Productivity: What is it good for?

To Get Things Done, you need to Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, and Engage. For those of your not familiar with David Allen’s seminal work on productivity call Getting Things Done, read all about it here!

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average worker’s productivity has increased 70% in the last 40 years. 70%! That’s a lot more work being done by folks than was done previously. 

You may be asking “How is that increase possible?” Well, the answer is automation, software, and computers. 

The vast majority of work that was done previously that could be automated is being automated by robots and software. This is as true for manufacturing as it is for Accounting. It’s worth it to take a look at your daily tasks and ask “What can I automate?”

Remember, your Realization Rate (the difference between what you record as time and what percentage of that time is paid by the client) is everything in Accounting! Seriously, think about that hour you spent looking for a document, it could have been another $250 in revenue to your company! 

Now take that idea of time waste and extrapolate it out across your firm. How many hours a week are you and your team wasting in admin time or busy work? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. 

We work with thousands of accounting firms across 18 countries and each firm has the same issue – their realization rate needs to improve. It’s only a matter of creating efficiencies, getting organized, and automating that which you can. 

In case you didn’t know, you have the same 24 hours in the day as Beyonce gets. We all have the same amount of time to do what needs done. What’s the difference between Beyonce’s rise to the top and your firm’s growth? Processes and people (and money – can’t forget that, haha). It’s always processes and people that set firms apart. 

When you think about it, every business in the world is made up of those two things: Process and People. People problems are much harder and expensive to fix. In this article, we are going to focus on tools that can help you with your process problems. 

Regaining precious hours can be a huge win for many accountants, CPA Firms, and Bookkeepers. Which is why we’ve dedicated a special section to “Misc productivity software and apps”. View the items below to see an overview of a select number of high quality productivity apps.

IMPORTANT: For this article, we will be following the Getting Things Done Framework. If you don’t know anything about Getting Things Done – read this book. It will change your life. 

Briefly, in order to be productive, you must: 

  • Capture (collect)
  • Clarify (process)
  • Organize
  • Reflect (plan)
  • Engage (do)

This article is going to focus on Capture, Organize, and Engage tools to help you be more productive!

Capture Tools

A capture tool is something you use to capture your thoughts and the work you need to do. It is an app that sits outside of your brain and keeps your brain honest.

In case you didn’t know, your brain isn’t infallible and didn’t evolve to do accounting work. Spreadsheets are not in your DNA (despite how much we want them to be!) You need to have something you can trust to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Your brain just can’t physically handle all of the information you need to remember and organize for you to run an accounting firm efficiently.

You need a system. And that system begins with a capture tool. 

The thing about capture tools is they rarely both capture your thoughts and allow you to plan projects. Usually, it’s an either/or proposition. With that in mind, let’s review a few capture tools:

Evernote

What it Does:

Evernote provides an easy way of synchronizing notes across numerous devices and various platforms. Save, edit and share notes among different devices and with multiple users. Handy for jotting down ideas on to the go and works great for group collaborations. It’s great for taking notes, not planning projects. 

Main Features:

  • Write

From short lists to lengthy research, no matter what form your writing takes, Evernote keeps you focused on moving those ideas from inspiration to completion.

  • Collect

Easily gather everything that matters. Clip web articles, capture handwritten notes, and snap photos to keep the physical and digital details of your projects with you at all times.

  • Find

Your words, images, and documents are always close at hand. Evernote’s powerful search and discovery features make everything you’ve collected easy to find.

  • Present

Have fast, effective meetings by presenting your work as it evolves. No need to build slides, just one click and your notes are transformed into a beautiful screen-friendly layout.

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

No but there’s a free plan.

Pricing

Plans start at $5 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://evernote.com/

_________________________________

Google Keep

What it Does:

Google Keep is a note-taking app. It’s pretty great at being a cross platform application. Need to remember something? Open up the Google Keep app on your phone and quickly jot it down or use your voice to create the note. Google Keep natively integrates with Google Calendar and Google Reminders too! Keep is great for taking notes on the fly but it’s not a project management tool. 

Main Features:

  • Notes (with drawings or with pictures too!)

