We all have our own ways of getting organized. Some of us are all about lists, while others love post-it notes or whiteboards. For some, a combination of these – and more – is what’s needed to stay on top of things in business.
Because let’s face it: organization is key to doing efficient business. Finding a way to properly plan your tasks, projects and deadlines means that you can deal with them simply and effectively. When you know what’s coming up, you can delegate your time accordingly, or pass a task on to someone else, like your VA.
And perhaps more importantly, organization takes the pressure off. When something is jotted down, outlined or added to a task list, you no longer need to expend valuable time and energy thinking about it. This is a bigger weight off your shoulders than you’d expect.
There’s no one organizational tool for everyone. But there are plenty that are perfect for someone – and that someone may just be you. Let’s look at some of our favorite tools for keeping business running smoothly.
Remember everything with Evernote
Evernote’s elephant icon is meaningful: it represents the gentle giant’s incomparable memory. The Evernote app, an Apple stalwart, is designed to make sure you don’t forget a thing that you need to do. And with over 150 million users, it’s pretty clear that that Evernote is a gamer-changer in business.
So, what is it? In short, it’s a note-taking app. But it’s far more than that. That’s partly because on Evernote a note can be anything you want. Evernote lets you create project to-do lists, take pictures of sketches or boardroom whiteboard notes, or collect helpful links, graphs or documents. These can all be grouped into specific projects, annotated with due dates or to-do item checklists, and shared with team members who can comment and add feedback. Evernote also has a powerful search function that lets you find absolutely anything you’ve saved – including hand-jotted notes!
And best of all, Evernote goes anywhere you do. Anything you save to your Evernote app on your phone, for example, shows up instantly on your computer, iPad or other connected device. Because it’s a cloud-based service, you can log in to your account from anywhere, and have everything that you need at your fingertips. It’s definitely a tool that gets the thumbs up from our team. But it’s not just us – Michael Hyatt is a big proponent of Evernote, too – check out his suggestions for 12 surprising ways to use Evernote!
Create quick social media graphics with Canva
You know you need to be on social media. Even more, you know you need POST on social media. But what? And where do people get those great graphics they’re posting?
Canva is an online design service (with a great free platform) that allows you to create beautiful graphics quickly.
They have predesigned templates you can modify or just use for inspiration. With plenty of free stock images and fonts, you’ll be creating professional looking graphics in no time.
When you’re ready to go to the next level, Canva’s paid subscription allows you to enter your company’s colors, upload fonts and design templates.
Their mobile app will let you design on the go and push designs directly to social media.
Stay on top of project management with Basecamp
Projects that involve multiple staff, deadlines and milestones can be a challenge to juggle. Without an effective project management tool, it’s easy for miscommunications, inefficiencies and project bloat to occur. Enter Basecamp. Used by millions worldwide, it helps businesses streamline, get organized, prevent problems and bottlenecks – and of course actually get ahead on those big projects.
Basecamp functions as a central place for organizing your projects, teams, internal communications and client work. An HQ section lets you share company-wide messages, while smaller team sections, such as “marketing” or “admin”, are used to share project details with the people working on them. Team members can post comments in a message board section – a far better option than dealing with messy email chains. Team leaders can also assign tasks to individual members via to-do lists; these lists indicate what’s been done and how things are coming along. A chat room, file-sharing section and calendar help round out the offerings. Need some daily accountability? Team members can “check in” each day and make a note of what they’ve been working on and whether they’re on track.
Basecamp’s pricing options make it great for larger teams; for smaller teams who want similar functionality, Asana and Trello are other great options.
Keep track of your time with Toggl
Time is money, so knowing where you’re spending your time is a must in business. Perhaps you bill hourly, or you just want to make sure you’re not spending more time than you think on certain tasks or projects. This is where time-tracking tools like Toggl come in.
Toggle is a simple, streamlined way for tracking the time you’re spending on a particular project for a particular client. Just name the project, name the client, hit “start”, and Toggl ticks away in the background. A stats page shows you how much time has been spent on each project or client per day, week, month or even year. Accompanying this is an insights tool that shows you your profitability and personnel costs – helping you determine where inefficiencies may lie.
Tasks can be tagged as “billable” or with other relevant markers, and a daily color-coded tracker at the footer for your page gives you a visual overview over where you’re spending your time – and whether you’re being paid for it.
Toggl is a cloud-based tool, so you can run it in your computer browser or on your phone. You can also integrate it with Asana and Basecamp as well as with accounting tools such as QuickBooks and Xero. This helps you take control over your projects – and simplifies your billing.
Keep the money coming with Xero
QuickBooks is clearly the behemoth of accounting software, and it’s our platform of choice for bookkeeping (both the desktop and online versions). But it’s not the only one out there.
Some, like FreshBooks and Sage One are great for sole traders, for example.
Another handy up-and-comer is Xero, an online accounting system designed for small business.
Like the other tools we’ve listed above, Xero is cloud-based, meaning you can access it from any device. Another plus is that it’s big on simplicity – which means that you can spend less time on bookkeeping and more on those billable hours.
Xero lets you easily build customized, itemized invoices for clients, along with expense claims, bills and project quotes. When you use its online billing feature, you can see when clients have opened your invoices – and you can automatically follow up on overdue payments. Partial-payment functionality, customizable account creation and integration of multiple bank accounts gives you a huge amount of flexibility over your cash flow, and its at-a-glance charts and reporting pages give you insight into your month-on-month performance.
On top of all of this, Xero lets you manage your payroll, including paying employees and handling payroll taxes. Functionality like this, as well as its “smart” reconciling feature, which connects with your bank accounts to allow for one-click reconciling, makes balancing your books a breeze. As noted above, you can integrate it with Toggl – and 500+ other business tools – to keep your business completely on track.
What’s your favorite way of working?
These are just some of the tools we use to help make our business lives easier – and more efficient. The choices you make will depend on how you prefer to work, and what makes sense to you in your own area of business. But we’ve found that opting for centralized options like these has helped take a lot of the actual organization off our hands. The result? More time to work on the business, instead of in it.
Please note: none of these tools are affiliate links. They are simply recommendations to products we find helpful in our business and supporting our clients. We are not being paid to endorse them, and we are not responsible for any experience with them.
At the end of the day, even with tools and programs to help, you may still run out of hours. Or you may not want to spend the time to become proficient in these tools. In either case, we’re here to help. Ready to find out how? Schedule your complimentary consultation and let’s get started!
Let our team handle all the back office details while you work on the front end of your business.
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