Many small business owners often run behind schedule due to numerous time-consuming tasks that require attention. There are numerous inexpensive or free resources that can help you streamline complex tasks, whether you need more time for managing social media, collaborating with remote workers, tracking finances, managing projects, or keeping your work organized. When you need to focus your time, consider these time-saving tools and what they can do for your small business.
Identifying Time-Consuming Tasks
Before looking for tools to help your small business save time, it helps to identify the most time-consuming tasks you and your employees face. If you believe that valuable work time is being lost to surfing the web, Rescue Time addresses those concerns. This program tracks the amount of time a user spends on the computer and internet, showing you where your small business loses the most time. To use this app:
- Download and open RescueTime
- Let it run in the background while it collects data for a week.
- Navigate to Categorize Activities and classify websites or programs as work or recreation.
- Study your activity log to determine periods of productivity and procrastination.
- Set up filters to block distracting websites during certain periods of time.
- Subscribe to weekly emails with breakdowns and evaluations of your productivity.
Social Media Automation and Collaboration
If posting on your business’s various social media accounts has become too much of a time suck, you may want to use Hootsuite to streamline the process. Hootsuite tracks all the well-known social media platforms businesses use to stay connected with their customers on one easy-to-use dashboard. It also keeps you up-to-date on the views, clicks, likes, and shares of all your posts so you can see what works and what needs some help. This time-saving tool lets you schedule future social media posts, and it also provides space in the cloud for pre-approved content your employees can post as needed. This app has a free trial, with costs for paid plans depending on the number of users you wish to add. Larger companies can also create custom enterprise plans by contacting the Hootsuite staff.
If you want a simple way to encourage teamwork and collaboration, Yammer might be just what you need. This app works with both Android and iOS, allowing you to create a private enterprise social network for you and your employees. While you might feel social media pulls employees away from their work, simplifying communication between your workers can keep them focused and improve their work. Membership to Yammer is tied to your domain name to ensure it stays totally private. Further, you can create sub-groups within Yammer to keep your project teams chatting.
Online Collaboration Tools for Business
If you have several locations or employees who work remotely, you probably want options for online collaboration to keep your small business running smoothly. G Suite by Google Cloud provides all the functionality Google’s basic free services, including the ability to access all of those services from a single Google login, tailored toward business.
G Suite gives you business-grade security for email and messaging with Gmail, cloud storage for files and folders from Google Drive that you can make accessible to members of your team, as well as real-time co-editing on spreadsheets, documents, and presentations with Google Docs. Further, it offers video and audio conferencing capabilities through Hangouts, alongside secure team messaging. Prices for G Suite for small business start low for those on shoestring budgets.
Another option for online collaboration is Slack, a messaging app that connects team members in remote locations. The program also lets members create channels to track and archive conversations for later retrieval. Slack also lets you integrate other services into one central location to improve information accessibility and communications. Realtime Board, for instance, works with both Slack and G Suite, providing a virtual whiteboard that lets you sketch diagrams for meetings or presentations, enabling real-time collaboration or sharing regardless of shift or time zone.
Realtime Board also works with Dropbox, a cloud-based storage system that simplifies online file sharing and data backups, keeping your videos, audio files, images, and documents accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection. This productivity app comes in handy for numerous work situations, particularly those in which employees work from different locations. Let’s say that you need to give a computer file to a team member whose office is in another city. You put the file in Dropbox and send a link to the other person, who can then download the file by clicking the link. This app works with most systems, including Mac OS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, and it has free options that provide a limited amount of space. For more features and storage, Dropbox offers a variety of paid business plans.
Likewise, the freeware Android, iOS, and web app Asana works with Slack, Dropbox, and Google Sheets in G Suite. This cloud-based online collaboration tool allows team members to communicate without endless email streams, and is designed for businesses with 15 or fewer employees. Asana lets you create tasks and subtasks with due dates, which you can assign to various team members. These tasks show up on your team members’ lists and they get notifications in their email inboxes and on their mobile devices. This helps you improve the delegation process and ensures your workers stay on top of their assignments.
Another simple tool for online collaboration is Skype, which works on virtually any operating system or device. Use this app for simple conference calls with your whole staff, or put it to work in more professional-grade meetings by using its video conferencing feature. Skype lets you share your desktop with other participants, making it a great way to train new remote workers, and it’s easy to get your own local Skype number, giving your employees an easy way to check in whether they’re working at home or on a remote job for a client.
