Not another productivity app list
The whole world appears to be obsessed with productivity. It is understandable because getting more done in shorter time can give you and your business an edge over competitors. At Jones IT, we take pride in our ability to get $#!T done. This is something that we have inculcated over the past decade and a half.
We have come to realize that, as a business, building our core competency should take up most if not all of our time. Our core competency adds the most significant value to our service. More importantly, it makes it difficult for our competitors to imitate our business. Therefore, we invest in a number of apps that deal with the mundane work so that we don’t have to. This has not only improved our productivity but has also reduced stress at work. In this post, we share with you our top 5 applications for improving productivity.
We have been using these apps in-house for many years and our business advice comes from our personal experience with them. An investment in even a couple of these can help you improve your efficiency immensely.
1. Trello for project management
We use the Scrum framework to manage our workflow. We are also huge fans of Kanban. So it was a no-brainer to choose Trello for managing our projects and operational workflows. Trello gives us greater control over our projects by making individual tasks highly visual. We use Trello for almost everything from sales and marketing to HR. In fact, it has even crept into our personal lives.
Trello is like a digital whiteboard where you can put up sticky notes. You can have as many boards as you want. You can access the boards anytime, from any device and collaborate with your team in real time. In addition, the sticky notes or cards (in Trello parlance) can contain checklists, images, attachments, due dates, colored labels, assigned members, and discussion notes from you as well as others who share the board. Moreover, it integrates seamlessly with other apps such as Slack, Harvest, Zendesk, Google Drive, and many more. This makes collaboration across teams effortless and operations efficient.
We recently came across the Pro For Trello chrome extension and became instant fans. This extension lets you tweak the appearance of the cards and boards without messing the simplicity of the board.
2. Zapier for automation
Businesses today understand the impact that technology has on their organization. As a result, they are increasingly moving to SaaS and other cloud-based computing. Off the top of my head, I can count at least 10 web applications I use for work. If I count carefully that number is likely 20+.
All of these applications make our lives a whole lot easier. But they do come with an inherent flaw- they can’t talk to each other. This means, what happens in your email automation needs to be manually updated on other related applications such as your CRM and quote/proposal software. This is highly inefficient as the same data has to be entered or modified across multiple applications. In fact, when there are so many applications, it can be an absolute nightmare. Thankfully, Zapier swooped in to save us.
In simple terms, Zapier connects your different applications and helps them talk to each other. So when you perform an action on one app, it will trigger another action on a different app. You can string together commands with an "If X happens in app A, do Y in app B" structure where A and B can be practically any app while X and Y are actions within the apps.
For example, every time someone submits a contact form on your website, you could use Zapier to automatically add that as a contact to your CRM plus create a new card on your sales Trello board.
3. Calendly as scheduling assistant
If you have been reading our blogs, you know how useful Calendly has been to our IT Consultant teams. Calendly makes scheduling meetings hassle free. It also automates the process of booking appointments on your calendar. So you can say goodbye to getting double booked, surprise meetings at odd hours of the day, and to those unending email chains. Calendly has saved us tens if not hundreds of hours.
Calendly is easy-to-use, has a simple interface, and accelerates the process of booking appointments saving you loads of time. The free version is limited to one event type. If your work involves meetings, especially virtual ones, then Calendly is a must and the paid version is worth every cent. You can pre-define the meeting duration, select the days and hours you are available, set confirmation emails and alerts, and more. It integrates with your calendar and the slots that are booked in your calendar will automatically be blocked in Calendly.
For sales and recruiting teams, there are also the “Round Robin Distribution” options, which can optimize the distribution based on the availability of your team. You can also include a questionnaire to elicit contact information during the scheduling process. This makes the phone number, Skype, name, etc. readily available for virtual meetings.
4. Harvest for time tracking
If you aren’t tracking the time you spend working, you are missing out on critical data. Time tracking helps you understand where you are spending your time. It can give you insight into your work processes and how to bring efficiency. More importantly, it helps you set benchmarks for future projects. This is especially helpful if your quotes or bids are time-based.
Harvest has been our time tracking software for years. It is a web-based time tracking and reporting tool. It also has invoicing and expense tracking features but we’ll focus on the time tracking feature here. Harvest is simple to set up and even simpler to use. They have a sleek mobile app, which makes time tracking a breeze even when our consultants are on-site
The best part of the app is that it integrates with almost every other app that we use, be it Trello, Slack, Zendesk, Zapier, or Quickbooks. You can track your time from within apps such as Trello and Slack. This feature makes time tracking effortless and no longer feels like a chore. Additionally, Harvest lets you download the data in .csv or excel format. This has been instrumental in helping us draw deeper insights.
5. Slack for messaging
We love Slack! We have talked about Slack in our blog series about starting a business in San Francisco. In fact, we love it so much that about 99% of our internal communication happens through Slack. It gives our teams the ability to collaborate and get things done without the evil, time-devouring email chains.
If you aren’t familiar with Slack, it is a messaging app. But before you say ‘not another messaging app’, please let me interject. It is much more. It is in fact, a cloud-based team collaboration tool like no other. Communication is so important in our line of work that lots of times, the real work happens exclusively on Slack.
One of its important features is the ability to create channels, i.e. group chats based on teams or departments. This helps us get the right set of eyes on a message ASAP. You can also start a new thread when replying to a message so that the conversation doesn’t get interrupted. There is also the friendly Slackbot, which is a feature that lets you automate tasks and set reminders. In addition, you can add a number of apps that let you achieve a lot without leaving Slack and thus help improve productivity.
Productivity for you, me, everybody
Productivity is not solely about getting more done. It is rather about eliminating waste and the associated stress from your work processes. It may sound counter-intuitive that using more applications can lead to doing less. But from our personal experience, we can bear witness that it is in fact true.
Just as the apps help us become more productive by eliminating waste and removing stress, Jones IT can do the same for your company. For small and medium businesses where employees wear many hats, hiring an IT support provider can free up time for important projects and relieve employee tension. Remember, your time is a limited resource. The more time you dedicate to your core business activities, the more value you add to your product or service. In the long run, any resource spent on improving efficiency will bring exponential returns.
If you would like to learn more about productivity read our other blog- How to Increase Productivity. And as always, remember to share with the world.
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