The Top 5 Tools I Rely Upon for Living a Self-Storied Life

Tools exist to serve you, not the other way around. These tools are the ones I've come to rely upon for living a self-storied life.
September 1, 2020

The Top 5 Tools I Rely Upon for Living a Self-Storied Life

AD : Today’s newsletter is sponsored by Bear, a focused, flexible writing app that’s used by everyone from bloggers and web developers to aspiring authors and professional writers — including yours truly! — for cloud-based word-processing and easy-to-organize note-taking. Create beautiful notes and enjoy the best writing experience with Bear. Download for free in the App Store.

 

I thoroughly believe that the tools we use ought to serve us.

Tools exist for the sole purpose of making our lives, work, and duties easier, faster, and more efficient.

Tools serve us. Not the other way around.

That’s why, when the tools we choose and use no longer serve us with efficiency, effectiveness, or ease, they have failed their purpose.

In today’s world, as attention spans wane and our time and energy feel all the more crunched, I’ve become a staunch advocate of certain tools, services, and systems that make the most of every cent (and ounce of energy) that you invest in them: tools that should free up your time, efforts, and energy as much as possible in return.

As I shared when I wrote to you last, I’ve developed a strong interest in sharing tool and service recommendations with you that might help make your days feel easier, your work smoother, and your life altogether more supported.

And I know firsthand just how challenging it can be to find tools that you can trust and rely upon for everyday use.

That’s why, today, I’m sharing my top tools for living a Self-Storied Life.

I depend upon these tools to run my business, serve my coaching clients, be a professional writer and author, travel, and life my self-storied life to its fullest.

I hope you find them helpful!

(Disclosure: Links below are affiliate links, which may entitle me to a small referral fee if you decide to purchase through that link. Additionally, Bear App is a previous advertiser on my podcast and a paid sponsor of this newsletter. They did not influence this content or my opinions. To learn more about my advertising policies and how I maintain editorial autonomy, click here. Thank you for your support!)

Top 5 Tools of a Self-Storied Life

Tool #1) Bear App: For Word-Processing and Note-Taking

Answering the Question: ”What app do you use for word-processing, note-taking, and capturing ideas on-the-go?”

A word-processing and note-taking app is first on my list of tools for living a Self-Storied Life because it’s the single most important tool for my creativity and in my business.

I generally spend anywhere from 3 to 8 hours on any given workday typing, note-taking and writing in such an app — that’s more time than any other tool. I use an app like this for all my typing-based writing, capturing ideas on-the-go, taking call notes for my coaching clients, writing blog posts and newsletters, and much more.

For 9 years, I had used (and really come to rely upon) a competitor, Evernote, for all my word-processing-based typing and note-taking needs

But earlier this summer, as the quality of the service declined and the prices kept rising, I decided it was time to make the switch.

(Really, deep down, I was panicking about making a change to a new app. It can be a daunting process!)

That’s when I discovered Bear in the Apple App Store.

Bear is a powerful, flexible note-taking app with easy organization capabilities and some nifty features that help you not only write (as with their distraction-free writing mode feature), but easily categorize your musings using a tagging feature and infinite nesting of tags, as well as export-to-PDF capabilities (among other formats).

(Plus, Bear is named after the animal for which my own family is named: Ursillo roughly translates to mean small or little bear in Italian (from its Latin roots). Hence my logo, in case you were curious!)

After a brief learning curve — and transferring and recategorizing more than 3,000 notes into Bear in less than 2 hours — today, I completely depend on Bear for all my writing, typing, and note-taking needs.

Bear boasts stellar functionality, simplicity, smooth design and smart features to help me run my business, serve my clients, write these newsletters, quickly capture ideas by the hundreds and categorize them on the fly.

If you’re in the market for a simple but powerful note-taking app to organize all your thoughts, ideas, musings, business planning and call notes in one single place, check out Bear.

It’s free to download in the App Store, and premium is only $15/year.

 

Tool #2) SaneBox: For Inbox and Email Management

Answering the question, ”How do I manage an absolutely out-of-control inbox? Mine is a mess, it gives me anxiety, and I don’t know where to begin…”

I am an “ inbox zero” kind of guy: for years, I diligently maintained a neat, tidy, clean inbox by vigilantly unsubscribing to anything that didn’t serve my attention span or my needs.
It was kind of an obsessive practice.

What I realized sometime in 2019, however, was that my “vigilant” inbox maintenance was taking up far too much time and energy, day-to-day. Even an hour spent organizing my emails is an hour that I could spend working with clients, writing, or heck, even daydreaming — an important practice for coming up with new ideas and making new cognitive connections.

That’s I was turned on to a tool called SaneBox by one of my oldest online friends — author, speaker, entrepreneur and productivity nerd extraordinaire, Jenny Blake.

SaneBox is a premium service, inbox management and email organization tool that integrates seamlessly into Gmail. It uses artificial intelligence to help automatically sort messages by sender and email type into custom sub-inboxes based upon priority and need.

What I love about SaneBox is that, unlike Gmail’s default features, SaneBox is an entirely trainable tool.
That means you can easily assign certain senders’ emails to auto-magically recategorize into new inbox folders in a click, and create rules to help streamline correspondence.

For example, I have custom folders that catch emails from all of my active coaching clients. Now I designate one time per day — for me, it’s 11:30 AM on weekdays — during which I respond to all client emails at once, rather than “on-demand” as they come in, which I did before.

I’ve saved dozens and dozens of hours in the last year because I’m no longer trolling my inbox for each incoming message. Now I can spend that time working on higher priority items — like writing you these newsletters. Hooray!

Here’s a special offer for my readers: Save $25 on premium SaneBox plans when you sign up using my referral link.