Write a free form note. Feel free to do a brain dump of exactly what is on your mind so you can reference it later. As the parenthesis says, you draw a picture in your notes or you can take a photo with the camera in your phone and upload it to your notes. 

  • Checklist

Your checklists are a way for you to organize what needs done. The author of this article uses the checklist feature every week to create his grocery list and ensure he stays fed!

  • Labels

You can label your notes and checklists to allow for more organization of your thoughts. 

  • Reminders

You can set reminders to remind you to do something at a certain time or in a certain place. That’s right! You can tell the app to remind you to get bread when you’re passing by a grocery store on your way home!

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

It’s free. 

Pricing

It’s free. 

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://keep.google.com/

_________________________________

Microsoft Excel

What it Does:

You already know what Excel does, right? This is a blog for accountants after all. But ok, just in case you’re not an accountant, here is how Microsoft describes Excel:

“Microsoft Excel is the industry leading spreadsheet program, a powerful data visualization and analysis tool. Take your analytics to the next level with Excel 2016.” 

Fun fact (because if you’re reading this far,  you’re a spreadsheet nerd just like us): Spreadsheets were invented by Dan Bricklin. Here is a fun article to read about him and Spreadsheets.

Another fun fact – if you’re still using Excel to keep track of your work… you’re falling behind the times. Excel is just not made to help you manage your firm. You can try to make it work but it will only work up until a certain point and then it is going to break down on you. We’ve seen it time and time again with the thousands of firms we work with. 

Main Features:

  • Cells

A cell is a place to store data. I know that sounds esoteric but it’s really just a bucket you put data in. 

  • Forumlas

This isn’t the same as a chemistry formula, my friend! Formulas in excel are more like math formulas. With formulas you can combine, edit, or create new cells in interesting ways. 

  • Filters

Filters allow you to filter the data you put into cells. 

  • Sorts

Sorting options allow you to take your data and arrange it how you want. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – 30 days with the rest of the Microsoft office suite. 

Pricing

The Microsoft Office suite of products, including Excel costs ~$20 per month. 

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://products.office.com/en-us/try-office-365-free

_________________________________

Jetpack Workflow

What it Does:

Jetpack Workflow is the premier project management application for the accounting sphere. We focus only on the account sphere and dedicate our time and resources to solving the problems of small to medium sized accounting firms. We standardize, automate, and track your work to keep your firm organized and running like a top. We also automate the creation of jobs to keep things from ever falling through the cracks. Finally, Jetpack Workflow gives you second to none transparency over your accounting workflow. 

Main Features:

  • Jobs List

Get a complete, 360 degree view of all of your outstanding work! Be able to drill down to any job at any time to see the audit trail on that job. Know who did what and when. And know what you have to do next!

  • Checklist

We love Checklists here at Jetpack Workflow. It’s just a native way to get things done! We’ve designed our whole app around the idea that checklists can better your business and your client experience. For more on the amazing nature of checklists, check out The Checklist Manifesto.

  • Notes 

Write notes on your jobs to know what has happen and if there any out standing questions. 

Communicate

  • Labels

You can label your notes and checklists to allow for more organization of your thoughts. 

  • Reminders

You can set reminders to remind you to do something at a certain time or in a certain place. That’s right! You can tell the app to remind you to get bread when you’re passing by a grocery store on your way home!

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

It’s free. 

Pricing

It’s free. 

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://keep.google.com/


Organize Tools

An organize tool helps you to… organize! It’s right there in the name, silly. It’s human nature to be messy – in fact – it’s animal nature to be messy. You and every other person on the planet needs to make a focused effort to be organized because it’s just not the default state of things. Thank the Big Bang!

One minute of organization saves your one hour of productivity later. Think about it, when was the last time you wasted half an hour looking for your car keys because you didn’t just hang them up after you enter your home? Grant it, you need to hang a key holder first but that’s exactly the point. You need to be intentional to become organized. 

To be organized, you need a system and, luckily, we are all exceedingly familiar with a good organization system already: File folders. 

