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March 5, 2018

10 apps that save time and make my business life easier

Photo by Alexandru Acea

If you dare, I have a serious question for you; do you ever think about the past? I'm talking way back in the dark ages… back when mankind had to suffer through years of mental anguish and struggle, fighting to survive the suffocating clutches of the pre-internet era.

Yes, I'm referring to that primordial time on earth when there was no such thing as a smartphone, a personal computer or (gasp) the Internet. My friend those were tough times. Thankfully we've made leaps of progress in the last decade or so, and life is no longer the way it used to be.

And then I sit here thinking… reminded that we've only had smartphones in our lives since about 2007. It's already hard for me to imagine what life was like without one, but I'm getting off track. Alas, we're not here to talk about the past; in essence we've put that behind us.

Let's talk about the present day, the here and now, and the 10 apps that save time and make my business life easier and more productive (we'll save the less-than-positive topic of apps that waste time and slowly suck your life away for a future blog post).

Don't worry; there will be no industry jargon or techy mumbo jumbo here. I'm telling it like it is from my personal experience, your mileage may vary, some restrictions may apply, etc. Of course, if you're the curious type who craves the techy details, no worries Sunshine, I'll provide links to each app so you're only a click away if you want more info.

1. Dropbox – Every digital file I need to access…

This app gives me access to all my digital files from any of my digital devices at any time. Oh, the freedom!

And if I make and save a change to a client document on my desktop computer at home, I can access that same updated document on my phone when I'm out with that client looking at homes.

I keep all my devices connected to Dropbox so that I have access to all my digital files on any of my devices whether I'm at home, in the office or out in the field. Think of it as having access to all your computer files from any device at any time.

2. Evernote – My brain's filing system…

This is my favorite note taking, archiving and organizational tool. If there's anything that I want to keep for future reference, it goes in Evernote.

I could write an entire blog post on how I use Evernote, but suffice it to say it's my primary organizational tool. I can write, voice record ideas, make a to-do list and use the web clipper function that allows me to file away a webpage or article with one click.

In the past I've used Evernote to organize everything from coordinating trade shows to managing multiple product brands. I even write my blog posts in Evernote (from the first draft to final edit), and then archive the original document into my ‘published blogs' folder.

Evernote is free, but there is a paid version, too, that provides more features and enables compatibility to use across a greater number of connected devices (as of this writing, the free version allows use on two devices). I've been using the free version for many years, and it works for everything I need.

3. Genius Scan – Easily scan and send files…

Using my phone's camera I can scan one document or several, then export to email, text, Dropbox, Kindle or several other platforms right from the phone.

Genius Scan connects to my Microsoft email and Google's Gmail for easy email sharing of documents. I've even used it to scan artwork to import into Adobe Photoshop for later editing.

4. Waze – Gets me where I'm going with real-time road information…

Being in real estate I do a lot of driving, and even though I know my way around fairly well, my work still takes me to places I've never been before.

Except for in a couple major cities like Los Angeles, I prefer the Waze visual interface over any of the other GPS map apps I've used. Though I must say that if you're concerned with conserving your phone's battery power, you may want to use this app sparingly and shut it off when not in use unless you have a car charger/adapter.

The great thing about this app is the real-time road notifications that are shared by other drivers using the app (e.g. everything from road construction along your driving route to warnings of Police ahead).

5. Spotify – Radio, my way…

I'm a music lover, and though I own over 2000 CD's (and a similar number of vinyl albums from back in the day), I have embraced streaming music; it takes the concept of the mixtape to a new level, and can be equated to a radio station where you're the program director choosing the songs.

Spotify enables you to create your own playlists. For example, I have playlists based on my favorite musical artists and genres, and I have playlists for writing, working out, sleeping, comedy and a slew of others that probably only make sense to me.

Spotify is perfect when I have clients in the car and we're driving around town looking at properties. If they mention a favorite artist or genre I can usually bring up a playlist I've created, and we're bumpin' tunes that put them in a good mood. If by chance I don't have a playlist created, the app lets you create a ‘radio' playlist on the spot based on a particular artist or song.

6. Audible – My portable library…

I'm an avid reader, and when I started working in real estate I saw the opportunity to turn my commute time into ‘reading' time via audio books. Audible carries my favorite book titles in audio form, and given that they are owned by Amazon, they seem to have pretty much any book title available (providing it's available in audio format).

Once a book is in your Audible library, it can be downloaded and will integrate to more than one device. I do most of my listening via the mobile app, but you do have the option to listen on a desktop computer via the Audible website.

There are different membership levels that include one or more audiobooks per month, and additional titles can be purchased at a discount if you're an Audible member.

I will admit there was a day when I held the belief that listening to a book doesn't count the same as actually reading the physical book; however, I've come to change my tune on that. I enjoy audiobooks almost as much as paper books, and my audiobook library continues to grow with time.

