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5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

Wondering where all the time went? These software tools are going to tell you probably more than you want to know.

Dipti Parmar

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If you own a small business, you likely find it essential to track your employees’ time, even if you don’t bill your clients by the hour.

Related: 7 Traits That Define Work Productivity Superstars

Many believe that the reason behind time-tracking is limited to billing clients by the hour; but in reality, time-tracking helps you eliminate redundancy and streamline your work process so that you can successfully reduce your overhead costs.

Most importantly, effective time management helps you improve your team’s productivity.

There’s a good reason for this: Because, the hard truth is that people waste a lot of time at work. From emails to meetings and other interruptions, employees find multiple reasons to step away from the task at hand and kill precious time. Workplace distractions abound – from personal phone calls and web surfing to social media.

All these things drain your people’s productivity. And, as you’ve likely found, wasted time impacts the revenue for a small business with limited resources.

The solution, readily available, is to allow employees to develop a pre-set plan for how they spend each work hour. That solution is time management. But the paper/spreadsheet-based time tracking system is so yesteryear and hardly serves today’s dynamic work environment.

What you need, instead, is an agile time-tracking solution that captures the number of hours an individual has worked in real time.

Here are five time management tools small businesses can incorporate to better utilise their time.

1. Toggl

Toggl

If you have been using spreadsheets for time tracking but want something more robust, Toggl is a great alternative. It is simple, easy-to-use and built for speed. This time-tracking tool allows you to check the amount of time an individual team member spends on different projects.

Better yet, this online time tracker app allows you to categorise and create reports by project, client, week and/or day. Using Toggl, you can identify not only sources of workplace distraction but also unprofitable projects, and therefore focus on utilising your time better on the more profitable ones. This, in turn, helps you to improve your overall accuracy and productivity, allowing you to earn more revenues for billable hours.

You can use Toggl for free as your basic productivity tool. However, it also offers two premium packages with extra features as a complete time-management solution.

2. Freedom

Freedom-tool

While technology is the objective here, it can sometimes become a major distraction. Freedom helps you block distractions so that your team can become more productive. It disables networking, temporarily, to help you stay away from all kinds of distracting apps and websites while at work.

Freedom works in an interesting way. You can either block the distracting apps and websites or the Internet from your computer, as a whole. Once you turn on the app, you need to tell Freedom how long you can manage working offline and it will disable the Internet for that time period.

This distraction-management solution allows you to schedule your time in advance or start a session on-the-go. You can use this tool across all devices, including iOS, Android and Windows. Freedom offers a basic, free plan. In addition, there are premium plans available with a seven-day trial offer.

Related: 7 Healthy Habits That Maximise Your Productivity Every Day

3. Nutcache

Nutcache-tool

Originally launched as a time-tracking tool, Nutcache functions as an all-inclusive, collaborative project-management tool that integrates time management, invoicing and expense management. Recently, this tool added new features for more effective time-tracking solutions.

The latest update now includes features like multiple web timers that you can run on different tasks to keep an account of your day. You can use these to track time by the duration of the work, displaying on your client’s invoice the exact time spent on a task. You also have a detailed calendar view to see who is working on which project, along with the time employees spend on each project.

In addition, the new time-tracking features allow you to assign specific tasks and projects to members. There is an improved display grid, making it much simpler and easier to use. You can now search records directly with an enhanced filter function. Finally, the new update provides an instant overview report, detailing all time entries by project/members.

Nutcache offers a free version limited to two members; in addition, there are two paid versions. The Enterprise package comes with a 30-day free trial offer.

4. Launchy

Launchy-tool

This is a great tool to help you work smarter. Using Launchy, you can launch your files, folders, documents and bookmarks with just a few clicks. It is so easy to use that you can forget about your file manager, start menu or desktop icons, to access whatever you want. By means of a few keyboard taps, you can open various files and programmes effortlessly.

Launchy works with various platforms, including Windows, Linux and Mac OS. It’s also an open source keystroke launcher.

5. Remember The Milk

Remember-The-Milk-tool

This is a task-management tool that allows you to work effectively with the help of an online to-do list. Remember the Milk is an ideal solution for businesses and teams struggling to manage their to-do lists, especially they’re working with many devices.

