8 Apps to Turn You into a Productivity Machine

For the entrepreneur or small business owner looking to stay ahead of the curve and on top of every challenge, it’s essential to have the right sort of tools at hand to deal with every eventuality that might arise, and to aid performance wherever it can be aided.

In the 21st Century, many of those tools will be in the form of various types of software, with computer programs and web-based apps and services available for just about anything you could imagine, ranging from debt collection software, to programs which monitor the productivity of your employees during the working day.

Whatever the industry you work in, and whatever the structure of your business, you can be sure that there are apps to help you up your game to the next level.

Here are a few specific recommendations.

RescueTime for catching you red-handed when you procrastinate

RescueTime is arguably the most popular time management app out there, and for good reason. While many bits of software do a great job of allowing you to record timesheets or determine how long you’ve spent on a project, RescueTime goes behind your back and holds you accountable in ways that self-reporting tools seldom can.

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There are two key parts to the RescueTime system. The first is a desktop program which runs quietly and inoffensively in the background. The second, is the web-based app, which features your RescueTime dashboard and the assorted reports, settings, and tools that you’ll be using.

The desktop program records the time you spend in various programs, or visiting various websites. It then reports this back to the web service, which creates graphs for you, breaking down your recorded time that day, and categorises it into various productivity scores.

If you’re on Facebook, for example, that will be recorded as unproductive time. Microsoft Word, on the other hand, will be tracked as productive. Fortunately, in case the program has misjudged a site, or program, you can reclassify their productivity scores which will affect future records.

RescueTime also allows you to create “focused” blocks of time, by blocking sites and programs rated as “distracting”, for certain blocks of time.

Toggl for tracking your projects

Toggl is the king of manual project-focused timers, and does exactly what you’d want from a program with that kind of focus. With Toggl, you create different task entries (and can assign them to specific project categories) and simply click on the start button to begin timing.

Toggl will show you how much time you’ve spent in total on a given project or task — even if the total contributed minutes span days, weeks or months.

The program will also allow you to track how well your actual working time lines up with your estimates for a given project, by allowing you to set an estimated time, and budget, for each project.

Finally, Toggl also allows you to create straightforward, effective timesheets, to allow for easier invoicing for different projects.

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Time Doctor for nudging you to stay productive

While RescueTime keeps an eye on what you’re doing, in the background, and while Toggl allows you to focus on the total time you’ve spent on a given project over a particular span of time, Time Doctor’s focus is in forcing you to remain aware of how you’re spending your time, minute by minute, throughout the day.

The Time Doctor setup is quite straightforward. It includes a desktop program, where you enter various tasks (which can be grouped by project).

As you enter a task, a timer for it automatically begins. If you want to stop the timing, you have three options; click “pause”, which causes Time Doctor to start a separate “break” timer, switch to a different project, or click “finish work”, where Time Doctor stops recording any time.

Whenever you’re away from the computer but Time Doctor is left tracking a task, it’ll bring up a “were you on a break? Yes/No” pop-up when you return. And whenever you leave the timer on a “break” but are still active on the computer, it’ll periodically ask if you’ve returned to work yet.

StickK for holding you to your commitments

StickK is a web and app-based service designed specifically to hold you accountable to your pledges. The way it accomplishes this is by having you create “commitment contracts” and then pledge money to achieving them.

The system allows you to bring in “referees” — friends, colleagues, or family — to double-check that your reports are truthful. If they turn out not to be, or if you fail to report, your pledged money will be deducted.

Where does this money go, you ask? You can either nominate a friend to have it sent to, or a charity of your choice (from a pre-selected list), or an “anti-charity” (an organisation that you’d hate giving your money to. There’s a list to choose from.)

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Beeminder for building positive work habits

Having the right habits in place is one of the keys to productivity in work and in life. Beeminder is an accountability system aimed not at getting you to achieve a certain task by a certain date, but rather at developing the right habits and sticking with them on a day-to-day basis.

The way Beeminder achieves this is by having you pledge to do something “more” or “less”. You can set the specifics for each habit, including the number of units of that thing you’d like to do on a daily or weekly basis.

Beeminder then creates you a graph, with a carefully marked off section, known as the “yellow brick road”, which is the sweet spot you’ll want to stay in. If you fall below the yellow brick road, by not failing in your task for several days in a row, you get charged money.

