About a year ago I left my wonderful corporate job to start my business. I knew my business would start as a company of one and probably remain that way for some time. With a lean budget and limited time in the day, I quickly became acquainted with a variety of tools that would make it possible to run my business in an efficient and organized way.
One thing I’ve struggled with, that I think many entrepreneurs can relate to, is getting focused. There are so many different things that you can do in a day, but that doesn’t mean you should do them all. While getting focused and running my day versus letting the day run me is still something I’m working on, there are tools that I can’t live without.
These are my 3 favorite applications to stay organized:
Toggl: Find out how you’re really spending your time
A few months into running my business I realized that I might not be using my time as efficiently as possible. Given that my goal at that time was increasing my client business, I knew it was important to spend the biggest chunks of my day on activities that would enable me to meet that goal.
I started using Toggl to track my time. When I would begin a certain task I’d start the Toggl timer and commit to only focusing on that task during that time. The benefits were twofold. First of all, Toggl has great reporting tools and charts so you can look back at your week and see what you’re actually spending the most time on. For me, there were a few unpleasant surprises and time wasters! You can also differentiate what time was billable vs. not billable if that’s relevant to your business.
The other nice thing about Toggl is that since I knew I was timing myself, I got an unexpected boost of productivity. If I knew I was timing myself to write a blog post, I wouldn’t get sidetracked checking Twitter, responding to an email, or giving in to other common interrupters.
Wunderlist & Day Designer: Control your day and to-dos
Whether you’re a paper or digital person, you absolutely need a system to control your to-dos. Running a business on your own means you’re on the hook for pretty much everything, small and large.
I actually have two systems of organization that I use in tandem. One is a Day Designer planner, which encourages you to think about the three big things you want to accomplish in the day, and then also leaves a spot for the smaller to-dos that also need to get done. I like filling this out in the morning or even the night before a work day.
While that sits on my desk, I’m often on the go. I use Wunderlist on my phone to track new to-dos that pop up during the day. As soon as I commit to doing something, no matter how small, I open the Wunderlist iPhone app and jot it down. It syncs with all of my other devices so I can review my list later on my laptop or iPad as well. It has all the functionality of a great to-do list: the ability to set due dates, reminders that pop up, different ways to view/categorize your tasks, and more.
If it’s not in my Wunderlist, it’s probably not getting done!
Calendly: A great scheduling tool so you’re not spending hours setting up meetings
Since I run a service-based business, I found myself spending a ton of time scheduling meetings. The back and forth to get an hour mock interview on the calendar was taking multiple emails! Knowing I needed to focus on more worthwhile tasks, I looked into ways to automate this process.
While there are many great tools out there, I ultimately decided on Calendly. It had a super simple interface and solves the scheduling problem. After a quick import of my calendars and a few questions about my preferences for meetings, Calendly automatically created openings in my schedule for clients to book directly.
Now when someone wants to set up time, they can look at my openings and pick the time that works best for them. Calendly also sends reminders, enables people to easily cancel if something comes up, and even allows you to add a link for payment if that’s relevant to your business.
These 3 tools have allowed me to run my business more efficiently and in turn focus on the things that matter most. I’m an app junkie and look forward to discovering even more as I continue to run The Prepary.