To help small business owners find the most effective productivity tools, we asked 20 successful entrepreneurs and founders for their top recommendations. From boosting productivity with Trello to tailoring your business with Bigin CRM, discover the essential tools these experts rely on to streamline their operations and maximize efficiency.
As a tech leader and a small business owner, the tool I find invaluable in managing my day-to-day operations is Trello. Trello is an easy-to-use, flexible, and visual tool that organizes your projects into boards, lists, and cards. At one glance, it tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on it, and where something is in the process.
The beauty of Trello is its versatility and simplicity. It can be used for project management, task tracking, ideation sessions, and much more. Each card represents a task, and you can add due dates, checklists, attachments, and custom labels to make them as detailed or as simple as you want. Furthermore, these cards can be moved across lists (which I often designate as stages of a process) to show progress.
In our small business operations, we use Trello for everything from tracking development sprints and managing content calendars to planning team events. It’s incredibly intuitive and requires very little time to get up to speed.
In a single, simple platform, Brosix gives us all the tools we need to boost our team’s productivity. Managing our own internal team network improves security. We can easily stay connected and work effectively through instant messaging, file transfers, audio chats, and video calls.
Screen Sharing and Remote Desktop make it simple to demonstrate new techniques and procedures directly on the computers of our trainees. What’s more, the Co-browsing Feature of Brosix lets us browse websites with our coworkers. We can work together on specific projects or tasks without the need of sharing links or URLs. Our employees work entirely from home, so this is a particularly useful option for us.
I use Toggl Track to track how long I spend on various projects and parts of my job. You can set up projects for different areas, like admin, meeting, or various ongoing projects. I also like that you can track billable hours to see how much time you are spending on work that is actually bringing money in.
It helps me to ensure that I don’t spend too much of the day focused on busywork because I review my time at the end of each day. This allows me to see the most time-intensive projects and helps me work out what I need to prioritize or delegate to better manage my time.
I encourage everyone on my team to do the same exercise to better understand how they are spending their most precious currency.
As a small business owner, I feel like half of my day is spent in my email inbox. Whether it’s keeping customers moving forward, tracking payments from vendors, or engaging new partners, there are many different threads that I need to be following at a given time.
I’ve been using Streak, a Gmail-based CRM, for five years and it has ensured that I efficiently stay on top of each of those conversations. In Streak, I can have different pipelines—for customers, partners, and vendors—and create custom stages for each pipeline. I can also set follow-up dates for each conversation, ensuring that I don’t lose track of any conversations or forget to follow up.
I strongly suggest that small business owners subscribe to LivePlan software. It will easily create your business plan.
You will be asked a series of questions. The tool will organize it properly and in the correct format. This is a reasonably priced tool. It will save you from having to hire an outsider to create your business plan on your behalf. It is intuitive and easy to follow. It will make you look like the pro you are. You can modify and add additional business goals as your business and team grows.
The tool even creates presentations for you to pitch your business to potential clients/customers. I guarantee you will love this application. I share it with my clients who want to learn business organization.
ProjectPlace is a team collaboration and work management platform that helps us organize, plan, and monitor progress.
Before we started using ProjectPlace, we encountered a number of frustrating problems. First, we would frequently duplicate work, not realizing that someone was already working on the same task. Alternatively, we would waste a significant amount of time asking what someone else was doing, resulting in no one actually working on that particular task. Last, certain tasks would simply be forgotten, getting lost in the overwhelming workload.
ProjectPlace allowed us to formalize and structure our schedules, making them available to everyone else. This means we can see what our colleagues are working on, how much progress they have made, and what is next on their agenda.
Overall, ProjectPlace has significantly enhanced productivity across the team, and we cannot imagine going back to the way things were before.
I’ve been using a Pomodoro timer since I started my entrepreneurial journey, and it’s been the backbone behind my productivity.
The way it works is simple. The tool will set a timer for 25 minutes where you can get work done. After this, you take a five-minute break. This is one Pomodoro. Once you’ve completed four Pomodoros, take a longer 20-minute break.
This way, there’s always a break to look forward to, keeping you productive and motivated.
So if you’re struggling to get work done as a small business owner, consider using a Pomodoro timer.
Email clutter is a big hassle that slows down employees and intrudes on our work. At my company, we use SaneBox, which helps clear out all the clutter in our inboxes. This is an email management tool that cleans up your inbox.
SaneBox will automatically sort your inbox by creating folders. Emails are sent to their corresponding folders as they arrive. Its smart filtering feature sorts emails according to priority, which is a big help for us. Finding a specific email has never been easier.
As a small business owner, one productivity tool that has revolutionized my workflow is Notion.
Notion’s Kanban-style boards are perfect for setting up and tracking project progress, whether working solo or collaborating with internal and external teams. Its user-friendly interface allows for the swift creation of pages, making it easy to structure and manage complex projects with relevant context.
What really sets Notion apart, though, is its suitability for client-facing work. It has become my go-to platform for showcasing project processes, providing regular updates to clients, and serving as a comprehensive record of completed work. This not only enhances transparency but also serves as tangible proof of the value delivered to clients.
With Notion as my productivity ally, I am able to streamline project management, save time, and complete tasks faster than with alternative tools like Asana or Trello (which I use as well but for simpler projects and task management).
For the past five years, we have relied on Basecamp as our go-to platform for all our team projects. Its scheduling feature has been instrumental in assigning tasks within a project, whether to an individual or myself. I can effortlessly sync my Basecamp schedule with my personal calendar on my phone, helping keep projects on schedule and keeping productivity high.
