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This article was published on December 21, 2012

5 tools to boost your business efficiency

5 tools to boost your business efficiency
Lauren Hockenson
Story by

Lauren Hockenson


Lauren is a reporter for The Next Web, based in San Francisco. She covers the key players that make the tech ecosystem what it is right now. Lauren is a reporter for The Next Web, based in San Francisco. She covers the key players that make the tech ecosystem what it is right now. She also has a folder full of dog GIFs and uses them liberally on Twitter at @lhockenson.

This post is brought to you by UPS.

When you’re running a startup, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get stuff done. Between meetings, executive decisions, handling personnel and balancing a budget, it’s next to impossible to feel like you’ve hit your maximum efficiency and actually made progress.

Well, thankfully, there are plenty of low-cost ways to get your business operations in gear and get your team in order. The Internet always seems to be churning out ways to speed up efficiency and streamline logistics, so there’s a nearly endless well of popular and critically lauded apps that will offer you an avenue to boost your output and kick your days into high gear.

Here are a few notable apps that not only boost your efficiency, but certainly help you feel like you’re getting more things done.

What’s your favorite app to boost your efficiency? Let us know in the comments.

1. If This Then That 

It’s safe to say that a huge chunk of your day is spent processing ancillary information. Whether it’s whittling down your inbox to zero, periodically checking in to your company’s group communication app, or keeping track of important meetings on your calendar, it’s insanely difficult to keep everything together without feeling like you need a personal assistant (or two).

Why not let If This Then That (IFTTT) do all of it for you? Operating on nearly 60 different websites and services, IFTTT serves as a bridge between these places that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Want to send starred emails to Instapaper to read while you’re on the train? No problem. How about alerting you via text when your name is mentioned in Campfire? It takes just a few minutes to implement. You can even rig IFTTT to post a new event to your GCal when you dial the service’s catch-all phone number.

You can essentially program (called a “recipe) thousands of different actions to suit your needs, and tweak each to suit your individual needs. It’s a service that has a lot of real life practicality, and it’s about as close as you’ll get to an assistant without breaking the bank.

2. Trello 

When sharing products across lots of departments, clients or initiatives, things can get jumbled. Notes from the week’s brainstorm can get mixed up with assessments for prototypes, and to-do lists that you write on scraps of paper or log willy nilly into Notes won’t help you decipher it.

With a smart, flexible platform that suits developers just as much as non-techies, Trello is a smart way to get notes, goals and objectives out to a group of people — and a great way to track the progress you have made. You just add a card to the simple, customizable front-end, add notes and sub-objectives, and post it up for all to see. The platform thrives on a click-and-drag system, so you can always move, stack and rearrange objectives to clarify everything for your group. Throw in a simple user system and extensive labels to keep everything organized from the outset, and Trello is a surprisingly robust system — especially when considering it’s free.

If you’re looking for a simple, no-frills way to keep your groups on track and informed, Trello is the way to go. It also gets extra points for being remote-worker friendly — all collaborators can have a say in the business in real time.

3. Doodle 

Scheduling regular meeting times, or any meetings at all, is a little bit like herding cats. No matter how big your company gets, the scrappy startup lifestyle practically demands a round-the-clock, plugged-in attitude — not necessarily conducive to easy meet-ups. GCal is generally a quick way to get everyone in the same room, but it only allows for one time per invitation; any extra coordination requires in-depth emailing and some extra finagling to land correctly.

Doodle seeks to solve that problem by offering a simple, scalable survey to nail down meeting times. Users can denote which meeting times they can make, and then the leader of the survey can find the ideal time. Calendar invitations are sent out, and everyone is happy and scheduled for the meeting. In addition to a free model and a “premium” version, which allows for RSVP information and unique branding, Doodle also released a client-facing scheduler this fall called Book Me. Clients can decide the best time to meet for a service based on your schedule (synced from a calendar, naturally), then you get an email with all the details.

Efficiency feels really good, even if it’s just a few extra minutes per day. Doodle does well to eliminate the little niggling annoyances that come with scheduling meetings, which is a time saver in the long run.

4. Google Drive

Yes, I know, Google Drive. One of the stalwarts of productivity, file sharing and group communication, Google Drive can feel a little…well, stale. While it’s not the shiniest or buzziest app on the market, you must look at Google Drive as your go-to workhorse: dependable, reliable, and every once in a while extraordinary.

One of the extraordinary features of Google Drive is its new and improved mobile offerings for iPhone, iPad and Android. With full editing features, real-time updates and the option to pull documents offline, Google Drive is strong enough to serve as a stop-gap if you’re still recovering from the sticker shock of iWork or Word for mobile. For a free service, there’s really nothing that has more value and versatility than Google Drive — the ability to access it from anywhere on any device is really just the icing on the cake.

If you haven’t already, give the mobile platform a spin. You may find yourself using it more than any other productivity app in your suite.

5. Pomio

There’s a lot of little tricks and techniques to maximize your efficiency in your daily life, but some of them have a high barrier of entry that make them difficult to achieve in real life. One of the techniques that has actually caught on — and what developers, engineers, and businesspeople alike swear by — is the Pomodoro technique. The idea is simple: work for 25 minutes straight, and then take a short break; after four pomodoros, take a much larger break. Easy, no?

The problem with sticking to a timed technique like Pomodoro is consistency, which is why a service like iOS app Pomio is so key in success. Not only will it time your segments to ensure that you’re following the technique correctly, but it will also monitor your progress carefully and give you smart analytics that show where you’re succeeding — and when you’re spending a little too much time on Facebook. Pomio also has a handy task list, with estimated completion times, so you can track how you’re spending your day.

In short, taking advantage of the Pomodoro technique may be as close as you can get to becoming a startup Superhero. Factor in an entire office mastering the Pomodoro technique, and you may hit nirvana. Pomio should help you get there, if you’re up for the challenge.

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