Technology Column: Productivity apps for your smart phone

January 22, 2014 

January is a common time for many people, business owners included, to set goals and resolutions for the year to come. This year, as with years in the past, many business owners and managers will likely have a resolution centered around productivity. Being more productive has obvious benefits, but to become more productive, we often need help. One option for boosting productivity is mobile apps.

Here are five great mobile productivity apps that are free, or cheap enough where they won't break the bank.

Asana

Most small to medium businesses have team members working in different areas that often come together on projects. Managing who does what in these projects, and collaborating on tasks can be a chore. What Asana does is allow users to schedule and assign tasks within projects.

Each user's tasks are presented in a to-do list with due dates clearly divided, so each person knows what to focus on, and when the work is due. Other users can also see each of the tasks so they know what each member is doing. If you are a project- or task-oriented business, this could be a great tool to help you and your teams stay on track.

While many businesses use the Web based version, there are mobile apps for both Android and iOS devices. It is free for teams of up to 15 members. Check out Asana's website for more information on pricing for teams with more than 15 users.

Evernote

Many working in smaller businesses often find themselves filling more than one role. This means they are constantly thinking about another task, often coming up with ideas, questions and even answers. The problem with this is many of us forget that one all important idea by the time we actually get around to switching our hats and our focus. Evernote is an app that allows users to jot down notes and ideas more readily.

Because this is a mobile app, you can share notes with your colleagues -- kind of like a brainstorm -- or even record images and sounds to keep something like a dictionary or wiki. What really sets this app apart from other note apps is that all of your notes are synced with an account, which makes them available on nearly every platform you use.

The basic version of Evernote is available for free on nearly all mobile platforms, and a full-featured business edition is available for $10.00 per user, per month. Visit the Evernote website to learn more about the program, and to download it for your device.

Any.do Cal

Part of the Any.do family of apps which focus on tasks, Cal is an extension that makes your device's calendar easier to focus on. At a quick glance, you can see your whole day's activities and events. This is really designed to be a calendar app that is used for both work and personal life, giving you a better idea of what your full day looks like -- not just a part of it. In an effort to highlight or promote better work/life balance, it will also show you your free time.

The app is available for free on both Android and iOS, and if you are looking to further enhance its capabilities, give Any.do to do list a try.

Pocket

The Internet is one of the best productivity boosters, yet it is also one of the best ways to waste time too. Because so many news outlets and stories are now online, you can spend literally hours of your day reading various articles and blogs. While these articles may be useful, reading them when you should be working is not best for your productivity.

That's where Pocket comes in. This app allows you to save articles and blogs you come across in your browser or email for reading later on a mobile device. So, if you are at work and come across a really interesting article, don't stop to read it, save it to Pocket and read it on the way home or while on a break.

Pocket is free and works as an extension to your Web browser. First you need to go to the Pocket website and sign up for an account, then install the browser extension (click on Your Web Browser under Ways to Pocket). After that, install the app on your Android or iOS device.

Doodle

While the name suggests a drawing, Doodle is actually a scheduling app. It allows you to set a number of potential times and dates for a meeting and then ask all participants to select what works best for them. This makes it easier for you to schedule meetings with different people, while also reducing the number of back-and-forth emails that inevitably come from setting up meetings.

When you pick the times, the participants tick what times or dates work best for them, which allows you to pick the time that works best. What sets this app apart is that it syncs with almost all other major calendar apps like Google Calendar and Outlook. It's available on both the Apple App and Google Play stores for $2.99.

David Spire, president and CEO of United Systems, holds multiple professional certifications. He can be reached at 941.721.6423 or by email at david.spire@uscomputergroup.com.

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