No matter if you’re leading a small organization or a massive corporation, running a business is never easy. It takes strong communication, organization and teamwork – all of which can be difficult to manage while juggling everything else that’s simultaneously on your plate. Luckily for business owners in today’s technology-driven society, there are a variety of mobile and desktop apps that can be used to help keep you and your team on track to meet company goals. We asked business owners across the globe to share their favorite productivity apps, along with prices, pros and cons to help you find the best fit for your business’ needs.
Project Management/Team Communication Apps
Todoist is a long-standing favorite to-do list tool among business owners for both personal and professional use. It allows you to organize, plan and collaborate with your team on multiple devices, and can even be accessed offline. Todoist is available for download in the App Store.
- Basic: Free
- Premium: $3 per user/month
- Business: $6 per user billed monthly, $5 per user billed annually
- Premium option more affordable than comparable plans from competitors
- Available on multiple platforms and devices
- Can still be utilized if your office loses internet connection
- Free version limits capabilities beyond persona use
- Some premium features are free in similar apps
“I was so happy to discover Todoist, which raised the bar when it comes to to-do lists. This app enables the creation of an advanced list management system that we can use individually and in a team. What I especially love about this app is the fact I can track my weekly progress and be sure not to forget anything. And, a satisfying feeling of ticking tasks off the list makes me feel more productive and enables me to achieve more by working less.” — Darko Jacimovic, Co-Founder of whattobecome.com
Used by the team behind the Mars Curiosity Rover, Slack is one of the most popular project management programs for businesses of all sizes and industries. The ease of use and straightforward interface make organizing team projects easier than ever. Slack is available for download in the App Store.
- Basic: Free
- Standard: $8 per user billed monthly, $6.67 per user billed annually
- Plus: $16 per user billed monthly, $12.50 per user billed annually
- Simple to use without much learning required
- Integrates with numerous other apps
- Beneficial for both large and small businesses
- Can become disorganized when managing multiple large projects
- Messages can get buried quickly within the app
“Slack keeps everyone accountable and all of your team in regular contact, with options to set up particular channels and conversations to that you can compartmentalize between projects and departments, without interrupting others. Voice and Video allow you to hold meetings with remote and freelance workers, with a guest option available to add in clients on side channels, so that you can centralize your work with staff, clients and customers all in one place. The ability to synchronize with external apps is the winning factor. One of the issues with some productivity apps is the sheer number of different applications people use. You can use this utility to sync everything together and keep comms and workflow clear and concise.” –Matt Diggity, Owner of Diggity Marketing
Trello is a Kanban board-based project management tool that enables your team to track their progress on multiple collaborative projects. Trello’s highly visual format and easy-to-use interface have made this app a favorite for many small business owners. Trello is available for download in the App Store.
- Basic: Free
- Business Class: $9.99 per user/month
- Enterprise: $20.83 per user/month
- Can be accessed across devices
- Compatible with SMS notifications
- Highly customizable
- Features other than boards are lacking compared to similar apps
- Not optimal for large team projects
“I’m both a highly visual person, but I also thrive off making lists. Trello, the project management platform I use, provides both. Plus, I can open a private board for each new client and my tasks for all of them are aggregated on my home page. You can set due dates, tag team members in comments, and more. It’s the first and only project management tool I’ve ever used, and it has helped me and my team stay on track tremendously! I’d highly recommend it to someone who manages multiple projects or clients, or even marketing businesses with different campaigns.” — Mikaela Delia, Creative Marketing Services
Asana has been a leader in basic project management apps for years, and for good reason. Asana’s list-centric organization lends itself well to streamlining team communication, and its suite of robust features makes it one of the most diversified apps on our list. Asana is available for download in the app store.
