Day 20 Challenge: "State your top three tools that you will use (or already use) to save time and money and make your online world more seamless."
I love this topic! I'm a wee bit obsessed with online tools as a matter of fact. I use them for so many things... and use so many of them! It's not going to be easy to pick my favorites.
My Absolute #1 Favorite Is an Easy Choice
That would be Evernote. It's the one tool I absolutely, positively never ever want to run my business without (or my life for that matter!). They're slogan is "Remember Everything" and with the ability to create typed, written, audio and webcam notes and a smorgasbord of other apps developed to work with it, you can literally use it for everything.
I've only been using it for about 14 months or so, but it didn't take long for it to totally transform the way I work and, more importantly, how much I can accomplish. So I love, love, love Evernote. I cannot recommend this tool highly enough. It can be a tremendous help for anyone in any business, and for personal use as well.
They have a very generous free version, a Premium Personal version for $5 per month and a Business version for $10 per month per person that's great if you have a team. It has apps and desktop versions and syncs across all devices. I can access it on my laptops, my tablet and my phone at anytime and it's all in sync.
Don't underestimate how useful this is, even if you do all your work in one location. I run my business from home, but I have 2 laptops (1 powerful, oversized, desktop replacement and 1 business class), a tablet and a smartphone. These tools allow me to work ANYwhere inside or outside the house and, with the convenience of having Evernote synced on all my devices, I can be productive no matter where I'm working or what device I'm on. Admittedly I wouldn't do any heavy use on my smartphone, but in a pinch - or when I find myself wasting an hour in a doctor's waiting area - it's nice to know I can.
Evernote has developed a suite of tools that work with it and expand its functionality. And other developers also create apps that work with it. As a matter of fact, they host the annual Evernote Devcup, a competition for designers and software developers after which the Evernote community gets to vote on the best products that integrate with the Evernote API.
I'm developing an online program for those looking to leverage the power of Evernote and it will be launching in the new year.
Social Media Mayhem
The number two tool on my list is a Social Media Management tool. I've been using Hootsuite for a couple of years to manage social media, (although I generally post and interact in person on Facebook). But I've been on the lookout for something more comprehensive.
I hate signing in all over the place so I like to find tools that can serve multiple accounts and multiple purposes, especially if they do it well. It's an important time saver for me because I keep separate social media accounts for each of my businesses and often free/limited plans don't give me the ability to handle them all in one place/account.
I've looked into about 80 or so of these services over the last couple years; using the free version of Hootsuite primarily while tinkering with the others. It's been a long, ongoing project. I'm thankfully down to testing the final two. I'm comparing Sendible and HootSuite/Hootsuite Pro. So far I think Sendible is a more comprehensive service. The user interface is different so the key thing will be which one I actually USE more; because it doesn't matter how much a tool is capable of if you don't use it.
That's a really important point to understand. People ask all the time "What's the best tool for ______ ?" There are millions of online tools and apps available to accomplish things. They may run on different platforms or multiple platforms. They may do one specific thing or they may encompass a whole suite of capability. The bottom line is that the best tool to accomplish the job is whichever one you will actually USE. They all have their own user interfaces, styles, capabilities and quirks. So it really just comes down to you being comfortable enough and liking it enough to use it. There may be tools I love that you would absolutely hate and vice versa. It depends on you, your workflow, how you work best and what exactly you're trying to accomplish.
The Third Critical Element
Third on my list is finding an excellent Project Management tool. This is huge for me and maybe it should have been higher on the list. It's another area where I'm looking for a really comprehensive tool and I have some strict requirements. I've looked into many of these, but it hasn't been as long a process as the social media tools because many of them got eliminated very quickly.
I suffer from short term memory loss so, although everyone can benefit from this type of tool, it's even more important for me. I used to have a ridiculously excellent memory so I struggle a great deal with this somewhat new reality that I've been living with for the last few years. Evernote has helped a great deal with this in a lot of ways so integration with Evernote is high on my list of priorities for my Project Management tool so it works nicely with Evernote and fills in the functions that Evernote is not robust enough (or meant) to handle. This gets most tools eliminated right off the bat. And for the ones that don't have a direct integration, there has to be something really fabulous about them for me to consider a workaround method of integrating Evernote.
Right now I'm testing out Nozbe, IQTell, Get It Done App, Trello and Asana. They each have their strong points and limitations. The other big thing that comes into play in this decision is the fact that I have multiple businesses and manage about 60 projects on average at a time so the winner has to be able to handle all of it and do it intuitively. The final requirement is that it be easy to implement with virtual staff and employees. It's a tall order and these 5 are the front runners.
In my defense, I did admit that it wasn't going to be easy to choose my favorites so here's a bonus... ok, a few of them ;-) ...that I think may be helpful to you.
Do you work using the Pomodoro or another timed work system? Try these clocks and stopwatches and you'll always have one handy.
Do you hoard articles and tutorials and need to organize them? You could use Evernote for that. But you might find a knowledge management app like diigo works better for you.
Do you always run across things while you're online, but don't always have time to stop and read them? Get Pocket and you can save them until you do have time; batch your reading into blocks of times and all those interesting articles will be ready and waiting for you.
Need secure cloud storage? Check out Dropbox.
Want to get your email signature working hard for you? Go to Wisestamp and get one that will help you spread your awesomeness with every email you send!
How about you? Are there any tools, apps or other things you use in your business that you couldn't imagine being without? Tell me in the comments...
I'm writing this post as part of Natalie Sisson's 30 Day Blog Challenge during which I'll follow the path she's laying with inspiration and challenges for daily blog posts. I hope you'll enjoy coming along on this journey and share your own in the comments every day. If you'd like to participate in the challenge on your own blog, just click one of the links here and you'll be taken to the page with all the details.