Remember the Milk sends you reminders via SMS, email (both Gmail and Outlook) and IM so that you won’t forget a task ever again.

This tool further allows you to share tasks with team members and assign tasks. Better yet, you can even sync it with other leading tools, like Evernote and Google Calendar. Remember the Milk offers mobile apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices. It’s a free tool, although there is a “pro” version available that offers additional features as well as priority support.

Related: Your To-Do Lists (And Why They’re Killing Your Productivity)

Each of these tools serves different purposes, but all are designed to save you time and make you more productive at work. However, it is recommended that you do your homework before opting for any particular one, especially the paid versions.

The good news is that almost all of these apps offer a free trial period. You can therefore explore your options via a “test drive.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Dipti Parmar works in digital marketing wiz with E2M Solutions. She’s been journeying through the world of digital marketing for six years and is a blogger and networker. She’s also a movie buff and loves taking long walks by the seashore.

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6 Steps To Go From Procrastinating To Productive

As an entrepreneur, practice saying to yourself, “I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.”

Jeffrey Hayzlett

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Procrastinating To Productive

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we have tasks on our list that we’d rather not do. So, we keep moving the goal post farther down the field and do almost anything we can to avoid those distasteful jobs.

Personally, I don’t like to get involved in extra paperwork or monthly expense reports. Other founders have their own least favorite activities.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because there’s an obvious solution: delegation. As a matter of fact, I created a motto along these lines: I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.

My job, after all, is to concentrate on the bigger parts of the business, like generating revenue. And while there are other such tasks that are necessary to operating a business, I might be avoiding them too because they slow me down. So, I again delegate them to the team.

I guess in a way, we’re all capable of being procrastinators.

According to a 2013 survey by salary.com, 69 percent of survey respondents said they wasted time at work on a daily basis – a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Thirty-four percent of respondents estimated they routinely wasted 30 minutes or less each day; 24 percent said they wasted between 30 and 60 minutes; and 11 percent said they wasted hours every day.

As a business owner, I could see how those numbers might send my fellow owners’ blood pressure through the roof, but my own response would be more practical: I’d pursue tools, tricks and techniques to minimise procrastination and maximize productivity.

Related: Deepak Chopra Has 3 Simple And Surprising Productivity Secrets For You

Here are a few of those techniques:

Don’t overwhelm yourself

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work on your plate, meetings and deadlines. Lately, I’ve been focusing on launching new avenues for C-Suite TV, and it can be overwhelming sometimes.

When tasks seem insurmountable, here’s one way to lessen that burden: Get out your “to-do” list. Then, instead of writing down that big task as one huge thing, break it down. Breaking a big task into multiple line items makes it more manageable. You have your end goal, but by reducing it to its smaller components, you get a clearer picture of what you need to do.

Crossing off the smaller parts of the larger task gives you a sense of accomplishment you wouldn’t have if you tackled the massive task all at once.

Flip the script

I don’t care who you are: Whether you’re a worker, a manager or a CEO, you’re just like everyone – and we all hate doing certain tasks. So why not flip the script?

Bite the bullet, kiss the frog – whatever you want to call it: Put that task at the top of your to-do list that day. You’ll eliminate the task quickly and move on to the rest of your day. Not to mention, you’ll have a bigger sense of accomplishment knowing that you’ve steam-rolled the largest obstacle you had awaiting you.

Related: How To Make Better Business Decisions That Drive Productivity And Profits

Forget perfection

Everyone wants to make a good impression and put his or her best foot forward at work. Procrastination comes not from the inability to get the job done, but from fear and insecurity. Being unsure how to perform a specific task makes us fear failure and being seen in a negative light by the boss.

I always tell my team that, “No one’s going to die.” What’s the worst thing that can happen if a specific task isn’t perfect? I might get mad if the task is not completed within the given deadline, but not if it merely needs to be tweaked. Many times, the worst conversations happen inside our own heads and we let that imaginary conversation rule our other decisions. That’s when we make mistakes.