- Basic: Free
- Premium: $13.49 per user billed monthly, $10.99 per user billed annually
- Business: $30.49 per user billed monthly, $24.99 per user billed annually
- Enterprise: Contact sales team for an individualized quote
- Integrated issues and bug tracking
- Seamless team management and communication
- Larger suite of features than comparable apps
- Robust size can be overwhelming or confusing to learn
- Free version is limited in available features
“Asana is a godsend for us entrepreneurs. I use the calendar layout to map out all of the daily to-do’s in my business, and I love being able to see everything coming up at a glance. I also get a ton of satisfaction from ticking off the tasks as I go about my day (I mean, who doesn’t love that?). I also use Asana to manage all of the different projects going on in my business as well as my team members. You can assign tasks directly to your team members within Asana, along with specific deadlines, notes, and any files they’ll need to complete each task. I can’t imagine running my business without Asana.” — Krista Dickson, CEO & Founder of The Content Boss
From team collaboration to client communication to project lists and more, Basecamp 3 offers a highly organized all-in-one project management solution. Our team has used Basecamp 3 for years, and we can vouch for its user-friendly interface and highly customizable business-to-client communication options. Basecamp 3 is available for download in the App Store.
- Free for teachers and students
- Discounted rate for non-profits
- Flat fee regardless of number of users
- Integration with Google Docs and attachments
- Various internal and external communication methods (private messaging, group messaging, client emailing)
- No free option (aside from teachers and students)
- Can become cluttered and challenging to locate documents or threads in a large project
“We love Basecamp! It is user-friendly, intuitive, and doesn’t require any more work than we would expend making a list or sending an email anyway. Being able to track tasks, see what others are working on, have chats that don’t get lost in text messages, and more have made this productivity a life-saver for us!” — Jamie Klingman, Broker/Owner at The Klingman Group
Zoho Projects hosts a variety of client communication and organization tools, but the program that sets it apart from similar apps is it’s billing features. Through Zoho’s cloud-based system, your team can ensure all billable time is accounted for without having to switch between apps. Zoho is available for download in the App Store.
- Varies depending on which features your business needs
- Simple and straightforward user interface
- Integration with multiple apps within the Zoho Suite eliminates the need for multiple apps
- Cloud allows for easy access between devices
- Third-party integrations are limited
- Lacks payroll features
“For all internal and client-facing projects, we use Zoho Projects to communicate with clients, outline to-do lists and tasks, highlight priorities, track issues or bugs, and log billable and non-billable time. This tool ensures transparency for our clients, who can see every piece of work done to their project, anticipate due dates, and know exactly what they’re getting billed for and why. This tool also helps us keep our team members on track.
Another benefit of Zoho Projects is that it syncs seamlessly with numerous other applications in the Zoho Suite. Invoices can be generated from the billable time logged using Zoho Invoice. Projects and clients can be imported or exported to CRM using Zoho CRM. The possibilities are endless.” –Keri Lindenmuth, Marketing Manager at The Kyle David Group, LLC
Expensify provides business owners with an easy and convenient solution for keeping track of your expenses. One of its most popular features, Smart Scanning, even allows you to quickly match your receipts with recorded transactions. Expensify is available for download in the App Store.
- Basic: Free
- Track (for individuals and small proprietors): $4.99/month
- Submit (for employees and small business owners): $4.99/month
- Collect (for users who need receipt collection): $5/month
- Control (for company expense management): $9 per user/month
- Free trials available for all pricing tiers
- Administrative functions allow you to process hundreds of reports with one click
- Rapid reimbursement delivers funds within 24 hours
- Spotty customer service reputation
- Reports of computing errors and functionality inconveniences
“The app that most recently changed my life is called Expensify. It’s an expense management program that allows you to track your business purchases on the go. All you have to do is shoot a photo of your receipt, and the program transcribes the information and uploads it directly to a spreadsheet. Essentially, it has automated my bookkeeping process. I don’t have a bookkeeper to track my expenses, so this app has saved me a ton of time. I’d recommend it to any business owner who is tired of carrying around wads of receipts in their wallet. Now, I can just photograph them and toss them in the rubbish!” — Barbara Nevers, Founder of NeoLittle
PomoDoneApp uses the famed Pomodoro Technique of breaking down your workflow into short intervals to boost productivity and decrease burnout. PomoDoneApp’s integration capabilities with many of the project management tools listed above enables you to focus on the task at hand without the distractions that come with switching between apps. PomoDoneApp is available for download as a Chrome Extension.
