12 Oct 7 Productivity Apps to Take you from Busy to Productive
Don’t mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get faked out by being busy.
The question is: Busy doing What?”
Have you ever had a day where it felt like you were going non-stop from the time you woke up until your head hit the pillow that night? As a business owner, you’re probably nodding your head and remembering that you’ve had more than one day like that in just the last week.
Here’s a second question for you then: How much did you actually get done?
Before you answer, really sit and think. Did you get everything on your to-do list taken care of before you finally called it a day? Or did things get forgotten, shuffled around or only half-done because you ran out of time (or out of focus)?
If you’re like the rest of us, spending most of your time trying to do it all, the answer is probably a resounding “yes.” There are emails to read, projects to plan, calls to make, meetings to schedule and a few dozen other things we have to get done before the day is over. While we’re told that business owners need to be able to do it all, the truth is that you’re only human and sometimes you need some help. Thankfully, in our increasingly digital world, help is usually as close as the nearest smartphone, tablet or PC.
Developers have recognized our need for organization, efficiency and aesthetic appeal and are coming out with new ways to help you take your days from overwhelmingly busy to satisfyingly productive. To help get you on your way, here are 7 apps that we swear by for helping us stay productive:
If you do a search for “time management tips”, most of the articles will list making a to-do list as the first thing you need to do each day or even the night before. Setting your goals for the day and creating a list of tasks to get there has been shown to have a positive impact on your productivity. Asana provides a well-rounded, cross-platform solution that allows you to turn each goal into a project and list the steps required to get there. You can then share the project with your team, assign tasks to specific people (hello delegation!) and keep each other updated all through the app.
Google Keep – for those with an affinity toward Google Apps
Now that you’ve got your to-do list created, most experts recommend taking those tasks and adding them to your calendar. Setting a due date will help increase the likelihood that those things will actually get done and not so easily pushed off by other last-minute tasks.
Enter Sunrise — and just like its namesake, it brings a fresh start to your scheduling life. It integrates easily with Google Calendar, iCloud, Facebook, Wunderlist, Outlook, Eventbrite and Asana just to name a few. It allows you to customize notifications. It also has an awesome new feature called Meet, which takes the headache (and endless email chains) of out trying to schedule meetings.
One final feature that takes Sunrise from simply functional to fun — you can add “Interesting” calendars like TV – so you can see the next episode of The Walking Dead.
No one can argue that interacting and keeping up with social media, publications and blogs is a necessity in keeping your business competitive and relevant. Unfortunately, reading the New York Times, searching for useful blogs and surfing YouTube result in unintentional procrastination (cat videos anyone?).
Thankfully Feedly has come to your rescue! This App tracks all of your favorite and important sources of information, organizes them into collections and allows you to set up alerts when it finds things related to your company, your competitors, your industry or anything else you set it to monitor. Feedly then organizes all of this information into a minimalist layout that makes it easier to scan, save for later or easily share with your social media accounts or your team.
Let’s face it, even if you get your inbox under control, there are still those little daily tasks like updating social media or adding proposals to Asana that have to get done. These aren’t difficult tasks by any means, but they can be numerous and take up time that could be spent elsewhere. Thankfully Zapier has you covered.
This powerful program allows you to set up “Zaps” that will automatically perform actions such as posting a link of your most recent blog post onto your Twitter account or adding your new Asana project to Evernote. Zapier integrates with dozens of other commonly used productivity and business apps, so chances are some of the tools you’re using are already integrated.
IFFTT – for those slightly intimidated by Zapier’s size and reach
Have you ever sat down to start a conference call and realized you don’t have the number for the other person? Or you do, but it now goes to some person named Joe who apparently works at a hog farm somewhere in the midwest? Yeah, we’ve been there. Keeping up with your contacts can be daunting with many minutes (sometimes hours) being wasted trying to find up-to-date information.
The people over at Brewster understand the challenge and have developed an app that helps you put all of your contacts, from all of your networks, into one place. Easily sync your Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and other contacts all into one place. Better yet? Brewster is smart enough to combine duplicates so all the information is listed once, instead of 3 times because Sally happens to be in your Facebook, G+ and LinkedIn networks.
Tracking expenses are probably one of the most tedious, frequently procrastinated tasks by business owners (and people in general). It’s not because we don’t want to keep good records, though—it’s because there’s often SO much paper involved and that box starts to look overwhelming. Or maybe it’s not receipts and expenses that make you cringe, but instead it’s forms that have to be emailed or whiteboard notes that have to be recorded. In the end, it comes down to one simple question – who has time to sit at a scanner and digitize hard-copy notes, receipts or forms? Maybe your assistant, but if you don’t have one yet there’s a chance this falls squarely on your shoulders.
Thankfully there’s an app to help! CamScanner allows you to scan receipts, invoices, business cards, certificates and even whiteboard notes and turn them into searchable PDF documents. Now you can scan your receipt and file it away, knowing you’ve got the digital copy ready and waiting for your bookkeeper to process.
ABBYY Fine Scanner (iOS only)
Focus is a big part of being productive. You can have all the tools known to man available at your fingertips, but they won’t do any good if you can’t quiet your mind long enough to focus on what needs to get done. Thankfully, there’s an app for that – and it’s scientifically optimized to make you more productive. Focus@Will is a handy little app that pulls from a unique library of instrumental music that’s been edited specifically for focus.
From the website: “We’re soothing your flight or flight mechanism, engaging your brain’s limbic system, to increase your attention span and general concentration.”
Unlike the other music apps out there (like Spotify or Pandora), Focus@Will isn’t interested in what you like and what you don’t like because it doesn’t want you singing along. It wants you focused.
Carrot – take your to-do list and turn it into a game. Just don’t make it angry
Any (or all) of these apps will help you bring some sanity back to your day and help push your efforts over the line between busy and productive. You’ll probably still feel exhausted at the end of the day, but at least you’ll be able to look back and know that you actually got things done.
One final note on productivity – it takes more than organization and dedication to produce results; it also takes a bit of rest to keep your mind functioning at its full potential. Thankfully, there’s an app (or three) for that as well! Our current favorite is Calm, which allows you to set your break for 2 to 20 minutes and works on iOS, Android and your desktop.
We highly suggest using Calm first. Once you’ve had your mini-break, download the others and proceed to become even more amazing.
“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”