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In today’s fast-paced world, everyone wants to be more productive. Fortunately, there is an ever-increasing number of tools, apps and programs available, that promise to help us achieve our goals.

The challenge then becomes how to know not just which tools will live up to their promise but which tools are right for our business?  And not to get sucked in to every new app or program that is released (hands up who is guilty of that !).

Choosing the best productivity tools depends on a number of factors, from the business size, type, and location to understanding where and how we, as individuals and teams, can work more efficiently. That’s why any list of the most useful tools for any business starts with time tracking tools to help you determine what kinds of tasks take up your time and where you might find opportunities to be more productive.

Individuals and businesses that charge or are paid by the hour are familiar with these tools, but anyone who juggles a variety of tasks or multiple projects can benefit from the insight they provide, particularly if they are being asked to take on more responsibilities or additional projects.

Two of the best time tracker applications are:

  •   Rescue Time – Once installed, this application runs in the background analyzing your daily work pattern and how much time you spend on each activity. There are two versions. The free one has limited capabilities, primarily tracking websites visited and applications used. The paid premium version tracks off-line time and provides more detailed reports, making it better suited to larger organizations.
  •   Toggl – This robust time tracker is popular with freelancers because it plays well with others, be they mobile devices or other software tools. Toggl offers four levels of service, including a free version with limited reporting, team management, and project management capabilities, as well as three paid versions which allow it to be scaled to the needs of your organization.

Once you know where time is going, it’s much easier to identify opportunities for working smarter, more efficiently and more productively. Which productivity tools will be most helpful will depend on what you discovered while tracking your time, but here are eight tools that can help solve or at least reduce common issues that distract and slow down the workflow.

Effective communications can be a stumbling block for many organizations. Whether you are dealing with a large business having multiple departments or a virtual company with a distributed team, connecting people and information is quickly and easily is paramount to being productive.

Three of the best tools for achieving better communications are:

  •   Slack – This popular messaging platform not only helps collaborators and co-workers communicate over distances and even in the same office, it helps organize the conversations and keep them all in-house. Users can message each other individually or collaborate with an entire group across both mobile devices and desktop computers. Free and paid versions are available.
  •   Evernote – Everyone takes notes, at meetings, during presentations, when reading email or even surfing the web. This handy tool gives you a place to store your notes as well as a means of organizing them that allows you to access information when and where you need it, from your computer or mobile device. Best of all, it’s free.
  •   Google Drive – Version control can be painful in many organisations, especially if more than one person is working on a document. That’s why Google Drive is such a great asset. It makes tracking changes a breeze, supports a variety of file types from PDFs to photos and stores it all in the cloud, so everything is available from anywhere you have internet access. Initially free, you’ll pay for more storage space if you need it.

Most businesses organise what they do in terms of projects or products. Managing projects has even become a career path for some. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire project managers to manage your projects more efficiently.

Two popular productivity tools especially useful in keeping projects on track are:

  •   Asana – Asana has been around since 2008, making it one of the most robust and stable tools for project management available. You can create unique tasks for each project or develop templates that can be used repeatedly across your business. Asana also allows you to create strategic calendars, set reminders and send requests between team members. Free and paid versions.
  •   Trello – This visual project management app helps individuals and teams see their workflow, which can make it easier to keep projects on track. Trello is versatile and plays well with others including Slack, Google Drive and Evernote, allowing everyone to know where a project stands at a glance. Free and paid versions.

Keeping projects on track is great, but sometimes you need something to keep you on track. Planners, to do lists, reminders and post-it notes work but can get cluttered. They also tend to encourage multi-tasking rather than helping you focus.

Productivity is a difficult thing to master (hello procrastination). Hopefully, these tools will help you along your journey and allow you to reclaim some of your valuable time.