3 Ways to Boost Productivity with Your Smartphone
You can manage tasks, scan receipts and business cards, and limit email responses.
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It can be easy to waste time on a smartphone -- texting friends, playing your favorite games or watching last night's episode of Mad Men.
But with the right tools and apps, you can use your phone to save time and be more productive at work. Here's a look at three ways your smartphone can help you stay focused on growing your business.
1. Managing tasks.
Several mobile-friendly services can keep you attuned to what needs doing. The most useful ones can be accessed via the web on your computer, as well as a smartphone app.
One example is Toodledo. I rely on this service to track everything I need to accomplish, sorting tasks into folders, such as by client names or general categories such as banking. Toodledo also lets you set priorities, due dates, reminders and more.
The free version of Toodledo can be handy, but the pro version ($19.95 a year) adds especially useful functions for business users. For instance, the pro version lets you break tasks into sub-tasks -- which can make the overall list less overwhelming and let you share tasks with others for delegation or collaboration. It also provides a secure internet connection, which can be important if you're including sensitive info such as account numbers or client info in the notes for some tasks.
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Toodledo offers apps for the iPhone and iPad, but not for Android. Fortunately, there are a number of third-party Android task management apps that sync with Toodledo. Many of these are free, but one of the best and easiest to use, Pocket Informant, costs $4.99 and also syncs with Gmail's tasks feature.
One of the most popular mobile-friendly task management services is Remember the Milk. This free web-based service is a simple task list intended mainly for individuals. It offers apps for Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry. It also allows you to set task priorities and add tasks by e-mail, but you can't create folders.
There's also OmniFocus, Mac-only task management software that's based on David Allen's "Getting Things Done" methodology. At $80, it includes a complicated task review system that might be overkill for many smaller operations. There also are OmniFocus apps for the iPhone ($20) and iPad ($40).
2. Scanning business cards and receipts.
Collecting little pieces of paper can be the bane of an entrepreneur's existence. I, for example, am good about jotting quick notes on business cards or receipts to help me recall why I saved them. But when I get home, I tend to put off entering that data into my computer or pulling out my scanner to process business expense receipts.
Steve Robbins, executive coach and host of the "Get It Done Guy" podcast, recommends two apps for processing those annoying slips of paper. ScanBizCards, a free app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, lets you scan both sides of a business card on the spot -- no need to type contact info into your mobile device. It uses optical character recognition to enter that data into the app's address book, which you can export to your main address book. For $12 a year, the web sync option lets you manage all your stored cards via a web interface.
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Robbins also recommends JotNot Scanner, an iPhone app that lets you scan documents, optimize the file size for particular types of documents such as receipts, and organize scans into a password-protected document that you can email to, say, your bookkeeper. There's a free version, and a pro version that costs $1.99.
3. Limiting email responses.
While receiving email on your smartphone is usually convenient, typing on a smartphone can be tedious, time-consuming and, thanks to auto correct, notoriously error-prone. Instead, try reading email on your phone and flagging messages that you wish to respond to, but whenever possible, waiting until you're on a computer to write responses, Robbins says.
If you must answer an email immediately from your phone, consider making a quick phone call instead. Or master the art of writing extremely brief answers to pressing matters. You can add a line to your phone's email signature file that says: "Sent from my phone, so please excuse the brevity. I'll send a longer response later if warranted."
A helpful resource on how to prevent email from sapping your productivity -- whether on the phone or a computer -- is the TED Email Charter, which provides an extensive list of tips and suggestions.
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