is useful to us such as influencer lists and supplier lists
        • Adding products to the website

        We have a VA in charge of training and managing the people who perform the above tasks so it is rare that I need to speak with the team. I do speak with this one individual daily more often than not.

        On a personal level, i have another VA who researches interesting podcasts, blogs, platforms and software solutions that i may be interested in - not necessarily related to the eCommerce business. She curates articles and announcements that i can read later on, and sometimes reads long form content, which she then presents in a summarized format for me. She also handles my calendar in terms of gatekeeping who gets on my schedule.

        Basically over the years, for my personals stuff i monitored the time i spent doing certain things and along the way decided that XYZ could be done by someone else and save me a bunch of time. It is important to understand not all VA's are created equal and you need to hire based on the task you need performed. It's takes some time to know what to look for. Happy to help if if need some more color.

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          Alright, that does it! I'm getting a VA!

          Excellent response, Nick. You really have a fine-tuned system and I see its effectiveness for the tasks you have outsourced to VAs.

          Still, you have personal things that you must track and ideas, notes, bookmarks. Do you use tools for any of these?

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            Basecamp has worked well for me for a really long time. I’m involved in multiple ventures as well as have several personal interests from an investment standpoint, and I find Basecamp helps me segment everything well., while letting me go deep when I get around to it.

            Managing teams using it is also real easy.

            I use the notes app on my iPhone a ton too.

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              Your system sounds very optimized. I marvel at the complexity of what you are doing and the small number of tools you use to accomplish it. I wonder if there are natural pockets of productivity toolkits (combinations of tools that work well together) tied to the business model you use as well as your personal style/view of the way things should work. I might explore this a bit. Thanks for the update!

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