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If you organize yourself naturally and with little effort, I shake my fist at you. Like most people, keeping things orderly isn’t my strong suit. Yet when we’re in a professional environment organization becomes necessary. It’s not so much for ourselves, though that helps plenty, but for the benefit of our co-workers. The last thing we want is to slow down the whole team because we’ve misplaced a crucial document.

As in most cases, technology is our friend here. In the past few years we have seen not only an increase in the number of organizational apps, but also the cross-compatibility of those apps. That is, the data you enter on your work desktop is also available on your personal laptop and even your smartphone. And isn’t organization all about having easy access to what you need at the moment?

Many of these apps cost a little bit, but you can pick and choose which ones are worth paying for, and which ones are better with the free version. But everyone one of them will help you get more organized, so you can focus on the tasks that move the needle.

1. Producteev

producteev

You will find no shortage of task list applications. Google the term “task app” and you’ll see dozens of results — which, of course, don’t represent the best task apps. They’re just the ones best optimized for that particular search. When you’re looking for a task manager, there are three main criteria to prioritize:

  1. Cross-platform compatibility, so you can work from desktop or mobile
  2. Sub-task and other Getting Things Done features
  3. Simplicity of interface

Of the myriad task apps I’ve tried, Producteev stands out the most. It has all the organizational features I need, such as subtasks, alerts, and tags. It syncs with basically any mobile device and has not only Windows and Mac apps, but also works in-browser. With optional upgrades for organizations, it’s a task app that can grow with you.

2. Evernote

evernote

Chances are you already have an Evernote account. It’s been a popular app for a number of years now, but most people don’t take full advantage. They might make a note here or there, but that’s it. With such a powerful note-taking and sharing application, though, this is a missed opportunity. Evernote can change the way you handle and process information, keeping you more organized along the way.

With automatic syncs across all platforms, Evernote is basically your notebook that goes everywhere. I’ve used it to clip articles that have helped me make points with clients. I’ve used it to journal. I’ve used it to keep project ideas fresh in my head, even when they come to me while lying in bed. Essentially Evernote allows you to write it down now and have access to it forever.

Need proof that Evernote is a great tool for business organization? The BlackBerry 10 operating system is working on a deep, native integration of Evernote. If you already have an account, actually using it will instantly increase your organization and productivity. If you don’t, get on that signup form and give it a whirl. As you’ll soon find out, it’s not only useful but also addictive.

3. Boomerang

boomerang

Do you put items on your task list but still neglect to actually do them? You’re far from alone. It’s actually the biggest reason why people stop using their task apps and fall into greater disorganization. Sometimes you need that extra little push. Thankfully, that push can come completely from ourselves.

Perhaps a task on a to-do list doesn’t motivate you. But you know what might? An email. From yourself. Out of the blue. Boomerang for Gmail can provide you with just such a motivator. You can compose a message now and have it send later. So while something is fresh in your mind, you can write a note to your future self. Set a time for it to go out, and the next day you’ll get a nudge at exactly the right time.

Boomerang has plenty of other professional uses as well. For example, if you have a high-volume inbox it’s easy to fall into disorganization. Keeping a clean inbox can feel impossible. Once you’ve cleared all previous emails, replies have rolled in from the emails you’ve just sent. It’s a Sisyphean task. With Boomerang you can schedule those emails to go out in 30 minutes, so you have a breather before the responses start rolling in.

4. Harvest

getharvest

Your most valuable resource is time, which is exactly why organization is so important. The greater your level of disorganization, the more time you waste. The time you spend getting organized pays off, because it frees up future time. If you want to gain more control over your time, you have to take measured steps. Oftentimes that involves gathering data. How do you gather data on how you spend your time? With an app, of course.

Harvest gives you the tools you need to gain control of your time. Like almost every app on this list, Harvest runs on multiple platforms, giving you an opportunity to track your time no matter your location. At the end of the day you can see a breakdown of how you spent your time, so you can make improvements tomorrow.

When you combine Harvest’s powerful time tracking with other important organizational features such as expense tracking, you have an app that becomes essential for getting matters in order. It also connects with Google Apps, Basecamp, and other business app. With a free trial to evaluate, you might as well give Harvest a try.

5. SugarCRM

sugarcrm

Perhaps the most difficult organizational and management aspect of any business centers on contacts. A well-built and cultivated contacts list can benefit any business, and especially a small business. Failure to keep that list organized can cripple organizational efforts. The good news: there is no shortage of contact management apps. The bad news: finding the one right for you can be a hassle.

For years many small businesses have relied on SugarCRM for its ease of management. It used to be free, too, but they have added so many features and service over the years that their new pricing scheme is well worth the cost. And best of all, Sugar’s Mobile CRM means you can take your contact management on the road — where it is oftentimes more useful than at the desktop.

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Posted by Joe Pawlikowski

Joe Pawlikowski is a writer, editor, and business owner. He writes for a number of blogs, mostly in the tech realm, and owns a digital publishing company. His personal blog, JoePawl.com, touches on many of the lessons he's learned along the way.

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