- Lite: $2.29/month
- Ultimate: $4.01/month
- Allows for interteam collaboration
- Vast integration capabilities
- Greatly customizable
- No free option available
- Time log can be glitchy
“A study of the most productive employees shows that the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes. PomoDoneApp practices the Pomodoro technique in which you break your day up into 25-minute focus sessions followed by five-minute breaks. This helps in eliminating the distractions and maximizing the focus.” –Hamna Amjad, Content Marketing Executive at Indoor Champ
Forest makes focusing fun by turning your productivity into a game. If you leave the Forest app open on your phone for a set amount of time, a tree will grow — leave the app, however, and your tree will die. The more trees you grow, the more coins you will earn, which can be traded in to plant a real tree through Trees for the Future! Forest is available for download in the App Store.
- $1.99 with optional in-app purchases
- User-friendly interface
- Charitable aspect adds motivation
- Able to whitelist pertinent outside apps without losing your progress
- Several features require in-app purchases
- Little variety in design can cause app to lose its novelty
“My favorite productivity app is Forest. It uses the ‘pomodoro’ technique of breaking work down into intervals. However, the app makes using it fun by showing you a little tree that’s growing. You can even grow an entire forest with friends. If you give up, then your tree dies. Using this technique has helped me write 9,000 to 15,000 words every single week since July. It used to take me months to write that much!” –Kathy Haan, Business Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com
Working on a computer all day with dozens of distracting websites only a click away is bound to hinder productivity every so often. StayFocusd, however, enables you to block certain websites after a set duration of time, such as blacklisting social media websites after 30 minutes of use during working hours. StayFocusd is available for download as a Chrome Extension.
- Very customizable
- Various degrees of website blocking
- Free download makes it a low-risk option for users looking for a productivity solution without having to make a financial commitment
- Website usage timer resets if you close your Chrome window
- Occasionally will block unrelated websites
“When working from home, Facebook and Twitter can be a major distraction. StayFocusd helps avoid these distractions by restricting the amount of time you can spend on them. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a 10-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day.” –Lori Cheek, Founder & CEO of Cheekd
SmartBreak is an ergonomic app that analyzes your computer usage to create a personalized optimal break schedule. SmartBreak even boasts an on-screen stress monitor and the ability to lock your screen until your break is over. SmartBreak is available for download on their website.
- $14.99 for a single-user license
- Offers cross-platform support
- Uniquely tailored schedules specific to that user’s internet habits
- Reduces eye strain, fatigue and mental stress
- Options limited for break adjustments
- Unable to share with multiple users
“SmartBreak is an app that tracks my computer usage then locks my screen and forces me to take a short 2-minute break every 20 minutes or so. I find that taking frequent breaks keeps me from getting tunnel vision when working on creative projects, which in turn helps me stay engaged and interested in the work in a more meaningful manner. It also works wonders for your posture!” –Calvin West, Music & Lyric Video Producer at Calvin West Productions
Even More Productivity Apps
Evernote is the digital alternative to “sticky notes”. Once you’ve written yourself a note on one device, it will automatically sync to all of your other connected devices. Evernote is available for download in the App Store.
- Basic: Free
- Premium: $7.99/month
- Business: $14.99 per user/month (minimum 2 users)
- Integrated syncing across devices
- Search toolbar to easily locate your saved files
- Passcode lock for mobile security
- Limited capabilities on free version
- Monthly subscription fees
“I use Evernote to jot down inspiring ideas I have in the moment so that I do not forget about them later. If I’m out and about and see something that sparks a lightbulb moment within me, I’ll take a quick note of it in Evernote and know that it will be accessible — and impossible to forget — whether I’m on my phone, tablet, or laptop.” — Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com
Calendly is a scheduling app that enables users to virtually schedule meetings and appointments. Calendly streamlines the scheduling process by eliminating the need to call or email a colleague, friend or potential client in order to find a time and date that fits your mutual availability. Calendly is available for download in the App Store.
