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15 Time-Tested Apps Your Business Can’t Live Without

Make these apps work for you, in areas like travel, money, communications and more.

Grant Davis

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In app-land, there’s a never-ending quest to serve up the next thing that makes life easier. But we think you’d be better served with our collection of battle-tested apps. They’ll help you run your business more efficiently and let you do so from your iOS or Android smartphone.

Related: 5 Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs to Stay Organised

Money

Expensify_mobile-app_time-managementTake a photo of any receipt with your smartphone. From there, the simple and intuitive Expensify lets you assign it to a trip, category or client and save it. When your event is over, sign in to the app’s connected website and download a clean expense report or sync it with one of many business accounting software programs, including QuickBooks. Bonus: Each account allows for multiple users, enabling business owners to get a one-stop snapshot of where the money goes. Pricing starts at $5 per user per month.

 

FreshBooks_accounting-AppIdeal for small-business owners who do it all, the FreshBooks mobile app lets you create and send estimates, log billable hours and project expenses, then turn them into invoices that can be sent straight from your smartphone. It’ll even let you accept credit cards with that invoice to speed up payment, then mark the invoice as paid. All this, and it seamlessly integrates with its browser-based platform. Subscription required; pricing starts at $9.95 per month.

Communications

GoToMeeting_mobile-app_organisationIt’s been around for a while, but GoToMeeting keeps getting better. Users can schedule, lead or join conference calls or video chats from a smartphone, and share or view files from a mobile browser or Dropbox. Subscription required; pricing starts at $19 per month, which allows for unlimited sessions involving up to five participants at a time. 

 

 

Slack_mobile-appThink of Slack as an instant-messenger system on steroids. Join a project group discussion or even companywide chat from any device, as well as upload files and links and open them to edit. The app’s ability to jump seamlessly between smartphone and desktop and search through conversation threads quickly makes it an invaluable collaboration tool, enabling users to save email communication for more important conversations. Slack Lite is free; enhanced versions start at $6.67 per user per month.

 

Google-translator-logoGoing international? Google Translate can help you say or write the right thing. Speak English into the mic, and the translation plays in real time. The person you’re talking to can respond in their native tongue, and you’ll hear the English translation.

The app works for 90 languages, including translating Chinese and Japanese written characters into English and vice versa. With Word Lens, a recent app update, you can point your phone’s camera at a street sign, menu and other text written in Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French or German and immediately view the English translation. Free.

Work utilities

Dropbox-pro-logoWith up to 1 TB available to Dropbox Pro subscribers, giant PowerPoint presentations or a suite of training videos can be stored in the cloud and grabbed when you need them, instead of letting them eat up storage space on your smartphone or tablet. Dropbox Pro can also be used to store hours of video, photos or audio recorded with a smartphone. The interface is clean and syncs easily between phone, desktop and web browser. Subscriptions are $99 per year.

 

 

Office-365-logoWith Office 365, Microsoft’s subscription-based Office suite, users get access to an iOS or Android app that allows for editing capabilities with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more—the workhorse programs still used by millions of businesses. Bonus: Microsoft throws in access to 1 TB of storage on its cloud-based OneDrive platform for up to five users. Subscriptions to Office 365 Small Business Premium (which can be used on up to five computers) are $150 per year.  

 

Scanbot-logoScanbot allows you to turn a smartphone photo of a contract into a PDF, then sign it with your finger or stylus and email it or stash it away in your Dropbox or OneDrive account. This simple app lets you combine multiple snaps of multiple pages into one PDF and features optical character recognition (OCR), the ability to read a document and convert it into editable text. The app costs $2; the OCR feature is an additional $5.

 

 

Related: Apps to Help You Write a Business Plan

Evernote-logoMore than just a journal, Evernote collects and stores audio and video snips, photos, files and notes in the cloud. Users can seamlessly edit or search for anything across all devices and computers. Another plus: Share a “notebook” with your team members and use it as a repository for everyone’s input and research. The basic app is free; subscriptions to Evernote Premium are $5 per month. 

Social media

Hootsuite-logoIf you need to manage multiple social media feeds at once and see them all in one place, it’s hard to beat HootsuiteIt’s still the top choice for marketing pros who want to manage clients’ feeds across major social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The mobile app also provides analytics and scheduling capabilities. The app is free; small-business plans start at $9.99 per month.

