Productivity is one of the most popular topics today. There is a good reason why companies are searching for tools and tips to boost employees’ productivity. After all, it implicates business growth and brings more money.
To achieve more, we need to realise what productivity means and what mechanism and behaviours work against it. So this will not be an article about cutting down on coffee breaks and making employees work extra hours. We will be talking about working efficiently. I am going to discuss 5 basic tools that every small business can implement to do more in less time. Additionally, you will find tips how to use them smartly.
1.The Kanban board – your virtual control panel
What is Kanban board and why do you need it?
Kanban is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing invented by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota. it aims to improve workflow efficiency. Without going into details, Kanban boards divide tasks into groups based on the stage of production: e.g., To do, In progress, Waiting for verification, Verified, Done. It allows to monitor the work progress and control the supply chain. Establishing limits for each group helps to avoid overloading of the system. A simple but brilliant idea.
You don’t have to be a manufacturer to use Kanban as your virtual control panel. Once you apply the board you will experience less chaos, because your employees get instant access to what is “to do” on the board in a prioritized manner.
Tip: Try to write tasks as an action e.g., if you need new accounting software don’t write “new accounting software”, write it instead as an action “find/buy new accounting software”. This stimulates the brain to take action.
Tip: Update your board frequently – moving completed tasks from the “in progress” to “done” or “waiting for verification” column. This gives an immediate sense of accomplishing the task, which works as great motivator.
Our choice: Trello
2. Calendar – old fashioned productivity booster
They say that paper calendars and to-do lists are things of the past. But the truth is, there are probably as many digital dashboard and calendar lovers as those who admire old school calendar notes and crossing out things they’ve done. Many of them use both.
Why do we use paper calendars in the 21st century?
In the era of mass digitalization paper calendars are experiencing popularity decrease. Yet, some of us still find it more natural to write things down with pen and paper.
Kanban constitutes a great tool for the team. The calendar will become a productivity booster for your tasks. Apart from scheduling meetings, paper calendars allow space for random side notes and to-do lists, don’t require internet access, will remain available when our phone battery is low. On the other hand, we won’t be able to share our notes and in case of losing data we won’t be able to recover it.
At this point, it’s worth emphasizing that having more productivity tools does not equal being more productive. If you stick to paper calendar and/or Kanban don’t spread your notes and tasks across all kinds of media. I use the Kanban board at work to see which tasks are waiting for me in line. Then I use my paper calendar to write down my daily program and all things I have to remember (both professionally and privately). I take the calendar to meetings, use it to write side notes and schedule tasks for specific days – that’s why I find it handy along with the Kanban board.
Having more productivity tools does not equal being more productive.
Practical tips for calendar users
Tip: Don’t write too many tasks on your daily list. This way you’ll avoid finding yourself unable to complete the planned work. Add more tasks after you’re done with the previous ones.
Tip: Plan weekly or daily “silent zones” – time without distractions, calls and meetings. It requires silence and focus to speed up your work.
Tip: Add to your lists things that you have done, even if you didn’t plan them before. Not only will it help you to see how much you’ve done, but it will also enable you to date a specific task when needed.
Tip: Don’t impair your productivity by keeping your mind fixated on an unfinished task. If there are objective obstacles preventing you from finishing your task, mark it and write it down once again on the day when the obstacle is believed to be removed.
Don’t impair your productivity by keeping your mind fixated on an unfinished task.
3. Time tracker
Time trackers are handy tools created to track working time. Usually, they contain additional features to support the smooth functioning of the office, such as: bespoke reports for clients, lists of tasks and projects, search features or integration with other systems in the company. Timesheet software can save a great deal of time people spend on managing the business, especially among small business owners and freelancers. It gives full control over billable hours and makes your work more transparent for the clients.
Make it your productivity tool!
However, there are other ways to use Timesheets as your productivity tools. First of all, access to the work history project by project helps to monitor effectiveness and learn how much time it takes to complete a specific task. Hence, planning a deadline for the project becomes easier as you avoid underestimating or overestimating time needed to complete tasks.
Timesheets are most commonly seen as tools for managers. But they also give a space for reflection on our work. If our tasks take unnaturally large amount of time, we should think of necessary adjustments. The most common case is simply overengineering stuff that is not critical instead of focusing on the core of the project. Knowing that it may be our problem we can take action to eliminate it.
Good timesheet soft will make time tracking a nice experience for everyone. In Timepot we use Timepot. It was created and developed by the team who use timesheets daily. Our goal was to keep it smooth and simple. Therefore, logging hours with Timepot doesn’t take more than a few seconds.
TIP: Don’t forget to complete your timesheet daily. It will take less time. Most of us can hardly remember what we had for lunch two days ago.
Our choice: Timepot
4. Organizing files on Google Drive
Among a wide range of e-discs, I find Google Drive the most approachable and easy to use. Keeping files in the cloud makes them easily accessible for every team member and clients. Which means saving time on sending files, a possibility to collaborate on document or sheet at the same time, and to add notes or comments visible by every interested party. You can read more about cloud storage and find one that best suits your needs here.
TIP: Organize your drive wisely to avoid losing time on searching. Keep files in adequate separate folders. Brush it up every now and then, deleting unused files. Create shared folders instead of sharing every single file.
TIP: If it’s not prearranged don’t introduce changes to shared documents without asking. Instead, leave your comment and let the author apply changes.
You may also want to try: Dropbox
5. Communicator – every office must have
Good communication in the office determines the speed of making decisions and ensures flawless progress of work. There may occur a doubt whether it’s faster and more effective to discuss daily issues using a communicator or by talking face to face.
Nowadays, I find communicators a must have. There might be an exception for companies with a limited number of employees who can fit into one room and don’t communicate with clients too often. But even these companies may occasionally find using Skype, Slack, etc. more effective than talking face to face. Apart from obvious advantage, which is saving time, a communicator allows to browse through the history of our conversations (ctr+f) and easily send files. Technically advanced tools contain integrations with other systems within the company, to make work easier and more transparent.
Setting the standards of office communication
TIP: There’s no need to share every thought or meme with 20 other people in the office. Funny, up to date distraction may be well seen from time to time. Yet, if it comes too often it’s simply rude and counterproductive for the team.
TIP: Keep a healthy balance between using your keyboard and mouth in the office. If virtual communication lasts few minutes and doesn’t lead anywhere because of lack of understanding, it might be better and faster to talk face to face.
Our choice: Skype
Once you implement these 5 tools, you will experience productivity and performance growth. Remember to personalize and sharpen your tools every now and then. Some of them, that prove impractical, may need just a few adjustments to work perfectly for you.
Sharpen your tools every now and then. Some of them may need just a few adjustments to work perfectly for you.
P.S. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment!
Write about your ideas and experience with best productivity tools.