In an increasingly busy world it is more and more about coping with everything in an efficient manner in order to have spare time to do what you really want to do.
The thing is, I'm hardly any smarter than your average Joe, nor likely to be any more hardworking than the rest of you.
No, rather, to a great extent it's all about the productive tools (and habits) that I use. Today, I'll be covering the must-have tools for any entrepreneur.
The tools mentioned here are great for you to become more effective, save time on mundane tasks, and rather spend the time doing what you love. However, for entrepreneurs there's an added significance to this because when you work for yourself, productivity and discipline are absolutely essential.
*** I'd like to reiterate that I have no affiliation whatsoever with any of the tools mentioned in this article ***
Buckle down and get productive with these excellent apps for managing your work, running your business, collaborating with teams, and much more.
- Calendars & Reminders
- Contact Management
- Email Apps
- Online Marketing
- Presentation Tools
- Productivity & Time Management
- Social Media
- To-Do List
- Web Basics
Calendars & Reminders
Ask Me Every: Ask Me Every is a super simple concept and app! You set it up to ask yourself questions that matters to you at the time you choose. Then you reply with your answer and it will store the data into meaningful information and graphs. I particularly enjoy that it allows me to forget about stuff that needs to happen routinely until it actually needs to be done.
Due: I used to use this iPhone app quite a lot in the past when I was working in a very fast-paced environment at KPMG in South Korea. The app is great because it solves a particular problem: I need to remember to do something at a certain time and I need to be nagged to do it. Simply put, with Due I sat my phone to alert me to do a certain thing at a certain time (i.e. 30 minutes from now, 4pm) and then it would remind me at that time.
Google Calendar: This calendar is an essential component to my life. It emails me every morning with my daily tasks, syncs up with my iPhone to-do list and with my Trello, and it allows me to share calendars for project collaboration, and so much more!
Brewster (all platforms): Brewster hooks into multiple places where you might have contact information stored and brings them together, merging duplicates along the way. Brewster eases the pain (and time suck) of looking for contact information. It also auto-generates some neat lists, such as people in a certain geographic region and people with whom you may be losing touch.
Contacts+ is a similar tool that also works great. Among others, the fact that you can easily view your recent communication from each contact on the app is very handy.
Skype: Skype, as we all know and love, is an absolutely amazing tool for free IM and video calls (as well as cheap international calls which comes in handy as a digital nomad). 99% of the time I swear to Skype. However, if I'm overseas and want to enjoy a movie together with friends in different locations, I turn to Google Hangouts. But, be sure to also check out Rabbit, a tool completely dedicated for this purpose. It lets you stream videos from Netflix, YouTube, and elsewhere on a single page, that pairs with a video chat service that lets up to 10 people watch the stream at once. Perhaps not a must-have entrepreneur or productivity tool — but cool nonetheless!
EXTRA: There are also neat tools out there that allows you to record your Skype conversations, particularly great if you're doing interviews or have to recap on some important meeting/conference details. Such free tools include VodBurner (Mac & PC) and MP3 Skype Recorder (Windows). Truth to be told though, I've never tested either personally, but got this valuable information from Digital Trends. Here you can read their step-by-step guide on the matter.
We Chat: The go-to-app for communication when in China or dealing with Chinese business partners and clients. Remember, Facebook and several others are blocked in China (although it is gradually opening up).
Boomerang for Gmail: Boomerang is awesome if you have an email that you don't want to deal with straight away. As the name suggest, you just 'boomerang' the email and it will come back later at a time set by you. Moreover, what I truly love about Boomerang is that you can easily schedule emails to be sent automatically at the perfect time and that you can be reminded if you don’t receive a reply.
Canned Responses (in Gmail Labs): An awesome tool to utilize when you often have to send very similar email responses out to a number of people. Simply save an email as a canned response and use it over and over again. BUT, be sure to tweak your responses slightly to give them a personal touch — nobody likes to talk to a robot (okay, bad example, I think that would be awesome — but well, you get my point). WikiHow explaines well how you set it up.
