All of us have favorite tools we use every day to do our jobs. I own a computer consulting business so a lot of what I do centers around technology – but not all. Looking around at my desktop, both real and virtual, I realized I keep turning to the same products and tools. And I thought it might make a good blog article about what I use to keep productive.
Here’s my top 10 list of tools I use every day.
1. Google – One of these days I am actually going to keep a log of how many times a day I reach for my Chrome browser and do Google searches. And it’s not always on technology questions. I use it to search for recipes, how to keep my peach tree from freezing when the temperature drops tonight, why Quickbooks gets grumpy at something I have entered, or the best way to drive to a certain location and avoid traffic. It’s amazing what you can find on Google. And I’ve gotten so good at searching that I am even teaching the tips on webinars.
2. Excel – I must open Excel at least 3 times a day – even though I have a calculator and there is a small tool on my computer, I instinctively open Excel first. I take text from Word tables that I want sorted in a certain way and sort them in Excel. I keep a project tracking sheet – which I now upload to Google Drive to share with my staff. I have Quicken and Quickbooks, but I take the numbers and export them into Excel to do my long term planning and money management. I even use it to put together my tweets that I upload to Hootsuite. It let’s me keep track of tweets I have already sent so I don’t duplicate things.
3. ACT – yes, we are ACT consultants but I really do use this tool every day. It’s the second thing I open after my email. It has everything I need to know about my customers, my credit card accounts, my travel details, and what is in store for me on my calendar. I could not run my business without it Period.
4. Google Chat – this has become my favorite Instant Messaging tool. Plus I use it to call customers via Google chat. The phone lines get tied up pretty often and I can make free phone calls within the US via my computer. What’s not to like. People have learned it’s the fastest way to get a hold of me. That could be a bad thing – but when I need to work, I put it on Don’t disturb and all is good.
5. Lotus Notes – it’s not just my email. It’s my business database repository. I use ACT to keep track of customer details but I use Lotus Notes to keep track of business procedures, licenses, documents we share on our website, and a repository of documents with details we use internally or share with our customers. Databases in Notes are easily searched and indexed. It’s amazing how quickly I can find details on how-to’s and instructions that I have written up and saved in the document database. And since Notes databases can be shared on the web, several of the pages on my website are driven by views in these databases. Here’s a link to an example page with a Notes view embedded: http://www.egenconsulting.com/support/file-downloads.html
6. Tweetdeck and Hootsuite – I am into Social media and these are my goto tools for sending and reading tweets. I use Tweetdeck because It’s easy for me to quickly know when someone retweets my tweets or follows me. I use Hootsuite to “occasionally” schedule tweets if I know I am going to be away from my computer. It will also allow me to post to both Linkedin and Twitter at the same time now that you can’t have them auto-link.
7. Quickbooks – how does any small business manage without this gem. I have payroll and I don’t have to be an accountant to make paychecks and do taxes. Sales tax forms are created easily and I can monitor my business quickly and simply turn over my QB file to my accountant at tax time. Love it.
8. Sticky Notes – this is one of the few things I like about Windows 7. This little app keeps a sticky note up on my desktop for the quick reminders that I can see quickly without needing to clutter up ACT with to-dos the rest of my staff do not need to see.
9. WordPress – since we changed our website over to WordPress I have become a better blogger and can quickly add new, dynamic data to our website. I love the theme I chose and my staff did a great job of enhancing and customizing it so it fits my requirements perfectly. It is a very powerful way to make a dynamic and interesting website. There are tons of plugins and widgets. Just this week I added one that will enable me to have events or training sessions that people can register for and even pay via Paypal. And it was a free download. What is wrong with free.
10. PDFill – this little tool costs about $20 but I use it on a weekly basis. I often get PDF forms I have to sign or complete and this tool will allow me to add text and signatures to a PDF document. Nifty tool indeed.
These are not all the tools I use but these are the ones I use on a daily/weekly basis. There are a couple of other “must do” things that happen during the day but they are not tools per se. I have to be brave and admit that I scan Facebook every morning, lunch and evening. When you work out of your home office you don’t get that much interaction at a worksite. There is no “stand around the coffee pot and chat” thing going on. Facebook is that for me. I even have customers who are my friends on Facebook. We interact differently there – they get to know me as person and vice versa. What better way to know I am somebody they want to do business with.
That’s this week’s blog. What are your favorite tools. Comment here and share with the rest of the blogging world. Thanks.