One of the great things about doing business in 2013 is you can run your business wherever you are. One of the worst things about business in 2013 is that you can run it wherever you are.
Personally, I think it's a net win. I'm willing to take the "always on" nature of modern work in exchange for not being tethered to my office. I like work—I'm not much good at anything else—but I've learned to be disciplined about checking email, which is to say, I try really hard not to check it in off hours, and we set an internal expectation at the Daily Dot that email is not for emergencies.
If you develop that habit, you can make your phone a mobile workstation and be almost as effective from a beach or the line at the DMV as you are from your desk. Download some (or all) of these 16 apps, and see for yourself.
Calendar App: Sunrise
I've previously written about how indispensable this app is for me, and I'll say it again. If you use Google Calendar, it is absolutely essential to use Sunrise. It lets you schedule meetings and respond to invites, just about as effectively as if you were on your laptop.
Contacts Organizer: Smartr
For me, the most imperfect piece of my productivity suite is my contacts or address book. The best solution I've found so far is Smartr. This app reads your Apple address book, Google contacts and Gmail, and your social media accounts and uses artificial intelligence to merge all those data sources into a single dataset, without you having to do anything personally. As a result, when you know you have someone's contact information but can't remember where it is, this app saves a lot of rummaging. It has a browser extension, too, so it's always available right within Gmail and provides a seamless experience from laptop to phone.
Evernote is the popular cloud-based note-taking service that, again, provides a seamless experience across all devices.
One of the nice things about Evernote on the desktop is that you can easily clip Web pages into it, but because of the limitations of iOS, this is a pain on the phone. The best solution I've found is a third-party app called EverClip. When you want to save a webpage, copy the URL then open EverClip, which will automatically grab the page so you can then send it to Evernote.
Also try out Evernote Hello. Next time someone gives you a business card, take a picture and Evernote will scan it and find that person on LinkedIn for you. You can make notes about the meeting and sync it with your contacts—where the information will be picked up by Smartr if you're using that app. Oh, the efficiency!
Hopefully you're already using either Google Drive or Dropbox to house your files in the cloud. If you are, both services offer great apps that will let you access and view those files from your phone. I prefer Google Drive because it also offers significant editing and collaboration capabilities for Google Docs. It's not a complete replacement for the laptop, but it is surprisingly thorough.
Password Protector: 1Password
Please, please, please tell me you're not using the same password for every service you use. The key to using different, strong passwords for each service is having a good password keeper that also offers a random password generator. My favorite is 1Password, which has a very nice mobile app, allowing you to get into any service quickly. It syncs via Dropbox or iCloud, and whenever you need a password on your phone, you simply go to the app, enter your master password, find the entry you want, then copy the password to your clipboard. It takes an extra 20 seconds when you need to sign in to something, but gives you an exponential increase in security.
Time Saver: Your Bank's App
Now that you've got some security, you should find your bank's app and download it to your phone. Most banks offer the ability to check your accounts, and many will let you use bill pay and deposit checks all via your phone. (And I think we could all stand in line at the bank less.)
Expense Report Tracker: Expensify
Expensify is a nice cloud-based service for submitting and paying expense reports. It connects to QuickBooks online and your credit cards. If you have the app on your phone, you can take pictures of receipts, grab transactions from your cards and file a report from the road, rather than having another thing to catch up on when you get back to the office.
Whether you run a virtual organization or not, you may find that having chat for your business is a big help when you want to shoot off a quick note to someone on another floor or just in the next cubicle. Services like HipChat or Campfire also offer mobile apps, so even when you're not in the building, you can essentially stick your head into a colleague's office.
Group Messaging: GroupMe
One of the most popular group messaging apps, GroupMe lets you quickly create a group of users that you can then message over the data network. It's just like group text messaging, but it doesn't count against text messaging limits that you or your colleagues may have–as long as they have a smartphone. What's especially good about GroupMe, however, is that it doesn't exclude people who don't have smartphones—GroupMe will automatically switch over to sending them text messages. We use GroupMe whenever we have an event—a conference or an offsite meeting—that many of us are attending. We have our own back channel to tell each other where we are, where we're going and an occasional inside joke.
Trip Planner: TripIt
As much as the Internet has changed the way we travel, it's still shocking how much time we have to spend arranging a trip. One big help is the cloud-based service, TripIt. Just forward your confirmation emails (it automatically scans Gmail for them so you don't need to manually forward) and it will create an itinerary for you on its website and in its app. You can also subscribe to see your plans in any calendar you use.
Snail Mail Organizer: Outbox
Who likes going to the mailbox anymore? Outbox is a service that will get your mail for you and then scan it, so you can access it in digital form from the Web, tablet or your phone. From there, you can read it, process it however you like, and if you need the original, ask for it to be returned to you.
Social Media Manager: Buffer
What do you do when you've scheduled your meetings, made notes from your last networking event, done your banking and expense reports, popped in on an employee to mention an idea, gotten the mail, and made sure you had everything in order for your business trip next week, and you're still in line at the DMV? Tweet, of course! And that's where Buffer can help. This time-saver helps you manage all your social media accounts in one place on your phone.
What's your favorite mobile app?
Read more articles on mobile apps for small business.
Photos from Top: Getty Images, Courtesy of Expensify