 

Tool #3) Grammarly: For Spell Check, Grammar, and Writing Help

Answering the question, “What tool can I trust and depend upon to not only spell check but grammar check and teach me how to become a better writer?”

As a person who has published hundreds of thousands of words on the Internet over the last 11+ years, I know all too well what a spelling mistake, grammatical error or syntax error looks like.

(As in, I’ve made way, way, way too many of them!)

But over the last year, I’ve fallen in love with a really intelligent and powerful tool called Grammarly, which exists as a free and premium desktop app, web app, and browser extension.

The brilliance of Grammarly isn’t just its exceptional spell check, but how it exists to help educate you on grammar, syntax, clarity, voice, and even tone.

That’s right: this tool doesn’t just indicate when you’ve made a mistake, it allows you to learn how to write or communicate more clearly and efficiently by sharing common rules and best practices in grammar and syntax.

When you double-click a word you’ve typed in Grammarly, the app also lists synonyms in case you want to change a redundant word use, thus enhancing your vocabulary prowess as you write. Sweet!

Today, I use Grammarly to continually learn how to improve my own skills and clarity as a writer, as well for catching routine typos and grammatical mistakes.

I recommend all of my Writer’s Group of Two clients download and use Grammarly, and you should too!

 

Tool #4) Mailchimp: For Email Marketing and CRM

Answering the question, “What email marketing service do you use to send us these newsletters?”

My preferred email marketing tool is Mailchimp, a service I have used for over 9 years.

I’ve been an avid lover of their brilliant customer service, their overall company culture, and their mission to create powerful online marketing tools to support small businesses like my own.

Over recent years, Mailchimp has been sprinting to evolve from pure email marketing to a more powerful CRM (customer relationship management) tool. As a result, Mailchimp can feel more overwhelming than in years past — but try not to let the addition of new and perhaps more complicated tool options overwhelm or intimidate you.

I really recommend Mailchimp to help you build even your first list of readers, customers, and clients for routine contact as through newsletters, personal updates, or product offers.

In the future, you may well wish to integrate some of its more advanced features, like advertising on Facebook and Instagram (if you’re into that sort of thing) directly from Mailchimp, or even sending actual post-marked postcards to your newsletter subscribers, which is pretty rad!.

Even if you’re only looking for an affordable way to blast personal updates or segments of a work-in-progress that you’re writing to family and friends, I highly suggest MailChimp for its ease of use and its reputation as a highly trustworthy company.

Here’s a special offer for my readers: Earn $30 in bill credits when you sign up for MailChimp through my referral link

 

 

Tool #5) LastPass: For Password Management and Online Security

Answering the question, ”How do I stay safer online and protect my identity?”

I use LastPass for password management and digital security.

This is probably the #1 most important tool to integrate into your everyday use — and, ironically, it’s also one of the easiest tools to take for granted, to overlook, or to put off for “someday” in the future.

I really, really, really can’t recommend that you use a password management tool to stay safer online enough.

What is a password management tool? It’s an app that generates random, strong passwords that you no longer have to memorize, write down, or remember. Instead, all you have to do is remember one password: a good, strong one that you use for your password management tool, and nowhere else.

Then, LastPass locks all your passwords safely away, encrypted, and saves them for you — so when you’re ready to log into another app, website, or gateway, your app fills it for you.

I don’t know any of my passwords today except for one — the only password that I need to remember, which gets me into LastPass.

As a result? I have much higher security online. Even if there’s a security breach on one site or one password and email combination is stolen somewhere, no one can recycle a stolen password to try to access my other accounts.

If you’re curious about why old or recycled passwords are at risk of being used to steal your information, data, and money, visit haveibeenpwned.com and plug in your email address or an old password to see if it’s been compromised in a data breach or hack online.

What you find may well startle you…

(If so, download LastPass and start to use it today!)

Other Tools I Recommend

Before I ask you for what tools I missed, or what suggestions for what tools and services you need recommendations for, here’s a shortlist of other tools that I use and frequently recommend:

  • Avira Antivirus: Free and low-cost award-winning security, privacy, and performance tools. Lightweight on your devices and highly effective.
  • Calendly: A scheduling app that syncs your calendars and allows clients, prospects, peers, and friends to schedule virtual meetings on a designated calendar of your choosing. Automated for ultimate time-saving.
  • Flywheel: Website hosting plus security in a seamless user system with great customer service. Not the cheapest, but very reliable.
  • GoDaddy Bookkeeping: Formerly called Outright (before being acquired by GoDaddy, which a company that I do not like to patronize), I recommend this software as an affordable alternative to more complicated bookkeeping software.
  • Hover: Purchase domains and email addresses from a reliable American company with no up-sells or hidden charges.
  • HP Instant Ink: A subscription-based service that automatically delivers printer ink to your door whenever you need it.
  • TripIt: An intelligent trip-planner and flight-tracker tool that curates your travel plans into one cohesive itinerary, links it to your calendar, and updates any changes or travel delays so you don’t have to.
  • WiseStamp: Beautifully-designed professional email signatures, automatically inserted into your messages.
  • WordPress: Free and open-source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app.
  • Zoom: Video communication service with an easy, reliable, cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars.

Choose Tools that Serve You

These tools help to support my Self-Storied Life, and I hope they may help you live yours, too.

And now, I’d love to hear from you!

  • Which tools in my recommended list do you already use?
  • Which in my list are you interested in trying?
  • Which tools do you recommend that I consider, myself?
  • Are there any other tools or services I can help vet or recommend for you?

Subscribe to my newsletter and hit reply to any message I send you, and let me know what I missed. What can add to help support your exploration of tools and services that support your Self-Storied Life?

Remember, *|FNAME|*, your tools should serve you — not the other way around.

Choose the tools that honor how you want to work, create, play, and live.

Choose the tools that help you tell the story that you want to be living.

Thank you for reading,