When you start a business your workflows and ways of managing information usually grow organically – a spreadsheet here, a series of Post-its there, a wall planner or a white board maybe. As a Virtual Assistant, I often begin working for those businesses at a critical point – when they are starting to feel too big for one person to manage alone. This is a perfect moment to take a step back and evaluate the way they work and where they can harness the of power technology to save time and make their business more productive and easier to run. Whether you run a business or are in a regular nine-to-five, there are hundreds of apps which can help you be more efficient and more productive. In my next couple of posts, I’m going to be talking about some of the best but before I do that I wanted to consider how you go about choosing the perfect apps for you.

Productivity apps broadly focus on the following areas:

1) Email, calendar, contacts
2) Notes and information storing
3) Task management
4) Collaboration, project management, Communication
5) Time management/focus
6) Social Media management

Talk to friends and other people in your industry. What do they use? You’ll be surprised how willing people are to wax lyrical about something that has genuinely saved them time and effort.

Just because something works for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you however. Think specifically about the sources of stress in your working life (e.g. I can’t sort actions from the millions of emails languishing in my inbox) and look for something which will address it. Take advantage of free trials or free versions of new apps – if something doesn’t feel quite right or isn’t actually saving you time don’t be afraid to look for something else. If you are trying to mould you working style to fit with the limitations of a particular app rather than the other way around you may be setting yourself up for failure.

Finally, the best things in life are often free but not always. I can understand that the costs of some apps can be off putting. Consider how much time you are saving – the cost benefit. Think about what you are worth for each hour of work you do for your client. Say your rate is £40 per hour and an app which cost £25 per month saves you 2 hours per week. That’s an additional 8 hours per month you could be spending on paid work i.e. (8x £40) – £25 = £295. Potentially, you’ve made an extra £295 per month.

Talk to people about the apps they use and don’t be afraid to shop around. If one thing doesn’t work for you try not to get discouraged – there are developers building apps for all sorts of different personality types, industries and ways of working. Lastly don’t lose sight of the cost benefit of each of the apps you choose. In my next couple of blog posts I’ll be giving you some examples of awesome apps which my clients and I use to save us time. In the meantime, do tell us about the apps that you love and why.

Emily Dover, PA Me Ltd.

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