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The Best Productivity Software for Small Businesses in 2020

Simon Vreeswijk

Senior Digital Marketer - 28 Jan, 2020

For small business owners, time is at a premium. Even a few more minutes each day could help us check some of those items off our always-growing to-do lists. Sure, we all know there are plenty of productivity apps out there to help, but choice overload is a real thing.

We’re here to help narrow those options down a little for you. We’ve gathered some of our favorite productivity tools, along with a few suggestions on how you can get the most out of them. Here’s some software that can make 2020 your most productive year ever.

What is Productivity Software?

Productivity software is any type of software tool that make running a business and doing your job easier. From simple to-do list apps to complex project management solutions, small businesses will find a growing list of productivity tools to help them thrive.

Why do Small Businesses Need Productivity Software?

All businesses can benefit from improved time management. The aim of productivity software is to create streamlined workflows that eliminate the headaches of post-it notes and day planners. Small businesses, especially those in the growth phase, will find themselves searching for solutions to help employees and managers be more productive. Creating simple and easy to follow systems and processes with the help of productivity tools allows for more time to work on what matters, growing the business.

What has Changed in 2020?

As more small businesses are working remotely in 2020, the need for productivity software that improves collaboration is greater than ever. The move to a remote workforce would not go smoothly without some of the tools available. Whether it be video conferencing or project management, remote workers can be very well equipped to ensure that they're productive from home.

What is the Best Productivity Software for Small Businesses?

We have compiled a list of our favorite productivity tools to help small businesses take things to the next level in 2020.

1. ClickUp

This project management tool is designed to help you manage everything in one place, from to-do lists to entire projects. In ClickUp, you can set goals and break them into individual tasks, which is ideal for a professional interested in moving to the next level. You can customize the interface to meet your personal preferences, which works well for some people. For others, though, that flexibility can feel a bit overwhelming.

To reduce some of that impact, experts have some hacks that can help you make the most of the tool. One of those hacks is to batch your to-do list so that you’re completing similar items in the same go. If you need to dive into your email to accomplish one task, for instance, you can gather other tasks you’ll do while in your inbox and do everything at once to maximize your productivity.

ClickUp Shift screenshot

2. ProofHub

Using technology to manage your teams, tasks, and projects is great, but having to use too many different tools for all this can be quite cumbersome. ProofHub is an all-in-one project, task, and team management software with amazing collaboration capabilities that simplifies everything. With this online project management and team collaboration software, you can plan your projects like a pro, manage your tasks and teams effortlessly, collaborate with teams and clients without any hassle, and stay in ultimate control of everything.

You can create tasks with deadlines and assign them to team members in a jiffy. Create custom workflows using kanban boards and keep things moving. There are Gantt charts to give you a visual timeline for projects and how they are progressing. Start collaborating with your teams by creating discussion topics and brainstorm together. It even has a built-in chat app to keep all your communications centralized. If you work in a team you already know how valuable an online team collaboration software can be. Plus, the real-time notifications for project updates keep everyone always informed of what’s happening in the projects. In all, ProofHub has got everything that a modern-day team requires to accomplish tasks and meet project deadlines while staying connected with each other and collaborating like a breeze.

3. Office 365

You may not realize it, but the tools you need may already be available in the apps you use every day. If you’re paying for Office 365, you may as well get the most out of it. One of the best features of some versions of Office 365 is that you can access your files across multiple devices. Install a copy on your phone and work on that PowerPoint presentation while you’re stuck in traffic or in the waiting room of the dentist’s office. While you’re doing that, though, there are a few other productivity boosters built into Office 365.