Psst! In a future post I'll be sharing heaps of Gmail hacks and neat tricks to increase your productivity. Stay tuned.
Smartr Inbox for Gmail: A free browser plugin that dives into your contacts list and pulls up pearls of information, like the date you first communicated with a person and who is frequently CC'ed on emails, as well as Facebook and Twitter features built into it. Excellent to conquer productivity dips due to searching through emails, trying to remember which person at a company you contact etc.
I would have included Mailbox here if it wasn't for the fact that it shut down on February 26, 2016. If you use another great email tool with minimalist interface that aids your productivity, then please comment with your great insight on the matter.
Mint: One of the best personal finance apps in the world! It gives you a real-time, complete look into all of your finances, from bank accounts and credit cards to student loans and retirement savings. Mint also automatically tracks your spending, categorizes it, and alerts you when/if you approach your budget limit. You can even ask for custom savings tips within the app.
Outright: Essentially like Mint but for your business.
Wally: Similarly, Wally also shows a complete picture of your expenditures. However, the best part about this app is that it allows you to simply scan receipts and it will automatically input all the details of your purchase. That way, you don’t have to go through the hassle of typing in every detail of its spending, while the app saves all the receipts. Easy peasy.
Aggregated News Apps: Such apps let you receive a personally-curated online magazine that gets smarter as you use it. Here I'll refrain from recommending one, as my favourite, Zite, was shut down a while ago. And, since I think personal preference plays a huge role here, I'll offer three alternatives that you ought to check out and which all do a fine job at aggregating the news based on your content preferences. Feedly Reader, LinkedIn Pulse and Flipboard.
Stay tuned for a future post where I'll be comparing these and more in greater detail.
Pocket: Is a great offline reading tool that allows you to select and save articles, pictures and videos for later viewing. All too often I am about to read a great article but then suddenly have to do something else and. If not for Pocket I would forget all about it.
Extra: Below I will mention, IFTTT, that can automate tons of tasks. One of my favourite such tasks is to automatically save all the Twitter posts I like into Pocket. This saves me heaps of time and makes it easy to read the articles the Twitter posts typically refer to at a more convenient time.
OneNote: A cloud-syncing note taking app and uploading app, OneNote also shines with its collaboration features, such as the ability to have multiple users working on the same note or document.
Although I've sworn to OneNote, EverNote has to be as good, if not better.
Lastly, should you rather prefer simplicity then Google Keep might be your note-taking application. It functions far more like a collection of sticky notes and text clippings rather than the more extensive journal style system like the two aforementioned.
Google Docs: The ease of collaboration and real-time editing makes this an indispensable office tool.
iWork (for Mac and iOS): Essentially three different office apps collectively known as iWork. If you want the most feature-rich office apps on your phone, go with Apple's Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheets), and Keynote (presentations).
If, however, you need office apps that are leaner, you might instead choose a three-in-one app that has slightly fewer features, such as Polaris Office or Office Mobile.
Quip: Quip, referred to as 'The Living Document', brings interesting features into the crowded office market such as integrated messaging and collaborative editing. I've been using this for one of my projects and I'm likely to use it more in the future.
Prezi: A cloud-based presentation app that offers as a great alternative to the dull seen-it-all-before plain PowerPoint slides. What I mostly like about it is the possibility to create animated presentations with a just a few clicks of a button.
Alternatively you may try VisualBee, which is a great plugin for Microsoft PowerPoint that handily adds design, effects and pictures to your files.
Productivity & Time Management
IFTTT: Short for, If This, Then That, is a tool perfect for the person faced with a lot of repetitive internet tasks and phone tasks. IFTTT is a task automation app that allows you to create customized 'recipes' or tasks. I've personally been using IFTTT to automatically save email attachments to my Google Drive, automatically create reminders for emails marked as important, receive daily currency rates in a Google Sheet, etc. The app employs a wide variety of different triggers and actions — so in many ways the possibilities are endless. Give it a try.