Financial Management with Time-Saving Apps
QuickBooks Online offers a variety of tools that help you better manage your small business finances. It lets you easily log revenue and expenses, helps track workers’ timesheets and create billable invoices, and simplifies financial reporting with balance sheets and income statements. QuickBooks holds all your financial information in the cloud and provides secure backups, so you can access this vital data from any location. This app also automates time-consuming tasks such as inventory management, payroll, invoicing, and recurring payments, which gives you more time to grow your small business.
If you just need a tool to keep track of your expenses while you’re on the go or travelling, Expensify might fill the bill. This handy app helps you figure out where your money goes by simplifying your tracking of cash expenses, credit card transactions, and bills. Just take a photo of your receipt or invoice, and Expensify stores and organizes it for you.
Do you need an online payment solution for your website customers? An app such as Elavon offer a merchant account that allows you to accept online payments securely, and lets you create quick, easy reports that show how your small business is doing. Ideal for both online and brick-and-mortar businesses, Elavon offers a wide array of payment solutions, including:
- Countertop point-of-sale (POS) terminals
- Wireless POS terminals
- Smart terminals
- Tablet POS terminals
- Online and ecommerce checkout
- Mobile virtual terminals for iOS and Android
Additionally, Elavon works with Apple Pay and provides 24/7 support should you need quick answers to important financial questions.
Project Management Tools That Save Time
The project management tool Trello gives you a visual overview of your project and so much more. This app lets you make boards similar to whiteboards, and for each one, you can add lists and cards for lists. This allows workers to make notes, post them within the app for sharing, and move them around a virtual whiteboard, just like they move index cards on a bulletin board. Also, you can drag these cards from one list to another, simplifying project tracking. You can create teams within the app and assign your boards to those teams, which workers then use to ask questions, discuss issues, and brainstorm problems. Trello keeps all task communication in one place, which keeps everyone on the same page and prevents data loss. You can use Trello’s web app on desktop or laptop computers or choose iOS and Android options for mobile devices.
Workflow Max tracks the time workers spend on specific portions of projects, but it also has options for providing quotes or estimates and managing leads. This functionality, plus robust reporting options, makes it an ideal solution for small businesses that provides client services. Workflow Max can potentially streamline processes and determine which employees are most productive at various tasks. It also lets you generate full reports for clients that help them understand what you’re accomplishing while working on their projects.
Basecamp stores all your business ideas in one place so nothing gets lost by the wayside. Available on most platforms, including Mac OS, Windows, iOS, and Android, Basecamp lets you make company-wide announcements from a single interface. It also gives you the capability of creating discussion boards for various projects, setting project schedules, and making to-do lists for each one. Further, it provides space to store related documents in an easily accessible repository. Basecamp’s built-in group chat and instant messaging features allow team members to discuss projects from within its interface, and it stores those conversations so you don’t lose valuable information or insights. The automatic check-in feature reminds employees to record key information so Basecamp stays up to date with your projects.
Another robust project management tool that works with Windows, Android, and iOS, Zoho Projects works great for interdependent tasks, letting you plan workflows for various jobs, which can help prevent bottlenecks in your processes. For more visual workers, this tool renders projects into Gantt charts they can customize to display the most important information first. Zoho Projects also includes a timesheet feature to better track how workers spend time on tasks, and you can export this information into various formats, including XLS and PDF files. This app works great for small businesses that provide clients with invoices for billable hours, as it shows them where their money is going.
Organizing Time-Consuming Tasks
When it comes to staying organized, sometimes less is more. For example, Wunderlist does just one thing and does it well — it helps you make effective to-do lists. This Android- and iOS-compatible app simplifies list making by adding checkboxes while allowing you to sync your lists between your devices and share your lists with your employees or coworkers. For instance, if you make a list on your desktop computer, you can also view it on your smartphone. This convenience helps you and your employees stay on task because you spend less time figuring out your daily schedule.
Likewise, Evernote offers a great solution to your note-taking needs. It not only lets you save text, it also allows you to add snippets from webpages — or even whole webpages — plus stores related images and voice notes for easy access later. Available for all devices, this app syncs your data across your computer, tablet, and smartphone so you always have your notes handy. It also lets you create notebooks to easy simple to find the data you need.
Finding Small Business Mentors
If you need advice when starting or growing your small business, Score can help. This free app makes it easier for you to discover potential mentors that share your skill set or industry background. You can also pay it forward by becoming a mentor to another small business entrepreneur. Further, Score has physical chapters that hold events designed help you improve your networking opportunities, as well as live and recorded webinars. Score’s on-demand courses let you expand your knowledge on your own time and at your own pace.
When you run a small business, time is money. With that in mind, it pays off to find tools that help you and your staff speed through time-consuming tasks. To handle your company finances on the fly, consider QuickBooks. The QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage their businesses on the go. Download the app today to save more time and money.”