 

 

Buffer-mobile-appLike Hootsuite, Buffer allows users to manage what’s going out via social media but also makes it possible for multiple people to schedule posts through the same feed—so your marketing department won’t duplicate your sales department’s tweets. Its specialty is the ability to instantly share any page you’re on with your followers. The app is free; small-business plans start at $9.99 per month.

 

 

 

Facebook-logoIt may be easier to friend a customer, vendor or someone in your business network via Facebook than to get their email address or get them to respond to a LinkedIn request. Once you’re connected, you can make judicious use of Facebook Messenger to bypass their inbox or voicemail. Free.

Travel

TripIt-logoLink TripIt to your email account, and it’ll automatically find your flight, hotel and car-rental confirmation emails and convert them into a master itinerary stored on your phone. The Pro version tracks flight delays, gate changes and even the traffic en route to the airport or your meeting location. It’s still the gold standard of travel-organising apps. The basic version is free; TripIt Pro costs $49 per year.

 

 

Waze-logoDownload Waze, and the next time you get in your car, you’ll join millions of users who are reporting real-time traffic information. Punch in a destination, and you’ll see alternate-route information and a realistic arrival time that you can share with anyone. Free.

 

 

 

 

TripLog-logoWith TripLog, all you need to do is plug your phone into your car or sync it through Bluetooth, and it’ll automatically start tracking your mileage once you go faster than 5 mph. Turning your car off or unplugging the unit stops it from tracking. Easy. From there, the app turns your trips into IRS-friendly reports. A premium account integrates with QuickBooks accounting software and allows you to track and manage a fleet of vehicles. The app is free; small-business plans start at $25 per year. 

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Grant Davis is the Tech and Money Editor for Entrepreneur Magazine and is always on the lookout for new ways that technology allows an entrepreneur to do more with less and the creative ways that startups find funding today.

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6 Steps To Go From Procrastinating To Productive

As an entrepreneur, practice saying to yourself, “I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.”

Jeffrey Hayzlett

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Procrastinating To Productive

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we have tasks on our list that we’d rather not do. So, we keep moving the goal post farther down the field and do almost anything we can to avoid those distasteful jobs.

Personally, I don’t like to get involved in extra paperwork or monthly expense reports. Other founders have their own least favorite activities.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because there’s an obvious solution: delegation. As a matter of fact, I created a motto along these lines: I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.

My job, after all, is to concentrate on the bigger parts of the business, like generating revenue. And while there are other such tasks that are necessary to operating a business, I might be avoiding them too because they slow me down. So, I again delegate them to the team.

I guess in a way, we’re all capable of being procrastinators.

According to a 2013 survey by salary.com, 69 percent of survey respondents said they wasted time at work on a daily basis – a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Thirty-four percent of respondents estimated they routinely wasted 30 minutes or less each day; 24 percent said they wasted between 30 and 60 minutes; and 11 percent said they wasted hours every day.

As a business owner, I could see how those numbers might send my fellow owners’ blood pressure through the roof, but my own response would be more practical: I’d pursue tools, tricks and techniques to minimise procrastination and maximize productivity.

Related: Deepak Chopra Has 3 Simple And Surprising Productivity Secrets For You

Here are a few of those techniques:

Don’t overwhelm yourself

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work on your plate, meetings and deadlines. Lately, I’ve been focusing on launching new avenues for C-Suite TV, and it can be overwhelming sometimes.

When tasks seem insurmountable, here’s one way to lessen that burden: Get out your “to-do” list. Then, instead of writing down that big task as one huge thing, break it down. Breaking a big task into multiple line items makes it more manageable. You have your end goal, but by reducing it to its smaller components, you get a clearer picture of what you need to do.

Crossing off the smaller parts of the larger task gives you a sense of accomplishment you wouldn’t have if you tackled the massive task all at once.

Flip the script

I don’t care who you are: Whether you’re a worker, a manager or a CEO, you’re just like everyone – and we all hate doing certain tasks. So why not flip the script?

Bite the bullet, kiss the frog – whatever you want to call it: Put that task at the top of your to-do list that day. You’ll eliminate the task quickly and move on to the rest of your day. Not to mention, you’ll have a bigger sense of accomplishment knowing that you’ve steam-rolled the largest obstacle you had awaiting you.

