As a small business owner, it may sometimes seem as though there are a million things you need to be doing at any point in time. It’s hard to cram everything into your hectic day, especially when you’ve got a team that needs leading, let alone anything that remotely resembles a private life. Never fear, because technology has got the answer. Whether your business is large or small, there are ways to use the technology you already have to increase productivity for both yourself and your business.
Use Existing Technology in New Ways
Not every business has a budget for new technology or even base upgrades. That’s okay, because you don’t always need the latest and greatest tech to improve your business’s efficiency. Unless your computer system is older than the Apollo 13, there are lots of ways to use it for business that you’ve probably never even considered. Integrate these five tips into your existing infrastructure today for increased efficiency.
- Get Organized! It’s amazing how many people simply toss all their work into a single folder or save to My Documents without thinking about the difficulty of retrieving that file later. If you’re guilty of having a one-size-fits-all approach to file storage, or you just dump everything on your Desktop to be sorted at some later date, you’re wasting a lot of valuable time.
Instead, build an organized system that can be easily traversed by anyone at your business. After all, digging through hundreds of files in one folder can be tedious even for the person who created them. Sort documents by client, project or some other significant attribute and name them according to a well-documented system. Make sure that everyone else in your organization does the same with both their local and shared files in order to speed up data retrieval and prevent project duplications.
- Teleconference! It’s a no-brainer to plan teleconferences with clients and workers who are spread across the country or the globe, but have you considered the time you’re wasting sitting in meetings? Often, local workers are called to sit in on meetings just in case a question is asked that only they can answer – why waste their valuable time by forcing them to sit through another meeting where they may not even be needed?
Teleconferencing allows your workers to remain at their stations and leaves them free to work on important projects during the portion of the meeting that doesn’t require their input. Workers pushed against deadlines may be more than just bored in meetings, they may resent them if you have too many. Like you, they only have so many hours in a day to meet the deadlines imposed upon them.
- Instant Messaging. Quick questions and short memos don’t require complicated emails or time-consuming telephone calls. Use instant messaging to shoot a quick note to a worker about a project, or make a short announcement. Clogging your email system needlessly creates waste and messages that your workers have to continuously manage, either by sorting them into other folders or deleting them to make space for critical information.
Be careful to include rules for its use when implementing IM – this type of messaging can quickly become overly intimate or distracting, creating other problems in the workplace. Encourage workers who are on a deadline to set their status as “Busy,” and those who are not, to reply quickly to their coworkers in order to keep the stream of information moving.
- Let RSS Manage Your News Flow. Email chains about changes to company policy or keeping employees abreast of corporate news may seem efficient, but they’re clogging up important information channels. Get those necessary memos and industry news out of the email and onto an RSS feed. Using RSS, you can give everyone access to the same information without having to tie up the email servers with the same message across the office. At the same time, you’ll help unclutter email boxes, making important emails containing project details and instructions easier to find.
An added bonus to RSS is that you don’t have to bother with huge, complicated email lists – it doesn’t matter if your entire department has changed email addresses, because they’ll all access the RSS feed on their own. And just imagine, no more bounced emails and confusing email chains to manage!
- Handling Emails. Email is a useful tool when you need a permanent record of a client’s order or to document an important change in policy, but it’s not the best tool for everything. Stop using email to send simple requests, ask short questions or shoot out quick memos. The chain of replies on these massive mailing lists can quickly become cumbersome for everyone involved, especially if anyone manages to hit “Reply All” with a question intended for a single recipient.
You can even set up a particular email address that will automatically add an email and response(s) to an RSS feed set up for a particular project, making the communication available to those that may need to be aware, even if they’re not involved in the communication.
Increasing Productivity with Apps
Once you’ve got your network and office technology behaving, it’s time to turn your attention to your phone. There’s an endless stream of apps to choose between. Here are three very popular productivity apps for small business.
- Evernote. Possibly the most flexible business application available on iOS, Android and the web, this program is the digital catch-all you’ve always needed. Not only can you leave quick notes for yourself, it takes dictation, stores scanned images and uploads. Whatever you need, you can store in Evernote. You’d think a program this versatile would easily become disorganized, but not so – the powerful search function lets you filter notes and clips to find exactly what you need, when you need it.
- Dropbox. This cloud-backed app is perfect for the busy professional who has a lot of devices to manage or a large group project that requires multiple updates to different platforms. You can work seamlessly with your collaborators, updating important documents to a shared cloud drive, without having to come up for air. Dropbox doubles as an all-purpose backup drive and offers a whopping 100 GB storage plan for only $9.99 per month.
- Mailbox. Whether you hate it or you love it, email is tough to sort when there are hundreds of messages moving through your inbox every day. Checking it on the go would seem to make sense, but most email applications can’t keep up if messages are flying constantly. Enter: Mailbox.
This simple app interfaces with your Gmail account, allowing you to do all the normal email things, but with a twist: it has a scheduling option. Now, when you’re swiping your messages into tidy folders, you can put those new messages on hold, making it easier to sort an amazingly large mountain of email.
No matter what level of tech your business has already embraced, there’s always room for improvement. We may not have flying cars yet, but the level of advancement we’ve made in productivity-friendly software and apps nearly makes up for it. By taking advantage of the tasks your computer can already perform and those apps that your phone secretly craves, you can take control of your time and use it more wisely. Before you know it, your small business can go from a mere start-up to the next big break-out.
Progressive Tech is a Seattle based computer repair company. We love all things IT, technology related, and are dedicated to limiting our environmental impact.