Every business needs the internet to get things done. Yet navigating the net is a tightrope walk that often requires a fine balance between tools that distract and tools that enrich. I know business owners, especially novice social media types, that end up wasting hours online just in the process of their daily status update.

To thwart online distraction, here’s a list of tools and applications that will improve your efficiency and focus:

Task Management Tips

If you’re an old-school business type (like myself), you’re probably also an avid list maker. No day starts until an official list has been compiled. However, sticky notes and paper trails are a thing of the past. Today’s task manager even goes beyond to digitize their task management efforts. Remember the Milk is a great place to start. A free service, the task sheet lets you:

  • Manage tasks from anywhere
  • Get email, text messages or instant message reminders about things you’ve got to do – even through Twitter.
  • Share your tasks with others
  • Access the platform from your phone and manage tasks offline

You can also sync it with Gmail/Google Calendar and iGoogle, in addition to Outlook, Blackberry, via apps for iPads and Androids, and even through Siri. Note that Google has its own task manager, which may not be everything you need it to be but it’s at least under one umbrella service that you likely already use. If you’re in the market for task sheets, you should also check out Ta-da Lists, which can be shared with others to keep track of just about any list or itemized project.

I personally love TeuxDeux – a super simple, super clean free browser-based app that functions like a calendar. It’s perfect for no fuss list lovers that want to be productive and spend their time revisiting sites that help them get things done more efficiently.

The cream of the crop in task management would have to be Toodledo. It goes way beyond just a basic or time-based task check list, first by offering just that and even setting up alarms if needed. It’s accessible just about anywhere (a lot like Remember the Milk) and it lets you collaborate with others (like Ta-da Lists).

Also a free service, Toodledo lets you organize your tasks by folders, tags, contexts, subtasks – and then filter or search through them. It also lets you customize fields so you can determine (and change up) how you want to view your tasks – an essential element for real people and real business owners who are constantly juggling tasks and need a tool that moves with them by adapting to priority needs.

While the basic Toodledo service is free, additional plans that get you more dynamic options range between just under $15/year to just under $30/year. However, if doing business means going beyond task jotting and into note-taking, consider Springnote, which is a free online wiki-based service. It works as a personal or group notebook that allows up to 2GB of storage.

Virtual Business FAQ

Businesses just starting out or branching out will need a lot of business advice. Business advice is expensive. Peer-led business groups are also expensive and time-consuming, requiring at least monthly in-person meetings and a give and take process that doesn’t always ensure a return on investment. The latter solution to your business query dilemma, Googling the question, may not yield the best results and still requires you to sift through the data.

Online productivity starts with basics like managing your work process, but it can and does reach out to the most complex business challenges you might face. What better way to make the most of your time and maximize efficiency than to channel an online portal where your peers neatly offer topic based advice for your business needs? Task offers this, a tremendous business watering hole that won’t only help you be more productive, but will help you work smarter, be a better businessperson and a stronger leader.

And if you’ve got the time, it might be worthwhile to apply to be an adviser and reach out to others. Being an adviser gives you a chance to be a mentor, an authority, network with other leaders and make the right connections that could lead to fruitful future ventures or partnerships.