Running an eco or social enterprise, especially one with very few employees, means having to learn how to make the most of your time, so that every detail gets taken care of with the least amount of effort and in the least amount of time. And because many of us already use our smartphones and tablets throughout the day, productivity apps that can save time and money are a great way to leverage the technology we already know and love in order to be more effective and productive.
At the most basic level, we’re probably already using a range of apps to get more done in less time, but we may not even consider them to be productivity apps, because like most digital tools, they can be used for both time-saving and time-wasting. Email and messaging apps are the bread and butter of mobile productivity, and calendar and scheduling apps can help us take care of a number of other important tasks, but there are quite a few other areas of entrepreneurship and running a small business that can be made more effective with the wise use of other mobile apps.
From taking notes to sharing documents to helping you manage your to-do list to doing market research, these productivity apps could help optimize your time and your business.
This cloud-synced note-taking and document capturing app is one of the most useful apps for keeping all of your ideas and lists and images in a single searchable account. Evernote manages everything from basic plaintext notes to rich text documents to images to entire web pages, and users can keep them separated by “Notebook” (for different projects or tasks) and add tags, dates, attachments, reminders, and location data to each note, which makes it much easier to find and sort the notes. Three of the handiest features are the ability to take a picture of a document with your device’s camera and store it as a note, which Evernote can then search within, the ability to record audio notes for either transcribing into text or for use as an audio recording, and the Shared Notebook feature, which allows you to collaborate with other members of your team. As a productivity app, Evernote is hard to beat.
Chances are, you’ll run across articles and videos and other web content during the day that you don’t have time to read or watch right then, but that you want to save for later, when you do have time. Pocket makes that process simple and easy, simply by copying the web URL and then opening the app, where it will ask you if you want to add it to your reading list. Pocket allows you to read the article or watch the video inside the app, or to open it in a browser, as well as to share it via Twitter, Facebook, or email right from the app. In addition, the ability to change the color of the background, as well as the font size, can make it easier to read, no matter where you are. Pocket, while not strictly a productivity app, can be a great way to make the most of your time, by helping to put off for later the things you don’t have time to read right now.
For accessing, editing, and sharing your files and folders from any device, DropBox is a great tool. Documents and folders can be kept private or shared with others, even publicly (which is great for press kits), and the app’s encryption helps keep your files secure. DropBox can be installed on your desktop or laptop, and any files placed in the DropBox folder (which can include nested folders for organization) will then show up and be accessible in the mobile app, so accessing a document from your smartphone or tablet is simple and secure. DropBox can be used to increase your productivity and save both time and stress by keeping your files at your fingertips, no matter where you are.
4. Facebook Page Manager:
Many times, entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t have the luxury of, or the time for, sitting down in front of their computer to manage their company’s Facebook Page, but installing the Page Manager app will let you post updates, links, images, and more, right from your smartphone or tablet. Social media engagement is important for both big businesses and for startups, and by enabling Facebook Page management from a mobile app, it’s possible to keep your fans abreast of the latest development without having to log on to the Facebook web interface. Staying on top of your social media initiatives with this app can end up increasing your productivity without a big investment of time.
This social media management system makes it simple and effective to post to multiple social networks, including Twitter, Facebook (both personal pages and company pages), LinkedIn, and Google+, and it allows for collaboration with other team members. HootSuite lets you schedule social media updates for specific times (or with an “Autoschedule” feature that picks a time most likely to reach your audience), to get analytics data on social campaigns, and to set up custom searches and timelines to meet the needs of any campaign.
Google+ can be a great tool for engaging your customers, for doing market research, for sharing updates and pictures, or for creating and joining communities that focus on a single topic or project. The Google+ app, while offering the same kinds of updates that other social networks offer (text, links, videos, pictures, maps), also allows for live Hangouts, which can be used for meetings or for public forums or announcements.
7. Google Drive:
Another option for cloud storage that allows for collaboration and sharing of files, and that goes hand in hand with Google+ and GMail, is Google Drive. You can view, create, edit, and share a variety of file types, from text documents to spreadsheets to forms or drawings, right from your smartphone, while also keeping them backed up online. Drive also allows for collaboration, so sharing ideas or files with this service among partners or employees can be simple and effective.
Whether you need to set up a chat group for internal communications, a business phone number, or a way to make and receive free video or voice calls with business partners or clients, Skype is an excellent service for the eco or social entrepreneur. The Skype app can either supplement your current phone service or be used as a standalone phone service for your business, or simply function as a text-based messaging app.
To stay on top of the topics and stories that can impact your business, for good or for bad, using a topic-based news aggregator such as Prismatic can streamline your research and help sort the signal from the noise on the web. Prismatic allows you to follow the people and interests that you relate to or are curious about, and to see what others are talking about in those topics.
Flipboard can be used as a news reader and social curation tool, enabling you to follow the sites and personalities that you’re interested in, which is its most common use. Articles can easily be shared via social networks and email, letting you keep other team members in the loop (or just entertained), but it can also be used as a content curation tool. The ability to set up and maintain “Magazines” with web content about any topic you like can serve to help position yourself or your brand as an authority, and can be used to educate, to promote, or to do research on the products, services, and trends that can affect your business. Flipboard’s strength as a productivity app lies mostly in its ability to make catching up on relevant news quick, easy, and enjoyable.
This somewhat aggressive to-do app helps motivate you to get stuff done by giving you feedback with an attitude. Carrot has a gesture-based interface, learns as you use it, and offers ‘rewards’ when you stay on track. This app, of all of those listed here, is probably the one most likely to be considered a productivity app exclusively, as it focuses solely on tasks and the completion of the tasks.
For the entrepreneur and small business owner, PayPal can be a quick and easy method of taking and making payments, separate from your own personal bank account. PayPal is widely accepted as a payment method on the web, but also offers a physical debit card that can be used at any store or company that accepts cards. When coupled with the PayPal card reader, users can instantly accept credit cards right from their device, while also generating an invoice for the payment, essentially turning your smartphone or tablet into a cash register. PayPal can also be used on your company website to accept payments and orders 24/7/365, and the web interface allows you to easily request payments from others, to keep track of all your transactions, and to view and search your spending or earning history.
This handy financial management app allows you to connect all of your various accounts and cards to one single dashboard, where it automatically organizes all of your spending by category, helping you to get a handle on where your money is going. By serving as your personal money manager, Mint can show spending totals and trends that may not be visible to you across multiple statements and accounts. Mint also lets you set financial goals and budgets and then track your progress, and can serve up your financial statement in a visual form, so the data is easy to understand. Getting a better handle on your money is a key piece in any venture or entrepreneurship journey, and Mint can help make that process easier.
By making it simpler to send and receive legally-binding electronic signatures on documents and contracts, EchoSign can decrease the amount of time it takes to complete agreements and file documents, no matter where in the world your customers or team members may be. Adobe EchoSign, which is considered to be secure (and trusted by companies like Google), can also track the progress of documents, and can be used to attach files from services such as DropBox or Google Drive.
15. Sunrise Calendar:
This beautiful and minimal calendar app syncs with your Google Calendar, iCloud, or Exchange account, and connects both to your Facebook account (for events and birthdays) and LinkedIn (for displaying faces and profiles of people you may have an appointment or meeting with). Sunrise Calendar also offers a local weather forecast and integration with Google Maps for displaying directions to your next meeting. It can handle multiple Google Calendars, so work and personal and project calendars can all be displayed (or just some of them), and can be a great addition to your collection of productivity apps.