Related: How To Make Better Business Decisions That Drive Productivity And Profits

Forget perfection

Everyone wants to make a good impression and put his or her best foot forward at work. Procrastination comes not from the inability to get the job done, but from fear and insecurity. Being unsure how to perform a specific task makes us fear failure and being seen in a negative light by the boss.

I always tell my team that, “No one’s going to die.” What’s the worst thing that can happen if a specific task isn’t perfect? I might get mad if the task is not completed within the given deadline, but not if it merely needs to be tweaked. Many times, the worst conversations happen inside our own heads and we let that imaginary conversation rule our other decisions. That’s when we make mistakes.

If you’re worried about your work quality, allocate a set amount of time each day to complete (or revise) parts of the project. It’s possible to perfect a task without obsessing over it and losing focus. That’s when you know it’s time to let go of the project and focus on other things. Say it with me: No one will die.

Kill the squirrels (or distractions)

squirrels

It’s easy to procrastinate with the million distractions we have every day. According to a survey by Stop Procrastinating, 68 percent of Americans surveyed said they’d been distracted from their work duties by checking their emails, browsing the web or engaging in social media. And that was a 9 percent increase from a year before. Of that 68 percent, 39 percent said distractions cost them a whole hour a day.

Sure, it’s tempting to constantly check your Facebook or Twitter feeds, but here’s a radical concept: Log out of your social media accounts for a few hours every day.

Instead, focus on your tasks and nothing else. Do whatever it takes to get into the “zone,” to accomplish your goal. Some people at my office use headphones to muffle outside noise. I block out time on my calendar, which my employees have access to, and dedicate that time to a specific task I need to accomplish. I may even specify “no phone calls” to ensure I stay in my zone.

Be a good time manager

To transition from procrastinator to proactive leader requires organization on your part, from your mindset to your schedule. It’s hard to be organized when you feel you’re juggling multiple things, but to succeed, you must learn to juggle. Deciding how much time to dedicate to each task makes you more efficient.

For some of us busy executives, even our down time needs to be scheduled.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

Recently, I attended the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit, where I mingled with top economists, business leaders and policymakers. I had a busy schedule, interviewing a top CEO. But I also managed to schedule down time. Being from South Dakota, I enjoy the outdoors so I scheduled some fly fishing time – away from technology, emails and phone calls.

If you’re a good time manager, you’ll have time for everything, including play time. It takes some dedication and discipline, but it’s not impossible.

Remember that the early bird gets the worm

I operate on little sleep. As any workaholic will tell you, when you go to bed at night, you can’t wait to start your day the next morning. Indeed, dawn is the most productive part of the day, according to this Wall Street Journal article. That hour of the morning brings minimal distractions, no email and hardly anyone on social media.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, starts his day at 3:45 a.m.. Richard Branson likes to “sleep in” until 5 a.m., and even my friend and fellow entrepreneur Peter Shankman gets up before it’s light out. As a business owner, entrepreneur and keynote speaker, I’ve done my fair share of early mornings; You’d be surprised how much you can get done by the time everyone else walks in the office.

The one takeaway here is that in order to make a successful transition from procrastinating to productive, you have to be disciplined, motivated and focused: disciplined enough to curb distractions, motivated enough to want to reach your end goal and focused enough to execute a plan that works for you.

We’re all different, so there’s no magic bullet solution for procrastination. But if you can build a plan that works for you, work the plan.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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(Infographic) The Organisational Tactics, Work Habits And Routines Of The Most Successful People

Take a look at how some of the most successful people set up their workspace.

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How your workspace is set up can help or hinder your productivity. So what makes for a great workspace?

For inspiration, see how people such as Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey organise their desks and surroundings. Of course, different tactics work for different people. So to maximise productivity, find what best suits you.

While many people believe a clean desk will provide clarity and decrease stress, that’s not what Albert Einstein thought. In fact, Einstein was a supporter of the messy desk, having once said:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

Related: 5 Habits You Should Steal From Other Entrepreneurs’ Morning Routines

Mark Zuckerberg prefers to have the same desk as every other Facebook employee. Studies have shown that open floor plans can encourage creativity and productivity – especially if you’re rubbing elbows with the CEO.

Another option is the standing desk. According to research, productivity can get a 10 percent boost when using a standing desk. An avid user of the standing desk was author Ernest Hemingway, who put his typewriter on top of a bookshelf in his bedroom.