- Basic (1 calendar per user): Free
- Premium (2 calendars per user): $8 per user/month
- Pro (6 calendars per user): $12 per user/month
- Day-to-day customizability
- Integration with Google Calendar
- Option to request information from the person requesting a meeting allows you to preestablish a meeting agenda and talking points
- Lacking in analytics
- Integration with project management apps is limited
“Calendly is an organization tool that I have begun to use to increase my productivity. As a business owner, scheduling activities is not just important, it’s essential. It is so easy as an entrepreneur to lose track of time; you have meetings set all over the place whether it be with brands, clients or employees, but also it is so hard to be social. I remember initially I had such a hard time choosing myself and choosing to actually have friends, I would just not text back, I was absolutely difficult to get in touch with, and actually meeting someone? In-person? No Way! That eventually took a toll on me, I mean I was drained and becoming very distant. I realized I needed a way to add balance.
Calendly is great tool because not only can you easily schedule meetings (even with friends halfway across the ocean from you) but you can consciously choose to block out meeting times, add more me time you can visually see how much time you are spending on meetings per week, if you are socializing enough? It also teaches you to book slots of time for yourself. It truly is incredible and has helped me maintain an incredible work-life balance.” –Annie Chopra, Founder & CEO of She TheQueen
Strides works as an all-in-one solution to help you establish healthy habits and hold yourself accountable for your goals. Through the Strides app, users are able to create a routine, set reminders and track progress as you work towards improving your daily habits. Strides is available for download in the App Store.
- Basic: Free
- Strides Plus: $4.99/month or $29.99/year
- Lifetime Plan: $79.99
- Robust array of features
- Ability to sync between devices
- Customizable interface
- Might be too complicated for users unfamiliar with this type of app
- Free version limits the number of habits you can track
“One of my favorite productivity mobile apps for business is Strides, which helps users set SMART goals and make or break habits. Strides can be used to track almost any business goal you can think of, but I like to use it to focus on just two or three main marketing-related goals every month — for example, X number of blog posts written or pitches submitted. The charts and graphics have a nice, clean design, letting me track my progress at a glance and motivating me to keep going. The app introduces an element of accountability with its pace system, which divides the work I need to do into manageable portions that adjust dynamically according to my progress, which helps me avoid procrastination due to overwhelm.” –Chloe Brittain, Owner of Opal Transcription Services
Toggl is a time tracking app that allows you to determine how much the scope of your work is worth when setting client budgets. Toggl’s reporting tool is incredibly effective at taking the guesswork out of determining which tasks are making – or losing- the most money for your business. Toggl is available for download in the App Store.
- Basic: Free
- Starter: $9 per user/month
- Premium: $18 per user/month
- Enterprise: Contact sales team for a custom quote
- Integrates with Google Suite apps
- Able to switch between clients for precise time tracking
- Simple, streamlined design for easy use
- Cannot overlap timers while multitasking
- Syncing can be glitchy from desktop to mobile
“Toggl is a time-tracking tool that has become an important part of not only how our team functions, but how I personally manage my own time. As a business owner, it’s easy to become “busy” without feeling like I’m actually getting anything done. Toggl forces me (and our employees) to document our time spent on specific tasks.
At first, I thought it might be burdensome on the team, but now that I have used the app for several weeks, I have noticed an increased sense of focus and productivity when I am “on the clock” to get a job done. For our managing editor, having the team’s data from Toggl has been a game-changer for helping her put together our content production schedule. The app also has other built-in functionalities that can further improve productivity, such as using a Pomodoro Timer.” –Jeff Proctor, Co-Founder of DollarSprout.com
Increase Productivity in Your Business
If you find that your business is struggling to get ahead, it may be time to consider using some of these productivity apps. They can be incredibly helpful when it comes to project management, team communication, and even keeping track of financial records. A number of these apps function in similar ways, so test out a few of them to decide which ones would be best for your business. It’ll be obvious which applications work best for your team when your productivity goes through the roof.