IFTTT is extraordinary for personal tasks. Whereas, a similar software, Zapier, is better for deeper integrations and more oriented towards business. However, this comes at a price as Zapier is only free for 5 integrations and 100 repetitive task.
RescueTime: An indispensable tool for any productivity kit. The app monitors all your computer use, or just the apps and websites you tell it to log, and it then informs you when and how you're both productive and distracted. You'll be surprised to see how much time you're actually spending unproductively.
StayFocused: Absolutely one of the most effective plug-ins I have yet to try. It is an URL blocker that simply enforces discipline by preventing you from visiting websites that waste your time (for me that is easily Facebook and reading news). Highly customizable settings and a self-imposed lock-out which is very time-consuming to undo ensures that you stay on track with what you are supposed to do. StayFocused is a Chrome extension, but with a quick Google search you'll be able to find similar tools for the browser of your choice (i.e. LeechBlock for Mozilla Firefox).
Doodle.com: Whenever I need to schedule with large groups of people I turn to Doodle. Simply put, with Doodle you can create polls where invitees mark themselves as free, busy, or available-if-need-be, which eliminates a lot of back and forth correspondence in arranging meetings. One of my absolutely favourite tools.
Asana: While I prefer Trello due to its simplicity and visually appealing decks, Asana is a nice alternative that I've used a lot in the past. Asana has more features and complexity, and what's also great is that the free account supports up to 15 members and unlimited projects and tasks. But... if you are heavily CRM and lead focused then I would instead recommend Bitrix24.
HootSuite: I'm not sure what I would do without HootSuite, especially when dealing with multiple startups and thus an ubiquitous amount of social media accounts. Essentially it is a social media "dashboard" that allows you to monitor and post to all your networks simultaneously. As a blogger and entrepreneur, this is a huge time-saver. A similar tool is Buffer which is slightly simpler and with less features. Both also includes tons of support for other apps, such as posting from third-party Twitter clients like TweetCaster and read-it-later services like Pocket.
LinkedIn: I assume most of you know about LinkedIn, so I won't go in great detail about it here. However, if you don't, then suffice to say is that it is the world's largest business-oriented social networking service.
Mention: You could simply refer to Mention as the Google Alert for social media. It actively searches for key terms of your choosing, and when such terms are found one can use Mention to assign a follow-up to that activity or track the sentiment by marking it positive, negative, or neutral. For my line of startup-related work I find it a superb tool to follow and stay engaged in particular niches.
Tweetdeck: A great Twitter client that makes it easy to manage multiple twitter accounts from one place.
Dropbox: An online storage locker for your files, documents, photos and other data that you can access anywhere, as well as download for offline access. You can also use Dropbox as a way to share files for collaboration and upload new material.
For the most part I use Dropbox, but due to the lack of real-time editing, I also swear to Google Drive which works better for such purposes, and in general it also serves as a great productivity aid due to its integration with the rest of the Google ecosystem.
Should your free Dropbox and Google Drive ever become full, you might also want to try Box and/or One Drive. You could for example dedicate one storage for your photos, another for projects etc., or simply spread the data evenly between them.
Psst! Did you know you can get Dropbox 1TB for just about $10 a year? I'll teach you about the hack in a later post
Any.do: A free to-do app with a wonderfully clear and simple design, plus several excellent features. My favorite feature is the "Any.do Moment," which rings a pleasant tone every morning and then offers to go over your upcoming schedule and tasks so you're prepared to meet your day. Platforms:Android, iOS, Chrome
For a bit more quirky and "gamified" to-do app at the AppStore — check out CARROT To-Do ($1.99)
Workflowy: An online tool and app that allows you to better organize yourself by making a list of high level ideas and tasks and then breaking them into smaller pieces. I've started with Personal, Work and Travel as my broad categories, and then created proper sub-lists such as my various startups, travel essentials and more. All in all, Workflowy is an ideal brain-clutter buster.
