“Getting more done” is always a priority in any business, and productivity apps often have a role to play.
If you’re working with a virtual assistant, it’s important that you’ve got the best productivity apps in place to help facilitate a virtual environment. There was a time when the very nature of being remote would have made that tricky, but fortunately, technology has advanced so we have a lot of options.
What does productivity really look like and what are the best tools for the job? Let’s take a closer look:
What does “productivity” look like?
There are many benefits to working with a remote team. In fact, did you know remote workers are outperforming their office-based counterparts? No office distractions and the autonomy and freedom to get more done is allowing remote workers to maximize their productivity.
The challenge when you and your virtual assistant work remotely is to decide what productivity looks like. Usually, this will be different for any given business, but a great way to get a handle on it is to define some KPIs and goals for what productivity means to you.
One thing productivity is NOT is the number of hours worked. Clocking in and out is not a great measure because it doesn’t tell you if work actually happened. There’s an entire culture of office-based clock watchers who can tell you hours do not equal productivity!
It’s more important to measure the right things. Are you moving toward business goals? Are you getting there as quickly as you’d like? Also, consider whether you’re spending time-fighting fires — this can be an indication of possible changes needed in your processes to become more proactive.
Roadblocks to productivity
In our experience of working with multiple remote clients and team members, the biggest roadblocks to productivity are:
- Not having clear direction or goals to be working toward
- Poor communication
- Not having the right productivity tools to facilitate the remote environment.
In fact, having the best productivity tools in place can solve those other two issues. Next, we’re looking at some of our favorites:
Our top 10 productivity apps
If you do a search of productivity software, you’re going to get a huge number of hits. As remote work has become more common and people have embraced digital technology, areas such as SaaS and apps for productivity have exploded.
This can all be a bit overwhelming for someone who is hoping to quickly assess and put in place suitable solutions. Over time, we’ve tested and used a number of apps to determine which we like the best. Here are our top picks, for anyone who’d like to take a shortcut on making the decision!
plays a central role in the management of our own team, and many of our clients’ teams. This project management app is not only packed with features, it allows everyone to clearly see what needs to be done.
Tracking, transparency, and knowing who is responsible for what is an important part of productivity. If something has rolled past due, who was responsible for it and why hasn’t it been completed? We love the “kanban style” boards that move cards across lists as tasks or stages are completed.
Asana allows us to clearly prioritize, set deadlines, share details, and assign tasks. Importantly, it’s a central point for all of those things! If you’ve ever tried to coordinate multiple tasks by email, you’ll understand what a mess that can turn into.
The new timeline feature is showing some great promise for planning project pieces and structuring them in order. This is a great app for teams, but also for businesses that consist of an owner and a virtual assistant. It’s just a nice, easy way to stay organized.
Remember how communication can be one of the biggest roadblocks to productivity? Loom is an awesome tool for helping to ensure clear communication.
This is a video tool that has three settings to allow you to communicate what you need: screen with camera, just screen, or just camera. You can share what’s happening on your screen (i.e., providing instructions for how to complete a task) or simply record a video of yourself sending a message.
One great way to use Loom is when you’re creating shareable processes for your business. You might need to show how something works, or just quickly explain how you like something done. You can then save your videos to a library for future reference. It makes it easy on you and your virtual assistant if they have something to reference.
There are actually loads of use cases for Loom. They’ve created a great library to inspire you here.
How many hours do you or your virtual assistant spend on social media management? It’s a job that can really eat into your time, especially if you are logging in and out of accounts, or having to come up with posts daily.
Hootsuite is a social media management tool that streamlines all of those associated tasks. You can manage all of your social media accounts from one dashboard, which means no more logging in and out.
One of the best time-saving features is that you can schedule hundreds of social media posts in one go via the dashboard. You can do this for all of your accounts, even planning out a few weeks at a time. There are a couple of great things about this feature; a) you can get a lot done while you’re “in the groove” of creating posts and b) it saves you from going down the social media “rabbit hole” that’s easy to fall down if you log into the account directly!
Another important feature for business owners and virtual assistants is the content curation section. This allows you to store pre-approved content your virtual assistant is allowed to use for posts in a cloud-based file. So, if you happen to be browsing and come across something, you can add it as you go.
