It’s difficult to run a business these days. With so many people, apps, and new events competing for our attention, the pull to be everywhere at once can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s more important than ever before to have an organized approach toward work and a way to focus our skills on one thing at a time.
What about multitasking? Science shows it doesn’t work. In fact, you’re more likely to do good work, on time, when it’s the only thing you’re doing. Removing distractions, keeping your space tidy, and working in short, productive bursts are becoming the trifecta of productivity.
With those goals in mind, consider these tools made to help you do great things. They reduce nonsense and keep you on track to crush those business do-lists in record time.
1. Receipt Tracker
Let’s face it. Most of us are terrible at managing paper receipts. While our credit card statements show us what restaurants we ate it, the paper receipt helps us remember why we ate there (and if it was, in fact, a legit business expense.) Instead of crumpling up your McDonald’s receipt, consider putting it into one, dedicated spot in your office or dealing with weekly. Use a receipt scanner app, or have your assistant do it. Whatever your method, do it at the same time – in the same manner – each and every week. Financial stress can be a day-killer; knowing where your money goes is a small part of keeping the balance.
Pro tip: No time to sort through your stuff? A service like Shoeboxed provides you with a pre-paid envelope in which you shove all your paper piles. They sort, scan, and upload to the cloud in a format CPA’s and tax guys love. It may very well be worth the monthly fee to have that off your to-do list.
2. Focus Apps
Brain clutter can be more burdensome that paper clutter, so do something about how you focus on your most pressing tasks. These simple tools give you the right music for the headspace you’re in, using your body’s natural energy patterns to support your brain’s best work. If you’re able to plug headphones in and spend time working alone, these apps can be a fruitful tool in knocking out a large workload.
Pro tip: Whether you spend money on a carefully curated library of focus music or choose a spa-session playlist for free, you should track your productivity to know how well it’s working. Focus at Will offers the right music for the job and lets you rate each work session. Track, tweak, and get just the right tunes for any work need.
3. Do Not Disturb Tools
A bit of an eclectic bunch, DND tools are just the doctored ordered when you need to tackle a vast workload and people won’t stop bugging you. Any app or device that politely lets others know that you can’t be bothered will qualify. Here are some ideas from business pros who’ve used them successfully to hunker down and destroy that growing task list:
- “Do Not Disturb” phone settings – While designed to keep Facebook notifications from waking you during the night, this setting works anytime – even while at work. If you’re not using it, start.
- Physical DND sign – It works for the housekeeping crew at the hotel, and I guarantee people will take note if you have one on your office door. To make this effective, hang it sparingly and leave a note letting visitors know when you’ll be back to chat.
- Email replies and signatures – Some people think this is only for extended vacations, but an out of office message is handy for anyone hoping to catch a few hours of peace. A quick “I don’t reply to emails from 9 am to noon” note can be put at the bottom of each of your emails, right where the signature line goes. Don’t use an actual “out of office reply” responder unless you’ll be gone for more than a day. That’s annoying.
- Voice mail – Remember this? Today’s younger generations admit to never checking voice mail, but it has a purpose. If someone cares enough to leave a message, that person certainly deserves a response. Use voice mail to prioritize whom you call back first. It’s still incredibly relevant.
4. Paper Calendars
With so many tech tools available, a paper planner or calendar may seem out of bounds. The benefits for keeping a second record of important dates and appointments are indisputable. Paper planners are perfect for when computers go down, you’re offline for extended periods of time, or you need to check an appointment away from work. Paper planners are incredible tools for documentation, as well. It’s easier to flip through years of paper planners if you’re in an IRS audit situation. Plus, shopping for planners is still more fun than updating your Google Calendar. Some people also handle tasks better when they are handwritten. (It’s a brain thing.)
Pro tip: Not a fan of lugging a paper planner around? Get a large desk pad with the year printed out, or consider a small, pocket planner. Any physical reminder of where you need to be today will work. You do not have to spend a small fortune on a leather-bound behemoth, and those who aren’t artsy can avoid those scrapbooky “bullet journals” that look like adult coloring books. (Unless you want to.) Get the most straightforward paper planner you can find, and get it on sale. More money doesn’t equate to more productivity in this case.
Like most lists of “must-use” tools, your mileage will vary here. As new options hit the app stores, and free tools roll over for paid ones, it can be frustrating to adapt to a tool, only to have it go away. With these solutions, at least you have the science on your side. Reducing clutter – both physical and mental – has benefits. Front-line workers and high-paid CEO’s will all experience more productive days when fewer trivial matters are allowed to pop in and out of our frames of focus.
Ready to see your credit data and start building better business credit? Check Your Personal and Business Credit For Free (No Credit Card Required).