11 Tech Tools That Don’t Suck!
When it comes to technology the question often becomes how much is too much? When does technology stop making you more efficient and start becoming a time suck? How do I find technology that works for me and doesn’t entirely suck the life out of me?
If you are anything like me and easily distracted by shiny objects (or the latest in technology) you know how tempting it can be to jump from tool to tool . Thanks to Michelle for asking how I leverage technology to run a multi-million dollar company, make time for my family and not be tied to my office 24/7. In this article you will learn my preferred technology tools, what they are, where and how I use them.
This is as close to the magic formula for finding the right fit for your tech needs as I could come up with:
- Spend a little bit of time in advance to evaluate your needs, create categories where you can use assistance
- Identify a list of potential products that will suffice
- Try them on for size
- Ultimately make a decision and commit to one tool.
The reality is there are many tools that will do the same job. There are also very little difference between most of the available platforms. At the end of the day the best tool for the job is the one that you will actually use. You can spend countless hours analyzing features and functions but at some point you need to just decide on the tool that you are comfortable with and move forward. Launch and learn.
Committing to, and sticking with your tech tools is important. It is not likely that you will find one tool that does the job 100% the way you would like it to. Understand that you will have to find workarounds no matter the platform. Jumping from platform to platform, searching for that 100% match can become detrimental to your progress. So while I would never suggest that you ‘settle’ when it comes to your life partner, technology is another matter all together. Settle away and get a move on!
I recently did a review of my tools and needs by category in an attempt to reduce my technology footprint and become more efficient. I wanted to ensure I eliminated as many redundancies as I possibly could while still keeping me and my team as efficient as possible.
“Quick Tip: Take the time to do an inventory of your technology tools and how you use them looking for redundancies”
Let’s look at some of the categories where I employ technology:
|Task Management||Document Storage|
I quickly realized that there are a lot of categories which likely require different tools. I also realized that there is a fair bit of overlap for many of these tools. Once I identified the broad stroke categories, I started to delineate the tools that I was currently using so I could make decisions moving forward about which were a good fit and which might be redundant.
While there is a bit of overlap in these categories the good news is that most of the popular platforms integrate well with each other so you are not forced to compromise one tool for another. Let’s have a look at the categories, my definition of each and the tools I adopted to assist me.
While calendar maintenance and scheduling are intertwined I have separated them into two different, integrated tools. For context, understand that I have an assistant that manages my calendar for the most part. So ‘Calendar’ is what I would define as the place that stores my appointments, whereby ‘Scheduling’ is the method under which they wind up there.
For calendar I use Google calendar which is part of the Google Apps suite of tools. Google calendar works extremely well for me for a number of reasons in both a personal and professional context. One of the things that I most love about it is the ability to create, and share multiple calendars. For example I have a shared parenting arrangement with my ex-wife. We use a shared calendar for each of the kids where we keep a list of their activities, events and milestones. This way both of us can easily add or view events related to one or both kids.
In a professional context I can share my primary calendar with my assistant and my business partner so that my partner knows what I am doing and when I may or may not be available. My assistant has full privileges on my calendar and can schedule appointments, view locations and keep me on track with my time.
Google calendar integrates with most popular software platforms and is easily added to any mobile device.
Cost: $5/month per user
The bulk of my scheduling is done by my assistant via Google Calendar. I can also easily manage appointments via my iPhone integrated with Google Calendar.
Schedule Once is a tool that allows people to view a subset of my calendar’s free/busy time and schedule a time for a variety of appointments.
How many times have you tried to schedule a phone call, appointment or meeting with someone via email only to find you end up going back and forth a half dozen times before you can find a mutually agreeable time slot? Schedule Once eliminates this completely. You simply send a link to your Schedule Once page and the individual can choose a timeslot that is available in your calendar that fits their schedule. You can set it up so that you either automatically accept the meeting request or that you have to approve it first.
Scheduling all of your activities including, and especially, phone calls, eliminates telephone tag and allows for much more efficient use of your time.
One of the things I struggled with long ago was letting go of my scheduling. It was hard for me to allow my assistant to take control of my calendar. I felt like it was just as easy for me to pop something in my calendar as it was for me to have them do it. What I have come to realize is that it takes a fair bit of attention, brain power and time to coordinate phone calls and meetings. Letting that come off my plate has been a much more substantial relief than I ever imagined it would be. More on that in future articles. ;0)
Once again for contact management I use a couple of integrated tools to do the job. In this day and age of social media we tend to have connections, contacts and people on a variety of different platforms. Managing them can be a challenge. There are individuals and companies you simply want to track for address and phone number and then there are customers and potential customers you want to track for potential sales opportunities. I have three main tools I use to manage my contacts and they vary based on need.
This is also part of the Google Apps Suite and integrates well with my iPhone. This is where I keep basic contact information such as name, phone, email and address. I like it for its simplicity but it lacks many of the features I want for a more robust contact management system.
