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Four Types Of Business Tools You Haven’t Tried – But Should

Four Types Of Business Tools You Haven’t Tried – But Should

It’s a new year, which means it’s a new chance to take your business to the next level. Now that the initial resolution rush is over, you’re likely left staring at a long list of tasks and goals, without knowing where to start. Don’t worry–this list of business tools has you covered, even in areas you may not have thought about before.

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    Communication

    Communication can make or break your company. The way your business is perceived by customers or clients and potential customers or clients is one of the defining factors in whether you’ll fail or succeed in the long term, and how you and your employees interact with and are reached by people is a huge part of that. Most tips for this area focus on social media and email communications; phone tools often get left out. So with that in mind–

    Free: Google Voice is probably the most useful free solution out there–it will let you create a business number that will redirect to your phone(s) of choice, without you having to plaster your personal phone number all over the internet. It also transcribes your voicemails, which is very handy (when it works right–sometimes the effect is more comical than useful).

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    Paid: Grasshopper is something like a more full-featured version of Google Voice, with the added ability to make the default phone number that people call a toll-free number. If you’re looking to go 110% pro with your business communications, the Hastings Humans are a good place to start–you can have them handle receptionist duties, answer calls 24/7, and take orders from your customers, among other things.

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      Delegating

      Communication is all about how customers are perceiving you; delegation is all about making sure your business is running as efficiently as possible. If you’re trying to do everything, chances are that you’re not getting near as much done as you should be–and the work you’re doing that’s outside your zone of genius is definitely not going to be your best work.

      Free: Unfortunately, free delegation tools are pretty thin on the ground. Delegating is all about getting someone else to do the things that you’re not good at or don’t want to do, and that means you have to pay them.

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      Paid: Two great places to start are FancyHands and Zirtual, both of which come with multiple plans to fit different peoples’ needs. FancyHands is a little more focused on life-related outsourcing, Zirtual is a little more focused on business-related outsourcing. Both of them are geared towards general needs–if you need a specialized task done, check out the contractors at Upwork, oDesk, or the old standby: Craigslist.

      Not sure where to start? Check out these 9 tasks you should be outsourcing and the lazy geek’s guide to outsourcing everything.

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        Security

        Data breaches are big news when they happen to big companies (like the Target fiasco this last Black Friday), but small businesses aren’t exempt by any means. Cyber crime is on the rise and if your business gets attacked, it could be expensive.

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        Free: There are a lot of free ways to increase your security–here’s a list of ways to secure your online privacy. If you and your team members follow all of the steps, you’ll be at least a little bit ahead of the hackers. And if you use WordPress, the Better WP Security plugin is a great place to start.

        Paid: If you manage a team and work largely out of the cloud, CloudEntr can save you from the dreaded “login credentials” spreadsheet that’s rarely updated and is a huge security risk when a team member leaves. One click lets you remove their access, without you having to change every single team account password. Carbonite can help you securely back up your data, and Prey will let you find lost devices before someone uses them to access sensitive data.

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          Productivity

          You probably have tried productivity tools before, of course–what business owner doesn’t want to be more productive? But the usual productivity app lists focus on task management tools, which are great, but not the be-all end-all of productivity.

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          Free: SelfControl will let you block distracting sites (including the productivity black hole that is Facebook) and your email inbox for a predetermined amount of time. IFTTT‘s slogan is “put the internet to work for you,” and it can streamline and automate a lot of your processes using “if this, then that” rules (hence the name). For example, you can set it to email you every time there’s a new result for a search on Craigslist. FocusBooster is a free Pomodoro timer that works on both Mac and Windows, and makes it easy for you to utilize the Pomodoro method of productivity.

          Paid: Zapier is similar to IFTTT, but with more business-related apps available in the library. Concentrate is similar to SelfControl, but lets you set up different routines for different activities (for example, a “writing” routine vs. a “designing” routine). VitaminR is a full-featured tool intended to not only train you into better productivity habits (reducing task switching, for example), but also letting you see data about what conditions lead to peak productivity levels for you.

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          Last Updated on November 19, 2019

          Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

          Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

          I imagine that like me, you say that you never have enough time and that you just cannot cope with 60 dozen things all at once.

          How on earth do you get out of that spiral?

          Many people never sit down and look at how to work smarter, rather than harder and even longer hours. But not you, you’re smart enough to try to learn effective ways to work.

          So how to work smarter not harder? Here are 12 smart ways you should be following:

          1. Improve Your Time Management Skills

          Easier said than done? Well, no actually, because there are a few simple rules that can really help you to manage time better.

