When you power on your computer, are you feeling lost between all the programs that Microsoft, Google and your company want you to use? Default programs pop-up constantly. How do you know which software can really help you maximize your personal productivity, versus just getting in the way?

If you’re an entrepreneur working from home, this is an even more important topic. You have the advantage of a two-minute commute from your bed to your desk. But you have to provide for you own job security. And part of that security comes from being efficient with your time.

If you can do more than the competition in the same amount of time, you’re more likely to thrive in your industry. Here are the tools I’ve used to grow as a freelancer making the transition into full-time entrepreneurship.

1.    Wrike – Manage projects with your team

After I dove into the work-from-home lifestyle, I quickly realized that you can accomplish a lot more by partnering with smart, experienced teams to tackle large projects. In fact, I printed out a quote from Michael Jordan and placed it in a frame on my wall: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Wrike is a powerful platform that allows organizations to collaborate in a secure ecosystem that ensures everyone on the team knows exactly what their key priorities are every day, week, and month. It has features for individual task management that help individuals become more productive in managing their time, and also tools for project management that help companies track towards larger deliverables.

Since my company requires a lot of creative assets, I use the Wrike for Marketers solution. I like how the system includes Proofing & Approval tools, which allows our team share designs, PDFs, and many other files, and I can write my feedback quickly and efficiently, then mark it as either approved, or changes needed. It streamlines the communications and ultimately makes our creative work faster and better quality.

2.    Calendly – Coordinate Meetings w/ Outside Parties

Whether you’re in business for yourself or part of a large team, setting meetings with clients and sub-contractors is probably a big part of your day. One of the most frustrating challenges I faced was dealing with clients from different time zones. In today’s digital landscape borders have evaporated and it’s normal for teams to collaborate from anywhere on the planet.

I’ve seen this change over the last decade which has come with it’s own challenges. All the different time zones really made things difficult – especially when it came to coordinating with subcontractors and client teams from around the world.

Calendly allows you to leave the back and forth via IM and email in the past. Setup a profile in Calendly that includes your availability and time zone. Then, Calendly can send a link to your client. Once they click on the link, Calendly loads up and the client can select any available timeslot – translated to their time zone. If other clients grab a timeslot after you send out the link, Calendly is smart enough to remove that from your current availability. No more double bookings and miscommunications regarding time zone!

And teams can use the same tool to see each other’s availability. A project coordinator can easily review the availability of each team member. Then tasks can be handed out with a deadline based on everyone’s availability, or the platform can be directed to assign assignments in order of who is available when. It’s pretty powerful and removes a lot of the scheduling headaches that come from managing your own team.

3.    Slack – Give Your Team Real-Time Communication

Email has gone the way of the Dodo for modern entrepreneurs that kick butt with an engaged team. I struggled in the beginning of my career with communicating in an effective way that didn’t require fifteen different windows to be open on my screen.

I knew email wasn’t as effective as an IM. But there were so many messaging platforms with different strengths and weaknesses. And then there were the personal preferences of vendors and clients. It was a tangled mess.

A colleague recommended Slack and I’ve never looked back. The free version allows you to collaborate with anyone and everyone across all of your devices. It also archives your 10,000 most recent messages for easy searching. And you can integrate up to 10 different third-party or custom apps.

They have an advanced plan with more functionality. You gain advanced login and authentication protocols to make the platform more secure. All of your messages are archived for quick searching. And your conversations are kept within compliance for legal and medical industry requirements for document retention.

The ability to create unique channels on the fly, while quickly inviting appropriate parties to the channel makes this communication especially effective at streamlining communication.

The Bottom Line for 10X Productivity

These three apps are powerful solutions that I leverage every day. I chose to highlight these because they apply to every industry, every hustle and any project. It’s hard to get away from computers at work – or the electronic leash that follows you everywhere with your smartphone. But these programs allow you to use your time much more efficiently.

A few other parting tips from someone that’s spent the better part of a decade hustling and grinding:

  • Don’t let others define you. Kick butt, build a portfolio and show the world what you can do.
  • Take on the crappy assignments in the beginning. You’ll build a foundation of experience and a portfolio to show future clients.
  • Listen to your internal body clock. Creative people keep creative hours sometimes. That’s okay. Don’t fight your natural sleep clock – you’ll see a boost in productivity when you go with the flow.

I hope you’re successful in growing your business. Wasting time on the basics is never fun. With the tools outlined above, you’ll 10x your productivity just like I did.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. Megan can be reached at megantotka@gmail.com Website: www.chamberofcommerce.com. @ChamberOnline