10 Apps to Make You More Productive
I had a notification pop up on my Facebook feed this week; “Congratulations! 15 years ago you joined Facebook”, or something like that. This got me thinking, it’s hard to imagine a time without social media and technology at our fingertips. But, of course, there was a time... I was 31 when I joined Facebook, with a newborn in tow, which means I happily spent my twenties without any of it being on social media. Most of us only accessed emails on a desktop and shock horror filters for photos didn't exist!
Who would have thought 15 years ago that technology, social media and the internet would have changed our lives and the way we do business so much? We know, of course, that the gig economy is not a new way of working, but technological advances and covid mean the way we work is very different now. Technology makes our business lives so much easier, allowing us to work where we want, when we want and be more productive. It is therefore essential that we embrace it - if you already haven’t done so...
To help you wade through what seems to be an endless (and promotional) sea of apps and software I have picked what I consider to be good apps that I use on a regular basis or those that have been personally recommended to me. Most of these are free and have optional upgrade options, so take your pick, have a go and if they don’t work for you, simply delete and try something new.
Below are my top 10 that I really couldn't manage without and there's a whole lot more on my Resources page which you can access here.
Oh, and I don't get any referral fees, these are purely my recommendations.
If, like me, you spend most of your day working via a laptop, you need to ensure you have top-notch security. I’m going to assume that you already have a decent anti-virus software package already installed, so the next step is to secure all those passwords. Yes, that means NOT writing them down passwords in a book! Apps like Lastpass and Dashlane keep your passwords stored safely and will automatically fill logins for you. You can even share passwords with other people securely without them ever actually knowing your password. This is great for me as I often need access to websites for clients and using this app means they can share login details safely and can easily revoke access.
2. Online Collaboration
There are a lot of apps to choose from if you’re thinking about online collaboration, so consider what you actually need. Slack takes conversations away from email and brings it to a platform where either your employees or clients (or both) can chat etc. For me it’s become an essential tool that allows me to collaborate with my clients efficiently via separate work spaces. It's become such a valuable tool that I’ve even written a blog about it here.
When it comes to sharing and editing documents, GSuite and Microsoft Office are the champions. I use both for different clients, but personally I prefer GSuite for online collaboration such as sharing documents, but conversely, I prefer the email, PowerPoint, Word etc in Microsoft Office.
There's also a raft of collaboration software in terms of project and task management. I use Trello but Asana is also a popular alternative. I'm going to be exploring Notion over the next few weeks as I heard a lot of good recommendations.
Don't think you need online account software, think again! I'm a sole trader and don't have massive outgoings so at first I found it hard to justify the cost but the time I save when it comes to submitting my tax return is huge. I also send invoices and track cashflow through my software which is also a time saver.
There are quite a few standout apps for managing your accounts, all of which have slightly different options and pricing. Many of them will have an introductory offer. Just think about what you require in an accounting software system and your target price, then do your research. I recently moved from QuickBooks to ClearBooks as it had more features at a better price. They also have excellent customer service that I have since discovered.
If you use an accountant have a chat with them regarding software as they will have a preferred provider and they will probably be able to provide it to you at a discounted rate.
I flipping love a to-do list. Call me old fashioned but I still use a paper list for daily actions but this is used in conjunction with an online list that tracks tasks and notes.
There are a ton of apps out there to help with your planning and productivity. Some are of course paid-for, like Evernote, but there are also many that are free. To-do list apps are very visual so this about trying a few out and seeing what works for you. Some apps like Todoist are quite simple to use and great if you just want lists (this is what I use). Apps like Any.do can be synced to your phone and calendars and offer greater functionality. And there's also Google Tasks and Microsoft To Do if you like to work from within a calendar.
5. On Line Appointments
Again there is a wealth of software available for online bookings at differing costs. Think about what you actually need then go onto YouTube and watch some reviews. I use Calendly which is super easy to sync and use. People can book discovery calls with me via my website which is linked directly to my work calendar so it only shows time slots that are free. The benefit of using software like this is that it stops the endless email conversations that can take place when people are trying to book appointments.
6. Video Conferencing
Covid has meant video conference software has been used by pretty much everyone in the UK during the last couple of years. Zoom have very quietly made some radical changes recently including limiting 1-2-1 time to 40 minutes (this used to be free for however long you wanted). A good alternatives is Google Meet. Anyone with a Google Account can create a video meeting with up to 100 participants, for 60 minutes for free. I used Google Meet recently and it was very similar in functionality to Zoom.
As I have a subscription to Microsoft Office I will be moving to Teams for longer meetings but I do prefer Zoom.
7. Graphic Design - Canva
I love Canva and have enjoyed watching the companies growth and the way the software has developed over the last 6 years. If you’re looking to create graphics and video for content marketing, branded templates, ebooks or just about anything else, then this is the program to use if you’re a beginner or don’t have the time or inclination to learn InDesign. The free version is great but I use it so much that I have the pro version.
If you're short on design inspiration, don't worry as there's templates for everything include Instagram highlight covers. Don't forget to bookmark their blog as there's lots of design tips, tutorials and ideas.
8. News Aggregators
These are online apps for both desktop and mobile. Not for everyone but those that do use them find them invaluable, like me. The purpose is to collect articles from various sources and view them in one place. They are a great way to see what’s happening in your niche and keep up to date with the latest news. You have the option to add your own websites and the apps will also give you their recommendations. Top ones are Flipboard, Feedly and Pocket. I use both Flipboard and Feedly as I was introduced to one by a client and have kept using it.
I think it’s also worth mentioning Medium. This isn’t a news aggregator as such, but it is an online publishing platform that has some really interesting writers, journalists and bloggers.
9. Social media scheduling
When used correctly, these are great tools that can save time. They allow you to schedule content when you like, and often in advance. Some offer an approval process with their upgraded options, which is great if you work with a team. But these apps are not a replacement for social media interaction; you still need to allocate time in your day to comment, like and share content.
Do you know that you can also schedule content in advance direct to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter which is now my preferred option.
10. Screen recorders
Again this is a bit niche, some people will use screen recorders a lot while others won't. It's great when working with a client and you want to show them how to do something, ie create a template in Outlook for emails, because you can record the video which they can keep if necessary and refer back to at any point.
There are quite a few screen recording software options out there, but it’s really important that you pick the correct one for the task in hand. OBS software is free, albeit a bit complicated, but it’s the best software out there if you’re recording video games - overkill for my needs. For other tasks, there’s Loom and Screen-o-Matic, both of which are free (with upgrade options). I use Loom because I like the option of being able to send a URL link to my videos which are stored in my Loom library instead of downloading and sending the video.
I'm sneaking this one in because it's useful. If you use stock photos on a regular basis then read my blog post for more advice on how to comply with the law when using stock photos and my recommendations of some of the best free sites.
There you have it my top ten app and software recommendations. There's actually quite a lot more that I use including TinyPNG, Mailerlite (blog post coming soon), PDF Escape etc. You can find links to these and more on my Resources page.