One of the biggest obstacles that people create for themselves is not setting an accountability mechanism to keep them on track with their goals and objectives at the start of the new year. This can be a family member, a friend, or a colleague. But in many cases, you can create accountability simply by choosing the right application or tool, which can light the path towards achieving your goal.
With this in mind, we have selected a few tools that can help you keep the shine on your new year, whether professional or personal. And the sooner you start, the better the results you will see. Good luck!
Spotlight on client relationships
Client relationships are the heart of professional services, so it is not surprising that many professionals focus on improving client relationships and working harder to build new ones. But as the old saying goes, you should work smarter, not harder. And the smarter choice is to rely on client relationship management (CRM) tools to make the most out of your relationships.
Although CRMs have been around for decades, many business people still don’t understand what they are or how to use them. So let’s start with the basics. A standard contact manager is not a CRM, any more than an old-fashioned Rolodex was.
CRMs go far beyond contact information. In addition to maintaining incredibly detailed contact information (secretary’s name? favorite sports team? family pet?), they create a record of your interactions with your clients, whether a phone call, email, or personal meeting. And they make all that information readily accessible when you look up a client.
CRMs make it easy for you to create notes from every interaction, building and tracking your follow-up task list. They centralize access to important files related to the client. And they help you know when you need to reach out, to a keep personal touch with an existing client intact, or to let a prospective client know that they are still on your radar.
But not all CRM tools are created the same. Indeed, calling some tools a CRM doesn’t give them proper credit. An excellent example is Daylite, a Mac-based relationship manager and productivity tool from Marketcircle. Looking at the long list of features that can enhance both your business and your productivity, it is easy to see why their motto is “Shine Bright with Daylite.”
What makes Daylite special? Daylite makes it easy for small to medium businesses to manage their entire client lifecycle, from prospecting to onboarding to ongoing maintenance, and do it with workflows customized for their needs.
One of the most useful feature sets in Daylite is its robust sales tracking abilities. Daylite allows you to build customized sales pipelines, so you know at any given moment what stage every potential client is in, what steps you still need to take, and when your next actions should be. And Daylite makes it easy for you to distinguish between current clients, past clients, and prospects so that you don’t spend unnecessary time digging through your contacts for the information you need.
And just as importantly, unlike any cloud-based CRMs, Daylite is available both online and offline. So it doesn’t matter if you lose your internet connection while on a plane, a train, or in an automobile; you still have full access to your critical client information.
If you think you can’t use Daylite because businesses only use PCs running Windows, think again. Macs now have a 23% market share in business machines, and the majority of business smartphones and tablets come from Apple. And if you were looking for a reason to shift your business to Apple devices, this could be the one.
Of course, if your business can’t take advantage of macOS, there are numerous Windows-based or web-based (operating system independent) options as well.
A stoplight for distractions
A huge hurdle you probably face in fulfilling your goals is the distractions of everyday life. As soon as you sit down to start working on one of your objectives, the phone rings, an email pops up, or you get a text notification. Before you know it, you are off down a completely different rabbit hole, and progress stops on your resolution.
Focus is crucial to accomplishment. Fortunately, there are quite a few tools out there that will help you avoid the noise and get something done. Besides the timer feature on your phone, there are other tools that you can try out as well.
If you haven’t yet heard of them, you should look at Pomodoro timers. Pomodoro timers are based on the simple productivity principle that you need to work on a project for a certain interval of time (typically 25 minutes) to be effective. Once the time has expired, you take a quick break to regroup and then move on to another task.
The word Pomodoro means “apple of gold” in Italian and is the Italian word for tomato. The technique’s founder used a tomato-shaped kitchen for his own efforts, hence the name. There are still physical Pomodoro timers available (e.g. TickTime), but digital timers have taken over the market because they can include more functionality like project-based time tracking.
Some of the top digital Pomodoro timers include MarinaraTimer, Toggl, and FocusKeeper.
Payments at the speed of light
Now that you have reinvigorated your sales pipeline and improved your productivity, it’s time for that all-important step: getting paid.
It’s a simple fact that most people now prefer to shop online. And this is true when it comes to their professional services as well. Businesses that accept online payments make it easier for their clients to pay them quickly and efficiently, reducing average collection times. Indeed, with online payments, small businesses get 15.4% more invoicespaid on time. If you are not yet accepting online payments, you should start ASAP.
Most of the major accounting packages for small and medium businesses now include online payment options that you can link to your bank. Look at the offerings from WaveApps or QuickBooks, for example.
Your personal guiding light
Like most people, you probably made personal goals as well as professional goals, and they are just as important. Indeed, keeping your personal goals (for instance, losing weight or exercising more frequently) can put you in better shape to keep your professional ones. Better mental and physical health can make you more productive professionally.
Plus, the time may come when you actually want to sell your business. Then you want to be in the best shape to enjoy whatever comes next in your life.
The full range of self-help tools goes far beyond the scope of this article, but there are a few general categories that are particularly useful.
A classic mantra is that doing something for 21 days in a row can build a new habit. While this may not be quite scientifically accurate, the principle is sound. A host of apps focus on this idea, including Habitica, Habitify, and Strides.
These apps both gamify the habit-building process and provide detailed accounting services to keep you on track. And the more fun it is to create a habit, the more likely you are to do it.
With all the craziness in the world, everyone needs some time to step away, relax and gather themselves. Focusing on your inner light for a few minutes can help you focus on external tasks more effectively throughout the day. So mindfulness apps are tools that everyone should consider using. Headspace, Calm, and Mindful are among the best options available.
Health apps and tools
Let’s face it, getting in better shape is perennially the most universal resolution. Unfortunately, it is also the least likely to be kept. Once again, however, with the right tools and apps, this resolution can become more fun and less of a chore. And the data is clear that apps are effective. For example, recent studies have revealed that people who consistently track what they eat lose twice as much weight compared to people who do not.
In addition to food tracking apps like LoseIt and MyFitnessPal, you should also find value from exercise tracking apps like MapMyFitness and RunKeeper. Many of these apps work together with the fitness tracking capabilities of smartwatches, from the Apple Watch to Fitbit to the range of Garmin devices. And all of the apps come with communities and challenges that help you create accountability circles and give you added motivation.
Build that inner glow so that it shines through into everything you do.
Even if you have fallen off the pace, you can get right back in the swing of things with the right tools. Sooner than you think, you will see that light at the end of the resolution tunnel shining brightly.
About the author: Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed – among other intriguing things – to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.