It's surprisingly easy to put in long hours and only complete a small amount of mission-critical work. Distractions are a daily issue that cost significant time. Organizational problems develop, resulting in conflicting calendars for meetings and important due dates. Staff can get confused about which assignments are assigned to them and when certain tasks are due.
All of these issues have led to a boom in productivity software. Programs like Slack help with communication hiccups and file sharing, while systems like Calendly help keep meeting schedules more under control.
Below, 12 members of the Young Entrepreneur Council discuss their favorite online tools for increasing productivity and touch on why they use them.
"We like how Asana can be used to keep track of both long- and short-term goals. The checklist format allows you to stack and prioritize your tasks according to your own preferences. Its assign and comment features are great, easy ways of communicating with your team members, too. Assigning tasks on the fly is easy, and Asana's notification system makes it so new tasks and updates can't be missed." – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP
"Calendly saves a ton of time by reducing the back and forth of meeting scheduling. I block out time on my calendar each week and people can schedule meetings directly on my Calendly. Calendly will send a calendar invite with all the dial-in and meeting information to both parties." –Marlene Jia, TOPBOTS
"Clearbit has a fantastic Chrome extension for saving time with email. You can use the extension to instantly look up anyone's email address or see more about a person directly in your inbox." – Ben Lang, Spoke
4. Email to text
"I shut down my inbox and ignore all emails while focusing on important tasks, and then I set up email to text for specific senders so that my mailbox will automatically forward emails and turn them into text messages. Verizon, for instance, has Vtext (firstname.lastname@example.org). This is how I get away with receiving certain 'emails' while still being extremely productive on busy days." – Cody McLain, SupportNinja
5. Office 365
"We moved to Office 365 last year. All documents are shared online within the team, and everyone can contribute and monitor the progress of the documents live. We don't have to wait to send or receive emails with the documents, nor do we have to worry about working on the wrong versions. We use it internally, as well as with our clients, to increase productivity." – Piyush Jain, Simpalm
"It's quite a challenge to reduce or eliminate online distractions, even for the best of us, which is where the online tool Pocket fits in perfectly. See an article or video you want to get into when you're supposed to be working? Deposit it into Pocket, and there it will wait until you can take a look at it during your off-time." – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
"My favorite tool is the iPhone app Productive, which allows you to create daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, choose the time of day and frequency, and set reminders. While it won't keep you from spending an hour on Facebook, the notifications are a great way to get back to your daily tasks. I do a mix of personal (flossing daily) and business (inbox zero), and love getting 'perfect days.'" – Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems
"RescueTime allows you to see what you have been doing on your computer every day. When I first started using it, I noticed I was spending a lot of my day on emails and even on the company chat system. This made me more aware of how distracting this can be. So I started limiting the time I spent on communication each day and focused more on getting actual work done." – Zev Herman, Superior Lighting
"Few tools have improved team communication the way Slack has. Not only does it allow for robust discussion throughout the day across all projects and team members, it's also phenomenal for quickly catching up on what has happened after a meeting or when [I'm] on vacation. Instead of a 30-plus minute status call, two minutes of skimming a project's Slack channel is enough to get fully up to speed." – Jeff Jahn, DynamiX
"Having tried several project management tools, Trello has worked best for me because I am a visual person. Being able to categorize and sort my tasks has helped me stay more organized and focused, which has increased my productivity. I also appreciate that I can tag other team members to stay up to date on projects." – Mark Krassner, Expectful
"I'm a big fan of the Pomodoro technique, which is when you focus on one task for one chunk of time followed by a small break. Each Pomodoro is 25 minutes long, followed by a five-minute break from work. A free online tool that you can use is TomatoTimer, which will time your Pomodoros and breaks so that you can be productive and efficient while working." – Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile
"I love using Zapier to automate everything I possibly can. It allows you to connect multiple websites and systems to automatically 'zap' a task in a separate system. Automatically add contacts to CRMs, add tasks to project management systems and even send follow-up emails to sales prospects." – Torrey Tayenaka, Sparkhouse