I am a self-confessed productivity geek. Because I have so few hours in the week devoted to my work, I have to be in ninja mode when I actually am working. Here are some of my favorite productivity tools.
You know how some people like to do their work in coffee shops? There’s something about the ambient noise that can actually increase your creativity without distracting you, and there’s actually research to back that up. This is where Coffitivity comes in. I keep this website open in my browser, and the ambient “coffee shop” noise it provides sort of just fades into the background as I dig into my work.
This book by Greg McKeown has been instrumental in helping me pare down the non-essential obligations, distractions and burdens in my life so that I can focus on my non-negotiable priorities. I recommend this read to everyone! (Also, I recommend using Audible to listen to books so that you can do so on the go or while doing other mundane tasks. Audiobooks are pretty much the only way I “read” these days.)
Surprisingly, I don’t rely solely on technology when it comes to keeping my life organized. This year I’m supplementing with a paper planner, and I’m pretty much in love with this one. I love the minimalist design that really just lets me use it exactly how I want, and the motivational messages at the beginning of each month are a nice little plus.
This book and lifestyle by Hal Elrod motivated me to make the most of my mornings. And while I don’t employ all of the components of his miracle morning routine, I’ve adopted many of the tips in the book. I’m definitely noticing a positive difference in my mood and overall well-being on the days I wake up early, not to mention a huge increase in my productivity levels.
This is my latest productivity obsession. Trello is a web-based app (there is a mobile app too) that lets me organize my life into different boards, which are then further organized into lists with cards for each item. It’s super visual and fun to use, which makes it that much more effective. You really just have to see it in action — my favorite (free) training is here.
I’ve been a business owner for almost 10 years now, but I still have SO much to learn. My favorite way to learn is through podcasts, as you’ll notice throughout this resource list! Here are some of my favorite business development resources.
A podcast for creative entrepreneurs hosted by two women who own their own businesses, and are also moms. They cover lots of relatable topics like work-life balance, daily routines, marketing, gaining new clients, online presence, etc.
This woman is my business hero. Not only is she extremely smart and savvy, but she also just seems like an amazing human being overall. I listen to both her podcasts “The Chalene Show” and “Build Your Tribe” and have taken several of her online courses; everything she produces is actionable gold.
This is an older book (2001) by Brian Tracy that gives really solid advice for getting more done at work, and I have put a lot of these principles to use in my business.
A podcast covering such topics as blogging, business, creativity, inspiration and motivation. Elise Blaha Cripe is the host and a creative “maker” who interviews a different guest each week. I have learned a lot about small business and just being a creative professional in general.
As a small business owner, marketing is something I have no choice but to do. I actually really enjoy it, especially learning lots of different techniques and keeping up with all the changes as social media evolves. Amy Porterfield is the host and I really enjoy her friendly, conversational manner.
One of my least favorite things in the entire world is talking on the phone, so I’m thankful there are so many other options when it comes to communicating — whether it is with just one person or thousands. Here are my essential lines of communication for work and for fun.
I made the switch from Aweber to ConvertKit as my email list provider at the beginning of 2016, and I haven’t looked back once. ConvertKit is geared more specifically towards bloggers, and it allows you to tag subscribers for multiple lists (without paying multiple times for that subscriber). My open rates have increased with ConvertKit, and the automation options are pretty fantastic.
I’m active in several Facebook groups, including my own (are you in it?), but I try to avoid getting sucked into the Facebook black hole as often as possible. That’s why I love this app — I can still post in and scroll through my groups, but I don’t have easy access to my newsfeed while doing so.
Scheduling social media is one of my least favorite parts of running multiple businesses. That’s where Edgar comes in: I input my posts for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and this tool queues them up and then repeats those posts so that they don’t go to waste.
This is an absolutely essential tool for ANY team. First of all, it’s free, and second of all, it has decreased my email by 10,000%. Instead of emailing back and forth with my business partner and then going back through dozens of emails looking through that conversation later, I can simply direct message her in Slack — it’s just like a text message (there’s a mobile app too) and I can quickly search the conversation when I need to.
I resisted joining Snapchat for a looooong time (just ask my husband, who I made fun of endlessly for using it) but now I kinda love it. Sending a “snap” to my business partner is a fun departure from the otherwise business-related messages that we usually trade, plus my son LOVES all the filters :)
I always say that if I hadn’t become a music therapist, I would have been a graphic designer. One of my favorite parts of creating online content is making the images that go along with it, and these are the apps (both mobile and web-based) that make it so easy and fun to do.
This is one of the best tools out there for creating social media and web graphics. There are templates for just about every platform, and tons of fonts, backgrounds, layouts and graphics from which to choose. Although Canva is free to use, many of the backgrounds and graphics are purchase-only (but still very reasonable).
