Tools for Productivity

5 Tools You Need to Improve Your Productivity

Even if you are running your own business successfully, you may feel that there’s more that you could be doing if you just had the right tools or motivation.

Here are some low cost and no cost tools available on the web that might provide you the boost that you need:

XMind

If you need to generate ideas or solve problems in a structured fashion, mindmapping using XMind (www.xmind.net) can be a useful tool. In mindmapping, you start by drawing a bubble in the center of your screen and filling in the bubble with the problem or idea you are wanting to examine. Then you begin to associate other thoughts and ideas that you write into other bubbles that you connect to the central bubble.

After a while, you begin to see a structure to your ideas that can lead you to innovative solutions or opportunities. Project managers can also use mind mapping to help figure out how to structure a project plan, and XMind pro version can allow you to associate schedules to your mind map and draw gantt charts to track your project. XMind has a free version, or you can purchase a single pro license for $49 per year.

Google Docs

Office software is a necessity for business, but it can be expensive. Fortunately, Google provides highly useful cloud-based office software in their Google Docs offering (docs.google.com). Google Docs includes software for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations that you access through your web browser. You can create documents similar to documents you would create in traditional office software, but the documents are saved in “the cloud”, effectively Google’s web space.

If you need to send the documents to someone, you can just choose to share the document within Google Docs, and the person you are sharing with will get an email with a link to view the document. You can even choose to share for editing, so you can collaborate with others on the same document. If you need the document on your computer, you can download it in several different versions including PDF. Google Docs is free and just requires that you have a Google account.

Harvest

If you deal in billable hours, it’s especially critical that you track your time and the time of your employees. Harvest (getharvest.com) is a web-based tool for time tracking and invoicing. You can create employee timesheets, and translate those timesheets into projects and billable hours that can be invoiced to your clients.

Harvest is accessible through the web and through a variety of mobile and desktop devices as well. Besides timesheets and invoicing, you can also get a variety of reports on employees, clients, and projects to help you better understand what is driving your business. Harvest provides three different pricing plans which start at $12 per month for 3 employees.

FreshBooks

Another option to consider for time tracking is FreshBooks (www.freshbooks.com). FreshBooks provides similar services as Harvest, but they provide more options for collecting payments from clients by allowing you to connect to multiple payment gateways including PayPal. They also offer more bookkeeping capabilities as well, making them a full-service web app for budgeting, time tracking, and invoicing.

FreshBooks provides a free account with limited capability, and they also provide multiple price points for more features and users. Their “Mighty Oak” plan which includes timesheets and expense reporting costs around $40 per month.

inDinero

Finally, if you’re looking for a service that can keep you on top of your budget, inDinero (www.indinero.com) can help. inDinero is similar to Mint (mint.com) except it is geared toward businesses.

You can associate your business accounts with your inDinero account, and inDinero will categorise your expenditures and produce a dashboard to help you see where you are spending your money and suggest ways you can be more profitable. inDinero offers a free account which accesses a limited amount of historical financial data, or you can purchase a plan appropriate to the number of monthly transactions you need to track starting at 500 monthly transactions for about $20 per month.

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