No two small business owners are alike. Yet there is one thing they could all use more of: time.
Unfortunately, the universe has yet to offer a way to cram more hours into the day. Still, entrepreneurs are innovative by definition, and a challenge is not something that has ever stopped people like Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey in their pursuit of success.
Since there’s little chance that our planet’s orbit will change, miraculously giving us a lengthier day, the next best thing small business owners can do is work smarter, not longer. How can you possibly do that when you’re running a company whose fate rests largely on your capable but overburdened shoulders? You just have to outsmart the workday.
Wringing more productivity out of your typical weekday isn’t as challenging as you might think. As it turns out, there are plenty of companies that help entrepreneurs better compete in a progressively crowded marketplace. Because you probably don’t have time to research them yourself, we’ve done the research part for you. Here are some of our favorites, grouped according to specialty.
Project Management Tools
No matter what your small business does, there’s a good chance that Trello, a cloud-based project management tool, can help make it more efficient. That’s because Trello boards let you organize, well, anything. To make your life easier, Trello enables you to set up discrete lists that show customizable progress milestones (“Upcoming Project,” “Doing,” “Done”). Users then create ‘cards’ that summarize ongoing projects—anything from a major business initiative to an errand that needs to be done—to which they can assign due dates, checklists, and employees. As each project advances, its corresponding Trello card can similarly be moved into one of the pre-determined progress lists—a feature that makes progress updates easy as pie.
Another popular project management tool, Podio features a smooth and easy-to-use interface that makes for seamless real-time collaboration. Podio lets users create tickets for project deliverables that can then be assigned to individual employees. It also lets users group projects according to specific clients, providing small business owners an important tool that allows them to more efficiently keep track of individual customer requests.
Content Management Tools
If you’re in need of a streamlined content planning and production workflow tool, then DivvyHQ is for you. (Full disclosure: Free Enterprise is a Divvy client.) From managing a team of writers, editors, and design professionals to planning and monitoring all of your content needs—everything from blog posts and social media to whitepapers and infographics—Divvy takes the tedium out of the editorial process.
This technically could be classified as a project management tool, but it also works really well for anyone who wants to better keep track of digital content. Smartsheet functions a lot like Microsoft Excel: It provides cloud-based spreadsheets that users can customize to fit their needs. As a content management tool, Smartsheet lets users keep track of as much or as little of the editorial process as they’d like. It also has a useful archive feature, and its spreadsheets can be exported by e-mail. Its simplistic design also makes collaborating a cinch, especially for new users.
Calendar and Scheduling Tools
As devoted readers of Free Enterprise know, we’ve written about Timeful before. It’s such a helpful app, however, that we couldn’t pass up the chance to highlight it again. Available for free through iTunes, Timeful is a calendar app that acts as a one-stop-shop for all of your calendar-related needs. Users simply tell Timeful what tasks they want to complete, and Timeful will suggest appropriate times for accomplishing those goals; as Timeful learns how you operate on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, its recommendations get more nuanced and specific. Apart from its futuristic calendar-mapping algorithms, Timeful also allows users to track their progress and to incorporate more positive habits into their schedules.
Every small business owner knows how stressful it can be to have a day filled with back-to-back meetings and phone calls. Even worse? Scheduling those meetings in the first place. That’s where ScheduleOnce comes in handy. The service lets users create customizable personal booking pages that they can share with anyone. Once a recipient has selected a time for a meeting, ScheduleOnce users can then decide whether to accept the proposed time. If a time is accepted, ScheduleOnce automatically creates an event in your calendar and sends out a confirmation to other meeting participants. It’s like having a personal assistant—without having to pay one.