Productivity and organization
As a business owner, the biggest challenge is always to stay organized and accountable. Finding applications that are available on both the web and on mobile devices is a great way to stay organized. Regardless of what software you use on your main computer, always check to see if there’s a mobile version, so you can keep up with your work any time, any place.
Here are some of my favourite apps for staying productive both at home and on the go:
Google Drive or your main cloud drive
My number one piece of software is my cloud drive. Whether you use Google or something else, get your business files in a cloud application that you can download on all your devices. This means you will always have access to the files you need, whether you are travelling, on the bus, or need to use another computer because yours is down.
For any freelancer or service-based business, time tracking is ESSENTIAL to help determine your prices or bill clients. As a business owner and multi-tasker, it can be hard to understand how you are spending your time. Having a time tracker like Toggl on your browser, phone, computer etc. means you can click it every time you start a new task. I like Toggl because I can separate tasks by workspace, client or project, and get amazing insights and reports into tracked time.
I use Forest as a kind of Pomodoro timer as well as an app blocker for productivity. Available as a mobile app or Chrome extension, Forest allows you to block certain apps or websites for a specified amount of time. It helps to focus in small chunks, plus every time you complete the timer, it adds a cute tree to your forest.
Asana is a popular project management tool. Asana has completely changed the way I plan for my business and break down day-to-day tasks. Using boards, lists or calendars, you can create projects and tasks to help keep track of your work. Asana has powerful features such as collaboration, integrations with other apps, and beautiful UI.
Google Keep or a good notes app
While most phones have a built-in notes app, download something more fun to use and that you are able to bring up on your computer as well. I use Google keep because I like the sticky-notes look of each note, and the colour-coding helps me to organize all my random thoughts. When choosing a notes app, consider a balance of features and ease of use. You want something that is powerful enough to stay organized, but easy enough that you actually WANT to use it.. Integration with your browser is also a great idea for saving web pages or snippets of things you find on the internet. I also like features such as tagging, and images as a bare minimum.
Design and media
Creating new content for social media, websites or other channels is a lot easier when you have some amazing tools to create beautiful designs. Inspiration comes at the strangest times, so having access to your favourite design apps on different devices will help you create the best content no matter when inspiration strikes.
Social media, blog posts and any other content you will create will get better engagement with professional and inclusive images. When searching for photos online, always make sure you are using photos with Creative Commons Licensing or get the artist’s permission. The best way to do this is to grab your photos from a site you trust, such as Unsplash, where all the images are available for use under Creative Commons.
I love Unsplash in particular because the photos are often more inclusive than other sites and the aesthetic is clean. Featured categories and collections make it easy to search for unique images.
Even if you aren’t a photographer, having the ability to do some basic photo-editing on the go will be a game-changer for your content. Photoshop Express is a great option because it gives you the most essential photo-editing features, while still keeping the complexity and power of an Adobe app.
Depending on the kind of content you publish, it may make sense to mix up your content with some fun graphics or collages. Canva is a great option to create graphics when you don’t have the time or the budget to hire a graphic designer. The nice thing about Canva is you can customize your graphic all you want, or start with a clean template. Just watch - a lot of the free templates do get overused and people might start to notice over time!
If you use Hootsuite or another social media scheduling tool, make sure you have a copy of the app on a mobile device as well. I always advocate for creating and scheduling your content on your “proper” computer to ensure the best quality. That said, keeping the app on your phone makes it easy to stay on top of upcoming posts or to start some drafts on the fly .
Bonus: Chrome extensions
They’re not quite apps, but Chrome extensions can be useful when working on different devices where you sign in with a Google account. While there are hundreds of different Chrome extensions, keep it simple and only install the ones you use most often. Here are some of my must-haves for the ultimate convenience whenever I’m working in my web browser.
This extension is absolute gold. It brings a whole new architecture to your web bookmarks and makes it super easy to find and open the pages you need most. In Toby, you save pages as bookmarks and organize them into different collections. I like to organize my collections based on tasks (e.g. blog writing, finances) and then I can open all the pages I need at once using that collection.
Lastpass or a secure password manager
Lastpass is my personal favourite, but password managers are a huge game-changer for convenience and security. The Lastpass extension allows me to sign in to any of my different accounts using one click. It also makes my accounts far safer because I don’t need to remember most of my passwords and can use uber safe passwords that are generated by Lastpass. Lastpass also warns you whenever you reuse passwords, keeping your accounts safer.
Pocket is great for saving articles or pages you want to read later, but don’t want to save as a bookmark. I love Pocket because I can connect it to my e-reader and read articles on my preferred reading device.
Spell-checking on steroids, the Grammarly extension checks anything that you type in your browser. That means you get automatic spelling and grammar checks on all your emails, documents, etc. Grammarly is great because it not only corrects spelling and grammar, but gives you an idea of your voice, tone and writing style, and can help you adjust.
The general rule
Apps are always a great tool to help business owners get things done, but it comes down to your own organization systems, skills and motivation to make your business successful.
While some apps are core to running my business (e.g. Adobe, email, my payment system), most are tools to help me stay organized and able to access my work from different locations.
When looking into new tools to introduce into your business, always consider the ease of use, how the application will integrate with systems you already have in place, and whether the tool will actually make you more productive (or not!) A lot of my favourite apps stay on my list because they remind me of different tasks or considerations that I often forget when I’m in the heat of running a business day-to-day.
I love apps because they sometimes take some of the most tedious tasks (e.g. file management, time tracking) and turn them into experiences that are actually kind of fun. They can also provide a lot of insight into your day-to-day tasks and help keep you on track for the things that matter.