Council recommends moving contacts online with Salesforce, a database that can be accessed by any employee, anywhere, and includes fields for recording details about client interactions, for the same reasons he likes Google Docs. Depending on the features, monthly pricing ranges from $5 to $25 per user.
2. Social media apps.
People can waste time using social media apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for business promotion if they jump at every message or troll constantly for mentions of their company or other topics.
To begin, avoid using a web browser to monitor social media apps. According to Glenn Phillips, president of San Francisco-based computer consulting firm Forté, active social networkers should use a free dashboard app like TweetDeck or Hootsuite. Users can schedule multiple social posts at once using dashboards, which aggregate multiple services for a quick overview.
Consider checking messages at predetermined intervals as well. Council recommends saving searches on Twitter to collect mentions for later reading. He also suggests creating a separate email account dedicated solely to social media so that your updates don’t interfere with important work emails.
Checking and responding to email can be time-consuming if not prioritized properly, according to Jared Goralnick, founder of AWAYfind, a maker of email alert software based in Walnut, Calif. According to him, people often respond to emails in the order in which they arrive rather than in the order of importance.
Non-urgent emails that may take more than a few minutes to respond to should be moved to a task list that is prioritized, according to Goralnick. Upgrade to Microsoft Outlook 2007 or 2010 if you’re still using Outlook 2003, which offers better, faster searches and eliminates the need for meticulous filing.
4. Microsoft PowerPoint
Both extremes can stymie your productivity and that of your audience: too little information on a slide can make your presentation difficult to follow, while too much information can be too much work for you and mind-numbing for others.
Tim Crawford, chief information officer of Foster City, Calif.-based small-business IT consulting firm All Covered, recommends keeping information on slides to a minimum and using bullets to highlight key points. He claims that the presentation’s real “meat” should be delivered verbally. If more detailed information is required, one option is to provide it as a handout afterward.
5. Instant Messengers
Employees can communicate for long periods of time using instant messengers such as AOL Instant Messenger and Google Chat. The issue, as with texting, is that having one full conversation rather than a series of snippets is usually faster.
Only use it to communicate with employees who work in remote offices or who aren’t within hearing distance. Keep it simple when you do send a message. If the conversation necessitates more than a few back-and-forth messages, use the phone.
6. Microsoft Access database
Attorneys and other business users frequently use Access to store the thousands of records required for a complicated case. However, this software, which starts at $200, has limitations and can be slow when searching the database, according to Bill McComas, a partner at Baltimore law firm Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler.
Try using a structured query language (SQL) database, such as Oracle’s cloud-based offerings, for large projects with thousands of documents. SQL databases are designed specifically for managing large amounts of data. Oracle Database XE is a free entry-level database. The Standard Edition One, which is more advanced, costs $180 per person per year. To set them up, you’ll need an experienced database programmer.
Consider using Evernote for small projects. You can take notes, drag and drop documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, and even audio and video files into this free app. A browser plugin is also used to capture Web pages. A $5 monthly fee adds cloud backup, as well as enhanced search capabilities and document version tracking.
7. Google Analytics
While Google Analytics is a useful, free tool for tracking traffic and trends on a website, it can also become addictive for those who become “fixated,” constantly checking how a business site is performing, according to Phillips.
For some businesses, Google’s Web metrics may be more important than for others. Unless your company is web-based and your traffic is a direct function of your revenue, Phillips says that checking this app once every couple of weeks is probably “sufficient” for most businesses.