Small business owners and entrepreneurs get so little respect. Sure, politicians pander to us and some of my favorite magazines are devoted exclusively to our needs, But unless they’ve been through the small business fire themselves, few people really understand the pressures and pains that come part and parcel with small business ownership.
Time management is one of the biggest challenges of my career as an entrepreneur. I’ve been a rabid consumer of time management books, systems, software programs, websites, and media articles since the day I figuratively hung my shingle as a freelance writer in 2006.
It’s still a work in progress, and I continue to devour anything and everything to do with how to juggle the multiple demands of entrepreneurship along with running a busy household with 4 dogs and a husband, volunteering with the local animal rescue (occasionally fostering for them and managing their website and weekly newsletter), spending time with family (not enough), and finding time to exercise (definitely not enough).
Still, there are a few things I’ve learned and some tools I’ve picked up along the way that have helped tremendously to streamline my daily schedule and help me get to the end of the day with items crossed off on my to-do-list.
TIME MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
- ASANA. I recently discovered Asana, a simple yet powerful cloud-based project management software program developed by a Facebook co-founder. We had previously been using Basecamp from 37Signals to manage our multiple client accounts, but for a small firm it was more complicated than it really needed to be. Asana is perfect for a small shop such as ours — it lets me assign tasks to other staff, create multiple workspaces to divide my professional and personal responsibilities, subdivide them into projects, and even keep my personal workspace private from my team. And best of all, if you have fewer than 30 users, it’s completely free. No mobile app yet, but the mobile version of their site is sleek and easy to use.
- GOOGLE APPS FOR BUSINESS. Confession: I’m a total Google Girl Geek. Google.com is my home page, I run Google AdSense ads across my online projects, I use Google Reader for my RSS feeds, I rely heavily on Google Analytics to monitor our clients’ and our own website activity and traffic, and I have about 6 Gmail accounts and counting. When Google Apps for Business was rolled out a few years ago, I jumped at the chance to port my domain and business productivity needs over. We now run our email and calendar on Google Apps — none of us use Outlook, and I personally haven’t used it in over 7 years — and we’ve since added Google Drive (formerly Docs) to create and share files. If you’re a small business with fewer than 10 employees, you can even open a Google Apps account for free.
- HOOTSUITE - Social Media Management for Business – I’ve written about HootSuite before, but it’s worth repeating: this cloud-based program has saved countless hours in managing our multiple social media accounts. Preschedule tweets, Facebook posts, and as of yesterday, even Google+ Pages posts. You can also run very comprehensive, colorful reports that you can overlay with your own branding. There are social media management tools out there, but HootSuite.com remains the gold standard. It also has a pretty robust free mobile app.
- REMEMBER THE MILK – Until recently, you had to pay $25/year to really open up RTM’s robust set of features, but a few months ago they did away with the premium for their basic program and now offer it for free. Premium users can take advantage of sync-on-demand across all their devices (RTM has an impressive list of mobile apps, from Android to Blackberry to even Siri on the iPhone.) I use this primarily for my personal to-do lists — which is often longer than my business to-do list! — and love that I can access it on my computer, my Android smartphone, my Mac, and even my Android tablet.
- EVERNOTE - Oh my god, I can’t say enough good things about Evernote. Save entire web pages, share them with friends or colleagues, take pictures of business cards and have Evernote automatically extract information from it to create a contact…is there anything it can’t do? It also has a fantastic voice-recognition program so that you can dictate notes into the mobile Evernote app while on the go. Evernote has other complementary programs like Skitch, which lets you annotate and even draw on documents and images and save the finished product for future use. I have yet to figure out all the goodies that Evernote has to offer, but I’m happy to spend hours finding out. All of its special features are free — premium subscribers pay only $5/month for bigger storage, larger file uploads, priority support, offline access, and more.
I use tons more productivity and time management apps, but these are my absolute favorites. What do you use to help you manage your business and personal demands?