It’s easy to dismiss touchscreen gadgets as the ultimate procrastination tool but, used wisely, they can help you stay productive when things get busy.
When you see someone on the train who’s fixated on their smartphone or tablet you probably assume they’re killing time on Facebook, arguing with strangers on Twitter or maybe flicking through Instagram.
It’s true that our handheld gadgets are great for passing the time but you shouldn’t underestimate their potential as serious productivity tools.
For some people “real work” requires a “real computer” with a physical keyboard and a full desktop operating system. That’s fair enough, slaving away on a touchscreen device can be slow-going when you’ve got a lot of typing to do.
But chances are there are plenty of other aspects to your job which can be tackled on a small-screen device, perhaps synced with your computer via the cloud.
Handheld gadgets are obviously useful for checking your email on the run, performing a quick inbox triage and bashing out short replies.
Doing this on the way to work lets you get a head start on a busy day but it’s not the only time you might reach for your phone in order to get things done.
Do you need to liaise with colleagues and customers throughout the day, or look over contracts and other documents? Perhaps you need to manage your finances, track your time and record your expenses? How about managing teams, organising rosters, tracking sales or monitoring stock levels?
A smartphone or tablet can prove surprisingly useful for all these tasks and more if you’ve got the right apps and cloud services at hand.
Sure it can be frustrating to write long documents on touchscreen devices but these gadgets are perfect for carrying around reams of paperwork.
It’s easy to review, annotate and edit documentation such as contracts, reports, maintenance manuals or whatever other paperwork you need at your fingertips when you’re away from the office. You can even use your smartphone’s camera to scan documents or business cards and save them to the cloud.
Meanwhile note-taking apps like Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote are great for collating your client and project notes, automatically syncing them between your devices.
You can also use these apps to manage your to-do lists or you might simply create a to-do document in a cloud storage service such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Apple’s iCloud.
Handheld gadgets are especially useful for people who work on the road visiting clients, letting you tackle your paperwork straight away rather than waiting until you get back to the office.
A mobile-friendly accounting system that lets you issue invoices on the spot could do wonders for your cash flow – the sooner you send your invoice the sooner your customer can pay it.
Your smartphone is also an invaluable productivity tool if you work as part of a team. It’s easy to set up shared calendars and to-do lists which you can all access from any device, along with collaboration tools like online Office suites, business-grade instant messaging and project management tools.
They’re the kind of tools which help teams work more efficiently and effectively, whether you’re spread across the office or across the country.
Next time you’ve got a few minutes to kill and reach for the gadget in your pocket, think about how your smartphone could be helping you work smarter.