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At Prialto, we help busy people focus on what they do best. Thus, when the COVID-19 began drastically shifting the business world, we wondered how it would affect executive productivity.

To answer that question, we surveyed 500 executives from around the world to understand the challenges they're facing and the actions they're taking to push their businesses forward amidst the uncertainty.

One of the key findings was that 89% of executives have adopted new tools since the pandemic began. This aligned with our 2019 survey, where 64% said that they regularly seek out new tools to boost their productivity.

In this article, we'll dive into the most popular types of tools that executives adopted and our top picks for each category.

Photo of a smart phone screen filled with apps.

1) Messaging Apps

With a 51% adoption rate, messaging apps have been the most popular new tool since the pandemic began and with good reason. Now that you can no longer walk over to people's desks to chat, it's critical to have a solution that works in this environment.

Many executives realized that their current tool isn't robust enough for remote work, forcing them to seek alternatives.

Here are our top picks for messaging apps:

  • Slack - This is one of the most popular messaging apps. With numerous integrations and customizable features, it's easy to adapt slack to meet your team's needs. However, it is one of the most expensive messaging apps, so you need to make sure your organization needs the customizations.
  • Twist - This is a messaging app that Doist designed for distributed teams. Unlike most apps that encourage immediate responses, Twist is designed to help you be productive when working with colleagues who have a different schedule than you do or prefer long blocks of uninterrupted deep work. It's a great option if your company plans to go remote permanently.
  • Zoho Cliq - This is an affordable messaging app that keeps conversations organized with a user-friendly columnar layout. It also has a variety of notification options, so messages don't slip through the cracks. It's a strong option if you need a new messaging tool on a budget.

When you're picking a new messaging app, consider the following factors:

  • Cost per user
  • Search abilities
  • Notification options
  • File storage
  • Integrations

And other features your team needs to communicate effectively both now and if you return to the office.

 

2) Task Management Apps

In these volatile times, it's easy for tasks to slip through the cracks. To prevent that from happening, 44% of executives have adopted a new task management tool.

Here are a couple of our favorite options:

  • Monday - This is one of the best task management apps for teams. Its highly customizable features allow you to personalize your tracking to meet specific needs. Though it's more expensive than many alternatives, you can maximize its value by using it for a range of other purposes, including performance management, sales, campaign management, and a variety of other tasks.
  • Asana - This is a cost-effective tool that's great for individual and team task management. Its user-friendly design makes it easy to track multiple projects' status and create workflows for repeatable tasks.
  • Tick-Tick - This is an easy, affordable option if you're just looking for a to-do list app with advanced features. It integrates with Gmail and will soon integrate with Outlook, giving you the opportunity to view multiple calendars in one place.

Whether you're adopting a task management tool to keep yourself organized or to collaborate with your team, it's crucial to find one that you'll use daily. The easiest way to do that is to trial a few options and see which tool you and your team enjoy using.

 

3) Time Management Apps

Unlike task management tools that are designed to track all of the steps required to get a project from start to finish, time management apps help you optimize how you spend your day. To boost their productivity in this new, often distracting environment, 43% of executives adopted a time management app.

Here are a few effective options:

  • HourStack - This time blocking app lets you compare the amount of time you spend on tasks with the amount of time you estimated. This helps you become progressively better at predicting your time and identifying productivity roadblocks. It integrates with Gmail and Outlook, so you don't have to worry about copying over all your meetings.
  • RescueTime - Do you often reach the end of the week, not quite sure what you've accomplished? If so, RescueTime can help you regain control of your schedule by automatically tracking how you're spending your time. You can use the reports to strategically optimize your productivity.
  • Freedom - If you struggle with constant distractions, Freedom can help you regain your focus. It's an app that blocks access to chosen sites and the internet as a whole to give you uninterrupted time for deep work. It also has timing and scheduling features so you can set daily caps, and don't forget to start your deep work sessions.

There are tons of time management tools that each different productivity challenges. To get started, figure out what's slowing you down so you can choose an app that meets your needs.

 

4) CRMs

Our research found that many executives are using this slower period to make business improvements that they've wanted to do for a while but haven't had the time. 31% of executives adopted a new CRM, making it one of the most popular investments.

Whether you're adopting a CRM for the first time or migrating to a tool that fits your needs better, setting up a new CRM is time-consuming. During this slower period, many sales, marketing, and customer success teams finally have the time to create the processes needed to succeed with new software.

Here are a couple of the top CRMs to kickstart your research:

  • Salesforce - This is the leading CRM for a reason. It's incredibly customizable, so you can build reports and workflows that meet your team's specific needs. It also integrates with a wide variety of tools to minimize data entry.
  • Zoho CRM - This is a reliable, mid-tier CRM that has a strong mix of built-in features and customizable options for the cost. It has various reporting tools and integrations, allowing you to easily incorporate it into your daily workflow.
  • Freshsales - This is a great CRM for SMBs who want an affordable CRM that's easy to use. Though it's less customizable than the other options, it's built-in features meet the needs of most small businesses, which means the tool requires minimal setup and learning to get started.

Keep in mind that CRMs are complex tools. To find the right fit, you need to consider factors including:

  • Costs as you scale
  • Ease of customization including whether or not you need a developer to make changes
  • Integrations
  • Built-in reporting and analytics tools
  • Likelihood of adoption by your team

And a variety of other factors based on your business's needs.

With the right tools, you can emerge from this challenging time more productive than ever. To get more insights into how executives have adapted in the COVID-era, download our free report.

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About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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