          For example, when setting up a top priority task, you need to switch off the phone and ignore your email first. Then you need to abandon any ideas of multitasking as that will slow you down and ruin your focus.

          Finally, set a reasonable deadline and do everything in your power to meet it.

          “When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” — Sir Ray Avery

          2. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts

          These days we’re all keyboard slaves. So why not speed up your typing and try to get rid of the two finger syndrome. In fact, when you save 21 days per year just by typing fast!

          This is exactly what I am doing now, so I cannot honestly say I am practicing what I preach!

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          But help is at hand. Try some of these apps and games to help you type fast: 8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

          Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver and can speed up your work.

          For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, while CTRL + I will put selected text in italics.

          There are so many of these. If you make the effort to learn them, they really can be helpful.

          3. Learn How to Use Productivity Tools

          It is well worth downloading all the useful tools and apps that can highly boost your productivity. Take a look at these 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools and install whatever fits your needs.

          Now that is really a great way of working smarter, not harder.

          4. Use Your Phone Wisely

          Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person responsible. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions.

          If that colleague works in the same office, it is even better to go and talk to him or her. It gives you a break, you get some exercise and you actually make human contact which is becoming quite rare in this electronic world.

          5. Keep a Tab on Your Tabs

          If you are like me, you might well find that you have a ton of tabs open at the top of your browser.

          In order to find the one you want, you have to search for them as they are off screen. Having all these tabs open slows down your browser too.

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          One solution is to use OneTab which can keep a neat list on the screen of all these tabs when you want to quickly get to one of them or you want to remind yourself which ones you have open.

          6. Use a “To Don’t” List

          We all know about to do lists and I find that they are generally great. They give me a great sense of achievement as I cross off the tasks done.

          But often, I find that we are doing non-essential tasks or ones that can easily be postponed. That is why many people recommend the to don’t list.[1]

          Some people prefer to savagely prune the to do list while others prefer to have two separate lists, to do and to don’t. You just have to work out what works best for you when you are trying to save precious time to become more productive.

          7. Expect Failure and Fight Paranoia

          When failure rears its ugly head, some people get a bit paranoid and fear that this may become a trend.

          Projects will go wrong and failure should be expected rather than feared. Learning lessons from failure and analyzing what went wrong is the best way forward.

          “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” — Richard Branson

          And here you can find 10 Great Lessons Highly Successful People Have Learned From Failure.

          8. Be Concise

          Rambling on at meetings, in emails and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time.

          One way is to practice and sharpen your “elevator speech,”[2] which tells people in 30 seconds or less why they need your skills and how they can benefit from doing business with you.

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          Just think of the many situations where this could be useful:

          • Making new contacts
          • Talking about yourself at a job interview
          • Meeting people at conferences or parties
          • Phone calls to new clients

          9. Ask the Right Questions

          “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” — Naguib Mahfouz

          How do you get feedback? The secret is to ask the right questions at the right time.

          When you do this, you are gathering the information you need to help in decision making. This will save you time and you will be able to cut meetings to a minimum.

          Forbes magazine reports on research that they carried out on asking the right questions.[3] When that happens, the positive effects are increased by 400%. There are also other benefits in staff motivation and a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

          Lifehack’s CEO Leon has shared about how to ask for feedback to learn faster: How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

          10. Learn as Much as You Can

          You should always be on a steep learning curve. Look at your skills profile and determine where you need to fill a gap. Talk to important connections and network in your niche.

          Keep up to date on trends and developments. It is a fact-changing world. When an opportunity arises, you will be the best equipped to seize it because you have never stopped learning. Just another way of working smarter.

          “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

          11. Look After Your Greatest Resource

          No, your greatest resource is not time. It is YOU.

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          If you do not get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation, you find that you become less and less productive. You begin to work longer and longer hours, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

          What you should be doing is making sure you are in the best shape. It is useful to remember that you need a break of 15 minutes after every one and a half hours of work.[4]

          Taking breaks and getting fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways of working smarter, not harder.

          12. Don’t Fall into the Trap of Working Smarter and Harder

          As a society, we are obsessed with doing everything smarter so we are more efficient and we save time all around.[5]

          But the most important thing to remember is to accept when we are ready to switch off that computer and not fill up the time with even more work!

          The Bottom Line

          The key to greater productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter — your life goals, your personal growth, your health and your relationships.

          Stop working for more hours and start working smarter!

          More About Working Smart

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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