Each time you fall below the yellow brick road from that point on, your financial pledges will grow in size.

Nozbe for keeping track of your projects and tasks

Tracking your time is all very well, but it’s even more essential to keep a list of the various tasks and projects you need to accomplish, and for that list to make sense to you, and allow for an effective, comfortable working situation.

Nozbe is one of the best of task manager services on the web, and it’s free. It uses the famous “Getting Things Done” method, pioneered by David Allen, and popular in boardrooms across the globe, as its template and goes from there.

With Nozbe, you enter in your tasks that later appear in an “inbox”. The goal is to empty your inbox fast, by assigning each task to a project. The tasks then group together into their project categories, and provide a clear picture of what you need to do before the project is complete.

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Remember the Milk helps you remember the milk and everything else

Even the most organised project management system can still fall apart if you forget to carry out your tasks when required. That’s where Remember the Milk comes into the picture.

Remember the Milk is a way of making sure that you don’t forget anything important, for any reason, at any time. It features a system for tracking tasks and their deadlines, and then setting email, pop-up, and even text message reminders when they’re due to be carried out.

Trello for team collaboration

Trello is a system which allows you to create workboards, where team members can sign in simultaneously, see, organise, and work on assorted tasks for various larger projects.

When you manage a team who might be working remotely, or on different shifts, having a tool like Trello is critical for effective collaboration, not to mention avoiding a situation where team members end up stepping on each other’s toes.

3 Widely Available Tools to Build Good Online Relationships

Pretty much everything is done online these days; you launch your business through a website, you use social media to market it, and you cultivate beneficial relationships through email and instant messaging. However, building relationships online can be a bit tricky — all the social cues that you read to gauge whether a meeting is going well are no longer available to you. Without body language to indicate how a customer or prospective business partner is responding to your proposal, you have no way of knowing if their emails are really favourable, and vice versa. It’s more important than ever that you develop good communication skills, and here are a few tools that can help you build good relationships with clients and partners.

A good IT system

Although there are a lot of apps out there to help you stay in touch with business partners, and to help customers stay in touch with you, a good IT system should never be underestimated. There’s a limited chance that your contacts will have certain apps for encrypted communication, but everyone will have an email address and a phone line.

The last thing you need when you’re trying to launch a business is for the computers to go down, so make sure you have a good IT support team at hand to fix any bugs or viruses. Having IT support will provide more freedom to focus on building your relationship, and your tech guys can keep your IT services and Cloud backup services up to date to keep up with your expanding business.

Communications apps

Most social media sites have an instant messaging function, but using these to communicate in the workplace can be distracting. Instead, use software such as Slack, Hipchat, Voxer, or Campfire to instantly pass work updates to your partners. You can use each of these programmes to share files, start conversations, and automate tasks.

They have none of the distractions of a social media, and they are far quicker than writing an email and waiting for a response. These apps also make collaboration easier, allowing you to meet your goals sooner.

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Social media

It’s best not to use social media to touch base with your business partners on a regular basis, but you can’t ignore that this is a form of communication that most of your customers would use as a first point of contact. Companies that include a social media page on their website offer customers a direct line of communication to their customer service department.

If you have a social media page for your business and you make good use of the messenger function on the site, you can respond to customer queries quickly and efficiently. Customer service is vital to all businesses, but particularly growing ones because their reviews can make or break your company’s future.

If you manage to create an outstanding customer service communications and response team, and thus nail the relationship between you and your customers, you will have a loyal customer base for life.

About.me™ makes for a really great find!

Recently I randomly stumbled on this website called about.me/

About.me like many platforms these days, allows you to quickly build a simple, yet visually elegant splash page that can direct visitors (traffic) to your various content from across the internet.

It gives you the flexibility of choosing backgrounds from their galleries or better yet, creating your own. Feel free to write a quick biography and add colours and fonts for that personalise touch that reflects who you are. Finally, you can add Apps and links to your About.me page that feature Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, Google+, and so on.

With your page complete you are now able to replace all that “clutter” from your ’email signature’ with your own personal page. Here’s mine – http://about.me/Phil.Rodriques

I definitely recommend that every professional or aspiring professional create one. I’ll be the first to admit… it makes you look really good.

FIND + FOLLOW + LINK + READ = MY about.me page

My about.me customised phresh background.