I do suggest listening to the audio sample before purchasing a book as all ‘audio readers' are not created equal. I've returned books (Audible has a generous return policy), because I couldn't handle listening to the person who performed the audio. I've also repeatedly listened to a title, because the audio was so well done; I couldn't stop listening (usually that happens when someone with an English accent is reading… I'm a sucker for that). Now that I think about it, if I had an English accent my sales would probably double… hmm, something to think about.

7. Feedly – Every blog I read all in one place…

The Feedly app compiles newsfeeds (of your choosing) giving you the ability to organize, read and share content from various sources.

I use it when curating content for social media as well as to skim over the blogs I frequent.

You can save and organize ‘feeds' by topic, and you can bookmark feeds to read later. There's a search function that provides suggestions based on general subjects (e.g. business, marketing, fashion, design, etc.), or you can directly enter a website address, subject or hashtag of your choice for more personalized options.

The ‘Today' feature lets you see all the latest feeds in one long scrolling page, or you can go to each individual news source to look at all their respective posts.

With so much information available at our fingertips, Feedly provides a simple way to filter only what I want to see, putting it into a single, easy-to-read format.

8. Mile IQ – Tracks every mile I drive…

As you can imagine working in real estate I drive thousands of miles a year, and I need a reliable way to keep track of all that road time for tax purposes.

The MileIQ app tracks my miles while providing an easy way of separating trips as either ‘business' or ‘personal' with a simple left or right swipe.

You can download monthly reports as a pdf or csv file, or you can download a yearly report if you want it all in a single document. If you keep track of mileage for tax purposes, this app is a lifesaver.

There's a free version available that limits you to a certain number of drives/miles per month, and there's a paid version with unlimited miles. I use the paid version as the cost is minimal compared to the time it saves me trying to keep track of my mileage manually.

9. Hootsuite – How I monitor, track and schedule social media content…

In my “past life” as a social media manager, I created and managed social media content for multiple brands on multiple social media platforms. Keeping up with it all was a pain. That's when I discovered Hootsuite.

Hootsuite is a ‘dashboard' where you can use and monitor all your social media accounts in one place, but it's more than that! Hootsuite lets you schedule posts, make comments and watch all the activity happening in your social media feeds. It also enables you to view detailed analytics on your social media activity, and you can monitor the activity of your competition as well as other social media pages.

Today I'm only managing one brand (me), but I still use Hootsuite to schedule posts, to monitor competitor feeds and as the ‘all seeing eye' for my social media pages. Of course, posting content to these sites is all for nothing if there's not an audience there to see it. On platforms like Instagram, there are tools you can use to boost your following organically. I tried Nitreo and I got a follower boost which has allowed me to reach out to more people and generate more engagement with my content. It might be something worth giving a go if you want your account to appear more professional and successful.

10. Hemingway Editor – Helps improve my writing…

The Hemingway Editor app is like having a second set of eyes (connected to a brain that's smarter than mine) that looks at a piece I've written and instantly shows me how to improve grammar and readability. This desktop-based app is free (there is also a paid version available), and all you have to do is copy and paste the content you want to check; the app's editor does the rest.

You can make changes in real time within the app to tweak and improve what you've written. I tend to write too many words at times; this app helps me craft a better way of saying things. For instance, I put this entire blog post into the Hemingway editor, and here's what it said (in the right-hand column):

Hemingway app
After some cleanup, here are the results of the blog you are now reading:
Hemingway app

As you can see from the second example the readability is better with fewer words as well as some other improvements. I don't generally aim for perfection as long as the piece reads well and the flow is consistent. Give it a try; it's a simple way to help improve your writing.

With so many apps available, how do you choose?

I don't believe there is any ‘one size fits all' app as generally the best apps are the ones you use most that also adapt to your personal situation. I'm frequently trying out new apps to see how they fit into my lifestyle; some I keep, and some I use for a month and delete. I also consider what other members of my team are using. For instance, in my previous life, I was the only one using Dropbox which didn't do much good outside of my own use. Contrast that with today where I wouldn't be able to function with the team I'm on without using that very same Dropbox app.

Now, as we sometimes tend to live our lives in irony, you've taken up a bit of time reading a post that written about apps that will save you time. I suggest implementing a few (or all) of these apps into your life right now, and like magic you'll get all that time right back! OK, that won't really happen, but I can confidently say that in my experience these 10 apps have proven to save time and make my business life easier; I'll bet they can do the same for you.

If you have a cool app that makes your life/work-life easier, please share it with me; I'm always up for trying something new.

Do you have an idea for a subject you want me to cover? Do you have a question you'd like me to answer? I'd love to help! Contact me at tony@chordrealestate.com

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