Not only are your physical files kept in a filing cabinet in this fashion but it is also the underlying structure of modern computing. Every computer program is just a collection of file documents stored in file folders. It’s really just folders all the way down!

Let’s not mess with a good thing. We’re going to focus on apps that will help you to enact this file folder system virtually for your firm. Basically, this is a list of favorite online document management tools. 

NOTE: All tools contained below utilize the file folder system. All have a similar feature set so we are going to focus on the one feature that sets each tool apart. Additionally, all are cloud based. If you’re still messing around with your own personal server, then you’re living in the Stone age. 

With that in mind, let’s review a few Organize tools:

Sync

What it Does:

Sync is a virtual document management solution. It makes it easy to store, share and access your files from just about anywhere.

Main Feature:

  • Privacy

The thing that sets Sync apart is its focus on Privacy (that’s right, privacy with a capital “P”!). Sync is safe to use, no matter where your business operates, with USA, EU / UK GDPR, and Canadian compliance built-in, including Canadian data residency. We want to focus on the Canadian part. Sync is a Canadian company which means it is not subject to the Patriot Act – so even the US Government will be able to access your data!  

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

No free trial

Pricing

Plans start at $5 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.sync.com/

_________________________________

Dropbox for Business

What it Does:

Dropbox is a virtual document management solution. It too makes it easy to store, share and access your files from just about anywhere.

Main Feature:

  • Ubiquity 

In our opinion, the thing that sets Dropbox apart is that everyone has a Dropbox account… including all of your clients! Dropbox owns about 25% of the document management market. Chances are your clients have heard of it and are familiar with using it. We point this out because it means your clients know how to use Dropbox natively. This makes it a great option for collecting client information and an easy way to reduce your Client Chase.

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

No free trial

Pricing

Plans start at $12.50 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.dropbox.com/business/

_________________________________

Box

What it Does:

Box is a virtual document management solution. It also makes it easy to store, share and access your files from just about anywhere (noticing a trend here?).

Main Feature:

  • Collaboration

The thing that sets Box apart is its ability to allow multiple people to work on the same document at the same time. Box’s collaboration tools are second to none and, if you have a remote team, it’s a great option to consider. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

No free trial

Pricing

Plans start at $14.25 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.box.com/

_________________________________

Sharefile

What it Does:

Sharefile is a virtual document management solution. It… do we need to write out that sentence again?

Main Feature:

  • Legacy tool

A lot of Accounting firms use Sharefile because it is the legacy system in the Accounting space. But, honestly, you don’t need to use Sharefile. It’s been around for ages, is clunky, and just not user friendly. Plus, you can get the same features from the other tools in this list at a lower cost! We do not recommend Sharefile. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

No free trial

Pricing

Plans start at $50 per month for up to 5 users ($10 per user per month above that).

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.sharefile.com/

_________________________________

Google Drive

What it Does:

Google Drive is Google’s document management solution. It allows you to store files and folders (just like every other organize tool on this list). 

Main Feature:

  • Integration into GSuite

The native integration into GSuite is a huge, huge bonus for Google Drive. A lot of modern accounting firms are ditching the Microsoft Office suite of products in favor of the Gsuite suite of products. Not only does subscribing to Google Drive give you native access to Google Sheets (a worthy Excel competitor), it also means your customers will better understand your file sharing process. Like Dropbox, Google Drive is ubiquitous. Chances are, your clients have Google accounts they can use to collaborate with you on documents. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

No free trial

Pricing

Plans start at $12 per user.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://gsuite.google.com/pricing.html

_________________________________

Microsoft OneDrive

What it Does:

OneDrive is Microsoft’s document management solution. Again, it allows you to store files and folders (just like every other organize tool on this list). 

Main Feature:

  • Integration into Microsoft Office

The native integration into Microsoft Office’s suite of products cannot be overstated for it’s importance. If you’re a diehard Excel and Outlook user, there is not other option you should consider. I know you will probably consider other options on this list but you shouldn’t. Having disparte tools just doesn’t make sense for your workflow. The more tools you have, the more you have to work to make them work well together. Save yourself the headache and learn to love OneDrive. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

No free trial

Pricing

Plans start at $5 per user.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://products.office.com/en-us/onedrive-for-business/online-cloud-storage

_________________________________

Jetpack Workflow

What it Does:

Jetpack Workflow is a… management solution too?  Yep, that’s right, if you subscribe to Jetpack Workflow, you get unlimited document storage too. 

