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January Apps: Self assessment tools

7th Jan 2015
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We know as well as anyone accountants need all the help they can get during tax season.  

So to reboot our monthly app reviews, we've tested a selection of time management and productivity apps to help you get into the groove this January. 

This is a free app for any device - PC, tablet or smartphone. It's purpose is to help you manage your tasks in a speedy simple way and it does what it says on the tin.

After signing up for a free account, you can begin to add your tasks, which are categorised depending on what day they're due. You can tag them and even add locations, which is handy if you're picking up files from a client or even earmarking which coffee shop stocks the best emergency supply.

You can mark tasks complete or incomplete, group them together under 'work', 'personal' or even 'self assessment' and mark them as complete/incomplete. The app will also send you notifications depending on when something's due, so you never forget. The app also syncs with Outlook, Gmail, Twitter, Evernote and even Siri.

If you're looking for a no bells-and-whistles, basic task management app that won't cost you a penny, then this is it.

This is also a great task management app for tax season. Although, it will set you back £2.99 and is slightly more advanced than Remember the Milk. 

Users can set reminders for when each return (or task, whatever that may be) is due to be completed and filed. Set deadlines for  yourself and watch them pop up on your screen. You can also tap to change the timing or date, mark as complete or even set yourself a timer. It also sends you notifications when things are due so you can't really avoid your deadlines. 

A great feature of this, for those who don't check phones/apps religiously, is the sound function. You can assign different sounds to different tasks, meaning a different tone will happen when a tax return is due, to when you're meant to pick the kids up from school. 

And for smartphone over-users, it saves you up to 20% on battery life, as you're not using push notifications. 

This isn't one strictly for self assessment season, but a good way of tracking your productivity all year round. 

It's a desktop rather than smartphone app, so it's a great one for accountants who use a traditional PC. Simply run the app in the background and go about your daily business. It will then feed you back reports of how much time you spend on certain things - for example, how much time on emails, on social media or simply on filing tax returns - handy information for next January perhaps.

You can set yourself goals and targets, choose to block distracting websites and simply and easily get yourself out of a low productivity funk over time by having the tool monitor where you're wasting time. Simple.

It's got a lite and premium (paid-for) version, but it's worth paying the £6 per month for the benefits it brings, i.e. setting goals, getting alerts when you do, a log of daily accomplishments and more detailed results. 

There's a 14 day free trial too. Worth a shot for those who would love to become more productive but find it hard to be strict with themselves.

Perhaps more useful for this time of year is this Focus Booster app. It costs £0.69, and follows the 'Pomodoro Technique' for productivity.

This is a way of working whereby the user works in short bursts of energy, with timed breaks. It reportedly stops your brain from feeling overwhelmed, something accountants may know all too well in January.

Set your task, press play, and the timer will begin. You can even set music to play during the time period. After the 25 minutes is up, take a short break. It continues like this with a longer break every four sessions. 

The desktop version of this app promises to make timesheets a whole lot easier with automatic tracking of how much time you spend on a task. There's also a billable time entry option with the ability to assign a client and session label to each pomodoro session you do, to track what you're working on - which the app creators say makes it easier to invoice.

Worth a shot? We certainly think so.

When y​ou boot your computer up in the mornings, how cool would it be to have everything pop up open and ready for you to work on? 

If you're answer is very, then you need to download Launchy, a free app for Windows and Mac. Simply tell it what you want to open - documents, spreadsheets, web pages, and everything will be at your fingertips in just a few strokes. 

It's kind of like a great Excel shortcut, except for your PC. 

For all the Apple lovers out there - we know you still exist - Things is one of the best task management tools for iPhone, iPad and desktop.

At £6.99 it's not the cheapest but syncs your tasks across all devices, allows you to set tasks depending on days and has a really simple, easy to use interface that won't leave you having to Google how it works.

You can create projects to group things together, enter tasks quickly and customise it to how you want it to be. 

It's less about what this app can do, as there are plenty of free time management apps out there, but it's more about what it feels like and how easy it is to use and share things. It feels like a natural extension of your iPhone, and just works really well.