Cost: Part of the Google Apps Suite ($5/month per user)
Ace is the Axiom Customer Experience platform, a proprietary piece of software that I had built specifically to manage the lifecycle of the mortgage client for our mortgage brokerage. It integrates with industry third party applications and assists in managing the entire customer experience. From client application to broker process management and integrated consumer portal, the system allows all of our agents to automate the business processes associated with providing our customers an incredible experience around their mortgage needs.
Cost: Proprietary, Free to the Axiom Network
Nimble is a self proclaimed ‘Social CRM’. One of the things that I love about Nimble is that it integrates with all of my Social Media platforms. It pulls contacts from my LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google Contacts. One of the things I have learned as a businessman is that if you want to do more business you need to talk to more people. That’s it. Period.
I use Nimble to manage the frequency with which I connect with people in my network. Everytime I go to an event and meet new people I will add them to the system and make sure that I find a way to connect with them and foster the relationship that we started.
Cost: $9/mo USD
There are two primary platforms that I use for document storage:
Another piece in the Google Apps Suite of tools. Google Drive allows me to store any type of file I want. One of the things I love is the ability to collaborate and share docs at an organizational and departmental level. I can share folders and documents with my admin team, my executive team, or any individual that I like. Google has it’s own suite of tools similar to Microsoft Office. The two main ones that we use are Google Docs, and Google Sheets for Spreadsheets. The real win for Google Drive in my opinion is the ability to collaborate in real time on a document or spreadsheet. When my assistant compiles a meeting agenda she can share it with me for review. I can make changes to the document in real time without having to download then re-upload. The changes are reflected immediately and if she happens to be in the document at the same time she can see the changes happening real time.
It is a great way to work remotely as well since all updates are real time and immediately reflected in the collaborator’s view as well as your own. I work remotely with some Brazilian contractors and this tool has been a life saver.
When on a conference call, minutes can be captured in real time and everyone on the call can be logged into the document and comment on the minutes as they are captured if they are need adjustment.
I tend to use Dropbox to store files that are larger in size. Typically graphic design files and videos. Our design team uses it primarily for marketing materials, graphics, videos and the like. Dropbox also has the ability to share files allowing me to collaborate or view what our marketing and design team has come up with before they hit the market.
Cost: Free and up depending on needs. I use professional which is about $25/month per user
This is definitely an area that there is a lot of overlap in tools and one I am constantly practicing to get a handle on.
We have already discussed Nimble as a contact manager but it also allows me to create tasks related to any of my contacts. These might include follow up calls, emails or smaller tasks I committed to do for a specific individual.
Asana is a project management software suite. I use it in a collaborative environment with our entire team for larger projects and also assigning/delegating individual tasks. My assistant captures action items I am responsible for that arise from any of our meetings. She captures them in real time, as we meet, assigning them to me with or without a deadline.
Asana is project centric allowing you to create a set of individual tasks that need to be completed to deliver your specific project. Tasks can individually be assigned to team members with set due dates. This ensures the team stays on track and allows me or any other managers to quickly see the status of a project as well as any outstanding tasks. We can review tasks by individual to ensure resources are efficiently allocated and workload is spread appropriately.
Project templates can be set up to allow easy duplication of projects that happen regularly. One of the most useful project templates we use is our Onboarding Process. There is a series of tasks that have to happen by a variety of individuals within the organization when we bring on a new team member. Utilizing a pre-created project template not only ensures that our new member’s onboarding process is efficient but team leads can quickly see exactly where our transition team is in the process.
Cost: Free to $10.00/month
I was looking for something here that would allow me to quickly jot down notes no matter where I was. If a thought popped into my head that I wanted to flesh out more fully later I needed a spot to capture it that would not get lost in the mire of information that I have.
Evernote is the tool I have been using for about 4 years to capture and expand on ideas. It may seem a little redundant with Google Docs but it feels much more light weight and has a great iOS app that is ridiculously easy to use. You can organize your data by Notebook and Notes. For example I have a notebook entitled Blog Articles. When an idea for a blog article strikes, I will create a note with a title that captures the sentiment of the article. I can add more thoughts in the note immediately or I can simply leave it as the title and flesh it out later. This article started as an Evernote note titled ‘Tech Tools’.
Evernote has a desktop app that syncs with my iOS device so everything captured on my mobile or desktop is all synced up.
Cost: Free to $12.99/mo
I have played with a lot of meeting tools over the years and have chosen to use Zoom. I love the integration with Google calendar and the video component that allows me to visually interact with my meeting attendees. I use it for everything from individual and group coaching sessions, Mastermind Sessions, team meetings as well as for sales demos. It is a robust video conferencing software that allows me to also share my computer screen for easy demonstration or collaboration.
Cost: $14.99/month for the Pro version
I use Skype primarily as a chat/video call tool to work with overseas contractors. It is fairly universal and requires no meeting setup allowing for on demand calls and text chats.
Thats a wrap!
So there you have it. Those are the primary technology tools that allow me to manage my business whether I am sitting at the office or at my favorite climbing spot down in the Bow Valley.
I would love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite business or personal use technology tools?
Photo compliments of Steve Corba https://www.patreon.com/csorba