Importantly, your virtual assistant can monitor and respond to engagement via the Hootsuite dashboard, and it comes with a reasonable analytics package for tracking.
4. Google Suite (G Suite)
encompasses a set of tools that are useful for businesses, including G Docs, Drive, Calendar, Sheets, Forms, Slides, Sites (for website building), Hangouts and Gmail.
Most of these features can be used for free outside of G Suite, but this package has a few advantages specifically designed for business use (and at $5 per user per month, it’s not outrageously priced!). Specific business benefits from G Suite include; 30GB storage per user, a company email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), 24/7 support and mobile device management.
Even looking outside of G Suite to the individual apps you can use, there’s a lot of value you can get for free. For example, G Docs can be used for content creation and sharing. The cloud-based program allows others to make comments and for document history to be retrieved if needed.
Content creators rejoice! Visual images are a powerful way to get attention online, and you need them across many of your media properties. For example, your blog, your website, and your social media accounts.
Canva makes creating professional-looking images easy. Sure, it’s not the same as employing a professional graphic designer, but it’s the next best thing if you need a lot of images and don’t have a huge budget.
The team at Canva has created tutorials for how to put various elements together to create a great image. You might create an image laid over with a quote, an advertisement for your business, or an engaging blog feature image. The designs are shareable so that anyone else in your team can edit them too.
Check out one of ours below:
Do you know what else can be a barrier to productivity? Too many productivity tools that don’t “talk” with one another! Basically, the more you can automate in your processes, the more efficiently you can operate.
If you’re logging in and out of different apps or manually entering data from this app to that app, you’ve automatically got an inefficiency. Zapier is one of our best productivity apps for creating more effective processes. It takes those apps which don’t have in-built integrations with one another and acts as the “middle man” to make automations happen.
For example, you might use Zapier to create a link between Asana and Gmail, allowing for tasks to be created in Asana from emails in Gmail. There are hundreds of apps and thousands of potential workflow ideas for productivity, which you can explore here.
7. Time tracker apps
Do you know how you’re spending your time? What about how your virtual assistant is spending theirs? We’ve got “time tracker apps” under one heading because there are at least three which we have tried and love:
TimeDoctor – This is a great time tracking app for teams, including features like screenshots, reporting, client tracking (who uses the most time?), and integrations with payroll. You can track time spent on individual apps and websites, which is very useful for noticing any patterns (hello, Facebook!).
Toggl – Toggl is easy to use with a push-button timer. It allows you to break down your data in a number of different ways and see exactly how you’re spending your time. It works across all devices and allows you to specifically track how much time you’re taking in the tools that it integrates with.
Clockify – This free app is a very simple time tracker and timesheet app, which can easily be used by everyone on the team.
Sometimes, just getting into the apps and programs you need to use can be a big productivity killer. How many times have you yelled at your screen as it told you “incorrect username or password?” You can easily waste half an hour at a time doing resets and confirmations.
Lastpass is a savior for the password-challenged. The password manager app “remembers” passwords for you and works in the background to automatically update for any changes. Get into your productivity tools the first time, every time!
Every business needs a decent accounting tool, and of all the potential tools out there, we really like Xero.
Like the best productivity tools, Xero helps you to automate key functions and easily put a process around those that aren’t automatic. It has grown to be one of the most popular accounting apps in the world and is packed with features.
For example, Xero allows you or your virtual assistant to quickly reconcile accounts, send purchase orders, manage inventory, manage bills, and process invoices, among other features. It also integrates with a lot of other apps, so there’s a good chance there will be something you use that you can hook up with it.
10. CRM software
Of all productivity apps, when you have clients, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is a must. Basically, it allows you to manage your customer lists, to “remember” things about them and to keep tabs on customer preferences and activity.
Here are three options we like:
ActiveCampaign – ActiveCampaign really shines when it comes to email marketing automation. The CRM tool helps with contact management and the timing of your emails too.
Infusionsoft – This tool provides a central point for all of your customer data. Information like sales stats and task updates are pulled into one place for easy management.
It’s important to manage productivity well, especially in a remote environment. You need a selection of top productivity apps to help, but we’d suggest that you choose your top few to begin with!
You don’t want to create more work for yourself managing apps, so prioritize what you need the most first. What are some top choices?