17 Must-Have Productivity Tools for Small Business Owners & Marketers
When the pandemic shut down entire cities, millions of employees transitioned to remote work overnight. Many people didn’t even have time to get their office plants or project notes before they had to set up a home office and get to work. Nine months after the shift to remote and 42 percent of the American workforce remains fully remote, according to Upwork’s Future Workforce survey.
The good news is, we adapted and remote work is getting easier as people learn how they can make it successful. The same Upwork survey found that 68 percent of hiring managers agree that work is going more smoothly now than when the pandemic started.
One reason for this is that teams have adopted tools to get work done. But not just any tools, but the right tools needed to make their organization thrive. To make sure you have what you need to make remote work work for you, we’re sharing our top tool choices.
For ease of organization, these tools have been broken down into three separate sections:
- Managing distractions while working
- Improving project management
- Increasing collaboration
Do an audit of your current toolset and determine what needs to go, what can stay, and what you need to add to make sure your team is working efficiently and effectively.
Productivity tools for managing distractions
One of the most challenging parts of working from home is managing all the distractions that come with it. No longer are phone notifications and talkative coworkers your only concern. Now you have a pile of dishes in the sink, laundry to be done and a couch that looks awfully comfortable. Use these tools to limit distractions and boost productivity.
From checking website analytics to cruising social media, it can be hard to meet deadlines when you’re pulled away from your “focus zone,” every five minutes. With the Freedom app, you can block websites, alerts, and other digital distractions so your attention stays on your current project.
This app goes a step above the rest because it blocks sites on multiple devices, so you won’t be able to pick up your phone and scroll to get around the block on your desktop.
Make sure your teammates know that you’re entering a “distraction-free zone,” so they understand why you aren’t responding to their messages.
Calendly is a must-have tool for small business owners and marketers because it eliminates the distraction of scheduling meetings and booking time to work. With this app, you can set up events from your existing calendar and block out times when you’re busy. If someone wants to set a meeting, they can reserve a time in Calendly without having to submit a calendar request via email—or having to go back and forth on a time that works for both of you.
This tool is particularly useful because of its buffers. Users can create buffer times in between meetings, like 10-minute breaks for travel time or stretching and even set up barriers for last-minute meetings. This prevents people from packing your day or adding something to your schedule with only an hour’s notice.
Whether you need to block out distracting sounds, increase your focus or wind down after a stressful period, Noisli can help. This isn’t your average white noise generator, though. You can mix sounds to create the perfect working environment where you can be your most productive self.
If you work in a busy household with children or roommates, all the hustle and bustle can be distracting. Turn on Noisli to get into your zone of focus quickly and easily.
Throughout the day, you likely switch back and forth between devices. From computer to iPad to smartphone; from desktop to smartphone to tablet. If you’re always bouncing around, you’re setting yourself up for a day of distracting transitions that make it harder to get back into the project you’re working on. Wouldn’t things be so much easier, and less distracting, if all your devices were connected as one? That’s exactly why you need Pushbullet.
You can send text messages from your computer, see your phone’s notification on your tablet, and share links and files instantly without having to email them to yourself. These are just a few of the conveniences Pushbullet provides. For the multi-device worker, this is a must-have tool.
Passwords need to be safe—and to be safe, the need to be different and unique for every account. But it quickly becomes impossible to remember them all, and if you write them down, that’s not safe either. This is especially important when using free wi-fi at a coffee shop or library rather than your secure router at home or in the office.
1Password solves this problem by locking all of your passwords safely away where no one can get to them except you. And when you need to sign into something? All you need to remember is one master password and you’re in.
6. Sleep Cycle alarm clock
Have you ever woken up in a mental fog, with a pounding headache, and somehow more exhausted than when you went to bed? This unpleasant trio is often the result of waking in the middle (or the deepest part) of a sleep cycle.
You’re much more likely to awake refreshed if you get enough rest each night and wake during the lightest phase of your natural sleep cycle. But how do you know when you’re in this lightest phase? Sleep Cycle alarm clock app will analyze your sleep and automatically wake you at the best time. Instead of being distracted by a foggy brain or the temptation to take a nap, you’ll feel refreshed and productive all day.
The best productivity tools for project management
Great project management is more important than ever with a distributed team. It’s critical that everyone stays on the same page, making all the necessary deadlines and being able to share updates and data with the entire group often. These project management tools ensure that your team can do just that.
Scoro is an all-in-one business management software. Its aim is to streamline workflows, taking routine tasks off your hands so that you have more time to focus on what’s important—pleasing your customers. With Scoro, you can easily track time and manage your team, as well as create and send invoices.
The team dashboard is one of the most helpful features. It includes everything you need to check in on projects at a glance, including profit, budget updates, project steps, and more. With all of this information available to the entire team in real-time, it’s easier to stay on track and, more importantly, on budget.
8. Cyfe by Traject
You likely use a variety of tools, platforms, and services to manage your social media marketing, analytics, sales, support, and so on. Instead of managing each one independently, Cyfe allows your marketing team to manage it all together, in one place. Integrations include Freshbooks, Alexa, Basecamp, Instagram, and more.