My favorite mobile app for creating photo collages. Although this is a pretty comprehensive app for photo editing, I really only use it for the collage feature (and I did purchase the in-app upgrade with extra layouts). I love that you can change the spacing in between photos and customize the color as well.
Hands down, my #1 go-to tool for graphic design. I use PicMonkey every day for creating text images, graphics, and photo editing. One of the coolest features is that you can import your own fonts, or use one of the many included fonts. There is a premium upgrade that gives you access to additional fonts, graphics and filters, which in my opinion is worth it at just $40/year.
I use this mobile app for photo editing, mainly because of its wide selection of great filters. You can choose the intensity of each and combine them for the perfect recipe.
At $3.99, this app is worth every penny for its powerful text-over capabilities. There are endless fonts and layouts that instantly make beautiful text graphics using either a photo you import or one of their many background images. You can also add your watermark, use filters, or choose a quote from their huge library.
It makes me so happy that there are a vast number of online music therapy resources nowadays, because when I first entered this field, there were very few. My favorites are podcasts, because I love to learn on the go, but there are also plenty of must-bookmark websites as well.
Founder and music therapist Kat Fulton has created an amazing library of online CMTE courses covering all topics, populations and specialties. Earn CMTE credits affordably at your own pace and from the comfort of your own home.
This podcast provides a resource for the music therapy clinician: find unsolicited information on current research, ways to generalize findings into practice, and tips about maintaining an evidence-based practice. Hosted by Andrew Knight, PhD, MT-BC, assistant professor of music therapy at Colorado State University.
Rachel Rambach, Michelle Erfurt, Kimberly Sena Moore, and Matt Logan are four song-making music therapists from different parts of the United States with different backgrounds, who are united in the common interest of the therapeutic use of music.
The Music Therapy Show with Janice Lindstrom is a discussion about what music therapy is and how to use it in your life. Ideal listeners are music therapists looking for new ideas and people looking to use music to enhance their capabilities through the planned use of music on human brain functioning.
Urban Therapists: Music Therapy, Culture, and More podcast is loosely themed on music therapy. Andrea and Tyler are both city dwellers and enjoy the challenge of trying to make it as newly minted music therapists in the field. Join them for talk about music therapy, coffee, cooking, city living, and pop culture. Every week they share a new cover song for listeners to enjoy at the end of the episode.
My studio provides music lessons in addition to music therapy, so we are always looking for new resources when it comes to music education. Here are some of my top picks.
This is one of the first music ed blogs I ever came across, and it was infinitely helpful as I began setting up my studio and ventured into teaching lessons alongside providing music therapy. The author runs a dynamic and very successful piano studio, and her creative ideas are fantastic.
Long gone are the days of purchasing an entire music book just for a handful of songs. I almost exclusively download all of my sheet music from Music Notes, and then use the app to access the music on my iPad during a session or lesson.
My favorite app for working on music theory concepts, especially note naming. My students can never have enough practice with this, and they actually enjoy it when we use this app since it turns it into a game.
This is a great one-stop shop for educational children’s songs of all kinds. I sell my own songs here, but I frequently peruse their huge library for new songs from a variety of artists.
My favorite place to browse music books, educational resources, and musical tools for the studio.
I could go on and on (and on and on…) about my favorite instruments, movement props, and clinical tools for music therapy, but I chose a few of my favorite to feature here. Make sure to check out the full resource list for a much more exhaustive selection.
I received this as a Christmas gift just as I was starting my private practice, and I have found so many uses for it over the years. What I love is that each bell has a color, number and letter (of the music alphabet), and of course they can be ordered by pitch.
My favorite movement props are made by Bear Paw Creek (we even wrote an entire songbook for their use!) and these bean bags are the bees knees. They come in a multitude of colors and textures, so there are lots of ways to incorporate them into my sessions and address many different goals.
These movement props (again, from Bear Paw Creek!) are indispensable at my studio, especially when it comes to our early childhood classes. They are wonderful for addressing gross motor skills, color identification, and group participation.
I still rely on my lovingly battered old Dean guitar for most groups and sessions, but I can’t say enough good things about my “good guitar” — the GS Mini. Its size is my favorite feature; I’m a pretty petite person, and the guitar’s smaller body makes it super kid-friendly and portable.
I think every MT should have a uke, because their sound is so sweet and inviting. It also makes a great alternative to the guitar not only as an accompanying instrument, but also for adapted lessons.
If you’re reading this, then you probably already know that songwriting is my jam. It’s one of my favorite things about being a music therapist — I love being able to apply my creativity not only for my own clients, but to provide material for my fellow music therapists as well.