One of the biggest benefits of using Basecamp is the accountability it provides, especially when collaborating with external consultants or freelancers. By setting deadlines within Basecamp, both parties are promptly notified if a deadline is not met. This feature has significantly reduced the issues we previously encountered with outside vendors failing to complete projects on time.
Thanks to Basecamp, we have been able to maintain and enhance our productivity levels efficiently.
I lean on Google Calendar as my primary productivity tool. Sounds basic, right? But let me share how I’ve customized it to my needs.
When you’re juggling multiple clients with different fitness goals and schedules, organization is key. Google Calendar allows me to plan and track each client’s workout routine, their progress, and our appointments, color-coding them for easy reference.
For instance, I once had a client who could only squeeze in workouts at 5 AM. Rather than groan about the ungodly hour, I marked these sessions with a sunrise color and treated them as my “rise and grind” opportunities. This visual cue not only helped me mentally prepare but also motivated me to show up at my best for my client.
Moreover, with the added feature of reminders, I can ensure no session is missed or double-booked. And trust me, this saved me from more than a few embarrassing situations!
As a solo business owner, one productivity tool that I find incredibly useful is ChatGPT. This AI assistant has completely changed my workflow in the last several months! It helps me write content, find new creative ideas, analyze and summarize information, draft emails, do research super fast, and so much more.
ChatGPT is now my virtual sidekick that’s available 24/7, and I can hardly imagine how I worked before it came into the picture. It’s an amazing cutting-edge tool that saves me a ton of time every day and lets me grow my business much faster than I ever could by myself.
Staying on top of tasks and effectively managing productivity is quite challenging as a small business owner. To make this hectic task easy, luckily there are a number of productivity tools that can help small business owners. In that list, Todoist is one of the best and user-friendly tools.
It is basically a task management system that is specifically created to help small business owners and entrepreneurs keep track of their projects, deadlines, and tasks. It is helpful for users in organizing to-do lists, projects, notes, etc. This platform is also helpful for assigning tasks to other people and managing various things actively.
As a life coach, I’ve been using Zapier as a versatile productivity tool.
First, it integrates with my calendar and automatically sends reminders for my coaching sessions to clients. This saves me from the manual task of tracking and sending reminders.
Second, when I publish a new blog post, Zapier can share it across my social media platforms, multiplying my outreach without additional effort.
Lastly, when a new client completes the signup process on the website, it triggers an automated workflow by sending personalized emails. The automation allows me to focus more on what I love to do and less on administrative chores.
I’ve found that ClickUp is a real game-changer for my business. It’s like my personal assistant, helping me keep track of everything I need to do. With ClickUp, I can easily create to-do lists, set reminders, and even set goals to keep my business on track.
The best part about ClickUp is its ability to help me manage projects. I can organize tasks, assign them to team members, and track their progress all in one place. It’s super helpful when we have big projects with many moving parts.
Another feature I love is its integration with other tools I use. Whether it’s my email, calendar, or file storage, I can link them all to ClickUp, which makes my workflow much smoother.
In short, ClickUp keeps me organized and saves me a lot of time. For me, it’s an essential tool for running my business.
QuickBooks was a game-changer in amping up my productivity. Bookkeeping is a very time-consuming and painstaking aspect of owning a business, but QuickBooks helped make it simple and straightforward. Its intuitive features streamline my payroll, invoicing, and expense-tracking tasks.
Automating my bookkeeping needs with QuickBooks freed up so many valuable hours in my workday that I could instead allot to scaling my business.
Thanks to this tool, tax season is now manageable and no longer a stress-ridden time.
I personally use Asana and I’ve looped in my design team as well. The process we use is simple. We set up different projects like design, marketing, etc. using the Kanban-style project interface. Then, we’ll add multiple columns like up next, idea backlog, in progress, awaiting review, and complete.
For any task, we’ll use Google Docs to scope it out and then add it to “up next.” The item at the top of the list in “up next” is the next thing that needs to be done. If it’s important, we’ll use (priority) at the front of the title.
As long as you’ve scoped the task properly, there are few calls/meetings/discussions needed for the task to get done. When they’re finished, they move it to “in review” and I come in and do a final quality check. If it passes, it’s moved to done/complete. If it fails, it’s moved back to “in progress.”
Personally, I create a weekly to-do list and daily to-do lists within Asana to stay on top of the important things.
I honestly am not 100% sure what I used to do before Calendly, so I can very definitely say that this is one of the best productivity-boosting tools for a small business. There are two features that I particularly find useful and would highly recommend.
First and foremost, you can set up events from your calendar and mark times when you’re busy and then if someone wants to set up a meeting with you, they can without having to submit a request via email or go back and forth on times.
The second bit is where it gets significantly better than Outlook. You can set up a series of global buffers. I personally set up 10-minute buffers between meetings as a global setting, just time to reflect on the last meeting, grab a cup of tea and do a quick stretch—which helps me stay in good shape all day.
It goes beyond standard time blocking. The automations provided by Motion feel like having a personal assistant, saving me valuable time. With its automatic scheduling and rescheduling features, tasks are instantly visible on my calendar, greatly enhancing productivity.
Setting up different time boxes, such as working hours, evening hours, morning hours, and weekend hours, takes some effort but ensures smooth operation. The Chrome extension and shortcuts offered by Motion are a significant time saver. Additionally, Motion’s meeting scheduler, which includes an automatic message generator, eliminates the need for separate scheduling apps like Calendly.
We use Bigin CRM from Zoho as it is specifically designed for smaller companies.
Many of the CRM services on the market are designed for larger businesses and as a result, have features not needed for small businesses and are more complicated.
Bigin allows me to track potential cases and emails from the system. Generally, it just keeps me more organized and therefore more productive. I’ve tested many CRM systems and this is the only one that felt right to me.
Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Terkel, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.