What's your favourite time management or productivity apps for self assessment season?

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Replies (9)

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Tony Margaritelli, ICPA Chairman
By Tony Margaritelli
07th Jan 2015 15:57

January Apps

Rachael,

Thanks for this article. It is research well done and save me having to waste time. I like the look and feel of "due" but that's just my preference

 

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By Rachael White
07th Jan 2015 16:01

Giannina

Glad you found these useful.

Due looks and feels great, I really like Rescue Time too as a personal favourite. 

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By debrahuzzard
08th Jan 2015 11:20

todoist

I am making heavy use of todoist in the tax return season. great for reminders of things to do, can group into projects. ie. phone calls to make, co house deadlines, personal stuff too. easiest to use on the computer which I am pretty much stuck on all day at the moment but also syncs with my phone. anyway, must stop getting distracted on accounting web and get back to tax returns.

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By Charlie Carne
08th Jan 2015 12:30

Todoist looks like a great task management tool, though I've not come across it before seeing Debra's post above. Does anyone have any experience of its use in an accounting practice environment? How well does it manage deadlines for tasks such as monthly payroll or quarterly VAT returns or year-end accounts, with sub-tasks such as obtaining client records by a certain date, delegating to staff to work on them, manager/partner review, client authorisation, filing at HMRC/Companies House? Can it then auto-set to repeat each task the next month/quarter/year?

Once as standard task has been created with sub-tasks, can it be cloned for multiple clients and can the deadlines for each sub-task be auto-set to a certain number of days/months pre or post an overall date for the task (such as a year-end)?

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By Rachael White
08th Jan 2015 13:11

Sounds like

We may have to do a follow-up app review on todoist. Thanks so much for that suggestion.

Their official site is here charlie, but would welcome any comments too on any accountants using it.

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By madmax
08th Jan 2015 15:19

todoist & toggl

I'm with Debra - todoist is great.  Love the reminders and the andriod app is great when you are out of the office & need to add things quickly on-the-fly.

@Charlie, I only use the free version of todoist, but there is a business version where you can assign tasks to collegues and track tasks.  As for repeating tasks & deadlines, yes it does - I use this function for VAT returns, payroll.

I also use toggl which records time spent on a client & what type of work you are doing.  It's worth a look - really easy to set-up & use and the reports are pretty good too.  It's interesting to see exactly how much time you're spending on what and it has certainly helped me become more focused :)

 

 

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By waltere
08th Jan 2015 15:58

Try Trello
Over the years I've tried a number of ToDo / time management tools.  I've particularly liked the ones that span the desktop (often browser-based) and mobile (app-based) such as Toodledo and Wunderlist.  I've definitely come to the conclusion that simpler is better and I've recently been converted to Trello (www.trello.com).  It can be used as a full-blown collaborative project management tool for teams, but you can also run it as a simple, one-person ToDo list manager.  Big plus point is that it has a very graphical interface. You CAN set dates on individual tasks but I find it easier to drag important stuff to the top of my lists then just work from the top down (it all has to be done eventually, doesn't it?!).  It works fine in a desktop browser, on IOS and Android but is currently rubbish on a Kindle. I think ToDo / time management tools are a very personal thing and what works for one is hated by others - you can try Trello for free on all platforms, which is a quick way of seeing if it works for you.  The professional version adds bells and whistles for teams. I'd vouch for the Pomodoro technique - there are lots of apps that handle this, indeed a whole industry has grown up around the original concept.  

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By marceljung
08th Jan 2015 16:03

Toodledo & Taskcoach
I've used Taskcoach for years to keep track of time spent on clients and tasks - worth a look ... It's free!

Toodledo is great (I use the free version) and allows folders/lists, tags (VAT, tax, payroll, accounts, etc), deadlines, reminders. Link with apps like 2Do.

Also using Todoist to flag emails as tasks - but still getting started on this, but it seems to work great.

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By AndrewV12
13th Jan 2015 12:19

Apps

One day we will all be using them, but not for me at the moment.

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