Finding the best tech to make us more productive is a hot topic right now. The sentiment I’ve heard repeated over and over is, “I’m overwhelmed! There are so many productivity apps and tech tools. How do I choose what to use? What do I really need?”
When it comes to technology, 2017 is all about doing more with less. There are thousands of tools for you to use, but the vast majority of them won’t increase your efficiency. What we need to do is find a core set of very high utility, multi-use tools that will just work for us day in and day out, on good days and bad days. It’s about using tools that can eliminate, consolidate, automate and delegate your work.
Think of it like this: a carpenter can only carry so many tools around on their tool belt before it’ll knock them over. You can shop for thousands of different tools at a hardware store, but at the end of the day, it’s about the tools that get the job done—which aren’t necessarily the newest or flashiest.
The following is a list of the six best productivity apps and tech tools that we teach to our clients.
Rundown: Asana is a project management platform that stores tasks for you and your team. It’s like a to-do list on steroids.
Why I love it for 2017: Our team uses it in not one, not two, but FOUR different ways.
- It’s our primary method of communication. While some teams use more distracting technologie—like Slack—our team has been trained to communicate inside of Asana.
- It’s our personal and business to-do list tracker.
- It’s our business project management tool for our 10 person team.
- We’ve hacked it to work as a CRM—customer relationship management—for ongoing relationship management of our clients and community.
They’ve made some big updates in the last few months that have really crushed a lot of their major competitors, including the new Boards feature for projects that took a major swing at other project platforms that operate with this card feature, such as Trello.
Rundown: There are several different tools within Google Apps, but they all work inside the same ecosystem, so I approach it as one big tool.
It handles my email, my business documentation systems—which allow many functions of my business to run on autopilot), my calendar, and my photo/video storage. It’s like the filing cabinet for my life.
Why I love it for 2017: Google is finally investing more in many of the apps that have lingered there for a long time. Google Voice just got a major overhaul. The new “Explore” functionality inside of Slides, Sheets, and Documents is remarkable. They’re bringing in AI functionality that has changed the way my team analyzes data and creates presentations. I can ask a lot more from junior team members because the interface is so intuitive. Plus, Hangouts has notable improvements for texting and calling which has led our head coach to give up his phone plan altogether.
A key differentiator of Google Apps versus say, Microsoft, is that they allow third party app integrations. All of the third party apps that you already use can be seamlessly integrated into your Google Drive, and will pop up when you click “Create.”
Rundown: Snagit is a next-level screencasting tool. Screencasting allows you to record a video of what your laptop screen is displaying, with the option to have your own voice narrating in the background.
For example, if you want to tell your graphic designer what changes you want her to make to an advertisement, you can turn on your screencasting app and visually show her exactly what you want done instead of having to explain it in a lengthy email, or having to schedule a 30-minute meeting with her to talk it through.
Why I love it for 2017: Guys, the cutting edge performers right now are using Screencasting to replace meetings. That’s right, we’re eliminating meetings altogether thanks to tools like Snagit. My team has a total of 30 minutes of meetings per week. That’s it. And we use those 30 minutes to catch up with each other on a personal level, not make major decisions. The major decisions all happen inside of screencasting, which we drop into Asana. The combination of the two means most meetings have become obsolete.
Rundown: Streak is a CRM—customer relationship management—program that works inside of Gmail. You can combine it seamlessly with gmail without having to open it in another window.
Why I love it for 2017: Streak enables you to not only manage your sales pipeline, but also to store email templates, delay when emails are sent out, and snooze emails to come back into your inbox at a later time. Think about that—you have an insanely high level of control for your external communications using this tool. And that’s what we all want—to be able to work on our own time, in our own way, and this tool adds some functionality to Gmail that really takes controlling your communications to the next level.
Rundown: Lastpass is a password vault. It securely stores your passwords for all your accounts and even credit cards, and there’s a mobile app too. How many times have you gotten delayed or locked out of an account because you forgot your password? Or, have you just started using the exact same password for everything because you’re afraid of forgetting? Both scenarios are bad for your productivity and online security.
Why I love it for 2017: Lastpass not only stores your passwords, it auto-creates extremely secure passwords for your accounts. Even better, it also allows you to securely share access to your accounts with people you choose. That means you can have your assistant or teammate or significant other get access to your accounts without ever seeing your password! And you can revoke access anytime if they leave the company.
Rundown: Calendly is a scheduling tool that displays your availabilities for meetings. You can send your personal link to anyone and they can schedule time right on your calendar without the usual email ping-pong of, “When works for you?” “Oh Monday works for me.” “Well Monday doesn’t work for me, how about Tuesday?” So frustrating, not to mention a complete waste of time for both parties!
Why I love it for 2017: Because when meetings are a necessity, I want to automate as much of the logistics as possible. Calendly prevents me from spending 30-minutes scheduling a 30-minute meeting. It allows me to control exactly when meetings get scheduled, and it allows all my calls to happen inside the same 3-hour period every week. Automatically!
There you have it: the six key pieces of technology that I can’t imagine living without in 2017—and I am using them for 95% of my day! Your goal this year should be to cut away all of the technological clutter, and focus on your core five to six tools that are durable and multi-functional. I can promise that when you do, you’re going to see your productivity leap forward exponentially while the rest of the world keeps getting distracted by a new, shiny app.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.