Let’s Work Together

Work Smarter: Productivity Tools Entrepreneurs Need to Know

Feb 22nd, 2011

Jacob Schpok – I’m a self-proclaimed computer geek bent on using technology to improve productivity.  For me, everything needs to be electronic. The only filing cabinet I have in my office is currently used to store a few notebooks, three bags of coffee, and a plastic cup I use for change. The files that were there have long been scanned and recycled.

There is a lot of technology out there claiming to be the next best thing. Admittedly, my level of productivity will not always increase with every application I download and learn. For example, Google Wave was positioned to become the great new communication tool of 2010. How could it not be? It was developed by the powerhouse Google and reviewed as an communication-changer by many tech blogs.

Below are a few time tested websites and programs I use to stay productive. These resources are not blips on the e-commerce radar but solid competitors in their respective niches. I encourage you to think about how these tools may save you and your business time, money, and enhancing operations. Start using tomorrow’s mainstream solutions today and leave competitors wondering how you do it.

Dropbox – This is a straightforward, non-technical, solution for sharing folders across numerous computers and over the internet. Imagine having a folder that you and your business partners can access on any computer, another folder with private information only you can see, and another folder with information available to the public including unique URL links to files for easy download. Dropbox makes this possible without the need for any technical training.

Free accounts provide 2GB of space (get an extra 250mb by using this referral link) and users can buy additional space if needed. More information on Dropbox can be found here. Introduction to Dropbox video.

Google Docs – If Google had it their way, the only computer software installed on your computer would be an internet browser; all operations would be performed online using websites. In an attempt to compete against Microsoft Office and Mac’s iWork, Google created Google Docs, a full-fledged online office suite, including their own versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Paint. We at the ISBDC have been using it for a little under a year. So far so good.

Why make the switch to Google Docs? Since all Google Docs programs are online, it’s easy to share and collaborate. Multiple people can edit a document at the same time, past revisions of documents are automatically saved and cataloged, read and write permissions can be set so you can share content without worrying about it being edited by viewers, for the most part documents convert nicely to and from Microsoft Office, and it’s a completely free. For organizations who want to further integrate their business with Google Docs and use more of the sites rich functionality, Google Apps accounts can be purchased at $50 a user. More information on Google Docs can be found here. Introduction to Google Docs video.

Chrome and Firefox – It’s time to step away from Internet Explorer. I know, it’s what was pre-installed on your computer and you haven’t had trouble with it, but if you want to improve your productivity, this is one area you will have to be a little proactive. Think about how much time you spend online working, shopping, communicating with others, and watching hilarious and adorable videos. Shouldn’t you be using the best tool for the job?  Test after test after test shows that Chrome and Firefox are quicker then Internet Explorer and are less glitchy.

So why Chrome and Firefox instead of Safari or Opera (two other Internet Explorer competitors)? Both Chrome and Firefox offer a wealth of add-ons (Chrome calls them extensions) to help enhance the internet browsing experience. For example, users can download icons that display next to their URL browser bar, which shows the number of unread emails in the user’s inbox, new Facebook updates, and notifications when an airline ticket price drops below a predetermined price. If you are not ready to start installing add-ons, the Chrome and Firefox browsers are still far superior to Internet Explorer. If I had to pick one though, it would be Chrome. I prefer the minimalistic feel which makes the browser less intrusive compared to others. More information on Chrome can be found here. More information on Firefox can be found here.

Evernote – If you are ready to completely digitalize your life, you need Evernote or a competing service. Evernote’s slogan is “remember everything” and their service lives up to it. Dedicated Evernote users will have Evernote running on their computer as a standalone application, as a browser add-on, as an enhancement with any application they use everyday like Outlook or Seesmic, and on their smartphone.

Evernote lets you copy anything you see on your computer screen; including computer documents, phases, urls, pictures, etc., and catalogs them on a private and secured site accessible online, on your smartphone, and by using a computer application. It doesn’t end there. The smartphone application lets users dictate notes which are automatically transcribed and searchable. Words in images are also searchable in Evernote. So, users can take pictures of receipts, airline tickets, CD covers, and just about anything else and rely on Evernote to show the pictures when searching by keyword or phrase.

Evernote free accounts provide 60MB of storage space. For $45 a year, users can purchase a premium account and upload 1GB of notes. A few direct competitors, who provide note-taking services comparable to Evernote, are RememberTheMilk and SpringPad. At the time of this blog post, Evernote has a commanding lead in functionality over its competitors and is the service I recommend. More information on Evernote can be found hereIntroduction to Evernote video.

Jacob Schpok is the Programming Director for the Indiana Small Business Development Center, an organization with the mission of having a positive and measurable impact on the formation, growth, and sustainability of small businesses in Indiana, and to develop a strong entrepreneurial community. Jacob can be reach at jschpok@isbdc.org.