8 ways to... be digitally efficient

As anyone with work to do knows, there are never enough hours in the day. But, with a smartphone or tablet to hand, there are ways in which you can make the most of your time

1 Work – and collaborate
To use a word processor or work on spreadsheets while on the move, you need to be using a cloud-based service – one that will save every change you make using your Wi-Fi or 3G internet connection and communicate the results to whichever device you pick up next.

Google Drive is a useful option for word processing, simple spreadsheets and other tasks. You can create files online through your browser, move them around easily on a backed-up hard drive and, most important, edit and update them with your phone or tablet.

It allows you to share documents with colleagues so that others can edit them, and can export files such as Word documents or Excel spreadsheets.

For more informal jottings, Evernote is a popular app with which to make short notes – online or offline – and share them across devices. It also doubles as a kind of scrapbook where you can store things that you find online.

If you like a recipe, for example, you can store it away using a widget that you download to your browser.

2 Accounting software
Some of the accounting software providers have mobile app technology to enable you to monitor issues when you are on the go.

Sage has an app for Windows 8 users called Sage 50 Accounts Pulse, which can give you overview information of your company’s situation, including your current profitability, details of who owes you money and how much money you owe to suppliers.

For larger businesses, Sage has the Sage 200 Mobile, an app that works on both BlackBerry and iPhone devices.

The KashFlow iPhone App, meanwhile, lets you access and manage your account on the move, enabling you to view unpaid and overdue invoices, access reports and create new invoices.

3 Work guides
Finance people will obviously want to use smartphones and tablets to be more efficient themselves, but they may also find that apps are useful for filtering information down through the business.

Simon Meager runs Footprint Media, an app developer that creates programs to help spread best practice.

“We built an HR app for a law firm to give to their customers, showing them best practice in HR,” he says.

“It teaches people how to hire and fire without ending up at an employment tribunal.”

The apps provide relevant information for employees at the point of need in an affordable and practical way.

“One of the organisations we work for has 100,000 people in the UK and 60,000 of them aren’t desk-based but work in various locations. Therefore, communicating best practice is easier to deliver to a mobile device. A lot of the information on the apps exists on their intranet, but it has become as complicated as the web to search. Finding the relevant information is sometimes hard,” Meager says.

4 Read it later
David Allen, the productivity guru behind the classic book Getting Things Done, points out that one big productivity improvement we could all make is to gather things we want to read into a file for when we have the time.

As he puts it: “Life is full of weird little windows when it could be processed.”

The free Pocket app makes this digitally possible. Users download a widget to their browsers and, when they spot a long article that they want to read but are too busy at the time to do so, they can click on the widget in the corner of the screen.

The app will register the link and download the story for reading later. Instapaper is another popular app for reading items later and works on a similar basis.

5 Accountancy advice
Accountancy firms are starting to build apps that give you access to their thoughts on emerging issues and rule changes.

The Deloitte CFO App gives you daily news from the firm’s experts, as well as its regular Monday morning economics briefing.

There is even a section for aspiring CFOs to network with each other, as well as a library of Deloitte research.

6 Old media online
However digitally advanced you are, you are still likely to want to read your favourite magazines and newspapers. And some of the smartest business titles also offer user-friendly apps.

The Economist has an app that will not only download the latest edition for you if you are a subscriber, but will also download audio versions of articles if you want to listen while driving, or in some other context. The Financial Times web app is another of the better old media digital formats.

And, since most of its stories for the next day’s paper go online from early evening the day before, you can get ahead and read tomorrow’s paper today.

7 To-do lists
There are dozens of different to-do list apps and the one you favour may depend on how you prefer to arrange the lists in your life.

Todoist enables you to structure your projects and tasks according to the day on which you want to do them. Wunderlist is particularly useful for shopping lists, with an easy system for adding and checking off things that you have done or bought.

Clear is another to-do list app that ranks what you need to do according to a colour code.

8 Keeping track
You might find that after ramping up your productivity with the latest apps, you still don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere. Idonethis.com might be for you.

A website-based tool, it sends you an email every evening asking what you did today to help you track your progress.

You can use it in a team situation too, with managers keeping track of their team through simple, unobtrusive regular updates.

Illustration: Borja Bonaque

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