This relatively new app takes the previously mentioned one and kicks it up a notch. Also free on iOS devices, it allows you to record your song with piano or guitar accompaniment (using just the external mic) and then has the capability to add bass and drum tracks with the touch of a button. The app analyzes your key, chord changes, and tempo in order to sync the backing tracks appropriately.
An online rhyming dictionary that lets you organize your search by syllables and letters, and also finds near and imperfect rhymes rhymes. But in addition to that, it also finds synonyms, antonyms, definitions, homophones and similar sounding words.
This book isn’t so much a guide to songwriting as it is a tool to connect with your own creativity before you start writing. The author, Julia Cameron, provides a variety of exercises for discovering your inner artist and removing many of the mental and emotional barriers that can prevent you from doing your most creative work.
An online CMTE course I created for Music Therapy Ed. It covers the entire process of writing a song, walks you through different ways of recording it, and then teaches you how to share it in a variety of ways, both clinically and commercially.
Another online CMTE course, this time focused solely on the songwriting process. I provide a “Songwriter’s Toolkit” of videos and resources for participants, and then they write their own songs and receive feedback from me and fellow participants in order to grow as songwriters through experience.
Recording is my happy place. I love nothing more than to sit in my office, surrounded by my equipment, and lose myself in the flow of creating recordings of the songs I’ve written. Here are the tools I use to do that.
A pop-filter is a must in order to keep any hard “p” and “t” sounds out of your recordings. This pop filter is inexpensive and gets the job done. It also clamps on to my microphone nicely and isn’t too obtrusive.
The factory pickups in my guitar and ukulele need just a bit of a boost when I’m recording or performing live, and this powerful little preamp is the perfect solution.
I have several of these nicely priced pedals for use with my digital keyboards, including the MIDI keyboard I use for recording. It plugs right in to the pedal jack.
I love these headphones! I’ve used many different pairs, but these are by far my favorite not only for sound quality, but also for comfort. I can wear them for hours at a time and not have sore ears by the end of a recording session.
I just recently upgraded from my Snowball microphone made by the same company, Blue Microphones, and I’m so happy I did! The Yeti not only looks super cool, but it is a very professional-quality mic for a very affordable price.
I am a total nerd when it comes to my websites. I could spend hours designing, tweaking my theme, and experimenting with new plugins. I know it’s not for everyone, but if you are into website development, here are some tools worth checking out.
I use to be a diehard fan of the Thesis theme, but I recently made the switch to Divi and I haven’t looked back. I love this theme so much, not only for the amazing customer support and forums, but for the ease of use and endless capabilities. I could write about it until the cows come home, but instead I’ll just tell you to check it out for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
This is a premium plugin I use for all of the forms on my website. My favorite use is for studio registration: people enter their information, and then are directed to the payment page. I receive an email notification when a form has been submitted.
I just recently started using this premium plugin to host “polite popups” on my websites. There are so many different display options from which to choose, and they are incredibly customizable.
Not a web geek like me, and have no idea where to start? Learn the entire process, earn CMTE credit, and create yourself a website with this awesome course from Music Therapy Ed and the amazing Kat Fulton.
This is the software I use (and have been using since 2010!) to host my membership site, Listen & Learn Plus. It allows you to create multiple membership levels, protect your content accordingly, and integrate all of the aspects of running a membership site.
As a business owner, I have found that mindset plays a HUGE role in the success of my business. When my mind isn’t in the right place, that has a negative impact on my business, which is why I’m so grateful to have found resources like the ones below to help me stay in a positive frame of mind.
I never got into Eat, Pray, Love, but this Elizabeth Gilbert masterpiece will remain a staple in my library. She has so much wisdom to share about being a creative, and a remarkable way of doing so through captivating stories.
Don’t be offended by the title! Denise Duffield-Thomas is the author, and she is a master at explaining what money blocks are, where they come from, why we have them, and most importantly, how to get rid of them. This is a book that I have read multiple times because it is so full of actionable advice.
I’ve been following Jess Lively for YEARS, and was so excited when she launched her podcast, which is all about living life with intention. She interviews guests about how they live their lives with intention, and I always feel so motivated at the end of each episode.
I am a huge Wayne Dyer fan and have read many of his books, but this is probably my favorite. Not only does he lay out and thoroughly explain the process of manifesting, but he gives example after example of times where it has worked in his life and in the lives of others.
The subtitle of this awesome book by Jen Sincero is “How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life”. It’s kind of like a no-nonsense, witty version of The Secret (another book I love, by the way). I highly recommend the audiobook version, which is narrated by the author.
I rely on technology to collect the money I earn, and then organize and track it. As a business owner it’s so important to always have a handle on my finances and know where my money is being spent, which is why these tools are must-haves for me.
