“Productivity” is the buzz word on everybody’s mind, as we strive to be better with our time in both our personal and professional lives. Beyond the simple acts of ditching mindless social media scrolling and spending less time binging Netflix, what can an effective individual (and business owner) do to make the most of their already-busy day? When it comes to workplace efficiencies, these solutions are among the best-loved.
Which ones can you use to perfect that demanding work schedule?
8 Tools to Make Your Small Business More Efficient
While it takes some training to remember to hit the “start” button on a productivity timer, it’s worth giving a try. Something as simple as using the timer function on your smartphone can have big effects on how you – and your workforce – view those essential minutes. There are dozens of paid apps and programs designed to help you work in creative boosts, such as the Pomodoro technique, which has you alternate between super-productive, 25-minute segments and five-minute rests. Whichever method you use to respect the clock, using timers to both track your time and encourage intense periods of focus, is an affordable way to get serious about your efficiency.
2. Credit Score
It can be hard to see at first how knowing your credit score will lead to efficiency, but if you plan on securing any loans or opening credit cards, it’s essential. No one wants to waste time applying for business credit cards that are destined to tell you “no.” Avoid unnecessary hassles and dings on your credit report by knowing your score (and your odds of approval) before you apply. You can see your personal and business credit scores for free with Nav.
3. Password Manager
It’s a security risk for employees and teams not to know the log-ins for important systems. It’s a bigger risk to know them and not carefully document them. A secure password manager tool can ensure that your teams (and only your teams) have the login info needed to access programs without putting secure info at risk. They make creating, storing, and changing passwords seamless and decrease liability.
4. Team Chat
Email is somewhat cumbersome these days, and not everyone checks it often enough. To ensure that your important work-related conversation threads stay at the top of mind and are easy for teams to access, consider a chat tool, such as Slack, to keep communications organized and timely. Ideal for remote workers and independent contractors to stay connected to your in-house teams, the right chat tool decreases unnecessary back and forth via email and over the phone.
5. Clipping Tool
The equivalent of a paper scrapbook or file folder, a digital clipping tool can keep important documents, websites, notes, audio files, and images handy for when you can refer to them later. Evernote is a popular choice, as well as Pocket, which both work well to reduce paper clutter from printed emails no one will ever read again, anyway. Use it to clip, store, and organize digital clutter in a way that means something, ensuring you won’t waste time looking for that one random thing you think you remember storing on your desktop.
6. Open Calendar Scheduler
Just about anyone with a smartphone uses the calendar and scheduling tool that comes standard for their phone’s OS (such as Google Calendar, Outlook, and iCal), but some have taken it a step further and have incorporated easy scheduling for those outside of their organization. YouCanBook.Me shows others times you have open to book appointments using Google, while Calendly works with all formats. NeedtoMeet is a more open tool, allowing everyone to see the times that work best for the group so that they can adjust their own schedule accordingly.
7. Email Assistant
While a good VA is worth their weight in gold, a trainable email assistant is pretty nice, too. Tools like Sanebox allow you to train your emails so that the junk disappears forever (into what they call their “SaneBlackHole”), while other emails can be set aside until you get to them. Priority items still show up in your regular inbox, and unanswered sent emails regularly pop up to remind you that they are awaiting a reply. A nice solution for anyone who wants a little help with email but doesn’t trust others to read them, trainable email tools can free up hours of time each week and keep your email account at inbox zero more often than not.
8. Fitness Tracker
While a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or other fitness tracker is usually considered a personal tool and not one for strictly business, there are many ways they can be incorporated into an efficient office lifestyle. For those who find themselves struggling to get steps in, drink their water, or get more rest, there’s no substitute for getting a nagging notification to move, sip, or sleep. All of these things work well for your home life but are especially useful for your career. You can’t do well at work if you’re not healthy, and with most business owners struggling to find the time for self-care, automation and tech can make all the difference for busy leaders. You’ll get much more done when you’re in top shape.
Which Tools to Pick First?
With hundreds of efficiency tools popping up every week, it’s tempting to buy them all and believe that accumulation of apps and programs will be your key to winning back time. In reality, implementation is most important, and you’ll get the best results if you find a way to work one new efficiency tool into your routine rather than try to twist and bend around the latest, complicated productivity fad. We’re creatures of habit, and if bad habits have been formed, it makes sense to try and fix them. Sometimes, however, simply adding a few extra steps or deleting some emails sight unseen are what it takes to win the war against time and energy.
Choose one tool, try it for a week or two, and report your findings. If it shaves time off a task or even makes you feel less stressed, it’s a keeper. Don’t add in new tools until you’ve made the last one part of your routine. Use free trials before spending for pro plans, and don’t ever buy annual subscriptions until you’re certain it’s something you’ll feel good about for the long term.
This article was originally written on January 14, 2019.