If you’re worried about your work quality, allocate a set amount of time each day to complete (or revise) parts of the project. It’s possible to perfect a task without obsessing over it and losing focus. That’s when you know it’s time to let go of the project and focus on other things. Say it with me: No one will die.

Kill the squirrels (or distractions)

squirrels

It’s easy to procrastinate with the million distractions we have every day. According to a survey by Stop Procrastinating, 68 percent of Americans surveyed said they’d been distracted from their work duties by checking their emails, browsing the web or engaging in social media. And that was a 9 percent increase from a year before. Of that 68 percent, 39 percent said distractions cost them a whole hour a day.

Sure, it’s tempting to constantly check your Facebook or Twitter feeds, but here’s a radical concept: Log out of your social media accounts for a few hours every day.

Instead, focus on your tasks and nothing else. Do whatever it takes to get into the “zone,” to accomplish your goal. Some people at my office use headphones to muffle outside noise. I block out time on my calendar, which my employees have access to, and dedicate that time to a specific task I need to accomplish. I may even specify “no phone calls” to ensure I stay in my zone.

Be a good time manager

To transition from procrastinator to proactive leader requires organization on your part, from your mindset to your schedule. It’s hard to be organized when you feel you’re juggling multiple things, but to succeed, you must learn to juggle. Deciding how much time to dedicate to each task makes you more efficient.

For some of us busy executives, even our down time needs to be scheduled.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

Recently, I attended the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit, where I mingled with top economists, business leaders and policymakers. I had a busy schedule, interviewing a top CEO. But I also managed to schedule down time. Being from South Dakota, I enjoy the outdoors so I scheduled some fly fishing time – away from technology, emails and phone calls.

If you’re a good time manager, you’ll have time for everything, including play time. It takes some dedication and discipline, but it’s not impossible.

Remember that the early bird gets the worm

I operate on little sleep. As any workaholic will tell you, when you go to bed at night, you can’t wait to start your day the next morning. Indeed, dawn is the most productive part of the day, according to this Wall Street Journal article. That hour of the morning brings minimal distractions, no email and hardly anyone on social media.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, starts his day at 3:45 a.m.. Richard Branson likes to “sleep in” until 5 a.m., and even my friend and fellow entrepreneur Peter Shankman gets up before it’s light out. As a business owner, entrepreneur and keynote speaker, I’ve done my fair share of early mornings; You’d be surprised how much you can get done by the time everyone else walks in the office.

The one takeaway here is that in order to make a successful transition from procrastinating to productive, you have to be disciplined, motivated and focused: disciplined enough to curb distractions, motivated enough to want to reach your end goal and focused enough to execute a plan that works for you.

We’re all different, so there’s no magic bullet solution for procrastination. But if you can build a plan that works for you, work the plan.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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(Infographic) The Organisational Tactics, Work Habits And Routines Of The Most Successful People

Take a look at how some of the most successful people set up their workspace.

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How your workspace is set up can help or hinder your productivity. So what makes for a great workspace?

For inspiration, see how people such as Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey organise their desks and surroundings. Of course, different tactics work for different people. So to maximise productivity, find what best suits you.

While many people believe a clean desk will provide clarity and decrease stress, that’s not what Albert Einstein thought. In fact, Einstein was a supporter of the messy desk, having once said:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

Related: 5 Habits You Should Steal From Other Entrepreneurs’ Morning Routines

Mark Zuckerberg prefers to have the same desk as every other Facebook employee. Studies have shown that open floor plans can encourage creativity and productivity – especially if you’re rubbing elbows with the CEO.

Another option is the standing desk. According to research, productivity can get a 10 percent boost when using a standing desk. An avid user of the standing desk was author Ernest Hemingway, who put his typewriter on top of a bookshelf in his bedroom.

Check out National Pen’s infographic below to see the desk styles of some of the most famous people history to today.

national-pen-famous-desks-infographic

Related: 3 Daily Routines For Becoming Happier And More Successful

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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11 Ways To Maximise Every Part Of Your Day

From their morning routine to being productive at the office, entrepreneurs share how to get the most out of your time all day.