No one likes to budget, but this web app actually makes it kind of enjoyable. You can connect all of your accounts — banks, credit cards, loans, PayPal, and so on — and then see how your money is being spent. The email notifications are a good wakeup call when you are spending over your monthly limit, and really helps keep me in check (or at least know what is happening with my money).
I’ve been using this software since 2011 to run my studio. Not only does it handle client intake and scheduling, but I also use it to send invoices and collect payments. You can use it to manage your finances outside of your studio too, though the capabilities are a bit limited there.
I use PayPal to handle payments for both my online and offline businesses. It’s quick, easy, and most people have a PayPal account; and if they don’t, they can use a credit card to pay. I love that PayPal can collect recurring payments and the Pro level allows you to accept payment plans.
I will be completely honest: I am not well-versed in QB, but my business partner Katey is (she handles our books at MTC). We use this bookkeeping software to manage our accounting, which then makes it very easy for our CPA to do our taxes.
This is a much simpler online accounting system than QB, and it’s what I use to manage my finances outside of MTC. The best part is that it’s free. You can send invoices, connect accounts, and track your income and expenses very easily.
While I mostly use my own original music in music therapy sessions and classes, there are definitely times when I need recorded music (and sometimes my kids get tired of hearing “mommy songs”!). Here are a few of my very favorite children’s artists.
I discovered this duo when I was looking for a song about rain many moons ago (check out “Raindrop Pop”) and I’ve been fans of their energetic, creative and educational songs ever since.
Her version of “You Are My Sunshine” got me hooked, and I have since discovered many other gems by Elizabeth Mitchell. Another favorite is “So Glad I’m Here” which makes a great greeting song.
His songs are kinda zany and wacky, and I love them! My all-time favorite is “Yellow Bus” which every kid I’ve ever sung this with has loved, too.
This woman basically inspired me to write my own songs. She is the queen of children’s music, in my opinion! “Buzz Buzz” has a permanent place in my repertoire, along with countless others.
I love the chill vibe of this male/female duo. Their throwback covers make me so happy, and are great playalong songs. They aren’t your typical children’s songs which is why I enjoy them so much. I have all of their albums — it’s too hard to pick a favorite!
I still remember the moment I realized I could take a children’s book, set the words to a melody, and use it to work on goal within a music therapy session. It was during my second music therapy practicum in graduate school, and I’ve been a “singable story” enthusiast ever since. Be sure to take a look at my full list of favorites using the link at the top.
This was the first singable story I purchased, and it’s still going strong in my regular rotation. My favorite thing about this book is the raised monkeys, which are just begging to be touched and counted on each page.
Based on the classic song from Guys and Dolls, this cute story is visually appealing and always a crowd-pleaser when parents and grandparents are in attendance.
My mom bought this book for my son Parker when he was just a few months old, and it was so sweet it made me cry. I made up a tune for it, and we still read it at bedtime in our house. I love giving this book, along with the recording I made, as gifts for new parents.
My colleague discovered this book, and it has quickly become a favorite. Each page gives a directive (tap the tree, blow a kiss, rub the tree, etc.) so it’s perfect for goals like following directions and attending to task.
This story follows a formula, so once children catch on, they can sing along and do the hand motions as well. I have to tell you that this is my son Parker’s favorite book ever, and it is almost as popular amongst my little students.
I couldn’t complete this list without mentioning a few of my very favorite motherhood-related resources. Some of these are musical, while others are not. I had to limit myself to a select few things here, though I could go on and on and on about my staples as a music therapy mama.
If you’re into reading blogs, add this one to your list. It’s a collaborative blog about motherhood, headed up by one of my favorite bloggers, Ashlee Gadd. They recently added a podcast, too. The subject matter runs the gamut from pregnancy to postpartum issues to the trenches of motherhood, and the essays range from poignant to pee-your-pants funny.
Here’s a shameless plug for my own podcast, which I created for women balancing a passion-fueled career (such as music therapy!) with being a mom. In Season 1, I interviewed 40+ moms (and a few dads) about their experiences with parenthood and music therapy, while Season 2 is more about the nitty gritty ins and outs of being a working mom.
This is my all-time favorite baby shower gift. Both of my kids have LOVED this from the time they were just a few weeks old, and it bought me countless minutes of time before they became mobile. Plus, bonus points: it’s musical!
We love white noise in our house. The sleep sheep still provides a nice ambient background for my one-year-old’s nap; her favorite of the 4 settings is the rain, though I am partial to the crashing waves.
The Wonder Weeks is a tool that helps you understand your baby’s developmental leaps, and I love being able to track them on my phone. It explain’s why a baby may be in a “stormy” period now and in a “partly sunny” one the next week, based on what is happening developmentally.