It is so frustrating to spend more time trying to search for a document, email or other kind of file than the time it took to create it in the first place.
You remember getting an email about that client this week. You are meeting with them in a couple of hours. It is ridiculous that you are going to spend all of your available time trying to find it rather than reviewing it.
We all have different needs for organizing, collaborating, and collecting in our businesses. The list of features we all want to have for the perfect productivity tool is almost endless.
So, which is the best one? Which is the best email manager, online file cabinet, project management tool or calendar?
A part of the Crossroads PATH to Purpose and Clarity is to put systems in place and to automate whenever possible.
This, I regret having to say, requires a multitude of productivity tools. I just haven’t found one tool that can do everything.
I know it is frustrating, but I read productivity blogs every week, and no one else has found just one tool to do it all either.
It is because we have different needs, and sometimes they are conflicting, depending on the need.
At Crossroads, we have consistently used these 5 apps to stay organized and work productively:
- Basecamp – project management and collaboration. We keep the majority of our client work here. We all have access to each project and can all participate on the project as needed in one space. Basecamp has the ability to upload files, create text documents to collaborate directly in Basecamp, have threaded discussions, create elaborate to-do lists by person and project, and create individual calendars. The huge benefit of Basecamp are the tools they have made available to keep up with any new activities across projects. It provides a daily email that gives a summary list of activity by project. Even if you didn’t do any of the work, it lets you know what everyone else got done. You can also view recent activities by project, type, or person. The other feature I feel is very helpful is the ability to look at all of the project calendars combined. This helps you to be able to see bottlenecks in the process.
- Evernote – research and collaboration on internal work. Evernote has many applications and I have written about it many times. I will simply say that I use it to capture information I research off of the Internet, save important emails, receipts, invoices, and to collaborate with our team on Crossroads social media. This is actually the program I write in. The web version has a great, no-distraction screen to write on. Here are two articles on Evernote productivity tips: A Guide to Evernote for Small Businesses and 9 Business Tools That Really Work.
- Dropbox – file storage server. We all keep Dropbox downloaded on our computers and all of my Dropbox files are shown in my Mac Finder listing. I can save directly to Dropbox so that my files are safe and our whole team can have access to them. We also use it for large art files that we want to share with others. We can upload them to Dropbox and then share them with someone else when a file is too big to email or one that will take a long time to upload to Basecamp.
- Harvestapp – timekeeper and billing software. I have to say that this was the easiest app to adopt, start using, and never look back. I haven’t even thought of changing. It works great and now my new bookkeeper has linked it to Quickbooks! No more double entries of any kind. It has great reports and people can pay from a credit card or PayPal from your invoice.
- Quickbooks – accounting software. I still believe Quickbooks is the best small business accounting software out there. It is tested, tried, and true. I now use the online version and love it. I have access to it anywhere…on my cell phone, iPad or computer. Not everyone can use the online version, for example, it doesn’t track inventory; but, for many of us small business owners, it is perfect. The other benefit is that you can find Quickbooks experts to help you with problems pretty easily.
We have been using these five productivity tools for years now. I still try out new ones, but if they are not significantly better, I don’t move. I haven’t found any tools better in several years.
How about you? Are there other tools you are using? Tell us about them!
Great article, Sue! I’m an avid user of productivity tools myself, and it is always great to know what the rest of use. Have been using Evernote for quite some time now, efficient and simple, thanks. Niraj (Founder at grexit.com)