Main Feature:

  • Integration into your Workflow

We all hate having to track things down. Organization is really a huge problem as you’re growing and scaling your firm because you have to ensure all of your employees are using the right tool and putting things in the right place. Here are Jetpack Workflow, we recommend you just upload your final work product or client documents directly to the jobs you’re doing for those clients. That way, if you ever have a question about what happened on a previous job,  you just navigate to that job where you can see all the notes, completion history, and documents in one place. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

14 day free trial

Pricing

Plans start at $30 per user per month (but you also get a ton of other features these other document management solutions don’t offer!).

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

jetpackworkflow.com/

_________________________________

Engage Tools

If your Capture and Organize Tools help you save time on the front end of being productive, then your Engage tool is what saves your time on the fulfillment of your work. 

These are the tools most people think of when they are thinking of productivity apps but don’t discount the Capture and Organize tools we mentioned above. One minute of organization will save you one hour of wasted productivity. 

The more you can trust your tools to have an accurate representation of all the work you need to do (your Capture tool) and have all of your work organized (your Organize tool), then the easier your Engage tool can save you hours worth of work! 

Zapier

What it Does:

Zapier lets you easily connect the web apps you use, making it easy to automate tedious tasks.

Main Features:

  • Integrate

Connect the apps you use to easily move data between them.

  • Automate

Use simple, event-based automation to avoid repetitive tasks.

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes

Pricing

starts at $20/month

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://zapier.com/


Followup.cc

What it Does:

lets you schedule automatic follow-ups, tasks, reminders, and more—right from your Inbox.

Main Features:

  • Create Easy Reminders on Any Device!

FollowUp.cc let’s you easily schedule reminders in existing emails from any device. Using simple terms, you can push emails into the future or set a reminder for your conversation to appear when you want.

  • Snooze Reminders with One Click

Keep your Inbox clear with easy, one click Snooze Links. Snooze Links allow you to quickly reschedule emails to appear in a few hours, days or weeks – Keeping your Inbox clutter free.

  • Work Productively in Gmail. Add FollowUp’s Extension

Keeps the Bcc field open for custom reminders

Allows reminders to be automatically sent for you

Bookmark pages for future reference with one click

Add Response Detection to automate the FollowUp Process

  • See Reminders in Your Existing Calendar

See reminders on Outlook, Google Calendar, Yahoo, etc.

Set alarms to appear in your existing calendar

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – 14 days

Pricing

Starts at $4/month

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://followup.cc/

_________________________________

LedgerSync

What it Does:

There are a few tools like ledger sync so we’re going to try to remain agnostic about which you should use. Each will fetch from different banks and handle the keying of transactions with varying degrees of success.

That being said, LedgerSync feels a bit… Chincy. Their chat support wasn’t the best and their website design felt a bit outdated. 

Here is a list of the accounting softwares LedgerSync works with (according to their support so take it with a grain of salt): 

  • QB Desktop
  • QB online
  • Share drive
  • Xero
  • Sharefile
  • Google Drive

Main Features:

  • Fetch your client banking data

Automate the “getting” of your client data from their bank account. 

  • Automatically key your client’s banking data in your accounting software. 

We’ve all been there. Your client didn’t keep up with their bookkeeping and now they want you to go in and key everything. What a hassle! Well, with LedgerSync, it will automatically be categorized for you!

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – 30 days – but you have to attend a demo.

Pricing

Starts at $12.50 per client per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.ledgersync.com/

_________________________________

Hubdoc

What it Does:

Keep in mind what we wrote about LedgerSync. There are a number of bank feed softwares out there and we’re trying to be agnostic. 

That being said, Hubdoc feels like the cool younger brother of LedgerSync.

