15 Tools to Increase Your Business Productivity
Today’s small businesses are driven by productivity and efficiency. We don’t have time to burn trying to figure out which business tools or apps will be most effective, or if an ‘app for that’ even exists.
The SOHO Victoria speakers and workshop leaders are not only masters of productivity and efficiency, they’re also hip to the latest online tools that make it easier for small business owners measure, analyze, communicate, prioritize, delegate, and more. Check out these fifteen tools for increasing productivity and efficiency to see which ones meet your needs.
When people call you out of the blue, do you feel bad if you don’t answer it? Well, I don’t know about you, but I almost never answer an unscheduled and ESPECIALLY unknown call. I am all about productivity and efficiency in my day, and have been derailed one too many times by people phoning me without a meeting planned.
As a small biz owner working hard to build my business, my time is valuable. But I will say that I don’t want to sacrifice the personal touch that we get from hearing each others’ voices. And I’m in a business where the personal touch can go a long way.
I’m sure there are those of you out there who enjoy the surprise of an unexpected phone call and maybe look at it as a nice little break in the flow of what you are doing. But not me!
About a year ago, I was introduced to the Voxer app by my performance coach. It is a voice messaging app that enables you to send voice messages without the interruption of a phone ringing. I have incorporated it into my service as a method for communicating with my clients. We use it to go back and forth with quick questions and answers. Like email or texting, you can respond when you have minute, but you don’t get bogged down by going into your dreaded inbox and you get the added benefit of hearing the emotion and intonation in the person’s voice you are communicating with.
Scented Markers and Paper
Do you ever feel stuck when trying to write an interesting article, blog post or come up with an interesting strategy for something? One of my favorite things to do to get the creative juices flowing is to put the laptop away, put my iPhone on airplane mode, grab a big chart paper and pull out my coloured scented markers. I usually put the idea I’m trying to write about in the centre and start writing any points that come to mind around the middle bubble.
I try to use the strategy of not limiting my ideas even if they don’t make sense, as the crazy ideas often lead to the really good ones! This type of exercise gives our brains the break we need amidst the sometimes chaos of email, social media, phone calls, etc.!
Planoly – organizes Instagram layout by allowing you to upload images and plot them to discover the best flow and imagery of your messages. It also allows you to design hashtag themes, where you can put 15 or so hashtags together and title them “product feature” or “local event” and then use them when curating your post. Planoly has helped us to have a better plan for our social media game. – We speak for your skin… Miiko Skin Co – www.miikoskinco.com
This is an alternative to Gmail and an app for organizing your e-mail. We use it to streamline our customer relationship e-mails. I create templates for follow-ups for our customers with specific attachments and can use it to e-mail hundreds of people a customized in a day. I use the template and attachments and then adapt the e-mail to be specific to the customer.
This is a free tool for checking your grammar. It is the best thing we can use with our e-mails and blogs because… my grammar sucks. THANK GOODNESS for Grammarly this has been the biggest saving face for our company as we have leveled up our online social media game.
I recommend this to all my clients to keep their data secure. Most people reuse the same password, which is highly risky. Hackers that get hold of that password from one site can turn your life upside down by accessing your stored data on others. 1Password allows you to use a different password for every site.
I used to regularly forget my passwords and waste time looking for or resetting them. Now with 1Password it’s all done for me: the app generates and stores a unique, complex alphanumeric password for each platform I use. I can log into all my protected platforms with one click, and securely autofill credit card and address data instantly. It’s amazing how much time this saves throughout the day.
1Password not only remembers your logins — it’s a vault that will store all your private info, including PIN and passport numbers, software licenses, and corporate data. All these are accessible immediately through the app, which you can activate on your phone with your thumbprint.
One key productivity tip I encourage my clients to use is focus periods. In a focus period you block out time for single-pointed attention on one project, idea or creative effort — no email, texts, phone or social media. I keep my sessions to about 30 minutes, but they can be as long as 90. Step 1: block distractions. Step 2: set your intention. Step 3: get to work!
Focus is an app that helps me with the first step (along with putting my phone in airplane mode, and closing my office door). It blocks out social media distractions during my focus periods. If I try to go to Facebook or Instagram, for example, instead of seeing the site I see a screen with a motivational quote that changes each time. I’ve customized it show some of my favourites, like this one by Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
A few of my favorite business tools are Asana, LinkedIn and Google Calendar.
LinkedIn is one of my key relationship and collaboration building tools. This platform helps me find the right people to talk to (and get past gatekeepers easily) in a company, and helps me stay in contact with people even if their email changes.
Asana is the team project management tool we use at Raise A Dream. Asana helps us manage our projects and the tasks, deadlines and priorities associated with each project. It reduces the number of emails we receive because all communication related to a specific task can be communicated through Asana in real time.
Google Calendar helps us manage our time, book appointments and plan our marketing and events by looking forward in a calendar that our team can all see and access. It takes a team to raise a dream… these business tools help us get there faster.
With ROTESSA, we set up our customer fees to be withdrawn from their bank and deposited to ours automatically on a specific date every month. No longer do we worry about the pesky credit card fees. Our accounts receivable listing has never been so low. We don’t wait for payments and are enjoying a consistent cash flow.
Cyfe is an all in one reporting tool with hundreds of widgets – on one dashboard, include your website analytics, Adwords performance, Social Media performance, Email campaign performance. Create separate dashboards for various audiences (Executive, Digital Team, Website Team, Ecommerce Division, etc).
How it has changed my business: It has automated most of my client reporting. Additionally, my clients have instant access to all active online campaigns through a protected url so they know what is occurring between reporting periods.
BlueJeans software 3rd party FB Live Streaming – Each week I host 2 Facebook Live events with panel consisting of my clients. This weekly live show on Facebook is my #1 model for growing my business. Facebook live alone does not allow a panel, however, BlueJeans which is a 3rd part software allows panel members to join.
FreshBooks is our invoicing and timekeeping system. It makes us look professional, is simple to use and is online (web and mobile app) so we can, and do, access and use it from anywhere. I love the automated billing for the multiple retainer based clients we have as well as the loads of reports that enable me to keep track of cash-flow and the overall financial health of the company. FreshBooks easily saves me a couple of days worth or work a month.
BaseCamp is the project management tool we’ve been using since we opened in 2009. It helps us stay on top of every project we have one the go, generally 30-40 at a time, including what’s in progress, what’s coming up next, and who’s doing what. We can delegate work, assign tasks, set deadlines and review work in progress. You can also invite clients to collaborate and control what they have access to. It is indispensable for any company that is project based, especially web dev businesses.