Fun thingsA startup CEO’s job title is constantly in flux from one hour to the next, as it often means performing duties that range from payroll to social media manager to sales director and more. Chris Eley, owner of Goose the Market in downtown Indy, once made a comment that no one sees the unglamorous side of entrepreneurship, which includes cleaning gutters at 3 am. Time is precious because there is so little of it, and any extra hour for eating, sleeping, or even catching up on Game of Thrones is a luxury rather than a commodity. Speaking of which—did that blonde girl ever find her dragons?

In a time when the smartphone is as multifaceted as the entrepreneur himself, a vast selection of tools exist to help maximize productivity. While a gutter-cleaning app is yet to be developed (hey, it could happen), the Apple and Google Play app stores are brimming with tools to help busy people get the most out of their days. But with big selection comes big responsibility, and you owe it to yourself to choose the best productivity tools possible.

In order to equip your smartphone or tablet with the best to-do-list busters, make sure an app  both a.) proves a worthy of time investment and b.) requires minimum input for maximum output. That’s the heart of the efficiency equation: how to achieve the highest output (quantity and quality) with the lowest input (time, money, and effort).

 One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs reads:

“One of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts. And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

Like a bicycle allows us to travel twice the mileage as running with half the exertion, a tool should maximize results while minimizing the effort. An app should simplify life, not complicate it, so if an app tries to do too many things at once, it is probably not the best choice.

Six of the apps I’ve found to be the best in terms of productivity include:

1. TextExpander

Allows you to set custom keyboard shortcuts so you can type the same things over and over using abbreviations. For example, for scheduling meetings at our office, I’ve set a 3-character shortcut that automatically translates to our full address.

2. Dropbox

Grants access documents and files anywhere, anytime, from any device via Cloud storage. You’ve probably heard of Dropbox by now, but if you aren’t using the app, you should give it a shot because, if you choose, it will automatically sync photos and videos taken on your phone to the app, which then automatically syncs to your connected devices.

3. 1Password

Creates strong, unique passwords for all your sites and logs you in with a single tap. It’s simple, convenient security. No one has time to try password after password for their various accounts. 1Password is a time-saver and security-protector in one app.

4. Evernote

Keeps track of all your ideas and lists and organizes them into notebooks. Evernote is the digital equivalent of a backpack full of various binders, but keeps them all stored right on your smartphone and laptop. I use Evernote to stay organized, keeping separate notebooks for speaking topic ideas, blog post ideas and 2 a.m. brainstorms.

5. Trello

Organizes project timelines and employee assignments to keep everyone engaged and on-track. Trello allows our marketing team to track progress on various projects and also provides a home for ideas in the backlog.

6. Google Drive

Allows multiple people to collaborate in real-time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. We use Google Docs within Drive to share and edit content (like this blog post) without having to deal with emailing Microsoft Word attachments that take up space in our inboxes.

All of the tools listed are available as both web and smartphone apps, so all your devices can sync up to enhance your user experience.

The right apps allow for an enormous amount of streamlined, efficient output with a minimal amount of input for when you want to get more done, while staying organized and sync’ed across devices.

What’s your favorite productivity tool? Did I leave anything off my list? Drop a comment to let me know!