I just read the other day that Slack, a $2 billion company was started wit Workflowy — that's pretty cool!
Bluehost: Every entrepreneur ought to have a website and I've been a good customer of Bluehost for years now. You ought to browse around before you settle for one, but what I especially like about Bluehost is their affordable price, customer service and helpful live chat. Previously I used Hostgator — which was also great. You can't go wrong with either of them.
FileZilla: Open source FTP client that allows you to access all of your website's folders and files. It is an essential tool, especially once you become more experienced and want to customize and tweak your websites. Whereas FileZilla is probably the most famous and widely used FTP client, Cyberduck is also a good alternative.
Google Analytics: Free tool to receive info about how people are finding your website, what your most popular pages are etc. It is packed with features and a essential tool to all serious entrepreneurs.
WordPress: Need I say more? 75 million websites depend on WordPress, and it is the Content Management System I use for all my sites (including this one).
Stay tuned for a guide on the very best plugins for WordPress bloggers and entrepreneurs!
The Hemingway App: The closest thing to a human editor you will find. It's ability to critique your writing and show you how to improve is very accurate. Use this free tool when writing articles, blog posts, press releases, important emails, etc.
Other Great Web Tools
CamCard: An invaluable tool I end up using a lot after conferences and similar events. With your phone you can easily scan, manage, sync and exchange business cards. No more card clutter. What is especially great is how accurately it reads the cards you scan, which means — less time for manual input and more time to do the things that truly matters to you. As easy as that.
ContentIdeaGenerator: Simply answer 18 simple questions about your products and services, and it will generate hundreds of great ideas for blog posts, articles etc. I also find it very useful in the early stages of brainstorming a new project — it can create some neat synergies that you hadn't really thought of before!
Duolingo: This great app is perfect for picking up language on the go. You might be saying, "why is this on the list?". Well, hear me out. In an ever-increasingly global and interconnected world knowing some other languages, if so just the basic of it, can get you a long way. I use it all the time when I'm doing unproductive things such as waiting for the bus (or hitting the loo).
LastPass: I use LastPass to easily get access to all of my passwords in a very secure way. As they so eloquently put it themselves: "Stop wasting time writing, remembering, and resetting passwords. Only remember one master password, and keep the rest locked up and easy-to-find in the LastPass password manager".
Prey: Hopefully you'll never have to use this software but you should take precautions and set it up. Prey is a lightweight theft protection software that helps you recover your laptop or phone if ever lost or stolen. It does so by tracking your device as soon as it is connected to the internet — and you can remotely wipe all of the data, and more.
SpeedTest: A very useful tool when traveling to get a sense of whether the internet connection is decent. Especially of great use when you're preparing for Skype meetings. It doesn't fix a slow internet though... I wish.
VyprVPN: When traveling to certain countries, such as China (which I do quite often), it is hard — if not impossible — to get into various social media sites without VPN. While I'm no expert on what's objectively the best option out there, I interchangeably use VyprVPN and Onavo. What I particularly like about VyprVPN is the ease of changing country. For example, I can easily swap to a Norwegian IP address in the settings to watch country-restricted news and live events (while we Norwegians like to think that our winter sports is a big deal, it is hard to come by any agency bothering to cover it outside of Northern Europe...).
XMind: A free mind mapping tool that has survived the test of time. I find myself using it in the beginning of every project I set out to do — it is a great way to brainstorm, make a plan and turn ideas into achievable steps. I've also heard that Mindmeister is awesome — but I've never tried it myself!
So that's it folks, the list of must-have tools for any entrepreneur. What did I miss? What are your favorite resources? Share with us in the comments!
Jon | Bucket List Fanatic