Check out National Pen’s infographic below to see the desk styles of some of the most famous people history to today.

national-pen-famous-desks-infographic

Related: 3 Daily Routines For Becoming Happier And More Successful

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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11 Ways To Maximise Every Part Of Your Day

From their morning routine to being productive at the office, entrepreneurs share how to get the most out of your time all day.

Entrepreneur

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How to maximise the day

Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything today. However, you might be happy to know, there are some simple things you can do to maximise your time and productivity. For starters, have a set routine – that could be a specific time to get coffee in the morning, a brief workout or a process for catching up on emails.

As part of Entrepreneur‘s “Guide to Getting More Done Every Day,” check out these 11 productivity secrets from successful entrepreneurs.

Have a routine

expresso-coffee

Drink up!

“I have a set routine I never break: Get up, walk to a coffee shop, have an espresso. It gets my brain ready to prepare for everything I am doing that day. When I’m home, I take my son, and when I’m traveling, I get to explore a new place.” – Patrick Quinlan, CEO, compliance management software company Convercent

Exercise in the morning

morning-routine

Get your day off to a great start

“At 6 a.m., five days a week, I ride for an hour on a stationary trainer. The meditative state I achieve while working out always sparks new ideas, so I’ve started capturing those thoughts after my rides, either with Siri notes or old-fashioned pen and paper.” – Neil Grimmer, founder and CEO, personalised nutrition brand Habit 

Get ready in the morning

getting-ready-in-the-morning

Morning routine is important too

“The Keurig is set to go on at 5:30. I like to have my coffee and check emails before I wake up my children for school. I use this precious time to organise orders, plan warehouse priorities for the day and check in on production. This allows me to go into my day feeling proactive and ready.” – Sara Stein, founder, gift brand Sisters of Los Angeles 

Have Wi-Fi everywhere you go

wifi-availability

… but also remember why you need it

“Great wi-fi is key – I’ve even brought my Eeros with me on trips where I’m staying in Airbnbs. If I’m in a hotel, I make sure there’s a decent gym and a great café nearby. Having a small routine on the road helps it feel less foreign.” – Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and Initialized Capital

Wear headphones

headphones

What are you listening to?

“Fake [listening to] headphones. I have these obnoxiously large, white-and-red headphones that go over my entire ear and can be spotted from miles away. Sometimes I just put them on even if there is no music playing as a signal to leave me alone. Works like a charm. Until my team reads this!”– Scott Tannen, co-founder and CEO, bedding company Boll & Branch

Block ‘work time’

time-blocking

Leave some time for yourself

“Block ‘work time.’ My co-founder Alex and I both carve out 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on our schedules every day and protect it as best we can, so we can get through pressing items and avoid being a bottleneck to the team on outstanding questions.” – Jordana Kier, cofounder and co-CEO, natural tampon company LOLA

Communicate

communication

There is not I in TEAM

“Everyone steps out of their office at 9 a.m. and shares a piece of good news. It can be professional or personal, as long as it’s office-appropriate. It gets team members into a shared space and allows us to start the day on a high note while getting to know each other and talk about successes.” – Monica Guzman, COO, public relations firm Konnect Agency

Create fun office rituals

office-lunch

Lunch on you!

“For our internal executive meetings, if one or more people arrive late, they have to buy lunch for the next meeting. This keeps people on time and gamifies the meeting. We laugh about it with each other every time.”  – John Rubey, CEO, content provider Fathom Events

Take advantage of your commute

train-commute

That’s if you take the train or someone else is driving

“If you commute to work on a train, with limited connectivity, as I do, think of one meaty email you’ve been avoiding writing and give yourself the length of the commute to really dig in. It makes the trip go faster and lets you start your day with a great sense of accomplishment.” – James Hirschfeld, co-founder and CEO, stationery brand Paperless Post

Schedule short meetings

short-meetings

Timing is everything

“We schedule regular 20-minute walking meetings with our colleagues. The limited window forces function and encourages both parties to be efficient in their communications. It’s surprising how many issues can be resolved or clarified in that tight timeframe.” – Evelyn Rusli, co-founder, baby food brand Yumi

Workout at your desk

desk-exercise

Stretch it out

Sometimes you simply can’t get out. “In the office, there’s nothing wrong with doing sets in between calls and meetings. Do 20 squats, 20 jumping jacks.” Bonus points if you break a sweat. (Sorry, work clothes.) – Martellus Bennett, founder of creative firm The Imagination Agency

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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