Here is the list of accounting softwares Hubdoc integrates with:

  • Xero 
  • QBO

Main Features:

  • Fetch your client banking data

Again, automate the “getting” of your client data from the client’s bank account. 

  • Automatically key your client’s banking data in your accounting software. 

The transactions it fetches should be categorized for you, hopefully saving you hours worth of work. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – 14 days.

Pricing

Starts at $20 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.hubdoc.com/

_________________________________

Zoho Books

What it Does:

Zoho books is another automatic bank feed software but Zoho Books generally works only with the suite of Zoho products. If you’re already a Zoho user, then use this product! If not, then don’t. 

Main Features:

  • Fetch your client banking data

It lets you automate the “getting” of your client data from the client’s bank account. 

  • Automatically key your client’s banking data in your accounting software. 

Theoretically, the transactions it fetches could be categorized for you, hopefully saving you time. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – 14 days.

Pricing

Starts at $9 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.zoho.com/us/books/

_________________________________

Pandle

What it Does:

Pandle is a bookkeeping software you can use with your clients. Consider Pandle a bookkeeping solution you can setup and train your clients to use to ensure you have less bookkeeping categorization to do down the line. 

Main Features:

  • Fetch your client banking data

Again, it can fetch bank feeds. 

  • Automatically key your client’s banking data in your accounting software. 

Once it has the bank feeds it allows you to categorize the transactions to better track expenses. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – there is even a free tier. 

Pricing

Starts at $7 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.pandle.com/

_________________________________

Xero

What it Does:

Xero is an accounting suite of tools – one of which is bank reconciliation. Generally speaking, you’ll want to use this if Xero is already your tool of choice but probably not if you don’t already use Xero. 

Xero’s claim to fame is being a beautiful software package. It’s really user friendly!

Main Features:

  • Fetch your client banking data

Would you guess it can fetch bank feeds?

  • Automatically key your client’s banking data in your accounting software. 

You probably didn’t know – it could automatically key your clients banking data. And Xero integrates with Stripe!

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – 30 days. 

Pricing

Starts at $9 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.xero.com/us/

_________________________________

QBO

What it Does:

QBO is an accounting suite of tools – one of which is bank reconciliation. Generally speaking, you’re probably already use QBO to import your client’s transactions. 

QBO is the industry standard and they are now competing with you by offering a bookkeeping offering for $200 per month!

Main Features:

  • Fetch your client banking data

You knew this one could fetch bank feeds already. 

  • Automatically key your client’s banking data in your accounting software. 

And you already knew QBO tries to do this well. 

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – 30 days. 

Pricing

Starts at $12 per month.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

https://www.xero.com/us/

_________________________________

Jetpack Workflow

What it Does:

Jetpack Workflow is an Engage tool too? Yes, yes it is! In fact, the Engage aspect of Jetpack Workflow is probably the most valuable part of the app for your firm. 

Jetpack Workflow will become the source of record for your client work because you will update your jobs as you work on the jobs. And! Jetpack Workflow will also become your source of action. 

Jetpack Workflow automates the creation of your jobs. This means you never have to remember a specific way to do a job for a specific client… the app just tells you. You just have to log in and do what the app tells you!

Main Features:

  • Job transparency 

You never waste time not knowing what to work on next. Just pull up your jobs list to see what you need to do or to see what anyone else in your firm needs to do. 

  • Automate the creation of your work each month

Jetpack Workflow will automate the generation of your jobs for every client, every time! You’ll never have something fall through the cracks again!

Free Trial: (Yes/No)

Yes – 14 days. 

Pricing

Starts at $30 per month if you pay yearly.

Cloud based?

Yes

Website:

jetpackworkflow.com

_________________________________

Conclusion 

We all want to be more productive! It’s basic human nature to want to maximize your output while simultaneously minimizing your effort. 

All of the apps we talked about in this article will help you to maximize your outcomes. But there is no way for us to know which app will work perfectly for you! Only you can know which app you like and work for your firm’s unique needs. 

Make sure you measure twice and cut once! Know your firm, know what your firm needs, and create your tech stack to maximize your productivity.

Click here to return the the software guide and reviews for accountants