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How to maximise the day

Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything today. However, you might be happy to know, there are some simple things you can do to maximise your time and productivity. For starters, have a set routine – that could be a specific time to get coffee in the morning, a brief workout or a process for catching up on emails.

As part of Entrepreneur‘s “Guide to Getting More Done Every Day,” check out these 11 productivity secrets from successful entrepreneurs.

Have a routine

expresso-coffee

Drink up!

“I have a set routine I never break: Get up, walk to a coffee shop, have an espresso. It gets my brain ready to prepare for everything I am doing that day. When I’m home, I take my son, and when I’m traveling, I get to explore a new place.” – Patrick Quinlan, CEO, compliance management software company Convercent

Exercise in the morning

morning-routine

Get your day off to a great start

“At 6 a.m., five days a week, I ride for an hour on a stationary trainer. The meditative state I achieve while working out always sparks new ideas, so I’ve started capturing those thoughts after my rides, either with Siri notes or old-fashioned pen and paper.” – Neil Grimmer, founder and CEO, personalised nutrition brand Habit 

Get ready in the morning

getting-ready-in-the-morning

Morning routine is important too

“The Keurig is set to go on at 5:30. I like to have my coffee and check emails before I wake up my children for school. I use this precious time to organise orders, plan warehouse priorities for the day and check in on production. This allows me to go into my day feeling proactive and ready.” – Sara Stein, founder, gift brand Sisters of Los Angeles 

Have Wi-Fi everywhere you go

wifi-availability

… but also remember why you need it

“Great wi-fi is key – I’ve even brought my Eeros with me on trips where I’m staying in Airbnbs. If I’m in a hotel, I make sure there’s a decent gym and a great café nearby. Having a small routine on the road helps it feel less foreign.” – Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and Initialized Capital

Wear headphones

headphones

What are you listening to?

“Fake [listening to] headphones. I have these obnoxiously large, white-and-red headphones that go over my entire ear and can be spotted from miles away. Sometimes I just put them on even if there is no music playing as a signal to leave me alone. Works like a charm. Until my team reads this!”– Scott Tannen, co-founder and CEO, bedding company Boll & Branch

Block ‘work time’

time-blocking

Leave some time for yourself

“Block ‘work time.’ My co-founder Alex and I both carve out 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on our schedules every day and protect it as best we can, so we can get through pressing items and avoid being a bottleneck to the team on outstanding questions.” – Jordana Kier, cofounder and co-CEO, natural tampon company LOLA

Communicate

communication

There is not I in TEAM

“Everyone steps out of their office at 9 a.m. and shares a piece of good news. It can be professional or personal, as long as it’s office-appropriate. It gets team members into a shared space and allows us to start the day on a high note while getting to know each other and talk about successes.” – Monica Guzman, COO, public relations firm Konnect Agency

Create fun office rituals

office-lunch

Lunch on you!

“For our internal executive meetings, if one or more people arrive late, they have to buy lunch for the next meeting. This keeps people on time and gamifies the meeting. We laugh about it with each other every time.”  – John Rubey, CEO, content provider Fathom Events

Take advantage of your commute

train-commute

That’s if you take the train or someone else is driving

“If you commute to work on a train, with limited connectivity, as I do, think of one meaty email you’ve been avoiding writing and give yourself the length of the commute to really dig in. It makes the trip go faster and lets you start your day with a great sense of accomplishment.” – James Hirschfeld, co-founder and CEO, stationery brand Paperless Post

Schedule short meetings

short-meetings

Timing is everything

“We schedule regular 20-minute walking meetings with our colleagues. The limited window forces function and encourages both parties to be efficient in their communications. It’s surprising how many issues can be resolved or clarified in that tight timeframe.” – Evelyn Rusli, co-founder, baby food brand Yumi

Workout at your desk

desk-exercise

Stretch it out

Sometimes you simply can’t get out. “In the office, there’s nothing wrong with doing sets in between calls and meetings. Do 20 squats, 20 jumping jacks.” Bonus points if you break a sweat. (Sorry, work clothes.) – Martellus Bennett, founder of creative firm The Imagination Agency

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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