  • Microsoft Flow – There are things you do every day that zap your time and energy. Flow lets you automate those tasks, creating “workflows” that run while you’re doing other things. You can save email attachments to OneDrive, send an approval request when new items are uploaded to your SharePoint list, get email forecasts, sync files with Dropbox, and much more.
  • MyAnalytics – How much time do you waste each day on social media? What percentage is devoted to reading and responding to email? MyAnalytics runs in the background, learning your work patterns and making suggestions for improvements you can make to work smarter, not harder.
  • Teams – If your work involves more than just you, Teams can help. You can chat, meet, call, and collaborate directly within the app. If you have employees who need to log their time, you’ll love the included Shifts app (not to be confused with our own Shift app), which lets you add shifts and have employees sign up for them.

4. 1CRM

While project management and office tools will boost your productivity, your entire team will benefit the most from an all-in-one CRM. If you’re ready to take your small business past the never-ending spreadsheets and shared documents, an all-in-one CRM is the next step. A central hub to manage all of your sales leads and customers in the cloud will save both time and money.

With 1CRM you can manage every aspect of your small business. From a complete CRM with team collaboration, lead forms and ecommerce integration to a customer-connection portal and marketing automation you can manage your entire sales and workflow. 1CRM is a great way to streamline your sales cycle, track every customer from beginning to end, nurture your contacts, and reduce costs while increasing revenue.

5. Gmail Templates

You may think of Gmail as a productivity zapper since you probably find notifications disrupting you just as you start to get work done. But what if there was a way you could make Gmail work for you rather than against you? We have it. It’s called Templates, and it’s a little-known feature that lets you save templates for frequently-sent responses to call upon whenever you need them.

Here’s how you get templates working:

  • Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Gmail inbox. Choose Settings.
  • Select Advanced.
  • Scroll down to Templates and select Enable. Save changes.
  • Start a new Email. Compose the body of the email and click on the three dots in the bottom-right corner. Here you can give the template a name and save it.
  • Now that you have your template, whenever you need to respond or send a new email using it, you’ll simply click on the three dots and select Templates, then choose the desired template from the list. Create multiple templates to cover the emails you send most often.

6. Google Keep

Gmail users should also look into Google Keep, which integrates with the popular email tool. When you add reminders to Google Keep, you’ll see them in your inbox, ensuring you won’t forget about them. Once you’ve created a reminder, you’ll see the Keep icon to the right of your inbox, where Google stores all the apps you use frequently for easy access. Just click on the Keep icon to see all the notes you’ve left for yourself.

But the best thing about Keep is that you can put a due date on your reminders that will ensure you never forget anything. Set the date and time you want to be reminded and it will show up in your inbox, along with your email messages. You can also color code your tasks to help you see immediately whether a reminder is related to work, personal, or a particular project or person.

7. Google Hangouts

Another great tool for Gmail users is Google Hangouts, which makes it easy for you to chat with your teams, whether through text or video. Hangouts is transitioning to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet for G Suite users, but the basic premise remains the same. The tool lets you and your team gather in one place to save you the time and expense involved in bringing all your workers together in one place.

But there are also ways to get even more out of Google’s collaboration tool. You can go to Settings and Chat in Gmail, then select Chat On. When you select Save Changes, you’ll see a list of your chat group options on the right while in your Gmail inbox. You can invite team members to a Hangout by clicking on the plus sign above that list. This will help you stay in touch with your team members, clients, and colleagues directly within your inbox.

8. Slack

Speaking of email productivity, a chat app can save you hours of time each week. Instead of firing emails back and forth between your team, you can set everyone up in Slack to communicate in real time. The chat app lets you set up channels to segregate your conversation to make it even more productive. If your team wants to keep discussions divided by clients, projects, tasks, or company announcements, channels is the outlet for that. You can also set up a channel just to let employees take a little break from work to chat about the weekend or their favorite sports teams.

There are also various productivity hacks that can make Slack an even more powerful tool. You can use Actions to convert a message to a new task in a productivity app like Asana and Trello, upload and share files with your team, live chat with customers by integrating with tools like Intercom and Drift, and more.

slack screenshot

9. Evernote

If the Notes app on your phone is jam-packed with nonsensical text, Evernote could make your life easier. Just snap a photo or tap out a quick reminder as you’re going throughout your day, and you’ll have a point of reference whenever you’re ready for it. But even within Evernote, there are a few things you can do to better organize your life.

