This has been a tough year for a lot of businesses. The economy has yet to rebound (it may never fully) and with a downtrodden economic situation often comes a despressed workforce. I’m not talking about the overall unemployment problem; I’m talking about the problem that those who have jobs are dealing with: elevated stress and a heavier workload.

If you’re a manager of a team or are running your own business that requires you to be a rock solid manager of your own self, there’s rarely a better time than the start of a new year to tweak your system and explore new tools to helpy you with your overall management skills. As part of our year-end New Tools for a New Year series, I’m going to offer some new tools for you to try and help you get a better handle on management in the coming year. Some will be specific tools that require specific time and attention to become familar with, while others will simply be tools that are new in name only – as in, you’ve been using something similar for years and may just need a bit of a reboot to get a jumpstart to the new year.

Asana

You know, I’ve tried a ton of task management apps – both aiming to improve collaboration between teams and aiming to improve individual efforts – and no web app has come close to getting it as right as Asana has. We’ve touched on this new player in the productivity realm before, and I’ll be doing a deeper dive in the next couple of weeks as to what the results of long term use of Asana is.

The people behind Asana understand that seamless connection is the key to improved productivity – and better management. There’s no bottleneck that they’ve put in place; the information involved with tasks, priorities and assignments can flow as freely as you want. With a new iPhone app now in the App Store, now Asana can go with team members anywhere.

As for barriers to entry, they are few and far between…if any. Price certainly isn’t one; Asana is free for teams of up to 30 people.

If you’re not using a task manager so that you and your team can manage all they’ve got on the go, then Asana is your best bet – bar none.

37Signals

Another great resource you should look is to 37Signals. Whether you decide to use any one of the company’s popular software solutions (Highrise, Basecamp, etc.) or start to align your own mandate with theirs, it’s a good place to start.

Jason Fried has not only put together a stellar team that offers fantastic tools for you to better manage your work and team, but his book REWORK (co-authored by David Heinemeier Hansson) is required reading for any manager or entrepreneur trying to make their way in the world today.

Oh, and his TED talk on “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work” is another great thing to let your eyes – and brain – absorb.

MeetingBurner

Another thing that can really slow down workflow and kill momentum is meetings. Whether it is through overkill or unwieldy tools or distraction, meetings can hinder progress more than help it along. Even iwth the advent of online meetings through Skype or similar tools haven’t made meetings really all that better.

But MeetingBurner can change all of that.

It’s simple to use, incredibly robust and flexible (it can be used for webinars, for example) and you can get in and out of it as needed. We’re going to take a more comprehensive look at MeetingBurner in the coming weeks, but let me say now that going to a meeting – online or off – hasn’t been terribly pleasant for me until this service came along. MeetingBurner’s mission says it all:

“The world wastes billions of dollars per year in inefficient and ineffective meetings and we are going to change that. With MeetingBurner we want to build a community of online meeting fanatics who want to change the world by making meeting easier, faster, and more efficient.”

I think perhaps the idea that you can burn through a meeting and have more takeaways than giveaways says something for progress in this area of technology. It’s worth checking out if you’re looking to have the same effect on your management results.

Conclusion

You want to start off the new year right, putting your best foot forward in your work and in life. Giving these new tools a test run to start things off in 2012 may just extend the reach of your foot that much further.

(Photo credit: Businessman Cheers with his Tablet via Shutterstock)

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