If there’s one thing any small business is always short of, it’s time.
Often we get so bogged down in the day-to-day things that keep our businesses ticking along, it’s impossible to free up the time needed to dream up big-picture plans.
The great news is there’s an increasing number of productivity tools that can help you easily (and cheaply) streamline your operations – hopefully boosting your profits in the process.
Here are five tools you can start experimenting with now.
This project management tool allows teams to divvy up work, thrash out ideas, store and organise files and assets, and layout deadlines.
Matthew Magain, who runs the whiteboard animation business Sketch Videos, says Basecamp helps him assign to-do lists, and chat with his copywriter, illustrator and videographer in one online location. He also uses it as a repository for shared documents.
“This stuff normally happens over email or phone calls – the fact that they get sent a notification (when tasks are updated) is a huge time saver,” he says.
Alternative option: Freedcamp
Dropbox keeps files such as photos and documents safe and synced, making them easy to share.
Mr Magain uses Dropbox to store and share videos and other files that are too big to email.
It also allows him to store the various elements of each video in separate folders, such as scripts, imagery and audio, which everyone in his team can automatically access.
Alternative option: Viivo
In his second business, the online learning resource UX Mastery, Mr Magain uses HipChat, a tool that enables teams to chat privately or in a group and share files.
Users are able to organise conversations, dubbed ‘rooms’, by topic.
For instance, Mr Magain uses ‘content’ to chat around podcasts and newsletters, and the ‘community’ room for chats about fostering the business’ online community.
Alternative option: Glip
Task management tool Things is something Mr Magain says he “would not be able to live without”.
The tool is basically a giant to-do list, which can be viewed by project, topic, or priority.
Mr Magain uses it to capture anything he needs to do in his professional or personal life, and the information is synced to his phone.
He uses it in conjunction with an Excel spreadsheet, where set times for each task are laid out.
“I realised that if I don’t plan my time like this then I’m completely reactive.”
Alternative option: Todoist
Advertising agency PENSO uses a large array of productivity tools to improve business efficiencies, including software development tool Jira.
Penso’s head of production David Rigbye says Jira has helped the business dramatically improve the way it delivers its products - such as websites, designs and videos - to clients.
“It allows us to break projects into tasks and ship them incrementally,” says Mr Rigbye.
“Rather than disappearing for months on end and launching a big project at the end of that period - it enables us to deliver the first component in one week or even one day.”
Alternative option: Assembla