  • Quick Notes – With Evernote open, you can just push the + button to create a new note. You can choose from snapping a photo, creating a text reminder, or recording a snippet of audio to play back later.
  • Projects – You can divide your notes into “notebooks,” which will help you organize your notes by various projects. If you use Trello, you can alternatively link your Trello board to your master list to keep notes with each corresponding board.
  • Widgets – Once you’ve organized your notes into various projects, you can save incoming emails directly to those notebooks so you’ll have everything in one place. You can even set up auto-forward to always move certain types of emails to a notebook.
  • Share – Evernote can be a powerful productivity tool for professionals who work in teams. Share your notebooks and notes with others to cut down on the number of text messages and emails flying back and forth.

10. Monday

There’s no shortage of productivity tools for businesses, but Monday stands out for its brainstorming features. The app emphasizes the visual nature of planning and collaboration, which gives you the leeway necessary to set things up and move them around, working with your team to come up with ideas and make notes. Everything you input into Monday is saved so that your team can look back at it later.

One of the best things about Monday, though, is that you can see at a glance what tasks are coming due next, allowing you to focus on the most urgent to-do items first. Your team’s activity on each task will be tracked so that you can see just how productive you all are. This serves as a nice bonus feature for teams who need to track their time for billing purposes.

monday screenshot

11. ShipStation

In 2020, it’s time to take a closer look at your shipping processes. Do you head to the UPS Store or post office every time you need to get a product in the mail to a customer? If you specialize in services, that could work, but as your product-based business scales, you’ll need a more powerful shipping solution.

ShipStation helps you with your order fulfillment needs, whether you’re selling through your own website or you’re using a marketplace like Shopify or Amazon. Having the marketplaces handle shipping and order fulfillment for you may be more economically feasible for startups, but as you grow, it’s worth a look at whether ShipStation can help you save money or better meet customer demand.

12. Todoist

Project management tools are great, but a task management tool like Todoist will help you with your day-to-day activities. Simply press the + button within the app any time you want to add a new task, whether you’re on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Remember to check your task list every day or, better yet, set a deadline for various tasks and enable alerts so that you get an email or push notification when a due date is approaching. You’ll be notified 30 minutes before the date you set, but you can adjust that to your own personal timeframe in settings.

If you’re working with others, even one employee or virtual assistant, you can extend Todoist to delegate and share tasks with others. Functionality varies from one version to another, so you may have to upgrade to the premium or business plans. One of the best features of Todoist is its inbox, which allows you to save tasks for multiple people to view. You can use labels and filters to separate your tasks by project or team and color-code your team inbox to separate it from the tasks in which you’re flying solo.

todoist Shift screenshot

13. Trello

If you have a team, you already know the value of Trello for collaboration. But did you know you can use the project management tool for personal productivity? There are various approaches to this you can use to inspire you, but all of them have one thing in common: they involve adding cards to your board, with each card representing a task. From there, it’s simply organizing those tasks in a way that works best for you.

But if you have a team and you aren’t already using Trello, 2020 is a great year to get started. You can add tasks to your board and assign team members to each of them. As your employees finish their assignments, they can move each card back to you or another team member to handle the next phase necessary to complete it. This productivity tool is one of the most popular ways to organize the work you do each day.

trello screenshot

Shift -  The Workstation for Productive Teams

The more productivity apps you and your team add to your devices, the greater the demand will be for something that pulls it all together. Shift’s integrations cover all the most popular team productivity apps, which means you can set up your workstation to easily move between them. Check your messages, to-do lists, project management dashboards, social media platforms, and more – all in one easy-to-access spot. Check out all of Shift’s integrations here.