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10 tools that keep small business owners organized and productive

By Gerri Detweiler – Guest Contributor

We’ve all got our own favorite tips, tricks, and tools that help us organize our task lists, assign projects, and manage deliverables. Today, there are more apps and software programs geared toward business owners than ever. I interviewed 10 entrepreneurs to find out what they use to stay on top of everything.

  1. Monday: Streamline Communication Channels

Aalap Shah, founder of 1o8, an e-comm-focused digital agency in Chicago, loves for project management.

“My business has clients, vendors, independent contractors, and full-time folks all trying to communicate, and it has streamlined our Slack, email, and file management tools into one centralized (and colorful) dashboard that allows us to glance at a project and know where it’s at.  I love the integrations it has—be it invoicing, other communications tools, Google Drive—along with the extensive training and documentation that it has for a novice to be able to take this tool and harness it to its fullest potential.”

Shah recommends diving into a few of the webinars or training videos on the site and reading a few case studies.

“What’s cool about the tool is that it’s flexible for almost any business and then within your business, you can set up boards for all sorts of different activities and tactics. The best part (and tip I can offer) is getting into a daily habit of using it—I load up all the tasks right after a meeting, for example, so it stays fresh and gets assigned to the right team to execute against.”

  1. Focus To-Do: Break Down Tasks into Bite-Sized Chunks

For managing time and tasks, Brandon Ackroyd, owner of Tiger Mobiles, prefers Focus To-Do. 

“I primarily use it for the Pomodoro function. The night before work, I make a to-do list of things that need to be accomplished. Then on the day, the app has a timer to break down work into intervals. I set it to 25 minutes in length and tick off tasks when they are complete. After every 25 minutes passes, I take a five-minute break. After four of these cycles, I take a 15-minute break.”

  1. Trello: Color-Coded Organization

Chloe Brittain, owner of Opal Transcription Services, an audio transcription company serving clients in the US and Canada, uses Trello, a Kanban-style app to organize new projects, from a long-term to-do list to editorial calendar to SEO campaign.

“I also use it for simple things like keeping track of articles I want to read later. I prefer Trello to other organizational tools because it’s versatile but also simple: I can easily rearrange items on a board or card, color code things, add checklists and deadlines, etc., and even with all these layers of complexity, it’s easy to understand visually where I’m at and what still needs to get done.”

Brittain says if you need functionality beyond basic projects, you can use extensions (called Power-Ups) to help you customize the tool to your needs. “For instance, you could add custom fields to your cards or integrate your Trello boards with Dropbox,” she said.

  1. Teamwork: Track Milestones and Due Dates

Shane Griffiths, partner at Clarity Online, an SEO marketing agency in Seattle, loves Teamwork to stay organized.

“It allows us to stay organized with recurring work, due dates, and important milestones. For large projects like website redesigns, we can add the client to our project so they can always see the status and get updates. We can even assign them tasks like reviewing design mockups or delivering copy,” Griffiths said.

His favorite tip for Teamwork is to utilize recurring tasks.“That can save you a ton of time when managing a project or simply organizing your week. It’s a very useful platform that can be used both internally and externally to organize a company.”

  1. Google Tasks: Assign Actions from Your Calendar

Taiisha Bradley, publicist and founder at Modernoire, a non-equity minority business alliance that operates as a social enterprise, uses Google Tasks.

“Like many small business owners, I am constantly in my inbox. It’s so easy to list my tasks and to-dos right there in my email screen as I read through my emails. My Tasks even adds dates and times to my Gmail calendar so I don’t have to take another action to update my calendar or to create a deadline. The ability to add subtasks to main tasks is even more helpful when a task has many parts to completion.”

Bradley suggests watching YouTube videos of how to use Tasks. “I always learn something new from watching the most recent shortcuts and hacks from ‘techies’ on YouTube.”

  1. Meistertask: Simple Task Management

When your day is filled with tasks to manage, you need a tool that helps you stay on top of them all. Jose Gomez, CTO & cofounder of digital marketing agency  Evinez, uses Meistertask to manage and organize his tasks, as well as see where other team members are on a project.

“We mainly use it for daily task assignments, task and time tracking, deadlines and so on.”

He likes being able to assign each project its own Kanban board that enables project managers to track a project’s progress in real-time. “My personal recommendation for Meistertask is to have separate projects (Kanban boards) and set alerts for task changes (especially if you work within a team).”

  1. Evernote: Great Multitasker

Shuman Roy, who writes for and also owns a franchise location for School of Rock in Orangeburg, New York, frequently finds himself jumping from one task to the next, operating on three different frequencies, as so many entrepreneurs do.

He finds that Evernote helps him do so much more than take notes, as it was designed to do.

“Evernote can capture photo, video, and voice. Great features for documenting lesson plans, song ideas, or technical document notation. The app also lets you track internal and external links.”

Roy says being able to connect to Google drives, audio files, video files, and even sketch handwritten notes is helpful when working in multimedia formats where he and his team are recording meeting notes, taking pictures of whiteboards, and following slides.

  1. Zapier: Easier Task Automation

Samantha Odo is COO of, a company that helps people research and purchase new condominiums in Toronto. She loves Zapier because it creates a web of all the apps that she uses for storing information and connects them through automated processes.

“Zapier is one of the most impactful organizational tools for process automation and integrating multiple apps to one platform. For example, if you intend to save a file in Google Drive, you can create a zap and upload it on Zapier, then the document will be automatically saved to Drive.”

  1. Calendly: Meeting Scheduling Simplified

Alexis Haselberger, productivity, time management, and leadership coach at Alexis Haselberger Coaching, hated the time-wasting back-and-forth of trying to find a meeting time and date, especially with external parties. Then she discovered Calendly, meeting scheduling software.

“Calendly is inexpensive and allows for multiple different meeting types so that you can have the right amount of buffer time built in for travel related to in-person meetings versus calls or in-house meetings.”

  1. Expensify: Keep Track of Receipts

Gone are the days of stuffing receipts in your laptop bag until you can get back to the office to scan them and email them to Accounting. Expensify is a mobile app that makes it easy to scan and track receipts. As a small business owner, this is a lifesaver for Connie Heintz, founder of DIYoffer, which provides a complete ‘for sale by owner’ kit in Toronto.

“I used to carry my receipts around in my pocket and file them at the end of the night, but I found myself losing them and putting them through the wash. With this app, all you have to do is photograph the receipt with your phone and it’s uploaded directly to a spreadsheet.”

She loves being able to share her spreadsheet at the end of each quarter directly with her accountant.

These are just a few of the many tools that can make a business owner’s life a lot easier! What would you add to the list?

This article originally appeared on

Credit expert Gerri Detweiler is education director for Nav. She is the author or coauthor of five books, including Finance Your Own Business: Get on the Financing Fast Track.

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