Every year billions of dollars are lost to inefficiencies and lost productivity. Searching for emails, surfing social networks, and even setting up meetings waste time every day in offices around the world. Productivity is an important topic for every business of every size so here are a few of our favorite apps to help boost productivity in your office.
Unless you just crawled out from under a rock, you’ve probably used or at least heard about Dropbox. Dropbox allows you to access “your stuff, anywhere.” When you upload files to Dropbox you can easily access them from computers, smart phones or tablets. Whether you need to collaborate with another coworker and finish a project or simply share a large high quality video file with a friend, Dropbox makes it easy. And it’s free – roughly 2GB of space. Premium versions available.
Pros: There are many pros but one specific benefit to point out is the ability to share massively large files that are too big to be attached to an email.
Cons: If multiple users are editing the same file at the same time and one user decides to save the file, all the edits that the second user was working on become conflicted and Dropbox saves to files. This can actually slow down productivity so make sure you are aware of who is editing what and when.
If you know how to use Evernote correctly it can be a productivity powerhouse. Evernote allows you to “remember everything” from your everyday life (work and leisure) and store it on your computer or mobile device. Adding text notes, audio notes, website links, files and photos to your Evernote notebooks makes it extremely easy to keep everything important in one central location – all free. Premium versions are available, however. You can even search through all your notebooks to find notes you’ve left weeks or even months prior.
Pros: You can access Evernote nearly anywhere. Whether you go online and sign in or log into your desktop or mobile apps, all your information stored in Evernote is right there ready to go.
Cons: Evernote is designed for quick note taking and not large files. Think of it more as a digital post it note and not your all in one data organizer.
Zapier lets you “automate the web.” You can connect just about any app and remove the tedious task of going and updating your software/apps every time new data comes in. For example, if you have a process that involves leads that come in through an email then you add that lead to both Trello and HighRise you would need to edit both platforms to make sure that lead goes through the pipeline and the right people find it. With Zapier you can connect those apps with your email so that once the lead comes in it automatically triggers an update in Trello and HighRise. Free to try with and upgrade to premium.
Pros: The combinations of app integrations that Zapier supports is insane. You can integrate more than 250 apps including Gmail, Salesforce, Basecamp and Facebook.
Cons: For free and basic plan users, there can be slight delays when it comes to Zapier’s “zap” feature.
Wonder how much time you spend on Facebook each day? Install RescueTime onto your desktop and mobile device and you can find out how much time you’d rather browse the same Facebook updates rather than taking action and being productive. Ok, that was a little harsh. But RescueTime is awesome. It runs securely in the background on your computer or mobile device and it tracks the time spent on applications and websites giving you an accurate picture of how your day went in terms of productivity. Then each week RescueTime sends you an email with your productivity statistics so that you can analyze and make changes. Free service with an upgrade to premium.
Pros: The weekly email with productivity stats are pretty cool. It will tell you how much time you spend on email and communication apps. For me, the less time I spend on email and in meetings the better so I like to know how my week went in that regard.
Cons: Unless you upgrade to premium you can’t block websites. But you got to pay to play so maybe signing up for premium on this one might not be a bad idea.
Caffeine is a small little app that personally makes a big difference during my work day. Does your computer go to sleep or does your screensaver activate almost every time you get up to go to the bathroom or go talk to a coworker? If you don’t want to go in and change the system settings on your computer everyday so that your computer doesn’t go to sleep then adding Caffeine will be a life saver. Once installed a little coffee cup icon appears on your desktop bar and with a one click your computer will stay on and never go to sleep. Free application.
Pros: You don’t have to worry that your computer will go to sleep when Caffeine is activated. It makes it easy especially if your computer is password protected. And if you’re like me and you use a 15 character password then not having to type that in over and over again is a blessing.
Cons: Having your computer stay on all day drains the battery. Plain and simple.
Do you constantly have to stop what you’re doing and check your calendar/schedule because people are trying to schedule meetings with you? BookFresh lets you set up times when you are available and then people can fill in time slots to set up meetings with you on a first come, first serve basis. This is a win for everyone. BookFresh lets you stay focused and productive while letting others get what they need to get done. The scheduling app also reduces no-shows by sending out customizable emails or text reminders about upcoming appointments. Both free and paid versions are available.
Pros: The dashboard is very user friendly with simple, clear graphics, modern fonts and a nice design.
Cons: The free version is very limited (only three scheduled bookings a month) so you can’t get much use out of BookFresh unless you upgrade to a premium account.
The holy grail of project management apps, Basecamp has greatly improved over the last couple of years. When it first launched, Basecamp was hard to navigate, confusing to use, and the user interface was an eye sore. Now Basecamp is beautiful. And with such beauty comes a simple and easy to use interface that allows you to collaborate with internal and external users. You can even block certain external users from conversations when discussing actions with team members. Although this should go without saying – especially since it’s 2014 – Basecamp is compatible on both desktop and mobile which allows you to get projects done from anywhere. It’s free to try with a paid upgrade.
Pros: There are a number of advantages but one that I’d like to point out is that you can have Basecamp send you an email whenever someone updates a thread within your project. Now you won’t miss any updates and you don’t have to log into Basecamp to ask or answer basic questions.
Cons: Occasionally when you upload a document without starting a new conversation, the people who rely on email messages to notify them when work is being processed won’t be notified. This can hurt you when it comes to deadlines and miscommunication so it’s important to be thorough when updating Basecamp.
Everyone consumes and comprehends information differently. Some of us are more visual thinkers and we need images combined with text to get the most out of our conversations and meetings. Inkflow is like a word processor for visual thinking. You can draw your concepts and ideas right on your mobile device just like if you were to doodle with pen and paper. Then you can arrange and reorganize your ideas however you’d like. Inkflow is free, with premium upgrade.
Pros: Quick sketches are really simple to set up. The colors and line thickness are great and very intuitive. You can select and resize images that you are drawing to either save space or get more detailed.
Cons: Sorry Google fan boys and girls, currently Inkflow is only available on iOS devices.