Last weekend I watched Home Alone with my family as we decorated our Christmas tree. Between pass-throughs of lights around the branches, I watched as the McCallister clan frantically scurry around their house so they would make their flight to Paris. On the off chance you haven’t seen the movie, Kate and Peter, the parents of the lead character, Kevin (played by Macaulay Culkin), accidentally sleep in on the morning of their flight, causing a flurry of chaos throughout the entire household as everyone rushes to leave the house.
Amidst the hustle and bustle, Kate and Peter don’t realize Kevin isn’t amongst their ranks until they’re mid-flight across the Atlantic.
While watching this unfortunate series of events unfurl, it struck me how remarkably disorganized the McCallisters were to leave their own child behind. Then, just as quickly, (as I internally judged this fictional family) another thought entered my mind: Of course, they were disorganized and rushed! Few can escape the holidays without some disorder.
The month of December is filled with parties to attend, gifts to be bought and wrapped, and feasts to be cooked. Add running your own small business to this equation of discord and I’d be remiss if I didn’t forgive you for forgetting your own child! Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to small business owners to help mitigate some of that inevitable chaos.
You deserve to take a few hours, if not a few days, to thoroughly enjoy the holidays with your friends and family, but we know you’ll still be sneaking glances at your phone here and there (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
Your prospects and customers will be, too. In fact, Facebook posts, photos, and videos created increase by 73 percent during the holiday season. Make sure you’re still reaching your social media audiences, even while you’re away, by automating your postings with these tools:
- HootSuite: Schedule your social media posts for any time you’d like. The platform has been used by the likes of HBO, Zappos, and Gap, but anyone can use its most basic features for free.
- Buffer: Simplicity is the beauty of this tool. Manage your social media accounts from one, simple dashboard. You can even create and edit images within the app to help your posts stand out.
- Oktopost: Designed with the business to business (B2B) community in mind, this app not only lets you manage your social content but also measures clicks, conversion, and engagements for every post. You can also curate content based on specified topics to help boost your position as a business thought leader.
Many great projects and businesses have started just as an idea jotted down on a napkin or sticky note, but that kind of note-taking only gets you so far. As a small business owner, you need to keep better track of your notes wherever you go and be able to access them wherever you are. These tools can help you do just that.
- Evernote: This free app lets you document any content—such as formatted text, voice memos, emails, etc.—which can then be annotated, edited, and tagged. Notes can be filed into “Notebooks,” which can then be archived into “Stacks” for easy access on any mobile device.
- Bear: Whether you’re taking quick notes or writing an in-depth essay, this app lets you organize your content by hashtags, and enables cross-note links, so you can quickly reference previously-written notes in a new body of work.
- Microsoft OneNote: If you’re more comfortable scribbling notes with good ol’ pen and paper, this app is definitely for you. You can choose whether to type or write your notes by hand (using either a stylus or your finger), just like you would with a real notepad, but without having to lug the notepad with you wherever you go.
‘Tis the season for an uptick in paper clutter! Avoid drowning in the influx of holiday mail and business cards exchanged at holiday parties with these scanning and filing tools. They’ll help keep your clutter to a minimum and your sanity optimal.
Genius Scan: With this app, users can scan their documents for immediate access by any other user. When integrated with Expensify, the app lets users scan their receipts for quick, easy expense reports. It also offers high-resolution scans for artwork and images.
eFileCabinet: Just as the name suggests, eFileCabinet lets you scan and file all your physical documents in one, easily searchable, digital location. You won’t have to waste time sifting through drawers of files anymore.
- DropBox: Not only can you save your files to the cloud with DropBox, you can also easily share files and documents safely and securely without having to worry about large file sizes slowing your email down.
The holidays are a busy time for your checkbook—you’re either spending it like crazy or, hopefully, raking in the dough.
Either way, it’s important to stay on top of your finances. Use these tools to help pay your bills and manage your budget and invoices.
- Mint: Manage your budget, pay your bills, and stay on top of your credit score for free with this app. Mint links to all your bank accounts and synchronizes regularly to reflect real-time account changes. It also alerts you to any unusual spending, when funds are low or credit limits are high, and even sends tips on how you can reduce fees and save more money.
- Freshbooks: Specifically designed with small businesses in mind, Freshbooks automates standard accounting tasks like invoicing, organizing expenses, and time tracking. You can also create professional-looking expense reports quickly and effortlessly and can collaborate and sync on projects within the app seamlessly and on schedule, across any device.
- Wally: If you aren’t naturally financially savvy, Wally is for you. This totally free app is designed with beautiful simplicity. It helps users compare income to expenses, and to set goals for their spending and saving. It also tracks where, how, why, when, and how much money is spent. For our international friends, Wally is available for all currencies.
According to a survey by Office Depot, 63 percent of small business owners believe office organization is directly related to their profitability. If you want to make sure your profits remain high, consider these workflow and task management applications to help you stay organized and on track.
- OmniFocus: This super-smart tool will take you from “busy” to “productive.” Start by using a predesigned workflow template, or create your own from the ground-up. OmniFocus lets users assign projects, apply context to entries, enter or defer due dates, and flag important tasks. It can even alert you not to forget the bread and milk whenever you’re near a grocery store! Although a little heftier of a tool, OmniFocus helps you take care of almost every aspect of your life, both personal and professional.
- Wunderlist: Deemed as more of a task management tool, Wunderlist is like your to-do list on steroids. Organize your lists using hashtags for more context, set due dates and reminders, and add anything from the web straight to your Wunderlist. Your lists can also be shared with anyone using the app and has a comments feature for easy collaboration.
- Infusionsoft's new app: Eighty percent of sales happen after the fifth “touch” with a lead. Ensure you’re landing as much business as possible with automated follow-up. Infusionsoft integrates with business applications, like QuickBooks, Outlook, Gmail, and Xero, to identify your leads and contacts, and recommends quick and effective ways to re-engage. You can even automate ready-to-use welcome, follow-up, and upsell emails to maintain your personal touch.
This holiday season, don’t be a Kate or Peter McCallister. These helpful tools will help you maintain your order and sanity amidst the chaos.