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It’s a great time to be a start-up business or entrepreneur. The internet has exploded with a plethora of tools and apps (many of them free!) that make running your businesses simpler and more efficient.

Here is a list of my favourite online tools that I use daily in running my business:

Organisation Tools

Evernote
I’m kind of in love with Evernote and I’m sure I could be using it way more than I am. Evernote is an online document creation/ storage system. The beauty of using an online program rather than say Microsoft Word is you can access it from anywhere, not just your home or office computer. Evernote lets you create a number of note books and then documents within each of those notebooks. Perfect for keeping all your business ideas, drafts and projects in one organised place.

Google Calendar
What’s not to love about Google Calendar. Its free, you can have multiple calendars for multiple purposes and you can share calendars with your team.

Communication Tools

Skype
Skype allows you free online video calls from your computer or smart phone. Perfect for keeping in touch with virtual team members or clients in far away locations. The ability to have quality video communication means you are not restricted by location when hiring staff or taking on new clients. Also a great tool for keeping in touch with family and friends.

Dropbox
Dropbox is a free service that lets you store images and documents in the cloud so you can access them from anywhere and share them with others. Dropbox is great for sharing large files with others rather than emailing them. Dropbox is also great if you have certain files or images that you regularly send to people, instead create a dropbox folder with the images and documents and then all you need to do is forward people the link and they can download the files

Mailchimp
Mailchimp is my preferred tool for sending email newsletters and managing my subscriber list. Its really simple to set up and use and is free until you reach 2,000 subscribers.

Financial Management Tools

Saasu
Ok so I could have put a number of business financial management tools here and in fact I did because I wanted to give you options but then I re-read my opening paragraph and remembered I promised to tell you what I used so I deleted the others. I use Saasu for my bookkeeping. Saasu is a cloud based accounting package. You can use it to issue online invoices, import bank statements and complete your monthly bookkeeping and GST returns. There is a lot more I could say about tools for managing your finances but I will save that for a separate post. The main reasons I chose Saasu are that I wanted a cloud based accounting package, I wanted to be able to manage inventory (for my product business) and Saasu has the cheapest starting out packages for small businesses.

Graphic Design Tools

Pic Monkey
Pic Monkey is a free online graphics program that is really simple to use. Pic Monkey allows you to upload an image from your computer and then alter it. You can crop it, add text to it, add borders or special effects and then save it. I use Pic Monkey to add text to images for my social media, newsletters and blog posts.

Canva
Canva is another free online graphics program. Like Pic Monkey you can upload your own images and edit them but Canva can do a lot more. With Canva you don’t need to start with your own image you can start with a blank template and add background colours or patterns, images and text. I use Canva when I want to design something from scratch, this week I used it to create my son’s birthday party invitations. Canva is free but it also has a range of images, special effects, and fonts that you can purchase for a small fee.

Market Research Tools

Survey Monkey
Survey Monkey is a free online survey tool that allows you to create a simple online survey to get feedback from customers or conduct market research about a new product offering.

Website Tools

WordPress
So there are a number of free website tools that you can use but my preference is wordpress.org
Wordpress.org allows you to host your own website using your own domain (not to be confused with wordpress.com), there are a huge range of templates and plug ins that you can use to customise your business website or blog. The WordPress website says over 60 million people have chosen WordPress for their website or blog so you would be in good company. Because it is so commonly used it is also very easy to find a wordpress developer to assist you.

Google Analytics
Google Analytics is an essential free tool for analysing your website traffic and stats. You have to install the code on your website and then you can access a suite of reports that provide information about visitors to your site. Use Google Analystics to understand where your website visitors are coming from, what they are looking at on your site, how long they are spending on your site, whether they are purchasing from you or signing up to your newsletter. The insights you can gain from analysing your website data can assist you in working out where to focus your efforts in your business going forward.

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We all have things that have been on our to do list for awhile. Tasks that get regularly delegated to the bottom of the pile. Maybe it’s getting your bookwork up to date, sorting out your taxes, systemising your new client process. Whatever it is, these things are on your list for a reason and they’re probably important (if they’re not delete them and be done with them – too easy!)

So here are my top tips for avoiding procrastination and tackling those big important tasks that never seem to make it to the top of the priority list:

1. Break it down into manageable chunks

“Build new website” is a pretty unmanageable task and the sheer enormity of  it is enough to make you put it off until another day when you have the energy to tackle such a task. But what if instead your to do list said “Ask friends and contacts for web designer recommendations” or “Create list of 10 websites you admire and list the things you like about them”. These are small manageable tasks that you could easily achieve. And that’s all you need to do, keep breaking it down into small tasks that you can easily complete and tick off your list.

2. Just spend 10 minutes on the task

Got a big presentation to prepare or report to write? Tell yourself you only need to spend 10 minutes working on it – just get it started. Getting started is the hardest part, once you’re going you probably won’t want to stop and before you  know if you’ll have knocked off a big part of your task. And even if you only do 10 minutes, at least you’ve started, you may have done the outline or worked out a plan which will help you the next time you sit down to do it.

3. Make the task fun

What can you do to make the task more enjoyable? Got a months worth of receipts to file? Why not crank up the music, make yourself a nice cup of tea (or pour a glass of wine!) and get down to it.

4. Do the big important things first

It’s easy to fill our day with busy tasks. There are always emails to reply to, social media updates to post and a hundred other busy tasks which can fill our day. If we spend an hour or two in the morning to work on the stuff we really want to get done then gradually we will make our way through our important task list. If we wait until we have a spare moment,  minute or hour it may never happen. If you need help avoiding online distractions check out my list of 7 Tools to Increase Your Productivity Online.

5. Phone a friend

Accountability works, find yourself a buddy, tell them what you want to achieve and set a time limit. This works best if you choose someone in a similar position to you who has their own business tasks they need to get done. That way you can motivate each other. Check in at the agreed time and see what each of you has achieved.

6. Reward yourself

Promise yourself a nice reward for finishing certain items on your to do list. Perhaps a walk and a coffee once you’ve phoned 3 clients or a manicure if you get all your bookkeeping up to date.

7. Ask for Help

Just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Maybe you’ve been putting tasks off because you really don’t have the skills to do it yourself or you find the process scary and confusing and don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s time for some expert help.

Or perhaps you do have the skills to complete your tasks but you don’t enjoy it, you find it boring and draining and you’d much rather focus your energy on something else. That’s ok too. Perhaps it’s time to outsource some tasks to a virtual assistant, bookkeeper, copywriter or designer?

I hope these tips are helpful in motivating you to tackle those tough items on your to do list. Take action now, choose an item that has been on your list for a long time and decide what tips you will implement to get it done.

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