If you run your own business then the chances are you often feel like a juggler, fiercely focused on all the tasks at hand, but at times struggling with the effort of delivering them – keeping all the balls in the air.
In today’s mobile age, there are myriad ways that are revolutionising how we manage our working lives, many of them in the form of apps.
In my personal life I use apps to help me lose weight, get fit, and catch up on podcasts. They’ve helped me cut down some of my daily business workload too, freeing me up to focus on the stuff only I can do. But there is the lurking danger of ‘app overload’ - a phone that’s bulging with icons, some of which are so under-used you’ve forgotten why you downloaded them in the first place.
So before diving into the wonderful world of productivity-enhancing apps, it’s worth taking a moment to think clearly about what you want them to do for your business.
According to research by Ipsos and Google, two thirds of us use an app frequently
when it simplifies our lives (https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/mobile-app-marketing-insights.html)
In my business I consider how an app can :
· save time & money
· increase productivity & profit
· develop my skills
Here are five favourites that hit those buttons.
Canva simplifies graphic design. I manage social media for clients and my own business and as many of you will know, a large time-sucking part of this work is spent creating appealing and relevant visuals. Step inside Canva and you’ll feel like you’ve unleashed a genie in the bottle. Quick results, fresh designs, templates for the different social platforms and the app version makes mobile-ready images too. Plus, it has recently launched a low-cost subscription based service ‘Canva for Work’ that can store your company branding and make designs that can be automatically re-sized for whatever social platform your business uses.
Second is Xero, a cloud-based accounting software package that simplifies the financial management of your business in a friendly and approachable way. You can integrate your accounts with your bank feeds and see very quickly what money is coming in and going out. We all know cash flow is king, so using Xero will ensure you can have quick control of your company accounts, even from your phone.
The next two apps relate to productivity – one on a personal level and the second is more business wide.
My journalist background means I have a tendency to thrive on time pressures and deadlines in my working life - but like many of us I also struggle with distractions. When I came across the Pomodoro technique, I was immediately struck by its relevance to my own working pattern. It consists of breaking tasks down into 25-minute chunks - when the timer goes off, you must then take a five-minute break. After four of these, you take a longer break of ideally 15-30 minutes.
The idea is that by focusing on short sprints with a break, you are able to better manage your attention span and concentration. Many apps have sprouted up to assist the Pomodoro technique - if you like the sound of it, then search the app store. I use Pomodoro Time.
The second one is Trello. Keep a track of who’s doing what, get an overview of all the working parts of a project and keep tab of individual tasks. You can invite team members, post links, checklists, visuals and it is all laid out in a fast, visually appealing way. One food business liked the sound of it when I explained how it could be used to manage new business enquiries as they came in so that they didn’t get “lost” in the fight for attention and time. It’s fully mobile and integrates with other apps too.
Finally I wanted to include something with the potential to rejuvenate our brains and help us deal with the daily overload that life and work can sometimes be - and that’s Headspace. The simple ten-minute guided mediations, led by founder Andy Puddicombe, will create some calm every morning, before you start your day. Try the Take 10 course for free to see if it works for you. Do the 30-day course and you’ll open up a whole host of packs to use for all aspects of your life. Mindfulness made easy.
Before you jump headlong into the app store though, let me leave you with this. If browsing there reminds you of being the kid in the sweet shop, next time:
· Ask yourself where do I most need help and will this app help?
· Don't buy an app just because you feel you “ought to” – if you don't end up using it, it’s a waste
· Read the reviews, not just from the store but on other sites too to get the true picture