January Apps: Self assessment tools
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 you 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?