One thing I am always working on in the background is increasing my efficiency. Time is something I could definitely use more of, so I’m constantly looking for ways I can maximize what I already have. Whether that means implementing automation, systems, or utilizing apps that can help me do something more quickly and with more ease, I am always checking in and making adjustments.

Like most things, efficiency is a work in progress, so in a month I may find a new solution that works even better, but there are a few apps that I think will stay the course. So today I’m sharing them with you in the hope that you might find them useful for your own business. Here are my top six.

Task Management: Trello

Outside of the apps I use for design, Trello is probably the one app I truly could not live without. I can’t even count the number of to-do list apps I’ve tried over the years, and none of them have come even close. I use Trello for managing not only my entire business, but also my entire life. From client projects to travel plans, it makes it so easy to stay organized and on top of things.


Here’s what I love about it:

  • Structure: I am someone that needs to manage a great number of tasks on a daily basis, so for me, a simple, one-level task list is not enough to keep me organized. Trello’s structure of boards, lists and cards provides the perfect amount of depth. The interface is extremely simple to use, but also super powerful in terms of categorization, hierarchy and grouping.
  • Flexibility: You can really make your boards work for you, in exactly the way you need them to. Trello’s power-ups add all kinds of functionality, from time tracking with Harvest to note attachments using Evernote and a million other options in between. The options for extending the app really do make the possibilities endless.
  • Drag-and-drop: The intuitive drag and drop functionality makes Trello so much easier to use than any other app I’ve tried. You can easily reorder cards, lists, or boards, and move cards from one list to another, all right on the screen in front of you.

Project Management: Cushion

Over the years I have probably tried just as many project management apps as I have task management ones, and all of them fell short in one area or another. To maximize efficiency, I’m always looking for a tool that allows me to take care multiple tasks in one place, which is why I’m so glad I found Cushion. It’s billed as “peace of mind for freelancers” but you don’t have to consider yourself a freelancer (I don’t) to make use of all its features.

I gave them a chance when they first launched a few years ago, and since then I have been amazed at all of the improvements they continue to make. Every month the app gets more and more useful, so I will continue to be a loyal customer.

 

Here’s what I love about it:

  • Beautiful Interface: As a visual person, I appreciate an interface that is both pleasant to look at and easy to understand, and Cushion definitely fits the bill.
  • Schedule Forecasting: Cushion offers powerful scheduling tools that I have never seen in another app of its kind. It gives you the ability to forecast your schedule down to the hour so that you can plan ahead with ease.
  • Financial Goal Setting: Cushion also empowers its users to set and track financial goals. And what’s even better is that once they’re set, the app automatically makes adjustments so that you know exactly what is needed to get you to reach them.

Social Scheduling: Later

Later is my app of choice for all things Instagram. I use it daily for planning my posts, writing captions and scheduling. I’ve tried a few other apps that have similar functionality, but so far, for me, Later has them beat.

Here’s what I love about it:

  • Preview mode: Once you’ve scheduled a set of posts, Later offers the ability to preview what your feed will look like on a phone. Within that view, you can also drag and drop posts to move them to a different place in your schedule. It makes it super easy to see how your images will relate to what comes before and after and update your feed accordingly.
  • Multiple Accounts: Although I haven’t started using Later for much beyond Instagram just yet, it does provide the ability to schedule posts on both Facebook and Pinterest as well. I am really excited to build this into my workflow because I know it will save me even more time.
  • Search & Repost: Another feature I haven’t made quite enough use of yet is Later’s search and repost functionality. Right within the app, you have the ability to search Instagram and add content that you want to repost directly into your media library. I don’t do a ton of reposting myself, but when it comes up, this functionality is a huge timesaver.

Password Management: 1password

Securing your online accounts is a necessity these days, so a password manager is an indispensable tool. Using one means there is no need to reserve brain space for remembering passwords—you can create complex, hack-proof passwords with the peace of mind that the app will take care of the rest. Personally, I choose 1password to take care of all of this for me.

Here’s what I love about it:

  • Password Generator: The built-in password generation functionality is extremely easy to use right in the browser. You can customize details like the number of special characters, password length and create a new password in seconds.
  • Easy Access: They have covered all the bases when it comes to platforms where 1password can be accessed. I can quickly grab any password I need from my phone, iPad, Chrome or Safari, so I never have to worry about getting locked out of an account.
  • Syncing: 1password also provides syncing functionality that can come in really handy. If you use multiple machines or even access the app on multiple devices, it can be configured to sync all of your passwords between them.

Email Client: Mailplane

This ones only for Mac users—sorry! Mailplane is a desktop Gmail client that makes it incredibly easy to manage email in multiple accounts. If you consistently use more than one email address for any reason, it’s a great timesaver.

Here’s what I love about it:

  • Tabbed Interface: All of your accounts are situated in tabs within the app, so you can easily shift back and forth between them.
  • Multiple Apps: Beyond Gmail, you can also open tabs for Calendar and Contacts. So I can easily switch back and forth from my work email to my personal calendar without opening new browser tabs or logging in and out.
  • Plug-in Integrations: Mailplane allows you to integrate with a handful of popular Gmail plugins including Streak, Boomerang and Rapportive, among others, so you don’t have to give up a ton of in-browser functionality to use the app on your desktop.

Productivity: Alfred

This one’s only for Mac users—sorry! Alfred bills itself as a productivity app for Mac that boosts efficiency and helps you to be more productive. I have really only scratched the surface of what it’s capable of, but I currently use it for streamlining simple, utilitarian tasks that I need to execute every time I use a computer. Using it saves me minutes every day. That might not sound like much, but that time adds up and makes a big difference in the long run.

Here’s what I love about it:

  • Automation: My primary Alfred usage entails automating utilitarian tasks that would otherwise take more time to complete. For example, I created a few workflows that will open a whole set of apps all with just one keyboard shortcut. It’s super simple, but it saves me time when starting up my machine and gets me to work faster than if I were opening each app one by one.
  • Powerful Search: Alfred provides a much more robust search experience than Spotlight, the Mac default. Right from the toolbar, you can search everything from files, folders and images to emails, contacts and the web.
  • Syncing: With an add-on called the Powerpack, I am able to sync my workflows and preferences across my devices. Since I switch from an iMac to a MacBook Pro depending on what I’m working on, this has saved me a bunch of time in both set-up and execution.

How do you run your business?

Now that you have a little bit of insight into how things work for En Route behind the scenes, I’d love to hear from you. What apps or tools do you use to run your business? Is there anything I missed that I should definitely be checking out? Feel free to share on Facebook. I’d love to know!