Data from those tools is pulled into Cyfe in real-time, allowing you to check-in and get a clear picture of what’s happening at any moment—no matter where you are and what tools each team member has individual access to. When used in conjunction with historical data for your small business, you can make informed decisions more easily while ensuring the security of your various marketing accounts.
Hiring can be a time-consuming, exhausting process. It takes a lot of time and effort to post jobs on several sites, weed out candidates that aren’t qualified, and conduct interviews. Simplifying even one part of that process would be a major relief for everyone involved.
Betterteam streamlines the first stage of this process: posting open positions. In just minutes, you can post your jobs to 100+ popular job sites, likely much more than you could do manually. Not only will you save tons of time, but you also get far more exposure and access to thousands of qualified people. The value of working remotely is being able to cast a wider net—so make sure you’re casting it.
GoCo’s platform wraps HR management, benefits, and payroll into one easy-to-use tool, allowing you to keep all of your employees’ information organized in one place. In addition, it ensures that you’re always in compliance with laws and can sync the tool with your payroll system so there are no concerns about regulation compliance. Finally, it gives employees an easy way to apply for benefits, request time off and so on so there’s less emailing back and forth about who needs what.
If projects often get caught up in the editing and approval process, with too many team leaders offering feedback and creating countless new drafts, it’s time for a new workflow. Filestage is a much-needed tool for teams that often collaborate in this way. It’s an all-in-one proofing software where creatives can submit their work and management can make comments and edit requests in one space. Filestage can handle videos, images, documents, and audio files, making it ideal for any creative project you have.
This tool was also recommended in our post on the best remote collaboration tools for the new year.
Best tools for productive collaboration
Collaboration still reigns supreme in the workplace, but it can be challenging to keep it productive without getting everyone in a room together. Don’t let this key element of your business fall to the wayside with remote work. Instead, keep collaboration fresh and easy with these key tools.
As your remote team grows, your employees might not have time to get to know their new peers or connect with coworkers in the same way they used to socially. This is where Connecteam comes in. This app serves as an employee intranet helping your workers connect with each other for improved collaboration.
Employees can look up other team members in the organization to collaborate, managers can push messages to the whole staff, and everyone can take surveys and polls to get an idea for what the company hivemind is thinking. This is a fun tool if you’ve hired more staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and want these remote workers to get to know their peers.
In August 2020, the team at Frontpage released a survey that found our professional inboxes are more cluttered than our personal accounts. In fact, roughly 10 percent of people receive more than 100 emails per day, totaling one email every six minutes during business hours. Without clear organization, these messages get lost or jumbled easily, slowing down projects for people who need replies.
Hubgets works to break through the email dependency with clear project management tools and improved collaboration features. With this tool, teams can focus on singular projects and communicate in real-time rather than sending countless email threads. This allows you to log out of your inbox and focus on work, rather than getting distracted by endless email notifications and never-ending email threads.
Nextiva boosts your productivity by making it easier to communicate and work through projects effectively. Teams can communicate via phone, text, video, or email messaging and, most importantly, keep all of this communication in one place. No more scrolling through endless texts or searching vague email terms to find a missing thread. Your communication trail is all in one place.
Nextiva can be a lifesaver for remote teams that use multiple communication channels to collaborate, no matter which platforms you prefer.
What’s one of the best ways to build customer loyalty? Providing timely and personalized support. Support ticketing tool, Kayako, can help you do this, even providing a human live chat experience when you’re not online.
Unlike other similar tools, Kayako unifies all of your support channels including email, social media, and live chat into one team dashboard. There’s even an internal helpdesk for your employees, making everyone’s job easier and their output more effective.
Leave behind the sticky notes, notepads, and scraps of paper. Instead, keep all your shared to-do lists in Workflowy, where everyone on the team can compile and check off tasks in one place. If you’re worried that this would make for a long, messy list, think again.
A few select formatting options make it easy to differentiate lists of different topics so they can be found at a glance. The same can be said of the #tags feature, which makes organizing and collaborating on lists with other team members easy and organized. While it is a minimalistic app, it’s one of the most powerful apps you could have in your collaboration arsenal.
If you use influencers for your marketing, it’s imperative that everyone on the marketing team has access to data about which ones are driving the best campaigns and which ones are falling short. Traackr makes it possible for everyone to follow this data and shoulder the task of managing influencers. It also makes it easier for managers to check in at any time and keep tabs on who is performing.
You can also use this tool to find the best influencers and compare what they can offer to budget, results, and benchmarks that help you make the right decisions as a team.
Find the right productivity tools for your team
The right tools are the ones that solve key problems and that your team will actually use. If you, as a leader, try to introduce unnecessary or unpopular tools, you risk disrupting workflows that already work and driving down productivity. Focus on finding tools you know your team needs and introduce them over time, allowing everyone the opportunity to integrate and provide feedback. With everyone working productively and collaboratively, you can focus on doing what you need to do: running the team and meeting deadlines. Here's a list of the 17 productivity tools we provided in this post:
- Sleep Cycle alarm clock
- Cyfe by Traject